A Wonderful Day With Old and New Friends

On Saturday morning I meet up with one of my group of friends in Saint Petersburg for a triple-header event.

We first walk around the Saturday morning farmers and handicraft market in Saint Pete. I always enjoy sampling the home made food items that the different vendors sell there and also admire all the unique handicraft items that people make and sell there.

My selfie with the “Queen Mother” !

After the farmers market we walked over to Straub Park to check out a large art festival. There were so many cool and creative artistic creations proudly displayed by the artists there all up for sale.

Photo above is some of the gang by the Saint Pete Yacht Club enroute to the park.

Selfie foot photo of some of the group.

After the art festival it was time for a few beers! First we self bought a few bottles at a store similar to “Whole Foods” and sat outside in the court yard and relaxed. Later on, once “official” happy hour prices were in effect we moved upstairs to an upscale restaurant and bar called “Sea Salt” and continued enjoying each others company for a few more hours. All in all a great day.

Photo of the group above.

Oops….. Accidents do happen!

Later that evening, I picked up my new friend “Marco” the French Navy Officer and hung around Ybor City for a few hours showing him one of the lively night spots around Tampa.

Have a great day!

Gary

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly and The Interesting

This post is about four different things.

The first part is “The Good”.

Last week when I went to the Put-Put (miniature) golf event with one of my meetup groups (See previous post entitled Put-Put) I made a new friend “Marco”. He was part of my 4 member golf team and it was the first time he attended one of our events. Marco is a French Navy Officer who is on temporary duty to the USA for 6 months who happens to be stationed on MacDill AFB where I live. He works directly for the French General at the Coalition Village which is part of Central Command and he plays an important role in overseeing all the military planning and operations pertaining to the French military forces who work with our American soldiers in support of military operations all over the Middle East. Marco is a super nice guy and we had a lot in common and we’ve become good friends. Yesterday evening I took Marco to Ybor City (a district of Tampa with a very lively night life) and we had a super time conversing about our military careers and enjoying the evening over a few beers. I love interacting with folks from other countries and welcoming them to the USA and love to show them unique things that our country offers. This truly is one of my passions. As a result of our new friendship. I received a personal invite to attend a special get together that the French coalition group will have on March 9th. It was a great honor to receive this special invitation. I am excited abount attending and to meet all the other members of the French military.

The second Part is the Sad:

Remember my friend and former Commander I told you about from the military who developed terminal brain cancer? I had previously written him a nice letter a few weeks ago and then wrote a post about it approximately 1 and 1/2 weeks ago entitled “Ups and Downs In Life”. Recently I received a nice response back from him which I’ll include below:

Mikey is the 2nd person in the above photo from left to right. A tall and very nice looking guy.

Mikey said: “Gary, So Sorry for the late reply. Just got discharged following surgery and am home now after have a second glioblastoma removed in 2 years. This was about the size of a lemon.

It is really fantastic to hear from you and would love to catch up.

You said so many gracious and wonderful things about our great working relationship in Germany.
The truth is that great units, & the 159 th medical air ambulance company became one because it was made up of great people. I attribute our success not to me but more specifically to YOU. Your efforts were second to none and you approached every single task with unparalleled professionalism and excellence. Clearly you are one of the very best officers regardless of rank I ever worked with. I just hope I took care of you.
Hope to stay in touch! Thanks for your prayers, my brother. God listens”

My second response back to my friend…

Gary Said: “Mickey, Thanks so much for your thoughtful reply, although I humbly do not feel I deserve it. I was just doing my job as part of the team. I hope that you are now resting comfortably in your home and will gain back your strength very quickly. I will continue to think and pray for you and for your family, that your health will miraculously improve so you can have the opportunity to once again embrace and enjoy a long life ahead. I know all these ups and downs with your cancer is so trying, but I truly believe that the worst is behind you and your inner strength will win the battle.

I meant every word that I articulated in my earlier message to you. You are a wonderful and caring human being and I am so grateful to have you as a friend.

I would love to catch up with you when you are able. Feel free to reach out to me anytime. I am always there to listen to and to provide to you emotional and spiritual support and to help to comfort you in any way I can with hopes that it will brighten your day.

Take care my dear friend. I know that you will soon be doing that Michael Jackson moon walk shuffle that I so fondly remember of you when you were in good spirits. I can visualize your wonderful smile while doing this backward moon walk shuffle shouting YES….I beat this cancer! I knocked it out of the park!!!

Keep holding your head up high my friend. The best part of your life is just over the horizon! I sense it more and more each and every day!

Your forever friend, Gary”

The Third Part Is The Ugly:

That’ Me!

Fighting skin cancer again. Three biopsies taken by the Dermatogist on Friday…one on my lip and two on my legs, now I anxiously await results. They have come back cancerous in all other biopsies I’ve had in the past. Time will tell. Not sure what they do if it turns our to be cancer on my lip? Could get uglier. Also having blue light therapy on both arms this upcoming Friday to kill pre-cancerous cells. In a few days my arms will look pretty bad as well with a lot of sark spots that will develop as the cancer cells die off.

Of course, I still have my plastic surgery scheduled to be done on my nose on 3/12 from my previous bacterial infection. They’ll be grafting a portion of skin from another part of my face which will also result in some stitches in the areabthat will need to heal as well.

Okay….for The Last Part of this 4 part series, The Interesting:

So I was telling you earlier about my new friend Marco, the French Naval Officer. Marco had a very interesting history. He was telling me about one of his former assignments in the military where he was assigned to Paris and selected to be the support duty officer to the President of France. In that capacity he traveled all over the world with the President of France and had the opportunity to meet many famous people world wide such as the Queen of England, The Prime Minister of Japan, The Pope, Fidel Castro, the prime Miniter of China, Vlademir Putin, our President and many, many more important people.

Okay, about all for now.

Hope you enjoy the post!

Have a great week.

Gary

Florida State Fair-The Entertainment!

Hey All,

The videos below were from the Chinese Acrobatic Show at the Florida State Fair.

I think the 1st video was a great way to economize on the use of a bicycle when you only have one and can’t decide which of about 12 people get to use it. I guess the more the merrier! I don’t think the would make it however on my daily 25 mile bike ride!

Here a a few other still photos of the acrobatic team.

http://meetu.ps/3jRFjw

http://meetu.ps/3jRDCx

http://meetu.ps/3jRFld

Okay…I’ve always wanted to try to be hypnotized. So I was one of the volunteers on the stage. I really don’t think a person has the power in such a short time to control a whole group of people’s minds. However, I really tried to concentrate to see if the guy could hypnotize me. He failed…I didn’t feel a thing. About 6 or 7 contestants acted like they got hypnotized, however I was skeptical. Were they really hypnotized or just playing in on the fun on stage? Who knows?

http://meetu.ps/3jRDqJ

http://meetu.ps/3jRDtK

Note: I just learned something real cool. I went to my meetup site from the state fair where I posted almost 180 photos. When I copied the above Url’s, when you hit one of them, it allows you to scroll from left to right when you open it to see all the photos I took from the fair. Enjoy!

About all for today. Have a great evening.

I Found My Long Lost Brothers At The Florida State Fair !

Hey Everyone,

To continue my “marathon” weekend of social events this past week…

On Sunday, after first taking care of my neighbor’s doggies and then doing a quick work out at the gym, I drove to the Florida State Fair to meet up with a group of friends of mine.

The day was absolutely beautiful.

I’ve been to many state fairs over the past year at many other locations in the country, but I must say that The Florida State Fair held here in Tampa exceeded my expectations and was by far the best and the most interesting one that I’ve ever attended. The staff that organized this fair did a great job to ensure the flow throughout the fair was easy to navigate making thing much more very enjoyable. All the venues were well-presented and easy to find and the many shows held throughout the park were fantastic. The parking for the state fair was free and the traffic flow through the parking area moved very smoothly. The entrance fee into the fair was only $13 and well worth the money. Overall, a very positive experience!

Okay….you know from past posts where I headed to first. My favorite…The Petting Zoo. Love my animal friends! Actually it worked out great as that was the location that I was meeting my friends at.

Ok…So now for my family reunion….I found my long lost brothers! Check out the next 2 photos….Don’t you see the family resemblance? Notice that we have the same expressions on our face!

This guy’s whispering sweet nothings in my ear.

Go Gators!

There were some things that bugged us at the fair. We are now in the insect petting zoo and exhibition. Frankly, I preferred the giraffes and other animals in the first petting zoo!

This was actually a live bunny rabbit I’m holding!

Okay… Like my stuffed animals too. Had to take a selfie!

The rides at the fair were also impressive, however we didn’t go on any and just enjoyed walking around and taking in all the shows and exhibits as they were very interesting.

Had to include the short video above as it was so cute watching this young kids faces on the “mini” version of this amusement ride.

The above photo is especially sentimental to me…..notice the name of the store “Terry”. Another sign that his spirit is still with me!

What was really cool was a section in the fair called “Kraker Village”. It had alot of cool things from many years past when life was much simpler and folks hand washed their clothes, made their own candles, fetches their own water, etc. They had so many cool structures there and so many interesting exhibits and lots of folks dressed up in the original attire doing what the people would have done in days past. Notice the school teacher in 2 photos above spanking me for being a very bad boy…Sometimes things never change! LoL

Okay, let me end this post today with a little cute video to put a smile on your face. Tomorrow, I’ll show you some cool videos and Pics of some of the cool entertainment from the fair.

