Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Special Song of the Day Post, with Commentary - Dear Mr. President - P!nk, with Indigo Girls

Image result for election 2016

Dear Mr. President,
Come take a walk with me
Let's pretend, we're just two people and
You're not better than me
I'd like to ask you some questions if we could speak honestly

Well, after months and months we are finally here.  The day of reckoning!  This is undoubtedly one of the most momentous days in our 240 years of history, the world is watching, and the stakes couldn't be any higher.

What do you feel when you see all the homeless on the street?
Who do you pray to at night before you go to sleep?
What do you feel when you look in the mirror?
Are you proud?

Today's song was written about another president who took office after another very contentious election season 16 years ago.  Back then, so many of us were angry.  We'd felt cheated and we feared for our future.  Unfortunately, those fears came to pass as 8 years of that poor choice brought us two wars, one plausibly acceptable, and the other completely unnecessary and based on lies.  Thousands of people lost their lives as those in the inner circles enriched themselves off of the misery of others. We tortured our enemies in questionable violation of international law.  Our economy was in shambles.  The housing market crashed.  Unemployment rates and the deficit soared as the stock market fell.  We all suffered...but we survived.

How do you sleep while the rest of us cry?
How do you dream when a mother hs no chance to say goodbye?
How do you walk with your head held high?
Can you even look me, in the eye, and tell me why?

It was 8 years ago now that we made history.  We'd finally said enough as a nation and brought the other party back into power.  A black man had been elected president.  Hope was at hand. Unfortunately, whatever popularity this new President brought to the office was despised by many, either because he was a black man or simply from the 'other side.'

His integrity was questioned and every attempt he made at progress was met with unprecedented obstruction, which remains to this very day as the Supreme Court's power has been unconstitutionally and unprecentendtedly checked by the branch of government still controlled by the former president's party. The supposed outrage that's been spun over the past 8 years truly boggles my mind, as the previous 8 years of absolute misery seem to be an aberration to those on the other side.  Perhaps there is a case of mass amnesia.

Dear Mr. President,
Were you a lonely boy?
How can you say, 
No child is left behind?
We're not dumb and we're not blind
They're all sitting in your cells
As you pave the road to hell  

So now we have this...an anti-establishment billionaire vowing to "Make America Great Again." Does anyone out there really believe that we are no longer a great country?  Please look me in the eye, and tell me why.

Of course, our choice is minimal.  One out of two, well in reality four, people.  But that in itself is a problem we must overcome.  Yes, the establishment is crooked all over.  Both sides of the aisle work first towards their own personal gain before helping us, the little people.  It's been that way for a long, long time.  The United States of America has become the United Corporations of America, where special interests gain favor to our detriment.  Yes, we need an anti-establishment president.  This isn't the one, though.

What kind of father would take his own daughter's rights away?
And what kind of father mght hate his own daughter if she were gay?
I can only imagine what the first lady has to say
You've come a long way, from whiskey and cocaine

The climate of our politics has been dividing us for too many years now.  Politicians tell outrageous lies simply for their own gain.  And we believe them, yet our lives never seem to change that much for the better, no matter what they say.  Right?

Today we all have a huge choice to make.  For seemingly all of us, the choice is clear.  Unfortunately, that choice isn't the same.  While I see it as the choice between a seasoned, yet admittedly flawed candidate and a misogynistic, inexperienced and impulsive bully, others actually believe that the bully would do us better.  Well in my eyes, that bully has cheated our country of thousands and thousands of dollars in taxes, gone bankrupt on quite a few occasions, and looks to divide us rather than unite us.  He doesn't deserve to be president.

Let me tell you about hard work
Minimum wage with a baby on the way
Let me tell you about hard work
Rebuilding your house after the bombs took them away
Let me tell you about hard work
Building a bed out of a cardboard box
Let me tell you about hard work, hard work, hard work
You don't know nothing about hard work

Yeah, those 8 years were terrible!  But they seem like nothing now compared to what could happen in the next 8.  It truly makes me sad...and a little scared, too.  Why do we spend so much time hating and being sheep rather than keeping informed, loving one another and really making the world and our country a better place?  We should all be on the same side.

