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When Science and Travel Collide

Four Scientists Walk into a Bar

USA | Wednesday, 27 May 2015 | Views [82] | Scholarship Entry

I imagined them wearing heels. My mind conjured a mashup of the final rumble in “The Outsiders” and the “Single White Female” stiletto death scene, only with glitter.
After our two-week NOAA research cruise, the ship finally reached the fishing and logging town of Port Angeles. Four of the scientists were on a mission: beer and fun.
We walked into a dimly lit bar. The funky blend of sea, cigarettes and ammonia with a hint of vomit did not deter us. We ordered beers, queued up the jukebox and shot pool. I asked our salty bartender where we could find a good time in this otherwise sleepy town. He looked me over, and then grumbled about the Esprit transgender conference this weekend and an ‘80s Battle of the Trans Bands show tonight. Begging for details, he said since 1990, hundreds of trans descend on Port Angeles in May. When I asked how locals felt, he said they don’t mind much. Most tolerate it. Those who don’t pack up and leave. They [trans] need a place. It’s safe here.
With full pints, I briefed my colleagues. All were game; our evening set. Yet as we continued our revelries, I began to think. What if they wouldn’t let us in? We weren’t with the conference or transgender. What if they confronted us, stiletto heels in hand, and told us to GTFO, my conjured mashup realized?
The four of us walked into a bar. Eyes adjusting, we saw ourselves immersed in a sea of leather, Lycra, heels, wigs, makeup and glitter. We had found the show. Nasty Habits took the stage as we ordered drinks. The lead singer, clearly the glam-punk seed of Blondie and Hedwig, belted out “One Way or Another.” I was mesmerized by how her lips curled over the lyrics. She had us jumping and singing like disciples at her punk rock altar, baptized in orange and pink light. It was transcendent.
Like a magpie, I was taken by a gal’s sparkly bracelet. During the set break, I asked her where she got it. We soon began to chat about Esprit and her story: never identifying as a man, her marriage, children, divorce, finding Esprit and strength in this community. We talked intimately like this until, suddenly, the lights came up – closing time. I hugged her warmly and whispered well wishes.
Four scientists walk out of a bar, stumbling down dark streets, back to their research vessel and simple lives. It’s places like Port Angeles that give me hope for humanity, one community extending shelter to another, until the day it is no longer needed.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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