Saturday, November 30, 2019

The Twilight Zone

Hi, everyone. Happy holidays.

I just had a weird experience. Weird. Let me share it with you and see what you think. I invite you to tell me your thoughts on it.

I went down to Florida this week to visit my dad. Of course I wanted to take my motorcycle but I had to carry several large boxes that wouldn't fit on my bike so I took a car. On the way home today, I headed north on a little-used highway between Washington and Baltimore. I needed to stop so I looked at my GPS for a place to get coffee. GPS said there was a Starbucks a few miles away. Oddly the Starbucks was the only business in the area. Usually on highways, gas stations and restaurants are grouped in bunches.

Now, before I go any further, let me preface this story with salient facts:

- It was the middle of the day
- I had not been drinking
- There is no history of mental illness in my family
- I am not prone to conspiracy theories

GPS directed me to leave the highway at the next turn. There is no sign at the turn. There is no exit number. The area looks desolate and I normally wouldn't have pulled off but GPS assured me there was coffee ahead. I wanted coffee.

The Starbucks was a few miles ahead. The area is strange, like a foreign planet. All the trees are burned down, there is no foliage or green plants, just ugly brown land and swamps. Then I saw dozens of buildings. Huge buildings of unusual shapes. There are strange structures near them that look like scientific equipment. Big spheres, antennas and odd-shaped coils. Electrical systems bigger than I've ever seen. All of the buildings are surrounded by high fences with barbed wire. With no signs. No signs!

Finally, at the entrance of a building I saw a sign saying "NSA Employees Only." Then I saw signs saying, "Area Patrolled By Military Dogs." Obviously I stumbled into a large, secret governmental complex. Entry roads are guarded by large gates.

"NSA" stands for National Security Agency, the intelligence arm of U.S. Department of Defense. NSA is responsible for global monitoring, collection, and processing of information for foreign and domestic intelligence and counterintelligence purposes. According to Wikipedia, NSA "relies on a variety of measures to accomplish its mission, the majority of which are clandestine."

The area I found stretches over many miles. I saw no stores, no restaurants, no houses. Nothing except restricted buildings and strange equipment that look like props in a science-fiction movie.

I wondered why there would be a Starbucks in this area. Nobody lives there. Nobody goes there for any reason except to work for the government which, I presume, has its own coffee-makers. The site has a vibe of being highly-controlled, like prison.

GPS said the Starbucks was a few miles ahead. In the middle of nowhere with nothing around it. I trust my GPS and really wanted a cup of coffee so I pushed on.

Eventually GPS said the Starbucks was approaching. I slowed down and was going about 30 mph. I spotted a Starbucks store with a big Starbucks sign out front. But as I approached, the store suddenly vanished. What the...?! Even though I was driving slow, I guessed I'd missed it so I turned around. I headed back to the same spot where the store was and... nothing. No store. No sign. Not even a parking lot or curb-cut.

I made a U-turn and tried again. I plugged Starbucks back into the GPS and it said it was 700 feet ahead. Then 500 feet. Then 300 feet. I saw the store. I saw the sign and the building. But, again, just as I pulled up, the store vanished. I swear to God, it disappeared. There was no parking lot, no cut in the curb to turn off the road. I reversed course and on the way back, drove 5 mph to inspect the area. Nothing. There is nothing there. I stopped the car to triple-check. No building. No store. No coffee.

This is not the end of the story. The area was creeping me out so I pushed "Go Home" on my GPS. It directed me through some roundabouts. I was totally lost and glad I had GPS to take me home. But it didn't. It steered me into the entrance of a large military building. As I was pulling up to the guarded gate, I realized GPS was wrong and turned around. I went back onto the road. I re-pushed "Go Home" on the GPS. It steered me, again, back to the military site. I gave up and drove around until I found a road leading back to the highway.

What happened? Seriously, what happened there?

Pondering these strange experiences on the rest of the drive home, I came up with this. NSA, our most secretive government organization, conducts a variety of cutting-edge scientific experiments. They spend millions on developing stuff we don't know about yet. I accidentally stumbled into their nest.

I believe they've developed technology to create three-dimensional visual images, like holograms, which can be seen from one angle but not another. I don't believe they made a real Starbucks disappear; I think the store was never there in the first place. I was merely shown an image of one and believed that until my angle of vision changed. Then the projection failed to register on my eyes.

By analogy, I heard the government invented a way to project sound in a narrow path toward a target, like a laser. It is unnoticeable by those outside the target-zone. Obviously, the tech was invented for military use.

Why is this visual technology being used on a public road? Well, nobody goes into this area unless they know it is there. Nobody turns off a highway onto an unmarked road. The tech is probably used to demonstrate to official NSA visitors their scientific capacity to create convincing illusions. You can imagine a NSA engineer bragging: "Hey, look at this cool thing we can do!"

Well, that's my theory. What's yours?

P.S., If I should suddenly go missing, you can infer I was right about this.

Monday, November 18, 2019

My Secret Obsession

I have a secret obsession. Honestly, you'll probably not be surprised; it is consistent with what you already know about me.

I love dance clothes. Costumes, leotards, tights. Even shoes. There are different types of dance (e.g., jazz; ballet) so there are different types of dance clothes. I love 'em all.

For years I collected paper dance-outfit catalogs. Then the Internet arrived and we can now see the clothes by visiting web-sites. One company sends me an e-mail each morning with pictures of their stuff. Reading that e-mail is the highlight of my day.

I've kept this obsession under wraps 'cause I doubted anyone would understand. The appeal of dance-wear is two-fold: beauty and hyper-femininity. Aesthetically, they're wonderful: form-fitting, brightly-colored and well-designed. They also enhance feminine shapes, curves and physical attributes.

Confession: I own dancewear. I buy it 'cause it makes me happy. I wear it in private for fun. I don't wear it in public or even show pictures on the blog 'cause I lack a female form and dancewear is revealing. Nobody wants to see what I have to offer. But I simply enjoy wearing it. Moving in it. Dancing in it.

Propelled by confidence created in the recent experience I had with Suzanne, I'm going to break that rule today and show you an outfit I own: a glittery performance dress and canvas jazz shoes.

The dress is beautiful. Please keep in mind I wear dance clothes for pleasure, not to impress anyone. I'm just want to share some of my happiness with you.

Saturday, November 16, 2019


I received a host of nice gifts for my birthday. One of the coolest is a film camera. Yes, a camera that uses film! It's called the "Holga."

No longer being made, the Holga was designed in China for poor Chinese consumers. It is entirely plastic, even the lens. The Holga was cheaply produced with parts that break easily and don't work properly. Ironically, that's its appeal.

Because the camera is unpredictable, it is used by artists to create photographs that are ethereal, surreal or simply unexpected. Light enters through cracks in the plastic, making halos, distortions and strange visual effects. The viewfinder doesn't show you what the camera will photograph so everything is a surprise.

I shot a roll of 120 format film this weekend in black-and-white. The film produces square pictures. I don't know how they came out because I need to send the roll away for developing and printing. Do you remember those days? It'll be a week before I see the results.

This camera fits my style of doing things the hard way -- which is more work but creates more satisfaction. Big thanks to my friend Ashley for knowing me so well!

My Life

I went to a professional hockey game last night and had a blast! The New Jersey Devils, who play in Newark, won an exciting game. The team plays at "the Rock," an arena I'd never visited before. (It's real name is the Prudential Center.) The Rock is new and has the largest scoreboard in the world. The entire place pulsates with bright colors, amusing video and loud sound which is as entertaining as the hockey. Plus my good friend Emily joined me.

Enjoying hockey and drinking Tim Horton's coffee are preparing me for moving north. Canada was just ranked #1 in the world for quality of life. (The ranking was done by an American newspaper, US News & World Report.) The U.S. came in #17.

I'm lusting after two things, one affordable, the other not. I plan to buy a new pair of shoes from Canadian designer John Fluevog when I visit Patti next week in NYC. (They have a store there.) Here's what I may buy:

While not cheap, these are a bargain compared to my other object of lust:

McLaren, my favorite car manufacturer, just released this new roadster, called the "Elva." It has 800 hp, no windshield, no roof, no windows. Made of carbon fiber and extremely light. Best of all, it looks like the iconic Batmobile from the 1960's TV show. (I was 8 years old and influential then.)

Only 399 Elvas will be sold. You need $1.7 Million to get one. Even harder is getting on the list: they've all been taken.

*sigh* In my dreams...

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

To Paint, Or Not To Paint...

... that is the question.

I want to discuss something with you which is very important. It concerns our society of which you are a member. How we view and treat each other affects everyone.

The question I pose is this: is it okay for me, when out in public dressed as a man, to sport colored nail-polish on my fingers?

During my entire life I've striven to live authentically. For me that means to identify as female. In childhood my parents told me this is not possible. My early years were a struggle of me saying I'm a girl, my parents saying I'm not, in a battle repeated endlessly. I'd wrap a bath towel around my waist and pretend it was a skirt; my parents reacted by smacking me. They believed they could beat deviance out of me. That treatment didn't work.

They also appealed to me by claiming to be acting in my best interests. They explained that no one would accept me as female and my acting as such (through dress, posture and behavior) would trigger opprobrium. They said I'd be ridiculed, criticized and attacked.

I've chosen to test that prediction. Repeatedly, throughout my life.

I've spent all of my life pushing boundaries. I transgressed gender restrictions in my teens, twenties, adulthood and as recently as this year when, armed and encouraged by my friend Suzanne, I appeared in public presenting as female. (We got mani-pedis, walked in a park and dined in a nice restaurant.)

I note feedback to my social experiments with the precision of a researcher. In high school I wore clothes that were sold in men's departments but flamboyantly colored; during the Seventies men could get away with wild colors. Even so, I was still attacked for wearing such (male) clothes. One teacher called me over in a school hall and threatened to send me home if I didn't cover up a floral crop-top with a sweater. Sports team-mates routinely disparaged my sexual orientation -- and I'm not gay. "Not that there's anything wrong with that," as "Seinfeld" later said.

My recent experience with Suzanne unlocked something new in me -- a sense of pride in who I am. Walking around that weekend with painted fingernails, I felt my true identity was finally on display. Even in male clothing, when I have painted fingernails, I reveal who I am in a manifest way. That feeling is intoxicating.

Nonetheless the teachings of my parents and prior experiences still caution me against flouting gender restrictions. I know, as certain as the sun will rise, that breaking the rules will cause social turmoil. How much, I wonder? That is what I'm now questioning. Can I wear colored nail-polish on my fingernails when out in public dressed as a man? If I do, what will be the reaction. The cost?

I've started conducting field research on the subject. Appearing this way has yielded early findings. First, most people of both genders pay little attention to old folks and, when they do, few notice their fingers. So often this question is moot.

When someone does see my painted nails, I get these reactions:

- Men (of all ages) give me dirty looks. Some make nasty remarks, again slurring my sexuality (of which they know nothing; it's just the "go-to" male insult). Honestly, however, their reactions mean nothing to me: male masculinity is fragile and the personal insecurity of strangers is not my concern.

- Women over 40 tend to get perplexed; incomprehension is evident on their faces. None say a peep to me, although I wish they would so I could explain myself.

- Women under 40 are the most interesting: their reactions vary. Some smile, some turn away, some applaud me verbally and a cherished few engage me in conversation to learn more. I love having the opportunity to talk about this but I never approach women in public without their invitation.

What is your reaction to this? How acceptable or unacceptable do you find this choice?

I guess what I'm really asking is -- am I "free" to do this? Am I able to wear nail-polish on my fingers without getting disapproval from people whose opinions matter? Your thoughts?

Saturday, November 9, 2019

My Motto Is...

… that it's never too late to have a happy childhood.

For six decades, I've dreamed, yearned and wished I could be a little girl. Alas, that was not possible back then. But... live long enough and unexpected possibilities open up.

I spotted this dress on a thrift-store rack and it triggered those feelings. I figured, why not? It's never too late. So here I am, complete with my doll. Her name is Meredith.

Do you ever wish you could return to a younger age?

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

The Roaring Twenties

We rarely grasp the significance of time in our lives until it's passed. We look back and think, "Wow, that was an important/great/terrible period."

I've recently analyzed, in detail, the periods of my life. I did this in anticipation for what remains. I want that time to be as marvelous as possible. I hope to live until 90 years old which means the next 15 years could be my last chunk of wonderfulness. I want to extract as much joy as I can from that period.

In the new decade that's about to start, I have everything I need -- health, wealth and as much wisdom as I'm likely to ever possess. That means if I'm smart, I'll make the most of the time. I don't want to squander it through sleep-walking or bad choices. Of course external factors like social cohesion/unrest, economic prosperity/stagnation and personal relationships will play roles in what happens but life is determined more by how we handle situations instead of what's presented to us.

In short, I hope "the Twenties" (2020+) will be my best years ever. I predict they will "roar" for me and also for you

How do you feel about the next decade?

Monday, November 4, 2019

Come Fly With Me

Before 1970, flight attendants were called stewardesses (and were exclusively female). Their job was glamorous; the young women got to travel around the world for free.

Airlines realized how prominent stewardesses were as representatives of their companies and devoted effort to identify them through fashion. Many, like TWA, hired famous designers to create uniforms. The TWA Hotel has an exhibit of some of these historical outfits; they're attractive. Here are some pics...

Sunday, November 3, 2019

TWA Hotel

I'm having a wonderful birthday!

A bright idea occurred to me to spend this special occasion at the TWA Hotel inside JFK airport. The hotel is designed as a throw-back to the Fifties with hip retro styling, entertaining museum exhibits and a restored airplane turned into a cocktail lounge. My martini there came with complimentary flight wings appointing me "Junior Pilot."

TWA was the largest airline in its day, owned by eccentric Howard Hughes. Back then, flying was glamorous: people dressed up for it, didn't have to endure any security and smoked on planes. Boy, have things changed!

Time travel was a smart choice for the occasion since I reflect on the past when birthdays roll in. Here are some photos of the hotel. I recommend it highly the next time you visit New York. It's conveniently located and not expensive. Adding to the hotel's atmosphere are famous tunes from the 1950s and 1960s.

There is a beautiful exhibit of historical stewardess uniforms which I'll show you in my next post.

Friday, November 1, 2019

"Alexa, play 'As Time Goes By.' "

Life and... that other thing

My birthday is Sunday. I feel twenty years younger than the age on my driver's license. My health is good, I work at staying fit, my diet is excellent and my enthusiasm for life has steadily increased over the past decade.

This happy state hasn't, however, been easy or uninterrupted. Earlier this year I suffered a medical condition which required major surgery and left me with less of my corporeal self. You might say it took a chunk out of me, literally. Fortunately that episode is now behind me and yesterday my surgeon said I'm in great shape.

The experience shook me, however, and prompted serious soul-searching. Examining my life -- what it's been, where it's going -- was ultimately constructive. I dug deep and found some wisdom. Age can bring enlightenment if you're open to it.

I don't recommend facing mortality as starkly as I did but we all need to examine our lives and choose, consciously, how we want to live. The worst we can do is pass time on auto-pilot, not appreciating the precious gift of life. Be aware! Make deliberate choices! Savor experiences.

Reading this week I came across some sage words on aging. Let me share them and see what they cause you to think.

*     *     *     *     *

"At first we want life to be romantic; later, to be bearable; finally, to be understandable."
(Louise Bogan)

"A contented old age...depends on what we were like before we became old."
(Arthur Krystal)

"The to live long enough to think: I've lived long enough."
(Arthur Krystal)

"Old age is full of death and full of life. It is a tolerable achievement and it is a disaster. It transcends desire and it taunts it. It is long enough and it is far from being long enough."
(Ronald Blythe)

And, to close, some words from Rodney Dangerfield: "I'm at the age where food has taken the place of sex in my life. In fact, I've just had a mirror put over my kitchen table."

How do you feel about the prospect of aging?