The Summer I Bought New Pencils

The experience of putting hand to paper stimulates an entirely different writing experience for me. Back in 2016, I found this to be true as I started writing long hand at times to break through the long, dreadful periods of staring at the glow of my expectant laptop. I’m not sure why, but it took me until mid-2017 to go out and buy a pack of brand new pencils for the first time in… more years than I care to admit.

Suffice it to say, the selection these days is pretty limited. But the pack of black, No. 2 Triconderogas has served me well. I should’ve done this years ago: as a lefty, I’ve spent almost my entire life accumulating enough ink blots on my writing hand to make an entire book of Rorschach tests. But, in the maelstrom of our WiFi-enabled way of life, I still forget to just sit, think, and write what comes to mind. Going right to the keyboard just makes more sense, in terms of efficiency, but it never feels as second nature as pencil to paper.

My handwritten notes indicate that I bought the pencils right before Memorial Day, at the beginning of a summer that I’ll remember for two unforgettable events. For different reasons, I’m still trying to comprehend them both.

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Pondering Privilege, Fear, and Futures

About three times a week we meet, usually under a bridge, although sometimes at school. It was a hard habit for me to pick up, but once we started, I haven’t been able to shake it. My friend helps me, sticks with me, keeps me motivated so that even on the days I am winded and sore, we still finish a run/walk that spans anywhere from 3.5 to 5 miles. There are several positive aspects to my friendship with Shawyn, but key to so much of it is that we talk. There are numerous topics that flow through our brains—our dissertations, problems at our jobs, teaching experiences, hopes, dreams, fears… Any number of things that might occur to a pair of queer social work academics, both months away from advancing from ABD to Ph.D.

A few weeks ago, Shawyn said Shawyn was thinking of creating a new blog, and I encouraged it, saying, great! We could both write, maybe respond to each other’s posts, and use that interaction as motivation to keep the creative energy flowing. Since then, Shawyn’s gotten it moving. Me, not so much. Call it bad timing, work pressures, holiday malaise, end of year fatigue, whatever. I’m giving it a try now.

As I mentioned, any number of topics fly between us as we run, walk, and gasp for air (that’s more me). In truth, I enjoy the listening part more than talking, even though I’m a talkative guy and I do try (as someone slightly further ahead in our program) to share advice from what I’ve learned along the way. The morning we discussed blogging, Shawyn told me about recent conversations Shawyn had had with another individual of color, of the frustrations with recent news stories of unarmed African Americans killed by police, of the wariness and fear of simply walking around in a militarized, white-dominated society that seems hellbent on projecting every violent tendency of its own onto anyone who is perceived as different.

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From Anger to Inspiration?

I spent last weekend at the National Conference on Social Work & HIV/AIDS, a nicely organized event that seems to attract the kind of people around whom I want to be—smart, dedicated, compassionate, enthusiastic about their work, and self-reflective. The audience is part academic, part professional; in other words, a good place to test out the concepts behind my dissertation research. It was gratifying to see echoes of my topic—organizational change in community-based AIDS organizations—throughout the presentations. I was also pleased to find others who share my own interest in history, both in the development of these services and in their origins within the gay and lesbian community of the 1980s and earlier. (I say “gay and lesbian” here knowing that our current nomenclature—GLBTQIA—recognizes a much broader spectrum of identities.)

The conference also afforded me the chance to see How to Survive a Plague, a documentary using original film footage of ACT-UP, the grassroots movement led by HIV-positive activists, which radically altered the trajectory of America’s response to the AIDS epidemic. I have to confess, I’d avoided seeing the movie before this, even though plenty of friends had recommended it to me. My response to it was as emotional as I’d expected. It was probably a mistake to watch it right before my own presentation, but on the other hand, it grounded me back in the reality of my research question: How do services founded by and for the grassroots HIV movement experience change in the age of ACA?

