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

Looking for the Love, Philadelphia Part One

“Looking for The Love”, Philadelphia Part One

America’s original capital city, Philadelphia, seems to have fallen off the main stage but it is still the fifth largest city in the US with more than five million residents. Despite the name of a recent sitcom (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”, you can find it on Canadian Netflix), I would say that it rains every single day in Philadelphia. I should perhaps disclose that my observations made from under an umbrella were conducted over the course of two days. So, there is a slight chance that the weather may differ from when I was there but that is how I will remember it.

Philly first hit my radar for places I must visit when I discovered that it was the “City of Brotherly Love”. Doesn’t that sound just lovely. I imagine guys walking arm in arm, sitting outdoors at street-side cafes calling each other “brotha” as they share the love. The locals must really affectionate with each other to earn such a title. Perhaps the term, “bromance” comes from here too. Will Smith was born here; he seems like a warm, loving guy, doesn’t he. Kevin Bacon too. Aren’t we all supposed to be somehow associated with Kevin Bacon by six degrees? That’s a warm and connective thought, isn’t it. Fits right in to my new life philosophy that connecting with others is perhaps the most important thing.

Imagine my shock on discovering that “brotherly love” was not readily apparent on the streets when I first wandered out of my hotel in search of dinner in torrential downpour that first evening. I was a little disappointed when no one had offered me as much as a hug while I was checking-in to the artsy Hotel Monaco. Then on the streets, passing the soaking people slogging their ways home after work, not as much as a friendly smile to acknowledge my arrival to their loving city. What was more, I was not even called “brother” that first night, not even one time. I was horrified.

Turns out, the city did not earn the reputation of being a city of brotherly love in recent years, nor is it actually a reputation. It stems from the city’s conception by founding father, William Penn, who must have been a pretty loving guy himself. It was his vision to create a place where everyone would just get along. He envisioned that people from different places and backgrounds could live together in peace and harmony. I guess equality of the sexes had not come together for him yet though, or he simply recognised that most of the problems were coming from the guys anyway. Women are always more accepting and loving towards other women when compared to men. Except when they’re not. So it was he found his male-focused inspiration from the Greek, philos adelphos. Always a fun place to go with words when you want to sound smart; it gives you that little extra edge on profundity too. Literally it means, “loving brothers”. Well, the loving brothers probably didn’t want to live somewhere that sounded as precious as philos adelphos so it was anglicised to the handsome name of Philadelphia. Another name Bill can take credit for is the state of Pennsylvania. Which is his surname plus “sylvania” (Latin for “forest land”) so literally, “Penn’s woods”. So, that name is a tiny bit more self-focused I can’t help but notice.

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There were other fun reasons to visit the “cradle of liberty” anyway. Mustard was first produced here in 1768 by Benjamin Jackson. I like mustard. Was it invented here or was that just when the first person recorded making it in this location; people like to record all sorts of silly things. Someday I’ll have a fact checker who enjoys looking into such exciting matters, for now just know that I do not promise that any of the facts presented here are definitely true, but I did not make them up either. (Okay, Siri says the Romans had mustard, so I’m not sure what exactly this claim is about. I think that Siri might also be using the internet for her information too though.) Anyway, do they love mustard so very much that they aknowledge simply when someone first made it here? And how do they really know he was the first person here to do so? Do they know when someone was the first here to make jam too? How about strawberry pie? Might one happen upon a plaque somewhere indicating that within this home was where the first person in Philadelphia who practiced Japanese flower arranging lived? How far do such commemorations go? I wonder if there is anything I could do here to become the first to have done it here.

Another exciting first came soon after in 1775 when Johann Behrent completed the first piano (then called piano forte) built in the US. In fact, Philadelphia had a lot of firsts. The first commercial radio broadcast (KDKA). The first zoo in the US (founded by Benjamin Franklin). The first bank on US soil. The first US stock exchange (1790). America’s first daily newspaper. (Although short-lived, 1784-1790.) The first “Rocky” film in 1976. And then the second. And the third.

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My first evening I enjoyed a meal at a little pub where I did enjoy some brotherly chat with the bartenders. They were enjoying a two-to-one customer-bartender ratio so could hardly avoid interacting with the four of us sitting in front of them at the counter. Even if they had wanted to. I was not walking away without my brotherly love. Well, with one of the bartenders I suppose it was sisterly, or half sisterly-half brotherly since she would have been like the loving sister chatting with me her loving and very interesting and dare I say charming, brother.

The next day I burst outside, again finding the rain a little off-putting for sight-seeing. Off-putting in that subtle way that I did not want to go outside and had to force myself. I wandered past the liberty bell, the infamous instrument that cracked on it’s first ringing. Online there is some dispute as to whether Pennsylvania was misspelled as Pensylvania or whether both spellings were at the time commonly in use. I should think Penn would have always wanted the second, silent “n” to be included for higher name recognition, even if it were a redundant letter when it came to pronunciation. Later I will visit Allentown, where I discover that the broken/cracked bell was escorted to protect from it the British. I guess the British must have really liked big, cracked bells. I must ask them about it next time I’m there as it’s one of my favourite countries to visit. A conversation starter, “Do you people still like to acquire large, cracked bells?” So high was it’s value, it was escorted back to Philadelphia by a caravan of seven hundred wagons. I read that online, so it must be true. But that sounds astoundingly absurd to me. One damaged bell. Seven hundred means of transport. Overkill or prudence? One shouldn’t judge.

I discover another first on my wanderings, this one technological.

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TO BE CONTINUED

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The Liberty Bell, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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A Mural in Philadelphia, 2014.

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Inside the lobby of the fun-looking Hotel Monaco.

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In my room of the hotel in the city of brotherly love where no hugs were pro-offered.

STAY TUNED – TO BE CONTINUED

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