February 21, 2008

Paris Travel Summary (Details to Follow!)

Posted in food, Paris, Samwich, transgender, travel at 12:16 am by Michael

Eiffel in the Trees

Our overall approach to Paris was to try to do it on foot as much as possible. Our fallback was the Metro (subway), which is very good here. I was imagining thoughtful strolls down wide boulevards and narrow streets, with the sound of classic French music lofting through the air, with the smells of baguettes and croissants not far behind.

Um, Paris is a big, modern city. Big.

We have walked a lot (primary mode of transport), which has been *fantastic* for learning our way around. We’ve gotten to see little small things that we’d miss if underground – smaller shops, architecture, small gardens and just people living their daily lives. I wouldn’t trade these things or change our approach at all.

We also had the fortune of having one of our friends refer us to her sister in law who is a Parisienne, who had dinner with us on Monday and Wednesday. We asked her to pick the places, and at the restaurants, we left the ordering to her and the waiter/sommelier. This was an awesome way to experience dining in the city. We were super fortunate that Marie-Pierre knows food, wine, and the local dining scene. She was amazing.

But yes, all of this goodness of foot travel comes at a cost. We have this independent, squirming, heavy (25 lbs+), brilliant, inquisitive little being that travels with us. We call him the Samwich. He needed to be carried – everywhere. Again, we used the Baby Ergo carrier, which I’ve written about before – its awesome – can be used as a front or backpack. Well, you dummies, why not use a stroller? Well, Paris, like Rome and most of Europe isn’t exactly stroller friendly. The streets can be narrow or crowded (or both), with lots of cobblestones, curbs, steps. The only people using strollers that didn’t look like they were about to go insane were those using the big-wheeled jogging strollers.

Because of the carry issue, my legs and feet (and Anh’s too) feel like we’ve done a long week of hiking (because we have!). This is not a complaint at all – but a tradeoff – see more, walk more, but your range is limited.

The other kid issue that we have had is around finding reasonable open spaces for Samwich to play. He now walks, but in that Frankenstein, crazy car (car that moves forward till it bumps into something, then turns briefly and repeats), uncommandable way. Our hotel room is small, as you would expect in a European city, and this being winter (Wednesday it rained as well), the outside parks aren’t always the best choices. We found that the best place to let him roam reasonably was in the Louvre. Its so big that he can walk around, but also the crowds are dispersed, and you can find a room w/o a lot of people so he doesn’t bug someone.

One little annoying thing that he discovered this week is the concept of an echo, and where said echo can be used to great effect. The parent in me both cringed an applauded this mini-science breakthrough. He’s Brilliant! He’s Annoying! He’s both! Walk into a big room – e.g. Pantheon, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame, and he starts echo-locating like a bat, except audible. Yes, very audible. “BAH!” Samwich, “Shhh….” “BAH!”. He’d get a big grin on his face, as he realized the ability to control his surroundings, but wow, it was annoying. We moved on from these places quickly. (Or in the case of the Pantheon, he found stairs to go up and down and up and down – that was his other major discovery of the week – Stairs. The subtitle for this whole vacation has been “Stairs – who KNEW how cool they were!”)

Oh the food – we’ve had *great food* (more on that later), but as in most major cities, there’s a lot of not-great food, and without a lot of research, and trust-able sources, its hard to find the gems within the non-gems.

A couple of Samwich related eating items for reference. First off, high chairs or boosters – we only saw them one time all week – the café at the Musee D’Orsay. I almost took a picture of them – there were five, all different, all bedraggled. Every single other place we went to – and these were not just high-end shi shi places – nothing. He sat on one of our laps. This was made more complex by the fact that given his developmental stage (reaches for everything and “Can’t control… fists of death!”) (oh, and that nice hot coffee felt SUPER good in my lap Sunday – love and kisses Samwich!) a large two foot diameter “Zone of Destruction” must be cleared in front of him or unintended merriment will in fact, ensue. The tables in general are also very very small. This means that when the waiters come with the food – they see this nice big open space to put it in, and Anh and I quickly would have to do the big shuffle to move plates before Samwich did. Lastly, on the Samwich front, no kids menus… we just gave him our food, and this was fine (he eats all kinds of foods at this point).

This is noted in virtually all of the guidebooks, but I’ll reiterate here. There are a number of types of restaurants in Paris. There are cafés, which are mostly coffee/snack/drinking places. There’s an interesting phenomenon here, as these places have both inside an outside seating. The outside seating is *packed* – even in the winter, in the rain, no matter. Inside seating – empty. Why? Recently passed indoor smoking ban. The outside tables aren’t covered, even if they are under cover, with the sides having plastic walls, and only the front open. As a result, the sidewalk cafés are very busy, and full of people enjoying their Galoises. These are NOT food places…

There are chains, brasseries, counter service places, etc.

There are the ever-present creperies – which do have very yummy crepes, made on demand (don’t even try the premade ones…). Great for a snack. We also saw a lot of gyro stands, advertised as “Grec’ or “Turkic” samwiches. These looked, as you would imagine, of varying quality.

Bistros or (Bistrot en Francais) are more food oriented, and the variety here is amazing. We went to one  (La Regalade) Wednesday night with Marie Pierre and it was *fantastic*.

Then there are the “Chef” or “Gastromic” restaurants. We went to one, again with Marie-Pierre on Monday (Pierre Gagnaires’s, 6 rue Balzac 75008), and it was an experience (more later).

Even if you go to a counter service restaurant – a carafe of wine with lunch is enjoyable (if you like wine!). It’s a great way to find less expensive wines, and to try them out. Virtually every table will have one on them – even businesspeople at lunch!

Which bring us to the lovely state of the euro v. the dollar. Euros are expensive. Paris is expensive. Expect to pay New York city prices (in euros) for virtually everything. Then add 40% for the exchange rate, and viola! No money left!

On the language side, Anh and I both can speak some French, so we can at least be polite. However, we get “read” as English speakers instantly, and generally get replies in English – not because the people are rude, but because they are being helpful. Sometimes though, we start in French, and ask what we think is a simple question, the answer to which that we can understand, but then get blown away by a wave of French that we have no hope of understanding.

We try very hard to be polite in French, and start that way out of politeness. Compared to Italy, where we found people to speak less English than even Japan or China, Paris has been amazingly language-friendly for English speakers.

That’s the short summary… I’ll fill in some more details shortly.

Oh, and the whole trans thing – it’s a total non-issue here. I still get “Mademoiselled” here most of the time, and the Crappy Look Counter hasn’t budged. If you are polite, people are polite back!

Today is our last full day in the city, and we have one more nice meal planned – L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon, which looks virtually identical to his place in Las Vegas at the MGM (which we love), so I’ll report on that when we are done! (plus detailed day-by-day info about what we did…)

February 18, 2008

Paris Day 2 or “Look, That Kid Has No Head!”

Posted in family, food, Paris, Samwich, travel at 4:42 pm by Michael

It’s hard to write about Paris. What hasn’t been said? That triteness aside, let’s see what I can do here.

Overall, the theme for day 2 was “walking” and “closed”. Walking because we literally walked about 10 miles. Closed, because its Sunday, and many shops and restaurants, are well, closed. We, being total Paris neophytes, missed that and ventured to many places that were in fact, closed. D’oh!

Our day started off by walking from our hotel to the Eiffel Tower – where we found gigantic lines (more than an hour – even for the stairs). After deciding that this was a bit of a non-starter with an 11 month old, we decided to go to the Louvre, to allow Samwich some running room.

What is there to write about the Louvre that already hasn’t been written? Huge? Check. Impressive? Check. Full and I mean Full of amazing artwork? Check!

However, two things of note – one is that the “Gate of Lions”, on the south-west side – not sure how often its open, but the line there was non-existent, where the main line in the center was super long.

Secondly, Samwiches LOVE the air vents there. The air vents, well, only the Mona Lisa compares. The air vents are grates on the floor with air coming up – a la Marilyn Monroe.

Samwich was *fascinated* by these. For literally an hour, he played w/various vents – coming over, leaving – coming back over, etc.

If you are in Paris with a toddler, and want a place to let them roam – the art museums are where its at, especially if its cold or rainy. He was able to gets lots of room, plus see (if not appreciate) some amazing art.

After the Louvre, our plan was to walk back to a recommended spot near the Eiffel Tower. Closed on Sunday. The view of the tower was still worth it.

Eiffel Twilight

We went on a short boat trip on the Seine… short but fun!

Boat Trip

While we were walking near the gardens of the Eiffel Tower, we hear a kid say in English, re the Samwich – “Look, that kid has no head”. I can assure you that Samwich does have a head, and he’s well versed in using it. However, from this shot, given the backpack we carry Samwich in, you can see the root confusion.

Samwich No head

We ended then walking across town, back to our hotel, to find some sort of sit-down-creperie. It was a testament to how crappy our food luck has been that this was the best meal that we’ve had so far.

