Celebrate Your Pride By Taking a Look and Listen to Music from a Couple of New Artists from Down South, Like Way Down South (America)

It’s June.  That’s Pride Month.  Not to mention the U.S. Supreme Court is merely days away from making a momentous decision on same-sex marriage.  Here in Houston LGBT Pride activities are in full swing, culminating with the daytime festival and evening (into night) parade this Saturday, June 27th.  For the first time, these two events will be held in downtown Houston instead of the Montrose area, where the first Houston Gay Pride Parade took place in 1979.  (Find all the details about Houston Pride here.)

To celebrate LGBT pride here on the blog, I decided to introduce a couple of talented artists who have no fear of showing their true selves in their videos.  I found out about these two young Latin American performers thanks to remezcla.com and since my first listen to one video each, their tunes have been stuck in my head.  They are from neighboring South American countries.  Namuel, from Chile, has just put out this catchy single “Babycakes,” and the accompanying video can only be described as “cute and sweet.”  The video here from Jaloo, out of Brazil, also with an LGBT theme, goes with his “Bai Bai.”  This is a cover from a very popular song of a couple of years ago.  I’ll keep you guessing and not spoil it so you’ll listen.  I don’t understand much Portuguese, so I can’t say if the lyrics are the same, but the music in what I’d say is brega-style (I’m just learning about this genre of music, but I might compare it in a way to reggaeton. No matter the style, this tune keeps playing in my head much more than the original, which I really like.

Check out more great work from Namuel and Jaloo on YouTube and SoundCloud, where you’ll find a lot more by these terrific artists.

Happy Pride, y’all!

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DIY Elbow Grease and Ingenuity Is Far More Cost Effective than High-Dollar Service Companies

Hoses to both the refrigerator have to go from the connections under the sink and behind the cabinets.  It would have been easy for the original builder to put connections behind the fridge, as the sink in thehalf-bath is directly on the other side of the wall behind it.

Hoses to both the refrigerator have to go from the connections under the sink and behind the cabinets. It would have been easy for the original builder to put connections behind the fridge, as the sink in thehalf-bath is directly on the other side of the wall behind it.

Readers on this blog might know that it was four years ago this summer that I was in the full throes of the search for my first home, which I bought at the end of October, 2009.  I didn’t want, nor would the VA appraisers approve, a house that wasn’t move-in ready.  Even though the house was about 25 years old, it was  in good shape and built solid.  However, since moving in I have replaced the refrigerator and dishwasher, and last summer’s heat forced a new AC to be installed.

Still there are small jobs to be done for the upkeep of the house.  I don’t mind doing many of these tasks myself like painting or replacing window panes, but when it comes to dealing with most water problems (fortunately, there have been few in the four years I’ve had the house), I’d rather leave them to someone with more experience, as I’m afraid I’ll end up with some bigger mess.

Therefore, when I found I had a little leak coming out from under the dishwasher a couple of weeks ago, I just turned the water off under the sink.  I didn’t really think it was the dishwasher itself, but that it was a leak from the hose to it or the one to the refrigerator.   It didn’t don on me at the time that I had turned off the cold water valve, which goes to the fridge, and that the hot one going to the dishwasher was still open.   Anyway, I thought that whatever the problem was, the dishwasher would have to be pulled out to get to the hose and I wasn’t sure I wanted to deal with that.  For about 10 days, I just washed dishes by hand and drank the awful tasting water from the faucet.

A $22 hose and 10 bucks of connectors were all the replacement parts needed for this job.  John Moore's $729 estimate can be seen next to the drill bits.

A $22 hose and 10 bucks of connectors were all the replacement parts needed for this job.  John Moore’s $729 estimate can be seen next to the drill bits.

This past week when I had some vacation days, I called John Moore (Houston plumbing/AC/electrical repair service company).  They advertise a lot on TV and offer to come to your house and give a free estimate.  The repairman came first thing Tuesday morning, and he did a little looking under the dishwasher and said the leak was coming from the hose to the refrigerator, and said he would give me an estimate.  He went out to the truck for quite awhile and came back with a printout that said $729.  I said “no” that wasn’t going to work for me, and he said that they weren’t the cheapest in town but they did good work.  I had never imagined an estimate anywhere near that high.

One of several new holes that had to be drilled. For whatever reason, the old hose ran through the upper part of the cabinets.

One of several new holes that had to be drilled. For whatever reason, the old hose ran through the upper part of the cabinets.

The one thing that I learned from him was which hose had the leak.  Now I can’t believe I was that naive; just lack of experience mostly.  Since the problem wasn’t something urgent, I decided it could wait, and maybe I could find a more reasonable plumber.   Then I got to thinking about it and looking at where the hoses went through the cupboards and decided the hose from the fridge could go under the dishwasher instead of behind it, so I wouldn’t have to pull it out.

I got a new hose from Sears for $22 and  a couple of connectors from the hardware store for $10 and fixed it myself this morning in about 1 1/2 hours (that’s even including time to check me emails, watch a bit of “Judge TV”, and make a run to the hardware store).  I had to drill new holes at the back of the cabinets, but the hardest thing was threading the hose–I straightened out a coat hanger and attached a copper wire loop at the end to maneuver and pull the hose under the dishwasher, between the cabinets, and through the new holes I had drilled.  I had to get down on the floor in all different positions to do it, so I guess that was the $700 of labor.

Finally, the hose was reconnected to the refrigerator. Afterward, I removed the old hose and cleaned the floor (high time for that).

Finally, the hose was reconnected to the refrigerator. Afterward, I removed the old hose and cleaned the floor (high time for that).

Anyway, so far there are no leaks and now have my cold water and ice back.  I feel pretty good for being able to complete the task myself, but even better for not letting myself get ripped off!

A LGBT Pride Month Story: And A Couple of T-Shirts That Were Saved from the Dumpster

This T-shirt from 1979 came from one of the dances put on by Gay Services of Kansas, at the University of Kansas.

Another hot Sunday is already upon us, and later on, when the driveway gets a bit shaded, I’ll tend to one of the planned weekend chores–washing the car.

The last time I was ready to do the same task, I pulled out a basket of car-cleaning supplies, which I had dumped under the work shelves in the garage when I was moving into my house, a year and a half ago.  In the basket, I discovered three old T-shirts, which I had saved for many

T-shirt from The Hide & Seek Complex in Colorado Springs, Colorado--a souvenir from New Year's Eve 1979.

years for sentimental reasons in the bottom of a chest of drawers.  But like many items whose value changes when a person is making a move, these once nostalgia-filled keepsakes were turned into rags.

The funny thing is that afternoon, I did wash the car with them, even the grimy wheels.  But as I finished my task, and the car was looking all slick again, I decided that these shirts still meant something to me; I wasn’t ready to toss them all wet into the trash dumpster.

One of them–a bright red one–is a souvenir from a trip in 2000 to Chile.  It’s from the Capel Pisco Distillery in the Elquí Valley.  You haven’t lived if you’ve never had a Pisco Sour!

The other two–one black, the other, now a dingy white–are much older.  Unfortunately, the sleeves are cut off and long slits run down the sides, which was part of the look in the early 80s to go with the two pairs of parachute pants that I had.  With a red pair and a black pair teamed up with the slitted shirts, I had four different options to choose from to go out clubbing!

Actually, I had gotten the T-shirts when I still lived in Kansas, so it was probably about three years before I dismembered the sleeves here in Houston.

I got both of the shirts when I was a grad student at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.  (Read more about that here.)  One of them is from one of the dances that the KU gay group used to have in the Student Union.  A bunch of us from K-State would pack ourselves into cars and make the 90-minute drive (more if there were pit stops) from Manhattan to Lawrence.  Though there was a lot of KU-K-State rivalry on the football field and basketball court, the boys and girls didn’t have any time for that on the dance floor!  This shirt came from the 1st Annual Summer Fling, put on by the KU group, Gay Services of Kansas, in 1979.  The KU-Lawrence LGBT community has done a good job of chronicling its history, part of which can be found here, where I verified that my shirt was from 1979.

The other T-shirt is a memento from a road trip I took with a K-State friend to Colorado Springs over the holidays of that same year.  We spent New Year’s Eve at a place called The Hide & Seek Complex, which was the biggest club I had been to up to then.  I don’t remember so much about the physical features of the disco, but I do remember the fantastic pyrotechnic show that shimmered down from the top of Pikes Peak, which we viewed from the patio of the club.  (The Hide & Seek Complex lasted for many years.  From what I can see, it must have closed about eight years ago.)

