Friday, October 8, 2021

Early Autumn Raw Whining

I've always taken a writing book everywhere I go, but lately I've started writing in it while in class, as we're supposed to keep a journal to reflect on readings and discussions. The following was written yesterday, and has the class related stuff removed- but that's the only editing I've done, aside for clarity and removing names..  Raw Sophie thoughts as they happened.  Not that anyone is reading.  Last month, I had 747 hits.  I used to do over a thousand a day.  Is it that no one is reading blogs anymore, or that I've scared everyone off.  Or bored them.  



I'm good at fake smiles.  Sept. 2021.  Like my sun poisoning?

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Sweaty as fuck, as it's so humid.  Drug dr. says Cymbalta may be the cause.  I'm very sick of it.  I sweated through a dress this morning, so I'm on my second dress of the day.  

Mum is still alive.  I spoke to her the other day, and could barely understand her.  I thought of going down [to see her] on Sunday for her birthday, but decided not to, as I don't want to see her like this- not again.  Spoke to Wife and daughter about it today as well.

Drug dr. asked me if I'd felt suicidal lately.  I answered yes, but didn't say when: this morning.  I woke up at 6 am and thought that today the world would be better off w/o me.  Everyone would forget me very quickly.  I got out of bed and pushed myself to the shower that I desperately needed.  I hadn't showered in days.  And I needed a shave.  I just didn't- too lazy.  I didn't care.  I still don't, but as I have class today, I wanted to present well, not offend people with my stench, and in a desperate attempt to feel feminine.  I'm convinced that unless I get bottom surgery I'll never feel feminine or complete.  As I'll never afford it, I'll never feel complete.  I lost all hope of that long ago.  Hope lies.  I've known that for years.  Just keep moving forward, step by step.  I would rage against the dying of the light if the light hadn't died long ago.  After all, I'm a mistake that was broken again and again- loss after loss, defeat after defeat, more regular than a heartbeat.  I was born as a warning to others- that life can make mistakes.  If I were so fucking smart, then why do I lose so goddamn always?...


True Colors Photoshoot, 2010.

…Just thinking- even if I had bottom surgery, what would really change?  It's not like I'd ever use the parts, even if I wanted to.  I'm too fat and ugly and old for anyone to ever want me.  What kind of lover would I be as a woman?  Yes, I have big tits, but that isn't everything.  What kind of wife would I be?  Would I wear the white dress, etc?  Could I?  Me as a bride, outside of a photoshoot.  Never a consideration.  That pre-supposes losing Wife, meeting someone else, and caring enough about them to spend the rest of my life with them.  I can't see that happening.  I can't see wanting it to happen.  I'm already married, and will remain so until Wife jettisons me.  Would I even survive that? I doubt that very much.  Just being separated makes me crave death every day.  All those years ago, the marriage councilor said I'm "Needy, clingy, and possessive."  Spot on.  I forget which therapist said that's because I crave the love I didn't get as a child, or the acceptance I never found.  Am I capable of receiving love anymore?  Was I ever, really?  I know love has ALWAYS meant pain to me- every fucking time.

*******************************************************************


In other news, a couple of weeks ago, I attended a tailgate.  I wrote about that HERE.  I came away with a mild case of sun poisoning that knocked me down for a week.  It's now at the peeling stage.  I should make an appointment with the dermatologist, but no money means no medicine.  

School is brutal, but at this level it's supposed to be.  The academic term for it is "rigor,"  which is defined as "hard as fuck."  One of my classes is Sociology of Gender, and I really enjoy that class.  I've learned a lot from looking at the issues from a different lens, so to speak.  

It's October in Happy Valley.  Still summer out there, despite the leaves changing.  The world is changing too.  What kind of planet will my generation leave behind?  A cinder?  

In any case, that's all I have today.  I wanted to post something for what readers I have left.  To those who have hung on, thank you.  Seriously.  You help.


