Spanning the world...
Fortunately, we had a perfect day for it – crisp and sunny. Well, perhaps a bit too crisp, as it got downright cold lingering at the bow of the boat too long. Not that I let that deter me, shivering through it even when Mrs. Nator went inside to warm up and eat potato chips. Firstly, there was the call of Art to fulfill, i.e. I wanted to take some pictures, as is my wont. Secondly, I wasn’t going to miss out on getting a a bit of outside air and having the rare opportunity to see the sights from the river. It was like having a vacation while never leaving the city, and I’m not one to spend my entire vacation indoors with a lot of people eating a buffet, if I can help it.
Interesting crowd, at that. It seems a couple organizations had gotten together groups for the trip. I’m not sure what the second one was, but the first was SAGE/Queens. SAGE stands for Senior Action in a Gay Environment, which is pushing it a bit in the acronym department for my taste, and Queens does not stand for men who are light in the loafers, as you might expect, but the borough of Queens, where this particular chapter of the group makes its home. In other words, besides the general, pleasant diversity of my fellow tourists, which included people of many ages and colours, there was a large contingent of elderly gay people on the boat, which made the crowd more fun to observe, and friendlier in general, from my viewpoint.
We did chat a bit with some folks – about the scenery, this & that, but being somewhat antisocial New Yorkers, we tended to end conversations awkwardly. One unsettling exchange happened when Mrs. Nator and I were sitting inside on the way home, she semi-reclined against me with her head on my chest and my arm around her. One older woman, clearly from SAGE, approached, smiled at us and said “you two are very brave!” I must have given her a confused look, because she repeated “you must be brave, to sit like that.” I think I just made a bit of a face in return, as I wasn’t sure what to say. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand what she was saying, it was just that I didn’t feel brave. Mrs. Nator & I live in a very liberal neighbourhood in a very liberal city. Most of our friends are queer or very queer-friendly. We knew not only that the boat was filled with gay people, but I’m sure we’d made the sort half-conscious assessment of the crowd on boarding and labeled it safe for some PDA. So, to have that called brave seemed not only odd, but both somewhat enervating and sad.
The truth is, it reminded us both of what dangers might face us and what discriminatory and threatening experiences that woman and the other SAGE members have been through in their lives. I, personally, have been aware and careful at times regarding my level of outward queer appearance any number of times in my life, mainly because I grew up in an environment where I was often an outsider and perceived target, even though when I was young it was due to my race, rather than being gay. Having developed a certain amount of cautious paranoia early in life, I have always had a self-protective eye out for any sort of aggression towards me from other, be it due to race, gender, sexuality or any other facet of my appearance. That said, even though I've also taken pains at times to be as "out" as possible, even in less-than-wecoming situations, I’ve never been gay bashed. The worst I’ve suffered has been some name calling and a bottle thrown from a distance, and I generally feel pretty comfortable in the areas of NYC that I frequent. The older woman’s comment reminded me of how precarious that comfort can actually be.
Mrs. Nator, being several years younger and having reached a height over six feet by age eleven, never has had much real fear of physical assault. She hasn’t experienced much in the way of discrimination, and pretty much refuses to brook it when she does. For her, the woman’s comment was not just sad, but a little shocking. She suddenly realized that there were people who would not just be offended by our touching, but physically hostile. Even though when she’d given me a kiss earlier I’d joked about the crew threatening to “divert this ship”, à la the recent American Airlines incident, she didn’t really get it. Now, faced with this woman’s assumptions, she understood that the other gay people on the boat were not just happy and open, but had been through more pain and fear through discrimination than we ever would.
Neither of us felt brave. We barely felt defiant. We just felt lucky. And we are.
The rest of the trip was delightful (despite the unfortunate appearance of a co-worker on the boat). The foliage was pretty, even if we’re not having a the best season for it, the scenery breathtaking, even if the current dissuaded us from going as far up the river as we’d hoped, and it was good to be out and about. Afterward, we did a bit of shopping (for fun things, not necessities) and had a delicious and romantic dinner. All that fresh air and roaming tuckered me out, as I spent much of the next day sleeping, but it was worth it. If you ever get a chance to go on one of these outings, I recommend it.
Doesn't look like The Bronx, does it?
Now the work week’s begun, and I’m busy getting many things done before I go down to New Jersey to assist Ma Nator. My mother is having a surgical procedure done tomorrow, and I’ll be there to drive her home and help her out for the next couple days as she recuperates. The operation is supposed to be fairly straightforward and low-risk, but, this being my mother, of course I’m a bit nervous. Of course, I’ll try not to show it, as I know she’s nervous, too. It’s far less threatening and complicated than the spinal fusion I had last year, and yet I’m more jittery this than I was about my own painful procedure. I guess when it’s your mom being anaesthetized and sawed on, some rational perspective just goes out the window, no matter what.
Wish us luck kiddies, and have a lovely few days…