Sunday, August 13, 2017

Inspirations: Ally Raymond

This is another in my occasional series on my "inspirations."

I met Ally on August 3, 2013.  I count that as one of the best days of my life, for several reasons.  It was the day of my dearest friend Lisa Empanada's Affirmation Party in Maryland.  I'd already been on the road for hours, first to Bethlehem PA (1 hour to get there 1 hour while there)to see Amanda Richards for a makeover, to Harrisburg (1.5 hours) to pick up David Denton, then to the motel in Maryland where we were all staying (1.5 hours.)

When I arrived, Lisa was in the lobby of the motel.  She was radiant in her white dress.  She introduced me to a couple who had also just arrived:  Jay and Ally.  Jay is a handsome man whose bearing commanded respect (I found out later that he was a Marine D.I.) and Ally.  Ally is a gorgeous, tall woman with an infectious smile and a laugh that reaches the heavens. I assumed that she was a Genetic girl (GG) and that Jay was the person Lisa knew.  We greeted each other.

Later, I met her again at the party.  We spoke a bit.  I determined that wherever she went, she would light up the room.  She was a walking party.  One of the pictures taken at the gathering has been my "wall" picture on Facialbook for years, and she is there, smiling.


Wall picture:  Me, Lisa, Ally

It was only later in the evening that I asked how Lisa how she knew Jay.  She laughed and said "I know him through Ally!  Isn't she amazing?"  That's when it dawned on me, as Lisa and I watched Ally hold court across the lawn- Ally is trans like us!  I looked at Lisa with a dumb look on my face, and Lisa just laughed.

The next day, after I was back in drab mode, I saw her loading luggage into their BMW.  I crossed the parking lot and, using my best "ignorant" voice, asked her if she was "one a them there transtesticles."  She turned and glared at me, then softened.  She saw David in the background laughing, and figured out who I was.  She then laughed and we talked for a bit.

The next time I saw her was at Lisa's funeral in September.  We didn't really talk.

Since then, we've become very close.  I try to visit her in Richmond for her birthday every year.  And seeing her at a conference is really one of the main reasons I attend.

So who is she?


Ally: Keystone 2017.  This picture captures her essence

Ally is a proud transwoman with strange roots.  She hails from Connecticut, one of eight children.

 In Ally's own words:

"My brother and I were proselytized into a very evangelical religion, very strict in rules and regulations…but full of life and spirit!  We made many friends in that selective sect, but it was the ‘family’ that I desperately craved for...  I loved ‘god’, and fell in love with the whole idea of a ‘family of god’, one eternal, loving presence…enveloping us all.  As my musical talents began to blossom, I quickly became the church pianist and organist.  I enjoyed working with the song leader, pastor, throughout our services, which would last for hours!  Everything from tongue talking, dancing in the spirit, prayer for healing, all night prayer meetings, foot washing’s, baptisms, and weekly door-to-door outreach.  It was a full, exhausting life…but with a feeling of reward.  It gave me a feeling of belonging that I had never experienced prior to that, but there is always a hitch to these illusions…you must remain and believe all the stories, revelations, and ramblings of a ‘man’ that is supposedly hearing from god.  A good thing I thought, but it was as a thief stealing you blind while the years passed you by." 

She attended Bible College in Mississippi, as a music major.

My quiet times were filled with the thoughts of times earlier in my life when I would sneak into my mother’s room and into her clothes, dressing as pretty as I could, sliding into heels and letting my emotions fly!  Those times were so real, so fulfilling, but oh so wrong, as I would be shamed beyond embarrassment.  My times then as an adult, would find me on off days, shopping in the stores to buy once again, those feminine garments that let my feminine mind go free.  I felt so beautiful, but had to hide it all.

She first embraced her "gay" side, breaking up her marriage.  Her church threw her out with extreme prejudice, and her wife and children refused to speak to her.  She spent 18 years out and proud before finally surrendering to the fact that she was actually Trans.  It was during that time (those 18 years) that she met Jay.

Jay is a true Southern gentleman.  He is thoughtful, articulate, impeccable manners, and a kind smile.

Ally's forceful ejection and subsequent feminization by her church led Ally to re-evaluate her entire life.  She is now a strident atheist.  I do not discuss religion with Ally, nor do I judge her beliefs.  That said, I get the giggles every time a fundamentalist tries to argue religion with her.  Her knowledge of the Bible is encyclopedic, and the fundie is often beaten badly in the logic and scripture debate.

She sings with the voice of an Angel, and it's always a treat to hear her sing at karaoke.

One of the reasons Ally is so special is that she is so unapologetically Ally.  She is who she is, and if anyone doesn't like it, she doesn't give a damn.  She went full time living her truth in 2012, and is absolutely at Peace with who and what she is.


Ally- last night at Barcode

And that is why she inspires me.  Her confidence, her poise, her contentment... She is the Woman I wish I could be.

Ally is a force of Nature, and I can't imagine life without her.


Tuesday, August 8, 2017

An Old Story about Drinking in Baltimore

This is another of my Old stories.

This one takes place in the summer of 1995.  I was working for Games Workshop at the time.  We were located in a small building on Benson Avenue in Baltimore, and we were quite the tight-knit group.  Sort of.  Maybe.  In any case, we drank together a lot.  At the time, the sales manager was a person who I'll call Mike.  Mike was a tall, broad guy- rather athletic, but a little past his Prime, and very arrogant.  I can't say anyone really liked him.



At the time, we are having problems with our mail order division, so they sent somebody over from the UK.  I'll call him Gordon. Gordon was a proud Scotsman.  In fact, he was one of the finest Scotsmen I ever met.  To welcome Gordon, and the person who accompanied him- I'll call him Chris.  We had a small reception so to speak, which means that most of us on the sales team, Gordon and Chris, and, yes, even Mike, went to the Baltimore Brewing Company.

The Baltimore Brewing Company was located downtown, and was a rather large Beer Hall.  On the day we were supposed to do this, there was a little trash talking going on between Gordon and one of my fellow salespeople, I'll call him Fred.  Fred was and still is an interesting person.  He and his wife were essentially Gomez and Morticia- think of them as 90s version.  Fred had a goatee and long hair that he kept in a ponytail, and he was talking all kinds of trash.


A Halloween picture from the 90s: "Fred" and me (as a cereal killer)

Yes, he was saying about how Americans could outdrink Scots any day the week, and, of course, the rest of the Americans were egging him on a bit.  Now Chris, having come over from the UK, well he was high up in the corporate hierarchy.  He was known as "the Chaplain."

The Chaplain was in charge of keeping the holy writ, so to speak.  He had the power to fire anyone in the company save the chairman of the board, and had done so several times.  Chris was also one of the best trenchermen I've ever met.  That man could Drink, and his reputation preceded him.  He watched as everyone brag about their drinking prowess with amusement.  He knew Gordon better than any of us.

That night we all got a table at the Baltimore Brewing Company.  We had some dinner, and then the contest began. The challenge was that Fred and Gordon were to drink the exact same things, and whoever drank more would be the winner.

