Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Celebrating Pride Day

Today is Pride Celebration Day at my workplace. All staff are encouraged to dress business casual and wear red as a symbol of pride and unity for the LGBT community.

This company has gone all "out" this month, having a Pride flag displayed prominently in the lobby, a video slide show on a public monitor showing famous people who identify as LBGT as well as articles and banner ads on the intranet site focusing on lesbian and gay issues.

I guess I feel proud that gay issues and the equal rights we so earnestly strive for are a significant focus of a major company like ours but in some ways it can feel a tad uncomfortable.

In my training class there are at least 2 other guys I would expect to be gay. But do we know for sure? Well, still to this supposedly enlightened day, it's considered a bit taboo to just "come out" to a group of strangers until you feel you know what reactions to expect.

It's also a little bit confounded by the fact that the company we work for is in what most would consider a conservative industry: banking.

Also, we are in a unit dealing with financial advisory sales, very much still dominated by the traditional Type-A, Alpha Male, macho man personality...and that's both men and women. These types sometimes still uphold in their collective imaginations the stereotypical effeminate "poofter" fag, a person to be derided.

Lastly, though the Orlando area is far from the redneck-y traditional Deep South if not geographically at least in population majority, there is still the fact that many people here are of the "Olde Time Religion" ilk. The Baptist church is one of the largest denominations in the area. And they don't take kindly to the "sinner" types.

So as I wear my red shirt into work today, I can't help but be a little pensive about the whispers in halls that might catch my ears.

Hopefully it'll be good stuff.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

There Once Was A Time...

When every state in the U.S. except for Illinois criminalized homosexual sex between consenting adults in a private home in 1961: "An adult convicted of the crime of having sex with another consenting adult [of the same gender] in the privacy of his or her home could get anywhere from a light fine to five, ten, or twenty years—or even life—in prison.

In 1971, twenty states had 'sex psychopath' laws that permitted the detaining of homosexuals for that reason alone. In Pennsylvania and California sex offenders could be locked in a mental institution for life, and [in] seven states they could be castrated." Castration, emetics, hypnosis, electroshock therapy and lobotomies were used by psychiatrists to attempt to cure homosexuals of their desires through the 1950s and 1960s.

American gays and lesbians in the 1950s and 1960s faced a legal system more anti-homosexual than those of some Warsaw Pact countries. Early homophile groups in the U.S. sought to prove that gay people could be assimilated into society, and they favored non-confrontational education for homosexuals and heterosexuals alike.

The last years of the 1960s, however, were very contentious, as many social movements were active, including the African American Civil Rights Movement, the Counterculture of the 1960s, and antiwar demonstrations. These influences, along with the liberal environment of Greenwich Village, served as catalysts for the Stonewall riots.

Very few establishments welcomed openly gay people in the 1950s and 1960s. Those that did were often bars, although bar owners and managers were rarely gay. The Stonewall Inn catered to an assortment of patrons, but it was known to be popular with the most marginalized people in the gay community: transvestites, effeminate young men, hustlers, and homeless youth.

Police raids on gay bars were routine in the 1960s, but officers quickly lost control of the situation at the Stonewall Inn in late June of 1969, and attracted a crowd that was incited to riot. Tensions between New York City police and gay residents of Greenwich Village erupted into more protests the next evening, and again several nights later. Within weeks, Village residents quickly organized into activist groups to concentrate efforts on establishing places for gays and lesbians to be open about their sexual orientation without fear of being arrested.

After the Stonewall riots, gays and lesbians in New York City faced gender, class, and generational obstacles to becoming a cohesive community. Within six months, two gay activist organizations were formed in New York, concentrating on confrontational tactics, and three newspapers were established to promote rights for gays and lesbians.

Within a few years, gay rights organizations were founded across the U.S. and the world. On June 28, 1970, the first Gay Pride marches took place in Los Angeles and New York commemorating the anniversary of the riots. Similar marches were organized in other cities. Now, Gay Pride events are held annually throughout the world toward the end of June to mark the Stonewall riots.

Today, June 28th, is the 40th anniversary of this landmark stand of the last legally oppressed minority group in America.

For us gays, it's our Lexington and Concord.

It's our Storming of the Bastille.

It's our toppling of the Berlin Wall.

It's the first night we stood as a quasi-community and said loud and clear (in spirit, of course, since the actual phrase would come much later): "We're Here, We're Queer, Get Used to It!"

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Return Of "Summer Song" Awards

In my very first post on this blog I talked about how as a kid in junior and senior high I filled boring study class time with a paper and pen version of a more or less daily (or whenever) log. Much like this and virtually any casual amateur blog out there, it was simply the brain oozes of a fleeting moment. Thoughts and feelings taken as a snapshot at a particular time in one's life. Sometimes trivial and insignificant, other times monumental...at least to the author.

