Friday, July 30, 2010

Why Not To Boycott Target

For the last few days, there has been justified anger and disgust with Target Corporation's, and in particular, Target CEO Gregg Steinhafel's, support of MN Forward, a pro-business/anti-tax political action committee in Minnesota, which is supporting the rabidly anti-gay GOP candidate for governor Tom Emmer. Tom Emmer not only opposed same sex marriage but also he admires and is in close cahoots with the lead singer of the Christian band You Can Run But You Can Not Hide, which promotes the killing of queer folks.

Make no mistake, to use the vernacular, that is FUCKED UP.

The reaction, though from the queer community has been varied but, overall, has been without nuance, without tactic, and without any clear objectives or a path to reaching those objectives. Understandably, people are pissed off. I am pissed off. Target is based in my home town of Minneapolis. My first job was at a Target in a black working class neighborhood in North Minneapolis. I worked in the Target Corporation Legal Department in high school, and my Mother has worked in various Target stores for more than 20 years. Steinhafel's donation is a direct slap in the face to all of the queer corporate employees (and I promise you that Target's corporate staff is at least 25% openly queer), and the thousands of queer employees in Target stores across the country.

But the rush to call for a general boycott of Target stores is not only going to be ineffective and will not create the result that is wanted (an apology from Target and either a retraction of the donation or an offsetting donation to an LGBT human rights group), but a boycott will directly HARM the overwhelming majority of Target employees: the working class/below living wage workers that are the core of the Target workforce.

Even if the United States were not in the grip of a massive recession. Even if jobs, in general, were plentiful, to craft a response that targets an oppressed class of people in order to vindicate another class of oppressed people does nothing for justice and guarantees that systemic oppression wins in the end.

Here are the facts.

* Target is a huge company with an annual revenue exceeding $65 billion dollars with more than $2.5 billion dollars in annual profits.

* Target is a single corporation but its stores operate as if they were franchises. This means that each individual store is judged on its own merits and not by the company as a whole. When a single store under performs the losses at that store are passed on DIRECTLY to the employees AT THAT STORE by way of reduced work hours. Target has in the past simply closed under performing stores, displaced those workers, and opened a new store in generally more lucrative and more conservative markets within the same geographical area.

* The workers of Target are not our, well, target. The CEO of Target is, and it is the CEO, not the hourly wage workers that should be the focus of any protest action. I repeat working class people/low wage workers/and the underemployed are our allies not our enemies.

* And, in addition to the issues outlined above, Target is the single largest nongovernmental supporter of homeless and precariously housed youth programs in Minnesota. A drop in revenue will, directly, impact these most vulnerable in our community.

(Side note: There is a reason why corporate philanthropy exists. It is for JUST this sort of situation when a company tries to pull some shady business. It makes decision making around tactics harder. The community, therefore, must beat them at their own game WITHOUT using their tools)

In order for a boycott to truly be effective, it would need a mass movement in all 50 states over a sustained period of time that resulted in at least a 10% drop in overall revenue. That is not a possibility, therefore the energy could be and should be exercised in other more effective arenas.

A boycott of individual stores will directly result in hardships for low wage workers, some of whom will be queer, which will further a divide between queer folks and working class folks AND CONTINUE THE PERPETUATION of the myth that queer folks ARE NOT working class and are privileged and have ideals that are out of sync with working people. Thank God Queers for Economic Justice exists to support working class queer folks, and thank the creator that there are organizers like Susan Raffo, editor of Queerly Classed, that understand the connections between class and sexual orientation.

For these reasons...for reasons of unity with working class folks and queer working class folks an organized boycott of Target is WRONG and unjust. I do, however, support the right of individuals to express their personal outrage through making different shopping choices. This woman has made a personal and courageous decision to not shop at Target, and I support her specifically because of the tactic she chose to use: the media.

The media, viral or otherwise, is how this fight is going to be won. While it is nigh on impossible for queer folks to impact the bottom line of Target through a protest, we can win the fight in the court of public opinion. Frankly, Target prides itself on being a community based venture that CARES about the people it serves and provides artistic and social justice funding to ensure that the least have access. The way to get Target to pay attention is to slap their reputation directly in the face through creative use of the media.

