Houston Gay Pride Parade 2010

Mayor Annise Parker and partner Kathy Hubbard (facing camera) head up the Houston Pride Parade 2010

Give credit to the full moon if you want, but more likely it was not only great planning, but also the fact that Houston in the past year elected one of its own gay citizens as mayor, that made 2010’s Gay Pride Parade one of the most lively and quite well attended by a very diverse group of spectators and participants.  (From my own point of view, this parade was the best one since I began attending in the early 80s.)

Mayor Annise Parker, who was one of the honorary parade marshalls, and her partner Kathy Hubbard rode in one of the lead convertibles, and having a gay mayor seems to have positively affected many aspects of the parade.  There were many more elected officials in the parade than ever before.  And while, yes, it is an election year, I got the feeling that many of them were there because, now with a gay mayor, it’s “OK” to take part in the parade, and they also see the value of gay voters.

Tomo boys selling beer give some pre-parade interest

The parade entries represented a much broader spectrum than I’ve ever seen, from the traditional motorcycle and leather groups to businesses including a funeral home disco bus to a wide range of religious groups including Buddhists and (I think) pagans.

Starting at 8:45 PM, the generally smooth-moving parade ran just at about 2 hours, with very few people leaving early at has been the case in some years when the parade lost momentum because of long breaks between entries.  Many more floats and vehicles had pulsing music blasting out to the onlookers, of gay, straight, young,

Early spectators finding a spot to enjoy the pre-parade atmosphere in front of Bambolino's Pizza

old, sober, drunk and many other types, who were happily moving to the beat and catching tossed beads.  However, unlike last year, the atmosphere this year was one of festivity and communal enjoyment among among parade participants and spectators alike, rather than just a mad scramble to get the “loot’ tossed from the floats, as was my take on last year’s event.

Putting the final barriers in place before the parade

The metal barriers put along the streetsides were a better deterrent for keeping people from running out among the floats and other parade vehicles for dropped trinkets.  The parade volunteers did a good job of tossing misdirected beads out to viewers, and the police seemed to stay on task of keeping everything safe without

I'm not exactly sure what was happening, but I turned around and encountered this scene.

interacting a lot with parade goers.  This year there were no police on horseback out patrolling the street, after last year’s accident in which a woman watching the parade was trampled by a police horse.  Though one of the surprises of the evening was when I turned around and seven or eight of them were lined up behind me  on the corner of California and Westheimer.

Taquerias Arandas' mascot gettin' down to the beats from the Fuse float

One of the great things about the parade this year was seeing the broad mix of people both viewing and participating in the parade.  This diversity, somewhat due to the popularity of Mayor Parker, shows that more and more Houstonians see gay people and gay events as part of the entire Houston community, not “apart from” as has been the case in the past.

Houston Fire Department ladder truck, topped with reveling firefighters

(Though I have to admit, the photos I’m posting may not be as diverse as the event itself.  My blog–I’ll post what I like. I’ll upload more later.  Come back.)

The parade has changed and gotten larger, but one of the charms is that the floats and placards are, for the most part, created by the organizations themselves, not commercially made.  This “realness” adds even more connection between parade participants and spectators and makes for an even more festive atmosphere.  (“Festive”–that’s a gay word, ya know.)

KRBE and other stations brought the beat to the street

Link for post and photos of Houston Pride Festival (daytime)

Budweiser Beer Boys

Bead Vendor and Queer & Asian Houston (What more do I need to say?)

Bicycle Patrolman and Gay Asians and Friends (Houston--the city big enough for Gay Asians and Queer Asians (Now how much more diversity could one want?) But guys, you're really going to have to work hard to beat the Hello Kitties from last year.

Previous mayor of Houston and now gubernatorial candidate, Bill White, strides down the parade route, as he had done when he was Houston's highest official.

Always a place in the parade for some Pacific Street muscle--some of the crew from the Charles Armstrong Enterprises float (JR's, Montrose Mining Co, Meteor. and South Beach)

Stonewall Democrats prefer ass to elephant--(gotta love that)

Some "cueros" carrying the banner for Crystal Night Club

Out Houston City Council member, Sue Lovell

One of the best dancin' groups of the night--Gay Buddhists--I think, but not sure--my bad.

Where else but Montrose? Where else but the Gay Pride Parade?

Bubbling up with Bunnies on the Bayou and M2M Fashions

Part of the large Continental Airlines contingent

The full moon presides as the parade proceeds down Westheimer

   See story and photos of 2011 Pride Parade here.

Houston (Gay) Pride Festival 2010

Houston Gay Men's Chorus performing at the (Gay) Pride Festival 2010

Trekked into town around 1 PM to check out Houston (Gay–the word they don’t seem to want to put in the name) Pride Festival 2010.  I was surprised at how many people were already setting up lawn chairs and sun shades along Westheimer, apparently claimstaking their spots for the parade, which is to start at 8 PM this evening.

