Saturday, November 22, 2014

Cold Running

This past week presented a sudden challenge in getting used to running in frigid conditions.  We went from running in shorts and shirtsleeves to dressing in carefully layered clothes practically overnight with the arrival of a lingering arctic air mass that plunged temperatures to or below the freezing point in all the lower 48 states.  (The arriving arctic conditions knocked down most of the remaining autumn leaves by Tuesday, which had retained their fall brilliance through the prior weekend.)

Monday it was raining along with being cold and windy so I didn't run, which left me feeling guilty the whole day.  Tuesday I had to bundle up but I ran 3 1/2 miles around the Tidal Basin, being careful to avoid the ice patches created by standing water on the footpath.  (On Wednesday I did my "long run" of four miles.)

Wednesday I ran 4 miles with a friend and former colleague I met on the Mall although I jammed my ankle when I stumbled on some stairs behind the Capitol.  Thursday I tenderly ran a mile early in the morning to test my sprained ankle and then, since it felt better, I loped 3 1/2 miles around the Tidal Basin at noon, bundled up against the cold with my ankle in a brace due to the slight sprain.  (The wind was down slightly on Thursday which created nice reflections on the water.)

Friday I went out with the noontime running group at work, a shifting band of runners, and four of us did a brisk 3.6 miles around the Tidal Basin at an 8:44 pace, faster than usual because the fastest guy in the division was running with us "to slow him down" because he's coming back from an injury.  We were glad to be able to help him out on his road to recovery.  (A totally clueless tourist wandered across the field of our posed picture on Friday as we laughed unbelievingly at her.)

Friday, November 21, 2014

Open Note to My Son

It's open season for federal benefits.  I'm glad we inched closer to the rest of the industrialized first-world league of nations and instituted Obamacare, deeply flawed as it is (can't wait to finally see the Repug's plan!), so our poor, unemployed, young and persons with pre-existing conditions can finally have some hope of treatment and not going bankrupt if they have the misfortune of becoming ill.

The ACA is a mishmash of portal glitches, expensive (for the rest of us) subsidies, high premiums or high co-pays, lost catastrophic plans and other frankenstein-creation problems and inequities but one thing is sure, not a single Republican hand went into implementing their very own plan from years earlier.  So don't blame them!  Their plan nowadays is apparently either go to the ER (expensive for the rest of us!) or Just Die (but don't participate in doctor-assisted euthanasia).

Back to the main point, open season for federal benefits, which runs through December 8th.  The federal health insurance plan is the gold standard in this country, single payor, the best mass plan bar none.  Obamacare could have been so easy, actually, we already have a single payer all-inclusive plan that works just fine that we could have used as a template and it's called Medicare.

So youngest son Danny, since you are (the only child of mine) still under 26, if you want to have the best health insurance in the country and be included in my plan (you woud be dropped automatically when you turn 26 but you would have I think 60 days to pick up an Obamacare plan) contact me before December 8th.  I live in your childhood house and my work number hasn't changed in 24 years and my cell number is the same as when I spoke with you the last time you called me, and I will be happy to pay the extra premiums until your exclusion from my plan.  I hope you and your brothers are well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


Coming home from work last night, the sign outside the school said it was 30 degrees.  It was cold for a mid-November evening in DC.

I had run 5K during the noon hour, around the Tidal Basin.  Given the frigid conditions, I had layered up threefold, which was naturally too much so I was perspiring freely by the end of the run.

I had the footpath encircling the tidal body of water mostly to myself and it was imperative to watch out for ice patches as the tide induced water tends to encroach upon the gradually sinking cement path.  There were a few other runners who went by, one who was actually in shorts and running without a hat or gloves.

All the autumn leaves, so brilliant in their scarlet and golden hues last week, were much dulled and pretty much all knocked down given the gusting winds accompanying the current cold front.  The tall, imperious MLK statue next to the Tidal Basin gleamed coldly white with scarcely anyone present to see his frigid stare across the water at the TJ statue housed inside the Jefferson Memorial's open rotunda.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

When a moment is longer than a minute

Yesterday morning, Veteran's Day, I was running hills in my home town up around the elementary school which sits atop the second best hill in town and also has several sets of stairs to run up and down on.  I attended school there a long time ago.

As I was cutting across the footpath which goes around behind the school from Oak Street to Highland Avenue, which street is the best hill in town, the PA system blared out quite audibly that we would now have a moment of silence to honor our veterans who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms.  I pulled up, faced the building where I imagined there would be a flag inside somewhere, took off my hat and stood at attention, reflecting upon the veterans I have known, from my brother who served with the Marines in Beirut to a running friend who was lost in Afghanistan to other current vets of the several wars of the past 65 years, and to all the WWII and WWI vets who have passed.

As the seconds passed and I stood in respectful stillness, I got to wondering how long a moment really was.  After a minute passed without further issuance from the playground speaker, I put my hat back on, turned and resumed my run.

As I ran off, I heard the announcer come on the loud public address system to say that that concluded the moment of silence and now the pledge of allegiance would be recited in every classroom.  When I got home and looked up "moment" I discovered that although a moment currently encompasses a brief, non-specific passage of time it actually was a specific measurement of time in the middle ages consisting of 90 seconds, or 40 strokes every hour.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A mother's glance

On this Veteran's Day, I want to acknowledge the service of my family members I know to have served.  My grandfather in the Navy in WWI (escort duty in the Atlantic) and my father and three uncles served in the Marines and the Army in WWII (Peleliu, Okinawa, China; several Pacific naval engagements; Philippines; Mediterranean Theatre).  My brother Jack served in the Marines during the Beirut deployment.

The Marines were handled roughly in Beirut, losing a couple of hundred men, most in one night to a suicide bomber who crashed his truck loaded with explosives into a Marines barracks and blew it up while the Marine sentry tried to load his duty rifle as the truck careened past him after approaching him because the stupid rules of engagement called for the sentry to be patrolling with an empty rifle because he might inadvertently harm a civilian.  He had full magazines in ammo pouches on his belt but that's not the same thing in a crisis in the dark as having a loaded rifle with a live round in the chamber a mere bolt-action away.

My brother, a squad leader for a machine gun unit on the Regimental Combat Team, had been rotated out of Beirut by then but after that devastation his unit went back in, taking a few casualties to snipers and explosive ordnance during the two details.  In the summer of 1982 I was visiting my parents when Newsweek magazine came out with a story on the Marines' deployment, accompanied by a picture of a Marine marching with an American flag, flanked by two Marines with shouldered rifles, one left-handed and one right-handed.

The Marine on the right in the picture with his M-16 on his left shoulder, rail thin with his face half-obscured by the shadow thrown by the brim of his campaign hat, cleft in his chin, looked awfully familiar.  "Is that Jack?" I asked my wife.

"No," she said with certainty.  I asked my father the same thing.  "No," was his answer after a long scrutiny of the photograph.

Then I showed the picture in the magazine to my mother.  She glanced at it and immediately said, "That's Jack."  She was right.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Anti-Democratic Measures under the color of law

I just voted in Virginia and for the first time in my 44 years of voting was required to present a photo id.  I am ashamed that my state has turned to this to try to suppress economically-depressed, elderly, minority and recent immigrant voters.

Virginia is a state that went to war trying to preserve human bondage.  In my lifetime Virginia necessitated the United States Supreme Court decision (unanimous) Loving v. Virginia to overturn another of its outrageous practices, its anti-miscegenation laws. 

Did the founding fathers carry photo ids?  I'm thinking not, and they certainly didn't put a national id requirement into the constitution.

Papers, please.  I'm not trying to cross a border into a foreign place where they don't like our way of life, I am here to exercise my fundamental right of voting in a democracy!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Kansas City Royals

I thought it was unfair that the KC Royals, after surviving a 1-game wildcard playoff game in extra innings, got to play only a five game series next with the team with the best record in the majors, the Angels, whom they swept 3-0.  A hot team on a roll ousted the best team coming out of a 162-game grind in a short series where anything can happen.  (KC is where "Bird Lives.")

But maybe not so unfair as it seemed.  The Royals then went on to sweep the Orioles, who won the AL East and hit the most home runs in baseball, in a 7-game series.  They swept them 4-0.  (Great black baseball teams were in KC before integration in the big leagues, and there is a Negro Leagues Museum there now.)

Break up the Royals!  8-0 in the playoffs, already in the World Series, waiting for the survivor of the Giants-Cardinals series.  (KC barbecue is unparalleled.)

I saw a game at Kauffman Stadium in 2010.  They have a great view of I-70 traffic endlessly rolling by, the vehicles' presence just beyond the outfield fences made known by reverberating backfires, the chatter of compression releases going off, and the general whine of high speed ceaseless traffic.  (If you like to watch trucks as a major league baseball game unfolds, KC is for you.)