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Mo: Hawks and Rons

Monday, July 31st, 2006

Monday

Quote of the Day: “A diplomat… is a person who can tell you to go to hell in such a way that you actually look forward to the trip.”

- Caskie Stinnett

Today starts a tough week.

Why?

Because my First Sergeant is going on leave and you know what that means: the training wheels are off and I’m here to drive this Company bike. I still have my Gunny but it’s a little shaky to be without my senior SNCO this early in the game.

But Gunny is great. Great but you have to be careful. You ask for an elephant in jest, you’ll show up the next day with a pacaderm in your office and calls from Ringling Brothers asking WTF?!

Case in point, I said “Gunny, can you get me a fan?”

You see, it’s miserably hot in my office and I didn’t want to drag the fan I have blowing on me all night from my room, hauling it across the parade deck every morning and night. So I asked, thinking there were some around the Battalion.

Within 10 minutes, there was a fan.

A few days later, I’m walking across the way and through the Battalion spaces. I struck up a conversation with the S4 Gunny and noticed she had her window open right next to her but was still sweating like the rest of us most of the time.

“Gunny, you should get a fan in here.”

“I had one, Sir, a few days ago but I don’t know where it went.”

Shit.

Careful what you ask for, Grose, careful what you ask for.

I told her she could have the fan back but she wouldn’t take it. I asked her how in the world I could even remotely enjoy the moving air in my office knowing where the fan came from.

Damn zeros.

I decided to take care of the housing office situation I talked about yesterday and drove to 32nd Street.

Coming up to the gate, I was stopped by the civilian security guard, the pompous ass. He was busting out of his “uniform” (I use that term loosely which is more than I can say about his shirt) and I could see through the cheap netting of his baseball cap that he had a Mohawk. A MOHAWK!!! The fat tub had to be in his 40s or 50s, showed no sign of actually being any kind of Native American, and was wearing a figgin’ Mohawk. Unbelievable.

He stops me and says “You can’t come on base. Your sticker is expired.”

“Yeah, I know, I just got here and…” (the whole time he was shaking his head no,) “… and I have an appointment with the housing office in 10 minutes.”

“Nope, you’re going to have to get a pass.”

“What? Look, you can see I have a sticker that JUST expired which I am getting fixed within the next couple of days. I am a Captain in uniform and I have this Armed Forces Identification Card which you’ll notice, is NOT expired.”

“No, can’t let you on. You’ll have to get a pass.”

“Look, obviously I am new or I wouldn’t be going to HOUSING. I have not had a chance to get my sticker fixed. There’s no way I can…”

“No,”

“OK, write me the pass.”

“I can’t. You’ll have to go to the off base security office. You’ll have to go there, turn around, go left at the light. After you go ½ a mile, you take a right and then a sharp left. Pass the train tracks and you’ll see….” (I won’t go through the entire explanation because 1. I don’t remember and 2. I can assure you it was as intricate as the human genome.)

I was so irate I could have killed this guy with my bare hands.

I sped off really REALLY pissed off but I had an ace in the hole. Yesterday after I followed the Yellow Brick Road to get around the construction, I discovered that at the other end of the base near the PX, there was another entrance.

I zoomed over there and made the best attempt I could. I chose a young-looking guard (in the same cap but sans the Mohawk and maximum density Sta-Puff Marshmallow look to his shirt) and pulled up with my ID card sticking out the window, hoping to distract him.

Damn, he gave me the hand out slowdown move. What if Fat Mohawk jackass called over and warned him?

“Sir, your sticker is expired.”

“Oh, yeah, I know. I just moved here. Look, I have an appointment with housing in 10 minutes that I can’t miss. I promise I will get the sticker fixed today but I have to get on.”

He looked around nervously.

“When is your appointment?”

I looked at my watch, not sure if he was going to buy what I was making up. I didn’t EXACTLY have an APPOINTMENT but was supposed to stop by today.

“1300.”

“OK, look, I’m not supposed to let you on without a current sticker but I can look the other way this one time.”

“Roger. Thanks.”

I was on and it felt like I was the biggest fugitive the Earth had ever seen. But I thought, hey, I’m an active duty Captain. I really am. I am not some terrorist and I think that with a just-expired sticker, a uniform, a current identification card… let’s infuse some common sense in here. What would I being doing here if I didn’t belong here? I knew it, the guards knew it, but no common sense required when the gate guard duties are civilianized.

Once I got to the Housing Office, I parked and went in. After filling out some initial paperwork, I got nervous because I had stupidly parked my car with the front facing the main road. I ran out and parked it near the back where you couldn’t see the sticker. I was taking no chances, at least no more than I already had.

The appointment went as I expected. They used the same database that I found on my own and since I had already scoured it and was using it, the only thing I got is some advice about the different areas. I got my name on the list and finished up the appointment.

