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ISSUE #23 | May 2017

N

LIFE

ANTARCTICA|RIVIERA MAYA|VIEQUES


Connexting CONTRIBUTORS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Manny Velasquez-Paredes CREATIVE DIRECTOR Xioger Sandoval FEATURED WRITER David Duran CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Lilly Chris Ross Christianson Clark Harding H. Luiz Martinez Carlos Mayorga David Perry Ali Rothlizzi JJ Vega Manny Velasquez-Paredes Sarah Stanley-Evan Read Connextions Magazine online: ConnextionsMagazine.com Write to us: Have a question or comment regarding this issue or future issues of Connextions Magazine? We would love to hear from you! E-mail responses and press releases are always welcomed. mvp@connextionsmagazine.com All submissions become the property of Connextions Magazine. The views and opinions stated throughout this magazine are not necessarily the opinions of staff at Connextions Magazine. Connextions Magazine, LLC publishing mailing address: PO Box 242 Calverton, NY 11933 Connextions Magazine and Connextions Magazine en Español will not knowingly publish or advertise text which is fraudulent or misleading. The publisher reserves the right to edit, limit, revise, or reject any text without cause. Connextions Magazine assumes no financial responsibility for typographical errors. If any errors are found, please notify Connextions Magazine immediately. Materials in this publication may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher. ISSN 2160-4347 (print) ISSN 2160-4355 (online)

Connextions Magazine Issue 22: Travel Heels introduced us to the World’s Top LGBTQ Travel Experts. We also explored Gran Canaria in Spain, which has become a great vacation spot for LGBTQ travelers. The island had no clue what to expect when 11 Gay Travel Writers and Bloggers were invited to the gay bungalows resort, Paso Chico. Plus our LGBTQ Family participates in one of the most popular getaways, Cruising!

Cover Photo by: David Duran Location: Antarctica The southernmost continent containing the geographic South Pole and is situated in the Antarctic region of the Southern Hemisphere. It is surrounded by the Southern Ocean and it’s the fifth-largest continent and 98% of it is covered by ice. On average, it’s the coldest, driest, and windiest continent, reaching −89.2°C or −128.6°F, from 1,000 to 5,000 people reside there throughout the year. Read more on page 8

Find us, Follow us, Like us, Tweet us, Pin us, Share us on all Social Media sites @ConnextionsMag #ConnextionsMag

Connextions Magazine, the Travel & Lifestyle magazine for the LGBTQ Traveler since 2010, is a proud member of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, Gay European Tourism Association & National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, as well The travel Media Sponsor of HRC Greater New York.

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Letter from the Editor

LIVE | TRAVEL | CONNECT

Connextions Magazine issue #23: Nice Life takes a closer look at climate change through an Antarctica expedition aboard the National Geographic Explorer, and Travel Writer Clark Harding makes his Connextions Magazine debut, while Featured Writer David Duran takes control of the images. Cruise along as these boys deal with sea-sickness and dating apps in Antarctica. We are also lifting the veil upon one of the Caribbean’s best kept secret - Vieques, an island within the island of Puerto Rico - La Isla del Encanto. One of the local Viequenses takes us on a tour of this secret island, where the beaches are uncrowded, we find the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world, very little commercial development, with sophisticated restaurants but no stoplights, local cafés, but no Starbucks and wild horses roam the island. Ali Rothlizzi takes us on a journey of places to visit as an LGBTQ Family, as she travels with her wife and kids living Life Through Rainbow Glasses. Stud muffin and Top Travel Writer, David Perry, takes us on an experience that most LGBTQ people would overlook - Kansas City, MO. He discovered that Kansas City was more artistic than he thought, more vivacious than he thought, and certainly more gay than he thought. And as a card-carrying homo, you’d think he wouldn’t be such a sucker for a stereotype, but oh well who would’ve thunk it! We are also taking you to “The Jewel of the Riviera Maya.” Where the travel worries are quickly erased and replaced by the sweet aromas of fresh fruits, unbelievable architectural and natural views, the taste of the fresh local drinks, this place is definitely a sanctuary for the senses and a resort for the renewal of both mind and body. We hope you enjoy our work, we love to read your letters and emails. Don’t forget to find us on social media channels under our handle @ConnextionsMag. MVP Editor In Chief

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Contents LIVE

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zChocolat Collection

TRAVEL Antarctica Climate Change Is a Hoax

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Vieques, Puerto Rico The Last Secret of the Caribbean

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Uninhibited in Riviera Maya Luxurious Fun at the Banyan Tree Mayakoba

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A Prairie Tale: Kansas City KC Proves There Is More to the Midwest

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Outing America LGBTQ Family Vacation Spots

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CONNECT Introducing: Max Micallef Photographer, Poet & Political

May 2017

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Uninhibited in Riviera Maya Luxury and Magical Experience 5


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Capturing Your Love

Antarctica Expedition Photo by: David Duran 8

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Connextions Connextions Magazine Magazine | | Deluxe Deluxe Life Life | | December December 2015 2015


Travel: Antarctica Written by: Clark Harding Clark

Harding

has

been

traveling

internationally since the age of six. A graduate of The George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs, Harding has made it to all seven continents before the age of 30. Normally he lives in Los Angeles but is currently residing in Toronto, Canada

C

limate Change Deniers Beware… This Is NOT The Trip For You. A few guests aboard the National Geographic Explorer learned that the hard way. Although my travel buddy David, and I, were confused as to why they showed up in the first place. A voyage to Antarctica requires such a passionate curiosity about the planet and its delicate ecosystems, that the whole genre of travel to the Seventh Continent is dedicated to preserving it; especially a Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic.

because #trump.

Photos by: David Duran David is a culinary, hospitality and travel writer who focuses on both domestic and international travel destinations for several different markets. His love for discovering cities and travel spots is evident as he is away from his favorite place and home base of New York City the majority of the time.

