Thursday, May 24, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 36: New Year's Accident

I decided to put up a few more chapters of my book:  Men of the Skull- A Memoir of Fraternity Life in the 80s.

This one has nothing to do with Penn State.  I mentioned many times in the book that I was, at the time, a volunteer Emergency Medical Technician (EMT.)  I would eventually become a Paramedic, but that doesn't matter.  I volunteered with an ambulance and a rescue squad.  This was one of the Rescue Squad calls.

I still think about this one.

Doing this work radically changed some of my thinking back then.  Back when so many people my age thought they were invincible, I looked death in the face.  I watched friends die.  I saw things that hurt and haunt me to this day.  What does that do to someone still in adolescence?  Well, it makes us less fun at parties for one thing.  It puts things in perspective as well.  And for someone who carried the Dark Secret I had inside of me?

Yes, I have PTSD. Not just from the Paramedic days, but from repressing my Truth and swallowing my Pain.

Writing about it really helps.

This is not a happy chapter.


Chapter 36: New Year’s Accident

Thursday, January 8, 1987 Shultz aide collaborated with North

            GRAAAA!  GRAAAA!!!  GRAAAA!!!  The Hurst Tool growled as Mike and Don used it to peel back the car’s roof. 
            She was still pinned by the dashboard.  I knelt in the backseat and held her head as still as I could.  We feared a neck injury, and the Hurst Tool was jolting the small hatchback.  The glass in her hair left small cuts on my palms.

Hurst Tool: "Jaws of Life" circa 1980s

            The roof was coming off so we could bring in a backboard to immobilize her transport to a hospital.  After the roof, we would then tear out the dashboard which pinned her legs.  We did that last in case the dashboard was acting like a compression bandage.  We had to be ready- we didn’t want her suddenly bleeding to death.
            The roof bent back exposing me to the cold, sunny, early morning sky.  My breath was fogging the plastic face shield of my helmet.  It really was a bright, beautiful day.  So how the fuck did this happen?  It’s not like there was poor visibility or slick roads.
            The baby was hurt, but not too bad.  She was in one of those new “car seats” everyone was so high about.  Yeah, “Baby on Board” and all that shit.  Seat saved her life.  She was already on her way to the hospital.
            We’d already loaded the driver of this car into an ambulance and he was on his way to a hospital as well.           
The other driver had some bruises from where the seatbelt caught him.
            But her- she didn’t wear a seatbelt.  The car was destroyed all around her, sitting in the intersection of route 724 and New Street.  It was so torn up; all I knew is that it was a blue hatchback, maybe a Ford?
Spring Ford Rescue Squad: Rescue 72.  Yes, it's a converted plumber's truck

            We waited for the helicopter that would take her to Lehigh Trauma Center.  We couldn’t save her.  All we could do is keep her from dying while in our care.  The MAST trousers were ready for when we freed her from the wreckage. 
            MAST trousers are inflatable pants.  The idea is that the trousers are inflated, cutting off almost all circulation to the legs so the blood stays in the trunk and head, keeping the person alive.  Bad news- if they’re on too long, the person loses the use of their legs.  Pretty extreme; but if they were needed, the situation was grim.  MAST also makes a great pressure bandage and splint.  We’d need a doctor’s permission to inflate them, as it takes a doctor hours to deflate them (otherwise all the blood flies back into the legs, none for the brain- dead patient.)  Mrs. Kuklowski, as lead paramedic on the scene, already spoke to the hospital- we had permission to apply, but not inflate yet.
            A couple of guys stood by the now missing passenger door with a short backboard and a long backboard.  Mike and Don prepared the Hurst Tool for the job of pulling out the dashboard (up and over the hood.)  My arms were getting really tired, and my fingers were numb from the cold.  No, I wasn’t wearing gloves.  Couldn’t take a pulse wearing those thick, heavy things. 
            With the roof off, we now had room.  Someone reached in and put a neck brace on her.  I still held the head, just to keep her steady.

