Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Happy Happy

Today is THE day, the day I started working towards when I graduated from law school 24 years ago in my late 30s and went into government service.  Being able to get my family of five, with two of three children with pre-existing conditions and a wife with expensive utilization of mental health provisions (we were kicked out of our Blue Cross/Blue Shield plan for using covered services), into the government's gold-standard health care plan (basically its single-payor, and it works mostly great), had everything to do with my mid-life career choice.

Only in America would the health-care industry boot an asthmatic two-year old toddler, a sickly one-year old baby and a panic-attack stricken adult out of their existing, fully-being-paid-for plan into Virginia's catastrophic individual family policy which I quickly found was an expensive (ruinous) joke akin to a pay-fully-for-everything-as-well-as-triple-the-former-premiums "plan."  I'll meet those health care plan industry executives in hell, along with all divorce lawyers except my own, when I'm done with this life.

I hear the gentle patter of rain falling outside.  It rained on my wedding day too, 37 years ago.

My three children, the ones I struggled to get proper health insurance for, for whom I purchased tuition plans for with them as beneficiaries that paid 100% of their college tuition and fees using money given to me by my mother, haven't spoken to me in over half a decade nor any member of my family in over a decade.  Only in America.

In 2010 I took a retirement seminar just to see what the possibilities were despite knowing that I would have to work till I died after the five-year divorce litigation destroyed me financially pursuant to her nefarious and sick-minded plan.  I discovered that the maximum enhancement for my retirement formula, insignificant as it might be, accrued on 4/15/14.

Any time worked past that date gilded the edges slowly for sure as the years droned on, but that date became emblazoned in my mind.  It's here.

Almost all my college friends have retired or are retiring this year.  But I can't afford to retire, yet.

After living through a life-altering modern western divorce, and the calamitous (in so many ways!) Dubya presidency, perhaps next decade, or next year.  Or perhaps next month, or tomorrow.

But I'll go in to work today and keep at it, working under the supervision of my thirty-something managers.  After almost four decades of work at jobs ranging from dishwasher to bartender, cop to lawyer, I know one thing foremost among many things--that managers are in it primarily for themselves.

My few friends who really know the workings of my mind say that I don't have a plan, I have a date.  But it has arrived, hasn't it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

April's Fool

On Sunday afternoon I ran my first race of the year, my first in almost a year, a 5K on the W&OD Trail in slanting sleet, in the winter that won't end.  The late-bulletin notice from the race director said the rain (it had rained all morning) was predicted to end an hour before the race began, which it did.

That's when the the snow started.  If I hadn't already paid $35, I wouldn't have run it.

But this race is a mere half mile from my house so I've run it three straight years, ever since I returned to running from my two-year injury layoff.  In 2011 it was my first race back, and I barely squeaked in under thirty minutes, which was my goal, at 29:30.

I got progressively better the next two years, at 27:53 then 27:23 and second in my AG.  I was beat out by another former president of the DCRRC who is also discontented with that club's direction, my friend Bob Platt.

With ten minutes to spare, I jogged down the trail to the start and got my racing bib.  It was cold, in the upper 30s, and the blacktop trail had a layer of slush on it the consistency of wallpaper paste.

The race is held each year in memory of Walter Mess, the driving force behind the creation of the W&OD Trail, who was an OSS agent during WW2.  Kicking off this year's race was Roger Neighborgall, a Ranger who stormed Fortress Europa with his comrades on D-Day (on the left presenting a memorial to the Mess family pre-race, on the right is race director Jay Wind).
And then we were off, running into a slanting sleet the wind was carrying into our eyes.  Half a mile out we went over the very slippery wooden bicycle bridge over Leesburg Pike.

By then the position of all other racers relative to me was pretty much set.  Only one person passed me the rest of the way, a woman in colorfully striped knee socks, while I subsequently passed two men.
After the first doubling back on the trail a mile out, the wind abated because it was behind us.  Going over the Bicycle Bridge a second time was worse than the first time.
Tantalizingly, we passed the start (and finish) line at the two-mile mark and went a further half-mile.   The race winner, local legend Ted Poulos, passed me in his stretch run going the opposite direction.
He was being chased futilely by a 22-year old boxer, merely cross-training, who came in 2d less than a minute behind.  Shortly after the viewing pleasure of the unfolding front end of the race, I reached the far turnaround point and headed back into the wind for my stretch run, dipping my ball cap so that the bill would keep the stinging sleet out of my eyes.

I pushed it across in 28:30, my 4th worse 5K time ever but a delight to me because I have returned to running after a layoff in 2009-2011 and the conditions were so chaotic that they were fun.  To cap it off I took 3d in my age group--out of 3--, being presented with a certificate for $25 off a pair of shoes at a running store in Baltimore, for my award winning finish at the Potomac River Run Marathon, expires 12/31/13.  LOL.  (The lonely boxer in his runner-up run.)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Isn't technology wonderful!

