IT’S MY PARTY

This list of top LGBT singers first appeared on SERENDIPITY last year.

My Top Ten LGBT singers, by Rich Paschall

If you were to Google (verb, meaning “to search for”) LGBTQ musicians, singers, or artists, you are likely to find some rather long lists. You might be surprised by the numbers, which include many well-known performers. I “Googled” just that to be sure not to miss any obvious choices. Not only did I end up with a long list, but I also tumbled down the rabbit hole of YouTube music videos. Now I have returned, Mad Hatter in tow, to present my Top Ten. If you are unaware of any of these, my new friend will explain them clearly and almost concisely.

We will start you out with an honorable mention. When I was in grade school, Lesley Gore had a string of hit songs. “It’s My Party” was on the radio and on the Juke Box all the time. In 1964 it was nominated for a Grammy award. Listen to the oldies gem here from the Ed Sullivan show. At the time of her death in 2015 at just 68 (lung cancer), she had been with her partner Lois Sasson for 33 years.

Whether you are a member (show your membership card at the door), or an ally (pay a small cover charge), it is time to show some pride in these top performers.

10. Johnny Mathis. “Chances Are” you are familiar with this artist. He was a favorite at our house and my mother played his albums all the time.  What’s a little housework without Mr. Mathis singing in the background? It’s Not For Me To Say but he is still singing and just may go on until The Twelfth of Never. That should make you a little Misty.
09. Kathryn Dawn Lang, aka k.d. lang,  is a Canadian singer-songwriter. You may have a Constant Craving for the songs of this Grammy Award-winning artist. In 2004 she toured with Tony Bennett and their Album won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
08. Barry Manilow. The popular singer-songwriter had a long string of hit records and is one of the best-selling recording artists of all time. He had 51 songs in the Top 40. In the 1970s and 80s, you could not turn on the radio without hearing him. Not only did he tell you “I Write The Songs,” but he sang them too.


We saw him twice in concert, once at the historic Chicago Theater where I captured the above.

07. Sam Tsui. The popular singer-songwriter became a YouTube sensation a few years ago and has 3.18 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. His album “Make It Up” includes some high-energy videos, including this remarkable non-stop multi-scene no edits effort on the title track.


06. Melissa Ethridge. The American sing-songwriter is known not only for her music but also for her civil rights activism. The frequent Grammy nominee won Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female in 1993. She picked up an Oscar in 2007. It would be tempting to give you one of her hit recordings, but instead, we will go for her dramatic 2005 comeback. After being diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2004, she underwent surgery and chemotherapy. Along with Joss Stone, she owned the stage in this performance at the 2005 Grammy Awards tribute to Janis Joplin.

05. Montero Lamar Hill, aka Lil Nas X is a singer-songwriter and rapper. He won a basketful of awards in 2019 and 2020 and his first country-pop-rap song “Old Town Road” was a massive hit. It stayed in the Number 1 spot for 19 weeks. The Country Music Awards left him out of the bigger categories despite his recognition for collaboration with Billy Ray Cyrus. Perhaps it was because, you know…he’s gay and..young…and black…AND a rapper too!  Just in case you think the song was not country enough, he presented this:

04. Darin Zanyar, or just Darin to his fans. The Swedish singer-songwriter is a Superstar in Europe. He first became famous at 16 as the runner-up on Swedish Idol. He records in Swedish and English.

03. Enrique Martin Morales, aka Ricky Martin. The handsome Puerto Rican superstar has been “Livin La Vid Loca” since his days in the boy singing group Menudo. He has also worked as an actor in Mexico and the US where he picked up an Emmy nomination.

02. Steve Grand. The local Chicago area sensation burst onto the scene as the All-American Boy. His self-produced debut album was bolstered by the success of the title tune.

Steve Grand at “Seven” nightclub.

He doesn’t “Stay” here long as he is in high demand around the world:

01. Elton John.  His superstar success earns him the number 1 spot. From the Crocodile Rock all the way to Your Song, we have never said: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”  I don’t know about you, but he has put a lot of songs on the soundtrack of my life.

Click on the artist’s name for one of his/her hits, or find our 15-song Pride Playlist here.

BE CAREFUL, DAD

The following appeared last year on Fathers’ Day on SERENDIPITY.

A Father and Son story

The knocking on the door was expected. Jack got up, shuffled across the room, and opened the door for his neighbor. “Well, old-timer, I hope you have the coffee ready,” the guest said cheerfully. “Who are you calling old? If I recall correctly, you are older than I am,” Jack replied

It was true. The neighbor was in fact almost a month older.  It was Jack’s reminder whenever David called him an old-timer. The two had been friends for over 50 years and neighbors for almost 40. Now they were old and alone and sharing coffee two afternoons a week.

Conversations at Jack’s kitchen table ranged from sports to high school antics. A few stories had probably been told hundreds of times. It was not that they forgot they told the stories, it was just that they loved recalling certain memories. It was their way of passing a little time.

If David stayed on too long, he would meet up with Jack’s son, John.  It was John Junior, actually, but no one dared to call him that. He hated being referred to as a Junior and would tell you so if you tried it. Many things seemed to annoy Junoir so there was no reason to add on to it.

This was one of the days David stayed too long. Junior had arrived.

John stopped in around the same time almost every day of the week. He would ring the bell, then let himself in with his own key so his father did not have to get up. Jack liked to answer the door just for the exercise of it, but Junior was impatient.

“I see you two are drinking coffee late in the afternoon again,” John began without any greeting.

“We have a rule, no coffee after 6 PM,” David explained.

“It’s almost six now,” John declared.

“And we’re almost done now,” Jack replied.

“Well don’t be telling me how you can’t sleep at night when you are drinking coffee at this hour, because I don’t want to hear it.” Exasperation was seeping out of Junior faster than the sweat on his forehead. Following that declaration, he began his inspection like a drill sergeant checking up on hopeless recruits.

“Dad, you have put the empty coffee pot back on the hot burner again. Can’t you turn this off when you are done?” Junior looked right at David as he continued, “One day last week I had to clean this thing up. There were coffee grounds in the water section.”

“I guess I must have gotten confused and put some grounds in the wrong spot,” Jack said in an embarrassed tone.

“I guess you really need to concentrate on what you are doing,” John said. “Last week I found the soup all cooked away in the pot and the stove was still on. You are going to burn the house down one of these days if you are not careful.” Junior’s annoyance had now reached the level of full-on lecture. He reminded Jack of all the things he needed to do better. He admonished his dad for not concentrating on the task at hand and just sitting down and forgetting about things.

“I guess I better check on everything else while I am here. There’s just no telling what other problems we have going on.”

The two elderly gentlemen sat in embarrassed silence as the Junior one went from room to room looking everything over. He checked what was turned on and what was off. He looked at electric cords to make sure they were in good condition and not in the way. He took up throw rugs and moved items around. He returned to the kitchen armed with his report.

“Dad, you’ve got shoes and slippers in your path from the bed to the washroom.  You need to put those things out of the way.  Some night you are going to trip and fall.”  Jack just nodded. “You should get one of those buttons you wear to call for help.”

“They are too expensive,” Jack reasoned.

“You won’t say it’s too expensive if you fall some night and die right there on your bedroom floor,” Junior declared in a disheartening manner.

porcelain sink sunshine BW

David leaned across the kitchen table and said to Jack, “Yep, I am pretty sure you won’t have much to say then,” and he gave him a wink. John the junior one completely missed it.

“One more thing, I see you are still leaving the light on in the bathroom. Can’t you at least turn it off during the day?”

“I might not get there before dark,” Jack explained.

John shook his head. “I see I am going to have to get some night lights. OK, I can’t be spending any more time here today. I have my own things to do.” The visit had reached its peak on the Junior annoyance meter and it was time to go.

“I guess I will stop by tomorrow. Please be careful, dad”

“All right, son.” Junior was already at the door by the time Jack got out those three short words.

When John was out the door, David said, “You know if I talked to my father in that tone he would have slapped me. As a matter of fact, he is 95 now and I think he would still slap me. You should not let him talk to you like that.”

