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Stick With Me

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

I know I’m way behind but before I give you a recap of my big 50-mile race, I have to catch up with the two weeks prior. I’m writing as fast as I can so stay with me….

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Well, Your Eyes Are Glazed, Have You Been Eating Donuts, Officer?

Friday, May 16th, 2008

Quote of the Day: “Against stupidity the gods themselves contend in vain.”

- Friedrich von Schiller

It seemed a little Goundhog Day-ish today since we just travelled to Lone Pine two weeks ago for the Wild Wild West marathon. Bishop is just an hour farther down the road so it was a repeat of what we had done on May 2nd.

A repeat to include going to the same café after the kids went to school and having a good breakfast for the road. The Incredible Egg, you impress me.

Everything was going fine. I do the driving out there so Carrie can drive back and I was feeling a peaceful sense of well-being as I zoomed through the desert, getting mentally ready for the big, Big, BIG race I had tomorrow.

My thoughts of relaxation and peace were not even shattered by the normal collection of idiot drivers you find toodling down desert roads going 15-miles-per-hour UNDER the speed limit.

Everything was fine…until…shit…that was a cop that just passed the other way. He can’t accurately tell how fast I was going since he was coming at me, can he?

Shit, he’s braking.

The thought occurred to me to take the next exit and hide out at a gas station or something but I watched him as far as my rearview mirror would allow and didn’t see him turn around.

Until about 5 minutes later when I saw him speeding up behind me, lights flashing.

I pulled over and really wanted to do this…

But I didn’t, of course.

I gave him my license, my military ID, my proof of insurance, and my registration.

I always feel funny giving them my military ID because it looks like I’m saying “I’m in the military so don’t give me a ticket” where, in reality, I’m saying “I know my license is expired but I’m in the military and I don’t have to have a current driver’s license until I get out.”

It occurred to me later that I DO have a current California driver’s license since I had to get one to get a motorcycle endorsement, of which I don’t even have any more.

He said he got me at 83 coming the other way (answers my initial question) and I just kept my mouth shut. Carrie mumbled something about passing someone (which I wasn’t at the time) and I thought anything she said would make things worse.

I offered no excuse. I was going about that speed, as were many other people. Some of them even faster but as the old cop/ticket gag goes…

When you go fishing, do you catch fish?

Yes.

But do you catch ALL the fish?

I was the fish that was caught today.

Needless to say, I was pissed. It was obvious he was not going to let me off with a warning. I was hoping that being polite, not trying to weasel out of it by offering excuses, staying calm, having up-to-date paperwork, wearing seatbelts, Marine Corps sticker on the back, being cooperative would possibly get me into the warning zone.

It was not to be.

Of course it doesn’t say anywhere on the ticket how much it will cost so Carrie called the number right away on her cell. But the operator said it wasn’t in the system yet and to call back. She couldn’t even give us a rough estimate how much it will cost. Wouldn’t even take a wild guess.

Now correct me if I’m wrong but there has to be a standard here. I mean, it comes down to “This guy was going 83 in a 65,”

This is no big secret here. No extenuating circumstances.

This CANNOT be the first time this has come up. The operator should be able to look on the standard list of fines and say, OK, you were going 18 miles-per-hour over the speed limit, your fine will be $XXXX.

I mean, what the hell is the alternative? Some bureaucratic jackass pauses from digging lint out of his crater of a belly-button with his pencil eraser long enough to say, oh, let’s see, we’ll fine this guy…let’s make it an even $300. Sure, that sounds about right.

The woman tells us to call back in a week or two.

So they can ticket on the spot, look up my record, verify my registration and proof of insurance, and find out what color my underwear is, but it takes two weeks to get the ticket into the system?

The rest of the drive into Bishop was rather quiet.

And slow.

We got to the hotel and I was so glad I had remembered to reserve a bottom floor because last year, I didn’t and trying to get up the stairs after the run and down the next morning was a master’s class in blinding pain.

We dumped our luggage and headed out to do the standard leaders’ recon of where we would be going in the morning (and saw a prison chain gang picking up trash at the park. “That a great shade of bitch you’re wearing…”).

On the way back, I started to get a little blood-sugar deficient (OK, grumpy) because I had not eaten lunch and it was too late to do so without ruining my free dinner at the race brief.

We decided to feed the bear anyway with pizza that we could use as a breakfast in the morning.

Hey, YOU run 50 miles and then tell me what I can and cannot ear beforehand!

Like I said, grumpy.

I ate two slices and caught a half-hour nap before going to the Whiskey Creek for the brief and dinner.

I caught up with some friends from the running group I USED to run with on Saturday mornings.

Yes, I have to finally say “used to” since it’s been over a year that I’ve joined them. They probably thought I was dead or something.

When you participate in these kind of races, you tend to see the same people and even if you are an anti-social baboon, through sheer exposure you get to know these people. My poor wife was stuck with a set of them (even though she didn’t know them) as I worked the crowd and got pics with just about everyone I knew.


Me and Chris Rios, longtime race director for the Ridgecrest Ultra


George Velasco, pretty good guy for being a retired Army dog


Marie Boyd, Bishop Race Director

I was even MIA, talking to two other Marines,

… when they started calling out prizes. Suddenly, I heard my name and was so excited because I had a disproportionate amount of winning NOTHING at these things. I did win a drop bag one year and a leftover baseball cap from Mule Days which I didn’t even attend but never anything like the gallons of Hammer Gel they give out each year.

So I was all giddy when I went up to get whatever I had one. When they handed me a pair of Injinji socks, I might have squealed like a schoolgirl.

Then they handed me a Lawrence-of-Arabia running hat ensemble that I could instantly tell was of very high quality. And expensive.

It was a running hat with vented sides and hand a snap-on half-hood for the neck. It looked AWESOME.

Wow.

I was so excited that I didn’t hear what the race director announced as I accepted my prize.

All I knew is that everyone suddenly looked at me and clapped louder than before.

I stood there confused.

I turned to Chris Rios…

And asked “What did she say?”

“She said you were deploying to Iraq.”

Oh.

Well…

Yeah, about that…

I wasn’t about to correct her in front of everyone and I AM deploying (to Saudi Arabia and not to Iraq) so I made my exit with my coveted booty.

(That phrase just doesn’t work anymore, does it?)

After the dinner, we went to the store and I bought some water and snacks. The sun was setting and I knew the next time I saw it, I would be running.

That is both an exciting and a terrifying feeling.

We went back to the hotel room where I did my ritualistic setting out of the gear. When I got done, I escorted my lovely wife to the Baskin and Robbins for some ice cream. I got this Oreo sundae that I ate unashamedly.

Is there any other ice cream that is more like the caress of God than Oreo?

I mean, really folks. How could it be THAT good? It’s almost evil. I think it may have meth in it.

Anyway, I sucked that down like a Hoover and relaxed in the hotel room for the rest of the night. I knew I was in for a craptastic night of sleep and tomorrow would start early and last a long, painful time.

Don’t ask why. I haven’t figured out why I do this yet either.

Free Advice for Today: “Spend a couple of hours each week reading magazines that have nothing to do with your job or lifestyle.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Last Rubber Band on the Ball

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

Quote of the Day: “I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they’ve always worked for me.”

- Hunter S. Thompson

Well, today was another “virtual Friday” which means it felt like a Friday all day. I take leave tomorrow so today was the last day of the week for me.

You know how that feels.

I debated if I should exercise or rest up and in the end, I decided to go for a run. Actually, my reasons for this were quite sound;

1. I had too much nervous energy
2. The day was going by extremely slow and a run would speed things up
3. It would give me the confidence that I got in three runs before the ultra
4. I wanted to sun exposure in preparation for the race Saturday

I told myself that I would go out nice and slow, walk a lot, and just try to soak up the sun.

I’m a dirty liar when I deal with myself.

I ended up coming in under an hour which is about a normal training run. NOT a training run just to go through the moves and relax.

I got out of work at about 5:00 which is late for the lip-of-leave day but I thoroughly enjoyed the intoxicating feeling of driving home knowing I had 4 days off, even if one of them would be spent running the entire day and a couple wondering if stabbing myself in the eye with a potato peeler would divert the pain.

I spent the rest of the evening packing, of course leaving all the million and one decisions until tonight.

What will I wear?

What will I bring to wear before and after?

What should go in my drop bag?

How many Gu packets should I bring?

Should I bring this potato peeler?

Needless to say, this took way too long, I was pissy about it, and I went to bed exhausted and not all that confident that I had everything.

Why should this race be any different?

Free Advice for Today: “Improve even the best sausage biscuit by spreading on a little grape jelly.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Hurting the Hand That Feeds Me

Wednesday, May 14th, 2008

Quote of the Day: “Your true value depends entirely on what you are compared with.”

- Bob Wells

Even though I’m leaving soon and even though I have a huge 50-mile race this weekend, life at the Depot goes on.

No one cares that I have this race nor should they based on the fact that I chose to do such insanity outside of my official duties.

These thoughts crowded my head this morning when I faced the choice of participating in Battalion PT or skipping it.

I am not one for “skipping it,” especially when I set it up on the calendar and just happen to be the senior Officer on deck (the CO is at a conference and the XO is in Korea for the week).

With them being gone, the Battalion Sergeant Major decided to do a “SgtMaj’s PT” and all I did was put it on the schedule and make sure we had all the logistics covered for it. He wanted to do the Circuit Course and then run the Battalion over to the Health Fair that happened to be going on at the Depot so there would be big numbers participating. The Marine Corps Community Services department loved us for this.

I wasn’t even supposed to participate since I had to cover the weekly Chief of Staff meeting in the absence of the XO. But then I found out that it was cancelled so I had no reason to miss the PT.

Except for two things:

1. The race I mentioned above. I really didn’t want to wear myself out so close to a race.

2. As random luck would have it, I had an interview with a security agent who was doing a background check for my top secret clearance. The meeting was at 1000 and the PT started at 0900. It would be close.

In the end, I decided I had better go. I had no GOOD excuse for skipping it so I put on my PT gear and fell out with the rest of the Battalion.

The jog over to the course was simple but I could tell it was getting hot. Or what “hot” passes for around here. I was sweating before we even got to the course.

The circuit course is the Marine Corps version of just what it sounds like. There are about a dozen stations and at intervals indicated by whistle blasts, we rotate from station to station doing the various exercises at each.

I hadn’t really done this since bootcamp and when I did, it was AT THIS EXACT PLACE. That really boosted up the weird factor. I was sweating profusely in no time and I was having surreal flashbacks since I was in the exact place, feeling much the same, 20 years after the fact.

I was doing well as I went from station to station with a group of other Officers but one of our first stations was the monkey bars.

Nothing too complicated, just swing from bar to bar across the entire obstacle just like when I was a kid.

Except as a kid, I didn’t weigh 190 pounds!

I found it somewhat difficult. OK, it was brutal.

I didn’t know how brutal for several minutes later. About half a dozen obstacles later, I started to realize I was hurt.

My hand started to hurt on the palm and after dips and pull-ups, I finally took a look at it and was shocked at what I saw.

I had broken a blood vessel or something on the palm of my hand. It had swollen disturbingly in one angry purple spot in the middle of my right hand. It hurt pretty good but it looked even worse.

“What the hell is THAT?!” I thought.

It hurt more when I touched it (Then stop touching it, I know) but I still had another round through the obstacles to go and I wasn’t about to just give up.

I got through the rest of the obstacles and by the end, I was filthy from the dirt and the wood chips, soaking wet from sweat that turned my shirt a dark green, and my hand felt like it had a bullet hole through it.

Good thing I didn’t want to exert myself before a big race.

I got back to the office just in time to change my disgusting shirt before I got a phone call from the investigator. She needed me to escort her from the gate to my office since we could do the interview.

Oh how manly I felt with a clean Under Armour shirt, green PT shorts that make me look like I’m wearing olive boxers, and a sheen of dried, salty sweat on me.

Just what you should wear to an security clearance interview.

I THOUGHT it would be a half hour.

Tack on an hour to that and I’m still being grilled about everything to include the small increments of time between PCS moves when I lived in temp lodging.

A funny moment came when she asked me if I had ever registered for Selective Service. I told her I didn’t think I had since I joined when I was 17 and actually left for bootcamp at 18.

This seemed to be a problem.

Really? I’ve been serving active duty for two decades and the fact that I might not have put in for Selective Service might be a problem?

Really?

She had me look it up on a website and sure enough, I was there. Not only was I there with a bonafide number but I guess I did do the paperwork way back when I had a full head of black hair.

Wow, good thing. I mean, what if a war came and they needed me…wait.

I think I convinced her that after 20+ years in the service of this great Nation, I was not going to try to violently overthrow it and she finished up the interview.

Hope I pass.

Free Advice for Today: “Start a ‘read again file’ for articles you might want to enjoy a second time.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Passports

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008

Quote of the Day: “Making duplicate copies and computer printouts of things no one wanted even one of in the first place is giving America a new sense of purpose.”

- Andy Rooney


(me looking like I am in dire need of a bathroom)

The world of passports is new to me.

“You mean you’ve never had a passport?”

“No, every time I’ve gone overseas, my passport has been my M16.”

But because of my impending duty assignment, I will be needing a passport and that means I had to go through the bureaucratic gymnastics to get one of these nifty little booklets.

I had never even seen one up close in my life.

First, I had to fill out an online application that just added to the stack I’ve had to fill out for various reasons over the last few months. I don’t exactly know what the color my stool was that day has any bearing on my application but, hey, they seem to set a high price on thoroughness.

It seems I need two kind of passports:

1. Diplomatic (which is referred to as my “dip” which makes me giggle every time)
2. Tourist

“Why do I need a tourist passport if I already have a dip (giggle)?”

The answer to this innocent enough question did not send me to my happy place:

“Because if your plane gets hijacked, you don’t want to hand them a dip (not so much giggling) which would identify you as military.”

Lovely.

Like my short hair, collared shirt, and slacks wouldn’t be a dead giveaway.

So I did the pictures and sent away the paperwork for the dip, free-O-charge, but I would have to pay for the tourist and get reimbursed. This is good because coming in at over $100, getting some duckies back from this would be nice.

I received all kinds of horror stories about the time lag of getting them back and I was all but promised that even with the expensive express shipping, it may not make it back to me in time.

Cut to the chase, both of them got back to me within a couple of weeks so now I’m all passported up.

Now I hope I never need the tourist one but if I do, yeah, looking like I need a bathroom is probably gonaa be pretty accurate.

Free Advice for Today: “Start a ‘smile file’ of jokes, articles, and cartoons that make you laugh.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Bye, Mom

Monday, May 12th, 2008

Quote of the Day: “I write down everything I want to remember. That way, instead of spending a lot of time trying to remember what it is I wrote down, I spend the time looking for the paper I wrote it down on.”

- Beryl Pfizer

Sad day today because my mom is leaving to go back to Oklahoma. She came out to see me before I left and as hard it is for me, see her “baby” leave again has to be tough.

But before she left, I wanted to get one more lunch in with her and the plan was to time it so we could join my cousin who was coming back from a vacation. We would all meet up for lunch and it would be a chance for my mom to see her nephew who she adores.

But then James had to go and ruin it by missing his flight and then he tells us he can’t get another flight until Thursday.

Thursday?!

I think he’s just skipping school but hey, that’s college.

I was not about to pass up the opportunity to lunch with my mom, though, so I changed out of my uniform and we took her to a quiet little café before her flight.

What did I eat?

Any guesses?

If you guessed salmon patty with garlic sauce, then you are an idiot.

I had the club, of course.

You can’t go wrong with the club. You would have to be galactically inept to screw up a club. I’m sure it’s possible but it would take work.

We got done and Carrie dropped me off back at work. It would be the last time I see my mother for over a year and for that I was a bit saddened.

But I was glad to have had the time to spend with her before I left and to tell the truth, I was more worried about her feelings, seeing her baby for the last time for awhile.

I guess that’s called growing up.

Free Advice for Today: “Call (800)525-9000 for a catalog of Nightingale Conant tapes on personal development and achievement.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Props to the Moms

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Quote of the Day: “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

- Anais Nin

I got to spend today with TWO moms:

1. My lovely wife
2. My lovely mom

How lucky can a guy get?

We all got up and before we headed off to church, my kids delivered their surprise to Carrie.

Paola had taken Steph to a pottery place where they provide the materials and you actually make the art. It was a good time for the both of them (an uber-chick thing to do, if you ask me) and Stephanie made a nice candle holder for Carrie.

I made my mom a little cornucopia with little clay fruit when I was about 5 and it looks like I made it when I was about 5.

Days.

But she still has it.

As opposed to my lame little cornucopia disaster, Stephanie’s candle holder looks like something you would buy at the store. This isn’t just a kid’s pottery project she made in Home-Ed. This was a quantum leap above that.

Alex bought the candle that goes in it and made her a nice paper flower in his Spanish class.

Which proves my point: Stephanie is all girl and Alex is all boy. Alex loves his mother like you wouldn’t believe but the fact still remains, the whole gift-giving as a show of love is predominately a chick thing and my kids are getting old enough for that to become more and more obvious.

After church, we decided to take Mom to the Olive Garden because we just thought that waiting for an hour to get seated was the fun thing to do on a Sunday afternoon.

Don’t do the Tour of Italy….
Don’t do the Tour of Italy….
Don’t do the Tour of Italy….
Don’t do the Tour of Italy….
Don’t do the Tour of Italy….
Don’t do the Tour of Italy….

“And what will you have, Sir?”

“Tour of Italy, please.”

DOH!

Everyone ate, a lot, including Paola who joined us, and the rest of the day was pretty much sitting around napping.

What a great day.

Happy Moms’ Day to the two mothers that mean the most to me in this world.

Free Advice for Today: “Read the Wall Street Journal regularly.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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All Messed Up

Saturday, May 10th, 2008

Quote of the Day: “My mother buried three husbands, and two of them were just napping.”

- Rita Rudner

Tonight I took my lovely wife to the Dining In.

A Dining In or “Mess Night” is a formal occasion mixed with a roast, if done right. We dress up in our finest uniforms, attend a dinner, and adhere to strict rules lest we pay fines. There is a President of the Mess (the Commanding General) that sits at the head table with most of her Colonels. She has a gavel and has final say on anything brought up in this “Kangaroo Court.”

The Vice-President of the Mess is the poor slob who was chosen to organize the entire event and also serves as the MC. It usually requires someone confident, witty, and in possession of an outgoing personality. Unfortunately he is usually beat down by the time the ceremony rolls around but therein lies the challenge.

The rules of the Mess were as follows:

1. Thou shall be punctual; fines will be levied on all late arrivals.

2. Thou shall not wear an ill-fitting, ill-prepared, or discolored uniform.

3. Thou shall not use foul language, or use loud, obtrusive remarks in any language.

4. Thou shall not bring cocktails or tobacco into the mess.

5. Thou shall sit in thy assigned seat.

6. Thou shall not haggle over thy date of rank.

7. Thou shall not throw food or disgrace the Mess with unruly conduct.

8. Thou shall not depart the mess for any reason unless permitted by the President of the Mess.

9. Members may request to address thy Mess by standing up at their seat and asking, “Mr. Vice, (Rank)(Name) request permission to address the Mess.” The Head Table is not required to request permission and may address the Mess directly at the approval of the President.

10. Any member of the Mess addressed directly by the President of the Mess may respond directly without requesting permission from Mr. Vice.

11. The decisions of the President are final and will not be appealed. The decisions of Mr. Vice are final and may not be appealed, unless overturned by the President.

12. Thou shall keep toasts and comments within the limits of good taste and mutual respect. Degrading or insulting remarks will be frowned upon by the membership. However, witty comments and good-natured needling are HIGHLY ENCOURAGED. Thou shall not laugh at ridiculously funny comments unless the President shows approval by laughing.

The Sequence of Events were as follows:

1730: Cocktails in the Diamond room

1845: First Call is sounded; Officers and guests are encouraged to finish their drinks and make necessary rest stops

1900: Officer’s Call is sounded: Members enter the mess and stand behind their assigned seats

1905: The President and members of the Head Table enter the mess

1910: Grace is offered

1915: The mess is convened
- Salad is served
- The Beef is paraded
- The Beef is served
- Dessert and Coffee are served

Formal Toasts:

- Toast to the Commander in Chief
- Toast to the Army
- Toast to the Navy
- Toast to the Air Force
- Toast to the Coast Guard
- Toast to the Ladies of the Mess
- Toast to Fallen Comrades

Remarks by the President of the Mess

Entertainment

Mess open for Informal Toasts

Toast to Corps and Country

The President closes the mess


The first bit of drama of the night was when I was getting ready. Since I had not worn my Mess Dress uniform since the Ball last November and I put it in plastic right afterward, I didn’t think I had much if any work to do on it before the event.

I know, I know, famous last words.

With plenty of time to spare, I climbed into the uniform and for once, found myself waiting for my lovely wife. Normally, I’m the one behind the power curve but this time, I was done in record time, looked good, felt good, and was ready to go on time with minimal crankiness.

We even had time to get these pictures before we left.

We climbed into the Pilot, headed out, and about 1/4 mile down the road, Carrie turned to me…

“You look nice, Baby.”

“Thank you, so do you.”

As she picked minute pieces of lint off of my uniform, she nonchalantly said..

“What are those holes?”

With unfettered terror, I grabbed the rearview mirror and swiveled it violently so I could see my uniform.

Did you catch it in the pictures above?

To my utter dismay, I saw what I didn’t want to see: I had forgot my collar devices and the variety of thoughts that raced through my head were truly bizarre.

- How could I miss that?
- Where were they?
- Were they at work?
- Would we have to swing by work to get them?
- Why would I remove them after the Ball?
- Remember when Sir Phil did this at the Ball and someone had an extra set?
- Shit, we already took pictures
- Thank God we Carrie caught this so near to home

I made a quick U-ey and came storming into my house to the confusion of my mom and kids.

“Forgot something…” is all I uttered as I raced upstairs.

I STOOD on top of the guest bed that was blocking the closet and slid the door open and in one movement, pulled aside the clothes blocking my Dress Blues and there they were.

What the Hell were they doing on my Dress Blues?!!…

Then it hit me.

The funeral.

I popped them off and Carrie popped them on the uniform I was wearing. We then rushed downstairs and took off…AGAIN!!!

Nothing like a relaxing exit. Why does it always have to be like this?

But I wasn’t the only one.

When we got to the reception, the first person we ran into was the XO. He was at the bar and when he turned to say hello, I noticed his collar was unsnapped. Every Marine knows this is not intentional and wouldn’t go around at the beginning of a formal night with his collar unsnapped no matter how uncomfortable it was.

I also knew that I had been having some problems with mine coming undone so I instantly knew he was unaware of the situation.

“Um, Sir, your collar is undone.”

If you knew my XO, this was akin to slapping him hard across the face as a greeting.

I had Carrie fix it (she had fixed mine and it’s kind of a woman thing to do for a man anyway) and when she was done, she politely pointed out that one side of his miniature medal bar had come unhooked so his medals were hanging off, attached by one end.

Again, for someone who places a high value on uniforms and protocol, this fact embarrassed the holy bejesus out of him. He complained under his breath how he had inspected this uniform before he left home and how the long car ride must have caused these unforeseen problems.

I honestly felt bad for him. I know how stressful it is to get the uniform perfect and even more so for him since he is more high-strung in these areas than I am. And I’m VERY high-strung when it comes to uniforms!

He bought our drinks and then made his exit but just as he did, Carrie turned to me and said “I didn’t have the heart to tell him that one of his collar emblems had swiveled and was almost upside down.”

“What?! Why didn’t you tell him?”

I rushed over to him and said “Excuse, me Sir, forgot to mention….your collar emblem is off.”

The look of exasperation on his face was heartbreaking.

Now I had not always got along with this Officer but he was a Marine and I wasn’t about to let him walk around with me knowing there was something off on his uniform. We fixed it, he thanked me, and we moved on.

When we got to our table, we saw we were way in the back. That’s what I get for not making a seat request, not that it would have mattered based on the fact that my Battalion kind of had the cheap seats.

The meal was good but the service was bad. We had to ask for rolls before the dinner and we were told that they were making them.

Making them?

Did you not know you were going to have a few hundred guests tonight and they MIGHT want to have rolls?

There were later problems with wine and dessert but I won’t be nitpicky. I’ll just sum it up with the statement that the service left us wanting. (OK, I’m too lazy to spell it all out. So.)

While they were serving dinner, they played the videos that each unit was supposed to produce.

And they pretty much sucked. But I was not complaining because unlike last year, I didn’t have to produce ours.

One of the major problems was that you couldn’t hear a damn thing. So any punchline that depended on the audience hearing it was lost. Only the visual stuff worked.

That and no one seemed to stay within the 5-minute timeline. The videos dragged on even when much of the audience’s interest waned.

The funniest one, and the one that received first place, was the Coast Guard who went around and interviewed Marines about the history of the Coast Guard. Of course no one knew anything about the Coast Guard history and that was compared to the Coasties correctly answering all the questions about the Marine Corps history (which was scripted so that has to be taken into account).

We were not sitting close enough to any of our good friends to really carry on a conversation so it turned into a night for two, which was just fine. Carrie and I don’t have many of these left before I go so I enjoyed just creating a bubble for two tonight.

I also enjoyed the wine which I didn’t expect to drink so much of. I was not snot-slinging drunk by the end of the night but I was a bit more affected than I thought I was going to be.

Don’t worry, Carrie was doing the driving.

I got away with exactly zero fines this year. I had my dog tags on, my Arrive Alive card in my wallet as well as my Honor, Courage, Commitment card. Carrie and a picture of our family in her purse and some lipstick which saved us from a fine.

I refused to pay for the fine that the General had manufactured. She passed through the wives’ network to get up at a certain point (I forgot what the signal was) and go to the rest room. Of course getting up in the middle of the Mess before being dismissed was a finable offense and her thought was that the male escorts would be responsible for paying for the offense.

What she didn’t take into account was that the women carry the money (at least in my case) so it was kind of hard to pay a fine when I didn’t have it. By the time she got back, the joke was over and it was a cheesy fine anyway.

After the ceremony received its last bullet to the head (the general repartee and joking was not all that impressive this year), we went out to the bar and talked to a few people. I got a free beer from the fine fund and then we made our way out to meet up with friends at a bar that was literally a block away.

We weren’t going to but Marisa convinced us we should stop by and it was on the way to the car so we agreed to stop by.

Well, Marisa was partaking in a lot of wine before we even left the hotel and was showing signs of being downright drunk. By the time we got over to the bar to meet her, she and her husband were stumbling out while we were coming in.

She apologized profusely (slurringly) and headed out to get a cab home.

So that left Carrie and I in a mostly-empty bar with people we didn’t know.

But there was a friend of mine, a fellow Major, who we started talking to and it ends up she is running the Rock and Roll Marathon coming up. It is her first marathon and we started taking about all of that. I gave her some advice and tips on how to finish up her training and how to deal with the excitement of the day.

Let me interject that Carrie is the most patient woman in the world. But you all know that already.

We made our exit and Carrie drove home. The wine was really hitting me but unfortunately not it the good way.

No, I didn’t puke. I just felt like crap and by the time we got home, I was happy to doff my uniform, climb into my PJ’s, and head for the bed.

Everyone else was crashed so the plan to get home to spend a little more time with mom was out the door.

But we had a good time and I consider it one more opportunity to spend some time with my lovely, patient, long-suffering wife.

Wine sucks.

Free Advice for Today: “Never watch a movie or video with your children that involves activities and language that you don’t want them to imitate.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Dismissed, Colonel!

Friday, May 9th, 2008

Quote of the Day: “I think Superman should go on the Larry King show and announce that he would come back to life if people in all 50 states wanted him to.”

- Dave Barry

I’ve written before on this subject but as my time to retirement gets near, these occasions affect me more and more.

I attended a retirement ceremony today for a Colonel, the SJA of the Depot, and was touched by the enormity of leaving behind a 20+ year career to move on to the next chapter in his life. Again, something I will also be facing in a year.

As the Headquarters and Service Battalion Operations Officer, my shop had a big hand in organizing the actual ceremony. With so much going on lately, the bulk of the work fell squarely on my Gunny’s able shoulders and I had not even attended any of the practices. I knew he had things well in hand and I could concentrate on other missions.

So imagine my embarrassment when, at 1430 today (1/2 hour prior to the ceremony), I show up at the Bayview restaurant to see that no one was there. Nothing was set up. No one there knew anything about a retirement ceremony.

Shit.

I whipped out my cell phone and blew up just about every phone I had stored.

No one answered any of them.

Of course, I didn’t exactly call ALL of them. I intelligently left out the CO and XO because I didn’t think the following conversation was a brilliant move on my part;


“Yeah, Sir, this is the OpsO. Anyway, you know that retirement ceremony I’m kind of in charge of? The one I’m supposed to ensure goes off without a hitch for a full bird Colonel who have served 26 years in the Marine Corps? Yeah, do you know where it’s going?”

I finally got in touch with someone who told me it was at the General’s backyard and then I remembered that, yes, that’s where we had planned it. I had just had a temporary brain aneurism.

It was within walking distance but I had to cut through the base housing which houses only the Colonels on the Depot.

Just as I was walking down the street thinking, wow, I hope my CO doesn’t come driving down here because he would wonder why I was walking from the Bayview to the General’s quarters… he came driving down.

I saluted.

He saluted back with a look of confusion.

Perfect.

I made it to the backyard and everything was set up. The ceremony started and in the end, everything went off without a glitch.

They even had a bagpipe player which was one of the young lawyers and he did a great job. I always said I wanted the bagpipes played at my retirement. Even though I’m only about 1/4 Irish (or less), the bagpipes have a long tradition in the Marine Corps.

Anyway, they make me emotional every time I hear them.

Like I need another reason to be emotional when I retire in a year. I just know I’ll never make it through without tears.

I just hope I don’t vomit.

Free Advice for Today: “Join the Rotary or another civic club.”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

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Mommy

Thursday, May 8th, 2008

Quote of the Day: “The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic asylums.”

- G. K. Chesterton

My mom got into town today. She flew ExpressJet which, for those that don’t know, is a little commuter airline that flies straight from Oklahoma to San Diego nonstop. It costs less than the big airlines, avoids the big terminals by using the commuter terminals, and pretty much treats my mom like a start traveling on a Lear jet.

And most of the time they don’t crash.

It was good to see Mom. She wanted to come see me before I left to Saudi Arabia and as an added bonus, she will be here for Mother’s Day.

So as part of her gift, my brother and I chipped in for the plane ticket which I thought was pretty cool of Chris, seeing how he won’t even be here but agreed to pay half anyway. Hell, it was HIS idea!

Carrie picked her up from the airport and then they did some shopping. I was bogged down at work so I had to wait until I got home to see her.

I am very lucky because my mom and my wife have a relationship pretty close to mother and daughter. The respect and love flows both ways so when she comes to visit, there is absolutely no stress, conflict, or drama. They get along like mother and daughter.

Similarly, I get along with my mother-in-law the same way. Unlike the stereotype, I do not get annoyed or dread visits with her. In fact, I sometimes call her just to see what she is doing.

After all, she raised the woman that I love and they are so much alike, how could I NOT love her to pieces?

But don’t get me wrong, there is drama in the family and I got to hear all about it. Nothing heinous but just your typical drama about skeletons in the closet and petty grudges. My mom had never really told me the details before and I guess it’s easy to pretend they don’t exist but faced with the realities that exist in all families, I shouldn’t be all that surprised.

Obviously this is not the forum to speak of the details so suffice it to say that we have a loving family but are not exempt from some of the drama that exists in all large families.

And I don’t say the following to claim I’m any better than them but compared to some of the family drama, Carrie and I lead a boring-assed life. Our relationships are pretty stable and in my humble opinion, we have raised two wonderfully adjusted kids who KNOW they are loved.

Recently my daughter asked me how my parents grew up and I told her the truth, not only because she should know but also to show her how good her life has been so far. It is important that she realize that and not everyone has a family life like the one we’ve created here at the Grose household.

Free Advice for Today: “Read Tom Peter’s The Pursuit of WOW! (Vantage, 1994).”

- H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

4 comments