27 January 2009

Did you see that?

Continuing with my theme of the 5 senses. I thought I would ponder the miracle of sight.

Sight is one of the most wonderful things we have been blessed with. Colors, textures, all play a symphony with our senses. There are many things I have seen in my 51 years on this rock, some of which have left an indelible impression on me:
  1. Birth – watching any birth leaves me we with some sense of renewal and hope. The birth of my son is something I will never forget. I was truly humbled to hold such a precious gift in my hands and know that I had a part in his arrival. The scary part is looking down on that innocent soul knowing that life had a bigger meaning.

  2. Getting married – Standing at the head of the chapel and watching the love of your life walk down the aisle is both awesome and terrifying. You stand upon the brink of a major change in your life and you are both excited and scared shitless. I had a million thoughts running through my head at the time, one of which was: “Don’t screw this up.”

  3. Death – watching a loved one die is something that that we all must face, but are never prepared for. Recently, we put our dog Shadow to sleep and I had to look him in the eyes as he slipped away. That memory still haunts/pains me to this day and I don’t think anything will ever make it go away or less painful.

  4. Sunrise – I have seen the sun rise from the top of the Tooth of Time at Philmont Scout Ranch, New Mexico, and it is a humbling experience. Sitting on top of a peak at 9028 feet at 0500 in the morning while waiting for the world to wake up is awe-inspiring. I’ve had the pleasure/luck to do it twice and would do it again in a heartbeat.
  5. Sunsets – I’ve watched some spectacular sunsets when we were in Hawaii. I don’t recall a bad sunset, but some were downright photogenic. Nothing like ending a day with a Mai-Tai watching the sun set over the ocean waves.

  6. Accomplishment - Watching your child accomplish a major feat – I don’t care if it is watching them walk for the first time, score a goal, hit a home run, doing their marching band routine or watching them graduate, seeing your children succeed makes all of the trials/tribulations/frustrations worth it. I’ve see the highs and lows and been with him every step of the way and the only thing I can say is I am proud of how far he has come. I’m not sure which gives me more pride: Watching him graduate high school top of his class with honors or getting awarded his Eagle Scout rank. He’s done a lot in his short life and I am confident he will succeed in any task he undertakes.
  7. Tragedy – with today’s media/communications, we’ve seen tragedy on display that seems to leave a mark on us. Somehow, we can recall when and where we were when tragedy struck. When I was 5 years old, I remember watching TV at home in New Jersey when they announced JFK had been killed. I remember standing in line watching the TV in the credit union as the Challenger blew up over Florida. I remember seeing the news reports at the office coming out of New York/Washington on 9/11. Images like these and others (2004 tsunami, Hurricanes Katrina & Ike) stay with me for a long time.
  8. Miracles – we’ve seen miracles. Not in the biblical sense, but miracles nonetheless. The recent miracle on the Hudson brings to mind that all news/events are not tragic or horrific. It was amazing to see a plane crash land into the river and everyone walked out alive.

  9. Joy – Have you ever seen joy? Joy in the face of an athlete when they win a race. Joy in the face of people who graduate. Joy in the face of a child. Joy in the faces of newlyweds. Joy when you accomplish a major task. Nothing is more inspirational than to see someone beam with joy (even if you do not know them).

  10. Terror – ever seen something that scared the snot out of you? As an amateur roller coaster rider, I’ve crested the top of a few hills and looked down and questioned my sanity. Sitting on the precipice always gives me a chill. I’ve done a few things in my short life that have pushed the boundaries (rock climbing, rappelling, flying, parachuting) that have given me that adrenalin rush. As a young Army Lieutenant, I had the privilege of jumping out of a perfectly good airplane and can tell you that few things compare to standing in the doorway of a C-130 plan with a parachute strapped to your back as your roar over the fields of Georgia waiting for your turn to “exit the plane”. Driving the freeways at rush hour seems to pale in comparison.

Always drink upstream from the herd...

24 January 2009

One year

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in my daily problems and challenges I tend to forget significant dates/events. No, not birthdays (cardinal sin), anniversaries, or important holidays (like Mother’s day) – those are pretty much ingrained into my brain. With last week's marathon run and audit and the typical Chinese fire drills at work, I was a bit self-absorbed and almost overlooked a very important anniversary for me. It was one year ago Thursday I went under the knife for surgery for prostate cancer. Hard to believe it has only been a year since I crossed that bridge. 50 years old and facing the prospect of prostate cancer is not what I had in mind when I was growing up. Life has funny ways of keeping all of us humble.

