sistawendy: (contemplative red)
Friday: Dressed cute because a party that I thought was that night was in fact the following night, thereby conflicting with a date. Arg!

Saturday: The Goth garage sale by consummate saleslady [personal profile] cupcake_goth et al. including the visiting [personal profile] kambriel. They did indeed sell me things - nice plates, a little black ruffly skirt, an art nouveau necklace, spider web hose, earrings, an Art With Latex necklace that I'd wanted for years - that were Good To Have. I spent exactly my budget, i.e. all the cash I brought.

On to the apartment of the Siberian Siren, where her bouncy young dog destroyed the beaded necklace I was wearing. Le sigh. But at least she & I have reserved an AirBNB and bought plane tickets for our trip to the Folsom Street Fair. We have committed. This is totally happening and I. Am. Psyched. The SS needed to hunt for deals, and she taught me a useful thing or two.

Date with the Tickler! Lovely dinner at Itto's, followed by a few minutes of ahem, then a couple of hours of the Tickler's stomach going to hell. Yes, again. It was bad: plumbing fixtures were involved. It might be worth mentioning that whatever affected her did not affect me, and we split a gazillion tapas; this isn't any reflection on Itto's, which is a fave of ours. She noted that we partook of members of the nightshade family (i.e. tomatoes), which may be yet another food allergy for her. Poor Tickler. There were cuddles and reasonable sleep.

Today: After the Tickler's deluxe oatmeal, we tried to hit the Yayoi Kusama exhibit at the Seattle Art Museum with the Tickler this morning, but when we got there at 0930, half an hour before opening time, the line was already around the block. The tickler looked for parking for a bit, but then bailed, for which I don't blame her. I still want to see the exhibit, though. It looks way cool.

Slacking, walking around Green Lake, then eetz with J & R, which I always love. I just finished making a rock-bottom-tech pinhole camera for the eclipse tomorrow.
sistawendy: (drama)
In the vein of the Siberian Siren's recent advice, I remember that one item I've kind of, sort of had on my bucket list is the Dinah Shore weekend. Yes, the weekend when lesbians (And other queer women? I get the impression that the crowd is heavily lesbian.) take over Palm Springs, CA, as featured on The L Word. There are pool parties and, I'm afraid, the genre of music that I think of as electrolysis music, i.e. very mainstream.

It's March 29th through April 2nd, so if I'm going to pull the trigger I'd better do it soon. Plusses and minuses:

+ Wall-to-wall queer women. Duh.
- Could be as mainstream as dykes get, which can be pretty mainstream.
+ Officially trans-friendly.
- Unofficially, i.e. in reality? I've no idea.
+ One source, Dr. Shrink from way back in the day, said the median age tends toward the high side.

I shall, of course, pick the SS's brain about this. You'd think it's her sort of thing, seeing as she loves a) southern California and b) big, lesbian parties independently of each other.
sistawendy: (amused eighteenthcent)
Mental note #1: Check whether your rental car has a USB port that you can plug your phone into when you pick it up. Doing so would have saved me from conniptions in north Florida's hostile radio desert going to Mom's, not just when I left.

Flew home without incident. The post-Christmas crowd seemed somehow less scary than the pre-Christmas crowd, even in deepest darkest Dixie. Or maybe I'd had my attitude adjusted by walking on the warm, sunny beach and in the quiet woods.

You know what I'd forgotten about Mom's neighborhood? The smells - vegetation - and the bird calls, most noticeable around sunrise & sunset. Just thinking about them makes me smile.

Mental note #2: Make sure I have enough books on my phone for the whole cross-country trip. I was watching other people's movies sans sound for the last hour or two.

I've put on five pounds. Mom's cornbread is fantastic, as I've said. She made three skillets of it while I was there, even though she got tired of it. That's love.

Nagged kiddo this morning. I should probably nag him some more over the phone right now. He needs to at least temporarily stop being a punk, because even though Exdad has been doing better, he's a long way from out of the woods. Let's put it this way: Exbro flew to Seattle about the same time I did.

yin & yang

Dec. 16th, 2016 12:15 pm
sistawendy: (contemplative red)
Good: An OKCupid nibble, and a nice rejection from a lady who says she's still figuring out just how queer she is. Some of my queer girlfriends have told me that's a great big nope anyway, and I believe them.

Meh: Cold. I'm wearing my black patent 20-eyelet Docs, two pairs of wool blend socks, two pairs of leggings (outer pair: the scissor leggings from Bombsheller), a short-sleeve velvet top, and my hoodie with tails right now. I'm not overly warm indoors. I've had to remember to bring my slippers into the shower with me so my toes don't go numb.

Good? Planning for Florida. I leave in five days. Lately, an ornery mom doesn't seem like that big a worry.

Bad: The world may end real soon now.

Good: Pho with m'boy Wednesday. His idea.

Bad: I haven't updated in three days, mainly because I had nothing to say.

Good: My son & I finished The Seven Samurai last night. My son approves.
sistawendy: (smartass hester)
I had another Skype date with the Tickler last night. I put on makeup and closed the blinds so I could... wear less. Hey, we're both lonely & horny. I thought I'd be good entertainment value: you can't beat free, especially in more specialized porn markets like the one I could serve. She was appreciative.

