I spotted this Calvin Klein top in a thrift-store. The front panel and shoulder-piping are leather and the color of the top matches my blog. The piece was brand-new with original sale tags attached. It retails for $69 (a price I'd never pay) but, in the thrift-store, it was only $13 (a price I would and did pay).
I'm pairing the top with a plain skirt and patterned tights. It's a look that's simple yet appealing. It is what I dream of wearing to work.
Louis Armstrong was the greatest musician of the last century. I recently started exploring his stuff and am amazed. Louie is so talented and his songs appeal to us even today. I want to get deeper into his oeuvre and have been searching for his music on vinyl.
Yesterday I leafed through a dusty, disorganized record store and found a 4-record box set with dozens of Louie's best songs. And the collection includes wonderful photos and biographical literature. Upon examination I see the records are pristine: they look like they've never been played.
The price for this treasure? Five dollars. Or, as we say in New York, "fi-dollas."
My motorcycle-friend Fuzzy told me there's a place where pigs fly. So I had to go there.
It's The Flying Pig Cafe which serves delicious breakfast and lunch. Outside is a sculpture of a flying pig; inside is a wall of adorable piggy banks. There was live music, tasty food and strong coffee. Bingo!
These days all you have to do to make coffee, listen to music or buy anything is push a button. On a machine. Life's become easier and cheaper -- but not better.
The first sacrifice of this ease is quality. Compressed digital music files are vastly inferior to vinyl recordings whose warmth and fullness is palpable. Coffee-pods made a year ago lack the freshness of newly-ground beans. And the real motivation behind most of these "improvements" is to make products cheaper and thus more profitable.
But things are lost. Not only quality but something equally important -- romance. Personal involvement. When you work to make something, you appreciate it more. Brewing coffee from scratch, putting a record on a turntable is effort that involves you in the process of creation, a joy unappreciated until it's lost.
Why all this nostalgia from an old guy? Because I just discovered a pleasure of my youth is still available -- Jiffy Pop!
You can still make popcorn by shaking a Jiffy Pop container on the stove or over a fire. Instead of pushing a button on the microwave, you actively shake the container until it magically grows and grows and becomes a dome of delicious food. The process is fun for kids and, I just discovered, fun for adults.
I assumed Jiffy Pop must have disappeared decades ago but, no, it's still here. You can buy it in supermarkets for about $2 a container. I bought some last week and am re-living my youth.
I flipped the instant I saw this dress. Its bold colors speak to me. "Hey, Ally!" it says. I also love the simple design and unusual material.
After I put the dress on I realized it has a "Mod" style. That prompted me to pull out white boots -- you know, the ones made for walkin', that's just what they'll do, one of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you... dum da dum, dum da dum...
Today the weather was fabulous in New York so I journeyed to my favorite place, Governors Island. It has dozens of art exhibitions supplementing bucolic nature. I sat on grass and read a new biography of Stevie Ray Vaughn, one of history's best blues guitarists. Stevie died tragically young in a helicopter crash 30 years ago. If you don't know his music, seek it out.
The ferry from Governors Island drops you off at the southern tip of Manhattan so, coming home, I savored walking 3-4 miles to the train station in mid-town, passing through wonderful neighborhoods on the way. Summer is when New York empties out so the crowds are gone. The mood was pleasant and relaxed, something you rarely feel in the city.
I know we can't judge people we don't know and people are allowed to make their own choices but... I encountered something odd and would appreciate your thoughts on it. Please be frank; you won't hurt anyone's feelings by saying what you believe.
I know a guy who's an acquaintance, not a friend. His name is Lonnie. We shoot pool together every few weeks. I met him a few months ago through a mutual acquaintance. I was looking for a pool-buddy and so was he.
Lonnie is in his late-50's. He's nice but not special. He has average intelligence and below-average looks. He has an ordinary middle-class job. Lonnie got divorced about 20 years ago and now lives in an apartment with 15 fish-tanks. (Yes, 15; I didn't believe it either.)
While we were shooting pool last week, Lonnie announced he has a new girlfriend. I congratulated him and asked about her. He said little other than he likes her. I asked if she has kids and he said yes, she has two boys. I asked how old she is and he avoided the subject. I pressed and he sheepishly confessed she's "a little young." How young, I asked?
She's 23, he said. How old are her kids, I inquired? Seven and five, he replied. Doing the math, that means she had the first boy at 16 and a second at 18. And now she's dating someone at least 35 years older than her.
I dropped the subject 'cause I didn't want to say anything to offend him.
My attitude is that when someone does you a favor, you reciprocate. It shows gratitude and respect.
I am very appreciative of the skilled work Jamie did on my recent trip to Toronto. Her expertise made everything better and her warm compassion soothed my nerves. Jamie has a vivacious personality which brought fun to our experience. Also, being originally from New York, her accent is intelligible to me.
After returning home, I wrote a testimonial for Jamie's website and she posted pictures of our time together. I hope these contributions steer business to her; more importantly, I hope they convey to her how deeply I appreciate her efforts.
I had no plans for the weekend but when I heard the weather was going to be spectacular I decided to jump on my bike for an unplanned trip to SoNo. I discovered this place last year and was eager to return.
SoNo is what cool kids call South Norwalk, an old coastal town in Connecticut. It successfully re-invented itself as a hipster heaven. There are chic boutiques, trendy restaurants and fun things to do.
I said hi to aquatic friends, ate delicious seafood risotto and drank craft beer. I visited an old railway museum where I learned how train-track switches work which is fascinating: their logic is still used in computer programs.
I walked through town yesterday and saw a sign for a new business. I didn't understand what the store will be selling -- the sign describes the place as a "cat cafe." Today, walking in a different part of town I discovered another place also calling itself a "cat cafe." This one is already open so I poked my nose inside and learned what the new trend is about.
Cat cafes have cats -- actual animals -- and let you play with them for a price ($15/hour). Both cafes serve coffee and beverages to enjoy while you're stroking a kitty.
Best friends are capable of changing our lives. When their support comes at a critical juncture, it can make the difference between extreme happiness and deep despair.
Several of my close friends have given me a boost that led me to where I am today. I see farther because I stand on their shoulders. They gave me courage and strength. They opened doors to magical new places.
Last week Suzanne, a Canadian vixen, gently eased me into a place I never thought I'd inhabit. It was her calm persuasion, and underlying power, that made me feel safe enough to go there. I reported on the experience last week; today Suzanne gives her perspective. Her blog-report is here.
Take a look and, if you have a minute, please thank her for helping me. She deserves applause.
I was 11 when the original concert took place in 1969. It was only a few hours from my home so I asked my parents if I could go. My father, a police officer, said no. My mother said absolutely not. I briefly considered running away from home but realized, quite clearly, I'd never be able to return. And at 11, my skills weren't sufficiently developed for life on the road.
I'm celebrating Woodstock's anniversary by attending two events. I attended the first today -- a music festival in Copiague where I heard bands playing songs by Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead and Santana. The second event, on Thursday, is a theatrical showing of the "Woodstock" documentary which won an Oscar in 1970. The film, three hours and 44 minutes, is a classic. It's playing everywhere so look for it in your town (here). There's only one show at 7 pm on Thursday (8/15) which is the exact day Woodstock started fifty years ago.
For these special occasions, I need appropriate attire so I assembled this outfit -- striped bell-bottoms, ubiquitous peace symbol and fringed top.
Friends give you strength -- which is especially valuable when facing new challenges. This weekend two close friends, Suzanne and Patti, ushered me into a new world.
It was Suzanne's idea. Understanding me better than myself, she suggested we do some novel activities during my visit to her home near Toronto. At first she started with the prospect of a mani-pedi (which I've never had despite wearing polish on my toes 24/7). Later she talked me into getting a professional makeup session (instruction and application). Finally she coaxed me into doing something I've always dreamed about but never done -- appear in public dressed as a woman. Whew!
It took some deliberation to say yes. Could I muster the courage for this? What if... what if a dozen bad things happened -- which, of course, they could. Not all members of society understand or care about transgender people. And because I can't "pass" (a TG term meaning pass unnoticed as a person of the presented gender), my breach of gender rules is manifest. Sticking out in public areas can dangerous regardless of what causes you to be noticed; add intolerance and life can be precarious for folks like me.
Then again, when else am I going to get an opportunity to live authentically? At my age I don't want to die without experiencing feelings of walking down the street in a dress, adjusting its hem, checking my makeup. I want to have common female experiences so badly that I'm inclined to throw caution to the wind at this point in my life. Even if I have to brave discomfort and opprobrium to get them.
So, yes we did it! We got our fingers and toes painted bright colors, shopped while displaying visible signs of femininity, got makeup instruction from a pro (Jamie), put on pretty clothes, visited a public park, took lots of pictures and capped festivities off with a delicious dinner at a fancy Italian restaurant. And you know what? Nothing bad happened. Yay!
There were two reactions I got which were completely unexpected. One was from another person, the second was from myself.
We went to a nail salon (Suzanne's regular one) and ordered mani-pedis. I was dressed in normal male clothes and asked for bright purple polish. The 50-year old Asian woman getting ready to do my feet was so surprised at my request that she started giggling. She quickly looked down to suppress her laughter but that only made it worse. Soon she was laughing out loud, still avoiding my eyes, concerned about offending me. I reassured her that her reaction was fine; I wasn't upset at her response and said I understood how, from her cultural perspective my act could be considered comical. After that she calmed down and we got on with our business. Perhaps our encounter opened her mind a little.
The second unexpected reaction occurred within me. After the makeup session and putting on a dress, we went for a walk in a nearby public park. It was a beautiful Summer day and the park was crowded. We walked among other visitors. The weird thing was... I felt naked. NAKED. Outdoors. In front of other people. It was seriously disconcerting.
I examined the feeling and realized it came from my brain. I kept checking my body and confirmed there were clothes on it. Female clothing, but clothes. Finally I realized what was causing the feeling -- the absence of a physical sensation. When dressed as a man, I always have a belt holding up pants or shorts and the belt tightens around my waist. Wearing a dress that hung down from my shoulders, there was no constriction around my waist -- which communicated to my mind that I wasn't wearing clothes.
With this realization I consciously overrode my brain's conclusion and told myself I wasn't naked. But the feeling did trigger an emotion -- vulnerability. Imagine how you'd feel walking down a public street naked; that's where my mind was spinning. After an hour I calmed down and my confidence returned. All in all, a valuable learning experience -- which is exactly what I was hoping for. Doing something new and extreme, you want to learn from the experience and that usually includes unexpected insights.
I'm deeply grateful to Suzanne and Patti for encouraging me to move concretely in this direction. There's an ancient saying that "when the student is ready, a teacher will appear." Stepping out made me very happy. And enjoy a rare sense of freedom.
I have deeper thoughts which I'm developing for later but now I just want to share this momentous news with you. And thank Suzanne and Patti for assisting me in my life's journey.
That Suzanne -- she's a force of nature! Fortunately she uses her power for good, not evil. :-)