I will not bore you with the entire saga (if you want to read about it, go look at my earlier blogs), but I was diagnosed with prostate cancer back in 2007 as part of a physical exam required to go to scout camp. Prognosis was good and it was caught early enough to do fix the problem. I chose surgery (Radical Prostatectomy) over the other options as it seemed to offer the best long term solution for me. So early on Tuesday, January 22, I donned that stylish hospital gown, got doped up, and was rolled into surgery. A few hours later, hung over, wired up and a couple of ounces lighter, I am back in my room trying to learn how to pee again. Few days in the hospital, couple of weeks at home and I was able to return to work/life by the end of February. Took a while to get back into my normal rhythm, but eventually, I was able to climb back into my normal patterns. I may be a bit slower on my runs, but I at least I can still hit the trails. Heck, I finally got off my butt to run my first half marathon last week, so things are not too bad.

Now to get on the soap box: If you are over the ripe age of 50, get a physical and get checked out for prostate cancer. It is a simple and relatively painless test (PSA) and could save your life. I felt I was healthy as a horse and had no indications that there were any problems. When the warning flag came up during my physical, I was pretty much in denial (no way, doc), but the facts didn’t lie: I had prostate cancer. When I was diagnosed, I tried to learn as much intel as I could about the disease and treatments. A larger portion of men will get it during some point in their life as they get older, but most die of other causes before it becomes a major issue. This cancer is one of the leading killers of men and, if caught early enough, is treatable/beatable. I got lucky. I was given enough warning to do something about it. I elected to attack the problem aggressively and eliminate the root cause. There are other options, but the key is to be aware. Early detection and prevention is the key to a long life. So, if you are the guy or have a loved one who is male (husband, father, brother), I implore everyone to get regular checkups/exams. This little condition I had is treatable, if detected early enough. I know the exams are a bit intrusive and not something I did with a high amount of enthusiasm, but it definitely beats the alternative and will keep you ahead of the curve.

Smile like your life depends upon it...

21 January 2009

Juggling chainsaws on roller skates

Still a wee bit sore from this weekend's run, but things are falling back to a normal pace.

Work is still as crazy as ever. Typical last minute projects, problem parts, daily disasters, and personality crisises. Had to play nursemaid to an auditor yesterday of our warehouse. I am no longer directly in charge of this place, but I was the primary person to set it up and qualify it so I got tapped to answer all of the questions/queries (translation: I know where all the skeletons are). These audits are about as enjoyable as having a root canal done. Lots of minor questions on why did you set it up this way or how did you qualify that system or where is your records for this. It is sort of like justifying or rationalizing the decisions you made 2-3 years ago (or longer). Of course, for the company this is very important and many people tend to get nervous or panic over the threat of a pending audit. I've done enough audits now to be able to talk my way through most and come out clean. The outcome of yesterday's visit was that the auditor was happy/satisfied and we have been granted a clean check up. That makes me a hero (= 1 atta-boy) for the company for the day. Of course, atta-boys have a short shelf life and are only good until your next aw-shit. Today is a new day and with new challenges/issues to overcome. Was on the phone with one of my suppliers late in the day discussing 4 different issues/problems with her and my comment was: I feel like a circus bear riding a unicycle and juggling balls.

Always drink upstream from the herd...

17 January 2009

Post race post

I'm alive! In spite of my best attempts, I conquered the Houston 2009 Half Marathon, although I'm feeling way older than 51 right now. To help pass the time on the trail, I listened to my iPod tunes and started composing my mile-by-mile thoughts/impressions:

Mile 0 - Ok. Start time. Excited/nervous/scared/but not as cold as we had expected. At race time, the temp was 61 degrees with clear skies. Absolutely perfect weather. When are they going to start this thing? What I am I doing here? I am too old to be running with these kids. Hell, I got boots older than some of these people. And what about those "uber marathoners"? Look like they've been running this for decades. Lining up at the start waiting for the gun. I just hope I don't embarrass myself. My wave starts at 0710 and when the gun goes off, it takes a good 5-7 minutes to cross the start line (it was that crowded). And away we go....

Mile 1 - Ok, that was kinda easy. Was very crowded for the start, but pack opened up a little bit. The hard part is trying to find a good pace where you are not getting run over or you are not running over other runners. Some are jackrabbits, some are turtles. I hit a good pace right out of the box. I got some room to breathe/run. Legs are stiff but starting to limber up. So far the shoulder is stiff and hurts, but I think I will be ok.

Mile 2 - Breathe. Get your rhythm. Took me a while to find a good tune to run to. I need to work on my running tunes. High fived Elvis (young & old versions) just before the 2 mile mark. Lots of people show up to cheer on the runners and the more interesting ones show up in character. I thought the Marathon committee was being A/R when they put my name on my bib until I realized that was to have the people on the sideline cheer you on. Every time I heard my name, I kept thinking “do I know him?her”?

Mile 3 - Running through the Heights. It is an older part of town with a lot of smaller houses. Weather is perfect. Not too hot/cold. Legs feel fine. Shoulder is aching but doing ok. So far, I have a decent pace. Been trying to hold a 10:15 pace but starting to slow down slightly.

Mile 4 - Lots of people with dogs along the route. Good lord! One guy has a Saint Bernard that is almost as big as a horse! That beast has to weigh at least 200 lbs and his head is bigger than mine! Funny thought struck me as I passed. There was a toy Chihuahua right next to him that he could have eaten in one bite. Lost a minute on my time due to a pit stop at one of the porta-potties along the course. I know I am supposed to keep hydrated, but musta drank too much prior to start. Ran into an old co-worker for a short while, but we were trying to keep the pace so did not have much time to chat.

Mile 5 - Ok. Who the hell put hills on this course? Hills? This is supposed to be frickin Houston! The only hills we have are speed bumps and overpasses. My left knee is starting to complain slightly. We are heading north of town through various residential areas. Lots of crowds on the curbs cheering us on. I especially like the house full of guys who were saluting/toasting us with Coronas (remember - it is 0900 on Sunday morning).

Mile 6 - Had to slow up a bit. Felt like I was pushing my pace too much. Walked about 100 yards and then started running again. Hooked up with a group of people who were running a 5:00 pace. No, that is not a 5:00 minute mile pace, but they would run 5 minutes and walk 1. I stuck with them a while. I find it easier to find someone whose pace is close to yours and match them.

Mile 7 - Heading back south towards town. With all of this sweating and movement, certain parts of my body started to chafe. Not wanting to rub anything raw (I’ve seen marathoners bleeding), I strategicallly applied some small bandaids in midstride that seem to eliminate the problem. Left knee is complaining more. Right one woke up. Legs are getting tired. Arm still aching but nothing too bad.

Mile 8 - Crossed back under the freeway and heading south. This section was through the commercial/entertainment district of west Houston. Lots of really nice restaurants we’ve been to as well as a few bars. Legs starting to stiffen up a bit. Has to walk some more of the route.

Mile 9 - Turnaround. It is at this point on the course, that we split from the Marathoners and turn back to Houston. Several bands are playing along the course to encourage runners but, with my iPod in place, I have my own sound track. A number of folks are walking now. Knees are getting more vocal now.

Mile 10 - Three more miles. I have about hit the wall. I run for a while, then walk for a while. My left knee has stopped speaking to me, the right one is rubbery and my back is reminding me of my age. We are running against the pack now as we have doubled back and can see the rest of the half-marathoners. Everyone is shouting encouragement to each other.

Mile 11- Heading back into down town. This section is along Allen Parkway which is a beautiful boulevard that runs along the park and the bayou all the way into downtown. Lots of festivals and events are held in Allen Park. It was a spectacular sight to look back on the skyline of downtown Houston in a clear morning sunshine. If I wasn’t tired, I would have enjoyed it more. At one point, the Marathoners rejoin our pack, although from the other side of the boulevard. You had to realize that, by this time on the course, they have covered 24+ miles in the same amount of time we had covered 11. There was one woman just burning up the course and blew past all of us. For a moment, I thought about drafting her the last few miles, but my knees laughed at me.

Mile 12 - Just entering into downtown area. Not as much street traffic/crowds. Flat streets, no hills. I am running out of steam at this point. Only 1.5 miles left. Many of the runners around me are showing signs of determination, but are looking tired.

Mile 13 - Straight shot to the convention center. I kick it up a notch (or as high as I can go) to find a pace that gets me across the finish line. At ½ mile out, I finally drop into a pace that I hold until I cross the finish line. One last sprint across the line and then we lumber to a stop. Lots of people lined up along the finish line cheering on their friends & family. I am tired/sore/sweaty but elated to have made it.

fini - Post race picture. Get a medal. Pick up my runner’s shirt. They have food and treats there for the runners. A full breakfast (although I haven’t eaten powdered eggs since the Army) but lots of fruit and high energy stuff. Sitting is a great, but getting up is a challenge. I timed myself during the run (2:34 to run 13 miles) but was unable to look at my times on line until I got home (long lines). From the website, I held a 11:46 pace over the entire course and was holding a 10:39 pace up to mile 6. Not too shabby seeing how I have not run since my “mishap” 2.5 weeks ago. Already making plans to do it again next year (2010).

What does not kill us, makes us stronger...

Feeling old

Good lord!
What the hell am I doing up this early?
Have I gone insane?
Who in their right mind would drive out in the middle of the freakin night to run 13 (or even 26) miles with a bunch of sweaty strangers?
What kind of sick, twisted person voluntarily pays to do this?

Oh. Yea. I guess do.

I think my knees hate me....

See ya'll on the other side.

No backing out now

Picked up my packet this morning. The Marathon committee holds the Memorial Hermann Sports Medicine EXPO the two days prior to the run with all sorts of vendors and displays. You can by new shirts/shorts/shoes for a ridiculous price (I scored me a new hat, two new shorts and a spibelt) as well as sign up for several upcoming marathons. Even got a chair massage while I was there. Lots of hoopla building up to tomorrow morning's run.

We tee off at 0700 (my wave starts at 0710) but I plan to be to be downtown by 0530 to be able to park close to the convention center. Hopefully, if I don't die on the trail, should be done by 1100 (sooner, I hope). For those so inclined or lacking absolutely anything better to do (like being stuck inside on a snowy winter day), my progress can be tracked on line via the marathon website. I will be sporting bib number 26735. Don't laugh at my pace time. My goal tomorrow is to finish the race, not break any records.

Happy trails, ya'll!

24 hours

until start time.

I was finally able to get out a knock down a few miles yesterday. I wanted to see how the shoulder would feel during a light run. Was stiff and sore, but did ok. My knees were stiff from not running the past the 2+ weeks. I will need to bulk up on the Advil before I hit the road. I am headed downtown now to pick up my race packet this morning. The current estimates are for ~25,000 runners tomorrow. I normally don't like crowds, but this is a once a year event, so I will roll with the pack (sorta like Mardis Gras for runners).

Hope I can drag my butt across the finish line with some dignity or style...

15 January 2009

Life's not cheap


THAT's what my short 13 hour trip to the ER two weeks ago cost. I coulda done a couple of cruises for that kind of coin.

I am so grateful for insurance coverage.

It's on!

Sometimes, you just get lucky.

I went back to my doc today to read the MRI results and he told me things are looking good! There is no serious damage to the rotator cup and two small chip outs in the shoulder bone that should pose no problem towards recovery. I have what is called a Bankart lesion, but that should not affect my mobility long term. Basically, I have some trauma to the shoulder and muscles and will need some therapy for the next few weeks, but I should regain most of my mobility. There is a chance that, if it doesn’t recover fully, I could be looking at surgery somewhere down the road, but I am not pondering that right now.

The big news for me is that he cleared me to run this weekend! As long as I don’t do something stupid or too strenuous (no pushups for a while) and favor my shoulder, I should be ok for the half marathon.

The only downside is that I haven’t been running for the past 2.5 weeks so I will be rusty. I don’t expect to break any records, but I will be there. I am just grateful for the chance to participate.

2+ days and counting. Time to start loading up the ipod.

Weather for the run : mid-40's with a slight chance of rain.

11 January 2009

Did you hear that?

While contemplating my condition last week, I started to ponder my earlier thread concerning smells and decided to expand upon it to the other senses. And today I want to hit on one of the wonderful, less appreciated senses: Hearing. We hear millions of sounds every day, but we tend to ignore or overlook them as they are part of our daily life (like background noise). Some are more invasive like a jet flying overhead while other sounds are more subtle like the wind in the trees. Hearing is something we tend to take for granted. You never miss it until you lose it. As a tanker in the Army, I have heard my share of booms and can appreciate how much one can damage your hearing if you are not careful. I try to protect my hearing as much as I can and where ear plugs when out hunting/shooting, but I was not always as cautious in my youth and feel I may wind up with some hearing loss as I get older.

