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I am probably going to end this blog.

At its height, the blog averaged over a thousand hits a day, and did so for several years.  But for the past year, it averages under a hundred- and the posts getting the most hits are the ones serializing Men of the Skull.  Maybe because I cross post to a couple of PSU facebook pages.

Then there are the nasty comments, including my all time Fave:



As I'll never be able to afford any surgeries, my transition has stalled.  This morning I contemplated de-transitoning, but I'd rather die than go back.  So it's not like I have anything to write about that anyone will read.  I can only post so many pictures of my breasts, which is all anyone seems to care about anyway.  My flickr account gets 100 times the hits the blog does (and why do I still have that?)

I wrote a final entry a few years back.  I'll update and use it soon.

In any case, it comes down to this:

No one reads.  No one comments (aside from trolls.)  No one cares.
Not worth my time and tears.
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I wrote a lot of short stories when I was in college, and right after.  Some of them I did more work than others.  Five of them made to "finished" and were saved on a Macintosh 3.5" disc.  I also printed them out and put them into a folder.  I made a copy of one of the stories in that folder to show a friend maybe 8 years ago.  The folder has since vanished and the Mac no longer works, so, as of now, this is the only one of the early stories to survive in its "final" form.  ( I still have their handwritten first drafts somewhere.)

Chronologically, this was the last of the five.  I started writing it in June 1990.  The girl I was dating ( I'll call her X for the purposes of this entry) at the time was going away to work for the summer, and she insisted that I write three pages a day of whatever so she would have something to read (this was pre-internet, and where she was going there were no TVs.)  I decided to make that the basis of a story.  Simple enough, right?

Unlike the protagonist, I had no issues with that output.  I wrote letters, to her and others, as well as this and another story: "Promises of Heaven," which was by far the longest of the five stories. 

The original idea was 'ghost story as metaphor.' 

Yes, I was a pretentious little sh*t back then. 

The protagonist was... not in his right mind, so I wrote him in passive voice to "create distance."  See: Pretentious little sh*t" above.  I love ghost stories, and I had books about real hauntings that I used for inspiration. 

What it became was quite different.  The relationship took a sour turn, and being me, that influenced my writing.  The story became a chronicle of my relationship with X (whom I call "Mary" in the story, obviously not her real name but also a metaphor- 'without sin' and all that.) 

After X came home from the summer, she had a new beau... and me.  Obviously, our relationship ended.  Long story short, this was one of the factors leading to my first suicide attempt in 1990. 

I finished this story, as you see it here, in May 1990.  I learned that very day that X was marrying the new guy at the end of that month.  She was 20 at the time.

X liked reading my work, as did my coworkers at TGI Fridays.  Two of them, Kim  and Beth, were particularly encouraging.  They both said they really loved this piece.  I sent a copy of to X, as she requested one.

She hated it.

Years later, as mentioned above, I showed it to a friend whom I will refer to as "Prime."  He is a writer of great talent, especially with Noir.  he told me that if I didn't re-write this, he would.  I was reluctant, as for me it was a signpost of a person long since passed.  However, there's no harm in a challenge.

So, Prime- bring it- I'll rewrite it and YOU rewrite it.  I'll post both, giving you full co-writing credit.  Lame or game?


Anyway, here, finally typed in to this computer, is that story: "Disorganized Light."

*************************************************************************


Disorganized Light   (May 1991)

He used a knife.  No one knows why.  Perhaps she had a lover, or he did.  Maybe he was insane.  We’ll never know.  All we know is that she still walks the corridors of the house, arms outstretched as if to capture the love she lost centuries before.

            No, this is garbage.  How am I supposed to write this stuff?  I don’t know what I’m trying to prove here.  Maybe I don’t have what it takes.

            But I must.

            If I am going to get her to return, I must have discipline.  Three pages a day.  That will bring her back to me.

            I’m sorry, I’m babbling.  Let me bring this up to date.  You see, Mary, the girl I love, is away.  I promised that I’d write her three pages a day.  She thinks I could be a great writer someday.  All I need is discipline (the one thing I don’t have.  That’s not true: there’s lots I don’t have.  Mostly Mary.)  Anyway, only through discipline will I get her to return.  She’s on a long trip to someplace where I’ve never been.  The where isn’t important: only her absence. 

            I’m trying to write a ghost story.  I’ve always liked them, and anyway it seems appropriate.  I’m renting a room in a really old house that I can easily imagine as haunted.  Rewrite time.

                        He killed her in 1760, yet her memory has never left the house.
            YUK!

                        Her lonely figure walks the night’s corridors, seeking the love that betrayed her over two hundred years before.

            I don’t know.  Maybe I should sleep on it.

                        The house isn’t old; it’s a carbon copy of all the others on the block.  Built in the post-war days, it has seen its share of domestic bliss and war.  Why bother with this house?  What makes 234 Beaver Ave. so different?  What sinister forces are at work?  Could I write more clichéd if I tried?

            I must be really tired.  I look out the window onto the street and I remember her.  It’s raining, the kind of soaking rain only a humid summer day could entice. She loves the rain.  I can’t wait for her to come back. 

            Ok.  Reality check.  What do I want to write?  Where should this story go?  I want a good introduction, but not something that will give away the show. 

            He awakens to a sound.  Not a bump or a crash, but an almost imperceptible one, delicate as a whisper.  His clock reads 2:15.  Again the sound.  A rustle of cloth, quiet as a memory.

            ‘What could it be?’ he thinks.  Quietly, he rolls from bed.  The carpet muffles the sound of his bare footsteps.

            He opens the door, ever so slightly.

                       There, in the corridor, he sees her.  Holding her arms out to embrace an invisible love.              Her face is skeletal, and her skirt rustles in a non- existent breeze.  He chokes back a scream              and quickly jumps to bed, covering himself with the blankets.

            Hmm.  I don’t know about the blankets.  Or the face.  I wish I could ask Mary for her opinion.  But she’s away.  On a trip.  But I’ll get her to come back.  Really soon.

She waited for her lover to arrive.  Instead, her fiancée appeared.  He confronted her with what he had learned, and then murdered her.  To this day, she wanders the site of the old house, waiting for her love that was due so long ago.

            This is so difficult.  America just isn’t a good setting for a good story.  England has a lock on them.  Like tea and good comedy, no one does ghosts like the British.  But I don’t know enough about their language to write about it.        

            “Eek it’s a bloody ghost!”

            So much for that idea.  I’ll try again tomorrow night.  I close my notebook, open the window and door for some air, and go to bed.  I have a long day tomorrow. 

            It feels strange being at this wedding.  Makes me feel old, though I’m only twenty four.  I can’t believe I was invited.  After all, she is an ex-girlfriend.

            At the reception, I look over the empty seat next to me.  The place I reserved for her.  Watching the smiling bride, I think of Mary, and I wish for the day when we were to wed.  The happiness: lifelong and total that we were to share.  She promised.  I look over at the empty chair, and I raise my glass to her.  I can almost see her smiling at me.

It’s only a small boat.  A small pleasure boat that silently cruises the bay on moonlit nights endlessly searching for port.  At the wheel, a woman too young for the heart attack that kept her from the arms of her married lover across the bay, and her husband sleeping at home.

            Home drunk.  As I lie in bed and sweat, I think of sweet springs of the past.  Of the sickening clichéd things that we did together.  Picnics in the park.  Walking at dusk around the block.  Little notes under my windshield wiper when I came out of work (hasn’t been one in a while.  I keep checking even though I know she’s far away.)  Making love in the hammock of her parent’s darkened porch, jumping at every headlight to come down the road.  To think of it, for the first two weeks we knew each other, we spent maybe 75% of the time naked.  I was absolutely addicted to the feel of her body.  She said my skin was “soft like magic.”  Although we cooled off a little over time, I never lost the special sensation she gave me.  And I treasured every moment and opportunity.  The thoughts don’t help the temperature of the room in the dark.  So I get up and look out the open window. 


This is the house I had in mind when I wrote this.  It's in Spring City, a couple of blocks from where I grew up

            The nights are the worst.  Especially since it’s summer.  Hazy nights when everybody has somebody.  Everybody but me.  Nights like these make it hard to write.  She left me on a night like this. 

            So I sit watching the room leap from cloud to cloud, and I wish she were here watching it with me.  Maybe she’s watching it from wherever she is now.  God knows that whenever I see the moon, I think of her. 

            However, the moon isn’t much inspiration tonight, so I go downstairs for a beer and go back to my room.  It’s not the biggest room in the house, not even the nicest.  A bed, some other furniture, a window, a hardwood floor.  I haven’t really gotten into the spirit of decorating it.  She used to live here, in this very room, except that it’s been redone since she left.  I stare out the window, like so many nights before, and I miss her.

            On nights like this, with a hazy moon cowering in the sky, I can still smell smoke.

A soft sobbing echoes through the corridors.  Quietly, almost inaudibly, it is heard on sultry summer nights.  The former owner claimed that he saw a figure drifting mournfully down the darkened halls and through a wall.

            Hmm.  Maybe. 

            I’m still looking out the window as the sun rises.  It’s strange how loneliness can make even a sunrise seem trivial.  Almost ugly.  Beauty is meant to be shared.  I close the shade, toss the empty beer bottles into the glass container, and go to sleep.

            She invades my dreams.  As if it isn’t hot enough in this room to sleep already.

            When I wake up, I look in my notebook.  Between throbs of the heartbeat paced hangover headache, I try to read what I wrote the night before.

Our bodies are just sticks and meat.  Sticks and meat.  So vulnerable, yet they have a spirit.  A spirit so strong as to transcend its mortal shortcomings.  Sticks and meat so easily blown over by the eternal wolf of death, verses the eternal brick house of the spirit of the soul.  And yet the soul can be so easily crushed by one so cherished.  Insanity.  There is no reason to it.

            Ugh.  Heavy drinking and writing don’t mix.  I must try not to write while totally slammed.  Try some more.

                        She walks the field where the house used to be.  Ugh.

            She walks the ruins of the old manor, looking like a gentle mist moving about the stone and weeds.

            A little better.  How am I going to get three pages if I can’t finish a paragraph?  No discipline.  It still echoes in my ears.

            We had just finished making love, and were holding each other.  A perfectly blissful moment, the two of us alone, not needing to say a word.  And I ruined it by saying “I love you.”  She stood up and dressed.  We started talking about my writing.

            “You have no discipline!  If you can’t get it done now, you never will.”  She paced around the room, obviously disgusted. 

            “But Mary, I don’t have time to write.  Between work and seeing you, I simply don’t have time.”

            “Oh, so it’s my fault.  You could be really great at this.  God knows that you don’t want to do anything else.  Why don’t you do it and do it right?”

            “It’s not your fault…”

            “I know what to do.  I’m going home.  I’ll see you in a couple of days.  If you haven’t written three pages every day, I’m just going to turn around and go home.”

            “But…”

            “And that’s the way it’s going to be.  Bye!”

            The door closed and I haven’t seen her since.

They hadn’t seen each other for almost a year.  He was at sea, but now he is home, waiting in his room.  He hears her carriage pull up, and her footsteps enter the house.  He gets up to greet her.  Her footsteps are closer and hurried: she’s on the stairs and obviously running.  A smile crosses his face.  Suddenly, a scream and a bone chilling series of thumps.  She had tripped and fallen down the stairs.  He runs out of his room to see her broken dead form at the bottom of the grand staircase. 

On still nights for years later, screams and the sound of a body thumping down the stairs could be heard echoing through the moon-lit manor.  He would never marry, and kept a lonely vigil at the top of the stairs whenever home.  Eventually he committed suicide, driven mad by the memory and reminder of his dead love.  To this day, one can hear her footsteps and fall, and the sound of his pacing the hall at the top, waiting for his love to simply climb the stairs and be with him for all eternity.

            Not a bad start.  Maybe I could expand upon this later.  Right now, I have errands to run: the bank, the cemetery, the store, and over to my friend Mike’s.  I’ll work on this later.

            Sometimes I hate life.  All that’s happened.  There can be no such thing as fate.  Yet, how can it be possible that someone can bring about so much sorrow, so much heartbreak upon themselves?

            Is it fate that grants some people blissful happiness in life while others know nothing but pain?  God, I am so sick of pain.  Yet, I can’t seem to escape it.  Or can I?

The mist forms into a woman running across the hill under the hazy summer moon, crying for the love she betrayed so long ago.

            There’s something about a summer twilight at 8:30.  It is still daylight, but the moon is taking command of the sky.  Crickets and locusts provide a light soundtrack.  Children are another day closer to inevitable school; the elderly are one step closer to inevitable death.  I wonder how many versions of the passion play are being planned are acted out on a summer twilight Friday.  How many parties are teens going to where parents aren’t home?  How many people are preparing for a night out dancing and teasing? 

            How many will God bless with the morning?

            The moon rises as the light evaporates.  Three lousy pages.  If only my thoughts could be put on paper.  Coherently.

            Should I expand that one idea?  Nah.  I’ll try some others first. 

            A jet flies overhead in the twilight.  The engine hums in placid peace as it soars.  To its passengers, even cars are too small to be seen.  Civilization is just a pattern of lights: organized lights.  If only lights would stay organized.

No sound.  No footsteps. Yet there it hangs, floating majestically above the ruins of the grand staircase.  A southern belle, her dress flowing white and cascading, like her hair, in an unseen wind.  Slowly she moves, as though showing off at her debut.  Down the stairs.  Arms outstretched, she hugs an admirer whose life ended long ago.  Smiling, she picks up a glass offered to her by unseen hands.  She lifts the glass to unseen lips to quench an eternal thirst.  Hand to throat, she dies.  How can the dead look so young?

It is said her elder sister also haunts these ruins in eternal torment for poisoning good wine to remove her only rival for a man’s attention.

            Hmm.  Not bad.  But what can I do with it?

The large H-shaped building houses a nursing home for nuns: the largest in the world.  Next to that, a building dwarfed by its huge neighbor, is a dormitory for the nuns and nursing staff who care for the elderly sisters.  One hundred yards away, opscured by a grove of pines, is a cemetery for the celibate sorority: nuns buried beneath identical stones.  It is said that at night, in the full moon, or in the mist, ghostly nuns walk from the home to the cemetery, bearing flowers for the sisters who went before them.  And that among the stones, ghostly sisters raise their arms and faces to the sky, but is it to praise their eternal father/husband or condemn him for waster barren lives?

            The answer depends upon if you’re catholic, I guess.  Nah.  Too controversial.

            I think most of us like to think of ourselves as the heroes in our own stories.  We try not to hurt others, not to be bad.  What happens when someone feels like the loser of their own story?  Or possibly the villain? 

