Sunday, May 31, 2015

Maybe Blue Isn't Just For Boys...

There's not a lot of interest going on at the present posts may be scarce for a while.

Yesterday, in preparation for an upcoming planned solo excursion, I dropped in at the nail salon for a fill.  And there were a lot of us there...all trying to look our best for the upcoming summer season.  My outfit was an un-tucked sleeveless t-shirt-type top, over a thin white tank top (with a glimpse of white showing at the arm holes, hinting at a bra underneath, but there really wasn't...), a pair of shorts, and strappy sandals (with my pink pedicure showing.)  Given my purse, long nails, hairless arms and  "winter white" legs, I apparently looked more than a bit girly.  And after being welcomed as "Miss Mandy" by my tech in front of the ladies...well, you get the picture.

One woman was sitting alone at the drying table, while the rest of us were being worked on.  My tech had to take a few minutes to wax a lady's eyebrows.  So I initiated a conversation with the "lone" woman, in my "normal" voice.  And she picked right up...keeping our conversation asking me about my nails.  I got up, walked over to stand next to her - and we each made appropriate compliments about each others' nails.  She wanted to know all about mine, which don't require drying.  That was good for a fabulous discussion.  She particularly liked the fact that "we can put on our flats or heels immediately after our pedicures, without having to wait 10 or 15 minutes at the drying table"  like she currently is doing.   Another acrylic customer for the salon?  Very likely...

Then she noticed my (mother's) necklace, which nowadays, I almost always wear, and which my wife has developed a sort of blindness to...except for certain functions like our son's recent wedding!   The lady also has her mother's jewelry, and hadn't thought about wearing it.  Then she noticed that my ears aren't pierced, and suggested that step for me.  "Most women have them nowadays."  I just left it that "Mom doesn't have pierced ears either, and she has a bunch of earrings, so I haven't taken that step.  I'd really like to do it.  Just not right now..."

Then my tech came out from the waxing room and it was "back to work on your nails!"  The rest of my visit was totally un-remarkable, though my new friend (Lisa was her name) said stopped by to say "so long" when she left.

Our neighborhood has started an internet group to communicate.  My wife wasn't interested in joining.  But we've heard about it from others and she agreed that we might want a presence,  if nothing more than to see what everyone talks about on line...  And it goes without saying, that we won't participate much.  I somewhat reluctantly joined. 

Remember that my real given name is now used by females, and there is already a female in the area with the same given name.  She's been introduced at some of the parties we've attended as "the pretty one."  But, it's really anybody's guess what the result would be, if she and I stood hip-to-hip and arm-in-arm, both wearing the same dresses and heels, being fully made up, with brightly polished nails and me with a more feminine hairdo.  (It could be a bit closer never knows.)

And obviously, not everyone knows me.  Some of the neighborhood women (probably the ones who don't attend social functions to meet their neighbors) have been using the email group's welcoming feature to "welcome" each other - and me - aboard.  Not so much the men.   Only a couple men have responded. It's a girl thing.

Yet, I find that somewhat interesting - are those who don't know me assigning a gender by virtue of my name?  Especially by the newer residents, who haven't met me yet?  They may get a bit of a shock when we eventually meet!   This happened to our long-haired son too, at his first year in college - his male "nickname" ends in "y" but somewhere along the official line that got switched to "ie."  Needless to say, the lucky boy didn't accept the invitation "s/he" received with his first year's registration packet, to join a sorority....LOL!  And other than the long hair, he clearly was a guy...

Oh, well - I can be a girl or a guy, and the way I dress daily "typically" indicates female.  So it's fine by me.  I answer to "Ma'am,"  "Miss," and other feminine form of address, as well as (grudgingly, "Sir.")   But I can clean up fairly well, as you can see from this picture a couple years back... Here I am, outside my hotel room at the motel, ready for dinner.

 From the archives, a couple years Fredericksburg, VA:

Blue is obviously my favorite color...that skirt almost matches my car (that's why I bought the skirt!)  Maybe blue isn't just for boys after all...

