One Month In

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A Cold Start | Chicago, IL

5 pizzas, 3 buckets of paint, 9 runs along the lake, 2 shows, 7 days without heat, and 10+ calls to the landlord, inevitably leading to 10+ bottles of wine. These are the numbers by which I measure my first month in Chicago. Along with one more: 13.

That’s the number of job applications I’ve filled out since swan-diving from my employed life on the East Coast to follow my dreams in the land of deep dish and 312. Only to be honest, after 13 applications, that swan-dive is feeling more and more like a belly-flop. Leaving a sting that sends my mind shouting: “yoooo. why’d you do that tho?”

But luckily for me, the sting and self-doubt are fleeting. Because when stacked against all of those other numbers, it doesn’t seem half bad. After all, each pizza leads to another potential favorite. Every bucket of paint brings home that much closer. Another run, unlocks another part of the city. And more shows means more chances to meet more friends. But I’m not going to sugarcoat the days without heat or calls to the landlord. That ish sucked.

Although, it is how I’m justifying adding another empty bottle of wine to the shelf tonight.

Cheers to the first of many months in Chicago. And to finding a way to make money with my words.

Hey, Dad.

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It’s been a while since we last talked. A little over a year in fact. And that just doesn’t make sense to me.

Because a year kind of seems like a long time. And there’s no way that phone call happened a year ago. The one the woke me up out of my post New Year hangover haze and interrupted my binge session of Friends. The one telling me that you were dead.

Yikes. That’s such an awkward word to use in a sentence, “dead.” Especially when I’m forced to use it in a sentence about you. Because it’s a new adjective that up until a year ago I would have never used to describe you. Similar to the verb “died” but not quite as bad. Because when I say “died” I admit that what happened, happened in the past. And I force myself to come to terms with that fact that you’ve really been dead for a year now. And that’s weird.

It’s been a year since we’ve last talked? Since we caught up on my travels and your hunting? Since you’ve asked me how I was liking work? If I was still taking Mandarin (I speak Spanish)? How mom was? It’s been a year since I’ve rolled my eyes when you started one of your rants? About how the price of silver, or buffalo nickels, or Hess trucks is going up and that I should buy them by the box full? It’s been a year.

It really has been. A year’s gone by since you’ve been gone. Since I last said hi. Making this hello long overdue. But it’s not that I haven’t tried to reach out already – once a few weeks after we last talked, and another time on your birthday – it’s just that I wasn’t ready to yet. Too busy. Too tired. Too surprised that I still couldn’t seem to find the words that I needed to say to you.

But I’ve found them. It may have taken me a year to do so, and they may not be much, but I have them now. Just three of them: I miss you.

I know, I’m as surprised as you. A year ago when we last talked, it would have been weird if I said I missed you. We just never talk, or talked, like that. But it’s true.

I miss the phone calls I never thought I’d miss. I miss telling you about the trips that you thought I was crazy for taking. I miss you checking in on me when I was sick. Being able to call you when I was irritated. And getting advice from you I knew I’d never use.

I even miss hearing the hunting stories I never wanted to hear. I miss getting annoyed when you called at the wrong time. Being bored when you went on and on about your dogs. I miss getting angry when you would tell me how awful a place Philly was and that you couldn’t believe I still lived here.

I miss you. And being able to talk to you. When I wanted to. And when I didn’t. I miss you when an old friend asks how I’m doing, and I brush off missing you with a “fine.” Or when someone new asks about you, and I push away missing you with awkward words like “died” or “dead.”

I’ve missed you over the last year. And I miss you now. And I thought it was finally time for me to reach out and tell you that. Because I refuse to be surprised by another year that passes by without me saying hi.

Happy New Year, dad. I miss you.

Love,

Zachman

P.S. I’m thinking about planning a trip to Cuba. Don’t get mad.

 

Eastbound & Down

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Tonight I set off for two weeks during my latest disappearance act from the States. Unpacked bag, missing passport and running late for work? Yea – it’s the morning before a flight alright. But that’s okay. Chaos has been the theme of this week. And plus, if I have time to write a blog post things can’t be that bad.

WHERE?

Oh right, I’ve yet so say. Like my cleverly chosen and culturally irrelevant “get my reference” of a blog title suggests, I’m heading to Southeast Asia. More specifically: Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

WHY?

