{ And What I Assume You Shall Assume }
Dwight Alan Chambers

le poissonAs we pull into the Post-Gazette Pavilion's parking lot, we are greeted by party people. We are greeted by busloads of scantily clad coeds. We are greeted by shirtless, beer-swilling frat boys hanging out of car windows and standing in the beds of pickup trucks. It makes me smile to see and hear them having a good time, but we make fun of them nonetheless—in between Meghan's urgent proclamations of needing to use the bathroom. We are in this parking lot for the Hollyweird World Tour 2002, headlined by the iconic Eighties' hair-band sensation: Poison.
   After navigating our way to a spot, we proceed to tailgate—skipping a couple of the opening acts, Winger and Faster Pussycat. We drink nearly a case of Iron City beer, one can after another, all the while inhaling pretzels and chips. I have to admit that while tailgating and seeing everything from guys with mullets in Slayer Tees riding around in pickup trucks emblazoned with the Confederate flag to big-haired women in bikini tops and undoubtedly homemade Daisy Duke-style denim shorts in all their cellulite-baring glory, I realize there is more than a slight possibility that I can indeed be to the concert's audience what Cindy Crawford's mole—err, beauty mark—is to her face: a mark of distinction that gives character. After we finish eating and drinking, we head toward the Pavilion lawn, and this realization is shared by my friends. "I bet you're the only black guy here," Meghan says as we approach the gate. We all make little jokes and laugh at the prospect, and I take Meghan up on her bet.
   I've never been accused of being a slave to political correctness, so halfheartedly betting my friends that I wasn't the only black guy at the concert isn't surprising. And it isn't even out of the ordinary for me, or people I would have as friends, that the joke would be occasionally rehashed throughout the entire show. I definitely feed into and off of the comedic aspect of the bet and the possibility of being the only black person at Post-Gazette Pavilion that day, but the whole idea strikes me as more than just funny. I was reminded of how often I find myself in a similar situation, checking the faces of those around me, not exactly knowing what I'm looking for.
   But just as often as I have felt uncomfortable in these situations, I also found myself being, in a weird way, territorial. Back in college, it was maybe my sophomore or junior year at Slippery Rock University and I had been working for The Rocket, the student newspaper, for a year or more. I was the only regular black staff member until another kid started working there on a semi-regular basis. I remember feeling, at the time, something to the effect of "This newspaper isn't big enough for the both of us." It might not have been as melodramatic as that; at the time I shrugged it off as me just being silly. However, in hindsight, I think the feelings I had of my space being infringed upon were genuine.
   I didn't feel territorial at this concert. Although minute, the feeling was closer to discomfort. I mean I was in Washington County after all, adrift in a sea of white faces, the West Virginia/NASCAR license plate on a red Ford pickup from the parking lot flashing before my eyes a little too frequently. These flashes were handily dwarfed by the pyrotechnics that flare up when Poison hits the stage. Lead singer Brett Michaels runs out, looking every bit the Eighties' hair-band pop-rock god: shirtless, skin-tight leather pants, long blond hair, bandana. The crowd erupts, many, no doubt, reminiscing about their misspent youth, and some probably cheering on a band they grew to love by listening second-hand to their parents' cassette tapes. And still others, responding when they have little idea of what is actually going on. A fortysomething guy who's had one too many beers dances around to our right. He has long shaggy, almost stringy, hair, a mustache and beard. He looks like an equally haggard version of the people in Woodstock documentaries. Speaking of which, the six twentysomethings directly in front of us are doing a low-rent imitation of that concert—passing around and slobbering all over the same joint.
   At different times throughout the show, one of my friends taps me on the shoulder and points to a black person. "You were right," they all say. "You're not the only one." We laugh, especially when Meghan points out an older black couple and accuses me of a Martha Stewart-like scandal, saying I took the bet because I knew my "aunt and uncle" would be at the concert. I have no idea who the couple are, but maybe I was compared to Stewart because, thirty minutes earlier, I showed everyone seated near us how to make gorgeous, Victorian wall sconces out of smashed beer cans, foil from old cigarette packs, and damp ticket stubs. But I digress. The black couple's presence at the concert gives me a sense, albeit an admittedly irrational one, that I am not alone.
   Sitting in the grass reminds me of the first time I remember recognizing that I was only black person in a group. I think I was about six or seven years old. I was visiting my real aunt, Sharon, in Twinsburg, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland. At the time, my aunt's family was probably one of only two black families in the town, and I was one of only one black kids at a day camp in which she enrolled me. The opening day of the camp, I looked around and, for the first time, saw no one who looked remotely like me. I began to cry. My aunt, who had spoiled me rotten since the day I was born, was about to take me home when the camp director stepped in and reassured her that I would be okay, which I was. I had a great time that year and many summers afterward.
   I don't need anyone to step in to reassure I'll be all right anymore. Just like all those years ago, I have a great time at the concert, despite its racial make-up. The music is great in that Eighties kind of way. The people are just people, some also in that Eighties kind of way. The situation is just that, a situation. Not good or bad, nothing to place value judgements on. Again, I'm no slave to political correctness. I'm just one of a dozen black people enjoying themselves at a Poison concert.

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