Here's what I suggest:

1) If you choose to boycott target personally, use the model of, record your direct action and make it available widely on the web with a cogent discussion of why you are choosing to shop elsewhere.

2) In most major cities, particularly Minneapolis and New York, Target sponsors large artistic ventures--museums in particular. In New York, almost all of the major museums (Whitney, Guggenheim, MoMA, The Met) have free Target evenings at the museum. Organize a peaceful yet colorful and loud protest each week on the FREE NIGHT in each of these locales. Keep the protests loud and lively on these evenings. I guarantee this will generate personal buzz and garner media attention.

3) Perform direct actions outside of your local Target stores. Send canvassers from your local/state-wide LGBT rights organization to collect donations outside of your local Target. Create local media buzz around this issue.

The only thing that separates Target from Wal-Mart is Target's reputation. Attack the reputation, and you will, I promise get the results that five years of boycott will not win.

It is BEYOND TIME that our movement mature. Whether we are talking about war, poverty, racism, or religious intolerance, it is time that our movement, which includes individuals in all these other spaces/places/ and identities, to create bridges and recognize significant organizing and building moments and then UTILIZE those moments for justice instead of a temporary catharsis.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Policing Black Faces

Over my life time, my blackness has been a source of pride and panic. Depending on the geography, the locality, and population, my blackness has been vilified, exoticized, eroticized, ignored, or honored. And, in each of these geographic and temporal localities my own interaction with my own blackness has ranged from struggle to celebration.

My Mom tells the story from when I was around three or four years old. I was in pre-school in the "Projects" in Duluth, MN. Let me be clear that these projects were actually town homes, that had built in play facilities for children, several large green spaces including preserved prairie and a small woodland, and its own early education center for residents. It was very forward thinking for its time, we lived there when it was new, and it is in no way related to the ways in which people of color have been ghettoized in larger cities. The racial make up of these projects were, in fact, largely poor whites with a few black families mixed in and a couple of native families. The setting for this story is important, as one day I came home from school, which was also largely white, though with a prominent minority of people of color, and, though I don't remember this, I was irate. When my Mom asked me what was wrong, I told her that I was angry because I was not white.

That is a hell of a statement for a four year old to make, particularly a four year old that was as light as I was. For my first two or three years in school it was not unusual for me to be the only or one of less than a single handful of students of color in the entire school. In fact, in the 2nd grade, until I moved to Kansas City, Missouri, I was, in fact, one of two people of color in a school of roughly 600 students, and the only other person of color, who was also mixed race, was my cousin. I knew very little about black culture other than what I absorbed through extended family dinners and from my awesome church, Calvary Baptist, that had a black choir that could challenge the glory singing from any church anywhere. But, my day to day reality was largely a white world, an excellent education system, my Mom's white and native family, and, because I was pegged as a "smart kid,": I was often the only person of color in any of my classes.

All of that changed when my Mom fell in love with a man that lived in Kansas City, MO. We packed our bags and moved from one of the whitest places in the United States (Minnesota overall, Duluth for sure) to an entirely black neighborhood in the eastern part of Kansas City, which is largely a working class black community. My Mother was the ONLY white person anywhere in the neighborhood. We didn't know of another family that included a white person for at least six blocks in every direction. My brother and I became good friends with the family three houses down (Sean, Stacy, and Kenya), but their mother, upon finding out that our Mom was white, forbid her children from ever entering our house, and I can remember being inside of their home (beyond the front porch) only one time. In Minnesota, my brother and I stood out because we were black. In Kansas City, we stood out because we were half white. Not only that, we were taunted by the Southern drawling neighborhood kids because of our accent. We were called, "proper," in reference to our usage of the English language, and, though now when looking back on it, I should have accepted it as a compliment instead of an insult, at the time "proper," really meant, "outsider," "white," "siddity," and most hurtful, "not really one of us."

(And thanks to Google Satellite maps, I just saw my old neighborhood for the first time since damn that brings back memories).

