Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Ten For Sophie


My favorite holiday.

This year will be different.  This year, I mark an anniversary.  Ten years ago, on October 31, 2008, I went out to a party dressed as a woman for the first time.  That was the first time I'd dressed in 25 years.





During those years, I fell into a deep depression, started drinking heavily, had a nasty habit of starting fights, attempted suicide, and somehow, got married and fathered a child.  In that order.

First photo of me as "Lois" after makeup.  Halloween 2008

After that Halloween, the "dam broke" or whatever cliche you wish to use.  I started researching transgender on the internet, something that didn't exist in the 1980s.    When I "dressed" in the 80s, I thought I was alone- that I was a Freak- that something was horribly wrong with me.  Society of the time did nothing but encourage that idea.  I managed to assemble a small feminine wardrobe (thank you Sears and JC Penney's catalogues) and kept it hidden.

You see, in the 80s it was common for kids to go home from school and be alone, since usually both parents worked.  On the days when I didn't work, I had to contend with my Older Brother (OB) coming home and making my life miserable.  After a few years of dressing in secret (and my brother catching me once) I decided to stop.  Men don't dress as women (and I'd been taught men were superior to women) and I was a MAN.  So one early August day in 1983, I took all of my feminine clothing out to the burn barrel in the yard, added lighter fluid, and burned it all.

Halloween 2007: "Clark Kent" 

I've written about this many, many times.  I've written about the depression, etc that followed.

I've written about Halloween 2008 many times as well.  Halloween 2007- Wife and I did Lois and Clark.   2008, she suggested we do the same thing, but switch roles.  Elizabeth helping me choose clothes at Lane Bryant.  Dawn doing my makeup.  Wife's reaction.  Reaction at the book store.  Going out to a bar.

I remember going home that night.  I was on the "on ramp" to 422 when I looked down at myself.  I saw my breasts (made of birdseed in pantyhose) protruding under my black sweater.  I saw my skirt.  I knew even then that something changed- That I couldn't go back, even if I wanted to do so.

I was scared.

After i got back to the house I shared with Wife, my then 1 year old daughter, and MIL, I stayed up until 3.  I figured as this was the "Last time" I'd ever dress, I wanted to take a LOT of pictures to remember the occasion (sound familiar?)  I was up until 3:30 AM.

The next time I worked, I was the talk of the store.  You see, none of them recognized me at first.  The store manager said I was a "really ugly woman."  Other coworkers commented on my courage.  I was teased for weeks.

I told my therapist at the time about the night.  She asked if I wanted to be a woman.  I told her that "it was an interesting experience, but no."  Within three months, I'd switch doctors to one of the foremost gender specialists: Dr. Maureen Osborne.

I think about who I was the week before that Halloween.  I was an asshole.  I drank WAY too much.  A dear friend said I "radiated hate."  I hated my life desperately.  I was a failure at everything I tried.  I was in agony inside.  And I'd buried my fem self SO deep, that I couldn't figure out why I hurt.  I even wrote a book trying to dig out the reason- if only to give me a reason to live just one more day.  That book was soundly rejected by any and all publishers to this very day- even with my rewrite idea of changing the perspective.

I've written about the internet searches, and of my first transformation makeover, with Karen at Femme fever in New York, in early December 2008.  She gave me my name: Sophie.  Later that month, December 21st, I found Renaissance Transgender Support group.  And Angela's Laptop Lounge.  I met so many amazing people that night, some of whom have passed, others who have "hung up the purse," but most are still with me.  Jennifer, Tina, Kristyn, Jone, Angela... so many!  They took me under their wing that night, and there I've stayed.  And that night, this blog was born!

Halloween Through the Years

For years, I lived for my monthly "Sophie time."  Then, in March 2014, I left my battered male shell behind.

Now ten years have passed since that Halloween.  I still have the skirt, sweater, necklace, and bra I wore that night.  A couple of years ago, I took a picture of me wearing them.  The cheap corset, horrible shoes, bad wig, clip earrings, and birdseed breasts are LONG gone.  I'm still here.

How does this make me feel, ten years on?

