Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bears on a Train: Our Adventures in Atlanta

I've been stuck on what to write about my recent trip to Atlanta. A lot of what happened is a private matter, and I don't want people to be afraid to express themselves to me, or to share their experiences, for fear that I will one day blog about them. Still, much of the trip deals with the blog itself. While the contributors of M3 live all across the country, the highest concentration live in Atlanta. Some have been friends for years; others I've not yet met. So when James and I decided to take a trip, Atlanta seemed like a reasonable destination.

A Little History about M3

Since starting the blog, James and I knew that we needed to meet up with the contributors in person. Since Vaughne, Robert, and Kenoki all live in Atlanta, we made plans to meet with them as well as to partake in some sightseeing and recreational activities. Most of the contributors on the blog are friends I've known for years. Kenoki and Robert fall into this category, but it has still been a long time since I'd seen either of them. Vaughne and I met each other through Corey when we started adding contributors. For James, it would be the first time he'd be meeting any of them, so it was going to be exciting for both of us.

One of the great things about M3 is that while we all take writing seriously and want to share our interests and viewpoints with the world, we are above all else, friends. Having lost touch with many of my friends from high school, Kenoki is possibly my oldest friend. When James and I started M3, he was the first to comment on a post, and it reminded me of the days when I read his blog. I had no plans on adding anyone to the blog, but remembering the creative posts that Kenoki wrote back in the day, I invited him to be a contributor. We set the goal of creating at least one post a day, and I realize that even with the three of us, we needed more help; so I kept adding friends, even reaching out to Facebook buddies I'd never had much interaction with, but whose writing I respected. I never thought it would grow to the size that it has, but it's a welcome development.

Nothing Happens as Planned

James and I had planned our trip weeks ahead of time. I downloaded apps and wrote down places we'd want to visit. I'd made plans to have Vaughne take a photo of the five contributors at the park. I was being sentimental thinking it would be the largest gathering of M3 to date in one place. I'd planned to see two movies, buy some new clothes, and meet up with old friends. Most of the plans were up in the air depending on other people's schedules, but having warned people weeks ahead of time, I thought we'd be good.

Neither James nor I drive. We rode a Greyhound bus into downtown Atlanta. We were expecting someone to pick us up at the bus station and drive us to our hotel, but since it was Mother's Day weekend, some unexpected complications from celebration preparations made it impossible for him to get us. We did have a backup plan, but even the backup plan fell through. So we had to ride the train.

This wouldn't normally be a big deal if it weren't for the fact that I'm legally blind. I can walk around just fine, but reading signs of any kind is pretty much impossible for me. James wasn't familiar with Atlanta and he hasn't ever navigated a large city using public transportation. James truly is a country boy. This is by no means derogatory. It's one of the many endearing qualities I love about him. I had doubts about his ability to navigate with a blind man in tow.

Bears on a Train

I saw the whole experience as an adventure. A few years ago I would have been scared shitless, but that's one of the perks of getting a few experiences under my belt. Do enough crazy shit and survive and things just don't seem as dangerous as they really are. Whatever fears or misgivings I had about missing our stop or getting lost, I set aside because I was just enjoying myself so much. I had almost no chance of navigating Atlanta alone, but I had my seeing eye bear and GPS apps on my iPhone. And the view was lovely.

I've been aware since the Michael Jackson mega-hit Thriller that fear and attraction are closely tied. Studies have shown that in scary situations we can find ourselves even more aroused by sexual stimuli than in calm situations. This is a good reason to bring a date to scary movies. Not only will your date feel the need to be protected, you will get some amazing head afterward. I didn't realize this until later, but while looking at James in this heightened state, he never looked so cute. Naturally I took a few pictures. I didn't see the nervousness on his face until I got home. I'm having the time of my life, tripping out over how sexy my boyfriend is, and I'm completely unaware of how worried he is.

We did a lot of things on our trip, but I will never forget the first train ride. James is such a bear. Every time I look at him I just want to squeeze him. He could totally be a mascot for tissue or a fabric softener commercial  It wasn't until later that I saw how utterly dependent I was on him in that moment. At that time, I knew just how lucky I was to have him by my side.

Other Things I Learned in Atlanta

I met up with an old friend I'd met ten years ago. He briefly attended Albany State University in Albany and after he left, our friendship was sustained through social media and memories, though very little direct contact. I was surprised we were able to meet up at the Daiquiri Factory. What I learned from the evening was how much older I was. We were kids when we first met and not seeing him for such a long time brought a wave of recognition that I'm getting old much faster than I would like. What did I do in all that time anyway? Not that much, as it turns out.

I did grow as a person, though. I'm not as immature as I used to be. I have a lot more patience and determination than I used to. I know I haven't lived a very long time, but seeing the passing of time so starkly kicked me into gear. This isn't a dress rehearsal. This is my life and it's going pretty quickly. I had the same feeling seeing Robby again. When you meet up with old friends, you can see that you're the same person, but over time, you can see you've also become quite different. I haven't had too many of those experiences. I suppose the feeling is normal, but now I'm starting to think about how different I am.

We never did get to take that picture of the five of us in the park . It rained and we had trouble getting everyone in one place at the same time. Some people we'd planned to meet didn't show up, and people I had no expectation of meeting got to spend a lot of time with us. We went to the mall, got drunk, got stranded at another mall, bought some clothes and shoes, almost missed the bus back home, and saw James get mad for the first time. I learned to ride the train with confidence. I learned to appreciate James for the amazing man he is, and today I've never felt closer to him. Life is an unexpected set of events. It's not bad to make plans, they certainly helped, but when things go off track, you can still make the best of it.

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