Friday, December 30, 2011

The Year Just Past

This summer I finally fulfilled my long-held desire to make it out to the Custer battlefield in Montana, driving there 900 miles from Minneapolis and back again in a rented car. There is no good way to get this remote battlefield, as it is about equidistant from Seattle, Denver or Minneapolis. (Right: Driving to Montana allowed me to see the magnificent waterworks in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.)

Going the way I did allowed me to visit my sister, who lives and owns a yarn shop in St. Paul, and see a game at Target Field, the new stadium of the Minnesota Twins. I am on a quest to see a game at every major league baseball stadium, and I have two stadiums to go (Seattle and new Yankee Stadium).

In Minnesota I also paid my last respects to the Greatest Generation as my Uncle, the very last World War II veteran I personally knew, was laid to rest in a cemetery bordering on the Mississippi River in Winona, the town where he and my father grew up. My Uncle was a hero in the Pacific War (bronze star recipient), as was my father who fought at Peleliu and Okinawa.

In the spring I had stomach surgery, a whiff of mortality. I also returned to running after a year-long layoff due to a chronic injury, and shed half the extra poundage I had gained. (Left: A welcome return to running. Photo courtesy of Leah Frazier.)

In the fall I spent a week in a small town on the Pamlico Sound in North Carolina helping my college roommate clean up his property there after the storm surge of a devastating hurricane flooded the town. Talk about a hardscrabble existence, the folks in towns like that have a life that exists otherwise in John Steinbeck novels. (Right: Cleaning up after the hurricane. Photo courtesy of Jimmy Sherwood.)

This winter I attended a two-week trial in Dallas, getting to know a great bunch of folks in my agency's regional office there as a result. I have only had two other actual trials in over twenty years of Federal work as a lawyer, and as usual the trial was intense, exhausting and stimulating.

The trial allowed me to do a lot of running in a different and unknown city, Dallas, and I compared it favorably to running in the District. Running on the Katy Trail there is every bit as rewarding as running on the Capital Crescent Trail or the W&OD in the Washington area, and running through Dealey Plaza or past the first Hilton hotel or by the original Neiman Marcus store is every bit as historic and rewarding as running on the National Mall. (Left: The Dallas trial team. Lead trial counsel is on the far left, the trial expert, an economist, is on the far right. Photo courtesy of Erez Yoeli.)

It was a good year. I won't tell you my resolutions for the coming year but I hope to make the next year even better.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

So Long...

On the day after Christmas, 2001, I took my kids to Ollender's across the street and purchased a seven-foot artificial fir Christmas tree at half price for our future Christmas holidays together. My wife had filed a stealth divorce that spring, immediately immersing our minor children in the litigation, and things had started becoming very strange between me and my three sons.

I paid $155.74 for the tree and although my three boys enjoyed setting it up at my house in 2002, around that time their Mother filed another stealth lawsuit that named my juvenile children as parties against me in a "fiduciary" matter. My children never came over to my house again after it was thrown out of court in 2003, and the litigation finally ended years later after she was sanctioned and assessed costs of almost $50,000 for filing her "harassment petition."

I can only suppose that boys love their Mother, as well they should, but I'd just like to know how my boys have fared since 2003 and indeed, if they are still alive and well. In my opinion it is unbelievably inhumane for this woman, a first grade teacher here in Falls Church, to keep me totally uninformed about our children's very well being.

Anyway, I set up this monstrous tree every Christmas although no family member ever came over to my house to see it despite copious invitations, and it took up a lot of room to put up and also to store. I bought its replacement recently, a five-foot hardware store floor model, after deciding that I would get ten years use out of the seven-foot monstrosity to make it worthwhile.

This being the tenth year, I set the tree up on Christmas Eve, having been out of town for work until then, and tore it down on the day after Christmas. Then I hauled it over to the local thrift store and donated it.

Boy, do I feel great that it's outta here. And Jimmy, Johnny and Danny, I love you and miss you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


I've been in Dallas for the last 12 days on assignment and there's no better way to see a city than to run through it. Every other morning I leave the Magnolia Hotel where I'm staying and go for a short run, usually down Main Street to Dealey Plaza and back.

Dallas has a lot of homeless people and they are moving around early in the morning when I run. I feel like I'm on the set of a zombie movie with a multitude of shambling, shuffling people moving around on the sidewalks as I run by.

This morning I ran with a co-worker down to the Cattle Drive statue in a park outside the convention center, then we stopped at a diner on Elm Street where we ate a breakfast of eggs, sausage, home fries and toast (and coffee) for less than $4 each. The patron next to us at the counter looked incredulously (disgustedly?) at the two of us sitting there in sweaty clothes and asked, "You been running?" (Right: Round 'em up.)

My friend is from Israel and on our run I took him past the Confederate war memorial also, which is near the convention center as well. As we inspected this towering monument to the Lost Cause, with five life-size figures each on their own column (Jeff Davis, Lee, Stonewall, A.S. Johnston and an ordinary Rebel soldier), I was able to give him the Yankee version of the Civil War as I explained each historical figure in turn. (Left: Guess who won?)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Associations, forty years later.

Facebook is quite a phenomenon, now I spill short drivel onto my FB page every day while I neglect any reflective writing I might do in my blog. But through facebook in the last year, I have been contacted by three of my best friends growing up, after decades of non-contact.

None of them are old female friends. How much better a friend I could be now for them.

We were young then, we're old now and either wrinkled or fat or wrinkled and fat. The Republicans inadvertently coined a motto for us when they advanced a health care plan for folks like us to Just Die.

My BFF in ninth grade reached out to me this past summer and I eagerly accepted his Friend-Me bid. It had been 40 years since I last heard from him.

How does that happen to BFFs? Very easily, at least up until the advent of the electronic age, which is very recent. (I'm the fat & wrinkled one on the left.)

We spent a lunch hour catching up recently at a restaurant in Minnesota, of all places. He told me about his alienated child (divorce situation) whom he had just recently heard from and then seen for thirty minutes for the first time in almost a decade, and I told him about my three alienated children (divorce situation) whom I have not seen nor heard from in almost a decade.

Once we were past our mutual modern male-parent maudlin stories, I told him about my very last memory of him. Sitting around the kitchen table of my parents' house on Staten Island, he was regaling my family with his first-year-in-college tales of life in the frat house at a college in the south.

You see, I chose to go to school in Boulder in 1970, and I had a much different attitude from him about schools and classmates. I said I remembered chiding him for his affinity for having 40 close frat brothers by asking, when he said that if you needed to go somewhere that 40 car keys would be tossed at you, if all 40 brothers would also put on blue shirts if he donned one before going out in the borrowed car.

Forty years later I still remembered how clear it had been to me how ridiculous his portrayal of frat life was. Although he had forgotten until then our last encounter, forty years later he remembered how merciless I had been in my chiding and how silly he had felt.

Life sucks sometimes. I suck sometimes.