Have a great day!

Caddy’s On The Beach..Still On The Go! The Night’s Too Young!

Hey Everyone,

As I mentioned in my last post, on Saturday after playing Put-Put Golf, doing a late lunch and taking a long walk on Maderia Beach, since I noticed it was close to 6 PM, rather than go home I thought I’d swing by Treasure Island (about 8 miles away from where I was at) and join my Tampa Bay Adventurers group for happy hour and dancing at a place called “Caddy’s On The Beach”. Why not…The night’s still young!

Below are a few photos of the group from that establishment. Glad I went for awhile. Always have a good time with my friends in this group!

Oh well….Guess it was time to go home and so as the song goes…. Check out the link below….

Naturally the answer is ME! Got to do my Doggie Care duties and let these 2 guys out for an evening “poddy” break prior to going to bed as my neighbors are still away!

Your are going to love tomorrow’s post (may have to do it over a few days). Took over 100 photos!

Have a great day!

Put-Put

Hey Everyone,

To continue my weekend adventures. On Saturday morning I met up with one of my groups in Maderia Beach and played a round of 18-hole Put-Put (minitature) golf. I hadn’t done this for at least 30 years. On the very 1st shot I got a hole in one! Not too bad. I think it was beginner’s luck and not necessarily my golfing skills. We had about 40 people in attendance and we broke into teams of 4 people each. The course was really interesting as it was actually an elevated course, so you felt like you were climbing up a mountain and eventually near the end of the course, started moving to ground level again. What was nice about this course is that when you were high up, you had a great view of the beach. Going to include just a few photos below.

These 2 guys Stan and Lenny were part of my team and they live in P-Town in Massachusetts in the summer and then come down to Clearwater, FL to stay in there condo for the winter.

This guy obviously didn’t play with us. He just sat it out. Think his bones were aching.

The guy to the left of me was my other team member. First time I met him. Ironically Marco is a French Navy Operation Officer of 43 years on active service. He is on temporary assignment on MacDill AFB at the Coalition Village (part of Central Command) until July. We had a lot in common being both military and here on the same base. I enjoyed hanging out with him and he actually joined me yesterday for a boating excursion on the Gulf with another group. Really nice guy.

Group photo of all us golfers. Tried my best to get everyone into the picture.

There were live alligators on our course, but they were much smaller than the one i encountered on my hike last week. So no need for me to climb up any more trees! (See previous blog from a few days ago…”This isn’t your ordinary walk in the park”)

Just a few photos of some of the other guys in the group playing golf with their teams.

After golfing were all went out for a late lunch at a really nice restaurant. It gave us the opportunity to chat with one another and to get to spend more time with our “first timers” to our group. A few photos from the restaurant below.

After dinner, a few of us stuck around to walk along the beach to work off our food.

Overall a Fun-filled day with a nice group of friends at Maderia Beach.

But, wait….my day did not end there. I looked at the time and since it was only 6 PM, decided to drive to Treasure Island, which was just a few miles from Maderia Beach to meet up for happy hour and dancing with my other meetup group from “Tampa Bay Adventurers”. I’ll write about my Saturday evening event with them in my next blog.

Have a great rest of your week!

Gary

Wining and Dining in Style!

Hey All,

This has once again been a marathon weekend for me! I’ve been going round the clock with social events ever since Wednesday evening through today (Sunday) and I even have a boating event on the Gulf with friends tomorrow (President’s Day). I’m doing all these events while making sure I take care of the two doggies for my neighbors who are away in the Middle East (see previous post).

I’ve already shared my pre-Valentine and Valentine Day evening events with you in previous blogs.

Today I’ll share a wonderful evening of wining and dining at an upscale condominium owned by a couple of old friends of mine, Randy and Nancy. The development that they have their vacation home in is so upscale that I am not even allowed to park my nice 2 1/2 year Ford F 150 truck past the gate after 8 PM. The development actually has a special place to park trucks outside the main entrance gate. Normally you have to be specially escorted into the development.

I which I had time while I was there to snap a bunch of photos of the lush landscaping and great amenities within the condominium development and also to take a bunch of photos of Randy and Nancy’s well-appointed interior home and thecfantastic gulf views they have off their 3 balconies and to also include photos of their high end art work, but it would have been a bit ackward to do this during this visit..After all, I was a guest in their beautiful home and not there to be taking too many photos.

I have known this couple since the early 80’s. Randy and I served in the military together and I have kept in touch with him and his wife all these years. Randy and Nancy currently live in Washington DC and after Randy retired from the service as a full Colonel he got a high level job as a Department of the Army civilian (equal in rank to a General). He is the Director if Operations for the Army Medical Department and is always briefing the Secretary of the Army and the Surgeon General on medical matters of great importance.

