Saturday, March 3, 2018

Did you try turning it on?




So the day got off to a bit of a rough start. Normally I am up and at it at about 3AM to catch flights, but today's flight didn't leave until almost noon.  As the flight left so late in the morning, I figured I'd wait until after the wife had gone to work and the kids were gone to school to get ready. I told my daughter the night before that I was gonna let her walk to school in the morning as I wouldn't have time to take her and get ready, and she assured me that she was fine with that. That was the plan anyway, but it didn’t work out that way.

The following morning, it turned out that my wife was not feeling well and so she decided to stay home and take a sick day. The catch is that at some point, she told my daughter that she would take her to school, but the more that I thought on it, the more I figured that I was being an asshole if I let my sick wife drive my daughter to school instead of doing it myself. So, on this rare occasion, I stepped up and did the right thing instead of the selfish thing, and I took the critter to school.  My daughter has taken to drinking coffee lately, and when she got into the truck, she more or less balanced her coffee mug on the dash and I failed to notice it.  About thirty seconds later, as I made the first turn, her coffee mug fell over and landed on the floorboard at my feet, soaking the carpet, and splashing coffee up on all of us.  Sigh. . .
Since I was still wearing sweats and would be changing anyway after I dropped her off, that was no big deal for me, but her skirt had several prominent coffee spots on it, and so I offered to take her back home so that she could change.  The thing is, she knew about my plans to fly pretty today, knew I wouldn't have the time to get ready if I had to wait for her to change before taking her to school, and so she flat out refused.
"Nope, I'll be fine.  Besides, my tunic covers most of it, see?" She said while tugging her top down over her skirt to prove that it would be covering the worst of it. 
"Are you sure?" I asked her. "I don't mind taking you home to change sweetheart."
“No. You don’t have the time to take me home and get ready!”
“Yeah, but maybe I should take mom being sick and all of this as a hint from the universe to not do it this trip.” I told her with a grin.
"Nope, not a problem.  You don’t get the chance to fly pretty much these days so you go and have a good trip!" She insisted.
I'm thinking that both her and my wife are better people than I am. They both tend to put other people first when I am pretty sure that I would have been selfish and insisted on going home to change. Anyway, I got her off to school and then did indeed have plenty of time to get myself ready. It was a wee bit awkward as neither my wife nor I are terribly comfortable with her seeing Kim these days, but it is what it is.

As much as I thought it wasn’t possible, the problem with the huge bumps on my legs has actually gotten worse. It has often hurt so bad, and with such a sudden and stabbing pain, that I often find myself reflexively looking down and expecting to see some sort of open wound or a knife sticking out of my leg. Well, for the first time in all of these years, I wasn’t totally disappointed when I pulled up my pant leg, because I found a large wet spot on my sock over one of the bumps where nasty stuff actually was leaking out of the nodule. Needless to say, there was not going to be bare legs in my future for a while, not even with tights, and so I broke out a pair of boots that I had bought over a decade ago but only worn once. I bought them for those occasions when I was traveling to very cold places, but I found them to be quite a bit less comfortable than your average heels, and so never really wore them. It’s not that they pinch or don’t fit well, its just that they kind of force your calve and foot to stay at an angle that doesn’t feel as natural as your typical heels. Say, did you know that the interior of boots tend to degrade and shed material with age if you don’t wear them for years? Yeah, when I took them off to go through airport security, my calves and feet were mostly black and covered with little flecks of fabric. This, in concert with the large red nodules all over my legs, definitely didn’t make for the most attractive legs that you have ever seen. The mornings mishaps, the discomfort in my legs, and the fact that I was going to train a customer on a machine that I haven’t seen in a decade, all combined to make me a jittery and nervous wreck. I honestly wasn’t that surprised when my IPAD slipped out of my hands, fell to the floor, and went skating down the aisle of the plane while I was trying to put my bags into the overhead bin. I looked at it in disgust and seriously considered leaving the damned thing there for its impudence, but it cost me too much to leave it there regardless of how irritated I was with it.

