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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.
So many of us talk about love as an infinite force. I believe it. More than that – I feel it –when I am passionate, when I am quiet, when I am a channel for creativity in motion.
I feel the force of love in so many ways – one is in a sense of loyalty and constancy of friendship. Essentially, if I loved you decades ago, I love you now. A friend with whom I feel this exact kind of bond called me earlier this week, distressed. In no way do I mean to diminish the impact he was feeling when I say he related a common trajectory along the polyamory emotional highway: He and his girlfriend, some time ago, confirmed with each other that their relationship was open. She has been fine with his connection with me. She met a guy she fancied, and he was fine with that. Now, the feelings between she and the new guy are deepening and my friend called me, feeling he was completely. losing. his. mind.
We talked for some time, and I hope I gave some comforting words to a friend who was freaking out. I hope the real, honest, and continuous communication I suggested will manifest for them. I hope he believes me when I said that his feelings are valid and can help him understand his needs, which may well not be a need to close the relationship, but to get to the essence of how he can be loved and know he’s loved in a way that feels so clear and present that the unmanageable fear will dissipate. I can’t say which logistics work best for anyone else but me. I can say more about my observations on the nature of love.
Love is. It does what it does. If left to its own devices, infinite ways of manifesting between and among people are possible. Why don’t we all spend more time letting love be rather than engineering it?
Case in point: He and I have a forever bond of true friendship, a significant aspect of which is a deeply erotic connection. We could embrace it, ignore it, avoid it, or act badly on it. Over the years, we’ve done all of those. Yet it remains. This is what our love is.
The arbitrary rules we place on love can hurt so badly. Why should I leave behind a friend I love so much when I fall “in love” with someone new? There was a time I did ignore one love for another, and that experience is one of my biggest regrets. I care little about breaking the social norm or someone else’s rules, but I deflected a sincere being and broke a cardinal rule of my own heart. These days, I am very intentional about opening to the committed, poly loves that feel right for my life. I want any rules to come from within, not without, to be about allowing love, nurturing its growth, fine-tuning its expression.
During the phone call with my friend, I recalled times of being quite angry with him. Years ago I thought: Why was I never considered a possible “girlfriend?” Always, there was someone taking up the majority of the time and energy, and that someone wasn’t me. Was I so much less than? Over the incarnations of our connection, it finally resolved itself in my mind: That is simply not who we are to each other. Leave love alone. It didn’t need to be made into what I thought it ought to be, either.
Does he place significantly more importance on romantic love than forever-friend love? He probably does, I surmise. That is not equivalent to how I feel. This morning, I noticed I felt some pain around that as I listened to his story. At the same time I felt glad to be the one to field his honest outpouring of fear and doubt, and yes, love. I am still not sure how much love relationships should be about equivalent sensibilities, rather than sensibilities that through it all, emerge compatible.
I don’t know how my friend and his girlfriend will fare as they venture into the gut-wrenching, insight-sparking, fiery refinement of the ‘working through it’ they have ahead. Intuitively, I have high hopes. They may create safety zones and discover boundaries which help them feel stable as they explore. My friendship with him might move back to denial or avoidance. I hope not, but I’ll remain prepared for change. She may discover she has a boyfriend and a friend, a partner and an occasional someone, “the new guy” could be gone next week, or what seems to terrify my friend the most at the moment – she may have found two profound loves. Love left alone, I know, is capable of such wonders.
I’m rooting for them, and for the best in all of us to come forth. Messy growing pains are ok. They happen. No matter what else happens, I believe listening to love first, then doing the emotional work set in motion are the keys to bringing all through strong and whole.
I was a bit startled to realize on my birthday this past Monday, August 27th, that it was indeed the 10th anniversary of the release of my second solo CD, All Six Senses. I had what still feels like an idyllic, dreamlike time recording those songs out in Marin County, CA with producer Scott Mathews at his Tiki Town Studios. Over the past few days, I’ve spent some time listening to those tracks with my friend Amy, who played them, intermingled with other tunes, from her iPod in her car. It is sometimes annoying to listen to old recordings, but this time I really dug hearing some songs that have mostly fallen away from the set list (“Cling To You,” “I Skate Alone”) and others that have become standard fare (“Holy River,” “First Sight”). It is a very rewarding feeling to listen and feel that All Six Senses, for the most part, really does sound like the songs that I had in my head. It does a decent job of expressing snapshots of the spiritual growth spurt I was in when I wrote these songs (there is the one cover – a slow, jazzy take on “Cruel to be Kind”). I hope it might still manage to inspire anyone listening to examine their own lives and take their own journeys.
I remembered how much I enjoy these tunes and the recordings of them, and then I remembered another anniversary. It would take more than a short blog entry to tell the many stories and make even an attempt at the impact, but the super-short version is that I was (and still am) blessed in life to have met and gotten to know one of my greatest musical/lyrical/cultural heroes, Warren Zevon. Since meeting him at The Stone Pony (his show [opening for The Band!] was August 26, 1994 – his after-midnight autograph says August 27th – now this story is even stranger), we kept in touch. The day after my official, yet totally indie release of All Six Senses, it occurred to me that I hadn’t heard from WZ in a while. I happily tapped out a long e-mail asking him what was going on, telling him about my life, the new recording, everything. The response I got back was very brief:
He was ill.
“My lungs and liver are shot” he wrote.
I didn’t know, and couldn’t have comprehended on that day the seriousness of what he was saying. If it wasn’t that very day that he’d gotten the diagnosis of inoperable mesothelioma, it was within a day or so at the very most. I don’t have words for what I felt, or really know what I did the rest of that shocking day.
He asked me to send a copy along to him, so even in the midst of coping with finality he took the time to listen to All Six Senses. He said he enjoyed it, was glad I was continuing to work on the music, and advised me to “keep chanting.” I’ve definitely managed to do that.
I could say more – try to create some storyline about the impact of cosmic crossroads or the mystical fusion of wonderful-horrible anniversaries. I won’t. I will just try to sit with it all as it happened, and with my own uncomfortable twinge at having been moved to share this ball of entwined emotions with you tonight.