Sunday, November 12, 2017

One foot in front of the other

As always, three AM came much sooner than I might have hoped when I had laid my head down on my pillow the night before. It seemed like I had just fallen asleep when the damned alarm went off.  I briefly considered throwing my phone (which I use as my alarm clock) but figured that in the end it would have just made my life that much harder to make the trip without a working phone. I had just returned from a trip to Knoxville that night, and so it is starting to feel like my whole life revolves around getting on a airplane, working, getting on an airplane home, do laundry, wash, rinse and repeat cycle over and over and over and over . . .

I had hoped to wear a new top that I had bought a few weeks ago when my daughter and I were shopping for a blouse for her school band uniform. It was a pretty black thing, with open shoulders and long sheer sleeves, but despite being a "large", it was far too small for me. It wasn’t even a close thing; that puppy just barely went on and was snug in all of the wrong places.  My loss was my 14 year old daughters gain though as it fit that skinny little shit perfectly and she was all smiles as she packed it off to her closet.
“Sorry it didn’t fit you!” she lied as she took the hanger from me.

Women's sizes are so damned inconsistent. You take a gamble every single time that you buy something without trying it on first. As an example, I've bought two pair of flat shoes in the last two weeks, both claiming to be size 10, but one pair was so small that I could hardly get my feet into it, and the other pair was so large that they wouldn't stay on my feet.  My education and training from the Army is in electronics and metrology. No, I didn't misspell "meteorology", I meant "metrology” – the science of weights and measurements. For those of you who are not in the loop, somewhere in the United States right now, people are maintaining standards for almost anything that you measure: Inches, seconds, volts, current, frequency, etc. While they may have gone to something fancier like the wavelength of the suns farts since I went to school, there used to be a metal block that was the formal inch for America. It was made out of highly stable material, maintained in a controlled environment where it can't oxidize, and it is never touched by human hands for fear of skin oils degrading, contaminating, or altering it. Any device in the United States that claimed to measure inches had to prove that it was in some way, shape, or form traceable back to that little block. In this way, we can all be reasonably confident that an inch would actually be an inch, no matter who made it or measured it.  Yeah, well clearly the women's fashion industry has never, ever heard of the concepts of standardization or traceability, or else they threw that shit out the window a long time ago. 
"Screw it, today this is a size 10!" Said the little shoe elf, throwing his latest work into the closest bin to his bench. Would it be too much to ask for a little consistency in sizing?!




Fat old bat

As I've hinted at a lot these days, I've been kind of losing my shit lately, and I'm hoping that most of it is being caused by the steroids that I've had to take off and on for the better part of a year and a half now. This became evident once I was ready and had my backpack and luggage together to head for the airport, because I just stood in the living room with my legs shaking so badly that I was afraid the sound of my heel tapping on the floor would wake someone up. I really don't know if it's the stress of multiple unexpected deaths in so short a period, the anxiety of knowing what an emotional mess I'm headed to in California today, anxiety about traveling to my childhood home, or the results of a shit load of steroids for an extended period, but I am clearly a nervous fricking wreck.  It's funny how often military training comes in handy in ways that you would never really expect. In the army they taught you that it didn't matter how large, hard, or frightening the task ahead of you was, you waded in, put one foot in front of the other, and you damn well keep going until it gets done. With that thought in my mind, I headed for the front door, shaky legs and all. . . 

Today I'm traveling on American Airlines in first class using tickets that I bought with my airline miles. When I approached the counter, a bright and bubbly young lady waved me forward with a big smile on her face. We both recognized each other because I had flown American Airlines preferentially for a couple of years until I got fed up with their always being late, and so went back to Delta.
"Hey! We haven't seen you in a while. Where have ya been?" She asked me.
"To tell the truth, I’ve been flying Delta." I replied, ducking my head and hiding my eyes behind my hand feigning shame. 
"No?! Why haven’t you been flying with us? Don't tell me that we haven't been treating you right?!" She asked softly, clearly genuinely concerned. 
"No no, it's nothing like that!" I assured her. "Delta just seems to go most of the places that I travel to." 
There was a little bit of a white lie there, as I do just kind of prefer Delta to be honest. Her friendly and outgoing attitude, combined with her genuine concern that her airline might not have treated me well did manage to make me feel just a tad guilty for abandoning them though. The joke is probably gonna be on me soon though as my company is going to a new travel agency in an attempt to save more money, and I suspect that they are going to farm me out to whatever airline offers the very cheapest tickets to that weeks destination. This will make it impossible to gain "status" with any airline. I’m just one flight short of platinum with Delta, and now it's probably not gonna do me any good.  Damn it.

