Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Two days as Mario

It's been a while since I've been Marian, and not because I didn't have the chance. Instead, I was inactive for a couple of days last week, and didn't switch back to being Marian when I had the chance to do so over the weekend. Sometimes, it's just easier for me to stay as Mario - especially when the weather doesn't want to cooperate with me. But this wasn't the case for the past few days. Instead, it was because the few times I went out, that I had to go out as Mario, or I didn't want to take the time to make a decent presentation as Marian.

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Monday came, and I had to confirm lunch with my ex-boss. He's a good fellow, and we see each other way too infrequently.  So there was no way that I was going to blow off this lunch for a day out as Marian. Both of us confirmed lunch, and then I drove to West Nyack to meet him. Traffic on Route 287 was bad, and I wasn't sure if I was going to make it on time. I needn't have worried, as I was ahead of schedule. So, when I arrived at the mall, I had time to kill - and enjoyed a quick chat with Lili.

Around 12:30, I walked over to the restaurant, and waited a few minutes for my ex-boss to arrive.  We enjoyed a pleasant lunch, and then it was time to go home. I was surprised to find that both traffic jams that interfered with traffic on my way over were gone, and I enjoyed clear sailing all the way home. On the way, I stopped to pick up a set of passport photos. Then, it was over to my apartment - if only to put my "to go" cheesecake slice in the refrigerator.

Although I could have gone out afterwards, I didn't.  Instead, I took it easy because my GI Tract was still playing games with me.  For all I know, I could be drinking way too much liquid, and this could be playing havoc with a GI Tract still on the mend from the week before.  (It's either drink water, or eat. And I don't want to nurture a habit of eating because I'm bored. So I try to drink when I get that urge to eat when I'm not really hungry.)

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Tuesday came, and I had two things on the schedule that demanded me to be Mario for the day.  The first of these was an appointment with my dentist. Given that I'm unemployed, I always feel a bit of sticker shock when I go to see him. But having good teeth is very important to me. The second thing was my co-op board meeting. Although the board knows that I'm trans, I always will attend as Mario until the day I decide to live as Marian 24x7.

Lately, I haven't been able to get to sleep until late in the evening, and I didn't bother getting out of the bed until it was almost afternoon. This isn't as bad as it seems, as it allows me to get a full night's sleep - albeit at a time 4 hours later than most people get their sleep. So I wasn't too surprised to see that I had about an hour to get ready for my dentist appointment when I finally made it out of bed.

After I was done with the dentist, I chatted with a new patient who was filling out a form.  We were getting along great. And since I never expected to see her again, I decided to show her a picture of me dressed as a nurse for Halloween.  She said that I looked better as a woman than as a man.  (That's how I feel as well.) There's hope for me yet!

Later on in the afternoon, it was time to go to the co-op board meeting.  This time, it was a meeting filled with good news. As usual, I can't go into details here. But I can say that one of the problems we've talked about in several meetings is being addressed, and we have the full cooperation of one of our business partners to get the problem resolved.

Even though this was a Mario day, I feel very good about the day.  And I will be very glad to be back in Marian mode tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A political rant

Sometimes, we all have too much time on our hands. And we look for ways to burn that time, as there is often nothing worse to deal with than being bored. For me, blogging is one of the ways I cope with the problem of nothing to do and nothing I want to do.

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Over the past few weeks, I have gotten totally disgusted by what is happening in Washington, DC, and the people who are now in charge. The G-20 meeting has just ended. and the world has signaled that it will move forward without us. Climate change, world trade, and defense agreements are being rethought with the assumption that the United States will no longer take a leading role for the foreseeable future. It's a sad day when many feel that Germany's Angela Merkel is now the leader of the free world.

At home, things are just as bad for they are for us in international fronts. For example, we have seen an anti-transgender activist being appointed to a gender equality post. It seems as if there is a cultural war on progressive policy, and that Trump and his cronies want to cement us firmly in the past and not the future. We have actors/writers such as Carl Reiner, who at the age of 95 is telling Justice Kennedy of the Supreme Court NOT to retire, as to prevent Trump from cementing his legacy with another very conservative justice. There is only so much that the Democrats can do to slow down the GOP Tsunami, and they have focused on mobilizing people to protect gains which have been made towards universal healthcare.

As I write this, the media has been making a big deal about Trump being "owned" by Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit. But then, with all the connections between Russian Operatives and Trump (before and after the 2016 election), what sane man or woman doesn't believe that the Russians control Trump?  And yet, the GOP does nothing because it is afraid of the masses who believe everything that comes out of Trump's mouth.

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Since this is not a blog that focuses on politics, I must go back to the main focus on life as a transgender person. And so far, I am very concerned, but not afraid for our future. Our rights seem to be protected (for now) in the states which protected them in the past. There is only so much that the Federal government can do without stepping on States' rights. For those in "Red States" who have few protections, I feel sorry. There is not much that can be done while the Trump-Pence regime is in power in Washington.

We, as transgenders, must find new ways to mobilize, so that like the Gays, we can be considered a group whose rights can't be ignored. When I went to the GLBT Center the other day, I found out about a deal which enshrined protections for Gays into New York State law. But as part of that deal, transgender rights were cut out of the law. Although activists are working to change this, it is not enough. We must develop the same grass roots support that Gays have, so that our needs will no longer be dismissed by people in power.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Quickie: Dennis Miller's Rants

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Dennis Miller's Rants.  Although the book was published in the mid 1990's, most of his rants are still true today.

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What's so important about reading a book written over 20 years ago?  Well, one of the things that was reinforced for me is that history tends to echo from one generation to the next.  Things we complained about in the 1990's are still being complained about today. Humanity as a whole learns slowly, learns unevenly, and learns imperfectly.  Each generation has to relearn the lessons of its predecessors, and it takes many generations for collective wisdom to evolve.

Right now, we live in a very polarized society. This is not new. We complained about George Bush in the same way we now complain about Donald Trump. (Trump truly deserves his criticisms.)  Before that, we complained about Reagan, Nixon, and other presidents since John Adams took office. We will eventually recover from this disaster named Trump - we have recovered from much worse.

With this being said, it doesn't make me feel any easier. Our rights as transgender people are now under attack by the wingnuts of the GOP, and we can not afford to just ride things out.  The big question is: What can we do to minimize the damages caused by the GOP rank and file until sanity reigns again?  Hopefully, someone will have a good answer - and soon!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

A week at a glance.

When I went on my cruise, I knew that I was going to get far ahead of schedule when I returned, as I already scheduled posts for publishing well into the time I returned. This post is my way of restoring the normal gap between my daily events and the time my posts are made public.

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I let the last alarm from my electronic devices wake me up, allowing me to squeeze every last moment of rest out of the morning. Looking at my schedule, I saw that I had to go to the monthly Arts Westchester volunteer meeting. So, I couldn't roll over and go back to sleep for a change.

Around noon, I got showered and dressed, then out the door I went. I arrived at Arts Westchester a little after 2 pm, and found no events that I wanted to volunteer covering. So I figured that I'd go home after a brief stop at the Christmas Tree Shop in Hartsdale. Just as I got out of my car, I met the lady from the Yorktown wig shop. We chatted a bit, and then went on our ways. Once in motion again, I went home for a little while before taking a drive over to Danbury to do some clothes window shopping. There was nothing in Lane Bryant that I wanted, so I ended up going home.

At home for the night, I mistakenly sent a message to the wrong woman from the Whine and Dine to say that to answer a question of hers (why wasn't I coming to meetups any more?) that I'd give her the answer in person.  But I must have made a Freudian slip by sending the message to the wrong person.  AARGH!  It could have been much worse if I intended seeing any of these people again.

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I got up early for a change, but didn't do much other than to do laundry and start straightening up the apartment.  Although I chatted with GFJ for a while, there wasn't much going on with GFJ, Lili, or my brother. So I prepared for an 8:30 pm dinner with BXM.

Unlike previous trips, I assumed that BXM would be a little late. So I buzzed her at 8:30, and warned her that I'd be there in a few minutes. And then, as I was getting off the exit for her place, I did the same again - just to keep her moving, and not to have to wait for too long. And this proved to be the right thing to do.

Neither of us had a clue about where we wanted to eat, save that we didn't want to eat at a local diner. So I started slowly driving North, and made it into the area of Yonkers where my late wife worked. Since this wasn't the best place to find a place to eat around 9:00 pm, I figured that we could drive over to The Bayou in Mount Vernon for some Cajun grub.  It took us a couple of minutes to find a good parking spot. But the restaurant wasn't crowded, and we were able to sit at any table we wanted.

We had a good chat, BXM venting a bit about her family and how they did not support her when she needed them. We talked about her dad, and how she will need to be the one that makes sure that a DNR order is obeyed. We talked about my transgender nature, GFJ, the Cat Lady, and RO - and how the person I may settle down with will need to be able to accept me both as Marian and as Mario.

Around 11:30, we decided to leave and go back to her place.  On the way, one of those stop light cameras flashed.  Did I go through a light or an intersection?  I doubt it. But if I get a ticket, I can fight it, as I have someone in the car who will note that i mentioned a flash before I reached the intersection where I stopped for a light.  We stopped at the supermarket for a minute so she could pick up some stuff, and then it was onward to our homes.

It's been a long time since I've driven the Saw Mill Parkway after midnight, and I noticed little things on the way home that I never noticed before. One of those things was a fellow on a motorcycle using his phone's GPS and Map to guide him home. It is amazing what modern technology can do for us it we let it do so....

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Normally, I am not conscious enough to be awake for Morning Joe. But for some reason, I was conscious enough to hear him replay the segment from the Steven Colbert  Late Show where he announced his resignation from the Republican party for reasons of principle. Over the years, I've grown to respect this man as a Conservative thinker, and I respect him even more now, as he is putting his principles over party loyalty. Shortly afterwards, I was totally brought out of semi-consciousness by a phone call from Vicki. One of the people at her firm quit, and they had an immediate need for someone who could be attentive to detail. Vicki explained some of what the job entailed, and told be to get a resume to her post-haste. This was looking to be a very good day indeed, and it wasn't yet 9 am.

Not everything was going to be good however. I received an email from the leader of the FFGoWs telling me that I have been removed from the group. Although I know it was not WPB who pulled the membership, a couple of ladies complained to the owner of the group, and she reluctantly removed me.  It's not easy being transgender, when there is still a lot of prejudice against us.  (Mental note: Ask Fran about her attempts at socialization when I see her next.)  Now, I have to find other groups that will welcome me, and maybe be a little bit more careful to cement my position in them.

In a little bit of a depressed mood, I drove down to my speech therapy session and met with my therapist in training. As one might say, you get what you pay for - she is inexperienced, and is learning how to manage her time. But I figure that part of the problem is that one can't learn that much in a Summer session - and she's having to cram a lot into a short time. Yet, I did have the pleasure of meeting her supervisor, and she gave me a couple of good ideas of how to improve the qualities of my voice that I will need to practice on in the next week.

Once done with speech therapy, I drove to Long Island to see RO. We had a very enjoyable time doing a little bit of shopping, then having a Chinese dinner near her house. (Not too near - my brother lives nearby, and I didn't want to run into him.) We talked of many things, and she announced that she was treating me for dinner as a birthday treat. On the way back to her place, I found that she could be a travel partner - and I'll keep that in mind. But I also learned the one most important thing - she sees me more as a woman, and would not want to lose me as a female friend. There goes the idea of having her as a romantic interest....

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Unlike most Thursdays, game night was cancelled for the week.  The hosting family was making their place safe for one of their parents to visit, and they didn't want to worry about everyone being there during the cleanup and the parent's visit. So I had little reason not to plan for a Mario Mode day today - especially when I considered that I needed to get a passport photo taken sometime in the afternoon.

So, as usual, I awoke to the sounds of alarms from my electronic devices. And I got my butt moving, knowing that the cleaning lady would likely be coming some time in the afternoon. Not only did I rush to straighten out my place, but I made sure to hide most of the indication that Marian exists.

Lately, what annoys me about my brother is that he always seems to run things without planning.  Yes, he may plan things according to a schedule at work. But outside of work, he is a different person. By noon time, I still did not get any word about when he'd start his drive to the trail head, and it made me wish that I didn't volunteer my help for his hike.

My brother finally did call around 1 pm, saying that he didn't know when he'd start his drive. And then, he called back to tell me about a low-ball offer we received for renting the family homestead. I had my concerns because the price was too low, and that the prospective tenant was offering to pay a year's rent in advance. Even with cash in hand, the last thing I'd want to do is hand it to someone when I could do better with it in my hands. This makes me worry. I ended up talking to two people about this offer: Lili and GFJ. And they had diametrically opposite reactions. Lili said to see if the woman would go up 10%, and if she did - take the offer. GFJ had the same gut concern that I had - drug money. How many people would have roughly $30k+ available to pay a year's rent in advance?  Although I know people who could do this, I know they never would do this.

Later on, I received a call from my brother. He was only starting to get moving around 7 pm. With a 2 & 1/4 hour drive to the camp site ahead of him, then 30 minutes to unpack the car, and another 30 minutes to the Bear Mountain Inn where I would meet him, I had time enough to make a leisurely dinner for myself.  With rain expected for Thursday night and all day Friday, I'd bet that this hike would be very unpleasant for them all.

During the evening, I chatted with GFJ, and found out that she was going to be free on Sunday.  Since I already made plans with the Cat Lady, there was no way that I was going to break a date at this late juncture. Do I feel a little bad?  Yes. But it's been months since GFJ was here, and I'm not sure if I want her back here again - unless she is willing to accept me as Marian as well as Mario.

Around 9:30, I called my brother, and he was only then approaching the trail head. Given where I expected him to be, I knew it was going to be a very long hike for him. So I was glad to be able to meet him at Bear Mountain to get him back to his crew. As soon as we got out of the parking lot, he noticed a noise coming from the front end of my car that I've noticed for a while. Although the dealership did not find this problem (they didn't bother to look for it), my brother confirmed what I thought it was in the first place - and told me what I should expect to spend on it. (I'll file it away until my next pension check comes in, and then get the work done.) In the rush to make it up to my neck of the woods, they had forgotten to pick up a few things on the way out. So I made a quick detour to the Walmart in Woodbury, in order to pick up these sundries. Although he couldn't find hiking poles, he did find a warm weather sleeping bag that my niece would use and a short cable with which he could charge his cell phone.

Driving from Walmart, the GPS told us to take a different route than expected. Driving along back roads, we ended up going to the outskirts of Greenwood Lake. The trail head was reasonably well marked, but the crew was out of sight.  My brother thought that he had forgotten a flashlight in his car, but he lucked out - it was in his pocket.  I'm glad that I got him near where he was going to spend the night. And I'm even more glad that I was going to spend my night in air conditioned comfort.

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I awoke to find a text on my phone from my niece. They were camped a short distance in from the road where I left my brother last night. This is one time I was very glad to no longer be an outdoors person, as I can't imagine that I'd want to spend a long weekend outside in wet, hot or humid conditions.

At this time, I knew that this was going to be a Marian Mode day. But I didn't know all of what I was going to do for the day after I was done with my volunteer gig at the GLBT center.  Only one problem.  I didn't have the emotional energy or the want to get out of bed. So I took it easy, apologized for "Double Booking" my day, and stayed in.

Late in the evening, GFJ called, and we shot the breeze for a while. If I hadn't already scheduled seeing the Cat Lady, I'd have scheduled to do something with her on Sunday. As it was, I chatted, but made no effort to invite her over for a Sunday activity. Lili would say this is the right thing to do. But I'm not sure about it. Given what happened 3+ months ago, I'm not in a rush to do much of anything with her right now  Yes, I miss sharing my bed with someone. But I don't want to share it with someone who might not be there in a year or two, given our past history.

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Last night, I got no word from my brother or my niece to tell me that they were OK.  I am not worried. The Harriman State Park area (especially as you get closer to Bear Mountain) has several cell phone dead zones, so I figured that they must have hit one where they camped for the night. However, it was very hard for me to get to sleep.  Even though I was in bed before 2 am, I was still wide awake around 5 am. So I expected to be a little tired throughout the day.  I'll bet that it was easier for my brother to go to sleep than it was for me....

When I eventually woke up, it was a little bit after noon, and I realized that I had to get my day started.  As expected, my brother camped in a cell phone dead zone. Sometime after he got moving, he got a cell signal and texted me to let me know he was OK.  Since this was going to be a good day for hiking, he should be able to make up some of the mileage he might have lost in yesterday's rain. Sometime in the early afternoon, my brother called.  Having started the hike near Greenwood Lake, he had only made it to the Arden area, and asked me to shuttle him again - this time to his car, so that he could pick up the kids and drive home.

I still had no energy. So I again took it easy and stayed in the house for the second day in a row.  Today, it was not depression.  It was simply because I had nothing to do, and I wasn't in the mood to do much of anything but watch TV.

Later in the day, I had the opportunity to chat with the realtor who was showing the family homestead to prospective renters. I explained what I was looking to see happen, and I think she may be someone I can work with for a while. And then, I got a response from Maria, allowing us to schedule a late breakfast towards the end of the month. All in all, not a bad day for someone who did almost nothing.

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I hated lying to GFJ about my plans for the day. But it was easier to say that I was going to visit my father after transporting my brother back to his car, than to tell her that I was going out to see the Cat Lady.  If GFJ wants to coordinate her schedule with mine, I have no problems doing so. But I will be careful about making her a regular visitor to my home.

Thinking of things to do with the Cat Lady is a little difficult.  She's not good at making suggestions, and I'm not in the mood to make an expensive crossing of the Hudson to reach NYC with her, and then have to cross back into New Jersey to bring her home. So we usually get together for a nice dinner and dessert afterwards. I'm sure that both of us would like to do different things, and I think that while we are both free on weekdays, we can do a little exploring in day trips.

So when the day started, I knew that I was going to play cab driver for my brother.  But I wasn't sure of where and when I'd be picking him up.  The Google Map Location that my niece sent me was wrong - and this caused me to get very frustrated at my brother when he wouldn't let me finish my question and thought. (Sometimes one has to use common sense when dealing with Google's directions - and a trail location on the NYS Thruway did not make sense for a trail head.)  Luckily, both of us cooled down, and I got him to his car.

After I drove home, I tried to rest and waited for an email from the Cat Lady to tell me what our plans might be. Sadly, after a weekend of being with her daughter and grandson, she was not up to getting together tonight. Just as well, I was also having stomach discomfort, and may have needed to be near restrooms much more than I'd have liked.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

An interesting weekend that started en-femme

This weekend started off with the following on my schedule:
  1. Friday: Seeing my niece (and her boyfriend) at the Neue Gallerie in NYC.
  2. Saturday: Seeing the Cat Lady for dinner in NJ
  3. Sunday: Going to a Meetup in Rosendale, NY with GFJ.
It was going to be a busy weekend, and only one of these days I'd be able to spend as Marian

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Friday started with me waking to the sounds of rain outside. I don't like going out in the rain, as I spent many a day outside riding an overloaded bicycle and delivering papers in the rain. This was always an unpleasant task in bad weather, and it was much worse when I had to collect money from the customers. Thankfully, these are all memories now, and things I never want to relive.Hearing the rain, I was slow to get moving, and I didn't get out of bed until a little before 10 am. And then, even when I was moving, I didn't do much until 11:30, when I realized that I shold put in some volunteer work at the GLBT center before trekking into NYC to see my niece.

When I got to the GLBT center, I ended up not doing that much work.  Instead, I donated a couple of suitcases, and sweaters to their thrift shop for later sale. And then I got to work, plugging a computer back in and getting it working for the next employee to whom it will be assigned (This was a no brainer for me, though I did take advantage of female privilege by asking a fellow to plug the phone back into a socket I couldn't reach.) Most of the time I spent there, I chatted with a woman with whom I developed a certain rapport. She invited me to the center's book club. And later, I said that I would love to meet her spouse one day.  As Rick Blaine (Bogie's character in "Casablanca") might put it: "Louis, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

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Leaving the GLBT center, I knew that I didn't have that much time to get to Pelham to make a 4:05 train. Traffic flow worked in my favor, and I was able to park a block away from the train station - giving me about 10 minutes to make the train once I parked.   While on the train, I exchanged a few messages with Joanie, and we agreed to meet at her mom's nursing home in 3 weeks. It's been a long while since I've had the chance to see Joanie, so finding a time where the two of us can be in the same place seems like a miracle. And I will finally get the chance to talk about being transgender and what my "plans" are for the future.

Even with a little delay getting into Grand Central, I made it to the dining area before 5:00, and had a leisurely light meal before taking the bus to the Neue Gallerie. As usual, I was at the museum before my niece, and was waiting a few minutes for her and her boyfriend to arrive.  When they arrived, I immediately saw what my brother did in this man.  He is intelligent, well spoken and seems to be a responsible person.  I could see the chemistry these two young adults have, and my niece could do worse than staying with this man.  Soon afterwards, we entered the museum, and proceeded to see the works of art I wanted to see: Klimt, Klimt, and more Klimt. Need I say more?  My niece and her boyfriend were stunned by the portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer - I (a.k.a.: "The Woman in Gold"), and the boyfriend thanked me for including them on this trek into NYC.

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Once done at the museum, we took a bus downtown, then walked over to Tipsy Scoop - where we feasted on booze infused ice cream.  YUM!  While we were eating the ice cream, the heavens opened up, and we finished our treat under an awning while the rains came down.

After we were done, we walked back to Grand Central (with a stop at Starbucks along the way). Arriving there, I bid my niece and her boyfriend goodbye - but not until I got a picture of the two of us together. Shortly afterward, I got on the train - and off at Pelham. As I got off the train, the heavens opened up again and I was wet by the time I made it to my car. Luckily, I wasn't dripping wet, and was able to dry off by the time I made it home for the night.

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After a lot of walking around on Friday,  Saturday came with me being in the mood to take every device trying to wake me up at 9 am, and throw them all across the room.  For the next two days, my plans called for me to be in Mario Mode.

As much as I could have been doing things before seeing the Cat Lady, I put off chores such as laundry, so that I could stay comfortable as long as possible. But I eventually had to get moving, and out the door I went around 5 pm, so that I could make it to her place on time. On the way there, I had a nice chat with GFJ, albeit, saying that I was driving to a FFGoW meetup - which I originally planned to attend until the Cat Lady signaled that she'd like to see me. 

I was a little bit early when I arrived, so I killed a few minutes before pulling into the Cat Lady's driveway. And then we were off to a new restaurant. As we entered the place, I had a bad feeling about things, as the noise level made it hard to talk.  Although we were quickly seated, it took a long while to get water service, and even longer to get our orders taken. There were other things about this place that were turn offs, and both of us wanted to get out as soon as we finished dinner, so that we could have our dessert elsewhere,

Lili thinks that the Cat Lady may be a little nervous with me, as her chat style makes it hard to break in, and that she may be trying to avoid uncomfortable silences. I don't know for sure, but it takes me a long while to get comfortable and in sync with the Cat Lady. Contrast this with GFJ's style, and one can see why I enjoy hanging out with her - even though we don't have that many common interests. On the way to the ice cream stand for dessert, the Cat Lady's chat became easier for me to adjust to, and we enjoyed a nice chat. She asked me why Lili and I never hooked up, and I said it's related to our communication and thought styles. But I then said that it's because Lili is attracted to men of other races - her ex husband in Chinese, and her (on/off) boyfriend is black. Could my relationships with other women be making the Cat Lady a little nervous?  Who knows?

After we had our ice cream, I dropped the Cat Lady off and drove home. Around 2 am, GFJ texted me to tell me that she had a 104 degree fever.  I said it was hospital  temperature, and if the fever doesn't break quickly, that I would drive her to a hospital. (Could you imagine me driving up to the Catskills late at night and without sleep?)  So I told her to call me if she needs to go to the hospital, then tried to fall asleep.

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Sunday morning came, and I was glad not to have gotten a call from GFJ. Somehow, I got a milder form of GI Tract problems that I suffered the previous weekend.  From 5 am to 11 am, I was visiting the porcelain throne to expel the contents of my GI tract.  AARGH.  At this point, there was no way that I'd be going back to the Cat Lady's place (I had an invitation, as I no longer had a Rosendale Meetup scheduled), and there was no way that I was going to go out as Marian feeling the way I was in the morning.

Even though my symptoms were over with by noon for the most part, I figured the safest thing to do would be to stay inside.  I was in contact with the usual cast and crew, Lili, GFJ, and the Cat Lady. Yet, I laid on my bed sleeping, for the better part of the day.  Would I have liked to be doing something else?  Of course.  But it was much safer to be sick at home than to be sick in my car....


Friday, July 21, 2017

Quickie: Game Night - I don't always win, but I always seem to have a good time.

Game night in Yonkers.  I don't win often. But I always seem to enjoy myself.  Today was no different....

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When I got up, I did nothing about getting moving. It took me until late afternoon to get showered, made up and dressed. And I ended up going out the door around 6:30 pm. By the time I made it to Panera Bread for dinner, it was about 7:00 - and I was starting to get hungry. So, instead of ordering a "super size" meal as I ordinarily would, I decided on the cup of soup with a half salad. I think that the eating habits that I changed while cruising will stay with me if I reinforce them properly. But I digress....

Once done with dinner, I drove to the meetup. When I arrived, I received a text from YGM. Was I going to game night?  Of course!  So she said she'd be there in 15 minutes. Entering the door, I proceeded to put a bag of potato chips on the counter, and then sat down at the gaming table.  Of course, I totally blew it in the first game, as I didn't even score a single point. AARGH!  But I had a good time.

Although I could have a second game (such as "Code Names"), I sat it out, so that I could chat with YGM. When she got up to play Code Names, I decided to give her and another woman a neck massage while they played the game.  From what I can tell, both ladies enjoyed this relaxing stimulus.

The evening ended too quickly. Yet, all I wanted to do is go home and relax.  Tomorrow will be a busy day, with me going to do some volunteer work, then seeing my niece (and her boyfriend) at the Neue Gallerie. So it's time to get comfortable and relax.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Quickie: Travel en-femme.

So far, I have had the pleasure of traveling en-femme via cruise ship and via Amtrak. I have yet to fly en-femme, as well as taking a cross-country train trip en-femme. Hopefully, I will be able to do these trips sometime before I retire.

In my en-femme travels, I have expected and prepared for experiences much worse than I have had to endure. The worst headache I had to deal with was extra security screening when I arrived in New York after my 2015 cruise. Most of the people I encountered couldn't give much of a damn about what I was wearing, as long as I presented them with valid government issued ID at appropriate checkpoints. This was true in the USA, Canada, and in a couple of the Caribbean islands I visited with Lili. Strangely enough, people checking my papers at American checkpoints gave me more minor "annoyances" than at any other country's checkpoints.

What does this have to say about my future travel and how I should plan for it?  Well, I fell that I should always keep aware of our country's political environment.  As much as Trump has betrayed the few GLBT's who supported him, he has not had that much effect on the GLBT's who travel around this country. We are an issue that (right now) is of no concern to the TSA. Even though they participate in "Security Theater", most actually want to keep America safe from real harm - and they do not see us as causing any problems.

Will I travel by air while en-femme?  If HWV wants me as a travel companion on a planned trip to Hawaii, then I'm game to try flying en-femme. If Lili decides to fly to Britain and cruise around England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Irish Republic, I may be game - if I get word from people in these areas that I will be safe traveling en-femme. But if it means that I fly to areas that I consider unsafe, I will not do so.  We live in changing times, and the changes worry me a little.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Quickie: The lady at the end of Schrodinger's Cell Phone.

Schrödinger’s cat.  A thought experiment used in the study of Quantum Mechanics.  And I couldn't help thinking about it - when Pat's phone kept dialing me and no one was answering me from the other end of the call.

- - - - - -

Pat is in her late 70's, and is dealing with a chronic disease. She could die at any time, and no one would think much of it, save that she lived her allotted 3 score and 10 years and a few more for good measure.  Yes, she would be missed. But no one would think twice about her age at death.

