News.

As I write this, my Twitter feed is scrolling at a rapid pace with news about Malaysian Flight #17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, which crashed somewhere near the Ukraine-Russian border this morning. As of this writing, unconfirmed reports say that it was shot down. Photos of wreckage are already starting to appear.

My Facebook feed is scrolling by with a selection of surveys I should be doing, including which character of “AbFab” I am, which season of “The Love Boat” I would be sailing on and what kind of car I should buy.

Guess which social network I’m focusing on today?

While I mourn the loss of human life, I find it oddly comforting that my Twitter feed is showing some actual news stories, instead of drivel such as the Breaking News that the former Miss Delaware was suing her state because she didn’t realize she was too old to compete for Miss America and was subsequently dethroned by someone in Delaware that does that sort of dethroning thing. I don’t know if there’s some sort of maniacal cackling when they rip the crown off the head held up with Aqua-Net, but nevertheless, this was national headline fodder up until just a little while ago. And honestly, I found the fact that a beauty pageant contestant crying on the “Today” show about how awful her life is to be quite insulting to my intelligence. This put my on a rampage to clean up my Twitter feed and remove such superficial drivel. I was following Debra Messing, but her tweet announcing the arrival of her “glam team” sent me over the edge and I had to unfollow her. I’m sure she’s lovely and all but I don’t really need to know that she has a glam team, I don’t want to meet her glam team and I don’t want to know what the glam team is doing to her.

I guess I’m feeling all serious today.

There are so many distractions, courtesy of technology, in our world today and over the past couple of days I’ve been starting to feel quite rebellious towards these distractions. Glam teams, crying beauty queens and technological commentators that barrage me with ads and self promotion have no spot in my agenda today.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the passengers and crew of flight MH17 today.

As for the former Miss Delaware, read a book, get a clue, get a life.

Driving.

As I fly toward my goal of becoming a licensed Private Pilot, I have to admit that I don’t find myself enjoying driving as much as I used to. One of the most important things about being a pilot is that you do what is expected of you. For example, when we fly around the airport in the pattern, we always enter the pattern at the same place, fly at a pre-determined altitude and do what we are suppose to do.

Driving should be approached the same way.

Now, everyday I go for a walk in the morning and afternoon during the work day. This gives me the opportunity to stretch my legs and theoretically, clear my head. When one is constantly working out logic through software programming, it’s amazing what a few minutes away from the desk can do to bring a new perspective to a problem.

Except when you’re trying not to get hit by folks flying down the road at speeds way above the posted speed limit.

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If you look close in this cockeyed photo, you’ll notice that the woman (confirmed as she flew by me), is creeping onto my side of the white line. This is because she was driving so fast that she was unable to maintain control of her vehicle while talking on her cell phone and smoke a cigarette. Technically, her behavior as a driver is rather unexpected, but the truth of the matter is, in today’s world her behavior should be totally expected. Because this is what people do today.

I find this disheartening.

Because of my passion for all things transportation, idiocy on the road really rubs me the wrong way. I have wondered if I should become a drivers’ license examiner when I retire from my current job (it’d supplement my Certified Flight Instructor certification that I’m going for nicely). When I think about this I realize that I’d probably garner a bad reputation among the learner’s permit crowd rather quickly because I’d make sure that the lad or lass going for their license would be driving in an expected manner.

I don’t think that’s a priority anymore.

Maybe I should just keep it in the sky and watch the chaos from above.

Machias.

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So today I turned 46 years old. In a way I can’t believe that I have reached this age, because I can easily recall being an adult and remembering my parents at this age. Even odder, the character Maude, played by Bea Arthur, was this age when the series started and for goodness sakes she just seemed old. I don’t feel old. For the most part I feel great. Earl says my life is still revving up for the crescendo. I think young.

I’ve had this blog for nearly 13 years and I don’t think that on this blog I’ve ever discussed the origins of using a derivative of “Machias” as my screen name in various places. I’ve had some locked down blogs over the years where I talked about it, but never here in my wide-open view blog. Since at age 46 I don’t really give a crap as to what people think anymore, I thought I’d tell the story.

It was January 1991. I lived in the southwestern corner of New York state in the small city of Jamestown. I was single at the time, though I lived near the boyfriend I had from ’87 to ’89. I was dating a guy at the time who I thought was way out of my league, because I didn’t think I was attractive and he was pretty good looking. (I’ve stalked him on Facebook and he didn’t hold up well). I was flat broke and barely making ends meet by working part time at the local Hills Department Store and also working for The Resource Center, one of the county chapters of the Association for Retarded Citizens that could be found all over the Empire State. I thought things with the guy I was dating was going fairly well though I felt unsettled and like I was drifting through life in general. I didn’t feel that I could ever be what I really wanted to be, mostly because the gay thing, and I bought into the stereotypes of the times of what gay men should do with their lives. I had also attended the funerals of too many of my friends back in Boston (due to the AIDS epidemic) and frankly I was retreating back into my shell.

I had $20 to my name. Pay day was a day away, but I could float a check if I had to. It was my day off and I couldn’t find the guy I was dating to see what he was up to. My car was running like crap but I decided to go of a drive and grab some lunch at McDonalds because my cupboard was bare.

I was sitting in the drive-thru at Big Foote McDonalds (named after the street it was on) when there was apparently some hassle in the drive-thru, the woman at the register was mixing up orders. When I got to the window, she told me the guy in the car in front of me had my order.

Now, I had noticed this guy because he was making out with another guy in the car back between the speaker and the window and I thought that was rather racy for the little city we lived in. I could see the driver, a very attractive redhead but I couldn’t see the details of the other guy other than I could tell that he was a guy (no boobs).

The guys in the car in front of me figured out they had the wrong order and both got out of the car, one to the window where I was parked, the other headed inside. The one with my order was the attractive redhead; the other going into the restaurant was the guy I was dating. Both realized who I was and kind of frozen.

I was crushed.

I stammered a thanks for giving me my food and told them I didn’t want to talk. I don’t know if the woman at the window realized that she was watching the Gay Peyton Place or not, but I got my food, stammered like I usually do and headed out. I gobbled down my food as I drove and decided to go for a ride. With probably $15 in my pocket and maybe a 1/2 tank of gas, I’d drive to Buffalo and back. The long way. In January. Little did I know that the forecast was calling for heavy snow.

I wound my way through the hills of the Southern Tier, still cranky and very unfocused by finding out that I wasn’t good enough for this guy after all and was heading up Route 16 near Arcade when the snow as becoming way too much for me to handle. I decided to head home after putting $10 of gas in my car; hopefully I’d make it from the middle of nowhere to the middle of barely somewhere.

I could barely see and was moving at around 15 MPH, snow swirling all around and the roadway very slippery, when all of a sudden there was a cow standing in the middle of the road. I jerked the car to the right and was thankful to find there wasn’t a ditch but there was a snow bank and some soft ground. The cow ran off laughing; I sat there spinning my tires. I wasn’t going anywhere.

Completely unprepared for inclement weather, I got out and looked the situation over. The nearby house had no sign of life. The snowbank was piled high and the road was no longer visible. Trying to decide what to do, I noticed a pickup truck coming down the road. He slowed his crawl down even further when he got to me. I looked in and could see what appeared to be a big guy wearing a black leather jacket. He had a gun rack in the back with one gun.

“I’m dead”, was my first thought. A few months earlier, while working as a programmer at a manufacturing plant, I had been told by a co-worker that if we ever met outside of work that he’d derive great delight by shooting me between the eyes. This scared me to the point of quitting the job without any notice to the company at all; I just abandoned the gig.

He jumped out of the truck and walked over. He was 6’1″ or so, black leather jacket and gloves. He was wearing jeans and he had a baseball cap on. He had one of the most magnificent black beards I had ever seen.

“Havin’ trouble?”, he asked. He seemed friendly enough and thankfully the gun had stayed in the truck.

“Yeah, there was a cow and I tried to avoid it…”, I went on about my predicament.

“I have a chain, let’s see if we can’t yank ‘er out.”

His demeanor made me very comfortable, though I couldn’t explain why. I had a feeling that he might be gay but he didn’t fit any of that which I expected from gay men, and besides he had a gun, so I just thought my mind was falling out of my head.

He hooked up the chain and spun his truck around. He told me to gun it in reverse when I felt the tug. It was just a few minutes and the car was out and back on the snow covered road.

He came back to the car and we unhooked the chain. I thanked him and offered him the $5 or so I had left in my pocket. He declined and said, “No problem. Watch out for the cows! You’re lucky you didn’t hit that!”

He gestured to where the car had gone off the road and while doing so he said, “You’ll never forget Machias!”.

When he said that word, “Machias”, a gong went off in my head in a way that I just can’t describe. I still get chills when I hear that word. I don’t know if I was called Machias in a previous life, I don’t know if some angel or spirit guide is named Machias or what, but I know that it’s a word the resonates with my soul in a very, very positive way and by him saying that word, I no longer felt afraid of this man.

“Well thanks for your help.”, I shook his hand.

He said, “it’s Larry. Now you be safe, lad.”

“I’m John, thanks again”. And off he went back to his truck with the gun.

A few months later I was DJing at one of the gay bars in the sleepy little city. I looked out over the bar and saw a tall man with a magnificent black beard walk in. It was warmer; the leather jacket was open. He grabbed a beer and was looking around when he spotted me up in the DJ booth. I looked down quickly, he walked up to the booth.

He pointed at me, grinned and said, “Machias.”

The soul resonating gong went off in my being again, and I said, “it’s John, but yes, Machias.”

We made small talk that started off with him asking if I found anymore cows in a snowstorm. During our conversation and a few romantic gestures of kissing and the like the DJ booth, I realized that Larry was just being himself and wasn’t trying to conform to any sort of preconceived notion of what it was like to be gay. I admired that greatly about him and though I didn’t know him at all and never saw him again after that night at the bar, he really changed my path. It wasn’t long after that that I found a new job and started getting my life back on track again. I know that he was a strong man, I know that he was great kisser and I know that he wasn’t afraid to go after what he wanted. Other than that, for all I know he disappeared into the ether.

So when I hear the word Machias, it’s a reminder to just be myself and not be afraid of my place in the world. And it still resonates with my soul in incredible ways.

Shave.

So I haven’t shaved my head clean in a few weeks. For the most part I have had a clean shaven head since age 30 or so, but now that I’m in my mid 40s I’m kind of getting bored with the look. This is unfortunate, because I’m naturally bald and when you’re naturally bald with the fringe around the sides you don’t have a lot of options, unless you want to look like Donald Trump and honestly, that’s not my gig.

Folks are starting to notice that I have gray hair on the sides and back and subsequently they’re asking if I’m growing my hair out. This gets into a discussion about the maintenance required to maintain a shaved head, which is more maintenance than most expect. When I have a shaved head I shave it everyday in the shower. I use shaving cream and a Mach 3, pretty much like most guys use on their face on a day to day basis. This evening, at ground school, the subject came up and I ended up telling the story about the time I had a barber shave my head who then followed up the shave with a wax, buff and shine. The barber was in New York at Hell’s Kitchen. I looked like a well waxed terrazzo floor when all was said and done. It was an experience I shall never forget. People laugh when they find out that my head was waxed and buffed. I found it slightly disconcerting at the time.

The discussion at ground school ended up talking about the shaving methods of many of the men there; most still use the traditional shaving cream and razor method, though not all do. One guy uses an electric razor. I don’t understand why men that shave choose to use an electric razor; they’re never a close shave and it seems like an unnecessary application of electricity. It’s not really old school.

If I had my way I’d still be rocking the flattop I had in my mid 20s. But those days are long gone. And while I rather enjoy shaving my face using implements that were traditionally used by men in the 1950s, I don’t really derive any pleasure whatsoever from shaving my head. It’s a chore that I don’t particularly enjoy. This is why I haven’t shaved my head in a few weeks.

Maybe I’ll go get a real haircut over the weekend. At the very least the barber can fake it.

Accomplishments.

As I grow older I am naturally becoming more set in my ways. I’m a little more rigid with the routine, I like to think that I have a little more focus. I suppose this is part of the aging process.

One habit that I developed many years ago that I continue to this day is making the bed in the morning. Now making the bed wasn’t a high priority when I was growing up; my Mom didn’t really focus on having a neat and orderly house. We were comfortable, aside from the occasional cat on the breakfast table, but there was clutter and things were in disarray at times. But after striking out on my own at age 18 I discovered the wonderful feeling of having a well made bed when it was time to retire from a long day. So the one of the first things I do in the morning is make the bed. Earl was happy to discover that I did this when we first moved in together and he has remarked on many occasions that he enjoys hopping into a neat and orderly bed at night.

The way I figure it is by making the bed first thing in the morning, I have accomplished something at the beginning of the day, which will hopefully set the tempo for the rest of the day. However, if the day turns out to be a disaster and I accomplish absolutely nothing for the remainder of the day, I will retire for the evening in a comfortable bed and will be able to revel in that first accomplishment of the day.

It’s kind of zen in a way, but it’s often the little things that make the world better. And one of my little things is making sure the bed is made.

Pressure.

So I checked my blood pressure the other day and it was at 118/81. This is a heck of a lot better than the beginning of the year when I was 156/98. I think there’s quite a few contributing factors to the lowering of my blood pressure, including the new position at work I started in April, my love of flying, my increase in exercise and probably the blood pressure medicine. I have been prescribed Norvasc 5 mg daily.

The Norvasc makes me feel like crap. I have a constant headache, I feel heavy and my neck and shoulder muscles constantly feel tight. I took Norvasc in the early ’00s for a year and while it did lower my blood pressure, I also gained 20 pounds. I’ve gained 8 lbs since starting Norvasc again. Last time I stopped taking the medicine and my weight went back to where it should be and the headaches stopped. I’m going to check with my physician about stopping the medicine again.

I hate the idea of being dependent on a medication. Some will tell me that it comes with the territory when we age, but there’s a part of me that hopes that’s not completely true, because I really don’t want to have my body chemistry altered if it doesn’t really need to be. There’s a hippy-dippy granola type in me at times that believes that if we eat right, maintain regular exercise and live a reasonable lifestyle, our body will find the balance that it strives to obtain. I’m not a huge fan of pharmaceuticals anyway, they lost me when they started advertising on television.

I’m going to carefully monitor my blood pressure for the next few weeks and see if I can maintain these lower numbers and then see about getting off the medicine. I know that once I’m prescription free I’ll feel much better.

Complicated.

Earl and I are sitting at a local pastry shop doing the thing one usually does at a Starbucks, except we are not drinking coffee and we don’t have a Starbucks within 45 miles of our home. Hence, we are sitting a locally owned establishment that has more pastries available than Panera. They also have a few more bugs in the display cases here but not to worry, the staff is so relaxed that they sip on their mocha-cocha-cha-cha-la-la whilst they’re taking your order. All that’s missing is a handlebar mustache.

As we were driving here, sitting at the randomly placed traffic signals, I noticed that two of our six of the drivers in front of me (at the various locations) were hesitant to make that all-too-scary Right On Red. Right On Red is a perfectly valid, permissible and legal turn to make in New York State, outside of the five boroughs of the Big Apple. Earl and I occasionally have a discussion about my observations of Right On Red hesitance; he reminds me that making that Right On Red turn is not mandatory, it’s completely up to the driver. I counter that Right On Red works no differently than a stop sign, and sitting at a red light, waiting to turn right for no other reason other than waiting for the light to turn green, is like sitting at a stop sign and waiting for it to dance.

Several years ago I overheard a co-worker telling another co-worker that she wasn’t going to let her daughter (who was learning to drive) make that all-too-scary Right On Red turn until she had her license. I had a silent yet demonstrative fit about this because this is counterintiutive to the learning process; when one is learning, one is building habits and confidence, and being essentially trained that Right On Red is something special and out-of-the-ordinary does neither to inspire confidence nor build good habits. It’s cowardice based on a perceived complication revolving around Right On Red and how scary it is.

A local community was recently Up In Arms about the fact that the Department of Transportation was looking to replace a traffic signal with a Roundabout. People came out in droves to protest the Roundabout, with the prevailing argument being that Roundabouts are scary and unfit for vehicle consumption. Someone should let the fine Ministries of Transportation throughout Europe know this, because European drivers seem to be able to navigate a Roundabout just fine and they even occasionally have to do it in the opposite direction of travel.

It really is a pity because as I become more proficient as a pilot, where you basically do everything as safely and as consistently as possible, I am finding that I have less and less tolerance toward the common motorist in the United States.

Maybe I need to become a driver’s license examiner or something.

Rain.

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It’s raining today here in Central New York. I should say that it’s raining again, because after an absolutely stunning weekend, it’s been raining a lot. And it isn’t even interesting rain. There’s no thunderstorms, no howls from the weather radio, no remarkable weather, just rain. The rain is suppose to continue through tomorrow.

The weather has me bummed, kind of like the “it’s the middle of February” bummed, but my mind is a little confused about this because after all, it’s the middle of June.

I think the weather blues are being compounded by sleep deprivation. Our fine furry feline friend has decided that nighttime is no longer the right time for humans to sleep. He is content to yowl at loud decibels at all hours after midnight and when he’s not yowling he is trying to sleep on my head. He is no longer content to sleep between Earl and me, he wants to be on my head.  As I am writing this blog entry, he is screaming at the door to go outside. I let him out and before I can make the three steps from the door to the chair, he is banging on the door to come back in. Perhaps he doesn’t like the rain. I know I don’t.

Always looking for the bright side of the situation, I should be happy that it’s raining this week because if the weather was beautiful I would be very frustrated by the fact that the airplane is grounded for maintenance this week. Here’s to hoping that the airplane gets finished and the weather clears up at the same time.

I told Earl this morning that I’m ready for an adventure of some sort. Normally I would do a little bit of retail therapy, but as I grow older I feign more responsibility, and retail therapy is not responsible right now.

I just need to see some sunshine.

Words.

The desks were arranged in a circle. This was a way for the teacher to foster an open dialog between the students in my junior year Ethics class. Being part of the accelerated Social Studies program gave me the opportunity to take the Ethics class. The other choice was an Introduction to Psychology class, but there was not enough interest in Psychology from my fellow students, so we all had to take Ethics.

I don’t remember how the class conversation steered toward basically evaluating one another and their odds of being successful in life, but that’s where we were at that moment.

30 out of 41 minutes left before the bell, and I was the first one that came up for conversation.

“John will never totally fit into society because of his mannerisms.”

“John will never be able to be President, or even the leader of a company, because of the way he is and the potential for blackmail.”

“The only thing that John could really do to be successful is pursue his talent in music, but then again, he couldn’t really teach in a school district because parents wouldn’t let him near their kids.”

These were things that were being said that morning in Room 113. The teacher let the students speak their piece, none of them were hostile. There were no raised voices. They were speaking with all the confidence of a 16 or 17 year old and there was an eerie calm about the conversation. No one jumped to my defense or point of view, not even the one other student in the class that I was sure was in the same “situation” as me (we kissed after school a year or so later).

I fought back tears. Nothing tears flowed from my eyes until after the bell rang. I remained silent. The teacher countered the conversation with a progressive point of view, but the words of my fellow students, sank, stayed and locked into place. Because I was a young gay adult, I shouldn’t set my hopes and dreams to lofty places. I was destined to do what society expected of gay men, and one of those things was to be artsy and teach others how to be artsy, as long as we maintained a huge distance between ourselves and those we would teach. The discussion had mentioned remaining in the closet. Perhaps that’s what I would do too.

But that just wasn’t me.

A lot of the words that locked into place that morning stayed locked into place for nearly three decades. I put artificial restrictions on what I could achieve because I didn’t think that’s what gay men were suppose to do (join the military, build roads, fly airplanes, be a leader). I know those words were wrong and while some may have been malicious, the other words were the result of naivete. I know better today. I can do anything because I am who I am. I shan’t break into song here.

I have no regrets, but I wish I had figured it all out many years ago.

Visitor.

On Saturday I went to the airport for our weekly safety meeting. I always find this enjoyable; I learn something both during the briefing and during the socializing with other pilots. Learning is good.

After the briefing I decided to go over to the hangar to check the status of the airplane; we were expecting some work to be done late last week and I wanted to see if it had been completed. I swiped my badge at the electronic checkpoint and pulled on the door to the big, corporate hangar. I couldn’t get in. As a sanity check, I tried again. The security mechanism was unlocking the door, but something else was holding the door in place. I figured there was a reason the door was locked and decided that I would try again on Sunday.

I went back on Sunday and had the same results, badge flashed affirmative, the door tried to unlock but something else was keeping the door locked. Perplexed, I went to the FBO (Fixed Base Operations) and asked the friendly woman at the desk why I couldn’t get to the airplane.

“There is a bunch of expensive equipment in the big hangar”, she replied with a smile on her face. When I asked as to how long we would be locked out, she told me that she didn’t know. There was something secret going on.

I convinced the nice person to have someone drive me across the flight line over to the airplane. On our way, I noticed a bunch of tents and such had been put up on the runway side of the buildings. Marines were working out in a makeshift workout area.

Later that day, I read that President Obama announced he would be coming to our area the following Thursday. He is going to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown to tout the virtues of tourism in The Empire State.

At least I knew why the hangar was locked and why there were Marines working out on an Air Force Base that was decommissioned back in 1995.

On Monday a bunch of military jets and helicopters started doing drills around the area. Last night I decided it was a beautiful night to fly and I was going to snag the opportunity to do some practice landings. I knew I’d have a few more folks than usual as an audience, but I didn’t care because after all, flying is awesome. I went to the airport and used my badge to get through an alternate entrance. When I got to the hangar I found that there would be absolutely no way for me to get the airplane out and where I needed it to be without creating a whole lot of ruckus. There were a half dozen or so trucks parked directly in front of the hangar with twice as many Marines doing things to the trucks. They were measuring the distance from the bottom of the trucks to the ground, the width of the trucks and they were moving gear around. Off to the side were three large helicopters that I mentally dubbed “Marine One”, “Marine Two” and “Marine Three”. A C-17 was landing and a C-130 was in the pattern. Had I worked up the nerve to move this armada out of the way so I could get our Piper Cherokee out of the hangar, I would have been very busy and probably close to my distraction limit in relation to where I currently am as a student pilot. I can safely fly an airplane. Heck, I can even safely land an airplane, but as I’m still converting “routine” to “instinct”, sometimes I have to think an extra second and when you have a C-130 on your tail trying to land behind you, you don’t want distractions.

Since the Marines outnumbered me at over 12 to 1, I decided that I would forgo the opportunity to fly. This pissed me off beyond belief but I just knew that it was the responsible thing to do. I walked up to the hangar and closed the door that had been left open for me by another pilot. I made myself look official by doing a walk around and getting into the airplane and looking at the flight logs, just to show the Marines that I was a real airplane owner. I also made sure my flight line badge was prominently displayed at all times. After I closed the door and made my way to the gate, I nodded in the direction of the Marines and wished them all a good night. I was pleasant but I was pissed. The hangar that is all locked up has one door facing the driveway which sported the addition of a “No Cameras Allowed” sign smack in the middle of the window. I took a brief moment to take a gander inside. It was all very presidential in there.

The long and the short of it is this: President Obama better be making some sort of golden speech tomorrow because he’s kept me from flying this week and more importantly, judging by the amount of work and people involved with the preparation for these proceedings, this is costing the taxpayers a big chunk of change and honestly, I can think of quite a few better things to do with the money right now.

On the bright side, there’s a really good chance that Air Force One is going to fly over the house tomorrow and you can bet your sweet bippy that I’m going to grab a photo of that.