April 28, 2009

Vegas Taxi Price Guide

Posted in life, travel at 3:31 pm by Michael

I’m in Vegas this week for the Microsoft Management Summit – our yearly IT confab related to the stuff that I work on day-to-day.

You learn so much at conferences – about customers, your competitors – but this year, I learned something in an area I wasn’t expecting – how much it costs to puke in a cab.

Now STOP! I’m better than that, I did not in fact puke in a cab. However, we did hear firsthand from an expert – our cabbie last night – about the suggested price schedule. Nancy from Western Cab was full of fun facts.

She was complaining about a group of drunken girls she picked up the night before – with one of them having set their alimentary canal in “two way” mode as opposed to the more normative and societally acceptable “one way” mode.

“She wanted change. Up the strip, and wanted change for a $20. Unbelievable!”.

The fare was about $10 – so, we established that the cleanup fee should have been $10.

However, she didn’t puke “in” the cab – but on the door.

What about inside, what’s appropriate for that?

Nancy says that depending on the degree of offense, the fee for that is between $50 and $100.

When Anh and I were in Paris at the beginning of April, in the cab from the airport downtown, Samwich lost it in the cab. He had had some suspect milk, the traffic was stop and go, and the diesel fumes were bad, and he didn’t make it. Most of the damage hit both him and me, but some hit the seat. We cleaned it all up with wipes, but I still gave the driver $50.

I told Nancy this story, and she said:

“You are such a bullshitter.”

“Who, me?”

“Yes, you.”

From the backseat – “No, that’s Joe Biden”


April 18, 2009

Restaurant Miramar

Posted in food, travel at 3:20 pm by Michael

12, quai du Port
13002 Marseille
Tel: 04 91 91 10 40

The House of Bouillabaise

The House of Bouillabaise

Miramar is probably the most famous bouillabaisse restaurant in southern France, if not all of France. We had the opportunity to have lunch there, and it was as good as advertised. Quai du Port rings the south side of the main marina, and along that road are a set of restaurants offering French maritime cuisine. On your way to #12 do not stop, do not pass go, just keep going. Miramar is a different beast. They have both inside and outside seating (we sat outside), and the tables were mostly filled with well-dressed, middle-aged French businessmen enjoying a three-hour lunch.

Many of the main-courses are for two (we found this to be pretty common). There are three versions of the bouillabaisse (with and without lobster and one “special” – we couldn’t get a great explanation of “special”). Other super interesting courses for two included various grilled fishes, salt encrusted and baked fishes, and fish in pastry (which are expertly filleted and plated tableside by the “Chef du Table” – a roving outside chef).

We were there for the bouillabaisse, so we went for it. (Regular, no lobster).

To start we had the lobster salad.

Cannibal Lobster

Cannibal Lobster

This was perhaps the most beautiful lobster salad that I had ever seen – note how the claw seemingly grasps the tail. The lobster was nicely cooked (steamed, served cold), however the flavors in the salad (peas, beans, carrots, greens, with a light pesto-cream sauce) while independently beautiful, I didn’t hang together cohesively to make the dish.

We also had the scallop starter.

Truffles: Is there anything you can't do?

Truffles: Is there anything you can't do?

Also very beautiful. The scallops were lightly pan fried, and sat on top of a bed of slightly crunchy, pan-caramelized onions. On top, there are the thick sliced black truffles. Need I say more?

This dish did hang together much more cohesively. A single bite incorporating all of the elements was an amazing pleasure… it just melted in your mouth.

Next came the bouillabaisse…. It was a production. First, the seafood comes out.

Platter of Happy

Platter of Happy

Rockfish, a few kinds of whitefish, mussels, small crabs and potatoes are all delivered beautifully, topped with the “Certificate of Quality”.

The server then brings the garlic, mayo and toast platter. There is a process to follow with those – a delicious, garlicky process.

Platter of Process

Platter of Process

Step one: Select your toast.
Step two: Select a garlic clove.
Step three: Take garlic clove, and “scrape” on toast, liberally.
Step four: Apply dollop of spicy mayo stuff on toast.
Step five:  Drop in bouillabaisse broth.

Oh, the broth.

Now, you don’t just get the broth with the seafood – no. While your seafood is being filleted and prepared tableside by the Chef du Table,  you are given a fullsize bowl to enjoy. You get to play the above toast game with *that* broth.

Swimming Toast

Swimming Toast

I had this preconceived notion that bouillabaisse broth was thin and white. Far from it – here it was very much like a thick, fish bisque (without cream). It was also heavily seasoned with saffron and was somewhat curry-like, with a definite yellow color. With an almost spicy background, it went perfectly with the garlic toast previously prepared.

When finished, the Chef du Table presented us with the complete product – with a new base of broth of course.

Almost there....

Almost there....

While the serving was for two – honestly two people could have shared one bowl and been quite satiated. Each of the elements retained its own flavor and texture, and worked well together.

We did finish with dessert – which was ordered right after the main courses were ordered since each was cooked to order as well. I was ready to burst, but we had selected a Gran Marnier soufflé.



And, a Baba au Rhum.

....and a bottle of rum!

....and a bottle of rum!

The Baba au Rhum came with its own separate shot of rum (for drinking) – I know it was for drinking as the cake was supersaturated with rum – and perfect of course. The Baba and the topping strawberry glistened – with deliciousness.

Shining Beacon of Strawberry

Shining Beacon of Strawberry

As a bonus, a petit-fours plate was delivered, including these delicious raspberry tarts.

More Shiny...

More Shiny...

Samwich *loved* these, and when we told the ever-accomodating staff, ten more promptly showed up. I kid you not. Samwich then proceeded to eat the raspberries off the top of each one in a maniacal production line of yumminess.

Restaurant Miramar was an absolute treat. The setting was perfect for people watching along the quai. Eating outside in early spring was like a sneak preview of summer. Honestly lunching there was a great combination of luxury and laid-back-ness that I don’t think we would have had at dinner.

Marseille was an hour-plus from where we were staying, but Anh and I considered going back the next day to try more of the treats… only a fear of another post-lunch-caloric-coma caused us to not make the trek.

Go to Miramar… go after fasting… go with friends so you can try everything.

April 17, 2009


Posted in Air France, Samwich, travel at 4:59 am by Michael

This was our first trip with Samwich using a CARES Strap (http://kidsflysafe.com/) instead of a car seat on the plane.

Most of the time we’ve used a “Sit-N-Stroll” (http://www.strollerdepot.com/items/sit-n-stroll/) which is a convertible car seat/stroller that can sometimes even be rolled right down the aisle. Its super convenient when you have a rental car on the other side.

We didn’t want to take the Sit-N-Stroll this time because we weren’t going to have a car for most of the time we were gone, making it a bunch of dead weight. In addition our experience with France is that it’s not super stroller friendly (curbs, cobblestones, narrow sidewalks).

Additionally, Air France planes (transcon A330’s) have extra-wide armrests that do not completely fold up – this makes it hard to put a carseat in.

The last time we red-eye’d to Boston, Samwich ended up out of his carseat, laying across Anh and I anyway – in that case, the carseat was a detriment, as that was space that he couldn’t use.

For this trip, we had the flight to Paris, and then a flight from Paris to Marseille.

We were able to use it effectively on all the legs, although on the return from Marseille to Paris the flight crew questioned us a bunch, and the FAA stamp didn’t carry weight, since it was France. In the end, they were ok w/it.

Samwich was way more comfortable, and sleeping worked out much better him. On the Paris-Seattle legs, the seat configuration was 2-4-2, and we had window-aisle-aisle, with Samwich on the window, with Anh next to him. On the Paris-Marseille legs, it was 3-3 – so we had three across and chose to put him in the middle. This was a benefit over the carseat, which needs to go on the window, or in a two-aisle plane (2-4-2, 2-3-2, or 3-5-3) has to be in a middle-middle seat.

The only challenge is that the shoulder straps tended to pull the lap belt “up” – so it was a little high. Because there is no “between the legs” strap, he could slide forward too. This isn’t a big deal in an airplane crash, since airplanes typically aren’t rear-ended, but you need to stay vigilant to make sure that he’s properly positioned in turbulence. We fixed this a bit by having him sit on a pillow, which seemed to work pretty well. (Although I’m not sure that’s “approved”).

In the end it wasn’t perfect, but it was better than the alternative, and certainly reduced the lugging weight.

The Case of the Curious Customs Agent

Posted in Identification, transgender, travel at 4:31 am by Michael

We (Me, Anh, Samwich) went to France for a couple of weeks (more on that to come). We have travelled internationally a bunch since I’ve transitioned, and never previously had any challenges getting into other countries, or back to the states. (We’ve been to France, Italy and Spain (Canada too!), and I’ve been to Israel as well)

I was initially concerned that because my passport still (and will) says: Gender M; that it would raise questions or we’d be stopped for additional questioning. In fact, the only time we ever got stopped was coming back from Spain – and that was at customs, not passport control – as it seems like they additionally screen everyone coming back from Spain because of the prevalence of Ham Smuggling (I kid you not, and this is NOT a euphemism). We had no ham, just some gummi bears in that international smuggler Samwich’s backpack that under x-ray appear ham-like.

Now, I also do something a little trouble-maker-like (I know you are shocked) – I fill out only one customs form for the three of us, as we are a family, and it asks “Number of People in Your Family Travelling with You”. We are legally married, and I see no reason to do anything different.

Anyway, we got back Wednesday, glad to have gone, glad to be back. We flew direct on Air France from Paris (nice airline…. order the kids meal for your kids). When we got to passport control, I gave the passports and the customs slip to the agent, who was a late 30’s, early 40’s Latina woman. (The agent who I’ve gotten many times before, who is a big, bald, white guy was in the next booth, but we didn’t pull him. The most I’ve gotten from him before is “Where do you work?” and then a hearty “Welcome Home!”. It was not to be that simple…)

She starts….

“Where are you going?”

Me: “Home? We live in Seattle.”

“Are you carrying any food items?”

Me: “Yes, chocolate.” (And declared on the form).

She flipped the form over a couple of times, looked at me, Anh, Samwich….. paused.

“How are you all related?”

Me: (Slowly, and looking right into her eyes, leaning forward slightly) “We are legally married.”

“Is this your son?” (Looking at all three passports again)

Me: “Yes, we are his parents.”

Here’s where it went totally off the tracks. She’s now holding my passport, looking at it intently, and she clearly sees the “Gender: M” thing.

“I have to ask, because of your appearance…. Can you explain?”

Me:  “I am transgendered. I transitioned from male to female, because of the passport rules, I am still ‘Male’. However, we were legally married before, and we still are.”

“And you like it better, being a girl?”

I had no idea how to even answer that.

Me: “I am who I am.”

“And you are still married?”(To Anh) “What, are you just like best friends or something? Not really ‘married’?”

Anh: “No, we are married. Married.”

“How does that work?”

Anh: “It just does. We are married.”

“And you are ok with that?”

Anh: “Yes.”

“And this is your son?”

Anh: “Yes, this is our biological son.”

“And you just like live together now, like friends.”

Me and Anh: “No, we are married.”

“Were you like best friends or something before?”

Anh: “No, I didn’t know about this before we got married.”

She shook her head, and kind of gave us that look like “Well, Whatever”

“I have to ask.”

I’m not sure she did.

“Huh…. I’ve never seen *this* before.”

What like, heffalumps and woozles?

“Ok, thanks for telling me your story.”

Like I had a choice?

“You can go.”

Anh and I looked at each other, kind of shocked as we walked to get our bags. It felt not great, and certainly not within the bounds of normal customs practice. I’m sure the fifty people in line behind us really appreciated her intensive questioning of the trans-family.

Don’t you feel safer knowing that Homeland Security is on the job?

March 27, 2009

Oh, The Humans

Posted in life, travel at 1:43 pm by Michael

I love traveling. I love observing the differences, the similarities, and everything in-between.

For the last week I’ve been working in our Microsoft office in Israel. One cool thing is that our badges work everywhere. It’s kind of odd to walk up to a building eight thousand miles away from home, swipe your badge: “Boop – Green Light”.

(On the subject of badges, here’s a story that I’ve heard about an old-school Microsoft manager. When told that they didn’t give enough positive feedback, they replied:

“Positive feedback? Positive feedback? I give you positive feedback every morning. Every morning, when you walk up to the door and swipe your badge, you get the green light. Isn’t that positive feedback enough?”)

I digress.

Israel is an interesting place. Service comes from a totally different frame. The customer is *absolutely* not always right.

The first night after arriving, we were looking for a place to eat. We went down to the concierge to ask for a recommendation. He asked what we’d like to eat – we told him “Meat, Hummous, Kebabs, that sort of thing.”

“Oh, you want to go to Benny the Fisherman – very good. They have meat too.”

We go to “Benny the Fisherman” – known for the finest of meats in all of Tel Aviv.

We walk in, sit down, and the waitress walks over after a bit.

“So, what do you want to eat?”

(Israel, even though it is an English speaking country, is fiercely, loyally, a country of Hebrew speakers. It is not uncommon for signs and menus to be only in Hebrew. This restaurant did not have English menus – this was the reason for the question.)

Thinking that we were going to a place featuring meat (oddly named after a fisherman), we said:

“Well, meat, kebabs, salad?”

“Eh? What, no fish? You come here, you don’t want fish?”

Eyeroll. Dismissive hand wave.

“We have fish. You want fish, I will bring it.”

