Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Gay Pride wrap up

Okay, I promise that this is my last post about Sunday's Gay Pride Parade, mostly because I'm leaving on a road trip to New England tomorrow and will have all new things to write about after the big Independence Day weekend. You can read Part I and Part II of Pride Day if you missed them.

Here are a few random bits of fun and sexytime I experienced after the parade ended.

Brian and I would have liked to go home after gold-starring it down Fifth Avenue (players of NC-64 Mario Kart know what I'm talking about), but instead, we had to work the Voice booths at the Pride Festival on Hudson Street until 7 that evening. Just us. Everyone else, including the Teamsters who didn't march in the parade, got to go home.

I went braless for the rest of the day because my boob sweat was out of control and I figured that Pride Day was the one day of the year where I could hang around without a bra and not be the most inappropriately dressed person on the street.

Brian just hung around shirtless all day, which made him a popular little cookie. I mentioned the cop that hit on him, but neglected to tell the world about the young man who actually came into Brian's tent to hug him and tweak his nipples for a while. Brian was too shocked to do or say anything, which I can understand; that's pretty much how I feel when a stranger gets lewd with me on the street or the subway. When the young man finally left, I went to Brian's booth and said, "You know he already signed up for the newsletter at my booth, right? You didn't have to let him touch you. Just say no!"

Straight men. Their mothers don't teach them anything.

My two main regrets of the day: I didn't get the opportunity to visit the tent that was showing 3-D pornography, nor did I get my hands on a dick-shaped thermos.

My two best lesbian moments: the woman wearing an "I [heart] female orgasms" tshirt and the woman wearing an "I [heart] my vagina pin." Bonus on that second one, I said that I loved mine, too, and she gushed, "I love vaginas!" Yes, madam, I'm sure you do.

My best couple moment: at the end of the day, when I was packing up the booth and about to leave, two leather daddies in their 50s (if you don't know what a leather daddy is, DON'T Google it, trust me) asked if they could use my table to spread their map. Not a euphemism.

"Where are you trying to go?" I asked.

"Port Authority?"

"Walk up Hudson"--I waved my hands like an air traffic controller, boobs swinging every whichway--"until you get to 14th Street. Take a right on 14th and go to 8th Avenue, then take the A or the C, that's the blue line, uptown to 42nd Street."

One leather daddy looked at the other and said, "Aren't you gonna right that down?"

"I got it!" the other replied bitchily. "Hudson to 14th, right to 8th Avenue, blue line uptown to 42nd, geez!"

Long term monogamy. Gotta love it. I regret I didn't ask them if they were going to change first or if they planned to ride the bus in their kilts and harnesses.

And finally, my best celebrity moment: meeting Lieutenant Daniel Choi. For those who don't know, Lieutenant Choi is an Iraq War veteran, a West Point graduate, and an Arabic linguist who came out as gay on the Rachel Maddow show about a year ago to protest Don't Ask Don't Tell. He hasn't yet been discharged from the military, despite his public role as a gay rights activist.

When he first came up to my booth, wearing camouflage and a beret, I thought that it was someone dressed in a Lieutenant Choi costume. He picked up one of the cardboard mustaches we give out at events and it suddenly hit me that this dude was actually Lieutenant Choi.

"Oh my gosh, you're Lieutenant Choi!" I squealed.

"No I'm not!" he said, holding the mustache up to his face. "I'm in disguise! Shh! Don't tell!"

I couldn't help myself. I gushed, I'm not ashamed to admit it. "It's such an honor to meet you, you've done so much for the movement, it's so great to see you out here," things to that effect.

He shook my hand. "Thank you, what's your name?"


He mock-grimaced, "Oh, I don't like people named Rachel, they blow my cover!"

My first thought after the encounter, and I mean this with all due respect for a war veteran and a civil rights activist, but how could anyone NOT know that this guy was gay? And my second thought was, If that's what he's like on Pride Day, when he's in his community and has nothing to fear, how difficult is his day-to-day life? Does he have to act differently, act straight as it were? Does he always feel like he's playing a role, that he can never just be himself? That's got to suck on so many levels. It actually hurts me a little bit when I think about it.

It's a bit of a downer to end the post on that note, I know. But full civil rights are still denied the LGBT community in this country, and that's just plain wrong. It's an election year. Research your representatives and ballot initiatives. Cast your vote for justice and dignity. This has been a public service announcement from BigIslandRachel.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled programming.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Surreality Star

I'm no square. I'm pretty hip to what the kids like these days, even if my interests do tend to skew toward the more nerdly aspects of popular culture. So it was a humbling, surreal experience to march in the Gay Pride Parade alongside a celebrity I'd never heard of and listen to the frantic screams of her many fans.