Be well.

Friday, September 17, 2021

8

Dearest Lisa,

Today marks eight years since they found your body, hot pink and lifeless in the back of your work van.  How long it had been since you died is uncertain.  

What is certain is how you tore apart so many lives.  I get it- I really do.  I know how the Pain and Darkness eat away at the soul.  How the Darkness makes promises- promises sweet relief from the Pain.  

What the Darkness didn't tell you is how many people loved you, and the price we paid for your peace.

Every day I think of you, and every day I think about joining you.  The Agony you left behind still lives in me.  I hang on.  I hang on trying to do right by those you left behind.

Eight whole years.  So much longer than I even knew you.  

I wish I could go back and tell you what I know now.  Would you even recognize me?  I know I've changed- I see it in my eyes.  I hate mirrors more than ever.  If we met now, would you even want to be friends?  

I want to write more, but I'm afraid to.

I will always miss you and love you, Lisa.

Sophie


Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Double Nickel

On September 13, 2021, I turned 55.  Another year passed, another year still alive.  What did I do?  Well, I worked my one job for a few hours, then treated myself to some lunch (wings and iced tea) at Cafe 210 West.  The owner, noted local musician J.R. Managan joined me for a drink, which was very nice of him.  I also bought myself a birthday gift- a white Penn State Tank top that I couldn't afford, but it's my birthday.  I then went the other place where I work (grocery store) and picked up the free cake they give employees on their birthday.  I then went home for a nap.  That night, I made a steak for dinner for myself and Linda, and had some of the cake.  Also during the day, I spoke to Wife and daughter.  


At Cafe 210


And that was how I spent my 55th birthday.  Quietly.  I didn't tell people at my one job it was my birthday as it didn't matter.  I'm used to people not knowing and not caring about me or my birthday.  With the exception of when I was dating/with Wife, I spent most of my birthdays alone.  Nothing is lonelier than a birthday alone.  However, if a person goes around reminding people about it, they're seen as "seeking attention."  Well, YEAH!  It's nice to get just a little attention on your birthday!  That's why I paid hundreds of dollars to throw my own birthday party a few years ago.


A few of my facialbook friends remarked that a lady never tells her age.  I'm honest about it, because so many transgender women don't live this long.  We get murdered or commit suicide or whatever.  My dearest friend Lisa died at 52.  So at 55. I've survived three suicide attempts, countless deep depressions where I wanted to die, accidents, running into burning buildings, crawling into demolished cars, fights, falls, and God only knows what else.  Yet, still here I am, typing this.  If I had my way, I'd be dead these five years and mostly forgotten.  


272 people posted on my facialbook page wishing me a happy birthday.  My birthday fundraiser raised $502 (target: $300).  Yes, I am honored by this, and very grateful.


So I'm still here today.  Still studying for my PhD.  Still breathing.  Still crazy after all these years.


Be well.


Thursday, September 9, 2021

Tips For New Girls Redux

This piece was first published on TG Forum on August 30, 2021.  Please click on the link to show them some love.

*******************************************************

And now for something completely different.

Long ago, back when people still drew on cave walls, I did a piece (either here or on my blog) about some helpful tips for beginners.  It’s been forever, so I thought I’d try this again.  Tip of the hat to Linda Jensen who also writes about this, and does it far better than I ever will. 

Right.  The transgender continuum encompasses many different types of people, from casual occasional crossdressers, to people who dress often but can’t transition for whatever reason, to people who have surgeries and go stealth. My dear friend Kristyn King told me when I first came out in public the first time that being TG is like a train: you ride and progress until you arrive at the stop where you are comfortable (or must stop.)  However, very few ride the train until the end of the line: transition. I am one of those who paid for the ticket, and took the ride.  I’ve been living my Truth since 2014.  I’ve learned a lot since rediscovering myself since re-discovering myself in late 2008, usually the hard way, but also from other transgender women here and there.  And now, I give this wisdom to you.  You lucky people.