I only hope that today we get it right and we make it better.  Maybe someday in the future we will find a true anti-establishment hero willing to lead us all into a brighter future.  Until then, we need to make the right choice, or the next time could be even worse.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Reluctantly Rejoining the Political Fray

Image result for donald trump rigged election

I am a reformed political junkie.  From the dark days of the Great Hunt of President Clinton in the 90's to the questionable wins of Dubya in 2000 and 2004, eight ensuing years of war and economic mess, and right up until the first election of our current POTUS, I yelled at my radio in the car and shouted at the Sean Hannity's and the Bill O'Reilly's and cheered on Keith Olbermann and Bill Maher.  I had my views, based on my own personal experiences in this life, in this country, and I always believed it was important to stay on top of things.  You know, keep a watchful eye on who I saw as the wrongdoers while cheering on and helping those who I thought were doing right by us. But that all changed in 2008.

At the time, Election Day 2008, I was super elated.  We had just broke unprecedented ground by electing our first (paritally) African-American president and we were finally ridding ourselves of the shackles that had a terrible hold over this country for the previous eight years.  The names Cheney and Rumsfeld would soon fade into obscurity and finally we could get on to cleaning up the mess that they all left behind.  

I soon realized, though, just how nefarious our system of checks and balances can work.  There's been enough of a strong Republican base out there to give that party a hold of Congress, and the unprecedented obstruction of the elected president's policies began.  Tea Party politics fought Obama at every turn, making it difficult for him to get anything done.  The power of a President is not as great as people think.  Heck, the party that says it admires the Constitution so much has unconstitutionally held back the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice for 8 months now, leaving it one man, or woman, short. Deplorable! Out of complete disgust, I stopped paying attention altogether...until now.

An Election that Could Change the World

It's been really hard to avoid this current presidential election, probably the most disgusting of all time, but until yesterday I've managed to hold off on voicing my opinions for the most part.  Doing so does nothing to change minds and only works to create a divide among friends who may have different opinions than you, especially in this time where all civility has flown out the window.

I've said before that what has become of politics in the past 20 years or so is this my team, your team mentality, no matter what.  It's not about helping us, the little guys.  It's all about winning.  A Republican comes up with an idea...a Democrat will reject it before he even hears it.  A Democrat proposes something, it too is rejected unequivocally by a Republican without reason.  If the other guy comes up with something good, it makes our side look bad, so we're going to block it at all costs. And this ugly new norm on has worked its way down to the American public, who will side with their own side just because.  Pretty sad state of affairs, no?

Reluctantly Rejoining the Discussion

For the past few months, this election has been gaining steam, and I've bitten my lip many times over a Facebook post or a Tweet that I don't agree with, but I've said nothing.  It's not worth it.  But what I've been watching this past week has been truly alarming and I just had to do something about it, I shared an article on Facebook with a simple comment, This is very scary.   

The article, from the Boston Globe, was entitled Trump's supporters talk rebellion, assassination at his rallies.  In case you've been living in a bubble, Donald Trump has been feverishly telling his supporters over and over this past week that the upcoming election is a big conspiracy and is rigged against him. Perhaps he senses a loss and is trying to find something to blame it on.  He is, after all, an egotist.  

The reason I decided to share the story had nothing to do with which candidate I favored.  In my opinion, and in the opinions of many others, this talk is nothing but dangerous and irresponsible for any presidential candidate to claim, especially so far ahead of Election Day.  For someone to speak of such things and incite such anger can lead to very serious consequences.  

One of my friends innocently commented on the post:

I was hoping this whole article was satire.  It does not appear to be.  People make me sad.

Almost immediately, another friend of mine, an outspoken Republican and Trump supporter/avid Hilary Clinton hater, ratcheted up the conversation with an angry reply. The two, who have no connection to one another aside from knowing me, went back and forth for some time.  I was dismayed with each reply.  I knew I shouldn't have posted anything.  Ugh, politics!

The second friend was soon joined by yet two more friends, who simply posted videos showing how it's the Democrats who cause violence at Republican rallies.  Videos were posted, Imagine if conservatives disrupted a Clinton rally (an opinion piece), White girl attacked by Mexicans at Trump rally, and Rigging the Election: Clinton Campaign and DNC Incite Violence at Trump Rallies.   This is exactly what I was talking about just a few paragraphs up...no matter my intention, the other side will deflect the conversation by attacking, without reply to the original point.  I finally responded:

Oy, I have to say I've been very reluctant to post anything about the election on FB, and the responses to this post exemplify my reasons.

First of all, to friend #1 and friend #3 (the poster of the first tow videos) I admire your civility towards one another. If only that existed in all political discussion.
(Their replies to one another were civil.)

My reasons for posting this piece have nothing to do with this side, that side, blah blah blah. To me, my choice in this election is a no-brainer, but regardless all of this talk about election rigging so far in advance of the election is potentially dangerous.

Trump said, and I quote, "If she gets to pick her judges, there's nothing you can do folks...although the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don't know."

What is that supposed to mean? A candidate for the American presidency veiling a call to "Second Amendment people" to do something about it? That's horrific, and from the fervor I've seen on the part of his supporters, does no one think that maybe, just maybe, one might try and take him up on it?

We are the United States of America, champions of true democracy, where no one gets to hold the highest office for too long. In more than 240 years of presidencies, there have always been peaceful transfers of power.

Whether he meant it or not, that very statement and the constant gripes about election rigging and media conspiracy instead of talking...in detail...about the issues, is the height of irresponsibility, and I only hope my fears will be assuaged come November 9th.

Still, the arguments continued.  Excuses were made, Hilary and Democrats were attacked, and other issues were brought into the fray.  I once again tried to quell the arguing by reasoning my point again:

I said NOTHING of who I am voting for or anything else political. My only point here was that one candidate for the highest position of power in this country thinly veiled a call for his supporters to shoot (yes, I think when he said "second amendment people," that's exactly what he meant!) the other candidate if he loses. If you're okay with that...I don't give a crap if it's Hilary Clinton or Bozo the clown, that is absolutely disgusting and dangerous, and no, this wasn't just reported by the liberal media, I heard him say it! If that's okay with you, then the America you want to be a part of sounds a lot like some of these other countries from where you'd like to keep people out. (Immigration, one of my own hot topics, was brought up and not in a positive light!)

I ended the discussion, which was clearly avoided by the majority of my friends, probably out of the same fears as I'd earlier harbored.  Once again, the article I posted had nothing to do with political favor.  I was simply making a statement that this type of talk is incendiary.  It has the potential to come to fruition and that is very dangerous ground to take and is highly irresponsible on Trump's part.  Though it should seem like a good situation, a non-politician running for office, unfortunately someone who's never been in politics should never start out by vying for the highest office in the land.  

No one ever knows with certainty what will happen in the future, either come Election Day or a year from now.  Deplorables worry about Muslims and Mexicans wanting to kill us, yet in the 16 mass shootings over the past 8 years, the vast majority of them were perpetrated by not Muslims, nor Mexicans, but by Americans.  And they're worried about the the immigrant?  One of the highest prices we've always paid for freedom is the sad reality that there are crazies out there, of all stripes, and we can never see beforehand which ones will act upon their crazy.  I just hope to God it is not one of these guys.


Thursday, October 13, 2016

Diego's Diagnosis

This is Diego, one of my two kitties.  Diego's not been himself lately, losing both weight (and hair) and eating and drinking with voracity the past month or so.  It was just about a week ago my friend Blanche pointed out that he had lost the hair...a lot of it, along his spine.  I hadn't noticed it before, but that's probably because I see him every day and well, I just didn't notice, but once I heard Blanchie's observation, I took a closer look and it was obvious.  Diego had to go to the doctor, and soon. Something was definitely wrong.

My friends Rich, Bobby and I had been talking about it ever since the unexplained weight loss started becoming noticeable a few weeks ago.  I mean, Diego was always a big cat...still is...but in the past month I could actually connect my two hands around his abdomen and clasp them together.  He'd lost a lot of weight...9 pounds to be exact.  What was a 20 pound kitty back in June became an emaciated 12 pounds yesterday.  

Taking a cat to the vet, though, is something every cat owner knows to be a super-stressful undertaking, and I guess I'd been putting this visit off for too long for that reason, making excuses that my busy life didn't leave me time to do it.  But the hair loss!  And how thin he's gotten!  I'm actually a little ashamed it took me this long.  Now I know.

This morning I received a voicemail from the vet.

Hi, this is the doctor calling with Diego's lab test results.  Unfortunately, he is a diabetic cat.    

Stunned! That was not the news I'd been expecting.  When she examined Diego yesterday, the doctor told me that, based on his symptoms, it could have been one of three things: an overactive thyroid, diabetes, or kidney issues.  Based on what she saw when she examined him, she believed it to be the first, and she even said I should pray for that result, which I did.

It surely could have been worse.  Kidney disease killed my first cat, Spike, and that surely would have been the worst diagnosis I could have gotten this morning.  The thyroid condition would only have meant he'd be on medication, in pill form, for life, but he would be able to live out a normal life. Diabetes is one serious illness in people and is as serious in cats, too, but this diagnosis will surely change not only Diego's life, but mine as well.

They told me to bring him in as soon as possible.  Ugh, another stressful afternoon of coaxing him into the cat carrier and listening to him make these ungodly sounds for the entire trip to and from the vet.  It weighed on my mind all day, but when the time came, I just had to do it.  He is my baby, after all, so gentle, so sweet.  

To my own personal horror, several people I spoke to during the day insinuated, some even outright suggested, that I put Diego to sleep.  Since it is such a well-known disease, most assume that having a cat with diabetes at least meant I'd have to administer insulin shots to him daily, a highly unpleasant task, and I guess many people lack the sort of animal compassion that I have.  Although the diagnosis and its affect on my life are going to be unquestionably difficult, I never gave that option a thought. They say God never gives you things that you can't handle, and so this will become a part of my life and I will deal with it.  

So for the second straight day I had to put my baby in the stressful situation of trapping him in a carrier and carting him outside of the only world he knows: my house.  The doctor was going to show me how to give Diego the shots, which I found out have to be given every 12 hours. Ugh!  I have to say, Diego was a trooper during the visit (not so much in the car!) and he laid still on the table as I administered my practice injection of saline solution into his thigh.  Not fun, for sure, but I'm going to have to get used to it.  The doctor said it will just become a part of my daily routine, and I'm sure it will in time, though still...  

By this time of night the initial shock of the diagnosis is starting to sink in.  I'm just going to have to see where this takes me, and my baby.  I went to the pharmacy to fill the prescription for the insulin, but therein lies another issue: cost.  No matter, I was given alternatives to the $310 CVS was going to charge me for it, and so that is my next step tomorrow.  I want to get it quickly so Diego can go back to gaining some weight and growing hair and well, just being normal again.  Like I said, I will deal with it as long as we can go back to being normal.  Stay tuned... 

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Weezie Rides Again

Finally!  After more than a year without riding a roller coaster, and after a summer in which I was told not to ride roller coasters, Weezie finally got her fix yesterday!  September 24th was a date I'd had on my calendar for a long time and though it was a little disappointing (read on), I did get to ride, and with some of the coolest people I know, too.   

Last night was Great Adventure's Annual Out in the Park event, something that my friends and I have been going to for years now.  I figured that since this particular date was so late in the season and more than two months after my back issues, it'd be the perfect time to go, and it kinda was.  The weather was crisp and very autumn-like and all of the rides were running.

The Great El Toro!

Our first ride is one of my favorites..El Toro.  It was around 5 p.m. when we got to the park, and the place was packed.  Almost an hour and a half wait to ride this one, but once we were in that seat, it was definitely worth it.  Take a quick ride...  

At the end of that exhilarating ride, we all came off laughing at our pal Sonny, who had never ridden El Toro and was screaming the whole way.  We stopped at the picture booth to check out how silly we all looked and a gem was found:

Yup, that's Sonny on the left (my other pal Sean is on the right!).  You can imagine from the look on her face just how hard we were laughing, and it continued the whole night through.  We giggled and fooled around and chatted amiably for the next six-plus hours as we rode Nitro, Bizarro, and the all-new Joker (Loved!).  Wait, that's only four rides altogether.  Well, no, there were two rides on Nitro.  Well...

Out At Night: A Rant

I mentioned earlier in the post to read on, and this is where a little rant comes in.  I'd said that my friends and I have been going to this event for a few years now, not every year, but mostly.  The event, Out At Night, is supposed to be a night for LGBT's to enjoy some rip-roaring, our-kind-of fun in the park.  There used to be a dance party, beer and drink gardens, dancing, and best of all, short lines.  Well, no more.  Like everything else good, (see A Pitiful Night on the Sea Tea), this event has morphed into something altogether different than it used to be, and is no longer worth it.

I don't blame the organizers for what it was like at Great Adventure yesterday.  I place blame on Six Flags and good old fashioned capitalistic greed.  You see, in recent years, the Halloween-themed days at the park, dubbed Fright Fest at Six Flags' parks, has become a huge draw, and to seemingly capitalize on its popularity, SFGA had been running theirs a week already.  Where we used to have the park to ourselves, that is no longer the case.   

