Operation Homefront Fundraising Update – Going for double my goal!

A month ago I announced that I would be running in the Army 10 Miler in October.  Since then I have been training and getting miles on my legs.  I’m now up to 8 miles a week and going strong.

I also asked for help with fundraising for Operation Homefront and did you ever help!!

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 7.26.14 AM

I was trying to raise $1,000 and your generous hearts pushed me to over $1,600!  Thank you!

At this point, I have until October, I can’t just stop here, so help me get to $2000!  If you haven’t donated yet, please consider jumping in now to push me to double my goal!

ClicktoHelp

This moneybag will take you to the donation page

Operation Homefront raises money to help families of deployed soldiers and returned wounded warriors.  I’ll keep running, will you help too?

π

30 Minutes, Every 3 Weeks, for 15 Years: Farewell to a Dear Friend

Last week the world lost Ninh Nguyen, the sweet gentle soul who cut my hair for about 15 years.  For 30 minutes every three weeks we would talk while he cut my hair and it’s surprising how much you can get to know about each other in short encounters like that.

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My hair is not the most challenging haircut Ninh had to do!

If you’ve met me, you know that my hair does not present much of a challenge.  I would describe myself as 50% bald and the biggest challenge is to keep what hair is still there short so that it doesn’t draw attention to the front half of my head where there is no hair!

Still, Ninh would always take great care as if it was the most important thing he had to do.  I could have walked into any military barber and been out in minutes but Ninh had a method that used a combination of electric clipper, scissors, and comb (I don’t even own a comb!)

updo

Ninh was the master of the up-do and did more work like this than he did with my bald head!

The funniest part was that in the salon where he worked, he was known for his skill for up-do’s.  These are the ultra-fancy braids and buns and almost “sculptures” that you see in weddings, on the Oscars, and on models.  On a Saturday morning he would have entire bridal parties there for his talent.  It cracked me up that this master artist who was trusted by a bride on her wedding day would also take great care with me for what was essentially a crew-cut.

We talked about a lot of things; we both love reality cooking shows.  We both watched Top Chef and would always be rooting for–and against–the same contestants.  “Did you see what he did with those scallops???”

We talked about religion.  Ninh was Buddhist and he once explained that part of his belief is that everything that happens is meant to happen.  He believed that the journey from his homeland of Viet Nam to a hair salon in Arlington, VA was all for a reason and one of those reasons was so that our paths would cross.

I found myself looking forward to haircuts and would often arrive with a list of topics to discuss.  Ninh would often be waiting for me with a list of his own.

I told him my father had flown in Viet Nam for the US Air Force and Ninh encouraged me to visit Viet Nam one day.  We both enjoy writer, chef, and TV travel show host Anthony Bourdain.  Bourdain has long been enamored with the food, the people, the culture and the natural beauty of Viet Nam and Ninh echoed everything he said.

One result of Viet Nam’s colonial history is that Ninh spoke French (along with Vietnamese and English).  From time to time he would talk to me in French so that I could practice a very rusty skill not used since college.

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Ninh’s “family”, the staff at Cassianna Day Spa. Ninh (kneeling in front) left some big shoes to fill for Ben (back center)

Over time, another stylist in the salon, Ben, joined the party.  Ben is from Morocco and in addition to Arabic and English, he too spoke French.  Ninh had been out of the shop for a couple months before his death during which Ben cut my hair.  We would speak French and talk about Morocco, and his religion of Islam, and the best food of North Africa.  When I think about Ninh’s belief that everything happens for a reason, I think maybe his departure will serve to foster yet another friendship.  You have some big shoes to fill Ben!

My whole family gets their haircuts at Cassianna Day Spa.  Ninh did my daughter’s up-do for her prom, he chatted with my wife when she came in for a manicure, he was, truly a family friend.

Ninh told me about his brother who lived in Colorado.  He had served in the military and found the transition from Vietnam challenging.  Ninh was worried that his brother was unhappy.  Then, the brother and his wife decided to move to Boston to be near their children and grandchildren.

IMG_1013On the drive across the country they stopped for a few days in Virginia and visited with Ninh and other family.  I came in for a haircut a few days later and Ninh was so relieved and happy.  His brother had apparently begun to make peace with his new life in the United States and they had a wonderful visit with lots of laughter and stories and great food.  Later when I asked, Ninh felt he was doing much better in Boston.

At the funeral home I asked Ninh’s niece to introduce us and we talked.  I wanted him to know that Ninh had worried about him and talked about him and loved him.  I would want someone to do the same for me, and the brother was clearly touched.

We all have multiple circles of friends, whether neighbors, school friends, work friends, etc.  But just as important are the connective fibers of our daily lives.  I calculate that Ninh gave me approximately 250 haircuts which is funny because I’m not sure I have 250 hairs on my head but they were the greatest therapy sessions!

I know Ninh will be sorely missed by his family at Cassianna Day Spa; but, the void he leaves behind will also be felt by people like me, by bridal parties, and by the many people who called him friend.   At the end of every haircut Ninh would gently put his hand on my shoulder and humbly say, “Thank you Tony”.

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You are a gentle caring soul Ninh, I am grateful indeed that our paths crossed and I will not forget your friendship.

π

Operation Homefront & the Army 10 Miler

“I have committed to running the Army 10 Miler; and to raising $1,000 in the process.”

Happy Independence Day!

The official document informing England it was not the boss of us!

The official document informing England it was not the boss of us!

I love the 4th of July, the anniversary of us officially telling England, “You’re not the boss of me!”  If that doesn’t make you feel patriotic I don’t know what does!

So, in the spirit of patriotism, helping others, and–dropping 10 pounds–I committed this weekend to running the Army 10 Miler in October.  The longest race I’ve ever run is a 10k (6 miles) so this will be a new challenge.

I also committed to raising $1,000 for Operation Homefront in the process.  Operation Homefront provides financial and other assistance to families of deployed soldiers and wounded warriors.

Please consider making a $10 donation to this urgent and worthy cause.  You can click on the moneybag below and it will take you to the fundraising page.

ClicktoHelp

The longest race I have run is a 10k; but, that was part of a triathlon, so a 10 miler should be achievable.

The longest race I have run is a 10k; but, that was part of a triathlon, so a 10 miler should be achievable.

As I increase my mileage on training runs, I hope to also see the fundraising increase toward my goal of $1,000.  You can click on this link:  http://www.active.com/donate/teamoh2015atm/tonemanblog or on the moneybag above.

Thanks in advance for your generosity!

π

Martin Luther King Day from 1984 to 2015

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In January, 1984 I went to a celebratory concert at the Capital Center just outside Washington, DC. The star was Stevie Wonder and he had worked a long time to make the King Holiday a reality.

What a concert it was! It began with a massive gospel choir of maybe 100 people and as they were building to a dramatic climax Stevie joined them! He would go on to play an epic show ending with the birthday song he had composed for MLK himself!

Recently I visited another effort long in the making, a Martin Luther King Memorial on the National Mall. It’s a beautiful monument that strikes a good balance between lionizing him and humanizing him. It is just a short walk from the Lincoln Memorial and the reflecting pool that were the site of his famous “I have a Dream” speech.

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He looks across the Tidal Basin at the Jefferson Memorial, and to his left (the statue’s that is) is the Washington Monument. Pretty good company!

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In recent days as the Ferguson, MO incident and ensuing protests have taken place, I have wondered what he might have said about it all were he alive today. He’d be 85. I suspect he would have wise insight and would not have liked the inflammatory media coverage.

Here’s to you MLK, may you have many imitators!

TT

Tammany Hall in Arlington, VA

donkey

I am a lifelong Democrat with many Republican friends whose right to disagree I have always respected (mostly).

Today Arlington County, VA held a Democratic Caucus for School Board.  Democrats in Arlington have had a stronghold on local politics at least for the 20+ years I have lived here; and Arlington has always gone Democratic in state and national elections.

Today when I went to vote in the primary I was asked to fill out and sign a pledge form.  I was told if I didn’t sign it, I could not vote.  In addition to complete contact information, cell phone, home phone, email address, the form had a passage that read,

“I certify that…I believe in the principles of the Democratic Party; and I do not intend to support, endorse or assist any candidate who is opposed to a Democratic nominee or endorsee in the ensuing election.”

