I’m always a little shocked my band-mates wanna hang with me; they are so rad and yet make me feel as if I belong to something—which is amazing.
We were super thrilled and honored Transgendered Jesus was a part of the 26th Anniversary Show for the Tompkins Square Riots FREE Concert Series in the park this weekend. We played Saturday afternoon and had one hell of a good time. Anne continues to astound me with her brilliant punk presence, mega-heart-rock-star-vibe and true-rock-n-roll soul.
Even though we hadn’t played in some time, we all had such a blast, which seemed quite contagious to the crowd—I so love being a part of this band. I also love this park… with a magnificent history rich in movements, mayhem, and marches—Tompkins Square Park is one of my favorites.
While we were just here 6 weeks ago launching yet another gorgeous Drag March, celebrating the 1969 Stonewall Riots, Queer Rebellion, Revolution and Solidarity (… and perhaps more commonly known in our current cultural memory). In the context of only the Stonewall Riots, however, witnesses and participants in the Drag March might wonder why we begin in Tompkins Square Park. And the answer is in the Park’s unique history.
Since its beginnings, Tompkins Square Park has served as: a default shelter for homeless and marginalized people; a centeral location to labor and protest organizing; and specifically the Tompkins Square Riots of 1988 and the Tompkins Square Riot of 1874.
I had such a blast dancing and acting out on stage, making a fool of myself and totally letting go. Performing with TJ felt like returning someplace important, thrilling and alive. A place liminial and unique and always fleetingly endless.
After our set, dear Susan came up and introduced herself. She was so charming, kind and flattering—and then she mentioned she was one of the folks arrested and harassed in the ‘88 riots. She proceeded to tell us her story of the evening’s events. We all listened wide eyed and eared as she recounted a unique aspect of our dear city’s history. How important are these stories? I felt hers sink in and take root, as if for life, within my memory.
Stories of such accounts are so fragile and often lost. [How much courage must it have taken for her to approach me, all tall and sweaty?] She was sweet and soft and kind, eager and shy. I will hold those moments as tenderly as I hold any… for they are rare and make us rich beyond dreams.
After the show I am wiped, it’s a non-stop, high-octane freak-show dance-fest for me (in heels). So after chatting with Susan, I decided to grab a seat in the shade and catch my breath. As I walked, I noticed a group of police officers standing off to the side of the park—all standing uncomfortably with arms folded across their chests. In the mix of the uniformed officers was my old Community Affairs Drag March organizing friend ‘Det. H.’
Still jacked on love endorphins from performing, I marched over to say ”hi’, forgetting I was wearing little more than panties and garters (which, in truth, he’s seen me in less as he’s helped with a decade or more of Drag Marches).
Anywho, I bopped over in my go-go-boots and fishnets, the tension grew thicker and thicker with every step. (Det. H recognized me, and his body visibly stiffened.) … At about this same time I had the overwhelming urge to turn tail and run—but I had launched and been spotted—I was well past the point of no return.
I approached laughing, shaking my head while sticking out my hand, once again adopting the elegant fool as diplomat. (pretending not to notice the molasses of malaise miring us all.)
"How ya doing Det. H," I offered?
"I didn’t recognize you up there," he said.
I replied something to the effect of “Well I gotta keep ‘em guessing, keep mixing it up”, suddenly remembering I had just choked myself to death with a police baton [on stage: among other radical acts of demonstration art and theatre…] at a demonstration/event/concert commemorating a riot the NYPD is condemned for instigating… Awkward washed over me with the force of a flood.
Det. H was as warm and endearing as the moment would allow, while his arms quickly returned to guarding his chest the moment our handshake was complete. He continued to offer quick smiles even as his eyes darted to his companions, searching, seeking signs indicative of their interpretation of our interaction.
I myself was distracted by the overwhelming feeling of being a fish out of water in a bicycle race on Mars—focusing on Det. H’s words, while processing his motions as we swam together in this social sinkhole of yuck.
Our connection and history somehow sustained us, however, keeping us afloat. The diplomatic fool made some self-effacing comments garnishing a sprinkle of chuckles from the peanut gallery. Laughter as our catalyst and beacon, we seemed to simultaneous return to each other, lucid and clear eyed. Our hands shot out to clasp each other, sealing the moment and, gratifyingly setting us free.
Oh these moments in our lives, one right after the other, amazing and delightful, awkward and beautiful.
Everyone wished everyone else well, smiled and separated.
Being an Edge Walker I’ve never felt I belonged with just one group; often I find myself embedded in communities alien to my upbringing, gender or creed. Somehow this has translated into organizing. I’m most comfortable in a mixed-up mash-up of existence and experience, paradigms and paradox (often requiring hyphens). This is home to me. Perhaps this is why I inherently seek out ‘foolish diplomacy’—dancing this human condition of graceful isolation within all belonging. We are alive in the Milky Way after all. The Idea that Self is Separate is silly—(It amounts to suicidal brain-washing).
We are stardust. We now know this.
We are interconnected. We now know this.
We are unique and continuous. This we now know.
I love Tompkins Square Park. It reminds me of this, and more.
This I now know.