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College Daze

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Friday

Quote of the Day: “The only normal people are the ones you don’t know very well.”

- Joe Ancis

Since my running has progressed, I thought it would be a good idea to do a monster run. What exactly makes me do this, I don’t know. Don’t ask. It’s something between retardation and delusions of grandeur.

Like I’ve done every time I come home I visit my college and combine the visit with running as to kill two birds yadda yadda yadda. Last time, , I had aspirations to do the double run I did today but I was in no shape to do so back then so the experience left me a little disappointed. Today, it just left me in shambles.

The first stop was to the NROTC building but no one was there. The Marine Officer Instructor was TAD and because it was summer, not many people were around. I did get to get onto a computer thanks to walking in like I owned the place and just plopping down like I belonged there. Ooh-rah security.

I noticed they had a picture on the wall that surprised me a bit. It was a color guard in black and white in the middle of the Kingdome right before the Green Bay Packers ripped the panties off the Seahawks many years ago. The young Sergeant holding the Marine Corps Colors was yours truly, although mine is the only face you can’t actually see because of the angle. I was surprised they actually still had that picture and a certain amount of pride rushed through me.

I changed over and ran around the campus visiting the highlights to include my old Technical Communications building, the first classroom I had during my Freshman year, Hec Ed Pavilion, and the stadium. I even found my way through the famed tunnel and onto the field where practice was just starting. Feeling I was pushing my luck, I left and got to the business of running.

I hoofed it out to Gasworks Park going under and over a bridge at the same time. Why I have to note this every time I do this is yet another mystery but it’s true: I am passing over a bridge and over me is a highway so I’m doing both at the same time. My teethed bucked.

Getting out to Gasworks, I sat on top of the hill and looked out on the Bay for a perfect view of Seattle. I love this place and in the quiet of the morning, I got to relax in the sun and soak in the beautiful sight. I need to get back to this place because it’s been too long.

Returning to the ROTC building, I set out to do the second part of the run: Greenlake. This route took me through the campus, down Greek Row, and past Ravenna. I hadn’t done this run in about a decade but every step was still familiar. By the time I got to the lake, the plan was to run around it.

The plan hurt.

There were a lot of people and I mean A LOT. I had always run this early in the morning so I never realized this was a wildly popular walking/running area around lunchtime. It also seems to be a wildly popular gathering place for the wildly popular among, er, the same-team-types. Ew.

By the time I started around the lake, I had already clocked quite a few miles and it was getting warm, or what passes for warm in Seattle. It didn’t take long before my nostalgia turned to downright hatred. I starting conking out about ¼ of the way around and therefore the rest of the run was less than optimal (read: sucked).

Stumbling back, I decided to combine a third route that I hadn’t visited in over a decade: Ravenna Down. This simply means I took a detour at the Ravenna park and ran through the park. Well, walked a bit but again, it was a trip down memory lane as I passed through woods I had not seen in a long time. Except for the utter fatigue, it was a great time.

By the time I got back to the campus, I had to tackle the famous hill from the parking lot to the ROTC building and everyone knows that you have to give it everything you have when you go up this, gathering strange looks from backpack-laden students who hate to even walk it.

I jammed up this hill in complete anger. It’s the only way to get to the top. When I did, I wanted to die. Quickly.

OK, running done, it was time to go to the Ave. I got changed over and my rubbery legs took me across campus again to the famous Ave. Every campus has an Ave; it’s the place just off campus that has bars, bookstores, and beatnik shops selling everything you could ever imagine.

As I was entering the Ave with my backpack and iPod on, looking like a million other students, a cop car came speeding up behind me, came to a screeching stop, and the cop yelled “HEY!”

“Hey back, mother#$%$#%!!!” — OK, maybe that’s just what I THOUGHT.

I pulled my earbud out of my ear wondering what the hell I did and he says,

“Did you see a black male in a white T-shirt run by here?”

I told him I didn’t and he sped off. A few other cop cars were scouring the area and uniformed cops were power-walking up and down the Ave looking in every shop.

Gotta love a college area.

My first goal was to get a haircut and I went to the place I had always gone to. They gave military discounts (if you’ve committed this far, that’s for you, Killjoy) and were the only ones in the area that knew how to do them right. The Sandpoint Navy base had shut down when I was going to school and Juan the Barber who came in every Monday had long since retired and likely died since then. He was ancient when I was there.

I got my haircut and then hit the China One which, of course, is damned near a requirement. I was still sweating and went through dozens of paper napkins and many pitchers of water. They had to have thought I was on drugs.

Now I was full. And worn out. But there were books nearby.

The University Bookstore is to me what a vat of shit is to a fly. OK, maybe I could have come up with a better analogy but like I said, I was tired and full. I was lucky to even be standing.

I wandered through the immense gut of the bookstore but my concentration level was at an all-time low. I did my best but there were other fish I wanted to fry before I fainted. Namely, Barnes & Noble.

Leaving the Ave and going to the University Center, I entered the Mecca of bookstores. I might even have to give B&N the edge over Borders, especially this particular one because it’s as big as a warehouse.

If China One thought I was on drugs, B&N must have thought I had washed down those drugs with Jagermeister. I was so tired I kept bumping into aisles and it was difficult to focus on the words in the books I’d pick up.

But what an afternoon of blissful Oneness with books as far as the eyes could see which, for me, wasn’t all that far. I was in a stupor of happiness.

My stupor soon evaporated when I left to go home when I realized the depth of my stupidity:

It was Friday.

It was the Friday of the busiest traveling weekend of the year.

It was afternoon rush hour.

I was in a highly congested area.

I was screwed.

How could I have possibly overlooked this? I was stuck in traffic going so slow that people were getting out of their cars. My legs were cramping, I was falling asleep at the wheel, and there was a distinct possibility that I was pissed off beyond all description. Maybe.

It took me almost 2 hours to get back to my in-laws house and I was completely zombified. I had accomplished everything I wanted today but at a price. After cooling off from the ride, I was happy.

Mission accomplished for the day and now it was nap time.

I woke up and it was already dark. A few hours later, I was back down.

Free Advice for Today: “Fly Old Glory on the Fourth of July.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

2 comments


Let Me Fix That For You

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

Thursday

Quote of the Day: “The only time people dislike gossip is when you gossip about them.”

- Will Rogers

This morning was what I have dubbed the “Bowtie” run. This is when I just put on a bowtie and go running naked.

OK, maybe not. Maybe it’s the Bowtie run because I go 22.5 minutes down the path, turn around to return to the beginning and then go 22.5 minutes in the other direction and then return to the starting point for a grand total of 1 ½ hours of running.

Why do I do this. Well, other than being a tad more legal than the first idea, it’s a way to break up a run into manageable pieces and gives me a midpoint where I can get some water and some Gu. And cry.

I made it and went back to the house to get cleaned up. Today was special for another reason.

I don’t have many days here in Seattle so I have to take advantage of all I can while I’m here. And this doesn’t mean sponging off the in-laws either. I’m talking food.

When I was going to college here, Carrie and I had our favorite Chinese restaurant called the Mandarin Palace. I think everywhere, there is a Mandarin Palace.

This one had a huge fish tank that the kids loved but there is just something sad about watching a monstrous fish flick its tail twice before having to turn around. What could it be thinking?

“Oh, here I am again. Better turn ‘round.”

I mean even for a fish, that’s gotta get old.

We went to eat lunch there and I noticed that the waiter was the same guy I remember from when I was going to school from 1992 to 1997. And he hadn’t aged a day. Upon further investigation, my brother-in-law Scotty remembers the guy from when Scott was a kid and guess what. He looked EXACTLY the same back then.

Kind of made me wonder what was in the food.

After stuffing myself to the very breaking point, I waddled out of there and back to the house for a non-so-deserved nap: yet another tradition.

Run. Food. Nap. The trifecta of Body By Jason.

Today was also the day that I once again broke and thus proved my rule about messing with someone else’s computer.

I am a computer genius. OK, maybe I’m just an advanced user. Well, maybe intermediate. OK, I’m a computer retard that knows enough to get into trouble.

Did the in-laws actually ask me to fix their computer? Why no, that would make what I tried to do seem sensible.

“Hey, your computer in running Windows 97. I can make it much better with Windows 2000 and I have my external hard drive. Why don’t I just fix that up for you?”

Why don’t I just shut my shithole and not set myself up?

Things didn’t go as planned. Do they ever? Everything was fine until the damn computer wouldn’t start up at all. I had completely broken the damn thing as a result of nothing I could really explain. It just didn’t work and there was nothing I could do about it.

Furthermore, they didn’t ask me so I had to make things right which consisted of taking the thing into someone who was going to charge me a lot of money just to get it back to where it was before I retarded all over the damn thing.

God I can be such an idiot sometimes. I mean, you NEVER offer to fix a computer. You don’t even want people asking you to “look at it real quick” for them but when you carry around a masters in IT, there tends to be expectations. I know this. I know the rules and yet there I am offering up my unsolicited services like I’m some kind of computer scientist.

What was the damage? Well, computer geek boy tells me I installed it wrong (although the same installation had worked dozens of other times) and that he had to use another drive to get it booted up so he could access the drive and reinstall. All of this I could have done if I wasn’t on vacation and all my computer fix-it stuff wasn’t boxed up somewhere in San Diego waiting for me to arrive.

So $175 later, my in-laws had Windows 2000 and basically the same capabilities they had before. All the improvements were on things they never used anyway. So yeah, money well-spent on my part.

But I did manage to fix up a dozen other little annoying problems they were having although it took awhile to reinstall and troubleshoot them.

When will I learn?

Free Advice for Today: “When you carve the Thanksgiving turkey, give the first piece to the person who prepared it.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

5 comments


Buh-Bye Red

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

Wednesday

Quote of the Day: “There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”

- W. Somerset Maugham

You know, as much as a pain in the ass Killjoy was during these tortuous weeks on the road, this morning something happened that made me extremely sad.

She took her Weez and went home.

I know I might not have been the easiest person to be around and she might have learned a few things about me that she might had chosen not to know but for all of the bickering, fighting, teasing, accusing, needling, nagging, bitching, throat-punching, insulting, kicking, spitting on toothbrushes, feet-rubbing on pillows, and general hatred, I’m gonna miss these two cats.

I tried to convince them to stay through the holiday but they had accomplished what they set out to do: go on a road trip with the Groses and lived to tell about it.

Of course she had to get the earliest flight she could so we had to take her happy ass to the airport before the damn birds awoke. On my last breath I spit at thee, huh Killjoy?

All teasing aside, I really did enjoy their company over these last few weeks and when they left, there was a hollow feeling. They had become part of our family and now they were gone for an undetermined amount of time. They will be missed.

Maybe the best summation of their time with us is something I forgot to blog about when we went to Seattle. We visited the famous Pike Place Market because you CAN’T hit Seattle without going there and as many times as I have been there, there was something I had always overlooked. And what a perfect opportunity to experience it with Killjoy of all people.

You see, folks, other than the hatred, Killjoy and I have something else in common. Starbucks.

If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you will know that I’m am a Starbucks addict and who started me on that path of destruction? Why Killjoy, of course. SHE is the one who got me hooked and now I’m beyond repair. I even have a friggin’ Starbucks card that I regualry recharge. Oh the humanity!

Anyway, right next to Pike Place Market is Starbucks. “So what, they’re everywhere” you say?

What I mean is “THE Starbucks.” As in the original. As in the birthplace of my addiction.

This is like finding the original heroine plant, folks.

We visited it and it was this little dumpy coffee shop chocked full of people excited at the notion that this was the original Starbucks. I, of course, was among them and was giddy to be standing inside. I did this for longer than my unimpressed family who didn’t quite possess the appreciation of such a historical landmark. I even got a pic next to the official placard that started a worldwide revolution in overpriced, burnt-tasting coffee.

