Goodbye, Scrivener

We’ve had a good run, but it’s time to say goodbye. I never used you as an actual writing program; I merely copied what I’d written in other programs and apps and pasted them in to you. So I was only using you as a place to store all my writings.

My first mistake was configuring you to use Dropbox. I wanted to be able to access you across all my devices. But that created a problem: when I launched you, Dropbox had to sync before you would open. And when I’ve got an idea for an article or story, 2 minutes is too long to wait.

So I deleted you from my laptop, after deciding that I’m never going to own a Macintosh, desktop or otherwise.

Instead, I’ve moved all of my files into Evernote.

Why Evernote?

  • Because I can install it on all 3 of my devices—laptop, iPhone, and iPad—and it will synchronize across all 3 of them.
  • Because I can fine-tune my settings to a degree that Scrivener never approached.
  • Because it has a smaller footprint, loads faster, and in general just does a better job of what I want it to do.
  • Because even if I leave my devices at home, I can access it on the web via the nearest computer.

Still, it Hurts

It hurts because Scrivener has been a good friend for the past couple of years. And like any other friend, it hurts to say goodbye.

But nothing lasts forever, right? Just as we outgrow certain friends, so it is with computer applications. And I’ve simply outgrown Scrivener.

An Aside

QUESTION: What’s the difference between an app and a program?
ANSWER: There isn’t any. Software publishers decided that “app” sounded sexier than “computer program,” and the rest, as the cliché goes, is history.

The Cremation of Sam McGee

“There are strange things done in the midnight sun
By the men who moil for gold;
The Arctic trails have their secret tales
That would make your blood run cold;
The Northern Lights have seen queer sights,
But the queerest they ever did see
Was that night on the marge of Lake Lebarge
I cremated Sam McGee.”
The Cremation of Sam McGee, by Robert Service
From “Songs of a Sourdough

There is no Lake Lebarge anywhere in Canada. There is, however, a Lake Laberge. Robert Service used poetic license in order for it to rhyme.

It was in late April of 1973 when my friend Larry and I camped in the campground at Lake Laberge.

labergeAlamy Stock Photo

The Northern Lights

Have you ever seen them? “Those bright dancing lights that are the result of collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere.” (Northern Lights Centre)

I had first seen them in Anchorage, and then in Fairbanks. But here, with the sound-absorbing three-foot layer of snow, I could actually hear them crackling and popping. I had always thought them to be silent, but “there on the marge of Lake Lebarge” I learned otherwise.

Larry, sound sleeper that he was, slept through the whole show. When I woke up the following morning, he was gone! Sleeping bag, back pack—everything. He had packed all of his gear into the car and left a note on the windshield saying we was restless and decided to hike along the (Haines Highway) road we were following.

So I packed my gear, collapsed the tent, and headed down the road. I caught up with Larry after about 5 miles. I’ve never seen anyone so glad to get in out of the cold!

We continued on into Haines (Alaska), only to find that the border crossing was closed. No barricade or anything, just a big sign that we would be committing a felony if we entered our own country without checking in with Customs. Even back then, it was harder for a U.S. citizen to re-enter her own country than it was to enter a foreign country. So after weighing the pros and cons, we decided not to take any chances. We parked and waited the 2 hours it took for the Customs dude to show up.

I don’t know what his problem was, but he wanted to know just about everything about me. Where I was going, where I was coming from, why had I been in Canada, did I have a job in the US, and just about everything but my shoe size. Larry (who was a Canadian citizen), just had to show his driver’s license and was waved in. I wondered if the fact that both Larry and the Custom guy both had short hair and smoked a pipe had something to do with it while I, a citizen by birth—and with long hair, a beard, and smoking a cigarette—was put through the wringer.

So On To The Ferry

Once you enter Haines, the highways end. There are no connecting roads to the rest of Southeast Alaska. The only way to go any further is by boat or by airplane. And that meant the Alaska Marine Highway System. You’ll forgive, I’m sure, when I admit that as I write this, some 45 years later, I can’t remember which ferry we took.

After a stop at Juneau, we continued down to Petersburg, our destination. Larry later left to go commercial fishing, while I found a job, got married, and had my first daughter.

I never saw the Northern Lights in Petersburg, but I do remember snowshoeing across the muskeg by the light of a full moon reflecting off the snow.

Thanks for reading!

Please. Just Don’t Even.

tea quote

For me, there’s no worse way to start my day than coming downstairs and finding the kitchen full of people who all want to talk to me. Out-of-town visitors. Local friends. Complete strangers to me. My roommate knows better.