Hydraulic Power Source for the Hurst Tool, circa 1980s

            GRAAAA!  GRAAAA!!!  GRAAAA!!!  The dashboard groaned, popped and broke free with a load CRACK!  Quickly, the woman was strapped into the short backboard and immobilized.  Over the growl of Hurst Tool, I could hear the beating blades of the helicopter approaching. 
            Flares popped over at a softball field, maybe one hundred yards away.  The helicopter circled twice and landed, blowing twigs, dirt, and dead leaves everywhere. 
            Meanwhile, she was freed of the wreck and strapped to the long backboard for transport.  One of the firemen held a tarp up as Mrs. Kuklowski and another paramedic removed her bloody jeans and put on the MAST trousers.  She had leg injuries, but nothing severe enough to justify inflation yet.  We then carried her to the field.  Me and three other guys carried the board and Mrs. Kuklowski carrying the IV bag.  Dirt blew everywhere and gravel bounced off my face shield. 
Lehigh County Trauma Medevac at the time of that accident.  Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm BO 105

            The Trauma medics met us with their stretcher, to which we secured the long board.  One of them did a quick assessment: feeling extremities, checking vital signs, determining if there were any internal injuries.  “This woman recently had a baby,” she said while feeling the victim’s abdomen.  “Are we transporting the child as well?”
            “No, the child is already en-route to the hospital, as is the driver” Mrs. Kuklowski said.
            I was amazed!  How could she tell?  Damn! 
            The helicopter paramedics surrounded the stretcher and prepped her quickly for the flight.  I walked back to the intersection.  The woman’s new looking white sneakers lay on the road where we left them when we removed them so we could put on the MAST pants.  I picked them up, as well as the bloody remains of her jeans.  Money fell out of the pocket- a LOT of money.
            “Hey Mike!  I said.  He was nearby, coiling the hoses for the Hurst Tool.  “Look at this!”
            He walked over and looked.  I was holding a thick roll of twenty dollar bills- at least five hundred dollars!
            “Shit!” he said.
            “Wanna split it?” he asked.
            I looked at him and he laughed.
            The pocket was useless, so I put the money in one of the sneakers.  I put the jeans then the sneakers on the car seat where she so recently sat, talked, and bled. 
            I then helped Mike stow the Hurst Tool.  The helicopter powered up and quickly roared away, covering the area with cold wind and flying dirt.  A couple of firemen stood waiting by the scene with brooms- they would have to wait until the police finished their part investigating the accident.  It would be hours before the intersection was opened again.
            We did our part- we kept her alive until the helicopter could get her to more advanced care.

Pottstown Mercury, Jan 9, 1987

            The wreck made the front page of the Pottstown Mercury the next day.  You can see the sneakers in the picture, right where I left them.
The driver and the baby survived.

            The mother didn’t. 

She died at the Trauma Center at 8:42 AM.

On a gorgeous winter morning.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Two Weeks of Silence

Two weeks of Silence.

Where have I been?  Well, if you're my friend on facialbook, you know that I took a trip for ten days.  I flew to London; then took a train to Stratford Upon Avon; then to Glasgow, Scotland; Edinburgh; back to London; a day in Paris, France; then home to the US.

That's a Long trip, and I went alone.  Yes, I met people at almost every stop, but the In-Between times, it was just me (with a couple of exceptions- Hi Fiona!)  Hours of reading and thinking.

Let's backtrack a bit.  As my loyal readers know, I've been unemployed since mid- February.  Before that, money was very tight.  So what changed?

At the George Inn, London

I cashed out my 401k to live on, and received money from a second source.  It was not enough for FFS, but it is enough to keep me going for a while.  So I made a decision.  Not a rash one- one that I thought hard about.

I had the time, and I had the money.  I knew that if I didn't take advantage of it, I'd regret the moment forever.  I decided to take a trip.  I researched it, then booked it.  On this trip, I would do things I only dreamed of doing.  And I would Think.

I have a lot to think about.  I'm a transgender woman in a country where the laws (or lack thereof) are throwing a noose around the neck of people like me.  The government is actively trying to hurt us.  I am unemployed, and don't know if/when that will change.  And there are deep private matters- things that I can't/won't discuss in the blog.  I give my readers so much of my soul, but reserve some for myself.

In one way, I wasn't alone.  I brought my reliquary necklace that holds some of the ashes of the woman who was my dear Sister.  Lisa.  I brought her with me.  I also brought the four leaf clover necklace she used to wear.  I wear it often myself, so of course I brought it.  I knew that at some point, I would need her strength, and I was right.  Besides, I wanted her with me- to share the journey.