As we were leaving, there was a panhandler, street-performer, whatever. It was a dude on a stool playing the fiddle and using his tapped shoe to accompany his fiddle-playin’. I don’t usually pay much attention to these people because I abhor panhandling and street-performing just on principle but no, not Killjoy. After a moment of listening to what she assures me was real talent, she whipped out some cash and threw it in his top hat. He smiled, nodded to her and never missed a beat in his playing.

“Why would you encourage that?” I asked.

“Any cat who can play a fiddle deserves a donation.”

That’s Killjoy.

Secretly, I think it was because the guy was a redhead and I further believe that they have some secret code that they share their wealth. I think that Killjoy slides cash to nearly every redhead she sees, fiddle-player or no.

Later that day, I thought that my wife deserved a special treat. Although we enjoyed their company and were sad to see them leave, with Killjoy and the Weez being gone, we were once again alone to face our future as a family. I thought we should celebrate by seeing a movie.

We went to see Lake House and once again, I was required to check my penis at the door. Once again I found myself within the house of chick-flick wondering if I was sprouting a uterus as the movie wore on.

Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. Speed, it wasn’t.

OK, the concept was kinda neat but there were too many slow scenes that even those with ovaries have to admit was a dyed-in-the-cloth chickish. I’d give it a 3 or 4 on the Dude scale and only that much because Ms. Bullock is not hideous to watch and Mr. Reeves was The One.

So long, Red. Come see us in San Diego and bring the Weez.

Free Advice for Today: “Show extra respect for people whose jobs put dirt under their fingernails.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

6 comments


From Near-Pink Mist To Purple Haze

Tuesday, June 27th, 2006

Tuesday

Quote of the Day: “I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.”

- Dave Barry

It was finally time. Time to lose the trailer. No, I’m not talking about cutting weight but thanks for making the assumption, you bastards.

What I was talking about was the trailer Truckasaurus used to tow Uranus (that just never gets old.)

U-Haul was done having their financial way with me and I was wincing at the possibility (or probability) that somehow they would come up with some way to charge me more.

“The Corbett actuator was sheered, that’ll be an extra $890.”

I made the last little trip to the U-Haul store with the knowledge that I had broken one of the safety hooks (real safe, there, U-Haul) and this is when I noticed in the directions that you were not supposed to do any backing up with the trailer hitched. I had only done this approximately 28 dozen times. YOU try to tow around Uranus and never need to go backwards (see, NEVER old.)

Luckily, the drop off went without a hitch (God, I crack myself up) and Truckasaurus was once again going Commando. It felt so small without Uranus. (OK, maybe it does start to get a tad stale).

As though this much fun was not enough, I tackled the Big Loop this morning. The Big Loop is an 11-mile trek down a monster hill, along a valley freeway, back up the mother of all monster hills (aptly named “Cemetery Hill”) and through the Highlands back to the in-laws’ house.

Everything was going fine until after Cemetery Hill when thing did not go what I would define as “fine.” You see, there was this little matter of getting hit by a truck.

I have never been struck by a vehicle in my running career. For all the miles I have clocked on the road, never, until today, had this happened.

I was running along the sidewalk along a busy road with a lot of entrances and exits to strip malls and the like. I was watching closely because, you know, people are idiots and I didn’t want to be hit by a car. I’m funny that way.

I came up to a blind exit and a truck came barreling through without looking. It’s all about momentum that happened next. MY momentum carried me right into the path of the truck despite me seeing him at the first visible moment and with me applying my own breaking attempt.

His momentum carried his nose into the street even though he saw, too late, that I was there. I thought it was curtains and instantly, my anger flared. Funny the reactions you get when your life is in danger.

By pure reaction, I jumped as I put my left hand on his bug guard and my left hand on the headlight. With my arms bent and my feet off the ground, his momentum sprung me up and I absorbed the impact with my arms and pushed myself back. I came about a foot off the ground and was thrown back.

Then the cussing started. I had a few choice names for him, his family, and the special relationship I assumed he had with his maternal parent. I not-so-calmly explained to him his mistake as adrenaline pumped through my veins by a laboring heart. As I bent over with my shaking hands on my knees trying to recuperate from this close call, he pulled out of the exit and sped off. Somehow I don’t think my description of his general existence impressed him all that much.

After this close call, I needed a bit of a break and I realized I was right in front of a cemetery (hence the name of the hill. Keep up, Folks.) Not only was I in front of a cemetery (and don’t think I missed the irony of almost getting splattered in front of a cemetery), but I was in front of THE cemetery where a very famous person is buried.

I met with wife on February 7th, 1987 and started coming over to her house the day after. Since then, I have driven to her (parents’) house literally thousands of times and each time, I pass this cemetery. For most of that time, I knew of the famous resident (can dead people be “residents”?) of the cemetery I drove by but never once had I ever taken the time to go see him.

Today seemed like a golden opportunity. I walked through the gates and went looking.

The first thought I had was that because of the big hedges between the main street and the cemetery, the whole place seemed like a secret garden. Like I said, I had come past this place thousands of times over the last 19 years and yet this quiet place of solitude was new. Like most cemeteries, the place was serene.

The second thought I had was that I had no idea where the famous gravesite was actually located within this huge cemetery. I could be wandering around for hours and I was in no mood to ask anyone. Anyway, most of the people were in the negative altitude department and weren’t too chatty.

I took the chance on a huge monument in the back forty and was awarded with what I was looking for.

I found the grave to Jimmi Hendrix.

Now I’m not a big fan of Mr. Hendrix. Drug-induced music from the sixties never really appealed to me nor did the very symbol of hallucinogenic abuse. But he WAS famous and as I understand, a gifted guitar player. Oh, and he was in the Army so he did serve his country.

But on the other hand, he was just a man who could play a mean guitar. And he died of a drug overdose. Beyond all the fame, there he was, dead like we all will be some day and I felt a certain sorrow for the humanity lost and not the icon.

