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LGBT Travel & Lifestyle

ISSUE #12 | FALL 2013

THE TRAVEL ISSUE LGBT history is made in

Puerto Rico

The

Best Little

Texas Dude Ranch in

San Diego’s

Most Beautiful Coastline Life is But A Circus in the Cosmopolitan City

Vegas in a Nutshell If You Aren’t Doing Something Wrong, You are Doing Something Wrong.

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“Are We There Yet?” Steps to Help You Enjoy your Journey www.connextionsmagazine.com

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A Place for Same-Sex Partners to Plan Their Dream Wedding. Verified LGBT-Friendly Wedding Vendor Directory & Forum.

www.EnGAYgedWeddings.com 2 58

twitter.com/EnGAYgedWedding

facebook.com/EnGAYgedWedding

pinterest.com/EnGAYgedWedding

GAYWeddingsForum.com

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SWANK P RO P E R T I E S ◊◊ BOSTON ◊◊

www.swank-properties.com

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Explore American History with a walk through Boston. From the Freedom Trail to Qunicy Market and the Boston Harbor Islands, find out why this is one of America’s top 10 tourist destinations. Click the cover to read the digital edition for free.

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CONTRIBUTORS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Shelly Straub ART DIRECTOR Lucia Camarda

r e t t e L

from the editor

ADVERTISING SALES (315) 380-6883 sales@connextionsmagazine.com CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Maria Lesetz David Perry Manny Velasquez-Paredes David Duran Bob Forbes Windy Dean

Read Connextions Magazine online or purchase your print edition through our website at:

www.connextionsmagazine.com WRITE TO US: Do you 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. shelly@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 office is located at 8601 Tartan Drive North, Cicero, New York 13039. Connextions Magazine 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.

Boy, it’s been a busy year for the gays! Marriage equality is on the rise worldwide, and that can only bring about happy couples on happy honeymoons. As such, gay travel is at an all time high. In this issue, we bring you some fantastic travel options, such as sun and sand in Puerto Rico; diversity in Dallas; cowboys and cattle in Ft Worth; and highlights in Austria, coming from a Vienna Virgin! But the travel features don’t stop there. Always ‘on-the-go’ David Duran brings us to California, where we visit The Orlando – a chic boutique hotel in LA, and to La Valencia Hotel, which sits on the most stunning San Diego coastline. David also takes us on an Un-Cruise Adventure in Alaska; Brings us to a 5-star sparkling jewel in the desert of Arizona, and finds a famed Fiesta in San Antonio. David Perry, who brings humor into every article, gives us his take on the latest ‘Krave’ in Las Vegas, and Maria Lesetz radiates her joy with 8 steps to help you enjoy your journey - whether it be a travel journey or a life dream. First comes love, then comes marriage – then comes the newborn in a baby carriage! Manny Velasquez-Paredes is our gay family travel guru and he gets personal discussing a trip to the Great Wolf Lodge in the Poconos of Pennsylvania. If discussing wedgies while riding a water slide isn’t personal, I don’t know what is! And since this is our special travel issue and we didn’t bring you a wedding couple, Windy Dean (former track and field championship athlete) gives us her hysterical engagement story, entitled: “The Modern Day Version of Sleeping Beauties”. You really can’t miss this one! Laughter is always the best medicine and we are taking it to a whole new level in this issue. You might notice that our tone has changed a bit, the articles are a little more personal and we’ve added a lot more edge. Drop us a note and let us know if you can handle the sarcasm.

Shelly Shelly Straub

ISSN 2160-4347 (print) ISSN 2160-4355 (online)

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@Connextionsmag

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Get social with us!

Cover Photo: View from La Concha Resort in San Juan, Puerto Rico, overlooking Condado Beach & the ‘gay beach’ area. Click for our review of La Concha Resort.


“Unity is strength... when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.” - Mattie Stepanek

CONTRIBUTORS Lucia Camarda Art Director Lucia brings innovation and creativity to create simple, yet sophisticated eye-catching layout designs. design@connextionsmagazine.com

David Duran Contributing Writer 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. Follow @theemuki on Twitter

Manny Velasquez-Paredes Contributing Writer MVP is a multicultural & diversity marketing professional focusing on the Hispanic and LGBT communities. He is a social media junkie and avid traveler, who brings the traveling family’s perspective to Connextions magazine. Follow @mannyvp on Twitter

Maria Lesetz Contributing Writer Health & Happiness Coach and founder of Lovin’ Life – a life coaching company that specializes in facilitating powerful, personal transformations in physical and emotional well-being. www.LovinLifeNow.com

David Perry Contributing Writer Hailed as “one of the most recognized and well-respected travel writers for the North American LGBT market,” David Perry is a humor writer with a really, really, really well-used passport. davidboothperry.wix.com/davep Follow David @GhastEald on Twitter

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contents 10

The Best Cruise is an Un-Cruise Alaska

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Family Fun & Adventure at Great Wolf Lodge Pennsylvania Poconos

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The Orlando - $5m Renovations to this Chic Boutique Hotel Los Angeles, California

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Culture & Queers in Texas? Dallas

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Cattle Drives, Rodeo’s & Gay Politicians Ft Worth, Texas

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Cowboys, Longhorns & Hospitality on the Wildcatter Ranch Graham, Texas

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La Valencia Hotel Sits on One of The Most Beautiful Coast Lines San Diego, California

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Travel Features

American Airlines Upgrades - Getting There is Now Half the Fun International Travel Only - sorry!

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The Disheartening Truth About LGBT Residents & Businesses Puerto Rico

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An Unexpected Fiesta - With The Gays! San Antonio, Texas

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A Vienna Virgin Gives Us 10 Reasons to Put Austria on Your Bucket List! Vienna, Austria

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The City That Wants to Get You Off & Rip You Off - at the same time! Las Vegas

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Indulge in a City Where Luxury Meets Adventure Scottsdale, Arizona

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photo courtesy David Duran


Subscribe & save 100% off the cover price. Because a digital subscription is free! CLICK HERE

Fashion 56

Lifestyle

Gents - Stand Out From The Crowd! A Burst of Color in the Concrete Jungle

Health & Wellness 36

“Are We There Yet?”

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The Modern Day Version of: Sleeping Beauties

Events 54

8 Steps to Help You Enjoy The Journey

Movie Night

An Engagement Story

A Unique Experience at North Jersey Pride What Makes ‘This’ Pride So Special?

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The Windy City Sports Leather, not Lace Annual IML Conference & Competition in Chicago

In Review

The Latest Must-See Releases

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It’s Not A Cruise... photo courtesy David Duran

by David Duran

an amazing 7 night luxury cruise in South East Alaska spending two magical days in Glacier Bay National Park – something that the big cruises just can’t do

There’s

nothing wrong with cruises. I mean, we all love to take them. They are massive ships with everything you could want onboard. The problem is, sometimes you feel like a small fish in a ginormous ocean when on a standard cruise. Having to fight over people to sign up for activities, long buffet lines and traffic in the hallways back to your room which you can never seem to find. Cruise ships nowadays have so many options for destinations and when herded on these monstrous ships, you don’t really know who is on there with you and why they chose to take your cruise. Some are there for the adventure; some for the destination, and some are just there to indulge in their inner gluttonous beasts. photo courtesy of Un-Cruise Adventure

photo courtesy of Un-Cruise Adventure

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For those wanting to experience the open water and the most important amenities of a cruise, mixed in with adventure and activities, there’s an option in the form of Un-Cruise Adventures. With smaller luxury yachts and maximum guest numbers capping at 86, this different type of cruise might be your best bet. The company offers a variety of small ship adventures in many destinations including Hawaii, Mexico and Alaska. These trips come standard with the basics; food, comfortable rooms and enough staff to attend to all your needs, but what you will most get from an un-cruise is the action packed custom day agendas.


photo courtesy David Duran

Discoverers’ Glacier Country One of the signature voyages for Un-Cruise is an amazing 7 night luxury cruise in South East Alaska spending two magical days in Glacier Bay National Park – something that the big cruises just can’t do. Embarking in Juneau, the quaint capital of Alaska, mostly still in existence due to the daily cruise ships coming and leaving. Bring your wallet; Juneau takes full advantage of unexpected cruisers coming in for the day. During the trip, stop at Ford’s Terror and Endicott Arm– a pristine tidal inlet and fjord. Guests can discover the fjord by kayak or skiff and view ice-covered mountains above a beautiful glacier. Watch for wildlife when passing by

Frederick Sound and Stephen’s Passage- an excellent place to view humpback whales and other marine wildlife. By day 3 of your un-cruise, you will be sailing by Chichagof Island and Baranof Island, as well as taking advantage of more land activities or more kayaking if that’s more enticing. By the time you reach the Icy Straight on the way to Glacier Bay National Park, your eyes will not be prepared for the ultimate spot in whale sightings. This is the place to just marvel in the awesomeness of humpback whales. The final portion of your un-cruise takes you to the national park where you will travel nearly 60 miles up bay to the tidewater glaciers of Grand Pacific

and Margerie. Here is where you will see puffins, sea lions, mountain goats, bears, moose, eagles and an unlimited amount of serenity encompassed in majestic scenery. This particular cruise offers an open premium bar, fine-dining prepared each day by their on-board chef and crew, a wellness staff, over-achieving guides and a hospitality department that will make you feel like it’s “your cruise” and not anyone else’s. All activities and adventures are included in one price and although the price may seem a bit steep at first, consider what all you are getting and the quality in which you are getting it.

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Family Fun & Adventure at

Great Wolf Lodge

It’s not the Destination that Counts, but the Journey by Manny Velasquez-Paredes

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n order to escape what can only be described as one of the rainiest and coldest Spring seasons I can remember, my partner and I packed up the kids and drove to a water park in the Poconos, where we booked a Kid Kamp Suite at the Great Wolf Lodge. The drive from Long Island to Pennsylvania was very uneventful, since we are now experts on what to bring with us on long road trips to keep the kids occupied. Amidst the kids’ DVDs, leap pads, and etch-a-sketchers, I usually pack snacks, juices, water, sandwiches, fruits and sweets, anything to keep everyone happy and engaged. I always say that my partner and I are “outlet junkies,” because we love shopping and are always looking for deals and sales. So, on our way to the water park, we couldn’t resist a stop at the Crossings Premium Outlets Mall, which is about five minutes away from the lodge. Finding that the prices were comparable and sometimes higher than that of shopping in New York, the only thing we bought was lunch. Although not recommended for bargain hunters, it did give us an opportunity to stretch our legs.

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As usual, we didn’t let our kids know the destination, because we love to see their surprised faces upon arrival. And what a surprise it was, to see the huge water slides sticking out of the building! The kids put every toy away and with huge smiling faces, expressed their desire to climb each one. Great Wolf Lodge is a massive indoor water park with over 79,000 square feet of rides and entertainment, including flabbergasting slides for the adults and zero-depth entry areas for the little ones. The park is always a comfortable 84 degrees and there are plenty of areas where everyone can get splashed and even smashed – yes, there is an adult bar inside the water park and another one in the restaurant! Check-in is 4pm, but if you arrive early, you can hang out in the water park until your room is ready. Wristbands are given to everyone in your party, which are meant to be used as keys to your rooms and IDs for all guests, but can also be programmed for use as your method of payment throughout the lodge. I definitely recommend attaching a credit card to the

parents’ bracelets, this way you won’t need to carry your wallet or purse in the water park. When we entered our Kids Kamp Suite, the kids were instantly thrilled to see their room, which was beautifully decorated as a tent, and furnished with a bunk bed, a night stand and a TV. The walls were painted to resemble the inside of a tent, with adventure maps and stars. I, on the other hand, was surprised and a little scared to find out the beds were not equipped with guard rails, although they do offer cribs. My little boy, Max, is now 3 years old and hasn’t slept in a crib for a while, so we didn’t request one. He slept on the bottom bunk, although I still feared he may fall out. Hence, I didn’t get much sleep. Pleasantly surprised to find that he didn’t fall out, I enjoyed a milestone moment, as I realized how quickly my children are growing up. While researching the resort, prior to our trip, I had read some negative comments online about the food, but everyone in my family thouroughly enjoyed all the offerings. The breakfast buffet, which I recommend purchasing during the


booking process, was fresh and tasted great. My favorite choice was the omlet station, where the chef will create your specialty omelet with all the fixins -- and by the way they have feta cheese if you ask for it! Have your cameras ready, because you just may encounter one of Great Wolf Lodge’s mascots: Violet, Oliver or Wiley. During breakfast, we were delightfully surprised when Violet came to our table and greeted the children, happy to have her picture taken with them. If you are obsessed with vacation photos like I am, you will be thrilled to learn that Shutterfly.com has an awesome deal with Great Wolf Lodge, where you can receive a free 8x8 book. Just grab the card in your room, with the code, and upload your own photos. In case you forget your waterproof camera, the lodge’s shops have plenty of stock available. After breakfast, we relaxed by the Great Clock Tower in the Grand Lobby for story time, which is repeated three times throughout the day. We then went to the water park and this is when I had another milestone moment and realized just how brave and fearless my little girl, Jaslene, has become. Ready for action, we started with the kiddy slides, and before I knew it, she was doing belly slides and wanted to try the bigger rides. My four year old princess was pulling me to take her to the Totem Towers, which is described as “twin three-story slides offering the fastest escape route out of the Fort Mackenzie

tree house.” Off we went, I got a wedgie and felt I was about to fly off the Totem, but she was sporting a huge smile and a desire to go again. My partner and I swapped places, and I was able to catch my breath with Max in the kiddy pool. Virtually every area of the water park is supervised by lifeguards and we felt extremely safe, also lifejackets are available free of charge on a first come, first serve basis. The staff was absolutely awesome; they have games to keep the kids entertained throughout the day, and they make balloon animals. Kids and adults can get magic wands and go on scavenger hunts throughout the resort and even battle a dragon in MagiQuest games located all over the lodge. There’s even an ice cream-themed manicure at the kid Spa, an arcade, a pizza place, a sweets shop, a bowling alley, miniature golf, as well as a spa and gym for adults. The fun never ends at Great Wolf Lodge. If you go, say hi to Bill the General Manager, Brieanna the Front Office Manager and Michael the Manager and let them know that Manny from Connextions Magazine highly recommended this resort. We had such an amazing experience, that we returned a couple of months later for Fathers’ Day. Email me your comments, thoughts, or questions and I will try to address them in upcoming issues, (velasquezmanny@gmail.com), or follow me (@mannyvp), also head over to www.facebook.com/ gayfamilytravel for engagement and interaction with myself and other proud gay parents.

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The Orlando - LA’s Boutique Hotel

by David Duran

Nestled between West Hollywood and Beverly Hills, this chic boutique hotel lives on one of the most vibrant streets of Los Angeles – West 3rd. Blocks from the Beverly Center – the premiere shopping in LA, the Grove and the Farmer’s Market, the location couldn’t get any better. West 3rd is lined with independent shops offering everything from clothing to furniture. Dining options are unlimited and the West Hollywood bars are a short cab ride or adventurous walk away.

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Inside the property, a small, but beautiful reception desk and lobby, welcomes you. The warm chocolate brown and orange décor throughout the hotel radiates a combination of elegance and comfort. Connected to the lobby is one of LA’s hot spot gastro pubs, The Churchill. Serving a twist on seasonal American cuisine with an extensive craft cocktail list and over 20 regional beers on tap, this spot, with its in-demand patio seating, is the perfect place to enjoy Sunday Brunch, but make reservations early, as the crowds will gather.

photos courtesy The Orlando Hotel

The Orlando has most recently undergone a $5 million dollar renovation to the entire property. Each category of room has been transformed. With moderate LA prices, this is the place to splurge and go big. Within the small property lies a hidden gem of a room - the newest renovation to The Orlando, the Entertainer Suite. With a private master bedroom and decadent bathroom, including a separate soak tub and television, this “entertainer suite” offers privacy for those staying in it. The second portion to the suite is where the party truly happens. With it’s own powder room, dining table and living room, the inside space offers up a great place to enjoy some wine with friends. But why would you waste your time inside when in beautiful LA? For that exact reason, the suite offers 225 sq. feet of outdoor space in the form of a balcony overlooking West 3rd. The corner balcony is equipped with enough outdoor furniture to entertain a dozen of your closest and hippest Hollywood friends. The Orlando actually encourages you to make use of the space and benefit from what the room was intended for – entertaining. With a decent size gym for hotel standards and a very cute mini pool on the roof, The Orlando is serving up something different in a town where everyone is competing to be the same. Location, location, location - the finest in shopping, food and atmosphere makes this boutique property something to consider when wanting to standout and try something new.

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Dallas

Yes, it’s BIG!

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Families enjoy the AT&T Performing Arts Center. Photo credit: Nigel Young / Foster & Partners

Jacket: “Only steers and queers in Texas, and I’m not a cow.” He has since apologized and blamed hackers for the tweet. Well, obviously not ‘everyone’ in Texas is queer, but on a recent trip to Dallas, I was thrilled to find out just how many gay and lesbian individuals are living and traveling there! Who knew?

Tyler Sequin made recent headlines in the Dallas Morning News, for a homophobic term that was sent from his Twitter account. The tweet was a version of a line from the 1987 movie Full Metal

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With the largest Arts District in the nation, the vast array of gay bars in the Oaklawn neighborhood, and hometown honkey tonk BBQ’s, it’s no wonder that the gays are flocking to Dallas.


Arts District The unique 68-acre, 19-block neighborhood known as the Dallas Arts District is an architecture lovers playground, with a striking Dallas skyline that boasts architectural wonders by I.M. Pei, Renzo Piano, Norman Foster, Rem Koolhaas and Edward Larrabee Barnes. In the heart of this arts mecca, is the AT&T Performing Arts Center, which contains some of the finest performance venues

in the world. From free performances to the Lexus Broadway Series and top concerts, the AT&T Performing Arts Center offers world class venues, magnificent architectural design, and an unparalleled commitment to the arts. Venues include: The Margot and Bill Winspear Opera House - a stunning 2,200 seat venue; Dee and Charles Wyly Theatre – a 575 seat theatre, with an incredibly versatile stage; Annette Strauss Square –an open-air theater with room for 2,000 on the lawn and patio; and the Elaine D. and Chales A Sammons Park – a beautifully crafted public park filled with wild plants, performance areas and a reflecting pool.

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Cuisine

They say that New York is the city that never sleeps, but I spent 5 days in Northern Texas and the only sleep I got, was on the plane ride home. There are more gay owned nightclubs in Dallas than I was able to visit. If you want to know the real meaning of ‘bar crawl’, I suggest a visit to the Oaklawn neighborhood. With a handful of nightclubs on Cedar Springs Road, you can take in a live acoustic performance, dance til you drop, mingle like mad or two-step til 2am!

Tex-Mex, barbecued beef, smoked brisket, chili con carne, wild boar, rattlesnake, kangaroo – all cajun style! From 5-star dining to rib joints on the side of the road, one thing is for sure – you will not leave hungry! If you’re hitting up a Cowboy’s game while you’re in town, stop by the Bodacious BBQ and find yourself captivated by the country western décor as you meander down the cafeteria style aisle, ordering up delicious mesquite smoked pulled pork, chicken breast, beef brisket, ribs, or smoked turkey. If you are entertaining friends, enjoy the outdoor patio at Ocho Restaurant in the Park Cities neighborhood. Executive Chef Joel Harloff offers main dishes such as Oaxacan Duck Breast and Wild Boar Spare Ribs to Mexican White Shrimp + Jicama or Grilled Mahi Mahi Tacos. Before your bar crawl on Cedar Springs Road, make sure to fill your belly at Hunky’s, a cozy corner restaurant with a 1950’s vibe, offering fresh burgers, dogs, sodas, salads, & shakes. Their specialty hamburgers are hand pressed and cooked before your eyes, along with the fresh onions that become deep fried hand-battered rings just moments after they are cut. And the morning after your bar crawl, definitely head to the Original Market Diner for biscuits and sausage gravy or my favorite – eggs benedict!

For more alternative action, head over to the Deep Ellum neighborhood and party on the rooftop at Dallas’s newest lesbian owned establishment, Eden Lounge. Eden Lounge offers picturesque views of the Dallas skyline from their best seats in the house – the rooftop! Catch some rooftop rays or relax in the shade; chill with friends or make new ones; grab a drink, listen to the band play, and enjoy the moment. The atmosphere is inviting and the décor is modern, sophisticated, and well-designed. The crowd at Eden Lounge appears to prefer sipping a martini while washing away the worries of their week, rather than throwing back three shots of tequila and dancing naked on the pool table. If it’s a Cosmopolitan kind of night, head to trendy Uptown, just a fewblocks north of Dallas and surround yourself with beautiful people in a beautiful setting. Ride the historic McKinney Avenue Trolley up and down McKinney Avenue, the main street of this neighborhood, where bars and ultra-lounges sit on nearly every corner.

Deep Ellum’s Newest Lesbian Bar - Eden Lounge

Nightlife

Variety is the spice of life, and with that being said, the Hilton Anatole Hotel treated me to a phenomenal culinary tour of cuisines from around the globe. Being one of the largest hotels in the Southwest, looking more like a museum on the inside, the five-star restaurant within the hotel SĒR Steak+Spirits, served up this tasting experience that also offered a tour of the art pieces situated throughout. Head to the 27th floor for succulent steaks, fresh seafood and one of the best views in Dallas.

Click here for extensive reviews and photos on restaurants, accommodations & entertainment in Dallas. A Culinary Tour of Cuisines from Around the Globe at Hilton Anatole

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The Freshest Meat in the Gayborhood is at Hunky’s


(L) Joelle Sebastian (R) Windy Dean

photo courtesy: Lisa Miller @studiodiluce

We caught up with Windy Dean, former 3-time NCAA javelin champion, former NCAA hammer champion, as well as former resident of Dallas, Texas. Windy brings us the ins and outs of gay life in the “BIG” city. “Dallas is a place where you can be known if you want, or lay low in the shadows. It's a conglomeration of three distinct areas that have grown together to create a city of opportunity and entertainment. At the rate that the surrounding suburbs continue to grow, it won't be long before cities such as Denton, Mckinney, Plano, and a few others are absorbed into the thriving metropolis.” “It's no secret that a fair amount of money in the city's upper echelons is controlled by what has been coined the "Pink Mafia", aka gay money. D Magazine put out a great story 6+ years ago, that read: “The Pink Mafia - There’s more to gay Dallas than Cedar Springs and drag queens. Behind the scenes is an upper-class network that is conservative, churchgoing, white-collar and well-connected. They have made Dallas’ gay community the most successful in the nation.” Windy continues: “The Strip (street and oakloawn) serves as the main drag for gay nightlife and many of the taverns along this strip all coin names within the TV series "Dallas". Many have come and gone over the years, but The Round Up, JR's and Sue Ellens are the iconic legends that bring the ‘out-of-towners’

in for the weekends. That and a little collegiate football and basketball. Comparatively speaking, I think the strip is about as safe in Dallas as West Hollywood is in LA. The police sport rainbow patched uniforms, constantly patrol the area and are very friendly.” “Deep Ellum is another diverse neighborhood with great restaurants and a couple of open biker bars. Bruce Willis is rumored to have a club over there where he'll occasionally pop in and belt out a tune or two.”

Dallas’ Big Things Happen Here branding campaign sports the fiberglass B&G in various locations throughout the city, encouraging photo shoots, becoming the “I” in BIG.

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Fort Worth Texas It’s What You’re Looking For

Horseback Riding/Cattle drives/Rodeos | Saloons and shopping | Minutes from the Dallas Cowboys Stadium Elk Sliders at Lonesome Dove | Gay-friendly | southern hospitality

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If you’ve never been to Texas, stop momentarily and let the photographs flow through your mind as you imagine it. Before my first visit, I visualized cowboys, rodeos, longhorns, Stetson hats and rhinestone boots. When I arrived in the Stockyards District of Fort Worth, the snapshots I envisioned were brought to life. Stockyards District Fort Worth, dubbed as “The City of Cowboys and Culture” is shaped by its downtown revitalization and urban renewal, its world-renowned cultural arts district, and rich pride in its Western heritage. A taste of this heritage can be savored in the Stockyards, a national historic district that offers: the Cowtown Coliseum’s rodeo’s and wild west shows; the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame; the world’s only daily cattle drive; and the “World’s Largest Honky-Tonk”, along with a plethora of restaurant choices, shopping, saloons, and accommodations.

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Entertaining

Staying

The infamous club known as Billy Bob’s Texas is an absolute must on the itinerary. From live bull riding in the indoor arena to live country music by the nation’s top performers, this venue is more than just a boot-scootin’ bar, it’s a family friendly entertainment destination. Inside the expansive facility that can host up to 6,000 people, you will find: a Celebrity handprint wall of fame, actual burger buns signed by famous musicians, pool tables and arcade games, along with a barbeque burger restaurant. My favorite of all the attractions was the Photo Bull, which offers a souvenir picture - that now hangs on my wall at home. Note: For out of town visitors with children, make sure to check the age policy before stopping by. The family friendly facility is in fact an alcohol serving bar, therefore parents are required to accompany the little ones.

Located in the heart of this historic district is the Stockyards Hotel – which is notably famous as being a hideout for the legendary outlaws Bonnie & Clyde. Beautifully restored to its original elegance and grandeur, every guestroom is unique in its décor reflecting the era of the Old West and the early 19th century. For over 100 years, cowboys and cattle barons, kings and queens of country music, and even an outlaw or two have found comfort and true southern hospitality at the Stockyards Hotel. Shopping I experienced a ‘first’ while browsing the unique shops that offers Texas attire and tourist gifts. I was able to take a break during my shopping excursion and have myself a ‘cold one’ – all without leaving the store! Prop yourself on a stool at the bar, take a load off – then resume


shopping. Two fantastic stores in the Stockyards District are: Fincher's White Front Western Wear and Maverick Fine Western Wear, which both offer big belt buckles, custom hats, and a variety of boots in all styles and colors – for those of you that want to not only feel like a Texan, but look like one too! Eating My dining experience at the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro was top notch. The service was that of true southern hospitality. Being female, the server took my order before the other guests at the table, and then proceeded to serve my drink and food before the others. Honestly, I was a bit taken back by this, especially since I have spent years arguing that women shouldn’t be treated any differently than men. But this experience left me craving for more chivalry! With a menu influenced by all of the ingredients and cultures that have been a part of the West, Chef and Owner Tim Love bring to the table an inventive selection of steaks and seafood, along with dishes such as Wagyu Tomahawk, Kangaroo Carpaccio, Rocky Mountain Elk Ribeye, Wild Boar, and Rabbit & Rattlesnake. Of the dozens of restaurants I had the pleasure of enjoying during my visit to Texas, the Lonesome Dove takes first prize.

My visit to Ft. Worth, which held true to all my expectations of Texas, including cowboys, red meat, cold craft beer, cattle drives, horses and hospitality, would have left me completely fulfilled – but wait… there’s more! During lunch at Lonesome Dove, I was surprised to learn that Councilman Joel Burns would be joining our table. Having heard his story on CNN and MSNBC, having watched his City Council meeting on youtube, having read about his numerous awards as “Servant of the People”, “Believe in Youth Award”, along with several more, I was thrilled to shake his hand and offer my thanks for his honesty and service to our community. As an out and proud politician, residents and visitors of Ft Worth can rest assured knowing that Joel Burns will not stand for gay bashing, bullying or intolerant behavior – he truly works FOR THE PEOPLE! Over 2.8 million people have watched his heartbreaking story on youtube, maybe you should check it out too? Or send him your own personal note of thanks on twitter or facebook. www.JoelBurns.com

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raveling from New York, Wildcatter Ranch offered the taste of Texas I was looking for. A real western experience with cowboys, horses, and longhorns -- minus the tents and snakes. Wildcatter is a 1,500 acre ranch in Northern Texas. The quiet surroundings invite you to relax and reconnect. There are no crowds and no waiting lines, only a perfect opportunity to unplug and unwind. The guest suites, impeccable service, mouth watering meals, and activities on the ranch will remain an unforgettable experience. The most memorable moment during my stay, was the tipping of the hat by each cowboy, upon introduction – my jaw literally dropped. Their mama raised them right! I was truly under the belief that chivalry was dead -- and being the feminist that I am, I have become accustomed to opening my own door – BUT, it felt so good to be treated with such honest respect that this memory will remain embedded. Wildcatter Ranch offers 16 individual luxury cabin suites; 16 guest rooms within the western style hotel; one charming cottage with two bedrooms, one bath and a full kitchen; as well as one completely secluded luxury guesthouse with two king bedrooms, each with private bath, large living room, dining area, full kitchen and rock fireplace.

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I had the pleasure of staying in the Fort Belknap Cabin Suite. The room was beautifully decorated, it was clean, and certainly spacious -- from the tall log cabin style ceiling and the large wooden doors, to the separate toilet and shower room. I instantly felt relaxed and at peace, without lacking the comforts of home. The bedding was cozy and comfortable; the atmosphere is quiet and private; and sitting in the rocking chair on the back patio offered serene panoramic views that took my breath away. Guest room amenities include: Internet access; Satellite TV with DVD player Fireplace; Coffee, microwave & refrigerator; and back porch rocking chairs! The on-site steakhouse offers true Texas “hand cut” mesquite grilled steaks, barbeque, fresh fish and chicken fried steak, along with an award winning wine list and great selection of craft beers. Outstanding service coupled with fresh food and an incredible view give Wildcatter Steakhouse 5-stars. Find a romantic getaway; find southern hospitality; find cowboys, horses, longhorns, big skies, tons of stars and scenic landscape views! Find a taste of the old west at Wildcatter Ranch. www.wildcatterranch.com


Luxurious guest accommodations Infinity pool and hot tub Lounge Bar & Restaurant Conference Center Spa Activities, including: horseback riding, skeet shooting, ATV rides & tours, hiking, tank fishing, frisbee golf, canoeing, wagon rides, & so much more!

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La Valencia Hotel – La Jolla’s Icon

by David Duran

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hen you think of San Diego and SoCal, La Jolla might not automatically register with you, but this affluent coastal city located just 12 miles north of San Diego, shouldn’t be so quickly dismissed off your radar. It’s true, John McCain does own a home in this beach city, but don’t let one person set a tone for what is generally a welcoming community of both young and old mixed together. Some of the most gorgeous beaches and streets are located here and offer all kinds of fabulous shopping and dining options. The nightlife is questionable if you are under 40, but a $25 dollar cab ride will get you and your friends to downtown San Diego where you can party it up all night. The La Jolla coastline is one of the most beautiful in the San Diego community. With an iconic building at it’s most prominent spot along the coast, the La Valencia Hotel, referred to by locals as the “Pink Lady,” is welcoming to all visitors.

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Then and Now Then and Now “La V,” another nickname for this iconic property, has been charming guests with its luxurious ocean views for 87 years, and has always been one of the areas most premier hotel properties. Now under new ownership and management, this beachfront property has just undergone a massive $10 million room renovation that was completed in 2013, with many more updates planned. This 112-room vintage coastal retreat continues its role as a gathering place where generations of celebrations have taken place. The Mediterranean style building features terraced gardens with exquisite Spanish mosaics and breathtaking panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean. The historic patina of the property means that there is an array of richly appointed and unique accommodations available, including specialty suites and studios, as well as 16 spacious villas. Dining options include the signature Mediterranean Room and Ocean Terrace adjoining the La Sala Lounge and Café La Rue, which is set to debut later this year. Signaling a more modern direction and keeping up with the times, La V recently announced the appointment of Executive Chef Daniel Barron. Known as a molecular gastronomy advocate, Chef Barron also has a diverse culinary background, having worked in top kitchens in New York City, Nashville and Atlantic City. Most recently Chef Barron owned and operated Evolve Cuisine Forward, an innovative pop up restaurant and catering company in San Diego. Immediately prior, he led the culinary team at Blue Point Coastal Cuisine where he was named “Chef of the Year” in the 2011 Gaslamp Quarter Association’s annual Lamplighter Awards; won a “Chef of the Fest” competition in the 2011 San Diego Bay Food & Wine Festival and was named 2011’s “Chef to Watch” in 944 Magazine.

The Pool The Pool

Now this is the reason you take those cabs after a late night of club bouncing. Waking up to insanely gorgeous ocean views and walking down to the most sought after pool chairs in La Jolla, the pool at La V is definitely the place to recover after a long night out. And what better way to help with recovery but with a mouth-watering craft cocktail! The magician mixologists at La V have created a devilish new pool bar menu and the absolute winner of them all is their version of a blackberry mojito.

La V’s Blackberry Mojito *Muddled fresh mint and blackberry *Squeeze of fresh lime *Bacardi rum *Blackberry puree mixed with simple syrup *Topped with prosecco *Prepared by a handsome poolside bartender Blackberry Mojito photo courtesy David Duran

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s e h c i r n E

American Airlines the

Upgrades Have Arrived!

