Posted in Journal

Welcome to Big Adventures, Little Car

Hey y’all. Thanks for checking out my blog. I’m using this space to tell stories. Some may be true and some may be, well, … creative.

A little bit about myself:

I am afab, 50+. I was born in the United States, at the dawn of what is now known as Gen X. Watergate interrupted my favorite black and white TV shows. I believed there would always be a war. (I was unfortunately correct in this.) I remember getting up early one morning and watching the moon landing at my neighbor’s house. (It was real so shut up.) My parents and the media taught me to be afraid of hippies. (They failed)

If I were on a certain three hour tour I would be hard pressed to choose between Ginger and the Professor. I also had a crush on the Captain in the Ghost and Mrs. Muir. I wanted to be Colonel Hogan or date him (from Hogan’s heroes.) And of course Elvis. I LOVED Elvis.

I am a writer by art, and by profession I work in food and beverage. At over one half century of age, I have capital O Opinions and capital F Feelings all based on capital E Experience. All three of these things will no doubt make themselves known if I continue to post and you continue to visit.

I hope you enjoy your visit.

Cheery bye!

*Update! I am now working at a dream job where I get to use my language talents. I’m still working at the Cafe (more on the Cafe later) I’ve day a week. My day job however is as a bilingual Retail IT tech support analyst. I will no doubt have oodles to write about my nascent career in the future!

Posted in Reviews

Public Lands: A review

Recently, C and I took Little Car to Cranberry Township. We wanted to visit Public Lands since it opened last year. Big adventurers love to shop for gear.

We pulled into the parking lot of Public Lands in Cranberry Square. The building was large and inviting like a lodge adventurers might take refuge in after a long day’s . . . well, adventure.

There was a colorful display of kayaks and a makeshift campsight at the entrance. (If you look closely you can just make out C next to the tent.) When we walked in we were greeted enthusiastically and sincerely by someone who looked as if they just happened to be walking past and not like they were supposed to acknowledge us.

I was immediately attracted to the display of local products, most of which I was familiar with. I was thrilled to see Best Ever Granola, Commonplace Coffee and Pittsburgh Juice Company’s Vibrant Sunshine Kombucha. Even though we were way up north in Cranberry Township aka Butler County, and far from the more familiar city territory, (Pittsburgh) this adventurer felt immediately at home.

There were so many shiny baubles and cool gear on display, I think I actually “oohed” and “ahhhed.”

What is Public Lands? It’s a 50,000 square foot outdoor clothing, gear and equipment store whose purpose it “to celebrate and protect public lands for all.” Check out their inspiring video below.

I was thrilled to see Best Ever Granola, Commonplace Coffee, Enrico Biscotti & Pittsburgh Juice Company’s Vibrant Sunshine Kombucha.

Straight back from the entrance is a pretty big climbing wall for a retail store.

I was a little disappointed to see that use of the climbing wall was not part of a membership program like another outdoor gear shop that I love. On the other hand, the wall is available for more than short climbing sessions and is attended by a climbing specialist.

The layout contains 8 different sections for 8 kinds of adventuring! They are: camping, cycling, running, hiking, fishing, climbing, kayak/canoeing and outdoor living.

They had a huge section of fly fishing equipment; every kind of Yeti vessel in every color. The shoe section included many well known brands like Vans,Brooks, Northface, Sorel, Vasque, Keen and Hoka.

Clothing brands were familiar as well; Northface, Colombia, Patagonia, Prana, Kuhl and even Billabong, a brand this adventurer hasn’t seen since she was a teenage surfer wannabe back on Long Island. I didn’t see any Ocean Pacific though. Lol.

Big adventurers didn’t come just to gawk though. I was on a mission to check a few things off of my outdoor gear wish list.

