Busy Week Full Of Pride In San Diego

Pride FlagAfter having attended the last two San Diego Pride Parade’s in the last couple of years and having to work, I decided this year I was going to make sure I saved a few days of time off so that I could take part in the festivities this year. And with the Chantal Kreviazuk concert in Los Angeles last week, I decided to add a few more days to my time off request and as a result I was able to take part in quite a few activities.

On Tuesday night, after I had stopped by Jorge Cruise‘s office to say hello and show off the results of my 47 pounds of weight loss using his incredibly awesome Belly Fat Cure program, I treated myself to a late lunch at Which Wich sandwich shop in Hillcrest and then because I was in the area, I saw The Center for San Diego’s LGBT community was hosting a Bear Pride Bingo event that a lot of my local friends were attending, so I quickly sent in an RSVP and headed on over to the event. For $15 for a packet of bingo sheets, $2 for a dabber, and $1 for an optional game, I was set. I didn’t win any of the games but came very close on a few occasions. I did happen to know a couple people who did win, namely Vito Grandolfo and Tim Palmer. I even went with Vito and his friend Earl Shearin over to Brians’ American Eatery for a post-Bingo bite to eat. (Many thanks to Earl who wouldn’t let me pay for my meal.)

All of Wednesday and the first part of Thursday were consumed with helping Jorge Cruise with his experiments on sugar. After which I headed over to the San Diego Pride festival grounds to do the volunteer shift I had signed up to do. I was inspired to help out by my friend, Caroline Bender, who assisted with last year’s Pride festival, and so it sounded like a good opportunity to help out. One of the benefits of volunteering is free admission to the festival and since this would be my first year attending it, I thought I’d much rather do my volunteering early so that I’d be free to enjoy the festivities and then maybe next year I’ll do some volunteering during the event days.

I arrived about a half hour before my volunteer shift and was immediately dispatched down to help a team that was applying green tarp to the chain link fencing down by the Latino Pride stage. It was basically being armed with a pocket full of zip ties and then using the ties to attach the tarp to various sections of fencing to make the area look more enclosed. That section of Balboa Park is right in the flight path for planes landing at the San Diego International Airport so it was really a neat treat to see the planes so close and with their landing gear down. It’s a little spooky at first, but wow. Now I know where I’ll have to take out of town guests instead of hoping I can time a trip down the Interstate 5 just right so that the landing planes are right over the highway. Its definitely a great spot to see planes on approach to land.

After our group of volunteers finished putting up the tarp we were trucked back over to the main information tent which was serving as the volunteer center for the day where we were offer some drinks and pizza while we awaited our next tasks. I ended up being asked to help assist with the back gate. I and the other guy who were assigned to the gate weren’t given specific instructions about running the gate until we’d let a couple of people in, and we were then told that the gate is the “exit” gate and to refer all vehicles to the entry gate and the only people we were supposed to let in through the gate were volunteers.

Aside from having to open the gate several times an hour I had the chance to post a couple of things to Twitter including a photo of the Porta-Sinks that were outside the bank of Porta-Potties. I found those fascinating since I’m not used to seeing those and I thought they were cool. I sent a Twitter Pic out about it being so cool only to have a fun little jab back from Vito suggesting I need to get out more often because they’re not a new concept. What can I say? I don’t do many outdoor events so I was impressed.

Another thing I was impressed by was that I got to meet , the Entertainment Director for the festival and chat with him for a couple of minutes. I had previously seen a couple of his weekly KUMA DJ broadcasts on Tuesday evenings from 5:30pm to 7:30pm Pacific time and I had heard him talking about the Pride Festival on Episode 35 of the 619 Bearcast(Click here to go directly to the podcasts on iTunes). So with Michael right there in front of me and no one else around, it was a great chance to say hello and introduce myself. He was really cool to meet.

