An African Boy Named Bob

Racism, poverty, oppression, thou hast an enemy and thy name is BOB!

Trust in today’s shift from this blog’s primary focus on humor and travel to indulge in  unapologetic “heartwarming”.  Warm fuzzies guaranteed – stick around!  Travel is still involved though not my own, this lesson not involving fiascos or mischief but instead honor, example, & kindness. For all seeking menu alternatives to the cold & unappetizing chunks of distressing news and disheartening stories offered up by the servers at the shark frenzy buffet, I serve up this infinitely more appetizing & refreshing tale!  And it goes a lil’ somethin’ like this:

The first of the two “Bob’s” in our story is my father.  He passed away in 2004, a (young) senior, Caucasian man hailing from a small & un-heard of town in Indiana.  He left a beautiful wake positive marks, memories, & respect with all whom he crossed paths with.  He was a good father and a good man.  He made me and countless others laugh in eye rolling and, frequently, embarrassing ways and instilled in me an annoyed, frustrated, yet ultimately appreciated skill regarding mischievous, laughter filled, sarcasm & sparring.  His wardrobe choices bordered on tragic, his vibrant and passionate personality and melodic, deep, & talented singing voice never lost on those who encountered it.  A product of a poverty stricken upbringing, he was raised across the street from train tracks with his parents, a brother, and five sisters in a three bedroom, 1 bath household.  With purpose and determination, he embraced education, both personally & professionally, and became known as a standout in his mathematical career and, mostly privately and always humbly, as a man who strove to improve the lives of others through providing inspiration and opportunities otherwise unavailable.

Twenty some years ago my parents together realized a dream as they set off on an eagerly anticipated African safari.  During their trip my parents found themselves so deeply touched and impressed by their young, local, male, tour guide that my father took it upon himself to rally with their other, newly met, tour companions.  Without direct solicitation but merely through intentionally casual conversation relaying a dream, my father managed to gather significant funds from the other travelers in their group to help this young man begin his own safari/guide outfit in Africa, one that he had wistfully indicated was his dream.  Little did he know that this casual conversation with an American tourist would open a door to a new and better life of independence and financial freedom.

And now we move on to Bob #2.

Fast forward eight years after my father’s passing and 15+ years after the trip in reference, the “safari group” continued to remain in occassional touch, primarily over the holidays.  On this long after holiday season, I received a phone call from my mother to share the most amazing information she had just received from someone within the group.  The news was that a message had been received down the internet pipeline from this long-ago man with a dream, a resident of Tanzania, Africa.  The man now had a son…..and the son’s name is BOB.

Yes, there is an African boy in Tanzania named BOB, after my father.

We all hope to leave a legacy.  Some type of positive mark, memory, or difference in this world after we are gone and I cannot think of a better one.  I am filled with pride, joy, gratitude, and appreciation for being raised by a man with such heart, values, and kindness.  I am quite certain that when this son introduces himself in his native country that it is met with question and that the answer always involves my father in the most wonderful of ways.

A favorite quote of mine goes, “Kindness is the language that the deaf can hear and the blind can see.”.  Helen Keller said that, not Bob….but he could have.

DAD
Bob in his safari hat, ready for adventure!

 

 

 

A “Gay Concert”

TrueColors_EventPoster

I once received a memorable post-it note from a boss regarding a delicate situation, “Tact is for weenies” stamped on the pad.  Another quote relevant to this tale (a la’ Dragnet): “I just want the facts, ma’am.”  Sometimes silence is the best strategy as facts speak for themselves.

Rewind to 2008 and a concert tour that you may or may not recall, organized and headlined by the ever fabulous, eclectic, electric hue haired songbird otherwise known as Cyndi Lauper.  It was the “True Colors” tour, offering up a delectable feast for both the ears and the heart due to an amazing line up of artists and its accompanying cause regarding awareness & accomplishment towards gay rights and equality.

It is a curious yet undisputed, and often laughed about, fact amongst my friends that I have frequently been the disco nurse yielding a bedazzled stethoscope skilled at locating the heartbeat of entertainment options directed towards the gay community.  The reason that this stands out as unusual is that in my vast circle & community of gay friends I wear “The Cheese Stands Alone” title, a hetero adrift in a loving, rainbow colored sea.  And so it was at my discovery and suggestion that my best friend and I found ourselves at the True Colors concert.

As we pulled up to the stadium with a couple of other friends in tow, excitedly chattering as we exited the vehicle and made our way in, I made a random comment about it being “a gay concert”.

*****SCREEEEECCCHHHHHHH******  Hit the brakes!  I was in TROU-BLE (yes, all caps style)!

“A GAY concert?”, my best friend shouted back, abruptly coming to a halt mid-stride and glaring at me fiercely.  “What do you mean, a GAY concert?”.

Well…….  Ummm, wait. WHAT?  WHAT is happening?

All of the sudden my best friend, who was gay (only using past tense as he has since passed away, though I’m sure it doesn’t require a mathematics degree to reach that equation as relevant to his reaction.), was glaring at me with laser eyes shining bright with disapproval, indignation, and offense.

NEVER did we argue and certainly never did I mean or cause any offense in this or any other matters, regardless of nature.  As Michael Jackson told Paul McCartney (can you tell I’m a fan of quotes?), “I’m a lovah, not a fighter.”.

As I reeled myself in from the line of shock that had just been cast I began trying to explain the nature of the “True Colors” tour (of which he was completely unaware) but it was falling on purposefully deaf and defiant ears.  There was to be no explaining because there certainly was no listening as he hooked arms with our lesbian friend that was along and loudly said, “Come on, Barb – let’s go into the GAY CONCERT!” and began marching ahead of me, my new view of his back firmly in check.  As I continued to try to explain we entered the stadium together where we immediately encountered a small group of common friends.  Gay friends.  “Hi, hi!”, *hug* hug*.  “We’re so excited about the concert!  Great to see you – have fun!”, blah, blah, blah.

Just a few steps further and I get bum rushed from the side.  More hugs & “hiya’s” and exchanged enthusiasm regarding the shared evening laid before us.  “I just want the facts, ma’am.”.  Also gay.

As we took our place in the cattle line to grab cocktails & beer he continued to throw committed but diminishing shade and disgruntled “moos” in my direction. Next thing you know there’s a *tap*tap* on my shoulder.  Turn around and, Hellooooooo, gay friends!  Standing in line together, we awaited our turn to drink from the trough as the lasers blissfully continued to dim.

Our drink mission accomplished and in hand, we set off to locate our seats and embrace a great night of live music and camaraderie, though not before passing another cluster of friends on the way who yelled out and waved.

Oh my, you ARE quick.  GAY!
Gay, gay, gay, gay, GAY!

And so my friend completed his evolution from cow to sheep(ish) as he looked at me and said, “Okay, I guess you’re right.  This is a gay concert.”, to which I gave no reply, just a wink and a shared laugh, grateful for the gradual & refreshing rain that put out the fire of fury.  It’s omething we laughed about for all the years together that followed and that I still do on my own.  Hopefully it made you too.  🙂

“Tact is for weenies.”

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Photo Credit (True Colors poster):
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39831904By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=39831904