As I was leaving, I thought, which gate should I go out?

On the one hand, I could play it safe and go out the back gate and bypass fatass Mohawk. But it was out of the way and my ego couldn’t hack slithering away out the back.

So I went out the front and the thought crossed my mind, I could roll down the window, yell, and flip him the bird laughing. But I was in uniform and anyway, I had already pushed my luck and broken more than a few rules so I let it go.

But I did see Mohawk there. And bit my tongue as I passed back out of the gate.

Epilogue: why was my sticker expired?

Because it was.

Why hadn’t I fixed it until now?

Because somehow, the registration was missing. I am militant about putting the registration and proof of insurance in my car so you can imagine the ire when I took all my paperwork into the MPs (which fall under me, hello new Company Commander) and had an old, expired proof of insurance and NO registration.

I had driven from Seattle Washington to San Diego California without two of the three documents I needed if pulled over. And I drove like an insane moron the whole time.

I could claim luck but I’ll go with “dumbass.”

Free Advice for Today: “Give a trusted auto technician all your repairs, not just the tough ones.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

9 comments


Boring Sunday

Sunday, July 30th, 2006

Sunday

Quote of the Day: “Oil prices have fallen lately. We include this news for the benefit of gas stations, which otherwise wouldn’t learn of it for six months.”

- Bill Tammeus

I have nothing to do.

For weeks, my weekends have consisted of going out and looking for houses. Now that I found a house, the reality set it: I am alone in San Diego on a Sunday with nothing to do.

Wait, I’m in SAN DIEGO! I could do something different EVERY DAY and still not do everything there is to do in San Diego!

Nope, I got nothing.

Hmmm, I went to Borders yesterday so that’s out.

Um, I could go to the beach but how fun is that alone?

Running? On a Sunday, are you nuts?

There’s always eating. Oh yeah, there’s an all-day time filler you fat bastard.

Well shit, what should I do?

I decided I should go to 32nd Street and see how to get to the housing office. I needed to go and get on the housing list just in case and since I had never been to this base, I wanted to figure out how to get there so I wouldn’t be wandering around next week looking for the housing office.

32nd Street is a base about 10 miles south of the Depot and wedged between MCRD and the border. They have a commissary, PX, and other family services so I could also kill some time poking around the PX.

I found my way there but a missed the turn into the street that leads to the gate. I knew it the second I passed it and was insta-pissed but thought, OK, I’ll just go up, turn around, and come at it the other direction.

It would be easier to get to the moon than to do what I just described.

Have you ever been anywhere where it’s virtually impossible to get going the other way? No U-turn signs at every intersection, big medians, looooooooong-ass traffic lights followed by forced on-ramps to highways?

Needless to say, I was 10 flavors of pissed when I finally made it back so it was a good thing that the guard didn’t give me any shit about having an expired sticker.

There was construction on the main road of the base and I wandered around aimlessly, backtracking, finding dead-ends. The detour routes were not marked. It was turning into a banner fucking trip.

I finally made my way to the PX and it was monstrous. I just roamed around inside without anything in mind that I particularly needed so I was just killing time. I had my iPod just to keep my mind busy which all but guaranteed me that no one would strike up a conversation. I wasn’t feeling particularly social, especial after the driving debacle.

After the PX, I walked over to the commissary where approximately 180,987 people over the age of 60 decided to converge on along with me.

I bought a few items to carry me through the week (mainly applesauce, yogurt, vegetable beef soup, Raman noodles, and crackers) and then spent my allotted hour in the check out line while Septuagenarian Sally tried to haul her Depends from the bottom of her cart.

I felt like a fetus in that place.

And thus ends another day. I gotta get a(nother) hobby.

Free Advice for Today: “On long-distance road trips, make sure that someone besides the driver stays awake.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

4 comments


Morning Borders Patrol and Finding A House

Saturday, July 29th, 2006

Saturday

Quote of the Day: “My life has no purpose, no direction, no aim, no meaning, and yet I’m happy. I can’t figure it out. What am I doing right?”

- Charles M. Schulz

I found Nirvana. You all know I am a hopeless bibliophile (maybe you should do more reading yourself if you think that is something seedy) so when I found a Borders downtown IN ITS OWN BUILDING, I felt as though I had stumbled onto the mother lode.

I spent the night at Marisa’s (in the guest room, you pervs!) and because I have colors blaring in my room every morning at 0530, I can’t sleep past 0700 even on weekends. So I got up, let myself out, and wandered the early morning empty streets of San Diego until I eneded up at Borders.

I had to wait a bit because it didn’t open until 0900 so I did what you would expect me to do: go find a Starbuck’s. Duh!

When Borders finally opened, I wasn’t the only one waiting (sick bastards) and I walked into the cavernous building full of books. I think a small tear ran down my cheek.

