Highway to Hell and my dad (music/memory)

ACDC has always been part of my life as far back as I can remember. My parents listened to bands like ACDC, then others like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Queen, etc.

My strongest memory of ACDC though is one Sunday morning we were getting ready to go to church. Church was a rare event for us, my father always had issues with religion after going to Vietnam, and this was one of those days where he was deciding he didn’t want to do it anymore.

My dad a year later, still with that rolling cigarette tobacco sitting next to him, and my little brother.

I was 13 years old, living in our Lombard street apartment with my dad cranking up ACDC at 8am. They had been on a party binge and we all knew my dad wasn’t going with us to church (secretly I was hoping I didn’t have to go).

There had been an argument between my mom and dad over this fact, and my dad said “fuck that, I am staying home and listening to music”. This meant he would probably start drinking while we were at service and that Sunday would be a continuation.

We got dressed and were getting ready to leave, with my dad rolling his cigarette and sitting in his chair. ACDC’s song, “Highway to Hell” was blaring out and my dad was singing to it.

Just before we left my mom started yelling at my dad again. Then something strange happened, and I am not making this up, I watched as the stereo system starting making a clunking sound. Within a few seconds the cassette mechanism spit out the tape and Highway to Hell stopped playing as spooling cassette tape was everywhere.

I watched my dad just stare at the tape deck quietly for a moment. Without a word he stood up and got his coat, then he said, “C’mon lets to church” and we went.

This never permanently effected my dad, the religion problems continued, but he never played loud music and told my mom he was staying home to listen to music again either on a Sunday.

For your listening enjoyment, an oldie but a goodie!:

Jessie’s Girl and Wolsey (music/memory)

See bottom of post for pronoun disclaimer (note 1):

Jessie’s Girl has a special place in my heart. It reminds me of my husband and the time before we got together ( before he was my wife, or even girlfriend) . The song fit pretty squarely as part of the soundtrack of my life. This was because when I first met Wolsey and fell in love, Wolsey was dating my best friend Doug.

I met Wolsey when I was 17 years old and had just moved to Bellingham WA. I was a virgin, goin g to my fourth high school in 2.5 years and I had just found a group of friends to hang with. My best friends at the time was Doug  and Jay.

We had met in a geeky Dungeons and Dragons game ( and this was summer of 1987 I believe). By the end of that school year (so summer of 1988) my friend had shifted from being a geek to being a stoner/punk (I didn’t, I was sort of my own thing… think older brother from Stranger Things but from a biker family but who is a geeky gamer).

The advantage of Doug and Jay shifting from geek to stoner/punk was meeting new people and one of those new people I met was a very beautiful young lady who eventually would change her name to Wolsey after we had been married for decades (original name is classified as Wolsey hates it).

Wolsey was friends with another girl named Colby and they were also in the punk scene. Colby dated Doug for awhile, and I met Wolsey a couple of times. I thought she was pretty cool, and I was attracted to her. The better part though was I felt like we could be friends.

From R to L: Rob, Colby (laying down), Doug, Wolsey. (yes there is a censor line, the photo reveals a little too much).

Fast forward through teenager drama and Doug and Colby broke up and Doug started dating Wolsey. This meant I saw Wolsey constantly and we became best friends. I introduced Wolsey to Dungeons and Dragons and while Doug and Jay would play but fuck around, Wolsey and I both enjoyed the role-play, the story telling. I learned that while Wolsey looked punk as fuck (and hippy sometimes, Wolsey would float between the two) Wolsey liked reading, stories and was super creative.

Doug and Wolsey moved into their apartment together and I was there all the time. Doug would bail on us and a lot of times it was just Wolsey, myself, with others in our social group hanging out. It was fairly soon after we started hanging out with each other like that, that I fell in love with her ( him).

It really was angst with a happy ending!

However, Wolsey was dating my best friend and I absolutely would not do something like try and break in on that. Funny enough the next time I was in this type of relationship situation with another woman I went the other way and not sure that it was any better a result.

Funny enough my parents both knew Wolsey well by this point and tried to get me to pursue her (him). I told them there was no way she was interested in me, and both my parents shook their head and said that Wolsey would be perfect for me (they were right in the end… damn them 🙂 ). Although I still to this day wish I had listened to my parents and done it. I didn’t realize they were right and she had a thing for me at the time.

The first time I noticed Jessie’s Girl as a song (it had been out for awhile) was when I was sitting in Wolsey and Doug’s living room. Doug had just been an asshole to Wo lsey and stomped off. Wolsey was sitting there looking annoyed and frustrated and the song started playing. That was the soundtrack of how I felt about her for a couple of years. For some reason the song kept playing that summer too, even though it had been out for a few years.

I never wanted to jeopardize our friendship though. Even with how fucked up my childhood was (or maybe because of it and what my dad did try to instill) I tried to remain the p aladin, true to my word and to my friend.

The other large part I didn’t act was that I truly truly loved being Wolsey’s friend and I never felt like I was in the “friend zone”. In fact I valued our friendship above everything and didn’t want to jeopardize that.  It is why I can’t stand friend zone people and incels. The other person owes you nothing (and Wolsey absolutely owed me nothing, I was just happy to get Wolsey’s friendship).

That is how it was for nine months as my best friend (well he had sort of drifted away as being my best friend to be replaced by Wolsey) and his girlfriend lived together and I would go over and visit. As a side note, in all fairness Wolsey was interested in me, showed me several clues but I was too shy/resistant I didn’t follow up. My romantic soundtrack for that time period was Jessie’s Girl.

I do realize now as a fully mentally formed adult that the song can be problematic, but I still like it and it reminds me of when my husband Wolsey was a pretty girl dating my best friend before she ( he) usurped that spot and replaced Doug as my best friend.

Disclaimer Note 1: Let me get a clarification out here, I do refer to my current husband in historical terms as my friend, partner, etc. I also refer to him as my “wife” or “girlfriend” sometimes when talking about a memory when I was younger that happened before his transition. Sometimes I do this because it gets hard tracking who is who in those stories.

He is ok with this, as I am ok with him referring to me as his husband or boyfriend when recounting memories. It is hard with pronouns, especially when in context memories and of referring to us both as people we no longer are (myself as a boy back then and my husband as a girl back then). Just a FYI, he is ok with the pronoun use.

How We Met

I wanted to post something about how Wolsey and I met. This is actually already posted on my AG account a couple years ago, but I felt it stood up to time well enough to be reposted here instead of completely rewritten.

(Wolsey and I talked, and thought it would be easier to refer to him with feminine pronouns. It helps paint the picture of what he presented as, and how I’d have interpreted his gender back when we met. This was a long time ago, and neither of us had any concept of what being transgender even was.)

A common question I get is how did Wolsey and I actually meet? Was it fate? Was it some quirky romantic comedy? Was it maybe even a horror show? The answer to all of that was no, or maybe yes in parts. Overall though it was pretty straight forward, or at least that is how it seems now.

I had recently moved up to Bellingham right before I turned 17. The first thing I did there was meet a group of friends that I played Dungeons and Dragons with. It was a household that several friends lived at, almost a flop house. A middle aged single mom owned the house, and was taking rent for all the teens she moved in. Most of these kids were near homeless, and this was a viable option for them. One of those people I met was my future husband.

Wolsey was a damn cute punk rock girl, at the time. She was a sassy smoker, drinker, and very alternative in her outlook. She had that intensity you only see in movies. She was something between a hard rocking Joan Jett and a manic pixie dream girl. Strangely enough, even with all that, she seemed to like me and wanted to hang out.

Yep, that is hubby

Over the next couple of years, she ended up dating my best friend, Doug. I was pretty shy and had ran away from a few different girls that approached me with my Dungeons and Dragons books as a shield. It wasn’t much different with Wolsey, when she showed interest in me.

Doug has the “slash” like hair and Wolsey is sitting beside him on his left before they went out. Remember these names, you will be tested.

Funny enough, Wolsey was the one who enjoyed playing Dungeons and Dragons with me the most. Her tough exterior was captivating as she roleplayed a cleric full of healing. She really wanted to help tell a story. Unlike all my male friends, who just liked to kill everything they encountered in my games. Even Doug would give both of us a hard time for liking the storytelling aspect of the game. I should have known that this was a good since Wolsey and I continue to play these kinds of games, thirty years later.

With Wolsey dating Doug, at the time, I was around her a lot more. She became my best friend, while Doug drifted off into a world I didn’t want to follow. I would be lying if I didn’t say I had a mad crush on her for a long time. We would wander off by ourselves while her boyfriend decided to hang out at home, and I just liked spending time with her. I had no expectations she would date me. I just felt like she was a really good friend.

Hubby

It was sometime during this time period when my parents had met Wolsey. They already knew Doug, and he brought her over, and they liked her. For a time, Wolsey lived a half a block down from my family and my father went over to borrow the phone regularly. That is when he noticed that Wolsey, who was presenting as a woman at that point was cute, and seemed to be focused on me. This went on for a while, when eventually my mom and dad asked how serious Wolsey and Doug were as a couple, and that they thought Wolsey would be perfect for me. I could not take the suggestion seriously because they were my friends and dating. I also just couldn’t believe that she was interested in me like that.

Eventually Wolsey and Doug broke up, and Wolsey asked me out to meet her for coffee. I freaked out. I wanted to be with Wolsey and I was positive she didn’t feel that way about me so I ditched her . . . at least twice. I look back now, and I can’t help but think I was such an idiot. At the time, I felt there was no way in the world someone as cool as Wolsey would want me and that I would just be making her uncomfortable.

