Posts Tagged ‘The Fresno Bee’

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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Humility

May 30, 2013

B-W meditationI started this just-past Memorial Day the way I start most Mondays — with my usual week-opening read: Peter King’s newest Monday Morning Quarterback on SI.com. Being a holiday week, and a light news time in football, King went heavy on other things besides the usual news: Memorial Day, a look back at Brian Urlacher’s just-ended career … and snippets of commencement speeches.

And one excerpt struck me.

It was from author John Green’s address to the newly minted grads at Butler University. His words, obviously, were meant for a few thousand college kids entering the work world at an awfully tough time to be entering the work world, not someone going through a whopper of a mid-life crisis after being discarded by the work world. But the passage that King ran with could easily have been written about my life:

” … You are probably going to be a nobody for a while. You are going to make that journey from strength to weakness, and while it won’t be an easy trip, it is a heroic one. For in learning how to be a nobody, you will learn how not to be a jerk. And for the rest of your life, if you are able to remember your hero’s journey from college grad to underling, you will be less of a jerk. You will tip well. You will empathize. You will be a mentor, and a generous one. …”

During my way-too-long struggle to find a full-time job these last four years — one that has brought me quite a few times to the brink of losing my sanity and/or pondering ending my life — I’ve often thought, in my most lucid moments, that maybe this is one of the big lessons I’ve had to learn these past four years: humility.

That’s way too simplistic, though. Or is it? And what constitutes humility and what constitutes ego and conceit, anyway?

The battle rages on.

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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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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.

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The Month of George Bailey

August 10, 2012

It’s a Wonderful Life isn’t something I usually mention, let alone ponder, in early August. (At least wait ’til the department stores start putting up their Christmas stuff, in late August.)

My view of Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart’s 1946 masterpiece (and you have to give Stewart co-billing here, because, like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, it wouldn’t have have resonated this long and loudly without him) is colored by how I’m feeling about life that particular holiday season. If I’m happy and perhaps prosperous — and maybe, on those rare occasions, even in love — then I sit there and soak in the glow of a tale of a man who has done great deeds, none of which have seemed to have gone unpunished, pushed to the brink of suicide on Christmas Eve, dragged back by a bedraggled guardian angel second-class who died in the 18th century, shown what the world would be like had he never been born, and ultimately rewarded in a most wonderful way.

But as often as not — and especially last Christmas, living in a miserable, passive-aggressively hostile rental situation, the hours of my on-call copy-editing about to be slashed to nothing just 3 1/2 months after I returned to the work world after 2 1/2 years out of work — I felt more like this:

Years like last, I avoid the film, grumbling about how much of a crock of shit it is — how George Bailey is only a fictitious character, and that this shit doesn’t happen in real life.

(In fact, last year, I watched not one Christmas special, and Jeff Day and I didn’t even do our annual radio run-through of Rudolph on WPKN. And my back was turned to the TVs in the newsroom as I worked the copy desk Christmas Eve night, as one showed It’s a Wonderful Life and the other showed A Christmas Story. And on Christmas Day proper, I sat in my miserable room at the Happy House watching a documentary on a renowned and brilliant atheist — American: The Bill Hicks Story.)

It’s been a month now since I discovered that my work hours at The Fresno Bee were going bye-bye — and unlike the previous two occurrences this year (after Christmas and Easter), when I regained some hours eventually, this felt permanent. (And that was hammered home two evenings ago, Aug. 7, when I learned two more of my ex-colleagues, one on the copy desk, were laid off.).

When Kris, my boss, told me the news, I just knew it was time. A brief moment of “Not yet — I can’t afford this!” followed by a huge sense of calm. I had reached the end. It was time to go home. This time, the voice of reason wasn’t the loud whisper that told me, “Okay — it’s Fresno” the day the Bee’s then-features editor emailed me in October 2003, asking if I’d be interested in the assistant features editor position. Or the out-of-body experience I felt at the moment of my gender epiphany in  January 2008, the voice asking me quite clearly from someplace to my left, “Can you do this?” This was a slight sag of the shoulders, the slow letting-out of air, and me saying, out loud to Kris, “It’s time.”

But how was I gonna do this?

I wasn’t ready for what followed. It’s been one part It’s a Wonderful Life, one part learning experience. Kind of having to learn to redefine the concepts of success and failure.

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