Archive for April, 2012

Simple math: 12 deep x 30 years = “Marshall Crenshaw” (April 28, 1982-April 28, 2012)

April 29, 2012

Spring of 1982, a sunny Saturday April afternoon. Junior year of college, C.W. Post Campus, Long Island University, in Brookville, L.I. Headed back to campus with a friend from the Burger King where I worked that school year, a couple miles west on Northern Boulevard in Greenvale. The radio was turned to one of the only stations that mattered: “102.7, WNEW-FM in New York, where rock lives,” as the deejays’ station ID put it.

And the jock (I want to say it was Dan Neer, since it was Saturday afternoon, which is when I have my mental pictures of Danno surfing up Third Avenue at show’s end to The Ventures’ “Hawaii Five-O”) played the latest single by Robert Gordon.

Robert was my gateway to rockabilly as a 16-year-old in the summer of 1977, when he debuted with the first of his two albums with Link Wray. I heard “Red Hot,” and especially “Flying Saucers Rock’n’Roll” all summer. And the next spring, it would be their second album, “Fresh Fish Special,” which included “The Way I Walk,” “Twenty Flight Rock” and a new song written by Bruce Springsteen, called “Fire.” (This was a year before The Pointer Sisters” smash version.)

Fast-forward four years. And the jock was introducing a bouncy yet hard-driving tune, rockabilly yet classic pop at the same time, called “Someday, Someway.” He said it was a song written by a musician I had never heard of. The way he said the name, it was as if he was familiar with him and that we should be, too. And the name definitely had a cool, rock’n’roll ring to it — a guy with a name this cool should be explored.

A couple weeks later, his own version arrived in the local record stores on his self-titled debut album. Yesterday (April 28) was the 30th anniversary of the release of that album, which has stood solidly almost alongside Pet Sounds in my personal pantheon of favorite albums. And a week and a half ago, I pulled out the 2000 Rhino CD re-release of Marshall Crenshaw and popped it into my car’s disc player. Haven’t gotten sick of it yet. Sounds pretty damn good for 30.


Five Songs, Part 77

April 27, 2012

Hi. Five new Five Songs, for what they’re worth. And, at the last minute, a sixth song I had forgotten from earlier this week that popped back into my brain when I was done. A little bit trippy, a little bit tasty, a little bit tormented — just like life, actually. Enjoy …

I’ve Been Here Before — Lush

Funk-Pop-A-Roll — XTC

1-2-3 — Len Barry

Nothing but Heartaches — The Supremes

I’m Down — The Beatles

Wade in the Water — Ramsey Lewis Trio

Life in Limboland, Part 1: ‘He’ — or what the hell AM I, really?

April 23, 2012

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I kinda sorta rejoined the work world last September. The Fresno Bee, the newspaper that brought me out here eight years ago from Connecticut — and the very place that laid me off three years ago — brought me back, as an on-call copy editor.

Things would be different this time, though, as befitting a newspaper and staff that had been decimated over the previous three years — no benefits, and the hours weren’t set in stone. But since the rest of the already-stretched staff was facing furloughs the final quarter of last year, it meant, between that and the regular staffers’ sick days, that I would pretty much get full-time hours.

Okay, not ideal. But after 2 1/2 years without a job, four months after the unemployment ran out, and being fucked with every way to Sunday by the work world — more than 300 resumes sent out, 99.9 percent of them without the decency of even a “Fran, you suck” in return, and the few places that interviewed me treating me terribly — it was a huge sigh of relief to be able to make something resembling a living again.

I could pay the rent, pay off some bills, pay down the credit cards, and pay for some doctor bills should I need to. And, as it turned out, the money came in handy when my car was totaled a month later and I needed another one. And I came back to a lot of open arms and hugs from my ex-and-once-again colleagues. That was great. And I think it said something to the world at large that, in the midst of the newspaper industry’s self-destruction, the paper that laid me off thought enough of me to bring me back. And, for the first time, as a woman.

And, for the first time in a long time, I would feel useful. That’s a powerful thing. The worst aspect of my distended unemployment hell wasn’t the fear of being broke, as stressful as that was — it was the uselessness. The constant messages of worthlessness hammered into me from the world at large, and from God — whatever God is — itself. Try fighting that in the midst of the stress that comes with a gender transition, willya?

It was a good thing, going back to the Bee. It wasn’t going to be forever, but it would get me on my feet. And all would be well — a great springboard to much better things.

Well, seven-and-a-half months later, I find myself rut-stuck — trapped, even — in Limboland. For one, the Bee is in such straits that, even in a quarter of more furloughs, my hours were slashed to, for all intents, nothing two weeks ago. No warning, either — went from three-, four-, five-day weeks to one day scheduled in the coming month. I was called in last night, and it was the first work I had in nearly two weeks. My next scheduled day is two Sundays from now. Nothing after that.

And again, I find myself with no job prospects, not knowing where to turn. Same as a year ago. And the year before that. And the year before that. But that will all be another post, I guess.

But just as badly, I’m going through another nifty little bit of limbo that has me questioning everything all over again.

It all has to do with two little letters, which I hear a lot:


Leading to the inevitable follow-up:

“What the hell AM I?”

I won’t go through this again.


Five Songs, Part 76

April 20, 2012

Hi. Time for Five Songs. Title of the second song aside (just one of my favorite Laura Nyro songs), there will be no references to 4/20 or 4:20 (I don’t smoke, so it’s no big thang; I’ll let you stoners do the heavy, heavy lifting, man), Levon Helm (I said enough yesterday) or Dick Clark (beaten, ahem, to death already). But I’m thinking you’ll still enjoy it. Have fun, kids:

I Want to Vanish — Elvis Costello

Stoned Soul Picnic — Laura Nyro

Come Go With Me — The Para-Monts

Cross-Eyed and Painless — Talking Heads

Booze Party — Three Aces and a Joker

Take a load off (Levon Helm, 1940-2012)

April 19, 2012

One of those things we’ve discovered in the age of instant social media: Just how much regard many of us held someone when news of their death breaks.

Except in the case of Levon Helm, it was two days before, when his family announced he was in the final stages of the throat cancer he lived with for 13 years.

Let’s face it — for all that he did in the name of music, Levon’s was not the first name that came from many music fans’ lips. And The Band wasn’t atop many lists when it came to jotting down our favorite musical acts. But once his family posted the news Tuesday — he passed this afternoon (April 19) — all the outpourings came gushing.

All the feelings of “Wow — this man was something.” Plus, the added sense — and maybe extra comfort to his family as well — that all these things were out there while he was still alive. In the big picture, it won’t be the explosion or outpouring that followed Amy Winehouse and Whitney Houston’s deaths, but among my large and rather eclectic Facebook community, this is pretty huge. And, considering how many of us know each other from other musical travels — i.e. punk, garage, rockabilly, soul — it’s a pleasant surprise.


Five Songs, Part 75 (fIREHOSE and then some)

April 13, 2012

fIREHOSE: My poker game has improved vastly since I interviewed Mike Watt (center, with edFROMOHIO Crawford and George Hurley) in '87.

Hi. This week’s Five Songs grows a couple of extra bonus tracks this lucky Friday the 13th. That’s because a band I never thought I’d see again is coming to Fresno tonight — fIREHOSE is playing at Fulton 55.

Got a rave review from Wednesday’s show at Slim’s in San Francisco, My pal Dema, fashion designer superb and a kitty who’s forgotten more good bands than many have ever heard, not only said the show was great, but added that Mike Watt, after all these years, was still “crushable.”

Just hearing about the show earlier this week, and the idea of Mike, Ed and George together again, were intriguing enough; they wouldn’t have had any reason to have reunited if there was a chance of embarrassing themselves. And now, a rave. I think I’ll have to be there. Guess I’m a little more excited than I’ve been letting on.

Plus, a quarter-century ago, a fIREHOSE show was a gateway into an exciting time in my life.


Five Songs, Part 74

April 6, 2012

Welcome to Five Songs, which will have nothing to do with Good Friday, Passover or Easter. Rhyme sometimes, rhythm all the time, but no real reason. Anyway, enjoy your extended weekend if you have one:

Tail Dragger — Howlin’ Wolf

Planet Claire — The B-52’s

Iki Maska — Nina Hagen

Beat Crazy — Joe Jackson’

Anywhere the Girls Are — The Fantastic Baggys

Something constructive to do while impatiently waiting for bloody Mercury to come out of retrograde (aka sending out my want list to the universe)

April 2, 2012

“Patience is a virtue of which you have none!” my mom used to say when I was a little one.

Of course, having seen and heard me at my lowest and most anguished during my 2 1/2 years of not being able to find a job, she knows I’ve had more patience than I ever thought possible. (And, if you don’t know: After a lot of initial weirdness — she was expecting me to come out as gay, not transgender — my mother has been totally supportive of me through this past year or so.)

Then again, there might be a couple of underlying reasons for my impatience.

I never thought I’d ever do this, but went to a psychic for the first time in my life a couple months ago, and she said the reason I’m impatient is that this is the longest I’ve ever lived. I’ve always thought I was a young soul, but apparently not — I’ve lived many lives, she said, but I’ve died violently many times: strangled, drowned a couple of occasions, raped, and the last time, I was a dancer/singer who died backstage in a theater fire. (I’m still trying to find info on this — she said it was in New York in the ’40s or ’50s.) Which would explain my lifelong fears of both fire and deep water. And my lifelong desire to have everything, like, yesterday.

Well, there was a more pleasant, and more immediate, reason to be impatient. too.

She said great things are supposed to happen for me this summer, and that I should be prepared for people to be jealous of me. (Moi?) She also said, “You’re impatient because it’s like dinner in the kitchen — you can smell it, but you can’t taste it yet. You’re so close.”

I went to this psychic on the urging of a mutual friend — a Facebook friend who grew up here in Fresno and moved away — who saw my despairing blog post of two months ago. On one hand, my instincts had been telling me for a while that something great is gonna bust open for me once spring arrived. On the other, so much bad mojo — which I thought I had rid myself of for good — came flying back at me right before New Year’s that by the third week of January, I reached a deep point of despair, even resignation. At the least, the psychic seemed to validate my hunch about the near future.

Anyway, that leads into what I want to write about.

She said to get my feelers out there before Mercury comes out of retrograde, which will be April 13.

So I’m sending out my want and desire list to the universe via you — a friend, acquaintance, relative or even a total stranger who reads this. And maybe, just maybe, something good starts to happen. And soon. Before I run out of patience.