New York City Blog Oct. 13 – Oct. 18

I went to a party last night. It was filled with warmth, dancing, glitz and humor. It was principal dancer’s Wendy Whelan’s Farewell to the New York City Ballet. The David H. Koch Theater was packed. It was a wonderful tribute from behind the footlights. Two of the choreographers who have worked with Wendy Whelan closely, Christopher Wheeldon and Alexei Ratmansky, created a ballet for her and her two principal partners, Tyler Angle and Craig Hall. It’s called BY 2 WITH & FROM. Last night she and Hall also danced Wheeldon’s AFTER THE RAIN and she and Angle danced an excerpt from Ratmansky’s CONCERTO DSCH. During the evening there were short clips from a documentary about Whelan. She was shown fostering to NYCB younger dancers and celebrating, in bittersweet fashion, her October 18 retirement after thirty years. The affection for Whelan flowed across the stage to the audience and visa versa. At the end of the evening, most of the NYCB appeared on the stage. At first, they arrived one by one, each offering W. W. a bouquet. It was a lovely, gentle sight gag. Within minutes she was weighed down with flowers. Still, they kept coming and we, the audience, kept laughing like kids watching a beloved relative being teased.

Farewell to Wendy Whelan. The NYCB on stage

Farewell to Wendy Whelan. The NYCB on stage


Since I couldn’t offer Wendy Whelan real flowers I’ll offer her virtual flowers.

Flowers for Wendy Whelan

Flowers for Wendy Whelan

New York City Blog Annex: Oct. 5 – Oct. 12

We returned to NYC yesterday. On the Delta flight I watched two movies and one documentary. There are movies and then there are the ones you watch when you’re in the air. Blue Jasmine is a flight flick. Cate Blanchett looks like a tired swan who sweeps through her scenes talking in her Katherine Hepburn accent. At times I thought I was watching A Streetcar Named Desire. Veronica Mars is an awful, homemade movie. It’s not even a flight flick. Then, the documentary, Nixon on Nixon. Usually, I can’t wait to get off a plane. Many people tense when landing approaches. Not me except yesterday when I was so enthralled by the late and ex President Nixon’s comments that I wanted the flight to continue. I can understand in a Machiavellian way why a paranoid and powerful person would have people secretly recorded. What I cannot understand is why Nixon, knowing he too was being recorded, would not have been more circumspect in his comments.

I’m in a movie frame of mind. In Amsterdam we went to the Tuschinski theatre. It’s a massive 1921 movie palace. If you sit in one of the private booths, drinking champagne, you can imagine the days when Marlene Dietrich appeared there in variety acts. Otherwise, you can sit in the comfortable seats and stare at the beautiful balconies and ceiling. We saw Gone Girl, based on Gillian Flynn’s wonderful novel. It’s an engrossing adaptation,  but the ending was rushed, as if the director had another project in the wings. Rosamund Pike was perfect. Ben Affleck was a big mistake. He’s a movie star, not an actor.  But what a theatre. Oh, yes, the movie is subtitled in English.

Tushinski Balcony

Tushinski Balconies

Entrance to the Tushinski

Entrance to the Tushinski

New York City Annex: Sept. 28 – Oct. 5

We flew to Amsterdam, took several trains and trams to our funky hotel, fell into bed and several hours later explored the lovely, charming neighborhood. If you’re a bike phobe like me you might want to jump on the nearest train or plane, but after a day I had a change of heart. At first I thought the Amsterdam bikers (old, young, kids and or dogs in barrel contraptions attached to the front of the bike or seated on tiny bucket seats) were like flocks of starlings but I was wrong. They are like swallows. They swoop and swerve, as graceful and skillful as dancers.The Reiksmuseum, renovated after ten years, is sleekly modern and classically (17th Century) Dutch. We bought the 60 euro ticket that allows you admittance to most museums over the entire country for a year. Well worth it. We went to the Van Gogh, naturally. Museums are going through an upheaval about the cell phone camera, as if you didn’t know.You can photograph in the Reiksmuseum but not in the Van Gogh. There’s a purse museum (no photos) not to be missed.The Hermitage (Photos are okay but leave your purse, bag pack etc. at the counter.) has a place in Amsterdam.Nearby is the delightful botanical garden.  About the food: the Dutch stands with the fresh, raw herring, salmon and beer were a treat.  We took a side trip to The Hague and its wonderful museum More later.I’m writing this from Venice and battling an aged computer.

New York City Blog Sept. 22 – Sept. 28

On Monday, September 22,  President Mahmood Abbas of the Palestinian Authority spoke at Cooper Union. Have you ever been in the Cooper Union’s Great Hall? If so, you’ll remember how the columns abstract a full view of the stage so you and the rest of the audience bob and weave to see what’s going on. You’ll also remember that every speaker mentions that Abraham Lincoln spoke from that very podium. Mahmoud Abbas did this many times. His accent was so thick that Abraham had a wonderful Arabic ring to it and, at first, I didn’t know who he was talking about. It was an autumnal occasion: an elderly (79) politician who stayed the course even if he wasn’t particularly effective. The audience of about 700 consisted of mostly white, asian and arab millennials. There were several keffiyehs, the checkered headscarf worn by Palestinians and their supporters. Lots of yamakas. Groups of orthodox Jews and us. We were under the umbrella of Churches for Middle East Peace. You brought your sense of expectation with you. With a few exceptions (The current lot of the Palestinians is similar to that of the African Americans in 1950s USA), Abbas’s speech was boiler plate and aimed at a New York collegiate audience. And why not? It’s their generation that’s going to clean up the mess my generation and the preceding one created.It was a respectful group, lots of applause for Palestinian rights. Lots of standing ovations. Those who didn’t agree stayed seated and didn’t applaud. About eight years ago I attended a panel discussion between pro-Palestinian and pro-Israeli speakers. The late Tony Judt and John Meirsheimer were on the former side. Dennis Ross was on the latter side. The debate was sparked and fueled by the publication of Meirsheimer’s and Steven Walt’s The Israel Lobby. A woman with the unfortunate but unforgettable last name of Slaughter was the moderator. Cooper Union was packed. The air was electric. The forbidden topic: Israeli influence on the U. S. was being addressed. Quite an evening.

Mahmood Abbas at Cooper Union

Mahmood Abbas at Cooper Union

Later this week I attended a birthday party in a Soho loft that combines elegance and cosiness. An extremely talented singer and guitar player, aged nine, accompanied by her musician father played for the birthday girl.

Birthday girl being serenaded by the Twinings

Birthday girl being serenaded by the Twinings

New York City Blog Sept. 15 – Sept. 21

Who knew how spiffy The Museum of the City of New York had become? Everyone except me, that’s who. Even the name change reflects a streamline, upscale NYC: City Museum. On Tuesday we went to a lecture, co-presented with Central Park Conservancy, on the fort landscape before Central Park. Three historians described the effect of the Revolutionary War and of the War of 1812 on the site that would later become Central Park. A shoutout for the Central Park Conservancy. It was begun in 1980 and has raised $750 million to restore the Park.

I slipped out of town on Friday to attend a Judson Memorial Church weekend in Ivoryton, Connecticut. It’s held each year at the Incarnation Center, a beautifully run camp on 700 acres near the southern Connecticut coast line. Do not let the word camp fool you. The accommodations are basic and clean. The food is delicious and the lake is a joy to sit by or jump into. Judson always has interesting activities and lots of fun: There’s a workshop on energy and consciousness, the question session asked by the senior minister and answered by everyone present in 20 seconds or less, swimming, rowing, walking, lots of talking, a baseball game and a dance party and variety show on Saturday evening. On Sunday there’s a service in one of the two chapels. Some members of the congregation elected to stay at home and go on the Climate March on Sunday. Others chose to do both by leaving the weekend early.

Chapel on the lake's edge

Chapel on the lake’s edge

New York City Blog Sept. 7 – Sept. 14

It’s been a busy week. On Sunday Judson Memorial Church bid farewell to Michael and Alana. He’ll be the senior minster at the Portland, OR. UCC. Alana completed her studies at Hunter and will be working with the elderly.

Judson says good-bye

Judson says good-bye.

I enjoy attending Jazz Tuesdays at the New York Baha’l Center at 53 East 11 Street. The beginning of fall was celebrated with Mike Longo’s swinging 17-piece big band.

Wednesday: Ginger’s on 7th Avenue and 33rd Street is a big, bustling Chinese restaurant with great food, great service and great prices i.e. a Tom Collins is only $4.50.

On this Sept. 11 it was a typical NYC fall day and by late afternoon it was muggy. I watched firefighters in dress uniforms, jackets slung over their arms, returning from commemorative ceremonies. Some looked young enough to have been children in 2001.  On 9/11/ 2001, I stood on Avenue A and watched one of the towers collapse. At times it resembled an ancient ruin. I thought then, as I think now, that if the U. S. weren’t so lopsided in its middle east interests it might not have occurred.

Engine Company 5 9/11/14

Engine Company 5

Scottish Independence. Have you been listening to BBC 4? Questions about the big yes, if it occurs this Thursday. The pound has taken a beating with the uncertainties. If the Scots become independent will they have an independent military? Will companies flee south? What about banking? Finance? Kilt edged securities ( a phrase I borrowed from the Financial Times). The U. K. betting parlors are making out like bandits. Looking into your crystal ball, what do you predict? Since you asked, I’m predicting the nos will win by a whisper.

New York City Blog Sept. 1 – Sept. 7

On September 4th I had to go to a Madison Avenue building and take the elevator to the 19th floor. So what, you say. Ever have a phobia? I have a collection, but the elevator phobia tops the list. Climbing twelve flights? No problem. Ever get lost in a Moroccan hotel and not be able to find your hotel room because the stairs went in the opposite direction? That’s a problem, especially if your partner is trying to find you. The final straw came when he and I arrived for a dinner party and I couldn’t get into the elevator to go to the 18th floor. I phoned the hostess and claimed I had a bad sunburn and had to cancel. How’s that for implausible? Because of my embarrassment my partner and I had a fight.

Living in high rise New York, this phobia ruled my life. I had to do something about it. I found a phobia clinic at St. Luke’s- Roosevelt Hospital. It was run on a shoestring budget by a young social worker whose name I’m very sorry to say I’ve forgotten. He had had a phobia about driving over bridges. His own fear had led him to examine phobias in general. We were a motley group of eight women. One woman suffered from free floating anxiety. Another had a phobia about being alone. Her boyfriend was waiting for her in the lobby. Another woman only wanted to be alone. After hearing about my phobia she said she’d like nothing better than being alone in an elevator for the rest of her life. The other elevator phobe and I took over the meetings. Because of us, session after session the group was herded to the hospital’s elevator bank. I watched in horrible fascination as the doors opened and people walked out as if being in one of those boxes was normal. Our teacher explained how an elevator worked. He stressed that it was a machine. I find that comforting to this day. He adjusted the controls of one elevator so it would remain stationary and asked the group to get into it. The six bored, passive women shuffled in. We two phobes refused. The social worker, Mr. Patience himself, reiterated that the doors wouldn’t shut and the elevator wouldn’t move. I stepped in, avoiding the bored glares of the other women. The doors slammed shut and the elevator zoomed to the sixty-fifth floor where it was stuck between floors for hours. Actually, nothing happened except in my fevered imagination. The elevator didn’t move and after a few minutes we went back to the closet like classroom. I felt vaguely superior to the other elevator phobic. At least I’d gotten into the damned thing.

From the Twelfth Floor

From the Twelfth Floor


At the same time I had received a call from a housing establishment that I’d been applying to for ten years. There was a vacancy! Lucky me, I was told. The apartment was on the twelfth floor. I begged to be in a ground apartment. Absolutely not, I was told. Take the twelfth floor apartment or go to the back of the line. I took the apartment and walked up the twelve flights for a few weeks. Finally, I got into the elevator. Doing that on a daily basis plus the phobia clinic helped me curb my fear. Phobias lurk. If you’re lucky they’re caged, but they’re there.

New York City Blog – Aug. 24 – Aug. 30

In my past life I was a fish or one of those creatures that scurried in the ocean’s deep. In Portland, OR. I found a pool that was so very basic high school, 1950’s, I expected the Grease characters to leap out of their convertibles and join me. Alas, no.

In Santa Fe, I used two basic pools and then found Genoveva Chavez Community Center on Rodeo Road. It is the most beautiful and enormous modern complex I’ve ever seen. There are four pools. One is an indoor Olympic-size pool with lap swimming at one end and water exercises, including basketball, at the shallower end.

Chavez Pool

Chavez Pool

One of the reasons I love architecture is because a building in one part of the world will make me recall another, distant building. The Chavez Center’s vastness, interior machinery and light reminded me of the Centrale MonteMartini Annex in Rome. The annex contains Greek and Roman artifacts that are part of the the Capitoline museums’ collection. It’s chock full of statues, busts, friezes and housed in a former power plant, the first public electricity plant, built c. 1922 and named after Giovanni Montemartini.

New York City Blog Aug. 18 – Aug. 23

Would summer be complete without attending Mostly Mozart? Of course not. Originally called Midsummer Serenades, the name was changed way back in 1972. On Thursday night Joshua Bell and Lawrence Power shone in their interpretation of Mozart’s Sinfonia concertina in E-flat major, K. 364. The Mostly part of the name was a Boyce symphony and Beethoven’s Eroica. This was the first time I’d been in Avery Fisher Hall since its most recent renovation. Gigantic vanilla cookies? Flying saucers from a 1950’s low budget sic-fi movie? Between them are vintage 40’s lamps. These shapes have found a home, suspended from the Avery Fisher Hall ceiling. The acoustics are the reason given for the bizarre alterations.

Off to the Public Theater’s Joe’s Pub to hear Gian-Carla Tisera, the Bolivian soprano, who sings everything from opera to jazz to Latin American music. It was a wonderful Latina evening. Gian-Carla Tisera is sexy, dynamic and sweet. She makes love of humankind cool. She was also introducing her debut recording, Nora La Bella. She’s accompanied by great musicians: Elio Villafranca:, Luques Curtis, Reinaldo de Jesus. Around me, people were taking photos of Gina-Carla in her gorgeous red dress, but my iPhone blocked. You can go to her website, to get an idea of what I’m raving about.

New York City Blog Aug. 11 – Aug. 17 Back in NYC

My interview with Cris Land July 24, 2014, Portland, OR.

“Gender doesn’t have to do with bed partners. It has to do with identity.” Christine Jorgensen, 1950s

Cris Land and I met at Doug Fir on Portland’s East Burnside.I was nervous, feeling a little guilty because I was going to ask personal questions. I wanted to interview Cris because he is transexual. How did he get that way? You know, changing body parts, especially the sexual ones. I had written down some questions: When did you become aware of your gender? What were your greatest sources of help and support? Do you connect your gender change with sex? How did your partner react to your transition? Did you have medical insurance? Do you have a transgender community?
After we settled into our Bloody Marys, Cris took control of the interview. I figured that was fine as long as I got to ask my questions.
First, we discussed his professional and political background. He is an IT pro, having managed the Y2K crises mitigation for Oregon Health Sciences University. Currently, he is a management consultant. Cris also holds various offices in the Democratic Party locally, statewide and nationally. In 2012 he was the first out female to male transexual nationally to be elected as a congressional district delegate to a national democratic convention.
Engaging and articulate, he was also patient with me, a non trans or cisgender person, being slowed down by various terms. He explained that trans is an umbrella term, transexual is someone whose had or desires a sex change, intersex is a combination of male and female physical attributes from birth, gender queers are people who don’t identify as strictly male or female. Some acceptable pronouns are: hir, she, their and they. I asked Cris to use their in a sentence. His example was something like this: Mary Jo gave me their (not her, not him) address.
Cisgender refers to a person whose gender identity matches their sex as identified at birth.
Cris uses the word, transition, to describe the passage from one’s sex as identified at birth to the sex you identify with. Male pronouns are appropriate for female to male transexuals (FTM). Female pronouns are used for male to female transexuals (MTF). Always use the person’s preferred pronoun.
After I asked him about changing gender, he corrected me saying you change your body to match your gender identity.
I’m learning.
Having been a delegate at the National Democratic Convention is a source of great pride to Cris. He was among twelve transexual delegates. At the convention’s LGBTQ caucus, there was a packed house and the trans delegates were given a standing ovation. I found it ironic that the convention was held in North Carolina, one of the states that, at that time, banned same sex marriage. When I mentioned this to Cris, he told me that Oregon had originally banned same sex marriage, but a court has recently reversed that decision.
Cris and his partner had a marriage ceremony when they were both lesbians in the 90’s, before same sex unions were recognized. When Cris told his partner he was considering having a body change, she asked if he’d be a trans or a straight man. She was content with his reply, trans man. Cris began the process in 1998. First, came the hormones to deepen the voice, alter the hair pattern and distribute fat in a male pattern. Next, Cris came out at work, OHSU, Oregon Health and Science University. Top surgery followed. I asked about bottom surgery. Currently, there are two procedures: phalloplasty and metoidioplasty. According to Cris, few trans men do bottom surgery. Counseling, hormones, and top surgery came to about $15,000. Cris referred me to the Benjamin Standards of Care. Gleaning my complete ignorance, he explained that Benjamin Standards of Care were guidelines for the treatment of people who undergo hormonal or surgical transition to the other sex.
Time for my questions:
MJR: When did you become aware of your gender?
CL: I knew I was male. I’ve always been the person I am. I was always being told to walk like a girl, dress like a girl, boring hints about makeup and hair.
MJR: What was your greatest source of help and support?
CL: My partner.
MJR: Do you connect your gender change with sex?
CL: No, it’s about gender identity.
MJR: How did your partner react to your transition?
CL: As I said before, she wanted to hear I’d be a trans male. If she’d objected to my transition, I wouldn’t have done it. Lucky me. She was completely supportive.
MJR: Medical insurance?
CL: No help. Trans related care was excluded at the time.
MJR: That means that people without the bucks are excluded?
CL: Usually.
MJR: Do you have a transgender community?
CL We female to male trans guys had Coqsure in Portland. It’s original name was Cocksure. That had to be changed for the internet. Many more resources exist locally now.
Cris’s desire to get on with his life and become part of the larger community is evident.

ISSUU – Just Out February 2013 by Just Out

Transgender Delegation Makes DNC Especially Historic |