Friday, April 7, 2017

Keystone Conference 2017- Passing Moments

The Ninth annual Keystone Conference was held last week from March 22-26 at the Sheraton Harrisburg/Hershey.  I have never missed one to date.  Over 700 people attended this year's conference, which again sold out the hotel and spillover hotels.

Each year, I take away something different from the conference.  Usually, I present a seminar as well.  This year, I learned a few things, met new people, and saw old friends

Some memories stand out- scenes from a week.

With the Gorgeous Stephanie Wardlow Friday night

Wednesday night, I went to the Lancaster Brewing Company with a few dear friends.  Mary was the first to leave the table, so while she was gone, I informed our waiter, Arlee (who looked like Dean Cain) that it was her birthday.  So as the meal was winding down, Arlee brought a bread pudding dessert, and we all sang Happy Birthday to her.  She looked like a deer in the headlights.

She didn't want the dessert.  Now, during our dinner, three busloads of ladies from the conference arrived at the restaurant.  This was a Vanity Club run shopping function for attendees.  There was dinner then a shopping trip to a Dress Barn that was staying open after hours just for them.

L to R:  M, Kimberly, Mary, Stephanie, Ashlee

Leading that group was Vanity Club president Colleen O'Donnell.  Knowing that, I took the dessert, and went over to the area where that group was sitting.  I called for the crowd's attention, told them it was Colleen's birthday, and then everyone sang to her.  Colleen looked ready to kill me.

Oh, it bears mentioning that I have NO idea when their birthdays actually are.

Later that night, I was sitting at the bar speaking to my dear friend Gina Marie Conners.  A guy who looked like Touche Turtle came over and stood behind me.

Guy: Are your toenails painted?

Me: Yes

Guy: Can I see them?

Me: No.

Guy: Can I suck on your toes?

Me: No. I'm married.

Guy: I don't see why that means I can't suck on your toes!

I turned my back on him.  That's when I noticed what was sitting on the bar in front of me.


Thursday night was karaoke night.  I tried a different song this time:  867-5309 (Jenny) by Tommy Tutone.  It was, unfortunately, recorded.  So... HERE it is.  You were warned.

Friday morning, I was having breakfast with a couple of girls, when a few tables over, a girl stood up and fluffed out her gorgeous natural black hair.  She swished it side to side like a hair model in a commercial.  All three of us at the table commented about how jealous we were.  She and her companion walked past our table, and I mentioned to the Hair Model how amazing we all thought her hair was.  She smiled and thanked us, and her companion pointed out the hair care regimen she was on.  She then pointed out how dry MY hair was, and how it needed some products.  I said that I thought products dried it out.  She said "absolutely not!  And believe me- I KNOW hair!"

I looked at her nametag.  "Dr, Marci Bowers."  I stood and introduced myself.  She smiled and shook my hand.  So I had a Rock Star of the community tell me my hair was too dry.  I have since purchased moisturizing shampoo.  Oh, and the hair model?  According to Marci's website, her name is Angelita, and she works with Dr. Bowers.

Friday I spent some time in the hotel hot tub with some friends.  I wore my Star Trek bathing suit.  Most of the other women rocked bikinis.  And I mean ROCKED!  A woman wearing a black one piece came in who I didn't know.  I was struck by her beauty and poise.  She kinda dismissed me though, but was friendly to many others.  Oh well.  

Tonight's Special:  Boiled Sophie

Friday was also the Vanity Club dinner.  It was the largest Vanity Club dinner to date, and was held at Duke's Bar and Grill, which sounded like a redneck dive bar.  I was very pleasantly surprised at what it really was.  We had to walk through the entire bar, with a Friday night crowd's eyes all following us, but there was no trouble.  It was a wonderful time with amazing people.

Saturday morning at 9 AM was my presentation:  Crafting your Coming Out Letter.  This was my first time doing this particular seminar, and I'd re-written it twice.  Where my other Keystone seminars had a light touch, I set the tone for this one as serious.

I started with my story, then my letter to my parents.  Using that, I had the class draw inferences, and went into structure.  I emphasized that this is a One Way Path, and is deadly serious.  I had an audience of eight, most of whom stayed the whole time.  I received good reviews.

My bestie Linda was enthralled by my presentation

Saturday afternoon was a Vanity Club social.  Wine was free.  I brought Jack Daniels.  

I also made sure that Gina West was invited.  You see, I met her Wednesday night.  It was her second night out- ever.  Yet she seemed so comfortable and genuine.  I was so impressed.  She was speaking with someone for whom it was the FIRST night out.  Both were gorgeous and seemed like they'd been "out" for years.  I bought them both a Laphroaig scotch to toast.  On Thursday, I bumped into Gina again, and she said she was "still tasting the scotch."  So I bought her a Jack Daniels as "mouthwash."

Me, Jack, and Gina

In any case, she was at the social, where we spoke some more.  Hell, at MY first Keystone, I was scared to leave the hotel room.  Here she was mingling like she was a GG.  Yes, I was jealous.

Saturday night was, as always, the Gala.  I had some trouble finding a seat.  After some rearranging at one of the VC tables, I was seated next to a person from another table.  Dana was wonderful company.  She pointed over to another table and mentioned that she knew Sandy Empanada.  So we started talking about Lisa.  After a few minutes, Dana said "Wait a minute.  Sophie... you're Sophie LYNNE?"  I said I am.  We continued discussing Lisa, but the questions became more... personal.  How it affected me, etc.  She'd heard of me through mutual friends, and of my connection to Lisa.

She would later write to me:

Didn't realize I startled you.  I had seen your pics and writings connectected to Lisa's story as well as here and there online.  When I sat down I was about 12 inches from your face, a much different perspective than seeing a digital, full body photo on the computer.  

... I suppose hearing Lisa's back story was illuminating.  So many people were quick to attribute her death to the stereotypical hard life of most TS's. Certainly that was a component but, like I suspected, there were many more moving parts.

Gala Gown

As usual, I spent the rest of Saturday night in the bar, chatting with dear friends.  I had a wonderful conversation (and several drinks) with the incredible Diana Fronterhouse from Arizona.  She and Donna Rose co-host a wonderful podcast The Deeper End.  Required listening!  Diana was just fun to speak with and went movie line for movie line with Linda and myself.  No small feat!

Lacy, Me, Linda, and Diana

Sunday, Linda and I had breakfast with friends, packed and left for home.  And, as always, I think of what my dear friend David Denton wrote about the end of the conference back in 2013.  I'll close with that.

"It was eerie. When I close my eyes and think about the walk to the Dog & Pony on Sunday morning I swear I can hear dying echos of the most genuinely delightful laughter. It's like hearing ghosts from the past, Sophie."

Be well.

No comments:

Post a Comment