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International Travel Experience with Top-notch Amenities

The new premium inflight experience has launched onboard American’s 777-300ER, 777-200ER, 767-300ER and 757-200 aircraft flying in Europe, Asia and long haul Latin America markets.

Seating Upgrades

Entertainment and Connectivity

“As we build toward a new, more modern airline, we have thoughtfully considered each detail of the international premium experience from beginning to end by providing high-quality amenities and dining options that our customers expect,” said Rob Friedman, American’s Vice President – Marketing. “By delivering a service that offers such personalization, we are able to provide an enhanced inflight experience that truly meets the expectations of our premium customers, and reminds them of home or their favorite restaurant.”

The Boeing 777-300ER is configured with three classes, featuring fully lie-flat seats in First and Business Class – all with direct aisle access. The First Class Cabin has eight Flagship Suite seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. The Business Class Cabin has 52 seats arranged in a 1-2-1 configuration. The Main Cabin is outfitted with 30 Main Cabin Extra seats in a 3-3-3 configuration and 220 Main Cabin seats arranged in a 3-4-3 configuration. This aircraft provides American with more passenger and cargo capacity than any other aircraft in its fleet.

Every seat onboard the 777-300ER has a personal in-seat entertainment option, including up to 250 movies, more than 180 TV programs and more than 350 audio selections. Bose® QuietComfort® 1 5 Ac o u s t i c No i s e C a n c e l l i n g ® headphones are provided for premium class customers to use during the flight. The 777-300ER is the first aircraft in American’s fleet to offer international Wi-Fi. Additionally, every seat features individual 110-volt AC power outlets and USB jacks for charging personal electronic devices.

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Free Amenity Kits Upon boarding, First Class customers will receive a welcome aboard card and an amenity kit, stocked with Dermalogica® skincare products, that doubles as a tablet case. In addition, customers will enjoy upgraded closed-toe slippers, an additional pillow, and the choice of a specialty mimosa. Business Class updates include new slippers and an amenity kit with Akhassa® cosmetics. Food & Beverage Upgrades While inflight, First and Business Class customers can choose from new menu selections that will be served on updated, more modern china along with new flatware and upgraded linens. In addition, First Class customers will receive other specially designed items including a textured placemat, napkin ring, accent water glass and an amuse-bouche, a bite-size hors d'œuvre. Designed to resemble the personalized service provided in an upscale restaurant, First Class customers’ entrees and beverages will be hand-delivered upon request. Food and beverage enhancements will include more variety and selections, including the introduction of a soup option, and a customizable pasta entrée – a first for an airline. First Class customers will also see an expansion of American’s signature sundaes with a featured sundae option, a breakfast card – similar to hotel room service, increased bread options and a pre-landing sweet treat and spa water. A wine sampling will be offered inflight for First Class customers. Customers will receive a tasting card to assist in their selections for the remainder of the flight and all offerings will be specially chosen for the flight by American’s wine consultant, Ken Chase. Business Class customers will also enjoy newly designed food elements and a customized sundae from the airline’s popular dessert cart. In addition, premium class customers on the 777-300ER aircraft, can enjoy a walk-up bar with a selection of snacks, sandwiches and assorted sweets, available between the first and last meals. Personally, I prefer to spend my hard earned dollars on cocktails and accommodation upgrades, in lieu of spending extra money on the expense of getting to my vacation destination. However, having experienced these recent enhancements first hand, I can say without-a-doubt, that if my next trip includes international air travel, I will be flying with American Airlines. Arriving at your destination, feeling refreshed and relaxed, makes a world of difference. Getting there is now half the fun!

For nearly two decades, American Airlines has been a pioneer in its fair-minded policies and practices for its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) customers and employees. American Airlines has consistently held the highest possible ranking on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index and remains the most gay-friendly of all U.S. airlines through its generous partnerships with the LGBT community, as well as its loyalty and respect for customers, employees and shareholders, and unflagging commitment to diversity. To learn more, visit www.aa.com/flyincomfort

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PUERTO RICO

I spent 5 days in the capital city of an island boasting clean sandy beaches, warm Caribbean breezes, and picturesque palm trees -- the perfect setting for vacationers. Aside from my leisure time thoroughly enjoying the sun and historic sites of Old San Juan, what I learned about LGBT residents and business owners in Puerto Rico was disheartening.

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Puerto Rico has always been a gay vacation destination of choice for east coast American’s, mainly due to the fact that you can get your Caribbean fix without a passport, and airline tickets are typically much less expensive than traveling to one of the US Virgin Islands. However, I was recently invited on a press trip to cover the Mr Gay World Puerto Rico competition, and my experience as a first-time visitor to the island was not at all what I had expected, based on articles I had read in several media outlets about this gay friendly island. In October 2012, the Huffington Post released an article by Mark Chestnut, who described San Juan, Puerto Rico as “a vacation destination with the best infrastructure and the widest variety of activities available for gay and lesbian travelers.” While I agree that San Juan is a gay-friendly destination for travelers and there is quite an array of activities for fun and adventure while visiting, my expectations were apparently set too high as I envisioned an atmosphere similar to Key West or Provincetown, where rainbow flags fly from every storefront and drag queens parade the streets at night. There are plenty of gays walking the streets, although not in drag, but rainbow flags and window stickers are hard to come by, even in the Condado area – which is the commonplace for LGBT travelers. If your purpose to San Juan is solely for vacation, you may never notice some of the disheartening things I learned. Although I never experienced it for myself, I understand that in the 80’s and 90’s, the Condado area was known as Puerto Rico’s gay mecca, and a great place for singles to mingle. Today, there is certainly no shortage of gays wandering the downtown area, but the shoreline has become a family-friendly tourist hotspot. The beach does include a small section in front of the Oceano Restaurant, which is known as the ‘gay beach.’ (Just look for the rainbow umbrellas.) For the past 3 years, Jarl Haugedal & Michael Billy – co-owners of Humanity Pride Productions, have held an annual Mr Gay World USA competition, and this year will mark an ‘historic first’ for the island of Puerto Rico, as the company took on - what has now been experienced as a difficult challenge – the task of finding a Puerto Rican representative to join the crowned USA delegate, in the Mr. Gay World competition that takes place this August in Belgium.

After two trips to the island, and expenses ranging well over $4,000.00, the Humanity Pride organization produced no formal event and no island resident was named Mr. Gay World Puerto Rico. www.connextionsmagazine.com

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Old San Juan

Top: Fort San Felipe del Morro Left: Finally found a rainbow flag! Middle: Best place for a meal - Old San Juan! Right: Brightly colored row houses in Old San Juan

Oceano Upon arrival, the Humanity Pride team and myself, made our first stop in San Juan to Oceano, a well-known restaurant/night club, located in the Condado area, which is dubbed as San Juan’s “Gayborhood.” Up until a few weeks ago, Oceano

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hosted a weekly “Gay Party” on Sunday nights, which would have been an ideal location and venue to host the Mr. Gay World Puerto Rico event. Unfortunately, after several conversations with Oceano management, the event idea was politely turned down. According to Oceano

employees, this gay-owned establishment prefers not to attract national media attention, in order to maintain their good standing with the locals. Although on June 2, 2013, Oceano hosted a Pride Celebration Party, and the Sunday night gathering of gays is back on schedule.


Condado

Atlantic Beach Hotel Another venue option was the Atlantic Beach Hotel, which is a previously well-known gay hangout, also located along the ‘gay beach in Condado. This hotel has a gay-friendly directory listing on the PurpleRoofs.com website, with an overview editorial that reads: “This Hotel has also become a favorite place for the travel savvy and open minded traveler who enjoy its unpretentious atmosphere and its lively appeal to a wide variety of lifestyles.” Reading this overview, I would assume, without question, that they welcome gay travelers. But, after Jarl Haugedal and Michael Billy stopped into The Atlantic Beach Hotel to discuss the possibility of hosting an event, the manager insisted that this hotel is NOT a gay-friendly hotel, even though Jarl took note of the flaunting gays overcrowding the lobby.

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Punk Burger Bistro Bar I tagged along as the Humanity Pride team went door-to-door and store-to-store, asking associates if they could hang their event poster on windows or community boards. One such location was Punk Burger Bistro Bar on Ashford Avenue. The girl behind the counter was pleasant and friendly, and although not the owner, she welcomed the poster on their storefront window. Unfortunately, as we passed by an hour later, the poster had been removed.

LIV Fitness Club A hot spot for residents (and good looking gays) in the Condado area, is LIV Fitness Club. We enjoyed a tour and spoke in detail about the gay scene with Cameron Chavis, Regional Sales Manager of the club, who was extremely helpful and knowledgeable about the island. Upon request to host interviews at the fitness club for the Mr Gay World Puerto Rico event, we were once again, politely turned down by upper Management.

Juan Ortiz

Pictured L to R: Andrew Xavier, Michael Billy, Shelly Straub, Jarl Haugedal

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We spoke with several Puerto Rico residents, who shall remain nameless for their safety, and learned that there is no particular reason for the homophobic attitude of the residents on this island, other than possibly their fear of change. I specifically asked if religion plays a part in this non-equality attitude, since this is a predominately catholic island, but was told that while approximately 85% of residents claim to be catholic, not many attend weekly mass.

almost half the population living below the poverty line approximately 45% percent of 3.9 million residents.

What we did learn was that most of the business owners in the area are gay-friendly and welcome gay travelers but prefer not to announce it in the national media because they fear they will lose business with the locals.

When asked for a travel recommendation, Puerto Rico is always at the top of my list for sun-loving travelers. I say this for two reasons: One, this island boasts the best of the Caribbean, but offers more bang for your buck than other US Virgin Islands, such as St. Thomas – which is just as beautiful but much more expensive for the tourist.

Coming from a ‘business-only’ standpoint, this is certainly understandable. If a business owner should choose to fly a rainbow flag above their storefront, and they were to lose local business, they would certainly flounder and go under. Tourists are not their only source of income. If you are a radical activist for gay rights, you may say to yourself that these business owners should definitely take a stand for equality, but many cannot afford to throw away their livelihood just to make a point. Especially in the country of Puerto Rico, where according to the US Census, Puerto Rico is facing worsening economic and social conditions, with

Since my visit to Puerto Rico in early 2013, the Humanity Pride Productions team crowned Juan Ortiz as Mr Gay World Puerto Rico – though he was found in New York City. Juan will join the team this August for a chance to be titled Mr Gay World, at the annual competition.

