Sunday, September 30, 2007

Durham Fair

I stopped by the Durham Fair on Friday night with one of my friends. This is Connecticut's largest fair and as far as I see it, it's something that goes with fall like apple picking and Halloween.

It was an incredible fall night. The stars were shinning and the temperature was on the cool side. I usually go to this fair on a Friday night because the crowds are about half of what is there on Saturday.

After stuffing my face with all kinds of fair foods we trekked down passed the "carnies" (those hillbilly looking people that run the rides and try to get you to play the games). Even though they don't have a freak show at the fair, that walk made up for it.
After walking through tent after tent of crafts and antiques we came across the animals. I'll be the first to admit that I'm not the biggest fan of cows but I have to say that come of them were on the cute side even though they smelled to high heaven. The chickens and rabbits were a lot easier to be around and they were a hell of a lot cuter too. I posted a couple of pictures of them.

So after seeing giant pumpkins, tiny bunnies, new infomercial products, antiques, the best steak sandwiches under the sun, candy apples and apple pies I don't think fall would be fall with out this fair.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Things I LOVE About Fall

Things I LOVE about the fall:
The leaves, Halloween (one of my favorite holidays), shorts and sweatshirt weather, the smell of the air, pumpkins, the sound the leaves make as you walk through them, new television season, scary movies, candy corn, scare crows, chilly nights, apple picking (which I did this weekend with my friend Kenny), dusk on a clear day, cider donuts (I found out yesterday that they go great with raspberry jam and cool whip), fairs (Durham Fair coming next weekend), Indian summer, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (I love when Sally tells off Linus when she misses "tricks or treats").

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Running up 70 flights of stairs (Rockefeller Center) NYC

I don't know if I should call myself crazy or just some one who jumps before looking.

One of my friends (yea I'll still call you a friend, CHRIS) talked me into climbing the stairs in a "Nike Run" at the Rockefeller Center Building in NYC.
I brushed off the fact that it was 70 stories high and had over 1,200 stairs.
I didn't bother to ask why we were doing this or even what this "run" was for (I still don't know what it was for).

My master plan was not to train for this. I figured it I did practice running up stairs that I would most likely not like it and change my mind about the run. We'll call that "mistake number one."
I went out with my friends until 1:30 am the night before because I wasn't worried about this run thing. Mistake number two.

Maybe letting Chris talk me into this whole thing was mistake number one..hmmmmm.
OK there were a dozen mistakes made. I admit it.

The run was one of the hardest freaking things I've done in a looooong time. I think it was on the 63 floor where I thought my lungs collapsed. I made the mistake of stopping and looking at the floor number thinking this is where I'm going to die.

I give Chris credit for flying up the stairs. I would have accused him of taking the elevator if my friend Kenny wasn't a witness of him coming out of the stairwell.

I did make it. I think I was 300 out of 250 runners. I did make it though!!

At the top of the building we had the most excellent view of NYC. Inside there was a breakfast spread and gatorade in Champaign glasses. OK, maaaaybe it was all worth it.
One of my friends who runs marathons once told me that he hated running marathons. It was the feeling after the marathon was over he loved. I think I feel the same way about running the stairs.. I hated running them and when I start liking the feeling after I'll let you know.

Thanks for taking the cool pictures Kenny!!!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Mark Bingham: United Flight 93 (re-post)

Hi! My name is Rick Clark. The last year my life changed for ever and through this change I decided to start keeping a record of who I am. Now, for me to say "who I am" is kind of important because to this point in my life not many people knew who I was.

I grew up in a large family. 5 brothers and 3 sisters. I was the 3rd youngest of this baseball team we called our family. We nicked name our house "The Clark Ark." I have a very close circle of friends. Now I have a lot of friends but I hold only a very few close to my heart. I have a saying that Family isn't who you are born with, it's who you let in to your life. I say that because I'm not to close to most of my blood family but I hold my best friend at the same level as I would a true brother. As time goes on I'll introduce you to who the people in my life are and how they played a role in me becoming me.

In the spring of 2006 I was depressed. I found myself totally alone again in my apartment in Wallingford, CT. I was alone by choice but at that point in my life I didn't realize that. The TV was on and it was showing a news broadcast. I'm still not sure if it was CNN, FOX... but it was one of those 24 hour news stations. I was half paying attention to it, feeling sorry for myself and not knowing why. Then suddenly a woman's voice caught my ear. Her name was Alice Hoglan and she was being interviewed. I heard her say she didn't want people to forget who her son was and what he did. It was like someone whispered in my ear and told me to pay attention. Her son was Mark Bingham. He was one of the 4 men on United flight 93 that stopped the hijackers from flying their plane into the Capitol on September 11, 2001.

For some reason that I can't explain I went to my computer. For these moments I forgot I was depressed and I typed the name Mark Bingham into search on Google. I already kind of knew who Mark Bingham was. I knew he was a hero and was on flight 93 but that was about it. When the search was complete there was a website listed. It was run by Mark's friend's and family. It was full of pictures and stories about who Mark was to them. I started reading and I was taken back by the love these people showed for him. There was even strangers who posted and thanked him. Then I came across something that would surprise me and change my life for ever. Mark Bingham was a 6'4, 220 pound rugby player, caring friend, devoted son and brother, business man and hero..who happened to be gay.

It was like something clicked in my brain. I read about him for hours that night. I saw so much of me in him. His belief in people and seeing the good side of them. Protecting the ones you love at any risk and when he was younger a fear I shared with him to this day...the fear of people finding out I was gay. The more I read, the more I felt my soul telling me it's time to tell your friends and family who you really are. I was afraid. I admit that dearly. I was afraid of the reaction, the backlash. I then came across a eulogy written by Mark's best friend Todd that was posted on the sight. It was the end of it that sunk deep into my soul and gave me strength. He wrote of fear. This is the end of that eulogy:

Fear can ruin a friendship. Fear can ruin a marriage. Fear can, at the very least, render a life completely and utterly mediocre.

We admire Mark because he had all of these wonderful qualities that I and everyone else here have talked about tonight. What I hope you realize that you love these qualities not just because Mark had them, which he did, but because you do, too. You just may let fear get in the way of how those qualities show up in your life.

Here's my challenge to you, the challenge I am giving myself. I challenge you to not necessarily be fearless, but to recognize your fear and to act anyway. To take action and make the most out of every single day. To not let fear of failure keep you from trying at all. To not let fear of rejection keep you from showing up every day of your life. I love you, Mark. I always, always will. I will make my life great, I swear I'll make you proud.

Todd Sarner

I actually started to cry when I read this. It was a line that spoke to me. The line that read "To not let the fear of rejection keep you from showing up every day of your life." I knew I could tell people now. I knew I needed to tell people who I am. I lived in that fear and I knew if a man could be like Mark, that could be so loved, so fun, so dedicated and so brave and be gay, that it had to be a good thing. Mark lived as Mark and I wanted to start living as Rick. I just didn't know how to start the ball rolling. That's when I emailed Mark's mother Alice.

I explained to Alice how I came across Mark's site and how I wanted to tell people about myself and was afraid. Thank God she emailed me back and that she was a caring, loving lady. She told me how Mark told her. He promised himself that he would tell his mom that he was gay before the sun went down one day. He did just that. Her email gave me strength and I decided to tell my best friend

Joe first. I called him and ask if I could speak to him face to face because I had something I needed to tell him. My heart was pounding just saying that over the phone to him. After I hung up I was almost panicked. I didn't know how I was going to do this. I read the line on fear that Mark's friend wrote and it somehow gave me strength so I printed it up. No sooner did I get to my living room that the phone rang. It was Joe and he said I'll be over in 5 minutes. I didn't expect him to come over seeing it was kind of late and a Sunday night. Now I was panicked. I knew I had to do it though. After he got here he sat down. I looked up out my window and saw the sun fading away. It was just peaking out on the horizon. I was totally lost in what I was going to say. My hands were shaking. I then took the paper I printed from Mark's site and read to myself what Todd wrote about fear. Without a word I looked up at my best friend and handed him the paper. I hardly got out "read this" before my voice cracked. He did and then looked at me kind of confused. I just blurted out "I'm gay."

The few seconds I waited for his reaction seemed like hours. I swear I felt Mark supporting me. I didn't feel alone anymore. Joe's reaction couldn't have been better. He showed me total support and I knew it came from his heart. His positive reaction helped me pave the way in telling my friends, coworkers and family who I was. It also made me realize that some of these people, especially Joe and his wife Cynthia knew me for years but never really knew me. As I told more and more people who I cared about it became easier. I did take out the words of Mark's friend Todd over and over before I did tell people. To this day I carry those words in my wallet. They are strength for me along with the heart of Mark Bingham and who he was and how he changed me forever. I never thought nearly 5 years ago watching the story of United flight 93 on the news that one of those heroes on that plane would be a true hero to me today.

On the weekend May 27th. I had the honor of meeting Mark's mother Alice face to face in NYC. It was at a Rugby tournament held in her son's honor called The Bingham Cup. She was even more incredible and caring then I could hope for. I met so many of Mark's friends and watched them play the game he loved so much. I realized at this point I finally arrived. I'm finally Rick.

Since that day I joined Alice Hoglan and Mark's friends and family in Shanksville, PA on the fifth anniversary of the plane crash and the terrorists attacks. Shanksville was the small country town where United Flight 93 crashed. Seeing the memorial site there was a surreal and moving experience. I will forever be thankful to Mark Bingham for being who he was and for what he did for this country and for me personally. Thank you Mark.

I would also like to thank Mark's Mom Alice for being a beacon in a storm for me and guiding me home. To Mark's friend Todd for words that gave me strength and showed me a new way to live my life. To Mark's friend Joe in San Francisco for the support and friendship he gave to me and to my friends who I love so much, especially best friend. You're a true brother to me!

I'm honored to be part of a documentary about Mark's life. Here is the link to view the trailer and make a donation to the production.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Six years ago....

It’s been six year since the terrorist attacks against the United States. I was in NYC last week and life was booming once again. Steel beams are beginning to rise out of the Earth at Ground Zero where the new Freedom Tower will stand.
The Pentagon is repaired and security is tight.
The field in Shanksville, PA. where United Flight 93 crashed is now covered with grass and wild flowers.
Time has gone on and yet it seems like yesterday that the world went mad.
The shock of the World Trade Center being struck, not once but twice. The towers falling. The Pentagon exploding and the crash in PA.
As the white dust cleared from the falling buildings we saw mayhem and disaster. Twisted steel and mountains of debris. The Pentagon fire was put out and all that was left in Pennsylvania was a huge whole in the ground where United Flight 93 slammed nose first at 600 MPH.
But as we looked deeper into this nightmare we found hope. The people of NYC and the world banned together. In a city where no one looks twice at you, we saw strangers stopping and helping strangers. Picking people off the ground. Hugging one another in search of comfort and understanding. Volunteering to dig through tons of cement in hopes of finding survivors.
We learned that aboard United Flight 93 the passengers and crew phoned their loved ones to say good bye moments before they stood in the face of terror and fought back. They gave their lives to stop the hijacked plane from reaching it’s destination, which we now know was Washington, DC. In doing this they saved hundreds if not thousands of lives.

I had the honor of visiting the field where Fight 93 crashed, in Shanksville, PA. The windswept field stands in the middle of rural America. It seems only fitting that the first battle in the war against terrorism would have been fought and won over the skies of this field. It’s now a peaceful place. A make shift memorial now stands where a larger one soon will be built. This memorial is to me the most impressive of all memorials from that dark day. It was made by people, families and friends of the heroes that gave their lives that day. It was made by strangers who wanted to show respect and thanks. A fence on the field is covered with hundreds of memorabilia from all over the world. Flags, shirts, flowers, hates, banners, all that show thanks for what these 40 strangers did that day. 40 tin angels line the front of the field with the name of each person on board the plane that day. This field is a place of peace and thanks. It’s a field of honor and heroism. It’s a field that represents what this country is all about. I honestly believe that every American should someday visit this tiny town in Pennsylvania and stop by this field. If you don’t have an understanding what bravery is all about you will there.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001?

I remember the morning of September 11, 2001. It was a Tuesday and the sky was almost cloudless. It was a perfect late summer day in New Haven, CT.. I work for a laboratory in the Hospital Of Saint Raphael in New Haven and I was in the break room with two of my friends (Gabby and Frank). Someone came in and said a small airplane just hit the World Trade Center in NYC. I remember Gabby’s comment was “How blind could they be? That building is huge.” Right there I guess we knew on the inside something was wrong.

We stood in front of a television set in the lad watching the Today show. There was only about 6 or 7 people watching it with us. It was live at the Trade Center and I remember how shocked I was at the size of the fire because they were still reporting that it was a small plane that crashed into the side of the building. It was then what seemed like a blink of an eye that a second plane appeared on the screen and slammed into the second tower. I was actually confused at that point. I thought maybe it was film footage of the early crash being shown. I then heard the panic in the news reporter’s voice and it occurred to me that this was a second plane. I felt the blood drain from my face when I realized we just watched hundreds of people die. I instantly wondered how in the world were they going to get all those people out of those burning buildings? The news cameras were closing in on images of people hanging out the windows hundreds of feet above the ground, trying to get air. I cold see things falling from the buildings and then I realized the things falling were human beings.

I remember running down the hall and telling people in our work area what just occurred. Before I knew it, it seemed like half the laboratory was crammed in front of this small television set.

I returned back to my work area and the phone rang. My friend’s and family all were calling to ask if I knew what was happening in NY. Awhile later my brother Tommy called and said that a plane just hit the Pentagon Building in Washington, DC. I remember I was almost in a panic on the inside because no one had any idea what in the world was going on. He would call with updates over and over, One call he told me that the planes were believed to been hijacked and there was possibly two more still in the sky.

I walked into the room were a TV was on. The room was now packed with shocked co-workers. As I walked in the unthinkable happened. One of the Twin Towers fell. My heart sunk. Total panic and a white cloud of smoke filled the television screen.

The phone rang again. It was my brother. He said a plane, a big one, just crashed in Pennsylvania. No one at that moment had any idea that what would unfold from the crash of this plane would go down in history as one of the bravest act of heroism ever.

Our hospital was now in a small network of relief hospitals designated to help with survivors o this disaster.

I left work early that day only to promise to come back if they need people to help with survivors. I remember getting on I-95 and the electronic highways signs all had the same message lit up across them, ”All entrances to NYC CLOSED”. I remember crossing the Q bridge over New Haven Harbor and looking up to see if any planes were heading toward it. Inside it was panic and disbelief.

Nearly all of the schools, stores and businesses closed early that day. There was no need to go back to the hospital because it became very apparent that there would be no survivors coming out of the now collapsed World Trade Center.

I sat in front of the television set all through the night watching the news in horror, sadness and disbelief. I watched the news as they showed families and friends of loved ones lost crying. The stories of the NYC firemen and policemen and rescue workers that lost their lives trying to save others. I heard of the phone calls made from hijacked United Flight 93 and how they began to believe that the passengers and crew may have fought back against the terrorists.

The following days proved to be a time of healing and support. I was one of those people that watched a telethon of stars rallying up support for the families that lost loved ones. I lit a candle with millions of others in remembrance.

One thing we must do is remember. Let us never forget what we lost and what was given on September 11, 2001. I hope in the next few postings I could help people do just that and remember and honor those we lost six years ago in that Tuesday morning.