Wednesday, July 30, 2014

It's still there!

In the fall of 1971 I was driving through western Oklahoma, and came across the Santa Fe's Waynoka to Buffalo (Buffalo District) tracks in the town of Freedom.  At the time, it appeared to be a disused but well-kept rural depot, probably still in service as a depository for railroad supplies for the rusty and seldom used branch line.

A little history...the line was built in 1920, for predominantly agricultural purposes. (Note the grain elevators behind the station in the second picture...I seem to remember framing the first picture to deliberately eliminate them and enhance the rurality (is that a word?) of the scene.  But as time passed, rail business fell off, and when I took this picture, the line had only about 11 years of life remaining.  In November of 1982, the ATSF filed for abandonment.
Needless to say, being a ferroequinologist from 'way back, I couldn't resist grabbing a shot of the depot, and tracks leading almost to the horizon in front of it.   Notice the Santa Fe logo and the small city name lettering.

Being curious as to the continued existence of the town depot today, I went to trusty old Google Maps.  The railroad right-of-way has most assuredly gone back to nature, but it left its permanent mark, in the form of a diagonal slash through town, which sort of shows up in the part of the picture, on the left side of the depot.  On the right side, you can see an old ATSF caboose, on the only District rails remaining visible on the map.

In the picture below, notice that the ATSF logo is gone, and the lettering size for "Freedom" was increased in one of its subsequent repaintings.   Would love to know if the caboose came in on the last train, or was delivered by flatbed trailer...odds are on the latter!

Very sad.  But at least the station still exists, in good condition, and is being used by the local Chamber of Commerce!  That's a brighter future than many old depots have faced.

During a recent visit to the hair salon to get my by-then-very-obvious gray roots touched up, a pregnant woman (due August 8) brought in her two kids, a boy age 2 and girl age 3-1/2, "for a trim."  And while they were waiting, both kids waved at me as though they knew me.  Then they started acting like 2 (and 3-1/3 year olds), coming up to me to say hi, and chasing each other around the shop.   Finally they put the little girl in the stylist's chair and Mom held the boy to keep him from running around.

The woman was standing there with the little boy in her arms as the stylist led me past them, to get the color washed out. I paused for a few seconds and asked the little boy how old he was and said how much better he will look with his "trim," before heading to the washout room.  He was waving, and smiling. It actually kept his attention for a bit and he didn't seem at all shy.

Their mother seemed really pleased that someone had finally distracted him, since he had obviously moved into the "boys will be boys" stage.  And she didn't seem to have a problem with my androgynous-to-feminine appearance (shorts and my open toe sandals - the cape allowed only my "bare legs" to show, at least from the front.)   Did the kids think I was a girl?  Possibly.  Did their Mom?  Probably not.  But I kept the little boy busy for a few moments, and that made everything right.   However, these kids were definitely not as well behaved as Miss Paula's daughter at the nail salon...

And for those who wondered whether my silvery finger nails would remain after the next fill...they didn't.  Due to circumstances, I had a different tech that day, and they honored my request to leave my nails shiny and pink after the fill, omitting the silver.  I'm not entirely convinced that Miss Judy would have done that.

That's all, folks...till I return from a visit to the sunny south, where we will meet our son's fiancee's parents.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

That which is new again!

After we got home from last week's excursion, two pairs of my older fisherman sandals (women's of course) with closed toes, appeared from out of storage in the basement.  When I saw them, I remembered buying them several years ago, and liking them for their comfort.  But because they had to be buckled on each time I wore them, and my others didn't, they fell into disfavor and eventually ended up in a box in the basement.  I'm surprised they didn't disappear in the interim.  But no matter...they're back, and I'm wearing them again.  Pictures are below...

Though there haven't been any comments about my bright silver toe nails, the fact that I had to wear ballerinas for our entire excursion (before these sandals surfaced) sort of hints at the fact that my toes should "mostly" be hidden when we are at important meetings.   (They still manage to peek out of these sandals occasionally, as you can see, but that doesn't seem to be an issue.)  And up to now, my wife hasn't commented about my silvery finger nails since her original "don't use that color again" remarks.  Some would interpret that as a good sign.  I wasn't quite that optimistic.

