Thursday, January 11, 2007

life among the faeries....

I live in the heart of South Beach. I usually triangulate it for people by clarifying that "I'm close enough to News Cafe and Ocean Drive and the Clevelander and Lincoln Road that I can walk to all those things, but far enough away that I don't get the noise at night." While many people have the same general understanding of the residents of South Beach (the clubs and bars are mostly populated by tourists and people from other parts of town), I only recall one friend ever actually posing the question.

"Aren't there a lot of, you know, GAYS around there?"

Well, yes... actually there are.

The next question --- while presumably just the continuation of the person's thought, is what intrigued me...

"Doesn't that bother you?"


Now, I don't claim to be among the most enlightened, all-forgiving love all groups sort of Kumbaya-er. But I do try to favor pragmatism in my opinions whenever possible. So I recall my response having been a probably less eloquent version of:

"Well, what's supposed to bother me? The ones around me are very friendly and concerned about the safety of the neighborhood and their property value. They landscape in their spare time, they don't throw wild parties, they make damn good money... should I care what they're doing in their own places? What's the big negative... oh no, they have small dogs!!"

I consider myself fairly lucky to have the opportunity to have grown up in South Florida, and to be able to live here now. And that's not just because of the fact that at 12:30 in the morning I'm sitting on my front stoop in January under a palm tree and it's about 58 degrees with a soft breeze blowing. I think there was a certain point growing up when I actually had to realize that it wasn't everybody's normal experience to have on any given day a medianoche and empanadas for lunch and matzoh ball soup, knishes, and latkes for dinner. Fact is in the right environment you can appreciate diversity for the selfish reasons of what it can offer you without really having it forced upon you.

Growing up? Again, not necessarily the bastion of "all men are created equal", but perhaps more of a leaning towards a libertarian, laissez faire approach. If someone doesn't bother you then, well, why should they bother you? Not much accomplished except waste of energy by being mad at someone just for being. If they're not infringing upon you in any way shape or form, there's certainly enough other things that DO affect you AND are in your control to focus on. I'm not expressing that as well as I should because it sounds more like "tolerance through laziness" then any sort of acceptance, but anyway there it is.

My friends and I have gotten to the point where we joke about it. I'll play straight man (another poor choice of words) by tossing them an underhand pitch like chatting about how now, by virtue of "scrapbooking", I have a coffee table book where I've mounted all my ticket stubs from sporting events and concerts and such for display. This gets the intended result of them teasing me lightly for living "among them" for too long!

Someone else asked me once, if I could live anywhere, where would it be... another interesting question if given some thought... the truth of the situation is I CAN live anywhere... I've got no restrictions as such, I've had the opportunity to travel all over to see some of my options, and I work in a field where I could probably find a job in nearly any civilized, English-speaking town. And I find myself here of my own free will, with no real wanderlust save the occasional weekend trip for a football game. Here among the soft breeze, the stone crab claws, the ocean views, and the faeries....

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