Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Brett Favre to Start Next Week, Despite His Recent Death

Only two days after the tragic death of Minnesota Vikings star quarterback Brett Favre, head coach Brad Childress announced today that there would be no need to prepare their back-up Tevaris Jackson to start this week's game against the Arizona Cardinals.  "Even though the entire team is broken up about what happened to Brett, we still think he offers the best chance for us to win this Sunday."

Favre had been suffering from multiple ailments in the weeks and months leading up to his death, including tendinitis in the elbow of his throwing arm, multiple bone fractures in his feet, and a three-quarter inch gash in his chin requiring eight stitches.  These injuries, along with the enormous emotional strain caused by a "look-alike" who reportedly stole Favre's phone to email inappropriate pictures while he used the bathroom at a New Jersey Applebees Restaurant three years ago, have been suggested by NFL doctor's to have contributed to the ten-time Pro-Bowler's untimely end.  "I've never seen anything like it, in my 28 years of practicing sports medicine," said Earl Thurber, team doctor for the Minnesota Vikings, when asked to describe the elements surrounding Favre's injuries.  "The cell phone pictures, that is," he clarified.

The Favre family, along with funeral directors and the NFL, have all been notified of Coach Childress's intentions to start Favre despite the tragedy.  "I got the phone call last night, and Brad just told me, I'm gonna start'em," said Deanna Tynes Favre.  "Brett never listened to me before about sitting out when he's hurt, and I've got a feeling that this situation will be no different."

It's unclear at this time how they will get Favre onto the field for the game, but experts guess they will utilize the regular medical injury cart.

"That guy's made of steel," said former teammate Randy Moss in comments that he released from his interview with himself.  "It's too bad I won't be there to see him in action this weekend.  I miss that helmet."

The news of Favre getting the go-ahead this Sunday has left some people in Minneapolis perplexed about Coach Childress's decision making abilities.  "How much preparation do you think Fah-vrah is going to have this week with all that he's got going on?  I just don't see it," quipped one fan we found drinking alone at a small, empty bar on a dark street near St. Paul.  "I was kind of hoping he'd sit this one out."

Funeral proceedings will be rushed to be completed by Saturday night to give Favre a chance to rest before game time.  "There's no excuse for not being in bed early the night before a game," said Childress.  "I don't care if you've got a funeral or a wedding or whatever it is, I want my players ready to play."  The coach then abruptly left the press conference, loaded and seat-belted his quarterback's lifeless body into the front seat of his SUV, and drove to the Vikings practice facility.

Cards, emails and letters have flooded the mailbox of Deanna Favre since his passing, however they were mostly requesting dates with the newly-widowed breast cancer survivor.  A phone call to Favre's cloud in heaven was not immediately returned.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Not Your Typical Commute

When Holly's lease on her Toyota was up last month, we decided to try and cut back to one car between the two of us.  It was a decision that was both green and economical.  It was also a decision that lead me to almost losing my life today and, I'd like to think, a renewed sense of clarity in my life.

Holly took Morgan to Virginia Beach today where she will stay while we're away on vacation in Seattle next week.  The drive there is approximately 200 miles from home, so she took the car and I relied on public transportation for the day.  No big deal, this is a major metropolis, right?

Here's how it unfolded.

Holly calls me from Virginia Beach to inform me that she should return back to DC to avoid storms that are approaching the area.  An email that I received about 20 minutes ago from DC Alert (our city's text-based citizen alert system) confirmed her information, and I advise her to get on the road.  I go on my computer and pull up the Metro bus schedule for Ballston Station (about 5 stops from where I work) to see if I can easily grab a bus transfer home.  A work buddy offers me a ride home when he gets off in a little bit, which I briefly contemplate.  But there's a break in the rain, the bus schedule looks good, so I bugger out a little early and head underground to the Metro train.

The Rosslyn Metro station at rush hour is a sweltering hot, damp, crowded, nasty place to be.  Everyone just wants to get home.  The unfortunate downfall of Rosslyn in this case, however, is the fact that it is the first stop in Virginia for trains departing the District.  Read: the trains are already jam-packed full of DC commuters heading home to Virginia by the time it gets to Rosslyn.

Tonight, I'm here 5 stories underground, and the platform is full, and the trains are full. I wait one, two, three trains, not a chance of getting on one.  People's faces are practically pressed to the glass, it's so crowded in there.

I finally decide I'm going to make a last ditch effort to get on a blue line train, which will take me out of the way, but at least I'll still get closer to my destination where I can hop on a 16 bus and still make it home in reasonable time.  I find a tiny window and squeeze myself on.  Away we go!

