November 2011

Alarm.

So last night the fire alarm went off during the NBC Nightly News. Brian Williams, the anchor, was the perfect professional as the alarms went off, barely missing a beat with his story on the bankruptcy of American Airlines. As the alarm went off the second time during the newscast, he calmly reminded viewers that they knew they were in no danger and that’s why they were no evacuating. Watching the video on YouTube, I was very impressed with the way that Mr. Williams handled it, knowing that he wasn’t in danger and how he just continued on without losing it on the air. As a former broadcasting professional, I probably would have been distracted and my voice would have sounded funny as I tried to compensate for the extra noise. That’s why I don’t anchor NBC’s Nightly News.

Since this story has been all over the place this morning, I noticed some of the comments that folks made over on Huffington Post. It’s not often that I go over to that site, I really don’t like their style of journalism over there and I can find more balanced news elsewhere. I was surprised at the number of people who said that Brian Williams set a bad example for the public by not immediately leaping up and running out of the studio with his hands failing. I say I was surprised by these comments but I guess in reality I’m really not. Some people enjoy hysterics. Mr. Williams, a former volunteer fireman, does not. Plus, as he stated during the news broadcast, they knew they were not in danger because they were testing the fire alarm system.

I got to thinking about this a little bit on the drive into work. I have been in several places over recent years where the fire alarm has started blaring in a public space, for example, the local mall. No one flinched, no one looked for an exit, everyone continued shopping as if nothing was going on. Blaring klaxons, flashing strobe lights, automatic closing doors; all of these were ignored because people were on a mission, they were shopping, they didn’t see flames so they continued on. I must admit that I did the same. Like much of the American public, I think I have been desensitized to these alarms because the damn things ring a false alarm on so many occasions.

Earl and I made a trip to Wisconsin a few years back and on each of the first three nights of this five night trip we had to evacuate the hotel (which was a different hotel each time) because the fire alarms were going off for no reason. People get used to these things. The blaring sounds, the strobe lights, they’re all for naught when they cry wolf so many times. I remember fire drills back during my school days. Those bells never rang unless they meant business (a fire or a drill). We didn’t have flashing strobe lights or slamming doors or announcements coming over a speaker, the fire bell simply went clang clang clang clang clang (pause) (repeat). It was rare that you heard that clang but when you did you got your butt out of the school in an orderly fashion. The same goes with the Emergency Broadcast System. If the old-style two-tone alarm wasn’t proceeded by “This is a test…”, then you figured that the local nuclear plant was melting down and you got under your desk and covered your neck to ride it out. People made sure that these alarms didn’t ring for no reason. False alarms were avoided. It’s not until we upgraded to the latest and greatest technology that we started to tolerate false alarms. Because we put up with bugs in our computer programs and crappy, tinny sounding phone calls over a our cell phones, we expect mediocrity from the devices that are designed to save our lives because they “cry wolf” more than anything else.

Now I know that I’m somewhat contradicting myself in this post. I praise Brian Williams for keeping his cool and continuing on while the fire alarm blared and I make fun of the people that say he should have evacuated immediately while on the other hand I scold folks for not leaving when the mall fire alarm went off. This is all a product of our conditioning. We are being conditioned to stock up on milk and bread and flail our hands in the air when an alarm is needlessly fired off to warn us of a “winter storm” (when much less than a foot of snow is expected) and on the other hand, we hear so many false fire alarms in public spaces today due to poorly manufactured and executed equipment that we just ignore the damn things. How do we turn this around? No clue. I’m hoping that the fabled reboot of civilization at the end of next year will give us some answers.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Memory.

So I have this habit of coming up with some brilliant topic that gets me all fired up and knowing how I’m going to express this brilliance in the blog. These flashes of inspiration usually occur in the early morning hours when I am getting ready for work. I try to remember to write down what I am thinking so that I can formulate them into a coherent dialog when I write my blog. I use electronic gadgets to keep track of all of this for me; I usually jot something down in Evernote or OmniFocus, since I use both software packages for personal and business needs. I tend to use Evernote as a bucket to catch whatever is falling out of my head.

This morning I neglected to do this. And now all I can remember is that I had two things I could have written about. I can’t tell you what they are, though. They’ll probably manifest themselves as a blog entry later in the week and I won’t even make the connection. I’ll be too busy engaging my ADD elsewhere.

Even though I can’t remember what I wanted to blog about this morning, I can tell you that I remember thinking that I am starting to become a bit of a morning person. I think this is why I have these blogging ideas in these early hours; it’s because I am turning into one of those older people that goes to bed at 9:00 p.m. and wakes up in time to see the sunrise. I used to be one of those guys that stayed up all night and went to sleep with the sunrise, but this is definitely changing. I must be getting old.

I can also tell you what I dreamed about last night, but it would make everyone involved blush. I know the dream took place in my old stomping grounds of Jamestown, New York, but the rest of it needs to be filed away in the dream journal and out of sight. I have always had this small fear of people figuring out what really goes on inside my head and sometimes dreams are just too revealing. So instead I show little bits and pieces here, well within the censorship range I have arbitrarily set.

I’d be such a hoot on an analyst’s couch.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Goals.

Now I know that last week I was getting rather cranky about the fact that I didn’t feel that people were properly observing the Thanksgiving holiday. It seemed to me that people were anxious to skip right over the holiday. They couldn’t slow down long enough to be thankful on the day that is set aside for such thoughts and were more concerned about the great deals they were going to get on Black Friday and it’s newer predecessor, Thanksgiving Day (I still have a beef with that).

I am going to admit right here and now that I am now guilty of a similar line of thinking.

You see, it is officially the Christmas Holiday Season. Christmas, and all of it’s equally important holidays that share the same sentiment, are the next holidays up on the schedule and this is something to get excited about. I am feeling the holiday spirit in that I’m in the mood to do nice things for nice people (and even nice things for some cranky people), but it doesn’t really feel like it’s the Christmas holiday time of year because I am going all out to avoid Christmas music and more importantly, it is currently 62 degrees (F) in these parts. Usually we have a foot of snow on the ground by now. The weather for the week is calling for mild temperatures right through Friday. It’s just weird to me to put up Christmas lights when it’s this warm out.

Because of the warm weather, I am actually looking beyond the Christmas holiday at New Years’ and accordingly, I am already compiling a list of goals for 2012. I think I am ultimately looking ahead to the spring of 2012 and setting milestones in my head as to where I want to be. As per the norm, my focus is on my health and fitness practices, but I’m also looking at career goals and where I want to fit in the world as contributor overall.

The fitness part is rather easy. I’ve done it plenty of times. I have want to be at a certain weight and mindset by date A and then farther down that road by date B. I want to do it honestly without resorting to quick weight-loss pills and the like. To begin this latest segment of this continuous journey I have decided to eliminate my lunchtime Dunkin’ Donuts iced tea. I opted for a refillable bottle of water instead. By not having the iced tea I am not tempted to get a cookie or other treat, and thus I am eliminating some caffeine AND some sugar. That’s a good thing. I also worked out this morning, the second day in a row this week, so I think I’m off to a good start. I have my own rewards built into this attempt, and they’re a personal thing that is not expensive, it’s just the joy of knowing that I am making a valid attempt at remaining healthy that will keep me going.

The career goals are a little more complex because I have this slight uncertainty as to where I’m going to fit I the corporate food chain at any given moment. So to tackle this I have set my sight on improving my work habits a little bit; increasing my organizational skills, trying to remain focused on one task instead of letting my natural ADD tendencies kick in. Self discipline is the name of the game here, and I figure if I improve myself in this area, the rest of the corporate niceties will follow suit. Let’s hope.

My last area of my goals is where I want to fit in in the world. The road geek in me has made some suggestions to the Department of Transportation over the years. These suggestions have been implemented in the interest of improving motorist safety. It feels good to try to make the world a better place in a tangible way and I’d like to do more of that outside of roads. It breaks my heart that our world needs a place like the Ali Forney Center (a organization for homeless LGBT youth in New York) but on the other hand I am thankful for such places and I want to do what I can to contribute to this cause. Beginning with awareness is my goal here; awareness of the organization and awareness of what causes LGBT teens to become homeless in the first place.

So while I am guilty of thinking ahead of the current holiday, I think it’s for good reason. And I guess trying to become the best person I can be is in the spirit of this holiday season.

Reason.

Some may think I may have married my husband for his cooking abilities. When I bit into my turkey sandwich at lunchtime today, his cooking ability was definitely one of the millions of reasons I married him.

Turkey on rye with a helping of stuffing and cranberry sauce for garnish. Perfection.

Burp.

 

Black Friday.

So today is Black Friday. I think it’s called Black Friday because this is the day that the retailers fall back into the black on their All Important Ledger. Apparently they have been running in the red for the entire year up until today when they magically sell enough stuff to produce enough profit to fall back into the black. This pleases the Lord.

You can tell economic times are tough because the retailers are having to work extra hard at getting back into the black this year. Times are so tough for them that they decided to make Black Friday last more than 24 hours by starting up on Thursday night. That’s right, forget the time gathered around the post-dinner table engaging in discussion or a board game with the family, we are now suppose to bundle up and get ourselves to the Wal*mart before it’s Friday so we can get a head start on the deals that are arriving before Friday for Black Friday. Move. That. Money. Buy. That. Stuff.

I’m already entertaining requests from my fans as to what I want for Christmas. I haven’t really thought about it a great deal, though I think I may have suggested a few ideas to Earl over the past week. There is a rumor that I want an iPad2 and possibly an iPhone 4S, but there is a part of me that wants to go without getting a big ticket technology item for Christmas, just to say that I did it. Besides, everything I have works fine. My iPhone is able to distract me from real life without a problem and I can blog anywhere my heart desires with my first generation iPad. Ironically, I am using my MacBook Pro to blog during my lunch hour today, but that’s only because I left the bluetooth keyboard in the Jeep and that’s in getting serviced, so I’m driving the Durango and I wanted to be able to type on an actual keyboard instead of just a picture of one. I find it very hard to write blog entries on my iPad. I don’t think it would be an easier on my iPad2 since the pictures of the keyboard are identical. Damn me for learning to do something other than hunt and peck. What was I thinking?

When Earl and I dropped the Jeep off at the early-bird station at the dealership last night, we took the opportunity to swing through the Big Box Mecca to see what sort of lines were forming at the Big Box Stores. There was an encampment at Best Buy that went the entire length of that side of the shopping center. The line formed at the front entrance to Best Buy, at the end of the building, and snaked along the entire plaza beyond PetSmart, Salon Aida, some sort of dental clinic, a double-wide TJ Maxx and Michaels’. People were bundled up in their eskimo gear and sitting on lawn chairs. All to save $100 off one of two laptops (because there’s never more than that in stock) that’s probably going crap out and be so bogged down with “value added software” that you’ll want to chuck the thing out the window in a month anyway. The Wal*mart had setup some corrals out front but there wasn’t very many people to be seen.

This is what our Thanksgiving has come to, nothing more than a precursor to the more important Black Friday. It’s kind of sad.

I heard on the news this morning that one of the other Wal*mart Supercenters in the area (we have four within a 15 mile radius) had to summon the cops because of shoppers fighting over cell phones. There’s nothing that shares that Christian sentiment of “Merry Christmas” better than a good kick in the teeth.

Back to the gift idea requests I have been getting. I know that people want to give me a gift in the name of sharing a delight and the spirit of the season and that is very much appreciated. You know what I really want? A donation to the Ali Forney Center in New York. If you feel the need to give me something, give me a card with some nice words and a bottle of after shave or something. Don’t dazzle, just share.

If more people did that, I bet our hearts, instead of our wallets, would soar on Black Friday.

