Thursday, July 22, 2021

Humid Midsummer Sunset

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



Last night


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


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


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



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

Friday, July 16, 2021

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

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

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


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

...

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

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

...

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

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

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

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


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



Armenara Plaza, Summer 1988

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


Chapter 2.147: Macaroni and Cheese Party

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Wanna make some?” she asked.

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

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

            “I dunno.  Maybe thirty?”

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

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

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

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

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

            Fuck eye contact!

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

            And it was her idea.

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

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


Monday, June 21, 2021

For Katie

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


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


Katie Ward, March 2020

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


Laptop Lounge March 2009.  My first pic with Katie

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

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

Katie in a proper uniform


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

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


Keystone Conference, 2017


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



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

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


Photo by Cassandra Storm




Climbing

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


Map: Google maps

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


Map: Google maps

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

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

Chapter 70: Kamikazes

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

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

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

Of course I forgot.

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

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

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

“Readyready: vodka martini rocks with a twist.”

SHAKESHAKESHAKE

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

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

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

Damn good one too.

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Be well.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Codex: Sophie 3.0

 This entry will be updated as needed, and it's been a while, so NEW EDITION!.  It's sort of a resource for the Blog.  Here you'll find basic definitions of terms and who the people are that I reference most often.



A quick summary of my life as it is currently:

Who am I?

That's a deep question.  I am Sophie Lynne.  I am a pre-operative transgender woman.  I was born in September 1966.  I graduated from Penn State with a degree in Education, then many years later I earned a Masters degree in Education, also from Penn State.  I married in 1993, and currently am still married.  My daughter was born in 2007.  I used to work at a bookstore as a supervisor, but was laid off in February 2018.  I am currently living in an apartment in S.E. Pa.  I went full time as a woman on March 25, 2014.  I now do Outreach at Universities, and wherever I'm invited, really.  I have been writing my whole life, and have been published in international magazines as well as the New York Times.  I wrote a book about my college years, but it has yet to be published. I've posted some chapters here in the blog, though.  In fall 2019, I moved back to State College to pursue my PhD in Continuing Learning and Adult Education with a minor in Gender studies at Penn State.  


What is Transgender?
According to the American Psychological Association, transgender is:

an umbrella term for persons whose gender identity, gender expression, or behavior does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. Gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female, or something else; gender expression refers to the way a person communicates gender identity to others through behavior, clothing, hairstyles, voice, or body characteristics. “Trans” is sometimes used as shorthand for “transgender.” While transgender is generally a good term to use, not everyone whose appearance or behavior is gender-nonconforming will identify as a transgender person. The ways that transgender people are talked about in popular culture, academia, and science are constantly changing, particularly as individuals’ awareness, knowledge, and openness about transgender people and their experiences grow.   Source

HERE is another good definition with some follow up questions.


When did you realize you were transgender?
I knew I was different when I was four- that I was in the wrong body.  I was 11 when a special ran on the local news called the "Transsexual Dilemma" and I was like- That's me!"  Of course, being in a very blue collar family in the 1970s I thought I was only one like me in the world.  I cross-dressed for a while until I was about 16, then stopped.  I started again in 2008.  I realized that I needed to transition comparatively recently.

Like many TGs, I joined a fraternity in college. I also participated in hyper-masculine activities in an effort to bury my feminine feelings.




Frat boy???

Why did you choose to be Transgender?
I DIDN'T choose this.  I was born this way.  Being transgender is NOT a mental condition, it is a Physical condition. There are several theories as to how this happens:  a flood of estrogen in utero at the wrong time, faulty hormone receptors in the fetus... but in the end, no one really knows for sure.

Here's a VERY good dicussion on the current theories.

Why would someone CHOOSE to be TG?  Why would they choose a life of prejudice and hatred?  A life where they constantly feel the anguish of not being "Right"?  41% of TG people attempt suicide.  Compare that to 3% who attempt suicide in the non-trans population.  Our murder rate is much higher than the cisgender population as well.  It's a HARD life.  An expensive one.  And, in the end, a life of uncertainty and pain.  Yeah, definitely my first choice.  *rolls eyes*


Why did you stop in 1983?

I was ashamed.  I felt like a freak.  And I'm sure if I were caught, the punishment would've been VERY severe.  So I suppressed it for many, many years- doing my best to be the guy I was expected to be.  I wasn't very good at it.  Remember, this was before the internet, so I thought I was the only "freak" who had those feelings.

Why do I call myself Sophie?

I didn't start with this name.  In December of 2008, I went for my first makeover at Femme Fever in NY.  Karen, the proprietor, did the makeup and asked what name I was using.  I told her but said it was not set in stone.  She stepped back and looked at me, as the makeup was finished, but I hadn't seen myself yet.  She looked at me and said "I have a strong feeling your name is Sophie."  She then turned the chair around so I faced the mirror and said "Say hello to Sophie!"

My First Look at Sophie

I usually don't ignore strong feelings, so I kept the name.  I added the Lynne part as I liked the sound of it.  I have been told that I "own [my] name!"  Ok.  Thanks!

Sophie is Greek for Wisdom, and I can use all the wisdom I can get.

Since becoming Sophie, I've researched famous Sophies in history.  By far, my favorite is Sophie Scholl.

What's your male name?

It was Lance.  Was.  Past tense.  I answer that question only because I mention it in posts occasionally.

Will you legally change your name to Sophie Lynne?

No.  I legally changed my name in October 2016.  Sophie Lynne remains as my nom de plume.  :)

Are you gay?

I am attracted to Women. (I'm married to one.)  I am not attracted to guys.  At all.  So,  I am considered a trans-lesbian.

Sexuality is who you are attracted to.  Gender is who you ARE.  The two are independent of each other.

What does Christ have to say about Transgender People?

He had the last supper in the home of a TG.  Luke 22:10 says And he said unto them, Behold, when ye are entered into the city, there shall a man meet you, bearing a pitcher of water; follow him into the house where he entereth in.  Back in Christ's day, Women carried water.  period.  Men did NOT do so.  Yet, this man did.  Why? The man was TG.  (I didn't make this up.  Google it!)


I think he's cool with us.  After all, why would God have made me this way if they weren't cool with it.  God doesn't make mistakes, right?

Have you had your surgery yet?

The normal answer to this would be something like "Why are you so interested in my genitals?"  I mean really, it's no one's business.  Calpernia Adams has a really wonderful video about questions like this one.   Also, there isn't just one surgery: there's facial feminization surgery, breast augmentation (no, I didn't have that), and Gender Correction Surgery.  I'll never be able to afford any of them, so there's your answer.

Baby I'm a Star!
Ok, not really. It doesn't happen often, but occasionally I get some press coverage.  Here are links:

Philadelphia Daily News Profile, June 2016
Penn State Abington Review of a talk I did, Nov 2015
Penn State Abington Review II, April 2017
Phoenixville Non-Discrimination Ordinance, March 2017
Me speaking at the Borough meeting, March 2017.  I'm at 14:15
Outward Today, Oct 2016










Dramatis Personae:
I use many pseudonyms for people in my life as I'm sure they don't want any publicity.  My favorite form of pseudonym is a random letter designation.  After Wife and daughter, they are in no particular order.  This list is FAR from complete.

Sophie Lynne:
Me.  Your humble hostess.  I am the youngest of two children, and I have an older brother.



April 2021 (pic by Chuck Fong)

Wife:
My wife is a couple of years younger than me.  We met in 1991 and married in 1993.  Like all couples, we've had our ups and downs.  I refer to her as "Wife" as a term of affection.  And she's cool with that.  She's the oldest of three children, and has two younger brothers.

Daughter:
My daughter was born in late 2007.  She's been without me in the house since 2013.  

Parents:  My parents are alive, and still married after 50 years.  I told them about Sophie on Saturday, December 28, 2013.  The initial reaction was positive, and we've covered a LOT of ground. Both parents have now met their daughter.  Things went well for a while, but now- not so much.

OB:  Older brother.  Used to always beat me up and blame me for everything he did.  My parents always believed him over me.  I told him about being Sophie and he laughed at me, then lied to my parents about it.  He met his sister on Christmas day 2014.   We don't speak.


MIL: Mother in Law.  My wife's mother.  So right wing she thinks Rick Santorum is liberal.  Extremely intolerant of anyone who is not exactly like her.  Racist.  One insulted her Filipino daughter in law with a racial slur to her face.  For ten years, Wife and I lived in her house due to my inability to find a job that paid enough to move out.  I was thrown out of that house in late August of 2013 for being TG.

Mel:  My "Big Sister."  Mel transitioned in 2003.  She is an incredibly intelligent woman, and very plain spoken.  My therapist asked Mel to advise and mentor me, and we've become good friends.  I wouldn't be where I am today with out her candid, sometimes brutal, advice.  Mel is very good friends with Donna Rose, who was HER big sister.

Dr. Maureen Osborne:  My therapist.  One of the leading minds in TG therapy.  She's fantastic!  She was my "Big Sister's" therapist as well. She retired in 2015.

Dr. Osborne (seated) receiving a gift at Transhealth, June 2013


Lisa Empanada:  My "transition buddy."  My Sister.  Aside from my Wife, she was my closest friend.  We could finish each other's sentences and often did.  She committed suicide on Monday, September 16, 2013.  Her death sent me into a tailspin which almost killed me.  I miss her very much.


Lisa Empanada


David:  David is a trans-man living in Baltimore.  I met him at Laptop Lounge back in February 2013, and really got to know him at Keystone 2013.  He is good people.

Elizabeth:  Elizabeth was the first non-TG I told about being Sophie.  My first time out on Halloween 2008, she helped me pick out an outfit.  (She didn't know then.)  She and I worked together at the time, but she was moving to Turkey with her boyfriend. I was SO nervous!  But she was extremely accepting.  For a while, she was the only one of my friends who knew.  She gave me a party on the one year anniversary of going full time, and I was a bridesmaid at her wedding.

Dave:  Dave was the first cis-gender male that I told about being TG.  We are former co-workers.  He is married to Elizabeth.

M:  My coworker for several years.  She was among the first I told.  She's an unapologetic hippie from California, and her exploits could fill several books.  She is also VERY rich, and uses that money to help autistic children world wide.  She opened her home to me for nine months after MIL threw me out.

Jamie:  Another former co-worker, she now works in the publishing industry.  She is from Missouri and is an absolute delight!  She accepted me readily.

Linda Lewis:  One of my earliest inspirations, Linda is an amazing person.  Over time we started conversing on Facebook and became friends.  I met her at SCC.  She is an icon of the community, but more important, she is an amazing and down to Earth woman.  Linda is currently my room mate and bestie.  yes, she moved to State College with me.  She's a BLAST to have around!



Linda Lewis, April 2017


Kimberly Huddle:  Another early inspiration.  Kim travels the country dressed as Kim for her drab job.  She lives in Texas, and, despite her folksy manner, is extremely sharp.  She's an amazing, beautiful woman and a great friend.  She has an amazing blog which inspired me to start this one.  Read it HERE.

Kim Huddle, on her second Philly visit.

Ally Raymond:  She's from Richmond, Va.  I met Ally at Lisa's affirmation party, and since then she's become an indispensable part of my life.  Tall, gorgeous, and so outspoken... she's a role model for transwomen!  At least I think so.  She married her longtime partner in 2021.


Ally, March 2017

Amanda Richards:  Owner of True Colors Makeup Artistry.  A absolute genius with makeup and a very dear friend.  She went to a rival Big 10 school, but I don't hold it against her.  ;)


Amanda Richards, March 2017

Lorraine Anderson:  Owner of Occasional Woman.  She makes a lot of the clothes to fit over my difficult to fit body.  Such a fun, caring, and genuinely amazing person whom I'm proud to call friend!  She also writes for TG Forum.

Lorraine and her worst customer


Sandy Empanada: Lisa's Widow, and one of the strongest people I know.  She's simply amazing.  She, and Lisa's daughters Kristy and Tiffany, are family to me (as are the entire Newell family.)

Jake, Sandy Empanada, Tiffany Empanada, David, me.  November 2013

DrD:  My oldest friend.  We met in kindergarten. He was Best Man in my wedding.  He is my best male friend.  I told him about my Truth, and he was supportive.  DrD holds two doctoral degrees, and is a fellow Penn Stater.  He is an amazing person, and I would die for him.




With DrD in October 2019

R:  My friend since 1980.  We graduated high school together.  US Army veteran and VMI graduate.  He was a groomsman in my wedding, as I was in his first wedding.  In his second, I was Best man.  When I came out to him, he cried, and swore to support me.  I have often said I would "take a bullet" for him.  And I continue to say that.  He met Sophie in late 2014.

A:  My friend since 1993.  I met her through her boyfriend of the time when he was in my D&D group.  She dumped him soon after, but we stayed in touch because we clicked.  She invited Wife and I to her wedding to her no-good husband (who abandoned her when her cancer relapsed.)  I told her about being TG right before moving out of MIL's house.


Glossary:

CD:  Short for Crossdresser

Cisgender:  The opposite of transgender.  A person whose body matches their gender identity.  In other words, almost the entire population of the planet.  More HERE.

Crossdresser:  A person who dresses as a woman.  Said person may or may not be transgender.  See HERE for more information.

"The Darkness":  My name for the pain and thoughts surrounding suicidal depression.

GCS:  Gender Confirmation Surgery. "Surgical procedures that some transgender people go through to obtain physical characteristics found in the opposite gender."  "The Operation."  Also known as "Sex change" and SRS.

GG:  Genetic Girl.  A woman who was born female.

HRT:  Hormone Replacement Therapy.

"My Truth:" My term for the fact that I am a Woman, and Trans.

"The Pain":  My name for the suffering inflicted by being Transgender.

"Pink Hangover": The feeling after a night, weekend, whatever, of being en femme and having to return to being a male.  This is a feeling of regretting being male and wishing the female time didn't have to end.

Second Life:  A Computer simulation game sorta thingee.  All content is made by users.  I have some amazing friends there, like MK, Cisop, Zonker, Plato and so many others!

SRS: "Sex Reassignment Surgery."  "Surgical procedures that some transgender people go through to obtain physical characteristics found in the opposite gender."  "The Operation."  Also known as "Sex change" and GCS.

TG:  Short for Transgender

Transgender:  A person who dresses/lives as the gender opposite their birth.  See HERE for a better definition.

Transsexual:  Old term for someone who has completed GCS.

TS:  Short for Transsexual



A Party Long Ago

I've recently been thinking about a party I attended- the first (of two) parties I was ever invited to during my k-12 years.  This one occurred when I was in seventh grade, so late fall 1978.  Ugh, was it really 43 years ago?


Most kids my age were starting puberty.  I watched as the girls began changing, and desperately wished I would change like them as well, but it was not to be.  In fact, even for guy adolescence, I was a late bloomer.  So, essentially, I was even more of a kid when I attended this party.  Remember that- it's important.  


7th Grade School Photo

Right, so I was in seventh grade, which back then was the first year of Junior High: a whole new environment.  Suddenly, I was thrown in with so many new kids from other elementary schools in the district.  Quickly, cliques and a social pecking order formed.  I was in an academic section, and, if not at the bottom of the popularity scale, I was next to last.  I kept to myself for the most part, as I didn't want to be picked on.  


One major social addition to school was school dances.  Many people my age know what they were like- boys gravitated to one side of the gym while the girls were on the other with little mingling (except for the really confident guys who were high on the social scale.)  They played the hits of the day over the loudspeakers.  Two songs I distinctly remember were Keep on loving you by REO Speedwagon and Sad Eyes by Robert John.  No one danced to the fast songs, as no one had figured out how yet, but slow songs saw people couple up to slow dance (at arm's length of course).  I think each grade had their own dances at this point, so there were no bigger kids there.  At least I don't remember any.  In any case, these dances were formal, which for me meant polyester jacket and tie from Sears.  That's not what I wanted to wear.  

Page from 1979 Sears Catalogue

At one of the early dances (October?), someone told me I should ask a certain girl to dance, as she thought I was cute.  Me?  So, I screwed on what little courage and asked her to dance.  I'll call her "Susan", but that wasn't her name.  Susan was in my section, so I saw her every day, but never knew she, or anybody, even knew I existed.  We danced, chatted about whatever, and shared the next dance as well.  


I don't remember the exact timeline, as I wasn't keeping a journal at that time, but it was around Halloween that I received an invitation to a party at the home/farm of a classmate in Limerick, which was extremely rural at the time.  I was absolutely shocked!  I learned that I received the invite because Susan liked me.  I didn't wear a costume- my mum made me wear a shirt and tie.  Hell, I didn't know what people my age wore to parties!  As a result, I was the only one there not in costume and the only one wearing a tie.  I remember Susan wearing a pale blue and white dress and the hostess wore a white sweater and dark slacks.  

Page from the 1979 Sears Catalogue

The party was on a farm.  I remember cows and an electric fence.  I remember both as I remember that someone dared me to touch the wire fence.  Zap!  The party itself was held in a small outbuilding: a large shed or something like it.  There were benches around three walls, and it was lit by candles.  There was some food, but I don't remember what.  It was very cold outside, and the shed was heated, but I forget how.  I remember the Cheshire smile crescent moon dancing through scattered clouds.

The hostess was one of the popular girls- I'll call her "Amy."  Amy was ahead of some of the other girls, puberty wise, as she had a shapely, feminine butt, yet small breasts like her peers.  Amy wanted to be a model and may have had the looks for it if she filled out right.  As it was '78, her mane of brunette hair was styled Farrah Fawcett style.  

For the beginning, everyone sat around talking about school and such- everyone else there previously went to Limerick elementary, so they knew each other.  Also, there were older kids there.  I knew a few people: the hostess, Susan, and a male classmate.  There were maybe 7 or 8 others aside from them. 

At one point, Amy started talking about pairing off "like this" and started making out with the guy next to her.  I was sitting next to Susan, and could sense her unease.  So, I excused myself to go to the restroom, which was in the main house.  When I returned, I was met outside the door by a classmate (I don't remember who,) who awkwardly told me that Susan "isn't that kind of girl" as I thought.  I replied that I wasn't that kind of guy, and we went in the door.

You see, I figured everyone else was where Amy was in her "maturity" and that I was the only one who was so far behind.  It wasn't true, really, but still, half the people in the room were passionately kissing while the other half sat around awkwardly.

An eternity later, my mum arrived to take me home from the party.  I couldn't leave fast enough- I felt so awkward.  

Looking back, I now wonder how Amy was sexualized at such an early age.  She'd obviously done this before, and, judging by the way the guy was groping her, was enjoying it.  I wonder if something horrific happened to her as a child.  Horrible thoughts, I know, but was her behavior normal, even for that time?  As I was (and am) socially backwards, I don't know.  

I assumed everyone my age was having sex by the eighth grade, and I had no clue how to attract a girl.  I didn't realize that, being a very rural school district, people "started" a little early, nor did I realize that a lot of their talk was simply bluster.  


Some changes occurred over the years

Now, all these years later, so much has changed.  I finally left my secret behind years ago, and finally experienced some of the changes I so wanted back when puberty was still in my future.  Of course, I still suffer the after-effects of decades of testosterone poisoning, and will never have feminine hips, etc, but I'm as close as I'll ever get to being the woman I should have been.  


So why think of all this now?  Why did this memory push forward after all this time?  Simple: I was 12 when I attended that party.  My classmates were 12-13.  

My daughter is now 13, and in seventh grade.

As I've been absent for most of her life (due to being thrown out all those years ago), I can only hope that she'll make the right decisions for her, and not succumb to peer pressure.  I know that I can't "bubble wrap" her to protect her from life and growing up.  

I think about my teen years, and some of the decisions I made.  As I was a social outcast, I didn't have to make a lot of the decisions that other kids had to make, like about drinking, drugs, and sex.  These weren't options for me until my later teens/ early twenties.  By then, I'd already had that desire to help others and the burning need for justice, so I saw things primarily in black and white.  There was right and wrong, and everything about my life was wrong.  Yes, I knew that shades of grey existed, but I didn't want to see them.  It was only in college that I saw that such right/wrong situations were rare, and that everything was grey: a continuum.  And it took me so many years later to realize that are very few binaries in the world, and gender is not black and white, male and female.  Yes, I am a woman, but I'm not like natal women.  I'm somewhere in the grey.  I can wish all I want that I had been born with a female body, but wishing won't make it so.

All I can do now is hope that my daughter is smart enough to learn from mistakes, and listen to what her mother and I can give her.  I hope that her life is so much better than mine (it already is, as she doesn't have to wake up each morning thinking about how she's in the wrong body) but I want so much more for her.  Above all, I want her to find the happiness in her teen years that I never did, and the happiness in life that I still can't find.  

As for what happened after that party, Susan and I never dated.  She quickly lost interest, and eventually so did I.  In fact, after seventh grade, we rarely spoke.  She, Amy, and I eventually graduated together.  The only other time I ever spoke to Amy was at graduation.  The memory is just a fragment, but a powerful one as it recalls who and where I was at that time.  My first party invite.. and last until my senior year... and in so many ways I disappeared; faded into the background.

I hope my daughter doesn't do the same.



Saturday, May 8, 2021

"WTF are You Supposed to be?"

I walked out to my car to go to work at around 12:30 (Friday).  It was already a difficult morning- even putting my clothes on became a war, making me late for the cardiologist appointment; traffic was horrible (graduation weekend plus end of finals); I hadn't eaten or drunk anything so I was hungry.

So, bad mood already.

Got to near my car, which is parked up on the street (I don't have a parking permit), and some fat asshole with a Ford F-small penis pickup truck parked maybe four spaces ahead shouts at me "what the fuck are you supposed to be?"  

He was in his 50s or 60s, crew cut, beer belly, grubby t-shirt.  Truck had a "trump 2020- f*ck your feelings" bumper sticker.  

I saw red, and started picking targets.  I dropped what I was holding and started toward him, first slowly, then started running.  He jumped in his truck and left before I reached him.  He obviously didn't expect any sort of reply, especially from some woman bigger than he was.  


Pic taken hours later.  At the time, it was just my car and his truck on the street


In that short eternity that I headed toward him, I heard every insult I'd endured since re-emerging as Sophie in 2008.  Every slur and misgendering since transition.  Every heartbreak.  "Lighten up!"

    "Can't you take it?"                 "F*ckin' fagg*t!"       "Damn you make an ugly girl!"
                            "Who are you trying to fool?                                     "YOU DISGUST ME!"
"Thank you, SIR!"    "God hates trannies!"       "F*cking freak!" "They found Lisa in Essex.  She's gone."
 "Fat ass dude ain't foolin' no one!"  *points and laughs*  "she wants you out of this house by Saturday." "You're an abomination in the eyes of God." "hear about Nikki?  Killed herself last night." IDontFeelanEmotionalConnectionWithYouAnymoreWhydon'tYouJustDieandDoUSallaFavorOverqualifiedWe'regoingtogoinadifferentdirection...
she committed suicide last night.  Anyone hear from xxx?  She's missing.  Can someone get over there? Jumped from a radio tower.  Transgender woman murdered in... 


If I'd reached him, I would've hurt him.  Bad.  Not feminine? Being female doesn't mean being a door mat.  And I have had ENOUGH of abuse.

Sorry- another downer entry.  

I must say though- the look of utter Terror in that coward's face was delicious.  He knew he'd screwed up and a reckoning was coming.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Men of the Skull Chapter 67: Room Pricks

There's something bittersweet about the end of a school year in college.  Most people get four of them- with the last one being final.  As a transfer, I got three at PSU.  The first three mean a summer apart: from the people and place you love.  I desperately missed PSU over the summer.  I missed the freedom, the parties, and the people.  Yes, I still saw Virginia over the summer, but the relationship was already falling apart.  

Penn State was already my home, and my parents' house was a purgatory.  I stayed away as much as possible- working two bartending jobs.  I was working during my grandfather's funeral that summer.  Going back for Arts fest was one of the best weekends of my life, as it reminded me to be grateful for what I had.

What I didn't know is how different the experience would be when I returned in the fall, for so many reasons.  That first year at PSU was the best of my time there, but I didn't know that at the time.  

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

Chapter 2.67: Room Pricks

Friday, May 1, 1987 FBI knew of North’s contra work

            Suit and tie were required- not just the jacket and tie that allowed many brothers to show up in shorts or whatever.  This was a big deal- Senior Dinner, and more important: Room Pricks.

            Senior dinner meant that several tables were lined up near the dining room fireplace separate from all the others.  These were for the guys graduating that semester.  Everyone else sat in their normal spots.

            Dinner was very fancy- the seniors had a veal and crab dish that Sparky prepared.  The rest of us got catered lasagna which wasn’t bad.  When we finished, the Deltas cleared all the plates and shots of good bourbon in nice rocks glasses were set in front of each senior.  The rest of us had beer in plastic cups distributed by the pledges. 

            Maple, the Alpha, raised his glass.  “To the class of 1987: you will be missed.  Go far, succeed, and always remember you are a SKULL!”  Everyone (except the seniors) started to sing.

Hail to thee, loyal Skull House, Sweetheart of my youth,
Crown'd thy brow with fadeless laurels, Pledge we now our troth.
Join in chorus, wake the echoes,
Shout it loyal chaps!

BUMDEBUM BUM BUM BUM!
Here's a toast, now drink it hearty,
Hail, all hail Skull House!

With that, the seniors drank their shots while everyone else chugged their beer.  Then, one by one each senior threw his glass into the fireplace, shattering it for all time.  When all were broken, the brothers surrounded the senior table and the new alumni.  There were handshakes, hugs, and maybe a tear or two.  After all, this was Goodbye to Big Brothers, Pledge Brothers, or just treasured friends.

The seniors then left for the Adam’s Apple to drink together as was tradition. 


This sounds so sad- an opportunity lost to...?  May 1, 1987 Collegian

The rest of us?  It was time for Room Pricks!  LPC or pledges set up a keg near the kitchen.  Two huge brown papers with a map of the Bone’s third floor on one and second floor on the other were hung on the wall above where the seniors were so recently sitting.

The whole thing was run by the Pi (Academic chairman.)  The rules were simple.  Oldest pledge class chose first, and then in order as time went by.  Within a pledge class, the selection went by GPA: best GPA chooses first.  The person can choose any available room, and can also “pull someone in” to his suite as a suite mate (or roommate if desired.)  Also, the first person in a suite chose which of the center doors would always be locked, thus assuring that no one would walk through his room to the center (suites were three connected rooms).  Got all that?

So, why was it called “Room Pricks?”  Often one guy would keep talking for weeks about how he wanted a given room, just to have a guy above him in the picking order take that room on purpose, or pull someone into that room, again just to piss that guy off.

Why?  Because it’s Room Pricks!  You don’t need a reason!

Anyway, my big question was when would I pick?  Would I pick with Spring ‘85, which is when I pledged?  Would I pick with the pledge class that was initiated just after I arrived?

Nope.  I picked dead last.

Where's Squee?  May 1, 1987 Collegian

So after an hour of screaming, yelling, laughing, chugging, and one near fistfight, there was one room left.  As last to choose, I was asked if I wanted it and I said “yes.” 

The room was on the second floor, front side of the house above the club room.  It was very small and it was the first one a person would pass if heading down the hall toward the icebox.  The guy in the center room of the suite, Wags, was really cool, so that helped.  I didn’t want an asshole marching through my room at all times of the day and night.

I would have a roommate, but I hadn’t met him yet.  He was a football player from Penn transferring up next year.  I guess the “football player” part allowed him to avoid the bullshit I had to tolerate.

Oh well.  I didn’t matter.

 

I was IN!!!!

 

 Next Chapter

Last Chapter

First Chapter

 


Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Men of the Skull Chapter 66: Toga '87

Every fraternity at PSU had a "signature" party in my time.  For example: Beta Sig had Regatta, Fiji had the "Islander", and Delta Sig hosted the DG anchor splash, where people chugged goldfish.  Skull had Toga.  It wasn't the most original idea, but the way it was executed is what made it special.

The few times I see brothers from my time, the stories almost always go back to Toga, and each year they get more legendary, exaggerated, and distant.  Parties like Toga (and the Islander and a few others) could never happen today.  Everybody records everything and there's so much money to be made in litigation, etc.  The fact that it can't happen is not a bad thing.  As I re-read this chapter, I was struck by the privileged misogyny of it all: how casually some of the brothers regarded women.  Not all- some.  But the problem was that they were typical guys of the times.  They wanted to revel in their youth and enjoy themselves- we were all still kids playing grown up.  Most of us had no idea of the consequences of our actions, and we didn't really care.  All I wanted to do was be a part of it.  I was complicit.  

There are many stories that the brothers of my time don't want told publically as we age, and they usually involve Toga.  I occasionally will soften something in the book or remove something by request, yet part of me wonders: why should I?  Why should I when 90% of the brothers treated me like dirt?  My answer is always the same: because they are my brothers.  

Toga was about letting loose.  It was about proving manhood to each other- outdrink, outfight, outlast.  Dates were a secondary thought to many- and the women tended to hang with each other anyway, watching either in drunken amusement or horror at the antics- and each year, we kept trying to outdo the year before.  

Reading it now, the tone shocks me.  This was one of the first chapters I wrote for the PSU part of the book.  I sense the anger and frustration in my words.  I attended three Togas as a student (87-89) and three as an alumnae (90-92.)  I didn't attend Toga 93 because that's the weekend I married my Wife.  Also, I no longer wished to attend parties where I was at best tolerated, not wanted.

Now, living here in State College, I visit the house occasionally.  The current brothers have no idea that I was a transfer- now I'm avoided because I'm transgender.  Same old song with a few new lines, really.  

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

Chapter 66:  Toga ‘87

Saturday, April 25, 1987 Dollar plunges to record low, driving stocks down, interest up

            All I’d heard was all year was about one event- one party that dwarfed all others.  Reputations, nicknames, and legends were made all on that one day.  Skulls spoke of it like little kids talked about Christmas:  TOGA.

            In case you’re from Mars, or Amish, or just returned from a deep space mission, I’ll explain this.  A Toga party is simply a party in which everyone dresses in togas (usually bed sheets.)  A toga is a thing that was supposedly worn in ancient Rome.  Therefore a Toga party has a Roman theme to it, including the orgy (hopefully.)  Shit- you ever see “Animal House?”  There’s a whole fucking toga party right in the middle.  And if you haven’t seen it, why are reading this?

Toga '88: the chariot approaches

            Skull Toga was the biggest party of the year- the one where we pulled out all the stops.  Toga was always the Saturday before the last week of classes: the end of Greek Week.  As this was Skull’s biggest event, sorority girls would kill, die, spread, or do lesbian scenes to be invited.  Of course the girls from the sorority doing Greek Week with us were in prime position for invitations. 

            It went without saying: a brother bringing a date was going to fuck her.  Sex was the Price of Admission.

            Greek Week flew by with the necessary participation.  We were doing it with Pi Phi and they were much more into it than us.  Oh we won our share of events, but overall the brothers didn’t give a damn.  Was it that the brothers thought they were above all that rah-rah shit?  Or were they saving their energy?

            Friday morning the pledges were at the house early.  When I arrived for lunch, they already had half the house spotless.  This was also an “all hands on deck” thing.  If a brother didn’t have a class he was expected to help.  After all, the alumni were coming.  Most pitched in.  Most.

           

 Early Toga '91, before noon.  Selfie.

            Friday night was “Pre-Toga.”  Fancy name, isn’t it?  This was a private party for brothers, alumni, and girlfriends.  (No mere “date” rated an invite to this as a date was just a fuck and nothing more.)  The bar was top shelf- just like Homecoming.  

            Of course I brought Virginia.  She wore a sleeveless pink top with a long, tight, black skirt.  I wore the dark blue, purple, and black shirt that Julianne gave me and tan pants. 

            Just like Homecoming, the alums tended to stay with others from their time.  The current brothers were all getting wasted, some of them announcing that that they would drink all night and through the next day.  Whatever.

            I saw only two pledges and they were outside on the covered part of the porch watching a pig roast on a very large contraption.  The pig (which they named “Tri Delt”) would be ready around noon the next day.

            I drank Absolut screwdrivers.  Virginia drank keg beer from the usual plastic cups.  We stayed close, stealing caresses and kisses when we could.  You see, I intended to fuck her somewhere in the house that night.  Where I wasn’t sure yet- probably in one of the girl’s bathrooms or the Quag or maybe on a couch in the attic.  It was Toga- I wanted to get laid in the house.

            Maple staggered over to me, well maybe staggered is a little harsh.  He was listing hard to starboard as he drank directly from a full pitcher of beer.

            “Hey Lancer!” he said, and then burped.  “You’re in the house this fall.  Congratulations.”  He shook my hand, spilling beer from his pitcher.

            Huh?

            The news took a second to sink in as I shook his hand.

            “Th-thanks!”

            “Room picks are next Friday after senior dinner.  Suit and tie.  Be here...”  BURP!  “…by six.  Drink!”

            He handed me the pitcher.  I handed my screwdriver to a smiling Virginia and drank a little.

            “Chug motherfucker!” he shouted.

            I drank as much as I could then handed him back the pitcher.

            He nodded and said “Remember: six o’clock” and staggered away.

            Virginia gave me back my drink and a kiss.  “I told you those assholes would let you in!” she said smiling.

            I smiled and we toasted.

 


The "Horse " Toga '90.  But they're not standing.

            The night danced forward.  I figured I’d finish my drink then take Virginia to some quiet place and get noisy.  Double D walked over to us, holding a big bottle of Absolut vodka. 

            “Hey Lancer!  Bet I can out-chug ya!” he said, thrusting the bottle into my hands. 

            Hell, even I knew that this was serious misuse of good vodka, but he was offering so…

            I drank some.  He drank more.  We both grimaced.  Double D shook his head like a dog shaking off the rain.

            Virginia smiled and asked “Can I try too?” in a voice dripping with ‘feminine vulnerability.’  She slightly widened her eyes and straightened her shoulders, which pushed out her breasts.

            I smiled.  She knew exactly how to get what she wanted from a guy.

            Double D smiled and handed her the bottle.  As I said, this was one of the big bottles: better than a foot high, maybe four inches in diameter, of red label hundred proof hard core goodness.  Maybe a third of the bottle was left.

            Virginia smiled wider and thanked Double D.  She then lifted the bottle to her lips and chugged.  And chugged.

            And chugged!

Finished the bottle!  The whole fucking bottle!

            Did she puke?  Did she wince?  Nope.  Just wiped her mouth with the back of her left hand as she handed the empty bottle to Double D with her right.  Double D and I looked at each other, wide eyed, then at Virginia- a fragile looking girl- who looked at us.

            “What?” she asked.

            I started to laugh as Double D stumbled away with his now empty bottle.

            “Think he’ll ever… offer me a drink again?”  Virginia asked.  Sounded like it was finally hitting her.

            “No, I can’t s-say that he…he will.”  Whoa!  Tongue not working.

            We stayed a little while longer.  Finished my drink.  By then Virginia had finished two more beers and was staggering and she was getting belligerent.  Time to go!  Fuck her here tomorrow!

 

Me: Toga, '90

            The next day was typical State College: cloudy and cold.  The high grey and white sky suggested rain, but not seriously.  I woke up around ten.  I didn’t feel too badly.  Gravity was a little heavy but that was all.

            Virginia went home the night before.  She’d show up at Toga at noon.  All the dates were arriving at noon.  In fact, no dates were ALLOWED before noon.  I guessed this was so everything would be set up before they arrived.

            I showered, ate a little breakfast and called Virginia.  Judy answered.

            “She’s really sick” Judy said.

            “Virginia hung over?”  I was shocked.

            “Yes.  She won’t be able to go to Toga with you today.”  Judy’s tone was flat- emotionless.  I was getting used to hearing it that way.  For a moment, I thought about inviting her.  She’d look awesome in a Toga.  She may enjoy it.  Maybe even have a few drinks and loosen up and…

            Stop!  That’s dangerous thinking.  Fucking a roommate got me into enough trouble already.

            But you’re still fucking her.  Every day and night.  So it turned out ok didn’t it?

Yes it did, and I don’t want to screw it up.

            But it’s Judy!

Yes.  Yes it is.  I’ll invite her as friends.  No- Virginia wouldn’t understand.  And why am I trying to fucking justify it?

Because it’s Judy.

           

            “Ok” I said into the phone.  “I’ll stop by later.”

“She’ll be here but I won’t.  Richard and I have plans,” Judy said.

Tying a toga is easy if you know how.  Unfortunately I didn’t know how.  I figured out something using my unwashed bed sheet, five safety pins, and a string.  I wore sneakers, the toga and that was all.  I’d been told by many people that no one wears anything under their togas!

I walked up Beaver Avenue past lots of traffic.  It was Blue/White as well that day.  (Blue/White is where they divide the football team into two squads: Blue and White, and they scrimmage.  A lot of alumni came back for it.  Since Phi Psi died, Blue/White has become the spring homecoming.)  A lot of people shouted comments at me.  I expected it- I’d shout things too!

“Nice dress!”

“TOGA!”

“Want a date babe?”

I arrived at the Bone at eleven.  The pledges had been busy.  First, the wooden hurricane fences surrounded the property, keeping the unwashed plebian hoards out.  In the front yard to the right of the path as I headed up toward the house was a log held maybe four feet off the ground by specially made supports.  Old mattresses covered the ground under and around it, as did some muddy pillows.  So there we had drunk guys standing on a log beating the shit out of each other with pillows until one fell off.  Welcome to Toga!

 

On the left side of the top of the stone steps a tall pole made from broomsticks taped together rose from the bushes.  Atop this pole was a roll of toilet paper.  Really.

The real work happened inside.  Almost every stick of furniture on the first floor was gone (upstairs in the hallways and in the basement if you must know.)  The walls all over the first floor, except for windows and fireplaces, were covered floor to ceiling with brown paper, like the stuff grocery bags are made of.  Brothers wrote all kinds of insults all over the paper with markers that were scattered all over the floor.  I looked around a bit and found some directed at me.  “Lance- no one likes you!  Go away!”  “Lance!  GTFO! (Get the Fuck Out!)”  and that sort of thing.  Apparently this was a brother’s chance to cut loose on another brother without fear of reprisal (aside from other’s could write about him!)

The dining room was empty except for the old mattresses all over the floor. 

In the club room a large painting of a classical Greek/ Roman village hung over the back windows.  It was maybe twenty feet long and maybe five feet wide.  God only knows how old it was.  In the middle of the empty Club room was a stand holding a large brass fountain, the top of which was taller than me.  Bubbling a shooting from the fountain was a red liquid with ice and fruit in the bowl below.  This fountain contained French 75s: a powerful drink with vodka, champagne and other nastiness.  Sure we had beer, but Toga meant French 75s.

Surrounding everything: the abuse walls, the windows, the stairs, everywhere, was layered with Laurel Vines.  The pledges gathered them the night before at a state park not too far away.

This was Toga- half the Hood was Drunk, high, or both already (still?)  The only thing missing was the dates.  They were being gathered. 


Toga '88.  That's the painting and fountain in the pic.  

One of the brothers drove a truck with a rented flatbed trailer, like the type used to pull the homecoming float.  He went around the dorms to pick up the sorority girls (apartment girls had to walk) at various pick up points.  (I always wondered what the waiting girls talked about…)  Someone put a rail around it to keep people from falling out and labeled it with a large sign “SKULL TOGA PIG CART.”  Yeah, I know- and the girls got aboard anyway.  Such was the power of Toga.

Me?  I drank and watched.  Watched as more brothers beat the shit out of each other on the log.  King was especially good at it.  Some of the brothers dragged a small plastic kiddie pool onto the front lawn, filled it, and sat in the pool drinking.  Many brothers lost their footing and toppled off the porch into the bushes, laughing.  The pig continued roasting on the side porch, but the brothers were circling (especially the stoners.)  What’s a little disease between brothers anyway?  And over it all, the Grateful Dead blasting from the ubiquitous window speakers.

Sugar Magnolia blossoms booming Head’s all empty and I don’t care.

Drivers honked their horns as they drove by.  Toga-ed alumni arrived from nearby hotels.  Flounder fell hard on his back from the log after King clocked him hard in the head with a pillow.

Then a cheer from the assembled brothers- the Pig Cart arrived!  It pulled in front of the steps where the squealing girls bounced off the trailer and up the steps.  They took much more care in tying their togas- more to cover.  All of them wore crisp clean white sheets.  For that matter, so did most of the brothers.  The pledges “borrowed” sheets from a nearby hotel’s laundry room.  We returned them on Monday- really!  Muddy and abused, but we did return them!  The girls’ arrival marked the unofficial beginning of Toga.  The official beginning?

At 12:15, the pledges disappeared.  The Deltas (kitchen bros, remember?) took over serving the hopefully now-finished roast pig.  LPC took over security at the steps back and sides.  Where were the pledges?

  At 12:30, Detour shouted “Chariot!”  Turning the corner from S. Pugh Street was a chariot done in black and gold and pulled by pledges!  (It was our chariot race entry from Greek Week- how convenient!)  Riding the chariot was the pledge captain, Windex, completely nude with words and designs scrawled all over him in black marker, drunk out of his mind, and holding aloft a flaming torch made of, what else:  a pole and a roll of blazing toilet paper.  His pledge brothers pulled him down the street and stopped in front of the steps to the cheers of the Hood and the assembled people on Beaver Avenue and assorted apartment balconies.  Torch in hand, he ran up the steps and lit the toilet paper torch that waited at the top!  Cameras clicked, brothers shouted, and toilet paper burned as he held the torch high over his head.

Toga had officially begun!

The whole house became a whirl of drunken activity.  Dancing, chugging, flirting, pissing, here we go falling backwards into the bushes.  I tried the pillow fight log and Veal knocked me halfway to Beaver Avenue!  It didn’t hurt- French 75s are a great anesthetic. 

            Went inside to take a leak.  Up to the second floor where I was greeted by the familiar pot smell, but stronger.  It seemed to come from everywhere.  I half expected to see clouds whisping out from under doors.

Goodbye Mama and Papa!  Goodbye Jack and Jill!  The grass ain’t greener, the wine ain’t sweeter either side of the hill.

           After an hour or day or something I was out front again when Beef and a few other brothers stumbled out the front door.  They all had headbands made of torn white sheet decorated with a large red spot and some black characters- their attempt at Japanese I guess.  Drawn all over their bodies with red magic marker were more attempts at Oriental lettering.

            They were the “Samurai:” a little club they put together that added members each Toga.  Actually, I think it only existed at Toga.  They liked it- it’d been happening at least five years at that point.  So why?  Well, it was a chance to “initiate” someone by getting them incredibly drunk and high.  That was it as far as I know- I wasn’t Samurai.  Just another way to exclude others I guess. 

            Anyway, the Samurai were silent, grunted only to each other and drank a hell of a lot.  Real positive fucking additions to the party.


New Samurai: Toga '90 (I think)

            Nine-mile Skid on a ten-mile ride.  Hot as a pistol but cool inside.

            Toga churned on through the cold afternoon.  I was hit several times by thrown pig parts.  Brothers passed out from the porch into the bushes that other brothers had been pissing in all day.  Of course, having people lying in these bushes didn’t stop other brothers from continuing the public urination.  Probably encouraged it.

            A huge crash!  Dairy knocked over the entire fucking French 75 fountain!  He was coated in red liquid and alcohol soaked fruit.  Some people laughed, some cursed- I mean the fountain was rented after all.

            The chant began quickly “Swirley!  Swirley!”  and continued louder.  “SWIRLEY!  SWIRLEY!”  Dairy laid on the floor trying to wring the drink from his toga into his mouth.  He knew he fucked up and he was prepared to pay the price. 

Saint, Veal, and Flounder carried him off to the girls head below the stairs for his well earned swirley.  A few other guys fixed the fountain.  Within minutes it was refilled with fresh bubbly red goodness. 

I don’t know, maybe it was the roses.  All I know, I could not leave her there.

Back out on the lawn, two girls sat in the kiddie pool having a splash fight.  People on the Penn Tower balconies cheered and passing cars beeped their horns.  The girls were wearing their togas correctly- nothing beneath. 

People were beginning to pass out all over the place, especially on the mattresses in the dining room.  This meant that there were now dateless girls…  It was a great day to be a Skull.

Unless you didn’t have the guts to talk to the now dateless girls.  Or if your girlfriend was at her apartment with a hangover.

There I was at the best party I’d ever seen- the event of the year, the gathering that defined us as a house… and I was bored.

Yup.  Bored.

Party’s no fun if no one is really talking to you.  So, figuring I’d leave soon, I finished my drink and grabbed two more.  Chugged down one as I watched two Samurai play tug of war with either end a of laughing girl’s toga.  Headed up the Brotherhood steps, avoiding two red puddles of puke, to the bathroom so I could take a leak.  Saint was in the shower, water running, banging some chick from behind.  Her cries gave me a hard on making it difficult to piss.

But piss I did, and when I finished I had a nasty drunk idea.  See, it bears repeating that the plumbing at the Bone was old and that flushing a toilet meant a sudden rush of scalding hot water in the shower.  And that motherfucker had done nothing but get on my shit since I met him.  Still with me?  Right- I quietly washed my hands and took the two steps to the door (the urinal is right next to the door.)  Opened the door, flushed the john and got the hell out.  As I plunked down the Pledge steps I could hear them.

“AAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGHH!!! MOTHER FUCKIN SONUVABITCH!!!”



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