Monthly Archives: April 2015

Judgement

I walk into the bar and I feel the eyes. They look. Men and women both but mostly the women. I’m tall, 6’1″ in flats and powerfully built for a woman, so they really have a nice long look. Part of me wondering if they knew I was a man up until 7 months ago. Did they watch the Bruce Jenner interview? The other more rational side, the survivor, the warrior, the more evolved soul says, “look all you want, knock yourselves out.”
I AM tall and strong as a woman. As a man I was on the tall side and fit, but as a woman, noticeably more powerful than most. People often stop and ask me what sport I played. I apparently read like a former high level female athlete. Sometimes I play with them claiming to be a former volleyball champion, waterpolo or basketball player. They are intrigued. Usually  I just stay closer to the truth, that I was a ultra endurance swimmer, paddleboard racer and surfer. As a man I was all those and among the top 5 in the country.
As a woman, this carries less clout. Woman are judged quite differently. Men are judged by what they have and do. Women primarily for how we appear. The scrutiny a woman undergoes so much more intense than any man could imagine. How pretty is she? What is she wearing? Hair, make up, clothes, shoes, jewelry or lack thereof. Age appropriate, trendy, fashionable, dated?  Every single detail examined. Men are the easy audience.  Every woman knows women are the real jury. Put on a short dress, heels and heavy make up and men will dance about like happy terriers. Do the same with their women along and be crucified.
I used to laugh at my daughter and other women for being so self conscious, but believe me when I say this judgement thing is no joke. I was as secure and confident as a man could be walking into a room, knowing I had the chops to stand with any of them. Being centered and unconcerned with others opinions a simple task. Now, seeing it as a woman, the effort can be exhausting. I have gained new respect for women who have been able to rise above it. Perhaps and hopefully something that comes with age and more experience.

Costa Bella

Brendan and I walked up the concrete hill side by side leaning forward to compensate for the steepness of the slope. We’d done this many times and knew this slope all too well. We had grown up traversing it’s patched concrete surface on bicycles, skateboards and on foot. I’d pitched over the handlebars at night coming down its 30% gradient on the way back from a 2 hour swim team work out hitting an invisible chunk of concrete some car had dislodged. As long as we didn’t die or end up in the hospital there was no need to worry Mom about it. She wasn’t real big on giving us rides anyway. She’d had breast cancer and was mostly bed-ridden. She informed us we’d be joining the swim team and told us to get on our bikes and get going when I was 8. We’d been climbing this hill twice a day since on our Schwinn single speeds making the 8 mile round trip. First to school and later to swim-team work out. That was up until she died. Swim Team was done now. Too expensive. There were 4 of us boys who had done that. 7 siblings in all. My sister, Kerry had taken over when mom passed away a couple of years back. I had been 14 and Brendan 12. Kelly was 15 then and Pat 16. The other 3 were older and were on their own. Kerry, was the only girl and second oldest. She had taken over watching us when she was 26. Mike helped a lot too but was up North in Carmel doing masonry and had his own new family. Jack was in Manhattan Beach doing real estate. He had been a Hare Krishna. Mom had said he was brain washed. We still weren’t sure about that.

Brendan had walked in the house a few minutes earlier with the news “I made it from the Hopkins.” That was almost 3/4 of the way up. There were 2 solid 30% graded pitches and a nasty hook turn at the bottom on that ride.  It seemed almost impossible, but I knew he’d done it. Brendan was no bullshitter and easily capable of pulling something like that off. I’d seen him pull in on 12′-15′ barrels with effortless grace. He never seemed flustered. He was my younger brother, but physically superior in many ways. I was taller but more slightly built. Keeping in front of him was challenging, but that was our way. Between the 3 of us, Kelly, Brendan and I that was the way so I grabbed my skateboard and walked out the door.
My skateboard was a rocket. Essentially just a 5′ laminated maple water ski flipped upside down with skateboard wheels and trucks on it. I flipped it over so the reverse camber could provide more flex. Brendan and I had bought the water skis for $5 at the Goodwill store on a shopping excursion. We shopped there regularly for clothes. Since Mom died we’d been on our own more or less financially. Kelly, Brendan and I all worked at the same Mexican restaurant 40 hours a week bussing tables. Kerry basically told us if we wanted to eat, we needed to get jobs. So we did. Well, Kelly did then he got us in. Pat was in College now so had some financial aid, but he didn’t surf or skate, so it was really just the 3 of us that rode Costa Bella. Kelly was in a band and getting high all the time now so we didn’t see him much anymore. Not that we didn’t get stoned too, but he hardly ever even made it to school at all. If we did see him there he would rarely acknowledge us. Too cool. Fucking Kelly.

Brendan and I walked past the nice homes and succulent gardens bouncing on our instep to help propel us up the incline. I could feel my stomach twist at the thought of rolling down this thing. No brakes, no way to jump off once you got going. This thing was pure commitment. I’d been clocked 50 mph on Nautilus and ridden Cardeno, but Costa Bella was way steeper and much meaner with it’s broken seams of poured concrete. I had never even heard of anyone else ever riding it. Just the three of us as far as I knew. Kelly had broken his collar bone on it a year ago. He’d sort of started this whole thing. We would see how far above the “tar” we could go without wobbling out. Kelly had maxed out on a regular length board last year getting air where the concrete and tar met at the bottom of the hook turn. He’s probably been going close to 30 when he’d hit that. That was a trip to the emergency room. Concussion and Broken broken collar-bone. I’d lost count how many times we’d been to the ER. The insurance company finally dropped us. Brendan and I were well above where Kelly had started now. That wasn’t even to the first level spot. We had both ridden from that point before and made it. Brendan had the same board set up I did except mine was faster. I had the green 70mm Kryptonics. He had the reds. My board was a rocket.

We began approaching the Hopkins house. It was at the end of a long flat section just above the first pitch. We weren’t talking. What we were doing was serious. I knew Brendan was worried for me. He knew I was the one that broke. He’d seen me close to death a few years back just before Mom died but he also knew I was going no matter what. I had to. That was the way. We used to fist fight when we were younger. That was also the way. I’d lost face when he’d fought me to a draw. I was probably 15 and he was 14, but already bigger and stronger than me. He had hit me in the face multiple times. I couldn’t seem to block his blows. He was tough, angry and determined. He’d had enough of me beating on him. He knew he could take me and he wasn’t backing down. He’d regularly taken guys my age and older. I’d had to resort to choking him out but we both knew the new order after that fight. Everyone did. I had gotten 2 black eyes.That was why I had to go.

We reached the stopping point. “This is it.” he said. “K” I acknowledged. We didn’t have to say much. We rarely did. We were a miracle at the restaurant together. Kelly Brendan and I.  We worked effortlessly and wordlessly like a well oiled machine. No customer or waiter wanted for a thing when we were on the floor. Like a double-play going all night long we knew what the others were thinking and doing in this restaurant that had become our second home. We would work four 6 hour shifts and one 10 hour shift. Sometimes more. We had a guaranteed meal and all the leftovers we could want plus bringing home $20-30 in tips a night and occasionally some beer or leftover Margaritas. Sometimes stronger stuff. The restaurant was a block from the main surf break, All the poorer surfers worked there on and off. Our manager was the president of the Surf Club. Sort of a male role model as well as our local drug supplier. He charged on bigger days even though he long-boarded. He’d been to college and understood when I would do my homework in a booth in the back before my shift. It wasn’t cool to do my homework so I sort of hid back there to do it. Real reputations here were made in the water and sometimes your shifts could be influenced by how well you surfed. The best surfers got the choice shifts or moved up more rapidly. Some of them were worthless and arrogant at work but had respect on the beach. Your pecking order in town was made out there and most of the waiters in our restaurant ripped and got high living within a few blocks of the break. We were from the wrong side of town so we had to earn our place. We surfed our break and rode Costa Bella, places no one cared about just a few miles away.

Brendan rolled off first. I watched him go. He took a few hard pushes and then stepped on and crouched into his tuck. He glided along the level part and then rolled over the pitch and disappeared. Somehow I knew he’d make it. Brendan never seemed to get hurt or at least not broken. He just seemed lucky. “Would I be lucky today?” I wondered as I set my board down. I could see myself vividly, watching my hands set the maple board with the black grip tape down. I set my left foot on the front third of the board just behind the truck holes. I put weight on it and leaned forward. Things seemed to go into slow motion as I rolled off. A few good pushes and I stepped up both feet about shoulder width apart. I could feel my board gliding along the pavement a slight vibration running through my feet. I wore my blue Quiksilver board-shorts and my black gum-soled bussboy shoes I’d bought at pay-less. They stuck good on the grip tape and were cheap. We all had them. The cleaning solvent in the kitchen dissolved almost anything so we learned not to buy good shoes. I felt like I was floating out of my body as I approached the drop. Oddly disassociated from the experience I rolled over the crest of the flat spot and began the real acceleration. The tar seams clicked by faster and faster. I could smell jasmine and feel the warm sea air on my face my eyes tearing up. I began to tuck more tightly pointing both arms ahead of me pushing my head down between them to create a wind break. My board felt good. I let it roll feeling the rhythm of the bumps between the concrete patches. I allowed my board to flex keeping my legs and body relaxed. Everything felt smooth, almost effortless. I hit the second flat spot in a good position at about 35mph and prepared myself for the turn and the last pitch taking a line as close to the inside curb as possible. Things seemed to slow even more. “Maybe I’ll actually make this” I thought for the first time. The board was humming now as the 70mm wheels and bearings spun just barely making contact with the road. I was hurtling now probably going more than 45 as I began to push down and lean in to make the board turn even though the trucks were as tight as they’d go. At these speeds they’d turn. I’d done it before on other hills, hopefully it would work here too. The board flexed, but something was wrong, I kept traveling outward away from the curb. The board wasn’t turning. I crossed the center line over the tar seams literally floating sideways in a 4 wheel drift across the concrete at 45-50mph. I was still tucked and pushing down with all I had hoping the wheels would grab. Everything was suddenly moving quickly now as I felt myself detach even further from the experience. I knew impact would be any second as the board and I hurtled sideways to the wrong side of a blind curve. If a car didn’t hit me there was no way to make it. The board was sliding now, My feet released… I began to float…

The next moments I don’t recall at all. Somewhere I had made contact with the pavement at least once. My mouth was bleeding and I could feel my front teeth were broken. I was lying against a chain link fence about 30 feet from where I’d lost awareness. The fence must have caught me after I drifted or flew across the opposite curb and down a short embankment. Blood was running down my chest. I felt my chin and it was torn open. As I got up I realized my left arm was twisted at the wrist in an unnatural bend. Broken. I’d seen this before. I don’t know how long I’d been out, but as I walked down the hill Brendan was making his way back up carrying both our boards. “Shoot, Bear” he said. “I thought you were dead.”

The Crossing

>> > The chair felt cold through the paper hospital gown. Not much coverage I thought feeling my almost exposed behind on the cold plastic. The doctor asked me to put my chin up as he stared directly at me only not ‘at’ me. He leaned forward holding my face firmly in his left hand as he began drawing with the sharpie marker. The Anesthesiologist looked on over his shoulder as he drew on my forehead, across my brow line, down my nose, along my lips and finally under my chin. I knew what each line represented as his hand traveled over my face. We had just met 18 hours before for the pre-op discussion. I had decided on Katherine Ross’ nose since then. That and how high my eyebrows should arch were aesthetic questions we had discussed along with the more practical matters like when to stop eating and drinking before the surgery. My girlfriend and I had celebrated my last night as a man in our hotel room the night before, toasting Jerry and all he had been. The father, artist, entrepreneur and athlete.
>> > So few had known of my journey before a few months ago. Ex girlfriends, my ex-wife, my kids and a couple of my 6 siblings had known, but the rest had been like fast forward in preparation for today. I’d known in my first conscious moment that something wasn’t ‘right.’ People who’ve never experienced it can’t grasp it, but I knew in every moment of every day. I’d made enormous efforts to forget or change my thinking, but that had never worked. I always found myself back in the mirror trying to make myself up or get the right clothes that would allow me to live as I felt inside. Sometimes there would be days in between those efforts, sometimes months, sometimes years depending on how successful my latest effort at delusion had been.
>> > Unfortunately I wasn’t the only person convinced I was just this tall athletic, creative man they knew. My ex-wife had felt so betrayed. Wonderful women I had loved with all my heart had left me or been lost to me when I shared. My precious children shocked and dis-oriented. Plenty of pain in heaping spoonfuls for all. Delusion was no gift for me or anyone else involved. I’d finally had to own it. Best to change the exterior to match before someone else got close to me.
>> > ‘Ready?’ The doctor asked handing me a pill. ‘This will make you drowsy.’ It seemed like the moment in the’ Matrix’. ‘Take this pill and the truth will be revealed.’ Take the other and you will wake up remembering none of this.’ Last chance to escape I thought as I swallowed the Valium. ‘This is it. No turning back.’ My girlfriend kissed me and said ‘I’ll see you after.’ I felt a surge of love as she walked out the door along with a sudden fear. The Anesthesiologist helped me onto the gurney and I lay down on the crisp paper lined surface. She wheeled me down the hall past a few doors and into the well lit surgery room. But things were dimming, dimming quickly – Darkness.
>> > “Ready champ?” Seth asked as we stared out across the black water? “Yep.” I replied adjusting my cap and goggles making sure the glow stick was firmly secured. Seth massaged my shoulders as we listened for the signal from inside the cabin. Seth had put the team together composed of myself, Scott Reed, John Bishop, Felipe Rivera, and Cory Hiro. Most wouldn’t argue that we were favored to win. 6 teams in 6 boats with 6 lead off swimmers at the ready. ‘Swimmers Ready” came the call from he Walkie Talkie.” John called it out to us. I moved onto the transom from the stern of the 35′ Cruiser. The cold of the water rocketed through me as I stepped. out sending chills along my exposed skin. Only the cap and a slim racing Speedo to keep me warm in the 57 degree water for the next 40 minutes I thought. I began breathing deeply oxygenating my blood and calming my nerves.
>> > The water was rough. The wind had blown all night. I could see Jane the paddler off the stern fighting to keep position. 2-3’ wind chop. Ugly. “Go Jerry!” She called. I had become something of an Underdog and an Anti-hero in the swim world in the last year or so. Jane was one of the most celebrated female ocean swimmers and paddlers in Southern California and had watched me win race after race recently beating much younger and more experienced swimmers. She helped run one of the regular events and she was no pushover, but my rapid domination of the local ocean races had been shocking even to her. Now I stood lead-off swimmer with current college swimmers, Olympic trialists, former All-Americans and young elite triatheletes. I was their ringer, their anchor in a 26 mile race across this open ocean channel.
>> > Booop! Off went the air horn – I jumped from the deck into the water towards Jane. Whack!! The cold hit my nervous system sucking the air from my lungs and gripping my head in an ice-cold vice. It was dark, so dark, unfeeling  and icy.
>> > “Genivieve” I heard from somewhere in the cold depth. I sensed warmth and a glow above. I could see the surface. I took in a breath and opened my eyes. The Anesthesiologist looked down. She smiled. “Hello” she said. “Hi.” I croaked through a mouth that felt like a stranger’s. “Everything went perfectly” she said. “Oh, good.” I mouthed. My throat burning and painful. “I’ve got her” the assistant said wheeling my gurney out of the room. I drifted out, blackness again, soft, warm.
>> > Cold, Air!! My body screamed as I launched through the surface. Instantly I was buried in another wave, submerged halfway through a stroke. Then whoosh out the back into the air. I choked a half salt water breath as I dropped into the trough and went under again. There was no pattern or timing to these I realized. Every stroke was a fight to move and breathe. Sometimes falling sometimes rising or catching a swell blind side. ‘How will I make it” I wondered. And, “where is Jane??” Only a glow stick on my cap for her to see me and only glow sticks along the rails of her board for me to spot somehow as I heaved up and down in the darkness. “Jerry – Here!” I heard a faint voice. “Jerry.”
>> > “Genivieve? – Gen? You awake?” It was the nurse. She appeared above me as I opened my eyes. “Yes.” I whispered. I could barely keep my eyes open. “You did great.” She cooed. “Oh? Good” I gasped feeling my throat again. “Just rest” she said “we’re taking you to the recovery center.” I closed my eyes and felt unconsciousness swirl over me.
>> > “Jerry” she called again suddenly I was almost on her board. She took a stroke moving away. I followed, keeping her on my breathing side. We rose and fell together lurching forward. Sometimes she was there and then I would catch a train of 3-4 chops in a row and lose her. Now 8’ away, now 6″. No rhythm, no pattern, just moving thrashing, fighting through the cold and dark. It seemed impossible that this could go on, but it did. Each breath a gift and then into the cold, over and over. Seconds became minutes, swimmers rotated, the seas began to calm The horizon began to appear. An island. I thought. I could just make out a silhouette.
>> > “Ok, we’re moving you into your room” the young nurse said. “Do you want Avalon?” She asked. ” Yes, yes please.” I hoarsely gagged as I saw Avalon’s smile like a sunrise peek at me from behind the nurses pitching shoulder “Yes, Avalon, my sanctuary.” I said feeling suddenly calmed as she came around grasping my hand in a safe, warm grip.. “You made it honey” she whispered. ” You’re safe.’Now just relax. I’ve got you.”

Hair Salon

CaveMan2Sm

The big day had arrived! Finally I was going to get my first dye job! My whole life (53 years) I’d had my natural dark brown hair color. The only changes that had occurred via sunlight and chlorine from swimming or surfing. Recently some grays had begun to show so I felt somewhat justified in my decision to color it. I had always wanted long styled hair as a boy, but for so many reasons that had always been a non-option. Until about age 7 or 8 my mother had given us the “regular boys” cut. My three brothers and I would be marched into a barber shop like soldiers. She would ask, “4 regular boys please.” A regular boys cut in the late 1960’s was short in the back and sides, trimmed in an even loop around the ears (aka “white walls”) and a little longer on top so the hair could be combed back and parted on the side with brilliantine or some other men’s hair styling pomade.

The only hitch in this plan was that I was anything but a “regular boy.” Every single time we went into the barber shop I wanted to scream and run to protect myself from that hideous hair style being inflicted upon me. All the wonderful hair I had accumulated in the last 8 weeks or so being shaved off by the sadist in the white apron. It was literally all I could do to keep from crying knowing full well what the consequences of that would be among my brothers and the other men seated in that very male sanctuary. I would tough it out and be a good soldier and leave feeling like Samson, his strength and person shorn from him along with the hair left to be swept up on the barber shop floor.

As if this was not bad enough, it actually became worse after my parents divorced when I was 7. Now that my mother was on her own and money was tight, she decided that she would buy herself a pair of electric clippers and save the $10.00 for the four haircuts by doing it herself. Many children have their mothers cut their hair but ours did it with an added level of difficulty. My mother would only cut our hair when she was drunk on bourbon and stoned on pain killers. Due to her terminal breast cancer my mother took an incredible cocktail of pain meds daily. Demerol, Codeine, Percoset and others she’d blend with a tall Jim Beam before beginning. By the time she got the razor out she could barely stand much less cut a straight line. During these haircuts even my normally stoic brothers wanted to run. Seeing Mom coming at you with a pair of scissors and the Wahl electric razor in that state was enough to rattle anyone. Brendan, my younger brother was always first due to his unfortunate place in the line-up. We would literally push him to the front of the line. There was no use resisting, our fate was sealed. It was just a matter of just how bad it would be. Brendan, resigned to his fate in this as in so many other unpopular things was our guinea pig. When Mom was done with him a few minutes later he would come walking out of the restroom eyes downcast his hair butchered into a series of gouges and lop-sided whitewalls. A perverse and butchered version of the “regular boys.” I  would have happily submitted to the “regular” humiliation rather than this new degradation. Being the next youngest I walked into the bathroom shell-shocked from having just witnessed Brendan’s fate. Mom tolerated no discussion of why this was happening. If I did resist at all, her pat answer, “do you want to be a pretty boy all your life?” would silence me. Even though I really did, I knew that was an unacceptable answer. To this day though I wonder what would have happened had I answered “Yes.”

Perhaps the most challenging part of these drunken haircuts came the next day at school. Our journey to school on our bikes was a quiet funeral procession. Like the condemned on their way to the gallows there was no conversation. We were all lost in expectation of what was to come when we arrived at school. Wearing our cheap Sears clothing we now had the added offense of looking like we were run over by a lawn mower with damaged blades. Upon our arrival the insults and jeers would begin. “Nice haircut!” This at a time when many of the boys were allowed to grow their hair as long as they wanted. Many had hair half way down their backs. “Hey Benny Goodman!” “Did yer head get caught in a blender?” “Hey Jarhead!” Taunts rained down. Regarding our anachronistic style, our Mother advised, “Don’t be such followers.” We certainly weren’t although we longed to be. By about lunch time each of us would have made our way into the principal’s office for fighting when we finally lost our temper. It was a sorrowful thing for the child who received our pent up wrath. Each one of us had long ago been identified as “dangerous” due to boxing lessons given by older brothers far larger than any of our schoolmates.

Fast forward now 40 years and I sat under a hair-dryer in a beauty salon, my newly dyed long dark auburn hair setting. I looked around unable to hear anything as the blower drown everything else out. My eyes took it all in. The women in the salon talking, cutting, grooming and just being women. A world so long alien to me I was now able to cross into with ease. The journey that had seemed unattainable would now be just part of my normal routine as so many other uniquely feminine activities had. I marveled at it all and to my changed attitude towards it. Conversations that not so long ago would have been excruciating I now enjoyed. Children, clothes, fashion, gossip had all become part of my experience and felt as natural as I had discussing the latest event in the Surfing or some other adenaline filled male pursuit. My stylist and I discussed kids, her father’s illness, getting old, breakfast favorites, local music, make-up and hair care with equal interest. I chatted and the words flowed effortlessly. I sat in the chair, hair slicked back with dye in the most unattractive way without fear that a man would see and judge me here. This was where women went to achieve the beauty men and society required of them. A safe place where any woman or female spirit might come and be welcomed as a sister in the timeless mutual grooming ritual. Even after 52 years as a man I was welcomed like any other woman.

My mother had passed away when I was 14. For a few years I grew my hair longer but by the time I was 18 employers would no longer tolerate it.  It wasn’t until I broke into being a full-time professional Artist around the age of 25 that I grew it back out. During the next 10 years it was often halfway down my back. At 37 when my wife divorced me the male spirit rose in anger over having been deceived and in protection of my place as a father to my small children. The hair came off in preparation for that battle. My 3-year old daughter administering the first lopsided cut across my pony tail. A stylist cleaned it up the next day and for the next 10 years I wore my hair short as I attempted to be the protector my children needed. Part of this was intentional and part was the result of hair loss. At around 40 my hair began to fall out and thin. I was horrified.

At 43 I had my first hair transplant. It helped with the recession on the sides but it was clear that I would need to take medication to stop the thinning as well. Rogaine entered my life. I was unaware that it also stimulates hair growth everywhere on the body. My God, what a dilemma for a female spirit! In order to stop my hair from thinning I had to become a Sasquatch! I began to disappear into a blanket of fur. Shoulders, arms, chest, back, neck, ears, you name it. Keeping it at bay became a full-time job. My eyebrow and nose hairs seemed to spring up like small trees over night and removing these deeply rooted specimens felt as if they were attached to my brain-stem. Something else had to be done!

I discovered laser hair removal at age 44. I found a company about an hour drive from my home that would remove all my body hair in five 2-hour sessions of pain 6 weeks apart. After shaving the afflicted area, the nurse gridded my body with a pattern of dots using a stencil. Each dot about a half-inch apart, they represented a location for the laser to zap the hair follicles in the area. Even though she administered a numbing cream I would sweat from the pain. The only thing that got me through was the idea that I might be released from the hair body suit.

Once completed I felt reborn. Suddenly there was a smooth body in the mirror I was happy to see. I couldn’t believe what joy I experienced feeling the wonderful hairless surface. I began to swim and workout again. I felt younger and more comfortable in my skin. I began to think there might be a glimmer of hope out there for me to be more feminine. Crossing over still seemed impossibly out of reach since I still had a very thick beard that grew down my neck. I could sport the fashionable 5 o’clock shadow halfway through the day.

I began laser removal of my beard at age 48. I started with my neck and worked my way in towards my mouth and up my sideburns strategically. I wanted to keep as much as was necessary to remain male should my goal of being a woman prove unattainable. As the hairs were removed the skin on my face smoothed without the coarse hair follicles disrupting the surface. At about this time I started taking Propecia to encourage my thinning hair to grow back.  Slowly as my beard disappeared, the hair on my head became longer and thicker. I became a man with nice hair. I began to find myself more popular among women my age and even much younger. This new popularity led to a romance that held me for a couple of years in limbo. I wondered, maybe this can be enough.Maybe I don’t need to go any further. My partner embraced me dressed as a woman and we would often go out to Gay clubs together. As time went on it became clear we were not otherwise compatible. I began to lose hope for us and along with it my last attachment to being male.

I began taking estrogen at age 50.The estrogen began making even more changes. Even as I began finishing laser removal of my facial hair my skin became softer and my hair even fuller. My body began to change too. My hard lean body began to soften and breasts began to grow. In the pool I began to slow. People I could have beaten easily before now became my equals and then faster. The clock was ticking. The time had come to make the final leap. I scheduled my facial surgery and swam in my local pool as a man for the last time.

Now, facial surgery behind me and living as a woman, the man I was feels like someone else. I ponder the distance I feel from him. It seems strange to me but I almost experience memories of him as if they were another’s life. I’m not entirely sure if it’s just from living this life for the last year as a woman and all that has meant or if the hormones have actually altered my mind. I suspect it may be a bit of both. My body now more and more feminine by the day. My skin is smooth and soft, my breasts a full c-cup, more fat all over and my hair thicker than ever. I sit at the salon my my first dye and cut complete. I look in the mirror at the new me. My hair now a deep wine color, almost burgundy with a chestnut undertone cut into layers that frame my face. My large blue eyes popping even more against the complimentary color. My stylist asks, “What do you think?” I pause for a moment letting it all sink in. “I love it!” I answer. I do. I love the salon and all it took to get here.

Natividade – Part 2

They had just finished the beers when a Mexican gentleman in a pink La Coste polo shirt, khaki slacks, loafers and mirrored aviator sunglasses walked up. “Ola Amigos.” He said greeting them. “I am Gilberto. There ees a small problema weeth your airplane.” Almost all the group spoke some Spanglish but Mike answered in English since Gilberto had used his native tongue. “Really?” He replied. “What’s up?” Mike had his single engine pilot’s license and was an expert auto mechanic so he was the right person to be asking questions. ” The ceelinder in your plane ees no good.” Gilberto replied. “We have been workeen on eet all morning pero…” Everyone looked over towards the big DC-3 and could now see that the men standing around it did seem to be working on the radial motor. An audible groan rose from the group. “Don worry senor.” Said Gilberto. “We haf another aircraft for you guys.” The group’s mood noticeably brightened. “Ok” Mike said. “Where are they?” “Get your theengs señor, I will show you.” Mike turned back to the group. “Change in plans.” “So effing Mexican.” Neery grumbled. “Well, let’s check it at least.” Kenny said beginning to unstrap the 4 boards on the roof of the Buick. ” Mecky-Air.” Neuman jibed collecting his bag and board. Everyone chuckled knowingly. Trips in Mexico rarely went according to plan. Improvisational skills were somewhat of a necessity.

Once all eight boards, duffle bags, backpacks and cases of beer were secured with the help of a couple of the repurposed mechanics from the DC-3 debacle, Gilberto led the way across the Tarmac towards a dozen or so other planes nearby. Jerry wondered which would be the one. None looked as big as the DC-3. Maybe there was a hangar on the other side of these? Gilberto walked up to a red and white twin-engine 6-seat King-Air. There were some more Mexicans in overalls working on it. From what Jerry could see they were either taking seats out or putting them in. “What’s this?” Mike asked incredulously. “Part of your group will fly een thees.” Replied Gilberto. “What’s going on with the seats?” Neery asked, clearly disturbed. “We cannot feet all your surfboards in with the seats.” Gilberto said matter of factly. “We can feet everything if we take them out senor – Don worry.” He said smiling showing off 2 gold frames around his front teeth. “Where’s the other plane then?” Asked Mike now clearly annoyed and dispensing with the friendly manner he had used earlier. “Eets right over there.” Gilberto replied. The group looked in the direction Gilberto pointed. A few yards away was a navy blue single-engine tail-dragger. On the side of the fuselage were the words, “El Atun” written in white script. “What the heck is that?” Mike growled now glaring at Gilberto. “Eet ees a very reliable plane Senor.” “Javier is a very good Tuna spotter for the fleet een Ensenada.” “The Tuna?” Kelly questioned out loud reading the script on the fuselage. “I guess that makes sense.” he added with some obvious sarcasm. “What? No way!” Neery blurted. ” Eight of us and our gear in these two planes?” “Do sum Blow!” Blake chuckled raising another beer. ” Let’s Go Fatso!!” Neuman laughed popping open his own. Blake and Neuman often formed a natural crazy alliance this way. The seemed like a pair of crazy brothers both being built somewhat the same except that Neuman was about 4-5″ taller. “This is messed up!” Mike said now addressing Gilberto. We were told we would be flying in a DC-3, not a couple of small planes that are nowhere near capable of transporting this much weight!” “Don worry senores.” Gilbert said holding up a hand. “We take the seats out of the plane, eet will be ok. ” “Todo va bien.” “Your pilots have transported much more than thees before.” He said moving his hand to indicate the assembled group and belongings.”I don’t know Mike.” said Neery. “This seems like a bad idea.” “He may have a valid point.” said Kenny now weighing in “Those seats look like they’re about 40lbs. each. If that loses 200 lbs., it should be pretty close.” If each of us has a 10 lb. board and 30lbs. of gear…” “What about the beer?” Blake asked now suddenly finding a reason to be concerned. “The other plane can take your cerveza senor.” Gilberto consoled. “Weeth 2 passengers. – Don worry.” Gilberto pointed to 6 cases of beer on the ground and three of the  Mexicans in overalls picked them up and began walking towards ‘El Autun.'” “Hang on a second!” Mike said now raising his voice and poking his finger into Gilberto’s chest. “No one said we were going anywhere yet!” Gilberto turned to the Mexicans with the beer and said, ‘Momento!” The three men stopped halfway to “El Autun.” and stood looking back holding 2 cases of beer each. “You talk eet out then senor.” We will wait.”

“This is pretty sketchy.” Neery said now looking around the group. “Don’t be such a homo.” Neuman laughed. “You’re always such a wet blanket.” “The pilots have to fly the thing!” “They wouldn’t say they could do it if they thought they would crash!” Jerry looked at his brother Kelly. Kelly wasn’t easily buffaloed into doing things and Jerry trusted his judgement. Kelly looked back with a face showing more anger than anything. He had a low tolerance for screw-ups like this. Jerry saw he wouldn’t get much of a direction from him. He looked at John Soutar. John just wore the same slightly baked look he always had. Nothing there either. Hadley and Neuman were obviously in. Neery and Mike were out. Kenny seemed in. That made 3 for, 2 against and 2 undecided. Jerry realized the balance could be shifted either way here. “I say we go for it.” He said. There was a part of him that appeared at times that loved taking risks and trying things that seemed undoable. Normally level-headed, occasionally Jerry would do really crazy things that would seem completely out of character. People were usually very surprised when this happened and this seemed to surprise his brother and Mike the most. “Yeah Fatty!” Neuman laughed handing Jerry a freshly opened beer. “I’m in.” Kelly said dryly. Blake popped a beer for him. “what the fuck.” said John grabbing a beer from the cooler himself. “Alright.” said Mike with reluctance reaching into the cooler. “Shit!” Said Neery as he looked around the group. “Okay screw it.” “Ha!! said Neuman handing him a beer. “Vamanos!” Blake yelled as they all toasted again tipping the dark bottles back. Gilberto said “Que bueno!” and waved the 3 Mexicans holding the cases towards “El Autun.”

20 minutes later Jerry and Mike watched as the King air was first loaded with duffle bags in a layer along the floor. Then the 6 other members of the group were instructed to sit with their backs against the sides of the fuselage 3 on each side. Finally and most absurdly 8 surfboards were then layered on top of their laps and legs. Jerry thought if there were a moment that made this trip seem like a bad idea, this had to be it. Neery almost backed out but but was convinced by some good natured heckling primarily by Neuman and Blake to get in the plane. After some maneuvering and discussion between the pilot and Gilberto the side door was closed and locked. “I hope none of those guys is claustrophobic.” Jerry muttered. ” No shit.” Mike responded. “Okay Guys” Gilberto said looking at the two of the party still outside on the tarmac, “now we go to your plane.”

Gilberto led the way from the King Air that was now starting up to “El Autun” a few yards away. The pilot of the small tail-dragger was standing out front wearing a Hawaiian shirt, aviator sunglasses, jeans and flip-flop sandals. “Ola amigos!” He said putting out his hand to Mike as they approached. “I am Javier!” the pilot said with a big smile shaking Mike’s hand. “Good meetin’ ya. I’m Mike.” Mike said with a clear lack of enthusiasm. Jerry stepped forward, “Mucho gusto.” He said. “I’m Jerry.” “Egual.” said Javier shaking Jerry’s hand. Jerry thought Javier looked a little bit like “Ponch” on the former popular TV show “Chips” about a couple of California Highway Patrol officers on motorcycles. He had the same dimpled grin and exuded a Latin charm that seemed to exude confidence and fun. The King Air was feathering it’s props a few yards away making loud engine noise so Javier motioned the two passengers aboard his small craft. Mike went up first and occupied the Co-Pilot seat as had been agreed while on the Tarmac earlier. This made sense since Mike would be able to fly if there were an emergency. Once Mike had sat down Jerry stepped up on the wing and looked in. “Your back here I guess.” Mike said pointing to the fuselage behind the pilot’s seats. Jerry noticed there were already 6 cases of beer lining the fuselage floor stacked in two rows of three cases. Examining the space leftover above the cases of beer it was fairly obvious Jerry would be lying down for the duration of the flight. “I guess I’m in coach.” He said chuckling. “Guess so.” Mike said joining him in laughter. Once Jerry had maneuvered his way into a prone position atop the beer Javier stepped in and began going through his pre-flight check. This was comforting Jerry thought. Jerry looked over at Mike and he could see Mike was thinking the same thing. At least he’s going to follow pre-flight procedure. Just then Mike looked out in front and pointed. “There they go!” Jerry looked out the cockpit window to see the red and white King Air barreling down the runway towards the ocean. It seemed like the plane ran forever before any sort of lift began showing under the wheels. Then, just as they were approaching the last few yards of the runway the plane was airborne. It flew in a super flat trajectory but ever so slowly gained altitude. “Wow!” Mike said, “That was fucking close!” Javier looked over and smiled. “Carlos has done that many, many times with even more  load.” “Unbelievable.” Mike said looking back out the window.” Javier motioned to Mike to put on his headset and then closed the cockpit door. He turned the ignition switch and the engine coughed to life with a puff of blue smoke. Jerry watched Mike’s face since he was sure Mike would react if something didn’t seem right. Mike stared out the window without expression. Javier revved up the single engine and let it idle making a few last instrument checks and then reached over and pushed the throttle forward. The plane began to move across the tarmac. All seemed well. Javier spoke in Spanish to the control tower then taxied from the tarmac onto the runway and stopped facing the ocean, the long runway the King Air had just left on stretching out before them. Mike looked over his shoulder and gave Jerry the thumbs up sign. Jerry responded with the same as Javier revved the engine to a high RPM and then slowly let the brake out. The plane moved forward with more power now picking up speed as it bounced heavily down the rough patched asphalt runway. Jerry gripped the side of the beer cases below him with one hand and put the other on the roof of the fuselage to steady himself and to keep his head from bouncing off the ceiling. The plane began to noticeably unweight now. There was one more good bounce causing Jerry’s head to contact the ceiling and they were in the air and climbing. “Yii-hee!” Mike said laughing and looking back at Jerry. Jerry smiled back broadly rubbing his head.

In a minute the plane was over the fishing boats of Ensenada harbor. Dozens of tuna boats were docked in below. Ensenada had become the major tuna fishing port after the U.S. had regulated tuna fishing out of business 10 years before on the West Coast. Javier dipped El Autun’s left wing to the boats below and continued chatting into his headset in Spanish. Mike looked back at Jerry and mouthed the words “Tuna Spotter.” Jerry gave Mike the thumbs up. Soon the small plane was flying at about 4000 feet in a South by Southwest direction. Javier looked back at Jerry and smiled then signaled with his own thumbs up sign. Jerry signed back to Javier, but this time Javier shook his head. He pointed towards the beer below Jerry and then motioned with a flicking motion of his thumb like someone popping the top off a beer bottle. Jerry looked back confused. This time Javier followed the same sign with his thumb tilted back into his mouth to indicate drinking. That was clear enough Jerry thought, Javier clearly wanted a beer. Jerry looked over at Mike who had been watching the entire pantomime. Mike shrugged his shoulders and held up his hands indicating “what the hell.” He then signaled Jerry by pointing to Javier, Jerry and himself and then held up 3 fingers. Jerry reasoned this meant “beers all around.” What the hell.” Jerry thought as he began positioning himself so he could open one of the cases and extract the beers. “In about 2 minutes each of them had an open beer. “Salud!” Javier said loudly looking back at Jerry and then over to Mike and holding up the beer with his left hand, “Salud!” Mike and Jerry responded holding up their own and tapping them together for the first in-air bar service of the trip. The cold beer felt good on Jerry’s throat as he realized how dry it had become not only from the altitude but very likely from the stress of the take-off. After a few more sips, Javier handed his beer over to Mike. Mike took it and looked back at Jerry. Once again he shrugged. Javier then reached into his shirt pocket and produced a joint and a lighter. He held the joint up and winked back at Jerry showing the charming dimpled smile. Jerry looked at Mike again who now seemed to be laughing but mouthed back “Holy Fuck!” Javier lit the joint and the familiar fragrance filled the cockpit. After a couple of good hits Javier handed the joint back to Jerry over his right shoulder and then reached for his beer from Mike. Jerry took the joint and drew in a long hit tasting the familiar sinsemilla variety he knew well from the last few years it had been popular North of the border. He took one more hit and passed the joint to Mike. Mike took the joint deftly from Jerry and began taking a few hits himself. Just as he was handing the joint over to Javier however Javier held up his left hand as if to say “Hold on.” He was clearly listening to radio traffic intently. He dipped his left wing to look out the window towards the ocean and both Jerry and Mike followed his gaze downward. Below 3-4 Tuna boats plowed through the blue water leaving trails of white behind them. Javier looked over to Mike and Jerry leveling the plane and motioned with his right hand first pointing to his eyes and then downward. He then made his hand wiggle like a fish. Jerry understood this to mean he was going to look for Fish. Mike mouthed “Tuna” and pointed below. Jerry nodded. Mike put his hands over his head in a pushing motion and pointed to Jerry. Jerry was trying to figure out what he meant when the plane dipped suddenly to the left and down. Jerry immediately threw his hands up against the ceiling of the fuselage attempting to hold his position as the plane went int a steep dive towards the water. Beer spilled from his partially finished bottle coating him and the back of the fuselage in the cool Mexican beverage. Jerry tried to hold the beer with finger and thumb while using the rest of his right hand to keep himself from sliding into the front of the cockpit over the seats. The fact that the cases of beer were also sliding underneath him didn’t help. Just when Jerry thought for sure he was going over the seats, Javier leveled off about 500 feet over the surface of the water. Jerry’s stomach went from his throat back into his knees for a moment before rebounding to more or less it’s original location. “Fuck.” he said to himself. Javier looked back and gave him a dimpled smile and then pointed out the window. “Autun!” he yelled loudly enough to be heard over the engine noise. Sure enough, as Jerry looked out the window over Javier’s shoulder he could see that the surface of the ocean was broken with leaping Dolphin, swooping birds and jumping fish. It was a giant bait ball being torn apart by the ocean’s top predators. Javier flew straight over the top of the churning water and then began circling it, the whole time speaking in Spanish through his headset. After 3-4 full laps around the fish, Javier flew of back in the original direction and began to gain altitude again. He lifted up his beer again and the three once again tapped their beers together saluting the fact that the tuna fleet would be bringing home the bacon to Ensenada tonight.