Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Out of Gas

Yesterday, I pushed my car into this gas station, out of gas and money. I swallowed my pride and posted on facial book asking for help.

Uni Mart, North Atherton St.

Within a minute, I had several people send me money enough to not just get enough gas to get home, but also fill the tank. (I then deleted the post.)

My deepest gratitude to:

KR Schaefer
Randi Simpson
Frank Mentzer
Rachelanne Nelson
Michelle Levy Ferretti

I don't deserve friends like you. I cried tears of happiness.

While pushing the car (300 yards to a downhill, where I was able to coast into the gas station) I kept thinking about how stupid I was for not budgeting correctly.  How if I can't even do that, why the f**k was I wasting my time trying to get a PhD?  Stupid, fat, ugly, old... my usual litany of self insults.

By the time I stopped by a gas pump, I was ready to quit grad school, find a redneck bar nearby (plenty to choose from) and start a fight.  Suicide by Trumpanzee.  I just wanted to crawl into a dark hole and never come out. 

That's when I decided to post what I did to facial book, because otherwise it was a LONG walk home.  I figured I MIGHT get $5.  KR immediately sent $20.  That was all I needed, and more than expected.  In the time it took for me to transfer the money from paypal to my account, the others donated.  Literally within a minute.  I deleted the post, transferred the money, and filled my tank. 

But there's more to this story. 

All of them then checked in with me via messenger or whatever.  They were concerned.  A couple of them I hadn't "spoken" to in a few years.  One (Mr. Mentzer) I never even met, and his work had a profound influence on my life!  Two of them told me I was not to pay them back.  One told me to make sure to get a little something for myself.  So I did.

I bought beer

And after a long day, I settled on my couch, and Linda and I watched a movie (Fast Times at Ridgemont High if you must know.)  I had a beer, and, after the movie, started in on my homework.

The day ended.  I was tired; my muscles ached; but... my friends helped me when I needed it.

Thank you.  Seriously.

Be well.

Friday, January 3, 2020

Last Decade

I know I write about the past often.  I'm still trying to understand who I am, and why, so looking at the past is one way that I do this.  For that reason, I don't often do "year in review" things.  However, this time it's a new decade.  2020 marks the 7th decade in which I've lived.

I was born in 1966.  I only have a few vague memories of the 60s.  I remember watching the moon landing.  I remember falling down the stairs when I was two (I remember the sensation of falling and thinking "whee! I'm flying!) and breaking my arm (I don't remember that part.)

I remember the 70s.  I remember a dream from when I was three: a huge blob of living lava burned through a barn (this barn really existed, and had a huge hole in the one side, so...) Also in that dream there were a parade of brachiosauruses on the horizon, moving left to right.  Most of my childhood was the 70s.  However, it was also the decade of Star Wars, which changed my life as it did so many others.  

I began the 80s in junior high school.  I ended them as a college graduate.  In most ways that count, the 80s is when I "grew up."  Burned all my girl clothes because "men don't play dress up."  I fell into deep depression, from which I still haven't recovered.  Until recently, it was the decade of greatest change in my life.

In the 90s, I met and married my Wife.  I moved to Baltimore to work for Games Workshop.  Bought my first (and only) house.

00s... A decade of Hell.  We moved back to Pa to live with Wife's mother (MIL.)  My drinking was out of control.  Earned Masters degree.  I was angry at everything, especially myself.  I wrote a book, hoping to figure out why.  Daughter was born in 07.  Then my True self reemerged in 08 after 25 years of suppression.  Oh, and I started this blog on Myspace.

At the dawn of 2010, I was a VERY closeted cross dresser who was very confused and depressed.

I didn't know how deeply my femme self went, and I fought it as hard as I could.  In 2012, I finally stopped lying to my wife three and a half years after my "re-emergence" and told her all about Sophie

Also in 2012, I met a person who would affect my life profoundly: Lisa Empanada.  She was a friend and mentor, but more- she understood the Darkness in my soul, as she had it as well.

August 2012.  I was arrested for drunk driving.  I finally got help for my drinking.  I paid the price for my stupidity.

In December 2012, I decided, with Wife's consent, to start HRT.  I wasn't sure about transitioning, but heard that a low dose of estrogen helped with dysphoria.  It did.

Events escalated quickly.  I began getting more freelance work as an Instructional designer, so I was able to start paying off debts.  I also worked part time at Penn State Great Valley.  Then, in late summer of 2013,  MIL discovered I was transgender, and gave me 48 hours to move out.  Wife told me she was not coming with me, which crushed me.  I moved out on August 30, 2013. 

