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Key West has been one of the world’s leading LGBTQ vacation spots for decades. It’s a place of offbeat, picturesque charm, elegant Victorian architecture, a balmy year-round climate, and an open, genuinely welcoming atmosphere. The subtropical island, located 125 miles southwest of mainland Florida at the southernmost tip of the Florida Keys, has welcomed diverse groups of people since the early 1800s. In fact, the official motto for Key West and the entire Florida Keys is “One Human Family,” proclaiming equality for everyone.
“Key West is truly unique in its distinctly natural and quirky beauty and refreshing tropical weather,” said Pony Charvet, LGBTQ sales manager for the Florida Keys tourism council. “LGBTQ guests visiting have known for a long time that this island paradise offers a sanctuary from mainstream judgment.”
The main thoroughfare, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, is Duval Street. It’s lined with fine art and photography galleries, eclectic shops, and restaurants known for fresh “dock-to-dish” seafood.
The famed “Pink Triangle,” centered around the 700 and 800 blocks of Duval, is home to an entertainment cluster of LGBTQ bars, clubs, and shops. The area also contains four permanent rainbow crosswalks installed by the city.
During Key West Pride 2003, the street was blanketed by a 1.25-mile-long rainbow flag sewn on the island by Gilbert Baker, creator of the original rainbow flag, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the banner’s debut. About 2,000 volunteers carried it the entire length of Duval — from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean — in a sea-to-sea demonstration of openness and pride.
In the Atlantic just 7 miles off Key West lies the continental United States’ only living coral barrier reef, offering diving and snorkeling in clear aquamarine waters. Other pastimes include watching dolphins in the wild on eco-tours, exploring a boutique museum devoted to playwright and longtime island resident Tennessee Williams, and hopping on a bicycle and pedaling around the colorful Old Town historic district.For many LGBTQ visitors, the island’s spirit and sense of community are its biggest attractions. We sat down with Pony Charvet, a 26-year Key West resident as well as the tourism council liaison, to find out more about those intangible elements that resonate so strongly.
Q: Some 250,000 LGBTQ travelers visit Key West each year. What draws them?
A: Key West for many years held a mystique as a tropical paradise where those of ‘alternate persuasions’ could live open, free, and safe. Pre-Stonewall, this was introduced by people like Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, Gore Vidal, Leonard Bernstein, Christopher Isherwood, and Don Bachardy. So many LGBTQ young people, after getting beat up one more time, dreamed of someday living on a tropical island where they would be safe and free.
Post-Stonewall Key West became legendary and almost mythical in many people’s minds. The Village People help cement this with their hit song "Key West." ‘I’m headin’ for Key West, the key to happiness’ became a dream for many — and that mystique continues as those who visit return home and tell stories of their adventures that could only happen in Key West.
Q: What can LGBTQ visitors expect to find and experience when they come to Key West and the Keys?
A: What makes Key West unique is that it’s an island of differences. The experiences that can be had on the island are as diverse as the LGBTQ community. Want the all-night party? Done. Want peace and serenity in a place of beauty? Done. Want to connect with your tribe and experience a chance to be immersed in your community — or experience a rugged adventure outdoors? Done and done. The list is endless
Q: What are some of your favorite things about the Key West community overall and Key West’s LGBTQ community?
A: People fall in love with the diversity and true community they find here. In a normal city, everyone stays in their little bubble — rich, poor, black, white, yellow, old, young — but here, the island is so small that we live and thrive amongst one another. What I love about the LGBTQ community is just that sense of community… and those who see the love and magic that is our community.
Q: These days a lot of places are vying for the gay visitor dollar — but Key West has been welcoming and embracing LGBTQ+ residents and visitors for more than 75 years. How does that history set Key West apart from other destinations?
A: Key West isn’t vying for the tourist dollars; we’re looking to welcome friends — those we know and those we haven’t been lucky enough to meet yet. Here we put people first, not money.
Q: What role do you think Key West’s authentically accepting heritage plays in its LGBTQ tourism success?
A: The same role the sun plays in creating life on earth.
Q: Are there any specific events or times of year when Key West is especially appealing to the LGBTQ community?
A: January 1 through December 31. As diverse as our community is, we have something that will appeal year-round.
Q: When you have friends in town, what are the MUSTS you tell them to do?
Pony Charvet and a Key West Conch Shell
Photo courtesy of Carol Tedesco of Florida Keys News Bureau
A: Get out on the water. Get IN the water! Get a bike or take a walk, slow down and experience the joy of living for a short time on “island time,” relax by a pool and start a conversation with someone new.
Check out the amazing comedy scene, dance the night away and walk home at sunrise, listen to live music at an open-air venue under the stars. See what it’s like to eat fresh seafood that was probably swimming in the ocean only hours earlier. And finally, remember that you haven’t experienced Key West until you have blown a conch shell!
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A massage gun is a great way to relieve tension in specific muscles. We can do it from the comfort of our own couches while watching TV. The benefits of a massage gun can help you feel relaxed, feel calmer, improve circulation, and can relieve stress and tension throughout your body. It’s no wonder that we seek out full-body massages whenever we can.
I would love to say that I work out so much that a massage gun helps me loosen up the tight muscles from lifting all those weights. The truth is, I have pulled a muscle in my next twice just from shampooing my hair…Or there was that time I turned around in my chair awkwardly and pulled a muscle in my back. That actually happened the day before I got the massage gun to review luckily, the battery had a partial charge to it and I had my first opportunity to test it out.
First, let me introduce to you the B37 Massage Gun by Erkin Athletics…
What is the B37 Massage Gun?
Four Attachments for the B37 Massage Gun
The B37 Massage Gun is an ergonomic and percussive therapy machine. The handle sits at a 15° angle which helps lessen arm fatigue. The handle is also designed so that you can reach the hard-to-reach places that normally would require another person to assist.
- 5-speeds: the variable speed ranges from 1,400 to 3,200 RPMs. The lower speeds let you warm up your muscles and work through any sensitive muscles.
- 4 attachments: There are four different types of attachments you can use to work your muscles.
- Flat: The flat attachment is perfect for overall massaging
- Bullet: The bullet is great for zeroing in on specific knots, and is also perfect for hands and feet.
- Round Foam Ball: the foam attachment works best for all larger muscle groups
- Fork: this attachment is specifically designed for the neck and spine.
- Power: the massage gun delivers up to 56 pounds of stall force. What is stall force? Stall force is the amount of pressure you can apply to a massage gun before the motor stalls.
- 8-Hour Battery: The Samsung Lithium-ion battery provides plenty of power so you can really work out those knots. If you’re on the go, you won’t need to worry about recharging or running down the battery prematurely.
- Travel Case: Take your charged, or uncharged, B37 Massage Gun with you in the handy travel case that organizes everything neatly.
How Do You Use the B37 Massage Gun?
According to the information on their website, you should
- Turn the massage gun on before placing it on your body.
- Use speeds 1 - 3 for any muscle recovery and for speeds 4 and 5 for a soothing massage or pre-workout muscle warm-up.
- Glide the massage gun over the muscles and let the gun do the work. Apply pressure for added muscle relief.
- Breathe and relax and let the machine do the work. (in other words, if you’re tense, the massage will not work.)
Another step I would add is to make sure you know which attachment you need before you even begin step 1. This way, you don’t just turn it on, start massaging, and then realize you need a different attachment.
What I Liked About the B37 Massage Gun
What I love about the B37 Massage GunPhoto by Tyler Nix on Unsplash
There’s always the chance that you get a product that just doesn’t perform. I kind of knew that this was not the case when I turned on the B37. You could feel the power when you were holding it. In fact, it was so powerful I had it on the lowest setting and barely applied any pressure to my sore back. After a few swipes, I felt better.
The attachments are great and my two favorites are the foam ball and the flat attachment. They really promote muscle relaxation and work pretty well for me. To be honest, the fork scares me a little plus, I can’t really reach. I haven’t used the bullet yet because the foam ball and flat piece work great for me. Did I mention that they’re so easy to change too? You just pop them in or out—that simple.
Aside from the handy case, the battery is third in line because well, sometimes, you just forget to charge things. Hello, headsets anyone? I can use the massager for an hour or so and then put it away and use it another day.
What I Don’t Like About the B37 Massage Gun
What I didn't like about the B37 Massage Gun
It's fine when you are on the lower settings but when you get up to the higher settings, it gets a little noisy. Especially if you’re watching TV. If I need that much work on my muscles, I probably shouldn’t be sitting in front of the TV anyway. The lower settings work just fine for my muscles.
Also not a deal killer, but it has some heft to it. While the 15° handle does help with arm fatigue and wrist exhaustion, it’s still there especially if you have a particular knot to work out. Usually, I switch hands if possible or take a break here and there.
Is the B37 Massage Gun Worth the Price?
Prices for massage guns can vary and the B37 Massage Gun is decently priced compared to other massage guns. Considering the quality of the massage gun, all of the features, AND a lifetime warranty, I think it’s well worth the price.
Should You Buy the B37 Massage Gun?
Massage guns are perfect for anyone that is an endurance athlete, an avid weightlifter, or anyone suffering from tight muscles. The National Institute of Mental Health also discusses practicing self-care by using relaxing activities such as muscle relaxation. The institute also mentions using relaxing techniques for managing stress.
I would recommend the massage gun for anyone dealing with sore muscles and who may need relaxation in general.
What to Look for in a Massage Gun?
Speed and Power
When you are searching for a massage gun, you want to look for a gun that offers a range of speed and that has enough power to handle the stall force.
Size and Weight
Part of what I didn’t like about the B37 was the weight. It was a little heavy, especially for one-handed massaging. That’s why you need to make sure that the weight isn’t going to be too cumbersome and at the same time, it isn't too flimsy. There is no way around it but if you have a powerful gun, it’s going to be heavy or heavier. The size is a factor too. If it’s too large, it’ll seem awkward; if it’s too small, it just won’t get the job done.
Chances are, you’re going to want to take the gun with you. Having a nice travel case will make that a lot easier. You will want or need, something compact enough for those road trips and flights. Just don’t forget the charger.
Attachments make life and working out the kinks so much easier. While I really only use two, I can see where the four come in handy. Depending on how often you will use one, I would say a minimum of two attachments.
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After a visit to Honolulu, I returned enthusiastic about the Imu, the traditional Hawaiian underground oven. If you’ve been to a traditional luau, you’ve had kalua pig cooked in an imu. The word kalua means “the hole”. Depending on the pig’s size, it is steamed in an underground pit, sometimes for days. Throughout Polynesia and in many other cultures, earthen ovens have been used for centuries. They are a highly effective way to produce succulent proteins and vegetables without an ounce of electricity.
Really, you can only eat so many carbonized weiners.
While I have always loved cooking outside and enjoy the morning ritual of getting the embers going, camping food is rarely special. It’s hard to control the fire without standing vigil every second. Something always burns. Something is always undercooked. In recent years, meals for the yearly camping trip with my college friends consist of variations on the foil pack theme: individual hobo packs and the like.
The flavor of the food cooked in an imu is unmatched and it frees you up to snuggle with your new love, go for a hike, watch Ellen’s last show, or even do some quick manscaping in your tent.
Consider the imu nature’s crock pot. Maybe you can recline in your new zero gravity camp chair where that perfect combination of rustling leaves and a few beams of sunshine poking through the trees will lull you into a nice nap. This doesn’t have to be just for camping. If you have even the smallest swatch of yard you can do this at home. This summer or fall put on some Don Ho and start digging. It’s worth the ten minutes of cardio. Here’s how to do it.
Pork shoulder is an easy protein to work with. Serve it Cuban style with tortillas, avocado, and salsa verde. An entire pig would be fun, but totally unrealistic if you’re camping. Cooking in a small hole would take a few hours to a half day for the meat to become flavorful and succulent.
This may feel intimidating but it’s really quite easy. Don’t let the digging scare you away.
What Do You Need to Make an Imu?
- 5-8 Burlap bags
- 8-10 Banana leaves, fresh or frozen
- 1 or 2 Grill grates
- 20 pound bag Charcoal
- Foil pans
How do You Prepare an Imu?
Folding banana leaves over coals in an imu
Photo courtesy of Kandace Davis
- Dig a hole three feet deep by four feet wide with sloping slides. Save the dirt you’ve excavated. You’ll need it. If you choose a shady area with soft ground, a typical small camping shovel will work. Go for a bigger hole if you’re feeding a crowd. The pit must be large enough to contain an entire bag of charcoal and the food you’ll be serving.
- Layer the bottom center of the pit with plenty of kindling. Dried leaves, small branches, and twigs are best. Try to avoid newspapers as the print could infuse toxic ink fumes into the food. On top of the kindling, add an entire bag of natural, untreated hardwood charcoal. I use Rockwood brand which comes in a 10 lb and 20 lb bag. For this recipe, use about ¾ of a 20 lb bag. Light the kindling and let the charcoal become white hot. This will take about an hour. Hawaiians would traditionally use hot stones heated to 1,000 degrees and placed carefully into the oven with giant tongs. We aren’t doing that.
- Wear gloves to avoid a steam burn. The cooking process requires steam and not dry heat, so banana leaves will help you easily achieve this. You can find these at Global Foods or other international markets. If your banana leaves are frozen, you can place a double layer of them directly over the coals. If they’re fresh, wet them down before placing them. You are ready to cook.
- Carefully straddle a campfire grill grate (readily available online) over the coals. If you’re cooking for a larger group, consider using two grates and you’ll need a larger hole. Place your foil-wrapped edibles on the grill grate. We will get to specifics about what to cook in a bit.
- Wet down four burlap bags or a roll of burlap and lay them over the foil-wrapped food. Be sure that the burlap extends beyond the opening of the hole. You are going to be covering all of this with dirt and you want to keep the dirt from falling into the imu.
- The final layer is a tarp (anything will do) followed by the excavated dirt which is shoveled over the top of the tarp in order to keep any steam from escaping. Estimating cooking time is tricky. For this pork shoulder recipe, plan for five hours if it goes too long then all the better. As you become more confident, consider other foods including whole vegetables or smaller pieces of beef brisket.
- When finished brush away any loose dirt from the edges of the covering material. Avoid getting dirt into the imu. Uncover the layers of banana leaves and burlap sacks. Allow the foil-wrapped foods to cool for ten minutes before serving.
Pork Shoulder Recipe
Imu cooked pork shoulder
Photo courtesy of Kandace Davis
Yield: Serves 10
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: Approximately 5 hours
- 5 pounds Bone-in Pork Shoulder
- Citrus Garlic Seasoning
- Pat the pork shoulder dry with paper towels.
- Season liberally with salt and citrus rub.
- Double-wrap the pork in heavy-duty aluminum foil by placing the meat on the two sheets where the foil meets, and seal the foil tightly by folding it multiple times until it meets the top of the pork. Seal the foil on the sides in the same way.
- Place When the pork is finished cooking, allow it to rest for 10 minutes.
- Break the meat apart with forks and season again if necessary.
- Serve the meat with the prepared toppings or sides.
Suggested Pork Shoulder Sides
- Avocado slices
- Pickled onions
- Salsa verde
- Corn and/or flour tortillas
- Black beans
- Roasted corn
What Can I Cook in an Imu?
- Whole Chicken
- Beef Brisket
- Whole sweet potatoes or russet potatoes
- Whole acorn squash or spaghetti squash
About the Author
Kandace Davis began her career at a large suburban St. Louis school district where she taught English and theater. In 1999, after training with the Culinary Institute of America, she moved on to pursue her culinary dreams. She enjoyed a twenty-year career as a chef and founded the award-winning St. Louis food company, Cha Cha Chow, which was thrice named by The Daily Meal, NYC, as one of the top food trucks in America. Kandace and Cha Cha Chow have been featured in the St. Louis Business Journal, Sauce Magazine, Feast Magazine, and “Show Me St. Louis.”
In 2013, Kandace was nominated and accepted into Les Dames d’Escoffier International, a philanthropic organization of women leaders in food, fine beverage, and hospitality, and serves on the board of her local chapter. As part of her work to help provide healthy food to underserved communities, Kandace is a supporter of Earthdance Organic Farm School and Mutual Aid St. Louis. She has participated in local events supporting the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the Black Lives Matter movement, and, as a breast cancer survivor, The Breast Cancer Fund.
In 2019, after three spinal surgeries, Kandace stepped down from Cha Cha Chow. She is now working on a memoir about her mother’s mysterious and violent death by suicide and the amazing grandmother who raised her.
Campus Pride, the preeminent resource for LGBTQ+ leadership development, diversity inclusion, and advocacy within higher education, today announced the annual Best of the Best Colleges and Universities for LGBTQ+ students in the United States, recognizing the work of 40 campuses in making their communities safer and more welcoming environments for students, faculty, and staff alike.
“Campus Pride created the Best of the Best List to recognize the outstanding accomplishments of these colleges and universities, creating safer, more welcoming campuses for LGBTQ+ people,” said Shane Windmeyer, Campus Pride Executive Director. “Students, prospective students, and their families, along with faculty and staff members, deserve to know whether they will be safe on campus, so they can make the best choices for their own academic success – and by creating inclusive, safe environments these colleges are taking responsibility for all students.”
Today’s announcement from Campus Pride features 40 four-year campuses from across the country. These campuses have achieved 5 out of 5 stars on the Campus Pride Index (CPI), the definitive national benchmarking tool measuring LGBTQ-friendly policies, programs, and practices. To earn a ranking of 5 out of 5 stars, campuses receive a percentage score from 90 to 100 based on their LGBTQ-inclusive policies, programs, and practices. The methodology to determine this year’s Best of the Best List was based on an overall score of 93 percent or higher.
"We are seeing more and more colleges earn 5 stars because campuses are doing more to support their trans students," states Dr. Genny Beemyn, the coordinator of Campus Pride's Trans Policy Clearinghouse. "While all colleges can and should do more to be trans-inclusive, many institutions are taking important steps forward."
“The work Campus Pride does every day to foster safer, more welcoming campuses across the country is creating positive change for students, staff, and faculty, as this year’s Best of the Best list reflects that with 40 colleges represented, up from 30 last year,” said Tom Elliott, Campus Pride Board Chair. “At a time when LGBTQ+ rights and other civil rights are under assault in states across the country, including Texas and Florida, it is as important as ever to recognize the campuses in these states working to create spaces where the next generation of LGBTQ+ leaders can learn and flourish.”
- Towson University, MD
- Montclair State University, NJ
- Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey-New Brunswick, NJ
- Adelphi University, NY
- Ithaca College, NY
- Pace University, NY
- Lehigh University, PA
- The Pennsylvania State University, PA
- University of Pennsylvania, PA
- Northern Illinois University, IL
- Southern Illinois University Carbondale, IL
- University of Illinois at Chicago, IL
- Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
- Purdue University, IN
- Kansas State University, KS
- Oakland University, MI
- University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, MI
- Macalester College, MN
- Minnesota State University-Mankato, MN
- University of Nebraska at Kearney, NE
- Kent State University, OH
- The Ohio State University, OH
- University of Wisconsin Eau Claire, WI
- University of Wisconsin Green Bay, WI
- University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, WI
- Tufts University, MA
- University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
- University of Vermont, VT
- University of North Florida, FL
- University of Louisville, KY
- Elon University, NC
- George Mason University, VA
- Virginia Wesleyan University, VA
- Texas Tech University, TX
- University of Texas at Dallas, TX
- San Diego State University, CA
- University of Colorado at Boulder, CO
- University of Northern Colorado, CO
- Southern Oregon University, OR
- Washington State University, WA
About Campus Pride
Campus Pride’s 2022 BEST OF THE BEST Colleges & Universities is online at http://campuspride.org/BestoftheBest.
The Campus Pride Index full listing of LGBTQ-friendly colleges and universities is available at https://www.campusprideindex.org/.
Since 2001, Campus Pride has been the leading national organization building future LGBTQ and ally leaders as well as creating safer communities at colleges and universities. The Campus Pride Index annually helps 80,000 people find LGBTQ-inclusive colleges and universities. In addition, the organization has specifically tailored programs and resources to support LGBTQ youth and campus communities. Learn more at CampusPride.org.