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Thursday, November 24, 2016

My Autobiography, Chapter 13: Dancing Machine!!

I have always loved to dance, but was shy about it in public for most of my life.  It was extremely awkward for me when I was in high school.  In college, I loosened up by dancing a lot at the Statesmen Disco and the Inn Between Bar in Geneseo.  I took a Folk Dance class in college because my roommate was taking it.  He told me there were a couple dozen girls and just a few guys.  Sounded good to me!  I signed up for the class and we had the same ratio of guys and girls.

That's how I met Mary.  The lesson of the day was the waltz, and I used to brag that the first thing we ever did together was dance the waltz.  After awhile, my shyness started to kick in again and the only person I ever felt comfortable dancing in public with with was Mary.  We grew apart over the past decade, and our "perfect marriage" of 32 years came to an end.  But that's another story.

So, being alone, I booked a cruise out of Houston to the Caribbean in March of 2016 and met a whole bunch of solo travelers.  We had an absolute blast together!  I surprised both them and me by coming out of my shell and dancing almost non-stop every night of the cruise.  They called me a dancing machine.  I loved the reaction and I loved the reputation I was getting!

Back home, I went out with some friends and danced more.  They called me a dancing machine, too! All of my shyness about the dance floor was gone.  I don't know if it's my age or what, but I've reached the point where I really don't give a crap anymore what anyone thinks.  I just love to dance.

I went on another cruise in July, this time to the Mediterranean.  I met up with the solo group again.  The first night, we went to a 70's disco night.  As soon as the music started, I jumped out of my seat and said to my fellow solo cruisers, "OK, who's with me?"  Four women got up and we danced for awhile as a group.  One of them later told me they were surprised I did that because most guys wouldn't.  A bit later, a crew member grabbed me by the arm and pulled me backstage, along with four other guys.  She got costume parts out and dressed us up as the Village People.  They showed us the YMCA moves and got us on stage, dancing the YMCA!

The next night, a bunch of us solo cruisers went to watch the "Celebrity Dance-Off Contest."  Crew members were the "celebrities."  I was talked into being a contestant.  I told my dance partner I had no idea what I should do.  She said don't worry about it, it's a lot of fun.  For the first dance, I just kind of mimicked her, got the hang of it, and then started making up stuff.  Somehow it worked!  There were six couples altogether and we lasted three rounds.  It was a lot of fun, and this emboldened me even more to get on a dance floor and just dance.  I spent the rest of the cruise dancing every single night with solo cruisemates and crew members from the entertainment staff.

Back home, I started looking for more opportunities to dance.  A friend told me about contra dancing, so I tried it out.  More fun!  I told another friend about it and she went a couple times.  She got yet another friend interested in it.

I started going to Taylor's Nightclub, at the invitation of a couple friends.  Everyone tells me it's a "meat market."  Well, who cares?  You get what you want out of that place.  I wanted to dance. They have two dance rooms. Every Friday and Saturday night, they start with 70's disco in one of the rooms.  The crowd is usually pretty sparse until around 11:00, when it starts getting packed and the music switches to all modern dance.  That's around when I usually leave.  But for those first two hours, I've had fun dancing with friends who show up and with people I meet on the dance floor.  Sometimes I dance solo.  As I said, I don't give a crap anymore.  I'm just having fun.  And it's great exercise!

Last month I tried out rockabilly swing for the first time.  It looks complicated but it's actually pretty easy.  I also started up ballroom dancing again.  In both cases, I need to learn the basic rudiments of dancing so I can be a good leader.  I'll be working on that over the next few months.

I'm making a lot of new friends who also love to dance.  I consider this to be my new hobby and I look forward to many years of dancing!

Subsequent entries to my autobiography series will be posted every Saturday morning until further notice.  If you wish to subscribe to notifications of my posts, please enter your e-mail address in the form at the right, under "Follow by e-mail."  If you wish to view previous blog posts of my autobiography, please click on the link under "blog categories" at the top right, "autobiography."

Saturday, February 27, 2016

If I Was Running For President

If I was running for President, I would:

1) Find out what the real issues for the country are, and not create issues that incite anger and violence in order to get votes.

2) Not kick anyone out of my rallies.  If a heckler spoke up, I would address that heckler's concerns right there, in front of everyone else.  Why do you want to ridicule or bully one of your fellow citizens?  He or she has as much right to speak out as you do.  A rally is a great place for intelligent conversation about both sides of an issue.

3) If I was President and had a Congress that was stonewalling my every move, I would meet with some key leaders and say, "What the hell are you doing? The country is the main priority, not your vindictive agenda.  We were all elected to do a job until we are out of office and we need to work together until then."  And I would keep pushing these leaders until they started becoming more cooperative.  Then it would be time to negotiate.

I believe in a mixed economy.  Neither 100% government or 100% capitalism is good, as it makes one or the other too strong.  We need to strike a balance.  Capitalism is good for investment & risk, with reasonable regulations set by the government.  For obvious reasons, it's never too good for government to have too much control.  On the other hand, you have to remember that the primary goal of capitalism is to earn a profit.  But what good is profit when it becomes a higher priority than the basic needs of life, such as health, education, food and shelter?  How is it fair that a certain segment of the population can have easy access to these basics, while others struggle daily to get the basics of the basics?  I'm all in favor of investors and stockholders earning a profit as long as it doesn't take away the basics that others need to survive.  This is why a mixed economy works. 

I'm always suspicious when a business person comes in and says they want to run a school district, hospital or some other non-profit venue "like a business."  It changes the primary objective of the organization to making a profit.  Keeping expenses down is good, as long as the primary goal of the venue is not lost.  Obviously you'd need to look at how you're spending money if your expenses are higher than your income.

Regarding personal freedoms and rights in the U.S., in general, I believe people should be able to do whatever they want as long as it does not interfere with someone else's rights or well-being.

My positions on current issues:

Guns - Reasonable regulation to keep guns away from people who should not have them.

Drugs - Legalize them.  The drug war is costing billions of dollars and people are being badly hurt or killed because of it.  The country or states would earn taxes instead of spending tax money on a pointless war.  With no black market for drugs, the gangs selling them would disappear.  I believe there would be less of an addiction problem since there would be no black market pushers trying to earn a profit.  Along with all that, regulation in how drugs are marketed.

Health Care - I believe health care should be run by non-profit companies and agencies.  It's a compromise between government-run health care and capitalistic health care.  The problem with a for-profit health care arrangement is that the primary purpose of a for-profit company is to make a profit, putting health care second.  I think that's backwards.  I think a health care company's primary purpose should be health care.  I understand that many people don't want the government running health care, so why not let non-profit companies run health care?  Pay a fair salary to the CEO and others who run it well, but then let the profits go back into affordable health care, and not stockholders.

Abortion - While I personally abhor abortion, I don't think it's the government's business to be involved in telling a woman what to do with her body.  It seems like it's the party of "keep government off the backs of people" that's telling women what they can or can't do.

Same-Sex Marriage - Again, it's a personal decision between the two people who want to get married. No one else should be telling them what they can or can't do.  If you object on religious grounds, you need to be reminded that in America, we have freedom of religion.  So, keep your religion to yourself when it comes down to what people of other religious beliefs want to do.

Immigration - This country was founded on immigration.  If you're an immigrant or the descendant of immigrants, then you have no business saying other immigrants should not be allowed to enter under proper circumstances.  As for "illegal immigration," yes it's a problem and there should be a reasonable way to handle it.  I don't have an answer for the method, but the wrong way is the idea of rounding them up Gestapo-style and sending them back.  If I were running for President, I would encourage the opposing parties to get together and work out a solution instead of stonewalling each other.

Education - Everyone should have equal access to public education.  A reasonable set of goals can be used to set national standards, but not with extensive testing or using these tests to evaluate teachers.  Finland has a fantastic education system and I will defer all further thoughts on this topic to the Finnish schooling system.  Google it and read about it.  As for charter schools and private schools, families are free to send their kids to them, but that should not absolve them of their responsibility to contribute their share of taxes to public schools.

“Corporations are People” – No, I do NOT agree with this concept.  Per, a corporation is “An association of individuals created by law or under authority of law, having a continuous existence independent  of the existences of its members, and powers and liabilities distinct from those of its members.”
So, if this association is created to separate its human members from liabilities, and to collectively have powers they otherwise wouldn't have, how can you say corporations are people? 

I hear too many pundits blaming unemployment and lack of health insurance on lazy welfare recipients, etc. Sure, they are out there, but my own exposure has been to mostly decent, hard-working people who are unemployed due to no fault of their own.

I find the polarizing talk shows and bigmouth one-sided pundits to be very discouraging and a threat to America's well-being. I admit to being a huge fan of Rush Limbaugh for a couple of years in the early 1990's. After awhile I started to realize that I was only hearing one side of an argument; the fact is there are always two sides to an argument. The truth lies somewhere in between. I believe people who only listen to pundits on one end of the spectrum are doing themselves a huge disservice. I rather like the concept of "equal time," but with the proliferation of all media beyond traditional broadcasting, it's unlikely to be workable today.

There is no way that conservatives can be right all the time or liberals can be right all the time. Society, industry, technology, communication methods and transportation methods are always evolving. What may work in one era may not work in another era. What may work in one geographical location might not work in another geographic location. While we must learn from history, we cannot set in stone that past methods will or won't work today or in the future. It is through true, honest DISCUSSION and not mudslinging and attacks that we will find compromise on these issues.

