Saturday, May 27, 2017

My Quest For A Tie Pin

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

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

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

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

Do any of these appeal to you?

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Columbus, Ohio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Best Part Is You!

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

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

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

But back to happy stuff!

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

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

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

Friday, May 5, 2017

Rainy Day In New York

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 30, 2017

New York's Best Doughnuts

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, April 29, 2017

If Art Icons Were Hipsters

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

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Full-Blown Glamour

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

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

Any thoughts?

Monday, April 24, 2017

Vintage Neckties

Up in Hudson, I bought four vintage neckties at a thrift-store named Five and Diamond Vintage. They're pretty and unusual. (I hate boring neckties.)

Do these appeal to you? Which is your favorite?

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Hudson, NY

There's a town in upstate New York I've been eager to visit. It's widely-touted as "the coolest small town in America." The New York Times did a big article on it last year, saying hip people from Brooklyn are fleeing there to escape urban hardship. I had to check the place out, so I went this weekend.

Hudson is three hours north of Long Island, near Albany. It's in bucolic country, above the suburban stretch of Westchester County. Despite its rural location, Hudson has an unmistakable vibe of city sophistication. Coffee-shops, restaurants and stores are owned by wealthy refugees from New York City and they offer tony taste.

You never really know a place until you visit it, however. Mixed with the positive is some negative.

Hudson crawls with wealthy people wearing tight jeans and faux-leather jackets. Walking down the street, you hear several foreign languages and notice more than a few well-dressed gay couples. Hudson is probably the only place in upstate New York where you're going to see plenty of Porsches parked on the street.

There are dozens of restaurants, nightclubs and bars. And literally hundreds of stores and boutiques. Antique shops are big and sell high-end stuff. Furniture from your parents' house goes for over a grand. Clothing that you think should cost under $100 is priced well over that. The cuisine is haute and you're in luck if you're hankering for endive salad with imported pear dressing.

Thus, you get the best and worst of city life. Nice stuff but high prices. I learned store-rents are steep and real estate is climbing. A local told me that 15-20 years ago, Hudson was bohemian but now it's more yuppie in nature.

This makes for an odd situation because this new wealth is overlaid on rural poverty. Outside town are run-down shacks and even in town there are empty old buildings -- although most of those are being restored. Ambitious newcomers are gentrifying a piece of upstate New York. I never thought I'd see that.

On the positive side, the town is vibrant. A mini-city with bustling business. Consumers able and willing to pay a lot are doing that; merchants happily take their money. Advice: when something advertises "bespoke furnishings," run. Just run. You won't be able to afford the wares and their price-tags will make you question your life-choices.

There are a few reasonably-priced stores. I bought several beautiful vintage neckties. Shopping, especially at thrift-stores, is my favorite travel activity and there are half a dozen thrift-stores here. While most charge over $100 for items (where's the thrift?), I found a "community thrift-store" which had a gorgeous long formal gown I snapped up for $18. You'll see it next week.

I found a vinyl record store, musical instrument shop, and two bookstores. There's culture in several art galleries and a few famous artists have bought space in town for studios.

I had a nice meal at the oldest restaurant in Hudson called The Red Dot. The food made me think of New York City.

My favorite location is Moto, a coffee shop filled with motorcycles and helmets. They sell cool t-shirts (got one) whose motto is "Ride Fast." The saleswoman was surprised to hear I actually ride a motorcycle; she said everyone just wants to bask in the glow of motorcycling's bad-boy image without really getting on two wheels.

Here are some pics...

Yes, that's a tree-branch sticking out of a store with their name atop it

Geoffrey has a healthy ego. Too healthy.

Are your tchotchkes "socially conscious"?

I'm happy to report my new Montblanc pen and leather folio are hard at work!

I'm not sure revolutionaries sell overpriced jewelry

Love the color and pattern of this old barn

Found some nice neckties here

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Back To The Sixties

Thrifting is like gold-prospecting. You sift through racks of dross with the hope of discovering a fashion gold-nugget. Occasionally you do and that inspires us to return.

This week I found a beautiful item at Rosie's Vintage -- a matching dress and scarf from the Sixties. Authentic vintage clothing with its original price-tag still attached. The dress has never been worn. Even better, it's in my size which is rare for old pieces.

I love the Sixties and remember life then. This dress and scarf capture mid-Sixties style. Feminine with a hint of sartorial boldness that increased during the decade. I've never worn this particular style of dress nor this color, but life is an adventure so I'm diving in.

What do you think?

Sunday, April 16, 2017

How To Stay Organized While Travelling

When I ride my motorcycle on long trips, I always carry a backpack filled with a notepad, pen, papers (e.g., hotel reservations) and maps. My papers tend to get all messed up in the bag because things get shaken on a vibrating motorcycle. I realized some organization would help so, with the recent purchase of a nice pen, I just made a big improvement in my travel-storage.

