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20 Years Ago, In A Parking Garage At Tyson's Corner...

It’s a moment in time I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

Twenty years ago at this exact moment, I was pulling into the company parking garage and had no earthly idea how the world was about to change in just the next few hours.

We had just moved to Ashburn 18 months prior, and my new office was in Tyson’s Corner, overlooking the Galleria Mall. Most of that time wasn’t spent in that office, but was instead used flying back and forth to Los Angeles to oversee a division my company had in Carson. Half those flights were on American Airlines, the other half on United, as I usually left on a Monday or Tuesday if there were meetings scheduled on Mondays at our offices, I used those two because they were the only direct flights out of Dulles to LAX.

I was sitting in my office on a phone call that morning when someone walked down the hall and said a plane had hit the Twin Towers. My first instinct was they were describing a small private plane that had gone off course and collided with the building, so after my call, I walked down to the conference room where a television was on to see what was going on. It seemed like half our staff was watching.

I arrived just in time to see the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

Stunned would not adequately describe my reaction. This was like Hollywood movie special effects I was watching, but it was playing out in real life. What in the world was happening, we all thought.

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Dave Fulton

Moments

* Our 1st manned spaceflight * JFK Asassination * Martin Luther King shooting * RFK killing * Man on the moon * Elvis' death * Ok... Read More
Sunday, 12 September 2021 13:03
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Exactly Seven Years Ago Today, In Norfolk and Columbus...

When you get to be an old geezer like me, you look back, and at times remember really special occasions you did not expect to end up being so special.

Like what I experienced exactly 7 years ago.

That’s because September 6, 2014 was the date of my 40th high school reunion in Norfolk. That alone should have made the night special enough, because unlike earlier reunions where people try to impress their classmates with their success, 40th reunions don’t have such drama. The number one thing people are impressed with is that we all survived and are still standing. Nothing else really much matters.

But while I was reeling in the years hearing story after story from my friends, something else was going on. Virginia Tech was in the Horseshoe in Columbus playing Ohio State, and as anyone who knows me understands, my blood types are Type Orange and Type Maroon. I didn’t have great expectations for the Hokies, so it was being DVR’d back at my house in Ashburn, and I was going to get up early the next morning, drive home, and then watch what I thought would be athletic carnage.

But as I was donating my drink tickets to old friend Wendy Rieger (of NBC 4 fame here in the DC market), my phone started buzzing. Texts from multiple people – who happened to be in Columbus – filled my phone. Whatever I was doing, they all said, I needed to extract myself from what was going on and find a television.

The Hokies were beating the eventual National Champion Buckeyes.

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Sometimes, A Favorite Place Is More Than Just A Restaurant

Tuesday, I found myself in a restaurant, something I can’t say I’ve done much of in the last 16 months.

The reason was because 65 years prior, I was born. My wife decreed that on such a milestone occasion, it didn’t matter if I wanted to stay home and eat a bologna and swiss cheese sandwich. I even offered to microwave it and add pickle, but she said no. On a 65th birthday, something more special was in order.

So after 24 hours of diplomatic negotiations, I finally agreed on going for lunch to a place called Ford’s Fish Shack. They have several locations here in Loudoun County, but the first one was in Ashburn, and it’s special to me. It’s the smallest of their locations, but that weakness is also its strength. The place has personality.

I don’t like to wait in line for much of anything, so I called ahead to ask if I needed reservations, even mentioning I wanted to come when it was least crowded, as there are two booths on each side of the restaurant that are my favorite ones. Part of it is these booths are big and comfortable, and part of it is I’ve had many special memories there, almost always in those two locations.

The young lady on the other end of the phone said they don’t usually reserve a specific table, but to come over around 2 PM and they would work everything out. That’s the thing about Ford’s I enjoy so much. I know none of them by name, am not friends with the owner, and am just a nameless, faceless person who eats there several times a year.

But when it comes to service, my experience has been they have always had a “if we CAN do it to make you happy, we WILL” attitude. And of course, their food is every bit as good the 15th time you’ve eaten there as it is the first. I once had a meal that wasn’t exceptional, mentioned it in passing on the way out the door, and soon found myself getting a visit for someone who ran the place before I could get to my car.

They’re just good people.

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Dave Fulton

Congrats

Congrats on passing one of life's milestones. Hope your special place is able to work things out.
Thursday, 15 July 2021 21:31
Dave Scarangella

Thanks! And usually at our age...

When we talk about passing something in life that involves a stone, we're talking about something else entirely ... Read More
Thursday, 15 July 2021 21:59
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At 27, Don't Be A Knucklehead...But DO Chase Your Dreams

As my wife will tell you, I have a knack for remembering obscure dates. Can’t remember when my next doctor’s appointment is, but I can tell you the date of a memorable sporting event and every detail of it.

Today, there is a convergence of two dates that are bringing back warm memories. One was yesterday, when Ricky LaBlue celebrated his 27th birthday. As is always the case between two people at the two ends of the age spectrum, Ricky thinks turning 27 means he’s too old. I think at 27 he’s still way too young.

It’s why we get along so well. Yeah, I edit his stories and drive him crazy by rewriting every lead he’s ever put on paper (I confess I kind of do that to everyone), but it’s more than that. He also graciously allows me to bore him with stories of when I was his age, as I try to prevent him from doing the same knucklehead things I – and just about every other guy on the planet – did at that age.

His turning 27 reminded me yesterday of what I was doing in my 27th year, which leads me to the second date. Once out of college, I went into the field of journalism, working as a sportswriter for a relatively large daily called the Roanoke Times. I met my wife there and was doing OK, but then foolishly decided to leave and go to a newspaper that was about a tenth the size for no more money than I was making at the time.

Why? Because I wanted to cover ACC basketball. I couldn’t in Roanoke. I could in Martinsville.

“So,” my Dad said when I told him this. “You’re leaving going from one place to a smaller place for no raise in pay just so you can watch a basketball game that's on television any way? For less money than you could make driving a truck? What are you, some kind of chadrool?”

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Dave Fulton

27

I was 27 when my first daughter was born - scheduled for Christmas day, Gwyn couldn't wait for Santa and arrived on December 9. Em... Read More
Friday, 02 July 2021 12:24
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You'd Be Proud, Pops. Happy Father's Day...

My Dad has been gone 15 years in August, but on this Father’s Day, I still see his presence in who I turned out to be.

I’d like to tell you we had this Ward Cleaver-like father-son relationship, but we didn’t. He only saw me play sports once in his life, never came to any events I was involved in, and pretty much viewed his role growing up as providing a roof over our head, food on the table, and making sure I went to college.

Like all Dads of that generation, he was similar to the way Brett Favre described his father the night he learned he had passed away: Never said he loved you, never gave you a lot of credit for what you did, always scoffed when you asked him for money, but was always there. We could watch entire sporting events together and never talk about anything other than "that was a great play." Same was true playing golf together. We would talk during those times without actually saying anything.

It’s a stark contrast to how I acted when I became a Dad, and I’ll be honest, there were times I struggled with that. It wasn’t until he was in his 70s he decided he wanted to be friends and we talked about this sort of thing. The more we talked, the more I understood.

Like many of us, he learned how to be a father from watching his own father, an Italian immigrant who came to America in 1917, married, had 8 children, but then lost his wife (my grandmother) when my Dad was only 18. Because of that, my grandfather was angry at life and took it out on his sons, who as soon as they could, joined the military to get away from all of that. I got to talk to my last surviving uncle last week, and at 91, he still confirms growing up in that house wasn’t a lot of fun.

But despite all that, my Dad – like every Dad whether he wants to or not – taught me how to be a father by his actions. Yeah, he talked about the Depression way too often – you learned not ask for money from him lest you wanted to hear stories of only having dirt to eat for dinner and being thankful you had even that – but there was another message he communicated I have only recently understood.

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LT Banks

Another legacy moment.

Great post, Dave, and from one next gen Tony to the previous, thank you for your example. I think your Tony would be proud, he su... Read More
Sunday, 20 June 2021 22:49
Guest — Alan

"Our sires and sons"

Dave, Your comments about your dad and generational relationships are a reminder that few will remember non-historical figures (l... Read More
Wednesday, 23 June 2021 15:26
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After 15 Months, We Finally Crossed The Finish Line...

I still clearly remember the moment it all began: It was March 12, 2020, the Washington Nationals were playing an exhibition game with the New York Yankees, and at 1:05, my new dog Maggie and I sat in my favorite chair and turned on the television.

By the time the game ended at 4 PM, every other team in every other sport had shut down their seasons. Soon everything would be under some sort of shutdown, restriction or other regulation to execute a strategy called “two weeks to flatten the curve."

We all know how that turned out.

But today…without warning or fanfare…it is now officially over, at least the way I look at it. It would be over, I thought, when the day came where I could leave the house, drive to a stadium of my choice, and go see one of my favorite teams without any sort of capacity restriction.

With Virginia Tech announcing today that there would be no such restrictions this year, and Lane Stadium was free to be 100 percent full of orange and maroon-clad fans, bouncing up and down while singing every verse of “Enter Sandman” as fireworks went off overhead and football players tapped hokiestone with their hands at the end of a tunnel leading to Worsham Field, the last domino has fallen.

It’s over. As a Southwest Airlines commercial once noted, you are now free to move about the country.

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There Are Some Events In History I'm Never Going To Forget

EDITOR'S NOTE: Every year, I run a version of this story as a tribute to the men who died fighting on D-Day, including one scared young man who kept his head down, survived the worst days of his life, then came home to one day become my father in law. Rest in peace, Hank. 

To some, today is a footnote in history. A day on the beaches of Normandy 77 years ago when an event codenamed Operation Overlord was launched, beginning what many say was the beginning of the end of World War II.

D-Day.

It will always be more than history to me, because in that first wave was a 21-year-old Private First Class from Henry County, VA by the name of Allen Homer Sink. He would survive that initial wave, participate in battle until it ended in August, then come home to marry and raise a family of four, including two daughters after the war ended.

He would also become my father-in-law until his death in 2006.

His nickname for some reason was “Hank” and when I asked him how he got it, he said some guy in the Army said he “looked like a Hank.” From the time I first met him, he was a salt-of-the-earth man who was never afraid of anything. He was a carpenter by trade, and he’d stand up on the tallest roofs, grab bumblebees with his bare hands when they tried to persuade him to move elsewhere, and never be bothered by anything.

His hands were tough and leathery, but he was a softie. He spoiled his children, complained when my mother-in-law would gripe about something involving one of his alleged misdeeds, and always thought he was fooling everybody when he snuck around the back of the house and lit a cigarette, a habit everyone opposed but he could never part himself from.

He could talk your ear off for hours at a time, and I always suggested he become a greeter at Wal-Mart when he retired because then he could talk all day to strangers and none of them would – like his wife and daughters often did – tell him to be quiet for a few moments. Yet for all his love of talking, there was one subject he just wouldn’t discuss.

June 6, 1944. Omaha Beach.

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Dave Fulton

Special

Our Boomer generation had very special men as fathers, fathers-in-law, uncles, neighbors and family friends. We are forever indebt... Read More
Sunday, 06 June 2021 09:38
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It's Been 12 Years, And I'll Still Never Forget...

Every Memorial Day, for the last 12 years, I dig up an old copy of a story I wrote on Memorial Day in 2009. It involves a young man I had never met, and who would forever be a total stranger to me.

He was a hero. A husband. A Dad. And an example of the true meaning of Memorial Day that I will never, ever, forget.

Here’s the story:

On this Memorial Day, I find myself thinking of a Marine I never met. And never will.

His name was James. R. McIlvaine. He grew up in Olney, Md., and his mother lives in Purcellville. He was killed in Iraq on April 30 while saving the life of another. He was 26 years old, and the father of two children.

Unfortunately, most of us see news like this every day in the newspaper. We pause, read the details, feel for the family, then turn the page and move on. We don’t dwell on it for too long, because it is inevitable that another face, another name, and another set of circumstances regarding a battlefield casualty will be in the paper in a few more days.

This one was different, because not long afterward my phone rang. McIlvaine had a rather large immediate family, including three sets of grandparents, and the local VFW wanted to make the trip from Purcellville to Arlington Cemetery as comfortable as possible under the circumstances. Four SUVs had been secured (two donated for the day by Ray Glembot at Star Pontiac GMC in Leesburg) and a police escort would be provided.

What they needed was one more driver. Could I spare the day, I was asked, to drive one of the vehicles?

The answer, obviously, was “of course.”

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They Never Wanted To Talk About It, But We Should

Everyone has their Memorial Day routines, and they usually involve the grilling of a hamburger or a hot dog, the watching of a sporting event or two, or a late afternoon executive nap. Mine is no different.

But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found the Sunday morning of the weekend brings back memories. I usually get up before everyone, the house is quiet other than a large dog laying on my lap occasionally snoring, and I find myself remembering the people in my life that Memorial Day is all about.

I’ve never served a day in the military. Never been asked to, never had to, never wanted to. At the age of 18, I had become what my Dad use to sneeringly describe as one of those “know-it-all college kids.” When he was my age, such people went to college. He and his high school classmates went off to war.