I also remember meeting many military guys from Fort Carson and a couple from the Air Force Academy itself that New Year’s Eve at that club in Colorado Springs.  Even though it was just a few short years since I had been in the Air Force myself,  I remember thinking, “Oh, if I only knew then, what I know now.” 

Actually, I had a much better situation for coming out, surrounded by college friends, who were basically doing the same thing.  We could, for the most part, enjoy the process with a lot of support from each other, not a situation I could have had in the military.

I guess that’s why I can’t use these T-shirts for car washing; the significance that they have is just too much.  And rather than shove them back in a drawer, I have a room with a lot of my keepsakes on the walls.  Put in frames, they’d go perfect there.

Always Important: Getting the Right Tool for the Job

The Bissell 3-in-1 Vac (The porcelain chicken is not an attachment.)

From time to time on here, I like to recommend (or criticize) products and services that I have purchased or used.  When I first moved from an apartment to my own home, I had to buy quite a number of items that I had never needed previously, especially those used for the lawn and garden.

One task that I had never been satisfied with was taking care of the downstairs floor, which is white (or nearly white) ceramic tile.  This tile was obviously what was put down when the house was built in 1985, and some have suggested that I replace it with wood flooring.  However, since I moved in, the tile floor has grown on me:  the white reflects the light and makes the rooms feel larger than they are, but even more importantly, these floors are one of the big reasons that the downstairs stays so cool even in the heat of a Houston summer.  On the other hand, in the winter, they can be cold, but area rugs with good padding help insultate in places where one sits.   Anyway, staying cool in the summer is a much bigger deal here than staying warm in winter.

The big challenge has been keeping these floors clean.  Light-colored floors certainly show the dirt, but when they are clean, you know they are clean, something you can’t be that certain of with darker floors.  Most of the dirt is what I track in from outside.  Despite having a good, brush-type mat at the back door, pieces of oak leaves and other specks come in.  I don’t think I can blame Annie much for this, but she does like to drag her kibble around, so a bit of the crumbs can be found here and there.

I’ve tried a number of ways to clean the floors.  Most of the dirt is loose, so some type of sweeping is needed more frequently than mopping.  I’ve used dust mops and brooms for sweeping, then a wet mop or the Swiffer.  I even sometimes dragged the cannister vacuum down from upstairs (there’s mostly carpeting up there).  No one method or combination seemed to give the results I wanted, and getting the end results that I wanted also felt like it took more effort that it should.

Finally, after some thought I decided to try some kind of electric broom.  When I went looking, I found many kinds, but the one I picked ended up not costing a lot and does exactly what I want it to do.  For $20 and tax, I brought home the Bissell 3-in-1 Vac.  It’s really just one of those small hand-held vacuums that comes with an attachable handle and a couple of accessories: a floor and rug attachment with wheels and a crevice tool.  It’s corded with about a 12-foot cord.

This is just the tool that I needed for doing quick, efficient cleaning of the loose dirt on the floor.  Though it’s small, it has good suction, enough to pick up loose kibble, pieces of leaves, and other dirt with no problem.  It’s light-weight, so it’s really just the thing for cleaning stray cobwebs from the ceiling corners and molding.   That job takes a lot more coordination and maneuvering when using the long tubes and hose of the regular vacuum cleaner.  One tool I wish had been included is the brush, in order to do blinds and other dusting. 

When the job is done, just dump out the dirt into the trash; there are no bags to replace.  Wrap up the cord, and stow it away until next time.  It’s very compact, you could even store it on the side of the pantry.

It easily snaps together and comes apart, so I’ll be using just the hand-held vac the next time I clean the car.

Take Your Choice of Preachers: Bible Sneaker or Plastic Smiler; Yeah, You Take Your Choice, Not Everyone Is That Naive

Mine is a quiet, one-block, cul de sac street.  In fact, even though a couple of families have teenage kids, I didn’t know it until I had lived in my house for about six months.  Aside from lawn mowers and edgers, the loudest it gets around here is on the rare occasions when the Vietnamese family that lives catty-corner plays Asian music out of their garage.  I’ve gotten to know a few of my neighbors enough to invite to my house or be invited over, but with the rest, it’s mostly a wave here and a “how’s it going” there.

