Happy Halloween!

I’ve never been much for dressing up in costumes for Halloween, but it’s so much fun to see the creativity that goes on each year.

My friends Marc and Fausto of Feast of Fools invited our friend Michael Lehet to join them to dress up as pandas this year, and they are having quite a lot of fun with it.  They’ve been doing some really great videos this week on the Feast of Fools website while dressed in their panda outfits and makeup.  Here’s one of all three of them doing the “Panda Dance” to the song “Jung Hwa Ban Jum.” I have no idea what it really means, but it’s hysterical to watch.

And while I’m at this, if you would be so kind as to vote for the Feast of Fools gang for the annual Podcast Awards, I’d greatly appreciate it. They are up for Best GLBT Podcast and People’s Choice (Podcast of the Year) this year. They’ve won Best GLBT Podcast for the past two years, and I really want them to win BOTH awards this year!!! I’m an occasional guest on their show (here my most recent appearance), so this award would mean a lot to me as well. Vote every day, once a day!

And if pandas and podcasts aren’t your game.. here’s something you might enjoy: My nieces, Abby (the flower) and Emily (the kitty), dressed in their first Halloween costumes. If that doesn’t tug at your heartstrings for all that’s CUTE in the world, I don’t know what will!  Happy Halloween!

Blast From the Past: Prodigy

I’ve been going through a sort of 80’s rebirth lately. It all started with the re-unification of a group of friends my sister and I met in the early 90s on Prodigy. Remember that?

For those who don’t remember, Prodigy was an online service/community before the Internet/WWW became mainstream, and even before America Online became big. It was offered as a joint effort by, of all companies, IBM and Sears. When my mom bought us our first computer, a friend told us about Prodigy and told us we should buy a modem, because most modems came bundled with the software. So we bought a 2400 baud modem (can you imagine?) and I installed it myself (I always had a strange innate ability to figure out computers). I loaded the software, and our lives changed forever.

In a few short months, my sister and I came upon a bulletin board (there were no chat rooms then) called “Name That 80+ Tune” I forget where exactly we found it, but it was listed among hundreds of other topics and contained sub-topics where members a line or two of a song from the 80’s and beyond and everyone else had to guess the name and artist of the song. It started out innocently enough, but after a while, this little group started to actually get to know each other. There were times when messages would get posted to the boards almost instantly, so we created a separate “UCC” board, or “Utter Chit Chat.” And next thing we knew, we had friends all over the country.

Because there was no way to send photos via Email at the time, we sent them through regular mail. Next we all shot videos of ourselves and our hometowns and sent them to everyone — those were hysterical. At that point we really felt like we knew each other pretty well, so we started to get ideas about meeting in person. One girl, Lynn, lived in Chicago, not far from my sister and I; one guy, Tony, lived in New York and another, Scott, lived in California. Others included Beckie, who lived in Connecticut; Emily and Sarah, who lived in Seattle; Paul, who lived in Minnesota; Lauren, from St. Louis and Amy, from Phoenix.

We decided to meet in Chicago/Kenosha, since it was central and three of us already lived in the area. The first “union” brought five of six of us together, and the second brought four. Other, smaller “unions” happened across the country, with one of the guys, Scott, being the “constant” in almost all of them. Eventually, everyone had come in contact with one another in some way. Our little online community had grown into true friendships.

As time went on, and technology changed, Prodigy changed as well, and the group began to disband. We tried moving everything to America Online but by then the Internet and the World Wide Web were starting to gain popularity and nobody had time for silly bulletin boards. The main “group” still kept in touch via Email and phone, and a few of us met once or twice more, but after a while, life caught up with us and we lost touch with nearly everyone.

Until Facebook.

15 years after we first started all of this, our little group has reunited. I found Scott there, and he found another former member, Heather. Then my sister joined, and we found Amy and Beckie. So I decided to create a “Name That 80+ Tune” Facebook Group, and basically resurrected our old game.

I never dreamed it would be so successful. As of today, 15 people have joined the group, and of that 15, 13 were members of the original Prodigy group. We’ve been having such a great time, remembering all the crazy things we did, posting pictures of our ‘unions,’ and even planning some reunions. We’ve all grown up, some have gotten married, some have kids, but all of us still have a love for music and those goofy 80’s tunes. And we’re even back to playing the game, just like we used to.

What happened back then was so new and exciting. We created a community before MySpace, Friendster and Facebook. Heck, even before AOL. I don’t think it could ever happen today. It’s just too easy to exchange all of that information. Back then we were just names and words. There were no judgments based on looks, lifestyles or backgrounds. Today everyone has pictures, profile pages, websites and blogs… it’s almost too easy to find people, but not so easy to really get to know them.

And to think it all started on Prodigy, which doesn’t even exist anymore. In a way, I like to think we were pioneers.


The old Prodigy gang, in my parents’ backyard, 1993:  
Clockwise from top left: Scott, me, Tony, Beth and Lynn.

Project Campit Runway- Part 1

This past weekend, my friends and I went for one last “Summer fling” to Campit, the gay campground in Saugatuck, MI.  It was a short weekend, but it was a lot of fun.

When my friend Kevin showed up to drive me there at 6:30 in the morning, I hadn’t slept at all the night before– partially out of nerves but mostly out of stupidity– and when we loaded up his car, I inadvertently forgot to grab the tension poles for my tent.

So when I arrived at Campit and started unloading my tent, and found no poles… I figured I’d be sleeping in the car.

Luckily, my friends Ricardo and Jeff devised a way for me to still use my tent, and still sleep comfortably.

Here’s Ricardo’s explanation of the thought that went into their creation:

Tomorrow, Ricardo’s costume creation for our friend Rommel at the 70’s Celebration later that night.

Picture Post: Labor Day Weekend

Gettin' Smiley

Labor Day weekend usually, for me, involves taking a trip somewhere — be it Saugatuck or up north in Wisconsin, or just about anywhere else.  It rarely involves staying home.

Well that’s just what I did this year… and a lot of my friends did the same.  We tried planning a trip somewhere, but in the end we all decided to have a “Staycation.”

And that was definitely the best choice.

On Friday I joined a few of my friends in lovely Hammond, Indiana to see Sarah Silverman live at the new “Venue” at the Horseshoe Casino.  She was funny, and I enjoyed her set a lot.  After that we headed back to Chicago for a few drinks.  The next day was day one at Hollywood Beach.  I hadn’t made it to the beach once this summer, and I was determined to do so before the summer got away from me completely.  I’m so glad I did.  The weather was perfect, the boys were plentiful, and my friends were there and we had a simply wonderful time.

The plan for most of my friends was to make it a three-day beach weekend, but I had other plans.  On Saturday night, after I got back from the beach, I grabbed my things and headed up to my mom’s in Kenosha.  I spent the night up there, and the next day my sister and her family came up and we spent the day with my adorable nieces.  They’re almost 7 months old now and growing cuter and funnier and more lovable by the second.  Abby recently cut her first teeth, and Emily is not very far behind.  Being their Uncle has already been so wonderful and rewarding.  I love those two little angels.

I headed back to Chicago on Sunday night and on Monday it was “Back to the Beach” again.  And while I was mingling with friends, laughing, enjoying the sunshine and the warm air, my friend Jeremy and I decided that this was one of the best Labor Days we ever had.  Gorgeous weather, gorgeous boys, and right in our own backyard.  We didn’t have to drive or spend a lot of money.  Can’t get much better than that.

The weekend capped off a really great summer for me.  I feel happier, calmer, and better than I have in many years.  After the pain of 2006 and the readjustment of 2007, 2008 has shaped up to be a pretty great year.

*Yawn* … Good morning!

So, I’m back from my hibernation, and it was a lovely rest.

And things look different.  Again.

You’ll see that I have once again changed the look of The Launching Pad.  You’ll also notice that the name of The Launching Pad has changed.  I’m all about change.

Summer is drawing to a close, and I’ve been getting the itch to blog again.  So I took a look at things and decided it was time to do some house-cleaning… again.  If you’ve visited here before, you’ll notice that the sidebars are gone. There’s nothing but posts and comments, folks.  It’s clean and neat and to the point – just the way it should be.  I took the inspiration from the Tumblelog movement that is occurring – I figured why re-invent the wheel– just re-tool it a little bit.

Of course, if you REALLY want all that sidebar goodness, just hover over “Navigation” at the top and, like magic, they will appear.  So that’s where you’ll find my blogroll (which is being heavily trimmed, by the way), feed info, and other stuff that used to be on the main page.

I’ve also deactivated the PostReach comments – those little icon thingies at the end of every post that allowed readers to make wordless comments.  I decided that if you want to comment, you can write a line or two telling me what you think.  Plus they just didn’t match the feng shui of the new look. 🙂

**UPDATE** I’ve also just converted my comment system to Disqus, at the recommendation of a fellow blogger.  Disqus allows a lot of really great features including comment threading and video comments.  Fun fun fun!!!  So you have no excuses– commenting is fun again! 🙂

So I’m back – and what’s been up?  Well, in all honesty, I’ve been spending more time with my friends and family, and just trying to spend LESS time in front of a computer monitor.  I spend 8+ hours, five days a week, in front of a computer.  I needed a break from that on my own time.

That’s not to say I haven’t been spending time in front of my computer.. I’ve just been doing different things.  My latest obsession is SingSnap.  In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically online karaoke.  My friend Teddy clued me into it a few months ago, and in just those short few months, I’ve become something of a rising star there.  I’m not saying I’m ready for a record contract or anything, and I’m much too old for American Idol… but it’s been rather fun, and it’s been a better waste of time than looking at porn or cruising the gay meat markets.

Other than that, I’ve gone camping a couple of times, and spent a lot of time with my friends.  And, of course, I’ve spent more time with my family and my adorable nieces, Abby and Emily.  I can hardly believe they’re already 6 months old… and getting cuter by the minute.

So I’m back, I’m refreshed, and I’m looking forward to a new direction for my blog.  Posts will be shorter.  Photos will happen more often.  And I’m just going to have fun with it.  And like before, if I have nothing to say, I won’t be posting.  I decided that I really like being a part of this world, and I didn’t want to leave it… I just wanted to make it what I want it to be.  Having all of you is just the cherry on top of the sundae.

Here’s a few pictures to get things started… See you soon!

Market Days Madness under the Rainbow Pylons!
Market Days Madness under the Rainbow Pylons!
Camping in Saugatuck - with new and old friends!
Camping in Saugatuck - with new and old friends!
Beth with Emily and Abby at Grandmas house
Beth with Emily and Abby at Grandma's house