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Back Out With Benny: Toasting anniversaries and Pride

When I started writing this column earlier this year, we titled it “Back Out With Benny” as a nod to the “Out With Benny” column series I wrote for Update newspaper a decade ago.

This issue’s column marks the 10 years that have passed since I wrote my first-ever column, which was published on June 29, 2005. In a front-page teaser, the editors previewed that first column by saying “Ben Cartwright … has all the dish on everything that’s going around in San Diego. Entertaining, informative, and fun, Ben’s unique perspective will be a welcomed addition to Update.”

Since then, I’ve written for most of the LGBT publications that have existed in town over the last decade and continue to enjoy the opportunity to do what I set out to do in 2005: Be entertaining, informative, and fun! Thank you to everyone who has read my work and supported me over the years, giving me the opportunity to share about so many things that I love. Here’s to another 10 years of writing and beyond!

Now that summer is in full swing, there are so many exciting things going on around town that it’s hard to keep up with them all. San Diego Pride is just a few weeks away, and the “Pride buzz” that starts to take over the community will soon begin. The rainbow banners have gone up on the light poles in Hillcrest, the San Diego Pride guides have hit the streets, and the local bars and other businesses will soon start putting all of their Pride decor (pink flamingos throughout MO’s Universe!).

For many of us locals, San Diego Pride is the most fabulous time of year, but it also means that many of us become very busy. Whether we’re hosting visitors, volunteering for the celebration, working extra shifts (especially those in the service industry), or just trying to keep up with all of the events, we often don’t get to spend much time celebrating with each other.

Because of this, last year Rick Cervantes and I created the first annual “CHEERS! Benny & Rick’s Pride Kick-Off Happy Hour!” on the Monday of Pride week, so that all of us local community members could celebrate together before the craziness ensued. You are invited to join us (and 100+ of our friends and community colleagues) at #1 Fifth Avenue on July 13 at 6 p.m. for the second annual gathering. There’s no fundraising, no show, no work — just a great time toasting to San Diego Pride. There will be drink specials and free beer ’til the first keg runs out! Click HERE for more information or to RSVP.

San Diego Pride weekend will be filled with events, including the annual rally, block party, parade, and two-day music festival. Visit sdpride.org or check out Gay San Diego’s own Pride Guide in the July 10 edition for more information.

Back here at The Center, this weekend is going to be a lot of fun. One of my favorite events of the year, the annual Pachanga de Frida, is Saturday night, June 27. This festive, high-energy party benefits The Center’s Latin@ Services program and includes live-music, a Frida Kahlo look-alike contest, great food, and tequila! This event is always packed, so get your tickets now, and then join me on the dance floor! Visit events.thecentersd.org/frida for tickets and more info.

The next day, Sunday, June 28, come relax by pool! The Andaz Hotel is hosting AQUA from 1 – 6 p.m. at their 360-pool area, benefiting the Hillcrest Youth Center and the annual Rainbow Prom for LGBTQ youth and allies ages 14 to 18. For just a $10 donation, you can spend the afternoon enjoying the sunshine and views of the San Diego skyline, while swimming, drinking, and lying by the pool (and don’t worry, you don’t have to swim, there’s plenty of space to lounge). For more information visit events.thecentersd.org/aqua.

This week is also National HIV Testing Week. Knowing your status is important so take the opportunity to get tested this week. You can visit aids.gov/locator to find a free testing site near you. Also, The Center’s #BeTheGeneration will be at the Faith-Based Action Coalition of San Diego’s National HIV Testing Day event on Saturday, June 27 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. The event includes free HIV testing, music, entertainment, food, health information and more! Stop by the Malcolm X Library, 5148 Market St., to join in the fun.

The next time I write this column, Pride will have come and gone, so I hope you all have a safe, fun, celebration! Happy Pride!

—Benny Cartwright is the director of community outreach at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. He can be reached at 619-692-2077 ext. 106 or outreach@thecentersd.org.

(Editor's note: This column was originally published on SDGLN media partner Gay San Diego.)