Archive for December, 2012

Look, Ma — no face!

December 29, 2012
Yes, I can be as unglamorous as everyone else in the morning.

Yes — I, too, can be just as unglamorous as everyone else in the morning.

Dec. 29, 2012

Well, this was an interesting morning, and that was before I was even half-awake.

I was up early, as I had to take care of a couple of things before the second storm of this holiday week struck. (And as I write, the white stuff is finally coming down — heavy, fast and furious. We’re expecting 3-6 inches between now and tomorrow morning. Did I ever tell you I always hated snow? Remind me again why I moved back to Connecticut …) I had to replace my wiper blades with the ones I bought last night, since the ones I had were falling apart, and I had to move my car so that my brother Ken can blow out the driveway tomorrow morning.

And — one thing I wasn’t expecting — I also had to go to the store. Mom ran out of milk, so she gave me four bucks and asked me to go to Oliver’s to get another gallon.

Which is no big deal. Except when you’re trans, you’re half-awake and have no makeup on. And, aside from bicycle rides, you had never gone out without at least some sort of cosmetic product on your face, all in the name of striving to not be read by a not-so-adoring public as something less than full-on genetic female.

This was gonna be a test. A trans pop quiz, if you will.



Five Songs, Part 104

December 29, 2012

45misentoDec. 29, 2012

Time for Five Songs to blow off this bizarre, haywire, anguish-filled year of great change. Hopefully, what so many misread as the Mayan apocalypse is actually the end of a strange era, just a table-setter for the start of things evening out and reverting to some sense of normality.

(Grammar Bitch interjecting here: It’s “normality,” not “normalcy.” That was a grammatical error foisted on America in the 1920 presidential campaign by Warren Harding, who ran on a “Return to Normalcy” campaign after Wilson and the Great War. Imagine — a onetime newspaper editor who saddled us with bad English en route to what was, until Cheney, the worst presidency in American history. And nearly a century later, people are still getting it wrong in droves.)

Anyway, I snuck a couple of these Five Songs onto my Facebook wall yesterday to honor the birthdays of Shangri-Las lead voice Mary Weiss (now 64) and Box Tops/Big Star voice Alex Chilton (who would’ve been 62). The Box Tops one, with Chilton rasping “Cry Like a Baby” en italiano, is pretty hard to find; I have it on a long-deleted Rhino Best of the Box Tops LP from the ’80s, but it’s never been released digitally, far as I know.

Go blow off some steam. Enjoy these Five Songs-plus and do what I do at the stroke of midnight every January 1 — yell “ONWARD!”

Out in the Streets — The Shangri-Las

Cry About the Radio — Mary Weiss

Mi Sento Felice — The Box Tops

Dalai Lama — Alex Chilton

Pretty Girl — The Bugs

Little Town Flirt — Altered Images

Time to Change — The Brady Bunch

Love Those Fortune Cookies, Part 23

December 28, 2012

fortune20cookieDec. 28, 2012

Who knew that fortune cookie fortune writers had such a sense of humor?

Tonight, I decided to try the Chinese restaurant across the street from the Starbucks where I hang down in Orange. Shanghai Gourmet is better than the usual Chinese fare, with styling and comfy decor and a lot of quality meal and appy choices. (All except, maddeningly enough, steamed vegetable dumplings. Does every higher-end Chinese place run out of these things before 6 o’clock? My favorite Chinese restaurant, House of Chao in Westville in New Haven, always seems to run out before, like, breakfast. Dammit! Well, at least the eggplant and chicken with garlic sauce was good …)

And the fortune was a beaut. Could equally apply to our present and past (and hopefully not future) lives:

“The one good thing about repeating your mistakes is that you know when to cringe.”

The only thing I’m cringing about now is how true it is. First time I ever had a fortune that made me laugh out loud.

Five Songs, Part 103 (the Weird Christmas edition)

December 24, 2012


Dec. 24, 2012

Well, it’s been a weird year — why not a weird Christmas, too?

