Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Brooklyn is for Lovers


Friday, July 25

Welcome to our house we only wanted to be good for the caller. Welcome to us, leave a message let us know what you're after. It may seem like there's nobody home. Really we're sitting right by the phone, letting you speak to the machine, letting you go first to say what you want.
Good morning, Jake! Good morning, Marie! Oh wait, oh no! Good bye! Good bye! Good bye!

Marie walked me to the elevator with my luggage in tow. We hugged and kissed -- and told one another how much we adored the other. It was as if I was saying goodbye to a relative. Perhaps it truly is just how lovely and open she is, but I feel as if we've exchanged heart pieces.

Then the sweat came.

I briskly walked down to the subway for a few blocks as I exited the building. Then it became more of a chore. By the time I was too the stairs I was doing my best not to pant! The 1 came crowded, and I debated whether or not to wait for an emptier car. No. I shoved my way on with two hot pink suitcases and backpack with wrapping paper jutting out the back. Incidentally, I only had one person say anything, and it was after my Lucho wrestler gift wrap body slammed his face! Embarrassing!

Before too long, I was blushing again as I pushed my way off the elevator into an anti-oppression workshop for the Media Ambassadors that GLSEN Communication was training! A lobby full of young people spread out all of a sudden staring at me, some hugging me, while I clumsily and awkwardly waddled to the front desk door. It was a relief to finally sit down at my desk and fall into the realm of spread sheets.

An hour or two later, Bailey and I took a taxi to Columbus Circle for a Mac appointment. It was the first time I had driven above ground in NYC, and the experience was one of interest, fascination, and extreme fear. I was enamored by the sights and views while I held on tightly in the cross-town traffic. Try it some time!

Jake met me at 3:00, and we collectively made an easy ride to Brooklyn for our new residence. Mike, the previous sublet, let us in, and we made ourselves comfortable. The apartment is beautiful, and Ally, the cat, is more than adorable! It has a wonderful living room/kitchenette with all the good (gay) channels on TV. A full bathroom on the right, a study at the end of the hall, and our bedroom is up the spiral staircase. It's really the perfect place; I fully advocate making life long connections via craigslist sublet section.

After settling down, Jake and I toured around 5th Avenue in Park Slope. The area is absolutely gorgeous, and reminiscent of a more developed Asheville. The people are nice, and there's a diverse range of food options. We probably walked around for an hour before deciding to try and decide what to eat! Jake got Greek, while I found some good soul food options in the grocery store. We mozied back to the apartment, and cuddled up for a good ole' horror movie. Brooklyn is spectacular!
CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** ESTABLISH LOVE BETWEEN STRANGERS AND THEIR CARETAKERS.

** SLEEP TWO TO ONE AIR MATTRESS.

** RUN ERRANDS IN EXPENSIVE PARTS OF TOWN AND SUGGEST JAMBA JUICE.

** MAKE YOURSELF A HOME IN BROOKLYN.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** CARRY LUGGAGE ON THE SUBWAY.

** TRIP OVER YOURSELF IN FRONT OF THE WHOLE CITY.

** SASS THE APPLE GENIUS.
** BE SNAPPY WITH PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW THEIR WAY AROUND.

JAKEJAKEJAKE

Thursday, July 24

and in the daylight we can hitchhike to Maine. i hope that someday I’ll see without these frames. and in the daylight i don’t pick up my phone cause in the daylight anywhere feels like home.

Counting the hours and minutes until Jake's arrival filled my day. Hopping from the 1 to the 2 in efforts to get anywhere faster, I check my phone: 15 minutes until 9:30, which means 5 1/2 hours until I need to dash out of work. Not only was I excited to be with my boyfriend, but to a certain degree breathe air with a familiar and close relation. In NYC, I have no one -- not a best friend, partner, family member, of whom I can simply be myself around! Sure, I've made friends, but my best friend here has known me for a total of 10 or days; it would be unfair to expect such platonic intimacy.

Jake was supposed to call at 1:30 when he got off. I looked at the clock to see 1:55 changing fast to 1:56. Nervous, I checked on his flight (because you can do that these days!) and found him redirected to Baltimore. Naturally, I freaked out! I called flight information and sat on hold for 20 minutes before being told that the flight was safely arriving into LaGuardia as we were speaking. Whoo! It actually worked out for the best because this way I could leave GLSEN at an appropriate time and not leave Jake waiting for 45 minutes.

By the time my train stopped at 116th, I was bolting down the road with my scarf flying in the air, and rain drops pelting my sunglasses. I looked for the tall figure on the corner of Morningside and Amsterdam and saw him from a block away. I kept running until I was safe in a warm hug and the familiar breath of Jake.

Before too long we were settled into Marie's apartment speaking with her and doing introductions. She seems enchanted by him, and even gave an impromptu dance/song performance of Jambalaya on the Bayou! She even offered for us to sleep in her bed while she curled up on the couch! Of course, I said no, but the thought was nice: "I want you two to sleep together on your first night together in the city!"

Before too long we were walking down 125th and exploring commercial Harlem with ease. Though the rain caught in our socks, and the wind sparked our necks, the day could not have ended any better.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** RUN THROUGH THE FINANCIAL DISTRICT AS IF ON A SECRET MISSION.
** JUMP DOWN SUBWAY STAIRS TO MAKE YOUR TRAIN.
** BRING YOUR PARTNER TO YOUR FAVORITE CAFE IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** EXPECT H&M TO ALWAYS BE AMAZING.
** INTERACT NEGATIVELY WITH PEOPLE IN HARLEM.
** MAKE ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT HOW PEOPLE ARE GOING TO FUNCTION IN NYC.

Monday, July 27, 2009

You Look Like Home to Me

Wednesday, July 23

I smile when he grins even though it was the television. Still, I'm glad to be around while he's laughing. You look like home to me.

This is the time I realize that this endless living situation does in fact come to an end. Though I've complained countless numbers of times to individuals and on my blog, I am truly sad to be packing my suitcases away from Marie's. She is beyond what it means to be a sweet old lady: Marie is a genuine, caring, loving, and dear person. I don't think a day has gone by when she hasn't apologized for not feeding me, giving me a bed, and not making me more comfortable. Of course I haven't let on to her that I could be more comfortable, but she isn't ignorant; I appreciate her awareness and willingness to make things pleasant.

Her spirit fights hard, and her accomplishments speak her truth about advocacy and securing living opportunities for all peoples. She has gone up against some heavy institutions with success, and garnered the respect of the colorful and diverse population around her. She is an organizer to this day, and a fierce one at that! Though her life is culminating, I am deeply grateful for my opportunity to meet, talk, and live with her.

I came home from work today to sit and speak with her. We chatted about what I am doing in NYC, the different places I've visited, and the sort of work I'm doing with GLSEN. I began to ask her about her day and what she was getting involved in. A simple curiosity seemed to brighten her day, and the act of sharing made her smile. This base level of communication was not being taken for granted by her, and it made me feel as if this grand feeling of disconnection was widespread; I cannot help but to promise myself to be more engaging to those around me.

My bags are packed. My area is cleaned. Marie's gorgeous apartment is ready for me to leave.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** TAKE A WALKING TOUR THROUGH MARIE'S APARTMENT.

** BEFRIEND PEOPLE REGARDLESS OF AGE.
** DRINK OTHER PEOPLE'S APPLE JUICE WHEN YOU DON'T WANT TO SPEND SIX DOLLARS ON A BOTTLE.

CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** LET AWFUL AND TERRIBLY STRESSFUL ROOMMATES RUIN THINGS.

** BUY AN ABUNDANCE OF RASPBERRY SODA.

** LOSE ALL YOUR SOCKS MYSTERIOUSLY AND ALL AT ONCE.

Hard Work Helps

Tuesday, July 22

Put a hole in the ground just to bury your poor uncle. Let him settle down, gettin' ready for the savior. If his heart is light as a feather he'll just float right in. It's a shame it's heavier by the burdens of his sin.