Oh well, it was good, and we had an amazing walking day… All and all, it was all good! (But since I’m writing this after day 3, and know how that went, the food luck turned – Stay Tuned!)

February 10, 2008

Hope for the Future

Posted in family, food, transgender at 7:22 am by Michael

Last night, Peri, John, Anh and I went to Blue Ginger in Bellevue for Korean BBQ. (The make-it-yourself kind). It’s my birthday next week, and this was a pseudo-birthday dinner.

The food was pretty good – the best thing that we had was the diced beef Bulgogi style – cooked a little crispy (not like me in the hotel last week!).

Anyway, yesterday was the caucus in Washington State, and we were talking about the election with the kids.

John said “I would vote for the person who would cut taxes!”.

I said: “Well John, I think thats an important issue too, but you know there are some candidates that don’t believe that we should be allowed to be a family. I think that’s probably the most important issue for me this time.”

Peri virtually jumped out of her skin:

“YOU ARE KIDDING ME! NO WAY!”

If she knew how to say “Frigging” or the other less polite F word, it would have come out.

“Yes, Peri, thats true.”

“THAT IS TOTALLY REDICULOUS!”

John then pipes in, with a really angry look on his face:

“Thats stupid. Thinking that should be against the law.”

John hops to thought-police mode pretty quickly sometimes. Anh was going to get them both Animal Farm to read, but hey, he’s seven.

Peri is now totally incensed, and wants some details.

“Who would think such a thing?”

“Well, Mike Huckabee for one, and Mitt Romney too.”

(Huckabee’s own page on this point is here, which includes this little bon mot – I’m not making this up:

What’s the point of keeping the terrorists at bay in the Middle East if we can’t keep decline and decadence at bay here at home?

Dammit Anh! We are letting the terrorists win!)

(Here’s what Romney had to say to Bill O’Reilly

It’s as commonsensical as one can imagine, because you have a child that’s able to determine from each parent the attributes of that gender, and by virtue of doing so is able to determine their own sexuality and the relationship with members of the opposite sex.

Ah, so Romney believes that being Gay is a choice…. interesting. Which ties directly into use of words as well – “commonsensical”, which is defined as:

“practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like”

Hmm… so what he’s saying is that people who really haven’t researched the issues, or are not experts in the area would have this opinion. Brilliant Governor! Brilliant!) 

Peri: “Well, I hope NOBODY would vote for them, ever.”

Me too Peri, Me too.

January 11, 2008

The North End and Second Dinner

Posted in Boston, food at 10:54 pm by Michael

Thursday night after work we went over to the North End for dinner. Almost every trip that we’ve made to Boston (probably 20+ in the time I’ve been gone – and at least 4-5 for Anh and I) I love to go to the North End to get some great Italian food, and cannoli. My favorite haunt is Trattoria Il Panino on Parmenter and Hanover. There’s great debate among Bostonians as to which place has the best cannoli as well as what comprises a cannoli and whats an aberration.

I assert that true cannoli filling is the sweet ricotta filling. No chocolate chips and no nuts (pistachios are the most common contaminant) should decorate the ends, IMHO. Chocolate or Vanilla pudding may be yummy, and one may put them inside a cannoli shell, but this doesn’t make it a cannoli.

Powdered sugar on the outside… I’m neutral.

The best cannoli are filled “on demand”, as the moisture in the filling will soften the shell. This means naturally that to get the true cannoli experience, you need to eat them as soon as they are filled (which means that you eat and walk, which is just good times).

Once you resolve what a cannoli actually is, then the debate is “where”. There are three major choices in the North End: Modern Pastry, Mike’s, and my favorite – Bova’s. All three are great – its just a question of variation in the shell – flaky to crispy – how sweet the filling is – and how smooth the filling is. For me, Bova’s does the best, and will fill on demand if you ask.

So of course we went to Il Panino for dinner, and honestly, it sucked. Bad. I was amazingly disappointed. We’d been there six months ago and it was great. Anh had lobster ravioli that were inedible. Fishy – this happens when they are frozen incorrectly. They have to be fresh to be great. There is ZERO excuse for this in Boston where pasta and lobster are like air. I had a pasta (a large style ziti) with a beef, veal and pork ragu. The sauce tasted fine, but they skipped the ragu part. It looked like they put about a quarter of the meat in the dish that should have been there. Anh ate half of one ravioli and made the same face that I make when I smell durian. I finished about half of my dish, and we were done.

We went to Bova’s, and luckily the cannoli there are still great, and we also got one for Samwich.

I asked Anh if she wanted to go to Chinatown to try to get something else to eat, and she said ok, so we cabbed it down there, and looked for the busiest place with the most natives of whatever country’s food was being served. We quickly came upon “Gourmet Dumping Restaurant” just inside of the Chinatown gate. At nearly 9pm it was packed, and this was a good sign. We had some pan-fried dumplings, watercress with garlic, and noodles with beef. It was all good! We’ll definitely go back. Samwich woke up while we were there (he was taking his afternoon nap, as we kept him on West Coast time), and after he had his dinner, he got his cannoli dessert. It was his first one, and it was memorable.

Lets just say that Samwich ate the vast majority of the filling osmotically.

Cuz I Love That Dirty Water

Posted in Boston, food at 10:53 pm by Michael

(Extra points for getting the title of this post).

For seven years I worked in Kendall Square in Cambridge at a company called “Intersolv” (first Index Technology). Coincidentally, the Microsoft team that I manage is just across the street from where I used to work. I can see my old office from the new Microsoft office.

I’ve been back to the area a few times in the past eleven years, but haven’t spent a long time there.

Back in the late ‘80’s, Kendall was going through a bit of a revitalization, as old warehouses (Just look at the illustrations of Cambridge from “Make Way For Ducklings” to see what it used to be like) were being torn down and turned into office building, retail space, and other new construction. This trend has accelerated after a slowdown after the Dot-Com bust. In fact, office space is now scarce in the whole area.

It was interesting to see what businesses have opened and closed since I was there last time. There was an amazing photo development shop right in Kendall – long closed. Who prints photos anymore in that way? Two of the really famous restaurants in the area – closed – Florentina and the Sail Loft.

BayBank – after numerous acquisitions and mergers – gone – now Bank of America. Sad.

We had gone over to Harvard Square – that’s changed a lot as well. Its been way more “Gapified” than I remember – and a Harvard Square landmark – Wordsworth Books – gone – space empty.

It still felt familiar – but not the same.

However, the margarita(s) at The Border Café are just as good as ever, and go down just as smoothly.

December 26, 2007

Christmas – So Yesterday

Posted in Christmas, family, food, surgery, transgender at 1:21 pm by Michael

You know that Christmas is officially over when there is the “Christmas Music Rebellion”.

Happens every year. This year, Anh started it. At about 8pm, while listening to Johnny Mathis, aka “Mr. Christmas” (he has someone else call him that on the record – WOW) – Anh said:

“Megan…. Can we PLEASE listen to something else? Please.”

I scanned the room – looking for unindicted co-conspirators (the people who LIKE Christmas music) and found no support.

On to the ‘Best of Frank Sinatra’. We’ll teach Samwich about the classics now…. not just the Chipmunks (although this *is* classic). As an aside, “Summer Wind” is by far my favorite Sinatra song. I can’t NOT dance to that….

Samwich has his first crush – Feist. When the song “1234” comes on, he immediately looks toward the source of the beautiful angelic music, and immediately stops what he’s doing. Crying, eating, pooping, whatever. It’s a fun party game now.

He gave us a nice present on Christmas Eve – two steps. Not totally under control, not bad for 9 months though! Also, his first tooth is a day or two from coming out… that will be fun!

Over the past couple of days Anh’s brother James (professional stylist in the Bay Area – he’s awesome!) performed two mitzvahs for me – cut my hair and did my eyebrows.

I will post more pictures today. I have been reluctant to do so for two reasons – one my upper lip was swollen from laser – so swollen I kind of looked like “The Cowardly Lion”.

Cowardly Lion

(Why does the Cowardly Lion have a ribbon in his hair – was “Cowardly” the closest that Victor Fleming could get to “Gay” in 1939? (Ed. Note – Anh read this post and said – it wasn’t “Frank Blum – it was Frank Baum.” She was of course, correct.  Full name was L. Frank Baum however and he died in 1920. Victor Fleming was the director of the 1939 “Wizard of Oz” movie, that the above picture is from.))

Secondly, while the laser had some *immediate* results, the remaining hairs get big and angry, until they fall out. We are mid-angry phase right now….

In any case though, I will post some shortly.

It did snow in Seattle yesterday – first time since ’96 on Christmas Day.

Some other food comments:

– Pistachio Waffles – very interesting (mix the crushed pistachios into the butter). Dip in butter if you are into that sort of thing.
– Berry Waffles – microwave frozen berries first, then mash them, then mix in w/the batter. Works great – the taste is throughout.
– Beef Wellington – good idea, hard to make work. Puff pastry is soggy on the bottom – do you cook it on a rack?
– Verdun Chocolates – from Portland – super fun at a party – each kind is a uniquely wrapped color/shape, and you get a large guidebook – so its like a party game to find what you like.
– Duckhorn Cab from ’98 – I loved it then, I love it more now.
– Champagne is always good to have in house. The French stuff is better – way better. Pol Roger – nice. Also, Rose Champagne – try it out!

Ok, one serious bit of “Trans-business”.

We have lots of pictures around our house. We have wedding day pictures, a picture I love from Hawaii, pictures of me with the big kids when they were young – lots of stuff.

I look at myself, and see the same face as I see when I look in the mirror today. I kind of expected a “bigger” change – it was very scary as a result (read the posts from right before facial surgery – I was super scared!).

(Other People – while they recognize me, say I look a lot different. I don’t see it.)

My face is still pretty angular.

The swelling on my nose and chin/jaw is coming down.

Even with no facial hair, I don’t think I will by ever by default “pass”. E.g., just with a “Headshot”.

I’m coming around to being ok w/that. It’s honestly hard to admit.

Don’t get me wrong, I feel *great*. I know I made the right decision (Yes Dave(s), I did!).

But, I’m going to be in the middle, probably forever. Dress, makeup, voice, “more surgery” – all these things could change that. But, I don’t want to do any of it.

I’ve done enough.

I’m satisfied…. Even if a bit surprised.

December 22, 2007

The Holiday Season

Posted in Christmas, family, food, friends, Pro Club Laser at 3:48 pm by Michael

Ok, things are a little frantic, but a little “normal”, so there hasn’t been a bunch to write. However, there was a comment that I got late last night that I wrote a long response to (below), and enough has happened since Wednesday to write some stuff! It’s like a smorgasbord – what could be more in the holiday season than that!

One of the stories that I heard from a co-worker is a solution they found to how to refer to things that I’ve done pre-transition. Michael? Megan? He? She? Nah, they simplified the problem – they just referred to me, for the sake of that conversation as “Wallent”. Works for me! Honestly, I’m not trying to erase “Michael”. I did a lot of stuff… When people talk about interacting with me “Before”, it makes sense to say “When I was talking to Michael…” or “Megan” – whatever works. I have a very pragmatic perspective on this. Whatever works.

Wednesday night we brought a few friends out to dinner as a thank you for their support, specifically the folks who came to visit Anh and I when we were in San Francisco. We went to Chez Shea in Seattle, near the Pike Place market. The company was great, the food was ok, but the service, well, it was a distraction. Maybe it was because we were in the lounge, but honestly, it felt like the waiter had better stuff to do. Huh, no extra tip for him.

Thursday we got to find out how picky Seattle zoning is. We are trying to get some landscaping done in our yard, and a failing driveway wall fixed. However, it seems like no matter what we want to do, there’s a rule about it (or not doing it!). The folks we are working with are super knowledgeable, but still, wow! That’s a lot of rules. Maybe the yard will be just fine as is!

We were having some friends over (John and Cait) for dinner on Friday, so we wanted to make something nice. Cait is a fantastic cook, and they both are fantastic hosts (I do remember this, even though the last time we saw them I think we drank 9 bottles of wine in 8 hours (we slept there – no Drinking and Driving). We were all hurting big-time the next day). It’s been super cold here in Seattle, so we wanted to make a great winter dish. So, Anh made Tomato soup, which we planned to finish with a crouton with melted (in the broiler) cheddar and parm on top. I worked on braised lamb, onion, mushroom and tomato (garlic and rosemary too), that we’d then mix in with pasta (penne – our last bag that we got from Italy). I am very much the sous chef in our house. So, to say I “worked on” it may be an exaggeration. I am the sommelier and bartender – but just the sous chef. One has to know their place. We cooked all of this Thursday night – we pulled the lamb an hour early, planning on finishing it for an hour the next day, and got the tomato soup base done.

Friday morning was the long appointed crazy laser appointment. Now, I’ve had laser a bunch of times (five?) in the past six months, all at a different place. However, the second to last time I was there, my right arm got hypo pigmented in a weird pattern, and they stopped talking to me. I wasn’t mad, I wasn’t even upset, they just decided not to talk to me anymore. Very odd. Friday the appointment was at the Pro Club in Bellevue. I wasn’t worried about this at all. Laser is uncomfortable, but it’s not unbearable. I actually thought it was worse than electrolysis, but not a lot more.

