Saturday, February 25, 2023

DC Trip 2023 - Day 02

Chuck Berry's Cadillac.  

Chuck Berry had style to spare.  By changing the phrase "Colored Boy" to "Country Boy",  he made the song "Johnny B. Goode" a universal classic that has been covered many times by great guitar players.  I wish I could have seen him live on stage, doing his "duck walk" while playing his guitar as only he could.

And this sets the stage for today's destination....

RQS and I had tickets to arrive at the National Museum of African American History at noon.  But first, we had to have breakfast before going into Washington.  So we went into the lobby where breakfast was available, and found a better spread than the "continental breakfast" provided by some hotels.  In addition to the typical assortment of cold cereals and make them yourself waffles; there were "to-go" bags containing bagels, spread and fruit; as well as pre-made omelettes, breakfast meats, and hash browns.  Yum!  It was good enough to dissuade us from going to the 24 hour diner down the block.  (We ended up going there for desserts, but I'll mention that in a later post.)

It was bright, sunny and cold when we went to DC.  But we got off at a station near the midpoint of the National Mall.  This meant that we'd do a lot of walking before reaching the museum about 30 minutes later than planned.  Unlike our last visit, we planned at the top of the building and worked our way down.  Our first stop was the section of the museum dedicated to blacks in entertainment. One could easily get overwhelmed by the historical artifacts contained here - and we spent most of our time in this section before moving onward.  From there, we visited another section which covered the history of Blacks in our armed forces.  Here is where history became sobering.  But I won't discuss my feelings here. At this point, both of us were tuckered out.  So we went downstairs to grab a bite to eat before finishing our museum visit for the day.

After a rest in our hotel room, we decided to go out for dinner around 9 pm.  The only restaurant we knew of was a sports bar / restaurant named for a former football player (Joe Theisman).  So we walked the 2 blocks in the bitter cold (it felt that way) to get a bite to eat.  Sadly, it was way too noisy there to enjoy a good conversation, and the food left a bit to be desired.  (It wasn't bad.  But it wasn't worth the money we spent on it.)  Luckily, we only had a short walk back to the hotel before we could go to bed for the night.

Friday, February 24, 2023

DC Trip 2023 - Day 01


Alexandria, VA - Old Town.  This was where we stayed in the DC metropolitan area.  The hotel we planned to stay at was about a block's walk from the Metro station, and had been chosen for easy access to Washington DC.  I figured that if we could easily commute into the city from a nearby suburb, we'd be able to avoid the need for a car while in the city - and I was right.

But first....

Since I hadn't heard back from one of my TG friends and that the other was at a Cosplay Convention, I decided that I would make this trip as Mario.  This would be an advantage for me, because it was too cold (save for the last 2 days of our trip) for me to wear the skirts and dresses I love wearing when presenting as Marian.  So I packed my bag only with Mario's clothes and stayed the night with RQS the day before our trip to DC.

Thursday morning came, and we were off to DC.  We took an Uber to Penn Station, but the driver didn't know enough to drop us off on West 33rd Street, in the designated area for Uber/Lyft pickups and drop-offs.  So we ended up getting out of the car on 8th Avenue - something I dislike when dealing with baggage.  Our next stop was the Amtrak waiting area, but we didn't have long to wait.  We were able to board the train within 20 minutes of our arrival.

Those who take Amtrak know that most trips tend to take longer than scheduled - save for trips along the Northeast Corridor.  This section of the national railroad network is controlled (mostly) by Amtrak, and has a reasonably high number of on-time trains.  For a 11:35 am departure, we knew that we'd be in DC around 3 pm - and we were not disappointed.  But then, it was time to find a cab to take us to Alexandria.  Unlike the outside chaos at New York's Penn Station, things at DC's Union Station are calm and reasonably organized.  It was easy for us to find a cab to get us where we needed to go.  So we headed to our hotel, checked in, and relaxed for a while.

Around 5:30, we departed the hotel and walked 1 block to the Metro.  We met RQS's cousin (and his wife) at Hot 'n Juicy Crawfish in the Adams-Morgan section of town, and had a great time.  But all too soon it was time to go back to the hotel.  It was nice for the cousin to offer to drive us back - and we got into a friendly, animated, but not agitated conversation. (When talking about the GOP and its attacks on our freedoms to control what is done (or not) to our bodies, I mentioned where I stand on transgender issues.  Luckily, both RQS's cousin and his wife lean left of center.)  When we got back to the hotel, the cousin's wife made sure to give us an extra friendly hug - as a way of telling us that they really enjoyed our company, and want to see us both again soon.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Ashes - a short post


Laffing Sal at the Musee Mecanique

Later this year, RQS and I will be visiting San Francisco on a California Cruise, and I will be showing her some of the places in town that have meaning to me. One of which will be the Musee Mechanique, where Laffing Sal can be found.  But of more importance is the place where I scattered my late wife's ashes.  I haven't paid my respects in over 10 years, and it's time I go back - even for a short visit.

Sooner or later, RQS will need to scatter her late husband's ashes.  And I will be there for her when she does it, as a (now ex) girlfriend was there for me when I scattered my wife's ashes 25+ years ago.  Over time, we all need to scatter the ashes from our past, so that we can get on with living.  This doesn't mean that we forget the past.  Instead, it means we are moving forward into the future.

Both RQS and I are taking the time to clean up our places.  In my case, I'm doing my best to declutter my place, so that required work can be done in my apartment.  I figure that I still have a few months to take care of things, and hope to have the bulk of these things taken care of before my cruise.  It will be nice to again have a place in the basement where I can seasonally store unused items from both of my wardrobes.

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.


"We will be closed permanently as of Friday, May 27th."

The above notice was posted on the window of the former coffee station at the train station I used to commute from.  And strangely enough, I miss the routine of going to work at a job I "sorta" liked. 

- - - - - -

This May, I'll have been separated from my job at the bank for 9 years.  And I don't miss what the job turned into at the end.  My last major assignment was a no-win situation with a person who did the work of 4 people, but wouldn't explain what she was doing so that she could be managed.  In fairness, she made herself indispensable, but at the expense of the people assigned to manage projects depending on her work.  

Much has changed in the past few years since I left my position with the bank.  My once useful skills are now obsolete, and I understand what those former steel workers felt when their mills closed down. Yet, I only have myself to blame for my skills becoming obsolete, as I can only blame those in dead one horse towns for not leaving before the one main employer there had the chance to shut down. It doesn't take much to see the writing on the wall.  But it does take some effort to heed the warning (as I did too late) that writing gives before disaster strikes.

- - - - - -

I see America in a culture war that no one individual started.  Instead, it is a natural reaction to the McCarthyism of the 1950's.  In the 1950's the "Red Scare" was used to manipulate people to fear Communists in their midst.  People were blacklisted by accusations alone, even though it was their right to advocate for America to use a different form of economic system.  (I won't get into discussions of Stalinism, and other good reasons to be concerned about Soviet problems infecting the United States in this post.)  Communism and Socialism became things to fear.  In the 1930's, we had "Nothing to Fear, but Fear Itself."  In the 1950's, we were taught to fear everything, and to "Duck and Cover" for whatever good that would do.

By the time the 1960's came around, we were getting into the Vietnam War, and our youth started to wonder why we were wasting American lives.  Now, there was a rift in American society.  Half said: "America, love it or leave it." The other half said that the most patriotic thing we could do is to point out when a country is going wrong.  It was a good thing to challenge leadership when it is wrong.  In short, it is a good thing NOT to follow leadership when our leaders are taking the wrong path.

Since this time, America has gone through multiple political cycles, its pendulum swinging back and forth between conservative and progressive periods of political dominance.  Unfortunately, the conservative movement has now gained power by distortions of truth and by outright lies.  Honest conservatives have been pushed out of their own party, as the radicals seek only power in order to crush the progressives and what they stand for.  These radicals want to make America look like it did in the 1950's, a land where people of color were 3rd class citizens, a land where women took 2nd place to the males in their lives, and a land where the LGBTIQ population had to live in shame and fear.

- - - - - - 

As I write this post, I am thinking of last night's State of the Union (SOTU) address and its rebuttal.  The President's speech was one of unity and of goals.  The GOP rebuttal was one of fear, accusing the progressive movement of starting the culture war.  All the scary symbolic words were used in a way that I might buy into the message had I consumed a diet of right -wing propaganda. At least, I knew enough to tune out the GOP's spokesperson, as I couldn't bear to hear her lies and distortions of the truth, given her past history.

Years ago, Triumph of the Will showed the world the danger of the cult of Hitler.  Roughly, 80 years later, we saw similar imagery and themes used by a now (thankfully) former president to get himself elected. White Americans who feel victimized, humiliated, and continually threatened by (too rapid) changes without a social safety net to depend on bought into his message of empowerment and reclamation of past entitlement status.

Sadly, the message coming from the radical right is one of fear.  They will put us transgender people back into the closet (at best) and make us fear for our safety if they can.  If they have power, many in their ranks will feel empowered to victimize anyone who doesn't fit the social models presented in shows like "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet", "Father Knows Best", and "Leave It To Beaver." There was no way where LGBTIQ people could be presented in a positive light, and no room for people of color to be seen as equal members of society.

- - - - - -

So what happened last night?  In short, we have seen the definition of what is at stake in the culture war. We can not be a reasonably democratic republic if we regress to an America based on 1950's American values. We can not be free if we are forced to live with 1950's cultural norms.  And, we can not be free if our bodies are not ours to control.

Luckily, most Americans are not supportive of the goals of the radical right.  But they must continuously be reminded (in a soft way) what is at stake if the radicals win.  We must take advantage of the tools protected in our constitution, and use them as effectively as the radical right has, turning their arguments against them at every opportunity.  

Years ago, Charles Chaplin lampooned Hitler in The Great Dictator. He said that he never would have made this film had he known about the horrors of the 3rd Reich. I feel that it is important to be able to laugh at authoritarians, as they do not know what they can do about being seen as pathetic caricatures of powerful people. So, I go back to the SOTU address and the radical right's politician who disrupted the address to call the president a liar.  If I had been the president, I'd have responded in a way similar to Groucho Marx gag from Duck Soup, and said: "I'm fighting for your freedoms, which is something that you'd never do."   


The more things change, the more they stay the same....

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Tax Paperwork Collection - a short post


At this time of year, most of us should have received all needed tax forms, and be ready to file our Federal and State tax forms.  In my case, I have enough paperwork coming in from enough places that I have to check each sheet against a list I've made to insure that I have everything needed for my accountant. Since my brother takes care of a the finances of a joint investment we own, I end up waiting for an extra month before sending paperwork to my accountant.

This year, I have to ask my account a simple question.  Does it make sense for me to drop the maximum amount I can contribute into a Roth IRA?  I'm not sure of where the stock market is headed, but I know that I want the tax advantages of a Roth IRA, as I will not need the principal invested for at least 5 years. (It makes sense for me to work part time, so that I can put money into this type of IRA.)

The big question I have to ask of myself: Do I want to work part time after I reach the age where I can collect Social Security?  What are the tax consequences?  How much more paperwork will I have to deal with if I do so?  (I can only imagine the headaches I'll face if I ever change my name....)

Monday, February 20, 2023

A long weekend with RQS, with little being done.


I ended up starting my visit to RQS on the coldest fay of the year so far in NYC.  Night time temperatures before wind chill factoring were in the low teens, and neither of us wanted to go out in the cold. Although I had to fight some traffic, it was an easy ride to her area, and I was able to find a nearby parking spot within a couple of minutes of arriving in her area. This was a good thing, as the air outside felt as if it was in the single digits.  This was one time that I wasn't traveling as Marian.

- - - - - -

Saturday came, and the temperature started to warm up.  Yet, it wasn't warm enough to want to stay outside for long, so we only ventured outdoors to get dinner and dessert.  We caught a bus to a nearby restaurant and had a mice meal of Veal Ossobuco over Risotto.  YUM!  RQS was surprised that dinner cost as much as it did after tax and tip.  So she decided to buy some pastries for us to have for dessert. Luckily, we were able to wait for the return bus inside the pastry shop, so we were relatively comfortable when we got home.

- - - - - -

Normally, Sunday would be the last day of our weekend together.  However, the parking spot I had didn't require me to move my car until early Tuesday morning. So I was able to stay an extra day.  As a result, we were able to visit Chelsea Market in Manhattan.  Although this is more a place to eat than one to buy high end food, we did find a couple of diversions - one of which being a bookstore.  (I ended up buying a book for myself and a book to give her for Valentine's day - she already knows of the tickets I bought her for an A.J. Croce concert to be held early next month.)

- - - - - -

Monday was a day on the bonus plan, and we finished our binge watch of HBO's Perry Mason series.  RQS is hooked on this series and on The Newsroom.  (The 1st episode of the latter got her hooked.)  Unfortunately, the day was too short, and I still needed to do things at home.  So it was with a touch of sadness that I had to go home.

- - - - - -

Do I wish I could have spent time as Marian?  YES!  But it wouldn't have been practical for this weekend.  And, because I haven't heard back from an acquaintance in DC, I'll be spending all of my time there in Mario mode.  AARGH!  At least, RQS wasn't the person suggesting this.  Instead, I made the decision, as it made my efforts to pack for a 5 day trip to DC much easier than packing for a Marian/Mario trip.

Sunday, February 19, 2023

It looks like only Mario will be going on this trip - a short post.


A while back, I contacted two of my TG friends to let them know that I'd be in DC soon, and would love to get together with them.  Unfortunately, one of these friends is between two trips and would be unable to meet me that weekend I'm there.  However, I haven't heard back from the second friend, and feel that I have to write her off for this trip.  And this means that I might as well travel as Mario, making packing for the trip much simpler.

I'll miss being Marian on this trip, but it makes more sense to travel as Mario and carry much less with me.  It will be nice to spend time with RQS sightseeing, and again meeting her cousin and his wife.  This makes our trip more than just worthwhile, as we need to get away from home more often than we do.

Hopefully, RQS and I will take another trip later this year, but this one having me in Marian mode for the whole trip..

An early dinner with a friend

  Last night, I mentioned to Pat that I wish I could have been born a cisgender female who looked like this when younger.  If I were younger...