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Steve Grand Ready to Take On Houston

posted on: 08/14/2015

When Steve Grand released his hit All American Boy in 2013, the song and the accompanying music video went viral. Not so much because of the country sound or Grand's movie star good looks. Certainly the theme of unrequited love wasn't new either. Rather it was the combination of classic Americana imagery and emotions told through the lens of a gay love story.

The song rocketed to the top of the charts and made Grand an overnight sensation among gay and straight fans alike. At a time when most artists cannot get their voices heard without a label or a serious manager, steve grand for pagesinger-songwriter Grand self-produced and financed the piece and made a name for himself as a serious player in the music scene almost overnight.

Earlier this year, Grand released his album, also titled All American Boy, and it quickly climbed to the No. 3 spot on the Billboard Independent chart. Piano and guitar-driven tracks such as Say You Love Me and Whiskey Crime offer a timeless sound, one that's instantly familiar to fans of artists like Bruce Springsteen or Tom Petty.

The weekend of October 2, Grand will come to Houston to perform live as part of the Diana Foundation's Country Dinner Weekend. Recognized as the oldest continuously active gay organization in the United States, the Dianas were founded in 1953 with the mission of raising and distributing funds to organizations serving the gay community. Three days of events are planned, including the headline country dinner on October 3 at Neon Boots, where Grand will perform.

As he prepares for his trip to H-Town, we spoke with Grand by phone from his home near Chicago.

MyGayHouston.com: People have called you an overnight sensation. But you've been working at this for a while. How do you take that?
Steve Grand: You know, I've been playing piano since I was six. At 13 I decided I wanted to write music. Before All American Boy, I was working on music, recording it in my basement. I didn't have a label or anything; I would do gigs at bars on the weekends. I think what people are referring to is that I definitely achieved a level of popularity very quickly with All American Boy, unlike others who don't get that kind of reception from a debut. But I was putting in the work for many years before that.

You've been asked a lot about being a gay country singer and how you're received in those circles. But you don't necessarily see yourself that way do you?
I was very surprised that people were calling me a country artist. I didn't see myself that way then and I still don't. I can see where they would get that from, because I do use a lot of the devices of country music in some of my work. But from the start, every interview I've done I've talked about not really seeing myself as a country artist. If my fans see me that way, that's fine. The label is not that important to me. All American Boy is certainly the most country sounding song I've done.

Let's talk about that song and the music video. By all accounts it went viral when you put it out there, and there's a reason for that.
Sure. The song, regardless of what genre you call it, still makes a very compelling message. The sonic elements are very traditional, plus you have the Americana visuals in the video-the campfire, country roads, the flag. To have that setting established that people are familiar with and then bring in a same-sex love story-that's what made it compelling.

You're a singer-songwriter. How do you think that sets you apart from other artists and do you see yourself more as a writer or a performer?
I see myself first and foremost as a writer, I write a lot of music. But I also think I'm a strong performer. I think I come across on stage far stronger, more confident. That's one of the reasons I love performing so much, I become an extension of myself that's better than my real self. It's only 1% of what I do, but during and after a show, you realize how lucky you are and it's so worth it.

As an artist, do you think it's easier now than it once was not to put yourself in one genre-a country artist or a pop artist for instance?
I don't know, I don't have a whole lot to compare it to! But maybe now with social media it is easier for artists to explain their choices. I've been saying it in every interview that I'm just putting out my sound. I'm just grateful that people want to interview me at all. You see a lot of stars who get annoyed by the silliest things. They're so lucky to get to do what they love. I try not to take that for granted.

There's really nothing like the connection that a singer songwriter can have with his audience. It's truly unique and unlike any other human connection. You're hearing words from the mouth of the person who wrote them, there's no middle man. These words came from a place inside me and I'm singing that directly to you. That's powerful.

Who influences you as an artist?
I was raised on the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones. It's interesting because my parents were old-fashioned and traditional and wouldn't let us listen to pop music, but they let us listen to the Stones. Those groups definitely contributed to my music education and my sound, so I appreciate that.

And who influences you as a gay man?
One of the longest standing influences for me is Ellen (DeGeneres). I realize I have a limited perspective but for me she was one of the first people who came out and yet was able to gain an appeal with Middle America. Not a lot of people had done that before. I give her the credit for changing the hearts and minds of millions of mothers and middle aged women, who weren't really exposed to gay people in their everyday lives before. Here's this incredibly charismatic, compassionate sweet woman connecting with them every day. And it becomes impossible to say she shouldn't have the same rights as me. She doesn't make being gay a shtick, but she is authentic. For me, I try to always be myself-not necessarily try to push who I am on anyone but also not soften or alter who I am either. What they see is what they get.

A lot of times the LGBT community likes to put people in boxes or say they have to speak for the community when they come out. How have you handled that?
I just remind people, that it's incredible that we're seeing this tremendous diversity of our community being represented more than ever-all religious backgrounds, all socioeconomic statuses, all different kinds of families from all around the world,. There's no one kind of gay person, we're not going to all agree on everything but that's a sign of progress.

You could have been an out artist without addressing your sexuality in your music or in the video. Why did you?
I do believe that we live in a time when people like us are accepted and therefore who we are should be able to be addressed in our art. I don't see why a straight person can't connect to my music just because of the pronouns I use in a song. Unrequited love is an experience that we all share in common. It may limit my audience, but if that's the case so be it.

Have you played in Houston before?
No, there's a funny story there. I was in Austin, and it was right after All American Boy came out. So I'm on stage and my head is spinning. I'm singing a song where I was able to incorporate the name of the city, which is a great way to connect with the audience and gain credibility. But I blurted out "hey Houston." I must have said it several times, so finally my manager ran out on stage and had to tell me "you're in Austin!" So I'm actually excited to finally get to play Houston-now that we have such a history!

What are you excited about in playing here?

I love playing in the South. I draw on it for my songs and I connect with it. Playing live just brings me to live and makes me a better version of myself. I'm just a person with my own insecurities like everyone else and most of my life I've felt misunderstood, but being on stage is just the best medicine there is. I wouldn't give that up for anything.

For more information on the Diana's Country Dinner or to get tickets visit their website.

 

Singles, Everything’s Going to be Okay

posted on: 07/31/2015

By Tammy Shaklee, Founder, He's For Me

Do yourself a favor and listen to this song as you read this blog entry.

You say you're ready for this. Ready to take the leap of faith into love. You want a compatible partner. A good man (or woman). And yes, let's be honest, one that you will be hot for not only now, but years down the road. And yet something always gets in your way. Don't worry, we've all been there. That's where a matchmaker can step in and help you see what perhaps you couldn't realize on your own. Take it from me.

When I was 35, frustrated still being single. I used to say to myself, "I'm a good person, I work hard, I play hard, I love animals and the elderly. I'm stable, trustworthy, and giving. Where is my person?!" That is when I knew, I needed to reach out for a professional hand to hold. To help me with my seemingly endless search.

I thought I was pretty open-minded and had an open heart (like most of our clientele think as well, in the beginning). To me, intellectual men were who I was attracted to most often. My entire life, I've worked for them, been taught by them, mentored by them, and tend to surround myself with them. Now I wanted to date them. Find me "uber smart" and we'll see if there's a connection. The next step was to realize what kind of match I would be for them. And believe me, there were days I thought I was a 10, and days I thought I was no more than a 5. But the reality? Seriously? An.....8.

As a certified matchmaker, we in the industry often provide our clients unlimited dating coaching. And our coaching educates every client, that he's really an 8, looking for another 8 to love him back. It's that simple, folks. Come on! No one is a 10. Everyone has his stuff. Each of us is flawed. The goal is to find the right person to love you for exactly who you are. And who you are not.

With the matchmaking process, we refine who we seek, and who will choose us back. A compatible match. (Height used to matter...until it didn't. Exact age used to matter....until it didn't.) Let's focus on the core qualities and values that make a great person. This week alone, we have dozens of men meeting quality bachelors, men they would have never met otherwise. And what do they all have in common? They are gay, seeking a long-term relationship, and have the qualities others are seeking.

I didn't want to walk alone. Through life. So my matchmaker held my hand....until they put me in the hands of the great man who became my husband. Reach out to your friends, family, colleagues, and let them know you are serious about finding your person. Just as you are. You're ready for this. There is no denying. I did it. You can too.

For more information on traditional introductions, courting, and dating for today's modern gay man, visit He's For Me, offline, personal matchmaking designed exclusively for select gay men seeking a long-term relationship - at www.H4M.com and like us on the H4Mmatchmaking Facebook Page for daily inspiration on finding love. #loveislove

 

Neon Boots Hosts Esquire Ballroom Reunion July 18

posted on: 07/17/2015

Neon Boots Dancehall & Saloon will celebrate a Reunion of the Historic Esquire Ballroom this weekend.

The event this Saturday, July 18, will pay tribute to the space made famous many years ago by renowned well-known singers and performers. The event starts at 2 pm at the same original location at 11410 Hempstead Road. The bar's owners invite everyone to attend and mingle with many of the people that were regulars many years ago at the historic entertainment venue.

Now known as Neon Boots, the thriving ballroom and concert venue that was once the Esquire Ballroom was built in 1955 by Raymond Proske. The Esquire was home to many well known acts of the 50s, 60s and 70s. Most notable is Willie Nelson, where he was offered a job by house performer Larry Butler after Nelson asked him to listen to a few songs he had wrote including one called "Crazy". Nelson, desperate for money offered the songs for $10 each. Butler knowing that these songs were "too good" instead offered Nelson a $50 loan and job performing with his band. One night during his commute from Pasadena to The Esquire, Nelson wrote the song "Night Life" about working at the bar.

Another well known performer was Patsy Cline, in fact the Broadway musical "Always...Patsy Cline" takes part in the historical Esquire Ballroom bar when she had a chance encounter with a fan. It chronicles her evening with the fan when Cline fears she may not be able to fill the ballroom with a large crowd. Many other infamous acts performed at the Esquire Ballroom include George Jones, Charlie Pride, Jim Reeves, Loretta Lynn, Tammy Wynette, Willie Nelson, and many many more.

Neon Boots Dancehall and Saloon has set aside a separate bar dedicated to this history called the Esquire Room. The Esquire Room showcases various performer's photos and Esquire memorabilia from over the years to keep the history alive in Houston. One very interesting view is when you see the reflection of Patsy Cline in the glass looking outward into the main bar you can see her reflection right on the glass as if her ghost is still there mingling with the guests.

Since the Esquire closed in 1995, it has been several other ventures and bars that have come and gone. The new owners of Neon Boots have completely restored the building and upgraded its features throughout. The new Neon Boots Dancehall and Saloon will feature a huge dance floor and performance stage, six bar stations, bottle and table service, beautiful outdoor area with custom constructed deck and patio. The owners have incorporated games such as horseshoes, a giant Jenga game and other games for the enjoyment of their guests. Every Sunday Neon Boots provides free food, free pool, great drink specials and fantastic live entertainment. Neon Boots Dancehall and Saloon is a great country and western bar and club that is very welcoming to everyone.

Notable Personalities and Bands that have performed here (Esquire and Neon Boots) listed below.

Ty Herndon
Jimmy Heap
Joe Berry
Johnny Bush
Johnnie Lee Wills
Johnny Rodriguez
Justin Fulcher Band
Kelly Scoppa
Kenny Rogers
Kitty Wells
Larry Butler
Lee Roy Matocha Orchestra
Lefty Frizzell
Leroy Van Dyke
Lester Flatt
Lonzo & Oscar
Loretta Lynn
Marty Robbins
Mel Tillis
Merle Haggard
Patsy Cline
Porter Wagoner
Ray Krenek Orchestra
Ray Price
Red Steagal
Rick Trevino
Rita Hardt & The Rhinesones
Ronnie Milsap
Rose Maddox
Roy Clark
Tammy Wynette
Tanya Tucker
Tom T. Hall
Ty Herndon
Wanda Jackson
Waylon Jennings
Web Price
Willie Nelson

 

JR's Gets Reinvented, More Changes Ahead on Pacific Street

posted on: 07/09/2015

A Houston gay nightlife institution is getting a much-needed, and much-anticipated makeover. JR's Bar & Grill has been a fixture in Montrose for more than 30 years, drawing multiple generations of gay men and women to its laid-back, come-as-you-are interior and patio. Other bars, some longstanding hangouts themselves, have come and gone through the years. But Charles Armstrong Investments' big investment in its flagship, suggesting this is one institution that's here to stay.

We spoke with Jose Apodaca, director of operations for Charles Armstrong Investments, about the changes.

MyGayHouston.com: When did JRs open?
Jose Apodaca: JR's Bar & Grill used to be two separate locations that were detached. JR's Bar & Grill at 808 Pacific Street opened in the fall of 1982.

When did Charles Armstrong acquire the bar?
The original owner was Frank H. Caven. Charles purchased the three clubs -- JR's Bar & Grill, Montrose Mining Company and Heaven (now South Beach) -- from Frank Caven on July 1, 1986.

When was the last time JR's underwent a significant renovation?
In 1988, Charles acquired the business next to JR's Bar & Grill at 804 Pacific Street. It was called Santa Fe Trading Company. Previously, the Santa Fe Trading Company was two different failed restaurant concepts, Mother Lode and then Cutters. Santa Fe Trading opened in May 1989. It quickly weathered on the vine, so Charles chose to connect 804 Pacific Street (Santa Fe Trading) and 808 Pacific Street (JR's Bar & Grill) with brick and glass connecting walkways. The rest is history. The business doubled immediately and JR's remained the No. 1 LGBTQ bar in Houston for the next 20 years.

What prompted the move to renovate now?
JR's Bar & Grill was stepped over in 2004 with the acquisition of Meteor from two attorneys. Meteor desperately needed immediate attention when the upgrades to the entire club and the tropical patio started.

With the oppressive heat and humidity that we endure every summer, it seemed very natural to build a comfortable, casual and beautiful New Orleans-style courtyard and patio for everyone to enjoy for the next 25 years.

Outline the changes, both to the patio and to the interior, if you can.
The interior bar (formally Santa Fe side) the New Orleans-style courtyard and patio have new actual onyx lighting fixtures that were quarried in Mexico. There are simply too many new design details to go over. The custom concrete on the patio, the old Chicago brick work, the custom designed wrought iron, the custom cabanas, the magnificent male Medjool Date Palm trees imported from Arizona, the courtyard fountain and many others that just need to be seen in person.

How much is being spent on the redo approximately?
In excess of $1 million will have been spent when all is completed.

This comes on the heels of a patio redo at South Beach. How has that changed things at that venue?
The South Beach patio was way overdue. It's fabulous now. The millennials love the Miami Beach feel outdoors.

What's next for the company? Planning any other changes to Meteor/Mining Co.?
Stay tuned! There will still be another year of construction at 808 Pacific Street.

 

Kristian Salinas Discusses QFest 2015

posted on: 07/07/2015

By Jenn Haight

QFest
celebrates its 19th anniversary this year, making it Houston's second longest running film festival. Along with the star-studded opening night film, I Am Michael, 2015's key films include the Texas premiere of Robin Williams' final film, Boulevard, a documentary centerpiece about Tab Hunter and an international crime drama, Death in Buenos Aires.

Kristian Salinas, Artistic Director of QFest, hopes the films' reach extends far beyond the LGBT community. "We're trying to build bridges through film," she said. "We are working to create a safe space and give artists the opportunity to share work in a curated setting."

Originally created by four organizations under another name, the festival has grown stronger every year while occasionally facing tough circumstances. Salinas shared that when Hurricane Ike hit Texas in 2008, the festival organizers were afraid they would have to cancel the event. Thankfully, the location of the festival that year, The Museum of Fine Arts Houston, shares an electric grid with the medical center. While most other venues were without power, MFAH was open and able to offer festival attendees a respite from the chaos of the storm.

QFest was initially called the Houston Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. The name was updated to reflect developments in how the LGBT community identified itself. The festival changed its name in its eleventh year to reflect the changes within the community, and to ensure all orientations were represented.

Salinas believes it's up to the community to support the work it wants to see made. "If there's an art form that you believe in, you have to support it. It's not an entitlement, you have to support it." The festival receives more than 200 film submissions a year for consideration, an impressive number for the eight curated slots. That level of competition keeps the talent bar high, resulting in top notch films and filmmakers. The festival chooses a wide range of films, with everything from fetish pieces to family dramas. "You have to confront yourself with things that you're not comfortable with; that breaks the wall," Salinas commented.

The 2015 festival begins Wednesday July 22, with a free preview and party at Diverse Works. Qfest events run from July 23-27.

Click here for tickets and additional info.

 

 

Don’t Drown in a Sea of Summer Pool Parties

posted on: 07/06/2015

By Tammy Shaklee, Founder, He's For Me

Pool party INVITE!!! You receive via text, social media, email, word of mouth, or an annual holiday weekend tradition. You get an image from the first mention. You are perhaps already hearing "Shut Up and Dance" or even the Beach Boys in your head. You start to envision the tons of photos to hit the Internet before, during, and after. And while so many men would rather be a fly on the sunscreen bottle watching the whole thing, it's easy to feel pressure to get ready to attend. Men are visual. A sunny afternoon of guys in their varying degrees of skivvies provide hours of resort catalogs coming to life. Or at least that's how it looked in the photos.

Parties in swim trunks (even, "optional" in some venues); I find that gay men either love them or hate them. As a certified matchmaker for every season, I coach clients not to stress about the slew of summer speedo (I mean, pool) parties.

Do you allow your head to swirl with negative head talk about not being the right type, tan, physique, or fitness level to show up? Some men feel anxiety about the summer season itself.

Recently, however, I've interviewed quite a few professional eligible bachelors that emphasize their favorite type of gathering as home entertaining, small groups, a nice evening with dinner and just a couple of quality friends. Crowds of festive gay men somewhat wear them out, leaving them the need to recharge. Gentlemen, I'm here to tell you to be yourself, and not worry about the perception that everyone's attending the party but you. A stream of 40 photos does not mean the majority of your community was there. The beautiful people have always photographed well, and let's enjoy the view.

So whether the kiddy pool kitschy invite, or the Olympic size dream party, please know you're not alone in your emotional reaction. Before you RSVP, take stock of how you feel and make a plan.

Let me share a friendly nudge to the three types of men invited:

The Hot Tot - For the gay men who are giddy excited about attending this next weekend's bitty lifeguard brief bingo, good for you, gentlemen. Go have fun. You look great, feel great, and have your sunscreen ready. Good times, good friends, good looks, good lawd. Go for it. (Drink responsibly and have a designated driver, of course.)

The Tempted - Let me give you a little encouragement. You don't have to be a fitness model to enjoy a friendly pool party. Find a nice shirt to compliment your updated age (and body type) appropriate swim shorts or board shorts, and pop in to the party after it's in high swing. Find and thank the host(s), offer to help with a task or two that can help introduce you around. Ice needing replenished, the bartender needing a break, beverages needing restocked, sunscreens needing iced down? If the party's a fundraiser, be the first to volunteer for the registration table. Party with a purpose, while also mingling with other volunteers and organizers. You never even have to get in the water, but enjoy a fun day from a distance you feel most comfortable.

The Torchered - Give yourself permission to skip the flurry that's not your scene. Don't sit at home waiting and watching for the first photos to post live. You can enjoy them later. Instead, do something to get out of the house, be active, enjoy a different adventure that day in your community or neighborhood. Maybe a hike along the waterway, hit the trail for a brisk walk, take the dog to a new dog park. I have a client that powerwalks at least 6 miles at a time, working toward his personal fitness goals. In that 2 hours you've done something good for yourself and utilized those hours you can't get back. Make the most of them.

This summer, let good friends, family, and loved ones be your life preserver from drowning in a season that has much more play in party pics, but less in making a difference in your life. Instead, start planning a nice Labor Day picnic, whether large or small, upscale or traditional, with old friends and new, and....where summer shorts are preferred.

For more information on traditional introductions, courting, and dating for today's modern gay man, visit He's For Me, offline, personal matchmaking designed exclusively for select gay men seeking a long-term relationship - at www.H4M.com and like us on the H4Mmatchmaking Facebook Page for daily inspiration on finding love. #loveislove

 

(We Are) Nexus to Rock Out for Pride Fest

posted on: 06/23/2015

Electronic pop music duo (We Are) Nexus will help celebrate Pride this weekend in downtown Houston.

The band will play on the Bud Light stage in front of City Hall at 12: 30 pm as part of the Pride Festival. This is the first year the festival and parade are being held downtown.

Composer Nick Gunn and vocalist Carmen Rainier formed the band in 2012. They exploded onto the scene in August 2013 with the debut of their EP "It Feels So Good," a cover to Sonique's hit by the same name. (We Are) Nexus' list of accomplishments is impressive, especially considering its age. The duo earned the #1 Breakout position on Billboards Dance Club Songs, a peak position of #14 on Billboards Dance Club Songs, iTunes Top 100 Dance and Billboards Top 50 Dance/Electronic Songs spots. With radio support and regular Music Choice rotation, the band looks forward to releasing its next single "They'll Never Stop Me" and a tour in support beginning in early 2015.

"We've played Houston before and it will be great to be back supporting equality," says Rainer. There's so much love and acceptance at pride festivals, we can't wait to join the party all and rock the house!"

Other headliners for the festival include Ginger Minj of Ru Paul's Drag Race, Big Freedia and Estelle. See the full lineup below.

For more on the festival and parade, click here.

Barefoot Stage
1 p.m. Multicultural Education and Counseling through the Arts (MECA) ballet folklorico
2 p.m. Drop Out Vegas
3:30 p.m. Big Freedia
4:30 p.m. Morena Roas Da Artist
5:15 p.m. The T.R.U.T.H. Project - merged arts experience

Bud Light Stage - City Hall
12:30 p.m. (We Are) Nexus
1:30 p.m. Erika Jayne
2:15 p.m. Pride Superstar!
3 p.m. Jessica Sutta
3:45 p.m. Ginger Minj Official Fan Page
4:30 p.m. Estelle

 

Dates Off the Beaten Path

posted on: 06/12/2015

For some, nothing beats the traditional date night of dinner and a movie. No doubt, Houston offers plenty of options for both. But what if you want to do something different? Are you out of ideas for an offbeat, unconventional date in Houston? Here are some activities you may not have thought of before.

Houston Roller Derby

Started in 2005, the Houston Roller Derby now has over 100 skaters on four teams. On the third Saturday of every month, they hold a two-game match at the Bayou Music Center. The girls crash, skate and score to uproarious crowds. Don't know about derby? No problem! The fans are notoriously informative and welcoming to new attendees and the energy at the bouts is contagious as skaters with names such as Brand Aid and Freight Train encourage the audience to become a part of the experience. Grab VIP seating tickets for a comfy spot to watch the game with your date, or if you're daring, take a seat in the CRASH ZONE and have skaters fly right past you. Besides being exciting, Derby is affordable. General admission seats sell for the cost of a movie and VIP for just a bit more. Insider tip: GA ticket holders should bring lawn chairs.

Buffalo Bayou Park

Whether you choose to hike it, bike it, or grab a canoe or kayak, Buffalo Bayou Park makes a great spot for a date. Considered Houston's equivalent of Central Park, Buffalo Bayou offers 160 acres of green space along 2.3 miles of water. Pack a meal and get active or enjoy being a spectator and take in your surroundings. The park includes a skate park, dog park and bat bridge where thousands of bats swarm into the sky at dusk. There's even safety lunar cycle lighting installed along the paths for nighttime visits. Bring along a picnic lunch or dinner and design the perfect day for you and your special someone. Bike, canoe and kayak rentals are all available.

Outsider Art Tour

If you're planning to make a day of your date, Houston has some of the most famous outsider art in the country. The city is known for its ever-expanding Art Car Parade each May, but many don't know about the small, well-curated Art Car Museum, which is open year-round. The museum itself is a splendor with its jutting metal composition and design. Inside, you'll find several full-size vehicles parked among rotating displays of more traditional visual art as well as books and films about the subject. It is like no other museum in the city, open Wednesday through Sunday and always free.

Next on your tour, The Beer Can House is the last remaining "regular-sized" home in a neighborhood of newly developed lofts. John Milkovish, the house's owner, transformed it marbles, concrete, metal and thousands of beer cans. The house is featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not, which estimates over 50,000 cans make up the roof, walls and decorations on, in and around the home. Tours are available Saturdays and Sundays, and it's unforgettable.

Finish your tour with another one-of-a-kind - The Orange Show Monument. The handmade environment was created by Jefferson Davis McKissack to spread awareness of the wonders of his favorite fruit, the orange. The space is a bit of a maze with a wishing well, pond, stage, museum and gift shop. It's available to tour Wednesday through Sunday.

This wide array of art should give you and your date plenty to discuss after you finish touring.

Flea and farmers markets on Airline Drive


Sunny's Flea Market can be your main destination for a different kind of shopping date. This 35-acre extravaganza has something old and something new and all sorts of oddities in between. With snack shops, live music, a farmers market, beauty supplies and more, one can easily fill a day with new experiences. Continue on Airline Road to find similar markets selling everything from blankets and DVDs to pots and plants.

Next time you're planning a date, wander off the beaten path to explore parts of Houston many have never experienced. Memories and adventures are waiting, and any of these suggestions will surely give you and your plus one something to talk about, whether it's a first a date or you've been together for years.

By Jenn Haight

 

Go Ahead, Have a Spring Fling

posted on: 06/04/2015

By Tammy Shaklee, Founder of He's for Me

I know, I know, one can get a little nauseous with the overly-romantic references to love. Whether it's around Valentine's, other milestone holidays, and even Spring, with love in the air. But as a certified matchmaker, I can tell you, trends on love and seeking love can be cyclical. You'd be surprised with Fall's first cold snap, how many start to focus on a great guy to snuggle with during winter.

But it's Spring; Being open to at least one date is in the air. The serious Texas heat hasn't yet hit, and it's the perfect time to be outside (if you can control your allergies, of course). While I coach on getting a first date, and how to be most successful on a date, I also share some simple encouragement to spend a beautiful Spring day with a fellow single. When on your day off, the morning sun starts to stream through the window, and the temperature invites you to leave the back door or window open, inhale nature, and exhale with purpose.

At the recent International Matchmaker's Conference, Sex Expert Dr. Kat Smith, confirmed that sexual energy needs to flow within your body. I'm here to foster that energy and channel it in to steps that can lead to dating. When I take an occasional "Dating Coaching Client" we often start by listing his current crush or distraction. Let's list up to three, shall we? When a client can't really list anyone he has a secret or not-so-secret crush on, we've got our first exercise. It's healthy to have a crush, to admire a fantasy date, even if he's currently taken. It keeps that sexual energy flowing. Even if you realistically know he can't be the one, he can inspire action. And the act of asking out an eligible single is great practice to getting your dating life up and running.

Dating? Do gay men really date? The answer is yes. Not group dates, but one on one time spent getting to know each other. It works. It's not scary, or corny, or frivolous. It's healthy. Most of my clients refer to it as, "I'd really like to hang out with him again." Exactly! That's dating, folks. I know it can be frustrating still being single when you're the guy who's serious about a long-term relationship. So practice the traditional courting gesture by inviting a great guy to hang out and enjoy a couple of hours together.

Even when life hands you lemons, make some homemade lemonade for a picnic (or simply slice them in a pitcher of Crystal Light). Grab a couple of beach towels, some sandwiches from your favorite deli, and sit in the shade on the grounds of your local university campus. In Austin, our favorite spot for a picnic is the grounds of the Capitol. It's an ideal place for people watching. If applicable, take a bottle of wine, sparkling water, deck of cards, a couple of magazines, just not your phone (unless it's ONLY for a photo to capture the beauty of the day or to play some nice jazz).

I interviewed a bachelor yesterday who listed walking several of Houston's parks as his favorite thing to do on the weekends. He's not the guy wearing his ear buds, disengaged with his eyes on the path. He's the good look guy who's briskly walking, enjoying the sites and sounds of nature, and recharging from his demanding career. My goal is now to find him the compatible match who's going to share that path with him for the rest of his life.

In the meantime, I'm still encouraging him to ask out a date while you wait. True story: I recently had a Matchmaking Client go on hold because he had a crush on, and then dated exclusively...the barista at his local coffee shop. Good for him, we thought. He had an open heart, an open mind, took action, and had a fulfilling relationship. And it all started with eye contact, inquisitive conversation, and the art of asking one out. #LoveIsLove has so many applicable meanings.

As Rumi says, "What you are seeking is seeking you." I tell clients every week, "He is looking for you as hard as you are looking for him, I can guarantee." So get that energy flowing this Spring, and ask out your crush. I'll even coach you on the lemonade.


For more information on traditional introductions, courting, and dating for today's modern gay man, visit He's For Me, offline, personal matchmaking designed exclusively for select gay men seeking a long-term relationship - at www.H4M.com, and like us on our Facebook Page for daily inspiration on finding love. #loveislove

 

Houston Gaymers: Getting Their Game On

posted on: 05/11/2015

What do you think of when you hear "Hearthstone," "Mario Kart" and "Naruto"? Probably a bunch of adolescents holed up in a basement glued to a screen. Houston Gaymers, however, is challenging that notion through its LGBT-friendly community.

According to 2014 gaming industry statistics, 58 percent of Americans play video games and 62 percent of all gamers are adults, with the average age of game purchasers ringing in at 35. Adults are playing these games and some want to find a way to do so without being bombarded by the slurs and sexually biased insults that are, unfortunately, common in the gaming world.

The LGBT community hasn't always had a natural fit into the world of gaming. That's why in 2009, Eric Hulsey, after inspiration from a dinner with friends, founded Houston Gaymers to offer a safe and fun gaming environment for gamers online and through regular meetups. "Gamers in general are more introverted in their personalities and sometimes so is being gay. By picking neutral locations, everyone can feel more open to be who they want to be," he told the Houston Press in 2012.

Houston Gaymers is the largest gay gaming community in the country, with a regular turnout of 80 or more players. The group holds the honor of being named OutSmart Magazine's Gayest and Greatest: Favorite Social Organization finalist in both 2012 and 2013.

The group is very active on Twitter, Facebook and its own blog, and events are shared via every outlet. Houston Gaymers meetups occur monthly and include access to delectable food trucks, console gaming and tournaments. They also host a monthly meetup called Handheld Connect for players who prefer personal gaming via the DS, PSP Vita or board games, for those who are into analog gaming.

Above all, Houston Gaymers is an open and welcoming community that extends its welcome to anyone looking to become part of something positive-and to also get their gaming on. Some recent events have included film screenings, drag queen shows, crawfish boils and team participation in Geeks Who Drink pub trivia nights.

Whether you find them online, hit one of their meetings or participate in a meetup, the Gaymers are waiting for you!

By Jenn Haight

 

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