Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Pride: 20 - 27

Below an unedited, untouched excerpt from my Journal dating June 2001:
6/24/2001

"Well, I am officially 20 years old. God this has got to be the best birthday I ever had. After spending Saturday evening at Jeff's house I woke up, rushed out the door and headed to Rich's. Rich and I made it to his friend Trisha's house, great woman, and from there went into the city to celebrate ourselves, who I am as a person and lastly my birthday!

Pride 2001 was INCREDIBLE! I amaze myself at how easily I can assimilate to the community! Five minutes within NYC and I'm getting pawed at and taking my shirt off. Man, I love that.

Rich and I hit the Duplex first, had a few drinks and socialized with fellow teammates. The main thought on my mind was, "I want to go to Pier Dance." Anyways, I had a blast- we went bar hopping and I cruised and got cruised more than I ever expected. I don't know. Maybe it's an aura.

So we did that for awhile- even hit up the lesbian bars which rocked!! Haha, It's refreshing to think that one can have eternal fun by completely letting their guard down, and just simply, "letting themselves have a good time." It's just wonderful! Rich and I decided it was time to search for Pier Dance tickets and of course, within 5 minutes we found two. I knew I would get in!

WOW WHAT A PARTY! Tons, tons, tons of great looking guys and a few girls dancing hard, sweating, smiling, touching, living, celebrating ourselves! I danced my ass off and danced well.

I swear it was so powerful- the men, the energy, the happiness, the PRIDE that I began crying, thinking what a mountain I climbed, what an obstacle I overcame and with that life became so beautiful, so real, I began to cry out of sheer triumph and happiness. I said to myself, "Remember this always, this is your 20th Birthday."

I hope the memory of the fireworks and the emotion sticks with me- dancing on the platform, seeing the lights, seeing the heads, seeing the community! After dancing with thousands of hot guys (NYC ROCKS!) drinking, smiling, and flirting the party ended. Rich and I hit up some more bars and now at 4:00AM on the button I put a close to this glorious, emotion-filled, HOT, beautiful birthday of mine and Pride 2001 NYC."

-LOVE YOURSELF-
-------------------------------------------------------------------

The Man with the Flag- Gilbert Baker
6/29/08

My alarm clock buzzed obnoxiously at 9:45AM and I could still feel the alcohol in my stomach from last night's Blowoff Party. I had an hour to get my shit together, meet up with Gwen and Nicky and hop a cab uptown to 52nd street to meet Gilbert Baker and Jay Blotcher to march in my first NYC Gay Pride Parade.

I downed a bottle of water and threw myself into a cold shower, a pair of shorts, my "Where is the Outrage?" tee shirt, my Leather Daddy shades, my rainbow gear and headed to The Bean to meet Gwen and Nicky. When Blotcher told me some days ago about the open slot for two people it was only fitting that I invite Gwen to walk with me for my first march in a Pride Parade. After all, she is my first gay hero, having so boldly come out of the closet when we were just 14 and Freshmen in High School.

I saw Nicky, Gwen's girlfriend of 2+ years, wearing a deliciously sexy green short-short jumper of sorts and immediately hugged her.
"Would you look at this! Nothing but blue skies! SEE, God loves pride," I exclaimed as I hugged her.
"I know, right?" She responded hugging me back, "every year they say it's going to rain and right now it's nothing but blue skies!"
"You look great!" I responded giving her an extra kiss on the cheek, "Happy pride!"

Gwen quickly joined us wearing black shorts, a black tank top, boots and a black hat. I hugged and kissed her as I did Nicky. The three of us jumped in a cab with 15 minutes to spare.

Outside the cab Nicky helped me snap on my rainbow suspenders, the perfect icing to the cake that was my outfit for the day. I saw Blotcher almost instantaneously- who could miss him in his bright orange Hawaiian shirt? He stood there glowing as usual, smile from ear to ear and I hugged him with a "Happy Pride." He introduced me to Grand Marshall, Gilbert Baker, and I told him it was an absolute pleasure to meet him and that I was honored to walk behind him in my first march. He looked at my shirt and said, "Love the shirt- you're coming up front." I smiled and got pulled away into the frenzy of the pre-pride march organizational mayhem. Walking with me were other friends I've made along the way. Well known Cinematic Art Director, Charley Beal, who just wrapped on his latest job working on the Harvey Milk film and Mark-Sam Rosenthal, someone who I've read next to at Reading For Filth nights at Rapture Cafe.

We had about an hour to kill before the March began so I decided to hit up Madison Avenue and strut my rainbows outside of the Pride Boundary of 5th Avenue. I love it and always will. People don't know what to think! I stood in Cafe Europa thumbing my suspenders proudly purposefully taking a long time to get a sandwich making sure every straight eye had the opportunity of seeing me. I drank half my water bottle standing next to a garbage can, swiveled on my heel and split.

By the time I made it back to 5th Avenue the Dykes on Bikes and Biker Men were ready to peel out. I took my place behind the car Gilbert Baker was riding in and held the banner which stated, "Original Rainbow Flag." It was all pretty overwhelming and stressful at first, keeping up with Gilbert's car, following the orders of the wonderful Heritage of Pride organizational staff (I don't know how they do it) and behind me a tremendous rainbow flag with at least 20 people carrying it! And then suddenly, we were marching.

In all my life I've never walked in front of so many people. The sidewalks were jam-packed from 52nd St. down to Christopher. And what people to pack the streets with! Such wonderful, colorful, bold, happy people lined the streets, shouting and screaming and blowing whistles and waving flags and cheering each other on. Joe's right- Happy Pride isn't about having one day to recognize that we're not alone, it's about congratulating one another on being who we are, on having made it this far and not letting anybody else tell us who we should be. I quickly got lost in all of it and couldn't have prevented myself from blowing kisses to those smiling the brightest, to screaming at the top of my lungs to working the crowd up into the frenzy. So many people, so many wonderful people- my family.

We approached Bryant Park in a flash. Ten blocks already. I couldn't believe it. The edges of Bryant Park, from the sidewalks to the steps of the library were packed with people of every color and every age. Above this crowd hung a huge banner stating, "We Remember" and it took every muscle in my neck and all the hard-clenching of my teeth to hold back the tears so desperately wanting to fall. I looked up at the sky and paid my respects and I looked forward into the crowd and said a blessing for everyone today living with HIV/AIDS and with that my lip trembled and I let the tears drop down my face. I held myself there for a brief moment until I noticed the old drag queen wearing a dalmatian-dotted swim suit complete with white fuzzy slippers and I found the smile I needed to continue marching.

The West Village was coming up fast and I found myself wishing there were an extra ten, twenty blocks to walk. It was all too much fun. I didn't want it to end. I kept looking back and smiling to Gwen and Nicky, to Blotcher and forward to Gilbert- the man responsible for all the rainbow we see on this day and I kept smiling and cheering and revving up the crowd.

Turning on to Christopher Street was by far the most exhilarating part. It must be what a marathon runner feels when they know they're reaching the final stretch. Christopher Street was more densely packed than anything we had seen in the last 40 blocks. Here the colors were brighter, the screaming louder, people were on each other's shoulders, standing on high-rise balconies and as it rained rainbow colored confetti people were just screaming- screaming and hollering and cheering each other on.

At one point a young tiny lesbian, no older than 18, reached out and grabbed my hand and as if it were instinct we looked each other in the eye, squeezed our hands together and smiled simultaneously mouthing the words, "Happy Pride." This is one of those moments I'll take with me forever. One moment in the millions throughout life that I'll have with me always as proof, that even if for just one day, we are all together as one community.

Gilbert Baker's crew finished just as the rain began pouring down. Blotcher, Gwen, Nicky and I stood under a scaffolding waiting for the rain to let up. They both invited me to their next destinations but I declined wanting to absorb the day on my own. After the rain let up and the sun came out I tried making my way to Pridefest but no such luck. I meandered a bit before finding the perfect spot and stood there for what had to be hours, high-five'ing and Happy Priding my brothers and sisters until my hand was sore and I again needed to seek cover from the rain.

I know who or whatever is up in the sky never lets it rain long on Gay Pride day. So I waited patiently for the sun to peak through and made my way to my 8th Pier Dance. At the dance I did as I had done at my first: I danced my ass off, surrounded by hot men, dancing hard, sweating, smiling, touching, living and celebrating ourselves. I threw imaginary love in the air as the speakers blared "Love is in the air" and smiled wildly at my kin. Just like my first dance, the fireworks went up and the men around me ooo'd and aaah'd as their arms reached over one another's shoulders and held each other close.

As I walked toward the exit of the pier and shuffled my feet past empty water bottles and beer cans, I puffed my bare chest out toward the city and my back to the Hudson. And as rainbow suspenders dangled by my legs, I put a close to another glorious, emotion-filled, hot, beautiful day and Pride 2008 NYC.
-LOVE YOURSELF-

Happy Pride.

(photos: 1. Gilbert Baker- Organizing his Group. 2. Banner holding. 3. Gwen, Nicky, Jay Blotcher holding the flag (Edge New York.) 4. Me pointing at Blotcher)

17 comments:

Jay said...

Can't wait to hear all about it :)

BTW, just added you to my blog list!

ciao
J

SubtleKnife said...

tease...

FunBag said...

Coming soon? Most of us already came days ago!

RG said...

Can't wait!

BTW - you've been tagged:
http://www.blogger.com/post-edit.g?blogID=1716718698936211310&postID=2813642117086348384

RG said...

Oops - try this one. I knew I would screw up this tagging thing! :)

http://rg-dulceypeligroso.blogspot.com/2008/07/ive-been-tagged-gimme-5.html

bstewart23 said...

Shining star for you to see, what your life can truly be!

XOXOX

Eric Zeiler said...

I brought my family to the pier on Sunday and they (and I) were pleasantly overwhelmed by the colorful, clothing-deficient mass display of pride. NYC had a completely different vibe during the weekend, but I feel that each year more and more of that proud spirit seeps into NYC's status quo. It's a good thing.

k.d. f/x said...

Shiny happy gay people

Montreal Pride coming up soon.

People unite and celebrate our diversity.

Hugs to all

Papagayo said...

i yelled 'i read your blog' at you as you passed me by on christopher and waverly... that was a great parade- i'm so happy that the people by me didn't flinch a muscle when it started to rain, a true tribute to homo-tenacity

Mark said...

Just beautiful, Eric.

Happy You!

Father Tony of the Farmboyz said...

Here's a pic of you @ the corner of Gay Street and Christopher Street where I was with Joe and crew.

Lou in Chicago said...

Eric,
That was really beautiful story. So much to be proud of! Enjoy reading your blog.

David said...

Yes, it is an aura.

I don't think I'll ever have the sense of self, of comfort in your own skin, that you have. I am envious.

But it was indeed a great Pride this year.

mediamutt said...

You brought a tear to my eye, as did your 2001 journal entry. And here after 16 Pride Marches I'de be immune to that.

March On!

Jay said...

what a great post! any more pics?

j

Dray said...

You're quite a guy!

Loved the post.

Wish we could all be as open and loving as you are.

Dray said...

You're quite a guy!

Loved the post.

Wish we could all be as open and loving as you are.