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Gray.

So I hadn’t shaved in 2018. It’s been a while since I really let my beard grow out and 18 days was enough for me to see that there is way too much gray in my beard right now. I could handle if my beard was all gray, but this cinnamon and sugar mix is making me feel like I look old.

I’m turning 50 years old this year. I’d say that I’m 90% on board with this; I certainly don’t feel like I’m over halfway through this life, but the reality of the fact is this is the case. I told Earl that I’m concerned that I’m on the downslope. Like the smart, silver bear that he is, he told me that it just keeps getting better.

I can handle being 50 years old but I can’t handle having a lot of gray in my beard right now. I’m not one to dye it so I’ll go back to clean shaven in the morning. My dad once said that a good, disciplined man, like a pilot, shaves every day. He might have been on to something with that, though I know a lot of great men that have beards.

Jedi.

image from IMDB

I’m not a huge “Star Wars” fan but I’ve been to most of the movies. My first date, at the age of 12, was to see “The Empire Strikes Back” at the one-show theatre in my hometown. The theatre was called the Kallet theatre (it was built in 1942), and my date that night was one-half of a set of identical twins. Her name was Karen Black. She didn’t scream “there’s no one to land the plane!” because there was no plane. We had a nice time. The girls made me choose between the two for that date. It was my only date with Karen.

I reminisce about “The Empire Strikes Back” because the latest Star Wars move, “The Last Jedi”, has a lot of reminiscent elements in it. I’ve been a fan of Carrie Fisher for a number of years; her later interviews and the like, when she exuded her unique personality, have energized me when I’ve felt the world closing in a little too much. Watching “The Last Jedi” reminded me that we have nothing but history to rely on for Carrie now.

Overall the movie made sense (even though I haven’t seen the previous movie) and it felt like a Star Wars movie. Lumbering shooty things, Laser Guns making the same noise as the Dome Stomp at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, New York and crystal dogs running around. And of course, The Force. Even though it’s part of a work of fiction, I believe there’s a real Force that connects us all in a way the vast majority of humans will never realize. If we quiet ourselves and listen, we might hear it someday.

Or if we just be like Carrie, and just be ourselves, maybe that’s part of the key.

Here’s a video of someone doing the Dome Stomp. The first time I took Earl to the Carrier Dome, we did it together.

Cruising.

I was driving home from the airport this evening along the Tri-State Tollway. The air was damp, the wind was blowing quite a bit. The temperature was 58ºF; a little warm for this time of year in Chicagoland. The radio was tuned to classic hits 94.7 WLS. Gerry Raferty’s “Baker Street” came on. I cranked up volume and really enjoyed my drive this evening.

Enjoy the little things.

2017.

As the sun sets on 2017, I can’t help but feel excitement about the New Year. The reality of it all is that tonight just marks a moment in the manmade construct of time where the Earth is approximately in the same position it was one revolution ago. We’re not lined up with anything, it’s not the beginning of a season or the ending of an era, it’s just a mark on a timeline. But still, we like to think of it as a chance to make changes, to celebrate ushering in something new, to do something to better our lives, so tonight we celebrate the end of 2017 and welcome a New Year.

What will 2018 bring? Only time will tell, but I have plans. I always have plans. But honestly, I’m anxious to start working on those plans. I’m wired to always need a pivot point to better myself, and ringing in the New Year is #1 with a bullet when it comes to the list of pivot points to choose from.

Moving to Chicago earlier in 2017 was a good start, but I brought some old habits with me. It’s time to push in the clutch, rev the engine, and shift for even better things.

I feel hopeful. Let’s make 2018 the year of hope.

Repost: Resolution Revolution.

From my first New Year’s Eve blog post, December 31, 2001.

With New Year’s just around the corner, it’s time to completely revamp one’s life with what I call the Resolution Revolution. I tend to take New Year’s Resolutions very seriously. With the dropping of the ball and the birth of a new year, its the best time to take a new lease on life, slip into the body that I’ve always dreamed about, clear my skin, become more spiritually focused, get involved in civic affairs, become a cook, a gardener, a sky-diver, a nuclear physist, the list goes on and on.

But seriously, I do have hopes of improving my life and well-being around the New Year’s holiday. The holiday holds so much promise.

Last year, one of my major New Year’s resolutions was to become a full-time vegetarian. I had been dinking around with being a part-time vegetarian for a couple of months beforehand, mostly when it was convenient, but I told myself I needed to become dedicated to the cause. If it had the ability to take a dump, I wasn’t going to eat it. That lasted until we went out west for vacation and I discovered “Sonic” and “In and Out” burger. So much for that.

Another resolution I made last year was to not spend unnecessary money. In celebration of this event, I went crazy on ebay and purchased a cash register system from a defunct department store. I guess I needed a place to store all the money I was saving.

One of my better resolutions of last year was to learn to speak French. I did the whole CD tutorial thing, along with “French for Dummies”. Earl and I headed up to Montréal for a weekend, the perfect opportunity to test out my French. Trying to be friendly, I tried to strike up a conversation with a nice older woman in the mall. Since it was July, I simply said “Boy, it’s hot”. After she slugged me with her purse I realized that I had said, “I’m in heat.” So much for French.

The first resolution of this year is the only one I am going to share. I’m not sharing my resolutions with anyone. After years of making promises to myself, and announcing them loudly to everyone within a 50 mile radius of my mouth, people tend to not take me seriously anymore. But after my Resolution Revolution of 2002, suffice it to say that I’m going to be rich, famous, a contributing member of society and absolutely gorgeous to look at.

At least until January 15.

Cold.

Not to be deterred, or maybe because I’m just stubborn, this evening I walked a little over a mile from Wrigleyville to our condo. According to Siri, it was 1ºF at the time. The colder temperature kept my step lively. I was rewarded with Exercise Bling Circles on my Apple Watch when I reached the warm of the lobby of our building.

I can handle the cold better than I can handle the feet of snow they’re getting right now in our old stomping grounds. I grew up in the Lake Ontario Snowbelt, and there was always a certain amount of excitement surrounding heavy snowfall, but after the excitement wore off the excessive amount of snow was a bit of a pain to deal with. We have less than two inches of snow here on the north side of Chicago. I can handle that. I can even handle the overnight sub-zero temperatures. I come prepared.

I am looking forward to warmer weather, though I’ll probably have to wait a few months.

Push.

We live alongside one of the stations along the CTA Brown Line. For those not familiar with the ‘L’ in Chicago, the ‘L’ is our version of the subway. Most of it runs on elevated tracks throughout the city, with only some portions in the downtown area underground like a traditional subway. It’s one of the best run mass transit systems in the country. The lines are marked by color; it is a prime example of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) concept. I love the ‘L’.

The closest crosswalk to our building is near the ‘L’. It is controlled by a traffic light installed specifically for the crosswalk. We lived here for less than a day when I discovered two things about this traffic light: 1. The light will not change unless you press the button at each end of the crosswalk and 2. The light will change in tandem with the traffic light at the nearest intersection. It will not change separately.

One thing that amazes me about this crosswalk is the number of people that can’t be bothered to press the button to get the light to change. The buttons are marked with large signs. The roadway is busy enough that at many times of the day it can be a challenge to use the crosswalk against the light. There’s a reason the traffic signal is there. But several times a week I’ll see people trying to run across traffic, narrowly missing getting hit by cars whizzing by. Often folks will just stand there and stand there waiting for the light to change, when I can see the light at the nearby intersection going through its cycle. Had the pedestrian pressed the button as instructed, they would have been able to cross the street with ease.

Occasionally drivers will stop at the red light that allows pedestrians to cross and once it’s clear they’ll run the red light. Sometimes the crosswalk isn’t clear and people start driving through anyway. Like many other parts of the country, motorists in Chicago can be quite inattentive, especially the ones that are busy on their phones while they’re driving.

I think it drives Earl crazy that it can be 2:00 a.m. and I’ll press the button and wait for the signal to cross instead of crossing the empty street against the light. He always claims that I must have been Boy Scout in a previous life, but I assure him that was not the case.

I just try to follow the rules, especially the ones that follow logic.

Learning.

Bipartisanship madam secretary s4e9

Television was first introduced in 1939 at The World’s Fair. The first news broadcast was in 1941, the first live presentation from meteorologists, the first weather forecast on TV was in 1954. In the early days, it was said that television would never catch on because it required the viewer to watch it all the time; one could multitask while listening to the radio. The television would be an appliance of education. Viewers could watch Latin in their spare time.

Oh how we have strayed from the television as an instrument of education.

When I was a kid we had a donated black and white television in our elementary classroom. We watched “Free To Be… You and Me”, “Inside/Out”, “The Electric Company”. Television programming taught us something. I don’t know if that continues today. I hope it does.

The news it too bleak these days to be assaulted with it after a hard day’s work. But I do enjoy television shows that go beyond blowing things up or are mindless television. This is one of the reasons that “Madam Secretary” remains as one of my favorite shows on television today. The plots are mostly plausible. The storylines are somewhat reflective of the current political climate, albeit with a lighter twist. The show is well scripted, well acted, and isn’t dumbed down for the lowest common denominator. I am reminded of “The West Wing” in its early years. I occasionally end up wondering what I can do to better the world after watching an episode of the show. It’s smart. We don’t have enough smart on television today.

Entertainment can be educational. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

‘Tis The Season.

Last night after work Earl and I took the train downtown to visit Macy’s on State Street, which in the local vernacular is called Marshall Field’s, after the original department store, Marshall Field and Company. A huge building that takes up a whole city block, we had heard that there are some amazing Christmas decorations at Marshall Field’s, though they’re not as good as they used to be since Macy’s bought the chain and changed the name in 2006.

Honestly, the decorations are beautiful. The window displays are gorgeous, the decorations through the huge building are quite nice and honestly the spirit was fairly festive for a Thursday night.

I’ve read quite a bit about Marshall Field’s over the past few months of living in Chicago and there are many people that are still quite attached to the name and a little bitter about Macy’s taking over the space. Marshall Field’s was Chicago, Macy’s, is well, Macy’s. There’s nothing really special about Macy’s, especially in today’s retail climate. That being said, the State Street location is well stocked, has a vast selection, seemed rather clean and there were plenty of salespeople to be found. On the other hand, the gorgeous building, complete with an old-school impulse clock system wired throughout, is starting to show signs of a lack of upkeep. Marshall Field’s was immaculate, Macy’s is, well Macy’s without the mall.

Maybe I’m just a nostalgic guy.

Overall, the visit to Marshall Field’s was quite enjoyable and it helped me find my holiday spirit. I’m getting there. I’m looking forward to the holidays at our new home in Chicago. And since it’s already December 1, I should really go out of my way to find my holiday groove.