Toledo, OH – just west, 0636

A somewhat interrupted sleep. If both chairs had been open I could have stretched my 6’1 lankiness out further and been more comfortable. I should have changed into sweatpants last night – oh well.

Slightly overcast over this so incredibly flat terrain, but I see some pale blue up there. If my memory serves, I think the Weather Channel was showing clear skies after Chicago and into Oregon.

I’m excited to be able to see my old friends Terri and Lyle! Terri was my first Army commander, way back in ’97, when she was a “mere” Captain of Company A, 41 Separate Infantry Brigade – the Jungeleers. The Jungeleers in World War II were known as “The Sunset Division”; one of my great uncles served in it, island hopping across the Pacific. Several years later, after she’d made Lieutenant Colonel, she was tapped to be the CO of a brand new Army unit – the 741st Supply & Service Battalion, and asked me to transfer in. It’s one of my Guard career highlights to have been in formation for the very first unit formation of a brand new unit. We took that unit to combat ready certified in under 18 months – just in time to get put on alert for Gulf I. Another of my memories from that is on maneuvers at Camp Davis down in southern California one year. We were part of Operation Golden Bear, a field exercise for the California Guard, with 10,000 troops in the field for a month. One night I got to play, invited along by some Sergeants Major to conduct an Opposing Force raid on our unit. I think I low-crawled for four hours to move 100 yards that night. We took water balloons and filled them with chemical light stick juice, burying them in the foxholes. Then we dropped back and set up a “mortar” using a three-person water balloon launcher (think of surgical tubing) and more of the glowing balloons. We tripped the outer defenses and roared with laughter as troops fell into foxholes – only to be soaked in glowing colors in the middle of the night! After the first few – we started launching from our “mortar” – firing wiggling, glowing orbs through the air into them – kersplash! Spraying chemlight through the ranks. Oh God – did we decimate them that night. Serving in Terri’s units were always an adventure!

I enjoyed being a soldier – not as much when I was a private so much as when I became a sergeant. I also relished being a Guardsman. It always felt distinct to think my soldiering heritage was that of the citizen-soldier, tracing lineage back to the early militias of Lexington and Concord in the Revolutionary War. I’ve always been proud that we, as Guard, trained to the same standards as Regular Army, in three days a month – in addition to managing our civilian careers. Sometimes, when I think what I would do if I did it all over – I think I’d go significantly more extreme with a military career – would have tried to get into Special Forces or Sniper School. Don’t get me wrong – I’m satisfied with how I did it. Just seems there are so many un-done things in human experience.

God – this land is flat! I can’t ever live here! I need coast or mountains J

Well, I tried calling Grace and Ellie last night from Albany NY. Got Sue’s voicemail. I wonder how they both are doing. Grace doesn’t talk much with me.. she’s afraid to let herself get close after the disappointments during the separation and divorce. I have to believe that she knows how much I love her and is just protecting herself from the possibility of being disappointed again. It sure didn’t turn out how I thought it would and wanted it too, Grace. When you were a toddler, you used to sit on my lap and play Sesame Street on the computer, and we would watch the kid shows on TV in the morning together. I was so excited to be your Dad and so looking forward to raising you, to being part of your every day as you got older and got into life with friends and school and all that you like doing. I have to believe that as you get older, you’ll come to understand better what happened – and that none of the stress between your Mom and I had anything at all to do with you.

Maybe there is an opportunity here in this move for my daughters to learn who I really am. They don’t know anything of my family – they’ve spent a few weeks with my Dad and his wife, and only five days with my Mom and my sisters and brother. They don’t know my heritage growing up in the northern Rockies, Oregon and California. They don’t know their family history, from me, of all that. All they really know is their mother’s family and history.

In a lot of ways, I think that is the root cause of the failure of my marriage. I always seemed to feel a “bit” out of place in New England. I always felt – from away. Two things constantly irritated that feeling – trying to work as a Chef in New England and Sue’s North Shore Irish Catholic family. [Don’t get me wrong – I care very much for her family and this is definitely not criticism]

The lifestyle of New Englanders is extremely resistant to change. This is exemplified in their preference for menus – keep it the same it’s been for the last hundred years. That was really tough coming from my first decade in culinary – where creativity and diversity reigned supreme in the Chefs and establishments I worked for. And oh my god – the amount of knowledge and skill that passes for an “adequate” line cook in New England!!! Canned hollandaise, sautéing with cold pans, the over-use of convection ovens…

This brings me back to a book I read a long time ago – ‘Stranger in a Strange Land’. That title kept occurring to me as the years went by in New England.

0720 – and rolling fast through farm lands. The Engineer is really laying on the train whistle (that’s not a bad thing). People have begun to stir and wake up – seeking their coffees. I discovered that my digital camera is taking good pictures – I’ll try to upload a few in Chicago if I have time. A hugely long heavy freight blasting by in the other direction – the trading of whistles.. Riding the train is like getting one helluva long body massage, from the way the train jimmies and shakes and wiggles.

I think I’m all done with airliners from here on. Train travel is much more relaxing and comfortable, even personable. Besides – it also a lot better for the environment! But maybe next time I’ll get a sleeper berth and private room so I can really fall asleep.

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