Today marks 1 year that the Sabra and I have been married...how crazy is that? I never thought I'd actually get married, let alone be celebrating an anniversary. Wow, craziness.
We are going to watch a movie and eat Ethiopian for dinner...nice way to celebrate, don't you think?
One down, and the rest of our lives to go.
a good cupcake recipe?
Today, my friends, is a milestone. Today, I have successfully made it one entire year!
Thank you, thank you very much!
Here we go. New Year’s Eve and Day have come and gone, and now it’s time to get down to business with my New Year’s Resolutions. Below are all my resolutions, in no particular order, for 2008. Let’s see how many I actually do:
- Buy a new suit
- Cook more, eat out less
- Find a new job
- Finish my 10 year old article
- Get angry less
- Get back to doing research
- Go to the Gym
- Keep "It" up for another year
- Learn a new language
- Lose 30 pounds
- Make a new friend
- Read a classic
- Start my book
- Take a class
- Take more pictures
- Tick off something else on my “Things to Do before I Die” list
- Travel to a country I’ve never been to before
I am participating in one of the most important duties an American like me can perform. I was invited to appear at the DC Superior Court as a potential petit juror. Much to my surprise (and a welcome one to be honest), I was selected to sit on a criminal case. Because I take oaths and such seriously, I will talk about the case once it is over. In the meantime, all I will say is that so far it is quite interesting, and it’s a nice change of pace from my usual tedious and boring days at NASA.
This post, however, is not about jury duty, but rather about a rather odd experience I had today. As I walked from the Metro station to the courthouse, I saw an older gentleman who was carrying a cup of coffee. This man approached another man, and gently, playfully punched him on the shoulder. The two chatted for a moment, and I assumed that they must have known each other. After I thought about it for a moment, I wasn’t really sure if they knew each other or were just participating in that instantaneous camaraderie and faux brotherly love that a certain demographic in our society engage in on the streets and in the Metro system.
Without much more thought, I continued on my way. All of the sudden, it occurred to me that this same dude was walking up behind me. But not only was he walking behind me, he was also walking at an angle towards me that would cause him to walk INTO me. As I looked up to make sure that he was aware that he was treading dangerously close to my personal space—and that he wasn’t intending to nick my wallet—he smiled at me and playfully and gently punched me in the arm. At this point, I was too stunned to say anything, and he had already accelerated and moved on ahead of me.
To say that I had an eerie feeling would be an understatement. I felt like what I expect everyone who George Lass touches might feel. A little sense of connection to the person who just touched me. A little ominous feeling that something dreadful was going to happen to me. A little frightened that a total stranger touched me, but yet, safe and secure as it was not a threatening touch in any way; but, rather, it was a gentle and soothing touch. I looked around to see if any Gravelings were in the vicinity, but I couldn’t find any.
Without going into too much detail, I had a little “bout” yesterday that caused me to run out of the courtroom rather quickly and return rather embarrassedly. I still wasn’t 100% last night, and after overmedicating myself with Imodium this morning to ensure there would be no repeat of yesterday, I set out for court. I kid you not that after that weird guy touched me, and I reassured myself he was no Reaper, an odd sense of calm overcame me, and I knew that not only would my stomach hold out on me, but that it was going to be a good day. While most of my posts here are a bit cynical or tongue-in-cheek, I have to be honest, that I’m not kidding around. I really did get that clouds parting and angels singing moment.
Sure enough, the Imodium worked (a little too well, if you know what I mean), it was a good day, and the Sailor called me that his new job is hiring and his boss was interested in talking to me about another opening they have.
Do I believe in guardian angels? I’m not sure. Do I believe that scary, odd homeless men can bring joy and happiness to a complete stranger? I’m sure.
For those who care and are keeping track, today is 300 days!
My favorite episode of Magnum, P.I. is an episode called “Home From the Sea,” which happens to be episode 64 from season 4 if anyone cares. In this episode, Thomas is knocked off his kayak and must tread water until he is (of course) eventually rescued. I can’t exactly tell you why I like this episode best, but I do. It’s all about him using memories to help him forget that he is in the middle of the ocean caught in a current that is taking him from Hawaii to Southeast Asia. The recurring memory is of his father “training” him to tread water. At one point, you see young Thomas Magnum saluting in a John John pose as he looks on at his father’s funeral. On his wrist is his father’s watch, which is entirely too large for young Thomas’ preteen wrist. This image fades into adult Thomas’s adult wrist wearing the same watch. As the camera pulls back, we see the adult Thomas looking at the watch while he continues to tread water. After checking his watch, he says that now every second is a record for treading water.
All of this is to say that at 7 months, I am now officially at a point where every day is a new record!
How exciting…I never really thought I’d make it this far…but I have.
I bought a ½ pint carton of milk at work this morning to put into my cereal. As I rode the elevator up to the 9th floor, I read the labels on the carton. Here’s what one of the panels read:
INGREDIENTS: FAT FREE MILK, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN D3.
Uh, yea. But it seems to me that it should at the very least say “Contains: Cow’s milk.” How do I know that I’m not drinking dog’s milk, or dingo’s milk, or even worse, pig’s milk? If they are going to be kind enough to tell me that there is milk in my milk (sorry for sounding like W.C. Fields here—“Who put pineapple juice in my pineapple juice?”), I would appreciate knowing what kind of milk is in my milk.
Sailor Boy and I had an adventure Saturday. It was pretty awesome! It was the first time in a very long time that I did something exciting and was able to cross off something on my list of Things to Do before I Die.
We went hang gliding.
So, I headed down to his place in Alexandria, which seemed kind of odd to me as he had to come rather near my apartment…but he was driving, so I couldn’t complain. I got there, and we were off to run some errands he had to do at the last minute. Whatev, no worries. Finally, we were off and on our way.
I was navigator, which is not always a good thing. I had MapQuest directions in hand, and all was good until we were supposed to get off at a road that didn’t seem to exist. Whatev, no worries. We just turned around and tried again. Nope, no good. We seemed to have missed this phantom exit again. So, we end up taking the way long way round to get to Route 50. OK, so we’re finally on the right road, and all is well. We get to the Bay Bridge and traffic begins to slow, but it’s OK because we still have plenty of time. The email we received said that we had a noon fly time, and the small print, which we didn’t read until much later, said we needed to be there a ½ hour early for ground school (i.e., training).
So, I start to get a little worried because traffic is slowing, and as a born and inbred Baltimoron, I should have known that what with it being a beautiful day, there was going to be tons of traffic heading “downy shore.” (That’s “going to the beach at Ocean City” in Baltimorese.) Sure enough, traffic grinds to a halt. I start to get really nervous. After all, I sunk $175 into this venture. So, I called the place and told them, and the guy was very friendly and told me that he had received several calls from other people saying they, too, were stuck in traffic and that it was no problem…just get there when we could. Besides, he said, the cloud deck was very low, and they were waiting for it clear. I looked out the window, and he was right.
After what felt like hours (but not really more than ½ of one), we pulled into the parking lot at Highland Aerosports. It was kind of a strange name, really, because we were close to the ocean, which means that everything is very flat—not even an anthill, let alone anything that could be misconstrued as highlands…not even a wee bonny lass to be seen. We walked around a bit and saw people learning the moves they would need once they hurled themselves from the safe confines of a plane. We passed other folks lounging around, and we finally found the group who, like us, had come here based on an email we received from Things To Do (more on them anon). We filled out the obligatory paperwork that said that if we died we couldn’t sue Highland Aerosports, and then the wait began.
As I mentioned, we were supposed to be there at 11:30. I’d say we got there about 12:30. Had everything filled out by 12:35, so we were ready to go. The Sailor tried to make friends with this group of 5 girls, but they were clearly more interested in the sleazy frat boys (who, by the by, if they weren’t as old as me, they were way older). That was really no problem as Sara, the leader of the pack, was one of those people who talks incessantly and says absolutely nothing. (I recognize that what I’m about to say is cliché, but sometimes there’s a reason something is cliché.) She had a voice like nails on a chalkboard. After 15 minutes of listening to her saying absolutely nothing, I was desperately looking for a gun to shoot myself or at least a shovel to whack myself over the head. While I was looking for the aforementioned weapons of opportunity, the frat boys were surely looking at her and her girlfriends’ tits.
Then there was the Executive Assistant who had a chip on her shoulder because she was an executive assistant and she did a lot more than that and didn’t get the pay. Fortunately, she explained, she was going to an MBA program in the fall, and there she knew she wouldn’t have to work hard because those programs aren’t about work, they’re about networking, and while she knows that she’s going to ace the GMAT, she knew that she was going to do well. Oh, and even though she didn’t actually seem to know the word legacy, she knew that she was one for some school where her dad went so that was her fallback school because she was going to get in there. Oh, did I mention that she was ½ French (and had the passport) but didn’t speak any French. Oh, and did I mention that she does a whole lot more than a typical executive assistant at a Fortune 500 company does (after all, those executive assistants do nothing but get coffee, while she does everything at her company).
Then there was the rep from Things To Do. He, too, looked like a frat boy, but at least he was the right age. He was extremely unprofessional and annoying, but at least he was friendly. He arrived late as well—also due to the traffic. I came to find out later that there was another reason (more below). He brought pizza and soda as promised in the email. He also brought a girl. (more below). The Sailor and I had conflicting attitudes about his role. I felt that as the rep for Things To Do, he should have been there early, he should have been around to entertain us, and he should have ensured that we all got a turn. Here’s how it played out:
As I mentioned, he came late. Officially, it was because of traffic. As I mentioned, he brought a girl. It turns out that the girl was not his girlfriend, but some chick he was trying to bang. What better way to impress a chick than take her hang gliding. So, he arrived at her house bright and early, and apparently she had no desire to go (with him?) hang gliding, so she wasn’t ready. He apparently wouldn’t take no for an answer and waited for her to get ready—thus making him late. As I mentioned, due to the low cloud deck, we had to wait a ridiculously long time. So, instead of ensuring that we were all happy and satisfied, he walks over to his jeep, takes off his shirt, gets into the jeep, and reclines the seat. He came back about 5 minutes later to talk to the chick he brought and convince her to get in the jeep as well—where, he announced to her so all could hear, that it was much more comfortable.
Finally, we are told to head down to the flight line so we can get ground school training. We all wander down there, and again we wait for about 10 minutes (but this time there is no shade, but it’s also about 3:30 at this point). Ground school consists of the “instructor” saying that if we shift our weight to the left, we go left, if we shift right, we go right. Forward speeds us up and back slows us down. We needed a ½ hour for that?
So, then he says who’s first? Sara, of course, pipes up and say she will go. The Sailor says that he will go first on the other glider. Because we had planned to buy a roll of film to get our pics taken in flight, I was to go after him. One of the dudes in our group (not the frat boy, but still a dude macking on the annoying chicks) asks the Sailor if he get jump ahead of us because he has somewhere to be far away—like we don’t. Being the gentleman, the Sailor agrees. Once that dude is in the air, the rep comes by and asks if his “girlfriend” can jump ahead of us as well because he wants her to get a chance to go and he needs to leave early because he has another event he needs to attend in DC. Sara, in the meantime, is airborne, and we can actually hear her; yup, you guessed right, she still hasn’t shut her mouth. Once Sara lands, she is out of her harness and gapping away about her flight. One of her girlfriends is getting into the harness, and the guys that work there are trying to help her, but Sara is barking orders and instructing her friend how to do it this way and do it that way. I give the workers a lot of credit, I would have told her to shut the fuck up, but they just laughed it off.
Next thing I know, the rep is gearing up to go next. WTF? He’s the worker bee, and he has now muscled not only his girlfriend in before a bunch of others (paying others, I might add), but he has now gotten himself ahead of the crowd. Once he landed, the two of them were gone. Good riddance as far as I’m concerned.
Finally, it was our turn, and going on 5 pm. The Sailor went first, and it was so cool to watch him go up and work his way down. I was waiting for some crazy acrobatics, but none came. When he landed I asked if he had pussyed out. No, it turns out that he was too heavy, and they really shouldn’t have taken him. This was another bone of contention for me. If Things To Do had handled this professionally, they would have told us before we paid the $175 each to go. No matter, he was able to go up and come down safely, so he at least got the experience.
I need to stress at this point that I have no issues with Highland Aerosports, and I felt that they were competent and professional throughout. It was only this Things To Do and their questionable choice of letting an inexperienced, immature child be the responsible party. I say this because it is now my turn to go hang gliding, and it was so totally worth the wait!
I get harnessed up. We went tandem, so the instructor was below me. As I was squirming into the harness, he was explaining to me again how to control the glider, and where to keep my hands on the ascent. We were snuggled in, and the tow line was in place. The instructor looked up and behind him at me and asked if I was ready. “As ready as I’ll ever be,” I replied. With that, he gave the signal to the tow plane, and away we went.
The glider we were on had 3 wheels, 2 in the front, and 1 in the back. They were like the wheels on a shopping cart: wobbly. To make it worse, we were taking off on a dirt runway, which means there were lots of rocks around to make for a bumpy ride. At least, that was what I was ready for…a bone-jarring ride down a runway that resembled something you’d see the Escobar Cartel using. No, that wasn’t it at all. Immediately after he gave the go signal, I felt us accelerating, accelerating fast. Within 30 feet the glider was airborne, and we were now skimming over the dirt and pebbles, gliding smoothly through the air. Before 30 seconds we were at least 100 feet in the air. The instructor asked how I was doing. I had to take a moment to collect my thoughts. My first thought was why is every muscle in my body so taut? So, I relaxed, took a deep breath and said that I was doing great. I looked down and it was like looking out of a plane window, except I could feel the wind on my face. It was so beautiful to be so high in the air and looking down over God’s Green Earth. The clouds were gone and visibility had to have been several miles. I asked the instructor how fast we were going. He said we were going about 35 miles an hour. I remember saying that I was surprised that he and I could have a conversation…that it was so much quieter than I would have expected. He told me to wait until the plane released us.
He was right. To say that it was majestic just doesn’t do justice to the experience of soaring through the air. Humanity has fought with gravity since time immemorial, da Vinci and his prototype of the helicopter, hot air balloons, and the airplane. And here I was, one insignificant mortal looking physics in the face and laughing, defying nature, defying laws, flying. The ability to reflect like this and to witness the Earth sprawling out before you while being suspended by nylon 2,100 feet in the air is testament to what hang gliding was for me. There was something so peaceful and cathartic about soaring like the birds, living above the clouds.
I was startled back to reality when the instructor asked if I wanted to take the helm. Hell yea, I did. He told me to turn right. I leaned in, and the serene moment was shattered. I managed to get the glider to turn, but suddenly it felt like we were going to flip, or worse yet, that we were pointing downward too much and that we were going to crash. I felt like I was about to panic, when I heard the instructor’s voice, calm and clear, say, “good, now, level us off to trim.” What the fuck is “trim”? They didn’t teach us that in “ground school.” So, a little scared that I was going to flip to the right, I moved my body weight back to left, and we began to level off in the new course. I leaned back and the nose came up a little. We were flying straight. The instructor looked up at me and said, “that was really good. Most people over compensate and get out of the turn too soon.” Really? You mean my sudden almost panic attack was for naught? COOL! I think I can get the hang of this.
Then he told me to turn left. Feeling a little more confident that the feeling of flipping was normal and I shouldn’t worry, I put my weight into turning left and straightening out again to trim (which I figured out was when you are flying straight with the horizon). He told me I was swinging my weight wrong…don’t pull my body to the left, but pull the glider down to my left hip (or right as the case might be). I tried that going into a right turn, and amazingly, it was almost effortless. I was smiling, amazed that I hadn’t panicked. I was so proud of myself. Then he asked if I wanted to stall? “Hell no,” I replied. And in that same confident and calm tone, he said, “OK, no problem.”
Then I realized that I was pussying out, so I asked if we could do a few acrobatics. He said sure, and I removed my hands from the bars, and held on tight. The first thing we needed to do, he explained was stall. He pushed all of our weight back and brought the nose straight up. You could feel all the wind stop for a second. It was like the cartoons where you are just suspended in air, then, like coming off the acme of a rollercoaster, we dropped, but my stomach didn’t. He immediately put us into a turn, first to the right, then to the left. Apparently, the tandem gliders can’t do a full 360, so he had to come out of the role so we wouldn’t plummet to the ground. We did about 2 or 3 of these, and then we were too low, and he set us up for landing.
Landing was actually the scariest part. We were coming in hot and fast. I understand better how the Space Shuttle works, for we did basically the same thing. We needed to bleed off speed, so we banked right, then we banked left as we approached ground. Because you don’t want to fall to the ground, you actually need to increase speed a little before landing. So, as we skimmed the ground, inches from touching down, if felt that we were going pretty fast, and I was waiting for the teeth-rattling landing that I was sure would be the end of this amazing adventure. It didn’t come, the instructor landed us as gently as placing a Ming vase on its pedestal.
And 10 minutes after taking off it was over. After waiting for over 4 hours, it was all worth it! It was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my short life. The Sailor said that he had a great time, and he was glad that he had the experience, but he wasn’t sure he needed to do it again. Me, I’m not so sure. We had to join the United States Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, and the membership is good for 30 days. You need so many flights before you can be certified to go it alone, and this one will count if I do it again within the 30 days. I’m sure I won’t, but I’m seriously thinking of going again and seeing if I like it as much the second time around. Also, going directly to Highland Aerosports, it only costs about $130.
Stay tuned, there might be more stories about me hang gliding, and I will try to get the pic developed soon!
Today marks 6 months. 180 days. 4,320 hours. 259,200 minutes. 15,552,000 seconds.
Not too shabby, eh?