Archive for the ‘Connecticut life’ Category

Five years already? A hormonal balance

April 27, 2015
A molecular model of estradiol.

A molecular model of estradiol.

The date was April 27, 2010.

The location was the clinic next door to, and affiliated with, Adventist Medical Center in Selma, California, a small and dusty farming city (mainly grapes), 20 minutes south of Fresno via Highway 99.

The doctor (who, as of Spring 2015, retired from her practice to move to the Northwest to be closer to her son and daughter) was a post-op who had lost her job up in the Northwest a few years earlier due to prejudice, and the only place she could find to set up anew, after much searching, was there, in Fresno County. There, her patients included young families, mostly Mexican farm workers, looking to treat their sick children … and transgenders, mostly male-to-female, who were looking to take that next leap forward.

And this was huge because in a county of a million people, there were only two doctors at the time who prescribed hormones. One was in Fresno, a man who gave his patients their hormones in pill form. The other was this doctor in Selma, who not only administered the estradiol in injection form — a more effective method — she was post-op, using the same conservative protocol on patients that she used for her own transition.

And that afternoon, she left the honors to the nurse, who told me as she readied the needle, “Wow — You’ve really got a big butt” — which, at the time, wasn’t fat, but mostly muscle from bicycle riding, so it actually was kind of a compliment.

And a shot to the right cheek, in the delta area between my lower back and my ass, and it was done.

Except for all that has happened since. And as of today, it’s been five years after I crossed one of the biggest Rubicons I had to cross in my transition. (more…)

Five years on already

February 8, 2015

5th candleIt was a cloudy Friday afternoon in January 2010, about 12:30, at the place that was my de facto second home in Fresno, the Revue coffee shop (since sold and renamed Mia Cuppa) in the Tower District.

I met up for a lunch/coffee appointment with my former Fresno Bee colleague, Jennifer Ward. At that point, it had been eight months since I was discarded, in a mass layoff, by the McClatchy chain, from the job for which I had moved from Connecticut six years before, as an assistant features editor at the Bee. Jen was the paper’s interactive editor, brought in from the Dallas Morning News to implement and oversee the paper’s online operations.

But Jen had just been let go, too, and unlike this frustrated, depressed, middle-aged editor and writer who couldn’t even get a dog to sniff me despite a glowing resume, she had some ideas.

So she sat down with me this particular afternoon to introduce me to the world of social media.

She told me I needed to do three things — start a Facebook account, start a Twitter account and create a blog — so prospective employers would see that I was adept at social media.

I told her no Facebook — for one, I reasoned that the same people who told me “You need to get on Facebook!” were the same ones who told me “You need to get on MySpace!” two or three years before, and who’s to say that in a year they wouldn’t be telling me “You need to get on Zork.com!” or some other site? Also, while I was out as transgender to my family, my friends in Fresno and my closest friends back in Connecticut, I didn’t feel comfortable having a social-media page as Frannie 2.0 yet, and wouldn’t be for another year.

But I was more than amenable to Twitter and a blog. She walked me through both. She told me to go with WordPress, as it was an easy-to-manage content-management system. I came up with the name Franorama for my blog — same as my radio show back home at WPKN in Bridgeport — but someone had beaten me to it. So I settled on Franorama World, and she left me to play with the blog and learn to navigate my way around it.

But what to write?

I had the world in front of me, but what would I write that would make sense? And people would want to read?

Also, when I left my longtime job as the entertainment editor/music writer at the New Haven Register to move to bigger and better across the country, I was seriously burnt on writing. My job was two and a half full-time jobs compressed into 55-60 hours each week — planning, laying out and supervising a Weekend section, writing one or two feature stories, planning and lining up interview questions, writing a music column — and the new job in Fresno was strictly editing, no writing, 40 hours a week. And save for posting an occasional CD review on Amazon, and a handful of blog posts on MySpace and Fresnobeehive.com, I had done no writing for nearly six years. I had to dig a lot of ashes out of the furnace.

So I was seriously out of practice.

Technically, my first post was on Feb. 3, 2010 — an automated introductory post from WordPress on the day I finally activated the account. But I finally found some inspiration four days later, the first Sunday of February. One of my two football teams, the New Orleans Saints, was ending decades of frustration by playing in its first Super Bowl. I banged out a post before the game about the excitement level I felt going in … and afterward, a little more ragged (and buzzing) for the wear, I posted again about the glorious aftermath.

I figured I would go back to writing entertainment/review pieces — after all, I reviewed albums and the occasional movie for 20 years in my professional life — but I still didn’t feel I had a purpose.

Then came April — and I found my purpose, not to mention an outlet to keep me relatively sane as I went through both my transition and the looooooooong unemployment.

And here we are, five years later; I can’t believe that. And now, where the hell am I, really?

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Graduation day, or Frannie 2.0 goes to her high school reunion

December 15, 2014

You need to understand two things about me going to my 35th high school reunion the first Saturday of October, at Holy Cross in Waterbury, Ct.:

1) I was actually a little nervous heading into this. I have no clue why. I mean, granted, it was the first reunion I’d attended in 15 years, and a lot of things had transpired since — two

A years-ago shot of my old high school.

A years-ago shot of my old high school.

cross-country moves, one huge, honking stretch of unemployment, four jobs and, oh yeah, one gender transition. But I’m through the worst of my hell now, at least as long as I’m able to keep my job. And I’m out and living in the everyday world and either people don’t read me as trans, or they do and they don’t give a shit. And I really don’t give a shit what people think anymore, which is huge for someone who always strove to please everyone for most of my life (and often failed).

But when I do think of it, maybe I do know why I was so apprehensive — because I was a good Catholic boy, went to a Catholic high school, and due to a depression brought on by a combination of the harassment by the kids in my hometown of Prospect growing up and the hormonal imbalance that lasted from puberty to my first hormone shot in 2010, it was four of the most emotionally turbulent years of my life. Not to mention four of the most formative. And these were the people I shared those four years with, for better and worse. And I was going back to Waterbury, a place as provincial — and in some ways nearly as right-wing — as Fresno, my home-in-exile for eight years. (Three of my school’s most notable alumni include a former governor and two former Waterbury mayors — all Republicans, all of whom are doing, or have done, or have done and will do again, prison time.)

2) Five years ago, as the 30th reunion was going on, I was 3,000 miles away, laying in the fetal position on my bed in Fresno — the Waterbury of California — in the room I was renting from, what I was painfully starting to learn, an alcohol-dysfunctional family. While the gathering of successful businesspeople, lawyers, doctors, moms and the obligatory movie star (Dylan McDermott finally made it to a reunion) took place back here, I was in T-shirt and shorts, a couple days’ growth on my face, alternating between bouts of sobs and trying to sleep. After an hour or so, I would get up off the bed and make my way over to the desk and fire up the laptop and play online poker, and when I was too tired to concentrate any more, I walked back over to the bed, went fetal again and back to bouts of tears. Lather, rinse, repeat.

At that point, I was out of work for seven months, and in the time since I was laid off from The Fresno Bee, I got not one nibble, despite a solid resume — no jobs to be had, no prospects anywhere. And it was a little over two weeks since the night I came out to my parents, and I was starting to feel the weirdness from them. (It would take another 14 months, and more anguish, before they were finally on board with 2.0.) This was not what I bargained for when I moved across the country five-and-a-half years earlier. Instead of being an editor at one of the biggest papers in the most populous state in the country, I was now an utter, absolute, total, complete, supply-your-own-creative-redundant-synonym-here failure. And in between sobs, I prayed to a god that had abandoned me and asked for the courage, the energy, to get up off the bed, grab the bicycle and go riding to one of the many grade crossings in Fresno and wait for a train to come by and hit me. And like my many other prayers, and many resumes, over the coming years, it went ignored. I wussed out, eventually drifted off to sleep at some point, and there was a morning after, and the sun came out.

