Amsterdam Gay Pride is in full swing and once again I am elsewhere. I haven’t minded missing the celebration the last couple of years. But this year I wish I were there. My former employer is sponsoring one of the eighty boats in the Canal Parade in honor of some very special guests – eight young LGBT activists from parts of the world where being gay can be a matter of life or death.
Radio Netherlands Worldwide (RNW) has always been openly supportive of the international LGBT community. In the late 80s, producer Pete Myers began covering stories about gay social issues on his weekly show Rembrandt Express, long before other mainstream media. When I took over producing an arts and culture program in the early 90s, he encouraged me to talk with as many LGBT artists, musicians, writers, and filmmakers as possible. Three programs I produced between 1998 and 2004 that were honored with NLGJA Excellence in Journalism Awards are part of his legacy.
Amsterdam turned gay overnight. That’s what happened in 1998 when 250,000 gay and lesbian athletes and fans descended on a city with a population of only 720,000 in one fell swoop. Not only was it the first time the Gay Games were held outside North America, Amsterdam was the smallest city thus far to host the Games. So for eight days packed with countless events the European capital was clearly, and never more visibly, the Gay Capital of the World. It was unprecedented in every way.
A week before Kris van der Veen was arrested in Russia, on suspicion of “promoting gay propaganda” to minors, he was reading about Ivan Dusak, or Ivan the Fool. A popular figure in Russian folklore dating back to the 16th century, Ivan is the youngest of three brothers who set out to seek their fortunes. Fairest of hair and bluest of eyes, Ivan is seen as simpleminded by his greed-driven siblings. But he follows his heart – always eager to help others, even if it puts himself at risk. Ivan’s naïve derring-do vanquishes the dastardly deeds of villains and wins the happily-ever-after love of princesses. Not such a fool after all. Kris van der Veen would be perfect casting.
The towering New Hampshire pines are shrouded in mist at 6am. Birdsong fills the air; rabbits play in the backyard. A warm wet summer day breaks like any other. Well, not quite any other. Across the land, across the sea, many awoke early with the same exhilaration they once greeted Christmas morning. Anticipation has been building to this moment for months, and I’ve been swept along by the undertow. But for some the excitement is tinged with anxiety. What if…?
The Inn is quiet again but for the rat-a-tat-tatting of rhythmic rain on the roof, Mother Nature’s own percussive washboard. It was a musical weekend with New Bedford band Pumpkin Head Ted visiting the North Country. Morning coffee on the terrace was accompanied by strumming of an acoustic guitar. A noontime flute trilled along the upstairs hallway. Hours before customers arrived, an impromptu session filled the pub with gentle harmonies. But I’d been thinking more discordant thoughts.