Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wally World

We have been pretty lucky with next door neighbors.  When we lived in Illinois, our next door neighbor was an older couple that had been in the neighborhood since it was first developed - 1978.  They had two older kids who no longer lived with them and were very welcoming from the beginning.  It was autumn when we first moved in and I was raking leaves when Daryl offered to let me use his leaf blower, out of the blue.  The only negative, and it isn't really a negative, is that you couldn't help but feel like your lawn wasn't up to snuff.  In the summer, it seemed like Darryl was mowing it at least three times a week, bagging the lawn clippings and weedwacking like a mad-man!  In the fall, there wasn't even a single leaf on his lawn.  He had a routine, blow the leaves, wait 20 minutes, blow the leaves again, wait 20 minutes, blow the leaves again.  He would repeat this all through autumn.  Just when autumn was about to end, he would then mow the lawn with the bagger on to ensure that even the tiniest leaf molecule was caught.  Similarly, in winter, no matter how deep the snowfall or how cold it was, there was never a speck of ice or snow on his driveway.  Even if I got up at 6 am, his driveway would look like it had been cleared for hours!

Perhaps the highlight of the year was the annual Christmas party.  Every year they would throw this party and it was quite the fun time.  They would ask people to bring side dishes but they would have all the main food catered, and they even arranged for Santa to come and visit the children.  The other highlight is that he would convert his garage into a smoking den.  It was a tradeoff between ventilation and heat, because it was Chicago in the middle of the winter.  So he would have a kerosene heater on full blast and the garage door cracked with a window in the garage also cracked.  He would set up a couple of card tables and folding chairs and even though it was chilly and somewhat uninviting, it seemed to attract a good deal of people.  One of the few occasions I got to smoke a cigar!  Even if you were not smoking, you probably got the equivalent in second hand smoke.  I greatly enjoyed myself.  After we had lived there for a couple of years, Daryl asked if he could park his cars in our driveway to facilitate the smoking lounge.  How could I say no.  Even though the parties usually ran pretty late, with a fair amount of booze consumed, he was always up at something like 4:30 in the morning to make sure that we were not blocked in! 

Our new next door neighbors are an older couple, probably in their 70s-80s. One day last week, they invited us to come over for some sort of get together.   I first met Wally a couple of months back when we had our one significant snowfall.  We got about 8 inches, which is a lot for this area, and it was pretty heavy and wet.  I was out shoveling.  Wally came out with this little electric snowthrower.  Amazingly, it handled the job pretty well.  You couldn't go full speed with it, but it was definitely faster than a shovel.  So Wally did a little bit of his driveway, and then told me he was going to go upstairs to sleep for a bit, but that he would leave his snowthrower out and I was welcome to use it.  By this time I had almost finished my driveway, but I figured I would give it a shot.  Apparently, old Wally was not really into replacing extension cords, because the first time I went to move the cord I got a pretty good shock.  After that, I tried to use a stick or something insulated, but still got a shock here and there.  I wonder if Wally had just got used to it.

Interestingly, when Wally's wife had suggested it to my wife, she had made it very clear that we were coming over for snacks only, that there would absolutely not be a meal.  So we prepared accordingly.  It was an interesting afternoon.  First, they must have set the thermostat at 85+!  It was amazingly warm.  Even more amazing, they were both wearing pants and long sleeves, in fact Wally was even wearing a tie!  I have come to realize that the old guy loves wearing a tie, I have rarely seen him without one.  So we settled in to have some wine and cheese, and Wally really liked to let the vino flow!  It seemed like he was gulping down glasses.  I think he is a pretty funny guy anyway, but with the booze in his system he was cracking me up.  He was telling stories about his youth and how he had been quite the player and his pursuit of his now wife.  He also had not gotten the memo about the no meal policy because after we had been there for a couple of hours, he suggested that we should keep the party going by ordering a pizza!  We begged off, since we were really pretty hot by now and the girls seemed to be getting bored.  However, he then told a great joke.  I hope I can do it justice here.  He explained that the college he went to, primarily male, allowed you to take certain classes at the predominately female college.  You had to get a pass though, called an inter-school pass.  He then deadpanned that "after a few weeks the word 'school' was dropped from the name!"

Monday, May 11, 2015


Growing up, I never really thought about having kids.  I wasn't really for it or against it, just something that I didn't think about. And now I have two little girls and know most of the lines to Frozen and watched the Cinderella movie when it first came out.

Bella was small when she was first born, just about 5 pounds. When she was first born she wasn't breathing, they had to give her oxygen before I could hold her for the first time.  But, she was perfect.  For the first few months, she was no different than other newborns, she spent most of her time either sleeping or eating.  Interestingly, she spent almost no time crawling, she transitioned from rolling to walking very quickly.  She was walking at 7 months.  

Then, as she got older, she didn't seem to hit all the milestones that you read about in those books.  Before having a child, I could not have cared less about how some book said to live your life.  In fact, I would take pride in doing it differently than the book said.  But, with a child, you feel so helpless and everything seems so new.  They depend on you for everything and it is terrifying that you have no idea what is going on.  So you turn to these books for reassurance.  If your child is an outlier, you immediately fear for the worst.

It was clear from an early age that there was a lot going on inside Bella's head. She loved playing with toys and could concentrate for far longer than she was supposed to be able to.   It was also clear that she had no intention of letting us in.  She liked being held, she was very affectionate, but she had no interest in communicating.  At first, that didn't matter, but as she began to have her own wants and desires, her lack of ability to communicate meant that she would simply fly into a tantrum if her needs were not meant.  We tried to adjust, but it was hard.  I hated seeing her sad.  Sad doesn't really describe it, she would go into a full meltdown.  One time we went on a simple trip to a local horse farm near our home.  We had been there before and Bella loved it.  This time something was different.  It was cold and she needed to wear a jacket.  She resisted at first and I tried to coax her into it.  It only escalated from there.  She started crying so hard she could hardly breathe, kicking and fighting and screaming all because we tried to make her wear a jacket in the winter.  Perhaps she didn't like the color, perhaps she didn't like the way it felt against her skin.  Regardless, she couldn't tell us.  Kids don't have poker faces.  You can tell their emotion at an instance.  Which is why you can't help but smile when a baby or a toddler is laughing, no matter how you may be feeling.  Similarly, it rips you to the core to see a child so upset and angry that their face is flushed and their face is streaked with tears.

Finally, we relented.  I simply held her and wrapped her up in my jacket.  The worst part is that you feel constantly judged.  You feel judged when your child is crying uncontrollably and running away from you just because you want to put her jacket on.  Then you feel judged because you are carrying a child who can easily walk and she is not wearing a jacket in the middle of winter.

Eventually, we had to address the elephant in the room.  Tuyen and I had both been reading about Autism, but neither one had brought it up to the other.  Tuyen took her into the school to be evaluated, and they confirmed what we had suspected.  Still, it was devastating.  We could no longer hope that we were wrong or that this would just pass.  Fortunately, she started getting the help that she needed.  The first thing I noticed is that they had taught her not only that she had to wear a jacket, but she actually wanted to put it on now.  The teachers explained that unlike me, they had not relented.  They had given her an ultimatum, if she wanted to play outside, she had to wear the jacket.  I guess I wish I could have been stronger and not let her cries and tears affect me the way they did.  But I wasn't.

Looking back now at age 7, she has progressed so much.  She interacts with people, tells us about her day at school and just had a birthday party.  She is in a regular class and only occasionally needs help. I think she will always be a bit different than most in the crowd, but she gets those genetics from me.  I was never diagnosed with anything when I was younger but I remember greatly enjoying being on my own and spending lots of time alone.  I remember I didn't have much control over my emotions, sometimes the smallest thing would make me burst into tears, like getting a bad grade on a spelling test or someone calling me names.  I never really felt the need to make friends.  Even now, I feel awkward in a lot of social interactions, particularly with strangers.  Its hard to look them in the eye and I will never be the type of guy that can work the room at a party.  When you are very young, I guess everyone is a stranger.

I know family and others that are close to me are sometimes frustrated about my ability to express myself.  For instance, I probably could not have told this story aloud to anyone, even my wife.  So I hope it goes with Bella.  I have to have confidence that she will find her own way in the world.

More importantly, I have to accept it.  Recently I heard a great podcast about Autism.  The beginning of the podcast was a success story in autism, how a family had managed to get their son out of his shell and engage with them, even on a small level.  While this was uplifting and in many ways mirrored our success story with Bella, the most powerful part was a doctor that had spent a great deal of time in the field.  He had an adult son with autism, far more severe than Bella's. He explained that in most cases there are no success stories and Autism rips families apart.  His son was celebrating his 19th birthday party and still had to wear diapers.

He was right, it almost did rip our family apart.  If Tuyen and I were equally strong, it would have ripped us apart.  Fortunately, she was so much stronger and I feel terrible that I made her shoulder most of the burden.  Early on, I could not even talk about Bella's condition without sobbing.  I just wasn't ready to face it.  When we would go into meet with the teachers, I would hide in the corner, pretending to play with our youngest so that they wouldn't be able to see my face.  Tuyen had to handle the difficult conversations about where she was succeeding and where she was struggling. Of course this made it much harder for Tuyen because she couldn't talk to me about it.  So it was yesterday, when Tuyen spent her entire Mother's day making sure Bella's party would be perfect for Bella.  Making sure everyone's needs would be met. Perhaps this should be in a card for her and not here - but thank you for truly being a mother and making us the family we are.

Monday, April 27, 2015


A couple of weeks ago, we drove about 100 miles down to the Shenandoah National Park.  It was pretty amazing.  In just 100 miles you quickly transition from the built up cities of DC and the suburbs to wide open spaces with rolling hills. 

We bought a group-on to the Shenandoah caverns.  Turns out the group on was a good deal if you had 4 adults, but with two adults and 2 kids, we actually paid a little more for the group-on than if we had just bought the tickets when we got there.  Oh well. 

The caverns are privately owned, which is pretty cool.  I would love it if I owned a bunch of land and discovered these enormous caverns one day!  It did not look too promising to start with.  We showed up right when it opened, but a couple of tour buses had evidently called ahead and were able to start their tour ahead of time.  So we had 30 minutes to kill in a very touristy gift shop/waiting area.  Fortunately the girls didn't break anything and eventually our names were called.

Our group was about 8 people, mainly adults but one kid that was probably about 14 or 15.  Bella and Erin were easily the two youngest.  You take an elevator to the start of the caverns, and they are very proud of this elevator, it features prominently in all their advertisements.  One other interesting part was that our guide was training someone else.  At first, I was hoping that we didn't need a guide because I thought it would be fun to explore on our own.  However, our guide was a fun lady that definitely increased the enjoyment of the experience. 

The caverns were unlike anything I had ever experienced.  My experience with caving had been limited to the Adirondacks and a boy scout trip we took to some caves in the catskills.  On both of those occasions, it was not particularly comfortable, you spent most of your time crawling and hunched over.  Also, the only light you had was a flashlight, so you really couldn't see much.  Here, the caverns were enormous.  In some places the ceiling was 45 - 50 feet high.  Also, they had filled in much of the cave floor with gravel, so it was a pretty easy stroll.  Best of all, they had installed pretty extensive lighting, so you could really take it all in. 

Bella wanted to run off on her own at first, the guide cautioned her that if she ran off the Cave Spiders would get her!  This did not have the intended effect.  She thought it would be great to meet the Cave Spiders! 

The other interesting dynamic is that there was a bit of a war between regular tours of 10 people or so per group and the large "bus tours" of perhaps 80 people at once.  We wouldn't have learned about this except for our guide training her replacement.  Apparently, most of the bus tours are foreigners who either don't speak English or pretend not to.  Consequently, during our tour, we kept passing elements of this same bus tour.  Some of them had broken off and were significantly behind the rest of the group.  Our guide let us know that often these "bus people" (A term I coined), will try to hang back far enough so that they can go on another tour.  Our guide was very adamant that the bus people had to keep up with their group.  I then started a running joke that all the problems and issues they have in the cave were due to bus people.  It got a few laughs. 

What was pretty neat was that the cavern was neatly divided into certain rooms and it was spectacular, particularly considering that it was entirely natural.  The caverns were very much alive too, because the dripping of the water deposited materials in Stalactites and Stalagmites.  It was just the right amount of time, the girls were pretty much ready for it to be over after about 1.5 hours, but you didn't feel like you were ripped off. 

Interestingly, our admission included free entry into a number of other connected exhibits.  The first was a series of window displays from the 1800s and 1900s.  Before TV, it was common for families to entertain themselves by checking out intricate window displays.  Although I thought it would be lame, some of the exhibits were really well put together.  It was a good change of pace for the girls too, they could check these out at their own pace. 

Next, we walked down the hill to this enormous warehouse building that was entirely devoted to parade floats.  These floats were enormous, and we were the only people in the building.  I thought it was kind of creepy, but Tuyen loved it.  The final exhibit was called the "Big Yellow Barn".  Probably better described as the "Expensive Giftstore"  There wasn't a whole lot to this area, but there was an outside exhibit with a lot of ornery goats that kept the girls amused.  All in, I consider it a successful visit.  We definitely want to go back to Shenandoah Park and check out Skyline Drive some more. 

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner

I was not the best student in high school.  I was never close to failing out and took Honors and AP classes, but I thought the whole grading scheme was bullshit.  Whether you did HW or not and how often you participated shouldn't matter.  Your grade should be based 100% on your test performance.  I remember some classes where you even had to turn in your notebook and you would get graded on how neat it was and whether you had the right dividers in there.  I should have just sucked it up and played there game, it wasn't like I was going to change the system.  But, I was even more stubborn and unwilling to listen to opposing view points than I am now. 

When it came time to apply for colleges, I noticed that you could apply to up to 4 State University of NY  (SUNY) schools on one application.  While most people were spending weeks and even sometimes months agonizing over college applications, I think I knocked it out in about an hour.  I believe I applied to SUNY Buffalo, SUNY Binghamton, SUNY Stony Brook and the SUNY Maritime College.  The first three were pretty typical large state universities with a large number of possible majors and your pretty typical college experience.  The Maritime College was different though.  Here your goal was to obtain a degree but also licensure as a third officer on a large commercial ship.  Kind of like the ship from Captain Phillips. 

It was the first school I heard back from, they offered admission and a full scholarship.  They had an admitted student's day where you toured the school, got to ride on the school's training ship and meet with various students already enrolled.  So my mom and I headed out bright and early.  As it turns out a bit too bright and early as we didn't realize that this was the day that the clocks move an hour back for Day Light savings.  Much like Clark Griswold's arrival to Wally World, we were the first one's there.  This was a while ago, but I still remember a few things very clearly.  First, it was a very impressive campus, lots of stately buildings and well maintained grounds.  Second, the school had done a great job of putting this weekend together.  There were lots of activities and it was all very informative.  Even though this was not a military organization, all students were expected to wear uniforms and there were a number of military customs like marching and saluting etc. 

Almost immediately, I knew, at least subconsciously that it wasn't for me.  Maybe it was because of my maturity level or something else, but I couldn't picture myself wearing a uniform for the next 4 years and choosing such a specific career path.  To my knowledge the graduates are typically employed, but generally you will working on a large ship.  Of course, there is some irony here that I did join the Navy - yet interestingly enough have never been to sea.  As the day went on, my feeling of unease began to become more of a panic.  Until finally at lunch it grew to be too much and I ended up just bursting into tears in front of my Mom and telling her that I didn't think I could do this.  She hugged me and told me it was OK and I didn't have to make any decisions right away and for some reason that was enough to change the whole experience.  Looking back it seems so absurd, of course I didn't have to choose.  But perhaps I had already told myself in my mind that I was going to go here, before even visiting the school because they had been the first to respond and had made such a generous offer.  It may have been because things can quickly grow inside your own head to such epic proportions because you don't have that objective outside voice telling you the one thing you needed to hear to put it all in perspective.  But, for whatever reason, the relief was instantaneous. 

The rest of the day was quite pleasant. The culminating event is a brief cruise onboard the school's training vessel and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  They told us that each summer we would take a cruise on this ship and gradually get more and more responsibility.

Of course, I did not enroll.  That day was my first and only day there and I trekked off to Buffalo to go to college and begin the next phase of my life.

 Looking back on it, perhaps it would have been fun. But it is a lonely life.  Generally you are out to Sea for six months at a time.  I am sure it would have led me to some adventures, but I have been lucky enough to have some wonderful adventures regardless.  Spending evenings playing games with the girls and thinking about the family I have now, I am so glad I could not make it through that lunch!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Game Time

On the weekdays, the girls have a pretty strict schedule.  Bella does her homework with varying degrees of protest, but I think she mainly protests just to be funny.  It would work with me, but T is not having it.  I get to hang out with Erin at these times.  True to form, I never know if she is going to be super nice to me and want to snuggle and get tossed around, or if she is going to give me the cold shoulder and act like she has a restraining order against me.  After Bella finishes her homework we head upstairs to play some games after brushing teeth and putting on pajamas. 

     There are 3 games that we have to play to completion.  The first is a sort of charades game for kids.  You draw a card and have to act it out.  The girls are surprisingly good at it, particularly when they have to act out an animal.  They don’t just sit there and mime it out, rather, they go full tilt around the room roaring their heads off or screeching like a monkey depending on the card.  Sometimes I have no earthly idea what they are doing, like when Bella had to act out taking a bath and all I could think was that she was having a seizure.  She sort of assumed the posture of a hunchback and did this weird one legged sort of dance.  My other favorite part about this game is that Erin never wants to be wrong.  So if she has a guess about what the other person is acting, she will say it extremely softly.  Barely above a whisper.  Once she finds out she is right, she of course shouts it like she has never been more sure of anything in her life!  My entire goal, in this or any other game, is to annoy T.  I feel like I always more than accomplish my goal. 

