Saturday, April 15, 2023

Traditional Tax Day


Lately, I've been writing posts that are published 2 weeks later. These posts reflect the "present tense" at the time I write them, and not when they are available to my readers. I figure that when I get to travel, I won't be doing any writing during each trip, and will be playing catch-up when I get back.  This post is an exception to my usual way of doing things, as it is meant to be read on "Tax Day", and be current for that date.

One of the problems with our tax system is that it's hard to determine how much tax to withhold when one has multiple income sources.  Last year, I had income from a job, income from a pension, income from rental property, and income from other investments.  When I was working, I tried to over-withhold money from my paychecks to compensate for under-withholding from my other income sources.  What is most frustrating is that I need to spend several hundred dollars each year just to fill out forms the government needs to validate that I have paid enough in taxes each year.  This doesn't make much sense.  We need a tax system that is efficient, fair, and generates a maximum of revenue for government to use.

I'm not going to get into a long-winded discussion of the tax system, its flaws, and the trade-offs needed to create a better system.  No system could please everyone, and we have too much invested in our terrible system to take the social risk of making changes. 

So, why am I talking about taxes here?  This blog is a journal about my life as a transgender person living in the New York area.  The answer is simple.  Many things that transgender people deal with are just as mundane as the things that cisgender people deal with.  We just have a few more complications in our lives that get in the way of living those lives.

The other day, I recommended that RQS see a transgender accountant that I know.  She has just received her tax paperwork to sign, and is happy with the work that was done for her.  Yes, RQS still misgenders this accountant when talking with me, as all she has heard is the accountant's male voice - and that keeps triggering the use of the incorrect pronoun. I'm not going to hold it against RQS, as I've done the same thing when talking with another transgender acquaintance of mine.  And even my best friends have done it with me.  It is the price we pay, a tax on our souls you may call it, to be able to be out there as our authentic selves.  We may be free, but we must pay the price for that freedom in many ways.

I don't quibble about the overall amount of taxes I pay, as I've seen how much good government can do with that money. And I don't quibble when my friends and acquaintances misgender me by accident, as they will always be getting used to getting pronouns straight for people they first knew as part of the opposite gender....

Friday, April 14, 2023

I saw a busker I haven't seen in years


The Saw Lady.  Since I've stopped working in Lower Manhattan, I haven't seen her perform.  Given that she responded to me in my old blog, I figured that looking for her in one of the subway stations I'd be going through today made sense - and I spotted her at Union Square.  We chatted for a minute before I had to leave.

But first....

When I woke up today, I wasn't sure of what I was going to do.  Should I go to the Universal Standard sample sale, or should I go to my former boss's burial.  Well, luck made the decision for me.  I looked at my calendar and noticed that I had forgotten about lunch with a former coworker from the census.  So, I shaved, showered, and applied my makeup - and got dressed as a female.  This would be the last time I could go out as a female, so I made the most of it.

First, I met my friend at the restaurant down the hill, and has a nice Mexican lunch.  Our time together was too short, and yet just right.  After an hour or so, I had to run to the local train station to go into NYC. And then, I had an uneventful ride into Grand Central before getting onto the subway going downtown.

At Union Square, I changed trains, and walked from the IRT to the BMT side of the station.  And there, I saw the Saw Lady.  It was nice seeing her again, but I don't think she remembered writing to me on my old blog.  I didn't say much about that, but I did get memories of my commute to the Trade Center area. Since I had to make it to Universal Standard, I bid her a quick farewell - and off I went to the Sample Sale.

While at the sample sale, I found the above Merino Wool sweater in a pale sky blue shade, and picked it up for only $35.  The sweater feels so light, it's almost like wearing nothing at all - and yet, it's doing it's job. But the most interesting aspects about this trip were two things: a chat I had with a lady regarding women treating the sales floor like a private changing room, and the smart idea one woman had to wear a unitard, so that she could change in and out of everything and still keep her modesty.  The lady I chatted with said that she was uncomfortable in some environments like this, as she once was at a sale where one woman stripped down to her panties (no bra) and changed into some garments.  She didn't mind seeing other women in bra and panties getting into clothes.  But the experience of seeing a woman wearing only a thong made her uncomfortable. Regarding the second lady, she mentioned that this would be as close to being naked as possible, and yet be clothed.  So she could try on everything and not bother people with an excess state of undress.  I might do this for the next sample sale.

I ended up returning home just before rush hour.  Normally, before Covid, I wouldn't have gotten a seat.  Today, I had no problems doing so.  I'm glad that I don't do this anymore on a regular basis. 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

I was hemming and hawing about which day to take care of things


By the time you read this, I will have already made my decision on alternatives to choose from, and taken care of my responsibilities.

Let me explain....

My ex-boss was killed due to a drunk driver doing a hit-and-run over the weekend, leaving him with injuries that caused his death the day afterwards.  I just received information on when he is being buried, as well as the 3 days the family is sitting Shiva. (Traditionally, Jews sit Shiva for 7 days, but many non-traditional people reduce the duration of this practice.)  And here is where my conflict arises.

I just received an email regarding a second sample sale that Universal Standard is having this weekend. If I were to go to the sample sale on Thursday, I'd have to visit the family on Sunday.  If I were to go to the burial, I wouldn't be able to go to the sample sale, as plans for Friday, Saturday and Sunday preclude a sample sale visit.  The way I am leaning right now, I'll go to the sample sale tomorrow and hope that I can find either of the cashmere or merino wool sweaters I want (at a great discount), and get back home before rush hour.  If I can do this, I'll have the option of visiting the family before the end of the day on Thursday.  If I can't get back before rush hour, I'd still be able to visit on Sunday - on our way to the Jersey shore.  

You might be asking about my plans for Friday and Saturday.  Well, this is RQS's birthday weekend, and I want to make sure that our original and paid for plans aren't interrupted by unplanned for events. RQS knows about my minor dilemma, and will support me no matter what I do.

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

I am more excited about a trip we're taking in the fall, than one in the summer.

The "Electric Kidney Bean", it's a beautiful piece of art in Chicago's Millennium Park.  And I'll be seeing it in person again this fall. I am looking forward to this trip much more than I am looking forward to my upcoming California cruise.  

And, why so?

Unlike my upcoming visit to California, my visit to Chicago will be done as my authentic self.  I'll be traveling as Marian for the trip, RQS will be accompanying me, and we'll be seeing my two friends from Texas.  After as many visits to California as I have done, a short stop in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Diego isn't all that exciting.  However, I've only been able to stay in Chicago twice for more than a day or so.  There is a lot that is still new to me there, and I want to see it all.

- - - - - -

RQS is looking forward to visiting Chicago, as she's catching up on the life she envisioned herself living when she was younger.  (No, I will not go into her unfulfilled early adult wishes here.  But I will say, that like my life, her life turned out much differently than she planned.)  It'll be nice showing her around the Windy City, as well as feasting on local specialties such as Deep Dish Pizza.  We'll have fun going to the Art Institute together, as well as being with friends with whom I grew close via Zoom chats.

The big question is: What does everyone else want to do?

I am a museum rat.  If the museum is large enough, or unique enough, you will find me wanting to go there.  In Philadelphia, I'd want to go to the Mutter Museum.  In New York, I'd look up the Museum of Finance.  In DC, I'd look to visit the International Spy Museum.  But what will we want to see in Chicago?  To answer that question, I'd build a list of places and things I want to see:

  1. The Willis (formerly Sears) tower glass platforms.
    Assuming that I am wearing a dress that day, it will be the most unusual "up skirt" view possible, as I'll be standing on a clear platforming overlooking the sidewalk plaza below.
  2. The International Museum of Surgical Science.
    This is Chicago's answer to Philadelphia's Mutter Museum.  I'm a person who likes odd things, and this would be an appropriately odd place to visit.
  3. Wooden Block Alley.
    This is one of the last places in Chicago paved with wooden blocks.  Just like New York's cobblestone streets, Chicago's wood paved streets are almost all gone.  And it would be nice to see this historical relic.
  4. Remnants of the World's Colombian Exhibition of 1893.
    The Japanese Garden is one of the few things that are left from this exhibition that took place 130 years ago.  Given that I love the Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, this place is on my list of gardens to visit.
  5. The Money Museum. (Not open to public since March 15, 2020)
    Chicago's Federal Reserve Bank has a museum of money that people can visit.  Ask yourself, when was the last time one could stand in the shadow of $1,000,000, and you'll know why this place is worth the visit.
  6. The Billy Goat Tavern.
    The owner of the original Billy Goat Tavern cursed the Cubs to never win another world series.  And this was an effective curse, as it took the Cubs over 100 years to break the curse several years ago.  More recently, it was the inspiration for the Olympia Cafe skit on Saturday Night Live.  What better place to get a Cheeseburger with Chips and Pepsi than the place that started it all?
  7. The Chicago Crime Tour.
    What visit to Chicago could be complete without visiting places that (Big) Al Capone made famous?
  8. Chicago Pedway Tour.
    Chicago has a great underground system of walking paths which connect many of its downtown office buildings  Not all of the underground sections are connected to each other.  But enough of them are to make a tour worth taking.
  9. Frank Lloyd Wright home and studio tour.
    I've taken this tour before.  But it is classic architecture that is timeless.  There are other Wright buildings in Oak Park that are worth seeing, and I hope to see more than this one while in Chicago.
I could go on and on, but I decided to leave off places significantly south of the loop for simplicity and safety.  This is not a city that I am not yet familiar with, and I heed the warning of Jim Croce when he sings that the South Side of Chicago is the Baddest Part of Town.  Why venture too far to the south, unless the White Sox are playing that day?

As you can see, this is a sample list that's going to be edited with the help of the women who will be with me.  It'll be new for all of us, and that's why I'm excited about this trip most of all!

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

There are differing degrees of being busy....


Later this week, I will be heading down to Queens to meet with RQS and take her to the theater.  We will be seeing Sarah Millican perform at the Beacon Theater in NYC.  From there, we will be going back to her place to pick up some luggage, and then go to my house for a couple of evenings before spending a night in New Jersey.  I'll be all over the place when I'd rather be spending time near home.

- - - - - -

In December 2021, I met a woman who cruises at least 3-4 times each year. Last year, she made it both to Africa and Antarctica.  This year, it's a couple of Alaska cruises, with an east coast run later in the year.  Next year, it's off to Australia and then a partial crossing of the Pacific.  I am very envious!  But then, I am trying to figure out ways that I can afford to sail more often than I do.

I've been writing notes about the things I've learned about cruising and plan to start writing a blog about my travels.  It is something that will keep my mind active, as well as give me a reason to keep up my travels.  Although I have sailed 10-11 times, I feel that I have exhausted many of the typical North American cruise experiences on the major cruise lines.  Caribbean islands all seem to have forts, shopping districts, and beaches.  The New England/Canada route tends to become repetitive after a couple of sailings.  And the Alaska route could have a "been there, done that" feel after a cruise there.  Hawaii stands out only because of the travel needed to reach these islands in the middle of the pacific.  And yet, it's not a cruise that may hold one's interest after a second trip. So, it'll be a good thing to expand my horizons and travel further afield.

- - - - - -

Being busy may mean different things to different people.  To me, being busy is more the idea of keeping one's mind occupied than one's body occupied.  I keep myself busy by planning trips and writing about my experiences - especially those regarding life as a transgender person.  As long as I have things to look forward to, I hope to keep myself busy by preparing for those things to happen. It should be a good time....

Monday, April 10, 2023

I thought the day ended well until....


For the past few years, my brother has done the books and took care of the management duties for the house we rent out.  So I was glad when my brother texted me to let me know that the paperwork for 2022 taxes was ready, and that I could send it to my accountant.  I was in a good mood until I checked back on my computer and found a message from a friend's son.  His dad was killed in a hit-and-run incident, with a drunken driver leaving the scene of the accident.  If I had not texted my friend today, I'd have never known this had happened.

My former boss was one of three people that I wanted to stay in contact with after leaving the bank.  The first of these three passed away 365 days after we were both laid off in 2014.  Hopefully, he was able to collect his full pension in a lump sum payment, as he would have gotten a small fraction of that if the bank paid him the value of his ESOP shares.  The second person died about 4 years ago, and I was the only person from the bank who attended his wake.  And now, the last person has died due to some drunk's stupidity.  

Sometime this week, I expect to visit his family as they sit Shiva. Although I just had a mani-pedi, intending to spend the week as Marian, I will remove the polish and visit in Mario mode.  Neither he, nor his family knew about Marian, and this would not be the time or place to let them know.  Instead, it's the time to show respect for my friend and to try and comfort his family as best as possible.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

Do I need a support group? Can I help others in one?


I am a bit of an oxymoron.  The more female I become, the healthier my male personality becomes.  When I started going out in the world as Marian, I made a lot of beginner mistakes common to transgender people learning the ways of their identified gender. Over the years, I've learned how to dress the way cisgender women do, I've learned some of the communications skills that cisgender women use, and I've learned how to blend in as an oversized woman.

The question comes to mind now and then:

Could I have avoided making many of the mistakes I made, had I been part of a support group?

There is no way to answer this question, as I chose to learn by making a lot of mistakes.  A failed romance got in the way, as the fallout of that relationship made it impractical to develop simple friendships in the northern part of the region in which I live.  But I have learned, and wonder whether I have knowledge worth passing on to others.

A while back, I saw an acquaintance who once authored a blog documenting her TG journey.  When I had last met her before, she (when presenting as a male) had a subtle feminine softness to her masculine presentation.  In my most recent visit, she was presenting in an androgynous way - but not in a way that she'd easily blend with a group of typical cisgender males.  This is something I want to avoid at all costs in my masculine and feminine presentations. Since it is not my place to comment on my acquaintance's presentation, I did not do so.  And in doing so here, it is only to give her a lot of credit for not worrying about how others think of the way she dresses.  More people should have the courage to do what she is doing.  

So this makes me think of another question:

Can I help other "closeted" and "out" transgender people with my experiences?

If in the context of being a regular member of a support group, I don't think so.  But if it is in the context of an occasional contact with members of a support, or with the general public, I think I can do so.  I certainly have enough experiences that I can relate that will help others, as well as help many in the general public see us as "normal" people with one non-traditional trait.  

Hopefully, I will find more ways to give back to our community....

Norwegian Fjord Cruise Vacation - 06/28/24 (Zeebrugge, Belgium)

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