Making Friends at the Grant Park Symphony

I hope the gentleman sitting beside me and my husband last night at Millennium Park doesn't mind my calling him a friend.

The word friend has manifold definitions, and one certainly is in reference to someone you know over time, confide in, grow with.

But the kind of friend I have in mind is that happenstance meeting with a new person, someone who you would probably not have encountered if you weren't sitting next to each other in the rain at the Pritzker Pavilion in Grant Park. It is an incredible Frank Gehry structure that is home, in the summer, to the Grant Park Symphony. Free music in the midst of the city, amazing architecture (see photos by Tanaka here )that mimics an indoor space through an interwoven canopy of steel arches, and a crowd more diverse than the homogeneous audience one frequently encounters at other classical music performances.

Behind me were sitting a group of teenage boys, focusing their manly man competitiveness on who knew which piece of music to be played ("you mean you've never heard Scheherazade???") In front of us, a grey-haired older woman, waiting for her children to join her. When they arrived, she gave up the available seats to them, after carefully drying each off with her kleenex, and then she disappeared, hopefully to find a seat for herself. And her children were adults, but still she wanted to ensure that they had seats even if she did not.

And beside us were three men, two of whom were wearing gold medals from the Gay Games. And one of this group became a friend. We talked about how he won his medal (this is a blog that wants to allow privacy, so I'm not going to mention the event), where he was from, modern music, my daughter's writing, how to telephone solicit for arts organizations without alienating your audience, and dogs.

We sat in the light rain, waiting for the concert to start or the intermission to pass, and had a conversation. So un-Midwestern. I felt lucky. I felt part of a community, sitting in the rain, umbrellas sticking up here and there, people out on a cool summer evening enjoying music, the city, and friends. Even new ones, that we might never see again.