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Why 20? I Dunno.

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “If carrots got you drunk, rabbits would be fucked up.”

- Mitch Hedburg

Sunday

I don’t know why I felt the need to do 20 miles today. I had somewhere in the recesses of my mind decided today would be a ten-mile day since I have the wild Wild West trail marathon in a week. Does the word “taper” mean anything to you, Jason?

But somewhere along the line, I upped it to 20 miles and after the 40 miler a few weeks ago, 20 seemed tame. Hell, it was only HALF!

I got everything ready this morning (after another crappy night’s sleep) and headed to the base. I was flip-flopping on the 10 and 20 but deep down, I knew it would be 20.

Another thing that spawned this was that in the last few races, I’ve done better than ever by pushing my workouts almost right up to race day. This goes against all common sense but that’s what’s been going on so I wasn’t all that worried about the distance/time-till-next-race factor.

Only once did I falter on the run and seriously consider keeping it at 10. But then I washed that away by thinking about how good it would feel to know I did 20 today and how my weight loss goals got a two-month chop as of late. Before I had until the end of August to become a physical specimen and now I’m showing up on July 7th so things need to move along a little faster now.

After 10, I felt good, although I fell under the spell of not taking the distance seriously so my mind wasn’t as into it as much as I would have liked. It was like I didn’t mentally dial in 20 and I felt it so I guess there’s something to be said about worrying about the run the night before.

The second 10 miles was a lot tougher than it should have been. The good news is that I kept the sub-10 minute pace up but I wasn’t having a lot of fun.

When I got done, I felt like hammered dogshit. It really confused me because I didn’t even feel this bad after the 40 miler. My feet were killing me and my hamstring felt like I pulled it. My joints were hurting me too.

When I got home, took a shower, and ate, all I wanted to do was sleep but not because of the run. I just felt drained and I slept for 3 hours before waking up and feeling just as bad. So much for getting a haircut and going shopping today.

But I got the 20 miles in and feel prepared for next week when I marathon. I plan to do 1 ½ hours of cardio on Monday and Tuesday because Wednesday is a day of traveling, Thursday is a day of walking all over Vegas, Friday is a day of driving, which brings me to marathon morning on Saturday.

Then it’s concentrating on massive weight loss since, for the first time since 2000, I won’t have a marathon on the horizon.

Yeah, let’s see how long THAT lasts.

Free Advice for Today: “Say ‘Bless You’ when you hear someone sneeze.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Go Away

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “I’m against picketing, but I don’t know how to show it.”

- Mitch Hedburg

Saturday

I wasn’t feeling to good today and I don’t know why. At 0630 I woke up with some stomach issues and by 0700, I overcame my anger at not being able to sleep in when I had the opportunity and got up to tap around on the computer.

Because we are trying to sell the house, I mowed the lawn and even swept the street corner near my house, mainly because I was tired of seeing all the rocks and gravel that gathers there. Isn’t the city supposed to take care of that?

We still haven’t even got one lookie-loo so we might have to drop the price of the house. For two weeks we’ve kept the house pristine and other than the coolness of living in a pristine house, it’s kind of annoying that no one has even come and looked. COME SEE OUR HOUSE!

We did get a phone call yesterday from a realtor who said would be stopping by in an hour or two with his clients. Carrie was all excited and waited for his final phone call so she could grab Buster and take off.

She waited all day and nothing happened. By the time I got home, she was frustrated and I reacted by getting all pissed off, of course. My reaction was that need or no need to sell my house, if those people showed up, I was going to tell them to get the hell off my property and don’t bother coming back. I really would have. I told Carrie that just because we are trying to sell doesn’t mean we have to put up with such treatment. I kiss no ass.

I could just picture the scene. They drive up and the realtor is all friendly with his fake smooze-face on. I would ask if he was the one who called and said they would be over in an hour or two. If he said yes, I would calmly say, “OK, you can leave now” and turn to walk away. This would cause some intended confusion that would rapidly turn into embarrassment on his part.

But I… but we had to…”

“Look, I need to sell this house. I have orders and I no matter what, I must be gone by June. But you made my wife wait around here all day and you didn’t even call to say you were delayed. I don’t do business with people like you so you can leave, NOW, and don’t bother me or my family again.”

Then I would turn to the people and say “I know this isn’t your fault and if you want to buy this house, I would be glad to deal with you but not with this realtor. If this is the way he does business, I suggest you find another. There are plenty out there and I’d be glad to show you the house with any of them.”

Scene one: inside their car. I’m thinking pretty tense. Anything he says to them to badmouth me makes him look bad. Probably goes with “overpriced.”

Scene two: inside the house. Carrie is chewing me out royally for blowing a potential sell.

But that’s just me. I don’t do well with disrespect, perceived or otherwise.

