Exercise.

The City of Chicago has a magnificent lane share system for bicycles. It has not expanded to the entirety of the city, however, there are more than enough separated and marked bike lanes in our neighborhoods to make cycling in the city somewhat enjoyable for me.

Traditionally I hop into the marked lanes and make my way toward to Loop, ride around downtown, and then come a separate route home. Riding around downtown can be stressful, even with the somewhat sparse traffic of the pandemic era. Today I decided to try something different and head north. I ended riding all the way up to Evanston.

Several streets on the far north side are one way streets with bicycle lanes separated and headed the opposite direction of vehicular traffic. Riding toward Evanston is a heck of a lot less stressful than riding downtown.

I look forward to continuing this trend tomorrow.

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Sightseeing.

As per tradition, my husband was the first passenger to go with me after getting checked out on a new airplane. This was his first time in a Cessna 182 and his first time in a single engine airplane with retractable gear.

Since there are no baseball games at Wrigley and whatever they’re calling the home of the White Sox these days, we had the opportunity to fly along the lakeshore, over Navy Pier, and along the Chicago skyline a bit. To maintain legal separation from O’Hare’s airspace, I have to fly fairly low (but not too low) and away from the shoreline. Technically I could fly closer but I would have to fly lower and without a lot of options for an emergency landing over the city, I’m more comfortable slightly higher and over water.

It makes sense to a pilot.

We thoroughly enjoyed our flight and Earl enjoyed his first flight in “Large Marge”. We already have the airplane booked for a flight next weekend. This time we’ll venture out to one of the airports on the prairie and maybe have we in general aviation call a $100 hamburger. They’re more like $200 these days but well worth it.

Time.

So we have tomorrow off from work to celebrate American Independence Day. Since the fourth falls on a Saturday we get the third off. It all makes sense.

Except, I don’t feel like it’s the Fourth of July. With this pandemic thing going on I’m still waiting for Easter and Memorial Day to roll around. I’ve lost all track of time. I find myself thinking it’s the weekend when it’s Tuesday. The long years of the Trump administration that happen every week, coupled with this weird pandemic routine shtick we’re all doing right now has me so very confused.

Now, I suppose I could go right out and start running around like everything is normal and start celebrating my patriotism like a true ‘Merican, but the thing is, I don’t want to die. Not yet. If I were to die, I would die a very happy man, but there’s still much more I’d like to accomplish. I’d like to see a happy world again before I die. I don’t believe we live in a happy world right now. Actually, it’s quite presumptuous for me to speak for the entire world, since I live in a very small corner of a smallish state named Illinois, but with all the information blasts I get on a minute by minute basis I feel like the world as a whole isn’t very happy right now.

I would love to see statistics around any increases in drug or alcohol use since 2017 in the United States. I think it would be a fascinating statistic.

So we don’t really have plans for the holiday weekend other than a sunset flight tomorrow night, but I didn’t need a day off to do that. We’ll probably go for a ride out on the prairie in the car, go through a drive thru or two, and look at the clear blue sky. Maybe we’ll watch fireworks from afar. I miss the days of handing out glow sticks to all the kids gathered to watch the fireworks from the village green.

I have no sense of time. I think I just took a nap. I’ll finish my beer. Happy, erm, Thursday.

Karen Carpenter.

I was originally going to title this blog entry “Karen”, but with the connotation associated with the name these days it would have led would be readers in the wrong direction and I didn’t want to do that.

In 1979 Richard Carpenter went into recovery for his addiction to quaaludes. During that time, his sister Karen, the other half of “The Carpenters” went into the studio with some pretty famous producers and recorded her first solo album, to be simply titled “Karen Carpenter”. The story goes that when the album was recorded, the suits at A&M Records took a listen, along with Richard, who was now out of recovery, and absolutely hated the record. Richard was particularly harsh, saying the record didn’t fit her vocal style at all and that producer Phil Ramone was using the opportunity to try to imitate Richard’s polished vocal productions. A&M Records leaned on Karen to not release the album and it went into the vault. Bits and pieces of the album were released after her death, but it wouldn’t be until 1996 that the intended album was released, following her mixing and arrangement requests.

Richard Carpenter has said in interviews that ultimately he was supportive of his sister Karen recording her own album, he just advised, “whatever you do, don’t do disco”.

There’s a pretty kick-ass disco track on the album. It’s called “My Body Keeps Changing My Mind” and it is bell-bottom swishing disco from beginning to end.

Now, I find Karen Carpenter to be one of the greatest female vocalists of all time. I could listen to her sing all day long, and my recent love affair with the TIDAL Music service and its non-compressed music tracks has pumped her album in high fidelity to my ears for the past several days while I’ve been out doing my daily exercise.

I found an extended version of “My Body Keeps Changing My Mind” that is without 21st century remix; it’s simply an extended version of the original disco track, and I’ve been bopping to it all week. So for your listening pleasure, from 1979 here’s Karen Carpenter with “My Body Keeps Changing My Mind”.

Truth.

In the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it. — Barack Obama

This is another reason as to why I love our neighborhood.

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.

Pride.

For the past couple of years I have marched in Chicago’s Gay Pride parade (is it officially called LGBTQ+ Parade now?) with the NGPA, or National Gay Pilots Association. Even though I don’t fly for the airlines, the NGPA is welcoming of us pilots that like to fly “low and slow” and marching with this group has been very empowering for me.

Earlier today I remarked on Twitter that when I was a young gay lad I felt being gay was something that was not compatible with being a pilot. This was mostly due to my internal homophobia, as while I was out of the closet at a relatively young age for the time (the mid 1980s), I still saw being gay as a “less than”. I figured you couldn’t be a “less than” to become a pilot.

Clearly I was wrong.

I started seeking out the NGPA in the late 1990s and early 2000s when I first started thinking seriously of becoming an airline pilot, but I was still get a solid foothold on my career and finances and all that, so it wasn’t until the early 2010s that I was able to take to the skies. I became a member of the NGPA as soon as I passed my student pilot medical.

Since traditional Pride Celebrations have been cancelled all over the country, the NGPA decided to have a virtual Pride celebration on Zoom, and the festivities took place today. It was really well done; Ongina from RuPaul’s Drag Race is an honorary member of the NGPA Family and she performed, as well as a couple of other members doing the same, interspersed with videos made for the event, contributions from a few airlines, and commentary and information from the President and Vice-President of the organization. We also raised $20K during the event, furthering the coffers that fund the multitude of NGPA Scholarships that are awarded annually.

Aside from the pandemic, this year’s Pride festivities have focused on activism, with focus on and all of the other struggles our society faces today. I am proud to be a member of the National Gay Pilots Association. And with the timber and tone of this year’s Pride, I feel more compelled than ever to do my part in getting the country back on course and recognize the value ALL of us bring to the equation. Not since the AIDS crisis in the late 1980s and early 1990s have I felt the urge to contribute to the activism needed to make things better.

After the NGPA event wrapped up, Earl and I watched the Pride Celebration on Chicago’s ABC 7. The news media here in The Windy City usually gives live coverage of the Pride Parade and associated events; ABC 7 broadcasted a special today, and it was very well done.

I’m happy to see technology used in such a positive way.

Happy Pride, everyone! Let’s keep using this momentum to make the world a better place for all!

Flat.

Earl and I had a nice ride out on the prairie today. The corn is coming along and looks a little higher than the knee, which is where it should be come the beginning of July.

We started our ride in southern Wisconsin. It’s a nice area of the country as well but not as flat as the prairies of Illinois, which isn’t as flat as the plains on the other side of the Mississippi.

I took this photo because of the storm in the distance. It was to our east as we made our way south on Illinois 251. When we finally turned to head back home in Chicago we drove through some wet spots on US Route 30 but never hit any rain.

Perhaps I need to spend time at night on the prairie in July. Enjoying the landscape at night during a thunderstorm would be optimal.

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.