SOMETHING TO BE PROUD OF – RICH PASCHALL

Your True Colors, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Like most people, you might join in a celebration of heritage, religion, race or some identifying quality at some point during the year.  In fact, you may join into several .  There are so many celebrations it is hard not to be a part of something grand.

We all take part in the fourth of July celebration.  We are proud of our heritage and wish to celebrate it.  There are parades and picnics, concerts and fireworks, flag waving and red, white and blue decorating.  Television shows, especially those of Public Television, bring us programs of our history, national parks and our unique music.  It is hard not to be swept up in the grand emotions of the day.  Do your emotions swell with pride?

Many also celebrate their ethnic background through a variety of events.  They honor the Independence of the nations of their ancestors as well as our own Independence.  Cinco de Mayo, for example, is a great day of events to honor Mexican heritage, although it is not Mexican Independence Day as some think.  In fact, it may be a bigger deal here than in Mexico.  Nevertheless, we all join our Mexican neighbors in the festivities.  September 16 is actually Mexican Independence day in case you were wondering why our friends were celebrating again.

German-American Festival, Chicago

Here our German heritage is celebrated with Von Steuben Parade and a weekend of Oktoberfest-like parties.  Baron Friedrich von Steuben was a German military officer and volunteer for General George Washington in the Revolutionary War.  By the end, he was Washington’s chief of staff.  Imagine the Pride for German Americans that this officer, born in Germany, helped to secure the Independence of America.  He was born on September 17th, hence our combined Von Steuben and Oktoberfest events.  By the way, we are also proud to say that our German parade was used as the parade in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.  I guess it is appropriate Ferris is singing Danke Schoen.

In a city as diverse as Chicago, we always seem to be having parades.  In the summer, there are many weekends I can walk to the corner and watch a parade head down Montrose Avenue in celebration of a South or Central American country.  I see the delight in the faces of children from Guatemala or Mexico, Peru or Columbia, Brazil or Ecuador who are new to this country or first generation Americans.  I also see the faces of parents and grandparents who are proud of their ethnic culture and proud to be here.

Ethnic pride

A variety of religious events bring a feeling of pride to those who belong to the various religions around town. There are sometimes parades, sometimes outdoor services, sometimes grand occasions.  Many are proud of the churches built by their ancestors.  A church I attended was built by our German ancestors over one hundred years ago.  It stands proudly on its corner with a tower visible for miles.  Certainly the founders of our German American neighborhood would be proud to know their ancestors still come to this corner to attend mass and celebrate the founding of our church and school.  Many of the ancestors are in fact proud to be here.  All of the great religions can claim a home in Chicago.

We celebrate the culture of our colors as well.  Asian American Resource and Cultural Center, Native American Center, Du Sable Museum of African-American History all take pride in having a home here.  The events rooted in the background of color are a source of honor for many.  Indeed, Black Pride takes an important role in the cultural life of a city for more than just one month a year.  We are the proud home of the roots of jazz and blues and the unique contribution of black Americans to our nations music.  We are also proud to be the home of the first black president.

French visitor at Du Sable Museum, Chicago

If I was to pull up the calendar of events for the City of Chicago, I would likely find more celebrations of heritage than I could reasonably report in this space.  There is so much to be proud of that a simple report just would not suffice.  This weekend I would find one that you might question.  Many question it, and they should get an answer.

Why is there “Gay Pride?” Is this something to be proud of?  Why are so many people partying in the streets?  Why do we need a parade?  We don’t have Hetero Pride Day.  Why is this something special?  Sexual orientation does not seem like the thing to parade in the streets.  Who you love does not seem to be a reason for a parade, although perhaps it should be.

For a particular group of citizens who often felt isolated, it is important to come together to remember that you are not alone.  If your sexual orientation is not the majority, you are different.  If you grew up, as most did, afraid to express who you are, it is not unusual to come to celebrate the man or woman you tried to deny for many years.  Last year it was estimated that over 1 million people jammed the parade route in Chicago.  If the weather is good, we are likely to see the same again.

Pride Parade, Chicago

I have only been to the parade a few times.  It is long, boring, and overcrowded.  It seems every local politician is in the parade along with every large corporation that wishes to curry favor with the LGBT community.  The neighborhood has a perimeter that makes it difficult to get in and out for hours before the event, to hours afterward. Local business are crowded and it is tough to find a seat anywhere.

Despite that, a million people are proud to be there.

A SHADE OF DIFFERENCE – RICH PASCHALL

What are your colors? by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog


Everyone has favorite colors. You can probably tell which ones by the walls of their homes.  The wall coverings were likely chosen not just by color, but also by shade of color. Big home improvement stores will mix and match colors for you so you have just the right shade. They stock color palates and have little colored papers you can take with you while you stare at the walls and envision how they will look. Some will even give you a little sample so you can stare at a brush stroke you put on the wall and dream of a whole room in that color.

Blue is a nice color to me, but I would never paint the walls a dark blue, only pastels. As a matter of fact, there would be no dark colors in my home decorating, if you can call it that. Purples and dark greens certainly are too harsh anyway, but maybe they would appear on your walls. That’s fine for you. Who am I to judge you by your color selection?skin-colors-cropped

I like Hunter Green in kitchen accessories, but not on the walls. Does that seem strange to you? For a number of years I found it the color of choice in Tupperware and kitchen utensils, but I would never paint with it. Never. Does that sound a little biased? If I found the sea green of your bathroom just a little too garish, would you hold it against me?

At a past place of employment, I had a manager who wanted to paint his office a nice shade of lavender. If it was good enough for his bedroom, soothing and relaxing, then perhaps it would be good for his office. After all, the company said he could have any color he wanted. Unfortunately, there were those who did not like lavender, especially on office walls. He was derided for his choice of color. Some snickered behind his back, while others openly pointed out the folly of associating with such colors, and at work no less! The color of choice around the building was rather bland. You know the one, an off white that looks about the same no matter how long it is on the wall. The shade of lavender was…well, rather gay according to some people.  What does that say about a new manager? He was judged, but he was certainly straight (or as certain as I can be). Anyway, it was a nice shade.

This prejudice against color is not limited to the walls at home or the office. It goes well beyond the choice of furniture and carpet. It is not just the accessories in your house or your life. It has to do with all your color choices. “Are my friends really judging me by the colors I choose?  If I chose white am I boring? If I choose black am I too Gothic? If I choose lavender am I too gay?” Perhaps this sounds a bit ridiculous.

Yet, people choose their friends this way. They make instant judgments of people they do not know by their shade of color. Some can look across a crowded street and when they spot a person of another color, they formulate an instant opinion. Perhaps an “olive shade” looks like a gangster, and you should avoid crossing the street. Then there are those who are a certain shade of white that is different from my shade. Many people will quickly decide they are crooks, or they are greedy or they are shiftless.

This is not just an issue between races, but also within a race. White people judge other white people and black people do the same. You do not think so? Ask around. Many have color palates for race that are far more discriminating than their choices of wall color.  Recently I was watching the FOX Sports 1 show MLB Whiparound and immediately noticed that baseball analyst Frank Thomas was a distinctly different shade than the other analyst, Dontrelle Willis.  I am not sure what Thomas said, but I instantly decided I liked his opinions better!  Crazy, no?

When the turbulent civil rights era of the 1960’s appeared to tear down color barriers, society was pleased with the progress. While some laws now prohibit color choices, the fact is that color choices are as pervasive as ever. These prejudices are perpetuated by social media and Fake News reports that are meant to push people to the left, right, middle and anywhere else that can separate one from another. “Progressive” radio, “Patriot” radio, “Conservative” radio, “Liberal” radio all highlight the difference between us and “them.” If you don’t think “them” frequently means another color, listen more closely. If you think that many of these talk and Fake News shows hated the last President of the United States because he is black, you may be on the right track.

The proliferation of these judgments by everyone from politicians and so-called newsmen to the average person on-line demonstrates that the color scheme of society today is more divided than ever. We may no longer be segregated by law, but we are now segregated by personal choice. Many can not find it in their hearts to celebrate the different shades of life. They only want certain colors to be approved for the walls they put up in their own existence. Perhaps this sounds just a bit ridiculous, because it is.

So we’re different colours
And we’re different creeds
And different people have different needs.
It’s obvious you hate me
Though I’ve done nothing wrong
I’ve never even met you so what could I have done?

For 10 Song About Racism That Don’t Suck, check out all the videos on flavorwire.com  You won’t see some of the hip-hop songs of today that deal with race, but you may recognize some of the rock songs of other eras.  The 10th song on the list is the harsh vision of the old South by Billie Holiday performing Strange Fruit.

DOES EVERY SPORT HAVE ONE? – RICH PASCHALL

The Openly Gay Athlete, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

If you have read any stories about gay athletes in professional sports you would certainly know about it.  That’s because no matter how often it has been stated, any article that mentions a gay athlete will state that he is “gay” or even “openly gay,” as if telling you he is gay is not enough.  I guess if you tell the press you are gay, then you are pretty open about it, and you certainly can’t take it back.  Reporters follow around openly gay athletes just for the purpose of asking them what it is like to be openly gay and play ______ (fill in the sport here).  I wish just once the athlete would respond that it is the same as being “openly heterosexual.”

Perhaps they should ask the reporter what it is like to be “openly heterosexual” and asking the same stupid questions.  Of course, that would be stereotyping sports reporters as straight and we certainly do not want to jump to conclusions.  Maybe someday we will have an openly gay sports reporter, but I digress.

You can point to many sports and talk about the one gay athlete, and it is usually just one brave person who has spoken up.  Michael Sam created such a stir when he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams that an ESPN sports reporter actually reported on his shower habits in the preseason. Seriously, “google” it. It must still be in cyberspace. ESPN later apologized.

Jason Collins was the first openly gay basketball player in the NBA causing big “sports” news, and Brittney Griner is a lesbian professional basketball player.  Griner married another WNBA player in 2015.  All of this means these players will from now on be referred to as that “openly gay player.”

If people think these players are among the first gay players in the sport, they can think again.  Hall of Fame basketball player and current television analyst Charles Barkley was asked by sports host Dan Patrick if he ever played with a gay player and got this surprising response, “Yeah, of course I did. Everybody did. Everybody played with a gay teammate, Dan, and it’s no big deal.”  Maybe it is no big deal to most teammates but it sure seems to be a big deal to reporters.

Soccer has Robbie Rogers of the Los Angeles Galaxy.  Boxing has featherweight Orlando Cruz.  Professional wrestling has Darren Young but I always consider that as acting rather than a sport, and there are plenty of gays in acting. Ice skater Johnny Weir came out in 2011 after indicating for a long time that his sex life was a private matter.  In his case, no one was surprised when he came out.  He has since retired from the sport.

Some well-known athletes in other countries have come out and have not faced the constant barrage of gay questions.  Twenty two year old British diver Tom Daley, well-known to the British public most of his young life, famously came out at the age of 19.  While it caused a bit of stir at first, that a national diving champion came out on You Tube, the press seems to have moved on after a short period of curiosity.  Here they would have hounded the poor boy constantly.

Despite the media circus surrounding gay athletes, the major sports seem to want to prove that they are inclusive and welcoming to gay athletes.  Of course, it is hard to do that when athletes are reluctant to come forward. If everyone has had gay teammates as Charles Barkley suggests, then there must be many who are afraid to say anything, and work to keep their private life completely private.  Such was the case for professional baseball player, Billy Bean.