This is me, with my dog Mucho and no clue about girls

Some time went by and I lost contact with Wolsey, as I became involved in my first live-in relationship. That partner decided to jealously block several communication attempts by Wolsey, something I hadn’t heard about until I broke up with that partner a few months later.

After this first major relationship breakup, I moved into a room at the same house I had met Wolsey. This time I was the one living there and not Wolsey. During this time, I had jumped four or five jobs in the space of a few months and was working in the paint department of Kmart.

That’s when I got an announcement over the intercom saying there was a phone call for me on line 3. I remember it with clarity.

I pick up the phone and it is Wolsey’s voice. She seemed excited and maybe a little out of breath. All she asked was what time I was off. I was confused and excited. I hadn’t seen Wolsey in months. I had missed her but I figured she was off dating someone and doing her own thing. Her words to me on the phone were, “Don’t go anywhere.” It was a pretty commanding tone and I agreed to wait.

Seriously, I worked for Kmart, I was not really good at life choices on my own, I am glad she made some of the decisions.

Twenty minutes later I hear stomping boots coming down the aisle and there she was dressed in a leather jacket, facial piercings, a very tiny shirt that revealed her feminine body quite explicitly, a mohawk, makeup, and the cutest purple crinoline skirt. I was getting off work about this time and she came up and hustled me to her truck and took me home.

We spent the next hour and a half talking. Over the next couple of weeks, we talked a lot and she kept showing up at my room. Wolsey was homeless at the time, but that didn’t bother me. I invited her in to my room and let her stay on my single-wide bed. I left out cans of ravioli, with a can opener and a spoon, for her to eat if she was hungry. Wolsey was always hungry and this was the one thing I knew she liked to eat.

Within a couple of weeks and we were fulling dating and she moved me out of that horrible room and into our own apartment. We had a tumultuous first seven months and spoiler alert… ended up breaking up for six months. I had been working graveyard shift as a taxi dispatcher, and it had created a huge scheduling problem between us.

There I am, in my full asshat bloom.

While I might have dated another woman and lived with her, this was the first relationship I wanted to last permanently. I had a lot of preconceived traditional, unexamined, views and expectations. I was confident though, so I asked Wolsey to marry me. I was surprised when she said no. I think I was too surprised to be crushed. I wouldn’t be crushed until later.

Now as I am older, I can admit I didn’t handle the relationship in the most mature way, and I suspect she thought I was someone I wasn’t. I kept putting forward this ideal of a relationship that didn’t exist anywhere. Instead of following my parents lead, or maybe one of my friends in a successful relationship I clung tighter and dug deeper.

Wolsey during our brief seven month initial relationship

The whole time, these decisions felt like a mismatch that would almost fit, but not quite. Wolsey was trying to get her hair styling degree and I pressured her a lot to pay attention to me. I was trying to work 18 hours a day and I can’t do 10 hours a day, let alone 18, without becoming someone I don’t like.

The relationship ended quietly a few days before Thanksgiving, and our third roommate decided he was going to move out with Wolsey and one of her friends who didn’t like me. I was left without roommates, in an apartment I couldn’t afford.

I ended up living with my old best friend, Doug. Unfortunately, he had developed a more serious drug and alcohol problem, and I still ended up paying all the bills on my own. When I complained, he brought me pizza he had found in a dumpster. This was not an easy time in my life.

The next six months were brutal and I drifted through multiple jobs and had multiple places to live after I had grown tired of living in that situation with Doug.

Trying to walk away from my junkie roommates

I ended up living with that same ex-girlfriend from before and her boyfriend. This time I was just as a roommate with another person sharing my bedroom.

Throughout all of this, all I could really think about was Wolsey, and how I had made things bad and how I could have handled things better. Even the things that really bothered me during the relationship now seemed insignificant.

What I knew was that Wolsey had gone hitchhiking with another gutter-punk down to California. I didn’t know if she was ok. I didn’t know if she was dating the guy, and it really did rip me apart. It bothered me so much I ignored other women that pursued me.

Our town was small, and I heard Wolsey had gotten back from California when I noticed her in the video store. I did everything I could to avoid her, my heart was pumping so loud in my ears I couldn’t hear the TV’s on display. I didn’t say hello, but turned away.

A couple of days later I was told I had a visitor by a very annoyed ex-girlfriend and roommate. I came downstairs and answered the door, and there was Wolsey. She looked tired, hungry and a bit sad. She looked worried. She was the most beautiful person I had ever seen and sadly enough I almost shut the door on her right there. I was so terrified I didn’t know what to do.

Fortunately she did, and she stayed in my room a couple of days while we talked about things. I followed her back to her new place (the one with my old roommate and supposed friend.) Their household broke up within a couple of days of me visiting Wolsey and it ended up with Wolsey and I renting the house, with new roommates who were much better.

Wolsey decided to change, I can’t tell you exactly what happened but she cut her mohawk off, and got a job at Mervyns at the mall in the shoe department. We started working out our finances and she made it clear how much she loved me.

An actual photo of her getting ready to go to Mervyns. Also of me braving my death.

She asked me to marry her on the couch while I was playing one of the iterations of Megaman on a Nintendo gaming system. She said she never wanted to be with anyone else in her life and I replied the same. There was no way I wasn’t going to accept the proposal, she was everything I had dreamed about for years.

a picture of her the day she asked me to marry her.

We were married on Halloween of 1992, it had been less than four months since we had gotten back together and while we were married by a judge who was inappropriate, it was the most fantastic evening of my life. Marrying my spouse is the only decision in my life I have never regretted.

Getting married, still a lot of white male privilege there in me, but it would eventually be scooped out.

To this day I can’t see a cute girl in a mohawk, a can of ravioli, or smell the smell of cigarette smoke on a person without thinking about Wolsey and how much I loved him when we met.

That my friends is how Wolsey and I met and got together, well in a few words at least. Oh, and here is how we are now. Just as much in love.

Memory: Camp Horizon (1988)

Camp Horizon is located in Birch Bay Washington (the site of an old Air Force Station) that provides recreational facilities for individuals with developmental disabilities. I was fortunate enough for two, one week sessions, to be an assistant counselor. It is something that has stayed with me for my life, or at least the last 30 years since I did it (1988). I ended up going up to Birch Bay in summer of 2017, and while I was there I decided to go back to the camp and take some photos. In addition I do have a couple of photos from that time.

The sign!

Funny enough, I had lived in Birch Bay in the fall/winter of 1987 at the age of 15/16 and I never knew this place existed. Then we moved to Bellingham that spring. There I attended Bellingham High School. When I was at the high school, I somehow got in contact with a nice young man named Russ Nelson. He was the stage/videographer for the high school. To this day I can’t remember how he got me interested, but he talked about Camp Horizon and I should volunteer as an assistant counselor.

This was a new thing for me. I had just gotten done being homeless for a year+ and then living in Birch Bay (once again I didn’t know this place existed). I thought this wouldn’t be bad to start with on my resume. I believe it paid $50 for the first week and if I went the second week it went up to $75 (although I could be off a bit). So I agreed to it. Russ was kind enough to drive me to the camp (which was about 30 miles from my home).

I got to the camp, met several other assistant counselors (and a couple of college aged counselors) and began my short lived career as a camp counselor. We were there for five days each session I believe and our days consisted of bunking in the dorms, getting up, running classes, movies, gym activities, and most importantly just being there for the campers.

It was the first time I worked with people more disadvantaged than me and I loved it completely. I will be honest though, it probably helped that I had regular meals, recreational activities and no drunk parents (they were in a bad place at this time). To this day I still remember Dayleen (I am sure I did not spell that right). A young girl who was deaf, with some developmental disabilities and I believe cerebral palsy. It is because of her that I learned my numbers and letters in American Sign Language, along with the way to say “Cookie Monster” and a couple of other phrases.

My three strongest memories were waking up and hearing “I wanna dance with someone” by Whitney Houston, going downstairs and meeting up with Dayleen. I don’t remember exactly what we were working on, I just remember her being so excited about us playing and her signing “Lucky” or some variation of it when she saw me. Sadly I had a picture of her but once we started moving a lot as an older teen, it disappeared in one of our many homeless moments.

My second strongest memory was wrapping up my first session and feeling incredibly sad that it was over. It was followed up with getting home and my parents were on a run. There was loud arguments, loud music and much drinking by several people. I just remember wishing I was still at camp.

My third memory was Melody (I think her name was Melody, not Meloney, but I could be wrong). She was one of my many unrequited loves. I was very quiet as a teenager at this time, and I never figured out how to ask her out, or do pretty much anything. However, my favorite memory with her was laying under a tree, next to her and talking for a long time (probably longer than I should have since I was after all a counselor).

The two sessions went by very quickly and before I knew it I went home and collected my check for the two weeks. I believe I bought my parents an anniversary present and my brother a birthday present with it, never spent a dime on myself (I think the remaining went to house bills). I never was able to go back the following year. This was because by that time I was working full time and supporting my family.

Damn I look young.

Fast forward to summer of 2017 and we went up to Birch bay and stopped by the camp. Surprisingly there were people readying the camp for this summer and we talked with them. They are up to 6 or 7 weeks a year of sessions and they have been constantly updating the place. They were kind enough to let me take some pictures. So below is our gallery and it includes photos from my adventure and last weekend. I know we had other photos, if I find them I will add them.

THE GALLERY