The train is stopped, approximately half way between Rosslyn Station and the first stop ahead, Arlington Cemetery.  It's peculiar to be stopping, since there should have been no trains ahead of us.  Then, I hear the last thing I needed to hear: "this train is going out of service, all passengers must exit at Arlington Cemetery."


Ok, fine, I'll get off at the Cemetery and hop on the next train.

The platform at the station is jam-packed with people.  Nobody can even vacate the train because it's so crowded.  Both sides of the platform look the same.  It's hot.  It's pouring rain.  Nobody is going anywhere.

I charge my way through hoards of people, get off the train, and make my tiny but critical steps toward the station exit.

I emerge from the underground into the elements.  A medium rain pelts my forehead as I gaze down the Memorial Bridge to DC, past no less than 300 people on the side of the road, all on the same boat as me.  The idea of a taxi cab is out.  Even if I tried to get one, the only cabs are DC cabs and they will not take me anywhere in Virginia.  I'm stuck.

I talk to some other folks who are trying to get home.  They don't know what to do.  There's no bus.  There's no cabs.  There's no train.  If you're not familiar with the Arlington Cemetary area around Jefferson Davis Highway, let me just tell you that it's virtually in the middle of nothing.  Nowhere else in the city can you be so far from just about everything.

I make an executive decision.

Clad in dress slacks, a dress shirt, tie, and dress shoes, I make my way up the hill towards JFK's eternal flame, past the Arlington House and the Tomb of the Unknown.  My briefcase workbag strapped over my shoulder, I can clearly see the high rise towers of Rosslyn off in the distance.

The rain is coming down hard now.  My shirt and pants are soaked through, and my shoes are beginning to swish water out of the soles with every step.  I press forward past the thousands of iconic, sand-blasted white gravestones of our nation's finest men and women, water pouring down my face, and coming out of my mouth with each exhalation.  I hear rumbles of thunder in the distance.  I chuckle to myself sarcastically.  Who would have thought I'd be here right now?

I've made it almost half way across the Cemetery.  Of the 300,000 people that surround me, I'm the only one who is alive.  It's a moment I choose to breathe deep and take in.  There's something beautiful about this moment, as I glance at my surroundings.  I look up to the sky, and above me I see the canopied oak trees dropping their oversized rain droplets on my face.  Each one representing something pure, something real.

I press on.

The sky is open full-throttle, and the rain falls to the ground in thick sheets.  The water hits the ground and ascends back up 3 or 4 inches into the air, like a life force of it's own.  Some raindrops come up clear, others that landed in the mud come up brown.

Almost through to the other side of the Cemetery, and I feel the wind against my face start to push me backward.  I'm walking with force and determination.  Then, without warning, and as unsuspectingly as it could have happened, my life flashed before my eyes.  A white flash like none I have ever seen enveloped everything around me, accompanied simultaneously by the most startling, ear-splitting clap I could have imagined, except louder.

My body fell back like a brick wall had hit me sideways at 50 miles per hour.  I saw that the lightning had struck within 50 feet of me, with the sheer energy that nobody but God himself could have created.  I lay on the sidewalk with both hands behind me on the ground, my butt on the pavement, and my face to the sky, and I recited the Lord's prayer.  By God, if this is my time, let it be my time.  I will go your way.

A few moments passed, and as I sat there, for some unexplained reason a smile came across my face.  It was an unexpected happiness, a relief, a respite.  I rose back to my feet, and began to walk.

As I approached my office and where I set out for home a little over an hour ago, I recaptured what had just happened to me.  The driving rain began to let up, and I began to see pedestrians again.  I was the only person without an umbrella as far as the eye could see.

I could see people looking at me incredulously from their cars as I walked through the intersection near my building, soaked head to toe and splashed with mud.  My bag now heavily saturated with water smacked against my backside with each step I took.

What an experience it was.  Everything had to happen just the way it did.  It was meant to be that way.

I smiled, grabbed my cell and called my buddy from work.

"Hey pal, how about that ride?"

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Java Wars

If you ask just about any Rhode Islander to describe their morning routine, I'm conservatively willing to bet that at least 75% of those you query will respond at some point with the two words "Dunkin Donuts".  In New England, Dunkin' (or D&D as it's affectionately known for short) is more than just a restaurant:  it's a way of life.  Sure, you can get Dunkin' in lots of places far and wide.  But nowhere has Dunkin' weaved itself into the fiber of a culture so much as New England.  You could say the brand is an active, daily participant in the lives of so many, like a family member, to the point where a minor disruption in the bountiful flow of coffee and food product could potentially trigger a chain of catastrophe, the likes of which haven't been seen, perhaps ever.  This wouldn't be like the massive floods of 2010 that briefly put Southern New England on the national news map.  No, this would be more of a psychological attack, with much more potent ammunition than any natural disaster could impose.  This kind of hype isn't created overnight.  Dunkin' spent many years laying the groundwork on their brand before they could claim to be the King of Coffee, the General of Joe, the ambassador of the New England breakfast.  

But like a lion only rules in his den, D&D doesn't carry quite the same weight outside of the confines of it's main sphere of influence.  You could certainly argue that in most places, they have to compete aggressively with the Starbucks, McDonald's, Au Bon Pain's, and Tim Horton's of the world.  So how is it that Dunkin' has been able to carve itself into the breadth of humanity in just that corner of the world?

I have no clue.  I'm not a scientific researcher.  I'm just a dude with a blog.

Here in DC, the apparent market leader in the coffee and edible delights category would be Starbucks (surprise, surprise).  I've got two stores within a 3-minute walk of each other from my office (and not a D&D anywhere in sight).  So, forced with task of making the transition from a regular D&D customer to a regular SB customer was not easy.  It's sort of like going from being a Pagan to becoming a Catholic priest.  Consider for a moment that D&D has virtually no etiquette required - the only thing expected of you when you walk in is that you can breathe and you have a few duckets to cover your take.  If you can mumble, sign, or even just point to what you want, they'll get you going.  You get your coffee in the same place where you order it, load it up with sugar and half & half, and go on your way.

The same is not true for Starbucks.  

My first experience at SB was like walking into a familiar grocery store, the only difference was that everything in the store was written in a foreign, dead language.  Like hieroglyphics.  There were ancient scrolls on the wall with illustrations of people and coffee beans, giving me the impression I had just entered some kind of prefabricated Cafe Au Lait sanctuary.  Suddenly everything appeared in sepia.  I became lost in my own world and began envisioning myself as a Columbian bean farmer, and smiled at the satisfaction of plucking ripe beans from my orderly rows of stalks. This bean here will be used for the bold coffee, this one for the morning blend.  Then, as if on cue, a beautiful 20-something field worker named Elisa comes upon me out of nowhere, gently reaches towards my basket of beans and....

"Sir, are you going to order?  You're holding up the line!"

Oh, right.

I eventually summoned the courage to make an order.  After that, the next four minutes was a total blur.  The only thing that stands out in my mind is the variety of dirty looks I collected from around the room, people mumbling under their breath something about this guy  who has "no effing idea what he's doing."  I learned quickly that ordering at Starbucks is a skill set all of its own.  I knew I had to do something, so I decided to enroll in the 3-day Starbucks etiquette seminar where the rules and regulations of proper SB behavior are taught and mastered.  For a respectable cost of $350 (which includes a light lunch), I and 25 other brave souls flew to Seattle to be instructed on the ins and outs of  Starbucks etiquette by our very own Certified Organizer of Coffee Knowledge (or COCK).  He taught us things like "if you want your drinks iced, say this first.  You do not need to specify if you want your beverage hot."  Hmmmmm, interesting me thinks.  Or, "never, ever place your order whilst on your cell phone.  Graciously offer to let the person behind you go ahead of you so you can finish your call before you order."  Of course!  Why didn't I think of that before?

I benefited most specifically from the confidence building exercises where we role played different ordering scenarios.  For example, in one session we each had to draw a piece of paper from a hat which contained the contents of a fictional order.  The challenge was to successfully make the order, paying close attention to correct pronunciation and the unquestionable portrayal of excessive confidence; bonus points were awarded if you could indicate a hint of condescension in your delivery (not too much now!).

Today, I'm proud to say that I have graduated from being an Amateur Starbucks Specialist (or ASS), and I'm well on my way to accomplishing my goal of becoming a full-fledged member of the Starbucks Unified Coffee Knowledge Experts and Related Studies (or SUCKERS).   Never again will I be painted with the undignified brush of using words like "medium" and "regulah", or will I make the mistake of referring to my coffee ambassador by anything other than "my barista."  The word "Coolatta" has also been erased from my vocabulary database. From now on, I will fall in line with the other marching ants and always order with timeliness, precision, and confidence.  These truths are self-evident to the enlightened Starbucks patron, and they should be shared and cherished by all.

Thanks to some hard work and practice, I've come a long way since my days of frequenting the Dunkin' Donuts.  Yet, a part of me still secretly longs for the simplicity and ease of their system.  Because after all, all I really want is a damn cup of coffee.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Noble Pils is a No Go

In general, I'm a fan of Sam Adams Seasonal Brews.  But if you're thinking of trying the new Sam Adams Spring Noble Pils, let me save you the trouble and the $8.49 it will cost you to buy a six-pack (give or take a little depending on where you live).  This stuff is like drinking liquid sour patch kids, but without the fruity flavor.  I puckered up so tight, I thought I was going to crap a diamond.

Ironically, Holly liked the beer so much, she decided to give some honorable mention in a recent blog post of hers.  I didn't want to go on record against her in her own forum, as I thought that would be perceived as less than supportive at best, or a heckler at worst.  She doesn't say much about the beer, but if I were to add the commentary on that portion of the post, I'd say that "you should only drink this if you feel you're honestly ready for the dastardly rough 15 minutes that it's going to take you to get through it."   It's not that I have a problem with hops, it's just that they compiled 5 of the most bitter hops on the planet and threw them all together for this ultimate smack in the face beverage experience.

I encourage you to contact Sam Adams and let them no:  it's a no go on Noble Pils.

Contact Samuel Adams (the beer company, not the person)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Better Way to Fly

"you are now free to move about the country...... sort of".

It's thirty-five minutes prior to pushback time, and I'm nursing a hot cup of coffee in the gate area at Reagan National.  I decided to take the Metro here from my office to save on parking fees, and also to give Holly a break from having to cart me to the airport before her long day at school.  After a quick run-through with my blue-shirted friends at TSA, and a four-person-deep line at Starbucks, I'm ready to cruise the friendly skies.

I used careful consideration when booking this flight, as I do with most of my air travel.  The best price on a desired trip rarely yields the most preferential routing combinations.  So, when I was faced with the option of paying a few extra bucks to fly nonstop to my destination from the airport just a few miles from my house, I went against my better instincts and booked with an airline that I typically don't fly with.

Now, let's be clear.  Here in the U.S., our airlines are some of the safest on the planet.  Without some kind of concrete inside information, it would be unfair to say that one airline is "safer" than any another.  And frankly, that kind of inside information is the kind that doesn't stay inside for long (see Southwest Tried to Hide Safety Problems, April 2008).  However, it would seem that some airlines are just more susceptible to problems that result in delays or cancellations than others.

Today I'm routing DCA-PBI on a perfect weather day here in Washington, even if it is a little bit cold.  It appears I'm not the only one escaping to warmer climates, as the gate area is nearly full with passengers waiting to board.  The equipment on today's ride is a Boeing 737-400 series aircraft, delivered to the airline brand new in the early 1990's, which by today's standards is akin to your aging but still spritely Grandmother who can still keep a brisk pace of life. She was the queen workhorse of the skies in her hay day, but most like her have since been retired and scrapped or sold off to foreign operators.  This airline, however, still employs her services.

An announcement over the PA notifies the departing Palm Beach passengers of an oversold situation on this flight, resulting in 5 seats they need to move over to the Ft. Lauderdale flight, departing at the same time, for a $350 airline credit.  I briefly consider this offer, but then remember the long drive from Lauderdale to my destination, which ultimately made me decide to stay put.

A half-hour later, and I'm nestled as comfortably as possible into seat 22F.  Window seat, awesome!  Everything seems normal, until we are informed there is a minor mechanical issue they need to have addressed with line maintenance here in DC before we can be cleared for pushback.  Estimated delay is 15 minutes.  Ok, that I can handle.  I watch out the window as the sister 737 heads off for Ft. Lauderdale with 5 additional passengers that should be in here with me.

30 minutes later...

Still at the gate, and seat 22F is becoming less comfortable by the minute.  I've been offered coffee twice, which both times I have accepted.  Probably not the best decision at this juncture.  A crying baby towards the front of the aircraft has taken itself beyond the normal pleasantries of adjacent passengers, and now the mother is clearly getting dirty looks, as if to say, "control your kid, or we will do it for you". As my knees begin to get fidgety, the deep voice of our warden, oops, ah... pilot... sounds from the flight deck: "Folks, ahhhh, we're still working on this issue up here.  It's actually turned in to two separate issues, a bad fuel gauge and a bad fuel pump.  So our center fuel tank can't be used.  That means we need to move all of the fuel that's in our center tank into our left and right tanks.  This process should only take about thirty minutes.  We appreciate your patience and we'll be underway shortly."

60 minutes later, and 90 minutes after scheduled departure time...

Still at the gate.  Seat 22F has become my personal prison cell.  I feel like a piece of string cheese in my own individual cellophane wrapper.  By now my ass is completely asleep, and I can feel little springs in the quasi-cushion making numerous jabs at my numb backside, like a bad comedian making tasteless jokes to a one-man audience.  As I watch the other planes come and go, I'm now idolizing the select few chosen ones who had the sense to get paid to ride the other flight, and I'd give my left arm to go back in time and trade spaces.  Again, a message from above:  "Ahhh, folks as you can see we're still here at the gate trying to work some things out..."  Yeah no shit, pal.  "In the meantime, we're going to be having a technician come on board to complete some routine maintenance in the rear of the aircraft, so if the folks standing in the aisles could be so kind as to let him through.  Thanks."

Immediately my bull-shit alarm sounded so loud my ear drum popped.

Yet, moments later I see a short, Caribbean looking fellow with a yellow mesh coverall over his sweatshirt coming down the aisle.  On the back of his shirt it simply says "Line Maintenance".  Hmmmm.  Under his left arm I see a box about the size of desktop printer, and in his right arm a toolbox.  As he approaches closer, I realize that he is carrying a coffee maker.

Really?  REALLY?

30 minutes later, and 2 hours after scheduled departure time...

Seat 22F is Satan disguised as an airline seat.  I begin jotting loose notes on my airline-branded cocktail napkin about the people I need to apologize to before I die.  I realize I'm working against time as the numbness in my rear end has spread as far north as my shoulders, and as far south as my toes.  The baby in front has long since perished, and now I'm wondering if the elderly population on board may start dropping off too.  As I briefly consider the availability of a priest for last rites, the voice of Sir Pilot breaks the sounds of the whimpering passengers around me.  By now I'm just praying to Allah that this flight will be cancelled, and I can return to my life as a normal, walking human being.  "Ladies and Gentleman, your patience is very appreciated, and I hope you know that we want to get out of here just as badly as you do..."  Oh I seriously doubt that, Sir.  "Here's the situation.  We are moments away from being done with our work, and we will finally be underway to Palm Beach.  However, due to the decreased capacity of our fuel tanks, we will need to make a fuel stop in Jacksonville, Florida.  This is required by the FAA as a safety precaution."

So, let me get this straight.

According to the Federal Aviation Administration, this aircraft is not capable of making a routine flight from Washington, DC to Palm Beach, Florida without making a stop for gas?  This, my friends, is not a good sign.

30 minutes later, and 2 and a half hours after scheduled departure time...

Having had another half an hour to ponder the idea that this aircraft is nothing more than the airborne equivalent of a rusty, 1989 Ford Taurus wagon with wings, I decide to stay on board for this trip out of sheer curiosity of whether this thing can actually fly or not.  I figure hey, worst comes to worst, if this thing goes in the drink, my family can at least retire happily without having to worry about money.  Ok kids, can you say "Class Action Lawsuit?"

Sure enough, 153 minutes after scheduled departure time, the aircraft pushes back from the gate, and miraculously, she flies.

Arrival in Palm Beach, 2 hours and 55 minutes behind schedule...

I've been on board this aircraft in seat 22F for six hours and ten minutes.  The delirious insanity I experienced earlier has long since come and gone, kind of like when you are starving and never eat, eventually your hunger goes away.  As the ordeal finally comes to a close, I glance at one of my unused cocktail napkins.  I'm amused by this airline's slogan:  A Better Way to Fly.  I make a note on the napkin and put it in my pocket.

As the passengers deplaned, the routine apologies from the flight crew were in full swing.  "Thanks, thank you.... thaaaanks.... sorry about the delay... thaaaaanks.... ".  As I approached the gangway, I pulled the napkin from my pocket, and handed it to the pilot with a grin.

THERE HAS GOT TO BE A Better Way to Fly.

He read it, looked back at me, and said, "you know what, you're absolutely right."

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Memory Lane

"The Weather is here, I wish you were beautiful.  
The skies are too clear, life's too easy today.  
The beer is too cold, the daiquiris too fruitiful.  
There's no place like home when you're this far away. 
I don't care what they say."

No one can stop the hands of time from doing what it does best:  changing things.  Time changes places and people sure enough as the wind blows.  Any attempt to stop it is futile.  

It's been eighteen months since my last trip to South Florida.  It's the longest stretch of time I've gone without paying a visit here in over a decade.  In my own defense, during that time I've been busy relocating my household, starting a new job, and working towards further developing my career.  But this was once my home, and I'll never forget that.

Unexpectedly, little old South Florida snuck up on me this weekend.  She caught me trying to forget how much I love her, and so many people who rise and sleep under her sky.  She reminded me through soft, gentle breezes rustling the fronds under palm trees; she nudged me with pleasant surprises like new friends and amazing culinary adventures.  She brought me to tears on numerous occasions, as I saw dear friends preparing for their first baby; or an old friend who lost far too much weight; or the frequent occasions where I'd turn a corner and become shocked at what I saw  (that huge building wasn't there before).  She taught me that life here goes on, in the form of a favorite old haunt that had served as a forum for too many laughs to count, now closed forever, it's contents and occupants nothing but a memory.  She regaled me with her beauty in the form of a spectacular sunset and a beautiful full moon reflected off the ocean, both enjoyed over drinks and amazing conversation with a great friend with whom I had lost touch.  

This trip cued deep and distant memories of a time gone by.  Though they remain in tact in my physical memory, they are frankly too powerful and emotional for me to access regularly.  To be truthful, it's far less painful to move along with my own life and just try to forget what I've been missing in the lives of those I hold so dearly.

So hasta luego, my good friends.  Thank you to everyone who made the effort to see me over the last few days.  I'm not sure that I can accurately express just how much it meant to me to see you all.  Thank you for the laughter, thanks for the tears.  When I lift off the runway at PBI, and watch the sandy white beaches of the South Florida coastline fade away in the distance, I know I'll be comforted by the love in my heart which overflows with gratitude for each one of you.  

Until next time.  

Monday, February 22, 2010

Bring on the Cherry Blossoms

If I could go back in time, say 4 months, here are a few things I would do differently:
  1. Buy a serious pair of all-terrain boots.  Nobody (not even the weather experts) could have predicted that my current shoe inventory (dress shoes, running shoes, flip-flops) would have failed so miserably this winter.
  2. Buy two serious snow shovels.  Specifically the type that don't snap where the shovel meets the handle.
  3. Replace my 2006 South Florida Special Edition 4Runner with something that can spin all 4 of it's wheels.
  4. Minimize the amount of smack talk I did on both occasions when the blizzard predictions started rolling in.
  5. Park my car in a parking garage for the storms - or at the very least, on a level surface instead of a hill.  
  6. Don't rely on the Food Star for any kind of food.  Whatsoever.
  7. Build an ice fishing shack and put it out in the middle of the parking lot.  Just for fun.  When people came knocking, I'd act like they're the crazy ones and pull a fish out of the hole.
  8. Start a private plow business.  Hire Conan O'Brien as the driver.  He's unemployed, and it would be good for sales.
I'm no stranger to the wrath that mother nature can cast upon us.  In 1985, I survived Hurricane Gloria which pummeled New England, with downed trees everywhere and widespread power loss for several weeks.  In 1991, it was Hurricane Bob.  Then, while living in South Florida, we endured 4 hurricanes in two years:  Frances, Jeanne, Katrina & Wilma.  After our windows were blown out, I spent several hours with 5 of my closest friends in a room no bigger than a small closet waiting for the storm to pass.  Weeks upon weeks without electricity.   You know how many storms South Florida has had since I left?  Zero.  Nada.  Niente. 

If that wasn't enough to convince me that I'm the problem, three weeks after moving from Florida to Rhode Island, in December 2007 one of the largest snowstorms since the Blizzard of 1978 hit Providence and stranded thousands of motorists on the road (including Holly).  Children were stranded on school buses for hours and hours into the night.  The Governor declared the State a disaster area.  Since I moved?  Well, it's been a "mild winter" so far.  

Now I'm being told that this winter is the worst winter ever on record in terms of snowfall for Washington, DC and the Mid-Atlantic region.  Well over 70 inches of the beautiful white stuff has fallen on the Federal District this winter, causing a myriad of cascading problems for local and regional governments to handle the influx of precipitation, the likes of which most people here have never seen.

Why am I not surprised?  Because bad weather has been following me around the globe for the better part of two decades.  It's only fitting that I would bring mother nature's blessings and all of her glory upon this city.  

Now bring on the Cherry Blossoms.  Or, what's left of them.

Don't laugh, because you never know - I could be coming to a city near you!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Neti Pot

Here's what being snowed in for a week will do to you:  Holly convinced me to invert my head in the bathroom sink and use a miniature teapot apparatus to pour warm salt water solution up my nose.  Apparently this "Neti Pot" is renowned for it's ability to relieve sinus and nasal congestion - and a small amount of internet research reveals that this is so.  

Let me just tell you - if you enjoy breathing copious amounts of water up through your nose while swimming in the ocean, then Neti Pot is for you.  This sadistic little contraption needs to be returned to the barbaric world from whence it came.  Shame on you CVS/pharmacy.

Here's an open suggestion to the ruthless Proctor & Gamble R&D clowns who created this device and distributed it to the mainstream world:  rebrand this product at once.  The box should be marked "Danger: Portable Waterboarding Apparatus".  Use extreme caution while deploying this apparatus to your prisoners of war. Simulated drowning should only occur in the presence of trained professionals; or at the very least, someone who can observe your misery in utter amazement.  I have to admit, it's effective at one thing - causing immediate regret and pleadings for mercy.  Within moments of application, this thing had me proclaiming secrets from my early youth.  

"I will tell you anything you want to know, just make it stop!"      

As salt water poured out my opposite nostril and downwards into my eyeball, I began to see the light. And I'm not talking about the 60-watt GE Ultra Soft bulb above me - I'm talking about the last light any of us will ever see.  With the pearly gates off in the distance, I received total and complete consciousness (so I've got that going for me).  My entire life sequence played out before me like a movie in High Def.  I recalled conversations that I overheard while in the womb.  I considered each and every person I need to apologize to before I die.  As the saline carved a path straight down my face into the sink like a river of death carrying corpses through a post-apocalyptic nightmare, I realized that through this experience, I received the Truth.  

What I did not receive, however, was a clear nasal passage.  

Monday, February 8, 2010

Fatigue Setting In

Our arms were still sore this morning from clearing off 30 inches of snow from our SUV. The Federal Government and Fairfax County Schools are both closed today, which means another day off from work.

Over a cup of coffee, I'm contemplating the most recent forecast (see above).

There's just no rest for the weary.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


According to some experts, Snowmageddon 2010 may be the worst snow storm to ever hit the DC Region. Here's what it looked like from our vantage point:

2:30pm - Friday, February 5, 2010






1:45am - Saturday, February 6, 2010







We lived!

Friday, February 5, 2010

The Storm Before the Storm

For anyone that's not familiar with the climactic tendencies of the Mid-Atlantic, let me just say that what we're seeing here is highly uncommon. To put it in perspective, ponder this statistic: as of this morning, more snow has fallen this winter on Reagan National Airport than all three of the last winters combined. As I sit writing this, we are mere moments away from the beginning of another storm promising 18"-24" of snow and blizzard-like conditions, which by Superbowl Sunday will make that statistic even more impressive.

For what it's worth, I'm from the Boston/Providence area, so I'm no stranger to voluminous amounts of snow dropping from the sky. Even after living for 6 years in the Sunshine State, it didn't take long to get my snow-driving skills back up to par.

Yet, I work in a business where preparation is paramount. Eight guys from our Technical Services department will leave their families to fend for themselves and call the Residence Inn their home away from home for this weekend. They are charged with the enormous duty of clearing several hundred thousand pounds of precipitation that is forecast to fall on my property in the next 36 hours. They will use two pallets (2,400 lbs.) of ice-melt that's primed and ready to be spread; a brand new, Honda OHV commercial-grade snow blower fueled, oiled and at the ready with the capacity to clear up to 60 tons of snow per hour; two more snowblowers, a dozen shovels and ice chippers are out from storage and in position. Our security team is ready to respond and fend off any potential threats on the property that may come as a result of a weakened law enforcement response. Cleaners and other non-essential staff are finishing up their light duties for the day, and heading for home. To save energy, HVAC services have been reprogrammed so they will not turn on as usual. Sometime over the next few hours, the buildings will close up, lock down, and ride the storm with the rest of the region.

But for now, and until that time comes, the place is buzzing. The atmosphere smells different, there's an unmistakable apprehension or excitement in the air. It's not all that unlike what used to happen prior to a hurricane, the key word is preparation.

Schools are closed. The Federal Government will close in 40 minutes. The President is cancelling his agenda for today and will leave the District to spend the weekend in Fort Myers. Regional and local communities are sending alerts to citizens, filling up shelters, and preparing their own response teams. The last few flights from Reagan National are pushing back now.

In just a few short hours, all will be silent.

See you on the flip side.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Punxsutawney Phil

How did we ever get to having a groundhog predict the weather? Each year I'm more baffled at the whole idea of a rodent (Marmota Monax, more specifically) making a prediction of seasonal weather conditions based solely on whether or not the sun is shining on a given morning.

Perhaps it's our insanity that actually keeps us from going crazy.

An interesting point to note of Phil's 113 predictions on record so far, he has predicted an early spring 14 times (only 13%), and has never done so in consecutive years. As to his accuracy, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club Inner Circle, he is 100% accurate. However, according to the StormFax Weather Almanac and records kept since 1887, Phil's predictions have been correct just 39% of the time. Think the PGCIC could be a little biased?

I'm going to start ironing my shorts now. It's going to be an early Spring.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Au Revoir Conan

It's hard to believe that seven months after Conan made the big trip out west to Burbank he'd find himself back in the job market again. The comical and occasionally absurd host of The Tonight Show was callously stripped of his life-long dream job by a group of General Electric/Comcast/NBC/Evil Empire thugs last week, like a midnight yard sale in a luxury hotel. Hats off to Mr. Conan O'Brien. With the Tonight Show left on the floor bleeding and facing certain death, Conan did what he needed to do to protect what he thought was more sacred than himself: preserve the sanctity of the program. Thankfully in doing so, he not only preserved what The Tonight Show is, but also prevented Late Night With Jimmy Fallon from being pushed back to 1:05 am. I mean at that point is there anyone left still watching television?

You can't blame it on Leno, it's not his fault his show tanked in the 10:00 slot. In fact you can argue that he wasn't hardly given the chance to prove his show either. You can't blame it on Conan, even though his ratings were poor at their best. You can't blame it on Letterman, although it's fun to blame things on DL, since he's the Big Sleezy. You can't blame it on Jimmy Fallon, because nobody is allowed to blame things on Jimmy. He's awesome.

You can, however, blame it on the man. Blame it on NBC for configuring such a garbage lineup of programming, and then once their mistakes were realized, chopping blindly at will to regain traction. Heads should roll on the top of 30 Rock for this junk. They bought the paint they wanted, painted the house the way they wanted it, promoted it and loved it. Then later, they decided they didn't like it, and blamed the paint store owner.

Tomorrow, Friday January 22, 2010 is Conan's last broadcast on NBC. I suppose the network wants to pull the plug as soon as possible so as to minimize the bashing they're getting from CO and Company. NBC is on the hook for $45 Million, which Conan will share with his 200 person staff. Probably a kick in the bucket for the GE Monster, but it's still nice to see in print.

The good news is that as early as September, Conan could be appearing on another network. I'm happy to say that I'll be tuning in!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The River Visual

Happy New Year! Back in DC, and life is great. To start the new year off, I thought I'd let you into my world for a few minutes, and talk about one of my favorite subjects.

If you know me, you know I love anything to do with airplanes and aviation. So you might suspect that I orchestrated an elaborate scheme to have my current job assignment land me straight below the path of one of the most challenging IFR approaches in the world. Query the most experienced pilots out there, and they'll tell you that landing DCA (Reagan National Airport) from the north can be a quite tricky, if not downright stressful process. One slight misstep is likely to cause a lengthy go-around, and a complete Charlie Foxtrot on the flight deck - if not worse. The good news? I get to watch it all play out from the picture window in my office, day in and day out (once in a great while this can be could possibly be considered a detriment to my productivity - however I will not discuss that here).

The River Visual is set up such that the aircraft must navigate visually by way of the Potomac River, on a southeast course heading (about 148 degrees) towards the airport. There are a multitude of required maneuvers and altitude changes that must be executed precisely at the right time and speed, and certainly without encroaching on the extremely sensitive area "P-56", a restricted air space that protects the White House and U.S. Capitol, among other high profile government buildings. Airmen who fail to avoid encroaching on this space, intentionally or not, are issued stern warnings, and in some cases face legal prosecution from the FAA and Federal Government. Without question, they will encounter a trail of red tape so long that they'll wish they had stuck to crop dusting.

As approach control clears the aircraft to finals, shortly thereafter it passes a mere 800 feet over the 14th Street Bridge, and then must turn exactly 60-degrees to starboard to land on a runway that is roughly 2/3 the size of most normal commercial landing strips. Think of it like flicking a Cheerio from a desk onto a postage stamp on the floor about 5 feet away. To further complicate an already difficult situation, the airport is one of the busiest in the country, packing as many as 50 departures and landings in the span of an hour. This requires immense precision and concentration by both flight crews and air traffic controllers alike, as they negotiate thousands of lives and millions of pounds of metal in and out of DCA each day.

If you as a passenger are on the River Visual approach, you will benefit most from being seated on the port (left) side of the aircraft, as you'll have a spectacular view of the federal District of Columbia, The National Mall and the monuments, and the Capitol Building. However, the starboard side isn't too bad either, which offers sweeping views of Arlington, the Arlington National Cemetery, Rosslyn, and the Pentagon.

It's hard to believe that I get to see this final approach from my office. All of this is part of a routine day for airline crews, fortunately or unfortunately as it may be. Every once in a while I will see them miss and have to go around, but it's not often. More often than not, I watch those rear wheels lay their smoky tracks on Runway 19, just before the aircraft disappears out of sight where the terminal blocks my view.

All day long, day in and day out, I can almost hear them from where I stand - good landing, 'Cap.

(Photo credits: Justin Idle, Nick Onkow and Tim Samples - thank you)