The Voice sometimes partners up with other companies and sponsors for big events like parades and ritual bull slaughters. Our partner this time was Bethenny Frankel, who through a failed experiment with gamma radiation morphed into a creature who is both a woman and a brand. As far as I can tell, she uses her powers to sell low-calorie Skinny Girl Margaritas and garner ratings on her many Bravo reality shows, though whether that makes her a hero or a villain is anyone's guess. All I know is that while the Street Team was roasting on 38th Street for three hours, waiting for our turn to enter the parade, SHE was sitting in a nice, air-conditioned restaurant. Out of a mixture of jealousy and overheating, I decided to cultivate a simmering loathing for her. As a reality TV star, I expect she's used to it.

Seriously though, for someone I've never heard of, this chick was really, REALLY popular, to the point that people on the parade sidelines were screaming at me to get out of the way so they could take her picture. They wanted her picture more than they wanted her brand-sponsored free beach balls and frisbees. Even the cops, that's the NYP-freaking-D, were almost inappropriately happy to see her in the parade.

And the weirdness doesn't stop there. Frankel's fans knew stuff about her. Like, intimate stuff that I suppose you have to broadcast when you're a hybrid human-commercial property, but still: they knew she was getting married, that she'd just had a baby, the names of her friends and family--you wonder how the real stalkers distinguish themselves from the regular fans at this point. Well, maybe YOU don't wonder that, but I do, because I'm sick and twisted on the inside like a knot hidden deep in a bundle of yarn that you don't find until you're halfway done knitting your sweater and it pops out at you like the second little mouth inside the big mouth of the creature from "Alien."

What was I going on about now?

You know what, I don't even care. Screw reality TV stars. I'd actively hate them if I hadn't been to a reality show taping at the Knitting Factory a few weeks back and seen for myself how sad and miserable their lives are. Man, talk about twisted knots of humanity.

Oh, and speaking of the NYPD, a cop stopped by our booth after the parade and was hitting on Brian. It was awesome.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gays on Parade

I'm charging down Fifth Avenue in the 90 degree heat, a sack of Village Voice condoms banging against my hip, trying to keep up with a skinny Japanee guy helpfully wearing a Skinny Guy t-shirt. He's holding an enormous box of Skinny Girl Margarita frisbees above his head, and despite my best efforts to disprove gender stereotypes, is still running faster than me. The asphalt is a blur of shining confetti, free condoms, and red stickers proudly proclaiming "God made me QUEER!" and "God made me PERFECT!" I stop long enough to pick up a PERFECT sticker and slap it on my left tit, but I'm so drenched in sweat it peels right back off.

Shouts follow us down the street.

"Hey, skinny boy, what's in the box? Give us some!"

A brief stop at 12th Street to hand out frisbees and condoms ends with some guy's fingernails in my face as the crowd tries to drag the box away from us. We retreat to the middle of the street, falling in behind a leather troupe.

"That was a bad idea." I grab a cup of water off a tray held by a man in a leather kilt and white gimp mask and dump it over Brian's head.

"But the box is lighter now," he gasps, hoisting it into the air again. "Think we're getting close?"

We're a disembodied pair in the Gay Pride Parade, two electrons knocked loose from our nucleus of Street Team members, shirtless man-meat, and a SmartCar carrying a reality TV celebrity. Brian and I were just supposed to rendezvous with a Voice messenger on the sidelines and take the box back to the group after we ran out of gear to hand out, but the messenger missed the drop point and now our group is so far ahead, there's a chance they'll exit the parade before we even get back to them. If this wasn't Brian's first week of work with the Street Team--if he was a one-year veteran like me--we'd have just said Fuck it and ducked into the nearest air-conditioned bar to watch the Mexico v. Argentina World Cup match. But precious little youngling that he is, Brian wants to finish the job we started on 17th Street, so up goes the box and down we go on Fifth Avenue, passing drag queens and drag kings and lesbians and cheerleaders and marching bands, desperately seeking our center.

I wasn't even supposed to be a marcher. Street Team responsibilities are handed out on a first-come, first-serve basis--or, on Pride Day, first-served, first-come--and I'd staked out my claim in the Voice's nice, shady tent at the Pride Festival four minutes after the boss sent out the email calling for Pride Day workers. I was supposed to sit in the booth all day signing people up for the Village Voice's gay newsletter. I had it all planned out: I'd exchange witty banter with old queens, get winked at by impossibly hot young men flaunting ass-cleavage, and reassure trannies that the Voice fully supported the T in LGBT.

The best laid plans of mice and men...

Some people on the Street Team--not all, but enough to make it a regular irritation--don't take their duties very seriously. They show up late, or not at all, canceling the morning of the event or even AFTER the event has already started (happened to me twice in two weeks, at the Mermaid Parade and on Pride Day), which leaves the responsible Teamsters, the ones who respond early to get the cushy positions, stuck running down Fifth Avenue in the midsummer heat. If you think being a Teamster is a bullshit job and resent the low pay and the indignities involved, that's your kuleana, but dragging the rest of us down with you is just going to make it worse the next time we're paired together. Brian and I weren't exactly thrilled to experience the Pride Parade on the fast-forward setting, but now every time we're partnered, it's going to be awesome because we'll remember how we went the distance and didn't give up. That makes friends for life and is really the only thing that makes this job fulfilling.

So, me and Hot Brian, hot in every sense of the word, round the corner at 9th Street and charge into the West Village. At least there are some trees along Christopher Street. We stop in a puddle of shade and I rain down condoms on outstretched hands like they're mana from heaven. I feel like I should warn people that the condoms have been broiling in the hot sun since the Empire State Building, but there's no time as Brian lifts the lightened box and we run off again, trailed by cat-calls of "Skinny Boy, watchoo got in the box? Bring it over here, Skinny Boy!"

"Nobody--thinks--I'M pretty! They all want you!" I gasp as we trot along.

"I--I know! Some guy grabbed--my shorts!" Funny the things you think of when you're half-delirious and half-blinded with the sunscreen melting into your eyes, but the sweat dripping off his spiky hair reminds me of lunch recess at Naalehu Elementary, when I'd tear around playing Power Rangers with Laser and Jeremy until someone either threw up or got a bloody nose from the heat. Good times.
"I hear the Big Apple Corp! Weren't we right in front of them?"

The last dash up the parade route through the yelling crowds is like a video game. We dodge the Repeal Don't Ask Don't Tell boys in their camouflage Speedos and rainbow combat boots--run through a group of leather boys with black umbrellas and red suspenders, looking like extras from the all-gay version of "A Clockwork Orange"--keep pace with the Marriage Equality float until a gap between two baby strollers allows us to tear past a pedicab carrying two men and a "32 Years Together" sign--and now we're at the back of the Big Apple Corp Gay and Lesbian Marching Band, who were our immediate neighbors when we started out with our group all the way back at 38th Street.

"We're almost there!" Brian shouts.

Except the band is in a tight regiment that takes up the width of slender Christopher Street, leaving almost no room for us to squeak by. I'm so tired my vision is starting to tunnel and I've got sidepain like I haven't had since small-kid time on the playground, but once again, Brian pulls me through. He cuts through the percussion section, earning a "Watch it, honey!" from a lesbian with a trumpet, and I follow, holding my condom sack in front of me so it doesn't hit any of the musicians. We're passed the flute players now, almost to the front of the regiment, and I can hear the "1 up!" Mario Bros. ding in my head as I dodge the rainbow flags without breaking stride or fucking up the flag corps' routine. I can see the baton twirler at the head of the band. We're so close!

I slam into Brian from behind. He's standing perfectly still in the middle of the street with the band coming up behind us, staring forlornly off into the distance.

"They're still so far ahead."

"Only like, three blocks!" I grab us each a cup of ice water from a parade volunteer and dump mine on my face. Time to rally for the final push. Brian got me this far; I'm not going to let him down now. "Come on!"

Suddenly we both start to giggle and are soon laughing out loud, big belly laughs from deep inside our sweaty, shaking bodies as we jog down the street toward our people. We've breached the wall and I can't remember the last time I felt this good. Everyone around us is so happy and sexy and full of love and, yes, pride--thrilled to be alive and out in New York City amongst the beautiful boys and girls sweating in the sun--and here's our group, thrilled to see us after marching for 15 blocks with nothing to hand out to the crowd, even though Brian and I bring nothing but condoms and about five frisbees, having handed out the rest along the way to lighten the load. It's okay. That's the theme of today, that despite everything, the heat and the mob and the weight of the load we carry, despite the feeling that we'll never catch up no matter how fast we run, everything is going to be okay.

"Let us realize that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice." -Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

We jazz, right?

Jazz at Lincoln Center last night, a very late-night gig that takes place at Dizzy's Club in the Time Warner Center. I really like this gig because I get partnered with a representative of J@LC and she does most of the talking. I just sit around and hot up the place.

I also like this gig because I get to hear free jazz. This time I even called the BF up after my Voice duties ended and we had a midnight jazz rendezvous. I think Matt Dillon might have been there at the club, too. New York City is fun.

