Saturday, December 16, 2023

Spending a musical weekend in Westchester


Last weekend, RQS and I spent a musical together.   Specifically, our main events were all musical in nature.  First, it was the Women's Chorus of Westchester on Friday night, followed by Postmodern Jukebox on Saturday night.  And in both cases, I was able to spend the full day as Marian!

But first....

Although RQS is comfortable with me presenting as Marian, the choice of which mode I'd be in for the day was already bade for me by attending this concert.  Many people from the Yonkers Game Night group were there to hear one of our members sing as part of the chorus.  So, after a futile attempt to straighten up the apartment before RQS arrived, I got showered and dressed early, as RQS was taking an early train up to Croton.

After RQS arrived, we had a hard decision to make - what do we want to eat?  We decided to eat out, and had a pleasant, but forgettable meal at a local Mexican restaurant.  Though the place was comfortable and quiet, the food missed the mark.  It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good enough to remember well.  (In fact, it took me a minute or two to remember this meal.)  And then we killed a little time before going to the church where the concert was being held.

It took a while for us to find a parking spot in downtown Ossining, but we did find one "close" to the church.  Too bad that it was a walk uphill that exhausted RQS a little.  (I can't say that I wasn't feeling a little winded myself on the hill.)  When we arrived at the church, I had to use Mario's name for the tickets - but that wasn't much of an issue, as most people don't give much of a damn about things around here if people are acting nicely.  Once seated, the rest of our crew came, and we were invited over for New Year's Eve with the gang.  Then, the concert started.

I can't say much about how good or bad these ladies sounded.  They did some of the obligatory seasonal music, such as "The Song of the Bells".  Yet I was a little miffed when the mistress of ceremonies announced "Silver Bells" as if it was a hit sung by Bing Crosby.  (Crosby did "White Christmas" while Bob Hope did the famous version of "Silver Bells" after Crosby turned it into a minor hit - another example of how Hope was getting screwed by Crosby in films.  But I digress.)  Shortly afterward came an original piece (or, so I think) regarding the Holiday Roller Coaster of Food.  Too bad that someone doesn't record this song - it would make a good addition to the Christmas canon of songs.  Towards the end of the night was a song that proclaimed the chorus's solidarity with Israel - which I could accept, given that Hanukkah would soon be here.

- - - - - -

The next day, we lazed around until it was time to go to see Postmodern Jukebox in Peekskill.  I can't say too much about the songs sung at this performance, as I didn't recognize half of them.  But I did recognize their version of "It's all about the Bass" and loved this version of the tune.  What I will say is that all of the vocalists had great sets of pipes, and that I would gladly see them again - especially if they were singing more of the classic standards.
Why didn't I say more about PMJ?  Well, by the time we got there, I was ready to take a nap and could barely stay conscious enough to enjoy the show.  And that I did.

Friday, December 15, 2023

I'll be going on another cruise soon - this time as Marian!


By the time you read this, I'll have already packed for my cruise. It's a simple 7-day run from NYC to the Bahamas via Port Canaveral.

I'm not much of a fan of visiting Port Canaveral, as it is only a restocking stop for the ship gussied up as a place worth visiting.  If one wants to go to Orlando's theme parks, one has to take an overpriced shuttle to reach them AND pay for a 1-day pass which will only be used for less than half of a day.

Given the relative cheap price for me to take a solo cruise, I figure that I'd try out MSC as a cruise line.  Even if I like this cruise, I don't intend on cruising on the line that often, as they do not yet have any West Coast / Alaska cruises which would make it worthwhile to use them for special vacations.  Yes, I could have tried them out for our Norway cruise next year.  But I didn't want to risk having a bad cruise with RQS taking money out of her savings account to finance her trip.

- - - - - -

I've been told that MSC's basic drink package works on their private island.  This means that I'll be able to have a beer or two while there and not worry about getting nicked when back on the ship.  (Some cruise lines' private islands do not honor the onboard drink package when on some of their private islands.)  Since I don't drink much, this is not much of an issue for me.  But it might be for some of my readers.

For those who cruise often, MSC is an outlier in the way it does things.  For example, it doesn't attach your credit card information to your cruise card account before embarkation.  Instead, it requires that the cruiser to register his/her card shortly after embarkation.  To make things worse, since the line is headquartered in Switzerland, one should bring a credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees, as one might get nicked extra service charges on every shipboard debit made to one's account.  (The big 3 "American" cruise lines all use American banks. so one doesn't have to worry about these fees when one is onboard the ship.)

I'll miss RQS on this cruise.  But it'll be nice to travel as Marian again, and will be even nicer to see her when I get back to NYC....

Thursday, December 14, 2023

Sometimes, Amazon gets it wrong.

Today, Amazon reported the above item as being delivered to my door.  One problem.  Although I can see that it was delivered to a building in my complex by the color of the paint and the style of the floor, it was not delivered to my apartment.  Instead, it went to someone in another doorway.  Amazon's last mile delivery service screwed up again!

- - - - - -

One of the first things I've learned to hate lately are the "Last Mile Delivery Services", subcontractors who take products from a corporate warehouse and deliver then to the final recipient.  Unlike UPS and FedEx, Last Mile services usually bid to deliver packages on a route and do not build up the institutional knowledge needed to make complex deliveries correctly.  For example, a woman I noted as being a "Queen Bee" (not in a negative sense) lived in a place where Google Maps could not generate accurate delivery instructions.  She usually had to tell people how to find her place using an alternate address not legally associated with her house on a cul-de-sac.  My case was much simpler.  I live in a complex with 31 apartment buildings with 4 entrances each, and the last mile service delivered my perishable packages to both the wrong floor, the wrong doorway, and the wrong building.  I severed the relationship with the firm shipping my perishables, as their subcontractors could only correctly deliver things to me less than 30% of the time. A woman I know in Queens, NY has had similar problems as her goods were sometimes delivered to the wrong building in her densely populated area.

A few years ago, Amazon started to set up its network of last mile delivery subcontractors, even providing the financing for the delivery trucks needed to set up their businesses.  All of these trucks would carry the Amazon brand, and would only service one customer - Amazon. Over the past few years, it seems like there was a consolidation among these subcontractors, as a friend from the Texas meetup group (not mentioned in this blog) got a job with one of these subcontractors and has her routes strictly managed by Amazon.  I expect something similar occurs in the NYC metropolitan area.  And here lies the problem.

You'll note that in the picture above, the Amazon subcontractor has taken a picture of the door to show that the package has been delivered.  Yet, I can determine by the doormat that the item I ordered was delivered to the wrong doorway, as my doormat is patterned differently.  Sadly, Amazon does not make it easy to tell them exactly what went wrong, as this would be useful information to hold the last mile delivery service to account.  

- - - - - -

Will I buy things through Amazon again?  Yes.  We have few choices, now that the department stores are dying off.  Most things I want to buy do not sell in a high enough volume to be carried by a local store.  But they do sell enough for Amazon to warehouse in regional centers, then delivered to the customer by Amazon's complex logistics network.  Hopefully, next time, Amazon will get it right.



PS: The UPS Deliveries were delivered the next day via USPS, and the mis-delivered Amazon package made it to my door as well.  Now, I have to return the extra package....

Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Travel planning for next year and beyond


There are several trips that I want to take next year, and only one of them have been booked so far.

  1. Norwegian Fjords Cruise (Booked)
  2. California Coastal Cruise from LA (an excuse to visit my uncle)
  3. San Francisco Long Weekend (an excuse to arrange a "Girls' Trip")
  4. Bermuda Cruise (we didn't have the chance to explore enough)
  5. DC or Philadelphia Long Weekend

Of these, the Norwegian Fjords Cruise is a must, as some of the most scenic fjords will be closed off to cruise ships beginning in 2025.  However, there are more trips that I want to take, and I see them taking place in 2025 and beyond.  Hopefully, an increasing number of these trips will be as Marian, as this is the identity in which I prefer to live.  But to do so, I will need to alter my legal identity to be more in sync with my gender presentation.  I figure that I have time to do this, as my passport has another 4 years on it.

- - - - - -

One of these days, I'd like to take a cross country car trip while I'm still physically able to do so.  Of course, that will mean that I must buy a car with a lot of life left on it - something I don't have today.  One of my friends from Texas does a few road trips during the year and finds interesting places to visit.  But, this requires planning, as one will need to schedule overnight stays carefully, so that unexpected detours/delays do not add to much to the expenses incurred during the trip.  Unfortunately, I would not be able to do this trip as Marian (save for being in the Northeast, Chicagoland, and the West Coast.  There is too much prejudice against transgender people in the "Red States" for me to risk being my authentic self in these regions.\

Eventually, I plan to make it back both to Hawaii and to Alaska, this time with RQS.  There are things I didn't get the chance to do the first time around that I want to do on my next time to these places.  For example, I'd like to visit the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor, as well as visit Juneau and to see the Mendenhall Glacier.  (I also want to visit Miss Dolly's when I visit Ketchikan again, but I digress.)  Yet, I can always say similar things about the cities and states I've visited, as I want to see the Money Museum at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and have a bite to eat at the Hog's Breath Inn in Carmel, CA.

- - - - - -

Soon, I'll have to do some research to find out how much trouble I'd have traveling around the British Isles as Marian.  I'm told that it shouldn't be too difficult.  But I'm not so sure of that, as I'm fat, even for an American.  I still want to blend in, not stand out, when presenting as Marian.  Ideally, when we return from Great Britain, I'd be able to sail home on the Queen Mary 2 and be decked out in my feminine finest on formal nights.

Yet, I now have to worry about RQS's ability to travel.  She is 4 years older than I am, and I have to account for that in my plans.  When we make our travel plans, we'll have to plan to take trips with the more demanding physical activities sooner than later, as we might not be able to walk far in our old age. This last trip gave us an idea of what things will be like when one of us is unable to walk far.  And there is no way to prevent the natural deterioration of our bodies - only ways to slow down the declines in our abilities.

