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Hello There Young Man

Monday night after the World AIDS Day Concert at Lake Eola Park a strange thing happened to my friend. We were just standing in the grass talking, minding our own business, when a guy neither of us knew walked up to us. It was a cold night so he had a relatively brisk pace — he definitely wasn’t mosying. I’m sure both my friend and I were thinking, “who is this guy and what does he want?”

There were two things that felt kind of out of place to me. One was this stranger’s dress. As I said, it was cold, especially for Florida. At the concert, which was attended primarily by gay guys, there were a variety of approaches to dealing with the temperature: some, like me, chose to ignore it; others wore fancy fur lined coats. There were plenty of options in-between but almost all were at least somewhat stylish. This guy was different — his dress was much more … utilitarian. He was dressed for the weather and definitely looked like he belonged in the park on a chilly night much more than most of the World AIDS Day celebrators.

The other thing that set this guy apart was the fact that nearly everyone who was there for World AIDS Day got a free glow-stick and was wearing it around his or her neck. When the concert was over we snapped them into a glowing state and were supposed to have a glow-stick-vigil walk around the lake. I can’t say as I actually made it around the lake (I was looking for my friend and it took a while to find him), but the red glow sticks let you know who was who. This guy didn’t have one. Now, that’s not to say that either me or my friend are generally unfriendly, even to those who miss a great World AIDS Day event, but to us he just seemed like an outsider.

So there he was, walking up to us, looking at my friend and as soon as he entered our vicinity said, “Hello there young man.” Seriously.

The thing about it is, my friend is comfortably middle aged. He’s a tall guy, probably over six feet two inches, if I had to guess. He’s been paying more attention to his health and diet lately but I think it’s fair to say he’s an IT guy who works at a desk. The other thing I didn’t really notice about him until that night is that he has a few noticeably gray hairs on his head. My friend is active and not afraid to take on a kayak trip on the St. John’s river as Saturday’s thing-to-do, but it’s probably been a while since someone who wasn’t hitting on him called him “young man.” The look my friend gave him was priceless. With the right director and vision, it really could have been a Visa commercial.

This was, obviously, when things started to go downhill. My friend is not always the most socially outgoing person. He certainly tries hard, but I don’t think he’d embarrassed for me to tell that sometimes his efforts backfire. Our “new friend” certainly didn’t feel the love, and after only four words, the tone of the conversation quickly changed. The stranger immediately picked up on “the look” and wasn’t too shy to share his feelings about it. He said something like, “why are you gonna look at me like that,” to which my friend calmly replied, “I’m just wondering what it is you want.”

At this point, I was actually feeling proud of my friend. I know other people who might let a similar situation escalate, but he was calm and collected and to-the-point. I was wondering what this guy wanted too, but at that point it was a mano e mano affair. The stranger was quick to tell my friend how he was insulted by “the look” and after a relatively brief tirade decided he didn’t have to tolerate a look like that and walked away, muttering to himself.

My friend had to go back to volunteering for the event so we hugged good-bye. Me, I had to go in the direction of the upset stranger so I waited until a few folks (who had glow sticks on) were also headed in that direction and made very pleasant conversation with them until he was out of sight.

Add comment Humanity 12/02/2008 at 14:01 ET

My Superman

My mom is in town for Thanksgiving (as well as my sister and her boyfriend.) When she comes to Florida we always try to make some time to get together with some old family friends, Helene & Charlie. If I remember the story right, Helene and mom were old buddies in college and they’ve stayed in reasonably close touch ever since. Helene and Charlie live near Ft. Lauderdale (kind of) so we try to meet in Vero Beach, which is approximately halfway in between. We also took my grandmother, who knows Helene and Charlie and has been part of this new tradition in the past :)

Yesterday, for no apparent reason, I mentioned Five for Fighting. My sister’s boyfriend, Kevin picked-up on it somehow and mentioned the song “Superman.” It was important enough in our conversation that I went into my room to make my computer play the song for us. Today something strange and wonderful happened — I was reminded of what Superman used to mean to me before 2000.

Back when I was a kid, and I have no idea how this started, someone told me, my brother, and my sister, that Charlie was really Superman. It went so far that one time I remember going to see the “new” Superman movie with Helene & Charlie once and talking to Charlie about “his” movie. It was crazy — when we went to New Jersey to visit them mom used to say “we’re going to go visit Superman.”

Superman and His Wife

Today in our walk, I was reminded of this once again, and the words of the Five for Fighting song came into my head from the night before. I was also remembering that it wasn’t so much the thought that Charlie really was Superman, I was probably too old for that. Instead it was more about liking the idea that he had a great secret and we (the kids) were included in it. I think we really liked that feeling. He may have been only a man, but he’s always been a super friend to my mom and her kids (as has his awesome wife!)

I can’t stand to fly, I’m not that naive
I’m just out to find the better part of me
I’m more than a bird, I’m more than a plane
I’m more than some pretty face beside a train
And it’s not easy to be me

I wish that I could cry, fall upon my knees
Find a way to lie about a home I’ll never see
It may sound absurd, but don’t be naive
Even heroes have the right to bleed
I may be disturbed but won’t you concede
Even heroes have the right to dream
It’s not easy to be me

Up, up and away, away from me
Well it’s alright
You can all sleep sound tonight
I’m not crazy or anything

I can’t stand to fly, I’m not that naive
Men weren’t meant to ride with clouds between their knees
I’m only a man in a silly red sheet
Digging for kryptonite on this one way street
Only a man in a funny red sheet
Looking for special things inside of me
And it’s not easy to be me.

Five for Fighting
America Town
©2000 Sony

Add comment My Life 11/29/2008 at 02:13 ET

Jogging with Mike

Wow. I had about the coolest jog today, ’cause my roommate and best friend, Mike, came with me. He’s been in “the Iraq” for four months and just came home yesterday. I always wondered if jogging with a buddy would be difficult, especially ’cause I didn’t know if anyone would want to do my intervals with me…. We did 1.4 miles, 2-1, and made 15:55.

Add comment Exercise Journal 05/20/2008 at 07:01 ET

Seven Days

Forgive me, it’s been seven days since my last exercise…

Actually, I changed the name from “Jogging Journal” to “Exercise Journal” because I was going to write in all the different exercise-related things I was doing. Even when it’s just walking around Animal Kingdom with my grandmother. Yet, alas, I haven’t been doing that. It’s not actually that I haven’t done any exercise, but I haven’t gotten up or come home from work, put on my jogging shorts, and started my interval timer…

Today I did 1.6 miles (I decided to up it, even though it was hard) and did my 2-1 intervals in 15:55, which isn’t horrible, really. The other day I saw a commercial for New Balance that kind of summed-up my jogging “program.” Their new campaign is love/hate. The commercial is all about each time you set out to go jogging you have this love/hate feeling about it. I’m totally there. The beginning is mostly hate, the end is mostly love. Do you think the ends justify the means?

Add comment Exercise Journal 05/18/2008 at 09:41 ET

Flashback to College

So yesterday Andrea called me and left me a message about going to the Daily Grind. This seems like an innocuous phone call, except the Daily Grind is the coffee house from college. I haven’t been there since 2001 and, as far as I knew, it’s almost 900 miles away…

So she called me later in the day to go out that night and I went over to her house. When I got there she was still talking about the Daily Grind. Trying not to sound like a complete ass, “there’s another coffee house called the Daily Grind and it’s in Orlando,” I said. “No,” replied Andrea, “it’s the Daily Grind from college.”

After a little more dialog (which I won’t make more awkward by trying to write it down in a blog post) I finally found out that the guys who started my favorite coffee house in Winchester, VA, had turned their business into a franchise and there was, indeed, one in sunny Orlando.

I recommend everyone go there. The coffee I’ve been drinking for the past seven years is so acidic and bitter. The coffee I had last night was delicious. Check out www.dailygrindunwind.com for more info! Or, just stop by 807 N. Orange Ave., Orlando, FL.

Add comment My Life 04/27/2008 at 11:12 ET

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