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This summer’s treks to points west were good ones. Over the past couple years, the odd niche of concert performance, kirtan, SubGenius shenanigans, and Devo worship has been fun. It also reminds me that the width of Pennsylvania is substantial, and that a gig or two along the way to Ohio would make for reasonable stopping points. I have made such idle complaints from time to time. For the most part, I am happy to travel, often alone. I’ve taken a lot of life that way.
I still thrive with a fair amount of aloneness. Lately, there has been more time filled by getting emotionally in line with writing than actually writing, but I’ve recognized that as a necessary part of my process. I don’t love this fact, but it is what it is for now.
I am happy to say that the balance of aloneness to togetherness has changed in the direction I’d hoped. Back on 2011 I wrote about preparing a place in my heart, mind, and home for poly family. It has been a long road and for a while it was best to mostly forget about. I didn’t dwell in a state of constant longing or go on a relationship quest. That hasn’t been my way. I have, though, allowed myself to be conscious of the intention.
This summer was the first time I took the mini tour to the Cleveland area with a partner. It was an easy-going, great experience to have a friend and lover (not to mention driver, roadie, and general assistant!) along for the trip. Here’s hoping for many more travels to local and faraway places. I do like to stay in motion, but even more than that I love the prospect of an emotional and spiritual traveling companion – Someone who wants a support system to navigate the twists and turns of the mind and is up for the task of being so for me as well.
I’ve never been set on the configuration my poly family should take. I’ve been one to allow relationships to develop as they will without a lot of engineering from the outside. In this case, I find myself developing deep bonds and becoming part of a family already well in progress. I had the chance to talk about our connection this week at Poly Role Models. There are ecstasies and practicalities, even-tempered positives, and some challenges I do my best to look at clearly. I’m up for all of it.
It’s a good thing that calls for appearances have been making room for themselves in the midst of my quiet intention toward personal life and personal growth. I have a few gigs coming up – one at the Center for Relaxation and Healing in Plainsboro, NJ on November 6th and one pending for Collingswood in the same time frame. I’m also gearing up to kick off the 2016 Caldera Pagan Music Festival in LaFayette, GA this coming May. I’ll be putting together a string of East Coast gigs to make my way south and back. I may have companionship for a few of those gigs, and by circumstance, I’m likely to also take on some alone. Those logistics are still some distance away. Either way, I have a sense of mutual support in my life these days, and that makes all the travels feel grounded in the heart space. It’s been a very long time since I’ve felt quite that way.
I thought it would be cool that my article on Joan Armatrading’s Track Record would come out on a day coinciding with LGBT Pride weekend in NYC. I had no idea how *perfectly* timed it would be!
Thanks to the wonderful folks at Biff Bam Pop! for the opportunity to write a bit about why Joan Armatrading is a musical joy and a cultural inspiration.
… and Happy Marriage Equality to one and all!!
The other evening I was at the South Jersey Writers meetup and I announced to my friend Glenn Walker that I like music again. The look on his face let me know it was a puzzling statement. It is not a surprising concept to me, but I was surprised to hear those words coming out of my mouth and to another person.
It was a somewhat equivocal statement. I always like music. I often require lots of silence around me, but I leave space in my world for singing when the spirit moves and listening to favorites (Today it’s Wall of Voodoo.). That said, I have felt a separation from making music for a while. I’ve written an awful lot about not writing, so I won’t bore you or myself with that. What used to feel like an uncomfortable alienation from creative source feels like synergy now.
Even though I haven’t produced many songs of late, I am very happy with “Everybody Does the Best They Can” that I performed with Jessica Floresta at the Soma Center in Highland Park. There are more where that came from, still dwelling in my head. Now is the time for me to be gentle with myself and let the songs emerge when they will. I don’t mind the gentle reminders from Glenn, other friends, and potential collaborators. I am on the mission. I am also very aware of the value of the other creative things I am doing now and I feel at peace in following the trail of the creative impulses that are calling me.
My dreams have been inspiring in recent weeks. I’ve been enjoying writing them down and the morning contemplations that result. Being part of the Audacious Eleven podcast is one of my favorite expressions right now. Recent episodes have been about Luck in the Tarot, The Buddhist Excuse, People Behaving Badly, and What Hollywood Does to Our Favorite Books.
I have been very busy with SEO, Web Design, and Social Media Management. I really dig it. I used to keep my musical and creative writing life separate from any of my “other work.” My experience of this is entirely different now. I appreciate the orderly and concrete more than some may imagine, and this branch of my work has given me a sense of much needed productivity and stability. It has been an important factor in my feeling that much happier in creative space. I have been working a lot my friend Brian Loebig at Loebig Ink. We met a number of years ago when he was booking shows at the 5th Street Coffeehouse in Philadelphia and he recruited me to perform.
