Monday, November 30, 2009

Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever

I saw a show last night called, "The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever". It was opening night at The Actors' Playhouse, located at 100 7th Avenue South in Greenwich Village. Joe Marshall, Writer and Director of this totally fun show, assembled a cast of 24 actors that play over 40 characters in a play within a play.

The show follows a gay community theatre group struggling to put together an annual holiday pageant that winds up being called, "The Gayest Christmas Pageant Ever". Is it? Get ready for this! Jesus is a gay Latino. The Christmas angel is a dyke. Lots of swishing and attitude from some of the guys.

But don't let it fool you. Characters include straight, African American, Christian, Jews, young and old. One of the funniest is a mother with a walker who not only has turrets syndrome but is narcoleptic as well.

I had a photo taken of me with the cast. I guess that it was an opportunity for guests to take photos of the cast as the cameras were snapping a whole bunch. I have a feeling that a lot of folks are going to be wondering which character I played in the show.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Back to Nancy and Barb at Gold Country Wineries

We're back with Nancy and Barb at California's Gold Country wineries. "As you recall, Barb and I joined Merle the weekend of Oct 3rd to the Amador and Calaveras Counties. Remember, we did grape stomping, zip lining, Sutter and Kennedy Mines, and vineyard tours. With such a quantity of activities to attend Merle just could not possible finish her itinerary. Our main focus is to bring to you the endless possibilities of wineries and wine tasting rooms in Murphys.

On Fri, October 30th we visited Ironstone Vineyards a 4th generation of family growers. Ironstone is located in the Sierra Foothills of Murphys, CA. Our intention is to make people aware of the absolute beauty of the Sierra Foothills that many people are not aware of, as well as having some great wines.

Conrad greeted us when we arrived. Since Ironstone has a deli within their walls we took the opportunity to have lunch, sit with Conrad shoot the breeze.

After lunch the grand tour began. To be honest, when we arrived we really underestimated this place. Even if you are not a wine drinker you can still come here and find something of interest as Ironstone Vineyards has a seven story building. Ground level to the parking area is the tasting room where you will find an antique 36 foot long Saloon bar from A.J. Bumps Saloon. Look behind you and a massive fireplace will devour you. In total this mostly limestone fireplace is 42 feet tall, 16 feet wide, and 13 feet deep. One rock alone weighs 3,500 lbs. Do not attempt to put one in your luggage!

We left the tasting room and Conrad led us outside to the building that comprises the Heritage Museum and jewelry shop. You can view artifacts from the gold rush era, pony express items, fossils, and the most impressive feature is the 44 pound crystalline gold leaf specimen that was uncovered not too far from this area.

On our way out we bumped into Buddy, one of the most favorite felines on the premises. Our tour began leading us outside to the parking lot and down a hill to show us the mining artifacts. In this area they have what resembles a miners shack, a large water wheel, a palace to pan for gold, hydraulic mining equipment and a few other mining tools.

As we left this area Conrad led us under a covering of which during the Spring comes alive with purple and white wisteria. Following this covering led us to the underground wine caverns. There are 68 massive tanks and 300 wooden barrels in the wine cavern. We were very lucky to enter the cave as it was closed for a couple of days to allow the CO2 to be released.

Our tour was not over just yet! Conrad led us outside along the gravel road to view the outdoor facilities. We walked by a pond and landscaped gardens, a large grassy area which accommodates the outdoor amphitheater.

Just recently their 2009 concert series included Alan Jackson, Chris Isaak, and Crosby, Stills & Nash to name just a few performers. As an example, 7,000 people attended this area on July 4th. Depending on how much you want to spend and how close you want to sit there are four sections. To give you an idea you can choose to sit in rows 1-5 with a price includes a 4-course meal with wine pairing. The other three options are available including just general admission where you bring your own chairs and blankets.

I thought that the tour was over but nooooo! We entered the conference/dining area. Another impressive antique is the Robert Morton Theatre Pipe Organ. This organ was located originally in Sacramento at the famed Alhambra Theatre until the 1960's. There were these great chandeliers located throughout the tasting room. Talk about atmosphere!

The day we visited we were told that this dining room sold out with 200 seats to view the silent version movie "Phantom of the Opera". The pipe organ was going to be used this evening and we were serenaded to the impressive music of the organ playing a Glen Miller tune. Barb replied, 'I would of never imagined enjoying watching shutters open and close!'

