Food, drink, film and other random thoughts from The Lone Star State.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


I moved to Houston in 1990 after a long, cold year of the white stuff in Colorado. I liked Colorado but the cold and snow, forget it.

Like any self-respecting gay man in their 20's, the first thing I did when I settled in Houston was check the gay bars and meet new people. Alan was the first person I met. Alan and his cowboy-posse surrounded me in the BRB, Houston's gay C&W bar, about 5 minutes after I arrived.

Which one of us are you going home with?

Maybe we could start out with an easier question like you asking my name?

Ok, whats your name?


Nice to meet ya Jim, now back to your selection for this evening!

Bob, I'm trading you all in for whats behind door number 3!

Smart-ass! I knew I liked you!

So started our friendship.

Alan and I were polar opposites: he was the tall, red-headed extrovert cowboy who literally could not function without 4-5 hours a day of being surrounded by a crowd of people. He got off work at 3, changed and at 3:30 he would arrive in the Montrose for pre-happy hour. At 5 he would transition to happy hour, around 8 he would take in a quick bite then head out for the 930 to 2a post-happy hour. He did this 7 nights a week.

I, on the other hand, the short blonde introvert, was completely content with my one friday night out, afterwards I needed no social interaction until the following week.

Still we became the best of friends. He never tried to change me and I reciprocated. One night after closing the BRB and exhausting after-hours at the Ripcord, we found ourselves at some 24-hour dinner sucking down omelettes and coffee. This is when Alan told me he had AIDS.

I must have had a face on, since I said absolutely nothing.

Now Jim, you know as well as I do that getting enough sleep, eating right, stopping my 2 packs a day of Marlboro Red and cutting back on my daily pre and post happy hours would be like putting me in pine box before my time.

I know I was put here to show people that this thing does not have to stop you from living. I know it and now you know it too.

And I did. We never talked about this subject again, no need really, he had made his stance clear.

Although Alan never mentioned it to me, I would later discover that he spent his weekend days at hospices, walking-the-walk, his Texas-sized personality and upbeat perspective were almost legendary in Houston. He was Houston's poster boy for living with AIDS.

My two years in Houston were memorable, largely due to Alan and his grab-life-by-the-balls persona. Unfortunately, work took me to Dallas in 1992 and we were only able to see each other occasionally there after.

In 1993 he inherited a bit of land in his home town, Tulsa and moved back to the build his dream home. I still remember his endless 2am phones, the panic discussions over what tile for the kitchen, was a shower for 12 considered gauche or how pink did I want my room to be (he knew I hated pink). A year of this insanity went on until mid-1994 when he started to settle down. He made me promise that I would visit when he finished his house, he was planning a housewarming party for himself sometime in September. But like many good plans there were some glitches to pulling it off.

Alan passed away on July 5th, 1994, he was 32 years old, exactly, it was his birthday.

His family informed me of his passing but they did want any of us at the services. I ignored them and went anyway, standing a respectful distance from them but still able to see. Later, I went to Alan's almost-finished house and said good-bye and happy birthday in a way Alan woud have liked: a 6-pack, a pack of Marlboro Reds and his picture, which had just been published in Houston's gay rag.

Thats why, for the past 12 years, my July 4th weekend has always been truncated or sometimes scraped all together - I'm in Tulsa on July 5th, celebrating a birthday for a very special friend.

Alan Hughes (July 5, 1962 - July 5, 1994)


Blogger steve'swhirlyworld said...

Wow. What a friend you are. I think Alan was placed on this earth to show people how to REALLY live their lives, and not just talk about it. Thanks for sharing your friend with us.
Happy Birthday Alan! I'm sure you're having a great time! :)

10:59 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Steve!

7:30 AM

Anonymous Thom said...

This post is a beautiful tribute to your friend.

10:26 AM

Blogger Jim said...

How blessed and lucky Alan was to have a friend like you Jimbo. Much love buddy.

12:00 PM

Blogger El Güero said...

A very loving and moving tribute.
I wish he'd hung around another year or two for the big guns (meds) that came along.
Anyway, he lives on in your memories.

7:55 PM

Blogger Jason said...

That was a very touching story of true friendship, Jim. It makes you appreciate your friends and the gift that we all have.

I lost a friend last year to AIDS, and he was a true inspiration as well. He always made it his mission to educate and make others around him feel comfortable- even in his last days. Thanks for telling your story, people need to here them more ;)

9:01 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Thom!

9:55 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Jimbo, I think we were both lucky to have known each other.

9:59 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Güero! I wish he would have too but we did have quality rather than quantity.

10:01 PM

Blogger john said...

What a big hearted man you are. And what a lovely tribute to your friend, sounds like he was pretty wonderful too...

10:05 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Jason, thank you. Isn't it interesting that people at the end of their lives have such an impact on propelling us forward on a new and better path. Its what I enjoyed most about working in a hospice, the perspective.

10:16 PM

Blogger Jim said...

He was John and thank you!

10:24 PM

Blogger NeiLDC said...

What a great story that ive read, true to heart, i honestly bid a tear after reading your post. How many people on earth like you to have a friend in full support.. I know that Allan will be peaceful now a days. and you are the best buddy that he have...

Congratulations for being a friend!

1:55 PM

Blogger Rachel said...

being someone from wisconsin, i just dont understand this whole warm weather southern thing. to me, its not a real year without snow. *sniff sniff* i want to go home :(

this was a very nice post about your friend.

3:25 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Thanks Neil, appreciate it!

11:07 PM

Blogger Jim said...

Rachel, you can have my share of snow, really, I dont mind :)

And thanks for the nice comment.

11:11 PM


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