Monday, September 27, 2010

I Love a Parade

If civic pride were rainfall, the lawns in the southeastern corner of Dutchess County, the county that can’t spell Duchess, wouldn’t be their present accusatory brown, but a vivid green. Only two weeks ago saw the unveiling of Beacon’s deluxe volunteer-built Welcome Center, where visitors can acquire informative brochures and what-not. Yesterday afternoon saw the annual Beacon Spirit parade, and the number of notables and celebrities either participating or just viewing made clearer than ever that it won’t be long before we are known as much more than just the Gateway to Poughkeepsie.

As I have mentioned here many times, Beacon is very popular with artists, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised to see riding in the parade’s third car — a vintage Cadillac convertible with Connecticut plates and covered with chrysanthemums — David Hockney, Leroy Neiman, and the great American impressionist David Mamet, the water lilies man.

The Beacon, Fishkill, and Wappingers Falls Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgendered Alliance (BFWFGLBT) was provocatively represented by a shocking pink phallusmobile that I understood to have begun life as an Oscar Meyer weinermobile of the sort Christopher Milk once coveted to arrive in at personal appearances, and the occasional impersonal. Half a dozen young men with yummy bodies danced to a tape loop of Gloria Gaynor’s immortal proclamation of resoluteness, "I Will Survive," while a phalanx of masculine lesbians trudged along on either side scowling challengingly, as though in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

A handsome young couple in Bisexual and Proud T-shirts pretended over and over to exchange wedding vows on a little platform on the back of the penismobile. I guess the BFWFGLBT’s notion was to get the populace comfortable with the idea of bisexual marriage before they start trying to sell that of gay marriage, but I worry that the bisexuals being of different sexes might have softened the message to the point of unintelligibility.

New American Idol judge Jennifer Lopez received an ear-splittingly enthusiastic welcome from Beacons’ many Latinos, but quite pointedly did no waving or smiling of her own, as her bodyguards ran ahead of her Lexus convertible warning everyone not to make contact with her. It’s not my way to be told whom I can and cannot make eye contact with, but it isn’t something one can make on his own, and Jennifer was talking to her companion in the Lexus’s back seat as she passed where I was filming.

Jennifer was followed on foot by a crowd of local Roman Catholics calling for the beatification of local de facto saint Pete Seeger, even though he’s nobody's Catholic. One of them expressed to me that the group viewed as insensitive Pope Benedict XVI’s having recently found time to beatify John Henry Newman, the 19th century English cardinal who converted from Anglicanism, while his secretaries fail even to acknowledge the group’s letters, telegrams, and emails.

Also on foot were a succession of marching bands, each more excruciatingly shrill than its predecessor, and a predictably ragtag delegation of local homeless who delighted onlookers by soliciting spare change as they shuffled determinedly forward in mistmatched footwear, or even barefoot. Gaudily costumed passengers on a float festooned with red, gold, and green carnations pelted onlookers with plastic trinkets, and were thought by many to have missed the turn off Interstate 84 to New Orleans.

Besides being the Gateway to Poughkeepsie, Beacon is known also as Prisonville, New York, owing to the large number of correctional facilities in the area. Remarkably, the bright orange (like the inmates’ jumpsuits, you see) Hummer atop which rode Warden Derek N. Miller and an honor guard of correctional officers in full dress uniform drew only scattered applause. It pains me to realize that my neighbors sorely undervalue Warden Miller & Co.’s keeping rapists, murderers, and crack dealers out of our homes and back yards, schools and offices, and I was outraged by the fact that the float sponsored by, and ridden by the owner/chef of, the Last Meal Diner — which supplies last meals for local prisoners about to be executed — was much more warmly received.

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