Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kimberly's Writing Challenge: Route 23.

My dear friend and fellow Vanity Club sister Kimberly Moore challenged me to write a story.  I always love a writing challenge!

So the topic she gave me was this:

Write a story about 4 unrelated people in cars and how their separate lives intertwine...but not in a car wreck.

500 words or more.

And I get to challenge her back.

If anyone else wants to do a writing challenge, I love doing them.  I do them with my dear friend Kim Hufford occasionally (though she hasn't finished the last one yet!  *GLARES*)

In any case, here's my 893 word story.  I call it Route 23.


John closed the car door.  It was a long day.  Here it was, a Friday night, yet he wasn’t happy about the weekend.  According to the clock behind the bar, it was now past 11 PM.  Seven hours ago, he was called into his boss’ office, and told that despite his twenty one years of service, he was being let go.  That the kid he’d been training was his replacement, not just a summer intern.

He was escorted off the grounds after someone brought him his coat.  They would mail his personal items to him.

Some of his coworkers joined him at The Patriot, which was just off Route 23.  They had some drinks.  He had five. Bought him dinner.  Now, here he was.   Alone in his car.  48 years old, and out of a job.  Now he had to go home, and tell his teenage daughter, Heather, that things were going to be different.  That he was unemployed. 

He missed his wife, now dead these five years.  Heather is her spitting image.  He felt his eyes mist as he thought of his daughter.  He wiped his eyes, put his car into gear, and pulled out onto eastbound Route 23.

Amy waited at a red light, left turn signal blinking.  Another Friday night: another failed date.  How many dates were just like this, since… since the divorce?  So here she was, sitting in her damn cream colored SUV alone.  Again. 

It’s hard enough to find a date at her age, she thinks.  Most of the guys are jerks and expect sex on the first date.  This guy didn’t even try to be nice.  She met him through OKCupid and agreed to meet at that new Mexican place.  She didn’t even finish her first margarita before he asked her to… to… oh she didn’t even want to think of it!  She stormed out, and went to one of her favorite places with the great wine list and cheese platters.  Her favorite bartender was there, and he even bought her a drink after the three glasses of wine it took to tell her story.
She drinks too much.  That’s what her husband used to say.  And then he got custody of the kids.  Maybe he’s right.  Maybe she needs help.  That’s it.  Tomorrow, she’ll stop drinking.  Again.  This time she’ll make it work!

The car behind her honked its horn.  Oh!  Green light!  She turned left onto eastbound Route 23.

Charles was driving west.  In his passenger seat of his truck was his baby: an AR-15 with all kinds of extras.  It’s got the Magpul grips and the Aimpoint sight and the Geisselle Super Tricon trigger.  Yeah, she’s sweet.  Got several spare thirty round clips too, before the damn liberals take them away. 

Somewhere out there is that cop; the big black one what arrested him for correcting his wife IN HIS OWN HOME!  Man’s home used to be his Goddamn castle ‘til them damn liberals had to go and spoil it.  Now she got that “protection order” from that liberal judge what says he can’t go within a hundred yards of her.  Damn bitch never had it so good.  It’s all that n****r cop’s fault too.

So Charles was going hunting.  He was going hunting for that cop.  He was gonna make it right.  Damn cop thinks he can do that IN HIS OWN HOME and get away with it?  Yeah, tonight he was gonna find that cop and make that cop beg for mercy and then shoot that cop dead, then go and get even with that bitch wife of his and then everyone will respect him and no one will mess with him again! 

He took another swig from his bottle of Kentucky Gentleman, and continued west on Route 23.

Juanita sat in her cruiser.  She’d been a police officer for nine years, since she returned from her third tour in Afghanistan.  She liked helping people, and as her papi was a police officer as well, she felt she was “carrying on the family business.” 

It was another Friday night, and she parked her car by the side of the road.  Lights were flashing everywhere and her fellow officers were finishing setting up the flood lights.  The signs were already in place: “Sobriety Checkpoint.”  Her first part of the night would be to pursue anyone trying to run through the check point, or anyone who did an illegal U turn to avoid it.  Later, she would take her turn checking drivers through the lanes, and handing out pamphlets to those who were sober.  The ones who weren’t would be directed into the parking lot of the Bull Tavern, which was big enough for the Mobile Crime Lab.

A mile behind her was town.  Maybe three miles ahead was the huge mall, with all its bars and restaurants.  This spot, right after a curve, was perfect for a checkpoint as drivers couldn’t see it until they were on top of it traveling in either direction.

Checkpoints were usually pretty routine, but every time they had one, they’d catch some people who shouldn’t be driving.  Maybe she and her fellow officers could prevent an accident before it happened.  An accident like the one that killed her papi. 

She shifted in her seat, and trained her eyes down the road ahead of her: down Route 23.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Goodbye Nittany

Nittany joined our family in November 1999.  She was a rescue dog from the Philadelphia SPCA.

In the months before, our house suffered a break in.  The thief came in through the deck door, and was staging things when I came home.  He got away, but was eventually caught when he tried to pawn our camera (we keep serial numbers.)

In any case, Wife and I got a security system that very day, and debated getting a shotgun.  Wife was VERY against that, so we compromised on a baseball bat and a Dog.

I grew up with dogs, mostly German Shepherds.  Laddie was a beagle, then Lady, who died in a day, then Sheba, then Sabre.  Sheba and Sabre lived with us around the same time.  Sheba was put to sleep when she was seven due to hip dysplasia.

Sabre died of cancer in August 1983...  days after I purged my female clothes.

That accelerated my spiralling depression, from which I've never really recovered.

My parents never got another pet.

Somewhere in the late 90s, Wife and I adopted a rescue cat named Casey.  The deal was, she gets a cat, then later I get a dog.  Now, after the break in, I was getting a dog.

Wife's youngest brother was in veterinary school at U of Penn at the time.  The students were in charge of spaying and neutering all pets that came through the Philadelphia SPCA system.  We asked him to keep an eye out for a German Shepherd.  A couple months later, one came through.  He adopted her for us.  She was a German Shepherd mutt; mixed with who knows what.

She loved hiding under the bed when she was younger.

And so it was that on a cloudy November day, I first saw Nittany poke her snout through my front door.  Casey saw her too, and promptly ran upstairs.  Youngest brother gave me her short orange nylon leash, and I held her for the first time.  She sniffed me and gave me a quick shlurp to the cheek.

Her name was Julie, and she had been surrendered by an old lady because she "chewed too much."  She was four months old.  I named her Nittany.  She explored the house, then promptly christened the basement in front of the TV.

She also loved the papasan at MIL's house.  Winter 2000.  

I have many stories about Nittany.  About her running faster than the wind- she'd fold her ears back and fly.  One day at Valley Forge Park, she caught and tackled a deer, both at full run.  About her being bad.  About her being Good.  Her chewing the cover off of Dog Training for Dummies.

So many years.  So many stories.

She was a charmer.  She loved (almost) everybody, and (almost) everybody loved her.

Nittany had allergies.  She was allergic to many things, and they made her itch.  One thing she was allergic to was wool.  Yes, my shepherd was allergic to sheep.

It took time, but I eventually trained her to do some tricks, and to sit on command.  Her favorite trick, however, I DIDN'T teach her.  She would go up to people (when on carpet) burrow her snout under her chest and do a somersault using the person's legs as a balance and push-off.  She wanted a tummy rub.  And she made the funniest faces when she got them.

Eventually, she became too old to do that trick anymore, so I would assist her, guiding her hips over, so she could complete the trick, and get her tummy rub.

It became our greeting ritual.  I would get on my knees, and she would jump up and put her front paws on my shoulders.  She would sniff my ears.  I would pretend to sniff her back.  She would then dismount, I would stand, and she would do her somersault and get her tummy rub.  When her hips betrayed her, it was just the somersault.

She kept getting older and slower and greyer.  Daughter was born, and Nittany would sit next to her in her little carrier or when Daughter lay on the floor.  Daughter was afraid of Nittany at first, but grew to love her.

On the day I was thrown out, in August of 2013, the last thing I did before leaving the house was to call Nittany to me.  I had her sit.  She knew I was upset, and folded her ears back.  I hugged her and sobbed.  I thought I'd never see her again.   When I was done hugging her, she reared up to put her paws on my shoulders and lick the tears from my face.

She did that sometimes.

After that, I rarely saw her.  Maybe once or twice a month.  She kept getting slower and more infirm.  We took her to the vets, and they X-rayed her hips.  They said they'd never seen a more advanced case of arthritis.  I asked if she was in pain.  They said she wasn't, but that eventually she may be.  Wife and I discussed it, and decided that we'd cross that bridge when it came.  That was late 2013.

She kept getting slower and sleeping more.  One week in 2014, I was watching MILs house, and I bought Nittany a bone.  You see MIL didn't like her having bones as they were messy.  I liked seeing my dog happy.  It would be the last bone she ever got.  I recorded her chewing on it, briefly.

In 2015, we learned that she had issues feeling her paws, and it was making her walk a little gingerly.  Was she in pain?  No.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016.  I was working a closing shift.  Early in my shift, I was called into the office and got a talking to about my "attitude."  I deserved it, true, but it put me in a VERY sour mood.  Just before 6 PM, Wife called the store.  A manager came to tell me she was on the phone, and he took over for me on register.  Wife told me that I needed to come to the veterinarian's office where she brought Nittany, as the dog had collapsed and was unable to walk.

I received permission to leave, and drove as fast as I could to the office.  On the way, I called Wife and asked her if it was bad.  She said "yes." I asked her if it was time to have "THAT discussion."
She said "yes."  A couple of minutes later, I arrived at the vet.

I was shown into an examination room.  Wife and Daughter were there, tears in their eyes.  Nittany was lying on a blanket next to a wall.

The Last Night.

I hugged Daughter, then Wife, then kneeled and petted Nittany.  She looked up at me, panting.  Her eyes looked so sad.

Wife told me that she found Nittany on the floor, unable to stand.  They brought her food and water, and tried to help her stand.  She couldn't do it.  So they brought her to the Vet.

I was petting Nittany when the Vet walked in.  I stood, and greeted him.  I summarized what I'd been told.  He concurred and told me that she had lost all feeling in her hind quarters.  She couldn't feel them anymore.  They were no longer functioning.  I asked him if she was in pain.  He said "Probably not, but she is going to be very frustrated, as she'll never be able to stand.  So that will cause her pain."

I nodded.  Then I looked over at Wife, a question in my eyes.  My Wife of 23 years read my expression, and quietly nodded.  I quietly asked the vet "how long will it take?"

He said he would inject her with a sedative, then ten minutes later, he would inject her with the drug which would slow her heartbeat and respiration, and then stop it.

I looked at Wife, then back to the doctor.  I said to him "We're going to need a minute or two."  He nodded and left the room.

Then, I sat on a stool, and explained to Daughter what was happening, and asked her to help her mother and I make a decision, as we are a family.  I told her that we were thinking that Nittany would "never come home again."  Daughter asked if she could come visit the dog.  I was crying then.

"No [daughter], you can't, as she'll have gone to heaven.  She will be dead."

She started crying.

Can I drive?

I asked her if we could do this, to help Nittany out of pain, to help end her suffering... to show her that we love her.  She agreed.  I turned to look at the dog.  She was looking up at me, her ears back, panting.

She came into my life almost 17 years before.  I told Wife many times, that if this time were ever to come, I wanted her to pass with my arms around her.  I wanted her to know how much she was loved.
Nittany looked up at me. She knew we were sad.  And there was nothing she could do.  I started to cry harder.

I turned to Daughter, and told her I needed her to be brave.  I needed her to be strong.  I needed her strength, and so did her mother.  And so did Nittany.

The doctor came back with a needle.  He then handed me a paper to sign, which I did.  It was giving my permission to kill a member of my family, then cremate her.  He then knelt and looked at me.  I nodded.  And he gave the injection.

I then turned Nittany on her back and gave her a vigorous tummy rub, and she smiled.  Then, rolling her back, I massaged her ears.  She loved that, and gave a low appreciative growl.  Then a second.  She would never make another sound.

I made a quick video of her.  Later, Wife would accidently make a much shorter one while taking a last picture.

I looked at Daughter, and said "It's time to say goodbye to her, [daughter.]  And she did, crying.  Then it was Wife's turn.  Each took a few minutes.  We took a few last pictures.  Wife also inadvertently took a short video.  Then Wife said she would meet me outside.  She and Daughter left me in the room alone with my Dog.

I knelt next to her and petted her.  I sniffed at her head, and she sniffed my ear, then gave me the lightest shlurp, barely touching me.  I kept petting her.  Far too soon, the doctor re-entered the room with an assistant.  They had a pan, which held a large needle filled with pink fluid.  He also had clippers.  He looked at me again.  And again, I nodded, through my tears.

He shaved a little of her left hind leg, then prepped the needle.  I held Nittany close, my arms around her head, my hand by her nose, so I could feel her breathing.

It was 7:45 PM.

Nittany had been deaf for years, so she probably couldn't hear me speaking to her, telling her how much I loved her.  How sorry I was.  How much she meant to me, and how I would miss her.

I told her that we would meet again someday.  And that it was time for her to be free again- to run swift as the wind as she used to, through green fields under a blue sky.

I told her again that I loved her, and she stopped breathing.  I felt her last breath on the palm of my left hand.  I looked at the doctor, and reached my right arm across her to scratch her back.  I sobbed, saying "she's gone."  Then I buried my face in her neck and cried.

The doctor, after an eternity of seconds (I'm guessing after checking a pulse) quietly said "She's gone."

I then heard him and the assistant leave the room.  I lay on the floor holding the lifeless body of my Nittany, crying loudly.  I didn't care who heard.

My Nittany was gone.

The Last Picture.  My Fakest Smile, trying to be Brave.

I clutched at her fur, bawling.  I knew she was free, but I hurt so much.

Nittany was 17 years and two months old.  According to a dog age calculator, based on her breed, her life expectancy would be 9-13 years.  In human years, she was 98.1.

Eventually, I let her go.

I looked at her face.  Her eyes were partially open.  I closed them.  After a second or two they popped back open slightly.  I looked into them.  They were already fogging over.  I picked up the shaved fur as well as gathering a little more.

The vet came back in, and I stood, straightening my skirt.  I thanked him for his help.  His assistant came in to take a paw print in clay.  He also had a small baggie, into which I put the fur.  He told me that he should have the ashes back from the crematorium on August 8th, and that we could settle the bill then.  I nodded.  I then turned, knelt, and removed her collar.

Nittany hated having her collar removed, because it usually meant "bath time."  And she hated water.

I held her collar a moment, then put it in my purse.  I then looked at my Nittany for the last time on this Earth.  I then turned and walked out the room, and then the building.

Wife and Daughter were outside by Wife's car.  Both were speaking to a man.  He was one of the other dog owners who had been in the waiting room.  He deduced what had happened, and came outside.  When I arrived, he walked away.  I then hugged my daughter, and she began to cry.  So did I.

I looked down at her and said Nittany has gone to heaven. I told her that she was young and free and running again.  And that she would watch over us.

After more hugs, Wife and Daughter got into the car and drove away.  I walked to my car, and cried more.

I then drove home, parking in the back parking lot.  The sun was setting beautifully, and the high clouds were rimmed with fire.  I got out of the car and looked up to the western sky.  I quietly asked my dearest friend Lisa to watch over Nittany until the day came that I would be reunited with them both.

That night, Nittany came to me in a dream, something that had never happened before.  She was young. Her fur was black as night.  Her tail was wagging joyfully as she panted, looking at me, ears straight up. She then folded her ears back, and ran- ran like the wind.

She was Happy.

I woke crying.

I love you, my Puppy.  Until we meet again,

Goodbye Nittany.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

For Dani's Report

My dear friend Dani is writing a report on gender identity in children.  I was honored to be asked to contribute.  Her question was...

 I was mostly curious as to what age you were when you formed your gender identity (feminine) and what sorts of environmental influences affected you in terms of how you presented yourself socially in "masculine" form (parents, teachers, peers).

This is my response, edited a bit to keep some things private.

Thank you for the opportunity, Dani.


When did I first know I was female?  When did YOU know?  My first conscious thought of it were when I was four years old.  There were only three girls around my age on my street growing up back then (this was 1969-70.) 

One lived across the street.  She was my age, and her name was Dawn.  Another lived up the street, and I forget her name, but her older brother George hung out with my older brother, [OB].  When we played “team” games, George and OB would be on one side, while she and I would be on the other.  The third was named Tammy.  He parents were very strict, and we rarely saw her.  About 1970, she was hit by a car.  We never saw her again, as her parents moved away.  In fact, we kids had no idea if she even survived it.  Every other kid on the block was a boy, and all were older than me. 

I had no problems playing with the girls. It never occurred to me that they were “different.”  The boys on the streets made fun of me for it (and everything else) so I didn’t hang out with them.  I saw myself as “one of the girls.”  And when I was with them, I was happy. 

I was four years old.  I was already dreaming of being a mommy one day.  I wondered why mommies had boobs, and when I would get mine.  As I saw my mom every day, I assumed women were in charge of the world, and that daddies just enforced their will.  I quickly learned differently. 

Kindergarten, 1971.  I was four when this was taken.  

One day, again when I was four, I remember distinctly.  It was a bright warm day: mid-summer.  Dawn lived across the street from me, and we were playing “house” in her yard.  Now, the house I grew up in was slightly elevated, so there was a clear view of this yard from there.  Later that day, my dad came home from work, and I was called indoors.

When I went in, my dad was in the “dining” room.  Mom and OB were nowhere to be seen.  My dad had his belt in his hand.  He called me into the room with him.  I don’t remember the exact words he used, as I was terrified.  You see, I was already used to beatings.  In any case, he told me, in so many words, that no boy of his was going to grow up to be a “sissy” (that word I remember) and forbade me from playing with the girls.  Then to emphasize the point, he beat me with the belt for what seemed an eternity (but was probably about a minute.)

I’m guessing OB must’ve told him what I was doing. 

The street where I grew up (pic from July 2016)

I don't really blame him- he knew what "different" boys were up against, and didn't want that for his son.  As for the beatings- EVERY child was beaten in that era.  It was a given.  Ask any guy my age, and he'll tell you.  We used to compare method- how some dads preferred belts, some switches, some their hands.  That's the way it was then.  Times were different.  As for the results, well, look it up- there's lots of scholarship on the topic.  And many people my age wonder if the end of corporal punishment isn't why younger generations "don't have any respect for things."  That's a different story.  Back to the topic.

In any case, I had to do a crash course in “Guy.”  My dad was obviously the model: angry, gruff, no nonsense, hardworking, hard drinking.  The other boys on the street loved playing sports or “Army,” neither of which I was any good at.  I was always picked last for teams.  Their favorite games were tackle football (played on the asphalt parking lot) and “smear the queer,” on which the person with the football would be gang tackled by everyone else.  “Smear the queer” was somehow always called when I had the ball.

We played football here. Pic from July 2016

This was the 70s.  In the news, I saw images of Vietnam, and of women fighting for their rights.  My dad and grandfather always had choice words for those “bitches” who “didn’t know their places.”  And God forbid if the topic of Gay people came up.

I knew I was different, and that I had to play a role.  So I watched the neighborhood kids and my dad.  And I stayed to myself as much as possible as I didn’t like being beat up.  Every summer, OB and I worked on tasks assigned by my dad- chopping firewood, chipping cement off bricks, digging the garden… chores that built strength and work ethic, I guess.  After all, dad was raising Men.  Many summers, we had crew cuts.  Meanwhile, the girls’ hair got longer, and they wore dresses and played happily.  I watched them as I worked, but I did not cry.  Crying was for sissies… for girls.
In the late 1970s, I saw a news report on “transsexuals” on the news.  And I froze.  That was me!  I knew the word for what I was.  My dad and grandfather did their usual rant about queers and how they needed to all “go away.”

When I was growing up, being a boy meant being physical.  Fighting, running, sports… taking pain without complaint or crying.  And when my early teens arrived, the girls began to change.  They started becoming women.  And I… was left behind.  I was a late bloomer anyway, so I was ostracized by everyone.  I cursed the hair growing on my chest.  My voice deepening.  I felt cursed.  

I started dressing in my early teens whenever the house was empty.  Eventually, I used money from my paper route and Burger King to amass a small wardrobe.  I knew that I were caught, I’d be beaten to death and thrown out.  But, I HAD to do it.  I HAD to show my feminine side.  I HAD to see a girl in the mirror.  I rotated hiding places for my stash, and it was never discovered that I know of.

And, in August of 1983, I stopped dressing, as "MEN don't do this.  Only FREAKS do."  Depression set in.  I had been doing martial arts- trained by a friend who was a Green beret, and lost an arm in Vietnam.  Now I channeled my rage and self-anger into fighting.  I isolated myself.  I wanted to die- badly. 

I started doing rescue work.  Maybe I'd get lucky and die a hero...

I lived my life of absolute hate and misery all through my life, punctuated by rejection by any woman I wanted to date.  “I don’t see you as a guy.”  “Let’s just be friends.”  “You’re too nice.”  (I dropped my anger when with women.)

First suicide attempt in 1990.  By then, I was drinking heavily. When I was drunk, the wolf didn’t have me by the throat.

I met my wife in 1991.

Daughter came along in 2007.  She was a surprise, as I didn’t think Wife could have children. 

Then, Halloween 2008.  The seal broke…

July 2016.

Monday, July 25, 2016

What It's Like

There are times that every molecule of my body screams for the Light that I know is waiting on the other side. It is worse than the dysphoria, and for many years they sang together in harmony.
The dysphoria is mostly gone (except for a slight male detail). Now it's just the Darkness, and the Peace it promises.
But I'm too fucking stubborn. I have things that NEED to be done before I go.
And so I keep going.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Bad Decisions

My life has been a series of bad decisions.

It started when I decided to serve Humanity.

So I became a paramedic.  A Volunteer.  I paid for my EMT training out of my Burger King money (later classes were sponsored.)  And I helped people.  I watched people die.  Some I even knew.  I have seen horrors that I was powerless to stop.   I volunteered for this.

That's me on the left

Then, in college, I decided to serve Humanity more by becoming a teacher, and in so doing, consigning myself to never making a decent living.  I decided that the welfare of future generations superseded my own.  And for this, I was reviled and insulted and told I "obviously wasn't smart enough to get a real job."  Called Lazy ("teachers only work 9 months out of the year") despite 80 hour weeks.  Told that the fact that Johnny can't read was MY fault... despite the fact that I taught High school.  All this for 1/3 of what I made bartending.

My 24th birthday, working at TGI Fridays.  Teaching career was over by then.

And bartenders get FAR more respect than teachers.

Other people chose to help themselves above all, and they are the one driving Porsches and living in the McMansions.

There are so many huge houses around here.  Are there THAT many good jobs around?  Am I so incompetent and stupid that I can't find one?  Or am I just unqualified?

I have a Masters degree in Education.  It may as well be in basket weaving.  And I am buried in the debt caused by that education.  And the student loans, despite my keeping up with them, keep getting higher.  And even when I declare bankruptcy, they will be with me.  (Maybe the state will sell my body for parts to make up for it after I'm gone.)

Why am I buried?  Because I can't get a job in that field.  I'm obviously not hirable.

I mean, would you hire a non-passable transwoman in a customer facing position?  No, neither will they.

I mean, I have been directly told that I am not even competent enough to be a retail manager!  It's not an easy job, and I know some amazing people in those positions, but kids who drop out of high school get that job.  But not me.  I'm not management material, I guess.  Don't want to scare away the customers.

"Despite your qualifications, we decided to go in a different direction..."

I keep choosing to help others, and where has it gotten me?  I can't even sleep at night.

Now here I am; under the poverty level with no hope of ever climbing out.

My Bad decisions keep piling up on each other.

If I had half a brain, I would have taken a business major, or stuck with engineering and made a lot more money, or maybe gone into law. but no, I had to help people. Hell, maybe I should've followed my dream of a writing degree, but No- I had to be the martyr.

I had to help others.

And I have the scars to prove it.

This is what I often see in my dreams.  And I don't mean newspaper clippings.

Is it because I think their lives are more important than mine?  Is I value them FAR more than I value Me?  That my life, in the end, is totally worthless but maybe, just maybe, someone I help can make a difference?


Bad decision after bad decision after bad decision.

Sometimes I think I should have been a sociopath, as they are the ones who are in control.  They don't care who gets hurt- they just make money hand over fist, and never see the consequences of their actions.  "Too big to fail."  That means too RICH to jail.  They laugh while we suffer.

And take the blame.

Within 90 days, if not sooner, I will be unemployed.

Someday soon, I need to make a good decision.

Monday, July 18, 2016


I miss Gaming.

I miss rolling dice.  Moving counters (or models.)  I miss being with friends for a night spent in our imaginations.

I played Hobby games from Junior High until 2003, when Games Workshop and I parted ways. For 13 years, I worked in the gaming industry (Chessex, TSR, GW). I've played board games with friends a few times since. But those friends seem far flung now.
Now, I have no one left to play with.
Play. Such a simple word. Such a simple thing. My daughter lives to play. And I can't do it any more.
You'd think after the way I grew up, isolated and alone, that I'd be used to that.
I never got used to it.
My scars are many and deep.
And I don't play any more.

Counters. Avalon Hill's Squad Leader.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Day in DC for Kim

*A quick aside*
Things in my life took a major turn for the worse.  I won't discuss it, as it was family related, but I WILL say that I appreciate everyone's messages on FB and otherwise.  A Special thank you to Prof. Jennifer Finney Boylan who took time out of her busy schedule to call me offering sage advice.

Thank you all!


On the morning of Wednesday July 13, 2016, I woke early, showered, troweled on makeup, and jumped in the car.  My roomie and bestie Linda Lewis and I were headed South to Washington DC.  Destination: Hyatt Regency Capitol Hill.  We were going to hear my dear friend Major Kimberly Moore, USMC (ret) speak at a symposium on Transgender in the Military.

After a few wrong turns, Linda and I finally arrived.  We had a very over-priced lunch, then met Kim at the bar.  She was gorgeous at always, and, as always, fussing and primping neurotically.  (Remember Kim- you ASKED me to write this!)

After a bit, she went to change into her new Dress Blues- the female version.  She looked amazing!

Linda, Maj. Moore, Fat chick

We then went to the room, with Linda and I carrying all of the Major's gear.  Seriously.

She knew EVERYBODY.  And she even introduced me to many of them.  Linda? Everybody knows Linda.  *Internet Goddess*

Assigned Seats

Attending was Kristin Beck, Senior Chief USN Seals (ret).  I've met her several times, and she's always wonderful!  I expected her contribution to the cause of Transgender Service in the Military would be acknowledged, but it wasn't.  She does SO MUCH for us!  I was disappointed.

I also was introduced to Paula Neira (USN) who I heard of many times.  It was an absolute thrill to meet her!

With Paula

The room was filled with military brass:  Generals, Admirals, it seemed all ranks and branches of service were represented.  Even the British Army were represented by the wonderful Captain Hannah Winterbourne.

I could go on forever about all the wonderful people I met.  Instead, I'll just list them (in order of appearance):

Major Kimberly Moore, USMC (ret)

Captain Hannah Winterbourne, British Army

Major General Gale S. Pollock (US Army, ret)

Captain Sage Fox, US Army (photo by Michael Kay for the Washington Blade)

Peter Levine, Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness

Nathaniel Frank, Ph.D.

Lt Colonel Victor Valenzuela, US Air Force (picture from Twitter)

Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD)

Rear Admiral Alan M. Steinman, MD, USPHS, USCG (ret)

Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA)

Staff Sergeant A. Nazzal, US Army

House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith (D- WA)

Linda pointed out to me that we were witnessing history, and she was right.

About 3/4 of the way through, Kim (who was sitting to my left in her assigned seat) excused herself.  After a couple of minutes, someone took her seat.  I whispered that it was "Major Moore's seat" and she whispered back that she would move.  I then recognized her: Dana Beyer!  After a few more minutes my right leg began cramping (as it has been the past few months) so I grabbed my writing notebook and told Dana that she could have my seat.  As I was leaving the row, I tripped over Nathaniel Franks' briefcase, thus making a fat fool of myself.  Within a minute, Kim returned.

(As it turns out, Dana and I have a mutual friend: my "Big Sister" Mel knows her quite well!)

I stood in the back among many people jotting down notes and taking pictures.  Behind me was a table with plastic cups and pitchers of water.  The guy next to me turned back to get some water and his elbow crashed right into my left boob.  OWWWW!  He apologized and we had a quiet laugh over it.

A Soldier taking furious notes

After Nancy Pelosi finished her part, she was being ushered out by her staff, but stopped in front of me, probably due to the bottleneck at the door.  I took my opportunity to say "Leader Pelosi, thank you for all you do!"  She smiled, thanked me, and shook my hand.  Then she was off.

Then it was over, and people broke into groups, chatting away.  I spoke to many people- introducing myself to some, being introduced by others.  One person was a veteran who was taking many pictures.  It turns out this veteran had JUST come out as transgender a few days before.  I posed for a few pictures with Linda and Kim by her.  So Hi Donna!  :)

Linda, Kim, Ms. Creosote (Pic by Donna Newgirl)

I suggested that we grab a drink before Linda and I got back on the road.  Kim agreed, and I also invited Paula Neira.  I also invited someone else I'd just met: Ashley Broadway-Mack.  She is the spouse of Lt. Col Heather Mack, and is a wonderful person!  So the four of us shared a drink in the Hyatt bar before Linda and I took our leave.  We walked the few blocks through the soupy summer air to the parking garage, and my car.

Of course, going home during rush hour took a LONG time.

However, we had one more stop to make.  Just inside the Pennsylvania/ Delaware border is one of the three McKenzies' locations.  This one is our (Linda an I) friend Val is now the manager.  We rarely get down that way, so we took the opportunity to stop and see her.

 With Val

We arrived back home at 10 PM.  We both had work the next morning.

This WAS a moment in history.  People like Kristin Beck and the others listed have been working hard for this for years.  Someday, being transgender may not be a big deal to American society (it wasn't for Native Americans) but I don't think it will be in my lifetime.  However, this was a MAJOR step toward that day.

I have three great regrets in my life:
1) Being born.
2) Being born trans.
3) Never serving in the military.

I have immense respect for those who DO serve, as do most Liberals (despite what the GOP says.)  We respect them enough that we don't want them sent off to die for a Lie or for profit, and that they deserve full benefits for serving.  (Again, unlike the GOP.)

Because of the work of these people, transpeople may now serve the United States openly, and with Honor if they wish.

Which is all they wanted to do in the first place.

Be well!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

I'm Sorry

I'm sorry that my posting on the blog has been irregular of late.  There's been an issue.

I have several entries that I started, but haven't finished.  They are about various events in my life.  Visitors, events, travels, letters... even a final entry.  Yet, they sit unfinished.

Many times I sit looking at an open writing notebook, with an empty page... and stare at it, unable to write it.  And, occasionally, I'll try to write directly on the computer (as I am now) and just stare at the monitor.  And my mind is as blank as the screen.

There's a reason for this, and it's a familiar one.

The Darkness has me by the throat.

I'm sure you're all tired of hearing me whine about this.  I was trying to do what Lisa did- not let on about it- just keep smiling and pushing on.  But Lisa was FAR better than me at that.

I can't fake it any more.  Another failure.

The situation at work (which I discussed HERE), and the associated money issues, are crushing me.  My roomie and bestie, Linda, is facing major money problems as well.  I want to help her, but I can't.  And that makes me feel even worse.  Hell, I had to ask Wife for help to make rent this month, and I still have an outstanding cable bill and a medical bill to pay, then THIS month's bills which are coming in.

Never mind the fact that I keep getting misgendered at work, even by coworkers (yes, HR was contacted.)  One customer even called me a "tranny."

Male, Apparently.

I actually got a raise at work, despite being capped.  I was very surprised, and very grateful.  It amounted to a 1.9% raise.  (And I've been there 12 1/2 years.) My rent also went up this month... by 6%.  So I'm losing ground fast.

I've had some great "victories" of late.  I mean, I was interviewed by a major Philadelphia newspaper!   So I should be floating and happy and stuff!  (And even the shitshow in the comments didn't faze me!)

After all, it was a Great Honor.  A Wonderful opportunity... which I haven't been able to parlay into anything at all.

Another failure.

I have no idea what will happen next.  Work... Home... I just don't know.

I have today off from work.  I woke up early and stared at the ceiling.  Fell back asleep.  Woke up, tried to write... nothing...

And I just don't know what to do.

Yes, I'm on meds.  I guess they help. I haven't been to therapy since my last therapist retired, despite some generous offers from some people to help me afford it.

I'm just always... so... tired anymore.  No energy.  It's Summer- my favorite season.  I should be going to Valley Forge Park and walking around.  I should be enjoying the Warmth of the Season.  I should be enjoying the company of friends.  Hell, my friend Elizabeth moved into town a few months ago and, aside from helping to move some couches, I haven't been to her place, and I haven't had her here.  And she's like a mile away.  My friend Katie lives just down the street, and I visited her ONCE, and that was for a party.

The apartment is a mess, and it's my stuff scattered everywhere.  I'm disgusted with myself, but I haven't made much of an effort to tidy up.

I just have no energy.  No drive.  I figure whatever I do will end in failure, so why bother?

I've been Here before, so many times.  The Darkness.

As the song goes "Hello Darkness my old friend."

So that's the issue, dear readers.  That's why you haven't read about my trip to NASA, or Dr, Dave's recent visit.  And I know you've noticed.  I'm still losing subscribers.

Maybe I should just stop writing for the public and just write in the notebooks just for me.  That's where most of my writing is done anyway.  But I haven't even been doing that.

I DID update my resume today, to add my Outreach talks at Universities.  So I finished that, for what it's worth.

On the way back from NASA, I stopped in Baltimore; at the site of Lisa's death.  I wasn't alone on the trip- my dear friend Amy D was with me.  I told her where we were.  After a couple of minutes, I asked her if I could have a minute alone.  She hopped back into the car (which I left running) and I spoke with Lisa for a couple minutes.  I told her how I'm feeling, and did my usual crying.  And, as always, received no answer.  Because she can't answer.  But it felt good to talk to her.

Lisa's Spot.  Note the remainder of the butterflies Sandy placed there last Christmas

In any case, I guess I'll just ride it out.  Again.  Like I have Every Other Time.  Hopefully, it will lift soon.

Or Not.

Thanks for your patience, those who stick around.

Be Well.