Well, one of the regular features of my so-called "Time Reports" was an awards competition, kinda like the Grammys, but run only by me and for me. The songs in contention were only selected by me, listened to by me and winners chosen only by, you guessed it, me.

The rules were simple, but I forced myself to adhere to them as much as possible:

1. Only songs that were heard between the months of June and September could be considered.

2. The source of the songs could be any media; radio, record, TV, live performance, etc. It didn't matter.

3. The winner need not specifically be chosen because it was my favorite. Frequency (that is number of playings) had to be considered. Media under my direct control (like records or cassettes) should not be purposely overplayed so as to skew the competition. If a song got a lot of repeat playings it should be simply because I chose to listen to it for the merits of the song and my truly honest desire to listen to it at that time.

4. Even a rarely played song could be chosen if there was a significant life event of that summer connected to it somehow.

The song chosen, usually sometime in late September, would be named "Summer Song" for that year.

I first came up with this idea in 1979 and though I had a hard time choosing since there were so many important and much-listened to, as well as influential songs of that summer, I chose "Rise" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass.

Oddly, the song, to this day, doesn't evoke images and memories of fun summertime activities like the beach or pool or amusement park or anything like that. I hear it and I remember listening to it playing on the dining room speakers at Bijou's Bar and Grill, a bistro I worked at in the summer of '79 as a dishwasher when I was 15 years old. It's early on a Sunday morning, well before the restaurant opens for brunch and I'm vacuuming the pale green shag carpeting, weaving the heavy commercial-grade vacuum cleaner under and around the bistro-style tables.

The charting of the Summer Song winners continued for over ten years. I also retroactively named Summer Songs for years past, back to 1969, the year I figured, at the age of five, I might have become aware of pop music.

When the '90s dawned though, much of pop music had started to change and veer away from my personal tastes and I stated to listen to less and less pop music radio. Never having been a big advocate of purchasing albums, cassettes or, by then, cds, I started to enter a self-imposed cone of silence. By 1993, I'd abandoned the Summer Song list.

I resurrected it briefly after moving to Florida, the land of eternal summer and expanded the ruling regarding the months the song could be heard to encompass March to October...more reflective of summer-like weather here in the Sunshine State. But allowing more of a sampling window didn't in and of itself improve the selection, variety or quality of the music out there, so after I begrudging picked Sisqo's "Thong Song" in 2000, not for my enjoyment or appreciation of it, but more for it's inescapable ubiquity that summer, I again abandoned the hobby.

Pop music still hasn't improved over this decade, in my opinion. The solid reign of hip-hop and rap on the music scene is unassailable still and without disparaging the artists or fans of that genre, it just isn't my cup of tea.

But I feel it's time to bring the Summer Song competition back. Though the so-called pop format radio stations have long ago been omitted from my pre-set selection buttons on any of my car stereo controls, I'll continue to listen to the music I like and we'll see where the chips fall.

So look for an announcement sometime in October for the winner of the 40th Anniversary Summer Song. I may update this blog with a regularly recurring feature showing the Top 5 or so as the competition trods along throughout the summer. I think I'll try to also do something special, again as a recurring feature to honor the past winners, which I have included in the timeline below:

1969 Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In
by The 5th Dimension
1970 ABC
by Jackson 5
1971 Joy to the World
by Three Dog Night
1972 American Pie
by Don McLean
1973 Bad, Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce
1974 Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks
1975 Love Will Keep Us Together by Captain & Tennille
1976 Afternoon Delight by Starland Vocal Band
1977 Car Wash by Rose Royce
1978 Last Dance by Donna Summer
1979 Rise by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass
1980 Funkytown by Lipps Inc
1981 Planet Claire
by B-52's
1982 Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa & the Soulsonic Force
1983 Rockit by Herbie Hancock
1984 What's Love Got to Do with It by Tina Turner
1985 19 by Paul Hardcastle
1986 Greatest Love of All by Whitney Houston
1987 Bad by Michael Jackson
1988 Don't Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin
1989 Batdance by Prince
1990 Vogue by Madonna
1991 Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now) by C+C Music Factory
1992 Under the Bridge by Red Hot Chili Peppers
1993 - 1996 no selection
1997 Walkin' on the Sun by Smash Mouth
1998 It Began in Afrika by The Chemical Brothers
1999 Livin' la Vida Loca byRicky Martin
2000 Thong Song by Sisqo
2001 - 2008 no selection
2009 to be determined

Friday, June 26, 2009

The King Is Dead 1958-2009

As if to prove the urban legend that celebrity deaths happen in threes, you get weeks like this one. Tuesday it was Ed McMahon, early Thursday morning it was Farah Fawcett and now just about 12 hours ago, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.