Major League Baseball, despite its long history, has only had two former players publicly state they are gay.  One was Glenn Burke who died in 1995 and the other is Billy Bean, now 53.  Bean regrets walking away from baseball after a couple of years with the Tigers and Dodgers, a year in Japan, and some time with the Padres, but he was tired of hiding who he was.  It wore him down as he explained in his book, Going the Other Way: Lessons from a Life In and Out of Major League Baseball.  He had no idea how to reach out for help dealing with his secret while he was a player.  He also had no idea that major league baseball would one day reach out to him.

In June of 2014 MLB summoned Bean to a meeting in New York City to ask him about his experiences and to talk about baseball.  Bean went and talked for hours as detailed by sports writer Ken Rosenthal in his FOX Sports column, How Billy Came Back to Baseball.  The sport that had trouble welcoming Jackie Robinson and other black players did not want to be seen as the sport afraid to welcome gay players, so they reached out to Bean.  Billy had, after all, written a book on his experiences and what he learned from them, and was also a speaker to LGBT groups.  In fact, Billy was speaking at a LGBT Sports Summit in Portland, Oregon when he got the call from Major League Baseball.

When Bean learned they had a role for him in baseball he did not seem to immediately embrace the idea.  “I’m not going to be your token gay person that you’re just going to put on a podium,” he kept telling them.  They got it.  Bean said if he had someone to reach out to when he was playing, he might not have quit.  So now, Bean will be that person.  He will be the Ambassador for Inclusion.  To honor the league’s workplace code of conduct, to provide education and outreach, to speak and to listen, Billy Bean will be there because no one was there for him.  If you ask him now, he will probably tell you “It Gets Better.

List of LGBT Sports people, From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

WHO ARE YOU? FAMILY TO STRANGER, OVERNIGHT

A family of strangers story by Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Russell was home from the university, perhaps for the last time.  He finally graduated after four and a half years and a double major from the School of Business.  He lived at school each year and came home for the summers.  Now his plan was to get a job, save a little money and move out.  His college roommate would soon become his roommate again, if they could arrange it.

Russell’s parents, now in their 50’s, never seemed to change.  To Russell they always looked the same and acted the same.  Russell’s father was a hard-working, quiet guy whom everyone liked. His mother was also hard-working and dependable.  They seemed to naturally know which household chores to perform without ever talking about it.  Russell sometimes thought they held secret meetings to plan out the details of their lives, Russell’s included.

After a few day’s at home, Russell decided it was time to have a talk with his father. He felt they had both reached an appropriate age for this sort of father and son talk. So he went into the kitchen where his mother was creating something that smelled good.

“Where’s dad?” Russell asked.

“Your father is in the basement fixing something,” his mother said as if Russell should automatically know that.

“OK,” Russell said and headed toward the kitchen door that led to the basement steps.

When he got to the bottom of the stairs, he saw his father at the familiar work bench.  He was re-assembling the vacuum cleaner which had sucked up something it should not have.  Dad never looked up so Russell just began.

“Dad, I have something I wanted to tell you.”     Taig_metal_lathe,_Drill_press_and_Workbench

“Russell, grab those pliers on the table there … bring them here, son”  There was no point in trying to start a conversation while dad was working. He still spoke to Russell as he had spoken to him his entire life, like a boy who needed instruction.

On one hand it was a bit comforting that his father always treated Russell in a polite, helpful dad-like manner. On the other hand it was a bit frustrating because Russell wanted to be considered an adult.

“Now, stand over here, so you’re not in my light. Oh, grab that bolt. Hold it real tight and don’t let go,” his dad said. Visions of helping dad when he was a little kid came rushing into Russell’s brain. Everything about his childhood grabbed him and held on tight, just as tight as Russell held the bolt for his father. When the project was done, Russell gave it another try.

“Dad, I came down because I wanted to tell you something.”