First up: a new Hydration pack, the one I have currently is a very nice handmedown Camelback which I like very much. However I would like something bigger that can hold a notebook, a book or two and my ubiquitous pencilcase. I have a fantasy of actually having time in the middle of acycling adventure or hiking adventure to stop and sit somewhere scenic, shady and not at all buggy and write.

Currently, I carry a notebook in a ziplock freezer bag because the only place I can fit it is in the same sleeve as my water bladder . It’s only a matter of time before my handwritten adventures get wet. I have seen those specialized “trail” notebooks for outdoors types but they are tiny and flimsy. I have one tucked in a flap somewhere. For serious writers like myself (cough, cough,) I need at least a marble notebook.

Public lands in store selection seemed to be limited to Osprey and Camelback, both well known and well respected brands for this kind of equipment. However I found the selection to be limited. For my money, I’d like the pack to have more than just one big storage space. I’d like some sexy pockets and sleeves and cool elastic thingamobobs. To their credit they had something closer to what I was looking for available on their website, just not in store.

The camping equipment section was pretty cool. There was even a raised platform, carpeted with astroturf for the purpose of setting up tents.

If you look closely you can see my fellow big adventurers cute calves.

I was also hoping to find an STP, stand-to-pee device also referred to as female urination devices. I think STP sounds better. This girl doesn’t want to get caught with her pants down in the woods. Surprisingly, there was nothing available in store and quick search on the website was also disappointing. maybe they’re not ready to be that inclusive yet.

I was also looking for a swimsuit top. They had a lovely brand called Nani in stock and I was quite excited as the little writeup on the display spoke to size inclusivity. I am a little thing at 5’3″ but I am also pleasantly thicc. I wear a size 14 petite in most women’s clothing and usually a size large in tops. I found a super cute top in a gorgeous navy blue, size large and took it to the changing room. I couldn’t even get my arm through it. Size inclusivity my foot! I went back to the display and picked up an XL and XXL and they both felt uncomfortably tight as well. This experience speaks more to the women’s clothing industry than it does to Public Lands unfortunately.

Prices for all the products were very similar to that other place we like to go.

Final thoughts: Public Lands hits all the bells and whitsles of an upscale outdoor outfitter.

Pros: A wide array of national and local brands; community involvement protecting public lands and making these spaces safe and inclusive for all. The climbing wall is big. It looks like with proper staffing it could support 5 or 6 climbers and it’s available for private groups,

Cons: both the Cranberry and the Washington county locations are pretty far for us to just head over to on a whim. REI Pittsburgh climbing wall is a 34 foot replica of Utah’s Pinnacle, the price of which is free to REI members. ($30 for a lifetime membership*.)

Neutral: prices are very similiar to other high end outdoor equipment stores.

Of note: Other online reviews of Public lands boo hoo because they do not sell fire arms. I will post more on this in another article.

*REI members also receive a rebate of 10% of their full price purchases every year to spend on anything in the store. I bought a bike last year and this year my rebate covered the cost of a new pair of Brook’s running shoes.

**I did end up getting my new hydration pack at REI simply because they had more selection available in the store.

Over all we will definitely take a return visit to Public Lands. I think we will head out to Washington county for the next trip. I’ll be sure to keep you posted!

Thanks for reading and remember to get outside, big adventures await!

Posted in Fiction, lgbtq+ romance

The Package is a Bonus

Chapter 1

In which we are introduced to our hero.

Uhhnnh!” he grunted, feeling the burn of that last bit of liquid as he pushed the syringe to its depth. “Damn, ten years and it never gets any less painful.” Danny Price wiped the entry point of the needle with an alcohol swab. He picked up the black sharpie marker on his desk, leaned over and xed out today. Then he circled another day three weeks from today. He made a mental note to program the date into his phone as well. Danny Price was an active man. He worked a full time job as a property manager for a real estate agency, which included working with his maintainance crew on site when apartments, condos and houses needed repairs, updates or remodels. when he wasn’t working, he was outside in nature whenever possible, hiking, biking, camping and kayaking. Keeping organized by using calandars, both analog and digital was essential. He had a record of most events. It was one of the ways he kept his life long battle with anxiety at bay.

He tugged at the pair of well worn levis hanging over the back of his desk chair. Standing on one leg, he winced a little as he lifted and bent his left knee and put his foot into his jeans. Switching sides he finished pulling them on. The old denim hung snugly but not tight, on his slim hips. He admired his own taught belly. “Just a light treasure trail.” he mused. “Not that it matters, no ones been anywhere near that trail in a long time, except me of course.” He slid a small, callused hand beneath the waist band of his plaid boxer shorts and strummed himself lightly. It didn’t take much for his lower region to show signs of life. Sighing quietly, he grabbed the plain, white tee shirt from his desk top and pulled it on. He smoothed back his short, black hair and looked at himself in the mirror. Rubbing his chin he felt some stubble. “not enough to shave” he concluded and proceeded to put his size 7 feet into his buck skin work boots.

Danny Price was born Daniella Louise Price and lived her life carrying what felt like an unruly moniker for 34 years. Ten years later, Daniella was long gone. He had changed his name in the year leading up to his first T treatments. The moment he received his new documentation in the mail, he felt like he had been granted a reprieve from the life sentence of living as an alien in his own body. The first year was challenging, to put it mildly. But he was determine and persevered. Danny Price was no poster boy. He had no desire to march on Washington or educate the masses. He just wanted to be comfortable in his own skin.

There were critics. Plenty of them. Family members who thought this was yet another ploy for attention, another way for Dani to be “different.” Strangers on the street, or who came into the business where he worked, took pains to continue using the obsolete pronouns. As if continuing to use words like “she” and “her” could hold back Danny’s transition. It was as if they were desperate to force Danny to stay in his prison so they wouldn’t have to deal with the possibility that they might need to take a look at what constructs oppressive or not, they, themselves might be living in.

And then there were the friends, the lovers, members of his queer family who thought he needed to be broadcasting his change. Writing a blog, posting youtube videos recording his voice changing and making public service announcements. “You owe it to your community to blaze a trail for others. Make noise. Be seen. Make waves, cause a scene, fight the “man.”

Ten years post transition, Danny was tired. He’d been a mentor. He’d taken young transmen under his wing. He showed them how to inject themselves with T, gave them pep talks, the ones no one had given him. He’d been the token FtM on University panels, spoken to groups like PFLAG and GLSTN. But now he was tired, he just wanted to live his life. “What was the point?” he thought, “of going through all this trouble to feel whole, to have the ability to wear life like a loose garment, if I’m living other people’s ideas of what my life should be?” “I don’t want to be an activist. Sure I’ll be there for someone who asks. But I transitioned so I could have my life. And now I’m having it.”

His family came around eventually. Gradually they got used to his new “look.” and family gatherings slowly devolved back into as normal situations as they ever were. His old friends were another story though. Girlfriends, ex lovers fell by the wayside as they confronted their attitiudes toward men, masculinity and what it meant to them and their own gender identity. His ex girlffriend summed up the general consensus. “If I’d wanted to be in a relationship with a man, I’d be straight!” Well, that was that. He muddled through and somewhere around 7 years post transition, he got his job with the realty agency. He started as a laborer and now three years later, he was property with a crew of 6 guys who answered to him. Other than being below average height for a man. (He was five foot seven.) Nobody at Devon Square Realty knew him by any name other than Danny Price. To his coworkers he was Danny, the wiry, energetic worker who never balked at climbing ladders, scaling walls or hauling scrap. Danny, who could throw back a couple of cold ones at the Devon Square Tavern and cheer on the Steelers, Penguins and swear at the Pirates.

And the women, well, they always flocked to him. He was goodlooking with his jet black hair that never quite stayed in place, his gray eyes and wide, sincere smile. His buds from DSR would always tease him. Seemed he couldn’t sit at the bar for one minute before the waitresses at the Tavern would each take a turn trying to get him to pay some attention to them. He was always nice of course, but it had been a couple of years since his last girlfriend had uttered that damning sentence.

He could probably pull off the stone butch thing for a little while, but that was not what he wanted for himself. Somewhere in this town, he knew there was a woman who not only found him attractive, but would appreciate the more subtle things about him, like the fact the was a great cook and didn’t mind sewing, had a cat, read Jane Austen and besides all that would be open to his, …condition. Who was he kidding? Pittsburgh was such a small town, surely who ever this fabulous girl was – he’d already met her, pissed her off or beat up her brother or something. He wasn’t pessimistic by nature, in fact he was optimistic to a fault. But experience had shown him little peace. Better to be lonely now, he figured.

Posted in Fiction

Cutts, Shoots and Leaves

This is the beginning of a short story I started back in 2019. Consider it a work in progress.

The motel room was dark. Cutts flicked the switch, already knowing the layout of the room.  She ticked off the amenities on her fingers. Two queen size beds, television, desk, armchair, minibar, bathroom.

She’d always known this was how it would end.  Well maybe not always but she’d recognized that there was a good probability that she’d live her last moments in just this sort of place.

Thick drapes blocked any connection to the outside world. “It’s a tomb.” She thought.

The sea bag was light. It took no energy at all to pull her sack across the threshold. Hell, there wasn’t much in there. Just a pair of skivvies, a baggie with her works, a fifth of Beefeater wrapped in her dress blues, a gun and a roll of plastic sheeting. She’d had the forethought to change to her dress shoes before leaving the apartment. ( It wasn’t so much an apartment as a rooming house, where she rented a room and shared a bathroom with two other tenants.) 

Still, there was a commitment in every step Cutts took. The first when she packed her seabag, methodically placing each item into the bottom. Careful to slide the roll of plastic sheeting in first so as not damage her works. And then when she lifted the sea bag and placed the strap over her shoulder.  Each movement toward the hotel room was another signature to her now decided fate.  She did not pause however to ponder this.  Yet, this was the truth. Every movement, every breath was a step closer to bringing about her own end. Even when she straddled her soft tail and started it up, the hallmark eruption of  sound was yet another action moving her towards imminent death.

She wasn’t exactly sure if she’d change into her dress blues. Just as she was unsure if she would use again.  It seemed appropriate to dress for the occasion.  As if bringing about your own end would or should be a formal occasion. Shooting up would entail the possibility of passing out or changing her mind. And she did not want to change her mind.

She had come this far and did not want to begin again. Not start over. Not admit she had fallen. Not cop to being human and that thing she repeated every time she shared in a meeting. How long had it been lip service to introduce herself as, “I’m Cutts and I’m an addict?”

She also didn’t want to leave a horrendous mess. Of course there would be splatter, but why cause the hotel staff any more trouble by ruining their bedclothes? No, she would spare them at least that.

The room began to materialize and Mad surveyed the scene. “Typical.” She said, clucking her tongue. “Nice, clean hotel room. Resolved actor dutifully unrolling plastic sheeting and covering the bed. Wow, this chick is OCD or nuts or what?” Mad was speaking aloud. Although she was pretty sure Cutts would not be able to hear her. And if by chance she did, well, maybe she would stop this nonsense and avoid everything that would have to come after.

Suicides are a paperwork nightmare. Mad pushed her hand through her short, cropped, hair and sighed.

Cutts had everything laid out.  One bed was covered in plastic sheeting. On the other bed she unrolled her dress blues, picking up her works and laying them tenderly next to her clothes. She even laid her skivvies on top of her trousers in exactly the right place they would go on her body. She laid one pair of black dress socks neatly on the floor just below the legs of her trousers. Last to be unpacked was the gun in its case; a Glock 9mm. She placed it carefully next to her works. 

“So it’s come to this.” She whispered to herself.