Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thirty-Three Years - Where Did The Time Go?

It was thirty-three years ago that my high school class had its graduation ceremonies. Every year, the debate went on as to where the ceremonies would be held. Outdoors, or indoors?

My class voted for indoors, which was good because June 22nd, 1984 was a very hot day for us.

I remember so much from that day, from the morning all through to when I went to bed. I remember having no idea how I would get to school for rehearsal and being relieved when my friend Anita offered me a ride there and back. I remember my father, may he rest in peace, being upset at how long the ceremonies took. I remember three of my tickets disappearing from my dresser drawer. That was explained when I saw my mother (from whom I was estranged at the time), my grandfather, and my Aunt Jane in the audience.

It remains, to the best of my knowledge, the only time my brother ever went into my bedroom without asking for permission first.

I remember my friend Sherri coming to see me graduate, even though that meant having to stand the whole time at the back of the gymnasium. That meant a lot to me.

I remember asking my guidance counselor, Mr. Defeo, to go into the teacher's lounge and get me a Coke from the machine in the lounge.

Some of my classmates are people I'm still in touch with. Some of them I haven't seen since that night thirty-three years ago. Some are no longer with us, including a friend who was killed by a drunk driver six months after we graduated.

Some of us, like myself, have had several different jobs and kinds of careers. Some, like my friend Jim, knew exactly what they wanted to do and are still at it. Jim always wanted to serve on an aircraft carrier,  He's been doing just that all these years.

That summer night so many years ago, I had no idea of the things that would happen to me. Everything was fresh and new and filled with possibilities.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Summer Time And The Heat Is On

Okay, so it's still spring for a few more days. But here in the Binghamton, New York area, we've had several days in a row of temperatures getting anywhere from eighty to ninety two degrees in the afternoon. Today was a nice break, as we only reached the mid-seventies. It rained on and off, as well. That cooled things nicely and freshened the air a bit.

Tomorrow and Sunday look to be quite warm, and I'm not looking forward to that.

For, dear reader, I have never been able to handle hot weather very well. Even as a child growing up, I had problems. Most other kids would want to be outside enjoying summer, but I would stay indoors as much as I could.

When I say I don't handle it well, I mean that. I've twice had to go to an emergency room to be treated for heat exhaustion. In hot weather, I don't have much of an appetite, and what I do eat has to be very light fare. Think salads and sandwiches, and you're on the right track. I've had a grand total of two hot meals all this week. Both of those were eaten in restaurants that have good air conditioning.

It's worse yet when I don't have air conditioning, which I currently don't. Security regulations in this building prohibit their use, on the grounds that it poses a safety risk. I did look into getting a portable unit, which is allowed. I just can't afford it right now.

I do have a small desk fan, which helps some. And I have a window that lets in a nice breeze when there's one to be had.

But I know what I might be in for this summer, having lived in this building before.  I am looking at a few apartments that are in my price range. So, let's all cross our fingers, please.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Can One LP Change A Life?

I was born in 1966. I received a transistor radio as a Christmas gift from my Aunt Yvonne in 1972. So, I was able to hear the top hits from 1973 going forward. But anything pre-1973 was pretty much unknown to me at that time.

Oh, sure, there would be the occasional oldie here and there, as part of a movie soundtrack, or something might get air play years after its release. But for the most part, those records just weren't a part of my life.

I did get to hear several hours of the 1978 version of the radio documentary "The History Of Rock And Roll" when it aired one weekend across the United States and Canada, but by the time I tuned in, the show was up to where it covered the late 1960s. So, anything from say,  before 1967 or so, was still not known to me.

And then, one day after work, I walked across the street to the Endicott Plaza. The plaza is long gone, these days. None of the buildings still stand, save for the K-Mart that closed in 2011 due to severe flooding.

But in 1986, everything was still there. K-Mart, Grand Union, Endicott-Johnson Shoes, and several other businesses called the plaza home.

I went into K-Mart that one afternoon and headed right for the music department. Now, these days, it's very easy to get music, cheaply and quickly. I can buy an MP3 file from a site like Amazon and have it downloaded in less than a minute.

That's nice. But the way we used to do things had its own unique feel to it. There was no way to preview a song. You bought a single or an album and hoped for the best if it was something you were unfamiliar with.

I bought one album that day, a double length cassette.  I walked home and had dinner. It was nice outside, so I decided to listen to the cassette while sitting in a comfortable chair on the front porch of the rooming house I was living in at the time.

