Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Archive for Performing

I Sang!

Tonight there was a special extra night of Transcriptions, that wicked-groovy and inclusive queer open mic night, at St. Luke’s & St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church (S.L.A.M.), a small, progressive Episcopal church in Allston, MA. I adore Transcriptions. This is exactly what I meant the other day when I wrote about community. These amazing folks are one of my communities, and one of the one that makes me feel most alive, most cherished, most valuable.

Transcriptions happens on Thursday evenings, which is when my church services are at The Crossing as well. So, it’s a struggle to get there, but I make it work (ever other month I skip church to be there for the whole time, and every other month I dash over after church).

I’ve read my own poetry and blog posts and other folks poetry. The last couple time I haven’t really been prepared to perform. It’s getting to be a habit – lol. Anyway, last time I told a story about Arisia and read the blog post I wrote about kids who break gender stereotypes. This time, for whatever reason, I decided to finally sing. This requires some explanation. I don’t sing. I don’t sing back-up vocals when I drum. I just don’t sing in front of people. I’ll sing along to songs, sure, but I never sing in a way that I can’t hide my voice. And yet I decided to sing. This goes beyond any issues I’ve ever had with my voice not being feminine enough, it’s just that I’m really scared to sing in public – I don’t think I sing very well (though I also suspect that I could sing okay if I actually worked at it). But I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I finally felt like the time was right.

And I chose a very specific song to make my debut. It’s the song that I used to use to sing a very special little girl to sleep. It’s been two decades since I used it for that, but I still remembered it like I had sung it just yesterday. Before I sang I told the crowd why the song was important to me, and what it meant to me. Here’s the song I sang:

Okay, so yes, it’s a sort of weird song to sing a baby to sleep with, but way back in the day it was the song I knew, so it was what I sang to her. And it worked; for a time I was the only one who could get her to sleep. 🙂

Oh, and perhaps not surprisingly, I sing in a different key now. I started singing and I quickly had to adjust to how different my voice is since the last time I sang that song.

And then one of my best friends and one of the most special people in the world sang a song that she wrote (the ~first~ song she’s ever written – how brave is that?), and the Darling Boyfriend recited The Lorax (from memory!), and a few people shared personal stories of depth and power. I am always amazed both by the strength and courage of the performers at Transcriptions, but also at their openness and willingness to share the deepest, most profound things that I’ve seen folks share.

I could gush for a very long time about how much I think of this very special group of folks. It’s always special.

And then the evening ended with a performance by Beth Colegrove, who made me cry at least twice. Her voice was so pretty, so strong, so passionate, that it just touched me very deeply. I’d say that after seeing her performance I’m definitely a fan. It was such a treat to see such a great singer as I sat snuggling with the Darling Boyfriend.

Though even with all of that cool and grooviness, all I can think is that I SANG!

Penny sang.


Arisia 2010

Yay, my first Arisia with a boyfriend in tow! 🙂

So, the Darling Boyfriend and I went to Arisia this past weekend, and had sort of a super-amazing time. This was my third Arisia, and his second. We both had professional concerns that pulled us away from the convention at various points on Saturday, but we were at the con for most of it.

We stayed in a lovely room at the Hyatt, with a balcony and an amazing view of Boston and the Charles River. I could have spent the whole weekend in the room looking at the picturesque scene. It was that lovely. The Hyatt is built sort of like a two-dimensional zigguart, and created this sort of “looking out from the peak of a mountain” effect that was just stunning. Seriously, just the room and the view would have made me incredibly happy.

But then there was the actual ~stuff~ to do…

We got there Friday, and it took a while to check-in, but I’ve dealt with bigger hassles before. We had dinner with a couple guys we know from a local game store, and it was really nice getting to chat with them and get to know them better. We bumped into some other friends and hung out and chatted and just got settled on Friday night. We also went up to the top floor to see the art show, which is always one of my favorite parts of the whole convention. We didn’t make it to any of the panels Friday night, but we had plenty of fun and good times.

On Saturday morning the Darling Boyfriend had to get up early and go to work for a few hours, so I was on my own. I went to a really great lecture on music called “Fantastic Film Music Before Star Wars.” It was good, but it was definitely more of a lecture than a panel (it was given by one person, and was very much a presentation). I heard a lot of great music that I had been unfamiliar with, and it was really interesting. It sort of reminded me of being back in school. 😉 After that I had lunch with a couple friends, whom I don’t see enough. After lunch I went to a panel called “1980’s – The Silver Age of SF Movies?” It was a fun panel, until my friend (donned in an awesome custom-made corset – ya gotta love sci/fi cons) pointed out that 1980 was ~30~ years ago. Ouch.

