Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Bare legs, and some things you can't see anymore...

First, a comment about this particular post.  A couple of days ago, I thought I clicked "save" to a new post by a variation of this name...and all of a sudden the draft I'd been working on was gone.  Instead, it was incomplete format.  So I "reverted it to draft status"...which is where it has been till right now.  Didn't realize it would show up on any linked blogs...sorry about the confusion. 

But like MacArthur (and Arnold Schwarzenegger), it has returned.

Early this week, we had some errands to run.  

When we got up that morning, I found I'd be wearing a pair of ballerinas with my shorts.  I've been going bare-legged in sandals and capris (or shorts) for quite a while now.  So, to continue the habit of keeping my legs nice and smooth, I epilated them.  Then I showered and put on my pantyhose.   But "It's still summertime, so you won't need pantyhose.  Wearing ballerinas with bare legs will be a better choice."   So that's what I did, for our visit to a grocery store and the shopping center.  

Every girl we saw, who was wearing any style of ballerinas, was like me - bare-legged - whether they wore shorts, capris or (a few) in skirts.   So I guess I won't be needing pantyhose for a while...  

We went out for dinner a couple days later, to celebrate my wife's was a seafood restaurant about 15 miles from home.  (Since we live in seafood country...we enjoy seafood!) For this occasion, she wanted me to dress up a bit.   I chose my white capris with a women's polo, and once again, ballerinas were the shoes to wear (with bare legs, of course).  We were addressed as "ladies"  for the meal (by a female server.)

Other female customers were all very casual...shorts, or "short shorts" and sandals or (a few) with slip-on sneakers.  Only four of us in the whole place (including my wife and I) were wearing capris...  But we girls all had one thing in common:  bare legs.  Lesson learned...there's lots of time when the weather cools off to enjoy pantyhose!  (And I'm getting used to wearing shoes without any socks or stockings...though it's not an easy thing to learn.)

On the way out after dinner, a teenage boy walked toward the door faster than we did, and held the door open for both of us.  We thanked him, and he returned "you're welcome, ladies."  Nice to see a male teenager with see it so rarely lately...but it does still exist.

As for things you can't see anymore:  

Back in the late 1990's, the reincarnated Northern Central Railway began operating on the abandoned PRR Northern Central out of New Freedom, PA.  And, there were occasional forays into downtown York, PA.  

This former Canadian National Alco FPA-4 locomotive (masquerading as an ex-B&O 800, on the former PRR main line) was pulling one of the last such trains on N. Pershing Avenue in York, before all trains were discontinued in September of 2001.  Though my notes on it aren't too good...I believe this was taken was in the summer of 2001.

In the interest of full disclosure, the locomotive itself still exists, in operating condition.  It's now in service (still in B&O livery) at a much different venue - the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, near Cleveland, OH.  Following is a picture of it, and another FPA-4 as well, in their shop. 

And a chunk of the old Northern Central (at New Freedom, PA) has reincarnated itself once again,  as "Steam into History", with a brand new "antique steam engine" and brand new "period" passenger cars.

The following picture was taken in January of 1993.  Yours truly was riding in a private railcar on the rear of the Lake Shore Limited, as one of the Turboliners whooshed by on the other track.  It was an experience which can no longer be re-created.  While the Lake Shore still operates, and can carry private railcars, Turboliners are long since out-of-service.  I believe they have been (or soon will be) scrapped.

Below is the saga of the Lee-Huckins hotel (later just Huckins) in Oklahoma City.  It's permanently entwined in the history of the State of Oklahoma.  And, it's such a shame that this grand old hotel,  a classic piece of history (completed 1909, razed 1969), had to be destroyed - in the name of urban renewal.  But that's another topic...

Oklahoma became a state in 1907.  State capital was Guthrie, and it had been the Territorial capital before statehood.  For many years, even before statehood, there was agitation by one town or another for the honor.  It was initially placed in Guthrie by the federal government, but other towns coveted that designation.

The Enabling Act, which created the Constitutional Convention, specified that the capital would remain Guthrie for at least six years following statehood.  An election was scheduled between Guthrie, Oklahoma City and Shawnee for the capital's location.  The date was set for June 11, 1910.  When votes were counted, it was found that Oklahoma City had 96,261 votes, Guthrie had 31,301 and Shawnee had 8,382.

Governor Haskell wanted the capital moved to Oklahoma City during his administration. Therefore, upon learning that Oklahoma City was destined to win the election, he took a train directly to Oklahoma City, and opened his office in the new Huckins Hotel (rebuilt in 1909 after the prior hotel had burned) the next day.  He then instructed his secretary, W. B. Anthony, to go to Guthrie and to bring back to Oklahoma City the necessities of the office, including the state seal.   The Huckins remained the Capitol of Oklahoma until the new Capitol Building was completed in 1917.

But in the late 1960’s, the by-then-vacant-and-derelict Huckins building met its fate, as seen in the above pile of rubble.  I took both the pictures, as I was located in Oklahoma at the time...

And lastly, from 1999 (how appropriate):

My antique car's odometer, as it prepared to turn over 100,000 miles. (I have the corresponding 00000.0 as well).  It now has been driven 126,500 miles...and it took 15 years to add the 26,500 miles.   Thus, I doubt I'll be around long enough to add another 75,000 miles and see that row of 9's again!

But we can hope so...



Sunday, August 24, 2014

Quickie - "Touchy-feely," Trains, and Names.

