Saturday, May 29, 2010

Weird, Where These Things Come From

I just had a strange memory come back to me, but first, here's the chain of moments that sparked the memory into being.

I'm at the inlaws' apartment, waiting until we take off to see Iron Man 2. Rebecca said that her parents could get a nap first, but when I stepped out of the computer room I saw Rebecca and Eddie passed out and Millie sitting on the edge of her seat, watching In Like Flynn on TV.

I thought about composing a photograph of myself in each of their positions and remembered how I used to do that in Photoshop. One such picture--me, strangling myself from behind with a scarf--was so disturbing that Rebecca considered not dating me because of it, way back in the beginning.

Images of the other photo collages flickered through my mind: me, dressed as a traditional ninja, facing off against me dressed as Kakashi from Naruto. Three versions of me, standing in the front hall and pulling on jackets and shoes, preparing to go out. Two of me, sitting on the couch, one reading a book and the other clicking through channels on TV. My mind went back and focused on the three of me going out, and I think one of me was wearing a large, knee-length wool coat. I also wondered whether the traditional ninja suit would soften up after a few washings.

Actually, it's a Swedish Army officer's off-duty jacket, according to a Swedish veteran who helped me identify what the insignia on it meant. I used to pin my own medals and those of my father on its chest and go out like that. One guy on a bus tried yelling at me because he was sure I was making fun of Viet Nam. He was too young to have served, but he had a chip on his shoulder about it and was only too anxious to get into a fistfight on a bus over it.

But here's where the memory came in. I was riding in the back of an MTC bus, where the seats face each other across the aisle, and across from me sat down three people. I don't remember one of them, I think it was a girl, but she was sidelined by the other two. One was a light-skinned black man who had a shy, hunched posture and wide rolling eyes, and he expressed brief statements in goofy voices. The star of the trio, however, was a short and strong-looking white man with a shaved head, a denim jacket, and black pants tucked into a pair of tabi boots. These are ninja climbing boots with a notch between the big and 2nd toes, to assist with rope-climbing. There aren't a lot of publicly accessible ropes dangling throughout Minneapolis, so he was just being a sci-fi/fantasy freak.

He sat down directly across from me. He glared at me. He kept his chin up and stared at me intently, as though waiting for me to give anyone in his group a judgmental look. I'm wearing this large wool jacket with military medals on the chest and a gold and red drapery cord looped around one shoulder like a campaign award, plus a kouffiyeh around my neck, so I'm not looking very conventional either.

But this guy was primed to take offense at anyone. It was very, very hard not looking at any of them, occupying as they did much of the viewing space directly ahead of me. The black guy kept making comments about me to his friends, in his strange voices, one of which was a comically alarmed voice: "Now I've seen everything!" Like I'm the strange one. Walking around downtown in ninja climbing boots is A-OK, but this wool jacket of mine has me branded a freak, and the stumpy denim guy is just itching for a confrontation.

Nothing happened. He stared, I continued to look away, and one or the other of us left the bus.

2 comments:

Shanna (Crabbit) said...

Reminds me of the looks and comments I get whenever I wear my 1950s West Point Academy long overcoat, or my POW-MIA hoodie, around town. I remember one lady on a bus decided to grill me about the hoodie, and I managed to surprise her.

Most people are just ignorant about the West Point coat and ask me if it's a Confederate overcoat. One man in a Barnes and Noble recognized it right away because his son was a West Point graduate.

Christian said...

Awesome. Maybe you should block out that small print beneath the MIA logo that reads "Please Give Me Shit About This."

When I was in high school, a number of people took to calling me a Nazi because I'd ordered a NATO fatigue jacket from Banana Republic. It had a German flag on the sleeve, see. Not a swastika, not a totenkopf or a black eagle, just the regular old flag that the nation has used long before and long after WWII.