Two days away
My next tour starts in two days, and I know what the hardest part will be. A tour is an odd blend of likelihood and happenstance, earned probability and inevitable surprises. Will we make it in time for the Bavarian castle? What will they charge me for the vaporetto? Can I make reservations at all my favorite restaurants this time? I know enough to know that the questions I can predict aren’t the ones that will trip us up.
The main mystery is of course the tour members themselves. Right now they’re ink on a page, unknowable. Then within hours of the trip beginning they will be blasting into marvelous multidimensionality for me as I get to meet 27 new people, one of the best things about my job as a guide. Those first couple days we’ll all be feeling each other out, seeing who everyone else is (and whether they know it or not, finding out who they themselves are in this context).
That unknown adds to the tension on the first full day of the tour, as I take them around my beloved Amsterdam, when we visit the most challenging part of the tour for me. They’ll think I took them there to talk about Anne Frank. Granted, it’s not entirely a coincidence that around the corner from the Anne Frank House is a slab of marble. Three slabs, actually. Pink triangle slabs. Amsterdam’s “Homomonument” is dedicated to all the people murdered by the Nazis for being homosexual.
I’ll use the monument to talk about tolerance, the Dutch, and the evolution of western civilization. All important stuff. But somewhere in there, before or after, with the emotion of that place already riding in my blood, my brain and heart will take each other back two years to the tour I brought here the morning after the Pulse Nightclub shooting, and I’ll have trouble keeping it together.
Sometimes I say something like “I read those headlines and thought about what my loved ones who are gay must have been feeling that morning. Starting the day with the headline that, again, people just like them had been murdered for being who they were.”
This is of course a kind of nonsense; you don’t need gay loved ones to understand that such horrors are wrong. But we humans feel it most when it’s personal. And it will feel personal.
So my next tour starts in two days, and the hardest moment is right there at the start. I’m scared and looking forward to both.