Monday, September 17, 2012

I've got nuthin'!

The sad truth is that I've got nothing to write about! I've spent the vast majority of the last two weeks sitting on my backside in my office and it is even getting to the point where I am getting concerned about my job. When you are getting emails from the company CEO talking about company wide mandatory time off because things are bad enough to warrant it, it's REALLY not a good time to be sitting around idle and doing little or nothing to earn your paycheck . . .

I've been doing a lot of cosmetic work on my Classic Mustang. I have the engine bay painted and I have sanded down and painted the valve covers and air cleaner assembly. I have not put it all back together yet though, because I want to give the paint plenty of time to dry and cure before letting hoses and cables flop against it. Now the only problem is that it all looks so beautiful that I'm afraid to put it all back together and put it to use - I just cant bear the thought of getting dirt and oil on my pristine components! I'm gonna have to get over that though, because what use is it to have a neat car if you can't drive her?

My engine compartment as I bought the car

My engine compartment after a great deal of work.

My air cleaner after I restored it. I sanded and painted it probably three different times trying to get it right.

Yesterday it rained all day, and so I could not do any painting. Instead, I took my drivers side door apart and worked on the window that had been VERY hard to operate. It seems that forty five year old grease kind of turns into an almost glue-like substance, and so was working far more as an impediment to the windows operation than as a lubricant. A little bit of carb cleaner on a scotchbrite pad, some scrubbing, and a light coat of grease manufactured in this decade did absolute wonders for its operation. I sat there for ten minutes rolling the window up and down and delighting in the ease with which it is now possible to operate it.

So one thing that I would like to throw your way is my cousins blog: Wit's End
He has not asked me to share his blog and in fact has no idea that I am doing so, so this is not me trying to throw a relative a bone. The truth is, he honestly has a neat blog - very thoughtful and well written. If you have a moment, you might wanna consider giving it a quick look!  ;-)

We now return you to your scheduled programming . . . 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

"The girls are gone!"

It's been a fairly busy month for me!

Almost all of my service calls have been relatively local and so I have been driving instead of flying.  I've made all of these trips in ugly mode for a host of reasons – I’m trying to cut my wife some slack, it's too damned hot, and I'm not sure that I entirely trust my poor old F150 anymore because she has over 165,000 miles on her. Risking a breakdown in the heat in boy mode is one thing, but I wasn't willing to risk getting stranded out in the heat while "dressed"!

I bought a new wig several months ago because the two that I have worn for years are both showing their age and starting to look pretty rough. This is a lot more traumatic to me than you might think! I have been unable to find hair that looks exactly like my two favorites, and this is a problem because let's face it, hair is a major part of making or breaking my confidence. After purchasing several wigs online just to discover that they were nowhere as close to my originals as I wanted, I did at last find one that I thought might work for me and purchased it. Now my problem became getting the darn thing trimmed to fit and flatter, because with my being on the road non-stop, I just couldn't get an appointment that I could make. I wanted to get it trimmed by Beth Boy'e because she is both, one of us and and does a freaking awesome job with hair, but I was a victim of her success! She, and her salon are so popular that she is a booked at least a month in advance, and given the nature of my job, it is impossible to predict where I will be a month from now. We traded lots of emails, with my explaining to her why I was such a pain in the ass when it came to scheduling, and ultimately she agreed to let me know if she ever had a cancellation or free hour, and I would do my damnedest to get there if I were not on the road. So there my new wig sat, in the closet, month after month. . . .

I was working down in Pasadena Texas, south east of Houston last week, when I received an email from Beth saying that she had a little time free at 730pm if I could get there. Of course several thoughts went through my head at that point - how awesome it was of her to be willing to work so late to take care of me, and oh shit - how can I try and get done with my customer in time to make the three or four hour drive back up to Austin in time to make the appointment?!
At first, I was depressed as hell because I didn't think that I could possibly make it, and I even sent her an email saying so. Later that day though, the universe took pity on me, and I finished with my customer early enough to head out with a realistic hope of being there on time. I sent lots of frantic emails and voicemails to Beth, pleading with her to go ahead and schedule me in, and then I entered the Houston rush hour madness.
When I arrived at "Salon Muse" that night in boy mode, I was carrying four wigs - the two that I was trying to replicate or replace, the one I had recently purchased, and also one I had bought quite a while ago, but was unhappy with because it looks too much like a wig. The short and flippy wig she was familiar with, because I had bought it from her several years ago. It had gone obsolete shortly after I bought it though and so I had been unable to find a replacement when it started to wear out. Imagine my surprise when she told me that she actually had one! It was darker than mine, but I really thought it would look ok on me, and she made me a hell of a deal, so I swiped it!

