Washington DC House Party – Part Two

This posting starts in the middle of a story, so if you missed it, check out Part One before continuing here. Part One starts with me finding myself a guest at a housewarming party in DC where I meet a variety of characters. Thanks for reading! D

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DC House Party – Part Two

I sit down where there’s room and cause some ill feelings from one of the jocks. The girl he has been chatting to now turns to me. She engages me in conversation and I see him rolling his eyes as I reply, “No, I’m just visiting from Canada.” What does he expect me to say? Don’t talk to me, that guy who suddenly hates me was clearly hoping to sleep with you? Of course he thinks we’re on the same team and assumes I’m playing the same game.

To Be CONTINUED

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In the kitchen I am asked where my favourite place in America is so far. “I love Manhattan, but I wish it weren’t so expensive.” No one here agrees, so much so that I find it amusing. It nearly feels like I’ve violated some cultural expectation. Others express their dislike of the noise, the crowds, the traffic. “What do you like about it?” someone finally asks after everyone has shared why they don’t. “New Yorkers are great!” Well, that opinion drew looks of horror all around. “I have never heard anyone say that New Yorkers are Great,” one of them says, scoffingly. I try to explain the warmness of Manhattanites, how they interact with each other so openly and how in crowds it seems more like fish in a stream than the typical herds of beasts other places. How they have less-defined boundaries of interaction. How they accept the people around them. How they are so adept to live and let live. Part of why I feel completely at home there is that I feel like everyone just accepts each other as they are. They’re used to sharing spaces and they play really well together.

This is falling on deaf ears. All they can think is that their idea of life in the big city as being cold and harsh must be right and clearly I must be mentally imbalanced for thinking anything different.

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The artist newly arrived from the Atlanta suburbs oddly suggests that I am best not to visit Atlanta in August, “That’s when all the gays come out.” “Oh, I think we have more gays in Washington,” another guy corrects. “No, Atlanta is a lot bigger than here, I bet they do,” interjects a third. “All I gotta say is that I went out during pride and I will never go out in August again.” the artist continues.

I hold my breath. I hope this doesn’t get ugly because if it does I will need to defend my people. I am disappointed to hear this coming from the gentle artist. I can see Sam across the room and I know that he is not Mr.Out. We met and became friends at an LGBTQ meetup, but in straight company he tends to stay silent. I had asked him about this on the train coming here so as to not cause him any awkward situations. He’s twenty-six and still in that phase when he cares far more about what strangers think than I do at forty. I try to use my common sense, I don’t want to ever put myself in harms way unnecessarily. Additionally, I am finding that often I will enjoy myself and be accepted in friendly terms more when being incognito. Sometimes I regret even sharing that I’m Canadian, as the level of trust sometimes decreases. Oh, I assumed you were one of “us”. The time when “us” refers to “us humans” or even “us life” is coming, sociologists have seen our circles of empathy expand greatly over the years. From immediatel family – to our local community – to those who share our religion – to those of our state – to those of our nationality – our worlds have expanded relationally.

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So I do want to remain incognito with regards to being gay tonight. If someone asked me I would not lie, that would be sending the message to my subconscious that I should feel shame. But, I will not allow a homophobic remark any stronger than Daniel needing to avoid Atlanta for all of August due to pride weekend without unveiling myself.

“Why was it so bad, we’re you raped?” I stop myself from asking, confident that he wasn’t. Gang rapes happen by groups of guys who consider themselves straight. Those pathetic repressed men would not be caught dead near a gay pride event. (To be clear, I’m not saying that repressed men are pathetic, I’m saying that guys who rape – any gender – are pathetic. Beyond pathetic.) I’m just a bit annoyed, I kind of want to know why he was so offended by the event. With so many people still scared to come-out and live their lives as themselves, the event is still essential. The fact that I often need to be invisible to be accepted and to enjoy friendly interactions shows that we really need the visibility of Pride. I’m lucky that I’m a blender, I can come in and out of that closet as desired and as the situation dictates. I can choose when to risk rejection and when not. Not everyone can blend-in the way I can.

I want the artist to know that the guy he talked with for by far the longest at this party is gay. As a former artist, I was very much intrigued by his process, his schooling, his journey. He pushed himself closer on the sofa showing me pictures on his phone after his girlfriend left us to chat. An early twenties creative-type who studied in an art program, I just assumed he would be an open-minded safe person for me, that he wouldn’t care about other people’s sexuality. But when I think about it he did attend an all-male black school. Black guys tend to be extra-closeted, I hear they have a much harder time, so he may not have had the exposure I would have assumed would come from a creative environment. There would have been lots of gay, creative people but if they were not open then that would not have created exposure. I decide to pull the conversation away from that topic before anything more is said. Because Sam is not out to his friend.

“So, you’re Brenda’s brother!” I exclaim to the person on my left and the pleasantries continue. Good. Nothing overtly homophobic was said and I didn’t need to make Sam gay by association. It is HIS CHOICE and he is not ready. I truly believe that one needs to be ready to come-out, otherwise it will not likely be a positive experience.

Isn’t that remarkable. I tend to think that the progress is nearly complete and then rediscover that there is still much work to be done. In 2014 even in cities where same-sex couples can marry, many people are still frightened to come-out and some people are still homophobic, even young creative people.

The party over, we make our way back to our hotel. It was a fun evening overall. The next day we catch a noon train back to Richmond where the adventure continues, although with a change. I had to cancel several social activities to come away on this weekend. In the end, the fellow I came with decided not to stay in touch and most of the people I met with didn’t want to reschedule. It felt like I made the wrong bet. Except with one couple, somehow going away for this weekend seemed to unplug me from the social life I was starting there.

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Another view inside Washington’s train station (other in part one).

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Iconic-type pic from Google Images.

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Random photo of me at my Dad’s home, where I am currently visiting in New Brunswick. Painting behind me is one I painted when I was an artist some years ago. I may show some of my works on here in the future.

Thanks for reading PersonalTravelStories.com! I hope you’ll come along for the ride by clicking on “follow”. You can unfollow with one click at any time. Cheers! Darren

Washington, DC House Party – Part One

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DC House Party – Part One

“So how do you know Hanon?” asks a bright-eyed twenty-something girl and her boyfriend as I take a seat beside them on the fireplace after introducing myself.

“Who’s Shanon?” I ask, mishearing in the noise of the crowd.

“This is his housewarming party! How did you get here?”

I find myself mixing with an interesting group of young professionals, at a house party in the city centre of the nation’s capital. There are two distinct groups here, friends who attended college with Hanon in another state, and friends he knows from work here in DC. That’s what everyone calls it. No one says Washington as if one could suddenly get confused by that western state.

The young man sitting beside me works for a non-profit that deals with creating programs to help at-risk youth. This is an issue of which I can converse at-length. During my short teaching stint in Winnipeg I visited a number of schools desperately trying to solve the complicated situation of Canada’s First Nations people. As a population, many are not enjoying the same lives as mainstream Canadians. Several generations of oppression has left most members of their culture disenfranchised, hopeless, and feeling trapped in a cycle of poverty and addiction. In a special school designed to honour and uplift aboriginal culture, it was typical to find three students present for a grade ten class with an enrolment of twenty-seven.

His girlfriend wanders-off mingling and returns about ten minutes later, “what are you guys talking about?” Off she goes again, and I am sharing my feeling that mentoring might be an effective strategy when dealing with youth. From my experience, the kids felt hopeless because they did not see a positive future for themselves. This was the case because they often didn’t know anyone in their circle who had broken out of the cycle. No one was employed back on the reserve, a single mother may have brought to them to the city hoping to escape the relentless poverty and drug addiction and alcoholism only to find that it was also rampant in the city. They felt that opportunities were closed to them. Sure they knew teachers and social workers, but they saw those people as different than them. They saw themselves as being members of a group for whom dreams were not possible. What’s the point in going to school, I’m never going to graduate anyway, no one ever has in my family.

Girlfriend is back again, “Now what are you talking about?” I realise that I am detaining her boyfriend from mingling with her. I stand-up and change the topic to Vietnam, where she spent a few months teaching last year.

I chat with some friendly jocks about the international auto show I attended today with my friend Sam, who is a car enthusiast. He is the one person I knew coming to this party. We took the train from Richmond yesterday.

When Sam was thirteen, he went to summer camp with Brenda. They have not seen each other since then but they reconnected on Facebook. When Sam recently moved to Richmond they planned to reconnect. Brenda is dating Hanon, so when Sam contacted her to meet-up during our visit she invited us to this party.

“Oh, I see. So you’re from Richmond, that’s why we haven’t seen you before.”

“No, I’m from Toronto.” “But you live in Richmond.” “No, I live in Toronto. I’m from New Brunswick, that’s east of Maine.”

“How long have you lived in DC?” someone asks, having partially heard my story through the grapevine three hours later. “I just came yesterday, I’m here for the weekend.” “But you’re the Canadian. If someone had asked me who was the Canadian, I would have guessed you.” “Because I’m wearing German jeans?” My black jeans have a checkered silvery pattern, they are sewn with multiple lines of very thick thread and have some unusual edgy details. The rest of the crowd are wearing either beige pants or blue jeans. All in black I stand out as looking a bit more urban which is not generally people’s idea of what Canadians look like. “No, your hair.” “Oh, no, I’m not like following some Canadian hair trend or anything. This big mop is does not represent any regional hairstyle.” “You just look Canadian.” Well now that you know! From my considerable experience, most everywhere I have gone in the US people have assumed me to be a local or at most a domestic transplant.

“Did you meet many locals; were you able to make local friends?” I ask a fellow who spent some weeks traveling in Cambodia and Laos. “You know what it’s like in Southeast Asia, it’s a lot easier to meet people than it is here.” “Yes,” I agree, ironically.

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I introduce myself to a couple who are looking a bit separate from the group. By now I have narrowed my introduction down to, “I am a friend of Sam who is a friend of Brenda who is dating Hanon and I am currently on a road-trip from Toronto.” You see, I didn’t quite know my connection when I arrived, but it’s clear to me now. “My friend is having a party,” had been enough info for me. “What’s your next stop?”

“My next specific stop is meeting friends in Acworth, Georgia.” “That’s where we just moved here from! Cobb county, Acworth is in Cobb county!” New in town, they also don’t know most of the people at this party. She works with Brenda. He is a performance artist, he paints with his hands while dancing. He is hoping to expand his horizons being in a new town, and having closer proximity to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York. A really great couple, we chat for a while. Although he is clearly very optimistic, he seems to think he’s going to become “the next Michael Jackson” in scope, I encourage him to be patient. From my experience in business, being in the right place at the right time is huge in finding success. My former partner and I happened to a city that had a vacancy for pop culture stores when we happened to stumble into selling it. That is about as strategic as I will admit to us having been. And it’s a very common story. Ask people how they came to do what they do and more often than not they will recount a tale of many wandering and meandering paths rather than a straight trajectory. “The right time and place could happen for you next month, but it could also happen for you in seven years. If it’s your passion then you just have to keep doing your best getting it out there and not give-up before that magic moment.” I guess the same applies to me and my writing. I just need to keep at it too.

I sit down where there’s room and cause some ill feelings from one of the jocks. The girl he has been chatting to now turns to me. She engages me in conversation and I see him rolling his eyes as I reply, “No, I’m just visiting from Canada.” What does he expect me to say? Don’t talk to me, that guy who suddenly hates me was clearly hoping to sleep with you? Of course he thinks we’re on the same team and assumes I’m playing the same game.

To Be CONTINUED

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Just thought you might be curious to see the jeans I was talking about. I don’t have pics from that night, but I was wearing these with black shoes and a plain black long-sleeve shirt. Very Canadian.

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Very handsome train station in D.C.

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Generic winter scene, from Google images.

Previews of Part Two:

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I’m trying to keep each posting between 1000 to 1500 words, so stay tuned for part two in a week or less. Thanks for reading! Darren

Philos Adelphos, Philadelphia Part Two

(In Part One of this Philadelphia posting I wrote about why this city has the title of “City of Brotherly Love” as well as “Cradle of Liberty” which I will discuss a tiny bit further here. I also highlighted some city firsts as well as my observation that it rains every single day. There are a lot of interesting facts about Philadelphia so if you missed part one, go back and read it here:

https://personaltravelstories.com/2014/03/29/looking-for-the-love-philadelphia-part-one/

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Philos Adelphos, Philadelphia Part Two

I’m sure it’s well known that the Declaration of Independence was signed here in 1776, and first read to an audience in Independence Park. President George Washington served his presidency here from 1790 to 1797. Starting the same year that the daily paper went out of business and the year that the Philadelphia Stock Exchange opened. Interesting. Those were happening-times around here. Seems like a much quieter place now, it has to be said.

In case you were wondering about that technological first, it was the design and build of the worlds first entirely electronic computer, ENIAC. This beast was more than a thousand times faster than it’s predecessors, so an enormous achievement both in size and importance. This was 1946. Today we carry more computing prowess in our pockets in the guise of mobile phones while ENIAC weighed-in at sixty thousand pounds. (According to Siri, that’s equal to forty average six-cylinder sedans. She didn’t just tell me that, I had to do the math in my head. I’m not completely reliant on her.) The world has changed very quickly.

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I happened into the lively Reading Terminal Market where I would have been happy to get out of the rain had it not suddenly stopped while I was waiting to cross the street to it’s entrance. Of course it recommenced soon after I reintroduced myself to the open air an hour later. In the market I enjoyed a fantastic dark roast coffee and a scrumptious Roast Pork sandwich with Provolone at Dinic’s after seeking the advice of some locals. My friends in Rhode Island had told me not to miss this market and I felt well-advised. I tried to read the fascinating history of the market but my eyes glazed-over with boredom. (I’m sure it’s well-written, I’m just funny that way.) Anyway, it’s a great place to wander, eat, and purchase everything you might need to prepare many kind of meal.

I learn online, with some surprise, that Philly has the most public art pieces of any US city. The surprise came from the fact that I noticed very few, although perhaps many were being obscured by the nearly constant rain. Or maybe many are not waterproof and are contained within indoor public spaces. For outdoor space, Fairmont Park, with eight thousand acres, is the largest US city park. I thought to myself, would that be a simply wonderful place to tromp through muddy grounds while enjoying winter rain storms? Possibly, but I didn’t.

At some point in the day I noticed I was a head-turner. I was all dressed in black, well nearly; my wool/cashmere overcoat perfectly unsuited for rain was dark gray. With frumpy but comfortable black leather shoes, black pants and trousers, all topped with a black hat, whenever water was not pouring forth from the skies I was turning the heads of a local segment. It wasn’t that they thought I was sexy, they were looking for my curls. The black hats worn by Hasidic Jews can signify their group. In Brooklyn I was told that they might wear the same style hat as does their “leader”. (Sorry, I don’t know the lexicon.) One of my hats happened to be a similar shape to the local hat of choice, and with a beard and all in black, I could not help but notice the double-takes I was being given whenever I was within eyeshot of a person of that faith. (Is he? Oh, no, he isn’t.)

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Open my umbrella, and I was immediately transformed. It was far too colourful, they would never carry such a garish non-black item. This got me new attention though, I cannot tell you how many times I had a version of the following conversation. In the birthplace of the American flag no less (the first one made by Betsy Ross in 1777 in her local upholstery shop). “Where you get that American flag umbrella?” “It’s the British flag, I got it in London.” “Wha! They stole our colours?” “No, I think you’ll find that the UK is older than the US.” I think most tourists visit Philly because of it’s American history and heritage. It wasn’t that any of these Americans would not have recognised the American flag (I can hopefully assume), it’s more they did not recognise the Union Jack and only saw the colours.

In addition to Will Smith and Kevin Bacon; Richard Gere, Kobe Bryant, and Grace Kelly all called Philadelphia home at the time of their birth. I mean they might not have known where they were, but if they had known. As a non-American, I remember this town most from the marvellous and touching film, Philadelphia, starring Tom Hanks, Denzel Washington, and Antonio Banderas. It was groundbreaking in 1993. This was a ground-breaking film that dealt with AIDS discrimination and homophobia. There was even a homophobic character who supported the cause because despite being homophobic, he recognised defending the main character as being the right thing to do. Bruce Springsteen’s song, “Streets of Philadelphia” was hands-down my favourite of his, and it hit number one status in many countries at the time. (Although it only made as high as number two in the UK. I know, seems heartless. It would have made number one there today though.)

Somewhere near to my hotel I decided to treat myself to a souvenir that soon after revealed itself as having been a cultural misunderstanding. I really don’t know what I was thinking when I spent near to three hundred dollars on such a ridiculous purchase. I intentionally took too many clothes on this road trip so I would not be tempted to buy more. I resisted the Black Friday and after Christmas sales in SOHO, Greenwich and Tribeca even from within the confines of shops purveying on-sale clothing I liked when shopping with my sister and her Dachshund. So here I saw these very unique offerings and I finally broke down.

I bought myself a fashion suit. Doesn’t sound so bad. But let me tell you. A patterned trouser, with huge pleats (to accommodate a more shapely rear attribute than my own), a matching zipper jacket, a colour-matched mock turtle sweater, matching socks, and shoes. Oh, I thought I was a picture of style in the store. It wasn’t until I tried it on in a different city for the first time outside of the all African American store that I saw it. I looked like a white guy trying to disguise himself as a fifty-year-old hipster black guy. In 1960. It looks like a costume on me, I have no idea how I was ever able to look at that entire matched outfit and think, yes. This is just the thing. I will look the bomb.

I pulled-away from the city, where I can only assume it rains every single day, on a wet Tuesday Morning in the direction of nearby Baltimore. I can remember it was a Tuesday because I had perfectly (although unintentionally) timed my visit to not be able to see most of the museums, closed on Mondays during this off-season. Like Paris, where I was a little disappointed the first time when I was not swept-off my feet by constant romance, I’ll probably like Philadelphia even more the second time I visit. I may not have noticed an extraordinary amount of brotherly love in the air, but it was friendly and handsome just the same.

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Views around Philadelphia.

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When I was near my hotel again I changed my hat to this dark gray one, I have photos of me wearing the black felt one but not in Philly.

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I just got this image online to show you the look they would have been looking closer to see from afar.

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From my counter seat at Dinic’s enjoying a sandwich inside the Reading Terminal Market.

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I shopped here. Very friendly store. You know the rest.

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I found this interesting. Rather than trees in the middle of this boulevard, parked cars. How often do doors get taken off?

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Click on the image below to view and hear the music video “Streets of Philadelphia”. If you receive this posting by email, it will open the blog post in a browser to work, if not click on the blue title to open the posting in an internet browser.

Interesting about this video is that rather than using Springsteen’s studio recording they re-recorded him singing live as he walked down the streets. The video was to be as real as possible and it was done to great effect. The video also shows the hardship and poverty that appears to continue today.

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