Industrial.

The pictures I’ve posted of our neighborhood have had a residential look to them. We are surrounded by many streets with beautiful houses, some new, some old, all interesting. This only shows part of the picture, in actuality Earl and I live in an area that has deep industrial roots.

Within two blocks of our home are large industrial buildings once occupied by the Bell and Howell company and by the Manz Printing Company. Many other companies were once located in this area. Several of the buildings have been repurposed into residential living space. There’s also quite a few craft brewing companies and high tech startups in the area.

Our street is bisected by one of the METRA lines that bring commuters in and out of Chicago. The railroad line is elevated, so our neighbors “across the street” are actually across the street, over several tracks and across the street again, yet they are on the same street name with a difference of one house number.

Last weekend Earl and I went to the Art Festival which featured exhibits outside and inside some of the repurposed buildings from the early 20th century. It was a beautiful day and it was awesome to see the inside of these buildings. Great care has been made to bring the buildings to their former glory.

It’s all very encouraging. We could use encouragement these days.

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Art.

So this weekend we went to the Chicago Expo at Navy Pier. I wasn’t sure that I would enjoy browsing art for the afternoon, but after gazing upon several interesting performance pieces, displays and the like, there was one piece that moved me to tears.

I never thought I would shed a tear over art.

A search on the Internet found this article about the particular piece that helped me find tears.

RAGNAR KJARTANSSON Scenes from Western Culture/Architecture and Morality/World Light

The gallery’s rear rooms contain videos on nine monitors comprising Scenes from Western Culture (2015), seemingly innocuous slices of contemporary life that range from nineteen minutes to a little over three hours. In one, jazz pianist Jason Moran and mezzo-soprano Alicia Hall Moran dine at Upstairs at 21 in Midtown. Framed by a bland mural of Grand Army Plaza and Bergdorf’s, they enjoy an uneventful dinner with barely audible conversation ranging from music to basketball players to wine. As in all but one video, the camera is stationary, and the film loops with an imperceptible edit. In The Pool, the painter Elizabeth Peyton swims laps for twenty-four minutes; the frame tracks her laterally as in Olympic coverage. Her yipping terrier doggedly follows her progress. In Dog and Clock, a Shetland Sheepdog lies on a rug before a grandfather clock in Nobel laureate Halldór Laxness’s house museum. When the clock oddly strikes at 4:05, she dutifully barks after the fourth chime. In The Boat, a man docks a vessel on a lake, helps a woman out who walks away, then unmoors the craft and putters off-screen, returning a few minutes later with another woman, repeated for over two and a half hours. It is gorgeous and monotonous, although briefly Chaplinesque when he inadvertently falls into the drink. Burning House is a ninety-two minute shot of exactly that, in a Swedish wood, the conflagration seen against dark conifers. Lovers shows the luxury of day sex in an affectionate and explicit scene between a man and woman with interchangeably long hair.

There is something about the composition that moved me.

In addition, when I glanced over there was a young man in a flannel shirt standing by himself looking at the work. He stood with his hands crossed the exact same way that I cross my hands when I am lost in contemplation. 

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While I thought the afternoon would be spent looking at things I wouldn’t really comprehend, instead I found myself thinking, pondering, and feeling motivated to be creative in my own way.  

A wonderful afternoon.

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Connection.

A mockup of the new Apple center on Chicago’s Michigan Avenue, opening in October. Photo courtesy of chicagobusiness.com
I really enjoy the way Angela Ahrendts, Senior VP of Retail at Apple, thinks. Before joining Apple, Angela spoke about the importance of human energy during a TED Talk in Hollywood. At the time she was CEO of Burberry. 

As Senior VP of Retail at Apple, Angela is leading the transformation of Apple’s Retail Space, commonly known as the “Apple Store”, into neighborhood town squares. Apple is opening such a location in Chicago next month. I look forward to being there on opening day.

The Apple Neighborhood Town Square is designed to bring people together through their common interest in technology. It’s perfectly OK to sit at the pavilion and listen to the live music. Folks are encouraged to use the locations as gathering places. If you feel inclined to shop, Apple’s team members will not only show you how great the camera on the latest iPhone is, they also have regular scheduled events where they take you out in the world and show you how to take awesome photos. Apple doesn’t want you to use technology, they want you to connect to it, but more importantly, they want to bring people together to give them the opportunity to share their interests or passions together. Angela is very committed to recognizing the importance of human connection, and using technology as a conduit to accomplish that, is an amazing thing.

Earlier today I blogged about the importance of the corner store and how a start-up company was looking to replace that human connection with a sterile vending machine box located in strategic places. Criticisms of this start-up project have been married to criticisms of “Apple’s deluded thinking” that their retail space can be the neighborhood town square.