     Next, we move on to sequence.  In this game, you get dealt cards with various animals on them and try to make a line of 4 of your chips before someone else does.  Here the girls have learned that sometimes a good defense is as much, if not more fun, than a strong offense.  Bella in particular seems to enjoy thwarting my plans and blocking me at the last moment when I am one chip away from getting 4 in a row.  I have never been able to convince them to join me in an alliance to overthrow T.  Erin is very much a loose cannon in this game.  Sometimes she is intent on winning, other times she is intent on playing a particular card regardless of its effect on overall strategy.  Perhaps my favorite thing that Erin does in this game is after a couple of turns she starts ending every sentence with “and I win?”  So for instance if someone suggests playing a certain card, she will ask in her cute little voice “and I win”?  Perhaps even better than this is when she does win, because she stands up, and starts jumping around and celebrating like she just won the lottery. She has a huge grin and you can’t help but laugh along with her. T taught her good sportsmanship so both Bella and Erin will acknowledge those less fortunate with a handshake and a “good game”. 
 The final game is my least favorite, but I still love it.  It is called Disney Cupcake Factory, a game I never thought I would play.  Here, there are a bunch of plastic cupcake parts, wrappers, cakes, frosting and toppers.  Based on your card, you have certain colors and shapes that you are going after.  At this point, the girls have their favorite princesses, so there is no way that Bella will ever let me be Pochohantas (who I did not know was considered a princess) or Sleeping Beauty.  However, the game is pure chance.  You draw from a series of tiles and you either get to pick up a piece of your cupcake or you get the dreaded clock tower.  If you get the clock tower you miss a turn.  However, and this is not in the rule book, everyone gets to yell out “Wop-Wop-Wop” to the person missing a turn.  Erin, loves this.  She has no problem with missing a turn as long as we all give her a hearty “Wop-Wop-Wop”  Bella is the exact opposite.  If she gets a run of bad luck and misses a few turns she gets pretty angry and threatens to quit.  She never does and is always over it within 12 seconds or so.  For a little while Erin tried to pull a fast one by putting her face on the floor and trying to peak under a tile before turning it all the way over.  This may have worked if she was invisible, but she did it very slowly and deliberately so she was pretty easy to catch.  Once again, the highlight is the girls finishing their cupcakes because then they get to leave the bakery.  Again, not part of the official rules.  Both of them like to give lengthy goodbyes to all the Princesses that have not left.  Particularly Erin, it may take her a good five minutes to get through all her remarks!  I wouldn’t trade it for the world

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Like an Idiot

I have started listening to podcasts on my commute.  I should probably listen to educational ones to make myself a better person, but I don't.  I choose comedy.  Two that I have been enjoying are "Topics" by Michael Ian Black and Michael Showalter.  These guys are hilarious, they choose to discuss a variety of issues, or topics if you will, and are absurdly smug and over the top in pretending to be extremely intellectual.  They are so good at putting on the act that you sometimes forget that it is all a joke.  One of my favorite lines "You say that there are no grey areas, yet I see you creating grey areas left and right like someone shading in a pencil drawing!"  The other one that I have been enjoying is called "How did this get made" where a bunch of comedians discuss bad movies and the absurd plots and holes in the story. 

The problem is, this stuff is pretty hilarious and I cannot suppress a laugh or a smile, so I must look like a bit of a lunatic on the train either grinning like a moron or outright chuckling to nothing in particular! 

Another reason to be happy is that we finally sold our house!  This was the first and only house we had ever bought or sold, so it was all new to me.  Buying was a lot less stressful than selling.  I think our realtor was a bit of a snake oil salesman.  Some of the shenanigans that he employed:

1.  Every single e-mail that he sent me included his full signature, that was at least 20 lines.  A good 18 lines were dedicated to these bullshit awards that he had evidently won.  Some were really hard to interpret, like he had a four star rating.  I have no idea whether that was out of 4 or 20 stars, or who gave these ratings or what the criteria was.  Everything was cloaked in ambiguity.  In addition to his 4 star rating he was also rated a "platinum" seller.  Again, I have no idea where this falls on the precious metal scale of realtors.  Is platinum better than gold?  Is it based on the value of the metal or its conductivity?  Regardless, even if it was a 5 word reply, I had to deal with his monster of a signature.

2. There were certain e-mails that he sent me every week, canned status updates.  For whatever reason, he had programmed them so they were sent out at 2 am on a Sunday morning.  I guess the idea was that I would think he was a real go-getter and constantly working, that or a meth fiend.  The jig was up pretty quickly though because these e-mails were always sent at the exact same time and contained zero original content. 

3. He loved creating drama out of thin air.  I think he was upset that I did not use his recommended lawyer for the closing.  So, in his passive aggressive way, he would send me e-mails that implied the world was about to end because my attorney had not responded to his e-mail quickly enough.  He also loved throwing my attorney under the bus representing that she was not doing enough to move the deal forward even though this guy was getting a nice percentage of the sale price simply for setting up automated e-mails! 

