A Letter to my Father

Dear Dad,

A month ago today, when last we spoke, we exchanged handshakes and snappy salutes. I noticed again that afternoon, as I always do, your silver U.S. Army Infantry ring, worn and smooth from the decades of wear, never imagining the next time I saw it, it would be surrendering it to accompany you in your urn.

Supporting Mom during those first days after our last salute kept me busy. Just as our family always has, we took care of business first. Mom and I went through your briefcase and pulled out the important legal documents and tried to figure out which bills would be coming due and when. Don’t worry, though – all of us got Mom squared away so that she’d continue to have income without interruption. Really, you saw to all of that through your prior planning and dedication. For me, it was just phone calls to the Army and the Railroad Retirement Board. No sweat. Gotcha covered.

The hardest thing I had to do – ever – was to leave you behind in that beautiful place you chose for you and Mom down in Dayton. I was fine through it all up until I had to leave. I rode out with the family to the entrance, saw them off, and got back in your car (which I’d been using, and yes, I filled up the tank when I was done) and went back up to see you again. I walked up, perfectly composed and stood near the temporary marker. Yeah, it was cliché, but I came to the position of attention and saluted you one more time and started walking back to the car for the two hour trip back home.

Yeah, I lost it then. Pretty badly, too. I sat in the car for a time and struggled with the understanding that I had to leave and the anguish of leaving you behind. But what’s done is done, I suppose. I finally put the car in gear, took one last trip around the grounds and headed home in silence, except for the few phone calls I made to let people know that it was done.

I’m lucky that we got to talk in the hospital, albeit briefly, and even luckier that at various points in my life, I’ve stopped to tell you that you’d raised all three of us right. That I was proud of you. And I admired you. All three of we offspring feel that way, you know. Just sayin’.

You’d be horrified to know that I’ve been posting photos of you throughout your life on the Internet. Yeah, that computer thing you keep hearing about that you wanted no part of. So yeah, you’re getting your dose of the internet now in spite of your revulsion for computers and technology.

I’m doing it anyway because I’m still proud of you.

Even with all the accomplishments I’ve enjoyed, the one thing I will never be is as good of a man – as good of a person as you were. You wrote the book on leading by example, not by intimidation. Cooperation, not confrontation. Thanks. I ‘preciate that. Your sterling example has served me well over the years, even though I know I still fall way short.

I have been telling people for years that when I look in the mirror or hear your words escaping my mouth unexpectedly, that I’m turning into my father.

Just so you know, I’m perfectly OK with that.

Miss you,

Dan

Sales Pitch, Personal Edition

I had to write a quick professional summary for LinkedIn.com. Here’s what came of that endeavor:

I’ve been lucky.

They say it’s better to be lucky than good. I’ll take lucky.

I’ve been afforded amazing opportunities both in the military and in industry, and enjoyed some degree of success in both. I retired as a colonel in the Army after a 28 year career that took me all over the world. Thanks to the Army, I’ve seen the sun rise and set in such places as Saudi Arabia, Alaska and Belgium. And they’ve let me do some amazing jobs over the years.

In Los Angeles in between military assignments, the technology of the entertainment industry – television in particular – paid the bills as I struggled to build a career as an actor. I was fortunate to work with some true professionals at ABC Television, E! Entertainment Television and MTV and others. In front of the camera, I got to appear in a few TV commercials and the occasional feature film.

Yeah, it was luck. No one gets to do such cool stuff if you’re not at least a little bit lucky.

As for goals? I believe I can sum it up like this:

Interest me. Challenge me. I’ll deliver.

Best,

Dan

Today is Monday, April 12th, 2010…

Good morning all and welcome to another work week!

I have yet to lower the amount of blood in my caffeine system enough, so I am a little slow this morning. It’s a gorgeous day in DC!

I have a good excuse for not flying today and tomorrow. There’s no general aviation flights allowed in the area around DC because of the big nuclear (nucular, for those of you who prefer the non-standard pronunciation) summit going on here. So the entire flight school is grounded ’till Wednesday.

Here’s my list of how the detonation of a suitcase nuke in DC and the subsequent radiation of free nuclear energy in the atmosphere would affect my day:

1. Coffee warmed by sitting it on the windowsill.
2. No need for the itty bitty book light any more, since everything will glow in the dark.
3. Save money on spaying and neutering pets because the radiation would render them sterile.
4. Reruns of “The China Syndrome,” “The Day After,” and “Jericho” would return to favor.
5. Determine once and for all if those fucking cockroaches would survive in the post apocalyptic world.
6. Everyone has male pattern baldness.

Enjoy the day!

Today is Thursday, April 8th, 2010…

Today is remarkable for one immediate reason: Oak trees.

The oak trees are spewing forth their pollen by the tons and the telltale yellow powder is everywhere in these here parts. Yes, folks, it’s hay fever season once again.

Here are a few things you can do during hay fever season:

1. Sneeze.
2. Sneeze.
3. Rub your itchy eyes.
4. Rub your itchy eyes while you are sneezing.
5. Poke yourself in the eye because you sneezed while you were rubbing your eyes.
6. Wear an eye patch.
7. Wait patiently for “Talk Like a Pirate Day” to come around again.

