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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.
It may sound a bit morbid, but at times I practice how to feel when people significant to me die. I don’t mean to do it in the sense that I set aside a time for mortality drills or something. It’s that every once in a while I realize how profoundly I idolize certain people. Somewhere in my mind I recognize that in the event such a person would pass away, I could really freak out. So I allow myself to think about it, if only for a moment. I let myself feel little bits of the emotion at a time. I’ll recognize the person’s huge contribution to my life, art, or world culture. I may even imagine something productive I might do when I hear the news.
I was on a short break from figure modeling yesterday when I saw the news on my cell phone about the sudden death of Bob Casale of Devo. I had prepared a little for such a moment. There were times when I’d find myself looking at a classic image of Devo, allowing my mind to wander through how I might feel when not all five of those guys are still with us. Then came the sad news about Alan Myers last June. It took me days before I could even speak of Alan’s passing. However, bad news is just that, and it hasn’t been a whole lot easier to wrap my brain around the loss of another member of my favorite band. Through all of the passive prep work, I never imagined having to sit for an hour and a half for a painting class before really reacting. The still contemplation time was probably exactly what was needed.
I’ve been to a lot of Devo shows and since 2004, I have had a number of great opportunities to hang backstage and elsewhere with them. Bob 2 was always cool, friendly, and even-tempered. While other band members may have been a little intense to be around, that was never the case with Bob. My favorite memory of him was the time he came to DEVOtional, the fan event held in Cleveland, in 2009. Aside from being a great musician who had his own unique way of holding together the band’s sound, he was also quite the chef. He actually prepared a menu, came to our event, and served lunch for a club full of DEVOtees. How awesome is that? At the time, I was annoyed that a miscommunication led to him not getting the word on saving aside some vegetarian fare for a few of us, so there wasn’t a lot for me to eat. But his taking time out to be with all of us was the main point. I had the pasta, and it was yummy. Last night, I cooked up some angel hair marinara and remembered a very kind guy.
2/25/14 Addendum: My friend and fellow fan Richard J. Anderson just posted a moving essay on Bob Casale @ Sanspoint.com. It is definitely worth reading.
The first time I met Tarot Grandmaster Christiana Gaudet, I believe it may have had something to do with an impromptu seasonal celebration ritual held in a hot tub. Over the years, I’ve grown to love and trust Christiana very much, and we share quite a few things like dedication to spirituality, a penchant for discussions on grammar and usage, naturism, and a serious enthusiasm for music (Robin is to Devo as Christiana is to The Grateful Dead.).
A little over a year ago, Christiana began hosting an online show called Christiana’s Psychic Café, and decided to use my songs “Funky Bhagavate” and “Blessed Be, Namaste” as her intro and outro music. She’s also invited me on the show to chat on quite a few occasions, so turnabout is fair play, as they say. I am so glad Christiana has taken part in The Dream Between‘s 11 Questions interview series. Here are some of her thoughts on science and mysticism, the rewards and business of writing and music, entrepreneurial spirit, and more.
1. Do you think of Tarot as an art? A system? A spiritual tool? I am interested in how you describe it to someone who hasn’t encountered Tarot at all.
Yes, to all of the above. One of things that fascinates me about Tarot is how unique it is in all the world, but how it is a part of so many worlds – art, culture, spirituality, and history.
Tarot is a book of spiritual wisdom in picture form that tells the story of human experience. Tarot is a collection of archetypes and symbols that can help us communicate with each other and with the divine. Tarot is a source of creative inspiration and a tool for magick.
2. How do you balance science and rationality with mysticism and spirituality in your life?
My belief system is grounded in the reality that I observe in my daily life, so there really is no disconnect between what I believe and what is obviously scientifically true. I believe the sun will rise in the morning, and I understand the movements of the planets that make that happen. But I also honor the rising sun as a spiritual force in my life.
Nature is my Higher Power. I am face-to-face with God every day. I don’t need complicated dogma and doctrine to know, feel, and experience spiritual truth. When I observe nature I learn all I need to know about Higher Power. I find spiritual power in the tides and the stars. I see the face of the Goddess in fire as it dances. I see the Four Elements, Earth, Air, Fire and Water, as spiritual forces operating in my life. The magnificence and improbability of the world around us lead me to conclude that a divine hand is at work. To me, science proves the existence of Spirit. There is so much order to the Universe, it seems a divine order. The more I learn about science the more I see the sacred nature of life.
I have an argument with many religions. If your doctrine doesn’t hold true to the obvious facts around you, it is time to change your doctrine. That’s an interesting concept given I believe that cards drawn at random can have specific bearing in a person’s life. But, truly, divination is as old as recorded history. Divination is something we do quite naturally. The same is true with earth magick. What child has not collected rocks and shells from the beach, or sticks from the woods, knowing, deeply and inherently, that these items hold power?
3. You’ve written and published two books on the Tarot – Fortune Stellar and Tarot Tour Guide. Through those experiences, what are the most important things you’ve learned about the process of writing and publishing?
I learned that writing is an arduous task. If we only write when we feel inspired, we’ll rarely finish anything. If you force yourself to write whether or not you feel like it, the inspiration will come most of the time.
I also learned that writing is sometimes more about style than structure, and that typos are a fact of life.
I learned that publishing is rapidly changing. Whatever you knew about publishing in the past may not be true now. What we used to call “vanity press” is now “self-published” and is a viable avenue. The big publishing houses are crumbling, and self-published authors are actually making money.
I learned that unless you write a New York Times bestseller, the way to make money in writing and publishing is to be prolific. Yes, I am working on books three, four, and five right now.
Finally, I learned that books aren’t like fashion – they don’t have a shelf life. If you write a good book, that book will continue to sell year after year.
4. You and I connect a great deal around music and you’ve often incorporated music segments into your show, Christiana’s Psychic Café. What are you listening to lately?
The recent death of Pete Seeger has me revisiting my favorite folk singers. This week I’ve been listening to The Weavers, Pete Seeger, Holly Near, and Arlo Guthrie.
I listen to a lot of different genres. In terms of newer acts I like OneRepublic. Isn’t that cheesy? And I love Grace Potter and the Nocturnals. I think Grace has huge potential.
I’m a Deadhead. I catch as many DSO, 7 Walkers, Phil Lesh and Friends, Ratdog and Furthur shows as I can. We always wondered what would happen when Jerry died. Well, what happened was a lot of smaller bands mushroomed from the one. Fan musicians made it their mission to carry on the music, so there are still plenty of opportunities for us to experience those songs played live.
5. Does music help inspire your writing, preparation for readings, or other aspects of your work?
I can’t have music in the background when I write – I am easily distracted by shiny objects. I love meditative music, and I love chanting. I use music in magick and ritual quite a bit. Dance is an important part of my spiritual practice.
6. As the music business we once knew has changed so much since the Internet Age, many artists are struggling to understand how it will manifest in the future. Any predictions?
The changes in music are similar to the changes in publishing. On one hand, everyone has access. On the other hand, there are so many voices it is hard to be heard. I think one thing that is changing is there are more ways to be heard, and more ways to develop an audience. Often success will go to the diligent.
Where do I see things going in the future? I think there will be even more access to high-speed internet, recording technology, and marketing opportunities. I think the big labels, like the big publishing houses, will start to crumble. There will still be pop stars, but radio – the star maker of yesteryear – really is dying.
Right now, everyone who listens to adult contemporary knows the same songs. When Lorde won a Grammy, everyone knew the song. I see a time in the distant future where that might no longer be true. There might be so much variety available we will all listen to exactly what we like and we won’t all know the same forty songs.
In the meantime, my advice to artists would be three words: diligence, networking, and innovation.
7. Your show seems to have developed very organically and features many artists and practitioners who you know personally. How has this network of people come about for you?
When I agreed to do Christiana’s Psychic Café I knew I didn’t really have the time to take on such a project. I also knew I had a huge network of interesting people who would help me. Networks always grow. You were my very first guest. You, and many others, have introduced me to other people who have been great guests, and are now my friends. You are right about “organic growth.”
I have always been really good at bringing people together. I have organized festivals, huge parties, psychic fairs, and creative communities. It is something I do naturally. I am not as good at constantly nurturing a community. I am better at short-term projects and getting things started rather than tending them over long periods of time. Social media has allowed me to stay in touch with people that I have known over the past forty years. That is a lot of people, and a lot of energy, on which to draw.
8. In your work, you not only maintain a private reading practice, but you create a weekly newsletter, host the online show, and hold periodic worldwide Skype teaching sessions. What are your practical methods of generating many varied ideas and holding it all together?
I am grateful each day that my work allows me variety, creativity, positive human contact, and spiritual fulfillment. I work very long days, but I take frequent breaks. When I feel overwhelmed or under-inspired I picture myself working a regular job. That’s usually enough to get me back on track.
I have a lot of interesting ideas. They often come to me in the shower. My biggest problem is remembering them, since I can’t write them down while I’m washing my hair! So, the practical methods I employ boil down to gratitude for what I can do, fear of not doing it, and being open to inspiration!
9. What is the most gratifying aspect of your work?
Unfair question. That’s like asking a mother which of her kids is her favorite.
When I was really young I knew I didn’t have the ability to tolerate routines, power structures, boredom, and creative limitations. I needed to create a life where I had real passion for my tasks, and control over what those tasks would be. So I did. That my work is my work is my greatest gratification.
10. Do you have any advice or wisdom for anyone in any field who is striking out with your kind of entrepreneurial spirit?
Plenty. You have to want it so badly you can taste it. You have to believe in it when no one else does. You have to be willing to suffer for it. You have to be willing to do what it takes to make it happen, even when your friends are mad that you can’t play with them. If it were easy, everyone would do it.
When I was a theatre major at Baldwin-Wallace College for a semester I had a great teacher who said that success is the product of talent and tenacity. I think that is true for just about any kind of success.
11. What is the best course of action for creative artists in this Imbolc season?
Transform your fears, hurts, and disappointments into art. Let creativity be a source of healing for you, and let the depth of your pain energize your process. Let nothing be “good” or “bad” in terms of what you feel or what you produce. Experience everything as power, wisdom and beauty. Be free to heal, and free to create.
This is apparently a good week for the number eleven! See yesterday’s post.
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.
Glenn and Ray of the “weekly nerdout” known as the GAR! Podcast have a rule: They don’t discuss the podcast beforehand. They just show up and hit record. Glenn told me they bent that rule a little to prepare to be a stop along this week’s Robin Renée Blog Tour. Luckily, whatever they talked about beforehand this time around took nothing away from the spontaneous, freewheeling conversation full of music geekery and beyond that ensued. Here is the list of topics they compiled:
Robin Renee introduction / cat listeners / DEVO / Devo Dan / making music in the digital age / live music / cover songs / Elvis Costello / BeeGees / David Bowie / Ziggy Stardust / Fishbone / more DEVO / songwriting process / Kate Bush and revisions / deadlines / productivity / Cerebus by Dave Sim / distractions / the tree question / musical instruments / Prince covers / album covers / All I Am / The You Will Rise Project / the music / – See more at: http://www.garpodcast.com/#sthash.u3om7WrE.n7ibL7BP.dpuf
Listen in to the conversation here: GAR! Podcast Episode 16: Performing Artist Robin Renee. I’ll be listening along with you to remember how we wound around to all these topics. The standard interview this was not! – and that is a lot of fun and refreshing. I’d love to be back on their show again soon.
Next up on the blog tour: a comprehensive interview on the excellent pop culture site, Biff Bam Pop!
