April 2009


Last week I started a new job as full-time staff of the university I attended as an undergraduate. Here are the really surreal experiences I’ve found on going back ten years – almost to the day! – since my eventual graduation from that institution:

  • My old email address still exists and is still assigned to me. It was ready for me on Day One.
  • My old personal ID number, from my old student ID? Still assigned to me. It’s now my staff ID number.
  • My office is half a block from my freshman dorm. If you want full-circle, I’ve got full-circle.
  • When I went to get my staff ID made, in the same office where students go for their student IDs, they still had my old student ID photo on file. The kid behind the counter asked me if I wanted to use it for my staff ID. My response was, “Well, I’d love to, but won’t everyone wonder why I wore a wig to have my staff ID photo taken?”

It’s so strange. It’s also very, very comfortable. I love the job and I really like my co-workers and my manager. I love the work I’ve done so far, and I have tried to dive in with both feet. I am in love with the variety of work and the cooperative atmosphere on my team. This is how the technology-related organizations were not when I was a student. I am really, really glad I made this move. Still, it’s weird. It’s weird to feel a sense of ownership over a place where hardly anyone has heard of you before. It’s weird to return to a place after a decade has passed and find out that all the identifying details that you thought had been put to rest were just waiting for your return.

In my fraternity we have a saying that no one really leaves town so much as they enter a highly eccentric orbit. So true. So very true.

So, Vermont. Wow. Honestly, I’m surprised a state legislature made it happen this quickly. I had figured it would be several years. It was a squeaker, and it’s in the state that’s had some form of legal recognition for by far the longest, but wow. I am so very pleasantly surprised.

On the other hand, there’s this, currently running in Iowa:

Yeah. With our evil gay weather-control machines we have blocked a Massachusetts’ mother’s right to tell her kid she believes differently. Where the hell were these gay-friendly schools when I was a kid? Jeez!

The one that really chaps me, though, is the doctor. Here’s the thing: if you don’t want to work with the public, don’t put yourself in a position where you invite the public to come to your work and ask for your services. The same thing pisses me off about anti-birth-control pharmacists. If you don’t want to fill prescriptions, don’t go to fucking pharmacy school. How hard is that? What next, a Mormon bartender who’s really annoyed at all the alcohol he has to serve?

In my current position I have to do a lot of things I don’t like. I have to block people’s access to queer-related websites, as a matter of fact, when the client asks for it. Does it make me feel great? No. But you know what? It’s not my firewall, my network, my user or my business. I find workplace internet censorship filtering an offensive and condescending concept in general, to be honest, but it’s what pays the bills. I used to have a real problem with the idea of file-sharing on which I’ve since mellowed a great deal, even though I don’t participate in it myself (I do cling to the belief that if I like a work of art and entertainment that I should reward the artist/entertainer) but in my new job I’m probably going to be busting people for it. Oh well! If I weren’t willing to do the job asked of me, why show up? That’s part of why I left Ma Bell when I did and part of why I’m leaving This Company now. Showing up for work is, itself, a compromise for most of us; if it weren’t, they wouldn’t have to pay us to be there.

Well, whatever. It’s a losing battle they’re fighting and they know it. They are watching society welcome and assimilate yet another class of persons they found useful as targets for their bullying. I have to wonder where they’ll go next. What minority can they find to blame for everything? My guess is the immigrant community. Lou Dobbs is already over there swinging his bat and the moneycons won’t balk as long as the immigrants they target are poor and can’t read the sale papers. It must be hard, though, to be a conservative these days. It must be hard to have so much poison and hate pent up inside and to have fewer and fewer targets on whom to vent it. It must be hard to get up in the morning thinking storm clouds have to gather for the sun to shine on anyone else.

So, we’re at the Cherry Blossom Festival in DC, feet worn down to tiny nubs by now from all the walking. Today was the Japanese Street Festival part of the celebration of the peak blooming period for the cherry trees that populate vast swaths of downtown DC. I went ahead of The Boyf, who caught up with me later, and while walking around on my own I noticed some people dressed pretty elaborately as various characters. Aha, I thought, Of course there are cosplayers here.

There were some really amazing ones, some of whom I managed to photograph, but the most interesting was this one guy whose character I in no way recognized but he had big, white hair and a fedora. Physically, he strongly resembled my friend and fraternity brother Donald B.: tall, thin, strikingly handsome. He was of that general physical type, anyway. White Haired Guy and several other cosplayers had kind of set up shop with a “Have Your Picture Taken with a Cosplayer” sign, and a band of late-teens young women had set up camp around them. The young women would stand and watch people get their pictures taken and then, whenever any of the cosplayers in any way changed their pose or struck a particularly character-specific pose, these young women would squeal as with one voice and clap with excitement. It was very charming, actually, and my heart went out to them.

Then some other guy, with big red hair and of the same general morphology as, for instance, my friend and fraternity brother Damien (average height, athletic build, boyish good looks), happened to walk by at that time. Their characters seemed to have something to do with one another, as the two guys looked at one another with surprise and shouted something at one another and the chorus of young women took up sustained squeals of surprise, fingertips pressed to their lips as though to hold back some measure of their glee.

The White-Haired Guy ran over to The Red-Haired Guy, and they hugged, and the chorus of young women all squealed. Then Red Hair and White Hair pulled apart just a bit as though to go their separate ways but after a moment Red Hair threw his arms around White Hair’s shoulders, hoisted himself aloft and wrapped his legs around White Hair’s waist. White Hair made what I can best describe as a cry of pleasure and proceeded to hump the living hell out of Red Hair, right there, right in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue.

The chorus went wild. They shifted directly from squeals to screams. They were turning to one another in pleasant shock and screaming at one another, then turning back to the extremely… vigorous display of dry-humping – both Red Hair and White Hair were really getting into it, I have to say – and then they’d scream some more.

I was so surprised I didn’t manage to get a single picture of them in action.

That isn’t my point, though. My point is that for thirty seconds I was in the middle of a crowd of thousands on Pennsylvania Avenue and at the same time I was trapped in a small space with what appeared to be the gay softcore anime equivalent to The Beatles and half a dozen of their biggest fans and it was fascinating.