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What will it take to get AK-47s off our streets?

Even Sanders opposes rational gun control efforts



AK-47, gay news, Washington Blade
AK-47, gay news, Washington Blade

AK-47 (Photo by Valentin Penev; courtesy Flickr)

It doesn’t seem possible that any rational person would think it is OK to have AK-47s or other assault-style weapons available for non- military use. Yet that is the weapon used in the most recent attack in the Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs in which one police officer and two civilians were killed.

The National Rifle Association is against banning them and every Republican running for president refuses to stand up to them. Congress wouldn’t vote to extend the Brady Bill, first passed in 1993 and signed into law by President Bill Clinton, and still won’t because the NRA has so much clout even members of Congress who privately agree with the bill won’t vote for it. Even Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) running in the Democratic primary voted five times against the Brady Bill apparently because of the clout the NRA wields in his state.

The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) formally titled the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act had the same fate when it was up for renewal. That bill included a prohibition on the manufacture for civilian use of certain semi-automatic firearms, which could be used as assault weapons. It also banned large capacity ammunition magazines. It was a 10-year ban signed into law by President Clinton in 1994 and when it expired in 2004 there were multiple attempts to renew the ban in Congress and they all failed. The law had been challenged on a constitutional level but all the challenges were rejected by the courts that reviewed them.

Today there is only one candidate running for president, Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has said she is willing to take on the NRA. President Obama has once again begun speaking out on this issue after seemingly giving up on it after he couldn’t get legislation passed following the massacre of 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

While some candidates focus only on the economic inequality facing so many there is much more wrong in America that needs to be corrected. Even if we make inroads toward correcting the economic issues, fighting big banks and reinstating a law like Glass-Steagall, we will still have an estimated 310 million guns circulating in the United States, or one for each man, woman and child. Those guns will continue to fall into the hands of the mentally ill and homegrown terrorists. While we need to change the economic disparities in our nation that alone won’t change how unfair our justice system is; or that police unfairly target African Americans; or that people think in the name of religion they can be openly homophobic and intolerant.

Changing the economic dynamic also won’t change the false rants about Planned Parenthood from someone like failed businessperson Carly Fiorina. Unless we hold those like her accountable they will continue to tell lies about the organization and spread hate and possibly incite people to act irrationally.

What we need to be looking for are politicians willing to focus on all the ills of America and that is no easy task. We need our next president to continue the conversation over guns until enough people are convinced to tell their elected officials they will have their backs when the NRA comes after them. After all, there are nearly 320 million people in America and fewer than five million belong to the NRA and not even all of them agree with all their positions.

No lobbying organization should have that kind of power. After the shooting in Colorado, President Obama said, “We can’t let it become normal. If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them. Period. Enough is enough.”

He is right but this has become normal and the president needs to talk about this every day. He needs to join with those like Michael Bloomberg who is putting his money behind the fight against guns. We need to organize campaigns against any congressperson who won’t vote for rational gun control. We can’t throw in the towel or the nation will lose and more innocent people will die for no reason other than we chose not to act.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBT rights and Democratic Party activist.

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  1. Brian's Ions

    December 4, 2015 at 9:11 pm

    Peter, you’re wildly out of touch with the rest of the country– including many Democrats.

    Two weeks ago the police honchos of NY and DC (Bratton and Lanier) told Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes essentially… be prepared to defend yourselves, because we, the police, cannot respond in time.

    Now, Obama is trotting out Comey and Lynch to ‘educate’ Americans to what has already become embarrassingly obvious… the Obama Administration’s pretend war on Daesh/ISIS, along with the too-few resources of the FBI, apparently, can not defend Americans on their own homeland.

    But unbelievably, they NOW presume to lecture us on Americans’ unwarranted ‘fear’ and a stepped-up desire for more gun ownership.

    Obama has obviously been lying to us about his pretend-war on Daesh/ISIS terrorism. As a result scores are dead in both Paris and San Bernardino. A growing number of Americans of all political stripes realize that and are increasingly disgusted.

    Peter, what don’t you understand about ANY president’s failure to defend Americans, their families, their loved ones, their kids, their neighbors and their co-workers– in their own damn country? It is a president’s most basic duty.

    If Obama and Hillary follow your nutty advice, voters will rightfully reject them in overwhelming numbers– and take lots of Democratic office holders with them. The party and progressive policies will have to go into virtual hibernation — yet AGAIN– for maybe 20 years or more.
    He is right but this has become normal and the president needs to talk about this every day. He needs to join with those like Michael Bloomberg who is putting his money behind the fight against guns. We need to organize campaigns against any congressperson who won’t vote for rational gun control.

