.journal 2003.11.25

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.org.3 part 3: the .org mailbag

(Fade in on the Late Show set.)

Letterman: “Thank you Paul. It’s the three-year anniversary of the .org, so that means it’s time to open up the old .org mailbag, here we go.”

(Applause as Paul and the band play their rendition of “Mr. Postman”.)

Letterman: And assisting us as always is my assistant, the lovely Stephanie Birkitt. Stephanie?

(Applause. While Paul and the band play “Bathing Blossom”, Stephanie comes out dressed like Maggie Gyllenhall from the opening scene of Secretary, complete with neck-to-wrist yoke locked on her, holding cue cards in her hand.)

Letterman: “Now Monty, I see you’re dressed as the secretary from Secretary … or something.” (laughter)

Stephanie (looking nervous): “Yeah.”

Letterman: “Tell me, is it because you really liked Secretary?”

Stephanie: “No.”

Letterman: “Is it because you’re a really big fan of Maggie Gyllenhall?”

Stephanie (looking even more agitated): “No.”

Letterman: “Is it because you’re really into that whole S and M deal?” (laughter)

Stephanie (exasperated): “NO!”

Letterman: “I know, I know. You’re only dressed like this because I told you to, just like every week, isn’t that right?”

Stephanie: “No!”

Letterman: “Well then, tell me Monty, why are you dressed like that?”

Stephanie: “Because Sean’s a fucking pervert!”

Letterman: “That’s right.” (laughter and applause) “Okay Monty, why don’t you take it away there?

Stephanie: “Letter number one.”

Letterman: “Thank you. Dear …”

(… and so on and so on and so on …)

Yep, the .org is turning three, and just like last year I opened the floor up to everyone to ask me the burning questions that have been on your mind. After finally “coming out” in last year’s Q&A, I figured you’d all have more questions for me, and I got a lot of really good questions here, though I’m surprised that some of you haven’t asked some of the more burning questions I know some of you must be thinking of. Well, guess you’ll have to wait until next year, then! Let’s not waste any more time here, and get to this year’s questions.

What are the best restaurants in NW Ohio?

Hmm. See, the thing is, Toledo has more restaurants per capita than any other city in the world. With my diet, though, I don’t get a chance to eat out much, and my tastes for food are really quite limited, with a heavy lean towards Italian cuisine. I’ll try to give you the best picture I can, cobbling together my own experiences with what I’ve heard from Spectrum members and other people in town.

First of all, my favourite place to eat out right now is Amie’s Pizza Factory. Amie’s just opened up a few years ago, where our neighbourhood Alexander’s Pizza franchise used to be. (Back before I started the first big diet, I won a contest at Alexander’s where I got half-off all the pizza I ordered there for life. I don’t think it a coincidence that they closed soon after.) I love the pizza there because they’re one of the few places I know that can get away with a sweet pizza sauce. On top of that, their cheese bread is to die for. Add to that the facts that they stock Fruitopia in their cooler, plus they have a Baby Pac-Man machine to play while your pizza is being made, and that place is nirvana, baby.

I’d also highly recommend Rosie’s, a chain of family-owned Italian restaurants here in town. (The link refers to the location I usually go to, but just search for “Rosie’s” in Toledo on smartpages.com and you’ll find the other locations.) Rosie’s signature Hot Mama Bread is marketed in all the grocery stores here in town, and their pizzas, while expensive, are good. They’ve really been pushing their calzones for the past few years, and everyone I know who has tried them says that they’re excellent, but I really wouldn’t know.

One last local pizza place I like is Mancino’s, even though they’re too far away for me to eat there very often. There used to be a good Greek pizza place a mile from my house called Jim’s, but they got hit by a fire shortly after the fire at the house, and now there’s a mortgage place up in its old stead. Mancino’s carries on the Greek pizza tradition in Toledo well, even if I wish they’d use more red pepper in their pizza like Jim’s used to. They do garlic bread almost as well as Amie’s, though.

In terms of local coffeeshops, I really enjoyed Sufficient Grounds, but a couple of years ago they got bought out by Beaners, a local chain run by a family whose kids went to private school with me, so I know they’re no good. I’ve only been in Brewed Awakenings once, but I think they’re the best coffee joint in town at this point. Fun point: I wrote two poems when I was at Brewed Awakenings, and those are the two poems I’ve had published so far.

One local Japanese place I’ve been to is En Japanese Steak House; I ate there once before I went vegetarian, and I liked the food there; since then I’ve tried the sushi and I didn’t really like it, but then again my palate really doesn’t go for vinegar and most other sour tastes. However, they’ve got good tea, good sake (or so I’ve been told), and great ginger ice cream. They’re really expensive, but they’re worht a shot.

My own personal experiences then get limited to mostly chain restaurants like you’ve got elsewhere: TGI Friday’s, Ruby Tuesday’s, places like that. Going by word-of-mouth, it sounds like Frickers is a good sports bar/restuarant kind of place local to town. Other than that, I’m not sure I can help too much, other than to say that if you’re coming to Toledo to eat, you’ll never be short on variety of places to go.

Your talk of ongoing depression makes me wonder why you don’t seek out more significant treatment other than the health services at UT. Are you on anti-depressants? If not why not give them serious consideration? They have seriously improved the quality of life of my Aunt who, like you, suffers from long term depression.

Well, for one thing you have to keep in mind that I tend to shy away most non-homeopathic medications to start with. I was actually on St. John’s Wort several years ago, but it did nothing for me. And to be honest, whenever I see those happy blob-guys in those Zoloft commercials, it kind of turns me off of the idea of medication. Well, that and the fact that I can neither afford the medication itself, nor the doctor’s fees it would take to get prescribed in the first place.

The main reason, though, is that I don’t think my depression has a neuro-chemical basis. I mean, real early this year I got really, really bad, but that was because I had a number of things implode on me at once, and by the time it was done I had a safety net of one person, and even she bailed on me. Right now I’ve still got some problems, most notably the situation with my best friend (which still hasn’t improved any), but I’ve got a new safety net with all the people in Spectrum right now, and even when things get rough (like they have recently, with a couple of my classes not turning out as I’d hoped they would), I’m coping a lot better.

Maybe because I tend to vent some of my depressive feelings on the .org on a regular basis, readers are getting the wrong idea about where I’m at right now. I’m not happy right now by nearly any stretch of the imagination, but I’m doing better right now than I have in nearly a year, and I’d like to think I’m continuing to get better. It’s hard work, but it’s worth it for me.

Why do you continue to live at your parents home despite the fact that it is an obvious source of stress for you?

It’s basically a trade-off. Living with my parents enables me to get by without a job for the time being (except for Backwash, but that’s not exactly something I can make a living off of). Because I don’t have to worry about a job, I can focus more on my studies and my writing. The end result of this so far has been that I’ve entered my senior year of undergraduate study with a 4.0 GPA, and I’ve already got a couple of poems published. The idea is that because I’ve done so well now, when I start applying to grad schools here in a couple of weeks, I’ll be able to get a scholarship and/or teaching assistantship at a good MFA school, and thus be able to support myself in my graduate studies.

Besides, all things being equal, I tend to exaggerate the downside of my home life a bit. I mean, I do worry about my mother’s health, and my father and sister both tend to get on my nerves, but all in all we do love each other and we manage, somehow, to keep things together.

On top of that, though, there’s another reason why I’ve been sticking around, and why I may choose to stick around here even when I start grad school. That’s going to be the subject of a whole journal entry, though, but I promise that’ll get done before the end of the month.

And now, three years after my retirement, it’s still what most of the questions I got were about. I guess you all learned that this is the one time all year I’ll talk about it (it’s off-limits on the .forum), so you wanted to squeeze in all the questions you could get. Well, okay then. But now that I’ve got people over on the .org from Backwash who don’t know about that old part of my life, for them I think a bit of explanation is in order …

When I first got on the Internet nine years ago (yes, I’m old, thanks for asking), one of the first things I did was to join the USENET groups dedicated to professional wrestling. I’d liked wrestling as a child, but I went to a snobby private school so I never had anyone to talk about wrestling with when I was younger. Well, first I was just talking, then I ran fantasy wrestling matches, then I started doing writing commentaries about wrestling shows, and by the time I knew what was going on I’d founded some good-sized Websites, stared down Time-Warner’s lawyers when they threatened a suit against me for one of my sites, started a business for another Website, and got mentioned in a book on wrestling. I left all that in November of 2000, though, started the .org and haven’t looked back. But most of the regulars on the .org were reading me back in those days, so I guess they’re still curious about me and wrestling. With that said, let’s get to the questions.

Can you do a “Behind the Music” type of thing for the NWWWO? History of, what it was, current updates?

I’d started my own small site, Sean Shannon Productions, back in 1996 to help house all of the writing I’d been doing up until that point. My writing caught the eye of Anthony Schubert, who asked me to join a site he was starting up called “With Authority!”, which was only in business for a few months back in 1997 (Anthony’s career as a game designer caught fire back then so he didn’t have the time to devote to With Authority), but on With Authority I had chance to work with Rick Scaia, whose work I’d admired from Shadow’s Wrestling Truth Newsletter and Rick’s own News From Dayton Website. Rick and I e-mailed each other a few times, and I got him to do a competition with me on SSP where we predicted the results of pay-per-view matches.

Early in 1997 I also started e-mailing John Petrie, who at the time was pretty much the Monday night recapper of record. I did a bit of interview transcription for him, as well as contributing to his collection of Bobby Heenan quotes.

Then, in the summer of 1997, the whole “New World Wide Web Order” nameplay came to me. (For those of you who aren’t familiar with wrestling, around that time there was a group of wrestlers called the “New World Order” who had started to bring professional wrestling back to public attention after wrestling business flagged in the early nineties.) I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I e-mailed Rick and John with the idea of creating a Website where we all would act like the New World Order, only better. (None of us were particularly impressed with the New World Order despite its popularity.) Rick and John signed on, and I launched the NWWWO Website late that summer. A lot of people really liked the idea, and because we were all fairly decent writers, we got a good-sized following in a short amount of time.

At first, we got new writers for the NWWWO by invitation only. The exception to that was our first addition, Kevin J. Podsiadlik, who actually asked to join; I couldn’t help but bring him in, since I’d admired his work since I first got on the Internet. (This was during CRZ’s hiatus from recapping, so at the time KJP’s “Medium-Rare Raw Reports” were the funniest wrestling-related stuff you could find online.) Jeff McGinnis was next, as I’d read his stuff at the old Wrestling Truth Newsletter, plus he just lived twenty minutes south of me down in Bowling Green. Don Becker was next, as he and I had e-mailed a lot and I knew he was intelligent and had a lot of smart stuff to say about wrestling, and then we landed Michael Jenkinson, an honest-to-goodness journalist, which I thought was a real coup for the group. From there we auditioned additional members, which is where everyone else, like Patrick Brandemeyer and Jon Richardson, came from.

The site itself grew fairly well; we got our own domain name fairly quickly, and for a while there we were churning out stuff on a fairly regular basis. I had to close the site down late in 1998, though, because WCW got Time-Warner’s lawyers to send me a couple of cease-and-desist notices claiming I was unfairly impinging on their NWO trademark. I knew I had a case because what we were doing was parody, which is an exemption on trademark/copyright law, but for a while there the threat of a lawsuit was too scary for me to handle. Eventually, though, my childhood best friend talked me into fighting them (this was at Sufficient Grounds, hence my disappointment when they got bought out), and I spent a long time writing up my defence. I re-launched the NWWWO in February of 2000, and sent out letters to Time-Warner’s lawyers, as well as local media outlets, stating my case and saying that I wouldn’t be intimidated. I never heard back from the lawyers, so I guess it must have worked. (I got on our local ABC affiliate’s news because of this, and this was before I realized I was transsexual so if you can get a tape, you can see what I looked and spoke like when I was going around like a man.)