The BF tells a great jazz story and I'm kicking myself for not remembering the details, like names and dates, but I'll do my best: the BF's father's friend was working for a record label and was interested in signing a band on the rise. He asks the bandleader, "Now, do you folks play jazz?"

I imagine the band leader swelling up like an angry cat at this point. He says, "How dare you?! How dare you try to belittle our proud African-American heritage with your white boy, bullshit labels?!"

The record guy stammers, "I'm, I'm very sorry, I meant no disrespect, it's just that the label pays triple royalties if you play jazz."

The bandleader looks at his fellow band members and says, "We jazz, right?"

Yeah. We jazz.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Mermaids on Parade

Remember aaaaalllll the way back in 2009 when I wrote about Coney Island mermaids sloshing through a mid-June rainstorm and made a promise to never neglect my poor blog again?

Well, it's been a whole year and another 90 posts, which means it's time for more Coney Island mermaids!
This year the sun was shining oh so bright, but I didn't get sunburned because I stuck myself like a little lamprey to people with huge umbrellas, staying shady and protected from large predators. I actually hung around for the whole parade this time, even venturing up to the boardwalk to put up posters for the Village Voice's Siren Music Festival (July 17th, 10th annual, and boy was my mouth tired of saying that after a couple of hours). I ended up hopping the barricade because I got stuck in a tight crowd where I couldn't breathe, and some guy walked way too close to me wearing a huge, live snake, and some other guy spilled beer on me, and two OTHER guys started to fight, and I smelled vomit--anyway, I got all panicky and shoved my way into the parade. I figured that if any cops questioned me, I would tell them that I was with the Village Voice and I was taking picture, both true statements, albeit unrelated. That's how I got this killer shot of these topless women. I was wearing a skirt with reef fishes all over it, so at least I was in theme, and I've learned that if you just walk with confidence wherever you go, no one bothers you. And it's a good thing I jumped into the parade when I did, because just as I cleared the barricade, two cops ran passed me to break up the fight that was brewing where I'd just been trapped.

One more picture for today, and later I'll post a link to my Flickr account so you can see all of the pictures from Coney Island's 2010 Mermaid Parade.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Emily Dickinson's Frilly Vagina

I do loves me some feminism. It's the only thing that will get me up off my couch and into a museum on a weekend, and I suspect the BF knew this when he turned to me on Sunday afternoon and suggested we visit the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. Torn though I was between feminist art and my comic book about a woman made of pure electricity, I had to say yes.

The centerpiece of the Sackler Center's permanent collection is Judy Chicago's "The Dinner Party," a massive installation that took her five years to complete. It's a triangular table with place settings for 39 influential women throughout history, and the floor in the center of the piece is covered with the names of 999 other women, so all together that's 1038 famous and infamous women. "The Dinner Party" is bigger than my apartment and includes a wonderful "herstory" exhibit explaining who all of the 1038 women were and how they shaped Western thought.

The spellchecker on this website, by the way, just told me that I misspelled "vaginas." I didn't. The program just doesn't recognize the plural of vagina, which speaks volumes about why "The Dinner Party" is still such an important piece. At the time Judy Chicago was creating it (1974 to 1979), there was almost no scholarly interest in women's history. From the Brooklyn Museum website:

"There were no archeologists working seriously on the history of goddess civilizations and imagery, or the all-female Amazonian societies that dated back to the 3rd and 2nd-millenia b.c.; there were no Egyptologists yet interested in the power of the female pharaoh Hatshepsut; there was certainly no real scholarly interest yet in the Baroque painter, Artemisia Gentileschi."

As the BF noted, "The Dinner Party" details a secret history running alongside mainstream Western history--the kind you learned about in high school--where the "Dark Ages" was actually a period where women excelled artistically and spiritually in thriving convents, and the "Enlightenment" was distinguished by massive legal and creative setbacks for women. Of course it's a Western-themed piece. One can imagine that in a time where women's history was seen as revolutionary, there wouldn't yet be much room for multi-ethnic studies.

Still--Emily Dickinson's frilly vagina!
Thanks, feminism. You're all right.

Friday, June 11, 2010

New York through a lense

Here is a picture from Flickr that shows who is taking pictures around New York City. The red represents pictures taken by tourists; the blue represents pictures taken by locals; and the yellow could be either tourists or locals.

A few things to note: tourists cram into Manhattan like cake into a fat guy, though living on the extreme west side of Midtown seems to be fairly cram-free. Probably because that's Daredevil's territory.

You'll note that Brooklyn is a pretty shade of blue, which is why I live there. If someone did this map for Honolulu, my old neighborhood would be red as the blood of my enemies. However, you'll note the large number of pictures taken in Williamsburg, and hipsters running around photographing brownstones isn't a hell of a lot better than tourists doing the same thing. The hipsters are just more smug about it.

In fact, most of the outer borough territory is blue, except for little dots around Flushing Meadow in Queens--site of the 1939 and 1964 Worlds Fairs--Yankee Stadium and Bronx Zoo in the Bronx, and the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn.

All that yellow is New York Harbor, and before you go thinking that New Yorkers can walk on water, let me clarify that there are many companies doing water tours of the area, in addition to the various ferries that take you to Ellis Island, Governor's Island, Staten Island, and the Statue of Liberty.

If you visit the link for this nifty picture and hover your mouse over the image, you'll see place names and be better able to avoid tourist-congested areas the next time you visit New York. And, as a bonus, here is the link to a whole gallery of these images for cities like London, Tokyo, Taipei, and Sydney. Get choke pics! Check um out.

And don't think I forgot about you, Hawaii. Happy Kamehameha Day!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Neuroses Delusions and Seaworms

Last night I dreamed that I went to a spawning event with my cat. Fat white seaworms writhed on a beach in the moonlight while I balanced on my stomach on a bar stool and thrust my hands into their silvery mass. The cat may have eaten some.

And there, in the midst of a once-a-year natural event, on a beach glistening with the frantic sex of a million billion seaworms, my only thought was: Fuck, I forgot my camera! How will I post pictures of this on my blog?

The viewer is in your mind with your neuroses delusions. I may have to better cultivate a life outside of my Internethole.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

"I'll have to ask you to leave the museum."

So the blog has been up for over a year now, and pretty soon I'm going to hit 100 posts. The masses have been clamoring for more of my delicious writing. That's right, clamor, my little peebles!

"Masses" actually just refers to the BF and BA of AAAS, who have been waiting patiently since Sunday for my post on the New York Transit Museum. They aren't exactly massive, but they do have mass. It's SCIENCE!

The New York Transit Museum has a couple of things going for it. 1) It's close. I can walk there from my apartment. 2) It's only $5 for adults. And 3) It's in an actual subway station, the old two-level Court Street Station.

My favorite part was the series of old subway cars with the original advertisements they have in the lower level. You can walk through them and everything! I liked this 1932--sorry, 1927--car here because I could really feel the psychic energy of all the people that had ridden it before me: the men in their hats, the women those great big skirts, the stink they probably all made in the summertime underneath all that cloth.

And yeah, I spun myself around those poles like a little kid. Swung on the straps in some of the other cars, too. I can't help it, I love interactive museums.

So when BS came over and informed our group that we had to leave the museum "because the cops are here," the first words out of my mouth were, "I'm sorry, I won't do it again!"

I'd like this to be a story about how the cops kicked me out of the museum. It's not. I don't know why the cops arrived and told everyone to leave the museum. If I was going to list New York's tourist attractions most likely to attract trouble, the Transit Museum wouldn't crack the top 10. Hell, nothing in Brooklyn would, except maybe the Brooklyn Bridge, and that starts in Manhattan.

Here's a better story, relating to the car with all the psychic vibes: Mum and I once took a tour of Iolani Palace in Honolulu. Iolani Palace, for those who don't know, was the royal residence of the last two Hawaiian monarchs, King Kalakaua, who built it, and his successor and sister, Queen Liliuokalani. Now it's a museum and the exterior of the police station in "Hawaii 5-O."

When the Americans overthrew the monarchy, they placed the Queen under house arrest in Iolani Palace. On the tour, you go in to the room where she spent ten months as a prisoner of the Provisional Government, writing her memoirs and composing songs (fun fact: Queen Liliuokalani wrote "Aloha Oe," though not during this period). The room contains a nine panel quilt the Queen made during her imprisonment.

I mention all of this so that you'll get an idea of how emotionally draining this tour can be. You stand in the room where the last ruler of a free Hawaii watched her kingdom fall apart around her. The guilt she felt over her inability to stop the annexation of Hawaii by the United States is intense, and you can feel it in the same way you can feel all those old subway riders in the preserved cars.

Well, I say "you." I should really say, "my mother." Sometimes parents embarrass you by bringing out naked baby pictures or talking about your tits in mixed company. Other times, they embarrass you by having a complete emotional meltdown on a busy sidewalk in Honolulu. Mum wept quietly for the second half of the palace tour, and then openly for several city blocks after we left. I've been terrified to take her any place historical ever since.

And in case anyone wonders why I don't generally choose to spend my leisure time in museums, now you know.

Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono.