Sunday, December 31, 2017

The run up to Christmas, and the day itself.

Two days as Marian, followed by Christmas as Mario.  I'm not sure how I feel about switching between Marian and Mario at this time of year, but it is annoying that I can't stay as Marian throughout the period between Christmas and New Year.

Note: This entry is written in 3 parts, each of which is tense appropriate for the day it is written.

- - - - - -

I woke up to darkness on Saturday morning.  No, I didn't wake up before sunrise.  Instead, I woke up to a dark sky and rain.  This meant that I'd be in no hurry to do anything that meant going outside my door. So I proceeded to cook myself some breakfast - something I don't often do because of when I get myself moving most days.

Once I got down to starting this entry, I got a series of phone calls.  First was from some solicitor looking for money. He was easy to blow off - I just said "Click!"  But next was my brother, and he was insistent on reaching me without leaving a message.  And he finally saw the need for making a business decision which I suggested we do earlier. But the important part of the conversation was in regard to our father on Christmas day.  My dad has a hard time walking, even with assistance. In good weather, it is a major effort to get him in and out of my brother's car, and then into and out out of my brother's house. With the snow that was forecast for Christmas Day, I let my brother know the importance of being careful with dad in bad weather.

Later on, I decided to go out.  Although I missed getting to Catherine's in Poughkeepsie before they closed for the day, I did get to The Avenue and bought a couple of things - a necklace for me, and some cozy socks for GFJ.  On the way home, I stopped at the Fishkill Walmart to pick up a couple of things. But it was so busy and so understaffed at the registers, that each line extended 20 people (or more) deep.  Leave it to Walmart to not have enough people manning the registers.

Next, it was down to the Mohegan Lake Walmart which wasn't as crowded. And there, I was able to pick up the little things I needed before going down to road to buy some bacon for a late night bite to eat.  When I got home, I was just about to cook the bacon and have it over a salad when GFJ called.  Of course, the call lasted so long that I will end up eating only one of the salad mixes on Sunday, and probably tossing out the expired one with the trash.

- - - - - -

I slept well for a change, and got up very late on Christmas Eve.  About the only thing I could do with what little time there was left before everything shut down for a couple of days was either to go to a movie or do some last minute shopping.  Instead, I decided to cook some bacon for a salad I planned to make last night, and consign myself to going out as Mario one day earlier than planned.

Of course, I ended up staying inside again.  I have to start being more active, as I've noticed a slight weight gain since winter started.  So I figure that on good days, I might just end up going out for walks instead of being a couch potato.

With the above being said, today ended up being another Jammie Day, and I ended up watching movies all day.  Of course, the appropriate Xmas Eve movies were on - Home Alone and all its sequels.  But I won't really consider it Christmas until I see the hostage situation end at the Nakatomi Plaza Building....

- - - - - -

They predicted 0"-2" of snow for Christmas in Northern Westchester, and rain on Long Island. And the weatherman was right - there was a little more than a dusting on the ground, but not enough to cause any problems once on the road.

I got moving later than expected, and sliced the Amaretto Fudge Brownies I made the night before.  Then I got showered, shaved, and dressed - and out the door a little after 1 pm.  Once on the road, I had easy sailing until I reached the bridge, and then traffic inched along until I made it to Queens. Virtually everything that could feed the Cross Island Parkway was jammed. But I took an unusual route to get to my brother's place, arriving just after he brought my dad into his house.

As I expected, I ate a little too much. But the food was good. One of the gifts I received was a nice sake serving set.  Now, I have no excuse not to buy the bottle of sake I talked about with my niece and nephew on my dad's birthday.

Going home was much easier than going to my brother's place.  Knowing how to bail out of traffic along the Cross Island Parkway, I made it to the Triboro Bridge and had an easy ride home.  Along the way, I stopped at an ATM for some cash, and found out that my bank's ATM card no longer allows me to connect to savings at one of their affiliate's branches.  (The internet bank I use was bought out by a large bank, but keeps its separate identity. As a result, ATM cards issued by the internet bank only can have cash withdrawals from the associated checking account and not a savings account.)  And once I had my money, I drove straight home without making any phone calls.

Why did I mention phone calls?  Well, at a certain time of night, I find it easy to call either GFJ or Lili to chat.  After 9 pm, my old phone plan allows for me to make free calls.  And since both Lili and GFJ are up, this is the best time for me to chat with them.  However, GFJ is with family, and Lili is overseas.  So I made the ride home in silence....

Saturday, December 30, 2017

The blending of days has gotten to me

All of us older folk have "Senior Moments" now and then.  Today, I now have proof that being unemployed has been messing with my memory - I totally forgot about rescheduling my shift at the GLBT center.

- - - - - -

It took me forever to get moving, and I decided to go to New Jersey to go shopping at JC Penney.  My old Vera Bradley bag is showing severe signs of wear, and it was time to replace it  Although Poughkeepsie is closer to me, I wanted to see the chaos in Paramus. So I got out of the house by 8, and started hunting for a parking spot around 9 pm.

Hunting for a parking spot in a crowded mall parking lot is an experience. Not only are people ignoring stop signs, directional signs, and other communications which help make driving a safer experience, but they don't know how to hunt for good spots. As a result, it took me a while to find a spot near the store. And I was very lucky to find a spot very close to the mall entrance as well.

Once in the mall, I headed over to Penney's and searched for a new pocketbook. The store was in expected disarray, but not the kind of mess one sees in a dying store such as Sears. The merchandise was mostly where it was expected to be, and both the racks and shelves were doing the products justice - it was still a pleasant experience to be able to examine the store's wares, knowing that what I was looking for was in its correct place. I hemmed and hawed for a little bit, but found a bag I liked for $33.  If I don't like it after a little bit of use, I can still buy the Vera Bradley bag I want as a replacement at the outlet mall. Until then, I plan to get some use out of this bag.  

Next, it was off to eat.  Although I think I might have gotten misgendered while stopping in Teavana, I was correctly gendered when I got to California Pizza Kitchen. Although Pizza figures prominently in this chain's name, Pizza is only a small part of the offerings they serve.  Given the word "California" in the name, I expected and noticed unusual ingredients in some of the pizzas they offered. But I settled on ordering something more traditional - Mushroom, Pepperoni and Sausage Pizza.  Unfortunately, they screwed up cooking my first pizza. But they apologized for it before any pizza came to my table. They immediately put in an order for a new pizza before telling me about the problem, and compensated me with a dessert which I wasn't planning to order otherwise.  In short, they saw a problem before I did, worked to fix the problem before it came to my table, then notified me of the problem AND gave me something extra as a way of taking care of the customer.  I'd go back there again if all restaurants in this chain were as good.

When I left the mall, I received a text from GFJ.  Unfortunately, she was not able to talk, one of her kids being in the next room.  Since I won't be speaking with her until Tuesday, I will have two more days in Marian Mode before a little over a week as Mario (with a few hours as Marian for my stint at the GLBT center).  What a potential bummer.


Friday, December 29, 2017

Another Thursday

It's the last Thursday before Christmas, and I've looked forward to finally going to game night for the first time this December.  When you factor in Thanksgiving, a family illness the week afterward, and GFJ's recovery the next week, it's been a month since I've gone to game night with the crew.

- - - - - -

I wasn't sure if my cleaning lady was coming this week, so I decided to change volunteer days at the GLBT center this week.  Because I've been erratic as of late, I'll have to tell them the story behind me changing dates - a cleaning lady I want to see only in Mario Mode, and was hoping that she'd be coming this week instead of next.  (I wanted to wish her a Marry Christmas before the fact, and hand her my yearly gift in person.)  So, instead of doing some office work over at the GLBT center, I did some clean up work around the apartment in order to make it worthwhile for her to be here if this were her week to show up. Around 11 am, I called my cleaning lady, and she said that she'd be here next week.  If I'm lucky, I'll be able to see her before I drive to GFJ's to spend a few days.

- - - - - -

Once I knew that my cleaning lady wasn't showing up today, I again got comfortable under the covers. Yet, I continued an ongoing chat with the Cat Lady (TCL) regarding Lili and her pets:

Why doesn’t she get a cat sitter who does the litter? There are a lot of pet sitters who would be happy to earn more money. Maybe it would cost more but she can’t leave the boxes without getting them cleaned out daily (or every other day at the very least and that’s with a lot of boxes). The cats will start peeing and pooping all over and then (1) the place will stink and (2) they may not go back to using only the box.  It’s not like she is gone for a weekend.

Did you change the litter? How many cats? How many boxes? How many days is she away?
The poor poor cats. The poor cats The poor cats. 

Regarding the litter box - Lili doesn't like trusting outsiders with her keys. She has her tenant (she owns the house next door) taking care of her pets. I'd have paid someone trustworthy to take care of all my animals' needs. And yes, the cats have pooped outside the litter box already.

I couldn't find the litter, and she was using a disposable tray. (Not sure of what she uses normally.) She is away until the 26th.

She shouldn't have animals for pets....

So why doesn’t she pay the tenant extra for the emptying of cat litter? If she’s usable trays they are tiny and need to be changed daily. No she shouldn’t have pets. Can you buy a big litter box or two (good Xmas present) and litter? Since you have access....

You tell her about the raccoons but you don’t say anything about the cats who depend on her? I don’t understand that, nor could I ignore the conditions her poor cats have to endure.

I got tired of saying things, when she doesn’t listen in regard to animals.

IMHO some things- especially those relating to the welfare of living creatures- bear repeating  

After a while I got tired of saying things she wouldn’t pay attention to.

“In her own way”. Cop out

She takes care of the litter when she's at home. And I never saw it this way when she was home. I forgot to mention this before.

As you can see, TCL puts a very high value on treating pets right.  This is why I don't have pets anymore - I don't have the time, energy or money to do for an animal what I feel should be done for that animal. But I also didn't want to get too involved in Lili's issues, as she will have to live with them when she comes back from Vietnam.

- - - - - -

It wasn't until late afternoon that I showed any energy in regard to going outside.  But first, I had to cook (and eat) dinner.  Considering that I had some chicken breasts whose last sale date was reached, I knew that I'd be eating chicken for dinner. 

Once done with dinner, it was off to game night.  Although I played a couple of games I've played before, my focus was not on the games but on the conversations going on. And it was like the month between my visits went by in an instant.  Both of the Host/Hostess's children enjoyed the Gingerbread House kits I gave them, and everyone enjoyed the big box of candy that I brought with me.  (This is the same box I received at the last co-op board meeting. And it's better consumed at Game Night by 10 people instead of at home by only 1 - me.)  I was very surprised when the Host and Hostess gave me a gift - Earrings!

You will note that these are pierced earrings.  The hostess wasn't sure if my ears were pierced or not.  I told her not to worry - my ears will get pierced sometime in January.

- - - - - -

All too soon, the evening had to end.  And I had to go home.  So I called GFJ to chat while driving, knowing that this would be the last time we have the chance to chat until her sons leave her house the day after Christmas.  In our chat, she discussed an issue that involves her two sons and who one is dating. The woman is a nice, law abiding lady, so the issue is nothing directly about her.  Instead, it has to do with the son not dating this woman, as all of his acquaintances (direct and indirect) have to be reported to the government. I hope that this son's pay grade makes up for the inconveniences he has to put up with....

Right now, I am a non entity to GFJ's family.  Until her divorce is final, I have little right to insist that she acknowledge my existence to the family. Her sons (though they are in their late 20's/early 30's) still have the "yecch factor" when they think of their mom dating again. As for me, once the divorce is final, she will have to deal with it.  Years ago, when I dated K, a widow from Rochester, her son (who was 27 at the time) knew that we were sleeping together. And if he had any issues, he didn't make any noises about them. But K and her family are way in my rear view mirror.  She lives happily with her partner, and I wish them the most possible happiness they can have.

As for me, I'm focusing on spending Christmas with my family and having a good time with them....

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Celebrating my dad's 90th birthday - and a look at our country

It's hard to believe, but my dad turned 90 years old today. He's old enough to have been able to see Babe Ruth play at the old Yankee Stadium, but not old enough to have known what was going on there. He has lived through a period of major events including:
  1. The Great Depression
  2. Pearl Harbor and World War 2
  3. The Civil Rights Movement
  4. The Sexual "Revolution"
  5. The Vietnam War
  6. September 11, 2001 and the start of America's Forever Wars

    And what may be most important of all:
  7. The Computer Age
Any one of these events or time periods would be enough for one person to experience. And in the past, a person might only experience one or two of these major events or time periods in a lifetime.

I have seen my dad go from a man in the prime of his life to someone in the twilight of his years. He was strong enough to hold me in his arms when I was a baby, and now is frail and weak. It is understandable that he needs to feel safe and secure in these, the last few years of his life.

- - - - - -

Given today's politics, I don't think my dad would understand the dangers coming up. A group of politicians has decided to act irresponsibly and claim a tax cut will produce enough growth to pay for itself. Instead, it will force us to cut spending, especially the medicare and medicaid he depends on in old age. The claims made by the politicians are not supported by most economists, and we're seeing a political party drift further and further from reality.

Another danger is a growing desire among many people for a "strong leader" form of government. Many people who have been left behind live in "one horse towns" and do not have the resources to move where the well paying jobs are.

If you look at this map, the biggest employer in a large swath of our country is Walmart. And there is a strong correlation between "Red States" and Walmart employment. Labor is cheap, and people have been taught that they should be grateful to have a job - any job. And this was the same feeling people had when my dad was growing up in the Great Depression.

What ended the Great Depression?  World War 2.  And we've been heading into an age of "Forever Wars" since September 11, 2001.  The drum beat of fear has taken hold of a large swath of our country. We no longer welcome newcomers to America, many of us want to chase them out. Many Americans fear that illegal aliens / undocumented immigrants are taking their jobs, when evidence proves that this isn't true. These workers are doing the jobs that Americans don't want, and that Americans will leave as soon as better options open for them.

The "Liberal Democracies" (USA, Great Britain, and others), the USSR and China fought World War 2 against the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan). One will note that Germany and Japan had the strongest propaganda regarding "Racial Purity."  And we're seeing that vile streak come from today's American Neo-Nazis and Neo-Confederates.  Would my dad in his youth have seen these Neo Authoritarians as much of a danger as we see them today?  I'm not sure, but I don't think he cares much, now that he is an old man who will likely die before this evil is purged from America. Given that he supported Trump before going into the nursing home, I'm not sure if he could see the parallels of the dangers of the past and the dangers of today.

Once my dad left the service, America experienced great change. Rock and Roll conquered the nation, the Vietnam War was in full swing, and the sexual revolution was taking hold among America's youth. Frank Sinatra was still very popular, but on the wane. And people were burning their draft cards to protest the war.  We became very divided in this era, and my dad focused his life on raising two children instead of the world around him. For the most part, this was a stable time in his life, although the promises of prosperity were gradually being taken away from him.

By the time my dad reached his 60's, small scale manufacturing had left the New York City area, and he could no longer run a business which catered to these machine shops. This was a harbinger of what was happening to America as a whole, as automation was eliminating the need for many low skilled workers, while low cost foreign imports were eliminating the need for many other workers. Like me, he had to make the decision whether to retire early or to try and find work. And he landed at a major retailer who was well on the road to failure in the 1980's.

Eventually, my dad gave up on work and retired. Life was good to him for the next few years until his wife (my mother) died - shortly before September 11, 2001. Then, all the people he knew started dying around him - until he was the last man standing among his peers. And this is when his decline started. Before we acknowledged the need to put him in a nursing home, he wanted to die. And he was close to doing that.

Now, my dad is relatively happy again, knowing that he will be taken care of for the rest of his life. His two offspring (to the best of his knowledge) are able to take care of themselves, and are in decent health. In many ways, he has accomplished what most parents should do - see that his offspring are able to live full and rewarding lives, and fulfill their responsibilities to others as needed. He has seen a lot in his lifetime, and will likely see even more before he eventually passes away.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Quickie: A last lunch with the ladies from NPW

Today I woke up late, after not getting to sleep until 5 am. And when I awoke, I had a message waiting for me that gave me the choice of the restaurant we'd be going to for lunch.  Not caring much, I said that NPWJ should decide and I'd be there around 12:15 or so.

Not having any time to waste, I rushed into the shower, shaved, put my makeup on, got dressed, and was out the door by 11:30. Even with slow traffic, I was at the restaurant on time. But NPWJ wasn't there. She (and her assistant) were running late. About 15 minutes later, all 3 of us were at the restaurant and we proceeded to sit down to eat.

The two ladies presented me with a going away gift, a throw to keep me warm on a cold winter's night. I was thankful for this, and will miss these ladies. There is not that much more I can do for them, and they need something that I can not provide. NPWJ suggested that I contact another volunteer agency to see if they have other opportunities, and I plan to make this call sometime after the New Year.

All too soon, we were done. And I decided to take a long drive to Newburgh and back. On the way, I chatted with the fellow who brokered the insurance policy my brother and I are taking out on the family homestead. Then, I chatted with my brother to let him know what we have to do to get the insurance in force. When I reached Newburgh, I stopped into The Avenue and tried on a pair of boots.  No one I knew was on duty, so I looked around and left for home to rest for the remainder of the day.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

I didn't know what to write until something came to me (in more ways than one).

As I have noted in earlier posts, I lost my wife to cancer 21 years ago, and I never have stopped thinking of her and what she could have accomplished had she lived. Her loss has influenced my life in many ways. And most recently, this has been evidenced in a letter I just received from my cousin - a man who whose wife was diagnosed with cancer one year ago, and who passed away less than a month afterwards.

I hate meaningless condolences from people who have never experienced grief. No, I would never call these people out for trying to show their support for me in time of need. It's just that each person's loss is unique and can not be compared to the loss of another person. So, I was both glad and sad when I received this letter from my cousin in today's mail:

I have left my acknowledgement of your condolences on J's passing to the last. Last, not because is was not important to me, but last because it was the hardest to acknowledge. Last because your letter contained the words that had been forged in the furnace of sorrow.  No cliche's, but words that only someone who has experienced such a loss can understand.

I have been told by one of J's coworkers, who lost his wife suddenly 2 years ago, that I am now a member of a unique club, a club to which you are elected without your permission and from which you can not resign. He said that I will understand things that I could never before grasp and view things with multiple perspectives.

Your letter contains more thought, feeling, and sincerity than all the condolence, prayer and mass cards that I received and will be kept long after the others have been discarded.

J was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer on 12-24-16 and passed on 1-11-17.

Merry Christmas
Happy New Year
Good Health                           R-

My cousin and I haven't seen each other since his mother passed away about 19 years ago, and yet, I feel that there is something that will bond us together. He is right, widowhood is a club to which you join without your consent and from which you can not resign. Although his experience was, is, and will be very different than mine, his grief is still new. He probably still cries when a special song comes on the radio. But that's OK. Each person's grief is unique, and there is no formula for one to use when healing from this kind of wound.

I wish my cousin the best in the world, and hope that we can get together in the new year.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Quickie: Volunteering at one place has come to an end.

Before we get started, I want to wish all of my readers a Very Merry Christmas!

- - - - - -

Sooner or later, all good things come to an end. And in my heart, I knew that I was a person one would want to keep in the background instead of out front.  I enjoyed working with the folk at NPW while it lasted. However, they have developed the skills needed to maintain their web site by themselves, and I no longer need to help them out. Although I have offered my services for non-computer work, I doubt they will take me up on my offer.

Do I feel sad?  A little. But I have accomplished something they would never have been able to have done without my help. And I am looking for new places which could use my unique skill set. Yet, for the most part, I feel proud about what I've accomplished during the time I helped them.

- - - - - -

NPW's office looks noting like the office above.  And I doubt it will grow enough to require space it rents for itself. Its mission is one that can be filled by a very small, focused group of people.  I wish it the best of success.

Why do I note the smallness of the organization?  Most non profits employ a handful of people, and depend on volunteer help.  Now that we're in the middle of Holiday Season, I'd like my readers to think about this and lend a helping hand to the non profit of their choice, so that next Christmas will be a better one for all of us.

- - - - - -

Merry Christmas!!

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Quickie: Thoughts on feminine appearance

This picture was taken a while back. And there are issues which can be seen here that bother me about my feminine presentation, and will likely haunt me unless I am both more careful and more realistic regarding the presentation.

- - - - - -

Sometimes, I look at myself in the mirror and do not feel feminine. One of my problems is my eyebrows. They always appear to be to prominent and too dark.  One can only trim one's eyebrows so much and still look good in both masculine and feminine presentations.
In the above picture, I feel that my lips came from "The Joker" from the Batman movies. It's not always this prominent a feature, but it is something which is important that I get right. And it was not done right when this picture was taken. 

If I choose to go 24x7 sometime in the future, I'll have to get everything right every day. To me, this is a realistic goal - but not one that will be easy. It will likely include some minor plastic surgery to make my facial features truly androgynous. For example, I would need to reduce my masculine looking jaw line. Not all of us are able to do this or able to afford doing this. But if I am going to move forward in my current path, this will be an essential action I must take to be able to live as Marian 24x7

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Snow Season

If we could all drive on roads that look like this, snow wouldn't be that inconvenient for us. Instead, the typical snowfall we get in winter is more like the picture below.

So, I always take driving on snow very carefully, as I've learned to respect it from my early days of being able to drive a car.

- - - - - -

During the next two or three months, I expect that we will get hit with a couple of nasty snowstorms.  Will any of them be blizzards?  Who knows? But I will be keeping both a shovel and an ice scraper in my car just in case.

Over the years, I have done many things with cars in snow that I'd never do again.  For example, when I was dating Patty, we had a blizzard on Christmas Eve, and I attempted to drive from Croton to Yonkers. By the time I made it to the top of the hill on Route 9A in Ossining, I knew that it would be impossible for me to make it to the hilly sections of Yonkers without getting into an accident or two. So I wisely abandoned my trip, picked up a duck for roasting at the lone open supermarket, and made myself a Christmas feast that I could enjoy all by myself.

The next blizzard treated Patty and I much better. Instead of driving, we were in Manhattan watching the Rocky Horror Show, with Dick Cavett as the Narrator. By the time the show ended, the storm had hit and we took the subway back to her house. 12 hours later, both Patty and I were digging out our cars out from more than 12" of snow.  

- - - - - -

Years ago, I dated a woman from Rochester. And we had an unexpected 12" of snow to close out Winter. My train tickets were for a train leaving at 3:30 pm, and I was very uncertain that the plow would come in time for me to get to the train station. Well, the plow came at 1:30, and I was at the station about 30 minutes before the train arrived. But this was not the only story I have regarding Rochester and snow.  My girlfriend and I had just come down from Rochester to spend a week in the New York area when her daughter in law went into labor. Normally, I wouldn't have minded driving back to Rochester so she could see her newborn grandchildren. But I was very upset that she wanted me to drive back in a blizzard that closed down the Thruway for several hours. Yet, I did just that, and was able to see her grandchildren before the mother saw them. (It's a long story regarding a troubled pregnancy and a C-Section.) My advice to others in a similar situation - don't risk your life to do something like this.

- - - - - -

An incident that happened in my apartment complex about 22 years ago. We had a blizzard strike on Elvis' birthday (January 8th), with 36" on the ground that had to be moved into piles at the far end of my parking spaces. Less than a week later, we had police cars in the driveway, police tape attached to my car, and a crowd in front of the building next to mine. A neighbor who had been suffering with severe clinical depression had gone postal and killed his upstairs neighbor. I had to deal with a computer problem at this time, and couldn't even leave for the office - I couldn't remove the police tape on my car. So I'll always this weekend as one where I had to spend a legal holiday (MLK Day) at work because of things not under my control.

- - - - - -

Many things happen in winter. I still remember as a child, I sledded down a long hill and traveled about 1/4 mile through a local park before coming to a stop.  The sweet memories of snow and childhood more than compensate for the awkward memories of snow as an adult. Hopefully, you have more good memories of winter than bad ones....

Friday, December 22, 2017

It's only a matter of time.

A large gingerbread house.  Christmas season is here, and I don't have any decent ideas of what to get GFJ for the holiday.

- - - - - -

This year, GFJ and I will again be spending the holiday apart from each other.  Her son is coming East with his girlfriend, and I am probably heading down to my brother's place for an informal family meal.  It is a little annoying that she has not yet invited me to be with her and her family on the holiday. But with her divorce dragging out so long, it doesn't pay for me to push her into anything she doesn't want to do. Although I know that she could be stringing me along, I also have an ulterior motive in keeping the relationship alive.  Touching another person in intimate ways gets addictive. It's part of the glue that helps bind couples together. And I think that she also needs that sense of connection to another human being.

Years ago, when my wife was still alive, I didn't show her the affection she craved so much. She craved the connection I was unable to give her during a troubled part of her life, and we grew apart as people. Yet, we still cared deeply for each other.  After she died, I realized how deeply I cared for her. And it was a while before I realized that I never want to make the same mistake again.

Sooner or later, we will need to make a decision on where we want to go with this relationship. I suspect that she will be unable to live with me as a transgender person who functions well in both male and female presentations. If this happens, I will move forward with my life and not look back.

- - - - - -

But what should I get GFJ for the holiday?  One thing I intend to order is a flexible cell phone stand which she can use while in bed.  She has a habit of falling asleep while holding her phone, and will sometimes lose it when it falls to the floor.  And then, I will likely buy her a sweater or another garment she could use.  But this leaves me wondering what else I should buy, so that she has multiple boxes to open when we're together after the holiday.

This year, I have to be much more careful in my Xmas shopping.  Strangely enough, I've decided to regift a couple of sweaters my parents bought me many years ago that have never been worn because they are too small for me. Hopefully, my dad won't recognize the sweaters when he sees them this year. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Wednesday, Thursday and Friday with GFJ

The next two days spent with GFJ dealt with her departure from the hospital and the beginning of her recovery from her operation.  I don't think GFJ was really ready for how she felt coming out of the hospital. But like Lili, she soldiered on with both feet marching forward - with a bit of difficulty as she got into the car.

- - - - - -

Having spent all day Tuesday being at the hospital for GFJ, it was a relief to stay the night in my own bed and take care of little things before picking her up the next morning.  I was lucky to have gone home that night, as my uncle sent me a fruit basket whose contents needed to be refrigerated as soon as possible.

On Wednesday morning, I straightened up the place again, so that my cleaning lady could work her magic in my place. And then, I was out the door by 10 am, so that I could meet GFJ at the hospital at 11 am to take her home.  Arriving at the hospital, I didn't want to deal with security guards or hall passes to reach GFJ's room.  So I employed a tactic many people use to enter places which are mildly restricted - entering as if I'm supposed to be there, heading for a doorway where visitors are expected (such as the Same Day Surgery area), and then proceeding where I needed to go without interference.

When I arrived, GFJ was much more awake than she was the night before, and was almost ready to get dressed and leave the hospital. So around noon, she started to get dressed while I moved to bring the car to the discharge area. And 15 minutes later, both of us reached the same place at the same time - then we were off to get some real food into us.

After lunch, we took a drive along Route 28, and saw some pretty Catskill Mountain sights. It was a perfect day for this kind of drive, save that GFJ still needed to pick up some medicine at the local pharmacy and I needed to get something to drink with dinner this evening.

Arriving at GFJ's house, I carted everything inside, and then helped her go up the steps. Although only her stomach area muscles were affected by the operation, her whole body was affected.  She won't be able to lift anything that weighs more than a pound or two for a while, and that means many of her daily activities will have to be changed while she recovers.  (I can only imagine how she'll feel putting on her bra for the first time after the surgery - or when she takes it off later that day.)  So guess who ends up doing the cooking and cleaning for the rest of the week?

Once done with dinner, I had to reboot her router, as her TV wasn't picking up Netflix.  This would not be acceptable, as she has the most basic cable, and doesn't get the plethora of channels I get on my system. While working on "technical things", I decided to check out her internet speed.  It's less than a quarter of the speed I'm getting at home.  As much as I love complaining about my local cable company, I know I can get much worse service elsewhere.

Finally resting for the night, I kept her company until she was ready to fall asleep. And then, I decided to catch up on my web surfing before I got tired enough to fall asleep....

- - - - - -

Thursday, I was glad to be there for GFJ. She was not in the best of shape. But she was alert and able to function.  However, she was unable to lift things that weighed more than a couple of pounds. So, that meant that I had to do all of the tasks which required lifting - including putting food in the oven to cook and cleaning the dishes.  (She already has about 48 half-liter bottles sitting on the kitchen counter top, so that she can get something to drink. Normally, she uses water from a 5 gallon water dispenser kept in the kitchen, which I had to reload after she emptied it into bottles.) I was glad to help.

The big task was something she couldn't do herself - replace an internet router.  Her old router dropped connection several times during the prior evening, and couldn't be depended on for her to view movies on Netflix or Amazon Prime. There was nothing wrong with the internet connection to the house (save for it being slow), so the problem had to be with the old router.  Around noon, I ended up driving to Walmart to buy a new router and then to install it. (And that's when my laptop computer died - but that's another story.)  About 3 hours later, I was back, and ready to install the new router.  Unfortunately, this task took much more work than expected.  Her cable company's interface required the MAC Address from her old, non functional, computer to recognize the new router.  (Apparently, they used a cloned MAC Address as part of the setup.)  This meant that I had to get this information from the old router, and plug it into the new router before finishing the installation process.

When done, I was finally able to get comfortable, and then we rested in bed watching movies for the rest of the evening....

- - - - - -

On Friday, I knew it was time to go home. I made another "milk run" for her and picked up some prune juice (in addition to her medicine) to aid in her digestion.  (Her surgeon wanted her to take medicine to help her with expected constipation.)  I also helped her reapply the surgical girdle she has to wear while her stomach heals from her operation.  And then it was time to go home.

I'm not absolutely sure of when we can get together next.  Her sons are coming up for Xmas, and she isn't ready to confront them with the fact that she's been dating again. But I know one thing - I'll have next weekend free for myself.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Monday & Tuesday with GFJ

Monday night was a quiet night with GFJ. Tuesday was something else. We expected to be at the hospital by 8:30 am, and be on the road home by 3:00 pm. But this is one of those days that when things go wrong, they go wrong in a frustrating way.

- - - - - -

Monday, after I enrolled in my 2018 health insurance plan, I finished cleaning up my apartment and started my drive up North to meet GFJ.  Although we thought we'd meet each other at 6 pm, we ended up being a half hour late.  This is not bad considering how late we usually are to do things.

Once we ate, it was off to GFJ's house, where I put my car in the garage.  (Hopefully, the "Wasband" won't pay much attention to my car being there. But I'll deal with that issue if one pops up as a problem.)  The two of us didn't get to sleep until well after midnight, and this didn't leave us much time to sleep until we had to get up at 6:00 am the next morning.

- - - - - -

Tuesday, both of us got up early and got ready for the hospital run.  I packed up my CPAP unit, to make it possible for me to use it if GFJ had to stay in the hospital overnight.  Since I was in a hurry, I decided not to shave my body hair today. We were out of GFJ's house early, and this was very fortunate for us.  There was a traffic jam on the Mid Hudson Bridge when we crossed, and it got even worse shortly afterward when a fatal crash closed the bridge for two hours.

GFJ used the hospital's valet parking, and we proceeded inside to start the process for her operation. Around 10 am or so, she was called in to the Same Day Surgery area, and was prepared for the operation. An hour later, she was wheeled off to the operating theater, while I made my way to the cafeteria for some bland and boring food. Since I was totally exhausted when I got back to the waiting room, I fell out for a while and my "enthusiastic sleeping" (read: Snoring) was heard by one of the people waiting nearby. But this short nap was enough to restore energy to me for the rest of the day - and I would need it!

The surgeon came out around 1:15 pm, and told me that the operation was a success. He had to do a little more than expected, but not enough more that would make the operation take any longer than planned. We expected that GFJ would be regaining consciousness around 2 pm, and she was still in and out of consciousness at 4 pm.  I asked about her, and was brought into the recovery room to keep her company. By 5 pm, GFJ was still sleepy, and the nurses started discussing the possibility that GFJ would stay overnight. Around 6 pm, the decision was made, and we got the surgeon's opinion - GFJ should stay overnight. And by 7 pm, she was assigned a room, and I made sure to find out how to get GFJ's car out of storage and available for me to use.  So at 7:45, I bid GFJ a fond farewell, and I was off to her car and to my home.

It was strange driving her car to my house, while my car was sitting in her garage.  Tomorrow, I'll have to remember to take her keys when I go outside, and then make sure I get to the hospital so she can be home as early as possible....

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Quickie: Taking Care of Business

The Taking Care of Business band was a group of professional musicians who formed the core rhythm section of Elvis Presley’s band from August 1969 until his death in 1977. Although they are still alive, I wish I could have seen them perform with Elvis before he passed away.  And "TCB" (not the band) is what I want to talk about today.

- - - - - -

I am writing this entry ahead of time.  By the time you read this, I will have taken GFJ to the hospital for an umbilical hernia operation and will have stayed at her place for the first few days of her recovery from that operation.

GFJ has been plagued with health issues from the time I met her. First was her Bell's Palsy. Then it was digestive problems which led to her discovering a food allergy. And now, it is an operation to correct a problem she has had for a while. Hopefully, she will recover quickly, and that she will be able to go kayaking when the weather is warm again.

While I'm away, I'll be stuck in Mario Mode. Although I am tolerably comfortable this way, I prefer to be in Marian Mode. Unfortunately, this will not be possible while I'm with GFJ this week. Hopefully, I'll be able to return home early and be able to go to Game Night on Thursday as Marian.

- - - - - -

And for a little bit of political humor, I'm supplying the following joke:

So a Russian lawyer, a Russian spy, a Russian money launderer and a Trump walk into a bar. The bartender looks at them and says, "You guys must be here to discuss adoptions."

Sadly, the GOP is trying to muddy the water with Trump. If he is guilty of high crimes and misdemeanors, honorable members should be willing to expose this and force him from office. Any mention of Hillary Clinton is only a distraction, a false equivalency meant to keep the public from focusing on the alleged crimes potentially committed by our president.  If Hillary is chargeable, the current attorney general should charge her with a crime and get it over with. If not chargeable, he should say so, and stop this line of bulls--t.  If the GOP wasn't afraid of helping to force Nixon from office, it shouldn't be afraid now.  Sometimes, it is appropriate for a politician to sacrifice his/her career for one's country. This might just be one of those times....

Monday, December 18, 2017

Quickie: A day I could have stayed as Marian

Today, I was supposed to meet my brother on Long Island, so that we could discuss the many important things we have to do with the family homestead. These things are not related to the condition of the house. Instead, they are questions related to our mortality, such as "Should the jointly owned property be liquidated on the death of the two partners? Or, should it be willed to my niece and nephew for them to be junior partners?" There are a lot of questions to be answered, and now is the time to answer them.

- - - - - -

I left my house late today, with the idea that I'd get my prescription filled while I was having lunch at the next door pizzeria, and then drive to Long Island.  Well, my brother left the volume off on his phone's ringer, and didn't hear it when I tried to call him. Since I couldn't reach my niece (who was supposed to be with him, according to my sister in law), I figured that I'd go back home to relax.

With the exception of filling the prescription, I didn't need to be Mario today.  If I had known I would not need to be on Long Island, I could have stayed as Marian one extra day and enjoyed some last minute window shopping, possibly trying on a few dresses if something caught my eye.

- - - - - -

If all goes well, I might be able to return to Marian Mode by Thursday, so that I can go to game night.  If not, I have a ready made excuse to go home, as GFJ doesn't know that yesterday was my last session for the semester.  Nor does she know that I have selected Saturday as my preferred day for next semester's speech therapy sessions.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

The last day of Speech Therapy for the semester

Yes, I know the old line: "It's not over until the fat lady sings."  And I certainly do not have a feminine singing voice - yet. 😀  It's obvious to anyone who has heard my voice that I never will have a feminine singing voice. But I find the process of feminizing my voice to be a pleasant one, and one I will continue next semester.

- - - - - - 

This morning, I was expecting to see snow on the ground when I woke up. The weatherman had forecast the snow to start around 4 am, and my driveway was free of snow around 8 am.  Being expected to arrive at Mercy on time, I prepared accordingly for my time outside. Of course, today was not the day for me to be wearing anything that looked like a dress. So I wore a tunic with leggings, making sure that I wouldn't look out of place around other women.

Arriving at Mercy a little early (for a change), I dropped my check off and waited for the therapist to come with the two students learning their craft. As expected, they had me go through the process of taking current measurements on my voice and then reviewed the status of my progress in developing a feminine voice for everyday use.

Once we were done with all that, we became much less serious and started to let our hair down. The therapist came in and joined us, and then the fun really began. I commented on some of the things I've experienced in my social transition, including the lack of pockets in my clothes and needing to use a handbag. And I had fun describing how the women on the shopping channel love to say about some of the clothes they sell: "and it has POCKETS!" Most men will never understand how useful pockets are until they don't have them, and yet will never feel the comfort of wearing clothes that sit flat on the body.  The two young women didn't understand why us older women need Spanx, and both the therapist and I had that unique connection that being well aged can give us.

Soon, we were joined by another student and the M2F transgender just starting the process of developing her feminine voice. And the conversation got even more pleasantly animated. For a while, it sounded like our group was auditioning for a local comedy club. Yet, there was something serious going on. The M2F transgender was only 17, and was brought there by her mother. I'd have loved to connect with her to learn what her child went through. At 17, she had already used mind altering beverages, and could easily pass for someone who could legally buy these products from the local store. Luckily, this young woman is seeing a good doctor for hormones, and seems to have the full support of her family.

Before our joint session ended, we bantered around an idea that all of us should get together again for coffee or something.  Hopefully, any reluctance to do so will be overcome, and that we can continue knowing each other now that the semester has ended.

- - - - - -

Once the session ended, it was time to go home.  Snow was starting to stick, and I took my time going home. Although no one seemed to be driving stupidly, I didn't feel like taking any chances. So once I got to Croton, I stopped at the store to get some food to cook tonight, and then went straight home for the day....

Saturday, December 16, 2017

I'm glad I warned the center that I might have to change my day this week.

Last weekend, I sent an email to the GLBT center that I'd be in on either Wednesday or Friday.  Thursday would probably be screwed up, and I didn't want to confuse them that much.  However, I totally forgot about my usual Thursday visit as a result of game night being cancelled, and I was glad that I left myself an out for this week.

- - - - - -

Again, I woke up early and decided to take positive action and call the enrollment assistant for the healthcare insurance company I want to go with next year. There is one document he'd like to have that I can't supply him - my last pension payment with information regarding the taxes withheld. Indirectly, we can compute that from the difference between my gross pension income and my net (as deposited into my bank account). But I hope I can find this information before Monday, as I'd like to make it a little easier for us to fill in all of the forms.

Around 2 pm, I drove to the GLBT center and did my weekly volunteer stint. Most of the time, I was stuffing paper into envelopes for the year end fundraising drive. And this was exactly the mindless task I needed to do today.  When we were done stuffing envelopes, I started work on updating the calendar for their web site. However, I couldn't get things done right, so I bailed before getting too frustrated.

Next, it was a long drive home.  There is a lot that I have to get done before tomorrow's snowfall, and one of those tasks is taking care of laundry. Of course, what did I find going on downstairs - someone else doing a load of laundry. So I ended up waiting until the person in front of me was done before I too care of my loads....

- - - - - -

Hopefully, I'll have no trouble getting to Mercy College in the morning. Snow is not my friend when I want to get somewhere quick. And I'll be driving through it on the way down and on the way back....

Friday, December 15, 2017

A Thursday NOT playing games.

This was certainly NOT what I was doing tonight!  The host and hostess of my Thursday game night were both down with the flu, and didn't want any of us to get sick.

- - - - - -

When I got up today, I had very little to do. Taking the day as it came, the return phone call I expected at 10 came around 11:30 - I was finally speaking with the insurance agent who could sell us Rental Property Insurance. And within a half hour, I had a quote for the insurance we would need to cover the house we're renting out.

Next on the list was getting together with Lili. The shoes she ordered from Amazon fit her well, and they will be going to Vietnam with her next week. However, she had to rush over to the tailor, so that her formal dress could be ready for her on Saturday. This would allow her the time to properly pack it in her suitcases prior to her 2 1/2 week trip overseas. Given how busy she was today, a late lunch at the local diner turned into an early dinner at IHOP. And this was a big mistake for both of us. She didn't like the Pumpkin Spice pancakes and ordered something else in its place. I didn't much care for anything on their menu, and ordered Fish and Chips as the lesser of evils. I wish Lili had thought of going to Pizza Hut next door, as I'd have preferred their pizza to any of the offerings I could get where we ate. 
While with Lili, the fellow from the health insurance company tried to call me. Unfortunately, he didn't answer the phone when I called back after his business hours. So I'll deal with him sometime in the morning. (Of course, this means that I may have to clean up this place early, so that a possible in-home enrollment visit can take place.)  It's too bad that I wasn't in Mario mode at this time, as I would have taken the call and made arrangements so that I could plan tomorrow's schedule accordingly.

Once done with Lili, I proceeded up to The Avenue in Newburgh to buy an Xmas gift for GFJ. As soon as I entered the store, I saw the sweater that I planned to buy her. Of course, DD was on her usual Thursday shift. So I had the pleasure of seeing her newborn grandson's baby pictures and chatting with her for a spell.  While there, I saw the owner of Curvy Consignments Plus buy some holiday costume jewelry which I know is going on sale at her store. Arbitrage is always a smart business practice, and I know where she picks up some of her new product.  (Should I clue her into some of Lili's suppliers? She and Lili do not compete with each other, and this may help the store owner increase her revenues.) After she left, another customer came up and picked up a package delivered direct to the store. This customer bought 3 pairs of boots for only $50 - not a bad haul!  This lady and I got to talking, and we started discussing one of my favorite games: Cards Against Humanity. Both of us told stories of plays that had us almost wetting our pants in laughter. She's the type of person I could enjoy getting to know better as girlfriend to girlfriend.

Eventually, I had to leave, and went to Target - and picked up Cards Against Humanity as an Xmas gift for my brother and his wife.  Hopefully, they will get a kick out of that game, and even play it with their adult kids. On the way home, I chatted with my brother about yesterday's phone call regarding co-op business, and he was just as offended as I was regarding the issue I will not discuss here. And he understood why we may have to go "all in" to deal with the issue.

It was a long day, but not much of a busy day until the evening.  I just wonder what the weekend will bring with the first expected snow....

Thursday, December 14, 2017

A day that started off as Mario, and then....

Well, after last night's big dinner, it was time for me to take care of some serious co-op board business. Each of the board's members had to be on a telephone call today to discuss one of its actions over the past year. Since I am not 24x7, I take care of all board business as Mario - even when people know me as both Mario and Marian. So this required me to dress as Mario for a short time before changing back into Marian for the rest of the day.

- - - - - -

Last night, I was barely awake when I got home. And it was all I could do to stay awake to talk with GFJ.  It was a rare time that I could fall asleep before midnight, but I did so.  At least, I had the forethought to put my CPAP mask on - as I had a good night's sleep.

Waking up before my alarms, I was able to watch Morning Joe and relax in bed before getting up for the day.  Eventually, I got showered and dressed, then went next door for the telephone call I mentioned above.  Without going into details, an important shareholder issue had to be discussed with outsiders, and it is likely to cause us a lot of grief in the near future.

After the phone call, I had nothing to do.  So I took a rest.  Around 6:30, I decided to go see a movie, and decided to go out as Marian. By the time I went out, there was only one movie available to me. Lady Bird is one of those films that got a 100% Fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. This is something not often seen with modern films.  So, without knowing much more about the film, I made my decision to see it. Although I got there in time for the trailers, I still had trouble with the film. The theater had the sound turned off while the trailers played, and I had to go back to the front desk twice to get the problem resolved before the film started. The following description of the film does not do the film justice:

In Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig reveals herself to be a bold new cinematic voice with her directorial debut, excavating both the humor and pathos in the turbulent bond between a mother and her teenage daughter. Christine "Lady Bird" McPherson (Saoirse Ronan) fights against but is exactly like her wildly loving, deeply opinionated and strong-willed mom (Laurie Metcalf), a nurse working tirelessly to keep her family afloat after Lady Bird's father (Tracy Letts) loses his job. Set in Sacramento, California in 2002, amidst a rapidly shifting American economic landscape, Lady Bird is an affecting look at the relationships that shape us, the beliefs that define us, and the unmatched beauty of a place called home.

It's been over 40 years since I was in high school, but I can still remember the awkwardness of that time of my life with a little help. And this film is one that both a young adult and a senior (like me) could see and enjoy.

- - - - - -

On the way home, I talked with Lili and then with GFJ for a while.  Lili still needs to have her dress hemmed before her trip to Vietnam. She wanted to enlist me to go pick up her son and daughter in law at the airport. But I told her that I doubted I can do it.  The reason I gave was that I would likely be busy on Friday. The real reason was that I didn't want to clean out my car AND drive to Newark for them. With GFJ, I vented a little about the co-op board affair from earlier, and was able to relax before getting home to rest.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A day as Marian and a day as Mario.

The above diner reflects the conundrum that the owners of the structure once faced. How do we grow without jettisoning what's good about our past?  In the case of the above business, they grafted an old diner onto a new building and moved forward from there.

Bolton Beans Diner (c.1940) – interior 

A real Worcester Lunch Car Company diner. ∞ This diner was originally installed in 1941 in Providence, Rhode Island, as "Mancini's Service Diner". Then in the early 1960's went to Plainville, Massachusetts, becoming "Don's Diner". In 1969 it was located on U.S. Rte. 1 in North Attleboro (as the "Red Rock Diner") and was moved out in 1987; and eventually went to Bolton Landing where it is today.

I love it when I see old buildings renewed for a new life, as it gives me hope that I can do the same with myself in the latter years of my life. Like the above building, both old and new are being grafted together to become a better functioning whole.

- - - - - -            - - - - - -            - - - - - -

On Monday, I briefly ventured out of the apartment as Mario to find my building's super.  There was a task I needed to get done, and was willing to offer him some side money to take care of it. Unfortunately, I could not find him on the property. So I ended up going to McDonald's for breakfast, then going home to relax and change back to Marian.

Later on, the super called and explained that he didn't want to help me with my task. This didn't bother me much, as I found out that Lili was willing to share her handyman with me. So I decided to get dressed as Marian for the first time in a week, and then go out for a long ride.

Thinking I'd go to see a movie, I drove down to Yonkers.  When I realized that I wouldn't make it home until 1:00 am, I drove back to Mohegan Lake to walk around the local Walmart to do some shopping for something to give the children of our Game Night hosts. And I found what I hope the kids will enjoy - Gingerbread House kits. So I picked up these kits and some other items, and back to my house with a brief stop at the supermarket.

During my travels, I received a message from the professor behind the speech therapy sessions I've been taking:

I have a younger client, who is working on male to female voice, and we thought it might be helpful for her to meet you, since you have done so much work on your own and have so much insight. We were hoping maybe you could impart your wisdom on her and perhaps you could have one session together.  She agreed to this but we told her it would have to work with your schedule as well. 

You would have your regular session and then if you are ok with this, do the makeup session right after with this other client. (we wouldn't charge you the second session)  Of course if this isn't something you feel comfortable doing or you do not have the time this weekend, we completely understand and want you to know we do not want you to feel any pressure or obligation.  We just thinking that it might be really nice for her to meet you, since you are an amazing client, and think that you could offer her something we cannot. 

It'll be nice to show a younger client what can be done with a cisgender male's set of vocal cords. I've been out and about for 5 years, and have made a lot of mistakes. But there are also a lot of things I've done right, and I want to pass on some of what I've learned to someone who can take advantage of the experiences I intend to share.

- - - - - -            - - - - - -            - - - - - -

Tuesday was a dreary day.  Rain was in the forecast, and it came as expected. I contacted the healthcare company (Company #2) whose Obamacare policy had my doctor as one of its preferred providers. Unlike the first company I contacted (Company #1), they have people who will come to the home to assist in the enrollment process.  However, one has to wait a couple of days to be in contact with the person who can schedule the enrollment appointment.  As they used to say, this is no way to run a railroad.

Around 11 am, I drove over to see my ex-boss in Rockland county, and we had a leisurely 3 hour lunch. This meant that I missed my appointment with Company #1 for enrollment. If I don't hear from Company #2 before Friday, I will reschedule the appointment with Company #1 and sign up for health care - even if it means I have to change doctors.  Sadly, this is the type of choice one has to make when one buys his/her own insurance.  We need a better healthcare system, and neither political party is in a position to deliver one in today's political climate.

At this point, I had a little time to kill before our year-end co-op board meeting.  Although we had about an hour's worth of business to take care of, today's meeting was mostly a social meeting over dinner. During the business side of the meeting, the managing agent told us that the site representative we've had for 20+ years had decided to retire suddenly.  She didn't even bother to give us, her client, any notice. I won't say that I was shocked. But it was still unexpected news that I wanted to discuss with HWV when we both are free.

- - - - - -

Tomorrow, It'll be nice to be able to present again as Marian for a few days, as I'll have to be Mario for the better part of next week when I take care of GFJ.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

GFJ and I: Day 5 - The Drive Home

All good things must come to an end.  And this was true with our trip to Lake George.

- - - - - -

Sunday was going to be a day dedicated to travel.  After feasting on breakfast for the last time at The Sagamore, we were ready to take off for home.  Unlike our stay at the Hampton Inn, where they were uncomfortable with granting us a 15 minute extension on a 1 pm checkout, there was no hurry for us to check out of The Sagamore, since it was going to be closed until the following Friday.

We finally got on the road around 11:30, and started our trek back home.  GFJ was starting to feel tired a few minutes into our drive, so I took over driving duties for the rest of the way to Kingston. Once there, I unloaded my stuff from her car, and bid her and the weekend a fond adieu.

The rest of my drive home was uneventful.  If I had been able to be in Marian mode this weekend, I'd have made a stop at either Catherine's or The Avenue. Sadly, I was not able to change into my authentic presentation, so I went straight home to both unpack and rest.

Monday, December 11, 2017

GFJ and I: Day 3 & 4 - Bolton Landing

Bolton Landing. It's not much of a town during the off season. But it is much nicer to walk through, when more of the stores are open for browsing than in Lake George.

- - - - - -

I didn't know what to expect from The Sagamore (see above picture).  Yet, I know that GFJ may have spent a pretty penny for two nights here, given the rate card I saw online. However, GFJ may have saved a lot of money by making last minute reservations direct to their front desk instead of using an online service. It would not be appropriate for me to ask her how much she spent, but I know I wouldn't have spent this money on my own.

The first night, we decided to eat at the hotel's restaurant, and it was a feast for two.  They had no problems turning a side dish into a vegetarian main course that GFJ would eat. As for me, I had the Chicken Saltimboca, and would recommend it to anyone dining here. (Please note: I am compensating for my taste buds being a little bit "off" due to the medicine I've been taking.)   Afterwards, we went outside and enjoyed a S'more cooked over an open fire pit.  Then we went to the top floor and captured the view of the fire pit and the area around it.

- - - - - -

The next day, we took a tour of the hotel's kitchen, hosted by the hotel's Sous Chef. It was a fascinating behind the scenes look at what makes food service work here.  Out of respect for the guide, I did not take any photos of the kitchen - one does not look at the man behind the green curtain.

Later, we went outside where I captured the photos below:

Aren't these lakefront views priceless?

After a short hike on the nature trail, it was time for dinner.  This time, we went a different place in Bolton Landing and were not the only customers. Although the food was nothing special by NYC standards, it was a pleasant place to eat. And I'd recommend Frederick's if in town during the off season.

Once we were done with dinner, it was back to The Sagamore to relax.  GFJ took a swim in the pool, while I relaxed watching a movie. One thing I know, that after this trip, I will have to cut out as many carbs as I can from my diet.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

GFJ and I: Day 1 & 2 - Lake George

Lake George.  Almost 70 years ago, my parents honeymooned there. And it as still as beautiful as it was then - if you can get away from the roads and get close to the lake. Otherwise, you will be disturbed by the large number of businesses dedicated to Summer tourism.

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GFJ had arranged to take a seminar near Lake George village, so that she could maintain a business certification. Since it was an all day conference being held about 3 1/2 hours from her home, it made sense for her to book a room the night before, stay overnight, and go home that day or the next. So she decided to treat this trip as a working vacation, and spend two days at one hotel, and two days at another hotel.

Although I was already moving early on Wednesday morning, I knew that we would not make it to our arranged meeting point on time. Both of us were running late, and I took a relaxed drive to the Kingston park and ride.  Although I was a few minutes late, this wasn't a problem, as we would likely miss much of the traffic in Albany's rush hour.  So I put the "Club" on my car's steering wheel, and away we went. We reached Albany during the early part of its rush hour, and encountered tolerably slow and crowded traffic on the Northway. And we reached Lake George around 5 pm, with no incident.

While in Lake George, I wanted to make a stop at the last Ho-Jo's restaurant standing. As much as it being a crap shoot for restaurants to be open out of tourist season, I expected this place to be open when we arrived.  It wasn't.  So we went up the hill to the Hampton Inn where we checked in for the night.  While checking in, we asked about the Ho-Jo's down the hill, and the staff gave the place a very bad review.  They wouldn't bother with the place, even for a cup of coffee. So instead, we went across the street to a BBQ joint, and had a nice meal.  After dinner, we took a drive to where the conference was to be held the next morning.  And we were surprised to find that it was being held on the site of one of Paul Newman's "Hole in the Wall" camps for kids with serious diseases.  (Now we know one location where the profits go from Newman's branded products.)  Then, it was back to the hotel for the evening.

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The next day, I dropped GFJ off for the conference. She tried to reach me to tell me that the conference ended at 2:30 pm. Since there was abysmal cell phone service at that location, she was barely able to pass along this info after the conference started. Once I had this information in hand, I proceeded to drive up and down the Route 9 strip, and saw that most of the local businesses were closed. Around lunch time, I decided to stop into Ho-Jo's only to find out it was closed - after I entered the building. The owner let me know that the place would be open the next day, but it was very unlikely that I'd bother going there with GFJ for breakfast when our hotel provided our morning meal as part of its standard service.

After driving up past Bolton Landing and back, I stopped by a local diner and had a bite to eat. Then, I picked GFJ up and we took another drive before going to an early dinner. Again, the car made its way to Bolton Landing, and we picked the first year-round restaurant we found that was open. This was a minor mistake. We were the only customers in the place, and the food left a little to be desired. If anything, I feel that this place may not have had the customer volume to justify the limited menu being offered. So I'll be kind and not mention the name of the restaurant.

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What I haven't mentioned so far is that GFJ could have cancelled going to the conference with no financial penalty. This meant that she could make last minute reservations for the hotels we were to stay at. And she made reservations for the first hotel's two night stay while we were driving to Lake George, then made reservations for the second hotel's two night stay as we were driving to dinner. This is a nice thing about traveling in the off season - it is very easy to make last minute reservations, and it allows for greater flexibility in traveling.