It’ll Be Hot in More Ways than One: Pride Houston 2013

pride-2013-fotoSaturday’s temps are to be near or at 100, but Houston’s Pride Celebration 2013 is sure to be even hotter!  The theme this year is “Pride Unleashed”.

The pride festival, with booths and entertainment, starts at 1 PM very near the corner of Montrose and Westheimer.

Parade goers might get a bit of a respite from the heat as Houston’s unique night time event begins at 8:15, heading down Westheimer from near Dunlavy Street.  With this past Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling knocking down DOMA and getting marriage equality back on track in California, it’s likely that the number of attendees will be even greater than the approximately 325,000 from previous years.

Look for much more about Houston Pride here.

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Happy Gay (LGBT . . . and Q, if you must) Pride 2011! Houston, Today Is the Big Day

I just got finished doing the lawn.  After the almost 2 inches of rain this past week, the grass finally grew enough that I could mow it, only about the third time this year, because of all the dry weather.

Now I’m about to jump into the shower (pretty scummy and drenched after being out there puttering) and then head into town to check out the Pride Festival.  If you looking to go, it takes place near the corner of Westheimer and Montrose, starting at 1 PM and going ’til 7.

Everyone should be in a good mood, and I expect even more people will be out this year because of the big marriage equality victory in New York state last night.

The parade begins this evening at 8:15 PM, near the corner of Dunlavy and Westheimer and heads down Westheimer.  Parking is along the side streets, but expect to walk further, the later you arrive.

More information about all the events can be found here.

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.)

View from the Suburbs: Quest for the Best Mexican Restaurant

Discovery of the weekend--Tostada Regia--on N. Gessner, Houston, Texas

If Prilosec is doing its job, Mexican food is my favorite, and when I lived “in town”, I’d get my fix about once a week.

My FFMP (forever favorite Mexican place) in Houston is El Paraiso, right in the heart of Montrose, on Fairview.  I started going there not long after I moved into Montrose in 1984.  Even through all these years, the great quality and homecooked taste of the food have never changed.  There’s even one waitress who has worked there since the days when I started eating at El Paraiso, and she still looks the same as she did “back in the day”.  It’s a favorite of business people and other workers for lunches, but starting later in the afternoons, every “type” of person you might encounter in Montrose might be represented among the clientele, and the atmosphere is one of the friendliest around.

When I moved near Memorial Park, I soon discovered El Rey at the corner of Washington and Shepherd.  Though the small interior can get crowded, nothing can beat going through the drive thru for either tacos al pastor or una torta.   Even jostled around in a styrofoam box, the portions are large and delicious.  El Rey’s frijoles a la charra are some of the best.  Since I moved out this way, there’s an empty lot about a mile away that says, “El Rey–Coming Soon”.  I keep wondering, “How soon?”

For the most part, I’ve been eating at home since I moved out here to the ‘burbs.  My kitchen is spacious, and I find that usually I’d rather make something for myself instead of going out.  There’s most every kind of fast food place and a wide variety of ethnic restaurants within a very short drive.  Even so, I haven’t ventured much beyond McDonald’s and a couple of Chinese buffets.

But for about the last month, I’ve been needing my fix of Mexican food.  Even though I’ve made some myself, it’s just not the same.  There’s every type of Mexican food place that one might imagine, from the mobile stands to chain restaurants.  With my taste buds hankering for some flavor, I’ve decided I have to try one new place every week.

There are several Mexican places right near the corner of Eldridge Road and S. H. 529, all in the strip centers that line that corner. I’ve tried two so far, Taqueria El Monarcha and Lupita’s Restaurant, both of which advertise themselves as estilo Michoacan.

First, I tried Taqueria El Monarcha.  Despite being in a storefront building, the place has a bit of character and the staff were attentive.  I ordered asado de puerco (roasted pork).  The meat came in the form of small pieces of meat, cooked almost to the point of being burnt, but were just crunchy and delicious.  The plate came with plenty of hot tortillas, good portions of refried beans and rice, and lettuce and tomato for any tacos you might roll up.  Ten bucks, including a tip, and I was out the door.  The food is good, but the back room, which might feel a bit cozier than the dinette style front, was filled with a family birthday party.

