This morning around 10:30am, I was walking down a residential street in the Adams Point neighborhood of Oakland, California and passed by a fifty-something man wearing a bird mask. Later in the day, I drove through the suburb of Walnut Creek and saw a couple of preppy teenagers wearing slutty bee costumes, and it was only then I realized it was Halloween. But really, it may as well have been any other day as far as that middle-aged bird-man possibly attending a residential Halloween party at 10:30am in Oakland was concerned.
In Oakland, this eclectic city of artists, techies, academics, potheads, yoga practitioners, community organizers, foodies, gang members, and/or hipster refugees from the midwest, I have walked around wearing pajamas, three-piece suits, and heavily blinged out salwar kameezes alike, without garnering any sort of reaction. A few miles away in the Castro district of San Francisco, senior citizens regularly walk around stark naked and no one bats an eye. Oakland, Berkeley, and San Francisco together have more than a dozen annual street fairs dedicated to kink and/or weirdness. In these cities, you will never be able to evaluate the level of education or income that a person has based on her outward appearance, clothing, or level/nature of daytime intoxication. There is simply no correlation.
I know this near-immunity from standing out or being figured out does not apply to most of California or the United States or the world — but it’s always interesting to see what sorts of things seem to be flagged as oddities. Somehow, without even opening our mouths, my sister and I on our 1997 India trip were always identified by street vendors as English-speaking and foreign-currency-holding. We weren’t even dressed in western or trendy clothes or anything. But I think my sister nailed it by guessing that it was precisely because we were wearing baggy salwaar kameezes from the 1980s that they were onto us. What local young modern Indian women would be dressed so hideously unless their parents had left the country decades ago, passing onto them this anachronistic sense of decorum?
Speaking of decorum, a word I immediately associate with the Brits, I will be on my British Airways flight to London in less than 24 hours!! At last, my next update will touch upon actual travel experiences and the ways in which I’ve regulated my