Free Advice for Today: “Remember the three R’s: Respect for self; Respect for others; Responsibility for all your actions.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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It’s That Time Again

Friday, April 28th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “On a traffic light green means go and yellow means yield, but on a banana it’s just the opposite. Green means hold on, yellow means go ahead, and red means where the fuck did you get that banana at.”

- Mitch Hedburg

Friday

It’s time for another exciting round of “What Bugs The Shit Out Of The Captain!”

(Warning, there will be a lot of bad words in this posts. And when I say “a lot”, I mean the recently explained cubic butt-ton shitload.)

Today I called the housing office in San Diego just because I thought my streak of good things happening to me had gone on far too long.

If you’ve ever dealt with military housing offices, you know.

I called, busy signal. I called again, another busy signal. I can deal with it. Hell, it’s housing. If a busy signal is the most frustrating thing that happens, the Universe just flipped inside out.

Then I got through and was put in phone queue hell. My own invention of “Push 666 if you want us to burn in the 7th Ring Of Hell for all eternity” approach wasn’t working but I finally found the option to get ahold of a real breathing human…. And was promptly put on hold.

Here is what prompted the “What Bugs The Shit Out Of The Captain!” listing today.

Now it’s bad enough that I have to be on hold until the Earth implodes. But I was at work and I have a speaker phone so I could multitask while listening the pistol-in-mouth-inducing Musak. Ha, I got over them and making me wait as I answered some emails and….

“We’re sorry that all of our representatives are busy right now…”

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you are still on speaker phone, bitch, so yack away..

“…if you would like to continue waiting, press any number on the dial pad now.”

WHAT?

You ASSHOLES, whatever, there, there’s a 6 you bastards, now put a sadder rendition of Barry Manallo’s Copa Cabana (if that’s possible) back on and let me get back to what I was doing.

20 seconds elapse…

We’re sorry that all of our representatives are busy right now, if you would like to continue waiting, press any number on the dial pad now.”

Oh, you evil sonuvabitch. I don’t know whether to drop trou and take a steamer right on the phone or tip my hat. As far as evil goes, that’s way advanced: you are gonna MAKE me push buttons to STAY on hold.

You mother fuckers.

I took this for a couple of minutes and had to hang up knowing this was an all time low for phone etiquette. Why would you REQUIRE people to do something to STAY on hold? If I didn’t want to stay on hold, I would simply hang up therefore you are simply requiring an extra annoying step that does no good.

The second installment of “What Bugs The Shit Out Of The Captain!” was when I went to the Travel Management Office (TMO) so that I could move my pack up and ship dates for my household goods. I was busy all morning so the first chance I got to go put me in their office at 1206.

Well, not IN their office but outside of it where I was staring at a sign that informed me that they close from 1200 to 1230 for lunch.

WHAT?!

Wait, let’s do a little quiz here. If there was a time during the day when, let’s say, a hardworking Marine could get over and take care of some errands, when would that be? During the working hours? That works for some but for the majority of people, the only time they get to take care of some non-work-related errands is… wait for it…

Maybe during their LUNCH BREAK?

Oh, what a novel idea.

Ooh, ooh, wouldn’t it also be cool if the office where they might have to take care of such things, the office that’s supposed to be there FOR the Marines, would be open, oh, I don’t know, let’s go with…

LUNCH BREAK?

Of all services on base, you would think they could work some shift magic and have someone there when the majority of people could get away to use their services.

Is it just me, people?

OK, rant complete.

For now.

(BTW, there is an 8-month wait for San Diego housing and since I’ll only be there for 2 years, looks like I’ll be renting.)

Free Advice for Today: “Create a smoke-free office and home.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Mountain Moving

Thursday, April 27th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “My sister wanted to be an actress, but she never made it. She does live in a trailer. She got half way. She’s an actress, she just never gets called to the set.”

- Mitch Hedburg


(anyone get it?)

Thursday (I have to put the day in because I can never get it to display automatically).

I got two emails today.

The first was from my boss who I wrote and asked him if he had made a decision about my detach date because if the answer was “yes” then I’d have to start moving mountains.

The email simply said “move mountains.”

YES!

The second was from my Company Commander who informed me that I was NOT randomly chosen for the CGVP inspection and he’d approve my leave. He then went on to wish me luck on the marathon.

Double YES!!!

OK, so it’s pretty much set: I’m detaching on June 9th (the day my kids finish school) and will try to leave here that weekend. That still gives me about 3 weeks to go to St Louis to pick up Killjoy and the Weezer, drive to Oklahoma to see moms, go to Ark City to see the rest of my family on both sides, drive to Boise Idaho to see a big red dork bodybuilder who just happens to be my mentor, and then over to Seattle to bask in the glow of friends and family.

What will probably happen then is that Killjoy will flirt with a plane captain and secure free passage back to St. Louis, and then right after the 4th of July holiday, I will drive solo to San Diego (it’s all on I-5 so the chances of getting lost are only 50/50). Carrie and the kids will stay in Seattle for July and which will give me a chance to find a place for us all to live and also get settled in my new job.

Wow, alone in San Diego again. But this time in a much better situation.

Before all that happens though, we have to sell the house. I went from having a month and a half to having just 3 weeks to get there. Plus, I went from leaving on July 14th to leaving on June 9th so our entire schedule is compressed.

So much to do but the very worst case scenario is that we have until August before we face the prospect of paying double rent. Carrie and the kids will be living with her parents and I will be in the BOQ. We might have to just drop the price of the house to get it sold but it’s all profit anyway.

Looks like I have a lot to do in a month and a week.

Call me sick but I celebrate my favorite cat’s deathday which happens to be today. Sid was a very intregal part of our lives for over 11 years before he swatted the big catnip fake mouse in the sky. Still miss ya, Bud.

Free Advice for Today: “Become a tourist for a day in your own hometown. Take a tour. See the sights.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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I hate when crap like this happens

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “Sometimes I wave to people I don’t know. It is very dangerous to wave to people you don’t know, because what if they don’t have a hand? They’ll think you’re cocky. ‘Look what I got motherfucker, this thing is useful…I’m gonna go pick something up.’”

- Mitch Hedburg

When I got into work, I had an email that said that the CGVP popped up. What the hell is that, you ask? In its past incarnations, it been a host of other names but the most familiar one and one most used is the Inspector General (IG) inspection.

Still confused?

OK, in the Marine Corps, there is a band of wandering hunters whose sole job it is to go from base to base and quality control the units by holding pop inspections. Because the “IG” got an ominous reputation, they continually try to downplay the negative association by changing the name (replacing “Inspection” with words like the current “Commanding General Visitation Program”)

Well, guess what guys, if you eff up the “Visitation,” stand by.

The way this works is that the team gets a roster of people and pick a subset randomly to run a physical fitness test and stand uniform inspections.

Back in the day when I was a young enlisted lad, the IG struck terror in my very soul because there was a junk on the bunk inspection where you had to lay out your ENTIRE issue in perfect display. In other words, you pretty much had to go out and practically buy all new stuff, spending several hundred dollars in the process. Of course logically, if you kept up your stuff and maintained it, there was no need for this. Yeah, right. Name ONE person who did this.

Anyway, they publish the list of people nabbed and then if for some legitimate reason that person is unable to stand the inspections (leave, on the range, dead, etc), then the Command had to find a replacement.

The email I got this morning was a warning order which meant we had just found out the team was coming and the names had not been chosen. It said that if you had a legit reason NOT to be on the list, now would be the time to make it known.

Now, this is where I would be pretty Draconian about the entire deal. If you give people a week, they are going to try like hell to get out of it and the Command will spend most of their waking hours trying to accommodate an entire battalion of excuses.

For this reason, I was skittish about my own situation. I am not adverse to standing these inspections and I do have to get a PFT out of the way before I move to San Diego. But next week, I’m leaving to California to run a marathon.

The problem is, if you have been reading my blog, two things will jump out at you. First, I just got back from leave. Second, I put my boss in a bad position, asking him to let me go two months before he expected and thus gapping my job for a month. For these two reasons, I was putting off following them up with a request to go on leave AGAIN.

But now my hand was forced because if it was me in charge and someone didn’t have their leave papers in AND got nabbed for the IG, well, tough shit. I would listen to the circumstances but unless they were valid, I would have to squash the rush to abandon ship with an IG on the horizon.

Plus, I didn’t want to appear to be weaseling out of it.

So there I sat with the stress coming from two directions: asking for more time off after coming off leave and asking to PCS early AND giving the perception I was weaseling out of the IG.

I talked to my boss and he understood. He told me that I had better get my leave papers in but I went a step farther and wrote the Company CO to explain to him what was going on. I figured flagrant honesty was the best policy. I also pointed out that although this sounded “convenient,” I WAS running a marathon (not weaseling out of a PFT) and if checking into MCRD San Diego is not going to be a uniform inspection, I don’t know what is.

With this weighing on my mind, I got out at lunch to run for an hour and a half but it was warm (70s but when you are running, that gets to be warm) and I had consumed exactly no water all morning. I gulped as much as I could right before I left but with no water stops on the course, I was not setting myself up for success.

I paid.

My legs were fine. My breathing was fine. But the effort it took was ridiculous and by an hour into it, the overriding, singular thought was water, water, water. Not good when you still have ½ hour of running to do.

I found myself walking more and more and the other two times I had run this course haunted me since I had nailed a 1:29:58 and a 1:27:08 those times. I was hating life now and could think of nothing but the big water bottle sitting on my desk in my office.

I was really surprised when I crossed the line at 1:32:39 because only losing about 3 minutes means I ran faster than before when I WAS running. I really didn’t care though. All I cared about was how much water I could consume as I stumbled into my office.

I really dehydrated the crap out of myself today and feel like baked shit.

That’ll teach ya.

Free Advice for Today: “Worry about the consequences of the choices you make before you make them — not afterward.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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To Blog Or Not To Blog

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “Every time I go and shave I assume there is somebody else on the planet shaving as well, so I say “I’m gonna go shave too.”

- Mitch Hedburg

I thought about an interesting situation today: this blog.

When I first started this blog, I didn’t have to worry about much in the arena of who read it. I was working on my master’s degree at NPS and therefore had no Marines under my charge. When I was getting ready to graduate, I did think about how things would have to change once I got back out to the Fleet but once I reported to my current duty station, I found out that all I had was a Gunny who I doubted read my stuff so I could continue to do the mind dump at will.

I guess I should explain. What I’m exploring here is the image of an Officer and the interaction between me and other Marines whether that be of higher or lower rank.

My first exposure to this was when I just had the webpage and I was the victim of some pretty hurtful character assassination via email that raged throughout the entire Marine Officer Corps.

The second one was not as serious but still a little eye-opening. I was going to NPS and I had mentioned in my blog that a certain class was “not my favorite.” Not long after, the Lieutenant Commander who taught the class cornered me in the hall and asked me with a sly smile about the class not being my favorite. He had found my blog and if you have ever been caught in this situation, you will recognize the freak-out moment when my mind raced to remember if I had said anything derogatory. I hadn’t so I was off the hook.

Blogging was rather new and he offered a velvet dagger by saying he skipped over all the “Marine Corps recruitment cheerleading” and was more interested in the “stream of consciousness” aspect. I have to hand it to him, he was right on the leading edge of what was soon to be the whole blogosphere phenomenon.

The third incident happened when I first arrived at Quantico. A stupid chain of events starting with my own stupidity quickly degraded into some depressing persecution from some pretty high-level Officers in my chain of command. It has just been recently that the last character in that passion play moved on and I felt somewhat out of the cross-hairs.

So this leads me to this point: how will I handle the blog during my next assignment as a Company Commander? What is the quandary, you ask?

Well, there are different levels of expectation that Marine leadership holds dear. It covers the full spectrum from extreme adherence of protocol to letting it all hang out. In the extreme case, some believe that a Marine Officer should maintain a pristine façade of perfection; to hide the flaws and presumably maintain an infallible exterior that the enlisted Marines are supposed to believe.

But I was enlisted and I know that you are going to be perceived for your true leadership. A fake will quickly be identified and the enlisted Marines will, with all due respect due an Officer, consider him an idiot.

So should an Officer maintain that image? It is my belief that the image was created for the Officer to live up to, not for an Officer to play the part of. An Officer should never feel he should playact because the image of “An Officer Of Marines” should do this or that, look this way or that way, etc. Maybe at first a certain amount of that is necessary when he or she is learning the basics of being an Officer but those expectations should be internalized and fused into his personality. If you are “faking” it by the time you are a Captain, you’ve made a wrong turn somewhere.

Some Officers would argue that, like sausage and politics, the enlisted Marines shouldn’t see the details of how decisions are made or raw thought of their infallible leaders.

But of two things, I’m absolutely sure. First, that the vast majority of enlisted Marines would appreciate and enjoy my writings without a degraded respect for me as an Officer. And two, that many Officers would fault me for offering up the inner workings of my mind.

What do they think the enlisted Marine thinks goes on in their Officer’s mind? Do they think we should try to convince them we drive home at the position of attention, eat dinner on fine china while holding our pinkies up before retiring for a brandy and study Sun Tzu until going to bed?

Of course they don’t. If you attempt to maintain that façade, first of all they know you are not being honest with them. Second, they fill in the blanks with their own delusions of life as an Officer (pampered, clueless, devoid of all the frustrations, indignities, and annoyances of a “real” Marine’s barracks existence).

So what’s wrong with them knowing the details? I believe I still maintain the image of a good Officer of Marines because that’s who I am. I don’t think people knowing things like how I accidentally shit on a snake or how I have problems with fat people and homosexuals will destroy my ability to be a Marine Captain. How will people knowing the little human traits like the fact that I get lost easily or that I listen to everything from Usher to Sarah McLachlan damage my ability to lead? Not only do I think knowing my real personality will serve us both better in the long run, I think Marines deserve to know who is really leading them. In combat, all pretense falls away and you had better be on the same page as your men.

It comes down to the fact that even with your warts and all, you had better BE an Officer and not be ACTING THE PART of an Officer.

Sometimes I think that my blog “lets the cat out of the bag” and that rubs some Officers the wrong way. Some read it and like it. Some read it and think I’m not maintaining “The Façade.” Most are just indifferent about it.

The question comes down to this: does the playing field change now that I’m going to be a Company Commander? Should PFC Benotz be reading how his CO shit his running shorts on an arduous run? (Didn’t ever happen but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility). Will the higher-ups have a problem with one of their Company Commanders outlining the particulars of the inevitable stupidity I will surely display in my life?

