Tag Archives: death

Carrie Fisher

My dad took me and my brother to an old theater in Reading, Pennsylvania, to see Star Wars. We sat in the balcony. I was ten years old.

I remember being captivated from the beginning when those now-famous words scrolled across the screen. I liked the scene in the cantina with those crazy aliens and that funny, tinny music playing in the background.


Cream Magazine

I’m not sure how many times I’ve watched Star Wars since 1977. My favorite scene became the one with the garbage compactor. “Into the garbage chute, Flyboy,” Princess Leia says to Luke as she shoots her laser gun at the Stormtroopers, transforming from rescuee to rescuer, from damsel in distress to take-charge badass.

I replayed that scene over and over in my head. “Into the garbage chute, Flyboy.” That was the kind of girl I was when I played with the guys. That was the kind of woman I wanted to be.



When I got older, I idolized Carrie Fisher the author. She was a brilliant writer. If you want to learn how to write memoir, read Carrie Fisher. Her words were sharp and cutting, vulnerable and honest. The humor was so dark, you never knew whether to laugh or cry. I always did both. She wrote with the bravery and balls of Princess Leia. “Into the garbage chute, Flyboy.”

I read a lot of books. Most I recycle, handing off to friends or family, or donating to Goodwill. I keep some of Fisher’s books in a small, neat stack on my bookcase mixed with books written by a few other authors. My stack of weird books. They are the books that told me it was okay to think the way I did. That it was okay to be different. They are the books that gave me permission to be myself.

It’s been a tough year for losses. I lost two of my heroes earlier this year when the wrestler Chyna and the musician Prince died on back-to-back days in April.

And now Carrie Fisher.



I like to think they left me a little of their magic when they departed this world. A little of their bravery and in your face badassery. That it fell like stardust and caught on the inside of my sleeve or the back of my pants and clung like specks of glitter.

And that when I need to be bold and courageous, it will be there, giving me a needed push.

“Into the garbage chute, Flyboy.”

* * *

What about you? Who will you miss most from 2016?

Fallen hero

I remember the first time I saw her.

I can still feel the excitement in my heart. The way it fluttered like a hummingbird’s wings inside my chest.

I was 30 years old but had never seen anyone like her.


Chyna in the squared circle with the Road Dog.

Her name was Joanie Laurer, but she wrestled under the name “Chyna.” Tall and muscular, she was billed as the 9th Wonder of the World.

Chyna wasn’t the first woman to wrestle, but she was the first I had seen square off against the guys. 

In  a small way, she reminded me of my tomboy past — me in my blue jeans and baseball cap playing ball with the guys.

But she busted open gender boundaries on a grand scale with the world watching.

It was validation, but it was something else, too.

Even at 30, I needed to be reminded that I could be anyone and do anything.

* * *

Laurer passed away today at the age of 46. A few months ago, I read that she was attending a convention in nearby New Jersey. I thought about going and getting an autograph and telling her that she is one of my heroes. I guess she already knows.

My butch bucket list

A friend’s husband died a few weeks ago.

We are going to the funeral tomorrow.

I’ve read several versions of the eulogy.

Each time, I’ve been struck by one line.

Bucket listThe man who died was puzzled by the concept of the bucket list.  This was a foreign concept to him, because he lived his bucket list.  As a result, he left this world with no regrets.

I wonder how many of us can say that.

I have always been a late bloomer.  I didn’t come out until my 30s and often regret time lost being young and carefree without a pretty girl or two by my side.

I didn’t start writing creatively until I was in my 40s. I think of all of the blogs and books that I could have written.

But still, I am grateful that I did come out. I feel lucky to have written a book that was published.  I am excited about what the immediate future holds for me as I am challenging myself to tackle things out of my comfort zone like public speaking, mentoring, advocacy and activism.

Today, I am thinking about my bucket list differently. Not as a list of goals to be kept in a drawer and checked off over time but a list of things to do now.  When I am able.  When I still have time.

So, in honor of a friend who knew what was truly important and how to get the most out of life, I’d like to share my bucket list:

Bucket List

  • See Fleetwood Mac in concert
  • Tailgate (and otherwise party) with my Penn State friends as often as possible
  • Write
  • Publish
  • See The Book of Mormon
  • Take W to New Orleans
  • Throw out the first pitch at a baseball game
  • Go on an Olivia cruise
  • Perform as a Drag King
  • Take art classes
  • Learn how to make really good meatballs
  • Go to a strip club
  • Learn how to flyfish
  • Go to Phillies spring training in Clearwater, Fla.
  • Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame
  • Get a hot stone massage
  • Get a koi tattoo

* * *

What about you?  What’s on your list?

Love and flying monkeys

Originally, this was going to be a post about Valentine’s Day.  Something along the lines of “Middle-age butch’s guide to wooing your gal in three easy steps” or maybe “What to buy your butch on the most romantic day of the year.”

For those of you keeping score at home, I’m pro Valentine’s Day.  I look at it as an opportunity to go that extra mile and show that special someone that you really do care.  Besides, I’m a hopeless romantic — butch on the outside/soft and mushy on the inside — so Valentine’s Day is a great excuse for me to show off my romantic chops.

images[7]Usually, I’ll send W flowers at work.  Cook a nice Italian dinner at home and serve a special dessert.  A typical gift would be a “to-my-wife” card, a box of chocolates from a local candy shop and something small like a book or a CD.  If inspiration strikes, I might write her a poem or a love note.  Or gift her with a coupon for an oil massage later that evening capped off by, well, I’m sure you get the picture.

This year, Valentine’s Day will be subdued because W’s beloved grandmother passed away yesterday evening .

As I laid beside W in bed this morning trying to support and console her, I thought that this is what love is all about.

It’s not long-stem roses or $6.99 Hallmark cards decorated with ribbons and glitter.  It’s not a box of fancy chocolates or a pair of boxers covered in arrow-pierced hearts.  It’s not giant stuffed animals or plastic pink handcuffs or even the score to La Boheme or a book of poems by Pablo Neruda.

imagesCABVJVEJIt’s wrapping your arms around your lover when she weeps and asking her if she’s ok a thousand times, even though you know that she isn’t.  It’s holding her hand as she falls asleep and letting her sleep with the TV on because she doesn’t want to wake up and be engulfed in silence.

It’s making a joke about buying Kleenex in bulk just so you can see a smile cross her face for a half a second.

It’s cooking her macaroni and cheese in the blue box because she asks for it in that small, quiet voice and bringing her freeze pops in her favorite flavors and diet Cokes because it’s all that you can think of to do.

It’s letting her know that you’re here if she needs you, if she needs anything, and then giving her space.

It’s being there for her, even when you’re not right next to her, and telling her that everything will be ok.  That we’ll get through this, this next hurdle, together and knowing deep down that it’s true.

When it comes to the un-Hallmark version of love, I often quote Melissa Etheridge (what card-carrying lesbian doesn’t?), especially this line from “Like the Way I Do:”

“You found out to love me you have to climb some fences.”

imagesCA3TBALZSo true.  In my case, the fences W climbs aren’t white picket.  They’re 12-foot barbed wire fences guarded by flying monkeys.  I can be a bastard to live with.

And that’s the thing about love.  It’s not all roses, and candy hearts and teddy bears.  That’s only the fun part of it.  The idea of love.  Love on the surface.

Deep down love is climbing a 12-foot barbed wire fence and swatting away winged primates to make your way into someone’s heart or to let her know that you’re still there, you always were.  To say, “hey, I love you, you moron, can’t you see that I’ve climbed all the way up here and cut off most of my pointer finger at the first knuckle just to show you that.”

Real love is saying something, anything when you don’t know what to say.  It’s trying and failing and then trying again.

It’s helping your lover grieve a loss when you’re not at all sure how to go about doing that.

It’s being there though, and going through it together.

Loving as we live

imagesCA0XFFSAW’s grandmother is sick.  She was placed on hospice about two weeks ago.

During one of our visits, there was some talk about a grandson who had yet to visit.

Grandmom paused, thinking about the message that she wanted to relay in case anything happened to her before she saw her grandson in person.

“Oh, he knows I love him,” she said.

And, he does.  They all do.  The sons, the daughter, their spouses, the grandchildren, even the great-grandchildren.

She made sure in her 91 years that everyone knew — really knew — that she loves and values them all.  Now, as she sits propped up in a hospital bed in her daughter’s home looking out the windows at a pair of birdfeeders, she doesn’t have any catching up to do.

They already know.

* * *

I have a leather-bound journal that I use to jot down quotes that I find profound or insightful.  A turn of a phrase that resonates with me or makes me say “huh” in a good way.

“I’ll probably really figure out exactly how to be alive right when I’m gasping for my last breath.”

That’s a quote from The Book of Ruth by Jane Hamilton.  I wrote it down because it mirrors how I feel.

* * *

If something happened to me and my time here on Earth was suddenly up, would everyone in my life know that I love them?

I’m not so sure.  I’d like to think so, but there have been so many times when I haven’t had a kind word, the extra time, a smile, patience, understanding, forgiveness.

I struggle with so many things, which is why I find it plausible that I’ll never get it all figured out until the very end.  A self-defeating thought, sure enough.

When I start thinking about how I’ll never get this life thing right, I hope I’ll always remember Grandmom and how she loved as she went.

So that I won’t ever have to play catch up with the things that really matter.

Rest in peace

When we return from our D.C. trip, the caterpillar has eaten and grown but is hanging oddly from a milkweed leaf.  His middle feet are gripping the leaf, and he is hanging like an upside down U.  It looks suspicious.  Like a botched suicide attempt.

He is alive, though.  I poke at him to make sure.

Because my previous poking and prodding had proved successful and gotten the little guy to resume eating, I decide to play Mother Nature and try again.

The caterpillar ends up free falling to the bottom of the tank.  I calculate the drop to be equal to a three-story fall if the caterpillar had been a person.  “Definitely survivable,” I say to myself.

I pick up his limp body and gently place him on a milkweed leaf.  He lies on his side with a crooked antenna and his many pairs of feet in mid air.

I watch and wait.  He twitches a few times, I think.

I tell W.

“There was something wrong with him, baby,” she says.

This morning, the little guy is laying on the tank’s glass bottom.  His yellow and black body forms an exclamation point.  I’m dead!, he shouts.

But, I’m not sure.  I now know not to touch him.

Midday I accidentally drop a full basket of laundry by the tank.  The caterpillar jumps up in the air.  For just a second, I think he’s alive.  I drop the laundry basket again.  He pops up again.  Drop.  Pop.  Drop.  Pop.  Drop.  Pop.  There’s a physics lesson here, but it is lost on me.

By dinnertime, I have abandoned all hope.  I discard the wilting milkweed and use a tissue to hold the little guy in my hand.

He is soft — not stiff — and feels cold.  I hold him for a while and gently run my finger down his back.  He is soft and smooth like velvet.  He is beautiful.

I am sad that he didn’t get the chance to transform into a black and orange winged beauty.  I know now that he didn’t need to change to be beautiful.

I dig a small hole and bury him underneath our butterfly bush.  I find a small rock and place it on top.

Rest in peace, little guy.  Rest in peace.

Final resting place