I can not remember the exact title of that cassette, but I do remember it was one of the series released using the name of WCBS-FM. These, of course, licensed the name, and were compiled and released by Collectables Records. That label is still in business, and still puts out good product.  It's one of the few labels still offering oldies on 45 R.P.M. singles.

That cassette changed my life, literally.  There were no tracks by Elvis Presley on it, due to licensing issues, I would presume.  But there were tracks by almost every other major singer, band or vocal group of the late 1950s and early 1960s.

No British artists, of course, but then again, the Brits didn't play much of a role in rock and roll until 1962-1963 or thereabouts.

Every record was a revelation. The pounding piano of Jerry Lee Lewis. The sweet harmony created by Dion and The Belmonts. The New Orleans "sound", as created by artists such as Fats Domino and Ernie K-Doe.

From that day forward, oldies music was, is and shall always be the soundtrack to my life.

Wishing you a good weekend, dear reader.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Last Day With Michelle

I will state, for the record, that this post is going to cover some very personal material. Read on, if you wish to do so.

Today is the 12th anniversary of the very last day I spent with my wife; she died the next day on June 4th, 2005. When we first met, she was honest about her health issues. She had five, perhaps six years left to live, at the best. I married her, telling her that whatever time we might have would be enough.

In the almost six years we had together, her health went downhill steadily.

Her weight went from 180 pounds to almost 400. She had a heart attack. She lost part of the hearing in her left ear due to an ear infection. She became diabetic. She injured an ankle and had to have it surgically repaired. She injured it a second time, and it was twelve years ago today that she had a second surgery on that ankle.

She died while I was still at home. I got a phone call from the hospital at 9:30 in the morning telling me I should come to the hospital as soon as possible. Michelle died at 9:45, after a team of doctors and nurses spent forty-five minutes trying to save her life.

In the days and weeks after she died, two sets of thought took hold among those who knew her. Some of us truly believed she had no idea that she might die. Her parents and her oldest friend were in that group. Other people, including myself, were and still are convinced she knew she was going to die.

I can't say enough good things about the staff at Wilson Hospital in Johnson City, New York. They were all so helpful to me and the others who were there. 

The very last words we exchanged were over the phone Friday night, twelve years ago today. I ended the call with these words:

"I love you.".

Friday, May 26, 2017

I'm Hanging In There

The last week and a half have been up and down for me. One day I had a very good day going until I injured my right leg. Best guess is that the pulled muscle will heal just fine and that there's no nerve damage, but that has yet to be confirmed. I'm resting the leg as much as I can. I injured it in the most bizarre way when I had a dream that I was kicking a field goal. I woke up and found my leg extended and injured. I am not making this up, people. I have very intense dreams and always have.

I had an issue with some things that were said to me in a voicemail message. I had to take a few minutes to compose myself before writing and sending a very long, very detailed e-mail message explaining just what is going on with me. I also did say that if I had truly done something wrong in that person's eyes, that I hoped we could get past it. The situation has been resolved.

It's been almost four weeks since the last time I met with my case manager here at the Y.M.C.A. and I'm upset because she is just not even taking me seriously when I ask for an appointment. I'm supposed to be on a schedule of every two weeks, and every four weeks is mandatory. I'm going to notify the director of housing that as far as I'm concerned, this is not my responsibility. I've asked twice for an appointment and been blown off both times.

On the plus side, I had a good time hanging out with a friend I hadn't seen in quite some time. We met for dinner yesterday. As usual, he was kind enough to do me a small favor.  He took me to the store and back home so I could get groceries without having to deal with the hassle of carrying them home on the bus. Alex, you rock.

Wishing you a good weekend, dear reader.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Star Trek: Discovery - First Thoughts

The teaser trailers for the new Star Trek series are now online. One is CBS-based and region locked for the U.S.A. while the other is Netflix-based and can't be viewed here in America.

I have watched the first version and I like what I've seen.

What amazes me, although by now maybe I should be used it to it, are the kinds of comments I'm seeing on a few different sites (TrekMovie especially). Many people are saying nasty things about the show.

People, really? You're going to state that a series that has filmed exactly one episode is doomed to fail? And you're basing that on a series of clips that total about two minutes?

Can we get a reality check on aisle two?

Nothing I saw contradicts the statements that have been made referring to the series as a "re-imagining".  A lot of people seem to feel that its setting ten years prior to the original series means that the ship, the sets and the costumes must be identical or very similar to those from the original show.

If you want to disagree with what I'm about to say, fine.

It's 2017, people. The look we associate with "The Cage" and "Where No Man Has Gone Before" is a classic 1960s look. I love it. I miss it. But I also accept that with limited exceptions, it just isn't suitable for network television anymore.

There are fan films and fan drawn comic books that nail that look perfectly and I love them for it. Most of these efforts have writing that ranges from average to excellent. There are some things I've seen that, with a little reworking, would make for good viewing on television.

Please note, I said "good" viewing, not highly rated.  I don't think for one second that there's enough of an audience to keep a retro styled "Star Trek" on the air for even half a season.

The new show, from what little can be seen so far, looks as it if uses a lot of the same design elements as the recent films. I'm fine with that. Will the writing or the acting be first rate from the very start?

Maybe, maybe not.  If we go back thirty years to "Encounter At Farpoint", I believe that had The Next Generation aired on CBS, NBC or ABC, it would have been cancelled after thirteen weeks.
Fox might have been willing to take a chance on a full season as they would not have had much to lose by doing so.

On the other hand, I've long held the view that "Where No Man Has Gone Before" set a standard that many of the episodes filmed from 1966 to 1969 never quite managed to live up to. I really feel that if they had expanded the final cut to ninety minutes or so, it would hold up nicely as a feature film.

But part of filming a weekly show is that it's expected to air every week. The sheer number of scripts that were required to film the original series pretty much guaranteed that some weak material would make it to air.

As always, these are just my opinions. 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Many Thoughts To Share

It's rare for me to hold back on how I feel about politics and current events. But right now, there are many other people on many other sites who are saying what needs to be said and saying it better than I ever can. So, I've decided to just talk about a few things that have been on my mind a lot lately.
The first time I traveled across America was in 2007, the second time was in 2009, and last month I did it twice in the span of two weeks. From 2009 to 2017 a lot of things have changed. Many of them have changed for the better. We have, at least as of right now, marriage equality as the law of the land.

 I have a cousin who is married to another man. The husband is a person who has never been anything but rude to me, but, I keep quiet and try my best to be nice to him whenever I see them in public. He makes my cousin happy, and that's what matters most to me.

We also have, for the time being at least, have net neutrality as established regulation. If I were to let my manners slip a little, I could say some not so nice things about those who oppose it.  Let's just say I'm all in favor of the current F.C.C. regulations and hope to see them not be weakened or eliminated.

I was admitted to the hospital for the first and so far, only time in my life in May of 1977.  I had a stomach virus that was really bad. I mean, I could have died from this thing. Several doctors who had patients in my age range with similar symptoms literally compared notes and determined we had all attended the same concert. Once they figured out what one of us had and how to treat it, they were able to treat all of us.

I've been mentally compiling a list of the nicest people I've ever met, and the weird thing is, the list keeps changing based on a few things. To say that someone is a nice person can cover a lot of territory. How polite someone is, how pleasant a person they are, and how they behave under pressure are just a few of the things that go into the overall mix. I've known people who in normal situations are a joy to be around but when things get bad, you can almost see them turning into someone you just don't want to be involved with at all.

I'm thinking of someone who I like a lot. I trust this person a great deal. I have often asked her advice regarding matters both personal and professional. But one time, about a year and a half ago, she went on a rampage. She ripped into us so badly that she literally left many of her students, of which I was one at that time, in tears.

The man to whom she answers, to put it quite bluntly, read her the riot act about an hour before a regularly scheduled meeting of our club. I wasn't in the room, and to the best of my knowledge,  neither of them has ever repeated even a single word of what was said. I and several others were setting up for our weekly on campus fundraiser when word came down to shut things down.

What happened next still upsets me.  She called all of us into an emergency meeting.

Don't get me wrong, please. Much of what we were on the hook for, as it were, included
legitimate concerns. But a lot of it also included things that were beyond our control. Things we knew needed to be fixed that we neither had the means nor the authority to fix.

That was bad enough. But when the personal attacks started, that was crossing a line that never should have been crossed. That's when I actually started to stand up to leave the room, fully aware that doing so would end my involvement in the club for good. Looking back, I realize now that I should have walked out, and walked away.

Not because of how I had been attacked personally, which I was dealing with fairly well until someone else blindsided me with something I never saw coming. I should have walked out because it was the right thing to do. I was told by several other people after the meeting that if I had done so, they would have joined me. We were the ones who were always there when called upon, and without us, the club almost certainly would have died that day.

I write all this knowing there's a small but very real chance that the person of whom I speak may read this. Ms. M, I'm so sorry, but that's just the way I see things.

So,  is she on my list for all the good things, or is she not on it for the one really bad mistake she made?

I don't know, right now.

Wishing you a good weekend, dear reader.