His father looked at him as if to say, “Go ahead and tell me what you want to say.”  Dad did not actually say a word, it was just that Russell knew his father’s looks. He did not expect to get much talk, so he had to read the expressions. Neither man was good at expressing emotions, so Russell swallowed hard and started talking.

“I wanted you to know how much I appreciate everything you’ve done, the sacrifices you made to send me to school. When I get a good job, I will pay it back to you.”

“Now son, you don’t owe us a thing so don’t worry about it,” was the fatherly reply, as if the conversation had concluded. Dialogues with dad didn’t last long.

“But dad, there’s something else I want to say,” Russell interjected before his dad could put away his tools and leave. So his father gave him another “go ahead” look and Russell said, “I’m gay.”  At that, his father said nothing. His expression did not change for a minute or possibly two. Then he looked a little sick, like he had a bad case of indigestion.  He stumbled back a few steps and sat on the bench.

“Dad, are you alright?  Can I get you something?  Water, or something?”

Russell felt a little panic until dad said quietly, “No, I’m fine.” Nothing more was said,  Dad put away the tools and Russell stood there like a boy who did something wrong and his father was just going to act like nothing had happened.

As the week went on, it was apparent that Russell’s father had not said anything to his mother. If he had, he knew she would have had a comment before very long.  Everything was fine with mom, but dad looked at him every day since his announcement like he was a stranger in his home. He gave Russell puzzled looks about everything and responded to everything with one-word answers. As Russell’s dad was a quiet guy anyway, no one else seemed to notice, but Russell felt odd. He wished his father would say something, anything, but there was no reaction.

When the week was finally over and Russell’s friend came to pick him up to go out for the evening, Russell declared, “I am going out for a while. I’ll be back late.”

“OK, have fun Russell. Be good,” his mother responded. Dad looked up but did not say a word.

When he got in Joel’s car, his boyfriend said, “Well Russ, how did it go with the parents?”  Russell shook his head.

“Mom doesn’t know and dad looks at me like I am some sort of stranger in his house.”

“You are,” Joel told him matter of fact-like.

“Huh?” Russell said, quite surprised.

So Joel explained, “For twenty-two years your father thought you were one person, and you just told him you are really someone else.”

Photo credit: By James Bastow (Workbench) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

DID YOU SEE THE PICTURE? – RICH PASCHALL

A Marriage Equality Story, by Rich Paschall

When Eddie went into the army, Marge and her husband Edgar decided to leave the Midwest and head for Arizona.  As each year had past, Edgar found the winters increasingly difficult and the summers impossible.  When the spring and fall brought allergies on and the summer humidity brought breathing difficulty, the decision was easy.  It was time to go south.

Marge received a transfer to a Mesa, Arizona store and Edgar was sure he would find work if only he could breathe easier.  They took their daughter with them, although she had reached 21 years of age.  She did not know what she wanted to do in life and a change of location seemed like a good idea.

Eddie had worked for two years after high school and then decided the army would be his best start in life.  After the army, he would use his benefits to go to college and make his life better.  While in the army, he lost weight, matured and became a handsome young man who made his parents proud.

Even though Marge was a rather conservative type, she learned to use social media and followed along on Facebook and twitter hoping to see more of Eddie.  He was on Facebook, but actually used it very little.  When he posted some pictures from a Middle East cook out with his fellow soldiers, his proud mother shared the pictures all over the internet.  Eddie did not post much after that.

Marge spent some time each day, and much time on her day off, posting on Facebook and reading internet articles.  She would “like” things she thought were good and sometimes comment on postings and news stories.  Although she did not consider herself very political, she did seem to agree more with Republican postings than anything else.  Her friends started avoiding posting political items to her page.  It was better that way.

