Friday, August 23, 2013

Buskers and More Ferroequinology

Another quickie today.

I've been thinking about Marian's recent post regarding NYC street performers (or per Wikipedia, buskers), and their major difference from run-of-the-mill beggars, such as those often found on street corners in big cities (like Baltimore.)  Unlike begging, busking could be called the entry level for show business...and there are darn good videos of street performers currently visible on YouTube.  Check them out, some are really magnificent. 

FWIW, there is a subway in Baltimore, but I haven't tried that. So I can't speak for the presence (or absence) of either category. But I'd bet they are down there in the stations, though...

I can recall an interesting interaction with a beggar in Baltimore - back in the early-to-mid 2000's,  I was downtown attending a convention, but was dressed in stirrup pants, women's loafers and shirt, with my long hair, and carrying a purse.  Just before noon on a weekday,  as I walked alone in the direction of the light rail (trolley), a man moved in, six or seven steps behind me.  Looking in a store window as I walked, I could see him, scruffy and disheveled-looking.

Danger bells were ringing in my head as I heard  "Excuse me Ma'am."  I kept walking, at a bit faster pace.  And he kept up with me.  "Ma'am?"  "Ma'am, can I talk with you?"  (Bear in mind this was 7 or 8 years ago, before "cold steel" and other more powerful weapons were quite as common as they are today).  Noting that he would soon be within arm's reach, and with no shops in close proximity, I decided to deal with the situation.

Stopping abruptly, I whirled around to face him as I put my hands on my hips, and in my VERY best  and authoritative male voice told him to "Just go away and find someone else to bother."  The element of surprise startled him.  He looked at me, speechless, and slithered away (much to my relief.)  Needless to say, I wouldn't choose that course of action today - I'd run if necessary, to duck into a store for safety. (A good reason to wear sensible shoes.)  But more importantly, nowadays I just don't spend much time downtown...

Things continue to be busy here, so there is only enough time to post a few off-topic pix.  Hopefully at least some of you will find them interesting.

First up is Western Maryland Scenic Railway's #734 simmering in the November late afternoon sun at Frostburg, MD, back in 2005.  A beautiful day to ride the the turnout indicates.

Next is a November sunset scene, as the now-empty excursion train is backed across the bridge to the shop in WV for the night...

Following is ex-Reading T-1 #2101 on 5/30/77, in Chessie Steam Special livery, at the Connellsville, PA station on the former B & O mainline from Washington DC to Pittsburgh, PA.  The station was bulldozed in the late 20th century, and all that was left last time I checked it out (from the train, several years ago) was an "Am-shack."  (Though I understand nicer digs have been recently built.) Regarding the steam engine: it still exists, but as a static display at the B&O Museum in Baltimore.  Unfortunately, it was damaged by fire in February 1979 while stored in the Silver Grove, KY, roundhouse. Cosmetically restored as American Freedom Train #1 (but badly in need of another overhaul), at least it wasn't scrapped!

Following is a picture of a northbound Metroliner, Amtrak's early entry into the high-speed race on the Northeast Corridor.  Metroliners were self-propelled, electric-powered multiple-unit mainline passenger equipment, with a very high top speed.  This was taken on 11/25/1973 at the Iron Hill grade crossing, which I'm told has been removed,  and replaced by an overpass.  The telephoto lens put the foreground "out of focus," to allow attention to be centered on the Metroliner.

So you think you had a bad day, sweetie?  Imagine having to call the boss about a little OOPS like the following! 

Sometimes even a 10 mph speed limit on a seldom-used branch line in western Pennsylvania is far too high.   Flangeways in the grade crossing behind the engine had frozen over from repeated road salt applications and freeze-thaw cycles during a snowy bitter cold snap at the end of February/beginning of March 1977.  This caused the locomotive's flanged wheels to ride up on the built-up ice and drive right off the rails, directly into a ditch.  The locomotive sat there unattended and idling for two days (so it didn't freeze up), till the wreck crew could get in to re-rail and remove it.  Fortunately, no cars derailed (they were retrieved from the scene shortly after the derailment), the grade crossing was not blocked, nobody was hurt, and no damage was done (except to the locomotive, track, and the engineer's pride.)  

Happy Motoring...

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Finally, time for a quickie...

Finally time for a quickie, after the many stressful issues I've been facing at home since returning from my July excursion (not related to my attire.)  I guess you could say that much of what follows constitutes:

The silver lining which exists inside every cloud.  I keep reminding myself of that...especially during cloudbursts!

Last Saturday, my female friend (the staffer at the nursing home) and I ran into each other in the parking lot...I was leaving and she was arriving.  She stopped me to chat a bit, and I felt I was being accepted as a woman, even though I wasn't wearing makeup or a dress!  She commented on lack of makeup, and I pointed out that I had to get going early to get a she checked out my feet (I was in sandals) and loved it...even though it was just silver color.  Then she noticed the fresh fill on my pink-and-white acrylic fingernails. She said that on Monday, she hopes she'll see me in a nice, comfortable outfit of sandals, capri pants, a sleeveless top,  AND be wearing makeup, including lipstick.  

I didn't disappoint her...that IS a comfortable way to dress!

Thursday (dressed as above once again), upon hearing that Mother is able to be moved to a room in a different wing at the nursing home, I went to look at it.  It looks OK to me, but whether she will like it or not is another issue.  Knowing her, probably not...

And on Friday, she didn't. For many various reasons, some valid, some rational, most not.  In response, they will soon have a room available on her wing, so they will ultimately relocate her there.  That will eliminate the trauma of getting used to new attendants and nurses (something a 90 year old with cognitive issues and memory problems doesn't really need.)

In the process of Friday's business, I ran into a 60-ish lady resident I recognize, who I've briefly spoken with in the hall, and who lives in the unit they "were" going to move Mother to.. She  addressed me by first name, which was a complete surprise...I hadn't been introduced to her before. Guess folks are aware of me...that can be good - or bad!  (In any event, recall that my given name is one mostly used by girls nowadays.)  Seems this resident is a very nice lady.

After talking about various issues for a couple of minutes, she asked me in a matter-of-fact manner "are you a boy or a girl?'  After a short reaction time, where several possible responses flitted around in my mind, I answered simply "A boy, with long hair and acrylic nails"  She didn't show any surprise, or disappointment.  And with that info, we went on to talk as before, for another couple of minutes.  I wonder how long she has been waiting for an opportunity to learn that bit of info?

I debated asking "Which would you like me to be?" or "I answer to both,' or adding "who looks like a girl" to my description, but thought better of it. Mother still refers to me as her son, regardless of how girly I look, and staff knows my true gender.  However, it was an interesting question, and an straightforward "presentation" of it.  We'll see if it leads many of the residents to change their way of addressing me (most often, it's as a female.)

Now today (Saturday) I was exploring the hall in the vicinity of the upcoming room at the nursing home, wearing shorts over pantyhose, flats and a feminine polo tunic, while carrying my purse.  One of the elderly female residents in a wheelchair (not one I have spoken with previously) motioned for me to come over to the gathering area where she was sitting.  "Honey, I've been trying to get the courage to ask you for a while, so I'm finally going to just do it.  You have such beautiful legs, so nice and smooth looking!  And your nails...perfect1"  "Wow, thank you very much, Ma'am.  I'm glad you think so!" Her response: "Do you shave your legs?"  "Yes, Ma'am, they need it."  "I just wish my legs looked half that nice...if they did, I'd wear skirts every day."  I said "But you look very pretty just the way you are, Ma'am!"  Her reply: "Thank you, honey.  But so few girls wear skirts here, that one of these days, I hope YOU will wear one, just for US old folks."  "Wow, I appreciate your encouragement, Ma'am...I normally don't wear them.  But we'll see!"  Then the nurse I needed to speak with appeared, and the conversation ended, of necessity. 

I wonder if they'll be having a Halloween party??

Friday, August 9, 2013

More Pix from July, Nails, and "Cars of our Youth!"

Things have been rather busy on this end, and I haven't even had time for a "quick post"in quite a while.  So I'll take the time to do one now...   First are a couple of miscellaneous pictures from July's big excursion, which I haven't previously published.

And. what is it with girls and things mechanical?  From reading other blogs and some comments on mine,  I'm obviously not the only one here with this "affliction"!

 Mandy at another Maryland aviation museum...taken while wearing my new makeup.  Trust me, it was hot, and the makeup passed a test.

New makeup after sightseeing in the afternoon heat.  Everything except lipstick survived! Now I need some long wearing lipstick...

Annother picture of Mandy inside the National Electronics Museum, near Baltimore.

Below are a couple of pictures of "cars of our youth," which I was privileged to own.  Do they bring back any memories for you?  More importantly, do you even remember them?

First up is an import from the UK...via Chrysler Corp.  You may recognize a white 1967 four cylinder, 1725 cc Rootes Group Sunbeam Alpine convertible.  I purchased it new in spring 1967 and it is pictured at the "then" California State College at Hayward, CA (now California State University.)

I was almost 19 at the time...this was my first car.  It was equipped with a four-speed manual transmission.  When I took delivery, I got right in and drove it...only stalling it on the first two low-to-second shifts, till I got the feel of the clutch.  I surprised both myself, and my father!  (Watching him drive a "three-on-the-tree" standard shift Buick as a kid undoubtedly was a big help...)

Having a classic British sports car to cruise through the turns around Lake Chabot near San Leandro, with the wind in my hair (which back then was rather short, I might add) was a true pleasure!  A few speed laws may have unintentionally been disobeyed from time to time in the process, but remember, there was a lot less traffic back in those days (and no radar/Vascar/speed camera/helicopter surveillance.)  It got fabulous gas mileage, nearly 30 mpg, though it did require premium gas.  Remember, that was back in the days of cheap premium (like 30-something cents per gallon.)  In those prehistoric times (almost as far back as Fred Flintstone), you could drive all weekend on a couple of dollars of gas.  Nowadays, that amount won't get you very far - be prepared to walk!

In hindsight, I've two regrets about this car: first, getting rid of it - though at the time it looked like a good idea because reliability was a big issue, and second, that it wasn't one of Sunbeam's Tigers, powered by Ford's 260 cubic inch V-8.  Today either one in good shape would be a true collectible. But a Tiger wasn't in the cards, due to high purchase cost.

1967 Sunbeam Alpine 4 cylinder...taken in California.  The one behind it is rather rare, too - a 60's VW Beetle.

Segue to the 1970's, the OPEC oil crisis, and odd-even gas rationing.  The Alpine was history, and  I now needed an economical car to commute to and from work.  My constraints were relatively few compared to today's car-shopping "laundry list":  power steering, liquid cooled engine and hot water heater (after nearly being asphyxiated by the gasoline heater in a Corvair), air conditioning, 20 gallon gas tank, and most importantly, economical.  Manual transmission was acceptable (but in retrospect, that ended up being the last car I'd buy with one!)

Enter one of the ugliest cute cars in the world...the AMC Gremlin. After a friend joked about having a very economical sexy-looking Italian 2-seat sports car, which hadn't needed filled up for over two months, he had my full attention.  At least until he revealed the rest of that had been laid up in the shop the whole time...waiting on parts to arrive from Italy.  So much for that idea!  

Buying American seemed my best choice, since access to a dealer network and parts availability were both important to me.  American Motors was there.  I had to order the Gremlin, complete with "three on the floor," air conditioning, and standard equipment "dog dish" hubcaps, plus pay a premium to get it.  At the time, 6 cylinder cars were sought-after and never reached the showroom floor...they were very scarce during the gas crisis.  Dealers could "call all the shots" and practically name their price. 

Homely as a mud fence after a rainstorm, but in a lovable sort of way, best describes it.  Contrary to popular belief, it wasn't a bad car.  The critter did everything I asked of it, in an acceptable manner, never got stuck in the snow,  didn't rust, and never let me down on the road in the 3-1/2 years I owned it.  Its gas economy was lower than the Alpine, down in the mid 20's, but it seated 4 instead of 2,  carried more luggage, was smoother riding, and was immensely more comfortable for long distance travels.  Its biggest fault was that the clutch pedal squeaked when you pushed it.  From the first day I owned the last, nobody was ever able to correct that!

1974 Gremlin 258 cubic inch 6 cylinder, 3 speed manual, with air conditioning, and a huge gas tank for a small car, giving it an range on the order of 500 miles.

Although many more of both were built than my current antique car, almost nobody (including yours truly) deemed either as "worthy of being saved."   Thus, you rarely see them at car shows.  How wrong we were to think both qualify as rare cars, and as "orphans" whose manufacturers have folded.  If only...

Now for some things  a bit more on topic:

I mentioned in a previous blog that a staffer at Mom's nursing home has become comfortable discussing makeup with me....and we occasionally take a couple minutes to chat about it.  Earlier this week, I was at the receptionist's desk in the lobby (wearing capris, flats, a sleeveless top and carrying my purse.)  One of the fill-in receptionists was there and I had previously met her (we're both the same approximate age.)  After I made Mother's next hair appointment with her, she handed me the paperwork.  I couldn't help but notice her nails...gorgeous, with lovely nail art.

Almost as a reflex action, I blurted out, "Oh my gosh..your nails are absolutely beautiful!  Where did you get them done?"  She instinctively put her hands up on top of mine on the counter, so I could get a better look...   I started blushing, because I realized what I had just said - in front of, and heard by, five folks in the lobby.  But what was done, was done, and it was too late to worry.  So I took hold of her hands, to check her fingers out "up close."  They were a delightfully smooth work of art, having been done the day before, by a friend who is a nail tech.  (She's become the Tech's "guinea pig" for all her new procedures and patterns.)

Of course, the receptionist reciprocated with my pink-and-whites (which unfortunately were due for a fill) and admired them appropriately.  "You have beautiful nails, doll baby, and the pink-and-white style is perfect for you - feminine but not 'over the top.'  Just don't let your nail girl cut any off - they'll be particularly stunning once they're more than a half inch past your fingertips.  And at that length, you can experiment with wearing red nail polish over top of your acrylics, since it's a good color for you."   She said that in the future, whenever she has her nails done, she'll come find me, so that we can check out each other's nails.  I told her I'd really enjoy that!  Hopefully she'll be discreet, but after my outburst in front of folks in the lobby, I guess I'm becoming more comfortable discussing girl "it will be what it will be"...and I'll deal with it.

Yesterday it was time for my own visit to the nail salon, for a fill.  Judy did an extra-special prep on my nails, but didn't shorten them at all.  I said nothing at that point.  As she was applying white acrylic to the ends of my nails (once it was too late to shorten them), I finally asked her about it.  Her response was "Remember that I had to shorten them more than usual last time, sweetie?   For the next few fills, I won't be shortening them at all.  So you'll soon start getting acquainted with having long nails." 

"Maybe then I'll decide to put acrylic nail art on each thumb and ring finger.  If I do, you'll be amazed at how much more feminine your hands will look.  And the best part is, girls generally notice - and love to check out - each others' nail art. Impossible to hide, it's a great conversation starter!"

I thought she had forgotten about making them long...apparently not.  Typing got so much easier after she shortened them, but every day now it's getting tougher's all downhill from here, I guess.  And I can only hope she'll forget about the nail art thing...but we'll see.

Tomorrow I go in for a new shellac should go well, since I've had them before.