I can't help but think about all that I lost because of this one night reopening this "Pandora's Box."  My life was turned completely upside down.  I've written about this often as well- I lost my marriage, career, 90% of my friends, and Lisa.  I've pondered whether or not the losses were all worth it.  (My answer was "No."

Yet, here I am.  A few weeks ago the Darkness had a strong hold on me, and I planned that Today (the 10th anniversary) would be the Last Day.  I'd end it on a day of significance to me.  After all, I can't find a job, the US government is determined to erase me from existence, I'm almost out of unemployment funding, and I lost any and all hope long ago. And people say I'm an inspiration?  I say I'm a warning- this is what can happen if you destroy everything in your life.

Don't worry- I'm not going anywhere intentionally.  I have to do my part by voting the treasonous GOP out of office next week.  Good vs Evil and all that.  I'm ok as long as I have a purpose.

So how do I feel today?


I'm 52.  Unemployed.  I'll never be able to retire even if I can find a job (transgender discrimination is now LEGAL in this country.)  It's not because of the events a decade ago- no, I was born this way.  But 10 years ago, my Truth raged back into my dying light.

Truth has a way of causing Pain.

Ms. Marvel

Tonight, I intend to go out, if only for a bit.  I'm broke, so I can't drink, but I feel I should mark the occasion somehow.

For my friends who worship the Goddess, Blessed Samhain.  To all others, Happy Halloween.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

It's Happening

On Sunday, October 21, 2018, the New York Times published an article about how the GOP, led by their lord and savior Trump, are trying to eliminate legislate transgender people out of existence. This is something that I've written about before several times- both here in the blog and in my column at TG forum.

Headline, NYT Oct 21, 2018

The last time I discussed this, I was called an alarmist, and told that there was no way that anything like this would ever happen.  Well, it's happening.  The GOP are trying to legislate transgender people out of existence.  They're trying to say that, despite all of the scientific evidence to the contrary, gender is only a binary-that there are only two possibilities for chromosomes: XX and XY.  Never mind the over thirty other possible combinations .

History has shown us time and time again what happens next.  They are dehumanizing transgender people, and from there it's just a matter of time before they come for us.  Incarceration. Extermination.

OK, call me an alarmist again.  Well, guess what folks- I haven't been wrong yet on this topic.  Neither has Brynn Tannehill, and she's been saying the same things (except to a wider audience as she is published at Huffington Post and other places.)  Not that I'm jealous.  Meow.

Dear readers, I am Terrified.  I know they're coming. And if I get a gun, then I know I'll use it.  That is not a good thing.  Besides, I haven't held a gun (well, "my" gun- I've held other people's weapons) since I was 13.   I have been looking up prices for a Kay-bar knife to defend myself.  I have a sword- a very sharp Claymore- but that's no good in close quarters, and this apartment is close quarters.

I have posted about this article several times on facialbook. I have implored my cisgender friends to stand up- to help us; because without allies we are lost.   The estimate of the transgender population here in the United States is 1.4 million.  That's all. We are a distinct minority, and we could disappear in one fell swoop.

So what's next?

Well, the election is coming up in a couple of weeks. Obviously, many of us are going to go out and vote.  If we can.  If our vote is still counted.  After all, the Republicans have raised voter suppression to an art form.  They're doing everything they can to keep people from voting that they don't want to vote.   And their followers are cheering it on.

I've said many times that Republicans don't see transgender people as human.  Just like they don't see any non-white as people.  To them, we just don't count.  We are an inconvenience to be eliminated.   How do I know this?  Simple: I listen to with their politicians say, and I see what people say in the comments section after articles, such as the one in the New York Times. Or the article in USA Today which discusses the article in the New York Times. To them we are an "It."  A sickness.

Whenever I write something like this, I pray to God that I am wrong. I hope I am this time. But I haven't been yet.

If you care about civil rights in the United States- if you care about this country at all- and, on a personal level, if you care about any Transgender people, be it myself or perhaps a transgender person in your life, then for God's sake: get out and VOTE!  Get out and make your voice heard!

Vote the party of Trump OUT, up and down the ballot.

Please stand with us.  They are coming for us, and we need your help.

Men of the Skull Chapter 26: Almost

It's amazing how enthusiastic one can become about a game that others are playing.  I don't play football, but when the team representing my University won, everyone said "WE won!"  I think that's a major part of what we felt at Penn State in the 80s, that our football team was part of the identity of our school, and our school was part of our own identities.

In this chapter, I avoid a Skull party.  I did that a lot my first semester, as I knew I wasn't welcome.  Also, the girl I wanted to be with would be at a different party.  Problem was that her boyfriend was there as well.

So in this chapter I did something that I absolutely Hated (but had become VERY good at doing)- I lied to someone.  Looked into his eyes and lied.

How was I so good at it?  Well, I was lying to myself and the rest of the world by representing myself as male.  I knew the truth deep down, but had become SO good at lying to myself, that I'd almost completely buried it.  My Truth would remain buried for over 20 more years, until 2008.

That said, I showed that I COULD learn from my mistakes.  Or did I?


Chap 26:  Almost

Saturday, November 15, 1986 A Wall St. trader fined $100 million

            He dropped it!  He fucking dropped it!  Holy shit!  He dropped it!  That was fucking close!
            Notre Dame had 4th and goal, the guy was wide open in the end zone, and he just dropped the ball.  Penn State wins!  We were still undefeated!  One more game and we’d be headed to the National Championship.  And that one game was against Pitt.  Penn State- Pitt: our biggest rivalry.  The only thing that could stop was overconfidence.  After all there was no way that pitiful Pitt could beat the Nittany Lions!  They’d sucked since Dan Marino graduated.
            You could hear the Lion roar in the voices of thousands of students cheering in their apartments, their dorms, the bars, and in the fraternity houses.  Everyone was glued to their TVs.
            Everyone spilled out of their apartments onto Beaver Avenue.  It was so cold and windy!  The throng was tightly packed between the “Canyon” between Alexander Court and Cedarbrook, Penn Tower and Kappa Sig.  We jumped up and down shouting and cheering.  The balconies above us were packed with people screaming and throwing rolls of toilet paper like streamers. 
            From above: “WE ARE!”
            PENN STATE!”  we shouted back. 
            “WE ARE!  PENN STATE!”          
            Eventually ending as always with “THANK YOU!” “YOU’RE WELCOME!”      And random screaming. 
Some people on balconies cut loose with fire extinguishers.  Others threw cups of beer.  Various other cheers rose from the crowd: “JOE-PAH!”  “WE WANT THE LION!”
I figure I was on the street for an hour or so.  Didn’t feel cold at first, but as the beer splashes started to freeze, I began to shiver.  The crowd started dispersing so I went to the House.  The party wasn’t supposed to start until ten, but at eight the kegs were already tapped.  The big screen TV was in the club room (with its 40 inch screen) and all the chairs and couches were turned toward it.  Plastic cups were everywhere- empty, full, filled with drowned cigarettes, whatever.  I hung out for a beer or three, but everyone was busy upstairs getting high or whatever, leaving the pledges to set up the party. 
So I left.  Went back to the apartment, showered, shaved, changed clothes, ate (and other unnecessary stuff).  Headed to Crow around elevenish. 

