Archive for May, 2010

Here We Go Again

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010
Brian Golden

As a local musician in the area for over 15 years I’ve had plenty of opportunities to grace the pages of The Evening Sun, whether it involved one of the many bands I’ve performed with in the past (Fools at Play, Badweather Blues, The Pub Crawlers, etc.) or just me. Most recently, and prior to joining the team here at our hometown daily newspaper, my newfound friend and co-worker Tyler Murphy did a story on my successes in the store preliminaries as part of Guitar Center’s King of the Blues contest last year.

Now I’ve never had much luck when it comes to guitar contests. In fact, I don’t believe I’ve ever placed higher than second in any I’ve participated in. However, those were local contests, and in comparison, the stakes are much higher in the Guitar Center competition, especially this year.

In all honesty, I wasn’t quite sure I wanted to participate in this competition for a second time. It wasn’t necessarily the disappointment I felt after my failure to advance further than the district competition in Brooklyn last year, although I beat myself up pretty good for what I considered a sub-par performance. It has more to do with the changes which have taken place in my life since then. Following my unexpected departure from the Badweather Blues Band, and due to the fact that I’m now reporting full-time for the paper, I just haven’t had a lot of time or opportunity to play guitar, which is to be expected. I still play with three bands (The Voodoo Mystics, The Master Thieves and Rippleton), but performances have been few and far between in recent months, which again is okay with me. The house, my work and my nearly non-existent social life keep me plenty busy these days. So when I discovered that the King of the Blues competition was once again taking place, I had serious misgivings about signing up. Then I found out who was headlining the finals in Hollywood, California.

Derek Trucks.

For those unfamiliar with the prolific slide guitarist, Derek is the nephew of Allman Brothers drummer Butch Trucks, and quite possibly one of the most important musical figures in recent history (I’m not joking). Think John Coltrane meets Duane Allman, all tied in with the influence of blues, Indian raga rhythms and melodies and you’ll get an idea of what I’m talking about. So when I found out that this musical hero of mine would be performing at the King of the Blues finals, my fate was sealed. I had to sign up.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of reasons for my wanting to win this competition. A nice selection of free guitars, strings, effects, amplifiers, endorsements, $25,000 and a feature in Guitar World magazine among them. Yet I would gladly trade all of that for a chance to meet, hang out and possibly perform with Mr. Trucks. For years I’ve annoyed friends and family alike with my wish to play some guitar with Derek (or Warren Haynes, but that’s another story), and I find myself paying close attention to that little voice in my head that’s whispering “hey Brian, a chance like this doesn’t come around every day, make it worth it.”

Guitar Center touts this contest as the search for the nation’s top undiscovered blues guitarist, and 10, even 5 years ago, I would probably have gone out of my way telling everybody I could how that was me. What can I say, arrogance is something I just had to grow out of. It took me years to realize that being a great guitarist and musician wasn’t a competition. If the music were to truly mean something it had to be more than that. I’ll admit that for years I walked around with a massive chip on my shoulder and in reality, I just needed to grow up. Which is another reason I’m having trouble justifying my participation in the King of the Blues contest. Music is more to me than gear and accolades, recognition and prizes. Music is a spiritual release for me, it’s my religion you could say. Yet I cannot fathom missing this chance to meet one of my biggest musical inspirations and perhaps make some strides in regards to my musical career.

Needless to say, it will all be for naught if I don’t qualify this Thursday for the in-store finals, the first step toward Hollywood and an encounter with one of the world’s premier slide guitarists. And while that’s a long ways away, sometimes the first step on a long journey is the most important. In other words, I’ll never know if I have it in me if I don’t try. In my mind, if I can keep my stepfather Steve’s advice close to heart (just be yourself), and remain in contact with that part of me that rejoices in the spiritual side of the music, no matter how I do I’ll know I did my best. As Steve once said to me in all seriousness, “play the music of your soul.”

Here we go again.

DC or bust

Monday, May 24th, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

About a year ago, my mother announced that she had always wanted to visit Washington. This was news to me, since she’d never expressed this desire to me during the several years I lived in close proximity to our nation’s capital. Nor did she visit me during those years, the majority of which were spent in Arlington, VA.

I’m not going to lie. I was a bit miffed. But I know full well why I didn’t rate a visit. Having not yet produced any grand children, I’m still dead last on the totem pole when it comes to planning vacations. That’s why I had to move back here. I figured it was the only way I’d ever get to see my parents.

But I’ve put that bitterness aside. Really, I have. And good little daughter that I (sometimes) am, I set about planning a trip to DC for my mom.

I’ll never forget my own excitement at visiting the city’s historic landmarks and monuments for the first time, even though I was only in middle school. (Yep, Safety Patrol.) But of course, I got to know it much better when I lived down there. It didn’t take me long to draw up a list of things I wanted my mom to see and experience while we were down there.

If we follow our itinerary, we’ll hit all of the usual suspects: The Lincoln and Jefferson Memorials, the Washington Monument, the Vietnam Memorial, the National Archives, a few of the Smithsonians. Maybe the Botanical Gardens and the National Gallery. Definitely the World War II Memorial and the Holocaust Museum, and maybe even the Spy Museum, all of which opened after I departed the area. We’ll catch up with a couple of my old partners-in-crime, as well.

It will be a lot to cover in just three short days, but we’ll do our best.

By far the highlights of our trip will be tours of the “big three,” as I think of them: The Library of Congress, the Capitol and – drum roll, please – the White House.

It’s the latter of those three which I’m most looking forward to. For all my years in Northern Virginia, I never had a chance to see first-hand the interior of this historic structure, which has been home to some of our nation’s greatest leaders. Despite the fact that I worked less than a block away for a year and a half. My building sat at the corner of Connecticut and H, kitty-corner to Lafayette Park. I had lunch in that park many a day, gazing at the building’s stately portico and watching tour groups mill around.

And this Friday, my mom and I will both finally get a chance to peek inside. I absolutely cannot wait! Our self-guided tour has been arranged by Senator Charles Schumer’s stellar staff, who also orchestrated the Library of Congress and Capitol building tours. (Thanks Max and Adam! You guys rock.)

I’ll be spending the next two days with my nose to the grindstone, trying to clear my plate so there will be nothing hanging over my head. Because come hell or high water, or breaking news, my mom and I will be heading out bright and early Wednesday morning.

DC or bust!

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Hazard Pay

Friday, May 21st, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

I’m not the first Evening Sun reporter to ever get chased into the parking lot by a rabid school board candidate, and I probably won’t be the last. So on behalf of all those who follow in my footsteps at our little hometown daily, I am lobbying for hazard pay when such a situation arises. It’s only fair, I think, when one is operating in a war zone.

And let’s face it, that’s what some of these school board battles are these days: war zones.

My personal interest in this cause was sparked by an incident which happened a little over a week ago. It was May 11 to be exact, the night of the Norwich City School District’s annual budget information session. After the budget hearing and the brief board meeting which followed, I found myself in the hallway outside of the Norwich High School auditorium.

I was grabbing a couple of last-minute shots of two current school board members who were seeking re-election. I wasn’t sure if there would be room to run them along with the epic piece I’d already penned, featuring bios of each of the eight candidates vying for the three vacancies on the district’s governing body, but I wanted to be prepared if Jeff needed them.

Our little photo shoot was going as well as could be expected (given my admittedly abysmal photography skills), when we were interrupted by another candidate who also wanted his picture taken.

This might seem like a fairly routine request, but in this case I was forced to decline because of the rather extenuating circumstances. You see, this candidate – who I will only refer to as the perennial school board candidate, or PSBC, in reference to his numerous runs for office – has a bit of a history with The Evening Sun. And not a good one.

Several years school board races prior to this one, PSBC had committed a cardinal sin. He had distributed campaign flyers which to even a discerning eye made it look like the Evening Sun was endorsing his candidacy.

I have seen the offending brochure, and I can tell you that the concerns of our editor and publisher regarding its distribution were entirely justified. The two-sided flyer featured the message to vote for this particular candidate as well as a copy of a letter to the editor he had written. That wasn’t a problem, but the fact that the page prominently displayed the paper’s banner (the big logo at the top of the front page most people mistakenly refer to as the masthead) and a thumbs up graphic definitely was.

The offender got off with a slap on the wrist: the pronouncement that his name would never again sully the pages of the aforementioned publication.

Over the intervening years, Jeff has relaxed this policy slightly. When previously the PSBC’s name would only appear as a footnote in election coverage, he allowed me to write a full bio last year. But the understanding was that no photo would accompany the piece. PSBC was happy with this arrangement. And it was our plan for this year, as well.

But, the night of the budget hearing, he decided to push the issue. And when I declined to take his photo as requested, he proceeded to have what, if he had been 5, I would have called a temper tantrum. Yep, he ran screaming down the school corridor, spewing hatred for The Evening Sun and its staff to anyone who would listen. And of course, those who were listening were unaware of the backstory and instantly jumped on the bandwagon.

After a parting word to the PSBC that he knew the deal and if he’d had a problem he should have taken it up with Jeff earlier in the campaign, rather than waiting until the night before the piece was due to be published, I made my exit.

Walking to my car, I pulled out my phone and dialed Jeff’s number. Focused on the task as I was, it took me a minute to realize someone was shadowing my steps. Oh, and shouting at me.

Yep, you guessed it. The PSBC.

Once he realized I was on the phone – and probably rightly assuming who I was calling – his tune changed slightly. I would imagine it had begun to dawn on him that perhaps verbally attacking one of Jeff’s reporters was probably not the best way of getting back into our esteemed editor’s good graces. But at that point the damage was already done.

And not only with Jeff. Until that point, I’d always been polite and respectful in my dealings with this man, whether I’ve encountered him at a school board meeting or around town. I even advocated on his behalf to Jeff last year, which helped him get equal billing with the other candidates in our coverage. But I don’t take kindly to verbal abuse.

And, as if the events of Tuesday evening weren’t enough, the situation was further worsened by the PSBC’s wife, who called The Evening Sun offices the next morning pretending to be an investigative journalist. She doesn’t use his name, and seems to be under the impression that most of us don’t realize their relation. I deferred her call to Jeff, who handled it appropriately, in my opinion.

You might have already surmised that this incident is what led Jeff to be a little extra scathing in his review of Norwich’s Meet the Candidates night. And you would be right.

Because the PSBC has most assuredly torched that proverbial bridge.

And that was before he was found lurking in the parking lot one morning, waiting for a staff member to arrive so he could pass of a letter to the editor he wanted to submit.

Thank heavens he didn’t actually get elected.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

Kids, don’t try this at home

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
Brian Golden

With summer fast approaching I find myself thinking back to all of the fun times my friends and I had roaming the hills and forests of Pratt Road. Whether we were hiking, camping, barbecuing, playing sports or just hanging out, it seems we never lacked for something to do. To put it another way, we were never bored and always found some way to amuse ourselves, even if it sometimes involved an element of danger (or stupidity). What can I say, we were teenagers (actually, my friends Jay, Dave, Jared, Sean and stepbrother Geoff were teenagers, I was only 12). But one early summer evening will forever remain etched in all our memories.

As the youngest member of the “Pratt Road Gang,” I was often persuaded into all manner of idiotic behavior, and it’s a wonder to me at times that I lived through all of the tormenting, dares and foolery that accompany a 12 year old surrounded by 17 and 18 year olds, as I’m sure you can imagine. Yet in retrospect, there is one particular event that sticks out. The Amazingly Stupendous Flaming Scooter, navigated by none other than yours truly (mom, if you’re reading this, stop now and forget I ever said a word).

My friend Jay, who lived just down the road from my dad’s house, had an extremely intelligent father who had his own shop located behind their home, which was filled with all manner of tools, machines and nifty gadgets. We spent hours in that shop raising all sorts of mayhem, until one afternoon we discovered the “mystery liquid.” This stuff smelled like it could peel the bark off of a tree and was extremely flammable, but through a rigorous series of (we’re so lucky we didn’t blow ourselves up) tests we found that an object coated with the mystery liquid would not burn, the liquid simply burned off until it had evaporated (my eighth grade science teacher demonstrated something similar with a dollar bill. Soak the bill in the liquid and light it up and after the flames died down the bill was untouched). Needless to say, our imaginations ran wild with the possibilities for a little pyrotechnic entertainment, and that’s where my scooter came in.

Now for your information, self-propelled scooters in 1989 were nothing like the models available today. They had miniature bicycle tires, about a foot in diameter, and you actually had to expend a little energy to get one going. No motors, no propulsion system, no light speed, nothing of the sort. Of course, seeing as I was the only one in our group that owned one, and due to my young, impressionable age, I was “volunteered” as the test pilot for our little launch (keep reading and you’ll understand).

First off we built the ramp. Due to the massive popularity of skateboarding in Norwich circa 1989, ramp-building was a crucial talent for anyone age 10 to 18, so we had tons of experience to draw from (I briefly considered a career in skateboarding when I was younger, until I realized I really wasn’t all that good at it). Next, we waited for my father and stepmother to vacate the premises, which they soon did. And lastly, we doused our recently constructed ramp, the road leading uphill to my “starting point” and the tires on my scooter with the mystery liquid.

What followed was quite possibly the most amazing pyrotechnic display in the history of Pratt Road.

The quick flick of a Bic lighter to my front tire and I was off, flames racing ahead of me in a straight line toward the soaked ramp. The timing was perfect as I approached the “launch zone,” and moments before lift-off the entire ramp whooshed up in flames. As I made my landing, skidding to a stop, I turned to see the stunned looks on the faces of my friends, as we watched the flames quickly disappear as the mystery liquid was consumed.

Looking back I can hardly believe my stupidity in attempting this ridiculous feat, and my only excuse is that it was designed, implemented and successfully achieved by a group of professional idiots. My only regret? Why couldn’t we have had a digital camcorder and access to YouTube back in those days, because I can not even imagine how many hits the Amazingly Stupendous Flaming Scooter would have accumulated.

Do you know where I can find some drugs?

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
Tyler Murphy

Impatient and worried that perhaps my down stairs door may be locked I decided to wait outside in the fresh and cooling 7 p.m. air along Fair Street yesterday.

My street is obnoxiously busy for my local country boy tastes but I’ve adjusted to the awkward glances and the constant presence of some pretty weird people who seem to wonder aimlessly around the City of Norwich daily.

I took about five steps from my front porch to glance down toward the east end of Fair St. hoping to see my pedestrian brother carrying our to-go ordered dinner. He wasn’t there but not too far away a group of three young people (mid-late twenties, about my age) came over to me. A woman and two men.

Coming closer they never projected any kind of oral greeting they just stared and approached nervously.

It was a little startling- three unsavory looking strangers locking eyes and moving to engage you suddenly.

I couldn’t help but tilt my hips and shoulders to face a potential threat, yet still I offered a “How you’doin,” in a half-hearted, neighborly tone.

Right away I could smell one of the men’s words before I even heard them. They must have been drinking and they slurred slightly. They said hi and introduced their first names. There was this pause and I was a little confused as to what they might want next. The guy who originally stepped toward me with the others just sort of following along kept pivoting on his heels as he spoke like we were on the high seas.

(Keep in mind I’ve never spoken to this man before.)

“Hey man, do you know were we can get some good weed, it’s hard to get good weed around here. You need drugs in a small town like this, it so boring,” he said with a nervous laugh.

I laughed too.

Lacking any good drug tips I replied with a stunned shoulder shrug and a silent cold look. The trio paused for a moment as if they suddenly realized asking random people for drugs may be a mistake.

I was now staring at the three with an amused look and half crooked smile. Then they departed my company nearly as fast as they joined it.
It was so random that I neglected to call the Norwich PD but next time I will.

As much comic relief as this encounter gave us later in the night I really do hate people like this being any where near my neighborhood.
I’d encourage others to contact the PD at 334-1212, in light of my mistake.

Just thought I’d share the experience.

Holy Sheep!

Thursday, May 6th, 2010
Brian Golden

My Tuesday morning began pretty typical. The alarm went off at precisely 5:05 a.m. and I was up and about as usual. As I threw together my attire for the day I took a peek out of the window and saw a heavy fog shrouding the surrounding hills. I had taken a sick day on Monday (due to a nasty sinus infection and headache), and I was anxious to get back to the office and see how many e-mails and phone calls I had amassed, not to mention I had a story to write.

Now anyone familiar with the area where I grew up knows that there are two ways into the city from my house, the well-traveled County Route 36 with a left turn down Polkville Hill, or the twisting, winding Dan Main Hill Road, my preferred route. This morning was no different as I hopped into the Green Machine (a sarcastic reference to my aging Neon) and down the road I went.

Animals of all varieties are a given in my neck of the woods, and over the years I’ve managed to avoid collisions with all sorts, domestic and wild (one particular morning I dodged a young deer, a rabbit and a skunk in rapid succession, thinking to myself, what is this a Disney movie?). I even watched in disbelief one afternoon as a baby black bear took a header out of a tree in my backyard. I’ve slammed on the brakes more times than I can count to spare the lives of chipmunks, squirrels, cats, dogs, foxes, woodchucks, coyotes and so on. You name it I’ve missed it, even if by a foot (I was, however, in the car with a friend when he took out a chicken right up the road), but I was completely unprepared for what I was about to experience this particular Tuesday morning.

Sheep. And we’re not talking a couple of sheep, we’re talking a large group of sheep, commonly referred to as a flock, herd or mob (for the purposes of this writing I think I’ll stick with mob).

I was perhaps a mile and a half from my house, driving carefully due to the dense fog and cresting a blind hill, when a host of shadowy figures appeared through the blanket of misty whiteness. As the fog parted I suddenly found myself barreling toward the mob of sheep (if you haven’t noticed, it always seems like you’re driving much faster when approaching a potential collision). Slamming on the brakes, I veered dangerously close to the ditch, aiming for a slight gap in the mob. And I almost made it. Above the screech of the brakes I heard a loud thump and a grunt of pain from one of the adult sheep (I’m just glad I didn’t hit one of the little ones, I don’t know that I could live with that), yet I was optimistic when I realized I hadn’t run the poor thing over, it had just bounced off of the driver-side door of the car. I continued on my way for several reasons. One, the hour (it was 5:15 in the morning). Two, I’ve known the family that owns this mob for years and three, I promised myself I would stop back on my way home that evening. Which I did.

I didn’t quite know what to expect when I returned that evening, but it turned out my fears were unfounded. Not only were the owners of the sheep completely understanding, they actually apologized to me for the incident. Best of all, none of the sheep had been seriously injured, much to my relief. The only damage to the Green Machine? A driver side door that will not open, forcing me to climb in and out of the passenger side, an inconvenience I am happy to put up with for now until I can get it fixed. And the moral of this story? Please drive carefully because you never know when a mob of sheep could be just around the corner.

A curse and a blessing

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
Tyler Murphy

A blog, a column, a feature. The editorial paths that allow a writer an opportunity to express a personal view. These incredible avenues of reaching the public can be quite intimidating. Not only that but in a dedicated readership such as ours the opinions offered can often draw acclaim and complaint from people you’ll see routinely in the community. These challenges are the same when writing and publishing any work but an editorial has but one voice and one person responsible for its stated content, the writer.

At first I used to be fixated on the idea of routinely writing any creative piece but over time the anxiety of scrutiny and the vulnerability felt after sharing an intimate or controversial point of view has a way of corroding inspirations.

After first being hired there was this honest but somewhat ignorant obviousness to things political or unpopular. It was an advantage but as one gains experiences, acquaintances and even friends in the local workings of government, law enforcement and the community you find it harder to conclude your own personal perspective.

Being the court reporter for the last few years I’ve also dedicated myself to looking for the silver lining and the Achilles’ heel in every argument and training myself to keep my own thoughts apart from my professional work. Columns and blogs often feel like a personal script most of us would jot down in a diary or social networking site.

I’m proud to say that there is rarely any topic, local or global, where I can’t find two intelligent people in my life that share completely differing views. I enjoy a good round of reasonable debate with someone attempting to convert me over to their set of ideals.

Walking this three year-plus line at the newspaper between topics and opinions has at times made me skeptical of beliefs I was once so sure of. Sometimes I feel like I’m carrying out a never ending diagnostic of my personal thoughts to ensure they meet the ever changing logic gained through my day to day learning experiences.

Here’s an good example involving the economy. Personally I think public sector employees’ current contracts and expectations exceed the means of our fiscal reality. Those of us working in the private sector have come to realize that profitability is the end all be all in sustaining salary and benefits. If you don’t make any money you don’t get any money.

The public sector isn’t the same animal as a private business because they are created to generate a service and not necessarily to make a profit. I understand this. The thing is blue collar private sector employees are tossed scraps when comparing their contracted medical benefits and annual salary raises to public unionized employees.

I think public sector unions and administrators have basically had it too good for too long and now they are caught in a strange sort of cultural shock because their earnings have to be corrected after years of over spending. Ordinarily I wouldn’t really care but it’s my and your money we’re spending here.

A lot of people work hard and I don’t think you can say public sector employees work harder or are more important than the rest of us. Certain state teamster stereo types actually embody the opposite. So why shouldn’t their means be approximately the same as their private sector counterparts?

Providing a public service doesn’t give you the right to have a blank check. When the encumbering costs of maintaining those systems begins to hurt the public’s interest then it’s time to cut some people loose and maybe take a second look at revamping the whole retirement system.

I’m going to go home now and feel the wraith of my state employed parents, my father especially because he was a former CSEA local union president. I’m sure he’ll be quick to point out I grew up on their state paychecks.

At the same time anyone of my struggling private sector friends who aren’t in a union, most receiving less medical benefits and retirement packages, (raising my hand) will sing my praise. Of course some of these same friends would kill to have these jobs I’m being critical of.

Such is life.

Kidney Stones on Route 66

Monday, May 3rd, 2010
Melissa Stagnaro

I hear “kidney stones” and I immediately think of John Miras.

John features prominently in a lot of stories from both my Manhattan College days, as well as the years which followed when we both lived in the DC area. I could blog about our combined exploits all day – and already have on more than one occasion – but for this installment I will focus on the kidney stones which have been an on-going medical concern for as long as I’ve known him

Now kidney stones are tiny crystalline masses which form in the kidneys, which can cause excruciating pain. We were in college the first time I remember hearing about John’s kidney woes. It was a triumphant tale, of him returning from the bathroom of one drinking establishment or another with the offending stone in his upraised hand.

Yes, he passed the sharp little sucker at a bar, while he was out with his friends on St. Pat’s or some other drinking holiday. And yes, he went into the urinal after it, to be able to provide proof of his accomplishments to his fellow revelers.

Oh, how I wish I’d been there to see that.

Not, however, to shake his hand.

This was not, unfortunately, the most notable of John’s kidney stone exploits.

I’ve mentioned before how shortly after graduating from college, I migrated south of the Mason Dixon line and settled in Northern Virginia. About a year after I made the move, John too chose to relocate to our nation’s capital.

He tried a couple of housing scenarios – including a week or two of sleeping on the floor at the Arlington house I shared with a couple of friends, including another college friend of ours, Melissa Joy – before settling into a group house in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of northwest DC.

As a side note, you might be interested to know that among his possessions on that move, as it had been for every one prior, was a tiny glass vial containing the kidney stone he had “passed” in that bar all those years before.

While I’m firmly convinced he made the move just to be closer to me, his excuse was that he’d found a job with the Washington City Paper. Where he put his English and History degrees to less-than-optimal use selling what we always referred to as sex ads. (I think his official title was advertising sales rep, but his client list seemed heavier on strip clubs and escort services than anything else.)

The job didn’t really jive with John’s conservative, Catholic upbringing. So we figured it was only a matter of time before (his mother’s prayers were answered and) he moved on to bigger and hopefully better things. But that isn’t to say we weren’t all a little shocked when he traded in his City Paper gig for a position with Pat Buchanan’s 2000 presidential campaign.

And no, that wasn’t some euphemism for rehab. Or incarceration.

None of us were quite sure how to respond to this right-wing bombshell, but we supported John in his decision. Mostly because we didn’t want to see him selling sex ads forever. And, thankfully, he was under no illusion that any of us would actually vote for the guy.

John’s role with the ill-fated campaign was an ambiguous one, and he started his new job without a clearly defined idea of what he would be doing. Still, he was a little shocked when he learned, just a few days on the job, that he would be expected to go to North Carolina for an unspecified length of time. Something to do with supervising the local efforts to gather the signatures required to get Buchanan on the state’s primary ballot, I think. Frankly, John wasn’t so sure either. Nor, as I mentioned, was he sure how long he’d be there.

Determined to be prepared for any eventuality, on the morning of his planned departure, John loaded his car with basically every stitch of clothing he owned and set off from his DC neighborhood toward the campaign headquarters in, if I recall correctly, Tyson’s Corner.

We’d had a little send off dinner the night before, wishing him well on his travels. And were expecting to hear from him once he got to North Carolina.

As it turned out, we heard from him sooner than we’d anticipated.

I was working in Arlington at the time, as a market research analyst for one of the area’s many trade associations, and was invariably knee-deep in data  when the phone rang. It was Melissa, and I could tell from her voice that something was wrong.

She’d gotten a call from John, she told me, relaying the rather disjointed tale he’d told her about being taken to a local hospital. It seems he’d been found unconscious on the side of 66, after he had apparently pulled over. Why he had gotten out of his car, no one was sure, but the law enforcement officer who found him thought that perhaps he had been trying to go for help when he lost consciousness. That’s all she knew.

I raced to the hospital, of course. When I got there, John was sitting in chair so doped up he looked at me for a full minute before recognition dawned that I was someone he knew. When they released him into my care, the doctor told me they’d believed he’d had a kidney stone attack while driving. Thankfully, he’d been able to pull over before passing out. Which was amazing, considering he didn’t remember any of it. (Even before they gave him the drugs.)

His car (loaded with most of his earthly possessions) had been towed to an impound lot near Reagan National Airport. One I was, unfortunately, familiar with.

Yes, Mom, I should have seen the no parking sign. But I don’t need the lecture. I think the $350 I had to pay was penance enough.

John was obviously in no shape to retrieve his car quite yet, so I took him back to my house to recuperate for a bit after picking up his prescriptions. A few hours, and some sustenance later, we got his car out of hock. Despite my protestations, he insisted on going home to Mount Pleasant that night.

He made it home without incident, I’m happy to say, but was too tired upon arrival to cart all of his things back inside. Deciding they’d be safe for a few hours, he went inside to get some rest.

Unfortunately, they weren’t. Safe, that is. At some point during the night, some intrepid thief made off with the contents of his car. Which you’ll remember included 99 percent of his wardrobe.

All John was left with was the suit he’d worn to work that day, and the “rancid” t-shirt he’d had made to torture me back in college.

Once John passed the offending stone – and no doubt added it to his collection – we set about replenishing his closet.

He’s probably added a few more to his collection in the ten years which have passed (no pun intended) since then. But no matter how excruciating they were in their own right, they couldn’t help but pale in comparison in terms of storytelling value.

And knowing John, he probably has entertained many with the tale.

Not that I can talk, of course, because so have I.

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.

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