Maude.

I enjoy watching reruns of the old TV series “Maude”. Don’t tell anyone but they’re readily available on YouTube. The versions I’ve found are cut down for syndication, but you still get the gist of the story, despite the attempts to wedge more commercial time into these masterpieces. One would think the story lines wouldn’t age well, since “Maude” was so politically and socially topical back in the early 1970s, but since the Trump administration is so adamant about pushing our social agenda as far backwards as possible, “Maude” feels like it was made yesterday.

I hit the pause button on a video last night and it happened to stop on the screen cap I’ve included with this blog entry. The cap struck me as hilarious. Of course, it could be because I’m drinking beer and sitting on the lanai (see what I did there?) while typing this blog entry, but the look Vivian is giving Maude, who is exuding her typical smugness, is priceless. It feels Gay Pride Month appropriate. When we go to Chicago’s Gay Pride parade next weekend I’m wondering if I’ll see any Maude and Vivian drag.

“Rue, I have no desire to play ‘Maude and Vivian meet Sue Ann Nivens'”. That’s what Bea Arthur said to Rue McClanahan when she called up Bea to convince her to consider joining the cast of “The Golden Girls”. My mother didn’t let us watch ‘Maude’ during its original run; it was way too adult for my elementary aged mind. My great Aunt Jenn had the height and a bit of a Bea Arthur presence. My mother was a closeted feminist; she tried to fit into the rural town we called home, but being raised in a decent-sized city, she was independent and thought outside of the cowtown box. I inherited that worry of what others think of me from my mom, at least to a certain degree. As I approach the half century mark I don’t really give a damn anymore.

You know what’s kind of kicky to me? Rue and Bea are playing characters that are younger than what I am today. Same goes for Bill Macy and Conrad Bain. They are actually in their late 40s and here I am less than a month away from 50. I don’t feel like I should be waltzing around with a head of gray hair and a dress over a pant suit. I still feel young and vibrant and alive. I wonder if Bea and company felt that way back when “Maude” was in its original run?

I’ve never been a huge fan of “All In The Family”. Sally Struthers’ whining seemed way too formulaic to me. But I can groovy on “Maude”; she’s just as groovy as the Wurlitzer organ that’s so prominent in her theme song.

“Amelia Earhart flew a lot of airplanes, except that time when she didn’t come back”. She what I did there?

I think the beer is kicking in a little bit. Mrs. Naugatuck would be proud. OH! I rode my bike by the old Cabrini-Green Housing Development a bit south of where we live. J.J. wouldn’t find it so “Dyno-mite!” anymore. It’s been gentrified and is pretty much prime real estate here in Chicagoland.

God’ll get me for this blog entry.

Architecture.

More and more of these modern houses are popping up in the neighborhood. I’m enjoying this modern, 21st century twist on mid-century stylings. I don’t know much about architecture, but I do know what I like, and I like this style of home.

I mentioned to Earl that when we win the lottery we’ll have to build something like this and sublet our condo. Lost in my musings of the moment, I don’t remember his response, but I’m sure it was something of a positive nature.

A quick look online prices this particular home at $800K. It’s not as expensive as I thought it would be, but it’s kind of close to the ‘L’ so that probably brings down the price just a bit. It’s not for sale, but it’s great to admire.

Changes.

It was 11 years ago this weekend that Earl and I decided to head down to New York City and join up with other bloggers for “GB:NYC4”, or “Gay Bloggers:New York City 4”. Before the days of Twitter, with Facebook confined to college campuses at the time and with MySpace trying to gain traction, folks were writing personal and professional blogs and sharing their thoughts through the medium on the Internet. This was before we got in the habit of communicating in 140 280 characters or less and it was before we tried to reduce our thoughts down to dancing, leaping, and squirming emojis. Back then an emoji looked like this: 🙂

I still use 🙂 and nothing more. I am not an emoji kind of guy.

Going through my photos of the event and remembering the nice time we had with this great group of people back in 2007 made me miss the days when I was sit down and actually write something of substance on this blog. It was back before Obama, so I would wretch on W from time to time, but I liked to think that I had a fairly breezy attitude toward life. Of course, I was 11 years under (38 at the time), the country wasn’t being smothered by this plague called Trump (he was just a nuisance trying to grab airtime any way he could), and the future still felt like it could be brighter. We were still a month away from the dawn of a smartphone in every hand. People were flipping open their phones, plunking messages on a physical keyboard, and taking photos with cameras.

Are we any better off today?

I’m still friends with a few of the folks shown in the picture and I try to follow along with the few bloggers that still update their blogs (JoeMyGod being an exception to the blog abandonment trend, of course, because he still blogs a lot and he does a nifty job at it). As much as I wretch about Facebook, it’s become nearly an indispensable way to maintain contact with those in other parts of the world.

It’s a shame that decently composed discussion has given way to the burps and bleeps of today’s Internet experience.

Seeing these pictures and remembering what life was like just a little over a decade ago has helped me smile a bit more this weekend. It’s also inspired me to try to blog more; I’ve been lazy in the month of May. I think my 30-day personal challenge for June will be to blog something of substance at least once a day.

Who knows, maybe my efforts will catch on and someday we’ll get back to speaking in complete sentences without crazy emojis jumping off the page.

🙂

Tuned Out.

Tuned Out.

A few years ago when we started visiting Chicago on a regular basis, I noticed a trend of folks tuning out the world around them by wearing headphones. They wore headphones everywhere. On the train. While shopping. While walking their dog. While talking to an airport ticket agent. Everywhere you looked, people had some flavor of headphones over or in their ears. Occasionally you could hear what they were listening to, as the loud volume spilled out around their listening gear.

I’ve never really subscribed to this sort of thing.

I enjoy music. I enjoy listening to music on a really good set of headphones that are designed to highlight the nuances of that which I’m listening to. One of the reasons I enjoy my Apple AirPods is the awesomeness of the sound quality. The first time I listened to music by The Carpenters or Abba on my AirPods I was shocked at how easy it was to hear the intricacies of the music, both the instrumental and vocal contributions. Being able to tune out the world and lose yourself in your favorite music can be a magical experience. Personally I find it most magical when it is enjoyed on an occasional basis.

I am too curious about the world to tune out everything around me as a regular habit.

I’m writing the blog entry on a United flight from Chicago to Rochester, New York. We are on an EMB 145. Like most of the smaller airliners (and smaller airplanes in general), it can be quite loud. Many of the my fellow passengers have headphones on.

I like to hear every nuance of the airplane.

I walk between 40 and 50 miles in a week. I’ve started cycling again. I can’t imagine walking, or especially riding a bike, trying to navigate the streets of Chicago with a set of headphones shoved over my ears. There’s too much to hear to tune it out. Why tune out the experience of life?

Some folks prefer to be in their own little world, doing their own thing, oblivious to those around me. As long as they don’t become obnoxious through being oblivious, I’m fine with that.

But life is short, and I want to hear every second of it.

Rules.

Rules.

Earl makes fun of me because I try follow all rules. I rarely cross the street against a light. When I use a crosswalk I stay within the painted lines and I make my way solidly on the sidewalk before heading left or right. While driving I make 90° turns to left or right. I stop if the light turns yellow. One exception is the speed limit, I drive with the flow of traffic, regardless of how far above the speed limit it is moving. Purposely driving the speed limit when everyone is whizzing by you is dangerous for everyone on the road.

As a pilot I have flown an airplane for hundreds of hours. As an airline passenger I have flown hundreds of flights. I still put down whatever I’m doing and pay attention to the safety presentation. Even though I might know every nuance of the airplane I am on, I still pay attention and give the flight attendants my undivided attention. I do this for a refresher of the particular airplane I’m on but I also do this to set an example to the others around me. If the airplane makes an off-field landing, I don’t want to be the one carrying my bag down the slide or wearing my oxygen mask incorrectly. I know where my exits are and how far away they are from me o every flight. I also know where every exit is located in any hotel I stay at and how many doors are between my room and my exit.

One of my biggest philosophies is “always be aware of your surroundings”. Following the rules, and throwing in some common sense from time to time, will get you far in life.

Some say life is boring when you always follow the rules. I enjoy life, and will probably enjoy it longer, because I took the time to follow the rules and look around at the world surrounding me.

Storm.

I’ve been watching a storm on radar march across the prairie since I woke up 1 1/2 hours ago. I snuck in a 2 1/2 mile walk before my iDevices started warning about lightning strikes nearby. As I arrived home I felt a few rain drops before getting inside.

As I type this the sky is forming interesting patterns and I see flashes of lightning in my peripheral vision. The wind is pick up in intensity. I’m starting to hear the faint rumbles of approaching thunder.

It’s gong to be a great day.

Mindset.

I know when some folks think of us that work from home, there are visions of people lying around in their sweat pants, laptop slung across their lap, while they are snuggled up in bed. Comfy, comfy, comfy.

In actuality, I have a separate office, with an office computer, phone, and desk. Being in my office brings me to a mindset of “it’s time to work!” and I get down to business. However, there are some things that make me more productive:

  1. I can’t work barefoot. A lack of footwear tells my mind that I’m relaxing, and when I don’t have shoes on I am easily distracted.
  2. I have to dress for work. I know some folks think I’m crazy for putting on a dress shirt and a pair of khakis, but when I work from home I generally wear something resembling what I’d wear in the office.

Getting into a work mindset, and dressing for a successful day, has been key for my working in a “virtual office” for the past five years. I wouldn’t change the experience for the world, because I am honestly much more productive doing my thing remotely.

