Wednesday, November 27, 2013

A quickie: Tis the season...

To wish each of my old well as the new ones I haven't met yet, a happy Holiday Season.   Regardless of the way you dress, what your religion, beliefs, or country of residence may be, or the specific holidays you celebrate - may peace and friendship find and be with you!


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Shoe Shopping Saga Update

My shipment containing two new pair of shoes from the website arrived yesterday...and the winner is this style of flat called "Recent Duchess" by Clarks.  I did a quick photo shoot while the better half, who knows I bought them, was visiting the grocery store, so I could post some pictures of  them on here as quickly as possible.

The above 3 pictures are my new purchase from Clarks, and I plan to start wearing them tomorrow, just in case they need to be "broken in."

The better half was OK with them.  She relayed that they're definitely cute, and they look like they fit well - no gapping.  Girls are wearing "somewhat pointed toes" right now, and the accents on the vamp are plainly feminine, so "you're going to look even more like a girl than you already do.  Most folks on our trips to Cape Cod and Delaware mistook us for two women.  But I'm just thankful you didn't buy those Mary Janes you tried on in Delaware...they really were over the top in femininity."

Unfortunately, the second pair I mail ordered, in a different style (called Concert Choir) but the same size (12), did not fit at all.  Much too big.  Such is life...they go back.

But I'll definitely make sure that the following pair of Mary Janes:

is under wraps for a long time to come!!!  From Payless, they're the Kimmie style, and I can wear them for over 6 hours with no problems...definitely a keeper!

So, for those of us gals equipped with size 12 feet, all is not lost.  It's been a long-running, and sometimes discouraging, effort.  But let me assure you that shoes which fit can be found.  And not always at Payless...

Friday, November 15, 2013

Shoe Shopping Saga

This round of shoe-shopping started when a pair of my everyday ballerina flats developed big holes in the one-piece soles/heels during our vacation.  I realized there was a problem when I started noticing small stones in the carpets, and hearing clicking from my rubber heels on the kitchen floor.  I removed quite a handful of stones from each shoe before realizing that they had basically hollow heels which "wore open", and were full of stones.  My shoe repair shop confirmed that the one piece bottoms can't be replaced.

So my quest to find a new pair began at the outlets in Delaware, with the better half's initial concurrence.    As I mentioned in my previous post, there were no least until after she entered the Naturalizer store looking for me, and found me sporting a pair of really cute Mary Jane flats.   The sales woman was addressing me and treating me just like "one of the girls," bringing me other shoes to try on.  The better half stayed there with me, like a girlfriend would, but I suspect it was to hurry me up, not out of encouragement for her "girlfriend."   I left there with no new shoes, even though the Mary Janes were cute as a button.  They just didn't fit well enough to justify a price tag with three digits to the left of the decimal point.  And the better half reminded me that she didn't like the fact I wear womens' shoes, let alone Mary Janes.

Then she took off shopping on her own again, while I tried two other nearby shoe stores.  (For her, Christmas shops are irresistable.)  My luck at the shoe stores was nil - due once again to the size 12 issue, though I had also started trying size 11's as well, at the suggestion of the Naturalizer clerk.  The better half found things to buy...I didn't.

Then last Wednesday, an old friend who left my company about 5 years ago, and moved south, was in town. I joined him (and a third party, our former supervisor, now retired) for lunch in Baltimore.  We had a wonderful time talking about "the good old days!"  I was as masculine as possible (not very...) and nothing was said about my attire.  But I know my friend noticed (the supervisor has seen me before.)  Not sure where that will lead...since we don't visit much any more.  But on the way home, I stopped at a couple more womens' shoe stores that I drove by.  While they both had some really cute flats, that I'd wear in a heartbeat.,.such as:

...there were no size 12's (or 11's, either).   And my luck with mail order has been considerably less than 30 percent - requiring strict adherence to buying only from sites with free shipping and return shipping.  Thus my concentration on finding shoes locally...

The next day, I had some errands to run after visiting Mother at the nursing home.  My better half apparently had mellowed regarding my preference for womens' shoes...she reminded me of two shoe stores near Mom's.  I hadn't even known that they existed!   The first store was a waste of time, as usual.   But the second, may have been a good find...they had one pair of this cute style in stock, size 11:

I like it...should be perfect with skirts or dresses, but also look OK with jeans and capri pants.  They're a bit snug, but I bought them anyway - since the pair was over $30 less than on the website. Strangely, the better half is OK with them as well.   Subsequently I ordered a size 12 in this style and a size 12 flat in another style from the manufacturer's website...with a 20% discount from a coupon. 

If any one of the 3 pairs fit best, they will become my newest shoes.  The others will be returned...  I'll update once things are settled...

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"It" happened. And, "I'd rather be wearing a skirt!"

Recently, we received a letter from one of our "hotel card" accounts that our points (enough for one free room night) would expire during November.  So we took a mid-week jaunt to Delaware to use the room, before we lose it.  Why give them back a "free night?"

First stop was Lewes.  There is so much history we didn't know about this area.

In 1609, Henry Hudson sailed into the Delaware Bay in search for a Northwest Passage to China. His voyages contributed to the establishment of European colonies in North America. One of these, called New Netherland, was established by the Dutch. New Netherland included present day New York, New Jersey, and Delaware. The Delaware River, known as the South River in the seventeenth century, formed the southern boundary of New Netherland.

The area was permanently settled by the Dutch in 1658 when they set up a new trading post called Sekonnessinck. Another colony was established by a group of Mennonites under Peter Cornelis Plockhoy in 1663. The Plockhoy Colony was destroyed by the English a year later.  The Dutch reclaimed the area in 1673, but just six months later surrendered it back to the English for good. The territory which is now Delaware was conveyed to William Penn in 1682. including the town named Zwaanendael or Swaanendael. It was built in 1631. The name is archaic Dutch for "swan valley." The site of the settlement later became the town of Lewes, Delaware, named such by William Penn, in honor of a town by that name in Sussex County, England.

Zwaanendael History Museum, in Lewes, built in 1931 in a style reminiscent of Dutch architecture.

Second stop was at Fenwick Island, Delaware, the barrier island on which Rehoboth and Bethany Beach are located.  The island protects the mainland coast from storms, and contains the Fenwick Island light with its two "keepers' houses," one for the keeper and one for the assistant.  (Both are now private residences.)   The light is 87 feet tall, brick, with a central cast iron spiral staircase, equipped with a third-order Fresnel lens, and was built on what was then a field, the highest point on the island.  It was automated in 1940, decommissioned in 1978 after much area growth (putting it in a residential area), and dark for several years.

A public movement to save the lighthouse resulted in ownership of the lighthouse being transferred to the State of Delaware, and the lighthouse was relit in 1982. In 1997,  the rapidly aging lighthouse underwent a full restoration and was rededicated in July 1998.

Fenwick Island Light

From there, we went to our hotel, checked in, and started our shopping expedition at some of the outlet stores within walking distance.  While we were shopping, the better half knew I was searching for a new pair of ballerina flats, since our vacation chewed up one pair pretty badly.  She handled it well, at least initially.

Our delicious dinner was at an Outback steak house, where the staff addressed us as "ladies" throughout our meal.  This netted the female server a nice tip.  When we finished up, we returned to the shopping routine.  Every place we shopped, including women's shoe stores, I was addressed as a female.

The better half commented to me that she wished her husband wasn't buying womens' shoes.  This backpedaling began right after she came into the Naturalizer store looking for me, and I was walking around in a pair of really cute Mary Jane flats.   The sales woman was treating me just like "one of the girls," bringing me other shoes to try on.  The better half stayed there with me, like a girlfriend would, but I suspect it was to try to hurry me up, not out of encouragement for her "girlfriend."  At least she didn't play the "husband" card.  She probably figured doing that would have embarrassed herself - and the clerk - much more than me!  (And if she was having trouble with my wearing Mary Janes,  it certainly doesn't give me a warm, fuzzy feeling about her eventually seeing me fully dressed, say in a skirt, top, and heels.  But that's a concern for another day...the present was too much fun!)

I really, REALLY wanted to buy some shoes from that sales woman, because she worked hard on my behalf, but I can't justify paying big dollars for something that's not right...none fit well enough to take home.  That size 12 curse was with me - again.  And as it turned out, the better half ended up being the successful shopper that day.

Next day's trip home was quite uneventful, after being addressed as "ladies" by the hotel staff at breakfast and check out...but no comment from the better half.

Just a few days later, Mandy was out and about again, alone for a couple days "across the bridge" in Baltimore, running errands en-femme the first day, with a rail yard tour the second.  I applied my makeup at home (minus blusher and eye shadow...) as I now do with some regularity.  Once I drove away through the cornfields, I slipped into a skirt and out of my stirrup pants right there in the car, and put on Mary Jane heels, earrings, engagement ring and lipstick.  I recall thinking to myself, "Wow, that feels more natural!"

My first two stops were a couple of stores.   At the membership-only big box place, I was to be added to the better half's membership, so in the future, I can shop there alone - I end up soloing across the bridge several times a year.  It took me a while to convince the store to actually do it (not sure what their problem was), but since I had an invitation form from the chain, and had brought the better half's card along, finally they signed me up, and addressed me as female. The pic they put on my card appropriately appears to be that of a female.

Second store visit was a normal store visit for a lady...the pharmacy.  No issues whatsoever.   I followed that up with lunch at Subway, where I felt confident enough to use the ladies' room.  It would have looked and felt funny to use the men's room while wearing a skirt.  And it didn't stir up any reaction from the kids eating nearby, which was a pleasant surprise.

Then it was off to the Baltimore Museum of Industry, a wonderful representation of industry in Baltimore, from just before the industrial revolution to the present.  Because it's located on the waterfront, skyline views from their docks are commanding - as you can see from my pic below.

As I was preparing to leave the museum, I decided I'd better use the restroom.  Judging from the number of men making that same decision (a private party was gathering at the venue, and guys were all "going" before it started), I felt it would be less disruptive for everyone, if I simply used the women's room.  No need to risk arguments with guys about using the "wrong restroom."

Good choice...the women's room was empty when I went in.  Right after I locked my stall door, two women came in, and occupied stalls further down the row.  As I sat there, I thought to myself "Welcome to the ways of a woman!"  Taking my time, I progressed slowly (there were several layers of clothes over and under my skirt). The girls finished up, washed their hands and left, while I was still adjusting my layers in the stall.  It was my first day ever, to use only women's rooms, hopefully the first of many such days!  But I cheerfully admit to breathing a silent sigh of relief when I exited without issues - alarm bells didn't ring, security didn't haul me away, the police didn't chase me, nor did the world stop turning.

Mandy on the waterfront at Baltimore's Museum of Industry

The soda fountain display at BMI.

From the front yard of the museum...

After finishing up, I drove around the corner and down the street a mile or so, to Fort McHenry.  The winter sun angle (quite low in the sky), cast a very photogenic light on the Fort.  Unfortunately the wind was so strong that it made my little tripod unstable, precluding selfies, and it pushed my skirt between my legs, so my skirt looked like rather "strange-looking shorts."  I took a couple pix just to make sure, but none were usable...darn.

The girl in the walkway is not me.  But she was attractive - I can only hope that someday, I'll look that nice!

Hand-held Fort pics were all well and good, but shadows were getting long, and the temperature was now falling as sunset approached.  My legs were fine because of my tights, but my jacket was too thin, and I was getting chilly.  So I hiked back to the car and set off for the motel...where I freshened up my makeup, and headed for dinner. 

With a bunch of events in the Baltimore and Annapolis areas at that time, there were lines at just about every decent restaurant (and I was not in the mood for belly-blaster-burgers.)  The recession is definitely over - people are out spending money!  So I headed for a little place I knew about from the good old days, a hole-in-the-wall in a shopping mall.

And this is when "It" occurred.  I knew "It" was bound to happen some day, but truly never dreamed "some day" would be "today!"   The hostess seated me quickly, and I was busy concentrating on my dinner choices from the menu.  And, guess who walked by my booth?  That's right, none other than our current next-door neighbor!  He (or maybe it was his wife, who was still back at their table) recognized me, and he spoke my name as he passed.  What a total surprise (maybe shock is a more appropriate word - remember, this was some 60+ miles from our current home!)  Not exactly where you would expect to run into a neighbor, who just 3 weeks before, had been laid up in the hospital for surgery. And by now it was well after dark, meaning they still had a long drive home...

Fortunately, the restaurant was dimly lit,  and as he paused to talk, neither my skirt nor earrings were plainly visible - particularly to an unobservant male.  My head was turned, so the nearest earring was hidden under my hair.  He couldn't see the other side of my face since I was seated in a booth, rather than at a table and my bracelet was hidden under the sleeve of my sweater.  My nails and necklace were visible, of course, but that's nothing new.  My black-tights-clad legs and heels were safely tucked under the dim light. 

As we finished talking and he continued toward the men's room, I looked in the direction from which he came.  His wife and I exchanged smiles and waves - all in a very normal manner.  Turns out that from where they were seated, he and/or his wife "could" have seen my top half as I walked in (if they were looking),  and if she was looking as the hostess seated me, his wife "could" have seen my skirt, tights and Mary Jane heels.  But once I was in the booth, my back was toward them. 

OK, now for the question.  Was "It" an unmitigated disaster?

While certainly not a desirable event, only time will tell if it becomes a major issue.  At this point, more than three days out, I think "not so much."  If those same neighbors are near their windows, they can see into our house.  We sit in front of a large window for our meals, and frequently the blinds are open.  I'm almost always wearing a comfortable house dress or jumper - the American version, not the English.)  The better half has been tolerant of those for many years, and remains so.
Several times, that neighbor and I have chatted in the back yard,  he on his deck in a "preppy" men's outfit and boat shoes,  and me in the grass below, barefooted (with silver toe nails if he noticed),  in a short pink sun dress over white capris.  Certainly not "preppy," but very cool, comfortable and feminine.  I've been wearing that outfit a few times, over the better half's objection, on hot afternoons when I either ended up on our own deck, or outside watering the lawn and adjusting the lawn sprinkler.

In contrast, the neighbors have never seen me in anything more masculine than capri or stirrup pants and ballerina flats, including to community social events.  Today's skirt outfit is/was only a small step beyond what they've already seen.  So, there's no real surprise factor.

Caller ID has proved that so far, my better half has received no phone calls from inquisitive neighbors...and weather is no longer conducive to outdoor sidewalk gabfests.   Since the Medevac helicopter hauled someone from a few doors down the street to the hospital yesterday morning, there's obviously something much more vital to discuss, beyond "me in a skirt and heels!"  As I see it, my outfit might stir a short burst of gossip, but that should be the worst of it.

Of course, my amateur analysis is not guaranteed...I could always be wrong. 

Bright side is: things could have been even worse.  No, I mean LOTS worse.  The hostess "could" have seated me at a table right next to my neighbors, who were in what was the evening's open section.  But fortunately, I asked for a booth, and they honored that request, in spite of the booth section being closed.  I think you'll agree, putting me at a table WOULD have been an unmitigated disaster!  Can you imagine the three of us having to carry on generic, non-descript conversation, without questions being asked?  My complete feminine outfit and appearance would have been plainly visible to them, thus "the elephant in the room."  If such an issue was destined to occur that day, I was certainly blessed that it happened exactly the way it did.

Though I don't plan to curtail my dressing on the "other side of the bridge," you can be sure there's one mall, and one restaurant, that I won't return to en-femme in the future! (They shared that both are their favorites and they come often.)   Never fear...there are lots of other places to shop - Baltimore is a big city!

The following day dawned sunny, a beautiful day for a railroad shop and yard tour.  I went back into androgynous mode, since I was around people from the sponsoring group, whom I know.  And had a wonderful time!  See picture below, in hard hat, work boots and safety glasses - ugh.  Though I'm not sure what my old motto is, perhaps my new one should be:   "I'd rather be wearing a skirt!"

Mandy dressed for a rail yard tour...

On the way home, I stopped at another mall, to look for some ballerina flats at nearby stores.  But the mall was so incredibly crowded that I couldn't get face-time with sales associates...too many women were ahead of me!   The girls were fine with me standing there elbow-to-elbow with them, looking at shoes...they all just wanted to be the one who got that cute pair first!  Little did they realize, that I was not their competition...size 12's which actually fit well,  are hard to come by.)

One thing I noticed as I walked the length of the mall, with mostly female shoppers out that day:  every peddler (predominantly male) in every kiosk was out there "in our faces."  "Ma'am, here is a free sample..." or "Ma'am, let me show you this..." directed at every woman who walked by.  Including yours truly.  But this lassie has learned to say "No thank you" and keep going.  Little did they realize that when they said "Have a nice day" to me after my "No thank you," that I truly WAS having a nice day!

These trips served as my "grand fully-femme-finale" for's unlikely that I'll be dressing completely for several months.  So Mandy retreats into her suitcase...and will be out only in androgynous mode, perhaps with makeup, earrings, engagement ring and lipstick.

But I'm sure I'll find something to blog about...

PS: yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, the neighborhood gossip walked by when I was outside, and we talked briefly.  There was no hint of anything about the restaurant incident. That's a really good sign!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Vacation 7 Finale: "Hey, It's the Train Lady!"

You may recall that ever since a cas show last spring, my antique car had carburetor issues.  Getting them repaired was a major task, since most of today’s mechanics are trained on fuel injection systems and computer controls.  Being a 1967, mine has neither, and to complicate matters, it also has an intact prehistoric California smog control system . Fuel-injection and computer emission training is useless on old-fashioned antiques.  

And trying to make a 1,200-mile trip in a freshly-repaired car, without some significant shakedown runs, would be a "real fool's errand."  Thus I decided to take the daily driver on this trip, and extend our agenda exponentially.  What started out to be a simple antique car tour for my better half and myself, with a bunch of friends, ended up being anepic vacation.  We were gone for so long (two full weeks) that it was easy to lose track of time!

With my love of ferroeqinology, I had been wanting to visit the Saratoga & North Creek, a tourist line which recently began running on the formerly abandoned Delaware & Hudson line in upstate NY, between its namesake towns. With some friends, I had visited the line during its abandonment and wanted to ride now that it was back in operation. This vacation seemed a perfect chance to do so. But the better half preferred not to spend most of the day on a train, or be stuck in a small town near the Gore Mountain ski resort during the layover  So, we compromised - I would ride the train if I could find a motel that would let her go into downtown Saratoga for shopping local sightseeing.  And I did.  So, with that, Saratoga was added to our vacation itinerary.

The day was to be cold and windy, so I pulled out the denim jean leggings I’d worn a couple times earlier in the vacation, with a turtleneck, pantyhose and flats.  I wore my new makeup – all except the eyebrow shaper, eye shadow and blusher, and thought it once again covered my beard shadow well.  So, off I went, into the unknown.

No issues at the Saratoga Springs Amtrak station...

 You can see the train I rode, on the far right edge of the picture, waiting for an Amtrak train to clear the station before boarding passengers.