As usual, my name was on the guest list at Crow.  I kinda didn’t know if it would be after recent events.  The line to get into Crow was always short, so it wasn’t long before I was downstairs at the bar.  Virginia was, as always, one of many people drinking behind the bar and doling out beers, and as always the game was Flip a Cup. 
An-gels fall like rain…And love love love love - is all of heaven away. 
Inside you the times moves, and she don't fade. 
The ghost in you- She don't fade.
Virginia gave me a beer and smiled.  The party went on as always.  Eventually Judy showed up with Rich.  She tapped me on the shoulder, and I bent down for her to shout in my ear.
“You must explain why this must be. 
Did you lie when you spoke to me? 
Did you stand by me?
No, not at all.”
“What?” I shouted back.
“Are you walking Virginia home?” she shouted again.
            “Should I?”
            She looked at me strangely- a mixture of confusion and dread.  And something else that I couldn’t figure out.
            “If she needs you to, yes” she finally answered. 
            Rich stood next to me at the bar, and a pledge handed him two beers.  He smiled at me, gave a beer to Judy, and they disappeared into the crowd.
            Dice appeared from somewhere, so there were two cups going for Flip a Cup AND a game of three man going at the bar.
            After playing for too long, I found myself in the “living room” (the one with the couches.)  The music from the nearby “dance floor” (the neighboring room) was loud, but a person could still talk to someone else without shouting.  Still, I could hear everyone singing along.
“So bye-bye, miss American pie.
Drove my Chevy to the levee, But the levee was dry.”
I was talking to Rich.  Judy was nowhere in sight. 
            “So I heard you banged Virginia!” he said with a drunken smile.
            “Does everybody know?”  I asked then took a hefty gulp of the flattening beer.
            “I don’t know.  Judy told me.  Better watch it with her.  She gets nutty in a hurry.”
            “In what way?”
            “Really possessive.  Weird.”  He drank a gulp of beer.
            “Oh great.  How would you know?”
            “I, um, saw it happen the summer she was up here.  She got really clingy with a brother in a hurry, and really jealous and shit.”
            “That’s right!  Have fun!”  He smiled and swigged some more beer.
            “Thanks” I finished my beer.  “Where’s Judy?  Haven’t seen her in a while.”
            “I don’t know.  Probably in the other room.  All the little sisters love to sing along to this song.  Weird.”
I could hear lots of people singing along, not a key among them.
“And them good old boys were drinkin’ whiskey and rye,
Singin’, this’ll be the day that I die.”
“Y-know” Rich continued, “I thought you were chasing her, and it pissed me off.  Now I see that I was wrong.
I looked back at him.  “Seems that way.”
Well, I’m sorry that I mis-mis judged you.”  Rich put out his hand.
So he knew.  I guess he’s not stupid.  I looked down at his hand, then shook it.  A lie.  Have some balls, Lance.  Tell him the truth.  It’s only a matter of time until he finds out anyway.
The truth.  What was the fucking truth anyway?  I fucked up two possibilities chasing some girl who already had a boyfriend and wouldn’t leave him.  I couldn’t even get up the guts to fuck her.  Then, just when things were getting interesting, I went and fucked her roommate.  Destroyed everything I had going.  And the one I DID fuck has all kinds of baggage I don’t need.  THAT’S the fucking truth.
“Hey!  You still with me?”  Rich asked.
I snapped out of it.  “Oh!  Sorry!  Lost in thought.”
“Yeah, well think twice before getting too involved with Virginia.  All you’ll find there is a whole world of shit.”
I drifted back downstairs.  The front of the bar was shouting “Tastes great!” then the people in back of the bar would shout “Less Filling!” and back and forth, drowning out the speakers.
“Your eyes are blue like the heavens above.
Talk to me darlin’ with a Message of Love!”  
the Pretenders snarled.
I almost bumped into Judy, who was carrying two beers.
“She’s still back there!” she shouted over the noise, the walked toward the stairs.  I nosed through the crowd to the edge of the bar.  Virginia was down at the other end.  The dice were gone, but the two cups were still going.  Virginia landed one face up, looked over at me and shouted.
“Skull!  Imbibe!”
Fuck.  I chugged a beer handed to me by someone filling them behind the bar, accepted another, and headed back upstairs.  Rich and Judy were slow dancing on the darkened dance floor.
“You know I love you but I just can’t take this. 
You know I love you but I’m in too deep”
Phil Collins crooned.

Collegian Monday, Nov 17, 1986
Getting close to one thirty.  I was drunk and alone and feeling really stupid.  I found a corner of the living room to stand in and slowly finish my beer.  Several Crow little sisters smiled and waved at me as they bounced by, but none stopped to talk.  A couple was passionately making out on the couch across the room.
Finished the beer.  Dropped the cup.  Landed face down.  Why couldn’t I do that downstairs?  Went up front.  Found my battered blue coat behind DJ.  Wrestled it on.  Looked over to see dance floor empty. 
“Taaaaaaaaake onnnnnnn meeeeeeee (take on me) Taaaaaaaaaake meeeeeeee hoooooommmmmmme (take on me!)”
Virginia walked up behind me.
“Walk me home?” she asked without emotion.

“Sure.  I’ll be waiting out front.”
“Well, I don’t want to fucking inconvenience you.  Don’t bother, asshole!”
“Whatever.  I’ll be waiting out front.”
“Fuck you” she gestured in sign language.
Went out front.  The cold air felt good and crisp after the noise and the smoke.  Night still buzzed with energy.  Like a distant cheering.  The Lion purring.  Waited a couple minutes.  Started to head down the walk when Virginia came out.  Looked at me.  I waited for her.  Walked her home- same route as always.
Didn’t come within three feet of each other.  Music at Pika. 
“We built this city.  We built this city from rock and roll!”
Ugh.  Ignored it.  Didn’t talk.  Got to Sutton Court.  She went in.  I didn’t.
Walked back to the apt.  Alone.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

... I see France

I had to be up at 5:15 am.

And I was. This time, I had no luggage.  After a Tube issue (one line wasn't running) I almost missed my train.  As it was, I made the 7:31 am chunnel train to Paris, France.  Not to be confused with Paris, Arkansas.

The train was a marvel.  Once it was underway, it went 266 km/hr (165 mph.)  The scenery flew by.  My initial seat had no window, but there was an empty window seat a row up, so I moved to it.

Inside the Train


Two hours and twenty minutes later, the train pulled into Gare du Nord, a main Paris train station.  I had eight hours in France.  I REALLY had to use the Ladies room, but the only public toilet in the station charged 0.70 euros for use.  It was a job finding an ATM, and it only dispensed 50 euro bills.  I went to a small shop, where I bought a coke.  He was VERY angry at me for using such a large bill, but it was all I had.  He cursed me out in French.  I gave him the two finger English salute.  Then I waited in line for the Ladies room after paying the fee.

There were some things I wanted to do in Paris.  First on that list was to see the Eiffel Tower.  On the Metro to the Eiffel Tower, there were 2 women from US. "Look at that man in a dress. Who does he think he foolin'?"  I replied "This WOMAN is from America, and understood every word you said."  They replied "ummmmm uhhhh" and looked away.

LONG line for the tower.  

Trivia: the steel for the Eiffel Tower (as well as the Golden Gate Bridge) was made in Phoenixville, PA, where I now live, by Phoenix Steel.  In any case, the line for the Tower was three hours long.  As I was short of time, I decided not to go.  The Tower itself was fenced off due to construction, so I couldn't even get close to it.  As I walked around the Tower getting pictures, an Indian woman stopped me asking for donations for orphan children.  She identified me as American before I said a word, and spoke perfect, unaccented English.  She wanted 50 euros.  I gave her one.  She glared at me, and said "thank you SIR."

This may sound weird, but seeing the French flag made it sink in where I was.

After taking a couple of pictures, I walked to the Chez Ribe, where I sat at an outdoor table and ordered wine.  The waitress was a beautiful young woman who spoke very good English.  I did my best to order in French, but she soon stopped me, and spoke English to me.  So there I was, drinking wine in Paris, writing in my notebook like Hemingway and so many others before me.  Oh, and the waitress misgendered me.

Green, path to Tower.  Little X where Indian woman was.  Yellow, path to Cafe from Tower.  Google maps

Tourist at Cafe

After a few minutes, I ordered some lunch- a toasted ham and cheese with fried egg.  An older American couple sat at the table next to me.  They were from Long Island, NY, but had a home in Paris as well.  They told me that the Parisians won't respect an American who isn't as rude to them as they are to us.  I said "I'm from Philly.  No one is ruder than us!"  They laughed, and we talked about which city was ruder- Philly or NYC.

The waitress misgendered me twice more, despite my polite corrections.  At that point, I was rather irritated.  I said "I guess you don't see many transgender women, given the way you treat me."  She smiled and leaned in to say "Not so.  I am a lesbian, and I see many trannys at the clubs I frequent."  I asked her for directions to the best club, and handed her my writing book.  I didn't intend to go, but I felt it would be fun to watch her puzzle over it.