My neighbors across the street fall into the “how’s it going” category.  They are a pleasant enough couple.  I had heard that the husband was a “preacher,” but that didn’t bother me, and they certainly like my dog.  And generally, anybody that likes my dog, I like.

  However, what these neighbors did after I arrived home from  an out-of-town, Christmas holidays trip still colors my view of them.

One night a couple of days before New Years, I was sitting watching a movie and the doorbell rang.  When I flicked on the porch light, there they were smiling, saying they had something for me.  During our quick chit-chat, an aluminum-foil covered paper plate was shoved into my hands; then a few more niceties were exchanged, and they headed back to their house.  I knew when the plate was given to me there was something else with it, but not until I had gotten into my lighted kitchen did I discover what accompanied the somewhat haggard (I love all the connotations that word brings ) plate of candy was a Bible.

It rubbed me the wrong way immediately, and even though a few days later, I threw everything into the trash, including the untouched candy, their little “present” makes me feel uncomfortable when I see these otherwise nice neighbors.  I think it’s pretty presumptuous of people to push off religious materials anywhere, but for neighbors to try to sneak me a Bible takes a lot of nerve, but it’s the kind of thing a lot of religionists do.  They somehow think they know what other people need.  These people don’t know anything about my personal beliefs, but I doubt that they would try to give a Bible to the Sikh family that lives a block away.

I wonder how they’d feel if someone tried to bring them a Koran.  Actually, if I wanted to push the “neighborly” envelope a bit, I’d cook up something tasty and slip a DVD of “Queer as Folk” under it and take over to them.  But, I do think they are decent enough people and are just who they are.

These people are a far cry from another Houstonian preacher, Joel Osteen.  Last Sunday morning, between gardening and coffee, I was flipping through the channels; there he was–with his smile, more plastic and longer-lasting that that of a Miss American pageant contestant.  That, along with the forever-blinking eyes and sing-song, nasal voice, made me click over to another channel in less than 30 seconds, but not before I saw “Joel Osteen Tickets” flash across the bottom of the screen.

It seems like  ever since the Osteen’s bought the Summit (more recently dubbed the Compaq Center), the former home of the Houston Rockets’ games and other sports events, to be his Lakewood Church, Osteen has been on the big-time gravy train.  I knew there were books and all kinds of TV interviews, where he has all kinds of unkind things to say about gay people.  Then last year, he bought a $10.5 million house in Houston’s swank River Oaks.  You’d think what is made from the crowd at the Houston location would be enough to make do.

But follow up on the “Joel Osteen Tickets”, and you find that he’s selling out huge venues, just like Lady Gaga–for Gaga-like ticket prices.  “Discounted” tickets are going for as high as $485 for one “show” in Raleigh, NC.

Do they sell tickets when the pope makes appearances?  I never heard that Billy Graham did, or Oral Roberts, even when he was doing all the laying-on-of hands “healing”.

It sure looks like it’s big business, but for every snake oil salesman, there are the hundreds, or thousands, who want a nip of that snake oil.

I’ll take the Bible sneaker over Mr. Plastic Smile. The former probably has his heart in the right place, but is a bit misguided; the latter is just a salesman, in not too convincing of a disguise, especially when those pockets are so filled up.

Now That April Fool’s Day Has Passed, It’s Time To See How the Garden Is Growing

Annie is always ready to assistant in checking out how the garden is growing. (4-2-11)

When it becomes garden time, this blog could be one of the most boring in all of the blogosphere; however, my little patch helps keep me on an even keel, so I like to add a pic here and there just as a record for myself of what I planted when and how things are growing.

It’s just been about 2 weeks since I put in the last photo, but the entire plot looks so much greener.  The lettuce is still going gangbusters, and most of the beans have started on their second set of leaves.  I didn’t over-plant this year, so I’ve had to go back and drop in a seed or two in places where the originals didn’t sprout.  I have a total of 7 tomato plants and 4 sweet peppers, not counting the 1 volunteer tomato that I discovered a couple days ago; it probably came from the compost that I added last winter.

I need to get in and hoe out the chickweed and elm tree sprouts that would cover the ground if it weren’t for the vegetable plants; however, unfortunately–or fortunately–we have had enough odd showers to keep the garden soil a bit too moist for that task.

The neighbors across the street are having a garage sale, which they started preparing for before 6 AM.  Of course, Annie couldn’t stay settled with the commotion, so we’ve been up since that time; quite early to get up on a Saturday, but I’ve gotten the back patio swept of most of the remaining oak leaves and the nasty pollen crap that they put out in the spring.  I love my shady oak tree, but keeping the patio clean is an almost never-ending story.  Oh well, just like my garden, the patio with its shade-covered pergola is one of my favorite parts of my house.

OK, yes, it’s Saturday, and now 10 AM; it’s time for a shower and out to take care of any number of errands.  Tomatoe cages, for one.  Definitely need more tomato cages.

A View from the Suburbs: Not All the Dips Are in Washington; Here Are a Couple That Everyone at Your Holiday Festivities Will Want To Socialize With

The counter was filled with recipes, and then later filled with the results.

In less than two weeks Christmas will be here. 

I know that I haven’t posted anything for over a month.  I’ve been bummed by the entire political scene and just haven’t even wanted to write about any of that, but there are many other sites that express my viewpoint (check out my blogroll–“Places I Frequent”–esp. Towleroad and AmericaBlog Gay), so “my two cents” would only be just that.

More than anything, I’ve been busy, and with the time change, it’s usually dark when I arrive home from work, so the evenings seem shorter even though the actual clock time is the same as before.  Then too, there was Thanksgiving and an entire Sunday afternoon putting up a storm door on the backdoor, the continual necessity of sweeping up the acorns, and now the leaves, dropping from the otherwise wonderful oak tree which shades my house and patio.  More recently, another birthday decided to pass my way.

But most of my time has been spent preparing and decorating my house for a holiday open house for my colleagues and friends.  I had never gotten myself together to have a party after I had bought my house and moved in, now more than a year ago.  So as my mom used to say, “It was ‘high time.'”

I think my house looks plenty “Christmasy,” not over-decorated, but something in every part to say “tis the season.”  The dining room window is just the place for the tree, a white one trimmed in red and gold.  (Take a peek at the banner above.)

This was my first big party in years, so, of course, I overdid it.  Every evening for more than a week, I was cooking or baking something–9 pounds of meatballs, a turkey, even a roast made on the barbeque, plus a variety of cookies, a sugar-free fruitcake, queso and chips, some dips, and who knows what else.

I had dug out my recipes, wanting to make things I hadn’t had the chance to for years.  A couple of the dip recipes are even better than I had remembered.  And if you want to try them both, you can make them both, one right after the other, and only have to clean up the food processor once!

This first one is so good it will knock your socks off!

Beau Monde Dip

  • 12 ounces sour cream
  • 12 ounces mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons minced onions
  • 2 tablespoons Beau Monde spice (I used Spice Islands brand)
  • 3-4 tablespoons fresh dill (my recipe calls for 2 tbsp. dry dill weed but I think the fresh dill is what makes this dip so good)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh or dry parsley (I used dry)
  • 1 large unsliced round loaf of pumpernickel rye bread (if you can’t find pumpernickel, any kind of heavy, coarse bread will do)
  • 1 small sliced loaf of pumpernickel rye bread

I used to mix this up in a bowl, but it’s super easy using a food processor.  Put a couple of green onions into the processor and pulse into fine pieces.  Add a generous handful of fresh dill and pulse again.  (If you’re using fresh parsley, pulse it in now.)  Add the sour cream and mayonnaise, then the Beau Monde spice and dry parsley.  Pulse until well mixed and the color is consistent.  Refrigerate at least 2 hours before serving.

Just before your party starts, hollow out the center of the round loaf of bread with a knife to form a “bowl”; be careful not to cut through the bottom of the loaf.  In fact, leave at least a couple of inches of bread on the sides of “the bowl.”  Put the “bread bowl” on a large plate or platter.  Cut or tear the bread removed from the center into pieces to be used for dipping and place them around the bowl.  Cut or tear more pieces from the second loaf for additional bread for dipping. 

Most people love the dill taste and using the bread makes a nice change from chips.

This second dip recipe is a great alternative to traditional guacamole.  Not only is it easy–and tasty–but it will last in your refrigerator for a week and won’t turn brown.

Guacamole Cheese Dip

  • 2 large avocados
  • 1 8-ounce package of cream cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • 2-3 green onions
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Pulse the green onions into fine pieces.  Add the rest of the ingredients and pulse until smooth.  Refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.