They all look the same, don’t they?
The other day my car scraped a bump in a driveway and when I got out to investigate a guy nearby gestured to his BMW SUV and said “Maybe it’s time you got a real car?” I pondered that for a while and it got me thinking of stereotypes and groupings of peoples and how we perceive each other. It naturally called to mind Atlanta.
A few years ago I met my friend Diane Falcone, a singer-songwriter in Nashville who I know from when we both lived in Boston, at a music conference in Atlanta.
We stayed in this hotel with many floors, as hotels tend to have.
Our room was pretty high up and the hotel was full of people for the music conference so the elevator was always packed and we were usually among the last ones riding it to our room. This made for a pretty wild ride soundtracked by intriguing snippets of conversation from the random assortment of music people. Some were leather jacket-wearing, ponytailed rocker types. Some were clearly music executives and had that executive rocker look. Some had the goth look going on. There was head-to-toe leather and chains. there was FUBU attire and bling. Others displayed a punk aesthetic, and so on. There were a myriad of styles always milling about the lobby and riding up and down the elevators.
The lobby reeked of chaos due to the wild variety of stance and circumstance. People eyed each other, seemingly wary of approach. Some people shrunk into corners, others strutted a swath down the middle of the sea of myriad music-oriented humanity. Posturing ensued. It was fascinating. I felt embarrassingly mainstream because I had no discernible or categorizable look. I had brought my best jeans though, so I was clean and presentable.
One morning while Diane was at a meeting I went down to the lobby to get breakfast and when the elevator doors opened I was suddenly overwhelmed by a sea of what seemed like about 500 new male guests milling about the lobby. I hadn’t yet had coffee and was a bit disoriented so the suddenly changed scenario took a few minutes to comprehend; the lobby was swarming with crested blue blazers, white button-down shirts, tan khakis and loafers. Hundreds, millions even (or so it seemed), of similarly coiffed males sporting the same outfit.
So I got a coffee and sat in the lobby to observe for a while, much as I used to sit and watch the ducks at the park or sit outside a chapel late at night in Las Vegas and watch and listen (What’s your name again?) as people stumbled in to get married. It was almost more fascinating than sitting in the lobby watching the music convention people because you had to look deeper than sartorial splendor to tease out the differences.
The age range was from 20ish to 70ish. The blue blazers had these crests sewn on and everyone had a name badge stuck to their lapels. At closer look it became apparent that this was a fraternity gathering of some sort with past and present members of the fraternal association.
I saw young men confidently camaraderize in groups but then approach older men in a more humble and somewhat obsequious manner and introduce themselves. Hand-shaking ensued.
Certain of the older men had something like a line of young men approaching them and my guess was that these were the more revered fraternal elders, perhaps the most successful due to their philanthropic work with Mother Theresa (a wild guess) or their status as captains of industries such as banking and finance (probably closer to the mark). Of course this was all conjecture from an outside observer. The room reeked of confidence.
That night when Diane and I got on the elevator to head back to our room, there were members of both groups of convention-goers on the elevator with us. When the last music person got off the elevator one of the frat guys turned to the others and said, “They all look the same, don’t they?”
Later we went out for Indian Food even though Diane only eats Chicken Ceaser Salads.
That same Diane Falcone would go on to Fenway fame when, years earlier before any of this happened she sang the national anthem at the start of a Red Sox game. After the game I persistently begged and annoyed the manager of Jake Ivory’s till he gave in and let her do the national anthem again, a capella, at the bar. The crowd went wild. It was like a 4 minute standing ovation. People can really stomp the floor after a few beers. I saw tears in sports fans eyes, such a beautiful voice that Diane has. I cried. I cry now at the memory.