Archive for October, 2012

Five Songs, Part 97 (special no-‘Monster Mash’ Hallowe’en edition)

October 30, 2012

Your hostess as Madonna (Susan version), Hallowe’en 1986, The Grotto, New Haven.

Okay, I’ll get into the holiday spirit, even though I don’t do the Hallowe’en thing anymore. (After several years in drag — most notably the Susan-version Madonna in ’86, when I won the costume contest at the Grotto in New Haven and was hit on by more women than any other night in my life — every day is a wonderful Hallowe’en when you’re trans and out.) And even though there are quite a few places here in the Northeast whose holiday has been horribly interrupted by Sandy.

The only self-imposed rule (which I can break whenever I want, but I donlt feel like it): No “Monster Mash.” No slag against the late Mr. Pickett (Bobby, that is), but asking a deejay to play “Monster Mash” at Hallowe’en is like asking the Preservation Hall Jazz Band to play “When the Saints Go Marching In” (especially as the Saints go limping in, as they’re doing this year).

So here you go — no way is it the definitive Halloween anything, but it’s 31 songs for 31 days of October. (Well, actually, 32, considering I couldn’t make up my mind between two versions of one song.) Trick or treat!


Going Home, Day 2, 8/14/12: Sharing Needles, or not even out of California yet

October 28, 2012

Okay, just what the hell did I get us into? I-40 rest area, in the middle of the Mojave, about 4 p.m., temperature in the 110s.

Oct. 22, 2012

The third installment of the move home from Fresno to Connecticut finally has Alexis and me on the road.

For the first chapter, Going home, the prequel: Loose Ends, click here. For the epic-length second chapter, Going home, Day 1, 8/13/12: Leaving Fresno. Not., click here.

After the longest day of the trip — a delayed rental truck, two load-ins, near heat stroke, emergency last-minute replacement of a blown alternator on my car, and six hours of traveling to and from Oakland to pick up Alexis — the actual trek home would actually begin at last. Really. I swear.

But on less than two hours’ sleep.

And by the end of an arduous first day, we thought we were truly in hell — with the temperature to match. And we weren’t even out of California yet.


Going Home, Day 1, 8/13/12: Leaving Fresno. Not.

October 21, 2012

The Penske truck finally arrives at Gene’s house, 9:30 a.m. — already an hour and a half behind schedule and it’s still morning.

Oct. 17, 2012

This is the second part of my epic journey home to Connecticut after eight years, for better and worse, in the middle of California. And the longest day of the whole trip — and we weren’t even on the road yet.

For Going Home, the prequel, Loose Ends, click here.

The Universe didn’t seem to want me to leave Fresno on Monday. Which is odd, because it didn’t give me much of a reason to stay the last 3 1/2 years of unemployment and underemployment — and made it pretty clear that it was time to go home, uproot again and head back across the country to Connecticut, from whence I came.

Even knowing what I had to do on this big day, and allowing for the fact that things don’t always go quite according to plan, things most certainly didn’t go as expected.

The upshot: My friend Alexis and I were planning to be out of Fresno and on the road by midnight. Well, we weren’t in Fresno come midnight, but we weren’t even near getting the trip started yet.


The carcass is still alive, or why you won’t see me at City-Wide Open Studios this weekend

October 18, 2012

First a shirt factory, then a newspaper, now a newspaper and an art gallery, at least for the weekend. Photo: Thomas MacMillan/New Haven Independent.

City-Wide Open Studios is New Haven’s annual (15th) autumnal art cornucopia, where dozens of artists throw open their doors, literally and figuratively, to thousands of visitors over three weekends in October.

And for the first time in nine years, the prodigal daughter, returned from California, was able to partake in CWOS — the L.A.M.P. Festival, whose pretty lights lured the moths of the art world to downtown the first Friday night of the month; and some of last weekend’s gems at one of the festival’s anchor sites, the studios at Erector Square. (Let’s just say you sometimes appreciate things more when you move away, then return …)

But I’m taking a pass on this final weekend (Oct. 20-21), the traditional Alternate Space portion of their program. No way in hell am I going. (Apologies to Colin Burke, who did his damndest to try to get me to see his camera obscura, which will be in an old delivery truck in the parking lot.) Too painful for me.

This year’s alternate space happens to be the New Haven Register building. The artists have pitched their figurative tents and canvas and other media where — until March, when the Journal Register Company contracted its printing and distribution to The Hartford Courant — the printing press and the mailroom were situated and people were gainfully employed.

It’s the place where I crammed at least 25 years’ worth of work into 11 1/2 years, producing the Weekend section and interviewing hundreds of legendary and not-so-legendary performers as the entertainment editor/music writer. (It was two and a half full-time jobs in one 55-to-60-hour week for one wretched paycheck.) It’s a place where I worked my ass off, a place where I did a damn good job for too long despite a lot of obstacles, a place that almost killed me, literally. (In this case, a brutal case of sleep apnea that started percolating in New Haven and exploded three years after I moved to California.)

And now, it’s being used as an alternate art space for CWOS. That’s usually reserved for buildings where the business is dead and gone — say, the Smoothie Building, in between its days as an undergarment factory and an overpriced apartment building; or the Armstrong Building, the striking, stilted, early-’60s structure along Long Wharf, after its days as headquarters for Armstrong and Pirelli Tires and before becoming a vacant ornament at the entrance to the Ikea parking lot.

In this case, though, the carcass’ heart is still beating, if ever faintly. As someone who gave her all to newspapers for three decades — and most especially in that place — I don’t know whether this weekend saddens me or just plain pisses me off.


Going Home, The Prequel: Loose ends

October 16, 2012

One of Fresno’s best-known landmarks, at the south end of Van Ness Avenue. At one time, before freeways. it welcomed visitors from the south.

Oct. 15, 2012

Note: It’s been two months since I, with a lot of help, loaded up a rental truck, attached my car to the back and began the journey into the next chapter of my life: the move home to Connecticut from Fresno after eight years of transition in ways I never could have imagined. Well, after a huge bout of self-doubt, regaining confidence, losing my religion and finally convincing myself again that I might actually be a real writer — well, here goes. Strap in:

I had long envisioned — hoped for — the Hollywood ending to what I’ve been through the last nearly five years, between the gender transition that started in January 2008 and the joblessness hell that began in March 2009. I imagined that, after all I’ve been through, there would finally be a great job waiting for me at the end of the rainbow — that I would be able to return East the conquering heroine to a great job, and then everything else would fall into place like so many dominoes.

Well, we all know that Hollywood is bullshit. And that life comes at you whether you’re ready or not.

And instead of coming home to hosannas and a wonderful new life, riding a atop a figurative white charger, I’d be driving across the country in the hottest time of the year in a yellow Penske rental truck, my rickety ’96 Camry attached to the back, with no job, lots of uncertainty and just as much blind faith.


WPKN Playlist 10/11/12: Another Thursday, another fill-in

October 15, 2012

Well, WPKN is in the thick of its fall fundraising, and that means another call to the bullpen (it’s playoff season — humor me here). And thus, the babealicious blonde righthander came driving in from the bullpen for the 1-4 p.m. shift and did her damndest to put out the fire. Actually, in the case of fundraising, to start a fire.

And joining me in pitching, from the PKN tally room, was my old pal Harry Minot, the former PKN general manager with the impeccably sonorous tones. Just like old times — from my starting the show with the official Franoama 2.0 national anthem; to my torturing him with King Uszniewicz; to his using his standard mnemonic for remembering the station’s pledge line (203-384-9756): “Have you ever DUG-WPKN?”

(And also joining me for a short while on mic, pitching the new Stones GRRR box set and Johnny Winter album as pledge premia, was the current GM, Steve Di Costanzo. And there I was, filling in for the ailing last GM, Peter Bochan. Go figure …)

The economy is supposedly recovering, but trying to raise money sometimes can be a real beeyotch. And despite our best efforts — which included me playing the new Stones single, “Doom and Gloom,” and my version of “Out of Step” with The Backstabbers from the Reducers tribute album — it was a real struggle to get the phones to ring. But I did have friends check in (yes, sometimes Facebook can be a good thing), and that’s a reward unto itself.

Actually, the real reward came afterward. I met Cheryl, who took over for Harry at the tally desk, and we got to talking for quite a while after my shift ended. She was interested in hearing my wild story, and she said something interesting when I told her about the struggles with the job hunt in recent years: “You’re not meant to work a regular job. You have a story to tell, and that’s what you’re supposed to do — write your story.”

Still working on regaining my religion. But she’s right.

Anyway, chances are I’ll probably end up on the air again sooner than later. Meanwhile, if you can, please give to the WPKN of your choice, and generously.


Love those fortune cookies, Part 23

October 6, 2012

So the parents went to dinner the other night and left their grownup kid to fend for herself, so she headed off to a Chinese buffet again. Since I’m in the process of dropping weight, I swear I won’t make this a habit. Besides, I need to leave room for my favorite Chinese joint, House of Chao in Westville — where I haven’t been yet since the move home, but I do need to have my fix of steamed vegetable dumplings, cold sesame noodles and eggplant with garlic sauce very soon …

Anyway, what has become a habit is me ending up with fortune cookie fortunes that seem to have some bearing on my current state. And this seems to be the case regardless of the geographic state — California, Connecticut, whatever.

And as I was in the midst of battling these lingering feelings of isolation I’m experienced since I’ve been home, wouldn’t it just figure that this one landed on my table with my bill?

It’s not a prediction; it’s a statement about me. And I’m sure this’ll open up some cosmic can of worms:

“Everybody feels lucky to have you as a friend.”

That’s a doozy. A real stunner to me. Don’t know why the universe felt compelled to send me that message, but here it is. Wish I felt that way …

Five Songs, Part 96 (Tears)

October 5, 2012

Well, after a mental break from writing, back to Five Songs — and what more logical choice for Part 96? From ’66 — five high-school and middle-school kids from Saginaw, Mich., doing what high school kids do (or at least did) in garages with musical instruments.

Doubtless they had no idea what they were starting when Frank Rodriguez laid down the organ line that launched a billion good moods. And that, because of that song, they would be making money off it as middle-age men, as the song’s popularity prompted a late-’90s reunion that continues intermittently today.

I missed the ? and the Mysterians reunion show at the first Cavestomp! festival in New York in 1997, as I was out on vacation in San Francisco (where my consolation prize was seeing The Cramps at the Warfield on Halloween). But three months later, I saw them at Lupo’s in Providence, then at the Tune Inn in New Haven. (I interviewed guitarist Bobby Balderrama on the phone one night for a preview of the New Haven show and then called ? himself; next thing I knew, he was off to the races for two hours. Insane, breathless interview.)

And the Tune Inn aftershow was as great as the show itself — breakfast with the band (minus ?), plus the Norton Records crew (Billy Miller and Miriam Linna and pals), up from Brooklyn, at the Twin Pines Diner in East Haven.

And that Labor Day Sunday, I saw them at the Bumbershoot festival in Seattle, in one of the greatest things I’d ever witnessed.

They performed at a hockey rink in the Seattle Center, where they were greeted with a half-filled floor of snot-nosed punks who insisted on giving the old men on stage a hard time. About midway through the set, some of them held up individual sheets of notebook paper that spelled out YOU SUCK.

? didn’t bat an eyelash — Okay, if he did bat them, who would know beneath those shades? He breathlessly told the crowd before they launched into the next song, “Okay, this song goes back to the summer of 1967! Smash Mouth had a number-one hit with this song! Smash Mouth! Smash Mouth!” It was “Can’t Get Enough of You Baby,” and suddenly the kids, who were such little shits to that point, shut up. They actually started paying attention.

And by the time the band got to the ending 10-minute version of “96 Tears,” the kids were all swaying and feeding out of his hand. The best example of winning over a crowd I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, enjoy your weekend. And don’t cry, cry-cry-cry too much.


WPKN Playlist 9/27/12: The return edition of Franorama 2.0

October 2, 2012

One thing I hadn’t done since coming home was check in at my old radio haunt, WPKN. It didn’t make much sense to get involved yet if I was job-hunting, and I have a goodly sized nibble on a job out if state at the moment.

Funny how these things happen. A week ago Friday, I went to an art opening at City Lights Gallery in Bridgeport. There, I ran into Steve Di Costanzo, who, since last time I was home a couple Christmases ago, has become PKN’s general manager. We got into a long talk, and he asked me if I wanted to come on and take part in a two-day soul/funk fundraiser coming up at the station. I was always good at doing pledge periods, even if they can be like pulling teeth without anesthesia sometimes.

So there I was at the microphone Thursday morning, 10 a.m. to noon — plus an extra half-hour thrown in by Steve at the last minute, doing my first edition of Franorama 2.0 in nearly 21 months. (My last show was a fill-in that happened to be on the 20th anniversary of my first show at the station, and I made it my radio coming-out show.) And as an added bonus, my old pledge pitch partner, Rod Richardson, came in to help.

It was the kickoff of the station’s two-day “Family Affair,” a very short fundraiser for the moment. And while most of my music is in storage, I do have two full-sized car CD cases full of musical toys, as well as the laptop, and I decided to do a show skewed mostly to Northern soul and other rarities.

And it was great. We pulled in over $500 in pledges in the two and a half hours, and once I posted on Facebook that I was on the air, friends came flocking from all over the world — France, London, Lubbock (twice over!), Portland, Ore., south Jersey, Connecticut (of course), and especially Fresno — a shock since it was only 7 a.m. there when I started.

I missed being behind the mic. Once I get settled, I hope I can do more — if not at PKN (and I’m sure I’ll be doing more fill-ins), then wherever I land. Anyway, here’s what you almost missed. Let’s do it again: