Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bright Eyed Immigrant

There was an elderly woman that sat next to me in the gate area of the Knoxville flight to Atlanta. She was probably in her early 70s and had the most brilliant blue eyes that I have ever seen. We traded a few pleasantries and then she put her nose in her book, and I put my nose in mine.
After making the flight from Knoxville to Atlanta and having a two hour layover, we were both kind of amused as she once again took a seat next to me, this time in the gate area for Austin. Anyway, we struck up an actual conversation this time, but it was interrupted as she took a phone call, presumably from family or friends. I wasn’t exactly ease dropping, but she was sitting right next to me as she had her conversation so there was no trouble realizing that it wasn’t English. I’ve traveled a lot in my life and can often identify a language even if I can’t speak it, but I couldn’t quite figure out what hers was and so I asked her when she got off of the phone.
“Do you mind if I ask what language that is? It sounds similar to German but not quite.”
“I’m Dutch.” Replies this lady with brilliant blue eyes.
“Am I right that it has similarities to German?” I asked her.
“It does,” she replied, “But as much as I don’t like the Germans, I’d have to admit that their language has some nuances that ours doesn’t have. “ Through our discussion I learned that she had come to America 40 years ago as a physician. Making it as a female physician 40 years ago impressed me and I told her as much. She further impressed me by being modest about it. I told her that as the parent of a daughter and having two granddaughters, I loved to see that women were succeeding in fields that were once the sole domain of men. As an example, I’ve seen a clear and unambiguous increase in the number of female pilots in the last five years or so.
Next we started talking about immigrants and the new attitudes and apparent hostility of Americans toward them. You should have seen the look in her eyes as she assured me that she had lived through WWII and had seen this very thing happen before; she had seen a society blaming their problems on immigrants and becoming hostile toward them. It didn’t work out so well for anyone involved – not the Germans, certainly not the Jews, and it didn’t do the world as whole a bit of good.

What a thought that 40 years ago America welcomed this physician with the brilliant eyes to our nation and profited in so many ways from her addition to our country, and yet today they would discourage her from coming. There was a lot more to this conversation than I can't possibly share, but my eyes were watering as we wrapped it up. In the end, she actually reassured me.
“America is a wonderful and rich place. It will come back to its senses.” 
I hope so my friend, I hope so . . .

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Practice Makes Perfect

OK – First things first! I’ve seriously considered getting off of Facebook lately because quite frankly,   I think it’s seriously hurtful to the soul to read so much negativity over and over, day after day. I don’t mean to trivialize their loss or their pain in any way, don’t get me wrong, but the heart and soul can only take so much of negativity and sadness. As I mentioned the other day, I spent a good deal of time repairing my damaged blogs a few days ago, and so obviously I was reviewing a good number of my own posts. Guess what?  I discovered that I am guilty of the very thing I just spoke about – posting negativity over and over and over. I think it becomes something of a feedback loop, where once you get into that loop, it just keeps feeding upon itself and it goes faster and faster until it’s out of control and you are lost and overwhelmed by it. This doesn’t rise to the level of a guarantee or a promise, but I intend to try and devote some effort to not focusing on the negative stuff so much on my blog.  I’ll still tell y’all when bad shit happens, but I am going to try not to focus on it so much.

You know how I’m always yapping about how heavy my baggage and toolbox are? Yeah, I had to giggle as I was getting on the shuttle bus from the airport parking lot and the shuttle bus driver had to stop and use both hands to lift my tool box onto the bus. I’m starting to think that maybe I am not in quite as bad a shape as I had thought I was! Don’t worry though, because I at least gave him a decent tip.

I was happily seated on the airplane, and with the boarding process all but complete, I’d begun to think that I was going to be lucky and the center seat next to me just might end up being empty. Not so though, as in the end a young lady came to claim the seat. She made a very brief nod to me toward the center seat but then didn’t give me a chance to get up as she started to make her way between me and the seat in front of me.
“Hold on, I don’t mind getting up to let you in!” I assured her. Not to be dissuaded, she continued working her way to her seat despite the idiot (me) that was partially blocking her way. Gotta hand it to her – she made it, and she did it without stomping all over my feet, so she gets points there. The thing that sort of nagged at me though is that every time we spoke to each other, she went well out of her way to say “Ma’am” repeatedly. While I deeply appreciate her trying so hard to be decent, after about the tenth “Ma’am” in five minutes, you’re sort of over doing it to the point that it’s almost as bad as just calling me sir. Still, she was trying to be a decent human being, so many hugs to you young lady.
I had two hours to kill in the Atlanta airport, and so I headed to the Delta Sky Club nearest to my gate. For the uninitiated, this is more or less the airlines country club. I don’t have the money to join, but they let you pay with miles that you have earned, and I have plenty of those! I handed my ticket to one of their customer service folks to check in and he scans the barcode.
“Welcome Mr. Huddle!” he says. Ok, so I decided right there that maybe having the young lady on the airplane over do the “Miss” thing wasn’t so bad after all.
“Do you prefer Mr. or Miss?” he asks relatively softly, as though it has just occurred to him that I may not particularly care for him saying “Mr.” so loudly.
“Mrs. Would definitely be preferred, thank you.” I answered him, trying not to let my irritation show.
“Well then, welcome back Mrs. Huddle!” he said with a smile, then handed me my ticket back.

When I got to Knoxville, there was no shortage of people staring at me as I waited for my luggage, but I’ve accepted this as the cost of being out and about. I did get a smile though as I schlepped my bags to the rental car lot and heard a woman speaking from behind me.
“Girl, you’ve got it going on with those heels. I can hardly do this in flats but you make it look easy!”
“That’s from lots and lots of practice.” I said, looking over my shoulder and giving her a grin.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Still working on the old ones

So my blog has gone from Myspace, moved it to Yahoo 360 when Myspace became so overwhelmed with adds, and then when the did away with Yahoo360, I then moved it to Somewhere in all of that moving, exporting, importing, cutting and pasting, a lot of things got screwed up.

I am trying to decide if it is my drive to not be part of something half assed or if is my ego that has prompted me to go back through and try and fix my older posts. So far I've killed almost the entire day trying to repair damaged posts and there are a lot more to go! Still working on it . . .

Of course just about the time that I get it all right, will shut down or something. Sigh. . .

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

It's a Tide Pod!

So I put my backpack onto the x-ray machines conveyor belt as I always do, but much to my surprise, the operator slides it off into the “needs a hand inspection slot” after it rolled out of the machine instead of sending it on to me.
“I think you have a water bottle in there. Someone will be right with you.” He told me.
“Damn. Sorry about that!” I told him. “You would think I’d have the system down by now wouldn’t you?”
“Yeah, you’re here like every week!” he replied with a grin and then moved on to his next bag.
So there I waited for someone to come and dig the stupid water bottle out of my pack. I waited, and I waited, and I waited. . . After about 5 minutes, a TSA inspector finally approached me . . . and then veered off to the machine next to our x-ray to inspect someone else’s bag who had not been waiting as I had! After she inspected this other persons bag, she just walked off! No exaggeration, I probably stood there for a good solid 10 minutes waiting for some super special TSA inspector to finally decide that I was worthy of dealing with. I’m pretty sure that this is the first time that the TSA in the Austin airport ever did anything to piss me off and I’m still trying to decide if I was just being too sensitive?
Got to the Denver area with nothing else to write about. Even though I’d been at it for over 14 hours and my makeup showed it, I went ahead and went to a decent dinner when I got to Greeley Colorado. I had the chicken and shrimp carbonara at the Olive Garden and gotta say that I loved everything about it except the calories! Dinner all done, I headed to my hotel to call it a night, but as I was putting my stuff away I noticed a long sun dress that I brought with me to try on. I had bought it because I actually thought it was kind of cute, and unlike most sundresses, it didn’t require breasts and cleavage to wear it. I had to grin though as I took it out of the bag, because my wife and daughter both had made their opinions abundantly clear about the dress when they saw me wash it and hang it to take upstairs. As I was putting the dress on a hanger, I heard my daughter speak from a few feet behind me.

“What is that?” she asked, placing heavy emphasis on the word “that” to make it clear that she didn’t like it in the least little bit.
“Umm, it’s a dress?” I replied, no doubt with a deer in the headlights look. At that point, she put her hand over her mouth and made a production of laughing while sort of kind of acting like she was trying not to.
“What?! It’s cute!” I demanded, getting defensive.
“Dude, it’s a tide pod!” She quipped, and then both her and my wife busted out laughing. I turned and looked at the tide pod . . . err . . dress again and had to sigh, because now that she pointed it out, that was all that I could picture. In an instant it went from “Cute Sundress” to the “Tide pod dress”. I’ve got a stubborn streak though, so I took it with me on this trip just to see what I’d look like in it. Yeah, it’s going in the giveaway pile when I get home.

Today got off to a pretty good start, with my quickly and efficiently repairing my customers spectrometer. They had tried to replace a consumable component on their own, but couldn’t get it right, and so they brought me out to figure out what they were doing wrong. In a bit more than three hours, I had the thing done and was headed back to my hotel room where I got cleaned up and headed out for a movie and a day of shopping! I found four records that I like: two Gordon Lightfoot’s, a Linda Ronstadt, and a Dolly Parton, so I was off to a good start. Next I headed to JC Penny’s where I received huge grins from everyone that walked past me. You know, the “Oh look at the funny cross dresser!” grins that completely destroy your confidence? Yeah, that grin. So anyway, there I am looking for clothes that just might fit my fat ass when the customer I had taken care of that morning called me.
“Hey, I’m having trouble getting it to dry out. We didn’t have this problem before you worked on it today. Would you mind coming back?”  I looked at the time – 330 PM. I looked at my skirt and heels – ‘yeah, that’s kind of a problem’ I thought to myself with a mental giggle. I started doing the math in my head; let’s see, 10 minutes to get back to the hotel, 25 minutes to shower and change, 30 minute drive out to the customer. Sigh . . .
“Yeah, no worries. Give me about an hour to get there.”
No way around it, the job has to come first, so that was one of the shortest Kim days I’ve ever had. I went from a remarkably short work day to a damned late one and didn’t get back to the hotel until after 8 PM. Gotta be up at 3 AM again to head to the airport, so I’m outta here!

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Pot Luck

So I think I'll call this blog entry "Pot Luck" because there is a little bit of everything in it. I'm not entirely sure where to start to be honest.
"Hand in Hand" - CarolLyn Simpson

So a very good friend of mine, CarolLyn, is an artist, and a good one at that. I have absolutely no idea why, but I felt the overwhelming urge to come out to her a year or so ago and so I told her all about who and what I am. She was going through a tough time in her life and I probably couldn't have picked a worse or more selfish time in the world to put yet more on her plate, but I guess I just really wanted to be her friend as the real me. Does that make any sense? 
I had very little doubt that she would be 100% fine with me and I was not at all disappointed. After all, artists don't tend to be narrow minded ya know? I've seriously admired her courage in life and would have to admit that I envy her in many ways. She has been doing a lot of work involving the space program lately, which I think is the coolest thing in the world. I've been a huge fan of the space program for as long as I can remember and would kill to play any part at all in it. I remember talking my mom into letting me go to school late when I was small, because I desperately wanted to watch one of the moon launches. In her personal life, Carolyn has also taken great strides as an artist and has had several exhibits of her work! How cool is that?! To top it all off, she is just an absolutely beautiful person. If I had a list of people I wish I could be just like, she would be pretty near the top I think. And now I notice that I am gushing again. . . 
I did that with her once, when I'd had enough of adulting and got trashed one night while traveling for work. I probably spent an hour chatting with her on Facebook and telling her how awesome she was that night, and then got to feel like a complete ass the next morning when I realized that I had almost certainly made a fool out of myself. Important note to self - copious amounts of alcohol and Facebook should never be mixed.
Anyway, she recently was part of an artistic project where artists were given a color of the LGBT flag and a topic, and they were to combine the two. The artwork must be at least 80% of the required color and obviously have some connection to the topic that was given. The color and topic that she was given were pink and female/male sexuality and off to work she went! One of the things that really impressed me was just how much she cared about getting it right. Not just the nuts and bolts of the painting, but that she really wanted to make sure that it was appropriate and meaningful to the community. In other words, she really put her heart into it. Knowing how much she cared about it, and how much of herself she had put into it, I will not bullshit you - I teared up when she told me how she was dedicating it. Thank you Carolyn. Thank you on behalf of all of those like me, who live somewhat complicated lives that few are willing, let alone capable, of understanding. Thank you for caring. Thank you for your art. Most of all, thank you for your friendship.

I've hesitated to write about this for several reasons, the most significant being my daughters privacy I suppose, but she is very vocal about it herself and has assured me that she is fine with my writing about it.  Anyway, my 14 year old daughter has informed anyone that would care to listen that she is pan sexual, but as a general rule prefers girls. To say that my feelings about this are a bit conflicted would be a huge understatement. The first thought to cross my mind was "holy shit, you're only 14 and have never even kissed anyone, so how the hell would you know what you prefer yet?!"  Then I recall that I knew for absolute certain that I was different at only 5 or 6 years old, so maybe it's not so unreasonable to think that she has a clue at 14. Don't get me wrong, there was never a question about whether I'd support my daughter or not, but I would have to admit to a feeling of loss. From the moment I first held her in my arms, I've envisioned a life for her that involved first dates, a marriage, motherhood, and grandchildren for me to adore. Much of this now seems unlikely to ever take place and I do indeed feel some grief at the loss. Still, she is not responsible for the dreams that I had envisioned for her life. Having lived a somewhat unique and outside of the box life myself, I also do not envy her the complications that being different will bring to her life. Many times through the years I've wished like hell that I'd been normal, that I had either been fully male or fully female, without the confusion and complication of being so different that many people can't stand the very idea of who and what I am. I would have much preferred that my children not know such discomfort and complications in their lives.
By the time that she decided to tell my wife and I, she had long since already told all of her friends and school mates, so my advice that it might not be in her best interests to be too vocal about it while living in small town Texas were far too late. For better or worse, she is out and vocal about it. Out of sheer curiosity, I asked her the other day why she felt the need to throw caution to the wind and be so quick to let people know about her sexuality. She gave a small pause to consider the question before answering.
"I don't want to invest time and effort into getting to know someone just to have them back away after they find out."  Hmm, fairly logical there I suppose.
Not that I can take credit for who she is, but I am terribly proud of her for her self-confidence and her willingness to be herself regardless of what others might think. She has always done her own thing and never been one to follow the crowd. 

Do you remember being 14 at all? I have some memories of it, but of course they are getting a bit vague. I do recall that it was about this time when I really started to notice the opposite sex, and I don't mean that in a sexual way, but more of a longing for someone to love. It was around then that I might look at someone and daydream about walking with them, holding hands, staring into beautiful eyes, and just existing with someone else that just might adore me back. That was hard enough when considering someone of the opposite gender as society expects, but now imagine having those same wants and dreams, but preferring someone of your own gender, thus making it infinitely more difficult to find someone. In the year or so since my daughter shared this with me, she has hinted at some of her thoughts on this with me; how it is hard to know someone that she cares about in that way, but be unsure how or if she should approach them.
On the upside, while I can't do much about the complications this will bring to her life, she knows for absolute certain that she has love and support at home. While I already miss the grandchildren that it looks like you're not gonna give me, I got your back critter!

Of course all of this has me thinking a good deal about my own life style and the cost of it. The other night I had to get up at 2:30 AM to get ready for a flight, and so I went to bed quite early. When I told my wife good night, she was kind of short and terse with her reply. We've been married for thirty years now, so I know the signs. After all, I'm slow, but I aint that slow.
"Are you angry at me about something?" I asked her.
"Yeah, a little." She replied without looking up from her computer.
"What did I do?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Umm, we haven't hardly seen each other for days - what could I possibly have done to piss you off?" I asked her.
"I think you can probably guess," was the answer I received.
So, my best guess is that she was angry because after she had been gone for the weekend and we hadn't seen each other, instead of spending time with her, I was getting ready to take a trip as Kim. Getting clothes and makeup together, going to bed early because I'd have to get up early to get ready, etc. Of course I'm probably wrong and missing something obvious - I'm good at that. 
Right or wrong, this has had me thinking this week, and I'm wondering why the hell I bother to do this? Years ago, I felt wonderful spending time in the world as Kim. I felt real, I felt right, I felt at peace, and yes, I even felt beautiful. Truth be told though, I haven't felt that sense of fulfillment in years. These days I feel almost entirely like an ugly old man desperately trying not to be perceived as such. As I’ve aged, I’ve gone from passing and being accepted as a woman probably 75% of the time, to being pegged as male the vast majority of the time. In addition to my own dissatisfaction with my appearance, I’m almost constantly a nervous wreck. Scared when I leave the house that my neighbors may just happen to walk out the door at 5AM as I am loading my suitcase into the truck, and then I’ll have to have “the talk” with them and then deal with my wife who would no doubt be angry and hurt at such a thing. Scared when I have to use the bathroom, because these days I put my physical and professional life at risk any time that I enter a bathroom. Scared that my wife may eventually just say “Piss on it, I’ve had it with you” and our family will crash and burn.
I am not ready to fall upon my own sword or anything, but it definitely depresses the hell out of me. I'm not looking for sympathy here, and would really prefer not to get a bunch of comments trying to bolster my confidence, I'm just continuing my long standing tradition of being honest and blunt about my life and feelings here on the blog. The point is, I cause my wife hurt and anger and I'm pretty much unhappy and miserable most of the time myself anyway, so why do I bother to still do it?
I don't know.
I don't understand it myself.
I can't bear not being me, but I can't bear being me either.
It's the proverbial unstoppable force meeting an immovable object with all of us caught right in the middle. Shit. . .

This week I headed for the Philadelphia area to help a customer that has been unable to use her spectrometer for about two weeks. I'd been trying to help her solve her problem by phone and email while I was home with the pneumonia, but ultimately had to throw in the towel and prepare to go fix it myself. Others at my company had reached the conclusion that it was a very complicated and expensive component at fault, while I insisted that I didn't think so. Since I had failed to prove my case remotely, I kind of had to go along with their recommendations though and so had to wait for the replacement part to be purchased, built, and setup for me.  So, the customer was down and out for two weeks waiting for a part that the factory told her she needed, and that I had argued was probably not the faulty component - needless to say there was some anxiety going into this.

I had to laugh as a young couple got onto the airport shuttle bus behind me carrying two huge suite cases; one bright blue and one bright green.
"I'll bet y'all have no trouble what so ever spotting your suitcases!" I laughed. We ended up chatting the whole way to the airport. I told them of the time when I was traveling on a bad weather day and had arrived at the Austin airport several hours late to find easily a thousand bags from delayed travelers piled up on the baggage claim floor. Staring at that huge number of bags and trying to pick mine out of the mess, I had sworn then and there to never buy a black or dark blue suitcase again.
The shuttle bus at the other end of the trip was a bit more awkward. Here I am with a 50 pound suitcase, a 50 pound tool box, and a thirty pound backpack, trying to heft it all in and out the rental car shuttle bus. To make it a little harder, the bus driver refused to open the middle doors, and only opened the one up front by the driver, so I had to not only get these bags in through a crowd of people, but had to hook them around the corner. Being the graceful person that I am *cough* I ended up rolling my suitcase right into this poor woman's toes. She was most understanding about it though, and assured me that no harm was done, but I still felt about six inches tall. Having started my day at 2:30AM and still getting over the pneumonia, I was worn out when I arrived and pretty much got dinner, showered, and went straight to bed.

The next morning I felt almost human, but suffered from a major case of the nerves. A large customer of ours, I'd already failed to identify the source of this customers problem by phone, and I'd already argued with experts at my factory over what was wrong with it. More or less, they weren't seeing any infrared and our experts were insisting that it was the IR detector itself. I argued that it looked like the detector was fine, but there was just no IR to be detected. There was just a bit or pressure here if you know what I mean. When I examined their instrument, I couldn't help literally laughing out loud, much to the non-amusement of my customer. Over the phone, they had insisted that they had never touched a special set of mirrors used to align the IR, but someone had fibbed. Not only had they touched them, but someone had completely removed them and they were now entirely missing! The best analogy of this whole mess that I can think of works with cars:
Customer says engine won't run.
Factory says engine needs to be replaced.
I insist I think engine is fine, but it sounds like a carburetor problem.
I ask customer "Did y'all adjust the carburetor?" and I'm assured that no one would dream of touching it.
I arrive to find that the carburetor is completely missing.

So, an hour later they finally find the missing adjustment mirrors, and a mere three hours after I arrived I've got the thing aligned, tested, and done. All of that anxiety over something so silly. 

I'd told Sophie and Linda that I was gonna be near them, but didn't expect to have any free time, and yet here it was 11 AM and I'm done for the day. Time to give them a call to see if they are up for getting together after all! The three of us met at the King of Prussia mall, which Sophie, the font of all trivial knowledge, assures me is now the largest mall in the world. We started at Macy's, and then made our way to DSW, and then on to Nordstrom Rack. At DSW (a shoe store) I walked past a woman who was trying on two colors of the same sandals - one foot white, the other blue. Without thinking, I spoke up as I walked by her.
"Yes, they're cute on you!" I said with a grin. She quickly looked up with an expression that implied she was relieved to get an honest appraisal.
"Yeah, but which color?"
"Definitely the blue one!"
"Yay! That's two votes for blue then!" She said with a laugh. 
In all three locations I found only two things that I really liked - two skirts at Nordstrom's Rack. The catch is that they were well out of my budget, so cute or not, they stayed right where they were. Ultimately I laughed and told Sophie and Linda that we could leave any time that they were ready because I clearly didn't make enough money to be shopping there, and so off we went for an early dinner.
Linda Lewis, Myself, and Sophie in the King of Prussia Mall

My flight home left at the miserable hour of 6AM. It doesn't sound so bad until you put it all together. The hotel was an hour from the airport and you have to get there two hours early. Do that math and that means my happy ass was up at 2:30 AM again and leaving for the airport at 3. I could have got flights that left at a more reasonable hour, but it would have almost tripled the cost. The flight leaving at 6 was $300, and the flight leaving at 8 was $800.  I'm ok with spending a little of my company's money for a reasonable schedule, but that significant a cost difference would be a hard sell to the boss.
So there I am, a tired old man pumping gas into a rental car at a small deserted convenience store in Philly at about 3:30 AM, when up drives this beautiful woman with long braided hair down to her bottom. Gotta be honest, even as an old soldier, I wasn't entirely comfortable in this location at this time of day, and I couldn't help wondering how she must feel. If I was nervous, I couldn't help wondering what it would be like to be her; a small and attractive woman pumping gas in a relatively dark station at such an awful time in the morning. Funny thing is, she didn't seem half as nervous as I felt. Maybe I'm just a coward that over thinks things. . .

Next week it's off to Denver!