Of course, Michael's death overshadows both of the others in the eyes of the media. For better or worse, the gauge of one's fame can easily be measured by the amount of play-time you get on the TV, Internet, radio and print media outlets when you die. And, even though it's still very early, it looks like Michael will get coverage rivaling, if not surpassing that of either Elvis or John Lennon.

Simple proof of his uber-fame? If I say "music" and then say "Michael", who are you gonna think of? Who else could take what I believe is the second or third most common male first name for the late baby boomer generation in the Western world, possessed by millions (myself, of course, included) and make it so indelibly attached to his own person when one spoke of the world of entertainment?

Do you need another measure of his unfathomable popularity? Though I have no idea what the viewership numbers were before tonight for clips of him in concert on YouTube, right now, at less than 9 hours since the breaking news of his untimely death hit the world, the video of one of his biggest hits "Thriller" has 37,081,281 views. An hour ago it was around 35 million. 2 million views in an hour. In the wee hours of the morning USA Eastern time.

As a young kid, I became aware of the music of Michael and his brothers through the enthusiasm of my father. My dad, usually stuck in the '50s and early '60s with his musical affections loved the funky music of the Jackson 5 and played it often. We would gather as a family in front of the living room TV, adjusting the rabbit ear antennas to be able to clearly see the talented young black quintet do their jive thing on the stage. They were the sound of the new decade of the 1970s.

In the late '70s and early '80s "Off The Wall" and it's party-friendly, disco-influenced tunes greeted my awakening gay awareness and spoke to my ability to find joy in my newfound identity.

The irresistible dance beats in this album and then "Thriller" defined the style of music not only in the gay dance clubs I was now frequenting regularly each weekend, but filled the air whenever you turned on the radio or tuned into the new and super-popular music video channel, MTV.

Let's face it, Michael MADE MTV the media icon it would become in the '80s. He broke the "black ceiling" for artists of color and paved the way for the eventual rise of R&B, hip-hop and rap for not just African American fans, but people of all races and creeds.

While in sculpture class in 1983, I created a 15-inch tall papier mache figurine of Michael in his signature red and black band major uniform with gold sash and single white sequined glove. I wasn't very satisfied with its technical construction as it turned out to be a bit more difficult to execute than I'd originally thought, the rest of the class, including the instructor applauded the subject matter and ingenuity. Everyone loved Michael.

When I went to what was then West Germany in 1985, I got in my rented Volkswagen, and as I drove down the autobahn I turned on the radio. Though I expected to hear either German Oompa-band music or classical tunes from the likes of Beethoven or Mozart, instead I was greeted by the strains of the very same music I could hear back in the States...songs like "Billie Jean" and "Beat It". It felt like I was back home. More importantly, I knew that for all intents and purposes, Michael had insured that American pop culture was now universal.

Much press followed Michael's eccentricities over the following years but I remained a loyal fan. I don't take the molestation allegations as truth. I fully believe Michael was an asexual being who preferred to love rather than lust. His affection for children was genuine and I think some of his affections towards them were misinterpreted and then exploited by a population of over-worried, suspicious and perhaps greedy individuals.

In closing, let me say that I think that it's so sad that we humans seem to only express our deepest love and appreciation for one another once the loved one has died. If only we could celebrate one's life and their impact to our own while they are still alive. That's the really sad part of dying.

Here's what is arguably my favorite song by Michael. It's sung about a rat, but couldn't that rodent be anyone who has felt ostracized or left out? Couldn't it be about any one of us?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Island Of Misfit Toys

Okay...remember when I posted about how my previous workplace felt like a Moonie-style cult? Well now I swear, with this new job, I'm on the mysterious Island of Misfit Toys.

Everybody here seems just a bit off. Not much...no outright loonies here (so far) just a little something that makes you go hmmmm.

I don't want to get into a full-out roast here...too early just yet. Like fine wine, that has to age a bit, but don't worry...when it comes it'll be oh so good, I promise. But suffice it to say that I haven't found one normal person yet. Except me, of course. Ha! NOT! As you should well know, I'm quite at home on the Island since I have more than a few issues of my own.

I don't know...perhaps it's this lunatic training schedule of 5pm to 2am wiggin' me out. Or the fact that some of my first impressions of some people in the class were initially positive, but have soured a bit as their true selves came out. Or maybe it's just that I'm naturally a cynical, negative bastard who always sees the worst in his fellow human being.