“You’d think they’d learn…or, like, want to learn,” David whispered, as a straight, white, older couple huffed out of our lecture; offended that anyone dare suggest protecting our planet was necessary. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, David.” I giggled back. “Climate Change is a hoax.” This would become our running joke…


Capturing Your Love

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Connextions Connextions Magazine Magazine | | Deluxe Deluxe Life Life | | December December 2015 2015


Clark Harding

The Realization Upon arrival in Ushuaia, Argentina, the world’s Southernmost city, when the passengers began to file down the pier, passed Russian Ice Breakers, did it become clear this was not the crowd we were expecting. In all honesty, it costs a pretty penny to take a two-week trip to Antarctica, not just because of the resources involved in getting there, but also the creature comforts that Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic provides along the way. Thus, I assumed the only people who could afford the price tag and the time off would be older, retirees. “Wow…ain’t she a classy bitch?” said a college student, looking up at our ship, regally docked before us. To our pleasant surprise, the guests climbing the ramp were a mixed bag; diverse in age, nationality, culture and tax bracket. The one

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commonality: they were all effing-smart, interesting and accomplished…and eager to expand their horizons. They were the ideal fellow travelers. “Yeah I’m in grad school at Yale,” said Taylor, traveling with her sister Meredith, a software developer from California. “Cool! I’m studying Biology at Brown,” said Megs, with her mom who works at Google. “I hold the record for the fastest, indoor, downhill ski time,” said Jan, who lives in Spain with his wife Olga, a doctor. Lucky for them, Lindblad Expeditions-National Geographic arms its voyages with the coolest (pun intended) Expedition Teams in the world. Scientists, naturalists, guest speakers; the best in their respective fields, invite the guests to upwards of two lectures a day. The most reoccurring theme? Climate Change is not a hoax, which continually

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David Duran

aggravated certain guests who, apparently came to Antarctica to assert how wrong science is. “We cover a lot,” says Ken Garret, renowned National Geographic Photographer, who specializes in Archeological-Anthropological photography for the Magazine, and held photography classes on the ship. “Ugh,” winced David, as I stuck a Scopolamine patch behind his ear to prevent sea sickness. “I just don’t get it. If you’re a conservative doesn’t that mean that you want to conserve the planet, making you a conserve-ationist? ” Scruff at Sea Completely switching topics: there’s nothing funnier than watching two gay guys, trying to stagger through a rocking ship’s hallway…while ConnextionsMagazine.com

on Scruff. Fellow passengers were impressed with our ability to steady ourselves against the pitching and waving while thumb scrolling at the same time. And boy were we shocked at how many gay people were there with us. My travel buddy and I expected to be the token gays on The White Continent, but upon sailing around Cape Horn and into the Drake Passage, we fired up ye’ old apps off the pricey satellite wifi (I mean hey, a girl’s gotta post selfies to her IG), only to discover the Antarctic and sub Antarctic regions are just as diverse in sexual identity as they are in wildlife: there were other gay passengers, other gay staff members, gays on other ships we passed, gays on research stations. What was even more remarkable, is the fact that what’s deemed a hookup app, became a forum for discussions on geography, biology and general, ahem, polar enthusiasm. A total bro-dad from Atlanta, complete with croakies attached

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Capturing Your Love

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to his sunglasses, sat with us one day on a zodiac tour with his son. We were zipping past a glacier in Paradise Bay, Gentoo Penguins porpoising beside us, as we were on the lookout for a Humpback Whale. When out of nowhere the bro-dad was like, “Yeah I left my husband at home cuz he doesn’t like to ‘rough’ it.” “Honestly I did not see that coming,” I told David, that night in the ship’s glamorous dining room. “I know, right?! And here I thought the gays only went on Atlantis Cruises.” “Nope,” I added. “We are like the Crabeater Seal, literally the most prolific.” “Um

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yeah.

Except

we

don’t

have

perforated molars to sieve out Antarctic krill.” I stopped and looked at him with a raised eyebrow. “I learned that in our lecture today,” he smirked. Rugged and Luxurious According to Andy, the ship’s supply buyer, who has been traveling to Antarctica for nine seasons, the best time to come here is in late December. “Because all the chicks haven’t grown up yet, and the snow hasn’t completely melted or turned pink with guano.” He also told me this on Scruff (naturally). “It’s also the best time for guests, because it’s over the holiday so you get younger

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Travel: Antarctica

people who don’t take time away from school.”

bright orange, parkas to keep you warm and visible.

Which would explain the age diversity of our fellow guests. What’s fantastic about Expedition Travel is the nature of its business model: rugged by day, luxury by night (even though Antarctic summers are light all night but whatevs). The ship only holds 150 people max, which allows for inter-passenger intimacy as well as intimacy with the surrounding environment.

“My parka smells like Penguin guano,” David said as we were disinfecting our boots in the ship’s mud room.

In conjunction, Antarctica itself is rugged and luxurious. You’ll often hear people say they “went to Narnia.” The scenery is so epic, even if you don’t want to go ashore to the penguin colonies, hanging out at the bow or observation deck is just as worth it. For the most part, travelers spend little time in their staterooms, except to maybe have a hot shower, change and run back out again. On The Explorer, they provide you with heavy duty,

Antarctica is basically a gigantic preserve, and no one wants non-indigenous anything getting ashore. Therefore, passengers must step in disinfectant solution every time they leave and enter the ship. “Then you shouldn’t have laid down to get that photo,” I insisted, as we sloshed around. “But the baby Adelie chick was sooooo cute,” He whined. “You know, Adelie penguin populations


have declined 65% in the last 20 years because Climate Change is a hoax.” I said. “Ha,” snickered David. “Did you learn that from a lecture?” “No. I learned it from Scruff.” And what a better way to close out the year, than by spending New Years Eve, floating amongst the icebergs? The Antarctic summer sun, barely setting, casts a romantic glow on the ice and the year ahead. “When we went through the Lemaire Channel,” David reminisced “I literally think I was out on deck all day.” “And Omigod Iceberg City?” I continued “When we pulled right up to that one that was the size of an office building? I died.” “I just wish everyone could see this place, before the whole thing melts.” “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Climate Change is a hoax.” That joke never gets old.

