A few things to share…

Ah yes, it’s another one of those little tidbits of uninteresting silliness to share with you, my lovely readers. All 20-something of you.

Really, you’ll love this. Trust me.

Download this tool!
Google Desktop Search. They just posted an updated (beta) version of their nifty desktop searching tool that includes an extra-cool feature called the “Sidebar” (how thrillingly original!). It automatically updates local news and weather, Email (and Gmail if you so desire), but best of all, it keeps you up-to-date on all your favorite blogs AUTOMATICALLY… as in, it knows which blogs you’ve visited and lists them for you. You can read all the latest posts of all your blogfriends quick and easy. (Of course you can add other blogs as neccessary.) Now that’s pretty cool.

It also catalogs your entire hard drive so you can find what you want quickly and easily. The cataloging takes a little while (and hogs the resources like nobody’s business) but it’s worth it if you’re having a hard time finding something.

They are continually developing new things for this utility, so of course, keep checking Google for updates. But in the meantime, have fun with it.

Dance For Life
This weekend I will be singing with a small group of CGMC boys at Dance For Life, which will be held on Chicago’s Navy’ Pier. This is the first time I’ve ever had the opportunity to see this event, and I’m really excited to be a part of it.

Dance For Life benefits four major HIV/AIDS charities in Chicago with performances by Chicago’s top dance troupes, such as Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago, Hubbard Street Dance, River North Chicago Dance Company, Thodos Dance Chicago, and the legendary Joffrey Ballet. It’s run by friends of mine from CGMC, who started it over 10 years ago as a way for dance companies to give their time and talents to organizations fighting HIV/AIDS and to raise funds for them as well. It’s a wonderful, worthwhile event, and if you have the means and the time, you should check it out (although I hear they are close to selling out, which is fantastic!)

Pat Robertson
I couldn’t let this one slip by. It just pissed me off too much. Who else just wants to slug this idiot? What a dickhead. Yeah I know, no different than any other loud-mouthed republican/conservative type… but has this geezer really lost his mind? I think so. Here we are, going on and on about combatting terrorism, and what do we do? What types of things are we saying? And I’m not saying the collective “We” here, because Pat Robertson certainly does NOT speak for all of us when he says “We should assasinate him” and “We should take him out.” (Unless of course he is talking about taking out a cute guy for drinks. Then he’s speaking my language.)

Oh and have you noticed this?

Can you tell them apart? I barely can.

Weekend from Heaven

One month til the end of summer, and we finally have a glorious weekend. And I mean glorious. It was sunny and warm, but not humid.

Perfect beach weather!!!

beach2 It was so much fun… just relaxing in the sun and getting nice and tan, with my friends Jeremy, Rafael and Ricardo around me. We even met two new (and very cute) new boys who we are hoping become part of our growing circle of friends.

That’s what happens when you spend both days of a weekend at Chicago’s infamous Hollywood Beach.

That’s right… the gay beach.

Its official name is actually the Kathy Osterman Beach, but it’s more commonly known as Hollywood Beach for two reasons– one, because that is the actual former name of the beach (it used to be two separate beaches, Hollywood and Ardmore), and two, because Hollywood Avenue, which is the final turnoff from Lake Shore Drive on the north side, runs right alongside it. Oh sure, you could surmise that it is also so named because of all the preening and prancing of the queens along the sands… but that’s merely coincidental.

Its present name, however –Kathy Osterman Beach– is also very fitting.

Kathy OstermanKathy Osterman was a force in Chicago politics, conservationism, and human rights activism for a very short but very powerful twenty years. In an article written in 1990 by columnistPaul M. Green, he writes, “Keeping up with Osterman as she tells her views of the city’s future is like trying to lasso a volcano. She does not talk, she erupts. Ideas flow in many directions, but they all have a common theme: Chicago’s economic and cultural advancement.”

She held such prestigious positions as Edgewater Community Council (1985-1986), 48th Ward Alderman (1987-1989) and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Special Events (1987-1992). During that time, she was an outspoken and passionate voice for minorities, the poor, the aged, the LGBT community, and community pride in general. Her outspoken style and optimistic outlook influenced many significant events in the history of Chicago, and changed the lives and the well-being of millions of people.