A question I’ve received often the last few weeks as days counting down to my departure date ticked by. Sometimes the question was accompanied by excitement and intrigue. Other times it came with a little bit of meh. In both situations it was met with the same answer: because. Because I want to. Because why not. Because of a….

WHO?

I will be meeting my long lost amiga and past Chilean travel esposa Emily on this two week southeast asian adventure. Already living in Hanoi, Vietnam teaching English, Em will be my Western rock in a sea of unknown.

WHAT?

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That’s what. I’ll be touching down in Hanoi first for a bit of city living with my amiga before setting sail (literally) from Ha Long Bay. From there, Siem Reap in Cambodia for a bit of bike riding and temple exploring. Then, Phuket (pronounced Poo-Ket, grow up) for some rest and relaxation via Thai sun and sand followed by Phi Phi (pronounced Pee-Pee, okay go ahead and giggle now) to kick off a few days of island hopping. Finally, Bangkok. Because, Bangkok.

HOW?

With swag of course. That, and a little bit of unease actually. This is the first trip in almost 3 years that I’m leaving the Americas. And the first trip escaping the States since getting sick in Colombia back in November. The language will be a barrier, the culture a shock and the distance from home incomprehensible. But these reasons for unease are also the same ones causing excitement. Because when it comes down to it, that’s what travel is all about: exploring the unfamiliar. And it’s what makes it different from a vacation.

So that’s my shtick. Later tonight, I’m heading East. And I really can’t wait to see what’s in store. As always, I’ll be keeping in touch via selfies and filtered realities on Instagram. So follow along at @MrThornbury.

#ByeFelicia

NYC, Chicago, DC & Philly In Between

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#whyilovephilly

July was a month for the books. I showed my pride in NYC, ate deep dish in Chi-town and kicked some balls around in DC all while trying to reassemble my life here in Philly. And I gotta say, it was pretty fun.

It’s weird being here now at the end of the month looking back at the beginning to when it all started with a jump. A jump into the unknown, from complacency and comfort to uncertainty and WTF. And it started with quitting my job. My first day of unemployment coincided with the first day of July. And even though I had no idea what the outcome of it would be, I did know that I could control what the next few weeks had in store. A bit of travel. A vacation and a fulfillment of my promise to see more of the States. Cities in my own backyard that I had neglected for greener grasses in countries far far and away. So with no job, no plan and no fricks left to give I bought a train ticket, plane ticket and bus ticket to help fill the empty calendar that was now my month.

First stop: NYC.

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NYC Pride

It’s become a tradition between my friend Stephen and I to celebrate Pride together no matter which city it takes us to. So I really couldn’t think of a better way to transition into a new month and a new chapter in my books than jumping on the next Amtrak to NYC for a weekend full of rainbows, glitter and everything fabulous.

Though I’ve been to NYC plenty of times before, this time felt a bit fresher knowing that I’d be returning to Philly free of a routine. That freedom came with uncertainty, sure, but it still gave me a bit of excitement to rev my engines in the city that never sleeps. So I hit the bars, saw some stars and threw my cares into the air already filled with the rainbow bright confetti. And it was here that I got my first real push in the right direction. All thanks to a man from the land down under.

It was the first time that I was asked, “What do you do?” since quitting my job that made me realize I had no response anymore. There I was in a bar in Brooklyn being chat up by this Aussie and my only real response was,  “Wow, I’m unemployed.” Normally, that would have been the end of it. It would have been for me anyway. Ain’t nobody got time for a scrub. But he took it different. “Nice. What’re you going to do with your time off?” he said.

“I’ll find out.” was my response. And I knew then that I wanted something to fill in that blank of “What do you do?” more than I ever expected I did before. That the question packed a powerful punch, and I wanted an answer just as powerful to return. But I wasn’t going to find it right then and there. I was too preoccupied with beer and the boy from down under to worry about what was waiting for me back in Philadelphia. It was Pride weekend after all.

rainy Philly

rainy Philly

Back in Philly and back on the job hunt, my new home was Karma Cafe. I rebuilt my site and resent emails to employers and connections of jobs that once were while sipping on chai tea lattes and being distracted by the dogs walking by. The issue was that I had decided to jump ship on my job during the week of 4th of July and offices were at a stand still. But it gave me time to get prepared so that I could come out guns blazing when the ad community decided to wake up once freedom had rang throughout Philadelphia. I found enough freelance for the time being to keep me afloat so I wasn’t panicked. And to be honest, now that I had a few trips in the books I wasn’t really ready yet to tether myself down to employment again. I guess I was just still yearning for the summer vacations that came along with 16 years of schooling. Everyone else was on vacation, why shouldn’t I be? So, with a few more leads in my back pocket, it was off to Chicago. To set foot in the midwest for the first time. And to reunite with my Chilean polola that was waiting for me at O’Hare International.

Chi-town

Chi-Town

I’ve heard a lot of things about Chicago, mostly from my friend Sarah that I was visiting. About its beauty. Its buzz. And of course about its pizza. But I’m not sure that I was prepared for exactly how much love I would feel for the Windy City. Like a sudden gust, it hit me on my second day wandering along the Chicago River. This city was awesome! Sure, the Bean, Navy Pier and Wrigley Field were cool, but there was so much more. Boystown for starters. Lurie Gardens for another. And I mean I can say it again and again, pizza. Pizza. Piz. Za.

But what I was truly falling for out in the Midwest was the vibe. It was contagious. Like a friendly New York City. Easy, NYC. I love you, but you’re rough around the edges. And I like that about you. But this was a nice change. And it could have been the razzmatazz leftover from decades long passed, but this city had a certain allure to it that I haven’t really experienced anywhere in the States outside of my hometown of Philly. Which made me question for the first time, was it time to start searching for work outside of the City of Brotherly Love? Could I leave cheesesteaks behind for hotdogs? Well obviously not. But I could maybe bring some Steve’s Prince of Steaks with me at least. Regardless, relocating was for the first time a consideration. And it scared me. But hey, I had already jumped. Why not go for it again?

It was then that I got hit with what I think was my second guide throughout my July travels. This time at a house party in Boystown. I guess a lot of my spiritual guides come through drunken encounters. Whether that’s a good or bad thing is still up in the air, but it was the party host’s mom who had visited Chicago to help set up for the weekend that took the role of my external wanderlust. Apparently she had heard from her daughter that I was the unemployed writer visiting from Philadelphia. She asked me what my plan was and for the second time now I had no answer. Maybe NYC. Chicago or San Francisco. I had no idea. And her answer? Do it all.

I was young. I was not tied down by anything calling me back home. I had a small group of friends that I was introduced to in Chi-Town already that were incredible, and a second family in Madison that were already showering me with cheese and beer. I already found opportunity here, I could find it elsewhere too. “Do what you want,” she told me. “I chose love. I don’t regret it, but I do regret wondering what else was out there besides it.”  And it was with this that the anxiety started to kick in. What the hell was I going to do? I had a few more days in the Midwest to play around with the idea. And I had the fortune to spend it with several new friends that were the bee’s knees. So I decided to leave it up to the books. If it was in them it would be. If not, there was still more writing to be done.

Lake Monona - Madison

Lake Monona – Madison

My second checkpoint in Philly was greeted with a new freelance gig at an ad agency in Center City. I would only be back in town briefly, with a bus ticket to DC for a kickball tournament looming over my head, but I still was ready to jump on a new opportunity to begin rebuilding my life. And it was going pretty well too. I seemed to mesh well with the team I was working with and the work seemed like something that I could get the hang of. Still, I thought that the answer to my unemployment was a ways off. I had chances on the horizon, but in reality I knew that there was no way in hell I’d be locking something down before summer’s end. That’s just not how this industry worked. It took time. Imagine my surprise then when I was made a job offer by the same agency I had been freelancing with the day before I left for DC. I was ecstatic. But with the recent events that had taken place, I knew I needed more than a day to figure out if this was the new answer to “What do you do?” that I was waiting for. I was grateful beyond belief that it had happen so quickly. But I needed to make sure I was ready to commit. And this was the question that I’d have on my mind during my first trip down south to visit the nation’s capital.

Freeballers at The National Mall

Freeballers at the National Mall

I never knew the fun that resided below the Mason-Dixon line. DC was incredible, and I was there with an incredible team of friends that I had just met at the beginning of the kickball season. We traveled together to represent Philly in a tournament pitting us against teams from Nashville, Raleigh and DC itself. And I don’t think that it was a coincidence that the very same weekend that I was faced with a choice of Philadelphia or the unknown other, that I was also now responsible for defending the city’s name. I was there playing for Philly with a group of people that had become what Philly was to me. And I couldn’t be happier. This was what I wanted. To not only live in a city, but to take that city with me wherever I went. And I started to realize exactly what that feeling meant. It meant that I was on the right track to my answer.

