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The Umbrella Man

Have you ever heard of the Umbrella Man conspiracies surrounding JFK's assassination? The day Kennedy was shot was a bright, sunny, clear day. One man however, Louie Steven Witt, was seen carrying a black umbrella, which he opened right as JFK's car passed by him - and right as the first bullet struck the president. Television shows ranging from The X-Files to The Umbrella Academy have touched on it. He was the subject of an entire documentary as recently as 2011. Was this man involved in the assassination of a US President? Was he signaling to the gunman, as portrayed in the X-files? Did he shoot Kennedy with a dart to paralyze him into being an easy shot for the gunman, like many conspiracy theorists believe? or was he the gunman himself as Diego believes in The Umbrella Academy? Well, sorry to disappoint, but poor Louie's umbrella was nothing so sinister. Black umbrellas were used often throughout JFK's presidency as a symbol to him of the people's dislike of his father's sympathetic leanings toward Hitler prior to WW2. Witt brought an umbrella with him that day as another statement of the same. No conspiracy, no plot, no sinister intent. During his testimony he was quoted as saying "I think if the Guinness Book of World Records had a category for people who were at the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing, I would be No. 1 in that position, without even a close runner-up."

So, Mesa, what on earth was the point of that anti-climactic, non-conspiratorial story? Exactly that, actually. This question was posed to us during one of our last DBu classes: What was a situation in which you thought the outcome would be the worst case scenario, and it turned out not to be?

What a loaded question in 2020, huh? Despite the anti-climactic, benign nature of the umbrella man's story, the theories have circulated for over 5 decades. So how could I relate and find my own story? I kept trying to think back - into my past, into previous relationships and situations - but then I realized I was trying too hard. Reaching too far, when the reality is here, now. I moved back to California after 4 years of being home in Virginia, and realizing that it wasn’t actually home anymore. I had lived my entire adult life in California, 13 years, and the reality was that it was my home, it always had been. The excitement of moving back and giving myself a fresh start in San Diego, my California dream, was the most palpable joy I had felt in a long time. I hit the road in February, driving across the country for the third time, and feeling like 2020 was my year. I got to CA mid February, reconnected with friends and even got to celebrate my birthday with the oh-so-typical LA Brunch (I've never said 'no' to a mimosa flight, ok!) and felt like 36 was going to be my best year yet- I mean, come on, MY CURLS WERE POPPIN!

Newly single, newly in San Diego, new job, new condo - I had plans to visit the Magic Castle, my friend was going to take me to tour the set of a TV show I enjoy, and I had my ticket to see JLee in concert ready to go - my best friend was even going to fly out and attend with me. When Comic Con came around this year, I was going to be in the very thick of it and was already planning it out with friends - the year was already starting off so perfectly, nothing could stop my momentum. Of course, as we all know, 2020 had other plans. After 3 weeks at my new job, We were sent home, thinking we’d all return within a few months. My friend flew out to CA at the same time to bring Bear out to me, but left early with the fear of a lockdown, we didn’t want him to be stuck on the other side of the country from his job. We didn't make it to the Magic castle, but I thought, it's ok, this will blow over soon enough. The show shut down production for safety, again it made sense, I’ll go after this all blows over, I thought. The concert was postponed, but it was fine, we’d still make it happen in May, no biggie. Then May came and come one, we all know where this is headed, we're still living it (if you're doing it right, anyway - wear your masks, and stay the fuck at home, ya'll!) So now here I was, alone in a new condo, in a new town, working from my makeshift office area, spending the majority of my day on Zoom calls, with no one around, except the dog. I’ve always been an introvert, so spending time alone has never bothered me, but I didn’t even realize the heaviness of what forced isolation was doing to me emotionally.

When George Floyd became a household name, for the worst of reasons, I lost it. There have been so many names before him, names that haunt us all, that break our hearts, infuriate us. George came at a time when it was all too much. How could such evil still be taking place during a pandemic? How could human beings, people that I thought were my friends, hold such hateful views about my people, and in turn, about me? Was it naive, stupid even, to think that humans could stop being racist during a global crisis? Sure. The thing is though, I don’t know if that is really what I felt. I knew that racism wouldn’t stop, but the feeling of knowing that if something happened to one of my own, I would feel helpless to get to them. That I’d have to navigate their death while trying to avoid my own. What kind of a world is that? I let my anger and hurt and frustration engulf me. I shut down with nearly everyone I knew. I just couldn't process it, or more honestly, didn’t want to process it. This was turning out to be the worst year ever. All these people saying things like “count your blessings” or “be grateful” or “at least you XYZ” and all I could think was fuck the blessings, fuck being grateful - grateful for what, and fuck the 'at least I' bullshit! In those moments, I didn’t care or want to care. I wanted to hurt and feel the hurt. I wanted to feel the injustice of it all, the unfairness of life itself. I let my own wallowing sap the joy out of everything, because I couldn’t face the thought of happiness during so much pain. When I tell you it took so much will, and honestly so much willpower of others, to pull me out of that spiral, that’s not even scratching the surface. But I got there, slowly.

"You need to spend time crawling alone through shadows to truly appreciate what it is to stand in the sun.”

- Shaun Hick

I was so caught up in my expectations, my assumptions, and my desires for this year, that I hadn’t taken the time to slow down and truly reflect on what this year has brought me. When I look back on the year now, I can see so much beauty in the pain of it all. It was the most unexpected year, full of so many of the good things that I had ignored and refused to count. I remember now that after the first quarantine karaoke, I sent JLee a DM thanking him for doing it, for making me feel a little less alone during this time. I've made a wonderful friend in him. I’d forgotten. I remember now how excited I would get for each karaoke and to connect with these new karaoke “friends” again, to uplift each other, joke with each other. I was a little weirded out the first time one of the ladies, Faitha, called me on the IG video chat feature - I didn't know that was a thing! - but after the call I was grateful for the connection. The next call, she brought Kimi in, and I found a soul sister. I’d forgotten. I remember

now that when the riots and protests started, and I started weeding out “friends” who weren’t actually friends, I felt so confident in removing them from my life. I remember now all of the people who came together, who stood in solidarity, who showed up. I’d forgotten.

I remember now how many times over the years I’d wished I could spend more time with Bear, especially in his older years, and now here I am getting to spend every day with him and having him truly love it. and I mean, have you seen anything cuter??

(spoiler alert - you haven't.) I’d forgotten.

I remember being so nervous for the first class of DBU, of what to expect, and then of feeling so full, so hopeful, so renewed by the end of the first semester. I’d forgotten so many of the good things from this year that came on the heels of some of the most tragic. I went from thinking 2020 would be the best year yet, to thinking it was the worst year I could ever remember, to realizing just how many amazing connections, opportunities, realizations I was able to have. Friends I would have otherwise never met, conversations I would have otherwise never had, and most importantly, the understanding of myself and who I am, that perhaps, I would have otherwise never uncovered. I thought 2020 was a cold hearted assassin of a year hiding beneath an umbrella on a sunny day - turns out, it was simply shading me from the sun.


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