Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Gender and... Coins?

As someone who's been mis-gendered my whole life, I pay careful attention to gender rules. It's surprising how deeply social edicts penetrate. Even areas where you don't expect gender rules to apply often have them -- with unspoken praise or criticism for meeting or violating the prescriptions.

Among a long list of experiences I could cite, let me relate one that happened last week. I was at Target buying a product and the cash-register rang up $12.02. I pulled a $10 bill and two singles out of my wallet; I announced to the cashier I have two cents and fished for pennies in the handful of coins in my front pocket.

What role could gender play in this scenario? None, I expected. But the cashier, a woman in her forties, was visibly taken aback. She looked at me and said, "I'm surprised you have coins. Men never carry change."

I tried to process her words. Men don't carry coins? What do they do with their change? When shopping, I always have a handful of coins in my pocket and use them for precisely this situation. Yes, I know women frequently have little coin-purses in their bags and helpfully pull them out to make purchases easier but I wasn't carrying a handbag, I wasn't using a coin-purse; I was merely doing what I thought all humans did in commerce regardless of gender. But to the cashier -- who interacts with customers all day long -- I am an outlier. A gender-bending pioneer with pennies. She didn't say her remark with condemnation; rather, she was simply expressing surprise.

Does my habit of carrying coins deserve comment? Is that how far gender has taken us?

Your thoughts?

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Halston, Fashion Designer

I was looking for something to do yesterday so I rode my motorcycle to the Nassau County Museum of Art which has an in-depth retrospective on the life and work of famed fashion designer Roy Halston Frowick. Halston became so famous last century that he went by a single name (his middle), like Cher and Madonna.

What interests me about Halston is not his fashion designs but his role in society. In the Seventies, he was a celebrity who hung out at Studio 54 with close friends Liza Minelli, Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol. Even more significant, in the Eighties he was the first haute couture designer to launch a line of low-priced clothes in a discount store (JC Penneys). That experiment was a failure but led to later efforts in the same direction by other designers. The clothing line he sold at JC Penneys, called Halston III, was attractive but prompted high-end stores like Bergdorf Goodman to drop him, fearing Halston's association with lower-class retailers would ruin their own elitist reputation.

Halston started out as a young gay boy in the Midwest whose seamstress mother taught him how to sew hats. He gathered attention for his creative hats which allowed him to move into the fashion industry. The pinnacle of his success was designing hats for Jackie Kennedy (Onassis) who wore his famous Pillbox Hat at JFK's 1961 inauguration.

Women stopped wearing hats in the Sixties so Halston moved to designing clothes. His designs were simple and elegant. There are several on display in these photos. The last two pictures show the inexpensive clothes he designed for JC Penney -- which appeal to me. Despite their low cost, they possess subtle style.

Halston was also known for being one of the first celebrities to license his name for other products (e.g., perfume). He is often associated with the synthetic fabric Ultrasuede.

Halston's longest relationship (16 years) was with a man who was working as a male prostitute. Halston died in 1990 from AIDS.

Do you recognize his name? What do you think of his designs?

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Love and Art

I visited a local art museum today and saw a Halston exhibition I'll write about tomorrow. Until then, here's a picture of my favorite statue. It reaches my heart.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Men In Skirts

This Summer, the weather in France is hot. So hot that male bus-drivers want to wear shorts at work. Unfortunately, a dress-code rule for their employment forbids shorts. The drivers protested but to no avail.

So what did they choose to do? Wearing skirts! Skirts are permitted by the dress-code. Even though obviously intended for women, the rule doesn't limit skirts to women so they are technically permitted for anyone, male or female.

Here's the story. No word on whether the drivers are shaving their legs...  :-)

What do you think?

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Another Reason To Love Canada!

Our compassionate neighbor to the north just passed a law protecting transgender people from discrimination and harm. It's described in this news article.

