Pride and Curiosity

Vancouver celebrated Pride this weekend. And that means a lot of things, some familiar and some not.

Vancouver celebrated Pride this weekend. And that means a lot of things, some familiar and some not.

First, the Davie Street Dance Party. To kick off Pride weekend, the Vancouver Pride Society takes over four or five blocks of Davie Street, puts in a couple of stages with DJs and performers, food and drinks booths, and then fences the whole thing up and charges an ungodly amount of money to get in. Seriously, a lot of people were less than pleased at what they considered a shameless money grab. $20 to basically enjoy what you’d get at any club, except you get a smaller selection of drinks and it closes at 1AM? Yeah…

Still, I went. Got there early when there was still some light out, paid my $20, and wandered around until I ran into friends. Then I ran into some more friends. Hugs, hugs, catching up, wishing each other “happy Pride”—really, the only reason I was out tonight. Then the crowds grew fiercer and the music got louder, and it got a bit less fun. I danced for a bit, but the party was just too exhausting for an introvert like me, and I called it a night around 11:30.

Which was longer than I’ve ever lasted, when I think about it. Once or twice I skipped the whole thing entirely: 2008, especially, because I’d been laid off that day and I just wasn’t feeling sociable. But generally, I just don’t last very long at all; I don’t like the club scene, and the street party is basically like one big open-air club with an outrageous cover price. If I’m not with people I know, or don’t immediately run into them, I’m more likely to ditch the whole thing. So hey, I guess I’m getting more outgoing!

Saturday was the Dyke March. I’d never gone, and I didn’t really have any plans until a friend in the Rainbow Marching Band invited me to tag along. I ended up helping to carry the banner, but I didn’t mind. The Dyke March is a great event, full of energy, very small and informal compared to Sunday’s parade, with much more of a sense of community. Individuals can walk along, groups carry hand-made banners, participants are invited to sign or initial the main banner (they make a new one each year and keep the old ones). No gigantic truck floats for WestJet or Royal Bank or Celebrities. No politicians that I could see, either. It reminded me of Ottawa’s Pride marches when I came out in the early-mid-90’s, back before it got all corporate.

Sunday was the Pride Parade. Corporate or not, you didn’t think I’d miss it, did you? As I’ve done for the last several years (since I moved downtown, in fact) I volunteered walk with the VGVA float; we’d be handing out freezies (insanely popular), suckers (not so much), a few of us would pass balls around, a few more would spray water at the crowd or just wave. Good times. And I got kudos on my control of the ball—because the last thing you do is have it shank off into the crowd.

Dinner, nap, shower, and I was off to the Vancouver Men’s Chorus Big Gay Sing. I’ve been going for the last 3 years (since it started, in fact) and it’s always tons of fun. We get to sing along to classics (the Sound of Music medley is always a favourite) and new material (Lady GaGa, Call Me Maybe) with cute little skits and clever costumes and production numbers.

Then after the show, I hurried home to follow Curiosity’s landing live (well, live minus the light-speed delay). I’d already seen the Seven Minutes of Terror video and knew that as crazy-awesome as this crazy-awesome plan was, it could still fall apart so easily. But that didn’t happen; atmospheric entry happened without a hitch that I could see, everything went perfectly smoothly. And when they received word Curiosity had touched down, the control room just went crazy. Don’t ever think scientists can’t get emotional! This was the culmination of years of work, one of the first steps on the road to the stars.

Then they started receiving images, and the room went fucking nuts again.

It’s times like this I feel Humanity can do something to rise above its present condition, to be more than it is now. People could say that we should hold off exploring the cosmos until we’ve solved our problems here on Earth—but, first, all the deep-space telescopes and Mars landers and particle accelerators only cost a fraction of what we spend on wars or filthy rich CEOs’ tax breaks. Second, endeavours like this give us (or some of us) some much-needed perspective. Astronauts on the moon saw the Earth rise above the Lunar horizon, a pretty swirl of blue and white, no national borders in site. In 1990 Voyager 1 snapped a picture of Earth from 6 billion km, a barely visible blue pixel in the vastness of space.

So yes, Curiosity is important, pun intended. This weekend I celebrated my pride in myself and my beautiful queer community, and I am just as proud of America’s achievements. Here’s to a bright future!