I had a good giggle while sitting in the gate area of the Austin airport. I was sitting under one of the televisions when the story came on about Danica Roem - the first openly transgender person to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. I couldn't help noticing several sets of eyes dropping from the TV above my head to glance at me during the story. None of them were hostile looks, don’t get me wrong, they were more of a "Huh, what do ya know!" kind of look from most I think. 


Gate Area in Phoenix
Unlike the quiet and sedate gate area in Austin, the gate area in the Phoenix airport was absolutely insane. They had about 8 gates all located at the end of the terminal and so it was a huge crowd of people all packed into a very small area. I stood there for quite a while until someone vacated a seat which I quickly helped myself to, but my luck wasn't to last.  While sitting there going through my things, I realized that I had somehow managed to lose my ticket somewhere. I don't think that I got more than two steps toward the counter to get a replacement before someone had swiped my seat.  After I obtained my replacement ticket, the only area I could find with enough room to even stand was right next to the trash cans, so I made myself comfortable there and rested my backpack on top of the trash can.  I quickly realized the flaw in my plan though when people kept saying "excuse me ma'am" and asking me to move so that they could use the trash can for its intended purpose. 


When boarding the plane, the male flight attendant went out of his way to tell me how nice I looked, so that was kind of nice I suppose. I was sitting there in my seat and wondering if it was obvious to him just how nervous I really was when a young man pointed at the seat next to me to indicate that the seat was his, and that he needed me to get up to let him in.  It's the little things you know, because it helped my nerves when he said "thank you dear!" to me.  There may well be assholes in the world, but not everyone is one of them.  Such a small act of kindness from him had such a big effect on my state of mind.

Another one of the wonderful side effects of all of the drugs that I take for my legs is that I have to visit the bathroom a lot more often than I care for. As I was exiting the bathroom on one of my multiple visits, the male flight attendant was showing the female flight attendant a photo from his phone of him wearing a nuns habit for Halloween. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what had prompted his desire to share that particular photo at that particular moment, but I couldn’t help grinning all the same as I saw it. I was SOOO gonna ask him if I should call him “Sister” or “Mother Superior” when it came time to exit the plane, but he was busy putting things away as I exited and so I’d have had to go well out of my way to get his attention. I decided that the laugh wasn’t worth it and just trudged my happy ass off of the plane along with the rest of the cattle.



Since I used my Holiday Inn points to rent the car for free, I wasn’t renting with my preferred vendor, but was using the one that the Holiday Inn offered – Dollar.  Hence, I found myself standing in line at the counter to fill out all of the typical paper work. I have no idea what the problem was, but the woman in front of me was taking what seemed like forever. The customer service rep looked up at me once or twice over about 10 minutes and assured me that she would be right with me, and I assured her that it was no problem. When I finally had my turn at the counter, she went out of her way to apologize that it had taken so long and I just laughed.
“It’s no problem; I’m just old and tired and look like I’m pissed off because I’ve been up traveling since 1 AM your time.”
“You look great for having been at it since 1 AM!” she told me with a grin.
“Thank you, but we both know that you just fibbed. I can guess just how bad I must look at this point.” I told her with a laugh. We continued to chat to fill the silence while she was printing out all of the paper work, and she asked about the small town in Texas that I live in. I told her that it was roughly about the size of Apple Valley, CA, where I had been born and raised. She then asked me what had brought me back to California on this trip and I explained that it was for my sister-in-laws funeral.
“I’m so sorry. Were you close?”
“No, not really. To be honest, I didn’t really care a whole lot for her but I love the hell outta my brother, so here I am.”
This drew a laugh from both her and from the woman standing next to her who had apparently been listening in. In short order, I had my little rental car and was headed up the mountains to the high desert and the general area where I had grown up.



The Green Tree Inn
As I was exiting the freeway in Victorville to make my way to my room at the Holiday Inn that I had also rented with my points, I found myself passing the Green Tree Inn. Yeah, I know that name isn’t going to mean a thing to any of you, but it was almost a mythical place for me. My grandmother had retired there after working as a waitress in the dining room and country club for more than 15 years. My mother had also worked there for a few years and so had my aunt. Hell, it seems like almost every woman in my family had worked there at one point or another I guess. As I’ve told y’all before, we grew up without a whole lot of money, and for many years my brother, my sister, and I lived with my grandmother in her mobile home. She would come home from work, worn out and tired, and sharing stories of her day at the “GREEN TREE”. Yeah, I capitalized that on purpose, because to a little child, this seemed like a far away and magical place. Of course all of these stories and memories are filtered through a small child’s perceptions, but she would tell us about the great people that she had taken care of, who laughed and had invited her to be a part of their evening, and yes, were generous with their tips. She would also tell us all about the awful people that she had taken care of, who despite their wealth and privilege, were rude slobs that made horrific messes and then tipped poorly. A decade of stories flitted in and out of my mind as I passed that sign, and I seriously considered trying to find the time to get a lunch or dinner there just to see what all of the fuss had been about. Ultimately though, I decided I’d better leave this childhood fantasy alone, as the reality of the place 40 years later was unlikely to be flattering to the magical place that I had created in my mind.
Even though it was relatively early in the California day (around 4PM), I was totally wiped out and so I begged off for the day when I spoke to my brother. There was no way in hell that I was up for a couple more hours of driving and all of the emotional turmoil that I knew was going to take place, so I promised to join him first thing in the morning as he had to take a friend down into the Ontario area for a doctor appointment. He thought that maybe I wouldn’t want to get up so early to go with him, but I laughed and told him that the same two hour time change that was kicking my ass that evening was going to work in my favor in the morning and that I’d be up and running long before he was. The friend that he was giving a ride to was quite the talker, which was both good and bad. One thing that we didn’t have to endure was any kind of awkward silences. She was being treated for breast cancer and had just had a mastectomy, so that sort of put my own little medical problems into perspective. Let’s see – bumpy painful legs as compared to missing breast and cancer still killing you. Yeah, I’m good – thanks.
We stopped for breakfast at Dennys after her doctor appointment, and I picked up the meal while my brother got the tip. I’ve gotta admit that I was kind of surprised when he put down a $20 tip on our $50 breakfast. Knowing that the tips that my grandmother had received had fed us as children, I’ve always tipped well, but I thought this was kind of excessive and told him so. Funny – he told me all of the same things that I’m telling you, and it all boiled down to our memories of my grandmother and how hard she had worked to provide for us. I’m guessing that my brother made that young waiters day, and I can think of worse things to do with $20. I spent the rest of the day hanging out with my brother, his grandchildren, and my sister.

You wouldn’t think it possible, but things actually managed to get worse the next morning. My hotel was about 30 minutes from my brothers home as he lives a bit out in the sticks. I decided to hopefully make a good impression with the house full of children that hardly remember me, and so I arrived from town bearing about five dozen donuts. We were in the process of giving all of the children a sugar high from donuts when my sister received a call from the sheriff in Prescott Az urgently asking if there was anyone in her home at the moment. It turns out that while we were eating donuts, my sisters place in Arizona was happily burning to the ground and the sheriff needed to be sure that there was no one inside of it.

Oh.
My.
God.

Her 35 year old daughter died two months ago.
She is in southern California for the funeral of my brothers wife, and is dealing with my heart broken brother.
Now her house has burned to the ground. I don’t even know where to start, or how to console her. We are all just absolutely shell shocked. Obviously there was nothing to be done for the house fire from so far away, and so my sister continued on through the day as planned while just randomly breaking down in tears at any given moment. She’s so lost. My brother is so lost. I’m lost with them, because I have absolutely no idea how I can help them from 1,500 miles away.


My Brother and his Wife
Later that afternoon a lot of my family got together at a restaurant called “BJ’s” before the funeral. Everyone there was extended family, but many of them are people that I had grown up with but haven’t seen in 30 years or more. As a result, more than once I had to admit “I’m so sorry, but I’m not sure who the hell you are.” Sometimes this earned me a laugh, and sometimes a hurt look, but again, it is what it is. Among this gathering were my cousin Sherry and her daughter Savannah.  Sherry had grown up so close to us for most of our lives that my siblings and I all consider her far more of a sister than as a cousin. At this point I get one more head trip to add to my ever growing list, because Savannah is also transgender. She, however, has been full time for most of her life, is young and beautiful, and has a wonderful advantage in life – a mother who understands and is supportive. I reached out to her a few years ago on Facebook, just wanting her to know that she wasn’t alone, and that I was both happy and proud of her, but I don’t think that I impressed her overly much. We never had the chance to speak alone this trip, but I did go out of my way to tell her again that I was happy for her and that I was proud of her. I probably just came off as some creepy old uncle, but hey, I tried. I actually did get a few minutes alone with her mother, and was incredibly torn. I wanted to tell her about myself, and express my respect and admiration for the way that she had dealt with her own daughter, but I ultimately decided that this would have been an incredibly selfish thing for me to do at this particular time. I think that I will talk to her soon, but doing it when everyone is gathering for a funeral and my sisters home has burnt to the ground is definitely not the right moment.



Sunday morning I made my way back down the mountain to the Ontario airport. I’m physically worn out, but even worse is the mental exhaustion, so I never even briefly considered flying as Kim. It therefore came as a bit of a surprise when the lady that checked my rental car in turned out to be the same lady that had given it to me, and she remembered me! I figure this is further evidence that my looks have plummeted downhill, because 10 years ago no one that knew me well as Matt would have ever recognized me as Kim, or the other way around, and yet this woman that deals with hundreds of people a day recognized and remembered me three days after having met me once. She asked about the funeral and expressed her hope that I’d managed to enjoy some part of my time here. You know what I thought was awesome? She obviously was well aware that I was TG and clearly didn’t care. She treated me at least as well as anyone else and just spoke to me like a human being. Damn it, I miss California sometimes.

6 comments:

  1. Kim -

    I miss CA, and I never had the pleasure of living there. Too bad it's so damned expensive, or I'd bet that you'd be living there again.

    M

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  2. Kim,

    I lived in California years ago, and attended college there for a few semesters. Other than the traffic (yes, even back then), it was a wonderful place to live.

    My wife and I visited (and toured) the lower half of California in the early 2000's. and I was in SoCal a couple years ago on one of my excursions. There is so much to do and see, thus it would be fun to live there again. Never a dull weekend.

    With the exception of a nasty car rental agent that I had on my excursion, there were no people problems at all. My biggest reservations would be: the astronomical cost of living, high taxes, the ever-present traffic, earthquakes, fires, floods, and of course, landslides. My parents looked at a beautiful new house in a hillside development near Oakland (incomparable view, fabulous house, but they didn't buy). A year later, it slid down the hill in a torrential rainstorm...

    So, no moves in our future...we're stuck here on the Delmarva, at elevation 45 feet+ above sea level, miles from the shoreline and presumably safe from Atlantic storm surge.

    Travel safe...

    Mandy

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  3. Oh yeah, I gave up my dreams of moving back to Calif years ago due to the cost of living.

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  4. I just do not know what to say about the storm of woes that have beset you and your family in recent times other than to let you know you have my best thoughts, hopes and prayers and that you know that like everything else in life that 'this too shall pass'
    God Bless you and your family,
    Pax
    Pat

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  5. Kimberly,
    It's just amazing, the misfortunes that you and your close family have endured recently, and how well you seem to have coped. I recently had to fly (in drab) from one side of Australia to the other to attend my dear sister's funeral, so I can empathize with you on the arduous travel when you just want to curl up in a corner and cry your eyes out. God bless.
    Fond regards,
    Janet

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  6. Here's to hoping that this string of tragedies has run out and that normalcy restores itself posthaste.

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