I spent the afternoon of this year's Pride Parade with a good friend, perched on beach towels laid on a grassy hill overlooking Lake Michigan and the Montrose Dog Beach. I watched Welsh corgis waddle through the sand, curly-haired poodles reduced to drowned rats until the sun dried them back to puffs, golden retrievers playing fetch in water up to their ears. There was a black-and-white French bulldog that looked like a tiny cow. We sat in our swimsuits on the hill, the sun on our backs, eating paletas from the Hispanic man who rolled his cart past us at just the right time. Mine was tamarind, sweet and sour with chunks of real fruit.
We sat on the hill away from the body paint and glitter, the pink drinks and rainbow flags. And the hot pants. Oh, and the mesh. I'm sure there was a lot of mesh happening.
We knew what we were missing, and we were okay with it. Up until the day before, I'd had every intention of making my way over to Halsted Street and drinking myself into oblivion with the rest of the equal-opportunity revelers.
Then I just…didn't.
I didn't want to deal with the crowds; I didn't want to get smashed. And I didn't want to go without Doug.
We hardly knew each other in 2008. We didn't spend much time together beyond our daily commute: those seemingly eternal eastward bus rides down Irving Park, longer during Cubs season. But we somehow wound up going to Pride together. We met up and headed to his friend Andy's apartment, just off the main parade route, where there were snacks, pink wine, leather sofas and Rock Band.
We alternated between the party and the parade, and after enough glasses of pink wine and something in a tall, glittery plastic cup from out on the street, I ran inside and grabbed the microphone and screamed along with the lyrics to JET's "Are You Gonna Be My Girl?" Which, you know, is funny now that I think about it.
Halfway through the parade, the rain started. Torrential. And we didn't care. We didn't go back inside. No one did.
We just stood there; my white strapless dress was soaked to my skin, my hair slicked back, and I just kept waving my little rainbow flag as the floats rolled by. So many strands of beads around my neck, and one of the best men I'll ever know standing next to me.
I don't remember much from that day, really. We had a lot to drink. But after the parade, we stumbled down Roscoe in the pouring rain to a 7-Eleven on Broadway, where we finally managed to hail a taxi. A bike taxi. In the pouring rain.
Doug rode all the way back to Lincoln Square with me and then back to his place over by the lake. We yelled at cars as they passed us, honking. We were drenched and still waving our flags.
I passed out as soon as I got home.
This year, half of the floats in the parade had their tires slashed the night before, but the show went on, fabulously.
One of my best friends, Lisa, who I met through Doug when we were all still enduring the hellacious daily commute into the suburbs, went to the parade with friends and said she'd proposed a toast (with her pink drink) to him.
I know if I'd gone, he'd have been with me in spirit. But he was at the dog beach in spirit, too. In that little French bulldog, I'm sure.
He's still just everywhere.