“You’re the only estrogen in here, right?” he asks.
The man says a lot of strange, slightly intimidating things as he paints guitars on Minneapolis bus maps. I smile and feign interest. Supposedly, art is his only source of income as he bops from one American city to the next, but between me and you, I’m skeptical.
Later on he’s telling me about the bathroom light, how it “turns on and off by itself. It’s (I think) an attempt to scare me into sleeping with him. At some point he gets up to show me where he’ll be drinking tomorrow night and grabs my arm as he passes.
I’m meeting some friends of mine tomorrow, I say. It’s the first time I’ve used that excuse.
I get into bed in a hostel dorm, alone with four empty cots not worried about ghosts in the bathroom, but the man in the kitchen.
The next morning, walking into the “haunted” bathroom, the light blinks on before I locate the switch. It’s motion-sensing.
Things are not always what they seem.
Minneapolis is supposedly a miracle, a bastion of healthy American politics. The city has made sure affordable housing is built throughout the city instead of being relegated to one part of town so that it becomes a ghetto.
It’s a city with distinct neighborhoods, like St. Louis or Cleveland or Pittsburgh. I spend most of my time in a hip district that centers around Eat Street, a stretch of restaurants and bars with thrift stores interspersed.
But on my last day in the Minneapolis, I amble around downtown, where the tallest building on the skyline is the Wells Fargo Center, with Jose, another curious man I met at the hostel.
After “The Miracle of Minneapolis” piece (linked to above) was published, many challenged the article saying the city’s redistribution of wealth is only working for white residents. Minneapolis has the largest racial poverty gap in the country, according to a study from personal finance management platform, WalletHub, and redlining is prevalent even among wealthy minorities.
Three years ago, Wells Fargo paid $175 million to settle charges for discriminating against thousands of minority borrowers, including blacks and Latinos. This is especially irritating coming from a bank whose mission statement, lauded at the Wells Fargo History Museum downtown, is “Proper respect must be shown to all — let them be men, women or children, rich or poor, white or black.”
But, while the redlining scandal is one of institutionalized racism, Wells Fargo is actually one of the few banks that stayed true to banking’s foundation, focusing on Main Street instead of Wall Street, preferring retail banking to trading and derivatives markets. In turn, Wells Fargo banks one out of every three households in America. And, the average household has six different products with the institution
As a Big Four U.S. bank, Wells Fargo gets hated on quite a bit but maybe it doesn’t deserve it. Because none of the Four went under or saw executives do jail time for their effort in the crisis, today’s consumers have trouble differentiating between the good and bad guys.
The first appearance deceives many.
Jose and I, from the outside, are very different. But in the way we think, we’re one in the same. We hit it off pretty immediately, talking economics, while having lunch at a Mexican restaurant.
But years of being let down thinking a like-minded man wants to be a friend without an exchange of another kind, makes me hesitant, especially when Jose starts talking about sex.
Humans have been pressured into believing a depressing standard narrative about sex and love, that monogamy is evolutionary, Jose says. The standard narrative of love and sex and marriage is basically one of prostitution–a woman wants a man to protect and feed her and a man wants a woman to have only his kids–and deceit. But according to “Sex at Dawn,” which he says I need to read, maybe we’re more suited for non-monogamous relations, he says.
I’m open-minded to the idea. Actually I love the idea, but coming from a male that seems too enthusiastic about my friendship, I’m wondering if there’s an ulterior motive to bringing it up.
“It’s so strange to meet someone you have so much in common with by chance,” he says, as we walk through Minneapolis. It’s true, from economics to politics to religion, Jose and I are on the same page.
I need to pick up a postcard, so we find our way into a Barnes & Noble. While I dig for change at the cashier, Jose heads upstairs looking for a book. As we checkout together, we get on the topic of gifts.
“You know, one of the interesting things I see from the idea that debt is bad, is that people are unwilling to accept gifts now, without giving something in return,” I say. Jose agrees.
For instance, if I cook dinner for a friend, the friend says I’ll do the dishes. And when I tell her not too worry about it, I wanted to cook for her without any compensation, she insists. She won’t be in debt with me, but she doesn’t want to feel like she is either.
Jose purchases “Sex at Dawn,” a book that combats the standard narrative that “monogamy is natural, marriage is a human universal and any family structure other than the nuclear is aberrant.”
He immediately hands the book to me.
I’m reluctant to take it, because I’m still worried this man might expect something in return for his generosity and is talking about sex to gauge my receptiveness. But I take my own advice and politely say thank you.
The intelligence of a few perceives what has been carefully hidden. – Phaedrus
In South Dakota, I break open the book.
I’ve started many books on this trip, but all the covers still lay flat, except this one. It’s putting the words down about sexual autonomy, jealousy and possessiveness that I want to be able to articulate to others. And it aligns with the alternative lifestyles and natural distrust of power structures I’m researching on the road.
A passage from the book:
“The sciences of human nature tend to validate the practices and preferences of whatever regime happens to be sponsoring them. In totalitarian regimes, dissidence is treated like a mental illness. In apartheid regimes, interracial contact is treated as unnatural. In free-market regimes, self-interest is treated as hardwired.”
I had perceived the situation wrong, my friend.