Perhaps we can come back when Executive Chef James Lehman and prestigious guest chefs are conducting a cooking demonstrations or a class on wine pairing. They have a Culinary Center that has a whole lot of private and public events throughout the year. Check out their event calendar.

This wrapped up our tour of Ironstone which led us upstairs again to the tasting room. Some of the wines you can taste are Old Vine Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauv, and Syrah.

Did I forget to tell you that Ironstone Vineyards is the 23rd largest winery in the country? It is among the top 10 family owned grape growers. As for other activies Other activities, there was the Classic Car event during the first week of Sept. And for all of you nature lovers, such as Barb and I, there are Audubon Bird walks and hiking through one of their nature trails at their extraordinary property.

Oh yeah, their website is "

Photos by Nancy Kozicki, Tech by Barbara Coletta

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Let Them Eat Lobster

Happy Thanksgiving to all who are celebrating! Although it’s the official Thanksgiving here in the United States, the true date has absolutely nothing to do with turkey or Plymouth Rock. In fact, the Mayflower could have just crashed into the rock when they made there way from Provincetown, Massachusetts. Provincetown?

That’s correct. The first landing of the Mayflower took place at the tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown, on November 21st, 1620. It was there where they signed the Mayflower Compact in Provincetown Harbor and not Plymouth Rock, where they landed five weeks later, a year prior to the famous harvest feast. It was in Provincetown that the compact was about governing the new colony and they ate lobster and other fish from the waters, as well as corn and cranberries. In other words, Thanksgiving should be celebrated with an old fashioned Clam Bake!

As for that tiny rock in Plymouth, just feast your eyes on the Pilgrim Monument, the 252-foot, 7.5 inches tallest granite structure in the United States!

So, what did I do for Thanksgiving? Since I didn't get an invite and not wanting to sulk at home, I decided to go to McCormick & Schmick's in Manhattan for a lobster dinner.

I took public transportation into Manhattan. It's not unusual to find a Latino singer playing a guitar, or simply someone giving a "story" as to why he needs money, but this one was different! It was a portable magic act. The guy brings a wheelable table with stuff in it including a rabbit and dove.

Meanwhile at McCormick & Schmick's...I first had the pleasure of talking with Executive Chef Chris. Although each lunch and dinner menu are different, depending on the fresh fish that Chris gets, there were some new items on the menu as well that involved sushi and sashimi.

I started with the Salmon Lomi Lomi tossed tableside with chopped tomato, pineapple, onions and lime juice, followed by Kona Kampachi Sashimi with avocado, soy and truffle oil. Kona Kampachi is an Hawaiian yellowtail.

Then came my two-pounder! All meat was found and eaten. It came with a small ear of corn and I ordered a side of the sweet potato casserole, which was a sort of sweet potato pie. Chunks of sweet potato with marshmallows, cinnamon and maple syrup...I think. I saved it for dessert.

As I walked back to the subway I saw a group of dancers performing to hip-hop music and hoped for perhaps someone playing a violin on the way home. Wrong. It looked like we got some guy who seemed to know everything about everything and sharing it all the way to when I happily got off. What a day!

I Love Chocolate

Do you ever think about the I Love Lucy episode when you see chocolates? How about being in a factory that has such a machine! It's called 5th Avenue Chocolatiere. Actually they were never located on Fifth Avenue, but on Madison Avenue. It was a small store and not one where you could "pick out the chocolates" as they were already boxed. Most of the items were novelties such as birthday cards, sports balls, etc. The factory was located in Queens, in Long Island City. I had the pleasure of going there several years ago. Joseph E. Whaley is the President, who took over his father's business. The store moved to 693 Third Avenue and the factory moved to 396 Rockaway Avenue in the Valley Stream section of Long Island.

In the past, I have requested large footballs with the New York Sharks insignia on it to auction off. They did such a great job that it was difficult for the winners to eat it. You can give them a photo, etc. and get it in a sort of chocolate bas relief, if you want. As for the chocolate itself, the big tease is their truffles...square and dipped in cocoa.

Joseph was at the most recent Chocolate Show in Manhattan and being interviewed by CNN.

I ventured to Valley Stream and expected to see a factory similar to the one in Long Island City. Wrong! Joseph bought a building which houses a few other stores. When you enter his store, you see a more typical chocolate shoppe with various items by the pound as well as a whole lot of novelties. Walk through and you see a room with tables set up for classes, parties, etc.

Then there is the factory area...huge! Along with various temper machines and one with a "hose" to transfer the milk chocolate into larger molds, there is that "I Love Lucy" machine. It goes slowly so that a pretzel, for instance, will first get coated with the warm chocolate and then allow for a worker to coat it with sprinkles or tiny m&ms. It then goes through a series of cooling before it ends its mission. If there isn't anyone at the end, it simply falls to the floor. I'm not sure how fast it goes yet, but I'll let you know when I go back after the holidays.

I tasted one of the flavored square truffles made with a green tea extract to be coated with a green tea powder. Now, how can you go wrong with the combo of anti-oxidants? And the chocolates are kosher as well!

The Final Farewell

The question of how to pass the time with AirTran not leaving until 4 p.m. I got up at 7:30 and met Andra and Linda for breakfast. They were leaving a lot earlier than I was. Lucky them. I decided to take photos of people saying, "Goodbye". There were those that met as a specific group from different areas. There were those that met on the boat and formed friendships. It was heartwarming seeing the hugs.

I finally left. Having a VIP status I was able to disembark whenever I wished as well as get a porter quite easily. Got on the shuttle bus and there were Andra and Linda. When I checked into AirTran I noticed that the name of the guy behind the counter, Rodney Dykes. Now, that's even funnier than Mr. Butch.

Well, I wasn't the only one that was leaving late and it looked like a lesbian convention at the airport. No turbulence on the plane and it took days before I walked around not feeling like the earth was somewhat swaying.

Saturday At Sea Continued

After the press conference I took a lunch break and returned to the same Galaxy of Stars for another Sweet Sparks. This one had love guru Barb Elgin, health and wellness profesionals D. Magrini and Victoria Proctor, social networking Marven Laura Fitzpartrick, speicla pet CPR clinic by Doctor Michelle Jack and special guest Andra Douglas!!! Comedian Jennie McNulty was present to listen to Andra as Jennie has been playing tackle football for years! Same league, California team.

There was a show entitled Elements being performed at the Stardust Theatre at 5:30. I wasn't sure as to what it was all about but got that it was a Norwegian Cruise Line Production. "Mesmerizing magic, to the visual feast of flying, to exciting music and dance, this dazzling show will revel in the four elements of Earth, Air, Water and Fire". Somehow I thought that it would be one of those cruise crew song and dance productions. It turned out to be one that I hope no one missed. Sort of a Cirque du Soleil meets magic. Hat's off to the performers! Will the Farewell show be as spectacular?

Jennie McNulty opened the show and announcing that Andra was in the audience, which led her into some comedy regarding her playing football. Andra got a big cheer for this. Jennie was pretty funny. Then came the main act...Suzanne Westenhoefer. I have to say that anyone who made fun of the hurricane got a laugh. She said little and went into her own spiel. Most of it was humorous but the audience didn't seem to care for the humor involving her sister who died as a child. She also joked about her goofs with audience members such as when she kept asking some woman to come up on the stage to find out that she was in a wheelchair. Part of her routine also centered on what she called "bio man", I think. A guy who is born a man, likes being a male and straight. She compared it to her cat. Pretty cute.

Although there was PJ Party and Club Skirts Party to end the cruise and evening, I opted to pack and put my luggage outside my stateroom and get some shuteye for a early morning wakeup.

Photos are of the Sweet staff, Suzanne Westenhoefer, Jennie McNulty and Esther getting a taste of Sweet...hmmm...if I click onto the photo and then enlarge further I think I see Meredith Baxter near the front and center of the stage.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Saturday At Sea

With Cozumel being the final port of call, we were on our way back to New Orleans. Saturday was a day at a more calming sea. There was a press conference at 10 a.m. Franco Stevens, publisher of Curve Magazine. Founding partner Jen Rainin and chief executive officer Shannon Wentworth. RSVP Cruise founder, Kevin J. Mossie. Most of the conference focused on hearing about the results from volunteering at the ports as well as where it's going. I'm coining the title. "Making A Sweet Difference In The World, One Lesbian Cruise At A Time".

Monday, November 23, 2009

Andra Snorkels Looking For The New York Sharks

I was happy with watching the glass bottom while Andra searched for the New York Sharks. Last video was a sum up of the day and shooting from the balcony of my stateroom.

Fiasco Friday in Cozumel

It would have been great if we had an entire 12 hours in Cozumel as there is probably the most do to there. The plan was to go to a park called X-Caret where Andra, Linda and I were to first walk under the water wearing one of the helmet with the air hose. Then we would go to another area where we would have an encounter with sharks...tamed. Jim Mayfield, the owner of Sea Trek was to be arranging the entire thing as I called and emailed. Here are the directions that he gave in what I believed to be the final email. "The taxi ride is $6 to the ferry terminal. The ferry cost is 160 pesos (appx. $12 ea), each way. Purchase a "one-way" ticket (there are two ferry companies and they alternate departures at the top of the hour). You want to make the 9:00 departure (they leave promptly). You will arrive in Playa del Carmen at appx. 9:45. Taxi drivers will be at the top of the pier soliciting rides. Grab one and go to Xcaret... Cost should be around $12, each way. When you arrive at the main entrance, go to the ticket booth and let them know that you have courtesy passes from under you name (you will need to provide an I.D.) Your entrance fee will be paid, however, you have to pay the "environmental fee" of $5 per person. They will provide you with a wrist band and you will enter the park. Appx 100 feet into the park you will go to the right where the activities reservations are located. Go to any ticket window and provide your name and that you have courtesies for Sea Trek at 11:30 and Sharks! at 1:00. They will provide you with a receipt for each activity. Be sure to get a map (its a huge park and very easy to get lost). It's about a 15 minute walk to the Sea Trek area (without stopping). There is a lot to see and it will likely take you 1/2 hour to get to the Sea Trek location. Be there at least 15 minutes before your tour time. If you have any delays, or if these times do not work for you, be sure to work that out with the activity reservation personnel. Xcaret - This park is incredible and you can easily take two days to see it all. Unfortunately, this will be a rush through and you will have to plan to come back. Let me know if you have any more questions."

I did ask a few more pertinent questions on Nov. 6th just to make sure that there was time enough to make the two visits and get back to the ship at the proper time.
Taxi, ferry, taxi, ticket booth. No one knows what I'm talking about. What a disappointment! It was not only the excursion that I was most looking forward to, but having to disappoint my friends and costly, as well.

Bad lemon turned to lemonade...or rather Sea Trek Becomes Sea Drek becomes C Shark!
Decided on an excursion while on the ferry back. Glass bottom boat and whoever wants to snorkel. Linda and I did not choose to snorkel. Andra did and she made her way into the waters searching for the New York Sharks! Fins Up!

We first ate at a restaurant called Casa Denis, in the square. Although we did take a taxi to the ferry, it wasn't that long of a walk from here to the ship. Not only was this the last port to visit, but the best place to do all of your shopping!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sunburned And Back To The Ship

Personally, I think we could have spent less time at Tabyana Beach. Back at the ship I met Andra and Linda at Champagne Charlie's for cocktails and then off to the Garden Restaurant for dinner. There was a table of women that seemed to be celebrating. I'm not sure as to whether they all knew each other prior to the cruise or met on the cruise. Two of the women, who live in Chicago, announced their engagement. You can probably tell by the photos as to who they are.

Tabyana Beach Experience

There were a lot of people from the cruise going to Tabyana Beach to bathe, take in the sun and just chill out. They provided lunch for us. BBQ stuff. There was a place to buy souvenirs, of course as well as a building with changing rooms, lockers and bathrooms equipped with someone expecting a tip...just like everywhere else! One photo is the arrival of some of the women. I didn't get one of the crowd. Esther, the Rubber Chicken came along and decided to lay out on a lounge chair as well. It seemed that the sun or Gumbalimba Park tuckered out Andra and Linda.

From Gumbalimba to Tabyana Beach

The excursion continues as we go from Gumbalimba Park to Tabyana Beach, which appears to be a private locale. Here are some photos. Andra and Linda. Linda and I. The Beach before crowd.

Gumbalimba Park, The Monkeys and Me

Well, perhaps Andra got the monkeys, but I'll be a monkey's uncle having these cuties on my shoulder.