So, I went in (got Sir’ed twice), and filled out the requisite forms, and went in to see Stacey, who was awesome. She asked how long I had (30 minutess), and a little history. I told her, told her the hypo pigmentation story, and she said “no problem”, and we agreed to work on my upper lip, lower lip and chin. She then got an ice bag, and asked if I wanted to get numbed.

Numbed? Ice? Wha? I’ve done this before, my whole lip/chin area is numb because of nerve issues from surgery, and I’m thinking “Who do you think you are dealing with here? Some sort of Wuss?”

She says: “No, really.”

I say (foolishly) “I’m SURE I’ll be ok.” (Smile and Wave!)

She says, smiling and sighing “Okay… we’ll just have to see how this goes!”

She started on my chin, from the outside.

Grabs the laser, puts in on my chin, and presses the trigger.

“JESUS FRIGGING CHRIST! WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?” (calling on the FSM in this scenario seems pointless)

Where the “other” laser feels like a little elastic snap, this felt like five or six needle pricks (hard), all at the same time.

She got halfway across my chin, toward the middle, and I had to have her stop, and give me a minute.

She said “You want to see what it looks like so far?”

I’m thinking “What’s this about? Usually it just looks a little red, so what am I looking at here?”

She gives me the mirror, and “MY GOD – WHAT IS THAT?”

Basically, it looks like my hair has literally jumped out of my skin, some all the way, some partially, and is now stuck to my chin.

She says: “You have great ejection happening.”

I say “Eja-wha???”

She says: “Well, the courser hairs that we do, especially the dark ones on people with light skin, they tend to just “jump” right out. That’s called ‘ejection’. You get results immediately for at least half the hairs, and the rest come out in about a week.”

I say: “Well, this hurts like hell, but I love you. Keep going!”

I iced the rest of my chin, and she started working on my upper lip, which is SUPER numb.

That also hurt like hell. The nerves got an interesting wakeup call yesterday.

We finished up, and I spent the next two hours with ice bags/packs on my face. The treated area is still swollen (but less so) more than a day later.

Stacey said that the laser she was using was an older type (but new model) and was patented ( https://www.proclub.com/default.aspx?tabid=1243 ). Basically, the other place had a different model, and while it hurt less, was a different wavelength that was less efficient.

 I will post some new pictures shortly – I don’t feel like I have “Lion Lip” on top anymore – although it is still swollen.

After laser, with ice bags at the ready, Anh, Samwich and I went to lunch with our friend Val at Malay Satay Hut in Bellevue (good place!). I had a beer. My face hurt like hell still.

Anyway, Val’s a sweetheart, and has been super supportive through this whole process. She also gave me a special present that I will value forever. (Sorry, I can’t say what it is. When I get back to work, it will be in my office though, prominently displayed).

We went home after a little Christmas shopping at U Village (cold!), and then finished up with dinner. Food ended up coming out the way we wanted, and it was a lot of fun.

This morning, we simply finished up with Christmas shopping and shipping… and life goes on.

December 19, 2007

I Got No Strings on Me!

Posted in family, food, surgery, Vegas at 5:41 pm by Michael

Yesterday was a bit of a milestone in my recovery from FFS. Two things really – the bruising on my face is basically gone. (I have a little tiny spot under my left eye – but given that it was swollen shut and totally purple less than three weeks ago, I’ll call that good!). And, for the first time since November 29, all of the sutures in my mouth are gone!

Just as a note, if you are squeamish, skip the next paragraph. I’ll get into some detail.

I only ended up with three visible scars on my face – under my nose (nose work, plus upper lip), under my chin (adam’s apple removal), and right at my hairline (ear to ear scar, only visible at the top – hairline modification plus brow sculpting). I also have scars behind each ear, from having them tucked back. But, inside my mouth was the real masterwork. All of the jaw and chin work was done from in there. No visible scars as a result, but a ton of sutures (dissolvable) inside my mouth. Basically, I had a top to bottom “Z” incision on each cheek, and along the bottom edge of my jawline, where the skin on the cheek meets the gum, there was an incision, and dissolvable sutures.

Yesterday, the last of those dissolvable sutures “dissolved”, and were gone!

I thought of the song from the Disney Pinocchio movie: “I Got No Strings”. I’ll do my best to remember the lyrics:

I got no strings to hold me down
To make me smile
To make me frown
I got no strings to hold on me
I got no strings on me!

Not totally apropos, but still – this felt like a milestone!

Last night Anh and I went to Bradley Ogden for dinner at Caesar’s Palace. We had been there for dinner before, a while ago w/friends, and Anh had been there for dessert again recently and said it was great.