After a moment’s reflection, John explained, “Sometimes I think about how I talked to my mother as she got older. I was always impatient and frustrated. I did not like having to take so much of my time to deal with her issues. She was forgetful and as she got to 80 and beyond I should have realized how she struggled with certain things.”

Jack looked off in the distance and saw the past float by, “I guess it is true.”

“What is?” David asked.

With regret written on his face, John answered. “What goes around, comes around.”

A VAST WASTELAND

Newton Minnow is still around and still has opinions on the value of television. The following ran last year on SERENDIPITY.

The State of Television, by Rich Paschall

When the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission spoke to the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington, DC, he began his speech as one might expect. He offered praise for the “noble profession” of broadcasting. He told the group, “When television is good, nothing — not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers — nothing is better.” It was a good beginning for the new Chairman giving his first speech. Then he added: “But when television is bad, nothing is worse.”

He challenged the group to watch their own channel, “and stay there, for a day, without a book, without a magazine, without a newspaper, without a profit and loss sheet or a rating book to distract you.”  Then the Chairman offered his brutally honest opinion. “I can assure you that what you will observe is a vast wasteland.” It is a line that has echoed through the FCC ever since.

In 1961 we had a 19-inch “portable” black and white television set. They called it portable because it had a handle on top so you could pick it up and carry it. It had a cathode ray picture tube along with a number of smaller tubes inside. It was really heavy. Putting a handle on top did not make it portable. We kept it on a TV stand with wheels. That’s what made it portable.

Our television received the three major networks via channels 2, 5, and 7. The local independent television station WGN-TV was on channel 9. It was particularly popular with us for covering Chicago Cubs and White Sox baseball home games. It also carried our favorite kids’ programs. There was Educational Television on Channel 11, a member station of National Education Television (NET). Channel 11 (WTTW) had limited broadcast hours. That was it. There were just 5 VHF channels, no cable, no satellite, and no internet.

The stations did not always come in clearly. This meant I had to get up and adjust the television antenna. After I got the picture to come in as good as possible, I would start to walk away from the TV, only to reverse course and adjust the “rabbit ears” some more.

Martin, Tennessee 1960s. The pole on the upper left is the antenna.

When my grandparents moved to Martin, Tennessee, they had to have a tall antenna to bring in stations from Paduch, Kentucky, and Cape Girardeau, Missouri. As long as CBS was clear, they were satisfied. My grandmother watched one soap opera in the afternoon and my grandfather watched Walter Cronkite in the evening. There was not much else to see in the “vast wasteland” of television as far as they were concerned.  Of course, in 1961 in the south, and for many years after, you could see The Porter Wagoner Show. I recall pretending to watch that a number of times, but I digress.

Newton Minow was a young lawyer and chair of the local NET station in Chicago when President John F. Kennedy appointed him to the Federal Communications Commission.  They felt strongly that television needed to be better, especially in the Cold War era. They also felt children’s programming needed to improve as well.

It was sixty years ago this month that Minow surprised the FCC with his honest assessments of the television industry. The “vast wasteland” speech generated a lot of publicity and some would say it changed television.  Well, it startled some executives, anyway.

Minow pushed the All-Stations Receivers Act in 1961 requiring all televisions sold in the US to receive UHF as well as VHF channels. This led to more stations. He also helped start non-profit educational television, which we know today as PBS. Minow thought his most important accomplishment was legislation that would pave the way for telecommunication satellites.  He told President Kennedy, “communications satellites will be much more important than sending man into space because they will send ideas into space.”

While Minow was exerting great influence over television, not everyone was fond of him as chairman. Years later it was noted that the creator of Gilligan’s Island named the shipwrecked boat the SS Minnow as a jab at Minow’s tenure.

So what does the telecommunications lawyer think of television today? He believes that because television is vaster it is less of a wasteland.  Nonetheless, there are problems today. “We’ve enlarged choice, and at the same time I think we have a serious problem in our news reporting where facts and opinion are mixed up together, where we no longer have agreement on what is a fact.” There is no such thing as “alternative” facts.

Minow believes the Fairness Doctrine should be reinstated, requiring broadcasters to present both sides of an issue. “If you don’t agree on facts I don’t see how you can have a civilized discussion,” Minow said. Recent history will bear out the veracity of that statement.

Source: “The Scathing Speech That Made Television History,” by Lily Rothman, time.com, May 9, 2016.
Still a ‘Vast Wasteland’? Newton Minow Reflects on the State of Television,” by Marissa Nelson, news.wttw.com, May 10, 2021.

NO LONGER WILL THEY COME

The following appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.

AMERICAN SOIL IN A FOREIGN LAND – RICH PASCHALL

 A few years ago on V.E. Day, Armistice Day for the end of World War II in Europe, I visited the American cemetery at St. Avold. It is the final home for many of America’s Greatest Generation. It was quiet then. This year, it was even quieter, not just because of a global pandemic, but because they are gone now. No parents, no spouses, no siblings, or army mates will attend any remembrance day.

How a field in France became the resting place for thousands of Americans

In September of 1944, the Third US Army resumed its push across eastern France to drive opposing forces out of France and back across the border. The Seventh US Army, after landing in southern France, was joined by First French Army and drove northward.  The US Air Force provided key tactical support.  On September 21st the Third and Seventh armies joined forces providing a solid line through France to the Swiss border.  On Monday, November 27th St. Avold, France was liberated by the US 80th Infantry Division. This becomes important to our story today.

By December the eastern front was being pushed toward Germany. On December 19th, the Third Army moved northward to counterattack at the Battle of the Bulge. The many months of fighting throughout this region brought thousands of US casualties. A temporary US military cemetery was set up at St. Avold on March 16, 1945.  The struggles to hold territory and move forward were paid for in the lives of much of the Third and Seventh Armies.  By the end of the war, the rolling fields of the Lorraine region of France at St. Avold held the remains of over 16 thousand US soldiers.

st avold cemetary france
St. Avold cemetery, France

The burial grounds of the US soldiers at St. Avold as well as four other places across France were given to the United States in perpetuity as military cemeteries. Today the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial is the largest World War II cemetery in Europe. It is bigger than the more honored and remembered memorial at Normandy. Ten thousand four hundred eighty-seven of America’s finest generation lie across this 113.5 acres of land.

There are Medal of Honor winners, ace pilots, 30 sets of brothers, and 151 unknown soldiers.  In addition, 444 names are inscribed on a wall to honor those who lie in unknown graves across this region of Europe. Their bodies were lost and never returned home or to one of the hallowed grounds in France, England, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, or Luxembourg.

When you include those in the Philippines and North Africa (Tunisia), 93,236 American soldiers found their final resting place in World War II on foreign soil that became American soil over time. The ground we visited in France was handed over without charge or taxation by a grateful nation that did not forget the sacrifice of American soldiers who fought a bitter war to win freedom for others and keep the aggression away from our shores.

72-Lorraine-StAvold-ADJ-B

On Armistice Day in France, or what we call VE Day (Victory in Europe Day), May 8th, we walked the hallowed grounds of St. Avold and paid our respects to the greatest American generation. The rows of crosses and Stars of David fill the landscape and remind the few who remain that freedom came at a high price in 1944 and 1945. Americans were willing to stand beside people of another land to win freedom, and now many lie there in eternal rest.

I signed the guest book at one in the afternoon. I noticed I was the only American who had signed in. There were signatures of a Romanian, a German who added “in honor and respect” in German, and two French. One wrote, “We will never forget the sacrifice of their lives.” I asked myself if the sacrifice will indeed be remembered or forgotten in time? Will this become, over the years, just another historical curiosity? A footnote? Ancient history forgotten by many if not most people?

Taps at St. Avold cemetary, France
Taps at St. Avold cemetery, France

It is easy to understand why no Americans kneel and pray in the tall chapel, no relatives to decorate the graves, or loved ones to shed tears. Many at St. Avold were too young to have children when they answered the call from Uncle Sam. They were barely more than children themselves.

Many had no remaining families. If they had siblings after the war, most have passed by now. Anyone who remains alive to honor them is likely at home, in America. Sad that the national holiday in France saw the honored dead receiving about as much attention as our honored dead will receive here at home on this coming Memorial Day. What are your holiday plans?

TORONTO ADVENTURE

We have not been out for many adventures in recent years, so we decided to take a few days to visit downtown Toronto. Our main objective was to see the Boston Red Sox beat the Toronto Blue Jays (7-1) and we also added a few more stops in the area.

Click on any picture above to go through the larger version of each picture in the gallery.

FIXING WHAT IS NOT BROKEN

The following appeared last year on SERENDIPITY. There were likely changes on Word Press at this time that were of questionable value.

Change For Change Sake

You may have noticed that the websites you use regularly change their format from time to time. Just when you got used to your favorite credit card site, they changed everything around. It is frustrating, to say the least. This is particularly true when the new format offers more information but spreads it out in a way that you can not find it. As we all like to say, it is not “user-friendly.”

Corporate executives, company IT (Information Technology) departments, their programmers, and their minions must all feel that they are not moving forward if they do not keep changing things.

I just want my balance

“They mistake change for improvement, and that is not always the case.”  – Time Management Ninja

Sometimes the best you can hope for is they don’t screw it up too badly. At one time MySpace was the leader in social media. We all had an account and actually had fun there. There was interaction with others, but it was the kind of back and forth you find on a fan forum, not what we know today. As facebook quickly gained ground for its unique ability to connect with friends and neighbors, MySpace did not know how to adapt. Their changes drove people away and it eventually turned into a music site, more or less.

Sometimes change is necessary, but it has to be the right change. It needs to be the type the user will embrace. When a company does not know how to do that, they lose momentum and business. Remember the dot.com boom?  Do you remember the dot.com bust? Change is a tricky business. Knowing when and what to do is a tough call. Sometimes it seems like the people making changes never actually used the site themselves.

Do aliens write these programs?

“Change for change sake does not always result in progress.”

My bank changed several features on their online banking site at some point after I had been using it for a while. It wasn’t awful and I got used to the new layout and features pretty quickly. They maintained a similar look and the items flowed naturally as you paid bills or looked at accounts. My credit card statement was there as well so I could see what I had and what I owed. The people who changed things might actually be banking there.

On the other hand, eBay has made changes recently that are beyond baffling. When I first joined the selling page was simple. All the information for active listings, sold and unsold listings was easy to find. Then they wanted us to use their new format which had the listing more spaced out, bigger pictures, and less of what I wanted to know. Since the listings were bigger, it took you longer to scroll down the page. I resisted using it. This, by the way, has nothing to do with the listing page the buyers see.

Now they have introduced another format. Charts & graphs & dashboards, oh my!  They dumped the original format which I loved. I have started using that second version that I avoided because what they offer now is just information overload.

“And while I am a big advocate of leaving your comfort zone, too much change can result in confusion, disorganization, and lack of competence.”

This brings me to this very site. For a while now Word Press has been pushing their so-called block editor. As Marilyn has pointed out, it is not a true “Block editor,” but I digress. WordPress also has a “classic editor” which allows you to create a document much like creating a Microsoft Word document. It is straightforward, with the usual basic tools: Font size, bold, italics, color, links, and so forth. The Block editor works under the premise that you write things in little chunks and assemble them later in building block style. I had building blocks as a child. I am sure we knocked them down and then arranged them again in order. It’s an interesting concept, except I don’t actually write that way.

Sometimes I look back at what I wrote and it does not flow as I had in mind. I can not imagine the result if I worked in “blocks.” One continuous document is the best way to edit blog posts, I think. Do younger generations actually write in little pieces and assemble them later as if it was some giant Lego project?

Just another Rubik’s cube?

Marilyn has commented extensively about this Word Press mish-mash in the past. She did not mince words and yet, I think she was too kind. Do these programmers actually write blog posts, or are they just creating something different because they can?

There used to be a WP Admin. menu that gave you useful items. Yes, you can still find most of the same things. Apparently, they just want you to hunt for them.  On Sundays, I usually look back a year to find something to reblog to “Sunday Night Blog.” I did this by filtering down to my posts of a particular month and year. They must think that scrolling down for pages is a better way to find past blog posts.

Fortunately, Marilyn knows the tricks, and the classic editor can still be found. If Word Press wants to turn writing an article into a giant video game, they could take themselves down the same road as MySpace.

“So, next time you want to make a change, ask yourself why you’re doing it first.”

All quotes from: ​”Change for Change’s Sake Doesn’t Always Equal Progress,” by Tori Reid, lifehacker.com, November 3, 2014.

I’LL BE ALL IN CLOVER

The following appeared last Easter on SERENDIPITY.

It seems that it was good to be “all in clover” a century ago. It meant that you were doing quite well. Your cows were likely in a field of clover, not just some lousy grass or hay. They were eating well, and so were you, apparently. While I am “dressed to the nines” (another phrase that has gone out of use), you will be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.  Don’t forget to wear your bonnet. You do have an Easter bonnet, don’t you?

Where’s the clover?

America’s grandest songwriter, Irving Berlin, had a song for every occasion. He made the most of quite a number of songs by recycling them through plays and movies. Easter Parade was no exception. In fact, the melody started out as another song. In 1917 Irving Berlin wrote “Smile and Show Your Dimple” to cheer up a girl whose man has gone off to war. That would be World War I. Click on the title if you really want to hear the song and corny lyrics.

In 1933 a reworked tune and new lyrics became “Easter Parade” for Marilyn Miller and Clifton Webb in the Broadway musical “As Thousands Cheer.”  It got its first movie home in 1938’s Alexander’s Ragtime Band, with Don Ameche singing and Tyrone Power pretending to lead the orchestra:

It famously came back around in the movie “Holiday Inn” in 1942. That film featured a song for every holiday. This time Bing Crosby did the honors.

Like other Berlin songs, this one was so popular it needed a whole movie built around it. “Easter Parade” stars Fred Astaire, and Judy Garland wears the Easter bonnet.

Others had a go at it too. Which one is best?

SPRING HAS SPRUNG

The following sunny list originally appeared on SERENDIPITY.

Let The Sunshine In, Rich Paschall

Now that Spring has officially arrived (they tell me), we are thinking more about enjoying the sun.  You may have told someone that “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” or that you wanted to share the “Sunshine Of Your Love,” but you may be looking at this differently than we are.  Of course, “There Ain’t No Sunshine When You’re Gone,” but “Don’t Let The Sun Catch You Crying.”

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

If it remains cloudy where you are, don’t believe “The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore.” Just keep telling yourself, “Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me” and you will soon have your “Seasons In The Sun.”  Just be sure to stay away from the “House Of The Rising Sun” and you will be fine.

So let me be your “Sunshine Superman” and offer my top 10 Sunshine Songs to brighten up the beginning of Spring:

10. You Are My Sunshine, The Pine Ridge Boys.  This 1939 “standard” has been covered by so many artists it is hard to say where I heard it first.  Originally performed as a country song, it has received a lot of musical treatments.

9.  California Sun, The Rivieras.  The 1961 song by Joe Jones became a big hit when The Rivieras covered it in 1964.  The 1977 Ramones version also became a hit and showed up on various albums.

8.  Walking On Sunshine, Katrina and the Waves.  The 1985 hit was a consistent seller for the record company and pure gold for the artists who retained the publishing rights and songwriter royalties.

7.  Soak Up The Sun, Sheryl Crow. It’s her only number one hit and you can probably sing along with the chorus.  The 2002 release was written by Crow and Jeff Trott.

6.  I’ll Follow The Sun, The Beatles.  The Paul McCartney, John Lennon composition was written as early as 1960 but the Beatles hit was released in 1964 with lead vocals by McCartney.

5.  We’ll Sing In The Sunshine, Gale Garnett.  This happy pop tune was released in 1964 and won the Grammy for Best Traditional Folk Recording in 1965.  Yes, it was the era for Folk Rock.

4.  Good Day Sunshine, The Beatles  There was no plan to add multiple Beatles songs.  I made up a list and then gave them a ranking.  This 1966 Lennon, McCartney composition also has McCartney on lead vocals.  Paul played piano on the track and later overdubbed his bass part.  I could not find a Beatles performance, but Sir Paul can still bring it.

3.  Let The Sun Shine In, The 5th Dimension.  The recording by the 60’s pop group is actually a medley of two songs from the musical, Hair.  It was at the top of the charts for 6 weeks in 1969.  Opening with “Aquarius,” the sound was sometimes called “Psychedelic Pop.”

2.  Sunshine On My Shoulders, John Denver.  Co-written and recorded by Denver for his 1971 album Poems, Prayers & Promises, it was released as a single in 1973.  By early 1974 it reached number 1.  When the album came out, I recall singing this song over and over with a friend.  I think our performance may have been fueled by adult beverages.  It will always hold great memories from a youth well spent.

1. Here Comes The Sun, The Beatles  This time it is a George Harrison composition that brings The Beatles back to the list.  Recorded in 1969 for the Abbey Road album, it was never released as a single.  Nevertheless, the track received critical acclaim and has been played and downloaded often.

Click on any title to go to the You Tube video, or let all of these songs shine down on you from the playlist here.

PACK UP AND GO HOME

It is now over two years since we were sent to work from home. The following appeared last year on SERENDIPITY. I have since “retired” but continue to work part-time for the airline from home. Do you know anyone who wants to work in air freight?

One Year On, by Rich Paschall

Sunset at O’Hare

It was just one year ago when our boss called the whole group into the conference room for a meeting. The odd thing about it was that after a year at the airline, I don’t recall the boss ever having a meeting with our whole group in a conference room.  Nevertheless, we all headed over there.

It’s a nice conference room. It seemed to get more use as a place to gather for milestone birthdays and milestone work anniversaries. We had gone there for cake or pizza or other goodies. Some actually used it for work meetings, I hear. We were not a group inclined to have meetings. This was going to be different.

After a few opening remarks that I have since forgotten, the boss told us to pack up and go home. The global pandemic seemed to be getting much worse very quickly and we were going to try working from home for a while. Although we did not know how long it would last, we were assured we would be called back in a short time. “Take whatever you think you will need, laptops, docking stations, cords, monitors, anything else to do your jobs.”  Yes, we had to give the company tag numbers to the boss for the computer equipment and then get out. It was Friday, the 13th.

At the end of 2019, the office had been redesigned and remodeled.  The airline was doing well and some assets were being improved for future use. Walls were moved, and new equipment was purchased. Everything looked great. We were to have a grand re-opening celebration in April 2020 when the weather improved. The plan was to invite the freight companies that did business with us. The celebration went on permanent hold.

While the remodeling work was being done, we temporarily moved to an office formerly used by another airline. We had more than enough room to work for a couple of months. The irony was that when we moved equipment to the temporary space and then moved it back, we worked from home for a couple days. We used some new processes that eventually became a lifeline. Microsoft teams were a way to share files and chat with one another while we were out of the office. We learned to use company websites remotely. We figured out how to work from home in an emergency. No one could have imagined in late 2019 that a worldwide emergency was knocking at our collective door.

The Monday through Friday staff left. We went back on March 14th for one more day. At the end of a Saturday, I moved my car as close to the outside door as possible and loaded up some items from my desk. I had a large workspace in the office, I was not sure exactly where I was going to work at home.

By the end of March, some people had been given what was planned to be a two-month furlough. It was hoped that by the end of May things would start to improve and the airline business would start getting back to normal. When two months passed, things were worse. Planes were grounded, staff retired or left the country, and others had to be let go. As each month passed we had hoped it would just be another month or two and things would improve. We could then go back to that nice office at the airport.

By mid-summer talk of returning had stopped. We had successfully worked at home for months, why hurry back? We did hope that by the end of the year passengers would return and the airline would be back to around 50 percent capacity. Later that wish turned into 30 percent. It was about 10 percent as the year ended and is no better now.

While many were waiting for things to return to “normal,” and some still are, it became apparent that there will be no return. There will be a new normal someday and we are getting a glimpse now at what that might be. Technology has led to more remote working. There are virtual meetings and shared files, all online. People don’t have to sit in traffic. Companies may be wondering now why they need big offices when much of the workforce can work from home, or from Starbucks for that matter.

One member of our group lives in Hawaii. Another went down to Texas for part of the winter. They can book freight from Chicago O’Hare International airport just as easily as from an office in Chicago.  In fact, we do take care of much of the country.

We may all go back this year when everyone is vaccinated and the company feels it is safe. We have a nice workspace to return to. On the other hand, another year may go by and I could retire. In that case, I would only be returning to bring back the computer and monitors. It’s going to be a somewhat brave new world.

A GLANCE BACKWARD

This article appeared last year on SERENDIPITY. We wanted to know how would we address a certain point in our past? Do we have regrets? Would we have good advice for our young selves now?

Your younger self, by Rich Paschall

A few years ago another blogger suggested a book to read (The Letter Q) that is a collection of letters certain writers would send to their younger selves, if only they could. Some letters are just a couple of pages. Some are a bit longer. Some of these writers may be well-known to you. Others may be interesting just as a study of what an older person still recalls of his younger life. Some of these letters really touched me. I can feel the emotion they must have felt as they looked back. I suspect that is because I am looking back over my shoulder at the same time.

If you were to write a letter to your younger self, at the age you are now, to what age would you send it? Would it be you at 12? 14? 18? Older or younger?  When would you need your advice the most? I guess it should be no surprise that many of these letters were sent to teenage years. Perhaps that is when growing pains are the sharpest. Maybe it is when young love hurts the most. It could have been when you were terrorized by bullies, parents, or supposed friends the most. It might be at the time when you wanted advice the most, but you trusted no one to give it to you. Would you even have taken it if it came from a more experienced you?

It seems pointless to me to send a letter back to a good time in life. What would you say? “I am glad you had such a great time at the picnic?” No, that has just melted into a fond memory. At your current age, you would probably want to send yourself advice to help see you through a problem. You might want to send words of encouragement for times when you may have wanted to give up, or worse. An early letter in the book is sent to a child alone and crying in a park. She hopes to be murdered there because she thinks it can not possibly be worse than the hurt she is feeling.  Of course, you would go back and comfort that child, if only you could.

Few people fall in love with their high school sweetheart, get married right out of high school, and live happily ever after. Even Cinderella had a tough life before her prince came along, and so it is with fairy tales. Most of us may have thought that we were falling in love in high school, but we are really just falling and needed to get back up. It does not look that way in the isolation of your teenage room, however. What words would have helped you then? You received little comfort from the one you longed for and had little or no desire to tell your parents, teachers, or anyone more than 25 years old. Do you now have the words for your younger self? How would you help yourself through teenage angst?

Younger self

If the thought of living without your “true love” was scary, I suppose that our lives after the high school held a bit of panic for many as well. “What will I do? Will I make enough money? Can I support a family? Can I support myself?” What answers can you send back to those questions? Somewhere between 10 and 20 lie the years that produce emotional changes, doubts, and questions. Can you write the letter today that could have helped you then?

In looking through those letters, I think it is fair to say that people are writing back to what they see as a defining moment in their young lives. While some may see that as 12, others are writing to 18. Perhaps they only wish to send letters to a time that today’s knowledge could help. Maybe we can not even find the words for certain moments in our young existence. Some can only say that he or she will have to work through the problems with the knowledge from your older self that it gets better.

Awkward, yet emotionally charged, are those that struggled through their sexuality, the questioning, “Am I loveable?  Am I attractive?  Am I gay?” We may spend many youthful hours looking in the mirror and asking questions. We may spend many more avoiding the mirror because we do not like what we see. Some years ago I spent a lot of time reassuring a handsome teenager (not me, btw) that he was indeed handsome. I am not sure he believed me then, but he is much more self-assured now. What could you tell yourself about those self-doubts?  What would I tell myself?

This book was not just for those who “made it through the rain,” and came out the other side a stronger person. It is also for those who are struggling now. “The Letter Q” gives half of its royalties to The Trevor Project to help reach youth in crisis. There are those that desperately need advice. Let’s hope they make it to send word back to their younger selves that “It gets better.”