When the excursion train boarding time arrived, staff used the appropriate pronouns and addressed me as a female.  My seating was in first class, so they directed me into the dome car.  There were 3 people already seated at my table (one guy, two gals, all related), and I became the fourth.  We introduced ourselves, by first names (I used my regular first name, which is now used by females), and I softened my normal voice, but only a little, in hopes of being able to stay consistent all day.  From that point on, my table mates presumed (or at least treated me as though) I was female.

They asked me to take a picture of them with their camera, which I did, and one of the girls reciprocated for me.  They continued to treat me as a woman through the entire trip.  After brunch, when one of the girls wanted to take pictures from the rear vestibule, she asked me to join her...which I gladly did.

Mandy in the dome car on the excursion train...

On the dome car, the women and men each had separate restrooms.  However, shortly after departure they took the women’s room out of service, so everyone used the men’s room.  And there were unisex restrooms on the rest of the train.  I had to use them several times to reapply my lipstick and powder my nose.  (Sound familiar, girls?)  Unfortunately most of the other women – including my table mates, weren’t wearing makeup, thus I didn’t get invited to join them in the restroom!

Upon arrival in North Creek, there was a bus waiting to take us to a local shop or two, that were too far out of town to reach on foot.  When we got back into town, everyone started visiting the local merchants.  (Where, when I needed a restroom, I was directed to the women’s room.  Which I used.)

Some folks came away from their shopping with lots of “finds.”  Others, like yours truly, bought little or nothing.  A number of women chatted with me while we were waiting to re-board the excursion train.  Their husbands also treated me as a female, and one of them even gave me the seat next to his wife in the station, “so you girls can talk.”  Wow - that's a first!

I actually ran into one person I sort-of knew from attending a past conference, now working in the staff at the railroad.  He acted totally normal toward me, but obviously noted my femininity as he was careful to not use any gender-related words.  We talked for a few minutes, then he had to move on.  (I wonder what repercussions will eventually come from that?)

Vintage E-units, and vintage Mandy, at the rail yard in North Creek, NY...

Waiting for boarding at the station in North Creek, NY...
Our return train departed on time, and since my new friends, including the girl with the camera, wanted to be near a dutch door or clear window for taking pictures of tthe sights, they elected to move to one of the almost-empty coaches - with sparkling windows.  Needless to say, after some hot soup in the dome, (to warm up after walking all afternoon in the cold), I joined them.  And we had a fun ride back...our new little traveling group!  After a toast to a fine day with my new friends (who know me only as a woman – a big first for me), the girl with the camera and I kept running to the open dutch doors in the vestibule and amassed many pretty pictures, since the sun had finally come out.  

Relaxing on the train, after an afternoon shopping...

Before you ask, no, I'm not naive enough to believe my traveling companions (and also some, if not all, of the folks I interacted with) didn't realize that I was a CD'er or TG.  That would be a huge stretch of the imagination.  But it was wonderful to realize that so many people could be so accepting and caring. 

When I got back to the motel after the excursion,  the better half and I decided that dinner was in order.  My makeup still looked fairly good (with just a bit of touch up),  since it was dark outside.  As we walked toward the lobby on the balcony by the pool, I was shocked to hear “Hey, it’s the Train Lady!!  Hi there (insert my real but feminine first name here)“ from the ground floor below.   I looked down, amazed, and recognized her so I waved back and said “Hi!  Didn’t realize you were staying here! Looks like this is a great motel for us train riders!” as we headed for the door - the better half and I were both hungry.  “Gotta run.  So have a wonderful evening!”  “You too...” And we moved on, looking like two ladies heading out for shopping.  The better half again made no comment. 

Absolutely nothing was said about the exchange during dinner, which really was just a recount of each of our activities during our busy day, quite ordinary discussion-wise.  I just "neglected to mention" that I had somehow managed to be accepted as female all day, without wearing a dress or seriously feminizing my voice, and she didn’t ask me about it.  (Maybe it's a domestic version of "Don’t ask, Don’t tell"????)   

And, to add icing to the cake, both the greeter and server at dinner addressed us as “ladies.” The server asked if we wanted separate checks, which the better half declined.  When our server brought the check, she placed it on the table so that one of us would actively have to reach for it, instead of handing it to “the gentleman” – since there obviously wasn’t one present!

A perfectly fitting ending to a fabulous well as a picture-perfect vacation – that I think even pleased the better half.  And I may have just helped myself “kick the closet door open” a bit wider for public events...   The most important take-away:  as Marian has pointed out,  I don’t necessarily have to wear a dress or skirt in order to be recognized as female – and that’s good, since cold weather typically cuts down on numbers of females in dresses.

I’m certainly finding myself feeling more confident as a woman...and that’s a good thing!   I've corresponded by email with all 3 of the folks, since returning home.  Perhaps we will meet again someday?  

I hope so, but time will tell.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Vacation 6: Martha's Vineyard, and Aquinnah!

You may recall that ever since a cas show last spring, my antique car had carburetor issues.  Getting them repaired was a major task, since most of today’s mechanics are trained on fuel injection systems and computer controls.  Being a 1967, mine has neither, and to complicate matters, it also has an intact prehistoric California smog control system . Fuel-injection and computer emission training is useless on old-fashioned antiques.  

And trying to make a 1,200-mile trip in a freshly-repaired car, without some significant shakedown runs, would be a "real fool's errand."  Thus I decided to take the daily driver on this trip, and extend our agenda exponentially.  What started out to be a simple antique car tour for my better half and myself, with a bunch of friends, ended up being an epic vacation.  We were gone for so long (two full weeks) that it was easy to lose track of time!


Today dawned sunny, but with a rainy forecast

On the docket for today was a quick morning return visit to the Nobska lighthouse, then off to the boat for a ferry ride to Martha’s Vineyard.  We elected to take the car over with us. because we had too many sights on our to-do list, to rely on walking or taking their public transportation.  When we checked the car in at the dock, the attendant used no pronouns when we talked.

Martha’s Vineyard was discovered in 1602 by Bartholomew Gosnold, a British fisherman.  He named it after his firstborn daughter and the thick vegetation, which resembled a vineyard.  The island is roughly triangular-shaped, with its base the straight south shore, and northern points facing Cape Cod.  It’s 9 miles wide and 26 miles long, and the total area is about 96 square miles, with 124 miles of shoreline spread over six small towns,   About a third of the land mass is protected from future development.

At departure time, It was quite cool and windy, and I chose to ride on the front observation deck of the Island Home,  My better half elected to stay inside, not wanting to be chilly.  Since I was determined to have a picture taken outside, I shamelessly asked a guy who was standing there next to me if he’d mind taking my picture..  “I’d be happy to, Ma’am.”  

Mandy on the Island Home

The above was his creation.  He did well.  Funny thing was…it all happened in full view of the better half.  I simply said to her afterward that it was nice of him to take the pic, and she said that if he was willing to stand out there in the wind and cold, then it was fine that I asked him – she chose not to deal with it.

There were no further public interactions until we arrived at the Gay Head Light in Aquinnah.  (Yes, Gay Head Light really is its name!)  During our tour, the guide referred to us as ladies.  “Where are you ladies from?”  The rest of our conversation was of the same nature.  

This beautiful and historic lighthouse is in danger of falling into the sea within the next decade or so, because the clay cliffs it is built on are eroding at about 6 feet per year.  If the process is not begun within the next year or two at the most, there will not be enough solid ground to bear the weight of the machinery needed to move it, and it will be doomed.   Plans are to take it out of service at the end of 2014 and proceed with the move, but they are still short of funds to finish it, so the fundraising continues.

 Gay Head Light, Martha's Vineyard Island, Massachusetts, USA

The light itself in operation...notice the red reflections on the window sashes?

The colorful, but rapidly eroding clay cliffs, which will doom the lighthouse if it is not soon moved...

When we inquired about restrooms, the tour guide at the lighthouse said “Ladies, the restroom over there in the park is open, but there is a small charge."   So, I suggested to the better half that we both use the women’s room, since there was nobody else nearby at that moment.  She looked over at the little building standing alone in the big field, and said “ everyone thinks we’re two girls, so why not.” 

It definitely was a first – entering a public women’s washroom with the better half.  Though in hindsight, I wonder if she might have seen it as a safety thing for herself…due to the isolated location, anyone “could” have been in there waiting for a woman to enter.   There wasn’t, however.  And for me, it was quite an experience! 

While waiting in the women’s room for her to finish, I could see through the slightly-ajar window, that three really grubby-dirty-looking, bearded, twenty-something males walked by - and went into the men’s room next door.  Now, I'll never know for sure - they may have been perfectly honorable.  But it's also within the realm of possibility that my own safety that day had been guaranteed, by virtue of my being in the ladies' room. Life certainly has strange turns of events!

The famous Oak Bluffs Cottages - so many colors!

In walking around the cottages in Oak Bluffs (picture above), we came across a gaggle of 50-something ladies in a commercial bus tour group.  As I was waiting for the better half to check some of the cottagesI asked one of the ladies where the group was from (Alabama).  And that led to a few minutes discussion, in which we related as women.  There was no evidence that they thought I was other than what I seemed to be.

And in other interpersonal relations that day, I was addressed as female.  All in the presence of my better half.  With no comment from her, either way….   On the way home, I was addressed as “Miss” when checking the car on the ferry boat, capping my finest feminine day of the trip so far, if not the year!

But wait, there's more....

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Vacation 5: Chatham Railroad, ROVs and Alvin!

You may recall that ever since a cas show last spring, my antique car had carburetor issues.  Getting them repaired was a major task, since most of today’s mechanics are trained on fuel injection systems and computer controls.  Being a 1967, mine has neither, and to complicate matters, it also has an intact prehistoric California smog control system . Fuel-injection and computer emission training is useless on old-fashioned antiques.  

And trying to make a 1,200-mile trip in a freshly-repaired car, without some significant shakedown runs, would be a "real fool's errand."  Thus I decided to take the daily driver on this trip, and extend our agenda exponentially.  What started out to be a simple antique car tour for my better half and myself, with a bunch of friends, ended up being an epic vacation.  We were gone for so long (two full weeks) that it was easy to lose track of time.

On a day which dawned sunny and chilly, the better half and I elected to start by visiting the Chatham Lighthouse, to get a morning view.  That is what you see here. 

From there we drove around town and came upon a striking example of Victorian-era architecture (also called Railroad Gothic), the railroad depot.  It was the stepping off – and on – point for riders of the old Chatham Railroad, which served the town on a seven-mile strip of railway from 1887-1937. Today the depot houses the Chatham Railroad Museum, including relics from the era, a 75-year-old caboose from the New York Central system, and a diorama of the Chatham train yards of 1915.   Being a ferroequinologist at heart, I couldn’t resist getting a picture beside their pretty caboose.

From there, the weather started a downhill turn, as the clouds moved in.  The closer we got to Falmouth, MA the cloudier it got.  Not to be deterred, we went on into Woods Hole, to locate the ferry embarcation point for tomorrow’s adventures, and explore a place new to us.

A centerpiece of the town and dock area is the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory's Office of Marine Operations (OMO)m which currently operates the research vessel Marcus G. Langseth that serves as the national seismic research facility for the United States academic research community. The R/V Marcus G. Langseth's unique seismic capability allows it to provide both 2D and 3D maps of the earth's structure miles below the seafloor. Utilizing the vessel's other capabilities, expeditions have collected sediment cores for understanding climate variations throughout the Earth’s history, sampled seawater for determining physical and chemical properties of the oceans, and deployed remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) for studying submarine volcanoes. Scientists and researchers from all over the world are encouraged to participate in research programs aboard the Langseth.

Another centerpiece of Woods Hole is the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, which is famous for its Human Occupied Vehicle named “Alvin.”  WHOI operates the U.S. Navy-owned Deep Submergence Vehicle Alvin for the national oceanographic community. Built in 1964 as one of the world’s first deep-ocean submersibles, Alvin has made more than 4,400 dives. It can reach nearly 63 percent of the global ocean floor.

The sub's most famous exploits include locating a lost hydrogen bomb in the Mediterranean Sea in 1966, exploring the first known hydrothermal vent sites in the 1970s, and surveying the wreck of RMS Titanic in 1986. 

A mock-up of the cabin is shown below:  

Also we visited Nobska Light (seen below), which was nearby, and then ended the day with a delicious seafood dinner. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Great Annual Antique Sale

Last fall, you may recall that just before I left for my annual pilgrimmage to the antique sale, unbenownst to me, my better half repacked my suitcase.  She replaced the spare pair of denim leggings I had packed (matching the pair I was wearing) with several nicely labeled plastic bags, each containing one of Mom's stirrup outfits - which no longer fit her, but fit me perfectly.  (The better half had "rescued" them and added to my wardrobe when Mom's house was being sold.) Since I have a tendency to spill things, this little change made it almost impossible to avoid ending up in stirrup leggings and ballerinas during my days at the show. 

I really got lucky, and was able to avoid it - though barely.  Even though I loved wearing Mom's outfits to the nursing home and for everyday use, back then "something" was keeping me from wearing them to the sale - I would have been extremely self-conscious in front of all those people who have seen me for a long time...

This year, after all the better half's medical issues and her recent display of angst, she did nothing about "repacking my suitcase."  So,
I decided to take matters into my own hands, and prepared my own "encore."  The only spare outfits I included were Mom's stirrups and tops, and I wore my trusty ballerinas.  Well, "only" isn't exactly true; I also brought my skirts and tops along, as well as my high heeled Mary Janes - my evening (and only spare) shoes.  

I left the house Friday morning in Mom's gray stirrup leggings and burgundy polo top with my ballerinas, and I'll be wearing a different pair of her gray stirrups and a navy blue top when I get home Sunday night. I think the past year in almost total androgynous mode has helped me conquer most of my "being self-conscious at the show" demons, and not having any pants other than my stirrup leggings made "backpedaling" impossible.  So, in for a penny, in for a pound.  

Friday was completely comment-free.  Well, comment-free, except for the attractive female desk clerk at the Crowne Plaza, who had commented "I love your gorgeous nails, hon" when I checked in.   But nothing about my pants (at least at that point.)   So, on the way back to the room after going out to a local eatery for dinner (an uneventful meal, without pronoun use by the server, but many glances from a couple of late-teen girls out with their dates and seated way across the room,)  I stopped by the front desk, wearing my tan tiered skirt with blue floral blouse, and MJ heels.  The desk clerk smiled broadly when she recognized me and we chatted a few minutes, since she wasn't busy.  Topics included my skirt outfit and nails...  "You look so very pretty in that outfit - you know you really should have been wearing it all day today, instead of pants."  I thanked her and said I'd have preferred that, too.  "But pants really were more appropriate for unloading boxes from a car."