Thanks.

So today is still Thanksgiving (since this is my second post of the day) and I have to say that I can barely keep my eyes open due to the large amount of turkey that I consumed around two and a half hours ago. Curiously, I’m a little bit hungry and quite frankly I am counting the minutes until 5:30 p.m. (it is currently 5:01 p.m.), the official time of the Serving Of The Cheesecakeâ„¢.

Earl asked what the trademark symbols are about. I think they add to the Levityâ„¢ of the blog entry. The only thing I have trademarked is the phrase “Always White Trash, Always“.

I jest.

Our Thanksgiving feast went something like this:

IMG 3309

Earl knows how to make a good turkey.

And then it was consumed in this fashion:

 

IMG 3327

The meal was preceded by a prayer. I know that some gay folks find this odd but while we don’t necessarily believe the teachings of a specific religion, I think it is safe to say that all of us have some sort of spiritual faith, and this was celebrated by a prayer, which is actually the second verse of “All Good Gifts” from the musical Godspell.

We thank thee then, oh Father,
For all things bright and good,
The seed time and the harvest,
Our life, our health, our food,
No gifts have we to offer,
For all thy love imparts,
But that which thou desirest,
Our humble, thankful hearts.

There wasn’t really that much discussion about what we are thankful for, other than the fact that we were able to celebrate this occasion together and that we are lucky to have such loving families, both as a chosen family unit and our families near and far.

I think that’s probably what I am most thankful for: family. I am lucky to have grown up in this life with a family that gets me and supports us. There are too many gay men and lesbians that are shunned by their biological family. I am so happy that we have experienced just the opposite.

Love is good, especially when it is shared.

 

Big.

So today I am thankful for many things, with it being Thanksgiving here in the U.S. and all, and I’ll probably write a few blog entries (okay, possibly two) where I share what I am thankful about with those that stumble across this bloggy thing. This will make my mother happy, because she often shares what she is thankful about at Thanksgiving. In recent years, she has urged, actually insisted, no demanded, others to do the same during the Official Thanksgiving Dinnerâ„¢ by not passing any food until someone said something that had some sort of meaning and another someone is sobbing in the mashed potatoes (or gravy, she’s not fussy) in an emotional turmoil because they have just shared what they are thankful about. My mother doesn’t just pull but she PULLS at heart strings.

I think I digressed.

Oh, and I sometimes write in an exaggerated manner and this could be one of those times, however, I most certainly assure you that yesterday’s blog entry was not written in an exaggerated manner and if I were to drive back to the hibachi grill right now, I would bet dollars to donuts (which I think has something to do with spending dough) that the woman is still banging on the ventilation hood and screaming for more sake.

Still digressing.

Oh, my mother is a lovely woman. I think of her as groovy. But not gravy. I’ll introduce you to her sometime, she’d like that.

Back to giving thanks. In a world where bigger is better, apparently, I am sometimes thankful that my grandmothers are not here to partake in the calamities of what we call the Present Timeâ„¢ because quite frankly, I can’t see either grandmother trying to navigate themselves through a Wal*Mart (Always White Trash, Always). Grandma Country was a Pulaski Department Store kind of patron. The Pulaski Department Store was an establishment on one of the few corners “downtown” (I use that term loosely) in the lovely village of Pulaski, N.Y.1 that had everything you needed for your lovely country home. It was about 1/100th the size of a Wal*mart but I bet you could find anything there, just in a reasonable size. If she didn’t find it there, she’d make the trip to Watertown or Oswego and go to Westons or Woolworths, both big department stores for their time but mighty small in comparison. I guess she could have coped with a Wal*mart now that I think about it, but I don’t think she would have enjoyed the experience. She’d ask my grandfather for an assist. He’d yell and scare people. I like that approach.

