Archive | September 2015

Farewell, Dear Friends

We’ve been together on this journey for a few years now, but now it’s come time for a parting of the ways. I’ve always enjoyed your advice, your recipes, and your kitchen tips, and so I was understanding of the very few sponsored advertisements on your sites. Heck, I’m sure that even my own blog has a few targeted ads inserted by WordPress to pay for their free service.

But recently there has been an explosion of commercials on your site. So much so that they are starting to outweigh actual content, and that is something I can’t abide. I gave up my cable television when paying a monthly fee no longer guaranteed commercial-free content, and I’ll be damned if I put up with it on the Internet.

So I’ve deleted a lot of you from my bookmarks, and when I StumbleUpon new sites and have the opportunity to review them, I always add the disclaimer that they have far too many advertisements. And then I block them.

Look, I understand the desire to help pay your costs of maintaining your site; this blog and web site cost $10 a month to maintain, and $15 every 2 years for my domain name registration. But honestly, do you really think I’m going to change the brand of yeast I use just because Red Star pays you to say you use it in your recipes?

When I share a recipe, even if it’s one that specifies a specific brand of ingredient, I remove the brand and make the recipe generic. After all, I find Walmart’s house brand of raisins to be just as tasty as Sunmaid’s.

So while I’ve appreciated all of your advice in the past, putting up with your advertisements and commercials is just too high a price to pay.

It’s The Most…SOMETHING…Time Of The Year

If it’s true, as Ol’ Possum claimed, that April is indeed the cruelest month, then the end of summer in Rochester is the most schizoid time of year. A time when you turn the heat up on your way to work, and run the air conditioner on the way home. A time when I still leave the bedroom window open at night for fresh air, but when I also add blankets to stay warm.

I turned off the bedroom fan earlier this week, and I’ll most likely put it back in the closet until next year. The one in the living room is still on, though, because the morning sun tends to keep that part of the house warm.

And I’ve started to think more and more about baking bread again. In the summer, when it’s 90ºF/32ºC, the last thing I want to do is to turn on the oven. But now that things are starting to cool off a bit (it’s only supposed to reach 63ºF/17ºC today), the thought of a nice slice of bread fresh from the oven, slathered with butter, or a warm slab of cheddar-onion-jalapeño cornbread, dripping with honey, seems more and more appetizing.

Even my wardrobe is changing. Fewer skirts and more jeans are the order of the day, and I’ve taken to wearing a shirt over my tank tops and camisoles.

When I lived in Northern California, autumn meant The Crush. No, this wasn’t some punk band, but rather the time of year when the grapes were harvested and crushed as the beginning steps of making wine in Sonoma County and Napa and Alexander Valleys. The Crush left the air redolent of crushed grapes, a heady, almost intoxicating scent that lasted for days.

Rochester has no grapes, and so no Crush. And even though we’re not that far from the Finger Lakes wine region, we’re too poor to afford the gas to get us there…even if we did fill the truck yesterday for less than $30.00–something we’ve not done in years.

But what we do have are deciduous trees, and deciduous trees mean glorious displays of color as the the leaves begin to die. And our displays in the city aren’t nearly as famous as those of, say, New Hampshire or Vermont, they certainly outshine those of Napa Valley.

A Time For Remembering

For me, the end of summer and beginning of autumn also are times for reminiscing. One of the first songs I learned on the guitar had the lines

“And now a quarter of my life is almost past
I think I’ve come to see myself at last.
And I see that the time spent confused
Was the time that I spent without you.”
John Sebastian, My Darling Be Home Soon

Now, at 65 years of age, I think I can safely say that two-thirds of my life have probably passed, and that as a trans woman, I’ve finally come to be myself at last. And I see that the time spent confused was just that: time spent confused. It wasn’t time wasted and it wasn’t (as I used to think) time spent fucked up: it just was.

I once swore I’d never make philosophy jokes, and I’ve tried to hold myself to that promise—but I Kant. If by philosophy we mean a love of knowledge, then I can honestly claim not just to be a philosopher, but to have been one for my entire life—despite my early school years and their attempts to destroy that love of knowledge.

“When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder I can think at all
And though my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none,
I can read the writing on the wall.”
Paul Simon, Kodachrome

Three Remarkable Women

If I seem to be better-educated or more well-read than other people, I credit three people in particular for instilling in me my life-long love of learning: my mother, her sister, and my 12th grade English teacher.

I rarely saw my mother relax without a book in her hand. With the benefit of hindsight (which is always 20-20) I realize that it was her favorite leisure time activity. My father, himself no intellectual slouch, once told me that my mother was the smartest person he had ever met.

Her sister, my Aunt Louise, is now a retired high school English teacher. Christmas and birthday gifts from her were always books or records (for you younger readers, “records” were vinyl long-playing albums). She also taught me critical thinking. I still remember the time I described someone as “fascist” and she called me out for not knowing what the word meant. So now I am always sure to look up the meaning of an unknown word, although some words were hard to look up before the advent of the Internet. Let’s face it, Webster’s New Abridged didn’t have an entry for motherfucker.

Aunt Louise was also in awe of my mother’s intellect.

So even before I was a teen, these two women instilled a lifelong love of reading.

Mrs. Alberti was one of only two teachers who actually taught me anything new in my last two years of high school. (The other was Mr. Cardwell, my Texas History instructor who told us that the real reason for the revolt at the Alamo was not liberty but the fact that Mexico had outlawed slavery, and the Anglo citizens of its northernmost territory wanted to keep theirs in bondage.) Mrs. Alberti was the only teacher I ever had who admitted she was wrong and I was right on an essay I wrote for her class.

She was also responsible for getting me assigned to an advance-placement English class my freshman year in college. Her teachings and lessons cemented my love of learning.

A Final Influence

“You gotta move
You gotta move
You gotta move, child
You gotta move
Oh, when the Lord gets ready
You gotta move”
Mississippi Fred McDowell, You Gotta Move

Over the years I have come to understand what part Attention Deficit Disorder (ADHD) has played in my life. While the hyperactivity has lessened over the years, as a toddler it was so bad that my mother had to put me in one of those chest-harness/leash outfits to keep me safe. It still manifests in my need to get up and walk around whenever I’m writing and need to clear my head.

The way it affects my thought processes is it allows me to make the connection from A to E without consciously being aware of B, C, and D. A professor I once had said it was like watching lightning: it travels all over the place, but finally reaches its target.

And it’s also how we started out with the end of summer and finished with ADD.

A Woman For All Seasons

Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too
Oh, I’m getting older too.
”Landslide,” Stevie Nicks

So what if you reached the age of reason
Only to find there was no reprieve
Would you still be a man for all seasons?
Or would you just disbelieve?
”A Man For All Seasons,” Al Stewart

Here in Rochester Thursday nights mean the weekly meeting of the Genesee Valley Gender Variants. At some point in the meeting we all introduce ourselves, giving our names, our preferred pronouns, and our answer to the weekly question. Last night’s question was “What is your favorite season?”

Quite appropriate, given that we are rapidly moving from summer into autumn. Most people answered “fall,” “winter,” or “summer,” but when it came to me, I said that my favorite season was cayenne pepper.

And that’s the way I’ve pretty much been all my life: contrary, seeing the things others miss. A lot of the credit goes to my ADD, which helps me see strange connections. For example, last night I met a woman named Regina. My mind immediately flashed on “Regina=queen, queen=Elizabeth Regina.” As soon as I made that connection I blurted out “The longest-reigning English monarch in history.” I then had to explain that what I meant was that as of yesterday, September 10, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II had become the longest-reigning English monarch in history, having just eclipsed the previous record, also set by an Elizabeth—Elizabeth Tudor, more commonly known as Elizabeth I.

When I decided to update the blog this morning, my mind was still set on seasons and change. I mentioned this to my wife, who lives a short block from major road construction along Rochester’s Inner Loop, where the work generally starts (and wakes her up) at 7 in the morning. She said that had she been there, she would have answered the question, “Winter, because it means no construction.”

A standing joke in Rochester, as I’m sure it is in similar areas, as that we have two seasons in Rochester: Winter and Construction. Another joke is “You don’t like the weather in Rochester? Wait a minute.” But I first heard this in Texas, when we moved from Pawling, New York to San Antonio. And since then, I don’t think I’ve lived anywhere that didn’t have its own variation of it.

Lake Jackson, Texas, where my parents lived for many years, has its Mosquito Festival. It’s actually in Clute, but not too many people have heard of Clute, whereas Lake Jackson is better known.

Juneau, Alaska has stores where you can buy a t-shirt with Juneau, Alaska Rain Festival: January 1 – December 31” printed on it.

And in Astoria, Oregon, you can buy one that says “Astoria, OR. It’s Not The End Of The World, But You can See It From Here.”

That’s the ADD talking again. I keep having flashes of memories of the various places I’ve lived. With those memories come faces of the people I knew. Old friends, classmates, playmates, lovers. Tommy, Esther, Christine, Stephanie, Ricky….

And those memories bring the what-ifs and the if-onlys. But that way lies madness.

And so I merely sit back, detached, watching as the faces go by, remembering them all with deep affection and gratitude.

See you later.

A Typical Day in the Life

“Woke up, fell out of bed,
Dragged a comb across my face.
Found my way downstairs and had a smoke,
And looking up, I noticed I was late.”
A Day in the Life, John Lennon/Paul McCartney

And that pretty much sums up my mornings, except for the fact that I’m on the ground floor, I don’t smoke, and since I’m retired, I’m rarely late going anywhere.

Of course, if you count “posting to my blogs” as something I can be late to do, then I’m often guilty of “I noticed I was late.”

So what about this morning? Up at 8:30, fixed myself some breakfast, had a cup of coffee, and read for a couple of hours. Finished David and Leigh Eddings’ “The Diamond Throne” and started on its sequel, “The Ruby Knight.”

Both of which (as well as the third book in the series, “The Sapphire Rose”) at least a half-dozen times. If you enjoy Tolkien, I have no doubt you’ll enjoy the Eddings’ books. Yes, they really are that good.

Thunderstorms forecast for today, along with rains showers. About par for the course this time of year in Rochester. And in Rochester, a good day this time of year is one “when it isn’t raining up,” as the late Mr. Eddings once said. Actually, Seattle and Rochester get about the same amount of rainfall: it’s just that Seattle’s is almost a constant, mist-like occurrence, whereas when it rains in Rochester, it RAINS!

Neither of which can hold a candle to Southeast Alaska’s 160 inches a year….

After living in Juneau for a few years, I had to travel to Seattle on business. When I got off the airport bus in downtown, I couldn’t understand why so many people were carrying opened umbrellas. I walked for a couple of blocks before it dawned on me: “Oh, right…this is what passes for rain in Seattle!”

A serious rain in Rochester, on the other hand, means the raindrops splash an inch high on the ground when they land, windshield wipers can barely keep your windshield clean even on their highest setting, and the National Weather Service issues flash flood warnings. We used to call such rains in Texas “gully-washers,” and when one hit while I was on my motorcycle, I generally holed up under an overpass for the 5 minutes or so it took the storm to rain itself out.

Funny, I hadn’t thought of that in years. It’s interesting how writing brings back memories, in much the same way that a song or a smell can instantly transport me 40 years back in time.

When The Rain Comes

If the rain comes they run and hide their heads
They might as well be dead
If the rain comes, if the rain comes
Rain, John Lennon/Paul McCartney

But in my case, when the rains comes I run and set the teakettle on to boil, brew a nice cuppa, and settle down in my corner chair with a good book. And contrary to what Karen Carpenter had to sing, rainy days and Sundays never bring me down.

One of the advantages of my age is that I have a vast repertoire of old songs I can draw upon for inspiration when I need it. Part of it is having a good memory, and part of it is my ADD. Part of it may even be genetic: I remember when I was growing up, no matter what smart remark I made, my mother always had a song that suited it. We used to be annoyed by her singing, but right now I’d gladly trade a year of my life for the chance to hear her once more.

And since I’m starting to feel maudlin, this is as good a time as any to post this entry and log off.

See you around the campus.