One might think this protection is so self-evident it ought to be law everywhere but you'd be surprised. Many U.S. states don't have it and neither does U.S. federal law. There are a few local laws here and there but, on the whole, transgender people in my country are subject to discrimination and harm without legal redress.

An important significance of laws like this are their cultural symbolism. This is what a Canadian legislator said: "Transgender and gender-diverse people deserve to know that they are welcome and accepted, embraced and protected, and that in Canada they are free to be their true selves."


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Defying Expectations

My whole life I've defied expectations. People make assumptions about me based on external appearances but their assumptions are wrong. It happened again today, in a different direction than usual.

Every motorcyclist will tell you we get approached by strangers in public. The encounters are usually pleasant and fall into two categories. Most common are older men who compliment your bike and tell you they rode in their youth. Their story usually ends with "...then I got married and my wife said I couldn't ride any more." These guys are wistful and sad.

The second group of strangers, frequently older women, want to scold you. They tell you that their neighbor's brother's kid got killed on a motorcycle and imply that such is your fate. Explaining the satisfying joy of motorcycle-riding to these people is a futile endeavor.

So I'm out on The Jolly Roger today, my fiery red sportbike. I pull into a parking lot and notice a kid in his twenties mesmerized by my bike. He gawks at my expensive gear and can't take his eyes off me. When I remove my helmet, he really wigs out. From ten feet away, he yells "Dude! You're old!"

I wasn't sure what he meant by that so I didn't react. He quickly turns apologetic and tries to explain himself. "I mean, that bike's got balls! I never expected you to be riding it." Okay, so it was seeing my grey hair that shocked him. He didn't expect to see a geezer like me piloting a motorcycle this sporty. I smiled and said, "You're only old when you choose to be old."

If I wanted to further surprise the kid, I could have told him I'm really a girl. But that would have caused his head to explode and I didn't want to clean pieces of his brain off the bike.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Life On Two Wheels

Heading out on an aimless motorcycle ride
relaxed yet spirited pace
into the night
on my poem of a bike
which pours my soul into the wind

Friday, June 9, 2017


Today is the last day for the Goethals Bridge which connects New York to New Jersey. The bridge, erected 89 years ago, is being torn down. Starting tomorrow, traffic will flow over a new bridge built next to the old one. The new crossing is the first bridge built in New York since 1931.

This development has personal significance to me. Fifteen years ago I almost died on the Goethals Bridge -- and I'm not exaggerating. Hit by a car while riding my motorcycle, I was thrown off my bike and ended up on the cold roadway with four broken ribs and a collapsed lung. As I lay on my back, I tried to breathe. I couldn't. I simply could not breathe. That condition seemed to last forever and I became increasingly alarmed at the fact that if I did not start breathing, it was going to be lights out. My mind focused with the intensity that comes when you face death up close.

Part of the reason I was in this accident was the bridge's poor design. It has two lanes each way with no shoulder. Traffic in the right lane is cramped by a waist-high concrete railing that offers no space for lateral movement.

I was riding home in the left lane after spending Thanksgiving in New Jersey. A young man in the right lane was speeding and suddenly realized his car was going going to rear-end and crash into the vehicle in front of him. Unable to veer right onto a shoulder, he veered left without looking. And I happened to be in that space on my motorcycle.

I spent a week in a Staten Island hospital and a month recovering at home. Fortunately I'm fully healed with no lingering physical effects.

I often think about what would have happened had I been unable to start breathing during my unplanned visit to the bridge's pavement. Instead of telling you this story, I would have been buried and quietly forgotten. Fifteen years ago blogs didn't exist and most of you who've met me here would not have ever known about me.

I'm happy to report that the new bridge has 12-foot shoulders, giving poor drivers a place to go when speeding and panicking.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Tim Hortons

Pop quiz -- Where am I?

Most of you know how fond I am of our neighbor to the north. I've visited Canada several times and plan to ride up there again next month to see Suzanne in Toronto.