Unfortunately, we wound up running out of steam in a hurry. People weren’t writing like they used to, myself included, and when Rantsylvania started turning a profit, those of us who were making money didn’t have the time to pay attention to the NWWWO, which wasn’t in a position to be making money at that point. The NWWWO closed in February of 2000; the domain name got taken over by a porn site for a while, but recently CRZ bought the rights to it and he’s linked it to a catalogue of our columns over at the Wayback Machine.

As for what everyone else is doing, you’d have to ask around; given my departure from that community, not that many people from there are all that eager to talk to me. All I can tell you is that I’ve been doing the .org and going to college, Don’s got his site along with his new wife and house, and Jeff’s finishing up his Masters in Journalism at Bowling Green State University and still coming down to take my mother to the occasional pay-per-view over at Frickers.

I’ve been following your work since the days that you wrote for those wrestling columns. You sometimes mention the “Situation” which lead to your departure from that area and resulted in this website of yours. I must admit that I’m not very clear on what that situation was that caused you to leave. So if you could, can you please elaborate a bit on what exactly happened to you such as how it got started and the end result of it all?

When I first started referring to “The Situation” I was mainly referring to some of the factors which caused me to leave the Internet Wrestling Community altogether, Rantsylvania in particular. Over time, though, I think the term has come to refer to basically everything that was going on in my life at the time.

See, the thing is that while I’ve liked wrestling, I’ve never really had a passion for it. Not like the people I’ve worked with, anyway. I just fell into that community online because I’d never had people to talk with wrestling about. I tried some writing on it, and some people liked what I wrote, and things just kind of blossomed from there. In retrospect, I think what happened was that I fell in love with the attention I got from what I wrote, and I became addicted to the pitifully small amount of “fame” I got from my writing.

Early in 2000, though, I got back in touch with my girlfriend from Antioch, and she turned me on to Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, and that really transformed me and the way I thought about things. I came to realize that I’d been neglecting what I’d really been wanting to do all that time — my songwriting, my poetry, my fiction — because I was addicted to the attention that my wrestling writing brought me. I also met some friends later that summer who opened my eyes to new types of art I could do, resulting in me taking a Greyhound down to Cincinnati one Sunday to do some work that really made me think about what it was that I really wanted to do in life.

It didn’t help that things with Rantsylvania were getting worse. I’d finally attended my first wrestling show in 1999, and I went with Jeff to a sports bar in Bowling Green to catch a pay-per-view late in 2000, and being among other wrestling fans like that I started to realize that I really didn’t appreciate wrestling in the same way that most other people did. I was also running into increasing criticism of my own writing, and I wasn’t taking that criticism all that healthily. Rantsylvania stopped turning a profit for a while there when we grew so big that we had to move to a dedicated server, and at the time I felt like I wasn’t getting the same support I’d gotten in the past from the paid writers at Rantsylvania, which just made things worse and worse.

In late October things got to a breaking point, and finally on 2000.11.01 I realized that I was putting myself through a lot of grief for something that wasn’t worth it. I actually decided to quit Rantsylvania that day, but at the time I just said I was taking a leave of absence. I have to admit, my main purpose in doing this was to snooker Don into trying to run the site on his own, because I thought he could do it; I spent as much time instant messaging with Don as I did updating the site every day, and since I wasn’t going to be on messenger anymore, I thought Don would have the time to do it. That didn’t pan out, but I shouldn’t have done it in the first place. Anyway, I officially resigned from Rantsylvania and retired from the Internet Wrestling Community on 11.10, and then I launched the .org the next day.

So in sum, I never had the same passion for wrestling that everyone else around me seemed to have, the particular situation with Rantsylvania and the criticisms I was getting at the time made things worse, and I simply had better ways to spend my time. That was “The Situation”, and that was why I got out of it.

What did you think of the tag team of Booker T and Goldust?

I wouldn’t know. I lost access to all wrestling television shows when I left the hotel in April of 2002, and in all honesty I’ve got practically no desire to watch wrestling at this point. (I gave all my old tapes to my mother.) I do still follow some of the remaining wrestling sites, though, so from their secondhand accounts, my best judgment would be that the pairing was odd, but it sounded like Goldust got on the hot streak of his career for a while there, and I always liked Booker T., so it sounded like a good “odd couple” team until they goofed up Goldust’s gimmick. Keep in mind, though, I haven’t had the first opportunity to see the team, so my opinion is vastly underinformed.

1) Did you know Scott Keith now has a blog? (scottkeith.blogspot.com)
2) Do you ever visit it, if you knew?

Yes and yes. I do still check up on the whole Internet Wrestling Community every now and then, although given the way in which I departed that whole scene, in addition to all the stuff that happened since then (especially with me coming out last year), I don’t think I’ll ever be a part of it again. If people want to talk to me individually, they know how to reach me; I’m not that hard to find.

Just between you and me, though, I really miss talking with DEAN~!

And after coming out for last year’s anniversary, I got a total of one question in response … hard to believe.

Maybe I’m just not up on GLBT lingo, but I remember in one of your Backwash articles you described yourself as a “pre-op transsexual”. Does this mean you plan on going for the surgery at some point, or is it just to distinguish yourself as a TS who hasn’t had the surgery?

In all honesty I’m still kind of undecided on whether or not to go for SRS (sexual reassignment surgery, aka a “sex change operation”). Last year I promised I wouldn’t get too into the politics of the transgendered, but I kind of have to here in order to explain things.

In the US, it’s only possible to get SRS after eighteen months of supervision under a doctor’s care, under what are known as the Harry Benjamin Standards of Care, named after the pioneering doctor in transsexual studies in the middle of the 20th century. I don’t have an objection to doctor’s supervision, but what I do have an objection to is that for twelve of those eighteen months I would be forced to take synthetic hormones to assist with my body’s development. I’ve researched those hormones a great deal, and I just don’t want to take them because they can do serious, serious damage to the liver.

I do take hormones, but I take homeopathic ones. They aren’t as effective as the synthetic hormones, but they do a fair job, and they don’t have some of the side effects that the synthetics do. Unfortunately, they also render me unable to receive SRS in the United States. So if I do go for SRS, I’d have to go to another country to have it done. If you search for SRS, you can find a lot of fly-by-night operations in third world countries that offer “one-stop shopping”: SRS, breast augmentation (or removal), tracheal shaving, electrolysis, and hair transplants all in one. Just from looking at their Websites, though, you can tell that these generally aren’t people you want to do business with.

That being said, there are reputable doctors in other countries, and I may fly to another country to have SRS some day. Given how long it takes me to save money for a video game at this point, though, SRS would be far off in my future, if ever. I’d need to have other procedures first anyway; I’d at least want to have breast augmentation done before SRS, and I’d need hair transplants too because I’ve had troubles in that area since I was 17. (Yes, it is the curse of all young male-to-female transsexuals to go prematurely bald.)

So for now, I identify as “pre-operative” to designate that while I do live as a woman right now, I do still have male genitalia. Unfortunately, even within the transsexual community this can be a cause for trouble; many post-operatives treat pre-operatives as somehow not being “real” men or women. The best concept I can tie it to is how in the African-American community there are some members who are darker-skinned who insist that lighter-skinned African-Americans are somehow “less black” and less deserving of being members of that community. It’s kind of the same idea, and it’s just as ridiculous.

And on that note, let’s close up the .org mailbag for another year.

Everyone take care and be well. And start thinking up questions for .org.4 next November. I’ll see you around.

— Sean

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