Well, it was great. It was amazing. The service was spectacular – it was a discussion between us and our waiter Berke .We started with a fresh Alaskan King Crab appetizer that came with these little bits of gold – nuts, deep fried potato, just amazingly well put together and beautiful. Of course, the split each thing we ordered into two, with great presentation, insuring that we both had the full effect. This is not something we see super often, but it was appreciated. Our waiter also thought that the crab would work best with a sparkling wine, so he served us a generously portioned taste of a California Rose sparkling wine.

We then had a salad with this amazing little blue cheese soufflé. Yes, that’s right a blue cheese soufflé.

Berke and Bradley Ogden’s son had helped us to pick out a great ’96 Dunn Cabernet, that was so silky smooth, it was an experience.

Next there was a ribeye steak that we split – amazingly plated, with winter veggies underlying.

Berke recommended trying the Kobe steak as well – from Japan – really. He said that they ship over porterhouse cuts, then butcher them to just get the strip cut. Its prepared on a teppan style grill, seared three times – first with soy, then with a salt/pepper mix, then finished with soy. The serve by the ounce, so we got four, and went for it.

Wow… like eating fois gras, without the guilt! It was an amazing experience.

Dessert was killer as well – chocolate three ways, a meringue, and an amazing Far Niente Dolce.

It was dead in the restaurant, just like Vegas in general this time of year – right before Christmas, right before New Years. So, the waiter was chatty. We liked it.

He had initially been calling me “He” or “Sir”, but I did correct him, since we’d be there for a while, and introduced myself “Hi, my name is Megan, and I really prefer “She”!”. He said, “Nice to meet you Megan!”

As we were getting dessert, we asked him if he had figured out our story, and he said yes.  He gave me his card, I wrote down the address of this blog, and he started talking.

It turned out that he has two transgendered friends. These were MTF folks, who had transitioned before he knew them. One from where he came from, one from in Vegas. He was clearly a nice guy, and had other interesting stories to tell. 

“You Never Know!” when you meet people about their background, their story, and their history.

I look forward to our next trip to Vegas, where we will undoubtedly go see the fine folks at Bradley Ogden again.

Oh, and after dinner, we went to the Mirage and had great luck at the Double Deck Blackjack table… always good to leave on a positive note!

No strings attached!

December 18, 2007

Vegas, It’s All Good, Even if Everyone Thinks I’m a Guy

Posted in food, Identification, transgender, Vegas at 1:06 pm by Michael

Getting to Vegas was amazingly uneventful. The security line I had a bit of a question on initially – how would TSA react to my new ID? Megan Jenna, but “M”? The TSA woman took a look at my ID, a look at me, and said “Ok, let me see here….”, and then stamped our boarding passes, and off we went. Now, I fully believe that part of the reason that this was easy was because I was traveling w/Anh and Samwich, but still – I was not given a hard time at all.

Our flight on Alaska left the gate on time, was early getting down here, and was just a breeze. There was even an in-flight, over the PA marriage proposal (she said yes). That was a first for both of us. We sat next to a player from the Central Washington University basketball team, who was studying Fashion Merchandising, and he talked about what he knew about playing basketball in Europe (interesting!).

The cab line in Vegas was as empty as I’ve ever seen it – cabs waiting for people! I honestly have never seen this before, and we are down here 6+ times a year. This time right before/right after Christmas (but up to the 30th) is very quiet.

We checked in to the Venetian – no line, no problem. (TIP: They have recently redone a significant number of their rooms – the new rooms are much better (upgraded linens, flatscreens, etc) – just ask for a remodeled room – same price, different floors). We did reserve the room in Anh’s name, because I don’t yet have credit cards that match my license yet (after the first of the year).

After checking in, we went shopping/browsing for a while (mostly for Anh!). The shopping wasn’t that interesting, but wow, interesting with how people would react to me. At virtually every opportunity, I got “Sir’ed”. A lot. Now, I wasn’t wearing a poofy coat or anything. I was wearing jeans, a top, and a somewhat tight overshirt. Unless there was a gynecomastia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gynecomastia ) convention in town, well, there was something else going on.

The only time that was even close to shitty (and maybe I need to count this in the “Crappy Look Counter”) was when we walked into a clothing store – Anh in front, carrying the baby, me right behind. The saleswoman (mid 40’s) says to me, with some stridency: “Men’s clothes are over there.” I say: “Interesting, I don’t need any though – thanks!”

