You know that game where you whisper in someone’s ear, they pass it on to another, and after it goes to more and more people, the original whisper has changed. Often morphed into a fabrication nowhere close to the beginning thought. I think they call it the Telephone game. Fun at parties, but how often do we do a similar thing in real life? A question, that on October 3, 2011, the second day of my Hawaii interviews, was brought to my attention in a most humorous and somewhat disturbing way.
The Set Up
After over forty-eight hours of hardly any sleep, deprived of it from travel, meetings and teaching, I actually found a couple of hours to relax poolside. Even dozed off a little, but most of the time I just let my eyes and mind wander taking in the movement and sounds that were around me. I’ve just got that kind of mind, and with my challenge to meet and interview a stranger a day, to fully check out in letting myself have a moment of vacation bliss was beyond my personality. The bill was being paid for me, and because of that, I had placed a high expectation of self-effort upon myself. Wanted to be on game as much as possible. I know, a compulsive side of me, that in the spirit of full transparency, I must share. Yet in the admission, I must also say that I did have a few nice chats. Conversations, that in all, I began to notice a common through-line. A theme that was slowly becoming very judgmental and condemning as it’s momentum and reach grew. A topic that was not only expanded through the channels of poolside murmuring, but as I found out when speaking with a girl at Starbucks, reached deep into the resort’s culture. Speculation that covered a gamut of assumption, jest and scorn: “Could he be from France? I think he talks to himself, watch out he is a molester! Dangerous! A porn star?” The list of labels was endless, none of which ever made any reference to the name of the man all the interest was pointing at–a regular visitor to the hotels beach who was being singled out as if by a posy reading a lynch mob to persecute. There was only one question that seemed to be synonymous to all harsh looks, embarrassed faces and hidden giggles: Who was the g-stringed man?
I was compelled, had to know the true story, and after hearing the snowballing effect of a real world telephone game, there was no way I was going to buy into the play. Plus, being no subscriber to gossip or speculation, the only answer for me was to go directly to the source; and that’s exactly what I did.
Please give your warmest regards to Ray, the man of mystery. Turned out he was a very charming and confident nudist–at least as nude as he could be at a public beach. I caught up with him as he humorously posed for a photo-op with another not-so-assuming Hawaii visitor. I could tell the moment I met Ray he did not take life too seriously as he allowed said visitor to have a photo taken with her hand on his, let’s just say, lower rear region.
With a huge smile, and I’m sure a lifetime memory, she was eating it up as she stepped aside for the next photo-opportunists, a woman as her chuckling husband took a snapshot. In both cases, and with the grace of an ambassador, he kindly thanked them. In witnessing this, I thought, surly he would allow me to take his photo, so I stepped up. Invited him to my project.
It didn’t take any convincing to get this less than speedo covered celebrity to buy-in. I’m serious about the “celeb” status, turned out, as I had earlier observed, he was the talk of Hawaiian Village. But he held no contempt for the pointed fingers as with humility, backed by a sincere and heartfelt laugh, he offered all the time I needed for a photo and interview. After all, a little extra exposure, no pun intended, might have been helpful in calming the fires of those who were frightened of him. To add to that, for Ray it was all fun, in such he was down for a little extra publicity.
For now, lets talk about backstory, later his backside.
Would you believe it if I told you, Ray was from New Jersey, had a Master’s Degree in electrical engineering and had recently retired from a high position within Northrup Grumman; exited a successful career as a Computer Systems Analyst? An assumption that never entered the poolside speculations that were so very harshly labeling him; and in fairness to all playing the game of guessing who he was, I could understand why. After all engineers don’t run around naked, or mostly naked, in public, do they?
Butt (I know this is a misspelling, I think Ray would have wanted me to spell it this way) never-the-less, this lightly dressed guy was no fool, truly quite the opposite. He was an articulate, educated man, living life to the maximum degree. There was no chip on his shoulder regarding his outlook on life; and even if he had one, where would he hide it? (Sorry, another joke; but again in tribute to Ray.)
He shared his love of Hawaii, stating, “I will never leave this place. It’s an endless party.” A claim I’ve now heard by many of the beach regulars. I gave him the credit to own the statement, as he trusted me with a few life details. Stuff that would press most people to the braking point, and in respect to Rays privacy (I know, conflicts with his exhibitionist and loose lifestyle) things I promised to keep concealed in respect to him. Details that, in my heart, gave him credential to graduate to the status of having right his partying preferences. The man definitely had earned his flying wings.
There was no malice in his intent, the purpose of his actions were to simply entertain. From where I saw it, Ray was no threat to anyone and was definitely doing no harm.
To support this statement, even though I did hear of a few hotel patrons complaining of his presence, I beheld a greater outreach from those with a more playful and appreciative set of comments about Ray. Like I said earlier, many people posed with him for memories to take home and share. That day I raised my hat to Ray. To his courage in putting smiles on peoples faces.
I was intrigued as I learned Ray was wearing his modest beach attire. Telling me he was much more comfortable at the local nude beaches. “It’s only been a few weeks since I’ve been coming to this beach for reasons of self-promotion,” he stated.
I had to ask. “Promote what?”
I smiled huge as he answered, “Nude Fitness Model.”
Ray was a few years older than I, and looking past areas that I really did not want to stare at, I could not ignore that he was in fantastic physical condition. The guy had inspired me to doing sit-ups and bench press. I wished I had his abs, and to this day am not even close.
OK! I know! I Promised backside! And with Ray’s blessings, here ya go.
Ray’s closing statement,“If it’s nude? I’ll be there!”
Fun talk from a fun-loving man, but (and I’m spelling “but” correctly now) there was a much more profound lesson taught to me by Ray and the visitors of Hawaiian Village that day. I was schooled in seeing first hand the harmful effects of gossip. Sitting poolside hearing some very accusing opinions of a man who had children and a history of contribution to society. Yes, he was living a wild and non-conservative lifestyle. Partying at the edge of how many of us wish to live. Yet all by his choice and, beyond the controversy he brought to the beach that day, in a community of other people making use of their free right to define there lifestyle. But felon he was not; molester, the farthest from the truth; dangerous, in no way; Porn Star, debatable.
Sobered I was, promising myself that for the remainder of 365, now Sidewalk Ghosts, and into the remainder of my life, I would avoid profiling at all cost. For we all have joys and demons in our closets. Each one of us with unique memories, pains and triumphs; and Ray, and all at Hawaiian Village that day were simply part of the billions doing our best to managing whatever we each are carrying.
Ray, thanks for the memories!
Talk tomorrow my good friends,
Readers, if you are returning, so nice to be with you again. If you are new, looking forward to getting to know you.
To all: please comment, like, and forward. Every engagement goes a long way toward connecting us; as together, we grow a movement that betters the way we view and treat one another.