As with smell, we all have sounds that bring back some memories from our youth. Some of the more memorable sounds (good & bad) that I can recall:
  1. Thunder – Shadow was very intuitive and always knew when a storm was coming (was terrified of them). I find it exhilarating to listen to the sound of a storm rage overhead, especially when in a house or in a building. While hiking in Philmont in 2004, one afternoon a thunderstorm rolled in on top of us and lasted for 2 hours. To sit at 9,600 feet in a backpacking tent on a hill while a storm rages above is, to put it mildly, quite chilling.
  2. Rain – peaceful. The Army did its level best to make life, how can I put it?, uncomfortable, at times. I spent many a day/night in the field when it was raining or snowing nonstop. Guess what? They don’t call the maneuvers on account of rain. You learn to live with the wet and cold conditions. That is why, when I wake up and hear it raining on the roof of the house, I still smile and thing, life could be worse. And then roll over and go back to sleep.
  3. Barking – fear/comfort. From my earlier thread, you might take it that I am missing our mutt and you’d be right. He used to have a distinctive bark/howl when he heard you coming in the door or heard the garage door opening. That was our early warning system that someone was coming in or we had company.
  4. Dead battery – dread. Come on, we’ve all heard it. It is at the MOST inconvenient time and not something you want to hear. Groceries in the car, late for work, trying to get to school, need to make a flight. Any time is bad. Along with all of my other sagas over this past holiday, my truck’s battery decided it was time to depart. Fortunately, I had warning/inclination that this was forthcoming and could respond without panic. I had the inclination the battery was on its last legs (4.5 years old) and was prepared to have it replaced over the holidays.
  5. Retching – panic. Nothing, and I MEAN NOTHING, will get a reaction from me like the sound of retching. Whether it is your child getting ill in the middle of the night or your dog having dry heaves at the foot of your bed, nothing gets me out of bed faster. Once or twice in the middle of the night, Shadow would start making the “I’m going to hurl” sound, and I would be instantly awake and hit the ground trying to pick him up and get him out the front door. One night, I had to toss him in the shower (easier to clean than carpet).
  6. A dentist’s drill – nerve wracking. You know. That high pitched whine that is almost like fingernails on the blackboard (another memorable sound). Still makes me pucker up when I hear it (I blame it on The Marathon Man).
  7. Babbling brook/mountain stream – incredibly peaceful & serene.
  8. A baby’s cry – you’re not quite sure what the reason is but a baby’s cry can cause a range of emotions. Anything from sympathy, to concern or fear or distain. For those with kids, you are concerned that your child is ok. For those without kids, the crying can sometimes be annoying. A looong time ago, I used to be one of the latter until my son was born. I used to be impatient with crying babies on planes, in stores, etc. However, after many sleepless nights, my perspective has changed. Now, whenever I hear a crying baby, I have a lot more empathy with the mom/dad.
  9. A puppy’s whine – those first (long) nights at home locked up in his kennel
  10. A silent snowfall – the definite lack of sound makes it almost ethereal
  11. The sound of a round being chambered in a gun – there’s just something about the sound of pumping a round in a 12 gauge shotgun that just means business.
  12. The sound of a rattlesnake – fear. My friend and I have hunted in the fields of South Texas for years and we have run across a few of those mean critters. Ever seen a grown man walk on top of grass? My buddy did that when he almost stepped on one. My motto is: You leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone.

10 January 2009

What does not kill us...

Been a long week back at the office. Suffering from post Christmas withdrawals, lack of holiday treats, and a general grumpy attitude. Not only do you have to rehash everyone’s holidays stories, I am having to relive my shoulder saga multiple times as I have to explain why I am sporting a stylish sling. Somehow, falling while running is just not sexy enough for people. Others have resorted to making up a more compelling story as to how I injured myself. Supposedly, I was ogling some girl/hot babe when I got distracted & tripped (if only). Actually, I was on the last 500 meters of my run when I was passing a work crew working on replacing some traffic lights. As I passed the crew, I noted the traffic light on the ground and, for a moment, I flashed back to my college days and thought “man, that light would look cool in my garage” when, BAM! reality smacks me in the face (or shoulder).

You gotta love modern science. Years ago, when you hurt yourself, you would have been subjected to all forms of "treatment" that could now be classified as torture or inhuman. Today, we have technology to assist us with diagnosis and treatment.

