Thursday, December 13, 2018

A bit of ferroequinology...

Since things have been so quiet around here, it's time to dig out some ferroequinology from the archives:

Above is Western Maryland Scenic Railroad's #734 Steam Engine simmnering in the bright moonlight at Cumberland, MD, after a night run to and from Frostburg.  Circa Summer 2015.

And following is a picture from the National Railway Historical Society's rail excursion out of Portland, OR on BNSF trackage.  The eastbound trip found former Spokane Portland and Seattle's #700 in the lead, with former Southern Pacific 4449 (the colorful engine) following.  Westbound back to Portland, the engines switched places, with 4449 in the lead.

It was a fun trip for everyone, and it ran more-or-less on time.   Too bad the current turmoil in Washington is taking it's toll on Amtrak, which is resulting in less service and fewer excursions like the above (notice the Amtrak diesel behind the steam engines.)


Saturday, December 8, 2018

Everything's everything...

Since returning from our visit down south and to the kids’ place in Tennessee, I’ve had my share of issues, which have kept my attention focused on things "other than wearing skirts."

Most importantly, I ended up with some kind of virus, which has finally cleared itself…well, almost - except for the remaining cough.  That may eventually require a visit to the doctor, where I will undoubtedly be prescribed antibiotics.   However, I’m avoiding doing so until absolutely necessary, because taking antibiotics will cause their customary trauma to my digestive system.   Hate that...and it happens every time.  I sometimes wonder if the “cure” is perhaps worse than the disease.  I’ve also had issues with my contact lenses, and some antique car problems have popped up.  Not to mention some discussions with the nursing home, over health concerns about Mom. 

But other than those non-routine issues, things are more-or-less normal.  Mandy remains "in storage," and it’s business as usual for my androgynous self.

I’ve been to various stores in several towns on the Delmarva, dressed in my usual stirrup pants, tops and flats (with my other feminine cues), and the magic has continued.   It’s wonderful to be treated as a woman so much of the time.  At a pharmacy in another town, I use my wife’s bonus card for purchases, and they address me by her name.   (In fairness, clerks do not know either of us, and are simply responding to the female name on the card.  Well...maybe...)

Recently I visited my dentist (who has all new staff in his front office), for my routine check-up.  The girls don't know me, and I was pleased to be addressed as female.   (Until the dentist came into the exam room - he knows me, and he addressed me as a guy, which is fine.)   Several times over the last 2 weeks, most recently two days ago, new staff members at Mom's nursing home addressed me as “Ma’am.”   And I’m fine with all that!  The androgynous “me” still seems to elicit a proper response. 

However, there was a noticeable "close call," which occurred when I was picking my wife up after her dental appointment later the same day as my own.   I had gone into the office just as she was being ushered to the front desk to set her next appointment.  As I opened my laptop and clicked on my calendar to check for conflicts, my wife showed the receptionist some pictures of our granddaughter at Disney World in FL, and pointed out that she was given a makeover and dressed as a princess for a day there.  After wifey finished her description of the lovely event, with the receptionist listening anxiously, she announced she had to use the restroom.   As wifey walked away, the receptionist asked me (with a smile):  "So did they dress you up as a princess, too?" (I should have been so lucky!)  Of course we both laughed and I said no - which was true...but we'll ignore my being called "princess" several times as I went thru security lines with the other women, because of my purse.  But I have to wonder whether my wife heard that conversation as she walked away.   All I can say for sure is that "nothing was said" in the car on the way home!

Having very few new things to discuss, and no “Mandy gets out of storage for a while” plans in the imminent future, there are no new photos to post.  So I’ll dig into the archives…

First, from August of 2014:

Before you ask, yes, I still have this outfit.  Last time I tried it on (over the summer) it still fit, though I haven't worn it in public at all during 2018.

Next is a shot of the androgynous "me" from November of 2016, taken on the west side of the bay.  Autumn colors had just popped out, and I couldn't resist:

And lastly, an unidentified shot of an airplane which most likely no longer exists.  This was taken back in the mid-1950's at Pittsburgh's airport, as my father was leaving town on a business trip.   Lockheed Constellations (allegedly the first pressurized airliners) were built from 1943 to 1958 at Burbank, CA.  They had a cruise speed of 340 mph at 22,600 ft, and a service ceiling of 24,000 ft.  The last domestic passenger flight in the lower 48 states was May 11, 1967 from  Philadelphia to Kansas City.  (Though freight use continued beyond that date.)

Long gone are the days of the stairs like shown below.  (But some of us remember them...LOL!)

There are a few Lockheed Constellations left.  One with which I'm familiar is the following:

This particular aircraft is reportedly C/N (construction number) 4557,  on display at the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover AFB in Delaware.  It's painted to represent a USAF C-121-C, but was never actually delivered to - or served in - the Air Force.  The blue car you see at the end of the row in the left center is mine, on display as part of s car show at the museum, years ago.

Before you ask, not only do I like trains, but also airplanes!

Have a great weekend...


Saturday, December 1, 2018

All too soon, it was time to head north!

All too soon it was time to head for the next section of the trip, to the kids’ house in TN.   After loading the car, I checked out at the front desk…”Thanks for staying with us, Ma’am.  Have a nice day.”  My reply: “You too, hon!”   I’ll never know if she wondered about 2 women sleeping in the same bed…

This trip was rather uneventful…except for noticing a lot of tree damage along I-75 (presumably from Hurricane Michael.)

I was still dressed in stirrup pants, but now black tights instead of pantyhose, as the weather was cooler.   (And the ever-present danger of their many pets snagging delicate nylons with their claws!)  On several occasions when we were all out together, I was interpreted as female, but it was very casual and I don’t think the kids noticed.  Or if they did, nothing was said.

When we arrived at the kids’ house, we knew everyone.  So, the rest of the time, I was identified as male.

During our visit we went sightseeing in the Chattanooga area.   And had lunch at:

That’s right, the Mellow Mushroom.   It’s allegedly a chain, with an interesting title and a fascinating sign.  The food was tasty and reasonably priced, but service was a bit slow.   And afterward we took in some of the civil war battlefields in that historic area.   My presentation was such that I was seen as a male.  Amazing how that works one way in one area, and the opposite elsewhere.

On the way home, the evening motel clerk had no trouble identifying my male persona. But the morning clerk - and breakfast room staff - with me wearing the same outfit - all female.   Amazing how that can happen! 

Just off I-81 in Winchester, VA came this reminder that we're back in winter country:

Snowbanks from the several inch snow fall of 3 days previously.  Fortunately, the roads were clear - potholed but clear!  

And several hours later, our long but enjoyable visit was fully concluded, with us able to spend the first night in several weeks in our own home.   Traveling is fun...but now, home for a while.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

On to Plains, Georgia for some pure sightseeing!

All too soon, it was time to leave Florida and Disney behind, along with its oppressive heat/humidity, and drive north to cooler weather, as well as our son’s home, in TN.   Before you ask, my attire for this portion part of the trip was stirrup pants, pantyhose and a turtleneck blouse, with a sweater. 

Enroute, keeping with our tradition of sightseeing, we stopped off in Plains, Georgia to visit the home town of former US President Jimmy Carter and his family.   While we didn’t have much time to spend there, we were able to at least visit most of the historic sites:  campaign headquarters in the railroad station, his boyhood home, the church where he worshipped (and still does), the high school (which is a visitor center) and brother Billy’s garage.  It was a brief but fascinating glimpse into the man who rose from peanut farmer (and relative obscurity) to governor and then President of the United States.

When checking into our motel in a nearby town, at dinner, and while shopping at the big box store in nearby Americus, GA, we were treated as two ladies.  That’s the way it should be, even though I wasn't wearing a dress. 

It was unfortunate that we didn’t have time to attend the Maranatha Baptist Church the next day (Sunday) to hear Mr. Carter, who still makes appearances and teaches Sunday school at the church.  Due to the extremely early arrival (4:30 AM required for a 10AM service) in order to comply with security regulations, we chose not to attempt that.  However, it would have made for an interesting morning.   Maybe on another trip…

Downtown Plains, with railroad station foreground left, and business district on the right.  Very small!

Campaign headquarters downtown, from the park across the street.

 Campaign Slogan in train station.

Another display in the train station.

Side view of train station.

The Smiling Peanut

When we looked over the maps from the visitor center we saw references to "The Smiling Peanut."  Curious to see more about it, and expecting it to be a sleazy biker bar or something like that, we were both shocked to find this huge caricature.  A really good likeness of Jimmy's smile, don't you think?  And Jimmy and Rosalyn still live in town...obviously they are fine with it.   Whether you liked (or can't even remember) his politics from "away back in the day",  presentation of all this casts a fairly good light on the 39th President of the US and winner of the 2002 Nobel Peace Prize (for his work to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts.)

More later…

Saturday, November 24, 2018

From the "If I hadn't been there I wouldn't have believed it" department:

Saturday (Today) was my day to get my much-needed  mani and pedi (which wifey knows I get,  and is OK with.)   I walked in, and my tech was finishing up a young girl, who was getting a manicure with beautiful turquoise polish.  So I sat down in the waiting area.  The young girl kept turning around to look my way for a double-take, then a triple-take, then a quad-take (as in “I can't tell whether you are a boy or a girl.”   You’ve been in that situation at some point - you get the picture.)  Each time I smiled at her, and she looked away.  Her mother was sitting near by, quite oblivious.

Soon her mani was finished.  The tech moved her to the drying table, and moved me to the just-vacated chair, putting the girl and I less than 5 ft apart..  The double-takes continued, and I sweetly told her she was welcome to come watch them do my mani.  She had no reaction…but the double-takes did slow down after that.    About 10 minutes later, my tech asked me to wash my hands.  And while I was doing that, the young girl moved back to the mani table for a quick application of glitter to the ring finger on each hand.

When I came back, the little girl looked up as I told her that her color was very pretty, and the glitter was a perfect addition.  And I commented that she had beautiful nails – it turned out that they were quite long, too.   Well, my comments broke her indecision…she decided that I was a girl, and thanked me…then asked what color I would be getting.  I told her that someday I’d like to try her color, but today I was going with a translucent light pink.   Then I complimented her nail length, and she confided that it was her 9th birthday present – “they’re acrylic so they’ll last a while.” 

We did the usual birthday talk, and by this time she was chattering to me like a magpie, now that she was comfortable with my being female.   Then we started talking about Disney.  She has been there twice, been made over twice, and is looking forward to going again next year.  At that point, her mom looked over to inquire: “Ma’am, is she bothering you?”   I assured her “Not at all, hon.”  “In fact, we’re having a nice chat about Disney World.”  Well, that got her mother to join in the discussion about Disney.  Then a customer who had just entered the salon heard us comparing our experiences, and she announced that her family just got back home from there. So now, the count is up to: 3 adult ladies (myself included) and a 9-year-old, all comparing Disney notes. 

The little girl's mom went so far as to assure me that in the future, whatever suitcase I put my dresses in (for the formal dinner at Cinderella’s Castle) should never be checked in an airliner or allowed to be moved by Disney personnel.  Hers went lost for several hours, almost causing a dinner crisis.  Which was averted by Disney locating the bag - it had been sent to  the wrong room.  This discussion went on for about 3 more minutes, till the tech finished my mani and started to move me to the pedi station, thus ending our confab.

As I left the room, both women said “see you next time, Ma’am.”  I replied “Looking forward to it, ladies, thanks"!

Wow…amazing, and I was wearing stirrup pants, turtleneck blouse, bare ankles, a women’s zip front hooded jacket, and flats.  Nothing girly like a dress.  I guess the fact that I was getting my nails done did the trick?   

It was my best nail salon visit in a long time...LOL!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

It's been a long dry spell...

My absence from blogging over the past month has been regrettable, but unavoidable…due to extensive travel down south, including a one-way trip on Auto Train, a stay at Disney World and an extended visit with our son.  It was a fabulous vacation...for which I can fully credit retirement.   There was absolutely no free and “unsupervised” time for posting…thus my absence.

For this trip, Mandy “officially” was left behind.  No dresses or skirts (well, except my house dress for bed), and no overtly feminine jewelry, such as necklaces or bracelets.   My purse turned out to “not” be big enough, thus I asked for, and received, official blessing to start a search for a bigger one “for traveling only,” with handles as well as a shoulder strap.  I pointed out that it will most likely appear more feminine, but she was OK with that, for traveling only.  On such short notice (2 days before our trip), my search was unsuccessful, but it continues upon our return, until I find just the right one, the girlier the better!

As for outfits, I had to be prepared for any weather, thus I started out (and took along) shorts, polos and Keds (for Florida) and capris/stirrup pants for our son’s place, with various pairs of flats.   As it turned out, shorts and polos were perfect in FL due to the 90+ degree heat (said to be unusually hot).  Capris turned out to be excess baggage, as the weather in TN dictated long pants with turtlenecks much of the time.  Neither wifey nor I wore any capris the entire trip.

At our motel the night before departure from the DC area, my wife and I were both “ladies” at various stores/restaurants, and the motel.  On departure day, I noticed that Auto Train staff in the station did not use gendered greetings for me, but on board, in the dining car, I heard “Sir” at the dinner table - we were seated with two men.   Maybe shorts and a polo were “masculine” enough?

Loading cars on the Auto Train  in Lorton, VA

The next morning, after hearing “Sir” in the diner at breakfast, we arrived in FL and our Disney adventure began in earnest. 

As we were driving from the Auto Train station to Disney World, I mentioned to wifey that maybe shorts outfits were the key to “not being seen as female.”  Her response, with raised eyebrows:  “Ummm…you need to listen a little closer, sweetie…to nearby folks who don’t know us, we’re generally two women.”  My response…with a surprised look:  “Oh?  What about the staff in the diner?  I heard them use Sir there.”  “They were talking to the guys seated across from us.  They didn’t use any greeting at all for you.” And then she changed the subject.   

With that exchange, I realized that perhaps Mandy wasn’t going to be left behind on this trip after all…

Here comes a monorail!

The Christmas Tree in the Square

Cinderella's Castle, symbol of  the Magic Kingdom, in daylight

Afternoon Parade in Magic Kingdom

Cinderella's Castle in Magic Kingdom at night 

More to follow!


Monday, October 15, 2018

Finally Heading home....

Yours truly, standing on a balcony at the Marine Corps Museum in Quantico, VA on the last day of sightseeing.   During this visit, a number of the soldiers addressed my wife and I as "ladies."  I did not hear "Sir" - but there were a few instances of "non-gendered forms of address."  A very nice touch, considering that I was not in full Mandy form!

Displays and dioramas were fabulous, everything was marked and well-explained in the documentation.  If you ever get the chance to visit, be sure to do it!

We took the long way back home, going south toward Richmond to beat the DC traffic, subsequently heading east on a country road, then north on US 301, crossing the Potomac River on the 1.7 mile long Harry W Nice Bridge.   It's a narrow, antiquated 2-lane structure, and connects Newburg,
MD with Dahlgren, VA.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt participated in its 1938 groundbreaking.   And it is definitely not a "nice" bridge. One has to be extremely careful to not stray over the center line and hit oncoming traffic, or hit the side guardrails.   But we survived!  Good news is: its 4-lane replacement is being discussed!  A two-lane bridge with 4 lane highways leading up to it tends to be a classic bottleneck!

Immediately after descending the north side, I turned in to a rather uninviting gas station and followed a driveway back south, to investigate the following curiosity:

At first glance, it appears to be some sort of elaborate advertising gimmick.  Look again, more closely at the two center towers.  Notice that "wall" between them does not look the same as walls on either side.   That's because it was added quite some time after the "castle" was built...   And notice the real windows in some of the openings on the end towers with the blue roofs.  Very curious.

Upon investigation on-line, it became clear that this was built as the "grand entrance" to now-defunct "Aqua-Land Amusement Park."  The road (which no longer exists but can be imagined - look at the tree gap above the center wall)  passed between the two center towers and led into the park. 

Following is a description of the park (and surrounding areas) from the Sept. 10, 1996 Baltimore Sun:

Vacation-style communities are part of a greater architecture and development trend called "themeing," in which communities are engineered to create a more enchanting atmosphere than typical suburbs, he said.

This vision of fun and fantasy was exactly what the Conner brothers, Dennis and Delbert, were after when they began carving Aqua-Land and Cliffton from the rural coast in Newburg in 1960.
Flights with free champagne brought Washington and Baltimore visitors to an airstrip at Cliffton for 24 unreal hours. Tigers and bears prowled in a petting zoo, a giant Humpty-Dumpty welcomed visitors to the children's theme park, Storyville U.S.A., and guests traversed the grounds via mini-trains.

The Conners dreamed of creating a "Las Vegas of the East" and building thousands of homes at their Cliffton on Potomac community alongside it. If visitors bought lots and stayed for good, the Conner brothers gave them free kitchen utensils.

"One fed the other," said Dennis "Dennie" Conner, 72, who now lives in Palm City, a retirement community in South Florida. "We did fly-ins and boat-ins and crab feasts that helped the whole development. We did a lot of promoting."

But the disappointments started coming early. First, they lost a choice spot on the shoreline to a PEPCO power plant. Then, they were denied a permit to dig a moat around the property for Jungle-Land. And after it was built, the biggest setback of all: Maryland began phasing out slot machines in 1963.

The community's "reason for being" withered and Aqua-Land died. It was just a bit too far from Washington or Baltimore to attract summertime crowds, too cold in the winter to attract retirees and too isolated for families searching for suburban conveniences.  The Conners sold the property in 1972. A series of owners went bankrupt throughout the next two decades in efforts to develop the land. Now, the county owns roughly 100 lots and scores more are scattered among different owners.

The land is all but deserted. Where a campground now sits, one dirty pet peacock scratches in a cage surrounded by RVs. Muskrats skitter across what used to be an airstrip. Honeysuckle grows over a cracked park pavilion. And brittle reeds fill the meadows where sky divers performed tricks in Aqua-Land's heyday. A marina built by the Conners is still open, but it does only a fraction of the business they had hoped.

At Cliffton on the Potomac, the neighborhood seems largely forgotten. The community's welcome sign on the riverbank reads "CLIFFTO." Nobody bothered to replace the N when it fell into the river.

From a mapping program, you can see that the airstrip has crumbled.  Views of the river are overgrown, and campsites/homesites sit empty.  Some nearby motels (which looked like they might have been decent "back in the day") are now abandoned and crumbling.  Only the modified and repurposed park entrance remains, mute testimony to a dream.  A dream which glowed brightly for a short time, and then was abruptly extinguished.

A rather melancholy end to an otherwise fabulous trip.