Archive for January, 2011

Five Songs, Part 15

January 28, 2011

Time to unload this week’s Five Songs. And for the benefit of my friends and family back in the Northeast — shoveling out from 2 1/2 truckloads of snow at this point, with more to come — there will be NO “Sleigh Ride,” “Jingle Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” or “Snowflakes.”

Anyway, here you go. And stay out of the damned snow …

I Can’t Stay Mad at You — Skeeter Davis

I’m Gonna Love You — Edward Hamilton & the Arabians

Sparky’s Dream — Teenage Fanclub

Night Fades Away — Nils Lofgren

A Solid Bond in Your Heart — The Jam

Love those fortune cookies, Part 11

January 24, 2011

I’m not planning to make a habit of returning to Chinese buffets on a regular basis — I really need to drop the weight again — but my friend Dixie and I had been threatening to go out for sushi for some time, and the cheapest place I could think of with good stuff was Tang Dynasty in Fresno ($12.52 with tax to gorge yourself on raw fish and rolls).

So there we were last night. And when the waiter came around with the tab and the fortune cookies, I told her about this category in my blog, and my uncanny knack for almost always getting fortunes that speak to something specific in my life. And then I opened it and I told her what it said. And her reaction was “Get the fuck out of here!”

What it said:

“You think that is a secret, but it never has been one.”

Whoa! Pretty damn heavy for a fortune cookie fortune.

The funny thing is, that little secret of mine that’s no longer a secret — my whole gender-transition trip — actually wasn’t a secret to some folks. I mean, besides the girlfriends I would experiment dressing with over the years …

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He sent me (Sam Cooke, Jan. 22, 1931-Jan. 22, 2011)

January 22, 2011

Happy 80th, Mr. Cooke, wherever you are.

If you’re a fan of music — of the best music America has had to offer — well, today would’ve been Sam Cooke’s 80th birthday. Just thought you’d like to know. (Just as I don’t picture my father as the 80-year-old he is, I can’t picture what Mr. Cooke would look like as the 80-year-old he never got to be.)

I could just spiel about how magnificent the man’s voice was. How his career spanned from the gospel of the early ’50s to the his smooth, secular pop of the late ’50s/early ’60s, to his deep awareness of the civil rights movement that didn’t become evident to the public until one of the best songs of the era, “A Change Is Gonna Come,” was released shortly after his untimely, mysterious death in December 1964.

Or I could preach to you about how you absolutely need to hear his “One Night Stand: Live at the Harlem Square Club, 1963” album. The show, recorded in a Miami nightclub, showcased a more soulful, rougher-around-the-edges Sam than most of us had ever heard. And the first time I played the record, when it came out in 1985, the sound quality was such that I thought he was singing in my room, right there next to me. It was that scary good.

But instead, I’ll just share my favorite Sam single with you, one that you might never have heard (although one you’ve definitely heard, “Twistin’ the Night Away,” is a very close second). It was part of the earliest part of this music fiend’s musical education.

When I was about eight years old, my father brought up a record player and a stack of 45s from the cellar for my brother and me. It was one of those classic RCA 45 players from the mid-’50s, with a pink plastic grille, and the huge spindle could hold about a dozen records to play in succession.

The records were outdated things I never would’ve heard, or heard of, in the era of The Beatles — or on my parents’ old-folks radio station. There were some songs that were famous: A bunch of David Seville (including “The Chipmunk Song”); Harry Belafonte’s “Banana Boat Song” (with the Day-O B-Side, “Star-O”); Ned Miller’s country classic “From a Jack to a King.” But most were obscure (“The Worryin’ Kind” by early-’60s teen idol Tommy Sands, later recorded by Robert Gordon), or obscure tracks by better-known artists (Bill Haley’s “It’s a Sin”/”Mary Mary Lou” and Bobby Helms’ “Love My Lady,” a song I thought Stevie Ray Vaughan would’ve done a wonderful job with).

And there was this one single on a very colorful and bouncy label called Keen. It was by a guy named Sam Cooke, backed by The Bumps Blackwell Orchestra. The A-side was “You Were Made for Me” — the follow-up to his secular debut smash, “You Send Me” — but it was the B-side that reeled me in. It eternally set a mood (which I knew all too well in the ensuing years) and a time period (early-’60s New York) for me.

It was called “Lonely Island.” Happy birthday, Mr. Cooke, wherever you are …

Five Songs, Part 14

January 21, 2011

Well, time for five new Five Songs to get your weekend off to a good start — well, at least, some sort of start. Enjoy …

I Tell No Lies — The Escapades

Jerk It Out — The Caesars

My World Is Crumbling — Brenda Holloway

If You Can’t See My Mirrors — The New Pornographers

(I Love Her So Much) It Hurts Me — The Majestics

Love those fortune cookies, Part 10

January 21, 2011

I did something spur-of-the-moment last night: went back to this Chinese buffet in Fresno, Yen Ching, that was my go-to for a long time but which I hadn’t visited in months. (Must’ve been a spontaneous craving for the braised meatballs and the walnut shrimp.)

Anyway, the food hadn’t changed — and neither had my uncanny knack for finding a vague, general fortune cookie fortune that somehow spoke to something specific in my life. So here’s what this one read:

“Your friends will soon give you a great surprise.”

I thought I got my surprise already. Just over two weeks ago, while home for the holidays, I broke down and finally swallowed the big jug of Kool-Aid that is Facebook. (I’d like to blame Paola, one of my dearest friends, for the final noodge toward The World’s Biggest Time-Suck, but I guess I’m a grown adult now — I take full responsibility.)

The surprise is how many people have come crawling out of every available piece of woodwork. Better yet, how many people who hadn’t seen me in years found me, had no idea what I’ve been through the past three years, saw my profile — saw I was a little, er, different than last they saw me — and still sent me invites. That says volumes.

So that’s been my pleasant surprise. Or is there another one coming? Well, if I know what it is, it won’t be a surprise, now, will it? Best to put it out of my mind. Besides, the Facebook surprise has been pretty good so far …

Ask Aunt Fran: The casual look

January 18, 2011

Hi. Welcome back to Ask Aunt Fran, where I take questions that friends and family and strangers ask me about my gender transition and answer them best I can in the hope of fostering some sort of understanding of something that’s still not readily understood.

Anyway, if you have a question, please pass it along, either to franoramaworld@gmail.com or my personal e address, if you know it. And remember: I’m no shrink or doctor. All answers are based on my personal experiences unless noted. And all transpeople’s experiences are different. Your mileage may vary …

This question comes from Drew Cucuzza, one of my dearest friends and a charter member of two of my fan clubs — both as entertainment editor/music writer at the New Haven Register through most of the ’90s and early 2000s and as a gender-traveler in recent years. Drew turned me on to all sorts of cheesy music back then, has forgotten more good music than most people have ever heard (I’ll always be grateful to him for letting me borrow his three Sonny Rollins box sets in ’99 so I could listen well before I interviewed the man, one of my favorite interviews) and taught me the true meaning of the word “interesting.”*

Anyway, very late at his latest edition of his annual Rockin’ Drew Year’s Eve party (it was quarter to three, no one in the place ‘cept him and me — though I did pass on the one more for the road), he asked me a multi-question question:

“So much of how your identifying with gender has to do with clothing, hair, makeup? How do you dress when you’re home and casual? And what do you wear when you’re not in public? How do you differentiate (genders)?”

Hmmmmm …

As Roseanne Roseannadanna once said, Y’know, Jane, you ask a lot of questions!

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Five Songs, Part 13

January 14, 2011

Back in California and time to let loose an unusually fiery edition of Five Songs. Maybe it’s because I’m full of energy after four weeks with the family and friends back East and going all-out against my lingering unemployment situation. Maybe it’s because I’m sitting in a coffee shop where the owner thinks we all should be subjected to the same modern “jazz” shit she likes. (The Sirius/XM channel is called “Watercolors” — I call it “Waterboarding.” And she has threatened to fire any employee who changes the station.)

But whatever the reason — and from looking at me at the moment, you’d never know — I’m in a loud, restless, fierce mood. And for what it’s worth, four of the five songs are from Scandinavia (three from Sweden, one from Finland), where one doesn’t expect to hear such loud, good stuff — and where bands seem to know the history and spirit of American rock’n’roll that Americans don’t even know, or have forgotten.

So here goes. Eardrums beware. And fuck “Waterboarding” any way to Sunday:

Ain’t No Square — The Creeps

Main Offender — The Hives

The Way You Touch My Hand — The Nomads

Street Survivor — The Flaming Sideburns

All the Way — Ramones

Five songs, Part 12

January 7, 2011

Hi. Welcome to Five Songs, where I just pull five songs from whatever recesses are left of my mind. Some are right up front, others are in hard-to-find places. Anyway, here goes. And happy Friday:

Ecstasy — The Raspberries

Bad Time — The Jayhawks

I’ve Been Hurt — Bill Deal & the Rhondels

Driving Me Mad — The Three Degrees

Out on the Floor — Dobie Gray

WPKN Playlist 1/4/11: The 20th anniversary/coming-out fill-in Franorama

January 5, 2011

For those of you who wanted to know what I looked like as a boy: On the air at WPKN, 8-19-2008. Photo by Elaine Osowski.

The Jan. 4 fill-in episode of Franorama, 6-9 a.m. EST on WPKN (89.5 FM, http://www.wpkn.org), was huge for me for two reasons.

Rod Richardson, my friend and program director, didn’t know this when he emailed me Sunday night, but Tuesday was the 20th anniversary of my first show at the station. It was Jan. 4, 1991, a fill-in for Tom Frouge’s “Strangeland” show, from 2-6 a.m. EST. Armed with three crates of records (and a handful of CDs) that I hauled in the back of my 4X4, I trudged up the 2 1/2 flights of stairs of the University of Bridgeport Student Center and prepared to stammer and blunder my way through my first show.

Having gone to the show right after seeing NRBQ play that evening at Toad’s Place in New Haven, and possessed with a touch of the smartass, I decided to open the show, and my PKN life, with something irreverent and unexpected for the PKN crowd, a slice of paradise by the hottest pop group of the time: “Step by Step” by New Kids on the Block. (I eventually would settle on The Fleshtones’ “American Beat ’84,” the end credits theme to Tom Hanks’ first starring film, “Bachelor Party,” with Tawny Kitaen and Adrian Zmed, as my national anthem and show-opener.) And it’s been downhill from there.

Tom flat-out gave me the show a couple months later, which I rechristened “The Sleep Deprivation Experiment.” In my younger, more reckless days — long before I discovered firsthand that prolonged sleep deprivation could kill you, or come damn close — I thought it was fun to be able to do an overnight show after a 55-to-60-hour work week, flying by the seat of my pants and physically hanging on by my fingernails. After 11 1/2 years of it, I was ready for prime time — Rod offered me a Friday morning drive show, 6-10 a.m., which I called “Franorama.” Which I hosted for a year and a half until moving to California in March 2004. And which I reprise a few times each time I come back to Connecticut to visit.

So, as fate and serendipity would have it, Tuesday I wound up celebrating 20 years, hundreds of shows, hundreds of cups of coffee, hundreds of bagels and (in my more compulsive-eater days) Pop-Tarts, thousands of songs and even more thousands of miles logged. No Pop-Tarts this time — just an extra-large Dunky D’s coffee and one of their crappy bagels.

But the show was huge for another reason: I came out on the air.

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Love those fortune cookies, Part 9

January 2, 2011

So my first post of 2011 is one of extreme optimism. Go figure …

This is the time of year when hope springs anew — when a lousy year ends, with the slate wiped clean and the prospects of the coming year being a lot better. Then again, the Pittsburgh Pirates begin each season at 0-0, too, just like every other team …

I went out New Year’s night for a return engagement with my favorite Chinese restaurant, House of Chao, in the Westville section of New Haven. Drew, one of my dearest friends, who lives a few blocks from the place, rounded up me and four other friends for a family-style dinner.

And I was hoping this time to have their incredible steamed vegetable dumplings. Last time, I was disappointed that they didn’t have any, even early on a Friday evening. (This is not an uncommon occurrence, and was for all the years I lived here — the owner still doesn’t seem to get it.) And, well, last night they didn’t have any dumplings at all, veggie or otherwise.

But wait — Pedro the waiter found two left in the back room! Two veggie dumplings. OK, cool — that was a nice bit of luck. And Drew graciously gave them to me and Corrine, another friend who was back from out West, who left for New Mexico this morning. And it was culinary paradise.

And the company was great. And then, time for the fortune cookies. Drew let me pick off the plate o’six first. I wanted to see what sort of fortune I would come up with, choosing at random from such a relatively high number of cookies.

There really are no coincidences with fortune cookie fortunes. Here’s what I got:

“You will find luck when you come home.”

I don’t know whether that means home as in here, back in Connecticut, or home as in California. I don’t consider California home, so I’m hoping that means here. As in now that the holiday break is ending, someone will call me this week for a job interview, while I’m still here. Or maybe the MegaMillions drawing will come up with my numbers, with the jackpot at $290 million Tuesday night. Or maybe the “Jeopardy!” contestant crew will call. Or maybe a sugar mama will want a sweet chica like me.

As I said, hope springs anew. Play ball! And knock on wood …