Retracing Encounters: Two Extraordinary Lives

7. Erin

Location of interaction: Anchorage, Alaska (initially)

I met Erin during a sporadic trip I took to Alaska in 2013 when I moved out of Hawaii. I was only in Anchorage for two weeks or so, but during that time period Anchorage Pride was taking place. As part of a personal goal she had set for herself, Erin drove her car up to Anchorage, marking the fiftieth state she had gotten herself and her car to. It was there, in Anchorage, that my friend and I met and hung out with Erin after she was finished giving a presentation at the Anchorage Pride events.

While spending the afternoon with Erin, I learned that she was from Syracuse, NY. Since our hometowns were just a few dozen miles apart, and we were four thousand miles from home, I offered to drive back in her car with her. That’s how Erin and I got to know each other. That’s why I’m acknowledging her today. She was happy to accept my offer of company in the drive across the country so we could both return home, and it was a 3,000 mile journey that shifted my perception on my place in America. What I was experiencing on this one single drive was something that she has dealt with everyday since 2007 when her car was vandalized. Her whole story can be seen here:

If you watch either of her documentaries, you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions about Erin. But I’ll gush about her anyway. She is a person who has dedicated her life to reshaping viewpoints about the LGBTQ population. She’s driven her rainbow car around the country countless times and has brought her message to every corner of the country. She is remarkable. I admire her dedication, persistence, determination, and her tough skin. She has sacrificed her time, money, and effort in order to make the world a better place. She makes changing the world seem easy. When I think of Erin, the phrase “game changer” pops into my head. Seeing her world by sitting in the passenger seat of her rainbow car for one long road trip from Seattle to New York gave me the chance to catch a glimpse of what a beautiful woman she is.

Our time together was documented in this blog a year and a half ago:

“Fagbug” is available for viewing on Netflix.

“Fagbug Nation”–which I helped film!–is available on DVD.

6. Katie 

Location of Interaction: Bay Saint Louis, MS (initially)

Katie is one of my coolest friends. She’s never been one to shy away from the path less traveled. I actually don’t think she’s managed to do a single boring thing since the day I met her. Our first interactions with one another were when we were both volunteering in Mississippi, doing cleanup/rebuilding work after Hurricane Katrina hit. I was only in Mississippi for 16 days, but in that short period of time, she and I formed a bond that has now stretched across 8 years and 7 states. Each time Katie and I have met up since our initial meeting in Mississippi, it’s been in a different state. We’re both just nomadic enough that we’ve never had to meet up in the same place. To date, we’ve seen one another in Mississippi, New York, Vermont, Illinois, Missouri, Oregon, and Hawaii. I think this is why I think of Katie as one of my coolest friendships. We’ve never duplicated seeing one another in the same state. It’s almost like we have an unwritten rule.

On top of her general coolness, Katie is also a person who grabs life and doesn’t let go. She expects something great out of her time on this earth, as we all should. She goes after what she wants. I love that about her. Obviously she has an adventurous spirit worth admiring, too. I hope Katie knows that I admire her. More so than almost any other person, I look to her as a beacon of hope. Whenever I feel like I need to cool it with all of my adventuring, like I should “settle” a little bit, I look to Katie and see a person who is completely at peace with who they are and what they do. I see a person who is truly living, completely alive. No regrets. Katie lives a life completely out of the ordinary. No white picket fence for her. This is how Katie and I have found ourselves camping in the woods of Oregon, sitting on lawn chairs in the bed of a truck in Hawaii as we raced toward a beach, and volunteering at the after school program at the school I worked at in East Saint Louis. I wonder what (and where) Katie and I are headed next.

Big love to you, Kate.

About mattylife

"And no one is a stranger...for long."
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1 Response to Retracing Encounters: Two Extraordinary Lives

  1. Larry says:

    I remember you posts about the cross country trip.

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