Saturday, December 15, 2018

Now and Then

The last time I saw my beloved Vulcan 750, Clinton was President. No, the other Clinton.

My bike returned home this week and I'm washing her with loving care. I remember her unique curves and distinctive features, like a pill-shaped air-box and a secret storage compartment built into the seat. I know this bike so intimately; you always pay more attention to your first.

A question pops into my mind -- which of us weathered the past two decades better? Or, more honestly, who looks worse after 20 years? I'm not going to share my thoughts on that but age certainly takes a toll. On all of us, human and machine.

Seeing the sharp contrast of this bike now (showing visible decay) with its past glory makes me look in the mirror and assess the ravages of time on my own body over the past 7,000 days. We both lived, we both waned. Fortunately, we both survived.

How does the you of today compare to the you of twenty years ago?

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

A Real Unicorn

Looking back, I'm starting to realize how odd I am. I mean, I don't plan my blog subjects; they just come to me and I assume they may interest others. But that's a big assumption. I just reviewed some past posts and notice how weird many of them are.

Okay... so I'm weird. That's not really news except to people who meet me in real life. Many believe that my quiet, conventional facade is the real me. It ain't. I learned to put on that mask years ago to fit into society and avoid detection as a gender outlaw. Underneath the facade is a bubbling cauldron of weirdness whose intense emotional heat can scorch metal.

I promise to get back to posting pictures of cute outfits but, before I do, let me offer you a true fact which I find fascinating. Maybe you will, too.

Our natural world is full of wonders, many unknown. Beneath the sea are creatures so strange we don't even know they exist. One creature we have detected is a fascinating ocean unicorn. Let me explain...

narwhal is a whale about three times the size of a human with -- wait for it... -- a unicorn horn! The horn is actually a canine tooth that protrudes forward from the whale's head. The horn twists in a spiral, just like unicorn horns. The horn has nerve endings which enable it to transmit information to the whale's brain about what it senses. Male narwhals rub their horns together to exchange information about seawater they've visited.

Narwhals are found in arctic waters near Canada and Greenland. They can live to be 50 years old. When they reach 35, they often buy red sports cars and date young female whales. (Some phenomena cross species lines.)

Narwhals communicate with each other by making clicking noises and whistles. Lately, they are all raving about how much they like "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel." There's no cable underwater but there is Internet streaming.

Wouldn't it be cool to see one of these creatures?! Their weirdness makes me feel less odd.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Ride or Die

The expression "Ride or Die" is becoming popular. Do you know what it means? What it used to mean?

The phrase originated among badass bikers. It means we need to ride or else we'll die. Riding a motorcycle is our greatest passion so ride or die, bro!

The saying has evolved, however, into new meanings. One applies it to people you like: "She's my ride or die girl," meaning you'll do anything for her. Another (often comically) applies it to things you like: "This mascara is my ride or die!"

Some bikers are angry about migration of their cult language into the mainstream but I'm okay with it. Language grows, especially cool phrases. Just keep your hands off DILLIGAF.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

My First Motorcycle

I started riding motorcycles 20 years ago. My first bike was a beautiful cruiser with a cherry red gas-tank (1997 Kawasaki Vulcan 750). I loved that bike. It was good-looking and the perfect introduction to an activity that became my passion.

I learned to ride on the Vulcan and took it on my first long trip. With a friend, we rode 4,000 miles in eight days from New York to North Dakota. Afterward I realized how much I like to tour long-distance and found a bike more suited to that duty (Yamaha Venture Royale).

When I replaced the Vulcan, I gave it away to a family friend for free. As fate would have it, the bike just returned to my life. My friend's brother, who now has the bike, is giving it back to me. The Vulcan isn't working but it is not my plan to fix it. Instead I will display it as an object of veneration in my future work-space. (I plan to buy a building in a year or two.)

Do you get sentimental about stuff from the past?

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Return of the Carnegie Deli

The best part of my busy day in the city yesterday was traveling back in time -- to 1958.

Celebrating the start of Season 2 of "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" (Amazon Prime), they brought back the famed, defunct Carnegie Deli as a one-week pop-up store on the Lower East Side. The store is decorated in Fifties style with vintage automobiles parked outside. Prices are old, too -- a Maisel sandwich (pastrami, salami, coleslaw, and special sauce on rye bread) costs 99-cents. The only drink they sell is Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray soda, a New York kosher brand founded in the 1800's.

If you get into the city this week, visit the past at this fun store. If you can't get there, watch the TV show. It's very funny, quite engaging and visually beautiful to look at.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Lost In The Crowd

The impulse behind most of our blogging is to share our thoughts and experiences with others. Why else would we devote sizable effort to write and post pictures online?

But what most of us learn early on is that putting stuff out there doesn't guarantee a big audience. Or a small audience. Or even anyone. It is manifestly not true that "if you built it, [they] will come." (That's a cinematic reference to "Field of Dreams", a famous drama about baseball that's worth watching.)

It's ironic that opening ourselves up to the world can feel isolating. When we create wonderful posts and get only a few comments, we're sad. We want to be heard, we want to be seen. That's a natural human emotion.

My reflection on this led me to an insight years ago -- we have to blog for ourselves, not for others. Their reaction (or even existence) can't be why we blog. If you need validation, find another, more effective way to get it. The online world is too big; we get lost in obscurity. Unless you're a celebrity or actively promote your blog, you won't get a thousand comments. Or a hundred.

I blog to express myself. My authentic, individual self. Whether the audience is large or small doesn't affect my satisfaction in creating artistic content that displays my true nature. This benefit may not be as significant for those who have and can express themselves in real life; I wasn't able to do that during the first fifty years of my life. In the past decade, through this blog, I've seized freedom which enables me to grow as a person in deeply-important ways. Just being able to admit attraction to feminine clothes and female-associated activities is life-altering for me. Hiding that attraction is painful and stifles my personal expression. Engaging in desired activities satisfies life-long dreams I never thought I'd be allowed to pursue.

Are you happy with the audience-size of your blog? Does it meet your needs?

A big part of my enjoyment in blogging is having the opportunity to exhibit my photographs. Pictures I take while traveling, while dressing up, while searching the world for beauty. I recently noted, in a picture I took on a trip to Montreal this Summer, that the motorcycle-trunk is reflecting the landscape and clouds. Isn't that beautiful?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Biker Buddies

The best part of riding last Sunday was seeing Bob and Jaime, my closest motorcycle-friends. I met these guys when I started riding two decades ago.

Since 1998 Bob and Jaime have taught me tons of stuff about motorcycling. Both are certified motorcycle-instructors with years of experience on two wheels. On top of that, they're fun. We have great times together, like a memorable motorcycle-trip to Nova Scotia (Canada) that Jaime organized.

We're friends for life!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR). It's on November 20th every year.

Twenty years ago a transgender woman, Rita Hester, was murdered. The following year a vigil was held to honor her memory and to commemorate all transgender people whose lives are lost to violence.

While most people say they know someone who is gay, few believe they've met someone transgender. That's bad because hatred grows in voids. People fear the unknown; it's not until we meet someone different that we realize our common humanity. It's our responsibility to learn about the world and understand others, including those who are different.

Today is a good occasion for that. You can get helpful information by clicking here.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Champagne Run

It's 37 degrees and I'm heading out on one of my favorite annual rides -- the Nassau Wings Champagne Run. After boisterous breakfast with old friends, we head east to the wineries on the North Fork. We visit five wineries, buy multiple bottles for holiday gifts, and cap the day with dinner at Cliff's Elbow Room. A good time all around.

Here's a pic from 20 years ago, before my hair turned grey.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

In Deep Water

I've never worn a dress like this one -- and, for me, that's reason enough to try it. I found this lovely item in a thrift-store at a low price ($10).

