What a wonderful day today! The sky is bright and clear…

…I’ve been waiting for this day for practically all of the year…
— “Parade” by Eric Lane Barnes

This weekend was Pride weekend in Chicago, and for me it was a markedly different Pride weekend, especially compared with last year.  It was also one of the best Pride weekends I have had in recent memory.

CGMC in "Over the Rainbow"The weekend started off with opening night of CGMC’s Pride show, “Over the Rainbow,” which featured the music of Judy Garland interspersed with songs about the Stonewall Riots of 1969.  This year being the 40th anniversary of both Judy Garland’s death and the Stonewall Riots, the theme of the show was perfectly selected… even if the original intent was to combine the two stories and show how they related to each other.

As it turns out, they really don’t relate to each other at all– except for the fact that Judy Garland died just days before the riots happened, and that Judy became an icon for gay men both from her portrayal of Dorothy in “The Wizard of Oz” and for the trials and tribulations she endured during her lifetime.

The Stonewall Riots, of course, were the true defining point of the beginning of the Gay Liberation movement, which sparked GLBT people’s desire to work against, rather than within, the system to gain the rights they so greatly deserved.

False legend has it that the patrons were so upset about the loss of the gay icon that, when the police raided the bar, they reached the point where they just couldn’t take any more pain and fought back. The truth, however, was that, although the reaction of the patrons did have a lot to do with the raid, the patrons either had no idea of the significance of Ms. Garland’s passing, or did not really care either way.  In fact, many of the patrons of the Stonewall Inn were younger, more effeminate youth who were not as emotionally invested in the passing of Ms. Garland, therefore they were probably not fueled by her loss in any particular way.  Still, the connection is uncanny, and made for an interesting show for CGMC.

I loved doing this show.  I loved the music, and I loved the story the songs told; but even moreso, when we started putting the music together with the narrative that our director, Patrick Sinozich, had written; along with stories some of our individual chorus members had contributed; the show became a wonderful story of history– with pain and sorrow, joy and laughter, and hope and pride.

We did one show on Friday night and two shows on Saturday, so by the end of that last show, we were pretty well exhausted.  The weather was hot and muggy, and a soft rain had begun to fall.  So instead of going out to celebrate, we went home and, quite literally, crashed.

We… well.. I guess I should explain why I’m saying “we” instead of “I.”  You see, I’ve actually been dating a nice young man from the chorus in recent weeks.

***SCRATCHING RECORD SOUND*** WHHHHHAAAAAATTTTTT???????

rick_andrewYes, stop the world, and stop the music… it’s true.  I’ve been… DATING! *Bom Bom BOMMMMMMMM!*

The world may now officially end, and the tides may officially turn.  Those of you who have read this blog since the beginning (I can count you on one hand now… 🙂 ) know that I haven’t been much for dating lately… or ever, for that matter.  I guess I’ve always either been entirely too picky, or too afraid to start seeing someone — but lo and behold this adorable guy joined the chorus for this show and we hit it off, so… there you go!  We’re taking it very slow; one day at a time; and just enjoying each other’s company and time.  I like it.  And I like him.  So that’s a very good thing going on in my life lately. 🙂

So, where was I?

Oh yeah… we crashed on Saturday night, while the rain fell and the mugginess of the day subsided.  And as Sunday dawned, we went out to join our chorus friends on the parade route.  It was a glorious day– sunny, clear, cooler, breezy, less humid– a PERFECT day for a parade.  In all my years living in Chicago, I had never seen a more gorgeous morning.  The leaves seemed greener, the grass more lush, and the sky an even more dazzling blue.

The mood leading up to the parade route matched the beauty of the day.  Everyone felt festive and joyful.  There were smiles all around.  Oh yes… this was going to be a GOOD day.

There was a  lot of talk about how the parade was going to be organized this year.  The city came out with a thorough plan for the parade, saying that the entire route would be barricaded, and the crowd would be forced away from the street, allowing the parade to pass easily and swiftly.  I have to say, in all my years of participating in the Chicago Pride Parade, this was the swiftest moving parade I could recall.

That didn’t stop the crowds from stuffing the streets from end to end.  And it certainly didn’t hurt the crowd’s enthusiasm.  As the CGMC float passed (we were generously sponsored by WGN Radio AM 720 – our HUGE thanks to them!), the crowds erupted not only into cheers, but screams of joy.  The Chorus sang a few songs from our Pride show, interspersed with thumping dance tracks and even a few Michael Jackson tunes, all of which the crowd loved.

Michael Jackson’s death provided the soundtrack for many of the floats, as it turned out.  Once the parade was finished, we walked back the way we came and saw a lot of the floats along the way – most of which were playing upbeat Jackson tunes.  It certainly made sense, and the crowd always responded with cheers and sang along.

After we made our way back, and grabbed a bite to eat, we went home and absolutely crashed, exhausted… but snuggling up to a wonderful guy after a weekend full of joy, music and pride made the weekend extra special.

——————————-

Today I received a news bulletin from The Advocate, which told the story about a gay bar in Fort Worth Texas that was raided on Sunday, June 28.  On the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, the same thing that started the entire LGBTQ movement happened again.  It just proved to me that, although we are moving forward in so many ways… we still have a long way to go.

The Rule of Threes – Ed, Farrah and Michael

The Rule of Threes struck again, and it struck with a vengeance, especially today.

I remember as a kid, when a celebrity or notable person would die, my Dad would say, “Well, two more to go – they always go in threes.” He was always right. Somehow, another notable person would die, and then another, and the three were chosen.

This never became more apparent to me in 2006, when my family suffered three losses — first my cousin Arlene, then my Dad, and then my cousin’s Grandma Madge. The Rule of Threes was most painful that year.

When Farrah Fawcett died today, I posted a tweet on Twitter that said, “Rule of threes – Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett… will Walter Cronkite be next?” It seemed to make sense. Just days earlier, news reports stated that Cronkite, the veteran news reporter, was “Gravely Ill.” I didn’t realize at the time just how wrong I could be.

I never expected Michael Jackson to be the one to round up the Rule of Threes, and certainly I never expected it to happen that same day.

So what to say of these three losses…

Well, for one thing, each of them reminds me that I, myself, am growing older. The heroes and idols and superstars that I remember from my youth are quickly fading away.

I look at their careers and wonder if they lived happy lives, good lives, fulfilling lives.  Some did… some had harder times.

Ed McMahon lived a long, full life. He had many careers – military, music, entertainment… he seemingly did it all, and did for a very long time. As memorable as Johnny Carson was, so too was Ed and his hearty laugh and his legendary introduction to the Tonight Show, “Heeeeere’s Johnny!” Many nights I can recall laying in my bedroom trying to sleep while my parents were in the living room watching Johnny walk onto the stage through the rainbow-colored curtain after that hallowed call. Then when I got old enough, I, too, enjoyed Ed and Johnny’s antics. They were friends of mine too. And now they’re gone.

Farrah Fawcett, with her windswept, dirty blonde locks, was every boy’s fantasy… even a burgeoning gay boy like me. I can’t deny that I wasn’t fascinated with her– I was. She got all the men, and she did it all with the flip of a feathered lock. But there was much more to Farrah than “Jiggle TV” showed, and she knew it. She knew she had the talent to make a name for herself, and stuck up for herself to prove it. She was a survivor, and a fighter. Those truths about Farrah don’t come out often enough, and I hope they do now, because she needs to be remembered for all of her accomplishments. Her final fight, cancer, was probably her greatest. Angered by tabloid trash talk about her disease, she decided to the turn the cameras on one last time, and tell the truth… and she did so with amazing dignity and perserverence. I watched “Farrah’s Story” and was moved by her bravery in the face of death. She knew– she HAD to know– that her end was coming, but she wasn’t afraid to tell the world that she wasn’t afraid. So she kept on fighting, right up until the end. Ryan O’Neil said he loved her more than ever during those months… and I have to say that I did too. Rest well, Farah… you’re truly an Angel now.

