A Veteran’s Day Run Around the National Mall

I flew from Newark to Ronald Regan Airport in D.C. early on Sunday morning. My three-day seminar was scheduled in Alexandria and I was planning on getting in a long run about the town before meeting up with an old friend from high school around 4ish.  That was the plan, anyway.

On approach, the plane banked around the Washington Monument and passed by the Capitol. I  realized that if I didn’t take some action, I was going to spend five days in the D.C. area without visiting these great monuments.

After checking into my hotel, I changed, and headed to the Metro Station. Within 40 minutes I emerged from L’Enfante Plaza.  There is something amazing in the feeling of emerging from underground and having the Capitol building be right there, larger than life.   The first time I saw the Capitol was in December 20, 1987. My girlfriend and I were driving through D.C. and we saw the Capitol from miles away as we approached.   On this day, the Capitol appeared out of nowhere, there in all its glory.

My Route Along the National Mall

I ran towards the Capitol like an excited child, with my headphones on and the Grateful Dead show from 1989 playing in my ears.  I was giddy.   I was also on a schedule with which meant that there was no time to lollygagging.   I wasn’t sure how far I was going to run, but I had a good idea that I had to be on the Metro back to Alexandria by 2:30 at the latest.

Despite being the near side of mid-November, D.C. was unseasonably warm.   The National Mall was beautiful, bathed in the bright sunlight.   There were tourists like myself all through the Mall.   Also like myself, there were many runners, all of them more serious than touristy me.  Other than the traffic lights every block or so, it was a beautiful environment to run in.

 As I made my way around the Washington Monument, the Dead were still playing in my ears. Brent Midland sang the words, But we never tend the garden and we a rarely pay the rent. Most of it is broken and the rest of it is bent. Put it on our plastic and I wonder where we’ll be when the bills hit.”

Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial at the Conclusion of Services

The song reminded me of the stories of how the construction on the monument stopped when they ran out of funding and how when they restarted construction again, they had to use a different type of stone.   I think I captured that interface between the two in the photo on the right.

After the Washington Monument, the Mall started to get crowded.   There were Veteran’s day activities going on near Vietnam Memorial.  I started passing older gentlemen dress in the colors of their service.  Some wore the uniforms of WWII, others their representation of their time in Vietnam.  I found myself thinking about the Vietnam Vets and the raw deal they got when they returned.  I am glad that as a society we have evolved to the point where we separate the people who serve from the politics of the battles they fought in. I ran past veterans that were younger than me.   It struck me in that the Gulf War (you know, the one with Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf) was over 20 years ago.

I climbed the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial and thought of the two movies that recently were released about the President.  The more recent film seemed a much more historically-based than the rendition earlier in the year that portrayed Lincoln as a vampire slayer.  What a weird and distant world Hollywood lives in.

I stopped for a few minutes at the Lincoln Memorial to look out over the world.   I saw the Jefferson Memorial on the other side of the Tidal Basin.  I knew that it was short of 2 miles, and I could be there in 20 to 30 minutes, but I also knew there was no Metro station nearby to take me home.   I won’t say that I was broken-hearted, but I longed for more time.

I headed back as the services at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial were concluding.   I walked quietly through the crowds of men and women who have serviced this country, like a funeral guest who didn’t know the departed or the family.  I saw one man holding the U.S. Flag as well as the flag for the MIAs.  The MIA flag was a big part of my early experience growing up in New York in the 60’s and early 70’s.   It’s not that prevalent in California, I don’t know why.  I just know that when I see that flag, I am on the East Coast.  It’s a culture thing I guess.  Even the hockey stadium I went to as a kid, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum had MIA flags all around it as I recall.

I wanted to stay and be among these people on this their day.  Unfortunately, I had to go.  I had to get back to my hotel and shower in time for dinner.  I was torn.  I was someplace wonderful that I wanted to be and yet, I had someplace to get to.  Someplace that was equally important to me an my history.  That’s the story of my life, short on sleep, short on time, trying to pack another great experience in on borrowed time.

A Veteran’s Day Run Around the National Mall

Once More into That Good Night, Dear Friends.

Once more into that good night.  As a former English major, I believe I can be shot for mixing Dylan Thomas and Henry V.  Oh well.

It’s Saturday night and while others are out partying,  I’m at an airport waiting for a red-eye.   There’s an element of self-inflicted suckitude in this.

I have flown out of this airport the 11th day in the month in September, October and with a few hours latitude, November.  In a related kvetch, I have been in my own bed once in the last five, count them five Saturdays.   Granted that one of those Saturdays was a short vacation weekend.  Two of those three work-related Saturdays were spent sleeping on an airplane.  Work travel isn’t glamorous as people think.  I get to go places and sit in hotels and meeting rooms.  If I am lucky, I get to catch up with friends and family betwixt and between commitments.

I could have easily taken a morning flight tomorrow directly from LAX to any of the DC airports.  I just abhor flying East during the day.  On top of the hours in the air, moving across the three-time zones just destroys the day for me.  I would prefer to take my chance on an overnight flight in hopes of getting two or even three hours of uncomfortable sleep.    By arriving in the DC area early on Sunday, I have a chance of getting a good long run in as well, weather permitting.  I am supposed to start my 18 week program for the LA Marathon tomorrow.   This will be a fun week.

So once more into the breech, onto that packed plane that will take us into that, hopefully good and calm night to once again, land in Newark, NJ at 5:30 in the blessed am.

I am looking forward to watching the sun come up behind New York.  That never gets old.  That time of the morning in Newark is good for calling family in Europe. From there, onto the DC area.  The 14 day trip last month involved a lot of meetings and created a huge bolus of work.   This trip is for a 3 day seminar, locked in a hotel.   This time last year, I had planned on going to DC this week for a three-day conference, but this particular seminar, also in the DC area took presidence.

This particular trip post hurricane Sandy, I feel as if I should put my 4 hours to good use; like I should go volunteer to help with the cleanup.  It’s not enough time though.  I want to try to make my way to Long Island and see my friends in the Rockaways; and that would take a whole bunch of hours; more than I have.

They are calling me for my flight.  I leave you with a ritual, some of you may understand the significance.  If you don’t just listen to the music play.


Catch you on the flip side in Jersey people.

Once More into That Good Night, Dear Friends.

Just a Few Times Around The Parking Lot

The Child turned 15 and 1/2 this past weekend in Palm Springs.

Too little

During the years I was working on my MBA, there were trips to Palm Springs where the girls would go to the pool while I stayed in the room and studied. In the hours before we had to check out, this weekend, I had one of those “Cat’s in the Cradle” moments where I was at the pool while The Child studied AP Euro History in the room.

One of my objectives for the weekend went unmet.  I had not gotten The Child behind the wheel of the car.  As we were leaving town, I saw the perfect place for her first lesson.  I pulled in, put the car in park, and set the emergency brake.  Although I didn’t say a word, everyone in the car knew what was coming.

I sat shotgun and Laura took the backseat.  The Child took her spot at the wheel.   The instructions were as follows, “with your left foot, take the Emergency brake off.   With your right foot, you press on the brake and then put the car in gear.  Your right foot stays on the break.  No gas shall be applied.  You will ride the brake around the oval parking lot.

The first question was “what’s an emergency brake”.  I pointed and explained how to disengage it.  Oh boy.

We started to roll slowly through the parking lot to the first turn.   This is where it got a bit dicey.   She is used to Autopia at Disneyland, where one can turn the wheel forever and not go off the tracks.  She  didn’t have a really good sense for how much to turn the wheel.   The car would straighten and she would keep turning.  In fact, on the second time around she even ran the back rear wheel onto the curb.

Eventually, she wanted to give it some gas.  I told her she could give it a little, but to immediately put her foot back on the break. The dayglow orange nail polish she was wearing made it easy to see what her feet were doing.  She kept wanting to put her left foot on the break and her right on the gas.

About the fourth time around the parking lot, she was a bit frazzled.  She wanted to end the session, but I insisted on once more about the oval.   Then when we were done, I had her put it back in park, set the emergency brake and after a big hug, get in the back seat.

She goes to get her permit tomorrow.

She looks too little to drive
Just a Few Times Around The Parking Lot

P.S. I Love You

I’ve been home from my trip for nine very intense days.  I landed at LAX a week ago last Thursday and was in the office first thing on Friday.  Reentry into work is always rough after a long trip.  There is the normal catch up of the organic work that comes every day.   There is also the follow through on the dozen meetings that I hosted in Europe.  And then there was some new stuff.  Stuff that pretty much dwarfed everything else and consumed my days and my thoughts in the evenings.

After about a week home, I realized that this was not a normal reentry.  My stress level was way too high for this time of year and I am unfocused, opera

ting like a humming-bird going from issue to issue and kicking thing into the tall grass to buy time.  I hate people who do that.  I was also too tired to run, that’s another bad sign.

With all this in mind, Thursday night I called our timeshare and asked if they had a room available for Saturday.    They did and we booked it.   Micro-vacation planned.

This morning, we jumped in the car and drove to The Plaza Resort and Spa,  our second home (for at least 7 days a year) in Palm Springs.