I ended up buying a few books. How could I not? I mean, it WAS Borders and I DID have my checking Visa. Plus, how do you expect me to keep adding to my collection of books I’ll never get through even if I live to be 156?

Although this is big news, it’s not the biggest of the day.

I found a house.

After weeks and weeks of looking, I found a 4-bedroom in Rancho Bernardo. For those that don’t know, Rancho Bernardo is the “Whoa, really? How can you afford to live in RB?” type of area.

Almost 2000 square feet with club membership to the neighborhood Olympic-size swimming pool, Jacuzzi, basketball court, tennis courts, volleyball courts, and picnic area. The rent comes in only $150 over my BAH and that includes a gardener that comes each week to take care of the yard (“Lovie, could you get me another scotch, thanks…”)

The realtor found it for me and although we weren’t supposed to drive by, we did and she asked the people cleaning it out if we could take a look. I had to look past the trashed carpet and crap all over the place because they were going to replace all the carpet and repaint the interior. I liked the floorplan, especially the living room that extended all the way to the very top and the upper deck was open with a railing you could see down to the main room.

If everything goes right, we can move in next month before the kids start school.

I have to say, it looks like the perfect place, if I do say so myself. I hope that when I was asked what size my dog was that Buster passes for “Uh, small.”

Free Advice for Today: “Ask you child to read a bedtime story to you for a change.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

7 comments


Nineteen

Friday, July 28th, 2006

Friday

Quote of the Day: “War is a series of catastrophes that results in a victory.”

- Georges Clemenceau

Today.

Minus 19 years.

Right here.

I was terrified.

It was 1987 and I arrived at San Diego International Airport where I was transported via bus to the Recruit Depot, not far from the exact spot that I work at today.

I can still remember the cold chill as the air brakes hissed and all I could see is the silhouettes of a dozen DIs waiting for us. When one boarded the bus, my life was never the same.

Who knew that 19 years later I would be working as the Headquarters Company Commander? I didn’t even know what that was at the time but now, looking back, I have to pause in awe of the transition. I’m not bragging or taking credit, I am just amazed that things would work out that I would be here on this day in this position. My very identity is wrapped up in being a Marine and right now I get to exist with both my current position and the one that formed the basis of how I live my life.

But in a way, I don’t feel much different. Oh sure, I have almost two decades of life experience between then-me and now-me but every day I’m here, I still feel the lessons I learned during those three months. Now, they call it “moto” but I like to think that I’ve internalized the ideals that the Marine Corps instilled in me all those years ago.

What if, on that first night, I would have said “Someday, I’m going to return here and be a Company Commander here on this very base.” Other than the DIs wearing me out for speaking at all, the nonsense of my statement would have them laughing. I was just a very small, soft brick in the very big, very hard wall

“Yeah, right, Recruit, sure you will.”

On a different note, Sir Phil came into town and I was happy to celebrate such an auspicious occasion with him. He called and told me he’d be at a bar down on Point Loma but when I got there, he had somehow ended up on base where I had just left. Classic Sir Phil. So I turned around and met him at the base bowling alley.

Years ago when he was a lieutenant, he spent a couple of years as a Series Officer but hadn’t been back since. We took a short walk around the base seeing stuff he hadn’t seen in years. Seems it was a walk down memory lane for the both of us.

We decided to take Marisa up on an invite to dinner and after a phone call, authorized her to pick up some beer and two expensive steaks for us. She was on her way to the store to get supplies because she was having a bunch of friends over anyway. She’s like that; the Italian in her makes her invite masses of people and have big get-togethers at the spur of the moment. Same as when I knew her at TBS.

When Sir Phil and I showed up, we met them on the sidewalk as they were returning from the store. This is when I saw who was with them.

How do I break this to you: there was this guy that I met through Marisa a couple of days ago. I didn’t remember him much but he was one of the Lieutenants from my TBS class in 1997 but had got out of the Marine Corps years ago.

He was in town with a “friend” who he surprised by bringing him to San Diego for the … gay pride celebration they were having.

Yeah, there we were with Marisa, Sir Phil, myself, and two uber-gay guys along with a couple of other guests, one of which ended up getting rather blubbering drunk.

Well, the steak was good.

Luckily, no blood was shed and we actually had a decent evening, staying away from the contentious elephant at the tea party. Sir Phil had a good time as we kind of gravitated toward each other in a much different way than the two princesses. We caught up with many stories and made plans for our next run together. I actually missed the old fart (but wasn’t about to go out on the town with him and end up not coming home).

Sir Phil bid farewell at one point to return to his hotel and I stayed to have cake. It was a real test of my sometimes-negligible patience with “alternative relationships” but I didn’t make a scene or anything mainly out of respect for Marisa who has infinite understanding and didn’t seem affected by the situation.

Thus ended my 19th anniversary. As I went to sleep tonight, the thought occurred to me: there are Marines in my charge that have been human beings for a shorter period of time than I’ve been a Marine.

Where is my Efferdent?

Free Advice for Today: “Send Valentines to your children as well as your wife.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

15 comments


There’s A MOL in the System

Thursday, July 27th, 2006

Thursday

Quote of the Day: “Consience is what makes a boy tell his mother before his sister does.”

- Evan Esar

(OK, cheesy way to get a pic of Cindy Crawford in the post. So!)

Being a computer geek, you would think that I would embrace this Marine Online (MOL) concept. I mean, on paper, it looks great. All the administration is now pretty much automated and online and I can sit at my computer all day and administer my Company from behind my desk. Did you catch the problem there?

I am a self-confessed geek and even I can see that this is a problem.

There are some advantages, of course, but the learning curve is a little steep. I got my first taste of this when my First Sergeant who self-admittedly can hardly SPELL computer, was walking me through the promotion recommendations today.

“Click there, Sir. Now check those, Sir. OK, now uncheck that one and that one, Sir. Then hit submit and it will kick you out and my name will still be on there so you have to set the command reqs….”

And on and on and on.

Do you know how humbling it is to have a Luddite walk you through a confusing set of computer progression?

I guess I’ll eventually catch on but I have to be careful. See, I have the power to promote or deny. Actually, I give my recommendation to the Colonel who has that power but seeing that he is one more level removed from the Marines than I am, he has to depend on me to know my Marines. If I don’t recommend, I have to justify and it can’t be “This Marine’s a doo-doo head.”

Other things I can do on MOL? Well, I can approve leave. What does this mean? It means that the most junior Private can send me a request and I have to take the time to review his papers and electronically sign off on it.

What? You say that it seems weird that I have to sign off on ALL the leave? That the Company Commander is tasked with looking at every detail of the leave and has to go in and sign off on it?

It’s not quite as bad as that since the First Sergeant can go in and do it but in the old days, these functions were delegated farther down the chain so the Company Commander wasn’t swatting gnats like approving every leave request and could concentrate on stuff like, I don’t know, creating policy and leading the Company. I know, I’m a relic.

What makes things worse is that many times, MOL is either down or really slow. Or even worse, you do some amount of work on it and then it bombs out. And you just can’t leave it open all day. If you let it sit idle for, oh, say 2 minutes, you have to log back in which takes longer than the idle time.

OK, so I can do promotion recommendations, proficiency/conduct marks, leave, and get all kinds of reports off of MOL but there are just as many bugs in it as there are useful functionality. I have to live with this and invest in it since it’s been dictated as our bread and butter.

Just like taking a shit, the job ain’t done until the paperwork is finished and your ass gets pretty sore wiping it with a keyboard.

Free Advice for Today: “Be open and accessible. The next person you meet could become your best friend.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Tainted By Failure

Wednesday, July 26th, 2006

Wednesday

Quote of the Day: “What we think, or what we know, or what we believe is, in the end, of little consequence. The only consequence is what we do.”

- John Ruskin

When I first went in the Marine Corps, I heard of this great deal called Quarter Sales. It was this mythical place hidden somewhere on base where you could buy uniform items at a quarter of the original price. I never quite found out where there was and I guess some bases had it and some didn’t.

I never knew what the concept was all about. I mean, why did they sell full price at the PX if they had a Quarter Sales on base? Probably for yokals like me who didn’t know better.

I heard a few years ago that they had changed it to “Half Sales.” I thought, yeah, the mighty dollar speaks. They weren’t making enough money with ¼ so they started charging half.

Now they have changed it to “Cash Sales” which confuses me more. They take credit cards so why the name?

Sticks introduced me to the concept here on MCRD. When recruits drop out of training for some reason, they have to turn in their uniforms but the Marine Corps can’t resell them as new. So they wash them and send them to cash sales.

They obviously can’t sell everything and Sticks introduced me to another warehouse where you can get black socks, t-shirts, and running shorts for free. You don’t want used socks or t-shirts. Believe me, you don’t. But since the Marine Corps changes PT uniforms as fast as Paris Hilton changes sheets, this is a good source to get the latest ugly crap the Marine Corps requires. And people, these new PT shorts are hideous. They are like when you accidentally put a pair of baggy shorts on backwards. And inside out.

But I had to have a pair so that’s where I got them. Bleck.

Back at cash sales, I was looking for a desert pattern cammie set. When I graduated NPS in 2003, they had changed the uniform and I had to buy new sets. I figured I was getting out in 2007 so I bought two pair of green ones and expected never to have to buy another pair. Then Quantico decided to require the desert pattern one week a month which really pissed me off since for the 2 ½ years I was there, I never touched the second pair of green ones.

I went and bought the desert cammies at full price and when I unexpectedly got stationed here at MCRD San Diego, I found out that they wear the deserts half the year when we wear our sleeves up. In the winter, we wear the green ones sleeves down.

What does this mean? That I needed a second pair of deserts because I wear them every day for many more hours than I put in at Quantico.

So you see, it was good news that they had cash sales here and I could get a pair of deserts for about $18. Good news until I realized that it was tough to get ahold of them.

Why?

Because many times they will pick through the dropped recruits’ cammies and send them over to the swimming tank where they need them for the water survival portion of bootcamp.

Not only that but you have to be careful because some of the cammies are trashed. If the recruit made it to 2nd or 3rd phase before dropping, then the cammies are worn, faded, and soaked in depression.

I found a good medium-regular top (we call them “blouses” and have for so long, it’s lost its feminine connotation to us) but they didn’t have anything but freak sizes for the trousers. Small-long, Large-short, etc. I’ll just have to come back and check every so often to find a medium-regular (the most popular size by far).

I also had a conversation with a Major and when I mentioned all of this, he looked at me like I had just shit on his head.

“You bought that trash?”

“Yeah.”

“And you plan to WEAR that shit?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I?”

“Because it’s tainted with failure.”

“Your serious?”

“I wouldn’t wear anything that was tainted with failure. I would rather buy new, pristine uniforms. Tainted with failure, I tell you.”

OK, I thought this guy was nuts but I played along.

“If we are attributing supernatural existences to clothing, then how can you blame the poor uniform? I mean, it was born in a factory and hoped that one day to proudly be worn by a United States Marine. Just because it drew the short straw, should we punish the poor thing by ostracizing it or should we allow it to fulfill its destiny?”

I don’t think he appreciated my sarcasm.

While we were out, we decided to hit the recruit PX. Yes, the recruits still have basic hygiene needs (in fact, increased ones since they live in such close quarters) so they get a chance every once in awhile to hit the PX and get some basics.

No, it’s not like the normal PX in that it only stocks stuff that recruits are allowed to have; toiletries and such. Actually, there ARE some contraband items that only DIs and other Marines can buy. Why they have them there, I don’t know but the DIs are pretty hawkish and direct at what the recruits purchase.

Like many places on the base, I experienced my first time back in this little store since 1987. It was just as I remembered it and I was still touched by a little nervousness because it’s in my DNA but it was strange to be in there knowing I wasn’t going to get the treatment by some DI.

For some reason, the number one thing that everyone knows about is cheap razors there. What normally cost $8-$9 for a pack of four replacements costs $2.50. You can get a case for $30 and Marines come from far and wide to take advantage of this deal. I will have to return when I feel like dropping 30 big ones on razors.

Today, I returned to my office without anything except some PT shorts tainted by failure.

Free Advice for Today: “Never wash a car, mow a yard, or select a Christmas tree after dark.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

11 comments


Hard Core Marine Corps

Tuesday, July 25th, 2006

Tuesday

Quote of the Day: “The man of knowledge must be able not only to love his enemies but also to hate his friends.”

- Friedrich Nietzsche

There is a Major in my unit who had to have heart surgery for the second time. The word is that he is quite a character and after meeting him, I can attest to this.

After our weekly sitrep meeting today with the hospital, the XO and I decided to go see how the Major was doing after his surgery a couple of days ago. After being sent to a couple of different places (no one was quite sure exactly where he was which made me curious. I mean, how do you NOT know where a patient is?), we finally located him.

When we finally found him, he was behind a little curtain. We were on the other side wondering how you knock on a curtain but after we got verbal confirmation to enter, a small, older nurse flowed in after us. I think she might have just been someone who cleans up but whoever she was, the Major was in no mood to have her barge in without permission.

This Major is one of those old school Italian guys who has been in the Marine Corps forever. He is very forward with his thoughts and most people, like me, go with the description of “interesting character” when speaking of him. I liked him the first time I met him.

When he saw us enter, he smiled. He was in his boxers only and without his shirt, we saw the big, red, angry scar running down his chest. But when he saw the nurse, his smile turned to a scowl.

“You two can stay, YOU, GO!”

She looked momentarily confused.

“GO. NOW!”, as he gave her a little “go away” hand signal.

She shuffled out of the room.

“Damn people just come walking in during all hours.”

This amused me because I could tell he didn’t like being in a hospital and didn’t take any shit from the staff. What were they going to do to him? He survived two open heart surgeries.

The fact was, he should have still been laid up in bed. It had only been a couple of days and the staff had wanted him to lay down for a straight week.

“Fuck that, I can’t lay there all day.”

So in true Marine Corps style, he was up and walking around before anyone would have ever expected him to even get up unassisted.

“I’m checking out. They want me to stay but I can’t stand this place.”

I loved it.

I was introduced to him and felt strange being HIS Company Commander. But he treated me with respect and really seemed to appreciate that we would stop by. I was honored to be there (and not being barked at to get the hell out) and was impressed that this guy would survive against the odds and retain his “Marine” attitude.

From what I’ve heard and what I saw, this is classic Major L. If there is any question if there are still a “Marine’s Marine” still serving, he puts the question to rest.

Ooh-rah, Major.

Free Advice for Today: “Take the stairs when it’s four flights or less.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

4 comments


Back To Dental

Monday, July 24th, 2006

Monday

Quote of the Day: “I was always taught to respect my elders and I’ve now reached the age when I don’t have anybody to respect.”

- George Burns

My name popped up on the dental list which means I had to go and get my check up. I wondered if I would run into Ms. Attitude from my first visit but I didn’t see her. I was also hoping word had not got around about the incident, especially to the person who was going to have their hands deep in my mouth, poking around all the nerve endings that are in my soup-cooler.

Like always, I brushed my teeth twice this morning and flossed. For some reason, dentists always think I’m a consistent flosser but the truth be told, I only do it when I get half a cow or chicken stuck in my fangs or when a dental visit is on the horizon.

I got a good cleaning and all the fun that is involved with that. Yeah, I got the questions about my family and such when her hands were completely in my pie hole and I grunted out the best I could.

After I was done, I got my complimentary floss and toothbrush. Walking out, I thought about how much more pleasant this was than 1987.

This was especially driven home when I saw a DI sneak up on a recruit who was in the middle of the sin of having his hands on his head in a rather relaxed position. He was not relaxed for long.

In the middle of wearing this kid out, the DI stopped, stood at attention, and saluted me. Then he turned back to the recruit without missing a beat.

Again, I love the Marine Corps.

Free Advice for Today: “Be the first to forgive.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

3 comments


House Hunting With Jeanie and The Massage

Sunday, July 23rd, 2006

Sunday

Quote of the Day: “It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do.”

- Jerome K. Jerome

Please don’t think the first part of the title has ANYTHING to do with the second part. I would hate to besmirch the good name of my friend Jeanie. Read the entire blog entry, you lazy, judgemental bastards!

I guess I had better get started with this househunting gig. I mean, I have a house I haven’t sold in Virginia, my family’s vacationing in Seattle waiting for me to find a house, and I’m working 16-hour days and falling asleep exhausted. I have a deadline of when school starts when I have to have my family down here regardless of the state of my house in Virginia which means I might be paying double rent unless I pull my head out of my …..

No pressure.

I found a website for military people who are relocating and put my information in with a result of about a million possibilities. I’m also scouring Craig’s List and in contact with two different real estate agents. So why do I still feel like it’s hopeless?

I printed out a bunch of directions and mapped out a route to visit each one, interspersing visits with agents along the day. Carrie was on the cell in front of a computer in Seattle giving me turn-by-turn directions in San Diego. I was her remote-controlled car all the way cross three states.

I took Jeanie along with me because she had nothing better to do and I wouldn’t take her to the airport if she didn’t help me.

I learned a lot today. Things like the difference between suggestive advertising and reality.

I’m not saying I visited any dumps…OK, I am. I wouldn’t let a dog die in some of the places I saw today. One place looked like something built in the 50s with an enormous driveway complete with speedbump….IN THE DRIVEWAY!! The utter enormity of the driveway was for one thing: Winnebago. Can you so “old folks” neighborhood? I thought ya could.

Some of the more “affordable” neighborhoods were old and what I mean by old is that old people lived in them and when these old people kick it, trash blows in to take their place. So yeah, perfect for the kids.

I also blew a good opportunity. There was this place with the works at the right price. Both Carrie and I were salivating over this place and when I called last week, the lady told me I would have to call “Paul” back. I wrote the number on my desk calendar and called EVERY DAY only to get voicemail where I left a series of ever-increasing irate messages.

When I double-checked the listing, it seems that I transposed two of the numbers when I wrote it down so not only was it rented by the time I called, some person got a series of very confusing and very angry phone messages.

At the end of the day, I found only one possibility which I wasn’t thrilled about. But it was looking better and better once I started seeing alternatives. Now I have to wait until next weekend to follow up on anything since I’ll be busy all week.

I dropped off Jeanie at the airport after thanking her for her help and sharing a Starbucks with her. She balled all the way to the glass doors of the airport which was probably caused by me dry-heaving at her choice at Starbucks. Some green tofu-vomit concoction that was the Starbuck’s-offering-equivalent to some of the houses we looked at. Not pretty.

I was glad to dump the … I mean, after I dropped off Jeanie, I had an appointment and for those of you that have been offended at my treatment of Jeanie, here’s your chance for retribution.

The appointment was for a massage.

Hey, a legitimate place, people. What do you take me for? (Don’t answer that.)

I’ll have you know that around the base is zoned the only places around San Diego where strip bars are allowed. This means that the United States Marine Corps Recruit Depot, the very symbol of military excellence, is surrounded by gentlemen’s clubs where very few gentlemen enter.

My point is that I have not nor will I take one step into any of these seedy places so your assumptions are not well-founded. Pervs!

Anyway, my friend here in San Diego hooked me up with a place where they teach massage so you can make an appointment with a student or a teacher for only $35 and $45 respectively. This is for a full hour of massage, people.

Now I know there are two camps of men out there. One would never allow a total stranger lay their hands on him for money and the other is perfectly OK with the therapeutic and non-sexual nature of a legitimate massage done by a professional.

But I still requested a female because although there is no sexuality involved, it was just too weird for me to have a man give me a massage. Sorry, it’s just a hard-coded guy thing.

So I got Cindy (and yes, that was her name and no, it was not spelled “Sin-dy,” you pervs!).

I arrived a few minutes early and it was a nice, professional-looking place, if not a little New Age (incense, pillows, Enya music). They even had a receptionist and I was glad the place looked all legitimate because no matter what, you have to have it in the back of your head that you might have accidentally stumbled on a front for a less-than-legal operation.

I filled out all the paperwork and was eventually called to the back where Cindy sat me down and interviewed me. She wanted to know my karma (just kidding), if I had any sore spots, injuries, or specific needs. It was all done on the up and up and felt pretty much like a doctor’s visit up to the point she took me back to the room.

I walked in and it was dim with a massage table in the middle. There were candles and more of the soft music was playing. It exuded relaxation.

Cindy tells me that she is going to leave and I can disrobe to the point I was comfortable (read: leave the tighty-whiteys on or off, your choice). When I was done, I was to get on the table face-down and put the sheet over me from the waist down.

Now I had a choice. I mean I was there for a massage, I had determined that it was a legit place, and I wasn’t there for anything inappropriate. On the other hand, the massage was not going to involve the area covered by underwear so there wasn’t a reason to take them off.

You know what I did?

You guess what I did, I’m not saying.

The massage was great but I had two slight problems with it. First, when you KNOW there is a clock, you stress over it. I couldn’t stop thinking about how much time was left. I’m such an idiot in that respect.

Second, she didn’t rub hard enough. They gave me a handout with about 50 different kinds of massages so I took the middle road which talked about relaxation. I should have taken the sports massage which was more rigorous but what the hell, I’ll just have to come back and try them all.

I kept thinking she was just warming up and was going to go deeper but then the hour was up and, well, my hour was up.

Hey, I can’t complain, though. It was a great massage and I WAS relaxed.

When she was done, she left me alone to get dressed and I did so, feeling like I did at the doctor’s office years ago: a little bit used.

Call me” I whispered in a little voice.

Actually, my thought was that although it was relaxing, it really didn’t effect me to the point she warned. She wanted to have a post-massage interview to see how she did and I thought this a little strange until I got up and walked into the outer room where I felt strangely dizzy. It had affected me more than I thought and now I know why they have the rest period afterward. I was probably not ready to drive an automobile right after.

When I left, I stopped by a taco joint to have dinner and afterwards, went back to my room. It was about 20 seconds before I was sprawled out, likely snoring.

What a day.

Free Advice for Today: “Don’t confuse wealth with success.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Running Using Legs and Lips

Saturday, July 22nd, 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

Not long after I started working at Headquarters, a civilian came into my office and said “Is that your blue Saturn with the 26.2 sticker on it?”

Ever since that fateful day, I found a running partner. Today, I joined him as we met the running club he….runs with. They are called The Running Group and even have a website as you can see.

I got the directions to today’s run (it differs every week) and met George there. He is not satisfied with a paltry 10 miles so we showed up an hour early to get 5 extra miles in so by the time I was introduced to the group, I was winded, sweaty, and tired. I make quite the first impression.

Speaking of first impressions, I bonked on the run. We got about halfway there and I couldn’t keep the pace with the others which is no real big sin since there are runners with varying abilities but what really sucked is that I was all alone and the path had taken so many turns (we ran through a lot of residential) that I would never have found my way back alone.

I stopped and waited for George to return and got a rest in but I was worried that he was taking another path back so I joined another couple of runners on their way back, cussing George the entire time.

I had nothing to prove to anyone and didn’t want to destroy myself. I had forgotten my Camelback so I was hurtin’ for water but I took it easy and before long, George caught up to me.

“Hi Jason.”

“Fuck you, George.”

Actually, I was a bit more congenial than that, although I was too happy to have bonked on my first run with the group. No matter, I was not going to completely fall apart over this. I was in the shape I was in and this was the biggest run I had in a long time. So what if I shit my running shorts.

At the end of the run, I was keeping up with George and the last mile really sucked. We sped up and finished strong but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t see the end as something near paradise.

And it was.

It was at a popular beach and once again, I discovered that I was part of the minority by not being stunningly gorgeous.

After trying not to look like I had just washed up on the beach from a solid waste barge sinking in the bay, we changed over and went to breakfast. The group was all there and I ordered whatever sounded the best on the non-traditional menu. It was a bit of a natural, healthy beach café so there were no Lumberjack specials. I had a scramble with cracked wheat bread and enough coffee to drown a horse.

It was then I made a startling discovery.

Remember that video by Blind Melon and their song “No Rain?” The fat little girl in the bumble bee outfit goes around being rejected and then open a gate where a bunch of freaks in bumble bee outfits are dancing around in a field?

That’s what happened and boy did that outfit chafe.

Actually, my explanantion goes something like this.

I’m a lone runner. When I started in 29 Palms, most of my long runs were me alone in the desert. In Monterey, I would run for hours with no one but my music. In Virginia, it was out in the TBS Hinterlands all alone.

When I would bother to talk to anyone about my running, I would get strange looks. No one could wrap their minds around 4 hours of running. No one wanted to talk about chafed private parts, painful dehydration, leg cramps, running until dizziness warped reality, or the beauty of seeing the mist settle in a low spot in a field and the first rays of the morning sun glinting off the dew-soaked foliage.

No one knew about the life-providing Nirvana of Gu when you really need a shot. No one understood how Lose Yourself can pace you up a full minute per mile or how Butterfly Kisses or Amazing Grace played on bagpipes can make tears leap out of your eyes at mile 15.

But sitting at the breakfast table by the beach today, I found my fellow bumble bees.

They KNEW.

They UNDERSTOOD.

I made this realization when I heard some one say “I’m only running 4 days a week now” without a hint of sarcasm or bragging. I heard other conversations that I’ve only had with myself usually up in the teen miles. They all knew about the suggestions you send down to your legs and hope for the best when times get tough. They knew about the early Friday bedtimes and the prepping in the dark when everyone else in the house are still looking at 4 more hours of sleep.

One guy had the 7th longest streak in America for running every day. Something like 20 years.

I was no longer the last Mohican. I was now a very tiny Indian in a very large tribe.

After I was done and as full in my stomach as I was in my heart for finding these people, I bid George farewell and headed for home and looking forward to a couple hours of sleep. Happy or not, I had still drained my body of all its power and then filled my gut with food. This meant one thing: Sleep of the Gods.

When I got to my car, there was a message on my phone. It was Jeanie, the mother of a recent graduating Marine who had been reading my webpage and blog for a long time. She was in town and wanted to meet up with me and have some coffee.

OK, I had coffee before the run to jump start the old engine. I had the horse-drowning amount at breakfast. I was full, I was tired, I was filthy, and, and….. and I just couldn’t stand up Jeanie. She and her son wanted to meet me and I them so I called her back and made plans to meet her at Starbucks (of course).

Our concept of Starbucks was a bit different. I thought she meant THIS one when in reality, she meant THAT one. Great, that’s all I needed was to hobble out of Uranus and stumble into the wrong Startbucks only to discover my mistake and have to get back in and find the right one.

When I did, I walked up to Jeanie and her son who were sitting at an outside table. We made the proper introductions and within a few seconds, Jeanie was gone to go get us some coffee, leaving the very junior Marine to sit with the very tired, very filthy Captain.

We talked… OK, I talked. And talked and talked and talked. I babbled forever until Jeanie got back when I just continued. I must have talked about 90% of the time and I don’t know if I was just punch-drunk tired or what but I just couldn’t shut my big yap. They had to be thinking “Criminy, was this a mistake! This guy’s got diarrhea of the mouth.”

Pausing long enough to take sips of my coffee, this went on for hours. At one point the dehydration I had from running, sitting out in the heat, and talking my fool head off caused one of my hamstrings to go ahead and, yeah, knot up tighter than a drum.

A very embarrassing, painful, conversation-pausing drum.

Jeanie finally called uncle at the 2 hour mark or so and I thanked her for some wonderful conversation she hardly took part in. She brought me some gifts in a bag that every man just thinks is FABULOUS which contained a thank you card I bet she wanted to take back, a gift card for Borders, and of course, a Starbucks gift card.

In return, I had been so thoughtful to get her…. nothing.

Oh, except 2 hours of verbal vomit in the sun.

That’ll teach her to look me up and let that be a lesson to the rest of you.

Free Advice for Today: “Make allowances for your friends’ imperfections as readily as you do for your own.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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