Month: March 2014

Neon Lights and Acceptance

One for the Show <- LINK TO AUDIO SLIDESHOW

In the supposed most conservative campus in America, pockets of people have found a safe haven. Every Friday, the bar Stir in Auburn becomes a place of greater than average blush amounts, sassy retorts and freedom of expression.

Almost two hours is spent on getting ready for each show. Performers swap eye shadows, dig for the right pink lipstick, and do their eyeliner to perfection. Wigs are brushed and outfits are laid out as a steady stream of light girl power music is played, contrasting with the heavy bass vibrating the walls from downstairs.

Lotus and Imberli, Auburn residents, have heard of other bars targeting possible gay costumers, but say nothing negative towards them. Its right in this case to just be the better woman.

The other bars are missing a huge market however. Handful by handful, curious people have started frequenting Stir. Compliments and hello’s are given freely and judgment upon atypical lifestyles is not passed. The show starts when the ladies are ready, and the audience clambers to the front or to stand on barstools for a better view of the first performer that saunters out.

The queens balance delicately on 4.5 inch heels, strutting, tutting and twerking to the music they have selected for the night.

In between acts they joke with the audience and perform an orientation roll call that never fails to get the audience laughing.

For one night at least, there is no judgment. No one blinks at the gay couple dancing together and if shocked looks are thrown, it’s only to comment on the performers greater dancing abilities.

It is not the place is defining, it is the people. And the people of Stir have made it a place of neon lights and open acceptance.

When “See You Later” Doesn’t Mean See You Later

I recently stumbled across the article Don’t Drink the Water on YahooNews by Christy Karras about what foreign travel guide books say about people in the United States.

Some of the tips I could have guessed, like one from Japan talking about how American food is not subtle. Americans like bold flavors from all around the world, especially if our over-indulgence in salt is any indicator.

Others I found slightly ironic, such as a tip from Latin America telling its travelers to not drink the water and instead buy bottled water.

A few more made me pause and think about the stark differences in some countries. Another Japanese manuel tells of how it is not impolite to laugh with your mouth open, in fact many Americans laugh often with mouths wide open and teeth showing. In Japan, showing one’s teeth is deemed offensive, men typically don’t laugh and women cover their mouths with their hands when they smile. Imagine how shocked someone from Japan would be without those words of advice. Likewise, imagine how many people an American, with no knowledge of this rule, would offend.

Similarly, a few Russian tips advise against gifts that could be seen as bribery (which is shockingly illegal in the US), that American women want to be treated as equals and that Americans are really as cheerful as we are portrayed.

I honestly hadn’t thought about it beforehand, but the idea that bribery wasn’t illegal in the modern world was a bit unexpected.

Similarly, that women wouldn’t be treated as equals in business ventures is offensive to me. In 2014 I figured this would be a nonissue in major countries and that it has to be put as a travelers tip is astounding.

One tip that was reverberated in a few countries tip list is “See you later,” doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll actually see them later. I can see how this would be confusing, sometimes in new friendships the phrase is confusing to myself and I’ve had years of experience using the phrase over the phone and as a good-bye.

So, should you be traveling, it’s definitely a good idea to get a traveler’s guide of social etiquitte and things that might be health issues to avoid being the typical rude and overbearing American in a Hawaiin t-shirt with a fanny pack who demands English be spoken wherever they go.