Grandma City was about Ames (pronounced Ameses). Since she lived in the city she was more used to the larger department stores, but I don’t think she’d have an easy time navigating around Wal*mart. She found Wegmans to be big and that’s before Wegmans became big but they still sold things like shirts but they didn’t have a food court or anything. I mean, I could never see Gram hauling this thing back from the small Wegmans and having it sitting on the back of the sink in her kitchen:

Big

I mean, look at the size of this bottle of Ajax. This thing is huge. 33% More! Triple Action! The power of three! I feel Charmed!

Now I suspect that Scott purchased this during one of his clandestine trips to Wal*mart. We call these trips clandestine because he knows my feelings towards Wal*mart but he insists that there are things that he can’t get anywhere else so I look the other way when he breaks the house rule of going to Wal*mart without being inebriated. These trips usually take two people but one has to stay in the car unless the other is reduced to crawling. He usually goes under the cover of darkness.

When I see this bottle of Ajax on our sink back, I realize that Grandma City would have needed a bucket truck, or at the very least a small pickup truck or using one of the smaller cousins as some sort of winch, to pick up this bottle of dish detergent. And because she would never do such a think to one of her grandchildren nor does she know how to drive a bucket truck and it was Grandma Country that had access to the pickup truck, we would have ended up using paper plates for the Official Thanksgiving Dinnerâ„¢, which would have been lovely in it’s own way but not really what we would have enjoyed though we would have smiled politely.

And for that, I am thankful that we all live in our own time, make the best of it and then move on to our great reward.

 

 

1 Pulaski is pronounced with the ‘ski’ like a ‘sky’ (“big blue sky!”) and not a ‘ski’, which is in Virginia.

I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream.

So yesterday was Scott’s birthday. To celebrate, Earl and I thought we’d take him out to dinner as a family. We asked Scott where he’d like to go to dinner, he indicated that he would enjoy going to the Japanese Hibachi grille that we had been to before. We were all looking forward to it as it had been fun in the past. I made reservations for the four of us at 7.

We arrived right on time and the nice woman at the front desk took us to an empty hibachi grill table. These tables seat eight people and normally you share the space with another group. The seats are arranged in a horseshoe pattern around the grill where the hibachi chef/performer will come out and flip food around, ignite various objects on fire and squirt sake from a modified catsup bottle into your mouth from varying degrees of length from your body, the goal being that you need to see how much sake you can take without choking and passing out. It’s kind of like a porn video except with alcohol, so it’s more family friendly.

Good times.

We were seated less than 30 seconds and still getting our bearings when Jamie got up, asked us to order him a drink and then said he’d be back in time to eat. You see, he had a bit of a headache and the room was loud.

Okay, the room wasn’t loud. The room was an out of control scream fest. People were banging on the things. Sake was being squirted everywhere. Food was being set on fire. Shrimp was flying into hats and sides of beef were being flung about with martial art skill not seen since Kill Bill (either volume).

Now, here’s the rub. The hibachi grill is meant to be fun. That’s why they fling the food around, set things on fire and squirt sake into people’s mouths. It can get loud, during previous visits I think I may have cheered when I saw my dinner get thrown into the fedora of a grumpy patron on the other side of the room. But the people at the other grills weren’t yelling in excitement. They were bellowing. They were screaming like they had just been set free from parole. A woman, apparently upset that she wasn’t given a gong to bang on, stood on her chair and banged on the stainless steel of the hood over the grill. Others were banging plates together. I had never seen people act like this in a hibachi grill before. It was madness. It was mayhem. I’ve seen quieter explosions. Food fights aren’t this lively. People were just randomly screaming at the top of their lungs for no purpose other than to make noise. The person banging on the gong threw it on the floor to make extra noise. A woman howled like she had found the second Halloween of the year. It was nuts.

I politely beckoned to the woman at the front desk and asked to be relocated into the regular dining area of the restaurant, much to the relief of the rest of the family. I grabbed Jamie out of the lobby and told him that we were moving to a quieter area.

On our way to the new table I commented to the hostess that the room seemed very loud tonight. She was non-committal, “people always get excited at birthday celebration.” Apparently in this fine city of ours1, it is tradition to stand up on your chair, grab a spoon and start banging on the cooking appliances. I was non-committal when I replied, “people are nuts.” She giggled, geisha like.

We sat down and got ourselves arranged in front of our menus when the power flickered plenty of times. The screams from the hibachi grill room intensified as they sat in the dark. Apparently more things were set ablaze to light the room. The emergency lighting units made zappy, crackling noises and we continued with the progress of our meal as the lights went on and off in various areas of the restaurant.

The meal was delicious. The server apologized for the handwritten bill when it was time to pay. He added this little zinger to his apology: “Since we have problems with power, you must pay with cash.”

Fun!

In this world of big banking and technology wonder, we are encouraged to use debit cards and credit cards. While Earl and I carry a fair amount of cash on us, we are not in the habit of carrying enough cash for a dinner for four. We put the contents of our wallet together and came up with $75, $30 short and that’s not including tip.

“We don’t have enough cash and we’re not going to an ATM”, there’s not really an ATM nearby anyways and if we went, all four of us would go. (wink wink).

Now, back in the day before everything from toilets to toasters were computerized, you could call your credit card transactions in on the phone, talk to a woman who was downright miserable for having to be there and did not expect one deviation from her predetermined script and then find out if the credit card was good or not and then you would write the number down on the imprinted slip.

No imprinter.

Use a crayon.

No slip.

Write it on the handwritten bill that you apologized for.

See that wasn’t so hard, now you’ll get a tip.

Since there was uncertainty as to whether the credit transaction would go through or not, I screamed in the delight of possibly getting a free meal and grabbed the closest person that was drinking sake and used them to bang on the hood of the hibachi grill.

Okay, I didn’t do that but I thought about it, as I watched the emergency lights flash on and off and food get set ablaze.

1 Aside from being the location of our beautiful home and my wonderful family, I would rather live elsewhere.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Location:544,Johnstown,United States

Short.

So here in the United States it’s a short work week unless you’re unfortunately working for a money hungry retail establishment that lacks common sense. I was holding out hope that the Christmas decorations would not be installed in some of my favorite haunts until Friday, but the Dunkin’ Donuts I visit on a daily basis has officially decked the halls. The folks behind the counter still get my order without me actually asking for it, so they can be forgiven.

The short work week is not as short as it was prior to this job, because the company does not recognize Friday as a holiday. I kinda find this surprising, but when you’re working for a large corporation I guess anything goes. I am working on Friday. I hope to feel inspired while I’m doing it too. At the very least I hope I am able to catch up on things that have been falling to the wayside. I’d be much more productive if I could telecommute. Since all I do is work on a computer and engage in conference calls, telecommuting is certainly a viable option and one where I would actually be much more productive, but some don’t see it that way. Their loss.

So we are plugging along during this short work week and pretending that we are going to get things accomplished when in fact it’s quite impossible to do so because half the people are burning off PTO (Personal Time Off) that is set to expire by the end of the year. It’s also “Holy Week” in these parts; the name of the week has nothing to do with spirituality, but rather all of the holes that are being shot through things in the woods as deer season has officially opened. I like being in the woods at this time of year, but I don’t like the idea of shooting at an animal that can’t shoot back. Now if the deer were armed I would find that sporting. Conversely, if the human wrestled the deer to the ground, then that would be sporting as well. I like sports that are evenly matched, Sarah Palin’s hunting helicopter be damned. But, to each his own, I guess. At least there’s food on the table.

So while we are suppose to be focused and whatnot this week, all I can think about is pie, candied yams, homemade applesauce and cheesecake. Closing my eyes I can conjure up memories of the smells of Grandma Country’s house at Thanksgiving. I’m very lucky that many of those same smells, with their own spin of course, come from the kitchen on Thanksgiving right at home. I’m a lucky husband.

Of course, because it’s a short week, I close my eyes to conjure up these things in my head whilst sitting in front of the computer at work, doing my best to be productive. These things happen.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad