Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Valentine 18

I started writing this entry on February 14, 2018- Valentines Day.  (VD)

I've written before about my opinion of this Hallmark holiday.  Not a fan.  For one, it's amateur night at restaurants.  Everyone who never goes out goes to restaurants, runs the server like a slave, and doesn't tip.  It's crowded, loud, and the cooks are overworked.  THE worst night to go out to dinner of the year.

February 13, 2017- backstage at Vagina Monologues

I'm lucky.  Wife doesn't care for Hallmark holidays.  She doesn't like getting gifts.  She sees VD as a waste.  I agree- I showed her my love 365 days a year- I didn't need a special day for it.  Yes, we would do a VD dinner, usually several days before.  It was far more sane.

As it stands, this year will be our 25th wedding anniversary.  We have been separated since I was thrown out by her mother in August 2013, but we are still married.  Still, we have lived apart for over four years.

Today, Wife felt sick, and called out of work.  I had things to do (like applying for jobs- I was fired the day before) but when I finished, I called her.  You see, her mother is away for the week.  I suggested that we watch a "grown up movie" before Daughter came home from school.  By "grown up," I mean a movie that we enjoy that has language or situations that our daughter is too young to see yet.

I chose Airplane, and went over.

And so I sat on the couch.  Wife lay on the couch, her feet in my lap.  She hadn't seen that movie since before Daughter was born (ten years) and we both enjoyed it.

Then, as the movie ended, Daughter returned from school.

And that, dear reader, was my Valentine's Day.  I am now back at my apartment.  Linda, my roomie and bestie, just made dinner.

Just another day.

Men of the Skull Chapter 10: Quag Monster

I thought and thought about whether or not to post this chapter.  It isn't nice at all, and serves no purpose.  I wrote it out of a sense of completeness, really.  If the book ever sees publication, this chapter would be cut, as it serves no purpose.  I'm not proud of having written it- what does it say about who I was when I wrote it?

It said that I hated myself, and hated people like her-  this woman never even spoke to me.  She looked at me as I was completely unworthy of female attention.  She would sleep with everyone in the House except me.  I doubt she even cared to know my name. 

At PSU in summer 2008, as I was finishing the book

I understand why, now.  I wasn't a guy to her.  Many women saw through my "facade" of manhood. "I don't see you that way."  "I don't think of you as a guy- you're one of the girls."  But, when I wrote this chapter, I was still deep in denial.

This person exists. And she wasn't the only one like her.  Looking back, I think she was very insecure, and needed to feel love in some way.  Or not.  Maybe she was just enjoying yourself, and that's fine.  It was her life, and it was the 80s after all.


Chapter 2.10: Quag monster
Thursday, September 25, 1986  Informer: Mob had Testa killed for slaying of Bruno
            She was a hot girl, well she had been hotter once that’s for sure.  She looked worn out- overused.  Her eyes looked old.  She had short blond hair which she poofed as high as it would go all around, and always wore fashionably tight-ish clothes- always the right shoes.  If you caught her early in the night, she was impeccable dressed and coiffed.  However, late in the night she looked rumpled and fucked hard.
            She was the Quag Monster.
            The Quag was the name for the area around the boilers and water heater.  There were sofas there- old and musty.  The Quag Monster was well known for blowing or fucking almost every brother back there.  She loved her cocaine back in that damp cellar room.  She paid for it there as well.
            I know she was in a sorority, but I forget which.  Perhaps Tri Delt?  That didn’t matter.  She was also a Skull Little Sister and she was many guys ideal of what a little sister should be.  She sucked and fucked and went away.
            Me?  I don’t think she even knew my name.  She never even spoke to me.  That’s ok- I knew her name: she was Quag Monster now and forever.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 9: Coke

This chapter is among the shortest in the book- and one of the nastiest.  It was also among the last that I wrote for the book.

Why is it nasty?  Well, because it tells an unvarnished Truth.  This is a Truth that many of the brothers don't want told, but everyone knew.  It was far from a secret- in fact Skull had a reputation as a "drug house."

Not THAT bad though!

It was the 80s, and drugs were common.  I think I was the only lame ass who DIDN'T know how or where to score drugs, because I didn't want to do so.  I'd seen what drugs could do to a person, and I had enough issues with my drug of choice; alcohol.   Still, if you wanted to be popular, you did drugs- lots of them.  

The Bone was full of Dead heads.  There was a LOT of pot in the house.  But the major drug was cocaine.  That was true of many of the houses.  Rumor was that, for one of the houses, their house philanthropy was to give a charity a cut of the money they earned from selling drugs as the house business.

Times are different now.  I'll almost guarantee that most of the brothers don't touch drugs any more.  After all, that was college, and they are now mature, respectable family men.  But this happened, and to ignore it would be to remove a major part of the Truth of this book.  And I wrote this book to be about the Truth.  

To this day, I have never smoked pot.  I tried coke three times.  Hated it.  Never tried anything else.  I stuck to booze.  It caused me enough trouble.  

Chapter 2.9: Coke

Thursday, September 11, 1986 10 miles of Delaware River fouled by tanker’s 200,000- gallon spill

            It’s funny the ways that knowledge can serve.  I noticed that a number of the brothers seemed to have allergies.  They had red eyes, sniffled a lot and sneezed.  Now, these were rich guys.  It didn’t take me long to connect the dots.  The final clue was how some of these guys were absolutely hostile to me- as if they had something to hide: Paranoid.
            With all the fancy book learnin’ I got when training as an EMT, I put together the pieces: Cocaine.
She don't lie, she don't lie, she don't lie;
Yeah.  Lots of mirrors on tables in the house.  Not in every room to be sure, but plenty.
You could tell when they were hopped up: usually at parties.  Some of them would use it as fuel to kick down people’s doors.  Assholes.  Still, there was one guy who had a major problem.  He would snort any and all he could whenever he could.  He owed a lot of people a lot of money because he kept borrowing to buy, or he snorted other people’s stash.  Not a good idea.  The coke heads looked down on him like he had no control or something.
So I’m guessing a lot of those guys were so paranoid that they thought I was a cop.  That would explain a few things.
Driving that train, high on cocaine,
Casey Jones is ready, watch your speed.

Still, I mean the amount of money some of these guys spent on coke alone, never mind pot, would easily have paid a person’s tuition.  And these guys not only bought for themselves, oh no!  Many many sorority girls would do anything for it.  The term then was “coke whores.”  Glamorous shit, eh?  That was the 80s.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 8: Ashley

In this chapter, I introduce another person.

Ashley was my first Penn State crush.  She was whip smart (far smarter than me), beautiful, and had poise.  To me and my, well, limited experience, she was everything I expected a college woman to be.

And, she actually talked to me.

Unlike Judy (mentioned in a previous chapter,) Ashley was unattached.  You see, Judy had a boyfriend, who had graduated the previous year and saw her on weekends.  Ashley was free.

Im my mind, college relationships would be about discussing books, studying together, laughing while making dinner together, and, of course, passionate sex.  It was grown up stuff, not high school kid stuff.  I had no idea what I was doing- I was a lost in a dream.  I wanted... actually I had no idea what I wanted.

In many ways, I just wanted the Pain I was feeling to just go away.  I was still hurting over the breakup several months before with Julianne (first girlfriend) despite the fact that it was a one sided relationship doomed to fail.  I wanted the deep Pain, that I no longer dared name, to go away.  And I knew just how to end that Pain- the Pain of being Transgender (I didn't have a name for it then; I thought I was just a freak): get into a relationship with a grown up relationship with a Woman.

I just had NO idea how to do that.

In any case, I have no pictures of Ashley then.  I had no camera that semester.  I found her on Facialbook while I was writing this book, and we connected.  She remembered me.  She's married, many kids, great career- exactly what she wanted.   However, like so many, she disappeared when I transitioned.


Chapter 8: Ashley

Tuesday, Sept 9, 1986 Law and Morality in ‘Baby M’ case

            I stood with my back to her all day.  I sneaked glances at her ass as I worked.  I was on whopper board so the customers were staring at my ass all day, so it seemed fair.  See, behind me were the counter, and the cash registers, and running one of the registers was Ashley.
Ashley was a fellow PSU student, my age, majoring in mechanical engineering where she had a 4.0 in her junior year.  She came from my neck of the woods- Trappe, Pa.  That’s next to Collegeville where Julianne lived.  Really close by.

From that day's Daily Collegian (from the online archive)

Ashley was maybe five foot eight.  Her chestnut colored hair flowed just past her shoulders.  Her faint blonde highlights commanded attention as well.  Her eyes were blue as robin eggs and just as fragile.  Her face was delicate with subtle cheekbones and a bit of a pointed chin.  She wore a lot of foundation to cover some ancient acne scars- her only flaw.  I’ll bet she shed a lot of tears over those- really. 
Ashley was thin with very delicate arms.  Her breasts were a small B at most, but that was ok.  Her outstanding feature was her lower body- her hips and butt.  Curved perfectly and just the right size- that balance between perfection and fat: hypnotic.  That was a balance- delicate as an egg yolk.  Years later, Jennifer Lopez would rise to incredible fame for her ass.  Ashley’s put J-Lo’s to shame.  Really.  Hell, everything about her was absolutely feminine, down to the blush when she smiled.  I’d never met anyone like her.
In fact, Ashley looked like an older version of Julianne with a better body and cuter face.  Does that make sense?  Well, it’s true.
Most important, Ashley was really nice.  She didn’t realize how cute she was.  In fact she was fairly shy. 
So why did she make me feel so nervous and self conscious?
Was it because she reminded me so much of Julianne?  I mean I’d met several girls but let’s face it, I still missed Julianne.  Badly.  I still hadn’t worked everything through yet.  Hey, I wasn’t even twenty and this was my first real breakup.  Give me a fucking break!
Maybe it was because I was still a child, and she was a woman?
Anyway, so we talked a bit when we weren’t busy, which is how I learned all about her.  Did I mention her sorority?  Kappa Phi: the Christian service sorority. 

From that day's Daily Collegian (from the online archive)

The customers began to fade away and Ashley’s shift ended.  She worked until two, while I was stuck there until three.  Management pulled me back to burger board where I’d make everything for the rest of my shift.  As she walked by, Ashley stopped.
“It was a pleasure meeting you Lance!” she said, smiling. 
“Pleasure was mine!  It’s so rare to meet someone as smart as she is beautiful!”  What a fucking corny line.

She blushed and looked down at her feet.  “Thanks” she said.  She looked at me, said goodbye, and left.  I finished my shift and rode home, thinking about her.
From that day's Daily Collegian (from the online archive)

Friday, February 2, 2018

Story Challenge- 999 words or less. "The Gift."

My friend Mel gave me a writing challenge.  999 words max.  The story has "feature a jacket in the plot", as well as an "unattainable deadline.".

998 words (not counting the picture caption).  I call it The Gift.

Comments welcome.


Got the coat in 1984.  It’s electric blue satin, button up, with a white stenciled Star of Life on the front left breast.  The people from my rescue squad bought it for me when I passed the Emergency Medical Technician exam in January. I was seventeen years old, and a high school senior.

I wore it to school for the rest of the winter.  It was flashy and stood out (remember this was the 80s) and, best of all, I’d earned it.  In my rural school, it REALLY stood out, but it meant (I thought) that I was a hero.  I was a volunteer on the ambulance and rescue squad, and I saved lives.

I found out later that the other kids thought it was extremely dorky, but that’s not the point.

I stopped wearing it when I went to college.  I volunteered at the ambulance company in the college town as well.  While I was there, earning my teaching degree, I also took the Paramedic course and passed that.  Soon after graduation, I took and passed the Paramedic II course. 