In other news, two weeks ago my good friend Betty invited me to be an extra in her actor/producer brother’s comedy horror movie. It was a blast being a vampire for a day! Last weekend, I was invited to play guitar for the very talented Brienna DeVlugt for two very different happenings – a Lord & Taylor fashion show and later that same day for a West Philly community event. In February I created a workshop focusing on non-binary gender identity at the Poly Living conference. Sometimes no matter what I do, I perpetually feel less busy and less productive than I’d like to be, but as I say, I try to be gentle with myself and take time to appreciate this eclectic cycle of events.
I have had a lot of activity out in the world given the internal shifts and changes and inner work that has needed attention. I recently had the fastest end of major relationship and beginning of new major relationship I’ve ever experienced in my life. This has been a lot to process. I am trusting. My head and heart have been spinning now for the better part of a year, and now I find myself happy and centered in a space of love.
This year, there will be songs and I predict projects I haven’t even yet considered. I am in the mood to simply see what’s next. Right now life has a lot to do with peaceful enjoyment, finding – and creating – day-to-day stride, and nurturing precious new connections.
I got to see Berlin @ World Cafe Live in Philadelphia last night. It was an excellent show. Postponed from May 1st because of severe weather that knocked out the venue’s power, this time there was an intense downpour to contend with to get from my car to the building, but no big deal. I went to the show with my friend Andy Campbell, who suspects Terri Nunn may be a rain goddess.
I could wax poetic about the show, which really did go above and beyond – Her voice is in excellent form, the new songs were very good, sometimes surprisingly emotional, and I really liked the way they revamped the classic tunes, especially “Pleasure Victim,” stripped down, so to speak, to piano and voice.
My friend Andy, who said he could barely remember winning anything, was chosen for the after show meet & greet in a random drawing. I was happy that he chose me as his +1, and just as happy that the show actually happened this time. We were waiting for only a short while by the stage until Terri came out to say hello to the small group of waiting fans.
Andy complemented her on the show and had a brief but deep conversation about the life and death of her father, actor Larry Nunn, about whom she sang in “Blame it on the World.” When I got to the table where she was chatting and autographing, she asked me about my choice of T-shirt.
“Sex Geek,” she read. “Well, I guess people ask you, right? Why are you a sex geek?” I explained with a winking smile attitude that I like to know as much as I can about the things in life I enjoy the most. I told her it is actually a T-shirt design by my friend Reid Mihalko, a sex and relationship educator. “What does he teach?” she asked. I wasn’t expecting to give Reid’s elevator speech in that moment, and I don’t remember exactly what I said. I think the words “openness in sexuality, honesty, and integrity” were involved in what I felt was likely way too concise a description. She smiled, said “All right!” and gave me a high-five.
I gave her a download card for All Six Senses, which is the older recording of mine I seem to enjoy the most these days. She seemed genuinely psyched that I am also a musician and I gave my music elevator speech (NOT my elevator music speech), which was probably even more truncated than the one I gave for Reid. I handed her my cassette copy of the Pleasure Victim album for her to sign. She laughed. “A cassette! Do you actually listen to this?” “Not lately,” I told her, also laughing. “It is quite an artifact, isn’t it?” She agreed.
I got my photo op and we said goodnight (I wish I had been standing more straight ahead so it doesn’t look like my shirt says “SEX GEE,” but oh well, it was in the moment.). “Keep playing,” she called out as we were walking away. I intend to – in all good ways possible.
Happy Loving Day to all those who celebrate it. I wrote a bit about it from a polyamory perspective, and it’s posted today @ Black & Poly. I hope you’ll check it out, comment, & share it:
A more personal essay on this blog from a Loving Day past is here: Embraced By Loving Day
Thanks for reading!
For me, 2013 was a year of things coming together. I tried more than a few times to come up with a list of “Best Moments,” “Biggest Breakthroughs,” or whatever, but none of that really showed up fully formed. Besides, I imagine some people get as sick of that year-end stuff as I do.
What happened for me last year, honestly, was a subtler experience. I found myself growing in ways I hadn’t in some time – mostly to do with how I was allowing my mind to re-embrace happiness and creativity. I was determined not to chase after gigs to the detriment of balance and good business sense, and positive opportunities came my way. I found refocusing on health to be an easy, joyful thing. Community that I’d felt missing started to be in my life again.
I have sought connection with other polyamorous people since the mid-1990’s in one way or another. It has always been a positive, balancing thing to have a touchstone of sorts- a way to meet others who find that love emerges in similar ways as it does for me. I’ve been hosting or co-creating events with Philadelphia Mindful Polyamory Meetup for a while. I can say that last year I started to notice that what once seemed like only separate events and happenings started to feel more like forums for real connection. I have been meeting friends with whom I really want to create and I look forward to seeing often. I imagine this has much more to do with my readiness to reach out and to be out in the world than it does with others in the group. Apparently I’m back up for noticing good people, many of whom have been there all along.
At one of the coffeehouse poly meetups I co-facilitate in South Jersey, I met a student named Jessica who was studying polyamory and came to chat and ask questions. She also mentioned wanting to get back into playing music and I took down her info. I probably dragged my feet a bit about getting in touch, but I am so glad I finally did. Turns out she is a great singer and viola player, not to mention a smart and fun/funny person. We have the most ridiculous conversations sometimes! I was really pleased with the show we played last fall at World Café Live at the Queen in Wilmington, DE. This week we’ve been getting ready to perform next Friday at the Poly Living conference in Philadelphia. (A word about Skype rehearsal: It doesn’t really work. But Google+ Hangout is great for planning the set list.)
If you want to come check out Poly Living 2014, I’ll be singing on Friday, February 7th before keynote speaker Anita Wagner Illig, and again later that evening at the conference reception. I am really happy to have been invited to be part of it.
For more info & Poly Living registration: http://www.lovemore.com/conferences/polyliving
I’ve known this for a very long time. I’ve even told a few people, but it didn’t really prompt me to take much action on it. To my credit, it’s hard to know where to start on a grieving project, which is what I feel like I have in front of me. So I suppose I put it on my Virgo to-do list, as if it is something I can tackle like organizing the basement (I’ve been notoriously slow on that, too).
Anyway, here’s the thing: I never really fully grieved when Warren Zevon died. Yes, I cried. Yes, I talked about it, and still do in comfortable contexts. I’ve written about it a little. But I also compartmentalized it – put it away in some corner of my brain where I could access it nominally and even feel sadness, without having to really walk through the fire. This has done a lot to block my movement through the other huge losses over the past decade. I believe it’s done damage to my ability and desire to write. I don’t know how deeply it’s worked to obscure my ability to be effective in life overall. I wonder what it’s done to my accessibility as an authentic, flesh and blood friend and lover and seeker of Spirit. I’ve got to write through tremendous grief build-up to get to the other side of Emotional Rehab Mountain.
It has been exactly 10 years today that I received the call from my dear friend Nancey:
Those were the only words she needed to say for me to understand immediately. I’m glad I heard it from her, one who really, really got the essence of this man & his music. Last night, she was the one to remind me of the anniversary. Earlier this year, I’d thought a lot about the looming date, but filed that away too, leaving it to wait in line with the process of grieving itself.
I had the amazing luck or karma or whatever to grow up to actually get to know this intense and brilliant man whom I idolized since I was 12. There is just as much rich life-stuff in knowing and understanding and learning from the letting go. It’s just not the easy part.
Back when I was allowing myself to remember the date, I gave some thought to what to do about this 10th anniversary. I tried to push myself to write some major article or even a book with stories of WZ as a major factor. One of the things he encouraged me to do is to journal daily. I’ve hardly lived up to that. The best way I can pay respects today is to start to remedy the reasons why. Ready or not, it’s finally happening.
I’m joking in the title. I doubt there is any real art to knowing how or when to show up to things unprepared. I generally am a fan of a good plan. Often when unpreparedness happens it pretty much sucks, but I try my best to pull things together. Once in a while, though, being unprepared leads to something profound.
For someone who was about ready to throw in the proverbial towel when it comes to music, I’ve wound up with quite a few good gigs this year. There is something to be said for not worrying too much. Ohio continues to have some kind of cosmic pull – I have connected with great, loving yoga and kirtan community there, which balances well with getting to perform with The Mutant Mountain Boys there for SubGenius and Devo happenings. I’ve been to Ohio twice this summer and wouldn’t be sad at all if I managed to schedule my way back once more this year.
I didn’t feel terribly prepared for any of my gigs this last time out. At Kundalini Yoga & Wellness in New Cumberland, PA, I played music for yoga, followed by a short kirtan with my old friend JD Stillwater. That is supposed to be freeform and intuitive, so a lack of set list is fine, if not ideal. JD and I worked well together. I appreciated the practice with spontaneity and listening.
I’ve been working with a lot of changes this summer – focusing on health, having internal consciousness and intention exploration stuff – and it has been leaving me in a state of busy-brain. So much was going on in my mind that the long drive to Cleveland didn’t seem to help me solidify the house concert set for that next night. I mean, I knew essentially which tunes I would do, but I didn’t feel particularly balanced and rehearsed when I arrived and had to quickly set up the sound system (while making friends with the host’s four awesome dogs). The show turned out just fine. The people and the energy were better than fine. I was even surer about this Cleveland-area vortex that has seemed to open up in my life. Still, I’d like to find a more easeful pattern when it comes to travel and gigging. It continues to be a work in progress.