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Travel Experts: Globetrotter Girls

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VIEQUES, PUERTO RICO THE LAST SECRET OF THE CARIBBEAN 24


Vieques, Puerto Rico Photo by: Andy Holtzman


Written by: Michael Mele Photos by: Andy Holtzman

inhabitants. There are sophisticated restaurants but no stoplights, local cafés, but no Starbucks and wild horses roam the island.

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e wanted to keep this a secret since we found it, but now it seems only fair to share it, the island of Vieques, just off the southeastern coast of Puerto Rico. My husband and I first went there in 2006 and were so entranced by one of the last unspoiled islands in the Caribbean (that wasn’t so remote you had to take 3 planes and a boat to get there) that we bought a house after just a week of exploring. Yes, it was impulsive, but now 10 years later, we are still so happy with our Caribbean getaway that we thought it was about time we shared it with others who would appreciate the same things we like about our little island. Those things are the lack of commercial development, but a strong sense of community among the expats and

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We wanted to keep this a secret because the beaches are uncrowded, even in the height of the season, because hordes of tourists don’t flood the towns and because the natural beauty (like the brightest bioluminescent bay in the world) remain unspoiled. Vieques is our treasure and we wanted to protect it. However, over the years we have seen enough new people come to the island who understand how precious it is and who have actually improved things. So we are thinking that who better to invite to discover our island than the gay community. The Gays have traditionally found overlooked places and transformed them into sought after neighborhoods, towns or destinations. Key West and Provincetown come to mind, but there are hundreds of places around the globe where the

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familiar process unfolds: gay men “discover” an area living beneath its potential, find good real estate bones, move in and start giving their homes a face-lift. They tell their friends, open small businesses, extend the face-lift to the neighborhood and voila – a desirable neighborhood rises from the dust and everyone wants to jump on the band wagon to take advantage of the classically “quaint, charming, beautiful” towns. Well Vieques may be the next area in the queue. Like us, most people assume that every last square foot of the Caribbean has already been picked clean by hotel chains and cruise ship companies, but Vieques has evaded that onslaught. That’s due to the US Navy controlling it for 60 years, until 2001. Vieques’ development was arrested which from our perspective was the best thing to happen to it. Now, post-Navy, 2/3’s of the island has been declared a natural preserve, any structure has a height limitation of 3-stories and the National Park Service is in charge of the beaches.

Travel: Vieques But the best thing for us is that Vieques is part of Puerto Rico, easy to get to, English is spoken. I remember the moment we both realized it would be OK to buy property here – it was when we walked past the US post office in town. Exotic as the island may be, it still feels “America.” Andy and I are part of a quietly growing gay community who have discovered this unique slice of the Caribbean. We’re a stone’s throw from San Juan, yet a world apart. Beaches are small and untouched – no cabanas or blue drinks sold from a bamboo bar blaring rap music, just white sand, clear blue seas and swaying palms. The waters around Vieques are too shallow to allow cruise ships, so our little island won’t suffer the locust invasions of so many other nearby spots like St. Croix or St. Thomas. We are what they once were – quiet, beautiful and lush. I wasn’t around, but many of the old guard here claim that Vieques today is what Key West was 30 years ago: opportunity, natural beauty, close to an urban center and lots of housing stock waiting to


come back to glory. While there on vacation, on impulse we made an appointment with a real estate agent. We were surprised when every property we saw was more exciting than the one before, ocean views, garden potential, restructuring visions! We quickly settled on a modest hilltop property with views of both the Atlantic and the Caribbean seas that needed just one little thing: a swimming pool. We found the resources on island and by the end of the year our home and pool were complete. I could relate our story, but another couple just down the hill who arrived around the same time as we did has already written their version of renovating a property on the island, called The Coconut Chronicles (by Patrick Youngblood), it is quite humorous and right on the mark. A few years after we arrived, the most surprising thing happened – the W chain bought up an

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old waterfront property and opened a boutique hotel. Everyone was a bit nervous about how that interloper might change the feel of “our” island, but it has proven to be a gracious addition, encouraging their guests to dine outside the compound supporting the great local restaurants and making sure that nearly half of their staff are locals. It also insures that Vieques is growing in recognition. In the wake of the W’s opening, we see that the island is ripe for the “right kind” of development. There is a historical conservancy (VCHT) that protects our ecology (like the Bioluminescent Bay or our sea turtle population) and educates the youth about how precious the island is. For many in the gay community, finding a property to refurbish within this environmentally responsible area, is a dream. If you are looking for a warm-weather home, like we were, this couldn’t be better. Puerto Rico, as everyone knows, is undergoing some challenging economic times which makes it open

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for development. Here on Vieques properties for sale are a good value, from beach bungalows, to architecturally significant structures in town to expansive villas in the hills. Plenty to scoop up and revitalize. Check out some listings by the Bravos Boyz, one of the islands’ two gay-owned real estate companies. If Vieques does turn out to be the place for you, then what? Besides re-imagining your new home with one of the local architects, you might even want to work here. For the enterprising lad, Vieques is fertile ground for any number of small businesses like cafés boutiques, restaurants or hundreds of other creative enterprises. Or, like several of our friends, you can work from a breezy, seaside home office for a job anywhere in the world. You just might need to mute the crowing roosters during your conference calls. We are remote in feeling but not in infrastructure. If you tire of the laid-back island life, hop over to San Juan (20 minutes) for a night or two. Then come back to paradise.

Travel: Vieques Vieques is at once exotic and familiar. Like all great gay makeover success stories, the most compelling reason to try Vieques is its community. Because it is itself an eccentric little island, its inhabitants are open to whoever comes along: gays, straights, locals, even an ex-stripper from Berlin who opened a restaurant near the ferry. It’s the islands! Life is free and easy – and in this case, accepting. So come down for a visit, and check it out. Then come down and stay. It’s beautiful in all directions with temperatures between 81 and 86 degrees year-round. Be a part of the next great gay transformation instead of wishing you could afford a place in Provincetown – for only a couple months a year! How to Get Here: Fly to San Juan International, then take the 20 minute flight to Vieques, or take the $2 ferry from Fajardo.


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Capturing Your Love

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UNINHIBITED IN RIVIERA MAYA Capturing Your Love

Riviera Maya 32 32 Photo by: Riviera Maya Tourism

Connextions Connextions Magazine Magazine | | Deluxe Deluxe Life Life | | December December 2015 2015


Written by: Manny Velasquez-Paredes Photos by: Banyan Tree Mayakoba & Riviera Maya

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combined with the fact that La Guardia Airport is experiencing a renovation and also with the fact that traffic has always sucked at La Guardia – it could have been a catastrophic event, because I

inches! Woooow, 15 inches! I couldn’t

believe it – 15 inches. Not satisfied, I wanted more

would have missed the last plane out of New York before the big storm.

and more, I was anxious and excited and scared and uncomfortable, but 35 minutes and 15 inches

Luckily, after I left them in the highway, they were

later, I decided to jump out, grab my bags and

able to detour back home, while I walked from the

walk away. I couldn’t stay any longer, I had to jet.

expressway to the airport and luckily I wasn’t the only one. It felt straight out of a scene from “The

So, I kissed my husband and kids and got out of

Walking Dead” or similar movies, when a small

the car and decided to walk towards the airport.

group of people leave all the cars on the road and

I couldn’t believe that traffic was so horrible that

begin to walk and run away from zombies – only in

we were basically parked on the highway, since

this case, we were walking away from traffic and

we only moved 15 inches in 35 minutes.

towards our gates. 10 minutes later, I ran into the airport and rushed through security and ran to my

The traffic at La Guardia Airport was unbelievable.

gate, to try to grab a seat because one had not

It was the night before a huge snow storm,

been assigned one.

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Travel: Riviera Maya

You see, I was originally supposed to fly out of JFK

finally pee! It’s a small, tiny form of protest, but I

Airport, the following morning and take a direct

felt like I couldn’t in good conscious give NC any

flight to Cancun, Mexico. Instead, I was able to

of my money or bodily fluids….sorry for leaving

snag the last seat in the last plane out of New

that image in your head. I’ll switch it back to the

York at La Guardia Airport, and spend the night in

nice cocktails on the plane which started putting

Richmond, Virginia. Luckily, I was able to stay at a

me in a Mexico state of mind. I was flying out to

nearby hotel once I landed in Richmond, so I was

Cancun, traveling to the Riviera Maya to meet a

able to sleep on a comfortable bed instead of the

group of Travel Writers from around the world. We

airport, because I had to wake up very early to

were invited to spend a few days at the amazingly

catch a plane to Charlotte, North Carolina, where

gorgeous, breathtaking, and peaceful Banyan

I spent 45 minutes in between flights and refused

Tree Mayakoba in the Riviera Maya.

to spend any money or use their bathrooms, because of their inhumane, transphobic and

In 1997 the Riviera Maya was created as a

stupid bathroom law, HB2.

destination dream, composed of 120 km (over 74 miles) and extending along the Caribbean

So once I landed at Charlotte, I ran straight to

Sea coastline. Over the past ten years the Riviera

my next transfer so I could catch a flight to my

Maya’s number of hotel rooms has increased

final destination, Cancun, Mexico! Once the

bringing along tourists from all over the world, due

plane was on its way to Cancun, I was able to

to its magnificent beauty, exchange rate and


breathtaking beaches. It was once an important

and a resort for the renewal of both mind and

religious and commercial center for the ancient

body, and this was just at check-in!

Mayans more than 2,000 years ago. Riviera Maya is also host to culturally-significant natural

I was then escorted to my villa via golf cart, because

attractions such as freshwater cenotes and the

this place is huge! It offers 121 villas, ranging from

world’s largest subterranean river system.

secluded Garden Villas to Beachfront Villas. Each villa is discreetly built to blend with the landscape,

Historically, the cenotes were believed to be portals

integrating interiors to their surroundings, and

to the underworld and a way to communicate

include completely private and secluded outdoor

with the gods. Today, the cenotes provide access

areas starting at 3,000 ft. with infinity pools; outdoor

to the vast underground rivers of Riviera Maya for

bathtubs, terraces to work on your perfect tan

the enjoyment of cave-diving adventurers.

with “zero-tan-lines” and some even include a hot tub, large enough to fit 6 to 10 people – no need

Upon arriving to Cancun and a 45-minutes drive,

to explain how I know those facts. Each villa is

we arrived to the Banyan Tree Mayakoba, known

equipped with bikes to travel around and explore

as “The Jewel of the Riviera Maya.” We were

every inch of the 1,600 acres, or you can always

welcomed with flowers and a drink made of local

call for a golf cart to pick you up and show you

fruits, and suddenly my travel worries were quickly

around this magical place.

erasing and being replaced by the sweet aromas of fresh fruits, unbelievable architectural and

In ancient Mayan, Mayakoba means village over

natural views, the taste of the fresh local drinks,

water, and true to its definition the Banyan Tree

this place is definitely a sanctuary for the senses

Mayakoba is surrounded by lagoons, mangroves

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and bordered by the sea, under the leafy shelter

warriors and entered Haab, a deep-in-the-jungle

of the Banyan, a tree native to the Orient and

mystical experience featuring the four sacred

thought to be magical in its power to nurture. The

elements of water, earth, wind and fire, where you

Banyan Tree Mayakoba is the first Banyan Tree

can relive the superb culinary arts of the ancient

resort in the Americas, setting the benchmark for

Maya civilization.

luxury. Committed to creating a positive impact for the environment, the resort is EarthCheck Silver

The Mayan Warriors and Gods walked us through

Certified, PROFEPA Tourism Environmental Quality

the grounds performing ancient stories while

Certified and a Rainforest Alliance Sustainable

guiding us to our destination. Once we arrived, we

Standard-Setter Award winner.

were seated on a large table. The menu is inspired by the ancients and explained along the way by

Among some of the magical wonders we

the head Chef and believe me, this is not the

experienced are the food and drinks, everything

place where you can dine while texting – this is

from tacos, to margaritas, to steaks and desserts,

an enchanting meal to be lived and experienced

one tastier than the last one. As a matter of fact, we

every second of it – from the appetizers to the

actually experienced what can only be described

desserts – yes that is meant to be plural, the food

as a spiritual meal awakening our senses and

kept coming and the margaritas kept magically

under a full moon, we were anointed, became

appearing on my glass, as if I wasn’t even drinking.

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I kept trying to empty my glass just to see what

Available only at Banyan Tree Mayakoba, this

would happen, but since the table is decorated

hydrothermal circuit mixes hot and cold thermal

with different bottles of tequila and different

cabins with eight different therapy experiences,

liquors, and should you desire something else,

including the Rain Walk, Aroma Steam Chamber

there is a bartender as well, thirst was never an

and Finnish Sauna, providing a holistic and

option.

revitalizing experience in a tropical, natural setting. As we walked by and experienced the

If you are anything like me and enjoy relaxing in

different temperatures, Wawa kept a smile on her

a spa – then the Banyan Tree will not disappoint

face and she seemed to enjoy hearing us exhale

you. The Banyan Tree brings the ultimate luxury

or a act squeamish as we didn’t know whether

and legacy of Asian restorative spa therapies to

we would be entering cold or warmth the next

its properties. Without a doubt, this one of the TOP

round. At one point, she decided to help us out

SPAS I have ever had the pleasure to enjoy, so

and grab crushed ice and helped us to spread it

be sure to book a session or two! After the spa, or

on our bodies, as we screamed and laughed, our

as a prelude to your spa time, you must visit the

image of Wawa went from sweet to dominatrix –

Rainforest Trail – leave all your inhibitions at the

and we loved it! We wanted more and more and

door.

then it was over, definitely an experience not to be missed and let Wawa take control!

A petite Asian woman, named Wawa, greeted us as we entered the Rainforest Trail, and she

Without a doubt the Banyan Tree offers a

explained to us that she would be our guide

sanctuary to rejuvenate the mind, body and soul

through this experience. Wawa was very sweet,

and awaken your senses. This place is definitely

kind and all smiles and as she guided us through

a paradise, a gift from the Maya Gods where

the trail, it became apparent that in the Rainforest,

elegance and nature meet in exquisite harmony.

sometimes you experience extreme heat and

Leaving was hard, especially because I found out

sometimes cold…

that home had experienced 15 inches of snow!

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Kansas City Photo by: David Perry


Kansas City Kansas City Proves There Is More to the Midwest than Just Flying Over It. Written and photos by: David Perry

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t was. The flight. From hell. In front of me were two babies who hadn’t learned how to pop their ears. Behind me was a domestic battle royale between a man and one of his three baby mamas that went for two hours straight. Even better? The flight was a red-eye delayed to a rosy shade of oxblood. When I arrived to Kansas City I wanted to fall to my knees screaming “LAND!” Ev’rythin’s Up To Date In Kansas City I know what you are thinking: “How bad was that airplane to make Kansas City, MO, a paradise?” Part of a ravenously red sea stretching from the

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Appalachians to the Rockies, “KC” was just one more grim fly-over we blame Trump on. And there was a time Kansas Citians would have agreed. I heard it over and over: “Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have come here,” “Ten years ago, God, no,” “Ten years ago, this city was a corpse” (ouch). So a decade ago, Kansas City really was the no man’s land every LGBTQ assumes it to be. Missie B’s, the city’s gay club, looked like a bunker. Union Station, the country’s third-largest train depot, was an eyesore waiting for the wrecking ball. Property prices crashed. But cheap rents allowed artists to move in, and a vibrant creative culture was not only born, but shot forth like a bullet. Both Kansas Cities, MO and KS, agreed to let themselves be taxed to save Union Station, which is now an event space/science center/museum/exhibition hall/3D theater par excellence (and with a train station to boot!).

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Travel: Kansas City

And Missie B’s? She’s now the Grand Dame of the Great Plains. In other words, in less than a generation, Kansas City pulled off a reinvention Madonna couldn’t outpace.

center. Looking on the outside like two Art Deco waves watering the culturally parched prairie, musician Kenny G declared their insides to have the best acoustics he ever experienced.

Show-Me State of Mind

It goes without saying the gay life took an upswing. Missie B’s is now joined by Sidekicks, the 303 Cafe — practically a museum itself for all the artwork on its walls — and seven other gay nightspots in the city, which ain’t shabby when the entire population is just 459,800. It is emblematic of a local mindset where being out and proud is now part of the city fabric.

And the rewards are raining down across the spectrum: To walk through the Asian wing of the Nelson-Atkins Museum, KC’s answer to the Met, is to see some of the finest work the Far East ever produced. Unlike the Met, however, the Nelson-Atkins had room to expand, and so the museum that opened its doors in 1933 added ten years ago a new wing as long as an 80-story building is tall to house the burgeoning contemporary art coming out of the city’s ears. In 2006, ground was broken for what is now the most iconic component of the Kansas City skyline, the gleaming dual theaters of the Kaufmann

Want to revel in the Mexican menu at Port Fonda with your bae? Go for it! Want to frolic amid the experimental art of the Kemper Museum with your boo (it’s a bit more intimate than the Nelson-Atkins)? Rock on! Want make out naked like steroided bunnies along the placid banks of Bush Creek with your beau? Ok, that’s crossing


a line, but when Thrillist listed KC as one of the gay-friendliest cities in a red state, it’s more than just degrees-of. Kansas City is as blue as the ubiquitous Royals pennants; feel free to hold hands, share a smooch, and other decorous PDAs. You even get that famous Midwestern niceness out of the deal — where else in America could I possibly find graffiti that reads “I JUST SPRAYED TO SAY I LOVE YOU”? Not joking. Eat At Joe’s A welcome byproduct of this renaissance is that with all the new plusses getting time in the spotlight, some of the older ones are experiencing a resurgence themselves; there are lines at the memorial tower of the World War I Museum, and why not? It affords the best views of a community on the rise. And while it may not look it, Kansas City is deep in BBQ country.

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Southern egos went critical when a Stephen Colbert/Twitter poll voted 79% to 21% in favor of Kansas City barbecue over that of Charleston (cue geoculinary seizure in 4...3...2…), but a even a generous margin of error can’t explain away that kind of difference unless those Midwestern boys were onto something. However, to experience the top of the line, you have leave KC for “KCK,” that is, Kansas City, Kansas. To a gas station. Barbecue has always been a little down-market, so that you can get your ribs and your super-unleaded at Joe’s Kansas City Barb-B-Cue is syzygy for the ages. It’s also far from undiscovered; people actually brag how long they get stuck in the conga line that wraps around the building daily. And after I had the sausage and pulled pork, I don’t blame them (sorry, Charleston). I’d do tankards of the sauce alone.

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Speaking of tankards, they are never far away. Ask the urban sophisticate where the best place in town is to sample the local firewaters and you will inevitably find yourself in Manifesto, the reservation-by-text-only speakeasy in the basement of the Rieger Hotel. The brainchild of Imbibe Magazine Bartender of the Year Ryan Maybee, the master mixologist forwent logical stomping grounds like New York or Las Vegas to set up his bar in middle America with a whole slew of unique cocktails that taste like meals in and of themselves. However, let it be said that Kansas City is a town that loves its beer. Breweries like Boulevard are a major source of hometown pride — and more than a few buzzes. The taprooms are packed.

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TG1F If there is one part of town that unifies and personifies Kansas City’s new lease on life, it is the Crossroads, and the best time to go is First Fridays, a monthly festival when the galleries open their doors, local bands play their tunes, and food and beer trucks keep the 10,000 visitors occupied. Once the old warehouse district, the post-WWII decline in shipping turned the whole zone into a derelict cancer in the heart of the heartland. But, and here’s that magical “10 years ago” kicking in again, what urban planners saw as a wasteland, artists saw as an opportunity. Interior spaces became world-class show-venues; exterior walls transformed into canvases for the best graffiti artists

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in the world — and while a few reinterpret famous works like The Great Wave Off Kanagawa, other’s take direct aim to the current political situation. One graffitist bluntly equated not-my-president Trump to Hitler (and you thought Kansas City was right-leaning? Pshaw!) Along for the ride arose local hubs like the Thou Mayest coffeehouse, perhaps the hippest place in town, and local pubs like Up-Down, a bar-cum-old school video game arcade to make geeky GenXers with hopeless crushes on Chun Li and Ryu melt on the spot. If you have no idea who they are, I will never admit to knowing you.

Travel: Kansas City

Go Midwest, Young Man!

On my last night, I watched the sun set from my room at the Fontane. Set amid the Andalusian-inspired Renaissance Revival architecture of the swanky Country Club Plaza neighborhood — I could’ve been in Spain if I didn’t know better — the hotel is arguably the prestige address of town. Ironically, I chose the space not only for its luxuries, but also because its spa, pool, and restaurant would pick up the slack for all the downtime I thought I was in for because I was certain Kansas City would be, well, not as artistic as I found it, not as vivacious as I found it, and certainly not as gay as I found it!


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Your What, When & Where For NYC LGBTQ Events, Arts, Entertainment, Culture & More!

NYCUpAndOut.com ConnextionsMagazine.com

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Capturing Your Love

Outing America

Written by: Ali Rothlizzi Photos by: Name

E

ver wonder where it is safe to travel if you are an LGBT family? Where will you be accepted? Where can you all have fun? Back in college, in perhaps a mixture of our arrogant bravado and euphoric naivety my wife and I drove around for years in what became known as our “Dykemobile.” It was a black 1997 Jeep Cherokee Laredo that we surrounded with pro gay, pro woman, proud liberal bumper stickers flying a rainbow flag from the antennae. (We were able to buy it used from a very conservative older lawyer brother, so...) We wound up filling our arm rest and glove compartment with the encouraging notes left on our windshield and collected only a couple stories of negative or disapproving stories for our efforts. We traveled

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all around the north east from Virginia to Canada and felt this afforded us a realistically grounded perspective of public reaction to our life as out lesbians simply from the daily experience. It was overwhelmingly positive despite taking place during the W. Bush years! Then we had kids. I remember being chastised by an older lesbian who lived in our building for that car once it was fitted with a baby seat. “Irresponsible” she called us. And “reckless.” I felt for her but chalked it up to her being born in a different time. One I was thankful for but no longer enslaved to. It’s a different world now. The choices we make affect our kids in a way that my wife and I were slow to realize, and now slower to shake. We are proud of our family and long to connect with the world, but there are places in this country we are

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Travel: Outing America

told where just walking down the street might incite violence. That’s something we were willing to risk in our youth. It’s not something we are willing to risk with our youths. And we are not alone.

In the past few years we have found ourselves limited to a few specific local destinations where we have felt welcomed and comfortable to visit and vacation. It’s important that our community know where we can go and share those recommendations.

Provincetown, Massachusetts

It’s sometimes easy to know the gay-friendly destinations. Many by now are well established, famous even. But being gay-friendly has often been cultivated into a kind of anti-establishment, sexually positive and even risqué atmosphere, which may not always kid-friendly. However, “family-friendly” can sometimes mean another kind of trap for our families and their beautifully blossoming needs even as straight allies dominate the landscape.

We used to visit every year and stay at a beautiful little spot called the 384 House. It was right on Commercial Street (the only place you want to be). It was a short walk to the bay, to the center of town, to the supermarkets and a parking lot across. Every morning there would be a fresh spread of fruit, cheese and cream, juice, hot coffee and cake. I have fond memories of falling asleep to the sounds of clicking glasses and ecstatic laughter floating through the bedroom windows at night while I lay there dozing always blissful after what were perfect days amidst “family.” I miss that place as one of the ladies who ran it succumbed to cancer a few years ago, and the other simply couldn’t maintain the rent. Our boys grew up learning to crawl on their deck and walk on that street.

Located at the northernmost tip of Cape Cod, in the most liberal and tolerant state of these United States of America, lies a tiny strip of road that almost every LGBTQ person who ever lived has fantasized living in. ConnextionsMagazine.com

PTown is still amazing if only for the majority flip. There’s good food, good shopping, biking, beaches and nightlife. But times change, we change, and the rude awakening we received one night from comedian Judy Gold as she launched into a tirade of foul language. We finally got tickets to see her, but had our barely one year old in tow. He couldn’t understand or care less what she was saying but we realized how strongly we didn’t belong.

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Travel: Outing America

Unfortunately for lesbians, its standard of living has surpassed all hope of being accommodated by any of our glass-sealed incomes. And unfortunately for families, the entire local school population barely creeps into the double digits.

This leaves much to be desired in both a reasonable accommodation and possible frequency of visitation. While quite notably the gayest place on the eastern seaboard, PTown is expensive, and places will often turn down consumers who cart kids. Dogs? Yes. Kids? No. This place is old school gay. Except during “Family Week,” which normally

Burlington, Vermont

takes place in the summer, and it is considered to be the largest annual gathering of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer-identified parents and their families in the world. Sponsored by the Family Equality Council, this fun-filled week is for ALL families, but it does have a hefty price tag. From sunrise to sunset, Family Week Provincetown offers activities and events for the entire family, filled with activities for everyone, and with the mission to create more opportunities to build community. If you plan to go for more than a day, make reservations as soon as possible, as most guest houses and rentals require a one-week stay during the summer and book many months in advance.

charming than we remembered. We remember a man playing the glass harmonica in Burlington in the summer and wintered in New Orleans. We’d seen him in both and were equally stunned with his beautiful musical water. That’s the kind of place Burlington is, it captures you heart. And it’s affordable! Caught up once in window shopping, my wife and I ran out the meter and saw a ticket, alarmed New Yorkers that we are, we immediately began looking for errors to argue when we saw the penalty was only $5! Plattsburgh, New York

What can I say about Vermont? Beautiful, sweet sights sounds and smells this place is a welcoming place for all families. Trendy, artsy and fun Burlington has the old world New England charm, the funky liberal college campus aura, and just stunning views of the under estimated Lake Champlain. My wife and I used frequent the area when we lived nearby and always left finding it even more

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Plattsburgh is a college/military/church town a spits worth away from the Canadian border. Fueled by the money from college kids and ex-military who remained, Plattsburgh became home to the very first openly gay mayor in New York State. My

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Travel: Outing America wife and I went to school there and worked for AmeriCorps, so we got to know him and his lover just through all of our hours as volunteers.

an apple. But there was this one morning I turned on the TV absently before class that shocked me because I saw riots and mass protests.

The Dykemobile was actually written about in the city’s local paper, The Press Republican, and was a point of interest on an unknowing tour I was given once by a cab once when I had to take my Stealthmobile (our other car) to the shop and needed a ride home. The guy heard my address and told me he had to show me this car that was always up around there. Turned out to be ours!

It took me a while to piece together what I saw. It was indeed Canadian news! I called Amy in check me when we both heard what had gotten the Canadians all upset: George W. Bush had come to town!

Montreal, Canada Living in Plattsburgh for so long we came to collect our news from Canadian TV. We’d laugh, being from NYC, at the stories that would make the news up there from time to time. It’s no wonder where Canadians get their reputations for being nice. I once saw a guy noted on the news for stealing

Toronto, Canada Toronto is the actual home of the American Queer As Folk Series. My wife and were thrilled to take a detour this way one summer on the way home from the Michigan Women’s Music Festival and Transcamp one summer. We snuck a peak where they filmed the Babylon scenes, ate at the actual diner and twirled under a brigade of rainbow flags that literally line the street. And that was our budget. No really. That was it. That broke the


Travel: Outing America bank. Then we had to come home. Canada is to coolest most gay positive place we’ve ever visited. I wouldn’t think twice about returning, (except in the winter) with both my kids and my mother-in-law! Some of the best clubs I’ve ever seen, some of the best bars, casinos, and parades all up there in Montreal. Awesome place. Awesome people. Well worth it in the summer! Cape May, New Jersey

One issue we found is the sheer amount of busy lights and nonsensical noises on the boardwalk that seems to really get to my oldest son, who is on the spectrum. If you have children with sensory issues or special needs, you need to consider it. The people are church-going Trumpets for sure. I once wound up in a mass where they passed around three collections! And I heard parishioners complaining about tourist holdouts. But Sandy had hit them hard that year before, so you have to take that into account I guess. Unfortunately, there have been some debacles as well. One place recommended to me by a straight family member as an alternative to Provincetown turned out to be much less than Provincetown. Lake George, New York

Ah, Cape May. What can I say? We trek down there every summer, less for its trendiness and more for the sheer vastness of fun to be had. We camp, generally, as we found a spot with a pool and a lake and a comfortable atmosphere, between the beach and the boardwalk, the lobster and the whale sighting cruises - we love to do it all! ConnextionsMagazine.com

This has become our go-to getaway for the summer. Located only a couple hours from NYC high in the North Country, Lake George offers quiet family convenience our family loving refers to now as “The Lake.”

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We have learned to spend extra and book a place in town, but trolley isn’t all it’s cracked up to be by nightfall. We do the usual sights and sounds, the bumper boats, the Minnie-Ha-Ha, and never felt like we were different. We even attended services there at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation and remember it to be beautiful, warm and welcoming. There are no rainbows but also no scary fundamentalists. Most folks are just displaced New Yorkers looking up for once. Rehoboth, Delaware Rehoboth has the warmth and the water, one rainbow flag and a bunch of memorably named ice cream flavors. It also had good music, packed bars, and hillbillies. There smushed together one of us pregnant we swooned with the music and maybe we kissed. Next thing I know I’m the center of attention like I’ve never known. I mean it’s one thing to stare, but to watch when it’s been made so obvious no show was intended raises a flag for me. It just didn’t get better even, to the point where my wife and I had to leave. Even outside, we wondered if we’d be followed back to our hotel. All that was uncomfortable but really harmless (except to their tourist industry), but it was the day on the boardwalk I remember nursing our first

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while waiting for a storm to pass. The comments weren’t directed at me even as I tried to shift and cough for a momentary glance of disapproval. They were careful to avoid my breasts perhaps, but wouldn’t let up watching and commenting on a few men they perceived to be gay on the beach. Funny isn’t it? How hard homophobes watch and stare? Anyway, I’d never go back. They purport like they’re trendy and perhaps even think they are, but there are a few too many rabble-rousers there unrestrained by anything feminine. Take care if you heed my advice you’re not missing much. A couple rainbow bumper stickers and chocolate ice cream labeled “bacon” isn’t worth the trip through the marshes. Keep your money and your family from this beach. So these are the places I can so far recommend you go or refrain from. Smh Rehoboth! But we plan to do some more exploring and bring back more info on where to bring the family. On the horizon right now are some of the more educational trips for our elementary school boogers, like Yosemite National Park, and Washington D. C. But also the tremendous burden LGBT families take when they consider Caribbean travel. I hope you’ll find us next time and check out my blog Family Life Through Rainbow Glasses.