This morning, I went down to get Samwich some breakfast, and again – t-shirt, sweater (somewhat tight), and fleece pants. I got sir’ed by the breakfast place lady. Then, on the elevator back up, a Venetian security guard got on (female, mid 40’s), and she remarked how cute Samwich is (he was in the stroller), then as I was getting off, I got the hearty: “Have a good day Sir!”.

Allright… I know I haven’t made this easy. My stache is dark. I hate it. I don’t wear makeup. I have very little jewelry on (only my wedding band and a diamond all-over band that Anh gave me in SFO – sweet). My clothes don’t exactly scream “Female”.

I have two thoughts on this, other than I have a long way to go till actually passing easily.

I saw a documentary a few years ago showing how innately people identify folks as male or female. They did an experiment where they used the “lighted dots” method – basically put “dots” on people on their nose, and then at the major joints – shoulder, elbow, wrist, hips, knees, ankles. Then, they asked people to walk and do other activities. They then videotaped it, then image processed the people out, and ended up with box/stick figures. They then asked people to ID the stick figure as male or female. The hit rate was > 95%. Wow.

Secondly, Anh and I were talking about how the default gender for people may be “male”. Just in written terms, when most people write and are referring to an unknown person, they refer to he/him/his. It seems noticeable when you read she/her/hers. So, we have this theory that for people to see you as female, you need to prove it on all visual cues. So for me, one big thing – my stache, and a bunch of little things – posture, makeup etc, make me “male” every time. Having one big “pro-female” factor – cleavage – not enough to overcome. In addition, the Dr. O surgery really does “work” – my forehead, hairline, lack of Adam’s apple, not to mention a much softer jawline… all softer and more feminine. However, this isn’t “enough” to overcome the smaller, but more important stuff mentioned above.

One other side comment – my voice. I don’t have the deepest voice, but it’s clearly male. I have intentionally not done anything to change this. It seems too personal to change. I know, my face, and chest, not personal? Hard to explain, but I don’t want to change it.

Anyway, is it frustrating? Sure it is. Am I upset, no, not really. Do I wish that I wouldn’t get immediately read? Of course I do. The words from another trans-woman at Microsoft’s words ring in my ears – I asked “What was the hardest thing in the first year for you?” Answer – rapidly: “Hair removal. I just couldn’t get rid of the little buggers fast enough!”

Well mustache and lower lip hairs – your day with destiny is next Friday.

Anyway, last night Anh and I went to L’Atelier du Joel Robuchon at MGM Grand for dinner. I won’t try to do a restaurant review here, but it’s amazing. This is probably our fifth time, and its always amazing. You sit at the counter, around the working kitchen, watch the chefs work (quietly, but in French). The tasting portions are perfect. Try everything – especially the Langoustine Fritters, and the Potato Pureee du Robuchon. For a more full review, check out what Hillel at Tastingmenu.com has to say:

http://www.tastingmenu.com/archive/2006/07-july/20060718.htm

After that, we gambled (lost – surprise! Odds and Math work!), then went to bed.

One other note, we are huge fans of “Noodle Asia” at the Venetian (right next to the sports book). We had lunch there today (as we do at least once or twice on every Vegas trip). It’s not super expensive, but the food is very well done. Great stuff there: Potstickers, Black Pepper Udon, Night Market Fried Rice, BBQ Plate (small or large)… again, try it all! We have found no better Chinese food in Vegas – at any price (and we’ve tried every one that we can find…).

Yes, I still love Vegas, even if everyone thinks I’m a guy.

December 16, 2007

Three Weeks Ago….

Posted in coworkers, family, food at 9:40 pm by Michael

The normalcy of it all is kind of stunning.

Yesterday, we had Dim Sum for breakfast, saw the Chipmunks movie, then went to Sorrentino (Italian) for dinner with some friends (saw someone from my old team there too – Hi Peter and Seema!), then they came over and hung out for a while. Really.

(We did get our new licenses in the mail yesterday – only four days after getting the temps! Quick!)

Today, I made breakfast for the kids (blueberry pancakes for Samwich – chocolate chip for Peri and John). I watched the Pats v. Jets (no surprises in the result there – but the weather certainly held down the score). After the game, we went to get Santa pictures in Redmond, and we dropped off the big kids after that at their mom’s.

We had dinner at home… put the Samwich to bed, and packed for Vegas.

Why is this even worth writing about? Well, only three weeks ago, I was at the airport in Seattle, just about to get on a flight to San Francisco, where the next morning I would have my first surgery. It was my last full day in “guy” mode.

Three weeks. Thats it.

Lots has happened in three weeks (well documented).

Tomorrow we get on a flight to go hang out in Vegas, for fun, for a couple days.

I love normal life.

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