Since I'm just hanging out at my parents' electrified house this weekend, I thought it might be time to write about my trip to the Gay Games in Chicago. As you know, Porkchop was playing ice hockey with the Mad City Blades. I won't keep you in suspense...they didn't make it to the medals round. But fun was still had by all. And, hey, with the Gay Games philosophy of "personal best" and participant medals (which are pretty darn nice) for all, everyone is a winner. Yeah, yeah, that usually sounds like a bunch of saccharine crap, but I actually believed it at the Gay Games.
Porkchop and I awoke bright and early and left for Chi-town (okay, I hate it when people refer to Chicago that way, but I had to do it once). After a couple of stops and just a bit of traffic-y mess, we stopped at the Hilton so that Porkchop could pick up her credentials. I waited around and checked out the official merchandise. After Porkchop returned with her athlete badge and lanyard, we bought a GG ice hockey shirt and picked up her participant medal. Yeah, medals before even playing a game! That's the sort of event I like.
We eventually made our way to the team's hotel in Skokie and met up with K & E. Who knew Holidomes still existed?? They do in Skokie. Awesome!
After much discussion, the team (plus tagalongs like K and me) convened and caravaned to the Howard Street subway stop. We then made the hour-long ride to the closest stop to Soldier Field, where the opening ceremony was held. From there, we just followed the gay masses. That's right, it was one big freakin' gay pride parade to Soldier Field.
Porkchop and E went to line up with the other Wisconsin people while K and I waited for the gates to open. It was a long, boring, waterless wait. I knew I should've taken the free water from the gay Christians!
In case you're wondering, there were a few protestors outside Soldier Field. I don't know what the point was, really. Do they expect us to think, "Wow, they're right....I'm leading a filthy, disgusting life....From here on out, I'm taking the train to straight town." I followed my usual strategy of ignoring them....after all, they feed on any sort of attention.
The opening ceremony was rather poorly coordinated and underwhelming. The best part by far was the athlete procession. I swear half of California was represented. As host city, Chicago marched in last....over 2,000 athletes!! Crazy! I relished the fact that countries like Algeria, Botswana, and Uganda were represented by athletes. I was, however, a bit perplexed that Puerto Rico was included with the US. Yeah, they're a protectorate, but were I a Puerto Rican athlete, I would be freaking pissed off. Kudos to the Marshall Islands guy who insisted on marching in under his own flag.
So, with the opening ceremony, I expected something that was all happy-times with dancing sailors, drag queens, and fireworks. We had fireworks, but first we had to suffer through Act I: Exclusion and Act II: Oppression. By the time we got to Acts III and IV (Expression and Celebration, I think), I wanted to throw myself off the stadium. Enough!
In a nutshell, the opening ceremony organizers obviously wanted to be as inclusive as possible and somewhat political, but it came at the cost of underemphasizing the queer athletes and what the games are actually about. They were just trying to do too many things at once. The political rally/interpretive dance performance/concert/comedy show/AIDS awareness/opening ceremony was just too much.
I do, however, want to state that Staceyanne Chin is amazing. Go see her if you get the chance.
Here's a pic of the end of the athlete procession. So many people!
There weren't a lot of free events on Sunday, but Porkchop and I entertained ourselves. First, we caught some swimming (and peeks of some...ahem, nicely built gay men) at the University of Chicago natatorium. Then, we went to the cheer sport performance at Millenium Park.
When we first got to the park, I was in a horribly foul mood because of the heat. Here's a pic of me looking totally pissed off:
But after watching a few rifle drills, cheer routines, and flag corps performances, I was in high spirits. Something about cheer sports brings tears to my and Porkchop's eyes. Everyone was awesome, especially the cheer team from San Francisco. They did a lot of fine, fancy work during their stunt routine. Here's how happy Porkchop was after watching the San Fran team:
After our afternoon of frolicking, Porkchop had to rest a bit before her first ice hockey game. The rink's ice totally sucked because it was so warm out. Besides the heat, I don't think the rink was very well equipped. I've been to other rinks during the hot summer, and the ice doesn't necessarily have to be slush.
