Pride Parade wrapup

So June busted out all over last week in Chicago. All over the street, all over the sidewalks, and all over the rooftops. That’s cause it was time for the Chicago Pride Parade. And even though the weather wasn’t perfect (it was kind of chilly for most of the day), the parade was just as much fun as ever.

I had an out-of-town visitor for most of the weekend from Michigan. We had never met before, but chatted online. We had fun — yes, in more ways than just one — but his main purpose for coming to Chicago was to see his first Pride Parade. I think he got what he was looking for. 🙂

We went out to a newer bar in my neighborhood on Saturday called “SoFo Bar.” It’s around the corner and just down the street from me, and has become one of my favorite new ‘hangouts’ as of late. It’s got a nice, casual atmosphere, and there are always some interesting people there. We met two lesbians and spent the evening chatting with them. I’ve been saying I need more lesbian friends… so maybe this is a good thing.

We stumbled home late on Saturday and hit the sack in preparation for Sunday. And of course we got up late. My friends Phil and Steve had a huge party at their apartment on Halsted street, overlooking the parade route. The windows were pretty full of spectators by the time we got there, but I still managed a few photos. The whole set is at my Flickr account, but the best of the best are below.

I had threw out my back on Saturday at some point during the day… I’m not even sure what I did… but it made walking kind of difficult. But sometimes you just have to suck it up and keep on going. It’s getting better, thankfully… I swear I’m falling apart.

Anyway, here are some of my favorite pics from the weekend. Hope you’re having a great week!

Hydrate Toga Party
Protest biker
Altoids bubbles
Green Diva
Snuggle Hug!
Cap'n Crunch!
Lots to see
Nice view
Smilin' Proud
You go Girl!
Phil and Joanna get their groove on
Casual stud
Jeremy and his Purrfect Pal

Happy Pride!

It’s Pride weekend in Chicago — so I want to wish all of my friends out there a Happy Pride weekend.  Whether you’re gay, straight, bi, trans, or not sure just what the hell you are… be proud of who you are.  That’s what it’s all about.

I’ll be back with pictures on Monday!

How are you feeling?

It’s an innocuous question– one that we ask almost daily of our family, friends, and acquaintances.  Especially those who have had recent health problems.

“How are you feeling?”

The responses may vary widely:  “Good, bad, better, not so good today, OK, today was good, yesterday wasn’t so great;” and so on.

But overall, in just about every general, middle-class situation, you can pretty much assume that your family, friends and acquaintances are feeling, at least, “pretty good.”

So what happens when the ability to feel “pretty good” is taken away from you?

What happens if you fall ill and have to be hospitalized?  What happens if your illness will require a major life change?  What happens if your illness turns out to be cancer, or diabetes, or lung disease, or a tumor?

And what happens if your insurance company decides that the treatment you need– and so rightly deserve as a human being, if not just a citizen of the United States of America– is denied coverage by their system?

Thankfully, this has not happened to me.  Yet.  With all the health issues and problems I’ve faced in the last few months and years, I’ve somehow been able to remain covered by whatever health plan my job has offered to me.

But I’m a very lucky person. There are thousands, probably millions of others who are not so lucky.

It’s easy to assume that these people would include the poor, homeless, or lower middle-class.  And while these people do, indeed, suffer at the hands of the medical system in our country, they are not the only ones.  Anyone– regardless of income, status, race, background, or previous medical history– can easily be denied the health care they need.  All it takes is the stroke of the pen (or in some cases, the electronic version of someone’s signature on a form letter) of an official at any of our ‘esteemed’ insurance providers in the United States of America to deny us the care we need.

All so they can curb their profits.

And let’s not even start on the pharmaceutical companies.  The prices they charge for their drugs is nothing short of obscene.  When I look at what my mom pays for her prescriptions it turns my stomach.  Here is a woman who lives on a measly  $1000 or so from Social Security per month, works part time as much as she can to maintain that Social Security check, and gets a small pension from her job as a nurse from which she retired in 1995.  Her combined total income is just under $2000 a month.  From that $2000, she has to pay her utility bills, her mortgage payment, and her taxes every year.  And then she has to eat– so she has to buy groceries.  What’s left of that goes toward her prescriptions– and at age 64, living on Medicare, she has to pay close to $1,000 in prescription costs alone.

Sure, my mom makes a little over $28,000 a year in combined income– but once you start chipping away at that amount, it doesn’t add up to much more than a drop in a very deep barrel.  This is how we are treating our Senior Citizens?  This is how we are treating our sick and our poor?  This is how we are treating the people that need medical care the most?

That, my friends, is what makes me sick.

