Saturday, June 3, 2017

A lifetime in a thrift store



Well hell, I don’t really know what to write but it seems like I ought to say something . . .
Yeah, I’m still alive and kicking, and I am still traveling for work, though very little of it is done as female for an assortment of reasons.  You remember that problem I’ve had for years with big painful bumps on my legs? I went for two years without an outbreak and thought maybe I was done with it, but apparently my celebration was premature. Not only has it come back, but it is exponentially worse and more aggressive. This time it is also affecting some of my joints, and at one point it hurt so bad to walk that I honestly feared for my ability to continue working and bringing home the bacon. I’d given up on going to doctors for this, but being unable to walk sort of forced my hand, and so I found myself at a Rheumatologist in South Austin - over an hours drive from where I live. That started out on a hopeful note, with her assuring me that she would find the source of my problem, even though every other doctor I’d seen in 20 years had failed. So they took a shit load of blood and a deep tissue biopsy and ran about 30 labs on them. The biopsy indicated severe swelling – most helpful (NOT). Every one of the countless labs they ran on the blood came back normal and negative, just as they had for every other doctor that had tried the same tests in the last 20 years.  If it weren’t for the very obvious nodules all over my legs, I’ll bet that they would have referred me to a mental health professional by now, thinking that it was all in my head since every test says I’m fine. So, this doctor has joined all of the others in going from “We will figure it out” to “I don’t know, so let’s treat the symptoms” in a very short amount of time.  For the majority of the last three months, I’ve been taking relatively high doses of steroids to keep the swelling down, and to let me keep walking. Three times now I’ve completed the recommended courses of steroids, stopped taking them, and my problem has returned even more aggressive than it had been. Call the doc, get more steroids, the problem retreats again. Yeah, I took the last of the latest batch of steroids three days ago and now I am waiting, scared to death at how bad it is going to be shortly. Say, have you ever taken large doses of steroids for three months straight? It does bad things to you- jittery, sleep deprived, highly irritable, and my hands shake like an old alcoholic. So yeah, I’m not traveling “pretty” and I am definitely not in my happy place . . .

I’ve said a lot about it on Facebook, but I don’t think I’ve said much about it on my blog, but my wife and I have bought a vintage stereo, complete with a record player, and I’ve been obsessed with looking for records when I travel. Having a job that has me on the road a lot gives me the unique advantage of being able to raid thrift stores all across the country looking for these old treasures. I’ve hit every single Goodwill in the Austin area, and every one of them between Austin Texas and Baton Rouge Louisiana on interstate 10! Some of the stuff I’ve found is just “ehh” and some of it is awesome.  All of my life I’ve loved “elevator” music – orchestras and the like. When other kids were loving the hell out of “Kiss”, “Van Halen” and the like, I loved Montovani, Mitch Miller, Ray Conniff , and others like this, and now it has come to my advantage. The thrift stores are full of records that I love and adore, that others have looked at and passed over as uninteresting. I’ve got two “Les Paul and Mary Ford” records from the 1950’s that are crystal clear and absolutely gorgeous. I swear I’m not exaggerating – it sounds like they are in my living room playing just for me. Someone gave those records up, lots of other people passed over them sitting in the thrift stores, and along I come; absolutely shocked to find such wonderful things sitting there and waiting for me.
The other cool thing is listening to the records that I grew up with. I’ve found many records that I recall from my childhood – Ray Conniff, Boots Randolph, Herb Alpert, Dinah Shore, on and on.  I kid you not, the first time I placed the needle on a record and heard that hiss and pop, I had tears in my eyes. I’m not even sure why. When my big sister heard about my new obsession, she sent me a dozen records that she has been carrying around for 40 years. Now think about that for a second. She hasn’t had a record player in decades but she loved these records so much that she still kept them all these years, and she gave them to me. Now that is love!  My kids both looked at me like I was crazy when I put these records on and tried to explain that not only were these the songs that I grew up with, but these were in fact the very records that I had played them from. This was of course deeply emotional for me, but absolutely meaningless to my children.
There is also something profound about the records that I’ve found in these thrift stores. I’m not sure what the moral or the lesson here is, but it strikes me as profound. I’ve found some records that have labels on them like “LP 1,346” and “LP 3,522”. Some of these records are 50+ years old and in pristine condition. Think that through for a moment. Someone loved their record collection so much that they had  spent a great deal of time, effort, and expense in buying at least 3,522 records, labeling and cataloging them, and taking such good care of these relatively fragile records that 50 years later they still sound flawless. Where did their beloved collection of a lifetime end up? In the hands of family that might enjoy them in fond memory of the person who had loved them? No, they ended up in a dirty Goodwill full of used and worn out items that meant nothing to anyone.  If you think about that long enough, it will bring tears to your eyes. . .
I’m gonna tell my kids that I’m hiding a thousand dollars in the sleeves of my records. I may or may not hide money there, but by God when I die, they’ll have to look through each and every one of those damned things before they throw them away . . .

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Blah blah blah



 I headed to Dearborn Michigan this week and talk about a shock to the system! When I left Austin, it was 75 degrees. When I landed in Detroit, it was 19. That suuuuucccckkkksss  .. .

Usually I get the early morning flights, but I found a direct flight from Austin to Detroit leaving at about 1 PM and not only was it a direct flight, but it was also the least expensive flight available. It was kind of weird to not be getting up at 3 AM to get ready and out of the house before the children awoke for school, but I managed to adapt.  There was plenty of time to get the children ready and out the door, drink some coffee, fart around, and then get ready myself. I almost got a bit too complacent though, and in the end found myself running a bit late.

As the driver of the shuttle bus from the parking area to the Airport came up to my truck to help take my bags, he noticed the “My son is in the Navy” sticker on the back window and struck up a conversation with me.
“My son is in the Navy too!” he said, clearly beaming with a father’s pride. “Where is your son stationed?” he asked. Well, as it turns out, both of our sons are stationed in Virginia. No, I didn’t tell him my sons name as I figure he has enough shit to deal with without the possibility of someone giving him shit over what I am.

I received my first upgrade to First Class in quite some time and I don’t mind saying that it felt good to be in a comfortable seat with a bit more room! The man next to me kept looking at me and grinning, but I didn’t let it get to me. He has his life, and I have mine. One of the flight attendants went out of her way to tell me that she thought my shoes were cute, so there’s that I guess.

When it came time to board the Avis shuttle bus from the airport, I was surprised and grateful when the driver came back and started helping people, including me, to load their bags. The Avis drivers rarely do this these days. Not sure if it is an insurance thing, or a “driver don’t want to do the heavy lifting thing”, but since I was feeling old and tired, I was most grateful for the help.
As I said earlier, it was in the 70’s when I left Austin, so I was a little less than delighted to find it cold as hell, and snowing heavily as the driver dropped us off at the lot. I made my way to my car, made my typical walk around to be sure they weren’t giving me a car with damage that they were later going to try and pin on me, and then started to lift my bags into the hatchback.
“Hold on ma’am!” I heard a man say from behind me. I turned to see a young man in an Avis uniform, with a well-trimmed beard and no mustache, getting out of a car that he was parking behind me.
“Why don’t you go ahead and get in the car and out of the snow and I’ll put these in for you?” He asked politely. Honestly, I was exhausted and my leg was killing me (a bit more on that later) and so I was intensely grateful to him and told him as much.

Things went a little less smoothly at the Holiday Inn Express when I checked in. The clerk greeted me with kind words.
“Welcome to the Holiday Inn Express, and may I say that I like your dress?!” he said with a smile. Well, I wasn’t wearing a dress, but I figured that wasn’t really the point, so I thanked him with a smile. Once he had me all checked in, I made my way up to my room just to discover that neither key he had given me worked. Not much to be done about it, so I headed back down to the first floor, had him program the keys again, and then dragged my suitcase back to the room.

This time the key worked.  The heater however, didn’t  . . .

I tried the thermostat, noted that it was set to 75 but the room was at 60. Next I checked the wall unit and made sure it wasn’t meant to be operated from its own control panel, and then I made sure that it was plugged in. After all, I troubleshoot equipment for a living, and so I can work my own way through the basics. Having determined that it was nothing simple that I could address myself, I called the front desk.
“Guest services – how can I help you?” asked a cheerful voice.
“Yeah, my heater is dead and it’s just a bit too cold.” I replied. I began to tell him all of the things that I had checked but he interrupted me.
“Did you try to adjust it from the thermostat?” he asked in a somewhat condescending tone.
‘Well,’ I thought but didn’t say, ‘if you would have shut up long enough, I would have told you that!’
“Yes,” I told him. “I also . . .” Once again, he interrupted me.
“Did you see if you could operate it from the unit itself?” He asked.
“Yes, I tried both, the thermostat and the unit itself. The thermostat is set to 75 but . . .” I was going to say that the room was only at 60, thus proving the damned thing wasn’t working, but he interrupted me again.
“Ok, no problem. We will be glad to send someone up to look at it sir.” He said, still with that artificially cheerful tone in his voice.
“I’m not sure that there is any point to sending someone to look at it, as it is clearly dead.” I told him, and was about to ask him to simply give me another room when he interrupted me yet again!
“I understand. Hold on and we will have someone right up to look at it sir.”
Now I don’t typically get all wound around the axle about the “sir” thing. I know I don’t pass perfectly, so there is little point to getting upset about it. Given that he was talking to me on the phone and only had my voice to go on, I really couldn’t blame him. Still, I’d have to admit that it tweaked me just a bit, so there I sat fuming while I waited for someone to come do everything that I had already done.
 About five minutes later, I open the door after hearing a polite knock, and I allowed the young man to enter my room.
“The guy on the phone thinks I’m an idiot, doesn’t he?” I asked him with a laugh as he was looking at the thermostat.
“No, not at all!” he replied with the only answer he could have possibly given.  I then grinned as I watched him do everything that I had already done, and ultimately admit defeat.
“Yup, it’s lost its programming!” he told me. “I’m afraid that all we can do is move you to another room.”
“That’s pretty much what I thought myself.” I told him with a tired voice.
“I’ll tell you what. Why don’t you just wait here and I’ll go down and get you another room and bring you the keys?”
“That would be awesome – thank you!”
So the new keys AND the heater worked for the new room.

As is my usual habit, I opened my suitcase and made sure that I had a complete male outfit for work the following day. If I forget something important like, oh, say pants or shoes that are not high heels, I kind of want to know that before I wash all of my makeup off. I found that I hadn’t forgotten anything, and started to take my shoes off, just to discover that I couldn’t get my left shoe off. I pulled up my pant leg and realized that my left ankle was seriously swollen.  I’ve mentioned that I have Erythema Nodosum several times before, but this is by far the worst outbreak that I have ever had, and it has been going on for about a year now.  I wore pants specifically to hide the huge and ugly bumps on my legs, but the swelling of the ankle, far below the bumps, was a bit of a surprise! Sigh .  .


So the next day I completed my job pretty early in the afternoon and headed to the mall in boy mode to see a movie or two. I saw “Hidden Figures” and in my opinion, it was a great movie and I highly recommend it, especially if you have any geek or nerd in you. Any movie that can make you laugh AND make your eyes water a few times has got to be pretty well done.
I also watched the new “Resident Evil” movie. Honestly? Not that impressed with it.

When I was done with the movies, I figured “what the hell” and made my way through the malls “JC Penny” and “Macy’s” stores. I probably shouldn’t have done that. You never know what is going to trigger depression, but apparently for me, tonight, it was shopping.  Honestly I have little to be depressed about when I stop to consider things with my intellect, and yet I suddenly felt crushing depression. Not much of a man, definitely not much of a woman, walking alone as usual through a place that held nothing for me. Yeah, I know, I don’t really have any call to be depressed, and have a  life a WHOLE lot better than a hell of a lot of people, but logic really has nothing to do with depression. . .

Saturday, January 28, 2017

I don’t know where we went wrong . . .



All of my life I’d wanted a piano. I have no idea why, but they have always called to me and I’ve always felt that it was a most impressive and beautiful instrument. Now when you grow up dirt poor, in a one room cabin without plumbing (yes, that means without even a toilet), it’s kind of unlikely that you are going to have a piano. It was only at great effort on my part, and with the help of a wonderful old man, that I bought my first guitar as a teenager and taught myself to play it as a consolation prize.

Okay, so now we fast forward about 30 years and I’m all growed up,  I’ve got my own home with in-door toilets I might add, and so I went out and bought myself a used piano! Of course I still aint exactly wealthy, so that sumbitch went on a credit card, but hey, I digress. . .   
Besides the credit card payment, the bad news here is that a love and admiration of the piano does not equate to skill and talent on it. So yeah, I’ve got a piano of fair quality now, but I’m not about to claim that I can actually play the damned thing. I don’t have the time for lessons or anything like that, but I’ve been playing around with it now for a few years and have even managed to make somewhat pleasing sounds come out of it once or twice. Often, I’ll be messing with it and do something completely by accident that sounds neat, and then I have to spend an hour trying to figure out what I did and try to replicate it. Something much like that happened about six months ago, and so started my first song with lyrics that was created on the piano.

I can’t speak for anyone else that writes songs, but I don’t really care to try and be creative in front of an audience. Creating a song involves lots of trips down the wrong street, lots of trying words and notes that don’t work, and lots of playing parts of the song over and over while trying to refine it and get it right. Well, a full size piano is not something that you just casually pick up like a guitar and trot into an empty room with for privacy, so yeah, my family had to listen to this over and over for months while I was thunking it up. Then, when I at last had the song created, they again had to listen to it over and over and over while I recorded it on my Multi-track system. For those of you that don’t know what that is, it’s a special recorder that basically turns your home into a mini recording studio. A simplified explanation of the system is that you can record something like a piano, then play that recording back. While that recording is playing, you can then record your guitar on a separate recording (track). You then play both of those recordings back, and record your vocals on another track. Then, you play all of that back while recording something else. You do this on and on until you run out of “tracks” to record on – hence the name “multitrack” recording for the process.  Using this process, a single person can put together an entire song all by themselves, but there are a few drawbacks to it:
1-Very few people that I’ve ever actually met can play a wide variety of instruments really well. I’m sure that there are a few freaks . . . err . . I mean really talented people out there that can, but I aint one of ‘em.
2 – Different people bring different perspectives and “visions” to a song. I think that in most cases, these different qualities bring a vibrancy and life to a performance that a single person can not duplicate regardless of their talent with multiple instruments.
3 – Recording a song where you play all of the parts requires playing it over, and over, and over, and so everyone in my home has had to hear my songs hundreds of times while I was writing and recording them. Even if a song was of the caliber of Ludwig Van Beethoven's 5th Symphony (no, I’m not making that claim) you would come to HATE it after hearing it so many times. More or less, everyone in my household, including me, has come to hate every song I’ve ever recorded.

So, here is my latest song, and the only song that I wrote and recorded solely on the keyboard. I hope that you like it because God knows I can’t stand it now. Fair warning – y’all know darn good and well that I am Transgender, but if you have only seen my photos, this might be a bit jarring. 😀  Also, if you pay close attention, you will hear a female voice once or twice in there – that’s my daughter Audrey!  👧






 Things are relatively slow for work right now, but I have made a few service calls. I took a trip up to Tulsa Oklahoma to perform preventative maintenance for a customer up there. Roughly mid-way between Austin and Tulsa is the Choctaw Casino where I often stop to make a modest donation. I’m not much of a gambler, but it’s a convenient place to stop and stretch my legs on the 7 or 8 hour drive.

I draw the line at about $40 and kind of figure that this is a more or less reasonable fee for an hour of entertainment, and what the hell – there is always the chance that I might actually win something. Well, this time I was down to only $10 of the $40 left when I hit three bars and won $40. If you did that simple math, that means I had almost lost my money, but was now up by a modest $10. Feeling relieved that I hadn’t lost money after all, I cashed out and continued on to Tulsa where I checked into the remodeled Holiday Inn Express there.  


Yeah, I wasn’t real fond of this color of green back in the 70’s when it was first popular, and I find that I am no fonder of it today. While I was working with my customer, he asked me if I had asked the Holiday Inn to give me the special rate that he had negotiated for his company. I told him that I had done this once or twice in the past, but that I hadn’t done it this time. He got kind of a grin on his face and then explained that he had this agreement with the hotel because a good friend of his used to be the manager there. For just a second, I was concerned, since I have checked into this hotel many times over the years, and have on occasion told them who I was working with. If his friend was the manager when I had checked in on one of these occasions, there was a really good chance that she had probably said something to him about me. Then all of the sudden I decided that I really didn’t give a shit. I’m getting old and tired, and am finding it harder and harder to get worked up over things like this. Either he knows I’m TG or he doesn’t. I guess it’s up to him to decide if this is a problem for him or not.

In the interest of full disclosure, I stopped at that Casino on the way home too, and this time they got the whole $40. Damn it.



Next, I headed off to a service call an hour or so south of Shreveport Louisiana.  I started to laugh when the GPS guided me off of the paved roads and through miles of dirt road through the woods. I hadn’t realized it when I headed out, but I recall visiting this customer a few years ago. It’s the only time I’ve ever worked on an $80,000 Infrared Spectrometer, outside, on a hand poured concrete pad.  Git ‘er done!











On my flight home, I had to catch a connecting flight through the Atlanta airport. Yeah I know, it seems kind of silly to have to fly all of the way from Louisiana to Georgia in order to get to Texas, but hey, I didn’t design the airline system, I’m just stuck using it. So anyway, as I enter the gate area, I noticed two beautiful young ladies with beauty pageant sashes across their blouses. They were sitting on the floor and leaning back against the wall. I didn’t want to look like I was staring or anything, but I figured they were wearing the sashes for a reason, so looked at them long enough to read them; Miss Alabama and Miss Teen Alabama! Yeah, I know all of the arguments about how these pageants exploit women, etc, etc, but still – I am suitably impressed and strike up a quick conversation with them.
“So are you competing for Miss Alabama or are you the current Miss Alabama?” I asked the woman on the left.
“I am Miss Alabama and this is Miss Alabama Teen” the older of the two replied for both of them.
“That is SO awesome! Congratulations!” I told them, and then immediately got onto facebook to brag about having met them. Of course everyone on Facebook started giving me hell, saying that it didn’t happen if there were no photos or videos to prove it. Yeah, I rose to the bait.
“Excuse me?” I asked the two, when I noticed that they weren’t talking for a moment. “Honestly, I’m kind of bragging on Facebook about having met y’all here, and I’m getting shit for not taking a photo to prove it. Would you mind if I take your photo and share it?”
They both laughed, and despite the fact that you could see they were both tired, they rose and stood just so I could take their photo. So here is to Miss Alabama and Miss Alabama Teen, who were both gracious to an old fart with a camera:

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Some people's children . . .

So apparently some "holier than thou" transexuals find my blog to be offensive. I am informed that I, and others like me, are nothing more than offensive "men in dresses" and I apparently am single handedly undermining the transgender community.

Sigh . . .

Few things irritate me more than this attitude.
When you choose to give up your wife, children, and career to transition and live full time, this does not somehow make you magically better than those of us that refuse to pay that price.

I can overlook and forgive your average muggle for having hurtful attitudes or for saying unkind things. Your typical muggle has no idea what we go through, the inner turmoil that is our everyday life, or the fragility of our confidence. Someone who acts out of ignorance can be forgiven. Someone who is transgender however, does not have that excuse and is not entitled to that forgiveness or understanding. Knowing that a person making these kinds of comments is well and intimately aware of the kind of hurt that their words impart bring me as close to fury as I've ever been in the last 50 years.

If you feel that you are somehow inherently better than those of us with lives, obligations, and commitments that force us to straddle the line between genders instead of leaping over it, then I'd appreciate it if you keep that opinion to yourself. Don't you dare go out of your way to cause pain to people that are so much like you, and that you should without a doubt have some understanding of and compassion for. The very thought of another TG making comments on my blog that they know beyond doubt will harm the confidence of the majority of those that read it just infuriates the hell out of  me. . .