The main reason for this last trip was to make my way out to A Not … TOTALLY Dev-o Tribute Night at The Summit in Columbus. I absolutely love playing with The Mutant Mountain Boys, and when we were asked to do this show, I started working on booking gigs right away to make the unexpected travel reasonable. Well, we made it there, and we played the gig. We weren’t terribly prepared. Samantha was jet-lagged after flying in from Tucson and was running on almost no sleep. I was pretty exhausted, too, so how could Jim exactly get on a wavelength with that? We all could have played better, so… we were just ok. We had an amazing, energetic show at 16X-Day. Perfectionist that I am, I am (almost) ok with not having been 100% for this one. We talked about it later and hope to plan future shows so we have at least 24 hours in the same place together to rest, regroup, and rehearse before we hit the stage. We all had a good time anyway, Lieutenant Dance was fabulous, there are some great pics posted, and the impetus for a late August Devo fan event with friends was started again.
At one point relatively early in the evening, Thomme Chiki, the organizer of the event, asked people if they had any stories or pivotal life moments to share about Devo. There were two disco ball piñatas in the house and I stepped up to tell the story of how I’d been in the audience during the New York portion of filming for the “Disco Dancer” video and how that was an exciting time for me. I’m not sure why I didn’t think at that time to tell more of the story:
It was at a club called The World. The band played a few tunes, then prepared to record for the video. They did several takes of “Disco Dancer” and the audience gave their enthusiasm. I didn’t quite “get” this particular song or why it was the single, but I was of course ecstatic to be present for anything Devo. Afterward, the crowd started to disperse and the club turned into a regular dance space. After a while, I was dancing and turned to see Mark Mothersbaugh who had come out of the dressing room/green room area and was crossing the dance floor. I went into instant groupie mode, beelined toward him and asked, “Mark, can I have your autograph?” He said yes. I looked blankly for a split second, then said “I don’t have any paper.” Duh. I asked him to please wait, and I told him I’d find some. So there is one of my major heroes standing on the side of the dance floor kind of aimlessly while I scurry around looking for paper. Bizarrely (though maybe not so strange for 1988), the first piece of paper I found was a tri-fold AIDS info pamphlet that had fallen to the floor. It said “AIDS, Sex, and You.” I handed it to Mark and he gave me the most bemused look. I apologized and told him it was just the first thing I could find. He wrote “No sex is safe and also good.” I didn’t think that was very sound information, but hey, I had just prompted Mark Mothersbaugh to write something about sex, which I found to be pretty awesome. He wrote an “xo” and signed his name. I thanked him. Then I got even more bold and asked him if he would like to dance. He said, “No, I have to get back to Jerry.” Then he paused, looked at me, and said “You’re very beautiful,” before he disappeared back through the door. I was pretty much in heaven.
At The Summit last Friday night, the MMB were getting ready to leave and something gave me the idea to seek another autograph. I picked up a black and white flyer for the event from one of the tables and thought it would be cool to have Thomme Chiki sign it, since he’d done so much to put the night together. I didn’t know him so well, but always thought of him as a cool and dedicated spud with encyclopedic knowledge of Devo and probably lots of other things. I asked him half seriously if he’d sign the flyer, and when he said yes, I thought that would be a really great souvenir. The next question was, “Do you have a pen?” I wasn’t sure, but I didn’t think I did. I started to dig through my bag. The first thing I came up with was a tube of red lipstick. I said, “You could sign it in lipstick.” He made a funny kissy face, but then took the lipstick for real and went to the other side of the club where there was either a mirror or a mirrored section of the wall. I could see he was putting on the lipstick. When it started to take kind of a long time, I realized he was doing this quite seriously. I had assumed that if he did it at all, it would be taken as a big, goofy joke (interesting bit of gender stereotyping I did there).
I was stunned by the image I saw walking back toward me. It was a simple, sweet and graceful androgynous beauty. I was basically rendered momentarily speechless. He returned the lipstick and said quietly, “Thanks for sharing.” He kissed the flyer. I rather awkwardly vied for a lip print on the cheek. I had not at all been prepared for this aspect, this physical manifestation of the beautiful in-between to show up in that moment. I was engrossed – It was moving and exciting to be so taken off-guard. Reflecting on it now, I see a gorgeous, encouraging reminder that this place/non-place where I live and love and write is absolutely real – and here is another soul, perhaps gliding through a similar journey.
I suppose I would do well to try my best to be prepared for most things. Virgos prefer order, they say. But at least when it comes to autograph-seeking in Devo-related contexts, being a bit out of sync has so far worked quite well.