WHICH ONE IS BEST? – Rich Paschall

MAX hits, by Rich Paschall

If you were here on Sunday seeking intelligent life, you may have read about rising star Max Schneider. If you have been watching national or local television lately or listening to local radio or streaming music services you would have found it hard to miss MAX. He is currently on The Intimate AF Tour with plenty of media stops along the way. He even got a gig one afternoon at the mega rock festival, Lollapalooza.

MAX in Chicago

Sunday we gave you a link to his live performance of the radio hit, Love Me Less, on the Jimmy Kimmel Live show. He also performed another song he hopes to climb the charts. It is supposed to reveal the love for his wife. “I knew immediately that this was a special record when I wrote my first verse instantaneously in front of my wife while she was in the room,” MAX said.

You’re beautiful
Something like these acid dreams, acid dreams
You’re something I ain’t used to, girl (no)
I’m gon’ give you everything, everything

Which one of these current songs do you like better? I’ll take the first one, Love Me Less. It might be a little harder to write a good lyric when you are too close to the subject. That’s my vote between the two, but there are a lot of tunes on his YouTube channel.

Just for fun, I will give you a performance by MAX which I like the best among his high-energy, up-tempo efforts:

See also: “MAX Unveils Funky New Tune, ‘Acid Dreams,’ Featuring Felly: Listen,” Billboard.com July 19, 2019.

A VISIT TO COLOMBIA – Rich Paschall

I have seen a few articles that claim Medellin is one of the best international cities for retirement. The US dollar goes far and the climate is pleasant.Forbes rates Colombia the number 6 country in 2019 for International Living. I have made two trips to Colombia. Here are my thoughts after the first visit.

Medellin, RICH PASCHALL

A mile high in the Andes mountains of Colombia, located in the Aburrá Valley, lies the city of Medellin. It is somewhere between the size of Los Angeles and Chicago. Some of its neighborhoods are built up the sides of the mountain, but the city center is mostly flat.

Nevertheless, bring a good pair of walking shoes to make you tour around town.  Traffic in downtown Medellin can be something close to gridlock in midday.  A large number of buses and taxis will not help you get around quickly.

Medellin downtown
Medellin downtown

My trip was somewhat of a lark. A longtime internet friend encouraged me to come visit. Although we talked often on Google Hangout and Skype and chatted on Facebook Messenger, we had never actually met.  After seeing all the Facebook pictures of friends and relatives, it was as if we were old friends.

The weather there was just about perfect, so I decided to use my few remaining vacation days and hop a plane south.

I was not eager to transit another country, I decided to take American Airlines from Chicago to Miami and then fly directly to Medellin. It would have been cheaper to connect in Panama City, but lacking Spanish, it seemed a better choice to connect in an American city. Besides, the Miami connecting times were shorter.

Columbia’s international airport is in Rionegro, 45 minutes from Medellin. It’s at a higher altitude than Medellin and offers amazing views of the tropical region. Although the airport is the second largest in Colombia, it was closer in size to Sarasota, Florida, though much busier. The airport is modern and efficient. Much easier to get through customs than Miami — a story for another time.

My friend was waiting for me as I came out of customs.  From this point on in the trip, it’s a good idea to have someone local with you, even if you speak Spanish, which I don’t.  Most signs are entirely in Spanish … which by itself can be a problem for tourists.

I had exchanged currency at the airport in Miami — never a good thing. Rates of exchanges at airports are the worst. Even ATM rates would have been better, but then you have fees, so I suppose it’s a toss-up.  I did not see currency exchanges in the city, but there were some large banks in downtown Medellin that might have been able to make the exchange at a better rate.

You definitely need cash. Most stores and restaurants take only cash, even when you see a MasterCard sticker on the door. The only place you’ll likely use plastic is at an ATM.

There are plenty of taxis and buses at the airport, so transportation to the city should be no problem. My friend took us to the taxi line. The first one was for a shared cab to a designated spot in the city. He chose this for economy

We shared the ride with a couple and a single person. A three-way split is very economical.  In fact, it was cheaper than from O’Hare airport to downtown Chicago — and O’Hare is actually in Chicago proper.

Road to the airport
Road to the airport

The ride down the mountain in the dark was an adventure. The road into the airport is wide and well-lit, but shortly you are on a winding two-lane highway. In the mountains. At night.

The driver knows the road well, but racing down was quite a thrill.  We would get tossed from side to side like a roller coaster ride.  When we arrived in town and dropped off the others, my friend negotiated a rate to his apartment.

At night we visited a neighborhood filled with outdoor cafes and sports bars. A large central square was crowded. You could buy beverages at nearby stores. The square and two streets along it formed an “L” and were like Bourbon Street in New Orleans — one big open-air party.

The downtown shopping area the next day was crowded.  We went by Metro and returned by taxi. The wide walkways on many streets could accommodate outdoors stands and carts where a variety of goods were available. Tropical fruit drinks (nonalcoholic) were everywhere  — a good thing when you’re doing serious shopping.

Downtown shopping
Downtown shopping

Many stores featured products from the US. We saw one store supposedly selling “USA brand” clothes.  My friend said to me, “all originals,” with a wink and a laugh. I decided after a while that I could figure out which places sold authentic goods and high-end merchandise because they had armed security guards at the door. It did not appear the police walking the streets were armed, although I didn’t study them.

Medellin is known as the “City of Eternal Spring” because of its temperate climate.  The average annual temperature is 72 degrees Fahrenheit.  Most days are in the 80s all year long, but since they are in the mountains, it cools off to low 60s at night.

Upper 50’s would be a cold night.  Few places had air conditioning. Restaurants and bars are open-air and the climate is perfect for living outdoors. Cool enough for comfortable nighttime sleeping, too. For my visit, the days were in the upper 80s, and the cooler nights did not require jackets.

If your knowledge of Medellin comes from news stories from 1993 or earlier, forget it.  They have worked hard to live down the past and transform the city into a welcoming place.

If he comes up in conversation, locals will tell you that Pablo Escobar does not live there anymore (died in 1993), just as Chicagoans sometimes have to say that Al Capone does not live here anymore (he died in 1947).

The people are friendly, food is good, the climate is great, and the scenery is beautiful. The trip was too short and I wouldn’t mind another visit. Especially in the winter.

Visit the Medellin photo gallery at Sunday Night Blog here.

Also see: “The Top 10 Places In The World To Retire: 2 New Lists,” Forbes.com, January 4, 2019.

A VISIT TO UXBRIDGE – RICH PASCHALL

How could I NOT reblog this?


 

rjptalk

If you have been following us at SERENDIPITY, then  you  have already seen many pictures taken in and around Uxbridge, MA by Marilyn and Garry Armstrong. Recently I had the good fortune of making a visit there. I took the flight to Boston and travelled about an hour down to Uxbridge. This was my first time visiting Marilyn and Garry, so we got a lot of pictures. The weather did not cooperate with us, but we are  hardy souls and ventured out when time allowed.

You will notice I am not the accomplished photographer that they are. Nevertheless, I will share some of my pictures with you. If you want to read more about this adventure, head over to SERENDIPITY today, right HERE.  Click on any picture below for the larger version and then arrow through the gallery.

Check out “Not The Bucket Listat SERENDIPITY…

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TURNING SUCCESS INTO FAILURE – Rich Paschall

Thinking Small, Rich Paschall

Some organizations think big and do big.  You may know such organizations.  You may wonder how they accomplish so much.  How can a social service agency, school, church, or park district pull off grand events with a small budget and a small staff?  Yet, there are quite a number that do it.  What is the difference between the successes and those that think big and fail?  What is the difference between thinking bag, and those who just think small?

Image: Mashable.com
Image: Mashable.com

Many think big but fail because they aren’t willing to do the work.  They want to be triumphant, but they are just hoping it will somehow happen. They rely on others stepping up to do what they should be doing.

The truth is that those running an event must step forward. They need to recruit volunteers to do what needs doing to guarantee success.  Some leaders are willing to do this, but many others rely on dumb luck. Dumb being the operative word. It’s the dedication to the task that’s important, not luck.

You have to work harder to find potential leaders and willing workers than in years past. So many things compete for our attention. Life is busier than it used to be … and then, there are the apps on our phones, tablets and laptops. We may not be willing to devote the large chunk of time required to make a successful event. If it took five calls to get two people to help out 20 years ago, maybe it takes 10 calls now. Or 20. Is the organization willing to do it?

In many cases, the answer is no.

bz-twitter_09-23-13

Being reliant on Facebook calls to action and church bulletin messages will likely get you nowhere.  It’s the personal touch that matters.

Text messages and email blasts don’t have the personal touch you need to win volunteers. We are in the digital age and can contact a lot of people quickly by email, social media, and text messaging, but it’s not a reliable road to success. Such messages get lost in the myriad messages that are posted every day.

So, we actually have to talk to people if we want to get their attention.  We have to pick up the phone.  We have to meet them at events.  We have to stand outside of Church, school, wherever and shake their hands.  Even in the digital age, or maybe exactly because of it, we must reach out to people personally, if we want to help a project meet its goal.

