Safe.

The first time I stepped into gay bar it was November 1986. The bar was called “Doc’s”. It was located in the basement of a pediatrician’s office in Jamestown, N.Y. I was a freshman in college at the time. I had met a guy at the college production of “The Normal Heart” and he thought we could meet up for a drink. He was 21, I was 18. Below drinking age and having never stepped foot in a bar on my own, I made the drive and walked in, ordering a Coca-Cola from the bartender. The bar wasn’t really big; it could probably hold 75 without everyone feeling overly cramped. There were three rooms once you descended the stairs into the basement: a room with a pool table, a room with some couches and chairs and other relaxation areas and the main room which had the bar, a decently sized dance floor and a few tables in chairs at the end opposite the bar.

The bar had about 40 people in it when I walked in and I felt everyone’s eyes on me; I was a new face. Having grown up in a small town where my contact with gay men was very minimal, I was probably quite skittish and didn’t strike up conversation with many folks. I just wanted to meet the guy I had met a few nights before.

I was always uncomfortable in unfamiliar social situations because I was always worried that I would be “found out” and subsequently be taunted for being gay. After a few moments of standing by myself, I came to the realization that this wouldn’t be a concern for me at Doc’s, everyone else there was gay. For the first time in my life, I relaxed and let my guard down. In that space at that moment, it was OK to be me. For the next couple of years going to a gay bar would be the only place where I could really be myself. Of course I was still socially awkward, that’s just part of my modus operandi. But I was less socially awkward there. If I was going to be taunted it would be due to my cheesy mustache or my poor fashion choices, not simply because of being gay.

The folks at Pulse in Orlando last weekend were just out for a fun night with friends in a space they considered safe. Now, 2016 is much different than 1986 when it comes to being gay in public, however, I imagine for many the gay bar is where they still felt like they were in a safe space. They could be themselves and let their guard down.

Except a man decided that he wanted to go in and kill as many “perverts” as possible. Whether he was indoctrinated, taught or just came up with the belief that gay folks are perverts is not relevant. The fact of that matter is he made the conscious decision to go into a gay bar and massacre as many gay folks as possible.

They just wanted to dance, have fun and feel safe.

Politicians have been quick to politicize the event. This massacre has been labeled a terrorist attack, presumably due to the assailant’s allegiance to ISIS. The fact of the matter is, this was a hate crime. This was a deliberate attack on individuals that are wired differently than many. People that are still demonized, ostracized and beat over the head with Bible verses for being sick, perverted, etc.

A couple of the victims were friends of a coworker and his family. Reports are showing screenshots of children writing to their parents moments before they were shot dead. This is the biggest mass shooting in the history of “The Greatest Country On Earth”.

I really wish we’d start acting like our grand declaration of “The Greatest Country On Earth”. We hear that a lot, don’t we. “Number One!” “Number One!” “Number One!”. When are going to start living up to our own hype and getting beyond stupid prejudice acts of killing like this? When are we going to start enacting sensible gun control? We all have to take our shoes off at the airport because one idiot decided to hide a bomb in his shoe but how many mass shootings will it take before someone says, “hey, we need to do something about guns.”

Just to be clear, I don’t believe that we should take away everyone’s guns. As I mentioned yesterday, that’s not going to solve the problem. But I do believe that we need to add another layer of security to the process of obtaining a gun.

All these folks wanted yesterday was to be in a safe place to have a great night out with friends.

Words can not express how terrible it is that they had to do die for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Answers?

Earl and I were at the Central New York Tour de Cure bright and early this morning. Earl volunteered to help coordinate the breakfast tent and I was one of many participants in the cycling event. I rode the metric Century, which was actually 65.5 miles (100 km = roughly 62 miles). The ride went well and I completed it in four hours 39 minutes of riding time. There were five rest stops along the route.

It was at the first route that I posted a photo or two on Facebook and that’s when I saw the news of the mass shooting at the gay bar “Pulse” in Orlando. A gunman armed with an AR-15 assault rifle shot at least 50 people dead and wounded at least 53 others. It’s the largest mass shooting in the history of the United States.

Words cannot describe how much my heart aches as I watch the direction our country is headed. This type of horrific event is becoming entirely too commonplace “from seas to shining sea”. There are reports of the gunman’s possible ties to terrorists groups in the Middle East. Many news outlets are accordingly calling this an act of terrorism.

