"Resolutions are too easy to break. I don't set a bar I can't jump over or I can't go under or whatever that metaphor is."
Him: "Things get easier."
Me: "What's something that's gotten easier for you?"
Him: "Accepting yourself, I guess. Yeah. Because the older you get, the less you care."
"What's something from your past that you regret?"
"Letting my father die. Every now and then I feel that it's my fault that he died; I wasn't there for him. And it's a really long and drawn out story and I don't feel like getting into it, but lately I've just been looking on and having to change the way I feel about that."
"I got angry and took an overdose. I was in prison beaten by guards. Now I'm over eight years clean from drugs and I'm gonna stay that way."
"What got you clean? How did you do that?"
"When I was in prison I kept saying to myself, 'Stay away from a lot of people.' 'Cause a lot of people took my kindness for weakness. Now I'm with a fiancee and she's making me even stronger."
Tarsha from Your Inner Beauty: Spa, Beauty, and Personal Care, 353 Northampton Street says that she opened up two-and-a-half years ago when the right timing presented itself:
"I got laid off from teaching. I lived in New Jersey, and a mutual friend owned this space; she had a salon in here. She closed down and the opportunity was there."
"So how was 2014 for the salon?"
"We had a lot of building going on this year, a lot of people going back and forth to the Theater."
"Why should people come to Your Inner Beauty?"
"We offer hair care for all individuals. We have different events going on and we have a lot of great different offers for people."
"2014 was a year of opportunity. Easton has a lot of social momentum right now, and so I feel like the social dynamism going on right now is very opportunistic. I am very plugged in with things going on in this city."
Me: "What has skateboarding taught you?"
Niceir (right): "It's taught me how to live life freely, and the second thing, most importantly, about life: what can you do to change it, to tweak it, to learn from it, and to make something that's your own style."
Brett (left): "And skateboarding takes time. It takes time to learn and patience."
Me: "Why do you think there are so many adults who are anti-skateboarding? Is there something they don't understand?"
Niceir: "They don't understand how skateboarding works. It's something that fulfills your happiness, everything that you put into it because you love it, not because you want money or fame or anything.
Tim Hare has been married to his partner Earl for the past ten years. I recently sat down with Hare to speak with him about his coming out, what it's like to be gay in Easton, and why prejudice against those who are LGBTQ might be the last societally sanctioned discrimination.
"I came out into the gay ghetto in Pittsburgh in 1972. I was fresh from a divorce, a different-sex marriage. Just by coincidence, someone took me to a private nightclub and I had a nice evening, and then I realized, 'My God…there are only men in this club...' The next morning I realized, 'I wonder if I'm gay?' Because it seemed comfortable, very comfortable. More comfortable than any other time in my life. It was quite a shock, because I had really denied it, repressed that part of myself for my whole life, from about age three, because it was simply not acceptable. It would get you thrown out of school; you could go to jail, actually. We were illegal until 2003 when the Supreme Court ruled that we weren't criminals. 2003! This was the 1940s and 50s. By the time we were pushing 30, I met Earl, and I said here's a chance for us to go home and to start getting honest, because in New York we could be honest. Wouldn't get fired, wouldn't get bashed, wouldn't get murdered. Earl had death threats from his own family, and my family wasn't far behind. I just had threats of 'major surgery.' I always joked that I was raised in a terrorist training camp. It was terrifying. And I don't call it 'homophobia'; homophobia puts the problem in the wrong place. It puts it on the homo. The problem in Ferguson right now is white racism, not black inferiority, so same with us. I call it 'heterosex-supremacy,' because we're always called 'same-sex couples.' When have you ever been called, with your wife, 'different-sex couples'? It puts the name where the problem belongs because that's where the solution has to happen. We're not the problem. The human race is hardwired with the need to choose to feel superior to another human being. So we have become the scapegoat. All we did was show up here queer; we didn't invade from Planet Queer. Think about this: when kids get bullied at school for being a minority, they come home to their same-minority parents and get comforted. Here, in our case, they go home and they get butchered. They get thrown out. I've had too many cases when we started coming out where I thought, 'Oh, friends, people in my family, they're liberal, they won't have any problem with it.' Yet, I've been harassed in the workplace. I've been gay-bashed. I've been blackmailed. Bullied, certainly. My whole life long. But it doesn't stop me from showing up for myself, because when I stop, they win. And Earl and I have gotten pretty practiced through 38 years of this. But the biggest shock is that every time we're in the paper, or even something like your blog, I get a cold sweat. It's post-traumatic shock. When the Express-Times did a front page story of our wedding announcement, this was 2003, we were mortified. Instead of feeling flattered, we thought our house would be burned down; we thought we'd be assassinated; we thought we would be--hopefully--just killed, not tortured first. That's internalized heterosexism. But I can see the world is changing. It's okay to be a bigot; good luck with that. But it's also okay for us to tell it like it is. There is no debate anymore. I'm no longer silenced and my voice is heard."