I'll tell you this: California is being presented with an alternative! I found a resource that will allow us to have a rather significant portion of the information we need for the school districts, and therefore the remaining information will not be nearly as much of a hassle to deal with. This is exciting!

GLSEN had it's monthly all staff meeting today! We heard from Community Initiatives about Camp GLSEN and how amazing it apparently was. The idea was to train a national intergenerational team to enter their community to start a plethora of localized JumpSTART teams; it's something that East Tennessee GLSEN is going to debut with (hopefully!). Next we heard from Communications about Sirdeaner Walker testifying on behalf of the Safer Schools Initiative Act. Her story and compelling testimony enchanted the congress people, and had a few of us in the office tearing up: http://www.glsen.org/cgi-bin/iowa/all/news/record/2449.html.

It struck me how important GLSEN is to the lives and support of LGBTA youth around the nation. Though at times our struggles with GSA or Spectrum Activities may seem futile and wasted, I know that just by providing a space, by existing, we are what makes the difference for some young people. Many youth feel isolated and alone; a presence and visible charter of folks can be what saves that child from self-destruction or violence from others. We have to keep working! I'm going to keep working.

After my day at GLSEN was over, I trained to the Center to meet George for the last time: he'll be on a plane tomorrow for Myrtle Beach. We stayed for a discussion group around Gender and Gender Identity; it eventually turned into a slight argument about whether the term Metrosexual is derogatory or not. I'm of the persuasion that it is merely a way for narrow minded people to maintain the stereotype that A) The majority of straight men aren't consumed by maintaining a clean appearance and B) That all gay men are. The term metrosexual encourages the hierarchy that places gay men below straight men because the general feeling that metrosexual men are closeted implies that a metrosexual man is below a straight man, and therefore gay men are below straight men, which is just totally heterosexists!

I learned that some people don't have boundaries, and cannot understand others' boundaries. George and Marcus left me to fend for myself with this gay boy from Yonkers who could not stop trying to touch my butt! I mean, I know I have a nice one, but it's really uncomfortable when I don't know you and you're either trying to take a squeeze (or punch? I don't know. He's obviously crazy!). By the third or fourth time of politely and , I finally said, "You cannot touch me there. Get yo' fuckin' hands off me!" George made him leave.

I helped George get ready to leave by cleaning his kitchen from last night, and then cleaning and organizing his entire kitchen area like I usually do. We walked back to the subway and said our goodbyes. It's interesting to know that all the people I establish connections with here in NYC will all be out of my immediate life very shortly. I'm sad.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** ESTABLISH BOUNDARIES WITH CREEPERS.

** LISTEN TO OTHERS' VIEW ON HOW GENDER AND SEXUALITY RELATE.

** BE ENTHUSIASTIC WHEN YOU PRESENT YOURSELF TO A ROOM FULL OF PEOPLE.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** EAT CHIPS LOUDLY DURING A MEETING.

** SUGGEST CULTURING ROLLY-POLLIES AS A CRAFT FOR YOUR DEPARTMENT.

** BE IRRITATED WITH PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW YOU'RE TIRED.

Movie Night And Indian!

Monday, July 20th
I feel it all! I feel it all!

Today the anticipation for Jake's arrival really kicks in. I wake up and start counting the days, hours, until he comes. There's a dynamic change coming, and I'm interested to see how it plays. On one hand I'm more than enthusiastic to see the love of my life for the first time in a month, and spend a week together in my new city. On the other hand, I'm so used to being independent and free of consideration or thought for other people around me. The shift shall surely be noticeable -- at least to me!

GLSEN Research work is pretty much coming to a culmination. I don't want to say I've worked to fast, but I have. I've compiled a seven spreadsheets, completed any side projects, and really just blown it out of the water. I suppose I'm still working on California, but that's so daunting that no one wants to deal with it! It's too big!

After work I trained to George's for a relaxing evening. We ended up almost taking a nap, but then I woke up. I was going to just leave, but Marcus called and said he was coming down. I decided to make Indian food for my new friends! Although, George's kitchen is about the size of a closet; there was a little bit of frustration among SOME of us. Regardless, the meal was cooked, and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. I find that cooking for people is something I really enjoy; the act of providing is a good one, and so is sharing. Maybe it's the Montessori in me, but I feel that interactions on a more basic level (communion) do signify a deeper connection between people.

Afterward we watched Saw V and ate chocolate chip cookies. I nearly vomited. I think I've reached the point in my life where gore and blood no longer excite me as so much terrify and emotionally scar me. Of course, as an old person, I have to say, "When I was younger these movies didn't have so much violence!", which is true, but still only old people say it! I'm gettin' old, y'all!

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:

** TAKE A BREAK FROM WORK AND EAT 100 CALORIE COOKIES.
** OPT OUT OF WALKING AROUND FOR LAYING AROUND.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** TAKE THE SUBWAY AT 11:30 AFTER WATCHING SAW V.

** DELAY WRITING BLOGS.

Friday, July 24, 2009

I've Never Tasted THAT Before

Sunday, July 19

Pancakes for one is always depressing because eating them with you was always so much fun!

This morning, I slept in. The air was nice, and the construction was merely a dull roar in the background. Marie's apartment is beautiful; the sun and the breeze fill the large spacious rooms comfortably. The quiet takes over, and even the streets obey the majestic peace I find at Marie's.

I hopped on the 1 heading downtown to meet George at his apartment for an unscheduled day. We went here-and-there around Astor Place and St. Mark's. I happened upon the cutest little smoothie shop: strawberry-mango smoothie, huge, $5.74! Getting deals on huge amounts of good stuff in NYC is probably one of the most fun parts about being here. It's so satisfying. I'm fairly certain New Yorker's live for it!

I needed to do some homework, so I suggested we make the usual trip down to the Pier. Being the good NYC host friend that he is, George suggested a bit of adventure to Bryant Park off of Times Square. Sworn to hate Times Square, I scoffed, and resentfully made the subway ride to 42nd Street. Bryant Park isn't nearly as cute or fashion-forward as it is on Project Runway. My impression was that it was just another patch of grass in the middle of the city, but more awkward because of Time Square's immanent presence! I tried to read my Economics book, but it sucks. Boo econ.

George and I toured around the area for an hour or two waiting for his friends Marcus and Lauren. Best Buy. Barnes and Noble. All things to find in Knoxville. Not that I don't like Knoxville, but I don't like being in a culturally diverse mecca and being surrounded by franchise after franchise. I suppose that New Yorker's need their cheap and dependable chains, but I found it a little overwhelming. How can a city who fights so hard to keep Wal-Mart out allow... It doesn't matter: Capitalism.

No sign of the friends. It's time to go.

Back in good ole' Harlem, I quickly readied myself for a night out with my family's friends, Barbara and Joel. They had invited me over last week for an Ethiopian dinner, but because cell phones are made out of evil, we missed one another. I was happy to be welcomed into their beautiful apartment. Though smaller than Marie's, their apartment was cozy, spacious, and delightful. I commented, "This is a magnificent place you've got; I absolutely adore it!"

"You do? We hate it! Maybe we should give it to you."

The night progressed with me asking questions about all sorts of things: my dad, nuclear work/activism, Columbia. After half a glass of wine, we walked downtown into Manhattanville, a failed attempt to move gentrification uptown, for Ethiopian! For those of you unexposed to Ethiopian cuisine, let me first encourage you to try it. I did. It was... something I've never tasted before. The spongey bread remincient of Naan has a very sour taste to it. The ground beans and greens seem lathered in spices. The meat? Oh, the meat. The meat is surrounded by fat, sauce, and deliciousness. Although I walked away with an upset stomach, the expereince was invigorating.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** SCHEDULE TIME TO DO HOMEWORK AND THEN PRIORITIZE EXPERIENCE OVER GRADES.
** MAKE PLANS TO COOK DINNER FOR FRIENDS YOU JUST MET.
** SNACK ON PECANS TO FILL TIME.
** LAY IN THE GRASS AND LISTEN TO PEOPLE TALK IN NYC.

CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** VENTURE TOWARDS TIME SQUARE.
** DRINK RED WINE FOR THE FIRST TIME.
** ORDER LAMB.
** EXPECT WHAT YOU'RE GETTING TO SEEM NORMAL.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Gayzelle

Saturday, July 18
If I flew with wings from my spine, do you think that she'd let me carry her? And if I grew big and strong, do you think that I wouldn't be so scared of her?

Back at Marie's and couldn't be happier. The familiarity of NYC and Harlem/Morningside Heights is growing on me. Though this city is famous for being ever changing and ridiculously unsolvable, my niche and treks across the familiar paths going to and from provide a sense of security. Perhaps not quite as mundane as the drive to school every day, or the same route taken in the hallways, but the routine at Marie's is especially nice because of spontaneity and chances for variety are clearly everywhere in abundance. Whether it's walking down Amsterdam instead of Morningside, or taking the 2 instead of the 1, -- or just exploring a street that seems interesting, the possibilities seem endless! This is what makes NYC so interesting, even when I'm sticking to my same old way every morning.

However, this morning I did something different: I went to meet my friend whom I knew before coming to NYC: Sam Cramer. The dynamic of being here with someone that knew me before being here was interesting. It gave me a chance to see what's new about myself, and gauge if I really have changed. Thankfully, my social moth (handsomer, more endearing, and just as awkward as butterflies) was released; we just walked around getting lost, eating panninis, and exploring a dirty part of town. It was fabulous. Her mom is great, too.

Afterward I speedily found a 2 train heading towards 14th street for a YES program. I was 15 minutes late, but it seems like I had just missed check-in. We played the Big Wind Blows, and gradually more people came in. A total of 35-ish young adults came to a Saturday afternoon gathering in the summer. Competition with Spectrum? Only a little. Maybe it's because I'm not really a part of the program, but I feel so much more at home... at Spectrum. In Knoxville.

George, Hal, James, and some three or four others -- and myself, walked to the Pier after making a quick stop at Magnolia's. Delicious. Plain delicious. Cheap. Amazing. A line going around the corner! We took our goodies to the Pier and laid out in the sun enjoying the decadence. Before too long, the group was playing Truth or Dare, Ten Fingers, and then finally, RUNWAY!

The game is simple. Five competitors giving their best walk. The game is modeled after America's Next Top Model (America's Next Top Bottom), which Hal dragged out for the duration of the real show -- he even cried. Desira, Blue Star, JonJon, James, and me, Gayzelle walked our walks. Double elimination! Desira, Blue Star, and Gayzelle move on. The others flat out leave. Two more walks: Beyonce inspired, and accesories. I funk on Beyonce, and run the accessories! Bye, Desira. Two more walks: Tell a Story and Final Runway. Gayzelle.... WINS! Because they dragged it on for SO long, they ended up giving me this cute shirt from H&M. I think someone posted a video on YouTube -- strangers have no inhibition.

George, Paolo (Blue Star), and I speed walked to Harry Potter, where I sat in line for our seats while my two friends make a candy drive. The movie was... I liked it, but at the same time it didn't give me the same feeling when as when I read the book. For instance, I balled at the end of the book, and merely teared up while watching. However, **SPOILER ALERT** I flat out screamed during the zombie part.


We ended the night by a few rounds of Hangman in some 70's inspired diner. It was swell!

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** DISCLOSE NYC LINGO: YAK, MUCH, DOWN, MAD, GOOP, GAG, BIRD.
** EAT APPLE ANYTHING, AND SHARE WITH HAL.
** BE RIDICULOUS IN YOUR POSE ON THE PIER.

CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** TRY TO GO TO CALIFORNIA PIZZA KITCHEN.
** WANDER AIMLESSLY IN A NEW TO YOU PART OF TOWN.
** ALLOW A TRANSWOMAN TO TELL YOU THAT YOU ARE A WOMAN, AND NEED TO CORRECT YOUR BODY.

One Quesadilla, Please!

Friday, July 17

Remember that I love you!


I woke up this morning to the wonderful comforts of hotel luxury, and my best friend. Little did I realize it was 7:15, and Ginny had texted me to tell me to be downstairs by 7:30 for a breakfast meeting.

I snagged a bagel, finished the meeting, and sluggishly heaved my way back to my bed. Starling enjoyed the bagel, though I'm sure she was eating it in her sleep. It was a sight to see! I mean just take a second and imagine someone laying in bed, completely zonked out -- eyes closed -- chewing on a big piece of bagel. Amazing!

I eventually made my way downstairs for the workshop I was speaking in. Fortunately, the presentation and content was 10X better than before. I don't know if I just felt more comfortable speaking or if I really did feel like what I had to say was making an impact on my audience, but it just felt better. I can officially say that my first national gig went well.

After speaking, I booked it out of the hotel to go meet Starling in Columbia Heights at this adorable little restaurant called Sticky Fingers. I ordered a quesadilla before realizing it was vegan. I didn't like the cheese.

I have a question, though: When is Knoxville's vegan/vegetarian place opening? I think it's called Veg-o-Rama, and it's on Central. Someone check into it, and we can have a coming home party veggie style! I was ready to come home that afternoon, but at the same time I was missing NYC. I'm interested to see what my reaction will be in Knoxville! D.C. is much bigger, and seemingly has more variety of things to do than Knoxville, yet when I was there it seemed small and insignificant. Huh...

The flight from D.C. to NYC was, of course, terrifying. Turbulence. Thunderstorms. No snacks. Yet, again, no one else on the flight seemed to mind, so I didn't outwardly panic.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** REFRAME WHAT YOU HAVE TO SAY WHEN IT DOESN'T APPLY TO WHO YOU ARE SAYING IT TO.
** ALWAYS HELP PEOPLE WITH GSA WORK.
** FORCE QUESADILLAS ON MELANIE.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** RIDE THE M60 BUS (SORRY JAKE).
** GO GROCERY SHOPPING ON AN EMPTY STOMACH.
** START CRYING ON THE AIRPLANE.

Friday, July 17, 2009

FC, JC, and SC in D.C.

Thursday, July 16
And if you stay with me, I can see that it's only getting better for me. Lift your hand triumphantly, and I feel like we're in flight to the moon. I'll be there soon. I love you, I really do.

I didn't get any sleep because when I went to fall asleep I forgot to put down my pillows. There was also no real breakfast. This is no way to start the day.

Do you have a story?

A story? What kind of story?

One for lobbying! We're going lobbying for health care reform with attention to incorporating and securing Reproductive Health Care in Obama's big bill! You don't have a story? No.

Oh well... I went to support my friends who did have stories! Sometimes that's just the case; you cannot be affected by every mess up in society. I suppose that's a good thing, but it was interesting exploring my role as someone who wasn't (seemingly) directly affected by lack of reproductive health care. In fact, the experience gives me some perspective for how others may perceive my causes and social justice concerns.

The rest of the day was spent tooling around with my favorite sex educator, and Planned Parenthood Mama (Auntie), Ginny Winter. The two of us experienced Jesus manikin making a statement that God is always in government. I thought the woman was loony, and I promptly said, "Woman, you outta' your head!" when she literally told me, "Bluh Blee Jesus! Holla' duh' in da' Capitol!" I thought my response was appropriate.

After lobbying (once), she and I walked through the hot swell that is D.C. to attend an amazing senatorial panel addressing the pertinent issue: teen pregnancy in foster care. I expected to be confronted with the same stories that I witness as a child of my mother, but I was taken aback by the seriousness of the problems plaguing the foster care system! For instance, foster care children on average go through 8-11 social workers, who then on average merely meet their young person once a month. This was brought up when someone suggested that social workers should simply address the topic of "sex education" with their foster care teen to patch the 80% increased risk in unwanted/teen pregnancy that youth in foster care face. What was most moving was the solid acknowledgment that it is the system's fault, and that federal intervention and foster care alumni should (and will?) be utilized to keep the marginalized .5% of our nation's young people safe and successful.