As my volunteer shift came to an end, the supervisor in charge of the gates, Alonzo came up in his golf cart and drove me back to the volunteer center to check out. He was also really awesome to work with. He’d come by several times during the day to make sure I was doing okay. He offered to get some water for me on one of his trips, and I was good, but he still brought one back anyway for me just in case. Alonzo and all the other supervisors were great to work with, I really enjoyed helping out. The only negative to the experience was that I got a sunburn on the side of my neck. I had gotten some sunscreen from the volunteer booth before being assigned to the gate and had applied the sunscreen to my face, the back of my neck, my arms, and my legs and even my feet (as I was wearing Birkenstock flip flops) and I apparently missed the sides of my neck around where the collar of my shirt was, so a minor inconvenience to an otherwise great day. And on the walk back to where I had parked my car, I passed by another car that was there with the windows down and they were blasting ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” so I knew the Pride weekend was off to a good start for me.

My Friday was mostly consumed with writing up the blog entry for my sugar experiments with Jorge Cruise. That blog entry is arguably the most important blog posting I’ve ever written to date, because wow, it’s a real shocker what sugar does to the bloodstream and I’m honored Jorge asked me to take part in the experiment, even if it was my blood that was being shocked. Click here if you’d like to check out that blog entry. And I also attended a party that night that I had been invited to and had a good time there.

Sexy Bitches Before & After 2009Saturday morning, I attended a brunch at the home of friends George Graham and Kirk Nagel along with my good friend Caroline Bender. This is the third year I’ve attended a pre-parade brunch with Kirk and George. They are the best hosts you can ever imagine. I used to work with both George and Caroline so we’ve known each other for years. Caroline and I both attended Kirk and George’s wedding last year when it was still legal for marriage last year and both of us have been losing a lot of weight. So we jokingly laughed how this year on the bench we sat at, we had more room between us than last year when we attended the pre-parade brunch and how we are both on our way to becoming “sexy bitches.” To show how well we’ve done so far, I’ve included a photo of Caroline and I from Kirk and George’s wedding along with one from this weekend. As Kirk and George are looking to purchase a home, this might be the last year of the pre-parade brunch, so it was an honor to join them for the third year in a row.

The Brunch crowd made our way over to the parade across the Vermont Street foot bridge and I ended up running into a large group of my bear friends and ended up with them as we watched the parade then trekked our way along the parade route towards the festival. I checked in through the volunteer entrance while some of the others went in through the Entertainment entrance and others through the main gate. We reconvened at the main intersection and then broke off to grab some food. The highlight seemed to be the fried chicken tenders on a stick, which a couple of people got. I ended up with one as well. Half the entertainment value of getting one was the girl behind the counter who was asking if people wanted some of her all white breast meat. Had to give tip her just for that, which she then yelled out that she got a tip and everyone in the booth screamed in excitement. It was fun.

We made our way down to the main beer garden and along the way we ran into the t-shirt booth being run by Dave Pinner from the 619 Bearcast. We stopped to say hello and chat about the t-shirts he had. I especially liked the “Mt. Golden” t-shirt which was Mt. Rushmore with the heads of the ladies from the Golden Girls instead of the presidents. They had some cool designs. Another fun one was a stick figure family called “The Ass Family” which resembled those family score cards people put on the back of their minivans.

SD Pride Bears GroupAfter we made our way into the beer garden we had a few drinks and socialized for a while. Nice and relaxing and boy were the Malibu Rum drinks really good. Ended up having a couple of those, so needless to say I blew my low sugar program again today as the rum was mixed with regular soda. I tried the Melon blast which was the Malibu Melon flavored rum mixed with Squirt Grapefruit flavored soda. Those were so good.

A while later people started to head out to get in some naps before heading to the bear night at the Bacchus House club. Mike Yada recommended that I switch out my flip flops for shoes for the dance because the club tends to get crowded and he was concerned my feet would get stepped on. I didn’t feel like making a 40 mile round trip home just for a pair of shoes, as it was I was already hoofing it back 2 & 1/2 miles just to get back to my car, so once I got back to my car, I just went to a local Target and hoped I’d find a clearance pair of shoes to just nab. Sure enough I found a pair for about $8, they kind of resemble bowling shoes, but they were cheap and saved me a trip home.

I headed over to the Bacchus House a little early because I didn’t know exactly where it was. I had a rough idea of the neighborhood, but sheesh their signs are terrible, if you didn’t know it was there, you’d miss it. I drove around the block didn’t see it or a parking spot, so I ended up in the nearby parking structure and then set out on foot to find it. And armed with Google Maps and using the street view feature I found the side of the club, but didn’t know it because there were no signs to indicate where I was at. I rounded the corner and then found the front entrance. It was still about a half an hour early for the club so I ended up heading back over to a section of shops near the parking structure and sitting on one of the benches out front so I used it as a chance to check e-mail and make a couple of comments on Twitter before it was time to make my way into the club.

When I got there, I was pleased to see a familiar face, Henry Lozada, so I stayed and chatted with him and several of the really nice folks Henry introduced me to until some more familiar faces entered the building. I was certainly enjoying the music of the outer room where I heard a great remix of Celine Dion’s “I’m Alive” and even heard some Alcazar with their cover of “Don’t You Want Me” so I felt right at home with the Canadian and Europop, unfortunately it wasn’t all stuff I knew or liked, but it was good. In the back room was the main dance area and it was more traditionally American dance club music, so I didn’t spend much time in there until the bears I was with moved in there. I definitely did more than my fair share of dancing, which was a lot of fun. I haven’t really done any dancing since the ABBA disco I did at the 2005 ABBA Day in Roosendaal, which is about an hours train ride outside of Amsterdam. Maybe the weight loss has something to do with it, but I sure felt like dancing and I had a good time too.

About a half hour past midnight I felt it was time to go, and seemed like it was the right time as I ran into Henry outside, he was ready to leave too, so I walked with him and a couple others to where I needed to turn off to collect my car in the parking structure. I got home and crashed right away, it was a long day and lots of fun.

The next morning I was debating whether or not I should head down for more fun as I did have a lot of things I also wanted to get caught up on, but ultimately I decided that I took the time off work to participate, so I better get participating. A quick note from Mike Yada on Twitter suggested it was a good idea to meet at his place and ride the bus into the park for the festival, so I said I’d come and meet up with him. He sent back a text message with his address so I could find my way down to meet up with the the group.

Once I got there, I was quickly joined by Henry again and we went up the stairs to Mike’s place and found both Mike and Thaddaeus Smith waiting. A few others joined us before we headed down to the bus stop to head down to the festival. Once there we all grabbed some food. This time I opted for fish & chips as I wanted something a little different. We made our way down to the beer garden and then we headed down to the dance tent that was set up down the hill within the beverage garden where we found our friend Brian Hill already there and dancing to DJ “Funkybear” Martin Petersen who was with us the previous day both at the festival and dancing at the Bacchus House.

Again I felt like dancing and I spent the better part of the entire time Martin was spinning on the dance floor, so much so that Martin was tossing me a water bottle to make sure I stayed hydrated. Martin was playing some great material that I just couldn’t help but feel like dancing to. You have to try some of Martin’s DJ work, check out his website and he has some podcasts available in the iTunes store that are free to download that you can check out his work. Get to them by clicking here. That angled dance floor was a bitch too as it was following the slope of the hill. I had to dance facing down the hill most of the time because if I tried dancing in the other direction it felt like my right kneecap were going to pop out of place. I’ve already had that experience once in my life and that was certainly enough. Everyone else took breaks here and there and came back and eventually I had to, it was hot, I was tired, but I was certainly having a good time. But I definitely learned the hard way that dancing and Birkenstocks don’t mix really well. My feet felt like they were rubbed raw.

After Martin was done spinning CDs, our group moved over to the stage within the beer garden to stake out shady spots under the trees to catch another one of our group, John Ashfield, who would be performing later on in the day with his group called, “The Bobbleheads” As we had a bit of time, it was time for a drink or two and I headed over to the other beer garden to see if I could find my friend Louie Taylor who I know was working the beer gardens, but I wasn’t sure where I’d find him. I didn’t see him so I got some food and also ran into my friend Tyler Blair. He joined us heading back to the main beer garden and he wanted to check out the act playing on the main stage. I didn’t know who they were and my feet were sore so I decided to stay and in the meantime I shot my friend Louie a text message. Louie responded that he was in the other beer garden so after a few more minutes of resting my feet I headed back over to the other beer garden to say a quick hello.

When I made it back over to the main beer garden the Bobbleheads were on so I unfortunately missed the very start of their set, but I didn’t miss much. It was definitely a lot more fun to come cheer on a group where you know someone in the band. And I also really liked their music too. So I made sure to hang around after the show to get a copy of the CDs John was selling. There was a full length CD, an EP and one of John’s solo work, so I was happy I got purchase some new music that sounds good. Be sure to check out the Bobbleheads on their website and you can purchase their songs on iTunes as well. They’re a great band.

Our group kind of headed separate ways at this point. I remained with Mike Yada, and Thaddeus Smith, and when we headed out of the beer garden we caught up again with Tyler Blair who had reported the act he saw on the main stage was great. We decided to call it a day at the festival and headed back over to the bus stop and decided we’d stop for dinner at Pizza Fusion. Once we were there our group was rejoined by a couple of great guys from LA that I unfortunately can’t remember their names. One of them is a fellow Canadian. He’s from Ottawa, so it was great to meet another Cannuck. And then DJ Martin joined us as well. It was great conversation and good food too.

After Pizza Fusion, most of the group was heading over to Pecs for a drink and I opted to head home as I was just beat, it’d been a great and wonderful weekend. I rode the bus with Martin, Tyler, and Mike over to where they needed to switch to another bus to get to the bar. Mike instructed the driver as to which stop to let me off at as I didn’t know the neighborhood well enough to know on my own. As the guys were getting off the bus they were wishing me a safe drive home and instructions to let them know I got back to my car okay.

Once they left, one of the other passengers on the bus commented to me that I had really great friends, and she was definitely right. She also said, I was very lucky to have such great friends too, and I couldn’t agree more. I feel very lucky to have an awesome week with so many great people. And sure enough the bus driver also made sure I got to the right stop. I truly feel like this last week has been every bit as good as any of the trips I’ve had abroad with all my ABBA friends around the world. This was definitely the best “staycation” I’ve ever had in my life and I feel just as exhausted from it as if I had traveled.

Thanks to everyone that’s been a part of this week for me from the Bingo on through the end of the Pride celebration. There were so many great people to spend time with. Thanks so much for making my first Pride celebration something that will forever be special to me. Special shout outs to Kirk Nagel and George Graham for the fantastic pre-parade brunch. My fellow, “Sexy Bitch” Caroline Bender who is such a wonderful friend. The wonderful 619 bears who have really welcomed me into their group and are such a fantastic group of guys to spend time with. I feel very lucky to know each and every one of you. I just want to single out a few of these fine guys for their friendship and kindness to a very shy Canadian who for the first time feels truly at home in San Diego despite having been here 23 years now. These fine guys are Mike Yada, Brian Hill, Vito Grandolfo, Tyler Blair, Henry Lozada, Joe Gray, and Alan Schmitt.

Thanks also to the awesome people responsible for the Pride festival including my good friend Louie Taylor, and new friend, Michael Carrera. Thanks also to the wonderfully talented DJ Martin and incredible singer John Ashfield, who were so fantastic to meet and then later enjoy their talents as part of the entertainment lineup of the festival (and I’m still surprised I didn’t hear one single ABBA song at any point during the actual Pride Festival). And last but not least all the great people who traveled to San Diego to take part and be part of the group, such as my new Facebook friend Thaddeus Smith. I am very proud to know all of you.



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