A Weekend of Firsts
For a weekend it was quite spectacular. For a birthday weekend—not even a BIG important birthday, it was possibly the best ever. All accompanied by a series of firsts.
On Saturday, June 29, my actual birthday, I walked outside to discover that my first-ever personally-owned tomato plant had a round green orb growing on it. For a gal who grew up thinking tomatoes were birthed in a container, enclosed in cellophane, this was a revelation. I will keep you posted.
After a marvelous meal prepared by our bestie boyfriends, we hit several ocean block and boardwalk watering holes, followed by a quick visit to the Funland horse races. Ever played? You roll Skee-balls into various point-accumulating holes, and the more points you accrue the faster your metal horse trots across the silly scoreboard. I’ve been trying to win a race for the last 26 years. Nada. On Saturday night my horse won by a nose, bells rang, and nobody revealed how much my pals paid the carny worker to have me win.
At dawn the next morning when I saw a dozen Subaru Outbacks parked at Lowe’s, I knew there was a CAMP Rehoboth bus trip departing. Another first—I was awake before Dunkin’ Donuts opened.
As the bus roared toward the Big Apple, I got a text from Speaker of the House Pete Schwartzkopf. It said “Whoa, front page above the fold!” Yup, I looked and there I was, with five other Delawareans of a certain age, on the front page of the News Journal, talking about our memories of 1969 and the meaning of the Stonewall anniversary. Cool. Or it would have been if it hadn’t been the shittiest photo of me ever taken. Oy, a first and a worst.
So we got to mid-town Manhattan by 11 a.m. for World Pride Day and the 50th Anniversary of Stonewall. Yes, there really were five million people in the streets surrounding the miles-long parade route.
On our way to 5th Avenue for the official parade, we crossed paths with a protest parade, with marchers celebrating the lives of Stonewall heroes and very serious gay rights and human rights causes. They marched separately to decry the creeping commercialism of the official parade. We cheered for these earnest marchers and soldiered on.
After being sucked into a swell of humanity moving like volcanic lava across 23rd street to the parade, I am thrilled to report I was not trampled to death. But neither was I able to get closer to the street than a wall of people 10-deep in front of me. Consequently, all I saw of the parade were high-flying balloons, queens on stilts, tops of high hair, waving flags, and a few two-story floats. I stood amid cheering, screaming, happy people and heard the Dykes on Bikes loud and clear.
I got a pretty good contact high, got glitter-bombed, met the most amazing youngsters, saw an extraordinary number of overflowing bosoms escaping flimsy clothing, delighted in clever signs, all manner of rainbow T-shirts, lots of celebrating allies, young butches, old butches, gym bunnies, leather guys, fathers with strollers, drag queens and kings, senior citizens, and all—and I mean ALL—manner of queer life.
We also fortified ourselves, retreating to boisterous rainbow-adorned bars where, by the way, everyone, binary, non-binary, gay, straight, bi, or trans, hollered “Happy Pride.” I think the straight bartenders had more fun than usual.
In a stunning first, we stood for 45 minutes at a McDonald’s in a line of people waiting to pee. I know, it sounds terrible. But it was actually joyous, astonishing, invigorating, and finally, a great relief.
So here’s my takeaway. 1969 was amazing. Stonewall, Woodstock, Man on the Moon, you name it. I’m glad I was there then to experience it all and here now to experience the half century of aftershocks.
For some celebrants, especially the youngsters, this was a glorious and giddy joyful event. For many, like me, it was millions of people, their governments, big corporations, foreign visitors, and much more, repudiating the idea of the closet for queers. It was one humongous International Coming Out Day and I felt liberated as never before.
There will be glitter in the New York City streets until 2034.
As for the celebration itself, I do think gay life was much, much harder in the old days, but getting up front to watch a pride parade was much, much easier. I walked 14,000 steps before the battery died on my phone and who knows how many more dragging my sorry ass back to the bus.
But for firsts, it was epic to be among the mega-millions celebrating being out and proud in 2019. And my Mega-Million Lottery win can always be a first for next year’s birthday. ▼
Fay Jacobs is an author of five published memoirs. Her newest is Fried & Convicted: Rehoboth Beach Uncorked. As a humorist, she’s touring with her show Aging Gracelessly: 50 Shades of Fay.