Best Pride Ever.
Last night at the restaurant where I sideline the hostess, Nicole, asked me what I was going to be wearing today to attend all the Pride festivities. I told her that I didn’t know but that my outfit for last night was great. I confidently called it a hipster-meets-rocker-meets-“I’m jigging for clams” kinda look: a slim fitting teal, white and navy plaid shirt (sleeves rolled up past the elbow), probably-too-tight, slightly shiny black jeans (legs rolled to just under the knee), studded belt, converse, black sport socks with blue and white stripes, fake lobe-stretcher earrings, gold-plated skull ring and Clark Kent glasses. Nicole thought it sounded hot.
After work I went to Woody’s, which I sometimes dub the “Cheers” of the Village. As I am running into people who know my name and who are glad I came, I find Jordan and we hang out a bit, and through Sammy we meet Mike. Kevin was there too and Tats, and we all hung out and “enjoyed the festivities”. When the bar closed at 4, Jordan and I were invited to continue the festivities at Mike’s place.
Mike lives with (yet another) Michael. Michael owned Zelda’s, a fixture of the Village for decades, but which sadly burned down recently. Zelda is also the name of Michael’s alter-ego, for which she is best known, I think.
In the midst of an ironic who-can-slap-who-in-the-face-hardest contest at around 6 a.m., Mike asked what I was doing today and I told him I was going to the parade and then would let the night unfold. He told me that he was going to be marching in the parade with Zelda and representing his restaurant/bar, and asked me if I would like to join them. In my “festive” state, I said yes, and didn’t think of the logistics. Mike’s plan was, I sleep over, get up, there would be a few people there, and then we go do the parade. Perfect!
I doubted I would do it.
Next thing I know, it is 12:50 p.m. today, and I am awakened by Mike, who says he has been up since ten, there’s breakfast made, and “you’re coming, right?”
"Hunh? Um, yeah, uh…. yeah."
I had crashed in his bedroom (out of the gutter, minds). He left the room and I got up. I exited the room, not fully clothed (again, out of the gutter) only to find three guys half-ready getting into drag, Mike offering me a Caesar, and a girl handing me a shot.
Brief pause. I’m probably still a bit festive. I just agreed to… it’s past noon… ugh, why not.
What the hell am I going to wear.
Shut up, Nicole.
"Mike, what the hell am I going to wear?"
Mike disappears and quickly emerges will far too many choices to fit into such a small amount of fabric. I am presented with many options, nothing with more coverage than a Brazilian-cut bathing suit. Maybe it was the second shot within 20 minutes of waking that convinced me to choose the royal blue square-cut with the pockets on the legs with black straps on them. I though, hell, I have cool black leather high-top John Varvatos Converse to wear with them, why not?!
Then Mona walked in.
Mona is really Shawn, 48, looks 38, has a wife, Gwen, has worked at Zelda’s manning the door. He’s about 5’ 8”, beefy but toned (go with it), balding but closely buzzed, had on camo shorts and a T-shirt that said “Rock and Roll Fag Bar”, and he wears actual prescription Clark Kents. And he’s one of the friendliest guys you will ever meet.
The best thing about Shawn’s outfit was the rainbow leis wrapped around his ankles, and I decided to copy him. If you are keeping score, we now have converse, little blue trunks and my ankles were getting lei-ed.
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, bacon, Pillsbury biscuits, and a perfect fruit salad of just blueberries, strawberries and kiwi. Thank you, Mike.
"Here, you can wear this too!"
A belt in rainbow seat-belt material, worn as a sash.
"I need sunglasses."
And we all left, dipping ourselves into the soupy weather. Ursula, Scarlet, and (I am an ass, I forget her name; blame Caesar), all in drag; Mike, dressed only in briefs with a mesh back; Zelda, who, in her forties, calls her style “trailer trash”, stuffing her pink floral muumuu with a pillow, wearing red and white striped stockings, an enormous sixties curly blond wig stuck with a rainbow and a Canadian flag, horn-rimmed sunglasses and gold platform sandals; a few other of their friends, Shawn, and me, hiding behind my borrowed sunglasses, but surprisingly happy that I was wearing so little in this weather.
As soon as we hit Carleton Street, we were cheered on by a few people around us. It was pretty cool, but I didn’t think it would last.
As we arrived at the parade line-up and found our spot behind about a hundred people representing PFLAG, the eight (we were joined by a couple of other drag queens at the end, so now ten) of us were getting so much more recognition. I mean, as a longtime fixture of the Village, of course Zelda would, but we all were. It was then that I learned that “Mona” was what we should shout if we needed water, sunscreen, or anything else from Shawn, who was the mom of the group, carrying a backpack of supplies. And he was the only straight one of all of us.
We waited for a bit, took some photos with the fellow marchers, and finally we were off. We started west on Bloor, leaving Church Street and headed to Yonge. Almost immediately we met our first taste of the crowd, packed in behind the steel barriers, waiting to revel in Pride. It seemed like every second or third person had a camera. And they were so happy to see us.
What the hell am I wearing?!
But (and maybe thanks have to go to Caesar a bit), after walking a few hundred feet, watching the smiling people cheer us on, affectionately getting sprayed with Super Soakers (maybe TOO affectionately, but thank God cuz it was hot) and learning how much you can make a crowd scream when you yell “Happy Pride!”, the experience became unmatchably amazing.
Last year’s parade was attended by an estimated 1 000 000 people. I just walked in front of SO many people, and while I was just one of many, I got to help spread the love of it all and helped make people happy, all while feeling like a celebrity with paparazzi. I am a theatre actor and I do this all the time, but in character. This time it was just me. It didn’t take long before I was egging on the water gunmen, dancing whenever music happened, and waving like the Queen.
(If you wished I had just finished that last sentence with “I am” then I like you even more.
But never say it to my face because I just learned how to slap even harder.)
The parade, for us, was done far too quickly. After about an hour, we finished our journey at Yonge and Gerrard. I had forgotten about what I was wearing—it didn’t matter anymore. It was no longer about feeling exposed, it was about feeling free, almost in a costume for myself, celebrating Pride, and being admired for simply participating, not because I was showing some leg.
After a little rest, I walked Church Street with Zelda, Mike, Scarlet, and new-arrival Scott, where we were stopped for photos about every ten feet. What I only really wanted to do for 30 minutes lasted 90 and it was great, especially when people of other cultures approached us. It was a bit like the parade, but a bit more hands-on. Awkwardly, sometimes literally, though no harm done.
I finally arrived at home at 8:45. Back in my clam digging outfit, feeling far too overdressed.
I said to Mike at one point today, remembering Nicole, “Now that I have done this, I am not thinking, ‘what am I going to wear tonight’, it’s ‘who am I going to be tonight.’”
It is 11:17 now and I haven’t decided yet. Who cares what I wear… as long as I am myself, it doesn’t matter. And I got to learn a lot about myself today and had an unforgettable experience.
It’s Canada Day. So, Happy Canada Day.
But it’s also Pride. So HAPPY PRIDE.