Pride Festival in the heart of Montrose

The number of booths appeared somewhat larger than last year, but the heat radiating from the asphalt from the burning Houston sun bore down just as fiercely as last year. It’s good to take a gander at the organizational booths, other community exhibits, and vendors, but under the noontime

Crowd venturing inside out of the sun to see the History and Art Exhibit

sun, about a half an hour is all that I’ll stand; this year proved a bit different because the entertainment on the stage was quite good.  One way to beat the heat was to get inside at the History and Art Exhibit.  In addition, special thanks definitely have to go out to Walgreen’s, who had people stationed around the festival handing out green bags with an icy bottle of water inside, not to mention a 15% coupon.  This is just my comment and not any kind of advertisement, but Walgreen’s and “Disco” Kroger have long been part of what makes Montrose unique.

Houston Pride Idol Winner Brittni Jackson

The Houston Gay Men’s Chorus did a couple of highly entertaining numbers, followed by contestants from Pride’s Gay Idol, the winner of which, Brittni Jackson, has a voice which could compete with most on TV’s American Idol.

The festival goers seemed in a celebratory mood, but when I looked

Radio host, Special K, (probably most well-known out Houstonian, second only to Mayor Parker) MCing part of the state events

Attendees groovin' to the stage entertainment

around at the people there in the heart of Montrose, a wave of nostalgia came over me of the long-since gone Westheimer Street Festival.

Today’s Houston Chronicle says the predictions for this evening’s parade might go as high as 250,000 attendees, partly owing to Houston having  Annise Parker, the recently elected, openly gay mayor.  Thinking about how early I might have to go back into town to find parking and the thunder booming outside,  I’ll have to make a decision, but the few times that I haven’t gone, I felt like I was missing something.

But hell, I bought a new shirt to wear.  Yep, I’m still gay.

(Check out post about Houston Gay Pride Parade here.)

11 and a Half Inches, Right There in Front of My Face

Yes! Eleven and a half inches! along with rest of this evening's takings from the garden.

Bending over, pulling back the leaves on the bean plants to see if there were enough for a mess, I turned my head , and saw hanging from the trellis, among the thick foliage a huge cucumber (11 1/2 inches–I measured it!).  I was surprised not only by the size, but that there would be even one cucumber mature enough to pick.  Only a couple of days ago, I had pulled up the only other cucumber plant because it was yellowing and drying up.  I had rescued just one small, somewhat shriveled cucumber from that plant before its demise.  This other plant has been blooming for quite some time, and its vines have begun to trail down from the trellis and all over the rest of the garden, but only in the last few days have I been able to spy a couple of small inch-long cukes.

It took me just seconds to grab the big cucumber, pull up a couple of green onions, and pluck a ripening tomato from its vine.  I knew what I was going to do with it!

Make a Greek salad!

This salad made with fresh tomato, cucumber, some onion, feta cheese, a shake or two of pepper, with oil and vinegar splashed on has been my favorite since my Air Force days in Greece (see more here).  A neighborhood pizza place just around the corner from my apartment in Glyfada was almost my home away from home and where I often had a big Greek salad, and a delicious pizza, something that ruined me on American pizza for a number years after I got back to the U.S.

My salad tonight tasted almost as delicious as the Greek salad that lives in my memory.  There were already a couple of tomatoes I had picked earlier in the week waiting to be cut up, added to the rough chucks of cucumber, bits of onion, and the feta cheese that had been waiting in the fridge for this occasion.  I have to admit that instead of vinegar and oil, I use Kroger’s Greek dressing, which I like even better.

Oh, and I don’t care what you’ve been served in restaurants; I never had one Greek salad in Greece with lettuce in it.

Watering To Welcome in Summer

Kitchen Garden 6-19-10 (Too bad the sunflower doesn't show up; it's taller than the fence now.)

Another week, another garden pic. The week itself has been busy, but routine.  For all the watering I’ve been doing, my water bill only went up $15.  Since this is my first summer in the house and also because we haven’t had that much rain, I didn’t know how I’d fair after putting all the water on the lawn and garden.

The garden looks lush and green, but the production hasn’t been all that good, although in reality, maybe better than I had expected.  One tomato plant has more tomatoes than all the rest combined, the beans have just produced a mere handful at each of the three pickings, and the cucumbers seem to shrivel on the vine after they get to be about an inch or two long.   I knew, though, going into it, that the soil was pretty awful, which makes me surprised that the plants have grown as well as they have.

Fresh Garden Salad

I had to take a picture of the one salad that I’ve had with everything from my garden–a simple dish of tomatoes, cucumber, and bits of onion.

Next weekend, I plan to slather on the sunscreen and head into town for the Gay Pride street festival when it starts in the morning and then go back for the parade later that evening.  I’ll post photos here; I have to see how the new camera does with night shots!

You Wanted It–You Got It: More Garden, and How About a Chainsaw?

Garden back of the garage (6-12-10)

A couple of pics I want to get in before it gets too late.  I realize I haven’t put in a picture of my garden for a bit.  These are really more for me just to see how everything is growing because I know I’ve been too impatient.  Now, though, I see I’ve really overplanted my little patch.  The rows really no longer exist because everything has grown together.  I’ve been picking about a tomato a day from my several plants, and a few beans here and there–enough for a couple of delicious meals.

My "Butch" Chainsaw and the Remaining Pieces of the Tree

A week ago Sunday, the dead tree that had been in the back yard decided to come down on it’s own, before I could use my tax refund to get someone to come do it.  Luckily the tree was so dry and rotted that it sort of telescoped down without doing any damage, except for two fence pickets, which g0t the tops broken off when the tree fell.  Part of the upper branches went into the neighbor’s yard, but they had them cleaned up before I could even offer to do anything about it.  Monday, I went out and made my “butch” purchase–a chainsaw.  I don’t suppose the Poulan 14-incher is all that butch, but it worked very well at cutting up the old tree, which took me two evenings after work to finally get all cut up into pieces I could take out for the trash truck to pick up.  The electric chainsaw was $49 at Sears and the pickets were less than $2 each, so for about 55 bucks and a lot of sweat I got rid of the eyesore in the back yard.  Not bad I’d say.

I really don’t know much about chainsaws, so realizing that after cutting up this dead tree,  all I’d probably ever use one for would be to cut smaller branches from my other trees, I decided upon this small electric Poulan.  I like it a lot.  Except for adding oil, it came basically ready to use, is easy to handle, and cut that old tree up with ease.

Soccer–Football–Or Whatever–It Needs More Points and More Commercial Breaks (Stand In Line To Complain, Chumps)

The Brits kicked this game around the world when they had the “empire where the sun never sets”, but I’ve tried my best and still can’t see much in soccer, the sport others demand we call “football” and get pissed off when we won’t.

And now it’s World Cup time again, and millions of people in countries with GNPs that can ill afford more non-productive work days (How many have they already taken off for the innumerable saints’ days?) are spending days on end not going to work or attending school so that they can watch 22 guys chase a white ball back and forth across the field for 90 minutes in hopes of  catching someone–anyone–getting it into the goal.

Those that love it–not native-born here I assure you–have told me, “Oh, you don’t understand the techniques, the finesse.”  But I’ve tried.  And soccer goes into the same category with a marathon race and golf, that just are plain deadly to watch.  Except, at least, with a marathon and golf, you know in the end there’s going to be a winner.  But in soccer–yes, soccer, damn it–the game could end in a tie, or draw, as they like to call it.  I mean isn’t that what sports are all about?  Having a winner.  And a loser.  Or losers.  After all, if there’s no winner or loser, it isn’t really a sport; it’s just exercising.

But with this game, these guys can do their ball-chasing for the required 90 minutes and–time extra, and there could still be a tie.

Look what happened this past Saturday in the much touted game between the USA and England (Why is the country Great Britain, but Scotland, and maybe Wales, or even Northern Ireland, for all I know, could have a team in the World Cup?) .  The game ended in a 1-1 tie, but the Englanders went away with their tails between their legs boo-hooing because they hadn’t won and the Red, White, and Blue took to field proudly crowing,”Well, at least, we didn’t lose.”  To top it off, the English goalkeeper caught all kinds of hell for losing the game, while the American goalkeeper was lauded as the best player on the field.  But the game ended in a tie.  Go figure.

During that same 90 minutes, I went to run errands–shopped for groceries, picked up my laundry, and mailed off some bills.  Accomplished some things.  When I got back home, though, the score hadn’t changed much. (Come on guys.  Make more points, increase the size of the net or something.)

And the World Cup is just as predictable as the Miss Universe Pageant, which is just as boring and worthless in my books.  With that beauty competition, you know that every other year, Miss Venezuela is going to get the crown, and with the World Cup, it’s going to be either Germany or Brazil, unless Italy can squeeze one out.

Oh, well, maybe all the shirts and other paraphernalia sold will help those other countries’ GNPs, unless, of course, all that stuff is made in China.

Matthew Mitcham, Getting Funky, and Wins Another Gold in China, Soon To Be in Cologne for Gay Games

Matthew Mitcham and Funky Trunks

Over the weekend, the Australian diver, Matthew Mitcham picked up his second gold medal in China.  The 10-meter winner of the Beijing Olympics this time grabbed the gold in the same event in the FINA World Cup in Changzou, China, once again beating out Chinese competitors for the top place.

In other Mitcham news, the Gay Games will be starting in Cologne, Germany at the end of July and the Olympic Gold Medalist will be attending.  However, Mitcham will be there in support of the the games themselves, making appearances, but not competing.

Perhaps he will be appearing in his Funky Trunks . . . because the Australian diver has signed on to become a spokesperson/model for the swimwear company that like Mitcham hails from the “land downunder”.