4.  My personal favorite was how vehement he was that I not attend the closing.  In his typical flare for the dramatic he admonished me that he had seen so many sales fall apart because of the buyer saying stupid things at the closing.  I guess he thought I must be an idiot or have Tourette's and believed I would just blurt out absurd things like "Man that flood was a fun time"  or "Never thought I would see a house fire like that".  If I had been in the area I would have showed up at the closing just to spite him, but it wasn't worth the travel. 

The one thing that surprised me about the whole process is how attached I had become to the old girl.  Don't get me wrong, I am glad we sold her and it made no sense to keep paying the mortgage and utilities, but it feels a bit strange to know other people will be in there.  We lived in that house longer than we have lived anywhere else and it was the first home that either of the girls really knew.  I suspect that the nostalgia will fade, but probably never disappear completely.

Monday, February 23, 2015


It all started off easily enough.  I had a fresh podcast of "This American Life" and the soothing sounds of Ira Glass' voice as I set off on my virtual journey.  Even though it was cold and icy outside, it was perfectly comfortable in the fitness room of our housing area.

So I figured I should start out at 6 mph, a flat 10 min per mile pace.  Every five minutes, I would increase the pace a little bit, just to keep things interesting.  The first piece of the podcast had to do with a guy from Missouri that had been convicted and sentenced to 13 years for armed robbery.  The only problem was that he never actually served his sentence.  Rather, the prosecutor mistakenly represented to the Judge that he had indeed began his sentence and was not out on bail (even though he was).  So, everything seemed to be going well for this guy.  He got married, started a family and ran a successful business.  He almost got away with it.  Ironically, approximately 13 years later, Missouri was going through the process of releasing him.  It was only then that they realized he had never actually served any time.  So, they sent a heavily armed squad of U.S. Marshalls to his house early in the morning and hauled him in.

I have mixed feelings on this guy.  He knew that the State had screwed up.  He was guilty and knew that he was only out on a technicality.  On the other hand, he had showed rehabilitation.  He was a functioning member of society, paid his taxes and was a good father.  There seemed little reason to put him away for 13 years at a cost of $20k a year just to exact revenge.  Besides, the State shouldered a fair amount of the blame.  He wasn't hiding, they knew exactly where he was, they simply failed to come get him.  Ultimately the State agreed and released him after a few months.  Amazingly, he was picked up on a robbery charge a few months later.  However, this time he was innocent, there was video proof that he was not anywhere near where the crime occured.  Ultimately he was cleared of that charge as well.

That took me through the first twenty minutes and I was feeling great.  I had a couple of miles down and was ready for more.  The next piece was pretty lame.  It was a short fiction piece that NPR had converted into a "radio drama"  It featured a young lady out on a date with a pretty charming guy.  Turns out that this guy is a pretty brutal African warlord, but he talks about it all, including the gruesome details inherent in the business of being a warlord, like just another job.  The young lady, while taken aback, still goes forward with the date.  I think it was well thought out and an interesting concept.  The idea that a warlord is a person too, and even warlords may go on first dates where the topic of the absurdity of flour-less chocolate cake is discussed.  (Flour is probably one of the healthier things in cake - so are they just bragging that their cake is butter and eggs).  Overall, not a terrible segment, but just did not appeal to me.

That one probably took me to about the three mile mark.  Three miles is tough, because you have knocked off a fair bit, but in the spirit of Robert Frost, I still had miles to go before I could rest (sleep).  The next piece was very short, but good.  It was a comedian reflecting on her middle school music teacher.  Apparently this guy was pretty laid back and let the kids bring in their favorite records and play them for the class.  (Incidentally, I had a pretty kooky guy for music class in middle school - he was big into playing weird music with the lights turned down and just lying on the floor and letting the music "flow" through you - pretty sure he would have passed a bong around if he was just a little bit more nutty).  So this lady loved the Rolling Stones and the Beatles and always brought in their records to play.  One day, one of the other kids in class asked her for advice on what song to play in class.  He had brought his Dad's Rolling Stones album in and she immediately picked the song "You can't always get what you want" I am not a big Rolling Stones fan, but I do know that this song is pretty popular.  However, the song is quite long and the first minute or so features what sounds like a children's quire singing the chorus very slowly and at a very high pitch.  Unfortunately, for our story teller, the class ended before the song got good.  This kid who had asked her for help thought she had played a cruel trick on him.

I think this took me through 3.5 to 4 miles.  I almost gave up on the next story.  Honestly, I am probably not giving it justice here because I was spacing out during a lot of it.  It just seemed that the story teller was trying too hard to make his audience feel a certain way.  He told the story of a long cab ride that he took in Israel shortly after his wife had a miscarriage and he learned that his father needed a risky operation due to cancer.  In order to stand any chance at beating the cancer, the doctors would need to remove his dad's tongue and larynx.  So, this guy is in a bad mood.  For whatever reason, he takes it out on his taxi driver who is just trying to be friendly.  The issue I had with it is that he never tells his taxi driver that he is not in the mood for talking.  He just thinks it to himself really hard.  As if this taxi driver is some sort of mind reader!  In my opinion, taxi drivers are usually pretty interesting.  They are often immigrants to the country, work extremely long hours and have a deep and never ending hatred of Uber!  I have no problem chatting with them, in fact provided that they can get me to my destination (see last post) I am generally pretty easy going on them.  Not this guy though, he just ends up unloading on his taxi driver telling him to shut the hell up.  This is shortly after the taxi driver has told a story of another taxi driver trying to screw his out a few thousand dollars.  Our narrator, continuing his theme of being batshit crazy, tells the taxi driver to pull over at a bank and he will withdraw a couple of thousand bucks and give it to the taxi driver.  All that the driver needs to do in return is create a scenario where the taxi driver's wife just had a miscarriage and the taxi driver's dad has cancer.  What an asshole.  I understand that people have different levels of pain that they are dealing with at any given time, but just because one person is going through some tough personal issues does not negate the troubles of others.  Also, all this taxi driver did was pick this dude up and talk to him.  This guy acted like the taxi driver was somehow responsible for all the bad stuff this guy was facing.  I really would have liked to have heard the story from the perspective of the taxi driver.  It probably would have been fairly interesting - something about making small talk with a dude and the guy completely losing his mind!  I have spent enough on this, but ultimately there was some crap about the taxi getting hit with a bomb or involved in a traffic accident (see how little I was paying attention here) and the guy in the taxi not wanting to tell his Dad, so as not to worry him.

I was really hoping for something good, and NPR did not disappoint.  The next segment dealt with the non-fiction story of the meat shortage in the US in the early 1900s.  These two guys, incredibly smart and innovative men, came up with the idea of introducing hippopotamuses as a food source.  It was actually pretty brilliant, because hippos could live and graze in land that was totally useless for cattle or other livestock.  The other issue they could address is there was an outbreak of a particularly invasive plant in the wetlands at the time and the hippos could turn that into meat.  While on its face it seemed crazy, it really wasn't.  Most of the meat we currently eat (sheep. cattle, chickens) are not native to North America, we have just been eating them for so long that we don't consider them imported.  Interestingly, the guy presenting the story seemed to think if they had e-mail and faster communication, it may have worked.  Because both of these guys were constantly travelling, they were forever sending letters that were crossing in the mail.  One of the guys went on to great success and both Yale and Stanford wanted his papers, as I am sure they will want this blog!  Even then, many years later, he still believed that it was a good idea.

So ended the podcast, but not my run.  I had hit six miles and was pretty much wiped.  But I wanted that last mile.  I had to reduce the speed to a pretty pathetic pace for a couple of minutes to get my second wind, but eventually it came and I was able to power through the last mile!