Let’s start with legs shall we?  This is the biggest sin I see at TG events:  KEEP YOUR KNEES TOGETHER!  As biological males, we tend to sit with our legs spread far apart: the “Man Spread.”  Women don’t sit this way.  At all.  They are socialized to keep their legs together to prevent them from flashing their privates to any who care to look- especially while wearing a skirt or dress.  Give you a hint ladies: we don’t want to see your underwear or pantyhose crotch.  Keep your knees together!

Manspeading

While I’m at it, let’s discuss feet.  Females sit (or hover) when using the restroom.  You know this, right.  Men don’t have to, as they can stand to pee.  However, if you’re going to dress as a woman, nothing will creep out cis-women (and out you) faster than standing at the john in the ladies room.  WHILE IN THE STALL, KEEP YOUR FEET POINTED AWAY FROM THE TOILET.  That means sit on the throne, ladies. 

The next major bit I notice is obvious, but not.  When I attend TG events or conferences (like the amazing Keystone Conference in Harrisburg, Pa), there are usually group meals.  During one of those, close your eyes and listen.  What do you hear?  Guys.  Guys talking and laughing.  Some of the most beautiful women you meet at a conference out themselves as soon as they open their mouths.  They make no effort to raise their voice into a feminine range.  TRY TO USE AS FEMININE VOICE AS YOU CAN.  Even if you think it sounds ridiculous, it really helps your mental state and presentation.

Walk past a male presenting person.  How do they silently acknowledge you as you pass by (assuming they do)?  They nod.  Men in Western cultures nod to acknowledge/greet others.  What do females do?  They smile to each other.  (They don’t smile at men that often, especially in Europe, where smiling is seen as flirting.)  WHEN SILENTLY ACKNOWLEDGING SOMEONE, SMILE- DON’T NOD!

Finally, we have walking.  Men walk one way due to the angle of their hips and center of gravity, while women, with structurally different hips and higher center of gravity, walk differently.  There are long lessons on how to walk in a feminine way.  So, as a simple guide: WHEN WALKING, SHOULDERS BACK, CHEST OUT, AND A MAKE BELIEVE BOOK ON YOUR HEAD.  It isn’t perfect, but it’s better than shambling around like a guy. 

In any case, I hope these tips help.  I’m still working on voice and walk, and always will be.  Hopefully, these tips will help your feminine presentation, and help you be the best female you can! 

 

Be well!

 


 

 


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Collectables

I used to collect a great many things when I when I was first out of college (It's hard to collect anything when money is so tight.  That said, in college I collected hangovers), especially after I met Wife and I was able to get a relatively stable job in a game distribution company.   Go figure one of the things I collected were board games. I also collected miniatures, as well as Dungeons & Dragons books. One thing I saved my money to buy was a 1990 Captain America chess set, in pewter and brass.  I loved that, and couldn't wait until we had would have an actual house where it could be displayed.

Occasionally, I bought a comic book character statue.  Around that time, Wife and I collected video tapes of movies, because we didn't go out that much so at night we would drink wine and watch movies.  


This was a wonderful time.  I had friends with whom to game, money enough to pay the bills (as Wife made more than me, even at the beginning of her career.)  Our biggest expenses were my drinking and our weekly dinner date night.  

Unfortunately, my drinking was out of control and I spent a LOT. 

Wife is better with money than me. Things were looking up.  We were building a life Together.  Y'know, like normal people.  

At that point, I changed jobs.  When I took the job with Games Workshop, it also cut my income by a third.  I cut back expenses a bit, and started selling off a few things at conventions.  Eventually, we saved enough to buy a house.  I loved that house:  it was an end unit of townhomes, built with our input.  A dear friend who worked in construction built the deck for us.  Add to that, we shared a wall with an amazing couple (who are the best neighbors anyone could ever want) named Adam and Carol.  

