Throngs of Participants Celebrate Marriage Equality at Pride Houston 2015 in City’s Downtown (Hashtag–LoveWins)

Throngs of people await the beginning of Pride Houston's LGBT Parade 2015. Previous years, I would have said

Throngs of people await the beginning of Pride Houston’s LGBT Parade 2015. Previous years, I would have said “lined up,” but there was no lining up for the masses that came to downtown Houston to be part of this event on this historic occasion.

On the heels of the only one-day-old Supreme Court’ announcement of marriage equality for the entire country, Houston was revved up for PrideHouston‘s showcase events, the festival and the parade.  Besides tremendous legal decree, another major change for the Houston LGBT events was the move from the Montrose “gayborhood” to downtown Houston.

i, personally, made some changes.  Although for years, I had lived in Montrose and walked the few blocks to the parade, later I moved a bit further away and had to drive to Montrose, find a parking place, usually many blocks away, and then make the walk to Westheimer Road to view the parade.  Now for last six years, I’ve been 25 miles out in the suburbs and making the effort to go take in all of the parade is an even bigger decision.  I always love the feeling of being amongst “my people,” something that I don’t have out here, but when I think about standing out in the Houston heat and being jostled around by drunk straights, I have doubts about going.

These guys wanted me to take their photo from my perch on the bleachers, and I was happy to comply.  They were just part of the excited, very diverse of parade attendees.

These guys wanted me to take their photo from my perch on the bleachers, and I was happy to comply. They were just part of the excited, very diverse of parade attendees.

Mostly, though, I want to go, and this year, I decided that getting tickets for the Friends of Pride VIP bleacher seating was worth the cost.  In fact, it was.  With an open bar, all kinds of buffet food, incredible music, decent restrooms, and a gift bag to be filled with all kinds of LGBT chucherías.  The bleachers, though further back than the edge-of-sidewalk view that I had always taken in years past was a great vantage point, just across from the main stage, to enjoy all of the parade entries.

In fact, the mood of the event was of tremendous celebration, very much a victory celebration, and obvious harmony among all, even event organizers and law enforcement  I haven’t seen an attendance number estimate but from the throngs of people packing the downtown streets, there must have been many more attendees than last year’s 450,000.  The parade entries were diverse in types, many new ones added to those of previous years, with emotional members that kept giving off their excitement embed by that of all those smushed together along the sides of the streets.  It really was one of the best, perhaps the best, of all the parades I’ve been able to enjoy.

Mayor Annise Parker and wife Kathy Hubbard greet parade attendees. Competition to replace Mayor Parker when she leaves office (due to term limits) appears to be fierce as evidenced by the large number of candidates who appeared in the parade, trying to garner attention and possible votes.

Mayor Annise Parker and wife Kathy Hubbard greet parade attendees. Competition to replace Mayor Parker when she leaves office (due to term limits) appears to be fierce as evidenced by the large number of candidates who appeared in the parade, trying to garner attention and possible votes.

HFD's Ladder Truck 16 carries associated revelers on top as it makes it way down the Pride Houston Parade route.

HFD’s Ladder Truck 16 carries associated revelers on top as it makes it way down the Pride Houston Parade route.

One of the many floats in the parade--I really don't care that from my viewing spot many of my photos weren't very good.  It was a great place to have fun and enjoy the atmosphere of the entrée event.

One of the many floats in the parade with Houston city Hall lit up in rotating rainbow colors in the background–I really don’t care that from my viewing spot many of my photos weren’t very good. It was a great place to have fun and enjoy the atmosphere of the entrée event.

One of the many commercial entries, Kroger brought its bad of groceries to the parade.

One of the many commercial entries, Kroger brought its bad of groceries to the parade.

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The Dog Days of Summer Haven’t Dampened the Spirit of . . . Okra! Try This Easy Skillet-fried Recipe

Fresh garden okra--don't let them get too big, or they'll be too "woody" to eat. Cut them off the plant, wash and dry them, and store them in a plastic bag in the refrigerator until you have a batch to eat.

Here in the latter part of July, my garden is already looking a bit sad and tired, but I’ve learned a lot in this first go-round.  The tomatoes have long since hit their peak, and a couple of those plants will probably meet their maker in the composter this weekend.  The beans are still trying, but now with more rain than we need interspersed with the mid-summer heat, try is about all they can do.  What does love all this hot weather is the

Every kitchen should have at least one cast iron skillet. If it gets rusty from disuse or moisture, don't throw it away. Clean it with steel wool; then wipe it well with a paper towel and cooking oil. It will be ready to use again!

okra.

There are about 20 plants, at varying stages of maturity, not because they were planted at different times, but because some of them were almost crowded out by faster growing tomato and cucumber plants.  Now, though, the okra are the kings of the garden, flowering and producing their pods at a faster rate each day.

I’ll pick more today, and if they continue so prolifically, I’ll try my

A mouth-watering supper with all homegrown veggies: skillet-fried okra, yellow and green beans with bacon, sliced turkey, feta, and tomato on jalapeño and cheese bread from my local Kroger bakery. (This bread is to die for!)

hand at pickling.

Most people who eat okra are more accustomed to either having it batter fried or in gumbo.  On the farm in Kansas, my mom pan-fried the okra in a cast iron skillet.  It was one of my favorite summer vegetables.  I have to admit that I haven’t gotten the “do” on my fried okra anywhere near Mom’s.  Maybe the taste is all in the nostalgia.

A week ago, I tried cooking the okra a bit differently. and I really liked the result.  Instead of putting oil into the skillet, I just cut up one strip of bacon into pieces and fried it.  Then I cut up the okra into the bacon grease and cooked bacon pieces, continuing the rest of the cooking process in the same way as always.  The end result was yummy, if I do say so myself!

Pan Fried Okra

5-7 okra per person

2 tablespoons cooking oil, lard, or bacon fat

3-4 tablespoons flour

Salt and Pepper

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil, lard, or other “grease” in a heavy skillet (frying pan).  When it starts to sizzle, start slicing in the okra, about 1/4 inch slices.  Okra cooks down a lot, so I’d recommend 5 or 6 okra per person.  When the okra is all sliced, keep turning as it cooks.  It will begin to change to a darker green and even “blackened”.  Salt and pepper.  When the okra starts to get a bit “slimey”, sprinkle a couple tablespoons of flour over the cooking okra.  Mix the flour into the okra.  Turn with a pancake turner, and sprinkle the other side with more flour.  Let the okra get crispy on one side before turning again.  Cook and turn until the okra is cooked through.

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.)

View from the Suburbs: Saturday Haircut and Feeling Like an Alien

Driving back into town this morning, I was wondering whether I was ready to give up my regular haircut place.  In fact, I’ve been going to Visible Changes in the Galleria for more than 25 years, with a few detours here and there, when my haircutter had left or I had heard there were greener pastures in some other salon.

It’s a long trip in on a Saturday, when I could sleep in and just head to one of the places that I’ve seen out here in the strip centers, rather than retracing the better part of my Monday through Friday commute to work.  This morning, though, with the weekend morning’s light traffic,  from the gas station just down the road, where I had to fill up, to the corner of Westheimer and Post Oak, only took 15 minutes.  That meant I had extra time to spare.

That meant extra time to wait.  Unless I’m the first cut of the day, waiting is generally par for the course at the salon.  For a long time, I hated the wait, felt I was being cheated out of my time.  The past couple of years, though, I have come to embrace the time I spend waiting for my cutter to be ready.  Time just isn’t so urgent any more;  savoring the moment is more enjoyable than worrying about hurrying on to some other task on the “to do” list.

Sunk down into the comfortable give of the salon’s sofas, I can take in what is to me a metropolitan atmosphere, the edgy look of some of the haircutters, the even-on-a-sleepy-Saturday-morning, casual sense of style of the customers, the tracks of new and old club music playing, and, in particular, a painting of a tree, that I want, some day, to mimic in a quilt.

There’s a feeling of homecoming for me, a return to the old stomping grounds.  I’m one of these people.

I’m comfortable now in my house out here 25 miles from the Galleria.  I have no regrets about buying it, and I’ve met nice, welcoming neighbors, but I have to admit when I go to my neighborhood Kroger or HEB for groceries or Home Depot or Lowe’s for items for the house and yard, I generally feel like I’m in alien territory.  After living in the suburbs for 6 months, I can’t say I feel like I am one of these people.

Maybe, though, like my feelings about time and waiting, this too will change.

Out and About

I really like having a free day, like today. It doesn’t count as a vacation day, isn’t somehow part of the weekend. The rain here has not been bad, constant rain becoming heavier when the squall lines come through. A rain day is different than a snow day; not that we get snow days here in Houston. On most rain days, if it doesn’t last all day or isn’t as bad as expected, like this one with Edouard, you can get out. Since it hadn’t been that bad this morning, I took a shower, pulled out the umbrella, got in the car and headed out just to see how things were. The traffic wasn’t heavy at all, but there were people out; I suppose a lot of people had the day off like me. Most of the stores and restaurants were open, but I noticed that a few places were closed.

I took a little jaunt down to Montrose, the part of town I lived in for a good long time. I like living here by the park, but when I go down to Montrose, because I lived there for so long, I feel like I’m back home. Montrose is what people call the gay part of Houston. It is still, but was more so in the past. These days it’s gotten filled with so many old “yuppies” and “yurbies” (my word–young urbanites) living in all those town houses that have taken the places of the big old house and older apartment buildings, so it’s changed somewhat. It feels like they’ve brought suburbia into Montrose. However, it still has quite a bit of same flavor of the past. I had gotten tired of some of the flavor–the hustlers and druggies and more–and that was one of the reasons I moved.

Here are some shots of my little outing on this rainy day:

Kroger on Montrose--the gayest Kroger in Houston

Kroger on Montrose--the gayest Kroger in Houston

Montrose Blvd.--looks desolate,but there were some cars

Montrose Blvd.--looks desolate,but there were some cars

General Joe's--been eating there for years

General Joe's--been eating there for years

JR's--One of the oldest gay bars in Houston

JR's--One of the oldest gay bars in Houston