I moved to another rural community, and started teaching history at the local high school.  While there, I also volunteered with the ambulance and rescue squad.  When I started, the school was small and underfunded, as was the emergency services. 

Eventually though, new highways opened up the area to the city, and the population exploded. 

In the mid-90s, I was on a call for a bad car accident involving an elderly couple.  I ended up saving the old lady’s life, while her husband was out cold.  Both survived. 

Couple months later, that old guy showed up at the rescue squad building, carrying a large paper shopping bag.   Turns out he was an army medic in World War II.  Fought in Europe.  France, Belgium, Germany.  Made it out without a scratch.  In the bag, was his old medical gear- a couple bags, pouches, all on a harness to carry it all.  The equipment was mostly still in it- forceps, hemostats, some bandages and stuff.  He gave it to me, telling me how much he was grateful for me saving his wife.  “One medic to another.”  

We talked  maybe an hour or so, and I asked him how he managed to get through all that shit without getting hurt.  He reached into the bag to something wrapped in a black cloth.
It was a knife.  Sanssouchi Fighting Knife, he said.  While in France, he saved some guy from the French Resistance who was bleeding out after losing an arm at the elbow.  Tourniquet.  The guy’s buddy gave him this knife to thank him.  French resistance fighting knife.  Big.  Still sharp.  The medic said that it was good luck charm.  He carried it through the war, and it kept him from being hurt.  Through Korea too, he said.  And now, he was giving it to me.  His most prized possession. 

“One medic to another.”

“Take care of it, and it’ll take care of you.”

Sanssouchi Fighting Knife, WWII

Saw a couple months later that he died.  Heart attack in his sleep.  Widow maker.  He never felt a thing.  I went to his funeral.  Full military honors.

I kept the knife with me whenever I went on a call.  Late 90s, there was a house fire.  I was one of three guys who put on air packs and went in looking for a mother and little daughter who we could hear inside.  We found them just as the floor above them collapsed, burying them in flaming debris.  I could hear them screaming, even over all the noise and gear.  Tried.  Couldn’t get to them.  Other two guys, they pulled me out because our tanks all started ringing, meaning our air tanks were almost empty.  I didn’t want to go. 

Hours later, after the fire was out, we were digging through the debris with the fire inspectors, looking for the bodies.  Found them after a bit.  Floor was unstable, but we still managed to get them out after taking pictures and measurements.  They were both burned to charcoal, and fell apart when we tried to move them.

Mom was twenty two.  Girl was five.  The mom’s boyfriend set the fire hoping to collect on insurance.  He didn’t know they were in there, waiting to surprise him.  You see, she was pregnant again.  Just found out.  Their first kid together. Were gonna surprise him.

Dead.  Charcoal. 

Me?  Not a scratch. 

Year or so lately, wife left me.  I was drinking too much and not talking to her.  All I could hear were the screams of those two whenever it was quiet. 

Now I’m in my fifties.  The rescue squad and ambulance are all “paid professionals.”  I retired from teaching after twenty five years.  Wife remarried.  I now work on the ambulance, usually driving.

So today, I decided to wear my Blue satin EMT jacket.  Got it out of storage.  It’s a little small.  Little frayed.  Still shiny.  Brandon and Ashley, the crew I’m with today, they laughed and teased me.  I just smiled.  They’re just kids.  Early twenties.  Probably same age that little girl would be now. 

Right now, I’m sitting in the driver’s seat of the ambulance.  Those two are in the Applebees getting lunch.  I said I’d wait out here.  Not hungry. 

I pulled out the knife.  Still sharp after over eighty years.  It’s quiet, and I hear the screams.  Still.  Twenty years later to the day.  The screams of those I couldn’t save.

Took the knife and jammed it into my spleen.  Twisted it.  It really fucking hurt.  Screams died out.   I’ll bleed out within a minute if that.

That’s when over the radio, the tones dropped- cardiac arrest.  Maybe a few miles away.  Rule of thumb said the victim only had a few minutes before he would be beyond help.  The kids would be here in seconds. 

They’ll be too late. 

Poor victim.  I don’t think they’ll make it to him in time. 


Thursday, February 1, 2018

Failed Again

As some of you know, I applied to PSU for my PHd.  I was applying to study American Studies/ Women's Studies- essentially melding the 2 into a course in transgender studies.

The advisor, Dr. Haddad, seemed enthusiastic.

Guess he wasn't.  Today I received a letter from PSU Harrisburg.  I didn't get in.

"... the committee believes that, at present, you lack the necessary background and training in a Humanities field."   

Like English and history.

Y'know- my undergrad degree.

They say I should go shell out for another masters degree that I can't afford, then re-apply.

So much for that idea. Yet again, I learned the hard way not to Hope. Hope is for other people, not me.  All it brings is torture.  I didn't think I could be hurt anymore- that my soul was just one mass of scar tissue.  I was wrong. 

I wonder if Burger King is hiring. That's about all I'll be able to get at this point.

As you can guess I'm miserable.

Just another day

Monday, January 29, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 7: Pilgrimage

This is the second time that this chapter appeared on this blog.  The first was last September, at the beginning of college football season.  I posted it without comment back then.

In any case, as pretty much everyone knows, football is HUGE at Penn State, for better or for worse.  Football brought fame and money to the University, allowing for the construction of new buildings, endowing a academic chairs, new fields of study, cutting age lab equipment, etc.  By the time I enrolled at Penn State, it truly was a world class university (and it still is, despite all that happened a few years back.)

So many traditions since my day are gone.  Before the south upper deck was built, any field goal going toward the student section was caught (no net) and tossed up until it went over the south rim of the stadium and out.  Also, Several times a game, the crowd would chant "We want the Lion!"  Whichever section shouted the loudest got to body pass the Nittany Lion mascot up to the top of the section.

Then there were marshmallow fights.  I detail them in the chapter.

Game day was a time for me to lose myself in Penn State Traditions.  No one cared about me or the Pain I was secretly carrying.  I was just one voice among 80,000 plus.  They helped me forget.  The few games I attend these days do the same for me.

Many guys wish they were the players on the field.  Not me.  I always wanted to be a cheerleader.  Not the boy type either.  I always thought they had perfect lives- beautiful, athletic, had status...  I never knew any at PSU though, not well anyway.

In any case, this was a happy day, despite some problems.  Oh, and Tri- Delt?  They were kicked off campus a some years ago.


Chap 7 Pilgrimage
Saturday, September 6, 1986 Gunfire Kills 17 on Hijacked Jet

I had never felt anything like it.  Or seen anything like it.  Everyone was animated, electric, on fire--name the cliché and it fit.  Game day: Penn State vs. Temple.  Even God seemed happy, as the sky was an absolutely perfect and cloudless shade of blue. 
I stopped at the house around 3 PM (it was the first night game held at Beaver Stadium), and the kegs were already tapped.  I overheard the House tailgate was ten rows down the south hill with a Jolly Roger and a tie-dyed flag flying above.  I tapped three beers and melted in with several brothers, handing two of them beers to replace their empties.
“I don’t know--we were about to leave!” said one of them, dressed in a white polo shirt. 
Dogger smirked.  “Then chug it, lame ass!”
And chug we did.  As always, I finished last.  The brothers tossed their plastic cups aside, and one belched loud enough to rattle the windows across the street. 
“Thanks Lance!” said the belcher.  “Hey we’re heading up to the tailgate.  Want to tag along?”
“Sure!”  I was glad I wouldn’t have to go alone.
The walk to the stadium was a full mile, and it was all uphill.  We followed the flow of people.  Several sorority girls joined our group around Pollack Halls.  The closer we came to the stadium, the larger the groups--capillaries to venules to veins heading for the heart. 
Beaver Stadium, facing southwest.  Pic from 1980, but this is how I knew it as well

Standing proudly at the top of the long hill, the pinnacle of the campus, was Beaver Stadium.  Filling all the fields within sight of the stadium were people, cars, RVs and other vehicles.  People of all ages laughing, shouting, throwing footballs, and grilling.  And drinking.  Above them fluttered hundreds of flags in every combination of colors.  Many of them were navy blue and white, with every possible Penn State theme imaginable.  Beaver Stadium was a light battleship grey--the largest all steel stadium in the country.  Hours before the game, and it was already starting to fill.
As we passed Shields building, hundreds of people were trying to sell tickets, holding signs, yelling, quietly imploring.
The crowd dispersed into the surrounding fields.  Dogger and the other guy, Keemo, cruised through the RVs and flags down the south hill.  We passed rows of Porta Potties with long lines in front of each one.  They found the tailgate quick enough.  The Jolly Roger was black and white.
“Why don’t we fly our fraternity flag?  Wouldn’t that be easier?”  I asked.
“We were allowed to until this last spring.  The school banned it because they said it implied that the houses were sponsoring the tailgates” Dogger added with disgust.
“Isn’t it?”
“Yeah, but we’re not allowed to.  Get it?”
The tailgate centered on an alumni’s new red pickup truck.  The grass was flattened by so many people walking around on it.  The flags flew from a tall makeshift wooden pole.  Four kegs sat in the back of the truck while three barbeques smoked and sizzled behind it.  On a large folding table in the space next to the truck (I guess he set up the night before) were plates of rolls, condiments, napkins, and, most important, cups.  Each of us took our turn at the keg next to the lowered tailgate of the truck.  Swarming all around this set up, the space between the sides of the truck and the twenty feet between the back of the truck and the next row of cars were brothers, older guys (alumni?), and women.  Whole bunches of women, mostly wearing blue and white, some pink, all collars turned up, lavalieres and expensive sunglasses.  Tri Delt (Delta Delta Delta) was our special “invited” guest to the tailgate.  Maybe thirty of their hundred plus sisters were here.  The rest were probably flitting between the tailgates of various other houses: smiling, flirting, and mooching free food and beer.  Sororities were really good at that.
Several beers and hot dogs later, I was standing with Ernie, a pledge named Pluto who I met during the Triangle fight, and a recent alum.  Ernie was flirting with a blue dressed Tri Delt with a little blue paw print painted on her cheek who seemed enraptured with his every word.  Even I could tell she was faking interest.  Two other sisters joined us, both blonde like every other Tri Delt. 
“Hey Steph!  We’re going in soon!  Coming?” the taller one chirped, smiling.  Her blonde hair was pulled back in a ponytail that dangled just below the collar of her white polo. 
“In a minute.  I want to finish my beer!”  Steph, Ernie’s target, replied.
“Would you ladies like a beer?”  I asked.
The shorter of the two girls looked me up and down and rolled her eyes.  “Who do you know in the house?” she asked a sneer.
“I’m a brother.  What does that have to do with the beer?”
“Oh.  You must be a legacy then.”
“No, I just transferred up from Drexel.  Why?”
“It figures” she said with a giggle.  “You’re too dorky to be a real Skull.”
Ernie, Matt, and the alumni all laughed.
The taller one jumped in. “Yes, a couple of beers would be great, thanks!”  She said with an embarrassed smile.  She was cute.  And I loved tall women.
I went and tapped three beers--one for myself.  I held all three in both hands walked the ten feet back downhill to the group. 
Just as I arrived, I accidentally on purpose tripped on a stone, spilling all three beers all over the shorter girl’s white polo, her hair, her blue shorts, everywhere.  She shrieked, and everyone in the area turned to see.  Brothers and others nearby started laughing.  Some of her sisters tried to hide their smiles, while a couple other sisters came to her aid.  The cold beer made her nipples stick out quite nicely I noticed (as I’m sure everyone else did as well.) 
“I’m so sorry!  I tripped!  Let me help you!”  I said, attempting sincerity.
“You asshole!” she shouted breathlessly.  “Look what you’ve done!”
The truck owner pulled a dark green beach towel from the cab of the truck and handed it to a couple of sisters who wrapped the cursing blonde with it and tried to dry her off.
“Oh!  Now my underwear is wet!”
“Hey Lance--you got her excited!” shouted a voice I recognized as one of the alums I’d met that day.  More laughter. 
A few sisters bundled the now crying girl off, a couple of them glaring at me.  Steph stayed with us, and laughed when the girl was out of earshot.
“She can be such a bitch!”  Steph said, smiling.
“I guess a real Skull wouldn’t be so clumsy” I replied.
“Face it, you’re too dorky to be a Skull” replied Pluto.
“Thanks, pledge!”  I said with mock anger.
A pledge came over with a plastic pitcher and refilled all of our beers.  Dogger joined us as well.  He held two bags of marshmallows.  “Finish up.  We’re heading in.”
Ernie and Pluto chugged theirs and looked at me.  I slowly chugged my sixth beer, stopping twice.  We tossed the cups into the trash and flowed up the hill toward the stadium.  As we walked, one of the other brothers punched me in the arm.  Really hard.
“Hey dork!  What did you do that for?  She’s a fuckin’ Tri Delt!  She’s better than you’ll ever get!  You want them pissed at us?  Use your fuckin’ head, asshole!”
“Hey Veal, cut him a break!  It was a fucking accident!”  Ernie said.
Veal glared at him.  Veal was as tall as me, strong, with reddish blond hair and strong features that people would call “All American.”  He wore a blue and white rugby shirt.
“Fuckin’ tool!”  Veal hit me again and melted into the crowd.
I turned to Ernie.  “Thanks.”
“Don’t worry about him.  He hasn’t been laid yet this semester.”
The crowd thickened as it slowly passed through the gates of the stadium.  The security people punched a hole through the number one on the bottom of my season ticket.  Up, up we all climbed--thousands of pairs of feet clanging on the steel walkways.  Then we walked into daylight and up even steeper stairs until we found several seats together about two thirds up the stadium.  I noticed that somewhere we’d lost Steph.
After we all sat down, Dogger, who sat next to me, tossed one bag of marshmallows to Ernie, and opened the other.  “Marshmallow?” he asked.
“No thanks.”
“Trust me--you want one--just don’t eat it.”
I took one and looked around the place.  Beaver Stadium sat aligned North South, with the student section being all around the south end.  The freshmen sat on the south “curve,” and as your class year advanced, your seats moved up the east end toward the fifty yard line.  We sat at the south side of the east stands.  The upper decks on the north and south stands were still years away, so all the freshmen sat out in the sun below the scoreboard.  The west stands were all alumni.  North stands were alums, others, and fans of the other team.
Looking over at the freshmen section, I saw what Dogger meant: streaking about the section like shooting stars were marshmallows.  The whole south end was a huge marshmallow fight.  I smiled and prepared to throw at some dude in a florescent orange cap--seemed as good a target as any. 
“No… wait ‘til the game starts- everyone else will be out of ammo” Dogger said.
Then, as if on cue, a sticky marshmallow hit him in the left ear with a dull splat.
“Mother fucker!”  Dogger shouted as he grabbed at the gooey mess.  The rest of us looked in the general direction where the shot came from, and saw two guys high fiving.
“There!”  Keemo pointed.
All five of us whipped marshmallows at the two guys.  Maybe one came close, the others impacting innocent civilians.  Suddenly the section was a war zone, marshmallows flying everywhere.
Then the crowd roared!  Eighty thousand people welcomed the number six ranked Nittany Lions onto the field.  I cheered and yelled…and two marshmallows hit me in the chest.
The announcer directed our eyes toward the bright blue sky.  You see, this was the opening of Penn State football’s one hundredth season, so the powers that be wanted to make it special.  A plane flew over, and we could see a speck, small and black.  Then a blossom of color- a sky diver.  He bobbed and directed, and landed right on the fifty yard line, where he handed an official the game ball to the approval of the crowd.  I cheered and then threw a marshmallow down toward the area I thought the two that hit me came from.

"We want the Lion!"  
The navy blue-shirted Nittany Lions scored quickly.  The cheerleaders bounced and yelled.  Any time a Temple player came close to the student section, a rain of marshmallows fell upon him.  The Nittany Lion mascot- a guy dressed in a brown Lion costume, did one armed pushups for every point Penn State scored.  Then he was blanket tossed.  The “Wave” swirled around the stadium several times. 
As directed by the distant cheerleaders down on the field, the East and South sides of the stadium shouted “WE ARE!”
The people in the West and North stands shouted “PENN STATE!”
This made sense:  we were the students, and they currently were not.
After a few exchanges like this, a pause.  The cheerleaders then pointed at our side and everyone shouted “THANK YOU!”
The other side replied “YOU’RE WELCOME!”
That was kinda neat.  Years later, I figured out the metaphor.  All of Penn State is based upon tradition-hell, it’s all we heard about.  Where did all that tradition come from?  It was handed down from the people who were students there before us.  Because they kept traditions alive, we had them to enjoy.  Those students were now the alumni- sitting on the other side of the field.  So whether we knew it or not, the students were not only thanking them for helping with the cheer, but also were thanking them for all that Penn State was and “is.”  Will be?  That was up to us.  Deep shit, eh?
The crowd shouted and waved and threw marshmallows and all kind of fun stuff.  A fight broke out in the freshman section, and everyone chanted “ASSHOLE!” as the two guys were forcibly ejected by security.  When the game ended, everyone was hoarse, sweaty, happy, and for the most part sober.  We all were working another kind of buzz- Holy Shit that was awesome!
We made our way back to the tailgate, drank a few more, then walked back to the house.  Tonight, the House, and all of Penn State, would party.
Oh yeah, by the way, the Nittany Lions beat Temple45-15

Friday, January 26, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 6: Socially Acceptable

This chapter brings up a bad side of me.  I used to get into a lot of fights.  I never much talked about them then.  You see, I had to prove my manhood to myself.  In fact, I had to prove I was a better man than anyone else.  (As you can see, it worked. *looks down at my boobs*)  My definition of manhood was a cross between James Bond and my dad.  A Man drinks.  A Man fights- and Wins.  Losing is not an option.  The only emotion a Man shows is anger.

Yes, people look at me and say "male"
In this book, I discuss only a couple of my college fights, but there were many more.  Usually I would find a jerk who was being an asshole to a woman, and I would insult him until he took a swing at me.  I would then make quick work of him (I have martial arts training, but haven't been to a dojo in decades) then exit quickly.  I continued doing this until the late 00s.  I never swung first.

I realized during my thirties that I really had no idea what Manhood truly meant.  I like to think I was a good husband, and a good father.  But in the end, I never was a Man.  I never was a boy.  I was a Woman- female- playing a bad parody of manhood.  Now I'm trying to figure out the meaning of That.

In any case, this happened.  Thirty years on, I'm sure no one involved is proud of it.  I'm Not.  It's because of events like this that I changed all the names in the book.  I haven't re-read this chapter in a while.  I wrote this book back when I was still under the delusion that I was male.  Upon reading this, I detect a note of Pride in my prose- that I proved myself a Man.  Must've been the Testosterone Poisoning.

It is mentioned earlier in the book- I was, at the time, a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician.  This fact comes into play a few times in the book.

Chap 6: Socially Acceptable
Friday, September 5, 1986   4 Men seize Pan Am jet in Pakistan

          The blondes bounced and smiled, laughed and drank, ate and flirted.  Speakers placed in upstairs windows blared live Grateful Dead music.  A small knot of brothers played hacky-sak on the lawn. 
A social!  I'd heard of these- read about them- but I'd never been to one.  The Pi Phis (Pi Beta Phi) came over to party.  They had to stay until eleven, at which time they could stay or go.  Kind of a mandatory thing to make sure they'd show up, but they could still get out if the party was lame.  Socials usually started at nine, but this was a "BBQ Social" where we fired up the grill and made them dinner.  Food was one way to guarantee that most of the sisters would be there. 
The grill was a large silver painted barrel, maybe five feet long and two to three feet wide with several racks in it at varying heights.  With it a person could grill a shitload of food in a hurry- just what we needed for this occasion. 
Smoke cascaded from the grill and the front porch was congested with brothers and sisters, everyone in shorts, mini skirts, and tasteful collared shirts.  The Pi Phis were obviously one of the top sororities- or at least they thought so- as they were impeccably dressed, groomed and had the proper slightly snobbish, if slightly playful attitude. 
There I was, surrounded by hot women!  And I couldn't think of anything to say or do.  I was so scared and out of place.  I wanted to be funny and fun, but I couldn't think of an "in."  I was out of my league.  So, beer in hand, I walked over to the keg, where a knot of brothers I'd already met were standing. 
"Hey!  It's good old Lance!" shouted Ernie, causing heads to turn.  "Do you drink, Lance?"
I looked down at my plastic cup of beer then smiled at him.  "Yeah."
He refilled my cup.  "Ok!  Let's chug!"
Chugging was downing a beer at one shot without stopping.  I never could chug.  Still can't.  But I tried anyway.  Ernie was done before I finished half of mine, but I kept going until the cup was empty anyway. 
"Didn't they teach you to chug at Drexel?!?!  That's lame!”  Ernie laughed, slapped me on the back and refilled my cup. 
"Here, I'll show you how.  You lean back your head like this to open your throat and just pour it down."  He chugged the beer very quickly.  His demonstration attracted the attention of a few other brothers and a couple of Pi Phis. 
"Ok.  Now you try it" he urged. 
I did what he said: head back, pour…
And ended up snarfing (spitting out) most of it as my mouth overflowed and my gag reflex kicked in.  Beer was all over my shirt, and worse- all over a cute short Pi Phi who wore way too much makeup.  She screamed as she was drenched with beer. 
The brothers almost fell over laughing.  I offered to get towels and whatever else was handy. 
"You asshole!" she shouted.  Her sisters glared at me as pledges brought towels to dry off her hair and powder blue polo shirt. 
Ernie refilled my cup.  "Not bad.  Try again!"

The sun set and Happy Valley was gearing up for another weekend of fun.  The Skull social was still going strong.  Piles of grilled burgers, hot dogs, and chicken were heaped upon trays in the dining room.  We'd finished three kegs so far.  The porch spotlights illuminated the front of the house, making it look like a grand stage where the brothers and guests were the players in a grand production with Beaver Avenue as the audience. 
I lingered around the edges, my pastel blue and white striped shirt smelling like stale beer.  The world was slightly out of focus, yet had an unusual clarity.  I had to concentrate to walk straight and speak clearly.  Some of the girls still glared at me or whispered as I staggered by.  Not a great debut.   

View from the Porch.  Arts Festival 1988

          I joined a group of guys at the top of the porch steps.  A couple of pledges each held clear plastic pitchers and refilled the beers of the brothers in the group.  I hadn't met the guy who was speaking.  He was maybe a couple of inches shorter than me, and solid muscle.  He looked like a body builder- in fact he looked like a little Schwarzenegger: squinty eyes, lantern jaw and all.  He wore a tight black t-shirt, white shorts, and Dockers, and he pointed at people while speaking. 
"I'm telling you guys, their pool table is fuckin' sweet!  No way those geeks should have something that nice in their house" he preached. 
A bug-eyed pledge refilled my beer.  I recognized him- he went to my high school.  Graduated a year or so after me.  What was his name?  The body builder turned to me. 
"So do you agree with- who the fuck are you?” 
            "I'm Lance.  I'm a Skull just transferred up from Drexel," I managed to spit out.
He looked at me like I was a repulsive worm ridden corpse. 
"Whatever.  Anyway Laaance," he said, dragging out the A to make the name sound like an insult, "are you with me on this?"
"Shurr" I slurred.  "Ab- absolutely."  I gulped down more beer.  The pledges smiled.  The bodybuilder squinted at me.
"Have you been drinking, Laaance"?
"Yup!”  I smiled. 
"Well, Laaance from Dorksel, you should learn to control yourself.  Here at Penn State, Skulls don't get drunk."  He poked me hard in the sternum. 
I looked around the porch and yard.  There was a guy sitting in the hedges, laughing and stuck where he fell.  A couple of Pi Phis were trying to help a third down the walkway as she had forgotten how to walk.  Drunken shouts of "WOO HOO!" and "YEAH!" pierced the new night.  I turned back to the bodybuilder. 
"Of course you don't" I smiled.  "What am I agreeing to anyway?"
"I was just informing the pledges that those dweebs next door don't deserve such a nice pool table.”  He pointed at the house next door.  It was a large fraternity house with a dark stained wood exterior- home of Triangle, the engineering fraternity.  They were having a party, so all their lights were blazing and people meandered in and out their front door. 
"Why don't we go take it from them?  We could set it up in the foyer and give it back later" drooled bug eyes. 
"Great idea!  Now you're getting it!" beamed bodybuilder.  "Round up your pledge brothers!  I'll get a couple of guys and we'll do this!"
"Mind if I join you?”  I asked drunkly. 
"Whatever, dork.  Just don't get in the way" snarled bodybuilder.
The five pledges assembled in the foyer.  Bodybuilder grabbed three other guys who were also pretty big.  I recognized one of them as Mike, whom I met on a visit last year. 
"Ok guys, we go in, we grab the table and some cues and get right back out.  No problem!  Pledges, remove your pins," barked the bodybuilder. 
"Hey Saint, what if they stop us?”  Mike asked. 
"They can't.  They're pussies and we're Skulls!"  Saint (the bodybuilder) replied. 
With that we clambered down the steps to the yard and strode across the lawn.  All of the brothers were huge, as were most of the pledges.  I was by far the skinniest guy in the formation. 
We walked right through their door.  No one even tried to stop us. 
The room was large and rather nice.  Tan carpet, walls covered with composites and other Triangle regalia, several comfortable chairs, and in the middle of the floor a beautiful mahogany pool table with red felt and leather and brass accents.  Two guys were shooting a game as we walked in- maybe twenty guys total in the room- drinking and talking.  Only a couple of girls were there, both talking to one guy. 
Six guys surrounded the table and, with a mighty heave, picked it up.  Their muscles strained- you could see it on their faces.  Too heavy?  They started carrying the table toward the door as a couple of guys grabbed some cues off the wall rack.  The rest of us formed a lane to carry the table through.  The Triangle guys just stood there- stunned.  We were almost out when-
The fucking table doesn't fit through the door: it was too wide.  Maybe one of us should've thought of that earlier.  They must have assembled it inside.  Shit.  I turned around.
The Triangle brothers figured out what we were doing, and they outnumbered us almost three to one.  And they were pissed off. 
Saint and a couple other of the muscle heads tried to turn the table at an angle to get it through.  The balls scattered on the floor. 
I don't know who threw the first punch.  They were on us like a sudden summer storm.  I had a beer tossed in my face and was tackled against the table.  Suddenly I'm sober.  Blocked a punch.  Jab back.  Connect!  One guy let go.  Knee up.  Connect!  I'm free.  Guy punched a pledge.  Hit the guy in the gut.  Pledge smiled at me and lunged.  Slammed into guy behind me.  Triangle guy flew into me, thrown by somebody.  Blocked a punch.  Counter hard to the face.  My fingers split open on his teeth.
Suddenly I'm in the air.  Grabbed from behind…  Owww!  I'm outside!  They fucking threw me outside!  Look around.  WHAM!  One of the pledges landed right on top of me.
          Some of our brothers started running over from the house.  I saw bug eyes slamming some guys head against the front walk near Triangles door. 

Triangle's door and front lawn, January 2018.  
          By the time other brothers arrived, it was over.  The Triangle had tossed us all out of the house and closed the door.  We had some cuts and bruises.  Three Triangle guys were lying outside, groaning.  The guy that bug eyes was bashing was twitching and moaning.  Bleeding from the head.  I crawled over to him. 
"You ok?”  I asked.
He flailed his arms at me.  "Get the fuck away from me!"
"I'm an E.M.T.  Let me help!"
"Go away!"
I shrugged.  Can't help them if they say no.  The other two Triangles waved me off as well.
I slowly, painfully, stood up and walked back to the house with the others.  The spotlighted brothers cheered as we crossed the lawn and mounted the stairs to the porch.  One of them fingered at my torn shirt (when did that happen?) and another handed me a fresh beer.  One of the pledges high-fived me. 
        A few minutes later, the ambulance came to pick up the guy on Triangle's front walk.  Bystanders gathered to gawk.  Triangle's president and Soap, our Alpha, talked quietly under the large tree between our houses.  As the paramedics carried the Triangle guy to the ambulance, we all applauded and shouted encouragement to him.  After a few minutes, Soap came back and went into the house to speak to a few select brothers- the officers I guess. 
        The ambulance left- sirens blaring.  We continued with our party.  I met a few more brothers, some of whom had ignored me before.  They weren't exactly friendly, but they weren't rude either.  I didn't see Saint for the rest of the night.  After a few more beers, I noticed that there were a lot fewer girls around.  I heard some feminine laughter upstairs, so I guess some of the party went there.  The rest dispersed into the warm early autumn night. 
I looked out over the lawn at the cars cruising down Beaver Avenue.  What a blast!  I was quite trashed, my shirt was torn and bloody, and I had some damp paper towels around my injured fingers. 
        I smiled, downed the last of my beer, and teetered slowly back to the apartment.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Lone Pilgrim

Tuesday January 23, 2018.  Bands of rain swept across Pennsylvania, some of which were pretty severe.  And I drove through them.

I was headed to Penn State to visit an old friend for the last time.  I know that sounds kind of morbid, but that's the truth.  You see, the Rathskeller is closing.  It has been open since 1933- just three days after Prohibition ended, and has been operating continuously since then.  It is the longest continuously operating bar in Pennsylvania, and it is closing.  This Saturday the 27th will be last call.  It is closing because a corporation, Herlocker pretzels, bought the building and decided that they wanted to do something else with the space.  So now this Landmark is going away.  I would wager that almost every single living Penn State Alumni has been in that bar, because those who were before it are probably dead by now.  In any case, it is a landmark, and I killed many brain cells there during my college days.

I used to see many bands there.  I saw Stolyn Hours, and I saw Queen Bee and the Blue Hornet Band, which, after all these years, I still say was the best Bar band that I have ever laid eyes on, and I should know- I've seen many of them.  (The guitar player, Mark Ross, still lives in State College and still plays around town, but Tanya Brown, lead singer,  tragically passed away some time ago.)

In any case, I was there to have one last drink in what was one of my favorite watering holes in college.  The drive-up was through many storms.  I was alone- my bestie Linda decided not to come with me.  Driving through the rain, I couldn't help but think of all the Ghosts riding with me- of all the different people I've taken up to Penn State: like my girlfriend/fiance/Wife, who really wasn't a big fan of going to Penn State, but knew how important it was to me.

I remember driving up alone to visit my friend Dr. Dave, who was attending Penn State before me.  I drove up to visit him, and it was because of those visits that I chose Penn State.  I can't help but to think of those times driving up with a whole weekend ahead of me, not knowing what was going to happen.  Just another wonderful weekend of college antics; of fun of drinking and meeting people. Later, when I was enrolled there, the times that I had meeting people- love, heartbreak, eventual depression.  Yet the fact remains that Penn State is still my happy place, as it is I'm sure for many people.

For Sale

I found a parking spot in a parking lot that I've been parking in ever since I graduated.  It's really, really cheap, and I also noticed that it's for sale- that someone is going to put a building up there.  Another building: just what they need.  After parking, I went up to the LGBT Center in Boucke building. I stopped there for maybe fifteen minutes, and then I walked with the assistant director down toward College Avenue.  She was going to get a flu shot.  I was going to drink.  I was going to the Skeller.

Last call, at least for me.

I took some pictures going in, and sat down at the bar.  It was actually fairly busy, but I found a seat, and sat.  To my right was a gentleman with gray hair in a ponytail and beard.  He was reading something quietly to himself.  To my left were a couple.  He was wearing a black Texas Longhorns hat, and she was the one who was sitting to my side.  Eventually we began talking, and I found out that they live an hour away from State College.  They were not Penn Staters, but they came here occasionally.  They didn't know that the bar was closing.  I drank a couple Rolling Rocks, and the couple was kind enough to buy me another.  I walked around to the back room, where the bands used to play.  I took pictures.  How many sweaty nights did I spend packed into this room with tons of other college kids, drinking and dancing?

The Bandstand

The nice couple was kind enough to buy me a couple shots.  At this point, I knew I would have to walk this off.  After finishing my last Rolling Rock, (which I hate but that's what you she was that's what you drink when you go to the Skeller.)  I walked around for a little bit.

Last beer

Sitting next to that couple was another Penn Stater. I found out she was also class of '89 like me. I asked her if she was Greek, she said she was a Crow little sister.  I asked her name, and she told me: Michelle  It turns out that I knew her very well- in fact one of her college roommates was one of my dearest friends!  We talked for a little bit and caught up.

Michelle and I

She didn't recognize me at first, of course, but how could she?  When I told her who I used to be, she recognized me instantly.  After a hug, I left and walked back down College Avenue toward my car.

After getting into my car, I drove over to the Nittany Lion shrine, and took a few pictures.  Then cut across to University Drive, and then the trip back east towards home.

I've written many times that Penn State is a major part of my heart and identity, but so many things have changed.  Most of the roads that I used to take up here have changed.  There used to be three bottlenecks on the trip up: one east of Lewistown; another around a town called Milroy, and another around a town called Dauphin.  Those are all gone now, as they've been replaced by two lanes In both directions.   It took years to build these large highways.

On the way home, I did something that I often do on my trips to State College when I ride alone: I cried.

I cried like a baby.  I cried for all that was, and is no longer. I cried for my lost youth.  I wanted to scream at the students and tell them to treasure the time that they have now, because for some of them it will never get any better.  The fact is that they are now, in their late teens and early twenties, in an area specifically built to cater to them- a Fantasyland.

My Penn State is gone.  Sure there are landmarks.  Most of the buildings are still there, but looking around looking around I saw so many new buildings.  Tall buildings.  Large buildings.  Buildings in places that used to have little green quads; Sports Fields; trees that one used to be able to sit under and read a book or play a guitar or talk.   These places are gone now.

So yes, I cried.  I cried for things that are Gone.  You lose so much in transition, but this loss was not due to that.  No, this loss is something far more powerful: Time.  My time at Penn State is long past- thirty years now. I'm an artifact to these kids.  To them I'm ancient.  The comparison would be if I had met people from the 1950s while I was there.  Actually, I did: however they were Senators, cabinet members, CEOs...  and I work retail.

Driving east through the cloudy twilight, I Cried.  A sad reality is that tears will not stop time. Time never stops- it's merciless.

Be well