Have you ever been to The Ogden?
The Ogden Chicago, The Official Blackhawks Bar and Restaurant, is an amazing bar and grill actually located on Ogden, 2 blocks away from the United Center. If you venture over to their website, and check out their About Us page, you'll see that they've featured in a cornucopia of Chicago publications, as being a top place to eat, drink, and watch sports. It's my place of choice to go and watch UFC pay-per-views. It was there where I got the thought for this blog.
Ok, so let me take a few steps back.
Monday is my birthday. I'll be :: cough :: years old. I've never been one to celebrate my birthday. However, living in Chicago, and coming from the southside, as you get older, I feel there is a certain sense of accomplishment for making it this far in life. So many people don't make it this far in life. And I told myself that I would take more care to celebrate myself. Celebrating myself is not something I do often, or gracefully for that matter.
So, part of my thought for this birthday was to send a bat signal out on Facebook and see who was interested in getting together this weekend, to help me ring in a new year of life. The only response I got back was crickets, which I anticipated.
I don't connect with people in the best of ways. For as much as my life and my work seem to center around people, I think most people would imagine I draw deeper connections than I do. I picture myself as more of a butterfly, flying willy nilly around, creating smiles as it moves, but never really settling into one place. I'm often surprised how few people actually know me on an intimate level, and ultimately how few I actually know.
But I do think that a big point of my life, is to connect with people. I enjoy connecting with people. I don't really give much thought as to how deep to the core of people I ultimately get, probably a failing on my part, because I think people will open and revel themselves if they see fit, and I'll simply take in whatever is offered. I rarely push.
And so I found myself at the Ogden, with my friend and training partner Sam, watching UFC 228. I was greeted by the bartender, Audrey. Lovely young lady, with some amazing curly wild hair, and a great smile. I responded in kind, chatted a bit, and such.
I always attempt to go out of my way to be friendly with people in the service industry. That shit ain't easy. Also, simply due to my few years at Starbucks, I know how much bullshit people can offer. I always try to offer a smile, some loose chit chat, and to rely on them in their knowledge and expertise. At one point, I asked Audrey her opinion on what I should eat for dinner, narrowing it down to either the Cowboy Burger, or the Raspberry Pecan salad with Steak. She said she loved the Cowboy Burger, and wholeheartedly recommended it.
I said: "Oh, you're a bad influence. We're going to be great friends."
She said: "So yeah, the chef here doesn't allow me to go to McDonald's anymore, because that was pretty much my whole diet."
I said: "Good man."
We laughed, I took her advice, and so on. It felt nice to see her smile, to smile myself, and to at least have those few moments of connection. To brighten the day, the atmosphere, and ultimately the lives of others, I feel is a noble aim. You do for them, and they do for you in return hopefully. Imagine if we all simply entered into the public sphere with that basic outlook on our interactions;
"I'm gonna do my part to uplift you and make you smile, and in return you'll do the same for me."
As I reflected on my interaction with Audrey, I thought about my other fabulous interactions of the day. I started the day with a wonderful Jiu Jitsu training session at Team Redzovic Lincoln Square. I've been training at that school since 2009, and I love it. Not only do I get amazing training, but I truly enjoy my training partners. Such diverse personalities, but all amazing people. Shitty people don't really survive long at Team-R, and I appreciate that. Not that everyone fits a cookie cutter mold, but they're all people of character, and have great hearts. As much as I enjoy the training on the mats, I enjoy sitting and talking with everyone. Hearing about their jobs, their families (Everyone is having babies!!! Eeek!) and their lives. I had a great convo with my training partner Ted about education, and the upcoming mayoral election, which I will hopefully blog about soon. It's going to be a doozy!
From there, I met up with my friend Veva, and her friend Angel. The only accurate word I could ever use for Veva is amazing. Veva is a woman that I revel in being enamored with. She's fiercely intelligent, funny, vivacious, snarky, sassy, beautiful...an analogy used about spending time with her is like sitting in the grass on one of those first warm days of the year, when your face is kissed by the spring sun for the first time, and you close your eyes, and it is glorious. I absolutely love basking in Veva's presence, and that is something that she's fully aware of. I could spend hours listening to her stories, looking at her smile, listening about school (half of which I couldn't begin to understand...she's getting her doctorate in something, that's all I got for ya.) and about her friends and family. I hadn't seen her in quite a while, so today felt like a treat.
I think so many people so desperately like to draw lines around their relationships. I don't really feel that need. I know that Veva and I are just friends, but I have no problem dazzling in her essence in the same fashion I would a lover. I simply appreciate her as she is. I like all that she offers, and I love the way that I feel around her. I could only hope that I offer something similar.
Angel is someone that she said I had met before, but anyone who knows me knows my memory is about an inch long. But Angel seemed like a very pleasant person, and Veva mentioned to me that Angel is a female transitioning to a male. As I thought about it, I don't think I have any friends that I'm aware of as being in transition. I didn't give much thought to it in the midst of our 2+ hour conversations, but when I walked away I found myself thinking:
I just don't get it. Why would anyone be mad at him for simply wanting to be who he is? Why would anyone be bothered by how someone else wants to live their life. Why should it matter to me who someone else is fucking, wants to fuck (as long as it's consensually with another adult), or how they choose to fuck. It simply boggles my mind. I don't care if you're gay, or straight, or bisexual (I'll forever be tickled by a friends mom who used to say that "I get gay people, but bisexuals are just greedy!"), or born looking like a girl, but feeling like a boy, and wanting to correct that, or vice versa. What does any of that matter as long as the person has a good heart?
Much like race, when it comes to sexuality, we have created so many issues out of something that's relevant to the person in question, but completely irrelevant in that person being a part of society. Who they are makes them unique, and that's absolutely relevant, but whether they have a penis or vagina, or suck penis or vagina, or suck penis and vagina, is completely irrelevant to anyone other than them and the people they're sharing themselves with.
Does that make sense? That was a lot of sucking.
But Angel was awesome.
Next was watching UFC 228 at the aforementioned Ogden with my friend Sam. Good guy. Funny as hell. Smart, worldly, cool dude to hang with. Someone that I absolutely appreciate. I was happy that he reached out to watch the fights together (watching the fights alone is not unusual for me) and in a great venue. We chatted a lot, we laughed a lot, we cheered at some amazing knockouts and submissions.
I ended the night Face Timing with my dear friend Teri. I sometimes feel like words can't accurately describe Teri. You just have to experience her energy. Incomparable is a word that I suppose would fit. She recently had the most beautiful little girl, and has an awesome partner who is a really cool cat. I enjoy them, being around them, and it was a treat to have some time chatting with Teri, which isn't exactly the norm. It was a perfect end to my evening.
And so I sit here, in a hotel room, penning this, and being grateful, and thankful, for the people that I am so lucky to meet and connect with, day in and day out. It always strikes me as funny, as I was a kid with a lot of social anxiety. I hated large places, being around large groups of people, and was relatively shy and extremely awkward.
How things change.
So what about you? Do you ever go out of your way to connect with people? Who are your favorite people to connect with? Do you have a special place you like to take people for social time? Favorite place to hang out? Favorite place to meet people? Let me know down in the comments.
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This post was created on my brand new HP Pavilion x360.
I'm coming up in the world.