I was waiting at the ophthalmologist's office Friday...dressed in white capri pants, red short sleeve polo top and white sandals (showing my silver toe nails), with my purse over my shoulder and back to the exit aisle.  My wife was checking out at the desk after her eye appointment, with her back toward me, and I was sort of blocking the exit aisle.  A woman was standing behind me, idly chatting with an employee.

When the woman finished her discussion and started to leave, I hadn't moved.  So she tenderly put her hand on my forearm and said "excuse me, sweetie."  I stepped aside as she moved past, telling her "Sorry" but truly enjoying her feminine touch.  As she passed me, she removed her hand and smiled sweetly, saying "thanks so much, dear."  I returned the smile and said "you're welcome, hon, have a great day" as she was leaving. 

Could it be that she simply accepted me as her equal - another woman?   Had that not been the case, I submit that she'd have just omitted the "touchy-feely part."  (Which my wife couldn't see, as her back was to me.)  Or, maybe she was just checking to see if my arms were stubbly?  (They weren't - I epilate.)

In either case, it was fun!

Just unearthed a few old train pictures...these were taken during a journey on a privately-owned railcar back in 1993.  These treasures certainly bring back a load of good memories...hard to believe it was 21 years ago!

Amtrak FL-9 #488,  Albany, NY

FL-9's were able to change from diesel power to 3rd rail power, eliminating an engine change for the trip into NYC.  For those interested, I seem to recall that these were retired from Amtrak in the mid to late 1990's, replaced by a version of the P-32 which was modified to do the same task.  This particular engine has ended up operating on the Maine Eastern least it's still around, and hasn't been scrapped!

The privately-owned Pullman sleeping car I rode in...halfway across the country and back, in the rearmost position on Amtrak Albany, NY on the Lake Shore Ltd.  A very sweet ride!

Everyone recognizes the Gateway Arch in St. Louis...

Here's the "view from the top."

In a recent post, Cyrsti Hart (of "Cyrsti's Transgender Condo" fame) said:  "In the beginning of course, I did use my name and my male name only came into play when legally I had to use it behind the scenes because I had not changed my gender markers. (It all made for some interesting calls to Ebay, who were cool.)"   In my own current affairs, I use my male first name, which (though it was also my dad's and granddad's name) is now a female name.  Once names make that "great shift"to the other side of the aisle, the ladies never really give it back!  With very few exceptions, folks I've met who bear that name are either "old men" or "females..."

It hasn't been a problem - I have credit cards with that (now feminine) name and my middle initial, simply eliminating my Jr. status -  my dear father (bless him) passed away about 17 years ago, so there is no longer any confusion.  That fairly well eliminates name issues and really helps with my gender presentation at shops, restaurants, and so on. 

The only places a few eyebrows may be raised is where my Driver's License must be shown.  But even in those situations, my name doesn't seem to be an issue.  I've checked into hotels, visited doctors, cashed checks, traveled on trains, and rented cars...en femme or in androgynous mode, with no problem.  It occasionally helps to precipitate feminine greetings, even when I would figure otherwise, like late in the day as my makeup is losing its battle to hide my beard shadow...

Over the past 20 years, I've done a complete 180-degree change in opinion, from disliking my given name immensely (and being known by first-and-middle-initials-only to hide it), to the exact opposite.  Now, I wouldn't trade it for anything!  And since I'm not  pursuing "full-time," I don't need to worry about my gender least not right away.

I'm going to try to begin to sound more female at drive-in windows.  But, before you ask, no, I don't have to worry about having folks on the phone with me mistake me for a female.  Unfortunately my voice comes through as seriously male! That's one area which will need some improvement.

More later...


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quickie - post office, hair salon & skirts.

The other day,  a package needed to be mailed at the post office in town.  Normally the folks there know me as a guy, regardless of my androgynous appearance.  But that day, there was a male substitute on duty at the counter, who didn't know my birth gender.  And it was very affirming to be addressed as and treated as a lady...

At my most recent hair appointment Friday, I took along a couple of pictures from the makeover, of me in the short wig, and asked my stylist what she thought.  She liked it and noted that it really does give me a different appearance.  I asked her if she thought it could be combed into something approximating a male hairstyle, and she doubted that it could.

My next question:  "You recognized who is the model in the picture, right?"  "Sure - it's you! And it's fine with me."  "If I walked in the door looking like this, do you think the other girls would recognize who it is?" " One might, the others probably wouldn't."  Then we discussed the wig shop that didn't have any staff, and the likelihood that I can find a wig that could be combed into an approximation of a male style (slim to none.)  Bottom line is that most likely, I'll just keep presenting with my own long hair...though I'll still keep looking for that perfect wig...

Because as this was written, I was still solo (till this past Monday), it was a perfect opportunity to try on some heavier-weight tops, with the three skirts (shown) I'm planning to take on my January trip out west...   There won't be much time uninterrupted time to do it later.  That is, without risking a disaster...

After my enjoyment of wearing the shorter skirt at Beth's makeover, I decided to leave longer skirts at home in January and stick with my knee-length ones.  Here are a few skirt/top combinations that I'm considering (in addition to light weight blouses you've already seen in earlier pictures).  Some heavier ones like these will be needed, because part of my trip will include cool or cold weather.  The bright side is that they are all women's tops, and part of my everyday wardrobe.  So I only need to take 3 skirts and four short sleeve tops, from my "hidden" wardrobe.  That should make it easy...