What do you think? I enjoy wearing it and wish I could in a more public setting.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Life Before The Internet

Given how we live today, sharing pictures of coffee on social media, it's hard to remember the fabric of life before the Internet. And yet that existed, for me and everyone else older than thirty.

I got my first e-mail address in 1996. Surprisingly compared to most people, I still use that address (although the company-name changed three times when the business was sold and sold). When did you first get e-mail?

The fact of this sea-change in personal and social experience occurred to me this morning, ironically while reading Facebook. An acquaintance made mention of one of the best television shows ever made ("Yes, Minister" and its sequel "Yes, Prime Minister"). "Yes, Minister" was a British political satire far smarter than anything American TV had the guts to produce. Its lead-actor was one of the most talented, acclaimed thespians ever to act on television, Nigel Hawthorne.

"Yes, Minister" was broadcast in the early Eighties. I watched it on the single television channel here that showed British comedies (where I was also introduced to "Monty Python's Flying Circus").

Nigel Hawthorne performed in dozens of movies, television shows and theatrical dramas. You've probably have seen him in small roles without realizing it. In 1994, Nigel starred as the lead in "The Madness of King George" for which he was nominated for an Oscar.

I was a big fan of "Yes, Minister" so when I heard Nigel was going to perform on the Broadway stage in 1990, I leapt at the chance to see him in person. He was amazing. He played author C.S. Lewis in the play "Shadowlands." (The play was later turned into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Debra Winger, both getting Oscar nominations.)

The story climaxes with the death of Nigel's character's true love. Raging with grief, Nigel howls to the Moon in agony. Being physically in the room as this legendary actor bawled with extreme emotion was moving beyond words. It was an experience I'll never forget.

Nigel won the Tony award for that performance, deserved recognition for exceptional achievement.

At the time -- 1990 -- there was no social media to write about my memorable experience. No blog-post, Facebook note or other record now exists to memorialize it. The only place it continues to exist is in my mind. That feels odd now.

If you drink a cup of coffee and don't post a picture, did it really happen?

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Birthday Pen

For my birthday, I requested something special -- a new Montblanc pen designed by Marc Newson. Newson is the most acclaimed designer of our generation. His work is in museums around the world and he's represented by the prominent Gagosian Gallery in New York. TIME magazine named Newson one of the 100 Most Influential People.

Newson designed this pen for Montblanc where it's sold to benefit a charity named (RED) which raised $46 million for The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria.

Robin and I visited our local Montblanc boutique yesterday where they treat us like royalty. I wanted this pen for its vibrant red color. Handling the pen increases its appeal -- not only does it feel good in your hand but the cap is magnetic and moves toward the pen with pleasant gravitation. The pen feel magically sensuous.

Now I have an instrument to write you with!

Saturday, November 3, 2018

Happy Birthday To Me

It's my birthday!!

I've always cared about my birthdays and had the good luck to have a mother who fussed over them. My memories of childhood birthday parties are fond. Cake, gifts and celebration.

In my mind, I'm 40 years old so let's just call this the 20th anniversary of that date.  :-)

Friday, November 2, 2018

Looking Back At The Year

Wow, this year flew by. It's November already and 2018 is almost at its end.

When we started the year, did you make any New Year's resolutions? Or just think about how you wanted the year to go? If so, what are your thoughts now? How well did the year compare to your hopes and expectations?

My review is positive. I clarified how I want to live the rest of my life and made concrete plans to turn that desire into reality. I'm 60 years old and looking at 20-30 years (assuming good health). I know exactly what makes me happy (friends, travel, motorcycling, living authentically, writing, blogging) and what pains me (work and its stress). The trick is to find a way to do more of the former and less of the latter, which is really a financial issue. As soon as I can afford to stop working, I will -- but I need a stockpile of cash to live for another 30 years without diminution of lifestyle. That's the goal I worked on this year and I made real progress.

How 'bout you?

