Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Still here . . .

I thought that I'd take a moment to let y'all know that I am still alive and kicking!
I have been doing a lot of traveling, but for an assortment of reasons, I have not been able to make the trips pretty.

As an example, I recently had to make a trip to Fishkill NY to work on a system that had failed there. I found out on my drive home from the office the night before I left that my manager was going to be traveling on the very same flight that I was on. That could have been immensely uncomfortable and unpleasant for all involved because he has made it clear over the years how he feels about "those kind of people"!

Anyway, I'm still here, still breathing, and still working, but have nothing to really blog about . . .

I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and happy Holidays!

P.S. - When you're picking out gifts, don't forget that I wear size 10 shoes and that I am a dress size 12 to 14 (leaning more toward the 14). All gifts can be mailed to my attention at . . . ah, never mind . . .   :)

Thursday, November 22, 2012

"Purse, backpack, toolbox, suitcase . . ."

I was supposed to have the weekend and the entire next week at home, and considering that in the last three weeks I’ve only seen my family for a combined total of about ten hours, i was really looking forward to it. That wasn't to be though.
Friday morning I entered my office for the first time in three weeks and stopped at my manager’s office to say hello.
"Good morning Frank, how the hell are you?" I asked him, trying to sound a good deal more cheerful than I really felt. He just looked at me for a moment and shook his head from side to side.
"It's a bad day, to be honest. A very bad day. Why don't you come on in and close the door behind you." He told me.
"Well THAT doesn't sound so good!" I replied, with more than a little bit of nervous in my voice. I'd never seen my manager look this bummed out, and to be honest, it scared the hell outta me because I know full well that my company is in the process of layoffs. His demeanor filled me with the dreadful thought that maybe my number was up, despite his repeated assurances through the years that I would never have to worry about that as long as he was my manager. With my heart feeling like a lead weight at the bottom of my chest, I entered his office, closed the door, and took a seat.
"Okay, so what's up doc?" I asked, still trying to keep the mood lite.
"I don't know how to tell you this, but I need you on an airplane tomorrow morning."
I kid you not, I almost cried with relief right there on the spot. Here I was, afraid that I was about to lose a job that I know I cannot replace, and afraid that I was going to have to face my wife and children and tell them that I had failed in my most sacred responsibility - to provide for them. Instead, it seems that he had only felt horribly guilty about having to ask me to be away from home for another weekend, and possibly for thanksgiving as well. As compared to my fear of losing my job, being told that I was needed was an incredible relief.
"God damn it Frank, don't DO that to me! You scared the shit outta me the way you were acting! You don't EVER need to apologize for sending me on a service call. I don't give a shit what day it is or where the work is to be done, this is my job and I REALLY like my job!" I told him softly, still feeling like I might fall over with relief.
"Well, I know it can't be easy when you have children at home." He said apologetically.
"Yeah, that can be a bit of a problem, but it's not half the problem as telling them that they are gonna be homeless in a month." I replied with a laugh.
Now all I had to do was tell my wife that she was going to have to cancel her plans for a badly needed Saturday away from the children, and explain to my little ones why I could not take them to the movies as I had told them that I was going to.

After having spent over a decade active duty army with me, my wife was quick to understand and support my need to "put the mission first". My daughter on the other hand. .

"But WHY do you have to go? Tomorrow is Saturday!" She wailed, and then let loose with huge sobs. Her tears brought her little brother running to see what was wrong.
"Tomorrow is Saturday and daddy has to go bye bye again!" She wailed at him loudly.
In all my years of traveling, this is the first time that my daughter has ever gotten upset about my leaving, and it really tore me up. Soon all three of us were teary eyed and I was in the unenviable position of trying to explain to two little people why I had no choice in the matter, and that whether I liked it or not, I DID have to get on that plane in the morning if we wanted to have a home, toys to fill it with, and food to eat. With a heavy heart, I headed up stairs to see if I had enough clean clothes for the trip, and to pack them if I did. My three year old son followed me up the stairs, because let's face it, it doesn't matter what daddy is doing, my son wants to be with me. So there I am, putting things in my suitcase and trying to keep a close eye on what the critter was taking out of the suitcase, when it occurred to me how I could make my nine year old daughter smile. I walked out to the stairwell and yelled down to her.

"Hey Audrey?!"
"What?" She yelled back, taking off the headphones that she was using with the IPad.
"I need to put together a couple of outfits and really could use your help." I told her, trying to sound sincere without crossing the line and sounding patronizing. I honestly don't think that I have ever seen my daughter move so fast before, because she dropped the IPad on the couch like it was a hot potato, and then ran so fast up the stairs that she actually beat me into my bedroom a few steps away. You see my daughter considers herself to be quite the little fashion expert, and she has often tried to help me pick out outfits before. You have no idea of the risk that I was taking with this diversion though, because my daughter has a very "unique" sense of fashion. There have been countless times when my wife and I have given each other the "oh my God" look after seeing the outfits that she has come downstairs wearing before, but except for the rare occasion when she has worn something that was too short or not warm enough for a cold day, we let her do her own thing. We both feel that it hurts no one to let her express herself and be her own individual. The problem in this context is that she thinks everyone else should be just as brave and unique as she is, and willing to take the same fashion risks. Alas, I am not. .  .

"Ok!" Said little miss fashion expert. "NOW I'll show you how to dress like a young person!" She said this smugly, sounding as if it were about time that I conceded the fact that I needed her help with fashion. Her comment sent shivers of dread up and down my spine, and if you had seen some of her outfits in the past, you would understand why.
"Now hold on critter! You do understand that some things that look right on a little girl your age are not going to look right on an old person my age right?"
"Sure!" She said so quickly and dismissively that I knew for absolute certain that she believed no such thing.
"All right, so here is my problem" I told her. "I've got this really pretty patchwork peasant skirt with lots of different colors in it, and I just can't decide what top to wear with it. I've picked out some that I think might work, but I just can't decide."
I laid the floaty skirt out on the bed and then showed her the pile of red and purple tops that I had set aside as possibilities. I thought that I might outsmart her by limiting her choices to only those that I already thought might work.
"Ok, so here is our 'maybe' pile, and here is our 'no' pile." She told me, pointing to two different spots on the bed. She came up with that idea so quickly that I suspect that maybe this is something that momma has taught her for choosing her own outfits.
"Sure! That works!" I replied with a laugh, and we started working our way through my pile of options.
"Nope. . . "
"Maybe . . ."
"Maybe . . . "
"That looks too much like an old lady . . . "
All of these opinions she offered while setting the tops in the appropriate piles. In the end, we had maybe four purple tops in the "maybe" pile, but none of them made for a really awesome outfit.
"Maybe we should look at some other colors!" Suggested my little fashionista, and then before I could slow her down, she had bounced off of the bed and had buried herself deep inside of my closet.
"Oh hell. . . "I thought to myself, knowing that my plan to limit her choices had just crashed and burned. Now there was no telling what she might come up with.
"What about blue?!" She asked
"Umm, I don't think so." I told her, but still we held a couple of blue tops up to the skirt so that she could satisfy herself that it wasn't gonna work well.
"How 'bout pink?! If you wore pink, you could wear these shoes with it!" She said, pointing at a pair of four and a half inch bright pink stilettos.
"Umm, I don't think so . . . " I repeated again, but yet again we had to hold a few tops up to the skirt just to convince her that it wasn't gonna be an option.
We went through a few more options in this way before she pointed at a black sweater top with silver and gold sparkles in it.
"What do you think about sparkly black?!" She asked, tugging on the top and looking up to see my face. I was reaching the end of my patience and was trying to figure out how in the hell I was gonna find a way out of this without hurting her feelings, but then I paused for a second. I never would have considered pairing the two, but the more that I looked at it, the more that I thought it might well be our best bet yet. I took the skirt and laid it out on the floor, then placed the black sparkly sweater at the top of the skirt to see what they would look like together. Much to my surprise, I thought it looked like a great outfit, and very much like something that I thought that I might look good in. I took out a red belt and laid it across the top, and then set a pair of red shoes at the bottom. My daughter stood there with her hands on her hips, positively beaming with pride in her selection.
"That's the one! That's my favorite!" She loudly announced.
"I think you did it critter! I never would have thought of that one. Thank you SO much for your help!" I told her and then knelt down to hug her. It was right about then that grandpa showed up for our Friday night pizza dinner, so I again thanked her for her help, and reminded her that we probably shouldn't a tell grandpa what she had been helping me with. We held hands on the way downstairs and my little fashion expert was no longer upset and unhappy that I had to go away again. Clearly my plan to distract her had worked spectacularly well, but now I'm prolly gonna have to live with the precedent that I just set. It's gonna be exhausting if she takes it upon herself to "help" me pick outfits every time that I travel!

After dinner was done, and grandpa left for home, I headed back upstairs to pack my male clothes, and then burst out laughing as I was zipping up my suitcase. It had just struck me that I had thought I was done and was zipping up the suitcase, and yet I hadn't packed a single male shirt for work - not ONE! Sure am glad that I realized this BEFORE I found myself at the airport!

That night before I went to sleep, I changed the alarm on my cell phone to 3AM, and then fell off to sleep with my wife laying in bed next to me and watching TV. The next thing I know, my wife is waking me up and it is 3:45 AM - a full 45 minutes after my alarm was supposed to have gone off! It seems that I had once again failed to recall that my daily alarm is set to go off only on week days and so if my wife had not just happened to wake up, I would have missed my flights.

Much to my shock, the lines at the TSA checkpoint in the airport were HUGE! They did the usual zig-zag thing at the checkpoint, but then the line extended half way down the concourse! The only times I had ever seen the lines this long were during the yearly South by Southwest music festival. I knew that there were a lot of people headed in to Austin for the Formula 1 race, but I hadn't thought that any of them would be headed back out already! Fortunately, as a frequent flier, I get to use a special lane that only had three people in it.