Whenever Eddie was on leave from the service, he visited friends in Chicago and then went on to Phoenix to see his parents.  When Marge would ask Eddie what he did in Chicago and who he saw, she got vague answers.  Eddie said little about his personal life.  He told next to nothing about friends or the service.  His mother thought it was just a phase that young men go through.  She figured he would tell her a lot more when he got out of the army.

When he was nearing the end of his time in the service, Marge asked Eddie if he would join them Phoenix or return to the Midwest.  He told her he would move to Chicago.

“Chicago!” she exclaimed.  “Why do you want to move there?  It is not safe there.  It is expensive to live and the job market is not the best.  You can get a job here.  I can help you.”

“I want to go to school there,” Eddie explained.  “I have friends there.  I will get a job, don’t worry.”  He spent months assuring his mother he would be fine until the day came when he got his discharge and went home to Chicago. Eddie saw his mother’s Facebook postings on a regular basis and that only convinced him to keep his personal life to himself.

He got an apartment, a job and made friends.  He enrolled in a city college with his army benefits and was happy with his life.  He assured his mother that all was well. After following along on Facebook, Marge decided she did not like the direction the country was headed.  She did not like the liberal policies and she would definitely vote a more conservative ticket.  It was easy to find friends online who agreed.

One day, an old friend from the Midwest called Marge.  She was excited about the latest news and could not wait to talk to her old friend about it.

“Hello Marge, you must be so excited.  I must tell you I was so surprised.  Did you see the picture they just posted?”

“Picture?” Marge asked.  “What picture? What are you talking about?”

Her old friend just laughed.  “Why, the wedding picture of course!  Did you know they were going to city hall?  Did you know which day it would be?”

“Who are you talking about?” Marge demanded.  A long silence followed while Marge’s friend wondered if the whole matter was actually a secret.  It seems that Eddie was tagged in pictures by others, but he had posted nothing himself.  The friend thought carefully about what to say next.

“Oh, it is something I saw on Facebook.  Perhaps you should go look at a few pictures that Eddie is tagged in and we can talk later.  OK?”  After some vague promise to call back soon, the old friend hung up and Marge raced to her computer.

The PC started slowly and Facebook seem to take extra long to load up.  It was no different than usual, but this time the wait was maddening.  Finally Marge got online and found the pictures that her old friend referred to.  There was Eddie at City Hall getting married.

Photo by Giovanni Dall'Orto

Photo by Giovanni Dall’Orto

The fact that Eddie married without telling her in advance was upsetting.  The fact that she did not know the other person at all was also upsetting.  But the most surprising part of all was that the groom took another groom.  Her handsome, white, middle class son had married a handsome Hispanic man of about the same age.  In one picture, they were looking deep into one another’s eyes as if they were truly in love.

Marge was stunned.  She had no idea that Eddie was gay or loved the young man she had seen in the photos.

After she stared at the pictures for a while, she started reading back through her Facebook posts and “likes” to see if she had said anything negative about Hispanics or gays.

Related story: Seeing Things Differently

BECAUSE I CAN – RICH PASCHALL

Wayne Messmer Sings, Rich Paschall, Sunday Night Blog

Cubs Win

If you are from the Chicagoland area, or follow the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, you may know his name and his face.  You certainly know his voice.  As far as we are concerned here, he is the best National Anthem singer in the country.  There is no fooling around when Wayne sings.  He delivers the anthem as it was written.  There are no variations to the melody or guitar solos.  He delivers it each time in a rich baritone voice, full of passion and conviction. We consider it a privilege to follow along.  There will be no runs for beer or hot dogs when Wayne grabs the mic and takes to the field.

Wayne Messmer is a multi-talented guy.  His Facebook page introduces him as “Certified Speaking Professional, Singer, Storyteller, Live Entertainer. Chicago guy!”  In addition to singing for the Cubs, Wayne is Executive Vice President and national anthem singer for the AHL hockey team, Chicago Wolves.  He has a Sunday night Jazz and Blues radio program.  He gives live performances around the area.  While doing local theater many years ago he met his wife Kathleen, also a talented singer. They have performed together over the years at stadiums and clubs.

