Saturday, November 16, 2019

Medical stuff

What I'm about to write I learned a couple weeks ago.  I've been arguing with myself about posting it ever since.  Why?  Well, medical stuff is private.  But this being transition related, specifically HRT, it could be helpful.

Yes.  No.  Maybe.

In any case, I've been too busy to write.  This PhD thing is hard, but if it weren't hard, everyone would do it.   It would be as meaningless as a republican promise.

I had blood work done for my HRT meds for the first time in a couple of years.  No money- no medicine.  I've been on hormones since December 10, 2012.  Not that I remember the date or anything.  For the past several years, when available, I've been on estrogen injections.

I've been doing injections for a couple of reasons.  One was to give my battered and boozed liver a break.  The second was that injected estrogen works faster than any other way.  And it did.  Within a year, I had C-cup breasts.  Yes, I got very lucky in the boob lottery.  They kept growing gradually, and seem to have leveled off at DD.  That would be more impressive if I didn't have that damn wide rib cage and aircraft carrier shoulders from decades of testosterone poisoning.  But I digress.

2 days ago

Of course, in addition to boobs, my skin and features softened.  However, there was another effect.  My mood became calmer.  Yes, really.  Those who knew me in my previous life know that I was constantly angry.  Not so anymore.

It's normal for people on injections to experience mood swings as injection time nears.  I injected every ten days.  If I missed for whatever reason, the Darkness came back- tougher than ever.  I quickly put together the correlation, but being completely depressed, I couldn't motivate myself to do anything, much less stick a needle in my thigh.

Anyway, bloodwork.  My testosterone level was near zero, as it has been for years,  but my estrogen level was over 700.  It's supposed to be between 200-300 tops. High estrogen is bad.  Possible side effects include weight gain, hair loss, and... drumroll please... mood swings.  As in very depressive mood swings.  Oh yeah, higher risk of clots and stroke too.

Let's examine these:

Weight Gain:  In the past few years, I've packed on 50 pounds.  All I have to do is come within a mile of food and I gain weight.

Hair Loss:  My hair has been coming out in clumps.

Mood Swings:  Of course, there's always the Darkness- that never leaves, but it's been especially bad the last few years.  I figured it was due to the fact I was unemployed and broke, and rarely saw Wife and Daughter.  I'm sure that's part of it, but this...

The doctor here at PSU pointed out that there still are no long term studies on the effects of HRT over decades for transwomen.  However, she put me back on estrogen pills.  In a couple of weeks, I'll go back for more blood work.  See if that helps.

I know many of us self-medicate hormones.  Lisa did, and she took a LOT of estrogen.  The level was on her autopsy report.  Did that play a part in her death?  Who knows?  I'm learning first-hand how hormones can really screw with one's brain. Maybe self-medicating is a bad idea.  I know not getting levels checked was bad, but I had no choice.  I'm paying the price now.

So, I guess the point here is *gets up on soap box* if you're on HRT, make sure you get the levels checked, and don't self- medicate.  *gets off soapbox*

More bulletins if I feel like it.  Back to work.  I have a paper and a report due on Monday and Tuesday. 

Oh, btw- I was asked to do a poetry reading on PSU's Transgender Remembrance Ceremony.  It was recorded.  It's HERE if you're bored. 

Be well.

Monday, November 4, 2019

October Thoughts and 11

A few weeks ago, I did a report about the use of Adult learning theory in a given doctoral thesis.  In that thesis, it mentioned how older students returning to school have anxiety about the experience.  The paper is cited at the bottom, if you care.  (Also if you care, when I started this entry, I'd done that report that day.)

True.  I am actually more conscious about my age than being transgender.  I am old enough to be most of my colleagues' parent.  I'm older than at least two of my professors (of three.)  I'm also the fattest, something that disgusts me every minute of every day.  "Do something about it!"  I'm trying.  (One thing I'm doing is not eating.  Despite people's generosity, medical bills [like the mammogram 2 years ago that wasn't covered because I'm trans] destroyed what budget I had.  I'll try the local food bank on Monday.  But, as I mentioned, I can stand to lose a few hundred pounds.)

Walking home from a missed tailgate

I wrote that PSU is a different place, and I'm a different person.  One thing is constant though: depression.  It hit me so hard the past few weeks.  Since I last saw my daughter, really.

One thing hasn't changed- there are So many gorgeous women here.  What has changed are the styles.  Now all the co-eds wear yoga pants which show off their curves etc.  Not that I'm jealous.  Ok, I am.  Curves.  No... birth defect.  When I was an undergrad, I always thought out they were all out of my league- why would they want to talk to me?  Occasionally now, someone sees one of my undergrad pics and says how "handsome" I was.  Yet, I couldn't get a date to save my life.  I digress.

How do cis women deal with this competition?  Granted, there are pretty much one guy for every girl at PSU, but some of the girls are stunning, while others are just beautiful.  Yes, I know I'm being superficial- but I'm still new at this.  Did the coeds think that way in my time?

They're young enough to be my daughters.  Get off my lawn.

I've had some Medical issues.  Since oh... June? my left arm has been pretty much useless.  As you can imagine, that made moving kind of hard.  Well, I finally saw a doctor about it.  X-rays.  A specialist with PSU sports medicine.  Annnnnd... well, it MAY be tendonitis, or it may be the rotator cuff.  In any case, the doctor gave me some hard core meds... but I'm afraid to use them as I'm afraid of dependency.  My arm is so bad, I need Linda's help to take off my bra at the end of the day.

A few weeks back was Homecoming here at PSU.  I went to the fraternity house, where they put on a small spread.  Homecoming used to be a big deal at the house.  Top shelf liquor, a formal, the house was scrubbed top to bottom... the works.  Now, the alumni were a couple hour afterthought.

And so last week was Halloween.  Halloween marked ELEVEN years since the night where I "rediscovered" myself.   I wrote the following on my facialbook:

"Today marks 11 years since my femme self re-awakened to destroy my life.
And it did."

This Halloween, I went to an LGBT Graduate student mixer.  There were six of us.  I had fun.  I also went to Chumleys for a moment.  Then home.  The guy across the hall was having a gathering, so I stopped there for a bit.  His brother was a hard core trumpanzee who kept misgendering me while staring at my breasts.

Halloween night

I went home drunk.  And tired.  And now it's November.

Clemente, K. A. (2010). Experiences of Adult Students in Multi-generational Classrooms.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

The Smell of Memory

Smell is a powerful trigger of memory.

It's now late October here at PSU, and the leaves are falling.  I participated in an LGBT panel today on campus, then drove home.  I parked the car, and started walking toward the apartment when the smell surrounded me- the autumnal smell of fallen leaves.

That smell, more than any other, takes me back to my childhood.  The mile long walks home from elementary school, crunching the leaves in the grass on the sides of the sidewalk.  Jumping into leaf piles.  Yes, that smell meant summer was over, but it mean Halloween was close enough to touch.

This afternoon

That smell as I walked alone through the woods near the river; as I wandered around town in a golden fall sunset.  As I rode my bike to wherever.  The crunch of the corpses of leaves under my feet as I delivered the evening newspaper.  Walking to high school football games on dark Friday nights when the smell of the leaves would overpower the smell of the pickles on my hands after the shift at Burger King.

Walking the girl I desperately wanted to love me to her apartment after class on a late State College afternoon, her hair framed by the light of the sun setting behind us.  That smell playing through my life...

One of the few good memories I have.  In a few weeks that smell will be gone.  But I'll enjoy it for the heartbeat that it's here.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Men of the Skull Chapter 57: In Tents Love

I remember this night, despite the alcohol.  Aside from the journal entry I wrote the next day, that is.  I remember sitting at that window.  I remember the lawn of Theta Chi and the tents.  The silhouettes in the tent.

This chapter refers back to my time at Drexel.  That's part one of the book, which I'm not posting because most of it is dull.  I was at Drexel for two years, studying Civil Engineering.  That's where I joined Skull.  My roommate both years was a guy we all called "Ripper."  In the first chapter of the book, I described him as:

My roommate “Ripper” and I lay on our floor, staring at the plaster ceiling.  Ripper was short- five foot eight at best.  He had an extremely boyish face which would’ve been more at home on a thirteen year old.  However, he was powerfully built: sculpted like a bodybuilder or a pro football player.  No one doubted he could kick ass.  Well, he could kick all of our wimpy asses anyway.  Ripper also had a dry sense of humor aided by a voice with the character of a deep dial tone.

