The following online journal entries are from March 2002.
On March, 6, 2002, my friend Dustin and I arrived in Maryland flying into Baltimore-Washington Airport. I do not think I will ever truly leave San Francisco behind even three thousand miles away. Returning to Maryland has not been the easiest of transitions. It isn't exactly a homecoming either. I am just back in the unfamiliar familiar. But I am glad for the change of pace and the change of scenery. For now, Maryland will be my home.
The journals hereafter will be an interesting log of my new adventure on the East Coast.
SUNDAY. 9:51 AM. I am sitting in the family room of Kate and Skinner's abode. The past few days have been an adjustment. Dustin and I flew into Maryland late Wednesday night. Skinner, whose real name is Andrew, picked us up at Baltimore-Washington International airport. The flight was about seven hours long including a short layover in Kansas City. Thankfully, it was relatively painless. The airline stewardesses were very friendly and talked a bunch with us since we sat at the very back of the plane. In fact, they fell under the spell of Mr. Skeleton (said in a French accent), my little plastic toy. Everywhere I take Mr. Skeleton he always gets a lot of attention.
My first airport and travel experience after September 11 was smooth though curious. While Dustin and I were in line at curb-side check-in, we got pulled aside for random baggage check. I just knew I was going to be picked. The man picked before us was tall and Middle Eastern; his name was Omar and he was moving to Maryland for a new job and to be with his fiancee. He had a bag and several boxes packed with his computer. They were quite thorough in searching his belongings. I was picked next and the baggage attendant at first asked only me to go to the inspection table. Then he asked if Dustin was with me. We answered yes. So he said Dustin should come along as well.
A bag search invovles opening the suitcase, pulling out everything that you've so carefully crammed into the bag, feeling around, and then trying to get it re-packed. I really honestly do not see how a baggage search actually helps. Unless there is something in the bag that obviously looks dangerous or suspicious, the quick fumbling through the contents only takes up time, resources, and patience. It is a Sisyphusian task.
Dustin and I noted that of the four people picked for baggage searches while we were at the table, three of them were people of color and all four were men. Interesting, eh.
I am convinced that all of the new security features (other than things like bomb sniffing machines, which Oakland does not have) such as the soldiers carrying rifles are all really security blankets. Baggage searches and men with guns do nothing except demonstrate vigilance; it doesn't prove vigilance nor does it insure that what is being watched is actually protected. The whole needing to take your shoes off thing is simply absurd. The truth is that if something is going to happen, it probably will happen regardless of the precautions taken. Something will slip through, will go unnoticed, will defy investigation.
I'm not being as fatalist as I sound. I just think that other, more reasoned and pragmatic methods must be found and implemented. I think that the public needs to be educated first and foremost that they are part of a larger, global community -- one that does not always place Americans on a pedastal and that our nation inflicts as much harm as good in the name of democracy or capitalism. Second, the public need to realize they are their own advocates for everything really -- safety, health, freedom, happiness -- and that if we as a people take the time to care for ourselves and those immediately around us, we will be a kinder and more aware society. If you see something going wrong, then speak up. If you sense danger, then act to prevent or protect. If you witness pain, prejudice, or oppression, then run, vote, write, or sing to change it. Finally, we need to develop or perfect the technology and the procedures that actually help, that actually work, that are more than just a band-aid or a rabbit's foot. We need solutions born out of understanding and honest consideration rather than paranoia and fear and desperation.
Kate and Skinner's house is in an older community in Silver Spring near my father's house actually. Their house is a classic brick and siding split level. They are in the middle of renovations and the house is chaos and repair except for the small oases cleared in the dust. The work is coming along slowly but the changes are dramatic and inspiring.
Dustin and I have been tucked away in the den and we have been helping Skinner with parts of the house. It's like living in our own home improvement show. We finished painting the master bedroom and moved Kate and Skinner out of the basement yesterday. Now we're trying to get the third bedroom done for Brooke, another houseguest coming to stay at Chez Maynard.
It's been really fun helping around the house. It gives our days a clear sense of purpose. Plus it's giving back to Kate and Skinner for the hospitality they are showing Dustin and me.
I haven't really been out and about much. I am taking my time settling into the routine here. Silver Spring has changed and I am noticing new buildings or missing old ones. I am in a little bit of culture shock. I'm still not sure how I fit into the scheme of things here. In a way, I feel like I've never left. But then I am concretely reminded that things are different, that I am different. For example, I'm not a very good driver at the moment. I am still trying to get the rhythm back for shifting after three years of not being in a car. Plus I am no longer familiar with how to get around the area -- the streets and short cuts are vaguely familiar. I'm sure it'll come back to me as I drive around.
I went to see my father the morning after we got into town. He's doing all right, I think. He looks a little tired to me, maybe a bit older. It's been two years since I have been face to face with him. It was good to see him though and I'm glad to be near him. Though I was a little taken aback by the state of my car -- Dustin and I cleaned it out and washed it down. I had to take off the "George Bush for President" bumper sticker though. Scary. My parents have always voted for the more fiscally conservative candidate; it's not something we get into for fear of argument. I'm sure the queer folks were confused by the Bush sticker, the rainbow stickers, and my dad driving the car.
I have to figure out what I'm going to do in Maryland. I'm not sure if I should try to settle here for a while, find a job, and carve out a niche for myself again. I am still waiting to hear back from my two remaining schools. I think the plan will be to enjoy this little vacation until I know about grad programs. Then I will decide accordingly. I miss having a place of my own. All of the housework and decorating conversations have made me want to have my own house again.
I need to start getting in contact with all of the people I know here. I want to go out downtown in DC. I want to go to the University of Maryland and visit people. I want to hang out and party and catch up with friends. It will be interesting. Like I said, this whole experience has been an adjustment. I'm adapting. It's fun.
© 2002 Edmond Y. Chang. All original material. All rights reserved.
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