I have more mobility, but it is very sore and I lack the upper strength to life my arm above shoulder level. Still aches, but I am getting better. I went back to the hospital today to get an MRI for my shoulder. Very interesting (& expensive) procedure. First you remove all metal objects, then they strap you onto a narrow table, lay on a targeting device (a brace on my shoulder) and then and slide you in a giant tube about three feet in diameter. If you have ever crawled into a pipe, that is pretty much the size of it. You then have to sit there perfectly still while they run the scan (can take from 30-45 minutes). Can make one very claustrophobic. My son had it done years ago for a seizure, so I was familiar with the process/equipment, just never been on the receiving end. The process involves a large machine that takes magnetic pictures of the targeted area (Star Trekish). The machine, however, is not very quiet. While you are stuck in the tube, all you hear is the banging & clashing of the magnetic imaging process. Picture being stuck inside a 55 gallon and someone beating on the outside with a baseball bat. If you move, they have to run the process all over. I thought I might be nervous, but actually almost fell asleep. Cool pictures. They produce a full view of the targeted area that shows bone, muscle, tendons. I would post a scan of the MRI pictures, but they do not copy well. Next week I go back to the doc to have him tell me what kind of therapy I need. BTW - for those interested, an MRI normally runs ~$4k+. Today, I am thankful for insurance.

05 January 2009


I'm bib number 26735

Just received my race registration/packet on the Aramco Houston Half Marathon. I’m kinda disappointed this year since it looks like I won’t be running. Just got back from my ortho doc. Gave a new sling and cleared me for most normal things but pretty much waved me off of doing any exercise (like running 13 miles). I can walk it, but will not try to push my luck. My arm is feeling better and I have some more mobility, but I cannot lift it above my shoulders nor straighten it out. Wicked looking x-ray they took last week (it’s been a week, now) that shows the top of the bone out of place by a good 3-4 inches. I will have to get an MRI later to check out any residual damage, but that is just to make sure everything is healing ok. Probably start therapy in 3 weeks. In the mean time, it is good to have some freedom from the sling, even if it hurts to raise my arm. Guess I’ll have to lay off the bench presses for a while.

I would offer up my slot to anyone who wants to run the 13 miles (Abby? Terri?), but you would have to run under my name & number. The timeframe for transfer closed two weeks ago. Should be a regular zoo down there. Last year, there were roughly 18-20,000 runners converging on downtown Houston. Need to get there early to avoid the street closure and have a decent chance of parking close to the convention center. Since I will be forced to walk, I may take my camera for pictures. Still would much rather be running it.

BTW – this is a charity event that collects a ton of donations for various causes. Last year I did it for the American Cancer Society (because of my prostate cancer). This year I will be running for the American Cancer Society again as well as the Houston SPCA (in homage to Shadow). I would say you could track my progress via the
website and my bib number, but I am afraid that my progress will be pretty slow this year. Oh well, there’s always next year…

03 January 2009

Hitting the wall

You know, when you are injured or on the DL list for a while, it sometimes helps to find humor (or the silver lining) in the situation. I'm still sporting a sling and have to keep my left arm immobilized for a while. Sore & tender but better than Monday night. I have an appointment with an ortho specialist on Monday to tell me how long it will be but I am getting the sinking feeling that I may be sporting this rig for 3-4 weeks before I can spread my wings again. I don't have a good feeling about running the half marathon in 2 weeks. According to the marathon site rules, I could walk it if I can maintain a 13.45 pace for the first 9 miles. We'll see.

In the meantime, I've been having to explain my injury to several people and I find myself trying to make light of my accident, just to let them know I am doing alright.

When my mother-in-law asked me today how I dislocated my shoulder, I told her that I ran into the sidewalk.

I always felt that, running a marathon (or half marathon), I might hit the wall at some point. Just never imagined it would be the sidewalk.

Point of order - if you ever have the pleasure of going to the emergency room, wear comfortable clothes/shoes and bring something to read (I was still wearing my running shorts/shirt/shoes).