More cultural notes from the Gulf: showing shoulders & knees is scandalous, and tattoos, being taboo, are best kept covered. The Tickler's tattoos do peek out sometimes, though. A fascinated co-worker poked one of hers the other day.

These dates are apparently going to be a regular thing. I've scheduled the next one for the start of the Muslim weekend, but before my son shows up. I told her that I take requests.
sistawendy: (Prius)
On our way to Nice we stopped in Aix-en-Provence. The reason why Aix sticks in my mind is one particularly nice - even by the high standards of France - public space. During the 19th century, a lot of the medieval and Roman walls were demolished and replaced with boulevards with broad sidewalks where people sit, eat, drink, and talk. In many cases the boulevards have been pedestrianized and turned into parks. Small-scale soccer is a frequent occurrence. One of the tour guides lamented the destruction of the walls and I wanted to tell her, "What are you, nuts?" I'd kill some car company executives to get some of those spaces in Seattle, or any of a number of towns. I can think of maybe one equivalent in all the places I've lived in the US: the commons in Ithaca, NY. If you have to save the walls, just save a little, a la the Berlin Wall.

This same tour guide had something else to lament: the demise of Provençal. You can see it on street signs in Aix and a few other cities, but that's about it. She said of the square with the market, "There used to be benches where old people would sit and speak Provençal. First the old people were gone, and then the benches." The French government forbade its use for official business in the 16th century, but the last and biggest nail in its coffin was French-only compulsory education in the 19th century.

Still on our way to Nice, we stopped by Parfumerie Galimard [ETA: in hilly Grasse] and got to see the sometimes horrendously labor-intensive process of extracting fragrances from plants. I say "sometimes" because some will survive distillation and some need to be dissolved in fat. It's a fascinating business model: The "noses", or perfume designers, basically use perfumeries like Galimard as contract manufacturers, as do the noses' customers, the fashion houses. To be a nose means no alcohol or spicy food; I'd sooner break rocks for a living. There are a couple of dozen or so perfumeries near Nice because of the variety of flowers they can grow. Galimard had a make-your-own-perfume workshop. We'll see in about a week if the one Mom & I made is any good.

And so finally to Nice, on the French Riviera, in the Côte d'Azur. Yes, the Mediterranean really is that electric blue color there. Yes, the weather is nearly perfect there most of the time. When non-French Europeans - especially Russians - go to the south of France, Nice and the smaller towns nearby are where they go. (It seemed to me that a solid majority of the tourists in Provence were French, and mine wasn't the only contingent of Americans.) It's only a stone's throw from Monaco, with which Nice has much in common. Italy is just beyond Monaco, and I heard Italian on the street.

Nice is essentially a big, pretty beach town with plenty of cash. There's the Promenade Anglais, where I watched the moon rise over the Mediterranean, next to the rocky beach, which sadly is mostly carved up into private chunks belonging to the hotels across the street. Several of the hotels put various national flags by their beaches, and I even spotted a Pride flag. That's an indicator for you: I saw several Russian flags, a few US flags, one Chinese flag, and one Swedish flag, but no Japanese or Korean flags. Speculation: People like (most) Americans & Japanese who can take sunshine for granted back home don't gravitate toward sunny places in Europe.

We took a boat ride to the tiny harbor of Villefranche-sur-Mer to ogle what [livejournal.com profile] stroppy_baggage has dubbed real estate porn. There are indeed lots of pretty houses belonging to, it seems, half the famous people I've ever heard of. The most expensive house, a little half-billion-euro place more remarkable for size than architecture, belonged to an Italian countess. A Russian tycoon had tried to buy it from her and put down earnest money, but geopolitical vicissitudes put the kibosh on the sale. The countess gave the earnest money to charity.

Nice has a looong park that parallels the waterfront until it ends at a concert venue across the street from the beach. I heard French pop one night, and what sounded like a polished military band the next morning, coming through the (non-native) palm trees with the beach just on the other side.

The Nice flower market? Fabulous. Too bad live plants are several different kinds of bad idea for overseas tourists. The best place to get a salade Niçoise? Nice. With my mom and a beer.

Speaking of Mom, we were waiting for a hotel elevator with this Russian girl and her mother. RussianMom looked me up & down thoroughly a few times. Then we all piled into the elevator. I said, "Mothers and daughters." Mom put her hand on my shoulder. She said soon afterward that the Russians were talking about me in Russian. Maybe so; I wasn't paying attention to them. Go Mom! And nyeh heh heh heh.

I flew out of Nice at same time - 0500 - as Mom, with a layover in my nemesis airport, Charles de Gaulle. I was tantalized by the proximity of Paris and ate the only bad meal I had in France.

Did I have a good trip? What do you think? Hell yes! Do I want to go back without any septuagenarians? Wayell... yes, but as I told the Siberian Siren, every time I see my mother might be my last. This was the kind of memory of her that I want to have.
sistawendy: (Prius)
On our way to Avignon aboard the tiny tour bus - the best kind for pre-automobile streets - we made it to St. Remy-de-Provence, another of Van Gogh's haunts. Would you believe pizza à feu de bois with cream sauce? And you better believe it was damn tasty, because France. That was one of the places where Mom & I wandered around a relatively modern neighborhood being amateur sociologists. We love that stuff.

