Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Celebrating Life

Of late, I've been re-evaluating my life.  Such as it is.

And so it was that, on Saturday, September 17, my roomie and bestie Linda and I went to dinner.  We did this for several reasons.  The most obvious was the generous gift I'd received which allowed me to do so.

Also, we were there to mark my 50th birthday a few days before- a day when I had plans, but didn't carry them out.

As veteran readers of this blog, September 17th has deep significance to me, as well as to many others.

On September 17, 2013,  the world learned that my dearest friend, Lisa Empanada, was dead.  Suicide.  The Darkness took her.

The past few years, this day has been one of reflection and tears.  I make sure I'm available to her soulmate Sandy if she needs a shoulder or ear.  But this year, she had plans.

I decided that this year, I'd do something different: I'd CELEBRATE Lisa's life, instead of dwelling on how much I miss her.  Like I do every other day of the year.

But not just Lisa's life.  Suddenly, I had to live.  I hadn't planned on that.  So I figured I'd take a night to Enjoy who and what I am.  Strut instead of sulk.

So.  Who and what am I?

I am a Woman.  With all that means.  True, I will never be able to bear children, but that doesn't define womanhood.  I have worked hard to become who I am today.  So, I decided to enjoy the fruits of my labors.

You see, that's something I'd forgotten.  The Joy of Womanhood.  Back when I was only able to be me for one night a month, I absolutely enjoyed being female.  I enjoyed looking down and seeing breasts and hearing my heels clack on the ground.  Of course there is FAR more to being a woman than that, but these little things brought me immense Joy.

A Lifetime ago: fake boobs, hip pads, corset, and a wig.

So that night, I'd made reservations at a fancy dining establishment for Linda and myself.  I put on my favorite dress- one that makes me feel good about myself.  I wore strappy heels.  And do you know what, dear reader?  When I looked into the mirror, for the first time in an eternity, I felt beautiful.  I thought I looked Hot.  So, after checking my makeup one last time, I turned and walked to the car, shoulders back, chest out, feeling Confident.

Linda and I were seated quickly.  We toasted to Lisa.  We toasted to Life.  We toasted Amanda Parnell (whose generosity made the night possible.) We toasted absent friends.  We ate well, and we laughed.
Toasting my huge forehead

As dinner came to a close, I said I wanted to finish our wine at the bar, which was all the way across the restaurant.  Why?  I wanted to "shake my ass across the room" so everyone could see me- see a confident Woman, free from her own chains, if only for a night.

And we did.  Then we walked back across the room to the exit.  From there, we went to Baxters for Angela's Laptop Lounge.  There I met my "Big Sister" Mel, and we talked for a while.  I also met Lynda Martini, who I'd been Facialbook friends with for a while.  She was a delight!

With Lynda Martini

It was a night for counting my blessings.  Linda and I called it an early night, as she had to work in the morning.  After returning to the apartment, I decided to do something I hadn't done in a while:  gaze into the mirror after coming back from a LL.

I used to look in the mirror one last time before cleaning off my makeup and changing into my male clothes.  I often would say to my reflection "Goodbye Sophie."  As time went on, that became more and more painful.

But that night, I looked in the mirror, and I smiled.  I didn't have to pull off a wig.  I didn't have to remove breast forms or carry a box of my girl stuff to my car from the motel room.  No, that night, I smiled and ran my fingers through my long hair.  I removed my dress and bra and saw my large, natural breasts.  Not forms.  I almost cried from joy.

Late Late at Night

The person reflected in the mirror was a Woman.  And she is me!

The Darkness clouds my vision.  Yet that night, I saw myself clearly.  I saw that while I still have a long path ahead, I have come a very long way.

And that- that made me Very Happy.

Be well.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Now What? A Ramble.

It's a week after my birthday and I wonder what my next Direction in life will be.
I spent months planning for last week just to screw it up in the end.  So now what?  I guess I'll have to make more plans.  I'll have to figure out a way to get a better job despite having a loser resume. Several people have it volunteered to help with that, so I guess I'll take them up on it.

I heard today that I didn't get a Jim Collins Foundation Grant, which I expected. After all, I'm not young and pretty enough or passible.  Or maybe I guess I don't do enough Outreach work- you know having a full-time job and all that. In any case, for whatever the reason I suck and I didn't get it, so that means no GCS in my future.

I really don't know what to do next.

I'm still very tired I still have very little hope.

Notice I just wrote "very little" as opposed to "no."

Jenny North was right: maybe it was just a glimmer of hope that stayed my hand on the 13th.  I don't know.  I guess I don't know anything.  Obviously, since I can't even be hired by a grocery store stocking shelves.

Late Saturday Night

I took last weekend off of work, as I have for the past 2 years. I wanted to be available for Sandy Empanada if she needed me.  After all, the 17th was the anniversary of the day we lost Lisa.  So I took the weekend off, but she was not home.  She had plans elsewhere. I had the weekend off.  It was nice to sleep in.  I saw my daughter, and I got a few things done that needed doing.  Apartment is still a mess though.

I also helped a friend move.  Dani was there for me at the bookstore when I transitioned.  She was very outspoken in her support.   Now she needed help, so I was there.  I'm glad I could do that for her.

Thank you for a Wonderful dinner Friday night, Jake and Rhea!  

Anyway there was an outpouring of emotion after I posted the last blog entry.  It floored me!  I didn't expect it.

There were people saying they would fly in for my funeral, and these are people who I barely know. Why would they do this?  Am I more a symbol in death?

I received some wonderful messages, and I want to thank all of you for keeping me in your thoughts. I still say I don't deserve it, but I do appreciate it more than I can say.

Yes, I am out of danger, but the Darkness is still there- still waiting- and, barring accidents, will probably be the reason of my death someday.  But not today.

Birthday Drink

Today is not that day.  Today is the first day of fall: the Autumnal Equinox.  Today, the Darkness doesn't have me by the throat like it did for months.

I had a wonderful weekend with friends and family.  I needed that.

I know this entry is Rambling. I'm doing it speech to text, and I'll edit later.

It's a beautiful morning today. I have to work later, but I am alive, and I am out of danger.

Be Well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

New Dawn Fifty

I arrived at Valley Forge Park at about 5:45.  The sky to the east was just beginning to turn a couple shades of orange grey.  There's a Mist across the Grand Parade. I'm sitting in the parking lot very close to where, all those years ago, I got on one knee and proposed to my Wife.

Me in the Dark.  The light is the dashboard lights reflected off my glasses.

Approximately a quarter of a mile from where I'm sitting is where I last tried to kill myself back in 1990.  That parking lot has been uprooted, and is now a field.

On the way here I was listening to the Grateful Dead Nassau Coliseum, March 1990.  Eyes of the World.

"Wings a mile-long just carry the bird away."

I posted that lyric on Facebook last night.  Professor Jenny Boylan understood.  She knew what I was talking about, and she posted the phone number for the Trans Suicide Hotline.  About an hour ago I called that number.  I received a message saying that there was "No one available at this time.  Please call again later" and then the phone went dead.  (I tried again after 8 AM.  Same result.  Guess they just don't have the people.)

Today was it.  I've been planning for months. Today was the day of days.  You see, Lisa was right.  If you do it on a day that has some import,  when people will be thinking of you anyway, if anyone is thinking of you at all, then the survivor's Pain will not be spread over two days, just one (not that anyone would care, save a very few.)  Lisa chose her anniversary. I chose my birthday; not just any other birthday, but Fifty.

Fifty. is a nice round number and I figure it's at least twenty more years than I should have had in this world.

A Birthday Gift to myself: Peace.

Von Steuben Statue

Yesterday, I worked 12 to 8 at the bookstore, and I remember watching the sunset through the windows thinking "that's final sunset.  That was the last time I see the sun." I didn't expect to see it again.  Last weekend was my final weekend- the last Saturday. The last Sunday.  I worked both.  And Saturday was to be the last time I saw my Daughter.  Last night, my Wife called me. It was a little after 10. She'd been watching Dancing with the Stars.  That takes priority over everything.

And so it was that, for the last time, I spoke to my wife and daughter.  They both detected sadness in my voice. I told them I was just very tired.  It was not a lie:  I am tired.  Very tired.

I planned in advance for everything.  I'd written final letters.  I'd written a final blog entry.  All of these I set on timer that if I weren't back in 4 hours, they would be emailed and in my blog.

And unlike Lisa, for whom we could only guess what she was thinking in those final minutes,  I didn't want there to be any guesses, and that's why the plan included this entry, which justs puts the lie to the other one, because the other one says It's the final entry, and maybe would be.  But, I wanted everyone to know why.

And now I'm standing outside of my car.  The sky is getting a little more light, but there are heavy clouds: a grey cover.  I planned for everything.  My method was ready.  I knew the Where, and I knew the How, and I lived the Why.  But they came down to one thing:

In the end, would I have the courage to do it?

Would I, Sophie, who has run into burning buildings, who's done so much else, and destroyed her life by declaring her True Self have the courage to end her life?

To end the God Awful Pain.

After all, it's my life, and if I should choose to end it, that's no one's business.

My life- My death.

The traffic on Route 23 through the park is beginning to pick up now, as there are breaks in the clouds and the Sky grows pink.

A jogger in a headlamp ran by.

Yes, dear reader, I had this planned completely right down to the minute.  I had method. I had reason.  I had a very good plan.

I lay in bed this morning before dawn, unable to sleep. Linda had already gone to work.  We exchange texts.  She even suggested I come to Valley Forge to watch the dawn, and when I read that, I smiled.  It's like she read my mind.

So all these plans; all the tears; all the letters I've written; and as I sit here and watch the sun come up, I'm not thinking of my daughter, I'm not thinking of my Wife.  In fact, I'm not thinking of anyone here on this planet.

I'm thinking about Lisa.

And I remember how horrible I felt almost 3 years ago to the day, when I found she was Gone. Today was the day that I was to be reunited with her.

I was wondering if she would be waiting for me on the other side of the Veil. If my dog Nittany would be waiting for me as well.

The sky is losing its pink, turning a pale sickly Orange.  The Mist is already burning off.

With Lisa.  August 2013

Yes, today would be the day that I saw Lisa again, and I'd be reunited with my best friend. I started to deviate from the plan. Originally, was going to wear one of her dresses, and wear the necklace that her wife, Sandy, gave me that has my name.  As Lisa wore hers on Her Day.

But unlike Lisa, those would be the only totems that I would carry with me.  I have no pictures of family or friends with me, and, in fact, I'm not wearing one of Lisa's dresses as planned. I'm wearing a favorite of my own that only took a second to throw on. The necklace I'm wearing is the silver four leaf clover that I gave Lisa for her birthday 3 years ago.

I'm sorry Lisa. I never found the Clover.  The Magic Clover.  The one that would make Life and Everything all right.

Because there is no such thing as a Magic Clover.  Our childhood dreams lied to us, just as all dreams lie.

I know some of my friends don't believe that I will be reunited with Lisa on the other side, to explore the Light together.  They believe, as Lisa believed, that Death is the end. That's their prerogative.  Free thought- free will.  I believe differently.  In fact, I know differently.

The sun continues to rise.  The sky is a pale sickly yellow grey, with heavy clouds, and here I thought today was supposed to be sunny.

Yes I had everything planned, and I started to deviate from that plan, if only for wardrobe.  But there's another small detail:

I didn't bring the Method.

Because in the end, I'm a Coward.  I have no Heart; no Spine; no Guts.

As I sit here in my car, the sun is now up.  It's a new day. The sky is gray and heavy.  Lisa's going to have to wait. Nittany will have to wait. Because after all the plans; the months of planning; I simply don't have the Courage to do what is necessary.

I know what some people are thinking.  They're thinking "Sophie, get help."  To those well-meaning people, I say that 26 years ago I spent 3 days in the mental hospital, and I vowed that I would absolutely rather die than go back. Yes, it was that bad.

Look at me.  People call me an Inspiration. A role model.  And all the other horseshit that's tagged on me- sitting in a car crying, because she can't even kill herself.

I'm still here, Jenny Boylan.  I'm alive, Sandy.

Ally, Kimberly and Kim, you're still stuck with me.

Mel, you haven't lost me yet.  Nor have you, Maureen.

And to my bestie, Linda, I'll still be there when you get home today.  You are stuck with me too.

I think I'll call my Wife.

Today is my 50th birthday. It was supposed to be sunny, but it's not.

That's life.

Be well.

No Makeup.

Won't you try just a little bit harder? Couldn't you try just a little bit more?
Hunter/ Garcia.  The Wheel.

Monday, September 12, 2016

What do I Want for my Birthday?

"Want" is such a strange word.

My birthday is coming up, and it's the one that people say it's a big one.  On September 13th, I will be fifty years old.  Fifty is a round number.  There are a lot of people who deserve to live this long who didn't live to be this age, and a lot of people who don't deserve it who live far past it.  (see Trump, Donald J.)  In any case, it's my turn to be fifty.  Lisa made it to 52.

A Certain Age

Aging doesn't really bother me as much as it used to.  It used to cause me extreme fits of nostalgia and even rage at the idea that things were changing- that I was getting old.  But change is the only constant.

People ask me "what do you want for your birthday?" Not many people, mind you, because, in the end, very few people are that close in my life anymore. There's my roomie and bestie Linda. There's my Wife and my daughter, and, as far as people with whom I hang out with any frequency, that's really about it.

Is it due to some need to be isolated? Or is it due to being a snob? Well, neither.  It comes down to I don't have the money to go out and hang out with people.

I used to do a lot of gaming.  I worked 13 years in the gaming industry: first at Chessex Game Distributors, then freelance with TSR as an editor, and then at Games Workshop for 9 years.  Back then, there were a lot of people I could hang out with and play games. I amassed quite a game collection, and enjoyed playing them with friends, acquaintances, and occasionally even somebody who I didn't like.  They've all gone away now for the most part.  I don't see them anymore- either due to distance, or do to the changes that have happened in my life.  I miss gaming.  I know I've written it before, but I've written a lot of things before.  I guess what I miss the most is the comradeship- the ability to sit down at a table with friends and enjoy each other's company.  Like-minded people.

That's not to take away from anyone who I know now.  The people who I do hang out with- the few times I hang out with them- are very special to me.  There are some I wish I could see a lot more often, but again, with the distance and the cost of travel, that simply just does not happen.

Anyway back to that word: "want."

What is it that I want for my birthday?

 I know I've written this before somewhere as well, but I never thought I was worth getting gifts.  I never thought that I was worthy of them.  That people shouldn't even think about getting me gifts, because what have I done to deserve them?  I love GIVING gifts.  I love doing that more than almost anything.  It's the only thing about Christmas I can stomach: giving.  However, receiving always embarrasses me or makes me feel very self-conscious.  Especially on my birthday.

I mean- what's the point?

I guess one of the things the reasons writing this is because I've been thinking about it.  There's nothing that anyone can give me that I need.  What do I want? I guess I want a month of not having to worry about bills, but that will never happen.

No, there's nothing that anyone can give me that I truly want, and in fact it's coming down to the point where I really believe that "Want" is a word for other people, but not for me.  People desire things;  they desire situations.  As do I, but I know they'll never come True, so I guess that's it.

What do I want?  Something that people cannot give me. I want Hope.  I lost Hope long ago.  (I know written about that already.  Sorry, I seem to be repeating myself.)

Recently, somebody who I admire greatly, yet I've never met, all but accused me of just whining and complaining and doing nothing about it.  Those words stung.  I'm trying- I really am.  I'm trying a lot of things: I'm trying to find a job that will pay me a living wage.  I'm trying to be a good parent to my daughter.  In the end, I'm trying to get out of bed every day, and not have that be the last day of my life.

Of course, Yoda said "do or do not there is no try." Well, he's a muppet with someone's hand up his ass.  What does he know?

What I want what I need is Hope.  No one can give that to me, especially now that it's so long gone.

My parents sent me money for my birthday; in a card. I was tempted just to return it to them unopened.  I'm vindictive that way.   I know I've written about that.  I would have sent it back if the envelope right beneath it wasn't a turn-off notice from Comcast.  I'm that far behind in my bills. Some people will say "well then how can you afford to go traveling to Richmond or how can you afford this or how can you afford that?"

If I told you the answer, you wouldn't like it.

So my parents sent money. I deposited it and I paid a bill with it.  Money that was supposed to be for something that I would enjoy- a new dress or a book or just anything, even an experience like going out to dinner and laughing with my friends or my family.   Any one of these things.  That's what it's supposed to be about, but no I had to use it to pay bills.

Because my life sucks that bad.  I'm that incompetent.

Someday people may look back upon my life as it was and wonder at what point did I lose Hope. My 90+ subscribers are used to hearing me whine and complain.  It seems to be all I do anymore. Occasionally will do a writers challenge, which distracts me from the Darkness.  So I wonder why they keep reading?

In the end does it matter?

I'll be 50 years old . What kind of special gift should I give myself?  A walk?  A glass of wine?

My gift to my readers could be to stop all the whining and self pity.

I have something in mind.  We'll see.

Be well.

(This was dictated, not hand written, then edited for punctuation.  Sorry.  Can't even write right.)

Windswept look

Laska Challenge II: Recycling

Paul Laska, the amazing author of several books including Four Years, challenged me to another piece.  His challenge is in italics.  As before, 500 word minimum.  This one is 692.

So here it is, a day late.  Sorry, P$, I've been busy.


A couple is walking their dog.  They hear a sound in a waste basket.  What kind of sound is it?  And what do they do next?

I used to love late spring days, but not anymore.  Not since a few years back.  What maybe two, three years ago?  What?  2008?  Time flies.

Yeah, so it was a gorgeous late spring day.  The sun was shining, a very gentle whisper of a breeze.
Me and Jessie… we was married Jessie and me… decided to both call off work to y’know, enjoy the day.  She worked so hard at her job at the bank and me at the Senior Center, so we decided we deserved to take a day for ourselves.  Because we never did that before.  Seriously!  Neither of us ever played hooky before, cuz we figured it’s not fair to our coworkers. 

So we’re walking our dog, Puddles.  She was a Rottweiler.  Yeah, Puddles!  I didn’t name her!  We’re walking the dog near the park, and the dog stops to do her business.  And as I’m the one carrying the plastic bags, I get to clean up after her.  So I bend down to clean up, and I hear the sound of a baby crying.  And Jessie hears it too.  Puddles, she starts to growl. 

The crying is coming from this nearby recycling bin, y’know the kind with the round hole in the top?  As I finished cleaning the mess, she and Puddles went over to the bin.  Puddles was growling the whole time. 

I could still the baby crying- muffled- quiet.

Suddenly this… this... tentacle.  That’s what it was- a big black tentacle.  It comes through the hole.  Had to be ten- fifteen feet long.  I don’t know how it fit.  It comes outta the hole and… and... grabs the both of them!  Wraps around them both!  Twice!  Jessie was screaming and the dog was yelping and no one heard it by me!  They struggled and struggled- screaming oh God screaming and the dog yelping…  And the tentacle keeps getting longer and fatter and I know it’s impossible but it did!
The tentacle starts pulling back into the bin.  It’s wrapped around them and keeps coiling tighter and tighter.  Somehow, it pulls them screaming through that tiny hole and into the can.  The last thing I see going through is the dog’s back paw.  Then…nothin’.  All I hear are cars going by; birds chirping; the wind through the trees.

Then, quietly, I hear crying.  I hear Jessie crying.  But it’s muffled, and like it’s far away… but it’s coming from the recycling bin.

I ran away as fast as I could, fumbling with my phone to call 9-1-1.  Every trash can and mailbox, I heard her- Jessie crying.  Crying, sobbing.

I got 9-1-1 on the phone and I says to them I says that my wife and dog was kidnapped and I say where and they say to meet the cops there.  I walk back, but down the middle of the street.  All the cars were beepin’ and stuff but I didn’t care.  The cops were there when I got back to the bin. 

I didn’t hear no crying.  I told them what happened and they looked at me, well, they looked at me like you’re lookin’ at me now.  They open the recycling bin, and there’s nothin’ in it but cans and bottles.  And I’m tellin’ ‘em what I saw and they cuff me and take me to the station.

Anyways, here I am, strapped to this table, waitin’ for the meds again.  Only reason I’m off ‘em now is so I can talk to you.  And occasionally when they wheel me past a trash can, I hear Jessie crying.  Sometimes I even hear Puddles whimpering.  Once I heard it from the closet in my room, but I’m strapped down so I can’t go look.

No one believes me!  They think I killed her or somethin’.  But really, it’s all true, Doc!  I swear on my mother’s grave! 

What?  No, I don’t hear nothin,’ why?  No, no cryin’, nothin,’ why?  No, don’t go to the closet don’t’Go!  DON”T OPEN THAT! 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

If They Knew Then...

Humid late summer nights always make me think back to a short space of my life.

In the summer of 1983, I was preparing for my senior year of high school.  I gave up "crossdressing" in early August of that year, burning all of my female clothes.  A few days later, Sabre, the family dog, died.  I spiraled into a deep depression- my first encounter with the Darkness.