Yes, I could go anywhere that I wanted. Nothing was stopping me. I could be ready whenever I wanted to be. But did I want to be just yet, or was I still discovering what Philly had to offer me. Yes I had fallen in love with a city other than my own, but did that mean that it was the next city to be my home? No. One day I want to try another city on for size, but for now I was still growing into Philadelphia. And the glorious thing about that was that the city was growing with me. There was opportunity at home, something that I had been searching for since I walked out the door of my last job. I’d be foolish to pass that up. And I was not only grateful for that chance, but I was also grateful for the travels that I was able to experience between then and now that helped me realize my answer for “What do you do?”

I’m a writer living in Philadelphia.

So here I am. At the end of July. With a few more cities under my belt and a new job ready to add a few more lessons to my book. I was told recently that “If it was meant to be, it would have been” and I intend to go on believing this. I make my own choices, yes. But I do have to think that there is a reason that I make them. Stuff happens at the right time for the right reason. Whether it’s celebrating a tradition with an old friend, enjoying deep-dish with a lost one, or defending your city’s name with some new ones, I think that every journey one has on the way to figuring out what comes next is crucial in what actually comes next. And for learning that lesson, I’m grateful.

Here’s to a just as eventful August.

Philadelphia

Philadelphia

A Hop, Skip & Jump Into an Unknown Direction

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You can begin to judge just how foolish a decision you’ve made by the amount of people commenting on your “bravery” afterwards.

Apparently, after deciding to resign from my job last week I’ve reached the heroic level of Hercules himself on the brave scale. Which is kind of funny when I think about it because I still find myself feeling like the Lion from The Wizard of Oz before the Great Oz worked his magic.

Why have I been deemed brave? Because as of now I’m running full speed down the yellow brick road without a real destination or direction. That’s right ladies and gentleman, I’m the guy that quit his job without any real plan lined up afterwards.

Sure, I saw to it that I had a few lines in the water and a safety net packed away below deck before jumping overboard. But for the most part I’ve decided to go on this voyage seeking employment back in Philadelphia without a map or compass. As of this Friday, my last anchor will be raised and I’ll be leaving the safety offered in the port of Harrisburg for the unpredictable open waters waiting in the Sea of Unemployment. Okay, okay. Enough with the sailing analogies.

What my job offered me was fantastic. The year I’ve spent writing there has given me opportunities and experiences junior copywriters could only ever dream of. I was a full part of the team, and I made sure that I was a working part of it too. My work was only as good as my passion, and I made sure that both were of the highest level over the 12 months that I called the office my office.

But, and there’s always a but, four hours a day devoted to commuting alone has a way of sticking a pin in the butt of that passion bubble. I became exhausted. And that exhaustion started to lead to not just how I felt in the work place, but also how I felt in real life. And when that started to happen, I had to start evaluating how much longer I could really jump on that train every day. Yes, the people of Amtrak were amusing, but the people of Philadelphia were the ones that my heart was set on.

So I made a choice. And I set a target back on Philly. Without a plan and without a paddle. I figured that the worst thing that could happen was that I would attain my New Year’s Resolution of failing. So why not? It was time for me to be “brave.”

But even with the reassuring words from friends and family (I really am grateful), I still do feel lacking in bravery. However, in absence of that, there is another feeling. Excitement. I don’t know if I’m a freak for loving it, but jumping into the unknown is what hits the refresh button on my life. I’d rather skip into uncertainty than mindless shuffle down a path of contentness. And for that reason alone, I see the next few weeks, or maybe months,  of job hunting as something that will only add to my overall experience. I’ve always heard that sometimes the journey is more rewarding than the destination. And I’m ready to roam around a bit to see if that’s true.

And one last thing. I know I promised that I would quit it with the sailing references, but I have one more. Before making my decision, I reached out to my mentor. The same mentor that’s helped me with all of my decisions, whether they be brave, foolish or just a no-brainer. In a long winded email I weighed the pros and cons of my choices. I wavered back and forth time and time again. And ultimately got to the point in asking her, “Am I an idiot for giving up the security I have at my job for something that I don’t even know exists yet?” In typical fashion she responded with just a few words that somehow still managed to answer it all. A quote:

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.” – Shedd.

My decision was made.

So, in short, I’m happy to wear this badge of bravery. I’m even happier to wear it’s twin badge of foolishness. Because when it comes down to it, that’s all a good career is made up of anyway.

And to friends reading this post today that know a guy or knows a guy that knows a guy, spread the word:

Writer seeking a home to store his words.

2014 Resolution in Review

June mark’s the half way point of 2014 and as such I thought it was time to review my New Year’s resolution. I’ve had 6 months to work on it. 6 months. And so far, I’ve failed miserably at accomplishing even a single part of it. Which, ironically enough means I’ve accomplished the first bit. But that’s cheating.

For those interwebbers out there wandering what this nonsense is that I’m talking about, it’s My 2014 Resolution blog post. For those interwebbers out there untrusting of hyperlinks or uninterested in my rambles, here’s the abridged version of my hopes and dreams:

  1. I want to fail miserably.
  2. I want to get my heart broken.
  3. I want to get a bone broken.

So out of context these goals for my resolution sound quite worrisome, which is why you should really take me up on the offer to get some of the back story here. I mean, even with that you might still think I’ve lost it. And I have. That’s the idea. I want to throw sanity out the window and live instead of think. Apparently that’s what your twenties are for according to every non-twenty year old expert anyway. Doing dumb things. My dumb things are just a little bit dumber.

Like I said in my previous post, “I want to live each day with no reservations — not like it’s my last, but like it’s another day and chance to fuck shit up just so that I can rebuild, better.” That was the main purpose for my resolutions anyway. Mess up a lot and get better. But an unexpected benefit of not caring if I fail, get my heart broken or break a bone is that it’s brought some interesting things my way. Things that would have never happened if I wasn’t out chasing my dumb resolutions.

In not caring about failing, I’ve landed some dream gigs. I’ve found opportunities to write about what I love. My one day goal of becoming a travel writer became a sudden reality. In shooting for the stars and not caring where I landed or how hard I hit the ground on my way back down, several freelance articles have come way allowing me to dive into the world from a words point of view. I’ve been able to contribute to travel sites, blogs and books. I’ve extended those opportunities into the tourism market where again taking aim at a potentially unreachable target has landed my arrow in the backside of another mark I didn’t even know was there. And not worrying about failing has helped me in my 9-5 job as an adman as well. On the creative side, I’m in charge of thinking up dumb ideas. I have to put my concerns for failure aside to get anything done. So how better to do that than embrace failure? I think of dumb stuff, get shot down, and think of more dumb stuff until one of those dumb things turn into a smart thing. This method has landed me on some great accounts and even more exciting new pitches. As a junior copywriter, those opportunities very rarely arise. So I have my resolution towards failing miserable to thank for them.

In not caring about the state of my heart, I’ve allowed myself to be vulnerable to new gentleman suitors and old friends and family of times passed. I can’t really say I was shy to the dating scene to begin with, but how I’ve been handling the fellas lately since I’ve set my resolution to get my heart broken is different. Although I’m still a single cat lady minus the cat, I can say that I’ve at least experienced a few whirlwinds that have showed me there are catches out there. I just have to be willing to return a word that I’m cautious about: affection. Now, if you know me you know that I’m by no means made of stone. I have emotions. But I also believe that caring about someone or even worse “loving” them only means leaving your heart out on a silver plate ready to be carved up by Freddy Krueger (I know, cue the violins). But that’s coming to an end. I’m no longer willing to suffocate a feeling just because I’m afraid of what it may cause once reacting to the oxygen in the real world. And it’s created meaningful relationships in my life. Friends that I’ve always held close have gotten closer. I’ve turned to them in hard times and more importantly they know now they can turn to me as well. My family has always been a part of my life and now is even a bigger part of it. Setting myself up for heartbreak has lead to my first encounter with my dad in over 10 years. Now although there’s no storybook ending that will come with it, I can thank seeking to get my heartbroken for the WD40-like vulnerability that’s been opening up the rusted lock.

In not caring about the state of my bones or body, I’ve climbed a fucking mountain. Actually, 3 of them. I flipped the bird to safety and jumped on a plane to Peru. Over a two week span I backpacked my way to Machu Picchu, climbed it, climbed it’s taller neighbor Huayna Picchu, and climbed a third mountain the next day just for shits and giggles. The rocks were wet, the ladders were broken and the paths were not really paths, but I took on the climb by the horns. In seeking to break a bone, I was able to shatter my fears. The action to destroy my body took me to San Francisco where I hiked, biked and climbed my way all around the bay. For my 24th birthday, I decided to go on a 24 mile bike ride that lead me to the red woods where of course I had to try to climb one. I beat my body up, burnt it, threw it into the ocean, and then left it aching on the beach to dry. And you know what? I’ve never had a better birthday gift. I’m ready to keep throwing myself into the way of danger because it’s lead to some pretty amazing adventures. Ones that I wouldn’t have ever come across if I wasn’t out searching to fulfill my resolution of breaking a bone.

So, maybe accomplishing my resolution(s) this year is a bit harder than I thought it would be. But I’ve made some valiant efforts even though I still keep coming up dry. Well, not completely dry. Some of the things that have happened along the way have been some added benefits of doing dumb stuff, sure. But my main goals remain unreached.  Still, I’m not a quitter. And there’s another six months left of 2014. So let’s see if I can fit a few more attempts in before 2015 comes knocking.

Huayna Picchu - Peru (2700 meters)

Huayna Picchu – Peru (2700 meters)

What This Whole Gay Pride Thing Means Anyway (To Me At Least)

Pride 2012

Pride 2012 – Penn’s Landing

With June declared as Pride Month by President Obama and the kickoff of Pride Weekend here in Philadelphia, I thought I’d prepare myself for the glitter filled celebrations by digging in a bit to what Gay Pride means to me. And, for me, the weekend meant block parties, parades, festivals, friends, family and an all around celebration. But it also meant a lot more to me. Something that I’m proud to tell you about. But first, I feel obligated to tell you something else. I didn’t always feel proud to celebrate Pride. (HINT: TO AVOID ALL OF MY RAMBLING SKIP TO THE LAST PARAGRAPH TO READ MY ANSWER).

To be honest, just two years ago this whole Gay Pride thing didn’t mean much to me. It meant nothing at all really considering I didn’t even know it existed. Now, that’s not the same thing as saying I didn’t know gay people existed. I knew they did. I was one of them. It’s also not saying that I didn’t know that gay people who were proud existed. I knew they did too. I just wasn’t one of them then. I had heard tale of the mythological men and women out there excepting of their sexuality, free and careless to conquer the world with their same sex escapades.  I knew that that was real. But what I wasn’t privy to was this Pride thing. This glorious emotion that transformed into a physical act for a day.

Pride Day was something that became tangible and alive on the streets and moving and sweating in the sweltering June heat. It was flaunting rainbow flags and glitter and paint and laughing and dancing and crying. It was celebrating with friends, making new friends, drinking a little too much and losing friends and your phone and somehow your shoes. It was a whole bunch of other things too. Bust most importantly it was a day where the LGBT community was celebrated. In public. By LGBT members and allies alike. That? That wasn’t real life. Two years ago I had trouble believing that. I mean, I could be gay, just not proud. No one wanted to see that. The fight for marriage equality wasn’t even a “thing” yet. DOMA was. And gays having rights was a nonessential notion. But I found out that that was wrong. And I found that out while texting on the job during a particularly lazy Saturday at work in 2012.

 

New Message From Your Only Other Gay Friend 

SMR: “Hey gurlll, what are you up to tomorrow?”

Me: “Work…”

SMR: “I’m doing Pride at Penn’s Landing. Wanna go?”

Me: “What?”

SMR: “There’s a parade and party. Should be fun. Plus guys lol.”

Me: “…”

Me: “sure.”

 

And just like that I had signed myself up. I would be partaking in this Pride thing. But what did that mean? Embarrassingly enough, two years ago it meant only one thing to me: I had to find “gay clothes.” I had one day to dress gay and I was going to do that right. What were those gay clothes you ask? A tank top and my shortest pair of cargo shorts.

I can laugh at it now, and I hope you as the reader can too. But in all actuality, that’s what the whole Pride thing meant for me in that moment. I had just recently come out two months prior to my closest friends and family, so even the small act of dressing a little flamboyant in public was a big step for me. This was my way of declaring Pride then. I would march into the Pride parade baring enough arm and leg to make the nuns at my Catholic grade school blush. And I did. The next day I counted down the hours at work. When it was time to clock out I grabbed my things and ducked into the nearest Starbucks’ bathroom to change out of my work uniform because I was too embarrassed to let coworkers see me in my Pride attire. I suited up and set out. Still to this day, I don’t think I’ve matched the level of excitement I felt then and there, short of every time I hear Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” playing at Woody’s.

I can describe the day’s events in one word: fabulous. Sure enough, I met friends,  made friends and lost friends. I got glitter-bombed and rainbow-painted. I danced in the streets and watching drag queens perform on stage. Everyone was out. Literally. And everyone was celebrating. The pride that was circulating throughout Philadelphia grabbed me, took me with it, and made me one of it’s own. Two months after first coming out, I was finally “out.” And I didn’t care who in the world saw me. That’s when I realized the whole Pride thing was a little bit more than the tank and shorts I was wearing.

Pride 2013 - NYC

Pride 2013 – NYC

The following year I made the pilgrimage to New York City to celebrate Pride with the same friend that convinced me to celebrate my first. This was the birthplace of the Pride Parade dating back to 1970 when a group of LGBT activists marched for the first time  to commemorate the Stone Wall riots that occurred the year prior.  Then, it was illegal to be gay in public and it was against the law for bars like the Stone Wall Inn to serve an openly gay man. So, when the NYPD raided it on that June night in 1969 to round up the homos for being homos, they were shocked to be met with opposition. For one of the first times, the L, G, B and T banded together to fight the police off. The community was no longer willing to be arrested simply for being who they were. The movement had started. (Although as a Philadelphian I’m obligated to note that this actually happened here in Philadelphia first in 1964 when LGBT activists protested outside of Independence Hall for equal recognition as US citizens… but that’s just semantics).

That was the Pride that I was dipping into when I walked the streets of NYC with my rainbow flag flying high. And even more fabulous, this was the same month that DOMA had just been struck down. Same Sex Marriage was no longer illegal on a federal level. The gay rights movement had come a long way since 1969. And I was lucky enough to see it happen. And even luckier to celebrate it. People were finally getting behind this whole Pride thing. And this whole Pride thing was beginning to change things.

Now, 2 years after first coming out and first going out to my first Pride event, I’m back in Philadelphia celebrating what is now Pride Month. A month following the ruling making Pennsylvania the 19 state to pass marriage equality. A month that I can now say I’m proud to celebrate surrounded by close friends and family, gay and straight alike. As Pride Weekend here in Philadelphia, there were events celebrating the LGBT community all over the city. Friday night a block party swept through the Gayborhood. A second did the same again on Saturday. Sunday marked the Pride Parade that ran straight through the heart of Philadelphia. The Pride Festival at Penn’s Landing, the Big Gay Boat Party at the Moshulu and the countless of after parties throughout the Gayborhood brought it all home to close out the celebrations.  In short, this weekend was super gay. And there’s still a half of month left of it. And I’m proud of that. It means a lot. Which brings me back to my original reason for writing this blog: What does this whole Gay Pride thing mean to me anyway

Like I said before the ramble of this blog began, Pride means a lot to me. It means I no longer have to hide. It means that I no longer have to feel embarrassed or worried or guilty. It means that I can forget about the teachings in school that told me who I was was wrong. I can forget about the people that called me a faggot. It means that along with the 100 lbs I shed after accepting who I was, I can also shed the shame that caused them. I can ignore the people today that accuse Pride of shoving Gay in their faces. It’s accepting that for 21 years of my life I was forced to accept that straight was the normal, that heterosexual love was the only love and that gay was synonymous with different and weird and gross. It’s looking back on all of those things and realizing that they’re changing. It’s realizing that celebrating who I am shouldn’t be offensive to anyone. It’s seeing state after state pass marriage equality. It’s hoping that I will soon live in a state where I can no longer be fired for being gay alone. It’s seeing gay have a presence in pop culture for the first time ever in music, movies and TV. It’s celebrating how you want. And it’s loving who you want. But most importantly, it’s understanding that although not everyone will understand what Pride means to me, the only people that I need in my life are the ones that do.

Have a fabulous Pride Month, interwebbers. May it be filled with rainbows, glitter and love.

The Gayborhood - Philadelphia

The Gayborhood – Philadelphia

 

 

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