So it went.  I took kept pace as well, just because I wanted to see how I measured up.  Sitting across from each other, Fred and Gordon kept it fun and light as they drank and drank and drank.  (I was seated to Fred's left.)  Eventually they began to get a little drunk.  Meanwhile, sitting across from me was Chris.  Chris was watching silently with amusement, and I noticed that he was drinking what they BOTH drank.  In other words, he was drinking twice as much as either of them.  At first I tried to keep up with him, but even I could not, and back then I was able to drink a LOT.

Behind me, a band started to set up: a three-piece jazz band.  They wouldn't start playing for a little while yet, but we knew it was going to be a little loud. Gordon had to go to the bathroom, so off he went, followed quickly by Fred.  Fred wanted to make sure that Gordon wasn't vomiting. Gordon was wearing biker boots as well as Fred (they were in style back then.) The story is that Fred went into the men's room and was standing at one of the urinals.  He saw a pair of biker boots in the stall next to him.  Thinking it was Gordon, he stomped on that foot as hard as he could, and heard a very loud Shout.  But it wasn't Gordon- it was a biker and he was pissed! Mike talked the biker out of violence somehow.  You see, Gordon had gone outside for a smoke!

While they were gone, Mike ordered two shots of vodka in addition to Gordon and Fred's replacement beers.  He poured the shots of vodka into their drinks and stirred a little bit.  He was upping the ante a bit.  No one was to tell those two what was going on.

Yes this was a jerk move, and, to my shame, one that I repeated some years later in California.

In any case, Fred came back first and related his story.  We could see the very angry biker across the room, and we sent him a couple of drinks that seemed to assuage his pain.  Fred did not drink until Gordon returned, and then they drank.  At this time, Chris said "wait a minute- you guys are going to slow you should chug this one!" and so they did:  chugging their entire beer with vodka included.  Now these were craft beers made by the Baltimore Brewing Company, not weak stuff, and this is when they started to exhibit real signs of drunkenness.


Eventually, they had to go to the bathroom again.  Unfortunately, at this point neither of them had any motor skills left.  Gordon stood up, fell over.  He was helped his feet by Chris, and then went to the bathroom. Fred on the other hand stood up, staggered, and fell backwards into the instruments setup by the Jazz Band, completely destroying the drum set.  As you can imagine, this made a LOT of noise!

At this point, it was deemed prudent to make our escape.  We paid the bill, and were told that we were banned from the Baltimore Brewing Company.  One of my co-workers named "Tim" took Fred home, and another co-worker, who was new to the company named Lonnie, took Gordon back to his motel room.  Lonnie was staying in the same motel until he found an apartment.

There are two different stories here now- I cannot vouch for the accuracy of either.  Well not really.

Apparently, on the way home Fred told Tim that he had to throw up.  Tim tried to pull over, but Fred then vomited all over the inside of Tim's new car.  This was not the first time someone had vomited in one of his cars- indeed it was said that you are not a member of the Games Workshop sales team unless they vomited in Tim's car.  (I guess I was never a member of the sales team, because I never did- not in his car anyway.)

So when Tim managed to drop Fred back at Fred's house.  Fred opened the door, stumbled into the entranceway, and fell flat at the feet of his new bride.  He looked up at her, smiled, and said "Honey, I won!"

Lonnie and Gordon went back to the motel.  Across the parking lot there was a restaurant called Pargos, and Gordon insisted that they go there.  So they did.  That night, they were having a strawberry daiquiri special.  Lonnie and Gordon had several each, so in the end Gordon really won.  Eventually, they went back to their respective motel rooms.

The next day, my Wife came down to Baltimore.  This is before she moved down.  The two of us were going to take Lonnie and Gordon to Washington DC for the day, as neither had ever been there.  (Lonnie was from California.)  So Lonnie was hungover but conscious, and we went to collect Gordon.  This is before cell phones where popular.  We knocked on his door; knocked and knocked and heard nothing.  We kept knocking and knocking.  Lonnie went back to his room, and called.  At that point, Gordon woke up.  He let Wife and I into his room, and went to shower.  The entire room was COATED with pink- even the ceiling. Gordon had apparently projectile vomited strawberry daiquiri everywhere.  He showered, drank some Gatorade, and he was ready to go.  So the four of us: myself, Wife, Gordon, and Lonnie, enjoyed a wonderful day in Washington DC.

Apparently Fred was sick for the rest of the weekend.


Tired GW staff at Games Day 1995

Here's a bit of a coda.

Some years later, after our convention called "Games Day," the big boss "Rick" wanted to take us all out to party- to celebrate another successful event.  We went to the Baltimore Brewing Company.  All of us were in our yellow Games Workshop staff shirts.  We were told we couldn't come in.  Rick spoke to the manager, and said in no uncertain terms that he had over 100 people with him, was going to pay cash, that we were going to drink and eat like crazy, and if they didn't want that money, we would go elsewhere.

We were welcomed with open arms.

Eventually, a large food fight started, and Games Workshop was again banned from the Baltimore Brewing Company.

The restaurant closed in 2005.


Saturday, August 5, 2017

Speaking copy of Speech for Rally

Speech given at Media PA rally for Trans rights today.

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

I’d like to begin by paraphrasing one of those immigrants we’re told we should hate.

“THESE are the times that try Trans souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

Thomas Paine, an immigrant from Scotland, was absolutely right.  We began to think we were making PROGRESS.  We had a person in the White House who saw Transgender people as fellow human beings.  The Attorney General said “We see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.”  We had HOPE.

That has all changed.  The Trump administration has done everything in its power to dehumanize us.  They’re allowing states to discriminate against us.  There are states where people like me cannot use public restrooms because they say we are “predators” and “perverts.”  Never mind the fact that no transgender person has ever been arrested for predatory behavior in a restroom, yet that several Republican lawmakers have!

The United States Government has become the biggest bully of transpeople.  To them- to the entire Republican party- we are not human.  Discrimination was written into the 2016 GOP platform, page 35, by their rejection of Trans rights via Title IX.  They approved it.

President Trump used transpeople as a political smokescreen. As of yesterday, it’s POLICY.  We are not human to him.  And his followers are happy to do his dirty work- violence against transpeople is INCREASING.  On July 21, a former Navy sailor was convicted for the murder of a transwoman.  He stabbed her 119 times and slashed her throat three times.  Why?  Because she was trans. The other day, the 16th transperson in America was murdered because she was transgender.  This just days after a comedian told the hosts of “The Breakfast Club” morning show that he would “kill” a woman if he found out she was transgender after having sex with her.

KILL.  MURDER.

Speaking


The President of the United States said that “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."  How long will it be until the administration says that BUSINESSES cannot be burdened?    Or housing a transgender person in an apartment?

Can’t happen?  Won’t happen?  It CAN happen, and it WILL happen, unless transpeople, and those Americans who still believe in HUMAN rights, stand against it.  Trump will never listen.  Nor will Pence, who is blinded by hate.  Nor will anyone else in the pocket of the Family Research Council, long identified by the Southern Poverty Law center as an anti-LGBT HATE group.  But, many will- and these are the people we must speak to.