The directions she wrote in my notebook

After she gave me the check, I gave her my American Express card.  She asked if I wanted to leave a tip (tipping is not a custom in France) and handed me a little handheld credit card device. I leaned in toward her and said "Here's your tip- if you want a transgender woman to leave a gratuity, you shouldn't f**king misgender her three times.  Savvy?"  She nodded, and I left the cafe.

From there, I took the Metro to the Paris Catacombs.  As I've mentioned several times in this blog, I'm a taphophile- a person who loves cemeteries.  The Catacombs was one of two things I NEEDED to see in Paris.  I exited the Metro and...

On Strike

The Catacomb workers were on strike.  So, I donated five euros to the cause, told one of them "Vive Solidarity"which got me a smile, and went back to the tube to my next Must See.

Google maps

My next stop was Cimetière du Père Lachaise- one of the world's first cemeteries, and the most visited cemetery in the world (3.5 million people each year.)  I wanted to see this Necropolis, but specifically one of it's famous inhabitants.  So many famous people are buried here: Oscar Wilde, Bizet, Chopin, Proust, Moliere, Edith Piaf... and Jim Morrison.

I wanted to visit Jim.  So I did.  His grave has been fenced off due to vandalism over the years.

Jim Morrison's Grave, one of Paris' leading tourist attractions

I took 52 pictures in Pere Lachaise, but I'll only post a few.  I don't want to bore you, dear reader, any more than I have.

Someone REALLY liked photography

Did I mention it's on a hill?  A STEEP hill?

The dead walk...

Monument to those who fought in the French Resistance

A small avenue

Moliere in the air

I spent a few hours in the necropolis, then took the Metro back toward central Paris.  I wanted to see the Cathedral.  And I did.  I also heard the bells.  And smelled the Seine.  I didn't get near Notre Dame, as there were HUGE crowds.

Notre Dame Cathedral

"I suddenly remembered my Charlemagne"

In-Seine in the Membrane!

I decided to find something to eat.  As I searched, I passed a bookstore... that had a line to get in.  No event or signing, just... very popular.  Warms the heart.  :)

Whatever they were discussing, they were passionate about it

I passed a cafe and watched people argue.  I decided to eat closer to the Gare du Nord, so went in search of a Metro stop on a line that would take me there.  (I really wanted to go to McDonalds and order a Royale with Cheese.  Seriously!)  I searched for half an hour.  Eventually, I found it.  It was an unmarked elevator.  Next to it, I saw written on the wall, in English "Trans is beautiful."  After all the misgendering, that felt good.

Do YOU see a Metro stop?  Neither did I.  But it's there

Trans is Beautiful

I went as many stops closer to Gare du Nord as I could, but all lines to the station were under construction.  And time was wasting- if I didn't get there fast, I'd miss my train. I hailed a cab, and asked the driver if he spoke English.  He did, but not well.  I asked him how long would it take to get to Gare Du Nord.  Twenty minutes- rush hour.  The train was LEAVING in twenty minutes.  I told him if he could get me there in ten, I'd give him a 50 euro tip.

Google maps.  Markings by me

We don't need... roads.

VROOM!  The man tapped into his inner James Bond.  Dude was FLYING! He wove in and out of traffic, went the wrong way down a one way street, drove up on a sidewalk- probably broke most of the Napoleonic code.  We arrived at Gare du Nord in 9 minutes 53 seconds.  I gave him his 50 euro tip, ran into the station, breezed through customs (no one was in line!) and boarded the train back to London.

All aboard!

I was seated next to very pleasant Brit who reminded me of Don Cheadle if he had dreadlocks.  We chatted for a bit, then I fell asleep when we reached the Chunnel.  I woke up in England.  My fellow traveller was also asleep.

