Saturday, November 30, 2019

Did I go to the first day of the Trans Forum? Nooooo.....

As usual, I've been having a hard time getting to sleep at night.  Last night, I was to blame, as I was editing this blog and taking care of little things well into the "third shift".  So when I woke up this morning, I turned off the alarms and stayed in bed until the afternoon.  As a result, I skipped today's session of the Trans Forum being held at the LGBT Center, and  gave myself a few more hours to rest before going into NYC to see my niece at the Rubin museum.

Around 3 pm, I started getting ready to meet my niece.  Although I took a little longer than usual to get ready, I was out the door by 5:10 pm, with an expected ETA at the museum of 7 pm.  Sadly, this was not to be.  At several points along my way, there were unexpected jams that made it impossible for me to conveniently reach Pelham for a train into NYC.  First, the Southbound Sprain Brook Parkway had a several mile backup leading to the Route 287 exit.  Once past the exit, it took several miles for traffic to resume highway speeds.  Once in Yonkers, traffic jammed up again, forcing me to bail at Tuckahoe road. So I decided to get on Route 87 - another mistake, as the exit for the Cross County Parkway was also backed up much more than usual.  Instead of a trip that gave me 15 minutes of wiggle room to reach the museum, I was running over 30 minutes late. When I finally reached Pelham, the 6:15 train had just left.  I had to wait for the 6:33, which itself was delayed getting into Grand Central.  It took 45 minutes to reach NYC, and another 20+ minutes on the Subway to reach the Rubin museum. 

My niece and I finally connected with each other about 45 minutes late - on a day that she was running an hour early.  At least, she was the one waiting on me for a change.  One thing we noted on this visit to the museum - it seemed as if there was less space being devoted to exhibits than usual.  But we still enjoyed the place, even though we were focusing more on our conversation than the art itself..

While walking around, we talked about many things.  One of these things was her family situation.  She was very uncomfortable thinking about it, so I dropped the topic as soon as I got the information I needed - it looks like my brother and my niece will be cooking for Thanksgiving this year.  So I'll have to do something for dessert.  (Maybe another batch of Chocolate Almond Brownies?)  What surprised me was that my sister in law might be there.  (I won't go into the reasons why I am surprised right now. Let's say that my brother didn't feel safe with her in the house a few weeks ago.)  Hopefully, I won't see her eldest son.  (He's a waste of genetic material, and offends me with his lack of basic intelligence.) I don't want to treat him with more respect than he deserves.

After we were done with the museum, we walked over to A Salt and Battery - a wonderful British style Fish and Chips place.  No atmosphere, but great fish.  And it was there that I talked about my situation with GFJ, as well as the situation with my former cruise partner that caused us to end our friendship.  My niece was shocked about this cruise partner's actions, having the same feelings that Vicki #1 had when I told her the full story. And my niece understood (in a different, but healthy way) why I had to disconnect from this woman and go on my own.  (My niece had to leave home for several years due to the insanity at home. As a result, she's not the kind of woman who'll put up with bullshit from anyone.)

All too soon, it was time to go home.  I accompanied her to Penn Station, where she caught a train home.  While I was on my train home, she texted me and told me how lucky she was.  The train after hers derailed as I remember her text, and all later trains were being backed up on the main line of the LIRR.  As for me, I had an uneventful trip to Pelham, and an uneventful drive home.

Friday, November 29, 2019

The last Speech Therapy session before Thanksgiving

There is only so much one can do with a cisgender male's vocal equipment to generate a feminine sounding voice.  One has to train to speak in a pitch either in the androgynous range or (if lucky) be able to reach into the lower ends of the feminine range. And then, one has to develop the proper feminine prosody - something much harder to do the older a person gets.  This is what I've been trying to do in the last few years, and what I expect to be working on for the rest of my life.

- - - - - -

Getting up this morning, I had 3 things on my schedule: Lunch with Vicki #2, Speech Therapy at Mercy College, then Game Night in Yonkers.  So I got moving around 11, and was in Dobbs Ferry to meet Vicki at 1:30.  We chatted about Thanksgiving plans as well as various family problems in both of our lives.  She made me grateful NOT to have a child, as she's worrying that her son will not be able to achieve to his maximum potential.  (I phrase it this way, as I don't think she'd want specific details about her problems coming out.)  And yet, I wouldn't mind living this part of my life over and having had the challenges of child raising with what I know now.

Once done with Vicki, it was over to Mercy for my weekly speech therapy session.  As much as the 2 ladies see a lot of improvement in my voice, I don't see it.  But then, I'm hypersensitive to my voice's imperfections, and want to eliminate them for the time (if it ever comes) that I can live 24x7 as Marian.  (I'd hold off from doing this for the sake of a healthy romantic relationship.  But I won't go into that topic right now.)  I noted that the next time we meet will be the last time the 3 of us get together.  I wish them the best, as they were earnest in their attempts to improve my voice. Yet, I feel that they have a lot of maturing left to do before they can project a sense of authority in their clinician-client relationship.

Then, it was time to go home.  After nuking one of my Freshly meals from the freezer, I decided to bake a double batch of brownies for a Pre-Thanksgiving game night treat.  So I took out the mixing bowl, found 2 disposable baking sheets, mixed everything together, then baked the brownie mix for 45 minutes.  If the brownies tasted as good as the remaining batter in the bowl, then I knew I'd have a hit later on. 

Around 7:30, I packed up the brownies and headed to Yonkers.  As usual, I lost the one game I played.  But I had a good time.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

A little volunteering and a little clothes shopping.

The above picture was taken when I first started trying to dress androgynously.  I was not yet ready to wear a dress or skirt in public, nor was I prepared to present myself as a female.  I've sure come a long way since then!

- - - - - -

Last night was not a good night for sleep.  I woke up at 8 am with only 4 hours of sleep, and went back to sleep shortly after 10, waking up at 1 pm.  Of course, this meant that I was not going to get out and about early in the day as I had hoped.  Instead, I got to the LGBT Center for a 90 minute volunteer stint at 3:30-4:00, and left around 5:30.  This was truly non-eventful, as I wasn't that busy when doing my tasks.

Afterwards, I drove over to Catherine's in Paramus to browse the store.  I could use a new pair of leggings or two, but I didn't find ones I liked in my size.  So I ended up not buying anything today.  (I have my eyes on a scarf and a chenille sweater that go very well together.  The sweater is so soft and cozy, that I'll buy it as soon as it goes on sale.)  Since this will likely be my last visit before "Black Friday", I took note of the price points on garments I wanted to buy and will likely buy them as soon as they reach the point I feel they are worth my money.

- - - - - -

After I got back home, I chatted with GFJ for the better part of an hour.  She had just returned from Florida, enjoying a few days at a housing development ("The Villages") that they hope to market to potential snowbirds like GFJ.  However, GFJ will likely never move to a development like The Villages, as there is not enough there to make her comfortable living there.  As for me, if I ever get to the stage where I want to live down south part of the year, I'd consider living in a development like that - as long as I'm not stuck with excessive costs in doing so.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

I don't know how I woke up without the alarm, but it was worth the effort to get out early.

It's always hard to get an oil change at Mavis these days.  The place is usually very busy, and that means business like mine gets pushed to the side to accommodate more profitable efforts, such as selling tires.  But if you get to the shop early enough, you can usually get in and out of the place before 10 am.  Instead of a trip for minor service costing me $500 at the dealership, my car can get what it needs for under $200.  And when one is living on a fixed income, the $300 is better in my pocket than in the dealership's till.

- - - - - -

Last night, I knew that I had to wake up early the following morning.  So I went to bed around 1 am, started the "white noise" maker, put on my CPAP mask, and readied myself for a few hours of sleep.  While I was semiconscious, my phone rang.  Seems that RO accidentally dialed me, and killed the call as soon as she started it.  But that didn't keep me alert for long, as I passed out again shortly afterwards.

When I got up, it was a couple of minutes before 7.  So I turned off all my alarms, took my shower, and went out the door as Mario.  I arrived at Mavis at 8, and asked them to look at my front end when they did the oil change and rotated the tires.  I was right, when I hit the curb last Thursday, I knocked the front end a little out of alignment.  So I was glad I got this taken care of before I ruined my tires by uneven tread wear. About $160 later, my car was ready, and I was ready to drive home.  So back to Croton I drove, and back to bed I went for a little while to try and catch up on a few Z's I missed the night before.

- - - - - -

Of course, with the coffee I consumed earlier, I didn't have a chance to catch those Z's.  Instead, I took care of a couple of little things around the house and took it easy for a while. But then, I realized that I may have an interesting set of schedule conflicts.  Either I will need to cancel my attendance at a FTF Meetup dinner or cancel my attendance at a Beacon Meetup dinner due to a dinner engagement with RO.  It'll be nice to be able to see her again this year, as she had some good news to share - her daughter is finally getting married!  YAY!

But I digress a little....

Around 5:00, I started to get ready for tonight's meetup by changing into my female presentation.  It took a little longer than expected for me to get out the door, and I barely made it in time to the Meetup's restaurant.  The usual gang was there, but I couldn't sit at the table I wanted to be at - the last 3 seats had already been taken, so I ended up at another table with other people I don't get the chance to speak with that often.

Originally, I figured that I would order a small dish and get out of the place for $25 or so.  Instead, I ordered the prix fixe 3 course dinner, and ended up spending roughly $50.  (I was glad I took a $50 bill with me, as it made it possible for me to leave a nice tip without going overboard.)  Of course, I fluttered between our 3 tables, chatting with people I wanted to chat with.  However, I didn't chat with all the people I wanted to chat with - the appetizers and main course came while in the middle of chats with friends.  (At least, I'll get to chat with these people the week after Thanksgiving.)

All too soon, the evening had to end.  So it was on with my coat, and back down to Croton and home. Although I can't keep up spending money at this rate without cracking open my 401k, I'm roughly where I expected to be today.  Hopefully, one of the jobs I'm applying for will come though, and I'll be able to stop the short term drain on my savings account.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

A rainy day, and I wasn't sure if I wanted to go out again.

I decided to try and get an oil change, but to no avail.  The cars were double parked inside of Mavis's parking lot.  If I really want to get the tire rotation and oil change I need at a reasonable price, I'll have to go very early tomorrow morning.

- - - - - -

Last night, I didn't start trying to go to sleep until 2 am or so.  And it seemed to take forever for me to fall out.  But when I finally woke up, I had blown through 2 alarms, only waking up for a 10 am alarm I had set.  This meant that it was going to take some time for me to get moving, and I stayed in the comfort of a warm blanket as long as possible. Eventually, I was up and out of the house around 1 pm, and saw that there was no chance for me to get the oil change I need.  So I ended up picking up lunch at the local Mickey D's, then drove home for a while.

Around 4 pm, I looked out the window, and saw that it was raining.  Did I really want to drive to Connecticut?  I wasn't sure.  But I still had a couple of things to take care of.  First, I had received a "Canvas Letter" from NYS asking me to express my interest in a position across the river from me.  So I ran off a copy of my resume, and enclosed it with a signed copy of the letter, and returned it to Albany to be considered for the position.  Then, I found that my printer had run out of ink.  So, in addition to the Dermablend foundation I needed to buy, I also needed to buy a new ink cartridge for the printer.

I left my apartment around 5:30, which should have given me enough time to make it to the meetup in Norwalk.  Luckily, I allocated the extra 15 minutes, as there was a major backup on Route 95 that I was able to avoid by taking the Merritt.  And I got to the restaurant at the same time that the hostess was arriving.  Instead of sitting down at our table, we realized that "Happy Hour" ended at 7, and that we could still get a discounted drink at the bar.  So we placed our drink orders, had the bartender take the picture above, and then brought our drinks to the table.  From there, most of us partook of Monday's $6 burger night.  YUM!

All too soon, it was time to depart.  The drive home was less of a headache than the drive to the meetup - there was no rush hour start and stops.  However, the rain did get in the way of enjoying the drive, as I had to be much more alert than I usually would be. So I was very glad that I didn't take full advantage of Happy Hour....

Monday, November 25, 2019

A weekend in the middle of the month

The weekend.  Most people live for it.  As for me, those two days are like any other day.  This is both the blessing and curse of being out of the workforce for several years.  I have the freedom to do what I want, but no urgency to getting around to doing it.

- - - - - -

This weekend, the only thing I really wanted to do was to go to dinner with Vicki #1.  So, on Friday night, I decided to give my wig a bath and let it dry overnight.  This allowed me to have fresh, clean hair on my head when we would go to Xavier's H2O in Yonkers in the evening.

For the most part, I hung out around the house all day Saturday.  My GI Tract was giving me problems, and it did so just before I got ready for the evening.  As usual for me when going to a fancy restaurant, it was on with the LBD and some of my nicer costume jewelry, and out the door when Vicki arrived.

Vicki has grown very uncomfortable driving in the dark.  So I agreed to do the driving to Yonkers.  In a way, it was like visiting a past that is long gone.  My late wife worked near the Getty Square area, opposite the former city jail.  I remembered the area with quite a few run down industrial structures made of old red brick.  Most of those structures have been either been rehabbed to look better than new.  And the ones that have been town have been replaced by sleek, new multistory buildings which fetch excessive rents.  And this would effectively be my first time back in the area in years.
Xavier's is in the building which used to be the old Yonkers pier. To park there, one must use Valet parking shared between two restaurants.  It's not bad when one drops of her car. But when one picks up her car, the wait in the cold on the waterfront can be quite chilling - I was glad I was wearing tights under my dress. 

Vicki preceded me into the restaurant.  The dining floors of the place were one and two stories off of water level.  I'd bet that they are making sure that in case of potential floods, that the operations areas of the restaurant are unaffected.  But I digress.  We arrived at the reception desk and were guided to a table on the second floor.  (The above is the view from the window directly behind me. It's nice to have the NYC skyline as a distant background.)  There's not much I can say about the place better than that I'd go back there in a heartbeat. The service was excellent, and everything put in front of us was perfect.

We talked about many things on the way home, including my relationship with GFJ and the possibility of my finding another partner.  She was trying to avoid unnecessary cruelty to me in saying that "not every pot has a lid."  (Not her words, but it's an expression that works here.) This is something I already knew, and was comfortable with her being able to tell me an uncomfortable truth that I've had to deal with for a while.

Eventually, we made it home, and she left for the evening.  As for me, I stripped off my dressed and packed it in for the night.  What I didn't know at the time was that I wouldn't be going out the following day.  I had no energy or desire to get up and about.  Nor, did I see any other reason to have me do so.   

Dinner with Vicki

What I think was a minor cold woke me up, and kept me awake until I used some cold/cough syrup. 

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Comparing prices on long and short cruises.

On a solo cruise I took last year, I found out about this cruise from a woman who planned to take it in 2020.  However, her mother needed eye surgery.  And in Canada, you take the dates you can get for non-essential surgery.  This means that she won't be on this cruise. But I may still go on it.

When I first ran the numbers this summer, I figured that I should budget at least $4,000 for the trip, broken down as follows:

  • Base Fare          - $2298 (includes $1149 single supplement)
  • Port Fees/Taxes -     543
  • Gratuities           -     315
    Simple Cruise    - $3360
  • Trip to NYC Pier -       60
  •  from Seattle Pier -     40
    Simple land cost  -    100
  • Airfare (SEA-JFK) -   250
  • Trip JFK to Home    -  60
    Minimum Cost    - $3870

Of course, things aren't always what they seem.  I decided to see what the current price for the cruise was listed for on, and saw that the cost for an inside cabin had dropped by $200.  This means that I'd still be close to $3,800 for the cruise without any excursions.  That wasn't good enough for me.  So, in late October, I checked for the same cruise and got the following results:

  • Studio Cabin: from $2,099
  • Inside Cabin:  from $1,198
  • Oceanview:    from $2,099
  • Balcony:         from $2,399
  • Mini-Suite:      from $2,849

You'll notice that having an inside cabin costs less than having a studio cabin.  There is more room in the inside cabin, but it does not have access to the studio cabin's lounge area. But the $1,000 difference in price from the time I started tracking this cruise and now is making me reconsider taking this cruise.  My net daily expense (excluding land/air transit) would drop from $160/day to $100/day.  My net minimum cost has dropped to under $3,000. This looks like a great bargain in the making.

Towards the end of July, I noted in my old blog that NCL practices yield management. This means that one can and will see pricing anomalies throughout the sales life of the cruise. Once within 90 days of the cruise, most of the people who have planned to go on the cruise have already made their bookings for the cruise.  And this is the period where price/value calculations start to create anomalies more exaggerated than the $900 difference between the studio cabin and the inside cabin above.  This is also the period where I start seriously tracking prices for cruises I want to take, so that I can pounce on a rare great deal.

Not all great deals are a result of complex yield management. Within the last month before the cruise, some lines (such as Princess) offer last minute specials.  I logged into priced a last minute 15 day Hawaii cruise (including air) from San Francisco leaving the first weekend in November, and got inside cabin price of $922/per person. 

  • Base Fare          - $1844 (includes $922 single supplement)
  • Port Fees/Taxes -     241
  • Gratuities           -     225
    Simple Cruise --  - $2310

Of course, airfare might have to be bought through the cruise line, as last minute airfares can be very expensive otherwise.  I expect that the Hawaii cruise would likely set me back close to $3,500, as I would want to take the shore excursions I wouldn't bother taking on the Panama Canal run. Considering that Princess can not offer 7 day Hawaii cruises that only NCL can offer, I'd bet that Princess will offer similar last minute deals on their Hawaii runs as the sale time for each cruise starts to run out.  So, if I want to do a Hawaii run, I may hold off until it is close to embarkation day and take advantage of any last minute discounts that may be offered.

Compare the NCL 7 day Hawaii cruise above to the Princess 15 day cruise mentioned earlier.  The NCL cruise overnights in Kauai (Nawiliwili) and Maui (Kahului), while the Princess cruise daylights these ports. The extra time in port gives the cruiser much more time to enjoy the two islands.  The minor (to me) drawback of taking the NCL cruise is that there is no gambling on the cruise, as gambling is illegal in Hawaii.  But the most important difference between the two cruise line's ships is that NCL sails with an American flagged ship, while Princess sails with a "flag of convenience."  This forces Princess to make a stop in a foreign port at least once per cruise. Thus, Princess must offer 15 day cruises with a single stop in Ensenada (Mexico) if it wants to service the Hawaii cruise market.

The difference between what NCL can offer for a last minute Hawaii cruise vs. what Princess can offer for a similar cruise becomes very interesting when I look at NCL's price for a Thanksgiving time cruise.  For the November 23, 2019 cruise, I got the following results:
  • Inside Cabin:  from    $899
  • Oceanview:    from    $929
  • Balcony:         from $1,299
  • Mini-Suite:     from $5,598 (includes 100% single supplement)
Let's factor in roughly $700 for airfare, $250 for port fees, $100 for land transit, $105 for gratuities, and another $600 for shore excursions, and my total expenses for a 7 day cruise would be in the $2,700 range for an Oceanview cabin. Since NCL offers this cruise on a weekly basis, I'd bet that deals like this may show up relatively often.

You'll note that I've focused on cruises that sail within the next 6 months which stop in United States and Canadian ports. Being transgender, I need to feel safe in those few ports that I go on shore - especially while traveling with an ID showing a male presentation but presenting as a female. The Panama Canal and Hawaii cruises are (for most people) "once in a lifetime" trips, and I want to take both before I get too old to travel.

Was she dead or alive? Inquiring minds wanted to know.

  I hadn't seen Pat in months, and I haven't been able to reach her by voice or text.  Given that she's 84 years old, I figured ...