So yeah, I didn’t have a clue what I was getting myself into this particular Saturday night.

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Why I do cry, or all good things do have to end (Chip Damiani, 1945-2014)

February 24, 2014
The Remains in their first prime. From left: Bill Briggs, Chip Damiani, Barry Tashian and Vern Miller.

The Remains in their first prime. From left: Bill Briggs, Chip Damiani, Barry Tashian and Vern Miller.

How I got through the last three hours of work this past evening and remained something resembling productive while being emotionally numb is beyond me.

I’ve written tributes to deceased musicians many times, both for newspapers and here on this blog. But until now, I had never been written one about a friend.

As in any instance when a friend dies suddenly, totally unexpectedly, it’s awfully hard to articulate. It’s hard to even say it.

Okay, I’ll just get the hard part out and let the rest flow. After jamming through a whole bunch of work, I stopped around 9 p.m. to have a bite and check out my Facebook messages. A writer from Westport named Dan Woog posted a link to his blog on my page: Chip Damiani, the drummer for one of the best rock’n’roll bands America ever produced, The Remains — and, what is really important to me, a good friend and former neighbor-of-sorts — died yesterday afternoon of a massive cerebral hemorrhage. He was 68 going on 35.

Go figure — trim, in a fighting shape forged from all those years as a roofer, in the best physical shape by far of everyone in the band, their backbone and fiery, no-bullshit, you-knew-where-you-stood presence. And he’s the one who went first.

And it was Chip who provided me with one of my favorite stories in two-plus decades as a music writer. And introduced me to the band that provided me with two of my favorite moments as a music fan.

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Almost old enough to drink (the blog turns 20), almost old enough for kindergarten (my blog turns 4)

January 30, 2014

Birthday cupcakeNormally, I would just post a news item to the Book of Faces and be done with it. But this one? Nah! That wouldn’t do it justice. It has to be answered in the form of a blog post:

Not sure of the exact birthdate, but the blog turns 20 this year. And all of us who have used this medium to share some of ourselves should give credit where credit’s due.

Until I read this story from the Guardian this morning (and thanks to Jim Romenesko for tipping us off via his blog), I hadn’t given much thought to how the weblog began or who invented it. I mean, do you think of Gottlieb Daimler when you sit behind the wheel and turn the key? I wouldn’t be able to pick Justin Hall or Meg Hourihan or Dave Winer out of a lineup if my life depended on it, but wherever you are, thanks much. Maybe my life would be a little different, and not for the better, had there not been a blogosphere.

Read on …

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Is this really it this time? The light at the end of the tunnel?

January 22, 2014

light at the end of the tunnel

It’s been a long while since I’ve posted anything — the longest hiatus I’ve ever taken from this here blog of mine — for a number of reasons:  severe loss of mojo, having to dig into the job hunt again and dealing with a very sick mother. Let’s see if I still know how to write …

I know I’ve written a similar story before.

I thought my employment hell — which began nearly five years ago, when I was let go the first time by The Fresno Bee, in a mass purge by the McClatchy chain — was finally over last July, when I landed a contract job as a part-time copy editor at MSN.

It was my first time working in New York (doing the beast of a commute from home to Midtown Manhattan, at least 2 1/2 hours each way, between the drive to Stamford and the train to Grand Central, which I would have to do until I got the computer access card that would let me work from home). It was the largest company for which I ever worked, which never looks bad on your permanent record. (Technically, I worked for a worldwide staffing company, and my manager was based in Seattle, but you get the picture.) And it was my first time back in the work world as Frannie 2.0 in a place where I was a total stranger. (I returned to the Bee for 10 months, from September 2011 to August 2012, as an on-call copy editor, and was met with nothing but open arms by my now-formerly formerly-former colleagues.)

