Random Thoughts on a Hot, Steamy June Day

Thing on my mind today….

COVID, London Style: So, we’ve been venturing out the past couple of weekends as London slowly yawns its way back open again after three months of coronavirus lockdown. Mostly we just walk. One day we’ll walk down toward the Tower Bridge/London Bridge area, which is about 25-30 minutes one way. The next day we’ll stroll closer to home, around pretty Southwark Park.

On Saturday we found our first open store of the non-grocery variety. It was an apparel shop, the only one of a dozen or so stores in the area that was actually open. I hung outside and sat in a little plaza while the rest of the family ventured inside. They came back outside a few minutes later bearing a bag that held a very cool shirt I was gifted with on Father’s Day. It’s one of those vertical striped, tri-colored, 50s-lounge-type things that I could fill a closet with.

We also found an open coffee shop/bakery and decided to stop in there because, frankly, I needed to use the toilet. Toilets are not especially easy to find while walking around London, even during the best of times. They’re especially hard to find when all the hotels and restaurants are closed. This was around noon or so, and we peeked our heads inside to see if the place was open and, you know, whether I could kind of, you know, use the toilet. The woman working there could not have been more accommodating. They weren’t quite open yet, she said, but what would we like to buy? The toilet’s not quite ready but sure, you can use it! She sounded really, really happy to have real customers willing to spend real money. So my wife bought a coffee, I used the bathroom, the place made a little money, and all lived happily ever after.

Our oldest daughter is back in school for a couple weeks before summer break. Our youngest will return for a few days at the end of the term. Pubs and restaurants are due to open again on July 4. We will see how it goes….

K-Pop: I have a confession to make. I’m a (mostly) white male (one-quarter Filipino) who is running the last few laps before senior citizenhood (yes, my kids are young, and yes, I’m an older first-time Dad). In terms of market demographics, I fall into the category that is least likely to listen to K-Pop, the South Korean music genre that is taking the world by storm. Yet sometimes, late at night, I’ll find myself tuning into K-pop videos on YouTube, like this one. Don’t ask me why. There are just times when I want to see what the cultural newsmakers are doing, even though I’m decades past the expiration date when it comes to having any say at all in what constitutes popular culture. Plus, some of the tunes are catchy.

When news hit that K-Pop and Tik-Tok fans might have played a part in the poor turnout at the Tulsa MAGA rally – apparently by reserving seats these youngsters had no intention of using – I was fascinated. Partly because I was under the impression that K-Pop and Tik-Tok fans mostly just sat around watching K-Pop and Tik-Tok, but mostly because these were teenagers engaging in good, old-fashioned disruption of the socio-political order.

As I noted in an earlier blog post, the world is changing dramatically right before our eyes, and young people are at the wheel. They live in a global, ethnically diverse, culturally aware, digitally connected world that simply did not exist as recently as 20 years ago. Much of the older generation is reverting to nationalism and protectionism in a last-ditch effort to keep themselves in power and everyone else in line. But they’re losing the battle. And I’m pretty happy about that.

Rich boys: If you grew up in a certain part of society – and even if you didn’t – you probably knew rich kids who were secure in the knowledge that the world was their own little private playground just because their parents happened to make a good living. These were the kids who never really sweated anything, who always had that cool, confident air about them, while many of the rest of us were fumbling around just trying to figure the world out.

I remember one of those kids. He was rich compared to most of the kids I grew up with. Not that we were poor – far from it. We were mostly middle class, comfortable, and not wanting for anything. But this dude came from serious money, the kind that might deliver him a shiny new sports car on his 17th birthday. He was always well dressed, always looking good, never worried about anything, always more sure of himself than any teen had a right to be, unless he was Lebron James. People gravitated toward him. He had charisma, charm. Money.