The school system in Kansas City didn't really know what to do with me. I remember taking the Iowa Basic Tests in the fourth grade with my hated teacher Ms, Hardy. I asked her, one day on the playground, if the scores had come back. She scowled at me and said, "Yes they did. And you got the highest scores in the grade. But, if there were a way to cheat on this test, I would have assumed you cheated, as you simply aren't smart enough to have scored that high." I hated Ms. Hardy and she hated little boys. I think she was a repressed lesbian, and my heart goes out to her even while I hope her joy hole dried up and fell out at an early age.

The story stayed the same for much of the rest of my educational career. In fact, when I went to high school in Minneapolis, my school was almost 70% black. But, because of my educational achievement, and the fact that I was in the International Baccalaureate program, even the other black kids within the IB program saw me as other, outsider, different.

It wasn't until college that I had a big old FUCK YOU moment and claimed my blackness and the rich heritage of my family. I am unsure of what really tripped my trigger and led me to embrace my blackness deeply. Perhaps it is the trait I inherited from my white Mother wherein if someone tells me no or that I can't, my instinct is to do it, and do it so well, that the I can't becomes "damn you did it." I remember claiming my skin at a job, and thinking of myself, not as dark skinned, but not as particularly light and being told by my darker skinned black co-workers that at best, I was "butter."

The moment that I knew I had arrived home and comfortable with my identity as a black man came with electronically meeting a cousin that lives in Louisiana. She is a lawyer that does free lance research for the West Virginia Historical Society on black families. This brilliant woman, Miss Carol Haynes, has more than 30 notebooks on the history of our family. In fact, unlike most black families, we have a history that goes back to 1709 verified through sales receipts. My great-uncle, Carter G. Woodson, is the Father of Black History Month and founded the oldest (and still published) academic journal for African American studies. It was then, that I knew that no one, no matter how much darker than I am , could take away my identity.

Today, though, I had a conversation with a friend that I deeply love that made me really very sad. I texted a friend of mine from college that now lives here in New York (he moved here several years before I did). My earliest memories of this beautiful man are from visiting his house when he was living with my sister of the heart Jennifer. He was looking through a huge book of pictures of African peoples trying, through deductive reasoning, to see which people he most resembled. Despite the fact that his skin is extremely light, there is no way this man could pass. His features are African and proud without regard to the melanin count in his skin.

I wrote to him today to see if he wanted to go with some friends and me to the Black Out Party on Fire Island. The Black Out party is the queer black party that takes place annually on the island. When I asked him if he wanted to go, he told me that he was over black parties in New York. Then he wrote and said that, basically, he has been rejected and/or treated poorly because of his light skin by queer black communities in New York. And I, due to my personal history, understand that experience viscerally. But I also call bullshit. While I celebrate the fact that black men are intentionally finding darker skinned black men beautiful, and I understand the history wherein light skinned black people were used by whites as a buffer community between dark skinned folks, our experiences, while different based on our individual life paths, are still intrinsically tied together. What I told my friend is that if he chooses not to go for that reason, then he is letting the skin police win. He is black. Period. And he gets to and should claim his space even in the face of rejection. Because, frankly, by him and myself claiming our space, we open the doors to let others claim their blackness. My niece and nephew are only 1/4 black. Anyone that looks at them will NEVER EVER think, gosh these are some black children. Yet their father is darker than I am and obviously black. By standing up for them and by demanding that blackness and history accommodate the truth of my reality, I allow others that share our history and blood to claim their spaces when and if they decide to do so.

It is my hope that he chooses to join us on our trip to Fire Island. He has a place there, whether or not it is ever offered. It is his by right of birth and history.

Friday, July 23, 2010

POETRY: Rest Well

Rest Well

You were my Southern Comfort.
Stronger than rotgut whisky
More sugary than sweet tea
a tidewater Summer morning
You brought out the best in me.

You were my big teddy bear
(I should know, I shaved your back)
and you were always there
to keep my world on track.

