Thursday, January 27, 2011

Should've Gone Shopping . . .

Boston 2011 01 014

My company KEEPS trying to educate me! This week they sent me to one of our facilities a half an hour or so north of Boston for training on a product that is related to one I work with a lot. Most often, I work on an Infrared Mass Spectrometer (FTIR) that can be used in countless applications for testing all sorts of gasses, auto, and factory emissions. This new variety they wanted to train me on is smaller and has only one job – to sit in a room and monitor the air looking for nasty things to warn the occupants about.

I was informed that I had to be there first thing on Monday morning so that meant that I had to fly on the weekend. The cool thing is that right after I found out that I would have to travel on that Sunday, I found out that the First Event would be having it’s last night that Saturday before I arrived, and so with very little effort, I managed to get my travel plans set up to fly me in Saturday instead so that I could go socialize at First Event. Nothing like having the company pay to send you to a cross dressing conference / event huh?! I was really torn over the decision of flying pretty or not though. Did it make sense to get up very early to get dressed and pretty for the flight when I knew that I was going to be up late that night? Not only was I gonna be up late that night, but I know from experience that my makeup was going to look like hell by the time I arrived after 12 to 14 hours on the road. Ultimately I decided that it wasn’t worth flying pretty and so made the journey the old fashioned way - as Matthew.

In the last couple of years I’ve grown both spoiled and obsessed, and I’m sure that comes as no surprise to anyone that reads my blog. When I have to fly as Matthew these days, I spend most of the time green with envy over the pretty women wearing great outfits and almost always regret not flying pretty myself, and this trip was no different.

When the plane landed in Detroit where I was to catch a connecting flight, I found myself exiting the aircraft next to a woman my own age who was wearing a fairly plain but long skirt. As we walked, I found myself wondering if the TSA in Austin had frisked her like they do me each time I wear a long skirt and I resolved to ask her.
“You know, I hope you don’t mind, but I have to ask you a question. My wife flew a few weeks ago wearing a long skirt, and the TSA pulled her aside for a pretty intimate exam because of it.” I lied. “Did they do the same the thing to you?”
“They did!” She almost squealed. “She ran her hands all of the way up my legs until she touched me someplace very private!”
“Well, not that I’d wish that on you again, but I’m kind of happy to hear it because I had wondered if they were picking on my wife.” I told her and we both laughed about it. So that’s good to know – the TSA in the Austin Airport is not singling me out just because I’m transgender.

When I left the Austin area, most everyone in my household was sick – both babies had it and my seven year old daughter was coming down with it. As luck would have it, I was apparently coming down with it as well, because my stomach was doing flip flops the whole flight and when we landed in Boston I had to make a bee-line to the men’s room where I promptly got sick. Uggghhh. . . .

On the way to the rental car lot, I could see snow piled high everywhere, but the weather was relatively clear and so I thought nothing of it when Avis gave me a huge four door and rear wheel drive car. Little did I know at that point that they were scheduled to have a huge snow storm the night before my return flight home.

After about thirty minutes of driving, I arrived at my hotel across the highway from the Burlington Mall. This isn’t the most convenient place for me to stay as it is still a good twenty minutes from our office, but I like it because it keeps me out of the hotel where other folks at my company might be staying, and also because I like to shop! I got checked in and got my things unpacked, and then I sat there trying to decide if it was at all feasible to try and make it to the First Event. I wasn’t feeling well, I was tired from a day of traveling, and it was getting fairly late. After giving it much thought, I decided that despite the fact that I had flown on a Saturday just to make it to the last night of First Event, I just wasn’t up to it. I called a couple of friends in the area to let them know I wasn’t going to make it after all, and it turned out that neither were they, so I guess it was all good. Shortly after I told my wife that I wasn’t going to be going, I started getting text messages from my daughter in law, more or less telling me that I needed to get it together and get my ass out there or I would regret it later. The more I thought about it, the more I thought that she was right, and so I started the two hour process of getting ready and then headed out at about 9PM.

Boston 2011 01 002

When I arrived at the hotel where First Event was taking place, I was dismayed to find that the only open parking spaces were literally just as far as you could get from the door, with a long walk on snow and ice in between. No point in worrying about it though, so I got out of the car and froze my butt off while I slipped and skated my way to the door on four inch stilettos across the ice. As I entered the lobby area I found the typical crowd you will have at any TG conference – dozens or even hundreds of TG’s scattered every where you look. Some crowded around the bar, some die hard smokers outside in the cold, and little cliques here and there. I wandered among them looking for anyone that I knew and was a little surprised to find that I didn’t know a single person I saw. Given all of my travels and the folks that I have met on them, and the fact that I belong to a local TG group called “Sisters of Boston”, I had fully expected to encounter quite a few people that I knew. What I didn’t know at the time, was that the dinner and speechifying was still going on even though it was almost 10PM, and so a huge number of folks were still in the dining area. Feeling just a bit bummed out that I didn’t appear to know anyone there, I headed for the bar where I got a drink. I looked around me and found one person kind of standing by herself, clearly not part of any clique, and so I headed her way and struck up a conversation with her. As we talked, I looked around the room at all of the beautiful people arrayed before me, both admiring the young ones that still don’t know enough to appreciate what they have, and also to continue looking for anyone that I might know. There were literally dozens of drop dead gorgeous girls there and I’d have to admit that I started feeling mighty old and ugly in comparison with them. There were at least half a dozen girls in their twenties that were well over six foot tall, and just stunning to behold. It goes with out saying that at least a couple of them were well aware of their good looks and had little crowds of minions gathered around them.

Suddenly the room started to fill with people as the big event in the dining room came to an end. In the space of two or three minutes it became impossible to move among the crowd without bumping in to someone or something. I told the lady that I was speaking with that I was going to make the rounds and look for folks that I might know, and then I took another walk around the area. Shortly I was stopped by a pretty woman in short hair.
“Hi Kim! Nice to see you! I’m Connie.” she said with a big smile.
“Hi Connie how are you?” I told her while shaking her hands.
“I’m fine thanks. You know I still haven’t tried that wedding gown on!” she told me.
‘Wedding gown?’ I thought to myself. ‘Why is she telling me about a wedding gown?” THEN it struck me! A couple of months ago I had found an awesome deal on a great wedding gown, but it was a little short on me AND my wife hated it, and so I had sold it via email and paypal. I had in fact sold it to the lady now standing in front of me. She must have seen this thought process in my eyes because we both spoke at almost the same time.
“Oh! THAT Connie!” we both laughed and then hugged each other and got down to some serious chatting. I spent a good deal of the evening speaking with her off and on, and also stopping to talk to the many familiar faces that were now in the room. Through the next couple of hours I met a lot of people that commented on my blog and assured me that I had made an impact on their lives. I was deeply flattered as it’s kind of nice to know that maybe you have made a small difference to someone. I thought it was odd that so many of them were a good deal more passable than I was and yet didn’t seem to be aware of it. I am terrible at names but I made a serious effort to keep them all straight, and I even did a fair job of doing that until I got back to my hotel where I wrote them down so that I wouldn’t forget them before it came time to write my blog. Yeah, the bad news is that I forgot that list in my hotel room and so there goes my chance to impress everyone with my ability to recall names. I still wasn’t feeling well and so I only stayed for a couple of hours before returning to my hotel.

Boston 2011 01 010

Between my being sick, and my schedule with the training class, I had no more time as Kimberly until the Thursday when I made my flight home. The weather report was calling for around a foot of snow the night before my flight home and so it was with more than a little trepidation that I sat my alarm for 330AM to give me plenty of time to get ready, and then make my way to the Boston airport through the snow during the morning rush hour. When the alarm went off, I looked out of my window to find that the estimates had been about right, and there was a heavy layer of snow over everything I could see. I started to think that maybe making that drive through the snow and them flying as Kim wasn’t such a good idea today, but just then a pickup with a snow plow went zooming past my window. I figured that if I could just make it to the highway, they would probably be clear – boy was I wrong. I knew that high heels and a skirt in the snow didn’t really make sense, but I didn’t want to spend the entire day bummed out and depressed, and so I decided to do it anyway. I realized that I had seriously underestimated the situation though, when I exited the hotel to find that the only thing plowed or clear in the parking lot, was one little loop around the parking lot just big enough for a car. I left my bags in the lobby area and made my way to the car, thinking that I would clear it of snow and then drive it closer to the entrance so that I didn’t have to drag my heavy bags through over a foot of snow. You should have seen the look on my face when I got to my car and found snow drifts piled up to almost three feet high surrounding my entire car, and well over a foot of snow covering the entire top of my car. I looked at the deep snow, looked at my high heels, looked at the deep snow . . .
‘Well to hell with it, I went through far worse in the Army’ I told myself, and with that, I stepped into the snow and felt it go almost all of the way to my bare knees. At first I was intrigued to notice that it didn’t really feel all of that cold, but that was just a temporary thing – probably an artifact of the nylons insulating me for a moment, followed by my nerves refusing to admit that they were buried in snow. I got about half of the windshield cleared when the cold registered and my legs started informing me that I was doing something really stupid. Thinking that I was clever, I got into the car to pull it up far enough that I would be able to stand in the parking lot area that the plows had cleared to knock the rest of the snow off of the windows, but the joke was on me. I hadn’t cleared enough snow off to be able to do this safely and so I put the car in park and started wading through the snow to clear the rest of the car. With most of the snow off of the windows I spent five minutes of spinning tires and sliding wheels getting my car out of the mountain of snow and onto the cleared area of the driveway. Shaking my head at my own stupidity, I slowly pulled the car up to the hotel door to get my bags and load them in the car. As I parked the car, there was a young man at the door shoveling a path through the sidewalk and I found myself wishing that I had been just a few minutes later so I could have taken advantage of this. It worked out for the best though as he was kind enough to grab my bags and load them into the car for me.
“So do you know if they have interstate 93 clear or not?” I asked him.
“Are you kidding? Snow like this, nothing is clear. You sure you want to head out into this?
”I don’t have much choice. According to the airline, my flight is still leaving on time.”
“Well, you just take it slow and easy, and get behind a plow if you can!” he told me as he threw my last bag in the back and closed the door.
“Thank you SO much, and I’ll do just that!” I told him.
With my heart in my throat, I put the huge rear wheel drive car into gear, and started off.

My first hurdle was a fairly serious hill that ran right along side the hotel, and so I built up a little speed just before I got there, hoping that my momentum would help get me to the top so that loss of traction would not become an issue. I have driven in worse conditions than this back when my wife and I lived in Bavaria Germany, but that was decades ago, in a small front wheel drive car, and definitely not while cross dressed. With a lot of slipping, sliding, and just a little bit of driving with the car at angle, I managed to make it to the top of the hill where I damn near collided with the snow plow that was just turning down the driveway. Doing my very best to keep the drive wheels from loosing traction, I slowly and carefully made my way the mile or so to Interstate 95 that led to interstate 93 and Boston. There was a policeman parked just short of the onramp, but I still ran the red left turn light because I was certain that if I stopped, the car was going to be stuck. I was very unhappy to discover that contrary to my expectations, the onramp was worse than the roads I had just traveled on, and the freeway itself was no better. With my heart pounding so hard I swear I could feel my head expanding and contracting with each beat, I eased my way into what little traffic there was, and spent the next hour and a half doing thirty miles per hour or less, and repeating “Your stupid, stupid, stupid . . . “ under my breath. At least a dozen times I had convinced myself that I should find a place to pull over, but the conditions of the on and off ramps scared me at least as much as the thought of continuing on to the airport. Much to my surprise, I made it to the rental car facility without putting a single dent on the HMS Titanic, and I’m telling ya straight up, I will NEVER head out in conditions like that again. Next time, this little redneck will just reschedule the flights keep her happy ass at the hotel for another for another day. Besides, I could have spent the free day shopping at the mall. What the HELL was I thinking?!

Boston 2011 01 015

Sunday, January 23, 2011

If you stop breathing . . .

I’ve got this overwhelming feeling lately that I’m getting too old to be happy cross dressing and that my “run” may well be nearing it’s end. I’ve gotta tell you that the very thought depresses the hell outta me. It’s hard to describe the feeling that I’ve always had when I crossdress, and probably close to impossible for anyone that doesn’t share it to understand it. Most of my life I have felt ugly, both inside and outside, but when I crossdress I feel beautiful. My favorite analogy is that I go from looking and feeling like a caterpillar to looking (I hope) and feeling like a butterfly. What’s left when I no longer have that option – when all I see in the mirror looking back at me is someone who is old and ugly all of the time? Anyway, fearing that the end is approaching for my crossdressing adventure, I’ve started to look for new or interesting things to do and wear lately – things that I’ve always wanted to try but never got around to. One of those things is womens suits and so I’ve picked up a couple of them lately when I found really good deals on them.
With the suit I wore this day, I wore a long black blouse that is kind of a contradiction. In most ways it is exceedingly prim and proper with long sleeves, a high neck, and a pleated front. Very modest and lady-like. At least that’s the way it looks at first glance – right up until you notice that the entire breast area is nothing but see-through lace. So – the blouse is a little good girl AND a little bad girl.

Aurora NC 2010 003

Aurora NC 2010 007

This time I was flying US Airways to Greensville NC where a mining company in the area was using several of our Infrared mass spectrometers. When I checked in at the counter, it was a male attendant that took care of me and he made no attempt at all to hide the fact that he flat out didn’t like me. Despite his less than friendly attitude, I thanked him when he handed me my tickets and baggage claim stubs, and he literally just stared at me and said nothing at all. Oh well, I guess I’ll have to push the girl that makes my travel arrangements a little harder to put me on Delta airlines from now on. . .   That’s what I was thinking up until I handed the lady at the gate my ticket to board the plane anyway.
“You ALWAYS wear the cutest shoes!” she said with an honest smile.
“Thank you! I do have kind of a thing for pretty shoes don’t I?” I replied with a grin.

On the flight to Charlotte and then on to Greensville, no one paid the slightest bit of attention to me. At least they paid me no attention until the flight landed in one of the smallest airports I can recall being in. I think they had two gates and only one baggage belt, so there we were in a tiny airport of a small town, and people had nothing better to do but check out the other folks standing around. I caught at least a dozen people staring at me, all of whom quickly looked away when I glanced their direction. I knew then and there that I was not going to fly out of Greensville dressed as even I don’t have the confidence to sit there and be stared at for hours.
When I got to the Avis rental car counter, there was a huge man behind the counter. When I say huge, I don’t mean fat, I mean that this guy was built like a quarterback, with huge arms, a neck wider than my thigh, and close cropped hair. With my confidence kind of low, which seems more and more common these days, I really wasn’t looking forward to interacting with what was obviously a pretty macho guy, especially knowing that I was gonna have to hand him my male drivers license and remove any doubts that he might have about my real gender. Imagine my pleasant surprise when he turned out to be the nicest person that I had spoken to the entire day. Even after reviewing my drivers license the man was honestly friendly and a pleasure to talk to. Just goes to show that I shouldn’t jump to conclusions about someone based on how they look. You know – I should extend the same courtesy to others that I hope to get myself.

Once I arrived at the hotel, I glanced at myself in the rearview mirror and was horrified at what I found there. Despite being synthetic, and supposedly not terribly sensitive to humidity, my hair was flat, drab, and entirely unattractive. I wasted a moment or two trying and failing to fluff it up and make it presentable, and then I made my way to the hotel check-in counter through a light rain.
“Wow! It just started pouring rain about ten minutes ago!” said the lady behind the counter.
“Yeah, that figures! Just in time to get me wet getting in here from the car! You know, when I left Texas this morning I had country girl big hair!” I told her with a wink and was pleased to hear her laugh at my lame joke.

The next day, I was in the hotel eating breakfast before heading out to my customers location, and three guys took the table next to me and started talking about their options for breakfast.
“Well, they have bananas up there if you want one.” One of them said to the other. The guy he was talking to got this embarrassed look on his face.
“Uh, no, I don’t think so. I’m not really a banana kind of guy.” He replied with serious tone of distaste, giving the impression that he thought they were for sissies or for girls. I almost choked when I heard this, and then glanced at the two bananas I had sitting on the table in front of me.
‘Oh my God!’ I thought to myself. ‘All of these years and I never realized that it was the bananas doing it to me!”

When I got to my customers to do my job, they tried to kill me . . .
My first warning should have been when one of our first stops was a little office where they handed me a small canister attached to a plastic bag by a rubber hose.
“All right. Check the condition of the hose and the bag, and check that the gage is in the green. In the event of a leak, turn it on and put the bag over your head. This will keep you alive for about five minutes if you walk. Do NOT run. This will not provide enough oxygen to keep you alive if you run. Do you have any questions?” he asked me with a serious look on his face.
“Nope, I think I’ve got it. Turn it on, bag on head, don’t run or I die. I’ve changed my mind about working here and I’m going home now.” I joked with them. I guess my joke worried them because as we walked from that office to where the work was to be done, one of the two guys working with me gave me a considering look.
“Are you sure your OK with this?” he asked.
“I used to work on a nuclear missile – you guys are gonna have to work a lot harder than that to scare me.” I replied with a grin.

The Mass Spec that I work on will analyze gasses that you put through it and tell you exactly what that gas is composed of and in what quantities. In this case they were putting in a gas called silicone Tetrafloride (STF) and then taking the output to someplace where it could be destroyed safely. The gas is definitely toxic and “not nice”. Having no idea how to operate the complex gas panel that they were using to control this gas and the nitrogen gas that is used to purge and flush our instrument, I had to rely on my customer to make sure that things were safe.
“All right, I’ve got to pull all of your plumbing off to take the instrument apart. Did you guys flush this thing out well with Nitrogen?” I asked.
“Yeah, it’s been flushing for a couple of days now and should be fine.” I was told.
“OK, then it’s safe to take the plumbing off? I’d hate to kill someone, especially me ya know.”
“Yep, your good to go!” he told me but then hesitated. “Just in case, do you know what STF smells like?”
“I haven’t a clue” I replied.
“Well it’s kind of acrid and it will burn your throat a bit if you breath it in.”
“Sounds like wonderful stuff” I kidded with him as I opened my tool box, grabbed a wrench, and started removing the plumbing from our instruments outlet. I was moving on to the inlet fitting when I saw both of the guys with me rapidly back up about ten feet towards the door and start waving at me to join them. My brain was still trying to reason out what they were doing that for when my nose started to burn. Needless to say, I decided to join them by the door.
“Well, now you know what STF smells like!” one of them grinned at me as he turned on the fan to the overhead exhaust hood.
“Awesome, just awesome . . .” I answered.
We gave the fan five or ten minutes to remove the gas from the room and then I stepped back up and continued taking the instrument apart. There is an interior component that is supposed to be purged with Nitrogen at all times and is never supposed to be exposed to any gas that you are sampling. It therefore caught me completely by surprise when I opened this component and got another face full of STF for my trouble. Once again we stepped out of the area and while we waited I called one of our Chemistry PHD’s at my company and described what had happened and asked just how worried I should be.
“Well, I had the same thing happen to me when I was in China, and by the time I hit the parking lot I was in full respiratory distress.” She told me.
“Oh that’s just wonderful! So I’m guessing this was not a good thing for someone with Asthma to be breathing?” I joked. “So – any suggestions?”
“Well, all I can tell you is that you should go to the hospital if you stop breathing.” She said. I waited for the punch line but there wasn’t one. She was serious – I was supposed to get myself to the hospital if I stopped breathing. I couldn’t help myself, I laughed so hard at this absurd advice that I almost did stop breathing then and there. . .

P.S. – I’m just fine. No distress, no hospitals, and definitely still breathing.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

But will it play in Peoria?

Sunday afternoon I was packing for my trip to Peoria and I hollered down the stairs to my wife who was surfing on the computer.
“Hey! Would you check the weather in Peoria IL for me? I need to know so that I’ll have a clue what to pack!”
“Sure – hold on!” she yelled back up the stairs. A moment after that, all I can hear down stairs is her and my daughter-in-law laughing. I kind of figured that wasn’t a good sign.
“That bad huh?” I yelled down the stairs.
“Yeah, the highs are in the twenties. Your gonna freeze your ass off!” followed by the sound of both of them laughing again. Oh great . . .
So what to wear that’s a happy medium? Warm enough that I wont freeze to death, but not so warm that I’ll roast in the airports. For that matter, if I can avoid the long skirts, the damned TSA wont pat me down.
‘What to wear, what to wear . . . ‘ I was thinking as I rifled through my closet, and then suddenly I had it! Years and years ago, like about ten or fifteen years ago, I bought a cute little red and black suit at Macy’s on sale. I remember thinking at the time that it was awesome when I got it, but my wife popped my balloon when she took one look at it and said that it was way too 1980’s. . .   I HATE it when she does that! Intellectually I know that I’m a big boy and that I should make up my own mind about what I like and don’t like, but every time my wife slams an outfit, it pretty much ruins it for me. The few times that I have gone ahead and wore something she told me that she didn’t like, I’d hear her voice in the back of my head the entire time.

“That doesn’t look right . . . Those look like old Mom Jeans . . . That color wont work for you . . . that looks like you just stepped out of a 70’s disco . . . “

Of course it doesn’t help that she is usually right.

Well, this time I was gonna do it anyway – I liked and bought the damned suit and I was darn well gonna wear it!

Once again I was up at 3AM to get ready, make the drive to the airport, and get there early enough to get through security. I wasn’t thrilled to get up that early, but it was either that or spend the day lamenting the lost opportunity to fly pretty and enjoy my day. I arrived at the airport with about an hour and a half until my flight left, and so had assumed that I was in no danger at all of not having enough time – I was wrong. As the escalator brought me from the ground floor up to the second level where the airline counters are, I was shocked to see a huge line of people snaking all of the way down the airport and blocking the doors and ticket counters. I walked along side this line for a few dozen feet looking for a way across it to the ticket counters, but everyone was anxious, in a hurry, and not inclined to leave gaps for people to walk through. Eventually I had to more or less force my way through the line, saying “Excuse me” as I went.

As I approached the “First Class / Elite” line at the Delta counter, one of the male Delta CSR’s waved me forward.
‘Are you first class or Skymiles Elite?” He asked me with a smile, but then he frowned and rolled his eyes.
“Never mind, that was a really stupid question considering how often you fly with us. In fact, I’m kind of surprised that you aren’t Platinum!”
“I know! I missed Platinum by only three thousand points! I would be diamond with you guys if my company didn’t always book me on the other airlines when their flights are cheaper. As it is, I’m Gold with you AND Gold with US Airways too!”
Once I got all checked in with the airline, I grabbed my back pack and headed for the TSA screening line. Given the huge line of people in the “standard” or “non-elite” line (wow that sounds conceited doesn’t it?) I was a pleasantly surprised to find that there was not a single person in the Elite line and so I went right up to the inspector. Looking at the envious stares and glares from the people that had been standing in line for 40 minutes, I couldn’t help thinking that every once in a while, being a frequent flier does have it’s perks!
As I sat my shoes, back pack, and other odds and ends on the X-ray belt, I kept looking at the TSA inspector at the metal detector waiting to see if he was gonna yell “Female Assist!” like they have on my last two flights or not, but this time he didn’t! So apparently a knee length skirt is not enough to set off the TSA hounds! Instead of telling me that I had to stand aside for an inspection, he grinned and pointed at my shoes on the belt.
“And now for the lady with the plaid pumps! Or are they Tartan? I never do get that right!”
“I don’t know myself. All I know is that they are cute and that’s good enough for me!” I replied with a grin. As I made my way through the metal detector, I started looking around for the young lady that had frisked me on my last two trips, because I wanted to be a smart ass and go out of my way to point out that I had worn a shorter skirt just to save her the trouble of frisking me. I had hoped that it might have made her laugh, or it might have just irritated her, but since I didn’t see her there, we will never know. I still think I should have worn a mini skirt just to poke fun at them though.

Oh, as for the suit, I’m gonna have to say that I think this is one of the very few times that my wife was wrong about an outfit, because I thought it looked great!

Just last night I was told that I have to be in the Boston area arriving on January 23 and leaving on January 27. Not ten minutes or so after I found that out, I came across a Facebook post mentioning that the Tiffany Clubs “First Event” takes place the week before that and ends the night I am supposed to arrive. Now I am thinking about arriving a day earlier so that I can go socialize with the hundreds of other TG’s that will be there, but I have a couple of concerns. First, since I had no idea that I was going to be there, obviously I haven’t paid to be part of the event, and given that I will only be arriving late on Saturday night, it wouldn’t makes sense to shell out $100. So would that make me a party crasher if I show up to BS with people? My other concern is that while I have not yet made my flights, I know from experience that I will probably have to get up at 4AM, and wont arrive in the Boston area until 6 or 7PM. That means I will have already had a 12 to 14 hour day and my makeup will look like hell – would I really want to go to an event like this, and meet so many people, being that tired and looking that bad? I dunno – gotta think about it.

Well, that’s where the transgender part of this story ends, and now I’ll move on to something a bit more personal. If you’re not in to that, then here is where you might want to gather your things and leave.

Long long ago, in a desert far far away, I was born in Apple Valley of southern California. About a year after I was born, my mother separated from my father for a whole host of very good reasons including his tendency to drink to oblivion and abuse his wife and children while doing so. Fortunately I went and lived with my mother. Unfortunately, my mother was in very poor health and in and out of hospitals, so at several points in my young life I had to go back and live with my father and his new wife and children. My father had two sons, David and Mark, from a marriage prior to my mother, and his new and current wife came with two girls Pamela and Michelle. Then he and his new wife had another Son “Sonny” and a daughter Tracy together.
My memories of this time in my life are pretty vague, as you would expect considering that I was only five or six at the time, but I do know that I was eventually returned to my mothers care, and my father and his new wife and children went on about their lives without me. Off and on through my young life I would visit with my fathers family and sometimes even live with them, and so I came to know these “half” brothers and sisters, probably a bit more as friends than as family, but there was a bond there. There was the bond of growing up with an abusive alcoholic in the house. There was the bond of having very little in the way of material possessions. There was the bond of counting on each other because you knew that you couldn’t count on anyone else.
In the end, my father proved to be far to dangerous and unreliable for anyone, most definitely including myself, to consider it safe for me to ever visit him again, and so it was only many years later when I was almost an adult, that I learned he had given my little sister away through an informal adoption. He and his new wife had split up for the very same reasons that had split he and my mother apart. His wife managed to take her two oldest daughters with her, and had begged him to let her take the other children as well, but he flat out refused. As far as I know, I am the only child he ever fathered that actually was allowed to leave with the mother when divorce came. Anyway, I don’t know the whole story, but years later he did something that could almost be considered decent – he gave Tracy to a couple that desperately wanted a child. I say decent because once he was single, this removed the only good and decent influence on the children left in his home, leaving them at best unattended, and at worst, flat out abused. I wouldn’t have wanted little Tracy to grow up in that house . . .
What I’ve only recently found out though, is that Tracy’s mother had begged him for years to give Tracy to her and he refused to do it. Once she found out that Tracy had been given away, she begged him to tell her where she had gone, and who she had given to, but he again refused to do the decent thing and tell her. One of the sweetest and most adorable little girls you can imagine was gone from our lives forever. . .
With the advent of the internet I began searching for Tracy but had no idea at all how to start. The adoption was informal, with no court documents or records, so there was no way to find out who he had given her to, what state she had gone to, or what last name she now held. Ultimately I more or less gave up, and left several posts on genealogy web pages hoping that maybe someday she would find me. That was 2001 and I checked back on those posts for many years before finally deciding that it was a lost cause.
A couple of weeks ago, with the marriage of my son, my wife suddenly became interested in genealogy, and in her research stumbled across the posts that I had made years ago. More important, she stumbled across a response by my sister Tracy in 2009! In her response, she gave her email address, and listed the names and ages of her children. I of course started by sending her an email, but apparently she had stopped using that address some time ago because they went no where. I then started searching for the names of her children and found a couple of likely candidates, one was on facebook and the other one on Myspace. With my pulse racing, I sent messages to both, and a day later had a response from her 13 year old daughter. More or less it read:
“ha ha – you done good! Yes, Tracy is my mother, so you are my uncle and I am your niece! We live in WA and her cell phone number is XXXXXX.”
I sat there for about 20 minutes staring at that number. For twenty years I’d looked for her and now that I had a way to contact her, I had absolutely no idea what to say. What do you say to a little sister you don’t know and haven’t seen in almost forty years? What do you say to someone that was given away at the age of eight and who probably had no idea how badly she had been missed, or how many people had devoted so much effort to finding her?
Finally I made the call . . . and got voice mail . . .  Don’t try and tell me that God hasn’t got a sense of humor . . .

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Manassas VA and a whole lot more!

Well, this blog will be a bit shorter than others. I’ve been sick as a dog for a bit over a week and so I was not as inclined as I might normally have been to be adventurous.

One interesting thing that I didn’t mention on my last blog was that on my return flight from my last minute trip to Alabama, I actually wound up on the very same flight as my son who was on the way home on leave from the Navy! Fortunately for his sake, I did realize this in advance and so he wasn’t faced with sharing a flight with his father in drag. We sat next to each other and chatted the entire flight and that was pretty neat!

The next week was of course spent with him at home and it was a real whirlwind of activity. One day we spent in San Antonio with my wife’s cousins getting our pictures taken by a professional photographer Photos By Jenn. Here are a few of my favorites:

Audrey Vincent and Will
My Daughter Audrey, Son Vincent, and oldest son William

Dawn and Matt
My wife Dawn and I

Will Becca and Morghan
My son William, his wife Becca, and their daughter Morghan

Matt Vincent and William
Myself and my sons - Vincent and William

A few days later I was informed that my son and his girl friend were going to get married. No time to prepare, no time to organize, just “We are getting married in the park on Tuesday, sure hope you can make it!”  It’s not as bad as it sounds and their reasons sure make sense. It didn’t cost an arm and a leg, it was very informal and low stress, and quite honestly was a wonderful day. It also made all of the sense in the world as it was sort of important to be legally married as soon as possible so that they can start getting benefits through the navy. They may or may not have a formal marriage ceremony later someday – we’ll see!  When we got married 23 years ago, my wife and I were poor as church mice and so we both had very plain gold bands. Many years ago I bought my wife a fine wedding ring and she also bought me a beautiful ring complete with diamonds and sparklies in it, so this left me with the original ring that still meant so much to me. I was so very happy when my son and daughter-in-law accepted it and chose to use it as his wedding ring!

William and Becca get Married 2010 12 21 071
My Daughter-in-law Becca and my son William on their marriage day

William and Becca get Married 2010 12 21 067
My Daughter-in-law Becca and my son William on their marriage day
Sunday I was supposed to take my son to the airport for his flight back to base but his flights were canceled due to poor weather in the north east. That was a good news / bad news sort of thing that had us scrambling trying to make alternative flights and making sure that his unit knew that he was going to be late for reasons out of his control, but on the other hand he did get to spend an extra day with us. His new arrangements had him flying out Monday, the same morning that I had to fly, and so we returned together to the airport Monday morning. No way in hell I was going to make my son uncomfortable by my flying pretty, so no stories about the TSA to tell this time!

This trip was to install two Ozone delivery systems at a large semiconductor factory in Virginia and I wasn’t real happy to making the trip. You see the last guy that installed only one of these systems had taken two weeks, and I was being given only three days to install two of them! I sort of felt like I was being set up for failure – a person on the way to the gallows. . .   Just to make sure the trip was going to be a pure delight, I went and caught myself a nasty cold and was in pretty poor shape the entire rest of the week.
The good news is that the other guy had to deal with a whole host of unique issues that were not applicable here, and so I had little trouble at all in getting it done, and was in fact off fairly early each day.

The first evening after I got off, I went to see the new version of “True Grit” and was reasonably pleased with it. As I approached the ticket counter there were two young women there and they made no particular effort to hide their amusement as I approached. They were whispering and giggling as I walked up and I figured that I could either get upset or I could smile too. As usual, I chose to grin at them both and so it was smiles all around when I asked “One for True Grit please!”  The lady at the concession stand was a good deal more genuinely friendly and gave me an honest smile as she handed me my drink and told me that she hoped that I would enjoy the movie.  Would you believe that I had first seen the original version of this movie only two nights before on the TV? I really wish that I hadn’t watched the original because it was fresh in my mind and I kept finding myself comparing the new movie to the original. It wasn’t a bad movie at all but I’d have to admit that I liked the original better.

The next afternoon I had to mail a component back to my factory and so I found myself entering a US Postal service office. It was a fairly small post office and so I was kind of surprised when I opened the door to find about 20 people all waiting in line. I looked at the line for a moment and decided that I would rather go to the UPS store a block down the street than wait here for forty minutes and so I turned to leave. As soon as I turned around, a tall man in a postal uniform called out to me in very deep voice, somewhat reminiscent of James Earl Jones.
“Ma’am? MA’AM?!”
I stopped and turned around to look at him.
“If that box is all your mailing, you can use the automated system over there with your credit card.” He told me, pointing first at the small box in my hands, and then at a kiosk with a large drop box next to it. I thought about it for a second and then figured ‘what the hell’ and approached the machine. As soon as I touched the screen, the helpful gentleman with the Darth Vader voice starts speaking from right behind me.
“Press ‘yes’ it will fit in the box, press ‘no’ it’s not in our package, press no, it doesn’t have a label, enter the zip code where the package is to be delivered . . . “
He was telling me what to do and what to push before the screen was even updated to show the question it was gonna ask.
“So I take it that you have done this once or twice?” I asked him.
“Just a couple of times.” He rumbled without a smile. “OK, swipe your credit card and print label.”  I did as he suggested, then attached it to the box.
“So now I just drop it in the box?”
So I pulled out the handle, put the box inside, and then listened to be sure that it fell from the hopper.
“Awesome – thank you so much!”
“Your welcome” he replied, but still without a smile. I was in the car and about a mile down the road when it struck me that the machine had only asked for the zip code where the package was to be delivered, but it had never asked for the entire address, nor for the return address. With the post office employee telling me what to do every step of the way, I had just done it instead of really thinking my steps through.
‘Great!’ I thought to myself. ‘A two thousand dollar component and it’s gonna be delivered to the city of Wilmington MA. That’s just wonderful!”  Wanting to pound my head against the steering wheel, I turned around and headed back for the post office. Of course the gentleman that had helped me was nowhere in sight and so I got in the line. Fortunately there were only about five people in it now so I hoped the wait wasn’t gonna be too long. When it was my turn, I explained the situation to the man behind the counter.
“I just used your automated system over there and after I put the package in the box, it occurred to me that I never gave a complete address for the package to be delivered to.” I told him, and at the same time I showed him paper I had with the complete address on it.
“I don’t understand.” He said. “Where is the package now?”
“It’s in your box next to the self service kiosk.”
“And you didn’t address it?”
“Correct. Your machine just asked for the zip code – it never asked for the entire address.”
“All right, hold on and I’ll get someone to get the package out for you.”
The whole time we were speaking, two or three other Post Office CSR’s were staring at me as I spoke, and not one of them gave the slightest sign of a smile. Feeling like an idiot and maybe a bit of a freak show, I stepped away from the counter and went to wait at the box. Soon a man comes out, unlocks the box, and starts to remove the packages one at a time, glancing at me with each to see if it was mine. I described the box to him, and told him I’d let him know when he had the right one, but still he continued to show me and wait for every single box as he removed it.
“That’s it!” I told him when he came to the right one. He pulled it out and gave it a long look before handing it to me.
“I see that you also didn’t give it a return address. You have to do that these days or security wont let it through.”
“No worries and thank you so much. I’m SO sorry for the confusion.” I told him as I took the box. I started looking around for pen to complete the label with, and when that search turned out to be fruitless, I took the package out to my car where I used the pen I had in my purse. In a moment I had it properly labeled and carried it back in to the post office where I once again got in line. One of the women behind the counter got my attention, and with a bored look, points to the counter next to her.
“Just set it here.”
“Awesome and thanks again!” I told her with a smile, while thinking to myself ‘Wow, what a friendly bunch they have here! NOT!”

Feeling embarrassed and self conscious, I headed to Best Buy to get a new battery for my digital camera. Its original battery has apparently died of over work and exhaustion. . .
Everyone there was perfectly nice and helpful and so my confidence rose from the basement level where it had been since I started this afternoons outing. Of course I almost had a heart attack when I found out that the itty bitty battery was gonna cost me $41! That’s almost a quarter of what the camera had cost me brand new. Grrrrrrr!!!!!

With the new camera battery purchased and in my purse, I headed to the movie theater again, this time to watch “The Tourist” with Angelina Jolie and Johnny Depp. I love Angelina Jolie and have thoroughly enjoyed every movie that I can recall seeing her in. I think she is awesomely cute and love the action and adventure in her films, and so I never bothered to even see what the movie was about. Well, it turns out that it is much more a love story than an action film, and this caught me a bit by surprise. Having been sick and getting very little in the way of a good nights sleep for over a week now, I just wasn’t up to a relatively slow movie and would have to admit that I actually fell asleep during parts of it. I wouldn’t hold that against the movie though – I really was exhausted. Oh – in the opening scene of the movie, she is wearing this mid-length white dress with an orange scarf style belt that tied in the back at her waist and then hung down to her knees. Wow – talk about a killer woman in a killer outfit. I wanna be Angelina Jolie when I grow up . . .