She then confided that I have a beautiful head start on a set of long, sexy fingernails, so I shouldn't let the tech cut them.  When I told her my tech feels that same way, and is "growing my nails out" by not trimming them with each fill, she was very pleased. "You'll look and feel so elegant with inch-long nails.  Be sure to ask her to start using red acrylic - it's the ideal color for you.  And once it's on, it stays on through normal wear and tear.  That'll keep your mani perfect from fill to fill!" Then she explained that she has short, unpolished nails now that she has two kids and no time or money for nail care...but someday "my nails will be as pretty as yours!"

I asked her if she would mind taking my picture in the lobby, and she was quite enthusiastic about fact, she took several.  And if she's working Saturday night, she volunteered to take another picture if I wish...   Ahem, yes - if she's there,  I definitely will "wish."  

Saturday, my second day at the sale in stirrups and ballerinas, was another uneventful day,  though a couple of men who didn't know me addressed me as "Ma'am."  And, a male staffer who was introducing a bunch of us to new people in attendance, introduced me (intentionally, I suspect) as a female, to a group of ladies. He didn't stumble over it - he said it, then kept right on with his talk.   Subsequently during the day, several of the visiting ladies with questions, came up to me and asked me (instead of men standing nearby).  I was happy to help them, and it kept me in a female state of mind....   Overall, women just seemed a bit friendlier today, with me now looking more feminine.

I cheerfully admit to "watching the clock" till it was time to go back to the hotel.  Unfortunately, plans for a meetup with a girl who blogs here just did not work out, and a  last-minute dinner meetup with my acquaintance from work fell apart today due to a just-hospitalized parent, so it was going to be another "dinner alone."  I made the best of it, and even found a park near the restaurant to get a picture of tonight's outfit.

The greeter and the waitstaff at Applebees addressed me properly as a female, and I got great service from everyone (which merited a bigger than normal tip.)  Unfortunately, the friendly hotel desk clerk I spoke with the night before was off duty, so I didn't get one of her "photo sessions."  So, back to my room after dinner, where I snapped a quickie pic of my outfit without a sweater....sorry it's not a bit sharper.  But you 'get the picture...'

My Mary Janes are undoubtedly the most comfortable heels I've worn.  It's like they were made just for me...there are no unsightly gaps.  With the comfortable strap, there's no chance whatsoever that I'll accidentally step out of them. And the heels are wide enough that they're very stable...I haven't twisted my ankles!  Yes, my feet still complain a bit when I wear them...but I think it's because they're not used to being in heels.  I'm really looking forward to the day when I can just put them on in the morning (instead of my ballerinas) and go about my business all day, and all evening too, without having to change them! 

Up early on Daylight Saving Time Ending Sunday - the last day.  No skirts today at all...will be androgynous all day.  I'll be heading directly home when the gig is over.

It was an uneventful issues whatsoever.   And, I had an absolutely fabulous time!  (More vacation posts will follow shortly...)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Vacation 4: Provincetown!

You may recall that ever since a cas show last spring, my antique car had carburetor issues.  Getting them repaired was a major task, since most of today’s mechanics are trained on fuel injection systems and computer controls.  Being a 1967, mine has neither, and to complicate matters, it also has an intact prehistoric California smog control system . Fuel-injection and computer emission training is useless on old-fashioned antiques.  

And trying to make a 1,200-mile trip in a freshly-repaired car, without some significant shakedown runs, would be a "real fool's errand."  Thus I decided to take the daily driver on this trip, and extend our agenda exponentially.  What started out to be a simple antique car tour for my better half and myself, with a bunch of friends, ended up being an epic vacation.  We were gone for so long (two full weeks) that it was easy to lose track of time!

The better half and I began our Cape Cod exploration day on Monday the 21st.  It began with a run up the cape to Provincetown, which is the wonderful little place where US Route 6, and the land, both end.  Near the end, sand dunes became the predominent landscape, as might be expected.

P-town itself is full of  fascinating little shops just brimming wtth eclectic things to see, buy and do, as well as little restaurants and inns up and down the streets.  I hope to return someday soon...and be wearing a skirt instead of leggings!

This is the last pic of me that I could convince the better half to take.  From here on, all the selfies are with the help of someone else, or my very convenient lightweight portable hand grip/tripod.  Not fancy, very old (was my father's), but very functional, and it has served as a conversation starter many times.

Then an afternoon downstreet view...

And lastly, a typical sunset over Cape Cod Bay...

P-town was so relaxed and picturesque, that I think spending a couple of days there (during the spring or fall) might be fun...and a great way to become more used to presenting as a female and gaining more confidence in my femininity.  Though I still doubt that attending Fantasia Fair is in the picture, at least for the next year or two...

More sections (and more pictures) will follow in the days to come.