Sunday, June 17, 2018

On the road again, Part 1


A train trip my wife and I had been planning for some time to San Antonio, Texas came together recently.  And naturally, it required a drive across the Bay Bridge (toward Baltimore) to catch the train.  There have been several traffic jams recently on or at the bridge…and we fortunately have not been involved.   But we wanted to avoid any traffic issues which could cause us to miss our train on departure day. 

Thus, we drove over the bridge the previous day, and stayed at a motel near the train station.   What a treat that was…  When I checked in, wearing women’s tan shorts, a women’s polo top, bare legs and women’s white sneakers, with my purse, pink nails and long hair, the twentysomething desk clerk addressed me as “Miss Mandy” (of course, using my now-female real given name.”   This was in spite of having had my male ID for check-in.  Fabulous!  But I was actually happy that my wife had remained in the car for that check-in, as I had no idea where this fun at the beginning of our expedition might lead.   (Not that I had any choice in attire, hair or nail styles, or having to carry a purse.)

Once settled in at the motel, we headed for a restaurant in the area which has really good crab cakes (more crab meat, not too much seasoning, and less filler than others use.)    And though the host didn’t use any female forms of address for us, he didn’t use any male terms for me, either.   That didn’t begin till the “seater” escorted us to our table.  “Will this be OK, ladies?”   My response: “Yes, thanks.”  And when the twentysomething female server arrived, “ladies” and  “Ma’am” became the norm.   I couldn’t do much with my voice, so “it is what it is.”    And as we left, a rain shower (no, actually a deluge - the sky was falling) began.  We waited in the covered walkway for it to let up…and several passers-by used “ladies” to refer to us.

The next day, we headed for the station.  Remember, as  background:  my wife’s bags were much lighter and smaller than mine, as usual.  Thus she didn’t need help.  I still pack like the girl of the family.  She obviously doesn’t. 

When our train to DC finally pulled in, we were among the last to board.  I held both tickets, thus I announced to the conductor that “she’s with me and I have her ticket.”  No issue.  When we found seats (separately but near each other as the train was quite full) I started lifting my bags into the overhead racks, and a gentleman jumped right up: “here, let me help you Ma’am.”  And he hoisted both bags up for me.  Since my wife wasn’t right there with me (she already had taken a seat), I spoke in softer, more girly tones and said to the man “Oh my, thanks Sir.  But I'll need help to get them down, too! “  His response – with a smile -“No problem, Ma’am.”   And when the time came, he did!   My wife didn’t say anything – I’m really not sure how much of the exchange she overheard.

The conductor helped me lift my bags off the train in DC, and once inside the station,  another gentleman helped  me move them up a short set of steps, in full view of my wife.  "Thank you soooo much, Sir!"

This could be an interesting trip…

Saturday, June 2, 2018

A quickie...

Today I was out walking in the town where Mom's nursing home is located.  My attire was simple...a ladies' pastel blue polo (untucked), tan pocketless (and rather short) shorts with a 3" inseam, taupe pantyhose, my brown clogs, with no makeup, jewelry or purse, simply carrying my phone and car keys.

From the archives, these shorts, with different shoes and blouse, and no purse:



A lady and her male friend were walking behind me in a nearby park (I could hear their footsteps as they approached at a slightly faster speed).  But it's a decent area...so no safety worries.   As they drew up alongside me, the lady looked over and said "excuse me, Ma'am, but are those dance tights you're wearing?"

Wow, here I am, with no way to escape having a legitimate discussion with a lady about my pantyhose, and her boyfriend/husband/significant other is right there beside her.  I put my voice up a few octaves, hoping it wouldn't crack.  "Thanks for the compliment, hon, but no, they're just sheer pantyhose."  "As good as those look on you, I need to start wearing them when I exercise...are they comfortable?"  "Yes, Ma'am, very comfortable - they fit like a dream."  "Where did you get them, if I might ask?"  "They're 'Just My Style' day sheers, and you can find them at Justmysize.com.  Maybe other places on line, too.  I hope when you get them, you enjoy wearing them as much as I do."  "I'm sure I will - your legs look wonderful.  Thanks, for the info, Ma'am."  "Thank you for the kind words, Ma'am."

The male with her just kept on walking straight ahead...and didn't so much as look to either side.  You could almost hear him thinking:  "OMG - women and their girl talk...I really don't care where they buy their pantyhose."

While there haven't been many Mandy moments lately, this one really made my day...or week...or maybe month.  Can't wait for the next moment!

Friday, May 25, 2018

R.I.P. Amtrak's Pacific Parlour diner/lounges

Recently I found out that Amtrak (a quasi-governmental agency, and America's passenger train operator) earlier this year discontinued the use of the five "Pacific Parlor Cars" on its California-to-Washington State "Coast Starlight" (which was named after a Southern Pacific streamliner from the early-to-mid twentieth century.

In early 2017 I had the pleasure of riding the Coast Starlight as part of my rail adventure from Washington DC to New Orleans, Santa Monica and Sacramento.  And I very much enjoyed my time on board the Starlight and its Pacific Parlour Car.


Fortunately I got a picture of the cover of the menu after I boarded...


Mandy said "A table with a view, please."   The host's response:  "Yes, Ma'am!"



 What a peaceful place to watch the sun set!



Deluxe was the word...


Now for some info about the design of Pacific Parlour - or Hi Level - cars.  From Wikipedia, Hi-Level is a type of bilevel intercity railroad passenger car.  The now-defunct Budd Company designed them in the early 1950s for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad for use on the El Capitan, a coach-only streamliner which ran daily between Los Angeles and Chicago. The design was inspired by two then-recent developments in passenger railroading: the dome car employed in intercity routes in the Western United States, and bilevel commuter cars operating in the Chicago area. Budd built 73 Hi-Level cars between 1952 and 1964.

Car types included coaches,  dining cars and lounges.   Most passenger spaces were on the upper level, which featured a row of windows on both sides. Boarding was on the lower level; passengers climbed up a center stairwell to access the upper level.  End doors on the upper level permitted passengers to walk between cars; some coaches had an additional stairwell at one end to allow access to single-level equipment. Santa Fe and Budd considered but never created a sleeper.

The first two prototype coaches entered service on the El Capitan in 1954 and were immediately successful.  Budd built sufficient coaches, dining cars, and lounge cars to fully equip the El Capitan, with additional coaches seeing use on the San Francisco Chief.   Amtrak inherited the entire fleet when it was formed in 1971, and continued to use the Hi-levels on its western routes.

Unfortunately, tunnel clearances restricted their use in the Eastern US, and that's why the current Superliners do not roam eastern rails.   In 1979, the first Superliners (based on the Hi-Level concept although built by Pullman Standard entered service. Amtrak gradually retired most of its Hi-Levels in the 1990s as more Superliners became available. Five lounges, outfitted with more luxurious interiors and designed to operate adjacent to Superliner sleepers and dubbed "Pacific Parlour Cars",  provided first-class lounge service as a special amenity on the Coast Starlight until their retirement in early 2018.

My own thought is:  They WILL be missed!

Mandy

Friday, May 18, 2018

Nails...and a day in the old car.


A couple months ago, I had some preventive repairs done to the antique.  But I didn't have time right then to do my usual "shakedown cruise".   In fact, it took another month to even get around to starting it.   So I decided it was time to head for Harpers Ferry and Shepherdstown in West Virginia, which would give it multiple hours of operation.  That would help me be sure it is ready for longer trips, or bring out any problems needing attention.  (And the latter is what happened.  More on that in another post...)

You may also remember that at a pedicure several months ago, one bruised toe nail was turning black...and the tech thought it might have been so bruised it would fall off.  Also, that nail on the left big toe had been cracked ages ago, requiring it to be glued together and covered in acrylic, to keep it from splitting further.   Because of the discolored nail and the relative difficulty in removing acrylic,  she switched me from "acrylic on all toe nails" to just as an underlayment on the cracked big toe, and then used tan nail polish on them all.

The morning we left on our trip, the glued-together crack on my big toe nail split, and the resulting sharp edge ruined a pair of stockings.  No time to visit the salon...   So,  out came the cuticle scissors, and I trimmed the nail back as far as I could, then filed the sharp edges down.   In the process, I noted that the crack appeared to be shortening (growing out), and perhaps that particular problem could disappear by late  fall.   Yay!

When we returned home, one of the first things I did was to head for the salon...   There was good news all around.  Not only is the big toe nail growing out nicely, but the discolored one is holding on, and discoloration is beginning to lighten just a bit.  But they will still need painted for the foreseeable future.

She repaired the big toe nail, painted them all up, and did the usual fill on my fingers.  But the colors are slightly more noticeable than usual this time.  See below:



When I showed my wife, and mentioned that at least I can now wear sandals over the summer, since my nail probably won't fall off,  she didn't argue.   Is that a good sign?  Your guess is as good as mine.  Now the proof will come when I put on sandals as we are going out.  What will her reaction be?

Did I mention that one of the friendly lady customers who came in, stopped to comment about our always having appointments on the same day?  And that they seated us next to each other in the pedicure chairs?   Another lady was seated on the other side, and we all were talking about nail colors and types of designs.  They both think I should wear bright colors, at least on my toes.  Very affirming...

Now for some fun with the shakedown cruise...    Following pictures are from Harpers Ferry, WV - at lock 33.  Notice the ruins of a gray stone house in the distance.  It was the residence of the lock-keeper "back in the day."   Now, from the dampness and rot, wood has all disintegrated and the stone outer shell is all that remains.


A close up of the house...can't find it on the on-line aerial map programs....because of the trees growing up  through it!   But those stone walls look fine...


Following is a telephoto shot of the Hilltop House hotel, which was featured in my last post.


From there, the GPS took me on a whole bunch of back roads (fortunately all paved), which was the short way to Shepherdstown.   



When I saw this bridge, I knew right where I was...it's the high trestle (formerly Southern RR, now Norfolk Southern) just outside of Shepherdstown.  I have some pictures of an excursion train on this trestle.

A comment on my attire: wearing a skirt didn't cause any problems.  However, I didn't hear "Ma'am" at all on this trip.   On the bright side, no "Sir" either.  I can handle that.

Following are some pictures from Shepherdstown, WV.  Shepherdstown was founded by Thomas Shepherd in 1734 as part of the grant of 222 acres on the south side of the Potomac.  Originally named Mecklenberg, in 1798 the corporate limits were extended and it was renamed "Shepherd's Town."   It is the site of Shepherd University, and is the only town on the C&O Canal (on the other side of the Potomac) to have a lock (#38) named for it.  As in "the Shepherdstown Lock."

For those not familiar with Shepherdstown, it was the focal point of a momentous battle in the US Civil War.   On September 19, Union General Griffin sent 2 regiments across the Potomac at Boteler's Ford.  They attacked Confederate troops under General Pendleton, capturing four artillery pieces before being recalled.  Somehow the message to General Lee got botched, and he was told they lost all 44 pieces.  So the following day, retaliation took place. After violent clashes along the heights (with substantial casualties in the 30+ percent range) Union soldiers were decimated by the Confederates.   The total Union dead and wounded at Shepherdstown made it the bloodiest battle fought in what would become West Virginia.  A sign in town notes that "The whole town was a hospital."

And as a result of that, it is now billed as the most haunted town in America, known as much for its ghostly residents as it is for the local arts scene, university (Shepherd University) and historic attractions (of which there are many.)  And there was a documentary about the paranormal activity here on the telly a few years ago.  I don't doubt that there are apparitions there...but hope to never meet any. 

Following is one of the pretty buildings of Shepherd University (Shepherd State Teachers College, 1872.)


A picturesque main street follows:


And some interesting architecture:


It was a fun day...

Be safe,

Mandy

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Busy...part 2

I forgot to mention in the first travelogue, that the morning we left to go to visit the kids, I put on my necklace and bracelet.  That didn't last long...I was told to leave them at home.   Not wanting to start our trip with an argument I probably wouldn't win anyway, they stayed home.   A disappointing turn of events, to be sure.  But it wasn't the end of the world!   Stirrup pants, capris, flats and women's tops (all part of my everyday wardrobe) were packed, and they couldn't be left behind!
 
While still in Bristol, we drove past the restored Paramount Theater.  We didn't have time to see if tours were available,  but it certainly looks impressive...



It reportedly opened on February 20, 1931,  and its 1400 seats functioned as a movie house and vaudeville stage with organ, for more than 50 years.  A bunch of seats were removed in the 1950's remodeling, to accommodate Cinemascope and stereo sound.  The original organ was dismantled and removed, but later replaced.  In the early 1980's, the Paramount was closed, and slated to be demolished to make way for 36 parking places.   Bristolians came to its rescue and the building's owner donated it to Theatre Bristol, which agreed to establish the Paramount Foundation.   

After a final meeting in June of 1987 to evaluate the restoration/demolishment of the building, it was decided to proceed regardless of the hardships involved.    And it has been a very successful addition to the local cultural scene.

I couldn't resist getting a picture of this fine fellow below, a first-class piece of street art near the train station in Downtown Bristol.


The Cameo Theatre (below) is another Art Deco gem in Bristol, a relic from the past, but unlike the Paramount (above), it has apparently not yet been massively restored, and now sees only occasional use for events.  Time will tell if it transforms itself into another asset to the arts in Bristol.


Below is the Grand Guitar,  the back of which is visible alongside I-81.  If you've passed that way, you may have noticed it, and wondered what it is.  We found a great front view from US-11...



Yes, as you might inagine, there is a story about this building.  According to his family, Joe Morrell, who was a manufacturer of dulcimers, ran a record shop, and performed under the stage name of Herbie Hootenauger, had dreamed of building a shop shaped like a giant guitar (so it didn't look like every other building in town.)  And in May off 1983, he accomplished that goal.

Inside the building was a gift shop, a recording studio, an AM radio station (country music, of course)  and his personal collection of hundreds of musical instruments, including one shaped like a pig, and another made from a dead armadillo.

National Geographic featured the shop in 1985, and in 2014 it was added to the National
Register of Historic Places.  But by then, its owner (Morrell) had passed away and the building had been sold to a developer who promised to restore it.  Despite that promise, it remained abandoned for years.  (Still is.)

If this shop could play a country music song today, it definitely would be a sad one.

While in TN visiting our son and family, we went as a group to Chattanooga's wonderful tourist destination called Rock City.   What a place!  Trails all through and around rocks, plants and nature on the side of Lookout Mountain, which was the site of the "Battle above the clouds" back in the Civil War.



Following is a picture of yours truly in one of the rest areas provided, because of the many trails to walk...



One of the attractions is a waterfall right on the edge of the mountain.  And the views were both panoramic as well as spectacular!   You can see seven states from the nearby overlook on a clear day!



D-I-L's father has a boat, and following is a grab shot of me on a boat outing while we were visiting.  That sure was fun!   And nobody even gave my sandals or jean capris a second thought...   Since they're part of my everyday wardrobe, my wife was fine with them.  Even though it was nearly 80 degrees on shore, it was cool out on the water.  So my wife and I wore our matching unisex heavy sweaters...that we bought years ago, at a tourist site in Utah.


All too soon it was time to return home...the kids caravanned back with us, stayed almost a week, and then they drove back to TN.  Best non-Mandy vacation in a long time!

Mandy


Friday, May 11, 2018

It's been a busy three weeks....

There hasn't been much activity on the gender front these past few weeks since my last post.  Mandy has basically stayed "in the suitcase" and I've bustled around the area in androgynous mode.  No skirts, but yes, there have been the typical "Miss-identifications" among strangers.  

The most noteworthy activity was our visit to Tennessee to see our Son, D-I-L and their baby, now 2-1/2 years old and growing up fast.  We've been anticipating this visit for some time, and it finally came together.  

The drive is about 12 - 13 hours (including a lunch break and a couple of rest stops) so we break it into two days, and do our usual sightseeing enroute.  Below are some of the noteworthy stops we made this trip.

First is the Hilltop House hotel, located (obviously) on the top of a hill overlooking Harpers Ferry, WV.  This famous hotel was built in 1888 by Thomas Lovett, a man of African-American descent who dreamed of managing a hotel overlooking the site of John Brown's historic act.  His hotel burned in 1912, was rebuilt, and burned again in 1917 or 1918.  Lovett and his wife persevered, and the hotel became host to such notables as Mark Twain, Alexander Graham Bell, and Bill Clinton.

It is also said to be haunted.   Episodes of paranormal activity have been noted by staff and visitors alike.   Some of the things noted have been: laughing, pots banging, furniture moving by itself, and sightings of soldiers...including a whole regiment of men, which makes its way up the road to the hotel.   Room 66 was one hot spot in particular:  haunted by the ghost of a small boy who perished in the 1912 fire, a portrait of the boy in that room was alleged to cry real tears.

I had been hearing about the Hilltop House back in the early 1900's, and had good intentions about going there for a night, to sample the hospitality.  But I kept postponing the visits.  Unfortunately in 2008 the hotel was deemed unsafe for continued occupancy, and it was closed.   There have been periodic attempts to restore and re-open it, and in the interim, a change in ownership.  But so far, nothing has come to fruition, for whatever reason. (The jury is still out on a March 2018 attempt.)  

Naturally, we stopped by for a few pictures, in case nothing ever happens and it eventually succumbs to the forces of abandonment and nature...



Above is a front view of the hotel, showing the crumbled front porch and front wall.  This is very sad to see.   If you are interested in more pictures, simply go to You-Tube, search for Hilltop House Harpers Ferry and find lots of them, including some interior pictures and videos posted by urban explorers.  (Not us, we don't do that.  No way we'd want to, with all the paranormal activity.)   There are also some really amazing pictures taken from drones.


And another pic, showing the deterioration of the dining room addition.   One can only hope that restoration of the 80+ rooms can begin, and bring this historic place back into daily usage.


This is the view from the overlook in front of the hotel.  The railroad tracks with the train is the CSX Transportation main line to Pittsburgh, which my wife and I have traveled many times.  (And each time, I think about the missed opportunity to stay at the Hilltop House...)   Under the bridges and making a left turn, is the Potomac River.   Upstream to the right, is the Shenandoah River, which joins the Potomac at Harpers Ferry. 

Another interesting factoid is that Harpers Ferry is the easternmost town in West Virginia...

In last year's post about my trip to the East Broad Top narrow gauge railroad, the town "Burnt Cabins, PA" was discussed.  On this trip, I noticed a sign for "Burnt Factory" in Virginia.  So we took a detour, and found some nice homes and a pretty church.  Plus a lot of trees. But no burnt factory.


A brief internet search resulted in being unable to confirm the origin of the name, but like Burnt Cabins, it presumably was named after some sort of local factory being burned at some point in history, maybe the Civil War?

Onward to Bristol...   This is a very pretty town, which straddles the VA/TN state line.   It once depended on passenger trains for its transportation needs, as evidenced by this majestic station.  It has been restored and is in use - but not for train passengers.  Trains don't stop here anymore, nor do passenger trains cover these well-maintained tracks - only Norfolk Southern freight trains.

This depot (built in 1902 at a cost of $79,063) is the fourth to be built on land donated to the VA & TN Railroad by Rev. James King in 1848.   Because it was built on filled land, concrete support columns had to be constructed to bedrock, 20 ft below.  Its main feature was the two story tower, but in the beginning, there were a newsstand, lunch counter, smoking room and men's toilet.  The second floor was the railroad office.   The single story part was the ticket counter and waiting room, divided into separate areas for men and women.  It has been restored and is now office space.

N&W discontinued steam engines in the 1950's, and with the coming of Amtrak, passenger service was eliminated.  But Bristol continues to be a division and crew change point, with about a dozen freight trains a day through town.


Substantially all of Bristol's current tourism results from traffic on nearby I-81, the nearest north-south major artery.   Numerous motels at the interchanges provide plenty of rooms for overnight guests.


This picture is a grab shot to show how I was dressed enroute, and for much of the trip.  No skirts :-(   As an aside, I was standing in Virginia, and the other side of the street was in Tennessee.  Just a crosswalk away...


Speaking of Tennessee, does anyone remember the US Country and Western singer Tennessee Ernie Ford?  If you do, then you might enjoy seeing the house (above) where he was born, just a mile or so from the train station in Bristol, TN.  Of course, the place was remodeled after a fire years ago, so it's not exactly "as it was back in the day."  But it still is a "piece of history."


And above is a bit of info on the singer...

Stay tuned, more to follow:

Mandy



Sunday, April 22, 2018

At the mall...

A couple days after my previous post, I had to make a run to the Western Shore of Chesapeake Bay to pick up some contact lenses,  and go to the mall to pick up some shoes that were in for work the nearby rural cobbler couldn't handle.

That morning, I put on an outfit similar to this,  with pantyhose instead of bare legs, and a pair of my flats instead of Mary Jane heels, and off I went.


After parking the car, I did some walking around inside the mall, not wearing a coat or sweater. (Yes, we had our 3 wonderful days of summer...now it seems we're headed into fall, with cooler  temperatures.  LOL!)     I noticed that the two annoying (or affirming) kiosk peddlers who had always accosted me about their cosmetics on every walk around the mall...were gone.  Yay!  Though to some extent I enjoyed their attention, nonetheless it was annoying, so I'm fine with their disappearance.

However, if it was attention I was seeking,  I received quite a bit of that...despite the peddlers' notable absence.   Standing outside a cell phone company store's door, waiting for them to open, was a small gaggle of people.  One was a 50something woman.  I was wearing my sunglasses, as sunlight was pouring through the skylights.

As I walked (and people-watched from behind my Foster Grants), I couldn't help but notice the woman's eyes immediately lock on to me like radar as I approached.  I observed her gaze follow me until I passed her, and as I approached a store with a properly aimed window glass, I stopped to window shop and observe her continue to watch me.  Probably two minutes later, with her never missing a beat, I said to myself..."To heck with it...I'm moving on."  And I did.  No doubt she watched me disappear down the hall until the buzzer rang and the store opened.

Such fun...

And at the cobbler's shop, I was properly addressed as "Ma'am."

Isn't life fun?

Mandy

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Interesting

Things have been very quiet lately, and Mandy hasn't been out of the suitcase since January.  However, that doesn't stop my daily life in androgynous outfits.  My wife ordered two blouses on line, for delivery to the department store in a nearby town.  And on one of my visits to the nursing home, she asked me to pick up her purchase.

The last time she asked me to pick up a package for her, she had listed my real name (and husband status) as an authorized party to pick up.   This time, she didn't, because she had planned to pick it up.  But she gave me a copy of the email announcement that it was ready, and said she hoped they didn't ask for ID.  I reminded her that they hadn't the last time, and simply thought I was her.  I predicted that it would go well again.

When I got there (wearing stirrup pants, pantyhose, flats, turtleneck tunic and a sweater, with necklace and a bracelet),  I handed the email to a 20something clerk, and said (in a softer voice) that I'd like to pick up my order,  She went in the back and got the package.  She asked me if I wanted a bag, which I did.  Then as she put the package in the bag, she told me that she owns both blouses herself.  "You'll love them, they work well with your skirts as well as capris and shorts, and the colors will be perfect on you, (insert wife's given name here).  But if they don't fit, remember you can always exchange them for the proper size."  As I departed, she said "Thanks for shopping with us (insert wife's given name here.)"

Wow...but wait, there's more!

A few minutes later, after a short drive and while standing in the checkout line at the pharmacy (in the same town as Mom's nursing home), a 30-something woman and her approximately10 year old daughter (apparently a Downs syndrome baby) were there.  I thought I recognized them from seeing her at the nursing home a couple of times, but didn't give the subject another thought.

She looked up, smiled, and said "Hi, I'm ________'s mother!"   She apparently recognized me - but believed it was from seeing me at an exercise facility elsewhere in town.  I said that I remembered her from seeing them at the nursing home, and we chatted for a moment.

Then the little girl started to cuddle up to me, which I assured the mom "was not a problem,"  but her mom corrected her ("you don't cuddle up to other ladies, honey" ) despite additional assurances that I understood.   After being corrected, she then got shy and hid behind her mom...but as they departed her daughter turned around and gave me the cutest little wave and smile.  I hope I run into them again sometime...

After hearing our discussion, the clerk addressed me as "Ma'am" while she rang up my order...and thanked me for shopping there by using my wife's first name on the store card.

When I told my wife about my experiences, she said she really wasn't surprised, since "that happens quite often nowadays."  So I reminded her that she can "pass" as me (remember my given name is now female), it only makes sense for me to be able to "pass" as her.   And we both laughed as we concurrently said something to the effect of "as long as they don't ask for our ID!"

It was an unexpected - and very good - day!

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Another dry spell...

...and that's not the weather.   It's simply being out and about, in my very androgynous wardrobe.   Unfortunately Mandy (skirts, full makeup and jewelry, etc) did not make any appearances...

The week after the ill-fated visit my cousin and her hubby made with me to see her aunt (my mom) at the nursing home,  I was in the hall after one of my daily visits.  The head of the kitchen saw me, and approached me from the back as I walked toward the exit.  "Ma'am?  Ma'am?"  I turned around and saw him, replying "Oh, sorry, Hi (insert name here)."  "Ma'am, I just wanted to know how the arrangements for your lunch worked out."  And I complimented the whole crew because everything worked exactly the way it was supposed to.  (Well, except Mom's issues, and they had nothing to do with that!)   I'm still not sure if he knows my real gender or just being politically correct, since we seldom see each other except in the hall...

And then recently, I had to go across the bay for an appointment and a series of errands...dressed like this (taken that morning):  



At the appointment, where I am known as a guy, what I was wearing didn't matter.  I was "Mr."   But I received several compliments there on my necklace and bracelet (which I told them were my mom's), and one on my nails.  I'll never argue those, even if they do know my true gender. 

At the first and second of the big box stores, clerks had no trouble determining that I was female.   And at a small specialty shop, I was "dear" to the male 20something clerk... the whole time.  Very affirming...

There will be more occasions...and I look forward to each and every one!

Mandy  




Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy Easter...

To all my readers:  Have a safe and joyous Easter holiday...

Mandy

Saturday, March 24, 2018

Out and about...

We recently got one of those fliers from a new car dealer advertising a chance to win money for stopping by.  Now, our daily drivers are 6 years old, still running fine, get quite good gas mileage, and we aren't even thinking about replacing them.

But we know nothing about the new models from any brand, and if there were an unfortunate incident involving one of our cars, we'd be at a total loss to know where to even start.   And at that point we'd be under pressure to make a quick decision.  So, off we went to check out one of the US big three...

I was wearing my usual outfit of stirrup pants, pantyhose, flats, turtleneck tunic, necklace and bracelet, with my purse and no makeup.   Right from the get-go, we were greeted and addressed as two ladies.  I made no attempt to disguise my voice, and my wife did not play the husband card (and she avoided any "he or she" terms in talking about me.)    Over time, we noticed that the salesman and manager drifted from "ladies" to addressing us as "folks."  But never was the "S" word used.  And he held the door for both of us as we got in and out of the cars.  We were there for quite a while, including driving some of the models.

The only thing my wife mentioned to me when we were alone was "Sweetie, they really do think you're a girl."  My return comment was that it wasn't as bad as the incident when we were in the market for a car 6 years ago...the sales rep (at the place we didn't buy from) kept referring to me as "Ma'am" even after they looked at our driver's licenses so we could test drive a car.  It clearly showed a great big "M."   (I was wearing shorts, a polo and sandals.   So my outfit clearly didn't scream "woman."  Apparently my purse and long hair were the triggers.)

This time, my wife remained completely unconvinced that they figured out my true gender, even up to the time we left.   And that's a good thing.  As is the fact that she seems to be getting fairly comfortable with us being treated as two women.

By the way, we won $2.   Which came close to covering the gas cost to get there...

And then came the snow...another nor'easter, or "four-easter" as some have called it, because of it being the fourth in 3 weeks.   We actually were spared the worst of it here on the Delmarva.   I've seen from 3" to 5" of the white stuff in the area.  But the other side of the bay (DC and Baltimore, as well as the northern and western suburbs) ranged up to 10" plus.  And most schools lost at least one, if not two, days.


The snow was heavy and wet.  It made a beautiful sight, clinging to the trees.  And fortunately, didn't cause any power failures in our neighborhood.

But by the next day, the snow was over half melted, and the roads were fine.   If temperatures had been even two degrees cooler, things would have been much different...and much worse!

Hope winter has been kind to all my readers...

Mandy

Saturday, March 17, 2018

The good, the bad and the ugly.

Fortunately, since the disastrous family luncheon, Mom has been doing somewhat better...though sleeping a lot.  Lower lows, and lower highs, seems to be the way it goes.  She slept through most of my most recent visit.

First, the good: I've worn the brown clogs shown in my picture a couple posts ago, and have gotten several compliments about them from both staff and residents at the nursing home.  Though I won't ask, I wonder if they've figured out I'm wearing girls' shoes?   I suspect that they do....

More good:  At the big box store recently,when I was checking out, I was addressed as "Ma'am" a number of times, and even heard "sweetie" from the middle-age male clerk who checked me out after a short wait in line at the cash register.  It all sounded sincere.  But whether it was or not, it's always nice to hear!

Then the bad:  recently it was time to get my nails done again, because the one toe nail which I somehow bruised a while back, and which was turning black-and-blue, was finally beginning to darken significantly and show through the gel color.  When my tech removed the gel, I got bad news...that my nail was indeed damaged,  and was beginning the process of loosening and falling off.

Needless to say, that was not welcome news at all...so I asked if I should see a doctor.  She didn't think so, and since I just had my annual physical exam with complete bloodwork - all was normal, I tend to agree with her.  Why should anyone have to pay to have a doctor tell me that I bruised it and it's going to fall off???  I already know that.   So I had her use regular polish on my toes this time around.  The tech figures it will take a month or two to finally fall off.   Just in time for warm weather.  :-(  Time will tell...

Now comes the ugly:   a long-standing cracked nail on the big toe on the same foot (which she has been keeping glued together while it grows out - not pretty unless covered by gel or regular color), mean that when the above happens, I'm not likely to be wearing sandals for a while.   Regular polish on my toes means that I can just remove it myself when the time comes....I don't need to pay for a gel removal.

So I can now begin to plan my summer footwear....however, depending on how fast things progress, it looks as though I won't likely be spending much of my time in sandals.   Except perhaps that pair of fisherman sandals (which keeps the toes mostly covered...)

More later...

Mandy




Thursday, March 8, 2018

An all-too-brief visit with my cousin and her hubby.

A quickie about what was supposed to be a fun weekend with my cousin and her hubby...ending with the highlight: our noon meal Sunday at the nursing home, with their aunt/my mother.

This saga started out on a tough note...it was the weekend of the first of two nor'easters, the one with very heavy winds.  So our visitors got seriously delayed...they were coming to us from the south, and both bridges which normally make access to the Delmarva from the south convenient, were closed due to winds between 60 and 80 mph.  (The latter being over hurricane force.)  When they finally arrived, we had a good time visiting and getting caught up on Saturday afternoon...   We even called the local pizza joint to have dinner brought in...nobody wanted to bother with cooking!

Sunday was our pre-planned lunch with Mom at the nursing home - or hotel, as we have to refer to it in front of her. 'Telling it like it is - calling it a nursing home" simply doesn't work well...that brings up the "I want to go live with my mom and dad" issue every time.  Never mind the fact that they passed away nearly 50 years ago and the house belongs to someone else now.  She simply can't comprehend that.  

While our meal happened precisely as planned, and the food at the nursing home was quite good, Mom was definitely not having one of her better days,  and wasn't socializing well.  She didn't remember her niece or hubby, nor did she remember me.  The "not remembering me" part is happening more often lately.  Bright side is that she didn't call me her sister's name (her niece's mother.)   I have long hair like Mom's sister did. That really would have been awkward for my cousin.

And the next day, Mom stayed in bed through my visit...very unusual.

So she may hav started down that awful "slippery slope" which every Alzheimers victim has ahead of them at some point.   And what is at the bottom of the slope is never good...   Simply pray (in whatever way/language/religion you wish) that nobody near or dear to you ever has a run-in with dementia...simply a horrible disease.

It was unfortunate that my cousin and her hubby couldn't have stayed longer...we still had some catching up to do.   But that can be done the next visit.

More later...

Mandy

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Come on, Halloween.,..and please let me be in town this year!

This was to be quite an incredible day!

When I arrived at Mom's nursing home a while back, I had no way to know in advance there would be a social event already in progress.  Or that they had already brought Mom down to participate.  It was a visit with the young (as in newborn) kids, to about 4 years old, a field trip from a local day care.  Mommies (and a very few daddies) were there with their babies.  I'm surprised my mom wanted to go...and in reality, I suspect when they wheeled her down, she simply thought she was going for a cup of coffee.

That day, I decided to wear a pair of gray capris, pantyhose, black turtleneck with necklace and bracelet, and my brown clogs.  See pictures...




Much to my surprise, when I came around the corner, there was Mom, already in the activity room, at a table with one of the other ladies, and a young girl was seated at her table, coloring (well, really scribbling with crayons - on paper).

I pulled up a chair next to them, removed my coat, sat down next to Mom and began talking to the various mommies about their kids as they came by.   (And didn't even attempt to disguise my voice.)  My mom sort of joined in, but only half-heartedly.  The other lady sitting with her ended up talking to them a bit more...but stayed seated with us.

It was fun being a part of the "mostly girl-type" discussions.    More than once, mommies encouraged their kids to "talk to these nice ladies" - meaning, the 3 of us.  None of the kids appeared to question my gender - no stares or double takes.  They simply accepted me as a woman.  A couple of them even politely answered my questions with "Yes, Ma'am."  OMG...

A mat was retrieved for the youngest (3 to 12 month) babies, and I spent a few minutes standing there cooing over 6 or 7 babies squirming away on the mat, while I was talking to their mommies.  (You smile at those babies, they - mostly- smile back.)  Mommies didn't give me a second glance, we talked like two women.  I guess they saw me as one of them.  There were only a couple of daddies present, and neither bothered with me at all - they apparently thought I was just "one of the old women who live there."  Some older kids actually carried on short conversations, about their age, coloring projects, and so on.  I actually felt right at home in my womanly role...

Yes, probably 50% of the mommies were wearing capri pants...the other 50% - cropped jeans.  No dresses or skirts at all.   That day, I fit right in...

After one of the mommies got her daughter "talking to these nice ladies," the woman sitting with Mom and me confided that old timers think I'm Mom's daughter.  When appropriate, she corrects them gently, but some of them simply don't buy it...they believe I'm a girl.  I assured her that I'm fine with that - I answer to either Sir or Ma'am, and if they see me as a girl, I'll try to fit right in if that's more comfortable for them.  But I mentioned that it's a phenomenon which has happened for years, probably because of my hair, nails and sartorial style.

Then she said something to the effect that "well, the rest of us know who you are, and don't care what you choose to wear...we love you, however you like to dress."

Bring on Halloween....

Mandy




Thursday, March 1, 2018

It's been too quiet around here...


Test results came back, with no major issues to follow up.  Yes, admittedly a couple of small things need attention, but all-in-all, it's not a bad report.

During our recent warm spell, I decided to break out my capris for the first time this season, on my morning visit to Mom's...and it was fun!

When I arrived at the nursing home, a gaggle of 3 women (including the Director) were standing at the reception desk, talking business.  We all exchanged pleasantries, and as I passed the entrance to the reception area (which meant they could see my capris clearly), all 3 commented to me about my outfit.   "Wow, look at you, sweetie!"  "It must be spring - you're sporting your capris!"  "Fabulous idea, hon...they're perfect for you - you look very pretty."  Then all three of them put their legs "front and center" so I could see their flats and bare ankles (the Director was in low heels - I was jealous), as they commented: "At least we got rid of our socks!  Guess we should be wearing our capris, too!   You're a great inspiration!"  We all got a chuckle out of that...

But now the weather's gone bad again...and unfortunately, none of us have worn them since!  (That warm spell sure has led to one big bunch of confused trees...which are starting to bud already.)  Yes, I do plan to oblige - once the weather breaks...

A couple days before I wanted to get my fingernails done, I stopped by the nail salon to make an appointment.  (Of course, wearing my traditional stirrup pants, tunic top, pantyhose, flats, and carrying my purse. )  The nail techs were happy to see me, and they made my appointment.  When I left the salon I walked to the food market nearby to see if they had something we'd be needing soon.

But to get there, I had to walk past a pizza joint.  I casually looked in from behind my Foster Grant's as I approached, and noticed a fiftysomething, somewhat disheveled-looking bearded man sitting alone in a window seat, staring at me as I got closer.  My sunglasses made it possible for me to watch him (by moving my eyes as I walked, without turning my head in his direction).  Once I passed him, there was a 90 degree turn in the sidewalk, with obliging store windows, and perfect lighting, to let me watch his reflection in those windows without looking in his direction - at least till I turned the next corner and disappeared completely.

Once I finished at the store, I had to retrace my steps.  And guess what, he was still sitting there, still alone, whiling away the time.   I looked his way until he noticed me, then presumably with his eyes following me (at least initially), I cut across the parking lot  and disappeared among the cars.   He was either an admirer, a hater,  a curious person, or maybe someone from my neighborhood, who thought he recognized me.  One thing for sure, I didn't recognize him.

I'll never know - and don't really care.  I'm just looking forward to getting my nails done...

And following is the finished product:


My visit to the salon the next day was uneventful.   Other than the one lady who was being finished up when I arrived, the place was "all mine."  A very quiet visit, with only the two techs.   With some extra time, my tech applied an extra coat of gel on my nails, which caused them to be quite a bit more noticeable.  She thought they looked better, and I have to agree!

Best of all, the nosy man was not sitting in the pizza shop!

I'll close with a couple of pictures from the archives:


One of our son's family pets, an "old lady kitty"...she's 9 years old.

And for ferroequinology fans:


The circa 2002 Mt. Washington Cog Railroad train - sitting at the top of Mt. Washington, NH: elevation reportedly 6,288 ft.   Nowadays, they run more diesel trains than steam.

Till later...

Mandy

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

At the Diagnostic Center

Sorry about the delay in posting...there have been some issues with Mother to deal with.   But finally the referrals to the Diagnostic Center arrived in the mail.  I called for an appointment, and those arrangements were made.

On the appointed day, it was warm enough outside that I could get a head start on spring, and go casual.  I wore a pair of gray capris, black clogs, a black turtleneck, black panties, and a blue hoodie.   Along with my usual hair, nails and purse.  No tights or pantyhose.   That outfit was easy enough to remove when requested, and comfortable enough for any casual woman.

When I arrived, I signed in using my first initial and last name.   They called me up to the check-in desk using my last name, and we did the paperwork.   They had access to my birth gender if they chose to look, but no gender specific terms were used.  When the paperwork was done, I returned to the waiting room to "wait my turn."

Only about 10 minutes later, a girl (probably thirtysomething) came out and announced "Ms. Amanda" (of course using my own given name.)  And Ma'am was used the next couple of times, but as the tests started, even that dropped off, as did conversations.   I don't know if she clocked me - tests did not include the groin area, but paperwork may have given the clue.  And then she showed me back out. 

Now I await the results of it all...

And, it was a good day...

Mandy

Monday, February 12, 2018

A visit to the doctor...

Recently I had occasion to visit my Primary Care Physician.

This wasn't an issue for the provider.  He knows my birth gender, and uses appropriate greetings and pronouns when necessary.  The fact that I typically look more like a girl than a boy doesn't seem to be a problem.

The staff, however, no longer knows me. I found that out today.   There has been an almost complete turnover in support employees since last fall.   When I checked in, I noticed female staffers (all new since my last visit) omitted any gender specific greetings, and the same thing happened when I was called to go into the exam room.   For those who may be interested, my outfit was tan stirrup pants over black trouser socks (no tights), a long black turtleneck tunic (un-tucked), nylon panties, and my flats.  In addition, of course, to my purse, long nails and hair.  Like so:


The nurse who initially took my blood pressure omitted any gender specific greetings...but when she came back in at the end of my visit to dispense a pneumonia vaccination, she reminded me to "take your tunic off so I can reach the top of your arm."  I never did figure out if she had checked the records for my gender, but she didn't express surprise that I was bra-less.

Segue to the Nursing Home:  recently I was told that by my mother's nursing home staff that the doctor discovered a small lump on one of my mother's breasts, and they reminded me that I should begin to have a breast exam each year, since it tends to run in families.  (Yes, they know my birth gender.)

Back to my Primary Care visit:  my provider didn't flinch when I asked him to do it, particularly because of the size of my breasts (I've never been measured, but they are more noticeable when I wear certain tops.  Not typical male breasts.)  He thought it was a good idea and will check them again in the future.   Fortunately, nothing needing further investigation was found.

When my visit was over, I went to the check out desk, where the twentysomething clerk got a full view of my appearance as I approached.  I inquired about paperwork for a couple of non-invasive tests the doctor suggested.  The clerk (new staff) had to call across the office to the doctor's nurse and inquire about "Ms. Sherman's referral."  I heard her say to the nurse: "Yes, she inquired about them."  (I was referred to as "she" a number of times.)   Then she asked: "Ma'am, is it OK if we mail them?  The printer is having issues."   I told her that would be fine, and said "Have a wonderful day, Miss."  She responded "You too, Ma'am.

Though my presentation initially seemed as though it may have been marginal, the visit turned out to be wonderful!

Mandy












Monday, February 5, 2018

The way home...including the bridges of Pittsburgh




The eastbound train was running late, thus arrival in Pittsburgh was after sunrise.  These pix are views I seldom get to see eastbound, and never get Westbound due to the scheduled Pittsburgh arrival, always near midnight.  Being on the train gives a wonderful view of The Bridges of Pittsburgh (which is surrounded by water on two sides, thus the need for many bridges...)


Of particular interest are the three bridges shown in the following picture.    Per Wikipedia,
The Three Sisters are three very similar self-anchored suspension bridges spanning the Allegheny River in downtown Pittsburgh, at 6th, 7th, and 9th streets, generally running north/south. The bridges have been given formal names to honor important Pittsburgh residents:

6th St:  for Roberto Clemente
7th St:  for Andy Warhol
9th St:  for Rachel Carson

Designed by the Allegheny County Department of Public Works, they were all built in a four-year period, from 1924 to 1928, by the American Bridge Company, replacing earlier bridges of various designs at the same sites. Their construction was mandated by the War Department, citing navigable river clearance concerns. They are constructed of steel, and use steel eyebars in lieu of cables.
The Three Sisters are historically significant because they are the only trio of nearly identical bridges, as well as the first self-anchored suspension spans, built in the United States. They are among the only surviving examples of large eyebar chain suspension bridges in America, and furthermore, unusual for having been erected using cantilever methods.

Their color is aztek gold/yellow, chosen by city residents.  Painted alike, they make a beautiful sight from the train....if it passes eastbound very late, and in sunlight!


Harpers Ferry, WV:  a very historic place in our nation's history.  From the train, this abandoned house just looks like any other dilapidated old house.  However,  this place is special...it's the former lock-keeper's house for lock 33 on the remains of the C & O canal, which is the ditch in front of it and on the other side of the road.   I will now add "driving on the road in front of it" to my list of things to do...


Finally - AT LAST - I could remove my coat AND my sweater.  Since I was on the way home, no skirt that day...  :-(  The temperature on the mainland side of the bay was near 60 degrees F.   Warm again, the way it should be!  Too bad my trip had to occur during the massive cold snap...oh, well - it is what it is!


I leave you with this beautiful sunset from my trip....yes, there was some sunny weather - cold but sunny.  And I actually got to see a little of it!


Happy Trails!

Mandy

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Last day and night in Memphis.


And the sightseeing continued...in my stirrup pants, with tights beneath and my black skirt on top...

Has anyone heard of the Peabody Ducks?  I took some time to visit the Peabody Hotel downtown, and enjoy a few moments watching the ducks which live there as their guests.  They perform a duck walk to the indoor fountain each morning and a return to their quarters each evening, under the direction of the hotel's "Duckmaster." 

Unfortunately, the ducks don't slow down for anyone, and it's tough to get a sharp picture without flash and with an amateur camera...but here is my attempt.  (The Duckmaster - in the red jacket - is following behind his little charges, guiding them toward the elevator.)  It was a fun diversion, and several kids were there too...enjoying the action.



That afternoon I dropped in on the National Civil Rights Museum.   A most interesting destination.  Its many displays helped fill in the gaps in what I remember about the topic from the last half of the 20th Century.   And the museum took over the site of the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King was shot.  A very melancholy visit for sure, but worthwhile.

It was also the first time I have publicly admitted to anyone (specifically the ticket agent) that I was transgender and faced some of the same types of problems, and wanted to learn more about the past.  I'm not sure he had any idea what I was talking about, but he was very pleasant, handed me the ticket, and said "Well, Ma'am if you have any questions, ask one of the attendants."

The infamous Lorraine Motel, as it appears today:


I'm so glad the community saved it from demolition, and made it a part of the museum.  Two antique cars barely visible at the far end of the motel have vintage tags, and are permanent parts of the display.  Too bad the carbodies are beginning to rust...they do need some attention before they rust away!

Come nighttime, I took one last stroll to Beale Street, before catching the train north.  It was beginning to hum - there was more activity than I had previously noted.  And less ice...enough had melted that I didn't feel I had to walk like an Emperor Penguin...very carefully and deliberately. (But it was still COLD!)





Then, it was back toward the hotel,  stopping for a fast-food dinner on the way.  After a quick shower and packing for my departure, it was time to head for the train station.  As cold as it was, I couldn't shed the stirrup pants.   I kept my skirt on for boarding the City of New Orleans, figuring I could always change in the morning if weather improved.   But it didn't....

A quick hotel check out, and a cab ride from the hotel to the train station meant I was on my way....

More later,

Mandy


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Time for Nails...and shoes


A segue to "back home"...will continue with my narrative as soon as possible! (Still writing it...)

While catching up on the "honey-do" list from my recent excursion, and in between working on the final posts from it, I realized that my nails were in serious need of attention.   My foot had been jammed into a chair leg on the trip, and I bruised a couple of toe nails, which were becoming discolored.  And further damaged the cracked nail I have been dealing with for a long time.  Plus, my fingers were in desperate need of a fill...

First job was to get my toes done...  The tech confirmed that I had bruised the discolored toes, and suggested that she put a color on them.  I had showed my wife the issue before the appointment, suspecting that might be the proper approach.  And I told her to not be surprised if I come home with a color of some sort on my toes.  She didn't say anything...neither approval or disapproval.

My nail tech suggested a wine color or deep red, but I went "thumbs down."  Not that I wouldn't love to enjoy red nails for the foreseeable future, it's just that I could predict likely problems at home over it, particularly as spring approaches.  So the tech handed me a basket of their color samples...all sorts of colors.

Wow...now I was in heaven, just like a girl, trying to separate what I "should wear" - nondescript colors - from what "I'd love to wear"- reds, oranges, and wine colors.   So little time,, so many choices...while she worked on my feet.   But all too soon, she was done and it was time to "fish or cut bait."   They didn't have any opaque pinks which precisely matched my skin color.   So, my choice was easy...a light pink, which could be mistaken for white.   There were 3 different samples and she thought this covered the ailing nails the best.



So now, I will be sporting these noticeable toe nails for a while, and there were fortunately no issues at home.  Yet.  But it isn't sandal season.  Yet.  (I do have one pair of sandals which mostly coves my toes. In case of issues, those will be my safety valve.)   And the new color on my toes doesn't look all that much different from the translucent pink on my fingers.

I've tried on my high heels recently, and realized how tight they are, while my heels still slip out of the shoes with every step.  I can't wear them for more than an hour or so.  And that precludes taking them on any excursion where space is at a premium (i.e. most of them.)   The other day I ordered a pair of low heel pumps, hoping that finally I could end up with a pair of heels which could be worn for longer periods...and they finally arrived.

Following is what they look like:







Sorry about the black tights under the stirrup pants...but with the above two other pix, you can get the idea of what they look like.  (No, they're not loafers - despite the fact they look like it here.  I'll post more pix when I get the chance.)

I'm still wearing them around the house whenever my wife isn't here...the toe box is a bit tight, but the bright side is:  they stay on.  Though the jury is still out, I suspect they'll be a keeper...and my old high heels will go bye bye.  I don't have a lot of storage space!

Now back to work on the final trip episodes...

Mandy