Thursday, June 16, 2011

Choice or Circumstance

I am always glad to leave the city, but it's also bittersweet. Although last night was short, as is typical, a little of my last night is spent walking the streets, looking at the sights, watching the people and listening to the sounds of a city.

I'm not sure why I am so mesmerized by city life. At home, I enjoy going into the backyard, listening to the night and looking at the stars. In the city, there are no stars and very few sounds of nature. Sure, there are birds that fly around now and then, but it's mostly traffic and artificial light. Still, it has a beauty of it's own.

I think a part of it is the fact that I can get lost in the crowd. There's no one that knows you, your problems, your cares or your worries. It doesn't seem to matter if you're rich, but people certainly know if you are poor or homeless.

While walking early one morning, I made a phone call and, as is habit, wore my ear buds so I didn't have to hold the phone to my ear. To keep the ear bud cord from catching on anything, I snake it under my shirt and carry the phone in my pants pocket. As I was talking on the phone, I guess it looked like I was talking to my self and laughing occasionally. The looks and obvious avoidance was amazing.

In contrast, this morning, I was clean shaven and freshly clothed, carrying my shoulder bag. Although not on the phone, I was listening to some music, ear buds fashioned in the same manner as the day before. I had to pass through a movie set, which I had done several times this week. I was stopped twice and asked, somewhat excitedly, if I was a part of the movie crew.

Yesterday, people avoided me, today I was thought to be a somebody. The only difference being a plastic shopping bag versus a Coach shoulder bag and fresh travel clothes as opposed to old jeans and a shirt.

Arguably, what we are comes down to choice or circumstance. I met a girl, a security guard at the convention center, and we were talking. She was asking about the places I had been. As I described some of the cities on the west coast, mid-western and southern states as well as England, she said someday she'd like to go places, but for now, she couldn't. She explained that she was a single mother, that her child's father had been murdered and she needed her money to take care of her child. Her's was a circumstance, not a choice.

I met a very well traveled and intelligent man that worked as a bellman. He chose that line of work. He was a wonderful jazz pianist (we snuck onto the 17th floor and he played the baby grand for me). But it was his choice to work as a bellman and have the freedom to play his music rather than be tied to a job that didn't allow him that freedom.

It's a habit of mine to search out the real people of a city and engage them. I know I'm not perfect, I am sometimes too quick to judge and need to take a moment to ask myself, is it choice or circumstance. But then, what difference does it make, we are what we are. While talking to the security guard, I told her I had spent Sunday afternoon at a gay rally. She was surprised, but said "you really don't judge people, do you". I always try not to.

Just saying....

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