Saturday, June 6, 2009

Fremont in Northern California

Current mood:tired
This weeks trip was to Fremont in Northern California. We have engineers in San Jose that would normally service and install our equipment here, but the local guy that used to work on this product line here was laid off a month or so ago, and those who are left here have had no training on this tool. The kicker is that I haven’t worked on one of these systems myself in over a year, and this system has new generators in it that I have never even seen before myself. It makes me more than a little nervous to have to install and train customers on equipment that I’ve never even seen myself! Fortunately fear of failure motivates me and so I spent a good deal of time reading manuals before I went.

San Jose 2009 06 03 005

So I’m standing in one of the small stores in the Austin airport looking at the book rack. The book rack goes to about chest height, and then the wall behind it is glass, so you can see the people sitting in the food court area outside the store .. . and they can see in . . .
As I’m looking at the books my eye is caught by movement and I glance up to see this pretty young lady stretching up in her seat to peek at me. As soon as I glanced her way, her head ducks back down so that I can’t see her eyes anymore. A moment later I see it poking back up, and there she is peeking at me again. Feeling a little playful, a stretched up on to my toes so that I could look at her over the books, and found myself facing four young ladies sitting around a table, and all were turned in my direction and looking right at me. I can’t hear her, but I can see the lips of the girl that had been peeking at me say “I told you!”  Still having fun, I just winked at them and went back to looking at the books.
This time I flew American Airlines, and they treated me quite well, as have all of the other airlines I’ve used. It was a fairly typical flight, with nothing of any real interest occurring. The gentleman sitting next to me was quite friendly, and we chatted a little, but not enough to risk annoying each other.
When the rental car shuttle bus pulled up in front of me, it was already packed with people, so it took me a little bit of effort to get my bag and myself on it and in place. As I took my seat and started looking around, I realize the bus is almost entirely full of what I assume were Amish folks. The women all wore scarves and fairly plain dresses, and the men all wore round and black hats and had beards but no mustaches. I noticed that a few of them glanced my way but they didn’t appear at all concerned with me. I couldn’t help noticing that a couple of the older men were wearing what appeared to me to be fairly expensive suites – at least the fabric was expensive. It just seemed so odd to see these folks on a bus. When they got off and the door closed, the man across from me looked up and smiled.
“They are a long way from home, huh?” he said.
“It sure looks that way.” I replied “You know, it must take an awful lot of courage for them to make a trip like this.”  He merely nodded his agreement.
I hate to sound racist or ignorant, but I have to admit to a bit of trepidation when I got to the Avis rental car lot at the San Jose airport because all of the men there were wearing turbans. I’m fairly sure this is the custom for men from many nations and regions around the world, so I have no idea what country or culture most of them came from, nor how they might feel about someone transgender like myself. All I know is that I was a bit nervous handing my male drivers license over at the security gate, but my concern was for nothing. The man didn’t bat an eye and didn’t even hesitate at the difference between my appearance and the picture on my drivers license.
As I was leaving the airport, I realized it wasn’t even noon yet, and so decided to use my GPS to find a few Goodwill thrift stores and go shopping! I went through two of them but found nothing I was in the slightest bit interested in. The difference between Goodwill stores in different regions can be quite striking. Some have very nice things in them and are very pleasant to shop in. Some, like the two I hit here, were kind of plain and filled with stuff that really should have been thrown out. Oh well . . .
Still far too early to check into my hotel, I searched for and found a mall. How was I supposed to know that the Valley Fair Mall is where the wealthy people shop and that I had no business going there? My latest shopping quest is for a neat pair of brown shoes. I have an increasing number of Earth tone outfits but don’t really have a good pair of shoes to go with them, so I started my shopping expedition at Nordstrom’s shoe department, where I hit their sales rack. I found a pair of brown shoes that I thought were a bit interesting and picked them up to discover that even on sale, these shoes were going for just short of $400 dollars. Sorry, but that is way too rich for this little red neck, so decided that it was time to leave Nordstrom’s and see what else the mall had to offer. Walking through the mall I got several of the “I know what you are looks” from other patrons and from sales associates, but still no one was rude or anything like that. I found a really neat pair of retro looking brown shoes at Macy’s on sale for $49! My problem with womens shoes is that my let foot is about half a size larger than my right, so when I buy a pair of shoes I can count on one or the other not fitting quite right – either one will be too loose, or the other too tight. Since these were the only pair remaining, this time I was going to have to settle for the left foot being a bit too tight. Still, I walked around in them for a moment or two and decided that it wasn’t too bad, and they were really cute, and so I bought them.
By now it was late enough to check in to my hotel room and so I headed for the Holiday Inn Express in Fremont. When I entered, I found that the woman behind the counter was an absolutely stunning Indian. She was in her mid to late 20’s, and had huge amounts of long, dark, and gorgeous hair cascading down well past her waist. It took me a moment to find my voice and tell her my name as I noticed her huge brown eyes. The sad thing is that while I was mesmerized by her, she was less than thrilled with me. She clearly was not impressed with me, and her smile was completely insincere, never making it to her eyes. Several times over the next couple of days as I came and went, I got the same vibe from her:  “I work here and will be professional, but I don’t like you” was the way her look made me feel.

San Jose 2009 06 03 010

I made a call to Carin, an online friend that I have been chatting with for a couple of years but had never actually met, and she made her way to my hotel where we sat and chatted for a bit. As we spoke, I would every once in a while catch just the hint of an accent and finally asked her about it. It turns out that she was born and raised in Ireland, a country that fascinates me. Supposedly I am a quarter Irish (Irish, German, French, and American Indian – a mutt!) and so Ireland has always held an interest for me, and as stupid as this sounds, I’ve always liked the Irish brogue. Were a pretty girl with in Irish brogue ever to approach me, I could be in serious trouble! We spoke for about an hour in my room, and then went to get Coffee at “Pete’s”. I’d never heard of the place, but apparently it is fairly popular and on a par with places like Starbucks. We were sitting outside and enjoying the breeze for a bit and then asked a lady sitting next to us if she would snap a picture for my blog. She laughed and confided that was actually a professional photographer and would be happy to. I told her that my camera shouldn’t present much of a challenge for her then.
San Jose 2009 06 03 011
Carin was wonderful, exactly who I was hoping she would be based on the posts I’d read from her over the years. Clearly a very intelligent person, and a very caring person as well. Carin and her wife had adopted several children that had come from less than nice circumstances, and so had seven children I think she said. I can’t imagine the kind of courage and dedication it would take to bring so many children in to your home and try and give them a decent life. If you knew nothing more about Carin, this would be enough to tell you what kind of person she is. And I have to tell you, that girl is SKINNY!  She’s one of those people we all hate who gets to walk into a shop and know she can pick anything off the rack she wants and it will fit. So many times I’ve found gorgeous dresses and tops that I would have loved to get, just to find that they were size 6 to 8, and were no where near fitting on my size 12 to 14 butt.  Grrrrrr!!!!!   Clearly Carin does not have this problem. It is of course not my place to share her problems with the world, but I think it is fair to say that Carin is in kind of a tough time in her life and trying hard to make the best of things. I very much hope that things will turn out well for her – I think that she and her family deserve it.
We went to dinner at Red Lobster where she ate like a rabbit and I ate like pig. It seems like old army habits die hard, because I realized I was almost done with my dinner and she had hardly started her own. It didn’t help that I hadn’t eaten anything all day and so was starving to death. When diner was done, we declined desert and so the waitress returned with the check. When she was setting it on the table, the “magic” shoes struck again.
“Those are cute shoes!” she told me with a huge smile. Apparently Carin had read my many posts about the magic shoes that seem to draw compliments from women every time I wear them, because from across the table I hear a snort and then a laugh from her.
“It’s true!” Carin said “And now you have a witness!”
The next day it was time to earn my paycheck. Since this new system had a brand new model of generator in it that I had never been trained on or even seen, I started my morning off by reading the entire manual again so that maybe I could avoid looking like an idiot in front of my customer. In addition to the customer, one of my companies local engineers was going with me for OJT, so if I made a fool out of my self, there was going to be a witness from my own company as well. The company I was working with had rescheduled this startup several times, and in the four weeks of interaction with them, the guy I was told to work with had changed three times. Let’s just say I didn’t have a lot of faith that they had done their portion of the install correctly and so fully expected this install to be a pain in the butt. No pressure though . . .  Surprise, surprise, they had done a fine job and provided my system with everything we needed, and had done a good job with their cables and connections between their tool and mine – everything ran flawlessly. Most of the time on these installs is usually used finding and correcting faults with my customers cables and signals and none of that was required for this one, so it went very quickly and easily. Even dragging things out by checking all of our interlocks and safeties, and anything else I could do to give the customer the impression that he was getting something from our presence, it still only took us about 4 hours from start to finish. A two day install, and I was done in four hours – cool! 
The other engineer I was working with suggested we get lunch and a beer, and further suggested that we do it at “Hooters”. Places like Hooters tend to bring conflicting feelings and emotions for me. On the one hand, I admire the female figure at least as much as any other guy. On the other hand, there is also a part of me that envy’s the girls there for their looks and their figures. To make matters even worse, now that I have a daughter, there is a small voice in the back of my head saying “How would you feel if someday some 40 year old man is staring at YOUR daughters behind like that?!” Brrrrrr. . . .  So, ate lunch, drank a couple of beers, and then we each headed our own ways!

San Jose 2009 06 04 003

San Jose 2009 06 04 002

That night I was to meet with Anita Prescott of the Vanity Club for dinner. I wore the new floaty brown skirt I got a month or so ago, and the cute brown shoes I had just purchased yesterday. Rather pleased with myself and my appearance, I headed out of my room and past the front desk, where I again received an ice cold smile from the beautiful woman at the counter. I got to Anita’s home about 40 minutes later, transferred over to her car, and we made the drive to San Francisco for dinner! The drive took at least an hour longer than it should have due to an accident ahead of us. We spent an hour at the entrance to the bridge into San Fran, moving no more than three or four car lengths the entire period.

San Jose 2009 06 04 005

San Fransisco 2009 06 04 013

At last the traffic started moving and we arrived at the Ana Mandara restaurant about an hour late for our reservations. Anita had done a terrific job in choosing the restaurant as it was unique, very elegant, and had great food AND a live jazz band! 

San Jose 2009 06 04 018

Anita Mae Prescott and Kimberly Huddle 021

Anita and I chatted about just about everything in the hours we were stuck in traffic and in the restaurant. The part that really stuck with me was the way that she and her wife had worked for years to build their own sail boat, and shortly after this dream boat was at last complete, her wife died. Needless to say, the boat had too many memories, and Anita got rid of it shortly thereafter. I’ll be damned if my eyes aren’t tearing up just thinking about it. Anita was a great gal, and a good host, I thank her very much for wasting her time with me.
The bad news is, after wearing my new shoes for a prolonged period, the toes on my left foot were screaming! When I’d tried them on in the store, the one foot had been snug, but not painful, but over an hour or so it became fairly painful. Brand new and awesome looking shoes and I may not be able to wear them much. I could just about cry. . .
I started the next day by following up with my customer to be sure that everything was still working well, and to see if they had any questions or concerns. Everything was great, and the customer did not want to see me, so I was free for the day! My integrity kept nagging at me that I really should try and get a flight home today, but I rationalized that the money I would have saved my company in hotels would have been offset by the cost of my changing my flights, and so I enjoyed a day in the San Jose area.

San Jose 2009 06 05 002

This time as I walked by the hotels front desk, there was a different lady there, and she gave me a genuine smile as I walked out the door.
“Have a nice day!” she said with a smile as I walked by.
“I hope you have a great day too!” I told her, with my best smile.

San Jose 2009 06 05 005

This time I headed for the “Great Mall”, where I intended to watch a movie and then do some window shopping. I still had it in the back of my head that I might find another pair of brown shoes that I could afford, so I kept an eye out for them.
I actually ended up watching two movies, not just one. I know that the critics had torn it up, but I thought that “Angels and Demons” was a good movie. As far as I’m concerned, the point to your average movie is to entertain, and this movie did a good job of that.
“Land of the Lost” I did not enjoy so much. It was OK, with a few good laughs, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Two movies under my belt, I headed in to the mall itself and started the very long hike through the entire thing. You know, I hope I don’t offend anyone by saying this, but despite the fact that it is where I was born, and despite it’s reputation for being something like the great Mecca for Gay and Transgendered life, California is one of my least favorite places to hang out cross dressed. Don’t get me wrong, the transgendered folks I’ve met there are top notch folks. Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like people are very quick to identify me as TG here. Maybe it’s because they know that there are so many of us in the region and so they are predisposed to consider it when looking at others, or maybe it’s just in my head, but it just seems like passing, and being truly perceived as female, is damn near impossible for me in Northern California. Don’t get me wrong, everyone still treated me well, and no one was rude, but I just felt like I was being treated more like “the cross dresser” than like a woman. I was surprised by how many stores there were in he mall that sold only gowns, and some of them quite elaborate gowns. I looked at one lovely gown, Gold and long, with multiple skirts and layers, thinking it would look fabulous for the Southern Comfort Conference, but I had to walk away from it when the price tag showed it cost over $700. I’m sure it was worth it, but I haven’t got that kind of money for this sort of thing. Damn it.
I didn’t find a pair of shoes in the mall that I couldn’t live with out and so headed back toward the hotel. I say headed toward it, because part way there I stumbled across a DSW Shoe Warehouse and was drawn in against my will and better judgment. What do you know – I found a pair of cute little Mary Janes in brown AND they were on sale for less than $30 so I grabbed ‘em. I sat down in the car, trying to decide if I’d had enough for the day, or if I wanted to do anything else. I decided to check out a “friendly” bar called “The Savoy” in Santa Clara. I’d been there with Niya Blake before on a work night, and so I thought I’d see what it was like on Friday nights. There really weren’t that many people there when I arrived and I walked straight up the bar. The bartender was an adorable little girl, with short brown hair, big brown eyes, and a figure I wish like hell I had. She mixed me up a really good White Russian and I took it to a table where I could still see the TV. As I sat there looking around and feeling kind of bored, I noticed another tgirl sitting at the bar all by herself. I figured ‘what the hell’, grabbed my stuff and walked up to her.

San Jose 2009 06 05 007

“Sitting alone sucks, do you mind if I crowd you a bit?” I asked her.
“Not at all!” she said with a laugh. “Have a seat!”
We talked for a couple of hours and found that we had much in common. She had spent some time in the Marines and so there was a little good natured back and forth that you will always get when the Army and Marines get together. Turns out most of the males in her family had been in the Army so she didn’t pick on me too bad. I couldn’t help laughing though.
“So let me get this straight. They were all in the Army but didn’t try to convince you to go in to the Air force?” I asked her. She didn’t understand what I was getting at at first so I clarified it.
“At one point or another, most of us that were in the Army wished like hell we’d had the sense to join the Air force instead. They might have saved you the hassle by convincing you to go Air Force instead!” That got a good laugh from her. A brave person this one! When she was younger, she had just gotten on a cargo ship to Korea where she had made a living for a year or more. Can you imagine the courage it would take to just get on a boat and sail off to another country where you were going to make a go of it?
She had only been going out in the world cross dressed for about three months, and was still purty new to the whole thing. I bragged about some of the things I’ve done, trying to give her courage that she too could do anything she wanted to. I saw her eyes sparkle a couple of times and have a hunch she’s gonna be busy out and about in the near future. Anyway, we spent a couple of hours in very comfortable conversation, and it was an entirely pleasant night!
The next day was just my trip home as boring old Matt, but I had something neat happen. A woman in her 60’s was standing in line behind me and I was chatting with her a bit. We had stopped talking for some time when she reaches out and touches my arm.
“Your eyes are absolutely beautiful!” she told me, with a real kind tone of voice. She wasn’t flirting with me or anything, she was just giving me a compliment, but still I couldn’t help but blush.
“Well thank you so much! It’s been a long time since a lady has told me that and you just made my entire day!”

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