I know where this is going. No, literally. It's going around a loosely rectangular infrastructural concern surrounding a large, blue-dyed retention pond that spits up in the middle. By this time I could easily traverse the Come Out With Pride parade route with semen smeared in my eyes and still maintain that slightly parted-mouth veneer of populist surprise without so much as a flinch. But where this is going isn't the issue today (it is indeed going nowhere), because how this is going to go there is far more pressing. No alarms. No surprises. Please.

"So, uh, what's the musical situation?" I press nervous fingers to iPhone glass in a textual Hail Mary to Weekly ad director — and reasonable geighGraham.

"There is no musical situation, chile!" he black-ladies back. "We're taking the van. Work it out, girl!"

It wasn't always this way. Just a few years ago, this was all worked out for me well in advance. The first year that the gay parade morphed from a trickle of 4x4s outside Club Firestone to the overpopulated- yet-declawed Lake Eola version, I was pampered in a free-drinks, air-conditioned tent with Savannah as we prepared a running dialogue of "Yayyyyyy!" and "Wowwww!" to suit our vaunted MC positions. The next year, we were propped up on the back of a fancy convertible and trekked around like small-town beauty queens with eating disorders. Last year, we mixed lubes with Fairvilla and took our place on the plank of their pirate-ship float, ostensibly assuming the roles of "butt pirates." Now, Savannah is mysteriously "missing," there is the Weekly circulation van, and there is no sound system to bleed out the thumping gay optimism that might disguise the futility the term "parade" necessarily evokes.

"I am having a crisis!" I pull all three of my hairs as Eddie arrives unexpectedly at my house. "And I'm having a drink. Do you want one?"

"Uh, yeah." He knows that's the only reason he came here. "What's the crisis?"

"It's a musical crisis the likes of which I have never seen before." My tantrum continues to unfurl, ridiculously. "Meaning, I have no music. There is no real sound system in the van I've been resigned to, and I think I'm going to die! What about Britney? What about the Pet Shop Boys!"

"Aw," a moth flutters past a light bulb somewhere.

Following a lengthy technological conversation that I will never again admit to having, Eddie conjures some kind of conspicuous-consumption irony from the visage of my white sunglasses and spouts out a plan. We won't let this get us down! That's what this is all about, right? It's Pride, bitches! And money, apparently, as within two (hundred) shakes of my American Express card, we're walking out of Urban Outfitters with the unlikely sonic solution of a Lasonic iPod boombox. It's both ghetto and fabulous, and despite initial reservations, it would appear that I have indeed "worked it out," all while maintaining a bit of mall-bought social cool. Or something.

"This is amazing!" We flip to Britney's awful "Womanizer" and assume 1985 Christmas faces. "Now we can take music anywhere!"

Or nowhere, really — like a parade. And what a parade it is! (I guess.) There are the "ladies" of Revolution nightclub in swanky "Lady Marmalade" ripped bodices and pasties; there's a rather hot group of uniformed twirlers from St. Petersburg; there are employees of Best Buy in their blue shirts (!); and there is the excruciating heat of humility that God designed to make this feel like not a very good idea at all. Speaking of God, there are also the obligatory haters-with-PA-systems here to tell everybody in earshot to scare their gay away. Boo!

But Eddie and I — along with my pretty friend Karen, Graham, his gym friends and a couple of friendlies from the office — trudge along our rectangular downtown path with waving arms outstretched and beads to throw, mouths slightly agape in populist surprise. We are proud. The boombox is a crowd-pleaser among girls with choppy hair and cutting histories, and the heat, although treacherous, does not prevent me from galloping through the Pet Shop Boys' "Go West" while we're actually going west! Amazing.

"I think my legs are going to fall off," my horse goes to pasture toward the end.

"Uh, you just walked around the lake," one of the gymbos cracks a smirk. "You need some cardio!"

No, I need a drink. After a pit stop at my house (with the boombox still blaring!), Eddie and I make it back for the evening's Pride outlay, some smorgasbord of back-tracked talent and butt-fucked back-patting. It all feels kind of samey: a VIP tent with macaroni to nibble on, stiff cocktails, IKEA outdoor furnishings, powder lines at porta-potties, the general denouement and downcast eye-rolls associated with gay bitchiness. A dance troupe rattles through Miami Sound Machine's "Conga," giving way to a rote hit-bounce by Lisa Lisa, who pretty much hits the nail on the (cock) head when she slow-jams into "All Cried Out."

All Pride out, indeed.

But just as I roll my eyes back at an incoming "I can't wait to see what you write about this!" from nearby, my eye catches something I didn't expect. A tiny, beatific surprise. Wow.

"Carmen?" I tilt my hanging head like a curious dog. And just like that, the entire scenario descent pans back, and I'm actually having a good time, actually speaking to somebody important from my college days I never thought I'd see again, actually at a loss for words.

"My Billy!" She squeezes some love into me, somehow mystically. "I'm not sure how long it's going to take to get past this," she sages.

And I have no idea where this is going.

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