And the second reason I recommend Puerto Rico as a travel destination to the LGBT community is because I believe we should inundate the island with our love and support. Certainly no change will come for the residents of this island if we walk away. For more travel highlights in Puer to Rico, v isit connextionsmagazine.com

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An Unexpected Fiesta in

San Antonio

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exas was never on my travel radar. I mean, its Texas, not a place known for being overly welcoming to the LGBT community. But when the opportunity to visit San Antonio was presented to me, I opted in, but only after looking at where San Antonio was located on a map. The moment I realized that Austin was only about an hour away, I agreed to go and hoped that by having the one and only well known liberal Texas city nearby, would be enough to keep me from getting into any trouble while on my visit. On my flight over, I sat next to a woman from San Antonio and she was perplexed as to why I was headed that way. In her opinion, San Antonio was known for hot sauce, tequila and guns. I was pleased with two out of the three items of her factoid, but I wasn’t going to let anyone burst my spirits at this point. I was all in and ready for an adventure. After arriving and on the way to my hotel, I realized how huge this city was. The weather was just right outside, and the views of Hill Country in the distance were spectacular. I wasn’t taken directly to my hotel, but instead to a massive street festival that was underway. Apparently I had arrived to San Antonio just in time for their two-week celebration, Fiesta.

experience. At this time, I knew it was time to start my trip off with the perfect margarita, and so I did. The Fiesta events ranged from educational to ceremonial to down right all night partying. Everyone in San Antonio was just so friendly and outgoing. The moment I asked about gay bars, I was quickly informed about the Fiesta events that catered to the LGBT community. This is when I knew that San Antonio was going to be just as cool as Austin. I attended a massive Fiesta event that was LGBT focused and the turnout was brilliant. It was massively packed with locals and tourists who all came together to

“The moment I asked about gay bars, I was quickly informed about the Fiesta events that catered to the LGBT community”

This mega event that started off by being a single parade back in the day, has turned into two weeks of non-stop parades, events, fundraisers and parties. I quickly got lost in the crowds of people in the streets dancing and drinking. What a welcome! The Tex-Mex music being played on stage wasn’t my favorite, but still added to the

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raise money for HIV/AIDS charities. Even the Fiesta Royalty came by and graced the party with their presence. And no, I’m not talking about drag queens. Fiesta actually has a royal court and it’s one of the best parts about the whole extravaganza. Not to make visitors feel left out from the royal experience, Fiesta goers are encouraged to wear medals proudly, each and every day. These special medals are created each year by organizations, museums, restaurants, hotels and even individuals. The more you have, the more bragging rights you earn. Some are considered more extravagant as they come from Fiesta Royalty or even politicians. Trading and selling of the medals is common and encouraged. I, of course, fell

by David Duran

victim to this phenomenon and quickly made it my trips focus to collect the best of the best medals, which I did. By the end of my trip, the King of Fiesta and Mayor of San Antonio had each given me a medal. It was my proudest San Antonio moment. Aside from the famed Fiesta, I did manage to make my way to the gay bars and was shocked at how many there were, and how great they were. There were small dives as well as huge dance clubs. Again, the bartenders were sweet and patrons were equally as nice. The drinks were cheap compared to NYC or LA prices, and taking a cab to and from was something that didn’t break the bank. In addition to the standard gay bars, the bar scene was a good mix of everything downtown. I probably wouldn’t hold a boys hand and walk right in to all of them, but the hipper, newer places are mostly all welcoming. The culinary scene was also delicious, especially if you enjoy Mexican cuisine! Overall, San Antonio surprised me. The eclectic city filled with art, culture and history really made an impact on my perception of Texas. With cities like San Antonio and Austin, visiting Texas shouldn’t be an idea quickly taken off your list, in turn it should be added. We can all visit San Francisco or Provincetown, and don’t get me wrong, they are both amazing cities, but why not branch out and try something new? San Antonio welcomes everyone and we should take advantage of the city’s openness. Plus, those prickly pair margaritas are pretty much heaven sent!


Fiesta® San Antonio | April 2013

photo courtesy Fiesta Commission and Jon Alonzo

“The eclectic city filled with

art, culture and history really made an impact on my perception of Texas

To help plan your SA stay, contact their awesome CVB: visitsanantonio.com

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ARE

WE THEREYET?

by Maria Lesetz

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Have you ever been on a road trip and someone in the car asked you “Are we there yet?” and kept on asking that question over and over again. Kids are known for asking this question, but I know a few adults who have asked the same question too. Maybe you’ve even done it yourself! I don’t know about you, but for me I would rather enjoy the journey in the present moment and not keep on focusing on the fact that “we are not there yet”. It actually makes the trip feel longer when you keep on asking that question, doesn’t it? It’s that impatience that hinders the joy that exists in the journey itself! I know a lot about road trip journeys. This summer I took another one of my Lovin’ Life Cross Country Road trips from Oregon to New York. There’s nothing like the open road and the freedom you feel when you are on a road trip like this. It took me 5 days and 4 nights to get there and oh, what a journey it was. Some days were long drives, but I chose to enjoy each moment of the journey, taking in the scenery, snapping photos of this beautiful country we live in, and even writing down inspirational quotes and ideas for my Lovin’ Life Coaching business, that were flowing to me while I was just living in the moment. No matter how long each day took, I chose to enjoy the journey instead of focusing on whether I had arrived at my destination for that day. Now, I must confess, on one particular day, traveling through Illinois, I got stuck in some heavy traffic. I found myself falling into that trap of looking at how many miles I traveled (24 miles) and then looking at how long it was taking (2.5 hours)! What a frustrating place to be. But luckily I had my honey remind me of what I teach and after a few nice deep breaths, I deliberately chose to pivot to a better feeling place and focused on what I was grateful for. I started to see the

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traffic as an opportunity to appreciate where I live and how there is essentially no traffic there and very polite drivers. I conjured up deep appreciation for Oregon and felt such joy in my heart to call that home. I chose to focus on what felt good.

Here are a few lessons we can learn from my Lovin’ Life Cross Country Road Trip and from the story of Nik Wallenda about the journey to achieving our own goals and dreams: 1. Follow your passion 2. Stay grounded in the present moment 3. Appreciate the things that put a great big smile on your face 4. Focus only on that which makes you feel good 5. Realize that you always have a choice to let go of the stress 6. Don’t listen to anyone else’s fears or stories of negativity 7. Just take one step at a time and celebrate each step 8. Have faith that you CAN achieve your goals, no matter what’s in front of you.

Then, it got me thinking … “Am I there yet?” This is not only a question you ask on a road trip, it’s a question that comes up in your everyday life. Do you find yourself asking “Am I there yet?” followed by “Why is this not happening?” as it pertains to your life goals or dreams? Maybe you have wanted something to happen in your life for years or you have been working “hard” to achieve your goals for what feels like an eternity. You find yourself stopping, looking at your life, assessing or judging that you are “not there yet” or “don’t have what you want” and then you feel discouraged and unhappy with your current life situation. It’s what Law of Attraction teachers, like myself, call … “See-it-like-it-is-itis”. It’s a DIS-ease with your current life situation. You focus on “what is”, judge that it’s “not enough” or “hasn’t arrived” and then you feel like crap about it. You may even feel like something is wrong with you. But that’s just a story you are telling yourself. Nothing is wrong with you. You rock! You can create anything in your life. You have the power to choose! The only thing that stops you from achieving your goals and dreams is the fact that you are stopping to observe where you are at and if you are “there yet”, judging where you are at as “not enough” and then choosing to feel frustrated by your perception of not being in the place you desire to be in your life. How can you expect things to change for the positive, when you are primarily focused on the fact that what you desire to have is missing in your life? It’s similar to that glass half empty, glass half full analogy – depends on which way you choose to look


at it. Negative feelings attract more negative things into your life. Feeling “lack” attracts more things into your life that will make you feel like you “don’t have enough”. However, when you BELIEVE that what you desire is on its way, no matter what your current situation looks like, it is way more likely that the positive outcome will happen sooner than you think. And not only that, you will feel so much happier on the journey to realizing that dream! And the most important thing is that during this whole life journey, you choose to focus on what you are grateful for, what you feel blessed to have and what IS working in your life. The positive feeling that you choose to have throughout the entire journey towards achieving your dream is the catalyst to your success. Deliberately choosing positive thoughts and feelings is your secret ingredient to being happy, no matter what bumps in the road show up along the journey. This brings to mind another great analogy of how to achieve your life goals. Are you familiar with the tightrope walker, Nik Wallenda? He recently walked across the Grand Canyon! Do you think he was asking that question of “Am I there yet?” as he was taking each step on that wire? Do you think he was stopping to assess where he was at, feeling frustrated that he wasn’t there yet and then worried that he would never get there? Of course not! “Are we there yet?” … a question that keeps us from appreciating the gift that is called the present moment. Look around you. Choose to see the beauty that is right in front of you and within you. Enjoy this journey called LIFE!

If you would like to hire Maria as your personal Life Coach, you can visit her website at www.LovinLifeNow.com or contact her directly at Maria@MariaLesetz.com

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10

Reasons to Put from A Vienna Coming Vienna Virgin on Your Bucket List

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“What if I am ‘taken’ and sold into sex slavery? Who will call Liam Neeson to come and get me?”

Not only was this my first visit to the city of Vienna, but this was a brand new experience all together, having never been to Europe. Prior to my trip, the fears of international travel were outrageous, and looking back now, – honestly silly! “What if there is an emergency? I can’t even call home because I don’t know the Country code or how to make an international call.” “How will I connect with anyone at all? My iPhone and iPad will be uncharged because I don’t have that funny looking adapter and all the wall outlets in Europe will fry my electronic gadgets.” “How will I buy anything without Euro’s? I only have American money.” “If I get lost, who will help me find my way home since I don’t speak the language?” And best of all, apparently I have watched too many movies because my greatest fear was: “What if I am ‘taken’ and sold into sex slavery? Who will call Liam Neeson to come and get me?” Thankfully, first and foremost, I am too old to be sold into sex slavery and secondly, my travel companion was not a European virgin, such as myself. When traveling in general, whether it be internationally or just a weekend trip up the coast, I always recommend the buddy system!

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1

Austrians Don’t Hate Americans

2

i s

Having heard that Europeans aren’t too fond of American tourists, I was a bit leary of what to expect on my first trip overseas. But contrary to popular belief, travelers are welcomed. Being a newbie to the land of Europe, I can’t say that the people of Austria are any friendlier than those in other Countries on this continent, but I will tell you, without-a-doubt, that all the people I met were genuinely friendly and welcoming. One of the first girls I was introduced to, hugged me and nestled my head right into her cleavage. That was a warm welcome that won’t be forgotten! Every hotel, restaurant, museum, café, and retail shop that I visited, had English speaking employees that were happy to accommodate my need for translation.

3

Vienna is an Easy City to Navigate Simply put, the “City Center” is obviously in the center of Vienna and is considered District 1. There is a “Ring Road” that circles this city center, and districts 1-9 surround the Ring Road.

Vienna’s ‘Ring Road’ (Ringstrasse) was constructed in 1857, and circles the city centre. This road sits where there was once brick walls, built to protect the city from invasion. I toured the Ring Road via bicycle on the bike path, which offers amazing views of monumental buildings like Hofburg, the Austrian Parliament, the State Opera House, the Museum of Fine Arts, and Vienna University. For first time travelers to Vienna, you’ll be happy if you find a hotel that is in walking or biking distance to the Ringstrasse (Ring Road), and most accommodations will specify what district they are located in.

Vienna is a Walking City Volksgarten park with the Natural History Museum in the background

Not having to rent a vehicle saves money and a lot of frustration. Being from New York and always in a hurry, I don’t have time to sit in my vehicle, behind a tourist, while they navigate their map and decide whether they should turn right or left. Well, I never stopped to think how frustrating it is for the person in the drivers seat of that vehicle in front of me, until I became an avid traveler myself. There is no need to rent a vehicle in Vienna, as the major airport is only a 15-minute cab ride to Vienna’s City Center and most of the notable tourist attractions are located in district 1. A train ride will get you to the Alps mountain range, and many small towns can be toured as a day trip from Vienna and back. For all train schedules, visit www.oebb.at/en/ (this is the English language website). Just remember that “Vienna” is English for the German word “Wien” – I was in town for about 3 days before I figured this out.

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Vienna Pride 2013

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People With a Homophobic Attitude Are the Minority Vienna is the undisputed capital of gay and lesbian life in Austria. Alongside the city of Vienna’s traditional values, they have succeeded in nurturing young, dynamic homosexual AND heterosexual scenes, as well as developing strategies to ensure gay and lesbian guests have a pleasurable experience. Whether you are single or traveling as a couple, the choices for gay-centric activities are endless! Events are held all year round, so make sure to check your dates of travel if you wish to attend some of the most popular.

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Connextions Magazine was honored to be amongst the 150,000 attendants at this year’s annual Rainbow Parade in June, and just prior to Vienna Pride is an event called the “Life Ball” which is held annually in May. Being the most flamboyant and lucrative AIDS/HIV charity event in Europe, Life Ball hosts power figures such as the Austrian federal chancellor to Hollywood stars and former US President Bill Clinton, and tickets for this event are somewhat hard to obtain. Life Ball kicks off the city’s rainbow flag flying and these

colorful waving symbols are flown on buildings and even on train cars and trolleys until Vienna’s Pride week comes to an end.

More photos of this year’s pride festivities and upcoming gay events can be found on the Vienna Pride English language facebook page. For a slideshow of photos taken at Vienna Pride, click HERE.


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Life is but a Circus in This Hotel - in This Cosmopolitan City

Perfectly located at the MuseumsQuartier, this quirky colorful flamboyant hotel offers an ‘anything goes’ atmosphere. Taking modern artistic style to a whole new level, each room is decorated in circus themes, with every color in the palate filling the walls with fun. The seven story building offers 219 rooms, which come in all shapes and sizes to suit your individual taste.

but not as necessary. 1500foodmakers is the restaurant inside 25hours Hotel and I was happily impressed with the Italian cuisine, especially the Crostini. I devoured my plate of mix ‘n match toasted bread filled with: Roasted pepper and an obscene amount of olive oil; Chicken liver pate, capers and pancetta; and Buffalo mozzarella with garlic and anchovies.

Speaking of taste, when I travel, it is imperative to me that the hotel comes equipped with a restaurant. A bar attached to that restaurant is always welcomed,

I visited during the summer and the Burger De Ville Bus was parked out back and offers classic American burgers, fries and onion rings! A little taste of home for me!

If I had to describe this hotel in just one word, I would say “colorful.” And I don’t just mean that in the literal sense of the word. From the common area book selections to the rooftop bar with its amazing view, the term ‘colorful’ also has a figurative meaning.

http://www.25hours-hotels.com/wien/

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6

Burschik’s Vermouth

If you enjoy the sweeter things in life, as I do, make sure to indulge in Viennese Vermouth. A common ingredient in the popular martini, Vermouth is a liquor made from wine, with several added herbs for flavoring. I savored “the taste of the third millennium” during a visit to Burschik’s, the first Austrian Vermouth winery. I was intrigued to learn that Vermouth isn’t just an ingredient that becomes a mixed cocktail, it can be sipped like wine, and is offered in red or white. White being the sweeter of the two, I opted for this choice! http://www.burschik.com/

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The City of Music & Culture

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Culinary Artistry

A lot of meat, a lot of bread, more deserts that could fit in my belly, and craft beer to wash it all down. This is how I will remember my culinary feasts while touring Vienna. Every dish I tasted was cooked to perfection and so fresh – it were as if my table of friends were the only guests in the restaurant and the chef was preparing dishes just for us. Upon departure from my travels to Vienna, two things were very important to me. One – I would find a way to order Vienna bread online because there is no way I will be able to live without it. And two – With recipe in hand, I will, even if only once, make Wiener Schnitzel for my family. Vienna bread is a unique and influential style of lighter bread with fresh leavening that developed in Vienna. Wiener Schnitzel is similar to New York Pizza – you can’t visit NY without having some, and every 2nd restaurant sells it but says they are the best. Well, you can’t leave Vienna without having tried one of the most popular Viennese dishes, Wiener Schnitzel. SIDE NOTE: If you are new to European dining, remember to place your fork on your plate in the 4:00 position, when you are finished with your meal. The server then knows it is ok to remove it from the table. And if you are wondering why the server hasn’t dropped your check, it is because you haven’t asked for it. Restaurants here, welcome your patronage and don’t kick you out if they feel you have been sitting at the table too long. As it so often happens in America. Pictured: (Top) Viennese Prime Boiled Beef with cream spinach, sautéed potatoes, and an array of dipping sauces from Café Landtmann (Bottom) Dubbed as “The Most Famous” Wiener Schnitzel, with potato salad from Plachuttas Gasthaus zur Oper

Mozart statue in the Burggarten

Vienna, as a city of music, enjoys a paramount reputation around the world. No other city has been home to so many composers of international renown, such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Berg, Strauss, Brahms, Mahler, Schoenberg and Haydn. With its 50 theaters, 4 opera houses, 150 museums, numerous galleries and several stage musical theatres, Vienna is an extraordinarily rich cultural city, making it one of Europe’s leading cultural centers.

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Coffee!!!

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MuseumsQuartier

The MuseumsQuartier is an incredible architectural wonder of urban design, and is one of the largest art and culture complexes in the world. Filled with many courtyards, c­ afés, shops, renowned museums and exhibition halls, this is the place where diversity thrives. Strangely unique all-weather loungers create an ambience that draws you to a relaxed state of mind. If my place of employment were nearby, I would spend every lunch break on a lounger! Overflowing with non-stop entertainment and activities, MQ offers visitors a schedule packed with fun for all ages, such as miniature boating races; art nights; DJ’s on the weekends, outdoor films and literary festivals – the list goes on and on. Catering to the young and hip crowd, MQ offers discounts and gifts for Foursquare users. Coffeehouses in Vienna are much more than just places to drink coffee – they are a way of life. Vienna boasts more than 800 of them, in addition to the numerous café bars, café restaurants and pizza café’s throughout the city. Espresso, Cappuccino, Caffe Latte, Irish Coffee, Mocha with a shot of rum, or cold coffee with vanilla ice cream and whipped topping – there is no shortage in Vienna! One of the favorites I visited was Café Landtmann, which is located next door to the Burgtheater. If you have a vision of what an outdoor café in Europe looks like, this is it. Founded by Franz Landtmann in 1873, patrons have included Sigmund Freud, Marlene Dietrich, Romy Schneider, Paul McCartney and Hilary Clinton. Coffee expert and current owner, Bernd Querfeld offered an exquisite tasting experience, along with TO-DIE-FOR deserts, such as the famous strudel. http://www.landtmann.at/

Hofburg (Imperial Palace),

There is so much more to explore in the cultural and diverse city of Vienna. If horses make you happy, The Spanish Riding School should be on your itinerary. In the most beautiful riding hall in the world, you can experience a unique highlight of Austrian culture with the presentation of stallions in absolute harmony between horse and rider. If history is your forte, the city boasts 150 museums, with artifacts dating back centuries. Hofburg is an impressive testimony to one of the most powerful dynasties in Europe, which once ruled over a global empire from this city. The Kunstkammer, which just re-opened in 2013 after having been closed for nearly 10 years, houses one of the world’s most important surviving “cabinets of curiosities.” view from the Burggarten

Now that my fears of international travel no longer cloud my judgment, when I return to explore more of Europe, I plan to use Vienna as a centrally located home base – one week just wasn’t enough for me. Visit www.vienna.info/en which features an extensive database of events and many useful hints for your stay in Vienna.

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VEGAS BABY!

photos courtesy David Perry

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A city built on

heterosexual fantasy

gay travelers

now courts

by David Perry

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him-and-pet-him-and-squeeze-him-andI-will-call-him-George duh-duh look on their faces. Like me. The visual equivalent of an out-of-body experience, the Strip is what happens when you give an architect an unlimited budget and a Bedazzler. Each casino is a hermetically-sealed world unto itself, no two are alike, each is trying to outdo the other. Put it all together and voila! — the free-associative candyland of the Strip. Ancient Egypt rubs shoulders with Arthurian myth in the forms of the Luxor and Excalibur. The New World faces off against the Old with the New York New York and Paris resorts. There is no safe place to put your eyes. The glowing green façade of the MGM Grand, where I was staying, is downright stately by comparison. But what the space may lack in outside razzle, the illusory magic of David Copperfield, the hyper-melodic music of Tiësto, and the stupefying physicality of Cirque de Soleil (which has theaters all over the city) all combine for inside dazzle. Its central location on the Strip makes it the perfect HQ to explore the city’s other LED-spangled showcases. Mornings began the right way: Sensuous indulgence of a purely physical nature. I mean a massage, you pervs. Buried deep in the Mandalay Bay is the Bathhouse, a warren of black stone, gem-like lighting, and crystalline pools. Nobody does full-body like Vegas, and I was giddy coming off that table. So much so I signed up for a facial (oh, what the hell?) at the Hard Rock Casino’s Reliquary Water Sanctuary. It was my first ever, and since you never forget your first, why not have it in Sin City? Buffed and limber, I ventured forth to where angels fear to tread. Steve Tyler of Aerosmith said, “Anything worth doing is worth overdoing.” That is Las Vegas in a nutshell. Vegas exists in a perpetual NOW; there is no past full of regrets, no future gravid with consequences. You gotta love a city that is just so damn direct about wanting to get you off and rip you off all in the same second. Carpe diem! And you can always spot first-timers on the Vegas Strip: They all have their cameras out, looking up at the lights with an I-will-hug-

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The Vegas glitter does dull a bit when it comes to gay visitors (and natives), but is not to say the city showgirls built so focuses on boobies that gays are persona non grata. The casinos fell over themselves funding a sparklingly new and sumptuously appointed LGBTQ community center, and how hostile can the native habitat of Liberace be? I was not once called out for being the only gay guy at the jam-packed (and boozed-up) Ditch Friday pool-party at the Palms, and was in fact rather popular — nothing rakes in the slightly tipsy


bikini babes like saying “I appreciate your hands down my shorts but I’m gay…no, really.” Nevertheless, it did occur to me that, in the immortal words of Big Bird, one of these things is not like the others… Vegas does not suffer from bigotry — it is the least judgmental city in history. But it does have a dearth of gay infrastructure. The upswing of this, however, is the venues that do exist, such as Share, and parties like REVO Sundays at the Mirage, pull in every L, G, B, T, and Q for miles around, creating fantastically diverse crowds. To its credit, Vegas is well aware where it comes up short; gays and lesbians represent a whole new world to exploit enchant, and the city is seriously getting its gay on. The pool-party is a Vegas cornerstone, and with its iconic jet-black pyramid as a backdrop, the Luxor hosts Temptation Sundays, a vast gay aquafest as tactile as anything going on at the Palms. And for me, much more successful. Moving right along…

If poolside shenanigans aren’t your thing (eh, it takes all kinds), Vegas can still satisfy via its showstopping stage spectacles. Elton John is a frequent Vegas performer, and I don’t think there was one straight man in the Colosseum at Caesar’s Palace when I took in Celine Dion, whose candleflame-slender figure belies the fact that she hail-marys every note to the back row of the cheap seats with lung capacity to spare. At one point, singing in a waterfall, Ms. Dion’s five-octave range is as expansive as ever, and her legs go right out the door, but if you find yourself sitting smack-dab in a herd of drunk gay Canadians cheering on their country’s favorite daughter — like I was — change your seat. Put the usher in a hammerlock if you have to. But a show here, a party there, and a club way over there (Share is far removed from the Strip) is hardly in the Vegas spirit of now-now-now/ more-more-more, and this explains

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Krave Massive, in the Fremont East section of the city, is, in true Vegas style, the largest gay club on the planet

the June debut of Krave Massive. In the Fremont East section of the city, it is, in true Vegas style, the largest gay club on the planet — a whopping 84,000 square feet divvied into dance spaces given over to hip-hop, country, Latin, EDM, and pop techno mixes. Crammed in is also the Tickled Pink comedy club, a store, private lounge, and LGBTQ movie distributor TLA Entertainment runs the theater. Like any casino, Krave Massive is a one-stop shop for vices of all sorts. Even better, it’s right across from Drink and Drag, a rockin’ bowling alley/dance club/drag show that’s perfect for pre-gaming. Fremont East has another plus — history. Highbrow pursuits usually aren’t first on the list in Las Vegas, but Fremont East is the vestigial remnant of the Las Vegas before the mega-casinos took to the sky, and is a showcase of flashy Mid-Century Modern neon showmanship. The historic Four Queens and Golden Nugget casinos still stand, and down the way is the Mob Museum, whose chronology of organized crime could have no more fitting a location. Also nearby: Park on Fremont, an eatery whose quirky menu perfectly segues with the surroundings.

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The pool-party is a Vegas cornerstone, and with its iconic jet-black pyramid as a backdrop, the Luxor hosts Temptation Sundays, a vast gay aquafest as tactile as anything going on at the Palms.

Even the most anal of moralists would absolve the sins of the city for the sake of its food. If it has a Nobu (at Caesar’s Palace), there must be some redeeming value. Andrea’s at the Encore, the Border Grill nestled amid the golden towers of the Mandalay Bay, and Sage at ARIA are part of a five-diamond necklace of spaces indulging appetites of a more innocent nature. I hit ‘em all, but not before downing a few of the infamous Verbena cocktails at The Chandelier. An architectural triumph at the Cosmopolitan, the bar is so named because it is a chandelier, a huge stalactite of draped crystal beads that is the centerpiece of the casino space. Back at the MGM Grand, I found myself in an usual position: I was in the middle of the casino adjusting my camera when I got hit by a wobbling wave of wildly wasted women. Wearing nothing but bikinis and stilettos and fresh from a pool-party, they were all giggles, bumps, “excuse me’s,” and at least two cheap feels on my butt. And then they were gone; I stood alone in the corridor wondering what the @#$% just happened. None of the slots players even batted an eye. That’s Vegas. “What plays in Vegas stays in Vegas,” and if you aren’t doing something wrong, you’re doing something wrong.

Luxor-ious: A bevy of beauties at Temptation Sundays at the Luxor

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Scottsdale Where Luxury Meets Adventure

by David Duran

he sparkling jewel in the desert that is known as Scottsdale, Arizona T is famous for it’s massive hotels, premier spas and first class dining,

photo courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

which it should well be, because this place is nothing less than 5 stars all the way. The best of the best is presented to visitors in this beautiful city nestled just a short distance from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Scottsdale was at one point a very western town, known for cowboys and saloons, and its “old town” district still has the original infrastructure to prove it. Mostly shopping and dining now, the old town area gives a glimpse to the past of what once was in a city that has now been taken over by pure indulgences.

photo courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

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photo courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

Taking advantage of the beauty of the Arizona desert surroundings, Scottsdale has some of the best hiking, climbing and outdoor activities in the area, just be warned of the summer months where temperatures can be stifling. For the blazing summers, nearby lakes provide a place to cool off, but in reality, all you need to do is take advantage of any of the luxury hotel properties available, some even equipped with lazy rivers and water slides.


Where To Stay W Scottsdale Want to be hip, trendy and stay right in the heart of the nightlife district? If so, you know that W Hotels are right on point and offer luxury within a modern and stylish environment. Their various categories of rooms offer some of the most unique layouts and furniture of any other hotels. In combination with their Bliss Spa, the products in-room are the ones you will be tucking away each night so the maid service will replenish them the next morning. This is definitely the place to see and be seen. Their pool parties are with strict dress codes, VIP services and bouncers at every entrance. Don’t let that intimidate you though, in true Scottsdale fashion, it’s all provided to ensure the maximum enjoyment and experience. The lobby lounge/bar fills up quick at night, so be sure to grab a spot before dinner at Sushi Roku, one of the cities “Top 10 Asian Restaurants,” and in a city filled with over 600 restaurants, that’s a very notable title to have. Lucky for guests, it’s located just steps from the lobby of the W.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North Can you ever go wrong with a Four Seasons? It’s just not possible, and the Scottsdale property, which is nested away in Troon North, offers complete privacy and serenity away from everything else. The property consists of all extremely spacious private casitas in different categories, and makes you feel like you are coming home rather than a hotel room. The spa offers your classic massage packages and services, but has taken on adventurous new treatments developed by surrounding elements of the resort. The golfer’s massage is a combination stretching/massage that rubs your back and pressures those tight muscles using actual golf balls. But the most exciting

photos courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

amenity here is their new “fun-dining” restaurant, Proof. This is completely out of the box for the Four Seasons and it has become a massive success. Here you will enjoy comfort food, a great beer selection, craft cocktails that leave you mesmerized and some decadent desserts, some which even offer a boost of alcohol! The casual spot has their staff in jeans with their sleeves rolled up. What about the kids? Well, they have a soda fountain bar with appropriate height levels just for them. Within walking distance of the property are some of the Pinnacle Peak trails, which offer some easy to strenuous hikes, a good place to burn off some of those spiked milkshakes from Proof.

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Where To Stay Bespoke Inn, Café and Bicycles Scottsdale’s only luxury B&B offers something totally different. This unique property in the heart of the arts district and walking distance to all is quickly becoming recognized as the place to stay if you desire complete privacy and a different experience. With only 4 guestrooms, each offers something different as all the furniture has been re-purposed or custom built by the owners. The 500sq ft. Signature Room, which has one of the most beautiful on-suite bathrooms you will ever see, is right off the main common area, which becomes part of your space after hours. The common space is perfect for entertaining or just relaxing. It’s massive living and dining room is complimented in massiveness by its gourmet kitchen. The daily-hosted happy hour is a great time to meet your neighbors! Across their courtyard is a bicycle shop where guests can rent bikes to cruise the city or just get in some calorie burning. If you prefer to take a dip in the pool, they offer a second story infinity pool, which at first view will leave you speechless. With only 4 rooms, the pool is basically your private oasis in the desert. The B&B most recently opened its new eatery, Virtù Honest Craft, which offers a “wandering Mediterranean” cuisine under the culinary talents of Chef Gio Osso, one of Scottsdale’s bests. The small and intimate restaurant has seating for approximately 50 indoor and out so it’s a perfect compliment to the quaint four-bedroom B&B.

photos courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

photo courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

Talking Stick Resort Time for a little gambling! This hotel, which debuted in 2010 offers all the over the top luxuries you would want, while providing guests with a casino and full on Vegas-style entertainment. From top music acts, to live sporting events broadcasts to cabaret type performances; the Talking Stick is a resort has it all. It’s conveniently located close to major AZ highways and is only a short distance to the center of town. The rooms are beautifully modern in style and Casino floor is alive and jumping 24/7, so after a night

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out, you can come home to a little extra fun before bed. On the 15th floor of the property is their signature restaurant, Orange Sky. With plenty of dining options in the hotel, this one should be saved for that special night out. It offers floor-to-ceiling windows that offer the best 360-views of the Valley’s signature orange sunsets. For a more private dining experience, special curtained off window sections are available and are hard to come by without a reservation, so book upon arrival. This unique Scottsdale property will easily indulge your inner lucky streaks, so don’t spend all your time in the casino, and enjoy everything they have to offer.


photos courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

Get Out and Get Active

photos courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

For some of us, getting out of a luxury hotel is tough, but don’t fret, Scottsdale offers first-class shopping and dining throughout their streets too. The Beverly Hills of the desert has it all, and you wont be disappointed if shopping is heavy on your itinerary. Stylish boutique shops line the streets of downtown, which lead you to the massive mall, Scottsdale Fashion Square. If eating is more your thing, try a culinary walking tour which will take you to the best of the best the city has to offer. Arizona Food Tours offers a variety of tours, and takes you to places like; The Mission, Grimaldi’s Pizzeria, 5th and Wine, Cowboy Ciao and Kelly’s, all must try restaurants on or off the tour! For a special treat and some tasteful craft cocktails, stop by The House, tucked away in Old Town Scottsdale where Chef Matt Carter serves up his re-imagined Mediterranean dishes. For a little outdoor adventure, Desert Wolf Tours has some sweet Tomcars for guests to drive around in the desert. The Tomcar was originally developed for use by the Israeli Defense Forces special operations units, so you know it’s going to be rough and tough out there. The tour involves some light hiking to some of the best views of the Sonoran Desert.

Scottsdale, Arizona offers some of the best almost year-round weather with comfortable climates that make anytime a good time to visit. For summer month planning expect some heat, but also take advantage of discounted hotel rates and package deals. Whether it’s ultimate luxury and indulgence you are seeking or active outdoor adventures…you’re covered either way. The best shopping, the highest class of dining, the unlimited outdoors, and the finest in accommodations – Scottsdale will not disappoint. For more information on Scottsdale visit: http:// www.experiencescottsdale.com

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North Jersey Pride

the closet at age 23, with two kids in tow, one of the first things on my agenda was to hit up a pride festival and meet others that I could relate to. But a pride event back in the early 90’s was never a place for children and families.

Having been to dozens upon dozens of pride festivals over the years, I can honestly say that North Jersey Pride offered something I have never experienced at a previous event. The 2013 festival boasted over 80 vendors, and 3,000 visitors, with headlining entertainment including, Newark Mayor Cory Booker who gave a powerful speech that had the crowd roaring with energy. What’s unique wasn’t the attendees or entertainers, it was the atmosphere. Before making the 4 hour drive to Maplewood, New Jersey, myself, along with my partner and my teenage daughter, made

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a pit-stop to pick up my daughter’s high school friend who would join us for the day. I went to great lengths, explaining to the friend’s mother, that we were headed to a “gay” pride event and her daughter may encounter some eccentric individuals, either dressed in drag or barely dressed at all. Pride events have always been the ‘safe zone’ to let your freak flag fly, although I have always found it somewhat disconcerning, since the LGBT community fights so hard to be treated as an equal, yet thrives at the chance to show the world what they look like in ass-less chaps. Having come out of

Finally, after two decades and dozens of LGBT events over the years, North Jersey Pride offered me a festival I was proud to bring my children to! Various vendors with unique items for sale; more dogs in attendance than drag queens; a courtyard playground area for children, including face painting; and a delicious array of specialty food choices, such as lobster rolls, vegan wraps, Ethiopian buffet, and rainbow cupcakes. What’s more unique is that the great lawn area welcomes blankets for lounging and your own picnic basket of treats, if you should choose to bring one. Founded in 2011 and an attendance growth of over 400% in such a short time, these pride volunteers at North Jersey Pride deserve huge kudos for their efforts in offering an event that the suburban gay community can bring their entire family too, including grandparents!

Click here to view more photos of the 2013 North Jersey Pride


It’s always good to bring leather to the

“Windy City” by Bob Forbes

2013 IML 35 years ago, what started as a small tavern contest, held at the Gold Coast Bar, has been transformed into one of the largest leather events in the World. International Mr. Leather (IML) is an international conference and contest of leathermen held annually each May, since 1979 in Chicago, Illinois. As a previous contestant myself, I can tell you that this event gets bigger and better every year, including the exhibitors and vendors from around the world, proud to showcase their latest fetish wear, fashion and even furniture.

photos courtesy Bob Forbes

2013 IML Title Holders Andy Cross - Mr. San Francisco Leather 2013

Sponsored by SF Bay Area Leather Alliance, Powerhouse, Troy Anicete Designs

First Runner-up: Thib Guicherd-Callin, Mr. Santa Clara County Leather 2012 Sponsored by Santa Clara County Leather Assoc. and NW Leather Celebration '14

Second Runner-up: Robert Miller, Mr. Leather Toronto 2013 Sponsored by Heart of the Flag Federation, Inc. Northbound Leather, Black Eagle

International Mr. Bootblack 2013 Winner: Sammy from Portland, OR. Sponsored by Blackout Leather Productions Beverly McClellan was on the entertainment line up at this year’s IML. Best known as a top 4 finalist on NBC-TV’s The Voice, McClellan’s debut international release album Fear Nothing has been released. Get the scoop on all things Beverly McClellan by visiting her site at: http://beverlymcclellan.com/

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Concrete Jungle Fashion in the

For the man who is not jet setting away this season, and remains in the hustle and bustle of the city life. Bursts of color and architectural looks break through a sea of grey, guaranteeing you won't be lost in the concrete crowd. Photography: Kevin Moore Styling: Kai Waterton Model: Jonathan Davis at JB Model Management Location: Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY

White Shirt by Esposito Collection, www.espositocollection.com Men's Corset by Gregg Homme Jeans by Calvin Klein

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V-Neck Shirt and Underwear by Ralph Lauren

V-Neck Shirt by Ralph Lauren Shorts by H&M

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White Shirt by Esposito, www.espositocollection.com Men's Corset by Gregg Homme Jeans by Calvin Klein

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Men's Corset by Gregg Homme Blazer by Kai Waterton Jeans by Dolce & Gabbana

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In Review Petunia Comedy/Drama Starring: Thora Birch, Brittany Snow, Tobias Segal, Eddie Kay Thomas, Christine Lahti and Michael Urie Writer/Director: Ash Christian If The Family Stone (2005) had you laughing, Petunia will have you peeing your pants. The dynamics of this film are similar, as it is the story of one hysterically dysfunctional family. Part relatable and part unpredictable, but one thing is for sure – it will have you rolling in tears of laughter! Christine Lahti – who had me LOL, ROFL, LMAO and any other acronym you can think of - plays the Mom who is also a therapist, and go-figure - she avoids any real feelings of her own. The father has erectile dysfunction; all three of the brothers have sex issues, either avoidance or over abundance; the sister-in-law is depressed and just plain crazy; and then there’s the cousin, who is married to a woman, and having an affair with a gay man. Though laughter is always the best medicine, I am a hopeless romantic at heart, therefore the ending was my favorite part. Seriously – put this on your watch list! Released digitally August 6, 2013 Released on DVD September 3, 2013 Twitter: @PetuniaMovie

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A Perfect Ending Lesbian Romance Drama Starring: Barbara Niven, Jessica Clark, John Heard, Morgan Fairchild, Rebecca Staab Directed by: Nicole Conn Rebecca (Barbara Niven) is a wealthy housewife and mother of three, who has dedicated her life to being the ‘family stone’. Now middle aged with grown children and a husband more dedicated to his work than his wife, Rebecca toils with thoughts of something missing in her life. With the help of friends and a Hollywood Madam, Rebecca is introduced to Paris (Jessica Clark), a beautifully sexy and much younger, call girl. As the passionate love affair begins, so does the complications at home. The untold stories of the past – and the future - are slowly revealed. A Perfect Ending is a fun and relatable lesbian romance and drama film, boasting an all-star cast with an honest chemistry between the main characters. It offers excitement, humor, intensity, and anticipation with an unsuspecting ending. Available at WolfeOnDemand.com Twitter: @APerfectEnding1

Cloudburst Lesbian Romance Drama Internationally-Acclaimed, Award-Winning Independent Film, starring Olympia Dukakis and Brenda Fricker I laughed, I cried, I related, I understood, and I felt the heartache. Two geriatric disabled lesbians and one young gay buck, hit the road and head for Nova Scotia. On their quest to be legally married, they encounter many bumps in the road that bring light-hearted laughter, and this emotional ride offers a suspenseful ending that will surely have you in tears. The movie addresses LGBT issues such as aging, family stigmatism, and marriage. The cinematography is outstanding. My partner and I watched this movie together and both agreed that every couple, lesbian or not, should have this film in their que. Released on DVD July 30, 2013 Twitter: @Cloudburst_film

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by Windy Dean girlfriend is going ballistic…consider it a red flag for yourself. Therapy later taught me it was called “projecting”. Therapy also taught me the term “sociopathic narcissist” but that’s another story for another time. Where was I? Oh yes, catching up. It wasn’t long before I caught up and was consoling Joelle, that my relationship crashed and I hit rock bottom. In fact, I should of sent a Thank You card to my ex. Something about ending a relationship on December 31 I don’t know, it just seems in hind sight to make for such a better start of a new year. Granted, while I was gathering myself, Joelle and I didn’t speak for a month. Again, cold turkey. It was sometime back in 1999, when my long slumber began. Little did I know I wasn’t alone. I’d ended my sports career with a knee injury and the reality of becoming a ‘working woman’ was staring me down – and that’s when I met Crown Royal…wait, wrong story…I digress. I signed on with a, for now nameless shipping and transportation company in Syracuse, NY. I rose through the ranks fast, becoming a Part Time Supervisor and it was about day 67 when a curly long haired woman with little glasses, khakis and a polo on, decided to come up and introduce herself. Now most people would start with something along the lines of, “Hi, my name is…” but not Joelle. Instead, it sounded more like, “WINDY…what kind of a name is that?!” And that was pretty much the beginning and end of the conversation that day. For a year, we worked on developing a great friendship. She and her partner, me and mine would meet, eat and hang out together. And then I decided to transfer and move to Dallas, Texas. The end, well pretty much, or so I thought. For the next 8 years, I wouldn’t see or hear from her. The day I moved, was the day that door closed, game over, sayonara, peace out, the end. And then in November of 2008, I got an email. While I was almost 6 years into a new relationship, her 9 year relationship had come to a screeching halt thanks to what we lesbians refer to as a “home wrecker”. Joelle had decided after all that time, to reach out and just say “hello”. We must’ve talked for, well between the talking and texting, my current girlfriend not only had raised eyebrows, but plenty to say about it. Apparently 1000+ texts is a bell ringer?! Okay, perhaps it is, but I was 8 years behind the times and legitimately was catching up. And to prove my slumber, when you’re legitimately doing nothing underhanded or inappropriate and your

Finally in February, unbeknownst to me, I was starting to wake up from my modern day slumber. Joelle was breaking out of hers as well. We agreed to meet in Dallas on March 6th of 2009. I remember the drive to the airport well. I literally ran out the door from work and raced 75mph down the freeway – 70mph was the speed limit for those of you who thought I was being reckless. On the other hand, I hadn’t been awake in nine years…so you might have a point, but at best, a slight point. Anyway, I remember getting to the airport about 30 minutes early and hunting down the perfect hiding spot. I had to have time to see her before she saw me. [pausing to remember] Yeah what was I going to do, leave her there? To this day, I remember her standing at the baggage claim, pink t shirt, jeans, back pack… just standing there, waiting. Beautiful. Perfect. [insert sound of screeching record] WHAT?! Wait! I just came out of a relationship! A damn long one too! What am I thinking?

own serene moment now. Regardless, it was Joelle. And yet again, cleverness got the best of me, all I could say was “I like you…a lot!” She countered with “I love you too!” Jumping ahead, six months later I was living with her in New York. Take it into warp speed and my lovely bride and I will be getting married in October of this year. We’ve been together almost 4 years and truly I should send both our ex’s Thank You cards for releasing us from our slumbers. While perhaps a little cliché, I couldn’t find a more perfect person to spend my life with! Life isn’t meant to be something you sleep through. It’s meant to be lived and shared with those who can appreciate you for who you are, and well, sometimes aren’t. We constantly develop and refine who we are as we grow, learn and experience new things and people. The key seems to be -- finding someone who lives the definition of “unconditional love”. For me, right under my nose the entire time but “time” being the key word, it was Joelle. I am truly grateful to have such a wonderful woman a part my life, and to be with someone patient enough to allow me to catch up to who I want to become. Sometimes we get into such a deep sleep, we forget who we are – ever wake up completely discombobulated? When the alarm goes off, come alive my friends! It’s a short life with no exceptions, don’t be the one who sleeps through it!

Yeah, so, I walk up and say “Hi”. Clever huh? Nine years and all I can come up with is “Hi”. We hugged, longer than friends probably should, grabbed her stuff and headed to my place. I can’t even begin to describe my awakening. The feelings and emotions that overwhelmed me – I began to ramble and say stupid things on the drive home. I talked about the sun, the birds, dead animals on the side of the road; I became so nervous that my hands began to sweat. The door to my apartment flew open and I gave her a head start, 20 feet in and I laid a kiss on her. First thought: Oh sh*t what am I doing?! Second thought: Why did that feel so good?! I remember our first weekend, sitting at a bar in the West End and gazing into her eyes. She was [catching my breath] inspirational, breathtaking, like watching a sunrise or feel free to insert your

(L) Windy Dean (R) Joelle Sebastian

Engagement photos courtesy Lisa Miller @studiodiluce

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