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I ride backpack on Sister Scatterpin’s Heavenly Harley, the two of us heading to Chicago for Gay Games VII. Sister keeps to an ecumenical 85 mph on I-94, with a meditational rosary pullover at Belleville’s Cracker Barrel.
Tidbit over a low-fat pancake breakfast — side of bacon, ham, sausages and fries for sister
“In my day I was known as the Pole Vaulting Nun at our Renegade Sisters of Mary Convent intramurals with Vassar College,” said Sr. Scatterpin. “I cleared 7′ 2″ — without wimple, of course.”
“I’ve vaulted many a pole as well myself,” I responded.
“I’d rather not go there,” she said. “Pray, child, pass the maple syrup.”
In spite of an hour’s sheeting rain, we arrive safely — if somewhat damp — in just under four hours, and register at the Hilton Hotel for the ‘Gaymes,’ as they’re affectionately called. While Sister heads to the powder room, I, somewhat soaked, chat with welcoming registrar Jessica Waddell, daughter of Gay Games founder, Dr. Tom Waddell.
Blonde Jessica, a cheerful 22, moved to Chicago two months ago. She’s hosted four gaymes. A fine arts grad, painter and sculptor, Jessica wears an ancient Greco-Roman coin on a silver neck chain: Persephone, goddess of harvest.
Sr. Scatterpin returns, dry as the Jordan Desert, and gives Jessica a quick, hoedown Hail Mary hug. Sister signs up for the International Recovering Catholics badminton team (Thursday’s meet against the much-favored Anglican Birdie Schismatics).
In the lobby, trim and handsomely gray Olympic Gold Medalist Greg Louganis heads for the elevator with six-month-old Great Dane, Olympia, the dog’s tail wagging metronomically. I say “hi” for BTL. Sr. Scatterpin beats time beatifically.
Take Sister to Charlie’s on Broadway at Halstead, meeting Detroit friends Jim Murray and partner Tetsuo, for two-steppin’ and line dancing. The place is packed. Stunning two-steppers. Sister and I wow cowpokes with a sensuous shadow dance — she leads, I nestle. At Billy Love’s just around the corner Sister sings karaoke — “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” — Not a dry-eyed queen in the place.
SATURDAY (early p.m.)
While Sister suns the Belmont Rocks, I collect freebees at the Gay Games Expo area at the Hilton. There, I run into 268-marathoner and BTL cover guy Dr. Bob Shimmel; 2002 ballroom dance silver medal winners Sue Garrety and Karen Pepper; lesbian bodybuilder Lori Forrest — who at 43 is in perfect biceptual shape — and HRC Board member Michelle Brown with partner-to-be, Ojetta (the lucky pair just won an all-expenses-paid Olivia cruise to Hawaii. O-lei!).
Sister and I arrive at Soldier Field at 6:30. She passes out condoms, lube, scapulars to five Bible thumpers haranguing folks. I head for the press box. Sister joins 130-member Team Michigan. The sun sets at 8:45. Thousands are gathered below me waiting for 12,000 athletes to parade jubilantly on to the well-tonsured playing field.
I watch participants from 65 countries, including the U.S., proudly march, walk or run into view (actually 64: Croatia’s team missed the plane). From my press box vantage it seems I’m seeing assembled a visual Victory Garden: vibrating spectrum colors, banners, flags, glittering costumes. It’s a vast array of human, energetic and a little wilted – 96 degrees – “flowers.”
As final team members flood on to the field in rallying waves — 1,200 Chicagoans — there comes a hush of eager expectation. The stadium darkens completely. And, s if by magic — our kind of LGBT magic — the neat rows of long-standing athletes, holding thousands of tiny colored lights, turn the Victory Garden into a radiant, blazing, glorious — we’re here; stand up and cheer — rainbow flag!
Service for two at Our Lady of Recovery, Help of Repeat Performers.