Archived entries for Florida

Equality Florida Miami gala

Last night was a great fundraiser for Equality Florida in Miami that raised a whopping $100,000 for the organization. My wallet left a little lighter, but this is such an important organization in such a key state for LGBT equality.

Among the honorees was George Sheldon, the former head of Florida’s Department of Children and Families who was instrumental in stopping the enforcement of the state’s bizarre ban on gay adoption; Liz Schwartz, the influential family lawyer in Miami Beach; and Ellen Friedin of Fair Districts Florida, the organization working to fight some wacky gerrymandering. I’m thrilled to support Equality Florida and be on the board of its workplace equality program — donate today!

Cuba-bound

Whenever I’m in an airport, I always stop to check out the FIDS — the flight information displays. Many airports like Istanbul, JFK, Frankfurt, and Vancouver have super cool destinations. You normally associate the exotic locales with big international gateways, but this gem came yesterday in ye olde Fort Lauderdale. Charlotte…Port-au-Prince…Atlanta…Guantánamo…Guantánamo?!

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St. Petersburg

As the snow started to fly in New York yesterday, I jetted down to Tampa Bay on JetBlue for a quick 24 hours in the sun. Stayed at the Vinoy on the water in St. Petersburg, a grand old hotel with a fascinating history. The place was opened in the 1920s before being taken over the Army during WWII. During the 1980s and 1990s, it was shuttered and became a home for squatters! You’d never know it today. The place is spick-and-span with great big rooms and a good spot on the water. Loved it! (Oh, and a few Super Bowl big wigs seemed to be staying here.)

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Miami

I can’t believe that as of yesterday, I’m 26. I flew down to Miami and enjoyed a quiet birthday spent at a lovely dinner on an island in Biscayne Bay with my friend Jeffrey, where, after enjoying a delish meal, we sipped on teas imported from Kuujjuaq.

Stayed at the Albion South Beach hotel, which was truly dirt cheap. I was unsure about the quality from its web site and its price, but it came highly recommended, and now I highly recommend it. Think Kimpton-wannabe. I was upgraded to the penthouse at check-in, which offered a large balcony for me to enjoy the view of Collins Ave and the beach beyond. Well, sort of. It was a torrential downpour for the 24 hours I was there, except for a brief moment at sunrise when I snapped this shot.

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What a fairy…tale.

Of all the places, I’m in Orlando this week. My friend shot this cameraphone pic of me outside Cinderella’s Castle last night…

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Orlando

orlando_condosI haven’t been to Orlando in about two years, and with all the changes the city has undergone, I hardly recognize the place.

Everyone knows my aversion to the state of Florida, but I’ve had a good time out and about here with my hot local friend Phil. We hit up a couple neat places like Eola Wine Company in a downtown that is quickly becoming hemmed in by new luxury condo towers, like the cool Star Tower, pictured here. The hardest part about coming to Orlando is the flight. It’s not that it’s long, but that’s it’s full of a lot of excited kids headed to Disney!

Florida

I was down in the Sunshine State yesterday, and snapped this shot offshore from Palm Beach, as we were coming in to land in Fort Lauderdale. It’s amazing how flat the landscape is in the distance.

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Miami

I’m turning over a new leaf. For once, I’m not going to mention in an entry about Florida that I really dislike the state. For the third time in three months I found myself in Miami – and had a blast (everyone from NYC and Boston also seemed to be there this weekend, too.).

On Saturday I went with my friend Chris to a fundraising costume party for Equality Florida at a huge Spanish-style mansion on Biscayne Bay. The highlight was a performance by singer Amuka (of “Queer as Folk” fame), who belted out her anthem “Appreciate Me,” before the hundreds of us attendance. I was a sailor (pics forthcoming), though two more popular costumes seemed to be Mark Foley and Ted Haggard (only a little bit ironic considering the beneficiary of the evening’s donations).

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Miami

I spent the weekend down in Miami, where the temperatures never dipped below 100 and the humidity always seemed to exceed 200%. I shot this photo on Saturday afternoon from the 16th floor of the Loews Hotel on Collins Ave. in Miami Beach. In the distance, across Biscayne Bay, you can see the soaring skyline of downtown Miami.

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I was in town for the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association’s annual conference (my fifth–I’m getting old), which was was fabulous as ever. Below, from one of the many conference events, my friends Itay and Javi look just a touch devilish.

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South Beach

It’s not every day I get to see models showing off their stuff, but that’s precisely what I’ve been doing at the swimwear shows at Miami Fashion Week. Before anyone begins to get the mistaken impression that I’m a fashionista, let me set the record straight: I’m certainly not. A friend who helps organize the event dragged a gang of us. Why else would anyone want to go to Florida in the middle of July?