Burger King Spring City.  Same basic shape as back then, but very different.

At the time I was working at Spring City Burger King.  That summer was quite an experience for me there.  You see, that spring, several of the most popular guys at my school were hired there.  I helped train them, as I had over a year's experience.  Guys like Kurt, Jim, Steve, and Scott.

Of course, having the popular guys working at BK meant that the popular girls stopped by the store as well.  I knew all of these people, as my high school class was only 275 students.  But something changed.

They talked to me.  The popular guys spoke to me as an equal.  As a co-worker.  As a friend.  That was a completely new experience for someone used to being invisible to everyone.  And it wasn't just that.

They included me.

You see, on the other side of Royersford, a couple of miles from the store, was a housing development called Mingo, where many of my classmates lived.

On hot, humid nights, we would park at the edge of the development, on Cochise Lane, and walk down, then up a dark street to the Nine Oaks Swim Club, diving into bushes if a car came along.  The swim club was membership only, and was surrounded by a high chain link fence.  In my mind, it was something only rich folks could afford.

However, the fence was shorter in the back, near what I guess was a pump house.  There, it was easily scaled.  And that's what we did.  We'd skirt around some trees, through a parking lot to the fence,  We followed the fence to the back, then we'd jump the fence, strip down to our underwear, and go for a swim.

The Path to Swimming.  There were more trees back then.

We were covered in grease from work, and swimming in the pool washed us off.  (I found out months later, that the grease clogged the pool filters.  Oops.)  Now, usually we would encounter other people already there- classmates and such.  However, many times, we encountered popular girls from the school (usually from the grade below us.)  On those nights, there was often skinny dipping.

It was my first time seeing girls naked in person.

My dysphoria was still strong, especially since I JUST stopped dressing.  Seeing the naked girls aroused desire in me, of course.  I mean, I WAS a teenager.  But it also aroused a different kind of desire: Envy.  I so wanted to BE those girls: Young, and beautiful.

And yes, the popular guys would hook up.  I never saw them have sex there, but I was sure it happened those nights, after we all went our separate ways.

If a car came down the road, we'd freeze.  If it slowed down and turned into the parking lot, we'd jump out of the pool, over the fence, and into the trees behind there.  You know, in case it was a cop.

(I heard that one night late that summer, a group of teens were caught there.  They were arrested for trespassing and possession of marijuana.)

We didn't go every night- only on nights that is was sultry and there were at least three of us closing.  And even then, some nights they had other plans.  To them, it was just another fun activity.  But me?

I lived for those nights.

As the summer bled into fall, those nights came to an end.  Several of the popular guys found jobs at a yogurt place (TCBY?) at the King of Prussia mall.  There they could meet more people.  However, when we went back to school, another strange thing happened.  Those guys- they kept talking to me.  I wasn't shunned.  I was no longer included like I was, as we were no longer coworkers, but they would talk to me in the halls and stuff.

I never forgot that.  I always thought that was so very kind of them.  To this very day, I think so.

A couple weeks after school started, I had an emotional meltdown.  I was fired from BK.  I was devastated.  The job had become my social life as well as my source of income.  About a week later, I was told by former coworkers that if I went into to work and apologized for my behavior (I yelled at a manager) then they would consider taking me back.   I did so, and I was rehired.  I remember shedding tears of joy.  Seriously.

I ended up working there until right after graduation in June of 1984.  After that, I went to work for the Spring City Sewage Plant.  Seriously.

So.  What's the point?

What if my classmates knew the Truth about me back then.  Most of them know by now, especially after the reunion back in 2014.  But what if they knew back in the early 80s?

I was messaging with one of my classmates the other day.  She was one of the popular girls- gorgeous, etc.  She was also extremely nice.  When we spoke.  Which wasn't often.  Different circles and all.

Anyway we were messaging a week or so back, when she sent me the following:  "I recall at our last reunion that many people gravitated to you.  You just have that "it" factor."

I sent back: "As for the gravitation, you are correct, but not due to an "it" factor.  You may recall that I was an outcast back in the day.  No, they gravitated to me because I was the "freak show.""

Still, it was nice of her to think it.

I am happy that many people from my school have matured and were very pleasant to me at the reunion.  But we're all in our late 40s/early 50s now.  Back when we were teens?

A quick history lesson.  1980-84 were the beginning of the "Reagan years" with all that implies.  Conspicuous consumption.  Might makes right.  Liberals are traitors.  Reagan's press secretary, Larry Speakes, on October 15, 1982, made fun of AIDS, and Reagan remained silent for most of his terms.

The All American Male at that time was Sylvester Stallone, first as Rocky, then as Rambo.  Muscle was In.  Even Bruce Springsteen bulked up.  The All American woman was Brooke Shields, or was it Molly Ringwald?  Or... you get the idea.

80s manhood

80s Womanhood

It was far from a safe time for LGBT people, especially for Trans!  My school was VERY rural and conservative.  If someone was even SUSPECTED as being gay, there were beatings.

So if they had known I was trans?  I would've been ostracized at the very least.  Tormented for sure.  I would've been targeted for violence as well.

How do I know all this?  Simple.  I'm not the only transperson from my time.  There was another who transitioned in 1989.  And believe me, I heard what everyone had to say about her.  Loud and clear.  And, to my eternal shame, I was a coward.  I didn't stand up for her as I should have.

What's the point of looking back like this?  It's History- my history.  I'm trying to learn who and what I was so I can continue to grow.

I'm a VERY different person from that scared kid in High School.  I've realized some dreams, and watched others wither and die.

But, as horrible as my life can be, and it is, I am my True Self.  And that's something.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Ally's, Parties, and Graves

On Friday, August 12th at 9 a.m, I headed South toward Richmond.  An hour into the trip, I figured out that I had forgotten my EZ Pass, which I need for tolls. So, at Wilmington Delaware I turned around travelled the hour back home picked up the EZ-Pass.

Had my roomie and bestie Linda been along, she would've reminded me to bring the damn thing.  However, she had to work, so I was going alone.

At 11 o'clock I was back on the road.  I did make one stop in Stafford, Virginia, where I saw my dear friend Kimberly Moore.  It's always a pleasure seeing her, even though she was in guy mode, which I don't believe she will be in for much longer.  In any case, she gave me some directions for a back road which cut over a half an hour off the trip, as  I-95 was like a parking lot.

The journey was not without tears.  Decades ago, not long after Wife and I were first married, we decided to take a week and travel the roads of Virginia on a Civil War tour.  We did it "seat of our pants" just a map, our Del Sol, and our credit cards.  It was one of the best vacations that I had in my life.  Not only was there a lot of history, but here I was with my fairly new Wife.  At that point, we were young; we were in love; and we were just traveling around for the hell of it.  It's times like these when I really think about all that I've given up; all that I've lost to be my True Self.

Near the end of that trip, we stopped at Kings Dominion, which is a large amusement park south of Fredericksburg and north of Richmond.  We spent the night there, and the next day did the park.  When I passed that park on this trip, I looked up, and that's what really reminded me of that trip.  I can't say I really liked Kings Dominion.  The only thing I remember about it is the water park. However it was a very large reminder of those times.  Wife and I are older now; grey is beginning to streak her hair, and we now have a child, but I do miss those times.  They will never be back, and that's there's nothing I can do about that, but I still cried about it.

After nine and a half hours on the road, I finally made it to Ally's,  and yes, I was exhausted but happy to be there.  It was wonderful seeing Ally and Jay.  They welcomed me with open arms, and gave me a quick drink.  Ally then told me that I had approximately ten minutes to change clothes and freshen up before we had to go to dinner.  That's not a lot of time.  It made me think it that it used to take me 2 hours to do my makeup, and it never even looked good back then.   Now I'm a lot faster at it, and I think it looks better, but is that practice or the hormones?  Or both?  In any case, I quickly threw on another dress, touched up my makeup, and we were out the door. We went to an upscale diner near Barcode: Tarrant's Cafe,  (Barcode being a bar that I've been to a few times.)  There we met a gay couple. Rather, I thought they were a couple, but they weren't: they were just a couple friends.  Dinner was wonderful.  I had a calzone.  I was very tired, so I my side of the conversation wasn't exactly sparkling.

At Barcode with the gorgeous Ally

After dinner, we went to Barcode.  As always at Barcode, everyone was extremely friendly.  Several people recognized me, and it was wonderful to see them again.  I sat down and had the first Long Island iced tea I had in a long time.  Ally, as usual, was buzzing around the place.  Everyone knew her and she knew everyone.  She was absolutely the life of the party!  I sat with Jay and listened to his friends talk.  I spoke a little bit as well, but in the end I was too tired to do anything.  I didn't even finish my drink before it was time to go.  Soon afterward returning to Ally's house, I was in bed and soon was asleep.

The next morning I slept in a little bit.  It was going to be a long day. Ally made us breakfast, and it was very good.  I usually don't have any breakfast, so it was a special treat for me.  After that, we sat around for a while and talked.  She showed me some of her new outfits.

We were going to go to a pool party.  I'd met the couple whose house we were going to, but I didn't realize how rich they were.  The house was absolutely gorgeous: it was a mansion!  I was completely overwhelmed by how wonderful it was!  When we arrived there were approximately ten people already in the pool.  It was a pool party, and I wore a bathing suit underneath my green sundress.  Everyone brought food except me, and I felt like an idiot.  And the food was absolutely wonderful!  I had a quick drink and sat in the shade, because I knew that if I stayed outside in the sun, I would FRY!  Eventually, I went into the water and had a little bit of a splash around.  Then I went to the Cabana, where Jay was sitting as well as a couple others.

Gorgeous Music Room 

Pool Scene 

Sophie Selfie

Inevitably discussion of politics came up.  The four people in the Cabana were all of the same mind; we all are scared to death of a Trump Victory.   We knew that would be the end of many things as we knew it, including any rights we have at this point.  Someone walked in that I hadn't seen- he was younger guy who I never met before, and he started pounding the Trump line, saying how immigrants were horrible.   "Immigrants were going to destroy this country, and then they would kill us long before Trump would have a chance to take away anything."

I turned and looked at him, and said "I am an immigrant.  Would you care to revise that statement?" He kept right on with it.  He said "Trump's wall is just a metaphor." I said "I know he wants to build a wall, and you'll notice that it's only on the southern border, not on the Northern border with Canada.  I wonder why that is?  It's a bigger border after all!"  I was beginning to get a little angry with him, because I could see right away that he didn't care about our rights- he only cared about keeping the people he didn't want (brown people) out of the country.  I repeated again that I was an immigrant, and he didn't even stop. Others intervened, so we agreed to disagree, and then I left the Cabana disgusted.