Yes, that first ride on El Toro ate up almost two hours of our evening, and so did lines for the other rides.  Kingda Ka was an hour and forty-five minute wait...not worth sucking up another two hours.  For the first time in recent memory, we had to pick and choose which coasters to ride, given the time we had at the park, which is a darned shame.  There were people everywhere, and though there were LGBT's in the crowd, there were far more of everybody else.  I'm done with Out At Night!  

It's too bad that Six Flags seems to have chosen the almighty dollar over goodwill.  I always waited till this event to visit this, my home park, and now I'll have to choose an alternative.  Despite the huge crowds, long lines and few rides, it really was a fun night of riding and the only pain I had in my back was from standing so long.  Luckily I had good people to share the experience with, and I guess we'll just have to find another day to go next year...maybe a Monday!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Working to Remember and Never Forget

Today marks 15 years since that terrible day.  When I think of the events of September 11th, 2001, I can recall most of it vividly.  I think most of us who were adults at the time can.  I couldn't help but notice today that there seemed to be less and less mention of the anniversary on social media.  Now I have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others and I saw very little of anything, at least in comparison to past years, about what happened that day.  I guess it should be expected...time does that healing thing, which is really a good thing. But still, forgetting this is not an option.  

I have to admit, even though this was a notable anniversary, I didn't even think about the day until I finally saw a post on Instagram around 2:00 this afternoon.  Sure, I'd known it was coming, but for some reason it just hadn't entered my mind.  Today was a similar day, weather-wise, to that September day back in 2001, only not as clear and not as crisp, and though I admittedly did not actively think on the anniversary often today, I couldn't let it go without a mention.

Of course, the sentiments that go along with that day will dwindle even more over time, but they should never be forgotten.  In school, our principal always mentions the date and asks any of us who plan to do anything to commemorate the day to share it with him.  Well, the kids in high school today were either babies at the time or not even born yet when it happened, so to them it's not as personal, not as meaningful.

Since my students are all foreign born, they know even less of that sad, sad day, and during one of my early morning periods, they had come to me from their Global Studies class in which they had just seen a video and had an accompanying worksheet to fill out on the event.  They were confused and didn't really understand what they had just been taught.  I promptly decided to forego my own lesson just to talk to them.

I wrote the word terrorism on the board, and asked them to give me words that they thought would fit the definition.  In a bit of sad reality, they were able to come up with some words to fit that heinous tactic: bombs, guns, killing, etc.  I added the word scare and we launched a conversation that began with the recent attacks in Nice and Paris and we worked our way back to 9/11.  I recounted my own memories of that day, from the moment I'd heard a plane had crashed into one of the towers early on to being glued to the television all day and all night.  I choked up a little when I spoke of the heroes on United Flight 93 and knew right then that although my own memories and feelings about September 11th, 2001 had diminished, the feelings were still there deep inside me.  

So if you found yourself in the same place as I today, and you feel like maybe you've lost some of that anger, horror and sadness over the 3,000-plus lives that were lost just fifteen years ago today, then I think you need to relive it a little,  Whether it's by watching a program on the events, or sharing your own recollections with someone who wasn't around and doesn't know.  I think from here on, we're going to have to work to remember...and never forget.   

See also:

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Another New Year, Another Resolution?

Labor Day 2016 - Every year on this day, I (...and a lot of other people!) tend to reflect on the summer that's just passed and the upcoming 10 months of the new school year. Though things were precarious back at the end of June...a bad back, a cancelled trip to Europe and a decent shortage of funds, I ended up having a great summer!

Here's to a Great Summer!

From the very first day of summer vacation, I was having a blast. From dinners with friends, nights on Fire Island, reunions with old friends, the Invasion of the Pines, trips to Philly, camping, upstate NY, and Florida, it was a fun-filled time for sure.  Here are some great memories...

Good times, yes they were, but now it's time to let go of summer and put my nose to the grindstone. 

A Big Year Ahead

Today was the first day of a new school year, one that aims to be even tougher than last...and I'm already exhausted. The school year 2015-16 was my most difficult to date. I took on new responsibilities and my day to day job became monstrously difficult.  This year is already shaping up to be another tough one, and I just have to dig deep and learn how to better deal with things.

It's All About Focus

Quite some time ago, I wrote about a book called The Life You Were Born to Lead, by Dan Millman, and although I can't say I've been following it faithfully since, I have kept in my mind some of the things it's taught me.  The book basically uses the foundations of numerology to reveal the underlying traits that make you you, and the one thing Millman says about me that rings so true in my everyday life is that I lack focus.

Like the old saying goes, you can be good at a lot of things, but you can be really great at simply one, or two.  Most old adages are founded in truth and surely this one is, especially in my case.  I have my hand in many things, and I am good at a lot of them, but great at none.  As I begin this new year, I find myself once again trying to 'fix' myself, and perhaps focus is the key.

So once the dust settles on the beginning of this new school year, I will be taking a good, hard look at all of the things I do and try and figure out which ones I truly love and which ones I could really do without.  Then maybe I can focus on far less and get on with it...

Monday, August 15, 2016

What am I doing here?

What do you do here?

That was a question I've been asking myself for ages. Inside my head I was understanding him completely, yet all I could muster was how nice it is that Long Island has the beaches and Fire Island and well, you know. I wasn't even convincing myself.

The guy was a late twenty-something from New Zealand, working as an architect in the city, and I'd been chatting with him on the dock at Cherry Grove waiting for the ferry to take me home on Saturday night. It was his first time on the island ever.  He'd gone with some work friends of his that had abandoned him there. 

The half-hour or so that we chatted on the dock and then during the ferry ride afterwards was the lone bright spot on a night that I would have been better off staying home. I'd had the best night of the summer there the Saturday prior and I guess a re-creation of the same was a long shot to begin with.

The dude, Collin I believe, was a Long Island novice. He knew nothing of it except that you had to travel two hours through it just to get to Fire Island, which he didn't seem to care for very much anyway. Forget about knowing where or even what Patchogue, the place where I live, is. 

He asked the same question more than once, and each time he asked it only brought me to the same place I've been in my mind for the past eight-plus years.  

Long Island is a beautiful place. It's got its own multitude of sub-cultures and beautiful spots.  But it's a big, spread out place, a place where you go to settle down in your own little nook or cranny and hang with the people around you, raise your family, take care of your house and...I'm not really sure what else. It's definitely not a very exciting place to be single, especially gay and single.

I've been thinking a lot these past few months. Those of you who read me already know that. For the longest time I've been yearning to be where life is, where I could just leave my house and not be alone, or even where I am alone and am given opportunities to not be.  Get it? I dunno, a lot of people around me don't seem to. 

So I am finally beginning to formulate a plan in my mind. When I visited Philadelphia a couple of weeks ago I fell in love. Philly is like a smaller, more open-spaced New York with a lot of life and a thriving gay community. A year from right now I'd like to be preparing for that change I've been talking about, a move there. 

Of course, Philadelphia doesn't compare equally to New York, my city, the Center of the World, but I'm figuring it's the next best thing. Hopefully the job opportunities are ample, as well as the housing, and it's certainly more doable than NY.

Of course there is one thing that can keep me here and that would be if I found someone to make me not want to leave, which seems unlikely.  Even the few I've met this summer, and it has been an active one, haven't panned out into anything meaningful, even the dude from the ferry ride the other night. 

During his and my conversation, I was trying to help him find a way to get back to the city. He'd thought he'd just take a taxi, which would've cost him about $300.  I checked the train schedule...nothing.  I offered him my couch and a ride to the train station in the morning and he seemed grateful.

The conversation throughout was really easy and nice, and In the back of my mind I thought, hmmm, who knows?  On the upper deck of the ferry, he leaned over and kissed me before snuggling up next to me, and suddenly the night seemed like it was going to be a different kind of special than the previous week. Then his phone rang. 

It was one of his friends who had abandoned him. It turns out they waited for him on the other side.  He smiled as he told me, understandably relieved, and I was relieved for him. The ferry soon pulled into the station and we got up to get off.

I walked in front of him through the crowd as we disembarked and then I let him pass me once he saw his friend. That was when he turned into an asshole. Where I expected him to turn and introduce me, maybe exchange numbers, he kept walking with his friend, ignoring me completely.  To him I was no longer there.

I actually had to walk past them at one point on my way to my car.  He was in animated conversation with his pal, still without any notion that I was ever there. I walked past, head down, no words. It wasn't worth it!  All I could muster under my breath as I walked past was the word dick!

