Friday, July 22, 2016

Dad Died 30 Years Ago Today

My dad died 30 years ago today at age 61, a lung cancer victim.  The government  provided him with three cigarettes in every C-ration while he fought in two of the bloodiest battles in WW2 as a nineteen year-old rifleman.

Of course he smoked the proffered cigarettes, and he continued to smoke when he came home from the war (tobacco is addictive).  His wasting disease at the end, after he had stopped smoking years earlier, wasn't pretty and took him away painfully.

But I was fortunate, along with my mother and my brother, to be at his bedside in his house as he passed, holding him as he died.  All I could think of to say at that awesome moment was, "God bless you, dad," as he went to sit at the right hand of the Father.

He was my hero, the most principled man I ever knew.  I  miss him always and think about him practically every day.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A morning run

Last week I did a five mile loop around my greater neighborhood, after a preliminary mile in the 'hood, at 6:30 am to avoid the heat build-up.  The sky was really active, I love the diffusion of early morning sunlight that the cloud cover sometimes creates.

Not many people were about, except for commuters driving by in their cars.  I saw some wildlife, this bunny thought I wouldn't see it if it remained stock still.

I ran by some flowering weeds which were pretty.  My favorite is the Queen Anne's Lace which is abundant in the meadows currently.

With six miles in the books I ran up and over the last tall hill and headed to McDonalds to get my morning coffee and perhaps a fruit cup.  It's interesting there; half the time I get the senior discount on coffee (I never ask for it but I'm qualified to get it) unbidden and half the time I don't.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A workweek of running

I got in 31 miles of running last week, the most in quite awhile; since I came back in 2011 from my lengthy injury layoff and reduced my running a little, I've only hit thirty miles in a week once or twice before.  As usual, I ran five days out of the seven but these were all six mile runs at least, with some being slightly longer, five days in a row, the last four were solitary runs and they all incorporated at least half a mile of significant hills, usually during the last mile.

These runs were in the heat of the summer, July in DC, some with the dew point over 70 so it felt like 100 degrees on several days.  At the end of the week my feet hurt, I had to discard a pair of size 12 1/2 running shoes which size has become too small for me anymore, and I was the lightest I have been since a few years before my forced layoff.

In other words, I got 'er done, just like in the days of old last decade.  The week got underway with a two and a half mile run with John on the W&OD Trail at Bluemont, except that John was late or I was early so I ran four miles of hills waiting for John because I went for a preliminary run to kill time, went off the trail in an exploratory mode, got lost and ran up and down several hills working my way back to where I was supposed to meet John, who was there waiting for me by then.

The next four runs were all variations on my longer (5-6 mile) runs around my house, two runs around the 5-mile loop embracing my greater neighborhood, after a preliminary neighborhood mile each day, during which I ran by a local Fourth of July parade, and two out and backs three miles each way on the W&OD, first a run east on the trail and on the fifth day a run west on the trail.  I finished the last four runs running over the extended hill north of MP 7.5 on the trail, finishing at the local McDonalds each morning where, dripping sweat in large drops all over their floor and handing the cashier soaked currency, I ordered my morning coffee and walked the last few blocks home.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Another Tragic Shooting

A lone gunman opened fire on white policemen in Dallas to express his odious racial hatred.  The Dallas police chief, when this highly trained and motivated killer refused to surrender and was in a superior position to keep killing people, made the good decision to send a robot in after the mad dog.  

Let me go on record to say that taking out the assassin in Dallas with a robot bomb was an astonishingly good command decision to end the standoff with a militarily trained sniper who shot over a dozen citizens (including executing 5 police officers) so he couldn't shoot or execute more citizens. Two hours of negotiations proved to be fruitless. 

Akin to a military situation, the commander, in order to suppress casualties, took the strongpoint out with artillery rather than expose those advancing upon the it to harm due to their inadequate protection and cover.  And I don't think the robot pinned the assassin to the ground then shot him. 

Rather the robot went into the killer's liar and blew itself up, which killed the barricaded cowardly murderer. Yay. 

(From a former police officer.)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

The C&O

The C&O Canal Towpath is a pretty active place year round, especially in the summer.  They currently have a program at the National Park entrance that offers anyone a free bike loaner for two hours with which to enjoy the trail.

You can step back into yesteryear and ride a canal passenger boat, hauled up canal by mules.

There's camping and fishing.

