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

The Happiest Hour

Hey All,

Happy Valentines Day !

Last evening (Wednesday) I went to a pre-Valentines Day Happy Hour gathering with a new meetup group in Tampa, Florida called “The Happiest Hour-Tampa Socials.” This was my first time joining this group. Since it’s Happy Valentines Day and it’s getting closer to another weekend and I went to a happy hour with the new Happiest Hour Meetup group, I thought I start this blog off with the uplifting song “I’m So Happy”. I bet after you open and listen to the music video you’ll be singing the “I’m So Happy Song” all day long! Enjoy.

At last nights event we met at an upscale bar and restaurant called “Bar Louie” at the International Plaza in Tampa.

Bar Louie looks to strike the balance between affluence and comfort. This is where inventive drinks, like the pomegranate mojito and the Effen Good martini, meet a fun and festive atmosphere.

As I try to do with each new group that I join, I make it a point to get around and mix and mingle and stir up conversation.

We had a nice turnout (about 75 people) so I had plenty of new people to meet!

Hope I can remember everyone’s name at the next event I attend!

Have a “Happy” Valentines Day!

Luv,

Gary

Ups and Downs In Life

Hey All,

On Thursday evening I received disturbing news from a fellow aviator and old friend who I served with in the Army.

My friend Dennis who was a retired Brigader General and former Chief of the Army Medical Services Corps informed me that a former commander of mine was battling from a very aggressive form of brain cancer. I was devastated about this news as I had no idea about this. My former commander (Mickey) was one of the nicest persons I have ever known. I was his executive officer while stationed in Germany. Mickey and I were good friends and we had a great working relationship and he always had my back and took great care and support in my development as a young officer. After retiring from the Army I lost touch with so many of my old military friends to include Mickey and just recently, I have begun to rekindle old military friendships. I was so grateful to receive this update from Dennis, but the news affected me deeply and brought back old wounds of Terry and others who have struggled with the trials and tribulations of cancer.

As a result, I cancelled several social activities on Friday day and evening and Saturday morning as I couldn’t get Mickey and his family off my mind.

Luckily, late in the afternoon on Saturday, I heard from Dennis once again who let me know that he received a short note from Mickey that his brain surgery appeared to go well and the surgeon was able to remove the cancerous growth without having to affect other good parts for his brain. Mickey’s cancer is apparently terminal with chances that he may have just one year to live, but I have to believe that miracles can happen and I must have hope. Knowing that the operation was successful (at least for now) I decided I needed to get out socially for a few hours on Saturday night so to not allow myself to become too depressed. I figured getting out would help me emotinally so I went to the Knight Parade in Ybor City (see yesterday’s post).

This evening (Tuesday) I went ahead and wrote the note below to my friend Mickey. My hope is that it will help to uplift his spirit and to let him know that I am thinking about him, his wife and children.

So I wrote:

Hi Mickey,

I wanted to take a moment to reach out to you and to let you know that I was in complete shock to learn that you have been struggling with cancer over the past few years. I had no idea about this until this past Thursday when Dennis was so thoughtful to share with me a note you had written a couple of weeks ago pertaining to your current condition and that you would be undergoing surgery at MD Anderson on this past Friday to remove the cancerous growth that had resurfaced in your cranial area. I was completely devastated by this news and admittedly tears began to roll down my eyes thinking about all the physical and emotional pain that you have been going through. Ever since I became aware of the news, you and your loving family have been on my mind every moment of the day. I prayed to God on Thursday evening and all day Friday that he would provide you the strength to defeat this dreaded disease and I pleaded to him to provide a positive outcome after your surgery.

I wanted to reach out to you immediately last Thursday evening once I heard about your condition, as my heart ached for you. However, given that your surgery was the next day, I felt it best to allow you to rest up and to spend as much quality time with your wife and children who I know would give you the unconditional love and support that you needed at that very moment. I wanted to give you a few days to recuperate first before reaching out to you. However, admittedly I did make a call to your nursing ward at MD Anderson on Saturday, to at least ensure that you had your operation and your conditional was stable. Naturally all they could tell me was that you were resting comfortably, but that was enough for the moment to at least remove some uneasiness as to how things went.

On Sunday Dennis shared with me your most recent note about how your operation went. To sense the confidence and upbeat spirit in your note and to hear you say that your surgeon believed he was able to remove your most recent cancerous growth without affecting that good parts of your brain was music to my ears and truly made my day.
Mickey, I will continue to pray to God each and every day for the dramatic improvement in your health condition as you become stronger physically, emotionally and spiritually. I plea to God that your cancer will miraculously disappear and he will allow you many more years to spend with your family and friends here on this dear Earth. You are loved by all !
I know that your family will always be there to support you each and every day with their unconditional love as you deal with all the trials and tribulations of confronting your cancer. I know this from personal experience, as my spouse after 16 years together was unfortunately diagnosed with bladder, then bone cancer a couple of years ago. After quickly relocating from Dallas, Texas to Florida and undergoing a year and 1/2 of seeking state of the art treatment and operative procedures at Moffett Cancer Center in Tampa and while devoting my personal attention toward providing 24/7 supportive care, my spouse unfortunately lost the battle and went to directly to heaven on September 1, 2017. I just had to accept my loss to be God’s plan and since then have become much stronger and have learned to embrace life and to help others to do so as well.
Cancer is such a dreaded disease and there are no definitive answers as to why some folks get it and others do not. Cancer has such a mind of its own and affects people in different ways. Thankfully there has been so much extensive research in treating cancer over the last few years that are producing so many positive outcomes. In my heart, knowing your inner strength as a fighter, I am confident that you will beat your cancer and live a full life.
Mickey, no need to reach back out to me immediately as I know you you need time to build up your strength. I just wanted to let you know that you are one of the nicest people that I have ever known and you were always there to support me when we served together in the Army. I have the highest respect for you and appreciate all you have done for me in the past. I genuinely want to let you know that if there is anything I can do for you, either just to talk or write to you to keep your spirits moving in a positive direction or even to fly out your way for a while to help you with getting around to any follow on appointments (in San Antonio or at MD Anderson) or to help you out in any other way that you or your family needs, I would genuinely be delighted to do this for you without hesitation. Just say the word and I’ll be on the next plane from Tampa, FL to San Antonio.
Keep up your faith and your strength my dear friend,
We are all there routing for you!
Your friend always,
Gary
My dear blogger friends, please keep my friend Mickey in your prayers. Thanks.

Knight Parade, Ybor City, Tampa, FL

Hey All,

I’m starting to think that in the City of Tampa, we need to add one more ethnicity to the city’s statistics. After having recently experienced “Gasparilla” and then on this past Saturday the annual “Knight Parade” and celebration in Ybor City, I truly believe that “Pirates” are the majority in this city and make up more than 50 % of their population! If I wanted to go into business for myself here in the Tampa area, I would open up an exclusive pirate clothing and accessory shop. I certainly would get plenty of business!

FYI: Ybor City is a special district within the City of Tampa. It is noted for it’s old cigar factories, interesting stores and restaurants and of course, vibrant night life!

Parade Aftermath: Lots of overfilled trash bins and plenty of trash all over the street. The sanitary department will be busy!

Below are some very brief videos (under 1/2 minute each) of the night parade and multitude of crowds at this celebration. Enjoy!

I Scored Big !” on Super Bowl Sunday

Hey everyone this is part 2 of my Super Bowl Sunday Party. The video was supposed to be at the end of my first Super Bowl Sunday blog, but I screwed up when copying the link over. Not sure when I edited my first blog and fixed the link if you see it on your end so I’m re-sending this video as a separate blog. Enjoy!

Super Bowl Sunday Party + 4

Hi everyone,

It’s 4 days past Super Bowl Sunday and this is the 4th blog I’m posting from my past marathon weekend of events that I attended.

Hope you enjoyed the New England humor and strong Bostonian accent in the above video from avid Patriot fans. LoL

I am sure most of you attended a Super Bowl Party with family and friends on Sunday as well. We had a house party with 65 people who attended at a friend’s house in Clearwater, Florida.

This was the host in the photo above about 55 years earlier. He looks like “Spanky” from the “Little Rascals”!

As with most Super Bowl Parties, there is a ton of food brought by everyone. This was no exception for my party either.

Look carefully at the dark figure to the left of this guy holding a knife. He is either upset that the Rams were losing the game or just wanted this guy’s food!

Okay, later on this same guy with the knife was a bit happy as he won the half-time betting pool.

As you know the game had alot of defensive action, but offensive plays were minimal. Therefore, I had to make my own offensive play over this large cake football field. Maybe I deserve to be the most valuable player!

Okay so the game wasn’t as exciting as others in the past but you make the event fun when in the company of your friends. That’s what it’s all about. Although this was the lowest scoring game in the history of Super Bowl, I actually scored big time as will be evident in my video at the end of this blog.

Have a good rest of your week

Trying to rest up for what will be another weekend of marathon events for me starting on this Friday night.

Take care.

Gary

Localtopia

Hey All,

To continue my marathon participation in events over this past weekend, after ” escaping near death” on Saturday morning (see previous post: “This Just Wasn’t Your Ordinary Walk In The Park”), I then traveled to William’s Park in downtown Saint Petersburg on Saturday afternoon to do my volunteer work at an event called “Localtopia”.

Localtopia is Saint Petersburg ‘s largest “Community Celebration of All Things Local.” The festival is free and has wonderful venues for music, food and local art. The festival showcases “over” 200 of the city’s favorite independent businesses and community organizations.

During this event I worked at the Welcome Center and in and around the park assisting people of where they could find certain venues they were interested in visiting. I also periodically checked in with 6 major “Thirst Stations” to determine which beverages they were running short on and would then take my trusty beer cart and promptly go to the refrigerated storage units area, load up my cart and return to replenish the thirst stations. It was a warm and sunny afternoon, so needless to say….beverages were selling quick!

All proceeds for these beverages and items sold at the welcome center would be used in support of local non-profit organizations in and around Saint Petersburg.

All in a day’s work….Now time to go home and to rest before “Super Bowl Sunday” partyvevents to close out my marathon weekend. Go Patriots!

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