Sunday, December 30, 2012

Last Year in Review

Now that 2012 is about gone, I find myself putting 2011 into better perspective. It turns out that last year was a good year.
I started out last year by getting back to running after a long layoff due to chronic tendinitis in my left ankle.  I participated in a walk-to-run program which kick-started my return to running.  I have Coach John to thank for showing me the path back.  I also started running at noon on the Mall with a workmate, and we slowly increased our pace from twelve-minute miles to ten-minute miles.  I also enjoyed an occasional lunch with my former mentor from oh-so many years ago, now retired from my agency.  He taught me practically everything I know, including how to enjoy a pizza with an egg upon it.
In February, as I have done for years, I had lunch at the Lost Dog Cafe in Westover at noon on the birthday of each of my estranged sons.  I continue to hold out hope that one or more of them will show in the future, because I love each of my children.  Hey Johnny, I'll be there next week at noon on your birthday.
In March I continued my comeback to running, enjoying the early Cherry Blossoms on noontime runs.  I was also able to post a sub-thirty 5K time in my first race in a year and a half, on the W&OD Trail a half mile from my house.

In April I participated in a tree planting day in my home town.  My volunteer crew planted five trees and dug six holes.  Can you believe that one homeowner waited until we had completely dug the hole at the marked spot on her lawn next to the tree the city dropped off days earlier before she came out of her house to tell us that she no longer wanted the free tree she had ordered?  We definitely were ninety-nine percenters as we dutifully filled the hole back in as this one-percenter disappeared back into her air-conditioned house.
In May I underwent hernia surgery but was able to finish a Memorial Day 3K fun run in under twenty minutes five days later.
In June I attended a minor league baseball game in Trenton.  Across Lamberton Street which fronts the ballpark was the Lamberton Liquors package store.
In July I traveled across the upper plains, touring Indian battlefields and visiting prominent features in the region like Devils Tower in Wyoming.
In August the DC area experienced a rare earthquake, which closed the Washington Monument due to structural cracks and it remains closed today.  At home the tall plastic toy figures lined up on the shelves in my children's bedroom tumbled over willy nilly, with several soldier and monster figures pitching onto the floor below.
In September I went down to North Carolina help my college roommate a buddy clean up after Hurricane Irene roared through his waterfront property.  The storm surge registered 9 feet high on his 12 foot house stilts so the valuables inside his residence were safe, but the outlying storage units were a sodden mess.  Here I am holding his family bible during the cleanup phase.  My buddy spent hours restoring this family heirloom with its priceless personal inscriptions, recordations and notations, basically slow-baking it.
In October I started occasionally taking my noontime runs through the Occupy Wall Street camps in DC, a movement I wholeheartedly supported.
In November I went to spend Thanksgiving with my sister and her family in Columbus.  We ran a race.
In December I was detailed to assist a regional office with a two-week trial in a southern city.  A finer bunch of line staff you could never hope to meet.  I got in some great early morning runs though very historic places like the Grassy Knoll, and I picked up some invaluable professional pointers by observing people at work.  I made several life-long friends, like Erez, Gary, Shereen and the others in this picture.
The year ended with a run on New Year's Day with a good friend who was coming back from major surgery.  He outpaced me badly that day on the C&O Canal Towpath, although I used as an excuse that I was wiped out by a Hot Yoga session an hour earlier.  I'm not a fan of Bikram Yoga for a number of reasons.  Unfortunately my friend underwent essentially the same major surgery six months later, and I pray that the surgery this time will do what the surgeons promised him and he will be running with me again soon.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

An Open Invite

Another year is about to slip away.  For my three children, I invite you to come have lunch with me at 12 noon on Tuesday, New Year's Day, January 1, 2013 at the Lost Dog Cafe in Westover (Arlington, VA).  We can start catching up on the last half-decade, a little bit at a time.  I love you Jimmy, Johnny and Danny.  I hope to see one or more of you there then!

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Little City, the little creature

My home town is called The Little City, a self-proclaimed title as it asserts its fierce independence within the welter of competing governmental entities within the Beltway.  It all has to do with its superior public school system, which props up property values even in hard times, and skyrockets property taxes even for persons without children like me to feed such extravagance.

