Monday, July 17, 2006

Weekend adventures: heat index edition


Our training run on Saturday was supposed to be an easy one: just seven miles—which, after last weekend’s 14 miles and last Wednesday’s nine miles, should have been a piece of cake. (Did someone say cake?) But then we got ourselves a heat wave in Chicago. So the run was more like a piece of fried balogna with extra salt.

Here we are pre-run, looking fresh and smelling like flowers. And acting cheesier than a Velveeta factory in Switzerland:

Here we are taking our first walk break, just six minutes into our run. Aside from the goofy faces (OK, face), we still look rather innocent and full of optimism:

Fearless Leader Matthew took his camera along on the run and snapped pictures of us in motion. Some of them turned out kind of cool:

Some of them captured facial expressions we probably don’t want immortalized on the Internets for all time (though check out Matthew’s perfectly centered reflection):

Some of them kind of missed their mark:

And some of them showed just how miserable and sweaty the heat was making us. (’Cause if Jake breaks a sweat, you know it’s hot out; Jake may stink when he exerts himself, but he rarely sweats enough to work up a shine.) NRB, whose savage tan manifests his inherent compatibility with the sun, seems to enjoy being broiled like a slice of garlic cheese bread (did someone say garlic cheese bread?), but I, with my pink-as-an-Easter-ham pallor, am showing an expression of pure struggle here—I've never fared very well running in the heat—and we still had three miles to go:

Unfortunately, Fearless Leader Matthew didn’t send me our traditional finish-line photo, so I can’t show you this week’s tableau of happy, exhausted faces and sweat-streaked bodies. I apologize if this undermines your quality of life in any way.


By the blue purple yellow red water
On the green purple yellow red grass
Let us pass through our perfect park
Pausing on a Sunday

By the cool blue triangular water
On the soft green elliptical grass
As we pass through arrangements of shadow
Toward the verticals of trees

Chicago hosted a Sondheim festival this weekend at Millennium Park, complete with Broadway stars, symphony orchestras and an appearance by Stephen himself. The Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus closed the event yesterday, reprising a lot of material from our pride show at an outdoor concert in the park’s magnificent Frank Gehry-designed Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

The pavilion is an explosion of stainless steel ribbons framing a formal concert stage with a whole amphitheater of comfortable seats in front of it for the people who plan ahead for their culture. Then there’s a football field behind the seats with a latticework of speakers overhead so the latecomers and picnickers won’t miss a note, even if they can’t see the stage. We were supposed to stand on the edge of the football field for our concert, but it was so freakin’ hot we were mercifully allowed to stand on the (shaded!) stage (which was easily 20 degrees cooler), and our audience got to sit in the nice (shaded!) seats and enjoy our show:

I even got to sing in a little featured number: the haunting and gorgeously contrapuntal "Pretty Lady" from Pacific Overtures. Here's a pic I'm posting against my better judgment because it makes me look sleepy and red and possibly allergic to Sondheim:

Sneezy McSinger notwithstanding, the show was a smashing success. We got whoops and hollers and a huge, screaming standing ovation after our closing number, “Sunday,” which is so lush and beautiful and poetically flawless that I have yet to get through it without goosebumping and choking back tears of happiness.

And the moment the audience cheers died down, the ugliness started. The Christian Hate Industry, fresh from harassing everyone attending the opening ceremonies of the Gay Games, had assembled at the back of our seating area with huge banners and bullhorns and a whole arsenal of ugly things to scream at us. (Let me tell you, you haven’t lived until you’ve been ridiculed publicly by a mob with bullhorns and professionally made signs. I hope their hostile, make-believe god rewards them richly for the way they treat their fellow human beings on this earth. After I kill them with my bare hands.) Then some of the guys on the stage started chanting stuff back—which is exactly the kind of fight the CHI was hoping to start to feel validated. Which was exactly the kind of small-minded exchange of meaningless platitudes I didn’t have any interest in being caught in. But I was kind of stuck on stage in full view of everyone so I couldn’t exactly change into my cape and tights and fly away without revealing my secret identity.

But then we launched into our gay-themed rendition of “I’m Still Here,” which made the ideal anti-protester song even though in this context it further stooped us to their level, and the crowd ate up. And the CHI kind of shut up after that. But not totally. And as we were packing up our stuff, I saw a lot of gay guys having their pictures taken making out in front of the gay-is-bad signs, which probably just fueled the CHI’s irrational, batshit-crazy hostility, but it was funny nonetheless.

Once I escaped, I met up with some friends from Miami who were in town to compete in the Gay Games. We hung out in the air conditioning and explored a bit of Chicago for a while, and then they invited me to join them and some of their friends for dinner. And they picked Japonais, which is only one of the most popular restaurants in Chicago. Everyone I know has been there and raved about it, and now that I’ve finally gone I can see why. Their sushi is amazing (which is saying a lot coming from someone who had his third taste of sushi—and his first taste of octopus—last night), and the steak I ordered was so tender and so delicious I almost purred as I ate it. I also recommend the kobe beef appetizer, which is more delicious than I can describe, but it’s about as filling as a Tic-Tac. I’m not a fan of Japonais’ table legs, though; they’re thick and solid and so close to the edges of the tables that I got my foot wedged painfully between our table and my seat and I had to make a big clumsy drama scene to extricate myself from my own act of sitting down, which is not the best way to make a good first impression on a table full of charming strangers. But nobody rubbed wasabi in my hair or tried to trick me into asking the waitress to page Mike Hunt, so I think they still liked me.

Being visitors who didn’t have to go to work in the morning, they wanted to go to Sidetrack after dinner. Being a good ambassador to our fair city, I took them there, where we found a half-block-long line to get in—at 11:00 on a Sunday night. But we waited patiently and got ourselves in and had a drink together and watched the boys and started to fade en masse by midnight.

And while the CHI probably slept well secure in the knowledge that they had spent the weekend serving their hostile, make-believe god, I slept better, knowing I’d spent my weekend in the company of decent, kind, loving people who used their powers to improve themselves and the world around them.

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