There's running and of course hiking as well.  It's a well maintained national treasure that runs from the District all the way up into West Virginia.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

How Health Care Insurance Divides Us

Donald Trump's health care "plan" would throw 18 million people out of their health care insurance coverage if implemented, and dumb down the coverage for many other people who didn't have their health care coverage through an employer sponsored plan.  That would be a shocking step backward for this richest nation in the history of the world.

As a person who was thrown out of a plan (Blue Cross/Blue Shield) myself in 1990 when I was in law school, because I had two sickly babies at the time (one had infant asthma and the other had constant chronic ear infections), plus a wife who was using covered mental health care treatment, I can tell you from bitter personal experience how devastating it is to lose coverage when you most need it. To listen to one baby rasp and cough all night, and another cry and claw at his ears all night, because I couldn't afford costly medication for them, tore my heart up.

Thank goodness a whole generation later the nation took the step to pass the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare) to get millions more covered even if they don't have jobs or have pre-existing conditions.  But there are bitter opposing points of view also, as pithily expressed by a relative of mine who finds me an appalling liberal.  Here's his view, in his own words. 

What about us people making 20k a year paying 300 bucks a month with 12k deductibles? Haven't been to the Dr in 4 years but yet I am forced by law to buy a plan that doesn't help me or my wife. I have a college degree and 4 years experience in my field and still am not offered insurance (nor have I ever) even though I work 50 hours + a week. This is the work of the "Affordable Care Act" that your liberal prince forced through. 

My insurance used to be $120 a month with $1000 deductible. We are far from there, and my situation is much tougher than yours. Please save your tears and bleeding liberal heart rants especially since you voted for me to be placed in this situation. 

I'm actually a supporter of single payor coverage for all, along the lines of what Bernie proposes. I feel for the young man who expressed his view so eloquently in the two paragraphs above; the ACA has its significant flaws and persons in his situation demonstrate them well, but I consider it a first step to universal coverage. 

Another relative spoke up on the perniciousness of our current health care system.  In her own words in the paragraph below, she expressed support for our opposing points of view but common problem--cost of provision of care.  Why doesn't close to one hundred cents on the dollar go to providing care for the ailing?

I hear you both! Since we are finger pointing, I will point my finger at United Health. The conglomerate insurance company, which also controls many clinics in my area is a prime example of conflict of interest. their so called insurance, which is primarily catastrophic insurance as it has a $6,500 deducible in network or $13,000 out of network, and we are paying $1,200 a month for this. We are supposed to get one preventative care visit annually, but when you see the doctor, he will say, this is a treatment visit, so it isn't covered. The whole thing is a racket.

The real villains here aren't liberals or conservatives but the greedy, for profit rapacious health insurance industry, the very types that threw me out of my existing plan back when I was a student and had three babies (2 needing care) and a wife undergoing covered treatment. That isn't a bleeding heart sentiment, it happened to me and I watched my babies suffer for it as we bought the care we could at full price and did without for what we couldn't pay for.  Blue Cross/Blue Shield turned in a list of the top 20% users of the plan the prior year to the group I was covered under (a Farmers Coop) and we were all discharged from the group and our coverage lapsed immediately (and we'd just met that year's deductibles!). Bastards.  I'll never forget those months of desperation seeking treatment for my sickly babies before after graduation I caught on with the federal government, a single payor offering a multitude of excellent plans to its employees that dispensed with pre-existing conditions even back then.  

The health insurance industry, which stands between us and our health care as it pursues profits, is what divides us all.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Three recent falling ins

Since practically every runner is wearing headphones these days, I have been experimenting with speaking to runners I pass by with a "Good morning," or conversing with runners I catch up with, but the results are mixed.  Fully half of runners I call out a greeting to who are wearing ear phones ignore me.  It's not like the old days last decade where practically every runner greeted back.  And it takes effort to get runners to converse with you if they're wearing headphones, they're so wrapped up in the wonderfulness of their own selves.

There was Ron the other day.  I was running the hilly gravel path (for horses I think) that parallels the blacktop w&OD Trail when I came off the high trail onto the improved footpath right next to him.  I gave him a greeting, which he ignored.  I asked how far he was going to which he said, "What?"  I repeated myself, louder and slower.  He answered, "Not far."  I asked, "How far have you come?"  He said, "What?"  I repeated myself, louder and slower.  He ripped out his ear bud closest to me and said, "What did you say?"  I repeated myself.  "Two miles.  I'm just going to Lee Highway."  But then we had a fine conversation for a mile before he turned off at Lee Highway.  His wife started running five years ago and now is practically consumed with it and is prepping for the MCM, her first, in the fall.  He is a soccer player but runs sometimes so he can run races with her sometimes.  He last ran the Nashville HM with her and she slowed down and ran with him.  Isn't that nice?  We talked fast twitch, slow twitch muscles for awhile.  See what runners know about?

Then there was Bill.  He was about my age, and speed, and I had a hard time catching up to him from about forty yards back.  He wasn't wearing headphones and I got the impression he was trying to keep ahead of me as I came up upon him.  He wasn't real communicative when I fell in with him for awhile. He answered every general question I put to him with a precise, short answer, didn't extend any conversation and asked me no questions.  After a quarter mile I wished him well and ran on ahead of him.  I was faster than him, or so I thought.  But at my turnaround, coming back I saw that he was  only thirty yards back although I had been loping along at my fast relaxed speed to get as head of him.  I also saw that he made the same exact turnaround as I did.  Game on!  I switched gears to a higher speed and soon I had fifty yards on him and he was falling away.  But a mile later, after the sharp curving hill where the W&OD goes up and over I-66 and you can't see behind you very far, on the flat bridge on top I heard a noise behind me and there was Bill ten yards back.  I increased my speed and worked the downhill and I lost him.  I think he turned off onto the cul-de-sac just east of the bridge because I think that's where I had first noticed him thirty minutes before, probably coming out of that cup-de-sac on his run.  Bill was a sullen, competitive sort, but I caught him, then stayed ahead of him  Ha!

And finally there was Phil.  A bone-thin old-timer with a slow but steady gate, I had seen him from my back stoop or back window go by on the W&OD Trail several times before, always around 9 a.m.  I ran by him one day on the trail and circled back and caught up with him and politely asked his age after I asked his name.  I explained that I had recently retired, told him my age and said that I wanted to know how many more years of regular running I had to look forward to, with him as my model.  He was 79 he said as we shuffled along at his steady but inexorable pace.  Fifteen more years for me then at least, I told him happily.  Then I indicated that I was going to turn around and go back the way I had been going and I thanked him for his time.  He wished me well and said maybe we'll meet up on the trail in fifteen years again when I am his current age.  "If I'm still here," he added.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Falling In

I've been falling in with runners and chatting them up, even if they're wearing earbuds, like today with Kat on the W&OD.  I had six miles to go on a six mile run, the morning was already hot and getting hotter and I needed diversion.  Down the trail a couple hundred yards was a solitary female runner and I practiced my racing technique for overtaking the next runner ahead, slow and steady if they're a ways up there.  After a short while I caught her, fell in and asked, "How far you going?"  I couldn't tell how old she was, the younger they are, the less likely they are to talk to you, or even acknowledge that you're speaking to them.

"I'm just going down there," she said, vaguely pointing ahead.  I tried a different tack.  "How far have you gone?" I asked.  She removed her ear bud closest to me and said, "Oh, a mile."  She smiled, gave a short wave and put the piece back in.

I wasn't so easily deterred.  Pointing at her shoes, which contained tiny Mercury's wings sewn on each outside edge by the laces, I said,  "I been watching those wings on your shoes as I came up behind you and I thought they might give you a boost but I haven't seen them flap yet so I wonder if they're not an aerodynamic drag instead."  She said, "Oh I like them just fine!"

"What's your name?"  "Kat," she said, without asking mine.  "I'm Peter," I offered, at which point she figuratively sighed, removed both her ear buds and we had a nice conversation for the next mile and a half till her turnaround.  In a nutshell, she is the Breaking News editor for USA Today, we talked about the tragic shooting of an armed suspect by police in Baton Rouge yesterday, I gave her my perspective as a former state trooper (the two arresting officers in the videos weren't communicating calmly and clearly with each other) and then we talked about her upcoming marathon in Chicago.  I don't know how it went for Kat, I believe she found the conversation interesting enough, but for me it made at least the first quarter of my extremely hard six mile run (I dropped four pounds and felt exhausted by the end) go by quickly and easily.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Walls of Silence

Running used to be a lot more courteous and inclusive before everyone started wrapping themselves in little mobile cocoons of isolated oneness with their headphones as they run.  World and people nearby, there's nothing you could give me or show me because I am me and only I matter.