One night a bunch of us were at a nightclub, probably underage but back then nobody much cared. We ran into some rough boys from another part of town, and words were said, and things began to escalate, and the next thing you know we were all outside ready to rumble. It was stupid and unnecessary. We were emboldened by beer, idiocy, the friends around us, and peer pressure. But our rich friend didn’t succumb to all that. He quietly backed away when the shoving began, largely unnoticed, and made a beeline to his shiny car. He couldn’t get out of there fast enough. He wanted no part of all this drama. Looking back on it, I don’t blame him. Probably a smart move on his part.

Anyway, in the moment when nothing could bail him out – when neither his money nor his talk could prevent him from maybe getting his face bashed in – he scrammed.

Why am I bringing this up? Because a certain Vietnam draft dodger who came from money and was born with the gift of gab, who never wanted for anything, who always passes himself off as a tough guy with all the tough answers, as a smart guy who will deliver the goods, has been falling on his ass lately trying to deal with various crises. And he’s failing. He just doesn’t have it in him to grab the reins and steer things in the right direction. He’s out of his element. Nothing and nobody can bail him out, even though many of his cronies keep trying. He talks and talks and talks some more, he makes excuse upon excuse, but he’s been exposed as an empty suit, a nobody, a fraud.

And it’s not at all surprising.

CDs: I’ve been buying a lot of CDs lately because it’s the best way for me to consume music, seeing as how I’m an ocean away from my ancient stereo system stored away back home. My laptop has a disc/DVD drive, so I just shove new CDs in, download them into my laptop and listen to music on Media Player.

This is my tech life, writ large. Once again, I find myself way behind the 8-ball. I didn’t get my first CD player until 1998, on my birthday, when a couple of my friends decided, Jesus Christ, dude, it’s time you got a CD player, so they bloody well bought me one. By then, CD players had been on the mass market for 15 or so years. But I was still playing vinyl albums and cassette tapes.

Now I’m a big CD consumer, even though CDs are dying on the vine, replaced by streaming services. Most record companies don’t even issue CDs anymore. Many stores no longer carry them. Most cars and computers no longer have CD players. Meanwhile, vinyl is making a big comeback among audiophiles who like the warm, rich sound that can only come from record albums.

Well, to hell with it. I will continue buying CDs, until the day I decide to go full throttle into streaming services, which by then will have been replaced by something else.

Lance: I just finished watching the Lance Armstrong ESPN “30 for 30” documentary, which was broadcast here in London on BT Sport. Let me begin by saying I’m an avid biker, in the sense that I like to ride at least five days a week, for about 10 miles at a stretch. It’s decent exercise and you can do it alone and sort of zone out a little bit. But I’m a (very) rank amateur. I don’t own any cycling gear besides my helmet and my bicycle. I get passed by pretty much everyone these days on my Specialized city hybrid. But it’s fun and soul cleansing, and I never want to stop.

But back to Lance Armstrong. He did amazing things on the bike, things that have never been done before and probably never will be again. He had otherworldly talent. He also beat cancer, and set up an important and effective cancer foundation that probably saved lots of lives. He made cycling an important sport in America, at least for a few years.

Also, he kept insisting that he never used performance enhancing drugs, that he never cheated. He spent years lying about it, and tearing into innocent people who exposed him. And many of us believed him, or wanted to believe him.

Then other riders outed him, including his own teammates. As his world collapsed around him, eventually Lance confessed that yes, he did use PEDs. He did cheat. He did lie — a lot. And now, all these years later, he still can’t resist being a dick sometimes. He sounds bitter about those who exposed him. He calls former teammate Floyd Landis a “piece of shit,” because Floyd spoke the truth about Lance, himself, and everyone else. Lance sounds like he’s the one who’s been wronged, even as he keeps making half-assed attempts to apologize.

Give it up, Lance. Just say you were wrong, and everyone who ever accused you of cheating was right. Don’t blame Floyd. Don’t blame those who outed you, or anyone else. Don’t try to explain it away. Own it, fully and without reservation. We’ll understand. Promise.

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