I went to see Highway of Sight, Steve Forbert’s cell phone photo exhibit, this past Saturday at the ART629 Gallery in Asbury Park. I had been feeling a little anti-social all day, so it really was a good thing to hear from Nancey, my good friend and concert-going buddy, who convinced me to quit cocooning and come out and play. Thanks, Nancey—I appreciate that! The two of us have such fun hanging out and being Forbert groupies together- How could I miss this one?
As I came in the door, I was surprised by Steve, who said hello, remembered my name and that he had seen me the week before at his show at The Record Collector in Bordentown. I am not sure he remembered that I interviewed him for the 2008 Songwriter’s Market. He couldn’t have known that a few years ago I was contemplating using the title of this blog entry as the title of a book. The book would be based on a slice of autobiography – soul-searching in the years around my father’s passing and other lesser life complications – with the backdrop of my strange pursuit of this quietly enduring folksinger. For a long time I have also wanted to write about the power, mostly positive, I think, that exists in music hero worship, and the bonds and creativity borne out of fandom. When I heard about the recent publication of I Think I Love You I felt scooped, but whatever—I have different insights and stories to tell. There are quite a few books living in my head. One day, some of them will escape and find themselves written down, I promise.
The photos were simple, telling bits of Americana and curious things found along the trail of a touring musician. In this show, Forbert seemed to favor repeating items – like soda bottles or rows of eggs – that reminded me of early industrial innovation. I was checking out the images, wondering why an artist finds a particular fascination, or vice versa. The artist himself had been affable and talkative with attendees all evening. He managed to surprise me again and out of the blue walked up and asked, “So what’s the deal?” He wanted to know about the town I live in, and which photo was my favorite. My fave of the moment was “Glass Stems in Case.”
His question got me to confront something I had only idly mused over before:
Seriously, what is the deal?
Why this cyclical fixation (and the requisite goofy crush that goes with it) on the unassuming Steve Forbert and his live performances? I have the records and CDs, but it is mainly about the live show. I’ve seen him more in concert than quite a few of my other fangirl obsessions like Steely Dan, Gary Wilson (I know, he doesn’t play that much), and even Devo.
Though it is fun to revel in the mysterious nature of my adoration, I can say a little about what draws me:
Storytelling. Forbert is a solid craftsman of songs of struggle, love, work, and everyday greatness. He is afraid of neither politics (“The Baghdad Dream,” the ever-evolving “Oil Song”) nor humor (“Strange Names – New Jersey’s Got ‘Em)”. One of the surprising byproducts of the emergence of kirtan chant into my life was a lessening of the impetus to tell stories in song. When you are at OM, what more is there to say? I feel the stories reemerging now, and can look to the art of cutting to the core of basic human experience in Forbert’s best tunes for guidance.
He loves his career. I have heard him say more than once that he is grateful for the early success of “Romeo’s Tune” because it has enabled him to do what he likes for all these years. Another artist might be forever angry that meteoric success didn’t continue unabated. Steve seems to get that he has a good life and a really cool gig going on.
Perfect timing. Honestly, I believe this all started back in the day the first time I heard WMMR play “Goin’ Down to Laurel.” My heart melted and I was changed in some intangible way. Later, “Romeo’s Tune” was the summer love theme playing in my head as I would travel hours by bus and train to Connecticut to see a girl I was crazy about who I’d met at summer camp.
He is earnest. The language he uses is often matter-of-fact, sometimes cute, and may deal with pain, but is not meant to cause pain. He can write a personal or cultural critique without the cutting cynicism that I actually love from other artists. A Steve Forbert song is like an antidote to an overdose of bitterness. His body of work tells us that he really wants the best for the world and all of us in it, without even so much as a devolutionary twist.
Inspiration. Whenever I’m nervous about whatever it is my next move ought to be, I remember these immortal words: “You Cannot Win If You Do Not Play.”
Even as I am moving along into 2011 armed with optimism and new resolve, I find myself still looking back, trying to make sense of 2010. Everybody may be sick of all the Top 10 Whatever lists we get pelted with in December of each year, but mine formed late. So here it is.