In 1991 Wayne’s dynamic performance of the Anthem at the NHL All-Star game in Chicago was carried around the nation and across Armed Forces networks.  It is still talked about for reasons that will be obvious here.  In the final year at the old Chicago Stadium, 1994, Wayne Messmer, age 43, was a beloved local celebrity.  It all nearly came to an end following a Blackhawk’s home game in April of that year.

Late at night following the game, Wayne left a restaurant and made it to his car in the old Stadium neighborhood.  When he got in his car there was a banging on the window.  Then a shot was fired at point-blank range.  It went through the driver side window, then through Wayne’s throat and lodged in muscle tissue.  Wayne drove off and back to the restaurant where he was found and taken to a local hospital.  Reportedly, one of Kathleen’s first concerns when she reached the hospital was whether Wayne would be able to speak and sing.

A few days later at the Chicago Stadium no substitute would do for the anthems at a Blackhawk’s playoff game.  Wayne appeared on tape.  There was no mistaking the sentiment of the crowd.  It would be the final anthem in that building.

It was a 15-year-old boy who shot Wayne in the failed robbery attempt.  The boy had a 9-mm hand gun.  He was with a 16-year-old accomplice.  It was a tip from another teen that led the police to the suspect.  Once caught, the shooter confessed to the crime.  Messmer underwent a 10 hour operation and was in serious condition after the shooting.  Chicago Wolves spokesperson, Susan Prather, said doctors did not want to speculate on the outcome. “They have no way of telling how this will affect his voice.”  The Messmers were cautioned that it might be a year and a half before they would know how his voice would sound.

The road to recovery was filled with doubt.  Would Wayne sing again? Would he be able to even speak well?  It is impossible to imagine what goes through the mind of someone who makes his living with his voice.  He was determined to succeed.  A quick return would take a miracle.  Wayne tells the story in this brief interview:

A miracle and some luck were on Wayne’s side as he returned to his passion.  He sang at a Blackhawks game six months after he was shot.  He has now sung for 33 consecutive Chicago Cubs home openers.  Sometimes he will take harmony as his wife sings the melody for the anthem, but mostly it is Wayne at the microphone at Wrigley Field when the organ starts to play.

Although I was never in a production with Wayne, we both did shows at Theater on the Lake and I have seen Wayne perform.  We have a number of mutual friends, not just on Facebook, as a result of community theater.  I have met Wayne a few times and can say he is as nice as he seems.  It is always a delight when a good person is a success.

If you asked Wayne now why he continues to sing, he will say “because I can.”  For this veteran performer and Chicago guy with a miracle comeback on his résumé, nothing could be greater than to sing the national anthem at a World Series for the Chicago Cubs.  Yes, he has that miracle on his résumé too.

SEEING THINGS DIFFERENTLY – BY RICH PASCHALL

A Marriage Equality Story, by Rich Paschall


All through senior year of high school, Eddie was telling everyone that he would be going on to college.  He had applied to a four-year university and to a “junior college” just in case he was not accepted or could not afford the university.  He received acceptance from both, a bit to his surprise, actually. While his parents, Edgar and Marge, were naturally quite pleased at Eddie’s acceptance, they advised him almost immediately that there was little they could do to help with the costs of college.  The best they could do was to allow him to continue to live at home for free and could not do much more.

Eddie got a part-time job in the last semester of high school and a full-time job after graduation.  His parents would not co-sign on a loan for the university and showed great reluctance to do so for the junior college.  Even though Eddie thought he could talk his father into signing for his student loan, he had heard all the nightmare stories about student debt and decided to pass on his dreams. When the decision to skip school was made final, his parents advised that an 18-year-old with a full-time job was expected to pay rent.  They did not ask a lot of Eddie, but since he was making little over minimum wage, it was impossible for him to save money for school.

