The Trip to SC, Pt. 2

What a trip! I haven’t had so much fun without Betty since before I met her, and while I’m sad she wasn’t there to enjoy it all, I also know that she wouldn’t have found the train much fun at all (& so might have ruined it for me, ahem). But I was early for my train, & so hung around the ass-end of Penn Station for a while (that would be the 8th avenue side, of course), talking to guys trying to bum change and cigarettes. I don’t know why I like those guys; I must’ve been a hobo in a past life. But the guy I talked to was originally from New Orleans, and it’s hard not to have a good conversation with an older brother from NOLA, imho. In exchange for a cigarette, he said he’d buy me a drink next time we’re both down that way.

On the way down I was seated next to an older man who carried only his Bible, which was a “welcome to the south” a little early for me. He was a minister from Greenville, SC, it turns out, & his stop was the one after mine, so we were stuck with each other for the duration. He slept mostly, and I got very good at climbing over his napping legs.

But I ate dinner with a man and his 15 year old son on the way down; the guy was originally from the east coast, a professor and scientist, who knew Ben Barres when he was at Stanford, but who’d moved to VA and was traveling back to VA with his son after a short sojourn in NY. They were both really nice, and I had a great chat with them despite getting a little drunk on the half-bottle of wine I had ordered (which I had ordered in order to put myself to sleep).

There will always be something romantic to me about getting off (or on) a train in the middle of the night. In this case it was more reassuring than romantic, though, since I could see the Marriott sign from the Amtrak station the minute I stepped down. Still, it was 4am, & I didn’t know the neighborhood, and had been told to take a cab – so I did. It was for the best; what was between me & the Marriott was an intersection and a clover leaf or two – not really a pedestrian’s best choice.

Since I didn’t sleep on the train, I checked in and promptly fell asleep. & I admit it – a big bed I don’t have to share with anyone or any cat is kind of lovely, but after one night I just start to miss the lump at my feet and the mumblings in my ear.

I had lunch with Lisa Johnson, the coordinator of the conference, the next day. Sometimes you meet people for the first time and it’s as if you know them, and with her it was that way. She reminded me so much of someone I used to know but whose life turned out so differently than it could have… there’s a long story there I’m not going to tell. But Lisa Johnson is the author of Jane Sexes it Up: True Tales of Feminist Desire which I haven’t yet read but mean to. (Like most of you, I’ve always got a pile of books I’ve got to read, and right now I’m boning up on my Queer Studies.) She had read She’s Not the Man I Married, had assigned it in her class, and had chosen it as for the campus reading group as well (which is open to faculty, staff and students). So she knew my work, and we talked about movies like Secretary and about sexuality and about pedagogy and about Third Wave Agenda and as far as I can tell, we both had a blast.

I went home and napped some more – traveling makes you tired – and woke up in time to have dinner with all the presenters, who by 8pm had all turned up in Spartanburg. There was Bernadette Barton, who is just the prettiest woman and who did a presentation on growing up gay in the Bible belt that students really related to; Marilee Lindemann, who was introduced by a former student as “not taking any shit” and who administrates the LGBT Studies program at U. Maryland; and finally – having just flown in from LA – Jasmyne Cannick, who was looking around Spartanburg in the way us big city coastal types would – with amazement.

We had Thai food. The waiter took pictures. If Lisa sends them to me, I’ll post one. Two of the presenters had assumed I was the partner of an FTM, & the idea of an MTF’s partner identifying as queer was new to them. I love that.

I went home after dinner with Lisa and the other presenters and was up for a while; probably I should have skipped the afternoon nap. I wrote some, I watched Real Sex on HBO (#28), I reviewed my notes for my talk the next day; I went outside and smoked. There is something about a warmer climate when it’s humid that always reminds me of Singapore. There is something about the not-yet heavy scent of magnolias, the warmth of the breeze, the dampness of your clothes. As long as you have nothing to do but smoke on a verandah, there is no weather that is prettier.

Eventually I slept.

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