Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Which Sign to Follow...

Image result for road signs

Everybody's got their own shit to deal with.  We've all got problems.  I think how we deal with our problems dictates how happy or not we are in our lives.  Me, I'm never satisfied with my life.  I'm always looking for something, anything, to change it from what it is right now to, well, I really can't say, but better.

Like anyone else, I have good days and I have bad days.  I find that the worst thing for me about summer time is that I have too much time on my hands.  There's no structure.  I don't eat regularly or even well. I'm up at all hours of the night, and I waste a lot of time on my phone or on the pc.  On those kinds of days, which usually only happen when I have nothing going on, I live with a cloud hovering in the background of my mind, reminding me that I should be doing this or I should be doing that instead of the nothing that I am doing.  But it never affects me enough for me to do anything about it.  Before you know it, it's like 5 or 6 in the evening and that's when I go about the one regularized habit that I keep over the summer.  I work out, take my daily walk, get some coffee and then lose myself in pc-land until I'm weary and ready for bed sleep.  As I drift off I always tell myself that tomorrow's going to be better.  Then tomorrow comes.  

On those types of days, which happen at least once or twice a week, I'm not dealing with any of my problems, paying a bill, making an appointment, taking care of things.  I'm just avoiding them, and being self-destructive at the same time.  I smoke too many cigarettes.  I'll skip two or even all three meals.  I keep phone calls short, sometimes avoiding them altogether.  I keep to myself, lost in a world of nothingness, really, and inside I beat myself up for just letting time, precious time, slip away for nothing.  For no damned reason but my own avoidance issues.  

But that's me.  Do I sound like any of you out there?  Perhaps, and though it's not a. good way to be, it's not terrible.  There are far worse ways I could deal with my issues.  I could be drinking or gambling or doing drugs.  That doesn't make my avoidance issues any better, it just tells me that maybe changing the way I deal with things is not such a hopeless task. I speak of this now because a recently a good friend of mine, and the way he's dealing with issues, has been causing me to look inwards.  

This friend is a good friend who I've known for about five years.  He and I have had our ups and downs, like any friends do, but lately we're on a down.  This friend is a very isolated soul.  He keeps a lot inside, and you can always see, even on his brightest days, that he's got demons he won't share with anyone. Over the course of the past two years, this friend has gone through a lot of changes. Events in his life have caused him to change his living situation and the potential for that being a positive change has all but vanished at this point.  I think he's close to bottoming out and I'm afraid for him. 

Traveling down, this road
Watching the signs as I go
I think I'll follow, the sun
Isn't everyone just
Traveling down, their own road
Watching the signs as they go
I think I'll follow, my heart
It's a very good place to start

Madonna

I'm currently teetering on the precipice of a dilemma when it comes to this friend.  I'm looking at signs on this particular road, and I don't know which one to follow.  I don't know if there is a sun to follow here, but I know my heart is telling me something I don't want to hear.  It's giving me a choice, either I dive as deep in as I can to help him, or to I just let him go.  The first choice would be the one I'd usually make.  It's part of my nature, to want to help people.  That's why I'm a teacher, and that's why I think I have a lot of people in my life who appreciate having me around.  

The second choice would be the hard one to make.  It goes against my nature and would be a difficult detour to take, but maybe it's the right one.  I've come to learn in this life that the only person who can really effect change is the the person who will be making the change.  No one else can do it for them.  There have been events in my friend's life these past couple of years that would have caused most people to wake up and do something about, but they didn't cause any positive change at all.  In fact, they've lead to a more gradual change in the other direction.

Through it all I've been there, or at least tried to be there, for him, to make things easier...lending an ear, offering advice, giving refuge when it was needed, and sometimes even just a little company.  I'd like to think I helped, but I was just putting little bandages on a bigger cut and not fixing anything at all.  