Since I need another fill, I assured my wife that per her earlier request, this fingernail color would go away for our upcoming visit to our son's place.  That was obviously the right answer - she smiled.  But when I said I liked the color, and might wear it again sometime, the response was a severe case of "stink eye" along with the comment "Just don't."   So much for her getting accustomed to my wearing it!

There is another similar, but less obvious, color which I can wear some other time.  For now, back to simply clear over my fill, for the trip.   No need to incite any riots, particularly just before she goes to visit her sister in August.  You probably will agree that an argument about it right now would be in very poor taste....and not in my own best interests!

In the days between the above and today, not much new and exciting has happened.  We are preparing for our excursion - to the Atlanta area and environs.  For some odd reason, I know what I'll be wearing - shorts, the above sandals and several generic polo shirts (though capris will be a must when we are traveling.)   Nothing at all out-of-the-ordinary.   But we'll be meeting new people, and so I will look much like this (or with shorts instead of capris.)

Regarding Cyrsti's "Trans Dar" post, and Pat's comments about both she and her wife spotting one of our sisters working at a Lowes near her...  That brings to mind a similar thing which happened to me in a railroad museum in Maine about 5 years ago.  One of the female staffers sold us our tickets and gave us a bit of info about the museum...but I couldn't help noticing her hands.  They were the first thing that caught my eye.

As Pat noted in her case, our clerk also sported badly-chipped purple nail polish on her rather large (for a woman) hands, and was was dressed in jeans and a museum top.  (Can't say I noticed her shoes - back then I wasn't as observant.  Sorry!)  The next cue was her very deep voice, followed by a hint of Adam's apple.  After we were out of earshot, I asked my wife if she had noticed anything out of the ordinary about her, and the answer was no.  So, perhaps I was wrong...but to this day, I don't think so!

For the rest of our museum visit, I couldn't help thinking about that lady - and as time went on I became more certain that she was trans, though I wouldn't have dreamed of broaching the subject, in case I was in error and especially dressed the way I was...only androgynous, with no makeup.  How lucky she was to be able to be "working" as a woman, despite her minor shortcomings, and in some ways I was very envious.  For the next couple days, my mind kept bouncing back to her.

I hope she has progressed and has found well-paying work, perhaps at one of the more progressive and trans-friendly companies out there, or as of this past week, one of the government contractors who can't discriminate against us any more!

A final note...on Thursday, a package I had ordered from a shopping channel arrived via UPS.  When I first called to place the order, they pulled up my wife's account and "miss-took" me for her.  But I  gave them my account number, which corrected things...and from then on I was "ma'am."  When the package arrived, it was addressed to "Ms. (insert real first and last name here) at my address.  My wife handed it to me without a comment...

Isn't life fun?

Friday, July 18, 2014

Waiting for the train, which will never arrive...

Have you ever noticed how good it feels to crawl back into your own bed, after a week on the road?  Both my wife and I have noticed this phenomenon, and always comment that on excursions like this, the beds (no matter what brand of hotel or motel) are not as comfortable as our own.   And we agree that it makes the homecoming something we look forward to...

Our travels this time took us to the "hollers" of West Virginia, as well as the flatlands of Ohio. And enroute, we drove through Mexico and Berlin.  Didn't need our passports, though - they're not overseas.  The towns are in Maryland and Pennsylvania, respectively!! 

Paw Paw, WV is a place I've heard of for years.  And though I drove through town long ago, I never checked out its history.  It's in Morgan County WV, incorporated in 1891, with a population of 508 in the 2010 census.  And it is the namesake of the nearby Paw Paw tunnel on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal.

It was actually named for the fruit "paw paw," not someone's grandfather.   According to Wikipedia, the paw paw is native to the Eastern, Southern, and Midwestern US, and is a patch-forming (clonal) understory tree found in well-drained, deep, fertile bottom-land and hilly upland habitat, with large, simple leaves and large fruits. It is the largest edible fruit indigenous to the United States.