When I received her calls, I tried to answer her - but there was no response. She called several times while I was having lunch with a friend. And after a couple of calls, I was starting to get a little concerned. Could she be among those who "have fallen and can't get up?" Or, could things be worse?  There was no way for me to know.  I couldn't contact her to find out. Later in the evening, I found out that she was trying to enter my phone number into her phone's contact list. And she was likely dialing me each time she thought she was saving my contact information.  

In a way, I was dealing with something similar to the Schrödinger’s cat question - is the cat alive or dead?  There is no way to tell without observation, so the cat is both alive and dead  until it is observed.  In the case of Pat, she was both healthy and ill at the same time until I was able to reach her.  Luckily, she was healthy, and confused about how to use her new, low end, "smartphone". 

PS: Pat's new cell phone is a piece of garbage. She gets public assistance, and the "lifeline" cell phone service she gets is not worth the price she pays for it. The phones they allow her to use on the plan are third rate and have been obsolete for years. I just wonder who was paid off to set up such a service for poor people....

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Independence Day - Some way after the fact thoughts.

I started this entry on Independence Day, simply because I had a fireworks photo worth looking at.  But the idea of independence triggered several thoughts that were worth discussing in this journal.

- - - - - -

Americans consider themselves the residents of the "Land of the Free and Home of the Brave".  Parts of this country define that in ways very different ways.  For people in former "frontier" regions, there is a greater value on self sufficiency and individuality than those people in cities.  They distrust things that are not in their expected binary view of the world, and people like us are perceived as a threat - even though they can not support their claim with valid logic.

There is an interesting question posed by these two philosophies. How much struggle is needed to toughen (or temper) a person so that he/she is prepared as best as possible to handle the challenges of a harsh and unforgiving world?  As a society, we might ask if the safety net we look for and try to provide is a help or a long term enabler of dependency? I think that there will always be some who lever learn to stand on their own (my step nephew may be one of these people), but others like myself were assisted at one time in our lives, and now feel the need to "pay it forward" so that others have a leg up in life.

- - - - - -

Several months ago, GFJ officially broke up with me. Yet, we are on the phone almost every day.  Does this mean that we are a couple, a pair of close friends, or something else?  I have no clue. Yet, I feel independent enough of her to be able to schedule an occasional night out with the Cat Lady, with the idea that we could develop a relationship.

Lili is not keen on the idea that I am still in contact with GFJ. But with my birthday this month, GFJ recently gave me a outdoor folding chair that I could bring to events such as the Peekskill fireworks display - which we viewed from a point near Annsville Circle. Does she want a relationship? Does she want a close friendship? Again, I have no clue. But the independence she granted me makes it possible for me to spend more weekend days en-femme, and live my life more in ways that make me comfortable.

- - - - - -

Earlier this year, my niece returned home from London after spending the previous six months living with her boyfriend there. He is in the process of changing careers, and has decided to spend part of the summer working as an intern (not medicine) in British Columbia. Until he leaves for BC, he will be living with my niece at the old family homestead.

Having my niece living with a boyfriend must be making my brother feel very uncomfortable. Although his daughter (my niece) is independent enough to live on her own (having done so for several years during a period of family strife), she is still "Daddy's Little Girl". And I can only imagine what goes through his head when he thinks that his daughter will once again move away from home and live where only a regular phone call can be used to maintain contact.

- - - - - -

Regarding my independence...  I have found that not having to report to an office at a given time has been a great blessing. The time en-femme that I have been given has helped me develop the confidence I need when I am en-homme. Confidence breeds independence, and I feel that I can handle more of the challenges that life hands to me - including having to manage on a very much reduced money stream.

Recently, I had the fortune of finding out about a civil service position that pays well, but requires minimal skills. The skills needed for the work are the very same ones I needed when programming computers and analyzing the data from those programs. But it is not a programming position, and the work is a lot less stressful. If I were to get one of these positions, I would have less independence in one area of my life (the state would get 35+ hours of my time each week), but I'd have more financial independence - something I'd like to have before I retire. The exam for this position will be given later in the year, so it wouldn't help me for a while yet. Let's see what happens. My life does not hang in the balance if I do not get the position.

Monday, July 17, 2017

And now for something completely different

Last night (at the time I started writing this entry), as I was about to go to bed, I got a text message from a former coworker from a long time ago. In fact, we only met once in the roughly 20 years since he was mustered out of the bank where we both worked. But for the most part, this person has been out of contact, and relatively unresponsive to suggestions that we meet for a drink or otherwise get together.

- - - - - -

As you get to know someone over a period of years, you learn a lot about who a person really is. With this man, who I'll call BAB, I can say that he knew his craft very well and was upset at politics going on levels above him at the bank where we worked. He was a co-conspirator in "crime" with me, as we both worked on projects which upset the status quo, setting up the beginning for the electronification of the bank's exchange of check data with other banks. When I was told by my management NOT to solicit test data for a project I was assigned to, BAB made sure I got that data and made sure we were ready to work on a system that the CEO of the bank wanted implemented - but was not wanted by middle management.

BAB and I went to several business conferences relating to what became known as Electronic Check Presentment. The most notable of these conferences was held in Dallas, where I gave a presentation which was viewed by only one bank's representatives. However, that was not the highlight of this conference. Instead, it was our after hours hi-jinks, where BAB (and a couple of other people) stole another conference's props (some paper mache saguaro cacti, rope, and wagon wheels) and moved them to our conference's area. As you might guess, BAB enjoyed his drink, and he was always fun to be with.

We always seemed to be fighting the status quo in one way or another. And there were some managers that BAB railed against, simply because of perceived corruption in how these people acted. Eventually, BAB pissed off the wrong people, and was probably told to retire. (I'm not sure of the full story here.) And with one exception, we weren't in contact with each other.  So, I had to assume that his drinking got the better of him.

- - - - - -

The exception to BAB's communication blackout was his occasional email of humorous pictures or of jokes he found funny. And I knew that he held senior management of the bank we had worked for in total contempt. (I can't blame him, given that the CEO in charge when he left was a jerk, and didn't provide value to the company.) So I wasn't surprised when he messaged me to note another complaint about senior management. Yet, I knew this was different, as he never used Facebook Messenger to contact me.

So, a little after midnight, I responded to BAB, and we got into a chat. Although he had the chance to go back to work after 9/11/2001, he had been idle for 20 years. (How he paid his bills is a mystery to me, unless he was older than he looked and saved more than I thought.) But he mentioned that he wasn't drinking anymore - and I said it was a good thing, not making any social comment. Then the conversation shifted to why he wasn't drinking.

It seems like BAB's health took a sudden turn for the worse last year. A bacterium had ravaged his body, causing toes on one foot to be amputated, followed by toes on the other foot. (I wonder what his hands look like.) They had put him on a series of antibiotics, going from one drug to the next. Eventually, the cocktail of drugs worked, and they stopped the progression of the infection. During the past year, he was in and out of nursing homes because of the ravages caused by the infection. But BAB is now at home, and has problems with his balance and energy levels. So his family got him to move to a place which does not put him at risk from falls as he enters and leaves his house.