He and three other guys on my floor pledged the "party house": Theta Chi.  (One other guy pledged the "jock" house: Sigma Pi.  That was the Drexel house most like Skull was at PSU.)

I transferred to PSU for fall 1986, and readers know the rest of the story from there.  When I moved back home from Drexel was the last time I saw Ripper- who has no social media presence.

Of our group that hung out together on our floor, "Kevin" was the partier.  He was the guy on the floor who always played his music loud, etc.  In a way, looking back, he was a prototypical "frat boy."  He was nice though.  I wonder if he graduated.

In any case, this night started me down a road that I shouldn't have taken, and, if I were honest with myself, wouldn't have taken.  But I did.


Chapter 57: In Tents Love
Saturday, March 28, 1987 U.S.: Soviets spied freely in embassy

            Time for another Crow party!  Of course I went.  Free beer.  And my girlfriend would be there ready to play games and laugh and drink.  Then I’d get laid.  Who could want anything more?
            I spent most of the day doing the homework I blew off the day before when I was drinking at the Bone.  My Pyramid money must be making me boatloads of cash, shouldn’t it?
            I went to dinner at this place that just opened the previous week called Baby’s.  Baby’s was (and as of this writing still is) a re-creation of a 1950s diner.  It’s right across Garner Street from the Lion’s Den and next to McClanahans.  I went with Virginia, Judy, and two other Crow little sisters: Traci and Michelle.  It was obvious that Judy and Virginia weren’t speaking to each other.  Judy was more sullen than ever.  I felt so bad for her.  Who cares if she got laid?  Still, I had fun looking at all the cool stuff in Baby’s, like a sign that said “Famous since 1987.”  (Then it was funny, now it is just a statement.)
Baby's- Oct 2018.  It isn't much different from 1987

            Sigh.  I cared if Judy got laid.  It meant that I could’ve.  I should’ve.  But I didn’t.  I didn’t have the guts.  I didn’t want to be the "other guy." 
Oh well.  I had Virginia.  Things were good.
So anyway- it was the usual.  I went over Dave’s for a while, and at midnight headed over to Crow.  The nights were getting warmer, but I still had to wear my heavy blue jacket. 
As always, there was a pledge at the door who waved me in (was he the one that fucked Judy?).  I dumped my coat and headed down the stairs to the bar passing two pledges on the way (maybe one of them?).  I found my usual spot and Virginia was in hers- beer waiting.
The dice were passed to me (as late-comer I was automatically three man) but I missed.  The rest of the bar didn’t though- between cups and dice I was hammered.  By the time the dice returned to me (after several reversals) I was sloppy drunk.  My first roll was a pair of 3s so I made Mandy the three bitch and staggered away, holding up the wall as I did as it kept threatening to spin over onto me.
Had a few more upstairs.  Saw more pledges (him? or him?  Couldn’t be him…)
Virginia came up from the bar and found me sitting on a window sill talking to, uh, um, what was your name again?  Somewhere during the week she learned that Theta Chi was having a big regional thing, and brothers from all over would be there, including Drexel.
“Wanna go see if your old room mate is there?” she asked.
Virginia was fairly drunk too so it must’ve been fun to watch us find our coats and put them on.  Must’ve taken at least an hour.  Or two.
Maybe two in the morning or so as we staggered across the wet grass and the streets headed for Theta Chi which was a couple blocks away.  Two in the morning and still that background buzz of noise and fun in the air.  God, I love State College!
Theta Chi and its neighbor, Phi Sigma Kappa looked a lot alike.  Drunk as I was they looked like huge mausoleums.  Theta Chi had lots of tents all over its yard.  What- their brothers couldn’t afford a fucking hotel?  (Still, drunken tent camping sounded fun.)
Theta Chi, pic I took in 2008.  It hasn't changed either