Wine tasting & food-pairing lesson at Chateauneuf-du-Papes, in the Rhône wine country, which bears of course the Côtes du Rhône "AOC". AOC stands for Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée, the geography-based standard that's part industrial and part governmental that dictates what winemakers can do and what the names of areas mean when applied to products. Côtes du Rhône, for example, dictates that wines must be blended, and there are limits to how much of each kind of grape they can use. Naturally, the blend can vary from year to year depending on quantity and quality. There are other regions that are "no-blend".

You know how when you're eating Jelly Bellies the flavors are all familiar but you can't remember what they're called? That happens to me with wine too. I guess I'll never be a pro.

Why Avignon? Because that's where the Pope was. No, really: In 1305, the newly elected French Pope decided to move the papacy away from the murderous intrigues of Rome to Avignon, thereby at least tripling its population, and there the papacy stayed for the next seventy years. Never mind that the kings of France, who wouldn't gain official sovereignty over Avignon and the rest of Provence until the end of the 15th century, used the move as an opportunity to corrupt the papacy and bend it to their will. See Reformation, causes of.

We stayed in a hotel in a medieval building across a square from the Pope's Palace. It looked like a Disney villain's castle. The crenellations and murder holes, I was told, were really just the style of the time: no one would have dared attack.

Another famous landmark is the 12th-century St. Bénézet bridge, famed in song, which hasn't reached across the Rhône since the 17th century. It went through several cycles of getting washed out in floods and then rebuilt before the local authorities got fed up and built a better bridge downstream.

I was trying to find the entrance to this bridge after walking along the medieval wall and the riverfront, only to be confronted by a locked gate. So I continued up the spiral staircase - way up - to find a gorgeous little park and and viewpoint on the top of the bluff. I just kept going, and eventually found some young men practicing what looked like parkour on a wall near the Palais de Papes, and near them were more kids practicing their skateboard moves.

Which brings me to something else: All these lovely medieval and Roman towns are lovely, medieval, and Roman, but it's a little depressing not to see signs of normal life inside these old cities. In fact, I saw a disproportionate number of a vendre signs and real estate agencies, some with signs in English. One of the tour guides told us how the subsidies for maintaining the old buildings had been slashed in recent decades, thereby pricing a lot of locals out of their own city. "We have too many old buildings," she said. It's a problem America has yet to face. So it was something of a relief to see parkour kids, skate punks, and even homeless guys sleeping in doorways; they were a sign of economic life that I saw in the old city of Avignon but not some of the other towns we visited.

Another thing that's everywhere in France: World War II memorials large and small. I was trying to mail a postcard to m'boy - I failed because of the May Day national holiday - when I saw a sign saying that the main Avignon P.O.'s chef de centre got busted for being in the Resistance and sent off to Buchenwald.

My favorite side excursion while we were in Avignon was probably L'Isle-sur-la-Sorgue, with its outdoor market that sold, mostly, stuff people actually need. Even in France, you can't always take that for granted. But what I remember best was a canal with a covered dock across from a giant fig tree, complete with plants growing in the water. It was beautiful, and I seemed to be the only person aware of it even though there were tourists and locals all around us. I dragged Mom the few steps down to the dock.

Mom & I then had coffee in a coffee joint that had rooms upstairs with some of the best interior decoration I've ever seen in a coffee joint, cozy and filled with books and yet comfortably hip. Take that, Starbucks. There was a poster, visible only to people seated on the ground floor in back as we were, that I think was exhorting people to speak Provençal. I'm pretty sure that's a lost cause.
sistawendy: (Prius)
[I wrote my notes for this entry while siting in front of the 12th-century facade of Arles cathedral. Clothed people on Jesus's right going to heaven, naked ones on the left going to hell. They didn't anticipate an audience like me.]

From Gare de Lyon Paris we took the TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse - High Speed Train) to Marseilles, passing through the lush, green countryside of Burgundy, the Rhone valley, and later Provence. The trip took about three hours. We never did identify the mysterious yellow flowers of a crop that seemed to be everywhere.

Marseilles makes much of its foundation by the ancient Greeks. Indeed, we stayed only a few blocks from the recently-discovered ruins of the Greco-Roman port facilities. There was a mosaic in a McDonald's that Mom insisted on going into. The old port (not to be confused with the ancient port) is pretty but super-touristy, but in the French fashion isn't visibly tacky.

Marseilles in one word? Gritty. It's France's second city, a port with an immigrant population that seems to be big even by French standards, probably because of proximity to their countries of origin. Mom & I took a Sunday morning wander through a moderately tough neighborhood. Unlike Paris where the architecture can vary a lot within a given block, in Marseilles you see a whole lot of sameness from a given century, depending on where you are in the city.

The only place in France where I got seriously skeeved on? Marseilles. I was alone, natch. I got surprised looks pretty much everywhere, though. I think Mom enjoyed that as much as I did. I have freaked the French, at least a few of them.

I meant to find the lesbian bar in Marseilles the night we arrived, but I ended up sleeping for twelve hours because I didn't get any sleep in Paris. You see, the Europeans love their duvets, which are wonderful in low temperatures. I was afraid to crank the A/C in Paris because I knew that my mother keeps her house at 78F. She did it for me in Marseilles though.

I did find the lesbian bar, Aux 3G (a pun in French; the place is at 3 Rue St. Pierre), the following afternoon. It was closed, natch, but it also happened to be in a Bohemian-looking part of town with cool street art, used record shops, and of course a nice park. (More later on how French public spaces kick butt.) It made me wish I hadn't needed sleep so badly the previous night.

But then, a bit of travel synchronicity happened: On Rue de Trois Mages I came across a restaurant whose sign said, in French, "The Syrian - Specialist in Falafel". I was mighty hungry and hoping for falafel, and I got a delicious sandwich from the only retailer in France who didn't speak English. He tried to say a few entire sentences to me in French, which of course I didn't understand. I was charmed. And then I took sadistic joy in breathing garlic on Mom, who had spurned my offer of felafel.

And then off by bus to Arles! Arles has two claims to fame: one is Van Gogh's residence there, during which time he seems to have irritated the entire town with the exception of his first landlady whose portrait he later painted (Halloween! Traditional Arlesian costumes are lovely.); the other is a pair of splendid Roman buildings, an arena and a theater, that have both been put back to their original use, more or less. The arena was turned into a fortress early in the middle ages, with the many exits bricked up, the top tier of arches dismantled, and towers added for defense. As recently as the eighteenth century there were houses inside the arena.

We took a bus to St. Maries-de-la-Mer in the Rhone delta, a.k.a. the Camargue, and walked along the Mediterranean - in the rain. There was a fascinating ninth-century windowless cathedral-cum-fortress, at which there was a cult of St. Sarah, who was supposed to have been a slave. St. Sarah has somehow become associated with the Roma people - our tour guides used the word "Gypsies", probably not knowing that it isn't cool. The Roma make regular pilgrimages to this particular church. Another triumph for Catholic marketing?

My fave dinner in Arles: escargot & (a lot of!) fish at a family-owned place, Restaurant L'Escaladou, complete with aioli because Provence. I got to breathe garlic on Mom again.

The locals dread the powerful, cold north wind, and they've named it: the Mistral, not to be confused with Provençal poet Frederic Mistral, who has many streets named after him even if the language he wrote in is extinct. The Mistral wind is just dandy for making clouds go away quickly, though.

We took several side trips while we were in Provence. Our first was to an olive orchard and processing plant that had been started by a local couple who'd gotten their startup capital from the tech industry in the US. In the distance we could see the hill town of Les Baux-de-Provence, where we were soon walking around. There's a partly-dismantled castle there that was in use from the 12th through the 16th centuries. I paid my ten euros and got to watch a demonstration of a couillard - a simpler version of a trebuchet - fired by a couple of guys in 16th-century costume.

Then, in my nice Fluevog Half-Truths, I climbed the scary climb up the Saracen Tower on the chateau and took in the breathtaking 180-degree view of the olive orchards & vineyards in the plain below. Provence isn't heaven, but you'd never know that by looking. It was easy to imagine being a medieval dude scanning the horizon for burning villages or other signs of trouble. €10 well spent.
sistawendy: (Prius)
[My France writeup is so long that I decided to break it up into four posts. It's mostly based on notes that I wrote while in country.]

The epic tale of transportation began with a 10-hour flight that became an 11-hour flight thanks, said the flight crew, to headwinds. As I strode purposefully through the immense Charles de Gaulle airport - lots of people were flat-out running - I was approached by a girl with a clipboard that had some political-looking thing with an outline of France on it. Did I get taken for a local? Gosh, I hope so.

My flight was originally scheduled to arrive about the same time as Mom's, and we'd planned to take a ride arranged through the tour into the city together. So I walked the length of Terminal 2 to find Mom, but didn't. Tried cell phone to call for the pre-paid ride; no joy because Verizon sucks in France. (I later found out that I could have used a local phone.) Tried to connect to airport WiFi to email the tour manager or Mom; no joy because ancient Microsoft phones suck everywhere.

Got a commuter train ticket from a vending machine on the second try. Yay! I got to see the grim banlieues where Paris puts all its ugliness and brown & black people. There was a Spanish couple that, as it happened, needed to get off at the same stop - Chatelet - as I did. Mass transit: it brings out the best in people despite language barriers. I must say, even in the middle of the (lovely) day, that train was full by the time it reached Paris.

I got off the commuter train at the Victorian warren - made even crazier by construction - that is Chatelet/Les Halles Metro, and needed a Metro ticket to get to the hotel. My credit card was no good, so I needed cash euros. Up into the daylight I went to be confronted with Paris's fairy tale architecture. I think I saw Notre Dame & the Galleries Lafayette dome from a distance. Keep in mind that I'd been awake for 24 hours and I was in no mood for tomfoolery. The cognitive dissonance almost broke my head.

Got €200 cash, got my Metro ticket - €1.80 gets you all over central Paris, aw yeah - and got stuck in a Metro gate with my big suitcase. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a couple of horrified-looking Parisians behind me. I needed no help though: I grunted and shoved my way through the gate, and straightened my skirt, the black vintage taffeta & velvet one that used to belong to [livejournal.com profile] cupcake_goth. Moral: don't mess with an American trans woman on a mission to find her mom.

On ligne 1 to the hotel I was grinnin' like a fool at the day I'd had so far. I caught a girl in her early teens with whom I was sharing a pole staring at me. I must have looked pretty scary by that point: big, trans, and foreign, with eye makeup smeared by a sleeping mask on the plane, and wearing an insane smile. She was the first of many people I observed giving me funny looks.

I got off the Metro inside a big traffic circle at Porte Maillot. For the most part, traffic circles in Europe are not accessible via crosswalk because this would interfere with the flow of auto traffic. This is good civil engineering, but it sucks if you're a pedestrian. So, back through the Metro station. I started looking for the hotel's street around the circumference of the circle for hundreds of meters, only to eventually notice the 25-story monstrosity towering over that part of Paris. I stood there and laughed hysterically. The teenage girl on the Metro would have run like the wind had she been there.

Found the hotel, and found my greatly relieved mother.

That evening we met part of our tour group. Want to feel like a genius and master of the social graces and international culture? Join a tour group of mostly elderly Midwesterners. They sometimes made me feel... less than proud to be a 'Murrican, even if they weren't deliberately doing anything dumb.

Dinner that night was at what was probably a neighborhood joint called Paris XVII after the arrondisement that it's in. It was run by two brothers, one of whom spoke excellent English - many, many people do in France. The man had the patience of a saint, and the food was fan-damn-tastic. Our (American) tour manager says that places with similar menus are all over the city, but damn, those guys did it right.

Here's the thing about the French and food: They're so hardcore, things that should suck, like shopping mall food courts (Mom's idea, OK?) and snack places in little tourist towns, completely fail to suck. It's astounding. Look, I'm no foodie - I leave that to my Aspiring Ex - but even I can taste the difference. I'm pretty sure that much of the difference is fresh, quality ingredients.

But enough about transpo and food. My poor, shuffling mother & I hit the Louve for five hours the next day. It has over seventy rooms full of art. It's absurdly easy to get lost in. It will drive you mad. (Foreshadowing!) We stayed until they kicked us out.

I kept a promise to myself and went to La Mutinerie, a lesbian bar kitty corner from the Centre Pompidou. The Siberian Siren is terribly disappointed that I didn't hit on any of the lovely femmes, but I was twice their age and didn't, to my knowledge, share a language with them. But screw that. This was a serious cultural experience.

First of all, La Mutinerie looked and felt for all the world like a more compact version of Seattle's own Wildrose. I ran into a couple of trans men one of whom mercifully spoke good English. I didn't ask pronouns in advance - yeah, going to trans hell - and luckily they saved me from a serious faux pas. I found out that the legal climate is in some ways even worse in France than in the US. To get hormones, they need the approval of a judge. The judge you get depends on where you live, and which judges are decent is more or less random. Paris, oddly enough, has crummy judges for trans people. At least in the US it's pretty easy to predict which areas will suck, and even then the courts don't try to stop trans people from transitioning. Oh, the trans men reminded me that France is a Catholic country, which had... adverse consequences for one of them. Same shit, different continent.

And as for La Mutinerie itself, I learned that it has been the focus of a strike by staff who accused it of "racist division of labor". Sure enough, everyone there was white: every one else, along with most of the trans people, had gone elsewhere. Do I think their greivance is legit? Yes. It's a little lesbian bar that's obviously not made of money, so nobody has much to gain by lying about it. I didn't explore any other places because I'd promised Mom I'd be back by 1:00, which was after the last Metro came anyway.

Have you watched that YouTube video of Jimmy T's guide for tourists in New York? In it, Jimmy says, "You are a jerk." I was a jerk in Paris, all right, especially regarding my attempts at French. Listening comprehension is hard unless you get a lot of practice. So many retail personnel in France have learned English out of necessity that using a poor command of French only wastes their time; I was impressed with how well they concealed their resentment of that. I feel more than a little sorry for them. I would love for them to come to Seattle and be jerks; I figure we have it coming.

The next day, Mom & I were in the Louvre from 0930 to 1730 local time. We spent thirteen (13) hours in there over two days, and I reckon that we saw between 75% and 80% of it. We made conscious decisions in advance of which parts we'd skip. Yes, we saw many, many famous works of art that we've all seen reproduced everywhere. My fave, though, was a particular 16-century Flemish painting of David & Bathsheba that I saw the first day. I said at the time, "Oo, isn't she pretty?" At the end of the second day, Mom decided she needed a break, so I decided I'd find that painting again & take a photo. It took me an hour to find the painting on the other side of the Louvre (room 11), and then find Mom where I'd left her. She didn't utter a word of complaint.
sistawendy: (skeptic coy Gorey tilted down)
And why would I wish I were back in France? Because my bathroom ceiling started leaking this morning. The building manager, Paul, cut a hole in the ceiling to investigate.

The good news is that it isn't currently leaking. The bad news is that a) it leaks intermittently, probably when somebody elsewhere in the building is running their water, and b) Paul wants to talk to me tomorrow about next steps.

Also, the price of doing a load of laundry in my basement has gone from a minimum of $1.50 to a minimum of $3.00. Time for more drying racks. I note with suspicion that this happened weeks after the death of my neighbor Paul's son, who I believe was living on a fixed income. Oh, and there's a new washing machine; I didn't know anything was wrong with the old one.

Another reason I wish I were in France: the lab where my doctor sent my routine test results sent me an $812.00 invoice while I was gone. They say the insurance claim was denied. I'm getting to the bottom of that with the help of StartupCo's HR people.

Really, I'm going to write up France in the next couple of days. As you've seen, there have been some distractions. At least I've uploaded and captioned my photos.
sistawendy: (lizzy)
I'm more or less packed for France. Airlines are stupid. Changing money is stupid.

I have Lambert House tonight, both trans support group and database monkeying. I'm going to put the word on Herr Direktor that this better not be a marathon.

Stuff's all broke at work, but luckily it isn't stuff I own. I'm going to run - not walk - away from it all tomorrow morning.

Oh: drinks with the Siberian Siren and [livejournal.com profile] dagard last night because I had to give her the lowdown on Much Younger Woman, natch. She was, as so often, dressed to seduce, in this case seduce people into buying stuff. He agrees that she's insanely hot.
sistawendy: (flirty hippy)
Meta: I promise I didn't blow you all off. I've been in headless chicken mode for yesterday & most of today.

Thursday: one last wonderful apartment cleaning, because who wants to come back from Europe to a dirty apartment? Also, foreshadowing!

Lunch Friday with co-worker E at the Pink Door. Oh em gee, the view of Elliott Bay from the patio on a sunny day, including the mural of local boylesque celebrity Waxie Moon. It was one of those days when I ask myself, 'Why do people live elsewhere?' Oh: salad & dessert were right on.

A second date with Much Younger Woman. It was again low-key talking over drinks; finally a woman who shares my appreciation of snobby beer at Über! The weird things about this date were a) it didn't start until 2245 (with a good excuse from her that I omit here), b) it didn't end until 0245, c) it was nevertheless pretty G-rated, and d) she tucked me into bed, and seemed disappointed when I said I wanted to lock the deadbolt from the inside after she left. Yup, I still like her. How can I not like someone with that many quirks?

Oh: MYW is impressed with my mad housecleaning. She called me a "minimalist". That's more than a little funny to me because Sunshine from Burning Man is seriously into minimalism as a lifestyle.

I now have a scandalously red shellac manicure, perfect for withstanding extended travel. If Mom doesn't approve of the color, tough noogies. I love it.

I've done the last of the shopping I'll need for France. Tomorrow, I launder & pack. I can't do much Monday night because of Lambert House, whose director wants me to do some urgent database querying before I go. Imagine my unsmiley face.

I meant to have pho with the Siberian Siren this evening, but like a genius I left my phone charging at home. The SS assumed that I was still napping because of my date and never checked the restaurant. Ah, kids these days. The spirit of the Siren was with me, though, because I stopped by Mishu after dinner and picked up a hoodie with tails. How could I not? Jewelry, too.
sistawendy: (oh yeah)
Last night my cow-orkers and I hit Mediterranean Exploration Company and got the $40-per-person chef's choice for our party of what, 15? Astounding food & service. It's the kind of place that Aspiring Ex would give her left ovary to eat at. I lost count of the courses - eight? ten? - but absolutely all of them were right on in terms of presentation, originality, and just plain nom. I noted that the bathroom signs and several other decorations were in Hebrew, so yeah, Israel is on the Mediterranean. And yeah, the hostess was young, cute, and Jewish-looking. Shaddup.

After I high-scored Asteroids at Ground Kontrol, my wrists started to complain, so unlike the me of thirty-five years ago, I had the sense to leave. I hit Powell's because you gotta, and called it a night at a reasonable hour so I wouldn't, you know, get anyone killed while driving us home.

But wait! This morning, we hit Tasty & Alder for a family-style brunch. Amazing. It's not-quite-traditional fare, so if you're not a militant meatie you can find something you'll like without any trouble.

I skipped Blue Star Donuts right before we left. I figured I needed them like I need an extra hole in my head.
sistawendy: (Prius)
I'm at StartupCo's Portland office for a day of meetings.

I drove a minivan load of co-workers down. Moral: even newish cars need a 1/8" cable to plug an iPod into the stereo. One of my passengers took from Seattle to Olympia to get his phone to connect to the stereo, true to his prediction. He's a hero.

We're staying at the Ace Hotel, which has an exorbitant quantity of wood everywhere; painfully quirky decor; a view of a blank wall; tiny rooms without with hidden empty hangers but with fridges and, at least in my case, an enormous white-tiled bathroom. The last bathroom I saw that looked like that belonged to a drag queen in San Francisco's Potrero Hill. I can't help but wonder what the Ace expects its guests to get up to.

Much tasty beer at Bailey's Taproom, which has a big upstairs room that's usually empty with a separate entrance that virtually impossible to find from the street. Hard-to-find bars are apparently a thing down here. It's like Chuck's Hop Shop with way less attitude and way more class.

We then hit old sk00l video arcade Ground Kontrol: Centipede, Asteroids, Tempest, etc. Nostalgia heaven.

All of us had dinner together at Shigezo Izakaya: Japanese food & adult beverages, salaryman style. The food's good - mm, okonomiyaki - but what you really go for is the atmosphere. Yes, I told my co-workers Burning Man stories.

We hit a hard-to-find hipster whiskey joint that didn't have room for us all. No matter: the bar on the next block wasn't as hip, but it was much roomier and had just as much wood.

Much to my surprise, I was crippled only by lack of sleep and not a hangover this morning. Breakfast was a PB&J milkshake at Brunch Box. Yes, it's hipster, but it's a hipster hole in the wall with good food and a cute, charismatic young woman behind the counter.

StartupCo's Portland office is the victim of interior design hipsters.

