NYC Pride March 2018 (Part 5)

 

As float after float passed with the markings of some corporate sponsor, a dulling drag whittled away any exhilaration I could muster. I made all the giveaways miss me: the colored condoms, these plastic whistles, a mess of Mardi Gras beads, and dozens of sloganeering stickers. They were all as branded as items in a drug store. If one was hurled toward the sidewalk where I was standing with the other parade-goers, I would tie my shoe or answer a text, blow my nose or step out of the sun to find some shade. I couldn’t connect with anything that was happening. It was all so bland. The harder I worked to relate, the more embarrassed I became from pretending. The more I tried to denude my self-consciousness, the more I questioned if I belonged anywhere in the community at all.

For hours, you see, the procession advanced like a conquered legion, its floats like Roman cohorts. Each one of them flew the flag of its membership in a particular gym, bar, nightclub, bank, retail store, or online office. There were cavalries of T.V. show alliances and cable networks, infantries of big time politicians and business–even a Sagittarii of drug companies. Having been chiseled from the prototype of some public relations proconsul, the guys and girls of the cohorts were sent down the parade route in their pre-approved costumes. The effect of seeing one after the other was an uncanny message of subordination. It was maddening. I longed for chaos. I wanted the messy and decidedly off-message back, the personal and the polarizing–more of the stuff I remember witnessing at this event years ago. Isn’t that what the Pride March was like in its infancy? I guess I just needed the participants to represent their own views rather than those of the entities who paid for their t-shirts.

Later in the day, as I wandered up 7th Avenue South, the most unlikely of sights developed. There was a break in the ranks and an abeyance of floats. The bouncing bodies and bombastic DJs trailed off in the distance. The people who appeared to replace them were a bit more unwieldy, maybe even dangerous. It was if after the legion left, all the villagers returned home. But they didn’t bear souveniors or commercial trinkets. They didn’t even come showered in heaps of confetti. Instead, they arrived brandishing a rag-tag mix of homemade banners and do-it-yourself flags.

I settled in to read them. Staggeringly creative, they were a stark departure from earlier fare like Tiffany & Co.’s “Believe in Love” signs. The corporate censors would never have endorsed them. After all, sayings like “Shoot Loads Not Guns,” “My Dog Has Two Dads,” “Abolish ICE,” and “The System Cannot Be Reformed–It Must be Overthrown” can’t be good for business. But they were refreshingly good for the soul. Such eruptions also demanded a more thorough consideration. They weren’t just throwaway lines. In particular, this one emerged when I was most aware of being lonely:

 

You Can Sit W/ Us. Jesus Sat With Everyone.

 

Leaning on one of those silver NYPD barricades, I was suddenly quiet and comfortable. The words wafted about. Two people unfurled a sheet that said “LGBT Jews Love LGBT Palestinians.” A pastor donned a stole bearing the mark “Justice Rolls Like Water” and waved. For a few soft moments, I found a place in the community.

 

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Gays Against Guns. Photo by Rick Stachura. June 24, 2018.

 

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Memorial for the Victims of Gun Violence. Photo by Rick Stachura. June 24, 2018.

 

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In Remembrance of the Victims of the Pulse Nightclub Shooting in Orlando, FL. Photo by Rick Stachura. June 24, 2018.

 

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Marching for Those Who Cannot. Photo by Rick Stachura. June 24, 2018.

 

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You Can Sit with Us. Photo by Rick Stachura. June 24, 2018.

 

 

  2 comments for “NYC Pride March 2018 (Part 5)

  1. Toni
    October 13, 2018 at 8:46 AM

    hi Rick! I love this storytelling, thanks for sharing xoxoxoxoox I am attracted to the real!!!! Love the dirty dusty non-corporate nonconforming side of life as we are a dirty dusty people with our real stories and complications. All we have is love and our bodies. I am voyeur on this planet too, disgusted by corporate branding and corporate society’s view of diversity and inclusion.

    • October 18, 2018 at 2:27 AM

      Wow, thank you for such a moving comment!

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