The military was all around me, as our house was on Dominion Avenue in Norfolk, only a few miles from Gate 4 of the Amphibious Base. We spent a lot of time on that base, and knew well to stop and stand when you heard the National Anthem; learned when you saw some poor young man doing pushups under the intense stare of another that one was an officer and one was a poor enlisted man; and you  appreciated Naval history.

Yes, you remembered all sorts of sports trivia as a youngster. But in my world, you also knew all about Pearl Harbor, Midway, Iwo Jima and other battles of the Pacific. I learned about them because I knew my Dad had a birds eye view of it all aboard a destroyer or two he served on during that time. I had to learn the details, however, from books at the library at the base.

That’s because my Dad would never talk about it.

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Guest — Johnny Hurst

My uncle

My Uncle was a World War II vet who landed on Normandy the second day. He went on to fight in the Ardennes Forest in the Battle of... Read More
Sunday, 30 May 2021 10:34
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Kind Of Feels Like Deja Vu All Over Again, Doesn't It?

One year ago, we all had just watched the final episode of “The Last Dance,” a self-authored series by Michael Jordan on Michael Jordan to show how great Michael Jordan was and that there will be no other like Michael Jordan.

It aired May 17, 2020.

None of us cared about the “I love me some me” treatment Jordan gave himself. It was sports. We had something to tweet about besides a strange disease we didn’t understand and feared. It almost felt like, well, fun.

Everything else was cancelled and none of us knew when we’d see live games. Even when we did, it wasn’t the same...it was more of a series of sterile exercises in front of empty arenas and stadiums. As sports fans, we were used to steak, but these games, played at odd times of the year that did not coincide with their normal places on the calendar, were more like rice cakes.

We were one miserable lot.

Looking back at the baggage created over the past year serves no useful purpose, but I can’t help but be struck by the contrasts this week. If you went on Twitter, the conversations were about whether there would even be a football season. I found myself stopping my daily walks because of apprehension over the dangers of even being outside. I went to grocery stores at 6 AM to avoid people, and wore not only a mask, but gloves.

Joy wasn’t seeing your team win. It was finding a package of Clorox Wipes still on the shelf at the store.

This week, Twitter is full of college football stories signaling not only games will be played, but will be played before full stadiums. Fans are back. There is something to look forward to, events to add to your calendars, and a feeling this will not end up being Lucy pulling the football away at the last second, like the Big Ten and several “woke” national sportswriters attempted to do last year.

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Top 5: These Are The Next Things On My List

For whatever your thoughts are on masks, the pandemic, or what the “science” is vs. the dozens of conspiracy theories out there, something changed Friday. At midnight, the mask mandate in Virginia ended, and in less than two weeks, the mandates involving capacity restrictions and social distancing will be gone too.

In other words, the 14-month house arrest is over.

Surely, there will be those who disagree with this interpretation, but that’s how I see it. You will soon be able to walk into a store without wearing a mask (unless you want to), turn on a sporting event and see a full crowd in the stands, and go to a restaurant where you can clearly hear your servers because there’s nothing over their mouths.

My plan is to always have a mask in my pocket, and if someone were to say they felt uncomfortable in my presence because of that, I’d gladly put one on here in my Ashburn neighborhood. Whether I think it does any good or not doesn’t matter to me; if a person legitimately feels uncomfortable (vs. just looking for a fight) I think life’s too short. I would walk a person to their car after dark if they said they were uncomfortable, so why wouldn’t I put on a mask for a few minutes if someone said they had a similar feeling?

But I doubt that’s going to happen. In the 14 months this has been going on, I have always put one on inside a store, and immediately taken it off in the parking lot. I never wear one outside when walking, and the number of people to make a comment on my mask status has been zero. I doubt that’s going to change, as I try to treat people respectfully, so I doubt anyone’s going to be looking for conflict with a 6-4, 240-pound man minding his own business.

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Michael Weaver

Playlist Recommendation

Two comments. First, add a David Baldacci book to your playlist. He can really spin a story and an audiobook helps get me “out the... Read More
Sunday, 16 May 2021 15:52
Dave Scarangella

Baldacci is one of my favorite...

Sorry about the emails. It has been an issue since we started and we are still working with the software author. Some days everyon... Read More
Sunday, 16 May 2021 17:06
Dave Fulton

Ready

I,too, am especially ready to take my wife out for a nice meal.
Sunday, 16 May 2021 16:40
light rain

71.7°F

Ashburn

Light Rain

Humidity: 96%

Wind: 1.99 m/h

Wed

heavy intensity rain

68/71°F

Thu

moderate rain

56/69°F

Fri

sky is clear

50/70°F

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