I went inside had a little more to eat, fix myself another drink.  I took off my green dress, tying it around my waist.  I eventually would ditch it on a chair along with my purse, and get into the pool.  The water felt wonderful, and everybody really was so welcoming.  Most of the people remembered me from previous parties, and it was wonderful to speak to them again.  Most of them are very accomplished men in their fields.  There were Judges, CEOs, etc, and they were all wonderful people.  It was like a little family of Their Own.  I was told that eventually everyone would probably be naked and having a good time.  The estate was big, and no one could see in.  However I didn't see any of it, really.  Well, not until we were ready to leave.  Rumors that I was topless are completely exaggerated.

We had a wonderful time, and eventually we got back on the road. Sunburnt and tired, we headed back to Ally and Jay's place.  When we arrived, I promptly went upstairs and took another nap.

I hate when sweat off all my makeup!  When I awoke, I had to start all over!

Ally and I then went to Babes of Carytown, a lesbian nightclub that we'd visited in previous trips.  It was empty at first, but filled up quickly.  While there, we bumped into a transwoman that neither of us had met before: Allison.  Allison is a gorgeous brunette whose wife knows about her feminine side.  She is so much fun!  Despite my weariness, she made me perk right up!

With Ally and Allison at Babes

Ally and I were both tired, and neither of us liked the music, so we left early.  We discussed music on the way back to her place, and how different it was when we were coming up.  I felt so old.

The next morning, I woke early, and Ally made me a fantastic breakfast.  I did a quick job on my makeup, and got on the road.  I had one stop I wanted to make: Hollywood Cemetery.

As I have written somewhere in this blog, I love cemeteries.  Hollywood Cemetery is a huge place overlooking the James River.  It holds the resting places of 2 US Presidents (James Monroe and John Tyler), as well as Jefferson Davis, 28 Confederate Generals, and over 18,000 Confederate soldiers.  So much history!

 Monument to Confederate Dead

 I was enchanted by this.

 The "Iron Dog" guards the grave of a child

Family Plot 

General JEB Stuart and Wife 

President James Monroe.  The "Birdcage" is away being restored 

Beautiful Sculpture 

River view 

President John Tyler 

Were you in artillery or are you just glad to see me?

I spent an hour or so touring the beautiful grounds, taking many pictures.  I had to cut short my visit though, as I received news that my Daughter, just back from Europe, was quite sick.  While I guessed exhaustion, I wanted to get home as fast as possible.

On the way home, I called my dear friend Jenny North.  I was supposed to visit her, but couldn't.  She and I spoke for over an hour about her latest story.  She is an incredible writer!

As I entered Maryland, I received a call saying Daughter was ok: it was Exhaustion.  I was very relieved!  It would still be another week before I saw her, though.

As I passed Baltimore, I stopped at the site of Lisa Empanada's death as I often do.  The field has been planted, but the rows avoid her "spot."  I stayed a little while, talking to her and crying.

"Lisa's Spot"

Eventually, I arrived home.  It was a wonderful weekend.  Seeing Ally and Jay is ALWAYS such a treat.  They are truly amazing people!  (I wish Linda could've come along, but maybe next time.)

So Ally, it's YOUR turn to visit Pennsylvania!  :)

Be Well!

Ten Minute Makeup Job


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Paul's Challenge: Base Monroe

My dear friend, author Paul Laska, decided to join me in a writing challenge.  I challenged him because I hadn't read any new fiction from him in years (he's published three books, including the amazing Four Years about his time at Penn State.)

His challenge to me: World renowned vegan violinist Base Monroe.  Document his path to stardom.  And why violin?

Paul, here's my piece.

No challenge to copyrights are intended or inferred.  I don't own the name Rolling Stone, obviously.

Base Monroe exploded on the scene last year as the dynamic lead singer/violin player of Ayrstrike.  He is one of the three remaining founding members of the band, which started in Philadelphia in 2008.  Base, whose given name is Jim Lewis, has been notoriously private; giving no interviews to the press.  This is the first time anyone was able to sit down with him.  We met over several days at a local pub as Ayrstrike rehearsed their upcoming first world tour. 

Rolling Stone:  Thanks for sitting down with me, Mr. Monroe.

Base Monroe:  Base.  It’s my pleasure!  I mean, you’re buying the drinks and all.

RS: Thanks Base.  It seems that your band Ayrstrike…

BM: OUR band.  I’m just part of it.  Ayrstrike belongs to everyone who enjoys the music.  Sorry to interrupt.

RS: Ok.  Ayrstrike is living the old cliché of the “took years to become an overnight sensation.”  What can you tell me about the early days? 

BM:  Yeah, um, those were long years too.  Well, me and a few buds were all between bands, and uh were just hanging out and saw a sign about an open mic night at the place we were sitting.  So we decided what the hell?  We real quick rehearsed a song that Tim [Tim Cat, bass player] had from his previous band.  It was really an early version of “Double Shot...”

RS: Which Ayrstrike released on its first album.

BM: Yeah.  Except then it was in waltz time.  We decided to punk it up a bit.  So me and Tim, Jax [Jax Jaxon, Drummer], and Mad Mad [former guitar player who died of an overdose in 2013], we um got up on stage and did this song, and the place just went nuts.  We were invited back the next week.  So we decided to start the band.  Mad Mad had just left KDawg at the time, and she came up with the name.

RS: KDawg was a big deal in Philly then.

BM: They had a record deal with Laska records.  They had a hit with “Four Years” that she wrote about her old college band.  Turns out that y’know we went to the same school at the same time, but never met.  I even saw her band a couple times.

RS: This was at…

BM: Penn State.  Her band was Peanuts Envy.  Kind of a thrashy-grungy band that did covers at the local bars.  So, she had hooked up with Tim somehow, and that’s how she was there.  Anyway, she came up with the name.  We decided to do a song I did with my old band P$.  That was an early version of Flood of Joan.  So the next week, we did two songs.  Word started getting ‘round you know.  That’s when Kix [Kinx rhythm guitar] and FredStar [keyboard] joined up.

RS: Is that bar still in business?

BM: (Laughing) We’re sitting in it!  [“Lion Paul’s” on 13th Street in Philadelphia] The stage was over there at the time, but aside from that, this place hasn’t changed much.

RS: So. Ayrstrike played around Philly for a bit.

BM:  Yeah.  We played the bars, parties, down the shore, that sort of shit.  Then Mad Mad got us some gigs up in New York City.  We started expanding the scope of where we played and what we played.

RS: And that’s when you brought out the violin.

BM: Yeah.

RS: Why the violin?  It doesn’t seem like a “punk” instrument.

BM: Punk is just another label.  Semantics.  I’d been playing violin since I was a kid.  My parents made me take lessons.  Classical stuff.  Then I heard Jungleland by Bruce [Springsteen.]  It had this ethereal sound, this violin from heaven that told the story as much as the keyboard or sax did.  The violinist was Suki Lahav, from Israel.  I fell in love with that sound and the possibilities of that sound.  I mean it can do that, or it can kick ass like what Charlie Daniels does.

RS: Speaking of Charlie Daniels, many people say that the time in 2014 when you played with him in Nashville is what really launched you to stardom.  Can you tell me about it?

BM: That was just weird.  Turns out that Kix had done some session work with some band that Charlie was producing, and uh, we went to this show cause Charlie left tickets for Kix.  Charlie then invited me up on stage, which shocked the shit out of me.  Kix had told him about my violin playing. 

RS: So Charlie said it was violin verses fiddle.  Is there a difference?

BM: No.  More semantics. It’s just the style of playing.  There’s violin, there’s Celtic violin like what Mairead Nesbitt [of Celtic Woman] does, and all that.  Different styles, same instrument.  It’s really versatile like that.  Anyway, I get up on stage and Charlie hands me this gold violin, and the band kicks into Devil Went Down to Georgia.  I grew up loving the song.  As the band is kicking in Charlie comes over and tells me that I get the Devil’s parts and that we can go back and forth as much as we want, that he’ll signal the band when to kick back to the song. 

RS: And between you, the duel lasted over half an hour!

BM:  Yeah, I uh, really got into it, and so did he.  It was like we were really trying to outdo each other.  Charlie told me later that he didn’t expect me to be able to hang like I did, and he actually was getting a little mad that I was upstaging him. (laughs)

RS: The YouTube of that went viral.  Some guy with a phone.

BM: Yeah.  The thing was filmed as well.  Charlie wants to release the video and a live album.  Our agents are working out the deal.  He gave me that violin after the show.


RS: Then Ayrstrike’s album Wales Blues dropped.

BM: We couldn’t believe the reception!  I mean, wow!  I still can’t believe it!  We made that as a tribute to Mad and it just I guess it stuck a chord.

RS: That’s the first album where you took over all the song writing.

BM:  Mad and I used to collaborate.  The other guys didn’t want to “break up the magic” or some shit like that. 

RS:  It had a very different sound from the previous album Vegan Viking.

BM: (Pauses for a moment) Yeah.  Yeah it did.  VV was Mad’s baby.  We still close with “Sin of Slaughter” where, um, Johnny [Poundcake, replaced Mad Mad on lead guitar] really does an amazing job of like capturing what Mad meant to us.

RS: They were lovers.

BM: That’s no one’s business.

RS: Fair enough.  The whole album was about a Vegan starting a religion.  You’re a Vegan.  Why?

BM:  I used to work in a butcher shop.  That’s all I’ll say about that.

RS: The new album that drops next week…

BM: Sophie Home Powerhouse

RS: Tell me about it.

BM:  It’s a bit of a trip, actually.  Charlie [Daniels] appears on one of the tracks, and so does Lindsey Sterling. 

RS: And you cover a Bob Dylan song.  That’s your first recorded cover.

BM: We did “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts” off of Blood on the Tracks.  I figure if we’re going to do a cover, we may as well do one from the greatest songwriter ever.  We changed it up of course.  That’s the one Charlie plays on.

RS: Have you met Bob Dylan?

BM: Not yet.  He’s like the MAN.  I’d be a gibbering fanboy.

RS: What direction do you see Ayrstrike taking from here?

BM:  Anything is possible, really.  We’re still getting used to it all.  We want to stay true to the vision you know.  The vision we all had for the music.  Mad’s death really made us a true family.  We have this tour for the next year.  The label wants us to record a show for a live disc.  I’ve already started writing stuff for the next album.  We’ll hash it out on tour, warts and all.  Maybe that live album will be all new material.  Who knows?  For the first time since 2013, it feels like tomorrow could be a good thing.  And that’s just really, really, I don’t know, really good.