Saturday, October 22, 2016

From Nashville...

It's not often that you're walking in a downtown (urban) environment (in this case, Nashville at mid-day) with your wife and son,  with lots of people on the street. and experience something like the following...    After having just come out of an entertainment venue,  you hear a "snap."   Sort of like a firecracker, but not as loud - more like the sound of a kid's cap pistol being discharged. (OK, there's one the younger folks may not remember - cap pistols - kids' toy guns with those little paper rolls inside, having bumps of a substance which explodes when the trigger is pulled.)

Curiosity got the best of us and instead of running (nobody else was running, either), we looked around.   Slightly behind us was a very disheveled and shabbily-clothed woman, picking up her cell phone off the sidewalk and muttering.   Hmmm.   As we watched, she put the phone to her ear,  dialed and then started mumbling something about the (expletive deleted) phone not letting her make an (expletive deleted) emergency call...   Then she whipped the phone forcefully to the ground - again.   "SNAP!"

We couldn't believe what we were seeing...and we'll never know what her emergency was.   Perhaps she was trying to reach her husband or significant other?   Could she have forgotten to pay her phone bill?   Was she homeless? (Most likely, from her appearance.)  Or perhaps it was a stolen phone - which had been locked and thus unusable?  Or maybe she was trying to reach her drug dealer for a quick fix, and at an inopportune time, ran out of minutes.

In any event, it was time to move on, as she didn't need any sort of help we could - or would - provide.  And it was very obvious from the snapping, which continued at least 3 more times as we walked away,  that her phone was never going to make another call.   Un-explainable things happen in big cities...

At one point during our visit, we had an appointment for a tour of a Nashville area historical house, with some friends.   The tour group leader saw us walk in, and as I stood next to my male friend, asked me "Are you (insert male friend's wife's name here)?" as we were standing there.   I smiled and said "No, I'm (insert my given -  now female - first name here) - the lady you want is standing over there."   He went over to talk to her about the reservation she had made.

Fortunately her husband is a bit hard of hearing...nothing was said about the "mix-up."

In a few minutes, our lady friend came over with the tour guide, and introduced us all.  He shook everyone's hand...the lady's husband received a normal male handshake, and the rest of us got a female (weak) handshake, and he put his other hand over top of my hand, just like he did with the other women.  At that moment,  I felt intensely feminine, like he was in complete control.  When I saw him do that for the other women, I knew he was treating me as he would any other woman.

We had our tour, and after it was finished, we ended up in the gift shop.  I headed for the restroom, with my purse over my shoulder.  A few seconds later, an attendant came into the men's room as I was closing the stall door - "Ma'am, this is the men's room...the women's room is the next door down."  I gave him my usual "I'm qualified" answer and he said "Oh, ok, sorry Sir...Ma'am" as he blushed, turned and left.   I went about my business, and noticed no other men had come in.  Hmmmm.  I wondered?   But there was nobody outside the men's room as I emerged, thus it was purely luck that I was alone.

Afterward, we (my wife, our friends and I) visited a specialty shopping center a few miles south of Nashville.  There, we came across a large rocking chair, that some kids were playing on.  With our wives "doing their thing" in the ladies' room, our (male) friend decided he wanted a pic of himself sitting on it...which I happily took for him, using his camera.   Then I handed my camera to him so he could reciprocate.

Here is the result:

As he prepared to take my picture, a very nice woman took a few seconds away from being with her kids, and offered to take a picture "of both of you sitting there together."  I guess she thought I was his wife...and that's a first!   Wow...I never figured that would happen.  I thanked her, but begged off, kidding that it would guarantee the camera would surely break with both of us in the picture.   

Afterward we went to dinner.  During our meal, the very efficient male server had absolutely no trouble identifying me as male.

Go figure...

More later,


Sunday, October 16, 2016

Haunted House

With apologies to Jumpin Gene Simmons , whose song "Haunted House" was popular in the 1960's. there really is a "haunted house" in Wythe County in southwesterrn Virginia.  We were driving south on I-81, saw some signs for Graham's Forge, VA and decided to investigate...

The day was cloudy and foggy, to be sure.  But when the road surface became unpaved, it really set the mood.  After bumping along on washboard surfaces for what seemed like hours, but in reality was only a few minutes, we came across this massive estate, which was once the home of Squire David Graham who operated 12 furnaces, a forge, and a grain mill, was part owner of nearby lead mines, owned 26,000 acres in the Grahams Forge community, and was known as the “first ironsmith of southwest Virginia”.  

He began to build the original rear frame section of the Mansion in the 1830s.

In 1838, Major David Pierce Graham was born.  It is said that Major Graham lived at “Cedar Run” as it was originally called, all of his life.  Additions to the home were made periodically until the 1890's, with brick being made locally.

In the1930s: Jim Graham, a Wytheville (VA) banker and resident of “Cedar Run”, moved his family from the Mansion “to town” and used the property intermittently for holiday and picnic outings.

Back in 1943: The home and approximately 1200 acres were purchased by law professor Reid Fulton.  His grandfather, Creed Fulton, was a founder of Emory and Henry College.   An eccentric book collector, Fulton lived in the Mansion until the 1980s.  

Fulton sold the property to Dr. James Chitwood of Pulaski in the 1970s and his vast antique book collections were donated and sold to libraries all over the world.  Dr. Chitwood listed the mansion property on the National Historic Register in 1984.  The property was owned briefly by a corporation from West Virginia.   J.C. (Josiah Cephus) 

Weaver purchased the property in early 1990 and incorporated it into his current 4000 acre W.W.  Ranch, where he raises Angus and Hereford beef cattle.

The estate has become a paranormal activity hotspot, prompting many expeditions to explore those reports. 

Weaver has maintained the property with direct intention of preservation of the mansion and it's history and heritage. He also hosts many events at the Cedar Run mansion throughout the year, with the most popular events held during the Fall months. Those events include haunted (paranormal) research, music festivals, and ghost tours.

 A fascinating place...when you drive off paved road to get there, it sets the mood for things to come.   Too bad we won't be in town for one of their tours!

The rest of our trip south was completely unremarkable...

More later...


Sunday, October 9, 2016

Dentist, phone store & "on the road again."

I had to take my wife to a couple of appointments the day before we left for a visit to the kids’ place down south. 

After I delivered my wife to the dentist’s office, I set off for the cell phone store for answers to some questions about upgrading to a newer phone.  There, the only clerk was busy selling an expensive i-phone, so I waited for about 20 minutes after having been told by the clerk “stand by for a few minutes, Ma’am – I’ll be with you shortly.”   Twenty minutes later, they were still at it, so I said “I’ll be back later, Miss.”   “No problem Ma’am.  Thanks for understanding.”

So it was back to the dentist to wait for my wife.  When I entered the waiting room (in black capris, a red tee-blouse with necklace, and black flats) while she had her appointment, a woman walked in and sat down.   Instead of sitting there and staring at me, she chose a much friendlier approach to figuring out the enigma - start a discussion about the weather.  I had my laptop with me, and used it to check the forecast as we chatted (I don’t use a smart phone.) 

Naturally, this developed into a wonderful back-and-forth about places we’ve lived and the weather there.  Then a man walked in (her husband, it turned out) after parking their car.  On his way over to sit down next to her, he smiled at me and said “A-ha, a working woman with a laptop.  Where do you work, Ma’am?”   When I told him I’d retired…he said he spent 26 years in the Navy, and was also retired.

He touched on the subject of politics just enough to imply that despite being a retired military man, he could not support “the orange one.”  We agreed that candidate probably would not be a good choice for anyone – except perhaps the "top 1 percent of the top 1 percent."  And we agreed that this is the first election we can recall, where Americans won't be voting for the best candidate...instead they'll vote "for" the one they "dislike the least."  At that point the topic evaporated, and other topics were discussed.   

As more folks came in, they simply picked up a magazine and started to read.    It was a real pleasure to not end up playing "Peek-a-Boo, I See You" with  folks in the waiting room...whether they're wearing sunglasses or not! 

I heard my wife come out of the office and make her next appointment at the front desk (around the corner, out of direct sight), and the clerk asked if she wanted to check with her husband since he had his computer.  (In other words, she knew precisely who I was – and thus my gender.)  My wife said no, and she actually guessed right about a good date for her next appointment.  The folks I was talking with didn’t seem to relate the medical assistant's "husband" comment, and when I got up to leave, they said, “so long, Ma’am.”

The experience "made my day"…that's the way things should always be.

Preparations for our visit to the kids’ place was fun…and on the appointed day, we left the house with me dressed androgynously, in capris and a blouse, with flats.

Enroute, at a couple of rest stops enroute I got the usual “looks” at the men's restroom, but no real issues.   And at our lunch break, the clerk did not use gender specific pronouns.   Other than that, the trip was quite uneventful…giving us time to stop in Marion, VA – home to the Hungry Mother State Park, a visit to which I described in a recent post.

Here we found the Lincoln Theatre, a restored early 20th century vaudeville venue, beautifully restored after a number of years in disrepair.  The door was unlocked, so we walked in and were only able to get a short, unofficial tour, as there was a planning session in progress on stage - full tours were out of the question.  

Our short visit was sufficient to let us know that stopping by for a show at some point in time, should be added to our list of things to do.   

Coincidentally, the guide locked the theatre doors as we left....oops!   Guess we weren't supposed to just walk in!

More later... 


Monday, October 3, 2016

The Wedding.....

It was a very good experience...   

In general, on this joint excursion (for a wedding in the mountains of New Hampshire), there were mostly no references to gender in addressing me.  Of course as always, I noted some exceptions to that rule!

EnrouteDays 1 & 2.    I was dressed in capris, top and flats, and went inside at a PA rest stop, to use the men’s room  (there was no “family room.”)  The female attendant stopped me, pointed out the the men’s room sign by my shoulder, and said "use the women’s room over there.

In my male voice, I told her that the men’s room was appropriate, and she appeared to be shocked.  That made my day, week and month.   Even better was the look on two womens' faces as I came out of the men’s room and they started to go in – until they read the sign.  I guess I must have been “passing” a bit better than I thought.  No makeup, either...

Maybe next time I'm invited - I should just do it??!!

Traveling in Vermont, on US 5 in Bellows Falls, I was “Ma’am” at a restaurant.   There was an information booth in town, and when I got there (after taking pictures around the Amtrak and Green Mountain railroad stations), my wife was already talking with the lady attendant.  I heard “my husband” mentioned as I browsed.  So, I didn’t do any talking, and when we left, the clerk said " thanks for stopping by, ladies.”

During our walk around town after lunch, we came across this cute old diner.  Wish we had noticed it earlier.   Would have been fun to try it for lunch, instead of the restaurant we visited.

We stopped at the Vermont Country Store, just outside of Bellows Falls. In case you're not familiar with them, look them up on the web.  Fascinating place to visit - if you need it, they probably have it.

In White River Junction, a bit further up Route 5, I noticed a pair of abandoned phone booths…see below.  Don’t you wonder how many teens are oblivious to their former place in "everyday life?"   Need to call home?  Find a pay phone...there's one on every corner.  Car acting up?  Look for a place with a pay phone.

But no more. 

By dinnertime that night, at the wedding venue, we had checked into our lodging of choice, and I had changed into the best casual male I could muster (women’s slacks and a turtleneck) for the rehearsal dinner, with my hair pulled up and pinned into a pony tail.  (My wife wants it that way, and I'm long as it's only for weddings and funerals.  In return, she seems to pretty much overlook my femininity the rest of the time.)   

The bride and groom knew me as male, as did several others, so there were no issues.  However, it was a good thing I was wearing my pair of women’s dressy work boots with my outfit…and not my dressy black flats.  The bride’s mother was wearing a pair of Clarks flats, exactly like mine…including the same colorGiven the bunch of 30-something women there, it surely would have been noticed.   (Apparently we both have the same taste in shoes…I would have loved to have been wearing her heels that she wore to the wedding the following day.  About 4” high.  Peep toe.  Nice.  Even though she had trouble walking in them.   I would have, too!)

Throughout the evening, I kept hearing girls talking about “Miss (insert my male name – which is now used by females).  Come to find out one of the bride’s best friends is a female by that name.   She’s very attractive, just like the bride!  If I had instinctively responded, it would have not been particularly good, especially since I was presenting as male!

Day 3: the wedding itself.   Other than hearing my name (when people were actually calling to the bride’s best friend), I was not mistaken for female - my hair was pulled into a ponytail/pinned up, and I was wearing my “Weddings and Funerals Only” men’s suit.  It must have made my wife happy that she heard “Sir” being appropriately used a number of times that day.

Days 4 and 5:  Enroute home.  There were no notable issues, even though once again I was back in feminine clothes.    And in Port Jervis, NY we managed to find the former Erie RR turntable and storage siding (with turntable and visible footers for the roundhouse walls) for the defunct short line New York and Greenwood Lake passenger train and engines.  It was behind a pharmacy and next to a substantially-abandoned strip mall.   Not the best of neighborhoods, to say the least, but we survived!  

And I even managed to get some pictures...above and below:

Response to my androgynous style of  dressing was much better than I figured it would be.  Let’s hope that trend continues.

More later,


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Another fun visit to the nail salon...

After having a much needed pedicure, and enjoying the feminine experience, recently it was time to get my fingernails done.

I ended up in the care of the first tech who did my nails there.  She immediately addressed me as "Ma'am" and she remembered how I like them done.  But this time she took the lead, and insisted in giving me an extra coat of the pink gel.  I didn't object, as I have wanted have them a bit more noticeable for a while, thinking my wife would probably tolerate it.

The look was more noticeable as feminine, since at certain angles and in certain light, they appear almost a cream color.   Definitely less subdued, and yet not "over the top."  More like "womanly."  When I arrived home, I wondered if there would be any repercussions...and there weren't.  Looks like a "two coats of paint" is now the order of the day!

For anyone keeping track of unusual names for towns, here is one under the category of "Cities named for States."   A few years back, we were traveling home from an antique car tour, and came across a cute and well-maintained railroad station.  Though it's tough to see on this picture, the sign on the front of the station reads "California."  But that isn't the state, it's the town.  Yes, Virginia, there really is a California, PA!

And incidentally, there is also a California, MD (though I haven't visited yet.)

On a recent visit to upstate NY, I passed by (but didn't get a picture of) a town named for one of our warmer southern states....everyone knows Florida.  But until that trip, I never realized there was a place called "Florida, New York."   I doubt it's as warm as the southern Florida during New York's long, cold winters...or that it has many live outdoor palm trees.

More later,


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Pedi quickie

You may recall that the cracked part of my left big toe nail I've been dealing with for some time "finally separated from the rest of the nail."  And though I badly needed a pedicure when it happened, I waited a while, to get my next pedicure.

Until now.

I dropped in at the nail salon, and the techs were glad to see me.  I showed them the problem and asked if they could "work around it."  The most experienced tech said "I can take care of it for you, Ma'am" and seated me in the pedi chair.   I asked for her help to match the remains of the color I was wearing, and she brought two bottles of polish to the chair.   Now, I didn't watch what they did...I figured it would be better to see the finished product.  And anyway, it was more fun watching a female customer at the nail station half way across the room, who was watching me.  You know the drill - hide and seek with the eyes.   I'm getting used to it.

The tech finished my pedicure, and painted my nails on that foot a deep red.   They were beautiful, and the repair on the big toe was excellent.  She said "red really disguises it well and is a great color on you, sweetie."  I loved my red toenails, but told her "I think I need to go with the tan."  "Let me paint the other foot, and see how you like it.  Then, if you still want tan, I'll change them for you."

So she did, and had the other nail techs give their opinion...  The lady who had been watching me also came over.   They all voted for red...unanimous.  The lady watching me thought they should also do my fingernails in matching red.  She said to me "Be bold, Miss.  Red is definitely your color.  Wear it proudly."  I guess I must have "passed!"

I knew red wouldn't work right now.   So with much sadness, the tech repainted them with tan. But with a promise of one day, doing some sort of color.

Now to figure out "when?"


Monday, September 12, 2016

A reflection of reality...

I  didn’t hear my alarm that fifth morning, so I must have been tired.  But after a quick shower, I shaved and got dressed, did my makeup and put on the purple paisley skirt (again) with the bright blue ¾ sleeve top, full makeup, jewelry, and bra with light padding.  

Another quick run to Mickey D's (cheap and close) got me another McMuffin and another cheery "Thank you, Sir" from the female clerk.  Oh, well - there's two rotten apples in "that there barrel."   I know I didn't look THAT bad...   She ought to take the time to get to know some of us...we're decent people, just trying to live our own lives.   And what we do with ours, doesn't affect hers at all.

Having a couple of hours to spare before leaving town, I checked out of the motel (no issue about my outfit from the clerk) and headed for Saranac Lake.  That was the destination town for the rail excursion the day before.  I had walked around a small part of town, and wanted to find the rest of it, plus the lake.

On the way in, I passed the lake, and stopped for some morning pictures.   This one is interesting...check out the cloud reflections in the water by the dock...sort of reminds you of characters in a foreign language.
A young couple brought their dogs in by was a Shepherd and I think the other was a Rottweiler.  They started acting up as the boat neared the dock, and they pulled the woman holding their leashes out of the boat quite violently just as it touched the dock.  I was getting a bit worried, as I could see that the animals were not under control.  Fighting off two biting dogs would not have been easy,  even if the ensuing massive lawsuits ended up providing me with "Christmas In July".   However, as it turned out, my worry was unfounded.  They both simply had to pee!  From then on, they were very well-behaved...

It was early, but the women (tourists and residents) I passed all cheerily said good morning, as did some of the older men.    But generally, this girl in a skirt attracted no attention, other than that of being a visitor (walking around with camera in hand and taking pictures is a fairly good clue!)  

It's an old and very well-kept business district, seemingly somewhat smaller than Lake Placid, and a bit less commercial.  Not too many vacant store fronts.  It would be fun to come back here one day, particularly after the renovations to the old hotel are finished.  In fairness, when the hotel was built back in the Roaring 20's, folks used to come in from the big cities by train - the hotel's only a few blocks from the station.  But now the only train is the one from Lake Placid and the State is trying to end that service, to rip up the tracks and open a hiking and snow mobile trail.   That should be decided by the end of the year.   I hope it doesn't happen...the train ride is very nice.

I finished walking around in Saranac Lake, and it was time to head home.   But I couldn't resist taking one more picture in town.   It represents a reflection of a wonderful little town, and Mandy's really nice trip...exemplified in the window of the Saranac Hotel, under renovation.

With the simple act of turning the ignition key, my long ride home began.   For some odd reason, the trip south was shorter than the trip north.  (It always works that way!)    When I got to the hotel that night,  I was about halfway home,  and close to the next day's tourist destination:  Centralia, PA.  But that's for the final chapter of this travelogue.

Mandy was addressed as, and treated as, female by the staff.  It was very affirming, and everyone was very friendly.  (Even the female server in the restaurant, who omitted all gender-specific references.) In addition, the female desk clerk promptly gave me a better rate than on my reservation…it was a girl thing, she said (I noticed by listening, that the previous customer - also a female, got a reduced rate.   Nice!) 

A toast to another fabulous girl-day!!!!

More later...