The irony is, she was thoroughly unimpressed with the wig that I had brought for her to trim, and told me that the OTHER wig I had brought (Henry Margu) was a much better wig. She took a look at it, and explained that the reason it looked so much like a wig, was the tight curls all over it, and she then showed me that by washing it in very hot water, I could get those curls to relax. So - I walked in with one wig to trim, and walked out with three that I was thrilled with!

So as long as we are at this point in the story, I'll give a shout out to Beth Boy'e and"Salon Muse", because she really does a fantastic job. If you want your hair to look absolutely real and fashionably modern, you really should give her a call. In fact, it was a makeover by her many years ago that gave me the confidence to actually head out into the world and travel pretty, because she taught me how to achieve a believable and acceptable look for myself.

The results of a makeover by Beth Boy'e at her salon

The next day was Friday and the start of a three day weekend, and so we had arranged to go and spend the weekend at the Galveston beach with my wife's brother and his family, and with my wifes sister and her family. I'm telling you, you have never been exhausted until you try to wrangle three families, and five children at the beach!  Our little adventure got off to a REALLY rocky start too!
At my sister-in-laws suggestion, we had all pitched in and rented a house near the beach for the weekend. With the three families splitting the bill, it was about the same as a hotel would have cost, and so didn't seem like too bad of an idea. You can guess how thrilled we were though, when the couple in the house next to us was in the middle of a shouting match when we arrived and were unpacking our children and supplies. I opened the drivers door just in time to hear the man shout drunkenly to the woman "I work HARD and I'm sick of paying your F'ing bills!"  Oh boy . . .

That wasn't the worst of our rough start though. Nope, not by a long shot! The next morning I was awakened to the sound of my wife and sister-in-law shouting out the names of all three girls and within seconds I realized from their tones that they were not shouting at them but for them! The two oldest girls were only eight, and the youngest was five. Knowing how paranoid my wife is about never loosing sight of our children, the very concept that we were in a strange city and the children were so far out of sight that no one knew exactly where they were, scared the hell outta me. 
When I got to the front door, my wife and her sister both had the look of terror in their eyes. . .
"What's going on?" I asked my wife.
"They're gone!"
"What do you mean 'they're gone'?!" I asked.
"A minute ago, the girls were all sitting on the balcony and now they're gone! The gate is wide open and her shoes are still on the stairs, and she is GONE!" my poor wire almost sobbed.

You have to understand - my wife is the most cautious person that you will ever meet when it comes to keeping track of our children. If she lets one of our children out of the door to be with me when I am working on a car, she always makes it a point to get a verbal response from me, almost like the captain of a ship a giving over the CON.
More or less "YOU have the children, got it?!" followed closely by my acknowledgement "Yes ma'am, I acknowledge that I have the children, aye!"
The very thought that my daughter and nieces had managed to leave the yard and get out of sight was just utterly foreign to me.
Without another word, my wife headed off in one direction, her sister in another, and I went my own way, shouting out their names and stopping everyone that I passed. Part of me felt like the lowest thing in the world asking people "Have you seen three little girls?" while holding out my hand about waist high. All of them gave me a look that was part pity and part disgust, because after all, what kind of person looses sight of three little girls? They all assured me that they had not seen them. I canvased all of the stores and shops that were open, but so early in the morning there were few people out and about, and in about ten minutes I started to feel real dread - the fear that my little girl might not have just stepped a few feet out of our sight for the first time in her life, but that she might indeed be gone.

This place was a tourist trap, with thousands of people coming and going every day, and I was starting to realize that there was very little hope that the police would find them if they were taken intentionally.  With the very real thought in my head that my daughter might even now be in some pedophiles car speeding off of the island, I called my wife.
"Have they come back yet?"
"No. . . " she almost cried.
"All right, call the cops and call them now. I've looked down all of the streets and talked to everyone I saw, and no one has seen them." I told her, on the verge of crying my darn self.
"We already did and they're on the way."
I kept calling out their names as I made my way back to the rental house. . .

You know, if you haven't been through it, you just can't imagine the relief that swept over me as I saw my OTHER sister-in-law walking toward the house with all three girls in tow.  None of us had known that she was even awake, let alone had our children with her. I guess she had walked out on the balcony and the girls asked her to walk them across the street to the beach, and being the cool aunt that she was, she obliged. It had never occurred to her that we might not realize that she had the girls with her, and SHE cried when she realized what we had all just gone through.
As you can imagine, our children all received a great deal of attention for the rest of the weekend, and never got more than five or ten feet away from us at any moment . . .

Tuesday morning I was sitting in my cubicle, sun burnt and bored, when I received a call from one of my very favorite customers in Detroit. This lady has been working on Infrared Mass Specs longer than I have, and she was one of my very first solo service calls many years back. At that time, she knew far more about my instrument than I did, but she was patient and kind with me, and I will never forget her for that. In the many years since then, I have learned to hold my own with her, but I sure couldn't back then on that first service call to her. Anyway, she was having problems that she couldn't address, and so she wanted a service call. That was fine by me, because I can't stand siting in my office, and so the following morning I was off to Detroit via Charlotte NC.

It has probably already occurred to you that the democratic national convention was taking place in Charlotte at the time, but there wasn't much to be done about it, and so off I went. The only problem that the DNC caused me is that our plane was forced to sit on the runway for almost thirty minutes after landing before it was allowed to taxi up to the gate. Since my connection layover was only for fifty minutes as scheduled, that meant that I once again had the pleasure of sprinting from one end of the Charlotte airport to the other. This little voice kept whispering in the back of my head as I huffed and puffed my way across the airport "aren't you glad that you were too tired and sunburned to fly pretty?!"

I put in a very long work day the following day, but I pretty much expected that. Like I said, this customer knows her stuff pretty well, so if she is going to call me in, it is going to be a tough one by definition.

When it came time to fly home, I was stunned to realize that I was honestly scared at the thought of flying pretty. I've been doing it for years now, and know damned good and well that there is nothing to worry about, but still I was filled with fear at the idea and my head was filled with all of those nasty thoughts and doubts.
"But you're old and wrinkled now - what's the point?"
"You look terrible! Everyone will know that you are a male!"
"You're too fat and will look like shit in every outfit you brought. You should just cowboy up and fly like a guy!"
"Your wife hates it that you do this. You really should stop for her!"
Sigh . . .

I sat there looking at the outfits and wigs that I had brought, and absolutely could not decide if I should fly pretty, and if so, what outfit would make me look less like a fat old cow. I actually took a photo of all three outfits and put it on Facebook, asking for opinions, of which there was no shortage.

About a half an hour later, dozens of people were suggesting one particular outfit with a top that I had never worn before, and so I went and tried it on. With my confidence already at rock bottom, I was seriously bummed when I saw that this cute red top was most definitely straining at the buttons that go across the cleavage. I had tried this top on in the store before I bought it, but I was in boy mode at the time and with no boobs! It fit just fine then, but throw a pair of breasts in there, and this top had just hit the "no fly" zone. Damn . . .
With plan A shot all to hell, I went with the outfit that I had originally intended to wear - a blue skirt with a very girly blue and white blouse. I was more than a little relieved to see that it at least fit me well!

Once I got my makeup on, I tried on one of the new wigs that had just bought from Salon Muse:

This one is the perfect color, but flatter than I would normally have considered. I had gone ahead and bought it though for three reasons:
1 - I thought the color was perfect
2 - AmySykes at Face it Photos had done a digital makeover of me with hair kind of like it, and I had loved it. Why not give it a shot in real life?
3 - Beth made me one hell of a good deal on it!

At first I wasn't thrilled with it, but the more I messed with it, the more that I thought that it just might work! I had even made up my mind to go ahead and wear it for the day, but decided to go ahead and see how I looked in the new short and flippy wig that I had also got that night:

This one is the same model as the short hair that I have worn for years, but it is quite a bit darker, and so I had feared that it might not look right on me. I was filled with relief when I started messing with it though, because in the end I thought it looked terrific! I've always loved the look of a girl with bright blue eyes and dark hair, and I think that this wig almost gives me that look. No question about it - I was gonna wear this one today!
I was just overjoyed (NOT!) when I handed the car in at Avis that morning and the lady there asked “How was the car sir?”  
POOF – there went the confidence right out the starting gate.. .

Inside the airport, I was tickled to see one of the TSA inspectors apparently has a sense of humor, and was wearing a kind of silly hat and outfit, so I snuck a photo of him.
“Awesome hat!” I told him with a grin as I walked by him. He just grinned back at me and said “Thank you!”

After I had landed in Charlotte, I was surfing the internet while I waited for my connecting flight and was surprised when I received a short email from someone that I didn't know through one of the forums that I spend time at.
“You looked very lovely this morning if you were the one flying pretty.”
I couldn't help but grin, wondering who this person was and where they had been when I went through there that morning. It’s a darn shame that they hadn't said something though, because we could have chatted for a moment or two! Of course I already know that I wouldn’t get along with this person, because they have already shot their credibility all to hell with that fib!