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Monday, June 14, 2004

OUT IN THIS WORLD

Nyx Lily is a platinum blonde drag queen with a plume of feathers peacocking from her backside in all directions. But right now, she's a queen without an entourage, because she's standing here by herself on a float that is already supposed to be making its way northeast, from the Daikoku telehub to the Shinda Telehub. (The Second Life equivalent of, say, marching from the Embarcadero to the Castro.)

"I'M LONELY BACK HERE!" Nyx bellows.

She cups her white brocaded hands to her mouth, so the whole simulator can hear her holler. "OKAY, SINCE I'M THE ONLY ONE ON MY FLOAT? CAN I BE SURROUNDED BY HOTTIES?"

The trouble is, all the hotties are wading around in slow motion beneath her, trapped in the online miasma known as lag. The Second Life Gay Pride 2004 Parade (held yesterday afternoon) was announced only days before the event, a kind of culmination of numerous in-world Pride Week festivities. But despite the short notice, attendance is so packed, the Daikoku simulator has decelerated to a crawl, as the server struggles to display all these fabulous avatars, some in leather and chains, some in thongs and little else, some flying various versions of the rainbow pride flag from every part of their bodies.

Finally, after a few last-minute technical corrections, the parade lumbers forward, and ringed by onlookers, three floats filled with residents-- members and supporters of Stonewall and other GBLT-related Second Life groups-- begin their course north by north east.

"AHEM," Nyx begins again, imperiously clearing her throat. "Still waiting for hotties to ride me... I mean, my float."

The lag caused by the parade gets so intense, I have to leave the simulator for awhile, to try re-enter it from a less populated sim. Trouble is, the sim with the parade is so crowded, I'm refused entrance entirely.

"Dang it!" I muse out loud, to some nearby pedestrians. "I'm being kept out of the Out parade!"

A parade watcher named Keen Lament shouts up ahead: "The end of the parade can't enter the sim until the front of the parade leaves the sim!" When the caravan of parade goers and parade participants finally spreads out enough, I'm able to jog alongside. The floats are in full dance fever mode, with avatars doing backflips and frenzied sashaying in place.

Meanwhile, the belle of the ball pauses from waving at the audience of well wishers, to air some complaints.

"THE DUCT TAPE IS RIDING UP MY BUTT!" Nyx Lily announces. "MY WIG IS FRIZZIN'. I'M GETTING BLISTERS WHERE MY HEELS ARE RUBBING."

She grins, then hollers, parenthetically, "I WOULDN'T BE A GOOD DRAG QUEEN IF I DIDN'T BITCH."

"LONG LIVE THE QUEEN!" Rikoala Jack shouts back.

The floats are approaching a junction in the highway.

"So, does this parade stay the course," Doodles Casanova asks, "or make a turn to the left?"

"You end up in the ocean if you turn left," jessip Perkin observes sagely.

As usual, Nyx Lily has the final (shouted) word on the subject. "HEY! I'm not driving, that's the lesbian's doin', not mine."

"No wide loads ahead, Nyx," Rikoala says, catty.

"OH NO YOU DIDN'T!" Nyx returns, dissed.

"You know I love you more than my luggage," Rikoala says, soothingly, "and it's Louis Vuitton."

"Me and Nyx started the idea [of the parade]," Willow Perkins tells me, in a side interview that she manages to conduct in between her own twirls onboard a float. She keeps listing the members of the coalition of the fabulous: "Pie Psaltery, Kiplar Martov, Osemab Kothari, and Rikoala Jack, Parker Statosky."

The parade finally reaches its destination in Shinda. Grand Marshall Osemab Kothari shouts: "Darko Cellardoor would like to remind you, that he would love to have you over at the Cathedral for an after party." And as most anyone who's ever gone to a pride march knows, the parade is really just the warm-up for the after parties.

Offline, float rider Ferran Brodsky helped put together a stage for 1993's pride march in Washington D.C. Since then, she says, "[I] haven't had the same time for political activism [in real life] since then." Far as she's concerned, though, this one's "pretty similar" to that one.

How so? "Starts late (gay time)," says Ferran, "[we] have a blast, and it has a few hang ups and snags along the way, and nobody can even march straight!" Same for its social importance: "[H]eightening awareness is always a good thing in any community," Ferran tells me, "even [in] Second Life (although SL is very open minded to begin with)."

With the floats now packed away into inventory, residents stand around on the highway, making plans for the raucous (and no doubt raunchy) after party.

"Okay," says Nyx Lily, "so about the single drag queen who needs a date tonight..."

No immediate response.

"Do I need to call an escort service?!" she wails.

Roxikat Muse pipes up. "Aww, we can all be your date tonight!"

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