Though the guy turned out to be a complete, mean jackass, it was still an opportunity.  That doesn't happen too often here, and when it does, it's usually in the summer on Fire Island. 

I need to have more opportunities like that, chances to meet people, and hopefully more that have better results. It's not going to happen in my yard or at the mall or supermarket, but even a trip to the coffee shop in the city will offer me more opportunities. 

I don't have much hope that anything's going to happen for me in the coming year here, but you never know. If not, hello Philadelphia!

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Bitmoji: A Cool New Generation of Emoji

I remember it was years ago that one of my students told me about emojis.  I think I had asked him how he got those cute little smiley faces and such on his phone and he helped me download it on to my own.  Well, in the years since then, emojis have become commonplace and I don't think I know anyone who doesn't use them.  In the past couple of months, however, thanks to my sister-in-law, I've discovered a whole new generation of emojis, and I am loving it!

Bitmoji is a free app in the iTunes store that combines the best of emoji and you.  The App Store's description says it's the "your avatar emoji," and that's exactly what it is.  After downloading the app, you create your avatar, a cartoonish likeness of yourself.  The process is relatively easy and it takes you through detailed information about your appearance.  Once you're done creating your likeness, the app then adds a sub-set to your keyboard and voila!  You can start using your Bitmoji.  

Bitmojis come in a wide variety of images (I currently have 105 on my phone) and it's always possible to find one that'll fit any conversational situation.  With popular phrases built into images with themes like movies and television shows, the Olympics and more that are constantly changing, this app is tons of fun.  So if you're an emoji type of person, you should definitely check out Bitmoji.  It's a great way to personalize yourself in a fun way while talking to your friends. So click the link below and try it out.  You won't regret it!


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Philadelphia In One Day and In One Post

I've got the whole world in my hands!

Well, it is officially August and summer is halfway gone, but rather than lament how the summer is whizzing by, I'd rather celebrate what it's been so far and look forward to the month ahead. Since I've been a teacher, summer has always been a time for catching up with friends I don't often get to see and exploring new places I've never been before, and this summer has been no different.

July was so full of great times I can't even begin to recount them all.  From the Invasion of the Pines on the Fourth of July to a fun barbecue at my home with some former students, lots of dinners and happy hours, camping, trips to the city and a whole lot more, it's been a blast, for sure.  July ended on one of the happiest moments for me as I got to fall in love with a brand new city...

This past weekend I had the pleasure of visiting the city of Philadelphia with my friends Manny, Larry and his partner Jason. It was Manny who had asked me if I wanted to accompany him, as the trip was Larry's brainchild, and Larry had asked him to go.  Of course I said yes...always my motto to take advantage of any opportunities for travel...and I really hadn't thought about it too much from the time he asked me until the trip finally came.

I had been to Philly once in my life, as a chaperone to my sister's school trip when I was about 17 years old.  Well that was a long time ago, and I had no recollection whatsoever of anything to do with the City of Brotherly Love, but in just two days I found a place that I'll surely return to one day soon.

Hello Philadelphia

This was the first photo I took upon arriving in Philly.  It was early Friday evening and I had just dropped Manny off at the hotel to wait with the luggage as I parked the car a few blocks away.  I was immediately impressed with what I saw around me.  I found out later that we would be staying in what they call Center City, the most central of districts in the heart of the city.  Just from the walk from the parking lot back to the hotel I was reminded a little of New York, only with a little more open space.  Along the walk I passed the city's breathtaking City Hall, which was once aimed to be the tallest building in the New World (It never quite got there!).

Welcome to the Gayborhood

Once Larry and Jason arrived and we'd checked in, Larry was super-excited to show us the nearby sites and so we immediately set upon Center City.  Within minutes, I was in love!  Only a couple of blocks' walk from the hotel was what they call Central Philly's Gayborhood, a six-block or so perimeter neighborhood full of establishments catering to the gay community.  Cool bars, restaurants and shops lined the streets.  It sort of reminded me of Chelsea in New York, the way it once was not too long ago, where the atmosphere was open, friendly and buzzing with activity.

Along our walk down 13th Street, we came upon the famous Woody's, a popular local hotspot.  It was only around 8 p.m. and the place was already full of patrons, enjoying conversation and drinks in the downstairs bar, but that's not where we stayed.  Larry led us to an entrance to an upstairs dance hall, where I held a smile on my face for the next half-hour or so.  

