On Being a Childless Academic (or Why Sheryl Sandberg Bugs Me)

At some point when I was first entered graduate school someone asked me why I was interested in a career in academia. Along with the obvious reasons – a life of reading and ruminating on history, living inside an academic university setting so that I could remain a college student, if only in my head, until I die, or the fact that we get summers largely free to pursue our own agendas whether that be travel, or leisurely reading, or research and writing, I also remarked, as a young twenty-something year old, that it would leave me time to raise children, if I chose to have them. The hours are amenable to having children if you plan the births out just right. Three months off in summers, more than a month over winter break, shorter weeks with time spent working at home; all of this makes academia a lovely vocation if you can get through the Ph.D. process I have described in an earlier post.

Some twenty years later, I have chosen not to have children. I had already had a child. At seventeen I gave birth to a son and gave him up for adoption, having already chosen academia over parenting. I wanted to go to college and I did. Then, the man I fell in love with in college, another lifelong academic, discovered much too late that he wanted to marry and have children with me, but by then I had begun graduate school and moved on to another relationship. After finishing a masters program in New Orleans, I moved almost two thousand miles north to New Hampshire, to pursue a Ph.D. I think it was then that I had settled into the fact that being a full-time parent just wasn’t in the cards for me, nor did I think it was a life that I wanted to pursue. I have never regretted that decision, nor do I think that one day I will look back and think I made an awful mistake, as some folks still like to remind me.

Per Sheryl Sandberg, I have leaned in. I am a fairly successful historian and writer. I have stood up for myself in and outside of the classroom, against men who challenged my authority and my knowledge and against women who have challenged the way I reside in the “guild.” Even with union representation, I skillfully negotiated a contract at a smaller university than the Research 1 institution where I was teaching and in a position that I later found out they were fighting to keep me. I have achieved tenure and promotion and have won awards for my writing and research. I leaned in and did it successfully so. I did it, yes, without children, but also, because I think that women can lean in without them.

What I will not accept, however, is a challenge to my decision to not have children. As far as I am concerned, like many decisions I think should be left up to women, particularly when it concerns their bodies, societal standards and proscriptions about what a woman’s place is in this world is not up for debate. My daily decisions about how I reside in the world, and what I do with my time, is never up for debate. I may question myself at times and, like we all do, decisions I make, but a decision not to have children is not one of them.

And here is what no one, even my female colleagues with children, will admit to – childless female academics are tacitly, or perhaps not, expected to pick up the slack where the mothering academics do not. We are expected to stay late for departmental functions where mothers are given a pass because their child has a school recital. We are expected to organize the annual Phi Alpha Theta dinner where mothers are expected to be home making dinner for their children and helping them with their homework. We are expected to show up at the weekend open houses and shuffle perspective students and their parents around campus because mothers who have children that play sports or other activities are expected to be present on weekends. We are expected to serve on committees that meet at odd hours because mothers have to tuck their children into bed at night. We are expected not to have the busy, fulfilling lives that mothers have because we are either single, childless or married, but without children and thus, have the time and the inclination to do all of the all of the things, oftentimes called “service work,” that mothers should be given a pass on. Well, I’m here to tell you, we don’t want to pick up your slack nor should we be punished for not doing so.

My life is just as fulfilled, if not more in many cases, than the academic mothers I know. I have friends who comment that they live vicariously through my Facebook and Instagram posts, that they wish they could be out on a Friday night for happy hour with their friends or tubing down the Delaware River on a lazy, warm summer day. They could do all of these things but they chose a different path than mine. And I’m not ever going to apologize for the life that I choose to live.

The research on childless women is long these days. Everyone from Sheryl Sandberg to Anne-Marie Slaughter to Rebecca Traistor, among numerous other feminist writers, have jumped into this conversation about successful working women and motherhood or the lack thereof. There are blogs devoted to childless women and how to understand them. There are books about how to be a successful mother and wife and businesswoman. What I don’t understand about all of this is how we are having this conversation post-second wave feminism when the choices – all choices – we thought, were not up for debate any longer. My feelings are that feminists, in all of our different and differing variations, have yet to see eye to eye on the mother vs. childless issue. It’s not a competition, or it shouldn’t be. Didn’t we all, during the second wave (and some of us on the cusp of the third) address these issues adequately enough so that we had moved on to bigger issues like the glass ceiling, which very well may be broken this election year; the lingering doubt about women’s health care choices; the fact that women still make less than men in the workplace; and how women have still yet to be adequately represented in congress, the Supreme Court, and on the Forbes 500 list? Why cannot we, as women, agree that the choice of whether or not to procreate is a singular personal issue and then support each other in kind when said decision is made?




On Fighting with Hemingway or How I Became a Feminist

Ernest Hemingway and I have a complicated relationship. It consists of both love and enmity, but also commitment, on my part, through sheer will. As a writer I cherish the words he put to paper – the pictures he painted for us of Paris in the fall, the oceans and snowy mountains, and the horrors of war. As a former bartender and lover of all things alcohol I understand his penchant for bourbon or a beer and a dimly lit, smoky bar. As a feminist, however, we part ways. Hemingway had a complicated relationship with all women; he loved them, many of them, but he also wrote and thought terribly about them, some of them. I’m quite certain, however, that had I been born during his time, I would have found myself drawn to this man, seeking him out as a writer and a woman because aside from all of his foibles, the way he thought about the world and life, until he committed suicide of course, is what women loved about him. Myself included. And, well, I seem to have an affinity for complicated men.

I read The Old Man and the Sea when I was in Junior High School. I was already a voracious reader devouring Sidney Sheldon and Stephen King and Ken Follett novels by the dozens. I had yet, however, to be introduced to the classics – To Kill a Mockingbird (which is still my favorite book and so much a part of who I am that I now teach African American history), Catcher in the Rye, A Separate Peace, Lord of the Flies, and, Hemingway. Like none other, Hemingway so vividly describes a scene that the reader is so awash in the depth of his words that you can almost taste the salty air, smell the snow, internalize the fear of an enemy, palpably feel the misogyny. As a preteen I had yet to discover what feminism was and what it would eventually mean to my life and life’s work. My father worked hard at making me an equal in a household of all men. But at twelve years old, all I knew was that I loved Ernest and A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises and all of the words he wrote by hand drunk, after a night of imbibing at Sloppy Joes and those he edited at his desk in the early morning hours.

When I discovered the depth of his misogyny in my late teens I was heartbroken. How could he betray me like this? How could I continue to love a man who broke women’s hearts and then wrote that having a conversation with a woman is akin to “moves of a chess game” where you must be “careful not to stare and not look away.” (A Farewell to Arms and For Whom the Bell Tolls). “To hell with women anyway,” he wrote in The Sun Also Rises. To be fair, a nurse broke his heart during the war and well that heartbreak, like many of his life experiences, emerged in a book.

I have to admit, however, that Papa and I do converge on one theme – marriage. Hemingway was quite familiar with the subject of marriage and while he did it often, he actually didn’t believe in the institution. He loved his wives, but he was a serial philanderer stating that he couldn’t perform when his mistress became his wife. Perhaps the surreptitious nature of the affairs was the aphrodisiac he needed to actually have sex. Secret sex does have its benefits. Hemingway felt that marriage didn’t allow him the life he deserved – one replete with drunken friends and fishing trips and routine rolls in the hay with whomever he desired. And while this is not my particular view of marriage, as I believe you can have all of those things within a marriage, except the latter, like Hemingway marriage is just not for me.

In high school I became aware of the second wave feminists that were working for a more just and equitable world for women. My best friend Deb subscribed to Ms. Magazine and I read stories about women becoming president and stay-at-home dads and the sexism that plagues my gender to this day. In college I became a full frontal feminist (shout out to Jessica Valenti) and attended pro-choice marches in the nations capital wholly believing to this day that the decisions I make about my body are solely mine and mine alone. And so feminism is what made me question my faith in him and this is where Hemingway and I began to part ways. I still revered him as a writer but the misogynistic nature of his writings began to weigh on me. It’s a difficult thing to love a man who has betrayed your sense of who you are in your body and who has disappointed your sense of the importance of half the worlds population.

My relationship with Papa remains a complicated one; still full of love and respect in many ways, but always teetering on the edge of complete failure. I try and remember that he was of another time and place. Still, I know that were he alive today, and I happened upon him in a smoky, dimly lit bar, I’d buy him a drink and bow in awe.

On The Guild

“After you take your comprehensive examinations, which will consist of both five-hour written and two-hour oral examinations, you will then be ABD – All But Dissertation. And then, you are on your way to becoming a member of ‘The Guild.’” – Jeffrey Bolster, 1997 Graduate Director, University of New Hampshire

Did I just hear him correctly? I had been in New Hampshire for a little over a week and I recall sitting there quietly, my insides churning, as I ran over and over in my mind that I would be questioned for two-hours by five accomplished men and women on hundreds of books that I had not yet read and digested and memorized; books that apparently by the end of three years would become so ingrained in my DNA that I would be able to dredge up the minutia of history from the far reaches of my cells, regurgitate it brilliantly to even more brilliant humans, and thus, prove that I too belonged in The Guild. This was how I began the first semester of my doctoral program at the University of New Hampshire. Paralyzed by fear, uncertainty, and mired in sheer terror.

In direct contrast to that moment, this day I am lying on my soft, yet worn beige sofa, listening to Miles Davis radio on Pandora, reading a book about the possibilities and hope that history can bring us. Magnolia, my sweet 13-year-old beagle/border collie/mutt, is snoring loudly in her green Woolrich dog bed not two feet from me. It’s a day that is as sweet as they come. I can enjoy days like this because I am now a member of said Guild, who is soon to embark on summer break – four months of days like this – lazily reading, writing, and contemplating history. When I first emerge from a semester, after papers and finals are assessed and grades are submitted and anxious student emails are addressed, I find myself reaching for something to read that reminds me that I am not simply a staid academic, but also a writer. I long to read something other than history, hoping to re-acclimate myself to the current world, out of the morass of oftentimes disturbing past events, although when historians in the future write about our current times, they may be more disturbed than I am when reading about the Jim Crow South. I savor this type of reading because it feels luxurious compared to the methodical nature of how I read non-fiction texts with an eye towards sources and theory and method. It is in those fifteen weeks of a semester that I miss this type of reading, the kind that transports me to another place for a few hours, where my heart and mind are still and I can slip quietly into the peacefulness that reading someone else’s well put together and carefully thought out words bring me.

My relationship with the academy has always been a complicated one. I have been in said relationship with academia for the better part of three decades now knowing, almost from the day I set foot on the campus of Bowling Green State University in 1986 (Go Falcons!) that I would never, ever leave. The quad – where students gathered to sun, read, play football, protest, meet with classes on warm, sunny days; the ivy and moss covered old, red brick buildings; the union, where the cacophony ranges from loud conversation to laughter to crying to quiet contemplation; my almost hysterically clichéd Philosophy professor replete with beard and padded-elbowed, tan corduroy jacket, smelling faintly of pipe smoke and whiskey and books – all of it made me want to linger there for the better part of the day, a year, and now, my life.

And then there was Tim. When I met him at a Peace Coalition meeting during my freshman year, Tim was completing a doctorate in Sociology. Tim was brilliant and funny and contemplative about the world. Tim lived social justice. Tim was who I wanted to be and be with as a young, idealistic eighteen-year-old. Tim and I became friends. Tim and I became lovers. Tim and I discussed social inequities and poverty and race and peace long into the night. We drank Iron City at a dive bar off of Route 6, about 20 miles from campus. We listened to the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan and Peter, Paul, and Mary at deafening levels reliving the “sixties” in our own small way. We were and perhaps still are in many ways soul mates. Tim’s love of academia moved through me like osmosis. I, too, wanted to join The Guild. Who wouldn’t want to spend their life living vicariously through their students, reliving their own college years through their students eyes, walking through hallowed buildings that reek of books and sagacity and lead paint. A life spent reading and writing. And summers months free to explore history and the world.

When I graduated from BGSU with an undergraduate degree in Therapy/Sociology, I didn’t immediately apply to graduate school. I moved to Washington, D.C. and worked at the Community for Creative Non-Violence, the largest homeless shelter in the United States, as an activist. I supported myself by bartending at night, as I had done to put myself through college. It was a necessary respite from the four and a half years that I worked and went to school full-time. I need space from academia, to regroup and come it at with fresh eyes and a less jaded spirit. Four years after I moved from the nation’s capital to New Orleans, Louisiana, I began the process of seeking out a graduate program that would suit my social justice sensibilities and nourish my intellectual soul. I contemplated Seminary school at one point, if only to understand the inner workings of the various religions that infused my sense of social justice, but that which I didn’t quite understand. I found a program in Women’s History at Sarah Lawrence College. I was accepted. I deferred. I stayed in New Orleans where I earned a Masters Degree in African American Urban History, studying with some of the most accomplished, activist, and interesting historians I still know to this day. And then, I moved myself and my then dog, Riley (name for BB King of Pat Riley, depending on who you ask) to New Hampshire, some 1400 plus miles South to North. Away from everything I knew and loved. Away from my love and great food and music and to an even bigger degree.

Honestly, I am proud to be a member of The Guild. Most days. There are elements of academia, however, that bring pause. History and, my field in particular, Southern History, is still largely white and male-dominated. Female academics, including myself numerous times, often get “mansplained” – talked over or dismissed or ignored. We are easily waved away with a look or an admonition more than we should be when females are more than half of those graduating with history Ph.D.s. I still find myself wrestling with “imposter syndrome,” the feeling that I’m simply posing as a historian and not really belonging to The Guild in the way that others seem to do so effortlessly. I am not subject to the “publish or perish” aspect of The Guild as others I know are at universities that thrive on research, however I continue to write books because, quite simply, I love this particular facet of being a member of The Guild. My small, liberal arts university doesn’t expect me to produce the number of books that research institutions do, however I do it anyway largely because of the joy I feel when I sit down to write about a history that is yet to be unearthed and brought out into the world.

I’ll continue this but, for now, this is how I feel about The Guild. It’s the most I’ve written in months. It feels good.









On Bowie

I woke up today with David Bowie’s music in my head. I always wake up with music in my head, and perhaps I had inadvertently heard the news before I feel asleep late last night, but I woke up listening to “Golden Years” as I aroused this morning at 7am. I rolled over and looked at my phone, as I always (and probably shouldn’t) do, and there it was, the master of the mystery and stars had passed away after a long, silent, and private illness. I’m not quite sure what I have to say about this loss. I’ve been mulling it over all day long, through fits of gratitude and tears. I’m grateful that I lived when David Bowie was present and making music. And I’m quite happy to say that I am lucky enough to actually understand who and what Ziggy Stardust was and what that persona meant to this world.

All day long, I have had David Bowie’s music in my head. “Changes” and, yes, “Lazarus,” what he left us with to remember him by. I ran errands this morning and Sirius Classic Vinyl had dedicated a whole day to the man and his music. As they should.

I remember that once, many years ago, I was listening to Casey Kasem talk about music. He said, “Music is the history of our lives.” If that is not true, I don’t know what is. My belief is that music surrounds us and envelops us and grinds into our whole beings in a way that most people can’t or don’t even fathom. There are times when a Gerry Rafferty song comes on the radio and I’m immediately whisked back to a moment where I am in the back of a my father’s ugly, robins-egg blue station wagon, with my two brothers, driving to my Uncle Russell’s camp in Eagle River, Wisconsin, for a week, or a weekend, in the wilderness to fish and hike and live a simpler life.

I’m remembering seeing U2, with my hoped-to-be boyfriend in college, when the “streets had no name,” as we drank Iron City and made out in the back of the theater.

And then there’s Rhiannon, who “rings like a bell in the night, and wouldn’t you love to love her.” Junior high and High School, and all of that mess.

Today, I listen to everything under the sun. Mostly Miles Davis and Townes Van Zandt and anything that is easily digested while I’m writing or reading.  It’s how I get through the day. It’s how I imaginably write about life and love and grief. It’s how I live through and in this world.

I will miss the oddness, the spirit, the eyes that my niece shares with him. I will miss how loving his music made me feel better when I was a kid trying to figure out the world in all its madness (and my friends too, as they confessed on social media today what David Bowie has meant to their lives). I will miss how I always rocked out when Bowie came on the radio and, how I always paused for a small second to check in. And honestly, how did we not all stop and think about these words, just for one small minute. Because, you know, life is always changing…

I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence and
So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through.


RIP Ziggy

Can’t even imagine the world without your words.







On Love

“I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it.” – Kristin Armstrong

“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley

I initially wanted to call this piece “On Failure,” mostly because I think it’s important to talk about failing and recently I feel like I have failed a bit. I’ve also been thinking a lot about love. Recently I was sitting at my favorite bar, Joe’s, a Saturday night on a seasonably chilly evening (it hasn’t been so chilly as of late) and I was enjoying a warming bourbon and the question was posed to me by someone I truly love, “Do you believe in love?” And I sat there, with my legs crossed on a stool in dim lighting and Townes Van Zandt on the jukebox (probably still not called that, but ok) and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that question. Who believes in love?

I’ve experienced a lifetime of love in myriad ways. The question seems to me complicated and, then, not so much.

These days, I think that I am mostly tired of love. I have friends in the throes of divorce and, well, it makes me question love. We’re all tired, in so many ways; as I have written about in the past, it’s relative. When I think about love I think about how I write about what ails me, pains me, makes me elated, makes me qualify life, makes me think about the world. And yet, I also write about love. Love infuses my thoughts and my words and my life.

I have plenty of it these days. That love thing. My friends and family daily remind me that I am immensely blessed, and yes, I use the word blessed even if I am a heathen in this here life.

When I was four years old my mother left. She walked out on my life and my brother’s lives and my father’s life. She left us there wondering what we as small people had done wrong and what Petey, the tiny yellow bird who lived in the hallway in a little, wired cage, had done wrong. I still think about this although the memory of this day has only crossed my brain recently. It’s the holidays and I think that we all cross paths with our memories at this time of the year. We think about family and ex lovers and friends who have left us or passed. We miss those we have loved.

And sometimes love is about failure. I have failed in this life. Many times. We all have. Let’s own it. Perhaps at a job or at school, at relationships or just, generally, life. This is what ties us together. It bonds us as human beings. But, if we’re lucky, we regroup and we love.

Failure is a significant part of our lives. And we fail at love. Often. When we fail, however, we rise. Hopefully. When we fail we grieve and cry and lament, learn, and then, we rise. We should rise to the better place where we should be after we fail. Our lives are all about failure. I love failing because when I do, I hear the silent voice in my head telling me that I can do better and I can figure it out and I will, ultimately, succeed. Failure is what propels me on to the next day, project, or life’s challenge.

Life is always a challenge. Sometimes just getting up in the morning is a challenge. The crawling out of the warm bed. The making the pot of coffee. The showering and making the self presentable to the day and the getting to work. And then I think, that there are folks who have to work much harder to experience their day than I do. Riding three buses and the A train and just getting there. That is not my life. And then I remember that life really isn’t the challenge I think it is.

And then, let’s get back to love. Social media reminds us that love fails, often. Social media also tells us that love thrives. I have loved and I love everyday. I love my friends and my family and this world, as hard and heartbroken as it is sometimes. I love hiking and music and my soft, warm bed that some people, many people aren’t lucky enough to have. I love a soft gentle breeze on my face that I have experienced recently on an unexpected warm December evening. I love the smell of rain on a hot summer day and I have joyously danced it. I love fall and the smell the varied colors of the leaves seems to bring on a crisp clean day. I love the musty smell of my dog who certainly needs a bath most days, but always smells like her and reminds me that she is, well, my dog. And I love this life I call mine, replete with writing retreats and live music and drinks with so many friends and excited students who get into graduate school and, also, folks who are broken, but who I call mine and who, when they rise, make me feel that life is worth living every single fucking day. Yes, I believe in love, even in the most mundane of things that happen every day, in every moment.

When we gripe to our friends about how tired we are, how hard life is, how terrible our commute is everyday, let’s think about the folks that don’t have these woes. There are folks that have real things to complain about – those who work 8-12 hours a day for shit money, that have a completely minimal place to live, that have to take care of a family member – child, parent, significant other – every day, that isn’t able. Those that just aren’t bitching about the fact that life is hard; they’re just doing it.

Yes, I believe in love. And in those sweet and small, quiet moments, when I’m not overthinking the world and my life and I’m listening to John Coltrane and I remember just how incredibly lucky I am to be here in this life, I truly believe in love.

On Thanksgiving

So this is the week when we are supposed to reunite with family, say grace, and eat a bird. I rarely do this anymore, spend the holidays with family. This week I’m going to do it with my friends. And I’m making the bird. So, here we go….

Generally, on Thanksgiving, I wake up, have coffee, watch a parade, and give thanks that I get to spend this day however I please, away from work, quiet, usually reading. Still, I always give grace. Grace for what I am very fortunate to have in this life, and the folks I know.

I think we should do this everyday; wake up each morning grateful for something. I think many of us find it hard to do even in the easiest of times. I do try and find it when I’m simply driving to work with the assholes on the road, or in the convenient store where the one person won’t budge, or when we’re at work in a meeting listening to the seemingly meaningless words that cause me to wonder why I’m an academic sometimes.

My family is not close. Not in proximity or literally; we generally go our separate ways. It’s not that we don’t love each other, it’s just in a “I’m glad I don’t have to see you everyday” and a “We’ll get together at some point” sort of way. This doesn’t make us a bad family. It makes us more honest than most.

However, as much as I don’t see my family and relegate our time together to the phone, I am grateful for them. And many other things in this life. These are the things I am grateful for and find grace in everyday. Think about it. Maybe you can’t relate, but I bet a lot of this rings true. Grace often finds itself in the oddest spaces. It’s there if you look for it.

It’s about finding grace in all things

And so…

I’ve lived through shit most people will never know about and survived. Seriously. Ask and I will tell, but I’m a Doctor of Philosophy, not a drug addict. Amazing.

If you wake up. You’re fortunate.

If you have clothes to wear, you’re fortunate.

If you have a warm place to sleep, you’re fortunate.

At some point in my life, I hiked a really big mountain (actually, two) and I own it and love it and I did it with my best friends.

I love my dog.

Many people I know are just shit. Most folks are not.

Love with your whole heart. Every. Single. Day. Even the shitty people.

Everyone is tired. It’s relative.

If you think life is hard. Just breathe.

Breathe. Everyday. And then. Breathe again.

Jazz  music makes everything better.

If you love your life, you’re fortunate.

If you love your job, you’re fortunate.

If you love the people you surround yourself everyday with, you’re fortunate.

And then, if you can say that your life is okay, and you are not struggling, generally, and you are living well, then you are okay.

I think, every day, all of us, are okay. Let’s own this. And be grateful. And gracious.

This! Is Thanksgiving.



On Sport

I grew up in Chicago thus, I am a Bears fan. Walter Payton, The Fridge, the Superbowl Shuffle, Mike Ditka. In my late twenties, I found myself in graduate school in New Orleans and Mike Ditka emerged from retirement to coach the city’s beloved Saints – “bless you boys.” I immediately jumped on the Saints bandwagon. It didn’t hurt that the person I was dating at the time was the Saints Mascot, Gumbo, and I could attend football games in the Superdome regularly.

Every Sunday, the Joe’s gang meets at the bar to watch the New York Giants. It’s exhilarating, exhausting, and stressful. Interestingly, as a Bears/Saints gal I wouldn’t want to watch football, and not a team that I generally find myself a fan of, anywhere else. I’ve written about Joe’s in the past. It’s the place where “everybody knows my name” and they are “always glad I came.” But, watching the New York Giants play there, on four large screen televisions, is quite the experience. It’s loud. It’s raucous. It’s beyond fun. And, I’m with my Joe’s family.

I love sports. I love the competition and the camaraderie. I love it all. My affinity for the game(s) is so strong that I taught The History of Sport in America when I was a Visiting Professor at West Virginia University. Sports bind us, bridges the divide, and makes us more alike than different. It makes friends where they might not necessarily exist and creates family where one might not necessarily exist. In the early twentieth century, when black Americans were subjected daily to Jim Crow, sport allowed them to be American, when they couldn’t be mostly anywhere else. At baseball stadiums, where black Americans were segregated, they still joined with whites in cheering on the New York Yankees or the Boston Red Sox. And for those few hours, while athletic young white men hit balls around Fenway, black and white folks cheered for the same outcome. Sports make light of difference, if only for a moment. That moment, however, is integral to us all finding community.

Joe’s is a New York bar. We root for the Yankees in the summer and the Giants in the fall, even if some of us are from Chicago or New Orleans or New England or, because it’s Bethlehem, Philadelphia. We drink beers with Russ, the owner (his father, Joe, is the namesake of the bar). We cheer loudly when they score and we are silent when they lose in the last few seconds of the game, by nothing more than a field goal and perhaps some bad ref calls. And then we depart, to our respective places only to regroup the following week, unless we are on a “buy,” of course.

Giant’s kitsch overwhelms the bar. However, the regulars feel the need to bring tokens of luck. There’s the New York Giants gremlin that Nicole passes around for everyone to touch its long, red hair, in great hopes of a touchdown. Amber brought in a tiny Tom Brady, to be tormented by the patrons. There is plenty of Giants gear around the bar, but the awful Giants sweaters that resemble the bad Christmas sweaters that are on the eve of arrival are present and the myriad Giants jerseys that the patrons wear, are all intended to bring us to a win. A bar of patrons cheering vocally for Eli Manning feels like the prayers that Christians say every night before bed hoping for a better week ahead. (I’m quite familiar with the religious overtones of a football game being a Saints fan.)

Most of us have to be at work on Monday mornings. So when the games are late, we drink beers and eat nachos and Buffalo wings and pizza and try not to fall into our Saturday night modes of operation where we indulge more than we should. But, for those brief three or four hours, when we are all together, our Joe’s family high five’s and screams at the television and sighs then laments and yells at the actors on the screen hoping for a better outcome. I can’t imagine spending a Sunday afternoon any other way. With my family of friends, decked out in Blue and Red, and me, in my Black and Gold, but all of us, together, a community. Go Giants! (And Bears! And Saints!)