You were loved by just about everyone
and loved so many in return
You were the life of the party
but unafraid to cry
without too much hyperbole
you were one heckuva guy.

You were like down home Yoda
wiser than most folks that I know
shared your wisdom with a shot of laughter
let your gorgeous spirit show

Sweet Chris, I miss you terribly
don't think you got away
I have some things to tell you
on our reunion day
I'll start out with a hug
then I'll whoop your old behind
you didn't ask permission
to walk ahead alone
even if you left us too soon
to prepare us all a home

You are a big old angel
watching over us from above
I can still hear your booming voice
I can feel your unbounded love
Keep those heavenly home fires burning
We'll see you again one day
you left a little early
to make sure we'd find the path
to the side of our Creator
to our dear friend at peace at last.

-Brandon Lacy Campos
-New York, NY
-July 23, 2010

PS Chris was a cheeseball supreme, so I thought a cheesy poem was the way to go ;-)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

One Liner of the Week Award: Check Out Lady at D'Agostino

I have always loved tacos. They are pretty much one of the world's most perfect foods. They have vegetables, dairy, whole grain carbs, and protein...all in a cute little package. So, this morning, I decided to walk down to D'Agostino on 10th Avenue to pick up some fixin's to make tacos.

In the check out line, I had one of my favorite cashiers. She is this middle aged black woman, and my guess is that she or her parents were from the South. As I was getting ready to pay, she asked me if I wanted to give a dollar so that Jerry's Kids could go to camp. (Jerry was pronounced Jurrry). I responded that I would love to do so. I also mentioned that I used to work for Camp Heartland, which is a camp for children and families impacted by HIV/AIDS.

Here's how the conversation played out:

Me: "I used to work for Camp Heartland. It's a camp for children impacted by HIV."

Cashier: "Really? Oh goodness. See that's why I like Jurrrry's kids camp cuz its for chillruns that gots MS or MD or whatever. Thank you baby."

And that, ladies and gentleman, is the One Liner of the Week.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

POETRY: Sometimes a Cell Phone is Heavier than a Gun

Sometimes a Cell Phone is Heavier than a Gun

Sometimes a cell phone is heavier than a gun
in the hand of a friend/an ex-lover
Staring down life’s barrel
He pulled the trigger
And put a bullet hole in our lives

For 36 hours the wound has been bleeding
Long after his blood dried to the walls and the floor
It comes in spurts from the corners of my eyes
It leaves see through trails on my skin
As I flip through condolences on Yahoo and Facebook
My face books a trip that my heart can’t take
It comes and goes in .22 caliber rounds
One moment laughter memories
that suddenly turn into the rat-tat-tat-tat of a 1930s gangster scene
a mad mobster from the Depression Era
turned on him
placed a hit on his spirit
and blew us all away

I got the phone call on the way to the video store
but this wasn’t a movie
I kept waiting for the punch line
I thought he was joking
I thought he was joking
until the sky ripped open

I wonder if the shock I felt was the same feeling
Chris had when he first pulled the trigger
In that moment before Death came to collect his due
did he have time to feel the world pause
as he disconnected from this reality
did he have time to see himself lying there
did he try to take it back
I didn’t mean it.

-Brandon Lacy Campos
-New York, NY
-July 20, 2010

Monday, July 19, 2010

Fucked Up Day

This morning I woke up feel pretty shitty after having had drinks at Therapy last night with a couple of friends. I wasn't hung over. I had just a couple of cosmos, and I ate some greasy calamari while watching Brad Loekle terrorize some straight man during Electroshock Therapy, Therapy's weekly comedy show.

I didn't realize that it wasn't my stomach that was feeling shitty, it was my spirit.

In reverse order here is why today pretty much tops the Shittiest Day of All Time list.

1.) About a month ago, I got locked out of my apartment, couldn't rouse anyone, and so I checked into a hotel down the block from my house. The room was outrageous at $300 and some change plus tax. But it was either that or sleep on the street. Today, after reviewing the credit card statement, it turns out that the new girl working at the desk at the hotel double or triple charged the room, as the charge came up to $1,076. David, understandably, was fairly furious.

2.) I took out some cash day before yesterday to help out a family member. The ATM machine charged us double. So I got out $200 for the price of $400. David got more angry.

3.) This morning one of my best friends who also happens to be my ex-boyfriend decided to remove himself from this life permanently. His Father found him and called us as my ex's current boyfriend has been staying with us for a few days from Virginia.

What an awesome way to start off my vacation week. This day fucking sucks. I feel disconnected from everything at the moment. The sound of people talking literally sounds like it is coming to me through an echo chamber. The sound of my own voice sounds desperately cheap to me. Two out of the three items above are consequences of my own stupidity, machine error, or human error. We don't have the money to lose, but, more importantly, I shouldn't have lost my friend.

I think I am so angry that I can't feel shit. Even writing this is like I am sitting inside of a small cubicle somewhere in the back of my brain directing an over sized human shaped plush stuffed toy to do this typing. Mimzy is chewing her food in the kitchen, and it sounds what I would imagine a giant mechanical pig would sound like as the pieces crunch and then hit its stomach with little pings.

Oh yes, and to top it all off, I got visited by what I assume to have been Chris' ghost. No, I am not losing it, yet. But I was laying in the bed, and I woke up because someone stomped through the bedroom on the way to the kitchen. I hate it when David wears shoes in the house because he pretty much clod hops through the house as if he is marching to war. So, I figured that he was doing his usual house drills. I looked up from the bed, and in the TV, I could see the reflection of someone moving back and forth in the kitchen. I thought David was leaving to go somewhere, so I shouted out to him. The figure in the reflection stopped moving. The only problem was that David was in the studio which is in a room, through a door, BEHIND the television. David came into the bedroom to tell me that he was there. And when I looked up the figure in the TV was gone.

If there was a 911 to call for drama, I would have picked up the phone.

I am trying to make as much sense out of this as possible. Actually, that is a goddamn lie. I am avoiding actually thinking about any of this. I feel as if a force shield has come down somewhere between my heart and my rib cage. Another one has wrapped itself around my brain, sort of like shrink wrap or those shrinky dinks you used to put in the oven as a kid. And another one has carved itself into the space around my body just above my skin. I want to care about what's happening right now. I want to care about Peace in the Middle East, Haiti, Greenhouse emissions and LeBron James, but I can't. I am taking a break from reality. I'll let you know when I get back.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Confession of Faith

I believe in One God
The Mother and Father,
The Almighty
However He and She May Manifest Themselves
in whatever form or figure
based in love
as the maker of Heaven and Earth
all that is seen and unseen

I believe in Jesus Christ
one of many Sons and Daughters of God
eternally begotten of the Mother and Father
God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God
begotten, not made,
from the Mother and Father
through them all things were made
For us and for our Salvation
And others before and since
that have come down from Heaven
to bring us peace, truth, and light

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Judge Tauro Strikes Down Key Provision of DOMA

Though I will say it again, I am not a fan of the queer marriage movement, but I am a fan of justice.


In a two separate rulings today (Commonwealth of Massachusetts vrs. DHHS and Department of Veteran Affairsand Gill vrs. United States), Judge Joseph Tauro of the First Circuit Federal Court based in Boston struck down section three of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

Here is an article from the Bay Windows that has more details.

For those of you that haven't read the Defense of Marriage Act recently, section three is that oldy but goody that reads:

In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word “marriage” means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word “spouse” refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or wife.

Thank you President Clinton and former Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich (R-GA) for that piece of bullshit.

