Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Today I woke up to my first full day in NYC! How exciting! My routine at Marie's is simple: wake up, deconstruct my bed and reassemble the couch, take a shower, change clothes, eat breakfast, and head out the door! Thanks to the help of a dear family friend, Joel, I'll be walking a short distance to the Columbia University Station and taking the 1 train (local) all the way down to South Ferry.
Unbeknown to me, lower Manhattan is extremely small! What seemed like five blocks on a map turned into less than one in real life; GLSEN (90 Broad Street) is within eyesight of South Ferry! Sorry to sound super excited, but the truth of the matter is that the easier this city becomes for me, the more I appreciate the complexities that really exist.
For instance, I'm sitting in the one train. The train stops and all of a sudden a Mariachi band boards and starts singing and playing guitar - and it's perfect! Seeing as this never spontaneously occurs in Knoxville, I burst out into laughter and applause while all the locals seem more entertained by my response; interesting dynamics that the tourist becomes the attraction!
Another example is when your very own Conrad Honicker enters the financial district. When I say the financial district, I'm talking Wall Street's finest! Suits, ties, the works. I'm present in a cute combination of teal H&M short shorts and a white button V-neck with thin navy stripes - you'd have thought those people were about to lose their cool!
Finally, when I exit the subway at 125th from the D train, it's pouring rain. Apparently, when it's lightening and thundering and raining cats and dogs, pedestrians are still treated like wild animals trying to cross the street; taxi's honking, buses honking, and even real live people in cars honking at you when you're being drowned by a storm!
Fortunately, GLSEN is amazing. Today I did some follow up work with Eliza Byard, the Executive Director, and Daryl Presgraves, that involved writing three thank you letters explaining my gratitude and giving my spiel one last time to the Obamas and one of his senior advisers. With Daryl, I worked with an amazing intern named Kyle who interviewed me about the White House event.
Afterwords I adventured to this wonderful little bookstore called Bluestockings in the Lower East Side where I peruse DIY books and found a comfortable queer radical safe space.
Tonight I came home and bought groceries. After I cooked my meal, I went to return something to the refrigerator and my stuff was moved to the icky nasty bottom part and a sign was placed over the other food saying, "DON'T EAT FROM HERE!!!" I calmly cleaned out the shelf, organized my food, and wrote a sign that said, "Conrad's Nook (Please ask before using)" and then replied to the earlier sign with, "I wouldn't dream of it!". The roommate here is a little territorial and protective of Marie. I think he's lovely, but I'm getting some slight tension. To his credit, Marie did not speak with him about me coming, and he has family coming in, which he was going to have sleep where I'm sleeping. Let's just say I'm going to make no extra trouble for him, and even take up some chores like walking the dog and "contributing to the Marie family" as he explained.
I cannot wait for tomorrow: wish me luck!
** BEFIREND THE CARETAKER OF THE WOMAN YOU'RE STAYING WITH AND MAKE HER SUPPER.
** RUN IN THE RAIN.
** SMILE AND NOD WHEN INCONVIENCING PEOPLE.
** SUPPORT LOCAL MARIACHIS WITH QUARTERS AND DIMES.
** SIT NEXT TO LOUD OBNOXIOUS GIRLS ON THE CROWDED SUBWAY.
** GET LOST IN CHINA TOWN.
** CROSS FOUR LANE TRAFFIC AGAINST THE LIGHT.
** ASSUME EVERYONE IS FROM HERE.
Monday, June 29, 2009
In the hustle and bustle of New York City this morning, I lost my keys. Everyone look for them.
More importantly, I met the President, Barack Obama, and his wife, the First Lady, Michelle Obama.
Eliza, Eve, and I took the shuttle plane to D.C. I strongly discourage ever doing this because it was one of the most terrifying landings, and the weather was perfect! Fortunately, we survived, and were able to meet my parents for a long lunch at Cafe du Porc, where I sheepishly ordered Pommes Frites and sauteed vegetables. Before hand we'd made an overly dressed visit to the Museum of Native Americans, where I learned that skateboarding and surfing are Native in heritage.
Before I go on, I want to say that I was wearing a crisp white shirt rolled quarter-length, a black vest, black fitted dress pants, a silver and navy stripped bow-tie, and my silver leather dress shoes with James Dean on the bottom!
After lunch we casually walked to the White House with a group called Seniors Advocating in a Gay Environment (SAGE), and met up with the rest of the reception outside the gates by the East Room. There we mingled in the heat with rich gay people and prominent gay rights activist. Notably, I was introduced to Gene Robinson - one my dearest heros. He was fabulous!
When in the White House we mingled some more before being ushered into the "Green Room" (which is green), and lined up to meet the President. At this point I was forcing myself to breathe; "I'm on a mission!" I kept thinking to myself. On entry into the room, I heard Obama's poignant and comforting voice greet me. His handshake was firm. Instantly, "Hello Mr. President! Thank you for being a visible ally for teens like me." No real response, and then:
"Those are THE coolest shoes that have ever been in the White House!"
No time to think about compliments from the President. He wasn't listening so I moved to Michelle who I feel I might have fallen into her embrace (which makes sense because this was called a "clutch"). I told her how important it was for her and her husband to stand up and be allies, and she commented that it was far more important that I keep doing the work I was doing, and I said, "Yes, but it would make the difference if you were visible!"
Snap. Picture taken. My clarion call to action was over in less than 45 seconds. My parents and I delivered our message and huddled outside the room giggling like children.
I run into the East Room as soon as I hear his voice; Barack Obama is delivering his reception speech. He spoke so eloquently and realistically, and accommodated for someone's "gay duck" ring tone to go off with humor and laughter. His promise was this, "LGBT people will appreciate and find strength from him by the end of the administration." He didn't ask us to be patient, and he acknowledged not doing anything now will hurt real peoples' lives, but that this should serve as evidence of the urgency of the issue. I HOPE he knows what he's doing, and I do have a feeling he will come through with what he says.
It's back to mingle time! During this time I introduce myself to State Senator of Connecticut, Andrew J. McDonald, and Secretary of State of Oregon, Kate Brown, who both seemed interested in my person. Yay!
Finally, Michelle and Barack were off - no more mingling for them. I smiled and waved and mouthed, "Thank you!" to Michelle, and without missing a beat, she opened her arms for a hug, and beckoned me to her; I swiftly fell into her arms, and whispered one last time, "Thank you for being an ally - it means the world to me!"
And my White House experience was a success. As Senator McDonald imprinted on my mind that view of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial staring out of the windows of that White House, I do look forward to returning.
** FIND COMFORT IN THE FIRST LADY'S AFFECTION.
** TAKE RISKS AND WEAR CLOTHES THAT STAND OUT; CLOTHES THAT PEOPLE CAN'T RESIST COMMENTING ON.
** LOOK CUTE AND GAY AND SMILE SO THAT PEOPLE TALK TO YOU.
** SPIT ON IMPORTANT PEOPLE BY ACCIDENT.
** ORDER A SHIRLEY TEMPLE AT THE WHITE HOUSE.
** TALK TO TAXI DRIVERS.
Sunday, June 28, 2009
The train ride here to NYC was a jostle that left my mind a jar to float in and out of my dreams and gratitude. Whether it was thinking of Jake and talking to Jeremy, or thanking the woman who grabbed and ran with my suitcase so that I wouldn't miss my train, the time was full of thought.
Not two hours later I was careening through NYC subways; scrambling with two heavy suit cases going uptown. When I made it to the A train, I let out a sigh of relief and sat atop my giant pink luggage and twiddled my thumbs. It was truly a sight to see, and I wish someone had taken my photograph.
Little did I know, the trek from the subway to Marie's would nearly kill me: 100 + steps, the hot sun, and getting lost. It was miserable! I must have looked pitiful, and as if I could break after the next step.
Marie is pleasantly crazy. She greeted me with sincere enthusiasm, which I met with smiles and hugs. Her assistant, Kataleena, has become my liaison to the works of this apartment, and I thank her for it; Marie is short of sight and hearing, and is therefore a giant ball of beautiful quirks to untangle. Forcing her Swiss and mayonnaise sandwich on me, sticking me in the most open room, and treating me as if I'm put out by her; she's really a dear, that woman. I hope we become besties!
I walked down 125th today after stopping for a break. H&M was my target, but I ended up experiencing other things as well. In addition to the sea foam bubble short shorts I bought, I conquered the busy streets like a pro (which you need to be!). I witnessed Harlem mourn the death of a star, and I watched the perpetual capitalism that must take place to sustain these street vendors; may I just throw it out there that these people make their life's means by vending? It's ridiculous; how do you make enough money to support yourself from selling flavored ice, roasted pea nuts, Michael Jackson memorabilia, knock off clothing, and cell phone cases? I'm amazed, and somewhat awestruck.
There's a beautiful crepery near here. I had a chicken (no vegetarian dinner option) with ratatouille. It was divine; they served water from a wine glass, and I sat by a small mosaic table absorbing the french life.
The breeze is delightful. There's no AC, and the temperature is perfect.
I'm generally content. Part of me wants to go home. However, I'm giving it the boot. I'm simply tired, nervous, and anxious about tomorrow. Do wish me luck!
** SHOP AT H&M IF YOU'RE TINY.
** CROSS THE STREET AND LOOK LOCAL.
** WALK THROUGH THE PARK AT NIGHT FRUSTRATED.
** PSYCHE YOURSELF OUT ABOUT MEETING OBAMA.
Saturday, June 27, 2009
6:45 a.m. my day begins. I greet the morning light with enthusiasm, and gaily change into my classic deep-v, dark Levi's, and a cute scarf. Shortly after, Abuela has left me to explore the world across from Commons, the entrance to the Quest Bridge Prep Scholarship Conference at Yale University.
The first thing I notice? Everyone is wearing a button down shirt with a tie, or a dress , or something business/formal. As I expected, and was assured through out the day, these low-income students were more "high-achieving" kids, awkward and elite, who liked to stick up their noses just like they actually go to these name brand schools; obviously it's not money that makes some people feel so superior. There were a few down to Earth teens, but far too few.
Registration. Breakfast. Spilling coffee all over someone's binder. I made friends.
"I think you mean 'contraction'," echoed in the first workshop when I said "conjunction" in regards to what-not-to-do in your personal statement. Fortunately, the rest of the workshop and those after were a breeze. I quickly befriended Ellison (an awesome girl in SC) and Nancy (a crazy hipster chic, valedictorian, and instant cuddle buddy from MA) , who accompanied me to workshops such as "Financial Aid" and "How to Apply". Let me say this: it was very useful and helpful information that should be available to all students. However, the real ticket was meeting college admissions officers; I was the cause of an argument between Emory and Columbia, the interest of Parson's, and a breath of fresh air to Pomona, Haverford, and Vasser. Sorry Bowdowin, you suck. Williams College did entice me with their answer to, "Is there a queer presence on your campus?": "Oh yes! We have Queer Bash!", which was later described as an event where everyone (gay and straight) gets together, takes off their clothes, blasts techno music, and dances to gay porn in the semi-dark.
Then I got lost in ghetto.
** BEFRIEND PEOPLE WHO LOVE CONTRACTIONS WITH SOUL.
** EXPLORE AND BRANCH OUT WHEN LOOKING AT THINGS TO DO WITH YOUR LIFE. ** GIVE CLEAN BINDERS TO OTHERS WHEN YOU SOIL THEIR BINDER.
** TAKE THE D BUS WHEN YOU MEAN THE B BUS.
** GET LOST WHEN YOU'RE SUPPOSED TO BE IN A MEETING.
** NOT BUY SHORTS BECAUSE YOU THINK YOU'LL LOOK EASY.
Friday, June 26, 2009
A shake to the left, a shake to the right, and quick dip down low had my heart beating and my hands clenched! I was taken back to the trip to Houston where I was thrown from side to side, up and down, and then a very long dive downward: traumatizing. Eventually, after seeing that no one was reacting like I was, I said,
"Enough. It's time to turn your fears into something else!"
As a child I was always afraid of shadows coming from the light behind my bedroom door. When I complained to my aunt, she quickly told me to close my eyes, open them, and change the shape of the monsters. Thus, creepers lurking in my room became laughing goats. Today I turned the tussle between wind and plane into the gentle and playful movements of a rocking chair with a child in it.
Not 8-9 hours later (and two transfers) I was surrounded by people I love eating mashed potato pizza!
My friend Diego and I met at the Young Leaders Planned Parenthood Conference in Houston. We pretty much hit it off instantly, and now I'm staying in his house with his wonderful family who have already accepted me with laughter, questions, and admiration; I couldn't ask for a better place to spend my first night. Abuela and I talk about matters of consequence and toothpaste hand gestures interchangeably with the littlest, Silvio, who loves to draw and ask and talk, while Diego and his slightly younger brother bicker and argue and laugh and make me laugh. They are a beautiful people.
Tomorrow I wake for Yale. Wish me luck!
** EAT AT BAR IN NEW HAVEN, CT.
** SMILE AT PEOPLE SITTING NEXT TO YOU AND BOND OVER YOUR DRINKS.
** DRINK COFFEE ON AN EMPTY STOMACH.
** IMAGINE CRASHING WHILE FLYING.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
A beautifully illustrated Bible plays desk for me.
I'm embarking on an adventure; the first steps take me through a whirl wind of questions, concerns, and hopes for my travels. It's like taking the steps up onto the big rock at the quarry before plunging into the icy depths of the green-blue world. I'm not committed until I jump, and then it's all-in! I never jump, but now's a good time to start.
As with many quests, this one has a goal. Or two. Or it's a little more complex than that! Beyond the obvious fulfillment of my research internship at GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), I yearn to grow and stretch my arms into this world. I want to meet amazing people who will open doors and sing songs for me. I want to encounter independence, and give that a fair shot. I want to find my abilities, and challenge my boundaries. Above all, I want to garner a new kind of respect; knowing myself.
I'll keep all the interesting stuff well posted. I cannot imagine all the crazy things there is for me to see! On that note, I'll see, and you read.
STAY TUNED FOR:
** YALE CONFERENCE!
** NYC PRIDE!
** WHITE HOUSE VISIT!
** PLANNED PARENTHOOD & D.C.