In between the four days and nights of alcohol-fueled debauchery at the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies convention hosted last week by Willamette Week, I actually took pride in two things.
One is admittedly silly: As chair of the 30th annual convention, my badge read "Mr. Portland." After shuffling so many new faces around our fair city, I was grateful to have a nom de convention 500 or so attendees could actually remember after all the so-called action on and off stripper buses, in our streets and on a high-flying tram. (I have plenty of blackmail-worthy photos to prove it, too.)
The other is more serious. It was appropriate—almost genius—that our AAN convention coincided with our city's annual queer Pride Festival. That's because, much like the gathering of alt-newspaper folks, Pride gathers a bunch of disparate, distinct voices together for one common goal: to tell our truths.
Even though we live in a time of Fox-funneled news and gay-marriage debates that go nowhere, some people are still getting together in support of the "silly" notion that this is still a country worth saving. That is, if we could only change a few unfair minds and policies. This idea was everywhere you looked at the convention and at Pride. From revelatory admissions expressed by former U.S. Attorney David Iglesias, who spoke at length at an AAN luncheon on getting his ass kicked by President Bush's cronies, to rock star Storm Large, who ranted about kicking some ass in the name of love from the main stage of the Pride Fest. Back at the confab, the editor-in-chief of The Huffington Post (and may I say beautiful) Arianna Huffington talked about how this was the time of the "citizen" and how much the upcoming election is in the hands of the individual (a.k.a. "the people").
It was also a weekend of tough-love revelations, too. AAN papers have had varying success relating to a world in which they are no longer simply providing information for readers, but are finally realizing they need to be a place where everybody gets to discuss those issues...kind of like Pride.
Pride participants—like the queer/trans/etc. movement in general—find it easier to embrace the language of inclusion than to actually create events that are accessible for all, and we alties have for too long been blathering about our "forum" while pumping out a product created only for us. The question before us is, can we still afford our "alternative lifestyle"?
It's a big question. And one that reaches far beyond our commonalties of profession (the alties) and sexual expression (the queers). But, if I could be so bold as to speak as "Mr. Portland," after watching what has gone down in our city over the past several days, all I have to say is this: If we don't start listening to each other—and a lot more often than just one week a year—there really won't be much out there that will be worth celebrating. Enough said.