P.S., Bonus points if you can identify the building in NYC with this statue.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Bevy of Brushes

My birthday is Saturday and some of my friends have sent gifts. Among my favorites are mermaid makeup brushes from my good pal Ashley.

These brushes are so cute! And timely: my existing brushes are a decade old and I'd just been thinking about replacing them. Ashley read my mind.

Have you ever seen anything so adorable?!

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

What To Do With Your Pumpkin

I used to feel bad about discarding decorative pumpkins after Halloween. This year I pondered an alternative fate -- and found one.

Pumpkins are vegetables. You can eat them! They're safe to eat raw but taste much better cooked. And cooking them couldn't be easier. Just bake them at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. They taste like juicy zucchini.

Before popping them into the oven coat them with some olive oil and salt. I experimented and made two batches. The ones on the right are plain and the ones on the left were tossed with Tamari soy sauce and spicy hot sauce. Both were nice; I prefer the spicy ones.

Once cooked you can throw pumpkin chunks into any dish. They're also good topped with salad dressing. Pumpkin is healthy with practically no calories.

Have you ever eaten pumpkin?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Putting On Female Clothes

I want to make an observation about women's clothing. It's something you guys all know already but is valuable to discuss. Your thoughts are invited.

My new dress from Aimee is amazing. It fits my body perfectly. But! And this isn't a bad "but," just a fact-of-life situation. The dress is very hard to put on. Its top is snug, fitted to my exact measurements and made of non-elastic material. There's a side-zipper that allows you to snake into the dress but, to pull the zipper up, you need two hands and leverage which, when inside the dress, you don't have. Thus, it's hard, almost impossible for me to put the dress on by myself. I really need a spouse/aide to zip me up.

I've faced this before with other female clothing, especially fancy gowns and form-fitted items. That's why I usually choose elastic material for stretch allowing easier manipulation. But I have no regrets about choosing the material used in this dress; it is amazingly beautiful. Luxurious and chic. 

To wear attractive feminine clothes often involves effort and sacrifice. I've never had discomfort wearing any article of male clothing; even neckties aren't a big deal. But frequently when I put on a tight dress I face physical struggles so intense and prolonged there are almost tears. Also -- and I'm not kidding -- I always keep a pair of scissors within reach because I have (more than once) actually gotten trapped inside clothes. My shoulders and torso are unnaturally large for most women's clothing. I've gotten halfway into some pieces, unable to complete the journey and unable to back out.

You've faced difficulty wearing tight clothes, right? How do you deal with it? With stoicism? Scissors? A handy husband to zip you up?

Please give me the benefit of your experiences.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Project of the Year

Life, for most of us, is hard and boring. If we wait for the world to offer us excitement, we're usually disappointed. I've found that you need to act on your own initiative to grab joy in life.

At least once a year I try to do a major project whose aim is pure fun. No business purpose, no social or other obligation. Just fun.

Last year I visited my friend Aimee in upstate New York (Potsdam). Aimee is a talented seamstress who makes clothes and costumes for friends and customers. Hearing her stories put an idea in my head -- maybe I could ask Aimee to make me a dress. A real dress. The perfect dress. So I did and she said yes. We've spent an entire year working on it and the dress was just completed. Squee!!

Due to my large size and odd shape for a girl, most women's clothes don't fit me. If they're right in one spot, they're not in another. That's just a difficulty I've gotten used to. But if I could design a dress from scratch, maybe I could have one that fits everywhere.

So Aimee and I brainstormed this. What is my favorite color? What era and style appeal to me? What silhouette and shape suit my cylindrical body? We spent a good deal of time working on these questions and found the right answers.

Aimee sourced beautiful fabrics, sew-ed her little fingers off and, in July, we met again for a fitting. Aimee put a rough-draft on my body and made adjustments. Then she retired to her laboratory for a few months of further work.

Today, the finished dress arrived in a big box. It's done!

I want to do this dress justice -- which means I want to have quality photos taken by someone more skilled in photography than me. And I hope to have better makeup applied than my usual hatchet job. So, I'm not going to show you the final result yet. I'll arrange a photoshoot and reveal the culmination soon. Until then, here's a peek!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Fashion History

There's no doubt that the 1970's were my time. During that decade I grew up, sensed the world and started engaging with society. I was 13 to 23 years old.

Among developments of that era was my close attention to female fashion. I coveted it with aching passion. So when any clothing from the Seventies crosses my path today, my heart melts and my judgment disappears.

Some styles from that turbulent time have revived, some not. I saw an authentic vintage dress at Rosie's Vintage store and immediately recognized it as something many women wore back then. But it's an odd style that (to my knowledge) has never re-surfaced. But... pink! Need I say more?

This is a strange dress but it appeals to me. What do you think?

P.S., Thank goodness for Spanx! A tight-fitting dress like this requires shapewear.

P.P.S., I felt happy wearing this dress. I think its femininity created that joy in my heart.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

New Shirt

Last week when I brought my motorcycle in for service, I spotted a t-shirt celebrating the exact model of my motorcycle. I had to have one so I bought it. Of course, the shirt is made by BMW.

My bike (the sportbike, not the tourer) is a 2016 BMW S1000R. It's faster than a speeding bullet and more fun than a bag of monkeys.

Do you have any clothes with emblems that mean something to you?

Friday, October 19, 2018

New York City

It was beautiful in New York today. After riding my motorcycle into Manhattan for service, I walked around under a sunny sky. I went to Columbus Circle where I ate a delicious Cobb salad and then wandered into Central Park. Although I wasn't planning to take any pictures, I found it impossible not to. The city is so photogenic.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

My Return

I have this tendency, taught to me early in life, to bury myself in work. Which is okay for a while but then I need to re-surface and have fun again. I'm coming out of a two-month period where I've neglected blogging and everything else I enjoy. Need to fix that!

Which is a weak reason for a post but I feel I need to re-connect with you, my blogging friends. Connection is important and, even inadvertent, I never want to neglect anyone. I do my best to follow and comment on your blogs. I re-commit to that whenever my head pops out of work-mode.

A lot of "re-" words, huh? That's a sign I've spent too long underwater. I can't wait until the day I can afford to stop working and pursue my passions full-time. My "retirement" won't be leisure but, rather, active efforts to do the activities I love, like writing, reading, motorcycle-riding, fashion and blogging.

Do you ever bury yourself in work or home-maintenance or child-rearing? I wonder how common that is. BTW, one can never say this enough -- THANK YOU FOR VISITING! I cherish your interest and effort in coming here. Somehow I will reward you. Promise.

Random topic for discussion: I drink a lot of tea and look for ways to flavor it. One of my favorites is honey. I recently discovered there's one -- and only one -- honey that has scientifically-proven health benefits. It's called Manuka honey from New Zealand. In addition to the health benefits, Manuka tastes great -- earthy and rich. It has the depth of flavor I crave in every food.

Because of the health benefits, Manuka honey is very expensive. A problem arose due to the premium price -- counterfeiting. As much as 90% of stuff sold as Manuka is not really Manuka but just cheap ordinary honey, mislabeled to sell for more money. So, you have to verify authenticity by buying from sellers who are reputable and certify their product, like Steens.

Manuka honey makes a great gift for someone who's birthday is coming up... hint, hint!

Sunday, October 7, 2018

"Ninth Street Women"

Grace Hartigan was the greatest female artist of the 20th Century. A new book about her and four fellow artists was just published ("Ninth Street Women"). The story the book tells is also covered in an excellent article in The New Yorker.

I knew Grace. For several years in the early 1980's, she was teacher/mentor to Maura, a woman I lived with for twenty years. Grace was head of a graduate art school in Baltimore; Maura and her friend Joan were Grace's favorite students. Maura had a deep personal bond with Grace and we socialized many times, both there and at Manhattan art-shows.