We bumped into a Theta Chi with puke all over the front of his faded red sweater. 
“Where’s the Drexel guys?”  I asked him, speaking Drunkese.
“That tent over there,” he replied, also fluent in the language.
I staggered over to the tent and knocked on the red canvas.
“Hey is Ripper here?”  I called into the tent.
There were a bunch of dark shapes all sitting around- maybe ten of them.  It smelled like canvas and pot in there.
“Who wants to know?” a voice asked.
“I’m his freshman year roommate.”
“Hey Lance!”  It was Kevin, who lived down the hall from me that year.  He was one of the four people on the floor to pledge Theta Chi.
“Kevin!  Did you drag Rip or Mark or Tom with you?”
“No, they’re all on co-op.  Lame fucks had to work.”  Kevin’s voice said.  I couldn’t see him. 
The whole tent laughed.
“How you, BURP, been, man?  I asked.
“Drunk!  Bizniz majors still have it mmmade at Dddrexel!”
Another round of laughing.
Good seeing you Lance!” he said.
“Yeah, get out” said a voice.
“Yeah.  Tell everyone I said ‘hi’ and that I love it here,” I said.
I stumbled away from the tent.  Virginia was watching.
“That was fuckin’ rude!” she said.
I started staggering back in the direction of campus.  I could hear the Whales Tails game resume in the tent behind me.  I never saw Kevin again.
I stumbled on Phi Sig’s lawn and fell hard on the mushy wet grass.  After a few seconds of collecting my thoughts, I then rolled over and saw Virginia standing over me, offering her helping hand and smiling.
            “Kandler!  You are a mess!!” she said with a little chuckle.
            My girlfriend.  We’d had sex, we’d drank together, we had great times, and she had a hot body.  I was happy drunk.
            So I laid there on my ass and flashed her the sign language sign for “I love you.”
            “You’re just drunk,” she said suddenly serious.
            “No really!”
            “We’ll see how you feel tomorrow,” she said, helping me to my feet.
I expected a better reception than that! 
So we walked back to my apartment, plopped onto the couch (getting mud all over,) fucked, and passed out.
The next day, I felt the same.
I was Young, at Penn State, and in love.

Next Entry

Sunday, September 29, 2019

First Impressions of an Old Friend

I've been here in State College for a month now.  State College is the home of the Pennsylvania State University. (PSU).  As the few of you who read this blog know, I graduated from PSU in 1989.  Thirty years ago.  Ugh.

I tried to travel back to PSU once or twice a year as an alumnae, so I've been watching as the university and town have grown and changed.  I remember when Playland closed.  Many other stores and bars closed, even the Rathskeller which had been open for generations.   For that matter, the entire character of the town and campus has changed.  There are some many high rise apartment buildings now dominating the landscape- and many more being built.  The “small town” feel of the place is quickly disappearing.  PSU seemed like an isolated “self-sufficient oasis” in the middle of nowhere back then.  Well, it’s still in the middle of nowhere, but thanks to the internet, it’s not so isolated.

High rise cranes.  There are many of them...

Some things haven’t changed.  The campus is still an oasis of tolerance in the middle of Trump country- but it’s become far more enlightened since the 80s.  For example, LGBT (especially gay men and transgender women) had to hide or face beatings.  For that matter, I don’t remember seeing any transgender people back then at all.  There was a rumor about a “gay guy” who dressed as a woman for Halloween, and was “picked up” at a party by a football player… with the assumption that violence was the end result.  There was and still is a “gay bar” at PSU called Chumleys.  It’s small, but fun the few times I’ve been there- all since re-discovering myself.

It’s so very different, but then again… so am I.  I’m now over fifty, and living my Truth.  The co-eds wear their yoga pants (it’s like a uniform up here!  They all wear them!) while I wear a skirt.  No need to “compete” with girls young enough to be my daughter.  Not that I could if I wanted.

The other day, someone asked me why I love PSU so much.  I paused a moment to think, then replied  that I wrote a book on that very topic (part of which I've been serializing on this blog.).  That book took me years, and I still don't have a definitive answer.  I guess a short answer would be that it's part of my identity.

Wednesday Sophie Selfie

In any case, I'm back.  I'm finishing the fifth week of classes, which means I'm already one third through this first semester.  Papers and presentations are coming due.  I'm overwhelmed with reading.

Still, I guess things are looking up.  My roomie/bestie Linda has probably found a job.  Wife and daughter visited this weekend (in fact they just left a few minutes ago.)  Nice visit.  I miss them desperately. 

It’s now fall, yet the temperatures are still over 80.  I’m guessing it’ll be a mild winter, so I won’t be listening to the hissing snow as I walk to class.  Not that they have class when it snows these days.

In any case, I'm here.  And it's time to get back to work.

Be well.

Friday, September 20, 2019

Men of the Skull Chapter 56: Pyramids

Getting involved with a "pyramid scheme" wasn't the smartest thing I'd ever done.  Eventually those guys were caught and arrested.

Lesson learned.  Cost me $25.

Chapter 56: Pyramids

Saturday, March 27, 1987 Probing into strange past of Gary Heidnik

            The kegs were tapped and the chairs sat on the porch.  It was an absolutely beautiful day in Happy Valley.  I stopped at the house after classes for dinner and walked smack into a porch party. 
            I left my book bag in the phone room next to the front door, and tapped a beer from the keg there as well.  After all, it was now the weekend!  As usual, the girls appeared from nowhere exchanging smiles for beer.
            All the talk was about this new money making scheme the guys had joined. 
            “So what you do is pay in fifty bucks to join.  Then, when people join after you, you get a piece of what they pay in, as do the people above you.  The more you recruit, the more you make.  It’s called a ‘pyramid’ and eventually you’re at the top!”  Windex said. 
            Wow!  Free money!  And all I have to do is buy in and wait.  Did I mention how stupid I was when I was 20?
            Standing next to Windex was a guy I never saw before.  Kyle was just a little shorter than me.  He was built like a runner with powerful legs and thin frame.  Oh- he was also black, with a flat top haircut and a goatee.  We didn’t get many black people hanging around the house for whatever reason.  I always figured they wanted to hang with each other- after all we had several black fraternities on campus.  Actually, the truth is I never thought of it.
            In any case, Kyle was here, and he was really cool and a lot of fun.  He was more accepted by the brothers than I was. 

            “Hey Lancer!  You want in?”  Windex asked. 
            “I don’t have fifty bucks to my name!”  I said.  Damn!
            “Do you have twenty five?  We could split a spot!”  Kyle said.
            “Umm.  I guess,” I said.  “Who needs to eat anyway?”
            “Let’s do it!”  Kyle said, holding up a hand for a high five.
            A high five, chugged beers, and we were off.  First, I had to stop at the MAC machine (ATM- people from Philly called them MACs) to get my $25.  From there we walked to Sigma Pi, where the guy running the thing was a brother.
            Sigma Pi has a beautiful house right on the end of Fraternity Row.  (Yeah, there’s a street in State College named “Fraternity Row.”  Lame, I know.)  Sigma Pi even registered their house as a historic landmark, arrogant bastards!  Anyway, Kyle and I headed up the walk, there were guys playing volleyball off to the side and music blasting from a window.
Open your heart to me, baby
I hold the lock and you hold the key
Open your heart to me, darlin
Ill give you love if you, you turn the key

The door was wide open, so we just walked right in.  Their foyer was so dark compared to the bright sunshine outside!  We stopped a passing Sig Pi brother and gave him the name and code word that we’d been given.  He seemed shocked to see us.  Was it Us or Kyle?  I don’t know.
Anyway, we were told to wait, and that’s what we did.  Maybe ten minutes, during which time we looked around the first floor.  I noted the locations of all their composites for possible future “liberation.”  (I never got around to it, though.)
Eventually we were shown upstairs by a pledge wearing a tie to a room where there were two guys sitting next to windows so they were kind of in silhouette.  I guess they were trying for drama.  We told them the code word we were given. 
“Who gave you that word?” the one on the left asked.  His hair was a mess, like he just woke up.
“Windex” I said.
The two checked a handwritten list.
“Are either of you cops?”  asked the one on the right.  He was all sweaty.  I’m guessing he was out playing volleyball.
“No,” Kyle answered.
“Do we look like cops?”  I asked, not realizing I was wearing my Police concert shirt.
“We always ask,” said Left.  Then he laughed a stoner laugh.  Huh huh huh.
So we wrote our names on the Pyramid drawn on the paper, paid our money, had the code words explained (duh!  I think we figured that one out already!) and after some handshakes and huh huhs we were back out into the daylight.
Did I just pay those assholes twenty five fucking dollars?
Kyle and I walked back to the Bone.  Now we waited and watched as the money would start pouring in. 