Over the following two years, he kept in touch with some friends from high school, made new friends at work and enjoyed the life of a young man without commitments.

One day Eddie expressed his frustration to his good friend Carlos.  They were best buddies since senior of high school started.  Even though they were very close, he had never introduced Carlos to his parents.  He was not sure how they would treat him and he did not want any problems at home or with his buddy.  His friendship with Carlos was too important to risk any disrespect.

“This sucks,” Eddie said choking back tears, “this absolutely sucks.”

“I know,” Carlos replied, “but it won’t suck forever, you’ll see.  We’ll both have better jobs someday and it will all be good.”  Eddie did not appear to be buying it.  “Come on, man, smile a little.” Carlos made a funny face at Eddie who immediately broke into a big smile.  Eddie was not convinced, but at least Carlos knew how to make him smile.

As the first year after high school turned into the second, Eddie’s fortunes were no better off.  Older adults kept telling him he should join the army.  It was the place for young men trying to make their way.  He would be “whipped into shape.”  His father even chimed in that it would “make a man out of you.”  None of them seemed to realize that Eddie did not need to “find his way.” He needed money for school.

As the second post high school year wore on, Eddie figured out how to get money for school.  One day he told Carlos, “I am going to join the army.”  Carlos was stunned.  He could not believe Eddie would go away.  They discussed it for hours until Eddie convinced Carlos it was the only solution.

“Then I will save money the entire time you are gone,” Carlos announced, “and we will go to school together.  I swear I won’t spend a penny I don’t need to spend until you get back.”

Eddie joined the army.  His parents were proud.  Carlos worked hard.  All thought things were finally moving forward for all, although they did not all know one another.

After boot camp, Eddie returned home before being deployed to the middle east.  He lied about his return so he could spend the first day with Carlos.  When he left he promised to write and post pictures on-line and keep everyone up to date.  He worried how he was going to do that and keep his different circles separate.

After his parents moved to Arizona, Eddie’s mom became active on Facebook and encouraged Eddie to post pictures of his service.  Although there was much he could not show, he did post some barbecue pictures on Facebook that his mother immediately reposted all around and commented on each picture.  Eddie was embarrassed and decided never to do that again.  When anyone took pictures with Eddie in the group, he asked that no one tag him in the picture so no one at home could see them.

When he was on leave he would always fly to Chicago first to visit friends, especially Carlos.  Then he would go on to Phoenix and visit his parents who had finally moved there for a change of weather.  Eddie spoke little about the service and less about Chicago.  He had come to realize through his mother’s Facebook postings and occasional comments to him, that his best course of action to keep peace in the family was to say nothing.

After the service Eddie returned to Chicago, got a job, enrolled in school and became roommates with Carlos.  After saving his money carefully and working as hard as possible, Carlos also enrolled at the junior college, but not in all the same classes as Eddie.  They were chasing different dreams.

On spring break Eddie and Carlos, along with a few other friends, went to New Orleans by train.  One of the boys rented a car upon arrival and they all hung out for a few days.  It was there that Carlos made his move.

“Let’s get married when we go back home,” he said to Eddie.

“What?” his surprised mate responded.

“You are living in sin, you know, if you will not marry me.  I demanded a proper marriage.”  Carlos looked at Eddie with the most serious look he could give him.  Then they both laughed.

“Do you love me?”  Carlos inquired.

“Of course.”

“Then why not?”

City Hall, credit: Chicago architecture.info

City Hall, credit: Chicagoarchitecture.info

When they returned home, they got the license and made their plans.  On a Thursday afternoon, with Carlos’ two sisters joining them, the boys went to city hall.  They were married and the girls took pictures.

Neither Eddie or Carlos had ever been happier.  The sisters had some great pictures and one could not wait to share with friends and family.  She even posted some on Facebook and tagged the boys.

Eddie, however, could not think of anyone else he should tell about his happy day.