UA 4007.

I am on United Express flight 4007 from O’Hare to Greenville-Spartanburg. It’s been about six months since I last traveled for work; I’m looking forward to seeing my colleagues in person. Living in Chicago provides yet another perk; with O’Hare in the neighborhood it’s rare that I have to do the connecting flight routine anymore. I don’t miss the stress of bounding through an airport trying to make that next flight that I invariably scheduled to close to my arriving flight.

Now if we could do something about the traffic getting to O’Hare. Small steps.

I’ve been trying to find a way to share my thoughts (in a sane manner) around what’s going on in the United States these days. I’m sure I’m feeling the same fatigue as many others are experiencing when it comes to the news and the country seemingly darting from one crisis to another. In the past seven days we’ve had bombs mailed to prominent people in political arenas and nearly a dozen people shot to death in their chosen place of worship. I firmly believe the perpetrators of these crimes feel as sense of empowerment from Trump, his administration, and his supporters. I’m at the point now where I’ve lost most of my tolerance for anyone still supporting the guy. I’m sure there are folks that read this that still feel Trump is doing a great job and that the country is in a great place. I would counter you are wrong and if we’ve never had a political discussion we probably shouldn’t start the practice.

Since my travel plans for work were in the air (no pun intended) until the last minute, I didn’t know if I was going to be around on Voting Day or not, so I requested an absentee ballot. Last night I completed it and sent it off in the mail. I don’t have a lot of faith that the American populace will do the right thing during these midterm elections in ten days. The polls sound encouraging but polls have been wrong before and I’m sure they’ll be wrong again. It’s all about “wait and see” right now. I hope that we’ll vote off this present political direction, but this ship will move slowly and this battle will still go on for years to come.

For now, I’ll just look out the window of this beautiful flight and play “spot the airport”.

I need to fly more.

Silence.

For Halloween I might dress up as Spock in “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” and give the Vulcan Nerve Pinch to every ass that blasts their music without headphones in every Starbucks or on every bus or train I travel on. When did it become OK to blast your music out in public like some sort of shrieking banshee? When did it become acceptable to scream a custody battle with your ex on your phone while wedged into a tight public space with dozens of people you don’t know around you? Let’s get back to the simple social contract: Don’t Be A Dick In Public.

Field Trip.

On a dark, snowy day last winter I took the CTA Brown Line down to the Loop and started riding out of downtown in random directions on the various other colored lines of the ‘L’. It was a fun experience and it was a good way for me to experience parts of Chicago that I wouldn’t otherwise see in my day-to-day travels. Before moving to Chicago we’d taken both the Orange and Blue lines in from Midway and O’Hare respectively, but that field trip was the first time I had been on the Green, Pink, and Purple lines. The CTA Yellow Line is the only line of the ‘L’ that doesn’t touch the Loop, as it starts at the Howard stop, the northern end of the Red Line, and heads out to Skokie. There are a total of three stops on the Yellow Line. I told Earl that I needed to do something a little mindless today, so we hopped on the Brown Line, transferred to the Red Line at Belmont and headed north. We took our first ride on the CTA Yellow Line and are now sitting in the Starbucks sitting not too far away from the northern end of the Yellow Line. Because the Yellow Line is out in the suburbs, the 5000 Series trains (same equipment as used on the other lines aside from Orange, Blue, and Brown) don’t move much faster in the open spaces. I honestly didn’t know these CTA ‘L’ trains could move this fast. And the vibe in the suburbs is so different from that in the city. Not bad, just different. I am so fascinated by things would otherwise find mundane.

Sniffles.

Vaccinations are all the rage these days. Well, at least they’re the rage of conversation, as there’s a bunch of folks that believe vaccinations are the next best thing since penicillin and others believe vaccinations cause autism. Spying a money making opportunity, pharmacies all over the country are now offering vaccinations for the Flu and for Shingles. You can just walk into your local drug story and request a vaccination. Here you go, enjoy.

I’m a proponent of vaccinations, though I don’t like being forced to get one. When I went back to college back in the middle ’00s I had to get a new round of MMR (Measles, Mumps, Rubella) vaccinations because I was old at the time and apparently the country doctor I saw as a child was ahead of the curve by a couple of months (at least according to the records I was able to obtain) so modern medicine considered by original vaccines to be invalid. I was rather cranky about having to get the vaccinations again but that’s what I do. I don’t really like being told what to do.

I went for my six month checkup with my primary physician earlier this week. On cue he stationed himself behind the computer hanging off the wall, grabbed the ergonomically friendly mouse, and promptly asked me a bunch of questions as if he was reading a script off the monitor that was garnering all his attention. I could have dropped my drawers right there to show him my junk but he was too enthralled by my medical records on the LCD screen.

“Do you want a flu shot?”, he asked, casually.

Before I answered I gave him a look of such duration it would have made Bea Arthur blush. He finally turned from the monitor (I didn’t hear any Pac-Man died noises or anything) and awaited my reply.

“I’m told that it’s the right thing to do, especially living in an urban environment like we do right here in Chicago. Now, mind you, I haven’t had the flu in many years and the last time I had a flu shot, back in the mid 1990s, I was sick for a week.”

“You don’t get the flu from a flu shot. You might show flu-like symptoms, but they’re not really the flu”.  His deadpan response was not as Bea-like as my pregnant pauses.

“Oh, joy!”, was my instant retort. I don’t know why Americans are so eager to get injected with even a little bit of a virus for the sake of thwarting off viruses but I was feeling a little more adventurous than usual so I said, “Oh why the hell not.”

He asked me to sit on the exam table. He listened to my heart beat, I took a breath while he listened to that and then he left.  On his way out he advised the nurse would be in for the flu shot, see ya in six months for your yearly physical.

“It was good to see you.”

“God’ll get you for that, Doctor”.

The nurse came in and I asked her about the flu shot. She went through the flu-like symptoms shtick and then asked which arm I wanted assaulted, because it could be painful for a few days. It might have been the medical standard “you may feel some discomfort.”

I opted for the right arm, and surprisingly I didn’t even feel the needle.

Less than a day later it felt a little tender to the touch but it didn’t disrupt me from doing anything I enjoy doing with my right arm, but I noticed that I was starting to feel a little irritable. A few hours later I had the “flu-like symptoms” that weren’t the flu. And for the next three days I’ve felt run-down. And irritable. Very irritable. And sniffly. I’m irritable when I’m sniffly. It’s that whole “something is dripping down your throat” thing that irritates me, especially since I have scar tissue in my throat from during my first grade visit to the hospital apparently called “Tonsils ‘R Gone!”.

So help me God if I get anything that comes close to resembling the flu I’m going to lick every person, place, and thing I can get my tongue on. It won’t be sexy, but it’ll be honest.

Will I get another flu shot next year when everyone and their brother starts pushing these things again? We’ll see how I feel.

Watched.

Since the end of January I’ve been participating in the Weight Watchers program. At least that’s what it was called when we started the program; apparently it’s called something different now. The WW stands for whatever you want it to stand for. I think they were going for “Wonder Woman” but then realized those words were copyrighted and would probably alienate the small, yet present male population that also participates in the program. So now WW stands for Why? Why? 

For $20 a month (plus a hefty dose of Illinois Sales Tax), I am judged by a mediocre app experience at least three times a day. I have lost 25 pounds along this journey. The more I lose, the less points I am allowed to eat. A typical supper involves Earl making a meatball sandwich. He then throws the meatballs by my face while I inhale the mist of the meat. On Friday nights we go all out and he blows the scent of tomato paste in my face. I then deduct a healthy dollop of the scant amount of points I’m allowed. He then eats the meatball sandwich because he gets decades more points than I’m allowed and then he eats a brownie while in hiding in the other room as  I weep.

I must tell you this whole Weight Watchers experience has me feeling as wonderful as an audience member of Oprah’s show where she released the bees.

At 50 years old, amid the pressures of being a gay man that has never really fit into any situation, let alone an urban gay community such as that found in the city of Chicago, I know that I’m suppose to try to turn back time and look as fantastic as possible. I should try to be healthy because, despite the fact that I’m a stress eater, the food supply is rampant with as many unhealthy cost-effective ingredients as possible, and I must work my ass off 10-12 hours a day so we can have nice things, I need to keep my numbers in a range that was determined in the 1950s when folks had actual food made from actual ingredients, time to sleep, and worked eight-ish hours a day.

Nothing brings more joy to my heart than eating an eighth of a soy burger on a bun and seeing that I’ve used my points up for the next three days. Oprah sits there on a “WW” commercial wolfing down tacos and making sing-song noises about how she can eat anything she wants. I had one taco in Salt Lake City, Utah during our vacation and “WW” told me I had just burned off a third of my daily points and by the end of the day I realized I did not earn the coveted Blue Dot, a passive aggressive reminder that once again I failed at keeping my points within range.

Every night I see these millennial types sitting in all the pubs and restaurants and other glorious things we have here in Chicago. They have plates of nachos, plenty of beers, and they’re smiling and laughing and having a grand time. I wedge myself into a booth, order a beer, and Yet Another Salad and by the end of the experience I’m slightly giddy but needing a shirt that says “Goodyear” up the side. The happy millennial types order another round as they look at me playing on my phone.

I’m looking down being passive aggressively scolded by the “WW” app. I have lost my dot again.

Shoes.

I’ve been wanting to buy some new shoes. People find it odd that I wear business casual shoes to work since I work from home. I know many think that those of us work at home run around with sweatpants and a wife beater, or maybe just our underwear hidden from the teleconference, but the truth of the matter is, I’m most productive when I’m wearing at home pretty much what I would wear to the office. For me, getting in the mindset to work involves dressing the part. Dressing for success and all that. I’ve been enjoying the classier looks of an earlier period in American history. Now I’m not about to throw on a fedora, or even a petticoat, but I do enjoy a good pair of chinos or other business slacks, a nice dress shirt, and a good pair of shoes. Earl warns me of budgetary concerns from time to time, so he tagged along as we made our first trip to a consignment shop not far from our home. I ended up bringing home two pair of Oxfords and a pair of office appropriate boots. For less than $60 total. I guess there’s some gay in me after all because these shoes have really put a certain spring in my step. I’m actually excited to wear them to the office tomorrow. Even though the office is just down the hall.

Work.

I’m sitting here in my home office doing the Friday afternoon thing. I’m listening to ambient, fairly instrumental electronic music. I downloaded this mix from YouTube a couple of years ago and I have no idea what songs are actually playing in this mix. It’s 75 minutes of synthesizers, minimal vocals, and simple percussion effortlessly mixed together at 129 beats per minute. It’s the music I listen to when I’m concentrating for work. It helps me maintain focus, this break to write a blog entry non-withstanding.

My job is hectic. As the leader of a magnificent team of seven people, and a full-time software developer as well, there’s a lot of moving parts that I need to keep moving in the right direction. It can be a challenge at time, the biggest part of the challenge being that it feels like I never have enough time to get everything done. Keeping notes, lists, and other reminders in an organized fashion is key. I’m at the point where I can do my job on any type of computer. I would prefer to do my work on a Mac (choice 1) or a Linux based computer (choice 2), but the company I work for is firmly entrenched in Microsoft technology and so I work on this Dell laptop that has it’s own quirky personality. I can deal with it and I’ve learned to skip the stress related to idiosyncrasies such as rearranging all my windows when the screensaver comes on. I’ve spent hours trying to figure that quirk out and to this day a solution escapes me.

It’s been a week since our vacation and I’m still feeling remarkably centered and happy. Remembering to breathe and trying to keep the emotional responses to a minimum have been key. It’s something I’ve been working on since vacation and the results thus far have been content.

I’m three and a half years into working for this company and I’m the most content I’ve been in a long while. I’ve found my cadence, I feel like things are moving in the right direction, and I like what I do.

I’m going to do everything I can to keep moving in this direction, because it’s a fantastic feeling.


Honesty.

A friend recently posted this letter in a discussion about honesty. It was written by Amelia Earhart to, at the time, future husband George Putnam.

The honesty of Ms. Earhart’s words strike a chord within me. The world needs more of this honesty. I strive to be this honest.

Words To Think About.

From “Madam Secretary”, Season 5 Episode 1.

“…Your courage and determination have made humankind safer from the second-greatest threat it faces. What is an even greater threat than nuclear weapons? That which makes the use of them possible: hate. Specifically, the blind hatred one group or nation can have for another. That is why I am convinced that nationalism is the existential threat of our time.

“Now I want to be clear. Nationalism is not the same as patriotism. It’s a perversion of patriotism. Nationalism… promotes the idea that inclusion and diversity represent weakness, that the only way to succeed is to give blind allegiance to the supremacy of one race over all others. Nothing could be less American. Patriotism, on the other hand, is about building each other up and embracing our diversity as the source of our nation’s strength. “We the people” means all the people. America’s heroes didn’t die for race or region. They died for the ideals enshrined in our Constitution. Above all, freedom from tyranny, which requires our unwavering support of a free press; freedom of religion, all religions; the right to vote, and making sure nothing infringes on any of those rights, which belong to us all. Look where isolationism has gotten us in the past. Two world wars. Seventy million dead. Never again can we go back to those dark times when fear and hatred, like a contagion, infected the world. That, as much as ending the threat of nuclear war, is what today is about.

“And it is why we must never lose sight of our common humanity, our common values and our common decency. I was reminded recently of our nation’s founding motto, E pluribus unum. Out of many, one. Thirteen disparate colonies became one country. One people. And today, we call on all Americans and people everywhere to reject the scourge of nationalism. Because governments can’t legislate tolerance or eradicate hate. That’s why each one of us has to find the beauty in our differences instead of the fear. Listen instead of reacting. Reach out instead of recoiling. It’s up to us. All of us. Thank you.”