The town also has a place in railroad history. At one time, Paw Paw was on the B&O's main line westward. But a rerouting in the 1920s, known as the Magnolia Cutoff (deriving its name from the sleepy hollow of Magnolia located nearby), which split westbound from the original line at Doe Gully, ended that. The Cutoff (several miles shorter, and with less-severe grades than the original line) was used for freights, while the original line through Paw Paw was reserved for lighter class 1 passenger trains - the Cutoff had no stations at all.  Both lines crossed at Magnolia (at different elevations) and converged again just west of town.  Now all trains, Amtrak and freight, use the Magnolia Cutoff - it's the main line. And NOTHING stops at Paw Paw anymore - because the track is gone!!

A few words about the little town of Magnolia (also in Morgan County): it was a hub of activity during construction of the Cutoff.  Once that project was complete, jobs in the area were scarce.   Later, the flood of 1936 would devastate the area and the demise of passenger service brought the demise of Magnolia as a town. Buildings were left vacant, the railroad dieselized, and abandoned its Water Station Number 12 (renamed Magnolia.)  Today there are few traces that Magnolia existed, let alone was ever a place of such activity. The old main line along the Potomac is now a rutted gravel path. A few private homes remain in this small village, and clearings under the bridge (often used as campsites) are privately owned.

See map of the area from Wikipedia:

Below is a picture of Mandy, standing in front of the B&O Paw Paw depot.  Someone is still using the building as office space, because the window air conditioner visible beside me was working overtime on the humid day...  If there had been a car parked nearby I'd have knocked on the station door, to see if they would let me get a look at the inside of the old station!  But no such luck...and though I could hear trains on the Cutoff, just up the hill, that train I'm waiting for at the depot will never arrive!  Nostalgic, and bittersweet...

Mandy at the depot, waiting for a train that will never arrive...

Below is another view of the depot, including the old track where passengers used to board their trains.  The eastbound right of way can be's the gravel "road" leading off into the distance, on the left side of the brick building on the right edge of the picture.  Track was ripped up many years ago, and the right of way (which can be - slowly - driven to its other end, following the Potomac's goose-necks) serves as access to at least one tunnel on the Cutoff, as well as all the summer cabins and fishing holes along the river.

Years ago, a buddy and I drove the entire low line - at about 5 mph in a regular car, not an SUV - due to poor road conditions.  Yes, the car survived the flogging.  But it was one LOONNNGGG day...  Railroad artifacts along the old right of way (other than this depot) are nil.  They really left nothing for ferroequinologists to see, when the railroad left town. 

"What time will the Shenandoah arrive today?"

Now we headed off, into the flatlands of is the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, shown at Peninsula, OH.   They have attractive equipment, friendly staff, and pretty scenery.  If you're out in that neck of the woods, be sure to stop in, buy a ticket, and enjoy a very comfortable ride behind predominantly Alco engines, including (at times) a couple of Alco FA's on the property!

Rain was forecast for our whole trip, so naturally, wearing my ballerinas was fact, I had to take two pairs.   In reality, I suspect my wife was hiding my silver toe nails!  There wasn't much she could do about my silver fingernails, though!  They were out in front of everyone the whole weekend, and I didn't hear any comments about them from anyone.  

While traveling, my wardrobe was denim capris, generic women's polo tops, pantyhose, necklace, ballerinas and my purse. For the meeting we attended, a pair of stirrups substituted for the denim capris.  My wife suggested that I wear black tights with my stirrups, but there were none in my suitcase, so I - and she -  had to settle for pantyhose.  "At least you have a casual, but very businesslike, appearance..."  

I think she was hoping for a less-feminine look for me this trip.   That attempt wasn't particularly successful.  Other than at the meeting, where we are known by all, I was repeatedly "miss-identified" -  at motels, restaurants, etc., with only a few exceptions.  And those simply resulted in the person omitting "Sir" or "Ma'am." 

Everyone treated me as they normally do during the meeting.  But I noticed one guy respond to a comment I made (fortunately for my wife, when we were riding with him to dinner, in his car) with "Yes Ma'am - Sir," including a bit of a stumble between "Ma'am" and "Sir."  Now, this guy has known us for years...and I'm not sure if it was intentional or not. Since he was driving, he may not have seen who was actually talking.'s fine with me.  And surprisingly, my wife said nothing about it when we got back to the room.   Maybe she didn't hear him?   I doubt that...

