Earl and I had planned to spend four days driving around Lake Michigan, starting last Thursday, to celebrate our 6th legal anniversary. On Wednesday evening, the husband of one of my closest high school friends contacted me; my friend was approaching the final days of his battle with cancer. He had hoped he would make it to Christmas. I talked about the situation with Earl and we agreed to change our plans. We drove from Chicago to Boston in one day. I sat at my friend’s bedside in the wee hours of Friday morning. His breathing was ragged and labored. His heart rate was very high. He was surrounded by members of his family. He opened his eyes once or twice. It was obvious that the end was very near.
I shared memories of high school. I revealed that I believed I was the first one that he ever told that he was gay and his husband confirmed hearing that story. I mused over other memories of us discovering who we were in the latest years of our teens. I recalled camping trips we went on together. I smiled. I worried. I said good-bye.
Earl and I left and went to the hotel. Friday morning we decided that it was time for him to be with his family; we felt in the way. I was good with that. By late evening I received word that he had passed over. His battle with cancer was done. He was no longer in pain. Cancer sucks.
Scott had thought he had cancer beat once, only to be told, on his 50th birthday no less, that it had returned. It was much more aggressive this time. He is no longer suffering. I’m happy that I was able to say goodbye.
He was a year and some change older than me. We debated the merits of Betamax vs VHS back in the day (he was a Betamax guy). We discovered computers together, we listened to ABBA together, we decorated a teacher’s home for Christmas together (most students would have TP’d her house, we put up Christmas lights).
I’m going to miss knowing that he was there in Boston. We hadn’t seen each other in a few years. Careers, priorities, distance: it all leads to a certain disconnect at times. The most important thing is that our memories together make me smile. And he is no longer suffering.
So yesterday my friend Matt in Williamsport, Pa and I were catching up on the phone. Text messages can take a conversation only so far, it’s best when during those times when you can’t meet in person that you can at least talk on the phone. We got to talking about our shared OCD tendencies, as we both tend to eat our food one thing at a time. For example, all the meat, all the potatoes and then all the vegetables, or whatever. We both agreed that our food can touch, that’s just fine, we just eat one thing at a time. Apparently I’m further up the spectrum than he is because I will disassemble hot subs or sandwiches and salads. It drives Earl crazy. When presented with a meatball sub, I eat all the meatballs first then I eat the bread. When eating a salad I eat all the tomatoes, then all the cucumbers, then all the peppers, then I finally get to the lettuce. It’s just the way I eat and I’ve always eaten this way. I’m not finicky, I’m just organized. Matt has labels on his light switches, so there’s our OCD trade-off.
This got me to thinking about some of my idiocyncracies that I’m aware of (I’m sure there are more that I don’t even realize that I’m doing) and then wondering about my steel-trap memory and observational powers. I notice things. I notice patterns, I notice changes in rhythm, I notice changes in appearance and I can easily follow a process. I think this has helped my computer-based career over the years as I can easily spot abnormalities. For example, if a pre-programmed routine is suppose to run every day at a certain time, I will instantly notice if something is amiss. I’ve been telling our Database Administrators that a completion email for a daily routine has been arriving 12-15 minutes late for the past two weeks. They say don’t worry about it. I tell them that something has to be off because the emails are arriving later. Computers don’t get lazy, something is impeding normal progress. Today the process finally failed. Something changed. They’re looking into it.
The process and consistency of computing devices, especially vintage devices, fascinate me. My initial interest in computing was sparked by the slow conversion of mechanical to electronic cash registers at grocery and department stores over the 1970s. I remember being fascinated by the space-age looking Singer-Friden cash registers at Sears and Roebuck (the first of their kind, by the way). When our local grocery store, the P&C converted to electronic cash registers in 1978 I was blown away. They were so cool. I watched cashiers do their thing and I learned the process of how the cash registers worked, even at 10 years old. In 1980, P&C hosted a “Food Fiesta” at the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse. The Center of Progress building was populated with food vendors giving tasting samples. There were cooking classes. And in one aisle, there was a display of the checkouts at your local P&C Food Store and the public could stand behind the counter, spin the counter belt and try ringing up items. It was 1980. I was 12 years old. I watched a couple of adults try to keep running the cash register and they couldn’t make it work. The “ERROR >” light kept lighting up on the display. The problem was easily apparent, the man was pushing the decimal key when he was trying to enter an item for 99 cents (this was before scanning was popular). He said the cash register was broken. A P&C representative started walking over to the register but I beat them to the cash register. I then hit CLEAR and promptly rang up about 75 items at rapid speed, using advanced functions such as split pricing, multiple departments, food stamp exceptions, taxable items and the like. I even added a few store coupons and double vendor coupons to the order before punching in split tender – so much in cash and so much in a personal check. The order completed, the receipt was ejected from the top and the cash drawer popped open. I kept the receipt as a souvenir. The P&C representative and the few adults around me all asked, “how in the world do you know how to do that”? I just shrugged my shoulders and moved on.
My steel trap memory and my ability to observe. I should have put that super power to good use.
As I was formulating this blog entry in my head earlier today, I got to doodling on my work notebook and sure enough, I was able to draw this, and several other like it, out. From memory.
This is the layout of a Data Terminal Systems Series 400 (actually model 440) cash register keyboard in 1980 in a grocery store configuration. There’s only one button I can’t remember.
I probably should use my powers for something useful someday.
I had figured out I was “different” by second grade, confirmed I was fooling no one by 11th grade Ethics Class and made a promise to myself on the first day at SUNY Fredonia that I would no longer try to suppress who I was.
Despite every name, threat, punch, religious intervention and law that tried to convince me to be something I’m not, the biggest obstacle of being gay has been my own internalized homophobia and fear of disappointing those I care about. As I approach the second half of my life, I’m getting over that and just embracing who I am. I admire those that don’t have that internal struggle. My struggle has been relatively easy; I know others have had it much worse. I hope it gets better for them.
So here’s a picture of me, “pretty in pink”, taken August ’90 on Jones Beach on Long Island.
My brain continues to hurt from the rampant stupidity in our country. I’ve been desperately trying to avoid politics for the past week and the truth of the matter is you just can’t escape it. If you sit down to watch a football game, the vice president is staging a political stunt about players kneeling during the National Anthem. If you turn on any given sitcom, there’s jokes about the idiocy of Trump. If you mute his name on Twitter, he still creeps into your timeline under a wide variety of alternative names. Luckily, my timeline is skewed enough to keep the alternative names from being in any way flattering.
This country is in a state of constant chaos that just can’t be escaped. Stupidity is en vogue. Ignorance is celebrated. You can’t trust the news. You can’t trust what you read on the Internet. People are purposely spending false, damaging information to feed this state of chaos. It’s a fire that continues to rage, slowing consuming everything.
My original 30 day challenge for the month of October was to blog at least once a day about something other than politics. I wanted to spread a little bit of light out into the world. A light that would somehow consume even the smallest spark from this raging dumpster fire. But then the Las Vegas shooting happened and my attempt at blogging felt futile. How can I talk about a grand life in Chicago when there is so much strife going on?
The Trump Administration is trying to destroy the United States of America and rebuild it into a white male dominated domain. If you’re not a straight, white man you’re considered a “less than”. The number of people that continue to support this man astounds me. I can not and will not forgive anyone that cast a vote in his direction. I won’t try to understand and I’m certainly not going to tolerate it. The man is an idiot, a moron, a charlatan. And his supporters are just as stupid.
Steve Jobs died six years ago today. The man was a visionary, a genius, and an inspiration for many. I believe the DNA of his vision lives on today at Apple.
They took away my Mac at work this week in an effort to remove all Macs from the work network. Honestly, I feel a little let down. My new laptop works but it brings me little joy. I’ve gone from a luxury car to a bus. I feel like I’m typing with my elbows.
I needed to feel inspired again. Knowing the genius thinking behind the vision that Steve had of the future, I visited the site of the newest Apple flagship store which opens in two weeks. It will be a destination. It will being a sense of community. Senior VP of Retail, Angela Ahrendts, is an inspiration to me as well. I love her energy.
Inspiration. Pass it on. #applefanboy
How can I sit here and write about my life when people have been shot in Las Vegas in the past 24 hours in what is being termed as the “Deadliest Shooting in Modern U.S. History”.
How can I sit here and read about all these “thoughts and prayers” when the words mean nothing if there’s no action. Our government will do nothing to legislate sensible gun control. Is there some sort of macro that just belches out “thoughts and prayers” whenever a news feed detects another mass shooting?
How can I sit here and write in my blog when folks in Puerto Rico are still dealing with catastrophic conditions, trying to recover from one of the most powerful hurricanes ever recorded? Trump tweets and tweets and tweets. Folks in Puerto Rico are looking for drinking water, food and electricity. Trump tweets. Oh, and he golfs.
How can I sit here and write in my blog when Trump is basically saying that diplomatic efforts with North Korea are futile. He really wants to bomb that country. I’m very worried that it will bring about the end.
How can I sit here and write in my blog when it feels so futile?
We used to be better than this. Hope, prosperity, striving for peace – it all seems like a rapidly fading distant memory.
Everyone will have a hard time from time to time. But overall you should enjoy your life. If you’re not, make a change so that you get back on track. You get one chance at this life. Run with it. Make it awesome. It’s up to you.
I was daydreaming during my morning walk, thinking about the new Star Trek series I mentioned in my previous blog entry. I can’t help but think that in the 1960s, fans of the original “Star Trek” watched the show in part because of the promise of a bold, kinder future. People were looking to escape away from the political turmoil of the late 1960s. This is in stark contrast to the “reboot” movies in the Star Trek universe and now the latest series, “Star Trek: Discovery”. All of these new looks into a once familiar universe are based upon strife and war.
My realization today was that we have a generation of young adults coming to age that have known nothing but a United States at war. These young people have known nothing but political strife, chaos, threats, and terrorism their entire lives. Entertainment, in an effort to connect to the young average viewer, is now honing in on all of this war. They’re entertaining us with the very turmoil that we should be trying to escape from.
What a very sad state of affairs.
When I think about the future I see bright colors. I hear articulate phrases. I hope for harmony. I hope for peace. Our “entertainment” doesn’t show that universe and I fear it’s because it’s not what people want anymore. I worry that a generation of Americans that have known nothing but war will always seek out war.