Thursday, January 28, 2016

It's a huge turquoise ring...

that the man was wearing.

When I wrote this, I was sitting in the first-class lounge in Union Station, Washington DC.  And a man in his 50's sitting a few seats away from me was wearing a huge southwestern style turquoise ring (an inch oval, with gold finish) on the ring finger of his right hand.  Very outstanding...very pretty.  But mo other feminine cues were visible.  And from a phone call he made,  he had a very male voice, with male telephone mannerisms.

I wish I could have summoned up the courage to compliment him on his ring...and maybe get an insight into his motivation for wearing it.  Alas, with my wife sitting there, it wasn't to be...   And here I thought I was being bold, wearing ballet flats and pantyhose, with one of Mom's necklaces and occasionally the matching bracelet!

Speaking of snow, below is a picture taken from the train, outside Harper's Ferry, WV.   This was the most snow we saw on the way home, and remember, it was several days after the blizzard left town.   Everyone looks like they were working hard.

As for Washington DC, we arrived there on our way home, after the blizzard caused a 4 day outage in train service from the west.  Below is a picture taken outside of Washington Union Station, showing the remains of the snow...

If you didn't get any snow from this storm, hang in there - you may be next!



Friday, January 22, 2016

"You aren't alone."

It was an interesting day...

As some of you might know, this girl is a bit of a ferroequinologist.  And I've purchased some railroad artifacts over the years, one of which is an unusual type of switch lamp.  It's quite rusty, and needs restored, though I know that sometimes restoring things causes them to decrease in value.   But I'm not planning to sell it, so it will look much nicer being displayed after restoration!   And I sure can't put a rusty, greasy old lamp in the corner, on white carpets!  So I've been scouring Delmarva auto body shops for ones with glass beading cabinets, to have someone clean away the rust before I repaint it.  (Rust-Oleum is NOT necessarily the answer here.  Maybe after glass-beading.)  After a fair amount of searching, I found one which is fortunately not too far from home...

I met the proprietor (male, 30-something) outside his shop, wearing my usual stirrup pants and turtleneck outfit, with pantyhose, necklace and flats.  And I noticed that he gave me a visual once-over as we met.  (Maybe he was already subject to gender confusion about me?)   When we got inside, and began talking about how he could help with the lamp restoration, he started to address me as "Sir,"  but like many of our politicians do on many issues, walked that back, and changed to "Ma'am," offering an apology.

Another minute or so of discussing business, and I must have become enough of a feminine  enigma that he interrupted his "train of thought" with "I guess it would be best if I address you, I'll ask - are you a woman, or a man?"  I debated that answer for a few seconds, but finally decided honesty is the best policy.  "A man."  "Oh, OK then.  But you like to dress as a woman occasionally?  You can answer honestly, as what you do doesn't matter to me."  While that day I wasn't really trying to accent my femininity,  I said "Yes, occasionally." "What's your name?"  I gave him my male name (which is now widely-recognized as female.)  "How about your real name?"  So I told him the same name.  Wow, you use your real name, no matter what you're wearing.  Well, (insert real name here), you certainly look like a woman today..."  (And incidentally never used Sir or Ma'am for the rest of my visit - avoiding anything remotely gender specific.)  Then to my surprise, he suggested that I might want to take a few minutes and stop in at the nearby auto parts store.  "You're not alone, trust me."

He  re-railed his so-called "train of thought", and we discussed business again.  Then we negotiated a price for the glass-beading.   I'll provide the labor to disassemble and reassemble the lamp and save money, then drop the appropriate pieces off at his shop.  He might just do the job while I'm there.   And I might just take along a picture for him to see the "real Mandy," if he does the work while I wait. 

