Today I was going to downtown Chicago to watch a World Cup match with some friends. Knowing that I might have a fair amount of drink there I decided to take the train and walk to the train station. I get there to see a ton of people on the platform.
It's Sunday at 9:00 AM. There's never a huge crowd for the train. What's up?
I start to notice a theme. Outlandish clothing, one or two transvestites, glitter, and more than one gay pride banner. Ah, the Pride Parade must be today! Well, that's fun.
The train is late due to "accommodating passengers". It occurs to me at that point that the train is likely full.
My plan to sit quietly and catch up on some reading while I traveled in style downtown was squashed. Instead I crammed into a standing room only car full of really excited people, almost all of which were going to the Pride Parade. Everyone was in such a good mood. People were laughing and nobody was talking shit or looking to start trouble.
I text my friend...
Me: Train is running late. It's also full. Pride Paraders going downtown.
Him: Shit. Did you get on the train?
Me: Yeah. Sat on a dude's lap. He didn't seem to mind.
Him: Don't follow the crowd when you get off the train, come to the bar.
Me: I planned to see a bunch of little brown guys get dominated by some big white guys. Who knew I had multiple avenues to explore that today?
I part with the Pride crowd at the train station and make my way to the pub. I walk in and am greeted by two Dutchmen.
The Dutch: Mexico supporters upstairs. Dutch supporters down here.
Me: Shit, I better stay down here with you guys then.
The Dutch: All right!
We shake hands, I give both of them a slap on the shoulder, and have a quick back and forth about Netherlands chances, but then I have to go and look for my friends, who I admit may be up in the Mexico supporters section.
With two of us are already there and we settle in at a table for six in front of the big TV. Match time is approaching and the rest of our party aren't there. I see a young man and an older woman looking around. I tell my friend we might as well give up a few of the seats, we won't need them anyway. I get their attention and point to the bench next to the table. They heartily accept.
It turns out these two were from Manchester and huge United supporters. A mother and son, he lives in Chicago now, she's visiting for the summer. She could talk about the game in detail the rest of us could only dream about. She knew every squad from the time she was a little girl. It was amazing. The rest of our group shows up and the whole table gets on like we were old friends.
For the most part our English friends were rooting for The Dutch since van Gaal is the new United coach once the World Cup is over. There's also RvP who plays for the national side. But her loyalties ran deep, when Chicharito was called on she let out a cheer, as did everyone in the pub. Despite cheering when the Dutch scored, to the dismay of the overwhelming Mexican crowd, there were no harsh words, no criticisms. We were all friends there.
And this brings me to my point about why I love this country and love where I live. The day starts with a train full of people going to the Gay Pride Parade. No harsh words, no resistance. Everyone's happy. Everyone's going to have a great time. In the pub, watching the World Cup you have Mexicans, Dutch, English, Costa Ricans, Greeks, Irish, Guatemalans, European-Americans, and African-Americans all getting on like we all belong there together... because we do.
I know it's not like this everywhere. I'm sure a Pride Parade goes over spectacularly in certain rural parts of the country. And I doubt many bars in those same places are showing the World Cup and welcoming all kinds of non-white looking people in to enjoy themselves. But one day they will.
I may not live to see something as fantastic as the moon landing, but damn it all I'm going to live to see the day when we can all come together, for any stupid reason, gay, straight, undecided, black, white, Welsh, and enjoy ourselves just because that's what we humans love to do.
There's always a lot of celebrating around a goal in the soccer/football/fútbol/fußball world, but usually only when it's your team scoring. Getting everyone to not be shitty to one another is a goal we can all cheer for.
Now before some elitist shithead reads through this and goes "We have all those same experiences in [insert country], America isn't that great!" This isn't a "my country is better than your country" story. This is a "why I love where I live" story. It's possible to have one person love chocolate ice cream and another love strawberry ice cream without any discussion about which is better. They're both great.