Some of my happiest, comically embarrassing and clinically depressing memories can be triggered by food. It’s something about the smell, taste and texture that capture bits and crumbs of a memory. In this particular story, the greasy, sudsy pictures come back. Cheers to stale beer and greasy pizza slapped around underneath a buzzy heat lamp; I’ll always associate you two with my first and, as of this writing, only pride parade experience in Chicago 2010. Like the crumbs crushed into your sofa cushion, some details are lost like some forgotten dream, but here’s the highlight reel.
1. Everyone is someone’s best friend.
Like The Walking Dead, but with live people (some debatable), there are tens of thousands of sweaty bodies. I’m not complaining. We’re all best friends that happen to shove up against and put up with each other, not noticing when an unfortunate pinky toe here or there was stepped on. But lest you want to commit a party foul and ruin someone’s 100% precision application of body glitter, take care as you move against the crowd (you will at some point be moving against the crowd) to your friends with cups of six dollar domestic beer. Also, you will probably lose friend of two to the crowd, a hunky daddy, or a cross of the two, which would be a crowd of hunky daddies.
2. Heed the Big Gay Advertising.
Whether you lament or some champion it, a number of big name companies and gay-friendly businesses join in with a float or delegation. If they can help it, they might have nearly nude (different from a never-nude) men with indestructible abs and/or the hardest working drag queens marching in their highest heels selling their product to you. On the other side, there are some community support groups that also march interspersed with the big ads.
3. Don’t engage with the haters.
You know who I’m talking about: the real haters using convenient verses from religious texts to harken the depths of hell and save you and me. Don’t let them bring your party down. 2010 was the year of the World Cup and those awful vuvuzelas. Remember those? Yeah. They’re really great at drowning out the hate speech, so I was glad some random passersby had them in tow. Just like a car accident or Amanda Bynes, keep moving along. There’s nothing for you to see because it ain’t your business.
4. Wear footwear with no-slip grip.
As a recent grad with jingly-jangly money in my pocket, I always wore Old Navy flip-flops. Don’t do it. During or after the parade, you’ll end up at a dimly lit bar or club, sandwiched with all of your best friends, and, at this point, people spilling their drinks. You need night-vision goggles to get through this club, the strobe light and lasers are not cutting it. You can’t shake your behind if you end up popping out your ankle. That’s not attractive.
5. Be a good friend.
You and/or your friend might let loose — too loose. What’s not to love a big, colorful, sparkly party? I’ll tell you: vomit, stumbling in vomit, and unsafe sexual encounters. Dear goodness, please eat if you’re pre-gaming. Bring a water bottle. No one wants to see your pukey, yet colorful, vomit. And if you get sick, tell someone – don’t let an unsuspecting soul who’s not wearing no-slip grip footwear stumble.
We were at Roscoe’s chatting up with other education professionals when out of the corner of my eye, I see my friend Jake ordering our blue tinted drinks. As soon as he takes a gulp, he subsequently gets sick into his drink. His expression is puzzled, wondering where did more of this drink come from. I sprint back in my flip-flops and swat away his drink before he takes another sip. This is an example where someone needs to be cut off.
Don’t be afraid to cut your friends off. Likewise, if they’re cutting you off, try not to be too much of a jerk. This lesson is closely connected with the next lesson.
6. Be cool when something unexpected happens.
You and everyone else came in with a game plan on where to go, what to do, what to drink, and how to enjoy pride. Don’t be disappointed if you can’t cross things off your pride list or if unplanned situations occur. Keep your poker face on and head leveled.
Moments after the pukey drink, we went off to the dance floor. While dancing with my friend Dave, he pulled me in close, really close. He probably was talking at normal speaking volume, but his voice sounded like a nearly inaudible whisper.
He chose to tell me in my bad ear. “I wanted to tell you — you’re a really good friend — that I’m gay.”
The be cool reaction: “Hey, that’s cool! I’m glad you trust me enough to tell me.”
My actual reaction: “OH MY GOD, I’M SO HAPPY FOR YOU.”
Okay, so in that situation, I kind of broke that rule. Rules are made to be broken.
And then this happened. Jake comes back, grabs me and says: “We need to go to Roscoe’s.”
“Honey, we’re at Roscoe’s.”
“No. We need to go to Roscoe’s, like now.”
Realizing that he was unaware of his surroundings and likely directionally challenged due to the strobe-laser effects, I pulled Dave along with me. This afternoon was not going to end well. We make our way back to Halsted St. and Jake continues to yell, “WE NEED TO GO TO ROSCOE’S,” and then starts to heckle other drunkies in the street.
We made an executive decision to find the fastest alternative to quell an angry, hot (his body was literally burning hot) drunk; we needed pizza the size of the cafeteria tray it was served on.
Once we arrived, Jake proceeded to call the patrons, pizza maker, cashier, bathroom, cash register, and the slice of pepperoni pizza all hoes. Jake made it out alive without getting into a fight. Welcome to Pride. We survived.
We get into the rush, the party, the drunk arms and legs all around us. I can’t help but think: there are good things, bad things, and damn ugly things that can happen at pride. I’m worried about how this day reinforces a dangerous, party scene image that just isn’t fulfilling (to me at least). Be safe at pride. Drink and connect responsibly.
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