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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

From a fresh perspective

I've been experiencing things through a new lens lately.  Take this weekend as a prime example.  We were at a hotel visiting one of David's friends.  Across from the hotel in the mall parking lot was a little carnival with a Ferris wheel, bumper cars, etc.  I asked David if he'd ever been to one.  He said he hadn't.  Where he was in Nigeria, this wasn't a common thing.

I remember going to the St. Lawrence county fair each year with my family.  I was in 4-H and the FFA.  I entered things into the fair for ribbons.  Funny, my woodworking got an honorable mention, yet my chocolate chip oatmeal cookies got me a blue ribbon.  I was excellent at tree identification and wildlife identification, but terrible at cattle judging and cow showing.  My parents always managed to find enough money for us to try out the rides.  I've never been one who liked crazy rides much.  In fact, I remember one time when I was so upset (this probably happened more than once) that I screamed until they stopped the ride.  It was the scrambler.  As I got older, I found that my fear and upset stomach didn't get much better.  I was able to conquer it and try things like the viking ship and roller coasters, but never enjoyed them.  I'd rather go bungee jumping or sky diving than ride most fair rides.

I decided that David and I should check it out.  He saw the "Samurai" which looked an awful lot like the viking ship of my youth.  It swings all the people in a big row of seats back and forth many times until it completely rotates you up and upside down and over.  He wanted to try it.  I knew that it wouldn't do me well.  We chose to start with the bumper cars.  I could honestly ride them all day.  They are so much fun.  We then went to the UFO (it was the "gravitron" of my youth).  I enjoyed both of them.  Then David's friend came and they both decided to try the "samurai."  We bought the bracelets that give you unlimited rides.  We had both noticed that every time the ride went up, stuff fell out of it.  I had David and his friend empty their pockets.  The yelled the entire ride.  David looked green when he got off.  His friend wanted to go again.  We tried some other calm rides, and then I went on another spinning ride with them all.  This was the "straw that broke the camels back" for David.  He ended up emptying his stomach into the nearest trash can.  He wasn't upset.  It was all a part of the experience.  We decided to stick to the merry go round, bumper cars, and fun houses while his friend went on the crazier rides.  All in all, we laughed a lot and had a good time.  Next time, I think he'll stick to the calmer rides with me.

On Sunday, we went to the Aquarium.  David had never been to an aquarium.  I've been to a few of them.  His favorite thing..."the fact that all of the fish lived in the large tank without eating each other."  He also loved the sharks in both their separate tank and in the big tank.

We've had this experience over and over again this year.  There are things that I've done, but get to treat him to because he hasn't seen them.

I'm reminded to be thankful for my parents.  Even when money was tight, they always found enough for my siblings and me to try new things.  We were encouraged to try different foods, the appreciate museums, and to see each experience as an adventure.  I also had two teachers in high school who encouraged me to try new things, Mr. Jack Smith and Mrs. Susan Burwell.  Both of them wanted us to see and experience the world.  Both of them taught us that exposure to knew things was ming blowing.  I'm also grateful for my sister, Kim.  She was the oldest and the first to explore.  She traveled, tried new things, and brought them back to me and my twin when we were little.  She inspired us to travel and be adventurous.

The world is still full of places I haven't seen, foods I haven't tried, and adventures to be lived.  I hope that you find your adventure.  Thank the people who provided for you to have your own adventures and encouraged you to explore.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Checking my white privilege

David and I now live together which is awesome.  Yes, there is some adjusting to be made.  I haven't lived with anyone who wasn't renting from me as a tenant in almost 17 years.  Still, it's awesome living together and learning about each other.

One of the things I've noticed is that lots of things happen to him that don't happen to me.  I have to chalk it up to race in most cases.  David and I are usually dressed about the same.  When I have a tie, he has a tie, When I'm in my sweats, he's in his sweats, etc.

For those of you who have never spent a lot of time with someone who is from a different race, try it.  Your eyes will be opened.

Before I talk about my experiences with David, I want to talk about an experience that happened two years ago in Cooperstown, NY.  I had been dating someone there who was a local physician.  He was charming and funny.  He wasn't caucasian.  He was from the middle east and fair skinned.  We frequented the opera, local restaurants, and other things in the area.  It was a lot of fun.  He re-introduced me to a restaurant that I loved when I was in college called the Blue Mingo Grill.  We would go there on occasion and get a water side table.  I took lots of friends there.  One weekend, a black male gay friend came with me.  We didn't have a reservation and it was a Saturday night.  We called up and they said they would fit us in.  When we got there, we asked how long for a table on the water.  They said that all of their waterfront tables were booked for at least an hour and we wouldn't be able to sit there.  They would, however, put us at the one side table by the water that is out the back door.  I've sat at this table a few times.  It isn't as nice.  You feel like the help. BUT, it is outside.  In fact, my mom and I sat at that table once.  My friend, Jordan, said he thought it was because he was black that we were at that table.  I didn't even think about it.  I just figured they were telling the truth.

I decided to see if Jordan was right.  I walked back into the restaurant and told them we would wait for a table on the water front.  We were just going to order drinks at the bar and a appetizer.  They said it could be over an hour.  I told them that was fine.  Jordan and I didn't really have other plans that night.  Before our drinks were even finished at the bar, they gave us a table on the water.  There were no other people seated out there.  In five minutes, a family of five was seated next to us.  In 15 minutes, a group of four ladies was seated at one of the other 6 tables out front (maybe there are 5 or 7).  We ate a very, very leisurely dinner with all of the courses.  We were there for more than 90 minutes.  Guess what?  Not one other of the waterfront tables had anyone arrive in 90 minutes.  Hmmm...I was a waiter.  At the finer places I worked, we would figure 45-60 minutes for a table to turn over.  We could usually cycle in 2-3 parties of 2 people in 90 minutes.

I was upset by this, as was Jordan.  Was it because he was black? I had gone with lots of other gay men and never been seated at the back table, so I don't think it was the gay thing?  I decided to email the owner and let him know about what had happened.  I thought he or she would have the courtesy to write back.  They never did.  I haven't gone back, nor will I.

The next day we had dinner at the Otesaga and the experience was the exact opposite.  They treated us like royalty.  Now that's a place that I'll visit over and over again.

Back to Brooklyn, where you'd think that people wouldn't have race issues.  I noticed, and so does David, that whenever we are holding hands in public, people stare at us like we are in a zoo.  I've also noticed in Manhattan and in Brooklyn that each time we go to dinner, I get the check.  Even if David asks for the check, the waiter hands it to me.

Two days ago, in our local bodega, David came with me to get some drinks an sandwiches for us and some friends.  I paid, he grabbed the bags to walk out.  The owner lunged over the table and started yelling at him for taking my bags.  I had to explain that David was with me.

At the grocery store that we visit each week, the cashier asks every time if the stuff on the conveyer belt is all mine since she saw David putting some of it on the belt.  I unload the front of the cart and he unloads the back.  Yes, it is ours...not his or mine.

This weekend in Baltimore, a grocery clerk said the same thing.  I laughed and said, "honey, she thinks that stuff is yours, push it all together."  She blushed and apologized since she said there was a gap in the belt.  Also, at the restaurant, David asked for the check.  The clerk came and gave it to me.
This are just some examples of what I'm sure many people who are not white have to go through.  To always think that a person, regardless of how well dressed they are, isn't the one who is paying, or isn't the one who has money must get old fast.