Friday, October 23, 2020

Harmon Keller/Alicia Polawski: Next Steps

I had a decision to make over the course of the "off-season" as to whether I would return to the Inn or continue developing this life I am leading into something with a bit more value then when I found it, perhaps as a means to finance the next phase of my life.  Apparently, for many that the Inn has cut off from the lives they were born into, a curvy woman in her mid-twenties with a thriving social media presence would be ideal, and work as an air hostess only more appealing, apparently not realizing that the vast number of people who think that way leads to a rather low rate of pay.

Instead, there was a pandemic, which not only made a return to the Trading Post Inn unlikely, but disrupted my sources of income - far fewer people were opting to fly, which meant that some flights were cancelled and others needed less staffing.  Given that most flight attendants are not salaried but paid by the hour, we started to feel the pinch almost immediately.  The union makes laying people off difficult, so that means very few of us get enough work to live on.  In some ways, it is a fascinating study of resources thrown out of equilibrium - fewer people are traveling, so there are fewer flights, and since there are fewer people allowed on the flights, there need to be fewer people assigned to each, but the lower capacities also mean that the number can't be scaled back quite as far back as one might expect.  Demand is highly variable as well, and even the people who book a flight often change their minds, sometimes bringing the passenger count below the point where it makes more sense to cancel the flight, especially earlier on.  Given that attendants on this airline are not paid for cancelled flights, even if they show up and are helping to prepare for boarding, it was often frustrating.

It would, logically, have been a good time for "Alicia" to make a career change, but as mentioned, her job likely lends a certain value to her identity as a commodity well beyond what it brings in directly, and that is before considering that this job is also no small part of the appeal of the YouTube channel, both in its travel theme and the idea that there's something ineffably sexier about my making these recommendations because of this job, even if I've been advised to not actually wear my employer's uniform, instead dressing in a dress that suggests it, while also wearing one of those silly scarves and putting my hair up.

Options for that have been slimmer, what with so many potential subjects of new episodes are closed, and I have had to learn to do more of the production myself since Barbara took a leave of absence to look after her ailing father some months ago.  It has been especially frustrating since we had just started to get some meager advertising revenue for our trouble, and even been contacted by certain locations interested in being featured.  The first one or two of those we shot were actually quite enjoyable - no security or police saying we could not film somewhere, people willing to talk rather than finding us a nuisance - although some of the negotiations have been peculiar:  No cash changing hands, but a fair amount of discussion of exchanging links, specifying their website in the video and making it clickable.  There have also been overtures about product placement and endorsements, or an online storefront, but research seems to indicate that many would-be "influencers" find themselves with more inventory and debt than profit as a result.

This apparently tends to be treated as a dirty little secret; I attended a meet-up of various online personalities in the area a few weeks ago and the mostly-young people there had very little to say about monetization or cash flow other than to comment that some "change in the algorithm" had hurt them.  I doubt many of them will last, as the bulk seem to have found a hobby briefly turning into a profitable business but have little idea of how to approach it as one, though they at least have the advantage of being born into this era and having some amount of unthinking instinct into what will work.

On top of that, the landscape can be rather treacherous.  Some fellow who is apparently paid money so that people can watch him play video games suggested that, if travel became too much of an obstacle, I at least have the sort of appearance that would allow me to do well on "Only Fans".  I nodded, said that was an option that one had to consider, and then looked up the name when I had a spare moment alone in the ladies' room.

Suffice it to say, I do not see myself using that platform, although I also wonder if this young man was propositioning me as much as suggesting a future plan of action.  The idea did make me start to think a bit more about how I use my sexuality and even sexual availability in this area, somewhat - while Jordan put me in a tight costume and directed me to speak in a certain way, I haven't necessarily been doing this as well as I could on "_______ with Alicia", especially since Barbara left.  I can walk in heels and stuff my bosom into an elevating brassiere, or undo a button or two in nice weather, but I have not spent much time on learning how to create certain effects with cosmetics, or given much thought to personal fashion choices beyond what generally complements a woman with this body type.  These things, from what I can tell, tend to enhance a woman's appeal to other women, which I have perhaps been ignoring.  Moreover, I tend to rely on the generally-valid assumption that not only will men simply be attracted to this body, but that a woman's lack of reciprocal interest will only make her more enticing.  Two years of Alicia's job have shown that many men are not that complex, and simply want to see a woman eager to be with them sexually, rather than believe that they might be the one to melt the ice queen if only she had a chance.

Integrating this into Alicia's online presence is, I suspect, the sort of thing that will make Alicia's life a more valuable asset at the point when I decide to leave it, though the building of it will likely not be as pleasant as it must appear.

-Harmon Keller

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Cary: Shh! It's her birthday

Just saw Jonah's post about celebrating Krys's birthday and wondered if maybe people might be a bit curious about how it was going on the other side.  It was, as you might expect, kind of a low-key event.  I took her into Portland for a nice meal just like last year, but it got a bit uncomfortable; the distanced tables and relatively quiet room has a way of letting you know you're doing something wrong.  Not that it really bothers Krys - as much as she kind of enjoyed the initial harder lockdown because it meant very little time pretending to be 13, she pushes hard against people who tell her what to do almost by reflex, and sometimes I've got to be the dad and remind her that it's not the world trying to make her feel like a powerless kid.  You can imagine how that goes.

That said, she's in a better place right now than she has been in a while.  You've probably never seen a young girl so happy to find her body changing - she whooped when she had her first period, she's grown fairly tall for her age, not quite the girl who's a head-and-a-half taller than every boy in her class but not far off, and she is already wanting to know when she'll outgrow her first training bra, only half-kidding when she says she's been researching which brands of chicken use the most growth hormones and to please buy that.  I tell her that her genes make it unlikely she'll ever get near what she had before, and she grumbles about stupid white-girl genes and how it's bad enough that she needs insane amounts of sunblock to go to the beach, and I generally avoid pointing out that they are also responsible for her red hair, which she kind of loves:  It's straight, long, curls easy, and makes her the center of attention wherever she goes.  I apparently got off very light in terms of black-woman hair care as Elaine, both by having her around and having it be fairly straight.

Aside from that, though, she's also reached a point in school where she's starting to find herself challenged, a bit.  You don't necessarily get amazed that someone who previously graduated high school finds themselves no longer able to coast when returning to junior high some fifteen years later, because the world moves and changes so fast these days, but it's been interesting to watch Krys grapple with it.  She's not really one for regrets, but she's smart enough to know that a lot of things could have gone differently for her.  I don't really know what her high school years were like at all, but I'm thinking she got the idea that she'd be able to get by on sex appeal early, and never really had someone make a case for other things being just as exciting.  You gather she also notices that even now, there aren't that many people like the real her in the books she's assigned to read, although it's getting better.

We're still trying to find something she really loves, though.  She took piano lessons for long enough to learn to play well enough that she can tap something out, and sometimes you'll see her fingers moving when listening to music (not that she listens to a lot of stuff with keyboards, so far as I can tell), but her teacher stopped giving lessons in the spring because of the virus and Krys hasn't been interested in picking them back up.  She doesn't think she'll wind up doing it for a living, so why should she spend so much time practicing?

You don't really have an easy time finding an answer for that.  She doesn't really want me to be her dad beyond making appearances, so I can't really use myself as an example and say that I became a jack of all trades and master of none, because she seems to think I'm doing pretty well.  You try asking if she'd liked dancing or if she just did it for money (not a comfortable conversation with someone who looks 13), and she starts talking about maybe doing cheerleading, which kind of seems like a path back to trying to count on being pretty.

It's hard to know what to do so much of time time.  With Elaine, the job was just to help her do the things people wouldn't let her do for herself, letting her look like a kid and helping her escape when being an adult in a kid's body made her uncomfortable.  That's all Krys says she wants from me, most of the time, but I also know that she doesn't want to make the same decisions as before, which means starting over as a kid, and kids need parents, and I don't know if I can be that for her someone who may be half my age but is still 28.


Friday, October 16, 2020

Jonah/Krystle: Surprise! It's Your Birthday!

It's funny to see Jordan write about how the pandemic has made him feel a lot like he was back in his old life, because it's been the opposite for me:  The longer this goes on, the more I feel like my old life is a dream.

I don't mean that as any sort of metaphor or whatever, but because even after five years, I'm still usually a guy in my dreams,  I'm stuck at 16 in those dreams, still in high school, even though the person going by my real name is old enough to drink and I've just turned 28, as far as anybody but a few people is concerned.  I don't remember those dreams very often, just enough to occasionally have a reminder that even though I'll never give up being Moira's mommy and I can get through all the female stuff on autopilot these days, some part of my head won't let go of being a guy.

Meanwhile, in the real world, the fact that we're not really doing anything new means that Momma Kamen is often reaching into the past, especially when Moira does something new, relating it to how the original Krystle was as a toddler, or Karla's kids, and after seven months, the stories have been repeated enough that I recognize some of them, and it's not really awkward bluffing to get her to say more.  Her or Karla - we don't see her in person very often, because she's living with her boyfriend and there's baby-daddies that makes her circle pretty big, but she skypes with her mom a lot, and likes to see her niece, and since it's not a very big apartment and I don't want to cause trouble, it means I get pulled in, and there's more reminiscence.  And I'm not sure how to put the rest of it, because I didn't finish school and all, but if you look at Krystle's life and mine as one story, the way it must look for them, they've kind of filled in the gaps of how "Krystle" went from a rebellious girl who stripped for money to a church-going woman who slipped up one night and got pregnant but has mostly played by the rules otherwise.  Like, there's a path from one to the other that makes sense to them, and even if I'm nothing like the Krystle they knew before, and the more they do that, the more it makes sense to me.  I still know who I am, underneath, but it's also starting to feel like I've always been Krystle.

And then there's stuff like my birthday.  Or hers.  Momma K put it up on the big calendar in the kitchen, because everything in her datebook goes up on that, and when I was writing that I had a job interview coming up, Moira asks what I'm writing, then has me pick her up so that she can point at things and ask what they are.  When I get to the one that's just my name, I'm like "Krystle - oh!, my birthday", kid of half-surprised.  Her eyes get big, though, asking if there are going to be presents and cake.  I don't know if we can afford presents, I say, but I suppose we can arrange a cake.  That, obviously, becomes the biggest event of the month, as far as she's concerned.

It's fun.  I let her help with frosting and blow out the candles, she has a huge sugar rush all night, and Momma K laughs when she finally goes down, saying that she remembers "me" being kind of a brat about "my" birthday, demanding presents, and it's funny to her that I'd apparently forget it.  I've had a bit of wine, so I'm a little less guarded, saying "well, it's not as important as" and only stop myself because, at least for now, Krystle's birthday has bumped mine out of my head.  I recover with "as important as hers is" while remembering December 28th, but I've kind of got to pause and count on my fingers to figure out how old I actually am.

After that, Krystal calls to wish me a happy birthday, which is nice.  Still, it's got me feeling stressed, so I head out to the fire escape to get a little time alone, outside of that apartment.

I'm not the only one; there's a man on the same level but a couple units over who's also out there, and just looking at him, I feel kind of like we've got something in common.  "Hey," I say, "you look like you wish you smoked too."

He's confused.  "What?"

"You know, how in movies, people will take a break to do that but what they really want is to get away from their family for a moment, or other stuff that they're not supposed to want to get away from?"

"And meanwhile we look stupid doing that, especially since we apparently both forgot our phones?"

"Exactly!"  We both laugh, and I extend a hand despite it being way too far to shake.  "Hi; I'm Krystle."

"I know.  You've, um, grown up, but I recognize you."  He leans over the rail and extends his hand too, and between doing that and the way he says "grown up", he winds up paying some more attention to my chest, making me want to zip my hoodie up without being too obvious about it while also noting that he's actually been staring less than most guys do.

Still, I groan, though it probably sounds more embarrassed to him than me hating that I've walked into this when I was trying to escape people acting like we had history.  "I'm sorry!  I don't remember your name!"

"It's okay; my mom left my father when I was thirteen and we weren't exactly running with the same people at school back then.  I'm Gabe.  Uh, Gabriel."

I give him a good look, hoping he'll think I'm trying to remember him when I'm really just scoping him out for the first time.  He's a bit taller than me, wears glasses, has short natural hair and a beard.  He's wearing short sleeves and from what I can see of his arms, he doesn't spend a whole lot of time in the gym trying to get bulked up.  There's a company name on his t-shirt I don't recognize.  Seems pretty harmless.  "Okay.  Yeah, Gabriel."

He smiles a big toothy grin.  "You don't recognize me at all, do you?"

"No... I'm sorry!"  I hate the way I draw out the "no" and how my voice kind of tends to squeal when I apologize; it started out as me imitating how I thought girls sounded and it stuck.

"That's okay; Mom moved us back to Georgia and I never got closer to here than New York since, but that's as close as anyone else was when the Covid got him, so it wound up being on me to make arrangements and go through his things."

"Oh no!  I--"

"Don't apologize; you didn't have anything to do with it and if you're lucky the most you ever knew him was saying hi in the elevator.  He wasn't exactly a great guy."

"Uh, okay."

"Yeah.  Anyway, don't wanna go back in there, can't really go that many other places, so here I am."

"Here you are."

We stood in silence for a while before he asked about me, and I told him about Moira and how I've been furloughed for six months and was starting to look for other jobs in case The Changeling never came back all the way, but didn't really want to because even though it was just waitressing it was also my best friends.  "But I can't do it forever.  I turned 28 today, have a 3-year-old girl, and still live with, y'know, my mother."

Fortunately, he picked up on the "today" bit.  "It's your birthday?  Congratulations!  What's the best place to get some nice baked goods and sit six feet apart?"

"Whoa!  That's, uh--"

"Krystle, I buried my father two days ago, there's a pandemic, and this is the closest thing I've had to fun since I got here.  Let me buy you a cupcake."

I started trying to come up with some sort of polite reply, but was saved when he heard his phone ring inside.  "Gotta get that.  But it was nice to see you again."

"You too."

I went inside to see that Momma Kamen was still on the couch, watching some CBS crime show.  "I hear that Gabriel boy has a nice job in Manhattan."

"How would you--  It's not like that!  His father just died and he clearly just wanted someone to talk to."

"Uh-huh.  Still, happy birthday to you!"

Just what I need - Krystle's mom trying to fix me up with someone from so far back in Krystle's life that she's probably forgotten him herself.


Monday, October 12, 2020

Jordan/Yuan-Wei: Different sorts of weird

Hey, it's been a minute, and I can't even really say that the last year of my life has been screwy in ways that don't involve the Inn, because I've still been in contact with Chen-Ai/Bingbing about stuff, and she still acts like she wants to be friends. Like, the sort of friend who charges you ten thousand American dollars to sign documents so that nobody goes looking for Chen-Ai because she didn't file her taxes on multiple continents, but still a friendly sort of mercenary.  We're helping each other out, so I should be happy to kick some cash her way!  Really, she says, I should just let her hire herself as her own business manager.  I'm actually not sure why she hasn't just gone and done that anyway, beyond maybe not wanting to have an ugly confrontation when the Inn spits out a new Chen-ai.  I half-suspect that she had someone lined up, but she's gotten cagier since the pandemic, because who knows when there will be enough people at the Inn to trigger the curse?  It didn't happen at all this year, from what I can tell, and I have moments when I think we won't be out of the woods by next May.

I never thought I'd be thankful for travel restrictions, but she absolutely would have come to visit "friends in California" this summer if that had been a thing.  Of course, on the other side, it's been a tricky thing with my visa.  VFX work is still going on, so I've got a job in California, even if CGI is not as easy to do from home as you might think - the 3D scanners and powerful render farms are at the office, so I'm a bit limited in what I can do at home and there's lag.  Plus, the amount of work has tapered off as studios push movies out and thus need less overtime to hit a date, and a lot of film and TV just hasn't been shooting, which means less work is coming in.  Ironically, a lot of what is coming in is from China, which raises the question of maybe me working from "home" in Hong Kong.  There's been talk, but the lag would really suck unless we opened an actual office there, which the guys up top aren't quite ready to do.  Plus, if I leave here for Hong Kong, who knows when or if I'll be able to come back.  My passport as Yuan-Wei may be Chinese, but in my head and heart I'm still Chinese-American, and not being able to see my family or anything would just suck.

Not that I don't occasionally think of picking up stakes and settling in Hong Kong for good.  It's not like I didn't notice racism for the first twenty-five years of my life, but when you're a big guy who has lived in Queens all his life, your voice says you belong there, you've got places you can go to escape it because everyone's Asian there, and I was kind of tough to beat up.  I didn't know much kung fu, but I was fucking difficult to knock over at my size.  Being fat isn't much fun, and makes you another sort of target, but I didn't get kicked in the face like the skinny guys did.  It's something I didn't have to deal with a whole lot after becoming Yuan-Wei - I spent my time in good environments and the creeps just thought I was exotic and might be excited to fuck any white guy - but ever since people started in with that "China virus" shit, there have been a whole fucking lot more people yelling at my ass, and some of the worst are in the nice neighborhood where I live.  Like, Wuhan is as far from Hong Kong as L.A. is from Texas or something, but they don't even need to see me pull out some sort of ID that shows me as legally an immigrant to figure that I personally brought the virus here and my having a house is stage one of some communist conspiracy to kill all the white people and take over their country, but I guess these guys have always been rich white assholes and they are not handling the first time they've ever felt unsafe or restricted very fucking well at all.

They need a trip to the Inn, every fucking one of them.

I don't know if that would really change them, though.  Like, I always used to think that the last few years have really changed me, but seven months of mostly staying in has me wondering how much the stuff I thought was different really was.  Sure, I've got a clitoris which has a direct line of communication with my pleasure center, and I'm kind of at the point when whatever chemistry happens in your brain when you're around a guy with the right pheromones is starting to train me to find them attractive even from a photograph, but, shit, that's just chemistry.  I'm back to hanging around the house, working on a computer all day and then either shifting it to gaming mode or finding something on Netflix after that, pretty much like before I went to the Inn the first time.

It's starting to make me feel like I'm seeing a stranger in the mirror for the first time in a while, too.  Especially since I'm not really using that time to make the girl in the mirror into what I want from her, unless I know I'm going to have a video call with upper management or a client that day.  The rest of the time, there's no point in makeup, and I'll just slip into a t-shirt and either some loose shorts or some leggings, and flip-flops for shoes.  I haven't worn heels in long enough that I went to the closet and made sure I could still walk in them while writing this.  A lot of my female co-workers have said that they're not looking forward to having to wear bras again when this is all over, but I'm not quite with them on that; my tits are just big enough that it stops being fun after a few hours.

I haven't quite eating too much or stopped doing yoga, and I've even started swimming a bit in the little slice of ocean I've got behind my house on occasion because I do like seeing a narrow waist in the mirror, but it's an effort and between that and my period, I'm starting to wonder what the point of being Yuan-Wei is if I don't get to hang out and be with other people.  It seems to be a whole lot more fucking work just to be the person I used to be!

And it makes me wonder how much this Inn stuff really becomes normal.  Annette and I have talked about how we're not like "regular" trans people because we figure that the part of our brain that determines gender identity also gets changed by the spell, and we just have to catch up the same way we do with who we're attracted to, but I'm starting to wonder if I ever really accepted being a woman, or if it just seemed like an okay trade-off to having a chance to go back to college and be popular and have lots of sex this time, even if it was the other kind.  Now, though, I'm starting to wonder if I'm actually comfortable with being a girl, or if I just like being attractive and popular.