Editor's Note: Got this update from Tim a little while ago. Here it is in its entirety:
Earl and I hope you will add the following updates to our ever-evolving reality:
1. Our 2003 Canadian marriage was permanently and legally recognized in every American state and territory, at midnight, July 21, 2015.
This reality is thanks to the favorable Constitutional ruling by the Supreme Court of the United States that expanded their former ruling of June 2014.
That former ruling had unfortunately created, for over a year, an unConstitutional JimCrow-type patchwork of freedom-to-marry states vs. unfree states (Pennsylvania was an unfreedom state, as were dozens of other states, now all are free).
2. We celebrated our 40th Anniversary on September 19, 2016, having fallen in love at first sight, in Easton in 1976.
3. We are grateful to now update your readers that the inhumane heterosex-supremacist abuse we were targeted for, forty years ago, that originated from some members of our families of origin, has now mostly reversed.
This progress is thanks to the passage of many decades of time that resulted in the evolution of thinking and awareness among most in our family (and American society), transforming into an improved attitude of acceptance and unconditional love.
4. A sinister toxic cloud is now suddenly cast over the future of our legal marriage, because of the Electoral College's likely selection of a new President this month, unless the ongoing recouting changes the election winner, and his installation next month into the most powerful office on Earth.
This heterosex-supremacist President-Elect has continuously promised for 18 months to appoint only Supreme Court judges that would reverse and utterly undo for the rest of our lives the previous SCOTUS rulings that had finally won us the "permanent" freedom to marry.
Whether or not his appointed judges, once installed and thereby becoming permanently independent-thinking about the Constitution for the rest of their lifetimes, would actually rule against our freedom to marry, as they lean now, this is a dangerous threat that is quite real, until such time when it is actually proven to NOT be a danger.
Nevertheless, Earl and I are somewhat comforted by the fact that three-fourths of eligible American voters chose to NOT support this heterosex-supremacist President.
We are also cheered about his loss of the majority of the popular vote - losing to Hillary Clinton, a non-supremacist, by over 2 million votes.
Because his political 'victory' is far from an American-Citizen-Mandate, we do not feel as isolated and alone in our disappointment as we might have otherwise.
Had his victory turned out to be a landslide of support, instead of the actual support of him by only one-fourth of Americans that are eligible to vote, we could have felt 'surrounded' by heterosex-supremacists at every glance.
However, our small comfort could become icy cold comfort indeed, should the President-Elect's campaign promises actually result in the destruction of our freedom to marry in America.
Beware to those kind-hearted folk when trying to assure us that our marriage is perfectly safe from such harm. Thank you for your speculation, but we are too aware that the over ninety-percent of our fellow Americans are people born heterosexual. Those that marry someone of different sex are never a target.
Whether these different-sex marriages are comprised of real heterosexuals, or comprised of so many that pretend to be heterosexual for the perks, status and entitlement, they would never be suddenly turned into this political football/nightmare that Earl and I are living with. Solely such marriages comprised of loving Americans born like Earl and me are inhumanely targeted for future destruction.
"The coolest thing is seeing every day the connectedness of people; seeing how people are doing the best they can and, you know, the moment we step into the flow with everyone else is the moment where we all can help each other and I see a little bit of that every day, continually."
"2014 was a good year. I met somebody, and that made it good. He lives in the building next to mine. What I want in 2015 is for the relationship to continue."
"What are you going for at Lafayette?"
"Civil engineering. I grew up in the Bay Area and I was extremely fascinated by the Bay Bridge 'cause it had so many things about it when it was brand new: when it was made, it was the longest suspension bridge; it was the longest cantilevered truss bridge. The Yerba Buena tunnel was the biggest tunnel excavated to date and that was something that always fascinated me. Also, both my parents worked for USAID, which is an aid branch of the government, and I lived overseas for awhile. And seeing the good that civil engineering can do in third world countries and developing countries was another reason I wanted to go into civil engineering."
"I'm just waiting for the bus, but I take my guitar everywhere I go. My first guitar I actually got from my friend. I met him while I was in boot camp; he's now the head chef at the White House. I picked it up and never put it down. I pretty much haven't got better, though, because I've been busy. But it's something I can always enjoy."