I am very proud to be an American. It may not be a perfect country, but I like it better than any other country and there is no other place I'd rather live in.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Why I Watch Channel 13 WHAM News (And it's not for the reason you think)

Most of my friends know I worked at Channel 10 WHEC for 32 years, until my position was eliminated in September, 2014.  While I still enjoy seeing my former colleagues on WHEC's news programs from time to time, the little bit of watching TV news these days is with their primary competitor, Channel 13 WHAM.  You might think it's due to bitterness over how my termination with my former employer was handled.

That's not the case.  I watch Channel 13 WHAM because they have the only news program in town with live closed captioning.  Due to my being hard of hearing, I rely heavily on closed captioning when I watch TV.  Most stations in town use scripted captioning.  It's terrible!  There are often gaps in captioning from late-breaking stories and live shots, and sometimes the teleprompter operator scrolls through the script quickly, making it impossible for a user of captioning at home to keep up with it.  Weather segments are usually scripted with just the forecast.  You don't get to read what the meteorologist is actually saying.  Weather people have personalities!  It would be nice to see what they say in captioned form!

With live captioning, everything that is said gets captioned.  All of the above, plus the ad-libbed conversation between anchors.

During my years at WHEC, I had occasional meetings with the former General Manager to try to convince him that WHEC should switch to live captioning.  His response was, "We are in compliance."

"Compliance?"  That's the ultimate corporate cop-out.  Never mind the fact that Rochester, NY has the highest percentage of Deaf and Hard of Hearing people in the U.S.  As far as I'm concerned, it was a missed opportunity to gain those people as dedicated viewers.

If you're not someone who uses closed captioning, try this:  Watch channel 8 or 10 news for awhile with the sound off and the captioning on.  See how much you miss.  Then watch channel 13 and see how much better the live captioning is.

I don't have any statistics to see if WHAM's ratings have gone up since they switched to live captioning, but I bet they have.  They've got me as a dedicated viewer now.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

The End of a "Perfect" Marriage

Mary and I were college sweethearts and we married on May 13, 1984.  Our three daughters are now 29, 26 and 24.  To many, including us, it seemed we had the perfect marriage.  We were told that our relationship has been an inspiration to others.

So, it came as a complete shock to me earlier this winter when Mary told me she wanted to end our marriage.  After hearing the reasons, and bearing all the emotional turmoil that goes with a breakup, I still couldn't understand why, and I was looking for ways to rescue our marriage.  I have been to counseling.  I have talked with friends and family.  Mary and I have had extensive conversations.  Much of what is between us will remain private, but the "public" part of it is that we have simply grown apart.  Grown apart, in terms of common interests and future goals in life.

There is no animosity between us.  We talk like we are the great, old friends that we are.  We laugh and tell jokes to each other.  We have common interest in our three daughters and their friends and family.  But the bond to maintain a marriage just isn't there anymore.  It's a tough fact to accept and it's sad.  We can't dwell on the past and what might have been.  We are both excited about new plans for ourselves.

Obviously it has not been completely smooth sailing.  This weekend has been particularly hard, because it's Valentines Day weekend and that's when Mary moved to her new apartment.  She also had the misfortune of two cardiac arrests.  For those who are unaware, Mary is a survivor of multiple cardiac arrests.  She has an ICD which shocks her if and when she has one, and a pacemaker which overall keeps her heart rhythm normal.  At first, I was convinced she was going into what they called a "v-fib storm," which she had two years ago.  That was caused by a prescription she should not have been taking.  This time, it appears that the stress of the past several weeks or months caught up with her.  They have adjusted her heart meds and she is currently being monitored.  So far, all looks good.  Assuming it stays good, she will go home tomorrow.  (I always like to stress that a cardiac arrest is NOT a heart attack.  If you don't know the difference, please google it.)

So, it's been a rough weekend for both of us, but we are enduring it and  moving on.  I VERY MUCH appreciate all the nice comments I've been getting from friends and family.

For the record, I am planning to keep the house we just purchased last summer.  Mary is the one who wanted to move out, and she has a nice, new apartment that she is excited about.  Easy to take care of, low on the stress.

I love my bus driving job and hope to keep it, but admittedly it does not pay a lot.  I am exploring ways to either increase my income or switch to a different, higher paying job if it becomes necessary.  My wedding officiating business is going VERY well.  It's not enough to live on, but hopefully that plus bus driving and one more income source will take care of me.

Is it ironic for a guy who officiates weddings to be going through a marriage breakup?  No, not at all.  In fact, I've learned things from my own experience that can help others in their marriages.  I'm not a counselor, so I can't give pre-marital counseling, but I can definitely give some tips to new couples.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I can't predict what the future will hold and whether we'd ever get back together again, so for now, we are planning our separate lives.

Thank you again for all your support.