A couple of weeks ago, things came to a head between him and I.  He'd been distant the past few months in a way that I'd always known was an avoidance of facing me with something he had done, or not done, that affected me in many ways.  He lied to me, which really hurt.  I had been very patient to this point, but eventually I had no choice but to confront him with everything I'd been observing. The avoidance had run its course. 

I wrote him an email, detailing the many issues we'd been having, and avoiding, and how I thought his way of dealing with his own problems was the source of it.  His own demons had changed him in a way that he was indirectly punishing not only himself, but me and really all of the people around him. I shared the hurt I'd been feeling at the way he'd been acting.  I reminded him of the dreams and goals he'd always talked about, but never pursued.  It was a difficult email to write, a lot of painful stuff to dole out, and it was even more difficult to send.  After having the draft for a day, I finally hit the send button.  

I believed, or hoped, that this would be his real wake-up call.  I had told him in the email that the way he responded could affect our friendship, which I know was a major card I had to play.  He knows I am one of the best friends he's ever had and his life is better with me around.  I don't want to not be around either, but maybe this is the sign I need to follow.

At first, it seemed that the email had at least some sort of positive affect.  He acknowledged all that I said was true, and he made mention of change.  But it was something I'd heard before.  In the time since, he's messaged me here and there, albeit tentatively.  He understands that things are shaky between us, and I've kept our conversations to a minimum to remind him of that.  I have seen that his demons have not gone away, though, and I'm afraid that at this point there is nothing I can do.  He's made his way towards the abyss and right now only he can pull himself up from that.  All I can do is wait, and hope.  Ugh, these damned signs!  Well, I think I'd better get working on my own...

  



     

Monday, August 7, 2017

Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017: King's Island's Great Coasters


It's no coincidence that King's Island has been a destination point on our road trips in 2012, 2014 and again this year.  It's sister park, King's Dominion in Virginia, has long been a favorite of me and my buddies, but this Midwest sister is that much more.  The cleanliness and beauty of the park, the friendliness of its staff, and of course the roller coasters make it my second favorite amusement park in the world (for my first, stay tuned! Wink wink.).  Rich, Gary and I headed out bright and early our first full day and more than got our fill of these great rides.  Check it out what we enjoyed of what King's Island has to offer:

Mystic Timbers


Image result for mystic timbers

Mystic Timbers is King's Island's newest coaster, debuting on April 15th of this year.  What's in the shed? is some sort of mysterious advertising gimmick that I guess was supposed to get people getting even more excited about the park's new coaster.  After one ride on it, we were all questioning what the big deal was.  We were maybe expecting some sort of elevated drop like on Verbolten in Busch Gardens, Virginia, or something.  Without spoiling it for anyone, I'll just say it wasn't all that.

The ride, however, was great!  It's got a nice, left sweeping first drop of about 54 degrees and the coaster hits about 53 mph as it careens through a series of nice twists and turns before coming to a halt right before entering...you guessed it...the shed!  You can see in the video below what does or does not happen in the shed, but really the ride would be just great without it.  A nice addition to the park!  Check it out...


Banshee


Banshee was the new coaster at the park the last time Rich and I visited and back then we liked it, but we only rode it once because the lines were too long, and because even though we liked it, we didn't love it.  That changed a bit this time around.  You see, Banshee is an inverted coaster, and Rich is not a big fan of those because you really can't see where you're going while you're riding it.  But for our second turn at the coaster this time around, Gary had an idea to ride it from the front car.  Big difference!  

Banshee was built on the former site of the notorious Son of Beast, towards the front of the park and is an imposing structure all on its own.  The lift hill travels straight through the second, vertical loop on the ride, as you can see in the photo, and the rest of it is well, wild!  Banshee is the longest inverted coaster in the world, with a length of 4,124 feet of track and it moves through seven inversions at speeds of almost 70 mph.  I can tell you that it's much more terrifying  from the front seat, and oh, that Banshee screech when you reach the top of the lift hill.  Hella scary!  Take a virtual ride...