Enjoy the day.

Regarding 21 March 2010

In the interest of full disclosure, this vote does not directly affect my health coverage. TRICARE, the military’s health insurance program, was explicitly excluded from any of this.

Health care and health insurance needs to be reformed. I don’t believe there’s a sane individual who doesn’t agree with this basic thesis. Where the conflict arises is the HOW it gets done.

We can debate specific provisions all you want, and I’m willing and able to make a good case. But what I find disconcerting is that my kids will now be required to have health insurance or face a financial penalty.

Neither of my kids drive, therefore they are not required to buy car insurance. When they DO choose to make that choice, then they will be required to buy it. Fair enough.

However, both of my kids are struggling as it is to make ends meet. This will create a financial burden on them both. I get that yeah, it’s good to take care of yourself anyway, and this is sound. In fact, a couple years ago, I helped the older son find affordable, appropriate health insurance for someone his age and health.

What concerns me is that, assuming this passes Constitutional muster, the federal government will now for the first time have the ability to compel the populace to purchase a good that they may not want or need. One can argue that taxes are similar, and you’d make a valid point.

What will be the next item the Federal government deems necessary for me to have? Broadband internet access? Solar generating equipment? Both of those items can be considered to be part of the greater good as well.

My point: where are the checks and balances on what the Federal government can now direct individuals to purchase in the interest of the greater good?

The sky isn’t going to fall today. People WILL get covered now who were uninsurable before. Preexisting conditions will become less troublesome. These are all laudable goals and should have been part of a reasoned, measured incremental plan to reform health care and insurance. I believe we could have gotten there without the mandatory Federal provisions, had the politics of the situation not run amok. But here we are.

I hope that as a nation, we’re up to making the best of the situation.

Stage Check 1, By The Numbers

Number of take offs: 4

Number of landings: 4 (these should usually be equal)

Mistakes made: 1,345

Percent that I was so nervous my mouth was dry: 75

Times the instructor said “Just do it!”: 17. (What, is this guy Nike, or what?)

Price of lunch at the drive through afterwards: $4.65

All kidding aside, it was a good lesson, even if I wasn’t at my best.

I arrived around 7:30 and organized myself. Tom, the Chief Flight Instructor and my instructor for the day, was running behind. He’s a busy guy, since he runs the place, and was constantly being interrupted to take care of little management fires which seemed to be popping up.

We finally sat down together for the oral quiz about 8:15 or so and he took me through the usual suspects: What paperwork do you have to have on you when you fly? Which documents must the airplane have on board? That sort of thing. Airspace. Maps and charts. Navigation.

I thought I did pretty well on those. I missed a few, which is to be expected, particularly since I had been away from flying for extended periods of time. During the course of the conversation, he provided me with tips to make things easier, and clarified some questions I had. This was time well spent. As such things always do, It helped me to reinforce the things I did know, and point out the weaknesses.

On our way out to the plane, we had a chance to chat. Tom did, indeed, start flying in 1956, though he told me it took him nine years to get his private pilot’s license. He is retired from one of the major airlines, but wasn’t a pilot. Somewhere along the way, he said something about it being easier when you’ve had “10,000 hours doing this.”

By the numbers: I have 14.

Hours.

To say that I was intimidated would be accurate. To say that I performed poorly because of it would also be accurate.

To say that once we spent a little time in the air together, I found myself really liking him would also be accurate. He’s a funny guy with a strong laugh and a penchant for telling silly jokes. You know, like “mother-in-law” jokes. It was really somewhat endearing.

Anyway, he put me through all the moves, and praised me when I did right, and let me know when I screwed up. And, as I have said, I did that a lot. I got so nervous, I had a death grip on the yoke, which makes flying about….

By the numbers: Times harder it is to fly when you’re hanging on the yoke for dear life: 1,000

Anyway, after about an hour or so of my own frustration and three of the four landings, we headed back to Manassas. I shot the approach quite well, I thought, though his opinion was to fly by eye and ignore the existing runway visual aids for landing. I thought that was rather peculiar advice, given that I would think that any pilot would want any resource at his disposal. But his point about not always having them was well taken, after my experience in Ohio where there were none.

If you’re going to end, it’s best to end on a positive note. As I have always said, I’d rather be lucky than good, and this time I was lucky. I settled the plane in just as nicely as if I had been doing it every day. Tom said “Nice landing” more than once, so I think I got at least that right.

Once inside, we went back and went over the lesson and did the paperwork. Routine stuff.

The biggest lesson I learned from all this is that I talked myself into making this lesson way more difficult and nerve-racking that it needed to be. I was well prepared, academically speaking. I had reviewed the basic maneuvers in Ohio, so I wasn’t lacking in understanding. I just let my own performance anxiety keep me from being at my best. I talked myself into being intimidated by both the words “stage check” and by Tom when neither were warranted.

By the numbers: Balls present: an adequate pair.

I shoulda used ’em.