Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Spin Me Right Round

I've had enough of accessing my blog and seeing a suggestive picture of Phil Mickelson. Something has to take its place.

No more baseball for now, not until something significant happens, like Randy Johnson's knee falls off or Sammy Sosa gets injured making himself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

No complaints about ESPN or stagnation of the movie or music industries. Even though "Million Dollar Baby," a movie with an ending that makes no sense whatsoever, won 4 Oscars.

No, I think I'll write about me. Me me me. I wrote at the very beginning when I started this blog that I wanted to get down experiences and whatnot about college, and I kind of stopped doing after about . . . oh . . . two entries.

I went to a bunch of concerts freshman year. In addition to Ben Folds and Counting Crows coming to Dartmouth (not together), and putting on decent shows, I also decided to fly down to Atlanta the weekend before a large chemistry midterm for Music Midtown, which I believe is the 2nd largest outdoor music festival in the U.S. Good stuff. Lots of great bands, including Garbage, Bush, STP, Better than Ezra, Bela Fleck, Pete Yorn, and last but certainly not least, Journey.

Good times, and I managed to pass my chemistry test too.

I also went to a concert sometime around Thanksgiving, I think (I might be horribly mistaken about that one), featuring Linkin Park and Stone Temple Pilots and two other bands. I say two other bands because I spent the majority of the concert outside wondering where the friends I was supposed to meet were.

See, in these, my pre-cell phone days, I had no way of knowing that there were TWO entrances to the venue, and I was waiting at the one reserved for ticketholders with floor tickets (which included other people I went to high school with who randomly passed me). So I got in pretty early and spent a good four hours waiting around, wondering what the heck I was supposed to do if no one showed up.

At one point, a random man approached me and asked me for change. It was quite strange, not because, like anyone else who has lived in a large urban area, I've been approached by people asking for money, but because of the way he asked me for change.

It wasn't the usual "Got a dollar" or "Spare a buck?"

He said as he approached me, "Hey, got a second?"

I was walking down the street pretty aimlessly, as I had no clue where the heck I was going to find my friends, so I stopped. It wasn't dumb of me or anything, as it was broad daylight and there were other people around. Urban setting or not, I didn't think I was about to get mugged. I looked at him said "What's up?" I figured he was going to ask me for directions or something like that.

Instead he said "Do you happen to have a buck or two? I need to scrounge up enough to get a hotel room, 'cuz my girlfriend kicked me out. I know this is weird, and I don't mean to be intimidating or anything . . . I don't seem intimidating, do I?"

I shook my head and told him that he wasn't intimidating and I didn't have any change either, which was a pity because I could have used some to place a phone call to some people I was supposed to meet.

Our conversation took a very strange turn after that, if it wasn't already strange enough.

He said "Man, sorry you can't find your friends. I'm glad you don't find me intimidating though. You have no idea how many people get intimidated by an African American male approaching them on the street."

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that he was African American. Did that matter to my story up until now? Did you assume he was African American? I'd like to tell myself that it didn't matter at all, and that it shouldn't matter to whoever is reading this, but I'm not sure that would be a realistic statement.

Because if I can construct a picture of a man's skin color and appearance from the question "got a buck?" and his characterization of himself as potentially intimidating . . . . well, then I understand why the writers of SNL are motivated to write a skit stereotyping African Americans - not because it's funny, but because it's easy.

We didn't talk a whole lot after that, just expressed condolences for each other's respective plights (mine being nowhere near as serious as his), wished each other luck, shook hands, and then we went our separate ways.

I eventually figured out where the main entrance was, but not until I had missed half the concert, which was okay because I just wanted to see STP anyway.

But after the concert, and in the days that followed, it wasn't the memories of Scott Wylan's gyrating torso that remained in my head. And no, that was not a homoerotic statement, because Scott Wylan's gyrating torso, often naked, is inevitably at the center of any STP performance. Instead, I thought about my random encounter on the street.

At first I wondered if he was telling the truth. Whether his girlfriend had really kicked him out and if he really was looking for a few bucks to get a room at the YMCA or something to similar effect. Is that a story people use to get a buck? Do they stick around and shoot the breeze after they get rejected if the story isn't true? I decided ultimately that it didn't matter. After all, I could have been lying through my teeth when I told him that I didn't have any change. Why did I stick around and talk to him?

Later, I focused more on what he said about being intimidating. I wondered if he said it because he was African American and I was Asian. Would he have approached another African American in the same way? Did he say what he said because he thought African Americans might seem intimidating, or because he thought Asians were intimidated by African Americans? And of course, I don't think I was looking intimidated. If anything, I was probably looking kind of steamed because I wanted to stop walking and figure out where my friends were. Did he approach everyone that day with the same question?

In the end, I guess the truth didn't matter. Whether he was lying or not, it didn't matter. I'm not going to find out either way, and the fact is that after he asked me for a buck and I said no, we had a fairly civilized exchange, shook hands, and went our separate ways.

We SHOOK hands. Is that weird? How many strangers do you shake hands with? I kind of look back and wonder what possessed the two of us to actually talk and then shake hands. I mean, I actually could have asked him for change. I needed it as much as he did (ok, maybe a little less). What made us shake hands? I don't think either of us thought we were breaking some racial divide, because that would have been silly. I think we were just both glad to talk to someone, even if neither of us received any direct help from it.

I like to look back now and think that the fact that we both needed help or money took precendent over race and skin color, even though the situation might have been approached with stereotypes in mind. I might be being too idealistic. But what forms a stronger bond of solidarity between people than a shared need?


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