Several years ago, Randy and Nancy bought this beautiful condo with fantastic views of the Gulf in this very high end condo development in Saint Petersburg. Their place is impeccably decor’d with custom made furnishings and high end artwork. Randy has always been a true perfectionist in everything he does. You could say that what Randy touches or works on “turns into gold”!

Needless to say, this couple’s dinner invite was no exception! For the culinary experts out there… you will be impressed! I am posting a note from Randy that he posted on his facebook page i the very next day after dinner. It will describe the meal that he and Nancy prepared for me and his other two guests. It was like being in a 5 star+ restaurant….the very best of everthing!

“Hosted dinner in St Pete this evening with good Friends Gary Drabczuk, Rion Gabel, and Kay Whitman. Cocktails and awesome Bacon-wrapped Cheese-stuffed Jalapeño Poppers (a la Kaye and Rion); Cantaloupe, Prosciutto, Shaved Parmesan and Pine Nut Salad paired w Chandon Brut Sparkling; Seared Salmon Filet with Spring Sauce paired w a Gevrey-Chambertin Red Burgundy or a Raeburn Russian River Valley Chardonnay; Tiramisu.”

I will admit…most of the stuff mentioned above by Randy is “Greek” to me as I am a simple eater. I generally prepare something quick to eat in 5 minutes, pop it in the microwave and then eat it on the run. So needless to say…this meal was a real treat for me!

So as they say….seeing is believing!

Elegant table setting above.

Fancy Salad (see Randy’s description above)

Main dish in photo above. Note: The vegetable was something called “fennel” I think.? Supposedly a
bulb of some sort that has a liquorous flavor, but not too strong as it’s seasoned with some other stuff.

Dessert is shown above with description in Randy’s note.

All in all a relaxing evening and a chance to catch up.

Randy still remains so busy with work and hasn’t really slowed down (even though they do travel extensively internatinally). As a result, they presently do not spend much time in their ” to die for” condo. I think when Randy finally decides to retire, their plan is to sell their home in Washington DC, move to Atlanta to be closer to one of their daughters and to then finally spend about 6 months down here in their condo and the other half of the year in Atlanta, when not traveling world-wide. In the meantime they pay approximately $900 per month in condo fees, never mind other expenses like property taxes, utilities, etc; but only make it to their condo for a few days at a time, maybe 2 to 3 times per year. They don’t have a desire to sub-let their condo when they are not there, as they are very particular with their high end belongings and impeccable home interior features. Oh well…whatever works best for them is okay. They are happy and seem to be content.

Looking forward to blogging about all my other social activities from this past weekend sometime during the week as my time and creativity permits.

Have a great week!

Gary

Love Is In The Air One More Time!

Hey All,

Still spreading the love. This time with my Tampa Bay Adventurers group on Thursday evening at one of our favorite spots in downtown Saint Petersburg.

The Canopy is a roof top bar in the upscale and famous Birchwood Hotel. This rooftop bar provides one of the best views of the City of Saint Petersburg to include its fabulous skyscrapers and marvelous water front views of the Gulf and Marina. It doesn’t get better than this!

Okay.. I think I’m Valentined out by now. So on to Saint Patty’s Day!

Luv, Gary

Puppy Love …After All It’s Valentines Day!

Hey All…

Being that it’s Valentines Day…doggies need to share the love too!

A nice couple and former next door neighbors of mine here in the RV park were in bind and asked a favor of me.

Rio, the Navy sailor in the photo below is a personal guard for the CENTCOM Commader on base here. In that capacity he is always going to and from the Middle East with the CENTCOM Commader who’s home base is MacDill AFB. I don’t know how he does it. A few days in Egypt, then come back for a couple of days and then off to Afganistan. Then a few days later to Kuwait, Syria, United Emerites, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Iraque, etc. Quite an experience for a young soldier of only 30 years old. He’s living the dream!

Yesterday morning he surprised his girlfriend Ashley with a trip of a lifetime. He called her from the Middle East and said that he bought her a round trip ticket to fly on short notice to the Middle East to spend Valentines Day and the weekend with him over there. Both will return home to MacDill AFB on Monday.

Only problem was….who is going to take care of their 2 dogs on short notice. Now how could I not step up to the plate to help them out! It’s all in the name of love! After all it’s Valentines Day!

Now of course, their two dogs were very happy to see me this morning. They, naturally wanted to extend the love to me for taking care of them. Being that it’s Valentines Day, they kind of gave me some special loving…okay maybe just a bit to much loving! They were a bit over-excited ti see me and yes. you know, I bleed and bruise easily. End result…see below:

All in the name of love. I can just imagine what my body will look like by Monday. Oh well!

Have a great day!

Gary