A couple years ago, I was standing on the corner of York and Elm when a crazy guy (the tall, lumbering fellow with the beard and the broken glasses) approached me and told me that I "reminded him of Maya Lin."
Obviously, the first thing I did when I returned home that afternoon was to google image search Maya Lin, who, of course, looks nothing like me. I chalked it up to white people thinking all asians look alike and homeless people being starved for conversation and forgot about the affair.
I recalled the experience yesterday, when a class of mine screened Maya Lin: A Clear and Strong Vision, a short documentary about the controversy surrounding the design and reception of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Very interesting subject matter--the piece raises questions related to the accountability of public art, the purpose of a memorial, the ability of artistic innovation to reform its audience, the profits of a conflict-based discourse--with a very strange leading lady. Essentially, Maya Lin seems totally nuts: She wears wacky outfits and floppy hats, her hair is constantly flying in various directions, she speaks in an absurdly low voice, her face twitches a lot, and she smiles at the wrong moments.
So it all comes full circle: In saying that I "reminded" him of Maya Lin, the homeless man was pointing to our shared awkward demeanor/physical comportment rather than some race-based similarity. In retrospect, I wish I had responded by telling him he looks like Bruce Vilanch of Hollywood Squares infamy rather than pretending I didn't have any spare change.