After being made to feel very old I went and tried to donate blood. I got cleared and found that even my iron levels were good (I’m sometimes anemic). I was excited; I’ve never donated blood before. But the nurse stuck me and got a vein but my body just wasn’t giving up any blood. She had to stop it, so I ended up with a big bruise for nothing. I had a bruise on my other arm from a blood test that I had done a couple days before so she couldn’t even try the other arm. *sigh* I felt like a loser. The Darling Boyfriend was back by this time and tried to console me, but I was really bummed. Oh well; I guess I’m just not meant to give blood. 😦

After that we went to a panel called “Queer SF&F,” which was okay, but sort of all over the map. Then I scaled “Mount Arisia,” which means I climbed 15 flights of stairs (remember I said it looks sort of like a mountain, well so do the stairs).

And then I was off to Northampton to play a gig with Leslie-Anne Rios. It was my first time playing with her with an actual drum set; the other time we played together I was playing on my djembe. We played in The Academy of Music, which is a beautiful old theater. I played okay, I’m still sort of learning the songs, but it was a fun gig.

I dashed back to Arisia in time for the reading of The Eye of Argon, which is a really cheesy fantasy story. The game is that each person reads aloud as far as they can, with typos and poor word choice and all – with no laughing. I actually tried reading this year, and didn’t do too badly, either.

On Sunday morning we met a friend for the breakfast buffet, which is awesome.

After breakfast I wasn’t feeling all that well, so I went up to the room and laid down.

The Darling Boyfriend and I had a little tiff, but I still managed to make it down to the Munchkin Brawl, which is a Munchkin game with all the different flavors of Munchkin crammed into one blended game. We played for four hours and still no one got to level 20 (we were playing with “Epic” rules), so the Darling Boyfriend was declared the winner. He was level 12 with a +25 combat bonus. I must point out that even though I was level nine, my combat bonus was +31-+37, so it could be argued that I was on par with, if not ahead of, the Darling Boyfriend. It’s really hard to accurately gauge who is in the lead at any point in a Munchkin game, and that makes games that end early due to time sort of annoying. Anyway, the game was really good for my mood, as it was a lot of fun and I just felt really great by the end of the game.

After Munchkin we went up to our room and had a little alone time, which was really nice, because even though we were at the con together, we had been doing a lot of stuff on our own.

I went to the panel on “Coming Out,” which I had also gone to last year. I’m in a very different place in my life this year, and this panel was different for me. I don’t have the same relationship with my medical history or my body that I did a year ago. I’ve made lots of peace with my past at this point, and so I noticed how much of a “reclaiming of space” and “ownership of self” coming out can be for people. It’s interesting to see that more from the observational side. I even caused a little bit of trouble. There had been a running gag about people needing to come out as Republicans (which, in a hippy-liberal-geeky space like Arisia is something that people are just assumed to ~not~ be). Any time it was mentioned that someone might need to come out as Republican, everyone laughed on cue. I felt a need to point out that in this liberal and progressive and individual-empowering group we might be pushing some of our friends into a closet of their own. It was actually a point well met by the panelists, which made me feel good.

We went and had dinner at the buffet and then went to a panel called “Scening and Catharsis” which was fascinating, and then we topped off the night by watching some Japanese Hentai (anime porn).

On Monday morning, squeezing the last bit of good out of Arisia that I could, I went to a panel called “Stereotype and Religion in Literature,” which I’m pretty sure I went to last year, and was just as fascinating, especially considering that I’m much more comfortable with my Christianity at this point. Then the Darling Boyfriend and I went to “The Casting Couch,” which is a discussion about recasting different roles with different actors (so, your “perfect” Star Wars cast, and so on).

And then we were done.

It was another fantastic Arisia. I absolutely had an amazing time. And I can’t wait till next year!

