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Saturday, August 31, 2019

A Group Cruise I Am Organizing

Hosted by Paul Pakusch

This is my first venture as a travel host. Depending on how this goes, I hope to host more trips in the future.  Although I am operating a home-based travel agency, the purpose of this cruise is to have a group of friends to travel with.  You may book your travel arrangements with me or you may book on your own with your agent or via Norwegian Cruise Line.  I am fine with it either way.  If you book on your own, please let me know so that we can include you in our group activities while on the cruise. You will need to give your booking agent the name of the ship (Norwegian Getaway), departing New Orleans on April 5, 2020.  If you would like me to handle your travel arrangements, please contact me.

Cruise Details:

Norwegian Getaway, departing New Orleans Sunday, April 5, 2020, returning on Easter Sunday, April 12, 2020.
Ports of call include Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan Island, Honduras; Harvest Caye, Belize; Costa Maya, Mexico.

“Group Trip”

I have not set this cruise up as a formal “Group trip.”  After checking out the logistics, I concluded it would be impractical at this time to arrange a formal “group trip” with the cruise line, so this will be more like a group gathering on the cruise.  What we are doing instead is letting everyone make travel arrangements on their own accords, and we will arrange activities that everyone may choose to participate in if they wish.


Due to the variables of the travel industry, the price for this trip may vary.  As of this writing (7-29-19) here are the following price estimates; they are the lowest price in each category. Please note that the prices in ads for cruises often do not include taxes and gratuities, so I have added them to these estimates.  These prices may change; ask for an actual quote when you are ready to book:

Solo Studio Cabin: $1,299 plus taxes ($156.17) and gratuity ($105) = $1,560 includes one free offer*
Inside Cabin: $729 per person plus taxes ($156.17) and gratuity ($105) = $990 includes one free offer*
Ocean View: $899 per person plus taxes ($156.17) and gratuity ($105) = $1,160 includes two free offers*
Balcony: $1,049 per person plus taxes ($156.17) and gratuity ($105) = $1,310 includes two or more free offers*
Mini-Suite: $1,249 per person plus taxes ($156.17) and gratuity ($105) = $1,510 includes two or more free offers*
Spa: $1,449 per person plus taxes ($156.17) and gratuity ($105) = $1,710 includes two or more free offers*

Price estimates based on two people per cabin (except solo).  3rd or 4th person can be booked in a cabin, usually at a lower price per person.

*NCL’s Free At Sea offers are:
·         Unlimited open bar (you will be charged a gratuity)
·         Shore excursion credits
·         Specialty dining
·         WiFi package

New Orleans:

I highly recommend that you arrive in New Orleans at least a day before the cruise.  This is to avoid airline delays, which may cause you to miss the ship.  Although Mardi Gras will have ended by the time we get there, New Orleans is a very active city year-round. Besides the obvious music and partying, there are many tourist attractions to visit.

Stacey and I will be arriving Friday, April 3, 2020 and will be staying two nights at the Hyatt Centric French Quarter New Orleans, 800 Iberville St, New Orleans, LA 70112.  It is in the historic French Quarter and is a short drive from the cruise port. It is next to popular attractions like Canal Street and Bourbon Street. This 4-star hotel has 254 rooms and welcomes guests with 3 restaurants, an outdoor pool, and free in-room WiFi.

Whether you stay in the same hotel with us or not, we will host a pre-cruise happy hour on Saturday, April 4 at a venue in the French Quarter, followed by dinner for those who wish to join us.  Details to come later.

The Cruise

You can plan to board the ship late morning to early afternoon on Sunday, April 5.  Those of us who stay at the Hyatt Centric can arrange transportation for all of us as a group.

There are four port days and two days at sea on this cruise.  There are many excursions you can choose from.  On days at sea, you are free to participate in any of the dozens of activities on board the ship.  Stacey and I usually spend time by the pool, play trivia games, listen to or dance to music, or participate in some other games.

There are MANY activities available on a cruise ship.  If you have never cruised before, here are some options: Vegas-style theatre shows, comedy shows, casino, games, pools, hot tubs, a variety of live and recorded music, dancing, karaoke, trivia contests, spa treatments, shopping, movies, and just plain old people-watching and meeting people from all over the world.  There are quiet places where you can lounge and read a book or watch the passing sea.

Our Group

The best part about cruising as a group is participating in activities together.  You are free to do as you wish for the duration of the cruise.  For those who are interested, as your host, I will schedule a time for us to meet as a group each day on the cruise ship, usually in or around one of the lounges.  The meetings will be short and you are not required to attend them.  The purpose will be to get together and discuss our individual plans and to coordinate activities that some of us might want to do as a group.  NCL has “freestyle dining,” so we may want to reserve dining times in order to sit together as a group.  We can discuss this at our daily meeting.  The first meeting will be on the pool deck by the sail-away party.  We will meet there immediately after the safety drill.


NCL has freestyle dining, which means none of the dining rooms have traditional scheduled dining times and table assignments.  The main dining rooms are included in your cruise fare. To clarify this for first-time cruisers, you are NOT required to pay anything extra for food on the ship.  Your cruise fare includes the main dining rooms and the buffet.  Specialty dining rooms include Steak Houses, Asian and others; these cost extra and you may eat at them if you wish.  Stacey and I do not eat at the specialty dining rooms.  Reservations are recommended for all of the dining rooms, so at our daily meetings, we can decide who wants to eat where as a group and then make reservations accordingly.


Yes, you may bring children on this cruise.  There are kids and teens activities, babysitting is available, and the NCL Getaway has an AWESOME kids pool area.


You will need a passport for this cruise.

Paul Pakusch
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Friday, August 30, 2019

Growing Up in the 1960's

If you read virtually any history of the sixties, you will think that every young person was a hippy and went to Woodstock, everyone protested the Vietnam war, and everyone was listening to psychedelic rock. That's not how I remember it.

I was born in 1960, so this period accounts for the first ten years of my life. I was doing what kids that age typically do. I occasionally saw long-haired teenagers called hippies, but most of what the sixties are known for was not a part of my life. Superman, Batman, comics, Bewitched, Adam-12 and the NASA rocket launches and recoveries were. I had a cool 5-speed Stingray bike that I rode constantly all over the neighborhood. I loved climbing trees; we had a couple of awesome trees in our yard for climbing. Eventually we put a rope swing on one.

My parents listened to country music of the day and so did I.  I remember President Johnson. I didn't really understand who he was or what he did, just that "President Johnson" had a nice ring to it and couldn't imagine saying "President-anybody-else". I was too young to remember Kennedy. I once asked my mom what I was doing when the word of his assassination came on TV. She told me I was playing in the living room. She remembered Walter Cronkite breaking down on TV, so I guess I must've seen that. On November 22, 1963 I was a few weeks away from my third birthday. I do remember watching the episode of Bewitched in 1968 that was interrupted by a news bulletin about Martin Luther King being shot. Before then, I didn't know who he was. I also remember watching the long train ride of Robert Kennedy's funeral and my mom crying.

Just to see how the music of 1969 compares to today's version of history, here's the top 25 hits of 1969 according to Billboard Magazine

1ArchiesSugar, Sugar
2Fifth DimensionAquarius / Let The Sunshine In
3TemptationsI Can't Get Next To You
4Rolling StonesHonky Tonk Women
5Sly and The Family StoneEveryday People
6Tommy RoeDizzy
7Sly and The Family StoneHot Fun In The Summertime
8Tom JonesI'll Never Fall In Love Again
9FoundationsBuild Me Up Buttercup
10Tommy James and The ShondellsCrimson And Clover
11Three Dog NightOne
12Tommy James and The ShondellsCrystal Blue Persuasion
14Marvin GayeToo Busy Thinking About My Baby
15Henry Mancini and His Orch.Love Theme From Romeo And Juliet
16YoungbloodsGet Together
17Friends Of DistinctionGrazin' In The Grass
18Elvis PresleySuspicious Minds
19Creedence Clearwater RevivalProud Mary
20Jr. Walker and The All StarsWhat Does It Take (To Win Your Love)
21Isley BrothersIt's Your Thing
22Neil DiamondSweet Caroline
24Creedence Clearwater RevivalBad Moon Rising
25BeatlesGet Back      

Paul Pakusch
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Thursday, August 29, 2019

How I Keep Up My Activity Level

With the number of times that Stacey and I go out dancing, watching bands, marching in parades, travel, or just my activity level in general with how many things I'm involved with, people often ask me how I stay so active.  Life is short; I want to be able to do as much as possible. The more you stay active, the easier it gets to be active. I feel that keeping up my activity level on a regular basis gives me stamina in what I'm doing so it makes it easier in the long run. Usually I find all of these activities to be invigorating.

I keep pushing myself. I will keep going no matter how tired I am. If I have a goal that I want to meet, I don't let tiredness stop me. It may slow me down but I will keep going until I reach my goal. When I’m at a point when I am totally exhausted, that’s when I will stop whatever it is I'm doing to take a break.  I pace myself, too, so I don’t wear myself out.

Dancing is a form of exercise. So, like jogging, working out, swimming, or whatever, the more you keep up with any form of exercise on a regular basis, the easier it is. But like I said, I do push myself. I'm 58 years old, and my body has its share of aches and pains. I have arthritis in my lower back and in my kneecaps. It often affects my dancing. There was a time when some of the dance moves I was doing became too much for my knees, so my knees were really hurting badly. I bought some knee braces and used those for a while, and it helped a lot. Since then, I have learned what dance moves I can get away with, and I have improvised on other dance moves that I found are not quite so stressful. It also matters what kind of dance surface I am dancing on. For one thing, dancing on concrete is very hard on my knees. If I know I'm going to be dancing on concrete, I wear my padded sole sneakers. If I'm going to be dancing on a wooden floor, or something with a smooth service that's easier to slide on, I wear shoes that have a smooth bottom so I can do some sliding.

I have been doing a construction project remodeling my garage. It involves a lot of bending which is hard on my back. I have a goal that I want to meet so I keep pushing myself to reach the goal of finishing this project. 

So that's my answer in a nutshell. I have goals, I have places I want to go to, and I have things I want to get done.

Paul Pakusch
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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Rockabilly Band "Rockhouse Riot"

In 2016, while catching up with Sharon, an old friend of mine, she told me I should go and see a rockabilly band called "Rockhouse Riot."  I've always enjoyed rockabilly, especially the music that came out of Sun Records and later groups such as the Stray Cats.  My first opportunity to see them came in September of that year when I went to a rockabilly dance lesson taught by Keith Saturn.  I met a few people that evening who I became friends with.

I was very impressed with Rockhouse Riot.  I've had more opportunities to see them since then.  They describe themselves as Rockin' Swingin' Swampy Roots inspired Originals, alongside the best tunes from the dawn of Rock and Roll.

The band members include:
Todd Krasz - Howlin' & Screechin'
Glen Wheatley - Pickin' & Grinnin'
Ron Hart - Slappin' & Croonin'
Brandon Armes - Bangin' & Crashin'

Ron Hart describes the band:
"The original band started out as “Drivin’ Memphis”. There was a falling out, and we pretty much all went our separate ways. I reformed with a new guitarist (Brandon), the original singer (Erik) and drummer (Joey) and came up with Rockhouse Riot. About a year and a half later, we added another guitarist (Glen). After a while we went to a four piece and Brandon moved to Drums. A year later, Erik won a scholarship to get his Masters and we replaced him with Todd. Now, we have very familiar Rockabilly covers and some obscure ones, along with a healthy dose of our own original Rockabilly tunes We all are spread over the Rochester area (from Chili to Newark) and we play from Buffalo to Syracuse and Rochester to Bath."

Their website is
Their Facebook page is

Paul Pakusch
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Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Cool Club and The Lipker Sisters

In 2018, while at the Rochester Lilac Festival, I happened across a performance by the Cool Club and The Lipker Sisters.  Since I love swing music, naturally they caught my attention.  Since then, I have been able to see them at a few performances.

Their type of music is best described by the title of their new CD,"Jump Jazz Blues & Boogie-Woogie Ragtime Swing."

The Cool Club Quartet was started by Rick Hoyt (guitar) back before the turn of the century to play his original songs, which were in the traditions of jump jazz, blues, boogie-woogie, ragtime, swing. Tom McClure (sax, flute, clarinet) was an original member and encouraged the addition of jazz and swing standards to the repertoire. Joe Galusha has been the drummer for many years and has a wealth of experience in many genres. Multi-instrumentalist Trevor Findlay is the bass player.

Based in Geneva NY, the quartet was playing at a local club around five years ago when Marilla Lipker walked by and remarked that the music being played was similar to what she and her younger sisters Grace and Elizabeth had grown up singing. They come from a musical family and from a tender age were encouraged to sing swing classics, such as Boogie-woogie Bugle Boy by the Andrews Sisters. Marilla came to one of their jazz jams in Geneva, sounded terrific, and mentioned she had sisters! The three have been singing with the band ever since.

Favorite spots to play are Club 86 and on Linden St. in Geneva, Iron Smoke in Fairport, Lovin Cup and Three Heads Brewing in Rochester. They recently played at Dinosaur BBQ and will be back there again.

Their Facebook page is

Paul Pakusch
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Monday, August 26, 2019

How We Planned Our Wedding

When Stacey and I first got engaged and begin planning our wedding, we both felt we really wanted our wedding and reception to reflect us, and not be so much about fancy decorations or money spent on things that didn’t really matter to us.  We did not want to worry about what was supposed to be traditional. We wanted a very personalized wedding and reception. We both had a lot of friends and family who had said they would like to be at our wedding, so we wanted to be able to accommodate as many as possible.

We had both been married before and each had around 90 people at our first weddings. Originally, we thought we would have about the same number of people. We knew it would not be a church wedding, and we did not feel the need to have it at a golf resort or club with a restaurant. We wanted to be able to control what we were spending money on. Since I am a wedding officiant, I often get invited to stay for the reception at the weddings I officiate. Once Stacey and I became a couple, she often tagged along with me to watch. So both of us had the opportunity to see a lot of variety in how wedding ceremonies were performed and how receptions were handled. 

First we needed to pick a date. We wanted it to be in the spring of 2019 and we wanted to go on a cruise for our honeymoon. We decided which cruise line to go on and when. Once we had that booked we picked the Saturday before the cruise for our wedding date. Then we  decided what we wanted for our wedding and reception venue. One thing that was important to me was to separate the loud music from a conversation area. Since I am hard of hearing and I wear hearing aids, that is a very sensitive issue for me. I am usually unable to hold a conversation in a room with loud music playing. We also noticed that at some receptions and parties, when the DJ or band starts playing, there's a certain group of people that get up and leave. We wanted those people to be able to stay and have a conversation without loud music.

One of the weddings that I officiated at was Braddocks Bay Park, which has a lodge with rooms that can either be rented together or rented separately. There is a common area between them that can be used as a reception area and it's where the restrooms are. We decided to rent the entire facility. We designated the larger room to be the main room for dinner and the smaller room to be where we would hold our wedding ceremony and later the music would be set up. All together, the two rooms could accommodate 160 people seated at tables. The larger room by itself would hold about 96 people at tables and the smaller room would hold 64 people. Initially, we both believed that the larger room would be enough for all the people at the reception for dining. We have a large group of friends who like to dance, and we figured having a room dedicated just for music and dancing would work out perfectly. The original plan was that I was going to set up my laptop computer and run a playlist through a PA system. We believed that this facility would work out very well for us, so we went ahead and booked it. 

After that, we began drawing up a list of people to invite, including family, friends, and other relatives. After we put together this list, we came to the realization that we were inviting a lot more people than we originally thought. I started looking at some other venues that might hold a larger number of people, but they either were already booked or way outside the budget that we wanted to spend at a venue. So we decided that we would make the Braddocks Bay Lodge work. We were able to trim down the list, but we still had a lot of people that we both wanted to invite. After all was said and done we trimmed the list down to the people we realistically expected to attend.

We changed the function of the small room bit. We would still have the ceremony in the small room, and after chairs were cleared away we would still have the music in that room. But we would also put tables in there for dinner.  It would require some help with moving chairs out and tables in after the ceremony, and then moving some tables out again after dinner for dancing. We talked with relatives about this plan and most agreed that it would work, so we went ahead with it.

One of Stacey's relatives had a lot of catering experience.  Out of the blue, she offered to cater our wedding at a very good price for us. She told us her ideas for the dinner and asked us our opinions about some items, so we graciously accepted her offer. Another close relative offered to take care of the bar area, so we graciously accepted that offer. We very much appreciate all of the hard work that was put into the catering and the drinks.

The date we chose for the wedding was one week before Easter, so Stacey decided she wanted an Easter theme. Her idea was to create Easter baskets to use as centerpieces for each of the tables. We went to a local Goodwill store and she picked out a lot of Easter items. She ordered plastic Easter Eggs online to hold candy as favors. The plastic eggs were two colors:  One set was purple, which is Stacey's favorite color, and the other set was blue, which is my favorite color. We put regular M&M's in the purple eggs because they are Stacy's favorite M&Ms, and we put peanut M&M's in the blue eggs because they are my favorite M&Ms. Those eggs were placed in Easter baskets and on tables. We had a lot of Easter items in the baskets. We gave some of them away after the reception.

We set up a memory table with pictures of our families, past and present, including my parents and Stacey's father who had all passed away.  We had photos of us displayed on poster boards. We set up another table for cards & gifts. I have noticed at wedding receptions that the box for cards is often too small. So I picked out a fairly large box and cut a large slot in it for cards to be put into. I printed out a bunch of pictures of Stacey and me, covered the box with those pictures, and wrapped clear plastic packaging tape around it. It was pretty sturdy and held a lot of cards. Those tables were to be set up in the lobby between the two rooms. We also decided that we were going to put the buffet table in the lobby. We decided that the bar would be set up at one end of the larger room, where there was a kitchen counter, stove, and refrigerator.  By setting up another 8-foot table in front of that, it created a very organized bar area. A small table for the two of us to eat would be set up at the other end of that room.

We decided not to have assigned seating for people to eat. We both felt that table assignments were unnecessary, as most people are capable of figuring out who they want to sit with and where. I didn’t have assigned seating at my first wedding and it worked out fine. We reserved a few tables for the wedding party and our families.

I admit I was concerned about fitting 160 people into the smaller room for the ceremony as it was designed to hold 64 people when tables were set up. But I did previously officiate a wedding in that room where everyone was standing up, except for a few people who needed to sit.  In discussions with some of our relatives, most felt that with the tables out of the room, some rows of chairs set up, and standing room around the sides, it would work out fine. We expected the ceremony to last about 20 minutes, which isn’t too long for people to stand. I have officiated a lot of weddings where many people are standing up in the back, on the sides, or everybody was standing up, so I was fine with that plan.

We took some time to figure out what we wanted to use as a backdrop for the ceremony. We had done some traveling in Europe in 2018, so a friend suggested to Stacey that we use a picture from our trip as a backdrop. We both loved the idea. But I looked into how much it would cost to have a picture blown up to 8 by 8 foot size we decided it was too expensive. So then I looked into some photographers’ backgrounds, and those prices were very reasonable. Stacey wanted to have a picture of Big Ben from London as the backdrop. Stacey’s dad was from England; Stacey was really missing her dad when we were in London so she wanted a picture of Big Ben as a remembrance of her Dad at our wedding ceremony. I found a beautiful photographers backdrop of Big Ben and the bridge next to it and showed it to Stacey. She loved the picture so we ordered it. We both agreed that after the ceremony, we would find a place to hang it in our house or garage.

For ceremony music, we asked close friends Gene Romano and Walt O’Brien, who are guitar players and singers, if they would like to be a duo for our wedding ceremony. They both agreed. We told them they could play whatever they wanted before and after the ceremony, and we would just pick two songs to use for the procession and the recession. We chose the Eagles song “Love Will Keep Us Alive” to use as our procession.  We chose the Journey song “Faithfully” to use as our recession, which would go right into our first dance together as a married couple

As I said earlier, I was planning to hook up my laptop computer to a PA system to play music for the dancing portion of our wedding reception. However I happened to get into a conversation with members of the local rock band The Dean's List and found out that hiring them as a live band for the reception was more affordable than I thought it would be. After some negotiation we hired them. To complete the music portions of our wedding and reception, I asked members of the two marching bands that I am in if they would like to play for the wedding. They were very generous about it. I play in a brass marching band called Mark time Marchers and I also play in another group called Excelsior Brigade Fife and Drum Corps. Mark Time Marchers would go first, near the end of our dinner to play some brass music for a half hour, including Moonlight Serenade for Stacey and me to dance to. Then Excelsior Brigade would play for a half hour.  I would play my snare drum with both bands when able.

A lot of people jokingly asked me if I could officiate my own wedding. Someone jokingly said that I could use a mirror. We got good laughs with those lines. I wanted my sister to officiate my wedding and she agreed to it. I wanted my other sister to be my Best Woman instead of having a Best Man. Stacey's sister escorted her down the aisle, and she had two best friends as her Matrons of Honor. I have a close friend who is also a wedding officiant and I asked her to do one reading. Stacey's mother was very ill, we knew that she would not be able to attend the wedding, so we asked her close friend to represent her and do a second reading.  She also read a personalized message from Stacey's mother at the wedding. My three adult daughters said they wanted to help set things up. My 2-year old granddaughter would be the flower girl, riding in her little red wagon.

Everything came together.  We arrived at 10:00 on the morning of April 13, 2019, to begin setting up. The wedding was scheduled to begin at 2:00.

At one of the weddings I officiated at, Stacey for the first time saw the bride, the groom, and the photographer conduct a first look and she loved the idea of us doing the same thing. So shortly after 1:00, photographer Daria Kapitonova, and videographer Brian Kirby picked a spot for me to stand while Stacey approached from behind for the first look. I immediately fell in love with the dress she was wearing. It was an inexpensive white dress that I thought was perfect for our wedding. She was very excited about it.

Gene Romano and Walt O'Brien began performing at 1:30. Guests began arriving shortly after that. As guests were getting settled into the smaller where the where the ceremony was to be held, we closed the doors to the larger room and used it as a staging area and hideaway for the wedding party. As expected, the smaller one was filling up fast, but it seemed to be working. We still had room to accommodate a wheelchair. Once the ceremony began, I walked arm-in-arm with my two sisters, then the two Matrons of Honor, then my daughter pulling the wagon with my granddaughter, covered in flowers and with a bubble machine blowing bubbles. Then Stacey and her sister came down the aisle.

After the introduction, readings, and a greeting from Stacey's mother being read, we did a sand ceremony and a chocolate ceremony. We read our personalized written vows and exchanged rings.  Once declared married and the ceremony was over, we went into our first dance.  We filed into the larger room where we set up a receiving line. We felt the receiving line was important. With 160 people on our guest list, we knew it might be impractical for us to be able to otherwise greet each and every one of them, so we had an opportunity to see each guest in the receiving line.

While we were doing the receiving line, a group of people pitched in and quickly reset the smaller party room with tables for dinner. Thus, we were using both rooms for dinner, for a total of 160 guests. We went outside to have pictures taken. Gene and Walt continued playing and we were told our dancing friends had a great time with them. Dinner was scheduled for 4. Normally the bride, groom, and bridal party are served first so we followed that protocol, but then I had requested that the people in the smaller room be served next, because some of those tables would need to be cleared away for the band Dean's List to set up. We had decided that the two marching bands would play in the larger party room so that they would not get in the way Dean's List setting up in the smaller room. Once Stacey and I and the bridal party were done we cleared away those tables to make room for the two marching bands.

Mark Time Marchers started playing promptly at 5:00 while people were still eating.  There was room between the rows of tables for some people to dance. Stacey and I did our dance to “Moonlight Serenade,” and I did a little bit of snare drumming with the band. Then Excelsior Brigade played for a half hour; I played with them for the whole set.  At 6:00, The Dean's List was ready to start playing in the small room.  We kept the tables set up in the large room so guests who wanted to converse could do it away from the loud music.

We had some great relatives and friends who really pitched in and helped to make all of this work. As a wedding officiant, I am often concerned when couples tell me they are having a do-it-yourself wedding at a lodge or something similar. It is definitely a stressful way to plan a wedding, and I'm not going to lie and say it wasn't stressful for me. But with a great group of friends and family, it all came together and we made it work. A lot of people have told us it was the best wedding they have ever been to. It's very gratifying to hear that. We made it fun for everybody. Most people said they had never been to a wedding where a live duo and three live bands performed. We had quite a bit of dancing, people really enjoyed themselves, and we still get a lot of good feedback about the whole event. Stacey and I are very happy as a newlywed couple, and we look forward to many years together.

Paul Pakusch
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Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Hard of Hearing Person Coming Out of His Shell

In the past few years, friends have commented about how I've come "out of my shell" since my first marriage ended. I'm aware of this, too, and it has led me to become aware of how much I feel I missed in the five decades prior to that. I had begun obsessing over things that happened in my teen and young adult years. Or more to the point, things that didn't happen. Was I really shy? Why was I so naive about a lot that was happening around me? Why did it really matter now what happened 40 years ago? Why was I feeling like I had missed opportunities when I was younger?

A lot of people know that I am hard of hearing and have been all of my life. It is hereditary sensorineural hearing loss, which for the most part causes moderate to severe loss for me. In general, I hear high frequencies and low frequencies better than mid-range frequencies. Mid-range is where the human vocal range is. And that's what causes me to not understand what people are saying to me even if I can hear their voice.

It has only been through counseling in the recent past that I have come to understand what this has done to me all of my life. A lot of people believe that my dancing, singing karaoke, and just getting out there and being among friends is my overcoming shyness. But what I've learned is it I'm not the shy introverted person that I thought I am. A counselor pointed out all of the things that I have done that show that I am not an introverted person, such as DJ'ing radio shows, writing a blog, creating public access TV shows and videos, and other things as a method of expressing myself.

It turns out when I have actually done all my life is accommodate myself because of my hearing. I've sheltered myself. It's true; I have been afraid of not hearing people, so I have avoided situations where I might have to talk to someone. In my jobs such as working at channel 10, I often took positions in the control room where it would mean I don't have to talk to many people. I used to love running master control, which is basically a solo operation. I would put on a headset I so that I could communicate with other crew members when we were working television production. I did not like being out in the studio very much, because sometimes it meant that I would have to talk to other people in the studio and I would be afraid of not being able to hear what they had to say to me. This caused me to keep to myself. I'm sure a lot of people thought that I was being unfriendly.

Just about five years ago, I got a set of hearing aids that are the best I've ever had. They have opened me up to conversation that I was never able to experience much in the past. Three years ago I started interacting with friends more often, getting out dancing, and basically just opening myself up to more than I had in the past. It has been a tremendous life-changing experience for me.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

My Experience in a London Hospital

by Paul Pakusch

It was near the end of July 2018 when Stacey and I were on a month-long trip to Europe. We had been to Germany, a cruise on the North Sea, Paris, and London was our last stop.

We woke up early in Paris to catch the Chunnel train to London. I was feeling slightly nauseous, but that wasn't unusual for me at that time in the morning so I didn't think too much of it. Once we got on the train, the ride was exciting, fast, but without any problems. When we arrived at the London train station, as soon as I stood up, I felt an aching pain in the center of my chest. I’d had a full workup of heart tests recently, so I knew it probably didn't have anything to do with my heart. The symptoms were like acid reflux, which is what I thought it was. We sat in the London train station for a while, and I hoped the pain would go away. I took some Tums to see if that would work. It did not get any better. I finally reached the point where I felt that we could get in the cab and get to the Airbnb that we were staying at.

After a few hours of resting at the Airbnb and hoping the pain will go away, I decided to call the British version of 911. They said no ambulances were available for a couple of hours, but that they would send a medic out. The medic arrived on a motorcycle. He quickly determined that I needed to go to the hospital. In London, if an ambulance is not available and a patient is capable of walking to a cab, they will have a cab take you to the hospital. And that's what the medic arranged. It didn't cost me anything up front. Normally a cab ride for a medical purpose like that would be covered under the British medical system. But I was an American, so ultimately I was going to end up paying for this.

I arrived at the emergency room of St Thomas Hospital, which is on the other end of the bridge from Big Ben. The majority of my Hospital stay was very comparable to a hospital stay in the United States. The only difference was, the payment system. In the ER, I was triaged along with other patients and had to wait about an hour and 15 minutes before someone took me back to an examining room. Over the rest of the evening, tests and x-rays determined I had a gallstone blockage. It was a Friday evening, and the next available time for an endoscopy to remove the blockage would be Monday afternoon. At that point, I knew the rest of my trip to London was shot.

On Saturday, the painkillers kept me asleep most of the time. Stacey went out and did some sightseeing on her own. A lot of people have complimented her on being able to do that in a foreign country by herself. She handled it very well. She figured out enough of the London bus system to get around, she took a hop-on hop-off bus tour, and anytime she needed help finding the hospital, she just asked people where Big Ben was. Once she found Big Ben, all she had to do was walk across the bridge and she was at the hospital.

I was moved to a private room on the 12th floor of St. Thomas Hospital with a magnificent view of London. The Eye was a couple blocks away and I could see Parliament across the river from there. With no hope of seeing anything else in London, this was everything I had for the next four nights.

By Sunday I wasn't in quite as much pain, but I had no appetite whatsoever. The hospital was feeding me a liquid diet, and I couldn't even eat most of that. Stacey took turns visiting me at the hospital, and doing some sightseeing on her own.

The doctors told me my gallbladder needed to come out, but they did not want to do that and then send me a 7-hour flight home. So the goal was to get me well enough to fly home, and then contact my own doctor when I got home.

On Monday, I was the last patient of the day to go in for the endoscopy. As I looked around the waiting and recovery room for the procedure, I imagined that a lot of these people had been waiting for a long time to get theirs done. But mine was considered urgent and they needed to get it done as soon as possible. Once I was in the procedure room, as they prepped me, it felt strange being in a foreign country where everyone was speaking with an accent. As Stacey and I have often said since then, at least we were in a country that spoke English. The anesthesia took hold quickly, and the next thing I knew I was in the recovery room slowly coming out of a haze.

We had been in Europe for just about a month, and understandably, Stacey wanted to get home. One of her cats had died while we were gone, and she was homesick. The medical team told me I would need to stay at least one day longer than our original flight home. So we made arrangements for Stacey to fly on her own and get a flight from Toronto to Rochester since our car was parked at Toronto Airport. Once again she was on her own. For the most part, she did very well. Somehow she missed the announcements for her flight and ended up at the wrong gate, but once that was straightened out, she was on her way.

I needed a couple days of recovery before they okayed me for flying home. The biggest problem I had with that hospital was that it wasn't air-conditioned the way Americans are used to air conditioning. London was as hot as hell that summer, and the heat reached up to the 12th floor, where my room was. I had a tremendous view from up there, but I really wanted to get home. Once they said I was ready enough to fly home, the doctor herself actually sat down and wrote out directions to help me find the train station so I could make my way to Heathrow Airport. As I was leaving the hospital, with my suitcase dragging behind me, I heard someone call my name. It was one of the nurses who had cared for me. He was just getting off of his shift and was headed in the same direction as me towards the train station. He walked with me the rest of the way, and even carried my suitcase up a flight of stairs. By the time I sat down on the train, I was starting to feel very wiped out. I had not eaten much for the past 5 days, and I could tell I had already lost some weight.

Once I get to Heathrow Airport, I made my way to Air Canada. At the check-in desk, I asked them if they had any upgrades to business class available. I said I had just had surgery and I just wanted to be able to lie down on the flight. They told me five hundred pounds, which translates to approximately 750 US dollars. Once on the plane, I could relax, lie down, and I slept a lot on the flight home. I did manage to eat a little bit. Back in Toronto, I got my mini-van and had an uneventful drive home.

St Thomas Hospital had told me that since I was an American, they would send me a bill for their services. I did finally receive a bill, I paid it, and then ultimately my medical insurance reimbursed me. Travel insurance took care of the rest. It paid for my portion of the Airbnb, it paid for a hotel night that I missed because of being sick, it paid for the upgrade to business class so I could lie down, and it paid for Stacey's flight from Toronto to Rochester. I am a huge advocate of trip insurance, especially on cruises and foreign trips. The hospital staff had told me another American had been there a few months earlier, and he did not have trip insurance. Due to the condition that he was in when he left the hospital, he needed special transportation to get back home to the United States, and it cost him $70,000. My trip insurance and medical insurance covered everything.

Back home, I ultimately ended up in the hospital again and finally had my gall bladder removed. Anytime I meet a medical professional who is aware that I spent some time in a London Hospital, they are always curious to know how it went for me.


Paul Pakusch
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Friday, August 23, 2019

New Rochester Band, "Retrospect"

There's a new band in the local scene that has both veterans and a new generation of musicians. I'm proud to say I have been friends with Tony Wechsler and John Borrelli for many years, and I have played in bands with both of them at one time or another.

The band is called "Retrospect," and Tony describes how they came together:

"About 2 years ago I thought it would be fun to work with my son, Sean Wechsler in a band. He’s been playing drums for many years, but he has not had any luck forming a “working band.” My girlfriend’s daughter, Shannon had been singing back-up with my last band, Wild Horses on occasion. It was her first time performing in a rock band, but she had done singing in high school with the RH Singers and also sang in several musical productions throughout her school years. I thought it would be fun to put a new band together with both of them so they could gain wisdom by working with more seasoned people. Both had the talent but needed the opportunity.
I have been playing bass for many years in several bands including The Mods, the Beatbusters, My Girl Bill, Intrigued, and Wild Horses. While I also play guitar and some keyboard, I am primarily a bass playing and wanted to stay on that instrument. We needed a guitarist so I contacted my friend Scott Meli. He was very interested in joining up but ended up having to back out after a few months. I then turned to my friend John Borrelli (Aka: JB), who I’ve known since high school and he joined up as the guitarist. John and I worked together in several projects over the years including the Mods. Several years back, he played with the very popular local band, No Boundaries. John is working with another band that he has been putting together, Executive Order, but he agreed to play with us as well. I also play in another band, Flannel Babcocks, with former members of Wild Horses, so the multiple band thing was not an issue.
We came up with the name Retrospect as we play classic rock with a focus on the 80’s and 90s. We felt that this music is a sweet spot with a great number of age groups. I knew people would enjoy it and want to hear us play. At present, we have been playing locally clubs in Rochester including Nashville’s and Bar Louie. We have gigs coming up at the Argyle in Fairport on September 14th, and at Fatso’s in Gates on September 21st. Our band catch phrase is “Rockin' the Generations.” It’s two-fold because not only do we “rock” generations of music, our band has 2 generations of musicians including father/son."

Retrospect is on Facebook:


Paul Pakusch
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Thursday, August 22, 2019

What Makes A Fair and Balanced News Story?

I was a Communications major in college, and that included courses on journalism.  With all the attention given today to "fake news," I thought I should try to state in simple terms how to discern the difference between a good news story and a poorly written news story.

A good journalist will verify the information of his or her story before publishing it. A major source of misinformation today is on social media. Many people simply repost something they see without verifying whether it's correct information or not. They see something that they agree with, whether it's true or not, so that's good enough for them to go ahead and repost even though it may be false information. This is how false rumors get spread. There is more misinformation being spread around on social media than accurate information.

I think it's a real problem that the news outlets focus on their commentators more than hard news.  It blends opinion with fact and many people can't tell the difference.  All of the major news outlets are guilty of this. It's all based on marketing. Media outlets do a tremendous amount of research to find out what their viewers, listeners and readers want to see, read or hear and that's what they publish or broadcast. It keeps them coming back, thus they can charge higher commercial rates. If you think you're getting the political philosophy you want, the reality is you're getting a dose of marketing that is aimed at you to keep you reading or watching. It's the same on social media; those websites gather information about you and your interests so they can target advertising. So, the more you read or post angry political rants, repost false information, or threaten to unfriend someone, the more marketers are gathering information about you to target their advertising. Someone (not me) is even keeping track of the fact that you're reading this blog!

In my journalism classes, I learned the importance of being objective in writing a story and to use the "five W's and an H."   Within the story, they ask the questions, "who, what, where, why, when and how, and how?"  You need to give both sides of a view, whether you agree or not.  Otherwise it's not balanced. You should identify sources and identify speakers when quoting them. If the author of the news story states his or her own opinion, then the story is no longer objective.

Below are clips of two stories that I took from USA Today.  After each one, I am giving my review of how objective they are. The first one is a short story:

In this story, the "who" is the student, "what" is what he did, "where" is the school in Florida, "why" is because he is in court being charged with murder, "when" are these events happening and "how," by the actions of a judge. The story does not offer an opinion. It simply states what the judge was doing according to Florida state law. This is a classic example of how a short news story should be written.

The next news clips posted here deal with the controversy involved in this situation. I am not posting the entire news story because it's very long, but just some pertinent parts to describe how this story is written:

In the first paragraph, we see terms such as "political firestorm" and "bloody rampage" being used. While it's hard for anyone to dispute that a mass shooting is bloody, and presumably everyone would agree that the gun debate is a political firestorm, the fact is that these terms do offer an opinion by the authors of the story. The media uses adjectives such as these to create excitement in a story, instill emotion, and ultimately sell the newspaper that it is written in.

The next paragraph includes the Five W's and an H that are part of a news story. It is the basic information of what the story is all about.

The third paragraph gives a description of what the Parkland students did. That continues for several more paragraphs down to where it describes what was happening in Washington at the same time in the Senate.

Then the paragraph after that describes what was happening with the opposite side of the political date by the NRA, the National Rifle Association.

You will see statements given on both sides of the debate, with quotes by students or representatives of each side. The authors do give fair treatment to both sides of the issue by including these quotes. If one side refused to be quoted, then the author should state that an attempt was made but that they declined to comment.

Paul Pakusch
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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Outdoor Wedding Tips

I am often asked to officiate outdoor weddings. Outdoor weddings are very popular. As someone who has officiated well over a hundred outdoor weddings, I think any bride and groom would be well advised to take into consideration an alternative if the conditions don't meet the needs for them and for their guests on their wedding day. You can't control the environment outside. I have been to outdoor weddings where it's been windy, a little bit of rain, an impending thunderstorm, hot in the sun, cold, a lot of bugs, and other factors. Most golf clubs, resorts, and party houses that regularly host weddings usually have an indoor location ready in case the weather turns bad before the ceremony starts.

While rainy or stormy weather would be an obvious reason to move the ceremony indoors, any couple should seriously take into consideration that their guests might be uncomfortable if the conditions are not right for other reasons. For example, I've done weddings where the couple making their vows are in the shade, but I see guests, especially older guests such as grandparents in the first row, sweating in the hot sun. If the wedding does not start on time for some reason, that means these people are sitting in the hot sun for an even longer time. Sometimes the wind is a bit too much; I've had at least a couple brides have their veils blown off in the wind. String quartets and other musicians have a difficult time keeping their music sheets in place when it's windy. I've seen arbors blown over in the wind. I've been to places where there are so many bugs that the couple and/or their guests spent most of the ceremony trying to fan them away.

Outdoor weddings are definitely beautiful. But when you choose a wedding venue, I would advise you to not just look at the outside, but also take a look at the inside to see what it would be like if you actually have to move indoors if the conditions are not favorable. If you like the view from whatever outdoor spot you pick, take a look and see if the venue has the same or similar view from an indoor spot such as behind a large window from where you are standing. If you're getting married in a colder season, consider a venue that has a heated porch with a nice view. That way you can still be married outdoors and have a great view, but you and your guests won't be freezing.

Wherever you choose to have your wedding, make sure you are as happy with an inside alternative location as you are with the outside. On the wedding day, be flexible and be willing to move indoors if the conditions don't meet the needs of you and your guests.

Paul Pakusch
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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Insomnia in Older People

Originally written in 2012

It's 4:30 AM as I started this article and I've already been up for an hour. Insomnia has hit me frequently through my adult life and I wonder if it's going to get worse as I continue to get older. I've often heard that older people don't sleep as well. I have one friend, well into his seventies, who has described ways of passing the time while tossing and turning in his bed. One is to recite the names of New York's Finger Lakes going west to east, and then he will reverse the order, east to west. I'm not sure if he does this truly to pass the time, or if it's a way to lull himself to sleep, similar to counting sheep.

My issues of insomnia go back to the days when our first daughter, Kristi was born. Mary and I tried to share overnight duties at first, taking turns handling Kristi when she was up crying at night. The problem I ran into is that I could never get back to sleep again once Kristi was settled, whereas Mary would fall asleep rather quickly. In addition to my sleep issues, Mary realized that she was usually awake the whole time I was taking care of Kristi just because, as a new mom, she wanted to know what was going on. We finally came to the conclusion that she might as well be the one to take care of Kristi at night. I was the one who had to get up for work and she was on maternity leave, so she could easily sleep into the day or take naps if necessary.

That did not put an end to my insomnia. For about 15 years I worked a very early morning shift and had to be up anywhere from 3:30 to 5:00 AM. Bedtime was a reasonable 8:30 PM or so. I would go through cycles where I'd wake up around 1:30 AM and not be able to get back to sleep. A pattern arose: After trying for an hour or so to get back to sleep, I'd know it's fruitless so I might as well get up and do something. There's not a whole lot you can do in the middle of the night without waking other people in the house, so I'd often watch TV, play on the computer or read. Often around a half hour or so before I'd need to be up for work, my body would feel ready to sleep again. Then it became a struggle to fight the urge to stay asleep when the alarm rang. I'd get ready for work, go to work and get an hour-long nap in during my lunch break at 9:00 AM. Yes, lunch at 9:00 AM. That's the life of working crazy hours in the TV business. The day would end at 1:30 or 2:30 PM. I tried all sorts of ways to get into a reliable sleep schedule, including regularly staying up until 10:30 or 11:00 PM, sleeping solidly until the alarm rang, but then taking a one- or two-hour nap in the afternoon. It didn't work very well; it usually left me feeling extremely "spacey" through the evening.

Then I switched to the evening shift, which usually started around 2:30 or 3:00 PM. This shift was much more compatible for me. Getting home from work around midnight, I never felt like going to bed right away so I usually watched TV for an hour or two first. I did have insomnia while on the evening shift; I might sleep four or five hours and then wake up. The difference was I could take a long nap in the late morning, then wake up and feel refreshed rather than "spacey."

Why would this matter? It all has to do with the circadian rhythm. I went to a sleep specialist and did a lot of research on circadian rhythms. According to the National Institutes of Health, circadian rhythms "are produced by natural factors within the body, but they are also affected by signals from the environment. Light is the main cue influencing circadian rhythms, turning on or turning off genes that control an organism’s internal clocks." They change sleep-wake cycles, hormone release, body temperature, and other functions. Light and dark are primary factors in determining the body's internal clock. More melatonin is released at night, helping you get to sleep and affects the various stages of sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia is the most common sleep complaint among Americans. Their website lists many causes and reasons for insomnia with a long list of suggestions for getting over insomnia. In reading it, I have to conclude that I'm not very consistent in my bedtimes even today, when I work a "normal" shift of 7 AM to 4 PM. I can't help but wonder if it's just that I need to work hard at being consistent.

Back to the question of whether insomnia gets worse as we age, as I scan various websites on aging and insomnia, the general consensus seems to be that yes, insomnia can get worse. The reasons include medicinal side effects, other health problems, and taking overly long naps during the day that affect our circadian rhythms.

Paul Pakusch
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