With Lisa at SCC

A week after I travelled to the Southern Comfort Conference (SCC), where I was "pinned in" as a sister of Vanity Club.  While there, I met someone who I didn't know would be a central figure of my life: Linda Lewis.  Lisa arrived the last day of the conference, which surprised me.  I didn't realize that this would be the last time we would ever speak. 

My birthday was September 13.  Four days later, on September 17, 2013, I was told that Lisa died of suicide.  After being thrown out, other issues, then her death, I tail-spinned into the Darkness.  I really don't know how I survived that month, and the next few. 

In late December 2013, Linda Lewis arrived from Michigan on her way to Florida.  Things fell apart while she was staying at the house where a dear friend graciously let me stay, and she stayed in Pa. 

March 2014.  I finally started living my Truth.  Lost 90% of my friends, and Instructional design calls stopped.

June 2014.  Linda and I found an apartment together, soon to be joined by Zoey, without whom we would've been homeless. 

June 2015, Linda and I moved to Phoenixville (Zoey previously moved back to Iowa) where I was closer to Wife and daughter. 

Cast of Dracula, 2019

November 2016.  The election puts a maniac in charge of our country.  Hate crimes against minorities, including transgender people, rise dramatically.  The end of the American experiment is a real possibility.

February 2017.  I made my stage debut as Sophie in the Vagina Monologues.  Sold out show. 

February 2018.  I lost my book store job after 14 years.  I was unemployed, except for odd jobs and Lyft, for over a year.  I felt absolutely worthless.

May 2018.  I travelled to the UK to reconnect with family and myself. 

January 2019.  I played a Maid in a local production of Dracula.  Sold out run. 

June 2019.  I played the courtesan Tintinabula in a local production of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.  It will be my last play for a long time, as I have no time while studying.

August 2019: Linda and I moved to Penn State so I could begin my PhD studies in Adult and Continuing Education, after being accepted in March.

Linda and I in State College, 2019

Now it's January 2020.  I'm in my apartment in State College.  The new semester starts in a week.  How would I summarize the last decade?


Worst decade of my life. 

So many losses.  So much Pain.  Combined with deaths, and the uncertainty of who I really was, the Darkness was (and still is) still waiting to claim me as it did Lisa.  I am far from the same person who started the decade- in fact it was a whole different life.  Seems so distant, but it wasn't that long ago.   I started the decade as a "guy" in deep Pain, 

At the dawn of a New Decade, I feel useful.  I finished my first semester of doctoral study with a 3.97.  I work as a graduate assistant for the University.  Linda is also working.  I've made some new friends, and I'm mentoring an undergraduate transgender woman (still taking her earliest steps,) but for the most part keep to myself.  The colossal amount of homework precludes a social life. 

I'm living now as I have been for the past several years: day by day.  I don't make plans.  I do what I need to do.  People come and go.  Now in State College, I'll fade from more people's lives.  That's the way of things.

Cast of Forum

I still have no Hope.  45 is still in the White House, and it seems like weekly I lose more rights simply because I was born transgender.  Money is still a struggle, so surgeries are out of the question. 

Yet, I'm doing something here that may help others.  If I can help one transgender person have an easier time in transitioning, and/or survive, then this will all be worth it.  Nice to have purpose again.

So, this new decade brings so many challenges.  May it bring all of you happiness.

Be well.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Men of the Skull Chapter 59: Last Great Phi Psi

Yes, I'm skipping a chapter.  The chapter I'm skipping is about two of the brothers being arrested, and, as there's no way to really scrub their identities in this chapter, as a courtesy to them, I'm not posting it.

Also, it's just not a good chapter.

in any case,...


Chapter 59: The Last Great Phi Psi 500

Saturday, April 4, 1987 Papal Mass is marred by violence

            How does a tradition die?
            Is it because people don’t care anymore?
            Once upon a time, there was a tradition at Penn State called the Phi Psi 500.  Actually, it was and still is the national philanthropy for Phi Kappa Psi fraternity, but at PSU it was HUGE!  It was the perfect college philanthropy- all the money went to charity.  Imagine this: a running race around State College.  Simple enough.  But in this race, everyone has to go to six bars and chug a beer in each before going on with the race.  Whoever thought of this was a fucking genius!  The money got raised by canning, the fees, t-shirt sales, raffles, and the drinks purchased during the race.  Figure over a thousand racers paying fifty cents a drink per drink, times six, and that’s a decent chunk of change right there! 
Collegian, April 6, 1987