We held many parties there, hosted some dinners, and eventually even got a dog.  And, finally, I was able to display my chess set.  Fortunately, it was not one of the things taken when the house was robbed.  My favorite times there were sitting on the couch with Wife after the day was done, drinking wine and listening to music.



Captain America Chess Set.  Pics swiped from an ebay auction.  Want it?  $524.00

Still, even with an occasional raise from GW, expenses were outpacing income.  Then, Wife was laid off.  

I began selling things I'd collected.  I began selling off comics.  Then the statues, one by one.  Board games that I didn't play for whatever reason.  Out of production miniatures.  Miniatures I'd painted.  Books.  Eventually, I sold some of the original art I'd collected.  I'd occasionally buy something on ebay just to turn it around to resell it, as I knew it was worth much more than I paid.  

It wasn't enough. 

One day, I sold the Captain America chess set to a comic book store.  I remember that day vividly.  I put the chess set, mint in factory box, on his counter.  He paid in cash, which I handed to Wife.  I was so sad.  I'd never even played a game with those pieces.  I felt like a complete failure.  We made the mortgage payment.  



I don't know why, but I thought of this image when writing this piece.  It's drawn in the art style of Wife.




Eventually, my job at GW was eliminated.  We sold the house we loved so much, and moved back to Pennsylvania.  I was deeply depressed.  Again, I started selling off things I'd collected.  No longer constrained by my employment with GW, I sold off most of my GW miniatures, including the armies I'd worked so hard to build and paint over the nine years I worked there.  I sold the last of the sellable statues in 2011.


Very Rare Game.  Sold January, 2011


Since that time, I've been selling to pay bills.  At first, it was to pay for things like the tuition for my masters degree.  Then our daughter was born.  Eventually, it was to buy feminine items and clothing, as my femme side re-emerged in 2008.  

Now, I still sell things, and occasionally buy.  Almost all of the high-end items are gone.  What few items are left aren't worth much to anyone really.  My once huge game collection fits on two ikea shelves.  Most of my books are in storage.  I tried selling some to a used book store, and they were very blunt about telling me that they weren't interested.  I've given many of my old books (mostly unread) for free to my friends who own Bramble Books in Spring City.  I figure it will help them make money.  (Their bookstore is thriving, btw.)  

In any case, a lot of the games I still have, I kept hoping that someday I'd actually have people with whom to play them.  I've had several of them for over thirty years, and a couple for forty.  At what point do I finally give up and either sell them or give them away?  (Before you ask, my roomie Linda isn't a gamer.  She builds amazing models from scratch.)

This morning, I'm exhausted.  I've worked on this piece for days, little by little.  Time to go to work.  I'm doing both jobs today.  Then work Friday, Saturday, Sunday...  

Maybe I'll just give it all away.  They'll make someone happy.  It's all wasted here.




Thursday, July 22, 2021

Humid Midsummer Sunset

The sun was setting when I left work Tuesday, and to the south an early moon hung in the blue and rose colored sky.  The humidity was so heavy you could see it and almost taste it.  This is the sort of summer I remember from growing up and those summers when school was just a threat over a month away.



Last night


But tonight, it reminded me of the beach.  Bethany Beach, Delaware, specifically.  Early in our relationship, Wife's family always rented a beachside house for a couple of weeks during the summer, usually in late June.  It had to be beachside, as Wife's grandmother wanted to be near enough to hear the ocean, even though she never went down to the beach itself.  The sound was enough.


Most nights after dinner, Wife, her brothers, and whatever cousins or friends were along, would walk on the beach about a mile to the Bethany boardwalk.  We'd usually get ice cream and play miniature golf at the most ancient yet challenging place, and it only cost fifty cents!  It's long gone now, replaced by a restaurant.  


Still, it's those memories that relationships are built upon.  I loved those walks.  I loved those evenings.  I could usually only stay a few days or a week, as I had to work, but those were wonderful times.  I think about them on evenings like this as the bright early moon presides over the sultry sky.  I miss them.  I miss the days of being happy and with Wife.



The next morning I learned that some of the haze was due to smoke from the west coast wild fires.  So much for wistfulness.

Friday, July 16, 2021

Men of the Skull: Chapter 147 (out of order) Macaroni and Cheese Party!

 I don't remember if I posted this before, so...

This post prominently features "Debbie," whose introduction I haven't posted yet.  From that chapter:


She wore a white one piece bathing suit and mirrored sunglasses as she relaxed on the lounge chair on the balcony reading a book.  She had a gorgeous body: huge breasts, perfect legs, and fiery red hair.  She was an absolute knockout- I’d never seen anyone like her in my life.  A woman among girls.  And she didn’t notice me- but why would she?  She was reading a book. 

...

A minute later, she opened the door.  She’d wrapped a white towel around her hips.

Debbie was maybe five seven.  She had a round Irish face with prominent apple cheeks speckled with freckles.  She had almond shaped hazel eyes and a wide full mouth.  Her red hair touched the bottom of her shoulder blades and framed everything beautifully. 

...

Debbie was a criminology major going into her senior year.  She stayed up for the summer to do an internship for a law firm out on University Drive, where she was well paid.

            Jones asked her about her boyfriend, and she made a sour face.

            “She dates a football player” he said in a mocking tone.

 “Shut up!” she said as she kicked his chair.  She then turned toward me and smiled. 


"Jones" was the guy I was subletting from- a Marine ROTC about to go on his summer obligation.  The apartment was in Armenara Plaza, on Beaver Ave.  



Armenara Plaza, Summer 1988

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Chapter 2.147: Macaroni and Cheese Party

Wednesday, June 22, 1988 The region grows parched-with no break in sight

            I hate macaroni and cheese.  No, really- I fucking HATE macaroni and cheese!  My mom made it all the time while I was growing up because that is what we could afford, and I ate it because I was hungry.  But I hated it, and now I don’t have to eat it.  I’ve held brains in my hand.  Want to know what it feels like?  Macaroni and cheese.

            Whenever I visited home during a semester, when I came back to school my mom always gave me a “care package” and it always contained five boxes of macaroni and cheese.  In the dorm at Drexel, or the apartment or in the house there was always someone who wanted them, so I’d trade for stuff I found edible.

            Problem was, during that summer I had no one with whom to trade.  After a few quick trips, I had more than thirty fucking boxes of macaroni and cheese lying around and I still was not desperate enough to eat them.

            So Deb was over at my place typing something on my computer and she heard me clunking around in the kitchen.  I was reorganizing what little I had and putting all the macaroni and cheese into one big box.  Deb saw me putting the last blue box in with all the others.

            “Macaroni and cheese!  Oh I love that!  It’s so good!”  Her whole body radiated happiness.  Eye contact, Lance. 

“Wanna make some?” she asked.

            “Um, you can if you want.  I can’t stand it.”

            “Oh what’s wrong with you?  It’s so creamy and cheesy, especially the Kraft kind you have!  Wow!  How many boxes do you have?”

            “I dunno.  Maybe thirty?”

            “Why do you have so much if you hate it?”

            “My mom puts it in care packages.  Usually I trade it away, but I haven’t found anyone to trade with since I moved in here.”

            “Awww!  Isn’t that cute?  Mommy makes you care packages!”  She said, trying to look sickeningly sweet.  “Still, I’ll trade!  Thirty!  That’s enough for a party!”

            Party?  A bell seemed to go off in both our heads.  Penn Staters will use any excuse for a party.

            “We should have a macaroni and cheese party!  Macaroni and cheese and drinks and music!  It’ll be awesome!”  Deb hopped up and down and clapped. 

            Fuck eye contact!

