I peeked out the door peering up and down the road. 28th street looked quiet. Just parked cars lining both sides of the dimly lit urban neighborhood in Southeast Santa Monica. I stepped out locking the door behind me and descended the 3 stairs to the walkway. I made my way around the small brick planter that held our miniature patio and well loved garden. The cool breeze under my skirt exhilarating and new as I stepped up to the little red car in our driveway. I inserted the key and slid in quickly shutting the door. I put the same key in the ignition starting the motor then quickly reached over and shifted into reverse. As I backed out and pulled away my neighbor Bill came out of the small apartment complex walking his dog. “Whew!” I thought. “That was close.” None of my neighbors knew about this side of me. I wasn’t sure any of them would understand why I was wearing a short black skirt, nylons, heels, sheer white blouse with full wig and make up. Realistically I barely knew myself. I just felt happy this way. Deeply happy. I left the apartments and small homes of 28th street turning the corner shifting through the gears with the unfamiliar hand in long red nails. I pulled up to the light at Centinela. Traffic crossed in front of me and I began to relax. No one out here would know me even if I was” read” as a man. Unlikely I figured for cross traffic to be looking very hard at a car they passed in an intersection anyway. The light changed and I pulled out making a left and then merging right to the 10 freeway onramp. Once safely transitioned from the 10 to the 405 North I looked at the little clock set in the black plastic dashboard. 10:45 it read. “Not bad.” I thought considering getting shaved, plucked, made up and my nails glued on took 2 solid hours. “The price of beauty.” I mused. I hadn’t started getting ready until after my wife Inga had gone to bed. She wasn’t very happy about it but was trying her best to support me exploring this need. I felt so guilty even asking if she minded me going out again. It had been a month since my meeting in Orange County. That had been my first encounter with other “cross dressers” like myself. It had been a revelation as well as a quick education. There had been about 15 “girls” there. Many had been members for years and went out regularly. My outfit of a denim mini skirt, furry white sweater, white nylons, ankle socks and white heels had been the subject of quite a bit of big sisterly advice. I hoped my conservative and tasteful outfit would be more appropriate tonight. A couple of the girls had spoken of a bar in Studio City with a Cage Aux Folles stage show and “girl friendly” bar. They chuckled about the “Powder Puff” meeting we were attending as “stale” and rigid.” I had to admit, it was pretty lame standing around in the hotel meeting room under fluorescent lights drinking punch discussing hair and make up. “Where is this bar?” I had interrupted keenly interested. They had looked me up and down seeing me for the mess I was but the large blonde in a light lavender dress and matching heels answered. “It’s in Studio City on Ventura Blvd. just off the Cold Water Canyon exit.” I knew that area well. I worked all over there travelling nearby regularly working as an illustrator and animator on various projects. I merged from the 405 onto the 101 going East now. “Getting close.” I thought feeling a sudden wave of butterflies. These freeways were always crowded and tonight was no exception. Friday night at 11pm and the 6 lanes were full of drivers merging and jockeying in a dizzying 3 dimensional race to their different destinations. I found mine in a few minutes. I crossed onto the ” Cold water Canyon” exit coming to a stop at the bottom next to another car. I suddenly felt exposed the driver next to me able to look across and perhaps notice I wasn’t really a woman. “Just focus ahead.” I coached myself calming my sudden anxiety. The light changed and I turned right onto Coldwater Canyon drive a main artery in this part of the Valley. I merged left and pulled up again next to a different car at Ventura blvd. feeling slightly less anxious I made the left past the Alpha Beta and began to travel East, nicer retail clothing stores, restaurants, small shops and the occasional bar lining the 4 lanes of busy traffic. “Keep your eyes open.” I thought scanning for the bar. I had no address, but the “girl” from Powder Puff had said it wasn’t too far East on Ventura from Coldwater. I drove a bit more and then suddenly there it was. “Queen Mary.” A 10 by 20 foot white sign with red Elizabethan letters glowed above a crowded parking lot on my left. New much larger butterflies now swirled in my stomach as a drove past the bustling bar a small line of men and women at the front door. “Wow.” I sighed recognizing the size of my new challenge. I would have to stand with that line of people dressed as a woman. “I didn’t do a this to chicken out.” I reasoned turning the car at the next left then merging West going back towards the Queen Mary parking lot. I once again drove past the front door and pulled up to the driveway entering the lot. I rolled my window down as an attendant waved me in. “The lot is full.” said the handsome middle-aged man with dark caramel skin, kinky salt and.pepper hair and dark suit. “You’ll have to park over by the mall he said pointing further West. “Okay.” I said hearing myself speak now suddenly very aware of my deep male voice. I rolled the window up driving through the lot to the alley way behind making a left towards the mall he had pointed out. I crossed a quieter side street to the mall and parked next to the dark mom and pop shops that lined the large lot. I looked in the mirror and checked my make up. “Are you ready?” I asked the woman in the mirror. Returning home without going in was impossible I admitted gathering my purse and keys then opening the door. I stepped out and shut the door scanning the lot. A couple on the other side of the lot were walking to their car but it was otherwise empty. I put my keys in my purse slinging it over my shoulder trying to remember how I’d seen women do this. “Good thing I’ve been practicing walking in these shoes.” I said to myself as I heard the 3″ black pumps clack and echo as I walked purposely through the lot towards Ventura Blvd. I crossed the small side street almost catching my heel on the uneven asphalt. “Be careful.” I noted changing my stride slightly taking smaller more feminine steps. I stepped onto the sidewalk near the corner in full view of the steady line of cars whizzing by on Ventura Blvd. I could see the lot now and the small group at the front door. I walked deliberately focusing on the sidewalk in front of me. ” Hey dude!” I suddenly heard nearby startled. I turned quickly and saw a young man maybe a few years younger than myself leaning out of the window of the dark BMW as it rolled slowly by. “Hahaha!” He laughed as they sped off down the road. I wanted to run feeling suddenly awkward and ridiculous. “Welcome.” I heard off to my left. It was the parking attendant. “Joining us tonight?” He asked warmly holding out his hand. ” Yes.” I said in a new higher voice. “Let me escort you.” He said holding out an elbow. I took his arm. “First time here?” He queried softly. “Yes.” I nodded now smiling. “Well you look lovely.” He said his teeth smiling under the groomed mustache. “Right this way.” He added escorting me through the lot away from the front door. “Isn’t the front door that way? I asked now mildly alarmed sizing him up physically. Maybe 6’2” and not very athletic. I figured I could take him if necessary. “Oh, that’s the straight entry.” he chuckled. “You don’t want to go there.” “Oh, okay.” I said relaxing a bit. “I’m Ron.” He offered. “Nice to meet you I replied looking into his soft brown eyes and seeing only warmth. ” I’m Jennifer.” Very pleased to meet you Jennifer.” He said opening a non descript brick colored metal door on the rear alley. I looked in. A cute blonde with large toothy grin and bobbed hair sat on a stool at the top of a short flight of stairs in a Jean mini skirt and pink tank top. “That’s Karla.” Ron said kissing me on the cheek. “Have fun.” I couldn’t believe what had just happened. I man had kissed me and I sort of liked it. I walked up the stairs and stood in front of Karla even cuter up close. With bright red lips and quite convincing look. “5 dollar cover hun. ” she smiled. “you look nice.” She said as she exchanged a stamp on my hand for my money. “Have a Good time she said pointing to her left into the dimly lit bar. From here it looked like any bar but as I began to walk deeper among its patrons I realized that the woman were all like me, men in drag. Some glanced up as I negotiated my way closer to the actual bar. Some looked up and smiled their glistening lips on straws or chatting cheerfully. All looked amazing dressed to the nines in gorgeous long gowns, cocktail dresses with sparkling jewelry or in short clingy club dresses. Some were absolutely unbelievable. I found out later many were performers from the stage show up front. One woman in a short frilly black chiffon dress and diamonds giggled as 3 male admirers vied for her attention. A spot opened at the bar when a girl with long straight blonde hair spun and walked away. “Is this seat taken?” I asked the gentleman sitting in the adjacent seat. “Please. ” He said holding the seat out for me. I smoothed my skirt and sat down the motion coming from some deeper part of me. “May I buy you a drink?” He asked. He was probably 40. Short dark hair lightly tanned wearing a gray turtleneck and black sport coat. “That would be nice.” the new voice replied. “Vodka Cranberry.” I said smiling at him. “Vodka Cranberry he said to the large comfortable gray haired bartender. The bartender nodded spinning to make the drink from the well stocked shelves that stood in front of a mirrored wall.