Once I arrived in Omaha, I had to stand in a short line of people that were waiting for the shuttle bus to the rental car lot. There were two men standing behind me and talking to each other, and one of them decided to strike up a short conversation with me.
“So that’s tools I assume?” he asked me, pointing with his chin at my toolbox.
“Sure! That’s how I earn my paycheck!” I told him with a smile.
“Yeah?” he asked, clearly not at all amused with me or my smile. “What do you do?”
“I’m a field service engineer.” I replied to him.
“No kidding.” He responded with the driest, most sarcastic tone of voice I’ve ever heard, and then he immediately turned back to his friend, quite obviously dismissing me. Mind you, I am an expert at sarcasm and at being an asshole, but I was seriously impressed with the sheer contempt that this man managed to convey with so few words. I think I’d have to give him at least a 9 and perhaps even a 10 as a score.

At one time I was extremely comfortable with the system that I was here to provide training on, I’d even written the software that once automated an optional version of it. The thing is, I hadn’t laid hands on one of these in a decade or more, and so was way out of practice. Imagine my anxiety when I turned on the main breaker on the rear of the instrument but only half of the systems powered up. Not only was my customer standing there watching me trying to figure out where the problem was, but our regional sales manager was also there from Colorado to try and learn a bit about the system. The customer had offered to take us on a tour of their factory, and so I encouraged them all to go on about their tour while I grabbed a volt meter and tried to track down the source of the lack of power. They had been gone for about 5 minutes when I realized what I had done wrong, and I pretty much had to talk myself out of pounding my head against the wall in frustration at my own stupidity.
“Well, I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news!” I told them all when they returned a few minutes later.
“Yeah?!” the customer asked me with a serious look of concern in his eyes.
“Welp, the good news is that there is absolutely nothing wrong with your system.” I said, pausing for the dramatic effect.
“And the bad news?” asked our regional sales manager.
“They sent a complete idiot to train you.” I replied, hanging my head in shame as I reached out and pressed the bright green indicator/switch that was clearly marked “Power On” on the front of the instrument. I’d noticed it when I was setting everything up, but I’d forgotten that it was an indicator and a switch, and so I’d failed to press it. So here I was to train a customer, in front of our regional sales manager, and I’d forgotten how to turn the darn thing on. Sigh . . .

Monday, November 27, 2017

Obsession . . .






So if you are connected to me on Facebook, you probably know by now that my most recent hobby is collecting records. My current obsession is Vikki Carr, who I am listening to at high volume as I type this. For those of you who are too young to have heard of her, she was super popular in the 60's and 70's. She is one of very few people that I'd be willing to compare to Barbra Streisand - yeah, she's that good.  
(If you don't know who Barbra Streisand is, then you need to get the hell off of my blog, because we don't have anything to talk about.)
Anyway, I've found quite a few of her records in the last six months or so and I am in complete awe of her incredible and confident voice. I wonder what it would feel like to know for absolute certain that when you open your mouth to sing and express your feelings, that something awesome is going to come out of it?
Obviously I travel a lot, and it's a real bear trying to carry a phonograph, records, and amplifier with me, so I've been trying to make digital recordings of some of the music that I really love and want to enjoy while I'm traveling. It really is a major pain in the ass to digitize these things though, so I went looking to see if I could download these albums from ITunes instead of spending hours cleaning records, recording them, then cleaning up the digital recording to remove some of the clicks and pops, etc, etc. Anyway, two things kind of surprised me as I was searching Itunes for Vikki Carr music:
1 - While they do have some of her more popular songs, none of the records that I have are available on ITunes. Considering the obscure and odd stuff that you can find there, this sort of surprises me.  
2 - She had a lot of Spanish albums. I’m not sure why this surprised me, but it did. Just for shits and giggles, I googled her and came across her real name, which sort of explains the Spanish music: Florencia Bisenta de Casillas-Martinez Cardona. Sort of rolls right off the tongue, don’t it?

One of the cool things that records had going for them, is that they often printed stuff about the artist or the music on the album covers to let you kind of get to know something about them. I had to giggle as I was reading the cover of one of her albums. Here is this prim and proper lady, apparently the very definition of class and sophistication, and yet one of the acknowledgements she makes is to thank Cheech of Cheech and Chong for allowing her the use of his home. I'm still trying to imagine Vikki Carr hanging out and getting stoned with Cheech and Chong but it just doesn't compute for me.

If you really enjoy powerful vocals, you should consider checking these Vikki Carr songs out:
It's not terribly impressive vocally, but "Make it Rain" is a fun song too. If you have ever dated an asshole, that song will make you smile. 


I've too many years working as a metrologist, where being fussy and particular are considered vital assets, and so it really annoys the snot outta me when some of these beautiful recordings had distinct distortion every time the music gets loud and powerful. I spent the better part of an entire day and a half tearing my stereo apart, cleaning contacts and connectors, adjusting my stylus angle and weight, and swapping wires and components trying to find the source of the distortion but all to no avail. Over three decades of experience at trouble shooting all seemed to indicate that the distortion was coming from the records themselves, but I couldn't believe that so many records would all have the same flaw. Ultimately I asked one of my friends on Facebook who has a HUGE record collection for his advice. I'm pretty sure I could hear him laughing all of the way from Ohio as he confirmed that it was entirely likely that the records themselves were at fault. Decades of being played on old systems with worn out needles apparently damages the recording and is a common problem. 
Live and learn. . . 

So the other weekend I loaded my entire family up into the truck, along with my floor buffer, and we headed out to help my sister in law strip, clean, stain, and seal the concrete floor of the home they are building. We were almost all of the way there when we passed a Goodwill thrift store. 
"What do you think - do you think they would have any records?" I asked my wife. 
"It doesn't matter because we don't have the time to stop," was her reply.
"You know, that's what I thought you were gonna say!" I told her with a grin and then pulled into the parking lot anyway. She just rolled her eyes.
"We will wait here." She said with an exasperated sigh, because let's face it, there was no point to her arguing with me about it. We both knew damned good and well that I wasn't going anywhere until I looked to see if they had any musical treasures hidden away in there.  

Happy happy joy joy, because not only did they have records, but they had good records! I got a few movie soundtracks to include "My Fair Lady", about 10 Barbra Striesand's, a Spanish Ray Conniff, and about two dozen other records. Sixty dollars later and I got to watch my wife break out laughing as I approached the truck with a heavy load of records in my arms. My decision to stop despite her misgivings was entirely vindicated when I repeatedly heard her ooh and awe over the records as she went through them while I drove. Normally I pick them out and then examine them for damage before buying, but I didn't have the time to inspect them as my sister in law was waiting on us, so I hope like hell that they are in good condition. I won't know until I get home from this service call though. Keep your fingers crossed for me. 

Speaking of this service call, I'm on the way to Philly way too damned early for a Sunday morning. I rarely fly on weekends but this is a huge customer of ours and she all but begged me to please be there on Monday as they desperately need their FTIR up and running ASAP. So yeah, I'm on a plane. On Sunday. Again. 

I've really got to get my mental shit together because I'm not gonna last much longer at this rate if I don't. I feel absolutely exhausted and really didn't want to get on a plane, and really didn't want to leave my family. When I apply my logic, I know that I need to stop my internal whining and bitching because I've got it good and I know I've got it good. There are people that would kill to have my job, and God knows it beats the hell out of physically busting my ass off out in the weather like just about everyone else in my extended family. I just feel mentally worn out I guess, like I could just sit down and never get up.  So yeah, I need to get my mental act together. . . 

There's a guy sitting in the row ahead of me wearing a veterans hat, and I made the mistake of striking up a conversation with him. I say it was a mistake because I decided pretty quickly that he is full of shit and probably never served, and if he did, he probably didn't last long. If you are a veteran, you have probably come across someone like this at one point or another, who tells you his grand stories of the things that he has done and of telling off superior officers who were so deeply impressed by his super manliness and competency that they allowed him to get away with his disrespect. Once I struck up the conversation, the guy is so desperate to share his bullshit that I couldn't get him to shut the hell up. Finally I played the headphone card by pulling out my iPad and earphones and turning Vikki Carr's "One Hell of a Woman" up nice and loud. Good song by the way, did I mention that you should listen to it?


That evening I met Sophie and Linda for dinner at the King of Prussia mall. We started off with our traditional shot of Whiskey. Perhaps not the most lady-like of traditions, but it’s ours none the less. I don’t remember how the tradition started, but I’m pretty sure it’s Sophie’s fault. As I always do when hanging out with these two, we shared a laugh or two before I cried exhaustion and bailed out on them. I’m glad I did call it a night early as the repair the next day turned into a nightmare that ended up forcing me to stay an extra day waiting for unanticipated parts to arrive.







On the way back to the hotel from my customer that night, I drove by a large thrift store and followed my standard procedure of raiding it for records. Much to my delight, they had a large collection of them and so I hunkered down and started going through them. I got through about 75% of them when this guy walks up and starts going through them as well, and we struck up a conversation as we looked for treasures. He was looking for money makers – records that he can buy cheap and then turn around and sell, and he was telling me all of the things that you should look for to help determine if they are worth anything or not. His advice went straight in one ear and out the other though, because I have no interest in collecting records for money. My only interest is in the joy of the music. I don’t care if it’s a first printing or the last, as long as it’s in good shape and I can enjoy the music. He pretty much just encouraged me to work my way through the pile just a tad faster to be sure that he didn’t grab anything I might have loved. As it turned out, I was a little too successful in my record hunting because I ended up with 35 of them – far too much to carry in my suitcase! Realizing this, I bought a cheap bag right there in the thrift store to carry the records in, but I blew it and got one that wasn’t up to the task. As I was putting the bag full of records into the trunk of my rental car before heading to the airport, the bag slipped, and the handle tore loose when I grabbed for it. That necessitated a stop at Target, where I had to spend more on a backpack to carry the records, than I spent on the records themselves. Oh well . . .

On the flight home, I was intrigued to note that the young teenage lady sitting across from me was almost certainly transgender. I’m not positive, and I wasn’t about to ask, but I’m pretty sure. She was sitting next to what I assume were her older brother and father, and I couldn’t help notice that she was carefully watching me as I was going through all of the records that I had collected and reading their covers and inserts. About the tenth time I saw her staring with great interest at a record in my hand, I decided to speak to her.


“Have you ever seen a record before?” I asked her with a smile. She didn’t say anything, just shook her head “no”, and so I handed her the one that I’d been looking at. It was a Doris Day album that despite being well over 50 years old looked like brand new. She took it a bit hesitantly and then inspected it with curiosity.
“Yeah, that’s from a bit before your time huh?” I asked with a giggle.
“So, this is from the 60’s then?” she asked, at last actually saying something.
“Actually I am pretty sure that one is from the 50’s!” I replied with a laugh as I accepted the record back from her. For the record (pun again intended) she was technically correct as it came from 1960. The first record she has ever held and the little shit already knows more about them than I do . . .
 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

One foot in front of the other

As always, three AM came much sooner than I might have hoped when I had laid my head down on my pillow the night before. It seemed like I had just fallen asleep when the damned alarm went off.  I briefly considered throwing my phone (which I use as my alarm clock) but figured that in the end it would have just made my life that much harder to make the trip without a working phone. I had just returned from a trip to Knoxville that night, and so it is starting to feel like my whole life revolves around getting on a airplane, working, getting on an airplane home, do laundry, wash, rinse and repeat cycle over and over and over and over . . .

I had hoped to wear a new top that I had bought a few weeks ago when my daughter and I were shopping for a blouse for her school band uniform. It was a pretty black thing, with open shoulders and long sheer sleeves, but despite being a "large", it was far too small for me. It wasn’t even a close thing; that puppy just barely went on and was snug in all of the wrong places.  My loss was my 14 year old daughters gain though as it fit that skinny little shit perfectly and she was all smiles as she packed it off to her closet.
“Sorry it didn’t fit you!” she lied as she took the hanger from me.

Women's sizes are so damned inconsistent. You take a gamble every single time that you buy something without trying it on first. As an example, I've bought two pair of flat shoes in the last two weeks, both claiming to be size 10, but one pair was so small that I could hardly get my feet into it, and the other pair was so large that they wouldn't stay on my feet.  My education and training from the Army is in electronics and metrology. No, I didn't misspell "meteorology", I meant "metrology” – the science of weights and measurements. For those of you who are not in the loop, somewhere in the United States right now, people are maintaining standards for almost anything that you measure: Inches, seconds, volts, current, frequency, etc. While they may have gone to something fancier like the wavelength of the suns farts since I went to school, there used to be a metal block that was the formal inch for America. It was made out of highly stable material, maintained in a controlled environment where it can't oxidize, and it is never touched by human hands for fear of skin oils degrading, contaminating, or altering it. Any device in the United States that claimed to measure inches had to prove that it was in some way, shape, or form traceable back to that little block. In this way, we can all be reasonably confident that an inch would actually be an inch, no matter who made it or measured it.  Yeah, well clearly the women's fashion industry has never, ever heard of the concepts of standardization or traceability, or else they threw that shit out the window a long time ago. 
"Screw it, today this is a size 10!" Said the little shoe elf, throwing his latest work into the closest bin to his bench. Would it be too much to ask for a little consistency in sizing?!




Fat old bat

As I've hinted at a lot these days, I've been kind of losing my shit lately, and I'm hoping that most of it is being caused by the steroids that I've had to take off and on for the better part of a year and a half now. This became evident once I was ready and had my backpack and luggage together to head for the airport, because I just stood in the living room with my legs shaking so badly that I was afraid the sound of my heel tapping on the floor would wake someone up. I really don't know if it's the stress of multiple unexpected deaths in so short a period, the anxiety of knowing what an emotional mess I'm headed to in California today, anxiety about traveling to my childhood home, or the results of a shit load of steroids for an extended period, but I am clearly a nervous fricking wreck.  It's funny how often military training comes in handy in ways that you would never really expect. In the army they taught you that it didn't matter how large, hard, or frightening the task ahead of you was, you waded in, put one foot in front of the other, and you damn well keep going until it gets done. With that thought in my mind, I headed for the front door, shaky legs and all. . . 

Today I'm traveling on American Airlines in first class using tickets that I bought with my airline miles. When I approached the counter, a bright and bubbly young lady waved me forward with a big smile on her face. We both recognized each other because I had flown American Airlines preferentially for a couple of years until I got fed up with their always being late, and so went back to Delta.
"Hey! We haven't seen you in a while. Where have ya been?" She asked me.
"To tell the truth, I’ve been flying Delta." I replied, ducking my head and hiding my eyes behind my hand feigning shame. 
"No?! Why haven’t you been flying with us? Don't tell me that we haven't been treating you right?!" She asked softly, clearly genuinely concerned. 
"No no, it's nothing like that!" I assured her. "Delta just seems to go most of the places that I travel to." 
There was a little bit of a white lie there, as I do just kind of prefer Delta to be honest. Her friendly and outgoing attitude, combined with her genuine concern that her airline might not have treated me well did manage to make me feel just a tad guilty for abandoning them though. The joke is probably gonna be on me soon though as my company is going to a new travel agency in an attempt to save more money, and I suspect that they are going to farm me out to whatever airline offers the very cheapest tickets to that weeks destination. This will make it impossible to gain "status" with any airline. I’m just one flight short of platinum with Delta, and now it's probably not gonna do me any good.  Damn it.

I had a good giggle while sitting in the gate area of the Austin airport. I was sitting under one of the televisions when the story came on about Danica Roem - the first openly transgender person to be elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. I couldn't help noticing several sets of eyes dropping from the TV above my head to glance at me during the story. None of them were hostile looks, don’t get me wrong, they were more of a "Huh, what do ya know!" kind of look from most I think. 


Gate Area in Phoenix
Unlike the quiet and sedate gate area in Austin, the gate area in the Phoenix airport was absolutely insane. They had about 8 gates all located at the end of the terminal and so it was a huge crowd of people all packed into a very small area. I stood there for quite a while until someone vacated a seat which I quickly helped myself to, but my luck wasn't to last.  While sitting there going through my things, I realized that I had somehow managed to lose my ticket somewhere. I don't think that I got more than two steps toward the counter to get a replacement before someone had swiped my seat.  After I obtained my replacement ticket, the only area I could find with enough room to even stand was right next to the trash cans, so I made myself comfortable there and rested my backpack on top of the trash can.  I quickly realized the flaw in my plan though when people kept saying "excuse me ma'am" and asking me to move so that they could use the trash can for its intended purpose. 


When boarding the plane, the male flight attendant went out of his way to tell me how nice I looked, so that was kind of nice I suppose. I was sitting there in my seat and wondering if it was obvious to him just how nervous I really was when a young man pointed at the seat next to me to indicate that the seat was his, and that he needed me to get up to let him in.  It's the little things you know, because it helped my nerves when he said "thank you dear!" to me.  There may well be assholes in the world, but not everyone is one of them.  Such a small act of kindness from him had such a big effect on my state of mind.

Another one of the wonderful side effects of all of the drugs that I take for my legs is that I have to visit the bathroom a lot more often than I care for. As I was exiting the bathroom on one of my multiple visits, the male flight attendant was showing the female flight attendant a photo from his phone of him wearing a nuns habit for Halloween. It didn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out what had prompted his desire to share that particular photo at that particular moment, but I couldn’t help grinning all the same as I saw it. I was SOOO gonna ask him if I should call him “Sister” or “Mother Superior” when it came time to exit the plane, but he was busy putting things away as I exited and so I’d have had to go well out of my way to get his attention. I decided that the laugh wasn’t worth it and just trudged my happy ass off of the plane along with the rest of the cattle.



Since I used my Holiday Inn points to rent the car for free, I wasn’t renting with my preferred vendor, but was using the one that the Holiday Inn offered – Dollar.  Hence, I found myself standing in line at the counter to fill out all of the typical paper work. I have no idea what the problem was, but the woman in front of me was taking what seemed like forever. The customer service rep looked up at me once or twice over about 10 minutes and assured me that she would be right with me, and I assured her that it was no problem. When I finally had my turn at the counter, she went out of her way to apologize that it had taken so long and I just laughed.
“It’s no problem; I’m just old and tired and look like I’m pissed off because I’ve been up traveling since 1 AM your time.”
“You look great for having been at it since 1 AM!” she told me with a grin.
“Thank you, but we both know that you just fibbed. I can guess just how bad I must look at this point.” I told her with a laugh. We continued to chat to fill the silence while she was printing out all of the paper work, and she asked about the small town in Texas that I live in. I told her that it was roughly about the size of Apple Valley, CA, where I had been born and raised. She then asked me what had brought me back to California on this trip and I explained that it was for my sister-in-laws funeral.
“I’m so sorry. Were you close?”
“No, not really. To be honest, I didn’t really care a whole lot for her but I love the hell outta my brother, so here I am.”
This drew a laugh from both her and from the woman standing next to her who had apparently been listening in. In short order, I had my little rental car and was headed up the mountains to the high desert and the general area where I had grown up.



The Green Tree Inn
As I was exiting the freeway in Victorville to make my way to my room at the Holiday Inn that I had also rented with my points, I found myself passing the Green Tree Inn. Yeah, I know that name isn’t going to mean a thing to any of you, but it was almost a mythical place for me. My grandmother had retired there after working as a waitress in the dining room and country club for more than 15 years. My mother had also worked there for a few years and so had my aunt. Hell, it seems like almost every woman in my family had worked there at one point or another I guess. As I’ve told y’all before, we grew up without a whole lot of money, and for many years my brother, my sister, and I lived with my grandmother in her mobile home. She would come home from work, worn out and tired, and sharing stories of her day at the “GREEN TREE”. Yeah, I capitalized that on purpose, because to a little child, this seemed like a far away and magical place. Of course all of these stories and memories are filtered through a small child’s perceptions, but she would tell us about the great people that she had taken care of, who laughed and had invited her to be a part of their evening, and yes, were generous with their tips. She would also tell us all about the awful people that she had taken care of, who despite their wealth and privilege, were rude slobs that made horrific messes and then tipped poorly. A decade of stories flitted in and out of my mind as I passed that sign, and I seriously considered trying to find the time to get a lunch or dinner there just to see what all of the fuss had been about. Ultimately though, I decided I’d better leave this childhood fantasy alone, as the reality of the place 40 years later was unlikely to be flattering to the magical place that I had created in my mind.
Even though it was relatively early in the California day (around 4PM), I was totally wiped out and so I begged off for the day when I spoke to my brother. There was no way in hell that I was up for a couple more hours of driving and all of the emotional turmoil that I knew was going to take place, so I promised to join him first thing in the morning as he had to take a friend down into the Ontario area for a doctor appointment. He thought that maybe I wouldn’t want to get up so early to go with him, but I laughed and told him that the same two hour time change that was kicking my ass that evening was going to work in my favor in the morning and that I’d be up and running long before he was. The friend that he was giving a ride to was quite the talker, which was both good and bad. One thing that we didn’t have to endure was any kind of awkward silences. She was being treated for breast cancer and had just had a mastectomy, so that sort of put my own little medical problems into perspective. Let’s see – bumpy painful legs as compared to missing breast and cancer still killing you. Yeah, I’m good – thanks.
We stopped for breakfast at Dennys after her doctor appointment, and I picked up the meal while my brother got the tip. I’ve gotta admit that I was kind of surprised when he put down a $20 tip on our $50 breakfast. Knowing that the tips that my grandmother had received had fed us as children, I’ve always tipped well, but I thought this was kind of excessive and told him so. Funny – he told me all of the same things that I’m telling you, and it all boiled down to our memories of my grandmother and how hard she had worked to provide for us. I’m guessing that my brother made that young waiters day, and I can think of worse things to do with $20. I spent the rest of the day hanging out with my brother, his grandchildren, and my sister.

You wouldn’t think it possible, but things actually managed to get worse the next morning. My hotel was about 30 minutes from my brothers home as he lives a bit out in the sticks. I decided to hopefully make a good impression with the house full of children that hardly remember me, and so I arrived from town bearing about five dozen donuts. We were in the process of giving all of the children a sugar high from donuts when my sister received a call from the sheriff in Prescott Az urgently asking if there was anyone in her home at the moment. It turns out that while we were eating donuts, my sisters place in Arizona was happily burning to the ground and the sheriff needed to be sure that there was no one inside of it.

Oh.
My.
God.

Her 35 year old daughter died two months ago.
She is in southern California for the funeral of my brothers wife, and is dealing with my heart broken brother.
Now her house has burned to the ground. I don’t even know where to start, or how to console her. We are all just absolutely shell shocked. Obviously there was nothing to be done for the house fire from so far away, and so my sister continued on through the day as planned while just randomly breaking down in tears at any given moment. She’s so lost. My brother is so lost. I’m lost with them, because I have absolutely no idea how I can help them from 1,500 miles away.


My Brother and his Wife
Later that afternoon a lot of my family got together at a restaurant called “BJ’s” before the funeral. Everyone there was extended family, but many of them are people that I had grown up with but haven’t seen in 30 years or more. As a result, more than once I had to admit “I’m so sorry, but I’m not sure who the hell you are.” Sometimes this earned me a laugh, and sometimes a hurt look, but again, it is what it is. Among this gathering were my cousin Sherry and her daughter Savannah.  Sherry had grown up so close to us for most of our lives that my siblings and I all consider her far more of a sister than as a cousin. At this point I get one more head trip to add to my ever growing list, because Savannah is also transgender. She, however, has been full time for most of her life, is young and beautiful, and has a wonderful advantage in life – a mother who understands and is supportive. I reached out to her a few years ago on Facebook, just wanting her to know that she wasn’t alone, and that I was both happy and proud of her, but I don’t think that I impressed her overly much. We never had the chance to speak alone this trip, but I did go out of my way to tell her again that I was happy for her and that I was proud of her. I probably just came off as some creepy old uncle, but hey, I tried. I actually did get a few minutes alone with her mother, and was incredibly torn. I wanted to tell her about myself, and express my respect and admiration for the way that she had dealt with her own daughter, but I ultimately decided that this would have been an incredibly selfish thing for me to do at this particular time. I think that I will talk to her soon, but doing it when everyone is gathering for a funeral and my sisters home has burnt to the ground is definitely not the right moment.



Sunday morning I made my way back down the mountain to the Ontario airport. I’m physically worn out, but even worse is the mental exhaustion, so I never even briefly considered flying as Kim. It therefore came as a bit of a surprise when the lady that checked my rental car in turned out to be the same lady that had given it to me, and she remembered me! I figure this is further evidence that my looks have plummeted downhill, because 10 years ago no one that knew me well as Matt would have ever recognized me as Kim, or the other way around, and yet this woman that deals with hundreds of people a day recognized and remembered me three days after having met me once. She asked about the funeral and expressed her hope that I’d managed to enjoy some part of my time here. You know what I thought was awesome? She obviously was well aware that I was TG and clearly didn’t care. She treated me at least as well as anyone else and just spoke to me like a human being. Damn it, I miss California sometimes.