Will all this deter my ability to stick with this? Or, like my beloved Incredible Hulk rollercoaster, will I vainly think that "this time, it's gonna work", only to blast outta there like a bat outta hell? Only time will tell.

But then again, couldn't this be my opportunity to work on becoming King of the Misfits?

Sunday, June 21, 2009

What Happened To The Future?

I've seen the future and it will be
I've seen the future and it works
And if there's life after, we will see
Don't go out like a jerk

The Future - Prince

I remember when I was a kid, the concept of the "future" was always a far-out, groovy and slick world where people lived in a Jetson's-like utopia of automation and technological omnipotence.

We'd all live in glass domes and hover around with our personal jet packs. For longer trips we'd jump into our flying bubble cars and visit grandma after we'd just chatted with her on our videophone. Once there, she'd regale us with almost forgotten stories of how, back in the old days, people used to actually have to work.

Well it never happened.

I waited, but the future never came.

So I got to wonderin'...what really has happened to some of those amazing technologies we were promised? After a few quick searches using a "futuristic" technology we hadn't even dreamed of back then (namely the Internet and Google), I found a few of them and the state of their current progress...or lack thereof.

Domed Cities

My buddy Buckminster Fuller summed the pros and cons up well in an essay postulating the possibility of domed cities and what he says in the following quote is likely the case...unless the world sees some precursor that has benefitted the inhabitants and can emulate it, it will instead only actually happen if there is a crisis which requires it.

There are persuasive arguments in favor of cities under single umbrella shells. Whether the economic advantages can overcome the antievolutionary inertias of large social bodies is, however, questionable. When whole new human settlements are to be installed on virgin sites as, for instance, on the Antarctic continent, the doming-over may be realized. The doming-over of established cities in moderate climate will probably not occur until domed-over cities in virgin lands have proved successful enough to persuade the established cities to employ comprehensive umbrellaing. The established cities will probably not adopt the doming until environmental and other emergencies make it imperative.

Jet Packs

Other than the occasional daredevil stunt, this thing never really ever blasted off.

Though, according to Wikipedia, there's at least one maverick DIYer who made his own:

America's only "private rocketeer", Gerard Martowlis, built a fully operational rocket pack. Like all flying packs, his is extraordinarily difficult and extremely dangerous to fly, taking many hours to learn and practice. He performed his recent test flights using a safety tether system in case he lost control. A consequence of the short flight time of any peroxide-based pack is that the entire flight is below the minimum parachute altitude. Accordingly, any loss of control or failure of the pack is most likely fatal. The training also incurs expensive fuel costs.

Hover Cars

Here's one that was in production recently. Maybe GM or Chrysler should think about selling these to help themselves out a bit, eh?

M200G Volantor, a small airborne, two passenger, saucer-shaped vehicle that is designed to take off and land vertically." Flying an estimated 10 feet off the ground, which allows it to avoid regulation by the FAA, the M200G takes to the air with the help of eight Rotapower rotary engines. The car is designed to hold up to 250 pounds, including the driver and any cargo.

250 pounds...I guess I won't be riding in one.

Video Phones

Well with Skype, video conference-enabled cell phones and some of the dedicated units coming out, I guess this one's already here. Yet not quite as ubiquitous as we thought they would be. This excerpt, again from Wikipedia suggests why:

Early AT&T Picturephones had few users, in part because the service was relatively expensive, approximately US$90 per month in 1974. However as modern technology reduced the costs to nominal, videophone calling continued to be marginally used. This contrasts to the unanimous certainty of pundits through many decades that videophones would be an obvious, highly sought-after technology. One reason may be that even today videophone calling is a poor analog for face-to-face conversation. Video cellphone users commonly look at the video screen and not at the video camera, causing the eyes to take on an unnatural downward glance, as the camera is usually just positioned above the screen on almost all videocall enabled cellphones. Some argue that this effect is easily countered by holding the cellphone slightly further away when videocalling. Another reason may be that people actually desire less fidelity in their communication, as evidenced by the popularity of written conversation (i.e. texting and instant messaging).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Tree Looks Taller

...without the underbrush.

Just try not to scratch in public when it starts to grow back in:)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Just Across The Street

If you remember, one of my biggest gripes about the Embarq job was the fact it was about 6 or 7 miles away and a heavily jammed set of roadways to get back and forth from home to work each day. Ugh! Hated it!

Now, if you look at the satellite image above, you can see how close my new job is to the old Symantec one. And, that was, as you may recall, within walking distance from Ric's house, and is only a ten minute drive from my current home.

