Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kids today don't have what we did

For all of the technology and advances over the years, there's something missing that people even a bit younger than me can't grasp. The end of the last Space Shuttle mission this week brought that home for me. When I was a kid, the dreams were bigger, or at least that's how it seems to me.

We were actively pushing to go to the stars. We were pushing hard. Whatever our differences, in this country and around the world, we could stop every now and then and marvel at what humanity--and America in particular--was accomplishing. These were such proud moments. Of course, those younger than me know the Shuttle, but they know it for routine missions, occasional problems (like tiles falling off as the old workhorses aged) and the occasional terrible disaster. But what they don't know is the thrill of it being new. The thrill of it being our next step into space. The amazement at what looked like a plane, but it could go to orbit and then land like a plane. The wonder, fear and nervousness as we watched the test flights, the first launch and the first landing.

I was three years old when man first walked on the Moon. My Mom loved to tell the story of how I, at three years of age, watched the astronauts taking off from the Moon's surface to come back to Earth and said, "why are they going up?; they're supposed to be coming down!" Hey, it was a decent observation for a three-year-old! :)

But let's stick to the Shuttle. For anyone who is too young to remember it (I was 15 when this happened), just imagine it. There's this amazing new machine, but what if something goes wrong? Brave people are risking their lives. They took the Enterprise (yes, named for the starship--but appropriately so, as they both carried our hopes and dreams for the future) up on the back of a 747, released it and landed it in tests. But then it was time for the Space Shuttle Columbia, may she and her last crew rest in peace, to go up for the first real flight. Up to orbit on columns of flame, and at the end of the mission back on a fiery re-entry before coming in for that nerve-wracking landing.

So imagine it. You're watching the Shuttle come in. She has chase planes with her as she glides in. And she does glide, but she really drops like a rock with wings. As they track her in and you see her approaching the runway, you can't imagine that it's safe to be coming in that fast. And as she gets closer, it's not like a jetliner with its gear out for miles as it lines up for its approach. No, it's seconds away from landing and there's no gear down. Twenty seconds before she's going to touch the ground, the gear start to come down. Twenty seconds. And in she comes. Here, watch...

And remember, we were sitting there, biting our nails and hoping nothing would go wrong. "She's going awfully fast!" "They're almost there. Where's her gear? Why isn't the gear down?!" And then down they came with seconds to spare. And then it went so perfectly, and she made her picture-perfect landing...

There's no Super Bowl, no World Series, nothing that is like the triumph of that moment. That amazing accomplishment of mankind. That fulfillment of a dream and the promise of so much more to come.

We need more of that. We need those dreams and those big things to reach for. That's missing today, as far as I can see, but I hope it's not missing from our future. It will be a better future if we can chase those big dreams! Not everything is dollars and cents. Some things we do to learn, and, at the same time, to dream and grow bigger as a species. We need that!

And while we're at it, imagine the first launch. Would this even work. We all watched it live...

And we were all thinking--or yelling--go, baby, go!

Dream big, everyone! Look at what we can do!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

All a matter of perspective

Yesterday was a fun day. We went to hang out with some friends for "lobsterfest." Our friend Rob, with the help of his wife, Laura, cooked a huge bunch of lobsters, along with ribs he slow-cooked in a smoker in his back yard, some clams and various other delights, capped off with a fabulous cake Marc had made.

At the same time, we were learning some terrible news. Remember when I posted something a few days ago, referring to it as a good day? Well, that's where the perspective comes in. From our perspective, it seemed to be. But from the perspective of our friend Jase, as we only found out yesterday, it was probably the worst day of his life. You see, the night before, his mom was murdered by a stalker.

We sent him a card, and we'll certainly watch for the arrangements, so we can go support him. We'll also do anything we can to be there for him after the formalities are done, when the weight of it all really hits. But Marc and I are both at such a loss. One or the other of us will stop during the day and just say, "I still can't believe what happened" or words to that effect.

I've lost a number of loved ones, including my parents. Marc has lost his dad and other loved ones, too. Losing a parent is crushing. Still, there's something about such a sudden, senseless loss that is beyond most of us. The killer went on to kill himself, so at least Jase and his family won't have to endure a trial and looking at the evil man who did this, but I can't even imagine... I hope he's finding some solace somehow. We're certainly sending our best thoughts his way and our hearts are pained for our friend's terrible loss.

Our hearts go out to you, Jase. We love you, and we're so very sorry for your loss!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

A good day, and the world's a better place

I was hoping we'd wrap up negotiations with one of our unions today. We've been negotiating for months, and I was hoping it would reach an end. Alas, that wasn't to be. Not the end of the world. These things can take a long time until the sides find the right little patch of middle ground.

While that was a disappointment, it freed me up to join Marc for a program at the Long Island Gay & Lesbian Youth Center. Initially, I thought today's union negotiations would go into the night, as they often do when negotiations appear to be reaching their final sessions. But when they didn't, that freed me up to go to LIGALY's PEP (Pride Empowerment Project) Career Forum.

Marc and I, along with several other professionals from a variety of organizations, were able to share tips with teenagers in the PEP program on how to search for a job, prepare for an interview, dress for an interview, etc. We fielded a variety of questions, and I think it was a fruitful night for the attendees.

The best part came at the end. A transgender kid we knew from prior LIGALY events asked about a problem few people have to face. She looks more like the he she'll eventually be, and she likes to go by a male name but legally still must use her legal, female name on applications. She wanted to know how to deal with telling people she really goes by a male name. We were able to share what I think was sound advice, but that's not the really good part.

The good part came afterwards. She mentioned that it's a catch-22, because this situation makes it harder to find work (already tough for a 19-year-old in this economy), but she needs to find work to afford to pay for the court filings, etc., necessary to make a legal name change. With court filings, legal notices she'll have to put in those tiny listings in local papers, etc., we're talking probably a few hundred dollars. Maybe $500 at most. So Marc and I agreed with a guy from a staffing agency who was on the panel for the event that we'd all split the cost so she could get the name change done and move forward with her (soon to be his) life. Also, one of the LIGALY people will reach out to a law firm that has been a supporter of the organization and get them to do the court filings (we know them... they'll do it). There's even a shot at the staffing agency finding her work at the same time, so that was a bonus.

This sweet young person was pretty overwhelmed (if you're wondering, her family has refused to help her), and she had to give us all hugs. We told her that when she's our age this amount of money won't be so hard to come by and then she'll be able to help others like we are, and she'll know what a joy it is to be able to help. We're so happy to have been able to offer help that her own family has denied her. And tonight the world is just a tiny bit better place. :)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Blogging beats Facebook

Okay, so I use Facebook regularly, and I've been very bad about keeping my blog updated. I'll try to do better!

A reminder of the value of blogging came tonight when Marc asked when we'd first met a fellow blogger face-to-face. I was able to search my blog and find a record of that meeting and what we did on the weekend when we met him.

That's the thing. Facebook is an online social medium, but blogging is, at its heart, an online version of a diary. It's a log of one's life (or the parts one wishes to record) maintained on the web, as you all know. That's where the name comes from.

I have photos to share, since I never finished posting from last year's France trip and I haven't even started on this year's trip photos (including a photo of hot Parisian firemen with Marc). Of course, there are rugby photos to share, too, as well as bits of stuff from our lives. So I will endeavor to do better. Blogging is so much richer than Facebook, and I'm sorry I haven't done more of it!

By the way, the blogger mentioned above is our dear friend Greg. Amazingly, our "in real life" friendship with Greg appears to be a bit shy of three years in length. Funny, but it seems like we know him a lot longer. Yes, we know him online for longer, but it really feels like we met him much further back than not-quite-three years ago.