On the way home, we stopped to visit my cousin and her husband in the central PA area.  They're used to seeing me in capris and ballerinas, so there was no issue.   The motel clerk and customers in line with me got it right with "Ma'am," as I checked out the last morning on the road. 

And upon returning home, it was immediately back to my usual attire of capris and sandals.  The next day, the new clerk at the dealership where our car was being serviced, addressed me as "Ma'am" the whole time. That absolutely made my day!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Quickie - out of town

We've been out of town for a few days.  While the main purpose was to attend the Board meeting for an organization of which we're members, there is always a chance to do some sightseeing.  And this time around is no exception.

I found these awful-looking specimens on a side track at a scrap yard in a small central Pennsylvania town.  There were 3 passenger cars, and a bevy of old freight cars - some of the boxcars were outside-braced.  As you can see, rust was everywhere - and one of the boxcars even had an opening cut in the door, just big enough for a homeless person to enter and exit.  Not sure if the person was "home" when I visited - didn't bother to check - but the welcome mat wasn't out!

 Remains of lettering shows the above car and its sister on the other end of the shiny car, were from the Seaboard railroad.

This one looked to be in better condition, but not much.  It was formerly NYC/Amtrak. Wonder what they all look like inside?

All 3 had non-rotating-end-cap bearings (obsolete) and appeared to be missing one or more important brake parts - probably removed by the homeless and sold for scrap.  Not to mention serious rust-through on the 2 worst, and holes through the side sheets on all of them, from where they screwed on the sheet metal to protect the windows.  Last servicing marks were from the '75 to '77 era...most likely no maintenance since then.  Forty years out in the weather with no maintenance isn't good.

We might soon be looking at these cars in a slightly different form - the many razor blades we have to use to keep our facial and body hair at bay... 

Then we visited a Pennsylvania town with a rather unique name....the picture speaks for itself!

Till next time, enjoy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Quickie - pedicure

Had an interesting Fourth celebration, with a neighborhood party.  I was dressed in denim capris, women's polo, pantyhose, ballerinas and mini purse.  No issues.  Though it really felt different to have to wear closed shoes after all this time!  Came home and watched fireworks on the telly...none locally worth looking at!  Plus, why not be comfortable?

Saturday was the day for my next pedicure.

I got to the salon just after they opened, and found that my tech was Miss Paula, whose 6 year old daughter seemed genuinely happy to see me again.  She plopped herself right down in the empty pedi chair next to me.  While Miss Paula began my pedi, my little friend and I exchanged compliments on our finger nails...she told me "Miss Judy made your fingers really pretty in pink and silver." I thanked her, and told her how nice her pretty turquoise manicure and matching pedicure looked, with flowers on her thumbs and big toes. 

"Maybe my mommy can give you this same color today, and put pretty flowers like mine on your big toes.  Then we can look just like sisters!"  And she looked pleadingly at her mom (as if to say "please"). Her mom glanced at me, smiling hopefully that I'd go along with it.   By then, another tech had arrived, and was preparing a work station on the other side of me.  She was overhearing our conversation...with no apparent issue.

"It would be fun, sweetie, and one day when I can get both a fill and pedicure,  your mommy and Miss Judy can make our nails look alike, so we can be sisters.  But today's not a good day."  My answer seemed to satisfy both of them, and Miss Paula proceeded with my shellac pedicure (using a much brighter silver color, since I was preoccupied and not paying attention - see below), while my little friend and I continued her spelling lessons.   We continued them till another little girl came in with her mother...and the two kids started talking, taking me unofficially "off duty!"

Apparently everyone at the shop is fine with my transgender status...and it's a good thing I did some substitute teaching in another life, since I've spent so much time in "teacher" mode!

Enjoy your summer!

Friday, July 4, 2014

My new friend, and Halloween plans...

Happy Fourth of July to my USA readers!

Last Saturday was the day for my fill.  At the salon, things were hopping, as usual...many women wanted to get their nails done for the upcoming holiday, and I had to wait for Miss Judy.  But as I sat down, the daughter of one of the techs (my new little friend) came running up to greet me with "I remember you from last time, we talked about my project."  Well, for about 15 minutes she proceeded to read to me out of a book (I had to help her with some of the words),  recited her multiplication tables (she did very well at that), looked at the elements table, and it was like the old days when our son was younger.  We were both having a good time!

But as she was reading to me,  she stopped.  "Out of the blue" came an unexpected question:  "Are you a boy or a girl?"  I answered truthfully "When I'm dressed and looking like this, with nail polish, girl clothes and makeup, I'm a girl.  But there are times when I'm a boy."  And that's all I said, to see what would happen next.  She looked up, smiled, and casually said "Oh, OK!"   Then she went right on reading to me from her book, like nothing had changed.   I'm not sure if she understood, or if any of the other women heard me, but now I've said it...and it didn't seem to matter.

If she didn't have a discussion with her mother earlier, and doesn't understand, likely her mother will now get a chance to explain cross dressers and transgender folks to her.  Better to discuss it at an early age...   There's at least some hope that kids will be more tolerant if they learn about us from parents (particularly those who have a vested interest in us as a customer) at a young age, and not from whispers in the back of their classroom (or while roaming the shopping mall) when they're in their early teens.

It was finally my turn to sit at the nail station.  As Miss Judy started to prep my nails, she told me that they held up well, and that shorter seems to work better than longer for me.   So, she shortened them again (her choice), then proceeded with my fill.  When that was finished, she had me pay, but left me seated there.  She went to the nail polish rack and pulled what I thought was the same bottle of silver polish she used last time, then proceeded to paint my nails..."Your nails are simply gorgeous, Miss Mandy!"  I agreed, as did the ladies nearby, but silently doubted the sameness of the polish...they looked TOO good!

In the car, right after my fill and polish.  

She then applied a UV-cured "something", to protect my pretty polish.  If there are no bright highlights nearby, my nails are pink from the acrylic.  The silver you see is reflections from daylight, on metal flakes suspended in the polish. 

Can't hide these nails, that's for sure!

Without bright areas to reflect, my nails look quite natural...

Turns out it apparently wasn't quite the same polish.  My wife waited until Sunday morning to take exception to my nails, assured me that it wasn't the same color I'd been wearing, and told me to "not wear that again."  But the bright side is: when I told her I'd have it changed at my next fill, she didn't object.  So, I get to enjoy wearing it till then.  (And maybe she'll even get used to seeing me wearing it...I'd love to make it my standard color!)

On Sunday, I visited Mom.  

This time I showed her some more pictures of me in a skirt.  She thought I looked very good, but those old "worry demons" hit her..."You shouldn't wear those in public."  So I asked her why not, and her answer was "You look like a girl.  They might get the wrong idea."  I reminded her that the secret is to look good enough that nobody can tell I'm not a girl.  Then I told her that she might not recognize me on Halloween, because I'll look like a girl when I come to visit her.  Surprisingly, she didn't take exception to that - apparently it was OK with her!

On the way out, I dropped in to see the female staffer who knows about my wearing makeup, and recognizes my everyday clothes for what they are.  She's going to try to confirm the date and time for the Halloween party, so I can see how badly it conflicts with my antique show.  I hinted to her that I might "dress up" when I come by that day, but if the party itself is at or after lunch, I may have to miss it. 

Her eyes instantly lit up - and she got a big smile on her face.  She knew exactly what I meant without further explanation, and asked if I'd be recognizable or was I planning to wear a pretty wig?  I told her I don't know for sure yet.  She said that either a wig or my own hair would be fine - they had a female former staffer come in a couple years ago, dressed like a guy plumber...and nobody recognized him/her.   So maybe in August, I'll find my way clear to buy that shorter would be fun to be unrecognizable for a change!   Now I just have to figure out which outfit to wear...  Since Halloween's not for four months, I have plenty of time to make that decision... 

The shop where I bought the necklace and bracelets was not open as I went by on the way home.  Hopefully that will be different the next time I go by...