Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Inner Banks





Back in July, in my blog Independence Day, I mentioned that I was planning a fall visit with my good friend Lisa Lesher and that we were going to go fishing on one of the ocean piers near her home.  She lives near the water in North Carolina's  Inner Banks, an area of large rivers and sounds extending inland from the Outer Banks.  Neither one of us has been salt water fishing recently or ever fished there as ourselves, although we both grew up loving to fish.  I had planned to come see her in September when the Blues and Spanish Mackerel were still running on the Outer Banks, but I had to cancel that trip under strange circumstances.

I was all set to go see Lisa for 3 days in late September.  Everything was packed, including my fishing gear, and the dogs had a reservation to stay at the kennel.  That morning when I woke up I had a strange sensation.  It felt like I had to pee but couldn't and eventually I had to go quite badly but when I finally did I noticed a little bit of what looked like blood.  There was not too much pain, only a little, and after that the pain subsided substantially.  Still, the sight and thought of blood had me worried so I called my doctor in Cary and he agreed to see me before lunch that day.  This is the same doctor that prescribes my hormones and I am so glad I go to a GP instead of an endocrinologist because not only can my doctor treat whatever ails me, he can usually see me on short notice if needed.

The doctor seemed to think that I had or did have a kidney stone, but rather than x raying me he sent me home with some painkillers and told me to monitor the situation.  He does not even have an x ray machine in his small office, so I would have had to go elsewhere had I done that and he is concerned about excess radiation.  He is a good doctor with sort of a holistic approach, and I like that. 

I remembered what happened last year when Mitchell woke up at my house in severe pain from a kidney stone and I had to take him to the emergency room.  I was afraid that was what was in store for me, so I cancelled the visit to Lisa's and the dog's boarding reservation.  I laid low for a few days and waiting, but nothing else happened.  There was no real pain but there was some discomfort.  I took a couple of the pain pills but since I did not need them I saved them for another time when they might be needed.  The old me would have gobbled them right up with liquor or beer over the next few days. 
Apparently I had passed a tiny kidney stone and have to hope there are no more whammies waiting to hit me later.


Fried soft shell Blue Crabs fresh from the Albemarle Sound.
I missed out on that trip to the coast but I promised Lisa I would still come down during the fall fishing season, so on Wednesday October 9th I hit the road heading east.  I rolled into Nags Head after having my first seafood meal of this trip, a lunch of fried soft shell crabs from a little place in Columbia, NC.  Lisa was meeting me at the beach but I got there before she did so I walked out on Jennette's Pier.  I arrived right in the middle of a something like a Nor'easter and the wind was blowing some kind of fierce on this grey day.  There was no way we were going to do any fishing in those rough, windy conditions but still I enjoyed walking out on the pier and seeing the ocean.  You can really smell the salt air when its blowing like that and feel its energy as you walk out  on the pier.  A few brave souls were fishing for Red Drum on the end of the pier with no luck, but most of the sparse crowd were spectators like me, gawking at the big waves and dynamic surf.


Rough seas:  Atlantic Ocean from Jennette's Pier in Nags Head, North Carolina...video below.
video

Once Lisa arrived we decided to forgo the pier and enjoy our favorite indoor activity, shopping.  The wind was wreaking havoc with our hair anyway and not only would no fish bite under such conditions, but we don't have the heavy tackle needed to fish in them. 

They have a smaller outlet mall in Nags Head and we hit the Dress Barn there armed with a coupon for 20% off.  Lisa bought a couple of tops, one of which may have become her favorite short sleeve top, and I found the perfect fitting pair of skinny jeans for only $19.99.  I needed a couple of gifts to take home, so we also hit a gift shop and by that time it was starting to get dark. 


When I was at the Outer Banks with Mitchell just a couple of weeks prior, the one meal I really wanted and did not get was a fresh tuna sandwich.  Tortugas Lie usually has a very good, reasonably priced grilled tuna sandwich so she followed me there up the beach road.  Tortugas is a fun little place with sort of a dive bar atmosphere and a Florida Keys decor.  Lisa had never been there and although we really enjoyed our delicious sandwiches, I could tell it wasn't go to be her favorite place.  Tortugas was very crowded during the dinner hour and quite noisy with several little kids running around and babies crying.  There are a few tables and a big bar but I believe it has a family atmosphere early and a bar crowd later on.


Grilled Tuna Sandwich from Tortuga's Lie...
I wanted to get some fresh, locally brewed beer to take back to her place for us to drink over the next three nights, so we stopped at my favorite brew pub, the Outer Banks Brewing Station.  We each got a sampler consisting of four 5 ounce glasses of some of the local favorites.  I chose two of the varieties to take home in growlers, which I now have to take back next time I go for recycling or refilling.  I could have stayed there all evening but we had a 20 minute drive and 20 ounces of that beer is about all we could handle and feel comfortable making the drive.


Very good beer brewed on the Outer banks...
Back at Lisa's, we relaxed, watched some television and had another beer or two before turning in for the night.  She has a nice, very clean three bedroom home which I will say is in the country on a dirt road, but it is a nice area with a small beach on the Albemarle Sound down at the end of her road.  During the day you can look down the road and see where the sound is located by the way the treeline gives way to the wide estuary.  When I worked for North Carolina Marine Fisheries as a Biologist Tech II, I lived on a creek and waterway that led out to this sound, and most of my time at work there was spent in outboard boats on this vast, often volatile body of brackish water (as I talked about in an earlier post this year, Really Big Update).
Albemarle Sound from the beach in Lisa's subdivision....video below...

video

We awoke on Day 2 with a plan to drive up to Virginia Beach and hit a couple of Lisa's favorite malls.  The wind was still blowing and there was a little drizzle, so it definitely would not have been a good day for the beach or fishing.  It was starting to look like my first salt water fishing trip as myself was a bust and would have to happen next spring, but that was ok.  There was still a ton of stuff to do in the area and she lives about an hour from Norfolk-Virginia Beach, which is a very large metropolitan area.  We got ready slowly I am afraid (my fault as I am not a morning person) and finally left around lunch time for the drive north. 


By the carousel in Lynnhaven Mall
We went to Lynhaven Mall for a few hours of walking and shopping.  This is a nice, big mall with lots of great stores and the coolest thing I had ever seen in a shopping mall, an old fashioned carousel.  One of the outlying stores happens to be my favorite shoe store, DSW, so we stopped in to look for a bit before entering the mall.  I broke the end off one of my big toenails there while trying on some boots, which were obviously too small.  The best solution seemed to be hitting one of the nail salons in the mall for a pedicure, which I sort of needed anyway because I would be seeing Mitchell that weekend when I got home.  Lisa had been growing out her own fingernails for awhile, had painted them and they looked really good except one of them had broken off a little bit.  She decided to let them do a quick fix on that nail and repaint her fingernails with a different color while I got my pedi.   She is not yet "out" on her job, so she didn't want to show up at work wearing big nails or French tips, like I have.


The vastness of Lynhaven Mall
When the girl finished doing my toenails I noticed that she was still sitting at the table getting her nails done.  She gave me a couple of odd looks but I thought maybe she was just frustrated that it was taking so long.  I determined that she must be getting a full set of nails for our next couple of days out, but I knew if she did she would have to take them off before going back to work on Saturday.  Finally she was finished and did not look happy at all!  I asked her what was wrong and apparently she had told the nail tech to just fix the one nail and repaint all of them, but there must have been a communication breakdown due to language differences (or perhaps due to the salon wanting to make extra money), so she ended up with a full set, a beautiful French manicure.  The girl whacked off three of her nails before she could stop her so she just let her go ahead. 


Not the happiest I have seen Lisa, I did not know how to interpret that look at the time..
This nail salon had a sign at the front that indicated it had been voted best nail salon in Virgina Beach the previous year.  They may do a great job with nails but apparently they are not the best when it comes to communication.  Lisa is a real sport and a kind, laid back person so she didn't express her dissatisfaction with the girl at the salon but decided to make the most of it and enjoy the nice nails for another 2 days.  We didn't buy much at this mall except some makeup from Mac and Sephora.  We mostly just walked and took it all in.  Deciding that one mall was not enough for us on this day, we left Lynhaven and went to what Lisa considers her "home mall", Greenbriar, and bought yet more makeup at MAC and Clinique there in Macy's. 

Greenbriar Mall was my favorite when I lived down in Elizabeth City, NC back in the 1990's and had my fisheries job.  It was even nicer now than I remembered so we got some more walking in and worked up a good appetite.  There was a really cool exhibit there for Breast Cancer Awareness Month called the Bra-ha_ha.  You make a donation to help fight breast cancer and get to walk around the exhibit looking at all the unique ways people have decorated bras.  Then you write you write your favorite one on an entry sheet and at the end of October a winner was declared.  I picked out one designed by some children in grade school and I hope they won.  This exhibit provided a really cool photo-op, all for a good cause.



After a nice dinner at Texas Steakhouse, we headed back to North Carolina to watch Lisa's favorite show, American Pickers, and relax.  I love that show too and we both had our laptops out logged into Facebook, adding some pictures and posts about our day.  Earlier this year I started a Facebook group called the Trans Beauty Network and designated Lisa as an administrator.  One more friend, Ashley Dawn Oakley helped me fine tune the original group ideas and she also serves as an administrator.  We spend a lot of time and effort on that group and even though we carefully screen each applicant we are up to almost 300 members and growing, at the time of this writing.  We have both cis and trans women members (mostly trans) and have hair stylists, makeup artists and photographers among our membership.  The group is basically dedicated to transgender women who are serious about their presentation in every way and dedicated to excellence in being the best that they can be.  We deal with topics such as makeup, hair, fashion, voice training and much more.


Makeup and skin care products haul from Thursday's trip to Virginia...
So we watched tv, had a couple of beers and caught up with our friends and group activities online.  The next morning I awoke to the sounds of trucks rolling by the house.  Apparently they were carrying dirt in and out of some site deeper within the subdivision.  I love Lisa's neighborhood because it is one of those rural, sound side developments where you find all different types of homes.  There is no HMO and you might see a trailer and a very nice two story home as neighbors in this heavily wooded community.  There was a house for sale 2 doors down from the water that I would love to have as a second home.  If I had more time to travel down there I would rent one of Lisa's bedrooms to use as a friendly headquarters close to the beach.  She is looking for a cool roommate now but even when she finds one there is a futon she says she bought for me in the third bedroom, which primarily functions as an office, so I can still have a place to sleep when I visit.

Virginia was calling again on day three of this trip.  The wind had died down some but there was still a little drizzle and I had more desire to go shopping than I did to go to the ocean and attempt to fish.  I started off the day with some quiet, me time and a walk on the little beach there on the sound.  When I came back I played with Flash, Lisa's big loveable Blue Tick Hound dog, for awhile before getting ready.  That dog is full of energy and a lot of fun!  Playing with him made me miss Night and Buddy so much.  My dogs actually met him on my spring trip but Flash and Buddy, being two males, clashed a little bit so I decided to board my dogs rather than bring them with me.  I really appreciate her offer for me to bring the dogs though, as most people I visit are not so dog friendly.  Lisa is such a great hostess!

On this day we went to downtown Norfolk to visit the MacArthur Center mall and see the battleship USS Wisconsin, which is on display there as part of the Nauticus museum complex.  Actually, this area of Norfolk is on the water and has soo much to do that one could spend several days within walking distance going to shops, restaurants and museums.  I desperately want to go back and see more of Norfolk, it is one of the most fascinating cities I know of.  It's one of the biggest ports in America with a huge Naval presence and a lot of history.  I am glad we got to see a little piece of it and the rain held off enough for us to walk around outside as well as in the mall.

When girls take over MacArthur Center...
The MacArthur center was everything I was expecting it to be and more.  It first opened when I was living in Elizabeth City and though I never got a chance to visit back then, I did read all about its construction and early parking dilemma in the Norfolk newspaper.  The have since added a large parking deck and I had always heard it was a very upscale shopping mall.  It didn't disappoint in the upscale department, as demonstrated when we walked in though the mall entrance into Nordstrum.  The mall was absolutely fabulous but we didn't buy anything all day.  We walked and looked and took it all in, then decided to set out for the Nauticus museum and the battleship.  My visit came during the infamous government shutdown in October so we did not expect the museum to be open or think we could get access to the ship.  It turns out that everything there was open but we arrived too late in the day to justify paying admission, so we just viewed the ship from the docks.
 
Lisa and I with the USS Wisconsin in the background.

Waiting for a sailor?  No!  I have a man back home.
We have a friend from Facebook that lives in Norfolk, Marci Kriz, and she met us for dinner that night at a waterfront seafood restaurant.  I talked to my other Norfolk friend, Brenda, the day before and she was unable to meet us and just missed us again on this night, although I spoke to her by phone later.  The restaurant, Joe's Crab Shack, is in an older shopping center downtown.  Lisa remembers shopping there back in the day, when she was in the Navy.  Today that shopping center is almost empty of retail stores but does have a few bars and restaurants which add to the nightlife experience of downtown Norfolk.  We got there an hour or so before Marci and enjoyed a spectacular view of the harbor from our seats at the bar. 
This is what I understand is an amphibious aircraft carrier in dry dock, seen from the deck of Joe's Crab Shack....
Lisa and I had a couple of drinks at the bar and when Marci came in we got a seat by the water.  Darkness had set in but the place has a great atmosphere and I was able to enjoy another really good seafood dinner.  Unfortunately, my phone battery had almost died so I was unable to post one of my signature dinner plate photos when I checked in on Facebook.  A lot of my friends love to see those but it irritates Mitchell when I take them, lol.  He wasn't with us so it would have been a great opportunity.  Oh well....
Marci Kriz, Lisa Lesher and I at dinner....
Me, Marci and Lisa
We enjoyed a long dinner and a great chat with Marci.  It's always fun to meet a new friend from Facebook and she has a lot in common with us, so there is so much to talk about.  She is an awesome girl and has a successful transition, going to work everyday as herself.  I really look forward to seeing her again next time I get up that way.  As usual, the night was too short as both Lisa and Marci had to work the next day and the staff at Joe's wanted to close down and go home.  We got back to North Carolina kind of late, about 11 pm and then the nail adventure began.

This was the last night of my trip and Lisa had to be at work at 7 pm.  She works on the weekends but has off Thursday and Friday each week.  This week she had also taken off Wednesday so we had three days and nights of fun, but it had to come to an end.  Lisa had gotten her French manicure and did not want to go to work with those nails.  That is definitely not the best way to come out at work, so we had to figure out a way to remove them.  I have never removed professionally installed nails before, but at the salon they cut them and then sort of pry them off.  They have the right tools and they know what they are doing.  We had neither.

We tried cutting with little success and we tried soaking them in nail polish remover with even less success.  Eventually Lisa remembered she had a Dremel tool and went out back to find it.  She came in with that tool and we proceeded to just grind those nails right off.  This was painful to watch and assist with and Lisa didn't seem to enjoy it too much either.  We finally got them off with the worst part being the mangled fingernails that she was left with.  Well, at least no one at work noticed manicured nails that weekend and she has since informed me that they are growing back quite nicely.  It was a lesson learned in communication with English as a second language nail techs as well as emergency nail removal, although eventually she won't have to remove her nails to remain undercover at work. 

We stayed up quite late that night talking, especially considering Lisa had to get up so early.  When I got up Saturday morning she was already gone, so I got ready, packed up the van and said goodbye to Flash and Lisa's house until my next visit.  I thought about driving back through Elizabeth City but going the beach route was much more tempting.  I hit one gift shop to get a present for my boyfriend and then took a last walk on Jennette's Pier. 



Heading home via the Outer Banks...
The ocean was so calm that day I hardly recognized it as the same ocean I saw just three days earlier.  People were fishing on the pier but nothing was biting.  I took a leisurely stroll to the end and back, then hung around the breakers watching a large group of surfers enjoying the waves on one side of the pier while some type of surfing competition was happening on the other side.  The sea was calm but there was still a pretty good break at the surf line, probably from of the recent storm.

video

After leaving the pier I stopped at Striper's Grill in Manteo for the last seafood meal of this trip.  I had never been to Striper's before and it's a cool place right there on the Roanoke Sound docks.  The lunch crowd was sparse but the food was good.  I got the namesake Rockfish sandwich served with fries.  Rockfish is synonymous with Striped Bass, a fish common in the ocean and estuaries of the east coast.  My primary job at Marine Fisheries had been collecting data on Striped Bass to assist in population and young of the year estimates that aid fisheries managers in determining recreational and commercial season lengths and catch limits.  Often we would eat the data after we collected it, so Rockfish are something I have enjoyed quite a bit of in my lifetime.

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Lisa and I at Lynhaven Mall in Virginia Beach on Thursday.  Has Lisa told you lately how much she loves that top?
We had a real blast during my three day visit but something greater happened than just two girls having a good time.  Lisa told me later that after this trip she gained a lot more confidence in her ability to pass and became much more comfortable going out.  A couple of weeks prior to my visit another Facebook friend had visited her and they spent some time out of the house at the beach during the Outer Banks Pride Festival.  Then when I came down I drug her around to all these malls and everywhere, as she puts it, which sort of forced her out of the house and into the open for long periods of time.

This is a girl that first went out during her teen years but things were much different then and she sort of retreated from going out as herself, at least on a regular basis, until lately.  Now that she is in transition and will go full time one day, she is more dedicated than ever to do what she needs to do to get herself ready for that eventuality.  Why not have fun doing it?  We have become really good friends this year even though we live too far apart to hang out often.  We met in person a year ago, have a great time when we are together and administer the Trans Beauty Network online together. 

I love helping people along their journeys any way that I can.  It was not that long ago that I took those first timid steps out of the house and into the public eye.  Some people helped me out but I never really had the support I was looking for until I had learned and grown a lot on my own.  It can be a scary world in the beginning  and the biggest thing we need is confidence.  Lisa used to call me brave for just going out and doing everything that a normal person does in the world.  I told her I was not brave I was simply doing what I had to do and just living my life as myself, finally.  Now she is reaching the same place in her life.  In the short time since this trip that I am writing about, I have witnessed her blossom even more by going out and doing more and more things as herself.  And now she is giving back more than ever to people who are reaching out for help in gaining the confidence to be themselves in this world.  I love happy endings......

This was the first time I ever met my good friend and fellow admin here, Lisa Lesher, back on November 7, 2012. She said I was the first trans person she ever met and she was about to embark on her journey and I had been transitioning almost 6 months...

"I can't believe how far I've came in the last 12 months. I thought I was pretty good about going out and doing stuff but Tammy Ann Matthews opened up a whole new world for me. I found out that we can go anywhere and do anything with out a problem.
 .... Lisa Lesher commenting on this picture in the Trans Beauty Network


Cover photo for our Facebook group, The Trans Beauty Network....
                                      Trans Beauty Network

When girls take over, that's our motto. This group is all about You! You Can be the person you want to be and you Can acquire the confidence you need to succeed.

This group is dedicated to transgender women who are serious about their presentation in every way and dedicated to excellence in being the best that they can be. We also appreciate all of our cis allies who join us here as friends and to assist us on our journeys. We are all here to help each other out.
Thanks to all of you for making this up and coming group such a success!




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