02 January 2009

Oooh, that smell

I don’t recall ever reading a meme on smells, but this has been rattling around in my brain for a while. As one of the five primary sense (Smell, Hearing, Sight, Touch, Taste), smell is one that (at least to me) can bring back some vivid memories. The other day when I was running (and not falling down), I was passed by a diesel pickup that had a smell that reminded me of my days in the army. Weird, huh? Not to me. I can recall many smells from my youth that garner some instant reaction/response. Do you have any particular smells that bring back memories or create a strong reaction/response? I thought I would list some of my more memorable smells (good & bad) and see if ya’ll can relate.
  1. Diesel fumes – I served many years in the Armor branch of the service and spend many a day & night on the trail in Germany. As XO of my company, I had two sets of wheels. A blade tank (M60 with a 5 ton dozer blade) and an M88 recovery vehicle. The latter was a massive vehicle that served as the primary recovery vehicle (i.e. tow truck) for the company. Needless to say, these were big mommas with enough horsepower to lift & tow a tank. Part of my job was to trail the company wherever it went in the M88 and recover any broke down tanks along the trail. That means I was always downwind of the company and subsequently always sucking in diesel fumes from the leading tanks. In the middle of winter, when we were traveling on the roads/trail, we would sit up top enjoying the blast of heat & fumes from the residual vapor trails as we rumbled down the road.

  2. Snow – I know, snow? Growing up in New Jersey, I distinctly recall in December when there was a fresh snowfall. Something about new fallen snow in how it seemed to clean the air. There is nothing like going out on a clear, cold morning and smelling new-fallen snow. One Christmas eve, we left to go to church for service and, when we got out, there was a blanket of new snow covering the entire town and, for a brief moment, the world was peaceful and serene. It was like the song “Silent Night, Holy Night" brought to life.

  3. Beer – this is one that can be good or bad. I like the smell of fresh cold beer on a hot day. I have even visited several breweries that have a distinct hop smell in the air that brings back good memories of the time I spent in Germany. However, old, stale beer can turn my stomach. Nothing like cleaning up after a party and dealing with a large number of empty (or half empty) bottles or spilled beer to sober you up. I’ve even worked with a few people who would drink so much that they would smell like beer the next day.

  4. Fresh baked bread – My mother would occasionally bake homemade bread and the smell filled the house. Today, whenever I pass a bakery, it reminds me of those times at home.

  5. Bacon - Nothing says good morning like a mess 'o fried bacon. I know its bad for you, but the aroma of cooking bacon in a cast iron skillet while out camping is almost like smelling heaven (to me).

  6. Gunpowder – nothing is as distinctive as the smell of gunpowder. In the Army, we got to throw a lot of lead down range and blow things up all of the time and the distinct flavor of an expended round left me with some vivid memories. “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning... Smelled like….victory.”

  7. Babies – incredible little critters. On one hand they can smell like a breath of fresh air or a field of flowers. On the other side, they can create the most breath-taking odors that would make a dog cry. All with the same smiling face. It takes a real man (and woman) to step up and deal with the problem while not gagging.

  8. Dogs – Like kids, dogs can be the source for a plethora of exquisite aromas. When Shadow had a bath, he was the sweetest smelling dog around. Three of the more distinctive ones I remember from him were 1) his breath, 2) the wet dog smell, and 3) his farts. His breath smelled, at times, like the bottom of a fish tank, regardless of what food or treats we gave him (BTW – those treats that claim to make a dog’s breath smell better are worthless). Many times I would threaten to give him a tic-tac. Wet dog - Whenever I walked him in the rain, no matter how much I dried him off afterward, he still smelled like a wet carpet. And farts. Boy, could this dog cut the cheese. He was always a master of the SBDs. We would be sitting in the den, watching tv when the air would literally turn green. In his later years, he got a bit more fragrant in his contributions. Not sure if it was the dried food we gave him or the rawhide treats, but he could clear a room in thirty seconds when he was in form. One night, I swear I awoke from a sound sleep because of one of his “gifts”.

  9. Machine oil – I know, it’s another guy thing. But for years, I grew up helping my dad with various auto repairs and machine oil has a distinctive flavor that reminds me of shop class in high school. Just recently, when I was on a supplier audit, we were touring a big machine shop in Minneapolis. When we walked into the lobby, the first thing that hit me was the smell of machine oil and, for some strange reason, I was more receptive towards this company.

  10. Pine/evergreen – At one time in my youth, I was going to go into forestry and become a forest ranger. Seems weird now, but I loved the outdoors (still do) and hiking and such. I was actually going to go to school in east Texas to get a forestry degree but wound up getting an engineering degree instead. I love the smell of pine trees and enjoy hiking through the east Texas piney woods (or even the high altitude pines at Philmont).

