"The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, and miles to go before I sleep."

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Intruder

This morning was to be like any other morning.

At 5 am, I was to be gently awakened by NPR. I was to get up, don my running gear, head downstairs and grab a cup of coffee and then head for The Wiley to meet Bill for a training run.

That’s how this morning was supposed to be.

Instead at approximately 4:35 am, the serene moments of my early morning slumber were abruptly shattered by the ringing of the telephone. As I blindly flailed about in search of the source of the offending noise, Beth reached across me and picked up the receiver.

On the other line was my daughter Abbey.

I’m not sure exactly what clued me into the fact that this wasn’t a social call. Perhaps it was the early morning hour or maybe it was the loud panicky shrieking emitting from the telephone receiver. I can’t say for sure but whatever it was, it was sufficient to penetrate the fog that was my brain and cause me to leap from the bed.

Before I could retrieve my 12 Gauge, load it and bolt out the door however, I heard Beth calmly say, “Its ok. We’ll be right over.”

Now recognizing that whatever the reason for the apparent hysteria, it wasn’t severe enough to warrant firearms, I paused and asked, “What the hell is going on?”

Chuckling, she told me. We quickly woke Beth Anne, knowing her particular volunteer experience over the past few years would prove to be invaluable, and gathered the necessary implements for the task at hand before heading out the door.

Arriving at my daughter’s garage apartment in the pre-dawn darkness, she greeted us from the upstairs window. “He’s in the kitchen,” she screamed.

Up the stairs and into the apartment we proceeded. Initially we didn’t see him. We looked everywhere but it was as if he had mysteriously vanished.

And then suddenly, we heard him!

From his inadvertent and unintentional slip, we were able to pinpoint his location and immediately went on the offensive. There were three of us (my daughter was useless as all she could do was stand on the sofa and scream in terror) and only one of him but he was quick on his feet and did not go down easily.

After several tense minutes, it was over. Furniture was scattered helter-skelter and at least one of us was bleeding. But Beth had him. My daughter breathed a sigh of relief and my granddaughter came out of the bedroom to get a first hand look at the intruder.

As we placed the now secured culprit in the back of our Jeep for safe transport to the proper authorities, I realized I would be unable to keep my morning appointment with Bill. So I decided to send the girls on their way, knowing full well they could handle the situation should our captive try any funny business.

As they drove off into the morning’s early light, I set out to get in my miles with a run back to the house. And as I ran along, I wondered what other adventures this day might hold.

“Chance favors the prepared mind.” – Louis Pasteur

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Damnit ....

While having a conversation with Ron, a fellow “24” addict the other morning, the topic of how this hugely popular - albeit completely unbelievable drama - will eventually end arose. And as our discussion continued, we agreed the program’s demise would have to coincide with that of its main character, CTU Agent Jack Bauer. We also agreed in the “real” world, Jack would have died many times over the course of the past 6 seasons.

After all, how many automatic weapon fire fights, incidents of extreme physical torture and nuclear bomb detonations can one man take?

In addition, the mental stress brought on by constantly losing those close to you at the hands of crazed terrorists or simply feeling you have no other option but to shoot them yourself, is enough to make even the strongest among us gladly leap from the highest building.

So in the course of our musings on this topic, we speculated on the irony of how a mundane exit for Agent Bauer might play out and at Ron’s suggestion, this post was formed.

Tink …Tink …Tink

The following takes place between 6 pm and 7 pm.

Emerging from the bunker like compound which is CTU Los Angeles, Federal Agent Jack Bauer squinted his eyes and stepped into the fading light of dusk. Turning left and walking briskly, he quickly covered the six blocks from CTU to Su Lee’s Cleaners where he picked up his 7 pairs of jeans, 12 identical long sleeve, V-neck, drab colored pullover shirts and 4 basic black flak jackets.

Examining his clothes, he said, “Damnit, couldn’t you get these blood stains out Mr. Lee?”

“No. Too many stain. You very messy man!”

“I understand.”

Exiting the building, Jack was momentarily startled by the tinkling of the tiny bell suspended from the door. It was a small bell, meant only to alert Mr. Lee or one of his employees of a customer’s presence; nothing more. But for reasons unexplained, that sound hit Jack like a Soviet era RPG.

Maybe it was from his 2 year stint in a Chinese prison or perhaps it stemmed from some bizarre memory of his long ago relationship with Nina, the cold blooded, double crossing seductress. Or it could be the sound reminded him of Curtis’ head slamming against the passenger window of the Suburban when Jack was left with no choice but to shoot him in the jugular vein - instead of a non-lethal part of the body - in order to save the life of a murderous terrorist.

He didn’t know why this seemingly innocuous sound affected him in such a fashion. He never knew why it happened nor could he pin point any particular sound which might impact him in this way. It could be a car backfiring, a balloon popping, the sound of a well known radio jingle or the buzzing noise a dryer makes once it’s done and your clothes are warm and Downy soft.

Today it was the tinkling of a tiny bell.

Instinctively he drew his weapon, dropped to one knee and shot Mr. Lee’s long time customer, Eugene Robertson.

Quickly kicking Eugene’s laundry away, he yelled “Clear” and holstered his weapon.

“Damnit Mr. Bauer!” cried Mr. Lee. “That 3rd customer this month. You bad for business. Go way!”

“I’m sorry. I understand.”

Back at his apartment, Jack put away his clothes and then removed his shirt. Liberally applying an unscented, aloe vera enhanced lotion from Bath & Body Works to the plethora of scarred wounds covering his torso, he sat in his barcalounger and flipped on the TV, intent on relaxing a bit before, ironically, heading out to grab a bite at this Chinese place he’d heard about.

Some new guy at CTU, whose name he couldn’t recall was talking about it recently and Jack remembered him mentioning chow mein just before Morris belched loudly causing him to draw his weapon and take the new guy out.

An Everybody Loves Raymond episode was just starting. It was a re-run. They were all re-runs leaving Jack bitter as to why such a clearly superior sitcom had ended. It was the episode where Ray flashes back to his high school days when Robert had a big afro and Ray’s hair was as big as his nose.

Jack loved this episode. It always made him almost smile.

Suddenly his cell phone rang.

Looking with disdain at the unwanted interruption, he flipped open the phone and said, “Damnit …… This is Jack.”

“Jack, its Chloe.”

“What is it Chloe? Everybody Loves Raymond is on. It’s the episode where he’s remembering high school.”

“I love that episode Jack but we’ve got a problem.”

“What is it Chloe? Is Morris drunk again?”

“Yes but that’s not the problem. Jack it’s the Norwegian extremists. They’re up to something. We’ve got one of their men in holding.”

“Damnit …… Chloe, I need you to reposition all satellites and open all communication channels … now! Do you understand?”

“Jack, I’m moving as fast as I can.”

“Just do it Chloe! I’ll be there soon.”

At the next commercial break, Jack made a mental note to call in and vote for Jordin Sparks on American Idol the next night before turning on his TIVO and heading out the door.

Arriving at CTU, he was immediately briefed by Bill, Chloe, Mike and Nadia. Morris was passed out in his chair and had wet himself.

Bill led Jack to the interrogation room and upon entering, he found himself face to face with one of Norway’s most feared terrorists, Sven Larson – known throughout the terrorist world as “The Smelt.”

Immediately Jack drew his weapon and shot The Smelt in the right knee cap.

“Tell me what I need to know! Where are the nukes?”

Rushing into the room, Bill pulled Jack into the hallway.

“Jack that was last season. We believe Larson is leading a cell whose mission is to undermine the fragile ecosystem of the North Atlantic thereby causing undue economic hardship on us and our allies.”

“Damnit …… what has he told us so far?”

“Only that the North Atlantic will never be the same, Odin willing … and …”

“And what?”

“Well he said … ah … “

“Damnit Bill …… Tell me what I need to know!”

“Jack, he said he’s voting for Blake!”

“Damnit …… Have them bring me the interrogation kit.”

Jack stepped back into the interrogation room and discovered Larson had bled to death while he and Bill chatted.

“Damnit …”

Back outside on the street, Jacked walked. He was lost in his thoughts which raced helter skelter through his mind like a blurry slide show presentation of someone’s boring vacation to a rock quarry.

Up ahead, a light flashed – Don’t Walk … Don’t Walk … Don’t Walk …Walk!

Suddenly an unfamiliar sense of indecision descended upon him.

“What about the North Atlantic?”
“What had the Smelt meant by his cryptic message?”
“Do I walk or not?”

“Damnit,” he thought.

Just then he stepped off the curb and gazed upward. Hanging overhead, suspended from a corner pole by a rusty chain, was a large clock. The time was 6:55 pm. At the same moment, he heard the screeching of tires from behind and the unmistakable buzz of a large swarm of angry bees approaching from his right.

Turning towards the buzzing sound, he stepped forward and was immediately struck from behind by an out of control Buick Roadmaster driven by an elderly gentleman from Pasadena who was due for a driver’s license renewal test, which he would likely fail, in just two days. As Jack flew through the air, the buzzing sound intensified as no fewer than 1000 bees began stinging him about the head and chest.

(Jack’s file would later reveal he was severely allergic to bee stings and in fact, always carried an eppie kit. Had this been known in the beginning, Jack Bauer would never have become a CTU agent as severe allergies to bee stings, heavy pollen and polyester automatically disqualifies one from any federal occupation which involves torturing or being tortured.)

His impromptu flight ended abruptly as he slammed into the corner pole bearing the aforementioned clock. The force of the initial impact, transferred from the Buick to Jack to the pole, caused the weakest link in the rusted chain holding the suspended clock to fail thereby allowing the large mechanical device to obey the laws of physics and fall straight down until making solid contact with Jack’s skull.

The ensuing thud caused the now more than dazed Bauer to stagger to his feet and stumble forward until the pavement beneath him ceased to exist. Replacing the pavement was an open manhole. It was however a clearly marked open manhole therefore the city’s potential liability was minimal but it was also a special manhole in that it was one of only a handful throughout the greater Los Angeles area which dropped an impressive 153 feet to the cement sewer conduit which lay below.

Given the distance of the fall, Jack had a moment to consider his situation. His instincts told him he sustained multiple fractures and internal organ damage as a result of his encounter with the Buick. The ever increasing swelling of his face, hands and feet as well as the rapid closing of his airway confirmed his need for an ever present eppie kit. He had a splitting headache – literally. And he sensed an abrupt end to his unexpected freefall.

As he processed this information, one last thought came to mind just before impact.

“Damnit …”

Tink …Tink …Tink

Monday, May 21, 2007

Congratulations Sister

On Sunday, Beth and I rose early and headed 90 miles north to Staunton, Virginia (pronounced Stanton).

Located in Virginia's pristine Shenandoah Valley, Staunton is a historically picturesque city with many of its 18th and early 19th century homes and buildings still standing and beautifully preserved.

According to the city's website, "Staunton's fine collection of historic preservation areas includes the Gospel Hill Historic District, so named in the late 1790s when religious meetings were held at its blacksmith shop. Its elegant homes include examples of Victorian, Greek Revival, and Federal styles. The Downtown Historic District is a compact 19th-century ‘Main Street,’ with buildings that date from Staunton's boom years between 1860 and 1920, and fine concentrations of Victorian-era architecture. Its Wharf Historic District harkens back to the days when the railroad changed Staunton from a rural village to a center of commerce, with strong and sturdy warehouses. Since 1972 the Wharf Historic District has been on the National Register of Historic Places, and its depot and other preserved buildings house restaurants, antique shops and specialty boutiques." In addition, Staunton is also the birthplace of our 28th President, Woodrow Wilson.

All quite impressive, but not the primary reason for our visit.

Instead, we drove to Staunton on this beautiful clear morning in order to witness my sister Karen's graduation from Mary Baldwin College. Founded in 1842 as Augusta Female Seminary, MBC is one of the oldest institutions of higher education for women in the United States. And by virtue of its Adult Degree Program, Karen was one of more than 300 students who proudly shifted her tassel to the left at the ceremony's conclusion.

But unlike most, she accomplished this goal not as an early 20-something, free for the most part from the responsibilities of life. Instead, the setting of her achievement was one of a full time employee, a full time mother and a full time wife. Her collegiate experience was one of sacrifice and harder work. Her curriculum required transitioning from homemaker to student and back again, often in the course of 24 hours. Her journey included coping with a son’s military deployment, often to places unknown and a husband’s on going battle with Lymphoma.

Through it all, she balanced a multitude of tasks, taking classes when she could, reacquiring long forgotten study habits and never complaining. And in the end, her accomplishment came at a time in her life when holding her new born grandson was by far, her most precious graduation gift.

In a word, she persevered.

And in so doing, she not only received her Bachelor's Degree but also clearly demonstrated the wisdom and qualities she inherited from our Mother. For like Mom, my sister also recognizes the immense importance of faith, family and hope.

I'm very proud you Karen.


Your brother.

“A sister is one who reaches for your hand and touches your heart.” - Anonymous

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An Update

I’m only two and ½ weeks into the Team In Training – Marine Corp Marathon – training schedule so perhaps it’s a bit early for an update. But what the heck, I feel like writing.

So far it’s been easy … too easy if you get my drift.

It’s a sensation not unlike that which precedes a massive storm … it lulls … it calms … it seduces. It tricks you into thinking this exercise will be a walk in the park.

It lies.

Therefore I must remain ever cognizant of the impending double digit mileages which are quietly waiting on the near horizon lest I be caught off guard. I must be vigilant in the shorter distance runs and the weekly cross training trips to the YMCA so I will be better prepared for the challenges which lie ahead.

I must continue to eat and hydrate properly.

I must learn to treat beer as an occasional self reward instead of a major food group.

And I must abstain (as much as possible) from spending too much time with Mr. Fuente, my little Dominican friend.

In the process, I must also continue to get the word out as to why I’m doing this (Leukemia & Lymphoma Society) … and why it’s important (an estimated 35,070 new cases of leukemia and 66,674 cases of Lymphoma will be diagnosed in the United States this year).

