The state capitol building in Albany is a monumental late-19th century pile of limestone and granite sitting high on a hill above the Hudson River. One ascends the steps with a sense of the power of the place, but it also endows the visitor with his/her own feeling of importance for having the freedom to enter such a building that they, in essence, "own."
Across the street is the Empire State Plaza, a bizarre and strangely seductive conglomeration of 1970s modernism dreamed up by Nelson Rockefeller. It houses the state office buildings, a museum and The Egg—an elliptical performing arts center. The plaza itself is acres and acres of terrazzo slabs and reflecting pools and imbues the visitor with all the confidence of a flea wondering what's that funny powder settling on my head? The place literally looms on a precipice above the highway like some "galaxy far, far away" fortress. And it’s usually completely empty (so I guess its seductive powers are not universal.) Strangely, no one has ever filmed a futuristic zombie flick there. It’s ripe.
Next Tuesday the plaza will not be so empty. It’s Equality & Justice Day, the annual lobbying day for LGBT rights. As I’m a volunteer with the Empire Pride Agenda (the local host for the day) I shall be working the event that morning before heading off to work at the Damien Center. I volunteered—and really hope I’m assigned—to board the out-of-town buses to welcome the participants and give them their initial instructions and directions for the day. I’m so shy, so standing in front of a bus full of LGBT folks (in a jolly mood, no doubt) will be simply torture. (I’m picturing myself holding a clipboard with my glasses on a chain around my neck.) When all the buses are checked in I’ll head over to the registration tables and try to remember if “R” comes before or after “V.”
The day should be very exciting for several reasons, not least of which is Governor Paterson’s submission last week of a marriage equality bill. That, and the just-released poll showing that New Yorkers support same-sex marriage with a clear majority, has changed the entire dynamic of the day. It’s gone from we lobbyists visiting legislators with our hats in our hands to striding confidently into senators’ offices with the reminder that if they vote against this bill they stand a good chance of being defeated in the next election. Even the Republicans. (Although, not necessarily in my good old Greene [red] County.)
At the volunteer meeting yesterday we were told that a) absolutely no more people could participate in the event because it’s already overbooked and b) there could be up to 100 people in each legislative visit. When I did the AIDS Awareness Day lobbying event there were, you may recall, five of us in our group. I simply can’t imagine a group as large as they’re anticipating, but I can imagine the impact on the legislators when they see 100 exuberant people stream into their offices.
The times they are a-changin’.
Unrelated: I’m substantially breaking confidentiality rules to relate these two charming incidents that occurred during member intakes at the Damien Center recently:
One fellow drily responded to my query, “Have you had unprotected sex with someone who is HIV-positive,” with: “Apparently.”
After another person gave me their birth date I said, while trying to calculate his age in my head, “and that would make you…”“A Leo,” he answered.