In Argentina a met a wonderful young woman named Hannah who was enthralling enough I decided to use some money I had set aside to go visit her in Denver where she lives. Okay, I met more than one wonderful person in Buenos Aires, but I had made plans to go visit this one. We talked extensively about the visit and clarified that I would be coming down as a friend to visit a friend – a strictly no face-licking event.
She came across as less disappointed by this than I hoped she would.
To get to Denver, I first had to drive across Washington (from Bellingham to Spokane) with my dear father who loves to talk. We discussed everything from my recent exposure to polyamory to his comment that Sondheim’s music was so good he had to be gay. It’s obvious which one we were going to talk and argue about more, my father being more conservative and myself being more progressive.
I argued that by stereotyping all homosexuals to be musically talented painted them with a homogenizing brush, essentially making them all the same. The counterargument was that positive stereotypes should be okay, especially since my father has no negative stereotypes about the gays. He could even think of tons of positive stereotypes he has for other people! A point I did not make as well as I wanted to at the time was that arguing certain groups of people ha a natural inclination towards some type of activity limits them in a profound way. I mainly focused on how setting someone in an assigned category based on their sexual orientation, race, gender, or religion says they aren’t normal. It sets up the white, heterosexual, Christian male as the standard to which everyone is measured. Additionally the assumption that certain people are only good at certain things, but white people are good at everything is rather unfair. In the end, with his classic pensive fashion my father decides to stop and think it over. By the time I came home he was a bit more understanding.
Arriving at the Brown Box
Eight hours of driving, three hours of sleep, and a two hour flight later, I was in the airport in Colorado, losing another hour after daylight saving. I waited for my ride by taking pictures of the airport and reading American Gods by Neil Gaiman (the other book I would finish over break would be The Host by Stephanie Meyer which I enjoyed more than I expected). Finally, Hannah showed up with her friend, John, and took me into the city. We weren’t downtown by any means, but in a nice neighborhood near her university with a bunch of homes. Hannah’s school was small, smaller than my high school small, and I was a bit taken aback. It wasn’t quite the central cultural hub I was expecting from Denver. After all, this city is one of the last bastions of humanity in the Mazerunner series. I wondered where the sense of population I felt in Buenos Aires was.
At John’s suggestion, we stopped at a sandwich place for some lunch before going to The Brown Box, Hannah’s house. Hannah and her roommates keep a cleaner space than that house I have in Bellingham. She says she’s the messy one, but things seemed pretty well organized. I was surprised by how little she cooked though, considering how dependent I am on my kitchen. However, she has access to all sorts of free food on campus, and she had enough food for me to eat, so I was content.
Back To School
I tagged along to a few classes that Hannah takes. In the first, students described what wasn’t talked about enough on campus. The list included school budget, interfaith dialogue (religious school), rape culture, and contraception. It was bizarre to be at a school where no one handed out condoms, and I got a few scandalized looks when I talked about throwing condoms at people for free condom Friday, or the way I encouraged people to use sex as a means of keeping warm during the winter months.
College kids who don’t talk about sex; now I’ve seen everything.
Another class was an English class where the teacher read us some of her poetry. The teacher was a very sweet older woman, and I ended up sitting in on part of her creative writing class with my friend Peyton, who I met down in BsAs when she came in from Chile. I met a guy who looked like a young Dyson from the TV show Lost Girl, and that was the extent of my classroom experience in Colorado.
The two most interesting things we did on campus (okay, one was adjacent to campus), was going to a reading and seeing a speaker. The reading was at a nearby coffee-shop where people laid down with some kickass slam poetry (one poem was in freaking Spanish, which was awesome), and the speaker was a man from South Sudan who came to the U.S. about a decade ago and has been a force for positive change in the world since. Both were reminders to me that I need to get it in gear and start living life, not just dicking around on World of Warcraft or Facebook.
Religion can be a touchy subject for many people, but when you know nobody, talking about personal beliefs can be a great ice-breaker. Hannah and I talked extensively about religion down in Buenos Aires, and she was kind enough to invite me to church. Being raised Roman Catholic, I’m still not entirely used to the new types of evangelical churches that preach from a stage with a full-fledged rock band and better lights than my high school theater department. As such, I had a bit of, not culture shock exactly, but surprise upon entering the church.
The service was good, the pastor focused largely on transformation. He used the metaphor of Superman going into the phonebooth, saying we were Superman, and all we needed to do was come out of the phonebooth. The point was that it’s well and good to recognize what needs to change in the world, but if you don’t do anything about it, what’s the point? Overall, it was a good experience for me, as it tested my resolve and open-mindedness, especially when some of the projected song lyrics missed apostrophes.
Hannah was very kind and took me tango dancing, we went to a poetry reading at a place called the Merc (short for Mercury), and we went salsa dancing. The tango was fun, with mostly intermediate dancers and some who might have been advanced, but as I try to remember that I’m always still learning it’s difficult to say where people fit in after a certain point. After we came outside, it had begun to snow, but it was worth it. I now have danced in two states in the U.S.! The weirdest thing at tango was one part where the instructor (it was a practica setting with a class beforehand) explained back-crosses in such a way that part of it would be auto-followed. Those who I discussed this later will have already heard enough of my complaints on the subject.
We only went to the Mercury for a short time, but it was wonderfully entertaining. Good poets read, terrible poets read, and everyone had a fun experience that made me think of the Moulin Rouge characters (that is in the movie, not the actual Moulin Rouge). The host of the reading wanted to be Allen Ginsberg with every fiber of his body from his gonads to the last dead bits of hair that dangled over his ever-growing ears. However, we were just stopping by before salsa.
Salsa is not my favorite dance. I appreciate the merits of salsa, and that other folks like it, and that’s fine. I also am not a huge fan of seafood, and I think that’s fine too. I probably should have actively protested against salsa dancing, but figured if Hannah could tolerate tango for me, I could darn well tolerate salsa for her. Unfortunately, I was pretty quickly in a bad mood, I had dressed very warmly on the off-chance we would walk around, and I didn’t want to take off the long johns I wore underneath my pants and shirt. Eventually, I bought a tasty milk stout, and then went for a walk, exploring the nearby railroad tracks and a memorialized water tower. Playing in the snow did quite a bit to improve my mood, and the early flirtations between two of Hannah’s friends also made me feel much better about life, the world, and everything.
The End of Break
Hannah’s friend John drove me back to the airport, and we only got lost once when we tried to stop for gas. Thankfully, some kids sledding and a stranger at a stop light were able to point us towards a 7-11 and we got out safe. I flew back to Spokane, argued more with my father, visited with my mother, and tried to see as many people as I possibly could. It was a successful vacation, and one of the first times that I felt I really went somewhere to relax for myself, not just to go somewhere and live for a bit. I liked the feeling of it, and hope to do it some more. Now though, I’m working on finishing my last quarter at university!