From the train station, I took the Tube (with several lines still out,) and, eventually, arrived back at the hotel.  I changed, showered, and went to Goodman's Pub again, as it was the only place still serving food.  It was a hard walk, as I was very tired, having walked over ten miles that day, and (TMI time) I had a nasty sweat rash.  The streets were loud, as people were still celebrating the wedding, and (apparently) there was a big football match that night as well.  I saw a group of CDs waling toward me at one point.  I gave them a polite smile, which they returned- a silent acknowledgement of Sisterhood. I packed a little, and went to bed.

The next morning, I awoke, showered, shaved, troweled on my face, dressed and hustled to the Tube to London Paddington train station.  On the way to the Tue, I saw many remnants from the night's revelry.  There were puddles of vomit, some torn shirts, and a small line of English flag (cross of St. George) pennants on the ground.

Must've been one heck of a party!

From Paddington, a train to Heathrow.  My bag was even heavier leaving than it was when I flew over!  I had to pay an overweight bag fee.  Up, down, around, up, down again, then I was near the gate.  I picked up a Lego London Bus for my daughter, and eventually boarded the plane for home.

Train to Heathrow

Dancing with the Clouds

Best pretzels ever! (hee hee)

After we landed, etc, I drove home.  On the way, I picked up a cheesesteak.  I'd been craving one all week, and getting it meant I was home.

Pizza Steak from Sal's Pizza Box, Phoenixville.

It's been five months since that trip.  That's plenty of time to reflect and consider the Meaning of it.  Selah.  The night before I flew home, I wrote in my notebook about how, if 45 makes it necessary to flee, I could go to the UK- but where?  London?  Glasgow?  Edinburgh?  I concluded that while Scotland stirred my soul, London would be the best bet to find a job.  I should start contingency planning, I wrote.  And I have.

Seeing London on my own (for the most part) was wonderful, and it was made better by Paula with her deep knowledge and pleasant conversation.  Stratford Upon Avon was magical- a dream come true- as was meeting Amanda.   Scotland!  Seeing Scotland as an adult; meeting family I'd never seen; making new friends (Hi Giovanna, Gianluca, and Joel!); seeing my Uncle John- I can't begin to describe how the emotions I felt then have aged and cured inside my head.  Edinburgh with Emma- walking paths I'd trod as a child and laughing with such a classy woman- was unforgettable.  Lighting candles for Lisa.  Westminster Abbey.  The only part that was slightly disappointing was Paris.  It's a beautiful city, and I'm glad I went, but in the end- I hated it.

I've always maintained that travel is as important as college for growing the mind and expanding horizons.  Taking this trip alone gave me plenty of time to think about some basic things:  Who is Sophie?  Was transition worth the Price?  Is this Life worth the Pain?

And so I searched for those answers in foreign lands.  I searched among museums holding artifacts I'd only read about.  I saw sunsets over mountains and lochs, and graves of the famous and obscure alike.  I sought answers with family, and with friends.

Would I have liked company?  Yes.  I would've loved it if Wife and daughter were with me to share these experiences.  Or my roomie/bestie Linda, who's never been overseas- hearing her perspectives on it all.

But with company, I wouldn't have had that Time to think.

Who am I?  Is it all worth the price and Pain?

I don't think I'll ever have the first answer, as I'm still writing that story.  I'm still learning about the Woman I've become, and her role in this world.  I'm still experiencing things with feminine eyes instead of Lies.  Maybe, in the end, it's not really my story to write.  Not alone anyway.  After all, I won't be around after the last page turns, so someone will have to write the epilogue for me.

As for the second question, or the third, I'll keep my answers to myself.

Because in the end, travelling alone means that all I saw; all I experienced; my emotions and thoughts... while I can write about them, and share a small fraction- which I have- are mine alone.  No one else saw those things from my eyes.  No one else smelled the wind coming off the lochs, or heard the screech of the Metro train stopping as I did, just like I can't experience these things from YOUR eyes.    Some answers must always remain private.  If only because the answers change over time.  As I do.

Maybe that's the lesson I've drawn from that week of travel those months ago- that it's OK to take some time for myself.  To Heal.  To Discover.  To Grow.

Because I only get so many sunsets in my life.  Then night falls.

Be well.

Sunset, Greenock Scotland