When Barry arrived on Friday evening, I had a pork roast in the slow cooker, and some red and yellow potatoes as a side dish. We were talking about the Star Trek: Voyager DVDs we've been watching at Barry's house, and Barry mentioned that he discovered recently that the Amazon Prime subscription he has for his lasersmith business gives him access to all the episodes of Enterprise, so we decided to start watching our way through the first season of Enterprise. I think we started right away, that evening, with the first episode. By the end of the day Tuesday, we had watched the first 22 episodes.
The next day, Saturday, Barry and I went for a walk to the Feather River. We had previously (on our first date) walked to the Yuba River from my house. I don't walk to the Feather River as often, because the walk in that direction leads past larger homeless encampments, with off-leash dogs that I can't take Boston past, and because it's a less scenic walk, to a riverfront that itself is less scenic (by which I mean that there's not much wilderness left along that riverfront - there are a bunch of soccer fields along it). But I wanted to show Barry both the rivers I live within walking distance of, so we set out toward the Feather River.
It took a while to find a way past the chain-link fence surrounding the soccer fields and make our way past the soccer games to the riverbank, but we made it eventually. There is a small strip of wilderness I've been to before that we could have gotten to if we'd walked far enough along the bank, but it wasn't readily accessible. We walked out on some broken asphalt under a bridge and explored the place a little, then headed back away from the riverbank. Barry saw what looked like a water fountain and decided he needed a drink. But the water fountain was full of trash and did not have any water. We kept walking and saw another one, this one very near to a well. We tried that one too, hoping that it might be supplied by the well, but there was no water there either. Finally we decided to climb across the levee and buy water from the grocery store on the other side. As we walked, we were talking about the graffiti we saw all over the bridge - various people professing eternal love for each other (I wondered whether any of them were still together, if in fact the love had ever even been reciprocated in the first place) and occasional other statements. We passed some graffiti that said "Fuck bitches get money," and I asked Barry whether he thought it meant "If you fuck bitches, you can get money" or "Fuck bitches; focus instead on getting money." Barry said he thought it was neither, but rather the graffiti artist's do-do list: "First, fuck bitches; second, get money" . . . there was no third thing to get around to doing, apparently. Graffiti artists should learn to punctuate if they want to make themselves understood.
Anyway, we made it to the grocery store. I hadn't brought my purse, but Barry had brought his wallet, so he bought us water and trail mix. Then I said I wanted to walk across the bridge to the other side of the river for a few minutes before we went back to my house. So we walked across. We saw more graffiti on the walk over, mostly more people professing eternal love, and Barry said something about people having such an instinct to proclaim their love by writing it on their surroundings. He asked whether I wished he had spray paint with him and would vandalize the bridge in my honor. I said no, I much preferred for him to have water and trail mix.
On the other side of the bridge - the Yuba City side, as opposed to the Marysville side - we tried to climb down to the water as I remembered having done two years ago, but it wasn't as easy as I had remembered it being to get down to the water. I suggested that we walk a little further upstream until we found a spot where we could reach the water. We walked to the recently developed Willow Island Park and followed its pedestrian path down to a small strip of beach, where signs informed us about salmon in the river. With my finger in the sand at the very edge of the water, I wrote "I love Barry." Then we turned back and headed for my house. We took a somewhat different route on the way back - more through the center of town rather than around the edge of it. We walked to Ellis Lake and were accosted by a very friendly loose dog whose owners were outside with it - they and the dog were on their own property, overlooking the lake - and the owners were embarrassed because the dog took an instant liking to us and tried to follow us home. Eventually they got their dog under control, but we had to stop walking for a minute or two so they could catch up with it. Then we continued walking again. A goose on the shore a little ahead of us dove into the water as we approached. Then we were past the lake, and then a bit later, we were home. And we watched more Enterprise, of course.
On Sunday we went to the Yuba City Sikh Parade. I was pretty certain this would be a big hit with Barry, and I was right. It is always a big hit with me too, but it's even better suited for Barry, because Barry likes Indian food far more consistently than I do, and this event is all about free Indian food. It is a religious holiday in which Sikhs give out free food to everyone in sight, as a matter of religious duty, an obligation to take care of one's fellow people. I like it because there's something about walking down a street crowded with people offering all the free food you can eat to everyone in sight that never fails to inspire a renewed faith that random human strangers can be very nice people and there's hope for humanity yet. And besides that, in an age in which Trump has sowed all manner of racist hostility, this is an event in which the streets of a very Republican and very pro-Trump neighborhood are flooded with brown-skinned people wearing turbans and salwar kameez, and there is no evident hostility toward them from any of the white people present, because come on, it's pretty hard for even a Trump voter to react with hostility when being offered tons of free food.
