Sunday, June 29, 2014

Send in the Well-Oiled Clowns

Parades: Bleh

A few years ago I was asked why I didn't attend any gay pride parades and events of a particular organization any more, especially since I was one of the few people of color. I simply responded "I don't feel welcomed, comfortable, or visible." To this day it's still my most succinct description of my emotional reaction to this time of year.

When I was in college I would attend the Pride Parade in Chicago. I found the experience to be an exercise of masochism. It was white guys from my college, their outlier cliques of hanger-ons, a few lesbians, and me: the fat black guy with glasses cracking nervous jokes and sweating. I would stand there talking myself into 'enjoying' the loneliness, the complete lack of communication. My last Chicago Pride parade I was invited back to the place of my straight friends for a Sangria birthday party. It was a pity invite which I gladly accepted. That was the only event anyone ever invited me to during my four years of Chicago "Pride."

Parades: Fey

Although race is a factor in my feelings it's not the only one. There's also the overwhelming sense that the Pride Parades feel like a r-rated walking commercial for mega-corps, had a dwindling activists presence, and connection to the local community. Many of the companies feed into a body-obsessed, apolitical cult of American consumption that's based out of subconscious fear of lacking, rather than historical pride of being enough. My friends would walks away from the parade and feel an overwhelming urge to drink, screw, find a clique, and get some validation after having been gently reminded 'something is missing from your life.'

Parades: Meh

I soaked myself in ambivalence, and it's triggered me looking for my own joy. During one year when the parade wrapped around my building, I stayed inside and wrote the last scenes of "Defacing Michael Jackson" which went on to be published. On a few occasions I've started new plays that got produced. Today I attended an interactive media show about connectivity in which the audience was forced to talk to each other. I met an older playwright who works with kids, a LATV producer and his partner who works in social activism. Afterward, I sat down at a juice bar to work on a choreo-poem. I had EE Cummings "Erotic Poetry" and Ntozake Shange's "for colored girls...' on each side of me as I wrote out a few pages. And I have found that there is no animosity or anger toward what I think 'they should be doing.' Rather, there's a great gift at creating my own community, celebrating in my own way, and doing what 'I must do' as a creator.

Parades: Yea

I've only attended two parades in my life that I truly enjoyed. The first was in Dayton, Ohio. It was medium-small size and for the NFL Hall of Fame. The local towns folks chipped in, the high school bands showed up and showed out, there was dancing, an announcer explained each of the floats clearly and related it to an overall theme, and it was over in 2 hrs. It was just commercial enough to be done in a professional quick-paced manner, and just amateur enough to be filled with unexpected hilarity and personal touches of the off-beat local community. In that moment -even as a child- I finally 'got' why parades could be great, but also why they were such a difficult thing to do.

The other fun parade experience was the King Mango Strut down in Miami, which is sort of like a hipster parade where all the weirdos, clubs, and strange factions march down the street in diaper chaps, plastic flamingoes, ironic satire, deluded grandeur, and other normal Miami attires and emotions. King Mango is always capped off with Hare Krishna's who bring up the tail end by dancing, ringing bells, and jumping up and down. The parade makes NO sense. I always thought that this is the kind of parade for all the awkward kids left sweating on the sidelines. It is a freewheeling peek into the cracked alt lifestyle id of Florida. It is a wonderful mess that I hope never gets cleaned up and commercialized.

No comments: