LSR Journal: Overcoming doubts to ride for others

James Cannata
James Cannata

M.M. Adjarian  |  Contributing Writer
editor@dallasvoice.com

Cycling for the Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS ultimately means giving people with HIV and AIDS a chance at a better quality of life. But as Dallas IT professional James Cannata can attest, saddling up on behalf of others can also offer unexpected lessons in faith and self-confidence.

Cannata had known about the LSR for a number of years prior to his official entry into it this year. But overweight as he was, Cannata never thought he could become an event participant, let alone an LSR cyclist.

“When I got my bike last year, it was the first one I’d owned since I was a teenager,” a somewhat embarrassed Cannata admits. And his first efforts at a return to cycling were frankly halfhearted.

He estimates that in 2010, he rode no more than six or seven miles; and the bicycle that was to have awakened his inner athlete became little more than a two-wheeled dust-collector.

Despite the anemic mileage totals, the 41-year-old Cannata was able to follow through on a health and fitness program he’d also begun at about the same time. When he finally took the Ride plunge at the LSR kickoff party last May, he had lost 30 pounds and kicked a 25-year-plus smoking habit.

Says the IT tech,“ I thought to myself, ‘I’m in a little better shape now.’ I had come a long way in the last year-and-a-half, so I decided I could [finally] do the Ride and help out other people.”

But then Cannata had an attack of nerves. In his mind, he was a cycling newbie whose sole experience with fundraising had consisted of selling candy for his Cub Scout troop. Who was he to be doing the LSR?

“I called [event manager] Jerry [Calumn] and told him there was no way I would be able to raise my goal of $1,200,” Cannata recalls. “Besides which, we were going to be riding on real streets on our bikes, with real traffic going by. And these were real miles in real weather.”

Cannata was ready to give the $200 he had already raised back to his sponsors. Calumn, who saw more in Cannata than he could see in himself, immediately got the flustered IT tech in touch with another, more experienced rider who took him on a test ride.

“And I just absolutely loved it,” Cannata beams. “I was kind of stunned that I had done 10 or 12 miles; it was just amazing for me. I couldn’t believe I’d done that, you know?”

Since then, Cannata has worked up to doing 30 miles per ride. Now he fully expects to achieve his goal of doing 90 miles during the two days the Ride will take place.

The encouragement he received from other LSR members helped Cannata believe in himself and carry on towards his goal. And as Cannata has moved along his path, he’s seen still other positives emerge.
“When I look at the people who have donated to this ride,” he says, “it’s amazing to see the level of support, especially [among] my heterosexual allies who are very close friends. They have donated quite a bit of money. It’s just so amazing that these people are proud of me for doing this.”

The upcoming Ride will be a challenge for Cannata, but one he’s now ready to embrace with open arms. After all, all the hurdles he has — or has yet — to overcome, are nothing compared to those facing the people for whom he is riding.

“There are just some people who don’t have the financial means to take care of their basic day-to-day needs,” says Cannata. “But I’m going to know that I took part in changing someone’s life [by] putting food on someone’s table for a couple of months. Or getting someone medicine [or] emotional support.”

Radiant with newfound self-belief, he adds, “Whatever effort, whatever pain I [go] through [will be] so worth it.”

Lone Star Ride Fighting AIDS takes place Sept. 24-25. For details or to donate to a specific rider or team or to the ride in general, go online to LoneStarRide.org.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 5, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

Red Party Foundation Kickoff Party at BJ’s

The Red Party Foundation Kick-Off Party at BJ’s NXS on April 21 raised an estimated $4,000, according to J.T. Williams, co-founder of the organization. The money will go straight to the Red Party Foundation, which was formed earlier this year as a 501(c)(3) by Williams and Jared Pearce. Last week’s fundraiser was the first of several leading up to the annual Red Party in September benefiting the Legacy Counseling Center and Founders Cottage. “I was pleasantly surprised at how well the underwear auction went,” Williams said. “James Deets and John Rieger were the big bidders, both bidding $200-plus for a pair of Candid Underwear that was worn at the time by BJ’s bartenders and dancers.” The Red Party Foundation’s website, at www.RedPartyDallas.com, is under construction by Clint Thomson of Celeratec, who is donating his services.

Photos by Chuck Dube/MarceloMedia

—  John Wright

Joel Burns is kicking off his campaign tonight in Fort Worth. Is there any chance it’ll be for mayor?

Gay Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns will celebrate his 42nd birthday tonight with a re-election campaign kickoff party at the Historic Fort Worth Masonic Temple.

“When I think about my childhood birthday memories, I remember Mom baked and decorated a unique cake every year tied to a themed party she dreamed up,” Burns writes on his website, where people can also share their own birthday memories. “One year was train cars, another was cowboys, and I remember being particularly excited about the year I had a Speed Racer party. After the party we would climb into Daddy’s pick-up and drive to the Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo. My family always made me feel special, as though all of Fort Worth was putting on this grand event just for me and my birthday. Fort Worth remains my favorite place to celebrate a birthday, and I’m proud that it remains a place that makes everyone feel welcomed and special.”

We put in a call to Burns earlier today but haven’t heard back yet. While we have no reason to believe he plans to run for anything other than re-election to his District 9 council seat, we’re sure we’re not alone in wondering if he’s entertained any thoughts whatsoever of running for mayor. Four-term incumbent Mayor Mike Moncrief announced his retirement on Thursday. The filing period begins Monday, and the race to replace Moncrief is already under way. At the very least, it’s fun to dream about the prospect of having second gay big-city mayor in Texas.

Burns did issue a statement on Thursday afternooon in response to Moncrief’s retirement:

“In his service as State Representative, County Judge, State Senator and Mayor, Mike Moncrief has been a example of public service to the citizens of Fort Worth, Tarrant County, and Texas my entire life,” Burns said. “I have enjoyed serving with a mayor who has such a strong and evident love for Fort Worth and commitment to Fort Worth’s future generations.  I hope that after he and his co-captain, Rosie, have the ability to spend some much-deserved time together, that they will continue to be example of service and leadership in our City for decades to come.”

RSVP for Burns’ party — where, who knows, he might make an unexpected announcement — by going here.

—  John Wright

A week before the Super Bowl, gay candidate kicks off City Council bid in host city Arlington

Hightower in his fourth-grade Hill Highlander uniform.

A week before Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, openly gay Realtor Chris Hightower is set to kick off his campaign for the District 5 seat on the City Council.

According to the Washington, D.C.-based Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, which has endorsed Hightower, he would be the first openly gay city councilmember in Arlington’s history.

Chris Hightower

Hightower is an Arlington native who is the son of former Democratic State Rep. Paula Pierson. He lives with his partner in the historic “azalea house” at Park Row and Davis, according to his campaign website:

I am running for City Council because I love Arlington,” Hightower writes. “From the classrooms of my childhood to the elected offices of today, I have witnessed firsthand what good can come from the hard work of those who care about our hometown. They have made this city into the place that I love. Now, it is time for my generation to step forward and provide leadership for our city’s future just as the generations before us have. It is my hope that children living in Arlington today choose to stay here and raise their families — not because they see the great things I saw in our city while I was growing up, but because they saw something even better.”

Hightower is trying to unseat District 5 incumbent Lana Wolff, who is seeking a fifth term on the council. Other candidates expected to run in District 5 include attorney Terry Meza and UTA student Christopher McCain.

According to his Facebook page, Hightower will host a kickoff party at 7 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 29 at 2316 Woodsong Trail in Arlington.

He becomes the second candidate from Texas endorsed by the Victory Fund this year, joining Fort Worth Councilman Joel Burns, who’s seeking re-election to his District 9 seat.

The other known openly gay candidate in North Texas is James Nowlin, who plans to run for the District 14 seat on the Dallas City Council if incumbent Angela Hunt steps down to run for mayor.

—  John Wright

Best bets • 12.03.10

Friday 12.03

Weekend forecast: lotsa leather
Mr. Dallas Eagle Jack Duke has a busy weekend ahead. First he’s hosting the Used Leather Silent Auction on Friday. Then he takes part in the Kickoff Party that same night, all gearing up for Saturday’s Mr. Dallas Eagle contest. Hard to believe it’s already been a year since Duke started his successful run at leather domination by going on to win Mr. Texas Leather and then placing third in Mr. IML. Now it’s time to pass on the torch — or is it paddle?

DEETS: Dallas Eagle, 5740 Maple Ave. Friday–Saturday at 8 p.m. DallasEagle.com

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Friday 12.03

Get folked up with SONiA
Lesbian folk singer SONiA and Disappear Fear head back to North Texas in support of their latest album Blood, Bones & Baltimore. Just don’t let the folk part scare you. She refreshes the granola vibe of ’60s folk by fusing it with a reggae touch. Plus, her dreadlocks are killer up close.

DEETS: Uncle Calvin’s Coffeehouse, 9555 N. Central Expressway. 8 p.m. $12–$15. UncleCalvins.com

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Saturday 12.04

Boogie woogie meets ballet – for real
Only the Contermporary Ballet of Dallas would we trust to mix ballet with disco, jazz and swing music. In Boogie Woogie Christmas Carol, the CBD offers a different take of the Dickens classic by throwing in some Tommy Dorsey, The Trammps and even Linkin Park. Ballet is starting to sound kinda cool, huh?

DEETS: McFarlin Auditorium, 6405 Boaz Lane. 7:30 p.m. $27. ContemporaryBalletDallas.com

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Tuesday 12.07

Good things can come from a trailer
The Sam Houston School Holiday Project will be offering thanks to a slew of drag queens this season. Edna Jean Robinson brings back her annual Trailer Park Christmas which benefits the project. Onyx and Chanel are among the drag fabulous who will lend a manicured hand to the night. Those kids will be so happy. It just warms the heart.

DEETS: JR.’s Bar & Grill, 3923 Cedar Springs Road. 11 p.m. Caven.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition December 3, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens

Toast to Life Kickoff Party is tonight

Rafael McDonnell at Resource Center Dallas sends along word that the kickoff party for Toast to Life, RCD’s big annual fundraiser for its health and medical programs, is this evening at Truluck’s. In the past Toast to Life has been held in April, but next year’s 13th annual event will be in February. To purchase tickets for Toast to Life, go here.

—  John Wright