I kept a travel journal through the whole thing.  In it, I recorded my thoughts, feelings, and things said to me.  There is no way I'm going to transcribe all of that- it would bore you to tears.  You don't need to know what I had for lunch.

The journal in a Paris Cafe

Instead, I have decided to do six separate blog entries on the trip.  Each of the locations will be explained by a vignette or two from that location and day.  I will tell you what this trip meant to me in those stories.  I will tell you of people and places.  Family and friends.

The six chapters will be:  London, Stratford Upon Avon, Glasgow, Edinburgh, London again, and Paris.  That won't be their titles, but it will be their settings.  They will take time to write.  Heck, I'm still processing what the trip meant to me.  They probably won't appear in that order, either.  And, if nobody cares, some may not appear at all.  (I'll know by number of hits and comments.)

On the fourth day of my trip, I went with my cousins to Gourock, where my Uncle John lives.  He is my mum's older brother.  We went to dinner, and, as we were leaving, the sun was setting over the mountains and the wide River Clyde.  It was breathtaking.  I took a picture.  My cousins asked why I'd stopped walking.  I said "You only get so many sunsets."

Sunset over the Clyde

Maybe that moment- that view- was the reason for my whole journey.  All the time and money spent.  Or was it just one moment among many that caused me to stop- to pause and consider.  Selah.

That's why I went- to discover the purpose of those moments.  And hopefully, to nourish what little is left of my scarred soul.  Let's discover it together, shall we?

"Take my hand......."

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Truth about... the Class Trip

In May 1984, I was a senior in High School.  I was working almost every night at Burger King, and volunteering with the Rescue Squad and Ambulance.  I'd been accepted to Drexel University, and finally had a girlfriend (in my book I called her Julianne.)

The whole year, I'd been making payments on the class trip.  Like the class the year before, we were going to Walt Disney World in Florida.  I used Burger King money (as I wasn't spending it on girl clothes anymore.)

The day finally arrived!  We boarded busses in front of the high school.  I remember listening to The Doors Greatest Hits on my walkman as we went.

We arrived at the hotel in Florida around noon.  There were palm trees!  I'd never seen those before!  It was a whole different world.  My assigned roommate was a guy named Mike.  I barely knew him, even though I worked with his brother, Scott, at BK.  Scott was one of the "cool kids-" a talented baseball player who the ladies adored.  Good guy, too.

The hotel was two L shaped buildings, forming a square around an inner courtyard.  That courtyard had a swimming pool.  Spring Ford had the two lower floors of one building (out of three stories), and, across the courtyard, St. Thomas Aquinas High School, New Brunswick, NJ had the entire other building.

The rules were typical: no alcohol or drugs, stay with the group, etc.  There was one atypical one.  Guys were on the first floor, and girls were on the second floor.  Girls obviously could be on the Ground floor, but guys couldn't be on the second floor.  Wouldn't want any hanky panky goin' on, would we?

The problems with these rules were numerous.  For one, there were many couples on this trip.  The girl would simply stay in her boyfriend's room, while the "roommate" would bunk in someone else's room using a pull out bed, which were available for free upon request.  So much for "no sex."  I know of several couples who made use of this loophole.  One of the guys who graduated the year before us was living in the Orlando area, and he supplied copious amounts of beer, weed, and whatever to his friends (essentially the "cool guys.")  Then there were a small group of classmates who drove down themselves to stay with the aforementioned alumnus, and stayed at his place.  They appeared at the hotel parties.  If I knew these things, then I have to assume all of us knew, because I was pretty out of touch.  (I knew because my co-workers at Burger King told me.)

We checked in, then we went to the brand new Wet N Wild- a water park.  We all had a blast!  I got a wicked sunburn on my chest, as I fell asleep during an inner tube ride that went in a large circle.  Ouch!

That night, there was a cookout and party by the pool in the center courtyard of the hotel.  I was recovering from a leg cramp while swimming, and was getting a soda and bumped into a cute black haired girl named Beverly.  Beverly was from the NJ school.  We chatted, and she was very nice.  We talked the entire picnic.  I told her I had a girlfriend, and she told me about her boyfriend back home.

The next day, my class went to the newly opened Epcot Center.  I hung around with my friends Bob and Scitman, and we had a blast.  That night, the class went to a restaurant for dinner and dancing.  I even danced a little (which was very rare.)  I was having a wonderful time!

Epcot Map, 1984

We went back to the hotel, where there was to be a pool party.  Actually, the party had already started by the time we arrived, and the Jersey folks were having a blast!  Beverly saw me and asked if I was going to go swimming again.  I said I was, and she said she was as well, but she had to go up to her room to give her roommate her keys.  She was staying on the third floor on the other side of the hotel.  Would I like to head up with her, and meet her roomie?  Sure, why not?

On our way up the stairs on their side of the hotel, we encountered one of my classmates, I'll call him Mal.  He was coming down from the third floor as we were going up.  I thought nothing of it at the time.

We arrived at Beverly's room.  The door was propped open, as there was a gentle breeze blowing, and, well, her roomie didn't have keys.  Beverly introduced me to her roomie, who was laying on the bed reading a book.  (I forget her name.)  She then went to the restroom.  I turned and looked out the door.  Walking past the door, I saw my 11th grade Chemistry teacher, I'll call her Mrs. B.  She was an elderly woman, heavyset with dyed black hair and thick glasses.

For a moment, I thought "Oh shit!" then I remembered- I was on the other side of the hotel!  So I immediately calmed down.  Beverly came out of the bathroom, and we headed downstairs to the party.

I took off my shirt and was heading for my room to get a towel when I was roughly grabbed by two teachers, and almost carried to a room.  There, I was left alone with the principal.  His posture was stiff, and his hands were behind his back.  The rhythm of his speech reminded me of Ed Sullivan, to match his posture.

"Now... I have heard...a ROOM-er... that YOU were on the third floor... of the hotel."

I hate lies, so I said I had been on the third floor of the other side.  I told him exactly what had happened.

He told me that the "student council" was "deliberating [my] fate" as we spoke.  Now remember, there were people swapping rooms, going out drinking, etc, but I was the one in trouble!  It didn't take long- the Student Council decided that my Horrendous Crime was worth my being sent home from the class trip.  The principal called my parents, and explained that I was being sent home, and that he'd call again with flight times.  I would have to pay the school for my ticket home AND for a chaperone!

I was permitted to go back to my hotel room with an escort of the same two teachers who grabbed me earlier.  I was not allowed to speak to anyone.  Everyone was staring.  Some hooted and hollered.  I packed my things, and was escorted back to the principal's room.  He ordered a cot brought to the room, and there I spent the night.

The principal snored.

Early the next morning, I was awakened and herded toward a van.  The chaperone was waiting.  He taught business, and had a waxed curling moustache.  He didn't want to come to Florida in the first place, and was glad to go home early.

I didn't speak on the way to the airport, waiting for the plane, boarding... but the teacher was chatting away, happy as can be.  About halfway back to Philadelphia, he took the hint and stopped trying to speak to me.  I just looked out the window, and seethed.  I also wrote in a book I had with me.  I'll come back to that.

How did Mrs. B know to look for me up there?  We were there for less than five minutes, and we told no one where we were going.  In fact there was only one person who knew: Mal.  he must've told the teachers where I was going.  Did I mention nobody liked that guy?

After we landed, my dad met me at baggage claim.  He exchanged curt pleasantries with the teacher, and led me to his truck.  He didn't say a word to me then, or for the entire ride home.  When we arrived home. we pulled up into the driveway and started walking toward the back door.  He pointed at the lawn mower sitting in the backyard.  He didn't speak to me for a week.

I thought that would be the end of it.  It was Friday, and I was home early.  The class were going to Disney World that day.  Sometime during that day, probably first thing after arriving, they were assembled for a class picture.  Obviously, as I was miles away (probably in flight) I am not in the picture.

After I finished cutting the grass and putting away the mower, I decided to go down to Burger King and pick up my check.  It was payday after all.  I walked into BK, and when the staff saw me, they gave me an ovation.  They had heard what happened.  People who were in Florida started spreading the word via phone probably as it happened.

The BK staff heard that I was caught naked having sex.  And that I had her arms tied to the bedposts with leather straps.  I told them what had actually happened.  Some of them believed me.  Others didn't.

At 4 PM, I called "Julianne" at home.  The first words out of her mouth were "You'd better have a great explanation for this."  She'd heard at HER school as well!  She said she'd heard that we were caught having sex, I was tied to the bed, and the girl was wearing a leather dominatrix outfit complete with whip.  I told Julianne the truth.  She believed me, but our relationship was doomed.  When we broke up, the class trip was one of the things she brought up.

Monday morning, I went to school.  With me, I brought a blank check from my bank account.  I stopped in the office, and was told the amount.  It all but emptied my account- the money I was saving for college.

I ended up being late for homeroom.  The homeroom teacher gave me two demerits for being late, despite my telling her where I was, and showing my hall pass.  I had NEVER, in all my school career, received a single demerit before this.  And that wasn't the only one.  By the time final exams rolled around, I had NINE demerits (ten meant suspension) for various offenses, none of which were demerit worthy.  (Like "taking too long going to the restroom.")

Suddenly, everyone was talking about me.  Everyone wanted the story.  I told them exactly what happened.  Most didn't believe me.  They heard all kinds of kinky stories.  I won't list them here, but some of them were quite outrageous and/or disgusting.  Whenever I saw Mal in the halls, he avoided me.  Good thing, too.  After all, if I were going to get demerits, I may as well earn them by knocking his teeth in.  This is when I was in peak condition, and I was still studying in the dojo.  It would've been over quickly.

High School Graduation

I won an award at graduation from the "Ladies Club of Royersford": Outstanding Writer of the Year.  It was supposed to have a $500 cash award attached, I was told.  It was reduced to $50.  They almost didn't give it to me.  When I walked up to receive my diploma, people laughed.  I heard chants of "Flor-i-da!"  The superintendent handed me my diploma, and, as rehearsed, I smiled and turned to my right for the "official picture."  I then turned to the superintendent and said "F*ck you."  Yes, I know, really mature.  I was an angry 17 year old.

I kept in touch with Beverly for a while.  We wrote to each other, and occasionally spoke on the phone.  She attended Rutgers.  I visited her there once during late 1985.  I was supposed to stay the weekend, but I ended up leaving the same night I arrived.  I last heard from her in 1987, when she wrote me telling me she was getting married.  I hope her life has been amazing.

At the five year reunion, what did most people ask/say to me?  "Remember Florida?" or some other comment to that idea.

Ten year reunion:  "Remember the class trip? *laughs*" Mal attended that reunion.  He became a police officer, and had a Hitler moustache to "protest" something or other.  I asked him why he "ratted me out."  He didn't answer- just turned and avoided me for the rest of the day.  I haven't seen nor heard of him since.

Twenty five year reunion: "Dude were you really caught f*cking that girl?"

At the Thirty year reunion, despite my showing up as a Woman, wearing a cleavage-baring dress, what did I hear?  "Class trip!"  Seriously!  They were seeing me as a female for the first time, and THAT'S all they could think to discuss?

And that's not all- for years after, my name was brought up at school assemblies as a threat- break the rules and you'll be sent home.  How do I know?  The younger siblings of friends told me.  I have had several SF grads, when introduced to me (in my old life) say "Aren't you the one they sent home from the class trip?"  I also heard that maybe ten years later, a large group was sent home for drug violations, ending class trips for a while.

So there it is- the Truth.  Unvarnished.  How do I remember this so clearly?  Aside from the fact that it's burned into my memory, I wrote the details in my journal I kept.  I wrote the details of the previous night in my journal on the plane ride home.

How did this make me feel?  As I've written before, in August 1983, I stopped crossdressing; resolving to be the Man I was expected to be.  I was angry at the world.  Miserable.  Depressed.  All my life, I'd been punished for things others had done, usually my brother.  This time, my "peers" decided to make an example of me, for a really minor thing.  As I wrote above, classmates were screwing, drinking, getting high, going out on the town- and EVERYONE knew it... but I'm the one who bore everyone's sins.  (No, I don't have a Christ complex.)  If I were one of the "popular" kids, would I have been sent home?  Of course not.  But I was a nobody, and a perfect target.

I hate lies.  I hate Hypocrisy even more (especially when I am guilty of it.)  And that's what I saw that day.   Everyone else gets a pass but me.

