Thursday, April 30, 2015

Life; Why for

One gets older.
the past piles up like
paid and unpaid bills.
the future,
the end of the future looms...
the "living in the moment"
becomes increasingly relevant.

Smoke an aromatic cigar,
sip a tawny port.
savor each draught;
imbibe the pleasure of this
Heady, no past, no next,
only now.

move on;
live each moment for it's
own enjoyment.
quality over quantity.


Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Lunch with the cousins

You know the old saying; "you can choose your friends, but not your family."  The best of both worlds is when you can choose to be friends with your family, and they, you.

My particular family has centered around three places in New York State.  There are, of course, many other places that have significance in our genealogy but for my generation of LaRocks, the preceding and following generation, three places are paramount.   They are Ogdensburg, Morristown and Rochester New York.  The stand-out figures in these communities are Aunt Nellie Montroy, (actually my great aunt, being she was a sister to my grand father, Frank C. LaRock.) who resided her whole life in Ogdensburg New York and it was this homestead that all returned to annually to touch goal so-to-speak.  So then, Ogdensburg is the place where this microscopic view of my ancestry begins.  The second community/home of importance is Morristown, NY and the central figure there would have to be Frank C. LaRock, my paternal grandfather.  Thirdly, we migrate to the city of Rochester and the main character there is undisputedly, Hellen LaRock Mahoney, daughter of Frank C..  For this narrow glimpse of our family history, these people and communities are the weave, warp and weft where we all intersect.

Let's go back a couple of years to the weekend of June 22nd and 23rd, 2013.  Arrangements had been made for a get-together between myself, living in Morristown, NY, and three cousins from Rochester, NY.  The purpose of the visit was to acquaint the cousins with their "beginnings," their roots.  They visited Ogdensburg; the homestead that was Aunt Nellie's and Uncle Ed's place, the French catholic church, and the French cemetery.
The following day I showed them around the small village of Morristown.  The LaRock family moved around a lot; story has it that they were poor and had to move. I don't know if that's true, but that was the story.   We saw the house where uncle Tom, father to two of my visitors (Mary Kay and Barbara) was born, the double house where the family lived when my dad was born and where the family photo was taken on the porch there-of.  We visited the lot where the last house they lived in was located before it was torn down a few years ago.  This is the house where, so the story goes,  Uncle Fran would look out a bedroom window, facing the cemetery, and say "goodnight Mrs. Dake."
Mrs. Dake was the wife of Henry Dake who bought the general store from Frank C.and had died recently.  Aunt Hellen told this story every time she came to visit us in Morristown. Of course we checked out the post office that had been our grand father's general store from circa 1915 to 1925.  This was also the place were our grandmother died, in the apartment over the store, in 1923.  My dad was 3 years old at the time.  We also visited the home shared by spinster, and Morristown librarian Ethel Ackerman and her mother.  Frank C. married Ethel after his wife, Mary, died.
Mary Kay and Barbara, mentioned above, are my first cousins; both were raised in Rochester, NY.  Later their family move to Ohio where Barbara and her family still reside.  The third person in the trio of visitors was Janet, granddaughter of Aunt Hellen LaRock Mahoney.  She also was raised in Rochester and resides there still with her family.
It's unclear to me, or if I knew, I've forgotten, why more than a few of my relatives moved from Ogdensburg/ Morristown to Rochester, but the fact that they did is undisputable.  I suspect the underlying factor was economic as is the case so many times. 
Aunt Hellen was born in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1908.  By the time she was 2, the family was living in Ogdensburg, where her brother Francis was born.  They may have returned to Ogdensburg earlier, I don't know.  She would have been 7 when Frank started operating the general store on Main St. in Morristown in what is now the post office.  In 1925, Hellen graduated valedictorian from Morristown high school.  When she relocated to Rochester, I do not recall, but she married William Mahoney on July 1st, 1929 at St. Bonaface church in Rochester, N.Y..  She remained in Rochester for the remainder of her life raising here immediate family of three children and surrogate mother to a number of her siblings.  A stated above, her mother died in 1923.  Her dad died 1933.
Just as Aunt Nellie and Uncle Ed (they had no children of their own) served as the center of family life in the Ogdensburg/Morristown area, Aunt Hellen was the focal point for the extended family living in Rochester.  Hellen's husband, Bill, died in 1939, leaving her a single mother to raise three children; Bill, 6 years old, Tom, 3 years old, and Eileen, 1 year old.
Bill, Tom, and Eileen lived, married and raised their own families in Rochester.
And that, my friends, is where this story begins. 


Sunday, April 26, 2015

When little things hold you back

The week wore on and I resolved to run a long run of 13 miles on Saturday in my preparation for a half marathon in four weeks.

Saturday morning dawned at 28 degrees Fahrenheit; too cold, for me, to embark on a training run.  With a forecast that promised low 50s later in the day I decided to get some chores done around the yard while waiting for the air to warm up.  One thing leading to another and pretty soon it is nearing 2 o'clock in the afternoon; two hours after my, self imposed, deadline to start a 3 hour run.  And still the temp was only 49.

"It's now or never. So I'll miss lunch.  Probably smart since we're going out for supper and I'll more than likely eat a day's worth of calories."

I don my running tights, long sleeve, cold weather, running shirt, running cap, and my new running shoes that I'd brought with me from Dansville. I strap my Garmin Forerunner GPS to my wrist, turn it on and walk out the door ready to "do this."  As I'm strolling across the porch I glance at my shoes and notice that they don't match.  "Are you kidding me!"  I'd picked one new and one old shoe from the closet at 0300 before the 3 1/2 drive home and just ass-u-me-d I'd taken my new pair.  [@&""$/(#%}!!!!!
"OK, not that big a deal. Suck it up butter-cup."
Standing in the drive waiting for the Garmin to find a satellite. Sometimes it takes a few minutes at this location.  After a few minutes I notice that the GPS doesn't seem to be searching any longer.  Attempt to turn it off fails.  No matter what button I push the screen stays frozen.  "Really?" I bring it inside and plug it into the charger; no change, still frozen up.

I'm discouraged; many little things are conspiring to make me think that, perhaps I should rethink running a long run on this day.  Oh, did I mention I don't like long runs and only do them because I know without diligent continuous training there will be no finishing a marathon or even a half for that matter.

I argue mentally and out loud with the "don't run" gremlin in my head, and finally decide, after sage advice and encouragement from my wife, to just do a five mile run.  "You'll feel better if you do some miles," she says.

So, with mismatched shoes, a phone gps (whose battery rarely stays charged for more than 8 miles,) a vest and gloves to block the wind blowing frigid river temps into my face, off I start down the hill, resolved to get a five mile run in.

By the time I reach the mile mark I'm feeling like a million bucks.  I'm running far too fast for me, but it feels so good.  Besides I only have two speeds; running or walking.  I decide to run/walk at a 3:1 ratio to slow myself down.  At the 3 mile mark I think, "shit, I could do 13 today easily,  well not easily, but 11.5 easily and then slog out the last 1 1\2.  Too late now but if I do the river loop in the park, I can get 7 miles in.  "Go for it!""

It was't 13, but better than a stick in the eye.  I'm feeling good and my legs are telling me that a fast 7 is almost as good as a slow 13.

We did dine out and my reward for doing a long run was poutine, a black and blue bacon cheese burger and washed down with a maple porter.

Update on the Garmin; I had decided to shit-can the device, it is 10 years old, and get a new one.  A Google search showed me that anew one, at cheapest, would run about $250.00. I left it on the table over night. This morning I pick it up along with the charger cable with the intent of tossing them into the trash. I notice that the here-to-fore frozen screen is blank. I push the on button and the screen comes alive with the message; battery needs charging. Voila, my Garmin gps is back in the game. And just to clarify; yesterday when I turned it on it said 7 hours of battery left.

Moral of the story; don't let the little things deter you from striving to meet your goals.

Sunday, April 12, 2015


The look of recognition on her face was unmistakable; you know, the look that lights up her face.  Her entire face smiles: lips, eyes, cheeks.  Without a word, her countenance telegraphs the message; I remember you, and I like what I remember.

 For me to know her when she approached my table is understandable; I never forget a face, well almost never.  Names on the other hand elude me.  If I remember your name, I’d better get me to the lottery ticket seller most rickey-ticky.

This was the third time I’d encountered this waitress.  The first time, like today, was on a Sunday morning, a few months ago, for breakfast.  Very crisp, and efficient with the perfunctory smile and vacant glance when asking, “how can I help you.”  At the end of the meal she left the bill and I put out the requisite cash + a substantial tip.  In this particular eatery it’s customary for the customer to take the bill to the register and pay and then if they want to leave a tip, take such back to the table before leaving.  On this occasion, because I was reading a book and enjoying the last dregs of my coffee, this waitress offered to take my payment up to the cashier.  I told her “It’s all set, no change is necessary.” A few minutes later she returns and questions if I misread the bill because I’d over paid by twelve dollars.  I said, “no, I know exactly how much I gave you.”  And that was that.  The next time, a few months later, my wife and I had breakfast at this establishment and the same waitress served us and we, all three, engaged in extraneous conversation as well as ordering our meal.  Again she was dutiful but no more, and no more was expected; good service and good meal.  And again I left a substantial tip.  No question this time.  You may wonder why I leave a generous tip.  I was a waiter and bartender while going through school and I know how much tips mean.  Diner breakfasts are inexpensive and any tip, even 20% is a paltry sum.  So I give a good tip when the service is up to par or above.

