Saturday, August 16, 2008

Smells like Jesus

I published a post earlier this evening about a conversation I overhead in my hostess' living room. Soon after, I deleted it. I decided it was unfair--not the way I wrote it, but the fact that I wrote it at all. She should be able to say whatever she wants in her own home without her house-guest broadcasting it to the internet. Even if it's one of the worst things I've ever heard.

I was talking to my dad and then later to Graci today. I told them both the same thing when they asked how I was doing here. I said, "Well, the program is phenomenal. I'm not sure I'd get a better education anywhere. The place, though...I'm, uh, not so sure about it." I said, "You know, there are no gay people here. It's a city of 200,000 people, and there are no gays. I can't help but wonder what they did with their gay people."

You would think that maybe that wouldn't matter to me because I'm not actually gay. But, well...when I was in New York the day after the World Trade Center fell, a firefighter sitting next to me looked around and simply said, "No birds." At first I thought maybe he meant to imply that they'd all burned up or something. But, he explained, "It's a sign that the air quality is really poor. No birds. It means it's not safe to breathe here."

I told Graci and my dad, "There are no gay people, and I think it's a sign. It's not safe to live here." (Please forgive me if the analogy is one of the worst things you've ever heard.)

Tonight, as my hostess and the friend she was talking with in the living room tonight headed out for dinner, I went off in search of a coffee shop. I ended up in the art district. I didn't even know this city had an art district. I walked into a pottery shop and bought several pieces by Sarah McCarthy.

The street was closed for a music festival. No, wait, that makes it sound like I walked into Lilith Fair. The street was closed for a bluegrass/country/80's cover band. A small crowd was gathered, and a couple guys in cowboy hats danced with women (here they're called ladies) in front of the band's little stage. I crossed the street from the pottery store to a shop with scarves and hand-made jewelry in the window.

Inside, I picked up a copper bracelet and a bar of soap made with frankincense and myrrh. Because there's nothing quite like that new baby Jesus smell. The woman at the register had an Obama button on her peasant dress. I said, "Well, it looks like I've found the town's liberals."

She laughed and said, "That's right, baby. We're all right here on these four blocks--the art district."

I said, "Well, I have to say, I'm more than a little relieved to have found these four blocks."

And then, even without the gay bird analogy (I spared her), she said, "Yes, you're safe here. The rest of the town, there's always someone watching, looking at you, listening... But here, you can speak your mind, be yourself. You can be a participant. It's safe here."

I called Graci to tell her I found the birds.


Christine said...

Beautiful analogy. I think that's why Deep Elum in Dallas was considered the "gay hub" of Texas for so long. That's where all homosexuals moved to ... to find their safe place.

Granted, I live in rural Oklahoma - town of 7500 - and I know a lesbian couple! Go figure.

another said...

Drop me a line, won't you?

Terroni said...

another, your profile is private. you'll have to leave your blog address if you want me to comment.

MmeBenaut said...

I wonder which pieces of pottery you chose and I love that you bought something reminiscent of the smell of Baby Jesus. (Weird that the "scent" is part of that word).
I'm glad you found your place with the birds sweetheart, if that is what you need to make you feel safe. They'll watch your back (as Maria would say).
Beautiful writing little one.

Terroni said...

Madame, if I get some time later, I'll take a picture of the pottery.

Terroni said...

Christine, in truth, of course, there are gay people everywhere. I was just a bit alarmed by that fact that I could run errands all morning on a Saturday without ever seeing a same sex couple with a kid or two.

Anonymous said...

Your the straight girl that I would always fall in love with; but you'd be fine with it and still be my friend.

deboo said...

re: deleted post - I understand. I did see it, and I totally understand why you posted it, and why you deleted.

But. I am glad I was able to read it. Toxic living room conversation - I'm sure it won't be the last time that you witness such attitudes, here or elsewhere. In a way, folks like that suck the light away from themselves. Obviously the light shown elsewhere - since you found the "art district." Good for you, T.

dive said...

Scary, T.
I'm so glad you've found a safe haven.
Having spent yesterday at our local Festival of Cultures, laughing, hugging and chatting happily with people of all colour, sexuality, ability, religion, it struck me that the only nation not represented was the USA.
Then, reading a review of Noam Chomsky's latest book in today's paper the reviewer pointed out that Chomsky's views, which in the rest of the world are regarded as perfectly normal, "pointing out the obvious" stuff, are regarded in the US as extreme left-wing rants.
America scares the shit out of me. Even your liberals would be regarded as right of centre over here.
Sigh …

another said...

Sorry! Write me at anotherbird2 (at) gmail dot you know the rest. :)

Terroni said...

Anonymous, what an amazing complement--thank you.

Deb, honestly, I'm glad you saw it and that you understand.

Dive, my history's a little shaky, but if I remember correctly, we came over here so we could be Puritans. Not much has changed in 200 years.

I'm sorry, Another, but I don't share my email with bloggers who I don't know. If you have a blog, I would be happy to meet you there. :)

Ellis said...

Oh I like this. The thought of a special area in the city where you can just be yourself sounds blissful.

And I thought it was a good analogy ;) It was very poignant.

another said...

Understood. Not meaning to be obtuse. As a long-time reader, I happened to recognize the small city you mention as the one I happen to live in. Meant only to make the offer to buy you a cup of coffee off the wide-world-internets.

Alissa said...

It's a great analogy, your post gave me the chills! I'm glad you found somewhere to feel safe while you're away.

Anonymous said...

Saw it and read it, too. I admire your restraint, but it's such an interesting issue.

Maria said... I am curious about Another...let us know what happens there, yes?

And, it sounds almost as if you are living in Nebraska....I have a friend who moved to New York years ago and when she comes to visit, she always asks me how in the hell I manage to live here...

Shan said...

Wow T! I just saw that you met some of your blog friends (over at Mme). How curious that must have been. I would love to meet this batch that knows each other at a family reunion style setting. That would be a kick and a half. One on one scares me to even think of it though. Heehee no one believes I'm shy in person.
Anyway....glad you are finding people that make you feel more comfy. I'm sorry conservatives scare you though. I can see your angle. I have grown up in such a conservative world and it makes me sad that my kind can be so intolerant in your eyes. I am one of those that wants to meet in the middle somewhere. Are there any purple states with artistic and accepting conservatives? That's what hubby and I are. Hope you are getting some rest and fitting in some exploration in each residency(?) as well. :)

neetzy said...


What a lovely, poignant post! I live in a very conservative area and I understand exactly what you mean. To most around here "family values" means anti-gay, and anti-abortion. Many voters, despite losing thier jobs during the Bush admin. will not vote for Obama because he is black and pro-choice. I am an artist and feel safe in the Art District. In my town it is only one block.

.j.william. said... Jesus smell.