Monday, May 17, 2004

Creeds, Colors, Tastes and Tales

There are certain rare occasions when my hometown NYC actually feels like a tight little community. The cataclysm of 9/11 was one such event--the throngs united in grief and action. Last year's rally against the war in Iraq and against the Bush Administration: hundreds of thousands taking to the Saturday streets to raise voice together: another such event. Even the first day of this spring, when Central Park became home to hundreds of lunching folk in rolled-up trousers and Hanes as outerwear, all of us in awe at the budlings and warmth.

Yesterday, Sunday, I took part in another such event: the AIDS walk. The annual march meanders through Central Park before exiting onto the streets above the park, over to and then down Riverside Drive until veering back into the park to its finish line roughly six miles from the start. I haven't seen reports yet of this year's turnout or fundraising, but last year's Walk grossed over $5 million for AIDS research, garnered from over 45,000 New Yorkers joining together with their networks of sponsors. This year's, I'm sure, will have similar, if not better numbers.

At first, it feels like a cattle herd, trudging slowly and restricted by the sheer density of entities. I tripped on others' heals and stepped on others' toes, even swung my arms into another's smiling face when I got excited about the glorious weather (No, I am not a quaking shaking Quaker!). But as the route extends north, the pace quickens, and walkers are afforded a little more breathing room. I was struck immediately by the diversity of the crowds (well, not immediately, but after shaking groggy eyes awake--the Walk requires a treacherous 7am alarm). My team (called the Street Walkers--the organizers of our team live in the West Village near a reputed tranny/hooker hangout), comprised mainly of gay men, and me and my girlfriend, were flanked by men and women of so many different creeds, colors, tastes and tales, I couldn't possibly enumerate them all. But the bottom line is that we were all there for one over-arching purpose: to raise awareness and aid for the ever-growing global crisis that is AIDS.

In a city where it is so easy, by force of the sheer and variant multitudes of people, to simply put on blinders to others and live in one's own little bubble, thru one's own tunnel vision, it is a real inspiration when an event like this comes your way and enables, in fact, forces those blinders and that tunnel vision away from you. And all we did was get together with friends and walk through New York on a beautiful Sunday morning!

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