Festa in Casa con Amici Italiani

Happy Sunday Everyone!

Last night I went to a wonderful house gathering and fantastic dinner at my good Italian friend’s home in the Historic Kenwood district of Saint Petersburg. FL.

Emilia had about 30 of her Italian friends over for the social gathering. I knew about 1/2 of these people due to my membership in the InterNations group and I had the pleasure to met so many other wonderdul Italian people that have now become part of my new Italian base of friends. I had such a great time!

The food was “out of this world” and the majority was prepared by one of Emilia’s good Italian friends. The desserts were “to die for” One Italian guy from Sicily who has a 5 star gelato establishment in Sarasota also attended and brought two delicious trays of homemade gelato. It was the best I have ever tasted. I admittedly couldn’t just have one bowl!

As they say…pictures and videos speak a thousand words, so enjoy!

This guy was way too cool! What a hairdo!

Marco and I drinking fine Italian wine!

Emilia hard at work in the kitchen.

The Italian Chef.

Rich chocolate gelato with macadamia nuts.

Pistachio gelato!

Have a great rest of your weekend !

Bahama Breeze for Friday Night Happy Hour with my InterNations Group

Hey All,Had a wonderful evening last night at a cool place called “Bahama Breeze”. I really like hanging around with all my new found International friends. So glad I discovered this group! They are a lot of fun and interesting to socialize with. Feel very comfortable with them and have learned so much. I am really branching out and building some great new friendships with them all!Woman from AusriaGuy from ThialandGirl from Seoul, KoreaGroup of Italians all from Southern Italy.Mix of European women and the guy is from France.Woman to right of me is from Peru. Other two are from Portugal.Guy is from Iran. Woman on left is from Kuwait. Woman on right is from Kenya. Women to fair right is from Argentina.Women to left is from El Salvador. Guy to right is from Brazil.Three fun Italian women. Very lively and colorful!This girl is from Venice, ItalyNice couple from Naples. They are tenants in a small cottage that my Italian friend Emilia has adjacent to her main house in St Pete.Me with 2 girls from France and one from Holland.Guy on far left and Woman on right are from Belgium and the guy in the middle is from Munich, Germany. Nice people!Girl on left is from Montreal, Canada. Two on the right are from Spain.Girl in the middle is Anna from Poland. Girl to the right is Emilia from Naples. Going to Emilia’s house in St Pete on Saturday (tonight) for a private dinner and party with about 30 Italians. Should be fun!Guy on the right is Christophe from France and the woman to his right is his wife. Guy to far right is from Italy. My friend Christophe and his wife and a bunch of their friends from France and I stayed at the bar until it closed down at 2 Am. We had a blast! Christophe and his wife took an Uber home and they were joking around when they heard that “Jesus” would be their driver. Christophe sent me a text message this morning and said…”Good morning Gary
Jesus brought us home and not to heaven!
He didn’t try to drive over the water although he said he could walk on water. I told him thst’s good. Better to drive on the roads!
So Everything is fine and thank you for joining us for a fun night!”

All in all there were 85 people in attendance last night from about 38 different countries! Can’t wait to the next social event with them!

Have a great rest of your weekend!

My French brother Marco and his wife Rosaria didn’t go last night as Marco had to work late at the coalition village. I’ll see them tonight at Emilia’s party!

Madeira Beach Craft Brewing Company at Saint John’s Pass in Madeira Beach, FL

Hey All,

On Thursday evening I decided to venture out to a Happy Hour meetup with my Tampa Bay Adventurers friends at a cool place call The Madiera Craft Brewing Company at St John’s Pass.

Since returning to Tampa in March, I have not had a chance to attend many meetups these past few months with this group since I have branched out and have joined so many other social groups as well that there are often competing events occurring on the same days between the groups.

It was really great to see everyone and to catch up! I really like the people in this group and glad I ventured out and made the 50 minute trip to Madiera Beach last night. We had a great turnout in excess of 100 people!

Have a great weekend!

Pride Festival in Saint Petersburg

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I did go to the Pride Festival in Saint Petersburg on this past Sunday with one of my meetup groups. What a fun and laid back event and open to all. Lots of local vendors and all kinds of organizations in the St Pete community to become familiar with. It’s really just a big community fair, where you can walk up and down a portion of Central Avenue that is closed off to vehicular traffic for the day and to take in all the fun.

You are going to see many selfie pics of me with interesting people I would see along the way that I thought was a good photo opportunity.

Included also is a couple of videos of me having fun in the “Suds” area and at a cool “Doggie Bar” …what a great concept! You drink and your dogs get to come with you and play !

Have a great day!

