Being Who You Want To Be

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By this time I am settled in Manila, Philippines starting my latest travel adventure. I decided to begin this adventure in the Wanderers Guest House in the city of Malate (Metro Manila is a collection of cities, and Malate is one of the most central). Really it is a hostel where I will have my own room but will be able to meet fellow travellers, hopefully Filipino as well as international. Following this stay I will be joining a homestay in another central city of Metro Manila before making my way to interesting scenarios further afield.

There is generally a lag between my travel adventures and when I get a chance to share them with you but this one is another non-travel posting written while visiting friends in Cobb County, Georgia with some photos inserted from my current location in Manila.

The image below is a short clip walking the streets of Manila, click on the image to play. If you received this post by email, click on the title in blue to open this posting into your browser so you can also play the video.

“I don’t know who I am anymore,” he had said and I listened. I understood, I had been there myself.

I thought back through the years to when I struggled with my own identity the most, struggling to discover who I was early in university at age 18,19. Before I had accepted many things about myself. I wished I could change things about my nature that were unchangeable. Being inherently introverted. Being highly sensitive. Being creative. Wanting to fall in love with a man instead of a woman. This last one caused me my greatest grief. (I value all of these today as some of my greatest gifts.)

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I held to my conviction that all mankind is created equal. This helped me struggling with low self-esteem. Deep down I felt I was worth less than those around me. That I was broken and unlovable. But I’d remind myself that all of us are of equal value. I knew and felt that the poor man was as valuable as the rich, that a good-looking person was no better than a plain person. That we all had something within us to be cherished. Even me.

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One’s value is not determined by status. The person who found this public space to air their laundry is worth as much as the person whose housekeeper does theirs. When I see a scene like this, I think of the life of the person behind the scene.
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“You don’t need to know who you are,” I said to him after some moments of reflection. “You just need to know who you want to be. Within the limits of accepting your own nature and embracing your fixed character traits. Who you want to be is who you can be. Because who you are is constantly changing.”

Because who we are is mostly a collection of behaviours. And we can change most of our behaviours. We can focus to be more kind, more generous. more loving. We can take action to be less hurtful, less aggressive, less controlling. We may need the aid of a good therapist to figure these things out if we find it impossible to break our knee-jerk reactions, but there is nothing stopping you from making the effort to be more like the person you want to be starting today.

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Who we are is mostly a collection of behaviours. Think about how your job becomes a part of your identity, because it is what you do. I’ve had times when who I was – was a teacher in Japan. -was an office worker in Edinburgh. -was an espresso bar manager in London. -was an artist in Toronto. -was an actor and tour guide in Fredericton. -was a recruiter in China. -was a student. -was a substitute teacher in Winnipeg. -was a retail business owner in Winnipeg. What we do is changeable, not just for work but how we behave in all areas of our life.
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We all have our shortcomings but hopefully we all have ideals as to how we want to act, behave, and be in various situations. Often we react poorly and disappoint ourselves. But we can learn from our mistakes and improve. We can work towards being who we want to be in many different domains. It is well-known now that we cannot work towards being straight if we are gay, that is a fixed trait. But for character traits that actually matter, we can strive to improve.

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A closer view of someone’s laundry hanging to dry in Metro Manila, Philippines.
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Make a list of who you want to be as if it is true today.

What you value as important, is who you are. Or at least it can be, if you choose to make it so.

You may not be that yet, but you can work towards it. Changing automatic responses takes time, patience, and perseverance. But you can teach yourself to respond with kindness (for example) by being mindful to notice when you did not and promising yourself to behaving differently in the future. And then doing it.

Mine was something like this.

Who I am is someone who is:
-Kind, especially to those who deserve or need kindness.
-Generous and giving of myself and what I have. (But not overly generous, anymore. There needs to be balance. Too many people will take as much as you will give without consideration to you. I learned this the hard way.)
-Thoughtful of others thoughts and feelings.
-Polite and respectful with others behaviours, ideas, and values. (But also with my own.)
-Patient with myself and with others.

We can all benefit from stepping back, looking at ourselves, and deciding what values and behaviours we want more of and holding ourselves to a higher standard.

I’m going to make my own new list in my journal right now, as part of my starting 2015 on the right foot. Why don’t you do the same? It will only take a few minutes and it can only bring good.

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My Deep Inner Life in Montreal

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A view from wandering around Montreal.
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Efforts to Make Friends in Montreal, and My Deep Inner Life

I am feeling a bit lonely and am excited to make some local friends my first week in Montreal as I walk through an open door labelled 309. To the left of this door is 309A. I am looking for 309B. The lights are off. It’s an odd place; I can’t tell if it’s a business or a residence. For sure it has served both purposes and it’s in a commercial/residential area.

I’m standing in what is like an open concept, basic, urban kitchen. To the right of the door is about an 8-foot span of wall with makeshift open shelves, a basic counter and sink, a stove and a fridge. The usual details for preparing a meal but not really cooking so much. The shelves are fully stocked, colourful boxes and packages and dishes and cooking implements. Otherwise the room is grey. Grey industrial carpet, grey walls.

There are several tables with chairs pulled around. I feel like this would have been a small living room. It’s an odd space. Do people work at these tables? Are there bedrooms made into offices and this is the common area? I notice a cycling helmet and a jacket have been tossed onto the table closest to the entrance. I can’t say why, but it seems like they were just tossed there moments ago. Perhaps I perceive settling of the jacket but not consciously. Where is everyone?

“Hello? . . . Allo?” I call into the darkness. I hear a stirring but no one answers. “Allo?”

A middle-aged man pokes around the corner, friendly and curious. He is not expecting me. “Roberto?” I ask. “Qui?” “Um, I emailed with Roberto and he said the group would be meeting here?” We stand for a moment, staring at each other. He’s clearly thinking. Who is this Roberto and why would he be having a group meet in my space?

“Oh, you want that one!” he says after a moment and amicably, turning me around and pointing to a third door outside. It is labelled 309B, but was not noticeable when facing the direction of these doors, it corners the left side of 309A.

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Door 309B leads directly down a staircase. Seems to be the same grey industrial carpeting as in the previous unit. I can hear laughter and friendly voices. It seems more obvious now that this is a commercial space that had perhaps previously been residential. I go through a living room cum storage room following the voices around the corner.

Four large brown rectangular tables are pushed together making one big work surface. The room is brightly over-lit by fluorescent tube lighting so I choose and dawn the appropriate eyewear before even entering. (I am highly photosensitive.) Around the tables sit naked illegal immigrants measuring and packaging what looks like some kind of exotic sea salt.

“I’m here to volunteer?” I say with some uncertainty to the first person who looks towards me. A stocky, well-built shorter man wearing a green t-shirt and blue jeans jumps up to introduce himself. He is happy to try a bit of English and I am happy to finally try the only French I know, which is only a tiny bit. Oh, and I was kidding about the naked illegal immigrants measuring and packaging what looks like some kind of exotic sea salt. I mean, how would I have even known if they were legal or not.

“I’ll take him over here,” someone calls over, “I’ll show him what to do.” The first guy looks unsure, he was happy to welcome me too. But this other fellow wins-out with English fluency, calling again until the first guy relents and gestures me to go ahead. I have no idea how this works so I just accept being called over. He seems to be the guy in charge.

Well, he wasn’t in charge, he was just bossy. And interested in me. And he doesn’t want to share. Me. He shows me what to do. We chat in English and very quickly I lose all hope of ever conversing with anyone else in the room. I have found much the same in coffee shops here in East Montreal, people shy away from English. They may speak a little but generally prefer not to. And when I try my little bit of French they also reply that they don’t speak English. In this case they may have made an attempt to communicate with me, had I been the lone Anglo guy in a room of Francophones and happy to struggle communicating in my barely existent French some of them might have playfully interacted with me. The desire to communicate can easily outweigh language shortcomings, I have experienced this all over the world. But not in this case, not with the Brazilian fluently conversing. I very quickly became invisible to the rest of the group. The “welcome” switch flicked to “avoid”, perhaps even, “invisible”.

“Where are we going for a drink?” he asks after we emerge into the urban Montreal street. “I’m still going to Chapters, I don’t want to go for a drink,” I reply. I had told him of my plan to look for some specific books this evening after volunteering. He clearly wanted to spend the evening together but I didn’t. “I don’t really drink either,” he says, ignoring my lack of interest,”you know the village better than I do.” That’s just stupid. I’ve been to two bars and anyway, he doesn’t know how well or not I know the village. “Are you going to Beaudry Station?” I ask at the corner of Rue Ste Catherine, gesturing that this is where we part. “No, I’ll walk with you to Berri.”

He walks with me well past Metro Berri and some distance later we come upon a fashion show around the Plaza Des Arts. We wander in and there I leave him, which I have to do pointedly. I am feeling very crowded by this fellow who, in his head, seems to have already settled down and had babies with me. “There’s a station here?” “Yes, right there.” “Okay, I’m leaving you now, it was nice to meet you,” I lied. We farewell and I continue to the bookstore where I can find travel guides in English. I need to start reading about Southeast Asia.

I felt like my chance to meet some locals was hijacked by this friendly Brazilian. “It’s the first time in months that I came to help-out here,” he had exclaimed, suggesting the destiny of our meeting.

If we were meant to meet, then I guess I wasn’t meant to make some new friends that night after all. A group of friends where I was the token English guy would have been fun. That’s what I was hoping for – accept me in your group even though our communication is limited. I might not want to go to a German film with French subtitles, but there are lots of other activities I would be happy to join. I’m used to being in groups where I don’t understand what most people are saying, being the white guy in China and the only non-Japanese in my schools in Japan, I’d be happy to catch a word or gesture here and there. “Ah yes, a tree, I understand fully. . . ” (Really? They’ve been talking about a tree this whole time?) “Yes, tree, ha,ha, you speak Japanese very well!”
(He thinks we’re talking about a tree?)

Happily I have a “very deep inner life” that allows me to enjoy such situations. Sometimes I even do that with English speakers. Some might call it “zoning out” and see it as a defect of having ADHD, but I prefer my view. My internal world is quite developed and I am someone who rarely gets bored. There are strengths to be found in any attribute. I think my former partner may not have fully appreciated that I substituted, “Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention, what did you say?” with, “Sorry, I have a very deep inner life, what did you say?”

The men in my family also seem to share a delay in attention change. If you start suddenly talking to us, don’t expect us to have heard the beginning of what you said. Because it takes a moment to shift our focus from our very deep inner life over to you. We need some advance notice that you are about to speak, how else are we to know that we need to listen? You will most always have to repeat the first few lines unless we were already presently engaged in conversation. Except there’s no guarantee in my case, “Sorry, I forgot you were talking to me for a moment.” Don’t take it personally. Unless you want to, I know that some people love to take things like that personally, keeps life more excitingly dramatic or something. I won’t even talk about our inability to multi task. Another time.

I was very much happy to be alone again. Thankful, in fact. Perhaps that was the purpose in our meeting; I had been feeling a bit lonely. And now I’m just grateful. More space for my deep inner life again.

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Some views from cycling around Montreal’s port.

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Click on the videos below to play them.


Cycling across the Jacques Cartier Bridge:


I had one song stuck in my head all day, so you might notice me humming it in these videos. The next one, for sure. (Maybe called, “This Land is Mine”, I might share the video sometime but some might find it offensive even though it isn’t.)

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A Local Foreigner

Moving Forward

A gentleman in his mid fifties holds a table while a beautiful young woman orders their drinks inside. He seems nervous. But also excited. Like a kid on his first day at school. All those unknowns just around the corner. I can see that he is a foreigner. Not to Montreal, but to this world he is finally introducing himself to.

Neither are coffee drinkers but they sit outside this coffee shop and watch the parade of mostly gentlemen wandering past along Montreal’s gay promenade. Strings of cotton-candy pink balls drape across this pedestrianised section of Rue Ste – Catherine for many blocks, a canopy shield blocking the real world.

There is a competition of music. A public piano tempts passers by at an adjacent parkette. It doesn’t often seem to tempt actual pianists; those most intrigued seem to be the ones who gave-up their piano lessons before reaching middle school. We are not often serenaded by classical pieces memorised for their conservatoire exams. Someone is just playing with music, playing with notes and cords. It is nice to hear.

Opposite, music spills into the street unabashed from the local barber shop. Bears and drag queens mingle to the sassy dance music.

“You got new sunglasses,” the young woman chirps, putting down two blended drinks and reaching out to take them from his face, to see them closer. “Ray Ban. They look nice on you, Dad!” He’s moving to a new world. Her encouragement is nice to see.

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I decided to not show the actual tarasse in case there was someone visiting the village who would not want it to be known.

Removal of the balls.

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View from my balcony showing the canopy of balls.


Click on the above video to see removal of the balls.

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And the view later.


Nighttime view sitting outside in the village on a temporary patio under the canopy of balls.

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View looking down to a patio.

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The patios bring removed to open the street to cars for the winter. So glad I was here to enjoy this transformed street!


Watching the end of a season.

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There are Different Ways to Find a Home

In Montreal I am staying in “The Village” and by now I have my favourite nearby spots to write and listen to lectures and to meet and observe the people around me. So that will be reflected in the stories I find here.

This story reminds me that a lot of people are one small step away from homelessness.

The fellow in my story knew how to use what he had to stay off the street. You know what, we can judge other’s actions, but I see no shame in it. I’m not living his life. If he’s not hurting anyone, he has nothing to be ashamed of. As far as I could see, he probably contributes to the lives of those he interacts with.

Humans used to live much more dependently. Our communities were stronger, communal in fact. We would take care of each other when one of us fell down. Our interdependence created a stronger sense of us, and we, and consideration for the other, and conscientiousness that so many people no longer show the stranger. Today we wander through the world more-or-less independent. If things go wrong, we might fall. And for some, there is no one there to catch them.

This isn’t a great story, it’s not a piece of writing I’m excited about or anything. But as I share it I am feeling very grateful. If you know where you’re sleeping tonight, I hope you might feel grateful too. It’s a good emotion to embrace.

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Montreal Characters
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Finding His Way

My regular view of the comings and goings of customers in this coffee shop of Montreal’s village is disrupted. My attention is pulled to a striking gentleman who bears resemblance to someone I knew in London many years ago. I Google the fellow I’m thinking of and discover that he has his own Wikipedia page. I knew his sister did. I look from his photo to the gentleman in front of me and think, yes, this is a younger version.

The fellow before me wears a vibrant red polo, perfectly ironed, and beige slacks. Not your average relaxed American staple, these ones look tailored, they fit perfectly. He stands out in a sea of muted urban colours. I figure he’s hovering around the age of thirty. He has a precisely trimmed chin strap – a perfect narrow line of beard accentuating his square jaw. On his sockless feet he wears loafers the colour of caramel.

He carries with him a large gym bag. Not surprising that he’d be enroute to or from the gym, his muscles bulge against his clothing. He doesn’t look like a body builder, his proportions are more natural. But we all know it takes some work to look that healthfully natural.

He needs to charge his phone. I don’t notice there’s an outlet beside me soon enough and he ends-up taking an awkward seat by some cheerfully friendly older men who jump on the opportunity of sharing his company and quickly they have the cord of this charger tethering him near.

We would have chatted easily, he has declared that his English is better than his French, that much I could understand. I would have been curious to know his story. But I also noticed something that has me thinking, perhaps it’s good we don’t meet.

When he opened his gym bag to get his charger, it wasn’t a gym bag. It carried all of his essentials, none of which were nearly the calibre of the outfit he was wearing. It instantly dawned on me that he was looking for a place to stay. He would use his appearance to get it.

I can see my apartment from where I am sitting. I have a spare room, I’d be happy for the company. He would need to do nothing for it. But what if he wanted more than a room. I don’t mean sex, we’re in a gay village and he is stunning, he can get sex whenever he wants. I’m thinking more along the lines of waking up to find my iPad and iPhone and wallet missing. Find myself having been drugged for him to have time to poke through my things, find my passport, cash, car keys . . .

I watch from afar. No, he’s not looking for sex, he’s looking for accommodation. He’s targeting older guys and plainer guys – guys who would be grateful to be with him. Finished with testing the waters with the gentlemen inside, he unplugs his phone and moves outside. He has grabbed a random book from the bookshelf and pretends to read. This is apparent because he approached the shelf from a distance took one without consideration, and returned to his seat with it. He didn’t ponder a few choices. Sure, he could be returning to a book started previously, but it doesn’t look like it. It seems like he opens it to a random page and then, like me, is just watching the people around him.

Before long he is sitting with an amicable looking fellow in his mid fifties. He’s wearing a boring checkered shirt that does not hide his mid-sized pot belly. An unkempt beard. A beige checkered fedora that suggests that he’s trying to look interesting but has no idea how. He looks middle-class suburban, probably has a few spare bedrooms in a dull quiet neighbourhood. I kind-of hope for my foreign friend that he will welcome some company without any strings attached. He does look hopeful, I can see that. They both do, but for different outcomes I am sure of it.

There may be disappointment, but something is better than nothing, isn’t it?

A few days later I see the young gentleman again. He’s dressed far more casually now and he’s holding hands with a new boyfriend. This other fellow is not not strikingly handsome but they’re around the same age. They make a nice couple. I feel happy for him. He looks content. Safe.

I didn’t feel compelled to offer him a temporary place to stay with me even though I thought about it, and in that hopefully he found the right situation for him. Sometimes if we feel obligated to help when it doesn’t feel right, we are robbing someone of finding the situation that would have been a good fit for both parties. I’m not suggesting that things always work out though, sometimes things fall completely apart.

Lets all be thankful for the good things we have in our lives. We all have something to be thankful for.

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If you are reading this as an email, click on the title (in blue) to open the email in a browser to see any videos. Click on the image below to view the short clip.

Grateful to be cycling again! First day exploring Montreal by bicycle, in the Parc de la Fountaine:

Grateful for my good health! I did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge this week. It’s an awareness campaign where people post this kind of video on their Facebook, make a donation, and nominate three friends to do the same. Some have argued that too much money is going to this specific charity, but I argue that no one is taking that money away from other charities by people being moved to donate. They’re more likely skipping a few lattes and going with brewed coffee for a few days here in the first world. Other nervous system disorders could use the money too though, so if you’re feeling grateful and would like to make a difference, how about donating to MS? I’ll put a link below.

Share your gratefulness for living each day by making a donation. You just never know what support you’ll need yourself someday and it’s good for strengthening our world-community. It really needs strengthening.

http://mssociety.ca/en/give/

There are lots more things I’m grateful for today, but I’ll save them for another time. Okay, maybe just two more – family and friends. Spending time getting to know friends better here in Montreal is for sure the highlight of being here.

Lastly, feeling grateful for the comfy bed I’ll be sleeping in again tonight:

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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

Making Friends in Richmond, Week Two Report

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The Handsome Virginia State Capital in Downtown Richmond. I pass this way three times a week nowadays, walking to my chiropractor. Yes, that is snow you see. I am told this is an unusual winter.

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Richmond Week 2 Report

By the end of week one, I was seeming to discover a barrier between me and mainstream Richmond. I had been finding interesting social activities where I could meet new people every day, but I was not having success of making friends outside of groups. Except when it came to the LGBT community. I was finding this community to be uncommonly accepting and inclusive.

I had made personal contact with several people and I came-out to them. Then they disappeared. Some days later I re-contacted them to ask whether I had offended them by being gay, or if they were just too busy to reply. On Sunday, the first guy I had contacted, fully a week previous, finally replied to let me know that I had not offended him. Clearly not an offer of friendship, but he was clearing-the-air as we were to be attending the same meetup event later in the day.

The girl who had given me her card with an offer to meet from her nearby work, I never heard from again after mentioning being gay. The young man I was to see a matinee with on Wed finally replied to let me know that he simply hadn’t checked email all week. This would seem a good reason not to reply if we had not been planning to attend a film the day after we met and only had email contact with each other. In that case, does he still want to go to a film sometime afterall? Well, I guess he hasn’t checked his email for the past 8 days because he again disappeared. So some Richmonders might not want to make gay friends, but they also don’t want you to necessarily feel rejected. They may not want to know you once you tell them you’re gay, but they don’t want you to feel badly about it. It’s like, they know they are uncomfortable, but they also know that they shouldn’t be. They watch tv, things are changing.

Apart from my chiropractor, who I am now visiting every-other-day, week two presented me with few activities to meet new people. Not because it was a slow week, but because I had already made some friends. Sunday I enjoyed meeting the film group to see Jack Ryan and for BBQ afterwards. It’s a nice, social, friendly group. Monday I met friends for dinner, the male-male couple newly from the mid-west. Really sweet guys. Tuesday events were cancelled due to weather and I found myself on the phone getting to know people and making future plans. Wednesday I met someone for a drink around the corner, the kindly fellow I went out with on Saturday. He’s native to Richmond but has real Southern Charm, which is generally not so notable here, in spades. Thursday I met three black gay guys for dinner and drinks. (Why am I pointing out that they were black and gay when I’d usually just say that I met three guys? Because the gay/straight divide has become a surprising topic of my writing here.) Great guys, the couple who had a tropical wedding and another Richmond newbie. Friday I went to DC with one of them for the weekend, so week 2 in Richmond was cut-short.

I do not think that Richmond is a homophobic city. But I do think it may be a segregated city. Honestly, I have not conducted this natural experiment other places so I cannot provide a good comparison, it just happened here. It seems like there were natural social filters working that after a week I found my place and that was of having only gay friends. This is completely new to me. My usual comfort-zone is of being the token gay guy, which is probably a factor of where and how I grew-up. This might say nothing about the community around me at all, or it might indicate that the gay community is very inclusive because they need to support each other. People accept each other readily when they know what it is to be rejected. Not in a brutal way, but in a kept-at-arms-length sort-of-way. Summarily, based on one trait.

For the rest of week two, stay tuned for my upcoming DC postings: DC International Auto Show and DC House Party.

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This modern sculpture of a police man’s head adorns the station near my sublet.

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My old hobby of going to the chiropractor M-W-F has forced itself into my Richmond routine.

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