Roads.

The Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, popularly known as the National Interstate and Defense Highways Act, was enacted on June 29, 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill into law.

Wikipedia

Imagine our country today without the expressways, freeways, and tollways that make up the Interstate system. We’d still be getting our kicks on Route 66. We’d be driving through crowded city streets trying to make our way across town. The eastern half of the country would rarely know more than a speed limit higher than 55 MPH.

Without the Interstates there’s a good chance that Main Street of small towns would be thriving. Would the large department store chains be prevalent? Would we have malls?

Someone famous once quipped the Interstate highway system allowed an average American to drive from New York to Los Angeles in record time and not see a thing along the way.

As a certified “road geek” and one that went to school for Civil Engineering specifically to contribute to better roads in the United States, the Interstate highway system has always fascinated me. Some of the expressway I knew as a kid in Syracuse, New York predated the Interstate system. These expressways “grew up” with me; the older, early 1950s designs gave way to modern alignments, more lanes, and faster traffic. Signs became more reflective and more plentiful. Decisions were made as how to standardize the way interchanges were numbered, and restaurants and fuel stops were purposely left off the federally funded Interstate highways to encourage motorists to go into town to grab something to eat and fuel up the car. Of course, capitalism decided to abandon the nearby town center and instead build a truck stop alongside the interchange.

The Interstate system made the country more accessible for us all and it encouraged those with the means to abandon the city centers and develop the suburbs. We drove 55 MPH on roadways designed for 85 MPH in the name of energy conservation. We eschewed riding the rails in favor of the independence associated with owning an automobile. We’re able to get our deliveries in Prime Time, and we’re able to drive from coast to coast in record time.

Follow the Red, White, and Blue Interstate route marker to freedom.

As nifty as the Interstate system is, as I get older I want to take the back roads. Earl and I will be driving along a two-lane road on the Illinois Prairie and I’ll see a small green sign that says “Business District —>”. I say, “let’s go see what’s left in this town”. And we’ll drive off the beaten path and see a bank, a Masonic Lodge, a few small shops, and maybe a laundromat.

Americana at its best.

Yes, you can see the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet at a record pace courtesy of the Interstate system. I’m happy it’s there.

But I’ll pull over, stop, and take a look around once in a while.

Horizon.

There is lightning dancing on the horizon. It’s impossible to catch with the camera on my iPad so here’s a shot of the horizon without lightning because that’s what I ended up with.

A very impressive thunderstorm blew right through the neighborhood a couple of hours ago. There’s a long line of thunderstorms still marching across the Midwest. We’ll probably see more lightning and hear more thunder tonight.

As long as it’s cleared up by 10:00 AM Central Daylight Time tomorrow so I can go flying, I’m good. Then the storms can come back and impress me.

For many of us, we’ve been watching the storm of this pandemic come and go, flash on the horizon, and then downpour in our own back yards. Some states that opened early are now retreating and practicing some lockdown measures again. Illinois has moved to stage four of opening up; this means limited attendance at indoor venues and restaurants and folks are still encouraged to wear masks and maintain social distancing. Many of the shops in our neighborhood have signs on their windows indicating masks are required inside the walls of their business. The coffee shop next door, an independent venture not associated with any chain from Seattle or Canada, was full of folks not wearing masks today. They were not below capacity. I will not be ordering my coffee, black at their counter any time soon.

Those of us choosing to maintain our distance and wear our masks as if we were in the midst of a global pandemic can still see the lightning lighting up the horizon. The storm is not over. It’s just moved elsewhere; the conditions have changed a little bit. There’s more lightning and thunder and wind and rain on the way. We cautiously watch from afar and hope the folks in the midst of the storm are taking cover.

We don’t want to have to clean up their mess after a tornado has blown through their neighborhood.

Wear your damn mask.

Open.

I’m pretty much not surprised when I read statistics about the United States failing desperately at controlling the spread of COVID-19. I can’t figure out why people were willing to give up their personal freedoms in the name of the “Patriot Act” when the words “Weapons of Mass Destruction” (remember those?) dominated the news cycle but when asked to wear a mask when out in public, “patriots” scream about freedom, clutch their pearls, and proclaim their right to get their nails done.

Everywhere in the world the trend line goes down, except in the United States. Our trend line goes up. Trump wants to stop testing so that we don’t know about any more cases. That’s like taking down the tornado sirens to stop the tornadoes.

The man is such an idiot. I’d rather use another word but I’m trying not to cuss as much.

Members of the Trump administration didn’t know what the “-19” in COVID-19 meant. And it’s all gone downhill from there.

I’ve been pulling back a bit from social media, especially Facebook. I glance at the cesspool once in a while to see what people are complaining about. I see memes that indicate “we can disagree but we can still be friends”. I’m sorry, but if you’re spewing Yankee Doodle Yakky about how great Trump is we can’t be friends. It’s not a matter of disagreement, it’s a matter of moral foundations. And if you’re still supporting the Orange Turd I question your moral foundation.

I’m not better for my beliefs, I’m just have compassion for my fellow human beings.

Dun Dun.

Walter and Maude Findlay’s neighbor Arthur Harmon was a staunch Republican. Now, he didn’t use many of the words that his contemporary Archie Bunker used, though he did use some, but like Archie he had a Republican view on the early and mid 1970s. When discussing municipal laws around the arrival of a gay bar to Tuckahoe, N.Y., Arthur proclaims the Republican Party is the party of Law and Order. There are laws in this country and they must be obeyed.

Trump likes to tweet in all caps. LAW AND ORDER! We’ve never had a president that lived by Twitter before this fiasco began. It seems like a really crude way to communicate to the American people. As if having Twitter becoming a publicly traded company made it any more legitimate. But an illegitimate president tweeting and barking orders makes sense here in this Age of Chaos.

LAW AND ORDER!

Who the hell knows what Trump is talking about with these barks formulated by his tiny little hands. I’d say maybe a third of the American populace really cares what he has to say but the news channels hang on every tweet, every character, every slip, every indication. I gave up trying to understand Donald Trump back when Julia Sugarbaker was telling him off in Prime Time.

Here in the late 2010s and into 2020 the Republican Party is the complete opposite of what they were back in the 1970s. Oh, there’s plenty of them that are trying to Schlafly their way through life, twisting words, spinning sentences, and hating just as hard as they can, but the Republican Party can no longer claim to be the party of Law And Order. That went out the window years ago. Law and Order is complying with subpoenas. Law and Order is not raping American tax dollars for personal gain. Law and Order is respecting the United States Constitution.

So when Trump bangs out LAW AND ORDER in a tweet, we are left to do one thing.

Respond with CAGNEY AND LACEY.

It’s just as ridiculous.

Stormy Weather.

I’m sitting on the sofa in the living room, enjoying the thunder and lightning show outside. This makes me wonder, why do we call it a thunder and lightning show? Thunder and lightning. It’s usually not said “lightning and thunder”. This is strange to me, because the lightning comes before the thunder.

I remember fellow classmates in elementary school talking about thunderstorms and how it was the angels bowling in heaven. One particularly religious girl claimed God was crying for our sins when it rained. I mentioned something about snowstorms and dandruff and there were laughs and I was told I was going to hell.

Instead I was invited to go roller skating with other classmates which turned out to be a big prayer circle in the middle of the rink with our feet sticking out. I just wanted to roller skate; I had my own time to talk to God.

The weather forecast has thunderstorms predicted for a good share of the week. It’s that time of year and quite frankly as long as I’m not flying I’m happy about it. I just hope it clears up by the weekend so I can go flying as scheduled for Saturday morning.

In the meanwhile I’ll enjoy the light and rumble show.

Diversity.

Graphic from a random Google search.

I didn’t know Juneteenth was a thing until well into my adulthood. I don’t know the exact date I became aware of Juneteenth but I do remember thinking it was odd that we didn’t learn about this sort of thing when I was in school. It seems rather important. I know back in elementary school it was extremely important for me to know the history of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers back when dates were in the B.C. range, Marie Antionette did something, and of course George Washington was the first president. Oh! New York was one of the original 13 states. Modern-ish history was always raced through late in the year: there was one World War, then another, then a couple of other wars, and Jane Fonda did something, but now it’s time for your final exam. That’s pretty much how all my civics classes went. My school had an accelerated Social Studies program for sophomores and juniors; college bound students tended to skip World History I to take World History II and American Studies I as a sophomore and American Studies II and Ethics as a junior. I remember Regents students took American Studies while non-Regents students took American History. I don’t know why there was a delineation or what the difference in curriculum was. Maybe they learned about Juneteenth in American History. The accelerated program moved the New York State Regents Exam to January of my junior year, which helped balance exam loads in June, I guess. We didn’t even talk about Juneteenth in Ethics, even as we sat with our desks in circle and discussed the merits of various things in society. Gays? Some would counter not equal. Juneteenth? Never came up.

Over the years I’ve quipped that I came from a town that had no racial diversity. None. We didn’t even have a Chinese or Mexican restaurant until well after I graduated in 1986. Today I got to wondering if I was just not remembering things correctly so I went through all of my yearbooks, grade 8 to my senior year. Among all the smiling faces of classmates of various teenage years, there was one non-white face amongst the smiles two years behind me. Her name is Tammy and I vividly remember her with pleasant memories. She doesn’t appear after her eighth grade photo; I don’t know where she went to. She lived down the road from us in town with her mother, her older brother, and younger sister. I remember kids being mean to Tammy and in my obnoxiously present ignorance I could never figure out why they were being mean. She was nice, had a great laugh, but she could be as tough as nails when she needed to be. I liked that about her.

So out of approximately 1200 students, aside from the occasional AFS Exchange Students that would drop in once in a while, we had three non-white members of the student body. That’s 0.0025% of the student population.

Small wonder I don’t remember them discussing Juneteenth in what I sometimes jokingly call “snowy Alabama”.

Local.

We are trying hard to support local businesses in the neighborhood. While many of the restaurants and other businesses have done their best to weather the quarantines and other challenges associated with COVID-19, some places have been forced to shut down. Jeri’s Grill had been open for over 57 years when they made the decision to close; the big note in the window indicates it’s solely due to lockdown related economics.

While I fully support the quarantines and associates social distancing and mask wearing measures, it is a little disheartening to see legacy businesses such as Jeri’s affected in this way.

The Secret Lives Of Waldo Kitty.

In 1975, Saturday morning cartoons featured a partially live action show from Filmation called “The Secret Lives Of Waldo Kitty”. The star of the show, Waldo, is shown in his live action form in the photo above.

Based on “The Secret Lives of Walter Mitty”, Waldo Kitty delighted my sister and me as we watched it on our black and white television set in our mobile home sitting in the middle of a cattle pasture.

Shortly after the premiere of this show we adopted a kitten and promptly named him Waldo, as he very much resembled the live action star of his namesake television show. Waldo was a part of the family, and treated as the “king cat” amongst the number of cats to come and go in our household, for many years. I believe Waldo moved on to his great reward in 1989.

He was a big cat. We didn’t get him fixed until we was six or so years old, so he had this nifty bass-voice “meow” when he decided to speak. A couple of times he disappeared for a week or two at a time. Months later there’d be kittens all over the place from the ladies that swooned over Waldo and he’d feel smug. After he was fixed his voice stayed low and he napped a lot. He’s the only cat that would be allowed to stay inside at night; the others would sleep in the garage. Dad would leave the garage door open a small gap so the cats could get in from the Great Lakes snowbelt we lived in.

Waldo took a strong liking to my sister and while he’d lay around with me, if my sister was in the room he’d relocate himself near her. I was fine with that. I laid claim to one of the cats in his harem, namely a long haired black cat we called Cinders, and their offspring “Half Pint” who had the markings of both Waldo and Cinders. Looking back they probably weren’t related but they looked the part so we went with it.

Cinders liked to chew on the strings of Christmas lights I put all over the house and greenery at the appropriate time of year. She actually chewed through the wires on more than one occasion. I remember her shorting out a brand new string of 35 lights purchased at the Rite Aid for $1.99. She had a kitten we named Leo until Leo had kittens and then she became Leona. I mistakenly ran over her tail with the car and it hung limp for a few weeks and then it just fell off. She survived just fine with just a stump of a tail and the vet didn’t find anything wrong after it literally fell off her body.

Truman reminds me of Waldo in attitude. Maybe it’s a ginger cat sort of thing. He enjoys my company on his terms and he’s always grateful for food and treats, but sometimes he wants to relax in close proximity, not near me.

I guess all us gingers are alike.

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ASMR.

I don’t get ASMR. If you’re not familiar with ASMR, it stands for Autonomous sensory meridian response. You can read more here.

An illustration of the route of ASMR’s tingling sensation[1]

ASMR videos are all over YouTube. People basically whisper a regular type of activity in a certain way to evoke these tingling sensations for the listener. The enhanced focus on background and activity noises, coupled with the whispering, is suppose to make the listener feel good.

I’ve tried it a few times and I have felt no such response. If anything, I’ve found it irritating.

If other folks find it soothing and exciting and that it evokes tingling sensations I say have at it. In 2020 we need all the help we can get. I stumbled upon an ASMR video where a man was whispering his way through making a cake but he had a parrot or some other exotic bird making wild screeching noises in the background. I don’t think it’s suppose to work this way.

What does give me these tingling sensations I read about around ASMR is actually watching someone get a head massage. I’ve watched a few barbershop videos where a man is shaved by a barber with a straight razor and the barber massages the customer’s head at the end of the video. That gives me a tingling sensation in my head and I have no idea why. I think it’s because I’ve experienced the same sort of thing once in a while over the years and my brain is like, “hey yeah, that’s awesome!”. With COVID-19 being all the rage I don’t think I’m going to be in the situation to get a head massage after a barbershop shave anytime soon.

So I don’t get ASMR but I do get head massages for the tingles. Whatever floats your boat, right?

Stormy Weather.

The remnants of Tropical Storm Christobel blew through the Midwest last night. We had some impressive wind and heavy rain but not much in the way of thunderstorms. The south side of Chicago and adjacent Indiana were under a tornado warning for a bit.

We have more stormy weather predicted for today. I can’t fly in this type of weather but I sure do enjoy watching and following the adventure. I have always enjoyed spring and summer thunderstorms. These days they rarely pan out to be as startling or severe as predicted. I know I’m older but I preferred the days when we didn’t really know what was coming and then we’d get startled awake by thunderclaps in the middle of the night.

Good times.