Yesterday I persuaded my wife to skip meeting and instead celebrate Mayday with a bunch of pagan drag queens in Ravenna Park. We dressed Twins A&B in Tigger and Eeyor costumes left over from Halloween. It was a wholesome Sunday afternoon family outing.
I apologized to someone dressed like a tree about inflicting Disney on such an aggressively counter-cultural gathering, but he just laughed. "Oh, we can subvert that."
I don't know how long this tradition has been running, but we first stumbled upon the thing 12 years ago while crossing the 20th Avenue bridge. We had no idea of what to make of it. I saw strangely dressed men and drums and thought it was some sort of Robert Bly thing. My wife assumed they were bored medievalists, out drinking mead and playing lutes and such.
Last year was our first time there. My friend Rosette was the reigning Queen of the Ravine, and invited us along. As a straight family with kids, I wondered if we'd feel at all out of place, but this turned out to be the least judgmental crowd on earth.
It had never been especially hard for me to imagine Rosette in his drag queen days. He's got one of those room-sized personalities that can't really be contained within one or two genders. But to see him last year sashaying in platforms and a curvalicious red velvet dress to convincingly inhabit the role of an Earth Goddess, well, that was something else again. I gained new respect for him that day.
This year, he said the Goddess was an RG, or, in drag queen parlance, a Real Girl. He said she would be stunning. She was. It turns out that her name is Sarah Rudinoff, and that she was in Hedwig and is a well-known performer. It was the best sort of ephemeral art. An incredible performance, done once, and then gone forever.
This year, I found myself especially appreciating the matronly older queens. These guys of the Stonewall generation in their dowdy dresses and sensible shoes. What's not to love?
The other standout for me was the utter elasticity of the pagan tradition. You had your drag queens and your wiccans and your whatever else's, and you pray to each of the directions and burn some sage. There doesn't seem to be a lot of orthodoxy there to get hung up on.
Nature is holy. Life is awe inspiring. Spring is to be celebrated. What's so complicated? Nothing. Everything.
More photos are below in a short slide show. The music, some shape note singing recorded in the thirties by Alan Lomax, captured for me the feel of the day.
We plan on coming back with the girls every year for as long as they'll put up with it. We haven't thought much about what sort of religious framework the girls might have, but whatever it is, I hope it's big enough to embrace this.