After entering my normal coffee joint to purchase a sugary caffeinated drink the day before Pride, I asked one of the baristas whether they would be attending “the parade” in Hudson. She didn’t know what I meant, so I specified I was talking about the annual Gay Pride Parade.
“Aerg,” the other barista chimed in, making a noise combining realization with disgust at the contents of the realization. “That’s one of those things where they dance around naked and crap?”
I assured her no one would be nude, but the sneer stayed on her face.
A city police car cruised down the commercial thoroughfare of Warren Street, its loudspeaker telling motorists their vehicles had to be off the odd-numbered side of the road before 1 P.M., an hour before the parade started.
I was dressed as a lion for the affair. The theme of the parade was “Wild Queendom,” and Camphill Hudson, a center for people with special needs and my employ, was dressed up as a “pride” (ha!) of lions. I wasn’t supposed to be working that day, but I’ve always wanted to walk around in public dressed as a lion, and this seemed like it would be my only opportunity.
All the marchers were situated on the roads around Seventh Street Park at the top of Warren Street. The parade wasn’t just for homosexuals anymore. The LGBTQ community was accepted enough in Hudson for many of the marchers to be what you would expect at any other parade. There were floats for the local pubs Back Bar and The Spotty Dog; banners hefted by the Columbia County Democrats and their Green County counterparts; and even a car driven by the Gossips of Rivertown’s Carol Osterink, a local news and culture blogger.
Then there was freakier stuff. An elderly man in a violet kimono and matching umbrella shooed two gold-clad unicyclists off the street as Girlgantua, one of Hudson’s three resident drag queens, cracked a bullwhip off the side of her float.
The Hotsie Totsie Klezmer Orkester of Red Hook played crazy gypsy music in front of us, while a Jeep Wrangler crammed with bare-chested men pumped dance music from behind, creating a discordant jazz that was further confused by the bagpipe band further down the line. It was lightly overcast and oppressively humid, and we all sweated in the sun waiting for the march to start.
A representative from Gov. Cuomo’s office was on scene, and read a declaration from the office saying New York was dedicated to “achieving equality on all measures for the LGBTQ community.” Those listening cheered and someone yelled “yeah Democrats!”
And the parade was off.
The parade lasted about 50 minutes and was observed by well over a thousand spectators. Though there were organized groups such as Planned Parenthood at the parade, there were also marchers whose only affiliation was the gay community.
The Half Moon, a hip dive bar towards the Riverfront in Hudson, held “Poke the Bear” immediately after the parade.
For all those not in the know, a “bear” is a gay man who presents himself more in the traditional masculine style, often donning beards, body hair and a more Reubanesque shape than your average gay pin-up. There were perhaps 130 people at the bar, of which five were women. Not all the men at the bar were bears; among the whirlwind of beads, sunglasses, beards, and broad, hairy chests, there was a liberal sprinkling of gender-bending.
The highlight of Poke the Bear was a fat, gay Jewish rapper called “Big Dipper” who spat songs with hooks like “STICK THAT ASS IN MY FACE” into the cheering crowd. Big Dipper slowly disrobed throughout his set until he was shaking his furry ass in the crowd’s face while they slipped dollar bills into his thong.
As I was ordering a drink towards the end of the afternoon bacchanalia, some dude with a curly beard and a ball cap slapped my ass as he was walking by. It was an honest mistake (I was at a gay event dressed like a lion), but the guy just kept walking afterwards. I would have appreciated a little conversation.
Although no one certainly danced through the streets of Hudson naked during Pride, the scene at the Half Moon wasn’t too far off what the barista had feared. You just don’t have to sneer at it.