"I'm from North Carolina, but Easton hasn't been too good for me because of certain people and certain crowds around here. I don't know if I just ran into the wrong ones or not, but it really put me in a situation that I had to be incarcerated for the first time. I was attacked by four people and I defended myself with a blade I picked up off the ground. I was the one arrested for it. I accepted the punishment for the confrontation, but I tried to walk away and they followed me to my residence, so I couldn't walk away no more. But my life now, I'm trying to get my life together. I have a medical condition and I want to get back into college. Because of my medical condition it kinda messed things up for me, so now I'm trying to get back into college into visual arts so I could be a photographer or a graphic artist. So right now I'm trying to go along my path and finish up my education and start a career for myself so I could take care of myself, start a family and live how I want to."
Could you do what she did?
"2014 was amazing! I sat in ten days of silence within the past two weeks, and I feel like part of my life has completely changed. I'm not the same person: my world is very similar, but I see it in a completely new way, and I'm having some troubles actually adjusting to the way that others are living and I just see everything more clearly than I have before. That's the highlight of my year."
"Tell me about the ten days of silence."
"It's called Vipassana meditation, and you go there as a new student and you sit for ten days, 'noble silence.' You can't bring anything to read or write, anything to do other than sit there and listen to your own mind. It's a really transformative process. It's incredible."
"You moved from New York. What brings you to Easton?"
"Just a different lifestyle. It's…I don't want to say "slower," but in comparison to New York where everything is busy and bustling, in some point in time, you gotta shut down and that's kinda it, you know. Just wanted something different. I've lived in New York all my life and at a certain time you want your kids to experience a different way of living."
"What is the most important advice you can give to your daughters?"
"To stay in school, get an education, get a decent job: something that you want to do, not something that you just have to do just to pay the bills, because you'll be unhappy."
Angel Correa, owner of The Game Gallery, 315 Northampton Street, has dreamt of video games all his life:
"My fondest memory and my earliest one was on top of a pile of laundry, my parents first starting out in an apartment in Allentown and I'm playing Super Mario Brothers III over and over and over again. That's where it initially started. My parents regretted it at some point in time, 'cause they were like 'What did we do here?' 'cause I was addicted. Like everything: art direction, the characters, the story, I loved it all. Then we had a family friend who would come over every weekend and he was like a man-child, so he would have everything new the day of. I remember PS1. My parents weren't going to shell out four hundred, but *he* did. And he brought over every new game that came out. Then I'd start dreaming of working for Capcom in California and I started collecting more. When I was a kid, I had to earn all my stuff, so everything that I got, I held it closely. Then when I started getting money in high school, my collection was getting huge--I was hoarding a lot and started selling on social media like Facebook, then eBay and Amazon. Then, I wanted to open up my own shop and I proposed the idea. Here, they were definitely against it. The city was trying to make the downtown very classy, which it has; it's growing and it looks great. But they needed entertainment. We have a lot of restaurants but not a lot of things to go to. This spot was exactly what I wanted, and three years later, I have a 40-plus game arcade, a retro store, and then we also do Magic: The Gathering, any type of tabletop game. I just like things that make you think and involve you."
"We actually just closed our business. We used to have a tattoo shop on Third Street. We just closed it this month. It's been eighteen years. Time to move on."
"Why did you have a tattoo parlor?"
"That was actually the husband. He's all about his art. He does everything from painting to airbrushing to tattooing. Just pretty much backing him for eighteen years."
"So what are you going to do for *you* now?"
"Me? Oh, I run a Jackson Hewitt tax office. That's pretty much what *I* do."
"I think 2014 has been a discouraging year; I really do. Nationally, the American public has been presented with a whole host of issues squarely, whether it's privacy, dragnet surveillance, police brutality, the systematic inequality and injustices you have. And we've seen absolutely no progress, and no response on a national level. Looking into 2015 there's really nothing that's gonna alter that gridlock and that kind of stagnation we have."
"So you're not optimistic?"
"No, I think the most optimism comes from grassroots social interaction. We're not seeing that. Or, what we *are* seeing is just being eclipsed by national misinformation and the systemic powers-that-be keeping a lid on social unrest. I don't think there's much to be optimistic about."
"My name is Faye and I'm a part of the NAACP chapter at Penn State and we're partnered with an organization called SMART, which helps admissions bring in minority students to make campus a little more diverse, and we have a THON child. Thon is basically our school's philanthropy that's student-run by 15,000 students; year 'round we raise money and we provide financial and emotional support as well as social support to the families, and to the researchers, doctors and patients at the Four Diamonds Fund and people that have pediatric cancer. So we're just doing it to help out."
Adam Fairchild is the owner of Easton Outdoor Company, 230 Northampton Street, where you can find not only great outdoor products, but also frequently his pet dogs:
"We're a small, independent specialty outdoor retail store. We carry brands like Patagonia, The North Face, Marmot, Osprey, so we have product that supports activities like hiking, camping, running, climbing, some water related stuff and a lot of casual things as well. I use to work for The North Face and when my wife and I moved back here, I wanted to open my own place, so basically I thought it was a good idea to open my own outdoor retail store. I have a passion for the outdoors; I love to hike, to run, to ski. We get out and we camp. It's kinda like a way of life for me."
"How is owning a business in Easton working out for you?"
"Well, it hasn't been easy, but it's coming along. We're seeing improvement every year. More and more people are finding out about us and coming through the door, and I'm learning more about what people in Easton want to buy, so I'm changing my strategy as well. It's not just getting people in the door, it's tweaking my expectations about what they need. I've learned a lot.
Behind the counter at the newly opened No. 13 Home on South Second Street is a sign that says "If you don't build your dream, someone will hire you to build theirs." The sign holds special meaning for owners Sandra Caldwell (left) and Susanne Bodai (right):
Sandra: "We're basically two friends and we have very similar interests. The funny thing is, when I saw that sign I had to put it behind the register because I thought, 'Really, if we don't (open the store) now!' And we're late forties, early fifties; that was perfect for us. We thought 'This is the time for us to actually do something,' and we fell in love with this place and we love Easton."
Susanne: "Everything sort of fell into place. We started talking and she said, 'I just thought I'd like to do this if I owned a shop…' and I said, 'I was thinking the same thing!' And we both had very similar ideas about what we wanted to do."
"We're hoping there's going to be a little bit of something for everyone. This is only day eight, so everything is fluid at the moment. We're thinking of a country boutique. So, if people wanted to paint their furniture, we've go the paint. We can offer the knowledge of how to paint the furniture if they need it. We've got the home goods as well, so it's very much like a country boutique."
Susanne: "Like French country. Or English country."
Sandra: "Yeah. so we've got the tea towels and the the throws. Nice little gift ideas. Jewelry, which is all handmade. We've got soaps. So anything from a piece of furniture to a small gift."
Susanne: "And we've got some things with a little bit of a sense of humor to make people laugh."
Sandra: "A quirky sense of humor, yes." (Both laugh)
Mario Jesus Figueroa is looking forward to planning his next peace rally after a successful first one:
"I just know that the time has come for black men to unify each other. Now they got the Sean Bell, Ferguson, and they done killed that guy Garner up there in New York, and now everybody wanna unify. But it don't last a week and everybody forget about the troubles that the black man is having with unifying with one another. Ain't nobody gonna give us nothin'; we gotta go out there and apply ourselves. It's time for us to take what we want. And if we don't move in PEACE, then we ain't gonna get no JUSTICE. Everybody keep saying, 'No Justice, No Peace,' but you need peace first. PEACE stand for 'Proper Education Always Corrects Error,' and once we educate our children, *then* we could look for a better future and tomorrow for our children. We threw a peace rally in Centennial Park July 14, 2012. Everybody waiting for the next big thing coming, and that's a rally here in Easton. You know we can't do anything without talking to Mayor Sal Panto first, and I want to thank him for allowing us the opportunity to have our last event, which was a blast. Now we trying to come harder and march to the Liberty Bell. They can't hide that bell for too long; they promised us forty acres and a mule for our labor in the cotton fields, but when the work was done they never paid. Now it's time for us to stand up, unify each other and get what's rightfully ours.
"I've had a flock of sheep for over 12 years and I also have Angora goats, which produce mohair. Everything is hand processed from the shearing through the skirting, washing, preparing and spinning."
"So how did you get the sheep in the first place?"
"It began as a hobby, started with a few, and just added over time. I have a diverse flock, so I have different breeds. I have some heritage breeds, like a Karakul, there are only 2000 registered in the U.S. It's a fat tail sheep."
"What kind of personalities do sheep have? What's it like to hang out with sheep?"
"They're great! They all have names; I can call their names and they come over, especially when I have animal crackers. That's their favorite treat."
"I just got done working twelve hours. My mind's kinda fried."
"Tell me about work."
"I work in a nursing home. To help people. I've done it a long time. I work in a rehab unit so it's gratifying when they come in with broken bones; you know, you heal them and you take 'em from not being able to go to the bathroom to being able to go to the bathroom, to walking, to walking out the door and waving goodbye. And hope they don't come back."
These are the stories of the people of Easton, PA