"Okay Orion, we need to get you looking all festive for the Pride Parade. You're going to pick up all the ladies and gay men okay?" I say, as I stuff water bottle after water bottle into my bag and slip on his rainbow collar. It's a good 95 degrees out high humidity and quite frankly I'm convinced I might melt, but having never been to a Pride parade and this being the only day it was happening I've once again convinced myself that I can maintain cool inside. I throw some rainbow beads over my head, slip my hippie rainbow headband on, give myself a once over and wait for my friends to arrive.
"ORION!" Laura comes through the door, showering my pup with some nice pats and love. Orion's thrilled. I too, enjoy the dog-loving people. Carolyn trails behind Laura, going off about being late because something about shoes and her hair not being right. Not as dog oriented as Laura. I smile because I love this duo, and am amused at Carolyn's chatter knowing that she once-upon-a-time dressed in surfer clothes and was way more relaxed about her appearance. Now it'd be a stretch to see her in sneakers and jeans without a lick of makeup. She insists it's her work friends, and I am glad Laura, her longest running friend, still trumps them historically and must hold some influence otherwise I'd fear Carolyn would be trying to pass me her skirts and dresses and 12 different pairs of shoes.
I explain our mission, toss the keys at Laura, not a good plan for me to drive in the city, plus I can hang in the back with Orion, and we're out the door.
My Oregon friend tells me I ought to bring Orion to the parade. "Molly he'll be an instant hit, you'll get to meet people, have conversations... you have to bring him." Two phone calls to the police later, I discover he is allowed down town just not on the square and Kate's theory proves accurate before we even make it out of the gas station. Orion's crawling over my lap, trying to greet the attendant. "Oh hi Buddy!" she says with a southernish twang, and her bright red nails reach through the window to tap his head. "He's just a puppy isn't he? Oh you're just wanting to say hi aren't you?" She goes on and on chatting with Orion, and me indirectly as the tank ticks higher and high. Up front, Laura and Carolyn are cracking themselves up over something. I'm hanging on to Orion so he doesn't opt to jump out the window and finish his happy greeting as a free dog. "Yes, yep.. un huh." I say, and finally we're off.
Trotting along the sidewalk downtown, Orion maintains his instant celebrity-dom. "Oh isn't he cute. Honey, look at the puppy!" "Oh, I just LOVE the collar."
Truthfully, the collar was a present when he was born from a friend of mine who in no way was thinking of rainbow affiliations, but it was bright and cheerful so I chuckle, as I say, "thanks..."
It is hot. It's so hot I'm distinctly aware my underwear is stuck halfway across one cheek and there is no moving it with a simple shimmy. Orion is huffing and puffing quickly and Laura points out his toes are probably not doing well on the hot sidewalk so we move to the shade.
"Can I pet your dog?" Some old lady asks, baggy clothes hanging from her frail frame, purple poof pants and sunhat perched on her head. "Oh yeah sure," I say, waiting off to the side while the girls go up on the square to get us a beer. I fill up Orion's water dish and he happily laps it up before dumping it to lie in the cool water. Beside us to rough looking women turn and threaten some guy who kicked over their beer as they were busy adjusting their rainbow gear. Hum. I'm going to count them out as new potential friends. Some nice looking men come up, "Oh, how darling! We have an 11 year old black lab at home..." "Oh yeah?" And we begin chatting about labradors. Carolyn and Laura return and I happily exchange and empty water bottle for a cold beer. Perhaps this will take the edge off since I forgot coffee? Behind me someone is snapping Orion's picture. He is damn cure--Orion that is. And we start wandering up through the booths, myself intermittently being stopped to have people smile and chat with my dog.
"You have to look up!" Carolyn tells me. "You look at your dog too much." When I took a two week trip to Ireland with Carolyn the fall of my first year of grad school she would remind me after each interaction with the foreigners what they did and didn't understand from my rapid English. I am reminded of this as I consciously focus on looking at those with whom I talk.
"She could be my friend," I say pointing out a rather artsy looking person more my age. My theory is, the hippies are going to hang at the gay pride parade. The artsy liberal folks come out for this. After three months of daily photo shots of conservative Christian bumper stickers, I wanted to meet some new folks. As my alignment is not entirely straight, I was also open to considering options.
"Molly. You gotta stop talking to all the old folks," Carolyn says eye brow lifted at the booth woman who just told me about her labrador, while giving Orion some ice cubes.
"Yeah, there must be something about you that draws them to you," Laura says, munching on a hot dog watching the drag queen float drift by.
"I'm trying to meet people my age!" And suddenly a guy wanders up and starts petting Orion.
"I've been watching your dog for an hour," he says, "I just had to pet him."
"Oh, sure," I say.
"Hey, what's your name?" he looks up at me.
"Oh, you don't have dreads do you?" My eyes go from one side to the other, checking if he's talking to someone behind me.
"Um no," I say, puzzled, as my hair is clearly bone straight and in braids.
"Huh. Some guy came up last night looking for a Molly with dreads. I guess you're not her then."
"Nope. Probably not."
"So, what's going on here anyways?"
I look up at the rainbow flags, the drag queen float, the people holding hands with "Proud to be Gay", "Respect ALL Families" etc. etc. printed across their shirts.
"It's the Pride parade."
"Huh." He pauses. "Do you know there's a drug called Molly?"
Seriously? I look at Orion. I'm sending him telepathy, "Orion. Really. How do we ALWAYS find the weird ones that want to hang out with us???"
"Oh, really? Yeah, I think I read about that once."
"I think that's what the guy meant yesterday, when he was asking about Molly."
I am NOT making eye contact at this point. Carolyn and Laura are chuckling beside me but making no effort to extract me from this conversation.
The guy gets up and disappears.
I turn to them.
Then he returns. "This is Brian. Brian, this is Molly, but not the one the guy was looking for yesterday."
Brian smiles, somewhat apologetically, "Yeah, I figured."
My head trails after a beautiful gay guy walking by and I am momentarily distracted thinking of my beautiful gay roommate back in Northampton.
"This is her dog."
"Yep. He sure is," I say.... and the parade goes on.