Sunday, October 13, 2019
I don't go to parties much. Some combination of my not wanting to go to parties and those who throw parties not wanting to invite me to them. Mostly the former, since I do get asked, periodically, to parties that I don't attend, since doing so requires time and effort and, as I said, as a rule I have no interest, for a variety of reasons: I don't drink, so the free booze dynamic that inspires so many is off the table. Plus the food at parties is usually less good than the food I can get on my own. Then there is the whole challenge of meeting people and, well, as a young man of my long acquaintance used to say, "People are the worst."
But sometimes a new factor enters the equation. Like last Thursday, I put on a sports coat and headed downtown to go to the Landmark Legacy Project (Un) Gala. Yes, I am a supporter of their cause: to draw attention to LBGQT history so often overlooked, still, in schoolbooks, through their Legacy Walk pylons in Boystown and various other projects and events. Important work in a country that at times seems all too determined to shove the whole LGBQT+ cohort back into the closet. Which is impossible; the closet's too small.
But that alone would not have prompted me to go.
I went because Lori F. Cannon, who was being honored with the Legacy Advocate Award, asked me to go. A force on the Chicago gay and lesbian scene since, well, forever, she's doled out millions of meals, mostly through Open Hand/Chicago. Anyone who, among her various nicknames, has been called "The AIDS Angel" is okay in my book. But most of all, she's just one of those people that you don't say no to. At least I don't. Cowardice might be involved. Having seen her features darken with contempt a dozen times while she outlines the multitudinous personal failings of someone who has fallen from her favor and landed with a thud on her expansive enemies list, I would never want to be one of those unfortunates. Besides, she's always been a big fan of mine, and I value that in a person.
So here I was in the Chez Event space—a clean, modern two story white cube-shaped room on East Ontario. Lori gamely introduced me to a series of people, the majority of whom regarded me blankly or with utter incomprehension. She could have been saying, "This is Neb Steebryxzn. He's a contortionist for the Shekadence Soo-Tee." People either drifted off with a shrug or fled as if I were on fire.
Luckily, there was a fellow journalist whom I could compare notes with on the ever-declining state of the media—Matt Simonette, managing editor of Windy City Times, and that helped. Usually a politician is good for five minutes, and I oozed over to State Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (12th) and tried to talk with her, but it didn't quite work. The conversation never gelled, and I had to retreat. My fault I'm sure.
Lori gave detailed, Deuteronomy-level explanations of complex relationships and community network dynamics of a score or two of people whose names and significance immediately shot past me—it was loud. I did go up and speak to the mayor's liaison to the gay community about how Lightfoot's style contrasts with Rahm's, and to someone at Rush University Medical about their gender re-assignment program. I told him I'd love to write about that, and he said he'd get back to me, and who knows, maybe he will. Anything is possible.
Most people were dressed in what I would call sharp business casual: smart jackets, bow ties, hats. My blue blazer with gold buttons put me on the dowdier, work-a-daddy end of the scale, but was fine for my purposes. I was perhaps the polar opposite of a young man directly in front of me as the festivities started. He stood out for his silvery jacket, silver pants tucked into black boots, and matching intricate silver hairstyle. I photographed him from the back—I prefer my subjects to be oblivious of my presence—easier all around. But, deciding that this represented a lack of fortitude on my part, I approached him and asked to take his picture.
He was very happy to consent, graciousness itself. He said he name was Patrik—"like the saint"— Gallineaux, and he is the LGBT manager and ambassador for Stoli vodka, one of the hosts of the evening. That must be a sweet gig. He lives in San Francisco, and we talked about the challenges of living there—he was lucky enough to find a rent-controlled apartment, he said, entirely by accident. I apologized for being unable to enjoy his product, though I had done more than my share in my day to reduce the world's surplus of Stolichnaya, and brought up the current vogue for NA beverages. "A golden age of non-alcoholic cocktails" is a phrase I actually uttered, causing my old self to spin in his deepening grave. I sung the praises of Fre non-alcoholic wine, quite the boon companion to cheese, and he either was genuinely interested, or feigned genuine interest in a practiced and convincing manner. I tried a few full-face photographs, but they didn't quite capture the glory of the man. I thanked him, and as the party began to go into full swing, figured my energies could be better spent savoring the warm, almost summer-like evening just beginning to unfold on Michigan Avenue, so thanked Lori and headed down to the street.