I just finished watching a very important documentary, and I think you should watch it as well.  It is titled “Sicko” and it is by the notorious, yet brilliant director Michael Moore.  It’s offered at Google Video at the moment, and as we all know it could be removed from the site at any time.  But I urge you, if you care at all about the status of the health care system in the United States, or have ever wondered how things run in other countries, to watch this movie now.  Click on this link, then click on “Full Movie.”  Devote 2 hours and 3 minutes of your time and pay attention.  And find out just how bad it really is… and how good it really could be.

Then come back here and tell me what you thought and felt.

NOTE/CAVEAT:  This movie has not been released to the general public as of yet.  Its official release date is June 29, 2007.  And while I do not condone piracy, in this instance, the author himself has stated (about his previous film “Fahrenheit 9-11”) the following regarding online availability of his movies:

“I don’t agree with copyright laws, and I don’t have a problem with people downloading the movie and sharing it…as long as they’re not trying to make a profit off my labor. I make these movies and books and TV shows because I want things to change, and so the more people who get to see them, the better.”

As far as I’m concerned, watch it now, and then buy a copy when it comes out on DVD– or watch it again in the theaters.  Bring friends.  Bring enemies.  Just make sure people see this movie.

Thanks for allowing me this soapbox moment.  Hope you’re having a nice day…

…and that you’re feeling well.

Happy Father's Day

To all dads out there, and to all who still have dads out there, a Happy Father’s Day to you.

In the spirit of the day, I am re-posting a story I wrote shortly after my dad died last year.  I think it’s quite appropriate regarding how I feel about him today, and will probably feel about him for the rest of my life.

A Good Father (originally posted July 7, 2006)

A few months ago, I had a very frank conversation with my dad. One that he started himself.

“Rick,” he said, “Was I a good father?”

I thought about this for a minute, only because it was such an unusually deep question for him to ask. Usually our conversations revolved around the Chicago Cubs, movies, politics, history, or– most often– his health problems. This one threw me for a loop.

“Why are you asking me this, Dad?” I retorted, curious what brought on this sudden inquisitiveness.

“Well, I actually asked the same question of your sister the other day, and she said that I was too strict, and spanked you too much.” He replied. “And I felt bad, you know? I felt like I had failed you both as a father.”

I gave his statement some thought, and considered the possibility that my dad had maybe misconstrued what my sister told him. He did this often, as his hearing wasn’t so great; and sometimes he had the ability to take one part of what someone said to him and retain only that. It was a frustrating issue, but we learned to deal with it over time. Besides, I know my sister would never tell him that he was a bad father. We had discussed that between ourselves many times, and agreed that yes, he could have been a little less harsh with the “iron fist”, but he was definitely a very good father. The proof was in how we both turned out.

And so I told him this.

“Dad, yes, you definitely went a bit overboard with the spankings. And yes, you were very strict. But you know what? I’m glad you were strict. I’m glad you spanked us. Because Dad, you were a very good father. You loved us unconditionally, and we never once doubted that. And the fact that you were so strict with us kept us in line and made us who we are today.

“So to answer your question, Dad: You were a damn good father. And don’t you ever think otherwise.”

My dad considered this for a minute, and thanked me. He told me he loved me, and I told him I loved him. And the conversation then continued into discussions about the Chicago Cubs, movies, politics, history, and whatever else happened to be on TV at the time.

As my sister, my mom and I discussed all of this in the past few days, we realized something.

He must have known that his end was coming soon.

This was just one of many such conversations we had with him in the last few months. His demeanor was much more mellow, and he seemed to want to talk more. And when he did talk, he talked about things that meant something to us, or that maybe cleared the air about a certain issue or thing from the past.

And, more than ever, he made sure to say “I love you.”

And every time, we made sure to say it back.

Hello-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o?

OK so it’s been just over a week since I ‘remodeled’ the Launching Pad, and since that time it’s been like a ghost town around here.  Admittedly, there were some things that went awry at first and I had to get them fixed… but things are running just fine now.

So… are ya out there?

Maybe you’re a little confused where the comment link is… it’s a little different than what you may be used to.  If you look up at the beginning of the post, you’ll see that the comment link is there.  To the left… yes.. THERE!  Right next to the title and the first paragraph (or the photo if there is one).  It probably says “Comments (0).” Now click on it.  See?  It works!

And hopefully all those nasty commenting issues that were a part of my previous template will be a thing of the past.  I just need your help… and your comments… to see if those things are working.

Yes, this is a blatant request for comments.  I don’t mind posting things for my own self-amusement.  But it’s nice to know that some of you are out there, too. 😀