“Paris” is the closest experience to “Pulse” (the gay bar in Orlando) I can relate to. Twenty-five years ago, when Mim and I still lived in Chicago, occasionally we would go with a couple friends to “Paris,” a lesbian nightclub on the mid-north side of Chicago. The four of us would sit at the bar, sip on a glass of wine or an imported non-alcoholic citrus flavored sparkling water, try to carry on a conversation over the loud music, and watch dozens of women dancing together. We never ventured out on the dance floor ourselves, because growing up in a Methodist family who considered dancing sinful, I didn’t know how to dance. Going to “Paris” wasn’t our favorite means of socializing, but there’s no doubt we could feel the positive energy in the room. It felt good to be in a place where we weren’t afraid to be identified as gay. Even though we didn’t know most of the people, there was a definite sense of community in the room.
We visited with friends in our home – or theirs – more often than we went out to bars, but there were three other bars in Chicago that we frequented more regularly than “Paris.”
When I was going to grad school a couple evenings a week, sometimes Mim would meet me after class and we would walk to “Sherlock’s Home.” The atmosphere was just as I imagined a personal library in an old English mansion to be like. There was no bar to sit around. Instead the darkened room was scattered with small groupings of leather wingback chairs, end tables, and floor lamps. The walls were lined floor to ceiling with old hardcover books. Mim and I would usually share a plate of French bread, baked brie, and fresh fruit along with a couple glasses of wine as we talked about our days. It was a good way to unwind at the end of very busy days.
Whenever we had out-of-town guests, and we thought they would enjoy seeing the more elegant side of Chicago, we would take them to the lounge of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel atop Water Tower Place downtown. The lounge was like a very large living room with lots of groupings of sofas, easy chairs, and coffee tables. Each coffee table had a crystal dish filled with mixed nuts (no peanuts!). One wall of the room was all glass, revealing magnificent views of the “Magnificent Mile” – Michigan Avenue lined with Chicago’s most exclusive shops. There was a grand piano in the room, and usually a pianist was playing Broadway tunes.
“Moody’s Pub” was our most usual bar to go to. It was a neighborhood bar that had the best burgers anywhere. We’re still trying to find a bar in Wisconsin that measures up to the standard they set. We went there often enough that George, the waitress, knew what we wanted and brought us a bottle of our favorite wine when she came to confirm our order of two cheeseburgers, medium and medium well, no onion and extra pickles.
Although I grew up never darkening the door of a bar, I have learned that bars play an important role in our lives – a home away from home to get together with friends, share a meal or a drink, and enjoy each other’s company. A bar is a place of comfort, as well as a place for excitement. It’s a place to get together with like-minded souls.
The people who gathered at “Pulse” in Orlando last Saturday night – people who were celebrating their God-given gift of being created gay – suffered a terrible loss. A hundred of them were injured or killed by one person shooting a highly efficient assault weapon. And in addition to the tragedy of those deaths and injuries, thousands, even millions of people worldwide suffered a loss in their sense of safety. Is it safe to go to a gay bar any more? Is it safe to participate in a gay pride parade in any city – even Madison? Is it even safe to go to school? Or church? Or a movie theater? Can we feel safe anywhere outside of our homes?
Personally, I feel pretty safe living in Cambridge, Wisconsin. But I know I would feel safer if we had better gun control laws. I would also feel safer if we as a society made it a priority to learn to respect people who are different from us – a different race, a different nationality, a different sexual orientation, a different religion, a different socio-economic status… I would feel much, much safer if we placed a higher priority on loving our neighbor.
One of the Psalms we sing fairly often at Messiah Lutheran Church is “Psalm 27: The Lord is My Light.” Here are the words as we sing them.
The Lord is my light and my salvation,
of whom shall I be afraid, of whom shall I be afraid?
The Lord is my light and my help; whom should I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; before whom should I shrink?
There is one thing I ask of the Lord; for this I long:
to live in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.
I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living;
hope in God, and take heart. Hope in the Lord!
Text: Psalm 27:1-2, 4, 13-14; David Haas
Music: David Haas ©️1983, GIA Publications, Inc.