Just to section off a portion of the debate, I’m not so blind as not to see that blogging about privileged information as a Company Commander will be off limits, of course.

On the other hand, an argument could be made that they shouldn’t see behind the curtain. This falls along the lines of knowing the particulars about your parents’ sex lives. You know they do it, or did it at least once as your existence proves, but it’s in no one’s interest to know the details.

So I don’t know. I’d like to keep blogging but will have to mull this over.

Free Advice for Today: “Never do business with people who knock on your door and say ‘I just happened to be in the neighborhood.’”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

11 comments


No More Job Ping-Pong

Monday, April 24th, 2006

Quote of the Day: “My roommate says, “I need to shave and use the shower. Does anyone need to use the bathroom?” It’s like some weird-ass quiz where he reveals the answer first?”

- Mitch Hedburg

Two good calls today.

First, the extra day of leave. Golden. I guess I should have actually checked out from Marine Online but to be fair, it was down all week. I tried as often as I got a chance to get online (which was not much since it was a REAL vacation) but the site was down every time I checked. Since Officers can check themselves in and out, I figured I would backdate it when I got through and straighten out the books.

In hindsight, I should have called the Company and talked to them about it. When I did today, the First Sergeant respectfully told me that this is a problem lately since leave started being handled on MOL. If something happens when a Marine’s on leave but hasn’t actually checked out (whistle…), it could cause problems with death benefits and medical bills.

I guess I should be more responsible about these things considering the second good call I made today.

I called the LtCol that left me a message and it ends up he knew me, or at least of me. He was a Tanker and let me clue you in on something here: this is huge. The Tanker community in the Marine Corps is very small and very tight (no sexual jokes, please, I’m trying to convey something here). He left Tanks in 1997 before I got there but he had done a stint up at Regiment when I was the Adjutant.

So we had a Tanker background in common (let me point out I was NOT a Tanker but their Adjutant. But they kind of took me in as a beloved stepchild and I always point out that although I was WITH Tanks, I don’t like to lead people to believe that I was or believe I “was a Tanker.” I have too much respect for these people to perpetrate.)

Anyway, this was a serious positive in my favor.

I started out by apologizing for taking so long to get back to him and explained that for fun, I like to take leave and go to other Marine Corps bases. He said that his Adjutant, a friend of mine, called that one because she said I was the kind of Marine that would not ignore a request from a LtCol to call him.

As I figured, he offered me the job. Now I was having not a little bit of stress over the fact that I had pretty much sold my soul to the other LtCol last week when I thought the Company Commander billet was off the table.

In that conversation, it looked like the Series Officer duty was front and center so I enthusiastically agreed, not dishonestly, that given the option of that or Adjutant work, I was going to be the best Series Officer the Marine Corps has ever seen.

For this reason, it was a bit uncomfortable when that LtCol listed what he thought were my choices: first as a Series Officer, in a close second, a Company Commander at HQBN….. schreeeeeech!!! Hold the phone, I thought that was off the table!!!!

He continues, “…. and in a distant third, Adjutant work.”

So what was I supposed to do? We had just spent an hour talking about how great it was going to be to be a Series Officer and I was all pumped for it and then he indicates that Company Command could still be in the mix. I couldn’t backpedal at this point, wasn’t in my nature, so I agreed and thought from that point on, I was destined for Series Officer work. I was fine with it. Thrilled, actually.

Until I got an email from the HQ Battalion XO asking me to call him.

So, now that we are caught up, remember that I was nervous about talking to THIS LtCol after I had agreed with the OTHER LtCol. I was looking at doing something I was not accustomed to: telling a LtCol thanks for the opportunity of a lifetime but I’ll take a pass.

It was to my great relief to find out that these two LtCols had talked (of course they did, CAPTAIN, you think they got their silver oak leaves out of a Cracker Jacks box?) and had decided that I would best fit as the Company Commander. The reasons they came up with were surprising.

First, I didn’t fit the mold they wanted for Series Commander because they like to have Officers for a full three years. This way, they can bring them up from newbie and develop them into Company Commanders with some continuity. I only have two years so that would mess things up a bit.

Second, I have a sneaking suspicion that RTR is either required to send Officers up to fulfill certain billets or RTR realized that with my seniority, I would likely be going over in a year anyway.

Third, HQBN is short Majors because of the war and they are only filled to 80% manning for Majors (Staffing goal). For this reason, they have to fill certain Major billets with Captains and when they do so, they like to put someone there that is both senior and prior enlisted if possible. This gives them a bigger experience base to draw from. I fit both of those desires.

Fourth, and most importantly, I was vouched for. The HQBN Adjutant is a friend of mine who went through The Basic School and Adjutant School with me. We were also based in 29 Palms together before I went to Monterey and she went to the MEU (a plumb job that speaks highly of her abilities).

It seems that when she saw I was inbound, she stormed into the XO’s office and all but grabbed him by the collar telling him that he needed to assign me as the Company Commander. She must have made a pretty good pitch and kept up with outrageous exaggerations because based on her descriptions, I should go from this billet to 8th and I living in the big white house.

Her persistence paid off and in large part of her intervention, I will be the next Headquarters Company Commander.

How do you thank someone for something like that? I figured taking her and her husband out for one hell of a dinner would start things out and then of course not making a liar out of her. That’s always good.

The XO wanted to ensure only one thing by talking to me and he didn’t mince words about it at all. He wanted to make sure I didn’t become a ROAD Marine (Retired On Active Duty) and drop my pack the second year to do more “transitioning” than leading the Company.

Answering this is like being accused of being a child molester or a racist; the more you try to explain why you are not, the more it sounds like you are.

My best attempt was to say something to the effect of

“Sir, I can sit here all day and tell you what you want to hear and promise you I won’t but that guarantees you nothing. What I can tell you is that I give you my word as an Officer and a Gentleman that I consider this opportunity as the apex of my career. I will have 21 years in the Marine Corps and this will be my first and last chance at true Command so it’s neither in my interest nor in my nature to squander such an opportunity. I started at San Diego and I’ll be damned if I end it there any other way than fulfilling my duty as a Company Commander honorably.”

I think that eased his mind about where I was at with this.

There was only one shoe left and he dropped it.

“I need you here as close to the 4th of July weekend as you can.”

Gulp.

I wasn’t slated to detach from Quantico until July 14th and check into San Diego until the end of August. As it stands, I’m already asking my command to let me loose a full 45 days before I was due at my next duty station. Now, I have to go ask them to push it back all the way to June 9th so we can leave right when the kids get out of school and still get 3 ½ weeks of transfer and vacation time.

I told him I would talk to my command and contact him when I get an answer. I was willing to do it (get out of Virginia and to San Diego just in time for summer? Are you friggin’ kiddin’ me?!) and no matter what, I would get there as soon as I could even if I had to go straight from here to there without leave.

Things just got a whole lot busier.

Free Advice for Today: “When meeting someone for the first time, resist asking what they do for a living. Enjoy their company without attaching labels.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

9 comments


Home To Buster

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

Quote of the Day: “One time a guy handed me a picture of himself, and he said, “Here’s a picture of me when I was younger.” Every picture of you is of when you were younger. Here’s a picture of me when I am older. You son of a bitch, how’d you pull that off? Let me see that camera.”

- Mitch Hedburg

Last Monday when we left, we decided that it would be best if Buster sat this one out. The kennel we normally leave him at had gone out of business. I was sure of this when they stopped answering their phone and I stopped by to see the actual structure had been abandoned and was most of the way to being demolished.

So Carrie found a couple of other potentials, on being my personal favorite just for the name: Furry Farms (a take-off on “Ferry Farms”, a well-known place here in Bucktoothistan). But they were full so we found another place that gave him a clean blanket everyday and a “visit” four times a day. Or at least that’s what they said. Who knows, they could beat him senseless as far as we know, although that wouldn’t take much.

When we dropped him off, he was all happy to be going for a ride and the reception area was definitely interesting for him. The new smells and the matted fur intertwined in the carpet provided plenty of olfactory stimuli. Of course the place came with the most stereotypical “animal-lover” lady at the desk who sent him into a happy dance. She, of course, fell in love with him instantly and I had to chuckle at her cliché existence. Long, gray hair, frumpy, scattered personality. My guess: 10 cats at home… at least.

All was good in Buster-World until she opened the door to the main kennel area and then there was an instant realization that this wasn’t Funsville for good old Busterdamus. He pulled back and we had quite the time trying to shove his dumb ass through the door. Yeah, just what you want to be doing in front of the kids who were already convinced that this was akin to Death Row for the knucklehead.

Today, we arrived right at 5:00 PM to claim him and when they brought him out, he was, as I guessed, near insane with happiness. Whatever dark thoughts he might have had at being abandoned for 7 days evaporated when he came wagging out of the kennel, looking skinnier than when we left because the dumb animal refuses to eat when we are not there.

We got him home and the first order of business was a bath. Ode-de-kennel was not the ideal scent so he got a good scrubbing. It was amazing how fast his happiness turned to perceived harassment.

For the rest of the day, I dealt with email. Jeez people, a cubic butt-ton each day.

OK, OK, let me get back to it so I don’t get hate mail on top of it complaining about the mail that’s yet to be answered.

At least Buster was forgiving and we were all glad to be home. Overall, it was a great vacation and I couldn’t have asked for more. We saw everything and everyone we wanted to and we stayed just short of overstaying our welcome at any one place, making each day an adventure.

I would have done nothing different.

