Monday, June 20, 2016

Orlando has changed things

It was unintentional, really it was.  To be frank this week has been so overwhelming that when my friends said they wanted to go out for a drink, I was faced with a combination of exhaustion and exhilaration.  Between work, life, and wedding stuff, I just needed a 12 hour nap.  Still, going out can be amazing, rejuvenating, a reminder that I love music, love a good scotch, and dancing helps you forget about things.

For those of you who are not aware, a gay bar can be a sanctuary.  For gay people, there are few places where you can actually hold your boyfriend or girlfriend's hand, kiss them, or even touch that special place in the small of their back and not be afraid that someone will say something.  Comments can be mild like, "ew gross" or "get a room" or "this isn't the appropriate place for that" to "FAGGOT" or "C*&KSU*&Er" or worse.  Sometimes I automatically grab David's hand when we are walking down the street and each time we do that simple act, ANYWHERE, we have a bit of fear.  It's subconscious now, but still there...that slight hesitation before grabbing his hand or kissing him before we go our separate ways to work, or patting his lower back when I want him to know I love him.  I'd never do any of this where I grew up, or in small town America, or in many places where I know they can't handle it.  Brooklyn, though, still has me hesitating.  I say this to point out to you that when a gay person first enters a gay bar, it's finally a place where they can love each other without fear of retribution or bullies or ignorance.  Just dancing with your partner in a place is a good feeling where you don't have to worry about people staring at you or grabbing their children and pulling them out of the room.  We try to not even dance at weddings unless we check with the bride and groom to make sure it's ok.

A gay bar is a safe place for us...or at least we thought it was until a week ago.  If you haven't heard about the largest mass shooting in America's history at the Pulse Orlando Night Club, then you should probably read about it.

So after a crazy Saturday and Saturday early evening, David's friends convinced us to go out.  We both had a full Sunday planned so we decided to stay local to Brooklyn bars.  We haven't been to any of them together.  We had been so focused on other things that we had let the tragedy of Orlando slip our mind for a short time.  I've been crying most of the week each time I hear more news about it.  Saturday was that kind of crazy that I only focused on getting through it.

Going out to a gay bar wasn't as much of a release as I was hoping on Saturday.  There were security guards even at the smallest bars.  They were searching bags and patting you down.  I've never been patted down to go into a bar in my life.

David and I thanked the bouncers and security.  We told them how important they were to us and that we were grateful they were there.

As we walked in I made sure to look at every single exit and find them.  Even with the fog machine on and people dancing, I wanted to make sure I knew how to get out.

At one point there was one lone guy walking around the bar in circles.  This usually means he came alone and just wants to meet people, but he scared me.  I looked carefully in the dark out the outline of his clothes and at his face.  Could I describe him if the police asked it?

Yeah..this was my Saturday going out.  I only had two drinks in a relatively empty bar.  I tried to be myself as I met one of my fiance's good friends so he could get to know the real me.  I guess part of the real me now is someone who is cautious when he goes out, one who might cry as he dances to a song as he remembers that some people were killed doing the same thing in a place that they thought was a sanctuary.

I was reminded of the same feeling that I had after the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.  I traveled for work and was on a plane often at that time.  My first flight after September 11 was only six weeks later.  For the first time in all of my flying, I counted seats to exit rows and made sure I could easily take my shoes off to throw them at a hijacker if there was one like I had read on a website.  I remember looking at every person on that flight as if they could be a terrorist instead of seeing only if I knew other people on my flight.

On Sunday, David and I went to a party at another bar.  This one had a line three blocks long to get in.  Fortunately, some friends let us sneak up the line with them.  We were again patted down, had our IDs scanned and our bags checked.

As I had a drink there, I said a prayer for those people in Orlando, those who passed away, those injured, those people affected by it, families, friends, and our gay community.  This bar was so packed that we were shoulder to shoulder for five floors and there were lines for everything.  I took deep breaths, hugged everyone I met and I reclaimed the feeling of sanctuary.  We won't let this get us down.  We will keep loving as much as we can.

In fact, I also said a pray for the shooter and his family.  I don't want to name him to glorify what he did.  I believe in love.  I believe that we have to love the haters too.  We have to love the people that do us wrong.  We have to be better at loving than they are at hating.  I pray that God forgives him as I try to forgive him for what he does.  I pray that his family and anyone else who thinks that doing harm to others finds some love from around them.  I will fight back with love and peace.  I will not hate, speak ill, or hold it against him.  May god bless him and his soul in spite of what he has done.  We are better people if we respond with love.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

When the War is done....One Day!

I've been a mess today for most of the day.  This morning, I found out that 50 people were killed in a gay night club in Orlando in the early hours of this morning.  I still don't know if any of my friends are among the fallen.  I don't know a lot of people in Orlando, but know that my friends are a traveling group who could easily have been there.  David and I could have been there.

I went to church this morning and it was Pride Sunday.  The pastor and our church were clearly aware of what had happened in Orlando.  It gave this morning's service even more meaning.  My friend, Alexis Bertand, sang the song "Glory."  Our pastor had her own lyrics to add to it.  No matter what version you listen to, this song is moving.

Today, as i listened, I sobbed.  So many dead people for no reason.  When will this war be done?  When will we actually get this glory.  Why does any person think that killing others is a solution?  As far as I know, every major religion condemns murder as a sin.  Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Native American Spirituality, and Hinduism all talk about loving each other and putting positive energy into the world.  

I can't help but think that gun control is part of the solution.  There is no need for any individual to have automatic weapons.  I think that love is a greater part of the solution.  Why can't we all support open loving relationships between adults.  Let us all love who we want to love as long as we are adults and are not hurting other people.  My God is about love, not hate.  My God is about building up lives, not taking them away.  My God is about giving with all you've got to help every person you know (and those you don't know) to have a better life.  

As I continued to grieve and struggled to put into words what I am feeling, I decided to go for a walk.  The day is beautiful.  The sun in shining.  Children are playing on the street.  I stopped by the local store to pick up some colored pencils and draw.  I'm not an artist, but had to draw something.  America is hurting.  The heart of America is our diversity. 

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Change of Scenery to reframe my perspective

This week, I had the good fortune to go to Cooperstown, NY for a conference for work.  Sometimes, getting out of the city is a great way to refresh and to reframe.  I lived just outside Cooperstown for three years.  Although it was beautiful and the people were nice, I craved something a bit more lively and populated.  I knew that going to Brooklyn was going to be a challenge because it was the opposite extreme of Cooperstown. I took on the challenge of a new job and a new place with excitement and at full force.

Fast forward almost a year and a half and I'm back in Cooperstown for a few days.  There was almost no traffic, everyone was polite and wanted to chit chat, and there were lots of waves and smiles, even from strangers. 

This was the view outside the hotel conference room.  It was beautiful.  

This was breakfast on my last day.  I almost forgot to snap a photo before it was gone. 

Main street on a Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m.

The quaint farmers market full of organic food and home-made goods. 

I drove back to the chaos of the city with tiny little coffee shops with people practically sitting on top of you, small portions, high prices, and produce that wasn't nearly as fresh.  Still, I'm reminded that Brooklyn is full of great things.  There is a GLBT Pride parade tonight and I could eat at any restaurant I chose with amazing food within a 20 minute walk or subway ride.  I have broadway and the fashion district in my back yard.  I'm next to one of the busiest airports to travel anywhere in the world.  There are good things here to appreciate.  I was just glad to appreciate some of the quieter and more quaint aspects of upstate this weekend. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A typical Brooklyn over-reaction bites me in the ass

Yesterday was one of those days that just doesn't seem to go right from any angle.  On Sunday morning, I sprained my ankle during an obstacle course race with my fiance and friends.  I managed to finish the rest of the 5.6 mile course and do most of the obstacles.  Needless to say, the sprain was painful, but not a major sprain.  In fact, the swelling is down and the ankle is almost back to normal color and size today.

Driving the five hours home in traffic with a very sore right ankle and using a stick shift was not my idea of fun.  Ever shift and every move of the gas peddle hurt.  When we got home, David and I were both very hungry.  We hadn't consumed enough food to make up for the race.  We ordered.  By the time the food got there and we ate, it was late.  Neither of us slept well.  Monday morning came way too quickly.  I dragged myself out of bed and made it to work.  I struggled through the morning with a bunch of mistakes in emails and on letters because I was so foggy.   At about 11:30, I decided to take a half day and go home to sleep some more with my ankle on an ice pack and some advil in my system.

The fates conspired to prevent me from finding a parking space for a full hour.  Between the street cleaning, the family field day at the elementary school, and what I guess is normal parking on a week day there, I finally found a half of space.  I parked there knowing I'd have to wait until 1:00 to try to move my car when the street cleaning was over.

I got to the apartment to find David there cleaning.  I have to admit I was already in a really bad mood.  I wasn't nice to him and he ended up leaving early.  That made me feel even worse.  I was mad at myself for not being nice to him when he had spent the morning making our apartment shine for us.  I couldn't sleep.

What did I decide to do? I decided to return the two large boxes of a bed frame that had arrived damaged.  I lugged the 60 pound and the 30 pound large boxes to my now moved car.  I drove to the post office.  I parked illegally out front and limped, dragging the boxes into the post office.  Yes, I know I'm stubborn.  I should have waited until David could help me.  I didn't.

I then had to wait 25 minutes in the post office line to talk to a clerk, only to find out that you can't mail large packages there and have to go the downtown post office (that has no parking even illegally nearby).  That added to my frustration and anger.

Inside the line at the McDonald Ave Post Office

A post office in any small town in upstate New York has a parking lot so you can pull up and mail packages.  This city was really sucking today.  I decided to go to a fed ex place instead.

Proof that there is parking at the post office where I used to live and there was never a line (Colliersville, NY)

After hefting the boxes back to my car (it wasn't the weight so much as the size that was awkward) while limping, I got them in the car.  I drove to a fedex place.

There was no parking there either, so I put on my flashers.  Once I got the boxes inside a spot opened up on the street.  I stumbled out to park there.  I was getting in my car, clearly double parked with flashers on, when a lady pulled up in her little car and took the space.  I was so angry, I flipped her a double bird.  She  then glared at me and mouthed "if you want this spot, take it."  I just shook my head no and walked back inside.  Low and behold, the lady was also mailing a package in fed ex.  I tried to apologize, but she was having none of it.  She told me to go "f'&*k" myself.

To add to the misery, the package was going to cost almost as much to mail (I had to pay for it for some reason) as it cost me in the first place.  That being said, at least some of my money would come back in a refund.  So I had a shitty experience on Amazon and at fedex and ended up paying over $100 just for those joys.

Fortunately, David saved the day after I was able to have a nap.  He forgave my bad mood and brought me a treat when he came home from work later that day.  If it wasn't for his smile, laughter, good humor, and forgiveness, I probably would have cried myself to sleep.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Cockroaches and Possums

I am living in a new neighborhood.  I love it.  I can't say enough good things about it.  Mentally, it is a better fit for me.  David and I moved into a cute little apartment on the strip of land between Greenwood Cemetery and Prospect Park.  Some call it Windsor Terrace and others call it Kensington.  Most New Yorkers or even Brooklynites don't know where either of those is, so I say south of Park Slope.

We have a great little terrace outside our living room that is a shared space.  There are stairs from the ground floor so that other tenants can use it.  I've yet to see anyone out there except me, David, and our friends.  David is out there almost every day getting some fresh air.  Last night, he saw one of our unexpected neighbors, a raccoon, on the terrace.

I grew up on a farm in the country.  I'm relatively used to seeing wild animals.  I will say that up to this point in Brooklyn, I've only see rats and cockroaches that are the size (or at least in my mind they are) of rats, along with the occasional dog or cat.  Now that we have two large tracts of land, we are bound to see more wildlife.

As David and I walked home from an event on Monday, we hear rustling.  Low and behold, there was an o'possum running through the front lawns of our neighbors.  He scared me and two friends two nights later as we must have frightened him out of his garbage eating heaven.  I've only seen o'possum dead on the road and one time on a farm as a kid.  It looks like I'll be seeing this one quite often.

Last night, I was walking home from the grocery store.  I was watching where I was stepping to avoid the land minds of dog poop that litter the sidewalk sometimes and almost tripped over a cockroach.  He had the walk signal and I didn't.  I was jay walking.  Fortunately, I was able to jump over the big thing and keep walking.  Oh the joys of wildlife in Brooklyn.