Saturday night in the pouring rain, it was warm and welcoming at the 19th Century Club where a crowd turned out to mark the 30th anniversary of the Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association+. If there was a happier place to be Saturday evening, I’d be surprised.

The , I presume, is acknowledgment of the widening ways we gradually are coming to understand our complex and amazing sexuality and more fluid identity. Adding a is simpler than expanding an acronym that a lot of us have trouble pronouncing in the first place. 

OPALGA is among Oak Park’s most defining organizations. Over three decades it has sparked enormous change in Oak Park and environs. Attitudes toward gays are radically more open. Laws and norms just short of laws have been rewritten locally and, with OPALGA’s heft, across this state. 

As Bekah Levin, the evening’s emcee, made plain in her succinct history of OPALGA, none of this happened by accident. There was and is a gay agenda, and isn’t that just the way of civil rights? 

Levin also acknowledged that this is an aging group. Happily, largely, aging in place. But while the membership averages AARP-age, the good work of OPALGA these days is nearly entirely youth focused.

How powerful was it to hear two young women from OPRF’s Spoken Word articulate the pain, determination and grace of their coming out. How great was it to hear first from a young man, one of 10, who received college scholarships this year from OPALGA, and then to hear the demand from the audience that the three young women at his side also tell their stories.

You can’t have a gala without handing out an award or two. Saturday night Michael Rosanova was honored with a Founders Award (named in honor of the late Mel Wilson). The other Founders Award went to the village of Oak Park for what the group called its “embrace of the struggle for LGBTQ rights, often leading the way.” 

That’s a fair statement. In ways similar to its openness to racial integration, Oak Park government and its voters, through virtue and self-interest, have been early and brave on gay rights. 

Given the current tensions and divide, the sheer loudness over equity on this village board, there were a few murmurs in the room Saturday at this milestone honor to village government. Perhaps it will be a spur to the current board and its staff to be braver and bolder on equity, and therefore the rightful recipients of OPALGA ‘s honor.

What happened to Madison Street?: You notice all that white paint on Madison Street? Now that most of the lines and squiggles have been drawn, it is high time to be either outraged and head to Facebook, or, to say, you know, its odd, but it just might work.

As I parked, seemingly, in the middle of the road this morning near the 7-Eleven to buy my morning Sun-Times, I felt a little exposed leaving the old Subaru hard between one lane of traffic and all that striped up empty space toward the curb.

Made sense for the first time that the bike lane is the one nearest the curb. Then there is some sort of buffer space so that passengers decamping from cars don’t “door” passing cyclists. The parking lane is next and then that single puny traffic lane.

(This is the traffic pattern from Oak Park Avenue to Austin. On the narrower portion of Madison from Oak Park to Harlem the bike lane jumps to the traffic side of the parking.)

Well, how great to have a bicycle lane on one of Oak Park’s main east-west pathways. Slowing down car traffic on what was — come on admit it — a speedway, is a good thing. I’m willing to give it a try, though I do miss the giant flower pots.

Join the discussion on social media!

Dan Haley

Dan was one of the three founders of Wednesday Journal in 1980. He’s still here as its four flags – Wednesday Journal, Austin Weekly News, Forest Park Review and Riverside-Brookfield Landmark – make...