‘Thanks For The Memories’
(04 Dec 17)
That picture of Slim (above) was taken Thanksgiving Day 1969. That year would be his first holiday season.
What memories do you have, Dear Reader, of special times during these year-end holidays?
Here’s the prologue. I was raised in the Christian culture, most of my perspectives are ingrained from that perspective. I did grow up with some Jewish education – my paternal grandparents worked for a Jewish family who rescued them during the First Great Republi-con Depression. I have made an effort to learn about Kwanzaa. I am open to any other culture. After all, we are all human each with our own human experiences of our society; we are one of many.
On a seasonal note, allow me to share events that occurred at this time of the year.
I have several memories of childhood holidays with Aunt Pat, Uncle John, and those relatives. Their family and our family resided within a mile of each other, Aunt Mickey’s home was just down the street; we were the only family who moved West from New Jersey.
These seasons were good and memorable for positive experiences. The worst of these stands out – it was Thanksgiving Day 1968.
My dad, Kathy, and I went to Aunt Pat and Uncle John’s home to gather with our extended families.
All went well talking and sharing and watching football on the TVs.
Kathy, Cousin Bev, and I went to walk the neighbourhood and get something from the quickie mart down the street. We snacked on fresh oranges that we picked from the trees along the way.
We three returned some time later – who knows – we weren’t carrying a watch – maybe 30 minutes – maybe 60 minutes.
We saw that there were police cars at their home. What happened?
Good for us that we missed the disturbance. One of the guests that day was a man identified to me with the name ‘Hector’ and was an employee of Uncle John’s bail bond business. He pulled a gun and started firing it at people. Dunno why, no one gave those details to me.
Hector was a real bad guy; I began to learn that perhaps that side of my family were real bad people.
One year later came terrible news. Debbie, my childhood neighbour friend, was murdered. The news reported that she and two friends had been involved with drugs – using, dealing. The three teen girls were kidnapt and taken to Mexico to be murdered by shooting them with an overdose. Somehow the two girls with Debbie survived and went for help, but Debbie died. Hector was the prime suspect.
Another year or so later I asked my dad why Uncle John seemed to have different TVs, stereos, furniture most every time we visited them each week. My dad gave a cold look at me and sternly told me, ‘Never ask that question again!’. I did not ask again, but my dad’s non-answer gave me clues to form my own opinion, rightly or wrongly. My Uncle John ran a bail bond business, he dealt with shadey creeps as Hector, perhaps he was receiving stolen property as payment for bail.
Christmas 1970: Radio City Music Hall and the Rockettes.
My dad and I drove cross-country in our camper truck to visit his relatives at New Jersey.
Our travel to New Jersey was uneventfull.
My dad took me to Radio City Music Hall to see the movie (I have no recollection what movie we saw) and the Rockettes’ Christmas Day stage show.
The strongest memory that I have of that day was our bus ride back from New York City. We were at Port Authority’s bus terminal waiting for our bus when Mother Nature made a very sudden call that could not wait. I entered that room alone; I was scared. My restroom experiences were usually bad and this became one possible addition. I would have been in big trouble if anyone in that facility did anything to me – my anatomy and my wearing female undies – a girl in the men’s room. Dunno why my dad allowed me to go alone?
Our drive home from New Jersey was hit by snow storms and blizzards along the way – the first was during our drive through Pennsylvania and another stretching from the Texas panhandle to New Mexico and Northern Arizona:
- I recall that our gas cap froze shut and prevented us from getting a fill-up one night (New Mexico), we slept with the propane oven for heat
- The temperature sign at Flagstaff, Arizona, showed ‘-16’ – that is cold.
Christmas vacation 1972: Vienna Boys Choir.
My dad, Kathy, and I travelled by train from our home at Maggana, Greece, through Jugoslavia, and to Austria. We stayed at Pension Bliem, a small guesthouse at Saint Johann im Pangau, during our first days at Austria. We then travelled by train to Vienna for New Year’s.
My dad took Kathy and me to attend a performance of the Vienna Boys Choir. We also went to see the Lipizzaner Horse Show.
My greatest memory of this at that time was our dad taking pictures of Kathy and me posing with the boys and getting their autographs.
Another memory would fix within the year. It happened when my dad and I returned from Greece (Summer 1973) and shared our photography of our travels while staying at his sister’s home. I recall very clearly my relatives expressing curiosity at the pictures – especially when they saw one with me obtaining autographs from one of the Vienna Boys Choir singers. My aunt again expressed. ‘Who is that stranger girl in the picture? Where are pictures of Nickie?’. That was me in those pictures; I was going through female puberty that changed my male appearance to female.
I never again saw pictures of me in my teen years where I appear female – especially those Vienna Boys Choir pictures. The rare exceptions include that one picture of Kathy, Slim, and me at Thassos and a picture that Kathy sent to me last year of us at a cafe at Vienna.
Christmas 1977: Fiesta Bowl.
My dad and I had been residing at a small New Mexico village along the Continental Divide.
We made plans to travel to visit family and friends here at Arizona.
We learned that the Fiesta Bowl had tickets available for game day on Christmas Day. We learned why – apparently that year’s game was becoming a dud, few people were buying tickets to that game. We got free tickets for pretty good seats. There were plenty of empty seats at that game. We moved around from place to place throughout the game.
Yep, must’ve been a turkey of a game. I can’t tell you who played or which team won.
I would return home to find quite a surprise with the in-coming mail – my letter and package from Stanford University Medical Center arrived. I prepared my enrollment paperwork and submitted it as quickly as I could.
Wow! That was 40 years ago.
Thanksgiving Day 1978.
My dad turned sour what should have been a celebration.
The Forest Service selected me for an appointment. I would be moving out of town – about 400 miles by road travel. My dad was angry at me; he accused me of abandoning him throughout the approaching days that included Thanksgiving Day.
Never mind that, at least at that time, I wanted this new job that was to advance my career path.
I learned not long afterward that my dad made plans for himself only to travel to visit his relatives at New Jersey. Hmm? What was he having me do alone while he was enjoying his trip had I not gotten hired by the Forest Service? So much for dear ol’ dad and abandonment.
I spent that holiday season on my own; I enjoyed myself, I played my records.
I savoured the reality that 1979 meant my new freedom to go full steam ahead with transition:
- my next transition medical appointment would be in early January 1979,
- my next counselling would be in February 1979,
- I would begin hormones (Norinyl birth control) shortly thereafter,
- my counsellor would approve me to proceed with medical treatment,
- my internist would start me on hormones full time (Diethylstilbestrol).
While Thanksgiving Day 1978 was a disaster, Thanksgiving Day 1979 would be celebration.
Christmas 1979: Family Dinner
I was completing my first year of employment at the Forest Service.
My dad would be driving 200 miles from his home and I would be driving 200 miles from my home. We would be visiting family: Kathy who was house-sitting for her employer, my Grand-Aunt, and her son. My dad and I stayed for a couple days at the home with Kathy. It was quite a mansion – many bedrooms, other various rooms and parlours, maids quarters, and two Rolls Royce vehicles parked in a three-car garage. I stayed at the TV room and slept on the sofa. The bathroom at that room literally had gold faucets.
Memories and excitement flushed in me. I was eager to share my transition advances with family as we gathered together. My desire was to open about my stealth transition that I had been doing right under everyone’s nose since 1974 – to confirm what I suspected they all knew but were afraid to ask: my medical approvals, my hormones, my plans coming to fruition. But I also sensed that this was not a good time to raise contentious issues. I was more concerned about maintaining family order as the family’s peacemaker. I felt it was better to withhold this touchy subject in what was otherwise a reasonably decent family gathering. I suppressed my enthusiasm. I celebrated in my own quietness.
We all feasted a Christmas Eve dinner.
My dad, Kathy, and I attended Catholic Midnight Mass at a parish church where we previously had been members. This brought a flood of childhood memories to me that I wanted to share – I imagined what my life would have been had I attended Catholic school as Sharon rather than Nick; I looked for former school-mates to maybe share with them – but I felt pressure to keep these thoughts to myself.
We returned from Midnight Mass, gathered for a short time, then I had to depart for home. My Christmas Day shift at the radio station would start at 5 am; fortuneately, the roads were not snow-bound and allowed me to make good time.
I had a fun morning playing Christmas music and inserting a few items from the Beatles’ ‘Christmas Album’.
Christmas Day 1982: NBA Basketball Game.
My dad came to visit me at Utah.
I did not expect my dad to visit me, so I had to scramble to think of a special present to personally give to him – yet something that did not take up luggage space on his return flight to Arizona.
Events between us were not working to well. Recalling the time as it happened and looking back now, it comes clearer. I suspected then that my dad snooped though my belongings while I was at work. He saw the evidence of my November 1982 hospitalisation, he asked questions, and I evaded him. Cousin Bev told me two years ago that my dad spread the word throughout family that he suspected that I was hospitalised to have breast enhancement surgery. My dad’s confused presumption was that I was a M-F trans person who had BA while still presenting as male. The gatekeepers of Utah denied hormones to me since 1981. Were my breasts still that noticeable in December 1982? Of course I did not have BA; I was hospitalised for my inter-sex surgical diagnosis.
First, I took my dad to a special movie. He complained about the seats during the entire time and thereafter.
I scrambled for another idea. Again, I did not want my dad to be disappointed in me. There would be a Christmas Day NBA basketball game – home team Utah Jazz versus dreaded rival Phoenix Suns. My dad took me to NBA (and professional hockey) games as a child – once or twice each month during their season. My dad took me to that Fiesta Bowl game for Christmas Day 1977.
My friend Rod, at the radio station, had connections. He made it all possible with last-minute tickets to the game. A great big ‘Thank you’ to Rod.
Arguments start, we don’t recall the specifics, we remain heated for days without recalling why we got there. And so it was my dad. He invoked some altercation the night before Christmas Day and stayed angry the rest of the time during his visit.
- We got to the game – he was angry.
- We got home – he was angry.
- He departed a few days later before New Year’s Day – he was still angry.
Funny thing. We called relatives long distance on Christmas night. They said that they watched the game, the network sports coverage panned the crowd, we were on the TV screen – they told us that they saw my dad angry, the TV crew commented that he must have been a fan unhappy with the Jazz loss. Nope, not hardly. If only they knew!
Thanksgiving Day 1988: My dad’s last Thanksgiving Day.
My dad called me from his home at 6 pm on Thanksgiving Day; he told me that he wanted to come visit with me and have Thanksgiving dinner with me. He told me to call a few restaurants and make reservations. I reminded him of the late hour, that I knew little of restaurants since I lacked the affordability to eat out.
I called several restaurants; some were not accepting reservations, some would be closed by 8 pm, some were already closed.
My father arrived about 8 pm. I told my results to him; he was angry at me – it was my fault that restaurants were closed at that late hour.
We drove around the city and found a Bob’s Big Boy; it was 8:30 pm, they would be open until 9 pm. The waitress agreed to seat us; she told us that they did have Thanksgiving fixings, she apologised that there remained only left-overs to serve. No matter, my dad and I ate what perhaps we did not know would be his last Thanksgiving Day meal.
We returned to my home after we dined. My dad remained angry at me that I was somehow responsible for his calamity of Thanksgiving dinner. He departed a short time later. I went to bed sad at the events that ended this day.
Thanksgiving Day 1993.
I resigned from my state employment as a public assistance case manager at Arizona DES. My Christian Con-servative supervisor had suspicions about me and threatened ‘I’ll get you!’ to me.
I took that trip to California and Oregon: visiting Kathy, job-hunting, determining if I wanted to move from Arizona.
I took time to re-acquaint myself with relatives here at Phoenix following my departure from employment as I did job-searches at Phoenix. Carol and I had become friends, or so I thought. One day as I was visiting with her, she invited me to Thanksgiving Day celebrations. It had not been since 1970 when I last joined them in what had been til then our annual dinner. Carol’s invitation did not last long. My Aunt Pat returned home and told me, sternly, that I was not welcomed to join with them – she un-invited me.
Her act was not un-expected, but I was dejected nonetheless.
As a repeat of 1978, Thanksgiving would be my own celebration. This time, I was hired by another state agency effective December 1993.
I attended Christmas Midnight Mass at my former parish where I attended Catholic elementary school. I was still somewhat Catholic, though lapsing quite fast.
My intent was not entirely for religious purpose, but there could be said that I had some spiritual context. Part of me wanted to determine whether any of the congregants perceived anything about me – still another test to determine whether I am ‘passing’ or failing.
My familiarity of the church and all the surroundings was certain to solidify to anyone that I had to be another fellow parishioner. Thus, I supposed that I was not doing well if others made nasty stares at me – that it was because of me, not me doing something out of character with parish customs. Hey, just because this is church doesn’t say people can’t be cruel. I was rejected by my parish where I last taught ‘Sunday school’.
I remember that I recognised at least two people:
- one whom I heard had the nick-name ‘Outer Limits’ (I did not know him, did not know his name, as he was in an older grade than I)
- Jeanne and I were class-mates from 2nd Grade through 8th Grade.
I tried to say ‘Hello’ to ‘Outer Limits’, ask for his name, wish him ‘Merry Christmas’, maybe finally get to know him as temporary as it would be at such an environment. Nope, he would not give me the time of day. Did he recognise me? He barely would have known me.
Jeanne was another story. Many of the Mass’s attendees gathered together inside the foyer and talked among themselves, I among them as we greeted each other whether friend or stranger. I came upon Jeanne, addressed her by name, wished ‘Merry Christmas’ to her, and remained face-to-face within arm’s reach of her for at least one minute. Jeanne looked at me and acknowledged my presence; I continued looking at her and the others in her group, then I departed to meet others (all strangers). Not once did Jeanne demonstrate any recognition of who I am, why my presence might be familiar to her, how I knew her name but she did not know my name. Or maybe she plain plumb forgot that her class-mate Nick existed.
I guess that I struck out what would be my last Christmas Midnight Mass.
I had simple plans to attend that year’s Christmas Midnight Mass. I just wanted to connect at least to one familiar custom since childhood. I don’t know what were the extent of my beliefs in Catholic dogma nearly 20 years ago, nor do I know if or whether there is a high being; the latter is beyond my pay grade.
I drove to Tucson in my classic 1965 Ford Mustang. This time I decided that I would push the engine to 75 mph the entire distance; it purred like a kitten all the way. Wow, I arrived at Tucson in almost no time compared to 55 mph. I spent Saturday evening and then Sunday working at the TV studio – editing my next ‘Rock Club Rising’ TV show and hanging out with my TCCC friends. I departed the studio Sunday evening, stopt to fill the tank with gasoline, chatted with the attendant for a few minutes, and made my way home to Phoenix.
I approached the Southern limits of the Phoenix metropolitan environs. I observed headlights shining on my inside rear-view mirror. Those lights were quite a distance behind me and the only other traffic my direction at 11 pm. I scanned the road in front, then back to those headlights in the rear-view mirror. The lights still appeared distant, yet this second time they shown to be closer than they should have been for a vehicle travelling at an average speed. No matter, I figured; I’m driving in the ‘slow’ lane where I belong and they should be driving in the ‘fast’ lane where they belong. The third time was not the charm; I looked at the lights in the rear-view mirror, they were right there at my tail.
The driver hit me the first time. The Mustang wanted to fish-tail. I had training, I knew how to control a car in such a situation. I held the steering as best as I could. The Mustang waivered two cycles – back and forth, back and forth. He hit me the second time – this time at the passenger side rear corner, this time while my Mustang faced toward the desert.
The Mustang hit a mound of dirt about eight yards across, flipt up, rolled over, and crash-landed flat on the roof of the car. The smashed car then rolled twice and settled right-side-up on the shreds that were once tires and wheels. Making my initial assessment of my injuries, I rose as far as I could, as high as I could from my crouched position across the front seats within the confines of this flattened vehicle.
I tried peering from inside the car through what meager opening existed where what was once the windshield barely a few minutes earlier. I observed two men approaching – each with lights and each talking to someone on their cellular telephones. One shined his light into my car and exclaimed, ‘There’s one dead inside here’ while I observed the other who waved his light toward a tree and stated, ‘I think I see a dead body in the tree’.
The fire department, or whomever they were, came to my Mustang; I repeated to them that I feel multiple injuries, that I lost my eyeglasses from the collision and can’t see too well. They opened the driver’s side door to lift me out and set me on the stretcher, wheeled me to the side of the road, and began snipping off my clothes to expose my body’s nakedness to the cold air. I was shivering; EMTs denied my pleading for a sheet or something to cover me.
I expected that it would be best to explain to the EMTs that I am Transsexual in case they did not comprehend what inter-sex looks like. Instead, the EMTs gathered, ‘Come here! Take a look at the Tranny!’. Damn them all!
Another EMT stuck me with needles to do at least six blood draws. They accused me of drunk driving, drugged driving, sleeping at the wheel, anything and everything. I countered that I was hit from behind – twice – by a large vehicle.
Para-medics flew me to the hospital via life-flight helicopter. The ER doctors stuck 12 staples in my head to hold it together; I can still feel that scar.
I called my Uncle Artie who collected a few items from my car – clothes so that I could get dressed – and drove me home Monday afternoon.
I spent that first week in extreme pain. I ate tangerines from my tangerine tree; they tasted sweet, better than anything else.
I am still recovering from that cold December night.
Thanksgiving Day 2008.
What a lonely day that would begin a string of lonely years and depression.
I had been removed from my job the prior August 2008 on the accusation that being transsexual makes me ‘mentally unfit’ to be a State of Arizona employee. I would be on my own to fight their charges:
- Of more than 100 offices where I sought legal help, not one lawyer accepted to take my case.
- Not one federal or state agency charged with EEOC or discrimination issues defended my position.
- I had no family or friends come to me support.
I expected to somehow recover my employment status; I had no idea that my plight would be permanent.
I went to the grocery store unsure what I was going to do other than browse the aisles in quiet solitude. I came upon a few items for sale at the discount shelf. I recall that I bought a container of turkey dressing. returned to my car, ate that in silence, then cried. With no sense of what more to do and no where to go, I drove to Tucson to wander that familiar city, then I returned home to cry again.
Holiday season 2014.
I was experiencing my most recent period of major depression that began some time during late-2013 and persisted until some time early-2015.
Thieves burglarised and ransacked my home when I went away. They stole irreplaceable personal possessions from me: 50 years of my photography, videos, and mementos of my two TV shows (‘Rock Club Rising’ and ‘Dick’s Automotive’). They stole valuable ‘stuff’ accumulated throughout my lifetime: my collection of books and phonograph records valued at more than $500.000. I was un-insured because I could no longer afford that expence. This event of its entirety was one price of many that I paid for being Trans.
My stress was destroying my physical health and mental well-being.
I was alone.
Then, suddenly, came a squirrel scampering across my backyard lawn while I ate my Thanksgiving Day meal from a jar. I tossed a cranberry to it as my way to share what was my meager bounty that year.
Christmas Day 2015.
Alana invited me to spend the day and have dinner with her. This would be the first time anyone asked me to join them.
Alana thought that I ditched on her; I was a bit late because I got lost on my way to her home.
I brought food to add to our meal. I felt disappointed when Alana expressed distaste for my contribution. I did not know it at that time that she has food complications and what I innocently brought to our table was among her complications.
We had a good time.
Alana showed her picture collection and railroadiana to me. We shared about our travelling to Thailand. We watched a few DVDs of my ‘Rock Club Rising’ show.
I had no idea one year earlier in 2014 how my life would change in 2015.
Kapung Khaf, Alana.
Thanksgiving Day 2016.
Alana and I spent a crazy day together.
We had no idea that many restaurants would be closed all day that day.
We first went to our fave Souper Salad salad bar – it was closed.
She thought maybe Denny’s had good dinner service. We went to one Denny’s, ordered their Thanksgiving Day meal, and were utterly disappointed at the table scraps that they served.
Still wanting to celebrate with a meal, we found a fast-food hamburger restaurant that was opened and serving. We ordered burgers and fries and ate them in her car as we talked and reminisced.
What are your fave holiday plays, movies, entertainment?
Anne Nichols wrote her play ‘Abie’s Irish Rose’ in the immediate post-WW1 era. The story begins when a Catholic nurse brings an injured Jewish soldier to health at a battlefield hospital, they return home to marry, but their fathers hold their own feuds against the couple, their marriage, and against the notion of any marriage between Christian and Jewish. The play closes with both families coming together during the holiday season when the couple celebrate the births of their twin children, each father melting at their expanding family.
In its time, this play was both
- (1) the longest-running play on Broadway and
- (2) the longest-running touring play
from the 1920s to the 1960s; it was also adapted to both radio and television series. Nichols’ composition is deemed the foundation of innumerable plots repeating her story-line about over-coming bigotry and prejudice, of inter-racial inter-marriage, in plays, movies, and TV shows.
In a strange way, the original ‘Godfather’ movie is a holiday season movie to me. Events occur at Christmas time: Michael and Kaye have their tryst, Don Corleone schemes his take-over but gets shot for it, Luca swims with the fishes, Tom gets kidnapt while Christmas shopping, Michael proves his mettle.
‘Home Alone’ was cutesy in its way; I don’t think I could ever want to watch it again considering present politics.
The first version of ‘It’s A Wonderful Life’ that I saw was the 1977 Marlo Thomas version. I don’t see that version on TV anymore; I can watch it on my VHS tape. Likely the James Stewart version will make its rounds any day now and be repeated til Christmas Day.
Allow me to share my Marlo Thomas story.
I attended a taping of the ‘Donahue’ talk show when he came to Salt Lake City (September 1981). I received tickets to two shows; I chose to attend when Don Wildmon was scheduled to be the guest, but he ditched and we got Linda Gray and Larry Hagman instead – two very personable people. I am not a ‘Dallas’ fan, never saw that show, but did recall Gray from ‘All That Glitters’ (Gray portrayed the first regular Transsexual character on American TV) and Hagman from ‘I Dream of Jeanie’. I got a chance to talk to them and obtain their autographs during a commercial break.
We in the audience asked questions to Phil both before and after the taping. Phil invited the audience to join in line where he signed his autograph, spoke to each of us, thanked us as we departed.
The exit line was long – a few thousand people – so I decided to wander around backstage. I immediately, surprisingly, found Marlo Thomas. I introduced myself to her; she invited me to stay and talk. I told her that I like her version of the movie and that I remember her from her TV series that we watched. I excused myself maybe 30 minutes later.
I re-joined the line that was at the last few people. I was the last person in line so I spoke with Phil longer than the others, thanked him for his show though he had different guests than scheduled, he signed my tickets, and I departed.
Thank you, Dear Reader, for joining me on my latest trip down memory lane. I could share stories about other years, but I shall not bore you with every year.
You can think about your own days past and your own days future. Share with those whom you love in your life.
Please return for another essay.