Wednesday, June 27, 2018

OTRA Part 4 - It's just "ducky."

As you can imagine, writing this during the trip has been a challenge.  Bits and pieces at a time.  I will continue working on it after we return home...   

We haven’t seen the desk clerk who checked us in for a couple days.  Guess he is part time and off duty.  The other clerks have addressed us as “folks” which is fine.  But one day, our clerk magically appeared.   He obviously remembered us, and now it became quite clear that he thought we were indeed two women.  I was “Ma’am” a number of times…and we were both “ladies.”   Hmmm.  Maybe the shorts, polo and sneakers aren’t an issue, after all?  Or were they all just being politically correct?  We'll never know...and it doesn't matter.

Anyone familiar with American history may remember the politician named Teddy Roosevelt, and his “Rough Riders.”   The Menger Hotel became a part of that history.

Back in 1898, before becoming President of the US, Mr. Roosevelt was Assistant Secretary of the Navy.  He resigned to organize the Rough Riders, the first voluntary cavalry in the Spanish American War.  Roosevelt recruited a diverse group of cowboys, miners, law enforcement officials and native Americans to join the Rough Riders.   This group participated in the capture of Kettle Hill, then charged across a valley to assist with the seizure of San Juan Ridge.    

The Menger Hotel bar is allegedly the location where some of this recruitment took place!

In today’s world of electronic gidgy-gadgets, it’s rare to find a real, operating "conventional" phone booth.  There are 4 of them at the Menger, lined up like ducks in a row.   I wonder if enough people use them to cover the cost?  (Don’t know about you, but I can’t even remember the last time I put a quarter in a pay phone.)  Yes, I sure can remember the old days, when the cost of that call was a dime!  Oh, the uproar that change caused in yesterday’s society!

The San Antonio River snakes through San Antonio, but instead of being a nasty, swampy mess, with periodic flooding and weeds littering the banks, city fathers took a lemon and made lemonade.  With substantial investment and expansion, sidewalks on both banks, and more than a bit of landscaping and commercialization, it resulted in a perfectly lovely place to stroll with your wife, hubby, significant other, or even (gasp) by yourself.   

While in town for less than a week, my wife and I walked over 20 miles (with an electronic gidgy-gadget measuring the distance) exploring the area, and over half of that was on the memorable river walk.  If you ever get a chance to visit Texas, be sure to stop in San Antonio.

We (and a whole lot of others) enjoyed a couple of delicious meals under the colorful umbrellas at one restaurant along the riverwalk.  It’s a historic place, having been established in 1946.  At times, there is quite a wait for a table.  Our challenge was to get there when the wait was short.   We succeeded!  The food was good, but oh, my – the atmosphere was superb!

With small battery-powered barges full of people paying princely sums for barge tours of the riverwalk area constantly passing by, we had fun watching the tourists watching us, and watching the ducks scurry around, cleaning up on any crumbs accidentally dropped under the tables. 

It’s hard to resist the hungry eyes of this feathery little buddy:

This location provided a first for me:  

Someone was tugging on the untucked hem of my polo top.  Not sure who was trying to look up my top, I quickly glanced around and down…at an apparently-hungry, and very tame, generic brown duck (like the above) with its beak clamped on my shirt, tugging at it in an attempt to get my attention and beg for food.  When I reached around to grab my camera, the duck promptly let go of my shirt (no harm done) and skedaddled off to greener pastures!   

I wonder if anyone fed him afterward?

Following is a sample of some of the fabulous scenery, with more waiting around every curve!!

More to follow!


Sunday, June 24, 2018

OTRA - Part 3 Checking in...

The train arrived in San Antonio ahead of schedule (that's right - about 45 minutes EARLY! )  We hopped a cab to the hotel, though finding one was indeed a challenge, due to other events in town and the early arrival.

It was a bit humorous at check in:   the desk clerk saw the reservation was in my given (girly) name.  And for some reason he assumed (remember that old adage about it making an 'ass' out of 'u' and 'me'?)  that my wife was the person who made the reservation.   I was checking in, with her beside me, but guess who he made eye contact with most of the time?  Hint: it wasn't me.  At the time, I interpreted his actions as though I was the husband who was simply doing the paperwork and paying the bill, with a credit card in my wife's name.  (Never mind the fact that he had my ID, with my name and sex on it.)  He gave most of the verbal info directly to her.   

And then he promptly upgraded us to a room with a balcony!

So I presumed that my hair, nails and purse weren't enough to pass muster.  It could have been that shorts, a ladies' polo, and white sneakers weren't feminine enough.  or maybe it was simply being in the shadow of my wife's radiant image!  But whatever the cause, that clerk did an especially efficient job, and soon we were in our room.  (With a ceiling fan and an efficient air conditioner to ward off the outside's over-100-degree heat index.)   And it was on the east side of the hotel, so the hot afternoon sun was not an issue.

As you can imagine, evenings relaxing on the balcony were wonderful!

The very first stop on our sightseeing list was the famous Texas landmark, the Alamo.  This was built in the 18th century as Mission San Antonio de Valero, a Roman Catholic Mission and fortress compound, and today is part of the San Antonio Missions World Heritage Site.  It was ceded to the Texan army  in December 1835, and occupied by a small number of American soldiers.  They (including Davy Crockett and James Bowie) were killed by the Mexicans during the battle of the Alamo on March 6, 1836.  And during the Mexican retreat from Texas several months later, they tore down many of the walls and burned some of the buildings.  Today it is being restored and maintained by the Texas General Land Office.

And "Remember the Alamo!!" was Sam Houston's rallying cry to the Texan army at the battle with Santa Ana's forces in April of 1836 at San Jacinto,.  The Texans won, ending the land battle for the Texas War of Independence.

In one of our evening strolls, I took a picture of the Tower of the Americas, a landmark remaining from HemisFair, the 1968 World's Fair. It was clearly on our list of sights to visit, though time wouldn't permit a meal at the top (and we didn't bring nice enough clothes for a decent restaurant anyway.)

From the enclosed observation deck, that view was absolutely spectacular, all 360 degrees of it.   And in this picture, the red-roofed buildings to the right of center and a bit below, are NOT that famous motel chain with the red roof.   They're Sunset Station, where the Sunset Ltd and Texas Eagle Amtrak trains arrive.

Following is another view of the Tower of the Americas (HemisFair, 1968 - in the background), with the very, very red "Torch of Friendship", created in June of 2002, foreground.   This sculpture stands for the unity and friendship that exists between Mexico, the USA, and Canada, and reflects the different facets of those interrelationships:  sometimes festive, at times complex, at times very strong, but in the end, integrated and harmonious.    Given the political and economic events of the last few weeks/months, I hope the "complex relationship" between the three neighbors will survive intact and eventually prosper once again!

More to follow!!


Wednesday, June 20, 2018

OTRA - Part 2 Something good & something not so much...

The car attendant on the train from DC to Chicago referred to me using the dreaded S-word.  But in fairness, he may well have had access to my personal information on a preprinted manifest.  So no harm, no foul.   Several passengers referred to me as female.  That’s fine with me!

In discussion during the trip, the car attendant mentioned that he was getting a new job and that this trip was his last one.  So his replacement (temporary OR permanent) will see wifey and I together only on our return trip.  With the possibility of serving 40-plus customers per trip, his (or her) having only seen us together once makes it more likely that they won’t associate the face and the name for my planned mid-to-late August trip (which is still being worked on.)   That’s the good news.

The bad news is:  one of the Amtrak workers at Union Station in DC, with whom we both deal on many of our trips, remembers me AND my wife.  She now associates my wife and I as being a couple.  That’s a good indication I must take much more care regarding femininity there!  

With the exception of the dining car, where I was addressed as “Ma’am” the train staff on the San Antonio train generally avoided any gender-specific greetings for me (us).  However, on many occasions, other passengers interpreted me as female…

Though we’ve ridden a train over this route several times in years past, it’s always good to notice new sights.  Especially because the railroad parallels historic and legendary US Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif for part of its route in Illinois. (Rt. 66 is called The Mother Road, as described by its fans)  Much of it is in the country, but there are sections in small town rural America.   Below is a picture of a well-kept gas station along what was called The Mother Road…

And also a picture of the Palamar Motel, a historic property in the 50’s style, somewhere along the way.   One can also see occasional disconnected portions of the very old  original concrete roadway, all cracked and weed-grown.  But they still remain very much a part of the landscape there.

Next is a view of the St. Louis Arch – the gateway to the West – from the train on the railroad bridge over the Mississippi River, at sunset.    That’s a viewpoint you don’t get to see unless you’re on the train.

And lastly, a selfie of my typical attire for this excursion, taken alongside the train during a smoke stop at the Dallas train station.   Before we left, I asked wifey if I should bring a pair of stirrup pants in case dressing up might be appropriate.  She said "No, I'd rather you bring capris with pantyhose instead.  They'll be dressy enough for anything we might do - women like them because they look less casual than shorts.  And remember, you look nice in them. "  So that's what I brought, and will have to wear if we need to dress up.  

In case you wondered, that object rising like a huge tree trunk with holes in it behind and above the train is Dallas's  Reunion Tower.

The rest of the train travel to San Antonio was unremarkable....but on a train, it's always fun!

More to follow... 


Sunday, June 17, 2018

On The Road Again, Part 1

A train trip my wife and I had been planning for some time to San Antonio, Texas came together recently.  And naturally, it required a drive across the Bay Bridge (toward Baltimore) to catch the train.  There have been several traffic jams recently on or at the bridge…and we fortunately have not been involved.   But we wanted to avoid any traffic issues which could cause us to miss our train on departure day. 

Thus, we drove over the bridge the previous day, and stayed at a motel near the train station.   What a treat that was…  When I checked in, wearing women’s tan shorts, a women’s polo top, bare legs and women’s white sneakers, with my purse, pink nails and long hair, the twentysomething desk clerk addressed me as “Miss Mandy” (of course, using my now-female real given name.”   This was in spite of having had my male ID for check-in.  Fabulous!  But I was actually happy that my wife had remained in the car for that check-in, as I had no idea where this fun at the beginning of our expedition might lead.   (Not that I had any choice in attire, hair or nail styles, or having to carry a purse.)

Once settled in at the motel, we headed for a restaurant in the area which has really good crab cakes (more crab meat, not too much seasoning, and less filler than others use.)    And though the host didn’t use any female forms of address for us, he didn’t use any male terms for me, either.   That didn’t begin till the “seater” escorted us to our table.  “Will this be OK, ladies?”   My response: “Yes, thanks.”  And when the twentysomething female server arrived, “ladies” and  “Ma’am” became the norm.   I couldn’t do much with my voice, so “it is what it is.”    And as we left, a rain shower (no, actually a deluge - the sky was falling) began.  We waited in the covered walkway for it to let up…and several passers-by used “ladies” to refer to us.

The next day, we headed for the station.  Remember, as  background:  my wife’s bags were much lighter and smaller than mine, as usual.  Thus she didn’t need help.  I still pack like the girl of the family.  She obviously doesn’t. 

When our train to DC finally pulled in, we were among the last to board.  I held both tickets, thus I announced to the conductor that “she’s with me and I have her ticket.”  No issue.  When we found seats (separately but near each other as the train was quite full) I started lifting my bags into the overhead racks, and a gentleman jumped right up: “here, let me help you Ma’am.”  And he hoisted both bags up for me.  Since my wife wasn’t right there with me (she already had taken a seat), I spoke in softer, more girly tones and said to the man “Oh my, thanks Sir.  But I'll need help to get them down, too! “  His response – with a smile -“No problem, Ma’am.”   And when the time came, he did!   My wife didn’t say anything – I’m really not sure how much of the exchange she overheard.

The conductor helped me lift my bags off the train in DC, and once inside the station,  another gentleman helped  me move them up a short set of steps, in full view of my wife.  "Thank you soooo much, Sir!"

This could be an interesting trip…

Saturday, June 2, 2018

A quickie...

Today I was out walking in the town where Mom's nursing home is located.  My attire was simple...a ladies' pastel blue polo (untucked), tan pocketless (and rather short) shorts with a 3" inseam, taupe pantyhose, my brown clogs, with no makeup, jewelry or purse, simply carrying my phone and car keys.

From the archives, these shorts, with different shoes and blouse, and no purse:

A lady and her male friend were walking behind me in a nearby park (I could hear their footsteps as they approached at a slightly faster speed).  But it's a decent no safety worries.   As they drew up alongside me, the lady looked over and said "excuse me, Ma'am, but are those dance tights you're wearing?"

Wow, here I am, with no way to escape having a legitimate discussion with a lady about my pantyhose, and her boyfriend/husband/significant other is right there beside her.  I put my voice up a few octaves, hoping it wouldn't crack.  "Thanks for the compliment, hon, but no, they're just sheer pantyhose."  "As good as those look on you, I need to start wearing them when I exercise...are they comfortable?"  "Yes, Ma'am, very comfortable - they fit like a dream."  "Where did you get them, if I might ask?"  "They're 'Just My Style' day sheers, and you can find them at  Maybe other places on line, too.  I hope when you get them, you enjoy wearing them as much as I do."  "I'm sure I will - your legs look wonderful.  Thanks, for the info, Ma'am."  "Thank you for the kind words, Ma'am."

The male with her just kept on walking straight ahead...and didn't so much as look to either side.  You could almost hear him thinking:  "OMG - women and their girl talk...I really don't care where they buy their pantyhose."

While there haven't been many Mandy moments lately, this one really made my day...or week...or maybe month.  Can't wait for the next moment!