The Mad City Blades were able to pull out a goal during the third period, ending at 2-1. It was a fast, well-played game by all, but of course we were hoping for a victory. Here's a pic of Porkchop playing center:
The most awesome part of the game was how many spectators were in the stands. Yay! I even got caught up in the excitement and clapped and cheered the whole game. It helped that I was standing by E's family, who turned out in droves with custom sweatshirts and a big sign. Yay for big Greek families!!
I had heard from my friend J that another old acquaintance, S, might be playing flag football with the Utah team. So, Porkchop and I did some research and determined that, if S was playing, she must be playing with the Salt Lake City men's team, the Utah Avalanche. We made our way to the flag football fields (near the University of Chicago), and Porkchop spotted someone with pink hair playing flag football. Yes! It was S! Here's a pic of the Utah (in purple) and San Diego teams facing off (or whatever it's called) - you can kind of make out S:
K & E came with us, and we all enjoyed hearing the sideline conversations, especially when the LA Flames were preparing for their game. Lines like, "Steve, could you help me roll up my sleeves," and "Man, you're so tight [said while one helped a teammate stretch]" made us giggle and appreciate the Gay Games so much.
I love gay flag football. The homoeroticism, the flag belts, the spandex...
I was able to say a quick hello to S during halftime and chat for a bit afterwards. It's difficult to catch up on 6 years in 10 minutes; I wish I could've had time to talk more with S and her girlfriend, but I had to leave the next day. Murrrrrr! But here's a nice pic of us:
After flag football, we returned to the Hilton and bought some sport pins at the merch store. To show my newfound loves, I bought a cheerleading pin and a flag football pin (in addition to ice hockey and swimming). We also hit the Gay Games store on Belmont with K, but we found it lacking and kind of crappy.
Finally, Porkchop and I headed out to Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights. It took a while because of traffic and because I said, "Instead of the interstates, we could take these other roads." Yeah, you know how that goes in Chicago. Maps are deceiving.
But the trip was so worth it. Within a half hour, I had: drunk parts of a mango smoothie and a watermelon smoothie, obtained a new Pooh character for my cell phone (a seagull this time, to replace my broken alligator), eaten red bean ice cream, bought sushi for later, and picked up some fun food items (including a red bean cake and a green tea-flavored soy milk). Porkchop and I are jealous of people who can go to Mitsuwa on a regular basis. My new mission in St. Louis: find a Japanese grocery store where I can buy a gallon of red bean ice cream.
After Mitsuwa, Porkchop and I crashed at the hotel. Exhausted, yet satisfied.
On my last day at the Gay Games, the weather cooperated by giving us much cooler temperatures and a lovely breeze. This and watching a soccer game in Oak Park made for a perfect morning. Madison's Thunder Kittens totally dominated the other team, but it was still a lot of fun to watch (especially from the shaded bleachers).
After the game, we went with K & E to check out the Frank Lloyd Wright stuff around Oak Park. Wow...there are some really nice houses in that area! After a surprisingly good Mexican lunch, we parted ways from K & E. And I, unfortunately, had to part ways from Porkchop.
Yep, it was time to catch my ride back to St. Louis. I will not go into details here, but I had a hellish time arranging my ride back. Let's just say that I had to suffer from some major passive-aggressive energy directed at me for no reason. If you want details, ask; I'll bore you with a two-hour long story.
So, the Mad City Blades went on to play 3 more winless games. It's not that they suck, it's just that they were in a higher division than they should have been. Through a registration misunderstanding, they were put into the open division instead of the recreational division. Ah well, I think they still enjoyed it.
I heard from Porkchop an hour ago....still no power. That sucks.
Anyway, the next Gay Games will be in Cologne, Germany, in 2010. Who's going?? I'm totally up for it. I mean, I already love gay German ladies, so....what could be more perfect?