Anyway, I digress. The film mostly focused on the years 1989 to 1995, from the first Bush presidency up to the introduction of combination anti-retroviral therapies, which seemed almost immediately to bring patients back from near death. Much of the film depicts the push and pull of grassroots politics at the time—people screaming to be heard, to have their fears and outrage acknowledged not just in the hearts and minds of bystanders, but in the policies and practices of government, medical research, and the pharmaceutical industry of the time. As Randy Shilts noted in And the Band Played On, the usually deliberate pace of clinical trials, testing, and approval for market use were not going to cut it when the world faced a pandemic of this scale. It took bold confrontation, impassioned actions, and dedication from those facing almost certain death to move the status quo to change. The fact that some of the original ACT-UP activists—including the legendary Larry Kramer, among others—today have survived speaks loudly to their accomplishment. Medical science today is winning the battle against HIV in controlled lab settings, but a social movement that connected these institutions to this deeply affecting human narrative was absolutely necessary to prod our civic leaders to move faster, with any urgency that no one would have believed necessary in previous decades.

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Finding Randy, Part 3

There is so much to say about my time in California last month, and I’ve had so little time and energy to say it. I meant to get to this post sooner, perhaps even while I was out in San Francisco, getting intimately familiar with boxes and boxes of Randy Shilts’ personal papers. Sometimes life doesn’t work that way though, and a return to Minnesota has meant for me a return to dissertation, research, and teaching (not to mention cold weather and snow, up until the end of last week).

I thought about writing about some of the juicy tidbits I found, and there were a number of them. But, right now the more meaningful experience comes from trying to understand how it feels to get to know a person I will never meet. Reading a person’s diaries and correspondences in his own handwriting is an incredibly intimate experience. The moments of loneliness, self-doubt, and frustration from his college years and early adulthood are plentiful. While it’s perhaps easy to write it off as the anxieties so many of us feel in our youth, here too I found moments of insight and poignancy that resonated across the years of his too-brief life.

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Finding Randy, Part 2

I’m not intending this discovery process to become the sole focus of the blog, but when I’m writing about things that interest me (and are interesting in my life), well, right now this is at the top of my list (dissertation notwithstanding).  San Francisco and Randy’s papers are less than a week away, but in the meantime, I’ve been continuing to catalog his early work in The Advocate. There are so many details to pore over that I’m just skimming the surface as I take pictures and make notes for later study. But, here are a few interesting things I have found so far:

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Finding Randy, Part 1

“Introducing Randy Shilts.” There he was, younger than I’d ever seen him, staring up at me from the weathered pages of a long-ago publication. The seed of an idea dropped into my mind two years ago, when I was poring through old copies of The Advocate for a historical research project in my Doctoral program. As I perused back issues from the mid-1970s, his name started to appear more and more frequently. I knew who Randy Shilts was—I’d read The Mayor of Castro Street and of course And the Band Played On. I knew about Conduct Unbecoming, but I’d never had the energy to tackle its enormous length. I knew that Randy Shilts was a journalistic force in his time, capable of melding enormous amounts of detail to deep-seated emotions and wielding his story in a way that would move readers to reflection, appreciation, and even outrage.

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Beyond Same-Sex Marriage?

Following the victory parties of May and the Pride parties of June, in Minnesota the wedding parties begin this week on August 1. Jaxon and I won’t be doing ours for at least a few years, but the sight of so many people celebrating, many who have been in relationships for decades, was incredibly moving. For me it was especially worthwhile to see the work started by activists in decades past—Jack Baker here in Minnesota, Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon even before that—come to some fruition. Amid all the celebrations though, reflecting on this historic achievement has me fearing that for some, the achievement of marriage equality (both here and across the nation) represents the high point or ultimate goal of all those years of work. I fear that other important issues brought to light by GLBT organizers and advocates may be overshadowed, when history tells us something very different about the “homosexual agenda” in total.

A year ago, I did some historical research on the efforts of gay and lesbian activists to establish their own community centers and social services between Stonewall and the AIDS crisis. I looked at news articles between 1969, when Stonewall occurred, and 1976, by which point it’s presumed that HIV had entered the U.S. and was spreading rapidly among gay men. Almost everyone who advised me on the project said, “I don’t think you’ll find much information.” Their assumption was that in the era of militant activism, bathhouses, and bars, far less attention was paid to the community’s health and social service needs. The article is due out in a journal this fall, so I won’t say much more about what I found. But—needless to say, I came across plenty of material. Almost from the moment Stonewall occurred, the impulse to build community spread across the nation, fueled in part by coverage in The Advocate and a small handful of other national publications as the time. The focus on human rights undoubtedly led the way, but it felt essential for many gay men and lesbians at the time to build space—community centers, gay-identified treatment for alcohol and drug abuse, sexual health clinics, and more.

What does that history tell us about today? I think it signifies that gaining acceptance in mainstream society is not enough. Queer communities still need spaces imagined, built, and opened for queer-identified people across a spectrum of ages, identities, and experiences. I had a respectful disagreement earlier this winter with a gay service provider, about ten years older than me, who said that among today’s youth, “It just won’t matter, everyone will be accepted. They don’t care if their friends are gay!” The limited information I’ve seen from queer youth studies—especially transgender youth—says something very different. School-based supports were helpful, but in at least one study, Asakura (2010) found a persistent desire among youth to have their own, dedicated queer-identified youth spaces. A recent report on the experiences of older LGBT adults in long-term care facilities details some of the difficulties our elders face as they experience declining health combined with the struggle to be “out” in the world of senior care services. There are still numerous unmet needs out there, and plenty of people who don’t have the support of a middle-class income, an affirming community, or family who welcome their GLBT identities. Marriage equality without a doubt helps many, but not all of us.

The campaign to gain marriage equality (and in Minnesota the preceding fight to oppose constitutional discrimination) served a valuable purpose in educating the larger public about the all-too-human challenges of living a queer-identified life in a heteronormative society. I think, however, there is more to learn. GLBT-identified support services gained their reputations in the community by emphasizing nonjudgmental, empathetic care delivered by people who could relate to the challenges their clients faced. Even in the age of Obamacare, reform of the health care system doesn’t guarantee that someone will find medical or social service support that is knowledgeable and affirming of a GLBT identity. If stigma and discriminatory attitudes among providers already play a role in determining whether queer people utilize the health care system (they do), then reforming the market system alone is not likely to diminish the numerous health disparities queer people still face. For me, the health and human service sector is the realm with the most immediate examples, but I know there must be others as well—social discrimination in the workplace, for example. But, I’ll save that for someone who is more knowledgeable in that arena.

So, beyond same-sex marriage, what is there for GLBT communities to do? Keep building, for starters. Despite the advances of social media, there is still a need for physical spaces, where our more vulnerable members can find safety and acceptance. There are organizations tackling a plethora of issues (HIV, sexual health, substance abuse, homelessness, etc.) that need volunteers, cold hard cash, and energy and imagination. Marriage equality has altered the course of history, in Minnesota and 11 other states at least. People of all ages have the opportunity to learn about the real ways we struggle and triumph in the context of non-traditional relationships. But, I humbly suggest we consider this to be a moment to celebrate before getting back to the long list of challenges still ahead.

What I Meant to Write Last Week, Only Surlier

Before the tragedy in Connecticut last week, my intention was to write about our short mid-week trip to Iowa. I was also going to get a wee bit political. Let’s see if I still can.

Toward the end of November, I had a pleasantly surprising phone call from a very dear friend. I’ve known Tony for about 10-plus years, going back to when we both interned/worked on contract for a small AIDS organization in Michigan. Although about 25 years my senior, he and I easily bonded and in some ways over time our relationship evolved from mentorship to something more fraternal as we both moved, changed jobs, and had various ups and downs with our relationships.

He and his partner Joe now live in upper Michigan, not far from Lake Superior and not too removed from Minnesota. With my school commitments, we haven’t seen much of each other in the last few years, but Tony called to tell us that they were traveling to Iowa to officially get married. With the latest election results, he concluded, federal recognition of same-sex marriage is an inevitability and, the sooner they have official paperwork, the more likely that in the future, social security survivor benefits will have to recognize that official marriage date. Additionally—and this was the most touching piece—Tony and Joe asked if Jaxon and I would come down to Iowa and serve as their official witnesses. It seemed fitting, both for our relative proximity and the way our personal and professional lives have been woven together over the past decade. To say the least, Jaxon and I were humbled and moved. We said yes.

The ceremony was pretty straightforward. The judge was extremely kind and cordial, and the recitation of vows went smoothly. To summarize: Tony and Joe promised to enter into a publicly-affirmed, legally binding (in Iowa) declaration of their commitment to one another. They promised to care for each other through hardship. They affirmed their intentions to remain committed to each other for the rest of their lives. They put their love for each other on paper, in a court of public law. To witness our friends make this commitment was a privilege.

