Thursday, March 30, 2017

Requiem for a Relic

This may sound frivolous.  Stupid.  Inane.  But here it is anyway.

When I went to the Southern Comfort Conference (SCC) in September 2013, I was reeling.  I'd just been thrown out of the place I was living by my MIL.  I was living at the charity of a friend.  I didn't realize how this road trip to Georgia would change my life.

Before that all happened, I agreed with my dear friend Stephanie S. to sponsor bringing Trans Icon Linda Lewis to SCC.  At this point, I hadn't met her- just spoken on the phone a few times.  On the second day of the conference, blasted by a hangover, I met Linda.  I was star struck.

After a quick lunch, Linda, myself, and Devrah (Linda's roomie for the conference) went shopping.  I drove.  First we went to a makeup store, so Linda could help Devrah select a proper makeup "palette."  We then went to a nearby mall.  While there, we went to Victoria's Secret.


Shopping with an Icon

At Victoria's Secret, I bought two bras- one of which was a navy blue 38C.  It was soooo comfortable.  It quickly became my favorite bra.

I wore it a LOT.

Well, today I put on my favorite navy blue bra.  It was a little tight and caused fierce cleavage (darn!) Then I went to work.  And maybe two hours into my shift, I felt something poking into my right side.  It hurt!

Yes, the underwire had poked through the fabric.

So after three and a half years, the navy blue bra was done.

It was my favorite not just because it was comfortable, or because it was flattering.  I even continued to wear it when I "outgrew" it (I'm now a full D.)

Why?

Because it represented something.  It was a tangible reminder of that trip.  A Souvenir of sorts.  On that trip, I met Linda, who would become my bestie and roomie.  And it was the last time I saw my dearest friend Lisa.  I still remember her smile as she waved to me after we parted.


With Lisa that Final Night

Two women, one entering my life and one leaving it- only I had no idea that either was happening.

Lisa changed my life.  And Linda has changed my life.

Tomorrow, I will put the worn out navy blue bra in a plastic baggie.  I will take it to my storage site, where it will be put in a box of mementos- well, actually a box of bras I don't wear.  I don't wear them because they are way too small- mostly B cups.  They were Lisa's.  Her widow Sandy gave them to me among many other things of Lisa's.  The navy blue bra will join them in their box: retired.

Because I absolutely cannot consider parting with it.  It is, for me, a Totem: a Holy Relic of a time now Passed; of a trip that represented a clear dividing point of my Life Before, and my Life Now.

Of two people who, with their presence in my life have defined me.

Lisa.

Linda.

Am I reading too much into this?  I don't think so.  Perhaps I am just frivolous.  Stupid.  Inane.

But there it is anyway.

Be Well.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Conversation between Scars

"Hey!  Anyone awake?"

"Is that you, Chisel scar (1975)? Go to sleep!"  replied Right knee scar (2013).

"But I'm bored," Chisel replied.

Somewhere, there was a sound of a giggle, or was it a sob?

"What is that, anyway?" asked Chisel.


Chisel (1975)

"I don't know" said Trio of Left arm acid burns scars (1985), in three part harmony as always.  "But we've been hearing it for a few years now.

"Same here" said Trio of Right Arm acid burns scars (1985), also in three part harmony.

"No one care what you scars think.  You were self inflicted" said the Impressive Back Scar in his deep growl.

"Now you've done it- woke up the boss," said Right knee.

"You were inflicted in a medical experiment for money.  No one cares about what you think," Back Scar continued.

"Yeah, we're all more scar than you guys" said the Spokescar for the Left foot Scar Collective of 24 (1979.)  "We actually bled.  You guys are artificial."


Left Foot Scar Collective (1979)

"Oh here we go again with that 'more scar than thou' shit again.  Can't you give it a rest?  We're all on this body together" said Left Index Finger Knife Scar (1982.)

"They're burn scars.  They're fading away.  Hell, they are barely visible.  Just like defibrillator chest scars (1985).  They're completely gone," said Chisel.

"Yeah, but look what's there now in their place!  Homina homina!" said Right hand Rusty Nail scar (1976.)

"Won't you ever grow up?"  Finger Knife said.  "She's a woman- those are supposed to be there."

"I can't see them anyway," said Back Scar.

"I can't say I'm used to all the estrogen yet," said Spokescar.  "It feels strange."

Somewhere, the sound rose again- high pitched.  Giggle or sob?

"There it is again," said Trio Left.

"Thing is, if she'd been a female the whole time, a lot of us wouldn't even exist," said Finger Knife.  "Like many of the Coalition of Broken Bones."

"They're internal.  We're external.  We're so much better," said Back Scar.

"They actually cause the body pain these days as arthritis sets in," said Right Knee.  "That's more than most of us can say."

"I itch occasionally!" said Back scar, proudly.

