Weekend Getaway to Melbourne Beach, Florida

I stood on the 16th floor balcony after setting my bag down. As if out of a Hollywood romance, two pelicans flew by close enough for me to see the details of their feathers. The various shades of blue sparkled just behind them, I could hear the powerful crashes of the waves and the familiar smell of salt filled the air. “This was going to be a fantastic weekend”, I thought.

The sunrise on Melbourne Beach, FLorida
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Celebrating My 9th Veganniversary With Tapas

Nine years ago I decided to go vegan. I was living in Chiang Mai, Thailand at the time. While I had grown up vegetarian, going vegan had seemed to difficult. However, after taking the time to learn about the horrors of the dairy and egg industries, I simply could no longer eat eggs and cheese in good conscience. And so I took the plunge, which actually wasn’t as big of a deal as I had though it would be. Nine years later, the only thing I regret is not doing it sooner.

I pondered ideas of how to celebrate. I considered cooking dishes with 9 ingredients, thought about making a nine-course meal and then I came up with the perfect idea: tapas! I decided to make 9 tapas dishes. I read though recipe ideas online and even got out several of my vegan cookbooks. In the end, I came up with a menu highlighting variety.

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Officiating a Lesbian Wedding Over Zoom

“I wanted to ask if you know anybody who officiates weddings. I would like to get married this year with Milena and, since same- sex marriage is not legal in Poland, we thought we might look for someone online who would like to do that for us.” This simple, yet profound, message I received from my Polish friend Kate through Facebook Messenger was the start of an amazing journey, that I will not soon forget.

I had met Kate while traveling in Jerusalem. Sensing a kindred spirit, I talked to her and an international friendship was born. Kate and I are both English teachers and we love adventure and traveling. I visited Kate in Poland and she very successfully showed off her beautiful country, introducing me to some great places, while also helping me with some family genealogy.

So, when I received the Facebook message above, I jumped at the opportunity to help out my amazingly generous friend. Little did I know that this would be an amazing experience for me too! Once they accepted my offer, I began by doing research on how to marry people. I was so excited!

Melina and Kate
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Overnight at the Seminole Hard Rock in Tampa, Florida

We had just enjoyed the three-day weekend celebrating Independence Day, Tampa Bay Lightning was to play game four of the Stanley Cup finals and Tropical Storm Elsa, which kept threatening to become a Cat 1 hurricane, was on her way.

Chrissy reminded me that she had received a free night stay at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. I had only been there once before for about an hour, not nearly enough time to really give it a chance. We decided to do a little gambling, check out the vegan scene and (hopefully) watch Tampa Bay win the Stanley Cup.

Despite this picture sans people, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino was quite full.
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Riding In a Pride Parade

I love Pride! I get invigorated hearing “Happy Pride” from complete strangers, I love watching the parades and reveling in the amazing loving energy! My absolute favorite part of the parade, whether seeing it for the first time in the 1990s in my home town of Baltimore or in the Tampa Bay area where I now call home, has always been the very beginning when the sexy women ride on the motorcycles. I would often dream about being one of them.

Riding in the Pride parade in Tampa, Florida!
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Visiting Egypt as a Lesbian

“There’s no one around”, she whispered to me as we waited for the old-fashioned elevator to reach the floor of our AirBnB. As we stood in the hallway of this old apartment building on the Nile in the Dokka district of Cairo, Chrissy leaned in to kiss me. “No!” I said suddenly and pushed her back to her surprise. I pointed out the camera I had just seen in the corner behind her. That was a close one!

Lesbians in front of Hatshepsut’s Palace in the Valley of the Queens, Luxor, Egypt
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Visiting Bok Towers in Lake Wales, Florida

Bok Towers was always one of those places that I meant to visit one day. Yet, every time I found myself traveling on I-4, I always came up with an excuse as to why I should skip this unusual, yet relatively local, destination.

One day, I finally ran out of excuses. The promise of botanical gardens, historical grounds and a live carrion concert seemed like the perfect date.

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Vegan in Egypt

“Small, medium or large?”, the young waiter asked us from behind his mask. El Tahrir, an Egyptian chain restaurant, serves only one item: koshary, a traditional Egyptian dish that is a popular street food and that also happens to be vegan.

Within a short time, a medium bowl appeared with a bed of noodles, lentils, crispy onions, rice and chickpeas served with a bowl of tomato sauce and packets of garlic sauce and chili sauce. You are meant to use these to adjust to your own taste. I poured the entire bowl of tomato sauce on my koshary and squeezed some of the chili sauce from its packet.

I had posed the question “How do you enjoy your koshary?” to the Vegetarian/Vegan Egypt Facebook group and got back over 70 varied responses. The majority seemed to use a combination of garlic and chili sauce. A few liked theirs with more tomato sauce. I left El Tahrir wondering how I would prepare mine the next time I tried this delicious Egyptian vegan dish. I also knew that next time I would order a small as the carb and protein packed meal filled me up quickly.

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Camping in the White Desert, Egypt

“Don’t flush”, Chrissy told me, “I have to go too”. I laughed from my squatting position over the sandy hole I had just dug with my hands. I quickly took stock as to how I got to this point – peeing while watching the sun rise over the White Desert in western Egypt.

The previous morning we walked out of the Steigenberger Hotel to find Mo standing there with a suitcase on rollers. We hadn’t seen him since our Giza excursion and so we spent some time catching him up on our time in Luxor while we waited for Sayed, our driver. I had loved learning about the various ancient eras of the Egyptians: marveled at the architecture; reveled in the linguistic scripts and enjoyed the stories of each pharaoh we came across. But, I was looking forward to this excursion most of all as it had the biggest potential of being the highlight of the trip for me.

Camping in Egypt’s White Desert under a super moon!
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Skydiving in Zephyrhills, Florida

“Ok. It’s time”

“We’re first?” My heart jumped and the next thing I knew I was falling out of a plane into what everyone on the ground saw as a partly cloudy day.

Skydiving had been on my bucket list for quite awhile and was frankly one of the scariest activities on my ever-growing list. But, I felt it was time. My wife Mindy had decided to end our 16 year relationship a few weeks prior and so I began the process of rediscovering myself as I healed. I also liked the symbolism of diving into the next chapter of my life. And so, I pushed my fear aside and signed up for a jump with my friend Erick.

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