by Brad Benedict
BATON ROUGE, LOUISIANA
The Lords of Leather gathers funds throughout the year to donate to groups such as Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge, located at 4727 Revere Ave. They were chosen because of their work with children with HIV/AIDS. Last week, Elmer Godeny, treasurer of the Lords of Leather, presented Tirzah Smith, Case Manager for Ryan White Program for Women and Children, Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge, with a check for $800, the first of several donations scheduled for this Mardi Gras krewe.
This is only one of the many services that the Lords of Leather provides the community, but in the past, the donations have gone mainly to New Orleans groups. With so many members from Baton Rouge, it was decided that the Capital City should be included in distribution of the charitable funds gathered throughout the year at different events.
Family Service of Greater Baton Rouge, A Capital Area United Way Partner, is making a difference - one child, one adult, one family at a time. This group is committed to strengthening and enhancing the lives of individuals and families through direct services and positive social actions for over forty years. Programs are provided to more than 13,000 families and individuals each year. The group is an affiliate member of the Alliance for Children and Families, an international nonprofit organization representing 360 agencies in the United States and Canada.
They have a number of specialized services: the Teen Advocate Program, the Moms and Babies Program, the First Time Parent Program, the HIV Peer Prevention Program (HOPE), the HIV Care Coordination and HIV Women and Children Programs, the Independent Living Program, and the Pennington Family Loan Program.
The Parenting Center Program promotes healthy family development through workshops, classes and parent consultations, and the Family Counseling Center provides services to individuals, couples and families seeking solutions to difficult problems that require professional help.
This group publishes a newsletter called "Consumer Newsletter," and the back page lists all the functions that take place each month. One of their brochures is a listing of resources for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Their latest newsletter has several articles of interest to people. One is information on the new drug available for treatment of HIV. Another tells how alcohol abuse complicates HIV, and the one on HIV/HCV co-infection is something that everyone needs to read. This co-infection is a challenge in stemming liver disease and concerns the effects that HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) has on the human body.
Free and confidential testing is offered at several community sites. Their number is 225.927.9810. If you need this service, please take note of the number and give them a call. They are easy to find, and brochures can be picked up at Hibiscus Bookstore in Baton Rouge.
The local Farmerís Market held a big treat last Saturday. I ran into my friend Frank, a landscape architect, while looking at art exhibits, and he told me about Markís project and encouraged me to help him. Well, I always jump at the chance to help Mark any day of the week, so I accompanied Frank to an area at the corner of Fifth and North streets.
To my surprise, here was Mark handing out forms for people to fill out to help him with his thesis. I have to admit that this is one thesis that I must have a copy of when it is completed. There in front of me was this tall structure with plants and balloons on top of it. It was an unusual burial vault or pole. At the top were miniature faces of a couple of guys I knew, Frank and Ty. Their faces had been cast and heated to form images on the two sections at the top.
Mark had chosen this subject as his thesis, and he even created the burial pole to illustrate his plan for saving space, being able to move at will, or just to decorate a yard or home space. Each section of the pole was a burial holder for ashes after cremation. Apparently, this is a practice in parts of South America, and Mark chose the subject for more study and documentation.
I ended up recruiting people to fill out his paperwork and answer his questions on their feelings concerning the project. As we continued to stand around the sculpture, more and more people came by, fascinated, interested, and somewhat in awe of the scene. It was also a sort of reunion when Ann came by. I hadnít seen her since a special Mardi Gras party earlier this year, so we all chatted just about everything that came to mind.
Iím not sure how many interviews were granted or how many questionnaires were completed, but Iíd like to know. I suppose Iíll have to wait until Mark returns from South America. Since the thesis isnít due until October, Iíll have more time to talk to him about it.
And in case you are wondering, Mark is also a landscape architect major, and the subject is one of saving space and adding to the overall beauty of the surrounding area. I wonít tell you my answers about this, but I do think that would make a fine addition to my garden. It would be a conversation piece, and when I got tired of it in one section of my garden, I could just move it to another.
Mark, sweetie, I wish you a tremendous amount of success with this thesis and with your future as a landscape architect. Iíd give you a perfect score if I was grading it, but then you already are a perfect score, and you canít improve on perfection. Have a great summer in South America.
Last week, I ran into my neighbor Mark at Georgeís Place. I think I talked with him more on this day than I ever had in the past. We go back several years to a time prior to his work at Georgeís. It just happened that he was in an extraordinarily friendly and open mood, and the conversation was quite enjoyable.
