Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bonsoir Paris!

Last night covered in the blanket of chill known as November and one of my favorite black scarves I stepped off a lift and into one of the most stunning sites natural eyes can capture. I stood on the second level of the Eiffel Tower and looked out at the City of Lights knowing fully in that moment how she was named. As aesthetically fantastic as a woman as she is by day, she is simply striking at night. I stood in awe. Far as the eye could see it, it was beautiful.

I didn’t know when I got on the plane a few days ago what it would mean for me to go to Paris, France. I only knew that for years it had been a place that I’d seen on television, in books and films and said I wanted to visit some day. Other than that and the opportunity to help a friend celebrate her 30th birthday I had not put much thought in what it meant for me to make the trek.

Now that I am home, in the comfort of my own home, in my room with the candle burning I have a better understanding of what it meant to me and for me.

After I arrived back home this evening I began plowing through my emails and found a reply from my mother to the email I sent her as soon as I found a computer in Paris to let her know that I’d arrived safely. In her note back to me she said that she was glad that I’d made it safely, to be careful and have a good time. She also shared, that years ago when she was in high school that she had studied French and always dreamed of going to Paris some day. I have the most wonderful mother. And at 54 she has never left the US and traveled the world, yet I know she would do anything in the world for me. Thinking of her email makes me want to cry and fulfill her dream.

Sunday night I ventured to the popular party for gay men of color. I admit I’d gone in hopes of seeing gorgeous black Frenchmen and what I saw was something more intriguing. Fellowship. The men of color party wasn’t dominated by black Frenchmen but was probably split equally between them and Arab men. For every 15 or 20 minutes of the typical American hip hop and dance music there was equal time allotted for more popular songs from Arab nations and the music for the most part was enjoyed by all. During one song I stood as a cultural observer, so enchanted, curious and pleased at what I saw in front of me. There was a long line of Arab men on the dance floor and another opposite of them – but still facing them. One line would dance and walk close to the other so that each dancer would be almost eye to eye with their counterpart in the other line and before they would get too close they would march backward to the beat. To see their movements, smiles and exaggerations was delight – because you could tell they were delighted. And also free. I have been to parties with gay black men, gay Latino men and Asian Pacific Islanders but never one heavily attended by Arab men. While we are all gay, there are nuances to our interactions, socialization, beliefs and even the way we party that draw on our ethnic heritage and traditions. I was happy to be a student.

I looked at Aziza once during the trip and couldn’t imagine anyone else sitting across from me. It was my first trip to Paris and I don’t think anyone else would have been as an appropriate companion than her. She and I talk about love, romance and living our truths in a way and with a frequency that I don’t think I do with anyone else. We have helped each other lick the wounds of loves hard lashes after being beaten and bathed each other with exciting words that make us tingle and giggle when romance has showered her rain upon us. Romance is usually on our tongues and Paris is the language.

It meant a lot for me to go to Paris. Now that I’m home it even means I must decide where I want to go next.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Cocoa, Candy & Contemplation

Most people use Halloween as an opportunity to put on their mask and present to the world whatever most ghoulish or delightful thing that their imagination can muster. It is a time for many to be seen temporarily as who they want to be in the moment, not necessarily who they are.

This year I chose to use Halloween as an opportunity to do just the opposite. I was invited by Cocoa Conservative to his Halloween party. I accepted not because I didn’t have anything else I could be doing on a Friday night but because I knew a social event at his house would be attended by those people who he really considers friends. For many years I have often thought that to be one of the best ways to unmask someone and see who they truly are – get a good look at their friends.

So tonight, I sat out with a mission and it was accomplished. As bare as I have ever seen him, there he was tonight. Mixing and mingling with party guests. I was most intrigued and ironically most engaged with the people there who seem to have known him the longest, the people from his hometown. They were good people and our interaction was upbeat and flowing. The same can be said about his two colleagues from work.

But on the other side of the room; there seemed to be the other side of him. A side I wasn’t really interested nor engaged with. Oddly, it was the group of Black gay men. I knew a few of the faces, only one name and not even he and I know each other so much on a more than cordial basis. There was no shade but there was no love.

Funny thing is that last night when I contemplated my friendship with Cocoa Conservative it was his straight side that I wondered if I’d mesh well with. I actually find that more comfortable and even more desirable.

The goal of my attendance of his party was to unmask him. I suppose I got two for one. In the end it seemed on several levels it also helped reveal more about me, who I am and how I see myself and others in the world.

Ultimately what I think saw though in one very concise thought is that he is just as human as I am and I am just as human as he is. Silly as it sounds, until I saw him without that mask on tonight, I don’t think I’d realized that before. That means a lot to me. As we do with Halloween candy, I’ll have to do with this, sit back and suck and chew on it for a while.