Here are a couple of shots from the weekend: in the first, my friends Chad and Justin look out to sea from the rooftop of the Raleigh Hotel before the VIP after-party began (yes, somehow we managed to become VIPs, thank you very much.). In the second shot, a blurry model struts her stuff at the Lycra show on Saturday night. If you squint you can see actress Tara Reid in the front row.

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Below are shots of the Art Deco Delano Hotel on Collins Avenue, and some pebbles just off the main drag on the way to the beach. Though I have publicly professed my disdain for Florida in various forums, I have never dissed on Miami. The city is relatively attractive — especially in the Art Deco South Beach — and it’s cosmopolitan as any city. It was interesting to talk to locals who have seen major changes in the city over the past decade as Miami has grown into a upscale destination catering to the ultra-rich of Latin America.

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92 degrees and 40 percent humidity

I picked the perfect day to go to Miami.

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Yes, I am always right.

At least on geography.

When I was in Toronto two weeks ago, I wandered around Chinatown with a friend who was also in town for the weekend. He doesn’t know much about anything in general, so I want to be able to forgive him when he made this comment: “I didn’t know there were Asian people in Toronto.”

And today when the issue of immigration came up at a dinner discussion, I asked the table if anyone knew the cites with the the largest foreign-born populations. When I said Miami and Toronto, no one believed me. The top seven, in descending order: Miami, Toronto, Los Angeles, Vancouver, New York, Singapore and Sydney. Yes, kids: this means both Toronto and Vancouver have a greater percentage of foreign born residents than even New York City!

Tampa

The irreverent web site Urban Dictionary calls Tampa “a shining beacon in the middle of backswamp hick counties.” Ouch. My friend Dan who grew up there says its chief export is white trash and its main import is old people from the Midwest. (A little harsh, maybe, I’ll admit.)

My sample size is only one, but the person sitting next to me on a flight from Tampa this weekend — the stereotype of a Florida geriatric, replete with track suit and gaudy jewelry — did come on board with her arm firmly planted in an an oversize bag of Lay’s ripple chips and proceeded to crunch on them for three hours.

I’ve never understood the fascination with Florida. We never vacationed there when I was a kid, although I recall being jealous of the friends who took yearly holidays there. My mother always said we’d only go there over her dead body. The place is too anti-intellectual for her, I think. For me, though, it’s the aesthetic. It’s too flat, its interior too water-logged, and the landscape too strewn with chain restaurants, strip malls, and subdivisions. Too many tourists, too. The politics seem absolutely nutty — this is, after all, the state where Jeb Bush signed into law a bill allowing residents who feel threatened by others to shoot first and ask questions later.

(For the record, none of this applies to Miami, which I consider another world. It is the best and most exotic the Shoot First Sunshine State has to offer.)

From Pontchartrain to Palm Beach

No one has put their money where there mouth is like Frank Stronach, the Canadian billionaire who pledged to pay for the relocation of 300 New Orleans residents to the most sumptuous and unusual of places: Palm Beach.

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The owner of Magna International, the entertainment and auto parts empire that recently gave outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Canada Paul Cellucci a job, has ponied up for an “improbable dream [that] involves airlifting evacuees from the devastation of New Orleans to the pampered world of Palm Beach, Fla. — a vision that involves rich American whites from gated communities opening up to desperately poor American blacks and even includes the construction of a new mobile-home community in Louisiana for more than 300 victims of hurricane Katrina.”

The 73-year old Stronach came to Canada from eastern Europe dirt-poor and now controls a $20 billion empire. As the Globe reported, “Last Thursday, Mr. Stronach decided he could no longer wait for slow governments and large organizations to act on the tragedy unfolding along the Gulf Coast. He knew from his own life experience what it was like to be desperately poor and hungry — ‘Those things are burned right into the soul’ — but could only imagine the danger that the survivors were facing.”

On Monday, as soon as two US Airways jets carrying the evacuees hit the tarmac in Palm Beach, a town where average incomes exceed $109,000 per year, “We had psychiatrists putting on bandages,” said one organizer. “There were Palm Beach women doing the cooking. The clothing they brought to hand out you couldn’t believe –Holt Renfrew stuff. They brought enough for 10,000 people, let alone 300. I felt like doing a complete wardrobe change myself. It was the most unbelievable experience. You would have thought there was no colour at all. I feel like I’ve just witnessed a miracle”

“Helping people, feeding and shelter, that’s the easy part,” Stronach said. “The challenging part is what do we do to get them back on their feet again.”

University of Florida Hires Gay Advocate

UF has hired a full-time advocate for gay and lesbian students and staff, a marked shift for the institution that once pushed to drive gay students and professors off college campuses.

• Drunk dialing is the new social faux pas.

• In a new series starting today, The Buffalo News examines the Church of Scientology’s links to a murder in western New York. “Scientologists espouse a philosophy of personal and spiritual growth, but the church’s critics say it comes at too high a price,” according to the article.



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