Till next time,


Monday, May 25, 2015

First visit to Mom's after OBX, and the DQ...

And it was a tough visit at the nursing home.  She seems to have forgotten who she is, who she married, and who I am.

But what she remembered was amazing....the names of her father's brothers and her mother's sister, and was asking me where they all are living now.  (Which is "in the cemetery."   If they were still alive, they'd be from 120 to 130 years old.)  I managed to get her back on track before I left, but it wasn't easy to keep redirecting her limited thought processes.   From prior experience, I initially believed this was something I would go through after trips in excess of two weeks.  Guess not...we were only gone a week this time!

As I left the nursing home that day, a little excitement occurred.  One of the new elderly male residents and his middle-age kids were sitting in the chairs out front - the first time this season the weather has been suitable for that.  I smiled and said "hi" to them as I walked by on my way to the car.  Then, as I continued walking away, I heard the resident said to the kids something like "she has nice long hair."    The female said "Dad, I'm almost sure that's a guy." I simply kept on walking to my car, and by then I was beyond hearing range.   Apparently my typical summer outfit of shorts, a women's polo top and fisherman sandals, with a purse, weren't enough cues to pass that particular female's eye...

Wow - 40,000 page views!   Thanks to each of you who stopped by and made this milestone possible!

As for the DQ - how many folks thought I meant Dairy Queen?'s the Delta Queen!   Our new D-I-L shared a picture she took of the Delta Queen leaving Chattanooga for New Orleans, where it will be refurbished for service.

                                                             Delta Queen leaving Chattanooga!

Maybe someday I'll get to ride her...   Unlike a cruise, a riverboat doesn't normally get too far from land!

More later...


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Waterspouts and The Outer Banks

It's been too long between posts lately.  Part of the reason: for a few days, antique car owners of various marques descended upon the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  (Just as Tropical Storm Ana was - thankfully - leaving.)

Monday night we were at dinner in an oceanfront restaurant, and I looked out to sea - there was what appeared to be two rotating white pouches hanging down from the dark offshore cloud deck.  I believed it was the formation of twin waterspouts (later confirmed from others) and ran outside to try for a picture.  The waterspouts never formed trademark "full funnels", but there was spray on the ocean surface beneath them for a short time, leading me to believe the circulation was just too weak to develop further.  They paralleled the coast for a short while, and then disappeared. This is the best picture I was able to take of them...not long before they vanished.


For those who aren't familiar with the Outer Banks (or OBX as the locals - and the bumper stickers - say), they are a very narrow strip of sand (under a mile wide and maybe as much as12 ft above sea level) called barrier islands, just off the NC coast, some accessible by bridge or causeway, and others by ferry.  We traveled to a few, but by no means all, of the islands, and had a fabulous time.

Our little jaunt was actually fairly tame as far as "miss-identifications" were concerned.  There were some, to be sure.  Most of the time at restaurants, no gendered forms of address were used for us. Instead, we heard "y'all." "folks," and "guys", but we were almost always asked if we wanted one, or two separate, checks.  Hmmm, very curious.  

Then, when they finally gave the check to us, it was always placed midway between us, like they typically do for ladies dining together.  Only one time did I actually hear "Sir," and that check was given directly to me.  Their confusion might have been because my presentation (as you can see below), was less feminine than I prefer,  but still not clearly male.  Fortunately, my wife was fairly comfortable with how I looked.  And, she was not always by my side for the true "miss-identifications."  Only for the men holding doors for us - "go ahead, ladies" and the like.  Which she seems to take in stride.

She definitely got some exposure to  me wearing my new "blue for boys" lounger, whenever we were in our room.  Unless the folks we were touring with, were paying close attention to the fine details of my daily presentation, I doubt anyone noticed anything out of the ordinary.  At least, nothing was said.  And, despite my lack of a good feminine presentation, it was a wonderful trip...

Early on, we made a stop at the Chicamacomico Life Saving Station in Rodanthe, NC.  Per Wikipedia, Chicamacomico was an active US Coast Guard facility from 1915 until 1954. After its decommissioning the facility was transformed into a museum.   The CLSS is perhaps best remembered for the 1918 rescue of the British tanker Mirlo. Forty-two crew members of the Mirlo were saved by station personnel. Numerous accolades and awards were bestowed upon the 6 life-savers including gold medals in their honor presented by King George V of the United Kingdom  and the Grand Cross of the American Cross of Honor. To date only eleven Grand Cross of the American Cross of Honor awards have been bestowed in the history of the United States with six being bestowed upon the members of the CLSS.

Wonder what the gold dome in the center of the picture, between the big building and the outdoor kitchen, is?  If you guessed a cistern, you'd be right.  The roof gutters connect to it, to store rainwater for future use.  Remember, back in the day,  town utilities were not common...nor were towns...especially out in the hinterlands like the Outer Banks.

Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station, Rodanthe (Outer Banks), NC

Below is a pic taken on the ferry boat to Ocracoke Island.  You'll notice that I'm not smiling at all.  Before you ask, yes, there's a reason... mainly because I don't feel comfortable on boats of any size.  Knowing how many boats (particularly ferries, but do remember the Titanic, Andrea Doria and Costa Concordia as well) have sunk, worldwide.  And. being almost out of sight of land in choppy post-tropical-storm seas mid-voyage, did absolutely nothing to ease my anxiety.  Fortunately, neither this ferry, nor the one we rode back to Hatteras, sank - thus, I'm still around to talk about my experiences.  And,  having survived two more voyages,  I can do my own version of the "happy dance"!  (Just don't expect to meet me on any cruises!)

At least I was wearing my typical touring outfit...but with my 2" heeled clogs instead of strappy sandals.  They collect less sand and are easier to remove sand from.  Just ignore the glare from my un-tanned "winter legs."  Maybe some day temperatures will be conducive to wearing shorts more of the time...

On the car ferry "Lupton" enroute from Hatteras to  Ocracoke. My GPS showed the icon moving across the water at 12 mph!   Follow Route 12 any way you can!

What's that white stuff we see in the following picture?  It looks and acts like snow, but it really was sand.  Pictures can't accurately show the fine streams of sand blowing over the top edge of the dune.  Sand blows around so much that the state has to use front end loaders and road graders to rearrange it.  Must be a boring job, going from place to place, scraping the same stretches of road and shoulders, time and again.

That's not snow, it's sand!  The grasses they planted to stabilize the dunes haven't started to do their job yet...

And I'm still trying to wash the sand off my car...with all the nooks and crannies, "it's everywhere, it's everywhere!"

I could bore you with lighthouse pictures from the wife and I both enjoy lighthouses.  I've climbed a few "back in the day" (Cape May, Aquinnah, Concord Point, and so on), so I'm not completely opposed to it.  The views are always spectacular, and occasionally I have gotten right up next to the Fresnel Lens, usually off limits.  But my wife's view of climbing is, well, "not so much."  And, the older we get, the less appealing we both find the thought of climbing 248 steps (more or less) up, and then back down again.  It's simply lost its appeal...seems too much like unnecessary work.  One of these days, I'll do it "one last time, just for the memories".   But not now...

This (Currituck light, north of Duck) is a  fine example of one of the very few brick lighthouses.  And the place was very crowded when we were there.  It took a while to arrange this relatively human-free snapshot.

Currituck Light

Paved road ends at the northern border of NC, as in  "way north of Duck."  We're told that parts of Route 12 were paved as recently as 1985 north of Duck (don't you just love that name?), remaining unpaved in Virginia.  If you have a 4wd vehicle (which we obviously didn't), you can continue north into Virginia, where Route 12 actually moves out onto the beach.  We're told there are even speed limit and route signs out there on the sand!

As if to end a very fine trip on a high note, at sunset the last night, Mother Nature provided a spectacular color show, seen right outside our hotel room balcony...we watched in awe for a few minutes, enjoying the ever changing colors.

Where will we go next, and when?  Only time will tell...

Friday, May 15, 2015

The wedding...

Finally...the day of the rehearsal, and rehearsal dinner, arrived.  Our son's big day was getting closer!   I was wearing a pair of women's black dress slacks, a polo shirt, pantyhose and flats, and carrying my purse (with my camera stuff visible._  No makeup, no jewelry (at my wife's request.)  There were no issues, from my wife, the restaurant, or the guests.  

We had over 40 folks in attendance, mostly friends and relatives of the bride (and groom, too.)  It was nice to be able to meet some of the bride''s family...   But my wife and I were the first to arrive, and found that the venue had moved our dinner from one room (where we had given them a floor plan) to another.  That meant we had to rearrange tables and chairs as best we could, in preparations for the 40 guests.

And then we also discovered that their strongest server, who was assigned to us and whom we had met just the day before when checking arrangements, had called off sick.   Translation - we got a substitute, who was good, but perhaps not as good!  He really had to hustle his buns to take care of us (drink service and clearing the tables)  Fortunately the food was a serve-yourself buffet, so nobody went hungry!

The food was tasty, and the problems were transparent to most of the guests, but we were upset.  As a result, in response to our complaints, management gave us coupons for some free dinners...which we shared with the bride's parents, since they live in the area.

The kids' wedding day was spectacular - from the weather standpoint as well as the big event itself.  It was an outside wedding, but the reception hall on site was big enough to accommodate the expected 150 - 200 guests inside in case of rain, as well as hold the tables for the reception.   For me, it was a big day of meeting new people, in my men's suit (a so-very-rare occurrence), women's black trouser socks and ballet flats, with my purse containing my camera stuff.  (Three elastic button extenders from JC Penney took care of my shirt's tight neck issue...and it looks OK with a tie.  As long as I don't remove the suit coat, exposing the oversize shirt sleeves, it works fine.  That has bought time to search for a proper shirt - without the rush.)

My wife continued to insist that I have my hair in a ponytail.  I had agreed to do it,  so I complied, and she bobby-pinned the loose ends down for me that morning.   It made her  happy that I looked like a boy...and you know the old saying "happy wife, happy life."  So, I tolerated the inconvenience for that one day.  There was no wind to tear my hair apart, so it worked just fine. There were no "miss-identifications" (well. at least none that she heard.)  So it was a happy day for her.  And there was nary a peep about my shiny nails...I presume that issue is behind us now.

However, there WERE a few "miss-identifications (which fortunately, my wife didn''t hear.)  In the pavilion's main hallway, a couple of times elderly relatives I hadn't met yet, scooted past me with "Excuse me, Miss."  (They obviously need a visit to the optometrist - a men's suit is undeniably a men's suit! Or possibly they were distracted by my purse and flats?)

Toward the end of the afternoon, the bluegrass band playing outside (all relatives - and definitely not amateurs - the music was very good) stopped at about 3:45 and they started to clean up.  My wife and I were sitting in chairs belonging to one of the band members (the bride's uncle.)  When he gave us the carriers for them, so we could put them on their truck when we were done, he addressed us as "ladies."  Fortunately my wife was deep in conversation with the bride and her aunt, and none of them paid attention to the "ladies" part.  Surely everyone knew my gender by then, from my participation as father of the groom, that I have long hair?  Could it be confusion over my "now exclusively female" name in the program?  Or was he making some kind of a statement?   Details about that may come to light later...

Just as an aside, the maid of honor (who is the bride's BFF) is a lesbian, with a female life partner.  And it is a known fact - they're definitely "out."  Lovely ladies, I might add!  (That might be a good indicator of possible future acceptance, if I should unavoidably be seen in a dress at some point.)   Maybe the bride's uncle assumed my wife and I were lesbians as well?  So, go figure!  It was very interesting.

Below is a picture of the view from the site of the outdoor wedding.  Simply spectacular backdrop for their ceremony!

Many things are on my calendar for the next week or so.  Thus bear with me, if posts are scarce.  Enjoy your May! 


Monday, May 11, 2015

"But at least it's a pretty blue, for boys."

Oh, my....I truly don't think my wife's basic views of my femininity have changed.

However, she found the sales receipt for my new dress.  Hearing that, I suggested that we should keep it, and that it should be the one I always take on trips.  In the event I should lose it somewhere, I'd be losing one she doesn't like, instead of one she's OK with me wearing around the house.  She apparently found that logic to be solid, because she walked right over to the garbage can, crumpled up the receipt and threw it out.  Then she dug out her sewing kit, promptly patched the defect,  said "here's your new dress," and handed my garment back to me.

So with our (or my) next trip, each night I'll be wearing my (relatively) short and very feminine house dress, with embroidered placket.  Success!  And exactly what do you think the chances are that I'll lose the first dress my wife bought for me (with embroidery, no less...)?   Somewhere between Slim and None...Slim left town yesterday, and None's packing.  Not going to happen...

Then she added, resignedly (is that a real word?):  "There's no way anyone who sees you will mistake what you're wearing for anything other than what it is - a women's house dress.  But, at least it's a pretty blue, for boys."

No matter who may see me, I'm certainly going to enjoy wearing my dress!

Friday, May 8, 2015

Of cyborgs, coffee pots and locks...

While I work on the blog for the rest of our trip, here are pics of a few sights we found along the way...fortunately the weather was accommodating and perfect for sightseeing!

Buena Vista, VA (a few miles off Interstate 81) was our chosen stop this time.  We had been in town once before, about 6 years ago, when transporting an antique car (that we bought, and subsequently sold) back east.  It experienced major air conditioning failure, necessitating finding a motel about lunchtime, because of extreme heat (mid 90's) and the "mom & pop" motel in town let us check in at that early hour.  (Try that at your "big box motel." Typically it's "your room won't be ready till after 3PM.")   At that time, we didn't know any of the following sights existed, and found them only on this visit.

First up, is an adaptation of the "Muffler Man" concept.  It was reportedly built by a relative of singer Patsy Cline's husband, and erected in 2013, so it's not really an antique.  Yet.  It's located at an automotive recycling yard in Buena Vista (a few miles off I-81.  Notice the "mini-me" cyborg in his tummy, operating the controls!   Standing on the dis-used cab of an 18-wheeler, he cuts an impressive pose!

Cyborg Muffler Man is not yet well-known, but he can be found on-line already.   Doesn't take long for these things to become legendary!

Cyborg Muffler Man

Mini-me Cyborg at the controls.  Note the claw-like hand on the big one!

And on the way out of Buena Vista ("good view" in Spanish) on the road to Lexington, we stopped for a quick picture of "the coffee pot" building.  Built in the 1950's, it was operated as a restaurant for a while, then in the '90's as a canoe rental operation, and in 2010 as a fresh fish market.  By 2012 it had reportedly closed.

But the distinctive "coffee pot" or "teapot" shape remains...very nice (and hard to get a picture of, due to "no shoulder" on the road out of Buena Vista.)  Notice its round style, the "spout" on the left, and the black "handle" just visible on the right.  Keep that camera ready for a pic on the run!

A bit farther west on the same road, was the reconstructed Ben Salem Lock, Maury River, a part of the James River and Kanawha Canal (which I never knew existed.)  Built circa 1858, it connected the town of Lexington to the James River, a major artery of commerce.  It would be a wonderful local park for a picnic...but I don't live there.

You never know when the next interesting site will turn up.  That's why I always carry a camera in my purse during my travels!


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

My New Lounger

In my previous post, I mentioned that I realized I had no nightclothes to sleep in, having left my nightgown at the motel.   From that post:  "When we were getting ready for bed at our son's place, I realized that I had left my nightgown at the motel on the way.  Since it was gone, I told my wife that we needed to get another, and slept in a pair of shorts with tank top.  We went to a nearby K Mart, and though she commented that she wasn't comfortable buying her husband a dress and seeing him wearing it, and that she wasn't satisfied with the styles there."  But time was of the essence.   The purchase was made simply so I'd have something to wear to cover my bod...' 

Here is a picture of the results of our wearing my new zip-front, plus-size lounger in blue (for boys, she consoled herself) with short sleeves, subdued floral embroidery on the bib, with short side slits, and a long front slit.  I immediately liked it, but she was concerned about fit, so she looked around, and seeing nobody nearby, held it up to me (both front and back), deciding that it would be a good fit.

That night at the hotel, I wore it for the first time.  I immediately liked how it looked and felt,  and told my wife.  She didn't like it - too feminine.  And, she commented that it's shorter than my other dresses, so I'll have to keep my knees together.  I volunteered to go get some ice, but she told me to stay in the room..."No way I want anyone to see you in that - you look like my wife, not my husband.   But we need to keep your bod covered here on the trip."   And she made the trip to the ice machine...

Not much more was said about my lounger.  I wore it in the room every night, and respected her wish that I stay in the room while wearing it.  She ignored it.  The shorter length is nice...and I like the embroidered details.  I feel very girly when wearing it...and it's special, since my wife bought it for me - even if it was a reluctant purchase,  out of necessity more than any other reason.

On our last night at the hotel, I noticed a "dark spot" on one shoulder seam.  Unfortunately there's a defect in the sleeve seam, causing a hole, and as it is spreading into the fabric, my wife says it probably isn't fixable.  Naturally, she sees this as a chance to return it for a refund...   My view is that it's a chance to get a replacement.  But since it was bought on her credit card, we'll just have to see what happens.

If I were a betting lady, I'd bet that it will go away...   But it sure was fun while it lasted!


Sunday, May 3, 2015

Heading south (to the wedding)

Along US Route 11 South at Fort Defiance (Virginia) is the defunct Augusta Military Academy, on a beautiful large campus, with an active museum and at least one company in some of the abandoned buildings.  The academy "called it a day" in 1984 but still maintains alumni functions.  Below is a picture of the dormitory building.  Magnificent facades with beautiful architecture, but with a bit of a melancholy tone, given that the main one is disused...many broken way to tell what it looks like inside.

There were no "miss-identifications" enroute at hotels or restaurants.   Servers universally omitted any forms of address, and referred to us as "folks" or "guys" - which was no problem.  Not sure what they were thinking - but that's no real issue.

When we were getting ready for bed at our son's place, I realized that I had left my nightgown at the motel on the way.  Since it was gone, I told my wife that we needed to get another, and slept in a pair of shorts with tank top.  We went to a nearby K Mart, and though she commented that she wasn't comfortable buying her husband a dress, seeing him wearing it, and that she wasn't satisfied with the styles there, she did it so I'd have something to wear to cover my bod...   More on this later.  
The next day, enroute from our son's place to the hotel near the wedding venue (our home for the next 4 nights) I detoured for a stop at the Beechcraft Heritage Museum, in Tullahoma, TN.   It's a fabulous museum containing some old (and also more modern) Beechcraft flying machines.

Mandy (wearing one of her typical androgynous outfits) n front of a 1930's era Beechcraft Staggerwing

Now for something more modern - a Beech Model 35 Bonanza with V-tail (called a "ruddervator" - combinded rudder and elevator.  The model tended to have unexplained crashes, and production (begun 1947( finally ceased in 1982.

My favorite, however, was the following Beechcraft Staggerwing, presented naked, without its fabric "skin" and showing off all its "bones and innards."  A truly fascinating presentation...

This visit was "alone" - my wife had no interest. And that's a good thing...from arrival to departure, I was addressed as "Ma'am" by the lady attendant on duty.  My wife would not have been at all happy.  As she was waiting in the car, with a cooler full of chocolate favors for our son's wedding, I hurried through my visit, vowing to  return another time when I didn't need to rush.

When we were waiting at the hotel the second night, my wife noticed (and commented about) my nails, which had been shortened at her request during my last fill.  "Why did they make your nails so shiny?"  I explained that I have food oils on my hands from eating a hamburger, but that my nails done the same as they have been for months, if not years.  Nothing is different. And "yes, they are shiny but it can't be removed.  Bright side is: at least they're short, just like you requested." She wasn't at all happy, and expressed it...but she gave up on that battle (perhaps for now?)  And I heard no more...

More later...