Posted by: jt | May 18, 2010

when all the colors will bleed into one

A few weeks ago, I made a new friend. He was on a project with several other artists and you might remember him from Tweets such as, “I would ask why they’re always married, but I know the answer to that one. I just haven’t figured out the next question beyond that.” Or, “I realize that this headache is probably *actually* due to a long, bumpy bus ride, but I feel like my brain is just too full.” And, “I know why they’re always married. I know why they’re always married. I know why, fucking A, they’re ALWAYS MARRIED.”

Before we get to my new, married friend, let’s begin with the lesbian driver.

Do I really need to say that I have no issues with lesbians? No, wait. I have one issue with lesbians. They almost always make me feel guilty for not being one. When I saw The Lesbian Driver on Friday, she was a painful stereotype – a little sloppy, no make-up on her ruddy cheeks, short unstyled hair, etc. She was a little too eager to communicate with me, as opposed to the person who had been her primary contact for the previous 48 hours but, okay. Fine. I get it.

Lesbians love me. I don’t know if there’s just a Yay, Gay! pheromone (which would explain a lot) or if it’s just the assumption that fat = lesbian, but…this gets tedious. I think it’s the hope in their eyes. While guys are equally open in broadcasting their interest, they’re a bit more guarded with the hope, which makes them easier to rebuff as necessary.

I digress.

Oh, how The Lesbian Driver’s eyes lit up when she heard I would be joining the group on Saturday for a day trip 2 hours outside of the city and…sure enough. When I got on the bus on Saturday morning, she was tidy, with product in her hair and wearing earrings.

I just wanted to pull her aside and be like, Look. See the rock musician with the warm smile, funky glasses, accent and purple hair? That’s my type. And he comes with parts you don’t have.

But we’ll get to My Indian Rockstar in a minute.

First, there was German drama.

These poor people. The Germans got to Seattle in the middle of the night and the hotel had lost their reservation (which we fixed!). They looked at their itinerary and it was missing the one meeting they wanted most (which we fixed!). To continue our mea culpa for the lost hotel reservation, I spent all of Friday afternoon with them, including a mind-bending hour of full-on, normal speed, professional German, since the person they were meeting with was also – ta-da! – German. By the end of the day on Friday, my brain was complete mush, but I felt like we’d pretty much won them over (fixed!), through the sheer quality of everything but the hotel losing your reservation.

And then, my phone rang.

(Yes, I’m totally channeling Dan Brown. Melodrama Я Us.)

Long story short: The Germans called me, frantic, on Saturday morning (while I was on a bus with My Indian Rockstar, The Lesbian Driver, et al.), to inform me that DC had fucked up their flights and, after 30 minutes on the phone with a travel agent on a Saturday morning, we determined that there were no other options at that point. My lovely, lovely Germans were just screwed. And I was furious.

I don’t mind trouble-shooting. I don’t even mind doing it when it’s absolutely Not My Job, as was certainly the case here. I’m really fucking good at fixing things. What pisses me off is when my people get screwed and my time gets wasted because someone else blatantly failed to do their job. Booking three people on the same flights really isn’t hard. In fact, it’s almost harder to fuck that up.

All I have to do in these situations is get the anger out of my system. I just need to rant for a bit and snarl and then I’m just fine. Unfortunately, ranting and snarling fall pretty high on the list of Things Not to Do In Front of Guests. So the fury simmered.

But there, with me (and The Lesbian Driver, and 8 other people) was this purple-haired beacon of calm. There are very few people on this planet who I have encountered that do this for me. They just emanate comfort and peace and evenness. It’s like being in the eye of a hurricane and, as long as you hold on, you stay there. Everything around you is swirling, but you’re still and secure.

It’s addictive.

My Indian Rockstar had caught my eye the previous night with his obvious enthusiasm for volunteering. He was positively giddy and childlike in his eagerness to do whatever he could to be helpful, all the while just soaking in the experience. We had a tacit exchange of appreciation for each other’s tactics that evening on the way back to the hotel when another member of the delegation began to sing. Loudly. And horribly. This was clearly a common occurrence, given the immediate eye rolling and catcalling from other members of the group.

Singer Man spoke very little English and should not have been on this project. He’s a tremendously talented artist, but his lack of language abilities exacerbated some less-than-pleasant cultural differences…like his tendency to shout in public, belch loudly while eating, and sing horribly.

Horribly.

After a couple of minutes it became clear that we were being treated to Bangladesh’s version of The Song That Never Ends. Singer Man would not be deterred even though, by the fourth or fifth verse, My Indian Rockstar tried to engage him in conversation. That was clearly old hat though and he gave me a small smile and shrugged. I smiled back and raised my eyebrows. He might have done this before, but I was new. Plus, I’m just a bit more shameless.

I moved a few rows on the bus and sat backwards so that I could face Singer Man. I just stared and smiled at him, pretending to enjoy the serenade, until we were between verses and then I pounced, So what is the song about? Granted, I then had to try to decipher the non-English answer, which I believe amounted to something akin to various family members leaving, repeatedly, and coming back, but still…worlds better than the alternative. I will take broken English over broken eardrums any day. And, of course, there was the added bonus that everyone else on the bus was guaranteed to adore me for making it stop. We made it back to the hotel in relative silence and thirteen hours later, I was back on a bus with all of them, trying not to scream about my Germans’ crappy flight situation.

After emphatically not screaming and enjoying a chilly meander through some tulip fields, my Indian Rockstar and I bonded over lunch and proceeded to talk for the next four or five hours. It was typical of this kind of conversation for me – we talked about nothing and everything, the shallowest topics overlaid with philosophical meaning. We just knew each other, whether talking non-profit management, intercultural relations, Northern India, or the Washington countryside flying by.

I asked him my standard, favorite question (shamelessly stolen from a friend) for all my visitors – What’s surprised you the most about your time in the U.S.? – and was surprised myself to watch him struggle to find an answer. I shrugged it off and told him not to worry about it, but he was determined to respond, insisting that he liked the question, because it made him think, which is, of course, why I like it too. I started to offer him the most common refrain I get (sadly, from almost everyone), but thought better of it and instead said, Most people – almost everyone I ask – are surprised by how friendly and welcoming Americans are…but I’m guessing you expect people to be friendly wherever you go. He smiled, and agreed.

One idealist to another – we just knew each other.

Our conversation was punctuated with comfortable pauses and, as we approached downtown Seattle again, he dozed in the weak afternoon sun. I smiled at his purple hair and funky glasses and thought about the pieces of my heart that are scattered across the globe – in Jordan, Brazil, Austria, Pakistan, Bolivia, Morocco, Palestine and, now, India; How I keep giving parts of myself away, but how much I get in return.

The next morning, he got on a plane and flew out of my life, except for the thank you card that came in the mail three days later. And another standing invitation to a country I’ve never seen, with the promise of someday.

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Responses

  1. Ahhhh how did you do the backward R???

  2. I use this magical feature where you “copy” and “paste.”

    I’m a genius, I know.

  3. Well, it’s just a slightly modified version of your Twitter bio… copy, PASTE, win.

  4. Indeed, my Twitter genius extends to the blogosphere.

    I may be updating that bio soon with a full poem of words that were unspellable (both by me and others).

    :-)


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