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August 27th, 2021

My Safe Space

Yesterday I joined up with some co-workers for an after hours get-together at a local place I hadn’t been too, largely because it’s a nitch brewery and I am not a beer person. In fact, every time I see one of those online things that asks, “What is something everyone loves that you can’t stand?” the first thing that pops to my mind is beer. But this place was easy to get to from Casa del Garrett and I was curious if they served food and snacks too (which they do…pizza mostly) and so I went. Luckily, they also served some very nice non-alcoholic boutique soda.

It went well until as often happens with this particular group of co-workers, mostly youngsters compared to approaching my 70s me, they began to ignore me whenever I attempted to contribute to the conversation. Not subtilly either. So I got up and left. This let’s just ignore weird old aging hippy Bruce effect from these particular co workers is a Big contributing reason why I’m retiring from Space Telescope at the end of this year.

But it happens in other context too, and for years I’ve just let it happen and blamed myself for being, at least in person, a boring old fart. But this time I looked at what was happening critically. They were drinking, and I was not, and what I saw was an older man, politely trying to hold up his end of the conversation, listening to what the others were saying (they all had interesting things to say, interesting perspectives coming from mostly younger folks some of which were new to living in Baltimore), and waiting my turn before speaking up. And what was happening is that one person in particular would just jump right in and start talking over me, and the rest would follow. 

I allowed this sort of thing to happen for ages…I’ve never been very socially confident to begin with. When you’re raised by two Baptist ladies, one of which hates your guts because you have your father’s face, you don’t enter adult life equipped with a whole lot in the way of social skills. Coming of age during a period when gay teenagers had to hide for their own safety added another layer to that. So whenever I get talked over, I usually just shut up.

One nice effect of growing old and finally admitting it is that you stop caring about a lot of things you used to. It becomes easier to shed baggage the closer you get to the end of the road. You finally start to see that you just don’t need to keep hanging around places don’t respect you. This time, I just got up and left. But I left with a dark cloud hanging over me.

Luckily, I’ve planned a quick trip with my cameras to somewhere else for the weekend. I’ll be boarding the train to Richmond soon, taking the F1N and the Leica and some film and a few filters. I’ve made reservations at the place near the old train station, where I was hanging out with my cameras last weekend, and discovered a fantastic restaurant/bar/cigar bar called Havana59. The entire area gave my cameras something to love and I expect having more time to explore it will do the same.

I’ll be alone with my camera. Somewhere I can be alone with my feelings, and I can hear myself thinking, and explore the world I see with my cameras, and get my feelings out of me, and I am not being silenced.

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