Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Faith the Aviatrix (Part Two)

Recently, I posted the first part of my helicopter adventure but there was just too much adventure for one measly post, so naturally I had to expand upon it so ya'll could share in all my helicoptery goodness. 

Booking the slightly longer flight meant that we got to fly up and see NYC. Luckily for me I work in Lower Manhattan and live in Brooklyn so they were all familiar sights. Only this time I was getting to see them from a brand new, exciting perspective. 

Here we are flying over the Staten Island Ferry, about a thousand feet above New York harbor. In the picture below you can see Governor's Island, a cool spot that's a summer tradition for us. 

One fun fact about helicopter headphones; you can hear your own voice! It's great feedback for practicing your female voice. Actually being able to hear myself let me really nail my girl voice pretty well. One of these days I need to rig up a system or find an app that lets me do that some more. 

We came in low over Manhattan, way lower than I thought we would. We flew right over Battery Park City and next to One World Trade. Here's a lovely view of South End Avenue in Battery Park City. You can just make out the Empire State Building on the horizon. 

Remember how I said that there were no doors on the helicopter? Well, once we reached about Pier 40, we turned around over the Hudson River to head south. Here's a thing you might not know about helicopters. They bank when they turn. And we did a tight 180 turn, which meant the helicopter banked pretty sharply. That's what you're seeing in this picture below.

Notice something about the helicopter in question? Like how it's basically on its side? Notice how that helicopter has doors? Okay. My helicopter did not have doors. That meant that I was sitting sideways with nothing below me except a thousand feet of air and then some water below that. Yeah, centripetal force will keep you inside, but looking down in that situation is not recommended. Especially for those with a fear of heights. 

Looking totally calm. Trying to be totally calm. Look how totally calm I am. I wasn't even trying to look nervous. This was actually me attempting a happy smile just after we righted from the bank. That was seriously the scariest part. 

Heading south we went back down toward the harbor, flying low over the Statue of Liberty (aka Liberty Enlightening the World). 

Yes that is the State of Liberty from above. Not only have I been inside her head, I've also seen her from directly above. How cool is that?

Once we got south of the Statue of Liberty, I actually got to to take the controls of the helicopter. Remember how I said that banking sideways was the scariest part? I was wrong. Taking the controls turns out to be the scariest part by far.

You might imagine the control stick (or "cyclic" as we pilots call it) being something like a video game joy stick, right? You take it and move it and then it moves the helicopter. Okay it's sort of like that except that the cyclic is moving around, shaking like crazy. It's jumping all over the place chaotically because that's what the wind is doing to the helicopter. In your introductory training, they explain that the slightest movement of the cyclic will produce a huge movement in the helicopter. Nudge it a millimeter forward and you'll dramatically tilt forward and accelerate. They didn't mention that it'd be shaking all over the place.

So I tentatively took the controls, grasping the seizing cyclic in my own sweaty, shaking hand. I could barely keep it still because I was afraid to be too firm with it or move it too much or too quickly. The instructor kept giving me instructions to pull right but I was afraid to push it too far to the right. After about eight seconds or so I relinquished the controls.

Thankfully there was enough time that I got to try again. This time I was prepared for the cyclic and managed to keep it still enough for a couple of seconds. First I tried to move the helicopter to the left and holy crap we moved left! Then I moved us back right and then I realized that, holy crap, I was actually controlling a helicopter! I was actually controlling the helicopter that I was riding in - the helicopter that was keeping me in the air and keeping me alive. A little voice in the back of my head, actually a big voice, shouted "Your life is in your own hands now! What the hell are you doing moving a helicopter around in the sky!" I gave back the controls after about twenty five seconds. I did a little better than my partner, who only managed about five seconds before having a similar freak out. Poe Dameron I am not. Not yet at least.

One thing I hadn't mentioned before, that I just wanted to get out of the way, was how cool everyone at Core Helicopters was. I mean, yeah, they were friendly and courteous, but I was flying trans and they were still super cool and courteous. I'd even registered under my guy name but then I asked if they could put my girl name on the certificate for me. They were totally cool about it. Didn't so much as bat an eye. It was great. Honestly, I just felt like a girl the whole time. The only comment my Gender Rebel T-shirt got was when girl who we passed in the parking lot saw it and was like "I love your shirt." It made me really happy. 

If you're in the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut area, I definitely recommend checking them out for your own flight. It is expensive but it's unforgettable and amazing. It's an adventure you just have to experience.

And I couldn't be happier experiencing it as a girl!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Faith the Aviatrix (Part One)

A few days ago I went all the way out to Linden, NJ (a 20 mile drive that involved two trains and an Uber because hey, I live in Brooklyn and don't have a car). The reason for that trip was so that I could fly a helicopter. And not ride in a helicopter. I mean fly a helicopter as in I'd be flying it. The controls would be in my hands. Sadly, I wasn't able to fly because it was too windy. Sadly, we got back on our Uber and skulked back to Brooklyn, along the ground. Yes, along the cold, hard, mossy ground because our adventure on the bird roads was not to be.

Of course, I've never been one to give up. So we were determined to go back and conquer the air, come hell or high water. Also, we had paid and they obviously let us reschedule. It still involved a good hour and a half of travel though. And I had to get up kind of early on a weekend day. So, see? I'm intrepid as hell. Also, I'm a pilot. Better than that, I'm a barn storming, hellion of the sky girl pilot like Amelia Earhart or Amy Johnson or Irina Sebrova or Gadget from Chip & Dale's Rescue Rangers.

We got there a bit early and had to wait around a little while. My girlfriend was super excited but I was trying not to get my hopes up. Having had two cancellations in a row, I was dreading a third. While we sat there waiting, it even started to rain a little bit, though luckily it was just a squall that quickly subsided. Still, I was worried that we'd be sent home again due to weather conditions. Obviously, I was not so worried that I didn't take the opportunity for a selfie or two.

The rain passed quickly, though it was still cloudy out. It seemed almost like a perfect day. A couple more people showed up to take their lessons and we all sat around on the couch waiting. A few of us fumbled with lanyards and rubber bands. There can be no loose items in the helicopter (lest the fly back and get caught in the tail rotor) so if you wanted pictures, you had to attach your phone to a lanyard. As someone who had been there before, I brought along my own lanyard, making sure it was long enough for some good chopper selfies. Assuming we actually got to fly that is.

There was still a cold feeling deep in my gut and the worry of being sent home a second time stayed with me all through the training session and overview. Finally, the instructor finished, said we could choose our options and then they'd let us know what order we'd be flying in. My girlfriend and I walked out of the office and started chatting a little with a couple of the pilot instructors.

There was talk of needing to fuel up the helicopters, so we figured there would be a long wait. I, for one, was worried about the weather changing for the worst during that time. For a few minutes I sort of understood what it was like to be at NASA control, knowing that the thing you were really looking forward to might not happen and there was nothing you could do about it.

Suddenly, the instructors were like "Okay, let's go! That's you're helicopter, that's her helicopter!" Oh my gosh. Cold rushes of adrenaline coursed through my veins and my stomach did somersaults. This was really and truly happening!  Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! A real live helicopter! Oh my gosh!

Walking over, I climbed in, deathly afraid of accidentally pulling the wrong lever or flipping the wrong switch. After putting on my headphones I buckled in. What was really surprising, and incredibly scary, was that there were no doors. Literally no doors on the side. Nothing. And the seat belt was just a regular seat belt like you might have in a Prius. Yeah, so I'd be going up to 5000 feet in the air with nothing but a regular seat belt to keep me from plummeting to my death. Did I mention that I'm terribly afraid of heights? Fun!

Eventually, we took off. It was rather surprising to simply rise up in the air. All the other times I've flown it's been in planes that took off with long run ways. The helicopter just went up. One second we were on the ground and then the next second we were fifty feet up in the air. I crossed my arms tightly against my chest (the only way to ensure I didn't touch anything I wasn't supposed to) and off we went.

My first helicopter ride lasted about three minutes. We went up about fifty feet, around some buildings, and then over to another part of the airport where we landed to refuel. Honestly, I must say it was nice to have a first flight so I could get a little more comfortable in the chopper. While I was a little nervous on that first flight, I must also say it was pretty damn cool to really be flying around in a real life helicopter. It was, in a word, awesome. It was, in two words, fucking awesome. It was, in one portmanteau, fuckawsome. Okay, maybe scratch that last one.

It took a little while to refuel, but then we were totally ready to go. Not only had I paid for my first lesson, I'd also opted to fly at the same time as my partner (so we could get pictures of each other) and I opted for a longer flight which would allow us to take a thirty minute trip instead of a ten minute. Unfortunately, while the helicopters did hover about a hundred and fifty feet apart for a brief photo op, all we had were iPhone cameras which didn't quite give you the zoom needed to really see the other person in their chopper. Ah well. We'll always know that those seven pixels are us. Here's my partner:

Behold the wonders of New Jersey!

Quickly, we zoomed high over the suburbs and factories of New Jersey. I was glad to have some time in the helicopter before I took the controls. The scariest thing was probably the wind, which was buffeting us around like crazy, shaking the copter back and forth and up and down. Luckily I'm pretty immune to motion sickness. Still, it was rather scary to be so high up, vibrating like crazy, with nothing but a thin strap of fabric to keep you from plummeting to your death. 

Yep, that is my leg. Then some air. Then the cold, hard ground far, far below.
Of course, centripetal force will help keep you in the helicopter, but the reptile-brain that controls our fears and emotions isn't particularly good at understanding physics. That's why lizards make poor architects. Well, that's one of the reasons why lizards make poor architects. 

Seriously, I wasn't even looking when I took most of the photos. I just held my camera near my chest and snapped a ton of pictures. I wanted to see these views with my eyes, not through a camera screen. And what views they were! My city was on the horizon, the silver spires of the island of Manhattan growing closer with each passing moment. 

As we left New Jersey and Staten Island behind, heading toward the skyline of the mad, extravagant city that I call home, I marveled at the views, did my best to control my fears, snapped a few selfies and steeled myself for the moment when I would finally take control of the helicopter - the moment when I would fulfill my destiny and become an a real aviatrix! 

Stay tuned for Part II...

Sunday, July 17, 2016

J'adore mon chapeaux

What can I say? I really like being a girl. And as I've mentioned in pretty much every post I've ever written here I hate wearing wigs because they're hot but also because the wind destroys them. One good blast of wind is all it takes to transform me from a passable lady to a crazy looking hobo who found a soiled wig in the gutter and put it on.

My partner, who is a pale girl like me has long been a hat wearer. Also, she's been an apologist for hats, always trying to get me to buy one. For years I've pushed her off. I even tried borrowing hers but it looked bad on me. I decided hats weren't for me.

Then, after a particularly windy trip to New Jersey, I finally decided that I had had enough. We had planned an upcoming trip to Governors Island with some friends. The island is a fun annual tradition of ours (check out my picks from last year) but as it sits out in New York Harbor, We went out the day before our trip and went to a few different shops that were open (mostly drug stores but some clothing shops too). Finally, after about ten different places and no luck, I decided to go up to Court Street here in Brooklyn where there are a lot of sidewalk vendors who sell phone chargers, sunglasses, neckties, scarves, tights and hats. I ended up finding a hat that fit me perfectly and looked good too. Plus it was only $15. I was a happy girl.

Well, I must say that I really liked the hat. It was perfect. It definitely helped with the wind (even though it did blow off a couple of times). But the important thing was that my hair looked okay! That's what really matters.

Plus all my friends wore hats and you do know I like to blend in.

Actually it does feel really amazing to be able to be out with all my friends. Years ago, back when I was still barely out to anyone, I remember seeing a photo of a trans girl who was out at a bar or restaurant with her friends. And I longed for nothing more than to just be out and be a girl with my friends. It's taken me a while to get there but I love it. Believe it or not, I'm super socially anxious as a guy but somehow as a girl I'm more comfortable being social. Not sure how that works exactly. I guess I'm just more comfortable and natural-feeling as a girl.

Of course, I managed to snap a few selfies. Because it's 2016 and that's what you do. Hey, don't judge! I've gone out plenty of times and not gotten any pictures at all because I was just enjoying myself. But those don't show up here because there's no photos. It's confirmation bias. Well, also I'll admit I like taking pictures. As my girlfriend told me I missed a lifetime of girl pictures. I've gotta catch up.

So, not only does the hat help keep my wig from blowing around and looking crappy, it also helps protect me from the sun. Win-win! Plus, the one added benefit of wearing a big hat is that it makes me feel like a little bit like a Golden Age movie star.

Now I totally need to rock that look for some occasion. Maybe next years' Halloween. I think my plan for this year is to go as Rey from The Force Awakens. But next year maybe I'll rock a screen legend look. Or maybe, when I have a bigger apartment, host an Oscar party where everyone has to dress up as movie stars and maybe I'll even lay out a red carpet. 

Well, expect more hat photos coming up and could someone please let me know when the Kentucky Derby is? I think I see a fun opportunity there.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

NYC Staycation Fun Part 2

Okay, one fun thing about taking time off work and enjoying New York is that you can meet up with your friends post-work for happy hour! See, until I can manage to come out at work, this is the next best thing to just having a normal life as a woman. Plus I just really, really want to be out at work already. For one, I would rather be out as who I am and show up every day as a happy woman instead of an awkward guy. Going out to happy hour as a woman at least lets me pretend I was at the office all day, just a processional New York woman helping to keep the economy running.

Also, it's super hot and gross in NYC right now and this handy little graphic I made pretty much also sums up why I'd like to be able to be out at work:

Now, I'm not saying women get all the perks or anything. I'm not a red pill, men's rights idiot or anything like that (obviously). But, it would be nice to not only be myself but also be way more comfortable on hot days. In the meantime, I just pretend I was at work all day and then go out to happy hour with my friends.  

Those aren't my friends in the background. I arrived first and am waiting. 
On my last Friday of my vacation, we hit Reichenbach Hall, a German beer garden type place in Midtown. Generally I avoid that area because around 6pm places get insanely crowded. But, luckily it wasn't too crowed at all. Win! We thought about eating there, but the food didn't look that great, so instead we headed out to one of my favorite little dinner spots in the East Village, Cafe Orlin.

Hiding from the paparazzi. 
It was Friday night, we were in Manhattan and the night was young. So what do you do? You stop by Jefferson Market to take photos in the twilight!

That's not a red light. I am actually stopping traffic. 

Actually, we decided to head to Stone Wall Inn. It had just been declared a National Monument a couple days before and why not go drink at a National Monument? 

The amazing thing about Stonewall Inn is that it's still just a bar. It's this huge, important piece of American history but it's not a memorial or a statue or a museum. It's still just a place to hang out with friends and play pool or enjoy an overpriced drink. It's still alive. It's still vibrant. It's still important to the community. It's a symbol of defiance. It's a place where they charge $8 for a bottle of Blue Moon. C'mon! That's way to high.

Ah well. Paying too much but you're in an amazing place? Yeah, that pretty much sums up NYC. 

My vacation sadly had to come to an end, but my summer calendar is already booked full with lots of crazy adventures. It's so fun to be a gender rebel!