What country is this again?  Is not the voting booth a sacred, private right, a place we refer to as civic duty, and where citizens have the freedom to choose their elected officials?  This Tammany Hall-style pledge form basically said that if I wanted a say in which Democrat ran for School Board I would have to vote for whomever the machine told me to in the general election!

Am I the only one who finds that profoundly offensive?

There are many opinions on the subject.  Arlington has done this for years, other organizations from both major parties do it in other  places, and yes, it would be impossible to enforce.  Nevertheless, I am so offended that the party to which I belong would demand that I forfeit the right to choose in the voting booth in exchange for a vote in the Caucus!!!

I wonder if the leadership of the Arlington  Democratic Party thinks they would lose the election were it not for that form.  Do they boast 100% loyalty among voters since nobody can vote without signing the form?  Do they think that if my caucus choice failed to win the primary I would simply defect to the republican candidate instead of voting for the other democrat?

Party officials cling to what in my opinion are lame excuses such as using the pledges to thwart mischievous Republicans from manipulating the nomination process.  They also point out that it is not legally enforceable.  When Virginia Republicans tried this for a Presidential Primary they at least had the good sense to listen to the people and back off after widespread objections.  I suppose when you’re the party holding all the cards you are not subject to the pesky burden of listening to the people!  Well here’s hoping social media can change that equation!

I urge Arlington Democrats to speak out.  Tweet it, blog it, write letters, but find a way to object to this

These unfortunate party machine tactics will likely cause me to drop out of the Democratic Party of Arlington.  It will not change my personal political beliefs  but I will now give serious consideration to registering as an Independent and disassociating myself with the party as a way of registering my disappointment with this practice.

I read that the form has actually been challenged in court and upheld.  Obviously I’m not the only one who was offended, and obviously that sort of bad press does not deter Arlington’s Boss Tweed from strong-arming its members.

I did not vote today; however, a democratic school board candidate will be nominated with the support of all democrats who voted in the Caucus since they pledged to forfeit their right to vote freely in the general election.

Shameful.

π

Legacies of War – Laos Gets a Visit From Secretary Clinton

Today Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made a historic visit to Laos.  It was the first visit there by a US Secretary of State since John Foster Dulles in 1955.  It was interesting to me that last week Secretary Clinton was forced to apologize to Pakistan for killing scores of innocent civilians.  This was the price of reopening less expensive supply routes into Afghanistan. 

That should have been a mere warm-up for today’s visit!  Today she had to confront 40 years of death and suffering in Laos at the hands of US bombers.  During the Vietnam War there was a concern that neighboring Laos could fall to the communists so in order to contain North Vietnamese efforts, the US dropped a plane-load of bombs on Laos every 8 minutes, 24 hours a day for 9 years.  It is estimated that nearly a quarter of those bombs failed to explode.  This “unexploded ordnance” continues to take lives and maim innocent Laotians today. 

I recently had the great fortune to attend a fundraiser for an organization called Legacies of War.  This group has worked tirelessly to raise awareness and money to clear these deadly threats from the countryside of Laos.

A friend of mine is on the Board of Directors and a couple weeks ago at his request I attended this fundraiser.  It was a small gathering of maybe 50 people and the speakers included two congressmen, Mike Honda (CA) and Eni Faleomavaega (American Samoa), two former Ambassadors to Laos Douglas Harwick and Patricia Haslach, and Senator Al Franken (MN).

Congressmen Honda (CA) and Faleomavaega (American Samoa)

I often joke that though I have lived in the Washington, DC area for almost 30 years, I have never met even a Congressional Page!  That’s not completely true–my own congressman, Jim Moran of VA is often seen in Arlington–but it’s not exactly the east coast version of Hollywood here. In fact I only recognized Al Franken because he used to appear on Saturday Night Live!

Senator Al Franken (MN)

I also met Channapha Khamvongsa, the Executive Director of Legacies of War.  She was easily the most charming of the group!

It didn’t feel like a fundraiser!

It didn’t feel like a fundraiser because there was amazing Laotian food there, and their own beer, Beerlao!  The food was fabulous!  It was somewhat like Thai food, and something like Vietnamese food, but not exactly like either.  There was a definite tropical component and it had the tell-tale Asian palate of hitting every taste bud at the same time, sweet, salty, sour, etc.  One impressive fact about the food that evening was that it had been prepared by a favorite local restaurant of mine, Policy.  They worked with some Laotian chefs to create this gorgeous and delicious feast!

The food was as visually pleasing as it was delicious!

After the speakers there was music and traditional Laotian dancing. 

It was a departure from my normal suburban life.  Though I live 5 miles from the US Capitol, the world of Capitol Hill is as remote to me as it would be for someone living in California.  This, however, was a worthwhile cause and an enjoyable evening.

Laotian food is similar to Thai food, and similar to Vietnamese food, but with its own character and flavors.

I applaud Secretary Clinton for her visit and her suggestion that the United States must do more to help this poor nation.  I urge you to support this modest charity.  Visit their website, “like” them on Facebook, and help spread awareness through your own social media outlets.  You can influence your congressmen and senators.  Everyday innocent children are being harmed and your awareness and help can make a difference!

π

Powerless in the DC Storm!

This scene was familiar all over the DC area, entire trees falling across a street and taking power lines with them.

If you have been following the news you have heard that we had record heat and humidity Friday in the Washington, DC area.  The temperature was 104!  As often happens, the humidity builds all day until it ends with a violent thunderstorm.  Last night, however, the storm was the most rapid and violent most of us have ever seen outside of a hurricane.  The weather man referred to this sort of storm as a derecho, a fast-moving wind storm that combines unstable air and severe thunderstorms.

Although a little blurry, you can see in this photo that this giant tree in the Westover neighborhood of Arlington landed on the roof an an apartment building!

Severe indeed!  We experienced 70 mph winds and near constant lightning!  It looked like hokey special effects on a bad movie!  I heard one radio weather man say we experienced 1100 lightning strikes!  You could hear trees falling and see the spark of branches hitting powerlines.  Occasionally you’d hear and see the pop of a transformer blowing.

This utility pole smoldered and occasionally ignigted into flames all day. The fire department was unable to do anything because these lines were still live.

Early on we noticed cars in front of our house swerving erratically and when things had calmed down a bit we went outside to discover a large tree branch–a foot in diameter at the base–had broken off an ancient oak tree and dropped into our street blocking most of what is a fairly busy artery of Arlington.

Police had to remove this large branch–about a foot in diameter at the base–from the middle of street on our block.

By 11:00 it was over and over a million people in the DC area had lost power.  We were among those million people!  We opened the windows and tried to get some sleep.  At 4:30am a massive branch that must have partially broken during the storm finally let go.  It made a crash that seemed to go on forever as we waited to hear if it would land on our roof, our neighbor’s roof, etc.  Fortunately it dropped right on the property line between houses but it did damage a section of my neighbor’s fence and land mostly in their yard.

Cleanup on Aisle 4!

In the morning I improvised a coffee maker with an old French Press and and took a travel mug to survey the damage.

Every yard looked like a debris field and there were entire trees down everywhere!  It seemd no block was spared and in many cases the trees had fallen across the road and blocked passage.  Nobody in my entire neighborhood seemed to have power.

This monstrous branch broke off the tree and landed on–and punctured–the roof of a friend of mine.

We were facing an indefinite period without air conditioning, lights, or electronics, the food in the freezer was thawing and the temperature was going to the high 90’s again!  This is where personalities began to emerge. 

One buddy of mine began immediately grousing about how hot it was going to be…it wasn’t even hot yet!  I pointed out that it was summer and it was supposed to be hot.  He said, “I don’t want to hear your New England ‘can-do’ attitude.  I’m from New York and this sucks!”  When I tweeted mid-day that it really wasn’t so bad a total stranger attacked me on twitter calling me a dumbass and telling me to wake up and see the long gas lines and the heavy traffic resulting from signals being out!