Back to Life … Back to Reality …

[with thanks to Soul II Soul]

I’ve noticed something lately: I’m a drummer again. This might seem odd, as I often say, I’ve always been a drummer. It’s probably true to say that there never was a time when I wasn’t a drummer. I’ll never forget that when I told one of the other teachers at the store where I teach that I’d be undergoing treatment for transsexualism that he said that he hoped it was okay that he’d still think of me as a drummer first (um, yes, it’s okay!). But for the last couple of years I’ve had split priorities. Transition is like that.

I’ve mentioned a few times how draining of a process transition has been for me. One of the things that I often do is minimize that process. I remained in denial even as I entered the process, then I thought it was “mostly done” once I had gotten a few months past the date when I started presenting full time as myself, then I saw SRS as one more loose-end to tie-up, then I figured surely that after surgery I could stop thinking so damned much about it. I always felt like I was right on the verge of the whole process being behind me, only to realize that I was still very much in the thick of it.

I’m certainly not one of those that think that transition is a never-ending process. Life goes on, but eventually you arrive. I have been surprised, though, by the fact that it started before I realized and that it stretched longer than I expected. I suppose I feel like I’m in the winding-down stage now. But it won’t surprise me if there’s one or two last hurrahs left.

With all that said, it seems like my life is starting to be my life again. I’m not focused on transition, or the future, or surgery, or my health, or the way the world sees me. I’m just living. That first gig with Hypaspace last week (my first drum set gig in ten months [!]) really seems to have driven the point home. I’m thinking about drumming in a way I haven’t been able to in years. I’m excited about music in a way that is just super-refreshing.

I have another gig with Hypaspace tonight, and I am very excited. The break from playing has certainly made me hungry to play. Anyway, it’s nice to feel like I’m getting back to my life; I’ve had my focus diverted for too long.

Back to life …

Back to reality …

Hypaspace Rides Again

Dear me, was last night really my first drum set gig since surgery?

Wow; it was.

No wonder I feel ~so~ out of drumming shape. I’ve been practicing and jamming again for a few months, but last night was the first time I laid it on the line since January. I’ll tell you this: it felt really good. Performing music in front of people is one of the most incredible highs I’ve ever experienced, and as much as playing djembe in church each week is fun and spiritually fulfilling, nothing compares to playing drum set. And beyond that, it’s always super-awesome when it’s with the guitarist whose been an absolute joy to work with for over twenty years.

Last night was amazing. I played with Hypaspace, which is something I thought may never happen again. We played for two hours, and by the end I was wiped out. I hope I’m gradually getting back in shape.

The Darling Boyfriend came to see my play, and that was just neat. I got to introduce him to a whole other circle of my friends, which was mad cool. He really liked the show, and said that he thought the band was great. It was awesome.

I saw an old friend from High School too, he came to see us play. I should mention that my High School was an all-boys Catholic High School. Seriously. It was great to see him, and just goes to show that I can be me and the world can deal with it, even people from my way past. How cool is that?

I’m feeling at quite a loss for words lately. Even with my usual hyperbole, I’m just sort of having a difficult time putting the wondrous experiences of my life into words. So much lately I’ve been falling back on stuff like “it was amazing,” because there are no words that do the magical experiences of my life justice.

Anyway, it was great playing with Hypaspace last night, and seeing tons of people that I hadn’t seen in quite a while.



I like bananas and stars

Day two with no trip to the Emergency Room, and I seem to be feeling much better; I’m still not perfect by any stretch, and the shows each day are taking a lot out of me, but I’m definitely feeling very similar to my old self. 😉

So, tour is pretty fun. Yes, I’m in an RV with six guys for two weeks, but these are six amazingly cool men. The other day when I needed to go to the hospital, there was not the slightest hesitancy in any of them about taking me, nor was there any hint of resentment. I wasn’t a burden, I was simply a family-member that needed care. We’re all in this together, and my boys are totally hip to taking care of me. They’re pretty great guys; I’m so psyched to be on tour with them.

Steve is just proving once again how much he loves me, and it’s so completely mutual. We are so much more than friends; he really is my “chosen brother.” I had a great chat with Vinny tonight, too, and it’s been lovely to get to know the guys in Sandal Machine Foot better. It’s always great when a band whose music I love is comprised of people I adore too.

Some of the guys’ girlfriends came down to Manhattan for the gig last night. It was a surprise (I was in on the secret and a little on the planning), and it was really wonderful. It made playing in Manhattan feel like a show in our own back yard.

I’ve been doing my usual act of thinking I play like shit at about 2/3 of our shows, but I think the tour is going amazingly well. Being a rock star is fun.

I talked to Tim for a few hours today, it was the first time we had talked for so long in several days. I miss him lots. I know I’ve said this before, but I am so happy that I met Tim, so happy I have him in my life. He is really special – he makes me laugh, he makes me feel important, he cares about me lots. He kinda sorta rocks. 😀

Today we played in Mechanicsburg, PA. We ate at this restaurant called “Cheeburger! Cheeburger!” They had a bananas foster shake on the menu. I ordered one and wouldn’t shut up about how excited I was about it. The guy making it asked me if I had had one before, and I explained that, no, it was just that bananas foster is my favorite dessert so that when I saw it on the menu I had to order it. He finished making it and gave it to me. I tried a sip and he asked me how it was. I told him it was great. Then, because I never know when to shut up, I told him that I “have a thing for bananas.” I guess I said it more flirty than I meant, because he said something indistinct, but it was clear he thought I was being dirty, and then I turned brilliantly beet-red. Sometimes I am so oblivious.

We’re at a campground in Gettysburg tonight, and the stars are just amazing. I love living near a city, but I always forget how much the city-light interferes with the star-light. What a gorgeous night.


Pretty Fuckin’ Happy

Life is so cool

Two awesome gigs and two rude morons

I often gush about how blessed I am to be able to perform with such talented musicians. Well, tonight I got to perform with Hypaspace and Bryan McPherson on the same day.  It took a little rushing around, and I played on borrowed drums for the set with Hypaspace, but it was totally worth it.

The gig with Hypaspace was at the Midway Cafe in Jamaica Plain; we’ve played there a lot lately, and it’s always a great time. I used the drums belonging to the drummer in the band after us, which aided my schedule. There was this awesome sticker on the side of the bass drum; it said “Don’t Look Back.” That’s just about become my motto, so I thought that was really cool. The only problem was that the strainer on the snare drum was broken, so I played the whole set with a snare drum with the snares disengaged; it’s okay, I’m a professional, but it was an interesting experience. Besides that minor problem I thought we all played awesome and the set was just great.

After the set was over I dashed out to my car and headed over to Church, where I had already dropped off my drums, for the gig with Bryan. This gig was also all different kinds of awesome. It was an “acoustic night,” so we played a little more mellow than we do sometimes, but the music was so good. Bryan has this new song, that he played with just he and Jessica (the fiddle player who’s been joining us), and I don’t even remember the name of it, but it is so powerful. Bryan’s music is good for my soul.

The day was marred by a couple people being kinda sorta stupid. First was this woman that insisted on calling me “he” even after being corrected several times. She finally got to the point where she was catching herself, but it was really obnoxious. This person did not know me before my transition; she has no experience with me as a “he.” I certainly am ~not~ a “he” by any stretch of the imagination; the only reason for her to do that was an almost malicious attack on my identity. As far as how it felt, it was annoying, but it’s been so long since anyone mistakenly referred to me as “he” that it felt more surreal than anything else.

The other rude moron was this guy that, when he saw pictures of me and Tim, said, “Wow, he’s even bigger than you.” Damn, that’s just insulting in so many ways. First, you’re saying that I’m ~so big~ that you’re amazed that anyone is bigger than me. Then you’re calling my boyfriend fat. He tried to salvage what he said but only dug himsef a deeper hole. This was more kind of just goofy annoying, as opposed to the “he” lady, which was more fucked-up.

Anyway, overall it was an amazing day; playing with both Hypaspace and Bryan was awesome, but now I am truly exhausted, so, time for bed.

My new Pal Marv

I drove to NYC yesterday for yet another gig with Bryan. It seems like we’re doing a bunch of gigs at this point. It’s so awesome. This was our first Saturday night gig in Manhattan. Things are happening. As always, life as a musician is almost as valuable for the stories that you get to tell as it is for the music itself (I’m only slightly exaggerating). Come, let me regale you with my latest installment of “wow, the world is an interesting place.”

I often drive down and back solo, but on this trip I had the pleasure of having not only Bryan for company, but our wonderful and ubiquitous Holy Roadie Mike. I expected an entertaining ride, and I wasn’t disappointed. Mike is a sort of new friend, so I got to tell him many of my more colorful stories, some from my deep and distant past, some from a more modern vintage. Mike and Bryan held their own as well, and we just had an amazingly enjoyable ride down with lots of laughing.