 

Thursday, June 23, 1988 Phila sweats in high of 100

            Deb made some calls, and by the time I finished work at three, the party was ready. I supplied the macaroni and cheese as well as my bartending skills, and she supplied the beer, rum, and the place.  I also negotiated another little perk, but I’ll get to that later.

            So on yet another in a long string of broiling hot summer afternoons, about twenty of Deb’s friends sat around drinking and eating steaming plates of yellow-orange goo as they got drunk off their asses.  I couldn’t reach George.  Oh well.  Me?  I had some pizza with my beer, brought by one of the guests.  It was fun to watch the guys stare more and more at Deb as they got more and more drunk.  Like I wasn’t?  Sing it Terence.

Wish me love a wishing well
To kiss and tell
A wishing well of crocodile cheers

            The macaroni and cheese kept going long after the hot sun set and we started in on the “secret stash” of vodka.  With each batch of cheesy gloppy shit Deb or someone else tried adding stuff like hot peppers, A-1, any handy spice, eggs, beer, vodka, whatever.

            There were some interesting piles of puke later, I’m sure.

            I suggested adding ground beef and tomatoes, which Deb did.  (That’s how my mom always used to make it.)  I used some of the beef, mixed with A-1 to make a sloppy sandwich.  The new single from INXS came on the radio.  I really liked it- especially after watching Deb bounce around to it for a bit.

Are you ready for a new sensation
A new sensation
Right now
Gonna take you on a new sensation
A new sensation

            Eventually, mercifully, we ran out of boxes.  Five people lay passed out, contentedly snoring with cheese oozing from their mouths.  One girl managed to throw up off the balcony, but no one was on the street below.  Just an orange yellow splatter. 

 

Saturday, June 25, 1988 Court says education is not a right

            The curtains masked the setting sun as I sat in Deb’s apartment at her small table.  She set it with nice dishes and two white candles.  This was the negotiated payback: Deb cooked me a nice steak dinner for two.  I bought the best red wine I could get for ten bucks. 

            A nice dinner- just the two of us.  For a while, I could pretend.

            And it was her idea.

            She served the steaks while I poured the wine.  I held her chair as she sat, and then seated myself.  We lifted our glasses to toast. 

            “To macaroni and cheese,” she said, smiling, as I looked into her eyes.


Monday, June 21, 2021

For Katie

Katie Ward passed away on Monday, June 14, 2021.  


She suffered from brain cancer which metastasized to her kidneys.  I'd like to think she was surrounded by loved ones, but I don't know.  There are many things I don't know about Katie, but this I do know: she was a dear friend and mentor.


Katie Ward, March 2020

I met Katie in early 2009, soon after rediscovering myself.  We hit it off nicely, but didn't really start speaking until I visited TransCentral PA a few months later.  We bantered back and forth, and learned about each other.  She was vital to the Keystone Conference in Harrisburg every year, so I also saw her there.  Katie didn't BS people- she was blunt, and I liked that about her.  If I looked like shit, she said so.  If she thought I'd had enough to drink, she'd say that as well.


Laptop Lounge March 2009.  My first pic with Katie

Katie's life was all about service.  She served...  well, it's easier to do this.  The following is what TransCentral PA sent out about her passing.  It's how I learned she'd died.


We are sorry to announce the passing of our beloved friend and sister Katie Ward.


She passed on Monday, June 14th in a care facility after finding out less than a month ago she had stage 4 brain cancer which had metastasized to her kidneys. The prognosis was short, but she underwent a few treatments of radiation so she could have a little more time with her daughter and granddaughters. Although tired a lot in her last days, she said she had no pain.


Katie dedicated much of her life in service to others. She served our country honorably, first in the Navy, and then in the Air National Guard which she retired from after 20+ years of military service.


She was an officer of TransCentralPA for over five years and a volunteer/member for twice that amount of time. She would consistently host dinners around Harrisburg before our support group meetings to give people a chance to forge friendships both within and outside the group and build confidence in themselves. She enjoyed helping people and giving back.


She actively participated in many community organizations such as the Keystone Business Alliance whom she helped plan their annual awards banquet for a couple of years.


Her favorite event though was the one she helped grow into one of the largest events in the country--The Keystone Conference, A Celebration of Gender Diversity. Katie took on many roles at Keystone; she was the volunteer coordinator, the off-site event coordinator, the security coordinator, the Registrar and many others for several years. At the Saturday Night Gala of the last Keystone, Katie received a much-deserved standing ovation for her contributions to Keystone and the Central Pennsylvania community.


With her passing, Katie leaves behind a legacy of generosity, kindness and compassion. We will miss you Katie--thank you for being our friend.


So, you see, Katie was all about helping others.  I was one of many t-girls who benefitted from her wisdom and friendship.

It's so hard to write this.  Even though I knew it was coming, I still feel a deep hollow emptiness.  She did so much for so many- it just isn't fair that she should pass while so many useless people survive.  

Katie in a proper uniform


She was buried in a military cemetery under her birth name.  So the name Katie Ward passes into memory, kept only by those who knew her Truth.  I don't know how many of her family knew about Katie.  I think her daughter did.  In any case, we the transgender community have a responsibility to not just keep her memory alive, but to rise to the challenge that her service demands.  She showed us how caring and helping others can be done, and it's up to us to step up and continue her work.

I remember telling her several times that I wanted to be her when I grew up.  She would usually reply with "like you'll ever grow up."


Keystone Conference, 2017


It's rare that one can tell people exactly how you feel about them, and I took that opportunity with Katie.  Once I heard about her diagnosis (and that I couldn't visit due to covid restrictions) I messaged her on Facialbook and told her what she meant to me.  I hope she knew what she meant to so many people in our community, and how great her life impacted so many others.



I know that this piece doesn't begin to give justice to the beautiful soul who has left us, but I think everyone who knew her will understand the depth of grief we all share.  

On her page, I wrote "May the four winds blow you safely home", but I think a more appropriate parting would be "Fair winds and following seas, Katie."  I will miss you, dear friend, and do my best to follow your example.  


Photo by Cassandra Storm




Climbing

 As many of you already know, Penn State is at the geographic center of the state, directly in the midst of the Allegheny mountains, in the appropriately named Happy Valley.  It was named that before the University got here, I’m told.  In any case, the mountains are old, and were under several miles of ice under numerous ice ages.  The ice retreating left interesting rock formations, such as Devil’s Den at Gettysburg, or really wavy ridges in the mountains, like those southeast of here on the north face of Blue Mountain.  


Map: Google maps

While those ridges are the setting for this entry, I’ve never been there.  I’ve driven past them on Rte. 322 more times than I can count (322 is the main route from Harrisburg and the southeastern part of the state to State College).  And, that’s kind of the point.  


Map: Google maps

First, I need to give a little background.  In summer 1988, I stayed up at PSU to complete two classes so I could graduate “on time” after five years of college: two at Drexel and three at PSU.  The summer before, I met a guy named George at bartending class.  Yes, he’s good with me using his name, as I used it in my book Men of the Skull.  George was/is a brother of Lambda Chi Alpha, and… well, I’ll include a short book chapter here.

********************************

Chapter 70: Kamikazes

Monday, June 15, 1987 Arms pact reportedly is at hand

So it was the last bartending class.  The idea was that each team of students would bring alcohol and make one kind of drink.  Then, we would all sample each other’s drinks.  Not really a final exam, but sort of.  More of a pride thing.

Lambda Chi George, myself, and this one blond had been a team for a while.  We decided to make Kamikazes!  He said he’d bring the vodka, she brought triple sec and all I needed to do was buy the damn lime juice (as I was still underage.) Simple enough, right?

Of course I forgot.

So I arrived early to class just to have George ream me out a bit.  I ran across a road and a parking lot to a grocery store to pick up the juice.  Felt like a fucking idiot.  I returned sweaty and out of breath just as class was starting.

Every group was doing simple shit like martinis and screwdrivers.  We did Kamikazes that had three ingredients.  Yeah- go us! 

George brought a yellow plastic cocktail shaker from homecoming last year.  So as Paul said “ReadyReady!” and called out a drink for us to make, George was loudly shaking kamikazes.  Never mind that you really don’t need to shake kamikazes.

“Readyready: vodka martini rocks with a twist.”

SHAKESHAKESHAKE

Soon, Paul figured out that the class was descending into chaos.  Oh well.  Everyone drink and enjoy!

“Are you going to be good to drive home?”  Paul asked George.

“Sure, no problem!”  George replied, and gave him a kamikaze I made.

Damn good one too.

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In any case, George was up for the summer as well, and we hung out a LOT, usually going to the bars or fraternity parties together at night, when George would find his latest hookup and I, his wingman, would fail miserably.  I also helped him with his business course by editing his papers for grammar (his other summer course was golf.)  


George lived near enough to me back home that we would share rides back when necessary.  I think we went four times.  The trip with George was an experience, as he liked to drive fast, and would stop at every bar on the way.  Every bar.  They all knew him by name, and one particular bar near Dauphin (long gone) would see him walk in and know his drink AND food order before he said a word.  This made the usual three-hour trip into a five or six hour rather dangerous one.  


Each time we passed those particular ridges, we noticed how steep they were, and the fields of loose rock dotting their sides.  I'd seen this sort of thing before this: on the eastern face of Mount Misery at Valley Forge park, where it plunges to Valley Creek below.  However, Mount Misery is only about 577 feet high, while these ridges southeast of Lewistown are a bit over 2000 feet.


Close up of one of many stone fields visible from the road (Google maps)

George and I would say the same thing every trip: "we have to climb that someday."  The subject came up occasionally while we were drinking, including the last time I saw him in 1994, but we never made plans.  Hell, I don't even think we considered how hard that climb would be, and what equipment we'd need.

In summer 1989, I was driving through Valley Forge Park with my friend Mike, and decided that I'd climb that rock field on Mount Misery.  So I went, with Mike following reluctantly behind.  I was wearing penny loafers.  I made it to the top, but twisted my ankle several times doing it.  That wasn't as steep as those ridges.  I would've needed hiking boots for that.  

The years drifted by.  As I wrote, the last time I saw George was on October 7, 1994, when we went to a Grateful Dead show together.  He'd secured a limo so we could drink our faces off, which we certainly did.  I didn't know that within a few weeks my life would radically change, as by the end of that month I was living and working in Baltimore.  

Now it's (as of this writing) 2021.  I'm 54 with bad knees, sciatica, and a host of other issues.  I'm nowhere near the 22 year old who was winded climbing Mount Joy.  I haven't seen George in nearly 28 years.  He lives in Florida now, and has been sober for almost 15 years.  We speak and text occasionally.  He's one of the friends I did NOT lose when I transitioned.

There is no way I could climb that mountain now, just like there's no way George would appear at my door asking me to do so.  It's like so many other plans I had.  Someday I'm gonna...  You know someday I really will...  We all have these, right?  Regrets.  I seem to be the queen of them.

In many ways, that mountain: steep and impassable; that I've passed so many times is a metaphor dragged out of its cliché closet.  I can't look at it without thinking about those summer trips and the idea that my youthful limbs would carry me (and, undoubtedly some drinks) to the summit.  There George and I would down a few while gazing around the landscape.  

So many plans for little things that would've meant so much.  So many regrets piled up in my memory and my soul.  

Perhaps, after I've passed through the veil, my spirit will climb that mountain and finally see that view that, in my youth, I never bothered to seek.  I hope it's a clear day, so I can see forever.


Be well.