Diamondback


Hyper coasters, those whose lift hill is more than 200 feet, are my favorite.  Aside from the thrill of that first, death-defying drop, they offer lots and lots of airtime.  King's Island's Diamondback is their version of the hyper coaster, and it is a doozy!  Reaching a height of 230 feet, this monster flies through the hill after hill, with lots of nice negative G's to give you that tickle in your stomach.  It even finishes with a nice splashdown over a small lake and is always fun to ride!  Oh, and the way the seats are arranged, each rider gets his own unique perspective on the ride...cool!  Check it out...


Firehawk

When we first visited King's Island back in 2012, I had never heard of this one, but till the day I die I will never forget it.  This ride is pretty unbelieveable, a flying coaster where you start out on your back facing the sky, all the way up to the top of the lift hill where it turns your body 180 degrees so you are facing the ground...flying...and then all hell breaks loose.  Rich and I have a history with this thing ever since that first terrifying ride back in 2012.  The thing was so scary we only rode it once, and when we returned in 2014, we gave it one more ride for old times sake.  It was early in the morning and poor Rich lost his wallet somewhere along that 3,000 feet of track.  Poor guy, it killed the day for him, but luckily he was willing to give it another go this time.  Well, what are roller coasters for?  Yes, scaring the bejeezus out of you.  Take a ride...(psst, fast forward to about the 1:30 mark!)


Flight of Fear

inside the cue

waiting our turn

I wrote about this one back in 2013, well the one located in King's Dominion in Virginia, which is the same.  Here's what I wrote back then...

Flight of Fear is an indoor coaster, many of which I do not like.  All the ones I've ridden before, except Space Mountain in Disney, were disappointing at best, but this one is freaking awesome!  
You would never know from entering the building what's inside, but soon after the darkness of the place and the sound of screams up ahead are excitingly intimidating.  Throw in a fun ride operator, who took pleasure in enhancing the experience for the most scared of riders by teasing them before releasing the linear induction coaster into the darkness, and a whole new element of fun is added to the experience.

Yeah, this one's still a great ride, and though it doesn't get much fanfare, it is popular with park goers as there is almost always a bit of a wait with this one!  I just had to take a quick video of the launch.  Check it out...3-2-1...blast off!


The Beast


Finally, we come to my favorite roller coaster in the world!  To me, The Beast is the ultimate roller coaster.  Long before I'd ever ridden it for the first time in 2012, I dreamed of riding it...literally.  The ride first opened in 1979 and has been giving roller coaster enthusiasts thrills ever since.  It's not the newest or tallest or even fastest, but this wooden coaster gives riders more than four minutes of death defyingly awesome twists, turns, hills and tunnels, (ooh the tunnels!), traversing 7,359 feet of track through heavily wooded terrain, making it the longest roller coaster in the world.  

The Beast was what made me excited about returning to King's Island and it was awesome to see my friend Gary, who'd never had the pleasure, enjoy this one.  By far this was the coaster we rode the most times that day and each time was as thrilling as the last, and oh boy, it's a killer at night!  I wrote about this one on the last trip, and you can check that out here.  In the meantime, take a virtual ride on this monster...



So yeah, that was our day at King's Island...a great start to a great trip.  I hope this whet your whistles if you are into coasters because if you ever have the chance, you must get there.  They have even more coasters than the ones I've talked about, like Vortex, Backlot Stunt Coaster, Invertigo, The Racer and The Bat.  Yeah, King's Island is a world-class coaster destination.

Stay tuned for more of this years Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017, with even more thrill rides and a World Wonder, coming soon!  Here are some more pics from our day...

Me n Gary

Vortex



Banshee

Entrance to The Beast


Be sure to check out the first entry:

An Unplanned Stop in Pittsburgh and Kennywood






Friday, August 4, 2017

Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017 - An Unplanned Stop in Pittsburgh and Kennywood

Road trips can be a lot of fun, and when you add amusement parks into the mix, then they can be super fun, especially for roller coaster nuts like me and my friends.  This year was my pal Rich and I's third Roller Coaster Road Trip and we had some new company this year, fellow coaster enthusiast Gary.  Now every time we do one of these things, I'm usually the one who comes up with the plan...it's kind of my thing, and this year all I knew was that I wanted to include a little bit of Canada.

Since Rich and I loved King's Island, near Cincinnati...and home to The Beast, and Gary had never been there, we made that our first stop.  Next it was on to Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio.  Cedar Point is the Mecca for roller coaster enthusiasts and this one wasn't hard to decide upon since we all love the place.  Niagara Falls, Toronto and Canada's Wonderland would round out the trip.  So after much planning and preparation, on July 23rd we were on our way.


Now here's one of the reasons why I love these road trips...unplanned pit-stops.  Our first destination was an AirBnB place in Cincinnati and the route our GPS was taking us was through southern Pennsylvania, a route Rich and I had taken before, right past Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh was one of our stops on the very first Roller Coaster Road Trip and we enjoyed the city and of course its nearby theme park, Kennywood.  We had a pit-stop to make!


We had discovered Primanti Brothers on that first trip and since we arrived in the Pittsburgh area a little early for the evening run at Kennywood, we decided to give it another go.  Primanti is a Pittsburgh staple.  All of the restaurants sandwiches come on sourdough bread, with some french fries and cole slaw inside...interesting and tasty!  



After a cheers to the beginning of our trip and a quick Primanti, it was off to Kennywood, one of America's oldest theme parks. The place has been providing entertainment to people since 1898 and it is quaint and beautiful. They've got six coasters, three classic woodies, a dark mouse ride, and two steel monsters: Skyrocket and Phantom's Revenge, and we got our first five coasters in the check column! (We skipped Exterminator, the indoor mouse coaster.)

Now, Skyrocket, Jack Rabbit, The Racer, and Thunderbolt are all nice rides, though I found the latter a bit rough.  Phantom's Revenge, formerly known as Steel Phantom before a renovation to remove some four rough loops back in 2000 (check out this video on the history of the coaster), is da bomb!  It's one of the reasons I love roller coasters so much.  This one is unique in that it's second drop is higher and steeper than the first.  That's only possible because of the hilly terrain of the area and the fact that this particular drop careens through a ravine, straight through the structure of Thunderbolt!  Wicked!  Oh did we ride this one a few times.  Check out a video I took of the coaster: 


Anyway, this was a great, unplanned start to our trip.  Kennywood is a great place to spend a few hours, especially to ride Phantom, and now we had King's Island to look forward to.  Stay tuned!  In the meantime, check out some pictures from our evening at Kennywood...

Skyrocket





Phantom's Revenge



                 Me n Gary





Saturday, July 22, 2017

Roller Coaster Road Trip 2017: A New Adventure Awaits

Back in 2014, just three years ago, my pals Rich and Eddie and I took our second ever Roller Coaster Road Trip, venturing out to Louisville, Kentucky, Nashville, Tennessee, Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and Richmond, Virginia.  It was our second such trip, and a great one at that, riding many great coasters at Holiday World, Kentucky Kingdom, King's Island, and Dollywood, as well as exploring Mammoth Cave National Park, all the sites in Nashville, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and more.

Image result for cedar point

Our third trip will not include Eddie, sadly, but our pal Gary, one of the most intense roller coaster enthusiasts I know, will be joining Rich and I instead.  This time we're hitting King's Island again in Mason, Ohio, Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, Niagara Falls, and finishing up in the city of Toronto, including a day trip to Canada's Wonderland.  Cool, right?

Image result for toronto

As the clock ticks down towards our adventure, I'm getting more and more excited.  It'll be our first Roller Coaster Road Trip in three years!  I can't promise any regular posts during the trip, but I do hereby promise to get all the way to the end this time (On our last trip, I only covered up until the first part of Nashville.)  So stay tuned...

Image result for niagara falls


Friday, July 21, 2017

Friends

I know, I know, I promised way back in May that I was back again.  Well, of course I found myself without time and ever since I gained that time back at the end of the school year I haven't been inspired.  Well, I think maybe it's time I just delve back into writing.  I still have people complementing my writing, so well, maybe by just doing it I'll be inspired.

I'd like to talk about friends.  I've got a lot of people in my life who I call my friends, but are they really my friends?  I mean, that word is used so loosely.  Luckily for me, I do know what constitutes a true friend because I've got two of them in my life who, no matter what, are always there for me when I need them, good times or bad.  I've had a lot of negative experiences this year with 'friends,' and it's caused me to reevaluate how I deal with people in my life.


Image result for friends

friend
noun
  1. 1.
    a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual or family relations.

Okay, so according to this definition of friends, I have a lot of them.  I do.  I'm a very social person.  I liken the difference between the two definitions, though, to loving someone and being in love with someone. Same term, two very different things.  The important thing to realize when you look at your friends is to know which type they are and treat the relationship as so.  That way you won't let any negative stuff get in your way.

Earlier in the year, I was completely cut off by a so called friend, someone I had known for a few years.  We'd shared many good times together and when it happened it was without explanation. That wasn't the first time this happened to me, but for a long time I was left wondering and now there's a person within my circle whose presence makes things uncomfortable.  I hate it, but you know what? He was never really a friend and so it's not my problem.

Then there are those so called friends who take and take and give nothing in return.  I've had several of those in my life as well.  One-sided friendships!  These types of friends are the toughest to deal with because it usually takes awhile to realize, and the best thing to do with them once you do realize is to keep yourself at a distance, eventually weening them away.  Sad, really!

I write this like I write a lot of my posts.  For one thing, it's something I live with everyday and so it's on my mind currently.  I learn for myself when I put it out there and so like I said, I need to reevaluate how I deal with people from here on out.  I certainly don't need to waste any precious time on those who aren't worth my time.  And maybe one of you out there can recognize these types of friends from your own life and realize that maybe you've been wasting your own time.  Life is way too short for that!  Simply open your eyes and evaluate whether or not certain people in your life are worthy of the term 'friend.'  




Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Hey, It's Me Again


Hey there!  It's been a long time, definitely one of the longest gaps I've ever had between posts since I started this blog almost ten years ago.  I've been wanting to start writing again, for awhile now, but somehow life's been getting in the way.  Earlier today, I had been motivated to write a somewhat lengthy post on Facebook (regarding politics) that got a lot of attention, and then a friend of mine reminded me that I had a way with words.  So here I am.  

It's been a rough 2017 so far, sad and busy and tiring and depressing.  Though I've had a lot of things on my mind that I could have shared, I've either been too tired from being too busy or tired, or simply not motivated enough to do so.  There's been a lot, yet not a lot going on in my life and perhaps a return to writing may be just what the doctor ordered.      

So just checking in to say hey and hopefully you'll be hearing a lot more from me again as I try and get my bearings right again.  I know there are some of you out there who've probably missed hearing from me and so I hope you'll welcome me back with open arms.  Till next time, take care and be sure to continue checking out John's Music World.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Diego


I've just spent the better part of the last two and a half days crying, and the floodgate of tears came to an ebb at 7:17 yesterday morning.  I sit here, 24 hours later, still in disbelief.  Diego, my little fluffy monster lost his life.  He was only nine years old.

There are so many things related to this death that make it so hard to deal with.  He'd been sick for several months now with diabetes, but he was doing well lately...really well.  Yet it was his disease that ultimately killed him.  Of course, any death comes with grief, and especially when it's someone or some animal who has been around, living with you all the time.  A pet is a part of your family, and since I have no partner and no children, he and Dylan were...are...my family.


