Toronto was hosting World Pride last year exactly when I was heading to New York City for a weekend getaway with friends. In all the years since I had moved to Toronto, I never managed to be in town when the Pride parade was happening, mostly because it was always on a long weekend and those were reserved for visits back home. I admit I was slightly bummed to miss World Pride, as Toronto takes a lot of (dare I say) pride in its Pride celebrations. But travel and friends obviously made me happy to head to NYC with excitement in my heart.
I had a few hours to myself before my friends arrived from Montreal, so I decided to pack in as much of NYC as I had missed last time I was there (in 2006). One of the things I wanted to do was grab a burger at Shake Shack. Sounds silly, but when you’re from the Great White North, you are aware of a lot of shops and restaurants that you don’t get to frequent, and one look at their cheeseburger put Shake Shack right on the NYC itinerary. Of course I picked the original location in Madison Square Park to go to, because I had never been to the park. Two birds, one stone. I got off the airport bus at Bryant Park, bought myself a metropass to head down to the 4th St station and indulge in a burger and a shake.
(Does that sound weird to you? You must know NYC well then! Let’s continue on this serendipitous journey)
I popped out at the 4th St station and found the streets and sidewalks barricaded. Cheering and music were coming from behind me, so I headed over to see what the commotion was. As I walked closer and closer to the park, the sounds grew louder and the crowd thicker. Access to the park was blocked as I was just across the street, so I studied my map for an alternate route. Cheers suddenly erupted. I looked up and there they were, throngs of people marching toward us, rainbow flags waving in the air. I had ended up at the NYC Pride parade, completely by serendipitous accident!
Thoughts of food were pushed aside, as I walked along Washington Square W, trying to find a better vantage point. A buzz of happiness filled the air, with various LGBTQ communities marching, old and young, on a day where they are accepted rather than stigmatized for their sexuality. How far our world has come. I felt proud for living in this loving atmosphere.
As I turned the corner to catch some floats and marchers I had missed, I ended up on Christopher Street, where there was a gap in the crowd. I looked around, and then my eyes zeroed in on it: the Stonewall Inn. I had missed this exact location the last time I was here, and there I was (serendipitously) right in front of it. I couldn’t believe it. I was THE place that started it all. I had learned about the Stonewall riots in a history course in University, and since then had wanted to see it. When you end up at the Pride parade in NYC, you go to Stonewall my friends!
I never got to the Shake Shack that day, because the side note of this entire story is that Madison Square Park is on the N and R lines, unlike the D and F lines that get you to 4th St station. I had mixed up the “Madison” with “Washington” and ended up right in the thick of the Pride parade. Fun things can happen when you get lost.
This post was brought to you by love, acceptance, happiness, and serendipity. Congratulations to the US LGBTQ peeps for the historic acceptance of marriage equality. I wish you all a very Happy Pride. You don’t have to be LGBTQ to be happy that #lovewins because love makes the world go round. 🙂