"Finger Knife has a point, though," said the Chancellor of Knuckle Scars.  "We are all from fights- the manliest of scars.  We wouldn't be here if she'd been born female."

"Like that would be a loss," said Rusty Nail.

"Can you guys keep it down?  I'm trying to sleep up here?  Damn kids." said Forehead Scar (1967.)

"Oh, be quiet, you old fart!" said Rusty Nail.  "Guy was the first scar aside from the belly button and thinks he's God."

"No, that would be me," said Left Arm Vaccination Scar.  "Mind your elders."

"Yeah, shut up Rusty!" said Right Shoulder Weird Scar.  "We're all tired of you!"

"Actually, I pay him no mind.  He's so faded you can barely see him," said Chisel.  The Chancellor laughed.  They are his closest neighbors.

Again, the high pitched sound.  It seemed to echo through everything, but quietly.

"Ok, that's creepy," said Right Knee.  "Hey boss- any ideas what that could be?"

"No, not really.  We've all heard it.  maybe we should put together a committee to find the source,"  said Back Scar.

"You kids are so f*cking stupid; I'm ashamed to be on the same body," said Forehead Scar.  "If you ever actually listened, you'd know EXACTLY what that is.  Been with us since birth, and keeps getting deeper.  Much deeper than any of us.  But you idiots never talk to internals, so you wouldn't know.  Ask the Bones- they know.  Ask the Brain- she knows.  Guts know.  Hell, the answer is so f*cking obvious..."

"Well, why don't you clue us in, you stupid old scar?"said Rusty Nail.

"Yeah," said Chisel.

Ever thought of just asking her?" said Forehead Scar.

Silence.

"That's what I thought." said Forehead Scar.

"Umm.. excuse me?  Whoever you are?  Could we, um, well, who are you?" said Spokescar.

Silence.

Then, a whisper.  High pitched.  Feminine.

"I am the deepest scar of all.  I was born with the body, and get deeper as time passes.  With every failed relationship.  With every death.  Every time I couldn't be who I truly was, I grew.  I traverse the length and breadth of the body.  I am responsible for the body almost dying several times.  It was me who ached when Lisa died..."

The Chancellor shifted a bit, uncomfortably.

She continued.  "I am she who does not shine.  I am the one who none of you reflect.  I am the Soul.  I am the cause of the changes to the Body.  And I?  I will be the cause of its death.  You will all rot or burn away, and yet I will remain.  That is who I am."

Silence.

Silence.

"Respect your elders," said Vaccination Scar, quietly.






Monday, March 13, 2017

Six Months Since

It's been Six Months.

Six months of life that I didn't expect- that I didn't want.

As I've written before, I planned for many months to die on September 13, 2016.  My fiftieth birthday.

Many have written to me since then.  Messages of support both public and private.  I can't tell you how much I appreciate all the love and support you've shown me.

Being me, I wonder where people would be today had I carried out my plan.  My body would be ashes by now, or whatever.  Linda would've found a new roomie.  And, if things followed my plan, everyone would be over my death and going on with their lives, perhaps better for not having me dragging them down any more.  I'd have done everyone a favor.

Yes, my thoughts are Dark sometimes still.

And as I thought of this, I remembered a blog entry I wrote back in March 2014- six months to the day after my dearest friend Lisa Empanada's suicide.  So I looked it up.

Lisa thought she was doing us all a favor.  Especially Sandy.  She was so very wrong.  She couldn't have hurt us more if she tried.

All the deception.  The broken promises.  And we who loved her are left to pick up the pieces of our lives.

...

Someday, I may forgive her.  Someday, my heart will heal.  But not today.  Not now.  It's just too soon.

I still think of her every day.  I still cry for her.  I Still miss her, every day.

And I will always Love you my Sister.  Time will never change that.


I read that entry Over and over.  I cried.  Again.

Yes Lisa, I still cry for you.


Posted on Facialbook the night I announced my Truth

I'm no Lisa.  No one ever could be.

I am Sophie.  For better or for worse.

I think about all those messages.  I think about my Daughter.  Wife.  Linda.  Ally.  So many others.  And I re-read that entry again.

Six months can be an eternity in so many ways.  And it has been.  Looking back at September 2016, what has changed since?  Not one f**king thing.  In fact, my situation is worse.  I'm still hanging on by my fingernails both financially and professionally.

I disposed of the method on September 13.  Dumpster. Then, I opened my soul to the Love that others sent me.

I let it sustain me as my Hope is gone.  It still sustains me.  But to be honest, I channeled some of that Love toward the Light.  I shared it with Lisa.  I pray she felt it.  I pray she still does.

Six months I didn't want.  Six months paid for by the Love of others.

Well, dear friends, I hope you know what you've bought.  Now you're stuck with me.

I will fight the Darkness all the days of my life.  Nothing can change that.  But that life will be longer than I planned.  Already has been.  Going to be a lot longer too.

Caveat emptor.



Sunday, March 12, 2017

Burns and Boylan

As I have mentioned many many times before, I have Scots blood.  MacIntosh clan.  Mum is from Ayrshire, Scotland, and that's also the home of someone famous.


Robert Burns.  Greatest Scots poet in history.  Probably responsible for the entire Romantic period of poetry.


Robert Burns

I KNOW you know something of his.  You've sung one of his songs.  Seriously!  Auld lang Syne!

Anyway, when Burns went to Edinburgh, he was a provincial, and he knew it.  And he played to it.  He was flavor of the month among the sophisticates and rich folks of the time- the "rustic" poet.

I'll come back to this.

Last Wednesday, February 22, 2017, GLAAD board member, reality TV star, and author Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan spoke at her alma mater: the Haverford School.  It's a very exclusive all- boys private school with an impeccable academic reputation.  And it's really expensive.

In any case, I finished work and drove down to the school.  I was lucky to find a parking space!  I walked into the building where the event was held, and asked a friendly security guard to direct me to the event.  Outside the lecture hall was a group of tables where books were being sold, and staffing it were two managers from the bookstore where I work.  They were doing a brisk business.

I went into the hall and found a seat, then decided I should use the Ladies room before the reading started.  I walked to the doors, where two boys dressed in school blazers were stationed.  I asked one of them where I may find the restrooms.  He said "the Men's room is over there" and he pointed.

Seriously.  Misgendered on this of all nights?

I glared at him, and he then said "oh the ladies room is down a little further."

After taking care of business, I re-entered the hall.  As I walked down the side aisle, I overheard two older women speaking.  One was wearing a fur coat.

"What do you call someone like that?  Him?  Her?  It?"
"I know it's all so confusing."

I kept walking.

I found a seat next to an older woman with short blonde hair.  She breathlessly told me how a friend of a friend has a trans-son, and how brave he is, but especially his parents, because after all just think of what people will say and yet they support their new son and its a shame they'll never have grandchildren now and so how do you know Jenny?

Then my dear friends Jone and Christine came in, so I moved to sit near them.  I hadn't seen Christine is a long time, and seeing Jone is always a treat.

We sat and talked before the show.  Jone told me about two different groups she is attending now in the city.  You see, Jone is VERY rich.  She has started and sold several businesses.  She is very proud of her accomplishments, and she has every right to be.  And, she is very generous with her time and money, especially to trans causes.

So she is making contacts galore in these groups.  One is for LGBT executives, and the other is for women executives and they meet at these fancy places, and talk about things and network, etc.  I commented that they wouldn't let po' folks like me through the door in these places even if I could pay whatever fee they charge for the meeting (which I'm sure is considerable.)  She said she would bring me as a guest.  I somehow don't see that happening.  Even my best (only) suit would look shabby to them.

So there I was, sitting in the front row of an event at the exclusive Haverford school in a room full of rich folks, waiting for the Woman of the Hour, Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan.  She took the stage after a gracious introduction by the school's headmaster.

This talk was different from others I've seen her give.  She read different things this time (her columns instead of her books,) and seemed almost wistful.  I understood why- after all, one of her beloved teachers was sitting in the audience.

One of the pieces she read was about her tutelage under John Barth, and his Theory of Plot: “the gradual perturbation of an unstable homeostatic system and its catastrophic restoration to a new and complexified equilibrium”

After her readings, she took questions.  The first was from a graduate of the school (class of 90-something).  His question droned on and on and on... literally for minutes.  I said to Jone "What is this- his doctoral thesis?"  Seriously- he just kept going and going.

One of the questions was from a girl seated in the front row.  If she was trans, I couldn't tell (and that is a good thing.)  She seemed young- mid teens.  She asked about coming out and acceptance.  Jenny sang her a song that brought tears to my eyes.

Then she solicited the Haverford students in the room for a question.  As part of her answer, she mentioned a point she'd brought up during her lecture at St. Joseph's University just over a year before.   She said that (paraphrasing) the biggest change in Coming Out wasn't changing gender, but from being someone WITH a big secret to being someone WITHOUT a big secret.

She finished her wonderful talk and was met with a standing ovation.  She then went to the lobby to sign books.  I waited until the line began to get shorter before I joined it.  Behind me were two women who had attended an exclusive all- girls school: the Baldwin School.  How did I know?  They told me.  We chatted briefly about education.

When it was my turn, Jenny gave me a big hug.  We chatted briefly, and I introduced her to my two managers.  She was also kind enough to sign my copy of Stuck in the Middle with You.  She'd sent me that book years ago to review.  She was also kind enough to pose for a picture.


Me with Professor Jennifer Finney Boylan

I finally left, walking with Jone and Christine.  We hugged, and I went home.

So.

How did this all make me feel?

Well, there's a reason it's taken me so long to write this blog entry.

I was rubbing shoulders with the Rich folks.  I do this every day at work, but in the capacity of a Servant.  A lackey.  "And be quick about it- I'm in a hurry!"

I KNOW I'm the intellectual equal of almost everyone I meet (yes, I have hubris about SOMETHING) yet almost everything about that night made me feel... inferior.  I don't speak Latin.  I don't have a fancy private school education.  I didn't attend an Ivy.  While I hold an advanced degree, it isn't law or medicine or an MBA from Harvard.  I work retail.

I have been unable to find a professional job in so very long.  For so very long, I've been earning below poverty level wages.  Usually, if I do something fun (like the Keystone Conference) I'm doing so because of someone else's generosity.

My professional life is Shit, and that extends into my personal life.  And after wallowing in shit for as long as I have, I now believe I belong there, and that is all I deserve.  That I don't have a place among Educated people- among Professionals.  Peers.


I've lived in shit for so long, I now believe I AM shit.


Going back to Robbie Burns:  Burns died on July 21, 1796.  He was 37.  He died poor, despite his success as a poet.  The rich folks' fancy shifted elsewhere and that was that.  After his death, he became the celebrated Legend that he is today among Scots, and literate people worldwide.

And while I can write, I am no Burns.  But, I believe that if my Writing ever sees success, it will be after I am gone- dying Poor.

Just as happened to him.

Be well.



Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Book Excerpt: Homecoming '86

I was thinking about this event tonight.  So I pulled out my book files.  This piece is copyrighted by me.  Just saying.  Enjoy!
*************************************************************

Chapter 2.14: Homecoming ‘86

Sunday, October 12, 1986 At summit, aides work on accords

            The girls arrived in a large mass, and they’d be there all week.  Zeta Tau Alpha (ZTA) were our partners for homecoming, which meant all of us would build a float, put together some kind of dance routine to go with it, drink too much and screw like wild animals in heat.  Zeta was one of the “up and coming” sororities looking to become one of the elite houses, and, in their eyes, homecoming with Skull was their ticket to that goal.  The guys?  They just wanted some hot women to fuck.  And, as Geno put it, these women felt “grateful and indebted” to us.  “Easy pickings.”
            The overall theme for Homecoming was “Penn State: A Whole New World.”  Sometime in the previous weeks, our Homecoming chairman, Sly, and theirs got together and decided on our particular theme: “Mickey and Minnie go to Penn Space.”  Seriously.
            At the chapter meeting the week before, Andy asked for volunteers for the various things that needed to be done.  Chumpy, the house manager, was in charge of float building.  Zit was to lead the “Crazy Band,” the people who would dress up and dance in front of the float.  The pledges would help where needed.  Everyone was expected to help with the float.
            I volunteered for the Crazy Band.  After all, if I didn’t get involved, they’d never accept me.  Besides, each of us would be paired with a Zeta all week.  Maybe I’d get lucky and a get a cute “grateful” one!
            Homecoming week officially started Sunday afternoon.  Chumpy and some of the brothers who were good with tools built the wooden frame of the float on top of a rented flatbed trailer (it would be towed by someone’s pickup truck.)  Chumpy’s partner from Zeta was Becky, a cute blonde with large blue eyes on a broad face.  As a bonus, she was even shorter than Chumpy!
            As those guys sawed, hammered, nailed, and drank, the Crazy Band met in the Club Room.  Zit and his counterpart, Jody, a dark haired Zeta with brown eyes and a fading tan, outlined what we were going to do.  I looked around.  There were twenty four of us: twelve guys and twelve girls.  The Zeta girls were very cute- not overwhelmingly gorgeous, not Barbie dolls, but definitely hot.  And grateful.
            “We’re going to dress up like Mickey and Minnie Mouses” Jody said.  “We’ll all have red shirts, just like this one.”  Zit held up a shirt.  “And have mouse ears and tails and other stuff.  It’ll be really cute!”  Jody said.
            The guys smirked and the girls giggled.
            The shirt was red with white printing.  “SKULL ZETA HOMECOMING 1986” was in an arch above cartoons of Mickey and Minnie Mouse in space suits.  Below them, in large letters read “Mickey and Minnie Go To Penn Space!”  We’d have the shirts in on Thursday.  Hopefully. 
            Jody started announcing the partners by couple.  My partner was Lisa, a petite girl with an average body, bleached blonde hair to her shoulders, and brown eyes.  I could tell she was thrilled to be partnered with me by her disgusted sigh. 
At the time I didn’t realize it, but many of the pairings were made by sisters’ request.  Now I wonder what Lisa did to piss someone off.
            “I’m Lisa and I have a boyfriend” she said.
            “I’m Lance and I don’t care” I replied with a tone that left “bitch” implied.  I was already starting to get irritated by the sorority attitude.  I was beginning to see why the brothers had so many bad nicknames for sorority girls: they seemed to think their shit didn’t stink.
            “The song we’re going to do is the Penn State Fight Song.”  Zit said.  “Jody has put together a dance routine that we should be able to do even if we’re all fucked up- which we will be.”
            We all cheered.
            The week went quickly.  I spent a lot of my spare time at the house, either practicing the routine on the front lawn or “pomping” the float.  Pomping was gluing wads of colored tissue paper to the chicken wire stretched over the frame of the float. 
            Most of the time there were at least two or three people working on the float.  At night, all of the pledges, ours and theirs, as well as many others would swarm all over it.  Of course, we were on tap the whole time.

