Last evening, I took a friend, Ernie, to Orlando as an introduction to gay Central Florida. He is originally from Philadelphia and moved to Melbourne a year-and-a-half ago, where he has been "starving" and slowly becoming disillusioned. I wanted to show him that there is hope before he became Too cynical.
After work, we met at my house before driving over together. We ate dinner at Friends Restaurant over on Mills Avenue. It's a gay-owned, gay-friendly dining establishment that has both a fancy and a casual ambiance, and whose menu offers a wide assortment of choices at a Very reasonable price (i.e., under-priced (imho)). Ernie really enjoyed the place, and I have no doubt that he'll be returning there when he goes back to Orlando to visit on his own.
I drove him further up Mills to check out the outdoor shopping area in Winter Park (which was, for him, "more like it"). Then I drove him past the Enzian and told him about how they host the Florida Film Festival and Gay & Lesbian Film Festival there. And then I showed him where the Orlando Fringe Festival is held.
After that, we headed to the tea house for the Art Opening. I didn't recognize anyone right off hand, but it was fine. I am always SO HAPPY to see Pom Pom. She's such a success in my eyes (And she's worked hard for it!).
The artist whose work was being shown was Lee Vandergrift. His art was fun and showed that he had a great sense of humor. Ernie and I slowly walked down the line of paintings, admiring each one. We both loved them. Ernie purchased a pack of the artist's notecards, and we met Tim (Lee's partner), and he introduced us to Lee.
While Lee was making rounds, talking with all of the guests there, Ernie and I were talking with Tim and this woman who reminded me of someone familiar... and I just HAD to take a picture with her:
I really enjoyed talking with them. It was a really nice "getting to know someone new" experience. We did talk about the art, etc, but we managed to stray onto talking about the crazy astronaut diaper-wearing stalker and a mini-chihuahua-seeing-eye-dog at the office. Anyways...
I did end up purchasing a print of "3Hearts" and a couple of another print they had available:
And then once I got home, I checked out his website and immediately fell in love with "Star Watchers":
They would go GREAT in my guest room.
Anyways, Ernie and I made it back to my house at a reasonable hour, and then he headed home happier than he was before the trip. I could tell that the introduction to Orlando as a gay haven was successful. All of the experiences of the evening: dinner at Friends, the very abridged but enticing drive to Winter Park, and the Art Show at Pom Pom's Teahouse, gave Ernie the sense of "community" that he has been longing for.