Just when I thought I was invisible to boys…

This weekend I joined my fellow chorus members for a gig at Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington, IL.  We sang there a few years ago with a Lesbian/Feminist chorus named Amasong and had such a great time and were so enamored with the audience, we couldn’t wait to go back.

The fact that we haven’t been back since is probably just because Amasong mixes up their guests every few years– but we did get the call this year and about 50 of us made the trip down.

Bloomington (also known as Bloomington-Normal because of the close proximity of neighboring town Normal) is a very collegiate town– aside from Illinois Wesleyan, there is also Illinois State University and two smaller community colleges.  So for a small-ish town, it is pretty lively, especially when students are around.

After the show, a few of us decided to stay overnight, so we headed out to The Bistro, the only gay bar in Bloomington-Normal.  The Bistro is a fairly small place, but it was big on fun.  It’s owned by a lady that everyone calls “Mama,” and “Mama” is quite a lady.  She feeds everyone shots and good times and drinks from a special jug of tequila she calls “Mama’s Milk.”  It’s raucous and fun and creates a really great atmosphere for a party.

So two shots and two $2.50 Long Islands later (I love the south suburbs!), I was on the dancefloor cutting a major rug.  The tunes were fun and my friends and I were all over the place. 

We were enjoying a great disco tune when all of a sudden this cute young collegiate looking boy appeared in front of me.  “Hi, my name is Pete, what’s yours?”  I said, “Rick, nice to meet you Pete!”  and we started dancing together.  He asked me where I was from and I said “Chicago,” and he responded that he was a student at ISU.  We got a little closer, and he touched me a few times in a few places, and I touched him in a few places.  Just when I thought maybe I might sneak in some kissing action, a couple of his friends stumbled by and pulled him away.  I figured maybe I’d see him again, but that was the last I saw of cute Pete.

So while it didn’t turn out quite as I had hoped, it was still pretty nice to know that I’m not entirely invisible to guys.  Especially cute ones with nicely shaped arms and tight-fitting T-shirts and big green eyes. 

So as far as I’m concerned, that was a step in the right direction for me.  I left the bar feeling more confident and more upbeat than when I walked in.  And there was a bit more of a lilt in my step as we walked away for the night. 

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Baseball, Boys and Dads

Today was opening day for the Chicago Cubs.

To most of you that’s not a big deal. In fact, I’m sure there are a good number of you who read that first line and said “Who cares?”

Well to this baseball fan, it’s a big deal. Because baseball means more than just nine guys running around a field hitting a ball with a wooden stick. It’s because, for the most part, boys and dads have a sort of innate relationship around baseball. Sometimes that relationship blossoms into a loving and wonderful coexistence; and sometimes it harbors a lifetime of regret and/or agony.

For me, the relationship between me, my Dad and baseball has almost always been a positive one. I remember playing catch with him in the backyard and going to the park to hit a few line drives (which were probably only bloopers but to me they were line drives.) I was never much good at playing the game, but I definitely recall the first few trips we made to Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs play.

One of my fondest memories is during our second visit to Wrigley Field. I was probably about 8 or so and my sister was 6. We were seated in the main grandstand area, to the right of home plate, just under the upper grandstand. They were pretty great seats. I had my program and my Cubs baseball cap, and my sister was sporting her trademark Cubs fisherman’s cap which was so cute on her little head. Mom and Dad were reviewing the lineup with us, getting us ready to start keeping score for the game.

I looked up and saw a mob of people forming from the Cubs dugout, walking up toward the stairs of the grandstand. In the mob I could see Jack Brickhouse, the legendary Cubs broadcaster. I knew he was probably just finishing the “Lead-Off Man” interview with one of the players and was heading up to the announcer’s booth in the Mezzanine. The only way to get there was through the crowd, so every time he made the trek, he would be besieged by autograph seekers.

I asked my dad for a pen, and he found one for me. In a flash, I grabbed my program and took off. I could hear my dad calling after me, “Ricky! Get back here! RICKY! You’ll never find your way back!” But I knew where I was going. I ran after the mob, and followed them down the stairs into the concourse. Just after turning to the right, I reached the the mob and tunneled my way between the legs of the taller fans. I got right up to Jack Brickhouse, smiled with my toothless smile, and said, “Mr. Brickhouse, can I have your autograph?”

Jack replied, “Sure, little fella!” and grabbed my program and signed it with my felt-tip pen. I looked at the signature, said “Wow! Thanks!” and dashed back to the seats.

When I got back, my dad was fuming and my mom was frantic. “We thought we’d never find you! How did you find your way back?” they cried.

I responded quite confidently, “I knew where I was going!” and not another word was spoken about it.

Throughout my dad’s and my life together, baseball remained as a constant in an otherwise symbiotic relationship. No matter what else was going on in our lives, we could always fall back upon what the Cubs were doing that year, or what bonehead moves the management made that would plunge the season into another fit of despair.

As I said before, I wasn’t much of a player. I did play on a Little-League type team in grade school, but I wasn’t all that good. I was always stuck in right field, and I spent more time picking dandelions than running after base hits. Dad, of course, was furious with me and couldn’t understand why I wasn’t a better player– but I assured him that it wasn’t because I didn’t like the game — I just didn’t enjoy playing it as much as I enjoyed watching it.

So that’s why, when the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus started rehearsing the song “What You’d Call A Dream” from the little-known off-Broadway play called “Diamonds,” I was struck by how much meaning the game has in so many people’s lives. Whether you’re the greatest or worst player, or whether you ever made the game-winning hit or cost a team the game; there’s something special and meaningful about the relationship between fathers, sons and baseball that can never be broken.

So this Friday and Saturday, when I’m on stage, choking back tears during that song, I will remember the trips to Wrigley Field; the days playing catch in the summer sun; the baseball cards and team rosters, and his recollections of years past; the afternoons watching WGN and Jack Brickhouse– and later, Harry Caray– call the games; and the good times–and bad– that revolved around the game.

What You’d Call A Dream

There are two men out, and its in the ninth, and the score is four to three
There’s a man at first, and a man at bat, and the man at bat is me
And I’m sorta scared, and I’m sorta proud, and I’m stronger than I seem
And I take a swing, and my dad is there, and its what you’d call a dream

For the ball flies in the sun, and it sails off as I run
The crowd is roaring, cheering as I go, so are all the guys on the team
And I run for home, and we win the game, and its what you’d call a dream
And the sun shines like diamonds
The summer sun shines like diamonds
The summer sun, high in a baseball sky, shines like diamonds
And the sun shines like diamonds

There are two men out, and its in the ninth, and the score is four to three
There’s a man at first, and a man at bat, and the man at bat is me
And it’s what you’d call
A dream.