At no time in my adult life would I have described myself as a "parade person." However, in the little time I've been a Tulsan you could have easily seen my face at three of this city's parades. That makes only a handful for my life. Four of the five have been as an adult with my girlfriend. She's a fan of parades.
I participated in my first parade as an elementary student. I was twirling or swinging or doing something with my arms, but all I can remember are my shoes. And those socks. Striped tube socks and gray Velcro shoes. My mother dressed me. This event marked the first and only time I've made a television appearance. Sadly, it was only from the waist down. "I'd know those socks and shoes anywhere," my mother shouted at our television while she pressed a pencil into the hole where the volume button used to be. It was me! I made it.
I stayed away from parades for more than 20 years. Because of this, in November of last year you would have heard me say, "I don't really get the fuss about parades. All the waving freaks me out." Now you probably won't hear that kind of statement from me, although I still think there is a certain distance where waving seems a little weird. "Babe, we're, what, three or four feet from that guy? Why doesn't he just say hello?"
The onlookers at Tulsa's Pride Parade on Saturday, June 7, were no different than any group at any other parade I've involved myself; they wanted to have things thrown at them. It's one of the few venues where people wish to have things heaved in their direction. "Hey, hit me... Man, that thing got me right between the eyes. Yes!"
Not the type of thing you'd hear at Denny's or a mall.
Many sponsors were showering the masses with various goodies. To me, the strangest was Starbucks dispensing single tea servings of Tazo. Yeah, teabags. Poor taste? A coincidence? I don't know.
I like to envision a meeting when this decision was reached. You can, too. Use that imagination!
Seeing parents marching in support of their children touched me, but the parade itself wasn't the best I've attended. This year's Martin Luther King, Jr. parade takes top honors there.
The Pride Parade didn't live up to my expectations. I fully anticipated more manly Tina Turners, or thought there was an outside chance Sally Kern might make an appearance to terrorize attendants with a fire-blowing device. She is one to put on a show for all of Oklahoma to be proud of! Where were you, Sally?
Instead I saw a celebration. A diverse, welcoming, oft-leather-clad throng of the joyous. Cheers, leers, beers and, ummmmm, well it was a Pride Parade.
The Parade teed into the block party surrounding the Dennis R. Neill Equality Center at 4th and Kenosha. As I made my way to the party I happened on the requisite protesters. They had the best seats in the house. Must have arrived early. Never too early for intolerance, right?
What the Parade lacked the block party made up for. Plenty of drag queens and kings. More leather. Body art. Music. Less throwing of random items.
There were thousands of proud men and women. Out. Free of the inhibition that so many suffer. Free to laugh, embrace. Free to be proud. Damn proud!
It's a scene I'd love to see repeated each and every week downtown. Large numbers of people walking from Lola's to Tsunami Sushi to Templ and in between. With time, I guess.
Stick 'Em Up
After a little dancing in the streets, I made my way to Liggett Studio, 314 S. Kenosha, for Art 365 and Living Arts, 308 S. Kenosha, for some erotic art that I was told I just had to see. Living Arts was somewhat quiet when I first entered but they were serving cheap, chilled wine, painting half-nude women, and having a live art performance that encouraged debauchery in the form of eating sweet treats off of a perfectly still semi-nude, athletic male. The silence was short lived.
Imagine a young, muscle-y man lying on a table only wearing white socks, brief underwear, and a nylon cap akin to the kind you might see worn in a robbery. Now sprinkle two to three pounds of powdered sugar on that image. Add some handmade cookies covered in vanilla icing. Preferably in sensuous anatomical locations. One for the sternum, one for each areola, cover the navel, oh, and don't forget the scrotum.
It took the first brave volunteer five to seven minutes to retrieve a cookie. She used her hand. The semi-nude bank robber didn't budge. As the number of observers grew, so did their audacity. The second cookie consumer used his mouth as if to say, "Hands are so three minutes ago, lady."
He's going to squirm. All those perfectly good cookies are going to end up on the floor, I confidently thought. Nada.
Random party-goers filled the studio. Shortly thereafter some found themselves with a free snack and a little powdered sugar on their noses. I couldn't look away. I was convinced that at any minute the frozen man would spring from his slumber and body slam these cookie bandits. The girl who assaulted his testicles would pay. Vengeance would be had by the naked cookie man in the mask. Sadly, this never happened. He never moved an inch. No headlocks or twisted wrists. Never an, "Apologize for biting my nipple. We've never had so much as an introduction! Look at yourself with your powdered nose."
Mr. Patrick Cunningham, you sir, had my attention and the attention of many, many other people for longer than three hours. I can't get my hair cut without moving my head so often that the cutter (my girlfriend) deems it necessary to warn me on my ears' behalf, let alone having a stranger eat a cookie off my scrotum. I don't even have the balls to try that, man. Thus, I salute you.
As I left Living Arts for the evening, I overheard a friend repeatedly asking two curious, giggly ladies: "Are you prepared to spend $8,000 on that?" That was a steel cucumber with a name very close to "Big Stiffy." I don't know if the women left that evening empty-handed, but I can tell you I have some good memories of a fun night in an accepting environment.
The picture of the drag queen and me is on the fridge in case I forget.
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