Plus, no bare legs for this girl on this trip...I'll wear pantyhose or tights, all the time.   Though at this point I don't plan to be in skirts in Chicago, the cold and wind there are legendary, so tights will feel good, even under stirrups.  And on occasion, it can be chilly in LA in January.   (Right, Jen????)   Yes, I'll also have a heavy jacket and sweater for probably will be necessary.    

My turtleneck's medium gray, not medium green...for some reason the color is off...way off!

Same here...medium gray, not green.

And, same here.  Plus, the red and black skirt is a bit off, too.

This turtleneck is light gray, and it came out right! (Though my skirt is blue, not gray!)

Due to lack of sufficient luggage space, in January I'll most likely stick with my flats.  Though if I find a corner somewhere to tuck them in, I probably should find room for my ankle boots, too, just in case of snow somewhere along the line.  Wet feet in cold weather are no fun, particularly with ballerina flats.  You just never know...

More later...



Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Marvelous Weekend, Part 3 Finale

Driving back to the hotel from Udvar-Hazy seemed a lot shorter than the other direction.  But then, that's normal!  Or maybe I was just anxious to move into the highlight of my visit - a makeover with Beth at Makeovers With Elizabeth Taylor:

The first (approximately) two thirds of my makeover was spent with wig and clothing selection, and makeup.  The balance was the actual photography.  Beth has a nice selection of clothes - (even some for us more substantial gals!)  But you certainly can use your own if you wish!

In my case, I used one of her wigs (she put my natural hair in a french braid underneath, to keep it out of the way), and the sleeveless outfits shown are from her wardrobe.  But as an experiment, at the end she un-braided my natural hair, added some products, and took a few pictures of me in one of my own outfits, as well.

 This long skirt is quite comfortable, and it helps one feel rather elegant...

I was very comfortable in the elegant long black skirt (above) with my Mary Janes, probably because I'm used to wearing my own long tan skirt.  However, Beth wanted to put me in something a bit more daring, so she handed me a shorter skirt...(below)  Once on, I realized how much "on display" it put me!  

 But the shorter skirt works well with the top I was wearing...

While I was still contemplating that "almost naked feeling" - very visible pantyhosed legs, and bare arms, (ultimately deciding that I liked it - a lot), she put out some pumps for me...with quite a bit higher heels than my own.  I picked the cute pair of peep-toes and put them on (above).  They looked fabulous, but I seriously wobbled if I tried to move.  Maybe it was the fit, or just lack of practice in skyscraper heels themselves.  If someone made me wear these heels every day, I'd most likely fall over! (At least till I got used to them...)

Then came the realization that: I wasn't going anywhere, and they were very sexy-looking.   So they absolutely had to be my shoes of choice for that part of the photo shoot.   I didn't move around much...didn't fall over, and loved the way the skirt and heels made me look!

 It's amazing how much this shorter wig actually changes my appearance!

Others have told me that a short wig would separate my androgynous appearance from my feminine side , and I can see from these pictures that it's true.  It really does give the "two of us" distinctly different "looks."  That would be a big plus.  However...

Given my own circumstances, a wig would be a lot of trouble to store, and from what Marian has said, they're very hot to wear outside in the summertime.  That's a big downside, since most of my activities en femme are in the warmer months. Even if I could overcome the storage issue, I can't picture myself wearing a wig to a car show in 90-plus degree weather....the perspiration dripping down my face would ruin my makeup.  And I wouldn't want to smell that wig the next day!  I'd have to get my stylist to wash it after every use.  There's already more than enough expense keeping the gray hidden in my own natural hair, something I can't give up - I'm just not prepared to add 5 years - or more -  to my apparent age by going gray.

Just before I published this, I visited the wig shop my stylist had suggested.  It was not a successful visit - see my "Quickie - the wig shop" post, dated the 16th.  Absent an unexpected miracle, that visit pretty much ended consideration of a short wig that could be styled in a more-or-less male style.  Whether it's age-appropriate or not,  I like my feminine long hair too much!

Back to my own outfit, and my own hair -  I still truly enjoy having long hair!

Beth is a wonderful hostess, and she helped me realize the potential to look my best.  I'd recommend her makeovers to anyone, trans or otherwise.  And for those who might want to come in from afar, a  hotel is very convenient to her location.   You can't go wrong!

After finishing up at Beth's it was late, and I'm not a night owl.   So, I went back to the hotel to remove makeup, shower and hit the sack. Sometimes I wish I were a night owl...hitting the clubs sounds like fun.  But I'd probably be asleep at the table, not enjoying the sights!  C'est la vie! (Did I spell that right?)

Sunday morning, sadness crossed my mind, that this marvelous weekend was rapidly drawing to a close.  But wait, there was still one more meet-up to accomplish.  Meg had given me the address of a local diner with good food, so that she and Charity could meet me for breakfast.  They had someplace to be a bit later in the morning, but we wanted to meet one more time.

So, Mandy got dressed again,  checked out of the hotel (neither my nails nor my attire caused any problem with the desk personnel) and headed for the diner.  At that early hour, traffic was nil (apparently most folks in the area aren't early risers), and the GPS got me there a couple of minutes before Meg and Charity arrived.  I was a bit tardy in getting out of the car - I waited to make sure I had the right couple...though I recognized Charity from a picture in Meg's blog.  They went right in and got a table, as I got out of the car and followed them in.

It was wonderful to see Meg again - in her male persona this time - and to finally get to meet Charity. She is a delight to be around, and I'm sure glad we made the effort to do the second meet-up!  Meg  knows how to choose restaurants....again, service was good, and the breakfast portions were as huge as the sandwiches Meg and I enjoyed at our Friday evening meal.   Trying this too often could cause a major weight gain for just about anyone...

All too soon, it was time to go.  We had our own schedules to keep.  So, after our farewells, we set off on our own.  In my case, that was home.  I'd checked out of the hotel in a skirt and blouse, mainly because I had NOT brought any clean androgynous outfits, leaving more room for girly things in my suitcase.  There was no choice in the matter - I was going home in a skirt and blouse.  But it wasn't a problem - nobody was there.

On Friday, my GPS had routed me via I-395, which probably accounted for all the heavy traffic.  Sunday, I could have gone south, and hit the beltway to get me around the city proper.  But since all I did on Friday was concentrate on the roads and traffic, I figured I should see what sights I missed because I couldn't glance up from my driving duties...

Thus I retraced my steps on I-395.  And, with no realized how much I had missed.  There they were - all the storied sights of DC, surrounding me, almost close enough to touch!  The airport, the Potomac, the Pentagon, the Washington Monument - the list goes on and on,   This would be a fabulous tourist route on a beautiful morning, when there is no traffic, like at 9:00 Sunday morning!  Just don't try it on a weekday - or any, for that matter - afternoon!

There was no traffic issue at "The Bridge," so it was a quick and safe trip home...thus bringing the curtain down on The Marvelous Weekend!  Thanks for staying with me, and reading about it!



Saturday, August 16, 2014

Quickie - the wig shop

On Wednesday I went to visit the wig shop in a nearby town, which my hairdresser told me about.  I wore my jean skirt, blue blouse, sandals, with makeup, jewelry and lipstick.  When I walked in, there was nobody at the counter, so I went to look over the wigs by myself.  They had lots of styles to choose from, but I'm not familiar enough with names or features to know if they are decent.

And there still was nobody around...

Finally a man appeared, and I gave him my spiel about wanting to find a wig.  He started talking, in very broken English, and I was having lots of trouble understanding him.  And he was the only staffer in the shop.  He basically handed me a wig cap, and said (and I paraphrase) "have at it..."

This is nothing like I had been led to believe would happen, as told to me by the clerk I talked to last time I stopped in.  I couldn't get the wig cap to stay on, my hair wouldn't stay up under it, and several wigs I tried on wouldn't stay on - if I got the front positioned, the back slipped off.  And vice versa.  All the while, the sign above where I was sitting said, in big bold letters:  "Absolutely No Returns For Any Reason."   Where was the help?   What help?  Needless to say, I left, and don't plan to return.  Their financial loss (I was prepared to buy an inexpensive wig), my gain.

During my makeover, Beth gave me a loose french braid, to get my hair out of the way, and then put the wig on me.  It fit.  Nicely.  No tugging, no slipping.  She provided the name of that wig, and suggested a couple of online places to look.  So if I really want to risk money (and we're probably talking 3 digits to the left of the decimal, not 2)  I'd be lots better off going in that direction.   But if I want to successfully wear a wig,  I think I'd better learn to braid my own hair (or at least to make a bun)!

The jury is still out on whether it's even worth the trouble.  Having my nails long and painted bright red seemed to do quite well for me!   Time will tell...



Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Marvelous Weekend, part 2

Welcome back...

Saturday, I was off to the Udvar-Hazy Center, where the Smithsonian displays its aviation and space-related pieces which are too large to be accommodated in the Air and Space Museum on the Mall in downtown DC.

It was fascinating to wander amongst all the historical pieces, imagining what life was like "back in the day" when these were the pride of their respective countries.

As you can see from the below, not all the aircraft were instruments of war, though many were...   Civil aircraft included, among others, the Boeing 307 below, the Air France Concorde and a Boeing 707, as was a Junkers JU-52/3 trimotor, reportedly the most successful European airliner of its day.

Many folks will recognize this one...the Boeing 307 Stratoliner.

First flown in 1938, the above streamlined Boeing creation was the first airplane with a pressurized cabin.  It could transport 33 passengers in comfort (sleeper berths and reclining seats) at 20,000 ft. (above most weather) and maintain a cabin altitude of 8,000 ft.  Ten were built, using wings, tail and engines of the B-17C bomber, and this one used to toil for Pan American (in its better days...) 

Mignet HM-14 Pou Du Ciel "La Cucaracha"  Never heard of it...

Henri Mignet's vision of an airplane that an amateur could build and teach himself to fly led him in 1933 to design the Pou Du Ceil (the Flying Flea.)  In an effort to make the aircraft stable, he staggered the wings.  The plane enjoyed a period of popularity in England and France, but a series of incidents in 1935 and 1936 permanently blackened its reputation.

This is the first HM.14 made and flown in the US. It was built for Powell Crosby Jr, President of Crosley Radio.   It crashed in Miami in 1936, grounding it.  Then in 1960 Patrick H. Packard donated it to the Smithsonian, and it was subsequently restored for display.

The Fulton FA-3 Airphibian...never heard of it before, either.

Designed by Robert Fulton, in 1950 it became the first roadable aircraft to be certified by the (then) Civil Aviation Administration.  Others had been built, but none were certified.  It could fly to an airport, then after disengaging the wing/tail unit and propeller, become a car.  While a technical success, the design was sluggish, underpowered, and not marketable.  Thus it was not produced or sold.  This unit was donated by a former company officer in 1960 and it was restored by Robert Fulton III in 1998.

Above is the Space Shuttle Discovery.  It's probably the most popular display there, based on the number of people looking at it the day I visited.   And it holds special meaning for me, because we were in Florida and able to watch its first takeoff...   Hint: it looks a lot bigger in person than it did on launch day, off in the distance.

 Mandy beside the Discovery

I guess I look a tad different nowadays than I did years back.  In those days, I didn't have red nails and wasn't wearing makeup, lipstick, a skirt, blouse and women's sandals.   The present is much nicer than the past...

The sky got cloudy in the afternoon, on the way out...

Stay tuned for Part 3

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

It's a new record...

Actually two new records...   First and foremost:  when I had my beautiful red nail polish removed late Monday afternoon,  that established my first record (76 hours) for length of time with painted finger and toe nails.  It may be a long time before I can exceed that record...

The clock started ticking on Friday at about noon...when they got painted like this, which ended hearing the dreaded "S" word for the entire weekend.  From then on,  I heard either "Ma'am" or they just omitted any greeting whatsoever.

  At the hotel, painted toes sticking out from under my tiered tan skirt...

A quick grab shot, at the Tom Paxton concert...

The second record was that this blog has been read over 20,000 times.  Thanks to all for looking, and I hope you come back often - or better yet, sign up to follow it!

Upon returning home from DC Sunday, I prepped some old alloy wheels (from a prior automobile) for sale - anybody with auto experience knows that means degreasing both sides of each wheel, and lots of splashed, ugly dirty water.  I was obviously outside working, but nobody walked by to chat with me,  thus my nails remained a "secret."

After ruining my old pair of shorts and sneakers with the black, greasy water splashed from the wheels, I waxed the wheels in the garage, to help them look better.  Again, nobody went by, so when I finished, I loaded them in the car and gave up for the day...

Monday, I took the wheels to a friend on the other side of the bay, who will sell them for me, and ran some errands.  Since some of the errands were at places we are known, I didn't wear a skirt...instead it was a pair of capris, with a polo top, sandals, necklace and bracelet, earrings and so on.  None of the people we knew said a word about my girly appearance, even with 20 bright red nails in plain view (I was wearing sandals.)  But, the important thing was: nobody said "Sir," either!

I went to the bank (a different branch, where I was not known) to see how they would handle cashing a check.  No "S" word, only "Ma'am" and "she."  This was even after having to produce my driver's license (which clearly shows "M".)   Nice...

So apparently, if I want to blend in better (maybe "pass" is too strong a description) I really should paint my nails...  That's something I may work on for my trip to the west coast in January.  Conceivably I could wear fingernail color (no sandals at that time of year) after my conference (once I'm in skirts), for somewhere around 7 days!   Woo-Hoo!  But we'll see how the planning goes.

On the way home a radio traffic report mentioned something about the beginnings of a backup on "the bridge." On a Monday. Hmmm.  So it was all back roads for me, and I missed most of it...only got caught up in about a 20 minute wait right at the toll booth.  Which, needless to say, gave me time for the following grab shots:

An hour before the polish had to come off...I took this while stuck in traffiv.

Almost to the toll booth...about 30 car lengths to go...

How I would love to wear nails that pretty every day! 

My regular tech was surprised to see my red color,  since I had it done elsewhere.  But I think she used to wonder why she calls me "Miss Mandy."  Now she knows.  And not surprisingly, she wants a picture...I'll take her some!  (It's also implied clearance to show up in a skirt...)

The little girl who always chats with me at the salon, did so once again.  Now she's decided that "you're half girl and half boy!" I don't have a better explanation - so once again,  "out of the mouths of babes..." I didn't dispute her analysis!  And I'll miss seeing her when school starts again.

Till next time,


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The Marvelous Weekend Part 1

Last Friday morning, dressed in capris and a polo top with sandals, I dropped my wife at the train station, to begin her travel to visit with her sister in the midwest.  Thus, my adventure (including a museum visit, a meet-up with a blogger in the area, and an evening session with a photographer/makeup artist for some professional pictures) began...things I've wanted to do for a long time.

First stop was a nail salon (not my regular one), to get my nails made a bit more suitable for the weekend.  I knew my fingernails needed filled, but I didn't want them to do that, so it took several coats of bright red polish over top, to make them look good.  My toes also needed attention - the shellac was getting rough on the edges, so for not much more than the cost of repairing the rough spots on each toe, they replaced the old silver shellac with a darker shade of silver, and painted them the same shade of red as my fingers.  Due to the underlying silver color, the red came out a bit darker, but that's not a major problem.   (My nails show up as almost the proper colors below.  But the carpet is actually tan, not green!  Sorry!)  Then I changed into a skirt and blouse in their restroom...

Thus began my marvelous weekend!  

There was plenty of time to get to my hotel.   Or so I thought... but Friday afternoon's traffic was frightful, made worse by the fact that I was traveling unfamiliar roads, guided only by a GPS.  That's not fun, particularly in bumper-to-bumper, stop-and-go traffic.  The long and short of it is:  I got there, safe and sound, with no issue (other than frayed nerves and shortness of time.)   But I had time to freshen up for dinner (you know the drill - shave, apply new makeup, change outfits, and so on...)

Meg, one of the girls whose blog I follow, met me at the hotel at the appointed time.  We went to a nearby restaurant for dinner, as planned.  Both of us ordered sandwiches, but when they arrived, surprise!  They weren't just conventional sandwiches, they were super-size.  Each half was almost the size of a regular sandwich.  It's tough to even think about dessert, when you're stuffed like the proverbial holiday bird...  And, we didn't even eat all of our fries!  

Meg was planning to attend a Tom Paxton "folk concert" being held that evening in one of the suburban Virginia local parks, and she invited me to go along.  The weather was perfect for outdoor entertainment (at the right price - free), the company was good, and I wanted to be out-and-about in a skirt.  So, I went along.

For those of you who don't remember Tom Paxton - and yours truly initially fell into that category - go here: ( for a refresher.  Then if you're like me, it all comes into focus...   It was wonderful to hear this live performance, and I had a great time!   Thanks go out to Meg for suggesting it!

Afterward, I went back to my hotel room, to clean up the teenage-girl-like disaster of clothes I had strewn around the room, while hunting the exact outfit I wanted to wear.   In all my past travels, I NEVER had been able to carry all my girl things (with the exception of shoes) in one suitcase.  But this time I did.  That's because I didn't bring anything androgynous, except the clothes I left the house in that morning, and which were now in the dirty laundry bag to take home.  Mandy had "kicked the door off the closet" for the weekend, would have to wear skirts and blouses all weekend (including the drive home), and was feeling fabulous!

Saturday I was on my own, as Meg had other plans.  But I'd planned for a solo day anyway, so that was no problem.  My agenda was simple -  visit the Steven Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA, which is the Smithsonian's repository for aviation and space displays too big or too numerous for the Smithsonian down on the Mall in DC.  I'd previously been to that museum, so Udvar-Hazy was now the must-see.

That place is huge!  You can tell from these pictures, one outside and one seems to go on "forever."  The big black bulge in the picture below is an observation tower.  I was in one of the first groups of the day to visit, and the view is spectacular.   The airport is nearby, and planes can be seen taking off or landing - though the runways were relatively quiet at that hour of the morning.

There are lots of displays, enough to satisfy everyone.   They've even suspended aircraft from the ceiling...   Some of these planes are from all over the world, the manufacturers of which I've never heard about before. But all are wonderful to see.  And if you read every bit of signage plus take detailed pictures of each plane, you will need at least two days to cover everything.  Didn't take me quite that long...LOL!

Stay tuned for Part 2

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sometimes a dress just catches your eye...

It was a busy and exciting weekend...but that blog has yet to be written.  It will appear, in due time...

Probably I'm not alone in noticing what women are wearing, color combinations, patterns and the like.  On Saturday I visited the Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, VA - the Smithsonian's repository for aviation and space artifacts which are too large for the museum on the Mall in DC.  (Yes, I got to see the Space Shuttle Discovery, which my wife, son and I watched take off from Florida years ago.)

Let's just say that the outfit below initially caught my eye as the woman wearing it passed by the McDonalds where I (in a skirt and blouse outfit with flat sandals) was having lunch.  Not sure if she calls it a tunic top or short dress, but she wore "whichever" with her black tights and modest heels.

I love the bold colors, and she wears it very well.  Not only was there a "wow" factor in her dress, but she must have passed me three or four times as the day went I got to see it again and again.

One of these days, and under these circumstances (fully dressed),  I'll be brave enough to stop the woman and ask...where she got her dress!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A fabulous vacation - Part II

Another picture of yours truly, from Ruby Falls....

 Mandy at Ruby Falls...a selfie.  Sorry about the lousy was almost totally dark in there.

In my prior post, I mentioned that I probably shouldn't wear white capris around the probably can figure out why...

My new friends...

when you see the picture of two very affectionate adult Great Danes.  They're loud barkers, and could be very intimidating if you're a burglar who doesn't know them.  I made friends with both,  starting that first night, but the male dog (the black one) took an instant liking to me.  He stayed around me a lot of the time, standing and/or sitting at my feet.   (Since he prefers the lady of the house, maybe he thinks I'm a girl too?)

At one point he even sort of crawled up on my lap - as much as is possible for a big dog like that.   The family laughed and said that it proved I was his friend for life...he only does that with people he trusts as friends.  You haven't lived until you've experienced having a hundred-pound-plus Great Dane sitting on your lap!

When we got back to the motel, however, I discovered the down side of being his tan shorts were now covered with dog hair - he sheds!  So, both of them better stay away from me when I have my white capris and pantyhose on! (And keeping them away will be a challenge!)

The closest thing to a comment about my appearance the whole trip came from our host's older brother, who plays musical instruments.  In the course of discussing his musical background, he inquired as to what instruments I play.  I truthfully told him that as a kid, I played clarinet.  As an adult, a friend got me involved with a band, and they started teaching me the tuba.  But work interfered and I dropped out of the group.   He had thought I was a rock band member, from my long hair and sandals.  But that was the only comment - and I get similar questions all the time.

Our final day, at dinner out, I was publicly Miss-identified in front of everyone, by the elderly waitress...and nobody batted an eyelash.  Neither my attire, nor the feminine identification, had caused any noticeable reaction.  But during our visit, we discovered a possible reason why not.   One of our future daughter-in-law's (D-I-L's) long-time girlfriends (for 26 years ) is getting married soon. She'll be marrying her life partner, in a state where it is legal.  D-I-L will be one of her bridesmaids.  And this female friend is also going to be one of D-I-L's bridesmaids.  She's a lovely girl. We had lunch and dinner with her, and both of us like her a lot.  The family is comfortable around her.  That may be the reason my capris and ballerinas didn't "stampede the horses."

Of course, they might assume I'm gay.  But, I truly don't believe that's their thought impression is that they are just very tolerant of others' lifestyles, having been exposed to their daughter's girlfriend for the past quarter century.   And this could turn out to be a big plus...only time will tell.  (Though I'm still not likely to show up with silvery fingernails!   Toe nails maybe - fingernails, not so much.)

All too soon, our happy visit drew to a close, and we headed back to the motel for the final time.  Everyone we had talked to about I-75 told us that we should be off the road by 2 PM - that's when the traffic incidents become more frequent.  So we detoured in the direction of the Southeastern Railway Museum, in a little town called Duluth, GA.  That way we would be on "roads less-traveled" for the rest of the return trip to Hotlanta.

Because we were hungry, we asked our GPS to show us nearby places for food.  We're not into oriental or other ethnic meals, thus we settled for "Murrays in a Hurry."   It's a little dive in a strip mall near town, and they had quite a following of regular lunch customers, known by name.  Murray wasn't in much of a hurry that day....our salads took a long while to prepare, but in fairness there were lots of folks in front of us.

When they finally arrived, they were fresh and delicious...a real treat.  Neither of us could finish, they were sooooo huge!  And other meals we saw had huge portions, too.  All in all, it's a great place to eat if you're ever in Duluth, GA.  Just don't be in a hurry!

The museum has lots of old rail equipment, including some non-rail, like MARTA buses and Checker cabs.  Remember the old Ford Falcons?   One of them became a Checker cab...

Ex-Amtrak 2092, 24 duplex roomette sleeping car

Inside an old solarium lounge car...

There were enough rail passenger cars to keep both of us entertained for a long time, but eventually we had to make our way back to Hotlanta to turn in the rental car and get to the station.  Our creative rural route took us around the worst of the afternoon traffic, and we were able to stop at the station and temporarily stow our baggage before we returned the car in Buckhead.   They shuttled us to the midtown hotel district, and let us off to window shop, then walk back to the station.  

It was fun, but dark clouds were brewing, and we found that the train was delayed.   So we grabbed a sub sandwich to eat back at the station.  By walking fast, we beat the rain and got to "enjoy" a long wait in the station.  (Those benches are hard on the back.)  We picked up our bags at the counter again as we waited.  Not fun.   But when the train finally arrived, I was once again Miss-identified, as the attendant helped me lift my bags on board.  

As our trip drew to a close in Washington, DC, the commuter train crew bent over backwards to help two "ladies" with their heavy bags - me and my wife.  When they asked me if I would like some help, I said "Oh my gosh yes...thank you so much, kind sir!" He beamed.  A fine way to end a fabulous trip.   And given the bags we were toting, my wife was happy we were both assisted - even if I ended up being "queen for a day."

Now we just wait for the next chance to go again!  (And it will happen...)


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Petticoat Junction?

Part 1 Addendum...

While we were in Chattanooga, touring the hotel which used to be Union Station, we walked amongst the railcars now functioning as sleeping rooms.  I took a bunch of pictures.  When I got home, I noticed this picture was something special.... women's wet swimwear hanging out to dry, over the safety gate on the rear of the car.  That's a bit unusual... 

Do any of you remember the show "Petticoat Junction," which aired on American TV from 1963 through early 1970?   This might bear a passing resemblance to the scene in each show's introduction. Betty Jo, Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo and their dog all were appropriately standing in the railroad water tank, after apparently "skinny dipping" in it, with each one's petticoat (including the dog's) hung carefully over the edge of the tank.

The women are certainly missing from this picture, but their swimsuits remain plainly visible, even though not neatly spread out.

Petticoat Junction?

PS:  Anyone notice that the left side of the car is tilted down, lower than the right, and it doesn't appear to be caused by the track...not a good sign.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A fabulous a "twist."

Our son recently announced his engagement.  We had already become acquainted with his fiance during her visit to our place in April (brave girl).  Thus, it was finally time for us to meet her parents and family.

The easiest way to reach their place was to take the train to Atlanta and drive north to Chattanooga.  We had planned this trip a while back, regardless of the engagement, because last-minute sleeping car reservations can be hard to come by...  It was definitely good planning, as the two sleepers on the Crescent were largely full on the days of our travel.

Here's a picture of our table in the diner, as we prepared to order our evening meal...which was good, but not superb.  At least they still offer food service on trains, and 1000-Island salad dressing is available, unlike at many other establishments:-)  So we're not complaining!

        Dinner in the diner...nothing could be finer!

The entire trip was basically uneventful, and operated on time.  Quarters on a sleeper are a bit cramped, but worth enduring for the overnight trip, as the drive south would have taken longer, and would have put a lot of miles on our still-relatively-new car.   (Not to mention the stress and exhaustion on both of us, from spending about 12 hours driving over a day and a half, in the peak of the summer vacation season.)

Enroute, I wore my white capris, a short sleeve women's polo (with necklace), pantyhose, ballerina flats, and my purse.  Fingernails were freshly done, but without the iridescent silver polish (see prior post), and my long hair was also freshly done.  I was "Miss-identified" a number of times, but heard the "S" word more frequently than I'd like to.  Mostly, folks just omitted any greeting, which is OK with me.

We picked up our rental car in Hotlanta (no Miss-identification there - they had my drivers license, and actually read it, despite my feminine appearance) and headed north on I-75.  But we turned east, to a place called Kennesaw, to visit the Southern Museum of Civil War and Locomotive History, where The General, a restored historic locomotive, and other relics of the American Civil War, are located. 

Do any of you remember the "Great Locomotive Chase" from History class?  Here is the restored "General."

For those of you not familiar with it, the General is a steam locomotive built in December of 1855 in Paterson, New Jersey by Rodgers, Ketchum & Grosvenor Locomotive and Machine Works.  It provided transportation and freight service between Chattanooga and Atlanta on the Western & Atlantic Railroad.  The train was hijacked on April 12, 1862 during the Civil War by a group of Union sympathizers (civilians AND soldiers) - the "Andrews’ Raiders" - at Big Shanty (now known as the city of Kennesaw), in what history (and a big-screen motion picture) refer to as the "Great Locomotive Chase".  The Union raid was unsuccessful, as the group was captured by the Confederates and many were executed.  However, we all know how the story ends...   This was a classic case of "winning the battle while losing the war." 

We met our son's fiance's parents and family...and spent a lot of time with them over our visit, as we expected.  My attire around the family was planned to be shorts, pantyhose, closed toe sandals, and women's polos, and it was - initially.    However, I was shocked when on the second day, my wife told me "No more shorts, sweetie.  I want you to look nice today, in white capris with pantyhose and ballerinas."  That was an interesting "twist" -  she must have suspected (or knew) we'd be going out with the family and some friends that evening and I wouldn't be able to change.  Unfortunately, the only pair of white capris I'd brought along was dirty (I had spilled something on them - go figure!)   I could NEVER have foreseen her telling me to dress that way, thus I didn't bring any extra white capris.  So we had to settle for jean capris.  But nobody batted an eyelash at either my capris or pantyhose and ballerinas.   Next time, I bet I end up spending more time in white capri outfits - and can leave all the shorts at home!

Just not light colors around their dogs...more on that later!

Most of the details of our family visits cannot be written, for obvious privacy reasons.  What I can say is: we did some wedding planning with our son's fiance and her mom, and helped decide on the venue for the wedding.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) our son couldn't be there - he was sent out of town on business at the last minute by his employer.  And I can also say that they're all fabulous folks, very hospitable.  It seemed like we had known each other for years!  And likewise, some of our future daughter-in-law's friends. We now look forward to returning there in the future!

One of the places we visited in Chattanooga was Coolidge's a popular spot on the North Shore of the Tennessee River, where kids can hop on a century-old carousel (we were there, very pretty) or enjoy acres of open green space. During the summer, you can come here for concerts, festivals, and outdoor movie screenings.

Nearby is Chattanooga’s Walnut Street Bridge, one of the world’s longest pedestrian bridges. Its wrought-iron trusses stretch across the Tennessee River, which bisects the city’s downtown.  And it's from that bridge, where the following view of the old paddle-wheeler Delta Queen can be found.

She was ordered from a Scottish company in 1924, and shipped in pieces to Stockton, California in 1926. There the California Transportation Company assembled her (and the Delta King, too) for their regular Sacramento River service between San Francisco and Sacramento, with excursions to Stockton, on the San Joaquin River.  In 1946 she moved to Cincinnati via the Panama Canal (that would have been something to see...)  and began inland waterway service in 1948.

The steamboat "Delta Queen."  Yes, the real McCoy, moored in Chattanooga, TN

A 1966 Federal law regarding Safety at Sea spelled her eventual doom.  Without an exemption from a maritime law forbidding wooden-superstructured ships over a certain capacity (like the Delta Queen) from being used in marine passenger service, it can no longer be used for its intendcd purpose.  And that exemption (which expired in 2008) hasn't been renewed by what many perceive as a rather ineffective Congress the last few years. 

After it was taken out of active service cruising America's inland waterways at the end of 2008, the Delta Queen was towed to Chattanooga in 2009, where she was leased out, and functioned as a "boutique hotel" for a while.  However, its days at Coolidge Park are now numbered.  And looking rather "long in the tooth" - i.e.  badly in need of some TLC, soon she will be off to another location.  Hopefully she will not meet the fate that befell her predecessors....

 One of the few pictures taken of "yours truly" - at Ruby Falls.

There are a number of sights to see in Chattanooga.  Some of them (the incline railway, Rock City, Ruby Falls, and the Cravens House - of "Battle above the clouds" fame during the civil war) are located on Lookout Mountain.  We only had time to do one thing (Ruby Falls) there during our visit....and that was only our future daughter-in-law and wife doesn't do caves.  The above picture is one of the few "alone" pictures taken...

Ruby Falls is a cave with an underground walk through the cave in Lookout Mountain to get there.  It's commercialized, of course, but regardless - most everyone finds it unique and very picturesque.  There's definitely a "wow" factor as they take you into the room with the falls in darkness and then turn on the lights...

And together, both of our families visited the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel in the former Union Station, shown below.  Having been there years ago for a convention, it has only changed a little...and unfortunately, for the worse...while the layout is attractive, the decor is dated - lobby and dining area furniture are tired-looking, and paint is generally faded.  The old railcars they use as some of the  sleeping rooms are rusting, and definitely need body work/repainting.   A sign was posted saying they will be finished with a rehabilitation in 2015.  Bet that will drive the resort-style room pricing already in effect, to even higher levels.

Former Chattanooga Union Station, now a tourist destination known as the Chattanooga Choo Choo Hotel...

Stay tuned for part II