While I was standing there contemplating this, a young man walked up with a guitar case. He looked like a throw-back from the sixties and as I prepared to leave, he broke out his guitar and sat in the little rotunda set up as a shrine. He started playing as I left and I thought, what the hell is he doing? He’s spending his day sitting over the dead body of Jimmi Hendrix playing a guitar, as though that means something.

I wanted to grab him and tell him to get a life, stop over-romanticizing a drug addict icon from 40 years ago, and go do what Jimmi can’t: enjoy being alive.

Maybe it was my recent brush with death that spawned these thoughts but as I left, I couldn’t help but feel sorry for both of them. Get a life. Live a life.

Later, Carrie’s family did what they always do when we come home. They gathered. With five kids and all the expansion that comes with kids becoming adults, it was quite a logistical nightmare to get everyone under one roof, all the food cooked, and everyone set up to enjoy the company. But they did it like they always do; in celebration of the clan coming together.

I got to play with all my nephews and nieces. I got to spend the evening with everyone who loves me and who I’ve been lucky enough to call my family for almost two decades. It was a constant barrage of conversation, laughing, teasing, and hugging.

One more thing hit me this night.

In 1987, I spent the last week with Carrie’s family before going to bootcamp. The night before I left, they had a party. We conversed, laughed, teased, and hugged. Now, all these years later, the same people in the same back yard did the same thing. And once again I was leaving for San Diego. To the Recruit Depot.

But under slightly different circumstances.

Free Advice for Today: “Each year, take a first-day-of-school photograph of your children.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

4 comments


The Needle

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Monday

Quote of the Day: “Diplomacy is the art of saying ‘Nice doggie’ until you can find a rock.”

- Will Rogers

When I was a kid, my father would take my brother and I to the Space Needle. It was one of those searing childhood memories that almost sparkle in my recollection.

The next time I was there, I took my future wife to dinner before prom. It cost me a fortune to eat up there but the top rotated and I had a tiny steak the size of a Ding Dong and steamed carrots. I wore a tux and she wore what would end up being her wedding dress.

A few years later, I took my mother up to the top for the first time. I was a brand new Marine Second Lieutenant and I was able to show her the city her baby graduated college from and the city where he became an Officer of Marines.

Today, I returned to the top of the Needle and this time, I was able to take my son and daughter there to see the sights. I also had Killjoy and the Weez up there but since they put safety nets, my plan for Killjoy was foiled. Maybe some other time, Killjoy.

Walking around the Needle, all these memories flooded my mind and I think I caught a whisper of that feeling I had as a kid. The Needle is iconic; a glaring landmark from my childhood that represents all the good times I had during the summers in Seattle.

I was a little put off by the commercialization at the bottom where you could buy just about any item emblazoned with the likeness of the Needle but hey, they gotta make a buck, right?

I will point out that there WAS a military discount, as opposed to the lame-ass St. Louis commies who look at you like you took a steamer in the punchbowl for even ASKING for a military discount. I mean, really, what have WE ever done to deserve a discount?

This time was the first time I actually looked from the different perspectives and really appreciated the views from way up there. Mt. Rainier was in full view and each direction showed something iconic about Seattle. It was well worth the money to see and I would encourage anyone who goes there to not yell at their kid the whole time and actually enjoy the spectacle instead of making one. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Later on, our friends had a party for us. Carrie has kept in contact with many of her close friends from high school and they were nice enough to organize a get-together (the “we’re getting old” version of the word “party.”)

The first person we saw coming through the door was Scott. I had not seen Scott since I was in high school so we are talking 1987. And you would think that he would look older. I mean, I sure as hell do and thus, it is not fair. And I’m not just saying that to kiss his ass, he doesn’t even read my drivel. I’m saying it because HE LOOKED EXACTLY THE SAME. Like some kind of fucking vampire or something.

I mean, what the hell? This guy still looked 19 and I kept staring at him, wondering what the hell was going on. The Law of Guy forbade me from telling him how young he still looked but I broke that after one beer.

He was the boyfriend of one of Carrie’s friends and, sorry Scott, but the vivid memories I have of him is of him being so into Shannon, he would have pulled The Fly move on her if he could and thrown her into a pod. I remember how he used to just eat her entire face at parties.

Anyway, Lestat was there along with many others.

There was Ang and Bryan who hosted the party. The thumbnail on them is that he was a few years younger than her so it always degrades to jokes about her robbing the cradle and how we will be crapping our Depends but still be teasing him about only being in his 80s.

Paul and Alison are the Mormon friends who don’t try to convert the rest of us. They are the Stepford family but in a good way. Every Dad wants to be like Paul. Every Mom wants to be like Al. And Paul works for Microsoft so that makes him instantly cool.

My brother showed up but had to leave early. Killjoy also had a prior engagement so she was gone too. Wait, I never put that together until now. You think…. naw.

Then there was Kelly who I hadn’t seen in a long time. Kelly and I were the original Killjoy and Viper. We were at each other’s throat every chance we got. I was the brother she never wanted and after a night of verbal sparring, we would hug and thank each other as worthy opponents. Then she would knee me in the balls and that would be the night.

So ended this wonderful day. I was able to visit a central figure in my childhood and then round out the night in the company of old friends (all but Bryan, of course.) Oh wait, wrong context of “old.”

They say a man’s wealth is measured in fond memories and old friends.

I’m rich beyond measure.

Free Advice for Today: “Get a haircut at least a week before the big interview.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

11 comments


Home Is Where The Buster Is

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

Sunday

Quote of the Day: “Fish is the only food that is considered spoiled once it smells like what it is.”

- P. J. O’Rourke

Finally, finally, we make it to the homecoming. Crossing over the Idaho border, we bid farewell to the land of spud and welcomed the birthplace of Starbucks. We started in Virginia and spanned this great land of ours.

And both me and Killjoy are alive. Carrie and the kids are a little frazzled but the animosity has died down to a dull disdain.