Mourning Diego is not my only issue today and going forward because I'm not the only one mourning.  Dylan and Diego have been together since day one.  Though they look nothing alike, they are brothers from the same litter.  The only thing they shared physically was the fact that they both have extra digits...Hemingway cats.  These two spent every waking moment together, cuddling, playing, fighting, eating, and whatnot.  From the moment I came home after leaving Diego at the animal hospital on Tuesday night, Dylan has been sad.  His buddy's missing.

Wednesday was a roller coaster day.  I received both good reports and bad ones about Diego's progress, but I believed throughout that he was coming home.  I went to sleep that night happily imagining the reunion of those two.  What a sight that would have been!  Unfortunately, that reunion was never meant to be, and I can only hope that poor Dylan comes to accept that his brother won't be back.

At the moment, I can't have any interaction with my other baby, my lil panther, without crying.  He and I have an intimate connection, and somehow I know he knows that his brother is gone and he is sad.  I caught him laying in the cat carrier late Wednesday night, lying on the towel that Diego had laid on last Saturday on his last trip to the vet.  At feeding time, when I call him to come eat, he runs into the kitchen looking around for his little buddy.  And during the night, in bed, where the three of us always slept together, Dylan is restless, constantly looking over the side of the bed for his brother to come up and join us.  My heart breaks for Dylan, as well.

  
I adopted Diego and Dylan when they were just about eight weeks old, back in April of 2008. Though I'd said that I would never again have a pet after my first cat, Spike, passed about six months prior, I'd been newly single and I wanted one to call my very own, only before beginning my search for them, I had already decided that I wanted two cats.  Spike had been the only one for sixteen years and I always felt bad for him because he always seemed lonely.  At least with these two, I knew they wouldn't be lonely whenever I wasn't around.  And it didn't take long for me to find these two...


From the start Dylan and Diego brought great joy into my life, as pets do, and for the last nine years these two brothers have had their fair share of playful moments, getting into mischief, and just plain adoreable-ness!  They've been all I've had for a family in all of these years I've been alone and I'm grateful for both of them.    





Feline Diabetes

A few months back, around September, Diego had started to lose a lot of weight and hair along his spine.  Admittedly, I hadn't noticed the severity of either condition until my friend Bobby pointed it out to me.  When you're present around someone or animal all the time you tend not to notice such things.  I rushed him to the vet as soon as I realized this was serious.  The vet had to run some tests on Diego, and she told me that it was either a thyroid condition, diabetes, or something else...I don't remember at this point, only that she told me to hope for the thyroid because it was the easiest to take care of.

The next morning, I got a call saying that Diego did indeed have diabetes.  Apparently diabetes has become very common in both cats and dogs these days, and although the treatment...insulin shots every 12 hours...seems like a big commitment to make, I loved Diego and I was readily willing to take it on.  The doctor assured me it would eventually become easy, and it did... maybe too easy.

Diabetes is a serious condition in humans, and in animals.  It killed my father after torturing him for years with its many side effects, yet I'm not so sure if I ever took it as seriously with Diego because it became so easy to take care of and the insulin shots seemed to have brought him back to normal in just a couple of months.  I became complacent, and even thought about him dropping down to one shot a day instead of two while I was away on a planned trip in a couple of weeks, just so that my friends wouldn't have to deal with coming here twice a day.  I realize now that would have been stupid!  So, for any of you dog or cat owners out there who's beloved pet gets diagnosed with diabetes, all I can say is take it seriously, and never ever forget that without the proper care, terrible things can happen.      


So, I sit here with a heavy heart, but I know with time it will get better, for both Dylan and for I.  But it'll be a long, long time...maybe forever, that I will be missing the purrs and the unconditional love bestowed upon me by my beautiful, gentle little Diego.  I apologize for so many pictures, but even though I am prejudiced, I think he was one of God's most beautiful creatures.  Don't you agree?  Rest in peace baby!