Saturday, November 21, 2020

Memorable moments


A friend posted on Facebook, “What is something you've done that you're pretty confident you're the only person on my friends list to have ever done?” The responses flooded in with many amazing things such as:

“I once told Steven Spielberg, to his face, that I didn’t like ET as a kid.”

“Tara Reid once threw a LIT cigarette at me.”

“I waited on Adam Arkin.”

“Shook hands with Pope John Paul II.”

“Attended a callback for Cirque du Soleil as a ventriloquist.”

And “Dressed up as an electric fence for Halloween. (Wrapped myself in silver ribbon and carried a stun gun).”

I posted that I once hugged Tipper Gore and ate dinner in the same restaurant and at the same time as the Chicago Bulls—at least a group of their players including Scotty Pippin and Luc Longley. I’ll elaborate on that and at least one other memorable moment.

When I was in junior high school, I was voted Homecoming King. It was clearly a sympathy vote because I had been injured playing football and was confined to a wheelchair. But at halftime of the game against our rival, Laurel, I was pushed out to the center of the field in a wheelchair—fifty yard line, pushed by my identical twin brother who was in uniform (he was on the team) and accompanied by my queen, Kay Beard, with whom almost every boy in the school had a mad crush. Including me. After we were crowned, Kay leaned over and kissed me. Oh boy!

Three years later, another homecoming game against the same rival, but this time in high school. I was not Homecoming King, nor was I on the team. My knee injury never healed sufficiently for me to play again. But my twin brother was on the team. He was the smallest boy on the team. Laughably small for football. Probably the smallest boy ever to play for the Hattiesburg High Tigers. Normally he was a backup running back, but in this game, for reasons I can’t recall, he was put in as a defensive back forced to cover, at five-foot-three, a six-foot-tall wide receiver. And late in the fourth quarter he made a miraculous leap to intercept a pass and run it back sixty yards for the winning touchdown. It was my moment of glory as well as his, because back then my twin and I thought and acted and felt as one person.

Fast forward to 1996. We were at a PFLAG gathering in Seattle on the same night that the World Champion Chicago Bulls were playing the Seattle Sonics. After our meeting and after the game we went to a hotel restaurant for a late dinner. The Bulls’ team bus pulled up as we were parking, and the players unloaded and went into the hotel. I remember seeing Luc Longley, center, seven-feet tall, duck to go through the door. A group of the players came into the restaurant while we were eating. The great Michael Jordan was not with them. The restaurant was full, and they had to wait for a table. I overheard Scotty Pippin say to one of his teammates, “If Michael was with us we wouldn’t have to wait.”

I’ll bet he was right.

Four years later we went to Washington D.C. for a PFLAG conference and the Millennium March on Washington, a march for LGBTQ rights. Naturally, we didn’t know anyone else on the airplane except for one other person from Olympia. When the airplane got to D.C. and the pilot announced we were preparing to land, he said, “If you’re going to the Millennium March, have a great time,” and the entire plane erupted in cheers. Everyone on the plane was going to the march, and suddenly it was as if we were all old friends. And in the city it was as if all the people in D.C. were old friends. I had never in my life seen so many rainbow flags.

I can’t remember the exact sequence of events, but there was a dinner and a keynote speaker, and entertainment by our friend Steve Schalchlin, who sang for the first time in front of an audience “Gabi’s Song,” a song he wrote about our son Bill who committed suicide after a gay bashing. It was such a wonderfully sad moment, and Gabi and I were smothered with support.
I can’t remember if this came before or after the dinner and Steve’s performance. There was a keynote speech by Tipper Gore, Second Lady of the United States, and after her speech there was a receiving line. Tipper stood behind a rope guarded by Secret Servicemen. One of the Secret Servicemen said “Do not touch the Second Lady. Do not try to shake her hand.”
The line filed past her, and everyone in their turn said hello and thank you, and Gabi whispered to me, “When it’s our turn, I’m going to tell her about Bill.” And she did. And when she did Tipper Gore reached across the line and gave each of us a big hug. You know, I knew hardly anything about her except she was married to the vice president and had headed up some silly campaign against profanity in music. But that moment—Wow! I felt like I imagine that person who said they shook the pope’s hand must have felt.

No comments: