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I just read the exercises tonight and this is the only one left open so here it goes....

I'm viewed as caucasian, some people recognize my italian heritage but yeah, I'm white. I'm also 1st generation American and that has had the biggest influence on how i identify myself and w/ whom i most easily identify.

That being said, reading this exercise i immediately remember my first time in NYC. I was in my early 20's going there to visit a friend. He is dominican but most people assume he is light-skinned black. he lives in Harlem, 125 & Lenox, i took the 't' there by myself. now i'm the type of person who is hyper aware of my thoughts/judgements towards other people, when i see/am close to, or walking down the other side of the street from, a person of color, or a person of obvious religous belief (noted through their clothing), or some-one who seems really down-trodden (homeless, seriously drugged, etc.) I make sure to look them in the eye, smile sincerely, and give some sort of greeting, hoping to send a message that i'm not scared, i see you, we're not that different. that is not to say that my 'shadow' voices are quiet, if they were, then these actions would come more naturally and not be noted by my conscious.

So i'm on my way to Harlem, i'm excited and nervous. i'm nervous about what they'll think of me, i'm scared of seeing someone get shot, i'm wondering if Damon (my friend) will be embarassed to walk down the street w/ me, but still i'm excited and comforted to know that i'll be w/ somebody from there (makes a HUGE difference) almost proud of myself for going (sounds ridiculous but it was true at the time)

I get off the subway and BAM it hits me, brown skin everywhere, kids, people everywhere, music being played on the sidewalk, pouring out of the cars, it was beautiful! I immediately felt like i was in a foreign country, whoa, this is new york city, but from my experience in Italy in a very small town, this was the same sort of feeling. everyone atleast loosely bound by a deep culture. that's why it felt like a foreign country...culture, strong energy, wow.

so we proceed to Damon's apartment, a one bedroom that he shares w/ his mother, they live on the very top floor of a huge building, he gives me a beer, we share a smoke and proceed out onto the balcony. as i'm sitting there it hits me again, BAM, so this is what it feels like, for the first time in my life i am the 'only one'. i sat w/ that thought for maybe an hour up there. i really wanted it to soak in, to never forget. Damon tells me we're going to go down stairs and get some chinese food, i ask him if i should go, he's like 'yeah, just don't say anything stupid', he's joking i think.

as we go i start to come out of my culture shock and as much as i just want to be there, w/o thought of my skin color, it's impossible. i have my head up and smile hoping that they think i'm 'alright' or should i say 'all right'.

when we go back and are eating, i tell Damon how i was nervous and how happy i am to see so many people out in the streets livin, like really living.
he tells me how just last week someone got shot right outside the front door of his building, he saw it from his balcony. no joke.

Wow, i didn't expect to write that much. it was 9 years ago, i guess it did really sink in because my memory of it is quite clear.

I just have to add that soon after we moved to CT we purposely took a drive through Bloomfield, knowing that it is a predominantly black suburb. it was a sunny day, plenty of people were out washing their cars, manicuring their lawns, riding bikes and what not. i still can't put words those feelings. it seemed kind of Truman Showish to me, i know i'm not comfortanle w/ that feeling and i've been meaning to go back. take the kids to story time, sit at the local cafe, get some groceries, i don't know. will i have the feelings i had in Harlem, how much does social status make a difference or does it at all?
 
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