  11. Cigars – I used to smoke an occasional cigar. I loved the aroma of a good cigar especially when accompanied by a good glass of Macallan 15 year old scotch. Would typically smoke a cigar or two when we went hunting (sorta was a habit). But the key words here are used to. Long time ago, when my son was in elementary school, the filled his head with all sorts of trivial information which led him to inform me that “Dad, you’re killing yourself smoking”. Gee, thanks. Nothing like being guilted into giving this up by your 8 year old. I pretty much dropped it after that and have only indulged once or twice over the past three years. The most recent being when we did our Caribbean cruise and I got chance to acquire a couple of genuine Cuban Cohibas. The last one I smoked was the night we put Shadow down (while walking the block in memory of him). While I relished it, I think I have lost my taste for them, even though their aroma reminds me of younger times.

  12. Skoal – ok, being from south, a lot of folk may be familiar with dip. When I was in college at A&M, I got into a very bad/nasty habit of either dipping or chewing tobacco. Didn’t have enough hair to dip Copenhagen, so Skoal was my brand of choice. I was a light user and not heavily hooked to it like some classmates. We would dip whenever we were working on the bonfire or out in the field. I even took to dipping when we when out to the local bar (we were convinced that we were invincible/cool. On night, I was drinking my usual Lone Star (another Texas tradition) and dipping (it can be done), when my buddy crack a funny joke. When I went to laugh, I swallowed my dip and spend the rest of the night out back “spilling my guts”. At that moment in time, I was cured of dipping. TO THIS DAY, I cannot smell a can of Skoal without getting nauseous.
Well that’s my list. I have more memorable smells, but did not want this to become a novel. Can you list 10-12 smells that mean the most to you?

01 January 2009

One down,

364 more to go.

Did I ever mention that I am a morning person? I get it from my dad who is up every day at the crack of early and takes a 3-5 mile walk. Not too shabby for someone pushing 85. Anyway, I am one of those “bright and cheerful” you hate to see in the morning as I typically have at least 1-2 cups of joe in me and have been up since 0400.

Well, we survived another one. I will say that celebrating the start of a new year sans alcohol is a tad boring. The up side is that I am clear headed this morning and my tongue does not feel/taste like a carpet. It was funny to watch everyone else enjoy the evening in a highly lubricated manner. We heard fireworks (illegal in the city limits) going off all around the neighborhood until well past 0300. IMHO, some of the “pops” were spaced a bit too close together to be considered “fireworks”. That’s one of the reasons we normally go out of town to our New Year’s Eve rally in Bellville. A lot quieter, a lot less chaos, fewer drunks.

To kick off the New Year, I am going to follow terri’s lead and do the picture meme. The rules are simple (but you may choose to follow, bend or break as you see fit):
  1. Go to the folder in which you keep your digital photos.
  2. Choose the fourth folder.
  3. Find the fourth picture in that folder.
  4. Explain.
  5. Tag four people.

I find it an interesting exercise in housekeeping (What's in your folders?) but unfortunately, my picture is not as exciting or cute as terri’s or Abby’s.

What you see here is my son’s car. Actually, it was our car before we gave it to him for college. Nice little ’93 Camry with low mileage that is in excellent shape. Runs great and has gets great mileage. With high gas prices of late, I’d rather drive it than my current landbarge (Ford Expedition). When he goes off to his internship in Seattle this summer, I plan to abscond with it for my daily commute. In turn, I take care of the maintenance for it so it is one less thing for him to worry about. Besides, it is a simple car to maintain and I like that kind of work.

But I digress. This picture is of the Camry when my son was driving it in high school 2.5 years ago. He had gone to a local pool hall (Sticks) to play some pool with his friends and someone broke into his car. Some punk busted out the back window to get inside the car. They really didn’t take anything from the car (he did not have anything in it) and just caused a mess. I considered it a minor inconvenience and was glad nothing serious was done or the car was not stolen. I found a local glass shop that dropped in a new window for next to nothing and he was back in business. The lessons he learned was 1) to be more prudent/careful about where he parked his car, 2) not to leave anything of value inside the car and, 3) to double lock the trunk (if you have something you want to protect). One of the many valuable lessons we learn in life.

Now, go tag yourself.

Always drink upstream from the herd…