There is a custom of politeness, however, for when the first parade float passes by. The first parade float carries the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy text, and when it passes, it is considered polite for everyone, even the nonbelievers in the crowd, to cover their heads. Before leaving the house, I searched for some Indian scarves I had previously used for this purpose, but I seem to have gotten rid of them. I didn't especially like them; I just didn't have much else I could use for this purpose. I settled on a shawl, a silk-and-velvet shawl with a beaded picture of a peacock on it that I bought some years back while going through an intense craving to own all the peacock-blue clothing I could find, whether or not it had actual pictures of peacocks on it. This shawl doesn't go well with most of my clothes, though, so to find some clothes that it did go with, I pulled out a dress I generally reserve for rare special occasions. And then, because the dress is not much below knee-length and bare ankles are disapproved of in Sikh culture, I added a pair of black tights. Basically I ended up dressed to the nines. Barry was very impressed and very delighted. Two Sikh women at the parade also complimented me on my peacock shawl.
After struggling a bit to figure out where to park, I parked at the Home Depot, and we set out from there, walking a few blocks to the parade area. Then we spent a good hour or so sampling all the Indian food. In one of the lines, I declined a lot of what was being offered, because it was too vegetabley or too spicy-hot for my tastes, and was then given twice as much bread as other people at the end of the line, because apparently my plate looked too empty. We both ate until we were completely stuffed. And then the parade showed up, and I started taking pictures.
It is an act of religious devotion to sweep the ground clean in advance of the float that carries the Guru Granth Sahib. These people walk backward for the full length of the parade route, sweeping the ground in front of the float each step of the way.
This is the float that carries the Guru Granth Sahib.
After that there are some floats carrying miniature models of Sikh Temples from around the world. This is the float of the Golden Temple Amritsar, in India.
There are also floats telling about Sikh beliefs, such as this one.
The sign says the following:
The Value of Honest Earning
Guru Nanak Dev ji and his companion Mardana traveled to a number of places. During one of his pilgrimages, Guru Nanak Dev ji stopped in Saldpur, currently in Pakistan known as Aimanabad. While in Saldpur, Guru and Mardana arrived a Bhai Lalo's workshop. Bhai Lalo, a carpenter of [??]taora caste, lived by honest work. When Lalo saw two holy men coming towards him, he put aside his work and spread a bed for them and went to get some lunch for them. Bhai Lalo asked Guru Nanak to come to the kitchen to have his meal. Guru ji said, "Bhai Lalo, every place is clean and pure for us. Please bring the meal here." Bhai Mardana asks what was put into the meal as it tasted like nectar. Guru Nanak replied, "That was the taste of truthfulness and honesty that you tasted."
Some time later, a high government official of the city, Malik Bhago, gave a funeral feast. He invited Guru Nanak Dev ji too; however, he declined. On being asked a second time, Guru Nanak took Bhai Lalo with him to Malik Bhago's house. Malik Bhago argued to Guru ji, "You are dishonoring Kshatriyas by eating dry chapaties in the house of a low caste carpenter. My feast will offer you delicious food. Why do you refuse to eat it?"
Guru Nanak took Bhai Lalo's dry roti in his right hand and Malik Bhago's buttered roti in his left hand. When he squeezed the right hand the people present there saw drops of milk dripping from it. And when he pressed the left hand with the fried pancakes, everyone saw blood trickling from it.
Guru Nanak Dev ji explained that wealth gathered by cruelty towards the poor is like sucking their blood. Bhai Lalo on the other hand was the symbol of honesty and hard work. So according to Guru ji it's better to earn a little money with honesty than to amass wealth by devious and crooked means.
This float gives biographies of important Sikh women religious figures.
On the back of the same float is a model of one of them.
Here's another pair of models of Sikh temples. The white one was singed with burn marks, indicating that arson had been committed there.
And this is a sign next to the burned temple.
Then there were some people walking, fencing with swords and performing acrobatic feats.
Here's another model of a temple, with three people hanged behind it.
The signs here say, "United Sikhs Recognize the Human Race as One. International Civil & Human Rights. Humanitarian Aid, Disaster Relief. Education & Empowerment. Volunteer & Donate: www.unitedsikhs.org"
An upcoming referendum in India proposes making the province of Punjab (which is majority-Sikh, whereas India as whole is majority-Hindu) into an independent country called Khalistan or Khalastan. The small signs here say, "Khalistan Is the Only Solution," and, "Sikhs Are Fighting for Nation & Faith," "Without Political Power, Religion Can't Survive."
The signs here are about the same issue: "Free Punjab, End Occupation" and "Sikh Referendum 2020." The parade started feeling less like a parade and more like a political protest march - though I'm not sure how it can have much effect as a political protest march on the other side of the planet from the issue it's protesting.
There were a few more floats.
And one more miniature temple.
. . . And then it was over. Barry has been suggesting ever since that we should go back to the Sikh Parade again, as if it were held every day or every week rather than just once a year.
Since we had parked at the Home Depot, we went shopping there upon our return to the car. Barry was working on fixing several things for me - a dripping showerhead, a chainsaw with a loose chain, a fluorescent light that was being very slow to turn on, and a cat fountain Barry gave me that was leaking water because it was missing an O-ring. He looked for parts at Home Depot, but he didn't know exactly what he needed, so we went home first, and then Barry went back out again to buy what he needed. He ended up giving up on the dripping showerhead - he told me it needed a new cartridge, but he encountered some brass parts and didn't know whether they were soldered and was afraid of wrecking them if he tried to continue, so he advised me to call a plumber. I did, and the plumber confirmed that it needed a new cartridge, and the plumber fixed it. Barry is still working on the chainsaw; he thinks it might need a new tension pin, and I asked him to help me figure out how to buy a new tension pin for it. He's also still working on the cat fountain. But he fixed my fluorescent light for me! I had replaced the tubes in it a couple of years ago, but Barry replaced the ballast in it and also repaired the acrylic light covers I had cracked.
When Barry wasn't working on fixing things, we went back to watching Enterprise for most of the rest of the Sunday and Monday. At some point during this, Barry mentioned that he has trouble telling the difference between two of the characters on Enterprise: security officer Malcolm Reed and chief engineer Charles "Trip" Tucker III. I think Barry had previously mentioned to me that he has trouble recognizing faces, but I had just thought, well, I don't think I'm all that great at recognizing faces either; I didn't give any further thought to it. But now it suddenly made a big impression on me because Barry had cited an actual example of two faces he has trouble telling apart, and those two characters do not look at all like to me. I mean, they're both white men probably in their thirties (late thirties for Malcolm Reed, early thirties for Trip Tucker - okay, I just looked up the actors' ages, and during the first season of Enterprise they would have been 39 and 32, respectively), but beyond that, I don't see a resemblance. One has dark blond/light brown hair and the other has dark brown hair; one is plainly older than the other; their faces do not look similar to me. They also have completely different accents (English versus Southern), but Barry has no trouble recognizing them once they start speaking; he just has to wait until after they start speaking before he can tell which is which. Barry is faceblind! Upon realizing this, I spent much of the rest of our extended weekend together periodically asking him follow-up questions about it, trying to get a better idea of how it affects his perceptions and how it has changed his life experience. It seems to be a major factor in kind of a lot of the things we have in common, which is kind of weird since I'm not faceblind (just maybe very slightly below average at face recognition). Though it turns out that maybe my mother is, and my mother also influenced me in a lot of the ways that I have in common with Barry. My mother had very bad vision for much of her childhood and did not get glasses until she was a teenager, so she thinks the face-recognition part of her brain didn't develop well because her vision was so bad during much of the time when it would normally have been developing.
Barry has no comparable explanation for why he might be faceblind, but he has explanations of how it affects him. He said he was always hopeless at team sports when in school because he couldn't recognize who was on his team and who wasn't. This was kind of similar in effect to my own experience; I was always hopeless at team sports when in school not because I couldn't recognize people but because I inevitably tuned out when the teacher started explaining the rules, so I inevitably ended up unsure which goal my soccer team was supposed to be aiming for or which direction was first base in softball. In second grade I voluntarily signed up to play in a soccer league but then tuned out when told which goal to aim for, so I spent the entire season deliberately slowing down whenever I got anywhere near the ball, because I didn't know which direction I was supposed to be kicking it. And in softball I intentionally struck out every single time I ever batted, all the way through all my years of school, because I wasn't sure which way was first base and didn't want to risk humiliating myself by guessing wrong. And because after a certain point, asking someone to tell me which way was first base or which goal my soccer team was supposed to be aiming for would in itself have been humiliating. (I also tuned out when other class activities such as spelling bees and that kind of thing were explained aloud, but with most things other than sports, the class would take turns, and I generally had time to figure out the rules from watching what other kids did before my own turn came up. There was less taking turns in sports, and also I was so uninterested in sports that when someone else did occasionally get a hit and run to first base, I would promptly forget again which way they had run.) Anyway, although the causes were a bit different - perhaps I had an auditory processing disorder? - it seems like Barry and I had a similar experience of school sports.
I said I often have trouble following the plot of old black-and-white TV shows, because too many of the characters in the era when they were made tended to be white men, usually all dressed virtually identically and with virtually identical haircuts, and when you additionally take out all the color so I can't even distinguish between things like blue suits and brown suits, I usually can't tell all the white men apart from each other. Barry said he has the same problem even with more contemporary, color TV shows, and it's why he doesn't watch much TV - and also why he does watch Star Trek, because the different colors on the Starfleet uniforms and the different alien species' markings usually make it easier for him to tell the characters apart on Star Trek than on most other TV shows. This is another thing we have in common, not watching much TV other than Star Trek. In my case, my not watching much TV other than Star Trek was strongly influenced by my mother's not watching much TV other than Star Trek.
I asked Barry whether his trouble recognizing people made it hard for him to make friends, and he said yes. I asked whether he thinks he has more trouble than most people do in distinguishing which race people belong to, or in "reading" people who are in drag or transitioning between genders. It was difficult to pin down in anywhere near precise terms how much trouble "most people" have in distinguishing people's races or birth-assigned genders might be, but the impression I ended up with was that Barry "probably" has slightly more trouble with this. Then I asked whether he thinks he has more trouble than most people do in reading people's facial expressions, and he said yes, he mostly reads people's body language. This led into another thing we have in common - that both of us were cheated on in our last relationships, and both of us felt similar shock and betrayal, and both of us reacted in similar ways. Both of us could hardly comprehend the idea that anyone, much less someone we'd loved and lived with and trusted for so many years, could behave in such an untrustworthy manner, and both of us feel that we have below-average abilities to see through liars and recognize when they are lying to us. Both of us have learned the hard way to be a bit distrustful of our own tendency to be trustful.
For some reason I asked Barry whether he ever has the experience, as I sometimes do, of suddenly feeling a very strong sense that the person he's talking to is feeling a certain way in response to something he's just said, but of being completely unable to explain to himself what it is about that person's behavior that is conveying that. He said no, he tends to analyze and dissect people's body language very consciously and can't recall ever sensing an emotion from someone else without being conscious of what it was about this person's behavior that was conveying this. I would like to always be conscious of what it is that gives me the impression people are feeling a certain way, because not being sure why I have that impression leaves me not quite sure whether I'm just being paranoid or just engaging in wishful thinking. But sometimes things are just not that clear.
Anyway, it seemed as if he discovery that Barry has trouble recognizing faces helped explain a whole lot about him. But then, a week or so later, I found an online test for faceblindness - the "Famous Faces Test." (You can Google for various versions of it.) Barry scored 85% on a version of it that said an average, non-faceblind score is 85%. I took the same version of the test and scored 81%. So now I don't know what to make of that. Websites about faceblindness do note that some self-identified faceblind people may get high scores on the test. In fact, there doesn't seem to be any test that diagnoses faceblindness with much reliability at all, in terms of correlating with people's self-diagnoses. Faceblindness seems to be almost always self-diagnosed, to the point that now I'm not sure to what extent it's even a real diagnosis at all. That is, there have been a few people who abruptly lost their previous ability to recognize faces as a result of a brain injury, so it seems to be a real thing for those people; and any ability that can be lost in midlife can presumably also be never developed, in some rare few people; but it is not clear whether it's really at all common for people's facial recognition to vary all that much from normal levels. Presumably some people are some degree better at facial recognition than others, but we might all get the impression that our abilities in this area differ more dramatically than they really do, simply because different people focus on different details when recognizing people - so, for example, the difference between Malcolm Reed and Trip Tucker might be completely obvious to me and incredibly subtle to Barry, but there might be some other pair of people who would look incredibly similar to me and incredibly obviously different to Barry.
I don't know. Anyway, that was a big topic of discussion between us for a while.
I was a bit sunburned after the Sikh Parade, due I think to the combination of being outside a couple of hours for the parade and also being outside a couple of hours on the previous day when we were walking to the Feather River. So on the day after the Sikh Parade, when Barry suggested going for another walk, I put on sunscreen first. We just walked to the dollar store and looked around in it, then left without buying anything. Along the way, I tried to give Barry a botany lesson, because I'd been weeding my front yard immediately before our walk, and I wanted to share that experience with him. I told him about seed leaves (the first leaves that sprout from a newly germinated seed, which look different from the leaves that will grow later), and how most plant species are dicots, meaning that they have two seed leaves, but some are monocots, meaning that they have one seed leaf. The information didn't really stick with him. At some point I will do some careful weeding while he has time to sit and watch and listen to me, and I will manage to convey to him at least the general sense of how I think when I'm weeding, and some sort of vague overview of botany. In the meantime, I explained to him that the seedlings coming up in the planter boxes at his house from the seeds I planted there are very likely seedlings from the seeds I planted - I mean, they're sprouting from newly purchased, storebought dirt and compost that shouldn't have any weed seeds left alive in it - and he expressed that lovely sense of wonderment that every new gardener feels upon realizing that the seeds planted last week have magically turned into tiny baby plants.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. Two days after the Sikh Parade was Election Day. Barry had already voted by mail, but I voted at my local precinct on Election Day. I had taken that Monday and Tuesday off work, because Barry was staying at my house, and the reason he was staying at my house was that he wanted to go with me to the Election Day party that my friends Alyson and Jackie had organized. It was an all-Clinton party in an almost-all-Trump part of the almost-all Clinton state of California. It was also a very lesbian party. Barry was one of only two men there; the other man was a neighbor of one of the lesbians, and had put up a Clinton yard sign, which had been stolen, and his yard sign had gotten him invited to the party.
There were lines at my precinct when I voted, even though I voted at an uncommon time of day, in the middle of what would ordinarily have been my workday, because I had the day off work. I wondered then whether it was a bad sign about the election's outcome, that turnout was high in my very pro-Trump neighborhood.
Barry and I had a 45-minute drive to the party that evening, and there weren't any election returns coming in yet when we left my house. But 45 minutes later, the very first thing we were greeted with upon walking in the door at the party was the news that the election was a nailbiter and things were not going well. It only got worse from there, of course. By the time we went back to my house, we had a very bad feeling that we were very likely to end up with Trump as president. There was some degree of room for doubt until we woke up the next morning, but it wasn't all that much.
On the drive home, I drove through some drifts of tule fog and suggested that Barry might want to stay overnight with me so as to avoid driving home in tule fog. He had planned to go home late Tuesday night, but he ended up going home first thing Wednesday morning instead. The morning was a bit of a daze. I found that I had to consciously remind myself that not everything in my life depended on who was president - that I had not, for example, entered into a romantic relationship with Barry contingent upon the president being a Democrat, and therefore I could continue to date Barry even with Trump in office. It simply was not the way I had been expecting the future to go. I had known, of course, that having Trump elected president was a real possibility, but since worrying about it wasn't likely to help anything, I had mostly been choosing not to worry about it.
The following weekend, Barry and I didn't see each other at all. I had bought tickets for a swanwatching tour as part of the California Swan Festival, but Barry came down with a cold that made him too sick to drive here that Friday night and too sick to go swanwatching that Saturday night, and I had a ton of work to catch up on anyway, so I advised Barry to just stay where he was, at his own house, and focus on getting well, rather than coming to my house just to be sick and maybe get me sick when we wouldn't be able to do much together. I did go on the swanwatching tour myself. I carpooled with a family from the nearby town of Lincoln - Rick and Mayumi and their two very well-behaved small children (ages maybe 4 and 6). I liked them. They were plainly introverts, so we were all happy to be silent together. And I figure they were probably not Trump supporters, because neither of them was white (Mayumi was presumably from Japan, given her name, and Rick appeared to be of Middle Eastern descent). And we all cared about looking at tundra swans, so we had that in common. I took swan pictures, and maybe I'll post those later, but I didn't really get anywhere near as good a view of the birds, or as good of photos of the birds, on this tour as I did on a similar tour two years ago. Mostly I just got pretty sunset pictures, which are nice, but not entirely the point of the tour. I told Barry I want to take him on the tour route in January, just the two of us, with me acting as tour guide. We may get a better view of the birds when there aren't so many other people around to scare them off.
And the next weekend after that, I went to Barry's house. He has a new foster cat named Lois - an adult cat this time, maybe two years old, being fostered for six to eight weeks while she recovers from surgery after being found injured, probably bitten by a dog. Lois is extremely cuddly. I haven't gotten around to taking any pictures of her yet. On Saturday we bought a truckload of dirt to finish filling up the second planter box he built, and then Barry had friends over to play board games while I worked. Although it rained all weekend, on Sunday I weeded his front yard anyway and planted seeds in it. We also found time to continue watching Star Trek: Voyager and one episode of Enterprise (which we switched over to because we were being sat on by cats and therefore couldn't get up to put in the next Voyager DVD).
This coming Sunday is Barry's birthday! He will be 35. We have much to celebrate.