Saturday, May 30, 2009

Suckered in to returning to Detroit

First of all, let me say thank you again for all of you that expressed concern for my wife and I. She is still having contractions, but they are coming infrequently and are no where near as intense as those that triggered our two night stay in the hospital. The Docs still aren't sure WHY they started, but apparently it's not unheard of for women to have contractions for weeks or months before the baby is due. So - we are fine, she is fine, and our unborn little critter is fine and now we just have to keep it brewing in Mommy's tummy for another 7 weeks or so :-)

so I was just in Detroit a couple of weeks ago where I repaired one instrument and evaluated another for the same customer. The repair was a bit tricky because it was an intermittent fault, a problem that comes and goes. Repairs like this leave you a little less than confident that you have resolved the issue when you leave, because you have to ask yourself "Did I fix it, or has it just not reared it's head yet?". I evaluated another instrument while I was there because they complained it wasn't accurate. When I tested it, I found it to be accurate to less than 10 PPM. In technical jargon, that equals "Holy shit! That's not just accurate, it's damned accurate!"

Well, a little over a week later this customer calls me to ask what kind of warranty he gets on repairs, because the instrument I repaired is acting up again. I asked him for the serial number and confirmed it was the instrument I had repaired, and so I told him I would set up a trip to return and look at it again. I wasn't completely shocked, because like I said, it was an intermittent fault and I wasn't 100% confident I'd permanently fixed it when I left. So, I set up the trip - flights, hotel, rental car, etc!

So you see the white leather skirt in the pics below? Easily a $100 skirt but I got it at Goodwill for $4! It was wrinkled all to hell, but still had the huge manufacturers tag on it describing how to properly clean and take care of it. It was brand new and all I had to do was knock the wrinkles out of it!  Ya gotta love Goodwill! 
My wife told me I was insane to where that much white - it was like daring the world to make a mess of it, but I kind of liked the idea. I'm glad I did because I think it looked terrific.
Detroit 2009 05 26 001

Once again I had a few extra minutes on my hands and so stopped on the way to the Airport to take some pics in the great out doors. Obviously I'm not too concerned about people seeing me as I am spending better than 12 hours on airplanes and in airports, but still I would feel a little silly if cars drive by and see me out there taking pictures, so I do tend to pull a ways off the highway on smaller roads that will likely be free of traffic long enough to snap a few pics.

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Detroit 2009 05 26 004

Nothing of the slightest bit of interest happened on the flight from Austin to Charlotte, or from Charlotte to Detroit. Sometimes I think this is a good thing. Nothing interesting happening sort of means that either I passed or I was treated well anyway. On the other hand, it makes for a boring story to tell! The women that sat next to me chatted with me a bit. We spoke of nothing special, just the usual one traveler to another kind of comments, but they both smiled and were clearly comfortable speaking to me, so that's cool.

As I was exiting the rental car shuttle bus at the Avis lot, I was totting my usual load - a back pack with my laptop and cables, a 50lb tool box, and a 50lb suitcase. You really do have to try this sometime while wearing a skirt and 4 inch stiletto heels! So an Avis employee reaches out to grab my tool box for me. I don't cross dress to get guys to do my heavy lifting for me, and always feel a bit uncomfortable taking advantage of mens chivalry this way, so I told him "No, thank you! I got it!"
This gentleman was African American, probably late 50's or early 60's, and he got pretty insistent.
"That's all right, I'll help you out!" he insisted.
"Nah, I have lots of practice at this, I'll get it. Thank you though!" I replied with a smile. So he gives me this hurt look.
"What's the matter? I'm your friend. Don't you have friends?" he asks, with the smile asking it clear he's yanking my chain.
"Yeah, I've got one or two." I said as he ignored me and took my suitcase to the car anyway. He put my bag in the back seat and I took the toolbox to the trunk, but I couldn't open the trunk. he had the keys and there was no manual latch. He walked to the back of the car, realized that there was no remote for the trunk on the keys, and so he handed me the keys and went to front of the car to look for a lever. I could hear him making little comments like "Well, where the heck is it?" and so just used the old fashioned method to open the trunk - I slid the key in to the lock and turned it. Imagine that - key, lock, trunk opens. We are so used to our toys and buttons that everyone forgets that they can actually do a few things manually. I was just putting the box in the trunk when he gets to the back of the car.
"Hey now!  That thing is heavy, I don't know if I could have lifted that myself! What are you stronger than I am?" he says with a huge smile on his face. You can't tell it just by the text I've written, but if you had seen the look on his face, and the tone of his voice, you would know this guy was clearly giving me hell, so I smiled right back at him.
"Awe come on, what, is this the pick on the drag queen day?!" I asked him.
"I'm just saying!" He replied, with a little laugh. "Well, you have a great night!" he said with a wink and a grin.
That has probably got to be oddest exchange I've had with anyone yet. still kind of scratching my head, I made the short drive to my hotel in Allen Park. When I got to the Holiday Inn there, the young lady behind the counter looks up.
"Ah! Your back again!" she said with a warm smile.
"Yes ma'am, I'm like a cockroach - you cant get rid of me!" I told her, trying to put as much "Texas" in to it as I could. She laughed, and chatted with me as she got my keys and paper work together.

Detroit 2009 05 26 007
Detroit 2009 05 26 006

Well, the next day I had a job to do, so I headed out to get it done. Shortly after I got there and started to evaluate the instrument, I discovered that my customer had either made a mistake or had lied to me. This was NOT the instrument that I had worked on, and it was not the serial number he had given me by phone when I set the trip up. So, he had suckered me into returning with out providing a purchase order first. Grrrr !!!
The good news of course is that this is NOT a warranty, so I've just gone from costing my company money to making money for it. Got the repair done, looked at a few other instruments for them, and headed for the hotel around 4PM.

I honestly considered not going anywhere, but I had discovered that a small pub Called SOhO in Ferndale was doing Karaoke that night, and so I decided to give it a shot. Apparently I'm developing "a thing" for leather, because I wore another leather skirt. This one is very soft and a little shorter and tighter than the White one I had worn the day before. To be honest, it just feels sexy as hell!

Detroit 2009 05 27 004

So when I got there the place was almost empty, maybe half a dozen people there, and they were all intently watching a hockey game.  I sat at the bar for two or three minutes before the bartender managed to pull his eyes away from the game long enough to ask me what I wanted. It turns out it was some sort of playoff and these guys were all WAY into the game. I got a couple of laughs asking stupid questions about the game, like "Which side is Detroit?" but they all answered with good spirits.

Detroit 2009 05 27 007

In about half an hour, the place started to fill up and you could tell things were gong to be interesting. The karaoke was supposed to have started some time ago but no one was willing to turn the game off. I sure as hell wasn't gonna put in a request slip 'cause I was pretty sure they would lynch me if I interrupted the game. Eventually the karaoke started. The girl running the karaoke sang first and did quite a good job. The next guy looked about 15 to me and so I was pleasantly surprised when he started to sing Paul Anka "Diana", and he did a great job! Right there I knew I was gonna have a good time.

I think the name of the guy below was "Scott" and he went way out of his way to make me feel like I was among friends. People like this can make such a huge difference in how a night is going to turn out. He introduced himself, then he introduced me to his daughters, who also chatted off and on with me all night. They took what might have been a "ehh" night, and turned it into a great one, and I am so grateful! One of his daughters is in a all girl band called "Jane of Arc". I haven't listened to any of their stuff yet, but I have found them on Myspace for you.

Detroit 2009 05 27 005

By the time I got up to sing, the place had filled up, and I was more than a little nervous. I used to do this all of the time, but it's been a long time since I sang in front of people so my confidence has suffered. I was more than a little gratified when I noticed part way through my song that most people had actually stopped talking to listen so I must not have sucked TOO bad! I know I often catch people by surprise. When they see me, they expect me to either sound like a woman, or like a guy trying to sound like a woman. When I just start singing in a normal male voice they are surprised, and then they are surprised again when they realize that I don't exactly suck at it either. So, listened to a lot of people sing, sang a few times myself, and had a good night talking with nice people - it doesn't get much gooder than that!
Detroit 2009 05 27 006

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Old Stuff

So I've started sort of writing a book lately. I think the whole idea is kind of arrogant - it implies that my life would be interesting enough for people to want to read about it.
So anyway, I was tearing through a bunch of old photographs looking for pics to use in the book and stumbled on many that brought back a lot of memories - some good, some not . . .

This is my very first car, and yes, they young man trying to look like a bas ass is me.

Ft Sill in front of first car

This was a 1967 Mustang and I bought it in 1984 for $600. On the salary of a PFC in the Army, this was a hell of a lot of money for me at the time. The car was at least half bondo, clearly someone's project car who had given up part way through it. It had a sun roof, side pipes, and chrome rims. At least it had chrome rims until I literally tore them off when Jack Daniels and I put the car through a couple of trees. For all of it's flaws, I LOVED that car.

This picture was in my room, in the barracks at Ft Sill and would have been very close to the same time the mustang picture above was taken.

Ft Sill In Barracks

This was pretty much my life. If I wasn't in the car, I was either drinking, or playing guitar, or both.

The picture below is of my second classic Mustang, which I bought shortly after getting out of the Army in 1986.

My second Mustang - 1968 Fast back Mustang

It was a 1968 Fastback, and today it would easily sell for $30K. (Damn it!)
I played a bit too hard with this one and blew the engine. I left it in the hands of my mother and her husband when I re-joined the army, and they arranged to have the engine rebuilt. Funny thing - here the car is sitting at one of his friends, no engine in it, and supposedly someone stole it by towing it off. Something fishy about that! When combined with a few other things, I never quite forgave them for that, as this was my end all, get all, dream car.

My third Mustang is below

Ft Lewis my 1965 Mustang 2

You wont see any pictures of its passenger side because it was destroyed in an accident by it's previous owner. Outside it looked like hell but the interior was perfect. This was taken at Ft Lewis WA shortly after I went back in to the Army, so probably about 1987.

This pic was taken when my wife and I were leaving Ft Lewis and the United States to go live in Germany for three years.

At Ft Lewis Playing Guitar

The down side to my being a cross dresser - I like having a mustache when in boy mode. :-(
You know what's sad about this picture? I thought I was ugly back then! I look at it now and think "Damn! I didn't look half bad!", but back then i thought I was ugly as hell. Gotta wonder . . .

Matt and casey at YOP Studio
This was at the YOP recording Studio in Leiphiem Germany. The two on the left ran the studio. If you zoom in on the pictures on the wall, you will see a couple that have girls in them. WRONG! It's their pictures - they were cross dressers! I was so far in the closet at the time that I never spoke about it with them. I always wished I had though . . .

The first time I held my son

My son was born almost two months premature and spent his first few days in a German hospital and in incubators . Here the nurse offered to let me hold him, but I was afraid I'd drop or break him and declined. She gave me this real evil smile and plopped the boy into my hands anyway, and someone took the pic. . .

Washing White Mustang
This is my Fourth Mustang I bought a few years after leaving Germany. This was in Albuquerque NM. This is a 1969. This car sat outside at a storage lot in Texas for almost 10 years. When we got there, it was uniform gray from years of dust. Poured so gas in the carb and she started first try. I bought her on the spot. :-)
You know you GOTTA love a car to be standing outside washing it in the snow. I didn't want to let any salt from the roads to start working on her!

And for those of you going "What the hell???!!! Where is the crossdressing in this blog??!!!", here is a pic of me in Austin probably ten years ago.


This would have been with in a year or so of the first time I'd ever gone out in to the world. Would you believe my wife made that dress for me?! Isn't that cool?!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Baltimore MD and the Aberdeen Proving Grounds

This week I am off to Baltimore MD and the Aberdeen Proving Grounds.

Baltimore 2009 05 11 004

This is where the Army does a great deal of it's testing on equipment that is in use, or being considered for use, by our soldiers, so the trip holds sort of mixed emotions for me. On the one hand, I like having something to do with the Army again, where I spent so many formative years of my life. On the other hand, it reminds me in no uncertain terms that I am no long a part of that world. What can possibly compare to being able to say "My job is to defend the United States of America"? Sometimes I really miss it . . .

The day started with a new outfit. Well, sort of new . . . I've had this top for about three years I think, but had not found a skirt to go with it. . . . until now . . .
Good thing too, since I was in the verge of throwing the top out!

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Baltimore 2009 05 11 003

It was a long but reasonably pleasant trip getting there - nothing too interesting to yap about. When I was loading my bags into the rental car shuttle bus, one of my bags wouldn't fit in the baggage rack with out a lot of work. I turned and set my backpack in a chair to free both hands and when I turned around to take care of it, a guy was already doing it and gave me a huge smile. When I was leaving the Avis rental car lot. I handed my Drivers License and contract to the guard at the gate. I have an ID with my female picture on it, but my drivers license is 100% male. He looks at it and then starts to walk around the car. I assumed he was checking it for damage before it leaves the lot, but apparently I was wrong, because I noticed that he wasn't looking at the outside of the car, he was looking inside it. Soon, he returned to the drivers window with a confused look on his face.
"I don't understand? Is Matthew with you?" he says while looking at my drivers license. I couldn't help myself, I just started to laugh.
"Yes sir, that's me." I told him.Of course as soon as he heard my voice it was very clear what I was.
"oh! I see!" he says "I'm so sorry!"
"No need to apologize, I imagine you don't run in to people like me very often huh?" I asked him.
"No, no I don't!" he said with a laugh, while handing my documents back to me. "You have a great day!"
Leaving the Avis lot was probably where I reached my greatest speed on the trip from the airport to the hotel. The entire trip was nothing but bumper to bumper cars and brake lights far as you could see. I got excited when we got up to 20 MPH once, but it didn't last!

Baltimore 2009 05 11 005
As usual these days, I arrived sort of tired and so all I did was to take some fast food to the hotel and vegetate the rest of the night.
The next morning I made the drive to the Aberdeen Proving Grounds where I was to evaluate 3 instruments that were all having repeated problems. It didn't take me long to determine that all three had the same fault, with a major component that doesn't fail often. Since it doesn't fail often, I don't carry any with me and had to arrange for someone to drive three of them down to me from MA. That's over a four hour drive, and so he wouldn't arrive until the following day. That gave me a large part of today for myself and so I decided to go to the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum!
Smithsonian ASM 2009 05 12 001

Leaving the Proving Grounds I got stuck behind this M1A1 Battle Tank. I once spent three months riding in these things in the El Paso Desert sun, testing new "Friend versus Foe" technologies when I was a Sgt in the Army. In fact, that mission is where I shook the hand of Neil Armstrong - the first human being to walk on the moon! (Yes, I WILL bring that up every chance I get!)
Got back to the hotel and tried yet another new outfit. While it's new, it's very much like the majority of my outfits - nice I think, but nothing terribly special.

Smithsonian ASM 2009 05 12 003

Made the hour and a half drive to Washington DC and was relieved to find that this Museum has a large dedicated parking lot. It cost $15 to park there, but at least I was going to be sure that my car would not be towed this time! You might recall that on my last visit to the Smithsonian, I had failed to read the small print on the parking meters. You know, the print that said something along the lines of "No parking during the hours of 4 to 6 PM". I'm sure you can guess what time I had parked there? Yeah, well no car of mine was getting towed today!

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Smithsonian ASM 2009 05 12 023

I took lots of pics of course! Lots of airplanes and lots of space craft. I'm sure that you can find the entire inventory of the Smithsonian on-line, and with far better photographs, so I won't bother to share them all here, but I will share a few of them that I found particularly interesting.
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Smithsonian ASM 2009 05 12 038

Smithsonian ASM 2009 05 12 039

The Enola Gay - the plane that dropped "the" bomb on Hiroshima Japan. A beautiful looking machine, which is kind of incongruent considering the horror it was involved in. I'm not even going to start (or allow) a discussion about whether the US did or did not have to drop the bomb, but I'm fairly sure any reasonable human being would agree that the result was horrific destruction, pain, and loss of life. A very sad thing when men set their minds to killing one another . . .
Oddly enough, most of my pictures of it turned out too blurry to bother uploading. Strange . . .
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Smithsonian ASM 2009 05 12 060

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The space shuttle "Enterprise". This is actually the second time I have seen it. The first was when it landed at Altus Air Force Base in Oklahoma, being carried on the back of a huge plane. I drove up from Ft Sill OK just to see it. Well before even that, I had heard the sonic boom when it came in for a landing at Edwards AFB in California on it's very first test flight.
Smithsonian ASM 2009 05 12 055

The SR71 Blackbird. I could be wrong, but the last I'd heard, this was still the fastest plane in the world. It was retired because it was terribly expensive to operate and satellites could do much the same job. I don't know if it's true or not, but I had a guy that used to work on these tell me years ago that they leaked fuel quite badly from the wings until they get up to altitude and speed. Something about it being designed to allow for the plates to expand when heated by the friction of traveling through the air so fast..

Smithsonian ASM 2009 05 12 040

All in all, not too bad a day!

Baltimore 2009 05 13 001
My last day there was also a pleasant one. The guy that hand carried my parts down to me from MA is the same guy that gave me OJT on this instrument several years ago, so he and I had traveled a lot together and know each other well. He's a real good guy, with a great sense of humor, and I really enjoy spending time with him. He arrived about 930 AM and we tag teamed the three instruments and got them complete by about 2 PM. He headed back on his long drive, and I headed for the phone booth where I became my super human alter ego Kimberly! :-) All right, all right, so I changed in my hotel!
My first order of business was the huge mall I had seen the day before in Towson. I took a walk through the entire mall, looking for anything I couldn't live with out and could afford. Ultimately that turned out to be nothing. Oddly enough, I really didn't see any shoes that I would kill for. Until recently (the last couple of months) I would often find shoes that I thought were awesome but just couldn't justify the expense, but it seems that lately I don't care for the majority of shoes I see. It seems like most are big clunky things, with huge straps all over them. I know I was read by at least one lady in Macy's. As we crossed paths she looked me straight in the eyes and gave me the biggest smile you have ever seen and she had a distinct twinkle in her eye. I've seen this look a lot before from women and think of it as the "I know your secret" look. It's not at all a bad thing.

Baltimore 2009 05 13 003

After shopping I returned to the hotel briefly, and as I entered a young man was waling the other way. As we approached each other, he smiled and told me that I looked very nice! I wonder if as far as he was concerned, that comment was made to a woman, or if the unspoken rest of that comment was " . . for a guy."
I raided the internet looking to see if there were an "friendly" places that were doing Karaoke on Wednesday nights but I found none. Several places that do it on weekends, Monday, and Tuesday, but not on Wednesdays. Having failed with that idea, I looked to see what movies were playing in the area and found that the new Wolverine movies was going to start in about 15 minutes, so I grabbed my stuff and headed out. The nearest parking to the theater was about half a block away in a garage so I parked there and started looking for the exit. Apparently I got turned around some how and exited through the wrong door, so I had to walk completely around the block to get there.
I got my ticket and headed to the concession stand where there was no line at all. It didn't matter though, because they all ignored me as if I were invisible. I don't know if they treat all of their customers that way, or if that's just the "I will ignore the cross dresser until someone else offers to help" tactic. Got all settled in and was part way through the movie when I decided to open the candy I'd bought. As I was getting it out of my purse, I realized I hadn't noticed my keys when I was rummaging around. I opened the purse and went through it again, and again, and again . . . no keys . . . I figured that I probably left them on the counter and where they would certainly have been found and held for me, and resolved to watch the rest of the movie before going after them. I just couldn't stand it though, and had to leave long enough to go to the counter and ask. What a relief! I had left them on the counter, and they did have them, so I returned and watched the rest of the movie. I quite enjoyed the movie by the way!

After the movie, I returned to the Holiday Inn and went to the lounge for a bit. It was 945 PM and I hadn't eaten since breakfast, so I ordered a drink and some dinner. There was a guy sitting three stools away, and he keeps texting on his phone, giving long drawn out sighs, and then places a call. We can all hear his side of the conversation, where he is speaking to his son, who is not going to be staying with him for the weekend after all. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that the guy is divorced and the child is going back and forth between parents, and this weekend Dad is going to be disappointed with no son coming as planed. He's not slurring his speech or anything, but it's fairly clear the guy has had a few drinks before I got there.
Here's the thing. The bartender was clearly not pleased to deal with me. Another hotel employee pretty much giggled when I walked in and excused himself and left in short order. Everyone in the lounge knew I was a cross dresser. In spite of that, this disappointed father went out of his way to speak with me. We chatted for at least two hours, about parenting, and about our time in the military. He was in the Navy during many of the same years I had been in the Army and so we had a bit to chat about. Before we were done, he had moved and was sitting in the stool next to me. when he moved, I couldn't help noticing the bartender snicker and raise his hand to try and hide it. I suspect he thought that this gentleman I was talking to didn't realize what I was and might be in for a surprise if he got serious. If your going to be out in the world as a cross dresser, you have to have skin that is at least marginally tough, so most things I let roll off of me, but the bartenders snicker and all it implied just really assed me up. I'm still not sure if the gentleman I was talking to knew what I was or not, but he treated me like a lady, and I caught him more than once sneaking peaks at my legs. This sort of causes mixed feelings for me though . . . I have no interest in men, but I was so grateful that he was treating me as a woman. He was being kind, he was watching his language, and even offered to buy me a drink (which I declined).