Not only does Judge Tauro smack down the Defense of Marriage act but he gives a round house kick to the face of those homophobic and heterosexist members of Congress that passed the bill when he concluded in Gill-v-US that:

...Indeed, Congress undertook this classification for the one purpose that lies entirely outside of
legislative bounds, to disadvantage a group of which it disapproves. And such a classification, the
Constitution clearly will not permit. In the wake of DOMA, it is only sexual orientation that differentiates a married couple
entitled to federal marriage-based benefits from one not so entitled.And this court can conceive
of no way in which such a difference might be relevant to the provision of the benefits at issue.
By premising eligibility for these benefits on marital status in the first instance, the federal
government signals to this court that the relevant distinction to be drawn is between married
individuals and unmarried individuals.To further divide the class of married individuals into those
with spouses of the same sex and those with spouses of the opposite sex is to create a distinction
without meaning.And where, as here, “there is no reason to believe that the disadvantaged class
is different, irrelevant respects” from a similarly situated class, this court may conclude that it is
only irrational prejudice that motivates the challenged classification. As irrational prejudice
plainly never constitutes a legitimate government interest, this court must hold that Section 3 of
DOMA as applied to Plaintiffs violates the equal protection principles embodied in the Fifth
Amendment to the United States Constitution

Let me translate that for you...Judge Tauro said clearly that Congress does NOT have the right to express its moral disapproval of a community through prejudicial legislation when there is no clear and compelling reason to do so. Further, there is NO justifiable argument by the government to maintain a separate class of marriage for a single group of people, queers, just as there was not a justification based on race, which was why in 1967 the Supreme Court told racist motherfuckers to go straight to hell and in Loving-v-Virginia invalidated all miscegenation and interracial marriage prohibition laws in the country.

I love Judge Tauro for two words in particular: IRRATIONAL PREJUDICE.

Further, and I must admit here that in the olden days I would have been a staunch federalist, I have never been happier to have a judge uphold states rights. In his ruling in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts-v-DHHS and Department of Veteran Affairs, the good judge concludes:

That the government views same-sex marriage as a contentious social issue cannot justify
its intrusion on the “core of sovereignty retained by the States,”157 because “the Constitution ... divides power among sovereigns and among branches of government precisely so that we may resist the temptation to concentrate power in one location as an expedient solution to the crisis of the day. This court has determined that it is clearly within the authority of the Commonwealth to recognize same-sex marriages among its residents, and to afford those individuals in same-sex marriages any benefits, rights, and privileges to which they are entitled by virtue of their marital status.The federal government, by enacting and enforcing DOMA, plainly encroaches upon the firmly entrenched province of the state, and, in doing so, offends the Tenth Amendment.For that reason, the statute is invalid.

Fuck the Tenth Amendment, the Defense of Marriage Act offends me.

Let me extract the salient points from this judgment. 1) If the federal government is controlled by bigots, bigots do not have the right to reach down into the states and implement their idiocy at the state level, 2) The Constitution has this little thing called checks and balances specifically to prevent the fanatic masses from imposing draconian laws based on hysteria and feelings of the moment, and 3) The federal government can't act like a spoiled eight year old and threaten to pick up its toys and go home if states don't play by the rules of discrimination as determined by some idiot from Georgia and a jackass from Mississippi (Trent Lott that last part was aimed directly at your racist ass).

It is a rare occasion when the system of checks and balances envisioned by Thomas Jefferson and the other framers of the Constitution actually do what they were intended to do. From the gate, our system of governance (among many other things not so pleasant) was built to ensure the rule of the majority while PROTECTING the rights of the minority. And, consistently, with few exceptions it has been the judiciary that has, in the end, stepped in to truly ensure that people of color, women, queer folks, indigenous peoples, peoples with disabilities, and non-Christians receive the rights, privileges, protections and liberty they deserve.

Of course, the court sometimes fails big time (shall we all have a moment of silence for the Citizens United ruling....thanks), and more often than not its the Circuit Courts that are at the vanguard of rights protection, as we all know that politics play a bigger than they should role in that 5-4 mess we call the U.S. Supreme Court.

This is a brief victory for justice, Most likely the case will be appealed. If so, the U.S. Court of Appeals will most likely issue a stay to prevent implementation of this ruling in the First Circuit--and it is important to note that this ruling ONLY affects the First Circuit--but the courts love precedent, and this ruling sets a precedent that builds on the precedent of Loving-v-Virginia, and I hope will lay the groundwork for marriage equality...even if I maintain that our communities resources would be much better spent in other ways.

Friday, July 2, 2010

It's Just A Little Orange Crush

Last Saturday, I left my house at 7:30am and hustled on up to the Upper West Side to meet my dear co-Rookie Joe. Joe and I had signed up for the first annual Pride Classic Friendship Softball Tournament (PCFST for short), which was hosted by the Big Apple Softball league. At 7:30am the Sun had already decided to be a big orange bitch and lay a solar flare smack down on this big blue and green ball we call Earth.

Joe and I hailed a cab at 72nd and Broadway, we climbed in and informed the cabbie that we were going to Randall's Island. After a couple of minutes when we realized that we were heading down island towards Roosevelt Island, we re-iterated to the driver that we were heading to Randall's Island, and he nodded sagely and kept driving. Now, sometimes cabbies know things that we mortals do not know, so we sat back, chitchatted, I ate my breakfast bagel, and we let the cabdriver do his thing.

Error number one. New York cabdrivers work for the Devil.

As we began driving over the Queensboro Bridge, I remarked to Joe that Roosevelt Island was just below us, so, for the third time, we informed the driver that we were going to Randall's Island. At that point he said, "I thought you said Roosevelt Island!" If it hadn't been so damn early, I would have dislocated my jaw, chewed through the Plexiglass shield, and ate his soul.

We finally made it to Randall's Island, and though I despised the cab driver, I missed the air conditioning, and for the gift of air conditioning, I forgave him the $25 cab ride, which should have cost $12.

Then the day got fun. So, the premise of the Friendship tournament was that folks signed up individually and then someone at the league headquarters (sort of like the Bat Cave) mixed up all the players making sure to evenly divide folks from the various divisions.

Joe and I arrived at about 8:15am, and the Sun was already shining down on us with all the force of a grand old ass-whooping. I was having flashbacks to cuttin' switches out of the tree in the yard...and genetic recall of my ancestor's days in a matter of fact, I started walkin' and talkin' like a slave, singing Negro spirituals, and saying, "Lawd, Lawd!"

Joe left me for Team Lavender (which was a running joke as the gaggle of queers debated hotly whether or not it was lavender, lilac, or some other gay shade of purple). And I skedaddled and went to find my fellow Orangies.

It is no coincidence that I happened to land on the team with the cutest shirts, the color that looked best with my skin, and the coolest cats in the ball yard. Team Orange Crush kicked ass! First of all my friend Melissa Sklarz rolled up, and it was so fun to get to play ball with her. She was a demon in left field.

From the gate, Orange Crush dominated. As the sun got hotter, we got better, and in a double elimination tournament...we never lost. HIYYYAAAA!

At one point, however, we all got to see what happens when God reminds sinners of their offenses to the Throne of Heaven. On the field behind us, little leaguers were playing in some sort of championship tournament. I was in the outfield, when I noticed the wind pick up on the field behind us. It was a little odd as the wind wasn't blowing at all on our field some 100 yards away. At first I was jealous of that mighty wind that was blowing, until I saw it pick up a giant sun umbrella and launch it directly up into the air like a bullet. Then a straight up giant dust devil blew up on the field. It looked just like a miniature sand tornado, and for a second I thought maybe one of the X-Men villains was about to lay a smack down on the Little Leaguers of Randall's Island.

For a moment, as the sirocco twisted into the sky and the sun umbrella hovered above the field, everyone stared in awe at natures minor fury...then twenty little boys shrieked and ran as the umbrella shot down to ground level and then burst in a straight line across the field directly at the ball playing little people. The sand started blowing as if a giant herd of camels had farted in the Sahara, and I dropped and covered my face while shouting out to Allah to forgive us for our sins (I figured since we were in the desert, I should call on the appropriate deity).

In the end, the children survived, and we continued playing ball. The entire team was friggin' awesome and whether it was a spiritual connection amongst the teammates that led us to victory or the fact that we were determined to get out of the Devil sun, we pushed through and remained undefeated to win the first Pride Class tournament.

And I went home sunburned like a Icelandic white woman that walked for three days, butt naked, in the Gobi Desert without a lick of sunscreen on.

Happy Pride.