As we walked up the stairs, you could hear a whole different type of music playing and just around the corner from the upper landing, there they were, a whole lotta people dancing together in time and they all looked so happy doing it.  Dancing is such a liberating expression and I know that feeling of bliss while doing it, and for all of these people, from all walks of life, to be doing it together, for pure enjoyment, was a thing to watch.  As the beats turned towards couples dancing, Larry and Jason, who would be celebrating five years together this week, joined in on the fun.  Larry even pulled Manny in for a turn.  I loved every minute! 

The rest of the night was spent exploring the Gayborhood some more, dropping in and out on some of the coolest nightspots, such as Boxers, ICandy, and The Bike Stop.  All cool, and I couldn't wait to check out some more the following night, but Saturday was going to be a long day, you know, one of those days where you see a whole city in one day, and so we all turned in for whatever rest we could get.

Philly in a Day

Pictured above is one of over 3,000 murals located throughout the streets of Philadelphia.  The city's Mural Arts Program has been aiming to eliminate graffiti since 1984 by sponsoring artists to do their thing on the blank canvases that are the walls of Philadelphia.  We got to see only a couple of them during our stay, and they were hella cool!

Manny, Larry and I paid a morning visit to Reading Terminal Market, just across the street from our hotel.  I'd read about the place just a couple of days beforehand and I couldn't for the life of me imagine what was so cool about such a huge farmer's market, but it was!  Although the great majority of wares came in the form of foodstuffs of all kinds, there were various unique eateries and some very cool merchants, as well.  

Larry had told us about these two kiosks towards the back of the market run by the Pennsylvania Dutch Amish.  He says they only come around on the weekends and part of their journey is by horse and carriage.  Their wares of baked goods and meat dishes are highly popular in the market.  Indeed, Manny and I met Larry at one of their stands, while he waited on a long line for a piece of this stuff called scrapple, which is kind of like an amalgamation of all of the leftover parts of the animals that don't get used otherwise (sounds gross, no?).  To me, it kind of looked like an Italian pane-tone fruit cake, but it sure didn't taste like it.  The flavor was more like a breakfast sausage and I'm told it goes great with eggs.
                                      scrapple                                                           The Amish at work

After about an hour in the market, we all decided to see the city in the best, most efficient way: a good old-fashioned tour bus.  This turned out to be a really cool way to do it, as we were allowed to get on and off at the various stops and catch a later bus which came by every 20 minutes or so.  This afforded us to see what we wanted to see and not have to walk around too too much.  

For the better part of the day we saw most of what Philly had to offer, the Liberty Bell, Ben Franklin's resting place, the statue of Rocky Balboa and the famous steps in front of the city's Art Museum, and we also spent time at a very cool place I'd never heard of before, the Eastern State Penitentiary.  This prison was once the country's largest and most expensive such facility, operating from 1829 until 1971. Today, the once beautifully designed penitentiary now lays in ruins, with a unique beauty all its own. Rather than give an in depth account of the place here, I'll let you see it in pictures.  If you like, click on the link within to learn more about it, and surely make it a place to visit if you ever find yourself in Philly.

Night Out on the Town

After our daylong tour of the city, we dined at a very cool pub called Good Dog, recommended by my pal Sean. (I'm going to talk about that one on my food & recipe blog soon!).  After the very welcome respite of dinner, we all headed back to the hotel, where the hurting and tired Manny and Jason decided to spend the rest of the evening.  Larry and I had other things in mind.  He wanted to show me the bars I hadn't been to the night before and I am so glad he did.  That Gayborhood was absolutely awesome!

The inside of Voyeur

We hit two bars that night, a place called the Tavern and one called Voyeur.  Both bars were equally packed with men of all sorts, with great music and even greater atmosphere.  Tavern was a combination upstairs/downstairs piano bar and dance club and was well attended.  Voyeur was the coolest of places and was the late night jaunt for seemingly every gay person in Philly.  Larry and I had a blast as we danced and drank the night away at these two great clubs, both of which I see in my future.  It was a great way to end the weekend.   

My favorite picture of the weekend!

I never expected to enjoy Philadelphia as much as I did.  It seems to have everything in a city that you can ask for: great shopping, beautiful sites, and a great neighborhood to mix and mingle in.  It's definitely a place I'm going to be visiting again when I get the chance.  Who knows, it even seems like a great place for a guy like me to live.  In the meantime, here are a few more photos of beautiful Philly for you to check out...