- - - - - -

In our chat, I mentioned to BAB that a coworker of ours had died 2 years ago. He was unaware of this. So I told him about the key details I had of this former coworker's last months on earth:
  1. Coworker F was diagnosed with inoperable cancer in 2012-2013, and was being treated for it while still on the payroll of the bank.
  2. He was laid off on the same day that I was, and our last official day in the employ of the bank was 5/31/2014.
  3. The bank supplied health insurance for 1 year after termination as a supplemental unemployment benefit.
  4. His supplemental benefits would run out on 5/31/2015, allowing him to collect a pension on 6/1/2015.
  5. We met during the year, and he told me that he planned to collect his pension as a lump sum payment.
  6. Coworker F died on 6/1/2015.  (I hope the ACH payment was made, so that his widow collected the pension's full value. There are issues with an ESOP account, where if the pension hadn't been filed for, that his widow would have collected a fraction of the funds owed him/his estate.)
I think BAB was a little stunned, as he was out of the loop with everyone. But I think he is finally coming out to the world, and I hope that things go well for him in the future.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Voice therapy - Session 1

A while back, I mentioned that the GLBT center told me about voice therapy sessions being given at Mercy College at a discounted rate because they are being used to train therapists. I called the director of the center back in the Spring, and today was my first session.

- - - - - -

Getting up today, I knew that I had only two things to take care of today:
  1. My first speech therapy session at Mercy College
  2. Getting Pat's Gmail account contacts set up, so that she could enter contacts into her cell phone without having to use her small cell phone's awkward keypad.
So I scheduled the session with Pat to take place after my first day at Mercy, as I had no idea of how long working with Pat would take. (And this would prove to be a wise idea, given how long she took to "understand" what I was doing.)

Around 2 pm, I drove to Mercy College, and made the wrong turn in Dobbs Ferry. But I made it to the campus a smidgen before 3 pm, and then got lost in the building that I would be having my therapy session in. Luckily, I had the phone number of the office with me, and the therapist in training went up to find me.

Once we started the session, I answered a couple of "get to know you" questions, then proceeded to have the qualities of my voice measured. Strangely enough, I figured that there wasn't much that would be done today. Next week, the real work will begin when the therapist in training has had a chance to review things with her supervisor. And then, the "fun" begins. 

One of the things I noted was that the therapist in training was aware of Exceptional Voice's EVA app. So I'll bet that in future sessions, they may make use of Kathe Perez's software. If so, I'll report about it here, and tell my readers how well this software works.

- - - - - -

After finishing at Mercy, I picked up a pizza and went over to Pat's place to help her out. I found Pat to be both a slow learner, and someone who needs to have everything explained to her before she clicks on an icon. This is very frustrating, as I've found that it is much easier to learn computers by working with them.  With most operating systems and interfaces, getting things done is like solving the Tower of Hanoi.One has to understand the idea of a "State" and how to move forward and backward from any given state. And the only way to understand this is to see it in action when one clicks on nesting windows that pop up under a program's control.

Pat has never bothered to take the time out to develop a "deep understanding" of technology, as this would mean that she could not spend time on other things that she values more. Her lack of interest has made her a person who should never go near a computer if possible. (This also means that Pat will likely never go with me to a FFGoW meetup, as she will never feel comfortable enough to surf to and register for a meeting.) Hopefully, she will take an interest in technology in the future, as more and more things are being done online, and less and less things are being done with human assistance.

You can bet that I was very frustrated by the time I left Pat. But I figure that people helped me though they were extremely frustrated with me. So I try to "Pay it Forward" when possible.

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Cruise End : Disembarkation

New York, NY - It's a helluva town according to the song.  And in this the songwriters are right. There is no other place like Gotham City.

- - - - - - 

For some reason, I awakened at 5 am - just before the ship made its inbound trip into New York Harbor, guided by the local pilot.  Like many harbors and waterways, there exists a special group of pilots who know the fine details of moving a large ship in and out of the harbor safely. At 5 am, the NYC harbor pilot came on-board to guide us into port. Unfortunately, my being awake awakened Lili, and she became upset. This was an omen of the day to come.

Since I was now wide awake and unable to sleep, I started taking pictures through a dirty glass window and got what should have been a picture post card of the Statue of Liberty as seen above.  The few pictures I took of the ship coming into port were just as gloomy, including the one that I took of the Lackawana Terminal below.

Strangely enough, I'd want to get a similar effect if I were to paint a picture of this place.  There is something interesting here that I can't get a handle on.

- - - - - -

Eventually, 7:30 came, and I had to start getting ready to leave the ship.  So I took my shower, and started getting ready to leave while Lili rested in bed.  She wasn't feeling that great, but would be once she got on solid land. When I was done, I said that I was going for breakfast, and she asked for a cup of coffee.  After I was done with breakfast, I returned with the coffee - and she wasn't able to drink it.  We both finished what little packing we had left to do, and started to leave the ship for the last time around 9:30.

Lili expected customs to take much more time than it did in processing us. I figured that since immigration already processed us in Portland, all customs wanted to do was to inspect our declarations and make sure we paid any duties we owed to the government.  This is where customs could have caused Lili a problem - she was carrying 2 bottles of booze, and currently, each person is allowed to bring in only one duty free bottle of booze.  I don't know whether she paid the duty or not, but I came home with the bottle of bubbly they gave Lili for being a loyal customer of the cruise line.

- - - - - -

We were out of customs in less than 15 minutes, and ended up waiting until 11 for her boyfriend to pick us up.  Lili again didn't want to listen to me after her boyfriend told us that he was waiting near pier 92, when I knew how to get there. She kept asking for directions, as well as being confused when there was no clear sight line between us and her car. Although a button fell off of Lili's dress, she was still more than presentable. And she did enjoy wearing the dress.  I think that she overcame her fear of looking bad, and started to enjoy the comfort that only a dress could bring a woman - and I think her boyfriend enjoyed it too when he came for us.

Eventually, we got in the car, and Lili dropped me off at my place.  The mail I asked to be put on hold (and delivered today) wasn't delivered, so I will need to pick it up on Monday. AARGH!  But once I got upstairs, I started to feel ill.  And this was the beginning of a day where vomiting and diarrhea would become my primary focus.  I was just as glad that the Cat Lady was not free to get together tonight, as my GI Tract would not have been cooperative. And if this were not the case, the severe thunderstorms we had would not have made driving anywhere a pleasant experience. So, laying in bed and trying to rest was the smartest thing to do - and I did that.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Cruise Day 7 : At Sea (again)

The last day at sea. A last chance to buy goods from the over priced Duty Free store for distribution to friends.

- - - - - -

Today was our last chance to sleep late. And both of us took advantage of this last day to do so, barely getting to the back of the ship for breakfast before they shut down in preparation for lunch.

Unlike Lili, I had already started to get ready to leave the night before, having packed many of the things I wouldn't need again into my big suitcase. Since a couple of my dresses were beaded, I was not going to leave any of them to be laundered by the ship's staff. But Lili had a free laundry bag to use, and she made sure to have clean clothes she could wear during the week. (Now that she has lost weight, most of her old clothes no longer fit. And she was carrying those clothes that do fit with her on the cruise.)  I figured that I could do my laundry when I got home, and acted accordingly....

- - - - - -

Lili found that she liked wearing a dress or two, and was very comfortable wearing a second dress on-board ship.  Although the color wasn't right for her, it was comfy and could be used as a beach cover-up if she wanted to do so.  Because of this, she decided to wear the dress below when her boyfriend picks up us at the dock.

Maybe, I've had a liberating effect on her in regard to self image.  Who knows?  One thing I know is that she won't dismiss dresses out of hand, as many are very comfortable and forgiving on people with not so perfect figures.

- - - - - -

Lili, like my brother, doesn't understand why I want to leave money to establish a scholarship fund. She focuses on the potential for abuse, and not at what good it can achieve.  She'd prefer it if I were to spend everything, not being sure of how long my money would last. But then, having lost both a mother and a sister in the course of the last couple of years, she senses her mortality and wants to squeeze in a lot of new, more intense, experiences while she is able to enjoy them.  

The need for intense experiences is common among people who are addicts.  Lili and I both acknowledge that we are food addicts, but differ in the ways we attack our problems.  I've found that I don't need intensity any more.  Instead, I prefer things that are familiar, but softly introduce me to things that are new. In short, I like having road maps, so that I can explore a little off the beaten path, knowing that I can find that path when needed. Lili has gotten bored by this cruise, and seeks to go to new destinations and on different cruise lines. And I can't blame her - she had fallen into a routine of always taking the same cruise line to the same destinations whenever she needed a break from her routine.  Whereas, when I had money, I often used a single destination (San Francisco) and explored California from there. I had a base routine, but diverged from that as soon as I arrived in town. This made it easier for me to adapt to change (such as not being able to travel to Chicago on the railroad route I planned one year) more easily than she does.

- - - - - -

Although we are decent travel partners, one can easily see that we are very different in attitudes.  She wants me to drop GFJ as a friend, as it serves me no value to see her without any chance of her wanting to live with me as Mario/Marian. I feel that it is always good to keep an ex girlfriend as a friend if possible, but so see things in a harsh light. My bets are now on the Cat Lady, as she has not turned away from me after seeing pictures of me as Marian. The proof that this would be the wise thing to do will be if she wants to keep seeing me after meeting me in Marian mode.

Lili also loves to gamble. She took $3500 with her to play table games, and at the end of the night came back with $700.  She spent more at the tables than she did on the cruise. Contrast this with me. I was willing to put $20 at risk each night, but won $360 early in the cruise. So I nursed my winnings, and cashed out $350 ahead of the game.  This money will be put to good use, as I will use it to pay for my speech therapy at Mercy College.

It's amazing how two very different people can travel together. But we do, and enjoy it. I guess that it's because we're the only two people who could stand each other in such close quarters for a week or two....


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Cruise Day 6 : Bar Harbor, ME

Bar Harbor, Maine - The last day that I could make contact with the outside world before the end of the cruise. And it was nice to know that again, I'd be in a town in which I was marginally familiar.

- - - - - -

The first thing Lili wanted to do getting off the ship was to look for gifts to bring back to her family and her boyfriend.  I should have known that this would be a problem later on. And the second thing she wanted to do is to eat another lobster. How could I know (yeah, right!) that this would frustrate me again.

Walking uphill from the pier, Lili stopped into every T-Shirt shop looking for something her son and daughter in law would wear. Once she found something good, she continued to shop for price - as if the savings of a couple of bucks would break her. (For me, once I found something meeting my price point, I buy it - and move on to the next thing I'm looking for. I value time much more than she does.)  And then she went into her "Can you tell me where a good restaurant is?" routine - which was beginning to grate on me.  I could tell that many of the people she asked didn't have a clue, or they were saying that they all were good. In many ways, I think that her routine of not respecting me for my memory of directions and locations, and her continually asking people for help when none is really needed, is a unconscious desire to be helpless. Sadly, if I am right, this seems to explain why she avoids social connections with many people - to interact with people, it means that you strengthen yourself by associating yourself with others in similar situations. This may explain why she doesn't want to use to find gatherings she could participate in - she would have to expand her horizons a little....

(Lili with her new crustacean friend.)

While exploring, we finally found a lobster shack where we enjoyed a nice meal (for which I treated), and then found a place where I bought an unusual pocketbook in which I could stash my goodies.  But next door was a shop under whose sign I had to get a picture.

(It's a ME thing!)

Too bad that I don't have the body to find much of what I'd like in many shops catering to women.  And looking at the picture, I know that in harsh light that my masculine facial features show too clearly. This will mean that I will need to pay a visit to a plastic surgeon some time in the future.,

- - - - - -

As usual, Lili began to forage for pretty little things again. And I decided to let her go into a T-Shirt shop while I went next door to a wonderful Ice Cream shop.  YUM!  When they say LARGE they mean it!  I could have gotten away with a small and still sated my craving for good ice cream.  I then met her in the T-Shirt shop, and we continued our excursion along Main Street - where I found a box of local honeys that I will give to the Cat Lady when I see her next. When we hit the end of Main Street, Lili realized that she didn't have another gift for her boyfriend - sun glasses. So while I sat at the end of the street, she wasted another half hour trying to find something that would fit the boyfriend.  (This annoyed me again, as she loses connection to time - and we didn't have much time left before the last tender would leave for the ship.)  Eventually, she made it back, with only a half hour to spare.

One of the things that frustrate me about shopping in tourist spots is that there are way too many T-Shirt shops, each selling the same quality shirts, all emblazoned with the town's name, or with something closely associated with the town. There is nothing unique about these shirts, and nothing that makes me want to wear any of them.  Most of the tourist goods are cheap items made in China, none of which have any value except to serve as a dust collector on someone's shelf. And then, there are the common items, such as sun glasses, which one can get anywhere - but are not true souvenirs of a trip. I look for unusual items such as my handbag that are not souvenirs, or for items such as local honeys that are associated with the town. In short, I'm tired of tchotchkes - I want things of significance and that have real meaning.

- - - - - -

When we finally made it back to the ship and sailed out, we dined at the on board French restaurant. This is where I noticed that service on the ship is getting a little sloppy.  If one normally pays extra to go to a specialty on-board restaurant, one should expect both better service and food. This was a little lacking, as Water/Ice Tea service was slow at best, and that they gave me the wrong dessert. (I ordered a second, so that Lili could have a taste.) I wouldn't have thought twice about this, but something similar had happened in the ship's Churrascaria the night before.

After dinner, Lili went off to gamble, while I paid a short visit to the slot machines before going up to the stateroom to read. And this might have been the most relaxing part of my day....

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Cruise Day 5 : Portland, ME

Portland, Maine - Our first cruise stop in America. And we all had to go through immigration inspection to make sure that we all were properly documented before any of us could set foot on American soil.

- - - - - -

This was another get up and early day for us. I knew that we would likely have to be showered and dressed earlier than our "normal" 10:30 am (if we were at home) wake up time. So I started getting ready around 8 am, and made sure that Lili would get that extra hour of rest.

For a change, Lili understood what was going on, though she felt it was a bit strange. It seems (from other cruisers) that when a cruise ship makes its first stop in an American port, that immigration comes on to make sure people are fully documented. This is very different from my first cruise to Alaska (in 1997, before the 9/11 attacks), where we stopped in Canada twice, then made our American stops without the headache of separate immigration and customs inspections.  So we got on line and proceeded to one of the lounges for immigration inspection. And again, being confident about my documents and noting that my current gender presentation differs from that in my passport by using my male voice made all the difference - they've seen it all before.

- - - - - -

At this point, Lili and I were ready to leave the ship. Once off, she got into her usual "can you tell me where a good restaurant is" routine. She has no idea of taking a stab at things and moving forward.  Most people in a tourist area have no clue about which places are good. And locals won't understand what you are looking for. But there is a good clue about which places are good - the crowds, when they are further away from the usual starting point. If you are slightly off the beaten track, and the place is filled, then the place is likely to be good.  It's hard to put this into words, but I think we all have had those special finds when exploring areas in which we have little familiarity. Eventually, Lili and I settled down at a restaurant, and had nice Lobster salads. But to me, things were a little tarnished, as she spent more time hunting for the elusive good meal than having that good meal.

On our way back from the restaurant, she looked at every little piece of jewelry being sold by push cart vendors. As much as her want to look at glittery things is driven by her interest in selling things from one of these stands, I can understand it for her. And she projects the idea that all women are interested in glittery things - which is not the case. I never saw Ex-GF-M, GFJ, GFL, or even my late wife stopping at every display to examine the overpriced goods being sold by these vendors.

- - - - - -

When we returned to the ship, I wished we could have stayed on shore a little longer. But it was not worth the effort today. I was more in the mood to relax.  So when Lili came out of the bathroom (eating too much or eating/drinking the wrong things will force extra bathroom visits), we proceeded to look at photos taken of us by the ship's photographers. And they didn't look that good, so we passed on them. Then it was back to the room where we could rest - and I got in contact with Ex-GF-M, the Cat Lady, GFJ, BXM, YGM, and my niece. (Thankfully, I had cell phone connectivity while in port. It was nice to be able to send a few pictures to people while on vacation, and to exchange quick messages without an excessive service fee.)

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Cruise Day 4 : Saint John, NB

Saint John, New Brunswick - Home to the Reversing Falls.  Years ago, I was here on vacation with family, and the then river pollution made it easier to see how the direction of the water changed when the Bay of Fundy tide came in.  Today, the water is much, much cleaner, and I ended up spending part of the day while Lili looked for her Canadian tea.

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Again, Lili and I arose with the sun, and were off the ship well before lunch. And again, she ignored my knowledge, my memory of how to find the places that sold her the tea she wanted on our last visit to this city. 

I should have told Lili to do her search for tea on her own, as she kept asking everyone for information every few feet and getting nowhere. Eventually, we found the "General Store" from where she got the tea on our last visit, but she didn't want the small size boxes available there. So it was off to the central market for more shopping.

This is Lili in the dress she stated she didn't want to buy, but bought to shut me up. After a day out in this dress, she felt comfortable wearing it, and planned to wear it again when her boyfriend picks us up at the end of the cruise.

Finally, after a taxing uphill walk, we made it to the Central Market - where Lili could only find one large box of Tea. This was not going to be enough, so Lili decided to take a cab to the local supermarket where she knew she would be find all the boxes she needed. I decided NOT to join her, and decided to visit the Police Museum instead.

There isn't much to this museum. Once you step into it, you'll find a bunch of police uniforms, some artifacts, and some photos. But I did have a nice conversation with one of its volunteer docents. And this made the visit worth the time I spent there.  And then, it was on to the ship.

Lili did find her boxes of tea, and likely spent about $100 trying to get this tea.  At least, she was happy. But she was about to lose more real estate in her one piece of luggage - something that would bother her when leaving the ship later on in the week.


Monday, July 10, 2017

Cruise Day 3 : Halifax, NS

Halifax, Nova Scotia was Canada's main entry point for immigrants from Europe. And my great-uncle must have traveled through this port on his way to settle in Toronto. I never met this man, yet I would have loved to have done so as the adult I am now. Behind Lili is the dock side building that holds the Farmer's Market and the Museum of Canadian Immigration.  If I'm ever in Halifax again, I intend to visit the museum instead of accompanying Lili on a search for Canadian Tea.

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For once, both Lili and I got up early in the morning. So we got ready, and got off the ship before 10:30. Lili is someone who doesn't pay attention to details, and doesn't trust me to know where I'm going. So if was very frustrating when she kept asking for directions every 500 feet (or so it seemed) to get to a certain downtown shopping area. What was Lili's goal?  Well, it was to pick up several large boxes of a mass market Canadian tea - King Cole. It may be a tasty tea, but to walk a couple of miles to find the tea (and argue about directions and path all the way) was not a pleasure for me.  

When Lili gets into shopping mode, there is no stopping her. And this is very annoying, as she gets lost in her own little world. She will miss her target, simply because she is do distracted by all the pretty little things she encounters along the way.  Compare that with me. I can enjoy browsing through clothes racks. But if I have something I'm looking for, I will maintain focus on my goal, and ignore all other things that could have caught my fancy at other times.

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We eventually made it back to the ship by 1 pm or so. Lili had steered me towards a female customs agent, feeling that she would be less in a mood to question the difference between my gender presentation and that on my legal ID being given to her.  She need not have worried, as Canada is much more enlightened when it comes to Transgender people.

The above statue commemorates all the people who came to Canada in prior waves of immigration. Today, they have a policy of ruthlessly selecting new immigrants for what they can bring to the Canadian economy. As a result, they have become a nation which is more responsive to public needs than we are, and less people live in worry that a "minor" economic mishap can push them into poverty.

Why do I mention the issue that most Americans are within 3 paychecks of destitution? Well, I did not see a single Canadian on the streets begging for excess cash. Contrast this with our later stops in Portland and Bar Harbor Maine, where I saw more than a handful of people begging for money. Yes, there were Canadians who were busking for money. But there is a big difference between people who have to beg for money and those who will perform for pocket change.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Cruise Day 2 : At Sea

At Sea - another phrase for being confined to the cruise ship, and being stuck with the entertainment found on board the vessel.

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If I were at home today, I would very likely have gone to the local church. Instead, I woke with the sun, and kept myself occupied by reading an e-book I had the mind to put on the iPad before the cruise.

When Lili was ready to be awakened, I decided to take my daily shower. Unfortunately, I had a little trouble with the temperature control and took a quick shower in cool water. Lili was next, and she had no problems.  It seemed as if I were trying to turn the handle the wrong way, and forgetting to depress the button that would allow me to mix hot water with the cold coming out of the shower head.

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Later on in the day, I made my first visit to the hot tub. Not many people were using it, but I made sure to get a good, long soak. This was the reason for which I bought the swimsuit, and I was glad I finally used it for its intended purpose where I originally planned to use it.

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Lili noted that my feminine voice is getting better, and will have a lot of practice while on this cruise. She's also glad that I will be getting voice lessons from a speech therapist (in training) when I return from the cruise.