Archive for August, 2011

Five songs, Part 44

August 26, 2011

As Irene prepares to lay into my friends and family on the East Coast, I can assure you that this week’s Five Songs will have absolutely nothing to do with hurricanes. No “Hurricane,” “Like a Hurricane,” “Rock You Like a Hurricane” or Hurricane Smith. (But Paul Weller pops up twice here.) Anyway, enjoy it and may the sun come out much sooner than later:

Chasing Pavements (BBC Radio 6 version) — Adele & Paul Weller

Running Up That Hill — Kate Bush

Headstart for Happiness — The Style Council

Here It Is Tomorrow — Game Theory

Diablito — Sarah Borges & the Broken Singles

Five Songs, Part 43

August 19, 2011

Here are this week’s Five Songs. No theme this week — unless you consider those stressed-out feelings of uselessness and permanent irrelevance and poverty and the fear of disappearing like a footprint in beach sand …

I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times — The Beach Boys

Castles in the Sand — Stevie Wonder

I Want to Vanish — Elvis Costello & Steve Nieve

Drift Away — Dobie Gray

Fade Away — Bruce Springsteen

Adam Carolla’s career suicide

August 16, 2011

So Fran, how do you really feel?

I feel as if I didn’t need to wake up this morning to see this ignorance splashed in my face. Or any other morning.

My friend (and Fresno Pub Quiz co-quizmaster) Adam Wall posted this little bit of sweetness on his Facebook wall this morning: a piece about Adam Carolla going off on trans people on his podcast.

The news of this rolled out kinda slowly over the past few days — he spewed this on Thursday — which I guess says something about how many people listen to this podcast, from a guy who can’t find room for his shtick on terrestrial radio anymore. I didn’t even know Carolla still had a career, actually.

And his half-assed attempt at an apology? From the guy who claimed to be “No on H8” and then said, “a mom and a dad is better than two dads or two moms”? Puh-leeeeeeze. And if you listen closely, he wasn’t apologizing for actually saying what he did. And no matter how you dress it up, shit still smells like shit.

And unlike the morning-show idiots in Sacramento two years ago — who seemed especially remorseful and chastened after losing several major advertisers over their 33-minute rant against trans kids — Carolla, on first blush, doesn’t seem to get it.

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Five Songs, Part 42

August 12, 2011

I guess the jump-off point for this week’s Five Songs was nostalgia. And it had nothing to do with my Summer of ’71 post, which I had planned for a while.

It had to do with some lame, pop-culture commentary I read somewhere in the Webosphere last week about whether nostalgia, was ruining modern culture. And there is a point, I’ll admit — how much of our future are we not nurturing because of our romance with retro? — but I’ll argue that nostalgia in pop culture is no new thing. Case in point: one of my favorites from my parents’ youth. In 1946, in the midst of people getting go-go and gung-ho after the war and exploding in optimism toward the future, one of the year’s top songs was Sammy Kaye’s sweet ode to an anachronism: the kindly guy who would turn the gas streetlamps on and off.

And the Springsteen song? I blame Pat Dinizio. The Smithereens’ singer, a Facebook-posting fiend if there ever was one, put up a video of him throwing around the baseball with his fellow Jersey rocker and talking about Bruce’s Babe Ruth League days five years ago for an ESPN show called “Seventh-Inning Stretch.” And, of course, that evoked Bruce’s tale of nostalgia gone awry, “Glory Days.” But I was never crazy about the song, so I free-associated into another “Born in the U.S.A.” tune with a sad farewell to times past.

And I’ll shut up now. I might not have a future, so it seems, but that’s enough dwelling in the past for now. Enjoy yourself …

The Old Lamplighter — Sammy Kaye & His Orchestra (featuring Billy Williams)

Bobby Jean — Bruce Springsteen

Hanging on the Telephone — The Nerves

Yesterday Girl — The Smithereens

The Crusher — The Novas

The Summer of ’71, or how I became a music fiend

August 10, 2011

Jeremiah was a what? I place a chunk of the blame on Three Dog Night.

In my past life — that is, before I moved to Fresno to become a drifting nonentity 7 1/2 years ago — I wrote about music for 20 years at my first two papers back in Connecticut, as well as freelance for some weeklies (including, for a couple years, The Boston Phoenix). Which let me build a record and CD collection beyond anything I could have imagined as a kid. (Well, CDs were beyond anyone’s imagination then …)

I also have done radio on and off for 20 years at a station (WPKN in Bridgeport, Ct.) that lets me play whatever the hell I want.

Yes — it’s hard to imagine (especially for my Fresno friends), as I live out of a room at the moment, with most of my stuff in storage, but I’m a music fiend. And until recent years, I was able to live the music fiend’s wildest dream: get paid for writing about it, have people throw free albums at me from all directions, do a radio show and share it all to my heart’s content.

And it was 40 years ago this summer, as an impressionable 10-year-old, that the music bug took full flight for the first time.

It would be easy to say it was The Beatles who made me this way. After all, they landed at JFK when I was a 2 1/2-year-old toddler in Brooklyn, and you couldn’t help but hear these fascinating, good-looking guys who talked funny anywhere you went — even my parents’ old-folks’ radio station (which was set to Joe O’Brien and WMCA in the morning). Or the rest of what was going on in radioland. Or, a couple years later, The Monkees, like other kids my age. (Fat chance — my folks made me go to bed at 7:30, even in summer. Any correlation between that and me being a night owl the rest of my life is purely not coincidental.)

But my musical development couldn’t have been farther from the above. We moved to Connecticut a year and a half later, and my folks found an even older old-folks station, WATR in Waterbury. And, save for bonding with Albie, my father, over Johnny Cash and “A Boy Named Sue” on the radio, I was clueless as to what was going on in the musical world.

What it took was an ancient transistor radio and a bunch of kids on the playground singing “Jeremiah was a bullfrog …”

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Love those fortune cookies, Part 16

August 9, 2011

My visits to Chinese buffets are getting fewer and farther between — partly because of my economic straits, partly because I’m having enough of a time with the weight as it is.

But I splurged the other day, needing the creature comfort of a cheap sushi fix — just to let me know that something in my life is still is normal. And, true to form, not only did I get bloated, I got a fortune cookie message that resonated loudly.

This one’s pretty cryptic. Interpret it however you want:

“It takes everything”

Not sure how to take this one. All I know is that it’s taken “everything” to find a job that isn’t forthcoming. And it’s taken “everything” I have not to fall apart. And somehow, I have this dread feeling “everything” will never be good enough. And my situation will soon take “everything” I still have.

As I said, interpret it however you want …

Five Songs, Part 41

August 5, 2011

Five Songs this week goes back to being just that — five songs, no theme … well, okay, maybe the second half of summer does creep in. A lot:

Summer’s Cauldron/Grass — XTC

Stoned Soul Picnic — Laura Nyro

Groovin’ — The Young Rascals

Girls — Marshall Crenshaw

Going up the Conntry — Canned Heat

How the hell did I make it to 50? (Dancing on the Cliff’s Edge, Part 1)

August 2, 2011

Best. Birthday. Gift. Ever. Paola flies in from New Haven to surprise me at my 50th party at the Landmark in Fresno.

Warning, adventurers: This is a looooong read. One that you might want to pick up, lay down and pick up again. Kinda like a book. And this is just the first part. And as I got into writing this in mid-June – and realized I was at a point where I couldn’t get out – I envisioned this being the framework to the last chapters of my eventual book, which I hope you’ll still want to read someday. It’s seven months’ worth of crap in one distended, distorted, festering nutshell. But one way or another, good or bad, I’m still looking for that final chapter – and soon:

Saturday night, June 4. The Landmark, my bar/restaurant of choice in Fresno’s Tower District. My 50th birthday party. One of my friends, Eny, had baked me a sheet cake, and about 50 people sat in the backroom and watched the birthday girl blow out all the candles in one short burst — something that surprised and delighted me, since I’ve gotten so fat and out of shape again lately. (Someone should’ve bought me a lap band …)

It wasn’t the biggest surprise of the night, though. Hardly. A little after 9, I was talking with someone and looked up and there was Paola, one of my dearest friends. We’ve known each other since the mid-’80s, and she was my girlfriend for four years in the late ’80s-early ’90s. And she’s been in my fan club all along, even those long stretches when I renounced my membership. She was also one of the first people I came out to, when I was home for three weeks in August 2008.

And she was standing there. From New Haven. In Fresno. Carrying a box from Pepe’s, one of New Haven’s world-renowned pizza places. Except she wasn’t bringing me a pie — inside were several copies of the New Haven Register from two days before, with my commentary on gender identity on the front page. It was a gift from Uncle Ricky, the Register’s features editor and my boss when I was the paper’s entertainment editor/music writer.

(My Spider-senses were telling me earlier in the day that someone was gonna surprise me, but I didn’t think Paola. But I should’ve known better — she threw me a surprise party for my 30th.)

Best. Birthday. Gift. Ever.

It had already been one of my best birthdays ever. I had walked in Fresno’s Pride Parade that morning (in a rare June Fresno rain) and received many whoops and cheers from the friends drinking on the Landmark patio; had talked to my mom and my brother Ken; had spent a good chunk of my free time sending quick thank-yous to the hundreds of friends who had sent their best wishes to my Facebook wall; and my friend Amy the Redhead, a force of nature who’s been extremely encouraging and supportive of me, not only drove me to the Landmark so I could drink that night, but also helped me set up, ducked out to the Dollar Tree to get even more decorations, and gave me a wonderful gift.

And there were plenty of gifts both the night of the party and leading into it. To name a few, Mom sent me much-needed cash. Tuesday afternoon, I got packages from two close friends at home. Drew bought me my very first Barbie — the new Debbie Harry model — and Colleen sent me a beautiful glazed blue glass-bead necklace and a pair of silver hoops; I immediately put on all the jewelry, took a photo sitting at Revue a short while later, and it turned out to be the shot that ran on the cover of the Register. Before I left the house for the party, there was a box of 50 mini-roses from Marice, another New Haven friend. And Drew sent a mixed bouquet and vase that were waiting for me at the Landmark.

But Paola was the clincher. After my initial screams of shock and joy (“Fran, you’re embarrassing me”), and after introducing her to my Fresno friends — to see her standing in front of me side-by-side with Heather, my closest friend in Fresno, was priceless —  it was time to do the cake. And in between the candles and the first cut, I stood there and recited a speech I had written just milliseconds before.

“I’m humbled,” I said. “Six weeks ago, I didn’t think I was gonna even be here right now. I’ve just been astounded at how much support I’ve gotten from all of you. I mean, Paola has been there the past 25 years, and God knows Heather’s been through most of my bullshit the last few years. I just can’t believe I even got to 50. I just can’t thank you all enough.”

And this is where I should’ve broken down in a pile of tears. Instead: “All I can say is ‘WHOOO!'” And I brought my fist down like a golfer who just hit the 60-foot putt of his life to win the Masters.

Well, despite still being jobless, I decided to celebrate just getting to this point. And found that maybe I’m not as useless as the job world seems to think. Maybe. Besides, I truly didn’t think I was gonna be here for my birthday. Or anywhere. I wasn’t planning on it, anyway.

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