Free Advice for Today: “When reconvening after a conference break, choose a chair in a different part of the room.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Screw It, One More Day In North Cakalaki

Saturday, April 22nd, 2006

Quote of the Day: “I have an underwater camera just in case I crash my car into a river, and at the last minute I see a photo opportunity of a fish that I have never seen.”

- Mitch Hedburg

It was Brent’s idea to go running in the morning so I was glad that he kept me honest. I guess I’ve become sort of “the guy who runs” so when I visit, it was pretty much assumed that we would go running.

The run was unique for a simple reason: I’m not used to running with anyone. Yes, I’m a solo runner for a couple of reasons. First, I don’t know anyone who runs as much as I do. Second, my schedule is funky so I run when I can. Third, I normally don’t like to go as fast or as slow as someone else. Fourth, I’m a dick.

OK, maybe not so much that last reason but I thought I’d throw that in.

We ran for a good hour and I introduced Brent to my 9-and-1 strategy where I run for nine minutes and walk for one. I explained to him that when I tell people “I ran 40 miles” that they just assume I get my running crap on and start running like Forrest Gump and stop when I reach my mileage. That’s soooo far from the case.

I break up the run into 9 minute runs with 1 minute walk breaks. That covers about a mile and I get a little reward every 9 minutes which keeps me going. It also gives me a chance to adjust anything annoying and get a drink of water. Sometimes I even stretch the break to a minute and a half but then I question my manliness and get to running again.

After chatting it up (I’m sure Brent had had enough of my jabbering by the time we were done), we returned to the house to enjoy the perfection that is coffee in the morning.

For entertainment, we decided to go to Onslow Beach right there on Camp Lejeune but by the time we got everything (read: the kids) ready, a storm had rolled in and the clouds were threatening. By the time we got to the beach, it was the pre-storm cloudiness and wind combo which made, what we were told, the biggest waves they had ever seen on the beach.

The kids went right for the water and for those of you that have kids, you know how it goes. First, it’s their feet. Then their shins. Then their thighs. It didn’t take long before they were wet all the way up to the waist, especially my own son. He gets that from his mother.

The adults stood away from the frigid water and just looked out at the ocean. On the beach we saw these big clumps of sand-colored foam which kind of shimmered in the wind, making them look a lot like big mounds of fat jiggling. It was utterly nasty and when one clump would break loose, it would tumble at you. Brent scurried off more than once making sounds like a little girl but I chose to ignore that, him being a LtCol and all.

It became pretty obvious that the storm was rolling in and we could actually see the sheets of rain getting closer and closer so we herded the kids in, got them cleaned up, and jumped in Brent’s minivan. A few moments later, the rain came down like gangbusters.

As we drove home, we were discussing this and that just like good friends do when all of the sudden, lightning struck. It didn’t strike us directly but it did decide that the telephone pole with the transformer on top a mere 30 feet or so away was a good spot to unload a few thousand volts.

The sound was deafening and combined with the fork of lightning streaking down from the sky and the sound of the transformer blowing, I’m told that both my head and Brent’s head dove down between our shoulders as though out necks were trying to take up residence in our torsos. This, of course, was relayed to us by our lovely wives between uncontrolled fits of hysterical laughter.

All I remember is seeing sparks shooting out of the top of the transformer like a fountain and an enflamed power line falling from it.

OK, everyone was awake then.

We got back to the house and made our plans for the night. The kids would be getting Sonic and the adults (and Brent) would be going out for a steak dinner.

In Jacksontucky, there has blossomed a restaurant industry to rival downtown Manhattan. Obviously, no one within a 100 mile radius of this town ever buys anything at the store and prepares it at home. Instead, they hop in the jalopy and skidaddle down to one of the millions of eating establishments offered.

And if your hankerin’ is steak, then you’re covered. They have Texas Steakhouse. They have Texas Roadhouse. They have Logan’s Steakhouse. They have Outback Steakhouse. They probably have Logan’s Texas Outback Road-And-Steak House, judging by the “imitation is the best form of flattery” situation that goes on. They all seem to be flattering the hell out of each other.

I really don’t know what we went to. One of the Texas ones where we could eat peanuts and throw them on the floor. At least I hope we could. If not, I may be a legend there now.

By the way, what a scam. Mexican places have to serve up chips and salsa and the good ones have to warm them. These steak houses just offer you a bucket of peanuts (literally) and call it good. You get to munch on whatever the last schlep left behind and if you think you can abstain, yeah, go ahead. I think I ate 14 pounds while waiting for my food.

That may have also had something to do with the beer served in a tall glass approximating a wine carafe with a handle. I had two of these bad boys and by the time the steak and ribs I ordered appeared, I was not exactly starving my ass off.

But I did my best and left there feeling like I had swallowed a small child. The rest of the food we saved for Buster since he’s been in the pen since we left and we will be seeing him tomorrow. He should be somewhat insane by then. I mean, more than usual.

Actually, we had planned to leave this morning but were having such a good time that we decided to spend the day and extra night. We weren’t picking up Buster until tomorrow regardless so we decided to stay and I would just extend my leave one more day. After all, I had to have a full day at home before I went back to work if only to try to tackle the backlog of emails and blog entries.

So we went back to our friends’ house and relaxed for the evening. Brent put in a wrestling movie that was so dumb, I’ll never get those 2 hours back no matter what I do. Yeah, there were a few one-liners but on my death bed, I’m gonna wish I had that time back. Hopefully that won’t be my last thought.

My last thought tonight was much better. I was thankful to have good friends and was glad we got a chance to spend some time with them.

Free Advice for Today: “Cherish your children for what they are, not for what you’d like them to be.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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All Good Things Must Come to an End. And Begin Again.

Friday, April 21st, 2006

Quote of the Day: “I think Bigfoot is blurry, that’s the problem. It’s not the photographer’s fault. Bigfoot is blurry. And that’s extra scary to me, because there’s a large, out-of-focus monster roaming the countryside. Run. He’s fuzzy. Get outta here.”

- Mitch Hedburg

We had to wake up and get the car packed before enjoying a wonderful breakfast and bidding farewell to my aunt and uncle, thanking them for their hospitality. After spending yesterday cramming as much fun into one day as possible, a day starting out with goodbyes followed by hours on the road was not all that thrilling but at least we were on our way to see more friends in Lejeune. Yes, we were going back there AGAIN!

While we were visiting, I was able to check my email for the first time. After canking endless spam, I still had almost 50 emails waiting for me. Two of them were from two people I had not heard of since my days at Yuma in the early 90s which was strange because neither of them had anything to do with the other.

What was stranger is that once I checked (and deleted the majority) of them using my webmail access, I went back later and ALL my email was gone. All of it. I freaked.

I sent a very pointed letter of help to my provider and when all was said and done, it seems they were doing maintenance on the mail servers and that particular time I happened to check my email, it was being moved. It was back later but it did cause some freaking out for awhile.

Another one of the emails was from a LtCol who simply instructed me to call him about my upcoming orders to San Diego. Now if you’ve been keeping track, I have been ping-ponging between being a Series Officer for the Recruit Training Regiment and being a Commanding Officer for Headquarters Company. The latest conversation I had was with the XO (another LtCol) from RTR who said he was going to make me a Series Officer so that was what I accepted as my future.

Well, THIS LtCol was the XO from HQBN and the only reason he would want me to call him was to offer me the CO job. They had already asked for me from the RTR who said they didn’t want to give me up and after the conversation with RTR, I thought my future was dictated. So why would this other LtCol be calling me?

I guess I should call and find out.

But that would wait. I had a third LtCol on my plate in the form of my good friend in Lejeune. The others would wait (see how big-pants I can get when I know they aren’t reading this?)

I called Brent and he said that his daughter, who is Alex’s age, was meeting friends for a movie and asked if he wanted to join them. OK, my son gets invited to go to the movies with a covey of unknown girls who, once they learned that a “new boy” was going to join them, devolved in a giggle fit to rival Ace from American Idol showing up at a slumber party.

The set up was that we would drive Ashley and Alex to the movies, drop them off (after sliding the boy a $20) and let him deal with his first situation where he’s the only bull in the pasture.

(Reminds me of a joke my uncle told me. A daddy bull and a young bull are looking over a field full of cows and the young bull says, “Hey, Dad, let’s run down there and screw a cow.” To this, the Dad looks down at his son and says “Let’s walk down and screw them ALL.”)

OK, not the thought I sent with my boy on this occasion but funny nonetheless.

We dropped them off and told them to call when the movie was over. I’ve now entered a new stage in fatherhood. May God have mercy on my soul. I can vividly remember being in the exact same situation when I went to my grandmother’s house one time and I was invited to go with my cousin to a movie with a bunch of her friends. I was a little older than Alex so I remember thinking my mom had no idea of the impure thoughts involving the possibility of me, the “new kid” being out on the town with a bunch of girls. The simple potential was intoxicating and although obviously nothing happened, it was just the potential that impressed the memory in my head and I couldn’t help but think of the same thing for my son. This was HIS night.

When we got back to the house, being such a superior friend that I am, I arrived bearing gifts. I had an autographed poster of the Rose Garden DI specifically addressed to my friend. Thinking I had the drop on them, I was thwarted from my bragging rights by a shirt they had waiting for me. It had a quote from Prefontaine (the famous runner) that said “Someone might beat me, but their gonna bleed to do it.”

Awesome!

Then Brent made us BBQ burgers for dinner and we sat around talking for hours until we decided we should try to get some sleep. We retired to our guest bed that just happened to be a fold-out and as much as I’d like to complain about it, it’s a higher quality one that I didn’t even know existed. It was actually comfortable, thus denying me the ability to make fun of it.

Damn them!

Free Advice for Today: “After you’ve worked hard to get what you want, take the time to enjoy it.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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