Saturday, September 14, 2019

53 and 6

Today, as I write this, is my "berfday."  I was born 53 years ago, according to my Mum.  I'll take her word for it, as she was there, and I don't remember it.  Besides, it's on my birth certificate.

That means it's four days until the 6th anniversary of one of the worst days of my life: the day Lisa died.

These days will remain linked for the rest of my life.  One leads to the other.  Bim bam.

Three years ago today, I did my best to join her.  However, my stupidity prevented it.  So here I am.  Fifty three.

Fifty three is one of my friend R's favorite kinds of poker.  "Fiddy three" he'll call when he deals.  Been a while since I sat at the table with him.  Last time I lost $20.  We play low stakes, which is a courtesy to me as I can't afford the stakes my friends usually play.

So, I'm 53.  I live in State College now, where I just started working on my PhD.  I'm told it will take five years, so I'll be 58 when I graduate.  Assuming I do.

My friend Jeanine did her PhD much faster than that.  Her's was in American Studies, and she went to Penn State Harrisburg.  I tried to follow in her footsteps, but didn't get accepted.  She died before I was accepted to my current program.  I miss her.

Now late at night.  I'm tired.  And I'm 53.

And I'm thinking of Lisa.  Six long years since we last spoke, laughed, and hugged.  I cried on her shoulder that final night.  She was 52 when she died.  I'm  now older than she ever was.  I remember reading a poem about how the fallen in battle will remain forever young.   They never age.  So it is with Lisa.  52 forever.  Would she still have the same style?  Would  her hair have finally grown out enough to ditch wigs?

What would she say about me being here at PSU?

So many questions.  No, I'm not "over" her death.  Six years and the Pain is still a scar on my soul.  I cant imagine how her widow, Sandy feels.

My birthday and her death.  Forever intertwined.

At the Nittany Lion Inn

It's now Saturday.  I have a slight hangover.  I'm doing laundry while watching the Penn State/Pitt game.  I have a ton of reading to do yet, but it can wait until after the game.

Bestie/roomie Linda and I went to dinner at the Nittany Lion Inn using money from an "anonymous" gift.  We then went down to Chumleys, an LGBT bar on College Ave.  there we met a few people, including Sophia, who just started to realize her Truth.  Someone told the bartender it was my (and a classmate's) birthday, so the whole bar sang to us.  We left relatively early.

So.  Life continues.  Thanks to all those who sent me birthday wishes.  I don't deserve you.

Linda at dinner

A wave and huggses to Joanne and Ellen, both of whom recognized me from this blog within an hour of each other on College Ave last night.  I was deeply moved.  Thanks.

Monday, September 9, 2019

10 hours

Yesterday, I read 10 hours of hardcore academic stuff, and STILL didn't finish my reading assignment.  By the time I reached hour whatever, my brain was mush.

When we discussed the reading in class today, I could barely recall any of it.

I feel like I should be sitting at the kids table.  And I have a presentation tomorrow which I haven't started.  (I'm typing this as a study break.)

And I haven't started my 20 hours of Graduate Assistant work this week yet. 

What have I gotten myself into this time?

Oh, then there's this:

I added the red stuff

I got it fixed but, what the f**k?  None of my documentation has my dead name on it anymore.  They had to go LOOKING to find that.

I'm so tired. 

Sunday, September 1, 2019

"Tomb of Horrors" for Charity

On July 27, 2019, I was Dungeon Master for a charity game of 1st edition Dungeons and Dragons (DnD) which benefited the Phoenixville Women's Outreach Center.   This event occurred at Nerd Merch, which is a new gaming "store" in Phoenixville, PA.
The game Dungeons and Dragons was published in 1974.  I started playing in 1978, just as the first edition (1e) of Advanced DnD was being released.  This is the version I played the most- all the way through college and after.  Second edition (2e) was published in 1989, and that's the edition that was current when I worked for TSR (company that fist published the game) from 1992-4.  In 1997, TSR was purchased by Wizards of the Coast (WOTC.) WITC was purchased by Hasbro in 1999.  DnD is currently enjoying a new resurgence with its 5th edition (5e). (Wikipedia)

I can't say I'm a big fan of 5e.  Power gaming at its worst.  And dumbed down like crazy.  That's why I prefer earlier versions.

A seat at the table cost $20.  That got you your character.  If your character died, you could "re-buy" another for $10.  Every cent was going to the Center.  The module was Tomb of Horrors, (ToH) known by gamers as the deadliest dungeon ever written.  The (surviving) creator of DnD, Gary Gygax, was tired of players complaining about how tournament modules were too easy, so he wrote ToH to absolutely kill characters.  In this module, characters died.  Often.  So, the rebuy was going to raise more money.  I also set up an online fundraiser.

I arrived and the staff at Nerd Merch helped me set up the tables.  I pre-made appropriate characters, chose appropriate spell, and put them in color coded folders.  I figured that if the players were shelling out $20 per seat, they should get the best I could make it within my means.  I did my best to set the players for success.  All was ready and set up for noon... and nobody showed... until near 1.  Sigh. 

Mt set up behind the screen

Eventually I had eight players- mostly around my age.  The store was crowded, and people playing whatever at other tables were curiously looking over.  We recruited one from another table.  Score! 

First Corridor

After a few "false starts" the group finally found the true entrance.   This first corridor was loaded with trap doors... and a "false path" of red tiles set into the floor.  These traps would claim the first kill- a paladin who was impaled on poison spikes.  The group found their way into a second hallway, and pressed onward.

Oh, I forgot to mention, each player had one "Mercy."  It was essentially a re-roll.  The party leader had two of these.  You could buy more for $5.00 each, again going to the Center.  You could also get more for good role playing or having a great idea.  By the end of that first corridor, the party had used almost all their Mercy. 

Original art.  Want a gem?

I used all the original pictures as player aids.  I made enlarged copies so they were easier to see, though. 

The idea was to play until all characters were dead or surrendered.  By the end, all but one had been magically deposited, butt-naked, back at the Tomb entrance.  The one who hadn't was at the entrance, having run away earlier.  The others surrendered, so the one guy won the "prize:" a never released Citadel miniature so rare that even staff only ever got one (this one was mine.)

What did I get paid for all this?  3 bottles of Fiji water- exactly what I requested.  Between the day and the online, we raised over $300 for the Phoenixville Women's Outreach Center... which they didn't expect as the guys at Nerd Merch never told them that the event was happening.  *facepalm* I received a very nice email from the director of the Center- and that was more than enough for me.  I helped, and I got to play a game I love.

I used to play DnD all the time.  I played ToH as a player twice back in the day, and DM'ed it twice (counting this.)  Doing this game, and knowing it was a good cause really reminded me of how much fun the game was and is.  Also, it was a fitting way of saying "goodbye" to the town where I'd lived for over 16 years on and off- but that's another story

If I could find a group willing to play an old edition of the game up here in State College, I'd jump at it.  Alas, I fear it will not be. 

Still, I was able to help a little. 

Be well.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Night Before Returning

I wrote this yesterday.


I’m scared.  There- I said it.   

I have many emotions returning to Penn State to study for my PhD.  I graduated from PSU U-Park in 1989: a lifetime ago.  So much has changed in my life since then.  Time and Pain will do that to a person.   

Then there was Transition.

The University changed as well.  The Penn State I knew exists only in the memories of those of us who were there.  Now, children of my classmates have already come and graduated, and their youngest children are now here.  Penn State tends to be a family tradition. 

Not so for my daughter.  She is only eleven and made her first visit to PSU (that she remembers-she was here as a toddler) when she helped me move up to State College on Sunday.   

My daughter is one of my Fears.  I usually saw her once a week.  Now I might see her once or twice a month (her mother and I lived apart).  I’ve already missed her childhood.  What else will I miss?  

Will I make her proud of me? 

Will anyone even care? 

Monday, August 26, 2019.  An hour early for my first class

All my life, people told me that I’m smart.  I’ve relied on my brain to keep me alive despite it wanting to kill me.  Now, for the next five years, I will be testing whether I’m as smart as so many people thought I was.  It’s not a given that I will succeed- I've failed at so much in my life.  I define myself not by what I know, but by what I do not.   

Tomorrow is the first day of classes.  First step.  I know I have a support network, but in the end, it’s up to me to do this thing.  

I’m so scared.