I generally don't try to speak anymore with runners I pass or catch up with if they're wearing headphones.  Which is well over half the runners now so running has become a little bit of a grimmer task these days with a wall of silence sealing runners off from each other.

It's less fun and more work now.  That's why I like running with my running buddies but they're all at work and I no longer work.

I still run with John sometimes, as he is retired also but he's married now so it's different as he has other obligations and preoccupations.  Lately I have taken to speaking to runners I pass even if they're wearing earpieces, as sort of a social experiment, and the results are varied, which I'll talk about in the next post.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The Fourth of July

A six mile morning run heralded the arrival of the holiday on a grey day that made for a cool albeit humid run around the greater neighborhood.  I passed by a parade where that neighborhood's kids in a ragged line were chasing after three crawling lit-up and noisy fire trucks.

At noon I had a nice lunch of a Greek Pie and a draft at the Lost Dog Cafe in Westover in Arlington.  There was an extra draft at the table but it went untouched.

The meal wasn't altogether silent though as I had an extended conversation with my server Lily about her extensive tattoos, and she proudly showed me the wolf on her upper arm which is an exact copy of the one her deceased dad had on his upper arm.  Her love for and pride in her departed parent shone through as she described for me the magnificent tattoo she has on her back, which is an original design of hers in honor of him.

I was touched by this earnest and honest display of fealty for a father on the part of a still-grieving child.  After dark I watched the town fireworks from my back stoop to close out the holiday.

Monday, July 4, 2016

I should have brought bread crumbs.

I arrived at Bluemont at 9 am for a 10 am hookup for a run with John.  Our schedules had gotten crossed.  Mine was written in ink in my weekly minder, his was entered in his outlook so his entry must have been correct, right?  By the magic of texting, I determined I had 35 minutes to wait so I went down the W&OD Trail EB to do a little exploring on side spurs.

I was lucky to get back 45 minutes later.  I'd headed off the trail NB on a little bridge over 4-Mile Run and was rewarded, as I expected, with a run up a steep hillside to a street at the south edge of an Arlington subdivision.  Running mostly NB on the curvy street, I expected it to intersect Wilson Boulevard shortly, which I would use to run directly back to Bluemont to complete my short warm-up run.  After many blocks, however, I asked a passing couple where Wilson was and they indicated it was still more than a mile away.  When I indicated I was trying to get back to Bluemont, they said I'd be far from there by the time I hit Wilson so they gave me a complicated set of directions which was a shortcut.

I was able to follow the directions, through a part of Arlington where I'd never been before, and emerged at Bluemont Corner, not Bluemont Park, which was still a mile away.  But at least I knew where I was now and I headed down a pathway that I knew would take me to the W&OD not far from where I'd parked my car.  But then I passed by another little side spur dirt trail that went down the hill into the woods sort of in the direction of the W&OD.  I couldn't resist.

The trail ran into the woods, past houses whose other sides must have been on a street not visible or accessible to me, deeper into the woods but always heading downhill so I figured I'd hit 4-Mile Run down there in the bottom of the gully somewhere.  Lost again.  I ran by a person walking a dog who indicated the W&OD was "just over there."  And it was.  I was still a mile away from my car, and I arrived back in the parking lot ten minutes later where John was waiting for me.  We went for our scheduled 2.5 mile run, which really was six and a half miles for me.  Running is such an adventure sometimes.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

More Billy Goat

More Billy Goat Trail 2016.

A blue crane.  My camera was too slow to catch it when it majestically spread its wings and flew away.

Another bird.

That's all.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Billy Goat 2016

In the 17 years that I've been walking the moderately difficult Billy Goat Trail, I used to be able to perch atop pointed rocks and advance considerable distances by scrambling in precarious balance during the 3-mile trek.  Now that I'm approaching what has been traditionally thought to be typical retirement age, not so much.

I also used to scamper over a downed tree over a brook, but now I no longer do so.  I take the sedate bridge over the babbling brook that has a handrail instead.

Today I completed the annual trek.  Next year, who knows, in my mid-60's, I might give it up.

I think my balance is off.  I know that my usual companion in the yearly passage, near my age, struggles now to complete it too.

Friday, July 1, 2016

More friends

The year is half done.

I no longer work.

My five-times-per-week runs fill up my time.

Life is good.