I won’t pretend that 2010 was an overall good year for me. I am moving past it enough now, though, to have lost interest in enumerating the painful spots. I would rather remember the important positives. I’ve noted them in my cumbersomely titled Top 9 Very Good and/or Extraordinary Experiences of 2010, in chronological order. I enjoy the Number 9 and multiples of 9. I’m weird like that.
Top 9 Very Good and/or Extraordinary Experiences of 2010
1) Recording with Producer/Musician/Composer Scott Pearson – February 7-9
It is not often when I hear the language that a song speaks to me, and find another person who hears more or less the same thing— plus huge leaps through a library of sounds just on the tip of my imagination. In these sessions, we recorded two songs that I promise you’ll get to hear one day soon. Scott Pearson is brilliant, insightful, and has hilarious stories to tell. Add to it that getting to his Cary, NC studio involved driving through a blizzard, having my car buried in snow on a cul-de-sac in Alexandria, VA, and a tow truck to free the vehicle before another few harrowing hours of driving on ice, and you have a formula for quite the memorable time.
2) Visiting with Anasakta – April 23-25
I met this Canadian mystic when he became friends with my former housemate. His insights on Self-Realization are extraordinary, and he believes in my wisdom and inner awareness in the bhakta/tantrika realm more than I can fathom. We talked for hours, laughed a lot, interviewed each other on South Street in Philly, and he even put up with my inexplicable obsession with Canadian folk singer Stompin’ Tom Connors.
3) Gunnison Beach Party – July 24
Anyone who knows me at all knows that being naked in the sun is one of my favorite life experiences. I have been part of a large group that gets together annually for a party at Gunnison Beach, the clothing-optional beach at Sandy Hook in New Jersey. This year the weather was truly perfect and being in the midst of this social experience while making moments to commune personally and directly with nature was profound. Being in the ocean to me is to be enveloped in the essence of Goddess. My longtime friend and spiritual sister, dancing rabbit, stayed for the weekend. Any time with her is never short of healing and magic.
4) Rocking out with the MMB on my Birthday – August 27
For the last few years, getting the chance to perform with the Mutant Mountain Boys has been a highlight of my musical year. We’re a bluegrass-styled band that pays tribute to Devo and the Church of the SubGenius. The group is a brainchild of my banjo-playing Devo freak friend, Samantha. This year we played on opening night of the annual DEVOtional at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland. We performed what felt like our best show yet, and saw some excellent out-of-the-box bands. That was a great way to celebrate another trip around the sun.
5) Kirtan Cleveland, August 26 and 29
The Cleveland area was good to me in 2010. Frank Barnett was a champion of the kirtan chanting community there, and he coordinated my first NPR station interview for the afternoon of the 26th. It was a challenge and a joy to roll with linking my love of Devo with devotional chanting. The kirtan on the 29th had Samuel Salsbury on violin and Joe Culley on tabla, and lots of enthusiastic people at Studio 11 in Tremont to share the experience. The fact that Frank passed away two weeks later makes these moments so much more precious.
6) Recording “Hare Krishna Christmas” – November 8
Last year, I finally got back in touch with my inner comic. I have always loved parody, naughty limericks, cartoons, and all manner of zaniness. Though “Hare Krishna Christmas” has humor, it also emerges from a heart sincere in love of Consciousness and blended spiritualities. Finally, I followed friends’ advice and recorded this tune that has lived in my head for years. I had never before begun a recording session by having to multitrack harmonies with the lyrics “Ding Dong Ding.” Engineer/Musician/Composer Jack Walker and I tend to crack each other up no matter the recording project of the day, often with Warner Bros. toon quotes: “This time, we didn’t forget the graaa-vy!”
7) Silent Retreat – November 29
On this date every year, I have private, 24-hour long silent retreat. I talked about it quite a bit in the previous entry. This time around the silence was not so pleasant as it was functional. Pain and thoughts and questions came up and morphed into much needed calls-to-action.