"Please state your full name." The female TSA agent told me as I handed her my ID and ticket.
"Matthew Huddle." I offered. To my great amusement, her eyes jerked up to look at me with shock and surprise clearly written in them. She looked back and forth at my ID and my face several times.
"I'm not even gonna ask. . ." She finally said with a mischievous grin.
"Welcome to Austin! I'm just doing my little part to keep it weird!" I replied with a wink.
"Good for you! You have a great day and a nice flight!" She said with a laugh as she handed me back my documents.
As I walked away from her, I realized that on some level I had missed surprising people that way. It is great for my ego when it is so obvious that they had not realized that I was really a male until I had to tell them with my ID. As often as I fly these days, most of the TSA folks in Austin recognize me and of course know what I am, but this woman I had not seen before.
Of course it pretty much goes without saying that the damned body scanner flagged me, because they do more often than not, and so there I was with another TSA inspector in front of me.
"Ok, I'm going to have to pat you down here, here, and here!" She said with a grin as she showed me the spots that she intended to touch. Her grin made it clear that she knew exactly what I am and thought it was amusing. This is fine with me, as I would much rather have people react with a grin and humor, rather than with irritation and suspicion.
"No problem. That damned machine of yours doesn't like me much, so I've done this more than a few times before." I laughed.
"That is such a cute dress!" She told me as she patted me down.
"Thank you! I've been looking for the perfect red dress for a while, and this is as close as I've found yet."
Yeah I know, the photos make it look orange, but trust me – it’s red.

Soon, I found myself sitting in the gate area, and a woman with a small dog sat down next to me. Within seconds of her taking the dog out of its little carrier, she was surrounded with happy and squealing children, all crowding in to get their faces licked and to pet the puppy. It was so adorable that I just had to snap a pic of the happy little puppy party!

On the flight to Philly where I was to catch a connecting flight, I started writing my blog on my IPad. When we landed, I was caught off guard when a young woman walked up alongside of me and spoke.
"So are you writing a book or something? I've never seen someone type so much on an IPad before!"
"No," I told her with a laugh, "I just travel a lot and write a blog about it."
"Oh! I write a blog sometimes too!" She replied.
"It's kind like a diary huh?" I asked her with a smile, and she quickly agreed with a laugh.

I had another gratifying moment at the Avis counter when the clerk looked at my contract, my driver’s license, and then at me.
“I’m sorry, but this reservation is for ‘Matthew’. I will need to see your license please”. He said. I was just opening my mouth to clue him in when the light went off in his head, and with a smile he handed the contract and keys over.

On my two hour drive from Albany to Fishkill, you have to stop at a couple of toll booths – one for the highway, and one for a huge bridge into the Poughkeepsie area. I had to shake my head when I pulled up to the bridge, rolled down the window, and found myself facing the same guy that was rude to me the last time that I had made this trip. The last time, he had stared at me for about 30 seconds before saying something along the lines of “That will be $2.00 just because . . . “
“That will be $2.00” he said as I pulled up to his window.
“OK, and can I please have a receipt?” I replied as I handed him a $5 bill. He handed me back my change but no receipt.
“Excuse me, can I have a receipt please?” I repeated. This time he didn’t say anything, he just stared at me again for about 20 seconds. Finally, I guess he had decided that he had been a prick long enough, and he handed me the receipt without saying anything. Ah, what a joy . . .

Most of the rest of my time there was all based around work, and so not much to write about, but I did get to meet another TG for dinner one night – Marian Johnson. You read about people who “have a laugh in their eyes”, but you rarely actually come across someone like that. Marian is definitely one of those people, and her eyes just glittered and shone when she laughed. We blew about two hours talking about nothing in particular – life, marriage, and this interesting lifestyle that we have.

So when it came time to head for home, I did it with more than a little trepidation. It was the day before thanksgiving – the day widely considered to be one of the very worst times to fly due to the crowds all trying to get somewhere for the holidays. That morning I was listening to the news as they described heavy fog causing problems and delays at multiple major airports across the North East, a pending strike at LAX that was supposed to take place today, and all of this while heavy crowds were all trying to fly the not-so-friendly skies. It looked like it was NOT going to be a good day to travel . . .

I seriously considered flying as Matthew, just in case there were serious delays or in case I got stranded, because I have come to learn over the years that a delay anywhere in the USA can cascade into delays everywhere. The thing is, we had made a big production out of my daughter helping me to pick out my outfit for today, and I just hated the idea of telling her that I had not worn “her” outfit. I decided that I would suck it up and go as Kimberly, and just deal with anything that happened. I had to giggle as I was getting ready, because they had all of these “talking heads” on the news, giving all of their hints and suggestions on how to get through the airport system quickly, and one of them was saying how you should dress simply and not wear shoes and clothes with buckles and straps.
“Yeah, we’re gonna ignore that advice today!” I was thinking.

Going the other way across that assholes bridge, you don’t have to pay any tolls, so I didn’t have to deal with him. The highway however, charged you no matter which way you went. As I stopped there, the lady in the booth handed me a ticket that I would have to present when I exited the toll road, but then she very quickly looked back at me again.
“I LOVE your hair!” she practically gushed at me.
“Awe thanks!” I replied, as I took the proffered ticket and then continued on my way.

In anticipation of heavy traffic and large crowds at the airport, I left quite a bit earlier than I normally would have, and so I arrived at the airport more than three hours before my flight. I grabbed my luggage and things out of the rental car as the Avis rep was checking it in. Given how many things I have forgotten and left behind lately, I found myself chanting over and over in my head “Coat, backpack, purse, suitcase, toolbox, coat, backpack, purse, suitcase, toolbox, coat . . .”
“Excuse me miss, what was the last name on the contract?” The Avis rep interrupted my internal litany of things not to be forgotten.
“Huddle” I replied, peaking around the trunk lid at him.
“OK!” he said with look of relief in his eyes. Clearly the first name of “Matthew” conflicted with my appearance and so he wanted to be certain.
“I just wanted to be sure! You have a great day a happy thanksgiving!” He said with an honestly friendly voice and a genuine smile. I thanked him and wished him the same, and after placing my receipt in my purse, I returned to my internal chant.
“Purse, backpack, toolbox, suitcase. . . “

Stepping out into the crosswalk between the parking garage and the airport, a woman tried to kill me. I kid you not, she was doing at least 40 MPH in the 20 MPH area, and blew right through the crosswalk right in front of me, even though I was mid-way through it. I never even had the time to yell, but I did catch a glimpse of the woman’s face through the windshield and she was clearly terrified. How she had failed to see a tall woman wearing a long red skirt, and pulling two huge bags behind her, I will never know, but the look of fright on her face made it clear that she had not noticed me until it was far too late. With my heart pounding so hard that I could swear I felt my wig bobbing up and down with each beat, I stood there in the center of the street for a few seconds in shock. Eventually my survival instinct kicked back in and reminded me to get the hell outta the middle of the street before I was run down.

When I entered the airport, I was surprised to see the crowd that wasn’t there. Despite all the hype on the TV news, the airport had far fewer people than I normally encountered in Albany. The airline check in counter was not crowded, and the TSA inspection point was also virtually empty, and so very quickly I was speaking to a female TSA agent.
“So what happened to the nightmare crowds that were supposed to be here today?” I asked her with a grin.
“I don’t know! I guess they all decided to drive instead!” she said with a laugh as she checked me back my documents. When she waved me in, I found that they had all of the X-ray machines running, despite the fact that there were clearly not enough passengers to really justify it. Once again, I sailed right through, and was collecting all of my things at the outlet of the X-ray machine. At the outlet of the machine was a drop dead gorgeous TSA inspector, and she was watching my things exit the machine.
“Cute shoes!” she said as my red heels came rolling out.
“Thank you! Hard to believe it, but they are considerably more comfortable to wear than you might expect too!” I replied. She was still watching me as I grabbed all of my odds and ends – my shoes, coat, backpack, laptop . . .
“Clearly I travel with too much shit!” I said with a laugh, while looking up at her.
“Hey, it is what it is, and we need it all, so what can you do?” she answered.

I had yet another good laugh when I boarded my connection in Philly. The US Airways rep at the jet bridge scanned my ticket and I got about half way down the jet bridge toward the plane when I hear someone calling out behind me.
“Miss? Miss?!” To be honest, it took me a moment to realize that the “miss” being hollered at was me. Once that clicked, I stopped and turned to see what he wanted.
“I’m sorry, but I think that there has been a mistake with your ticket.” He said, gasping a little because he was a bit short of breath after chasing me down the jet bridge. When he got to me, I handed him my ticket.
“I think that you have the wrong ticket.” He told me apologetically after a moment, and then showed me my own name on the ticket. I started to laugh.
“No sir, that’s me all right!”
He looked confused for just a second, and then his face lit up.
“Oh, I see!” he said with a huge grin, and then reached out and touched my shoulder. “I’m so sorry! You have a wonderful flight!”

When the plane landed, I was repeating my litany of items not to be forgotten as I was gathering my things together.
“Purse, backpack, coat, purse, backpack, coat . . .”
This time, I didn’t forget or leave anything behind, but the universe still got the last laugh: I went to the wrong parking lot with my purse, backpack, toolbox, suitcase . . .

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thank You Rosa Parks . . .

Well THIS trip didn’t get off to a real stellar start! When I arrived at the airport, I parked my truck and began to gather my things. I got out my suitcase, my toolbox, and my laptop bag . . . my laptop bag?  Where the hell is my backpack and laptop?!

“Awe for crying out loud!” I yelled out in sheer frustration across the huge parking lot as I realized that for the third time in a month, I had gone and left my backpack behind.  I’m telling you, something is seriously wrong with me . . .   So that was a fun little moment when I had to call my wife and ask her to please save my ass and make the 45 minute drive to bring me my laptop before my flight boarded. She took it in good spirits and didn’t laugh too long at me.

Much to my surprise, the day after I arrived in the Detroit area, I received a voice mail from my good friend Sarah Kennedy telling me that she was also in the Detroit area, and so we got together for dinner, along with her friend Marci. Sarah, the artist formerly known as Suzy Harrison, is from Australia, and we first met online probably half a decade or more ago. We kind of hit it off, and then actually met each other in person at the Southern Comfort Conference many moons ago. We both shared much the same life style, as she also made her living by traveling and fixing widgets, it’s just that she did it on the other side of the planet. Of course with her living on the wrong side of the planet, that sort of limits our opportunities to get together, so this was a real treat!

I had expected this service call to keep me busy for the entire week, but much to my surprise, I was essentially done very early in the morning on the third day and so I sat there debating my options.
I had already seen everything that was playing at the movies that I was interested in seeing, so the movies were out.
I’m so broke that I’m bent these days, so shopping was out.
In the end, I figured that I would go and hit up the Henry Ford Museum, and as long as I was gonna do that, I figured I’d ask that damned Australian . . . err . . . I mean my good friend Sarah if she wanted to go with me. Much to my surprise, she agreed to be seen in public with me and took me up on the offer, and so I got cleaned up and prepared to head out.
As I was preparing to leave my room, I grabbed a bottle of soda that I had been drinking, put the lid on it, and put it in my purse. I then grabbed my coat, my rolling toolbox, and my purse, and headed out for the parking lot. When I got to the elevator, it took quite a while to arrive because the housekeeping crew was holding it up to load their cleaning carts into it. When it finally arrived, it was pretty much full, with two ladies and their carts, but they still laughed and waved me in. As the elevator descended, we chatted about the weather and the cold, and they both looked at me like I was nuts when I told them that I was actually kind of enjoying the cold, because I was sick of the heat in Texas.

When the elevator opened onto the first floor, I headed for the door to the parking lot, towing my toolbox behind me. Just my luck, there were five huge men standing around and blocking the door while they talked shop, and I was pretty much gonna have to walk right through the middle of them.  Much to my surprise, one of these men noticed that my hands were full and virtually leapt in front of me to open the door for me. I gave him my best smile and my thanks, and made my way to the rental car, feeling pretty confident and good about myself. Don’t worry, that happy-go-lucky feeling came to an end pretty quick, because when I set my coat and purse down in the passenger seat, I noticed soda pouring all over the seat. I didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the bottle I had placed in my purse must be leaking, and so with a sinking heart I opened my purse. Yepper, my purse had at least an inch of soda standing in the bottom of it, and in that soda floated my makeup and my camera, which was thankfully in its own little protective case.
“Oh goody . . . “ I thought to myself  as I took everything out of it and then turned it upside down to pour the soda out. Now my purse is soaked in sticky soda, my makeup is ruined, and the passenger seat that Sarah will be sitting in soon is also covered in it. Not much choice to it, I had to head back up to my room and get a wash cloth and towel to clean the mess up. Yep, the men were all still blocking the door, and this time a different one jumped in front of me and opened the door for me, even though my hands were empty.  I also gave him my thanks and then made my way to my room where I cleaned my purse and its contents as well as I could. I then took a wet wash cloth and a hand towel with me to the car so that I could clean the seat. This time though, I used the door at the other end of the hallway so that I wouldn’t have to walk through the middle of the chatty Cathy’s .  Their opening the door for me twice had my confidence running high, and I didn’t want to push my luck any farther.

Not too much time later, I found the home where Sarah had been staying, and we were on the way! During the half an hour drive we spoke about this and that, just kind of catching up with each other.  At one point or another we were talking about accents, and I told her that she had it made with hers.
“Whatever do you mean?” She asked.
“Well, I have no idea why, but most Americans kind of associate a British accent with intelligence.”
“Sure!  Just look at our movies! Probably half of the really brilliant super villains or super heroes have a British accent!”
She looked skeptical . . .

When Sarah and I arrived at the Museum, I asked the man behind the counter about seeing Edison’s laboratory – something that we both were deeply interested in seeing.
“I know that the village is closed today. Is that where Edison’s lab is, because we are both really interested in seeing it?” I asked him.
“Yeah, it’s in the Village and it is closed.” He replied. He paused for a moment, and then added “But we do have a neat LEGO exhibit!”  Having much the same sense of humor, Sarah and I both glanced at each other with a sarcastic raised eyebrow. We had asked about seeing the laboratory of one of the most brilliant human beings to have ever lived, and as a consolation prize, this man had just offered us a LEGO exhibit. What the hell?
“Well, you don’t suppose that they would open it back up just for us?” Sarah asked him, with her very best “aren’t I cute?” look.
“Uh, no, ‘fraid not!” he told her with a smile.

We started our little tour off by watching an Imax movie called “Space Junk”. I’d never been to an Imax movie before and so I thought it was pretty cool as we sat there waiting for the movie to start. Soon, the theater was filled with explosive sound, and there were incredible images of launching spacecraft and rockets, but as soon as the narrator started speaking, I burst out laughing and tapped Sarah on the arm.
“See what I mean? Smart movie intended for smart people and they chose a narrator with a British accent!”
Sure enough, the narrator sounded like he could have been Patrick Stewart’s brother (Captain Picard from Star Trek)

The museum presented most of the things that you would expect to see there – many antique and classic automobiles, but they had a few displays that caught me by surprise.  They had the very car that President Kennedy was killed in on display. Possibly the most charismatic president that we have ever had, and they shot the man dead . . .

I’m not sure if it was disrespectful or not, but there was no way I was gonna miss the chance to take a photo of Sarah Kennedy in front of the Kennedy car!  I thought about trying to convince her that the museum wouldn’t mind if she got in the car for the photo, but I was pretty sure she wasn’t gonna buy into it.

With my owning a classic Mustang, I made it a point to go looking for one here. In our search for it, Sarah and I got separated, and just a moment after I found it on my own, Sarah showed up with a gentleman from the museum in tow, and he was kind enough to tell us a little bit about the car. Being a Mustang fan, I knew most of the story, but what he told us about THIS car was kind of fun. It seems that despite the fact that it had been the very first production Mustang, the car had accidently been sold just like any other! I guess it took them a couple of years to track it down, but they actually chased the car down in Canada and bought it back!

They also have the very first Mustang “Concept Car” – their initial prototype. The production car very rarely ends up looking much like the concept car, and this was no exception. The Mustang had originally been intended to compete with the Chevy Corvette, and while I love Mustangs, I have always thought that they were a pretty poor reply to a Corvette. Seeing this concept car though made it seem a bit more plausible, because THIS Mustang would have been a fine competitor!  How did they go from this sleek little speedster concept to the Mustang that we all knew? I figure the design guys did their job – “Here is a neat car that can compete with a Corvette!” and then the pencil pushers and accountants got in the way. “Yeah, that costs too much. Can’t you just streamline a Ford Falcon and call it a Mustang instead?”

And then there was the bus that Rosa Parks made her stand in. . .  
An exhausted and tired woman reached her breaking point that day and repeatedly told the bus driver “no” when he tried to make her move farther to the rear of the bus. An ordinary and “every day” woman had had enough and refused to be treated like a dog, and so she stepped into history as a hero. All exaggerating aside, I felt chills when I stepped up and into the bus. The stand that this woman took had paved the way for massive reforms, and even more important, it had helped change the way that people actually thought. There was very little doubt in my mind, that I myself had Rosa Parks to thank – if she had not helped to open people’s eyes and minds, I doubt very much that I would be free to express myself as I do without being harassed or arrested. Thank you Mrs Parks, and you have my deepest respects and thanks . . .

Friday, October 26, 2012

"Excuse me, but I think you dropped your panties . . . "

Well, y'all know how this screwed up life style works.  Legs full of painful bruises or not, eventually I became desperate enough that I went ahead and traveled pretty again. A pair of tights that made things entirely too hot and uncomfortable did at least hide the ugliness on my legs from a casual glance. I figured that anyone that was gonna look hard enough at my legs to see these bruises through the tights was probably gonna deserve a good slapping, so what the heck!

One the way through the Austin airport, I had to walk by two young men who were seated outside of the security check point, and like it or not, I had their full attention as I walked by.

"That's a dude." One of them said to the other, loud enough for me to hear him. He didn't exactly yell it out, but it was clear he didn't care if I heard him or not.
"Nah, I don't think so." Replied his friend to my great amusement. This was a perfect example of what I've always thought and said here - I look just passable enough  that people are not SURE whether I am a cross dresser or not. Of course I'd rather that I was so flawless that I fooled everyone all of the time, but I suppose that I'll accept what I've been given.

This week I was working with a customer in Allentown PA who has two instruments that have been obsolete for about a decade. The instruments were made by a company that my company later bought, and so we acquired it along with them. Almost immediately after we bought them, it was decided that this product was too expensive to produce and support, and there was not enough demand for them, so the entire product line was killed. They trained just one person to work on them before the last one disappeared and that was me! Now the problem is that this device uses a LOT of very fragile components that degrade over time, and we no longer have spares, and so if just about anything goes wrong, the quarter million dollar machine is nothing more than useless junk. For this reason, I told the customer repeatedly that they should not spend their money getting it repaired, and I warned them over and over that there was a significant chance that I would not be able to bring it back into operation. Despite my very blunt warnings and advice, they insisted that it was worth their money to at least try, and so off I went on a mission that I was reasonably sure that I could not succeed at.
One of the reasons that they insisted that it was worth trying for, was because they owned two of these machines and figured that I could probably salvage parts from one to fix the other, and they were partially correct. I did indeed have to pull multiple components from one to put on the other, but in the end, I could not bring either into operation, despite spending two eleven hour work days trying. Being an optical instrument, it relies on several very expensive mirrors that degrade over time, and these components on both systems were in such bad condition that we had to throw in the towel and give up. So, I made a lot of money for my company, but had the horrible feeling of failing and leaving an unhappy customer behind.

Two VERY long days on my feet didn't do my leg condition any good at all, but still I was in a fairly good mood on the way home. I couldn't help myself and  decided to have fun with the waitress at Denny's when she asked if there was anything else that she could get for me.
"Yeah, how about a frontal lobotomy?" I replied with a grin. She broke out with a laugh, but you should have seen the looks on the faces of the people sitting around me when I said that - it was priceless! The shocked looks almost made me loose it. You could almost see their thoughts on their faces.
"Oh my God, did she have a lobotomy?!"
"Holy shit, is that a nut job?! "
"Do you think she she's safe to be around?!"
At that moment, I was pretty sure that this was going to be my best laugh of the day, but I was absolutely wrong. . .

I was sitting toward the front of the plane from Allentown to Atlanta and watching all of the cattle. . . Err. . . I mean people boarding the plane, when I noticed a kind of frumpy and frazzled looking young woman in a blue sweat shirt dragging a wheeled carry on behind her. The problem was, her carry on was wide open and she was leaving a trail of belongings behind her as she traveled down the aisle, blissfully unaware of the trail she was leaving. Much to my surprise, the first item I noticed was a very elaborate and I suspect expensive thong/panties. My first instinct was to pick them up and return them to the young woman, but then I kind of decided I wasn't about to handle some strange woman's panties, and so I reached out to touch her arm.
"Ma'am, I think that you may have lost something that you're gonna miss later." I told her with a grin.
"Oh my god. Thank you so much!" She said, turning to pick them up as her face turned a very dark red. I was still smiling as she took her seat, but not a minute later the peace in the cabin was broken when she starts to yell at a man who was standing in the aisle talking to her.
"Look, I don't give a shit. My ticket says 4D and I'm not about to move!" She was yelling at him.
"But mine also says 4D!" The man replied with an Indian accent.
"Well that's too God damned bad, because I'm already here, and I'm not about to move! There is a whole row of seats here, so you just grab another one!"
As this argument went on, another woman was entering the plane and holding a tube of toothpaste in her hand.
"I think someone dropped this." She said to no one in particular as she made her way into the plane.
I started to laugh and pointed out the loud mouthed and belligerent woman in the sweat shirt to her.
"We'll, I'd be willing to bet that it is hers since she dropped a few other things on her way in." I told her with a grin.
The sweat shirt woman was still  in the midst of yelling at the man that apparently was assigned the same seat that she had, and so the woman with the tooth paste was just a bit put off.
"Are you sure?" She asked me with a look of trepidation on her face.
"Purty sure! The thing is, the OTHER things that she dropped were a bit more. . . . umm . . . personal . . ." I replied with a wink.
As for the seat mix up? Yeah, the loud mouth in the sweatshirt was on the wrong flight, but at least she had the grace to apologize profusely as she exited the plane.
Oh, you'll be glad to know that she managed to keep her panties with her on the way OFF of the plane!
Damn but I love my job . . .

Monday, October 22, 2012

Gonna save the world! (Just Rambling)

So I took a trip to Peoria Illinois and had to catch a connecting flight in Atlanta. I had about an hour and a half to catch that connection and so there was no great rush and I was able to take my time. After taking the “plane train” to an adjoining concourse, I arrived at my new gate, but with the overwhelming feeling that something was wrong. Then it struck me! I had left my back pack on the damned airplane, and oh joy, I had no idea what gate that airplane was at! So there was a good five minutes tracking down a Delta CSR to have her look up the gate for my arriving flight, and then half an hour to get back to that gate.  Just to make things fun, the Delta rep gave me the wrong gate and so I literally ended up walking the entire B concourse by the time I found the plane that I had arrived on. Fortunately they had found my bag and it was waiting with the gate agent there.  I remember thinking that this was a serious and scary sign of how far my mental status seems to be degrading lately, and that I’d better make sure that I never do that again.  
Yeah, never do that again you idiot!
Guess what I did on the way back from Peoria? I kid you not – I got all the way off of the jet bridge before I realized that I had left my backpack on the plane again!  I’m starting to scare my damn self . . . 

So this weekend my wife wanted a little time on her own without the children, and so I took them shopping for Halloween costumes and stuff. We had about a 45 minute drive to get there and I was relaxing listening to one of my favorite albums – a compilation of old TV hits by Ray Conniff. When my daughter asked me what it was, I explained that these were all songs from movies and TV shows that were popular when I was her age, and then I explained a little about some of the TV shows.
I was kind of surprised to realize how many of those shows were ground breaking for portraying women taking careers and making their own way in a time where it wasn’t all that common. 

I told her about the series “Police Woman”, that was all about a female detective, and she wasn’t all of that impressed at the idea so I tried to put it a little bit in context. I told her that back then, most women were housewives who were expected to marry and then stay home and take care of the children. A woman who was not only making her own way through the world, but was in fact doing it in a very male dominated career field, was something special and noteworthy. You should have seen the look on my daughters face.
Why couldn’t girls get jobs?!” she asked me with more than a little bit of anger in her voice.
“Well, they could, but usually not real good ones, and they were usually kind of looked down on for doing it.” I replied.
“But that’s not fair!”
“Darn right it wasn’t fair, but that IS the way that it used to be!”

The next song that came on was the theme to “The Mary Tyler Moore” show and my daughter surprised me by asking me what show it went to, and much to my surprise I realized that it was much the same kind of show.
“Well, that show was also about a woman who was making it on her own!” I told her.
“Really?” she replied, looking kind of skeptical.
“Would I lie to you?!” 

When the theme to “Welcome Back Kotter” came on, I volunteered the information about that show before she asked. 

 The next song that came on was the theme From “Laverne and Shirley”, and before I could offer its story, she asked me about it. I actually hesitated when it caught me by surprise that it ALSO was very similar to the first two.
“Well, that was a TV show about two young women living together and also trying to make their own way through the world without relying on a husband to do it for them.”

I dunno, I’m probably really late to this revelation, but it really did surprise me how many shows I grew up with that had as a significant part of their story, a woman making her own way in a male world.  Today most of us , and certainly the young women today, take it for granted that they are free to have their own careers without being looked down upon.
My hat is off to “Police Woman”, “Mary Tyler Moore”, and even “Laverne and Shirley” for helping to teach little girls that it was possible to stand on their own two feet – that they didn’t have to rely on someone else to take care of them. Well done ladies!  

Believe it or not, my daughter and I even spoke a bit about how important those shows were for that very reason.
“So, in a way they were heroes?” she asked me.
“Honestly, I think so. They taught little girls what they could do if they wanted to. They taught little girls that they could be whatever they wanted to be if they were willing to work for it.”
While my daughter and I were talking about this, my three year old son was sitting in the back seat in his car seat, and he perked up at the word “hero”.
“When I grow up, I wanna be Iron Man and save the world!” said my little super hero. The bad news is, I think that he has a ways to go. About half an hour later I was helping the recently potty trained little hero to go potty and he peed all over daddy’s leg.
I figure we’re gonna have to hold off on saving the world for a little while yet . . .

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Well you haven’t heard much from me these days, and that’s probably just as well as pretty much all that I’ve got to share is whining and moaning. I know that I’ve mentioned this horrid little skin condition that have before - Erythema Nodosum.  My current bout with this crap is by far the worst that it has ever been, and my legs are probably 50% covered in these large and painful bruises and bumps, and this time I even have about half a dozen “bonus” bruises on my arms, even though the disease usually limits itself to the legs. Saying that I “hurt” everywhere is kind of like saying that fire is “hot” – it is a significant understatement. So not only do my legs hurt very badly, but they are swollen and covered in these horrible dark red, black, and blue bumps that just look horrible. Needless to say, this doesn’t really motivate me to get all dressed up and try and pass myself off as pretty.
This service call was probably one of the harder service calls that I’ve ever made. Harder not so much for the work that had to be done, but for the stress that was involved. The customer had major problems on their end that we had to iron out, and then after we worked out their bugs, we found problems in each of the three systems that my company had provided. Other than the fact that my legs hurt so bad, the physical work itself was not so hard, but the mental anxiety and stress of trying to troubleshoot and repair all of these issues at a high profile customer like IBM was a bit of a bear.
On this trip, I was stuck away from home for almost two entire weeks and so I did eventually decide to try and spend some time “as Kim”. Not much I could do about the pain, but I was reasonably happy to find that a pair of tights at least hid the nasty colors of the bruises. Believe it or not, this was the first time that I have ever worn tights, and while I was happy with the look, I wasn’t all that thrilled with how hot the darn things are!

The first time I got out was over the weekend, and I went to see a couple of movies. The movies must not have been terribly interesting though, because I can’t even remember what they were now. I do recall getting all of the usual grins as I was buying my tickets, drink, and popcorn though.

As I was getting ready and “putting on my face”, I once again suffered from the overwhelming feeling that I looked horrible. Every day I see more wrinkles, and I’m sure that it comes as no surprise to anyone that reads my blog, but I am pretty much obsessed with my hatred of what age has done to my face. In a pleasant surprise though, when I was all done and got my hair together, I was actually fairly pleased with my appearance!

The next time I got out was when making the trip from Fishkill to Albany New York the day before my flight home. Since I was booked for a 620 AM flight, I made sure that I got a hotel near the airport the night before my flight, so that I didn’t have to get up at 2AM to make the drive. Anyway, I made the one and a half hour drive “pretty”, and wore a dress and shoes that I had just bought at a Marshalls that week. Quite honestly, I don’t think that the dress flattered me too much. I thought that the shoes looked awesome, but I had a lot of trouble walking in them due to the height of the heels. With the fact that I just wasn’t used to wearing heels that high anymore, combined with the way one of my ankles was swollen with one of the bruises I mentioned, I was walking far less than gracefully. I really should have chosen shorter heels even though I very much wanted to try my new shoes.

So, odds are good you wont be seeing a whole lot of activity on my blog for a while, and for that I apologize, but I’d rather write nothing than to have folks start thinking that I do nothing but whine and complain! When my skin condition relaxes a bit and doesn’t hurt so bad, I’ll probably get back on the horse. Until then, y’all have fun out there~!