Grace was the first artist of her generation to have a painting purchased by the Museum of Modern Art. Her fame in the 1950's was meteoric, particularly since, as a woman, she was categorically underestimated. Her work deserved acclaim which it received from critics and collectors from the Fifties until her death in 2008. For 30 years, Grace lived in Baltimore teaching graduate students, popping up to New York for occasional shows and events.

Grace had a colorful, complex life. She had wild times with notorious friends, like painter Jackson Pollock, poet Frank O'Hara and art-dealer John Bernard Myers. She was also acquaintances with the other notable female painters of the time (Lee Krasner, Elaine de Kooning, Helen Frankenthaler and Joan Mitchell). After rejecting comfortable family life in a New Jersey suburb, Grace devoted herself to art -- and lived dirt-poor during the early years. She and her friends struggled to make ends meet while creating great work. The book describes that New York scene in the Fifties and Sixties, with reference to many of the crazy characters in Grace's life. In her later years, she told us stories about that time in greater, more scandalous detail.

Grace told Maura that with students of her caliber, Grace's job was not to teach them art but, rather, how to live as an artist. She succeeded in that -- Maura has been a painter continuously since then. She lives and works in Wales now.

I recommend the book as an entertaining historical account of a wild group of artists whose work in the middle of the last century changed the face of art. They warrant deeper examination than our culture has given them so far.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Pants Are Not Just For Boys

When I get a chance to wear women's clothing, the last thing I think about is pants. Why would I want to wear pants? I wear pants every day as a man so my female eye turns to dresses and skirts. But that's foolish -- pants can be feminine, too.

My friend Sheila, who displays inventive outfits at Ephemera, is constantly showing me that pants are attractive. And feminine. Seeing her outfits causes me to re-think my bias against pants.

Last Saturday I was walking around my neighborhood and saw a sign for a garage sale. I headed down the suburban street to find a lawn full of boring bourgeois items. I kept searching and found a clothes-rack in the back -- and the clothes were nice. Squee!!

I've been looking for men's shirts with French cuffs because I have cufflinks I want to wear more often. But such shirts are hard to find and normally expensive (e.g., over $100). The garage sale rack had two beautiful new blue shirts with French cuffs. I snapped 'em up. I also found a pair of women's pants and a simple blue dress. Nothing had a price on it. I took the four pieces to the owner, curious what this was going to cost.

The owner was female, about 50. She opened with "you picked the best stuff!" She said the shirts belonged to her ex-fiance: she bought them for him and he didn't like 'em. The pants and dress were hers. She pointed out the pants are from Henri Bendel, a luxury brand that sadly just announced it's closing after 123 years.

The woman looked at the four items. She said $10 would be enough for all of them. She said the proceeds are being donated to a local animal-rescue charity. I gave her $20, told her to keep the change and felt I'd scored a huge bargain. The shirts alone are worth over $200.

Here are the pants with by an embroidered top from the 1980's which I bought today at my favorite store (Rosie's Vintage in Huntington).

Do you wear pants?

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Looking For A Party

I found this pretty party-dress at a church thrift-store. It was on sale for $2. Two dollars! I bought it even though it's a bit small, because that low price couldn't be resisted.

Now I just need a party to wear it to. Can I come over to your place?!

"The Fairy" (2011)

Oh, my goodness! This French comedy is so wacky, so funny it makes me laugh hard. I watched it three times in a row just to enjoy the humor again and again.

The movie is about a woman, Fiona, who believes she's a fairy. She may be or she may be crazy. She falls in love with a bored hotel-clerk, Dom, and they have bizarre adventures, such as dancing at the bottom of the ocean. Fiona and Dom do physical comedy of the sort that hasn't been seen since the early days of the cinema (e.g., Charlie Chaplin).

The movie is obscure so nobody's seen it here in the States, but the couple who made it (from Belgium) are well-known in Europe as comedians. They've been romantically attached since the 1980's and their personal bond shows in the effortless comedy.

I guarantee you've never seen anything like this!