8) Kye’s Birthday Parade Surprise – December 11
I really don’t know how I would feel if I were surprised by scores of people in costumes with twirling ribbons who came dancing and marching up the street to the front of my Las Vegas abode to do the box step and shout cheers for me on my birthday. I do know that it was amazing to play The Cat in the Hat in this display for Kye Brackett. Kye is one of the many extraordinary beings that make up the chosen family of people for dynamic and authentic living we call freedomcommunity. I was overjoyed in this procession at the creativity and penchant for the absurd, and was moved to tears by the outpouring of love.
9) Tears of Joy at the End of DADT
Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell was a terrible policy. I was angry about it when it was instituted, and always thought it should go away. I admit I never truly understood its impact until I heard the ecstatic and exhausted tears of joy and relief when a good friend called to tell me it had been repealed. The repeal of DADT meant that she will be able to continue to live with the love of her life, a career military woman, without lies of omission and fear. An impending promotion will not mean separation and emotional chaos, but a new home and a next phase in the lives of two people dedicated to one another. Oh, Happy Day.
Happy New Year to you. Here’s to a 2011 full of love, health, growth, fun, and music.
At the end of the kirtan last night at The Yoga Place in North Canton, OH, I mentioned that I like being in the area. Someone said “Why don’t you move here?” My impulse response was “If you move the ocean here, I’ll think about it.” I feel most at peace and most able to uncover a sense of union with All when I am on the shoreline. On the edge of the continent, cool and sandy earth, vast sky, fiery sun warmth, and infinite-seeming water couldn’t be more clear expressions of the makings of all life. Rarely do I ever feel homesick, as I am generally happy to be wherever I am, experiencing what is there. In that moment of remembering the shore, though, I had a twinge of it. It suddenly felt alien to be more than seven hours from the closest ocean. How fitting that as I drove over the Ben Franklin Bridge this evening NPR was playing an interview with Bruce Springsteen on the making of Darkness on the Edge of Town. It was good listening– I’d never considered his poetry that directly before. Welcome back to Jersey.
All four of the gigs on this mini-tour worked out very well. The people and the vibe to carry the evenings all showed up. I am never sure what my inner experience will be while I’m singing, so I let myself be surprised. Somewhere in the middle of leading chanting in Kent and in Toledo, the bemusement crept in.
What the heck am I doing up here? Why am I singing mantra again? How did all this even happen? Am I here to facilitate spiritual experience? No, I just sing. Whatever – Time to stop analyzing – Sheesh.
It is the old familiar WTF that I try to treat as I would any thought in meditation – see it, breathe, and let it go. It’s not an easy one to let go. Sometimes I need to run through the timeline in my head just a little—remembering the visions, the love, the white light, the dreams that swept me into recognizing that Spirit would be more a part of my music and overall being than I’d ever known.
Why does all this still surprise me?
Thankfully, the surprise washed through and moved along, swept up and sublimated in the ocean of sound. All the events this time out were sweet experiences. House of Yoga in Berkely, MI near Detroit was an ideal in many ways – not the least of which was for the chance to see some amazingly cool black squirrels nearby the next day! But I digress—the musical joy was that I was able to sing nearly an hour set of songs and then the same time was given to chanting. It feels wonderfully dynamic and balancing when these elements are invited together and I intend to develop the show and do more in this format. North Canton was a straight-up kirtan after which there was a sense of exuberance and deep fellowship in the air.
All the people I met or had the chance to see again on this trip are good, good, solid, loving beings. I am blessed to have found a path that leads me to them. Some kind of general positivity swirls for me in the Cleveland area and into some margin beyond. It is where the Devo fans gather for the annual DEVOtional. It is where kirtan connections have led to knowing kind people on rich paths. It is where whenever I am linked up with a musician for a gig, we usually sound like automatic magic. I may be a coastal being, but I will be back to be part of these circles as I am able.