Four.

I have four trips left on my bucket list. I could probably add a dozen more but these are the four I’d really like to do.

1. Drive the entire length of whatever is left of US Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles. We’d take our time, enjoy the sites and make it an awesome Jeep ride. I want to experience the kitsch, the sand, the plains, and the concrete.

2. Drive the last four states we have left to visit: North Dakota, Idaho, Washington, Oregon. Again, I want to be off on interstates and experiencing the local roads.

3. Take a cross country train ride. Jamie did this a couple of years ago from LA to Chicago. I’d love to do the same. Chat with other folks, eating in the dining car, sleep on the bunk beds. Two days of awesomeness.

4. Fly First Class to any international destination on a Boeing 747. And yes, I want to be upstairs. Every time I see a 747 I’m in awe. I know the US carriers no longer fly the Queen of the Sky, but other carriers still do. I never had the chance to fly the Concorde. I don’t want to miss my chance to experience a 747.

I think all of these trips are fairly easy to attain. It’ll be a nice challenge for the next couple of years.

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.

Overwhelming.

I walk through the streets, trying to get a little bit of exercise during the pre-dawn hours, before the madness of my workday kicks in. As I walk by the darkened buildings, apartments, condos, and houses, once in a while the reflection of a large television will catch my eye. As I maintain my pace of 3.5 MPH, I’ll catch a glimpse of a large television screen with various news stations shouting into the room. This morning my brain moved fast enough to catch snippets of 24 hour news station crawls: “Salvadorians denied…”, “Immigrants removed from…”, “Chaos in the White House…”. Someday I’d like to see something happy like, “Democrats and Republicans agree to work together on hunger and homeless crises”, but we know that will never happen.

Since Trump took office we have swung into this societal trend of having no empathy. I find this era of indifference to be overwhelming. The inexplicable public support of “I’ve got mine, I don’t care that you don’t have yours” just boggles my mind. I try to step into the world of ignorance, where my only concerns are those of my own, but I can’t help but think doing so would be socially irresponsible and negligent.

I was hoping the border wall had been forgotten. I still read and hear chants of “Lock her up”, even though the only reason Hillary Clinton is relevant in politics today is because those against her won’t let her have her life in peace. There is a crazy amount of vengeance permeating the populace today. People have turned real life into a poorly scripted reality show. Quite frankly, anyone that thinks the United States is in a good place right now is either incredibly stupid or willfully ignorant.

The issue is the noise is overpowering but the only way to fix things is to make more noise. But I’m tired. 2018 has felt exhausting and it’s only the 9th of January.

iPhone X.

I’m still making discoveries about my new iPhone X. I’m thoroughly enjoying my new phone, especially the form factor and the way it fits in my hand. Prior to this phone I was using an iPhone 6s Plus: I loved the real estate but the form factor was too large. I feel like I can text with one hand.

I’ll probably write a proper review once I feel I’ve figured out all the nuances but here’s a couple of quick hits:

  • The OLED display is absolutely amazing
  • The cameras are outstanding. I took a couple of night photos from our balcony here in Chicago this evening and the clarity is amazing.
  • The camera also took great photos during my flight yesterday. I wish I had taken the same shots with my iPhone 6s Plus, but it’s already been wiped out and is on it’s way for refurbishment. Comparing other flight photos taken last winter with my 6s+ I can see a nice difference in photo quality.
  • The new gestures, due to the lack of a home button, became natural to me within an hour. The only thing I miss about the lack of a home button is knowing which was is up when I pick up the phone in the dark
  • Battery life has been amazing
  • The transfer of my data went about 90% well. There are a few apps that didn’t transfer settings over, but I think that falls on the apps developer.

For the past 48 hours I have been very pleased with this phone. Nothing has made me say “why?” and I’ve had no sense of frustration at all.

The iPhone X is definitely an evolution of the smartphone. I don’t care if the features are available from other manufacturers or on other operating system. It works well for me and I’m quite pleased.

Jeep.

I was making a right on red turn on the way to the airport this morning. The intersection was adjacent to an expressway ramp, so I pulled out slightly to see around the guiderail and stopped to make sure traffic was clear.

That’s when I felt a big “bam” and my Jeep was rammed from the rear by a white mini-van.

I pulled to the side of the road, saw that the corner of the Jeep was messed up and walked to the van. The first question out of my mouth was, “is everyone OK?”

Everyone was OK.

We exchanged contact and insurance information. The man driving the van apologized. I found the license plate that had been ripped off the rear quarter panel and wedged it between the high-mount brake light and the spare tire. I took pictures of everything and actually shook hands with the driver that hit my beloved Jeep.

I then continued my journey to the airport, took a few minutes to calm down, contacted Earl (who handled the stuff with the insurance company) and had a great flight today.

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PosiTweet.

So Earl bought me a new iPhone X this evening. While we have been discussing the purchase for the past several days, I say that he bought me the phone because he gave the OK to spend our money to purchase this new piece of technology. I must give a special shout out to a close Apple employee who shares his “Family and Friends” discount.

As I was setting up my new iPhone X, I wondered if I wanted to just restore my phone from a backup of my old iPhone 6s Plus or if I wanted to go ahead and install everything from scratch. The pivot in this decision was Twitter. If you follow my Twitter feed (see sidebar), you’ll notice that I have been fairly critical of the platform and in particular, the CEO and decision makers at the social media company. The fact that Twitter allows Donald Trump, and others in position of power, tweet in an unbridled fashion, sharing videos of pro-Nazi activity, making threats of nuclear war against another country, etc., bothers me. I can understand if Twitter allowed this sort of activity from Trump if he was using the *official* POTUS account on Twitter, but he’s not, he’s tweeting from his personal account and other users would not be allowed to be so aggressive on Twitter. Users have been blocked or bounced for much less. The disparity in treatment is what bothers me.

Earl and I were talking about this; we don’t agree on the subject and in the long run it’s fine that we don’t agree. He’s the sensible one of the family, and I think he’s the brighter bulb in our chandelier, so I always listen to what he says. I might rant and rave about a topic; he’ll just counterpoint and say, “why are you yelling.” It’s what’s kept up together for over 21 years.

As we talked over dinner, I told Earl that I was frustrated by Twitter and he said he thought I could do better at sharing positive things through the platform. Bust through the negativity with a positive attitude. The light always beats the dark.

We were reminded of a wedding we attended a couple of years ago. We were the older folks in the room and seated with a bunch of people younger than us. We had a wonderful time as the mood was festive that night. Every time something witty or remarkable happened, a young woman with crazy hair seated across from us, Lee, would shriek “I have to tweet this!” and then her fingers would dance across her smartphone and it’d all become part of the public record. While it may be ridiculous that every moment, anecdote, belch, etc. was being shared on Twitter, the theme of the moment was that Lee was having fun, wanted to share that fun with the world, and more importantly, was laughing and having a good time as she tweeted.

As I munched on my bacon wrapped shrimp tonight during this reminiscing, I was reminded about how much I missed laughing and having a good time as I tweeted.

I’ve wretched about this sort of thing a lot since the 2016 Elections. I miss feeling a positive vibe in the world. If Twitter is starting to suck in my eyes, it’s not the time to run away, it’s time to make it suck less.

As I looked around the restaurant, I made the observation that the mood around us was cheerier than what we would encounter in restaurants where we used to live in Central New York. Having moved from a decidedly red part of the country (some described it as a ‘snowy Alabama’) to a very blue city in the Midwest, I’ve noticed that not only are the people more diverse in nature, they seem to be happier. There’s less scowling and more smiling. Now, I’m not saying that everyone is tip-toeing through the tulips in the Windy City and that everything is champagne and caviar, but there is a more positive disposition here and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to move.

I should bring more of that positive disposition to Twitter.

I still strongly feel that Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone and crew at Twitter are more concerned about building engagement numbers and ad revenue than they are about free speech and giving everyone ‘their say’ via Twitter. I still think that Twitter is nothing like it was intended to be when it was introduced to the world over a decade ago, but I don’t think it’s a hopeless case yet. I’ve met some groovy people on Twitter, folks that I genuinely like and look forward to meeting up with in 2018. We can still make great connections via social media. They key to success in this endeavor is being positive about it.

Sometimes you have to jump over the ditch to get to the green grass on the other side.

Tiviachick.

One of my friends from my radio days, Laurie Jean, is on a quest to play laser tag in all 50 states. She goes by the name Tiviachick.

I’ve always admired Laurie’s zest for life and her lack of inhibition. One week, when I was the Director of Operations and she was a sales and promotion person, she came in everyday dressed in a different wild outfit. She did this for one week, never gave an explanation as to why and she didn’t do it again during my tenure with the company. It was odd but it was awesome.

I’m happy to see that she still lives the dream.

Here’s the link to her blog: Tiviachick Loves Lasertag

Queer.

It was autumn of 1986 and I was a freshman in college. When my parents dropped me off at school for that first semester I promised myself that I would be true to who I was and not deny to anyone that asked that I was a gay man. It was fairly easy to exercise the gaydar, I went to school for Music Education. There were a good number of “us” at that school.

We were sitting around the student union, a bunch of us aspiring musicians, talking about life in some sort of collegy way when a friend of mine, Tracy from Long Island, asked how I referred to myself as a gay man. Did I prefer to be called “gay” or “homosexual”?

Now, I’ve known I was “different” since second grade. I was OK with the word gay, but I never really liked it, probably because of the stereotypes we’d see in the 1970s and mid 1980s: men running around screaming, doing hair, painting nails, that sort of thing. While my pilot light probably burned higher than it should have at that point of my life, in my head I had negative connotations to the word “gay”. I’d been called worse, much worse, in my high school years. So when Tracy asked how I thought of myself, I replied honestly: “I’m homosexual”.

“That sounds so scientific”, she replied.

“Well, it is scientific. I’m attracted to the same sex so that makes me homosexual.”

“Do you go to gay bars?”, she asked.

“I never have. And no, I’ve never been with anyone.”

I was such a partier in college.

Naturally I’ve used the term ‘gay’ to label myself lots of times in my life, and I really don’t know why I responded with “homosexual” back in the autumn of 1986, other than an internal fear of the word ‘gay’. The AIDS epidemic was really ramped up at the time and being gay made me uncomfortable, I guess.

The younger generation, and many of my own generation, have embraced the word ‘queer’. As a kid I heard that word a lot, almost always directed at me. I could never understand why a couple of other classmates, who pinged my budding radar at the time (and confirmed at a later age) didn’t garner the attention of being called queer as they walked through the halls of the Junior-Senior High School, but as I said before, my pilot light was bright. Later in life I couldn’t embrace the word ‘queer’. I struggled with that; too many bad memories about the use of the word.

Tonight, as Earl and I waited for the train to take us a couple stops up so we could find a restaurant for dinner, I said to him, “You know, I’m queer.”

Earl looked at me in surprise.

“I’ve always been queer. I am a queer man.”

In the back of my head, a memory of my girlfriend from high school playing “Johnny Are You Queer?” by Josie Cotton on the record player echoed in my head.

“I’m different. I have my own thing going on. Most of it is because I’m a gay, but even in the gay community I’m rather queer.

“One of my New Year’s resolutions is to embrace the word ‘queer’ because it’s the truth. I’m going to be 50 years old this year, why should I care what people think?”

So, there you have it. Johnny is a queer boy after all.