    • Peter Rosenstein

      December 5, 2015 at 12:07 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to read all my columns I really appreciate.

      • Brian's Ions

        December 5, 2015 at 1:31 pm

        Yes, sir. I’m sure lots of us can count on you for more pain and discipline.

      • Steve Karper

        December 12, 2015 at 5:40 am

        btw it would be interesting to know who was behindt the alwari killing (guy behind the bombing of an american ship) who were complaining that we killed his kid

        Anyone want to speculate that the kids wont be as nuts as his father, that the old like father like son wont apply. ?

    • Steve Karper

      December 12, 2015 at 5:34 am

      Brian much of what you say shows that you are still having a fit with a black man as president. the tea party as actually attracted a lot of racists, because IMO the bible belt south, where racism has only been sleeping, many things show they are the largest owners and believers in guns

      Millions of people there in the bible belt almost solidyly repub who still believe the wrong side won the civil war

  2. Brian's Ions

    December 6, 2015 at 7:08 am

    Well, that worked out well, didn’t it?

    Peter, yesterday President Obama took your advice and implied that a radical Islamic State/Daesh- inspired terrorist mass killing in San Bernardino — a slaughter on American soil the Obama Administration utterly FAILED to prevent — was the result of too little gun control.

    And it has stirred the opposition’s hornets nest. That’s not good for our side.

    That obvious lie, that lame attempt at a coverup — and that incredible political blunder has created an outrage that is broad-based and will very likely build to a significant extent among previously loyal Democrats, Independents and Republicans alike— whatever the president says tonight.

    I hope the president will reverse course, and treat the Daesh/ISIS terrorist threat like the national security problem it is. But based upon his most recent comments and blunders, I’m not hopeful.

    What else will likely follow in the wake of the San Bernadino terrorism over the coming weeks and months?

    — A massive increase in gun sales and gun demand among people and groups who have never considered owning a gun before.

    — Proposals for any gun control will be dead-on-arrival— and a toxic, sure-fire loser subject for most Democrats throughout the 2016 cycle.

    — There will be a sharp increase in Republican Party voter registration and RNC donations.

    — Tea Party extremists will be reborn with an all-new issue they can tap for another decade— as long as the Islamic State and its supporters/ sympathizers exist anywhere.

    — There will be a massive stirring of the Republican and Tea Party voter base– unlike it has been stirred for a very long time.

    — Conversely, many Democratic Party voters will become “swing Democrats” — or will be changing their registration to Independent or Republican — and/or dropping out of the 2016 election process altogether.

    — And Islamaphobia? We probably ain’t seen nothing yet. A sharp rise in Islamaphobia and Islamaphobic commentary — AND — a related rise in anti-immigrant bigotry and prejudice, also targeting Hispanics, Asians and PIs is likely to occur. Latinas may want to reconsider wearing anything that looks like a hijab or other Muslim head covering, for example.

    — Donald Trump has broken the 30% polling ceiling — bigtime — and the prospects of Trump winning in the middle of an external terrorist threat to the nation just went way up. Democrats will probably have to fight like hell in 2016 just to hold on to the WH and the Senate.

    Obviously, this kind of divisive political firestorm and fallout does not bode well for bi-partisan support for LGBT civil rights prospect beyond 2016 either.


    • Steve Karper

      December 12, 2015 at 5:37 am

      trump the originality birther – racist as they come and pandering to those for whom a black president is the worst thing to happen to america.

  3. Brian's Ions

    December 8, 2015 at 8:36 am

    So… it turns out major gun control is not dead after all!

    In a full 7 days of news stories that have sparked public outrages regarding distinctly different issues — this bit of news from SCOTUS on Monday has barely been noticed.

    However, this news probably has more relevance to Peter’s commentary here than any other news development since SCOTUS’ *DC v. Heller* 2008 decision finding that a constitutional right to bear some kind of firearms exists.

    Even more interesting, IMHO, is that the NRA, Scalia and Thomas now seem in a rush to get a SCOTUS decision on this particular assault gun ban– which arose out of suburban Chicago city, Highland Park.

    Perhaps they saw how the High Court let circuit court decisions stand in favor of immediate marriage equality– and how that inevitably built more national support for marriage equality in advance of SCOTUS’ historic June marriage equality decision this year.

    Their seeming alarm may signal they know they don’t have the votes to stop even more sweeping high-capacity gun control.
    By Fred Barbash – 8 Dec 2015

    **How the gun lobby outsmarted itself and helped engineer its big Supreme Court defeat Monday**
    Instead the Court has alerted other judges, in Heller and again in McDonald, that the Second Amendment ‘does not imperil every law regulating firearms’

    In response to the suit, Highland Park specifically used “mass shootings,” as opposed to older arguments about controlling crime, to urge the court to let the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit stand.

    • Steve Karper

      December 12, 2015 at 5:26 am

      btw we lost a couple votes re support for marriage equality when the murder INc NRA told them that if they voted for gay marriage, this the NRA would spend half a million $ to defeat them

      Welcme to the monster of the second amendment – originally set up when there were no organized police forces and if there was trouble the church bells were rung in such a way that the men in the area got their horses and muskets and rode to the church to find where to go

      again guns and the nra – a self fullfiling prophecy of more and more murders, more and more profits for the angels of death

  4. Steve Karper

    December 12, 2015 at 5:20 am

    NRA america’s new murder inc where selling paranoia that you need a gun to defend your family is their way of creating a self full filling propheccie of more and more guns, and more and more murders. Most murders btw come from concealable weapons and right wing extremist chuchs in the bible belt south have been raffling off revolvers to raise money

    some data I’ve seen on TV etc

    29000 people murdered by guns, 100 saved by brandishing or using one. thats 300 people murdered for one saved

    also compared to england where you can only have a bolt action hunting rifle or shotgun , adjusted 6 to one for the population, england about 500 deaths by guns

    USA TV recently – mass killings-USA 90, in the closed was the mess called chile with 30

    another – almost 60000 killed by guns. 40% murders(24000) 40% suicides, 20 %acccidents (12000)

    I’m reinded by my first encounter with bulletin boards eg the early live internent

    I sat there horrified while some kdis treid to talk a gay kid out of suicide Finally he said” my fathers a bapist minister and disaapeared from the conversation. We will never know but mostlikely he blew his head off withhis daddys gun

    BTW my best friend is a gay guy who due to his mom falling under the spell of an Independent xian church leader (southern baptist hiding hteir ident) hes done every thiing from drugs, alcohol, burned his hads with a cigaretett, tride multiple times to do himself in with fibro mialga pillss etc

    essemtilly his filthy rich father has given up on hims and I am basically his bill payer etc (his key job wathcin gover an old woman has ended as she is now in a nursing home)

    its a long story but he said that if I hadnt met him, he’d prob be dead

    so much for religious freedom. From mostly the CDC website

    8000-9000 kids cmmit suicide every year, from all causes

    3000 known gay 500 suspected gay , 500 who failing with girls, per a cousins shrink think, the only thing to do is become gay, and thats a fate worse then death

    re my cousin we got lucky. His boozing is now under control, just social, and he understands what this BS of becomming gay is about.

    He gay -? I know many gay people and have had gay dar lessons. the cousin is not a chance even a kinsey type bisex

    And cheers for MD, the repub gov hogan was at least willing to let the trans portection law become law without his signature
    Ttwo of the chief homophobes -you guessed it, in various ways manged without realizing it to give away they were attracted to th same sex & are no longer in the legislature

    the 3rd anti gay got drunk and crashed his boat into andanohter and decided to not run again in respect for the injuries to the boat occupants

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What do the gays do about Facebook?

We are hopelessly hooked on dangerous social media



Let me just put all my cards on the table — I enjoy Facebook. I get a lot out of it. Instagram, not so much. But I think that’s more of a generational thing. But after recent events, I just feel a little icky about it all. I mean, don’t you? 

After the damning and didn’t-we-know-all-along Senate testimony by former Facebook employee Frances Haugen, being on Facebook just seems, well, a little gross. Yes, I know the irony that I am criticizing Facebook via a column that will ultimately be shared on Facebook, so don’t bother pointing that out. 

The long and short of it — evidence shows that Facebook is lying to us all about making any real progress against hate speech, violence, and the spread of misinformation. And aren’t those all red flags for the queer community? Essentially, Facebook isn’t just harmful to the self, but to whole groups and even societies. The parallels between this and the queer community are obvious ones. Again, aren’t our physical safety and overall wellbeing fairly paramount issues for the queer community? 

Take this one point for example: the evidence of harm to ourselves by ourselves. According to the documents Haugen supplied, Facebook’s sister company Instagram essentially makes 13.5% of teen girls have thoughts of suicide. Have there been any thoughts on how social media might be impacting LGBT teens? According to the Trevor Project’s 2020 study, 15% of LGBT teens attempted suicide in the past year. Forty percent had thoughts about it. Both numbers are staggeringly high on their own and also staggeringly higher than for their straight counterparts. I would like to know what role social media plays in this. But, like Haugen’s Senate testimony, I think we all know the answer to that already. What with bullying and the spread of hate speech, it simply can’t be good. 

And that’s just the issue of self-harm. What about the other issues of hate speech and misinformation? Yes, the queer community has enjoyed greater social acceptance in America. But that is by no means universal. Take the plight of trans teens, last year one of the far right’s go-to punching bags and boogey men — this time for the non-issue of high school sports. Talk about the spread of misinformation. I could enlighten us all by doing a deep dive on the right’s social presence, spreading their general talking points on the trans community, but such an exercise would be both stomach churning and time consuming. 

As for queer adults, I’m not sure if things can be much better. You sometimes hear that life is just high school with money. To that I would add: then gay men can be at times that mean group of eighth grade girls. Yes, it’s true. We can be pretty damn ugly to one another. Facebook and Instagram clearly aren’t helping any of this. But can we let it go? Aren’t we all hooked? Sometimes you’ll hear when someone snaps a picture of a group event or party, post it on Facebook ‘or it didn’t happen.’ Granted you don’t hear this much anymore as so many folks, especially younger gays, have drifted off to other platforms, but honestly is there much of a difference? And to post it or it didn’t happen? Who is that for but those who weren’t there?

Who knows what will happen? I mean, what with octogenarian superstars Sens. Chuck Grassley and Diane Feinstein on this, I’m sure meaningful reform and oversight are just over the horizon. Maybe it’s time we start policing ourselves? Demanding better from our community on social media first? I’m wondering what that might look like. Until then, I guess we’ll just keep scrolling, like we have been doing. Over and over and over. 

Brock Thompson is a D.C.-based writer. He contributes regularly to the Blade.

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McAuliffe YES, Trump NO, for governor of Va.

Youngkin is a stand-in for disgraced former president



Terry McAuliffe, Equality Virginia, gay news, Washington Blade
(Washington Blade file photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Vote Terry McAuliffe for governor of Virginia because he will be a great governor. Reality is the alternative is Donald Trump who may be calling himself Glenn Youngkin in Virginia, but don’t be fooled, Youngkin is only a stand-in for Trump.

Virginians know and respect McAuliffe. He was a successful governor in his first term and is a decent and honorable man. Had Virginia law allowed him to run for a second consecutive term he would have won easily. He has a stellar record of moving the state forward on equal justice and equal opportunity, civil rights, women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights. 

The first executive order McAuliffe issued upon taking office in 2014 banned anti-LGBTQ discrimination against state employees. He vetoed religious freedom bills, created Virginia’s LGBTQ tourism board, and became the first Virginia governor to declare June as Pride month. He was the first governor of a southern state to officiate a same-sex wedding.

He recently said, “As governor, I will fight my heart out to make Virginia the most open, welcoming and inclusive state in the nation, and break down the disparities that LGBTQ communities, and particularly communities of color, face in education, health care, the economy and more. Together, we’ll move Virginia forward into a better, brighter future for all.”

When it comes to women’s rights McAuliffe staved off attacks by extreme Republicans who controlled the Virginia Legislature during his tenure. He fought for women’s health care rights and fought to keep open every women’s health clinic in the state. He vetoed legislation that would have harmed women, including a bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood in Virginia. 

On civil rights he said one of his proudest accomplishments was being able to reverse a racist Jim Crow law disenfranchising hundreds of thousands of Virginians. McAuliffe restored the right to vote to more than 200,000 Virginians with felony convictions allowing them to fully participate in democracy after serving their time.

He was good for business and during his term as governor had a record of bringing more than 200,000 good paying jobs to the state and oversaw a lowered unemployment rate and an increase in personal income of over 13 percent. McAuliffe understands early investments in the state’s infrastructure helps the state to be a national leader in clean energy. 

These and so many other positive reasons are why Virginians should vote for Terry McAuliffe. 

But there are also many reasons to vote against Trump stand-in, Glenn ‘Trump’ Youngkin. The first is Trump saying, “he has my complete and total endorsement!” 

Youngkin continues to spread the Trump lie by still fighting the 2020 election and calling for an audit of Virginia election machines. He regularly speaks out of both sides of his mouth. He got caught on tape behind closed doors telling donors he won’t “go squishy” on banning abortion and defunding Planned Parenthood. He added, “As a campaign topic, sadly, that in fact won’t win my independent votes that I have to get.” Then he is still casting doubts on the COVID vaccine. He claims he is telling people to get vaccinated against COVID and then is recorded telling others it is their choice. He is against mandating vaccines for teachers and healthcare workers. His ads feature a teacher, who is a Trumper, endorsing his education program (a disaster) but who is opposed to mandating vaccines for teachers. They feature healthcare workers endorsing him who are against a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.  Youngkin is trying to buy the Virginia election saying he would raise $75 million but most from his own vast fortune, actually trying to buy it for Trump. 

Virginia Democrats and right-thinking independents and Republicans must come out in large numbers to repudiate Donald Trump once-and-for-all by casting their votes for Terry McAuliffe. 

Let’s hope Trump voters in Virginia stay home this year. But McAuliffe can’t count on that to win. It will take Democrats in huge numbers to give McAuliffe the same big win Joe Biden had over Trump in Virginia in 2020. If that happens Democrats will also keep the House of Delegates and win the other statewide races. 

Remember, when you vote for McAuliffe you vote for the man named “Public Official of the Year” by Governing magazine in his last term. Virginians should give him a well-deserved second term.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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Blogging my first overseas vacation since COVID

Chronicling life aboard Celebrity APEX



I will be blogging a number of times during my two-week transatlantic cruise and sharing my thoughts and experiences. 

The first thing I found is boarding during a pandemic is a little different. People were given specific boarding times yet most arrived at the port when it was convenient for them as many had early check-out times from their hotel or Airbnb in Barcelona. Celebrity didn’t turn anyone away. There was no Wi-fi at the entrance to the terminal so things got a little complicated as many had the information needed on their iPhone Celebrity app. It worked out and when you got inside to the counter they shared a Wi-fi connection. 

I knew in advance from a Facebook connection, some childhood friends whom I hadn’t seen in 21 years were going to be onboard. We ended up arriving at the terminal at the same time and caught up for the next hour and a half as we progressed through the boarding process. We all had to take a Covid test and only those with negative results could board. Of the approximately 1,300 people boarding, less than half the possible number for a full ship, I didn’t hear of anyone getting a positive result. 

When my negative result came back I was allowed to board and went to find my stateroom on deck 11. The key was at the door with all my information on it. Celebrity was doing everything to limit crew-to-passenger contact. We were asked to keep masks on in all indoor spaces except when eating or drinking, which on a cruise is often, and the crew are all wearing masks. Luggage was delivered to the door. 

Shortly after entering my beautiful stateroom there was a knock at the door and my stateroom attendant, Lenie, had come to introduce herself. She didn’t come in but explained how I could reach her anytime and for safety she would only come into the room when I was out. We chatted for a few minutes and I found out she was from the Philippines, had three children, and had worked for Celebrity for 20 years. She was both charming and efficient. 

I then took a walk around the ship and was duly impressed. It is beautiful. I walked through the huge buffet where people were happily eating lunch and saw instead of serving yourself there were servers behind each station filling people’s plates. All passengers had on their masks when getting food, as did the crew serving them. It made for a very safe feeling. 

Instead of a group muster each passenger was asked to go to their assigned muster station where you were met by staff who explained emergency procedures. You also had to look at a video on the Celebrity app and were then logged in and confirmed you had done so. All efficiently and safely done. 

Then I headed to the sail-away party my travel agent, and friends, Scott Moster and his husband Dustin, were hosting in the Iconic suite. The suite has everything from a peloton cycle to a hot tub for eight. It is incredible. I had the chance to catch up with old friends I had sailed with before the pandemic. Then it was a quick tour of the spa and gym open twenty-four hours a day. A way to assuage guilt over all the food and drink. Then back to the stateroom to finish unpacking and change for dinner with good friends in one of the specialty restaurants, EDEN. That meant long pants and a shirt with a collar. That’s as formal as required on this cruise. 

The food was superb and we got to meet the chef, Nicholas. An interesting guy who I will interview during the cruise. The menu was a combination of fresh fish, lobster, to filet mignon, all interestingly prepared. 

After dinner it was a stop at the Martini bar where a large group of LGBTQ friends had gathered along with some who would become friends. I was surprised when a guy came over and gave me a hug. I didn’t recognize him with his mask on but turned out he was another friend from my past I hadn’t seen in years. It is clearly a small world and the gay world seems even smaller. 

Finally headed to my stateroom around midnight, where turndown service had been done, to get some sleep and prepare for day two, and our first stop, Alicante.  

Day two and three on the Celebrity APEX

Time flies when on a cruise; maybe it’s the endless food and drink. All passengers received a letter in their room telling us we would need to report for a Covid test on day 5 the first at-sea day before we get to the Canary Islands. I pre-scheduled mine just before what I planned as my first hour at the gym. I expect to go to the gym on all sea days and there will be eight of those.

Each morning I have had coffee, a bagel and orange juice delivered to the stateroom.  I always miss that knock on the door each morning when I am home but then I would miss my daily coffee at Java House so I guess it’s OK. 

On day two we stopped at our first port, Alicante, on Spain’s Costa Blanca. I was truly surprised at how beautiful the city is. I joined friends for what turned out to be a three and a half hour walk as we were allowed off the ship on our own without booking a tour. We visited churches and the main market in town. We strolled along the beach and the harbor with great walking and bicycle paths. Alicante is a wonderful mix of old-world charm and modern amenities. One friend ventured up to the castle, Castillo de Santa Barbara, but since the elevator (the easy way up) wasn’t working and it’s a very long, steep climb up the mountain I passed. We arrived back at the ship around 1 p.m. and headed to the Mast bar on deck 14 for burgers and fries. Then some time back in the stateroom before heading to the martini bar for a drink and then to the beautiful APEX theater to see the Shamrock Tenors, four Irish performers who are not only talented but cute to boot. 

We decided to try one of the regular restaurants, those not needing reservations and chose Normandy. The food was good and I had shrimp cocktail, rigatoni, and cherries jubilee for dessert. 

After dinner it was up to the Rooftop Garden for ‘Silent Disco’. That is where you get a set of headphones with a few channels of disco music, and you dance to the music only you can hear. It’s really fun but by 11:30 my knees gave out and it was off to bed. 

Day three dawned nice and sunny and we were docked in Cartagena, located in the autonomous of the region of Murcia. I had an 8:45 excursion and again had breakfast delivered to the room. We were instructed to head to the theater to meet the tour group and sign in for our ‘Journey to Murcia’. Murcia is a city in south-eastern Spain, the capital and most populous city of the Autonomous Community of the Region of Murcia, and the seventh largest city in the country, with a population of 447,182. It is about a forty-minute drive from the port. It is a fascinating city with an incredible history from the Romans to and Moorish influence. There is a beautiful cathedral, isn’t there one in every Spanish city? This being a national holiday in Spain most of the shops were closed saving some on the tour a lot of money. We strolled around the city with our guide giving us a running commentary on its history for about an hour and a half. She was a little hard to understand because not only did she have a heavy accent but she spoke really fast. But it was still fun and we did learn a lot. We made a second stop outside the city at another church where a wedding was being officiated. The bride was beautiful. Then we headed back to the ship for an early departure. Our tour was the last onboard and we sailed not more than thirty minutes after we got there. 

Then it was off to the captain’s reception. I had the chance to chat a few moments with the Captain Panagiotis Skylogiannis, who is as charming as are most Greek men. We also met the rest of the senior crew who run the ship. Many said they would be more than happy to sit and get a cup of coffee with me during our at-sea days so I can interview and write about them.

Then it was back to my stateroom again to prepare for another tough night of food and drinking. We went to see Andrew Derbyshire in the theater for the 7:30 show and then to dinner at Cyprus.   After dinner Celebrity hosted the first LGBTQ+ event of the cruise at the EDEN bar. A large crowd showed up, not all gay but they all knew where the fun people would be. The entertainers all showed up there as including the Shamrock Tenors, four talented Irish guys and Andrew Derbyshire, a British actor and singer. We chatted and I will meet him for coffee to do a column on him. 

Then about midnight it was back to the stateroom for what some of my friends on board called an early night. Morning would have us docking in Cadiz and we had a private tour planned for over 20 of the people who had booked the trip with Scott Moster, travel agent extraordinaire, taking us to the city of Seville.  

Days four and five on the Celebrity APEX

Day four dawned warm and partially sunny as we docked in the port of Cadiz. This was the day we had our private tour of Sevilla planned. The itinerary had been set by two of my friends, Rob Robertson and his husband Carlos Taylor. Carlos lived for a time in Sevilla as a child and has a big family still here. Celebrity, by agreement with our travel agent Scott Moster, made the planned itinerary a formally sponsored tour. 

At 8:45 our group of mostly gay and lesbian travelers left the ship for the hour and forty-five-minute bus ride to Sevilla. Our guide described the city and gave us its history as we traveled to our destination. Scott also had the foresight  to bring along a few bottles of champagne and orange juice and we were treated to mimosas along the way. 

