Sunday, June 30, 2013

Quick update on my nails...

Just a quick update on my nails...

This is the way my hands look every day.  From the tips of my fingers to the end of all but three of my finger nails is 3/8", which is longer than they have ever been.  I absolutely love them...and the way they click on everything I touch, as well as on each other, whenever I move my fingers.  My hands feel (and I'm told, look) so professional, that I wouldn't want to wear them any other way!

Typing was never an issue with shorter versions of my nails.  But now that they're getting close to my nail tech's goal of 1/2,"  I've had to slow down and be much more careful, to avoid errors.  Opening pop top cans with my fingers is out of the question (I dig around in my purse to find something to help me.)  Picking things up from flat surfaces is difficult, and pushing buttons or operating touch screens has to be done with my knuckles.  By the end of the summer, I'll likely have reached her goal!

The girls haven't neglected my pedicure, either.  This is the silver that they picked for me.  It's iridescent, very subdued in some light, but more noticeable at times.  And when I showed up for my last fill wearing these sandals with my hand-me-down shorts, they suggested that I just wear them all summer, to show off my pedicure.

Next, how they look under one of my house dresses...

I reminded them that some days I wear nylons to aid my circulation.  "As long as they're sandalfoot nylons, without reinforced toes, you should be fine." So, I guess I'll be wearing sandals as much as possible...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The last lonely steam whistle?

If you don't like things mechanical, and things which no longer operate, this post most likely won't be "your cuppa tea."  At the time the pictures herein were taken, I hadn't yet begun to wear women's clothes every day - my attention was focused elsewhere, namely working.  In fact, had I been in a dress on this trip, my legs would have been exceedingly cold - AND, I would have been one of the few girls there! 

The topic of this blog is the East Broad Top Railroad, a central-Pennsylvania narrow gauge (3') hauler.  This railroad existed mainly to haul coal mined in the nearby Broad Top coal fields, to interchange with the PRR in Mt. Union, PA.

Its mainline was completed from Mt. Union, PA to Rockhill Furnace (Orbisonia Station) in August of 1873 and extended to Robertsdale PA by November, 1874. (Coincidentally, that was in the same time frame as  construction of its better-known 3 foot gauge counterpart, the Denver & Rio Grande, out west.)  The EBT was 33 miles long and (at its peak) the railroad had over 70 total miles of track.  Passenger service was discontinued in 1954 with the closing of the last coal mine, and the EBT operated in freight service until April 14, 1956, when it was unceremoniously shuttered. 

Subsequent to discontinuance of all its service, the EBT was purchased in its entirety by Kovalchick Salvage Company of Indiana, PA.  It was not immediately scrapped, and in 1960 KSC began limited passenger excursions.  Life continued for the EBT - with summer train rides and periodic extravaganzas, with the encouragement and support of KSC.

The following pictures, scanned from snapshots in my archives, were taken during one of those extravaganzas, a "Winter Spectacular" operated on February 16, 1980.  This afforded me a chance to both ride trains and "play trackside railfan." Mother Nature accommodated, by setting the scene with just a dusting of snow, not enough to make the long drive to and from into a death-defying hazard.

The first picture is from the platform at Orbisonia Station, of two steam powered trains still at the shop, awaiting dispatch.  Notice the tall smokestacks at the shop.  That was another highlight of any visit, You can see that there were quite a few guys taking pictures!

At Orbisonia Shops - East Broad Top Railroad, 2.16.1980

Then I ventured out on the main line to catch some narrow gauge steam in action...

EBT #17 on a photo freight near Colgate Grove, PA 2.16.80

EBT #12 turning at the Wye at Colgate Grove, 2.16.80

A very short train, powered by EBT's doodlebug M-1, trailing a caboose, 2.16.80.

And back to the shop for a tour...

 Inside the shop building, things appeared just as they were on April 14, 1956.  Notice the old Rail Road Crossing sign leaning against the wall in the upper right side of the picture.

The last "lonely steam whistle" may have already echoed in the Aughwick Valley...two years ago, in the fall/winter of 2011.  (You can get the flavor of EBT whistles on YouTube - here is the url: )   Unfortunately, it's been reported that the operating lease between KSC and the EBT's contract operator expired in early 2012, and terms of a new agreement have not yet been agreed upon, as of June 2013.   Thus, no public operations have been scheduled, or have occurred.   Facilities are reportedly being maintained by a skeleton staff and volunteers, and the railroad's future is cloudy.  There are reports that some of the EBT hopper cars, which have been rusting away on sidings, have been marketed for sale - hopefully for preservation.  And a preservation group would like to acquire the railroad...but that takes money.

For the time being,  the EBT remains authentic, down to its last detail. It provides a faithful portrait of narrow-gauge railroading from the first half of the 20th century, complete with original EBT locomotives, rolling stock, depots, shops, and round-house.

Keep your fingers crossed that this post can be updated at some point in the future with pleasant reports of service restoration. I would love to be in attendance for that!  Demise of the EBT would be a very sad event indeed.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Snake eyes..."

In preparation for this past week's round of severe weather here in Maryland, I went out on the elevated deck, stowed some furniture, dismantled the gas grill, turned it on its side to keep it low and lessen the tendency to blow around, and stowed all the bits and pieces inside.  Though many areas of Maryland had weather issues, fortunately things were ok here - well, except for some heavy rain.  

So, yesterday's project was to upright and reassemble the grill.

Much to my surprise, when I opened the top of the grill after putting it back upright, guess what was lurking inside?  A coiled-up, and turned-topsy-turvy (translation: rather uncomfortable-looking) 4-foot-long black snake, complete with beady, piercing eyes looking my way!  He was as genuinely surprised to see me, as I was to see him.  Needless to say, I had to figure out how to peaceably evict him and send him on his way.  I wouldn't hurt him, as black snakes keep rodents under control.  And that's a good thing, out here in the sticks, where I live.

With a goodly supply of mothballs and a lot of loud noise (yes, I admit, even a few four-letter words), I convinced him to start moving under his own power.   He slowly ambled out of the grill and dropped to the deck, then slithered away from me till about a third of his length was out over the edge of the deck (12 ft in the air, mind you).   At that point, just like Wile E Coyote in one of the many the Road Runner cartoons, he learned about the effect of Newton's law of gravity.  PLOP!  Down he went, into a big black lump on the grass 12' below the deck...   From where I stood, this definitely was hilarious, but he most likely failed to see any humor whatsoever in it.

Surviving the fall, and now out of imminent danger, the snake skulked off into the woods behind the house.  What ever possessed him to climb 12 feet up on the deck in the first place is beyond me, but I'm glad he's relocated now.  He can live very comfortably in the forest right beside/behind the's very you can see from the following sunrise picture - less than 20 feet.   And black snakes have been said to be better mousers than a cat.  

A snake's paradise - just a few feet behind the house!  Taken from the deck.

A year ago, I recall chasing away what might have been his father - a 6 foot long black snake, twice his diameter - which liked to call my front entry a suitable sunning spot.  That made him the official "welcoming committee" for any summer guests - I'll never know how many folks turned around and left after seeing this happily sunning itself by the front door... 

 My welcoming committee of one...

I excavated and filled in some big voids under the driveway and sidewalk, one of which may have been its den, since it contained unidentified rubbery eggs.  Then I surrounded the house (and saturated the area) with mothballs.  Within two weeks, there was no more evidence of the snake or its family.  But, as if to take its place, a family of field mice set up housekeeping in the garage. It took till late last fall (and a lot of mousetraps baited with peanut butter) to finally eradicate them.  As their numbers thinned, I'll never know if perhaps "son of black snake" was helping chase them away,  and I didn't even know it.

Just recently I've begun sunning myself on the deck. Wearing the summery short pink sleeveless dress shown below (which the better half regularly tells me she hates, even just around the house), I lay on a blanket on the deck, to try tanning my pale arms and legs.

Needless to say, I plan to get some kind of a cot or lounge chair before going back out.   No more "on the deck" sunning sessions for this girl. I don't need surprised with a snake head popping up through gaps in the deck floor, right in front of my nose  While snakes don't particularly scare me, that would be quite unsettling,  for both the snake and me!

My Sunbathing Outfit

Today's project was to stop by my friendly local auto parts store to get some replacement wiper blades for my car.  

The male clerk "miss-identified me," which always makes my day.  I had grabbed the wrong blades off the shelf, so he went back to select the right ones.  Secretly not wanting to damage my nails, at check out, I asked if he'd put them on my car.  "Sure will, Miss.  It's something we always do for the ladies."   After he finished, I thanked him profusely for saving my nails, and assured him that I'll now be one of their customers.  He blushed and said "Thanks, women always have such beautiful hands and nails, and we want to help them stay that way."

A wonderful gesture....and so do I!

Though summer is still officially not quite here yet, following is a local early September scene...sunflower fields, typically planted after the wheat harvest.   This was taken several years ago in the hills north of Baltimore, with thoughts of the forthcoming Autumn in mind.

September Maryland Sunflowers

Please enjoy...

Thursday, June 6, 2013

On The Road Again, or, "My Weekend of Many Firsts."

Last weekend was wonderful!

In “Yesterday Was A Phenomenal day” (3/28/13), I described my visit to the MAC counter at a metropolitan area shopping center near Baltimore, and my very favorable encounter with the MAC rep.  Buying some foundation to try in the process, I ratcheted up the courage to ask – and thus find out - that she would be willing to do a full female makeup application for me, at a future date to be determined, and surprisingly, I didn't blush, or even feel self-conscious.

Subsequently, I visited her again, confirmed that she still wanted to do it, and we exchanged personal email addresses so she and I could agree on a mutually good date and time, once her July work schedule comes out in June.  She also gave me a sample of another MAC product to try, which hopefully would provide even better beard coverage.  And since then, we’ve each sent and received emails so we don’t end up caught in each other’s spam filters…

Friday, I drove the antique back to Virginia for another show (different town than last time, though.)  Since my trip was solo, I stopped in at Payless to see about another pair of heels…and found a pair of patent slingback wedges for a reasonable price ($11.00 on sale.)  Needless to say, I bought them.  

Then I drove to my seamstress’s shop, because I needed to get the hem on the pair of "hand-me-down" shorts taken up a bit.  I haven’t visited her for over a year, and she thought I’d disappeared.  But that girl is one of my biggest (and longest-time) supporters.  

She was surprised and thrilled to see me walk in wearing my new heels, capris and a blouse.  I changed into the shorts, and she pinned them up for hemming - an inch shorter than I had planned, but "You need to show more leg, sweetie."  And when she finished, I took them off, changing to a feminine outfit I’d brought, in her dressing room.  She loved it…and didn't hesitate to tell me how much more comfortable and attractive I look as a woman, than I ever did as a man! (My femme side takes that as a huge compliment...and a fabulous reason to dress.)   Plus, she was glad to see I’m finally getting out and about in skirts.  She gave me care info for my outfit,  had me model it for her, and then showed me some improvements she can make in my skirt's fit, including turning up the hem about 3 inches, because once again "You need to show more leg".  And she generously offered to take my picture.  “You look so much more attractive and comfortable as a woman, that you should be dressing like this all the time!  Now go enjoy your day, girlfriend.”  It's so nice that she is very supportive!

Once I left the safety of her shop,  I knew I was "stuck" (I don't particularly care for that term, but it  applies in this situation) in female mode for the rest of the day.  and it was time to ‘go potty.’ I was clearly dressed as a female, even though I'd changed to flats. (I didn't want to end up changing my name to ‘Grace’ due to tripping on my heels...)  So I headed for a local restaurant I knew had “one holer” restrooms.  Even in just flats, the staff addressed me as female my whole visit.  Accordingly, I used the women’s room, with no issue.  While I’m far from confident in my ability to consistently do that, it was a "baby step" forward.

When it finally was time to check into my motel, my outfit was a non-issue.  I was addressed as female.  Since they didn’t ask for my driver's license, my little secret remained safe…

After unloading the car, I set up the tripod to get a couple outside pictures of me in my skirt and new heels.  The gentleman in the next room apparently noticed, because his drapes were open.  Actually, I think his wife saw me – since she was facing the window.  He offered to take one for me, and ended up taking several, for which I thanked him, and we looked to make sure they turned out OK.  You judge for yourself…..

Took an inside picture, just for kicks.  And the light and flash sure changed the colors...

Before dinner, I applied new sample makeup the MAC rep provided, and went out for dinner wearing it.  Finally I was becoming more confident with this new product, which covered my beard pretty well. But apparently the waitstaff apparently wasn’t overly impressed…they simply omitted pronouns!  Bright side of that was – I didn’t hear the dreaded “S” word at all.  That’s always a good thing.

For the car show tomorrow, I’ve finally decided to wear a skort….along with some kind of a feminine top,  and a pair of sandals to show off my pedicure (still only silver, but "it is what it is.")  That should be a cool outfit for a hot day – expecting the low nineties.   I'm not exactly sure about how I’ll handle the restroom situation, but one thing is certain: I’ll have to deal with it at some point.  And I'll worry about it then...

Saturday morning, I decided to wear a short sleeve feminine knit blouse with my skort – a definite all-day-first for me at a car show - or anywhere.  I accessorized with clip-on earrings (ouch), a necklace (Mom’s) and a copper bracelet hand-made by my grandfather back In the 1940’s.  Wearing those items all day was also a major first for me, but hopefully I'll get lots of other chances. My lightweight blouse was lots thinner and cooler than the cotton sleeveless top I had originally planned, and I really enjoyed wearing it in public. 

My adventure began at breakfast.  The old geezer they had working the breakfast shift in the restaurant was “Mr. Personality.”  What a way to be in the morning – grumpy.  At least he omitted pronouns and didn’t call me “Sir,” which surprised me, as brusque as he was with everybody…. 

When I arrived at the show’s registration, I showed them the acknowledgement letter they sent me, addressed to "Ms. Sherman."  So I became “Ma’am.”  And many times during the day, I was addressed as “Miss” and referred to as “she.”  Such as “Wow, this car used to belong to her father…”  And the owners of the surrounding cars didn’t have any problems chatting with/sitting by me.  And though I wasn't wasting my time looking to see who stared at me, people walking by seemed to pay no more attention to me than they did to the woman I was sitting with, talking.  We both got "hi" and mutual pleasantries. So I guess momentum was in my favor.  And sitting there talking with a genetic girl is always helpful.

At lunch I visited one of the local bookstores which had a coffee bar and light pre-prepared foods, where I bought a light lunch.   When asked about a restroom, they directed me to the ladies’ room,  which fortunately was a “one-holer.”  Baby steps again, in that regard!

Since I prefer wearing skirts, I really should get a skort that looks like a skirt "all the way around", for future car shows (so I don’t have to worry about showing my undies when I clean the tires or wax lower edges of the car.But what would probably be even more fun than that, is a floaty sun dress or a long, gauzy summer skirt and a pair of strappy, skimpy sandals, like a lot of the other girls were wearing.  They looked so feminine and comfortable, gliding by and showing off their hot pink pedicures, that I truly was envious. Gotta put an outfit like that in my plan…

There was no surprise in "not" winning a trophy…this was not one of those shows where quality rises to the top.  There were 3 trophies in each class, but mine was a huge class of really, REALLY pretty cars.  It was crowded at "the top," since that's where we all were, quality-wise.  And the judges had their hands full.  (I’m just glad I didn’t have to judge!) 

But, as you might have already deduced, competition for a trophy wasn’t my motivation for attending…not in any way, shape or form.  To quote Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a d**n!"  By the time I arrived on the show field, I had already accomplished my weekend goal - namely, to attend my first car show en-femme.  Admittedly I'd chosen the show carefully, to minimize the risk of encountering people I know (only ran into one, whom I met at the previous Virginia show.  After seeing me at this one, he said he hopes "to see you at next year's show, Miss").   Something else I discovered was that I'd really enjoy wearing a dress to a car show, at some point.  I'm hopeful that I can make it happen sometime this year...but one never knows.

Afterward, another quick shower and shave (to wash the day's perspiration off), with re-application of makeup, then back to the restaurant for dinner.  Same waitstaff as the night before…and this time I was “sweetie” the whole time I was there.  That’s quite OK – particularly when you’re wearing a skirt and blouse!  But no pictures...   At the show, it wasn't convenient to set up the tripod or ask someone to take them for me.   And I certainly wasn't interested in asking the 2 twentysomething males who were also having dinner at the same time as me (and who seemed to be checking me out when they walked in), for obvious reasons.  I was crossing my fingers under the table and praying that they wouldn't ask if they could join me...  My prayers were answered: they didn't!

After dinner, I headed back to my room to wrap things up for the day and pack for departure in the morning.  I was planning to head back early, as the recently-rebuilt carburetor and choke had started acting up big-time.  You youngsters may not know about those finicky contraptions, since modern cars are all fuel-injected.  But trust me, they are an antique pain.

So, Sunday morning I decided to put on my most masculine outfit for the trip home, in case of car trouble, but discovered that I hadn't included any stirrup pants, just a clean pair of capri leggings and my skirts and blouses.   So, white pedal pusher leggings over nude pantyhose, solid red sleeveless blouse, and ballerinas comprised the "pants outfit" I'd wear home.  (Very comfortable, yes indeed! Masculine?  Not so much!)   I was on the way home by about 6AM.  This allowed me to be able to bypass DC on Interstates 95 and 495 before traffic became an issue...and I arrived home safely, even with a poorly-running car.  Now to get the car fixed, and figure out when the next car show will be...and where!

When I arrived home, I discovered that there was a cruise-in (informal car show with no trophies or awards) being held nearby.  That was fun for an hour or so, and I met a number of folks I know.    Those who knew me, knew my gender.  But several attendees didn't.  And while in conversations with friends, occasionally I would overhear a reference to "it's her car" from someone, with a point in my direction.  Nice to know the new makeup still works well...even after about 9-1/2 hours and a long car drive without air conditioning (which I left off intentionally.).

My biggest concern (beyond the restroom issue) is wearing heels.  I need lots more practice around the house before wearing either the wedges or heels out to dinner, or for the day.  But at the cruise-in, I watched a genetic girl managing a pair of wedges almost like mine.  She was a bit wobbly, too.  So perhaps that's normal, and I'm not far off track?

That's about all for now...I leave you with the following, which is a phrase we can hope none of us ever hear - from spouses, employers or friends:

Monday, June 3, 2013

Surprise! A new dental hygienist...

Today was my appointment for getting my teeth cleaned.

To set the scene for you, I wore capri pants over my pantyhose, a women's long polo tunic and my ballerinas.  I was wearing the last of the sample MAC makeup and my usual lipstick.  (Bear in mind, my given name is now used almost exclusively by girls.)  When I arrived, I found that the dental office has had a big personnel turnover.  None of the office staff, and none of the dental staff (except the dentist who owns the place) knows me as a guy.

The fun started when the receptionist asked my name, which I gave her, in my regular voice, which I softened just a bit.  "Let me get your records, Ms. Sherman."  Obviously, she didn't look up my gender, because, when she got them, she said "Ms Sherman, have a seat and we'll be calling you shortly."  I ducked into the ladies' room, and when I got out, the receptionist saw me and said "Oh, Miss (insert my real first name here) we're ready for you."  She got me seated and told me Ms. (insert new hygienist's name here) will be in shortly.  Within a couple of minutes the hygienist entered, and introduced herself.

The cleaning was quite routine, but I noticed she was dabbing at water splashes around my mouth to dry them, rather than wiping, as the old (male) hygienist used to do.  I thanked her for doing it that way.  She said she was being as careful as possible of my makeup - she didn't want to mess it up.  After she was done, she dabbed off the enamel polishing abrasive bits from my lips but said "You're going to need to reapply your lipstick, sweetie.  After cleaning you up, there's not much left!"  I told her "No problem...when I get back in the car, I'll reapply it.  Thanks for saving my makeup, though - it's more work to get it fixed right, when I'm not at home."  Her reply was "I totally agree with you, Miss (insert my real first name here).  You might want to wear long-lasting lipstick, though.  Girls who wear it don't lose their lipstick when I clean them up."  "Great suggestion, thanks!"  "OK,  Miss  (insert my real first name here), you can go out to the counter and I'll bring your file in a minute.

And the girls at the desk also addressed me as Miss.   I guess people generally treat you as the gender they can see...even if the voice is a bit "off." And, it's wonderful to not hear the dreaded "Sir"!