Me: “Can I have some meat too?”

“After the fish. I will bring it. You will see. You will like it.”

What, is Sam I Am our server?

We were given meat after two fish courses, begrudgingly.

“The fish was good, no?”

I’m not sure they liked me.

It added insult to injury that as we were there, it started to pour. Biblically. (It is the land of the Bible after all). On the way out the door, while trying to run for the door, I planted my left foot, starting to run, and it slipped out from underneath me, dumping me unceremoniously on my meat-eating ass.

I’ll eat the fish next time, I promise.

While there, our local team had scheduled a team event which included a walking tour of Old Tel Aviv. We got to hear about how Tel Aviv came to be, built by five original families from the sand outside of Jaffa. Interesting…

There were less interesting bits. It turned out that a highlight of the trip was the stop in front of the tourguide’s childhood apartment house.

For fifteen minutes we got to hear about all of the neighbors, where they came from, where they are now. All the time, I was wondering, what the point was – who famous was there? How had this house played into the founding of Old Tel Aviv?

Not in the slightest. Really.

We did hear about the elderly neighbor from across the street. Her house was described as an exact replica of her childhood home in Poland, but with the addition of a Star of David over the door.  Invited over for Easter, she ignored the advice where to sit, and sat in the seat in front of the bowl of very hot horseradish. After sitting down, she asked what this dish was exactly, and was told it was very hot horseradish, and that it should only be eaten sparingly, and later with the main course. She blissfully ignored the advice, got a big spoonful, and took it in whole.

Her face was said to explode in a cataclysm of gagging and spitting. The party’s attempts at reviving her with water and matzo were not enough. The neighbor did not speak to them for five months. (Not four, not six – five. Seven would have been more locally appropriate).

Look, I was paying attention to this story. This story was a load of crap.

First off, it’s a Jewish neighborhood. Our tour guide was Jewish – she said as much.

Other problems with story:
– Invited over for Easter. Yes, Easter. Not Passover. Jews do not celebrate Easter. They celebrate Passover.
– Sitting places. Again, this is a Passover thing. See above.
– Horseradish. This is a *staple* of the Seder. I’ve been to two Seder meals in my life and I know this. How the neighbor from across the street did not know about this, given that she too was Jewish (Star of David on the house), is beyond me.
– Matzo. Another proof point of the non-Easterness. Does the Easter Bunny bring Matzo? NO! Unleavened bread… leave the house quickly…. It’s Passover!

Anyway, on our walking tour we stopped at a number of small food places, which was cool. We got to experience the oddly named “Hummous Sticks” – which are like potato sticks made out of dried mashed chickpea and tahini. I need to increment the Crappy Look Counter after going there though, the elderly lady at the front looked me up, down, up, down, and then went “Beah!”. I think I need to rename it the “Crappy Look and Beah! Counter”. We also had some fresh marzipan, which was melt-in-your-mouth yummy. No crappy looks.

Anyway… the actual walk was fun and the commentary while odd, was at least blog-fodder.

Our flight out was at 10:30pm, and keeping with the tradition of Israeli airport arrival, we planned to get there at about 7pm. (Really, you need to leave that much time). After spending a lovely hour and a half getting through the pre-security, bag security, checkin, passport control, and gate security lines, we were through.

At the airport we had a last Israeli meal of pita, hummous and schwarma at “Cumin”, which was a far better choice than Kosher McDonalds.

Traveling brings out interesting traits in people. I’ve seen some pretty selfless behavior, but also some super wacky behavior too. In my humble experience, elderly travelers can be *the worst*. We were in the passport check line, waiting, when an elderly eastern European woman and her husband got in the adjoining line. (I saw her passport cover). She quickly sidled over to half-cut in front of me. I saw it coming.

As the line moved forward, she inched forward – cutting further into line, while her husband proceeded in the adjoining line. Like no one was noticing.

As the lined moved to its conclusion, with a big kerfuffle, she tapped her husband on the shoulder, and dramatically moved fully in front of me. Look, we had been in this line and others for an hour and a half and I was done.

I tapped her on her shoulder….

“Excuse me. You were in that line with your husband. You cut in front of me. Move back to your line.”

Oh, the Crappy Looks….

Then, a grumble fest from the other line-standers “Yeah… no cutting….”

Shockingly, she complied.

Other line-standers turned around and smiled at me, like I had fought some silent injustice that they themselves had suffered silently.

Thirteen plus flight hours later, we arrived into Atlanta….

It’s fun to travel – love the food – but after that long of a flight, comfort food is needed. I found to my delight that in the Atlanta Airport, in Terminal A is a Dunkin’ Donuts.

“Large iced regular please….”

Welcome home…..

September 19, 2008

Leaving Israel

Posted in Identification, travel at 1:13 am by Michael

Getting to and from Israel from Seattle is non-trivial – both in time and overall travel effort. I came in on Tuesday night, through Paris, on Air France (I left midday Monday from Seattle).

To leave I was departing from Tel Aviv at 5am, on a KLM flight to Amsterdam, then on NWA to Seattle, which should get in mid-afternoon the same day (Friday).

I had heard epic stories about security at airports in Israel. I had asked a bunch of folks in the office how long to get to the airport before the flight – the general consensus was between two and three hours. Even traveling business class – even at 5am.

There is a bit of a shortcut though – if you are “hosted” by a large company or organization, they can “vouch” for you, and security gets a little easier. Yesterday I filled out the forms, and they were sent in to the airport security office. What got sent back was this:

My Security Ticket
My Security Ticket

The key thing wasn’t the piece of paper, but it was the security authorization number, and the fact that they had all my info in their central database.

For my 5am flight, I left the hotel at 230am (love that jet lag!), and got to the airport at just about three.
The trip to the airport was fun though – at that time of the night/morning, Tel Aviv is a hopping city. Maybe we just drove through the club area, but every block seemed to have a collection of young, well dressed (very well dressed) party-goers – both inside and outside of clubs. I’ve been to a lot of cities, and I have to say, this was the *most* busy that I’ve seen a place so late at night.
Outside of the airport, there is what appears to be a tollboth – with a long line of cars. It turns out that its not. It’s a security checkpoint. The car pulls up, the guard asks the driver questions, then opened the back door to ask me questions. He started in Hebrew, and I had no idea what he was saying. After a couple tries he said in English “Is everything ok?” I said “Yes”, and he waved us through. There were guards with machine guns right on the other side of this barrier. (Sorry, no pictures, I’m not crazy!)
When you pull up to the terminal, you get into a line to go to the checkin counter – before you can go to the counter, there are very nice security people who ask *a lot* of questions. These were the people who I gave my paper to, and who then entered the data, and came back to talk to me – why were you here? where did you stay? who do you work for? whats your title? who did you meet with? And, this was *with* the card! The guy in front of me worked for some medical device company and had prototype devices that were fabbed in Israel. He was still there long after I left and checked in.
There were no fewer than four more checkpoints to go through before going to the gate. I’ve written about the Bee Watcher Watchers in Paris, where there are multiple lines to go through, each with some perfunctory check. This is not the case here – every line had some purpose, and they were checking and rechecking to make sure that you were okey dokey.
One thing I was surprised by though – at the xray machine, you do not need to pull out your small baggie of liquids or take off your shoes. They scan you, and your stuff, right there.
I will have to admit that I was a little concerned with all the extra checking of me and my passport, at some point someone would notice the “M” gender on my passport. This wasn’t the case, and it never came up.
I felt pretty safe as we were taking off from Tel Aviv that the folks on the plane were well vetted.
I’ll be happy to be home in a few hours….

Hummos in Israel (The Lunch of Choice!)

Posted in food, travel, work at 12:54 am by Michael

This week I was on business travel in Israel. As part of an internal reorg, I’m now responsible for a small development group in our Microsoft Israel office outside of Tel Aviv (in Herzeliya).

Food is an obvious connection when meeting new people – in business or personally. While we were working, we talked a lot about good food – both in Seattle and also in Israel. One of my new co-workers is a hummos fanatic – constantly searching out the best places to go, with awesome critiques of which places have the best salad, the best hummos itself, the best sauces – you get the picture.

Yesterday for lunch, he asked where we should go.


It was unanimous. He told us about his favorite local place. He described it as “The Hummos Nazi” – like the Soup Nazi in Seinfeld. I was more in than ever for this place! We set of on our hummos adventure for the Hummos Shack (my term, not his!) which was tucked in a small retail space in another office complex. (Its in the Ramat-Gan neighborhood)


The name of the place is “Parsley” in English.

A Good Sign

A Good Sign

When we walked up, there was a good size line – with members of the Israeli Army just in front of us. This is a good sign – the longer the line, the better!

The Menu

The Menu

The menu was posted on the far wall, all in Hebrew. It turns out that there is a “stack” that you can build:

– stewed beans (looked like some red bean variant)

– hummos

– oil and chickpeas

– diced onion

– parsley

– hard boiled egg

The menu basically describes that.

The prices are in NIS (New Israel Sheckel), and the rate is about 3.5 NIS = $1 USD. You can see then, at 7 to 8 NIS per plate, this is a good deal.

The Home of Happy Hummos

The Home of Happy Hummos

The ingredients are served from these trays, into your waiting plate.



You have a choice of sauces – the far left are whole jalapenos, the middle is a mango salsa, and the right is a red pepper mash (schug).

No Egg

Option 1: No EggOption 2: Egg and Beans

With the plate, you are served pita bread, as well as the ubiquitous Israeli salad – tomato, cucumber onion, parsley. (Some places add cabbage – this place did not.)





Basically, you mix and eat into as many combinations that you would like. This was an *awesome* lunch. The veggies were fresh – the sauces were crisp and fresh, and the bread was warm and clearly fresh baked.

Not only that, but this was an amazingly filling lunch. Lunch in Israel turns out to be a big meal (little to no breakfast), usually taken between 12-1, but then dinner isn’t until 8-9pm – and these are leisurely affairs. This lunch served me well to tide me over for more than eight hours until dinner.

One thing that just about everyone said though about Israeli restaurant service is that its brusque at best. To the point. Brief. This place was no exception. As we were finishing up, probably a little too slowly, one of the guys from the restaurant told, or “invited” us to leave in Hebrew – I guess we were taking too long!

Even with that, I’d go back in a second… it was amazing.

August 23, 2008

The Burger Nazi (But We Liked It – And Went Back!)

Posted in food, travel at 11:11 pm by Michael

For the past week we’ve been on vacation in Maui – in Wailea. We love Hawaii – I feel incredibly fortunate to live only five air-hours away. One of our favorite travel activities is searching out for local street food. Sometimes, the stranger or more out of the way, the better.

We had just been hiking at the end of the road (literally) south of Makena. The hike is beautiful – through a lava flow from the 1780’s that looks like it just happened last year, then through a set of wizened trees and little beaches that seem like a little slice of how Hawaii was long ago. We started early to avoid the heat, and on the way back from the hike stopped first at Makena Grill (advertised as the second best lunch in Makena). They listed their hours as “11ish” to “4ish” – Island Time – it was 11:20 and no sign of the Makena grill folks, so we decided to venture on.

Right across from the entrance to Makena State Park (aka Big Beach, aka Oneloa), there are usually roadside stands – hamburgers, hot dogs, fish tacos and shave ice – typical Hawaiian fare. We pulled up to the first one (looked promising – a homemade smoker appeared to be the cooking device of choice – cool! – with lots of fresh produce in evidence).

The Burger Man of Makena

The Burger Man of Makena

Anh walked up and started talking to the proprietor/chef/enforcer.

“I’d like…”

“Wait wait wait”, he said, with palm extended in the classic “Talk to the hand form”. His lips were pursed as if to say “Oh boy, this again.”

“Before you order, let me tell you about *my* food. I cook everything to order. We have burgers and fish sandwiches with mahi mahi. The burgers are the Kong Burger, which are this big (his hands up as if to hold a sandwich, fingers extended to their full length as if to make a giant ellipse), and they cost $14 each. It comes with cheese, lettuce, maui onion, roasted pineapple, tomato and mustard and catchup. I wrap it in the foil, and if you unwrap it, then it will fall apart. I only cook meat with meat, and fish with fish so if you want both, you’ll have to wait.”

“Ok, great. We’ll take a burger and three fish sandwiches” (there were seven of us total).

“You’ll have to wait. I cook everything to order.”

“Ok. No problem.”

“My food is expensive, but those hotels, they charge hotel prices, but they serve you shit.”

And with that, he began cooking. Slowly, methodically, cooking.

During the cooking he talked about how people around town have asked for his marinade recipe, and he said it would cost “10”, as in $10k.

“They are all crooks. They steal from each other. I was in the business, but I didn’t want any part of it.”

Cool! Dinner and a show! We like that.

While we were waiting, at least three other groups came up to order. Two of them walked up, and when he didn’t even look at them, they walked away. One other guy came up, and started to order, and he repeated the above caution about how big, how long and how expensive his food was. He walked too.

The burger guy’s response?

“These people, these people don’t want to wait. They don’t know good food.”

Anti-marketing… you have to love that.

At one point, Anh asked about additional hot pepper – jalapenos, or hot sauce. He chided: “If you add to much of that stuff, you can’t taste it. My stuff is seasoned plenty hot enough.”

And you know what? He was right.

The burger was great. The fish sandwiches – also great.
We also got fresh pineapple, papaya and coconut from him. The papaya came from his yard in Kihei, the coconut from his neighbor’s tree. (I’m guessing the pineapple came from a grower, but it was damn sweet).

He even prepped the coconut, making a handy scrapey-spoon from the outside of the coconut to get the meat out.

He totaled up our bill on the inside of a Ziploc bag box – it wasn’t cheap – just over $100 for the four sandwiches, a hot dog, two half pineapples, a coconut, a mango and drinks.

We decided to go back the next day, and get “Take out”, and bring it back to the beach.

When we arrived, he didn’t seem to recognize us – he started the same spiel about the burgers when we started to order, but Anh said, “We were here yesterday.” He said “Oh”, and started cooking.

While waiting (30 mins from when we ordered, and we were customer numero uno), there was another incident with non-marketing. These two even came up, and tried to talk to him, but he ignored them. They walked away.

One of his buddies was there hanging out there, and he was watching after his adopted three month old chicken. Turned out that this chicken was just hanging out at the stand, lost without the momma chicken, and the buddy started feeding him.

“Chickens crap on everything.”, chicken buddy said.

The chicken would climb up his finger, and onto his shoulder and back. Apparently the chick loved to poop on the dude’s back, because there was evidence – fresh and otherwise.

We loved our second round as much as the first – just as big – just as yummy – but we got some sort of discount – the second day the burgers were only $12, not $14. We even got a little wave as we were driving off.

He is a character – he knows what he likes – knows what he likes to make – and he makes great stuff… stop in!

(If you didn’t get the reference – Soup Nazi from Seinfeld)

August 19, 2008

Vacation Tidbits

Posted in family, Identification, life, transgender, travel at 12:13 am by Michael

We are on a beach vacation this week (not to be confused with Blogcation).

This presents an interesting challenge for me.

What. To. Wear.

Short answer – shorts and a UV top (no sunburn).

So far, in my experience, the more clothes I’ve got on, the harder it is to “pass”. Big winter stuff – not so much. The hardest group to pass with – kids and teens – without a doubt. Dirty (not crappy mind you) looks are highest per-capita in this group. The beach should be great then, right? Well, add in my outfit, and wearing sunglasses and a baseball cap (Red Sox, of course!), what should be easy becomes, well, less than that.

So, given that context, a few interesting bits so far on this trip:

(NB on the whole “Passing” thing. This is not my raison d’etre. I am who I am. However, I find the reaction to me to be just plain interesting. It doesn’t bug me not to pass (mostly)…)

– When we got here the other night, we were at Safeway getting some stuff for lunch. I was at the deli counter (no jokes please), and the very nice guy behind the counter was *overly nice* to me. This hadn’t happened to me before. It was o-d-d. I was not prepared for this. I was nice, and smiled, and got my turkey and roast beef, thank you.

– Peri broke a toenail today (kind of bad actually), and I went to the little nail hut near the beach to borrow a nail clipper to fix it. As I was sitting there, trimming her nail, a little girl (probably 6?) came up to me, and strated asking lots of questions:

“What are you doing?”

“Do you work here?”

When I said no, and I was just fixing her nail because it broke, she said:

“Oh, you are just her Mom, and you are fixing her toe then? Does it hurt?”

Peri and I just exchanged glances, she smiled, I smiled, and I said:

“That’s right… she’ll be ok!”

And that was enough for her! She smiled and was off.

As we were walking away, Peri said “Was I that nosy when I was that age? I don’t think I was.”

Oh yeah Peri, you were!

(NB. I’m not Peri’s mom. I am not confused on that point. Peri and John calling me “Daddy” all of the time generates quizzical looks, but that’s no biggie.)

(NB II. The little girl above was a sweetheart. She was genuinely concerned about Peri, which was super nice. I hope no one takes away anything remotely negative in my tone.)

– John was getting a Henna tatoo (fish skeleton) this afternoon, and when I went to pay, the tatoo lady was taking down my info.

“Last name?”


“Ok, first name Mr. Wallent”


“Oh, I’m sorry… I’m a kayak guide in the morning, and with a wetsuit on, I get sirred all the time. Isn’t it funny?”

– We were at dinner tonight, and I was up, walking around with Samwich. Our server, who was a nice middle-aged lady says to me:

“Are you the grandma?”

“No… no, I’m not.”



That’s worse than asking someone when the little bundle of joy is coming and the answer is negative six months!

Needless to say, Anh has been calling me “Granny” all night…..

May 22, 2008

Six Months

Posted in family, life, transgender, travel at 10:24 pm by Michael

Ok, I’m a few days early.

November 25, 2007 – Michael
November 26, 2007 – Megan

Talk about a step function! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Step_function)

I know that I tend to go micro in the blog (as in microeconomics http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microeconomics) but this entry is a little more macro (as in macroeconomics http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macroeconomics).

As an aside, Christine (and you know who you are), encouraged me to write this by asking “When are you going to start blogging again?”

Why am I writing this four days early? Well, Anh and the kids are in Hawaii this week. I was at a training class for ‘softies since Monday night (three nights, four days), and she took the opportunity to depart for warmer climes (back tomorrow night – yea!) We are going to be busy this weekend, so I probably won’t have a chance to blog much, so therefore… the update!

Me and Anh

We are great, thank you. I was talking to someone at work a week or so ago who I hadn’t seen since early November, and she asked how Anh was doing, and basically said: “Do you still live together?”

I said, “Yup, and we are really *together* too…”


“Yes, really.”

“Wow, Anh must be an amazing person!”

I could not agree more….

The Kids

Peri and John, in the end, I’m sure I’ll find out what they really thought about 10 years from now (or 15, because I’m sure in 10 years when they are 20 and 18, my IQ will drop, followed by the inevitable rise as they age) but, by all measures, they seem to be doing just fine. They still call me Daddy, because I am.

Samwich is just the Samwich. He’s 14 months old now, cute as a button and sweet as pie – except when he’s yelling at you. He likes that. I think he calls me “Da”… but, it’s not consistent, and he doesn’t call Anh anything. We were talking about this the other day, and postulate that he doesn’t call either Anh or I anything (esp Anh) because he doesn’t see us as separate from him. We *are* him (to him). As a result, there is no need to name us.

He now is attached to his blankets (especially a green fleece one… he *loves* to snuggle it).

The kids are just kids… just like any other kids….


Besides the normal ups and downs of any family, my trans-ness is old news. Nobody really cares. I can’t imagine a better situation.


Besides the fact that our schedule has been INSANE, and we haven’t seen our friends any where near enough, there’s no friend problem. If anything, we’ve gotten closer to a whole set of people.


I was worried about this one. On so many levels. Would I face “to my face” hostility? Would I lose credibility as a leader? Would this just continue to be a topic *forever*?

You know what? As long as I’m effective, I don’t think anyone cares….

The training that I was at over the last couple of days was a great example. Like with any leadership training, a lot of the learning is from your peers, not just the instructor lead stuff. The instructor lead stuff was great, but I felt like I could still be really effective (and got feedback to that effect) doing peer coaching and mentoring. Did anyone care or notice that I was trans? Well, they all knew, because I told them back in the first part of the class in March, but I think they all knew anyway….

My work challenges have so little do with my trans-ness… its just part of the mix. Work is hard (duh), but not because of anything since November. If anything, the self-reflection that I’ve *had* to do has helped me… Do I have room to grow – no doubt!


Our local community here (our neighborhood), is completely cool. In fact, we saw one of the mom’s from Anh’s mommy group last weekend at the park (when it was 80 deg F and super nice here), and she hadn’t seen me since right when we came back in December. The first thing she said to me was “Good to see you! You look great!’. What a sweetheart… she made my day.

As far as the trans-community goes, well, I think I’ve been more visible than I ever expected. I didn’t expect any notice really. The whole ABC thing was surprising. I think it worked out ok…. I still feel like a newbie.

I’ve also been invited to speak at the Out and Equal Workplace Summit (http://www.outandequal.org/summit/2008/default.asp) in Austin in September, and Southern Comfort (http://www.sccatl.org/main.htm) in Atlanta in October. I plan to do both. Will anyone care what I have to say? I think they’d rather hear Anh talk, but she is a woman of mystery. 


Physically, I’m recovered from my re-face-ification. My noggin is still numb, although a smaller part than before. Underneath my nose (the part on the same plane as my nostrils (bottom) is numb. My ears are a bit numb on the top 10%, and my lower front four teeth have lost some sensation. That’s it. Everthing else is just fine thank you…. No complications.

Surgical moratorium still stands….

Emotionally, yeah, I’m a little more sensitive. Ok, fine, I admit it. I was walking in the grocery store tonight after I had dinner, and listening to music on my phone (NOT AN iPhone), and this little interstitial instrumental that had a baby (6 months) babbling in the background. Ok, yes, I got a little sentimental, both for the days that Samwich, Peri and John were that young, plus given that they are away, I missed them. I called Anh and told her that and I felt better. I told her I was going to be cheesy in advance, and that was ok.

Look, I’m totally convinced that I did the right thing. It’s not easy every day, but every day is easier…..

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