Tim Hortons is a ubiquitous coffee-shop with thousands of locations throughout Canada. It is their Dunkin Donuts. Tim Hortons coffee has even entered the culture of the country, with customers ordering "Double Doubles" and everyone knowing what that means.

I'm not in Canada (yet). I discovered the single Tim Hortons coffee-shop on Long Island. It's tucked into a gas-station in Westbury. I'm here today on my way home from court to sample their wares.

Tim Hortons offers breakfast foods and baked goods but the star of their show is the coffee. It is excellent. The beans are mild like Dunkin Donuts but with much richer flavor. For those who prefer regular coffee to gourmet-blends (e.g., Starbucks), Tim Hortons' coffee is simply perfect.

While I'm only 15 minutes away from home, I feel like a Canadian right now. I'm rooting for a hockey team and plan to add an extension to my igloo.

Have you ever tried Tim Hortons' coffee?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

NYC With A Friend

Riding into Manhattan yesterday, the view from my train window of the blue sky and white clouds was spectacular.

I went into the city to see Patti, a fashion blogger who lives in Florida but visits New York twice a year. It was my 5th time meeting her in person. We share a common BFF, the irresistible Suzanne.

After a light brunch, Patti and I went shopping at some well-curated urban thrift-stores. One was Housing Works, a charitable organization that helps people with AIDS and those who are homeless. I found a fun skirt there in a faux reptile-skin print. Its bright blue color telegraphs it as obviously fake while the animal-print is visually interesting. I'm going to build a fun outfit around it this week.

Coincidentally, we later went to a museum exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Technology on the subject of how nature influences fashion ("Force of Nature"). The pieces on display were thought-provoking. Art and fashion have looked to nature for hundreds of years. Leonardo daVinci once said that “those who are inspired by a model other than Nature, a mistress above all masters, are laboring in vain.”

What did you do this weekend?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Ally Homemaker

I often dream of being a homemaker. It'll probably never happen but the idea is one of my fondest fantasies.

On two recent visits to Rosie's Vintage, I found pieces that suit the role -- an authentic vintage dress from the 1950's and a new retro-style kitchen apron. I love the feel and look of the dress. It captures the domestic style of that bygone era.

Because the dress is sheer, I needed to purchase a black slip and found one at Kohls. I actually welcomed that opportunity because slips were regularly worn by women of my mother's generation and symbolize the femininity I aspire to. Today, slips are rarely used as most clothes don't require them. Do you have any slips?

I like this outfit. Is there anything you'd recommend to enhance the domestic look? The cute heels are from Torrid.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Montauk Point

Montauk Point is the eastern-most part of Long Island. It's often called "The End" because it's where land ends and the Atlantic Ocean begins. Montauk has a historic lighthouse and small fishing town.

Lately I've been watching a terrific TV show called "The Affair." Much of the show takes place in Montauk and was filmed there. I thought it'd be fun to visit the place since I haven't seen it in years. Montauk is about two hours from where I live and a good choice for the holiday weekend; I avoided bad traffic on both ends of the holiday weekend by making a day-trip Sunday.

Here are some pics from the trip. By the way, do you like my shirt? It's one of the rare pieces of menswear I've bought from a thrift-store. I saw it on my trip last month to Hudson, NY. I seldom wear designs as flamboyant as this but the single color sold me on it.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

My Quest For A Tie Pin

Back in the old days when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and I was a child, men wore tie pins with their neckties. The purpose of tie pins was both functional and decorative. The pin held your tie in place and kept the back-end from sliding sideways, looking unkempt. Tie pins date back to 1860 and didn't disappear until the 1960's when ties became an unpopular symbol of the Establishment.

For most of my life, men wore so little jewelry that I eagerly adopted whatever was allowed. As a child and teen, I had a large collection of tie pins and tie bars. Sadly they were casually discarded over the decades since then.

Recently I purchased some cool neckties at a neat thrift-shop in Hudson, NY. One tie is very attractive but its back-piece keeps sliding around. It occurred to me to get a pin to secure the tie. And that has been my quest for the past month.

Every thrift- and retail-store I've entered recently has been searched like a gold mine for the treasured nugget. To no avail. Not only don't men wear them any more, stores don't carry them, not even vintage shops. So imagine my elation today when, during a motorcycle ride to Northport, I stumbled on a vintage store with three trays of tie pins. Most were crap but I found a few nice ones. Here they are, photographed on a picnic table in Northport's seaside park.

Do any of these appeal to you?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Columbus, Ohio

Often when I travel, I take lots of pictures. I focus on a place and share it with you. This trip was different. I went to Columbus, Ohio and, while I saw lots of the city during my two days here, my focus was on being with my friend Emma, not the town. So I took few photos. I hope you'll be satisfied with simply hearing I had a wonderful time.

Emma is one of the nicest people in the world. We enjoy each other's company immensely. Our conversation was non-stop, fluid and fun. Emma is smart and friendly so our encounter was effortless. She edits a local wedding magazine so she knows her town like a native. She took us to fabulous restaurants, art museums and city parks, narrating about the people and businesses. Wandering about, we were approached by a half-dozen people who greeted her with enthusiasm. Emma is a local celebrity whether she admits it or not.

Emma introduced me to her husband Matt whom she described as an exceptionally good person. Meeting him confirmed that -- he is a super guy. Here they are in Iceland...

I've known Emma for years from following her blog. She wrote regularly during a time when blogging helped her; then she switched jobs and found the blog no longer fit. After that, I kept touch with her through Facebook.

Until this trip, I'd never met Emma in person. Due to the distance, it wasn't easy for us to meet but I suspected Emma is an extraordinary human being so I made traveling to her a priority. I'm glad I did -- Emma is as terrific as I expected her to be.

Our rapport encouraged both of us to open up about personal subjects of serious importance. They will not be disclosed here but let me report that Emma helped me with some things that'd been troubling me. Her honest, intelligent feedback gave me clarity where there'd been confusion. I'm grateful for that. Our chats about political and social issues were really enjoyable since we share the same views.

When I was young, I read about a honey-based alcoholic drink called mead. It's mentioned in Beowulf and other books from the Middle Ages. For decades I wanted to try mead but never found it offered. Emma took us to a mead bar where I finally achieved my quest. I got a "flight" of five varieties of mead which was perfect because they range widely in flavor and sweetness.

In short, I had a great time. Friends as marvelous as Emma are worth traveling for!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Best Part Is You!

Dressing up is fun, shopping for clothes is fun, but the best part of this whole endeavor is you.

Sharing my thrift-store finds is the most pleasurable aspect of these efforts. Being free to gush about the beauty of a piece, examine how it looks on my odd cylindrical frame, hear and consider your feedback on how the presentation can be improved are all sweet songs to my ears. They reach deep inside me and feed my under-nourished soul.

Casual emotional support that's common in female company is unknown to most transgender women. In public, we're compelled to adopt unnatural poses; in private, we despair from loneliness. Only recently did I find solace through online connection. In real life, I'm still rarely able to share my nature and interests with others. Only after careful vetting do I find the rare few who will tolerate and accept my gender non-conformity.

But back to happy stuff!

Lately I've been shopping at a new thrift-store (Rosie's Vintage). I've have found several pretty dresses and cool antiques there. You've seen some of them here and here. Last week I leapt with joy at seeing a vintage dress from the 1950's on the rack. Its style is very dated and never worn today, which makes it more fun to don, not less.

I was also thrilled to have a brief conversation with the store's friendly owner, Thea. She made me comfortable enough to mention my blog. Thea is the rare exception I note above; someone friendly and non-judgmental. Our conversation meant something to me. Having an opportunity to be open about myself is, really, all I want in life. Nothing more, just that.

We all want to be accepted for who we are, don't you think?

Friday, May 5, 2017

Rainy Day In New York

I had to drop my motorcycle off in NYC today for repairs. Instead of treating the task as a chore, I turned it into an adventure and enjoyed splendors of the city. Despite relentless rain, I reigned.

After delivering the bike, I went to admire beautiful pens. My favorite pen store (Fountain Pen Hospital) has a Monteverde on sale which comes with its own brass base. The pen is not expensive ($43) and looks super-cool in modern design. I bought one for me and another for a friend. It comes in red or black and all three styles (fountain tip; rollerball; ballpoint). I got two red rollerballs. Do you like it?

From there I schlepped to my favorite restaurant (Russ & Daughters Cafe) for lunch. R&D has become everyone's favorite after making numerous top ten lists. The place now has long waits for tables. Fortunately there was a solo seat open at the counter when I arrived so I slid right in.

I had my customary caviar and a "Super Heebster Bagel Toast" (whitefish and salmon salad on a bagel, topped by wasabi-infused roe and horseradish-dill cream cheese). Believe it or not, the best part of the meal was the beverage. Humbly called "cucumber soda," this concoction is seltzer flavored with homemade syrup. Nectar of the gods! The cucumber base is broadened by liquid jasmine, anise, dill seed and fennel seed -- spices that combine into a melody of flavors. The drink is deeply satisfying and only five bucks. Or, as they say in Brooklyn, "fie dollaaas."

One expects walking around in rain to be unpleasant but my experience was the opposite. The city felt inviting despite gloomy weather. Our sensory perceptions are different on rainy days and there's something memorable about facing physical adversity.

I made an unavoidable observation. I'm the only person left in New York who doesn't own a smartphone. That's not a bad thing. Unlike many, I don't bump into strangers on the street because I look where I'm walking. And, unlike the girl I sat next to on the subway, I don't spend 15 minutes playing with a selfie to see how I'd look with various dog and cat noses on my face. If that's progress, I'll remain an old geezer.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

New York's Best Doughnuts

Foodies are raving that "the best doughnuts in New York" are made at a small store in the Bed Stuy section of Brooklyn. Today I checked the veracity of this boast. I fired up my S1000R and ventured into the beating heart of Brooklyn.

A store named Dough was opened in 2010 by chef Fany Gerson. Her doughnuts were an instant hit and people started coming from far and wide. In addition to the Bed Stuy location, she later opened a second store in the Flatiron section of Manhattan. Newspapers report that Dough has acquired cult-status and been lauded by several national food magazines.

The doughnuts are made in small batches throughout the day for maximum freshness. When I arrived mid-afternoon, several new trays of hot doughnuts were popping out of the oven.

The doughnuts are made with brioche-like dough and use high-quality ingredients like European butter and fresh nutmeg. Unlike many places that put fancy toppings on mediocre doughnuts, here the doughnuts themselves are exceptional. Superb taste with perfect consistency.

There are 14 inventive flavors. I tried Hibiscus, Blood Orange, Salted Chocolate Caramel and Cafe au Lait, all scrumptious.

If you're not adventurous enough to visit Brooklyn, you can get these doughnuts at a new cafe on Long Island (Sweet Agenda Cafe in Glen Cove) which is an exclusive distributor. Every morning the cafe-owner drives into Bed Stuy, picks up trays of doughnuts and brings them out to hungry hordes in suburbia. They go fast.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

If Art Icons Were Hipsters

graphic designer cleverly used icons from art history in modern settings; for example, imagining them as hipsters. The images are well-done and amusing. Do you like any?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Full-Blown Glamour

I mentioned earlier that, while shopping in Hudson, I bought a ballgown. It was only $18 -- a priceless ticket for one of my fondest dreams.

The gown, being fancy, deserves full-blown glamour treatment. So I added a sparkly fascinator, my highest heels, more jewelry than Zsa Zsa Gabor, and enough eye-makeup to rival Tammy Faye Bakker (Messner). Yes, I went over-the-top but when you have as much bottled-up desire as I do, sometimes the pressure-cooker blows. Boom!

Any thoughts?