About a week later, I tried Lupita’s Restaurant.  Granted, it was long after lunchtime mid-week, but based on my experience, I won’t go back.  First, upon entering, there wasn’t the expected smell of spicy Mexican food, but just the odor of Pine-sol.   There was only one other customer in the bright, but sterile dining area.  The lone waitress seemed unsure of herself, somewhat hesitant to wait on this “gringo”.  I ordered carne guisada (stewed beef).  El Paraiso’s carne guisada has always been the gold standard for me; their version is simple but so good–nicely cooked chunks of meat covered in the thick gravy it has been cooking in.  Lupita’s carne guisada came floating in a dark red sauce, which I think was made from chile poblanos. I’m usually OK with dishes made with these chiles, but this tasted something like a soup made with chile powder.   The red sauce that came with the chips tasted very similar.  On the other hand, the green sauce was bright and delicious.  I can’t finish with Lupita’s without mentioning “the entertainment”.  Like El Monarcha and other taquerias, Lupita’s has two big screen TVs, but the court-type show in Spanish that was on while I was eating my meal was more disgusting than a Jerry Springer dream.  Obviously, the participants and the case were fake, but supposedly, these two 20-something girls had masturbated this rancher’s stallions in order to get the semen to use as face cream for themselves and to sell in spas–and all the details were included.

Today, I was out running errands, and by 1 o’clock, the toast and coffee I had while paying bills were long forgotten.  I decided to try one of the many restaurants along Gessner, north of I-10.  N. Gessner here in the part of Houston known as Spring Branch, and it’s peppered with Hispanic and Korean restaurants and shops as well as some Vietnamese noodle places.  These are all mixed together with the typical American Baskin ‘n Robbins, brake mechanics, donut shops, and Walgreens.

I took a chance and stopped at Tostada Regia, which had caught my attention other times when I had passed by.  I was hungry and this place was the right choice to satiate my appetite.  I ordered tostada ranchera, but first came a large basket of chips and three dishes of salsa: a very good green one, a spicy cooked red, and then a pink one, which the waiter told me was a habanero salsa.  It was hot, but no hotter than the red.  My order came quickly, and the plate held this very large tostada–7-8 inches–with a crispy flat tortilla on both the top and bottom, filled with shredded chicken, lettuce, onion, and Mexican-style sour cream.  I added the green sauce to it, and I couldn’t stop eating it.  Not to mention, on the side, there was a cup of  delicious chicken caldo with rice.

Tostada Regia has a comfortable atmosphere.  With the attentive staff ready at the waiting to serve more tea and water and the rustic wooden tables and benches, it reminds me of the old La Jalisciense that used to me on Montrose near West Gray.  The restaurant had customers coming and going, though, not quite the diverse crowd that could be found at La Jalisciense.   That doesn’t matter, and it doesn’t matter that Tostada Regia is not quite in my vecindad;  it’s close enough that I’ll go back when I’m out running errands or just when I need “a fix” of good Mexican food.

Hate Crimes Legislation vs. Marriage Equality

Appalled is the only way to describe my reaction yesterday when I saw the C-Span clip of Virgina Foxx, the Republican Congresswoman of North Carolina’s Fifth District during the debate of the hate crime legislation. This former college president and English professor said that the fact that Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was gay was a hoax. (She has since tried to backtrack on her words.) The fact is gay people in this country are attacked and killed because of their sexual orientation here in the U.S. In some cases, gay people are targeted because they seem to some to be “easy pickings” and the real motivation for the attack is pure harassment or robbery or even rape.

There was a rash of attacks on gay people here in Houston in the 90s, one of which was the murder of Paul Broussard, which happened near where I lived. If you’ve never read about this case, I recommend that you read this article or for a slightly different perspective look here.

It only takes reading the gay press online to know that these attacks are still happening today. I can’t say what percentage of gay people have experienced physical attacks or the threat of being attacked, but I would guess that it’s a high percentage, from attacks in schools to attacks in the street to attacks at home.

In spite of all these attacks (I’ve experienced it myself as I’ve mentioned on my about page), I don’t really support hate crimes legislation. If someone is attacked, they are attacked and the perpetrator should be punished. If someone is murdered, the killer should be tried and punished according to the law, not because of who was killed but because murder is murder no matter who the victim is.

I agree with some in Congress who ask how do we determine which groups should be covered under hate crimes. Ours is a democracy and everyone should be treated equally, no slippery slopes.

And that is the rationale of those people who are against hate crimes legislation: they do not want to have to give special treatment to certain groups.

But where is that rationale when it comes to Marriage Equality? Those who are against marriage equality certainly favor the idea of a special status for heterosexual people. And those against same-sex marriage are not just limited to the evangelicals and other Republicans.

How would all of those who voted in favor of the hate crimes bill have voted if the bill were for legalizing same-sex marriage? I doubt that the majority would have voted for it. While many of these representatives may feel they are doing the right thing, this type of legislation is not the answer to stopping the attacks and murders of gay people, nor of any other group of people. It’s no different than putting that metal plate over the construction hole in the street. You can drive over the hole, but it’s still there and eventually needs to be fixed.

The only real “fix” here is to change the attitudes of individuals and of society as a whole. It’s very hard to change ideas when they have been pounded into someone’s head from an early age.

But the government can do that by making laws that bring equal rights to all citizens. (We’ve seen this when slavery was abolished, when women were given the right to vote, when mixed race couples were allowed to marry.) I don’t know if people who have not been denied rights can understand this. I’m pretty sure that most women can understand this; I’m pretty sure that people of many ethnic minorities can understand this; I know that almost every gay person knows this. Even with the election of Barack Obama, the majority of our elected officials are still heterosexual white men, and most of them do not understand what it means to be discriminated against and do not want to understand it. Because if they were to make the playing ground equal for everyone, they might lose some of their power.

Putting specific groups into hate crimes laws does not make people of those groups any stronger. It weakens them by saying they need special protection, and in reality, is a way of keeping them second class citizens.

Instead what the government needs to do is enact and enforce laws, such as for marriage, labor, and immigration, that give all citizens their due rights under the Constitution.

We can only hope that people like Virginia Foxx, who are against giving special status to any citizens through hate crimes legislation, would also realize that by expressing that viewpoint, they are advocating equal status for all citizens and, thus, would support bills that provide that equality: legislation in favor of same-sex marriage and the elimination of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

Sex in a Pan–Decadent and Easy!

In the 80s and 90s, I lived in a great little garden complex over in Montrose (Houston, Texas) on Burlington Street. There were 32 apartments, all of which overlooked the swimming pool and small courtyard in the middle. It was a great little complex, friendly and close-knit, and for a lot of those years, it was about 80% gay and about 20% straight and whatever. Everybody worked, but because the bars were close, a lot of us went out in groups and often hung out at the pool and had barbeques together.

Unfortunately, during that that time, AIDS started picking off people, almost like a sniper, and one by one, our group got smaller and smaller. Of course, a few people did move to other places. I lived there for fifteen years, and by the time I left. it was about 10% gay and 90% straight. The straight people were cool, the type that you still find in the area, but it just wasn’t the same atmosphere. I finally moved, not because I didn’t like my neighbors, but because there had been a small tornado which came through the neighborhood, and it had torn off part of the roof. The company the owners hired made cheap repairs and my ceiling started leaking. Even though my part of the building hadn’t been damaged by the tornado, the entire roof had been replaced with crappy materials and workmanship.

Anyway, when we used to have our parties and get-togethers, my friend Neil sometimes made this great dessert. He didn’t call it “Sex in a Pan”, but I’ve seen others call it that. I don’t remember him calling it by any special name, but I loved it, and I’ve made it on my own over the years. It’s super easy to make, and you end up with a decadent dessert that everyone will talk about. ^ou make it in steps, so you do need to have a little time, but even then you can watch your favorite TV shows or do laundry at the same time because it doesn’t require a lot of attention. If you are a complete “choco-holic”, you can use the chocolate version of almost all of the ingredients.

Sex in a Pan

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

–The Base

1 Cup chopped pecans, 1 Cup flour, 1/3 Cup butter, 3 Tablespoons sugar

Combine these ingredients well, and press them evenly into 9″X 12″ (approximately) glass or metal baking dish. Bake for 20 minutes, take it out, and let it cool for at least 30 minutes.

–The Filling

8 ounces of cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar, 1/2 small container of whipped topping

Mix these together and spread over the cooled base.

–Topping Layer One

2 Cups milk, 1 small package instant chocolate pudding, 1 small package instant vanilla pudding

Mix these together (electric mixer is best), and spread over the filling.

–Topping Layer Two

Other 1/2 of the whipped topping, semi-sweet chocolate, chopped pieces of maraschino cherries, chopped pecans

Add the final layer of whipped topping; then sprinkle with shaved chocolate and other delights of your choosing!

Refrigerate for a couple of hours for the entire dessert to set. If you want, you can add the final sprinkles of chocolate, cherries, and nuts right before serving. To serve, cut into squares, and gently lift them out with a spatula. This serves 12 if you have guests. It also refrigerates well, so if you have any left over, you can pig out on it later!