Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Feeling Good!!!

Check this out: my sorry-old-ass hiked damn near twenty miles of the Appalachian Trail this weekend and I ain't even sore!!!

Now, I'm not talking about leisurely walking along some nice forest trail here. I mean speed hiking with a 30+ lbs. pack, across some 1800 ft. of elevation change, on trails that were nothing more than collections of loose rock perfectly designed for no other purpose than the breaking of ankles! That ain't even counting the two mile hike to get water from a pond, using a hand-pump filter and humping a five-gallon water jug back to the camp, or the doubling back to pick up boys who were falling behind, and adding their gear to mine. All that, and the only complain I have is a few small bruises on the bottoms of my feet (some of them rocks were sharp!!) despite the thick soles of my hiking boots. There were moments when the ankle had me panicked though. There were lots of twists and tweaks on it that had me sweating but it held up just fine. In fact, I think the twisting helped loosen up some things in there. It seems a good bit more flexible now that it was.I was a hiking machine!

Actually, I have to say everyone was. The boys did fantastic; one or two may have fallen back a bit but nobody quit and nobody complained. We had PERFECT weather the entire weekend and it may have been the best backpacking trip we've ever done. I had a blast. The Boy and I were up in the first group of hikers (we broke into three small groups to minimize impact on the trail, etc.) who were the speed group. I was the group leader and the other adult was a 19-year-old attendee of the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy who is working on a commission in the USMC. Even the boys in this group were mostly folks headed towards service academies and/or military careers. These were some hi-speed/lo-drag children! They did their best to smoke my old self but I kept up with them. Seems like I might not be losing weight as much as I'd like, but the running every day is definitely paying off. Best part was sleeping out under the stars on Saturday. Most folks slept in tents but i just threw a tarp on the ground, with my sleeping back on top, and stared up at the unbelievable number of stars. That far out into the woods, there's no light pollution and there wasn't a cloud in the entire sky. Crystal clear night - just stunning.

What else is up? Well, this coming weekend is my monthly Drill. As if hiking weren't enough, I'm gonna go play soldier again! :-) I have no idea what the training schedule is but I'm looking forward to it. All my paperwork issues are cleared up so I shouldn't have to sit around and wait (well . . . not too much anyway - this is the Army after all!) After this weekend, I'm down to three RSP drills and then I ship to Basic. Funny - I'm excited as hell to go, but still very nervous, ya' know?

Had a lunch seminar at work today. (One I got to attend instead of teach for a change!) It was on emergency preparedness and run by our local Red Cross chapter. Very good seminar: I learned that the RC handles a lot more stuff than I ever knew. Turns out the president of my firm sits on the RC board-of-directors. Now I understand why he's so supportive of my joining the Guard; he's a big believer in volunteerism. I talked to the guy who ran the seminar afterward; I'd like to have him run the program for The Boy's Scout Troop. We already work and Emergency Prep. merit badge but this had a lot more in it that would be good for all families to know and work with. I'm hoping to hook my boys up with the local RC to do some fundraising, food drives, etc. We do a lot of that stuff anyway and they could use the help.

Cool thing about the presentation is that one of the RC volunteers used to work here. She left my firm to take up a full time position at the Red Cross. She just got back from doing two weeks running a shelter in Louisiana for Gustav & Ike. She had remarkable stories to tell about what she'd seen and what conditions were really like down there. It has a lot more impact when you hear it first-hand from someone you know. Incredible work they're doing down there.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Grand Theft . . . Candy?

Someone stole my bowl.

Do you believe that? A cheap, $5.00 plastic candy bowl, right off my desk. It grew legs and walked away whilst I was on vacation. At first I figured one of the guys here was just messing with me (the IT guys had much fun with my system while I was away!) but no, it has been lost forever in that infinite void where all candy dishes go to their eternal rest. So sad. It was such a good candy bowl . . . and so NEW! Less than two months old . . . it still had so much candy to give!

Seriously though . . . a CANDY BOWL???? My office is loaded with a few thousand dollars worth of electronics, etc. and someone walking by says: "Ohhh, Candy Bowl! That bitch is MINE!" Odd world.

So, what else be happenin' . . . well, I think I'm losing weight again. That's just a feeling though, my cowardly ass is avoiding the scale like the plague. It's just too damn depressing when it smiles up at me with its cheery, digital green glow, flashing: "FAT ASS! FAT ASS! FAT ASS!" over and over again at my weeping eyes. I swear, one of these days I'm gonna find out what it says when I take a baseball bat to it's digi-self! Who's got the fat ass now, beyotch???

Wow - that was creepy, no?

Anyway, I been eating right, exercising regularly, and I'm feeling good. Clock is ticking down quick on me now folks, only a few more months and I'm off to BCT. I really want to be in solid shape when I go. I am dreading being "That soldier!" as cadre likes to call him. (i.e. "Y'know there's always one soldier doing (insert stupid action here)? DON'T BE THAT SOLDIER!") I really don't want to be the fat old man everyone hates because he's always dragging the group down ya' know? That thought really scares me. Hence, the waking up at 5:00 a.m and busting my hump every day. I still worry though, the 41-year-old body doesn't respond to diet and exercise nearly as well as the 20-year-old. I swear, I NEVER exercised this much at 20, and I weighed all of 170 lbs. with nothing but muscle. Now? Well . . . let's just say I don't think I'll ever be seeing 170 again.