I was hoping my first Christmas home for good for now would be a fantastic one. But as we near the finish line, the last two weeks have made me wish Christmas would come and go, like, yesterday: an epic job-hunt fail (rejected six weeks after a six-hour interview), the crud, the feeling of uselessness that comes with not being able to work and not being able afford to buy gifts for my loved ones — and all dwarfed by the Newtown massacre, which really hit home, as one of the teachers that that psycho took was the daughter/stepdaughter of two old friends.

Anger, frustration, depression and, finally, stun-shock, rage and sadness.

But at the final sixteenth pole, maybe there’s a strong finish to this race, after all.

Saturday night, I saw Christine Ohlman’s Christmas show at Cafe Nine in New Haven. Lots of great catching up — with Christine, the Beehive Queen herself (and why isn’t she famous yet?); with Dawn, an old acquaintance who’s turned into a friend thanks to the magic of Facebook, and her hubby, Harry; with Laura, who freelanced a weekly club photo feature for me when I was the Register’s entertainment editor, and her hubby, Matthew; and rock’n’roll pal Cary.

Christmas Eve Eve was even better. Spent a wonderful afternoon into evening with two of my oldest friends from the early New Haven music days, John and Mary Lawler, at their house among the woods and rivers of central Connecticut, as Mary plied your hostess with homemade caramelized pecans and veggie antipasto, and John broke out the Yuenglings, the Buffalo Bop Rockabilly Xmas CD and a mix of holiday tunes and ’50s stuff on Sirius XM.

Came home and logged in to see a Facebook photo from California posted on my wall by Todd, a friend from Kingsburg, a town 20 miles south of Fresno (noted for its Swedishness and for being the headquarters of Sun-Maid Raisins). It was a fabulous photo taken at the home of my first Fresno friend, pop guitarist/thereminist/writer extraordinaire Blake Jones. Blake and his wife Lauri, Todd and his wife Pam, Mike and his wife Darla — Lauri holding up a copy of Elvis Costello’s My Aim Is True, Blake holding up a copy of The Fleshtones’ Speed Connection, the ensemble holding up  8 1/2 x 11 sheets that, all together, said, WE MISS YOU FRAN! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!! I was overwhelmed with joy and humility and gratitude.

And Christmas Eve, barring a blizzard (but 1-2 inches is expected), should find me catching up with an old childhood friend and former newspaper colleague and his wife. After Mom’s traditional fish dinner with my brother Ken’s family. Dinner on Christmas is at his house, followed most probably by catching up with more close friends.

Maybe there’s a silver lining in this dark Christmas after all.

Hope yours is an enjoyable one. Or at least a peaceful one. Or, if this is a trying time, that your darkness makes way for some light as well.


WPKN playlist 12/16/12 — the one show I wish I could forget but never will

December 21, 2012

WPKN_Logo_webDec. 20, 2012

Among the many hundreds who crammed their way into the First Congregational Church in Danbury this morning were many journalists present and past, some of whom had reported on other people’s tragedies in the past.

Even among the computer-stained wretches, there’s a surreal element when a tragedy of worldwide impact involves someone you know, or the loved one of someone you know.

Lauren, one of the Sandy Hook Elementary School teachers shot last Friday, was the daughter of Terri and for-all-intents stepdaughter of Bill, a couple with whom I worked at my first newspaper and who are still in the business (Terri at the hometown News-Times, Bill at The Hartford Courant).

She left a huge extended family (which also included her father and his wife) and dozens of friends from college and the restaurant where she once worked and the Starbucks where she still worked until her death, and between them and her families’ friends, it created a huge circle of love and support that translated into hundreds of people lined up for a block along Deer Hill Avenue waiting to get in for the memorial (along with over a dozen cameras perched at City Hall, across the street).

The church was standing room only — several friends and I were able to get into the lobby as the service was starting, where I watched the service through the main entrance, while quite a few others weren’t as lucky. Between the post-memorial hugs outside the church and the reception at the Fox Hill Inn  in nearby Brookfield, we were able to share the best and only way any of us really could.

Six days removed from the horror, with the shock and grief turned to a psychic exhaustion, an eternal bewilderment and even a sense of relief, what started out feeling very much like a day to dread transformed, at the risk of entering cliche territory, into a celebration of life and love. Of course there were tears; how could there not be? But there were a huge amount of hugs, of smiles, of years of distance dissolving, of bonds reforged, of reassurance. Of comfort. Maybe the only thing a family can take away from such a senseless death — aside maybe from Congress finally enacting sensible gun-control laws — is seeing the love they and their daughter sowed in life come back to them at their worst moment.

But the sea of emotions was swirling and churning much more violently four days before, when I was doing a fill-in show at WPKN. It’s the one show I would truly like to forget but never will.


Channeling Mike Douglas’ ghost (what I really want to do for a career)

December 13, 2012
I wouldn't wear a suit or sing "The Men in My Little Girl's Life," but I think I could cover most of the rest of the bases,

I wouldn’t wear a suit or sing “The Men in My Little Girl’s Life,” but I think I could cover most of the rest of the bases,

Time to cast myself out to the universe at large again. Maybe this time, finally, I won’t be shot down.

As I write this, It’s been nearly four months since I moved home to Connecticut. And, as was the case in California, I have absolutely no job prospects. I’ve just been told for the 350somethingth time, after dangling in the wind for two months (and for the second time this fall), that I’m not worth hiring and I don’t deserve to make a living, don’t deserve to be here. And being jobless and worthless at Christmas — and told by my family not to worry about buying gifts for them — absolutely, unequivocally sucks. And, after three and a half years of this humiliation, it’s beyond embarrassing.

So, not knowing what’s gonna happen — and feeling more and more useless and worthless and desperate as the days stretch on — what’s left of the positive side of me sits here, trying to plot out what the hell to do with my life.

And there’s been one thing that’s been kicking around for a while that seems to make more sense than most. From the outside, it seems outlandish. But I’m just the woman to pull it off.

I’m talking about a talk show. Yes, this TG is serious about taking her talents to TV.

But not just any talk show. I’m talking about the type of talk show I used to watch in my Wonder Years. A show the likes of which hasn’t been seen on the small screen since 1980 — when, in one of the biggest bonehead moves in the history of television, the host was unceremoniously dumped from the show in favor of … drumroll, please … John Davidson.

I’m talking a show inspired by Mike Douglas.

And again, l’m just the one to do it. And if you know someone who works in television and knows how to make this work, well, step right up!


Five Songs, Part 102

December 7, 2012
Dave Brubeck with his classic quartet (Joe Morello, Paul Desmond and Eugene Wright).

Dave Brubeck with his classic quartet (Joe Morello, Paul Desmond and Eugene Wright).

Hopefully, this is the end of the memorials for a while. Again this week, Five Songs honors two musicians who lived long and productive lives.

On Wednesday (Dec. 5), close to home, it was one of Connecticut’s favorite adopted sons, Dave Brubeck, the day before his 92nd birthday — ironically, of a heart attack as son Darius was driving him to his appointment at the cardiologist’s.

Mr. Brubeck was one of my favorite interviews as the New Haven Register’s music writer. I had a phoner with him in the summer of 2000 as a preview to a New Haven Jazz Festival concert on the Green. The story lede and interview startoff point was that he was nearing the ripe old age of 80, and how it was just a number. We talked for about an hour. His manager/assistant called me the next day to ask how it went. I told him it went well, and that we talked for an hour. He said, “Whoa, he must have really liked you!” “Why’s that?” I asked. “Well,” the manager explained, “if he doesn’t like the way a line of questioning is going, he’ll find a way to get off the phone in 10 minutes.”

Let’s face it — newspapers generally don’t pay well, and I worked two-and-a-half workloads for one lousy paycheck, so one of the most intangibly rewarding aspects of the job was at least making a positive connection with my interview subjects and getting a good story out of it. Brubeck’s interview was right up there with Sonny Rollins and my first phoner with Brian Wilson  among my favorites. I never did meet him in person, but I did go to the show that Saturday night and sat up close, and it said volumes to see the smile on the man’s face practically the entire length of the performance.

The other passing, yesterday (Dec. 6), was a surprise — not that he died, but his age when he passed. Ed Cassidy, the drummer and founder of Bay Area psychedelic

Ed Cassidy in a vintage Spirit photo.

Ed Cassidy in a vintage Spirit photo.

stalwarts Spirit, was truly a nonconformist,  which you would hope and expect from a drummer — in the height of long hair and mod clothes, he went cleanheaded (hence, the nickname Mr. Skin) and wore black.

Someone posted on Facebook a few days back about rockers who are still working after 70 — the Stones, Brian Wilson, Chuck Berry, Ian Hunter, etc. I didn’t know Cassidy was five months shy of 90. Yes, nine-zero. Or that he had such a wild and eclectic and cool resume — playing in swing and show and country bands (which must’ve been something, having grown up in Bakersfield) and the San Francisco Opera; having played jazz in the ’50s with Roland Kirk, Art Pepper and Gerry Mulligan; and having played in a group with Taj Mahal and Ry Cooder before starting Spirit with his guitarist and stepson, Randy California. And having acted, with bit roles on General Hospital in recent years.

Two full lives. Two classic tunes, one of them downright iconic. And three bits of fun to round out the week. Salut!


Take Five — The Dave Brubeck Quartet

I Got a Line on You — Spirit

Merry Christmas From the Family — Robert Earl Keen

Cleveland Rocks — Ian Hunter

Hooray for Santa Claus — The Fleshtones

Five Songs, Part 101

December 1, 2012
Earl "Speedo" Carroll (top) with The Cadillacs. Photo: James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty, via

Earl “Speedo” Carroll (top) with The Cadillacs. Photo: James Kriegsmann/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty, via

Happy December. Five Songs this week honors both the dearly departed and those who are still with us — those who are still with us and performing tonight (Dec. 1) at Cafe Nine in New Haven.

In the dearly departed category, the honorees are two guys who checked out this week: Mickey Baker and Earl “Speedo” Carroll.

Guitarist Baker was one of the flat-out pioneers and influences of rock’n’roll guitar sound with his plucky, wiry style. He appeared on a ton of great recordings — “Money Honey,” “Mama, He Treats Your Daughter Mean,” the originals of “Shake, Rattle and Roll” and “Whole Lot of Shakin’ Goin’ On” — but he’s best known for his 1957 duet with another future influence, Sylvia Vanderpool. The same Sylvia who recorded the

Mickey & Sylvia -- big beneath-the-surface influences on pop music.

Mickey & Sylvia — big beneath-the-surface influences on pop music.

orgasmic 1973 single “Pillow Talk” — and, as Sylvia Robinson, launched hip-hop as a commercial force when she and husband Joe started Sugarhill Records.

Carroll, who in his later years was a beloved janitor at P.S. 87 in Manhattan, was one of the most spirited voices of doo-wop, as the lead voice of The Cadillacs and later with The Coasters. And his angry rejoinder one day at being called by his nickname (“My name is Earl!”) was turned into one of the best-loved doo-wop tunes of all.

On the living side, there are Andre Williams and Barrence Whitfield. The 76-year-old Andre, one of the people on the ground floor of Detroit soul, has been recording since a lot of you were born (1957).

Mr. Andre Williams. Photo: Bloodshot Records.

Mr. Andre Williams. Photo: Bloodshot Records.

And the cat’s lived several lives now, professionally and personally. Mr. Rhythm, The Black Godfather, Mr. Dirty, King of Sleaze Rock — all the names fit! And not only has he had his own recording careers (’50s-’60s, 1996-present and going strong), he wrote Little Stevie Wonder’s first single as well as “Shake a Tail Feather” and “Twine Time,” and also managed Edwin Starr.

Barrence, a mainstay of the Boston music scene, was actually born Barry White, but he realized at a young age that the town wasn’t

The mighty Barrence Whitfield.

The mighty Barrence Whitfield.

big enough for two of them, and the other one was Barry White first. I haven’t seen in 15 years, two moves and one gender. How they packed so much power into that short and squat body, I have no clue. But he’s still bring the noise. And his sound transcends genre — rock’n’roll, R&B, jump blues, country.

Anyway, I’ve rambled enough — I have a show to get ready for! Have a blast.

Gloria — The Cadillacs

Speedo — The Cadillacs

Love Is Strange — Mickey & Sylvia

Bacon Fat — Andre Williams

Jail Bait — Andre Williams

Stop Twistin’ My Arm — Barrence Whitfield & the Savages

The Girl From Outer Space — Barrence Whitfield & the Savages