Monday, November 06, 2006

Old Gay River

Had a lovely outing this past Saturday. We took a cruise up the Hudson River set up by the Friends of Hudson River Park. The themes were Fall foliage and seeing the present and developing status of the park from the water, but for Mrs. Nator and I it was more of a grand day out. Personally, there’s very little I enjoy more than perching myself at the front of a boat and letting the wind and water spray slap me as I’m enjoying lovely scenery go by. This trip may not have included dolphins, whales, volcanoes or tropical beaches, but the sight of New York City from the water is something to behold, and the cliffs and trees up towards the palisades are gorgeous.

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…


Heather said...

Glad to hear that your leaf peeping boat tour was lovely and the weather cooperated! (Surprising comment encounter with the oldster and spotting the coworker notwithstanding...)

Your mom and her medical staff will be in my thoughts and prayers tomorrow. Keep us posted on how things go!

*big, squeezy hugs* (as the kiddo likes to say - and do!)

claire said...

Ah! you got to see Libby. Sounds like a nice day. Beautiful pictures; i would love to do one of these during the day.
It is scary what other people might be thinking, but NY is not exactly a close-minded city. I wouldn't have thought to 'be brave', either.

Qenny said...

It's sad that some people are still afraid to show affection in public. Makes me wonder how far we really have come. And that story in The Advocate ... sheesh!

First Nations said...

that sounds so nice, and looks so nice, we have rain. rain is not kind to pretty leaves. we have pavement leaves. crap.
the older gays have been through some shit, for sure. my fil spent his whole life ducking and weaving and the poor bastard still has to be careful in the senior home. being rural and gay in the 40's....that took guts.

BEAST said...

Nice Pics , glad you had a good outing , and good luck with Ma Nators opp :-)

SAGE, Queens said...

I was along on that trip as a member of sage WEall enjoyed the trip but I ewould like to object to the age prejusice implied in ur blog. Sahe Gueens welcomes people from 50 up. Very few of us think of our selves as eldery or old . the age range of popele there was from 53 to 68 Most of us sre very active and involves in political and gay organizatios.Dont pigeon hole us

Da Nator said...

Hi, "sage, queens". I'm sorry if you felt I was being prejudiced. I was not entirely aware of the rules of SAGE (that they welcome people 50 up). I did see some people who looked like they could be in their 50s and 60s, but many of the people around me looked to be older. Maybe I just don't distinguish actual age by appearance very well (my mother is 67, but looks to be in her 50s and has the energy of someone much younger... of course, that doesn't stop me worrying about her as she approached 70).

Anyway, I didn't say everybody was elderly - I characterized the woman who spoke to us as older, which she was - quite a bit older than us. There were definitely a number of people on board who could be considered elderly, whether they think of themselves as such or not, but they may not all have been SAGE members, nor did I see the majority of SAGE members on the trip. I'm sorry if you took the one word "elderly" in my post and thought I meant everyone in SAGE, but I wasn't going to describe every single person on the boat and surmise if they were in SAGE or not. After all, SAGE begins with "Senior," not "Middle-aged and Up".

That said, if you took the time to read my post, you'd find it contained respect and sympathy for older gay people who've been through a lot.

I didn't mean to misrepresent your group. Now stop being so crabby, or you will just be encouraging stereotypes about seniors!