Monday, November 27, 2017

Book Excerpt: "Sailor's Ball" 1987

Another chapter from my never published book.  Yes this really happened, though I changed the names (and nicknames) to protect the guilty.

There is Profanity in this one-  just saying.

As with all the chapters, they begin with the date that the event occurred, followed by a headline from a newspaper from that day (usually the Philadelphia Inquirer.)  In this case, I added pictures (and  links) which didn't appear in the manuscript.

Comments welcome.

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Chapter 2.62: Sailor’s Ball

Friday, April 11, 1987 Scarfo Held in Slaying of Testa 

Holy Shit!  A bright sunny afternoon in State College- so welcome after all the rain rain rain!  Everyone in State College had pruned fingers due to all the rain.  Thought Noah was building his ark somewhere up near Beaver Stadium.

My phone rang as I was writing a Shakespeare paper on my Mac.  It was Virginia.

“Hey Lancer!  Pink Elephant is having a big Greek only fundraiser today.  Would you care to accompany me?”  The last sentence she said like a snooty rich person.

“Sure!  When?”

“I’m at the house now, so come over anytime.  Wear letters, Skull!”

The great decisions of College: finish my paper or get shit faced?  Yeah, like that was a hard decision!  I tossed on my yellow letters hooded sweatshirt, which was beginning to look a bit ragged.  I then walked over to Crow house where I met Virginia out front.  She was wearing her maroon letters hooded sweatshirt, tight jeans and boots.  I loved that look!  I was so turned on!  I wanted to fuck her right there on the lawn.

Catty corner from Crow House was Pink Elephant: Delta Sigma Phi.  They lived in a huge mausoleum like house painted pink, which is why I assume they had that nickname.  What came first?  The name or the paint?  Hmmmm.  Anyway, out on their front lawn were bunches of greeks all colorfully dressed in their letters.  There were pink topped Tri Delts, green shirted Lambda Chis, magenta and silver Phi Sigs, baby blue Dee Gees, and so on.  Every house seemed to be there.  Except Skull.


Pink Elephant, circa 2015.  Collegian photograph by Camille Stefani

Virginia and I walked across the street and joined the line at the door.  We showed our student ID and paid five bucks (going to charity) and We were IN!

Sailor’s Ball!  Down to the basement party room where there were three wading pools full of little orange goldfish- each maybe and inch to an inch and a half long.  Several kegs of beer were set up around the room, as well as pledges behind the bar, so even as crowded as it was downstairs there was no shortage of beer.

Goldfish.

“Why all the goldfish?”  I said to Virginia over the loud music.  Gotta love the Hooters:


        She said something back I didn’t hear.  Then I saw: a Phi Psi grabbed a goldfish from the pool, dropped it in his beer, and chugged the beer!

Swallowed the goldfish!

What was this? The fifties?

Then I noticed others doing the same thing.

“What?”  I asked Virginia.

“You swallow them!” she said.

“Why?”

“Because that’s what you do at Sailor’s Ball!  I think the house that swallows the most gets a prize.”

“I would think sororities swallow the most.”

Virginia punched me hard in the shoulder.

“I’m not swallowing no fuckin’ goldfish,” I said.

“Wuss!”  Virginia said.  She accepted two beers from one of her brothers who happened to be at the keg.

“It would be flapping around in my stomach!  I mean- it’s still alive down there!  Then when you take a dump it’s staring at you!”

The Crow brother joined us.  “No, what you do is stick the fish into your beer and chug the beer.  The alcohol kills the fish instantly.”

There’s that chugging thing again.


2017:  Goldfish Chugging Survivor

The Crow grabbed a fish out of the pool, plopped it into his beer and down it went!  Sorry Charlie!

“How many is that for you?”  Virginia said.

“Six!” he said, then burped loudly.

“C’mon Skull!  You’re not going to let a Crow outdo you are you?”  Virginia said.

At that exact moment, I saw two of our pledges chug down beer fish.  Fuck.

Ok.  Grabbed a fish out of one of the pools.  It wriggled and fought.  Into the beer.  Drank as fast as I could.  Gagged.  Gone.

Holy shit!  I just swallowed a goldfish!

Virginia downed one as well.  I took her cup and went to the keg where I saw the Skull pledges.  They saw me, high-fived me, took my cups and started to fill them.


Me in 1987, around the time of this story. Members Only jacket!


“Hey Lancer!  We saw you swallow a goldfish!  Pretty cool, isn’t it?” said the tall one, Windex.  He was six fourish, with long arms and spiky hair.  He was wearing a black shirt with his pledge pin.

“Yeah, I guess.  How many have you guys done?”  I said.

“I’ve done four,” Windex said, “and he’s only done two.”

“Three!” said his pledge brother, Brick.  Brick was incredibly muscled- a body builder to the max.  He was maybe five eight, but I’d never seen muscles like that.

“I just did the one so far,” I said.

“Lame!” said Brick.

“I just got here!”  I accepted two full beers.

“Hold on a second” Windex said.  He had a pitcher he was filling.  He finished filling it and gave it to me.

“We have two we found upstairs,” he said.

“Hey Lancer!  Do one with us!”  Brick said.

Fuck.

“Ok.”

So we scooped out fish, stuck them in our beers and down

They

Went.

Ugh!

Whose fucking idea was this?


No one better than Springsteen for party music.

Windex refilled my beer.  We were hogging the keg, but since we were Skulls (and Brick was so big) no one said anything.  I headed back to Virginia and the Crow brother.


Typical late 80s Fraternity Basement party at my house.  I was standing on a bench.


“It’s about time!” she said, smiling.

I showed her the pitcher.

“All is forgiven,” she said.

“I’m one fish ahead of you.  Did one with my pledges over there.”

She looked.

“Oh yeah?” she said.  Grabbed a flapping fish and swallowed it raw- no beer.  Then she chugged a beer as a chaser.

We’re even, now…”  She grabbed another and swallowed it too.  Flip flap flip flap gone.

“I’m ahead,” she said, smiling.

The room was interrupted by a familiar sound to all: puking.  A purple clad Alpha Kappa Lambda puked into one of the pools.  The fish in that pool began a feeding frenzy.

“I only see two fish in there,” someone said.

“Lame” said a DG near me.

A cute girl pronouncing a guy lame for his lack of goldfish was enough to start a different frenzy- guys started downing goldfish like crazy.


Nothing like George Thorogood at a keg party.  And Springsteen.  And whatever else really.  As long as it rocks.

In the end, I did five goldfish.  I left Virginia there with a group of her brothers, as I needed to finish my paper.

Found out later she did 36.  Thirty six fucking goldfish.  Verified by others.  Fuck!

All I could think of was half of Penn State’s Greek community having goldfish diarrhea that stared up at them from the bowl.

Still, hell of a party.  Have you ever swallowed goldfish?

Lame.



Thursday, November 23, 2017

Watched in the Stall

Thursday November 16, I had to work 11-7.  I wasn't feeling right- my nose was a little stuffy, and I felt run down.  The holiday rush is upon us, and the customers were getting nastier.  I was literally dreading going into work.

I'd injected my estrogen that morning, which, along with the spironolactone, meant I'd have to use the restroom a bit more frequently that day.  That's usually not a big deal- I make sure I have coverage, slip away, do what's necessary, and come back.  And yes, I wash my hands.

Around twenty after 11, I had to use the ladies room.  At that point, I was working at the information desk, and a manager was there, so I went.  The ladies room at the bookstore has four stalls in an L shape lining the right side, with the first bordering a wall, and the fourth being an "accessible" stall.  The door to the second stall was closed, so I went to the first. (There is no "law of urinals" in the ladies room.) 

I was wearing my red "Minnie Mouse" dress. 


The dress, as worn last February

I finished doing what needed doing, sorted myself out, and stood.  I saw a head slowly lowering over the wall of the stall.  Someone in the next stall had been watching me.  African American with close cropped hair.  As we have many African American who frequent our store with close cropped hair, I assumed the person was a woman. 

My first thought was "were they trying to see what I had down there- to see if I'm a guy?"  I was stunned into silence.

I left the stall and washed my hands.  I was in a daze.  I went back to see who it was- no one was in the second stall now, but there was someone in the fourth stall... and they were looking through the crack in the door at me.  I glared at them, turned and left.

Now, a lot of people talk trash, and say things like "if that happened to me, I would've kicked that person's ass!" or something.  Before I "rediscovered" myself, I was a fairly violent person.  I figure I was perfectly capable of kicking this person's ass- but...

But I was completely stunned into inaction.

My next thought was that, as that person is a customer, and I've had it drilled into my head, time and time again that there is NOTHING I can do to customers who abuse me for being trans, that tied my hands further.

I sought out the manager, and told her what happened.  I mentioned that this person was still in the restroom.  I asked if I could confront this person.  I was told I could not- that the "moment had passed."  I went back in anyway, and saw that the 4th stall was still occupied (and I knew no one had left.)

Did they not hear what I said?  There was a predator in there! 

Badly shaken, I went back to work. 

Maybe twenty minutes later, I was on the cash registers.  I saw a different manager walking next to a swiftly walking African American male- late teens/ early twenties.  I recognized his head and hair- HE had been the one watching me.  I heard the manager tell him he was banned from the store.

That's all I SAW in this situation.  I went to the information desk, where the head manager was gathering information about whatever happened with that guy.  I told her what happened to me. 

From here on, it becomes what I'm TOLD.  I'm TOLD that the guy looked in on someone else, and that person cursed him out.  that he was allegedly "special needs."  That his pants were off when he was confronted.  That after I'd first reported what happened, the manager on duty checked the ladies room, and said she smelled something funny, which she assumed to be vomit. 

I cannot verify what I was TOLD.  Only what I saw.

I was very shaken.  Someone else had been victimized- due to my inaction.  Had I sorted this person out, no one else would've been hurt.



In addition to feeling violated- to feeling targeted because I'm trans (turns out that's not why he was looking, but that's how I felt at the time.)  I felt guilty as hell. 

After a couple of hours, I spoke to the store manager about how I felt, and how I felt guilty.  She told me it wasn't my fault.  Told me that the person had been told to wait by the information desk for the store manager to speak to him, but, not being stupid, he bolted.  The other manager followed.  That's what I saw.

That the person was "special needs" and didn't know what he was doing.

My hands were shaking badly.  I was on the verge of emotional collapse.  The store manager asked me if I wanted to go home.  And I did.

I called Wife on the way and told her what happened.  She asked if the store had called the police.  I said I didn't know.  She insisted that I do so.  And when I got back to the apartment, I did.  I called the police and reported what happened.

They said they'd get back to me.  A week later, they still haven't. 

RIght.  It's been a week, and I'm still a little rattled.  By what happened.  By what happened after.  By my (lack of) response.  I am absolutely petrified of going into work now.  I wonder what is the next indignity I'll suffer.  And when I go to the ladies room, I keep watching all around me- waiting for the next predator. 


Get a good look.  Why not?  I deserve it!

Before transition, I never worried about things like using a public restroom.  Now, I do.  I never worried for my safety- trusting in my own strength and skill.  Now, I do. 

Is this what Womanhood means?  Fear?

Do I need to arm myself just to go potty?

And the part that I've been brooding over is that I felt helpless to do ANYTHING, because I was afraid for my job.  Because I thought this person was doing it because I'm trans.  That in some way, society would say I DESERVED it for being who I am.

And that was WRONG that my thoughts went that way.  That those thoughts even crossed my mind.

I'm Tired of the Fear.  I'm Tired of the Hate.

I'm Tired of having to fight Every Day just to be who I am.

Yet here I am.

Be Well.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Dead Flowers at NASA

I was listening to the radio on the way home from picking Linda up at work.  On WMMR, they were playing a block of The Rolling Stones country songs, and of course one of the songs they played was Dead Flowers.

Dead Flowers is a song from Sticky Fingers. I often sing it for karaoke because it's right within my range and it's a lot of fun.  In fact, it's pretty hard to screw that song up- assuming you know the words (and I do!)


Singing Dead Flowers Jan 2014 in New Hope

Whenever I hear or sing that song, it brings me back to an extremely happy memory.  (Yes, believe it or not, I have one or two of those.)  This one is back in June of 2016 when I was invited by Jennifer Finney Boylan to attend her talk down at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt Maryland.  I was one of several to answer the invitation.  I drove down with my dear friend Amy, who I've known for several years.  She's from the same support group I attend.

In any case, we drove to NASA in Greenbelt, and arrived a little early.  It was quite the process checking in, as they check your ID, check your invitation, injections, inspections, detections, neglections and all kinds of stuff, as I guess would be obvious for a facility where they make satellites and that sort of thing.  We first stopped over to Visitor Center and museum, and we had a lot of fun hanging out there- looking at the exhibits.  Then we went over to the main facility, where we met with Jennifer Finney Boylan and the other people who were guests.  We sat in a very short meeting, and then went to the main Auditorium, which is where Jenny Boylan was speaking.  I sat in the front row, off to her right, and of course I made faces at her during the during the talk.


Our Group.  Amy is in the middle

After the talk we were invited to a picnic.  Yes it appears that we happen to be there on the day of the annual NASA picnic and we were invited.  It was a short drive to their picnic area, which had a basketball court, volleyball, some buildings- that sort of thing.  But the part that really stood out to me was a low porch and on it there was a bunch of people sitting having a "hootenanny." A hootenanny is when a bunch of people get together who know how to play instruments or don't, and sing songs.  Anyone is willing is invited to join, whether or not they have talent. I sat and watched for a while (after eating some wonderful fried chicken) and, after a couple drinks, decided that I may as well exercise my vocal cords.


Cringe in fear.

I asked if they knew Dead Flowers and they gave me knowing smiles.  Of course they knew it!  They started the opening chords and I started singing.  One of the people sang Harmony.  In any case, there was about eight people playing various instruments including one woman playing the brushes on drums, and of course Jenny Boylan playing her Autoharp. I won't say it was the best version of the song that's ever been sung, but I truly enjoyed it.  It was a magic moment for me: singing a song just for the joy of singing it and having no one judge (to my knowledge) my singing ability.  Everyone seemed to have a great time, and later that day Jenny Boylan told me I was in "fine voice."



I've never written about this day, I was busy planning my... September event, but now on this very rainy November day, the song came on the radio, and I thought back to that wonderful time.  Many other things happened that day, and that wasn't the only song I sang- I also sang Uncle John's Band by The Grateful Dead. On that one I didn't quite get the words down right, even though I've sung it a zillion times.  At that point I was getting a little tired- I'd been up since four in the morning after all!  In any case, my performance of Dead Flowers was filmed and is up on YouTube.  You can find the link to it HERE if you want.

I enjoy singing and I enjoyed my time on stage.  When I performed in The Vagina Monologues last February, I really enjoyed the reaction when I did my solo piece- the piece that I wrote. It was very affirming that people were applauding something I did- something I added to the whole.


At NASA with Jennifer Finney Boylan

The best part is that while singing at the hootenanny, in front of a bunch of Rocket scientists and a New York Times bestselling author, I didn't feel one bit scared or self-conscious. I was just singing for the fun of it: enjoying myself, and hopefully adding to everyone else's enjoyment.  I let myself go. I was free.  I was singing like no one else was listening.

Maybe this is something I should do more often- not worry about who's clocking me as trans, not work worry about how I'm going to pay the next bill that's due yesterday.  Maybe, just maybe, once in a while I can learn to enjoy myself- to let go.  I think the biggest Legacy of my growing up and hiding all those years is that I don't let go.  I always felt that I had to be in complete control, otherwise my secret would slip.  Yes, I got drunk when I was younger.  Very drunk.  But at that point I was hiding my feminine side so deep that I didn't even consider it.  I knew it wouldn't come out.  I had buried it down in such a deep pit that it would NEVER ever come out.  And we can all see exactly how that worked out.


Buried (November 2017)

Dead Flowers is a wonderful song, and it means a lot to me.  It means more every time I sing it.  I wonder how it feels to Mick and Keith (the ones who wrote it) but, for them, it's one of thousands.  For me it's a part of my life.  A wonderful memory.

Thank you again Jenny, if I haven't thanked you enough for that invitation,  and to those who played with me that day Slainte chugat!

Friday, November 10, 2017

A Thousand Words for a Picture.

On Wednesday November 8, I was pondering.  I was thinking about writing a blog entry about a favorite picture someone took of me.  I figured I could do maybe 500 words about it.  Then I thought, "a picture is worth a thousand words."  Hmmm.  Could I write one thousand words about that picture?  It would be a challenge.  A challenge...

So I challenged two of my coworkers (both writers) and posted the following on facialbook:

A CHALLENGE:

For my writer friends:

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Prove it.

Using a picture OF you or one you've taken (new, old, whatever) tell the story of what is happening in that picture. The story may be fiction or non-fiction.

1000 words. Due next Wednesday, 5 pm.

Are you lame or are you game?

I'll post mine in my blog. Or you can post here. Whatever.


To date, six people have taken up the challenge.  I can't wait to read the results!

As for mine, it follows the picture below.  And no, this introduction did NOT count toward the thousand words.  That would be cheating.  As it stands, my piece is 1,422 words.

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Saturday, October 29, 2011 was a snowy day.  The snow had been predicted for days.  It was going to be a massive storm: a “Nor’Easter,” they said.  “Frankenstorm.”  One to eight inches of snow predicted, maybe more. 


Back then, I planned a lot of parties for my friends and coworkers.  My usual co-conspirators were M and Elizabeth.  This one I planned extensively.  This was going to be the biggest party yet!  Elizabeth and I went out shopping for decorations.  I stocked up my bar (I was working two jobs back then- thirteen hour days- so I could afford it.)  I made special Halloween mix CDs.  M was living in a rented house as her house underwent extensive renovations, and it was there that we held the party.


But, the best part as far as I was concerned was the costume contest.  Back at the party in 2009, I won by a landslide using my “Monique” costume.  “Monique” was just me showing off all I’d learned in the year since my re-awakening on Halloween 2008.  In that time, I’d bought a real corset, and learned how to put it on.  Yes, there is a learning curve.  I also bought hip pads from Classic Curves to give me a feminine derriere.  But the biggest acquisition I ordered in March 2011.  It arrived October 29.  Yes, it took that long to make the piece- prosthetic breasts so real that people could NOT tell they were fake.  But I digress.


"Monique"


In 2010, my costume for the Halloween party was “God’s gift to women.”  I didn’t want people to suspect anything after going enfemme for two straight Halloweens.

Which left this party.  In 2009, I hired Lorraine Anderson, a friend of a friend, to make me a costume.  The costume was Mary Marvel, the comic book superhero, as she appeared in the 1940s.  Lorraine made the costume, which I wore to the Henri David Ball that year.  Lorrain has since become a very dear friend, and has made several costumes for me.

My plan was to surprise everyone by wearing the Mary Marvel costume to this party, and, hopefully, win the costume contest again.  I was supplying the top prize- a $100 bottle of Crystal Skull Vodka.  Supposedly filtered through diamonds.  I wanted that bottle.

As I said, I planned this party extensively. I started planning in late September.  Many people RSVPed- over forty if memory serves.  I advertised it on my “guy” facialbook page.  I called friends and emailed them.  I invited a few of my trans friends, but I didn’t think they would come.  After all, there was a trans event that same night.

One of my two jobs was as an Instructional Designer at Penn State Great Valley.  In between assignments, I was teaching myself Photoshop.  As practice, I made posters for the party- six in all.



The Second Poster

Oh, I was so excited for this party!  My plan was to go visit my dear friend Amanda Richards at True Colors Makeup Artistry in Bethlehem, Pa.  On a normal day, that trip is usually an hour and a half one way.  I would then stop at a comic book shop for a minute, just for the fun of it, then head to the party.  Sometime during the night, I’d slip over to the trans event- Angela’s Laptop Lounge- for a few minutes.  With over forty people attending, I wouldn’t be missed.  I would then return to the party.  My price for “doing a party” was that I get a bed for the night so I could drink a lot and not worry.  This was before my DUI curbed my drinking. I dropped off my stereo, the bar, and the CDs the night before.  M and Elizabeth would set everything up.


But as I said: Frankenstorm.  People began saying “I’ll be there if…” I hoped that the storm would miss us, as so many had in the past.

But…

The snow started earlier than expected.  It was a wet, heavy snow.  The trees still had most of their leaves, which caught the snow.  All that weight snapped branches and brought down trees, and with them, power lines.

I arrived at Amanda’s half an hour late.  She was worried, and wondered if I shouldn’t cancel.  But I was determined!  On the way up the turnpike, I saw five trees down on the road.  The going was slow.  Bethlehem would get over a foot of snow before this was over.   Back then, I was driving my del Sol, the front wheel drive two seater.  While small, it was a wide car, and handled well in the snow.

Amanda did her usual amazing job with my makeup and wig.  As no cleavage was showing, I just wore standard breast forms instead of the prosthetic.



Ready for the Snow and the Party

The trip back south was slower than the trip to Bethlehem.  Cars had spun out on the roads.  Braches were down everywhere.  I drove maybe thirty miles an hour at most.  I decided to skip the comic book store and go right to the party.  By the time I arrived at the party, eight inches of snow was on the ground.  Good thing I was wearing boots!

I quietly entered the front door and waited for someone to spot me.  It didn’t take long.  Elizabeth saw me first and whooped with joy!  She, M, and Phil (another coworker) were the only people at the party so far, and they all thought my costume was funny as hell.  Now came the hard part.  I felt so natural as Sophie, but I couldn’t let that show- I had to be “Lance in drag” and act awkward.

I was in the party for maybe five minutes when The Picture was taken.  I was kneeling in front of the fireplace, which is where they put my stereo.  I was leaning on a hassock, turning on the music.  M and Elizabeth had been drinking heavily, and so couldn’t figure out the stereo.  (“Press the power button…”)

As I knelt, M’s dog, Gracie came over to me, tail wagging.  Gracie didn’t like me- at all.  Whenever she saw me, she barked like crazy and her fur stood on end.  Not so, this night.  She came over, tail wagging, happy to see me.  She was sniffing me.  I looked over at her, and smiled. After the picture was taken, I petted her.

Gracie never had a problem with me when I was female, but hated me as male.  I understood how she felt.

The party was a flop.  Only eight people showed up, including me.  We ended up getting almost ten inches of snow.  I did win the vodka- which I shared with the party.  It wasn’t very good.

So what is it about this picture that I love?

Of all the pre-transition, pre-HRT pictures taken of me, I think this is the most genuine and feminine.  I am happy, and at peace.  I’m happy that Gracie was accepting me.  My makeup is perfect.  Behind Gracie and my arm is my left breast, looking perfectly natural.  This is what I aspired to be- a woman at peace and happy.

I didn’t know that I eventually would transition.  I wanted to, but didn’t think I could.  Heck, my Wife still didn’t know about my feminine side.  It would be months before I confessed to her about that.  At that time, my female side was my monthly retreat into who I Truly was, and I needed it.

I’ve worn this costume many times since, including three times at the bookstore.  I’ve pretty much retired it now- it hangs on a rack in my storage space.  The stereo was destroyed in August 2013, when I was forced to move out of where I was living.  The wig wore out, and is long gone.  I sold the breast forms on ebay, and haven’t worn the hip pads in years.  The corset wore out and was replaced in 2013.  M moved out of that house in 2012 and into another, where she would graciously welcome me as a tenant after I was thrown out.  Gracie passed peacefully in M’s arms in 2014.

So many changes.

As of this writing, it’s been six years since that picture was taken.  “An image caught in time.”  I have been living my Truth for over three and a half years now.

And when I see this picture, I still smile.  And Remember a snowy night long ago.



Last time out: April 2016