I placed an orange arrow pointing to my office at the old job and a blue arrow at my new one. Now from both the training room and where I'll be sitting upstairs once I start actually working, I literally can see the window I used to sit at and gaze for hours out of; the window I filmed in this video.

Remember too there's still the weird coincidence that Ric's workplace is in a similar office building just to the east of the Symantec site across I-4, the highway you can see to the right of that building in the picture.

It's great to once again live, work and play all in the same town. Once more, I remain sequestered in my sheltered Desperate Housewifes/Wisteria Lane-ish Lake Mary, hardly ever venturing out of the city.

Ahhh...so much better than having to deal with traffic and congestion, like, if I worked in Orlando! Gasp!

Sung to the tune of "Green Acres":

Lake-Mary is the place to be.
Sub-urban is the life for me.
Lawn-mowers buzzin' far and wide,
Keep Orlando, just gimmie that small town pride.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

FLASHBACK: September 11, 2001

My training class was scheduled as a 2pm to 10pm this week so I was enjoying the fact I was able to sleep later. I only had about 6 trainees to train so it would be a piece of cake. Plus, it was at "Southside", the South Orlando office and it was a more relaxed, less "corporate" atmosphere there so I had no qualms about drinking a bit too much.

If I went in with a hangover, I could usually cover for it with my pretty much well-practiced speeches and curriculum, so it was no problem. If I looked a little puffy and had bags under my eyes, it was pretty much overlooked here in "the ghetto", where most of the reps, and the management for that matter, looked the same.

But I guess the booze affected me more than I thought when I had a few beers the night before. It took the alarm clock to wake me at 11am. I set it late enough to allow for extra sleep if I needed it (which I had this morning), but early enough to get business done before I went in around 1pm.

Though it isn't part of my usual routine to wake up and put on the TV, for some reason, I felt compelled to. I wondered for quite a while why I chose to act differently from my norm on that day and I wonder whether, during my sleep, if I could subconsciously hear through the walls or the floor any of my neighbors in the apartment building with their TV volume on high as they watched the unfolding events. I can't really say.

But when I turned on the TV, it had at first been tuned to some cable channel showing reruns of some sitcom or something but as I flipped through the channels with my remote, I quickly noticed that almost all the big networks were focusing on some breaking news story.

Instantly, my stomach tied itself into knots. Movies like "Independence Day" and "Deep Impact" have their dramatic moment when television broadcasts are universally interrupted by a "Special Report" conveying the currently live and on-going events with life-shattering implications for all viewers. That's all I could think of. Without even a glimpse of the content of these apparently urgent news reports, I knew they were paramount.

I stopped my channel-surfing when I got to CBS News and saw footage, taken just moments ago according to Dan Rather, of lower Manhattan. I saw on my TV screen, a huge puffy white cloud enveloping some skyscrapers. I could make out the American Express buildings which I was familiar with, but was taken aback for a second or two as to what I couldn't see. Then it hit me. The Trade Center. The two towers of the World Trade Center were not there. Just a cloud of smoke.

I screamed. I cried. I accepted what my eyes were telling me, that the World Trade Center in New York City was gone. Not just one tower but both. Once the tallest buildings on Earth, and one of the most iconic landmarks of both New York and a symbol of the financial strength and vitality of the United States of America. And now they were no more.

Before I could even imagine how, or who...I thought of the lives. The countless thousands, nay, I thought, being a busy weekday morning with all those workers and businessmen and tourists and family and passersby, perhaps tens of thousands of people killed. I cried and screamed into my pillow. I lay prostate on my bed shivering with grief and sorrow for the scores of souls lost. People I'd never met, and never would, but felt a connection to because they were Americans...my people.

I, of course, recalled the attempt by Islamic fundamentalist terrorists to bomb and topple the very same building in 1993, and suspected that this time they'd succeeded in doing it. But as the news programs progressed, they showed footage, over and over again on all the networks (which I was scanning back and forth between now to get a more robust picture of the events as they'd occured and were continuing to unfold) of the planes striking the buildings and their subsequent rapid deteriorating condition and ultimate collapse.

Almost before I could recover somewhat from the terror playing its drama out on the television before me, like a big budget Hollywood action film, I watched as Dan Rather was interviewing a General at the Pentagon via satellite and we heard a loud bang. Soon we learned that another plane had smashed into it.

Was this a dream? Have I really woken up yet? I mean, I was still groggy and hungover and still in my bed, never having yet risen to complete any routine morning activities like a shower and shave.