Heading out hiking in Northern Jersey with the Scouts this weekend. A nice 15 or so miler along the AT. It should be a lot of fun. We break into small groups so that we don't tear up the trail too much, or clog it up, and for the first time ever, I'm going to be out with the lead group. That's all the hi-speed young guys, who do their damnedest to RUN the trail whenever they can. In the past, I always led the last (i.e. fat/slow) group and sometimes barely made it back. It's a nice ego boost to have them bump me up front. With the regular running and dropping all the weight, I think I might just be alright . . . I'll let you know. Either that, or The Wife will log on to post about my massive coronary and tell you where to send the flowers. Either way . . .

Speaking of Scouts, The Boy was elected as the Senior Patrol Leader for his Troop! For those of you who don't know, that's the highest leadership position a boy can have in Scouts. He almost didn't stand up to run for the position (knucklehead didn't think anybody'd vote for him!) but the previous SPL made him and he won easily. He's just beginning to realize that he's a really solid, responsible, young guy that other kids look up to and trust. He's been getting a lot of leadership and advanced positions lately on all fronts. His self-confidence is growing quickly and that's really great to see. I've always thought he was a great kid; it's nice to see other folks think so as well! Good job, bud!


Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Toilet Humor

Okay, I shit you not (pun intended!) when I tell you that I have seen some of the most bizarre things imagineable in the men's room at work over the last week. I swear to God, I just don't understand what goes through a guy's head (again: pun intended!) when they're in there. Here's a brief list of what I witnessed:

1. Me standing at the urinal, an executive from my firm in the stall, taking care of his business, WHILE ON THE CELL PHONE WITH A CLIENT! What made it worse is, he's one of those guys who SHOUTS into the phone. Luckily, I ain't at all bladder shy. So there I stand, Mr. Happy in my hand, stuck with the dilemma of whether or not to flush once I'm done, cuz there's no way the client isn't going to hear the urinal flush. I'm hesitating, zipping back up and preparing to just walk out and leave flushing to the next guy, when Mr. Cell Phone lets loose with a power grunt and drops a bomb that probably showed up on the Richter Scale. While talking to a client . . . WTF??? I flushed, washed my hands, and left.

2. Walk in to use the urinal, turn the corner and what do I see? A completely naked sixty+ year old hairy ass staring at me! DUDE!! You do NOT need to completely drop trou and draws to drain the weasel! I did the instant: "about face!" and walked out. (Thank God for military training!)

3. Guy sitting in stall next to mine proceeds to set about cleaning himself when done with his business. I can hear him rolling the TP round and around his hand like 5-6 times. Okay . . . a little extreme but who am I to judge, right? I mean, it ain't like I bore witness to the mess he's tackling! So, I hear him do the winding bit a second time . . . then a third . . . and a fourth . . . Now I'm actually counting! The dude does this act SIXTEEN times. Sixteen? That's gotta be a full roll of industrial TP for one sitting. What the hell did you eat dude . . . an entire White Castle Restaurant?

4. Guy standing at the urinal on the opposite wall, taking a leak, and talking to his johnson the whole time: "Come on, that it. That's good . . . AHH!" I might have suspected he was up to something else and run out, if I hadn't heard the splashing of the Yellow River.

5. A wet wad of TP about the size of my fist stuck to the wall inside a stall, at about head height. Why was it there, and what made it wet? Don't know, and didn't hang around to find out!

Weirdness. Of course, how normal am I that I noticed all this and felt the need to write about it? Well, y'all know I'm a nutjob anyway . . .

Do ladies do things like this too, or are men just bizarre animals?


Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Birthdays and Other Things

Howdy, all!

Miss me? (Nah, I didn't think so.)

Last week was a much needed vacation, though it didn't come without cost! For starters, I got a call on Friday afternoon (The day before my vaca started!) from my recruiter, telling me that my drill weekend had been moved up to -you guessed it- the next day! The worst part of this of course is that The Boy's birthday party is that Saturday. Well, as you can imagine, The Wife was less than happy with me. The Boy had no problem with it, he just shrugged and said "that's fine," when I told him I'd miss the party. It wasn't too bad really, it meant that I had the entire week, including the Labor Day weekend entirely free so I got to spend plenty of time with him. We did our annual birthday dinner at our favorite restaurant (Oh yea, did I mention I turned 41 last week?) and we took a few days to head out to Hershey Park in PA with The Wife's sister and her family. It was actually a lot of fun. I'm not a big fan of amusement parks as a rule (Go back and read any of my posts on Disney if you doubt me!) but the place was clean, not too crowded, and it had a nice mix of water rides and coasters. Little something for everyone. I ate way too much crap and didn't exercise (beyond walking the park) for the week and man, did I pay for it in a big way when I went back out running! Talk about painful! Luckily, it was only the first day, after that I got back to eating normally and the body fell right back into the swing. (Thank God!)

