It was Saturday, Jan. 8. I just had a weird feeling that morning that my New Orleans Saints weren’t going back to the Super Bowl this year — and that the euphoria that had followed them since the start of the 2009 season would come to an abrupt thud of an ending in the cold, dark gray of Seattle.
The wild card playoff against the Seahawks — the first sub-.500 division-winner in NFL history had “trap game” written all over it. The Saints seemed oddly flat after their Monday-night win at Atlanta right after Christmas. They couldn’t get up a temperature for the Buccaneers — same as the end of last year, but somehow different. And Seattle was heading into the playoffs with a lot to prove after its 7-9 season, and how better to shut people up than to knock off the defending Super Bowl champs?
There hasn’t been a repeat Super Bowl winner since the ’03-04 Patriots, but there wasn’t a reason, during the winter and spring of post-victory feel-good, to believe New Orleans couldn’t do it again. After all, save for Scott Fujita bailing for Cleveland, the core of the team was essentially intact. But the Saints actually couldn’t get untracked the whole season, and that was well before the season actually started. There was that messy allegation brought up by the team’s former security director about Sean Payton and assistant coach Joe Vitt and some missing Vicodin — a story that somehow seemed to magically vanish. There was also the announcement that Drew Brees would be testing the jinx as the cover boy for Madden ’11. (He didn’t get hurt, didn’t have a bad year — maybe, hopefully, the jinx was just that he didn’t return to the big game.)
And when they did hit the field when it counted, starting with the Thursday-night opener against the Vikings, something was definitely amiss. Minnesota had a solid defense, but let’s just say I would’ve expected 14-9 to be a halftime score, not the final. And there were little things, too. For the second straight year, I drafted Marques Colston in my fantasy league, expecting him to be a touchdown machine once again. He didn’t get into the end zone the first six weeks of the season. Reggie Bush broke his leg, a harbinger of things to come. By the time of the Seahawks game, seven running backs were down and out (!!!), which usually puts a crimp in any team’s postseason plans. The Saints managed to rack up an 11-5, but it wasn’t convincing, even after beating the Steelers on Halloween night. And the Falcons game was merely a flag of false hope.
And besides, my heart wasn’t as much into it this season. As I wrote going into the season, I’ve had a lot of second thoughts about how deeply I want to invest anymore in a sport that turns many players into cripples and/or vegetables long before their time. I’ve felt myself pulling away, and these Saints didn’t quite encourage me to stick around.
So anyway, rather than sit at the folks’ house and rant and rave and cuss out the TV in a most unladylike manner, the way I did when the Giants pulled off their choke job against the Eagles my first Sunday home, I decided to do what every black-and-gold-blooded Saints fan would do in my situation — at least the unemployed ones, anyway: forsake the game all together and go to a Starbucks and crank out four resumes.
And I’d like to say that my prescience was rewarded — and, at least in the moment of the game, I was spared the agony of seeing Gregg Williams’ defense going all Greg Brady against Marshawn Lynch. (Fucking Marshawn Lynch! A guy who hadn’t gained 67 yards the last three seasons combined!) However, I didn’t even get a nibble out of any of those applications. One way or the other, it seems as if was a wasted day. Except that, by applying for jobs, I at least gave myself the illusion I was doing something constructive.
Anyway, same as last year, I’ll be at the Landmark tomorrow for the annual Super Bowl party. I don’t have a horse in this game, but I guess I’ll be pulling for the Packers. I never hated the Steelers by any stretch, but I’m certainly pulling against any team with a Roethlisberger, I’m an NFC gal (Saints and Giants), the Packers were one of my first ins into understanding football as a fifth-grader (when I read Jerry Kramer and Dick Schaap’s groundbreaking “Instant Replay”), and besides, I have one of those cool 1994 throwback Packer replica jerseys that I can rock.
And I’ll celebrate the first anniversary of this here blog, which actually is today. But I began it with posts before and after the game last Super Bowl Sunday.
My friend Jen Ward, The Fresno Bee’s former interactive editor, was the one who convinced me to start a blog and a Twitter account as a way to show prospective employers that I was adept with social media in this new, sparse job landscape. So one Friday midday in mid-January, over coffee in the back room at Revue, Franorama World was born. She walked me through the WordPress setup process, and that was that.
Except, what to write?
I didn’t have anything to write at the time. To tell you, I was a little out of writing shape after five years as strictly an editor. I actually had suffered a serious burnout when I moved here in 2004, after over 20 years of constant writing for newspapers. I welcomed getting off the hamster wheel when I got to The Fresno Bee and only had to worry about other people’s stories.
Oh, the mood would strike me on occasion, and I would post a CD review on Amazon. And my friends can attest to my novella emails. But, unencumbered by a defined beat and any sense of purpose, my writing drifted away.
The Saints playing in the Super Bowl — that one final huge moment of joy in my life as a sports fan — gave me plenty of an excuse to write. But then I drifted. Inspiration was still hard to come by. There was the night a week later when I had the theater all to myself at the Sierra Vista Mall in Clovis, my own personal screening of “Crazy Heart.” The sudden passing of Alex Chilton St. Patrick’s night inspired the first of my Leonard Maltin-style dead-guy tributes.
But it was a Los Angeles Times Column One piece in early April that gave me. and my blog, some serious focus.
It was about one of their own — Mike Penner, the veteran sportswriter who transitioned gender, returned from a leave as Christine Daniels, became very high-profile, then had an Icarus crash to earth: a purge, a very quiet reversion to Mike, and eventually suicide the previous Thanksgiving weekend.
(S)he was my cautionary tale as I was treading deeper into my own transition — dealing with coming out combined with chronic joblessness. And reading the story inspired me to write about it. And as I was writing that post, and probing my own emotions, the “Duuuuuh! light bulb clicked: You should be writing about this here! This was the story of my lifetime, and should be my book — and even if I didn’t have the energy to chronicle every single day of my life (not even close), I could at least write about the important stuff here as it came up, and it would help focus my writing for if and when the time came to start with the book.
So it became the first of many posts about the transition — some lighthearted, some certainly not. I began to see it not just as a way to bring a book into focus, but to explain this trip to my friends and family, since very few of them had ever met someone who was in between genders before.
And after six years of dormancy, it gave me back my outlet at last. Writing about the gender trip rejuvenated me, and it gave me an outlet to at least fill my life with something — writing — that took away some of the uselessness I’ve felt being unemployed. I started reviewing albums again, something I hadn’t done in years, save for an occasional Amazon post. Girl got her mojo back.
Occasionally I wonder, though, why I’m writing the blog. I mean, let’s face it — if you write something and put it out there for people to give you feedback (or not), it’s definitely an ego trip, and in a society where ego is generally frowned upon. Am I doing it for catharsis? For whatever scraps of gratification I can get? To jump up and down and scream to people, “Look at me! Look at me! I exist!”? Or is it because I’m a writer, and this is what writers do?
I’m still not sure — especially when I’m going through fallow periods like this one. Between my trip home at the holidays and a ramped-up (I guess you can call it desperate) job search, I’ve pulled back on the amount of writing I’ve done. Also, it’s still the least-fertile time of the year in the recording world, so new albums of interest are few and far between, and besides, I’m watching my pennies.
And, at least for now, I think I’m nearly talked-out about the gender trip. It’s been a huge chunk of my last three years. But most of the struggle is over; the family and friends are firmly on board, and I’m definitely feeling a huge sense of relief. While I’ll always be glad to answer questions about trans matters and explain whatever I need to explain, truth is I don’t talk about it in everyday life anymore except when someone asks or emails me about something — and I think the people around me are sick of hearing about it and I’m sick of talking about it for now. There will be posts about something or another — I do have one long-simmering post in mind, and besides, I think being out and open and public will, by default, turn me into an activist on some level — but I need to find other things to write about.
And maybe I should just start plunging into the book and pull back on the blog for a while. Maybe that’s where I need to focus my energy. Maybe it’s why the universe is telling me I’m not ready to return to the working world — I need to get up a head of steam on the book front.
So it’s been a wild year in the blogosphere; that’s for sure. If you’ve been reading this all along, thanks so much for your support. You make me feel just a little less useless, as if I’m not really wasting my life here. If I’ve driven you nuts with this blog, or the email notices, I apologize. It wasn’t my intention. Anyway, I think I’ve sucked all the oxygen out of this laptop for now. Tune in again for the next exciting episode …