- - - - - -

Given that I seriously started to travel relatively late in my life, I have to build up as many experiences as I can, while able to do so.  I'd hate to find myself at the age of 90 and not having those experiences that would give the next quarter century of my life some meaning.

Tuesday, December 12, 2023

2023 Bermuda Cruise - Afterword (Debarkation and Going Home)


Given that our cell phones' clocks didn't reset themselves to NYC time while on the ship, our alarms woke us up at 5:00 am instead of the 6:00 am as planned.  This meant that both of us would be tired by mid day and ready to take a nap when we got home.

Around 6:00 am, we went down to the dining room for one last meal on the ship.  Then, we hung out in the dining room waiting to go off the ship to retrieve our luggage, go through customs, and go on our way home.  And this is where some minor confusion occurred.  I mentioned to RQS that I saw our luggage and was going to retrieve our bags.  RQS didn't hear me, and I couldn't find her when I fetched the bags.  About 10 minutes later, I gave up and proceeded past customs and out to the street.  Unfortunately, RQS didn't have her phone set to connect to the outside world, and she couldn't see my messages or hear the phone ring.  Eventually, she got my call and saw my messages, and met me outside the customs area.  Luckily, we communicate well with each other, and assume that we are thinking of each other's needs when we have our minor screw-ups.  Problems like what we encountered today could trigger the resentments that would cause a relationship to break up.  Thankfully, RQS assumed the best from me (and I from her), allowing us to forget about this incident and move on to a relaxing trip home.

Going home was easier than I thought it would be,  Usually, the cabs at the cruise terminal try to only accept passengers going to the airports.  However, there was a TLC (Taxi and Limousine Commission) officer patrolling the cab stand, and we had no problems hailing our ride to Grand Central.  Once there, we tried to use the ADA Accessible entrance on Vanderbilt Avenue and found that it was closed on weekends.  Not knowing this, we wasted time there before proceeding to the entrance/exit ramp on 42nd street.  And then we waited a bit before taking the train home, where we spent the afternoon napping.

It was an exhausting day, and we were glad to be home.  Hopefully, our next trip together will be with me in Marian mode....

Monday, December 11, 2023

2023 Bermuda Cruise - Day 7 (Sea Day)


Saturday, November 25, 2023.

This would be our last day on the cruise ship, and we dreaded the task of packing to leave. A good part of me wishes we could have done a “Back to Back” cruise, but this would have been way too expensive for us at this time.

We awoke to sunny skies and a calm ocean - appropriate for a last day at sea. It’s always a little sad to know that a cruise is about to end. But this was a good cruise, and one we’ll take again sometime in the future - if it has the better part of 3 days and nights in Bermuda. 

Although the rooster in my cell phone crowed at 8:00, we didn’t get moving until 9:00 am. This would be the last day we could get up late, as we will have to be up and moving by dawn tomorrow.

RQS and I decided to get moving early enough to have breakfast at one of the complimentary dining rooms, and then pick up some jewelry she had bought. Instead of doing much in the public areas of the ship, we spent a quiet day in our cabin, taking care of final issues such as packing.

Around 7:30 pm, we went downstairs to our final dinner onboard ship.  As usual, we had a pleasant meal in one of the complimentary dining rooms, then proceeded to the ship's theater to watch a comedian that we saw the other day.  Sadly, he didn't have enough new material for a second show, and we left before the show ended. We were tired, and we were glad that our suitcases had already gone to the hold, so that they'd be on the pier for us to pick up in the morning.

Sunday, December 10, 2023

2023 Bermuda Cruise - Day 6 (Sea Day)

Friday, November 24, 2023

Although the ship overnighted in Bermuda, we were at sea by the time we woke up. This saddened me, as it will be at least a year before we return to this port. But we will return to Bermuda, and we know enough of our way around to make the most of our time at this port when we next visit.

As has been our custom, we didn’t get ready to go out to eat until lunch time. Given the crowds that were likely to be found at the buffet, we went to one of the complimentary dining rooms on the ship. Although we enjoyed this meal, we noted that the quality of service and food in the complimentary restaurants had declined, and that we will be writing a letter to customer service when we returned from the cruise.

After lunch, we returned to the room to rest. Around 3:00 pm, the cabin attendant returned, and we vacated the cabin until she had a chance to perform her magic in the cabin. So we went upstairs to the buffet for a snack, while she tidied up the cabin and took my dirty laundry bag to the cleaners onboard the ship. (It’s nice to be able to return home with a suitcase filled with mostly clean clothes.)

Later on, we went to the steakhouse for our last specialty meal, and both of us were feeling full long before dessert came. This was the first time on this cruise where I felt bloated from a meal, and I rushed back to the cabin to spend the rest of the evening, instead of spending a little time to shop for 24” gold and silver chains for me to wear when out as Marian.

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...