Its Over

What do I mean by over? I mean:

Main Entry: over
Part of Speech: adjective
Definition: accomplished
Synonyms: ancient history, at an end, by, bygone, closed, completed, concluded, done, done with, ended, finished, gone, past, settled, up

High School. Its over.  The last day of classes was yesterday. The last high school baseball game was two days ago. The only thing left is the ceremony in a week. My son D left to spend his first post HS weekend at his college to be. Its over.

Did I know that this day was coming? Sure. A part of me knew this was coming on that day 14.5 years ago when I got married and became an instant parent. There is the key for me, the word parent. Being a parent has been a big part of who I am and what I enjoy. Yeah, yeah. I know that I have not stopped being a parent and there is much more life to live, yada, yada yada. Sure I know that what it means to parent a “child” has been changing rapidly over the last four years…but still.

This is the official beginning of that next phase in my life…oh yeah and in his. This is the Memorial day kick-off of Summer or maybe more appropiately the Labor Day kick-off of Fall. I am not ever ready for Fall especially knowing that Winter comes next.

It would be different if there were more still at home. That way he would just be the first instead of the first and last. Yes this is about  holding onto the past instead of  embracing the future. So what. Indulge me.

I worry about how well I have prepared him for this next step. Being me, it is easy to see every weakness, seeing the strengths comes harder for me.  I know it is time to let him fly. I will be there for him if he needs it. Who will be there for me?

OK. I am getting maudlin. More imprtantly, I should either find a story line  or stop for now. I choose the latter.

Its over.

I was thinking of going out with some weepy exit matching my mood. Then I remembered the way I felt when high school ended.

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Prom Night

Prom 2009

Prom 2009

Do you remember your senior prom? I do. More on that later.

This was my son’s prom night. Yes that is a picture of my son and his beautiful date L. (I would have selected one where I remembered to turn on the flash but my wife has this thing about pictures on the Internet and there are only so many battles worth fighting and anyways this piece is about prom.)

Prom was the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend. To start, we gathered  at the home of one of the girls for pictures. It was fun and nostalgic. 15 couples and their parents. My son had some good friends in this group but only about a third met that description. Another third were boys that we have known over the years. These are kids that had been D’s friends, or he had played on a team with, in grade school or middle school. It was great to see and talk to parents with whom I had lost touch but at some time in the past 18 years we had a string of shared experiences.

It is also fun to see the kids looking very grown-up in their formal wear. I need to brag. I have a very handsome son who was decked out in a black tux with a pink tie and pale pink dress to match L’s dress. The dress was  a frilly thing made of shear fabric that laid in layers. Quite the attractive couple.

This is one topic where pictures show off  the night better than any words I seem to be able to find.  You are all invited to my house to see pictures. There are pictures of D and L. Pictures of D with a couple of his best buds. Pictures of all the boys and of all the boys and girls together. I even got in a few candids before my son caught  on to what I was doing and waved me off.

The majority of the boys were in rented tuxes. One in his grandfather’s tux, one made his own tye-died outfit. On the girl’s side, one of the girl’s made her own dress and two others. All three were different and all beautiful. These clothes transform all who wear them. For this one night all boys are handsome and all girls are beautiful.

We waited for the “party bus” that would take them to Navy Pier for the prom. Of course it was late. Very late. The different reactions of the generations were classic. Parents worried.  The poor parent who had made the arrangements was being continuously asked if she knew where the limo was as she sat with her phone trying to get updates from the company. The kids were ready to go but they were full of anticipation and without a care.

It came and took them down to a ballroom on Navy Pier in downtown Chicago. There they ate and danced from 8 until midnight and then went on The Odyssey, a large party boat that sails on Lake Michigan. More dancing and dining (the egg roles were great I am told) until3:30 am. Then back on the Party Bus which took them to one of the kids home where they were served Subway sandwiches at 5am, slept(?) for awhile and then woke to a catered breakfast. Not bad.

D stopped home at noon, napped for awhile and then on to a Bar-B-Que at L’s house. Not a bad weekend and only one week of his high school career to go.

His take on prom. He had a very good time. Interestingly though he said that given how people he knew had built up prom as the best night of your life it had not met his expectations.

I had no expectations for my prom…and it met them. I was dating Sarah at the time. My second high school girlfriend. We had been dating for close to a year and a half though I had tried unsuccessfully to brake up with her many months before. It took four years before I was successful.

The best and worst of my prom.

The best. After the formal dance we went to see Bill Cosby perform. This was 1974 so after I Spy and The Bill Cosby Show but well before he became a Huxtable. At this time he was still a stand-up comedian. And a very, very good one.

The worst. My tux. Sarah had a light green dress. I wanted a classy black tux.  I could not anticipate matching the color. Wrong. This one year only. I am sure that whoever designed this tux and put it on the shelf got fired since they must have rented only one. To me. My mother and my girlfriend insisted that I wear a green and white checkered tux. Let me say that again because I am sure that at this point you must be thinking that you are hallucinating. There is no other explanation. You are not. I did say a green and white checkered tux. At least the slacks were black.

Fortunately my son will have great memories of his prom night. I only have green and white nightmares of mine.

Technocide: The Killing Of The Real By The Virtual

The convergence of many things this weekend have me thinking about what we lose, not just what we gain by going virtual. (Yes I see the irony of this being written by a blogger but really, blogging is already old technology.)

I tend to spend far more time in front of a computer than I used to in part due to work but even in my “free” time.  I check email, I blog, I read blogs and I check websites for news and information. Even occasionally I shop. But I am mostly old school. I call rather than text. I read print media, newspapers and magazines in part because there is a tactile experience. I ride actually rather than virtually. I talk to people face to face.

This latter activity, assuming that it is the right person(s) is one of my favorite things to do. Communicating through blogs or email is efficient and does not require two people to be available at the same time so it is useful. Just not as satisfying for me. I recognize the benefits of technology and social networking in particular. I am just worried.

So what got me thinking about this now.

First this article in the Chicago Tribune titled, “Social Media Ties, Technology Addiction Can Strain Interpersonal Relationships“. (BTW, this title had to be written by a techie editor with no social skills.) The article described how time on Facebook, email, games, etc. can keep people from forming relationships in the real world. Do we really need to check email, launch a Tweet and attach something to a friend’s Facebook wall the moment we awake?

This was also the weekend that the newest of the Terminator movies opened. This is the ultimate man vs. machine story.

There was also Tech company news. A story about Facebook recounted how a purchase of 2% of the company for $200 million values the company (with no profits) at $10 billion. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this valuation is down from the $15 billion valuation when Microsoft bought a piece of the company a couple of years ago. DAMN THIS ECONOMY.

Also in today’s Wall Street Journal was a story about Twitter. They are up to 32 million users form 1.6 just a year ago. The stuggle of the founders is to hire people fast enough to keep the twits going while trying to figure out how to make money on this. Fortunately they have raised $55 million to get this right.

Then there is one of my favorite bloggers, Pax Romano. Ok, blogging is technology and virtual–except in the deft hands of skilled bloggers like Pax. He makes the interactions personal if not in-person. His blogging has slowed as he discovered Facebook. Even Pax considers Facebook as addictive as crack. Luckily the first step to a cure is knowing you have a problem. We want more blog entries Pax.

I am thankful for sports, debate club and chess tournaments (real, not virtual ones). These are places where our kids still need to interact with people…for now. I have no doubt that soccer tournaments or triathlons done on Wii networks will one day be the rage.

Then I will know the machines have won.

Ancient Porn

No I do not mean from the 1960s.

Most people read The Economist for the thoughtful analysis of business and politics around the globe. I read it for the centerfold.

This short entry from the May16, 2009 issue of The Economist titled “Unveiled”:

Old PornFrom photography to the internet, a characteristic sign that a new medium is going to succeed is that it is exploited by pornographers. And that, it seems, is not a recent phenomenon. A find reported in this week’s Nature suggests that sculpture, too, brought the smut-makers in early. Nicholas Conrad of the University of Tübingen, in Germany, describes what is probably the oldest human statue yet discovered. It is 6cm tall. It is carved from a mammoth tusk. It dates from about 35,000 years ago. It was found in a cave in south-western Germany. And it is, not to put too fine a point upon the matter, obscene. As 35,000 years ago is reckoned the moment when modern man, Homo sapiens, arrived in Europe, this discovery adds to the evidence that human thinking—or male thinking, at least—has hardly changed since the species evolved.

Ah, smut carved from a mammoth tusk. If this doesn’t increase my readership I may have to “write” about the troubles at Playboy.

Chicago At Its Best

Despite the long, cold winter and the short rainy spring Chicago can be a phenomenal place to be be. Yesterday was just such a time.

It had been raining for sooo many days that I had just ordered my do-it-yourself arc building kit. (You never can be too careful.) But Saturday the sun was shining and it was warmer than expected. I awoke, stood outside for a moment and knew that I needed to be on my bike. I rode a muscle straining 30 miles and while the air was cool the warm of the sun made for a lovely ride. (Yes I used the word lovely. I may be a guy but I know lovely when I see it and am not afraid to say so.)

A short nap while waiting for my wife to come home brought me back to life and we headed into the City. It was the opening of the new wing of the Art Institute. But in Chicago, such an event is not some stuffy museum opening for the well to do, art snob crowd but an opportunity for all the City’s people to party.

It helps to know the geography of the area in order to grasp how expansive this moment was. From a north-south perspective the Art Institute is smack dab in the middle of the city. It is, however on the far east side of downtown specifically on the east side of Michigan avenue. On the west side of the street there are office buildings and retail establishments but on the east side is pure entertainment.

Immediately east of the museum is Grant Park and to the east of Grant Park is The Lake. This section of Grant Park houses a band shell that until recently was the centerpiece for all major festivals, several concerts and The Taste Of Chicago. It is the home of Buckingham Fountain and a beautiful rose garden.

But because that was not enough free and special space for the City of Chicago, another park was built immediately north of the Art Institute. This is Millennium Park. Whether or not it is financially worth the hundreds of millions put into it, aesthetically it is worth every cent. It is a place for people of every race, religion, social and economic status as well as every tonsorial and clothing affinity. More on Millennium Park in another post.

While normally The Art Institute and the two great parks on its borders are separated by streets, on this day the street were closed to traffic so it became one big stage for a Chicago day. We met my wife’s former college roommate, my friend, and regular Art Institute goer in Millennium Park. She had been there for the formal opening at 10 am and had just been enjoying the day. 

Admission was free today and the retail giant Target was hosting the opening. Outside the entrance they sponsered a stage that featured dance and music during the day. Target was providing snacks and bottled water. We started by touring part of the new wing. The stage had Jewish Klezmer music when we entered the museum and gospel music as we came out.

The new wing is great space to enjoy art. Now I am not knowledgeable about art or its history but I can appreciate it. This was open space where you could get very close to the paintings and sculptures. The sections meandered from once to the other. There are manny great works by many great artists. And yet as wonderful as the art was, the sunshine called us outside. In this new wing there was a rooftop area to eat, to sit, to be.

From there we went back out to the stage and caught the last part of the gospel choir. As we absorbed the high energy and spirituality of the music, a typical Chicago festival moment spontaneously combusted. Several rows back from the stage an African American couple were dancing some lively, intricate steps. Just as they stopped a middle aged, overweight white guy asked them to teach him the step. They did. An young, Asian guy jumped into the line on the other side of the couple and before you know it two more people joined in and the line danced until the music stopped. Hugs and handshakes all around.

The color and sex of the participants was irrelevant at that moment in time. I only mention them because you need to know in order to understand how much that race and sex did not matter. These were just people in the same place at the same time having a whole lot of fun.

We spent the next hour or so in Millennium Park enjoying ice cream and people watching. I love people watching. The older man in the kilt and the ugly sweater talking to anyone and everyone. Couple of all ages strolling through the park. Many stopping to enjoy the tulips. Taking pictures. The man trying to get his infant to walk to her mom, holding at first just her hands and then giving up, going with the flow and carrying the girl to where her mom was waiting to scoop her up in her arms. The woman with the tiara surrounded by friends (birthday, engagement or oddly likes to wear tiaras in public–your guess.)

I reget not having a camera. The sights and sounds were too numerous to write down. I have shared but a small sample.

Snow, what snow. We have short memories once the sun comes out to play.

This is why we live in Chicago.

I Was Punk’d

purell_sanitizer_lgIt happened at work. The weird thing is that I would have never believed that in my totally bland workplace that people would have the sly creativity and cleverness to pull it off. At least a couple of people do. Good for them!

Here’s what happened.

 

I woke up with a bad cold over the weekend. Bad enough that on Monday I stayed home–I follow my President’s instructions. I show up very early Tuesday morning to find 16 bottles of hand sanitizer on my desk with the following note:

Date:       May 12, 2009 

To:  All Managers and the Leadership Group

From:       V. C.
Senior Vice President,
Global Business Services

As was announced on the recent Leadership call, we are distributing Purell to all U.S. associates as part of our response to the recent H1N1 flu outbreak. If you are a manager who was recently sick, we are providing you with additional supplies of Purell and request that you apply the lotion frequently (preferably every 5 minutes) until the supply has been exhausted. If you need additional Purell, please use the Sanitary Alert form in the Forms database.

In addition, we ask that you distribute a bottle to each of the associates you manage. We also suggest that this is an opportune time to share with your associates the upcoming reductions in health care coverage and the role that Purell plays in our new health care plan (see the April 31  posting: Greater Flexibility in New Health Care Coverage).

We appreciate your efforts in ensuring the health and safety of your fellow associates.

vc

I read the note, it registers in my brain that parts are a little weird, drop bottles of hand sanitizer on the desks of the 3 people who report to me, check our intranet to look for the note on our cut in health benefits (which I cannot find but that happens all the time), I curse the cut in benefits and start doing my work forgetting about the memo. Oh yeah, I move the remaining bottles off my desk and on to a shelf.

A few hours later, since I had obviously not gotten the joke, a co-worker comes in to explain that on Monday morning everyone had a bottle on their desks. When I did not come in he and the guy in the office next to mine started gathering up bottles from 15 other offices and composed the note.

Once I knew it was a joke I reread the memo and cracked up. The thing is..we have gotten memos like this from our leaders with other callous, somewhat hairbrained ideas. This fake memo could have been real.

The people in my office know me well enough to know that I NEVER waste time listening to any of the Leadership calls and read less than half the memos. Last minute cuts in benefits have become common and it would not surprised me if someone in HR thought that a bottle of hand sanitizer would partially make up for it. Should the reference to the recently ill managers washing their hands every 5 minutes tipped me off? Probably.

But that is the sheer beauty of this prank. It was off the wall but only by a hair. Close enough for me to think it was all real. 16 bottles and all.

I tip my hat to the pranksters. I have a new found respect for them and gleefully await their next effort…as I plan mine.

Ginger Spam Salad

 With the Internet, you never know what will come your way. I have a GMail account. It has small ads at the top of the Inbox. Normally I do not even notice them. A small price to pay for a free service.

But it is hard not to notice the words ginger, spam and salad when laid out one next to the other. As if they were always intended to be together… in that order.

I do not know about you but I do not ever remember eating Spam. It has been around forever. Heck, it was lampooned over 30 years ago by Monty Python. I guess there is something to be said for longevity. Do I guess someone eats the stuff. I just did not know that people get creative with Spam.

But here it is. Enjoy Ginger Spam Salad. Recipe here. If any of you make it, and eat it, let me know what you think. We can even start a new feature at 48Facets, “Spam Recipe Tuesday” if this takes off.