Keystone 3 March 9, 2018


Emily Jo Donatello

(call me Em)




Please open the audio below and listen while reading this section of the entry:



“When I woke up this morning, you were on my mind.”


My wounds? Real, yes, but put Wednesday and Thursday behind me. Make Friday a refreshing day, I determined. The first item on my agenda for today: a paid seminar with my friend Cassandra Storm, pre-eminent photographer. Its purpose was to give tips on better “posing,” a skill in which I needed much help. Skipping breakfast, I put myself together.








… had chosen the small, back section of the Dog & Pony Restaurant/Lounge as her “studio” for the morning.


Beside Cassandra as adjunct professor was Nora Simone, who is a crossdresser model and so completely comfortable in her presentation.


The two made an excellent tag team: Cassandra peppering pointers as she snapped shots and Nora offering much-needed practical advice for awkward crossdressers and transgender women, the eight of us. Of course, their principal instruction was the most basic – RELAX, it’s only a photo and, now — praise the digits! – there are no wasted film processing fees. One click will dispose of the dreadful.


During the class each “student” also had some individual time with Cassandra to capture her lessons in professional photos. I can’t wait to see those. Cassandra tells me she’ll be sending them out once she gets all her Keystone photos, literally thousands, organized. Finally for me that very active “posing” class, in a totally non-judgmental atmosphere, re-launched my full conference mode. By the end of that hour with Cassandra I’d put all the negativity of the past two days behind me. Intended or not, the class also delivered a bonus: the camaraderie of several other “students,” previously strangers, now sisters before the lens.


And – pleasant surprise – one of those was my pen pal Jennifer Kennedy from Oregon. She had been following me on Flickr – which calls into question her eyesight – and I’d hoped to meet her one day. She had written she’d be at Keystone. How energizing to get her early morning hug!


Jennifer was so happy. Her joy instantly infected me, now happy too and where I could be. Me.


Oh, and I was not posing.


Morning quickly rolled into noon and the official luncheon. Jennifer and I just had to sit together and, given our newfound comfort with selfies, just had to take one.



The luncheon provided more than stomach-filling hotel food.



There were also mind-filling remarks from the guest speaker, Mara Kiesling, founding executive of the National Transgender Center for Equality.



Mara’d also spoken last year. This year her theme, “It’s not so bad, yet we’ve got work to do.” She spoke eloquently, adding a sweet touch of humor, which, of course, made the argument more persuasive. One thought-provoking comment urged that we beware of slippage, not unlike what has happened to the abortion rights movement since the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision. Adversaries retain angry energy, she stated.  And, speaking of judges, she also noted that, surprising to her, the NCTE now spends much time trying to block the appointment to the federal bench of judges known to have anti-transgender biases. Happily, she said, some success has been achieved. Still the battle wages daily.


After the luncheon I caught Mara in a hallway, introduced myself, and thanked her for the inspiring talk. She was most gracious and remembered fondly my friend, the Attorney.


But I had to run. Another session with Cassandra Storm awaited. My comfort with her draws me to her talent. This afternoon session, one on one, put my camera in her hands for five minutes, a service she introduced last year. It’s a discounted way to get professional photos by foregoing the photographer’s editing. As I’m decent with basic photo editing, this option from Cassandra is just right for bargain-hunting me.


Please open the audio below and listen while reading this section of the entry:



I walked right in. Now a cock-eyed optimist, I put my refined posing skills to work before Cassandra’s clear eye.



All this and more, in five minutes (really eight; time slowed in the makeshift studio). Two times with Cassandra in one day, a first for my thirst for affirmation. My mind does roll on, as slow as time allows.


Inside the varied speed of time Friday afternoon, a seminar, or was it two? Lobbying in the lobby; a chat with my friend Joan; an appointment for a chat with my friend Dr. Leis, who missed it. Later he apologized.


That came in the evening on Katie Ward’s bus to Cafe Fresco. I’d changed yet again (three outfits in one day; surely I was in the swing of fling by then). Andrea and I met on board, so we could replenish our tradition: dinner together on the Friday evening of Keystone. We’d first met on Katie’s bus two Keystones back and dined there again each time since. As I walked the aisle, I noticed Dr. Leis, out with the girls, catty-corner to my right. We greeted one another. He apologized for missing our meeting earlier; potential clients he needed to consult after one of his seminars. I understood, I said. Anyway I’d see him soon for another round of facial injections. With Andrea’s assent I asked the doctor if he’d like to join us for dinner. He would.

To start, Andrea had the Riesling; I had the Cabernet. The doctor had his 2nd choice of Vodkas (the Tito’s), as the waitress, new to her job, could not confirm his first choice.


The doctor, chatted up by Katie, chose the duck, a house specialty; Andrea could not resist the Brussels sprouts, another house favorite. I had an Asian Caesar salad, as I’m very fond of Oxymorons. It tasted better than it had a right to.


We had a most convivial time together, the three of us. Andrea, sharp despite the wine, asked to have two mementos of the occasion. I happily obliged.


Andrea, resplendent in her makeup by Scarlett:



And Andrea with our hopping hostess, Katie:



Back at the hotel after dinner, Andrea sensibly chose rest over further activity. I, gorging on the feast of freedom, chose the Dog & Pony lounge.



On the way to the D & P I visited my room for a respite and an outfit refreshment. I donned a cherished accessory, a gift from a most cherished friend, my Stetson fedora. That enabled a tipsy end to an atypical day.




Psychic Hugs.



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