Some of her accomplishments included:
‚Ä¢ Created “Operation Lakewatch,” where she herself recruited local boaters and fisherman to basically watch the lake for the city by collecting water samples and report illegal dumping.
• Served on City Council committes on: Aging and Disabled people; Capital Development; Economic Development; Education; Energy; Environmental Protection and Public Utilities; Consumer Protection; Beautification and Recreation; and Human Rights.
‚Ä¢ Responsible for all of the city’s music and neighborhood festivals.
‚Ä¢ Operated Taste of Chicago, the city’s largest festival, and the second-largest tourist attraction in all of Illinois.

However, the accomplishment that endeared her to the hearts and minds of LGBT people in the City of Chicago forever was passage of the City of Chicago’s Human Rights Ordinance in 1988. According to the Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame website, which inducted Ms. Osterman in 1993 as a Friend of the Community:

An ebullient, optimistic, dynamic individual, Osterman was a fierce and outspoken lobbyist for the passage of Chicago’s Human Rights Ordinance. She worked closely with gay and lesbian activists, helping formulate logistics. She personally introduced many of the key players to each other, and is also credited for developing the imaginative “bring in the nuns” strategy, calling on women of the cloth to lobby the large Roman Catholic bloc of aldermen within the City Council. The Human Rights Ordinance was passed in 1988, and Osterman considered this to be one of her greatest accomplishments in public life.

Thereafter, she used her office to assist gays and lesbians whenever possible. And, Osterman often represented Mayor Daley at fundraising events and other activities within our community.

Sadly, Kathy Osterman passed away on December 8, 1992 after a battle with ovarian cancer. Chicago lost a great and powerful cheerleader and advocate, but her accomplishments did not go unnoticed, nor did they go unrecognized. So on Thursday, July 22, 1993, on what would have been Kathy Osterman’s 50th birthday, the City of Chicago renamed the Ardmore and Hollywood Beaches in her honor. According to the Edgewater Historical Society, “A monument displaying a plaque and a picture of the former alderman… stands at the north end of the beach where Kathy dearly loved to frolic with family, friends and neighbors.”

beach1 So it’s fitting that Chicago’s gay community has adopted the south corner of the Kathy Osterman beach as its own. It’s a far hike from Boystown, and even a bit of a trek from my neighborhood of Andersonville, but it’s well worth it. The beach is lovely and clean, and huge. And the boys… well… the boys are plentiful.

We may still call it “Hollywood,” but there’s no denying that its present namesake is just as deserving of that moniker. The two names go hand-in-hand quite well.

It’s just another wonderful treasure that’s a part of this wonderful city I live in. And I’m proud of that.

Mom, Dad, and Me.

I’m currently transferring all of my July-August 2004 posts from my old blog, RcktRamblings, to this one. Somehow they (and all my comments, which are still stuck on Blogger and will just have to stay there) never got transferred when I opened the Launching Pad.

While moving things over, I found this post that I had left in drafts but never published. It’s a brief overview about my Mom and Dad, and how their lives have impacted mine. With a few tweaks and revisions, it’s still as topical today as it was a year ago. So here it is. –R

My parents have been married for forty years. Forty. 40. Unbelievable.

I guess it isn’t that unbelievable when you consider that I’m going to be 35 this year. Good God. I’m going to be 35 this year. Ouch.

In that forty years, a lot has happened.

They met while working together at Warwick Electronics in Zion, Illinois. Warwick used to manufacture TVs, stereos and other equipment for Sears. Dad had started working there in the late 50s, with a break in between when he was drafted to serve in the Army during the Berlin Wall crisis from 1959 to 1961. He never went overseas, since the crisis died down while he was in training. He was discharged and never called back up again, thankfully, since the Vietnam war was soon to come. After his Army stint, he went back to Warwick, and that’s when he met my mom.

Mom, as I have told the story already, had just been divorced from her first husband and moved back from Indiana. She was a keypunch operator, which, as some of you may remember, is an early precursor to the computers of today. Think hanging chads and the like… that’s what it was all about.

They met, courted, and eventually married in 1965. They adoped a puppy they named Peanut, and a bird named Sam. Sam didn’t last very long… he was gone after a short while, but Peanut stayed for many years.

Their first home was a rented house in Zion. They were only there for a year, because as luck would have it, the land which their house sat on was purchased and was set to be cleared due to the building of the Zion Nuclear power plant. So they had to move.

They moved to Kenosha, Wisconsin, my dad’s hometown, into a three-year-old, three bedroom ranch house in a planned subdivision. The neighborhood was full of couples just starting out. It was 1966. That’s four years before I was born, folks. And I’m the oldest.

They still live in that same house today.