            I go to the basement- to the new fuse box.  The fuses are still new to me.  The old ones were friends of mine.  I knew all about this house’s wiring, even before I moved in.  Mary asked me to help put a new outlet in her room, so the electrician and I put it in.  I learned a lot in those couple of days.  We had to re-route a few things in the dining room, which is right below her room.  Which is my room now.

She walks into a family room at the base of the stairs and feels a chill.  Out of the corner of her eye, she notices the closed curtains billow as if the windows were open. ..
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I’ve written previously, that I was accepted to Penn State U-Park to study for my PhD in Adult and Continuing Education, with a minor in Women’s Studies.  I also reported that I was turned down for an assistantship, which meant I was responsible for tuition, expenses… everything.  I wrote about how I didn’t know how I’d afford it, and boo hoo and such.  I wrote about knocking on doors, and phone calls, etc.

Worrying has caused sleepless nights, and deep depression.  Like that's anything new.


Friday night- going to sing karaoke

Well, I received an email in late June which read (I part) the following:

The faculty really appreciate your dedication to our program, despite financial uncertainties. We had a discussion about this and have all agreed that our program will offer you a GA position for next year...you are guaranteed a GA position with a faculty in our program at 20 hours a week, which pays a stipend and tuition.

A few emails back and forth, and, as of Friday, July 5, 2019, I received a signed document stating that I officially have that assistantship.  And the “Meager pay” I always heard about?  It’s more than I was paid per month at the book store after 14 years of service.  Seriously. 

This appointment covers my first year of study: fall and spring semesters. 

So in mid-August, I’ll move back to State College.  Yes, my roomie/bestie the Internet Sensation Linda Lewis is coming as well.  She’s already started the job search.   We found an apartment just north of campus already.  I'm too old for the party scene, and I know how noisy it can be in town on some nights.

That said, this will be the furthest away from Wife and Daughter that I have lived since Daughter was born.  Two and a half hours.  I barely see her now as it is.  Wife says they'll come up twice a month.  I hope she does, but I wouldn't be surprised if that peters out. 

In any case, the assistantship is good news.  I'll take it.
Be well.

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As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, I was in a play: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which ran weekends from June 7-30.  Despite all the changes and chapters in my life, I am horrible with endings. I hate them.

So many shared experiences, too many to write about- over.

As I wrote, I played a courtesan named Tintinnabula.  I had no lines, but I had a solo dance.  A choreographer created a simple routine for me to learn, which I did, eventually.  I also ended up improvising a bit as well.  By the end, I was very comfortable with that dance.  I also made some faces and mouthed some things, some of which got laughs.  Occasionally, just my entrance, as in just appearing for my dance, caused laughter.  I guess those people saw "guy dressed as a woman dancing."  My costume was the only one that was showed cleavage, so...  Well, I was often misgendered while wearing low cut dresses when I worked at the book store, as well.  I guess breasts and cleavage aren't enough of a feminine indicator.

But that's ok.  The play was a comedy, and they were laughing, so it was a win.


The Cast

I took many pictures during the run, most of which are just for my cast-mates.  There's only one picture of me dancing (that I know of) taken during rehearsals, and it isn't flattering, so...

The play was a LOT of fun.  It was full of puns and physical humor, and the people were so much fun.  I really enjoyed my time with them.  I felt like I was part of something.  The play gave me a reason to get out of bed.  Something to look forward to doing.  We had three rehearsals a week, then a whole week of rehearsal called tech week.  Then- only the shows.  After seeing those people three times a week, it was strange not to see them until weekends.

I only knew a few of the cast when we began.  I knew one from Dracula, another from my political work, and another from 12 Angry Women.  They certainly didn't know me.  As with any group of people new to my life, I remained sort of quiet at first- listening.  Gauging.  Eventually, we would start going to karaoke together, or small gatherings.

Through the months, I opened up a bit.  I learned a lot about some of my cast mates (and not so much about others) while they learned a bit about me- well, as much as I let them.  I tended to hang out with my fellow courtesans.  I don't make friends easily- never have.  (People who've read more than a couple entries of this blog can figure that out.)  But I became close to a few of the cast.


Courtesans and "Lycus"

Let me tell you about a few of them.  No names though, as I didn't get their permissions.

-One of my cast mates is a writer.  She did a semester at Juilliard, as well as over at University of Glasgow.  She married an Englishman.  So... she attended a school in Scotland, yet married an Englishman?  (You Scottish people will get that reference.)  She was so beautiful, genuine and fun!

-Another has a masters in Social work.  She is from the Lehigh Valley, and relocated down my way.  Circumstances changed for her, yet she still stayed around.  She is gorgeous, a veteran of many shows, and sings like an angel.  We hung out a few times, and we talked about each other's lives.  She struck me as the "popular girl in school" but smart and nice.

-A third has been on stage- singing, acting, and dancing- since she was very young.  She's forgotten more about singing than I'll ever know.  Oh, and she is a Neurobiologist.  She knew that performing arts statistically wouldn't pay off, so she studied something that interested her.  She was stunning and moved so gracefully.

There were so many more great people: the award winning actress; the new dad (whose kid is about to start crawling- and any parent will tell you that's when sh*t gets real!); the music and dance major at West Chester University; a mother of four; and the city councilman.


In costume- makeup and hair stage ready

I wondered how the hell I was cast as a belly dancer- had to be a joke on me, given my weight.  At the first rehearsal after read through, the director wanted all "female and female identifying people" on one side of the room, and all men on the other.  I don't know if she caught my glare, but it made me feel VERY uncomfortable.  She never said it again, though.

As our show began, auditions and rehearsals for the next big show were held.  Most of the cast of Forum landed roles in the next production.  My cousin Lynsey from Scotland was visiting, and I was invited out to a local bar, as that's where some of my cast mates were at the time.  Turns out, they were celebrating after the first read through of the next play with people from that play.  A play for which I didn't audition as it is in September, and I will be gone.  I felt like an intruder and didn't stay long.  (Lynsey and my roomie/bestie Linda saw the play that weekend, and both loved it.  Wife and daughter did not choose to see it.)

I felt left behind.  I felt that way when all my friends left for college in August 1984, and Drexel didn't start for another month.  I was alone- missing that next step.  I'll come back to this.

Forum went very well.  We sold out most of our performances, and always got laughs- usually when we wanted them.  Our parts evolved through the shows as we figured out what worked and what didn't.  At the last show, many of the speaking cast added a bit of improv to their roles.  I added a little flair at the end of my dance which caught Pseudolus (the lead) by surprise.

As that last show wound down, my thoughts were "it's really ending.  There's only a couple of scenes left- a couple of songs... then the final number, our bows, a cast photo... and it was over.  After the audience left, we started to tear down the set.


The set, all but finished.  Houses of  (L to R) Lycus, Senex, and Erronius.

Within a couple of hours, it was gone.  I hurt my back helping with something heavy, and spent the rest of the time sweeping.  All the work, the laughs, the songs... no trace.  I went home, showered (I was a disgusting sweaty mess,) put on a different dress, and went to the Cast Party.

The cast party was held at the home of the music director's sister.  The house was huge and beautiful.  The food was wonderful.  I brought my bottle of Glenmorangie scotch, but no one would drink any with me.  I had some food, hung out a bit, and then it was time for director gifts.  Like everyone else, I received 9 chocolate gold coins (it has significance in the play.)  A member of the cast made little plaques for members of the production staff: lights, sound, director, music, set designer... but not for the person who made the props.

I didn't need a plaque.  I just wanted a public "hey, great job!  Thanks!'  A couple of people expressed that to me privately, and I received credit in the program, but, well, I was production staff too, and worked hard on those props.  What happened to those?  I gave most of them to cast members.  I kept one bottle: the "Colt 45" one.  The rest got tossed in the trash.  I don't have room for them, so...



After that little gift exchange, I had a little dessert.  I finished my can of soda, said my goodbyes, and left.  The sun was beginning to set, and the quiet street had an autumnal glow to it.  I really wasn't hanging out in any of the little groups, and I knew that eventually I would break down in tears.  Which I did enroute the one mile to my apartment.

I spent most of the next day laying down; resting my sore back.  It still hurts as of this writing, two days later.

In a month and a half, I will be back in State College starting my PhD program.  My cast mates will be in other productions.  It's an extended family- all the little community theaters around here, and all of the performers jump from production to production between each place.  For them, this was just another play.  For me, it was the last.  I'll be too busy studying to do plays.

As I said- left behind.  No longer in the "circle."  I've been around the block enough times to know that once someone leaves the circle, their connection to it withers.  For example, many of my coworkers at Games Workshop were like family to me.  Now, all these years later, I hear from them on Facebook, if then.  I further left circles when I transitioned.  I know I'll hear from a couple of them occasionally- they're good people.  But our shared time ended on Sunday, and that makes me very sad. 




In fact, I've been fairly depressed since that day.  More so than usual.

I'll start packing for the move this week.  It won't be real until I get to PSU.  Until then, the reality of the Play, and those wonderful people, will have to comfort me.

Tragedy Tomorrow- Comedy Tonight.
Be well.
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Turns out that Chapter 53 was posted some time ago- it's linked below. 

This day was a turning point in my time at Skull.  I didn't plan it to be, but it was.  I felt that, since I had some artistic skill, I could contribute a bit to the House.  I was angry when I saw the vandalism, and decided that if no one else were doing anything about it, I would.

Well, a couple of the people who didn't like me saw me doing this.  They found out I just did it on my own.  Suddenly, they treated me differently- they treated me like a brother instead of an interloper.  That changed a few other's minds.

Eventually, I used my art to revitalize the house scrapbook, for which I won the first "Officer of the Year" award in 1988.  The guy I beat for it was house chef, who is now a multi-millionaire restaurateur.  More important than the award though, was acceptance.  To this day, not all of the brothers of my time accept me because I was a transfer (and some because I transitioned- as expected.) 

However, it isn't ALL of them.  That, I believe is because of this day.

***********************************************************************
Chapter 54: Backboard

Saturday, March 21, 1987 Pained  Faithful of Bakker’s PTL are stung by his sudden fall.

            A week ago, someone sprayed PKA all over the basketball net backboard in the Skull parking lot.  A few of the brothers were pissed off by this, me included.  However we had no idea who did it- after all, anyone could’ve painted those letters just to get us after PIKA.  
            The backboard was old.  Bacchi said “it was fuckin’ old when I was a fuckin’ pledge!”  As he graduated in 1950, it was at least forty years old.  It looked like it.  The pole was square and wooden, maybe six inches thick.  The backboard was maybe three feet by four feet and grey from age and rain.  The hoop was only a few years old, but it was bent and beginning to rust.
            I couldn’t believe no one was repainting or replacing the backboard.  No matter what- having those letters on our property was a slap in the face.  So I figured if they weren’t going to do anything about it, I would.  I asked Virginia if she wanted to help.
March 23, 1987 Collegian.  Baby's is still there as of this writing

            “Why should I?  It’s YOUR house, not mine.”
            “I’ll make it worth your while” I said while backing her against a wall in my apartment hallway.
            “Yeah?  How?” she asked quietly, her eyes never leaving mine.
            I pinned her to the wall and kissed her forcefully.
            “Promises, promises” she said, rubbing my crotch and smiling.
            “So are you helping?”
            “Convince me more” she said.

            The pledges repainted the entire downstairs a couple weeks before.  Should be enough paint left over to do the board at least.  There was primer, beige (why?), and black.
            So that morning, I used my Mac to print “Skull” in a calligraphic script.  Very ornate- fancy- as befits a stately mansion.  I wanted to reproduce this on the backboard.  After breakfast at the Waffle Shop (it was packed, being Parent’s weekend), Virginia and I bought a couple of small miniature painting brushes at Nittany Line Hobbies and walked hand in hand to the house.
            We quickly found the paint in the second floor Gamma closet and a ladder down in the Quag.  The step ladder was old, wooden and as rickety as the backboard.  Damn thing might’ve been as old as the house!
Mar 23, 1987 Collegian.  I remember seeing this back then and feeling pain

            I stirred the paint with fallen branches from the tree that overhung the backboard and the parking lot.  Virginia held the rickety ladder which was in real danger of collapsing into a pile of splinters.  During this entire time, no one asked me what the hell I was doing with the ladder, the paint, anything.  I was invisible to them.  I didn’t care, since no one was parked under the net so I didn’t need any cars moved.  I didn’t need to talk to anyone. 
            Prime.  Let dry.  (Virginia and I walked over to Pizza Pi for slices.)  First coat of beige on the backboard.  Let dry (went back to my apartment and fucked like crazy, as mark was away for the weekend.)  Second coat of beige.
            Virginia and I sat on the ground under the tree and waited for the coat to dry. 
            “Why are you doing this?” she asked.
            “Doing what?  Painting?  Going to school?  Dating you?”
            She kicked me.  “Asshole!  Painting! You could be studying!  Doing homework!”
            “Sleeping!” I said, stretching.
            “Sleeping?  We could be having sex!”
            “We could do that here.”
            “Not with your brothers watching, no thank you.”
            “You’re no fun.”
            “Fuck you!”
            “You just said no!”
            “Are you gonna answer my question?”
            “Which one?”
            She hit me on the shoulder.
            “Ow!  I felt like it.”  I said.  “I made a promise to Phi Kappa Sigma.  Doesn’t matter how these guys treat me- I intend to keep that promise.  And if that means repainting this old thing to get rid of someone else’s letters, so be it.”
            “Even if these assholes don’t care?”
            “Right.”
            She shifted over and kissed my ear.  “Are you gonna keep your promises to me?” she whispered.
            “Have I made any?”
            She bit my ear.
            “OW!  I keep my promises.  Always.”
            “Did you promise anything to Judy?”

            “I promised always to be there for her.”  I said.
            “Why?”
            “Why do we have to talk about this?”
            “What else are we gonna talk about?”
            “What do you wanna do tonight?”  I asked, leaning back to look up at the heavy cloudy sky.
            “My house is partying.”
            “So the usual?  That’s cool.”

            We relaxed a bit before I started painting the black gothic letters.  I sketched them out in pencil, maybe a foot high on the tallest one, and then outlined them with the small brush.  When that was done, I started filling them in with the bigger brush.  Virginia sat on the bottom rung, steadying the ladder while reading a book.
            The paint wasn’t exactly dry, so the beige mixed a bit with the black, making a muddy grey.  Fuck.  I’d have to repaint a bit.  Before doing that, I stopped and sat atop the ladder for a second for a break.  I looked over at the house.  Veal was leaning out his second floor window. 
            “Yo Lancer, you do that?” he yelled.
            “Yeah.  It’s not done yet, though.”
            He smiled.  “It looks fuckin’ awesome, man!”
            “Thanks!”
            “No, really!  Great fuckin job!” 
            He gave me a thumbs up and leaned back into the house, pulling the window shut behind him.  I looked down at Virginia, who was looking up.
            “Isn’t he one of the biggest assholes?” she asked.
            “Yeah.”  I said.  “It must’ve hurt a lot for him to say that.”
            Virginia laughed.

