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 |





New York City Blog Aug. 3 – Aug. 9 in New Mexico

My father was a socialist and my mother a social climber. My social climber inner self was fully present at the Millicent Rogers Museum in Taos. Mary Millicent Abigail Rogers (1902-1953) was the heir to the Standard Oil fortune. She was photographed by Louise Dahl-Wolfe, Horst B. Horst, wore Charles James and was married many times, usually to foreign counts – soooo 1930’s. After an unsuccessful affair with Clark Gable, she licked her wounds by settling near a sacred mountain in New Mexico. Oh, yes, the museum. It was founded by the Rogers family in 1956. The original collection was from the vast collections of Millicent Rogers and her mother, Mary B. Rogers. The Millicent Rogers Museum is small by NYC standards and choice. It’s mainly Native American with emphasis on New Mexican pottery paintings, tapestries, arts and crafts, religious art. It’s chock full of treasures, but the atmosphere is one of calm, space and great beauty.

Martinez Pottery
Martinez Pottery
Native American textiles
Native American textiles

On to a local restaurant:

Hanging chilis, looking out the window at Orlando's
Hanging chilis, looking out the window at Orlando’s

Then to the Taos pueblo.The photo was taken by Michal Heron.

Taos Pueblo
Taos Pueblo

And, channeling my Catholic father, we went to a small adobe church in Chimayo.

Finally, the River Grande. God’s country?

Michal Heron's Rio Grande
Michal Heron’s Rio Grande

It was a long and satisfying day.

We went to the 10,000 Waves Japanese restaurant, Izanami, in the surprisingly green Santa Fe outskirts. I had three glasses of different kinds of saki, each paired with different kinds of American (artisan!!) cheese. Small plates of everything from pork belly to Japanese eggplant to plum saki sorbet. It was a very enjoyable evening.

CARMEN was awful. When Santa Fe Opera changes original settings the result is something only a rich benefactor could love. In 2011 I saw a real stinker directed by Peter Sellers. It was his interpretation of Vivaldi’s GRISELDA originally set in 18th century Italy. In Sellers’s version the cast were arrayed in sunglasses and carried machine guns. Move over, Sellers. The director Stephen Lawless, whose surname is singularly apt, has set Carmen in 1960’s Mexico. The only person on stage who seemed to have understood the original story was Joyce El-Khoury as Micaela. In the final act, Carmen had on a blond wig and a white fur coat. Why, Mr. Lawless?

On Friday afternoon I attended a wonderful recital (Henri Duparc, Benjamin Britten, Franz Liszt, Sergei Rachmaninoff) given by the tenor Paul Groves. For an encore he asked a colleague to join him. Who should step onto the stage? Kostos Smoignas, the bass baritone who played Escamillo as if he were Elvis Presley. He and Paul Groves sang the tenor-baritone duet from Bizet’s PEARL FISHERS and it was wonderful. Two thumbs up for recitals.


New York City Blog August 27 – August 2 Portland and Santa Fe

At the Portland Museum of Art, we went to The Art of the Louvre’s Tuileries Garden. Louis Daguerre and his contemporaries photographed the Louvre and its gardens over one hundred years ago. Julia Dolan gave a talk on 19th-Century French Photography that complemented the exhibit.

Later we headed to the Canby airport to celebrate Gracie’s birthday. Gracie is a 1959 Cessna bought by friends a year ago. Successful Party hint: buy a Cessna.

Happy Birthday, Gracie!
Happy Birthday, Gracie!

On Tuesday I headed to Santa Fe, N. M. As you all know there are few if any direct flights. Southwest is rumored to have one. I landed in Salt Lake City, went on to Albuquerque, took the shuttle to Santa Fe and here I am. I had managed to pack everything into a backpack and a tote for fear of my luggage heading for parts unknown. Supper was at noisy, chaotic, fun Cowgirl BBQ. Next time you’re in Santa Fe have the Cowgirl baked potato dessert.