To be sure there were people who were uncomfortable and apparently angry; but, surprisingly it was not so bad!  The storm had relieved the humidity, so being in the shade made a big difference.  We spent most of the day outside cleaning up.  It brought everybody out to the front of their houses and into the street to help each other clear away branches and had many of us checking on others to make sure everything was ok.  It was one of those events that heightens one’s sense of community and mutual  vulnerability.

Because it was a weekend we didn’t have to be anywhere, that helped.  Losing electricity in summer is not as bad as it would have been to lose water.  Though the damage was severe, nobody in our neighborhood seemed to be hurt, and property damage was, for the most part, minimal.  The trees took the biggest beating.

This car will not see the open road again; but, fortunately this sort of property damage seemed to be minimal in our neighborhood.

At lunchtime we cooked hot dogs on the grill, and ate everything we could that was not going to last.  After clearing brush and limbs we were pretty hungry!

We were invited to dinner at a neighbor’s house who, for some inexplicable reason still had power while all the surrounding houses did not.  While we were sitting at dinner enjoying the air conditioning and a great meal, their power went out, nearly 24 hours after the storm!

We left and drove around Arlington, not wanting to leave the air-conditioned car.  Every gas station had long lines growing into the street, apparently people who had generators.  There were indeed very few traffic signals working and those intersections either had the left turn option blocked off or were treated as a 4-way stop.  Entire blocks of stores were dark and then another block would have power and be open. 

In this photo you can see that the tree nearly brought down utility poles on either side of it!

It was sad to see the most lively block of the Clarendon neighborhood was dark.  The Liberty Tavern, Clarendon Ballroom, Spyder Kelly’s, and Eventide were all dark on a Saturday night!  I can’t imagine how much lost income that represents.

We went home and at around 9:30 were ready for bed because it was really dark and really hot…still 90° at that hour!  I decided to just sit outside for a while on our back deck.  My phone was still charged and I was reading updates about the storm from @ArlNowDotCom and sending a message to my sisters and mom about how we were doing.  All of the sudden our whole block lit up with power.  I heard people all around our backyard yell with delight and soon you could hear outdoor AC units switch on. 

Dominion Power reports that Arlington alone still has 10’s of thousands without power and many will wait several days.  For these people it will be very difficult to get up and go to work monday like a normal day.  Stores will be challenged to stock up for 4th of July BBQ’s and it will take a week or more for life to get back to normal.

The good news however, is that this sort of incident brings out the goodness of a neighborhood and many of those people will be able to stretch an extension cord across the street to someone who does have power or join them for dinner, charge their phones at their houses, etc.

I don’t know if it’s a New England attitude, or if I really am a dumbass as the angry twitter stranger suggested but this in this case, as Mother Nature threw her hardest fastball at us, it wasn’t difficult to see the positive side!

π

Derecho – Powerless in the DC Storm!

This scene was familiar all over the DC area, entire trees falling across a street and taking power lines with them.

If you have been following the news you have heard that we had record heat and humidity Friday in the Washington, DC area.  The temperature was 104!  As often happens, the humidity builds all day until it ends with a violent thunderstorm.  Last night, however, the storm was the most rapid and violent most of us have ever seen outside of a hurricane.  The weather man referred to this sort of storm as a derecho, a fast-moving wind storm that combines unstable air and severe thunderstorms.

Although a little blurry, you can see in this photo that this giant tree in the Westover neighborhood of Arlington landed on the roof an an apartment building!

Severe indeed!  We experienced 70 mph winds and near constant lightning!  It looked like hokey special effects on a bad movie!  I heard one radio weather man say we experienced 1100 lightning strikes!  You could hear trees falling and see the spark of branches hitting powerlines.  Occasionally you’d hear and see the pop of a transformer blowing.

This utility pole smoldered and occasionally ignigted into flames all day. The fire department was unable to do anything because these lines were still live.

Early on we noticed cars in front of our house swerving erratically and when things had calmed down a bit we went outside to discover a large tree branch–a foot in diameter at the base–had broken off an ancient oak tree and dropped into our street blocking most of what is a fairly busy artery of Arlington.

Police had to remove this large branch–about a foot in diameter at the base–from the middle of street on our block.

By 11:00 it was over and over a million people in the DC area had lost power.  We were among those million people!  We opened the windows and tried to get some sleep.  At 4:30am a massive branch that must have partially broken during the storm finally let go.  It made a crash that seemed to go on forever as we waited to hear if it would land on our roof, our neighbor’s roof, etc.  Fortunately it dropped right on the property line between houses but it did damage a section of my neighbor’s fence and land mostly in their yard.

Cleanup on Aisle 4!

In the morning I improvised a coffee maker with an old French Press and and took a travel mug to survey the damage.

Every yard looked like a debris field and there were entire trees down everywhere!  It seemd no block was spared and in many cases the trees had fallen across the road and blocked passage.  Nobody in my entire neighborhood seemed to have power.

This monstrous branch broke off the tree and landed on–and punctured–the roof of a friend of mine.

We were facing an indefinite period without air conditioning, lights, or electronics, the food in the freezer was thawing and the temperature was going to the high 90’s again!  This is where personalities began to emerge.

One buddy of mine began immediately grousing about how hot it was going to be…it wasn’t even hot yet!  I pointed out that it was summer and it was supposed to be hot.  He said, “I don’t want to hear your New England ‘can-do’ attitude.  I’m from New York and this sucks!”  When I tweeted mid-day that it really wasn’t so bad a total stranger attacked me on twitter calling me a dumbass and telling me to wake up and see the long gas lines and the heavy traffic resulting from signals being out!

To be sure there were people who were uncomfortable and apparently angry; but, surprisingly it was not so bad!  The storm had relieved the humidity, so being in the shade made a big difference.  We spent most of the day outside cleaning up.  It brought everybody out to the front of their houses and into the street to help each other clear away branches and had many of us checking on others to make sure everything was ok.  It was one of those events that heightens one’s sense of community and mutual  vulnerability.

Because it was a weekend we didn’t have to be anywhere, that helped.  Losing electricity in summer is not as bad as it would have been to lose water.  Though the damage was severe, nobody in our neighborhood seemed to be hurt, and property damage was, for the most part, minimal.  The trees took the biggest beating.

This car will not see the open road again; but, fortunately this sort of property damage seemed to be minimal in our neighborhood.

At lunchtime we cooked hot dogs on the grill, and ate everything we could that was not going to last.  After clearing brush and limbs we were pretty hungry!

We were invited to dinner at a neighbor’s house who, for some inexplicable reason still had power while all the surrounding houses did not.  While we were sitting at dinner enjoying the air conditioning and a great meal, their power went out, nearly 24 hours after the storm!

We left and drove around Arlington, not wanting to leave the air-conditioned car.  Every gas station had long lines growing into the street, apparently people who had generators.  There were indeed very few traffic signals working and those intersections either had the left turn option blocked off or were treated as a 4-way stop.  Entire blocks of stores were dark and then another block would have power and be open.

In this photo you can see that the tree nearly brought down utility poles on either side of it!

It was sad to see the most lively block of the Clarendon neighborhood was dark.  The Liberty Tavern, Clarendon Ballroom, Spyder Kelly’s, and Eventide were all dark on a Saturday night!  I can’t imagine how much lost income that represents.

We went home and at around 9:30 were ready for bed because it was really dark and really hot…still 90° at that hour!  I decided to just sit outside for a while on our back deck.  My phone was still charged and I was reading updates about the storm from @ArlNowDotCom and sending a message to my sisters and mom about how we were doing.  All of the sudden our whole block lit up with power.  I heard people all around our backyard yell with delight and soon you could hear outdoor AC units switch on.

Dominion Power reports that Arlington alone still has 10’s of thousands without power and many will wait several days.  For these people it will be very difficult to get up and go to work monday like a normal day.  Stores will be challenged to stock up for 4th of July BBQ’s and it will take a week or more for life to get back to normal.

The good news however, is that this sort of incident brings out the goodness of a neighborhood and many of those people will be able to stretch an extension cord across the street to someone who does have power or join them for dinner, charge their phones at their houses, etc.

I don’t know if it’s a New England attitude, or if I really am a dumbass as the angry twitter stranger suggested but this in this case, as Mother Nature threw her hardest fastball at us, it wasn’t difficult to see the positive side!

π

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