And it went wonderfully. The commute sucked, but I absolutely thrived on the energy in the City. (And I made the most of my Fridays after work; since there was no way I hell I was gonna sit in the 20 miles of Friday-afternoon traffic jam on 95, especially in the summer, they became Linger Longer Fridays, full of adventure and meeting and befriending a lot of new people.) I passed well and encountered no bullshit along my commutes — just another of the 8 million trying to get by. The work itself was cake. I was starting to break the ice and fit in and make friends in the newsroom, And my supervisors really liked me — so much that they were planning to give me more hours. And come September, I was eligible for benefits — for the first time in three years, I could breathe a sigh of relief.

Anyway, I was supposed to have been able to work from home by the second week. It took 6 1/2 weeks to get the computer card I needed to telecommute. And then, the morning of 9/11 — my first day working from home — my manager from Seattle emailed me at 10 in the morning. That would be 7 a.m. her time.

“Can I call you?”

Oh, shit. This can’t be good.

It wasn’t.

Some nameless, faceless beancounting scumbag at Microsoft with absolutely no news sense decided that it was time to gut MSN. Which, on the surface, made — and makes — absolutely no sense, as the company was, and is, between CEOs; it was only two weeks before that Steve Ballmer announced he would be stepping down within a year. How do you make such a drastic change without a new person at the helm?

And with that, all the freelance writers were discarded. So were 15 of the 18 us contract copy editors. Including one of my supervisors, who had come on board a week or two after me and had just spent two weeks out at the mothership in Redmond. That really didn’t make sense. (And if I could ditch my Microsoft operating system and office software right now without losing anything or going through a hassle, you bet your ass I would.)

We were all blindsided, even the staffing company; when I asked the manager when she first found out, she said, “This morning.” Our last day was Sept. 30. And just like that, I was Charlie Brown, and Lucy was pulling away the football once again.

Yet more stress.

Anyway, fast-forward to Sunday afternoon. I got a call from the director of the Northeast design hub for Digital First Media. He offered me a job as one of his deputies; I’ll be part of the design hub, which paginates (electronically lays out, for the layperson) stories for the company’s seven Connecticut and upstate New York dailies, plus some community weeklies. Once I’m up to speed on the software, it will entail laying out at least 15 pages a night, plus proofing pages.

And Thursday afternoon (Jan. 23), I go back to yet a second place where I once worked — The New Haven Register building, where the hub is located, and where I worked for 11 1/2 years as the entertainment editor/music writer before moving to Fresno in March of 2004. I returned first thing Monday morning for my orientation. It felt kinda weird, to tell you — the building is the same, as are quite a few of my soon-to-be-formerly former colleagues. But the situation is radically different. It parallels my homecoming nearly a year and a half ago — things are the same, yet things have changed a lot.

So, Frannie, back to work. And now, the $64,000 question:

Is this finally — after all these years of wandering around in a sea of uncertainty and questioning my worth and worried about falling off figurative and sometimes literal cliffs and plunging down an economic hole of no return — the light at the end of the tunnel?

*****

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10 years ago: What if I had said ‘No’?

September 29, 2013

Ten years ago Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 25, 2003. A drab and dark day in New Haven, as I remember it. A Thursday, which meant I was in the midst of wrapping up another Weekend section at the New Haven Register, where I had been the entertainment editor and music writer since September of 1992.

And somewhere in between putting out one fire or another, I took a breather and checked my personal email. Since the evil Yahoo has chewed up and spit out a lot of my early emails, the exact wording is long lost to the ether (and possibly the NSA). The subject line read something like

The Fresno Bee/Assistant Features Editor Position

And the message, from the then-features editor at the paper, pretty much read:

Dear Fran:

Hello. I’m the features editor at The Fresno Bee. I saw your resume on journalismjobs.com and was wondering if you would be interested in discussing an assistant features editor position with us.

And for the first time — and certainly not the last — I heard the inner voice, loud and clear. The same voice that came to me a little over four years later and asked me if I could transition genders.

