FLASHBACKS' Statement of Purpose

While "Writings On The Wall" was envisioned as a place to post past writings and photoessays that are associated with the BLACKOUT project, FLASHBACKS will feature more current works. And through narrrative techniques, psychological experiences, spiritual reflections and, of course, the integration of my photography with my writings each post will shed light on the life of its author, Elvert Xavier Barnes.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Sunday, 24 January 2010 at the Hirshhorn Museum

While it was my Sunday, 24 January 2010 visit to the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC that gave rise to this photoblog which, by the way, had been on my mind for several years it is not until today which is Labor Day Friday, 3 September 2010 that I've made this first post.

There have been several instances since the January 2010 visit to the Hirshhorn that have given me cause to post, but, for reasons that I'll explain later ... I did not do so. In particular, three such events were the 35th Capital Pride celebration in WDC which was followed by my trip to NYC a couple of weeks later for the NYC Pride and then a week later when over the 4 July Weekend that I visited a longtime friend that I've known for almost 30 years (and his partner) for a Fireworks Dinner Party.

Though still under construction, the docu-project "Full Circle" sheds light on these as well as other experiences over the summer of 2010 as does "Spring Rituals" focuses on spring 2010.

Over the years, I have written a great deal pertaining to my "In The Fall of the Year" experiences which, and like clockwork, would shift into gear over Labor Day Weekend. Unfortunately, many of these writings were deleted when a couple of years ago that AOL Hometown shut down and then last fall that Yahoo Geocities shut down as well.

And while original documents of some of the writings may be found on my old Apple hard drive and paper copies of many are in folders stored in boxes at my apartment having to re-write, remember and revisit these writings and times is not unlike living in the past.

Which is something that I really wish I did not have to do, over and over again, since when reflecting on the past I must also accept the fact that since the relationships that others had with me were based on deception, lies and dismanteling the only things that are left are horrific memories and flashbacks of unspoken truths.

It is now Labor Day Weekend 2010 and while, historically, autumn has been one of my favorite seasons, in recent years, I have come to realize that as one of the black men that the US Government has targeted for more than 35 years ... each and every step that I have ever taken has been dismantled by those who associated and had relationships with me.

But, it has only been through the integration of my photography with my writings that I have been able to verbalize these truths.

And while in many cases these flashbacks are involuntary reactions triggered by an event or the encountering of a person that I've known from the past in each situation the flashbacks (that I speak of) are more spiritual, in nature, as opposed to psychological.

As a result, but through and with the passage of time, these revelations not only bring into focus the truth of the nature of the past event, relationship or person(s) but they also reveal the impact that the same has had on my life. Which, until then, I had not been able to process nor understand. Or, perhaps, could not accept. but, in most cases, not allowed to express!

In fact, and as a result of what I was going through at the time, it was during my Labor Day Weekend 1992 trip to Fire Island that I would then decide to integrate my photography with my writings not only to document my life but, also, as a therapeutic and cathodic means by which to deal with racism.

While not my first visit to Fire Island, the 1992 trip has been my last. If my memory serves me correctly, my first visit was Labor Day Weekend of 1979 with Frank (my best friend) and several of his friends. One of which who has a direct connection to the launching of this photoblog as it was a result of my January 2010 visit to the Hirshhorn that brought back memories of the time when in late February or early March 1982 that she and I spent a few hours at the Hirshhorn.

And whenever I now come across any image or revisit the 1992 Labor Day Weekend at Fire Island photo album not only am I able to remember exactly what I was going through at the time, but, memories and flashbacks of Labor Day weekends from over many years come to mind as well.

In a seperate entry, I will post an image from my 1992 LDW Fire Island trip but, for now, allow me to explain the meaning of the Sunday, 24 January 2010 Hirshhorn image posted above.

While I've always enjoyed visiting art galleries, museums and the like ... it was not until February 2007 that the Sundays at the Museums project was launched. Inspired by the Cutural Tourism DC's "Baby It's Cold Outside" campagin my visits to museums are more likely to take place in the winter months not only so as to get out of the cold weather but, as a result of the racism that I experience when visiting such venues. And since the crowds are much heavier during the warmer months, so is the racsim.

I do not now recall why it was the Hirshhorn that I had decided to visit on Sunday, 24 January, other than that since its October 1974 opening it ranks amongst my favorite museums. More than likely, it had something to do with the 'racial experiences' that I had with Smithsonian security guards over the January 2008 Martin Luther King Day Weekend at the Smithsonian Castle and then on 28 December 2008 at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Skating Rink.

