Or, Grabbing Life By The Horns

Philadelphia Helps Editor Regain Youth

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[A quote attributed to George Washington, who adored his troops.]
The next morning brought the aforementioned bike ride through Valley Forge. As other journalists bitched and moaned about the physical activity, I made a conscious effort to ignore my burning legs and cranky lungs. What’s more puerile than an old ride on the bike and lessons about American revolutionaries fighting for their independence? Not much.

Well worked and slightly more informed, we headed to the weekend’s main event: the gay rodeo. Words can’t really describe the scene that unfolded at the Devon Fair Grounds, an arena more accustomed to the mint julep scene than the Coors-downing cowboys and drag queens that had descended. Those queens, like the queer cowboys, look a lot like they’ve stepped from another era. Not that they’re not all fabulous, of course. In fact, I found myself endlessly fascinated by the steer riding and crotch squeezing.

Organizers said about 600 people from across the country had come to enjoy a weekend up bull riding and watching. Though there were a few familiar faces from here in New York, I couldn’t help but be struck by the difference between this group and those whom I regularly encounter on my work-related rounds or in the few bars I frequent. It was, in a word, refreshing. Not only because of the novelty of the situation – with which I enjoyed with perhaps a perverse enjoyment of “otherness” – but because of distinctly American cowboy contest. Sure, rodeos actually originated through Spanish cattlemen and their Mexican colleagues, but it soon seeped in America and the accompanying images ingrained themselves in Americana. Like Philadelphia itself, this sport proves essential to the American experience and to see unabashed gays claim it for themselves made me, for lack of a better word, proud. Plus, cowboys are sexy, so the lassoing, bucking and such proved endlessly alluring.

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The rest of the day included a tour of the city’s “gayborhood”, which, in a move I find a bit unnecessary, is demarcated by rainbow-streaked street signs. And, as one can imagine, the night involved a lot of drinking, which isn’t that exciting and should involve little explanation. There was, however, another rodeo-related dance, which I attended only briefly and witnessed an enthralling, absolutely kitschy show put on by a group called The Prairie Dogs: gay men who dress in women’s clothes, but not as women, and perform choreographed line dances One of the members happened to be an acquaintance from college, whom I will never be able to see without remembering what he looks like two-stepping in a sleeveless kimono. If that’s not adventure, I don’t know what is!

When I left for Philadelphia, I thought I wanted to move away from New York and, in addition to enjoying the rodeo; I was giving the city a dry run. Could Brotherly love seduce me into its cobble-stoned streets? Yes, it could, but it probably won’t. I realized on during this trip to a strange city with people I would not normally encounter that adventure isn’t about setting, but about a willingness to grab the proverbial bull by the horns.

So, now that I’m back in New York, on a bright Saturday, I’ve made a vow to reemploy my child’s eyes. Sure, one can get bogged down in work – which explains why it has took me a week to pen this recount – but there’s nothing older than being jaded. And all it took for me to realize was a little weekend road trip and a whole lot of zest, which came surprisingly easy once I remembered how to use it. In fact, it’s a lot like riding a bike.