Like most of the trip, I had this little celebration with Buster and Buster alone. No one wanted to travel with me or the dog but for my own ego, I’ll chalk it up to the fact that the Pilot had a DVD player.

If you have never taken this particular drive, let me give you an inkling of what it’s like.

That about covers it.

But that didn’t phase Buster. He was happy because he was with me and to him, that’s the cat’s meow… er… the dog’s bark but that really doesn’t have the same punch, does it?

Buster is a great traveling dog. He settles in and falls asleep most of the time, sometimes resting his head on my leg or using the pillow I set up for him against the passenger door. Um, Carrie’s pillow, the truth be told but that’s splitting hairs.

Speaking of Buster’s ass all over my wife’s pillow….

I mean hair….

Buster left a lot of hair in the truck. Not that he’s a big shedder, just that when you put a dog on a truck all day, he’s bound the lose about 56 metric tons of hair. One of life’s little mysteries.

He would crash for most of the day and when we took an offramp, he would perk up and get all excited. Most of the time he would not get a lot of free time to enjoy during these little stops because he’d inevitably lose what little mind he had and pull like a bastard to the point of almost breaking the leash.

Plus, every time we stopped, I had a bladder bordering on max density so it was a race to the ever-so-clean toilets you find along the highway. Buster would be left behind to wonder why I had left him and I know in his little dog mind, I was leaving forever… or until he saw me again when all was forgiven.

Stupid dog.

Stopping to eat was always a challenge too because he would give you The Look which made it virtually impossible to enjoy a meal. He would bark his fool head off at every opportunity like an idiot so we had to make the eating quick. If it was cool outside, we would lower the windows slightly and go in but if it was hot, we would burn many dollars worth of gas keeping Truckasaurus running with A/C on high.

This worked out fine until he figured out how to shift and take joy rides. THAT was a hell of an explanation to the cops.

And if he saw a horse, forget it. He’d go apeshit thinking it was a giant dog. Or if he suddenly noticed a cow or really any animal in a field, he would lose it. Never mind that there was almost a constant stream of these beasts but suddenly, he would notice and it was like Armageddon.

Speaking of gas prices, holy shit.

We were burning through $100 per pitstop with the two thirsty tanks. It was up near $1000 by the time we hit Washington and I was actually numb to it after awhile.

“Eh, another $100, man I gotta piss…”

We eventually got over the pass and into Seattle. Arriving at my in-laws house, they were not home so we just hung out and made ourselves comfortable. After knowing Carrie for 19 years, this house is the only constant from so many years ago. Everyone has moved on since I was a teen so coming back to this house was truly coming home. And you CAN do that, don’t let anyone fool you.

Everyone except Buster, that is. He is canine non gratis not because he’s not the greatest dog on Earth but because my in-laws just don’t do the dog thing. They barely tolerate me so Buster, no way.

So he was off to see my brother who agreed to house good old Buster for the summer. He has a black lab named Sam who should be named Samantha but that is a blog for another time.

For now, I’m home.

Free Advice for Today: “Don’t purchase anything in a package that appears to have been opened.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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White Water Wallowing

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

Saturday

Quote of the Day: “Think twice before you speak, and then you may be able to say something more insulting than if you spoke right out at once.”

- Evan Esar

Today the big deal was to go white-water rafting but despite Killjoy’s big excitement over doing this, she bowed out at the last minute and the falling domino effect came into play. Then Carrie decided she didn’t want to go. Then Michelle, Shane’s wife. Of course, the Weezer was out which just left Steph and the men (Shane, his son Kris, Alex, and me. Buster decided to bow out. Or is that “bow-wow” out?)

Killjoy can be such a princess sometimes.

We didn’t let this affect us and got up early, hopped in the Honda, and headed the through some of the most stunning country you can imagine to get to the river. A few hours later we made it and Shane decided that he really needed a Pilot after letting him drive.

We also decided that there is a lot of suicidal bugs in Idaho. My windshield looked like some very sick person vomited all over it. At one point, it was like rain hitting the glass and we had to keep the wipers on with fluid shooting up every once in awhile (keep it clean!)

Once we got to the river, I discovered that leaving the women behind was probably a good thing. Not to be insulting but these evolutions involve a lot of waiting, a lot of somewhat apathetic teens, and a lot of being strangers. You see, this was a sort of week long camp and the teens were getting to the part where living in the wild was losing its appeal. Additionally, there were a few adults who were getting a bit testy and a few older teens who were learning how to take charge with varying degrees of success.

The result was a lot of down time before they got the rafts into the water and then a lot of confused coordination before the floating started.

When we did, we had a great time. The kids had their first experience with rapids with Shane at the helm. He’s been doing this for years so he knew how to maneuver the big raft like an expert.

During a lull, Shane convinced us to jump into the water. I was slow to convince but once Shane gave the OK, Steph just said “Fine” and plopped right in without hesitation. Well, I couldn’t let my 12-year-old daughter go in without me. Forget the safety, there was pride at stake here!

When I hit that water, it was like jumping into ice water because, well, it WAS!

A certain body part shrank to a certain size and that size would be something near that of a pea. No longer was pride an issue, I was just kinda hoping my heart would someday start beating again. Soon.

If someone ever asks you to jump off a rubber raft to cool off, never ever trust them again. They are out to cause pain. They are not your friend. Memorize their face and put a mental label on it in big red letters that read “SON OF A BITCH!”

Speaking of putting my life at risk for no apparent reason, before we actually started rafting, we had some time to kill so Shane took us on a little ride along the river. Not only does one of the Earth’s parallels cross but that line also delineates the border between time zones at… Time Zone bridge. I don’t know who it delighted more, me or the kids, that we lost and gained an hour both coming and going under this bridge.

God I’m lame.

Again, speaking of lame and getting back to the life-risking, Shane took me to this bridge 80 feet above the water. He CLAIMS to have jumped off it before and so had his son, Kris. They said it was the scariest bastard they had ever done and after challenging my manhood, I actually considered jumping. Kris was going to do it with me and I did almost do it.

That was until I got right over the place I would have to jump and then a realization hit me: life is tough and dangerous. Why tempt it by engaging in massive stupidity? Have I not served in the Marine Corps all my adult life? Is that enough tempting? I like to think I’m mature enough not to let bravado dictate what I do and can walk away from stupidity when I see it. I felt no shame in this and I was actually proud because there was a time when I would have done it just to prove something that didn’t need proving.

Anyway, it was way the hell up there. And I sprouted girl parts. So!

After a day of rafting, we were all pooped. Driving home was like a test of endurance that puts my marathons to shame. Shane drove home again and as we were tooling down the road, a cop fell in behind us. Everyone in the car had their eyes on him as he followed and sure enough, after a mile, the lights lit up.

The funny thing about this was that the last time we visited and went on this same route to do the same rafting, Shane got pulled over. It must be his thing.

The cop made small talk and when he walked back to his squad car to keep us in doubt if he was actually going to write a ticket, we all joked. The running joke centered around the fact that my wife put a sticker on the back of the Pilot which read “My Man Is A Marine” and how that made me feel when I was driving.

Just as the cop was coming back, someone made mention of the sticker and what the cop must think as we ALL starting busting up laughing which is probably not the expected reaction from a car-full of people facing a speeding ticket. The cop asked us what was so funny and Shane informed him of the joke as I just sat there and said “Ya know…” and just shook my head.

He didn’t give Shane a ticket and we drove off still laughing.

It was good to spend the one day with Shane and with everything we did today, it felt like much longer. We were slated to hit the road the next day but I felt good I was able to spend some quality time with my mentor and check in with him as we traveled to yet another chapter of our lives.

I could have done without the fatigue, the sand in places I don’t want to talk about, and the brevity of the visit but overall, I felt lucky to have spent the time I had with a good friend and most of my immediate family.

And it was a day away from Killjoy so yeah, good times.

Free Advice for Today: “Don’t buy a house in a neighborhood where you have to pay first before pumping gas.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Su-WEET!

Friday, June 23rd, 2006

Friday

Quote of the Day: “The time to relax is — when you don’t have time for it.”

- Sidney J. Harris

This morning started with an excited Killjoy who, with access to the internet last night courtesy of the hotel we stayed in last night, came up with a grand idea.

Basically she remembered that the town that Napoleon Dynamite was filmed in was in Idaho. She further researched (because it’s like her job or something) the location of this town since we were rolling through Idaho today and had the banner idea to stop there.

“It’s only like 36 miles off our route.”

To her, 36 miles was nothing. The time it would take her to tell a short story. Or tame 1/4567th of her hair. But for me, driving Truckasaurus with Uranus in tow through steep, windy mountains was another story. But since everyone was so damned excited about it, I guess I could go along and act like I was somewhat interested.

When we finally pulled into the town, I had maneuvered the rig through hills and twists only seen in Dr. Seuss books. We made it pulled into a gas station where I parked while the others headed off to the Chamber of Commerce on the advice of the local gas baron.

They retrieved a map that showed where all the places were where they filmed parts of the movie. But here’s the deal: this was a way-back-in-the-woods area with the small town xenophobia and shunning of outsiders you only see in movies like Deliverance. We were strangers and it became evident that they were none too happy about the fact that this cult-classic was filmed here and brought curious onlookers, the likes of such oddities as a Marine, two women, three children, and a dog in three vehicles.

There was not one sign, plaque, poster, or any other identifying indication that Napoleon Dynamite was filmed there. Most places would have cashed in on the success (however short lived) such a film would bring but it seemed they had gone out of their way to distance themselves from the movie. The ONLY thing that connected this town to the movie was this $1.00 map on sale at the Chamber of Commerce.

The first attempt at stargazing was Napoleon’s house but after chasing the wild goose, we came up empty. It seems that we got what we paid for with the map and maybe it was their little revenge for their unwanted notoriety.

Next, we decide to visit Tina, the fat lard.

OK, first, I cannot mention “Tina” without tacking on “the fat lard” to it. Even when speaking I have to say it just like Napoleon so don’t expect me to stop. It’s just the way it is.

If shedding the notoriety was strange thing #1, then #2 has to be that Tina (the fat lard) does not live by Napoleon’s house like in the movie. She lives in a field and the weird thing here is, as I mentioned before, there is no indication of her celebrity at all. We followed the map and came to a big field along the road in the middle of nowhere. We simply pulled over to the side of a long, open road and there in a field separated by a three-strand barbed-wire fence was… Tina (the fat lard).

No hoopla, no sign, just a field with a llama. More precisely, two llamas which brought up the confusion of just which one was Tina (the fat lard).

So to recap, it was movie magic that placed the field Tina (the fat lard) lived in next to Napoleon’s house. She really lived in the middle of nowhere with no indication that this beast was a cult in her own right.

I just couldn’t believe I was standing next to THE Tina (the fat lard) and it was pretty much anti-climatic; it was just a llama in a field. I don’t know what I expected but it seemed too easy. There she was.

Yes folks, I was star struck by a llama.

We took pictures and got as near as we dared. Tina (the fat lard) is a disgusting animal and I just knew she would have nipped, bit, or spit on me the first chance she got so we kept our distance. But this didn’t stop me from calling her a fat lard about a billion times much to the dismay of the others.

By the time we left, we still couldn’t figure out which one was THE Tina (go ahead and add it, you know what belongs here).

We bid our farewells to Tina (go ahead. One last time…) and headed to Pedro’s house.

Here is where I start to break down in the knowledge department. I have to admit that I only saw the movie once a long time ago so the sights were not as familiar as they would be to the uber-geek who’s memorized every frame of the movie. I did vaguely remember Pedro’s house and we made a discovery at this point:

These were real houses and people actually live in them. No movie magic here, they are real houses and as such, we couldn’t just walk up and take pics so we would drive up, roll a window down, and do kind of a drive-by.