They waited for four years to have children, mainly for financial reasons, but also because my mom had decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse. So she enrolled in nursing school. In early 1970, she received her LPN degree, and started working at St. Catherine’s Hospital. Dad continued working at Warwick, where he had been promoted to Production Manager, and eventually Plant Manager.

Things seemed like they couldn’t get better for the Aiello’s. And then, in December of 1970, I arrived.

Mom continued to work at the hospital. She had been working in Emergency since her graduation, but after having me, she decided she wanted to work in Maternity. So she transferred, and she stayed there for the rest of her career.

My sister was born in March of 1973. The family was now complete.

And then, shortly after Beth was born, Warwick closed. Dad found himself without a job for the first time in almost 20 years. He had started at Warwick as a factory worker, and worked himself up to management. He didn’t have a degree of any kind, and had never gone to college at all.

And so started a string of jobs for my father. All throughout my life (after Warwick), my dad never had a job for more than five years. He got by on his experience, but couldn’t get past a low-level management job. And as the job market got more competitive, and the requirements for jobs became more stringent, he found that employment became harder and harder to come by. So by the time he approached his 60s, he was already out of work, and was battling Diabetes. So he decided to just stop working.

Mom stayed at St. Catherine’s for 25 years. She would have stayed longer, but health problems got in the way. The first, and the scariest, was kidney cancer. Thankfully, the doctors found this early enough that they could remove the kidney and stop the cancer from spreading. She has been cancer free now for over 10 years. The next was hip replacement surgery. And then came the diagnosis that has affected her ever since– Emphysema. Many past years of smoking had finally caught up to her. So Mom had to leave the job she loved, and had to retire.

So Dad has Diabetes and Mom has Emphysema. Because of their health problems, it’s getting too hard for them to care for the house anymore. Mom can’t go up and down the stairs to do laundry– yet she does it, because SOMEONE has to do it.

The yard around the house is merely a faint shadow of its former self, when Dad used to grow over 200 rose bushes, along with various vegetable gardens, and care for his lawn. Dad used to be outdoors nearly every day. Now dad never goes outside. In fact, he never leaves the house at all. He can barely get around because of the infections in both of his feet. The roses are all gone, and they pay someone to cut the grass. He sits inside the house all day, every day, and watches TV. And that’s his life.

Mom, though weakened herself, still goes out, shops, even works part-time for a senior-citizen trust fund company. Even after all she has been through, she just keeps on going. She’s the perfect model for a positive mental attitude. My mom has been to hell and back. No doubt about it, she’s my hero.

I hate seeing them this way, though. I wish my parents could be the typical retirees– traveling all over the world, having tea and playing tennis with friends, going on fishing trips or to shows. But instead, my parents–especially my Dad– are slowly cowering away from life and becoming hermits.

I don’t want to end up like that.

Of course, it’s not to say that I will. I am my own person. I live my own life. Sure, I’ve made mistakes (some of which they will hopefully never know about). But I want my life to be full of adventure and excitement– enough so that when I am their age I can say that I enjoyed it, and maybe, hopefully, have more years ahead.

I’m suddenly reminded of a wonderful song called “100 Years” by Five for Fighting. I love the lyrics because it talks about how quickly time flies and how the moments pass by so very quickly. To close this post, here are those lyrics… think about your family… your parents… your grandparents. Think of what they accomplished in life, and what you want to accomplish in your life. It may not be exactly what you intended at the outset, but if you accomplish something good, you’re doing something with the life you have. That’s what it’s all about.

100 Years
by Five for Fighting

I’m 15 for a moment
Caught in between 10 and 20
And I’m just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

I’m 22 for a moment
She feels better than ever
And we’re on fire
Making our way back from Mars

15 there’s still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose
15, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live

I’m 33 for a moment
Still the man, but you see I’m a they
A kid on the way
A family on my mind

I’m 45 for a moment
The sea is high
And I’m heading into a crisis
Chasing the years of my life

15 there’s still time for you
Time to buy, Time to lose yourself
Within a morning star

15 I’m all right with you
15, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live

Half time goes by
Suddenly you’re wise
Another blink of an eye
67 is gone
The sun is getting high
We’re moving on…

I’m 99 for a moment
Dying for just another moment
And I’m just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

15 there’s still time for you
22 I feel her too
33 you’re on your way
Every day’s a new day…

15 there’s still time for you
Time to buy and time to choose
Hey 15, there’s never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live