It's a nice place to jog though, as the forty mile W&OD Trail, a paved over railroad bed, cuts right through the heart of the city, and its streets for the most part are spacious enough and not crushed with heavy traffic.  It also has a nice set of hills, such as the hill which I ran up this morning that goes up to the elementary school, a school I attended half a century ago.

The jog was unsatisfactory though.  First off I lost the five dollar bill I put in my pocket, a fact I discovered after I'd poured a cup of coffee at the 7-11 near my house to take back to my house at the conclusion of my little two mile outing.  The proprietor kindly let me take the coffee anyway, gratis.

A hundred yards and a few minutes before that I had run by a poor little dead cat lying forlornly in the gutter amidst the dirty damp leaves, run over by a car, fresh blood surrounding its head.  I decided to call Animal Control as soon as I got home to report it so they could come pick it up and perhaps alert the owners.  I thought it would be an unwelcome sight for its family to discover if they were out looking for it.

There was a city police cruiser at the restaurant right next to the 7-11 so I stopped in there first and waited respectfully for the officer inside to finish ordering his breakfast at the counter before I approached him.  I asked if the city had an Animal Control officer and he answered affirmatively. 

I explained the situation to him, gave an exact location (if you're going to report something, try to know exactly where it is, such as, "on the western curb line of West Street 200 feet north of the W&OD Trail").  I left to go get my coffee next door as he called it in.

When I went by again carrying my coffee he came out and asked me to call it in when I got home because the Animal Control officer wasn't on duty currently and dispatch would give me another number to call.  The poor guy had a breakfast waiting for him and I said, "Sure, I'll be home in a few minutes."

Below is as best as I can recreate the conversation I had a few minutes later, after calling the police department's non-emergency number just a few minutes ago.

"City of Falls Church, police department."

"Hi, I'd like to report a dead cat in the city limits that I ran by a few minutes ago when I was out jogging, so your Animal Control officer could go pick it up."

"A dead cat?"

"Yes, it was dead, it had been struck by a car obviously because there was fresh blood around its head, and I thought you could go pick it up and alert the owners.  It had a collar."

"Sir, we don't pick up dead animals.  Only live ones or injured ones so we could care for it."

"Well, I thought the Animal Control officer could go get it before the family found it and saw it lying in the gutter dead, covered in blood."

"Our Animal Warden is only part time."

"Well, Could I have his number?  I'll call it to report the cat's location."

"Sir, she is part time and not on duty at the current time." 

I took this as a No.  I was starting to regret this.  When will I ever learn not to bother with trying to report animal situations within city jurisdictions?

"Well, I'm not sure why the city registers animals then because it looked like it had a tag and you could notify the owners in case they're out looking for it."

(Slight exasperation.)  "Well, I can take down a description in case the owners call in.  What kind of a cat was it?"

"It was a tabby, a household cat." 

"What color was it?"

"Well, aren't all tabbies tan with black stripes?"  (I was wrong about this.)

"Tan with black stripes.  Okay, was it male or female?"

"I couldn't tell if it was male or female even if it was alive."  This was my attempt at humor.

"A neutered cat.  Okay, where was it?"

I gave the precise location, wondering if the dispatcher would even bother to write it down.

Poor little tabby, somebody's family member, lying dead in the gutter of The Little City.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Trees

There are plenty of publicly decorated Christmas trees to view during the holiday season, especially if you're a runner--here is a small sampling.
A tree at last year's Turkey Trot just off the OSU campus in Columbus, OH.
The same tree this year. 
The tree outside the Capitol in Columbus.
At one of the two Occupy Wall Street camps in DC last year. 
The National Tree on the Ellipse. 
The Capitol Tree in DC. 
The Fallen Peace Officers' Tree outside the Courthouse in DC.
The tree inside the Cherry Hill Farmhouse in Falls Church, VA.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Wardrobe Malfunction

I ran a Turkey Trot race, the Flying Feather Four-Miler in Dublin, Ohio, on Thanksgiving morning with two of my nephews from Columbus.  Now I can say that every one of my sister Kate's three sons has beaten me in a race.  (Below:  M and K flanking their proud Mom pre-race.)
The day started out cool and crisp so naturally I overdressed.  Perfectly comfy at the start, I was dying by MP 1, which we passed at about 9:15.

Stripping off my fleece jacket, I tied it around my waist and we hit the halfway mark at about 19:40.  The race course meanders through rolling wooded parkland in this suburb north of Colombus.

Both of my nephews were being extremely solicitous, running alongside of me.  I could tell that M, the live-at-home college sophomore who had been running nighttime miles getting ready for this outing, wanted to go on ahead, while K, the college freshman who is attending his university on a rowing scholarship, assured me that I was pulling him along.  Except that his words weren't coming out in ragged gasps like mine were.   

In my state of overdress, I was wearing leggings which were proceeding to slide off my hips despite me cinching the drawstring tight.  Just past MP 2 I had to stop, untie my jacket, hoist up my pants, tie the drawstring extra tight, refasten my outergarment about my waist and proceed.  Both young men waited patiently with me despite my urgings for them to go on.  (Below:  Clutching my finisher's bottle of wine with my malfunctioning leggings still sagging below my waist post-race.)
By MP 3 I was once again yanking my leggings up every three steps as they continued to slide down my legs.  Fearing that I would get entangled in my falling-down warmup pants and go sprawling amidst a horde of racers, I had to stop to tighten my leggings again.  This time M went on while K stayed with me, assuring me that he wouldn't even be running in the race if it weren't for me.  I chose to take his comment in a postive light.

Finally we could see the finish banner off in the distance and we picked up our pace and broke forty minutes.  My time was about 39:31, with K a second ahead of me and M about half a minute faster than that.

This was a cool race, with the goody bag containing a tech long-sleeve shirt, a race-logo hat and gloves, plus a shot of whiskey in an airline mini-bottle.  Each finisher received a full bottle of beaujolis to take home to his or her Thanksgiving dinner.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

What are your principles?

I performed another useless act today, going at noon on Christmas day to a restaurant, having invited my three estranged sons by internet (I don't know their addresses, emails or phone numbers) to a lunch "date" I set up by this blog.  Their Mother, a first grade school teacher, refuses to give me any information about them (even whether they are well or not).

Of course none of them showed.  PAS, a form of child abuse, lives and thrives in our Western world.

Here's my FB post from today: Sorry you couldn't make our lunch "date" today JJ&D. Merry Christmas. Would love to see you sure wouldn't want to be you.

I'm 60. I treasured my relationship with my Dad, who died when he was 61.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

See you then

Relationships are so unfathomable.  We're so forgiving of casual acquaintances, yet so intolerant with intimate relatives.

Life is too short for this attitude.  Driving to New York last fall, I called my only brother, who lives or lived in Queens, only to discover through the impersonal nature of dialing bad numbers that his cell phone number now belongs to a stranger and his home phone number has been disconnected.

"No further information is available."  Nice knowing you, Jack.

My three sons haven't communicated with me in over half a decade.  At noon on Christmas day I'll be at the Lost Dog Cafe in Westover in Arlington, Virginia; let's all grab lunch together.

Saturday, December 22, 2012


I drove up to New York in the fall to see Erik, who lost his wife in a small plane crash in the summer and suffered burns on 60% of his body (he heroically pulled her out of the intensely burning fuselage).  He has made a miraculous physical recovery (the emotional recovery will take years) with the help of his family.

I really enjoyed my Bucket Trip in the spring and my trip to the Great Northwest in September, but this was my best trip of the year.  Erik is a long lost elementary school BFF from Stapleton, Staten Island.

We had all the time in the world to reconnect after he contacted me on FB a couple of years ago.  But as the greatest writer ever said, I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.

I met Erik's wonderful sister-in-law, who dressed his wounds daily, saw his Mother who used to feed me swiss cheese and tomato sandwiches almost half a century ago while I played with my best friend, and sampled the attractions of Goshen (attending a service with Erik in a pre-Civil War Episcopal Church, touring the national harness racing museum, walking past a structure which U.S. Grant slept in and enjoying a demonstration from a farrier in his blacksmith shop).  Don't ever let time waste you.

