Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Happy Happy

One of my favorite memories from law school is a party some students in my small section threw at their townhouse to celebrate the end of our three years of study.  I was an oddity in my small section in that I was older than everyone else in the section and I had three kids already.

Two of my children, four year old Jimmy and two year old Johnny, were there with me enjoying the party and I was keeping an eye on them in the hub-bub.  There was a keg of beer out back in a little enclosed outdoor patio and everyone was festive at the conclusion of our last finals week.

Once when I hadn't seen either of my two kids in a minute or two, I got up to look for them as any dad would do.  There weren't any stairs in the townhouse and they couldn't get out of the premises so I wasn't overly worried about them.

I found them soon enough, out back in the momentarily deserted back patio.  They had obviously been watching the comings and goings of everyone and observing the frequency with which my friends had been going out the back door to get a cup of beer.

They had waited for their chance and when the coast was clear, the two of them had gone out into the little fenced-in space to do what the adults did.  As I went outside, I saw that Jimmy was furiously pumping the keg and Johnny, as directed by his older brother, was dutifully holding a plastic cup in his chubby little fists under the dispensing hose, waiting for the golden elixir that everyone was enjoying so much to appear.

The only problem was that Jimmy didn't know how to push the dispensing lever on the outlet to allow the beer to flow after being pumped.  But amidst Jimmy's hurried whispering to Johnny to hold the cup more steady and the older boy's frenzied pumping, they were certainly trying to imitate the big people.

Happy Birthday Johnny.  I love you.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Ringing in the New Year

…with lunch at the Lost Dog at noon today.

Perhaps I'll see one or more of you there then.

Or perhaps, some other time then.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Year In Review IV

Here are some of my favorite times from 2014.  I had some nice noontime wintertime runs on the Mall.

I took third in my AG in a wintery 5K.

I ran with some former running buddies, including Bex, my first buddy, and David, Markus, John and others.

I had some great solo runs, especially around the Tidal Basin, my favorite running venue.

Wreathed in Cherry Blossom blooms.

Some fast-moving terrific storms closed in a hurry, which made it imperative to keep an eye upward..

I attended my niece's wedding in Portland, OR, in July and had two great early morning runs throughout that town in two days and saw several family members I hadn't seen in awhile including my brother and two of my sisters, including the mother of the bride, the sister on the right.

I had some nice noontime summertime runs on the Waterfront.

Hearing secrets.

I ran my longest race in half a decade, a HM, and broke two hours.

An anonymous poster on this blog led me to my first solid information of any child of mine in over seven years (in this case my oldest, James Bradley Rogers, now in his late twenties).

I spent a quiet holiday season in the District, doing the annual Holiday Decorations run at work.

The sky over the nation's capital.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Year in Review III

What did I do this year that was notable to me?  Not much but there were a few personally important things that transpired.

I went to Portland, Oregon, to attend a niece's wedding and saw some family members that I haven't seen for several years, like the mother and the brother of the bride, also my sister from Santa Fe, her son and granddaughter, my nephew from Chicago, and my brother who otherwise hasn't spoken to me in years (life's too short for that crap!).  I had two long early-morning runs through Portland, a great town.

I ran a half-marathon in under two hours, my goal.  I dropped a lot of weight, saw several former running buddies that I hadn't seen recently and had lots of good runs with good friends like John, K, R, G, C, H, and Lia.

I visited with John at his new crib, a Class A RV he bought as his new home (he gave up his residence for this lifestyle).  It's fascinating for me to ruminate upon his adventures as "king of the road" as he travels about the country in his domicile, especially as I mull over my own approaching retirement now that I have turned 62.

Personally, I had a chance encounter with my ex-wife in a public setting and utilized the opportunity to ask this mother of my three estranged sons, of whom I haven't received any information about in over seven years, if they were alive and well, but I merely received stony silence from her.  I had to see if she would tell me, the father, even a scintilla of information about our children in person, where she couldn't be evasive as she always is in our infrequent written communications, but regrettably I merely confirmed my worst suspicions about her heartless nature.

Lastly, at about the same time, I received an anonymous comment posted on this very blog that led me to a current picture and recent information about my oldest son, both on the internet, so I can surmise that at least he is alive and apparently well.  Interestingly, I have a friend from childhood who is estranged from his child due to parental alienation syndrome (PAS) in similar circumstances to mine, who confirmed to me that he also fears the mother of his child wouldn't even tell him if something terrible happened to their child.  So the information I received last month from the anonymous source which led me to the first solid information I have had in years about the wellbeing of my oldest child at least, is good news indeed.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Year in Review II

I listed the dozen books I read this year that had the most effect upon me, leaving six reads off the list.  None are bad books, and here is the list:

The Raft by Robert Trumbull.  Written in 1942, it's about 3 American fliers stranded on a tiny rubber lifeboat when their torpedo plane went down in the Pacific during the war.  They were adrift over a month before being picked up by a passing American ship.  A tale of privation, resourcefulness and determination, I read it as a boy and was mightily impressed by it.  It was okay as a re-read half a century later.

Fire by Sebastian Junger.  Junger's The Perfect Storm is one of my favorite books.  This book, a collection of stories about wildfire firefighters, several of whom lost their lives, is also okay.

Micro by Michael Crichton and Robert Preston.  Ghost written by Preston from an unfinished book by Crichton after Crichton died, I think it's about tiny robots that attack humans by getting into their blood stream and saw their way out with minuscule scalpels.  But I really don't remember, and can't remember how it came out, beyond that the world didn't end.  How many more unfinished manuscripts did Crichton leave behind?

Harbor Nocturne by Joseph Wambaugh.  I've read all of Wambaugh's books about cops so I read this, his latest effort.  If you haven't read Wambaugh before, start with The New Centurions (fiction) or The Onion Field (factual) instead.

Tin Can Man by Emory J. Jernigan.  The wartime experiences of a sailor aboard a destroyer in WWII, written 50 years after he lived through them.  Interesting details about the daily wartime experiences of sailors, and some of the personal incidents the author relates might even be true.

Iwo by Richard Wheeler.  A standard battle book about the most savage fight of WWII, excepting, perhaps, only Stalingrad.  The ferociousness of this fight to the last man between the Marines and the Japanese had a lot to do with the decision to use atomic bombs to end the war finally.

I'm always interested each year to tally up the types of books I read each year.  Of the eighteen, three were literature (A Tale of Two Cities; Walkabout; Food of the Gods), two were biographies (John Paul Jones; Kesselring) seven were histories (Glittering Misery; Retribution; Iwo; Tarawa; Japan's War; The American Revolution; Lincoln and His Generals), one was political science (Wilson), two were novels (Harbor Nocturne; Micro), and three were true action (Fire; The Raft; Tin Can Man).

I don't watch a lot of movies but sometimes I check DVDs out of the library.  I enjoyed The Last Stand with Arnold Schwarzenegger made a couple of years ago because, actually, it was well written and Arnold was at his understated best.  The absolute worst movie I have seen in a long time was The Little Fockers, a terrible, pointless waste of time despite a great cast including Oscar winners Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Year In Review I

Books.  My house is filled with more books than I could read before I die.  Is that a bad or a good problem to have?  And my friends want me to use my Kindle and start queuing up electronic books.  Naw.  Paper works just fine.

This year I read 18 books.  It could have been more but I'm currently mired down in a biography of Winston Churchill during the war years.  I'm going to finish it--he was a great man--but I'm juggling library returns of the volume between the Arlington and Falls Church systems as I read about 10 pages a night.  Anyway, that leaves choosing my top dozen books of the year more like deciding what half-dozen do I discard.  How many books did you read this year?

In order of importance to me:

1.  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.  I read this in 9th grade but that was decades ago.  Perhaps then it was my opening into what a rich world adult reading was.  I never forgot the open and the close (I'm paraphrasing)--It was the best of times, the worst of times…It is a far, far better thing that I do than I have ever done.  I just didn't remember much in between.  What a fabulous book.  I also think it's prescient for the ultra rich in America as they unconcernedly allow societal inequities to become ever more prominent.

2.  Woodrow Wilson: Revolution, War, and Peace by Arthur Link.  Almost a great president, but not quite.  Am interesting time in America as we slumbered and almost awoke to our world-wide responsibilities one generation before we actually did.  Wilson was a pedantic, smarter always than anyone else in the room, who didn't listen to anyone in that room.  He promulgated the 14 points which have caused trouble even down to today, most specifically about the right of national self-determination.  Think Scotland and England, or Quebec and the rest of English-speaking Canada.  The British Prime Minister during the peace treaty negotiations to end WWI sniffed that the almighty Lord had ten commandments and Wilson had fourteen.

3.  Walkabout by James Vance Marshall.  A tale of 2 city children surviving in the outback of Australia after a plane crash, with the help of an Aboriginal boy on his walkabout, a coming of age solitary trek for a male reaching puberty.  It doesn't go well for the native boy despite, or perhaps because of, his concern for others.

4.  John Paul Jones by Samuel Eliot Morison.  This biography won the 1959 Pulitzer Prize, one of two Morison won.  His short volume, The Two Ocean War, is an excellent summation of America's naval war during WWII.

5.  Lincoln and His Generals by T. Harry Williams.  A little dated (c1952) but interesting expositions on McClellan, Pope, Meade, Grant and the other eastern theatre Civil War generals.

6.  The American Revolution by Bruce Lancaster.  Part of the American Heritage survey of America's wars, an interesting read on how and why one third of the colonists managed to create a new nation (one third pretty much remained neutral and the other third was pro-crown and decamped to Canada when the Americans won, without their property mostly).  Think George Washington.

7.  Japan's War by Edwin Hoyt.  A long slow slog through how Japan rose to militarism in the twenties and thirties and were at war years before the Germans invaded Poland to "start" WWII.  An unwinnable war, a developed country trying to pacify China.  Think Vietnam.

8.  The Food of the Gods by H.G. Wells.  Not his best work, but I enjoy the writing of Wells.

9.  Glittering Misery: Dependants of the Indian Fighting Army by Patricia Y. Stallard.  Life on the frontier inside of army forts for adult and children dependents of cavalrymen in the 1880s and 1890s.  An interesting glimpse into the hard lives of boys and girls and wives of men on the point of the spear as Americans pursued its "manifest destiny."

10.  Kesselring: The Making of the Luftwaffe by Kenneth Macksey.  It would help if you knew that Kesselring was the German general who stymied the Allied advance in Italy during WWII for two years.  He apparently commanded the Luftwaffe (Nazi air force) in the early good days for the Germans in WWII.  Do you want to know why the Germans (Nazis) were so hard to beat?  They had great technology and great generals, and Kesselring was one of the best.

11.  Retribution:  The Battle for Japan, 1944-45 by Max Hastings.  Americans poured fire and brimstone upon the resolute Japanese during this period as they advanced across the Pacific, in retribution for the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.  We had to nuke 'em to make them quit.  My Dad fought in this terrible conflict and surely would have died if we had had to invade Japan in 1945 and 1946.  Does that tell you where I stand on the controversy about whether the Americans should have dropped the bombs, or were racist in doing so?  (The Germans had already quit.)

12.  Iwo and Tarawa by Richard Wheeler and Robert Sherwood.  Two Pacific War battle books, tied for twelveth on my list, written a generation after the conflict (Iwo by Wheeler) and during the war (Tarawa by Sherwood who was there), two of the worst battles the Marines ever fought and won (did they ever lose a battle?)  What did your daddy do during the war?


Saturday, December 27, 2014

Editing my photo

Every year I update my blogger photograph to one of the proceeding year.  That way it doesn't get too far out of date.  For 2014 I'm choosing a photograph showing me at the conclusion of my most significant event, the half marathon I ran in DC in September.

It was my longest run in half a decade and I considered it a complete success because not only did I achieve my goal of breaking two hours but I unexpectedly broke 1:55 as a bonus.  Even though it was my second slowest HM ever.  But I don't run like I used to in my heyday of the last decade, before I came down with a chronic ankle injury and laid off of running for two years.  (Back in the day, doing Leg Two at the Lake Tahoe Relay, the last four miles of the eight-mile leg being an unremitting climb on switchbacks to the top of a mountain pass, my toughest run ever.)

As you get older all things become relative.  I overcame some setbacks to achieve my personal success, battling bursitis in my left knee that developed, I believe, as a result of two falls I took last summer while running (I tripped twice in two weeks).  My training only went up the scale to 11 miles before the race but that was close enough for me to complete the distance without stopping to walk, even through water stations.  Still, my miles were dropping precipitously from 8:20s during the first half of the race to 9:10s at the end.  (The course.)

What pulled me through the race was the fact that I hung to the halfway mark with my current running buddy, friend and colleague at work Lia, taking turns pathbreaking before I tired and told her to go on ahead and run her best race.  Which she did, throwing down a 1:50, her PR by perhaps twenty minutes.  Proud to know ya, Lia.  (Our last long run, of seven miles through the District, the week before the race.)