I jumped on what was then Mildred IX and scoured the Internet for more breaking news of these unbelievable events. But back then, online news was definitely second fiddle to broadcast, and maybe even print, so even though I googled "world trade center attack', it wouldn't be 'till the next day when I could find online news pertaining to the current event.

The manager of Southside, Joe Miranda, called around noon and told me what I'd already assumed. The class would be cancelled for the day. They were letting reps that were on the floor leave as we spoke. Joe was from New York and though he tried to maintain professionalism and calm, I could hear the frantic worry and hurt in his voice.

I sat there, also hurt and feeling alone. I needed someone to reach out to express my anger, confusion, anxiety and sorrow to. I called Ric. When he answered, he seemed curt and impatient since he picked up the call during his short lunch break.

"What", he tersely asked when he answered the call, knowing by the caller id it was me.

"Did you hear what just happened?", I asked.

"No, I've been working", he spit out as if whatever it was, it was not important to his life.

"The World Trade Center was destroyed by terrorists!", I informed him.

And then, in true Ric fashion, he replied, "Well good! It's 'cause of George Bush. I hope they kill him too."

Not a lover of Bush myself, but knowing this had nothing to do with him, I exclaimed, "How could you say that? This is a time when we all have to come together!"

"Fuck George Bush and I feel bad if anyone died, but I don't give a fuck about rich New Yorkers either. They're a bunch of rich, spoiled Jews and Republicans who support Bush and deserve what they get."

Though Ric has since tried to tone down his offensive statements of that day, he still, to this day, doesn't apologize for what he felt.

That's Ric for ya.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

SCRAPBOOK: Favorite '70s Kids Shows

As a kid growing up in the seventies, I had a wide array of really quite unique TV programming produced for my "last of the Baby Boomers" demographic. Here's a few images from some of my favorites.

(BTW, I was going to include the mp3s I have of each of these shows' theme songs but it seemed more trouble than it was worth, so if you want to hear the music to these shows, go to http://www.televisiontunes.com/index.php)


This was a locally (Boston) produced PBS show which defies definition. Part educational, part entertainment, it was one of the forerunners of the live-action "edutainment" style shows which became increasingly popular. The theme song was iconic and heralded us kids to the boob tube every Saturday morning, as if we weren't already planted there. The mailing address to submit viewer mail was sung in such a catchy way, I still remember it today: "Send it to ZOOM, BOX 350, BOSTON, MASS...Oh, Two, One, Three, Four! SEND IT TO ZOOM!"


Around the same time and hailing locally, also from Beantown (this time Channel 5 WCVB-TV), this uber-low budget show featured a young black dude with a really serious fro, a young hippie white chick (who went on to later fame in the '80s with the "Poltergeist" films - none other than JoBeth Williams) and a short, fat, gruff-sounding "furry" (if you want to call felt strips "fur") puppet who loved filth (a slight Oscar the Grouch ripoff?).

The Electric Company

Once upon a time, before he became the voiceover for every dramatic narration needed in Hollywood, and the "go to guy" for the stereotypical wise older black man in a position of authority, Morgan Freeman started as one of the hosts of a kids show called "The Electric Company". This show was basically "Sesame Street" for a slightly older and more urbane (and urban) kid looking for "groovy" Saturday morning TV fare.

Schoolhouse Rock

Who of my generation can forget the impact of these educational, yet fun and energetic cartoon shorts? Here are my two favorites: "The Preamble" and "Conjunction Junction".

Banana Splits

This show was a bit too slap-stick and low-brow for me, but I loved the opening shots where we hear the theme music play as the goofy Banana Split characters romp around King's Dominion theme park. Watching them plunge down the flume ride at the beginning of each show just reinforced my own fond memories of my experiences at Rocky Point, and further cemented my love of theme parks.


Okay, now we start to enter into the bizarre world of Sid and Marty Kroftt. Lets face it, this show, featuring an over-the-top performance by a make-up encrusted Charles Nelson Reilly and a kinda hot boy made me the gay man I am today!

Sigmund and the Sea Monsters

Or maybe it was this one...with two cute young boys, playing on the beach, befriending a shy and outcast sea monster. Oh, but maybe it was the confetti-tossing, ultra-fey, feathered-haired and always outlandish Rip Taylor! Oh my!

HR Pufnstuf

Not only is the plot super "out there", but you gotta listen closely to the lyrics to the theme song: "HR Pufnstuf, can't do a little 'cause you can't do enough." So there's the root of my addictive behavior as well...Oh Brother!

Land of the Lost

I think I'll try to convince Ric to see the new movie this weekend. I wonder what they've done with one of my favorite shows of all time. BTW, I had a crush on the character Will and my sister had a crush on Holly. She loved Chacka too, so, go figure!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Goodbye Grasshopper

May you finally snatch the pebble from the Master's hand...

(BTW, stay tuned for more '70s TV memories when I get home from work...er, tomorrow (ie: 2:30am) in about 10 hours or so)...ugh!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

FLASHBACK: Early April 1992

March had been such a busy month for Wayne and I that Wayne decided that we should take a vacation together. So, ostensibly to celebrate my birthday, we pretty much on the spur of the moment made plans to go to New York for a long weekend.

We both arranged the time off from our respective jobs and Wayne contacted his cousin David who lived there to get a free place to stay. Other than that, it was just packing our bags and heading down to the train station to spend some much needed fun time in the Big Apple.

This trip was really an opportunity for us to get to know one another a bit more since we had just a few months ago gone from mere acquaintances with a mutual friend in common (as well as failed former blind daters hooked up by said mutual friend Linda) to roommates signing a lease together in a new apartment we sought out.

When we arrived at Penn Station cousin David was waiting at our platform for us. After the initial greetings we went up to street level, hopped in a cab and made our way to David's rented brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. David shared the gorgeous three-story, four bedroom house with three other professional gay men. Oh yeah, did I mention David was family?

Wayne and I shared the sleeper sofa in the living room. No problem. We had slept in the same bed together many nights (platonic of course) when he lived in his small loft apartment in South Providence. We'd go out clubbing together and so I wouldn't need to drive all the way up to my apartment in Woonsocket, I slept with Wayne.

Actually throughout the course of our stay with David, other than David himself, we hardly saw either of his other roommates since they all had such busy schedules. Wayne even remarked to me how they were so separate from one another, cooking their own segregated food and doing their own thing with their own separate groups of friends. Wayne lamented the fact that they didn't even have a TV in the living room they could all gather cozily in front of with a big bowl of popcorn for movie nights (like Wayne and I did in our new home). Wayne's concept of what an ideal roommate relationship was seemed very different from David's.

Wayne expressed gratitude that at least we hung out with each other in our apartment frequently and shared almost everything. Heck, during this point of our what would be two years as roommates, we were even shopping for groceries together, splitting the expense and making meals that were shared. Yes, for all intents and purposes, it was like we were a married couple...but without the sex and romance.

The next day we did the usual Empire State Building thing and puttered around Rockefeller Center and Radio City Music Hall. David worked uptown as a copy writer for a major high-end cosmetic company on Fifth Avenue so Wayne called him at work around 6:00 or so. He gave directions to his nearby office building and we met him there since he told us he wanted to take us for a unique New York dining experience.

We got in a cab and made our way to the heart of Chinatown. There we popped into one of David's favorite eateries for an authentic Dim Sum experience. Dim Sum was not available at any local Chinese restaurants in Rhode Island so we reveled in the treat. David even instructed us in the proper way to order using the appropriate available cards and he even spoke a little Mandarin with the very friendly and energetic wait staff.

After we were quite full, we caught another cab and went out to check out the night scene. It was still early (ie: before midnight) so rather than show up so pathetically early at a cruise bar or dance club, we went to a bar called "Eighty Eights". This place was very different. Basically a cramped piano bar heavily into an immersive sing along atmosphere. And all the songs were show tunes. I loved the music and the instant camaraderie but not being one to remember the lyrics to many songs, I felt a bit left out as I "faked it" and pretended I knew what I was singing. Wayne, and his ear for lyrics and David and his love of Broadway musicals had no problem keeping up. The place wasn't stated to be a "gay" bar per se, but the theme naturally lent itself to an almost all gay crowd.

After a few hours there we hit up another bar, though not touted as exclusively "gay", catering to a very diverse and open-minded crowd, "Splash". A reported favorite of Madonna's, Splash featured a throbbing laser lit dance floor packed with shirtless boys of all orientations (and a few hot girls if that was your thing) all surrounding a fully-exposed glass brick and neon light illuminated set of shower stalls spraying hot water over the muscle-bound near-naked go go boys. Now this was more like it!

We got back to David's house almost as the sun was coming up and would be sleeping 'till the early afternoon the next day nursing our hangovers. Wayne and I basically lounged away the afternoon, but before long we were off again. We both wanted to make it to see a Broadway show and though I opted for something newer like the recently acclaimed new show "Rent", Wayne wanted to see a musical he'd been dying to see for years. To me though, it seemed like a lame choice and it had been around for so long that almost everyone knew its basic plot and all of the more popular songs. But Wayne was quite insistent (in a nice way).

So yup, you guessed it, we went to see "Cats".


I think I actually nodded off somewhere in the middle. The theater was only a quarter-filled and most were your typical suburbanite middle-aged housewife types.