I was Bitter as Hell for years.  I would spit if the name "Spring Ford" were mentioned.  At the reunions, I avoided the honorable members of the student council, especially when I was drinking, lest I give them a strongly worded piece of my mind.  Or worse.  Why did I go to the reunions?  Because I wanted to see how many of my classmates had screwed up their lives.  And I wasn't disappointed in that regard.  At all.  Not that I've done much better.

Time heals all wounds is the cliche (which I don't believe by the way.)  However, in this case, I let the bitterness go.  I let it Die with Lance when I transitioned.  Do I still hold all the same opinions?  Yes.  Absolutely.  Do I care?  Not anymore.  I have far worse issues to concern myself with now.

For what it's worth, one of the members did eventually apologize to me, saying they thought what happened was wrong.  Over thirty years later.

I accepted the apology.

Be Well.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Men of the Skull Chapter 35: Winter Break

This is the second to last chapter of the fall 1986 semester.  The last one concerns a Rescue Squad call during break, just before coming back to PSU.  It has nothing to do with PSU or the fraternity at all, so I wasn't going to post it.  Let me know if you think I should post it.

In any case, this is the longest chapter of the book.  A lot of it has nothing to do with Penn State, with people who are from the first part of the book (Drexel) so this is an edited version.  I'm leaving in just the Penn State parts.

I was only going to post my first Penn State semester in my blog.  I've received TONS of hits on the chapters, and received some wonderful comments, both public and private.  I'm glad that I've been able to help fellow alumni remember happy times from their days at PSU.  Maybe I'll post the Spring 1987 semester as well.  Please let me know what you think.  And comments are always appreciated!


Chapter 35: Winter Break

Saturday, December 20, 1986 Sakharov freed from Gorky exile

            First Dave went home, Then Virginia, Then, eventually, Judy.  I took the TV exam then walked to the bus terminal over on Atherton Street, from which I rode the Greyhound bus back to the King of Prussia bus terminal, maybe ten miles from home.  After four and a half hours, I arrived to dull grey skies and flurries.  The whole world seemed stripped of color.
            I was home, as it was.
            Mike Joy waited in his beat up grey camaro.
            “You’re late, Kandler!”
            “Take it up with the driver.  I think he aimed for every pothole he could hit,” I said while loading my laundry and book bag into the small back seat.  When that was done, I plopped down into the passenger seat.
            “Welcome home, asshole!”  Joy said, offering his hand.
            “Fuck off, shithead,” I said, shaking it.
            We made some small talk as he drove me past the mall and back to Spring City.

            Christmas break meant work: I went back to Wee Three Records as planned.  I wanted as many hours as possible.  I needed the money and I needed to be out of the house as much as I could.  Dave worked too, over at Diamond Glass.  I probably wouldn’t see him at all.  So it meant more time for work.

Friday, December 26, 1986 62 die on jet as hijack try causes crash

            [After playing hours of drinking games at the house of a friend's grandfather, which said friend was house sitting.]
After a few hours more of Three Man, Mexican, and Ace Face, I sat alone at the table.  Joy was passed out on the couch, Harry upstairs in a bed, and Chuck was face down on the table.  Even passed out, Chuck’s hat remained sideways on his head.  It was like a scene from a movie.  I was really drunk, but not so bad that I didn’t want to drink more, play more, or whatever.  Maybe I’d walk to the Wawa.  How did I manage to be the one still up?  Practice?
Then it struck me.  In my two years at Drexel, I came home most weekends.  I never let the “Drexel Experience” sink in- probably because I was afraid what would happen.  But now…


Now I knew that I didn’t belong here.  I didn’t want to just hang out at the mall, or go to Sensations hoping maybe to meet someone so I could stop thinking about the girl who just left me, or cruise my nights away on High Street.  I looked at my friends passed out and thought about them.  They were good people- I certainly was no better than them.  Chuck worked hard at the Mrs. Smith’s Pie factory.  Harry worked at another factory.  Joy worked two different retail jobs trying to afford school.  I was no better, but much as I denied it, I had changed.  I wanted a different life.  I was beginning to see things differently.  I met and studied with people from all over the country.  I drank in all Penn State had to offer.  Pardon the pun.  I really was, finally, a college man.  My path was diverging from theirs and was leading away.
Taken Winter Break '86.  My Letters are redacted.