Stumbling for a Starbucks, Ginny and I wandered into a flower museum. Not a gallery, but a building sectioned off into marvelous biomes and ecosystems dedicated to the flowering plants of the world! The Jungle held plants that eat bugs when they fall into them. There was a room full of the most beautiful orchids. The desert had very phallic sprouts -- that was our least favorite.

As our day wound down in D.C., us peer educators made our way back to the Plaza. We quickly tumbled into cold showers and clean clothes in preparation for the dinner cruise on the Potomac! It was a drag -- all the boat staff sucked, and therefore the attempted dance party was a disgrace. However, I heard it picked up afterward with a wonderful rendition of the Time Warp. Most importantly, I made new friends! Zak and Sharanya revealed themselves to me, and I love them for it!

In culmination, Starling arrived at the Plaza. Or I should say we ran into one others' arms! We talked. And talked. And Zak came and talked. And we had an adventure -- I stole candy.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** SIT NEXT TO CHARLIE ON A BOAT.

** CHILL WITH YOUR BESTEE

** BELIEVE THAT YOU ARE MORE REPUTABLE THAN YOU REALLY ARE.

** TAKE A PARFAIT BREAK.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** BLEED OUT THE FACE WHEN MEETING IMPORTANT PEOPLE.
** FORGET TO WEAR YOUR SHIRT.

** WALK AROUND IN THE SUN IN DRESS SHOES.

** PUSH YOUR WAY INTO THE METRO.

Post Wednesday: L'enfant Plaza of Dreams


And when you're holding me we make a pair of parentheses. There's plenty space to encase whatever weird way my mind goes, I know I'll be safe in these arms.

"Laguardia, please!" I say to my first pulled over Taxi driver. I guess teal shorts and a bright pink suit case get you noticed in NYC. I'm going to say that my cab driver was someone similar to someone from Fast&Furious series, because I got to the airport super fast.
Do I need to talk about the shuttle down to NYC?

After an hour, I was finally reunited with someone from Knoxville. To make it better, it was someone I liked! Ginny Winter, Planned Parenthood Community Educator, and I found one another and I quickly remembered what it felt like to be around members of my own community: welcoming. It's an instantaneous sensation of comfort, when you've been taken out of it for so long. I'm going to try and remember not to take these kind of interactions for granted any longer.

Ginny and I made our way to L'enfant Plaza Hotel. I must say that it's the most confusing place to find. However, if you spot the glass pyramid Louvre look alike, you're there. Another comfort: single bed room with a king size bed. Need I say more?

I quickly rushed down to Monet I for my first workshop presentation. Of course, I'm the first to speak. I wasn't entirely aware of the subject matter, and made up for it by throwing candies into the crowd. Naturally, I wasn't completely comfortable with everything that I was talking about, but I feel like my general messages of "DIY", "find support", and "speak from your experiences" were pushed across. Luckily for the attendees, Christy and Megan (the other presenters) were totally under control, and fabulous! All in all, I walked away knowing that I needed to re frame the subject matter to make it more applicable to student organizers for Planned Parenthood, and focus more on anecdotes as opposed to advice. Like I said, "Youth advocates have a specific role in advocacy: share your story!"

The rest of the day is a blur between catching up with people from Houston, hanging on the arms of people from Tennessee, and introducing myself to new folks.

It wasn't until later that night that things got really interesting! At 8:00, a teen dance party was organized. The DJ was cheesy, and played silly music. For the first 20 minutes, it was four youth from Tennessee dancing on this big empty dance floor. We busted it down, and eventually went out into the crowd to retrieve other participants. The dance was a success, and too much fun. I felt like I was making a fool of myself most of the time! Then, Cecile Richards, Planned Parenthood President, started "booty" dancing next to me; it gave me the needed confidence to not give a damn about what other people might be thinking.

By 11:00, we all tumbled back into our rooms. I quickly emerged myself in the most comfortable bed, and gently drifted to sleep.
"I miss NYC," I thought.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** DANCE. HAVE A GOOD TIME.

** SAY WHAT'S ON YOUR MIND TO HOTEL STAFF.
** SING IN THE SHOWER TO EXPRESS YOUR EXCITEMENT.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** THROW CANDY INTO A CROWD.

** ASSUME ALL METROS WORK THE SAME.

** DISCLOSE THAT YOU LOVE GET TO KNOW GAMES AS "GET TO KNOW YOU FACT."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Short Reprise of D.C.


When the wind starts blowin' from the east to the west, maybe you'll be who I like best!

Tomorrow I mark a short adventure to D.C. for the Planned Parenthood Youth Initiative Conference. I've been invited to speak on a panel to talk about what it means to be a young person talking to people of power, and what it means to be an advocate. Basically, I'm going to be telling my story, and relating it to these students that anyone can do this! For me, it all stated with being provoked, and then I just couldn't stop! Whether it's talking to people who are trying to shift the balance of power, or when I want to do the shifting, I find I am empowered by my own sense of being and identity to clearly articulate myself; that's all it is!


The people that make me most nervous to talk to are people that it's most inconvenient to harbor those feelings for: prospective friends and folks I think look interesting. Someone inevitably tells me I'm "so outgoing", but I always had the sense that I'm pretty shy -- it's always such a huge leap for me to start a conversation. But golly, when I get started... You can attest to that!

Speaking of people who can talk your ear off, I'm cultivating an appreciation for limits and boundaries by working at GLSEN. Some people want us to save the world! Some people just don't seem to care. Some people just want to be fair. We just want to have a good time (while making schools safer for all students regardless of sexual orienation and gender identity/expression)! As people begin to ask us for more than we can chew, I become very aware that even the beheamouth that is GLSEN has limits to what it can do. Like any entity, there are just certain things that are beyond it's means. I wonder about myself: What is beyond my means?

My day was filled with wandering around the lower east side with a possee of friends and aquaintences. We eventually made our way to the Highrise Park, which is an above ground park! They converted an old railway to a greenspace, and I'm absolutely impressed.

I came home today and had a good long chat with Ron about all sorts of things. It was very relaxed, but I am happy to hear that my perfect old-lady friend is far from perfect; I like to hear that people who are beyond friendly and hospitable do have some "quirks" of their own that other people deal with. I'm especially interested in how she treats women, her daughter -- Weezie --, and what her dynamic was when she was younger. As I understand it, there's a lot to know about.

Other than that, I have manuevered myself out of Marie's apartment into a lovely place in Brooklyn. I wont tell where out of respect for the even lovlier person who has helped set this up for me (she's a saint!), but I will say that my comfort level is already rising! I haven't seen a cat in NYC at all until I saw her cat, and I didn't want to stop petting it! I miss my cats, and today I spoke on the phone with my dog.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** STAND OUTSIDE THE CENTER AND MAKE MORE FRIENDS.
** MAKE A SOUTHERN MEAL WHEN YOU'RE FEELING TIRED OF ETHNIC CUISINE.
** REMAIN POSITIVE WHEN THINGS SEEM INSURMOUNTABLE.

CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE TO PACK.
** BUY/DRINK RASBERRY SODA (UNLESS YOU LOVE COUGH SYRUP).
** DWELL ON HOW AWFUL A PERSON IS.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Built Like I


Built well you're a strong letter I, with the feet on the ground and the head to the sky. Now and then you can bend, it's okay to lean over my way. You fear that you can't do it all,and you're right. Even diligent day takes relief every day from its work making light from the night.

I've been wondering when this would happen. I was slightly curious as to how I'd made it this far.

"Why have I not crashed? Why have I not burned out and deflated fast like a balloon popping in a quiet room?"

My expectations for a sudden slip failed; I caught myself with that all to familiar ache you get when you've done too much. I took the day at GLSEN easily; trying not to exert myself mentally, I performed some preliminary research on facebook for an outreach project I'm working towards. Additionally, a major slam to the gut came today when we realized how much of a behemoth California is, and exactly how much time it would take to successfully untangle the mess that is the 971 people I need to know contact information for. Hopefully an alternative will appear.

At 3:00, I made my way for 14th street to meet with George and friend Sergio for Sushi. I reminded myself that I was hungry, and ordered a Dragon Roll. Zoning in and out of conversation, I sat relatively quietly thinking about my brother and Maria. They're so perfect together, and I want them to have a house in the Palisades I can go visit and retreat away from the hustle and bustle of this place: NYC.

Afterward, we hopped over to Union Square where a hideous rendition of some church song echoed above the street vendors and tourist pedestrians. I was more concerned with buying my Harry Potter tickets and getting out of there; my ankles were about to pop beneath me, and I think George had an idea or two about running around the East Village lomo-ing it up!

6:30 and I'm home! Marie and I chatted for the first time in a day or two. She's still in mad adoration for me, and I her, and it's as if I've caught up with a dear friend. She truly is amazing, and if you ever have a chance to meet her, please do yell at her that I said, "Hello!"

Beyond that, I can only tell you the simple joys of relaxing, sitting, and letting time past is beyond healing. It's a soothing experience; taking a moment of quiet in the midst of noise. Centering yourself while allowing your body to balance. "Napping while awake" as I say. The time taken let me reflect on exactly all that is happening, and what I'm learning:

When you're building friendships, learning about the dynamics and complexities of the world, and challenging your boundaries to do both, you can make any place fun, adventurous, and exciting -- even New York City!


CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:

** CAT SIT.
** MEND MISTAKES BY THROWING INDIAN FOOD AT IT.

** TAKE SMALL NAPS ON THE SUBWAY.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** LET YOURSELF BE SNAPPY.

** INTERRUPT SALES PEOPLE.
** ALLOW BROWNIES JUST SIT AROUND. NOT BEING EATEN.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Chelsea, Stop It!


While you lie in slumber, I'll wake up early and I'll go and milk the goats. You stay in bed and play around inside your dreams

The sound of laughter and pleasantries -- and clinking coffee cups wake me up. It's a much needed change to the typical construction work going on in the background. 11:00 feels so guilty when there's so much to be doing, but the rest was much needed. Ron and neighbor jest that the dog, Bryce, might have some functional issues mentally. They compare this dysfunction to that of our domineering roommate. Smiling, I agree in my head, and then later over bagels and orange juice. I gently wake and send out some preliminary texts, "I'll be there in an hour or so." Two hours later! What can I say? I talked to my mom, I talked to Jake, and then I helped a man carry his dolly out of the subway.

Making one's way downtown is a trek. Little did I know, George had me walking all day! I mentioned not having explored the East Village yet, and never having gone to Chelsea. He, his friend, and I walked to a delicious Thai restaurant where I indulged my craving for Thai iced tea and some color of curry. Next stop: cupcakery! Intermission: lomography! My Holga! My Fisheye! I've sparked George's interest, and he finds the seed of a new passion in toy cameras. I found another treat from home -- Chocolate Peanut butter pie; it was more than delicious, but less than Tomato Head. However, it made me miss home and days in Krutch park under trees eating pie with Starling.

Walking through Chelsea, I discovered the hip spot known for the queer flare is really a runway for in shape gay men, coffee shops, and bars. The glamor of this spot is lost, and I'm left swatting at it as I enter the Meat Packing District. Shortly into this neighborhood, George and I fall into an amazingly tacky, yet irresistible, street fair! Music from the roof tops showered us with melodies and an urge to move. Fire breathers briefly impressed us with short talents, but attitude is everything. The free lemonade was beyond the best lemonade either of us has had. People were dressed as balloon germs (?). Target logos and sponsorship everywhere.

Back to the Lomo store! My interest is sparked by a multi-image camera, and I'm thinking I might go back and get it. George finds kin in the Diana, which he promptly has assembled, and we're on the streets searching for lomo-moments. We find almost a whole role at the Pier, but mainly lie in the grass absorbing the warmth of the afternoon sun. I briefly consider myself attached to the Earth. The moment provokes me to ask, "What is attached to Earth?"

Back at my buddy's I'm exposed to a whole new fascination: True Blood! It's either the most pointless show, or one of the most interesting! I say that because I'm not keeling over for vampire action, and I absolutely disprove of this Twilight momentum that's been built over the past year. However, for those unaware of the show's content, there's a strong claim/premise the show draws parallels between the convictions of hatred towards vampires to that of LGBT people (had being gay been suddenly legalized in the 50s).

Tonight I walked through Columbia campus, and I was struck at how at home it seemed. I looked up and could see the stars. I looked to my left and future friends sat watching and talking on the steps of Lowes Library. To my left students congregated in the fields. A moment's feeling urges me to really consider living here.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** HELP PEOPLE READ MAPS AND FIND OUT WHERE THEY'RE GOING.

** LISTEN TO PANDORA RADIO STATION: THE BLOW.
** WALK. ABSORB THE CITY ONE STEP AT A TIME.

** UNDERSTAND THAT YES, MANHATTAN IS BEING GENTRIFIED; SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESS.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:

** LEAVE SOAP SCUM. ANYWHERE.

** WALK PAST RAM ROD ALONE.

** STAY UP LATE ON WORK NIGHTS.

** MAKE BROWNIES AND THEN NOT EAT THEM (THEY'RE STILL GOOD!).

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Riis Beach Exscursion


I was walkin' down the beach. And then I saw a Rock. But it wasn't a rock. It was a rock lobster!

As I hurried onto the train, I realized I really should have left earlier! The train stalled. And stalled. And continued to stall until we all heard, "I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but one of our customers is having a medical emergency. Please be patient with the delay." Zombies! I hurriedly transferred from the 1 at 50th to the C, and then to the 2 at 42nd, where I was fifteen minutes late getting to the CENTER at 14th and 7th Ave. Luckily, they were prepared for tardiness, and I didn't miss a thing.

Walking to the subway, my newest friend George and I decided to be buddies. As before, my teal shorts become an issue as he was wearing teal shorts -- and a white V-neck, and converse, and we matched! Besides both being seasoned fashionistas, we're both naturally inclined to talk. What's fascinating about George is that it's like talking to someone who completely understands what I'm talking about; whether it's ghetto-cute talk, social justice, or our fears about "outbreaks" and Cloverfield, we seem to mesh very well. Kudos to the universe for introducing us!

An hour and a half later we stepped foot onto Jacob Riis beach. It wasn't too sunny, but I got sun burned. The water was vicious: knocking my body with tumultuous waves and freezing it with sharp coldness. George, Hal, and I courageously ran in (separately) and all sort of came running back out. Me more so. It was cold! The wind was ferocious! It whirled all around us in a current of sand and cool breeze. We laid our stuff down only to find it nearly submerged in the grainy business not twenty minutes later. Unenthusiastic with such beach treachery, a group of us built a fortified wall of board games, backpacks, food boxes, and each other to keep our stuff clean. It worked. I suggested building it with sand; Hal laughed.

When it was all said and done, we boarded the bus. I turned by back and a man face planted into the sidewalk from his bike. Blood? Yes. I thought it was interesting seeing him laying there. People were asking, "Why doesn't someone call 911?!" I said, "The police are standing right next to him." They didn't seem to be doing anything; only standing. Yay tax dollars!

George and I made our way back to his studio in the East Village where I was introduced to a nice young man named Marcus. From there we went out to eat burgers (I'm in love with bacon cheese burgers -- somebody stop me!), talk about cooking, and then settle in for a nice vegg-out session in front of the TV! I appreciate the new friends, and it seems like there's a real community to plug into if you look for it. George is moving back to France in September.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** REMAIN CALM WHEN BEING TOLD WHAT TO DO BY SOMEONE CRAZY. TALK TO RON ABOUT IT.
** CHANNEL GIZELLE WHEN DOING RUNWAY ON THE BEACH.
** WATCH PEOPLE VOGUE.

** WEAR TEAL SHORT SHORTS.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:

** LABEL YOURSELF HIPSTER.

** FORGET A FORK WHEN YOU BRING CURRY.

** WALK IN THE RAIN LATE AT NIGHT.

** PASS UP THE OPPORTUNITY TO BOND WITH SOMEONE ON THE SUBWAY.

Oh Yes!


Let's address what some of you are thinking about briefly: I did not post last night. I came home at 9:00, finished eating dinner at 10:30, and then had to set up this damned air mattress (which took a whole 45 minutes before I realized the air release was open!), and then I had to clean up. By the time it was said and done, I was tired, frustrated, and worn out. Everyone thank Jake for being the best boyfriend ever.

I don't quite understand how the dynamics of my day work.

I wake up when I'm supposed to be leaving. Leave rather later. Get to work on time. Score two more major successes as soon as I get there. Complain. Eat brownies. Though I've started the day horribly and in a state of panic, I end up being more than OK. This throws off my expected mood of the day.

I went to Yes after work just in time for the Young Men's discussion group. The experience was uplifting on the shear grounds of making intellectual claims with other people. Up until now, the mere act of talking with another person could make my day; I've spoiled myself by allowing a deeper interaction between people to happen! We talked about dating someone with disability/limitations. What I ended up concluding is that the dynamic between someone abled and differently abled should be that of understanding and respect. Oh, like all relationships! I found myself saying, "As long as there was no perception that there was responsibility or burden, then I feel like a relationship would work".

I also brought brownies; people like that.

Last night Jack Mackenroth, Project Runway Season 4 contestant, came to speak with the group after a screening of the Men's Challenge, which he won. I should say that I didn't expect him to be as surrounded with stardom as he is. Though, he treated his celebrity status very lightly, and he was very much the down to Earth guy we all hoped he'd be. I promised I'd write something friendly about him in my blog, and may I just say his nose is real, he is very talented, and terribly aware of issues of need. His complete being seems very genuine. As I said before, he is the first person I've met and identified as HIV positive. The experience was all around very comforting; I didn't squirm or have a fit when we posed together, nor did his status factor into my opinions about his character. I feel much better about myself and my judgments after meeting him, and cannot thank him enough for allowing that growth.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** SPEND YOUR FRIDAY NIGHT MAKING CURRY IN THE KITCHEN.

** SNAP YOUR FINGERS LIKE A DIVA TO MAKE FRIENDS.

** APPRECIATE THE AMAZING OPPORTUNITIES IN YOUR LIFE, EVEN WHEN THEY'RE UNCOMFORTABLE.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** LEAVE THE FAN ON (SORRY ROBI!).

** STRESS OUT ABOUT BEING DUMB.

** FORGET TO WEAR DEODERENT (ALLUMINUM FREE!).

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Glamor


Thinking outrageously, I write in cursive, I hide in my bed with the lights on the floor... Oh, I am not quite sleeping. Oh, I am fast in bed. There on the wall in the bedroom creeping, I see a wasp with her wings outstretched.

Last night was one of the few nights I think I might have actually slept. Perhaps it was the way I rolled; inducing some strange deep sleep with my feet tucked just right, with my mouth only slightly open, and with the wooden frame jutting into that space where my waist should be. My dreams were far from pleasant, but not enough to wake me. I appreciate it so much that I ended up sleeping in, and being 15 minutes late out the door. Luckily, that means I was at work on time.

Another sizable success at GLSEN today! I know I keep reporting this, but the fact of the matter is that I've been assigned 6 states to deal with, and for whatever reason I'm just natural for it. Maria and I joke that perhaps we're not Project Runway, but instead True Blood: I seem to possess some sort of glamour (as in the affect Vampires have on people), which induces even the most apathetic and unconcerned voice to guide me to what I need.
"I don't want to help you, but I feel compelled to. I must give you what you want," Maria and I joke when an older man from Arkansas hands over the goods.

I suppose that makes sense: I'm tall, thin, and pasty -- and I have sharp canines. However, I think it's the sharp tongue that does the trick! Naive, yet assertive. Passive, yet... aggressive. I am Diana, and these are my game!

In all actuality, my biggest revelation today was that perhaps I am growing up. I told Jake earlier that I felt as if I am perceiving myself differently, and feel that others are seeing me as more mature and acclimated to life. I still feel silly, goofy, and foolish -- and I still laugh like a child. I'm still fascinated by bugs, and I love to eat cookies. I feel like I've balanced simplicity and complexity very well: Innocence and experience seem to fit hand in hand. I wonder what the draw backs to this dynamic are.

I left work early (30 minutes late), and trained to The CENTER again to meet and have myself a good ole' orientation. I ended up reading the latest issue of the advocate and playing a swell game of taboo. Though I don't think I made a lasting impression or any solid friendships, the mere presence and ability to laugh and be open with other LGBT youth was such a treat. I'm so thankful to have a real place to go. Tomorrow, I'm going for a real orientation, and then I'm going to Rated Q: Queer Youth Movie Night. The special guest is Jack, from Project Runway, who was the first openly HIV positive person on the show. Unfortunately he had a staff infection, and dropped out of the competition.

This will be the first HIV positive person that I've met and identified their HIV status. I'm excited, yet I feel bad because I have a twinge of nervousness. I know that's wrong, but I'm looking for that anxiety to dispel tomorrow when I see how amazingly normal he is.

I've also been invited to the beach on Saturday by YES. I think it will be nice.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** MAKE BROWNIES. THINK THAT YOU RUINED THEM. SURPRISE YOURSELF WITH PERFECT BROWNIES.

** SLEEP IN A BED.
** BEAST AT TABOO.
** MAKE LIGHT OF A STRESSFUL SITUATION.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** DWELL ON THE IDEA THAT PEOPLE ARE JUDGING YOU.

** HAVE A LAUGHING FIT ON THE SUBWAY WHILE READING THE ONION.

** ASK TO PLAY TABOO IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE.

** PRETEND TO BE ALLERGIC TO FOOD YOU DON'T WANT TO GET OUT OF PAYING FOR IT.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

New Jersey Housewives


In my family, we know how to get things done!

3:00. Ready to go home and change before going out this evening.

"Conrad, are you going to stay for the department meeting?"

The highlight of the day was towards the end for a two hour department meeting. The Research department is, without a doubt, accommodatingly hilarious -- while getting important things done. The meetings go like this: Important business, witty comment, laughter, non-sequester, conclusion, witty comment, laughter, TV show analogy... and so forth and so forth. As many of you role your eyes, I'll have you know that the train of thought in these meetings generally make sense, and the witticisms and laughter tend to spark some innovative or new way of looking at something. If not, the comical relief may keep us from crying. We've apparently been deemed the Real Housewives of New Jersey; go figure.

After work, I quickly trained from South Ferry to 14th Street -- The Village -- where I set foot in New York City's LGBT center. It was not glamorous by any means; roughnecks and street people littered the lobby, and urban teens drifted outside waiting for something. Directed to the back, I found comfort in the wholesome yet queer youth space created by the Youth Empowerment Services (YES). There, groups of queer teens (13-21) congregate to enjoy one another's presences, and engage their community. Excitedly, I introduced myself with enthusiasm, and listen attentively as the calendar and protocols were told to me. Tomorrow I go into register as a participant. On Friday, I'm meeting someone famous. On Saturday, I've been invited to the beach. It's all a lot to commit to, especially when my newest Brooklyn friend, Deenah, sent me a calendar of everything going on that she knows.

Ron is making me mango ice cream.

I bought deodorant and shaving cream today.
Tonight I get an air mattress.

Life is generally ok, but I'm bitter about homework.

Also, I'm a little anxious about not being in control of whether or not I get to see Jake. That's never a pleasant feeling, but I'm trying not to make a big deal of it. If it happens, then that's grand. If it doesn't, I'll be disappointed. We have our whole lives ahead of us to go to NYC together. That makes me happy.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** LAUGH UNTIL YOU CRY WITH YOUR BOSS.
** ENCOURAGE YOUR CO-WORKER AND OFFER TO HELP MORE.

** ENGAGE THE COMMUNITY YOUR IN.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** SOLICIT STRANGERS ON CRAIGSLIST TO SEE IF YOU CAN STAY WITH THEM FOR FREE.

** FORGET WHERE YOU ARE ON THE SUBWAY.

** DRINK SODA.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Workin' 9 to 5!


It's a way to make a livin'!

Another success at GLSEN! I really don't know how much I'm aloud to say, but here's what I do know:

My supervisor and I met for a one-on-one, which all the staff have, to discuss any issues I might be having. She assured me that all my concerns are very valid, and that I should feel very comfortable asking for help; I'm not expected to jump right into it doing everything right. I then assured HER that I will. I will learn how to navigate these offices and official types. I will be comfortable in my outreach. I will master excel spread sheets. Oh yes!...


"Have you been to the Center, yet?" she asked as if this ominous Center loomed in my memories.
"The... CENTER?" I replied. Obviously I wondered if it was some testing facility. We'd just been talking about the concept of ethics and requirements for using humans as subjects in a test (for the National School Climate Survey, which you must take if you are an under represented young person.
"Yes, the Center. [pause] The LGBT Center in Manhattan. You have to go!" My heart jumped. According to the Youth Program on the site, there are weekly meetings and discussion groups, movies -- and people! And... Free Popcorn. I'm a sucker for butter and salt.

Like I said, this city seems strangely detached for as many people that live here. It's amazing how many people I see in one day, and the proportion of conversations I have with them! My ideal moment is to be on the subway, reading my book -- Nice Big American Baby -- and have someone comment on how they've read it before, and for us to discuss how amazing and inspiring these stories are!

In the mean time, I'm trying to finagle a way for Jake to come visit. He's never been to the city, and I'm excited to see how he takes it all in; for a man who's traveled the world, I wonder if he'll feel right at home. In a way, Jake being here will give me an excuse to indulge in some of the touristy things I've been wanting to do, but not alone.

I desperately need to do my homework. I'm thinking about taking it to work and then going to pier after work and working on it. Work. Work. Work. It's certainly a way to make a living. Dolly Parton would be proud of me.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** WATCH 30 ROCK AND VISIT THE ROCKEFELLER CENTER.
** ORDER A BACON CHEESE BURGER TO INDULGE IN YOUR CARNIVOROUS SIDE.
** LAUGH WITH YOUR CO-WORKERS.

CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** PRETEND NOT TO NOTICE SOMEONE LOOKING AT YOU.
** CARRY AROUND A LEAKY WATER BOTTLE.
** FORGET YOUR LUNCH AT HOME.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Harry Hay My Hero!

Today my fingers cramped from typing. I promised myself, "Finish it and I'll let you go eat!" I ate. I ate splendidly!

I embark on my first full week at GLSEN. The notion scares me because I cannot gauge whether they have too much work for me, or not enough! I'm unsure of whether or not I qualify to be working on the projects that they are working on, and yet again find myself stumbling in my grassroots feet - bare and free of formalities, methods, and protocols. The opportunity, though magnificent, is making me anxious; can Conrad really get down and dirty with real non-profits, and contribute to a movement of calculated steps? Do it!

Fortunately the people at GLSEN are amazing! Today I slightly niedered away from my work to chat with Lauren and Matthew about oh-nothings and this-and-that. Real people interactions are not being taken for granted, and will be reported as stupendous occasions in this blog!

While at GLSEN, I received an email! "What kind of email?" you might ask. An email from my Brooklyn friend, Dan. He so generously invited me to come to a free screening of "Hope Among the Wing", a biographical documentary on the life and work of Harry Hay, the (in)famous founder of the Mattachine Society. I want to show this feature to Spectrum, and revel in the similarities that groups founded years ago mirror the mission and aspirations of groups today. What I loved most about this film was Hay's own favorite: young people approaching him and reaching out to him for love, and confiding that his work, his activism, saved them. Hay responded in an awkward way by receiving it as a compliment. However, my mind immediately jumped to when people say similar things to me, and all I can think to say is, "You saved yourself! I'm glad you're here."

The experience was overwhelmingly fantastic. Though my sandwich I made Dan was rejected (he cannot eat wheat), a chance to bond with a small intimate group of like minded people (or at least be around them and listen to what they have to say) was rejuvenating. It's funny. I don't think about things like this happening in Knoxville as all that emotionally fulfilling or somehow groundbreakingly refreshing, but I will.

My last revelation of the day is that I'm not famous. No one knows me. How weird! Knoxville has created this tight knit little bubble around me that makes a lot of everyone approach me and want to know me, and it's overwhelmingly. However, now I want to seek comfort in that omnipresence of someone. Here, you take what you can get, but NYC, how do you give back? If that's one thing missing in this place, it's the sense that I am able to give back or create something for the community. I'm but a breeze blowing through the city. Sigh.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** HELP OLDER WOMEN WHO CANNOT DEAL WITH THEIR NEW CARETAKER.
** SHOW OFF YOU'RE DESK PHOTO OF YOUR PARTNER TO YOUR CO-WORKERS.
** EXPLORE SIDE STREETS YOU THINK ARE SHORTCUTS, EVEN WHEN THEY'RE NOT.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** IMPULSE BUY: BROWNIE MIX.
** ACT LIKE A RATTLE SNAKE ON A SKETCH STREET WITH YOUR KEYS AND WATER BOTTLE.
** GET LOST ON CRYSTIE STREET/ CHINA TOWN (AGAIN).

Sunday, July 5, 2009

A Quiet Testimonial to My Existence


The sun wakes me up in the morning. It drowns my room with the rising day.

I contemplate whether or not to rise with the day. The thought of sleeping in is appealing, but so is lifting my body and greeting NYC with a smile. I chose the latter, and trek down to 3rd Ave and 15th street for Quaker Meeting.

The meeting was... The meeting was a miserable experience. I found myself focusing on my spirit, but then immediately finding priority in "matters of consequence" such as, "OMG when am I going to get that biology homework done?!" or "Am I going to Emory? Am I going to Columbia? Why am I going anywhere?!" My resolution was to book it and find a spot at Marie's to work on my government and econ. assignments for the day.

Thankfully I took a deep breath and saw the beauty of the sun; always waking me up for a new approach. I whimsically decided to take the L to 6th, transfer to the 1, walk up Whitehall/Broadway, withdraw some cash, take the 1 back uptown, and get off at Christopher Street for an afternoon on the pier. Oh yes, I've mastered the subways (1, A, C, L, and D).

The rest of the day was spent at Marie's. I've been filling time with internet, texting, and of course listening to the wonderful stories of Marie Runyon. The woman is a treasure chest! Way better than 30 Rock (sorry Tina!).

All the while I think I may have talked for a total time of 20 minutes through out the entire day. My mind is bursting at the seams with things to say, but who to say them too.
My silence and presence in quiet is truly a testimonial to my individual existence within myself. Though I love to interact and engage with people, the time spent in thought is time spent finding someone to satisfy all those needs in house: me.

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** BE SPONTANEOUS. GO INTO THAT SEX STORE WITH ALL THE LEATHER.
** EAT BARBEQUE CHICKEN PIZZA TO REMIND YOU OF ATLANTA AND JAKE.
** SIT AT THE END OF THE PIER AND SING ALONG TO B-52's.
** BLEND IN AND BE ASKED TO TAKE TOURISTS' PHOTOS.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** GO INTO THAT SEX STORE WITH ALL THE LEATHER.

** SUNBURN.

** RIDE THE SAME SUBWAY AS THE SAME CRAZY MAN TWICE IN A ROW.

** MAKE EYE CONTACT WITH PEOPLE IN A BLANK STARE.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Brooklyn Is For Friends

It's hard to make friends in Manhattan; how do you just start talking to someone with no context of doing so? You might be eying each other and giving each other, "I wish I were talking to you" looks, but no -- talking to one another is far to scary. That first step is everything!

This is why Brooklyn exists.

Brooklyn exists to provide a space for cute hipster kids to get together and move around and dance to amazing music. Thanks to a man known as Brook Pridemore, I was invited to attend an all day festivity at the Brooklyn Tea House. This literally went on from 1:40 p.m. until now. I just got back an hour ago, hence the lateness of my post (sorry Tyra!).

Unlike the Knoxville scene, these cool kids are more adults. I had a harder time fitting in and finding a spot, but I can tell you this: it was very relieving to be able to talk to someone, and show emotion, -- and be myself! I met this one girl, Deahna (dee-nuh), who then introduced me to everyone else I would need to meet. Namely Dan, a queer radical guy. He and I chatted for an hour or so. Yay! Everything just seemed to fall together. Even though I wasn't and am not friends with of these characters, I can tell you that I felt very comfortable to be there. Betsy, a small feisty girl, plays the Uke and jumps around screaming. Viv in this awesome pirate girl in suspenders with an attitude, but she's really goofy and nice anyway. Dibs is just funny. I don't know what to say! There's so many cool people. Except this one guy with a mustache was literally wearing the same outfit as me; it was beyond embarrassing. I smiled at him.

Some music that you should check out? Oh, of course!

Brook Pridemore
Ching Chong Song
Urban Barnyard
Old Hat
Phoebe Kreutz
Preston Spurlock
Joe Crow Ryan

At the end of everything, a few of us rose to a rendition of the national anthem. It caught on, and by the middle people were just screaming, "AND THE ROCKETS' RED GLARE!" The fireworks were spectacular! It was just orb after orb of light and... fire? I thought the Empire State Building was a goner, but it seems to have managed.

Independence day? Fitting. Happy anniversary, parents!

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** DANCE YOUR HEART OUT TO THE MUSICAL SAW.
** WATCH FIREWORKS FROM A ROOF TOP.
** CHALLENGE YOUR FEARS AND STAY OUT LATE; PUBLIC TRANSIT VIOLENCE DOESN'T HAPPEN UNTIL MUCH LATER.

CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** ALLOW THE SUN TO EXIST SO EARLY.
** NOT TAKE ADVANTAGE OF HAVING A BED FOR THE NIGHT.
** NOT TAKING YOUR DAILY PILL (MAYBE.).

Friday, July 3, 2009

Excursion


Bagel. Cream Cheese. Strawberry Jam. My morning is complete. Priceless.

This morning I woke up to my favorite caretaker, Katrina, yelling at Marie. It was delightful! Ron and I had breakfast, and we chatted with Marie some about the organization Act Up. Apparently Marie loved the organization, and at one point danced in the street with them. She's so dear. Today, when I got home, she and I sat down and talked for a good while. Her memory is so sharp and her descriptions so vivid. I felt as if I was actually chillin' with Pete Seeger. Amazing.

MoMA was spectacular! I've decided Modern Art isn't for me, but I do appreciate early interpretations like Picasso, Van Gough, Cezanne, Seurat, and Matisse. For instance, Van Gough's Stary Night. When you see pieces like this, it's almost unreal. You're standing and thinking to yourself, "This is what it's all about; this is where art comes from today!" To me, it's interesting because when you see what inspires so many artists today, it seems to clarify more modern art, -- and give it some sort of context for existing!

Afterward, I got lost.

Eventually, I found myself on Crosby Street walking towards an amazing book store reminiscent of an old library and McKay. I ate my first Knish (a pastry with potato filling). I really liked the texture, but mine tasted like sweet potato so it was disgusting. I'll try one from a vendor.

I found my way away from Cafe Bookstore and back onto Christopher Street Pier. Unlike yesterday, there were tons of people sun-bathing in the grass. When I say people, I really mean mostly 30-40 year old gay men in speedos. I went to the end of the pier, away from the grass, and read my book: Nice Big American Baby by Judy Budnitz. It's 12 short stories written in the same kind of style as Proust, Sedaris, and Levithan. I appreciate it immensely, and found myself nearly crying after the first story.

Finally, on my way home, I became alarmingly aware of how cold and distant I must be coming off. In this fit of self-revelation, I've resolved to be myself, but understand when I might be putting said self into a vulnerable situation. For instance, I was about to engage this man by giving him some change on the subway, but he started yelling to the entire car about his mental insanity and how he needed money for clothes. No thanks.

Tomorrow, Marie and I are attending a reading of the Constitution in Central Park. From there I will go and spend the day in Brooklyn with Brooke Pridemore! I'm so lucky.

Wish me luck!

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** BUY NICE BIG AMERICAN BABY AND READ IT ON THE PIER IN THE SUN AND BREEZE.
** BUY 3$ MEXICAN LUCHA WRESTLING MASKS WRAPPING PAPER.
** LISTEN TO THE BLOW.

CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** LOOK LIKE A TOURIST.
** LOOK LIKE A NEW YORKER.
** PASS UP VENDOR FOOD.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Christopher Street Nostalgia



When I came home today, I put curry powder in my black beans, and it really spiced things up. I mean, it was still black beans, but I had the distinct impression of eating something from Sitar.

Waking up to construction sucks. Especially when your alarm goes off and you can't hear it because the jack hammers are just that cool. I was not enthused.
On a positive note, GLSEN work is going great! I have to admit, this is serious business. I like to think my strengths lie in grass roots organizing and youth outreach. However, this job has me outreaching to high-ups, and... researching. It's definitely a great learning process. At the core of which are some fabulous people: Liz, Sam, and Maria are phenomenal, and very patient. I was able to pull through for the team relatively fast, and made two connections in our project that we were having troubles making. Go Conrad!

After work, I trained to Christopher Street. For those of you acclimated to NYC, you'll know the first thing I saw when I walked out of the station: Stonewall Inn! Unfortunately, it's 21 and up. An older gay man helped me figure this out, and then helped me figure out where the Christopher Street Pier is. I feel kind of bad for ditching him, but I'm not gonna' lie -- he was lookin' for something more than the Pier.

Hanging out on the Pier was an especially moving experience. The controversy around gentrification and kicking LGBT youth of color out of the neighborhood is such a local problem, yet I felt so connected to the those feelings as I enjoyed the brief sun and rumbling water. Where else are we supposed to go when there's no where else to go? Interrupting my thoughts was a massive rainstorm, which lead to a condensed group of people under one awning. As I huddled with patrons of the pier under the small white pavilion, I felt a sense of comradeship with my New York brothers and sisters; being LGBT really is more than the individual: we are a community everywhere. Maybe that's why they're scared of us!

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** DO WHAT'S EASIEST FIRST; IT MIGHT SAVE YOU A TON OF TIME.
** WATCH THE HUDSON WHILE IT'S RAINING.

** LISTEN TO SAM WHEN HE TELLS YOU WHERE TO EAT. MEDITERANIAN FAJITA!


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE OBJECTIFIED BY GAY MEN STANDING OUTSIDE "THE RAM ROD" BAR.

** TAKE SHELTER IN A SEX SHOP.

** WORRY ABOUT OLD PEOPLE.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

There are No Fireflies in the City


The black night breeze blows through my window. I'm redirected to the skyline of a city with everything imaginable; a city full to the brim of opportunity and chances and dead ends and endless nights. I'm staring into the twinkle of adjacent apartment lights and street lamps and the occasional air plane full of people ready to be on solid ground.

Where are my mountains? Where are my oak trees taller than the buildings? Where are the porch swings and the ropes hanging from trees? Where is the chirping of Cicadas and the glow of fireflies? These too are life experiences worth having; completely removed yet present with yourself and your surroundings: carefree.

I cannot tell you about the content of my GLSEN internship due to confidentiality reasons, but I can tell you that this opportunity will not go wasted; I'm utilizing my presence in the office, and making myself very useful, I hope, to the Research Department. To say the least, I'm excited to see a spread sheet of everything I'll have worked on and completed.

Tomorrow I'm planning on going on a walking tour in the East Village and befriending some hipster kids. Wish me luck!

CONRAD'S MUST-DO'S:
** SPEND THE EVENING WATCHING 30 ROCK.
** HAVE YOUR FIRST DEPARTMENT MEETING.


CONRAD'S MUST-NOT'S:
** EAT NON-STOP: CRACKERS + PEANUTBUTTER, COOKIES, BAKED PASTA, BAGEL + CREAM CHEESE + JAM

** TAKE THE WRONG SUBWAY EXIT.