Saturday, April 11, 2009
Maybe I was once a gay man in his 50s...
OK, this cupcake thing is starting to border on obsession. Oh, who am I kidding? I crossed that border a looong time ago. Am thinking of seeking professional help.
Alrighty, onto other matters. So, one of the love/hate aspects of being a reporter is when you get one of those "person on the street" assignments. From time to time, I am asked to go out to whatever location with foot traffic and interview people about a subject. The last six months, it's been the economy of course. A couple days ago, I had to go out and literally play 20 questions with willing participants for a story gauging "America's mood" and whether they felt the economy was turning.
The American mood: Is the angst bottoming out?
A lot of times, I have to drag my feet to do these things because it's almost as bad as being a door-to-door salesman. You may get declined by five people before you finally get someone to cooperate. And then that person gives you crappy, terse answers. Lucky for me, this time that didn't happen. Instead of my usual Starbucks, I went to this Phoenix coffeehouse called Hob Nobs. The first guy I approached was amiable and articulate, a retired teacher with a part-time job at an art supply store. After that, I didn't think I'd come upon someone just as willing. Then this man and woman, co-workers, moved around me to get to a table. The gentleman said "well, maybe she wants to sit there." And I said "No, I'm just a reporter looking for people to talk to. The guy, Scott, said "Can you get us some stimulus money?" I said "No, but I can give you an opportunity to bitch about it."
Turns out Scott and his colleague, Kathleen, just heard some funding they thought was secure for a homeless shelter they help as strategic consultants wasn't going to happen. So, they were feeling a bit down. You know, sometimes when I meet people, I just never know where the conversation will go. It could be weird or nothing more than exchanging pleasantries. Somehow, even after the interview was over, Scott and I seemed to hit it off. Before you go oohing and wondering if I should go after him, let me describe him: gay 57-year-old Democrat. He studied British literature in college just like I did. We talked about that. I said I studied William Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge; I even took a two-week seminar in Wordsworth's old haunt. He immediately said "Oh, the Lake District?! Isn't it beautiful? Couldn't you see old Willy and his sister walking to Samuel's?" He studied at University of Texas and at Cambridge. Scott told a funny story about how he studied Virginia Woolf and his father, who had never finished high school, thought for years he was studying the wolf. As a "Superman" geek, I think I was won over by his business card. His firm is called Strategic Change Management. And the logo is a little phone booth with only Superman's legs and part of his cape above it, as though Supes just took flight.
He is a foodie too. He asked me what are the last books I read. I said "Audacity of Hope" and "Julie & Julia." When I explained how "J&J" was about a woman blogging her experiences cooking like Julia Child, his eyes lit up. Then we had a really hilarious exchange. It started when I said:
"Did you know it's being made into a movie? Meryl Streep will play Julia Child in flashbacks and Amy Adams is playing the author."
"No, THE author!"
"Oh...good. I thought why are they bringing back Maude?"
"But I did see Bea Arthur once on Broadway in her one-woman show," I said. "The audience was mainly fans of 'Golden Girls' and gay men."
"Sounds about right. My friend said Bea Arthur was the tallest drag queen he ever saw. I'm sorry Bea! Wherever you are," said Scott, looking up at the ceiling and around him.
"She's not dead you know."
"I know, but I just wanted to put that out into the universe."
I got his business card with promise to keep in touch. It all makes me wonder...does some part of me house a gay 50-something man?
Overall, one of the more interesting experiences I've had "out on the street." Guess that's what keeps me going along with these assignments.