            How could it get any better?  Well, add a second part of the race for the non-runners.  Make it a costume contest with prizes so that you’ll have college students with their twisted beer-fueled imaginations coming up with insane ideas. 
            As can be imagined, this event was huge.  There were always events for which all the alumni would try like hell to return.  Fall had Homecoming.  Summer had Arts Fest.  Spring had the Phi Psi.  The hotels would be booked solid for miles around.  The bars and restaurants were packed.  It was a bonanza for all the downtown merchants- just like another football weekend.  During the race, people would line the streets cheering.  Some people were openly drinking, but the cops ignored it as long as the drinkers remembered the most important rule: “don’t be an asshole.”
            Phi Psi- with all of this in its favor, how could such a tradition die?  Like this- the school administration announced that they wanted the Phi Psi 500 to be “dry.”  Phi Psi caved in, like they had a fucking choice.  So starting in 1988, a program of phasing out beer from the Phi Psi 500 would begin. 
            Of course students and alumni were pissed off, but what could they do?  Even though all the racers had to be twenty one and have their IDs pinned to their shirts, the police could still clamp down for “public drunkenness” or whatever.  And, of course, the university could pull Phi Psi’s charter. 
            Welcome to Reagan’s America.  Or more precisely, Bryce Jordan’s Penn State.
            Phi Psi tried to minimize the damage.  The Collegian interviewed the guy running it, Todd Dagen, and he said “We want to continue the race in years to come if people will just participate without the alcohol.”1
            Right.  Whatever.
Skull was on tap, of course.  We kept the keg in the coatroom to the left of the foyer (where we had the house payphone.)  We had blue opaque plastic cups- because if the cops couldn’t tell it was beer, they didn’t have probable cause to come onto the property.  Skull had been doing this for years- we were pros.  We also put up a temporary fence along the edges of the lawn to keep people off of it.  No one was gonna tear up our lawn but us!  See, we were right on the race route.  The bar across the street, The Brewery, was one of the six.  This meant that our lawn was prime real estate for watching the festivities.  We had pledges at the bottom of the stairs with a guest list and a couple of pledges on the side porch to keep people out. 

            Of course, we invited a sorority over every year.  That way, not only not only did the girls get to party with Skull, but they also had an awesome place to watch the race go by,  Of course, the sorority was always grateful.  Very grateful.
            So here it was- the day that everyone hoped wouldn’t be but kinda knew would be the last great Phi Psi 500.  The alumni returned and everyone was excited. 
            And it rained.  Hard.  It was like God had decided to fill Happy Valley all the way to the top with water instead of beer.  The race went on- rain or shine.  Did that dampen the enthusiasm?  Hell no!  We Are Penn State!  And this was one of the best parties of the year!  We weren’t about to let a little (or a lot) of water stop us from having a good time! 
            The streets were lined with people in raincoats or with umbrellas or just getting soaked.  Virginia and I headed over to the Bone.  People tended to stay inside until they had a few, then they didn’t care if they were wet or not.  Some of the Chi Os were carried outside laughing and screaming.  Eventually almost everyone was outside: soaked and happy. 
            So Virginia and I drank and watched as the “real racers” went sprinting down the hill to the Brewery.  And the old folks (35 and older.)  And the sorority relay.  By the time the “anything goes” group came through, were already fairly bombed and talking about stupid shit.  As usual, the brothers pretty much ignored me, so it was mostly just the two of us.  Occasionally one of the pledges came over to talk to me, but not often. 
            We watched as a group of runners went by in slow motion: the “Chariots of Fire” group. 
            You know, even with unlimited beer and entertainment, a party isn’t that much fun if no one socializes with you.  I was bored.  The Greatest Party Day- and I was bored.  Had another beer and decided to leave.  Virginia and I walked past some brothers rolling around in the grass with mud covered laughing sorority girls.
            Took some time to worm through the crowd on Beaver Ave and get back to the apartment.  Outside in the rain, people dressed like keg worshipping Hare Krishnas, leisure suited disco rejects and California raisins paraded, drank, danced and puked in the streets.
            Virginia and I showered and fucked ourselves silly.
            There would never be another Phi Psi like this one.

1.  Esper, Patty, “Phi Psi faces less alcohol, possible snow” Daily Collegian, April 3, 1987