Iíve always thought of Mark as being a little on the wild side, but that is definitely not the case. Iím not even sure why I thought that and probably because it was a judgement call without getting to know him personally. Actually, heís a little on the shy side.
I was really a little shocked when he told me that I probably thought he slept around with everyone he came into the bar with on any given night. The fact of the matter is that he seldom goes home with anyone, and here is where the shy part comes in. So many people think just because you walk out of a bar with someone that you are going home for sex. Mark usually goes home alone.
In a way thatís a shame because he is such a nice and fine young man. Iíve always thought of him as exceptionally handsome and well built, and I suppose, like many others, that Iíve lusted after him, but lust and love are two different things. Love is a mutual feeling between two people. Lust is more than likely a one-sided situation, which is more common than you might think. However, there are some guys who fall in love with everyone they meet. Hmmmm.
With a smile that lights up a room or a laugh that grabs your attention, Mark stands out among those around him. Heís dynamic in a most positive way, and this has a tendency to set him apart from the crowd. Wherever he is, Mark seems to be in control, and his future at this time looks brighter than ever.
I do trust that your future plans include me as a friend and a nice drinking partner. It was a most enjoyable and rewarding time I spent with you, and I look forward to doing it again. At any rate, good luck, Mark, in anything that you undertake. You are a very deserving human being.
Supporting Each Other
Gays and lesbians in Baton Rouge are fortunate to have a couple of restaurants that are so open in welcoming the local community. Dining at Seropís on Perkins Road, across from the Pennington Biomedical Research Center and at El Rio Grande, on Airline Highway across from Cortana Mall, has become a weekly event for numerous friends and those who have read about it in Ambush. There are other restaurants that are very open to gays and lesbians too, but before I can mention them, I have to be assured that they want to be written up or perhaps an ad in Ambush would open the door for recognition. Itís difficult for me to believe that there are some businesses that donít take advantage of this.
Roo just took over as owner of El Rio Grande from his father who retired with a great party in his honor. Seeing Roo dance with his mother and taking control of all the activities was a definite joy. Many of the gays who go there on a regular basis were a part of the celebration. The food was great and the margaritas flowed freely. It was a fun time and even though it signaled the end by way of retirement, it also signaled a new day for the community. Roo welcomes you. Go out and support him every day except Monday. I can vouch for the margaritas. They are the best you will find anywhere in the city.
The same camaraderie was true last week at Seropís on Perkins. Thereís always been a lot of support for the gay community here. In fact, the owner is open enough to go to Icon or Georgeís to show his support, and heís a straight man who is devoted to his family and friends of all races and lifestyles. You wonít find a better friend or restaurant owner than Johnny. Pay him a visit, and enjoy the best Lebanese food in this, or any, city. He cares enough to give the very best.
In fact, I was dining there last week and noted the two large fig trees growing at the side of the building facing Perkins Road. Johnny told me to feel free to pick all I needed. Since Iím a fig lover, I proceeded to take him up on the offer. I wasnít prepared for his nephew to sneak up on me and scare the you-know-what out of me. Iím sure the people that had stopped at the red light got a big kick out of it. I not only thank Johnny for this special treat, but I should thank my Rudolphís buddy Michael for planting these trees years ago when he was more involved in landscape work as opposed to promoting Christmas goodies.
And speaking of Christmas goodies, Rudolphís is the place to go, and they are open every day. Itís located on Highland Road, and you will be amazed at the massive amount of gift items to be found there. Itís located in an old barn, and there are two or three levels of merchandise that will absolutely amaze you. Just go by and tell Michael I sent you. In fact, Johnny wants Michael to decorate Seropís this Christmas. Now how about that for community support?
As far as supporting the community, you canít go wrong in your own individual support of Icon, Georgeís, Hound Dogs, and Hibiscus. These four businesses are the main ones that are openly gay and have provided community support for many years.
Itís hard to believe that Hibiscus is now in its sixteenth year of operation, and even prior to this was open under another name and serving tourists with the finest of Louisiana gift items as they came off the riverboats. It is now open seven days for your shopping convenience - noon until 6pm every day - and new merchandise arrives every week.
Georgeís is the oldest gay bar in town and has maintained its support of the community with pride for many years. Even Icon and Hound Dogs have been around a long time, just under other names and other owners. There is one lesbian bar remaining, the Fish Bowl on Exchange Place.
By supporting these businesses, the gay and lesbian community benefits.
Just A Thought
Ishall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to a fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it for I shall not pass this way again.
[Correction: The captions of these photos were mistakenly switched in the last edition.]
David at Inn Leather, Ft. Lauderdale
Acadiana hearthrob Wallace
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