Pennsylvania Republican Senator Toomey has voted with the FRC 91% of the time.  This is from the FRC’s own website.  Think he’ll listen?  Not likely.  He doesn’t believe in Human rights?  VOTE HIM OUT.

Representative Meehan?  78%  FRC average over the past two years.  Think he cares about transpeople?  Doubt it.  He doesn’t believe in Human rights? VOTE HIM OUT.

Since his election to congress, my representative, Ryan Costello, voted with the FRC 67% of the time.  Two Thirds.  Representative Costello- why?  “Religious freedom” is a code word for Discrimination, just as “alternative fact” is code for “lie.”   Representative Costello, I challenge you to look me in the eye, face to face, American to American, and tell me why.  Do you actually know any transpeople, sir?  Have you listened to our stories from our own mouths and hearts?  Do you care?

I know personally FOUR transgender women who served bravely in Special Forces: one SEAL, two Green Berets, and one Marine Recon.  All have been in combat- in harm’s way.  And now, they are in harm’s way again.  I see all these people with bumper stickers saying “SUPPORT OUR TROOPS.”  Are they lies?  Our Transgender Soldiers need our support- YOUR support- NOW!

This nation is at a turning point.  Do we stand for freedom, or do we stand for Hate?  Do ALL Americans have the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?  Or is it just straight, cisgender people?  This is NOT a choice- I was born Trans.  Am I to be denied my basic human rights because of it?

I am Human.  I am American. I am Transgender. And I am PROUD to be these things.

Thank you.

(See part of the speech here)

Interviewed by news HERE




Thursday, August 3, 2017

Draft of Speech for Trans Rights

A few readers have asked why I've been silent on the recent anti-Trans actions by 45.  I've been watching- listening.  Wondering how we've come to this point.

That said, I have been asked to speak at Trans Rights Are Human Rights: Rally for Transgender Equality in Media, PA on Saturday.  

The following is the first draft of my speech for that day.  Subject to change.  Heck I've revised it four times since starting this post!


Gratuitous Sophie Selfie

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

I’d like to begin by paraphrasing one of those immigrants we’re told we should hate.

“These are the times that try Trans souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

Thomas Paine, an immigrant from Scotland, was absolutely right.  

We began to think we were making progress.  We had a human being in the White House who saw Transgender people as fellow human beings.  The Attorney General said “we see you; we stand with you; and we will do everything we can to protect you going forward.”  We had Hope.

That has all changed.  The new administration has done everything in its power to dehumanize us.  They’re allowing states to discriminate against us.  There are states where people like me cannot use public restrooms because they say we are “predators” and “perverts.”  Never mind the fact that no transgender person has ever been arrested for predatory behavior in a restroom, and that several republican lawmakers have!

The US Government has become the biggest bully to transpeople.  To them- to the entire Republican party- we are not human.  Discrimination was written into the 2016 GOP platform, page 35, by their rejection of trans rights via Title IX.  They approved it. 

45 used transpeople as a political smokescreen- to distract from his collusion with Russia.  We are not human to him.  And his followers are happy to do his dirty work- violence against transpeople is increasing.  On July 21, a former Navy sailor was convicted for the murder of a transwoman.  He stabbed her 119 times and slashed her throat three times.  Why?  Because she was trans.  The other day the 16th transperson this year in America was murdered because she was transgender.  This just days after a comedian told the hosts of “The Breakfast Club” morning show that he would “kill” a woman if he found out she was transgender after having sex with her.


Kill.  Murder.

45 said that “Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."  How long will it be until the administration says that BUSINESS cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that a transgender holding a job would entail?    Or housing a transgender person in an apartment? 

Can’t happen?  Won’t happen?  

It CAN happen, and it WILL happen, unless transpeople, and those Americans who still believe in equal rights, stand against it.  45 will never listen.  Not will Pence, who is blinded by hate.  Nor will anyone else in the pocket of the Family Research Council, a Southern Poverty Law center anti-LGBT Hate group.  But, many will- and these are the people we must speak to. 

Pennsylvania Republican Senator Toomey has voted with the FRC 91% of the time.  This isfrom the FRC’s own website.  Think he’ll listen?  Not likely. 

Representative Meehan?  78% average over the past two years.  Think he cares about transpeople?  Doubt it.

Since his election to congress, my representative, Ryan Costello, voted with the FRC 67% of the time.  Two Thirds.  Representative Costello- why?  “Religious freedom” is a code word for Discrimination, just as “alternative fact” is code for “lie.”   Representative Costello, I challenge you to look me in the eye, face to face, American to American, and tell me why.  Do you actually know any transpeople, sir?  Have you listened to our stories from our own mouths and hearts? 

This nation is at a turning point.  Do we stand for freedom, or do we stand for hate?  Do ALL Americans have the right to Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?  Or is it just straight, cisgender people?  This is NOT a choice- I was born trans.  Am I to be denied my rights because of it?

I am Human.  I am American. I am Transgender.  And I am PROUD to be these things.

Thank you.



Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Hobbies and Not

Most people have a hobby.

My roomie and bestie, Linda, makes a hobby of the Space Program. Her knowledge of the intricacies of it could put many phds to shame.

I used to have a lot of hobbies. I used to collect many things; it's a human thing to collect.  People collect stamps, comic books, matchbook covers, you name it.  Everyone collects something somehow.

I used to collect comic books, and I used to collect games.  For 13 years, I worked in the gaming industry; first for Chessex game distributors, then for Games Workshop.  During that time, I also worked for TSR: the creator of Dungeons and Dragons. (D&D)  During those years, I had no shortage of people with whom to play games, and so I played often.


This is the first D&D box (well, it looked like this)

After moving back up to Pennsylvania in 2003, I had no one to play with; all of my former friends up here had either moved away, or had families, or died, or in other ways going on with their lives.  I lost touch with them all, and driving down to Baltimore was no longer an option, especially given that I didn't have a real job.

So I lost most of my hobbies, and as I wasn't making that much money,the comic books also faded away as well.  I sold most of them to cover expenses. I still love reading them, and will occasionally pick up a graphic novel when I can afford it,  but nothing near what I used to buy.

In any case one of the things I enjoyed doing all through my teen years, my college years, and after was playing D&D. I started playing in 1978 with my friend DrD and few others.  I played through college as well (at Penn State not Drexel.)  In fact, some of my most memorable times at Penn State were playing Dungeons and Dragons.  We played every Saturday night while we were in school, starting at 6 and going until midnight.  At midnight, the game would break and people went to parties. Midnight was still early for parties at Penn State at the time, especially at the fraternities.


The only picture I have from gaming in college.  This guy played the wizard.

In any case, in Baltimore I had a group of players and I was the "Dungeon master." I really enjoyed those games, and the players and I, aside from being co-workers, became very good friends.  I made a lot of very good friends through gaming over the years.

However since moving back up to Pennsylvania, I hadn't played D&D.  All my friends had dispersed, and, because of many reasons, I just simply didn't want to.  Once my feminine side reawakened, D&D became my excuse to go out.  I told wife that I was "going to play D&D" on the third Saturday of every month. It was a very plausible lie, because I used play every Tuesday night, so playing once a month was reasonable, and she very much encouraged it.  Besides it got me out of her hair.



As the years went on, and the lies became unbearable, I told her the truth: that I hadn't been playing D&D- that I hadn't played ever since moving back up to PA; that This was the truth- that Sophie was that truth, and that I'd been lying.

The lies tore me apart, and they affected her as well.

In any case, in an effort to fight the darkness that I've been fighting for such a long time I decided to try my hand at gaming again.  D&D is now in its fifth edition.  The last edition I attempted to play with 3rd Edition, and I did not like it.  2nd edition was I played (well in college I played first edition, but afterwards I played second, and that was the edition that I worked with when I was with TSR.)  I know that system backwards and forwards, so much so that I can just improvise as I go along.  However, since second edition was so long ago (It came out in 1989) not many people play that Edition.  Even less people still have the books.

I managed to talk a few of my friends into playing.  They played second edition long ago, and had since moved on, but they were willing to allow me to DM 2nd edition. I also asked one of the former players from my group all those years ago back in the early 90's, and she was more than happy to join us. I just figured we needed one more person to play, and so I started advertising that I needed a player.  Eventually, I found a meetup group for Philadelphia Area Gamers, mentioned on there that I was looking for a player, and someone responded!  This person even lived in my hometown! Even better, this person said that they had two other Gamers willing to play! So I went to meet this person at a restaurant.  We spoke, and while I had some misgivings, I was willing to give them a chance.  We decided to play at that person's place, as they volunteered to host.  This person has a disability, and it easier just to play there.  A few weeks back was the first session, which was really just an "everyone in the same room getting to know each other" session, in which we introduced each other characters and then a little gaming.

We were draped all over the furniture, and on the TV was Game of Thrones.  Loud.  I usually don't like that kind of distraction when I'm dungeon mastering.  At most, I'll have a CD of Medieval music playing, but as it was not my house, and we really weren't seriously gaming, I did let it go.  So on Sunday the 16th was the second game, when we would actually start really playing the scenario that I had put together.

I arrived almost on time, carrying my gaming stuff, a cooler filled with drinks (soda), and some CDs.  Well the host didn't have a CD player.  Ok.  They have a dog and maybe cats.  The house smelled of them.

I had them do a character building exercise ("Who would play your character in a movie, and why?") while I adjusted a few things.  Then we began.

The scenario in a nutshell- the group was going to a "Haunted Hall" in the side of a mountain.  (The adventure was based on an old TSR module called The Haunted Halls of Eveningstar)  Adventurers had been going there for a long time to "cut their teeth" and yet there was always more to explore.  Hmmm...  In any case, the party had been hired to retrieve an object lost by a previous party in the Hall.  Near the Hall is a small town.  As so many adventurers kept flocking to this dungeon, I figured that the village economy would center around these adventurers.  Why else would there be 3 inns?  So, the "gatekeeper" to the Halls would charge a fee for adventurers to make an appointment to speak to him.  He had been to the halls many times, after all!  Essentially, the whole town would try to empty the coin purses of visitors, in an honest way, of course.


They made their way to the largest of the Taverns, where their contact would meet them.  In the large public room, there were several tables filled with interesting looking characters, probably all adventurers.  One of the tables had four elves having a heated, yet quiet, argument in Elvish.

One of the characters in our group was a Elven Rogue (thief.)  He decided to go butt into their conversation.


Did I mention this player had ZERO social skills?  He reminded me of Dorfman rushing Delta Tau Chi.



And like that movie, the elves just glared at him.  Eventually they went back to arguing.  He got upset- after all he's an elf, so they should welcome him with open arms, right?

As this is happening, the dwarf player spotted their contact, and walked over to the booth where he sat.  he conversed with the contact- a warrior- and waited to be invited to sit before doing so.  Common manners (and this guy demanded courtesy!)  They spoke for a while, came to a price for meeting the Real contact, and all was going well... when the elf came over, plopped himself down and started making demands.  The Warrior did not take this well, saying "I didn't invite you to be seated."

The elf then angrily stormed out of the pub, mounted a horse, and left town.  Essentially, as things weren't going Precisely his way, he was taking his ball and going home.  And... if the other characters wanted him back, they had to bribe his character.  As his character was of Good alignment, this was completely out of bounds.

Even though the elf character wasn't "there", the player kept suggesting things to his two friends- directing how they should play.  He was trying to run the whole game, despite packing up and "leaving."

At this point, I decided to wrap up the day.  I had enough.  I was not having fun-  and, by the looks on the other players' faces- neither were they.

And if no one was having fun, what was the point?

I ended the game, packed up, said my goodbyes, and left.  It was HOT outside, and the smell of the house was on my clothes.

Of the five players, two are the old friends.  As I said, I had three of them in the game, but one dropped out.  We decided, the two who played, to go get some dinner at a local Mexican place.  The one friend picked up his wife (who was the person who'd dropped out) and we went to the restaurant.  I stopped at my apartment first for a very quick shower and to change clothes, as that smell wasn't going away.

As the four of us sat at the table, we talked about many things.  We did NOT talk about the day's adventure.  And that is what sealed it.  If I, as Dungeon Master, had done my job, they would be talking about the feats their characters performed, and this happened, and wow!  No- we talked about other things.

No one had fun.

I decided right there to end the group.

Maybe I'll try again some other time.  To fill the time I would've spent playing and preparing, I signed up to drive for Lyft.  If I'm not going to have a hobby, I may as well make money.

Hobbies?  They're for rich folks.

Be well.



Monday, July 24, 2017

An Old Story

This is a story that happened in early 2009, to the best of my memory.  It's a story that I've told many times, and I've gotten it down to that there's a version that I tell now which while True, maybe isn't exactly accurate.  In any case it goes like this...

In early 2009, I was trying to go to my first Monday Night T-Girls at a Gay bar called Tavern on Camac.   It's in Philadelphia, and I had never been there at that point. I did a Google Search and found it, and also found a nearby hotel, where I booked the room. I don't remember the excuse I gave my wife.  In any case, I was going to meet someone there who was going to do my makeup: Kalina Isato, and then I was going to join everyone else and have a good time- meeting people and being myself for a short time.



Ad for the First MNTG that I actually attended.

In any case, I went to the hotel room, shaved, put on my corset and everything else, put on my bad wig, and walked through the rain in 4 inch heels to the Tavern...

...With no makeup on- so essentially I'm a guy with a bad wig in Drag.

When I arrived at the Tavern, I saw that the door was a very large wooden door, just like something out of Dungeons and Dragons.  It had iron bandings going across it, which really reinforced that image.  I went up to the door and pulled it open with a creak.  (It was very heavy.)  When I opened the door, I was almost blasted backwards by the sound of people singing a show tune from Oklahoma.

Loud.

And well.

To my left was a grand piano.  On the top of it was a glass slipper, maybe a foot long and maybe about six inches high, filled with dollar bills of many different denominations.  The Man Behind the keys was shaved bald, and wearing a white shirt.  There were five other men who were standing around the piano, and they all were similarly bald- shaved heads- one even wore a white tank top.  All five of them were singing this song.  

In five-part Harmony.

The bar had a bit of a crowd, and in one corner of the bar there were several lesbians who gave me the stink-eye when I walked in.  I didn't notice any trans people whatsoever.  On the far side of the bar were a couple of spaces and I sat down there.  I asked about the Monday night T-girls and I found out that I was there on the wrong night!  It was going to be the following week!

Oops.

I heard on my way from the door to the bar that it was the bartender's last night at the Tavern.  Apparently he was very well beloved.  This man looked like in his early thirties- very thin with beautiful black hair perfectly styled.  He came over to me after a couple minutes (he was busy after all) and said in a very stereotypical lisp "So honey, you look faaaaaabulous! What will you have to drink?"  I said "well I understand that this is your last night bartending here.  Do you have any specialties that I need to have?"

He stood back, hands on hips, and said "Girlfriend, I make a suh-mart mango cosmopolitan!"

At this point my weird shit-o-meter pegged.   I'd never been in a gay bar like this before, especially not dressed in a skirt and a bad wig, with the people singing a show tunes, and the lesbians glaring at me!  And this guy sounded so much like a bad stereotype or Eddie Murphy imitation, that I just started laughing my ass off!  I couldn't help it!  

So the bartender leaned a little bit toward me, and said "I don't see what's so funny about that!"  I said "Oh no, no, don't mind me- it just reminded of something that someone said earlier, and I just got the joke.  Yes, I would love to have one of your mango cosmopolitans."

And you know what?  It really was damn good!

In fact, I had three of them.  As I was getting ready to go, I asked the bartender if he was allowed to have a drink while working.  He looked at me and said "Girlfriend, what ARE they going to do- fire me?"  so I asked him if he wanted to do a shot of some kind.  Remember, this is back when I used to drink VERY heavily. 

He suggested a shot which had whipped cream on it-it wasn't a blowjob- I don't know what it was.  I don't remember the name of it.  However, when he delivered the shots, he said "Okay fabulous girl, you don't use your hands to do this!"  He made a big deal out of "okay here we go we're going to do this" until everyone was watching, and we both drank.  I ended up with whipped cream all over my face.  He, however, not a drop out of place.  He was an expert.

And so it was, after wiping my face off of whipped cream, I assembled what dignity I had; being a guy with no makeup, a bad wig, and a skirt; put my shoulders back, and did my best to walk with dignity out of the Tavern on Camac.

As I walked back, a SEPTA bus passed me, and I could see the people inside pointing at me as if I were some kind of tourist attraction.  I guess they thought I was some kind of prostitute. I got back to the hotel room, changed, and, since I didn't have to wash off makeup, simply put everything in the car.  I paid my hotel bill and got on the road.  I think I was back home by midnight.



Me at my first MNTG

There are stories that get easier to tell over time, and this has been one of them.  It's gotten to the point where I can tell that story with sound effects, gestures, and that sort of thing.  As I said, while it all happened, this story may not be accurate.  

In any case, it was early in my time as Sophie, and I was so nervous! I'm still a little nervous when I go to Tavern on Camac.  I guess I always will be for that reason.  They've since remodeled it, and there's an amazing restaurant underneath.  I should go back there soon.  After all, it's been a long time since I had a suh-mart mango cosmopolitan!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Outed

Ok.  take two.  I posted something similar earlier today, thought better of it, deleted it, and edited it.  
Anyway...

Yesterday, someone outed me without my permission.

And the kicker? I never told her I'm Trans.

As you can imagine, I'm quite angry. 

I held my temper, and told her what she should do in similar circumstances in the future. I played it cool, but I was hurting bad inside.

"But Sophie- you are out and proud- so what's the big deal?"


This person decided it was ok to blab about my medical history to a random person.  Imagine if you had, say, Cancer, and someone went around advertising to whomever.  Worse- by outing me, she may have put me in Harm's Way.  I don't have to remind my trans readers of the probability that we could be physically assaulted or worse.

It may or may not be illegal as well.  I don't know... yet.

Said person told me about the interaction, and was she remorseful.  She later apologized.  But the damage was done.  Once one crumbles up a paper, it will never be the same.  


A Better Day

As I said, I played it cool.  I posted the incident on facialbook, where I received many different responses, including a few private messages.  Several of those private messages said, in so many words, 'stop whining and put on your big girl panties.  Live with it.'  

Well, I AM living with it.  What choice do I have?  I'm not going to de-transition, and no one will allow me to go to the Light, so here I am.  

But it doesn't mean I have to like it.  Or just sit there and take it.  

Outing ANY LGBT person is just horrible, but especially so for a Transperson.  It's a Violation of their privacy.  And that's how I feel- Violated.  I am Angry and sad at the same time.  I want to burst into tears.  I want Vengeance.  I want Justice.

I just want the Hate to stop.

In any case, at this point, what's done is done.  I've taken some... steps.  Now, I live with any fallout.


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Tales from the Bookstore: The Pornography Lady

As you can imagine from my working in retail as long as I have, and in the service industry before that; I have some pretty crazy stories.  I figure once in a while I'll put one up here.

I will start off by pointing out, that I am Christian, but I don't jam it down people's throats.  My religion is my personal business.  Period.

This one took place back in 2007, before I transitioned- hell before I even re-awakened. Every Sunday after church in older woman would come in.  She had stringy gray hair, was maybe five feet tall, and always wore a long corduroy skirt: either brown or gray.


Gratuitous Sophie Picture

She immediately and determinately walked over to the magazine section specifically to the Men's Interest.  Again, she was not the tallest person, so she needed a step stool to reach what she was looking for: the part of the section that Playboy and Penthouse and such.

She would then take a copy, raise it over her head, and start shouting "PORNOGRAPHY!!!!  This is PORNOGRAPHY!!!"  Back then, the same manager would do the day shift on Sundays.  I'll call him "Bob."  Bob was a younger guy, very liberal, and he wasn't going to put up with disturbances in the store.  He also wasn't going to pander to someone who was more than a little bit crazy.

Every week, this woman came in, grabbed a copy of a magazine, and start shouting "PORNOGRAPHY!"  Every week, Bob would be there, and she would insist that he remove the pornography from the store, that this was "Siiiiinfullll" and she couldn't BELIEVE that we stocked such things and then that we are all going straight to "HELLLLLLL" and what about the Children?

And every week, Bob reminded her of the First Amendment, and pointed out to her that is our choice to stock what sells, and this corporation chooses to stock these magazines.

Every Sunday she made the usual threats- that unless YOU pull these magazines and other Siiiinfullll material from our shelves; that she would do something.  There would be a boycott; a strike; and then, one weekend, she said that if this stuff wasn't removed, she would call the "Po-leeece!."

The following weekend, she came in again now at this time there was a movie out called Grindhouse by Quentin Tarantino.  The two main women from the movie were on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine.  The store was featuring the magazine on a display, mostly because it was Rolling Stone and it sells.   So on this Given Sunday, she came in and didn't even make it to the PORNOGRAPHY section- she made it to the RS display, saw the two women on the cover, grabbed the magazine with both hands, raised it overhead and started shouting "PORRRRRRRNOGRAPHY!  This is PORRRRRRRNOGRAPHY!!"