Once in Sevilla were met by a second guide and given electronic devices and earphones so we could follow along as we took a two hour walk to see the sights which included the incredible Plaza de España in the Parque de María Luisa. It was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. It is a landmark example of Regionalism Architecture, mixing elements of the Baroque Revival, Renaissance Revival and Moorish Revival styles of Spanish architecture. Plaza de España has been used as a backdrop in a number of films including Starwars. It is very impressive. 

From there we headed to the Royal Palace and its beautiful gardens and then it was off to the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, better known as, Seville Cathedral. It was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a world heritage site along with the adjoining Alcazar complex. It is the fourth largest church in the world as well as the largest Gothic church and is particularly ornate with over forty-five individual chapels and two huge organs. Christopher Columbus and his son Diego are buried in the cathedral. 

Because we spent so much time at these sites we were very late for lunch at the restaurant Carlos had chosen; one owned by friends of his family. They welcomed us with charcuterie and cheese plates, wine, beer and sangria. However, the rest of lunch ended up as takeout as we were really late and our ship was scheduled to leave port at 4:45 and we had been told to be on board no later than 4:30. We double-timed it back to our bus and headed for the port. All went well until we hit a traffic jam and sat for about fifteen minutes. It was increasingly clear we wouldn’t be on-time. Our guide was getting nervous and he called the ship and someone erroneously told him they would sail without us. 

Meanwhile our trusty travel agent Scott was on the phone with his Celebrity contact who confirmed as this was an official tour they couldn’t leave without us. Once again we were the last people up the gangway and about five minutes after the last person was onboard the engines started up. The Captain had made an announcement to all the reason they may be leaving late was us. After that excitement it was a great evening with dinner at Cyprus and then a show. The hard life onboard ship continued.

Day five was our first sea-day. No tours and no rushing. For me it was early morning writing and coffee delivered to the room. Then my required covid test and off to the gym. The half hour on the Lifecyle was easy because I was looking out at the sea. The gym isn’t large and because of covid you could only use every other machine. But with only half the number of passengers on board that worked. The gym is open twenty-four hours a day. After my workout I met friends at the buffet for a lite lunch because of course it was crucial to gain back the few calories I may have lost working out. Then it was a lazy day, the kind I love when cruising. I had arranged coffee with Andrew Derbyshire, one of the talented entertainers onboard, to interview him for a column I will write. He is a really nice guy who will be getting off the ship in the Canary Islands; not being an American citizen, he wouldn’t be allowed into the US even though fully vaccinated until November 8th and we dock on October 24th. 

Evening began with a Celebrity scheduled  LGBTQ+ happy hour and then a nice dinner at the Rooftop Garden, another of the specialty restaurants. Then on to The Club, one of the entertainment venues, to hear Andrew sing. He had the whole room up and dancing, even me.  All-in-all another great day onboard Celebrity APEX.

Day Six begins my sea-days on the Celebrity APEX

I woke on day six to a hazy sky and our ship heading to dock in Tenerife. I had been there before and was sad that we were not going to be allowed to head out on our own. There were a number of tours scheduled but I decided to stay on the ship. It was a wonderful lazy day of writing, the gym, and just finding a nice place to sit and read. First though I would have a long lunch with Cheryl and Jeff in the Café, which is the buffet. They are my childhood friends who are onboard. We exchanged old pictures from our iPhones and talked about people we grew up with.  

The EDGE series of Celebrity ships, which includes the EDGE, the APEX which I am on, and the upcoming BEYOND scheduled to make its inaugural sail next April, have what is called the Magic Carpet. It is a lounge that can be moved up and down on the side of the ship. On day six it was on deck 14 and it was the perfect place to sit and read. This would be my life for the next seven days at sea. It is the part of the cruise I like the best.

Scott and Dustin invited us all to a sail-away party in their suite at 4:30 and we watched as our ship sailed out of Tenerife for the seven-day crossing to Ft. Lauderdale. Lazy days and fun nights ahead for all of us. On this day Celebrity had scheduled two LGBTQ+ events, one a meet and greet at 6 pm and a second LGBTQ+ PRIDE event at 10:30. Between the two there was a show in the Theater, UPTOWN, three talented young men dancing and singing to Motown and other music from groups who had sung in the famous New York,  Apollo theater. Then dinner at the Steak House, another specialty restaurant. 

At the evening LGBTQ+ event we met some of the new cast members of the shows replacing those who had to leave the ship in Tenerife.  I ran into another person on the ship I first met years ago in DC, Tareq Salahi, known at the time as part of the couple who crashed a White House dinner. His first wife was on the very short-lived series ‘The Housewives of Washington, DC. 

On day seven I woke up to a hazy day at sea, calm waters which we can only hope will be replicated for our whole Atlantic crossing. I started my day going to a talk given by Melinda Bates, who had written a book on the Clinton Administration where she served eight years in the visitor’s office of the White House. I had met her on a previous cruise and had lunch with her so really went just to say hello.  Then it was going to be what I looked forward to; gym, writing, reading, eating and drinking, and just being lazy in luxurious surroundings with fun people. What more can anyone ask for.

Seven Sea-days on Celebrity APEX

The sea-days on Celebrity APEX have been as wonderful as I anticipated. The knock on the door every morning at 7:30 a.m. with my coffee delivered by a smiling, at least his eyes are as he is wearing a mask, room service waiter. Then a couple of hours doing the second edit of the book I am writing. Somehow being at sea has given me the head space I needed to get back to it. Then off to the gym.

Despite the apparent incompetence of the Celebrity PR agency, I did get the chance to meet the Captain on the second day of my cruise and he agreed to sit down for a short interview. He is a charming and totally open guy willing to talk about his life. I will be doing a column on the interview shortly after I am off the ship. 

He even agreed to set up a tour of the bridge for me and friends Rob and Carlos. It was arranged by Icaro, the concierge, a charming Brazilian. We were met outside the bridge by security and wanded down. The bridge is larger than I thought it would be and the very nice 2nd mate Alex, took time to give us a detailed explanation of how they steer this beautiful ship. In some ways it looks like a little more complicated video game. But then those playing video games aren’t responsible for the lives of a crew of 1,250 and nearly 3000 passengers when the ship is full.

The days at sea pass quickly, which is sometimes surprising when you are really doing nothing but being lazy and figuring out what beautiful venue to go to for your next meal or a drink. The Martini Bar or Café Al Bacio are some of the great places to drink and relax on the ship. 

Our ever-attentive travel agent Scott and his husband Dustin hosted another party in their suite, the Iconic Suite, and I met some people I hadn’t yet seen in the past days onboard. Some of them signing up with Scott to go on next year’s October 29th APEX transatlantic cruise out of Rome. I am one of them and have even given a deposit for the October 30th 2023 transatlantic cruise on The BEYOND, Celebrity’s newest ship which will set sail on its first cruise in April of 2022. It is amazing how addictive cruising can be but I guess if you need to have an addiction this isn’t a bad one to have.

The Iconic suite is located in what is called the ‘Retreat’ on the ship. It is the more expensive suites and villas with their own restaurant, sun deck, bar and pool. While I can’t afford to book a stateroom in the Retreat I am lucky some of my friends can. They have invited me to join them there occasionally for a drink and dinner. 

Reality is the rest of the ship is just as beautiful and on this cruise, which sailed with less than 50% capacity, it is especially nice. The five specialty restaurants are fun to go to and the regular dining rooms are great. In all of them you can have filet mignon or lobster, among a wide variety of choices. One  restaurant a little different is The Petit Chef. There you have a show play out on your table and plate from cameras above showing the preparation of each course on your empty plate. Immediately after the show for each course your food is presented looking exactly like the filmed version. It is a fun two-hour dinner with everyone in the restaurant eating the same food at the same time.

The talent in the APEX theater, The CLUB and other venues including EDEN has been incredible and the entertainers are happy to mingle with the guests, which has been fun. We have seen shows with talent like Andrew Derbyshire, The Shamrock Tenors, UPTOWN, Three DIVAS, and the performers in Caravan, among others. I will be writing a column on Andrew Derbyshire after the cruise. All-in-all one couldn’t ask for more. 

On board you often feel you have escaped the world and the daily news cycle. Occasionally it does raise its head as they have BBC, MSNBC and Fox News on shipboard TV. Every once in a while, someone starts talking politics to me as they know I write about it in the Washington Blade. One of our group told me about lying on a lounge in the sun next to two women talking about how they hate Biden who isn’t the real president. So even here you can’t totally get away from stupid. Then we heard every Senate Republican voted against allowing debate on the Voting Rights Act. Depressing to say the least, disgusting in fact. 

But since we can’t do anything about it at the moment it’s back to enjoying yourself; eating and drinking without guilt. I know the people I am traveling with will go home after our two-week respite and continue to fight for equality and our Democracy. I am truly fortunate to be traveling with such a great group of people. 

I hope you enjoyed hearing about some of my time on the ship and I will be doing some additional columns once I am back on dry land which will be in two days. Even great times have to end. I wholeheartedly recommend a cruise on the Celebrity APEX to anyone who enjoys travel.

Peter Rosenstein is a longtime LGBTQ rights and Democratic Party activist. He writes regularly for the Blade.

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