While I wished that I had posted this entry in January when thoughts and feelings were fresh on my mind, what has remained very clear since then, are the memories that came to mind and flashbacks that I experienced when exiting from my apartment building on that cold wintery January day.

Which, each and every time that I have walked that same route since then, now flash before me!

Just as I opened the door to exit the building from its side entrance which faces the parking lot nearest to the swimming pool, and like a breath of fresh air, memories came to mind of the time when Rae Ann and I visited the Hirshhorn in late Feburary or early March 1982. With a smile on my face, I realized that it was something that I had not thought of for many a year.

As I continued along the breezeway and turned left onto the side of the building which faces the playground, I chuckled when remembering that it was during the 1979 LDW Fire Island trip that Rae Ann and Frank had begun to refer to me as the "invisable man".

Allow me to explain. After several hours of sunbathing and walking along the beach, Frank suggested that he and I take a walk to the Meat Rack. Which meant that Rae Ann and Inny would remain on the beach which they did not object to since they wanted to get tanned.

Once at the Meat Rack, Frank and I each took a hit or two of MDA and then began to cruise. No time at all passed before we, literally, had to fight off the men who grabbed at me. While we were used to the way that white men 'came after me' he nor I were prepared for what would happen during my first visit to the Meat Rack. Shortly afterwards, I met a man named Jorge S. who suggested that he and I go back to his beach house. Since I was not into sunbathing nor could swim Frank agreed that it would be ok for me to leave with Jorge as long as I met up with the group at the Pavillon between a speficied time period.

After we each took another hit or two of MDA and leaving Frank to his own devices at the Meat Rack, Jorge and I hurried on our way to a beach house not far away that he shared with a few others.

While Jorge and I were partying at his beach house on mda, mdm and cocaine a rain storm passed through and the group as well as everyone had to evacuate the beach. And when it came time for me to meet them since the storm was still in progress, I could not leave. At least, that is how Jorge and I saw it.

However, once the storm blew through, I was able to leave and reunite with the group. Since then, Rae Ann and Frank have often referred to me as the invisable man.

When stepping off the patio (en route to the Hirshhorn) I remembered at least two other invisable moments that took place in NYC a year or so later. By that time, Frank and I were sharing a studio on West 21st Street in Chelsea and Rae Ann had taken the AMTRAK from DC to visit Frank for the weekend.

On both occasions, after a night of dancing and partying at the Saint and leaving Frank and Rae Ann to their own devices, I had left with someone who I met at the club. Though it was suggested that I meet them at the apartment by a certain time to join them for brunch or a walk through the city. But, it would be well into the afternoon and or evening before I returned back to the apartment. Remembering these occasions, I almost laughed out loud.

If truth be told, there were two factors that contributed to why I made myself "invisable". The first has to do with the fact that Rae Ann and Frank were close friends. And while I always enjoyed her company as well as that of all of Frank's friends, the truth is, she was Frank's friend and she came to visit Frank. Not me. And one of the reasons that Frank and I were such good friends was that we never tried to interfer nor control the relationship nor lives of each other.

So, I often made myself scarce when his friends came around. Not out of jealously nor feelings of unwantedness but, simply, from out of respect. And a second factor had to do with the fact that Frank and his friends often did things that I was not always into. Nor could afford.

Most from the restaurant industry, they enjoyed eating out, going to shows. partying, and traveling.

Nor did I have parents who could afford to sent me money the way that their parents did. In fact, it was not uncommon for me to send money to my parents and family when I could.

And then, but, just as I opened the gate to exit the complex into the 300 block of N Street, SW, and like a bolt of lightning, memories of David W. flashed before me. As I remembered that it was upon my return to DC from the 1979 Labor Day Weekend trip to Fire Island that when visiting him at his Silver Spring MD apartment ... I found the few items of clothing and several new age record albums that I had left at his place ... placed out onto this back patio.

And as I closed the gate behind me, a most important revelation flashed before me. As I remembered the haunting similarities between David W's September 1979 reaction and Lothar's behavior many years later when visiting him in July 1992 and after the Black Party 2006. Which I will discuss later.

But, for now, let's get back to the summer of 1979. At the time, I worked for the US Park Police HQ near Haines Point in SW Washington DC and was living on Capitol Hill in NE DC. And since July of that year had been 'hanging out' with a Montgomery County school teacher who lived at the Finnmark Americana complex in Silver Spring, MD.
After meeting one night at the DC bathhouse and striking up what, at first, was a 'sexual relationship' I spent much of the summer of 1979 assisting David W. in repainting the interior of his apartment. Which he was in the process of selling and planning for a fall relocation to the soon to be completed Georgian Colonies development in Aspen Hill, Maryland.

A Buddhist, art deco collector and avid gardner David also had a knack for building things with his hands. And, thanks to him, I learned a great deal about interior painting.

When I visited his Silver Spring apartment for the first time a few nights after our July 1979 meeting at the Bathhouse I learned that he had just broken up with a man who he had had an abusive relationship. So when a few days after my first visit to his apartment that he spoke of becoming 'an item' explaining that having just exited from my second relationship which after lasting for only a few months had, literally, devestated me financially I told David that I was in no mood nor position for another relationship.

My first relationship which lasted for almost three years had come to an abrupt end when my partner, Rick, broke up with me as a result of a weekend trip that I had taken with Frank to NYC in July 1978.

Since the start of our relationship over the summer of 1975, Rick had had issues with my relationship with Frank who had been my best friend since our freshman year at the University of Maryland / College Park when we met at the Easton dorm in the fall of 1973. He also objected to the relationship that I had with Ken who I shared an apartment with in Lanham MD just a few miles down the road from his Bladensburg MD apartment.

Since several of my friends were associated with Maryland's Delta Tau Delta fraternity, Rick's concerns were that my friends may would influence me to drink, smoke pot and party the way that they were known to do. However, and as all my friends knew, I was not one to partake in such things.

It was shortly after our meeting in the fall of 1973 I introduced Frank to the Pier 9 which was the first big gay nightclub in DC. At the time, he was a pledge at Maryland's Delta Tau Delta. Since Pier 9 was a hang out for gays and straights and many college students as well, it was not uncommon for us to run into others from the U of M campus. As was the case when one night that we ran into Jimmy who along with his straight twin brother was also a Delt.

So, in the beginning, when the 'group' consisted of Frank, Jimmy and I we often wiggled our way out of frat events and headed down to the Pier 9. Or the Lost and Found, once it opened.

In the fall of 1975, Mark M, a delt pledge who was also gay, joined the group. By that time, I had left Delt as a result of the drinking and partying. Which I was not into. Somewhere along the way, Tim and Ken, who actually had been tricks of Frank, also were amongst the group.

As well as Laurie who referrred to herself as a 'fag hag'.

In addition to the fact that I was the only black, another important dynamic of the group was the economic disparity that existed between my friends (who were white) and I. And while I never felt less than nor discriminated against by my friends the fact that I am black was a most important factor in the equation as was the economic disparities between my family and theirs.

Having come from upper middle class and wealthy families, my white friends not only enjoyed freedoms, priviledges and entitlements but, it was not uncommon for any one of them to contact their parents for money to take trips.

I, on the other hand, while on partial scholarships worked part-time during the school season and full-time between semesters. In fact, with the exception of Frank and I going to the bars, I actually seldom accompanied my friends on their trips. Or their parties.

And, yet, on any occasion that I did not only was my experience, at the event, often different than that of my white friends but, once I returned home ... others would chastize and reprimand me, often inferring that I was "trying to act white". Which brings us to the 1979 Labor Day Weekend trip at Fire Island.

And while I regard my experiences at Fire Island over Labor Day Weekend 1979 with Frank, Rae Ann, Inny and Eason as fond memories those associated with what would occur once I returned to DC are flashbacks.

Similarly, my 1982 visit to the Hirshhorn with Rae Ann are more memories while the incidents with Smithsonian security guards, over the years, are more flashbacks. And, had there only been one or two incidents with security guards or the police the impact would not be as intense but, since and in sharp contrast to my white counterpart, I almost always experience the exact same racism ... the experiences are more in the vein of flashbacks.

So, as I opened the gate to exit the apartment complex at the circle in the 300 block of N Street in SWDC, I wished to God that, for just once, I could go to a museum or visit an art gallery and not be cognitive of the fact, that as a black male, people expect for me to pretend that I will not be treated differently than if I were white.

Stay with me! When this entry is completed YOU WILL HAVE MUCH BETTER PERSPECTIVE OF ME and my life experience, AS A BLACK MAN!

And while I have always had relationships with folks of any and all ethnicites and backgrounds including females as friends, for the most part, my 'partners' have been white.

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