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LET’S STAND WITH AMERICA’S NEXT GENERATION, SO THEY CAN STAND ON THEIR OWN. In America, it is estimated that up to 1.6 million youth are homeless each year. Up to 40% of them identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). Yet, just 7% of the general youth population identifies as LGBT. The True Colors Fund is working to reduce that disproportionate percentage from 40% to none. Visit www.truecolorsfund.org to learn how you can make a difference.

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Cuba 62 Photo by: Max Micallef


Introducing: Max Micallef Photographer, Poet & Political

I met Max a few years ago, he was getting ready to graduate from high school and he was a member of an LGBTQ social youth group I used to lead. Max, like many of his counterparts in the group, was a good kid and wise. That’s one of the things I learned from them, the kids in my group, they had somehow been forced or coerced into acting and behaving older than their real age. Although they faced many of the same issues as other teens, such as Prom, driving, curfews, etc. In addition, they also had to deal with issues like taking a same gender date to the Prom, experimenting with gender fluidity and dealing with parental/peer acceptance. I remained in contact with many of my kids from that group, we had become a family of sorts, they even gave me the “Daddiest Award,” for being a parental figure for many of them. However, I learned from them and I feel their pain when they

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are hurting, and feel pride when they succeed and feel honored when they invite me to a major life event. So having the opportunity to feature Max Micallef in this issue, is an extremely proud moment for me. Max is a Political Science major at Purchase College. With his photography, he wants his audience to ask questions and further their insight through what they are perceiving. He wants to evoke emotions and as a writer and poet, he seeks a raw sense of emotion, mentality, and spirituality through the stream of conscious he puts onto paper. Max recently went on a 10 days excursion to Cuba to enhance his political perspective and noticed how Cuba still has a gay culture even under transitioning communism. This was such an eye opening experience for him that helped him to release his inner drag queen, “Fidela Castro.”

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Photographer, Poet & Political This Game

The soldiers drop their bombs again I run, but not away, instead, I will fall in crumblement And play this game of love again All is true, no plot or plan Every bomb I see to strength Every pain I feel at hand And play this game of love again Tear me down, and drag my soul I know the pain I sought of more The brutal heat, is just so cold I love the frost that holds my soul Every pain I feel at hand A Devil’s deal, a heart to mend Collapse and die, and then I stand And play this game of love again. It Haunts An empty heart in stilling night This thrilling risk, come take my hand The moon-beam light will give us sight Going rogue in no-man’s land Isanticide, I’m Gemini Pure love to give, who will I find? But please, you find, this love of mine Come take these tears of which I cry Man ground me down, I’ll lift your soul I’ll be your boy and love you so Just calm my mind that takes its toll Contradiction full, yet not opposed I’ll beat your heart, you slow mine down A pairing that is truly whole Of you and I to now be found Our keys to us, of which we stole No self-control, a love I want Cliché yet not, a strong avant A time well lived, a winding jaunt Desire of mine, for I it haunts. ConnextionsMagazine.com

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Connect: Max Micallef

“How I Feel About Trump in a Shakespearean-Toned Speech”

No foul beast should be allowed such right, such state of mind, of the Executive order. The man, barely so, the thing, should be struck upon with such force to diminish like-creatures from wandering the path he, it, has engraved. History revolts to hold such horrid aberration. Impulsive recoil would order the degradation to be shot, but is entirely unworthy of Death. There is no sense to insult and burden the Reaper on such level. Isolation of the disgrace is the only source of action to take. If not, self-respect, honor, and integrity are at stake.

Muslims We feed our nation’s people distorted extremist views of the Muslim world, unaware that our own nation’s actions are the propagandic images we are forcing onto others. Islam is not the nonchalant routine of the son entering the home and greeting his mother after a long day of terrorist flight training. This Wahhabism exists, but Wahhabism is not Islam. Christianity is not gay conversion therapy. Hinduism is not the degradation of the poor.

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Photographer, Poet & Political

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Introducing: Max Micallef Photographer, Poet & Political

Quickly becoming a favorite, creamy-crumbly hazelnut pralines once again headline the zChocolat Collection.

opportunity to experience the beloved European tradition of sharing whimsical friture (shaped chocolates) delivered with pure French savoir faire.

Made exclusively from slow-roasted, crushed, Piedmont hazelnuts coated in a layer of signature single-origin cocoa, it’s a recipe that has been hailed as remarkable even by the already high standards chocolate lovers have come to expect from luxury brand zChocolat.

The collection also maintains zChocolat’s reputation for innovative packaging and sophisticated details. including their recently introduced line of locally crafted chestnut wood boxes and jewelry-box worthy solid mahogany boxes.

Molded into playful shapes and mixed with solid chocolate pieces in all three of the company’s world renowned couvertures (white chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate), these stunning pralines provide an impressive

As the preeminent source for fine French chocolate, zChocolat has been critically acclaimed for their distinctively shaped line of signature chocolates, developed by World Champion Chocolatier Pascal Caffet.

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Live: zCHOCOLAT With a flair for artisanal details and boundless customization options, the zChocolat brand has epitomized the expression “chic à la française” since its founding in 1999. The zChocolat Collection, along with a wide range of other distinguished chocolate gifts, are available online at: www.zchocolat. com. All zChocolat gifts can be shipped directly from France to destinations around the world for a flat rate of EUR 18.00.

zCHOCOLAT.com

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Nice Life  

Connextions Magazine issue #23: Nice Life takes a closer look at climate change through an Antarctica expedition. Travel Writer Clark Hardin...

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