UU Church 47

Then there are those who think small from the start.  They see the modern-day task of making a success so daunting that they prefer not to tackle it at all.  These types of “leaders” obviously are not the ones who brought the organization along over the years, but they are certainly the ones to stall it in its tracks.  Saying it is too hard, or it can’t be done, or people will not step forward anymore is admitting defeat from the outset.  It is also proof that they are in the wrong business.  There is a choice to meet the challenge or run from it.  Some choose to run.  Let them go.

Recently, I was involved in an alumni event that found the organization itself dragging its feet on a number of issues.  When the night of the event came, after months of planning meetings, things did not go smoothly.  Nevertheless, it was the largest alumni event they had in decades. Yes, decades.  Were they happy with this?

Because of its shortcomings, the pastor promptly declared it would have been better to run an event for 50 or 60 people than this event for 250 — which was much more work and went poorly. The pastor was upset.

Was it personal embarrassment?  No, because he didn’t work on it. Unfortunately, he was looking for ways to place blame rather than looking for how to make events better in the future.

People who step into leadership roles but who have little leadership experience, are likely to torpedo your efforts. Those who have their hands full already and see an event as too much additional work, will likely trip you up. Those who are afraid of embarrassment and will only accept success — never failure — will only minimally succeed. They’ve already set limits on their potential success. Worse, they have unknowingly limited the likely success of the organizations they are supposed to lead.

RICH PASCHALL, GARRY AND MARILYN BY THE BLACKSTONE CANAL – Marilyn Armstrong

It didn’t happen if you don’t take any pictures. Well, that’s not exactly true, but as a photographer, that’s how I feel about many events. Which doesn’t mean I always take pictures. Much of the time, I don’t feel like taking pictures. I just want to enjoy the event and not be the photographer.

Smiling, Rich and Garry by the Canal at River Bend
Rich and Garry by the canal at River Bend

This wasn’t one of those days. We had hoped to go out yesterday, but it rained all day. This morning, we woke up to a bright blue sky and we said “Okay, this is it. Let’s do it. So while I packed up my camera, made sure Garry had a live battery, figured out which lenses I was taking and off we went to the canal.

And halfway there, it started to rain. Plop. Plop. Plop.

“Maybe it’ll stop,” I said. There were still patches of blue in the sky so it could clear.

Photo: Garry Armstrong – Marilyn and Rich along the Canal

By the time we got to the canal, it was pouring. It briefly slowed down, so we started to get out of the car. The pause changed instantly into a downpour. The rain gods were still with us. We turned around and started to head to dinner, but made a brief stop at the Crown & Eagle, which is a restored cotton mill which has been repurposed into a senior living facility. It’s a particularly beautiful location with the river behind the building and its own canal full of water lilies in front.

The sun came out.

The stone bridge in the rain

We turned around and went back to the canal. By then, it had started to drizzle, but it wasn’t pouring. Rich and I decided to take a chance and get out. I was wearing open-toed sandals — not the best footwear for a muddy rainy day by the river. And while my camera is water-resistant, none of the lenses I had brought were water resistant. I picked the 50mm prime because at least it didn’t have any electronics in it.

The footbridge
Photo: Garry Armstrong – Blackstone River

We took some pictures … and finally, Garry decided to come and shoot some too. He was worried about getting his hearing gear wet … a not unreasonable concern. That’s really expensive equipment that we absolutely can’t afford to replace. But he couldn’t resist the opportunity.

We had about 10 minutes before it started to rain again and if you look, you can see the rain falling in the river. We headed back to the car as quickly as we could with all the gear on the muddy, gritty path which apparently had been really messed up by the constant heavy rains we’ve been having for months.

Then, we really did go to dinner, which was great and I had tempura. Yum!

Rich on his own
The Blackstone Canal

Of course, as we finished dinner, the sun was shining, the sky was bright blue. These are the longest days of the year and I wished we could go back and take just a few more pictures.

But it was getting late. The dogs needed feeding. Moreover, if I was going to post these pictures, I had to download and process at least a few of them. So here they are. All that rain has made everything bloom like mad. It really does look like a rain forest!

THE LONG DELAY ENDS – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Delay

For the last six years … maybe a bit longer … Rich Paschall has been working with us on Serendipity. We never met but we lived in hope. This weekend, he is here.

It only took six years … and his flight out of Chicago was 131 minutes delayed. I know because that’s what it said on the Spirit Airlines arrivals information. A long delay and made even longer by airport delays. I have to assume it was weather-related. There are storms everywhere across North America and it was raining here, too.

Aren’t we glad that climate change is a Chinese piece of fake news? Who knows what it would be like were it true!

I don’t have any pictures because he is still sleeping … wearing off Chicago time. Garry has a luncheon and is doing his long prep time in the shower and I’m trying to drink this coffee and I think I’m going to go make a new pot. This stuff is not great. I think it got stale.

I can’t believe it’s another gray, damp day. Will the rain gods ever leave town? Maybe it will brighten up later? We can surely hope!

Rich has filled in for me when I was sick … which has been far too often. He has always been here, even though he has been there. A welcome guest and a good friend. Who says online friends aren’t the “real deal”?

So Rich is finally here and remarkably, he is exactly like the person I expected. Sometimes, things are indeed what you expect. In a good way.

LIVING IN TWO PLACES – Rich Paschall

A Tale of Two Cities, by Rich Paschall

A while back I saw this Daily Prompt question: “If you could split your time evenly between two places, and two places only, which would these be?”  Normally I am not a Daily Prompt kind of guy.  I am on the subscriber list, but usually by the time I read the email notice, it is a day or two later and I just delete.  This one sounded rather intriguing, so I stashed it away for later use.

St Petersburg bridgeWhat would you pick?  Would your home town be included?  Would your current residence be a choice?  Remember, in this scenario you can have any two cities.  Shall it be a northern city for summer and a warmer climate for winter?  I guess you can reverse that if you are in the Southern Hemisphere.  If you are close enough to the Equator, you have no need to move away from the cold.

Maybe you need somewhere exotic as one of your stops.  Fiji comes to my mind.  There must be somewhere in the South Pacific that is warm and inviting.  If you think we must be restricted to cities, then I will say that Nadi, Fiji has over 42,000 people so we will count it as a city rather than a village.  If your home is in Nadi, I guess you can still spend plenty of time on a beach on the other side of the island.

How about a European capital?  I have always found London inviting.  Author Samuel Johnson once famously stated, “…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”  I guess that could be said of many of the great cities of the world.  I found Rome, Paris and Brussels all to be interesting and vibrant cities.  I have not been to other European capital cities.  Perhaps our choice of two cities should include one unknown and one known.

If you have not been to the other side of the world from where you are, would you chose a city solely on the recommendation of others?   Would you do an internet search of other places, or strictly stay with what you know?

When my father retired and moved from the cold of the Midwest to Florida, I began to understand the attraction of what they called “snowbirds” in the South.  These were the people who kept their homes in the north, but spent the winters in the south.  I loved Tampa, Clearwater, Sarasota and many of the Gulf cities.  I could see doing exactly that.  Perhaps your second city would be in another warm climate.  Arizona? Southern California? Hawaii?

Chicago Skyline
Chicago skyline from the museum campus

Actually, it did not take me long to settle on two spots.  When I eliminated the fantasies and considered what is most important, I knew the answers.  First would be Chicago.  It is a world-class city with world-class attractions.  It has major sports teams and fine stadiums, old and new.  It has theater and concert venues. The major shows and Rock and Roll acts make it here when they tour.  There is a lakefront that stretches the entire east side of the city, with open parkland, beaches and museums.

Al Capone does not live here.  We are not the murder capital of the country, we are not even in the top 10.  We do get a lot of publicity when there is crime.  Like every big city, we have big city problems.  I would say these problems are increased by the NRA suing the city over any attempt to keep guns away from gangs and criminals, but that is another column.  We have friendly people who celebrate diversity.

You may not have heard of my other choice.  I guess it is not really a city, but rather a small town of about 20,000 people.  It is in the beautiful Alsace region of France.  You will find small towns with ancient buildings sprinkled among the vineyards.  In the distance on top of some of the hills, you will find castles left from centuries ago.  If you say that this will not do, I must pick a larger “city,” I will move a short distance to the north and the lovely city of Strasbourg, capital of the European Union.

Selestat
Selestat, France

Why would I pick such completely different places on two different continents?  Why would I choose places that have  similar climates, where neither will escape the snow and cold?  How could I spend half a year in a big city and half in a small town which holds none of the major attractions?  The answer to me is quite simple.

The locale is no longer the most important consideration when deciding where to live.  At one time it may have been important.  When I am retired and tired of shoveling snow, maybe I would desire the warm weather locations.  Now it is about family and friends.  Aunts and cousins of various generations are here in Chicago.  Friends made recently and friends since childhood are here too.

In France is one of my best friends.  He spent a year here in 2009 and when he left we maintained our friendship through visits once or twice a year, here and in France.  When I go to France we always see things I have not seen before, so it is great adventure.  If he was somewhere else in France, then I would name that city instead.  Spending time with family and close friends, no matter where they reside, makes their locations the places I want to be.  For now my choices are Chicago, Illinois and Communauté de communes de Sélestat et environs.  Where are your two homes to be?