But by now, curiosity had gotten the best of me.  Once the lamp and its pieces were safely tucked back in the trunk, I detoured over to the auto parts store.  And to my surprise, there was a 20-something guy back in the parts racks (apparently not attempting to "pass",  just looking comfortably casual), wearing his long hair in a ponytail, with a company shirt and a just-above-the-knee black skirt,  pantyhose and a pair of ballet flats, while pulling a customer's order.  I did some "shopping" to see if I could get a better view.  (And not knowing her preference, I'll use female forms of address from here on.)  Her outfit looked very nice, something I'd wear in a heartbeat.

Eventually she came out to the register with an order, and rang it up for her customer.  She might have noticed me as I walked right past her, but I doubt it.  Certainly co-workers did (several checked me out), but nothing was said to me.  Guess that means I'll have to go back there to shop for some car things on occasion (fortunately my daily driver gets 35+ miles per gallon.)

Will I get to meet her on the next visit?   Could I possibly arrange for her to wait on me?   If so, is she personable enough to want to talk about our common interest, or too shy?  After all, it's not often that a guy in stirrup pants and flats, carrying a purse, meets a guy in a skirt and flats, who is busy at her work.  If you're wearing outfits like ours (and I certainly include myself in this category), you can expect to be noticed - especially by another girl!  I'm envious of her freedom to wear whatever she wants to work...though I admit I took some liberties at the office, before I retired.   (Another long story, maybe for another day.)  If next time I go there, I can arrange to have her wait on me, I won't embarrass her by forcing conversation, but if she's talkative to a sister, I'm getting a little better about not being particularly shy.  Time will tell...

But bigger questions regarding the shop proprietor who pointed me in that direction still remain: is he a part-time girl like so many of us?   Or perhaps an "admirer?"  How did he know about transgender folks having female names/identities? Does he surf transgender sites?  And how is it that he came to know about the parts store employee?  By accident, or is that the "talk of the small town?" Maybe one day I''ll find out answers to these...and other... questions.

One thing is for sure, I won't be showing up at the parts store or the body shop looking as I do in the following picture...   I owe many thanks to Elizabeth Ann Taylor for "making me over" into my finest feminine appearance, back in 2014!  The outfit and wig turned out to be feminine enough that even my own mother doesn't recognize me in this photo!  (I have to assure her that it's really me.)

I hope to visit Elizabeth's studio again, one of these days.   And next time, I'll wear Mom's chandelier earrings with her necklace and bracelet!

That's all for now...


Saturday, January 16, 2016

The Suitcase...

Recently my wife and I went shopping for a new suitcase for an upcoming trip, so she can carry more things.  Guess she's traveling more like me now...with any-and-every-thing she might need!   I was dressed in one of my usual mildly-feminine stirrup pants outfits, with turtleneck, black tights and flats, plus purse and women's sunglasses.  Not to mention my long hair and nails...

First stop was a place selling name-brand suitcases,  and we were welcomed as two ladies by the sales clerk (male.)  So I softened my voice a bit and let my wife do most of the talking.  We were there for over 20 minutes, and found something that would work, for which the price was right.   But we wanted to check some other places, to prove it was a good deal.   So we said we might be back...and he said "I hope so."   We were the first customers of the day, but didn't buy anything, which might be the reason for hoping we'd return.

After stopping at a couple of the impersonal big box stores (with abysmal choices - a poor selection), we decided to go back to the first place - their offering was clearly the best of the bunch, and on sale for the best price, too.  This time, he had a female assistant who was learning the job, and she listened in on our conversation with the clerk, during which time he faithfully addressed both of us as female.  The assistant remained quiet.

When the time came for him to train her on using the "cash register," she did need to address us, and we were "folks."  That didn't surprise me - she had that "a-ha!" look in her eyes...which leads me to believe that he was being "PC" with me, right up to the end, when we left with the new suitcase.   Right up to the final "stop in again, ladies!"  Not so much, from the less-personable assistant...

But either way is fine with me...they're better than hearing "Sir."  I didn't sense any bad karma from my wife about it at the time, either.  And she didn't pop off with anything about her "husband" when referring to me. That's always a good sign!

At lunch, my wife and I discussed our new purchase.   I told her that one of the little things which sold me on the suitcase we bought was the finger-hold on the bottom.  I pointed out how nice it is to have a place to grip when putting baggage into the trunk or on a shelf on the train.  The suitcases at the big box stores had nothing at all.

She laughingly said "I don't need to worry - someone always helps by doing that for me,  even when you're not there."  And I laughed as I joked back with "Maybe I should wear some blue contacts and a pretty dress - that way I could bat my baby blues and get help, too.  After all, we're both equally old.  You probably remember the many times guys have helped both of us 'old ladies' with our bags - and then held the door for us afterward.  So, maybe I don't need the dress after all!"   We both laughed again, but...I sensed a bit of "not quite so funny."    And that "sense" turned into a glare with my chuckling comment about "but the way the handle was designed, I might just break a nail."  The subject promptly got changed...and not by me.

I'll leave you with this picture from the archives:

This is from inside our house during Baltimore's blizzard of 2003...not many of us in the east have seen snow like this all winter...some of us, none at all.   But there may yet be snow in our future!

So, be safe...


Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Yes Virginia, there is another round of OMG!

A quickie:

I was sitting in the first class lounge in Chicago recently, dressed in one of my typical androgynous stirrup pants outfit and my suitcase and purse, along with my wife,  a close friend and his wife, plus another person we know from the group, all going to the same meeting this year.  A fortysomething man was sitting there near us with his twentysomething a nearby round table.  They were out on a father-daughter rail trip.  Both were very friendly, and were interested in our journey, talking with us about our trip, our group and a little bit about its activities.

Our train was soon to board, just as we started to eat our lunches.  I was having trouble with a salad. Eating it quickly, with it on my lap, a plastic fork, and out of a flimsy plastic container was not an easy task..  So I asked the two of them if I could join them, and they said "of course."  We chatted for a few minutes, as I chowed down.  At this point, my memory gets a bit hazy as I was busy trying to finish lunch and not make a mess, instead of trying to remember the discussion.

The man said quietly (out of earshot of his daughter and our other friends) something like "I read your online blog."  Well, this is the only blog I have, and I couldn't believe what I was hearing.  So unless it was a case of mistaken identity, he could be right.  To myself, I thought, "OMG here we go again..."   Temporarily speechless was the situation...LOL!   So I quietly asked if he was interested in "that sort of thing."  As I recall, he said something to the effect of "Yes, trains and old cars, and 'that sort of thing'.  But my daughter doesn't know - or at least I don't think so."

I was shocked beyond belief to meet someone out of the blue who follows my blog....he must have recognized me from my pictures.  But with so many folks (and their ears) nearby,  I couldn't explore more.  He truly made my day...and probably my month.  (If you happen to read this, thanks!  I'm glad you spoke up.)

Has this happened to anyone else, particularly when attending an event not related to our "hobby?"   Or is it a real rarity out there in the world?


Saturday, January 9, 2016


Recently I had occasion to call one of my credit cards, to check on the billing date and amount owed.  The card is in my male name - a name now used almost exclusively by females.  I softened my voice a bit, like I did the other day for the call to check on the gas discount.  And Voila!  I was addressed as Mrs, both initially and throughout the call. 

There's no chance that my wife's name or info got stirred into the mix...she isn't on this account.   So, go figure.  Perhaps the clerks there just completed a diversity training class, and she wanted to be "correct."  I'm usually addressed as Sir on the phone.  Could the reason be my now-female first name? 

Do you remember Mom's pretty screw-type chandelier earrings, which I had repaired by a jeweler last summer?  (You've seen this picture before...):

Below is a picture of my mother (face blurred for her privacy and my father cropped out) wearing these same earrings.  (Sorry about the slight fuzziness - that's because I had to enlarge Mom's portion of the picture, to make the earrings large enough to recognize.)  It was taken in 1950 or 51 at the apartment my parents and I lived in at the time, and is the first solid evidence I could find of their true age, since Mom's memory has failed.  "Doing the math" says this was about 66 years ago...   So perhaps they're not costume jewelry, after all?   If they're real, they definitely have a couple of artificial stones in them now.

But either way, they're pretty!

Back then, who would have believed that many years later, her son - well, more appropriately Mandy  (the daughter she never had), would be wearing them proudly?  I just wish there were more occasions for me to be able to wear them!

Now, I leave you with a picture of the Mitchell (SD) Corn Palace, .

Wikipedia says it was originally known as "The Corn Belt Exposition,"  built in 1892 to showcase the rich soil of South Dakota and encourage people to settle in the area. A wooden castle structure on Mitchell's Main Street, it was built on land donated by Louis Beckwith, a member of the First Corn Palace Committee   ]In 1904–1905, the city of Mitchell mounted a challenge to the city of Pierre (SD) in an unsuccessful attempt to replace it as the state capital.  As part of this effort, the Corn Palace was rebuilt in 1905. In 1921, the Corn Palace was rebuilt once again, with a design by the architectural firm Rapp and Rapp of Chicago. Russian-style onion domes and Moorish Minarets  were added in 1937, giving the Palace the distinctive appearance that it has today.

Those exterior corn murals are replaced and redesigned each year with a new theme. Designs are created by local artists. From 1948 to 1971, the artist Oscar Howe designed the panels. Calvin Schultz designed the murals from 1977 to 2002. Since 2003, the murals have been designed by Cherie Ramsdell.

In 2006, no new mural was created due to the extreme drought.

Based on the age of the cars shown, the picture above, from our family archive, appears to have been taken in the late 60's or early 70's by my wife's parents, now both deceased.   Enjoy!

Till next time, be safe...


Monday, January 4, 2016

The Super Market - and the Sands...

Our super market has a rewards program where "so much" spent gives you a "cents-off" price discount on their gasoline.  A couple days ago, I stopped in for gas, and the pump wouldn't give me the price to which I was entitled.  So I suspected that my wife might have redeemed, and just filled up anyway.   But at home, I found out that she hadn't - something went wrong. 

So today I retrieved the receipts, her card, and went into the store, directly to customer service, dressed androgynously.  I was acknowledged as female, and though the girl couldn't help me, she volunteered to call the proper person in another location on their phone for me to discuss the matter with them.  To make a long story short, the lady she called was told that "a woman here needs to discuss her card with you."  Very affirming.

When she handed me the phone, I kept my voice soft as I gave her the card number and information, and "the name the card was in" - my wife's name.  Afterward, and for the rest of the call, she addressed me as "Sir."   You win some, you lose some...the telephone voice thing continues to be an issue, one which may be unresolvable.   Gotta have those visual cues....

But in the end, I had my discount of 20 cents per gallon restored, and found the problem had been caused by an unspecified and unexplainable glitch in their system.   That made the entire exercise worthwhile.   And when I hung up the phone and thanked the lady at the store, she said "Ma'am, if you have any further problems with your card, please come right in to see me."

My response:  "Yes, Ma'am, I certainly will...thanks!"

From our family archives,  a historic picture of the Sands in Las Vegas from (AFAIK) the early '70's, judging from the age of the cars.  Note that Danny Thomas was on the playbill for that evening...    He passed away in February of 1991, and the Sands (built 1952, circular tower added 1967) was imploded in November of 1996.   If you want more info on the Sands, it's well documented on the internet.  Or you can watch the original Oceans 11 movie and Con Air, which were fully (or partially) filmed at the Sands. 



Friday, January 1, 2016

The Winter Doldrums...and Happy New Year!

...both have set in.   May your 2016 exceed all your expectations!

With Holiday activities in full swing and no solo travel, there has been no time for the least little bit of exploration en femme.   And this is not expected to change for the next several months.   So, I make do with, and am very thankful for, what I have - which is my "androgynous feminine" presentation.  

In order to visit relatives in Pennsylvania, we made an overnight stop in State College, PA, home of the Penn State Nittany Lions.   (For those familiar with it, yes, we drove by the statue of the Lion.)   While we were in town, we found some other interesting things to check out.

It's a beautiful campus, with about 40,000 students...definitely a large school.  And some of the nearby residential areas contained gorgeous old homes.  We drove around, and noted that many are now fraternity and sorority houses.  The Arboretum (with its decorations) might have been a good place to walk off the calories from our dinner - but alas, it started raining. 

My attire for the entire trip was: denim jeggings over pantyhose,  turtleneck tunic with Mom's necklace, feminine ballet flats, women's sweater with pockets, and one of my old work jackets (the only male clothing on the trip.)  Not totally feminine, but it was the best I could do, given that we were traveling light, and only for a few days.  Had Mandy been traveling alone, there would have likely been two FULL large suitcases just for her!

We ate dinner at the above restaurant in downtown State College.  Food was excellent, as was the holiday decoration.   And we got there early, so we didn't need reservations.  But they got downright crowded as the evening grew older.  Must be the "place to be and be seen" in town.  I noticed that we were addressed as "folks", and the waitstaff didn't use any gender-specific forms of address for me.  This was OK...much better than using the dreaded "S" word...    (If you go there, the salmon and spiced apple sauce were fabulous!)

And the big downtown hotel (the Atherton, pix above) was very nice, with an elegant holiday display in the lobby.  When we checked in, the welcome letter addressed me as Ms., and the clerk did, too.  A lovely surprise!

While in State College, we learned of a local historical business, the Autoport Motel, oldest motel in both Pennsylvania and State College, which unfortunately is in financial disarray. 

 The Autoport

Much of the following was derived from the website of The Autoport (seen above):  

In 1936, a local businessman by the name of Marion B. Meyer traveled from State College to Miami, Florida, where he came across something he had never seen before. It was a service station which repaired cars, provided gas and oil, offered home cooked meals, and comfortable lodging. It was called a motel which was short for “motor hotel.” The main building was designed in what was known as the “art-deco” style of architecture.

He brought this idea back to State College. Mr. Meyer knew that travelers would appreciate a comfortable place to stay overnight, have their car serviced, and enjoy a delicious meal before heading out of town. He called his new business the Autoport and it became the first motel in the state of Pennsylvania.

Since then the Autoport has seen many changes including the service garage being converted into a coffee shop,  the gas pumping area into the covered entry, the addition of a heated pool, a lounge, and modern motel rooms replaced all but five of the original cottages.

In 2006, while attending a breakfast meeting at the ‘Port, local architect Greg Mussi learned that after more than 70 years in business, the Meyer family decided to put the property up for sale. The Autoport Restaurant and Motel was slated for demolition to make way for a convenience store.  Greg, whose architectural background is in historic preservation, convinced his wife Lynda that they needed to purchase this local landmark before it was destroyed, and they, along with another individual, bought it.  It even appeared recently on national TV in "Hotel Impossible."

But these are tough times, and while the Autoport is not going up for auction (it's still operating - including the restaurant), the owners have had to declare the business bankrupt to have a fighting chance to save it.    Pennsylvania's first and oldest motel has been in financial straits for months.   The owners have been fighting off foreclosure since 2014, when the Autoport appeared on the reality TV show "Hotel Impossible."  Only time will tell whether it survives, or whether (like the motel I watched being torn down in Maryland to provide land for "one more of many convenience stores") only its memory remains as a part of State College's historical archives.

Hopefully the folks who trapped Santa in their RV's rear window will let him get back to work at the North Pole soon...many kids are depending on him for next year's toys!

And it's a fitting picture for this point in the post...THE END!

Happy New Year to each of my readers..wherever you may be.