But Michael Jackson was the greatest shock of all. Poised for a comeback after many years out of the spotlight, which was rare for the superstar who had been in the spotlight since he was a very small child; it looked like Michael Jackson was on the road to recovery after the trials and accusations that faced him just 4 years ago. There is no sense judging him for all of that now. That isn’t my place, anyway. I want to focus on the brilliant music he made, from his meager beginnings with the Jackson 5 to his incredible years with Off the Wall and Thriller… and his countless charitable and humanitarian works. Michael Jackson may have become a persona later in life, and his odd behavior turned off a lot of people; but most of those who were turned off by the oddities agreed– the man knew music. The King of Pop? Maybe an overblown title… but he sure as heck sold it the best way he could. He truly was a legend, and I’m still stunned that he’s gone.

Each of these legends… icons… were present in my youth and adolescence. And now they are gone. Life goes on, but it’s a little sadder than the day before.

Happy Father's Day, Dad

I’m about 20 minutes late with this… but I’ve been thinking of my Dad all day today, and couldn’t figure out the best way to honor him on Father’s Day.

Then I found this recording I made a few days ago and listened to it… and… well… it fit perfectly.

I love you, Dad, and I miss you. Happy Father’s Day.

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life
I love you more.

Aaaarrrrrrrggggh!! I can't take it anymore!!!

OK… OK! I have been silent long enough.

I didn’t want to make a big stink, but I just can’t help it. I have to say something, and if I don’t do it soon, I’m gonna friggin’ explode.

OK, my Gay, Lesbian, Bi, Trans, and Questioning brothers and sisters… I am talking to you.

We’re not a happy bunch right now. Any visit to the news, or to blogs, or to chatrooms, or to Facebook or Twitter will tell you that. We are an angry bunch. We want what we want, and we want it NOW!

We want Gay Marriage. We want a repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. We want a repeal of DOMA. We want Anti-Discrimination laws. We want Anti-Defamation laws. And don’t forget about Gay Marriage…

Yes, we really do want what is rightfully ours, and really, who can blame us? We’ve been an oppressed group for as long as we’ve been around. Other groups have got their rights, why can’t we?

Well yeah, I agree… and I want those rights, too. But did it ever strike you as odd that we’re demanding EVERYTHING to happen RIGHT NOW? Right now, when our country is still just barely recovering from the worst economic crisis it has seen since the Great Depression? Right now, when we are still fighting a war in Iraq and still trying to find the mastermind of 9/11? Right now, when the entire world is unstable, both economically and politically, and we are relying on our country’s leadership to ATTEMPT to keep everything together?

Did you ever think that maybe RIGHT NOW is a little TOO SOON?

I have, and I have said so and thought so since before Barack Obama got himself elected. Sure, he’s made some mistakes (that DOMA brief really did suck), but I truly have to believe, in my heart, that he wants to help us out. We just need to understand that, just like Rome was not built in a day, LGBTQ rights cannot be applied to us in 24 hours. It takes time, and it takes making the right moves and taking the right steps.

Our impatience comes from years and years of pain, sorrow and neglect, and I feel that pain, sorrow and neglect just as much as the rest of you. I understand why we are angry, and I understand why we want action. And I understand why we want to yell and scream and carry on when we feel we’ve been maligned.

But at what point will our voices blend in with the rest of the background noise? How long will ranting and raving and screaming work to get our country’s attention? And will it work at all?

I’m trying to find the answers, because I don’t know what they are. I’m just suggesting that we are going about it in the wrong way, and I’m concerned that our voices will not be heard, because those who we want to hear us are just going to plug their ears to drown out the noise.

It took this much animosity for me to break out of my blogging funk and write again… maybe it’s time we all try to do the same. Pick up the pen, or turn on your computer, and write your feelings. Send them to those who you want to hear your thoughts. Think out your grievances before airing them, and put them into context. Make them understand why you are so passionate about what you want.

Screaming will just make you hoarse. Intelligent thinking will get you heard.