We arrived in Manhattan a few hours before the gig, and, as usual, I scored a pretty decent parking spot on my first time around the block (Mike calls it my “Rockstar Parking”).

As we were by Tompkins Square Park I heard some jazz cats playing in the park. I walked over to them, hoping to hear something truly special. They were okay (it was a trumpet, sax, and drummer), but nothing special, so I resumed my trip to the club and quickly caught up with Bryan and Mike.

We got to the club and went downstairs, which is kind of the “green room.” I ended up taking a little nap. When I woke up, I was soon joined by a man I had never met before.

As he was walking over to me he asked why I was downstairs. I told him I was a performer. He sat down and started talking to me. He was pretty drunk. He asked how long I had been performing, ended up asking how old I was. I told him that was rude, but I can never say no to a question (why do I care if people know the truth?), so I answered him.

Then the real fun started.

He came right out and asked if I am a transsexual (so much for thinking I pass flawlessly always  ). Me being me, I said yes (if I had it to do over again, I think I would say no – it’s not in me to tell some one that something is “none of their business” – but I apparently will lie  ). Anyway, my conversation with “Marv” was very interesting. It went from him asking if I found him attractive (when I was non-committal he wanted to know if it was because he was fat or because he was black {“um, it’s because you’re totally fucked up” – thought only, not said}), to him asking if I minded if he did a bump (I honestly told him that I didn’t know what that was – I’m so innocent) to him asking if I had male genitalia (I honestly don’t really know how to answer that question anymore – and god bless me, I tried – look at me, trying to do outreach to a drunk moron trying to get laid – I crack myself up) to him asking if I’m promiscuous (“um, no”).

Bryan left me alone with Marv for a little while, but then Mike came back downstairs, which lead to another interesting chapter in Marv’s brain. He wanted to know if Mike was a cop. This triggered a great story from Mike about when he had been mistaken for a cop in the past.

Then Bryan and another of his friends came downstairs, and Marv was further distracted from me (though, he did say to Bryan: “Bryan, did you know that Penny is a transsexual?” to which Bryan answered, without missing a beat, “What!?” it was kinda funny). Eventually we had to head upstairs to get ready for our set, but I’ll have ~very~ interesting stories of Marv for quite a while. It was funny, because I had just told Mike on the drive down that being a transsexual makes you develop a thick skin for rude, impertinent, presumptuous question. So he got to see it first-hand.

I must say, Bryan and I have been playing some screaming shows lately. Last night was no exception. We tore the place down. I was so happy with just about every aspect of our performance. We were just really on. I love playing good shows. The crowd was awesome as well. It was just an awesome trip to the Sidewalk (as they almost all seem to be).

Right after our set Mike and I took the cymbals and guitar to my car. While we were on our walk I mentioned that I was a little annoyed that Marv read me. Mike, who knows a couple other trans women said that when he met me there was a question in his mind, which actually made me feel much better. I can live with people having questions (hell, I’m 6’2″ for Pete’s sake). I do think if someone I don’t really know in the future ever asks if I’m a transsexual again I’m going to react the way plus-sized women do when morons ask when “the baby is due.”  In some ways it just goes to show that NYC is very accepting, but that’s also ~really~ hard to pass there, because people are so used to seeing trannies that they have more of a sense of people that are more in the middle of the two polar genders.

When Mike and I got back to the club we all hung out for a while (my new buddy Marv left ~before~ our set – you know, if you’re going to be rude you can at least listen to some of my music), and then went out to dinner.

We ended up at the Odessa Diner (I wanted a diner). The waiter was another character (as Mike said, he “belongs in New York”). He came over to our table and started with “ladies first.” Of course, I wasn’t ready to order, so I had to have the guys go first. When I did order the waiter asked me if I was British (?!?! – does anyone I know think I sound remotely British?). I said, “No.” So he said that he liked my voice and that it was very “romantic.” What the hell was with me last night? I must have been wearing my “bizarre people magnet” or something. He was nice enough, but the food was mediocre.

After the food, and some hemming and hawing about whether we should head right back or not, we started our drive back to Boston. I was tired enough that I asked Bryan to drive for about half of the drive home.

And then I was home at 5:00 this morning.

Yo-Ho Yo-Ho, a musician’s life for me.  

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