…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.
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???????
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.