The Cheesehead Invasion

I just had friends in town visiting, my best friend Pat, his wife Brenda (who thinks her name is Helen – long story), and their sons girlfriend Anna. They were on he east coast to attend their son’s graduation from Army Boot Camp, down in Fort Jackson. Then they drove up here to spend time with me.

These people are family – not the blood kind, the good kind – so I go out of my way to make sure they have a good time. When they came to visit seven years ago I missed all but the first 5 minutes of the Gay Pride parade as they timed it just that badly… 😉 This visit I took three days off of work and arranged for them to stay in a decent hotel. You make certain sacrifices for family and it never seems to be a burden.

Even though they saw most of it seven years ago, we again did all the monuments on the Mall and a few more sites that threatened to grind my feet into stubs. We went to the Spy Museum (which I paid a little extra for and can’t recommend as really worth it), the Holocaust Museum and the Zoo all of which were fun. I even put up with Brenda thinking she could speak to the seals and the birds at the zoo, though I did on occasion shout out “No, Dory, you can’t speak whale.” which got a few chuckles.

When they arrive I let them know the rules of Washington right away. I tell them they are very simple and if they break them I will lock them in the hotel for the rest of the trip.

The Rules:
1. Stand on the right, walk on the left
(I think if more people told tourists this there would be less congestion in our fair city)
2. Don’t give money or talk to the homeless.
3. Have fun

Now, having had them come visit and only break rules here and there – a couple of occasions where they stood on the wrong side of the escalator and once where Brenda bought chocolate from some guy who then turned around and entered the liquor store (lick her?!? I don’t even know her). I realized how different life here is from back home, and i wonder if I should be afraid of what I’ve become, scared that they haven’t changed or concerned that there is that much of a difference in society to notice the changes at all.

See, Brenda came out of the CVS, chatting away, during rush hour holding two 20 dollar bills in her hand, and gesturing this way and that – I don’t think it helped that she was wearing a fanny pack and had that sunburnt tourist glow. And, just the day before Anna had sat on the sidewalk outside, a wad of crumpled up bills of various denominations sitting there while she counted them… It was one of two times that I almost had a heart attack during the visit. They also like to talk to complete strangers, which I suppose should be a perfectly normal activity, but for me still raises my hackles and puts me on the defensive.

During my recent trip to WI (where most of my chosen family is from) I got odd looks when I locked the car door, or wanted to shut the front door of the house when we were all leaving. See, it’s safe at home. You could probably walk down main street every day counting 20 dollar bills in a little stack and not have to worry about anyone bothering you or losing a single bill, unless the wind picked up.

So, I wonder again – have I changed that much since I got here almost ten years ago now? Yep, in my first few months here I gave money to the guy on the corner that needed money for baby diapers… I was appalled at the lack of human compassion as people just walked past and handed him a $5 (at the time I wasn’t making very much myself, but felt sorry for that kid). And an hour later, I walked by him and his story was that he needed gas to get his pregnant wife to the hospital – he didn’t remember me from earlier. I think that was where I started to get jaded and not believe in the people here.

Have I changed that much from the very small town boy to the big city man? Maybe. Have I lost all my values or beliefs? No. I will still step into a fight to save someone, I don’t automatically disbelieve politicians, but I do second guess them. And I sometimes even give some money to a homeless person on the street.. Sometimes you have to do the next right thing, no matter what.

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