C is forever trying to get me to go to Brooklyn with him. He’s Mayflower stock, and I think the need to Go-Forth is in his blood. I’m Mediterannean. We Sit-Back. We had energy a couple of thousand years ago. We built stuff. It got ruined. Five hundred years ago, we sort of woke up and painted stuff. What’s left is framed in gold. “Feh” to rushing about.
C will put down the paper and emit the solemn tones reserved for the announcement of an exhibit, performance, open studio, razing or even the non-eventfully simple need to trudge about in some neighborhood on the verge of being proclaimed “Hot”.
Sometimes the newspaper lands in front of me with a swat upon the table and a tohljahso “See?” open to an article called “Bushwick!”, and I am silently accused of neglect for having scorned his suggestion several months ago that we explore an area that has now received in-print fawning.
At that point, I know it’s safe for me to say “OK. Take me to Bushwick.”, because once the Times has un-cached yet another cranny of Brooklyn, C loses interest in its discovery. (Is Bushwick not in Brooklyn? “Feh” to the details. It’s across water.)
With this in mind, you will understand his easy agreement with my suggestion that we attend a Pride party in the Clinton Hill section of Brooklyn at the home of the drolly effervescent and retroswoonular GayestNeil and Bryce .
We met up with Joey at Grand Central station at the appointed hour having taken the #1 Train to Times Square where we got on the Shuttle.
I do love the Shuttle. It’s my favorite line. You don’t have to think. It does only one thing. A to B and back. If you lose your umbrella, you turn around and there it is. If you fall asleep on the Shuttle, well really, what’s the worse that can happen? Not like some lines whose final destinations are places of mystery. I see their names posted on schematics in the safer stations of our routine. End-o’-the-line stops such as Far Rockaway. That’s an un-manned stop, frequently underwater, where packs of snarling dogs live off candy wrappers snagged in tumbleweed. If C should propose a visit to the Rockaways, I would agree, having set our affairs in order, and packing hard cheeses and ale. Later, I suggest this excursion to Joe who glazes over, this being only his second venturing out of Manhattan. (C popped his outer-borough cherry with an earlier trip to Brooklyn to hear absurd music.)
Joey is in high spirits, and we note our recent cosmetic inversions: he is newly beardless, and I have grown it in, and darkened it to effect the air of a convict newly released by dint of DNA. He is also displaying formidable calves as big as those turning cylinders of steaming meat one sees in the windows of some Turkish restaurants. These calves will be required for the schleppage of thirty copies of a Pride-related magazine and an industrial sized bottle of Bud Lite, a commemorative one-gallon collectible novelty which he intends to open at the party.
While Joey and C caucus about the itinerary and determine where we ought to exit, I am left to ruminate, having exhausted several sexual fantasies about the other riders. I think back on the dozens of Pride events I have attended. Some moving, some loud, some lame and some brilliant. Last year, at NYC Pride, we were with BJ and his boyfriend. That was their first date. A week from now they’ll be celebrating an anniversary.
Pride, naturally robbed over time of its defiance, has evolved into a celebration tempered by respectability. Glitter, made permissible, loses its glit. These days, we march not so much to establish our frontiers, but to patrol our borders, and that is OK for the moment. As I’ve said, there are times when it’s good to Sit-Back and catch a bit of breath. The clarion call of battle reaches us soon enough and without our seeking it out.
We are walking several blocks from the subway to the party house in warm sun while Joe explains that he is carrying his goods in a flight bag that he had thrown out because of a broken zipper. He retrieved it from the trash to give it one more outing and after emptying it, he entirely fills Neil and Bryce’s kitchen trash can with it.
I proclaim New York to be the best place in the world for finding great stuff in the trash, not to denigrate trash in other cities yielding some of our most cherished furnishings including a candlestick with a big brass ball encased in iron and wooden rings, an art deco washing machine agitator, a high chair, a Canadian officer’s chest and so much more.
The party is full of shiny happy people. Some are men. Some are women. Some are doctors. Some are DJs. Some are young. Some are younger. I am looking into a bowl of guacamole as big as the sandpit of Jabba the Hut. There is only one bed in the apartment. As I think Neil and Bryce use it simultaneously, I begin to suspect that they might both be Queers, but I assume a sort of delirious British denial about the whole sordid possibility.
With the sun dipping into the west, we all scamper up onto the roof armed with beakers of pink fizz invented by Tim and Mark and a blender. A bright yellow feral parakeet stitches swags and festoons into the pink clouds overhead and finally comes to rest on the parapet. We fall silent as Joe tiptoes toward it with a hand extended. The bird seems to regard him without fear as he moves closer. At the last moment before contact, it flies off, and we exhale. A survivor, uncaged and high above it all, golden, elusive and having its season, just out of reach, maybe gone tomorrow, maybe back next year.
Later that night, we fall into step with those who march. I sing to the melodies prescribed. In the new darkness of an outdoor table I look across at the brilliant smile on the beautiful face of C. I bump shoulders with Joey who, seated beside me, is charming the pants off the guys on the sidewalk. I accept the card of a young stranger who has jumped the fence and claimed the fourth place at our table. I hold no green card in the future. With no franchise, I often make myself useful, gathering up the empty wine glasses of the snoring gods who have the power to let me stay awhile. I do so love being alive.