The Tattooed Monk lives in a building in the heart of the Castro, where Market and Noe and 16th Sts all intersect, across from Gold’s Gym and the Metro bar, where at this moment drunken post-parade revelers have crowded out onto the balcony and are singling out cute boys walking below on the sidewalk, yelling in unison; “YELLOW SHIRT! YELLOW SHIRT! YELLOW SHIRT!”

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I fell asleep pretty quick last night, especially considering that his bedroom looks out onto 16th St and the Pink Saturday block party was in full swing. At around 2 am I woke to a voice teetering on the verge of rage below the window saying, “I didn’t kiss him the way YOU did, Kevin! I didn’t kiss him the way YOU did! LOOK AT ME! I DIDN’T KISS HIM THE WAY YOU DID!” The voice passed by and I fell back asleep.

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I woke late, rinsed off, threw on some clothes and drove quickly to work, where we loaded up a van with people and dogs and drove downtown where the parade contingents were gathering in the bright morning sun. Drag queens adjusting each other’s fake jewelry, boys in sequined thongs practicing synchronized dance moves, flatbed trucks draped with rainbow crepe and peacock feathers. Two men twirling batons in the shade under the overpass, throwing them high in the air, the MCC choir warming up nearby. Human Rights Campaign Fund guys pulling identical t-shirts over their conservatively gym-toned bodies, rival radio stations kicking out thumping beats from the back of monster pick-up trucks. A flock of dykes and pit-bulls gathering under a sign that reads “Bad Rap.” We are leashed to a variety of panting dogs; a deaf dalmation, a chow named Zeus, a lab named Thelma, an assortment of mutts and four six-week old Rottweiler pups that we divvy up and carry in our arms for an unprecedented people socialization opportunity. We feed them ice-cubes as the hours pass. We are contingent #55, and it seems forever before the floats ahead begin to move. As we round the first corner onto Market St in the heart of downtown the crowd is ten deep on the sidewalks and they’re cheering and waving and capturing a thousand moments on a thousand different cameras. I carry one of the pups in my arms and walk near the crowd, and for the entire length of the parade there is a wave of “AWWWWWWWW!!!”s as the people ahead catch sight of her. I wave one of her little paws at them and they wave back. I know exactly what I am doing.

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Later I am exhausted. I drive alone back to the Castro and lie on the couch in the Tattooed Monk’s dark living room. For a weekend dedicated to pride, it certainly fucks with our heads. Another year has passed and I again resolve to do more next time; I will be happier and better-looking; I will have a beautiful body and a beautiful tan and beautiful new tattoos and I will dance to the music I love in the crowded sweaty streets. I will have more, more of everything that seems to matter the most on weekends such as this.

Instead I say a little prayer of gratitude for all the shame and disgust and secrets endured by those who came before me; the silence and the erasable lives, all the ones who died and are dying in all the beautiful cities, the girl trapped in the wrong body, the boy tied to a fence in the dark Wyoming night. I still love my parade, my people, my motley group of queens and dykes, my bears and bikers, my gliding dreams of rainbow crepe and peacock feathers.

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