Friday, August 19, 2005     « I don't know how to title this one, yet »

chairs and table

I'm feeling like a human again. Well, at the very least I can socialize again without feeling like an alien.

I had a very odd experience with a stranger in the park on bocce night. A man who had been sitting on the bench for the last two weeks called me over and asked me to take his photo. I sat and talked to him for approximately two hours while he told me about his life. Now, it's impossible to know if a stranger is spinning you a tale full of lies or a hard truth. I don't know and I told him as much. I told him that I don't like to be lied to but that there is no way for me to know one way or the other so I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and take his words as sincere and honest. It was an odd experience and left me feeling restless and unable to sleep that night.

This man broke down, cried, and revealed a lot of suffering and personal details to me with no prompting. Even he couldn't figure out why he felt compelled to tell me what he did. I think we humans are very keenly aware of each other on levels that go well beyond speech. It seems that we always seem to know something about each other from the moment we meet. This can sometimes lead us in good directions or lead us down a path to repeat the same mistakes over and over again.

I felt a healthy sense of scheptisism with this guy, but also couldn't shake a strong sense of empathy for him. I recently discovered that I am very repelled by the smell of the combo of beer and cigarettes (especially when it's a male of a certain age i.e 50+ Okay I had to come back and change this because it is misleading and inaccurate. Basically I just mean a man who reminds me of my stepfather. He only made it to age 49 and I haven't seen him for about 10-15 years so defining this by age is dumb. Holy shit I just realized he was only a few years older than I am now last time I saw him! Man, he just seemed so much older. I really mean men who remind me of him, but overall the smell bothers me regardless. It's just that when it comes from a certain type of man I am immediately and strongly repulsed in a I've-got-to-get-out-of-here-now-kind-of-way. The lack of compassion and empathy I tend to feel for that person makes me feel like a right asshole but I know where it's coming from. In a round-about way I am saying that it is hard for me to be in the presence of alcoholics and specifically men who remind me of my alcoholic stepfather and smell like beer and cigarettes. I didn't intend to get this specific or reveal this much but felt uncomfortable with the generalization. The end.). And yet I sat next to this man for almost two hours while he drank Labatt's Blue (the worse offender for me) and smoked DuMaurier cigarettes (would have been worse if it had been Player's Light), and told me about himself. (For the record I did ask him if he was an alcoholic which he denied but.... and I just reminded him that if he feels confused about his life now the drink is not going to provide any more clarity.)

Anyways it was a very strange event in my life. I have been thinking a lot for at least a month now about the blurriness of truth. It seems that people can convince themselves of any sort of truth no matter how great the lie. This makes me wonder how I can really, absolutely recognize the truth, especially when it goes beyond my own experiences and I can't rely on my perspective.

It has also made me think about the camera again and the way people respond to it. Some people freak out even when the camera is nowhere near them and couldn't possibly be capturing their image, and yet many times I have been asked by people -- most especially vulnerable people -- to take their picture (I don't post them). I'm thinking that sometimes the camera can take something away from us and sometimes it can give us something too. Having a camera turned on us can make us feel special and important. Sometimes we just want to be seen, and sometimes we want to see ourselves or have evidence of ourselves as we are at that time.

If I see him next week I think I'll ask him. I told him when we'd be at the park next and that I'd bring him prints. I wonder if he'll show up. I hope the pictures don't suck -- I only had the Holga on me.

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