Today when said waitress came to my table, there was no doubt, she recognized me.  Today I took my bill of $12.04 to the cashier and returned $8.00 to the table.  Do you think that was too much?

Sunday, April 05, 2015

Ethan and the Easter bunny

The face of fear on Ethan's face; a giant Easter Bunny? Get me outta here!
I remember when his father went to visit Santa Clause at the fire hall when he was Ethan's age, and the same look of fear showed on his face.

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Marine Corps Marathon

This story is ten years old.
Even though this blog is only nine years old, I've told this oral history story so often that I was sure I must have blogged it at some point along the way, but a search proved my mistake.

The scene: a fifty-nine-year-old man sitting at his computer in the spring of 2005, contemplating asking his adult daughter to run a race with him.  Not just any race, but the Marine Corps Marathon.  It might be reasonable for you to wonder why that race in particular.  My daughter is and was at that time a Marine Corps Veteran of the first Gulf War.  I was a Navy veteran, having served as a hospital corpsman with the Marines during the Vietnam conflict in 1965. I thought running the MCM could be a thread tying our common military history together.

At this point you might assume that we were both runners of a sort.  You'd be mistaken.  Well, partially mistaken.  Having quit smoking tobacco on August 26th, 1996, I had increased my aerobic activities to the point progressing from walking a mile or so daily to running, at a slow pace to be sure, up to five miles.  I know, I know, five miles is a far cry from twenty-six point two miles, but, hey, let's not quibble over details. It's early spring, probably March, and the race was in October.  How hard can it be to get in adequate shape in seven months?  My daughter, at that time, was totally averse to running. Not physical fitness, just RUNNING.

E-mail to daughter: Do you know when the Marine Corps Marathon is this year?
Return e-mail: I'll check and get back to you.
Later, "it's going to be held on the 30th of Oct. this year.  This is a special year for the MCM because it's the 30th anniversary of the MCM, so they're increasing the enrollment to 30,000 runners.  Why do you ask?                  

Me: "want to run it with me?"
She: "dad, I think you've been taking too much of your own anesthesia drugs."
Me: " oh, right, now I remember; the Navy does while the Marines watch."
She: "OK,OK, I'LL DO IT."

Later she calls her mother and says, " how can I get out of this."

Eventually she talked her husband into being her surrogate.  And so, we, Josh and I, ran and finished the 30th MCM just 5 weeks after my 60th birthday.  There are many side stories about training, ice water baths, ileo-tibial band syndrome, and meeting Jeff Galloway, the author of the book I used to train, and was instrumental in my success.

The race was grueling, taking me 5 hrs. 55 min. to finish.  Josh was an hour faster.  I said then, I'd never run another marathon.  Since then, I've run many half marathons in Ottawa, Canada, Buffalo, NY, and Sackett's Harbor, NY..

In time, my daughter, a physical fitness advocate, caught the running bug, and in recent years we've run together (together meaning we enter the same race) in Buffalo and Sackett's Harbor.  She always finishes way ahead of me.

Fast forward to Labor Day weekend 2014.  We have just finished running the half in the 18.12 Challenge and half marathon at Sackett's Harbor.  My daughter says, "dad, this year they're running the fortieth MCM, wanna run it with me?"
Me: "sure."

Thus, the training begins.  Because of the popularity of the MCM, dubbed the "people's marathon," they select the 30,00 runners by lottery rather than the first come-first-serve method used for the 30th ten years ago. We found out on March 25th that we both had made the cut and we are in the race.  At least this time I know what to expect.

Besides our training to run the marathon in Washington D.C. on 25 October 2015, we'll be running a 1/2 marathon in Buffalo, NY on Memorial Day weekend.  The weekend before Labor Day, in August, we'll run 18.12 miles in Sackett's Harbor.  Then on October 25th, 2015, just 5 weeks after my 70th birthday I'll run the 40th MCM With my daughter.

Semper Fi - ooh-rah-

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