Last weekend, my friend Chip and I drove down to Wilmington, North Carolina to visit our mutual friends John and Andy. It was a nice trip and great to see them (the last time we’d gotten together was Pam and Brent’s wedding in October 2005), and generally a lot of fun. But one funny bit of coincidence is that Wilmington was holding their second annual Gay Pride week while we were there.
Since we were curious and were heading downtown anyway, we decided to swing by Saturday’s Pride Festival, which was running between 10-2pm. This seemed like a slightly strange group of hours, but all right. Now, to be fair, before I continue any further I should point out that Wilmington’s population is approximately 100,000. So while it’s not a tiny little town, it is also not a huge bustling metropolis. Sure, there’s a sizable film and television industry based there (One Tree Hill, Dawson’s Creek, Surface, Blue Velvet, and so on), but this isn’t a multi-million person area.
Anyway, we got to the Pride Festival and there were approximately fifteen people there. I’m including the people running the booths, all six of them. Now, this was actually not the big problem. The problem was that the booths and the general presentation reminded me of a bad church social. Wait, that’s not fair, most church socials these days look better presented. It was sort of like if some ten year olds were setting up lemonade stands and someone passing by had given them tent coverings to protect them from the sun. Everything was ramshackle and generally unimpressive; signs were written in sloppy magic marker lettering on poster board, and a boom box was playing the Village People’s “Y.M.C.A.” Yeah.
Needless to say, we left awfully quickly. Over lunch, we talked about what we’d just seen and more or less came to the same conclusion—the problem wasn’t that it was small, but rather that it was so badly put together. By way of comparison, there was a Juneteenth parade going on just next to the Pride Festival, and it seemed better put-together in general. In the year 2007, the resources are out there for a certain level of professionalism to be available to just about everyone. It’s not that expensive to get a booth sign printed professionally. A table skirt, likewise, doesn’t cost much at all. Sure, it does mean that you have to spend a little bit of money. But is that a bad thing if it means that you don’t scare off people before they even arrive?
It was that night when the phrase, “It is called Pride, after all,” finally jumped into my head. And it’s something that applies across the board, really. Just because you’re small doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. I see it all the time with small press publishers (both comics as well as prose books); bad, unprofessional font choices, shoddy cover design, impractical or illegible formatting, and so on. Sure, we don’t all have award-winning designers like Chip Kidd on our payroll. But if even a novice like myself looks at your back cover and thinks, “I’d have fixed the following five things,” then something is wrong.
I’ve been far, far behind on my reviewing the past couple of months. And the other comic-related blog that I contribute to hasn’t gotten that many postings from me, enough that the editor/publisher occasionally nudges me to make sure that I’m alive. I guess it’s because I’m not willing to just dash off a half-assed review for the sake of doing so. I’d rather people get something strong once a week (or so) than mediocre-at-best on a more regular basis. (Ideally, I’d like to have strong things written more regularly. One step at a time, right?)
So, anyway, this is a roundabout way of saying not only that last weekend’s trip was a real joy, but that people need to take pride in what they do. It’s not too much to ask, is it? Here’s to next year’s Wilmington Pride looking a little more spiffy. I’m sure they can do it. Let’s just hope someone steps up to the plate and pushes them to do so.