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Hand Balls

The highs and lows of a World Cup day and a gay pride evening

It's Saturday afternoon and I'm stuck watching soccer. I hate soccer. Now, I know that's hardly a daring sentiment, or something a great many good and true Americans haven't already yammered on about over the past few weeks, but not many of those people have roommates who've insisted that the whole house watch the Mexico vs. Argentina game.

I just can't get behind a sport in which dramatically falling to the ground can determine the outcome of game (see Ghana vs. USA). And I have no clue why my roommates are rooting for Mexico. Perhaps it's because if Mexicans are playing in the World Cup, they can't possibly be stealing American jobs.

I'm in a bad mood too, because since the teams tied it up 1-1 in the first ten minutes, absolutely nothing has happened. And now it's the 80th minute and my roommates have both fallen asleep on the couch.

"That's what I like about soccer," says Travis, coming out of his slumber. "I didn't miss anything."

"What you like about soccer is that you can sleep for 40 minutes, and when you wake up nothing's happened?" I ask, seething.

"Exactly."

Checkmate.

The game heads into overtime, and I decide I've had enough. If I want to watch small Latin men prance about, I'm not going to do it from the couch. It's time to head to the Houston Pride Parade.

Despite having lived in and around the 'Trose for the past five years, I've never been to the annual nighttime parade. It's a failure my buddy John and I plan to correct in grand style tonight.

When we pull up and park on Mandell Street, near the parade's launching pad, the crowd is already milling about. Needless to say, it's a colorful crowd with lots of bright flags and bustling energy. Like the World Cup, but less gay.

We stop at a Chinese restaurant where they're selling beer in the parking lot. Straight, gay or in between -- I've always been of the opinion that you have to get behind any occasion that encourages public drinking. With a couple of brews in hand we make our way up Westheimer, passing queens, twinks, bears and some big ol' leather biker dudes. There are also a ton of families set up with chairs and coolers. I love parades!

Night's beginning to fall, and after getting more beer, we plant ourselves in the middle of Montrose at Westheimer, the nerve center. Across the street, Privé is blasting techno music but also, interestingly, some Eminem.

He and Elton John are down now, I think. I start listening to a kid next to us giving advice to some first-timers.

"You're short, so you're going to have to jump to get beads," Kevin instructs from under his UT Longhorns cap.

"This is my first time, too," I tell him. "What should we expect?"

"You can expect cute Latin guys dancing on floats and a bunch of leather daddies trying to dance on floats," he says. He also lays out the swag we can look forward to.

"Beads, condoms and lube."

"So lube's the best?"

"That depends if you're a top or a bottom."

I'm trying to figure out who'd care about lube more -- I'd always figured both parties would want to be properly greased -- when the girls we're meeting show up with more beer of their own.

Their names are Laura and Lauren. I met Lauren through the Internet. If you're going to meet up with random strangers from the Internet, there really is no better place than a gay pride parade. So long as it wasn't m4m.

By now it's totally dark, and the first part of the parade -- politicians-who-may-or-may-not-be-gay-but-definitely-are-okay-with-that-kind-of-thing -- starts coming through. Mayor Bill White's out front, followed by Representative Sheila Jackson-Lee and quite a few others. State Rep Garnet Coleman is way into it, lifting up his shirt and tweaking his nipples. I'd love to see Tom DeLay doing that.

There are thousands of people just in this block, and we're up against the barricades five deep. When the big floats start sliding past, everyone goes nuts for the beads. The floats are coming between 100 and 200 yards apart, which means: a) there's plenty of time for drinking; and b) the whole thing takes forever.

A lanky, older guy comes up to Lauren and asks if I'm her boyfriend. And it's not her he's interested in.

"Say yes, say yes," I think.

"No, he's not," she says.

Dammit.

Not that I'm not flattered, but c'mon now, guy. I could do better. When straight guys go to gay clubs, they get to experience just a little bit what every girl gets to experience every day. Guys tell you you're hot, they buy you drinks and they try to sleep with you. It's a trip for a night, but I can sympathize with girls who have to put up with us straight dudes 24/7.

By now the parade has gone on for nearly two hours. It's hot, there's no breeze and no end in sight. We decide we've had enough of the show and make plans to meet back up at Brian O'Neill's (5555 Morningside Drive) in Rice Village. It's the equivalent of taking a train from Gaytown to Straightsville.

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