I’m sorry, but that’s (no pun intended) comparing apples to oranges.

Yes, the primary objective of Apple’s Centers are to sell you technology.  iPhones, iPads, Macs, Watches, accessories: all of these things are found at an Apple Store. But where the automated Bodega idea is to separate you from a human connection, Apple is looking to bring people together. Their Apple Today series, a daily schedule of seminars and the like, are designed to bring people with a common interest together. Yes, you are going to learn about Apple technology at an Apple Today event, but the technology and theme of the event is a conduit to bringing people together. You may not know the person across town that decided to attend an event to learn about drawing on an iPad, but here you have a chance to interact with someone else that shares an interest with you. Apple is using their Town Square model to bring people together, not replace human interaction with an online purchase.

I am proud to be an Apple Fanboy. I believe that Apple continues to give us the best technological experience available in the consumer space. Yes, many other products can do what Apple products do, but they don’t do it to the degree of satisfaction and comfort I find in an Apple product. But what’s more important to me as an Apple Fanboy is the company’s philosophy and vision. Do great things for the world, bring great things to the world and bring people together through technology. Apple is about preserving the human equation, not eliminating it.

We all need the energy we give one another when we interactive in our daily lives. Let’s keep doing things that bring people together, not isolate them from the outside world. And if that means going to an Apple Town Square to listen to an Indie Rock band or learn to take photos, at least I’ll be with people that share a common interest.

Convenience.

New York Bodega cat as shown in New York Daily News.

My great Aunt Jenn lived in the “urban area” of Syracuse when I was a kid.  We wouldn’t visit her very often at her home outside of picking her up for family gatherings in the suburbs, but when I was in elementary school we’d visit once in a great while.  She’d give us a dollar each to head down to the corner store where we could buy candy or something of that nature.  I always liked the corner store; the owner didn’t know who we were unless we walked in with Aunt Jenn’s grandchildren. On those occasions we were greeted with a smile. The folks at the store spoke with an accent, though I don’t know the origin of it.

Growing up in the country we had two little stores about a mile from our house. Mom would venture there from time to time. One had a butcher in the back, the other store was a milk and bread kind of place. The cashiers at both stores were very friendly. There was something comfortable about having a neighborhood store, whether it was down the block or a mile away. It helped reinforce the whole neighborhood vibe. You knew these people and you wanted their establishment to thrive.

Big chains don’t do that.

Yesterday two ex-Google employees announced their new company, which is unfortunately called Bodega. Their get rich quick scheme is to place oversized vending machine boxes in strategic locations (hotels, condo and apartment building lobbies, gyms, etc) where, through a whiz bang use of cameras, phone apps, and Big Brother style monitoring, you can pick up the items you so desperately want from these impersonal boxes. App metrics will undoubtedly track your every move and someone will fling ads your way based on what you bought. It’s the way of the world, or at least the Silicon Valley.

The name Bodega comes from the convenience stores of New York and Los Angeles. These are neighborhood fixtures where you get what you need from a friendly face that you know and converse with. Chances are there will be an accent along the way somewhere. A curious fixture of New York bodegas is the Bodega cat. Probably not legal but they’re helpful in keeping mice and rats away. They are a fixture of the neighborhood Bodega. People love them.

The Bodega vending machine people went with a cat for their logo.

I briefly wrote about this on Medium in response to the blog entry from this vending machine company, but the biggest failure of this venture, outside of the misappropriation of the name, is the lack of human interaction. The lack of neighborhood.  The lack of community.

Our society can not and will not survive if we strive to be completed disconnected from one another. Internet and other technology based interactions can be a conduit to a more personal means of communication; we have several friends that we would have never met if it hadn’t been for the Internet. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a Gen-Xer or what, but lately communication confined to electronic means only has felt very hollow to me. We feed off the energy of one another. Though some are hesitant to admit it, we need a human connection to thrive. We need a neighborhood. We need a community.

Any technological advances that strive to reduce human connection are not advances at all but a step in the wrong direction. We can make it shiny and beep, but there’s no energy, no life force, in the cold of glass and steel. 

We should strive to support our neighborhoods, our local businesses, our communities and most importantly, each other. 

And don’t forget to greet the cat at your local Bodega.  

Irma.

So Irma, probably the strongest hurricane ever recorded, is flinging her way through the Caribbean and headed toward Florida. Folks are evacuating key areas and I’m really hoping that the damage will be minimal and lives will be spared. I want everyone to be safe.

I’m noticing a lot of people voicing their prayer activity on various social media outlets. I’m curious as to the reasoning behind this type of prayer. Yes, we all want people and animals to be safe and damage to be minimal. But, praying to the God that allegedly threw this storm onto the face of Earth seems to be a futile effort. If God wants the storm to follow the path that he’s launched this storm along, why would he listen to prayers? Do we think God will reconsider his Irma plan? Was God wrong? Yes, we want people to be safe, but why on Earth would a rational person think God is going to spare someone because of prayer?

Look, I want people to be safe and I want those that are worried to find comfort through any means possible. I would probably do the same thing. But, logically and rationally prayer doesn’t make a lot of sense. Well wishes. Hopeful thoughts. Positive thoughts. Yes, all of those make sense to me. But prayer? OK, I guess….

If you find comfort in prayer then I hope you find comfort in your prayer around Irma. But I have a hard time reconciling rationalization around the effort. But that’s my hang up, I guess.

Dialect.

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I have always been fascinated by regional dialects. I never really had a grasp of the concept until I left Central New York for Western New York to attend my first round of college; until then I knew there were accents (most notably a Southern accent) and that the folks downstate spoke differently than the folks where I grew up but in my mind those were accents. In Western New York they spoke much like we did back home but with a slight twist, for example, “pop instead of “soda”. I actually grew up fairly close to the pop/soda line in New York State, which seems to have drifted west a bit since I was a young lad.  When away at college talking with other students from the area there were other subtle differences that caught my attention, for example, folks from Jamestown would say “ming-ya” when they were irritated or for some sort of emphasis, though the folks were hardly Italian. “Ming-ya, that woman is an idiot.” 

My friend Matt lives in Central Pennsylvania and I noticed that he says “slippy” instead of “slippery”, which I think it kind of cool. I’ve picked up on “slippy” in other parts in that general vicinity. “Slippy” seems to have its roots in Pittsburgh which makes sense to me, because Pittsburgh has it’s own take on the English language and I find it quite endearing.

One of the things that I like about Chicago is that the dialect is fairly close to what I grew up with, albeit with a few twists and indications of local slang. The flat “a” sound reigns supreme, just like back home on the shores of Lake Ontario. Mary, marry, and merry all sound alike. It feels very comfortable. I think it’s the result of growing up at the opposite end of the “Great Lakes Accent” from Chicago. For example, I’ve heard plenty of people say “sammich” instead of “sandwich”. I’ve also picked up on “washroom” instead of “rest room”, which reminds me of Toronto and Kingston, Ontario. (I hardly ever rest in the washroom, my diet doesn’t really allow for a restful experience in there). There’s also slang like “Jewels”, referring to the local grocery chain, Jewel-Osco (though ours is just a Jewel). Sneakers are now gym shoes and apparently we’ll be entertaining in the frunchroom. 

Tonight I might of had a couple two three drinks while we were out and about in Boystown. I like the idea of having a vague count like that. It fits the mood.

Here’s a couple other articles on “Chicago slang”:

http://www.metroseeker.com/chicago/slang

https://giordanos.com/slang-words-used-in-chicago/

 

 

 

 

 

Cars.

Many of my early memories involve cars. I can easily remember sitting in the front seat of a mid 1960s Chevy Caprice with my maternal grandparents. The ignition key was directly in front of me and I remember reaching for the ring of keys. Grandpa City gave me a ring of keys to play with as he sat in the driver’s seat, “are you gonna drive with me?” I can still hear his voice as plain as day. Grandma City sat to my right and off we went. I want to say the car was a dark blue.

I remember walking in the driveway of my paternal grandparents towards my father’s VW Beetle, which was parked along the barn (which was actually called ‘the hen house’). Everyone was happy that I was walking. It wasn’t long after that the Beetle was gone and he had a green muscle car sitting in the same spot. I remember Mom not being happy about the new car. “We should have talked about it first.”  A non-auto related memory from around the same era was when our mobile home was moved from a trailer park in town to the lot next to my grandparents’ farm. Grandma Country and I looked out the bedroom window at the lot where the mobile home would be parked. Shortly afterward Dad started building an addition onto the mobile home to add a bedroom, half a laundry room (dryer only), and a living room. I’m a little hazy on this but I think it was right before my sister was born. 

Earl and I constantly go on road trips. It is a very relaxing and grounding activity for me and I’m sure that’s because of the memories I have surrounding cars. As we drive along, chatting,  I’m always reminded of the excitement and awe I felt on our first family road trip in 1976, when we took Grandma City’s oldest sister, my great-Aunt Ruby, back to Blackstone, Virginia after the annual family reunion. We took the 14 hour trek from the shores of Lake Ontario to Blackstone in my grandparent’s 1973 Buick Electra 225. It was a boat of a car and my sister, Aunt Ruby and I were easily able to sit in the back seat together. Aunt Ruby nodded off. I looked out the window in all directions. I remember spotting an exit sign for “P.A. 106” and I was confused as to why Pennsylvania was abbreviated that way. (Many years later I discovered it used to be “U.S. 106” and they changed out the letters but left the periods in place when the route designation was changed). I remember being excited about passing through Maryland on Interstate 81 in less than 10 minutes. We ate at a truck-stop diner just inside Virginia before finishing out trek to Blackstone. Aunt Ruby and Uncle Archie lived on a big farm in the woods with no electricity, aside from some car batteries wired together. She cooked on a wood-fired stove. There was a cuckoo clock in every room. They were very friendly. We ate a late supper after the farm chores were done for the day. Aunt Ruby talked to her vegetables on the stove as they cooked. “C’mon little peas. Let’s get cooking.”

When we pass cars on our road trips and I see children in the back seat watching a monitor or playing a game, or I see parents in the front seat intent on their phones, oblivious to the world whizzing by, I can’t help but wonder if they’re being robbed of future memories. I have watched the world around me for nearly half a century. I have no intention of stopping.

I will keeping adding to the memory bank and smiling as I watch the world around me.

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PDA.

Jamie and Chris hold hands in public like it’s nobody’s business. If you think about it, it really is nobody’s business. I admire them both for being so open about their relationship.

I’ve never been a public displays of affection kind of guy. This is because I’m an old gay and I’ve always been terrified that the people with pitchforks and torches would descend from the heavens and throw stones at us like that poor woman in the lottery, simply because my husband and I stole a whimsical glance that made us seem, well, gay. I know this is my own problem and that I am riddled with some sort of internal homophobia and quite frankly, I know it’s a big fault of mine, it’s a big hang up of mine and I’m desperately trying to get past it. There’s a lot of things I’m working on getting beyond, like eating scrambled eggs, but the open displays of affection is a biggie for me.

Tonight we attended a wedding reception populated with a lot of military folks. The son of one of my best friends married his bride. The son is in the Air Force, comes from an Air Force family and subsequently there were a lot of military uniforms with people wearing them and folks that looked obviously retired military. The ceremony was beautiful. The reception was lovely and when the DJ called for all the married couples to get on the floor I froze, I hesitated and I withdrew until several people convinced me to slow dance with my husband amongst all this brass.

Once I held Earl and danced with him, as the DJ weeded down the dancing crowd by the number of years of marriage, I was in heaven. The predictable fireworks flew around in my head and I fell in love with him all over again. It happens everyday and this time it happened in public.

No pitchforks. No torches. Not even a tiki lamp.

The world did not end. My eyes were opened and I felt like I stepped into a whole new existence.

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Hope.

One of the things I found encouraging when we were talking about moving to Chicago was the obvious signs of tolerance, acceptance of all kinds of love, and the shunning of hate in any form. Before moving here I walked through several neighborhoods exploring the vibe of the area. Many of the churches, of many differing denominations, would feature messages such as the one shown in the photo I snapped last night. A good share of the signs would feature a gay pride flag. Rogers Park, Albany Park, Wrigleyville, North Center: I found these hopeful displays of acceptance in all of the areas that I explored.

Many homes and businesses within a one mile radius of our home have a gay pride flag displayed in their window. Many more have signs of “Hate Has No Home Here” and “All People Are Equal”.


These displayed have helped me find hope in these turbulent times in our society. When Trump was elected president I pretty much lost all hope in society. I am still quite worried about the future of these United States, because hate has been validated by the very hateful leader that was elected by a minority of our population. But as a few have been quick to remind me, sometimes it takes a giant swing of the pendulum to get it to swing back in the other direction. Having moved away from a very red part of a blue state and into a bluer area of the map has opened my eyes to a future that is once again attainable.

We just need to continue to stand up, speak out, and more importantly, have hope.

Digs.

So tonight I unpacked the last box for my office. It took a few notes from work to get the mortgage company to understand that my job and office were moving with me when we relocated to Chicago. The setup has been wonderful.

We had to take down one of the shelves the previous owner had installed to accommodate my Thunderbolt Display when my desk is in its standing position. Yes, I’m one of those guys that spends a good chunk of the day standing at my desk. I find that it makes me more productive and actually helps my back. I used to make DJs stand in the booth at the radio station when I was the Director of Operations back in my radio days. I always liked standing but some would get cranky.

There’s no standing for cranky in my outfit.

I’ve combined my work-at-home office with my pilot storage area. In the old house these were in two different locations but in our condo my office doubles as a man cave. 

I am without complaint.

 

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