Monday, January 29, 2018

Memphis...after the meeting.

When I checked into the a different hotel after leaving our friends, the new place's staff had a split decision on my femininity.  (I was not wearing a skirt at that point.)  Doormen addressed me as "Ma'am" but the desk clerk (who really noticed only my top half and my ID), used the dreaded S-word.  That was expected.   After reaching the room, and changing, I went back through the front desk area later, and apparently the shift had changed or folks were on break, as nobody gave me a second far, so good.

I had brought along one black,  and one red-and-black patterned skirt.  With the cold weather outside, the red one never left the suitcase.  And I made a short run outside wearing two pair of opaque black tights with the skirt. - with the wind chill down in the single digits, that was too cold - I'm just not used to my legs being so exposed.   Thus I settled on wearing heavier black stirrup pants over a pair of tights, with my black skirt and my booties.  That worked...and I have two of each color of tunic tops, so that was not an issue.

My booties were a lifesaver...yes, I had flats in my suitcase.  But the soles were smooth, and there was ice/snow everywhere.  They were very slippery - falling was a real risk.   So they got worn only once...on the way home.  I spent most of the trip wearing my booties...which hid the stirrups and made it look almost like I had on a pair of leggings.  And with the lugged soles, I had much more falls.

So, it was out to sightsee a bit, on Beale Street.  It was early morning, and the ice was still present.  But I had on my skirt, with lipstick and the rest...and was addressed as Ma'am by everyone - including a panhandler.  That never ends.  Do they get better results from harassing women?  Maybe he thinks with big purses, women have lots of money to give them?  I tried completely ignoring this one, and he gave up rather quickly.

I had been told by both a cab driver and the rental agency staff that Beale St. was safe to enjoy, but unlike Broadway in Nashville and Bourbon Street in New Orleans, the safe part only goes about 3 blocks.  So I stopped at about 2 blocks.  It was fun, and there weren't many folks out at that hour of the morning - well, except for the panhandlers.  The second one addressed me properly, too.  But I wasn't in a sympathetic mood.  The low sun angle made for some interesting pictures.

Several shopkeepers addressed me correctly, and as a result I bought a few souvenirs...

And it's probably a bit unusual to be walking on Beale St. - in frigid temperatures, with low-single-digit wind blowing up under my winter coat and snow and ice on the ground.

Though this picture doesn't really show it, sidewalks - particularly on the shady side - had many slippery spots - with only sand for traction.  (The places that were shoveled well, fared the best.  Others, not so much.)  Yes, the sun was beginning to make inroads on the ice, but I had to presume things were still slippery, and wearing my booties on this trip was definitely the correct decision, even though flats would have been more feminine!

More later...


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Bentonville, Arkansas...

You may recognize the town name - it's on every Wal-Mart tractor-trailer you see.  And in Bentonville, there is the original 5-and-10 that Sam Walton opened.

However, rather than selling products, it has been turned into a museum about the man and his chain of retail outlets.   And a good museum it is...well worth the time it took to visit...many interesting facts are presented.  Did you know Sam Walton was a pilot?  And that his first plane was an Ercoupe single engine aircraft that he used to personally scout out locations for new stores?  A scale model of his plane is in there.  And that he drove a 4wd red and white Ford pickup truck with 4-speed manual? It's in there, too. They moved his office lock stock and barrel from the warehouse to the museum, as a memento.  And there's a re-creation of an old fashioned soda fountain as you exit (great's hard to find Moon Pies for only 50 cents...but they have them!)

Whether you're a Wal-Mart fan or not, this gives you a wonderful insight into how the chain came about.

If you look closely above, you can see a red and white Ford pickup of the same vintage as the one in the museum.  It's not Sam's but is marked for the museum.  Now look below...they had a 10 cent kiddie ride made to resemble Sam's truck!

I knew there was an old St Louis & San Francisco (Frisco) station in town, and I had the address.   The GPS got me there....but yours truly drive right past it.  Doesn't look anything like the stations you're used to seeing...and more importantly - there are no tracks, either.  They were ripped up a long time ago.  The second time I went the other direction, there was a caboose to help in locating it.

This station was built in 1925 to replace one which was not holding up well.   After WW II, passenger business declined as airlines and cars sucked up all their patrons, and the railroad quit serving Bentonville.    The station fell into disrepair, until a commercial firm decided to restore it, resulting in the pretty building below.

And lastly, I dropped in for a self-guided tour of the gorgeous Peel Mansion Museum & Heritage Gardens.  These were built in 1875 by Colonel Samuel West Peel. Much care was taken in erecting this magnificent house, a wonderful example of the Italianate Villa Style.

The interior of the house was furnished with authentic antiquities and artifacts of the era, generously loaned by the Historic Arkansas Museum and the Old State House.

In its day, it was a working farmstead, surrounded by 180 acres of apple orchards.

Colonel Peel, pioneer businessman, legal representative (appointed by the President) to the five civilized tribes in Indian Territory and Confederate soldier, was the first native-born Arkansan elected to the United States Congress. He and his wife, Mary Emaline Berry Peel, raised nine children here.

It was a good day in Bentonville, for a girl in stirrup pants (over tights), turtleneck, jewelry and booties...too bitter cold for anything less than a winter coat on top, which sort of disguised the femininity.  At least I did not hear the dreaded "S" word...though the lack of any feminine forms of address was definitely noticeable.

More later,


Saturday, January 20, 2018

Eureka! (Springs)....

After the meetings, which were the purpose of my trip in the first place, I visited some sites in Northwest Arkansas.  One of them was the Great Passion Play site in Eureka Springs, AR.

Though the Passion Play was not what I planned to see (nobody visits to watch it in the winter, except maybe during the holidays), they have other displays on site.  One of them was this section of the Berlin Wall, which was acquired when the wall was dismantled, and moved to the US. (Another - not pictured) is of some of the oldest bibles in existence.  Interesting.

A friendly 30something male visitor was kind enough to snap the picture for me, as there was nothing to prop my camera on...

This brought back memories of my father, who was traveling in Germany for business in the 1960's, and came upon the wall in his sightseeing...wonder if it was this section of the wall, which he actually viewed?   He passed away 20 years ago, so I'll never know...

Also in Eureka Springs is the Crescent Hotel...

This is a very long telephoto view from in the valley (in town), thus it's not as sharp as I'd normally want, but it gives you the idea of what the place looks like.  The interior is fascinating, with its wood-burning fireplace in the lobby, and just under the red awning in the middle of the building is an outdoor restaurant with a fabulous view of the town and valley. (Too bad I wasn't in the mood for pizza, and likewise, that this entire trip was made "in the deep freeze.")

The view from the top of The Crescent?  Voila...

This would be stunning in the fall, with autumn colors everywhere!

Also in town is the Eureka Springs and North Arkansas Railroad...

They, like many other businesses, are seasonal, so I wasn't able to ride.  Perhaps I'll return some day to accomplish that...and stay at the Crescent!  My wife would like that, well, maybe except for the ghosts...though like on the Queen Mary in Long Beach,  I didn't see any.

More to follow...


Thursday, January 18, 2018

The fun begins..and an odd place name.

It was another fun trip, though Mandy stayed in the suitcase during the gathering, choosing not to be in a skirt among folks we know.    Everyone is used to my androgynous self...

When time permitted, I did some sightseeing.  That will be the topic of this and perhaps the next post or two!  And what did I see?   Well, first - do you remember Conway Twitty (Country & Western Singer - and "It's Only Make Believe," from the '50's)?    His real name was Harold Jenkins, and Conway Twitty was a stage name.  So where did it come from?   Reportedly from two towns, one of which I passed through:

The above is a long telephoto grab shot out of the car window at Conway, Arkansas.  That other town he used was, of course, Twitty, TX - which I one day hope to visit.  Voila, a great stage name!

From my "Odd Names of places" department, here's one that's definitely worthy of the record books:

Yes, ladies:  it really says Toad Suck.   I did a massive double take when I saw the first roadside sign - and couldn't resist detouring to get a picture.

Per Wikipedia, Toad Suck (the actual name of a nearby town - which time did not permit me to visit) is an unincorporated community in Perry County, AR.  The origin of the name is disputed.  Some believe it received the name when idle rivermen would congregate at the local tavern where they would "suck on the bottle 'til they swell up like toads", while others believe it is a corruption of a French phrase meaning "a narrow channel in the river."

In any case, it probably will be at the very top of my unusual names list, for quite some time to come!

More later....


Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Traveling...and the panhandler.

Since I travel by train, I'm always prepared for the long layover in Chicago, Amtrak's "hub in the midwest."  This trip was no exception; in fact the transfer to the City of New Orleans train takes longer than most because it departs Chicago at 8:05 PM.   Hence I took the chance to visit the Great Hall in Union Station and see it illuminated.

That huge skylight is under renovation, but the colors from floodlites impart an eerie blue glow to the nighttime walls above.

It was during this layover that I was recognized as female by another Amtrak customer, who was in the first-class Metropolitan Lounge with me (and about 75 other sleeping car passengers  for various trains - it's a benefit of traveling by sleeper.)

Let me start with a picture of that day's attire:

Certainly not overtly feminine, is it?

I was sitting at a table, working at my computer,  with my long hair and nails visible, and my purse open on the table, as seconds before, I had just retrieved my phone.  A lady walked by and asked if the seat across from me was taken.  It wasn't, so I told her she could have it, and she sat down.  "Thanks so much, Ma'am."  "You're quite welcome."  We chatted a bit, and soon she had to use her phone, to try get a problem on a bill resolved.

While she was on the phone, and at that moment unbenownst to us, a panhandler had found a way past the guard at the door (who checks tickets) and was making the rounds.  He came up behind the lady on the phone, glanced at her and walked right past, noticed my purse right in front of me (with the shoulder strap around my wrist, and saw an easy mark.   WRONG.   "Can you spare a dollar, lady?"  I stood up, looked him in the eye, and in a loud voice said "No I can't.  And this is an inappropriate place for you to be begging,..get out of here before Security arrests you for trespassing!"

The lady described to whomever was on the phone "what was happening to the lady with her" and then quit talking, in disbelief that he bypassed her, and came directly to me.  And disbelieving that he bolted for the exit when I reprimanded him.  The panhandler had apparently misjudged his intended victim...believing that a woman was an easy mark, and that I'd dip into my purse to give him some money.  Big miscalcullation.

A guy sitting on a sofa across from me (and behind the panhandler) said afterward that he was prepared to take down the panhandler from behind if things had gone badly.  "Ma'am,  I've been hit by panhandlers, and didn't want this guy to get away with bothering a couple of ladies.   Or worse yet, try to steal anything."

After stopping her phone conversation while the action was ongoing, the lady across the table finally resumed her call while I notified security...but by then, the panhandler was long gone.  I guess getting ousted from the Metropolitan Lounge seriously reduced his profits that day....   Once I described the panhandler, the guard recalled a man of that description scurrying out.

All 3 of us believe the guy wasn't looking for food money.  To all of us, he looked and sounded "high as a kite," professing to want food, but instead needing cash for his next "fix".  If I ever decide to do something for a panhandler who is begging for food money, I might consider offering to buy him a cheap nearby fast-food cheeseburger, if I had a friend with me.  

No cash, though...not happening.

Needless to say, traveling is NEVER dull!

More later...


Monday, January 15, 2018

On the go again...

And as usual, I traveled by train.  On the way in or out of Washington Union Station from the north, all long distance and commuter trains pass by an unremarkable, huge old, quonset-hut-styled building,  made of concrete.  Many folks ride by it on the train daily, and have no clue as to its significance in sports, music and political history.  That previously-uninspiring edifice on the east side of the tracks is the former Uline Arena.

It has quite a history...

Per Wikipedia, The 11,000-seat Uline Ice Arena, which opened in February 1941, was built by Miguel L. "Uncle Mike" Uline for his ice hockey team, the Washington Lions of the now-defunct
Eastern Amateur Hockey League.   Uline built the arena next to his ice business, in which he had made his fortune. The first act at the new arena was reportedly Sonja Henie's Hollywood Ice Revue. Another of its earliest events was a pro-America rally in 1941 designed to promote U.S. entry into WW II, just weeks before the attack on Pearl Harbor brought the US into the war on December 7, 1941. During the war, Uline repurposed the arena as a housing facility for U.S. service members.

After World War II ended in 1945, the arena was restored for use as an ice hockey and basketball venue.  The  Washington Capitols (not the current DC team) began play as a charter member of the Basketball Association of America in 1946 and became a charter member of the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1949.  During its mere five seasons of play, the team used Uline Arena as its home court.

One of President Dwight Eisenhower's two inaugural balls (in 1953) was held at Uline Arena. Retired boxer Joe Louis made his debut as a professional wrestler on March 16, 1956, defeating Cowboy Rocky Lee.

Jewelry wholesaler Harry G. Lynn bought the arena in 1959 for $1 million. In 1959, Elijah  Muhammad gave a speech there, and Malcolm X once spoke there as well.  In 1960, Lynn renamed the building the Washington Coliseum.

The one many of us will remember:  on February 11, 1964, the Beatles played their first concert in the United States at the Washington Coliseum, less than 48 hours after the band's appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.  (Tickets to the show at the Coliseum ranged from $2 to $4.) There were 8,092 fans at the concert, which was opened by the Chiffons, the Caravelles, and Tommy Roe. For those who don't remember,  the Beatles reportedly opened with "Roll Over Beethoven."

And now, the building is being renovated - extra floors have been added for more space, probably offices.  From an ice arena, to a sports venue, to a coliseum, then a trash transfer station, to a renovated property...that's a brief history of the rather unassuming, but very historic, building.

On this trip I traveled in androgynous mode.  I was concerned about meeting someone I know, since I was headed to a conference in the south...but in fact, that didn't happen.  However, I noticed that
I had lost my male identity (never hearing that dreaded "S" word enroute.)   But, I was also "not promoted to female status."  Very rarely was I addressed as female on the trip south.  (With one notable exception, which I'll relate in another post), 

C'est la vie.


Friday, January 12, 2018

A bit more Ferroeqinology:

After my recent post about the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad's Grant Street Station in Pittsburgh, I came across a few more ferroequinology pictures of interest.

First is steam locomotive 2101, formerly Reading Railroad, which was restored and used on the American Freedom Train & Chessie Steam Specials back in the 1970's.  Here is a picture I took, at Grant Street Station sometime during the run of the Steam Specials - from 1977 through 1978.  My pix are unfortunately undated, but are from that 1977-78 era.

Per Wikipedia, Reading 2101 is a 4-8-4 "Northern" type steam built for use by the Reading Company in 194.  Constructed from an earlier 2-8-0 locomotive built in 1923, the 2101 handled heavy coal train traffic for the Reading until being retired in 1959. Withheld from scrapping, the 2101 served as emergency backup power for the three other T1 locomotives serving the Reading's "Iron Horse Rambles" excursions until being sold for scrap in 1964. In 1975, the locomotive was restored to operation from scrapyard condition in an emergency 30-day overhaul after being selected to pull the first eastern portion of the American Freedom Train. After being involved (and seriously damaged) in a roundhouse fire in 1979, the 2101 was traded to the B&O Railroad Museum in Baltimore, in exchange for the C&O 614. Today the locomotive remains, inoperable and on static display, in its American Freedom Train paint scheme.

Here is 2101, on display at Pittsburgh's Grant Street Station, along with the cars from the Chessie Steam Special.

Following is a picture of the tail car of the Chessie Steam Special, at the bumping post in Grant Street Station.

And for anyone wondering what the PaTrain looked like "back in the day", following is a picture of one I captured from the vestibule of a steam excursion leaving Pittsburgh.  The regular engines (F-7's which reportedly belonged to the abandoned Wellsville, Addison and Galeton Railroad on the border of NY and PA) must have been out of service - a Chessie engine was on the point.  Unfortunately I do not recall the date, but it certainly was prior to 1989...because the Port Authority transferred the equipment to the Connecticut Department of Transportation after cesssation of PaTrain service in 1989.   I've lost track of their current whereabouts, though.

And for anyone with more interest in what PaTrain operations looked like, all you need to do is go here: where you can find quite a bit of video of them in operation. And pictures of the inside of the station, which appears exactly as I remember it.  Fascinating.

While the following has nothing to do with PaTrains, a great caption would be "Houston, we have a problem."   Or maybe:  "Ooopsy-daisy..."

I came across this scene in a small town in Western PA in the time frame of late 1986 or early 1987....the day after a massive snowfall and a concurrent major cold wave.  I can narrow the time down relatively closely, as #4213 (which began life as C&O's GP-30 #3018) was repainted into CSX livery and renumbered in 1986.  It appears freshly painted in the above, underneath winter's grime.

Ice between the rails from a drainage issue apparently lifted the wheels enough that the cab-end bogey escaped the confines of the rails, and led the engine off in a slightly different direction. The cars were cut off and picked up  by a relief engine (as they were blocking a public road crossing).  The crew was also apparently picked up, and they left the engine idling in order to prevent a freeze-up, a likely pollution incident.   When I went by a few days later, they had come back, re-railed and removed the loco.  The only evidence remaining of the entire incident was "marks in the snow..."  

You never know what you'll find in my picture collection!


Sunday, January 7, 2018

Have they finally decided I'm female?

A quickie:

After New Years Day, I visited the hardware store where I frequently shop, to pick up some LED medium base (standard) light bulbs which were on sale at a very favorable price.

The 40something helpful hardware man was telling me all about LED bulbs and the color choices (soft white, daylight, etc.)  I already knew, but listened as a woman would, while he talked.  I made my choice, then asked if the 40 watt equivalent were priced the same as the 60 watt equivalent.  He checked with someone in the back, and said yes.  So I took a carton of each, and he said, "Thanks for shopping here, Ma'am."  "You're welcome, Sir" was my response, and I headed for the checkout register.

A 50something female clerk rang up my order, and said "That'll be XX, Ma'am."   Well,  the price hadn't rung up correctly.  So I told her what the man had said, and she called the manager...  "There's a lady here whose order didn't ring up right."  The manager came over, heard the story, and said "Unfortunately the two bulbs are not priced the same.  But due to the confusion, we'll give it to you.  Sorry for the delay, Ma'am."   After she left, the cashier at the lane behind me said "That's a good price for those, Ma'am."  I agreed with her, and as soon as my order finished ringing up, I headed out, saying "You ladies all have a great day!"  Their response:  "You too, Ma'am."

Due to the 12 degree cold, I was wearing my tan stirrup pants over black tights, an untucked dark turtleneck tunic over a sleeveless camisole, freshly clear-coated (very shiny) light pink nails, a necklace, ancient ankle booties (too cold for flats), my new winter coat with fur lined hood, and my purse.   No makeup.   With the exception of the ankle booties, I've worn everything else there before, and most of the clerks know me.  I wonder if these folks are the second string, i.e. part-timers being "railroaded" to work an undesirable early shift in such cold weather.

If that's not the case, I can only hope they finally decided that I'm female.  Time will tell...


Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Baby, it's cold outside!

A quickie:

When this pic was taken this morning (at my favorite inlet), the air temperature on the car's thermometer was 8 degrees F.

If our cold continues unabated, soon the inlet will have ice thick enough for skating!  (But it's so out-of-the-way that there won't be any skaters!)   Fortunately I don't skate...



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

A visit to the nail salon...and a cute sign...

A few days before New Year's Eve, I realized that all 20 of my nails needed attention.  So early the next morning, I made an appointment for 1:30 that afternoon with my favorite tech, for a fill and pedicure.  Little did this girl realize that she'd be having them done in a salon full of women!

It wasn't overly crowded when I walked in (wearing stirrup pants, a turtleneck, flats, my new women's coat, and carrying my purse.)  The tech addressed me as "Miss Mandy" and after a few minutes wait to finish her customer, she started my fingers.   As time passed, women kept coming in for various services....even some mothers bringing their little girls along for holiday nails.  There was nearly no conversation, as everyone was busy.   And one by one, the pedicure chairs were filling up.   They even had a couple of walk-ins the tech finished my fingers.

Fortunately, I got the last open pedi chair, and there I was, fully in the midst of other women - no way to hide. My tech got right to work on me, re-doing the acrylic on my toes.    Apparently I was not attracting any undue attention - they presumed I was what I appeared to be.   The little girls did not stare, and there was very little conversation among customers and/or techs.

I didn't notice any double-takes or unwanted glances - well, other than a couple of the ladies watching my feet when the tech was removing the old coating with plastic clips on each toe, lined with acetone-soaked cotton, and again when she got out the "little blue light" to set the fresh coatings.  (The girls all were getting "just paint" on their toes...I was the only girl getting acrylic.)  

Today's version of my nails...still light pink, but with a whitish cast. 

An interesting observation:  had I worn a dress or skirt to the salon, I'd have been in the minority.  Only one girl was wearing a skirt, and it may have actually been a skort.  All the other girls were in pants of some sort:  jeans, capris, leggings, etc.  

The amazing thing was that in this cold weather, so many women wanted pretty pedicures...even with colorful nail art.  My guess is that they were all planning to attend New Years parties and were wearing those strappy, heeled sandals with their short dresses...never mind the cold!

Maybe someday I 'll be wearing them, too...

As encouragement to those of us who are a bit on the heavy side: a cute sign found at a restaurant in Bellows Falls, VT during our trip last year.

Maybe those of us with the weight issue can interpret it as "Eat, Drink and be Mary?"