Acts of Meaning

Life times brutal and at times gentle..... and recently I've been feeling like life is extremely overwhelming. I've been wanting to start this blog for over two weeks now. While driving around I've had incredible ideas and subjects. I would sit at the keys and nothing would come to me. The ironic thing is I have been teaching public speaking for the last five years and I have to come up with lots of content every week. For some reason when I'm speaking, I don't worry about the words so much. When I write there is something more final about the words and in a lot of ways that's intimidating. My hope with this blog is that my personality and emotion shines through in these posts and that I provide substantial marinade for your mind.

I've been wanting to write about my extraordinary trip to Canada and the Konkani Convention for the last two weeks but couldn't find the correct way to express anything. Konkani Conventions are overwhelming in many ways. They're filled with friends you never see, family you've never met, and of course all the new people you want to get to know. Everyone talks about the withdrawal they get when they go home, well that's because the experience is so intense. Ever since I left Canada, something has been overwhelming my head but it's a feeling that I didn't get at the other conventions. Last night my mind was so scattered that I couldn't sleep until about 6 AM and even then no resolution. That is until today. The cause is made up of many things but culminated with something that will hopefully stay on my mind for a long time.

Let's rewind two weeks. The convention itself was amazing. It was well put together and well planned and I got to see sooo many people that I love and haven't seen in a long time. Sounds great Vaman? What's your problem? Well anytime I go to these large Konkani events, I inevitably become caught up in thoughts about relationships. Not about certain people but more about my distant future. Being on vacation after the convention didn't help this situation. I had so much chill time the days following the convention that I spent a good deal of it in my own head. Thinking about the future and stressing about future relationships or perhaps the lack of relationships. This of course moved me right into stressing about my job search. So in other words, I became entirely overwhelmed by these thoughts. Canadian Konkanis were able to overpower even my over-analyzing mind and made the last few days in Canada sooooo memorable.

One of our last nights there, a bunch of us went into Toronto to go clubbing and crash in a downtown hotel. The night was amazing to say the least. I finally got to spend time with friends that had been so busy during the entire convention. We had a two dollar drink deal most of the night and our hotel was walking distance from the club. We ended the night by going to a short concert, eating delicious street meat and ending up back at the hotel. Needless to say we don't mess around so we drank and sang old slow jams in our room until about 5 or 6 AM. At this point everyone had passed out for the most part.

In my drunk state I became so overwhelmed by everything on my mind I needed to get some fresh air. My plan was to walk to the harbor where I would sit and watch the sunrise. As I walked out of the hotel, I quickly had no idea where I was going. I stopped some random kid on his bike. He pointed toward the harbor and if I wasn't drunk that probably would have ended our interaction. I looked down at his bike handle and I noticed a blue hankerchief tied around his wrist. I grabbed his hand and asked him what that was all about. He explained that he was part of the Crypts. I'm not sure what most peoples' reaction would be in this situation and I'm not sure in a normal state of mind what mine would have been. I yelled at him. I got incredible upset and pissed off. I went off on the kid saying things like "how can you buy into something that you didn't even start?" "I'm from California. How could that gang have come this far." He said he joined because he was tired of being pushed around by other kids and wanted some backup. I didn't calm down and continued to berate him with questions. His name was Al and he said he was from Jane and Finch (one thing I've been told about Toronto is that I should never go to Jane and Finch because it's a dangerous place). He told me that he had no where to go and might as well walk with me to the harbor.

It was such a beautiful morning. The sun was out and there was no one else on the street.
So the gang member from Jane and Finch and I ended up walking around Toronto and on the harbor front for about 3 hours together and then ate brunch together at a really nice hotel on the water. As we walked into the swanky hotel everyone stared at us. The gawking was very blatant and in some ways I felt like I was protecting this kid from their misconceptions. We grabbed a ton of food from the buffet and sat and talked. We talked and talked and as our conversation went on, I came to learn that Al's dad was a super wealthy man in the Middle East (oh yeah Al is Middle Eastern by the way) and had decided that he no longer wanted children and abandoned them in Toronto. Ever since then he's been living with his Mother and sister in Jane and Finch. That's when I realized the appeal of gangs. They offer people the ability to feel apart of something bigger than themselves. They make them feel apart of a family.

I continued to pester Al about why he would join a gang and finally he gave me a new answer. He said his mom wasn't looking after the family very well and he wanted to make sure his sister was protected as she grew older. So this gang member from Jane and Finch went from a person that society deems as someone that's dangerous and wants to hurt people, to someone that truly believes that joining a gang is the only way to make sure the people he loves don't get hurt.

I was overwhelmed by this whole exchange. As we finished our meal and the hotel overcharged me (bastards!), something crazy happened. Al reached down and took off his hankerchief. I asked him what he was doing and he said, "Listen man, I don't want anything to happen to you. Someone might see us walking together and shoot us both up." I responded by saying, "No man leave it on. Leave it on. That's association. That's exactly what's going to happen to you when one of your boys runs up on someone and then they retaliate by killing you. You hate hurting people but your association with people that do is going to get you killed." He refused, took of the hankerchief and walked me part of the way back to the hotel.

I seriously had to get away from him at this point because I was about to start crying. I felt like a complete asshole. An asshole who felt bad for himself over non-existent relationship stuff and a job hunt. Al has nothing yet stands tall and I've been given everything yet complain about the few things I don't have.

A quotation I saw on a friend's profile has been bouncing around my head for a while now. It reads: "The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; The wise grows it under his feet." I thought it was very profound and spoke to me. It made so much sense to me.... until I met Al. The problem with the quotation is what about the man that has nothing under his feet to begin with?

Al is an artist. Al loves to draw. Al has passion for things many of us only dream about. Yeah, I realized what has been bugging me after all. As people with more than enough growing below our feet, don't we have a responsibility to offer those less fortunate a place to stand? A place to grow? Perhaps it's our generation that finally makes some space for Al. Since in the end this "gangster" from Jane and Finch is really only trying to make space for his sister.