Skull House. April 1987

Wednesday, October 15, 1986 City Charges 27 in Bribery Case

            The shift was long and very busy.  I was on burger board and Ashley was on register.  I was working until three as usual- she was done at one.  Jill worked next to me most of the day, but was back doing dishes as Ashley finished work.  Judy had off- she was doing fraternity work.  Probably pomping.
            Ashley clocked out, and as she walked by I stopped her. 
            “Um, I was kinda wondering if you had plans for Saturday night?”
            “Not currently” she said, smiling.
            “Well my house is having a formal Saturday night, and I was, um, hoping you’d like to go to it with me.” 
Oh, real smooth, Lance.  What woman could turn down an invite like that?  God!
            “Sure!” she said.  “Sounds fun!”
            “Great!  I’ll fill you in with the details later!”
            “Ok!  I have a sorority meeting tonight from seven until around ten.  Call then?”
            “I will!  Have fun!”
            After a minute or so, I could see Ashley walking across the parking lot toward University Drive.  Her jeans were very tight.  She had a great walk- unlike any other person I ever dated.  Poise, Grace: she walked like a Woman.

Thursday, October 16, 1986 House passes largest-ever spending bill

            The week ended with a flurry of activity.  Our pledges were given a choice: work on the float or work the standard Thursday night party.  They chose to work on the float (with the Zeta pledges).  That meant that the Last Pledge Class (the guys who just got in, otherwise known as LPC) had to run the party.  There was a saying in the house: “You’re not done pledging until you’re done LPC.”  Of course, all of Zeta was there as well.  The brothers took turns by pledge class working on the float as well- a schedule was posted on the second floor bulletin board.  I did my time with the Spring 85 class, who called themselves “Full Force.” 
            The party was absolutely packed as the Zetas brought their friends (boyfriends “discouraged.”)  The Zetas were going all out- each one wanted to be invited to our Homecoming formal (apparently it was a status thing) so they were dressed to kill, flirting and drinking hard.  A lot of hair flipping, arm touching and laughing at dumb jokes.  Hell, a couple of them even spoke to me in a non dismissive way!  It was a good night to be a Skull.
           
Friday, October 17, 1986 Major bills delay exit of Congress

            The day was picture perfect.  The leaves were in full glory, as if they too were putting on a show for the returning alumni.  Classes zipped by.  Crazy Band was to meet at 3:30 at the House.  I blew off my 5:00 EDPSY recitation again. 
            Crazy Band Happies started at 4 (after a couple of more run throughs on the front lawn.)  There was a whole case of Thunderbird and a keg of beer- just for us!  So we crammed all thirty of us into the “Commissary” downstairs and toasted, shouted, and sang.  It was packed so tight that we all got free feels.  We all wore our red shirts and jeans. 
            I never felt so “included” in my life up to that point.
            As we drank, a couple of sisters worked through the crowd, painting the tips of everyone’s nose with black circles and they drew mouse whiskers on our cheeks.  Other sisters pinned big black paper Mickey Mouse ears into our hair.  We were each given a black “tail” made of ribbon.  We were to put these on ourselves, but many of the sisters received “help.”  We looked like a bunch of drunken cartoon mice.
            At 4:30, we all did one last chug of beer (toasted to “Penn Space”) and piled into trucks driven by hopefully more sober brothers up to the IM building near Beaver Stadium, where the parade started.
            We parked out back with the float and staggered up to Curtin Road.  It was a madhouse- people in all kinds of costumes were packed together as the floats slowly swung into order.  We were surrounded by Aliens, baby dolls, cats, dogs, vegetables, planets, bathing beauties, and cross dressers.  Everyone seemed drunk or drunker than I was.  One of my fellow mice passed a bag to me with a bottle of the Bird in it.  (The bag was labeled “CHEESE.”)  I took a big swig and passed it to another mouse.  The whole thing was a drunken kaleidoscope in the setting autumn sun. 
            Bumped into a whole band of people dressed in tin foil with green faces, and green pipe cleaner antennae with little foil balls on top.
            “Lance- is that you?”  I heard a familiar female voice ask.
            Turned around- and there were Judy and Virginia green faced and tin foiled.  We pointed at each other and laughed. 
            “See- told you you’d catch lettucitus!”  I said to Judy.
            “What are you?  A mmman or a mmmouse?” asked Virginia
            “Comeer and I’ll show you, babe!”  I replied.  They were smashed too.
            “Where in line is your house?”  Judy asked.
            “Number one.  Top of the heap!  Always!”
            “Bullshit!”  Virginia said, laughing.
            “I think we’re nineteen or twenty in line.  I think” I said.
            “We’re fifty three!”  Judy said proudly. 
            “You’ll be here forever!”  I said.
            “Tell me about it!”  Virginia said.
            “We’ll be done and back to drinking before you even get started!”  I said.
            “We have a keg on the float and a lot of plastic cups” Judy said.
            “That- that’s good thinking” I said.  “I wish we’d thought of that.”  I saw our float pull into line.  “Gotta go!  Time to be Mousey!”
            “Have fun!”  Judy said, smiling. 
            “And don’t call us spacey!”  Virginia said, smiling as well.
          
            We stumbled into place in front of the float.  The Cheese made more rounds.  Good thing we each had partners or many of us would’ve fallen down.  Our float had an Old Main in the back, but done up as a space station.  Projecting out of it, not unlike a huge dick, was a Blue and White rocket with “fire” and smoke” like it was leaving the station.  The sides of the float were white with “Mickey and Minnie go to Penn Space” in Blue letters.  On the float rode Saint and his counterpart Melanie, dressed in “spacesuits” with rented Mickey and Minnie heads. 
            The float ahead lurched forward.  They were doing some kind of farming thing, and everyone was dressed like rejects from “Hee Haw” complete with the girls wearing “Minnie Pearl” type hats with price tags attached.  Anyway, Lisa was shamelessly flirting with Steel, one of the new pledges, who had the spot next to us.  I guess she only had the boyfriend when I was around.  Anyway, we waited, I dunno, maybe a couple of minutes, then we started out.  Gave the float ahead maybe a twenty yard head start.
            We staggered along waving and shouting to all the families, kids, and the few alumni that lined the route.  Lets face it- most alums wouldn’t arrive until later- they all had jobs and PSU was and still is a long drive from anywhere.  The parade was for the townies.  Still, that’s cool.
            Our float, towed by Cheese’s truck followed us.  Some of us hung back and leaned on the float or the truck for support.  It was gonna be a long mile and a half.
            About the middle of each block, we would stop to do our little song and dance.  The parade moved slowly, with lots of stops.  We kept running into the float in front of us.  Their Crazy band did some kind of square dance.  I think if our group spun around like that, we’d have a lot of people puking on the street.
            As we turned right onto College Avenue, my drunken haze began to lift and the hangover kicked in.  I guess it was all that exercise.  By the expressions on some of the other mice’s faces, I wasn’t alone.  Thank God the closest marching band was some distance away.  The drums would’ve killed us all.  Still, the crowds on College Ave were bigger, and full of students, especially girls.  So there I was, dressed like cartoon mouse, strutting in front of half the co-eds in school.  Still, I was doing so with the Skulls, which made it instantly cool.  Hey babe!  Would you do it in our house?  Would you do it with a Mouse?
            As we neared the judging stand near the University’s main gate at College and Allen, I saw a large number of Skulls and Zetas standing and cheering for us.  A bunch of Zetas camped out there all night to save the spot.  The float ahead pulled away from the judging stand and we ran into position to the cheers and applause of the crowd.
            I was really fucking nervous.  Don’t fuck up, Lance- they’ll hate you if you do.  Don’t fuck up!
            I heard the familiar “one-two-three!” and we started in with our routine.
“HAIL!  To the Lion, loyal and true.
HAIL! Alma Mater, with your white and blue.
PENN! STATE! forever, molder of men, *
FIGHT! for her honor—FIGHT!— and victory again.”
* “and women” wouldn’t be added until a few years later.

            The routine was simple- it was easy to tell that the designer, Jody, was a cheerleader at one time.  And we executed the routine fairly well.  I think. 
            We finished, cheered, shouted things like “Go Penn State!” the moved on.  My throat was shot by this point.  Alcohol and shouting don’t mix- go figure.
            The parade tuned north onto Curtin road, headed uphill.  We did our routine once more (in front of Beta and Fiji, where we changed the lyrics to “Skull house forever” just to piss them off.  The few of their people that were there booed.  We then continued uphill where the parade dispersed in front of Rec Hall and the Lion.  We cheered and hugged.  Many of us hopped onto the float to ride back to the house.  A few walked.
            As the float pulled away, I looked back at the Lion.  Crouching.  Watching.  Watching another parade go by.  Waiting for tomorrow.
            As we rode down Atherton toward Beaver Ave, the wind felt cool on my sweaty body.  My ears flew off.

           
            The House was immaculate.  The whole ’Hood spent every hour they could (when not going to class, pomping, drinking, fucking, or getting stoned) repairing, painting, and cleaning.  All this so the alumni would think we were responsible, trustworthy young gentlemen.  But the alumni weren’t stupid: they were Skulls too- so they knew what was up.  They appreciated the effort though.
            A table covered with a crisp white tablecloth fronted by the fraternity flag was set up in the foyer.  On this table was an incredible selection of “top shelf” liquor and some mixers.  A pledge manned this bar, ready to bring ice when needed.  Alumni poured their own drinks.
            The Hood was dressed in sweaters and nice pants, as were the alumni.  Most of the alums gathered in knots of people around their own age.  Deep drunken laughter rang through the halls.
            I smiled, drank, spoke briefly to some alums, drank.  Eventually, I ended up in the second floor bathroom.  There I saw three old alums, all wearing nice suits, all holding huge wads of wet toilet paper.  They took turns throwing the wads at Triangle, where they stuck to the brown wall.  The old, distinguished men laughed like naughty kids.

          Fall 1986 "Informal Composite"  Photo by Chuck Fong
Saturday, October 18, 1986 Logbooks tie contras, Fla airline

            The cold wind cut through my coat and sweatshirt and pounded on my hangover.  The bright sun spotlighted the hurried leaves in all their glory.  If my head didn’t hurt so much, I’d be dazzled by the beauty.  As it was, it was just a long walk uphill to the stadium.  The headache set up camp right behind my eyes.  Jesus Christ- I gotta stop drinking so much!  How many did I have?  There was all that Thunderbird and beer, and all those drinks at the House.  Just thinking about it made me want to puke.  I wondered if a puddle of vomit could be easily hidden by fallen leaves.  And would the colors match?
            I filed into the stadium alone among eighty some thousand others.  I sat high in the section, near the lip of the stadium.  I looked around and saw Jen and Emily from down the hall.  I walked over to say “hi” and they asked me to sit with them.  Yes!
            The #6 ranked Nittany Lions scored early and often.  As always, every time a ball sailed through the uprights into the student section, it was passed back, back, back, up and over, out of the stadium.  (This tradition ended when the upper deck was added to the south end.  Shame.  It was fun to watch.)
            At halftime, the Alumni Blue band took the field and they were really good.  The dedication of these people really impressed me.  I mean, they must’ve practiced this routine.  Don’t they have jobs and stuff?  When did they find the time?  Then again, when I thought of alumni, I thought of “old people.”  It never occurred to me that they might’ve just graduated last May. 
            Anyway, somehow I survived the game without puking.  I had a blast talking to the girls.  They didn’t see me as “a threat” so they didn’t bother putting up their attitudes.  The Lions beat Syracuse 42-3.  The girls and I walked back to Beaver Hill.  I was hurting, but happy, and collapsed back into bed.


 Beaver Stadium Seating from back of 1986 Season Ticket

            The sun was all but gone when Ashley and I arrived at the House.  She wore a dark green gown that flattered her figure and showed off her ass, but had shoulder pads and sleeves to her elbows.  Hey, the 80s weren’t exactly a Golden Age of fashion!  Still, I thought she looked great!
I wore my drab light gray suit and a red tie.  I wasn’t a fashion plate, but that said, I wasn’t the worst dressed.  Some guys looked like they never heard of an iron or a comb (grunge was still a few years away from being in fashion.)  The House was decorated with black and yellow streamers.  The alumni were all dressed in nice suits, mostly black or charcoal gray.  Brothers without dates, few as they were, talked to the alumni, their wives and girlfriends. 
The dates were dressed like this was the social event of the season.  Maybe it was.  Beautiful gowns, hot cleavage showing tops, jewelry- it was like a prom.  All the Zetas who were “lucky” enough to be invited tended to flock together when not with their dates.  The guys assumed that the girls all knew that to come to a Skull formal meant that they had to put out that night.  Surprise, surprise!  Lisa, my dance partner was there!  Boyfriend?  I introduced Ashley to some of the guys, but we mostly kept to ourselves.  After all, no one was falling over themselves to talk to us.
Dinner was catered and served by the pledges.  Chicken Cordon Bleu.  After dinner, all of the brothers went downstairs to the party room, leaving the women upstairs.
With the pledges.
Chairs were set up in rows downstairs.  I sat near the back and watched as many brothers and alums lit cigars, talked and laughed.  This was the annual “State of the Chapter” meeting with the Alumni Corporation.  And the pledges?
“They get to try to ‘scoop’ our dates” Garbo explained.
“What does that mean?”  I asked.
“They’re upstairs hanging out with the girls.  If one of them can score, no one can retaliate against him.  Even wives aren’t off limits.  Is that your girlfriend you brought?”
“No.”
Garbo laughed.  “Well, good luck!”
The meeting was called to order by Henry Keller, who was maybe in his late sixties.  He’d been involved with the House constantly since graduation all those years ago.  After reading a list of brothers who had died in the past year, we had a moment of silence.  Then they discussed House business, the balance sheet, House issues, and so on.  There were discussions and arguments.  It was kinda interesting, but not really.  I lost my buzz.
Took about an hour, then we filed back upstairs.  Ashley was sitting in the club room with a few girls who looked like Barbie dolls.  They stopped talking as the guys approached, hooting and hollering.  Ashley smiled.
“Your pledges are very nice” she said.  “A couple of them invited me upstairs for some champagne.”
“I noticed that you didn’t take them up on it.”
“I don’t like champagne.  Besides, it wouldn’t be right” she said.  “Some of the girls went with them, though, so I’m sure they’re not lonely.”

I noticed Lisa was nowhere in sight.
We hung around with that group for a little bit, then Ashley wanted to leave.  Her sorority had a special church event in the morning, so she wanted to make it an early night.  I walked her home.  We hugged.  She went inside.  Alone.


           

            

Friday, March 3, 2017

Early March Work Night

Yesterday, Thursday March 2, 2017, I worked the closing shift at the bookstore.  In a rare instance, I worked Customer Service (Information) for most of my shift (as Head Cashier, I am almost always at the cash registers.  Go figure.)

Early in my shift, a semi- regular customer came in.  She's older, in her 70s I think.  She is a tall and broad woman, and is well known in the store for having a nasty attitude.  She usually snaps at the staff, and has misgendered me several times in the past, but not recently.  She has, in the past called me an "idiot" and a "moron," but again, not recently.

I see her as a customer service "challenge"- that if I can give her a great service without her getting insulting, I consider that quite a feat.  When she comes to the register, I do my best to get her at my station, as I want to be the one taking her abuse, not one of my staff.

Yes, dear reader, if you are nasty to retail staff, they will remember you, and not in a good way.


Before Work that Day

In any case, she was looking for books on a certain topic.  Both myself and one of the managers went to get books on the topic while the customer sat on a bench near the information area, as her legs were hurting.  Both of us arrived with books at pretty much the same time, and put them on the bench beside her.  Then the manager went to the next task.  I was about to do the same when this customer, violently shoved the books aside and reached into a plastic shopping bag she had brought with her.

That's when things became surreal.

She said "I'm glad you're the one who helped me.  I wanted to ask you a couple questions."

I said "okaaayyyyy..." not knowing what to expect.

She produced a report covered bunch of papers, which she said she's done maybe thirty years before.  They looked like it.  She said it was her idea for a children's book, and she wanted to know who would publish something similar to it.  I looked at it and named a known children's book publisher.

She said she also had songs she wanted me to look at.  I looked at one, and it wasn't bad at all.  I told her what I thought about it, and she pulled out a second song.

Then a customer came to my station, so I excused myself to help him.  Then another.  Then another.  She hobbled over as I finished with that customer and said to me:

"I wanted to show you these things because I can sense something in you.  You really try to make a difference.  You really want to do good, and I think you're destined for great things.  I really think that."

I was stunned.  I thanked her, but I could think of nothing else to say.  She then hobbled toward the cash registers as another customer came to me for help.



Later in my shift, I helped another woman, maybe in her 40s, who I'd seen before.  I showed her to the book she wanted, then she turned to me and said:

"I've been coming to this store for a LONG time.  I remember you from long ago, before you... became who you are now.  And I wanted to say how proud I am of you.  I can't imagine how hard it must be to do what you have done.  I've watched you through your transition, and, well you must be so proud of yourself!"  

Again, I was stunned!  I said "Well, I wouldn't say 'proud' but..."

"Are you happy?" she asked.

"No.  I can't say I am.  But I am at peace.  And That's enough."

"Peace.  That's so wonderful.  I can't imagine what it must be like to go through what you have," she said.

"As I can't imagine what it is like for you, not having to even think about it.  That's incomprehensible to me."

We spoke a little more, and she gave me a big hug.


Later that shift, I helped at the registers.  When we cleared the customers, I mentioned to a co-worker what these women said.  She replied that "What you did was very brave.  Everyone with half a brain understands that."

I then said what I usually do, that I don't consider it brave, as I HAD to do it to survive.  And we talked about this briefly before I had to answer the phone.


Dear reader, if you've been following this blog for any amount of time, you know I don't take non- job related praise very well.  I absolutely don't feel that I deserve it.

Yes, I know that it's only my pervasive self-hatred talking, but I really don't think I do.

I DO try to make a difference.  I have my whole life.  I dedicated my life to helping others (something else I've discussed many times in this blog.)  Still, to have someone SAY it to me... especially someone who never had anything nice to say to me before this...

It's almost 1:30 in the morning.  I'm up thinking and writing.  Processing.

When will I learn to listen to people who mean well?

No idea.  But 47 years of hating everything about myself with every fiber of my being is a hard thing to get over or forget.


Be well.