More Cycling.

I went for a bike ride after work. It was a short ride, clocking in at around seven miles. Riding in the general neighborhood is a hilly experience, but once you get to the top of the ridge it’s not too bad.

And now I’m ready for bed.

Friends.

Earl and I and the rest of the family had dinner with Homer and Matt this evening. We went to a local Mexican restaurant where it was a little dark and loud but the food was very good. I really enjoy getting together with these guys as they’re good people.

I had to be a little dorky and take a photo outside of the restaurant. We’re standing next to a big Sonoran Hot Dog.

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Demo.

I had to give a software demo at work today. It was software written by me and the rest of the team, and the audience was sizable. The demo went well, I heard back great feedback, and I’d had a great rest of the day.

It’s a good feeling.

Champion Memory.

I’m sitting at my computer, writing code like a good little geek on a Monday morning at work and the oddest memory flashed across my brain.

Some time in 1982 or 1983 I must have been home from school due to being sick or something and I remembered a game show called “Sale of the Century” and the contestant that day won everything she could possibly win on the show. It was a big deal and all I remembered was that she looked like an older version of Lynda Carter’s Diana Prince (from “Wonder Woman”). I remember her winning everything the game show had to offer and she became a daytime record holder or something.

Not to be deterred by this completely random memory, a quick search via Google revealed that yes, this did happen, it happened in 1983, and the record holder was Barbara Phillips.

Courtesy of this blog.

The magic of the Internet and other folks like me that remember the craziest things. Hat tip to Hell Yeah! $ale of the Century.

Artistry.

In the fall of 1986 I was headed to SUNY Fredonia as a Tuba Player with an intended major of Music Education. In high school having performed in both chorus and band, and all the school musicals, and every “select” and “all-county” and “all-state” avenue possible as a high school musician, I figured as a young gay man I was destined to become a music teacher. I would probably end up in a rural school district not much different than the small town school district I grew up in. I’d teach music to junior and senior high schoolers, probably garner a few rumors in the mill about my homosexuality, and do my best to educate our promising artistic youth. Personal questions would fall to the wayside.

Ultimately it turns out that’s not the way I’m wired.

I originally auditioned at SUNY Fredonia as a vocal major but they deemed me not good enough. I was “too pop or Broadway” sounding and they wanted me to be able to sing in three different languages in an operatic voice. My singing voice to this day is more geared to covers of Human League songs (hey hey hey hey). Not to be deterred, I auditioned at SUNY Fredonia a second time (it was the only school the family could afford at the time) as a tuba player and I was accepted into the music education program. This acceptance was probably on a wing and a prayer. As a tuba player the audition process was easy; there wasn’t that many tuba players and as long as one could read music and play a B-flat scale, you were in. All-county band was the same way. All-state band was the same way. It’s what a tuba player does. There’s usually three tuba player slots in any given band or orchestra, and we’d be lucky if three tuba players auditioned to begin with. Grab a baritone player if you have to, and all that.

By the end of my senior year of high school any passion I had for playing the tuba has dissipated. Deep down I knew this. I never vocalized it. I soldiered on. I had other career ideas; computer engineer, civil engineer, airline pilot, but these things didn’t seem gay enough and I knew I was gay and knew that gay boys did things like music and art. That’s the way it was, at least in my head, and I had no gay role models or avenues to know otherwise. I had no plans other than to be come a music teacher. After all, in 1986 that’s way gay boys did: fly under the radar, do what gay boys do (like become a music teacher), keep your mouth shut, and your liaisons private. Yes, Mom and Dad, I was still a virgin when you dropped me off at college in August of ’86.

I lasted two semesters at SUNY Fredonia because I had lost the passion needed to achieve my preconceived goals. I was still figuring out who I was and that was taking too much bandwidth from my studies. This, coupled with my lack of passion for what I was suppose to be doing, destined me for failure.

Playing tuba was fun but ultimately tedious. I could take it or leave it. I didn’t feel the drive to hole myself up in a practice room three hours a day to run scales or “Flight of the Bumble Bee” on a tuba. I really wanted to sing. Since I had bombed the initial audition (I knew the day of that vocal audition that I had bombed it but it would be a week or two before I had confirmation via U.S. Mail), the team at SUNY Fredonia threw me into a “remedial vocal lessons” class with a handful of other student failures in an attempt to get us to sing like Pavarotti. I ended up sounding like the front guy of “Simple Minds” and still cracked an A in the course. The professor of remedial voice has no idea why I was in the class, as I could “sight sing” and had nearly perfect pitch when asked to sing a scale or a designated part in a complicated piece. I just did it all as if I was on a stage on Broadway or in a dive bar. And I did it loudly. In high school we were all trained to sing loudly as the school couldn’t afford a sound system for the 700-seat auditorium. In the interim I had discovered the art of being gay, drinking some alcohol, and watching men take a shower and more importantly to my wiring, shave in front of the sink in their underwear in the communal dorm bathroom. That was hot.

When I ultimately failed out of SUNY Fredonia, simply because I had lost my passion for my artistry and what was really not where I wanted to begin life, I was not sad. In the second semester of my freshman year I had several opportunities to sing with others; we formed a cover band and sang in the student center. A bunch of us would jam in practice rooms of one of the smaller performance auditoriums in Mason Hall and sing a bunch of current hits. Our voices would mingle, the keyboards and other instruments would sing, and it was a glorious experience. It was like “Fame” without Shady Sadie. Collaborative artistry is a beautiful thing and that was the only time I ever felt fulfilled as a person at SUNY Fredonia. As a tuba player I never found that magic. As a vocalist, I could sing all over pop songs with little effort. We even laid down some tracks in the newly christened recording studio on campus and did our own cover of Toto’s “Africa”. I never wanted to sing solo, I always wanted to be in the background singing vocals to fill-in the musicality of the piece. The first time my backing vocals were multitracked in that recording studio on the left at the end of the hall was magical. My heart soared and I was beaming ear to ear. The tape was subsequently erased because we were just fooling around with the equipment, but it was a magic I knew I loved.

I haven’t found that satisfaction as a musician since those days in 1987. Not to worry, my life has not been lacking in any way; I have done plenty in my life that I’ve found artistically and aesthetically fulfilling, but I would give anything to get together with a bunch of other middle aged musicians one more time and have a weekend long jam session covering 80s tracks. Once in a while I’ll peruse through ads on Craig’s List looking to see if any 80s cover bands are looking for singers. I once sent a recording in response to an ad in Chicago. I never heard anything back from them. Maybe I should look around here in Tucson.

Pop music of the 80s was a magical time. It still required real musicians, autotune would be over a decade away (and still way too soon), and there were only basic electronic gizmos adding to the mix. You didn’t have to be pretty, you had to be talented. Pretty helped as the 80s wore on, but in the early days it wasn’t important. You leaned on your talents first.

I think of these things when I see old music videos from the 80s, especially the first half of the decade. Sometimes I wonder if I had to stayed on a vocal path with a passion fueling that path if I would have had any chance of maybe singing backing vocals for someone famous someday. After my stint at SUNY Fredonia I did lay down a couple of backing tracks for a band in Cleveland, Ohio, and for a friend who was majoring in Sound Recording in Connecticut. I know what happened to the backing tracks in Cleveland; the band didn’t really hit success and disbanded before the end of that decade. The Connecticut tracks were never to be heard again. But being in a studio, much like that studio on the left at the end of the hall in Old Mason at SUNY Fredonia, was never daunting. It was magical.

Before I kick the bucket, I need to find that magic, at least one more time.

Smiles.

We went out to dinner last night to celebrate the end of the work week. I love the smiles on everyone in these two photos. I love my family back east very much and feel very blessed to have all their support. I also love my chosen family very, very much. To be honest, living together is turning out better than I expected. I probably shouldn’t be too cynical in my older age.

I am a very lucky man. There’s plenty of reasons to smile.

The Loop.

Now that summer heat is winding down a bit and Monsoon Season is coming to end, I took the opportunity to jump onto my bicycle for the first time in too many months. I initially thought I’d ride five miles or so and then continue the trend tomorrow, slowly building back up to my usual 25 miles and the like.

We live off one of the main roads between Tucson city proper and Saguaro National Park East. The road is clearly marked with cycling lanes and this makes riding along the road enjoyable. Heading west toward the city, there’s signs leading one from the National Park to The Loop, a 130+ mile multi-use trail through and around the greater Tucson area. I decided to follow the signs and connect to The Loop. This would be my first time on the pathway.

The markings between home and The Loop are clear, but the marked pathway through a small housing development is in really bad shape. Roads in Arizona in general seem to struggle in the desert, so it’s a bit understandable, but I was concerned my bike tires would not survive the two miles or so through this little development. Once I got to the actual Loop, the pathway was as smooth as can be. In the future I’ll be taking the car to one of the parking areas near an entrance to the Loop and jumping on that way. I don’t want to bang up my 20+ year old bike anymore than I need to. We have a history together.

Once on The Loop the ride was a joy. The section of the pathway I traveled today went along Pantano Wash, so there weren’t many road crossings, instead, The Loop travels under bridges from crossing roadways, much like the Erie Canal Trail in Upstate New York or one of the North Side cycling trails in Chicago. The signs directing traffic and amenities on The Loop are the best I’ve ever seen on a cycling facility. There were plenty of places to stop and rest, a good assortment of rest rooms and the like, and I found the entire experience very enjoyable. The Loop is similar in construction to the Lakefront Trail in Chicago but not nearly as crowded. I ended up riding 15 or so miles before calling it a day and asking my husband to come pick me up.

I look forward to another ride tomorrow morning. As the weather cools down I’ll probably be able to get some rides in after work during the week before the days get too short to see where I’m going.

More about The Loop here on Wikipedia.

Zoom.

I’m lying in bed as I type this. It’s Saturday so I allow myself to do this. I’m fiddling with the camera again, this time playing with the zoom.

All of these photos were taken from the same position on my side of the bed. I’m particularly impressed by the zoom in on the clock, and that wasn’t using the full zoom capabilities