Home Away From Home

Last month marked the 22 year that I have owned here at the Plaza. Palm Springs hasn’t changed much in that time.  Downtown is still downtown, it’s just that some of the Mexican restaurants are now English and some of the tchotchke stores are now frozen yogurt places.  It’s still the same town that has 1 foot firmly planted in the early 1970’s and the other foot on the golf course. The residents are still as friendly as the climate is warm. If one subscribes to the idea that LA is phony then one should believe that Palm Springs is genuine.

I bought this time share back in 1990, just as Laura and I started dating.  The joke in our family is that if Laura had come with me to the presentation, she would have talked me out of buying it.  Turns out it was well worth what I paid for it.  The Plaza is not a luxurious resort, but it’s our 3 start home away from home.  We come here to relax, recuperate and most importantly, sleep.

Although we are only here for the night we have partaken of the normal rituals.  We stopped at Vons, the same way we have for two decades to do our food shopping.   In Palm Springs, we eat vacation cereal.  You know vacation cereal, the stuff that’s loaded with sugar that we would never keep at home because there are healthier alternatives.  We also bought post cards.  Filling them out and getting them in the mail is another ritual of Palm Springs.   Dinner our first night was at Upper Crust Pizza on Highway 111, just near our resort. That’s one of the four restaurants we eat when we are in town.

After food shopping, we checked in, unloaded and went straight to the jacuzzi.  I had to sneak onto the golf course to take some pictures of sunset behind Mt. San Jacinto.   Sunset was beautiful tonight.

The Oasis of Palm Springs

The Child was a baby here.  She has been here almost every year of her life.  Tomorrow, we might take her out to do a bit of driving before she goes for her permit later this month.  Afterwards, I will practice my tennis serve for an hour (or until my shoulder decides that it has had enough).   There will be more time around the pool, eating of sugary cereals and a time change that will allow us to have an extra hour of sleep.

Before The Child started kindergarten, we used to come here in October for Laura’s birthday.   These visits inevitably involved Yankee playoff baseball.   If anyone remembers a certain memorable play involving a ball thrown from left field by Shane Spencer,  caught by Derek Jeter just right of home plate that was quickly shoveled to Posada in time to tag out a certain Giambi brother, I was here, in this building, eating pizza from the same restaurant I had dinner at tonight.  It was like it was yesterday; but it wasn’t.  It was 2001.  It just feels like yesterday.

In Palm Springs, in this building back in June 2004, we watched the Ronald Regan funeral processions.   We came here for the viewing of Gerald Ford when he passed.  If you ever go to Ford’s Library, we are told that visitors books from that day are on display there.   The Child was the first entry in one of those books as we were on the first bus of visitors who came to pay our respects.

My favorite Palm Springs story happened on the day of my 40th birthday.   We wanted to go to our favorite rib restaurant, Babes for lunch, but we weren’t sure if they were open.  I plugged my computer into the phone line,  fired up the modem and Yahoo searched for “Babes in Palm Springs”.  A number came up and I dialed it on my cell.  The next few seconds seemed to take an hour in my brain.  While the phone was ringing, I was staring at the Yahoo map for “Babes in Palm Springs”.   The map indicated that there was no location listed.  I thought this strange and kept scanning the page.  Then I realized that Babes is really in Rancho Mirage, not Palm Springs proper.  Perhaps the second ring was underway at this point.  My eyes moved to the top of the page and to my shock, I realized that the “Babes in Palm Springs” that I was dialing was an escort service.  I hung up quickly and walked into the bedroom to tell my wife of how I happened to call an escort service on my 40th birthday.   As we were both laughing about the matter, the escort service called back.   Seems people often start to call and hang up.  I explained it was a wrong number.  I don’t think the lady on the other end of the phone believed me.

It funny as we sit here with three wireless devices going.   Two years ago, we had to pay for wireless.  Now it’s free.   Ten years ago, I brought my computer and we used the phone line with a local modem number. The DVD players now sit above the TVs on these huge wooden shelves hat used to house the VCRs.

Times change.  Technology changes.  People are born, get older and die.  Businesses come and go.  Palm Springs, stays the same.

About to make my shoulder hurt.. again
P.S. I Love You

Dazed and Confused

I wake from a dream dazed and confused.

It was dark and cold.  I don’t know where I am.   The true-to-life dream about the poor bunnies had my mind in Northern Europe.  Is that where I am?

I’m alone in this bed and I didn’t know where I was.  Which hotel is this?  Where am I sleeping?  It’s cold in here.  What time is it?  Where are my glasses?

Oh wait.  I’m not alone.  I must be home.

What time is it?

3:36am.  Of course it is.  It’s always 3:30 when I wake up like this.

I try to go back to sleep, but it just isn’t going to happen.  The dream and jetlag will have me up the rest of the morning.

Time to turn on the coffee.

Dazed and Confused