Saturday, November 4, 2023

Chicago Girls Trip - The Aftermath

Now that I returned from Chicago, I had to take care of many things related to the theft of my wallet.  First, I had to call the remaining credit card companies that I couldn't reach on Monday to close the accounts to new transactions.  Then, I had to replace the documents I had kept in my wallet related to my driver's license, car registration and car insurance. Following that, I had to visit two banks to make sure that the correct cards were cancelled, and that new ones would be on order.  For all of these tasks, I was glad to have my US Passport handy, as this would serve as government issued photo ID for every procedure that requires photo identification,

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I  should feel more exhausted than I do right now.  But I think I'm running on a steady flow of Adrenalin in my arteries.  When I texted RQS, STX, and JTX, they told me that I accomplished a lot in a short day.  In reality, one can accomplish a lot if one has a good plan.  Although I'm good at doing things on the fly, it helped for me to write down a list of things to do before I started out for the day.  This way, I would know how to adjust things when circumstances dictated a change in plans.

Just before I went to bed, I noticed that the fraud unit of American Express stopped payment on the wrong purchase.  The thief made a bogus charge to Target, and I made a legitimate charge to the Frank Lloyd Wright trust, and the chargeback went to the wrong parties.  So I called Amex at 2:00 am to get this fixed while I was awake enough to do so.

Monitoring both credit card charges and my credit reports will become a regular thing for the foreseeable future, especially when it's time for me to turn off credit freezes so that I can finance a car I plan to buy.  The big question will be: What kind of car do I want and how much will I finance?

Friday, November 3, 2023

Chicago Girls Trip - Day 3


Off to the left (mostly out of this picture) is a building called "The Rookery".  It is an anomaly, as Frank Lloyd Right was tasked with renewing another architect's work and did so in magnificent fashion - working in a style that enhanced the original architect's vision instead of obliterating it.

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RQS and I had our last breakfast with STX before going our own ways.  (JTX had to leave much earlier in the morning, as she had a 7:00 am flight, and couldn't be with us.)  We left STX waiting at the bus stop while we headed off into the Loop for a tour of the Rookery. 

Our trip into the look was uneventful, but my back was bothering me again.  But I was gallant, and soldiered on through an our of walking and standing.  We learned a lot about this building, and were planning to visit the Federal Reserve's Money Museum after the Rookery.  Unfortunately, my wallet was stolen, and I spent the rest of the day dealing with the loss. (I documented this day in a prior entry.)

Instead of eating a nice dinner out for our last Chicago meal, we ate some take-out chicken. But I couldn't relax.  I was still dealing with being hyper stimulated, and being in a vicious cycle loop of worry.  I couldn't sleep - and I wished I could all through the night/

I learned something though - be ultra careful with one's wallet and contents when not in familiar areas....

Thursday, November 2, 2023

Chicago Girls Trip - Day 2


The second full day of our trip started with another breakfast at the Egg Harbor Cafe.  And again, RQS and I got up at the awful hour of 7:00 am to be ready in time to eat.  But to see our friends, it was worth it.  They went out of their way to see them.  So we knew it was right to do the same.

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Once done with breakfast, it was time to go to the Willis Tower and go to the Skydeck.  The above picture was taken from there, and on my previous visit, I saw a plane flying BELOW the level on which I was standing.  But I digress....

All 4 of us knew what we had to do to reach the Skydeck  This time, we got there early, and we got there on a day where we were able to see something other than rain in front of us.  After a little time killing, we went up to the observation deck.  On this visit, I was underwhelmed.  When it came time for us to stand on the Ledge (a 1.5" thick plexiglass platform jutting out from the building), it was mobbed. 10 years ago, people weren't making an effort to stand on the Ledge.  Now, people pose there for some interesting photos which then can take home and forget about. Yes, I bought some of those pictures, and have sent digital copies to RQS, STX, and JTX as souvenirs of our trip.

After the Skydeck, it was off to the Magnificent Mile, and the Billy Goat Tavern.  The original Billy Goat is classic Chicago, and the model for Saturday Night Live's Olympia Diner skit. Even now, you'll hear the chant of "Cheeborger, Cheeborger, Cheeborger" several times during a typical visit. And from there, we explored the Mile, and then took the bus to the river where we explored a control house for one of the Chicago River's Bascule bridges.

Walking was beginning to take a toll on us, and we decided to go for some Deep Dish pizza to finish off our time together with a filling meal. Yum!  Over dinner, we talked of many things, and we all hoped we could get together again next year.  San Francisco came up, and it is high on our list of options.  Given a choice, I'd vote for the City by the Bay.  Maybe next year at this time?  We'll see....

Wednesday, November 1, 2023

Chicago Girls Trip - Day 1


What was it that John Lennon said?  "Life is something that happens while you are making other plans."  Well, our first day in Chicago was one where we started to try to do things according to plan, and where our actions diverged from the plan shortly after we started.

We met at 8:30 am (a big stretch for RQS and I), and had breakfast at a local eatery.  Once done with breakfast, we marched off to our first stop in a light rain - the El that would take us to the Bus's starting point.  And that's where our plan unraveled.  The train that would take us to the Loop was late, and we had to try something else.  And that's where we got lost - even with the use of Google Maps!  (I hate their walking instructions, as it's too easy to go in the reverse direction from where one wants to head.)  After some effort, we got to the Willis Tower and got on the bus.

Our first stop would be the Art Institute of Chicago, where we spent a couple of hours skimming what the museum had to offer.  There is way too much to see in one visit, and we were not out to perform a superhuman effort to do so.  After a quick lunch, it was off to the Field Museum for a while.  That's where my back problems got to me, and I had to sit down more than walk.  Once done there, we went out to catch the tour bus that would take us to Navy Pier, a tour bus that didn't come.

When we had waited 45 minutes, we decided to use our multi day passes for Chicago's mass transit system, and take a local bus to Navy Pier.  (This might have been a mistake, as the tour bus came shortly after we gave up on it.)  It was bitterly cold all day, and we needed a place to warm up and eat before our scheduled night time river tour.  Luckily, we found it at the pier.  But we ended up skipping the river tour.

After dinner, luck finally smiled upon us, as a bus that runs along Chicago avenue was waiting at the bus stop, and we found we could take it directly to our hotel.  So we did!

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Besides the asassination, how was the play?


After this weekend, I am not sure that I will bother with Chicago again.  Most of the trip was great, but it was book-ended by events that soured me on a lot of things.  But I will go into that after a brief reporting of our Girls Trip to Chicago.

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There were 4 of us scheduled to spend a long weekend in the Windy City: STX, JTX, RQS and me.  I'd be traveling in female mode for the entire trip, with only my masculine legal ID available to get me through airport security.  (More on that later.)  It would also be the first time that RQS would be taking a trip with me solely presenting as Marian.

I had packed both my suitcase and my backpack, and took a cab to to Croton Harmon station.  Well, I was so absent minded, that I left my backpack with my Chromebook in the washroom - and it was gone by the time I went back for it.  AARGH!  If I'm lucky, Metro North may find it, and then bring it to Lost and Found at Grand Central Terminal.  But to claim it, I need legal ID - of which I left a backup version (US Passport card) in that bag.  (Again, more on this later.)  So I took the cab back to my apartment, so that I could get a new supply of medicine before the trip.

The next few days with the girls was mostly uneventful.  (More on this later.)  We had a great time exploring Chicago, going to the Field Museum, the Art Institute, and Navy Pier on our first full day there, and then going to the Skydeck (Observation level at the Sears/Willis Tower), and then the Magnificent Mile on our second full day there.  After STX and JTX left for home, RQS and I went to the Rookery to see this classic building.  And that's where my troubles began.

After our Rookery tour, we went to a local place to have lunch.  That's where my wallet was stolen.  AARGH!  Instead of going to see the Money Museum at Chicago's Federal Reserve Bank, we ended up making phone calls to banks to cancel credit cards, and going to the South Side of Chicago to file a police report.

Arriving at the police station, we saw a migrant encampment completely surrounding the police station's block.  This is where I realized that having my wallet stolen is a "first world" problem.  These people have it much worse than I ever will. I couldn't avoid the children playing with the revolving door, as they didn't have much to play with.  Inside the station, people were encamped on one side of the "receiving area" while the other side had been cordoned off for police business.   

Chatting with the police officer while he was taking down my information, I found out that the area within the Loop has become a high crime area.  It is very different from the last time I was there, and even the PO has had his wallet stolen once.  So you can now see why I won't be visiting Chicago again for a while.

Today, it was time to go home.  With ALL of my ID taken by the pickpocket, I was worried about TSA airport security - and for good reason.  We checked out of our hotel room early, and got to the airport.  Although I had TSA Pre-Check privileges, for this trip, I lost them due to my missing ID.  I had to fill out a form to inform TSA that I was without ID, and then (after a minor back and forth between the TSA area and Delta's ticketing area) I had to wait again until a TSA officer was available to ask me several security questions to insure I was the person who would be flying home.  After a few minutes, this officer made a phone call, asked me some personal questions, and then I was cleared to pass through security screening - without Pre-Check privileges.  

Given a choice, I'd always go for Pre-Check (or Global Entry, if traveling internationally) to avoid the hassles of intense TSA screening.  Today, it was time to go home the way most people do.  I went through the full body scanner without my shoes, all of my bags were swabbed down for dangerous chemicals, and I had to have a full body pat down.  TSA had the grace to ask me whether I wanted a male or female to perform the pat down, and I said that it didn't matter. Once the pat down was done, I still had to wait for my bags to be processed, and after 30-45 minutes, I was ready to enter the secured area of the airport.

Once I entered the secured area, it was time to look for RQS.  And I couldn't find her.  Instead of being close to the TSA zone, she had located herself in an area where I couldn't see her.  So I proceeded to take the long walk to the gate, and wait for RQS - she'd have to pass by me to go home.  This made perfect sense, as she did find me with a little help from our cell phones.

Two hours after we boarded the plane, we landed at La Guardia airport.  And we were home before 7:15 pm.  Not bad!  But I still had to make it home.  Leaving at a little after 8:00 pm, I made perfect connections to get to Croton Harmon, and then found a cab waiting for a fare at the station.  After telling him my story, he offered to drive me home for free.  I'm glad that I didn't have to accept his generosity, as RQS had given me some money to have in my purse if needed.  But I am grateful that there are still some people in this world....

Monday, October 30, 2023

By the time you read this, I will have returned from my trip.


Cloud Gate.  It's one of the most visually impressive works of art in Chicago.  But, with the expected weather, I doubt we'll have the chance to visit "The Electric Kidney Bean" (as some have called it.)  

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Last night, the 4 of us gals (3 Cis, and 1 TG) discussed our final plans for the trip.  And it looks like we'll be doing the hop on/off tour bus to make our way around the tourist sites in the city.  If I were traveling alone, I'd do things much differently from the way we're doing them on this trip, as I've been to the city before and would want to get to know it in greater detail, and not doing another "view from 30,000 feet."  

Chicago is one of those few cities that one needs more than a short weekend to fully enjoy what the city has to offer.  Too bad my friends will only have two days there.  Even RQS and I are staying for too short a time, as we leave the day after our friends.  I will have more to report when I get back....

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Dinner with my former student voice clinician


Today's entry is going to be a quick one, as I have to leave for RQS's place in a little while.  But it involves dinner with someone who helped me become the woman I am (for better and worse).

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Several years ago, I started transgender voice training at Mercy College's (now, University's) speech and hearing clinic, where future clinicians are trained.  Compared to the rates charged by one NYC practitioner who has an office on Broadway, I was getting a bargain.  But the help I could get there was limited, as the students rotated in and out of in-school clinical practice every semester.  As a result, the quality of service varied quite a bit, and that there would be a limit to the amount of help I could receive at Mercy.

LK and I have developed a friendship over the years. She is the only student clinician that I encountered who was "fully adult" (she was approaching 40) when I met her.  Last year, she had a baby, and his health complications got in the way of us meeting for a while.  So, getting together with her was a special event.  I was surprised to find that she is pregnant again, and experiencing all of the classic symptoms of pregnancy that she was lucky to have missed the first time around. I won't go into the details of what we chatted about, save that we caught up on each other's lives and hope to get together much more often, now that they have a handle on her son's issues.

All too soon, it was time to leave, and we had to go.  LK went home, while I went to Walmart to pick up a couple of last minute items that I needed for my 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...