So now what?  Having admitted that to myself, what’s the next step?  Be a snob?  Not associate with my friends?  No, can’t do that. 
Fuck, all I knew for sure was that I missed Penn State.  I missed the energy, the fun, the the…  I missed Judy.  I saw Virginia, but it was different here.  At Penn State, it was both of them.  Here, Judy was a voice on the phone.  A Memory.  Like Penn State.
I had another two weeks, or maybe my whole life, to wait until returning to school.
I knew this: I was tired of being different.


Friday, January 2, 1987 Students rally again in Peking

            “Intercepted, Giftopoulos!”  the announcer Charlie Jones said.
            Penn State had intercepted Miami’s Vinnie Testaverde AGAIN!  Gifto caught it on the one yard line, ran out to the eleven, and dropped to his knees, covering the ball.  Eight seconds left.  Vinnie threw five interceptions.  This one sealed the win!  Penn State beat Miami 14-10! 
            Penn State was National Champions!
            Virginia and I hugged and then I ran out into the snowy night, barefoot, jumping and cheering!  I could hear cheering from a couple of the houses.  WE WON!

Interception Giftopoulos!  Freeze frame capture from You Tube

            Ok, back up.  The Crew gathered at Joy’s parent’s place to watch the game.  I picked up Virginia because I said we needed “more Penn State representation.”  I just wanted someone who Knew.  Who was from There.  Virginia wore her green sweater.  I wore my bumblebee FKS shirt.  You’d figure one of us would wear something Penn State, but we didn’t.  My only Penn State shirt was at school.
            Anyway, no beer, no pretzels or anything.  Just the game with Chuck and Harry’s smart ass remarks.  But not Joy- he was from Florida, and said he was rooting for Miami, but he didn’t say shit.
At one point he mentioned that the Penn State defensive backs and linebackers were punishing the Miami receivers whenever they came near the ball- especially Michael Irvin (he’d eventually make the Pro Football Hall of Fame). 
            It was a battle between philosophies: flash and brash vs. class.  The Miami guys always wore sunglasses and combat fatigues.  Our guys wore jackets and ties.  This time, class won.
            I came back inside quickly after I realized I had bare feet.  Virginia hugged me again.
            The time ran out.  Coach Paterno was hoisted onto his players’ shoulders.  Charlie Jones said “And there it is- its official.  The Penn State Nittany Lions are the National Champions.”
            Joy stoically shook my hand.  He paid me the ten bucks he bet a couple days later.
            We were Champions!  I had nothing to do with it, but it somehow validated my choice of school- my very existence.  It was the cap to a magical time.
            Penn Staters didn’t stop celebrating until early the next season.
            Penn State: 14  Miami: 10.  Fuck you, Jimmy Johnson.  Up yours, Jerome Brown!  After all your posing, we won!
            I hugged Virginia again, and she kissed my cheek.

Tuesday, January 6, 1987 Budget Totals $1.024 Trillion
It took hours to drive back to Spring City, as the Rabbit kept stalling.  Add that to the fact the Schuylkill Expressway was still under construction, and I arrived at sunset.  The mail was waiting on the kitchen table, including an envelope from Penn State: opened.
What the fuck!
Well the paper was still in it.
HIST 107: Medieval Europe…..  C    I expected that
ENGL 133: Modern American Lit to WWII….C   Not unexpected.
STAT 200: Elementary Statistics….C    I’m glad I passed!
THEA 109 Drama in Mass media….C     What happened?  I expected a B.
EDPSY 014: Learning for Instruction….D   WHAT???  I expected an A here!
Overall GPA for the term: 1.81
            I felt sick.
            “LANCE!” my dad’s angry voice echoed off every wall.
            Run?  Join the military?  Become a hermit? 
            “Yeah?”  I answered the echoes.
            “Outside!  Now!” the angry voice said.
I walked out to the back yard where he was stacking firewood.  With the sun going down, it was becoming really fucking cold.
“What’s your problem, boy?”

[I'll end it here.  The rest of the chapter concerns a nasty argument with my dad, a trip to Philadelphia, and making arrangements for a ride back to PSU.  The chapter ends with...]

While we ate, we made arraignments for the trip back up to State College.  I couldn’t fucking wait.