PORRRRRRRNOGRAPHY!


Bob came over as usual.  She started shouting at Bob; saying that she was going to call the police because we obviously had not followed What SHE and GAWD wanted.  Bob laughed at her and said "Go right ahead! Call the police!"  She's kept shouting "PORRRRRRRNOGRAPHY!" and eventually got into an argument with both Bob and another customer.  This argument escalated until Bob had enough.  I don't know if he banned her from the store or not (the Head Store manager never banned anyone) but, in any case, some heated words were exchanged.  She never came back- not in all these years.  The bookstore still carries magazines of that sort, and we still sell them as much as we used to but the PORRRRRRRNOGRAPHY lady has not come back.  Perhaps she has gone to find a different target to "save."

Oh, and that issue of Rolling Stone she shouted about?  Within two hours, we had sold out of it completely.

I'd like to think it was because of her wonderful advertising.



Monday, July 10, 2017

Arts Festival '87 - "Crest"

This week up at Penn State is the annual Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, better known as Arts Fest.  To a Penn Stater, Arts Fest is a magical time.  In many ways, it is Summer Homecoming.  It's like a football weekend but without the football.  So many current students and recent alumni come up and crash with friends (as well as older alumni in hotels, etc) that it's a Penn State weekend in mid-summer, which many of the students were pining for.  After all, back home they had jobs and real life, but for a few days, they were back at school with their friends and No Homework!

I know that for myself and most of the Penn Staters of my generation, we couldn't WAIT to get back up to school!  No parents' rules, parties, friends, fun...  


Arts Fest 1988.  I have no pictures from Arts fest '87

As I've mentioned many times before, about ten years ago, I wrote a book about my college years (as yet unpublished.)  The longest chapter in the book is about Arts Fest 1987 (in fact, it was thirty years ago this very night, as of this writing.)  In many ways, it was the "peak" of my time at Penn State.  It was also the night of my first (of many) Grateful Dead show.  So, all of that said, here's that chapter.  I feel a little bad posting chapters here in my blog, as I feel "can't you come up with original content, you loser?"  But this IS original.  I wrote it, and I've never posted it anywhere.  And yes, there's a LOT I'll cut from this if I ever get around to giving this book the strong edit that it needs.

I'll post some thoughts after the piece as well.

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

Chapter 2.73:  Crest

Friday, July 10, 1987 North: Probers Saw Shredding

            I never saw anything like it. 
            Color, sound, brightness and happiness despite the thick blue grey clouds drooping in the sky. 
            We parked over in the parking lot by Veterans Stadium because it was the closest spot we could find to the show (and it still cost $5!)  Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead at JFK stadium. 
The stadium itself was a huge stone relic- something from a 1920s gangster movie.  It was old and crumbling, despite the small face lift it received for Live Aid three years prior.  The whole thing was surrounded by this large Addams Family style wrought iron fence. 
Surrounding the stadium, in the park across the street, and in the Vet stadium parking lot as well, was a sea of color.  Vehicles of every description, even several school buses painted like Kesey’s “Further” served as home and party pads for thousands of people of all ages.  There were balloons, kites, and music playing everywhere: Old hippies playing guitars, flutes, mandolins, and harmonicas.  And, of course, boom boxes everywhere playing the Dead. 
            I picked Virginia and Mandy up at 10AM (Mandy stayed over at Virginia’s the night before.)  We all wore tie dyes and shorts.  We made it to the parking lot around noon.  As the show didn’t start until 6 (doors opened at 2), we had some time to kill.  Of course- that meant drinking.  Mandy managed to get a case of Bud cans, which Virginia iced down that morning.  We each cracked one open, toasted to the show, and chugged.  Then we had another.  Then we decided to walk around- and saw this whole new world.
            Everywhere was the smell of pot and grilled cheese sandwiches.  We walked around the parking lot, and people were selling everything from shirts to acid to…grilled cheese sandwiches.  In fact, a cute brunette girl hunched on the ground next to a hot plate said she had the “best fucking grilled cheese in the world.”  I wanted a new tie dye- it would just be cooler to have one from a Dead show. 
            We wandered for an hour, lost in the spectacle.  Part of me wanted to stay- follow the Dead, become part of the Tribe.  Be accepted for who I am.  But some of the older hippies sneered at us- called us “Touch Heads” (referring to the fact that the song “Touch of Grey” attracted so many new people to the concert I guess.)  So it wasn’t all love and acceptance.  Anyway- I still had to finish school.
            Eventually we made it back to the car, where we had more beer and some sandwiches (PBJ- not grilled cheese.)  Some really high guys staggered by and bought beer from us- they offered us $5 a can.  OK!  I guess if we were really in the spirit of things, we would’ve just given them the beers, but we needed the money.  It was going to be a loooong weekend. 
            We wandered back over to JFK around three.  All over the front half of the field was a forest of long thin poles with microphones on the top- the famous “tapers.”  I wondered how they could afford all that equipment! 
The sun broke through and the day became hot.  Really hot.  We found a spot on the grassy field in front of the stage, maybe fifty yards back, and plopped down.  The heat rose in waves from the field. 
            Fortunately, the concert planners were ready for this.  At several places around the grassy infield of the stadium they’d set up impromptu “showers.”  These were elevated pipes with holes on the bottom and a handle on the side to turn them on and off.  I went through it a few times, and it felt great!  When Virginia did it, her tie dye clung tightly to her body, especially when she raised her arms to rinse the water through her hair.  Guys shouted and whistled.  She pretended not to hear, but I think she enjoyed the attention.  They also had fire hoses spray the crowd down occasionally.  I’m sure that the water didn’t make the tapers very happy, what with that expensive equipment getting wet and all.
            The Grateful Dead came out around six.  By then the crowd was hot, tired and sedated.  The band kicked into a spirited version of the song “Iko Iko” which got everyone up and dancing.  People also surged forward toward the stage, which must’ve crushed the people up front a bit. 
After a few songs, guitar player Bob Weir announced "We're going to take a moment and play a game, it's called take a step back.”  Jerry Garcia played a Mexican Hat Dance riff as Bob sang “One-two- take a step back, one- two-take a step back.”  Jerry ended his little riff to cheers, and Bob said "You see what happens, their eyes don't bug out, and they look better.  And if they look better, we play better."  People still passed out from the heat and the crush, and I could see them being passed up to the stage barricades where the security guards lifted them up and over to get medical attention.
They played lots of songs I barely recognized, and a lot I’d never heard.  (Eventually many would become favorites, especially “Terrapin Station”).  They left the stage a little after eight.  The sun was setting, and the heat was dropping.  By this time, we were really hungry, so Mandy went searching for some source of food.  She came back ten minutes later with some wrapped hoagies. 
The band retook the stage around nine, tuned for a moment, and then Bob Dylan walked out on stage, wearing a red jacket and a black beret-like hat.  He looked grim.  What we didn’t know was his friend and “discoverer” John Hammond died that day, and Dylan was devastated.  He still came out though.
Dylan strummed his white acoustic guitar for a moment, looked at Jerry, and the Dead kicked in with a muscular shuffling beat.  Then Dylan started to sing “Early one morning the sun was shining.  He was layin’ in bed” and a roar exploded from the crowd.
“Tangled up in Blue.”  My favorite Dylan song, and apparently everyone else’s.  We clapped the time over our heads.  And danced. 
We writhed together: sweaty, primal, tribal.  All of our cares, our lives, abandoned to the music.
“We always did feel the same we just saw it from it different point of viewwwww…  Tangled up in Blue!”
It was near eleven when Dylan and the Dead left the stage.  Mandy, Virginia and I left- hoping to get a jump on traffic.  We had a long night ahead, especially me.  I was driving.
I felt great.  I don’t know if it was a contact high, the music, the moment, or all three, but I’d never been so happy.  Yet the weekend was still just beginning, and we were headed up to school. 
The annual Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts- commonly referred to as “Arts Fest,” was essentially a summer homecoming.  Everyone who could make it went up.  The event was designed for local and national artists to show off and sell their wares, for bands to play, food to be eaten, and people to have a grand old time.  And all those things happened.  And the students partied as well. 
I didn’t realize how much Penn State REALLY meant to me until summer really settled in.  God, I missed it!  We all did!  I couldn’t wait to get back up there. 
As we walked across the parking lot toward the Vet, we heard music again- the familiar riff of “Touch of Grey” the Grateful Dead’s current single.  We couldn’t hear them singing- they were drowned out by the crowd singing for them. “I will get by.  I will get by.  I wi-illl get bah-eye-eye, I wiiiiill sur-vive!”
As we headed up the turnpike, I drank a Coke and had a Vivran.  I had to stay awake obviously, yet I was still drifting asleep.  More Coke.  Stopped at Hardees in Dauphin (along with tons of other people- the pilgrimage was in full swing.)  More Coke and another Vivran.
Mandy and Virginia slept the last hour or so, so I listened to the Who’s “Quadrophenia” to keep me going. 
“I pick up phones and hear my history.  I dream of all the calls I miss.  I try to number those who love me, And find exactly what the trouble iiiiiiiiis”.
By the time I parked at Sutton Court, I had five Cokes and three Vivrans, and that wasn’t counting any stimulants from earlier in the day.  We quickly stashed our gear in the apartment and rushed over to Crow House.  Mandy brought her stuff with her as she was staying at her apartment.
The party was still going, despite the late hour (it was like 3 AM.)  All the lights were ablaze.  State College was buzzing- the Lion purred, awakened from its summer hibernation.
We bumped into Judy and Rich in the living room- both drunk.  Judy looked fantastic in a white collared shirt.  Judy, Rich, Mandy and Virginia were all smiles hugging and greeting their brothers and sisters.  Everyone was so happy to see each other.  I was bored, so I headed down the crowded stairs to the basement. 
It was packed- wall to wall. 
“Wanted!  Waaant-eddd!  Dead or uh-lahhhve!”  Bon Jovi screamed.
I tried to worm my way through the crowd (being skinny had a few advantages!).  A few Crow Lil sisters smiled and waved at me, which made me feel happy.  Accepted.  When I finally managed to reach the bar, it was packed front and back.  All the lights were on, bathing the scene in a strange red glow, and there were even people sitting on other people’s shoulders to fit as many people as possible back there.  Virginia was already there, behind the bar with a full pitcher of beer ready.  Three man and flip a cup were in full swing.  People were shouting the lyrics to the music on the speakers.
“Tainted Love!  Wuh-oh-oh BOMP BOMP Tainted Luh-ove!”  Soft Cell sang somewhere beneath the noise.
I played for a beer or two, then started the long tight trip upstairs.  I made it to the dance floor which was packed- everyone dancing and jumping up and down.  Happy.  People were singing along to Billy Idol’s “Mony Mony” with the “additional” lyrics that were common to shout in time.
“Well you could shake it Mony Mony”
“Hey!  Hey what?  Get laid!  Get fucked!”
“Shot gun dead and I'll come on home yeah”
“Hey!  You’re drunk!  She’s fat!  Go home!”
“Don't stop cookin' 'cause I feel all right now”
“Hey!  Hey what?  Get laid!  Get fucked!”
“Don't stop now come on Mony”
“Hey!  You’re drunk!  She’s fat!  Go home!”
“Come on yeah, I said yeah”
“YEAH!”
“yeah”
“YEAH!”
“yeah”
“YEAH!”
“yeah”
“YEAH!”
“yeah”
“YEAH!”
“'Cause you make me feel”
“FUCKIN’ HORNY!”  (This over a chorus of either “like a pony” or “Mony Mony”)
“So good, so good”
“FUCKIN’ HORNY!”
“Well I feel all right”
“FUCKIN’ HORNY!”
“You're so fine”
“FUCKIN’ HORNY!”
“You’re so fine”
“FUCKIN’ HORNY!”
“You're, and I feel all right!
“I said yeah”
“YEAH!”
“Yeah”
“YEAH!”
“Yeah”
“YEAH!”
“yeah”
“YEAH!”
“yeah”
“YEAH!”
No one ever got tired of this song.  Especially with its group participation chant.
Suddenly I didn’t feel so good.  My stomach ached, my head throbbed, and my hands started to shake uncontrollably.  I stumbled outside for some fresh air.  Leaned against one of the trees separating Crow from Phi Psi.  My hands shook worse, like they were trying to fly off my arms.  The world began to spin in ways it shouldn’t. 
That’s when Virginia found me.  I told her that I felt sick and sat on the ground, hoping that no one had pissed on this particular tree.  My whole body was shaking.
Next thing I knew, Rich and Virginia had my arms around their necks and they helped me back to Sutton Court.  I forced myself to throw up, drank as much water as I could and fell asleep on the usual couch sometime before dawn.


Saturday, July 11, 1987 North Says Covert Fund Plotted

Virginia shook me awake.
“Wake up sleepy head!  We’re going to the Waffle Shop!”
I yawned and stretched.  “Do I have time for a shower?”  I felt sticky and gross, and smelled worse.
“No time.  Judy and Rich are waiting for us outside.  Come on!  Let’s go!”
“Judy and Rich are outside waiting?”
“Yes!  Let’s go!”  She was starting to get angry.
I pulled her down on top of me and kissed her deeply, groping her ass. 
She grunted in momentary surprise and then kissed back.
“Ick!”  She said.  “Brush your teeth first!”

The line at the Waffle Shop was huge as expected, but eventually we got in.  The four of us chatted politely, but it was Rich and Virginia doing most of the talking.  Judy didn’t say much.  Neither did I- I was very tired.
After breakfast, Judy and Rich went back to Crow house while Virginia and I, after a quick stop at McClanahans for some necessities (aspirin, soda, and the new Rolling Stone magazine) went back to the apartment.  I was still woozy from my caffeine hangover, and the bright sun hurt my eyes.
After we made it to the apartment, I went into the bathroom and stripped, desperately wanting a shower.  Virginia walked in.  Naked.
“Wanna get dirty before we get clean?” she asked innocently. 
She pinned me to the wall with a deep kiss before I could answer, her hands exploring.
Eventually we showered and I took a short nap.  Virginia read the Rolling Stone magazine we picked up.  The summer double issue: it had a Grateful Dead double cover and a huge article on the band.
She woke me around three with a kiss on my forehead.  I opened my eyes and saw her face over mine, smiling- eyes so clear.
“Come on, lazy!  I want to go downtown!”
The sky was a perfect blue, not a single cloud.  We walked through the sizzling State College streets past the colorful exhibits, flags, and yellow canvas roofed booths of artists selling their work.  Everywhere people were playing guitars, flutes, and harmonicas.  It was as alive as the Grateful Dead parking lot scene.  Virginia and I held hands, smiled, and talked as we slowly moved through the crowds.
How could it ever be better than this?  I was home at Penn State on a beautiful summer day, walking with a girl I loved.  I was Young, Healthy, and in College.  As we walked up on campus past Old Main passing more insanely colorful booths, I pulled Virginia to me and hugged her.
It would Never be better than This.  This finally was happiness, wasn’t it?  All of my troubles were left behind: Parents, work, money, Judy- all of my cares meant nothing.  Nothing meant anything but now.
Now was an incredible moment, and I was sharing it with thousands of others, bound by a mutual Love of where we were, and all that we cared for there.  “We are- PENN STATE!”
Virginia kissed my neck and held me tighter.  Someone shouted “Get a room!”
We smiled at each other then kept walking around the flower covered campus, holding hands and talking about nothing at all.

We stopped to get some spaghetti and other things for dinner.  Judy and Virginia figured it’d be cheaper if we made dinner instead of eating out- and besides, everyplace was going to be packed.  When we arrived back at the apartment, Judy and Rich were there, slightly disheveled.  We showed them what we’d bought, and Rich went out to get some wine.  Judy put the Queen album on the stereo.
“Keep yourself alive!  Keep yourself alive!”
Virginia went to the bathroom while I picked up the Rolling Stone.  Judy sat on the other side of the couch, her legs folded beneath her. 
“So” she said.
“So.  How’s summer really been?”  I asked.
“I’m bored” she replied.  I can’t wait for school to start again.”
“Same here.”
“How are things with you and Virginia?” she asked flatly.
I paused and looked up from the magazine at her.
“Good!  We don’t see much of each other due to work, but things are good. How about you and Rich?”
“Great!  Why wouldn’t it be?” she answered, still flat.
We looked at each other for a moment. 
Then Virginia came out of the bathroom.
“So what’s the plan for tonight?”  I asked.
“The house is having a party” Judy said.  “Rich and I are going there.  What about you?  Is your house doing anything?”
“I’m sure they are.  Maybe I’ll stop in.  I’m just so popular there.  They probably can’t wait to see me.”
“We’ll probably end up at the house later.  Mandy told me she’s hosting Little Sister happies at her place” said Virginia.  “I’m going there first.  Wanna come?”
“Sure!  That sounds like fun!”  Judy answered.
While those two went to happies, Rich went to Crow house, leaving me alone in the apartment.  I went into the bedroom, plopped down on Virginia’s bed, and slept.

I woke up a few hours later, and turned on the light.  Virginia walked into the room with a goofy smile. 
“So, how were happies?”  I asked.
“They worked!  I’m happy!”  She said, throwing up her hands.  “I came to get your lame ass out to the party!”
She jumped onto me, knocking me back onto the bed.  Straddling me, she pulled off her Crow Bowl T-shirt. 
“Unless there’s something else you’d rather do” she added. 
“What if I wanted to head over to my house?”  I asked, innocently.
She unclasped her bra- a beige front loader.
“Why would you want to go there?”
“Y’know, say hi to the brothers, drink beer.  The usual.”
“Yeah, whatever” she sneered as she took my hands and put them on her naked breasts, which I started caressing.
“I’m horny.  Get undressed.  Now!”
“I can’t.”
“Why not?”
“You’re sitting on me.”
She hit me in the chest and stood up.

An hour later, we arrived at Crow.  They replaced the usual porch lights with red bulbs.  People sat on the porch roof, drinking, talking, shouting, posing.  The front yard was already strewn with red plastic cups.  Across the street, Beta Sig was all lit up and partying, as was “Pink Elephant.”  Next door, Phi Psi had a reggae band, the Earthtones I think.
As I signed in on the guest list, Virginia walked over to a guy passed out on the porch and propped him up against the wall.  Someone already wrote “LOSER” across his forehead, as well as other doodles on his cheeks, arms, and legs. 
The house was crowded as usual but it smelled worse and was hellishly hot.  My feet stuck to the floor (normally that wouldn’t happen until after two AM.)  It looked like the party never stopped from the night before.  I had to watch where I was walking to avoid puddles of vomit- some dry- and it was only ten o’clock.
It didn’t take long for me to be covered in beer, muck, and sweat.  This party was different from the other Crow parties I’d been to- everyone was drinking, dancing, kissing, shouting with abandon.  As if this were the last party ever and tomorrow they’d have to grow up to be responsible, mature citizens of a colorless bland society.  And maybe this was true.
For the moment, I was just glad to play Three Man with people who knew the rules.
“Bin a long time since ah Rahk an rolled!” screamed Robert Plant from the speaker next to my ear.
Virginia was behind the bar, as drunk as I’d ever seen her.  She smiled at me and did the “I love you” sign.

Sunday, July 12, 1987 In four short days, North turned the tables

Sunday morning dawned as hot and bright as the day before.  Virginia and I went to the Waffle Shop again- me with a filmy hangover.  Judy and Rich remained locked and sleeping in the bedroom.  Virginia slept on the couch next to me. 
When we returned to the apartment, Judy and Rich were gone.  Mandy had slipped a note under the door saying she’d be waiting at Crow.
We loaded up the Mustang, picked up Mandy, and joined the long line of traffic headed reluctantly southeast on Rte 322.  Back to Spring City.  Away from home.
Mandy was asleep in minutes.  Virginia put Simon and Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits in the tape player.  Weird- I thought she hated that tape.
But all my words come back to me, In shades of mediocrity.  Like emptiness in harmony, I need someone to comfort me.  Homeward bound.  I wish I wa-uh-uz- Homeward bound

            Behind us, the Lion stretched and fell back asleep, purring.

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

For a few years, I considered this the Greatest days of my life.  It was eventually surpassed by a weekend in Washington DC, when I attended a friend's graduation party with the woman who eventually became my Wife.  Then there was an incredible day in August 2013...



While putting this entry together, I re-read it for the first time in years, and the memories came flooding back.  And I thought about the Times and People we somehow take for granted.  As a twenty year old, I knew that college would end, yes, but I didn't think about it.  Wife and I are still married, but separated, because of... well, you know.  And Lisa?  Died six weeks later.

But the memories live inside of me.  That's something right?

Be well.