According to the LLS, 1 in 5 people are touched in some way by a blood cancer. It either affects them or someone in their family or circle of friends.

Take a look around you and remember you can help by supporting a Team In Training participant. Just log on to their site – TNT – and they will show you how you can make a difference.

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
- John Wesley

Sunday, May 13, 2007

In Memory On Mother's Day

She was always kind.

She was always patient.

She was quick to forgive and she loved unconditionally.

Her faith was strong, unshakeable and very personal.

St. Francis of Assisi said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”

More than anyone I’ve ever known, our Mother demonstrated her faith by the way she lived her life.

What better tribute can we possibly offer but to strive to do the same?

We miss her.

But more importantly, we will always remember her.

Mary P. Lawhorn

October 6, 1913 - February 9, 2005

Monday, May 07, 2007

More Georgia On My Mind

In additon to bringing Beth Anne home from Georgia, I also brought this:

Isn't a mid life crisis great!

Georgia On My Mind

This past Friday after I got off work, Beth and I loaded up the car and headed south.

Destination - Athens, Georgia.

Purpose - Extract Beth Anne from Creswell Hall at the University of Georgia and bring her home for Summer break.

Our freshman year is now in the history books, along with the unbelievable task of removing a year's worth of crap from her dorm room, cleaning and chiseling away crud which has been apparently accumulating since 1785 and packing the Land Cruiser to the point of exploding.

In addition, I have gotten in two 6 mile runs and a sampling of the Athens lifestyle.

It's nice.

I like it.

Go Dawgs!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

And So It Begins

This morning, Bill and I “officially” began our 5:45 AM training ritual at the Wiley in preparation for the Marine Corp Marathon in October. Since it was his first run in a month and my first in 10 days, we started with a leisurely 3 miler.

As we set out in the pre-dawn darkness, memories of last year’s VA Beach Rock & Roll Half Marathon training runs flooded back and as we made the all too familiar loop, we exchanged nods of acknowledgment with several people we recognized from last year.

I look forward to the journey which lies ahead.

A few photos from NYC:

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

The Big Apple Weekend

Early Saturday morning Beth and I boarded a plane bound for New York City and in so doing, escaped these little town blues for a weekend away with our wine / dinner friends; Don & KOM, Calvin & Beth and Ward & Pam. Having traveled together previously – Vermont, Montreal, Jamaica and Italy – our four couple group had no doubts we were in store for yet another good time together.

While the others opted for the Hilton closer to the theater district, Beth and I stayed in a quaint little hotel in midtown called Hotel 31. It reminded us of hotels we visited in Europe – small rooms, smaller elevators, loads of charm, character and ambience. A half a block away was great little cafe where, after checking in, we sat outside for a while and enjoyed tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil drizzled with balsamic vinegar while taking in the sights and scents of the Big Apple.

Returning to our room, we dressed and soon departed in order to meet the other members of our group for a phenomenal meal at Cascina, a wonderful Italian eatery and then it was on to Broadway to see “The Pirate Queen.”

Based on the life of one Grace O’Malley, an Irish heroine who led an extraordinary life as a pirate, chieftain, lover and mother in 16th Century, this story relates her quest to protect her people and save her one true love. In so doing, she embarks on a “thrilling voyage that climaxes in a heated confrontation with the one woman more powerful than her... her fierce rival Queen Elizabeth I of England.”

Featuring original musical scores, remarkable sets and creative costumes, the production was quite good. Making it all the more special to our group is the fact our friend and fellow group member, Kathleen O’Malley is a direct descendant of the infamous Grace - and if you knew this fiery redhead as we do, you’d not be surprised.

Sunday found Beth and I separating from the group for the day as we opted to pass on the Greenwich Village food tour in favor of walking across the Brooklyn Bridge, strolling the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, enjoying Prospect Park and searching for some of Beth’s ancestors in Greenwood Cemetery. As a result, I must have walked 10 or more miles which more than made up for not getting a run in this weekend but it didn’t matter. We had a wonderful time together.

Later in the afternoon, we caught the subway back to Manhattan where we showered, changed and soon headed back out to meet our friends at the Chelsea Piers for a New York Harbor dinner cruise.

If you visit the city, I highly recommend this as a must do activity. While certainly not cheap, all agreed this was money well spent. The food was superb, the service excellent and the sights unrivaled. In addition to the spectacular view of the NYC and Brooklyn skylines and the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, the vision of the Statue of Liberty from this perspective was in a word, overwhelming.

Having been stationed on Governor’s Island in New York Harbor in 1976, I saw this magnificent statute every day, yet on this night, the close up, illuminated view from the water was more beautiful and inspiring than I ever recall.

All in all, it was a great weekend for all of us, but it was especially wonderful for Beth and I, for it was us time we really needed.

"You are the ship my life sails on." – Grace O’Malley, The Pirate Queen