Pride Weekend in Saint Petersburg

This weekend was the Pride Celebrations in Saint Petersburg, FL.

I opted not to go to the actual Pride Parade that was held there on early Saturday evening (since when you’ve seen one parade you’ve seen them all) but did venture out to to St Pete later that evening to attend a private (by invitation only) Pride Parade party at the magnificant condo of two new friends of mine (Jonathan and Stephen). They live in the most exclusive high rise condo in all of St Pete! Their condo is on the 25th floor and has the most magnificant views of all of St Pete, to include the Marina and Bay and all the exciting night life that St Pete has to offer. The “One Building “where they live is now the tallest building in St Pete and these new condos are the most exclusive right in the heart of the downtown Their 3 bedroom/3bath condo has a value in excess of 1.5 million!! As you know it’s all about location, location when it comes to real estate costs.

Jonathan is the guy to the very left and is a school teacher and very involved within the St Pete community in spear-heading many worthwhile charitable events. I helped Johnathan with raising funds via a car raffle that was held this weekend at Pride to support “Bees Learning”, a hands-on program designed for underpriveleged children for obtaining enhanced educational opportunities to better themselves in life that they would otherwise not be able to afford on their own. Jonathan’s husband Stephen (they guy in the red shirt to the right) is a doctor of 10 years who works at the St Pete Veterans Administration Hospital.

Here’s a few photos of their interior condo, the fantastic views from their balcony and a few pics from the after Pride party in their condo.

You could see the fireworks right at eye level from their balcony!

Here’s a little about Bee’s Learning…the good cause charitable drive that Jonathan is so passionate about.

Ok, about all for today…Will write and show more pics in another blog about the Pride Festival that was held in St Pete the very next day on Sunday afternoon. I did attend that event with one of my meetup groups and it’s always fun to just walk around and take in the fun and to check things out at the local booths being offered by many establishments in and around the St Pete area.

Have a great start to your week!

Gary

2019 Wounded Warrior Games in Tampa FL

Hey All,

This week while at the gym I have been assisting staff there with the training of wounded warriors as they undergo their last stretch of training before the actual “2019 Wounded Warrior” competions begin in Tampa, Florida in just a few more days. I have been assisting those wounded warriors that will be competing in power lifting. When I was in the Army I was a professional power lifting / body building judge of soldiers competing in competitions in and around the vicinity of Savannah, Ga, so I have been able to help coach these soldiers to ensure they are using the proper power lifting techniques and to ensure that they don’t make any noticeable errors in lifting that could disqualify them by the official judges during the actual “Wounded Warrior” competitions.

I was sensitive to not want to take any pictures when the soldiers were actual lifting or to take any selfies with them in order to highlight their physical disabilities (such as amputated legs or arms, etc.) Just didn’t think it would be appropriate.

The parking lot outside the gym has also been used as the official storage location for all specialized sporting equipment to be used during the actual games.

The MacDill AFB gym and_ out door sporting facilities had been designated as the official training center for all wounded warrior participants that have made it to the finals and who will now be competing in the a actual “Wounded Warrior” competitions next week.

The Department of Defense (DoD) Warrior Games were created in 2010 and designed to introduce wounded, ill and injured service members and veterans to Paralympic-style sports. The Warrior Games showcase the resilient spirit of today’s wounded, ill or injured service members from all branches of the military. After overcoming significant injuries and illnesses, these athletes prove that life can continue after becoming wounded, ill and injured. The U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) will host the 2019 Department of Defense (D0D) Warrior Games June 21-30 in Tampa, Fla.

Historic Kenwood District of Saint Petersburg, Florida and “Mustang Sally”!

Hey Everyone,

On Friday evening I attended a really cool party in the Historic Kenwood district of Saint Petersburg. The area is is well known for its craftsman style homes from the 1920’s with large front porches. The area is very artsy and has a really neat vibe.

My Italian friend Emilia from Naples has a beautiful historic home there.

Every month a “porch party” is held at one of the homes of a resident in this area. Each month a different resident hosts the monthly event and the attendance is usually over 150 people!

Emilia invited Rosaria, Marco and myself to the party last night and now I have an open invitation to attend these social events monthly from this point foreward!

Last night’s party was awesome. It was hosted by 4 professinal guys who share a house together. They completely gutted the interior of the home and turned it into a showpiece! They even have a recording studio in the home and their front and backyard has astro turf instead of grass (so no more mowing required). The food was out of this world and plentiful and there was a open bar and live entertainment! These guys went all out!

Cool recording studio in the house!

Love this hand-painted artistic cooler! One of a kind! Still kept the beer cold!

Marco…inspecting the quality of the wine. He approved!

Open Bar…Something for everyone! I as well as others brought bottles of wine to add to the stash! I brought a bottle of French and Italian wine, especially for my International friends!

Great food!

My contribution…I brought a dozen Canolli’s (wanted to impress my Italian women friends!)

DJ’s set up. He is one of the residents with the recording studio in the home.

Rosaria testing some of the food. Only she would know the quality, given her expertise!

EXTRA..EXTRA!

I met a woman there at the party in her mid 70’s named “Sally”, who was the actual woman that the classic R&B song “Mustang Sally” was originally written for and YES… Sally still drives a Mustang even at her age! Way too cool!

  • This song is about a girl who lives a wild life in her brand new Mustang car. The singer bought her the car, which transformed her into “Mustang Sally,” and now she’s running around town, paying little attention to her sugar daddy. Pickett warns her that she needs to slow it down with one of the great threats in Soul music history: “Guess I have to put your flat feet on the ground!”
  • This song was written by Bonny Rice, also known as Sir Mack Rice. Bonny started singing with a vocal group called the Five Scalders in 1955 and joined The Falcons in 1957. Eddie Floyd was also in The Falcons, and Mack later wrote songs for him when he went solo. In 1960, Wilson Pickett joined The Falcons and sang lead on their 1962 hit “I Found A Love,” and left the group for a solo career later that year.

    In 1963, The Falcons broke up, and in 1965, Rice wrote a song called “Mustang Mama” after visiting his friend, the actress/singer Della Reese, in New York City. Reese told him that she was thinking about buying her drummer Calvin Shields a new Lincoln for his birthday, which Rice, being from Detroit, thought was a great idea. When he mentioned this to Shields, the drummer replied, “I don’t want a Lincoln, I want a Mustang.”

    As Rice explained on the 2007 Rhythm & Blues Cruise, he had never heard of a Mustang before, but Shields filled him in. They went for a drive and saw a billboard for a Mustang – Rice couldn’t believe Shields wanted such a small car instead of a big ol’ Lincoln. When he returned to Detroit, Rice started writing the song as “Mustang Mama,” with the chorus “ride, Sally, ride.” His publisher knew Aretha Franklin well, and brought Rice by her house, and he sang some of the song for her. Aretha suggested he change the title to “Mustang Sally” to better suit the chorus.

    Have a great rest of your weekend!

I Made The Cut!

Hey blogger friends,

As you know I have become a special American friend to the French Coalition Group here on MacDill Air Force Base.

As a result of my close friendship with my French Officer Friend (Marco or Jean’-Marc as his wife calls him) I have received a special invitation to The Bastille Day Celebration that will be held on July 10th. (Actual Bastille Day is July 14th, but this event had to occur a few days earlier as the French Commanding General will be involved in Bastille Activities in Paris with the French President along with other senior French Officers).

The initial invite list had over 480 people that the French Coalition wanted to invite, but due to size and budgetary constraints the invite list had to be reduced to 200 max.

I made the cut and will be one of only very few Americans in attendance along with the Commanding 4 star General of Central Command (Centcom) and the Commanding General of the Southern Command (Centcom) and well as all the high ranking officers from all other countries within the Coalition Village.

Also in attendance with be high level dignataries from the French Embassy as well as other select politicians from within Florida, to include the Mayor of Tampa, Florida State Senators and Congressmen.

I am very much looking forward to attending this event and feel honored to be an American Friend to the French military!

Brigadier General (FR-A) Germain Barrau, Senior French Officer at US Central Command

and

The entire French Military Liaison Element in Tampa

Request the pleasure of your company

To celebrate the “Bastille Day”on 10 July 2019 (6:00 – 9:00PM)

At the Tampa Woman’s Club, 2901 Bayshore Blvd

Welcome address will start at 6:30PM

Followed by the Legion of Honor ceremony, recognizing WWII Veteran

Mr. Joseph Gallagher for his invaluable contribution to the Liberation of France

Ended by a standing French Buffet

Some Quick Information On Bastille Day:

Bastille Day is the common name given in English-speaking countries to the national day of France, which is celebrated on 14 July each year.
The French National Day is the anniversary of Storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a turning point of the French Revolution, as well as the Fête de la Fédération which celebrated the unity of the French people on 14 July 1790.
The French national holiday of Bastille Day—celebrated each year on July 14, or le quatorze juillet—may spell fireworks and and a large military parade for some, but for most, it still marks the anniversary of the storming of a grand fortress that was infamous for holding political prisoners, during the first moments .

Three Strikes and I’m Not Out (Yet!)

Hi fellow bloggers.

On this past Sunday after doing my mid morning workout at the gym’ I decided when I returned home to go ahead and get on my bike and to do my 25 mile bike ride along Bayshore Boulevard a little bit earlier than I normally would do.

The skies above MacDill AFB were a bit overcast, but it didn’t appear that any rain was imminent.

So off I went on my ride. The first 12 1/2 miles were uneventful. However, the second half for my return trip was a bit challenging to say the least!

The skies above Bayshore Avenue seemed fine as I was peddling along the Tampa Bay, although I did notice that the water on the Bay was beginning to get a bit choppy.

When I reach the destination of my 1st leg and was making my 180 degree turn to start my ride back to the base, I was shocked at how dark the sky above me had gotten! I did not see this inclement weather coming and I never carry my cell phone with me when biking. The winds in the next few moments really picked up and got progressively worse. I could feel the instability of my bike as I tried desperately to head towards home. The winds became so fierce (almost hurricaine intensity!) that big palm tree branches on the trees above me started to fall rapidly towards the ground with one large branch just missing my head! These palm tree branches can be pretty sharp and can really cause some bodily injury if you’re hit by them. Luckily I saw it coming towards me and was quick to duck! (Ok…Strike One!)

Since it was nearly impossible to safely peddle anymore I got off my bike and tried to quickly think about what to do next as I was definitely right in the center of a heavy storm. The thunder then began to roar and the rain began to quickly fall in massive amounts at great intensity and due to the heavy winds the rain was coming down at a 45 degree towards me! The impact of the rain hitting me actually hurt because of its intensity. I felt screwed! I had no place to hide! The street became flooded very quickly and it transformed into a rapidly flowing river. I was at a standstill for a moment as I collected my thoughts. I had to somehow get out of the open area that I was currently in and to find protective cover somewhere.

So I decided to take the plunge and to cross the street (or should I say rapidly flowing river!). The water was up to my knees. Since the winds were hitting me towards the left side of my body while the water in the street was rapidly rushing downstream toward the right side of my body, the force of each going in opposite directions allowed me to stay vertically stable while I crossed the street.

Once reaching the other side I quickly looked for cover and the only real possibility was near a home I saw off to the distance that appeared to be under interior renovation as I could see a large trash receptacle in front of it. My thought was that this house was temporarily vacant and hopefully I could find some overhang cover there. When within 50 feet of the trash receptical, suddenly I heard a quick boom and apparently lightening had just stuck the base of this receptacle. If I has been just 50 feet further along that road I would have been hit by that lightening! (OK ….Strike Two!).

After transferring along the side of that house, I found a corner where the side garage meet the corner of an extended part of that home with a small overhang. I figured staying in that corner would give me some protection from the rain and heavy winds. I stayed in place for about 30 minutes until the winds died down a bit and the rain lessened to a more tolerable level.

Ok at this point I started peddling down the side street and decided I would head back to the base via a different route. I couldn’t peddle on the side of the roadway as water was really gushing down the street from higher to lower levels.

About a mile away, I came upon a major one-way road way where traffic looked like it was coming to a stop as the light traffic light changed to red. As I began crossing the street passing one stopped car, in the other lane to the right of him…the driver in that second car was apparently not paying attention to the red light and as I was passing that second lane, I heard a load screach. That car came within an inch of hitting me! (Ok….Strike Three!)

At that point…I knew I had used up my 3 strikes. I think my ability and luck to not get hurt was becoming a bit limited. I would be glad when safely back to MacDill AFB, now about 8 miles away.

Ok, so as I continued to peddling towards home and was moving along the side of a fairy busy street, I looked to the left. I saw a large turtle at least 2 1/4 feet long beginning to cross the street. Surely if I didn’t do something quick that turtle would be hit! So I got off my bike and put up my hand in the holt position to stop traffic until I reached this poor turtle in the road. At that point I played traffic cop directing cars to the right and left of this turtle as I gently placed my foot to the rear of this turtle trying to prompt it towards the other side of the road towards an open field so it would be out of harm’s way. Finally it reached the other side of the road about 10 minutes later!! So I guess the answer for the old saying for why the turtle was crossing the road is actually correct….and the answer “to get to the other side!” is actually right!

So, all in all I managed to survive the palm tree branch, the lightening and the car nearly hitting me and also was able to save a large turtle from being hit along the way!

Three and one half hours later since starting out on my journey, I finally made it it home. Wouldn’t you know…not one drop of rain had fallen on MacDill AFB that entire time!

Have a great day!

Note: I included a video in this blog of an actual hurricaine, as the rain and winds your see in that video was very close to what I experienced during my bike ride! Unfortunately did not have my cell with me to capture actual pics of the bad weather.