It was an act of hate.

I have no answers. I have many questions but I have no answers. Yes, stricter gun laws should be in place but I know that’s not going to slow down killers that are intent on killing. I toyed with the idea of making biometric triggers mandatory on firearms but 1. I don’t know what that would really do and 2. Any firearm already out in the wild could easily be looked over for meeting that requirement.

The only answer I can come close to is that we need to stop the American fetishization of firearms and we need to ramp back the depiction of consequence free killing in the media. Honestly, I don’t know that either will help the cause but it’s a start.

I refuse to be afraid. I refuse to be intimidated. The only thing I fear is the direction the U.S. is heading. I read some comments on Twitter from popular politicians and it just increased my desire to vomit. Trump was being Trump, others are touting the virtues of the Second Amendment.

I have no answers. I’m sick and tired of asking the same questions over and over.

Infrastructure.

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Earl and I were riding around the area in the Jeep this afternoon when we got into a discussion about the crumbling infrastructure of Upstate New York. While I haven’t heard any reports about water issues like the atrocities in Flint, Mich., one can’t help but notice that Upstate New York municipalities, as well as the NYS Department of Transportation, is having a hard time keeping up with one component of our critical infrastructure, and that’s maintenance of our roadways.

In order to move goods to and fro around the area we need to have a good highways with safe bridges and road surfaces that aren’t going to ruin a vehicle. As we bounced along a state maintained highway, I remarked to Earl that in my nearly 48 years of living in the Empire State I have never seen the roadways in such disrepair. And I have been very attentive to roads my entire life.

Back in 1987 a bridge on the New York State Thruway over Schoharie Creek collapsed, killing ten people. It was a very big deal when this happened nearly 30 years ago and measures were taken to avoid the situation again. Money was poured into our highway infrastructure throughout the Upstate counties and the roads were beautiful. But Mother Nature can be quite hard on asphalt around here and the constant scaling back of construction projects due to budgetary concerns is really start to show the wear and tear on our highways.

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On a recent road trip, I was startled by the condition of the main thoroughfare in the Jamestown area. The picture above was taken along NY Route 394 in the Town of Busti. This busy road serves the majority of commercial interests in the area. I can’t help but wonder how many cars get beat up on this roadway as residents try to do something as simple as go to the mall.

Businesses that might consider moving to the area must look at the condition of our roads and buildings and bridges and wonder if the state is really as committed as they claim to be when everything seems to be in disrepair.

I know this all falls on the shoulders of the budget and the fact that there’s just not enough money to go around. I hear the word “entitlements” being thrown around quite a bit. Some like to blame welfare, others like to blame the “lack of taxes” on the rich. I think it’s a mix of everything.

I wish I could suggest a solution to the faltering economy in the Empire State, but I don’t have answers. All I know is that what we are doing isn’t working. With weekly reports of politicians being hauled off to jail I suspect that corruption is part of the problem as well but the populace seems too lazy to vote to get some new blood in Albany.

This is disappointing.

I’m hoping that someday I’ll be around to see the Empire State live up to its name once again. I just hope I don’t lose the Jeep in a pothole while I’m trying to get to the grocery store.

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Decency.

Jamie was in a car accident yesterday. He was headed home to Chicago along the Ohio Turnpike, driving in the center lane when I car in the left lane cut in front of him, pushing him into a tractor-trailer in the right lane. Luckily, he hit the cab of the tractor-trailer and didn’t hit farther back, where his Cooper Countryman probably would have slipped under the truck. That would have been nasty and I try not to think about it. Aside from a bruised up wrist, he is OK. Three other drivers, along with the truck driver, witnessed the accident, made sure he was OK and stayed behind to provide information to the police. The driver of the vehicle that cut him off spun out a little bit, righted his vehicle and took off.

Aside from being scared out of my wits over this news, I have to admit that I am very angry. I am grateful that witnesses stayed behind to provide the story for the police report. Apparently when the trucker jumped out of his truck the first thing he said was “that guy cut you off!”. Unfortunately, no one got the license plate of the indecent human behind the wheel of the vehicle that caused the accident in the first place. And I am angry that someone doesn’t have the balls to own up to their mistake.

Someone could have been injured or even killed. The thought that someone made a mistake that created this sort of mayhem and then just fled the scene is not helping my increasing belief that our society, and personal responsibility in general, is headed down the crapper. What has happened to watching out for one another, ‘love thy neighbor’ and all that stuff? Are people so narrow minded and concerned of only their little speck of existence that they don’t care what happens around them?

Horrible!

Jamie’s car is somewhere in Ohio, towed to a shop and awaiting a visit from an insurance adjuster to determine whether the car will be totaled out or repaired.  Personally I’m hoping for repaired because that’s an awesome little car. Earl drove out to Ohio last night to pick Jamie up and take him to Chicago so he could finish his school semester. I’m at home keeping the home fires burning and doing what I can to be supportive.

I still shake my h dad in disbelief that someone could knowingly create such an accident and just drive away from the scene. I really need something to restore my faith in American society (notice I didn’t say “restore my faith in the world”) because I don’t like the direction we seem to be headed toward. 

But most importantly, I’m just happy that Jamie is OK.

Car Phones.

A recent reorganization at work has resulted in my belonging to a bigger team. Once the lone guy in Upstate New York, I now have colleagues in the Rochester area, which is a little over two hours from the house. I made the drive today to meet these folks; it was a productive day today and I’m very happy to be part of this larger group. Face-to-face time is always a good thing.

Since the majority of my work travel has been by air of late, I hadn’t done much in the way of commuting in the Jeep. The drive along the New York State Thruway west of the Mohawk Valley can sometimes be described as mind-numbing, especially when one has political commentary droning on and on from the radio. I decided to wise up, turn off the radio and take notice of my surroundings.

The pace of traffic along Interstate 90 in these parts slows down considerably west of us. I don’t like cranking the Jeep up over 70 for too long as the tires aren’t really designed for interstate driving and more importantly, the “ECO ON” indicator turns off and my gas mileage plummets. The speed limit is 65 so I set the cruise at 69 because it’s a number that a lot of people enjoy. West of here traffic during the day seemed to be moving around 70-72 MPH today. I enjoyed looking at the other people driving on the road. There were quite a few people driving much faster and most of them had either out-of-state plates (namely Massachusetts or New Jersey) or their license plate frame/bracket indicated that they were from the downstate area. Traffic on the Thruway downstate moves much faster down there because those folks are always in a hurry.

The one thing that I really took notice of was the fact that hardly anyone was using their cell phone illegally. I didn’t see any illegal texting, talking or watching of video, that is, until I was on my way home and east of Syracuse. Once I was east of Syracuse the average speed picked up a bit and I spotted several more people talking on or using their phone in some way, even though the amount of traffic on the roadway itself seemed to be the same. Tell-tale signs of erratic weaving, unnecessary brake lights and misuse of the passing lane made it easy to spot those that decided that their phone was more important than the task at hand, that being driving the car. I couldn’t pin an average age to the activity, folks seemed to be all over the birthday spectrum but my completely unscientific observations did show that women were more apt to be using the phone than men.

I try really hard to not use my phone when I’m driving. I’ve been known to talk to my phone to launch music or dictate a text message to Earl or Jamie or to send a Tweet, but if Siri goes brain dead during one of these activities I will just give up on the endeavor and stay focused on driving. Most of the time. I wish it was 100% of the time but it would be a lie if I said I was picture perfect in this department.

I’m always striving for improvement. I wish others would follow that lead.

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LED.

We live in a gadget laden world. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, thermostats, televisions, toasters, dishwashers, the list of devices with displays and status indicators goes on and on.

By the way, who’s idea was it to put countdown timers on a toaster? Are we really in that much of a hurry that we need to know how many seconds are left before our toasted English muffin pops out of the toaster? Ridiculous.

I digress.

A good share of our personal electronics need to be charged on a nightly basis. Like many others, I’m sure, I charge my iPhone and my Apple Watch on my nightstand. The iPad joins in the fun as well. Since most bedrooms come with two plugs in the general vicinity of a nightstand, some sort of power strip or other multi-plug adapter is required for the task. This is especially true when traveling.

I recently purchased a USB charging adapter that can charge four devices at once. It is a compact unit that uses a single plug. It works great; the varying amperages available are perfect for the myriad of devices I have scattered on the nightstand. The problem is the status light on the unit. It is quite bright.

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Now, keep in mind that I am sitting in complete darkness snapping that photo and my iPhone is able to capture the light reflected against the wall without an issue.

I would love to see who is conducting these research and development meetings where they are discussing how to illuminate a bedroom with a small, pin-sized LED lightbulb. I am convinced that this LED is also used for taxiway lighting at O’Hare or Kennedy because honestly, the entire hotel room is illuminated by this thing.

I have a similar charger setup at home except the light is red. After one night of that bright merriment I covered the LED status light with electrical tape. The unit will get the same treatment as soon as I’m back home.

Are these bright LEDs suppose to be a reminder? An subliminal advertisement of some sort?

Perhaps people are getting crankier in today’s society because they can’t sleep due to all the needless light.

That’s The Spirit.

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A fight broke out on Spirit Airlines flight 141 from Baltimore to Los Angeles yesterday morning. Two women, reported to be intoxicated, brought a “boom box” onto the flight and were playing their music loudly. When a group of other women complained, they turned up the tunes and waved their boombox in the air. Apparently this went on for nearly the duration of the flight and a fight broke out between the two women. Screaming, punching, hair pulling, the works. One of the flight attendants was punched in the face. Several onlookers recorded the fight on their iPhones so that they could share on the Internet and get likes and ad dollars and whatnot.

Here’s a report from the Los Angeles Times (link).

Being a somewhat opinionated individual, I have several thoughts on this story.

Spirit Airlines flight 141 from Baltimore to Los Angeles left BWI at 0824 ET, arriving at LAX at 1034 PT. That’s might early to be intoxicated.

I’ve never flown on Spirit Airlines because, well, they don’t have a reputation for being a classy outfit and I tend to steer away from those types of experiences, especially when it involves being sealed up in an aluminum tube at 35,000 feet for several hours with a bunch of strangers. I have the impression that Spirit Airlines is basically a Wal*mart checkout line with wings.

While I don’t think this was a 1980s boombox, complete with cassette deck and the like, it’s rude to play your music without headphones in a public space, period, end of story, full stop. Earl and I had to endure a woman in a diner over the holidays that kept playing Christmas music off her iPhone and dancing around her booth as she waited for her double portion of Pork Roll. To this day I still can’t wipe out the horrible fidelity of the music nor the ugly Christmas sweater from my memory.

Who gets into a fist fight on an airplane? Who has the energy to get into a fist fight at 10:30 in the morning? Why did the TSA allow a boombox on the airplane in the first place? (Quick side note – the bomb that brought down Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland was concealed in a boombox). Why did the flight attendants address the issue before the situation escalated into a fight between passengers? Why didn’t the passengers recording the fight on their mobile devices step in and try to stop it?

If I had been the pilot I would have introduced the passengers to a maneuver called a “steep turn”. That would have shut them up. There’s a reason I don’t fly for the airlines.

Back to the intoxication. Why were they allowed on the flight? In my years of airline travel I’ve seen a few passengers pulled from a flight for being too drunk. The airline put them up in a hotel so they could sober up and fly safely the next day. Why were these intoxicated women allowed on the flight?

This is yet another example of the dwindling of any sort of manners, dignity or socially acceptable behavior in public. As trash continues to be glorified by the media people think they can do whatever they want, wherever they want, whenever they want.

It’s just another example of The New Spirit of America.

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Spelling Hints.

Here’s a helpful guide to avoid some of the popular spelling mistakes seen in today’s modern world:
 
 They’re going over there to see their new sofa.
 
 He will lose weight so his pants will be loose. This doesn’t make him a loser but his pants could be looser.
 
 They were at the salon lightening her hair with highlights during the thunder and lightning storm.
 
 He deserted his friends to eat an ice cream cone for dessert while sitting in the Arizona Desert.
 
 The animated French Fry’s plan was to group together with the other French Fries.
 
 If you’re one ass out of a thousand, there are many asses. Assess how many asses there are.
 
 You’re going to your graduation.
 
 Apostrophes do not appreciate when you use the apostrophe’s claim to fame inappropriately.
 
 
 
 

The Real Reason I Dislike Winter.

I’m in a bit of a ranty mood this afternoon. I’ve been watching my Twitter feed fly by with bogus winter storm names, graphics depicting nearly Armageddon-like events and general idiocy regarding the Nor’easter winter storm slated to hit the East Coast metropolitan corridor starting today. I keep reading how this is “the storm of the century”. By my count, this is the 20th or so storm of the century to hit this century. It even has a name to make it easier to discuss online. Because everyone loves an online discussion about the latest catastrophe. It’s what drives the American public.
When I gripe about the hysteria that strangles Washington, D.C. and related cities during this type of event, many are quick to tell me that the affected areas are not used to this kind of storm and therefore they don’t know how to prepare for it. Apparently, preparations include raiding every grocery shelf of every morsel of bread and milk possible, lactose intolerance and gluten allergies be damned. The fact of the matter is, I must be smarter than the average of American because if I went through “the winter storm of the century” one or two times, I would certainly be well prepared by the time the 20th storm of the century blew through. It’s not that difficult to figure out, storms are allegedly growing more intense, therefore, I must be more vigilant in making sure that my family is prepared for the next big storm. That’s just a small portion of what we call Common Sense®. When I point this out to people, they say they’re prepared but the municipalities are not keeping up with the changing times. It’s someone else’s fault that they can’t get their precious rats named Mabel and Finster to their baton lessons. Well, if the municipalities can’t keep up with the changing weather, then logic would dictate that folks are electing the wrong people into the wrong positions for the wrong reasons.
My biggest question is, why are you so dependent on someone rescuing you from catastrophe? Why is their responsibility to make sure they can plow you out, provide you water, etc? Ma and Pa Ingalls did just fine in the middle of a Minnesota winter without electricity. Build a fire, light a gas stove, fire up the barbecue. Do you need water? Melt the snow.
The truth of the matter is that I don’t really dislike winter. I actually like winter better than the mud season we call spring, with water and melting slop all over the place. I can do without the bitter cold we get up here in Central New York (bitter cold being below zero Fahrenheit for days on end, not the balmy 30 degrees that folks in New York City are always bitching about), but snow doesn’t really bother me. Snow doesn’t cripple me. It slows me down to a sensible speed, but life does not grind to halt when we get a foot of snow, or even two feet of snow. I might get bummed out about not being able to fly, but I can always go out in the Jeep and play in the snow. It’s called Independent Thought® and that’s something that I wish would become contagious throughout the entire country. I feel that I could easily ride a winter storm out on my own until the sun peeked through the clouds again.
It’s the mindset of the general populace that I really dislike about winter. This is fueled by a media building an empire built on hysterics. Ever since 9/11, people love drama, they love catastrophe and they love chaos. It’s the new normal. The media successfully gets everyone so whipped up about things that wouldn’t be a big deal even 30 years ago that it needlessly cripples vast portions of the population. Gone are the true meanings of “epic” and “massive”. Open your front door to a wall of snow or climb out your second story bedroom window onto the snow in the lawn sometime, then let’s talk about the full wrath of Mother Nature.
In the meanwhile, please, by the universe of all that is sane, please calm down. 

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Fuck Cancer.

My mom called me yesterday morning to let me know that my aunt and godmother had passed over to the other side after falling asleep on Sunday evening. This was not unexpected as she had been living with cancer for the last couple of years. A breast cancer survivor of several years ago, cancer had returned to other parts of her body. An expectation doesn’t make the news any easier to process. I’ve been musing over some pleasant memories and smiling. It’s funny in that it’s odd for me and my usually rock-solid memory for these things, but I don’t know how old she was. I know she was older than my mom by at least four years but I don’t know the specifics. You would think that a godson would know that about his godmother. The services are this coming weekend.

Hence the reason for my tweet yesterday morning, “Fuck Cancer”.

Over the past six months or so it seems like a lot of people in my life are affected by cancer. Radiation, chemotherapy, it all seems like such a shitty way to live but that’s part of surviving cancer, I guess. In a similar situation I don’t know if I would make the decision to go through all that, I don’t know if I’m strong enough. I know that people that live with cancer don’t deserve to do go through all those treatments but they’re very strong people to do so. That takes a lot of courage. The tin foil hat guy in me briefly wonders if there is a better solution out there but it wouldn’t benefit the pharmaceutical et. al. companies as much as the treatments for cancer, so that’s what’s available in Western medicine. I leave those thoughts for fleeting moments because they shouldn’t be focused on. Celebrating the lives of those that live with and pass on from cancer should be the focus, so that’s where I focus my energy.

I just know that my godmother was a pretty nifty lady. She was fairly soft spoken, had a wonderful smile and such a positive energy about her. A heart of gold. She was a strong woman, even before the cancer. I’m going to miss her.

Fuck Cancer.