I grew up listening to LPs.  Vinyl disks that played just fine at at 33 rpms.

Then along came cassettes, and 8-track, and reel-to-reel; oh, so much better.  In college I converted all my Rolling Stones LPs to 8-track cassettes thinking I was advancing with the crest of the historical curve.

Yeah.  I threw those 8-track cassettes out recently.

What was the next perfect thing?  CDs!

Yeah.  I have lots of CDs, all of "albums" from the 60s 70s & 80s, but you know what, they practically all skip.

My LPs hardly ever skipped.  This is progress, right?

Or maybe it's merely hype.  I understand that there is burgeoning a return to turntables and LPs.

I shouldn't have thrown out all those clunky LPs in the 90s.  I threw out my turntable earlier, thanks to my "understanding" of "progress."

So now I'm assiduously rubbing my skipping CDs with toothpaste (a mild abrasive) and hoping they don't chunk-chunk-chunk next time in my CD player as I sit waiting to be reminded of when I was young.  I wish I was back in 1972 loading up my turntable with LPs, of which maybe one would develop and repeat a scratch on one track.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Like Mother Like Daughter

Even though it happened over twenty-seven years ago, the moment is seared into my memory indelibly.

He was only one and it was his first birthday party.  Adults were in attendance, as well as other one year-olds staggering around unsteadily on short stubby legs that were not yet sea-worthy.

I stood in in our house's great room watching the compact kitchen area, on the living room side of the breakfast bar, sealed off from the kitchen space by the six-foot long porcelain counter top.  Entry into the kitchen was four feet to my right where the portal area was, which gave access to the refrigerator, stove, dishwasher and sink all lined up, left to right, across the six foot wide tile floor.

I was alert as any parent with toddlers would be, a sense of awareness further heightened by the fact that I was a State Patrolman at the time, fully used to analyzing situations and subconsciously rating dangers and mulling options every single waking moment.  My child was in the crowded kitchen by the fridge, wandering around in tiny circles.  I had my eye on him, although he was a few feet beyond my immediate reach, and I was habitually scanning the kitchen area even as I spoke with our guests, several of whom were milling about in the kitchen.

Also in the kitchen was the child's Grandmother, who was preparing an adult appetizer.  The cake and ice cream for the toddlers would follow later, after the presents were opened.

The Grandmother, who hadn't supervised young ones in decades, had her back to me as she bent over, opened the stove, removed a dish from within and took a step to her left to place her burden upon the counter top just past the stove top burners.  I couldn't see that she had a potholder in her hands but I instantly saw the unattended stove door that she had left down.

"Grandma, is that hot!?" I immediately asked, starting to move to my right.  "Oh no, dear, it's not even warm," came the reassuring reply.

I relaxed slightly and my continued movement into the kitchen lost its quick urgency.  But I was talking about the open stove, and she was talking about the contents of the casserole dish that she was removing. 

Upon such miscommunication catastrophe can ensue.  The child, seeing something new, tottered over to the open stove door and placed his left hand upon the low horizontal surface.  And instantly bellowed in pain.

I died a little as I hurtled into the kitchen and swept him up and away from the hot surface before he could put his right hand down upon the stove door too.  I really don't think I could have reached him in time to prevent the accident but the Grandmother's bland, unconcerned assurance that "it" wasn't even warm had made my rescue pace fatally deficient and quelled any urge to stridently yell, "Look out!"  Adults do keep prepared foods in cold ovens sometimes, to bring out at the propitious moment, but I had allowed myself to be lulled into a false sense of complacency by the Grandmother's sang froid which masked her grotesque lack of adult awareness.

I was an EMT at the time and I knew that clean cold running water was the only palliative at that moment and I forcefully held the child's hand open under the open kitchen faucet for several minutes, pouring cold water over his palm while he screamed and cried.  Then it was off to the ER where they bandaged his fully blistered palm, which fortunately contained no charred skin.  This was followed by several visits in the ensuing fortnight that included a couple of debridement procedures.

The pain my poor boy endured was surely intolerable.  His hand recovered fully but he always had a redness thereafter to his left palm and fingertips.  I blame myself for allowing another adult's soothing but hugely mistaken "sensibilities" to interfere with what should have been my intolerant bull rush into the kitchen, bowling over adults as I went.

Young man whom I haven't seen in ten years, I am so sorry, and I love you now as I did then.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I started running again in 2011 after taking two years off from running when I got injured, a cumulative, debilitating ankle injury (an "extra bone" in my left foot which was abrading my tibial tendon) after almost a  decade of highly satisfying recreational running during the new millennium during which I dropped 50 pounds and had a lot of life changes, most for the better.  This period of rebirth can be told in running shoes, mostly Aisics although some pairs of shoes were Brooks'.

I used to run 30-40 miles per week and go through three or four pairs of shoes a year.  So when I laid off running in 2009 for two years, I had a backlog of about six pairs of running shoes I'd purchased on discount sites.

When I came back in 2011, I opened a pair of Brooks Addiction as my main shoes and ran through two pairs of leftover used running shoes as well.  In 2012 the process was exactly the same.  Now I had integrated two new pairs of shoes into my bigger system of ready running shoes and gotten rid of four thoroughly worn out pairs.

In 2013 I opened a pair of Aisics Foundations, but alas they were size 12 1/2 and I absolutely am not that size anymore.  They hurt my big toes and I only ran in them two or three times and wore them walking about occasionally.  What do you do with new shoes that don't fit and you can't return?  Anyway, two more used pairs of shoes went out and I used up a seldom-used pair of Reeboks that were hardly ever used because they're ugly and I never trusted their structure.  However they did fine until they literally fell apart on my feet and now they're my knockabout shoes.

Two days ago I opened a pair of Aisic Evolutions, size 13, and they're sharp looking and fit great.  My last two runs have been dreamy, with my feet feeling like they're wearing pillows.  2014 is going to be a great running year.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Getting in some miles

It was a good weekend for running.  On Saturday I ran westbound on the W&OD Trail from my house for two and a half miles and returned, burning up an extra three quarters of a mile in my neighborhood before I drove over to Bluemont Park in Arlington to run two miles with my old running buddy David, who is trying to return to running after some serious injuries.  (The sky over Arlington on Sunday;)

We accomplished the two miles on the W&OD Trail in about eleven-minute miles talking about our woes with our children and divorce.  The two seem to be related for men our ages whose family lives are ripped asunder when the woman gets a divorce lawyer and determinedly sets about eviscerating the father of her children like slicing up a butterfly, pinned wings outspread to a plywood board, with an exacto knife.  Yep, that's how I still feel about it after all these years.  (Bluemont Park on Saturday.)

On Sunday I ran 6.55 miles through Arlington, starting out on the W&OD Trail and then running through the parts in Northern Arlington where I used to live.  I'm signed up for a half-marathon in September so I wanted to get in a run that equaled half that distance.  (Charles A. Stewart Park on Sunday.)

Two weeks ago I ran five times for 25 miles total, and last week I ran five times for 29.7 miles total.  So far this week I have run 14.5 miles in two days, projecting ahead to thirty miles for the week, and we'll see if  my chronically injured left ankle will stand the strain.  (Tuckahoe Park on Sunday.)

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Seven Miles

This week I ran five days and went 25 miles.  That's the furthest I've gone in a week for at least nine months, maybe for two or three years.

My running is in a sweet spot right now.  I've been keeping my chronic left ankle injury in check (an "extra bone" in my foot which abrades the tibial tendon) and have been slowly, very slowly, pushing my total miles each week out past about twenty miles per week.  I have permanently reduced my pace.

I've also dipped out of the Clydesdale class, hopefully for good, after several years of being so overweight I was approaching obesity, brought on by two years of not running when I developed a cumulative injury in 2009 after nine wonderful years of running "fast" and "far" (it's all relative).

Today I ran seven miles on the W&OD Trail with a friend from work, the furthest I've run since late 2011 when I topped out at an eight-mile run and a nine-mile run before falling back to long runs of under six miles for the next two years.   In the good ol' days I could run 12 miles in the morning and throw down a 24-minute 5K race in the early evening.

I picked up my running buddy and put the top down in my newly purchased used convertible which another friend from work laughingly calls my "roadster."  But it only has 11,500 miles on it and it's sharp so I love it.

And I like my running buddy too because we can talk shop on our runs, she's smart and she offers me advice on things.  She doesn't know American pop culture in the same sense that I "know" it because when I say things like, "What we have here is a failure to communicate" or "We need a bigger boat," she doesn't know what I'm talking about, but I think that's an age thing because those are movie quotes that go back a long way.

We drove to MP 3.5 on the trail and set out for its eastern end as my friend's getting ready for a HM in six weeks and her schedule called for a 7-mile LSD.  That's apparently within my conditioning, and hers, as the run went fine.

The W&OD is flat, being a paved-over railroad bed, although I found a couple of short, sharp hills (spurs off and onto the trail) for us to run on.  We huffed and puffed along and reached the turnaround in Shirlington at MP 0 in 36:50 which included at least two 30-second stops at intersections.  A ten-minute per mile pace was more than satisfactory.

We lost a minute on a water break at the turnaround and then came back the hard way after being held up for a minute or more at at least two more intersections, by cutting across Four Mile Run (a creek) to the Four-Mile Trail, which runs parallel to the W&OD across the way.  That trail is much narrower, rarely used and extremely hilly.  My workmate doggedly kept on going up hill and down dale, and we finished our seven miles in 1:21:38 after a detour to peer into a parked classic VW Beetle and a water break after a killer hill.  She's a good sport and didn't complain about my "diversion" to the "far side."

It was far from a negative split but I think it was an excellent, adventurous run which is what I love about running.  As for me, I'm thinking about doing a HM in the fall.