I’m not a “morning person.” It usually takes means a good 30 minutes to wake up enough to even begin to be sociable.

And a crucial part of my morning routine involves a tea ritual: I empty the tea kettle, fill it with fresh cold water, and put it on the stove to boil. While it heats up, I carefully measure out 2 teaspoons of my choice for the day: either a strong black Assam tea or a spiced version of the same blend. I always use whole-leaf tea.

I add the tea to the pot and wait for the kettle to boil. While waiting, I look out the kitchen window to see how the garden is doing. This week, the lilies are in bloom. In the evening, as the temperature falls, their aroma wafting through the house can be intoxicating.

Finally, the kettle comes to a boil. I pour the water over the tea leaves, set the timer, and wait patiently for the water to work its magic on the leaves.

This morning it’s Cardamom Spiced Assam. It’s a lovely blend from India. In fact, it evokes such memories of other times, other places, that I can almost hear Ravi Shankar performing a morning raga is the leaves steep.

Finally, the tea is ready. It’s a deep brown liqueur, hinting at hidden delights. I pour my cup and add a bit of sweetener and a splash of milk. I still haven’t managed to replicate the tea served by my favorite Indian restaurant, but it’s close. It, too, is intoxicating.

“In Ireland, you go to someone’s house, and she asks you if you want a cup of tea. You say no, thank you, you’re really just fine. She asks if you’re sure. You say of course you’re sure, really, you don’t need a thing. Except they pronounce it ting. You don’t need a ting. Well, she says then, I was going to get myself some anyway, so it would be no trouble. Ah, you say, well, if you were going to get yourself some, I wouldn’t mind a spot of tea, at that, so long as it’s no trouble and I can give you a hand in the kitchen. Then you go through the whole thing all over again until you both end up in the kitchen drinking tea and chatting.

In America, someone asks you if you want a cup of tea, you say no, and then you don’t get any damned tea.

I liked the Irish way better.” ― C.E. Murphy, Urban Shaman

I close my eyes, raise the cup to my lips, and let the first sip perform its magic.

Now  I am awake. Now I am human. Now  you may speak.

Confessions of a bold, shy, inactive activist

My life in three acts. Or maybe one. Or four.

In a world where there are three kinds of people — those who understand math and those who don’t — I’m one who doesn’t. It has always been a foreign language to me, and at the ripe old age of 68 years, I still haven’t found the Rosetta Stone that will unlock those arcane secrets for me.

None of which has anything to do with this story except, perhaps, to highlight just how much my lifelong ADHD influences my thoughts and actions.

I used to be an activist

On the very first Earth Day, I wore a gas mask to my classes at San Antonio College. I was mocked by most of the students, but still I persisted. I sand and played my guitar at sit-ins and various other demonstrations.

We were going to change the world for the better. But I guess we just got stoned and forgot.

Some of the biggest names in what we so sincerely called “The Movement” went on to have brilliant careers as CEOs, politicians, and other similar professions. Me, I sorta drifted from job to job, never really finding what most folks would call a career path. My old guitar sat in its case for years. Over time, I gradually gave away my collection of guitar picks.

A blast from the past

July 2, 1975 found me replacing the strings on my old guitar. That was the day my first daughter was born, and I was able to fulfill a promise I made the first time I heard Leonard Cohen’s Suzanne on the radio: that if I ever had a daughter, I would name her Suzanne. Actually, in a bit of my old obstinance, Suzanne became Suzzanne with 2 zees. I played endless variations of Cohen’s classic song over the years. And I remembered my activism days.

What were the issues in those early days of the ’70s and ‘80s? I don’t really know: I spent those decades living in Alaska, where the biggest issue was were we going to move the capital or not? Paul Simon summed it up best:

Time it was, and what a time it was,
It was a time of innocence
A time of confidences

Jump ahead a couple of decades

I’m living in northern California. My second marriage has failed. My depression has cost me several jobs, as I just can’t bring myself to even get out of bed, much less go to work.

Eventually I get my shit together enough to sell my trailer and move to Seattle to be closer to my daughter. I was a mess.

So much so that when she took me to apply for food stamps and medical assistance, I was assigned a therapist who agreed to work with me. I was still so messed up that she scheduled me for twice a week appointments.

On the third or fourth week, I walked into her office, sat down, and burst into tears. After a good solid five minutes of crying, I managed to stop long enough to say, “All I ever wanted was to be a pretty girl.”

Epiphany

There it was, out in the open. Not so much a blinding revelation as a shameful secret. Lock me up now and throw away the key. I’m a sick bastard, unfit to be around decent society.

If you grew up gay, queer, transgender, bisexual, or any other kind of what have mistakenly and harmfully been called perversions, you know the feeling.

But rather condemn me, Nikki (my therapist) explained to me that (1) there was nothing wrong with me, (2) there was a word for what I was, and (3) we would work together to figure out where to go from here.

And so my activism began anew

The discovery that I was transgender changed my life — to say the least! As I began my journey towards becoming my true self — a journey we label “transitioning” — I discovered (among other things) that my lifelong depression, while genetic, was aggravated my my gender dysphoria. Once I started coming to terms with who I was — and accepting who I was — I was able to cut my antidepressant medications from 5 to 2.

Best of all? I stopped hating myself.

I spent as much time as I could researching what I came to call my condition, almost as if it were a pregnancy, another delicate condition. After all, wasn’t I preparing to give birth to a new life?

Do you live in Washington state?

If so, you’re lucky enough to have direct access to The Washington Gender Alliance, which is probably the nation’s oldest transgender support group. They were invaluable to me during my journey. They have an incredible amount of up-to-date information they’ll be happy to share with you.

And if you’re not in Washington, you’re still welcome to use their web site to access that information.

What’s happening now?

I’ve moved to Rochester, NY. I spent over a year volunteering at the Out Alliance, formerly the Rochester Gay Alliance. I’m living in a rented room in an older home, and I have started writing again. Not only here on Medium, but I also blog — although somewhat sporadically — at My Refined Madness.

Most of all, I’m back in the State in which I was born — New York. I have come full circle back to where I was born and am continuing my rebirth.

Thanks for taking the time to read this. I’m still shy, but at least I’m brave enough to help people understand who I am.

90° F. Is Just Too Hot!

We’ve been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures here in Rochester, and while you folks in the Southwestern USA might scoff and welcome such temperatures as a welcome break from even warmer days, 90° is just too hot for this transplanted Alaskan. Even though it’s been almost 30 years, my blood still hasn’t thinned enough to handle the heat.

Which is why I haven’t been writing lately: who wants to even boil a pot of water, much less drink it, in this heat?

Not that I’ve completely stopped drinking tea; on the contrary, I’m going through record amounts of iced tea-flavored juice mixes.

But when I woke up this morning and came downstairs to discover that the temperature was still under 80°, I knew it was my chance! 10 minutes later and I was enjoying a nice cup of hot Earl Grey. Of course I had to make a second cup.

Sadly, by the time it was done, it was already 84°, which made it too hot to drink hot tea. But no worries: it’s sitting in the fridge awaiting until the next time I want a cup of iced tea. And with the temperature expected to once again reach into the 90s, that won’t be too awfully long a wait.

What About You?

Do you have any special ways of coping with the heat? There was a time in my life when I did live in a warmer part of the country. San Antonio, Texas, to be exact. And while I didn’t much like living in Texas, San Antonio still remains one of my top choices of cities I wouldn’t mind living in.

I discovered that some of the houses—the ones that had been there since the city’s earliest days—all had flat roofs, with exterior walls that reached some three feet or so above the roofline. I learned that they were designed this way so that whenever it rained, the rainwater would be trapped and collected on the roof. Later, as the temperature rose, the water would slowly evaporate, sucking heat from the houses and making them bearable. In essence, the entire house became a swamp cooler.

How Hot is Hot? Perspectives on Heat

When my father lived in south Texas (McAllen is just a couple of miles from the US-Mexico border), he told me the story of when he had visited one of his parishioners in her nursing home. She explained to him that she preferred living there because she couldn’t stand any of her relatives.

It was her 100th birthday. She had been born and raised in McAllen, and never ventured more than 20 miles from that city.

You have to understand McAllen’s climate to truly appreciate what I’m going to tell you. My father would leave his air-conditioned house in the morning, drive his air-conditioned car to his air-conditioned office…and then come home at lunch to change his shirt. The heat and humidity were that bad a combination.

Anyway, he and his parishioner—let’s call her Mrs. Johnson—were discussing what it had been like growing up and living in McAllen for so many years. My father told me that when he asked her, “Mrs. Johnson, how did you manage to live with such heat and humidity before you had air conditioning?”

To which that wise old woman replied, “Why Pastor, before we had air conditioning, we didn’t know we was hot!”

And that, dear reader, is perspective.

Until next time!