Thursday, June 29, 2006

Say "Cheese!"

Fun week! (Or is it two?) Actually got to spend some time with the Boo, now that he's through the final big event. I got invited to attend the event, and it was pretty nice. Having previously attended events with Boo when he worked in a women's athletic department (just imagine), I was not enthused...but it turned out well. Gore was there, you know. I mean, not AL Gore mind you, no, this was the Gore that invented Goretex®, but still, a celeb. Of sorts. In certain circles. Fry was there, too, the guy who invented Post-It® notes. Well, okay, the food and company were good. Not to mention the bartender - by the time she'd poured my third Jack Daniels, I was just fine wherever I might be; since she also took good care of Boo's required post-event alcohol intake, she got a fine tip.

We also went to Pride this past weekend – for about 90 minutes. I don’t really get it. I used to love Pride. When I spent the summer in Northfield after my junior year in college, I went to my first Pride Festival. 1984. I could not wait. I rode up from Northfield with my friend Edie – the bus dropped us at the depot downtown, and she knew which local would take us to the parade kickoff on 32nd Street east of Lake Calhoun. We found it, we lined up, and marched. Everybody marched in the parade down Hennepin Avenue to Loring Park – some in contingents of organized groups, but an equally large number of people were just like us – average folk marching because after all the shit involved in coming out, and dealing with it, and merging together the selves once separate – one public one private (secret) – well hell, yeah, we were proud! And we marched because “look at us! We made it!”

A lot of folks marched for that, and it made a difference to how I thought about us – we had learned something about ourselves and we knew it to be true about everyone else – the journeys in this life are what matter, and what makes you special, and it is something special to be proud of – so march! March for that, and for those still on the journey who may see and find the guideposts to march with you. All down the route people smiled and waved, and around us people waved back, and so many of them, and so much pride, and so many journeys culminating here. For anyone who’s lived in the loneliness of secrecy, Pride is a big deal – you are so very not alone. So very much a part of a community too big to suppress.

The festival after the parade was pleasant – an array of G & L – owned businesses (we were about 2 years from formally including the B & T contingents). We bought pop in cans to raise money for All God’s Children, and two-for-a-dollar hotdogs to send a team to the Gay Games, originally conceived as the Gay Olympics. Sitting on a blanket facing the one and only stage, we watched a variety of speakers take a turn at the open mike. There was a guy expressing rage about gay bashing, and encouraging the crowd to take up arms – he was roundly booed, though the little voice in my head said there was a grain of truth in his words. A young stripper from the Across the Street bar showed his artistic side, with an ASL-signed and danced rendition of Pat Benatar’s Love Is A Battlefield pretty as a pageant princess. His sincerity was heartbreaking and I ached to fuck him silly. A young politician named Brian Coyle explained why he should be elected to the Minneapolis City Council. A creepy white dude rushed the mike during Miss Cleo’s Donna Summer lipsynch, shouting of sin and wrath. Miss Cleo didn’t drop a step as a burly security guy pulled him off stage, and as Donna sang on, Miss Cleo’s warm chocolate voice reminded us that God loves all his children, loves all the truth-full.

Later on, the dance began, and I danced and danced and danced, alone, and with others, and with everyone. I barely made the 11:58 bus home to Northfield, exhausted, exhilarated, and oh, so proud.

I don’t know when it changed exactly, sometime after the year David and I drove up from Northfield only to find we’d left our tickets for admission to Pride at Parade Stadium at home, sometime after the move to Powderhorn Park while Loring was renovated, sometime after Miss Cleo died, and Brian Coyle died, and Bush followed Reagan into the White House, and our dreams of community died a thousand deaths in committees working on a consensus model.

It changed for sure when someone realized that there was money to be made; when the reward for all our struggles became the honor of becoming a target market. It changed when professional food vendors squeezed out the mom & moms or pop & pops, and when the cost of a booth became prohibitive enough to keep the gay jewelers and lesbian artists from setting up shop for the weekend.

It took 90 minutes to walk through the massive number of booths this year, now featuring Subaru, General Mills, and American Express. Past the food booths selling overpriced food for tickets instead of cash, staffed by sneering hetero rednecks, and the only way to buy tickets is to find a stand selling them in quantities of five and buy far more or far less than you need. Past the numerous stages, the sad drag stage with a purple-wigged dude-in-a-dress synching away badly to Charlene singing “I’ve Never Been To Me.” Short on imagination, short on sincerity. Or maybe I’m just old and jaded. I still get a good feeling when I see all the people. But 90 minutes was enough.

I’ve been scooped on the rest of the weekend, and with better photos, but it was a welcome relief to set off on Sunday with two friends for Stockholm, WI. We stopped briefly in Prescott for a bit of antique critique ("Oh, my, god, can, you, believe, this!?!") then continued down river. Along the way, we saw a sign for the Cheese Curd Festival in Ellsworth, and as we've previously been enthralled by the Civil War Memorial Dairy Queen in Ellsworth (The Cheese Curd Capital of the World), we simply had to go.

Saw the parade, had some curds (much less greasy and salty compared to the items offered at the state fair - I actually thought these were pretty good.) Found the parade very fattening, as several floats hurled candy at us, and one was handing out popsicles. Lots o' great people watching, lots of princesses with embarrassing titles (June Bug Princess! Cheese Curd Princess!) I saw a coworker before she saw me, so made sure I wasn't doing anything too embarrassing, plus gained an alibi should I wish to call in sick on Monday(strongly contemplated such a comment). All good things must come to an end, so we continued on toward Stockholm.

We decided just past Maiden Rock to seek out the "Rustic Road", which is an absolutely beautiful drive along the south drainage of the Rush river. It started raining as we hit the trail, making the little rivulets that you have to drive through along the road a bit more stream-like, though no match for my friends' Forrester. About midway through, we saw a large wild turkey bound across the road, and a bit further in, we found ourselves in one of those beautiful, green-darkness groves that seems to extend for miles in every direction.

If you've ever spent the winter in the Midwest, it's almost miraculous to experience the fecund, overflowing wealth of green life that explodes around you in late June. Beautiful.

We eventually found our way to County Road J, and back on the way to Stockholm via the back way. The population of Stockholm seems to have risen slightly (81, up from 78), and a few of the stores have relocated amongst the handful of buildings since last year, but still a lovely, tiny little town.

We drove up the Minnesota side of the river on the way back, through Wabasha, Lake City, and Red Wing. Really, just a lovely day. Much needed, much appreciated.

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