Thursday, December 20, 2012


A friend recently complained that the word recognition guard on the comment section of my blog was hard to manipulate.  Since new blogger, run by the vaunted google I surmise, has spam guard, I decided to eliminate word recognition for commenting and allow anyone to comment freely and easily, just like I used to before scurrilous spam started populating the comment section of my posts a few years ago.

Bad idea.  Within a week I had dozens of Anonymous comments to posts old and new.

Some of the "comments" were for products like parkas and curatives and went on for paragraphs and paragraphs.  Others contained URLs that I wouldn't recommend clicking into.

Word recognition for posting comments is back and I'll see the spammers in hell, where my former family is sure I'll go.  If anyone ever wants to contact me, my email is, my home phone is listed in Northern Virginia, my work phone in the District hasn't changed in 22 years and I live in the same house where my three sons spent their formative years all those years when I was coaching or managing their various soccer teams.

Friday, December 7, 2012

The Greatest Generation

I wasn't alive on December 7, 1941, but the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that day was the seminal event of my parents' lives.  Lives that had been forged growing up during the depression.

The two events instilled in them, and their generation, a sense of solidarity and collective responsibility, a societal oneness and purpose, that has been steadily eroding ever since their children grew up in the American cornucopia that came out of World War II.  With the coming of the baby boomers into the seat of power, the world has been sorely afflicted.

All those Vietnam drafter dodgers or deferrers brought us hard wars, men like the Great Bird Hunter (how many deferments, Dick?) and the Decider (where were you during your tour in the National Guard, Dubya?) who slept while 9/11 was revealed to them beforehand and botched the ensuing war, Neo-Cons who charged incompetently into the wrong war because that was the shock and awe of their wet dreams.  Oh the inhumanity, the inhumanity wrought by the cowboy attitude and torture as foreign policy that came from them.

And those Masters of the Universe on Wall Street with their reckless trading and obscene paydays who brought down the whole world economy and put off most Americans' retirements by at least a decade, shame!  MBA programs (like the one Dubya took) should start teaching bonafide ethics courses. 

My parents, who weathered the Great Depression and rolled back the rising tide of evil in the world during a great war, were part of a generation of doers and can-doers who gave us the secure world we grew up in, a world much greater than they were born into, through prudence, industriousness, responsibility, charity and togetherness.  Seventy-one years after 9/11, what will our children write about us?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


At church on Sunday the priest, John, discussed the reading from Luke 1:26-38, where Mary hears from the angel Gabriel that she would bear the Son of God.  First John warmed the congregation up by telling an uplifting story about an obese woman who discovered running and ran her first triathlon.

She was on the third leg, laboring mightily and running near the very back of the pack when an octogenarian man caught up with her.  They ran together for awhile and the woman expressed her fear to him that when he ran on, she would be the final finisher.  What a way for her first triathlon to end, she said bitterly, coming in dead last.  What would people say about her then?

The man said simply, "They'll say you're a triathlete."  The church audience murmured appreciatively at the story.

Then John launched into his sermon.  "What were the angel's first words to Mary?" he asked.

"'Greetings, favored one!'  Greetings!  Not something from on high like, 'Listen now to God's command' no, a more friendly opening that would show Mary that her beauty, both within and without, came from God and was indicative of His love for us all."

There was more to the sermon, of course, but I was already in a reverie about the two stories.  Dead last.  Greetings.

After the service, as is customary, John spoke briefly with each parishioner as he or she filed out.  When my turn came, I considered telling him my associations with both of his parables.  John is not a runner, and being at least a dozen years younger than me, he didn't come into manhood during the Vietnam era.

Looking at the serious priest looking earnestly into my eyes, I decided against telling him that another thing that persons might call the overweight triathlete coming in last is "DFL."

No, I went with telling him that the association I thought about when the angel Gabriel opened with Mary by saying," Greetings," was that when letters from the selective service arrived telling you that you were being drafted, they started out famously with "Greetings."  You're a favored one who is going off to Vietnam for a tour of duty!

John looked at me severely and said sternly, "That was the association you made from that passage?"  Uh, yeah.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I put my Christmas tree up over the weekend.  I brought into the house from the garage a mangy five and a half foot pre-assembled pre-wired artificial tree and plugged it in.

Voila.  I bought it last year the day after Christmas at a hardware store where it was the demo model.

That was the same day that I brought my seven and a half foot tall fir pine artificial tree, disassembled, to the thrift store, closing a chapter in my life where for a decade I had expansive yuletide decorations in my house in hopes that my family soon would be there.  Since that hadn't happened since 2002, it was time to get rid of all that junk.

Now no more unclaimed presents under the tree for the boys or stockings hung by the fireplace with care.  Only a slightly leaning tree in the corner with a single strand of lights upon it and some scraps of tinsel and a few ornaments hanging down from it, mostly memorializing my various trips around the country like the miniature gateway arch from St. Louis (2010), tiny Seventh Cavalry trooper figure from the Little Big Horn battlefield (2011) and Oregon quarter keychain from Crater Lake (2012).

Monday, December 3, 2012

Pre-paid plan

The call quickly turned frosty.  A representative from the Virginia Prepaid Tuition Plan had called to inquire about plans to use the Virginia prepaid college tuition plan ("plan") that I own with my oldest son as its beneficiary, and she was not prepared for my questions to her.

"What information do you have about Jim's intention to use the plan that I own?" I asked, not having seen nor heard from my oldest child since 2007, despite the fact that he apparently lives within five miles of me.  His Mother, a first grade teacher in my town, has stonily refused for years to give me any shred of information concerning any of our three children, who are all estranged from me due to her actions in overbearing their wills as children during our lengthy divorce, including disclosing their addresses or even whether they are well or not.

The plan's representative, not sensitive to my fiduciary duty as well as divorce-court ordered directive to maintain the plan if possible for the child's use was not inclined to answer any questions.  For my part, you see, I have previously been sued by my children over "fiduciary" matters although the court termed the suit a "harassment" petition when it threw it out while sanctioning and ultimately assessing costs of almost $50,000 against their Mother for her "unconscionable" role in bringing the matter.

Next to call was the plan's legal counsel, and he actually provided me with some information.  The IRS has issued rules that such tax-preferential prepaid college plans have a ten-year shelf life and Jim would be ten years removed from his high school graduation the year after next. 

Time to use it or lose it.  If the plan is forcibly dissolved by the state, it's a taxable event for me plus penalties are involved. 

The state doesn't care about an Arlington County court order to maintain the plan if possible for the child's benefit.  I turned to the child's Mother and asked her for Jim's address so I could contact him about the matter.

This educator declined to provide me with my child's address, which I don't know, so that I could communicate with the young man about the plan which would provide for payment for him of 100% of tuition & fees for four years at any state university in Virginia.  So here's a public announcement to James Bradley Rogers (he changed his name to her maiden name on his 21st birthday).

The plan I own and hold to be used for your benefit will be forcibly dissolved the year after next if you don't use it by then, and then there will be no college benefit to you ever from it or from me.  Please contact me about the plan before then, I reside in your childhood home (you know the place, you stopped in at a neighbor's house recently on a supposedly impromptu visit).

Sunday, December 2, 2012

'Tis The Season

Christmas time is upon us.  For a person like me without children, it's a depressing time.

Actually I have three sons, ages 26, 24 and 23, and I presume they are well although their Mother refuses to share any information with me about their well being or even their addresses (she's a first grade school teacher in my town).  None of my now-adult children has communicated with me for over half a decade, or with any Lamberton for almost a decade.

Cutting off one side of the family is a classic hallmark of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), which some people (but not me!) contend is a form child abuse perpetrated by the primary custodial parent using the power inuring to the chief caregiver to insidiously overbear the will of emotionally vulnerable children.  In my case, the standard final decree which was issued following the custody trial (joint custody & visitation every other weekend) gave me 16% of the total time with my children, which within a year had been subverted extra-judicially to zero percent of the time by the invidious actions of the coterie of "professionals" aligned with (paid for by) the Mother (their sick influence whipped one of my children into such a frenzy that he expressed violent ideation against me and himself--shame on all you "professionals").

But don't take my word about these divorce wars, read for yourself the findings of the Virginia Appellate Court upholding almost $50,000 in costs and sanctions being assessed against the Mother for her actions (pages 5-6 are especially revealing).  And have a Merry Christmas with your families, you all.