Posts filed under ‘Stacy McMahon’

Greetings From Vail

Greetings from Vail, Colorado!

Transition from Spring to Winter
On Saturday afternoon, I took the dogs for a nice spring hike in Virginia.  We had wonderful warm weather and lots of sunshine.  On the drive back, I passed a house where a little girl was taking down a decorative snowman from her front porch.  Spring was definitely in the air…. and here I was leaving for a winter vacation the very next morning!

Thanks to my insistence to hike with the dogs on my last day home, I put myself in a frenzied situation where I was packing and preparing until 1 AM Saturday night.  That’s all fine and good except I needed to leave at 4:30 AM Sunday morning to get to Greensboro in time for my flight!  Needless to day, Sunday was a tiring day.  But all in all with such little sleep, every leg of the journey went by exceedingly smoothly.  Even my wee hour drive to Greensboro got kicked off with a bang.  As soon as I turned on the car, James Blunt’s “Your Beautiful” came on the radio. 

That song always reminds me of skiing!  Last year, Carolyn and I were skiing a sparse weekday at Snowshoe and that song was playing at one of the lift loading stations.  I was fond of that song already, but it was so much better as Carolyn and I ascended up the mountain and listened to it slowly fade away under the whir of the lift and the silence of the fresh mountain snow.  With that one song on my car radio, I was suddenly in the mood for winter again. 🙂

First Ski Day
Yesterday was my first day on the slopes.  Our crew currently includes Kipp, Stacy, Mike Newman, myself, Paul (Kipp’s brother) and Sarah (Kipp’s brother’s girlfriend).  At first, I thought, “This isn’t that much different than the east coast”, but then as our adventure progressed the views got exponentially more beautiful.  Sometimes, it felt like I was in a movie, all the scenery just did not seem real.  Riding up the chair lifts is a whole different experience because you have so much to look at.  And sometimes, a flat section was a bonus because you could afford to absorb the views (and rest your weary legs).

Last night, we had a wonder dinner at Ti Amo in West Vail/Avon.  It was expensive like all our meals here, but it was well worth the extra expense.  It was far above the caliber of the $5 bottle of Gatorade I had at the Two Elks Lodge.  🙂  I had a pasta entree that featured jumbo shrimp, garlic, mushrooms, a cream sauce (not cheese!) and sun-dried tomatos.  Very good.

We’ve had some casualties so far– Kipp sprained his thumb.  Stacy got sunburn and Kipp got a nice extended snow burn on his back.  Nonetheless, everyone is still having great fun. 

My new cell phone camera proved to be useful yesterday.  I took some pictures from the slopes and thanks to Flickr’s upload capability, I was able to upload them live from the slopes.  Here are a couples of pictures:


Mike Newman, Me (in my Rocky Mountain National Park shirt), Stacy

More of our Vail pictures are available on my Flickr site

March 27, 2007 at 12:25 pm 2 comments

News of Note

I heard some news tonight!  Basically, out of the three high school friends in the picture below, there is only one person who has not had or is not currently expecting a child:


Vicky, Stacy, Christina at our High School Grad Party in 1993

The odd one out would be yours truly.  Stacy is now a father!


Stacy holding his daughter, Addie 

You can read a bit about Stacy and Melanie’s daughter, Addison Grace, on his blog and you can see more pictures of her on his Flickr site.

Congrats to the proud parents!

March 23, 2007 at 11:53 pm Leave a comment

Journal Excerpt: 2006 Snowshoe Ski Trip

In January 2006, I joined my sister and a number of friends for a five day ski trip at Snowshoe Mountain, West Virginia.  By request, here are my journal entries from that trip.  I think they will be of little interest to the people who did not attend.

Lodging Woes 

1-22-2006
306 C The Summit
Showshoe Mountain

Greetings from Snowshoe!  Our trip is going well– which is very impressive considering all the obstacles with lodging and [the abscence of viable] cell phone signals.

Our arrivals were stratefied– as everyone had their own plans and differing departure points.  Carolyn came up with a valeuable idea — have us all meet at Foxfire Grille at 3:30 PM.

We weren’t all prompt– but we did all convene at the restaurant eventually (except Christian and Shannon).

I made it there nearly 30 minutes late.  I was certain I would have missed the rendez-vous.  We didn’t know what our address was beforehand– Carolyn only found out at check in.  So it was pretty important to meet up with everyone — so I’d know the lodging details.

As luck would have it, everyone was still at the Foxfire.  And– I wasn’t even the last to arrive!  Greg and Nicole arrived some time after me.

So the seven of us (Tony, Lud, Carolyn, Stacy, myself, Greg and Nicole) all ate an early supper.

Carolyn had already been to the check-in counter and knew we were staying at Unit 15 in Treetop.  But we couldn’t get the keys until after five.  So after supper we (Carolyn, Vicky, Stacy, Greg and Nicole) moseyed over to Top of the World to get the keys.

Well– that was easier said than done.  After a lengthy delay they said the keys were at the bottom of the mountain and on the way up.  

Meanwhile while we were on that mission, Tony and Lud were securing rentals.  The plan was to meet at 15 Treetop.

Back at Top of the World– the employee helping us mentioned a couple (supposedly Shannon and Christian) was looking for us and would be waiting at Foxfire Grille.

So Carolyn, Greg and Nicole decided to wait for the keys (which would supposedly be another 10-20 minutes) and Stacy and I went on an expedition back to Foxfire Grille to look for Shannon and Christian.

Stacy and I waited sometime at Foxfire, just in case Shannon and Christian were taking the slow shuttle.  We finally aborted and went to the Treetop lodging– thinking everyone would have keys and be good to go.

The parking lot was vastly empty.  Stacy and I parked and Tony and Lud came out of Lud’s jeep.  Turns out the keys had not been secured yet!  Tony and Lud had been waiting the entire time.  Stacy and I were the first to show up!  Needlesstosay, Tony and Lud were disappointed Stacy and I were not bearing the key.

Night Skiing 

Lud was anxious to go night skiing– Tony wanted to lay low as his knee was sore and Stacy leaned against night skiing as well.

So– I added some layers and prepared to join Lud on the slopes.  There was only one problem– I didn’t have  my lift ticket yet– it was with Carolyn!  But– Stacy had a lift ticket!

“Stacy– switch coats with me!” I demanded.  He had his lift ticket already attached.

Stacy complied and then a few minutes later I made a poor decision.  I took my shoes off and stood on the parking lot…when it had been raining all day.  I quickly realized my mistake and leapt into the dry safety of the car… only now my shoes were out of reach and I had no dry means to retrieve them.

“Stacy!” I called, “Hand me those shoes!”

Stacy chucked and said, “I always wondered what it’d be like to be Brian.”  🙂

Lud and I headed out and had a good but brief night skiing adventure.

1 + 1 + 1 + 1  Does Not Equal 3

The highlight of the whole evening occurred while Lud and I were waiting in a ski lift line (an unlikely spot for a night’s highlight).  The chair lift was a triple chair lift.  In other words– it holds three people.

Well– FOUR fully grown men (who should have known better) all tried to get on at once.

It was not a successful venture– they were too wide for the chair.  It was a big commotion when the chair reached them.  One guy got reamed in the behind.  Skis fell off and lots of noise was to be heard.  It was hilarious.

More Lodging Woes

Lud and I had some adventures after skiing.  When we returned to the condo– still no familiar cars were in the parking lot.  I walked up and determined the door was locked.  I knocked but I knew there was little hope– the lights were out.

So Lud and I decided to try to track them down.  We checked all sorts of bars in the Village and the Shaver Center.

No luck– bar after bar was filled to the rim– but all with strange faces.

Finally we returned to the townhouse.  Still no cars– so I relieved Lud and told him I could hang out in my car.  He left and I made one more stab at the door.  As I walked up, I was cursing my travel companions.

“A damn note would have been helpful!” I thought.

Lo and Behold- I get up there and there was a note!  In fact– the note had been there all along– I somehow missed it the first go around.

It turned out Carolyn, Greg and Nicole waited for over an hour for those mysterious keys that were at the bottom of the mountain!  And still no keys.  So we got upgraded to a bigger townhouse at the Summit.

All in all– it was a good deal for us– no one had to sleep on the floor (Tony Airaghi opted to sleep outside on the balcony but he had a bed if he wanted it).

Still– it sure brought forth a lot of confusion and that confusion seeped into today as well.

When Lud dropped me off– he and I made plans.

“I’ll just come up here and meet you,” he said, “when I wake up.”

He had no idea we had moved.  So– I left the original note at the townhouse.

This morning time ticked by and still no Lud.  So we left two more notes.  One at the new place, one at the old.  In it– we proposed three time and places to meet up.

I used some price tags from canned goods to stick the notes to the respective doors.  Carolyn have an inventive way to post her note as well.  She ripped out a hole and attached it to the handle of the door.

Anyway– our notes were not appreciated by the intended audience.  Lud never found any of the notes!

“I’m amazed at the total ineffectiveness of notes,” Stacy commented later.

Well– just like St. Matthew writes God will take care of the little birds and like Mao writes Heaven will not delay a traveller, Lud was taken care of.

Early in the afternoon, Carolyn, Shannon and I ran into Lud!! Our group was reunited and Tony knew where his ride was!

Commercial Contradictions

Tonight we are all pooped– so we’ve laid low.  I noticed one pattern– we seem to be laughing a lot at pharmaceutical commericials.

“There are ones,” Christian said, “Where the side effects contradict each other.  It’ll say may cause insomnia and it’ll say right after that– drowsiness!”

I told them about Sean’s antibiotics for his surgery.  One said as a side effect your urine may turn dark– but it was normal behavior.

The other one said, “Call your doctor *immediately* if you experience darkening of urine!”

Luckily Sean was not put in the predictament to determine which medicine was causing dark urine– the harmless one or the troublesome one!

Best Conditions 

1-29-2006

Skiing went well.  I skied a little bit each day I was there.  The funnest day was Monday and it seemed like it would be the most miserable day.  It was rainy & foggy.  We were determined to get out on the slopes, however.  It turned out to have the best conditions of all the days!  The rain kept the top level of snow soft so it was easy to steer and stop.  And– more importantly, the rain detered the other skiers from coming out so the slopes were pretty abandoned.  No lines, no dodging fallen snowboarders and no ice.  It made for a very peaceful day on the mountain.

We also went night skiing that night– I had to meet the others as I had some contract work to do at Starbuck’s.  After my work– I drove to the Silver Creek area and walked out to the slopes.  As I skiied down to the lift from the lodge, I was literally the only person on the trail.  With the darkness all around me (except for the lit snow on the trail) and the silence (except for the whish of my skis in the snow), it was an invigorating, uplifting run.

It didn’t take long to reunite with my friends– on my second run– I eyed the passengers on the ski lift and soon enough, I spied familiar outfits!

Time Flies

Time really flew fast on our trip.  On Saturday and Sunday I was full of plans.

“Maybe I’ll take a snowboarding lesson,” I thought.

or

“Hey I think I’ll do cross country skiing one day.”

Over the weekend, it seemed I had all the time in the world.  But before I knew it, it was our last day and I had not fit in a snowboard lesson nor tried out cross country skiing.  Perhaps another trip.

I still have vivid recollections of riding a ski lift at Greek Peak on a Tuesday and thinking I had a lot of days left on the mountain.  My childhood experience was very similiar to the one this past week– before you know it– it is time to return home and resume your daily duties.

Worst Conditions 

Tuesday’s conditions were fairly rough– a lot of ice.  Then Wednesday I found the most miserable (still fun though).  Overnight we got a great deal of natural snow– plus they ran the snow machines overnight and throughout the day.  To top it off, it was dreadfully windy– it seemed no matter which way I faced, snow was pelting my face.

I took a lot of pride throughout the week of carrying my skis.  I was proud of the extra exercise I got by doing that.  Well Tuesday night my resolve weakened and I locked my skis up with Carolyn and Christian right by the slopes.  Tuesday night, of course, was the night the big storm rolled in.  So Carolyn, Christian and I learned a very important lesson:

Do Not Lock Your Skis Up Right Next to a Snow Making Machine

When we returned on Wednesday, we discovered that snow and ice were packed into the keyholes of the ski holders.  It took us *at least* a half an hour to drive our respective keys in the hole and turn them clockwise 90 degrees.  It was an amazing struggle.

Our victory was short lived, though.  Carolyn’s ski bindings were frozen shut!  Christian, Carolyn and I struggled in the wake of a running snow machine to get her skis on.  Not only were her bindings inflicted with ice– but her boots had about 3/4″ of ice caked on her heel.  We must have combatted that challenge another half an hour.  Finally, Carolyn and I went inside and manually worked the bindings to loosen them up.  At long last, her skis would click on her boots.

We went back out, Carolyn snapped her boots on.  Sweet success and THEN

MY SKIS WOULDN’T GO ON!  🙂

I had similiar issues with caked on ice.  I was able to resolve it, but in order to do so, I had to bend over.  My 5 layers of shirts slid up and exposed my midriff skin.    I also had to take my gloves off to have the necessary dexterity to get everything on.

By the time we were all set to go– we were already cold and miserable.  I couldn’t feel my pinky finger!

Still our struggles weren’t over.  Due to the wind and the diligent snow making– there was a lot of very, very thick powder at the top, flat part of the mountain.  It was very difficult to get moving and with all the snow machines, our slow, struggled stride had repercussions.

Powder Power

Luckily after that first laboured run, everything picked up.  Snow machines weren’t running lower on the mountain and once we got on steeper runs it was great fun and the thick powder was an asset.

“It’s like skiing on clouds,” Christian said.

“Even if you fall,” he said, “You’re falling in a puff of powder!”

I originally found it very unnerving to be in snow so deep that I couldn’t see my skis, but after Christian’s recommendation– I gave it a try.  Sure enough– it is quite fun!

One thing that was impressive is how much difference slope conditions can affect a run and how quickly those conditions can change.

On Tuesday– runs that were okay in the morning were downright treacherous in the afternoon.

For example, in the morning, Carolyn and I rode a lift over “The Widowmaker.”  It didn’t look too bad and we considered going down it.

“We’ll be okay,” I told Carolyn, “It’s called ‘The Widowmaker’ not ‘The Widowermaker.'” She laughed.

In the end– we decided to play it safe and didn’t go on it.  In the afternoon, we rode up a lift over it again with Christian.  It was riddled with ice patches.

“This morning we could at least consider it,” Carolyn said, “Now you look at it and think, ‘No fucking way!'”

The next day it was brand new powder– it looked great!  So Christian and I went down it.

Meanwhile, Carolyn discovered another slope was greatly improved by the fresh snow.  That slope was called J-Hook.

The day before Carolyn and I skied down it.  It started out nice enough and then all of a sudden:

ICE BOULDERS!

They were huge round ice boulders all over the trail.  It wasn’t just a few here and there– they were prevalent.  It was one of the most unpleasant runs.

Fast forward a day.  I asked Carolyn how J-Hook was.

“Peaceful and powdery,” she said.

Sure enough, it was.

This was my very first ski trip without rented equipment.  Melanie had sold me her skis.  That saved me a lot of trouble and time– I will have to write her and let her know.

We ate really well.  Sunday we had vegetable chili.  Monday– Chicken caccitore.  Tuesday– pot pies.  Mmm!

March 3, 2007 at 1:01 am 16 comments

February 23rd

Two of my closest friends celebrate their birthdays today!

Happy Birthday to Carolyn
Happy Birthday Carolyn!  Thank you for all your support, laughter and kind words the past three decades.  I can not imagine my life without you.  May you have a wonderful day and may you always remain as sexy as you are in this photo!


Carolyn and Vicky at the local swimming pool circa 1980

Happy Birthday to Stacy!
Happy Birthday Stacy!  Thanks for overlooking our first meeting (“Stacy?!? That’s a GIRL’S name!”) and befriending me anyway.  We’ve had a number of adventures which have taken us to close places like a drive through Ellett Valley all the way to Normandy, France.  I look forward to our next adventure– skiing in Colorado!  Until then, may you eat, drink and be merry.  In fact, may you be as merry as you are in this photo…. and may there not be any cameras around to capture it this time around.  🙂


Brian taunts a drunk Stacy.

February 23, 2007 at 11:03 am 4 comments

Spring Plans – Skiing

I do more in the Spring than just Lent and a birthday hike (FYI cheese fast commences tomorrow).  Yesterday, I finalized my travel arrangements for a trip to Vail at the end of March (3/24 – 3/31).  My partners in crime are Stacy and Kipp.  I’m very excited about this trip.  If you are going to be in the area and want to join us for a day of skiing or would like to meet up for a meal, let me know.

This will be my first time skiing outside of the east coast.  I’m told once I experience skiing in the west, I’ll hate skiing in the east.  Sounds valid.  Though, people did tell me the same thing about hiking. 

“Once you see the Rockies,” someone told me before my July Colorado trip, “You’ll realize our mountains are shit.” 

I did not find that to be the case at all.  Granted I only have a sample size of one Rocky Mountain hike.  It was an awesome hike and I absolutely loved my time there, but it’s the Appalachians that are still home to my heart.  The Rockies are grand in size–  but we have such diversity here in regards to vegetation, canopy and topography.  And when I’m on the Appalachians, I feel much more connected with the history and spirit of the mountains. 

Of course with skiing, the point isn’t the vegetation.  The point is long, beautiful, white slopes.  So with skiing, the east coast mountains are certainly going to be hard pressed to beat the Vail experience.  Actually, they probably don’t stand chance. 

I’ll find out for myself next month!

February 20, 2007 at 3:29 pm 1 comment

Journal Except: September 11th

With a number of the networks airing their original 9/11 coverage again tomorrow, I thought it would be a fitting year to share my 9/11 journals. 

Entry from Journal on 9/11/2001
Reactions and Church

9-11-2001

Today is September 11th, 2001.  It’s the eight year anniversary of [a negative event in my life].  It’s been so long now.  It feels like a dream.  It feels like it doesn’t matter anymore.

Especially today.

Tonight I walk my dogs and for the first time in my life I can look up and see the sky my grandparents would have seen growing up.

A sky completely absent of aircraft.

Instead I saw two shooting stars.

The first one I made a wish as custom (or hope) encourages.

I wished, “Please help those people and their families.”

The news didn’t seem all that big to me.  When I came into work, I found Jaye Snidow was in.  Two evenings ago, he had to rush his wife to the emergency room.

Chris Mullins and Jaye have adjacent desks.  Chris was perusing a news web site.

I asked, “Jaye, how’s your wife?”

He said, “She’s doing much better now.  She’s home and might be returning to work this afternoon.”

“What happened?!?” I asked in regards to Jaye’s wife.

“A plane crashed into the World Trade Center.”  Chris Mullins answered.

I didn’t know what to say to his unsolicited answer.

“Oh…” I said and then redirected my question to Jaye, “What was wrong with your wife?!?”

It just didn’t seem like a big deal.  I guess I figured it was like the plane hitting the 14th Street bridge.  The bridge is still there and heck people survived that crash.

Then Chris Martz, Larry and I went into the conference room to see Martz’s first training session.  Mid-way through we had a technical difficulty.  We took a break and when we emerged from the room practically the rest of the company sat and stood in disbelief in front of a TV set in the lunch room.

Everyone was in shock.  Andy B’s sunburned face would occassionally turn from the TV with wide eyes– almost looking to others’ reactions for approval.  Jaye Snidow stood in silence and periodically shook his head.  It was as if he wasn’t allowed to express sorrow or fear so he settled for disgust.  Marvin sometimes lowered his head and his fingers would graze over his closed eyelids underneath his glasses.  Amy just sat, silent and dumbfounded.  At one point, Shane Kennedy grabbed a nearby newspaper ad and started writing.  Chris Martz’s usually medium complexion turned pale.  He’s supposed to fly out Thursday.

Larry Bowman disappeared for sometime, he even missed lunch.  When he returned I asked, “Hey what happened to you?”

“I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to go hug my daughter,” he said.

Stacy sent an email saying he was okay after the plane hit the Pentagon.  That affected me a bit.  I didn’t even consider he would be harmed.  But now that the notion crossed my mind as a possibility (even though Stacy already declared his well being) I wanted Stacy down here.  I wanted to see him and I wanted him to get out of that target for good.  I’m glad he is okay.

I went to a church service today at St. Mary’s.

It’s funny.  I never considered myself as an especially patriotic person.  I mean, I love my country and all, but I don’t get all emotional seeing the flag, hearing our anthem, etc.

Today at church the opening hymn was America the Beautiful.  When they annonced that, I suddenly got choked up.

I never noticed before but the words to that song are excellent…and reasonable.

I’m mentally and physically and emotionally tired.  I think I will go to sleep.

Notes on a Piece of Paper I Wrote at Work on 9/11/2001
Resentment of Life Going On

9/11/2001

I am in a meeting, watching Chris Martz debut his … training.  My heart beats and my lungs breath.

Meanwhile on the streets of Manhattan, hundreds perhaps thousands, a “horrific” amount says the mayor of New York, of corpses lie buried and crushed under steel and rubble and suffocating grey dust.  Under what used to be the World Trade Center.

Here life goes on and we worry about trivial things like password prompts and the loss of love.  We have that luxury in our workplace.  The people of the Pentagon no longer have that.  Instead they have destruction and flames and evacuation to contend with.

But here, life goes on.

Entry from Journal on 9/12/2001
Envy of Dogs and Reading the Passenger List

9-12-2001

Tonight I sat on the floor of my bedroom and watched, dumbfounded still, the television reports.  Jimmie kept approaching me wanting attention and I kept denying his bid for affection.  But he was persistant.  Finally I lost my patience and I pushed him far away.  He laid down and looked sad.  I felt bad.  I started to pet him and scratch his chest as he rolled on his back and held up his legs.  I laid down next to him and kept petting him on the neck and ears.  He looked at me with beautiful brown eyes and I thought:

“How can you explain this to a dog?  How can I make him understand?”

Although I still think if they were on the streets of New York, both dogs would feel the same fear as their human counterparts, here, now in Blacksburg, they can’t comprehend the loss and the pain.  And for that, I envy them.

At 6 AM this morning, Stench woke me up.  This, unfortunately, is becoming a daily ritual.  As I stumbled up, I noted the television was silent.   I closed in on it — as I always do without vision aids and as I have been finding myself needing to do even with glasses and contacts.  The TV was scrolling the names and ages of the people who were on the planes.  The silence made it all the more eerie.  I found myself uttering, “Oh my gawd” outloud as I watched this list slowly migrate up the screen.  [My exclamation] woke Sean up.

Later at work, I read a list on CNN.COM.  One flight it looked like a family of three perished… including a 4 year old.  A lot of passengers were senior citizens.

How can you look into the eyes of a 4 year old or the precious folded skin of a 77 year old and continue with their demise?

I went to work today.  I arrived an hour late.  I just couldn’t wake up.  Reality deterred me.  I even turned off the alarm clock.

I expected the … parking lot to be sparsely populated, even at 10 o’clock– but it appeared I was one of the last to arrive.

On one hand, I think it’s good so many continued on with life.  Showing “them” that we are okay and we are going to presevere.  Much like what I tried to do eight years ago.  Show that we are survivors.

But today, I felt a bit detached.  This whole tragedy still doesn’t feel real.  I haven’t had time to let it sink in to penetrate me.  Every now and then I feel like I should cry, that it would feel better to do so.  But I never did.

Those planes crashing into the buildings, all the deaths.  It doesn’t feel real.  It feels like a dream.

Entry from Journal on 9/13/2001
Silent Lunch, Patriotism and a Free Cookie

Day 3 after the disaster.  It still doesn’t feel real.  I can close my eyes and see with crisp detail the many images of that second plane colliding into the tower.  But still… it feels fabricated.

Today was the 3rd day in a row we ate lunch in near silence.  Day 1 we ate in a mob around the small TV set up in [the] lunch room.  Yesterday, Larry Bowman, Chris Martz, Bill C and I joined Sean’s regular lunch crew (Sean, John Smith and Colin Wiseley) at Gobblertown.  Independently, Tony Airaghi and Lud and two female co-workers showed up there as well.  A number of tables were pushed together.  We had a very large lunch crowd.  So many people, but it was more quiet than a simple lunch of two.  We all gawked at the TV set even though the reports never fully satiated our need for information.

Why did this happen?  Who really did it?  How many people died?  What were they like?  What were their dreams that will now be unfulfilled?  What kind of person did they want to be?

For the 2nd day in a row, I didn’t want to wake up.  I managed to force myself and got to work only 15 minutes late…I mean later than usual.  Yesterday I was an hour late.

I think part of the problem is we sleep with the news on.  Even when we’re sleeping, we are exposed to the terror and loss.  I don’t consciously notice anything and I don’t recall any negative dreams, but it can’t be a restful sleep.  Like Grandma’s morphine dampened misery the first week in the hospital.

People are displaying American flags everywhere.  We have one outside our cubicle wall.

Never since childhood have I coveted a flag so much.  I want to purchase one promptly.

All over the news you see the best of human nature evolve from the rubble.  Strangers helping strangers, people hugging and crying, everyone wishing each other the best.  Those gestures of generosity are so touching.

Tonight I saw a simple act of kindess, hours from the tragedy, right in my own town.

Sean and I went to Sycamore Deli for supper.  The owner greeted us promptly.

“How are you?” he said.

“The best you can be under the circumstances,” Sean said and the guy agreed.

A TV perched high up played the news of course.

I’m fond of the Sycamore Deli man.  Although he is too young to be mine, he reminds me of an uncle.  With his beard and vibrant demeanor, he reminds me of the Uncle Mark’s and the Uncle Timmy’s of my youth.  This man is always friendly and upbeat to us.  I’m glad we give him our business and I trust his food.

Tonight he rang us up and he said, “I accidently grabbed 3 cookies.  You two can split the third.”  He glanced up at the TV and noted, “We can all use an extra cookie this week.”

It was such a simple gesture, but its impact on me was astounding.  It was so nice of him.  Another time I got choked up.

In fact, I was so flustered with gratitude, I said “Thank you” and started to leave.

“Wait, we need our food.” Sean reminded me.

“If you want to pay $16 for a soda and a cookie, that’s fine with me!”  the Sycamore Deli man laughed.

He’s a very good man.  His business seems frequently empty.  I hope it never goes under.  I would hate to miss out on what has become a weekly encounter with this man and his great food.  Not to mention his awesome chocolate chip (& cinnamon?) cookies.

These cookies are delicious, but I bet this man could have offered us an extra stick of gum and the action would still be as meaningful.

Last night I woke up at 4:30 AM and watched the news for a while before falling back to sleep.

This morning I woke up and the news was still on.  I stood close to the TV and squinted to see the dusty cityscape without my glasses.  The whole morning and scene was just like yesterday.

I felt like I was in the movie “Groundhog Day.”

Well time for bed.

Entry from Journal on 9/14/2001
Thunderstorm Warnings and Camping

9-14-2001

Another day and apparently no rescued survivors. 

It’s funny.  We now have an advanced weather monitoring system to warn the midwest of an approaching tornado.  We have flash flood warnings, hurricane warnings and tropical storm warnings.  Heck we even scroll messages during prime time and transmit messages on the Emergency Broadcast System for thunderstorm warnings.  Not actual thunderstorms, but the potential of one.

These are acts of nature, acts of God, acts beyond our control.  Yet we can give people advanced notice.

But we weren’t able to warn people about objects we built and man.

I’m going camping with Carolyn and Jay tomorrow night.  It’s a good weekend to get away from it all and absorb the week’s events.  It’s especially a good weekend to spend with family.  I look forward to the Sawyer siblings having another adventure… like skiing earlier this year.

Entry from Journal on 9/17/2001
Marquee Mottos and Memorial Service

9-17-2001

Tomorrow it will be a week from the attack.  It’s amazing.  I look around at America.  What I see is remarkably similiar to my life eight years ago.

Everywhere fast food marquees declare inspirational messages:

“We Will Overcome”

“Always Remember”

“Never Forget”

These are the same messages I told myself.  How frightened I was of forgetting … That notion seened like the worst thing that could ever happen.

Not it seems like nothing.  “So what?” I think.  I even venture to feel it isn’t part of my life anymore.

Another frequent marquee sign:

“God Bless America”

America has grown close to religion again as I did this time eight years ago.

America’s me.

There are some gas stations or restaurants that don’t have messages of significance.  Just annoncing the specials.  Then there is the Western Sizzler by work.  It went for a combination:

“God Bless America.

11 ounce sirloin $6.95”

On Friday Bowman and I went to the conference room to observe the moment of silence with our co-workers.  We ended up watching a service at the National Cathedral for 45 minutes.

I stood the entire time.  I really don’t see why but my legs started quivering.  I can run 2 miles, but I can’t stand for 45 minutes?

I kept thinking about sitting down, but then I remembered some wisdom from a choir director or CCD teacher.  She was responding to one of my peer’s complaints that kneeling was uncomfortable.

“Jesus died on the cross for you and you can’t even kneel for a few minutes?  Do you think hanging on a cross is comfortable?”

I think about that a lot when religion and discomfort are together.

September 10, 2006 at 8:23 pm 6 comments

Jimmie and Henry: Been There Done That

Yesterday, Stacy snapped this picture of Jimmie and Henry at the top of Tinker Cliffs.  They are drinking out of a puddle that collected in a crevace in the rock.  Emily and Cory’s legs are in the background, along with the view.

I remembered when I got home– that I have a picture of Jimmie and Henry drinking from a puddle on the same rock from May 2005.  It’s from a different angle– but it is the same rock:

Do dogs get deja vu?

September 4, 2006 at 3:13 pm 8 comments

Worlds Collide at Larry’s Tailgate!

One thing I enjoy about weddings (besides dancing and the cake, of course) is the “worlds collide” effect. A number of people who all know the bride and groom in different contexts convene together for a common celebration. I like to see extended family and friends mingling together, sharing their memories and antedotes.

This weekend even though Virginia Tech’s bout with Northeastern did not promise to be a nailbiter, it still managed to draw a collision of worlds at Larry’s house. Many different aspects of my life were represented by the people in attendence:

  • My Blacksburg/Tailgate Life – All the normal tailgating people were in attendence. Larry, Ann, Penn, Gwyn, Andy, Bill, Sean, Keith, Jonathan Couch and even new father Brian Vandervort made a surprise appearence!
  • My Hiking Life – My reigning Hiking Buddy, Mike E, was present and he got to converse with my original hiking partner– Tony Airaghi.
  • My Married Life – Both of Sean’s brothers and their significant others came down for the event. That meant 66.66% of my brothers-in-law were in attendence (Carolyn‘s husband, Clint, was the only one missing from this brother-in-law reunion).
  • My QualTrax Life – ZJ Palasz, one of our QualTrax programmers, came in from Virginia Beach with his girlfriend to join our festivities.
  • My NOVA/Camping/Skiing Life – Kipp and Stacy came down for the event. On Friday night I found out that Shannon, Christian, Beth, Wayne and Shehab were going to be in town as well. I extended an invitation and all seven of these individuals from Northern Virginia came to Larry’s tailgate …and all seven of them got to witness a rare “Tipsy Vicky”.

I think these two pictures are a solid representation of the worlds colliding. The first one depicts some of the usual crowd– Me, Larry and Lindsay. The second one is the same shot— only this time, Kipp has made his way into the scene!

And here comes NOVA bursting in! 🙂

More pictures from the Virginia Tech vs. Northeastern Tailgate are available on my website.

September 4, 2006 at 11:36 am 1 comment

Assateague 2006

A little more than a week ago, Christina Geyer, Stacy McMahon, Jay and Jacqueline and I were first arriving on Assateague Island.  I was there for less than 24 hours, but packed a lot of activity in the time.  Here’s a recap:

Arrival Fanfare
Ponies were waiting for us in the parking lot when we arrived to the campsite.  One pony’s genitalia made it very very clear he was a male (and an aroused male at that).  Christina did not bat an eye:

“Look, he’s very excited to see you, Vicky!” she said.

It’s a statement we certainly would have uttered in high school.  Ah, to feel young again!

Our human companions were significantly less excited to see us.  Everyone was so tired and/or miserable that when I announced, “Hey everyone, this is my friend Christina!” the only acknowledgement that I had spoken was an abbreviated grunt from Wayne Howard.  🙂

Walk on Beach
Shortly after our arrival, Christina, Stacy and I went for a walk along the beach.  We were headed towards a black blob a couple with binoculars thought was a dead pony.  It turned out to be a log.  It was still a nice walk though and Christina spotted some dolphins in the ocean.

Afternoon in the Ocean
A number of us spent the afternoon in the ocean.  At one point, it was just me, Erin Jebo Cooper and Carolyn.  It reminded me of our water aerobic days!!!  When we were all three in Blacksburg we used to attend a class at the Blacksburg Aquatic Center on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  (Fridays were sometimes followed by Marguerita Night at El Guadeloupes!)  We reminisceced briefly about our class….and our traumatic experience where two women trapped us in the sauna, making us hostages in that continual heat.  And what weapon did those ladies against us?  Nothing but their own naked obesity and a strategic placement in our line of sight.

Quick complaint– there were some idiots fishing right in the middle of the day when the ocean was filled with people.  At one point, their fishing line was bisecting our group.  We tugged and tugged and tugged on the line–but the fisherman was so oblivious to everything he didn’t even notice.  Jerk.

At one point I was trying to tell a story and the rising sea waters kept interrupting me.  I spurted and sputtered and coughed and gagged.  Finally I told Evan and Carolyn, “It’s hard to look your sexiest in the ocean.”  Just moments later I drilled that point home.  I dove under a wave and when I came back up, I was greeted by Carolyn’s shrill:

“EWWW! You have snot hanging from your nose!”

Tanlines
I had been wondering just how effective those spray on sunscreens are.  Shannon Diaz Katz was able to put that question to rest.  She developed a very interesting pattern of skin coloration.  There were a few white circles running down her arm, surrounded by tan and burn.  You could see exactly where she sprayed the sunscreen…. and exactly where the coverage was missed.

Shehab has the honor of having the most distinct tan line I’ve ever seen.  He has a typical farmer’s tan, but he must have worn the exact same style of shirt every day of his life.  When he lifted up his shirt sleeve, you can see a very rigid, strict borderline between pale flesh and a deep, enviable tan.  The division was so accurate and clear– an artist would need a ruler to recreate it on paper.

Dinner at Sneaky Pete’s
Around dusk, Shehab, Wayne, Shannon, Christian and I headed off the park to go eat at Sneaky Pete’s, a seafood restaurant right across the water from Ocean City.  Due to the hour and the crowd, our party was seperated in half and we got to eat on their dining facilities in an old boat.  We were baffled by the parking meters in each booth (turns out it is for a charity event) and Shehab wasn’t too pleased with the ongoing selection of Jimmy Buffet music.  Other than that, it was a pretty darn good environment for supper.

We tried an interesting shot while we were there.  It was hazelnut liquor and citron vodka.  It came with a lemon wedge and a packet of sugar.  Basically, you put the sugar on the lemon wedge and you bit into it and swished it around.  Then you drank the shot.  It tasted just like Chocolate Cake.  The ingredients didn’t sound like chocolate and with its sickly yellow color, it certainly did not look like chocolate– but sure enough it tasted like chocolate cake.  Weird.

I mentioned our party was seperated between two tables.  Shannon, Christian and Shehab were at one table and it was me and Wayne at the other.  I very much enjoyed visting and talking to Wayne.  Through the years, I used to see him at Carolyn/Clint parties, blacklight bowling, the occassional rollerblade on the Huckleberry Trail and a Virginia Tech away game in Philadelphia.  But I think this may have been the first time we really just sat and talked for an extended period of time.

Night Owls
By the time we got back to the island, it was already dark.  I had missed the sunset I had coveted all day, but our meal was well worth it.  Now, unlike the morning, when we arrived back at the campside everyone was abuzz with activity and a second wind.  The evening was filled with great conversations.  Most notably, Carolyn and I chatted with Ryan Somma for quite some time.  Another very enjoyable conversation. 

Birthday Bonfire
Sunday was Christian’s birthday, so at midnight we moved down to the beach for a bonfire!  Originally it was intended as a surprise, but it didn’t take long before Christian was well aware of the plan.  I’m not sure how the information leaked to him, but in the past I’ve found drunk people tend not to whisper as quietly as they think.  🙂  The bonfire was very nice.  Wayne tended to it and took on the ambitious task of burning the “gigalog”.  Some of us played with glow sticks.  A number of us got to see some shooting stars. 

There was one mishap, however.  A poor little crab ran into our fire and subsequently cooked himself.  The common interpretation is the crab was suicidal.  I’m not so sure.  I thought I saw the crab run towards the fire and stop.  “Wait a second, that’s hot!”  Then I saw the crab take a few waddles away from the heat until he was frightened by Doug’s tall stature and fled… right into the fire.  Regardless of the crab’s true mental state, I like what Angel has to say to the crab:

“Party foul, dude!”

Midnight Hike
Between 12 AM and 1 AM, a heard a small party discussing a night hike.  I was sold on the notion immediately.  So Clint, Heather Diaz, Gene and I headed out to the “Life in the Forest” trail.  Thanks to Heather and Gene’s headlamps (and not much thanks to a piddly glowstick) we took the trail to a deck that overlooked the marshlands and Sinepuxent Bay.  A near full moon hung in the sky above the water.  The scenery was spectacular.  Dark blue silhouettes of the pine trees and the marshgrass contrasted with the soft blue hues of the night sky and the water.  At some places, the water was reflecting the moonlight so vibrantly, it looked like snow.  I don’t think pictures would ever do it justice.

Very peaceful, very moving.

We got attacked by some bugs, but it was well, well, well worth it.

Night Swim
When we returned to the bonfire, I heard of another activity of great interest to me– swimming in the ocean!  A number of years ago, Aaron Evans, Ryan Schutt, Stacy and I went swimming at Ocean City at 3 AM.  I remember bobbing with the tides admiring all the lights on the shore.  I remember a fun experience.  Stacy might have different recollections since he cut his head!

Anyway, Shehab and I headed into the ocean, I guess around 2ish?  Doug quickly joined us and later Ryan Somma came in as well.  Although Assateague does not sport all the lights Ocean City does, our adventure was just as beautiful.  Away from the bonfire, the stars were even brighter!  The distinct band of the Milky Way bisecting the sky could not be missed.  Then you had the brightness of the moon and of course the intermittent shooting stars.  I could just stare at that sky and feel free and happy.

Then Doug noticed something!  There was some plankton in the ocean that was reacting to our movement.  Anytime we moved, little packets would flash green.  So as we swam or walked or waved our arms under the water, little trails of green sparkles would follow us.  They even reacted to someone blowing bubbles (that was Shehab’s discovery).

So above us, we had the great lights of the formidable universe and all around us, we had the humble lights of one of nature’s smallest creatures.  We were surrounded by great visuals.  It felt very cinematic.  Magical almost.

The End
The moment was less than magical a little later when I was sleeping in a tent with wet clothes and no sleeping bag.  Luckily, sweat pants and my Virginia Tech hoodie did not let me down.  I slept four hours before waking up at 7 AM and starting my long, somber journey home.

Other Recaps and Pictures
My Pictures

Clint’s Pictures

Carolyn’s Recap

Christina’s Recap

Angel’s Pictures

Ian’s Pictures

Christian’s Pictures

Angel’s Recap

Stacy’s Pictures

August 12, 2006 at 12:40 pm 4 comments

Etymology of Vicky’s Vocabulary

And for those of you curious about those Word origins I mentioned below, here is a quick list of some of the words I identified with Carolyn and Stacy:

Supper (From Stacy M)
I say supper because that is what Stacy says and I thought it was endearing. Before high school I always said dinner.

Consolidate (From Carolyn L)
When I use the word consolidate, I think of Carolyn who used it once when organizing her audio tapes.

Chit Chat (From Dad)

Pass Gas (From Dad)

Frivolous (From Dad)
Dad used this word a lot to describe about other people’s complaints about him to the director during bridge tournaments.

Renege (From Dad)
Dad used this a lot in the context of bridge– basically when I told him I would play and then I tried to change our plans. I was reneging on a commitment!

The Good Lord (From Dad)

Christ [as an emphasis to a point ie, “Christ! Even the buzzards thought it stank!”] (From Dad)
Last time I went to confession, I told the priest I use this word a lot, but I wasn’t likely to stop anytime soon. It fits so well in stories, especially when I’m quoting Dad. It’s reminds me too much of Dad to stop at the moment. The priest didn’t seem too concerned– I guess there are bigger sins in the world.

Kibitz (From Bridge)

Follow Suit (From Bridge)

Trump (From Bridge)

Scapegoat (From Christina Geyer)
Even though it was in a Metallica song, I really did not understand and absorb this word until Anthropology class with Christina.

Fret (From Angie H)
Angie once told me not to fret… right before she stole my boyfriend. 🙂 Anyway, I still use that word a lot today.

Of Course [as an explicitive] (From Sean H)
If something unexpected or bad happens, Sean starts his complaint off with “Of course…” Now I do the same and I’ve heard some others picking it up too.

Menstruation (From Carolyn L)
Carolyn blew my mind once in fifth grade when we were watching a commercial and she said, “Mom is that for menstruation?” I didn’t ever use that word before.

Dude (From Tony Airaghi)
Tony used the word a lot in 1998 (In fact I have video footage of him and Brent Walsh doing so). I tend to get mocked when I use this word…. but I still do and probably will for a while.

Like a Bump on a Log [as a description of laziness or uselessness] (from Mom)
Yeah, turns out this isn’t a universal saying! I’ve gotten a few confused looks when I’ve used that phrase in a sentence. In particular, Sean had never heard the phrase before.

Anyway, this list is by no means complete. I’m sure there are plenty of other contributions to my present day vocabulary.

August 11, 2006 at 10:44 pm 2 comments

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