The drill weekend was actually fun this month (No, I'm not kidding! I actually enjoyed it!) I moved out of Red Phase and up to White. That means we actually get to start doing some "real" training (or, the closest thing to it I've seen as yet!) We ran the obstacle course on Saturday, which was a blast. Walls to climb, monkey bars to cross, tires to run through, pipes to crawl under and through . . . it was like being a kid again! I was a little nervous at first, being the old man in the group, but I did alright. We had 14 soldiers in my squad and I was the last in line to go off the start line but I finished 7th, so that ain't half bad in my book, ya' know? Later that day, we trained on moving through hostile terrain in a two deep "Ranger Column". We learned to pass hand signals for silent communications and the correct way to cross a linear danger zone and set up a 360 perimeter. We did some work on how to respond to a close ambush, breaking into two fire teams and using flanking maneuvers . . . it was cool as hell! Odd moment: I was talking to my brother-in-law (MSG in the ANG with 23+ years in) and I told him what we were doing: "Dude, it was like being a little kid again and playing soldier," I said. He raised one eyebrow at me and shook his head slightly. "Only one problem there, bud. . . you ain't playin'!"

Damn me if that wasn't a sobering realization! Still hella fun though. :-)

Sunday morning, cadre decided to forego our PT tests in favor of a platoon "fun run". We did 3-4 miles in formation at a pretty relaxed pace (for me anyway, lot of folks were hurting!) I enjoyed the hell out of it: shouting cadences, running along the beach as the sun was coming up . . . good stuff! The best part was when they made us do "Indian Runs" which is where the last two soldiers in the formation have to sprint to the front. As soon as they get there, the next two sprint, and so on until the folks at the front of the column wind up at the end and have to sprint back to the front again. My old ass ain't exactly speedy but I did it with no problem. I have to say, I was really impressed that nobody dropped out of the run. Some folks had to walk a bit and drop to the back but everybody made it. That thrilled the cadre. They were thrilled that we were so "motivated" (That is the biggest word in the Army!) They congratulated us and told us they were proud of us (unheard of!) because we kept cheering each other on and not letting anybody fall out or fall behind, we acted as a unit.

Well, that lasted all of fifteen minutes. We went to morning chow and some folks just can't seem to get the simple concept that there is NO TALKING in the DFAC. The PSG was not happy and he smoked us all with a vengeance. (No surprise there!) He made us high crawl in PT gear (shorts & short sleeved shirt) across a few hundred yards of gravel, sand, and scrub weed that was covered in goose shit and morning dew. I still have huge scabs on my knees and elbows . . . that crap chewed us up! Oh, and talk about being filthy and stinking! WHEEWWW!!!! Between the sweat from the run, the sweat from the crawling, and the goose crap - we were some NAAAASSSSSTTTYYY mo-fo's! After that though, things went smoothly for the rest of the drill. Oh, one other good thing about White Phase: we got moved to much nicer barracks! Dorm style rooms with only six beds (Yup, real beds!) and a latrine with showers for just the six of us . . . sweet! The Wife keeps shaking her head at me over this; when we travel I won't stay in a hotel room unless it's five stars with king sized beds, a separate siting room, and a fully loaded wet bar. Not quite the accommodations the Army's providing, ya' know?

What else? The Army did finally fix my pay issue so The Wife is glad to see some extra jing in the bank each month (not much admittedly, but it's better than nothing, right?) We got the family ID's all done and did our first trip to the local commissary and PX. Got me a killer backpack, cheap, one I can actually carry when in uniform! The prices there are good, not amazingly cheap but I'd guess about a 10% - 15% or so savings at the end of the day, which adds up.

So, The Boy is back to school tomorrow and -geek that he is- (Sorry, bud, had to go there!) he's actually looking forward to it. How many other 15-year-olds out there love their schools that much? We're pretty lucky that way. The Wife is not happy right now (and for once, it ain't cuzza me!) She's having a bunch of dental work done over the next month and she am not a big fan o' d'needles! That's why she has to have so much done, she kept putting it off to avoid the shots. Silly woman! She's been through a dozen surgeries, chemo, childbirth and a zillion other things without a single whimper but she REALLY hate d'needles!

I think that pretty much catches y'all up on my brilliantly interesting life . . . Oh, except for my birthday gifts! I got the best stuff this year: two movies (The Omega Man, and Darby O'Gill & the Little People, which should give you a solid idea of just how strange my brain is!) and two albums (ok, CD's if you insist!) George Thorogood & the Delaware Detroyers greatest hits and a collaboration CD between Robert Plant and Allison Kraus . . . awesome! Better yet, I got some really wonderful cards from The Wife and The Boy. They wrote some really amazing stuff in them and it meant more to me than I can say.