In summation, Portlandia is a documentary. Portland is full of things that look really cool but don't quite work, and an incredible amount of reasonably priced choice food, beverages, and amusement.
sistawendy: (contemplative red)
That Skype call that I worked so hard for with my Good Sister and her daughter? It lasted less than fourteen awkward minutes. GS moved it earlier to 0930 Pacific time because of her plans with Evil Sister. You can guess when m'boy & I got out of bed: 0855. Scramble!

My son and his cousin M were awkward teens on video. M is less awkward than my son with her good posture and gaze into the camera. Sure enough, she looks like GS, but she seems... shier? More normal? Less of a PITA? Than GS was at that age. Maybe M was just being shy in front of a brand new (to her) Aunt Maura. Maybe I haven't had enough contact with M. (Oh so true.) Maybe my opinion of GS dates from about 1975.

GS: Have you done anything to prepare for your trip to Paris*?
SW: Well, I heard of a lesbian bar a couple of blocks from the Pompidou Center**.
GS: You don't need to go to Paris to do that.
SW: If I have time, I'll check it out.
GS ended the call soon after that. I think I heard her say, "He'll end the call." I'm pretty sure she didn't mean my son.

When I told this story to Aspiring Ex, she said that of course GS found it awkward because I was talking about, basically, "trolling for sex". I guess the straight population is unaware of the degree to which lesbian bars are not meat markets, and that just going someplace to breathe queer air after spending days in a strange city with a group of septuagenarians to keep my mother from falling might be nice.

It's as if I can't relate to straight people anymore. And they're as avoidable as hydrogen.
I lost Little Drummer Boy the other day because KEXP played some indie band's cover of it. Darn them!



*Mom has arranged for herself and me to go there on a package tour in April, if you'll recall.
**La Mutinerie, 176 Rue St.-Martin. Its web site suggests a place that's part gay bar, part community center. I heard about it, appropriately enough, from a FOAF in Seattle's lesbian bar, the Wildrose.
sistawendy: (Prius)
I drove down to the Vampire Masquerade Ball in Portland right after work on Friday, after having done a slapdash job of packing that morning without a list. My Burning Man buddies [livejournal.com profile] ack_yeahright, her hubby J, and [livejournal.com profile] quietsoul were just finishing dinner at the Portland Grill, which is on the 30th floor of a building downtown. I have to say, places with a view like that usually slack on the food, but the Portland Grill doesn't.

In fact, we pretty much ate our way across Portland. After hitting Powell's briefly (Yeah, that's possible, to my surprise.) yesterday afternoon, we went to Podnah's Pit in northeast Portland, not far from where the Siberian Siren & I stayed last year. Yes, it's a meatfest, which isn't usually my thing, but I must admit that the bean-free chili was exactly the right amount of spicy. And unlike nearly all establishments outside the South, they didn't screw up the cornbread. Recommended.

For dinner on Saturday, we went to the much-hyped Pok Pok, Thai food in southeast Portland. This place had a short wait at 3:00 on a Saturday; that's how popular it is. Maybe it was because I was still full from the chili, but I thought the papaya pok pok with salted crab was good but not great. The waiter was remarkably careful to warn me about the spiciness and funkiness, but I thought both were perfectly acceptable. The menu is highly original, though, and the drinks and desserts - Yay durian custard! - are fantastic.

On to the ball! It's the Vampire Ball, so everyone pulls out all the stops (How's that for an appropriate metaphor?) and looks as good as they can look. I squeezed myself into what I've heard called the Goth Leprechaun dress: my 1880s bustle dress in green silk. I'm glad I picked a light fabric because it was once again warm in there.

Pics? I didn't take any but there may be some of me that I can post eventually.

Best drink line moment: the zaftig blond in the 1903 nurse's uniform she made exchanged some historical costumer love. Her nurse's outfit is simpler than mine, but better executed.

My tango training came in handy: an unknown man in a top hat danced with me - I don't know what dance it was, but I didn't embarrass myself too badly - and I had a midnight waltz with [livejournal.com profile] quietsoul.

Speaking of queers, I went there thinking that this was going to be a pretty het party, but I was pleasantly surprised by two dapper butches, and a couple of femmes who were clearly a couple. And then there was this woman my height (Yay!) in black and a mask who was dancing with me toward the end of the evening.

You know those tacky women who make out with each other on the dance floor? You guessed it: we were those women. She has the name of a famous temptress from literature. We exchanged contact info, and I'll be using it shortly. I discovered shortly after all this that she's married to a man, they're poly, and they're well known to [livejournal.com profile] ack_yeahright and J. It's nice to hear from a reliable source that neither the Temptress nor her hubby are psycho killers.

We didn't go to any after parties; the ball ended at 0200 and the four of us Burner buddies hung out at our hotel until 0415. Today was hangover mitigation, fish & chips at Sam's Billiards, and a lovely if trafficky drive back in the sun.

Huge thanks to [livejournal.com profile] quietsoul for being the best roommate ever, making the hotel reservations and letting me bum all of the stuff off of her that I left in Seattle due to my uncharacteristically disorganized packing.

ETA: Huge thanks also to [livejournal.com profile] cupcake_goth for personally inviting me, or I probably wouldn't have gone. I hadn't been since '09, and that year was my first. I had a much better time this year.

To Canada!

Apr. 5th, 2014 02:30 pm
sistawendy: (Prius)
So I took the poor widow's $10,000* and I bought that ticket for Cut Copy in Vancouver. I'm highly desirous of people to carpool with, but that's about as likely from my LJ friends list - even in its heyday - as shave ice in Hell. Fear not: [livejournal.com profile] manintheboat and [livejournal.com profile] randomdreams are on the schedule for lunch (Where?) right before I point the Sanctimobile north for a few hours.



*Family expression.
sistawendy: (contemplative red)
Australian ravers turned blond, hippy disco masters Cut Copy are on tour in North America. They're coming to the Sasquatch festival, which I can't remotely afford, and skipping Seattle and Portland, but they will be going to Vancouver, BC on 5/23 at the curious hour of 5:30 PM. Tickets go on sale Friday morning.

Pros:
  • Dude, Cut Copy! I have all their LPs, and their latest has been in the Sanctimobile's CD player most of this year.
  • The ticket price for Vancouver isn't out of line: $48 plus the usual pound of flesh for Ticketmaster.
  • I haven't been anywhere in Canada in about four years.
  • It's a kid-free weekend.
Cons:
  • That's the weekend [livejournal.com profile] randomdreams and [livejournal.com profile] manintheboat are coming up to Seattle. I have yet to meet [livejournal.com profile] manintheboat in meatspace.
  • I'd have to go all the way to Vancouver and back...
  • ...quite probably alone, because even though [livejournal.com profile] ionan's a fan, he doesn't think he has the $, and...
  • ...I'll be crossing an international border as a transsexual for sure.
So for the first time in a while, a poll:

[Poll #1963151]
sistawendy: (Prius)
Drove to Portland for a wild weekend of shopping and eating with the Siberian Siren. We got a room in a house in northeast Portland via Airbnb.com, and it was highly satisfactory. Two blocks from a bus line, and about ten blocks from a cluster of restaurants, etc. on Alberta Street. The couple that owns the place, who were not home, are in their thirties and artsy, so the place was full of earth tones, driftwood, Navajo rugs, original art, and seventies furniture and curios to the max. As a child of the seventies with a father from the southwest, I usually have a horror of such things, but they made it look so good. They'd done a lot of work on the place and have more to do, and they've done it well; I had plumbing fixture envy. They have a charismatic cat, and a tragically skittish little dog. One of them has a tall, blonde, attractive sister who runs around in yoga clothes and clued us into the good shopping.

We didn't eat on the way down because ew, fast food. We ended up eating a rather nice lunch at 3:00 in the garden at the Tin Shed, went a little crazy with the food & drink, and took a while to recover. Lesson learned.

Bought bus tickets at the co-op grocery store. The staff groused to me about how Portland's mass transit isn't as good a deal for working people as it was before the recession. I find that their transit doesn't suck, perhaps especially in comparison to Seattle's. Everyone thanks the driver on their way off the bus.

Objective achieved: Powell's. My reads? Fear of Flying; I, Robot; and The Windup Girl. The Siren's reads? I don't remember the titles, but the subjects were BDSM, queer stuff, and Russia. Getting her out of there was a bit of a challenge. We didn't even hit the coffee shop.

I'd checked out Portland's queer night life online, but it was midnight by the time we got back to the house on the bus, and even if it hadn't been so late we were wiped out. My night in bed with the Siberian Siren? I kept the poor woman awake with my snoring. She was too nice to poke me.

The next day we eventually nailed down a brunch place - the SS insists that brunch must have waffles - but on the way there walked smack into a farmer's market and ended up getting crépes and coffee there, plus organic kale chips (for me) and exotic mushrooms (for her) to take with us.

Shopped on 23rd Ave. NW. We hit the vintage stores hard. One of them was a crazy packed little basement place with 7' ceilings. The SS went way over budget with a pair of black leather pants and a vintage mulberry cocktail dress with feather trim, both of which miraculously fit and which I enjoyed zipping her into and out of. As she dithered about the expense, at least four perfect strangers told her to buy the damn dress already, only more politely than that because hey, Portland.

Dinner: small plates outdoors in the sun at 23 Hoyt - good food, less good wine - people watching, playing spot-the-queers, and speculating about the waitress. We got out of there waaaay late.

And we were made later by vile traffic near Joint Base Lewis McChord. Dropped off the Siren, who had napped in the shotgun seat, schlepped her books upstairs. Got to the old, old place at 11:00, gave Aspiring Ex the books she asked for (paid for with a gift card from Mr. Right Now), and spent a little time with m'boy. I felt terribly guilty, but they were both gracious about it.
sistawendy: (smoldering windblown Merc alley)
Un-date with Funny Lady: Lovely as always. We went for a walk around Green Lake as the sun approached the horizon, and after I asked, "Have you eaten dinner yet, young lady?", we had tofu spring rolls & papaya salad at Pho Cyclo. I love to hang out with her, but she's right when she says she has too many partners & work commitments already.

I think the universe sent ADDers into my life to teach me patience. It's been only partially effective. Shoot.
Work is fun: getting paid to write Ruby, being a duck that nibbles [livejournal.com profile] tithonium to death. Management wants smoke out of a project nownownow, which makes life interesting because they have me interviewing somebody next week and...
...plans continue for the trip to Portland. [livejournal.com profile] xaotica nudged me into doing a little research. It turns out we'll be staying not too far from some of Portland's gay nightlife. The Siberian Siren is, of course, game. I'll have to report back. But first, researching Portland's Tri-Met.

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