Why I hate Gay Pride Day, and always want to escape

By Kathryn Adisman

I know it’s not P.C. to say this, but I hate Gay Pride Day. It’s got nothing to do with Gay Pride; it’s the parade. I hate the Halloween Parade with an equal-opportunity vengeance. It makes some kind of twisted sense — thinking of the times I’d be holed up in Stonewall, birthplace of Gay Pride, waiting for that  parade to end, so it would be safe to “come out.” I’m talkin’ ’bout my neighborhood, the West Village, which might have been gay, once upon a time, when I moved here, back in the early ’80s.

Ever since 1986, Anniversary of my Knee Injury — that was the year that, thanks to the cement blocks the city decided to erect out on the piers, for the people’s safety, in preparation for the lighting of Liberty’s torch, I tore my anterior cruciate ligament — I try to make it a point to get out of town.

That was my plan this year, on the first good-weather day of the season. I had an open invitation from my cousin who lives in East Hampton year-round. 

“Call whenever you want to come out,” says Steve, cheerfully. So I do. Thursday morning before the weekend, I leave a message with time of arrival on his cell phone. Within 15 minutes I get a call back.

It’s the voice of my cousin, filtered through a nasal plug. No, he didn’t listen to my message: He just wants to give me a “heads up.” I notice my cousin, who has a perennial sinus condition, sounds unusually stuffed up. “I went to the doctor — ” dramatic pause for me to imagine the worst, before he continues: “He says I have a mild case of swine flu.”

What are the odds of this happening? I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I feel like I’m in a script. Out loud: “How does your doctor know it’s the swine flu?” I venture sympathetically. 

“He says all the hospitals are full. There’s an epidemic out here.” 

I wonder why I haven’t heard anything on 1010 WINS all-news radio. 

“You might want to think twice about coming out.”

Thanks for the heads up, Steve. I’ll call you Sunday.

Is he crazy? What is there to think about? There goes my first overnight out of town since last September. Suddenly, it dawns on me: “I’ll be here for Gay Pride Day!” A dreaded event, from the point of view of a West Village resident. I should have fled to Coney Island, whose Mermaid Parade was rained out last weekend. Too late!

“It’s a bore,” says the voice in my head. 

As I’m being checked out by visiting hordes of lesbians, I try to put on my “Who-are-you-to-look-at-me?-I-live-here” look.

For two hours I hide out in my local cafe on Hudson and Perry; at 3 p.m. I begin my exodus from the neighborhood south and east. Bad timing. I listen to the cop on the corner, who assures me I can walk over to Bleecker and continue east, even though that would mean crossing Christopher. I want to get to N.Y.U.’s gym before it closes at 4:30. Summer hours. I’m told not to worry.

At 10th St. and Bleecker, I see the reality: The parade is still caravanning west. Rainbow flags blur by in my peripheral vision. “Forget Christopher!” 

I continue on east to Fifth Ave. At 10th St. and Fifth, where there is absolutely no congestion and a lull in the parade, the cop on the corner tells me I can only get across on Ninth St. At Ninth St., the congestion is so thick, I don’t notice the narrow pedestrian lane for crossing. Waving my arms to get the attention of the policeman at the barricade — “OFFICER! OFFICER!” 50 yards away, I point in the direction of the offending cop, “The officer over there told me I could cross here.” 

“I’m helping somebody else, ma’am. Wait your turn!”

Sound of dog yelping out of control. 

“You just attacked our dog,” a woman screams at me. 

“I didn’t attack your dog.” 

“Yes, you did! There’s nobody else. Do you hear the dog screaming? You attacked our dog.”

“I didn’t even see your dog!” 

The dog in question was hoisted like a toddler on somebody’s shoulders, apparently to watch the parade.

“Why don’t you wait your turn like everybody else?”

“I’m sorry,” I apologize, “I was just trying to get the officer’s attention.” 

“The line for crossing is over there,” she points behind me. “You’re in the wrong place!” I imagine getting arrested now in my own neighborhood on Gay Pride Day.

Herded between barricades, I wait my turn to cross. Limping east to University Place, my gimpy gait a souvenir of G.P.D. past, south to the park. I make it to the gym with 45 minutes to go before closing. Battle scarred, but triumphant, I congratulate myself: Like a war veteran, I survived another Gay Pride Day. Until next year.