All of a sudden, the busy newsroom (straight out of the ’70s Lou Grant School of Newspaper Interior Design) became quiet. And things got very calm — a state to which I certainly was not accustomed, especially working at a fanatic’s pace all the time with little downtime. And I was introduced, at long last, to my inner voice — the creepy whisper from within that sounded an awful lot like HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. And HAL simply said:

Okay — it’s Fresno.

And six months later, minus two days, I was on a plane out of Bradley International, headed to the heart of the San Joaquin Valley to start a new life. In more ways than I could ever have imagined.

I listened to the voice.

I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I not listened, or had I been too scared to do anything.

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Musical War Stories: Lou Reed

March 12, 2013

lou-reed-sizedOct. 27, 2013

Editor’s note: Lou Reed died this morning. I never did get the Musical War Stories category too far off the ground — between job hunting, finding a job and job hunting yet again — but I’ll let this stand as kind of an obit to him.

March 12, 2013

By way of introduction to a new category in this here blog, Musical War Stories

Got a call this afternoon from my old pal Tom Hearn, who lives in the neighboring town of Cheshire. Tom, a tall redhead who wears glasses like the ones my father wore in the early ’60s, is so low-key and unassuming that you’d just never know, unless you knew him, that he has done some pret-teeee cool things in his life.

Tom is the oldest childhood friend of the man who gave punk its name: Eddie “Legs” McNeil. He’s also the frontman for a band of local renown, The Big Fat Combo. (They have chops. And I’m proud to say I made my recording debut with the combo 10 years ago — under the name Fran Fried & the American People — cutting a tune called “(All I Get Is) Letters” for Let’s Get Furious, a two-disc tribute to that quirky, beloved and longtime New Haven duo, The Furors.)

Tom Hearn, front and center, with The Big Fat Combo.

Tom Hearn, front and center, with The Big Fat Combo — March 2, 2013, the Old Dublin, Wallingford, CT. Coincidentally, Lou’s 71st birthday.

And Tom’s also a photographer extraordinaire. He shot a great many photos of the early days of the punk scene — lots of Debbie Harry, lots of Ramones — and some of his shots wound up in Punk, the magazine started in 1975 by fellow Cheshire refugee John Holmstrom and Legs to chronicle a Lower East Side music scene that didn’t have a name … at least until it came time to figure out what to call the magazine. Mr. Hearn, oddly enough, was so low-key about his work that it didn’t occur to him to get around to showing it until about seven years ago.

Anyway, Big Red called to ask me if I want to contribute any stories, musical lists, etc. to pleasekillme.com, the website whose nucleus is Please Kill Me, the acclaimed 1996 oral history of punk by Legs and Gillian McCain. Several writers are contributing items to the site.

Yeah, I know, another non-paying thang. But at least it’s people I know (or at least know of), their hearts are in the right place, and they’re not getting paid, either.

Anyway, I cobbled these first tidbits together a week and a half ago — grabbed them from some fold in the memory bank — the day Lou Reed turned 71 and originally posted them as two separate items on my Facebook page. So anyway, whether Please Kill Me picks this up or not, this might be the start of something new on my blog. I figure hey — Lou was the cover boy on the first issue of Punk; why not start this new trip with Lou as well?

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The bathroom thing again — or, the need for federal anti-trans discrimination laws

March 1, 2013
Coy Mathis: Does this 6-year-old girl look like a bathroom menace?

Coy Mathis: Does this 6-year-old girl look like a bathroom menace? Photo from kptv.com.

Feb. 28, 2013

My parents watch the local TV news almost as religiously as they attend Mass (or at least watch it on TV). That would mean WTNH, Channel 8, the ABC affiliate in New Haven, which airs newscasts from noon to 12:30 and 5 to 6:30.

The station has a comments segment on its dinnertime hour-and-a-half called “Voice of the People.” Generally, it tends to be a slightly less vile version of the comments that follow online news stories — it’s moderated and edited, of course, and the language is tamer.

But it can still be vile, nonetheless, and mainly populated by the people in the foil hats, just as newspaper website commentaries tend to be.

My folks and their transgender firstborn daughter were watching when the anchors mentioned that among the stories commented on was one I hadn’t heard up to that point: that of Coy Mathis, a 6-year-old transgirl in Colorado who, suddenly, after a year and a half in the school system, was told by her school district that she couldn’t use the girls’ room anymore. She’s now being home-schooled as her parents fight it in court. (And she and her parents also appeared on Katie Couric’s show yesterday.)

“Just saw your segment on the 6-year-old child that’s being allowed to live a transgender lifestyle,’ said one Channel 8 viewer, a Diane from New Haven. “I think people have sunken to an all-time low. That is a 6-year-old child! What is wrong with these parents? Have they gone nuts? Has the whole world gone nuts?”

“Yes, Diane — has the whole world gone nuts?” asks Albie and Rita’s firstborn, who heard the bile in the caller’s voice rise to the surface the longer she talked into the station’s voicemail.

Has the world gone so nuts that people still get so twisted out of shape over gender identity? Over a 6-year-old kid needing to go to the bathroom? Over some perceived heinous perversion? Has this world gone so nuts that people are so outraged because a couple chose to be loving and supportive of their child? And what the hell is a “transgender lifestyle,” anyway? (Please tell us, Diane, since you seem to know so much about the subject …)

And — on the day the Justice Department asked the Supreme Court to take a big step toward recognizing civil rights and void California’s Proposition 8 — it further stresses the need for federal laws protecting not just gay rights, but trans rights as well.

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The blinding glare of the spotlight: Welcome to storytelling

February 27, 2013

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=S776lS6rQW0://

I was bored the first Monday night of 2013. My hangout Starbucks, 10 minutes from New Haven, was closing, and I didn’t feel like going home just yet. So I headed up 95 and into downtown, to Ninth Square and the friendly confines of my favorite club, Cafe Nine.

You can see me -- maybe too much of me -- but I certainly can't see you..

You can see me — maybe too much of me — but I certainly can’t see you.

I figured I’d get there in time to hit the tail end of Get to the Point!, a new monthly first-Monday storytelling series, but I was a little too late. Not too late, though, to do some commiserating at the bar. There, I sat in between the show’s host, longtime New Haven arts writer Christopher Arnott, who was my “rival” music writer when I was at the daily New Haven Register and he at the weekly New Haven Advocate; and the lovely and quite-talented Lys Guillorn, a singer/songwriter I didn’t really know before I moved away but who has become a dear friend and supporter in the two years since I came out as transgender to most of the people I knew in Connecticut.

And Chris, in the midst of perhaps the longest conversation we had in the 25 years or so that we’ve known each other, asked me, “So when are you gonna tell a story?”

The thought had crossed my mind before. After all, having lived in Fresno for eight years — the home of the largest fringe festival west of the Mississippi, the Rogue Performance Festival — I’ve harbored the notion of doing a one-woman show the past three years and debuting it there (because, after all, I began my wild gender trip there). Of course, I want to finish my book first, which I can’t do because I don’t have that happy ending yet (in other words, the job, or perhaps the sugar mama), so that kinda rules out the show for now.

But maybe storytelling would be a way to work up to doing a fuller, longer, more theatrical performance. And for all the writing I’ve done about gender matters the last three years on this very blog, and in a page-one op-ed piece in the Register in June 2011, I’d never talked about it on stage. Sure, I’ve talked about it on the radio — I came out to my WPKN audience on my 20th-anniversary show in January 2011 — and last fall, I talked about trans healthcare to two nursing classes at Southern Connecticut State University.

But this was a stage. The domain of a performer. How would this play with a mic and a spotlight and a lot of people who didn’t know about me or my story?

Nervous much? Not that much, but still, a brave new world …

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