I bought a leather folio from Levenger, a company that makes beautiful stuff. The folio solves all my problems. It fits neatly inside my backpack, has a built-in notepad of high-quality paper and several pockets for papers and maps. Best of all, it has a pen-holder and zips closed. That protects my new pen and keeps me from losing it. If the pen was loose in my backpack, I'd be sure to misplace or drop it, but locked into its special holder inside a zippered folio, it'll never be loose and vulnerable.

This folio organizes my stuff and keeps it safe while jostling about. I had my name embossed on the leather folio so it looks nice too.

How do you carry your stuff when travelling?

Friday, April 14, 2017

Montblanc Meisterst├╝ck Blue Hour LeGrand Pen

I got it! And thank you -- your encouragement bolstered my confidence and let me pull the trigger.

Such a big expense caused me hesitation; I can hear my middle-class parents bellowing in my head with criticism. I overruled those voices with well-reasoned argument.

The pen is beautiful. In person, it refracts light making its metallic blue look magical. Plus it's as hefty as a lethal weapon.

I purchased the pen this morning during a visit to one of the few remaining pen-stores in America. Located in Lower Manhattan, the store has survived since 1946. Afterward, I walked to my favorite restaurant in the City (Russ & Daughters Cafe) for a celebratory lunch of caviar and herring.

Admiring the smart collection of liquor there, I spoke to the bartender and he talked me into trying something unexpected: Scotch whiskey from... Japan. Yes, Japan! Yamazaki Whisky (they spell it the way the Scots do) has won many awards. It's very good, smooth and fruity. The bartender liked me and gave me a full glass for free. When I returned home, I discovered a bottle costs $219. Nice guy!

Here are some pics...

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mysterious Female Behavior

The lives of (most) men and women are very different. We're raised in different ways, we pay attention to different things, and we socialize differently. As a result, as female as I might feel inside me, I haven't had the same experiences most women have lived through. My upbringing and social encounters differ from yours.

Occasionally I come across female behavior that mystifies me. I scratch my head and can't grasp its genesis or purpose. One of those instances occurred today. Let me convey it to you and ask for explanation. My question is: Why do women do this?

When speaking to a man they don't know, women often make conspicuous mention of their boyfriend/husband -- even when there's no logical reason to refer to them. This is obviously a coded message ("I have a boyfriend/husband"), but I don't know why that message is sent. Are women pre-emptively warding off sexual or romantic gestures? Are they establishing themselves as "normal" or socially-conforming? Or are they simply declaring pride about their long-term romantic relationship?

Your thoughts?

Monday, April 10, 2017

Quality Goods

I learned a valuable lesson years ago to appreciate quality. Well-made products perform better, last longer and give you greater enjoyment. The problem, of course, is that most quality goods are expensive. However when you take these superior attributes into account -- especially their longer lives -- the initial outlay becomes more rational.

Naturally if you can't afford a hefty price-tag, the issue is moot. For most of my life, I've had to settle for second-tier goods. I used a Minolta camera instead of the Nikon I craved. I wore a Seiko watch instead of the Movado I wanted. Those compromises were unavoidable due to my limited middle-class income.

Now, though, I'm doing better financially due to decades of diligent effort. I can afford some luxuries. With that ability, I confront whether to splurge on items never before within my reach.

This preamble is leading up to a critical question -- whether to buy something I never considered before, a Montblanc pen.

Thirty years ago, at the beginning of my career, I made a wise choice to buy three quality pens. All made by Waterman, a decent manufacturer of writing instruments. I got two ballpoints for regular use and a fancy big rollerball exclusively for signing documents. They cost around $100-200 back then. I've enjoyed these pens daily for three decades. They were a smart choice.

I want to retire the rollerball and replace it with something new. As a change of pace. So I just visited the only pen store left on Long Island. Sadly there used to be many places to buy pens but the market has apparently evaporated. Fewer people want them. Pens are old-tech. The difficult search reminded me of my last attempt to buy a typewriter. Sales-people look confused when you ask for products like these. I am, perhaps, a dinosaur.

Anyway, back to the pen. I found a Montblanc rollerball in sparkling blue metal that looks heavenly. In person it is amazingly beautiful as it reflects light. The pen is heavy and sits comfortably in my hand. I positively love it. But...

I think you can guess what coming next... the price. The pen is awfully expensive. Much more than my Watermans. In fact, I've bought several used cars for less money. So can I justify this purchase? Should I buy it?

What do you think? If it matters what the specific price is, go here. Let me say that I can afford the pen -- although my middle-class background hollers that the purchase would be crazy. That instinct is fiercely at war with my conscious appreciation for quality. What should I do?