See you soon! As I recently signed an email at work:

Kissy-kissy to each and every one of you beautiful people!

It’s, I have to say, a complete shame not to be on the Hill this weekend: I think, in some ways, this year’s pride parade will partake of the nature of a victory celebration, even if the victory is not precisely what Lenin would embrace as politically meaningful.

Gay marriage in Canada, virtually guaranteeing legal recognition for gay domestic partnerships everywhere but the enlightened (not) precincts of my birthplace, Arizona. Yhe profoundly amazing Supreme Court decision of this week, essentially capitulating to the central demand of gay rights campaigners since the Stonewall riots that Pride Day commemorates.

I looked through the pictures of my visit to Ken in NYC in February, 2001, hoping I would find a pair f images that, apparently I did not take. Ken will confirm this, however.

We were walking around in the Village and passed by a low-slung dive featuring a fifties-style rusticated limestone front. As we walked by, I glanced at the bar’s facade, thinking of Indiana limestone, and realized that the stone front, the locale, and the pride-rainbow neon and pink triangle in the window – plus the sign saying “Stonewall” – pretty persuasively argued that we were standing in front of the gay community’s ground zero in the quest for political recognition.

I stopped and ranted for a moment to Ken about how important this place we’d just walked by was, how it represented a landmark of human struggle and in a way a new approach to thinking about political constituencies, and so on. I don’t recall that Ken had heard about the role of Stonewall in the history of the gay rights movement and I flatter myself that he was interested in my fractured and ignorant recounting.

We resumed our peregrinations, through the cold, snow dusted streets. I was really liking the Village, with the tiny streets and below-sidewalk entrances to ancient buildings still in use. Without having walked over a block, we came upon a particularly charming section of row houses, all apparently converted to serve the various needs of an entertainingly imperialist institution known as Marie’s Crisis.

As we walked by one of the sub-bars of the establishment (the Marie’s Crisis Piano Bar) a plaque on the wall caught my eye as the snow swirled down from the night above me.

Thomas Paine

born 1737
died 1809
on this site

The world is my country
All mankind are my brethren
To do good is my religion
I believe in one God and no more”

it said.

I more-or-less freaked out on the spot. The red-headed prophet of American liberty, of the way that you and I, fellow Americans, conceptualize the boundaries and responsibilities of liberty in the person and in the state, had died about across the street (as I recall it – YMMV) from the site that would become Stonewall.

Although I can’t recall if you could turn around ad see the bar, I certainly see his spirit in the events of that night in 1969. Today, I choose to imagine him in pride parades across the nation, although personally I do not visualize him in buttcut leather chaps.

4 thoughts on “Do not mistake the metaphor for literal truth.

  1. Actually, the Stonewall bar that currently sits in Sheridan Square isn’t the one that bootstrapped the modern gay rights movement.

    The original shut down a number of years ago; the current one (53 Christopher Street) isn’t even in the same place as the original (57 Christopher Street).

  2. Just for the record, I was aware of the Stonewall Riots, was still interested in your historical excitement, and know that you didn’t take a picture (I would have felt a twinge of tourism-fear).

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