            After I finished the lettering, I painted our letters over the green ones painted on the post.  Quick touch ups on the board and the job was finished.  Virginia helped me carry everything back into the house, and we went back to my place to clean up and fuck again.

Monday, March 23, 1987 Soviet says U.S. evades arms accord

            I sat in the dining room of the house having a soggy burger for lunch.  There were maybe seven brothers there, all reading the Collegian and talking about whatever.  Veal walked through the kitchen doors and grabbed a plate and a burger.  He sat among a few brothers.
            “Hey guys, did you see the job Lancer did painting the basketball net?  Fuckin’ awesome!” he said loudly. 
            “Lance did that?”  “Really?”  “Wow!”  A few other mumbled comments.
            The brothers smiled and were nice to me.  Felt great.
Taken in 1988, after it was knocked over in a fight, this is the backboard.

            That night we had chapter.  Veal was the Pi (academic chairman), and as always gave his officer report.  After his other stuff he said “I’d like to recognize Brother Kandler for the great job he did painting the backboard of the basketball net.”
            Some whispers and “good jobs” then the customary round of applause.  For Me.  Wow! 

            We had elections that night as well.  Maple was elected Alpha.  Like I cared.  I was floating.


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It's strange how events occur, and the people one meets.  This was a really strange night.

By this point, I was treated better by the Crow people than by my own brothers.  They didn't care that I was a transfer, and they didn't care that I was different.  All they cared about (at that point) was that I showed them respect, and treated their little sister, my girlfriend, well.  In that order.  And UI did both.

Their attitude would change a year later.  They decided they preferred Virginia to date one of their brothers instead of a Skull, so encouraged her to cheat on me.  (According to her.)  Which she did.  With one of their pledges.  Things got... ugly.

In any case, that night I met someone who would eventually return to my life years later.


*************************************************************************


Chapter 52: Crow Bowl

Saturday, March 14, 1987 Gotti cleared by jury in Mafia trial

Every house had their fun little “brothers only things.  Skull had BSB and other stuff.  For Alpha Chi Rho, it was Crowbowl.
Crowbowl was a basketball tournament.  Chapters across the East Coast would send teams to whichever school was hosting to compete for a trophy or something like that.  Of course, the idea was to promote brotherhood blah blah blah, but let’s face it: Crowbowl was all about bragging rights.  In 1987, Crowbowl was hosted by Penn State.
To hear Judy and Virginia talk, it was as if Moses came down from the mountain, handed Crow the Ten Commandments, then hung out to play flip a cup for the rest of the night.  It was that monumental.  And of course, it was all hands on deck, especially for Little Sisters.
So while Judy and Virginia spent their day in one of the White Building gyms watching basketball, I was up at Dave’s playing the usual games with the usual crowd.  I arrived at the gym around seven, full of pizza, beer, soda, and burps.
Eventually I found Virginia, who was wearing the garnet Crowbowl shirt over a white turtleneck.  She was watching the game with Mandy and a few others.  Judy sat with Richard some distance away.  The shirt wasn’t bad.  The top of the image had “14th Annual” then the bottom had “Crow Bowl.”  In between were two basketball players: the left one, number 19, trying to block a shot by number 87.  (1987. Get it?)  Behind them was a giant bird that looked like a cross between a crow and a raven.  All of this was done in white.  Cheap and effective.
My timing was perfect.  I showed up during the second half of the championship game: Penn State vs. West Chester University.  I saw Virginia’s “big brother” Rob on the court, shirtless (it was shirts vs skins) leading the team.  I recognized a few others as well.  I got a quick kiss from Virginia, but that was it.  She was hoarse from shouting and cheering so much.  PennState was leading by four, but West Chester was too good to count out.  They kept coming back. 
I began to cheer too.  Why not?  Essentially I was cheering for Penn State.  Judy looked over and half smiled. 

Eventually, the game ended.  Penn Statewon by three.  Virginia hugged me, and then ran out onto the court to hug her sweaty big brother.  She then went with all the other Penn State Crows in a victory procession back to their house, while out of town Crows went back to their various hotel rooms to clean up, eat, fuck, or whatever.  After all, there was a party that night.
            Oh, how good was the Penn State Crow team?  A month later they won the fraternity inter-mural basketball championship over some very strong competition.  If nothing else, those guys could play hoop.
            After a few hours of sleep, I was at the door of Crow House.  The party that night was “Crow’s Only,” but I was invited because of Virginia.  I just walked right in- by then the pledges knew me by sight. 
I never saw Crow House this packed- and I never would again.  I thought it’d be a lot emptier, but what I didn’t realize was that each team brought their team, supporters, and little sisters from like thirty different chapters all stuffed into that little house looking for beer and sex.  And of course, all the Penn State Little Sisters had to be there- mandatory attendance.  So this is what I walked in on.  The dance floor was packed.

Ain't no doubt about it we were doubly blessed
'Cause we were barely seventeen and we were barely dressed
Meatloaf was at high volume tonight.  Had to try to impress the other chapters with the stereo system I guess.
            I saw a few familiar faces.  A lot of people were wearing Crow jackets, which was odd as it was fucking hot in the house! 
            A few hours later (or so it seemed) I managed to burrow my way down the solid packed stairs to the party room.  There, behind an impenetrable wall of garnet and white, was the bar.  And behind the bar was Virginiawearing the same tight white turtleneck she was wearing earlier (she ditched the shirt God only knows where.)  Next to her was her Big Brother.  No sign of Judy, but in this crowd she’d be impossible to find until I was on top of her.  Which would be fun.
            Somehow, perhaps by using mind control, teleportation, or using my spider powers to crawl along the ceiling, I managed to arrive at the bar.  Virginia saw me when I was about three quarters of the way there, and she had a beer waiting for me.
            “Isn’t this awesome?” she tried to shout over the music and people.  The music was some new rap group that was getting really popular: “Beastie Boys” I think.
You wake up late for school man you don't wanna go
You ask you mom, "Please?" but she still says, "No!"
You missed two classes and no homework
But your teacher preaches class like you're some kind of jerk
You gotta fight!  For your right!  To parrrrrrrrrrrrrrrtay!
“What?”  I yelled back.
            She leaned over the bar and yelled back “ISN’T THIS AWESOME?”  She didn’t realize that the tips of her breasts had touched the beer covered surface.  When she leaned back up, it looked like she had two large wet nipples.  I pointed at her chest.  She looked confused, then looked.  At first she looked shocked, then she shrugged.
            “They’ll dry!” she shouted. 
            Her breasts were now attracting more than the usual attention from a room full of drunken guys.  This could be ugly.
            “Skull!  Drink!” 
            What?  Oh.  I looked down the bar and saw one of the brothers pointing at me with extended elbow.  On the bar before him was the inevitable plastic cup top down on the bar.  I raised my glass to him and drank.  Guess I’m playing.  Wait- of course I’m playing: this is the Crow bar I’m standing next to, and everyone plays.  I looked back and saw that Crow talking to a couple of out of state Crows while gesturing at me, then at Virginia. 
In 1987, the bar went wall to wall.  And there were no tables.  
            I finished my beer, and Virginia gave me another.  “WHAT ARE THE RULES?”  I asked.
            “WHAT?”
            “RULES?”
            “STANDARD AND…”  Song ended.  “No cursing,” Virginiasaid.
            Guys were pushing me a bit, trying to jockey for a place at the bar with a view of Virginia’s wet tits.  There was no room- at all.  Part of me thought it was cool- the girl I was dating was wanted by all these guys, but she was with me.  But what if she got really drunk, and one of the guys…  No.  Don’t think about that. 
            Too many beers later, I dragged my ass through the crowd.  I saw Judy, who either didn’t see me or ignored me.  To the stairs.  Up the stairs.  In line.  Wait.  Wait.  Wait.  Bathroom.  Blessed relief.  And I didn’t have to piss in the sink.
            After washing my hands (a bit of a challenge), I headed toward the steps, where I bumped into Kathy.  She was shouting at some girl in the living room.
            “I don’t give a fuck what you think!  We didn’t take it!”
            I looked in the living room and saw a chubby blonde with a tall Madonna circa 1984 haircut (only a little less altitude than Mandy’s!) 
            “Who else would want it?” said the Wannabe.
            Mandy threw up her hands in disgust.  “Oh, suck my left tit!” she shouted and stormed past me into the kitchen.  Wannabe looked completely stunned, and then burst into tears.  I noticed a bunch of other girls frantically tearing the room apart.  I staggered over to the closest one.
            “What’s up?”  I asked.  “What are you looking for?
            The girl turned to look at me.  I’d never seen such eyes.  Perfect blue, like a lake I could dive into forever.  She had a narrow face and a slightly pointed chin, slight nose and wavy chestnut brown hair that didn’t quite touch her shoulders.  She looked young- like high school young, but she wore the same garnet colored Crowbowl t-shirt that so many were wearing, so she had to be college. 
            “One of my sister’s jackets is missing.  Are you a brother here?” she asked, maybe a hair sharply.
            “Well, no.  I’m a Skull.  I date one of the little sisters here.”
            She looked at me for a second.
            “Wanna help us look?” she asked.
            “Sure what does it look like?”
            The girl pointed at one of her sisters, who wore a jacket.  Typical fraternity jacket.  Garnet with white lettering.  Name in script on the front on the right, W.C.U. on the left.  In large block letters on the back it said “AXP” across the top and “Little Sister” in script across the bottom.  Hard to miss.           

Amazing how I have a picture of a jacket like the one described...
            We searched a few minutes.  I was tossing through the coat pile behind the DJ stand with the Blue Eyed girl. 
            Woaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh half way ther-ah!  Wah-Oh! Livin’ on a  Pray-uh!
            Take mah hand, we’ll make it ah swe-uh!  Wuh-Oh! Livin’ on a  Pray-uh!
            I was so sick of that fucking song!
            “Hey!  Since we’re searching together, what’s your name?”  I asked.
            “What?”  The music was so loud! 
            “What’s your name?”  I shouted.
            She considered a moment- I’m guessing it was whether or not to give her real name. 
            “Jen” she said.
            “What?”
            “JEN!” she shouted.
            “What?”  I was playing with her.
            “JENNIFER!”  She shouted really loud just as the song ended.
            Oh great.  Another Jennifer.  Like we didn’t have enough of them up here already.  “I’m Lance.  Pleased to meet you.  Where was it last?”
            She pointed at a door to the porch.  “There.  The name on the jacket is Michelle.”
            So for the next, I don’t know, long enough to lose my buzz, we turned the first floor and basement upside down.  I managed to get a good look at Jen while we searched.  She was very thin: frail.  Wispy.  Not much of a chest but a beautiful heart shaped ass.  She moved like an athlete.  I also met her boyfriend, the Little Sister Pledge master from their chapter. 
            Eventually Virginia found me looking through the pile coats behind the DJ for the zillionth time.  The beer spots on her sweater dried to round brownish stains more nipples like than before.
            “Would you be upset if I stayed here late?” she shouted in my ear.
            “What’s late?”
            “I dunno” she said.  She was drunk.  “It’s a private event so it doesn’t have to shut down at one thirty.”
            I looked around to the packed living room where Jen was talking in a very animated way to some brother, then to the packed dance floor where everyone writhed to the B-52s.
We were at the beach.
Everybody had… matching towels.
Somebody went under a dock and there they saw a rock.
It wasn't a rock- It was a Rock Lobster!
And I knew the downstairs was packed.  Judy was probably down there somewhere with Rich. 
            “Wanna dance?”  I asked.
            “No, I gotta get back to the bar.  I’m bartending!”  Virginia said.  “So you’re not mad?”  She gave me the sad doe eyes. 

           
            “Why should I be?  I trust you” I said, smiling.
            She kissed me quickly and disappeared.

            Fuck this.

            I walked over to Jen, my battered blue Members Only coat in hand. 
            “Jenny, it’s been a pleasure meeting you, but I’m heading back to my house.”
            We locked eyes briefly.
            “Jen.  I hate Jenny.  Thanks for your help” she said.
            “I forgot to ask.  Where are you guys from?”
            “West Chester University, outside of Philly.”
            Duh.  W.C.U. on the jacket. 
            “I grew up not far from there.  In Spring City.”
            “Oh.  Isn’t that nice?”
            Even I caught that cue to leave.
            “Anyway, best of luck finding the jacket.  Enjoy your stay here at Penn State.” 
DORK!
            And I left.  Back to Skull House where the party was winding down.  But- here not everyone was Crows.  And no one was hitting on my girlfriend.  I grabbed a couple of beers and found a quietish corner to drink them.
           
            The jacket was never found.  Let’s face it; there were very few people who could wear this jacket, and only one Penn Stater.  And SHE wasn’t there that night as she went back home for whatever reason.  A week later, the Vice President of Penn State Crow House made a trip down to the West Chester chapter.  I don’t know the exact reason, but I’m betting he brought apologies and beer.

            Jen?  I’d meet her again a few years later.  Small fucking world.

**********************************************************************

So, I met "Jen" again in 1991.  Long story short- we married in 1993.  In this blog, I refer to her as "Wife" (by her request.)  That's her modeling the West Chester Crow jacket.  She still has it.  We're still married 26 years later.  (Separated five.)  Story HERE


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I haven't really posted in a while.  Like anyone cares.  In any case, I managed to get some things done.

To start with, I am in a play: A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum. In this comedy, I play a courtesan named Tintinabula.  I have no lines, but I have a solo dance.

Those who have seen me dance know why it's a comedy.


In costume

Actually, the play is extremely funny, and cast is amazing.  I'll be sorry when it ends.  Being a part of this gives a sense of belonging. 

I'm back being unemployed.  I was offered a position, but, for reasons of my own, I turned it down.  It seemed like a "high drama" zone- and I don't need any more drama. 

In any case, that has given me plenty of time.  When I was in Dracula in January, I made a few props for the play.  The director of Forum was the makeup artist for Dracula, so she knew I did that.  She asked me to do a prop or two for this play as well.  I ended up doing almost all of the props.  As I can't dance or sing, is this why I was cast?  Or is that just my depression and lack of self worth making me paranoid?  In any case, I did receive a Props credit in the program.

Making these props gave me a purpose- something to focus upon.  I've been spending my days mostly lying in bed, staring at the ceiling- paralyzed by depression and feelings of uselessness.  Some of the props took quite some time to make.  In fact, one of the people in charge started doubting my ability to finish the pieces in time.  I told her I would have them on time, and I did. 

In any case, as the play has begun, here are the pieces.


Formula 409 bottle in Latin


Contract (unfolded version)



Poster for gladiator fights: Maximus vs. Leonadis



Potions for Dummies in Latin



Back.  That's the first lines of the Hobbit in Latin



Interior



Mad Dog 20/20 in Latin



Colt 45 in Latin


"Wooden" jeweled goblet


7up in Latin


Domina bust


Domina without nose


Rolled version of contract- it never gets unrolled.



In any case, they allowed me some time to be creative.  During this time, I also painted a miniature for the first time since 2003 (which is when Games Workshop and I parted ways.)  I painted it for a friend, because the one she had (painted by someone else) was just... horrible.  Painted with house paint.  I knew that, even out of practice, I could do better.  Humble-brag- I think I did,


She chose the color scheme

So now all that is done, now what?

I guess I could paint some of the old miniatures I've had for decades.  Sell them for money.  Or just go back to lying in bed.  



In any case, random thoughts from this month:

More times than not, I cry myself to sleep.

I saw Wife and Daughter for Father's Day.  We went to dinner locally, along with Linda.  

I still have no idea how I'm going to pay for school.

When I look in the mirror, I want to break it or throw up.  I still see a guy looking back at me.

I still believe that I will not survive the Trump regime- that I'll be killed.  Nothing has happened to change my opinion.  

I whine too much.  

I'm going to bed.  





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"Bill" was a character.  I'd met many Marines before and since meeting him, but he remains the most Gung Ho person I've ever met. 

Bill also taught me a lesson, even if it didn't sink in right away.

You see, I didn't realize why Bill drank and fought so much.  I just thought "that's just Bill."  Years later, I realized that he was dealing with a deep Pain.  He was a combat Marine- he'd been deployed to Beirut and other places before I met him.  He was in Beirut in 1983, when the car bomb detonated.  Dave told me that- Bill never mentioned it.

I came to this realization when after a particularly rough night of drinking, etc, I looked in the mirror- into my dead eyes.  And I realized what was happening.  I wasn't drinking and fighting for fun or to prove my manhood.  I was drinking hoping to dull the Pain.

Just like Bill. 

And of course it didn't work.

In any case, here's Bill.  I have NO idea what happened to him after I graduated PSU.  I would guess he deployed to Panama.  And Desert Storm.

I hope he was able to quell his Pain. 

*************************************************************************


Chapter 51: Bill
Wednesday, March 11, 1987 Test-tube births are condemned

            Bill was a Marine.  He was five foot six, and every inch was Gung Ho, Semper Fi and Squared Away.  Bill was a little fireplug.  He was all muscle and had a very broad, round-ish head with a high, backward sloping forehead.  His hair was dark and always in a high and tight crew cut.  His eyes were small, brown, and wide apart.  He had a small mouth which was locked in a creepy smile.  It became wider when he was angry.  Sometimes he had a wispy attempt a moustache, sometimes not.
Every Marine was proud of carrying that title, and rightfully so- anyone who had the balls to finish that training program should be proud.  However, there was something that Bill different.  It wasn’t just that he lived and breathed the Corps.  No, there was more.
            Bill was crazy.
            You could see it in his eyes. 
Other Marines (who aren’t afraid of anybody) were afraid of Bill.  I was glad he was on our side.
I met Bill at one of Dave’s dorm gatherings.  He taught me how to play Ace Face and drank me under the table with extreme prejudice. 
Ok, another thing that set Bill apart was that he was married.  Married in college?  What the fuck?  That’s like taking sand to a beach!  Well, he was married to a girl named Paula.  She was really fat.  I mean, she seemed to get fatter every time I saw her.  I referred to her a Paula the Hutt when Bill wasn’t around.  And she was as ugly inside as out.  We hated each other.

March 11, 1987 Collegian

So this one night I’m at the apartment working on homework when I heard a knock on the door.  It was Bill and Dave- both bloody, roughed up, and drunk.  As always Bill was smiling.
“What the hell happened?”  I asked.
“Got any beer?”  Bill asked back.
“Some Strohs”
“Bill decided to take on all of Sig Tau,” Dave said.  Sig Tau was right across the street from Beaver Hill.  It was the ROTC fraternity.  It was also the house that most closely resembles Delta House from “Animal House.”
I gave Bill a beer. 
“One of those squids insulted the Corps and one of my brothers,” Bill said.  “”I couldn’t let that go.”
“Bill was thrown down the stairs,” Dave said.
“Asshole frat boys won’t fight one on one like men,” Bill said.  I didn’t reply to the insult.  I figured it’d be best to let him vent. 
“Meanwhile, some guy says ‘hey ain’t you with him?’ and punches me,” Dave said.
“It was fuckin’ awesome!”  Bill said, smiling even wider, kinda like the Joker.
“Are you guys ok?”  I asked.
“My arm hurts but its nuttin,” Bill said, reaching into the fridge for another few beers.
“Are those beers yours?”  Dave asked.
“No, they’re Mark’s.
Bill handed us each a beer and opened his own. 
“What?  Whose are these?”  Bill asked.
“My roommate’s,” I said.
Bill smiled wider, if that was possible.  “Fuck him.  I buy him more.  I just won’t be buying it tonight.”
I was a little worried that I’d be stuck replacing the beer, oh well- what could I do?  Fight a drunken Bill?
“So how did they throw you down the stairs?”  I asked Bill.
“Well the fuckin’ squid was upstairs in the head and he started talking bad about the Corps.  I told him to stop and he wouldn’t!”
“Squid?”  I said.
“Navy,” Dave said.
            “So I had to correct his worldview,” Bill said.  “But those faggoty ass frat boys never fight ya man to man.  Noooo, they always gang up.  So there was like four of them and they threw me down the fuckin’ stairs.”  (This number of Sig Tau’s would increase as time went on.  By the time I graduated, Bill had been tossed by no less than ten guys.)
            I looked at Dave.
            “All I saw was him landing on his ass at the bottom of the stairs,” he said, shrugging.  “I picked him up and we beat a hasty retreat here.”
            “Where there’s beer!  Here where there’s beer!” Bill said reaching into the fridge for Mark’s last beer.  He finished three while Dave and I barely started ours.  He wiped a trickle of blood off his forehead with his right sleeve.
            “Are you sure you’re ok?”  I asked Bill.  “You seem to be favoring your left arm. 
            “Yeah.  Ain’t nothing a fucking beer can’t fix.  Semper Fi!”
            Bill chugged his beer.
            After a hefty burp, Bill asked Dave “You ready to hit some bars?”
            Dave chugged his beer, much more slowly.  He handed me the empty.  “Thanks” he said.  And off they went, leaving me holding a half drunken beer, five empties, and homework to finish.
            True to his word, Bill showed up the next day, sprained arm in a sling, and a six pack of Strohs to replace the one drunk the night before.

Next Chapter
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On Monday, May 6, 2019, I spoke in the rotunda of the State Capitol building in Harrisburg, PA.

Ooo!

So how did that happen?

Well, last October I reconnected with an old high school friend.  I hadn't seen Charnelle since graduation in 1984.  I think I first met her in 8th grade.  She was reading a book about the Doors, and I asked her about it.  (I guess in a way she turned me on to what would become one of my favorite bands.)


With Charnelle, Oct 2018


She invited me to a breakfast networking event for "minorities," since, as a transgender woman I qualify.  She said there would be movers and shakers there.  I'd been to similar gatherings before this, but they were exclusively LGBT.  I guess I suck at networking because nothing came out of those.  In any case, I went.

Almost everyone at that event were people of color.  I met many people, but seeing Charnelle was the real treat.  I spoke briefly at this gathering about how transgender people are not protected by hiring bias laws in Pennsylvania, and my personal hardship finding work.  My speech was short, direct, and ad-lived.  One of the people in attendance had a friend who works for a Pennsylvania state congressman.  She recommended me to that person, who invited me to speak at a press conference about a new bill being proposed in the PA statehouse.  This bill would extend hate crime protections to LGBT people.

That's right- PA has no such protections on its books.  Why?  Because both houses of the Pa legislature have been dominated by republicans for years.  And republicans, as a rule, hate LGBT.  It's even in their most recent platform (2016.  pp 11, 31, 35.)


Trouble on the steps?

So, that morning I woke early, troweled on my face, and drove 90 minutes to Harrisburg.  After parking, I walked a block to the statehouse.  There was a large crowd, maybe 100, in front- a rally.  The majority of the people wore red hats- it was a pro- second amendment rally.  I stopped for a moment.  Right wingers generally hate LGBT (as shown by their policies, comments, violence, etc) so I wondered if I would be accosted going up the steps to the door.  Shoulders back, I walked proudly up the middle.  While I got some looks and a couple of remarks, they let me through without incident.  On my way up, I passed many people posing for pictures.  Several flashed white power signs.

The front door was guarded outside by several police officers.  After entry, I went through a metal detector checkpoint.  Ahead of me was the rotunda, where I was to speak.  I'd say there were over a hundred gun people in there, some with signs.  There were MAGA hats of red and black.  There was a teen wearing full old style camouflage.  One big guy had Hitler tattooed on his bicep.  There I saw the only two people of color with that rally- a couple wearing matching "gun control is racist" t-shirts.


Smile!

I met with my contact, and she took me to the office of the sponsoring representative, Kevin Boyle (D) of Philadelphia, which was in a neighboring building.  We waited there briefly, then went back to the capitol building.  As we left, we passed two large roving groups of gun people who were visiting every office they could.

When we returned to the rotunda, most of the gun people were gone- it was like a reset.  Cameras were ready, and a large number of women in red were posed on the steps.  This was AJC, a Jewish advocacy organization.  I was told where to stand, and Rep. Boyle spoke.

Seven other representatives spoke (including State Senator Farnese, the lone republican), then three other people.  Then, it was my turn.


Picture by Rep. Melissa Shusterman.  Didn't realize I was wearing the same dress both times

I'd been asked to "play nice" with my comments, so I did.  Sort of.  I wrote some bullet points on an index card, including some facts, figuring I'd tailor the speech to the remarks made by other speakers.  I pointed out that "a certain party" has Hate enshrined in their platform, and cited the page numbers.  I spoke about feeling safe, and about how the GOP stripped me of healthcare access.  In the end, I called upon the GOP to renounce hate (originally, it was going to be Hate AND Evil.)  And then, I was finished.

It wasn't my best speech.  I felt I rushed it.  Listening to the speech again, I absolutely rushed it.  If you want to see my speech, you'll find it HERE.  I put my phone on the podium, and recorded it.  The angle is far from flattering- I look like Jabba the Hut.

The press conference ended.  We posed for pictures as a group, then all was finished.  I said my goodbyes, and walked out into the brilliant sunlight into... another gathering.  This time it was pro-nuclear energy.  I walked around that crowd and back to my car.  As I was parked near the top of the parking garage, I had some great views, so I took some pictures.  Then, I went home.


Heading out.  One of the ADC women gave me a pin

Will my participation help?  Doubt it. I don't think that bill will make it out of committee, because republicans hate LGBT, and they hold the majority.  Still, I can say I spoke at the State Capitol building.  It gave me something to do. 
Be well.
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Happy Valley was a fantasy land, especially after the two years I spent living in Powelton Village during my time at Drexel University.  (Back then, that was a dangerous part of the city.)  Looking at the Police Log, all one would see was petty theft and drunken fights.  Compared to the murders and armed robberies (I'd been mugged four times there myself) that was nothing. 

About twice a semester, a rape was reported.  I'd guess (with no statistics to back me up) that for every one that was reported, there were five others that weren't.  Suicides were reported sometimes.  I knew one of them. 

My point being, as a "guy" at PSU in the 80s, I felt safe.  And, as the "nice guy" (meaning "couldn't get laid with a string of $100 bills around my neck) I often volunteered to walk women back to their dorms/apartments as a safe escort.  "Campus escort" was a thing back then.  I soon gained a small reputation for it- the "safe guy."  Girls would seek me out near the end of a given Skull party for me to walk them home, and I did it.  No matter how drunk I was, I took this very seriously, and would never consider taking advantage of it.  They were trusting me, and I was going to do everything I could to get them home safe, by God!  Fortunately, it always ended up just being a walk in the cold which sobered me up. 

Then this happened.  Drug sting?  Big deal.  But Murder was... unheard of.  Yes, we knew about the murder in the stacks in 1969, when all of us were toddlers. 

The town was on edge for a while.  Stunned.  I don't think we were so trusting after that.  The stakes were raised, so to speak.

I didn't know Dana Bailey.  She sounded like a wonderful person.  I hope that her murderer is caught while her parents still live. 


****************************************************************************


Chapter 50: Murder
Monday, March 9, 1987 PSU student fatally stabbed
            My morning classes went by as usual except everyone seemed to be buzzing about something.  There were no Collegians around to be had on campus.  So as usual I went to the house for lunch.  Got myself a burger out of the big orange containers.  All of the brothers had their faces buried in newspapers.


March 9, 1987 Collegian
            I grabbed a copy and sat down.
            “PSU student fatally stabbed” was in the center of the front page.
            This was the first murder at Penn State since 1969.
            “Jesus Christ,” File said.
            “Anybody know her?”  Sauce said.
            “Dairy’s girlfriend works with her,” Garbo said.
            “I heard she hangs over at AXS,” VD said, his mouth full of burger.
            Saint walked in.  “Hey, you guys hear what happened?”
            “Yeah, that’s fucked up.”
            “Wonder what really happened?”
            “132 South Allen.  Where is that?”
            “Um, it’s above the McClanahans across from the flower shop innit?”
            “‘Apparent victim of stab wounds to the heart and lung area.’”
            “Fucked up shit.”
            “Where did she work?”
                                                “Corner room.”
            “How do you know?”
                                                “It’s in the fuckin’ paper dickwad!”
            “I heard she was tied to a chair with her throat cut.”
                        “Bullshit.”
                                    “Where did you hear that?”
            “I dunno.  Around.”
                        “Full of shit.”
            “Fuck you.”
           
            I sat and read.  There wasn’t much in the article.  The only real fact was that a student was dead.

            The police sealed the apartment.  A few months later, the whole building burned to the ground.  The fire was labeled “Suspicious.”
           
            All these years later, the murder of Dana Bailey has not been solved.

           
Next Chapter








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