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"Social Borders"

Updated on December 21, 2017

     I got in the car a few days ago and not wanting to listen to any one of my “billion” music cds, I thought I would leave the radio on. There are not many stations worth listening to on the radio though. Most of them are riddled with commercials and garbage music. The one station I do listen to once in a while is 91.1 Jazz FM. This station is a non-for-profit organization; the people who work there are volunteers and the station relies heavily on donations but there are hardly any commercials on.

     Several times a year, they dedicate a week to raising money by giving away small prizes such as coupons or cd collections, etc. There were two broadcasters and a guest on that day. After taking a call, one of the broadcasters mentioned that the last lady who had called and donated money was eighty-four years old. He congratulated her, saying how obviously due to her “advanced” age, she has lived through the beautiful “Jazz-days” of the earlier 1900’s. Then, he encouraged other “older” people to call in and support the station. What bothered me is what he said next and it was along the lines that “Jazz is our music, the music of our time. Younger people have their rap … we have jazz and it is important for us to support it.”

     Ignorance … why is it that Jazz music is only for the elderly? Is there a rule somewhere that one cannot listen to Jazz until they retire? I have been listening to jazz from my late teens. Yes, I listen to Hip-Hop but I love my Jazz and Classic Rock, etc.

     I thought (perhaps too much) about what the broadcaster said in terms of “younger people have rap” and “older people have jazz” idea. He had created a social barrier right there and then. Based on age he classified people into separate, non-integrable groups. That is not the case obviously since I have and know many other young people who listen to Jazz. Of course there are not hordes of teenagers listening to Jazz, mainly because it is not part of “popular culture” and because it is not part of what the mass media wants to “feed” us yet, nonetheless younger people do listen to Jazz.

     Then immediately I thought of goths. I was invited not too long ago to go to a birthday party at a bar/club. I knew the place to be on the alternative/rock/goth side and I dressed as I would always dress for a birthday occasion: dress shoes, white/"cream" dress pants with a crease that can cut a hair in half; I put on a white long sleeve buttonless linen shirt, grabbed my brown-cow-skin leather jacket and off I went.

     I generally do not like to stick-out but I will never change the way I look just to please others. I got to the place (“The Velvet Underground”) a little early, I paid the cover charge which seemed a little pricey and I went in to find that there was a concert that was still going on. And it was “goth-fest” in full force! Everyone wore black … leather, some chains … more leather … boots, spikes, etc. You get the point. And I am standing there casually at the bar with a Corrona in my hand glancing around, “glowing white”. There too I though about social barriers. I was the only person there with a brown leather jacket as supposed to black (never-mind about all the white I was wearing).

     After the beer I went outside to have a smoke and saw two younger guys sitting on the ground begging for money. They had a sign made which read: “Too ugly to prostitute”. It was sad but true. I gave them a five dollar bill which was immediately pocketed. Then I was asked for a cigarette so I gave them two. They also needed a lighter. I handed one of the guys my lighter and said “Keep it”.

     My friends all turned out to be late, actually quite late … about an hour or more so after a few more beers I went outside for a smoke again only to realize that since I had given my lighter away I had no light to light my cigarette. So I went back to where the panhandling guys were sitting to ask them to borrow a lighter. They were still there, (where else could homeless people go really) and after a while I found myself sitting down beside them.

    One of them asked if I wanted a piece of his newspaper to sit on so I “don’t dirty the white pants”. I laughed and told him I did not care about the “white pants”. Truly I did not, otherwise I would not have sat down to begin with. I was just sitting down because I wanted to talk to them, I wanted to know their “story” (which I only half-got because one was too drunk and the other too timid to talk) and sitting down was more comfortable than standing up anyway.

     That is where two of my friends found me as they were walking to the bar and one of them looked down where I was sitting in front of a store on the sidewalk and her eyes almost ballooned out of her head. She screamed my name and looked shocked. I laughed, told the two guys I would see them on my next “cigarette break” and went inside with the ladies.

     From that experience I must say that crossing social barriers is quite interesting, to say the least. The view alone, sitting down on the concrete on a bussy week-end night, down-town Toronto, watching people flow by … that alone was worth it. Talking to those two homeless guys was also worth it for many personal reasons. The most important reason being that I like to cross social barriers, to see what others think, do and or/how people simply “are”. It is my opinion that others should try crossing social barriers too, at least from time to time.


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