Optimism in an Alcohol Bottle
I haven't posted lately because I've been on vacation and largely away from Internet access; this weekend Jeff is attending a science fiction convention in San Antonio, half a continent away from our place in Virginia, and of course I won't fly because I refuse to be groped by blue-glove-wearing kiddie-diddlers so lacking in morality and marketable job skills, they make money molesting airline passengers for the TSA. So we're driving there instead, and stopped in New Orleans (where I am right now) because I'd never seen it before.
Except for a brief visit to an art museum and sculpture garden, we've spent most of our time wandering through the French Quarter--not just Bourbon Street and the touristy parts, but also the residential district. Today we got slightly lost and ended up in what I suppose is the gay district (or maybe just a regular business district hosting a gay street festival): hundreds of men in all stages of sobriety or lack thereof, doing the same things heteros do at a street festival: drinking, laughing, eating, playing or listening to music ... and, yes, there was same-sex hand-holding and even kissing. But everyone was perfectly friendly to me even though it's spectacularly obvious I'm not their type.
After leaving the gay district we walked for a block or two before returning to Bourbon Street, where we stopped to watch four break dancers give a stunning performance. The DJ/narrator cracked several jokes playing on racial stereotypes: "Don't be afraid! We're only three and a half black men; we can't hurt all of you." (Audience laughter and applause.)
We wandered through the Quarter for a couple of hours after full dark, soaking up the atmosphere along with a not-insignificant amount of alcohol, and I thought of various bigots I know or know of -- the ones who freak out at the thought of gay weddings, or of an America where white people are no longer the majority. And I wished they could have joined us in our French Quarter wanderings today so they could see for themselves that there's nothing to be afraid of, here. It's fun. When a little black toddler waved to me and I said "hello" and waved back, his parents beamed with the exact same pride white parents take in their kids. Everybody there--gay or straight, black or white, Asian or Hispanic--wanted the exact same thing: a little harmless fun. Different tastes in music, different tastes in food, different tastes in sex partners, all coming together in a giant party.
I haven't been keeping up with the news much lately, though the few headlines I've seen give me no reason to feel hopeful about the steady decline of American civil liberties: the NSA is still spying on every American who uses electronic communications and the dishonest sonofabitch in the Oval Office is still lying about it ... the headlines offer me no hope for America's future, but what I saw in the French Quarter does.
That said: I learned something about myself, here in New Orleans. I've long thought of myself as being rather open-minded and sophisticated regarding sexual matters; after all, I paid for college by working as a topless dancer, jump-started my journalism career by working on a phone sex line, was pro-gay rights before being pro-gay rights was cool ... but on Bourbon Street last night, when Jeff and I were offered the opportunity to watch a free live sex show, I learned that underneath my free-spirited open-mindedness beats the heart of a prude after all.