While driving to our next destination (the school),

We noticed something else: this town has the widest friggin’ streets I have ever seen in any city in my entire life. It was nuts. I’m talking like a 5-lane freeway. Cars were parked at the curb and there was still like 4 lanes to drive down. Once you noticed it, it looked really crazy.

We decided to give old Napoleon’s house one more shot and we eventually found it. It was nothing like we expected because in the movie, you see him walking down the street in his neighborhood and up to his house but in real life, the house is out in the middle of nothing. Fields all around and you guessed it, someone lived there.

I can only figure that someone knew someone and they said “Hey, come film it in this little town. We can use the local houses and fix it up in post-production.”

After gaping at the house for a few minutes, we unceremoniously drove on and bid farewell to good old Preston Idaho and would our way back down the hills to get back to the main freeway.

We made it to Boise where we imposed on my mentor, Shane, and his family. We had imposed on them before over the years but this time, they had dogs instead of kids. No, no terrible accident. The kids just became adults and moved out.

Flush from the excitement of the Napoleon experience, we stayed up late visiting with some of our oldest friends (take that any way you want). We had to kind of explain the presence of a redhead and her kid but it was cool since back when Shane had hair, it was red too.

Shane retired from the Army but spent 13 of his years as a Marine and as a former Drill Instructor and the fact that he fought in the first Gulf War, he was, is, and will always be a true Marine. The Army thing was just a phase. Kinda like college experimentation.

These days, Shane is doing what Shane needs to be doing: personal trainer. And no, not “personal trainer” as in escort by another name, he actually trains people. He has his degree and is looking to get some space and equipment to open his own gym. If anyone can succeed at this, it’s Shane. Many years ago he took a withered Corporal from the Gulf War who couldn’t bench 30 pounds and a year later had him benching 315. He had three rules:

1. Work out 6 times a week
2. Never an excuse to miss a workout
3. Stick with it for a year

I was never the same and I have him to thank for it.

LUCKY!

Free Advice for Today: “Schedule your bachelor party at least two days before your wedding.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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The Gang’s All Here, Yo.

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Thursday

Quote of the Day: “Inanimate objects are classified scientifically into three major categories – those that don’t work, those that break down and those that get lost.”

- Russell Baker

Traveling across the country with friends is fun but even with someone as friendly, upbeat, and all-around un-whorish like Killjoy, you cannot combine two families for such a long period of time without a few things happening. You get on each other’s nerves. You pick up some of each other’s mannerisms and sayings. You are amazed at both the idiosyncrasies you never knew about as well as the positive aspects of their personalities you only caught glimpses of before.

And this is not limited to just Killjoy and Weezer. You get to know your own family as well within the cauldron of close quarters, long hours together, and much time to contemplate your life.

For example of cross-pollinating our personalities, Carrie has these sayings that have become part of our family’s everyday conversation but to Killjoy, they were new and hilarious. At the risk of trying to explain inside jokes and “had-to-be-there” explanations, here it goes.

When Carrie sees something rude, normally just a little social courtesy flaw, she will exclaim “That is SO unnecessary.” The smaller the breach, the funnier it is such as a dog peeing on a tire. I’ll let Killjoy explain this further in comments if I haven’t caught the essence.

The other one is closely related. She will sometimes say “That just makes me ANGRY” in a very matter-of-fact way. Again, the smaller the infraction, the funnier. Killjoy pointed out that the humor in it is when it’s applied to something that shouldn’t make you angry but does. Like when she sees a fashion disaster in a magazine.

Help me out here, Killjoy.

Anyway, let me fill in the gaps in this post since not much happened between Denver and Ogden. These are obviously my own interpretations since I can’t speak for the others.

Carrie, my wonderful wife, is about as perfect as you can get as a mother, a wife, and a friend. I can vouch for that based on 18 years of marriage and Killjoy, I know, will echo my sentiments based on her brief friendship she’s developed with Carrie. Hell, she likes Carrie better than me and for good reason.

Carrie is the eldest of five and has had a caring streak (hence the name, ha!) since she was a little girl. As the oldest, her parents depended on her to help out and she was in essence a third parent to the rest of the clan. She has inherited the best aspects of both her parents and they are incredible people in their own right.

Carrie has been “the adult” on this trip taking care of 3 chronological kids and 2 not-so-mature adults who tend to fight like brother and sister. She is the voice of reason and is always thinking about everyone else, making decisions like a computer throughout the day that maximize everything from when to stop to what to eat. She accomplishes this without overbearing or ruffling any feathers. How she does this, I don’t know. But I’m so proud to be associated with her and consider me the luckiest man on the face of the earth.

Alex, my son, is growing up. He is respectful and values family. He can tease his sister a bit too much and with the Weez, seemed to be outnumbered at times in a car with two girls and two women. But the way he dealt with it was like boys his age throughout the centuries: he tended to retreat inwards with his music. This is fine, he is growing inside and out and this was a good chance to take inventory on who he is and what he wants in his future. I couldn’t ask for a better son and I look forward to spending a lot more time with him before he leaves the nest in a few years.

Stephanie is rapidly becoming Carrie and I couldn’t have hoped for anything more in life. In looks and personality, she is developing the personality that will make her very successful in life and what more could a father want? This trip was an opportunity for her to not only bond with the Weez but also get a immersive exposure to the dynamic of two grown women who truly like each other. I think that event will stay with her for a long time.

For as much as I tease Killjoy, I’ve thought the world of her since we started corresponding over a year ago. On this trip, it became evident that we are more alike than we first suspected, especially in the mood department so everyone had to put up with at least one of us being moody. Sometimes it worked out that both of us were on a low and for that, I apologize to everyone. I also suspect that there is a shelf life to being around each other because when we would just visit, we would have fun exchanges but with daily interaction, the opportunity to start needling each other wore thin. I guess this is true of most people but given the choice, I wouldn’t have traded the opportunity to make this road trip without her or the Weez. For those of you that know Killjoy through real life, you know what I am talking about. Being around Killjoy is just plain fun. For those of you that only know her through the internet, let me assure you, she is just as much if not more entertaining in person. Especially when her hair stops cooperating.

Speaking of the Weez, what a sweet girl. I formed a special bond with her during the trip and enjoyed every minute with her. I had always wanted a gaggle of kids so “adopting” another for the trip was easy although I found it difficult sometimes to include her as one of my own without my own wondering why I was doing that. Kids can be protective of their parent and I tried hard to ride that line between making Weez feel comfortable and with my own kids’ need to have their father as their own.

As for me, I saw this trip as a transition. I’ve made it no secret that I was not happy with my work situation in Virginia and it affected my home life as well. With such a big drive, the transition took on a physical as well as emotional life of its own. I was able to shed the layers of discontent I had built up and rededicate myself to my new job, my new relationship with my family, and come to terms with who I really am as a Marine. I’m actually glad that I had to move cross country but now to me, the entire Eastern Seaboard is one big Hellscape in my memory.

OK, these were some of the thoughts I had from Denver to Ogden Utah. When we got there, we checked into this motel that doubled as a ski resort in the winter. It was rather impressive with log cabiny (it IS a word now!) architecture and big spacious rooms. They gave a military discount (a rather large one I might add. So un-St. Louis of them) and again, we let the kids swim as we all rested between driving days.

Tomorrow, we head to Idaho.

Free Advice for Today: “Only a few boxes left, folks!”

- Me

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Donut Rage

Wednesday, June 21st, 2006

Wednesday

Quote of the Day: “The trouble with weather forecasting is that it’s right too often for us to ignore it and wrong too often for us to rely on it.”

- Patrick Young

You may never be able to come home again but you sure as hell can leave it again. Yes, folks, all the fun that was to be had was had and it was time to pack up once again and continue our trek across this great land of ours.

I felt kind of bad for overflowing my aunt’s toilet (not our fault, really, just a bad septic tank situation) because they had carpeting in the bathroom and although we wetvac’ed and tried to clean up, it was smelling a little moldy when we left.

“Thanks for the hospitality, sorry about the ruined bathroom. Luv ya”

Before we left my hometown of Arkansas City, we had to visit Jerry’s Donuts. It was city ordinance 44987.98d.

If you recall, Killjoy and I had a dustup in St Louis (I know, crazy) about donuts. You see, Krispy Kremes are the only “real” donuts that exist on planet Earth and Killjoy took offense when I belittled her lame little local attempt at donutism to the point where she actually banned me from even trying one. I did anyway and it wasn’t too bad, although it was no Krispy Kreme. I know Krispy Kreme. I’ve eaten Krispy Kreme. Those, my friend, were no Krispy Kremes.

For some reason, Killjoy’s boxers where all in a bunch over this.

Anyway, back to Jerry’s. I went in with the wrong state of mind. After last night’s behavior, my mood was still a little squirrelly and I knew the donut plan for this morning had a high potential for petulance. The last time I had been there, their selection was a bit scarce due to the swarm of locust action the place gets every morning.

When we came strolling in this morning, there were almost nothing but crumbs left. And the nasty crap-filled mutation that no one wants. This, for some reason, set me off.

OK, you bastards are a donut shop. You sell donuts. Why is it that EVERY effing time I come in past 0500, you are clean out of donuts? Not just today but everyday. This is not a wild occurrence; you see this EVERY DAY.

Great, you a popular but if you have such demand past 0500, why don’t you, I don’t know, MAKE more? Hire more people? Be prepared for the normal people who don’t feel the need to wake up when it’s high noon in China?

And while I’m ranting, hey, Ark City, take it easy on the donuts. I mean you clean out the entire Jerry’s supply every day before the sun comes up. And I know you are buying DOZENS at a time. How about some common courtesy and leaving enough so that I can get my kids a chocolate sprinkle? I know it’s asking a lot.

I was so fed up, I finally determined that the bastards should just close down when they are out instead of standing there asking what I will have, the crumbs or the gel-filled steamer they laid at 0200 that everyone else passed on.

I did relent and we got a few of the less-than-optimal offerings that cost more than I wanted to pay. By the time I got to the Truckasaurus-Uranus rig, I was thoroughly pissed off and when I put the excuse-for-a-donut to my lips, it was like biting into a big stale marshmallow. So now not only did I have to settle on something I didn’t want which cost me astronomical calorie intake and monetary compensation, but it also tasted pretty much like shit. Stale shit.

This sent me through the roof and without discussion, I pulled over to the local grocery store down the road and stormed in there for some real donuts. Carrie, the kids, and Killjoy knew better to question my erratic behavior seeing how I was in what some would deem “a rage.”

Walking into the supermarket, I saw a wall of what looked like freshly baked, pristine offerings of every kind of donut known to man. How could this be? It was like they were all untouched in a town that obviously values large intake of pastries.

I picked about a half dozen and although the price was high (especially since I had already paid for the Jerry’s shitbombs), it was not as bad and I didn’t care. I was getting me some donuts if it cost me a month’s pay.

I got back to Truckasaurus, readied everything for the all-day drive, and sat back somewhat quelled from the donut fiasco. I pulled out a chocolate long john as I drove off, put it to my lips…..

And it tasted like shit.

Ahhh, that’s why they were untouched. Most manure is.

I gave up. Good donuts were not to be had and this just strengthened my resolve: the only true donut is Krispy Kreme.

By the end of the day, we had made it to Denver and we got a hotel. The kids swam in the pool as usual and the adults sat around and talked about the day’s events. Not much to talk about since just sitting in cars and steering large hunks of metal down the road doesn’t involve a lot of intricate talent. But we managed.

The good news was that I was past my donut-anger due to the healing powers of time and miles. My sense of closure started at the first rest stop of the morning where I threw the two bags of shit-nuts into the trashcan with more than a little anger and satisfaction.

Free Advice for Today: “It’s here somewhere but still packed in a box.”

- Me

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