I just have to make sure that I’ve dressed for the part.

Perspective.

I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘perspective’ this weekend. The motivation for this line of thought is not important at this time; let’s just say that sometimes life gives you a reason to think about the bigger picture.

And what have I been thinking about? What’s really important, I guess. We’ve had 18 months of unprecedented chaos from the highest office in the land. Despite this, we live in a city we love, have a nice roof over our heads, and we do things that fulfill us. Not everyone in the world has this luxury and that is something to remember.

Do screaming women in a restaurant bother me? Yes. Is it worth getting upset about? No. I might rage tweet once or twice about it, and I should probably stop doing things like that, but the truth is I will not change their behavior by throwing some sort of fit in public. And honestly, a nearly 50-year old man having a hissy fit in the middle of a restaurant is just as bad as the Screaming Trixies to begin with, so why add to the chaos? Roll with it and save the high blood pressure for something that is deserving of hysterics. Screaming women in a restaurant are not worth the energy.

With the bit of soul searching and priority seeking I’ve been doing in my head this weekend, I feel like I’m jumping into the work week more prepared than I have been in months.

The key to a successful life is this: do your best, do good things, and share your love. Love life. Find the reason to love life. That’s all you have to do.

Keep it all in perspective.

Humor.

I don’t like Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House Press Secretary of the Trump Administration. I don’t know her either outside of what we see of her in the media, but I find her condescending, smug, and untrustworthy. To be fair, I compare her to fictional Press Secretary C.J. Cregg from “The West Wing”, and honestly, who can really compare to a character portrayed by Allison Janney? No one.

Twitter and its online brethren have been wild with commentary about Saturday’s National Correspondents’ Dinner, more specifically, comedian Michelle Wolf’s roast and monologue. I had never heard of Michelle Wolf until the brouhaha. She left no rock unturned. She took humor to the places we would have never dreamed of before the Trump Administration. She dug deep and she dug hard. I found most of it funny, but honestly, only when I wasn’t watching the video. When I watched Michelle do her thing I had a hard time seeing the reaction of the audience, including the various targets of Michelle’s monologue. This wasn’t a Dean Martin roast. Phyllis Diller wasn’t talking about Fang. This was someone taking roasted meat and using a well aimed slingshot, flinging this meat and squarely hitting their target. Hitting their target hard.

I have tweeted about Sarah Sanders too much. How does she sleep at night with all her lies? Her poor children. Why doesn’t the press corps just sit there and not challenge her on her lies. How can she stand there and state proven lies as fact while getting paid by the taxpayers. I have gone on and on and on.

But then I saw Sarah’s expression during one of Michelle’s jokes. And it made me sad. Is this really where we are in our country today? Have we abandoned all manner of intelligent discourse in our country? Are we reduced to vulgarity, screaming, yelling, and throwing out vile comments and remarks to get someone’s attention? Is this where we want to be?

I’m not disputing the content of Michelle’s message of her comedy routine, but I thought her delivery might have been a little harsh. I guess I come from a world where you don’t drop f-bombs at a black tie affair. But then again, I come from a world where government was something you could reasonably trust, and that’s all completely gone out the window.

Now, some are saying that Michelle attacked Sarah’s looks and that she went too far.

I like Sarah, I think she’s really resourceful. She burns facts and uses the ash to create a perfect smokey eye. ‘Maybe she’s born with it, maybe it’s lies. It’s probably lies.

Honestly, I found the monologue uncomfortable to watch and I can’t help but reflect that it’s the product of where we are in American politics today. Michelle’s humor was a result of what Tweeting would sound like In Real Life. People say these things, and much worse, on social media all the time. Hiding behind anonymity and not having to physically face their target. I’m very guilty of this.

But seeing the reaction of the person you’re lambasting while you’re saying it? Well, it makes me pause and become very aware of what my Tweets in the past would sound like if said In Real Life. At the very least, watching Michelle Wolf’s monologue at the National Correspondents’ Dinner has made me realize that I need to practice what I preach, and be a better Internet citizen.

I don’t dispute the content, but someone has to be the grown up in the room and start nudging the pendulum back to civil discourse and a celebration of sanity.

Alcohol.

I had a glass of red wine with dinner last night. While waiting for Earl to return from the wash room, I tweeted a musing as to whether Americans are drinking more since the election of Trump to the White House. I know I’ve been drinking more alcohol since Trump took office. It helps take the edge off reality.

Honestly, I’m very curious is to whether this is an actual ‘thing’ or just my own perception. We hear about increases in Opioid addiction, alcoholism, dependency on other substances. I know I smell a lot of pot on the street. Is this related to a societal shift that was bound to happen regardless of who occupied slot 45? Is life just getting more and more stressful as we realize that life isn’t as we depict it to be on social media?

I’ll have to find some studies on this. I find it quite interesting.

Cheers!