Travelogue: "Doing A Little 'East Coast Swing'"

Ten years ago, I embarked on a life-changing journey.

As corny as it sounds, the "life-changing" part is very true. At the time, I did not know how much it would change my life. It certainly altered the course of my future in various ways.

On the evening of January 29, 1996, I boarded an America West Airlines jet from Oakland Airport to Las Vegas. It would only be the first leg of a remarkable trip. When I arrived around eleven in the evening, the lights of the slot machines in the terminal blared as I hoped to catch the last nonstop flight to Philadelphia. I was originally slated to layover at McCarran Airport until 2:00AM, but was desperate to get eastbound. The flight was full, so I waited stand-by. It was also Super Bowl weekend as the flight had fans coming in from Phoenix on-board. My lucky break arrived as I was the last one to board the Airbus onward to Philadelphia. The door closed and I took a middle seat on the red eye out East.

My mission was to promote my work, called Gen-X Bears, to the people in Philadelphia, Washington DC and Phoenix. This would be a weeklong expedition covering places I never been and meeting a whole slew of people for the first time. I was a neophyte in international community organizing, always relying on local resources to promote my work in the community.

So, what was this fat substitute teacher from California doing in these places promoting an idea that already pissed off half of the bear community? When I walked the streets of Philadelphia, Washington and Phoenix, I asked myself the same question. Then, I came upon some inspiration in the mortal words of Admiral David G. Farragut: "Damn the torpedoes! Full speed ahead!"

With eyes wide open to new experiences, this was a journey that accomplished a lot in my life and for my people.