I have been on the Gold Coast and in Lismore the last couple of days. Our friend Jason flew up from Sydney to meet Nick and I, and we attended Australia’s most massive gay dance party, Tropical Fruits. It was a lot of fun, held at the Lismore Showgrounds (what we would call a fairground). There were three different dance floors each playing different music (although none of it fantastic, I wish there had been some more pop). There was a cabaret tent with drag shows, some of which were really wonderful. There were tents and tents with chill-out spaces, places to hang out and drink and relax and…other things. There was some surprisingly good food at concessions, most particularly some Yemeni chicken wrap thingy I had which was super delicious. At midnight was a spectacular fireworks show (which I assume is what accounted for much of the exorbitant cost of the event). I was also surprised and happy to see a nice variety of people there, all ages and a fair number of lesbians. It could have been more racially diverse I suppose, but this is Australia after all. Overall it was a very good time, and I am happy we came here to celebrate the new year. I still don’t have much in the way of bandwidth, so photos and videos will have to wait.
When my friend Nick asked me if I wanted to go to the bush dance in Canberra, I gave him a blank stare. I had no idea what Canberra was like nor what this thing called a “bush dance” was, but it sounded quite native and I imagined some sort of Aboriginal purification ritual. I am always up for something new and novel, so I responded with a hearty yes. Turns out it was very similar to an American country square dance, but for gay people, and it was great fun. Canberra, for the uninitiated, is Australia’s capital. It is a fairly new city set up in its current location so as to avoid bitter rivalry between Melbourne and Sydney. Nick and I took about a 3.5 hour bus ride to get there, where we were welcomed by one of Nick’s lovely friends, Jason, who we stayed with for the weekend. As Canberra is the capital, a number of significant cultural institutions have been setup there, including Parliament House and The National Gallery of Australia, both of which we visited over the weekend. It was pretty interesting to learn about the Australian parliament setup, which shares many similarities with the American and British (surprise surprise). And the National Gallery has a very nice collection of modern and aboriginal works, and is likewise well worth a visit.
Click the image below to see the whole album.
Last night I went with some friends to The Big Apple Ranch for two stepping and line dancing. Unlike the first time, I was determined to be more participatory this go round, so we arrived early to take two lessons in how to dance. I have to be the most uncoordinated dancer on the planet, but I gave it a go, and actually had a great bit of fun. I did get some help from a lovely young lesbian named Meredith, who volunteered to be my partner during the two stepping training. Since I was so new to this, I let her lead and she was really great at helping me learn the steps and not being self-conscious. The whole place was pretty mixed with all kinds of people, even while being predominantly gay, and the environment was really welcoming and non-judgmental. When the classes were over, they dimmed the lighting and upped the music and the crowd arrived for the night of dancing. We took turns leading and following among the group of us who were there, and I even agreed to a dance with a stranger who asked me. It is much more a part of this culture to ask people to dance, and I kind of like the old school charm of it all. I mean, in a big gay dance club no one really asks anyone to dance as a couple, people just hit the floor and move near each other. But dancing in this way, matching the steps of a partner and holding their hands, is much more intimate, and kind of sweet.
I went two-stepping with Josh et al last night, out to a place called Big Apple Ranch for their 15th anniversary party. Josh is an old hand at two-stepping and has been trying to get me to go for years, but this was the first time for me. After a hasty lesson, we were on our way and I tried to dance a couple of times, but I was several left feet at first. Still, I had a great time watching the crowd and running into a surprising number of acquaintances.
What I loved most about the place was how mixed it was and how gender roles were out the window. It really reminded me of that gay milonga I went to a few years aback in Buenos Aires, except that (unlike tango) the dances actually seemed like something a novice could get the hang of. The couples were all types (male-male, male-female, female-female) and positions (leading/following) and everyone seemed to be having a really great time. Some of the people were fabulous dancers and it was a lot of fun watching their moves. The atmosphere was completely accepting and supportive, and it really made one comfortable with just getting out there and trying a new thing.
I was a bit shy at first, but by the time the last big dance was happening (called the Barn Dance) I was really getting into it (well, to tell the truth I was thrown into it), and managed (through heavy repetition) to approximate a two-stepper.
As you might have guessed, yesterday was Gay Pride in NYC. This was my first time in the city for the event. I have to say New York really does it big. Josh and I started the day with a brunch (what else? It is the gayest meal there is) and then headed over to walk along the parade route a bit. I was amazed at how long the parade stretches here, from 52nd street, all the way down 5th avenue and then east over to Christopher and Greenwich. That is one LONG route, with every group imaginable related to gayness, and tons and tons of people all along the route watching. I don’t think I have ever seen as many at a pride event, and I used to live in SF, where there would be tons. As we passed through the Village we stopped in to see my friend John and his crew at Cowgirl before continuing on to the water. We ended the day with a dance party on the pier, which was much cooler with the breeze off the water, and the music was really danceable, even if we were hemmed in by hordes of the shirtless and the sweaty. I left before the end and took a pleasant summer stroll back to my new apartment and went to bed.
Now to finish setting up my new room and work space, and get back to website making…
The boys from Ipanema go walking.
We are totally loving Rio, even though we haven’t left Ipanema (and to be honest, haven’t even gone very far in the neighborhood). Our apartment is very well located and quite nice, a two bedroom, two bathroom affair in the heart of Ipanema. We went out to a small club with amazing music and energy last night called Galeria Cafe. It was really packed and oh so flirty and it seems that there is more public kissing here than in any other place I have ever been. I think a heavy lip lock often takes the place of a handshake here in Rio. Josh and I danced and danced and before we knew it, it was 5am. Today we eventually woke up and went to the beach, and although it was fairly overcast, we had a very pleasant afternoon, watching all the men go passing and saying “ah”…
Some clichés and stereotypes are true. Brazillians (at least the ones I have met) are really into their music. After a great and low key dinner with Gustavo and Adilson, we headed over to a bar with live music to meet up with the wild and lovely Carol (who is apparently having an affair with the singer). A few beers and some great standard Brazilian songs later, Walter joined us and we didn’t stop moving and singing until the place shut down. I was really amazed to examine the small crowd, their enthusiasm for the music and the movement, which for them were inseparable. I have always felt a little clumsy on the dance floor myself, so I was in awe of how fluid and connected everyone was to the music (especially Carol). I myself was never raised in a culture as musical as this and it was amazing to witness. And although I didn’t recognize most of the songs, they were so catchy that I was mouthing along whatever portugese-like things I could, swaying in my seat and feeling giddy.