Meow, meow.

And to make matters even worse, the players flopped lazily around in their moth-eaten cat costumes and seemed like they were "totally phoning it in".

Meow, meow, meow.

The trip continued on pretty much uneventfully for a day or two more. We enjoyed more of the sights, sounds, tastes and ultimately the smells that is New York. The trip taught us a lot about each other and it was through some of these revelations (like Wayne's near-OCD behavior and my nascent-yet-increasingly-obvious issues with alcohol) that we were better prepared for the bumpy ride soon to come ahead.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Koo Koo Nut Upside-Down Cake

Okay, I know it's "Pineapple Upside-Down Cake", but I wanted, if only for one last time (yeah, right) to gripe about my current work/sleep schedule and how it's thrown my life upside down.

Though it's only for the duration of this 8 week training period, I find the adjustment to accommodate the 5pm to 2am shift daunting to say the least.

I have no time, it seems, for anything other than work, staying up 'till dawn pretending to not be tired, sleeping 'till 3pm, having a short period of "normal" hours to deal with "life", then off to work again. I'm using the 9pm to 10pm "lunch hour" to get shopping done since stores are well closed by shift end.

Training is going along well though. The class is made up of about 17 mostly late 20's to mid-40's people quite diverse yet all united by (for all but one) many years of call center experience. Only one young blond haired little boy in his early 20's hailing from the white-bred pure-and-simple environs of Boulder, Colorado is among us and already he admits it may not be what he was looking for. Can you say "Dead Meat Walking"?

My words of wisdom for him, to which many other seasoned veterans chuckled in agreement, was that he, being an apparently bright young lad, will be absolutely amazed at the sheer numbers of people calling in who will be stunningly, nay, shockingly, STUPID. We warned him that it's funny at first, but it gets old fast. Really fast. Especially when it's reinforced and reiterated amongst not only your co-workers, but your managers as well. (I didn't share with him this last part...it would have been a bit apolitic, don't you think?)

Our trainer is nice but she has an irritating Valley Girl inflection syndrome. You know what I'm talking about. The young, insecure white girl public speech affectation which has her ending every sentence as if it had a question mark?

Her screechy, somewhat monotonic tone slowly escalating in pitch as each of her sentences end?

As if she's asking a question?

Without her consciously doing it?

It's just a natural way of talking for her?

Oh my God, gag me with a spoon??


Ah well, just some of the quirkiness you put up with in the world of the newly employed. I should be happy. I have a job. And it seems, hopefully, pretty much easy. Pretty much a...

Piece of cake.

Monday, June 01, 2009

What's That Noise?


"What's that noise?" I wondered as I woke from my Benedryl-assisted slumber early this morning.

"Oh, it's the alarm clock," I thought. "That's right, I have to go to work."


Hmmm...what an odd concept.

Yes, after nearly two and a half months of unemployment, it was a bit of a rude awakening, to return begrudgingly or not, to the world of the working.

I dressed in my already laid-out outfit (remember, I'm geeky in that way), stopped at McDonald's for a McCafe iced coffee, drove over the I-4 viaduct (thanking my lucky stars I don't have to deal with I-4 traffic for this job since it's right here in Lake Mary), and walked up to the security desk after parking in the vast parking lot.

As soon as I signed in and got my trainee badge I stood around with the other dozen or so assembled trainees and the girl next to me started up a conversation.

I learned her name is Vivian and she's a single mother of a teen-aged boy just graduating from high school. She's done sales for years including nearby Convergys and Liberty Mutual. She interviewed at AIG but felt they were sleazy and chose to opt out. She's originally from upstate New York and has lived in Florida for 14 years but still finds summers oppressively hot. I would have learned more about her but we only had 8 hours.

Aside from her, everyone seems cool. Seriously, Vivian wasn't that bad, she's just one of those people who can strike up a conversation about herself with anyone.

Met a couple of folks who set off the gaydar: the coordinator of the training department, which they call "Employee Development" and another trainee in the class.

Overall, I gotta say, they seemed very organized at this company and the group seems fun and entertaining. I guess I'll be able to muster at least the next 8 weeks through training.

As far as afterwards, well, we got a walk-thru tour today. No humongous 6 foot high walled cubes to partition you from your coworkers; shoulder height only cubicle-ettes. Fine with me, I find the former a bit isolating anyway.

The biggest perk seems to be the "promised" average of $500 a month "incentive bonus" (ie. commission). Well see how this pans out.

Well, gotta figure out how long I'll need to sleep tonight to get ready for tomorrow's 5pm to 2am schedule.