Of course, a few days prior to this, one Supreme Court Justice, who will soon cast a vote determining whether or not the United States should recognize same-sex marriage, used the opportunity of a public confrontation (by a very brave gay college freshman) to re-affirm his view that the public has a right to label same-sex intimacy as morally reprehensible as murder. Now, I am not a Constitutional scholar, and without a doubt Antonin Scalia can argue me under the table when it comes to the Founders’ true intentions. Given the horrible nightmare Newtown, Connecticut, just endured, perhaps Justice Scalia simply needs a refresher in a couple key qualitative differences between same-sex coupling, and murder. Now I am aware that Scalia directed his comments toward “homosexual behavior,” but given how the arguments around homosexuality before the Court have coalesced around marriage equality, I am going to stick to that framework for my points below.

Difference #1: One involves consenting adults, agreeing to mutually support each other through life’s difficulties and highlights. The other involves taking human life, presumably without their consent.

Difference #2: Over time as people have gotten to know and grow familiar with gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in their own families and communities, support for same-sex marriage and anti-discrimination measures have generally increased. Support for murdering other human beings (with the exception of our confounded tolerance of post-colonial warfare and the death penalty) has generally remained low over time, even when people have gotten to know the murderers in their communities.

Difference #3: There doesn’t need to be a Difference #3. But, apparently the distinction isn’t clear enough for others who share this man’s views. In the wake of Netwon, both James Dobson and Mike Huckabee boldly declared that society’s growing tolerance of gay people bore some of the blame for a twenty year-old, mentally ill loner taking several automatic weapons into an elementary school and hunting down its children, faculty, and staff. In their estimation, America (and we gay people specifically) have turned our backs on God.

I’m going to offer a slightly different interpretation: people who seek the right to marry a partner of the same gender (and frankly, people whose gender identities have changed since birth as well), and people who support these efforts may or may not recognize the God of Messrs. Scalia, Huckabee, and Dobson. But, increasingly I would say that Americans are turning away from huckster capitalists who use their increasingly outmoded platforms to try to bully and intimidate people into believing something that is contradicted by the evidence we collect in our own lives and experiences. Believe what you will about the Bible or any other sacred text. People have the ability to determine with their own eyes, ears, and feelings whether or not same-sex intimacy is morally reprehensible, and increasingly that evidence is making lay people question the unyielding authoritarian (yet increasingly desperate) huffing from evangelical radio and TV (or Rome for that matter). Where previously people could be bullied into believing warped depictions of individual misbehaviors or social outcasts, more and more they recognized their loved ones. Where people had previously viewed those who were different as somehow diseased and depraved, more now recognize and empathize with very human struggles and triumphs. Ultimately, in my opinion the depravity these men now rail against is in fact the continued withering irrelevance of their own overinflated control over a society that, while certainly flawed, is growing more keen to recognizing authentic struggles and basic unfairness. Those who are most threatened, I believe are those who have gained the most from systematically maintaining these inequalities.

I have no doubt how Antonin Scalia will vote in the arguments pertaining to same-sex marriage. His “originalist” perspective certainly affords him the opportunity to sit comfortably behind an orthodoxy that emphatically views the Founders’ words as final (even though they quite nakedly punted the moral issue of slavery down the field for future generations to resolve). But, the next time I see someone equate queer people to murder, I’ll remember last week. I’ll remember Tony and Joe, embracing before the judge and their two admiring friends, promising to love and honor each other for every day of their lives. I’ll remember the horror of Newtown that came too soon after. And, morally speaking. I am pretty confident that an increasingly abundant number of citizens will be able to recognize that the two events are not remotely equivalent.

Newtown, CT, and the Gun Conversation

Fighting off an early winter cold hasn’t given me much energy or desire to write. I had intended my first new post to focus on the wedding of our friends Tony and Joe, but that will have to wait, given the heartbreaking and haunting ordeal that took place yesterday in Connecticut. I’ve only had a couple experiences with gun violence in my life, certainly not enough to qualify me as an expert on either mass shootings or gun laws. Looking back on the vivid accounts of yesterday’s tragedy, I think that I could take any number of directions in writing this piece today. It seems only proper though to start with my own lived experiences, which although limited, at least speak to what I know, and what I imagine might be the perspectives of those living through yet another apparently senseless and surreal set of circumstances.

When I was maybe four or five years old, my parents took us (my two older sisters and I) on a walk through a stretch of woods owned by my grandfather. It was the site of the family’s old hunting camp, a rotting old structure tucked away on 40 or so acres of woods in rural northern Michigan. I think it was mid-fall, although I don’t remember much more than sunny conditions, mild temperatures, and stomping through leaves on the ground. I do remember that there was good visibility through the trees though, because some people in a gold Jeep started shooting at us from the road, through the trees. I remember going to the ground and being held there, probably by my sisters. After the gunfire persisted for a few minutes, my father jumped up and started yelling that he had his family with him. As he ran toward the road, the jeep sped off. Keeping close to each other, we hiked quickly up to my uncle’s nearby farm to safety. Although we crossed open pastures to get there, I remember how my sisters and I kept looking around, backwards and sideways to make sure that the shooters hadn’t circled back to ambush us. I don’t think my parents ever figured out who these people were or their motives. It may have been poachers, mistaking any movement for deer. Or, it may have been people playing a cruel prank to scare us.

Despite the fact that multiple people in my family—my father, uncles, aunts, and cousins—all routinely took time for deer hunting, I never had an interest in owning a real gun. Almost twenty years later when I was a college hippie queer radical, I would take weekends to visit and weld sculptures with my mentor, a clinical social worker and minister living in a rural mid-Michigan township, right in the heart of deeply conservative citizen militia country. To some degree, the presence of guns in homes, church, and the local café was just more or less accepted. On a trip to the diner one evening, we ran into an older man I would later learn was the second highest-ranking official in one of these militias. Upon meeting me, seeing my long hair, and learning where I lived (the state capital), he commented, “There’s gonna be hunting season down your way soon.” We didn’t have much to really say to each other—my particular radicalism and critiques of American government weren’t really compatible with his. In fact, I saw enough of his worldview to know that if “hunting season” really did come to my city, I’d probably be wearing a big, pink target in this man’s eyes. After eating, we went home where my mentor cleaned his pistol and I welded a new sculpture– a compact, sturdy column of stainless steel strips I ended up calling, “The Shaft.”

The limited news from Connecticut indicates that this new shooter was a “nerd” type who had a mental illness diagnosis of some kind. Having lived the life of a too-clever social outcast at various points in my youth, I can relate to how lonely and difficult that experience can be. And, although mental health hasn’t been my focus in social work, in my personal life I have witnessed psychotic breaks before. It’s a surreal experience to see a person you know and love, responding to some kind of stimuli that isn’t apparent to anyone else in the room. People wonder how this twenty-year old kid could shoot a roomful of elementary school students. I wonder what he was seeing and hearing that led him to feel like the only thing he could do was arm himself, pull the trigger, and keep firing. I wonder because when I was a child and people shot at my family, my dad’s instinct was to run toward the shooters, arms flailing and screaming for his family. When I was a young man and a grizzled militiaman measured me up and pronounced me “bait,” my impulse was to withdraw and make something cold, steel, and comforting but not lethal in my hands. I cannot imagine what it feels like to pull a trigger, knowing that it would in fact annihilate. But, I can relate to feeling powerless, frightened, and isolated, a set of primal emotions that I suspect were shared in various ways and stages by the victims, the heroic teachers and responders, and the shooter.

There’s a difficult conversation brewing around guns, violence, and the proper approach for regulating society’s interactions with these weapons. At any point this is a challenge for our severely polarized communities, but with the enormous grief so many are carrying right now, I can’t imagine it will take long for rage and mutual recriminations to surface. In a way, I see guns as tools of proxy in that generally, they enable human beings to exert our power toward others (human or otherwise) from a somewhat removed position. A gun is a less intimate tool for resolving conflict than say a knife or one’s own hands. It’s been argued by some that the solution to preventing gun violence is having more guns, and more weapons-trained gun users in the community. I’ve heard mentors and other close family members say that regardless of whether they have to use it, just possessing a gun reassures them that they can defend themselves from intrusions or incursions. The question I still have, the question I struggle to get, is this: When someone is convinced that the absolutely correct decision is to pull the trigger, what do they perceive around them? What do they see, hear, and feel that convinces them that shooting is the most “right” thing to do? And, to what degree did they feel like they had the power to choose any other alternative?

Whereas for me the impulse and resolve to fire a weapon at someone is relatively alien and unsettling, ultimately I do think the gun law debates that are about to erupt will serve as proxies for a larger and more unwieldy conversation that needs to happen around power, self-determination, and shared wellbeing. If we cannot agree on the propriety of regulating firearms, can we at least reach a consensus on certain events being preventable tragedies? Where said events are in fact preventable and certain safeguards can be established and reinforced (either by authorities or a committed citizenry), to what extent can we at least agree to these contingencies?

Turkey, Thrift, and Reciprocity

Everyone in this household is hungry for Thanksgiving food—turkey, cranberries, stuffing, the works. For I think the seventh holiday season, Jaxon and I are buying the bird from Callister Farms, a family of poultry farmers we met when they ran a small business at the Midtown Global Market a few years ago. Although that venture didn’t pan out, they still sell to local co-ops and do direct sales as well, via online or the farmer’s markets. Nice people, and moreover great bird. The first time I brined one of their turkeys, I made Jaxon take a picture because it looked like carved alabaster coming out of the saltwater.

Sort of a running “argument” with my parents involves the amount of money we spend on food, which should be interesting this year as they are coming to Minnesota to spend the holiday with us. Minneapolis-St. Paul is without a doubt a foodies’ destination, and we take full advantage. My mother in particular always shakes her head at the co-op prices, saying how much more they can get for their dollar at the big-box grocer/all-purpose retailer where they shop. (Last summer when we visited, I was a bit disconcerted by the large ammunition aisle, not terribly far from produce and dairy.) My pat response is that we prefer quality over quantity, I know the names of the farms where my meat came from, and I’d rather eat pasture-raised animals, eggs, and dairy than factory-farmed, processed food. She gets the point—20-30 years ago, she and my father were pasture-raising farmers in their own right, way before the Internet could have helped them. But, the issue of cost—and being able to get the best deals– always sticks with her.

As Jaxon would attest, I tend to panic over expenses, but really we both like good second hand shopping. We thrift damn near everything we acquire, including clothes, household items, and entertainment (viva cheap VHS tapes!). At the same time, I’ve really reached the conclusion that whenever possible I want my purchases to directly benefit the people who make and deliver the goods to me. The fact that it costs more forces us to be frugal, but that’s fine.

At the same time, I’ve been watching Jaxon try to build a clientele for his design business. He managed on his own for several years as a faux finisher and interior designer before the economy collapsed, and recently left his “temporary” retail job to return to the independent marketplace. I’ve always told him that he’s more artisan and craftsman than “typical” designer, and I think that’s made his work more challenging. By emphasizing relationship-building, getting to know the emotions and desires underlying people’s preferences, and focusing on how spaces feel rather than pushing the newest product lines, he harkens back to a way of doing business that I think some people understand, but others may find odd. While one of his objectives is of course to attract new business, the larger goal is to build relationships with people who appreciate the interaction that occurs between him, them, and the space they are creating or reshaping.

There’s a common thread here with my ruminations about food up above, which I can only describe as “reciprocity.” In a way it’s kind of old fashioned in that we tend to look more for reusable goods whenever possible, and prefer buying from people and places where our relationships already exist. At the same time, it reminds me of my old job working in volunteer management and fundraising for an AIDS organization. I think that with charitable giving it’s expected that the contribution will support someone’s wellbeing (directly or indirectly), and people tend to have a sense of the real-world value that their labor or cash represents when they make a donation. In this market economy however, we’ve gotten used to focusing solely on our consumption—we give money to the big box or online seller and we take something of value from it. The idea that what we give is helping to sustain someone else’s welfare (there’s a dirty word) is sort of lost in the complexity of the corporate enterprise.

It leads to a kind of paradox, doesn’t it? On the one hand, I really cherish the opportunity to engage with other locals in a city where there are ample opportunities to exchange cash for direct services and goods. At the same time—what’s especially true is that this modern (postmodern?) economy makes a lot of this possible because of the Fortune 500 companies and financial heavyweights that attract workers to cities like this, and the Internet that enables me to order fresh turkey from farmers who drive past the big boxes and factory farms to deliver it. I suppose we get used to living with contradictions like this in the 21st century—we’re light years ahead of our ancestors technologically, while culturally we’re advancing toward a more pluralistic understanding of our differences. Yet, it’s not uncommon for me to see friends and colleagues yearning for simpler exchanges in their commerce, more holistic approaches to their health and nutrition, and less chaos in their nonstop social networks. It leads me to wonder if it’s really the case that we are straddling the divide between these contradictory worlds, or if maybe we’re actually pre-figuring the arrival of an emerging, more reciprocal and pragmatic way of doing business with each other.