2010

January 2010

Greetings and Salutations!

“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,

from up and down and still somehow,

it’s cloud illusions that I recall.

I really don’t know clouds at all.”

Both Sides Now

Joni Mitchell

(b. 1943)

Happy New Year! Can you believe it’s the end of aught-nine? The end of the aughts, period? I know. There’s a whole lot of people saying good riddance, that the decade “aught” to have been better. They’re not altogether wrong. We’ve gone through some real rough waves. And a lot of vessels haven’t fared so well. Some of us are taking on water so fast, we don’t seem to be able to keep up. For those folks, the last decade definitely could have been better.

I certainly don’t want to make light of our hardships, our losses, our sorrows. But I also don’t want the beautiful moments of the last decade to be overshadowed to the point of non-existence. To that end, I’ve been going over some of my favorite memories of the last ten years…

• With the help of one Barbara Rose, I carried a pizza up all 463 steps of the Duomo in Florence, Italy. (Since no one at the top would eat the damned thing, she and I then carried it back down those same steps. And had it for dinner. It was divine.)

• I overheard a little, old lady saying she had a vintage car to sell (after her friend’s passing) and so I scored a sweet-ass, ’66 Volvo Amazon. As I was in need of a car, I was mighty grateful.

• I got to perform on many stages throughout the US. My very favorite performance was the day I was honored to accompany a young friend named Haven during her elementary school’s talent show. She blew me away.

• I survived an ice storm in Luckenbach, TX – my first and only time there. It was terrifying and exhilarating. I was praying and laughing as I drove 15 mph in the dark of night all the way to San Antonio. I hope to go back in fairer weather.

• I heard my songs played on the radio. It’s just as cool as I thought it would be.

• I learned to bake bread.

• A flock of wild parrots moved in to my neighborhood. They’re yakking it up as I write. They’re loud and spectacular.

• I finished my newest CD. (It’s mastered, people!)

• My cousin moved to L.A. and I’ve gotten to know him and his family a little more. They are constant reminders of just how lovely and true human beings can be.

• I got to hear Kathrin Shorr sing her song, “My Hallelujah,” live inside an abandoned silo on a cold, Colorado night. I will never forget it.

• I planted Mexican sage outside my window and now I get to enjoy watching hummingbirds doing their thing. I smile every time I see one.

• I joined a foodie group. They are a blast!

• Many, many friends welcomed about a jillion kids into this world. If each and every one isn’t a blessing, I don’t know what is.

This New Year – it won’t magically erase any mourning or hard times. I, like you, have to get to the other side of the shadows. But I’m trying to go about my travels with a nod to the light. I’m ready to buckle down. Ready to do the work. I pray God will help sustain me while I do the best I can.

Clouds can be heavy. They can also be beautiful. Let’s all try to remember that as we wait out the rain. Personally, I’m counting on a brilliant sun. And a gorgeous, flippin’ rainbow to boot.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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February 2010

Dearests–

“Teach me to feel another’s woe,

To hide the fault I see;

That mercy I to others show,

That mercy show to me.”

Alexander Pope

(1688–1744)

The rains in Los Angeles have kept me (and most everyone else) inside for quite a bit of the last month. Now that we’ve got a nice showing of sun, we’re trying to make up for lost time by being outside and soaking up as much vitamin D as possible. It’s what we do.

As such, I was on my way home from a lovely bike ride a few days ago. Less than a block from my house, a car pulled out of an alley without the driver ever turning her head to look in both directions. There was no stop. There was barely a slowing down. Our paths were destined to cross, it seemed, and I had only a split-second to brace for the impact of that meeting. I hit my brakes and leaned away from the car and, well…

Here’s the deal, people: I’m out there a lot. I walk a lot. I ride my bike a lot. And I do everything I can to be legal about my travels. I obey crossing signals. I don’t jaywalk. I respect the rules of the road and I especially respect the fact that every single vehicle on the road is an enormous threat to my health and safety. I may be a strong woman, but I cannot defend my 5 foot 4 and a half inch frame against a 1-ton, rolling weapon. (And if I were hit by a car or truck while on foot or bicycle, that is exactly what that vehicle would become — a weapon.) As a driver, I understand the responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with that privilege, too. And I do my best to honor the rules governing drivers. Knowing both sides of the coin, I will honestly acknowledge the fact that mistakes are sometimes made. And I won’t hold that against anyone (as long as I’m not killed). When a driver makes a mistake and nearly maims me while I’m legally in a crosswalk, I’ll still give a smile and a hand-wave to the guy after he yells “Sorry” out the window. He didn’t mean it. It was a mistake. He’s not the guy I worry about.

It’s the complete Donkey-Butts who give me pause. I’m talking about the gal who rolled right into my leg at a stop sign — even though I was already crossing the street when she approached — and then proceeded to yell obscenities at me. I’m remembering the guy who gunned it and veered toward me while I was in a pedestrian crosswalk. If I hadn’t jumped backwards and fallen to the curb, I might not be here today. And there are any number of times drivers have blown their horns at me, flipped me off, swore at me and behaved like jerks — all while I was being a legal, careful pedestrian or cyclist. These are the Donkey-Butts. And I don’t respond very well to these individuals. In fact, I usually become so riled with anger that I’m unable to calm down for quite some time. Their ugly behavior rubs off on my mood. And that pisses me off, friends. At them, and ultimately, at myself. I don’t want to be a sponge for the bad behavior of others.

But I digress… When the alley incident of a few days ago occurred, I braced for impact with the shiny, silver Mercedes. And BAM! I wasn’t hit. Instead, the car stopped quickly. Less than an inch from my person (I looked). I took a deep breath and rolled my bike to the side of the car. The driver’s window was down and she was losing it. Completely. She was mortified at what had very nearly happened. She was apologizing profusely. She began sobbing. And that’s when something very, very strange happened: I stayed calm. The adrenaline hadn’t fired. There was no rage. There was no fear. I reached out to the driver and took her hand. I leaned down and said, “I’m okay. You’re okay. I’m going to ride home now and I’m going to let go of this. Promise me you’re going to let go, too. Everything is okay.” She looked me in the eye, and with a shaking voice she said, “Okay. Thank you.” She apologized again and I rode off. She drove away behind me.

We are all searching for a little Grace in life. Sometimes we know we need it. We know we want it. The rest of the time we forget how valuable it is. But that doesn’t mean we won’t take a dose of it now and then. We’re junkies for it. It gets us through the rough spots with a bit more ease, a bit more decorum. It helps us be the people we want to be.

Speaking for my own life, Grace can be an elusive, tricky lady. She doesn’t shine on me nearly as often as I’d like and I’m painfully aware of her absences. So when she showed up after the alley incident, I was mightily affected. Grateful, yes. But mostly surprised. I didn’t have time to request the honor of her presence at my table that day, and yet, there she was.

I still don’t understand that day. It was incredibly beautiful, incredibly mature. And people, that may be what I’m striving for in life but I’m here to tell you I’m just not there yet. Not full-time. Not on-demand. I get that the experience was a gift. I do. I’m trying to hang on to it. Though I’ve blundered a few times since then, I’ve not forgotten. Because I think Gandhi was right when he told us to be the change we wish to see in the world. I’m willing to try, at least. Call me crazy, but that guy dealt with more than a few Donkey-Butts and still managed to befriend Lady Grace. Now I’m not saying, “If Gandhi could do it…”, because really, I’m no Mahatma.

Dang. Now I’m thinking about Indian food. Maybe I’ll ride my bike…

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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March 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

“There are some who can rise above blind faith,

Others just can’t seem to pray.

Then there’s those that are condemned by the gods to write,

They just sparkle and fade away.”

“Ballad of the Crimson Kings”

Ray Wylie Hubbard

(b. 1946)

That’s right. It’s my berf-day month. Time to par-tay. Time to get down. Time to…

Okay. Let’s just calm down here. Take a deep breath. Hold it. Slowly let it out. That’s better, isn’t it? Maybe not.

I’ve been stressing out a bit lately. If I were to loosen the scroll of reasons for my stress, it’s so very long that it would roll right out the door and cross the street. And though a lot of that list is valid, certainly not all of it qualifies. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but I think I know why: I’m mid-life-ing.

I know, I know. I’m too young to be mid-life-ing. (You were thinking that, weren’t you?) My great-grandmother lived well into her nineties, and I like to think I’ll accomplish the same. Discounting the fact that there are no guarantees, I should feel pretty good about the privilege of aging. I should marvel at my appreciation for Andy Rooney, the old coot. I should cry at the beauty of laugh lines. Yeah, right.

The truth is, I’m trying to birth this music project and its gestation period is turning out to be more elephant-like than human. (And don’t even get me started on those artists whose records are done in bandicoot-gestation time. Sheesh.) Add to that my struggle to live a comfortable, regular life in oh-so-expensive Southern California, my doubts about the path I’ve chosen and my mid-life-ing, and, well, a birthday might just be the proverbial leaden straw here. Seriously. I broke down in my doctor’s office just last week. The doctor I’ve had for years. The doctor I adore. As he’s never seen that dark side of me before, the poor soul looked a bit uncomfortable with the whole situation and quickly wrote out a prescription for Xanax. (A little too quickly, actually, but hey, I did drive like a bat-out-of-hell to the pharmacy after my appointment, so I can’t complain.) So, in the interest of caring for myself, I’m trying to more effectively deal with my stress. I’m trying to up my exercise. I’m trying to avoid the evening news. I’m trying to laugh and have a good time.

On that front, I went to see my friend Amy Speace opening for Ray Wylie Hubbard a few nights ago. As usual, Amy delivered the goods. She was performing solo and I think it’s fair to say she converted the masses to the church of Speace. (If you don’t know her music, check her out. She’s worthy of your time and attention. www.AmySpeace.com) And then there was Mr. Hubbard. I just don’t know if it’s possible to have a less-than-stellar time at a Ray Wylie show. I so adore this man’s work. Truly. Telling you that I’m non-sexually crushing on this guy is an understatement. Because I only have a couple of his records (out of a jillion), it’s easy for me to hear an unfamiliar song or two at his live shows. When he pulled “Ballad of the Crimson Kings” out of his pocket, it felt like someone softly rubbing my back to wake me. With a big, calloused, twangy hand. And I gladly opened my eyes. At one point in the evening, I thought about how awesome it was to be out, listening to live music and totally digging the scene. No stress there.

So here’s what I’m thinking: I’ll keep working on de-stressing myself. I’ll plug away until this damned record is released (it really is good, you’ll see — eventually). And I’ll do my very best to sparkle until it’s my time to fade away and join Granny Vera in the sweet by and by. In the meantime, the Xanax is on stand-by and unopened thus far, thank you very much.

I’m taking a deep breath. I’m holding it. I’m letting it out slowly, blowing out the candles. And I’m making a glitter-covered wish. I do love sparkles…

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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April 2010

Hey, Kids–

“A place in thy memory, dearest,

Is all that I claim;

To pause and look back when thou hearest

The sound of my name.”

Gerald Griffin

(1803 – 1840)

It’s a little cool here in L.A., but it’s also been 80 degrees. A week and a half ago, I was wearing 3 t-shirts, 1 shrug, 1 when-I-grow-up-I’ll-be-a-real-coat coat, thigh-high socks, a 2nd pair of socks, jeans, 2 scarves, a hat and elbow-length gloves as I stood outside Antone’s club in Austin, TX. It was the first day of Spring, and Winter bitch-slapped us all into 30-something degree weather. I was waiting outside for over an hour and it was fierce (and not in the cool way, either — just the freaking cold way). When the doors finally opened, the sweet, sweet heat of the club just about made me cry tears of joy.

I was at SXSW again, and it was the last night of the festival. That evening’s show was supposed to be in honor of the reunion of Big Star. It would have been a hot ticket, just for that. But life sometimes has an odd way of forcing plan B in our faces. And that’s what happened at South-By. You see, Mr. Alex Chilton — producer, writer, musician and Big Star member — passed away a few days before he and the band were to take the stage. Heart attack. It was quite a shock to the music world, and an even greater loss to his family and friends, including Jody Stephens, Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of Big Star. They, along with the South-By organizers, decided to go on with the show. It wouldn’t be a reunion show; it would be a musical memorial to Alex.

As I stood against the stage, I watched a mixture of musicians, familiar and unfamiliar, as they respectfully came up and did Big Star songs. No one made any speeches. No one told a single anecdote. It was quite orderly. And it was quite serious. I’m not sure anyone could have done anything differently.

Honestly, I don’t know how they did it at all. I was directly in front of Jody Stephens, the drummer, and his eyes were full of tears most of the night. This was rough, folks. They were struggling up there. And we all felt it.

But we felt so much more. We felt the performances. We felt the love. Mostly, we felt the music. And it was awesome. If you’re thinking you don’t know Big Star’s music, you might be mistaken. The theme song from “That 70′s Show” (covered by Cheap Trick) is called “In the Street” and it’s a Big Star song. While that may be their most well-known tune, it isn’t their only popular song. It is entirely possible that “September Gurls” may be lodged in the back of your brain. And “Thirteen” is the sort of song that gets stuck in play after hearing it only once. I know. It’s been haunting me since that night.

After coming home and having time to think about Big Star and their music, I started wondering why they aren’t more well-known. Sure — they influenced a lot of musicians and bands (REM, the Replacements, Nirvana). But I didn’t even realize I knew a few of their songs until that night. Once I heard the tunes, I was able to say, “Oh! I’ve heard that song before.” But why isn’t the name “Big Star” familiar to me?

I have a theory: they were ahead of their time. It happens. You see, Big Star recorded 3 records in the 1970′s. That’s all well and fine, except they were making what most of us call “’80′s music.” And ’80′s music had no place in the ’70′s. The critics may have loved them, but that doesn’t mean you and I got to hear them.

So now I know. And maybe you do, too. (Maybe you knew all along.) Learning about good music is always a good thing. Always. And if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and get the Big Star box set. I need to listen to “Thirteen” about a hundred and fifty times, so that I can finally get it out of my head. For now.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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May 2010

Hello, Darlings–

“We’re all very different people. We’re not Watusi. We’re not Spartans. We’re Americans, with a capital ‘A’ … You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We’re the underdog. We’re mutts! Here’s proof: his nose is cold! But there’s no animal that’s more faithful, that’s more loyal, more lovable than the mutt.”

Bill Murray as John Winger

“Stripes”

1981

Recently, I’ve mentioned being stressed. And while I don’t want to bore you with the plethora of reasons, I will share one with you: I’ve been missing my great-grandparents. In particular, I miss my great-grandmother, my Granny Vera. As I get older, I long for some connection to my past, my history. Sadly, I don’t have any photos or mementos of Granny Vera. Only memories. Lately, she’s been popping up in dreams and in random thoughts. I’d like to think it all means something, but I just don’t have a clue.

Anyway, I came home a week or so ago and found a package in the mail. It was from an extended family member who lives in Georgia (not on Granny Vera’s side). I’d love to be able to tell you the exact relation, but I’m a terrible southerner when it comes to just what number a cousin is, and how many times removed. Because I was never taught much about any family heritage, the particulars of relations just sort of fell by the wayside.

I opened the package and found a lovely note from Miss Pat, along with a couple of discs, each full of information about our ancestry. It seems Miss Pat has been quite busy, tracking down our family history. She’s not only done a great deal of research, she’s also done a tremendous amount of verification. My hat was off to her before I ever popped in the first disc. After going through the content, I felt I needed to buy the woman a pony.

Here are some of the highlights: Yours truly is a direct descendant of King Henry I of England, as well as Charlemagne. And then there was the aunt who married Thomas Jefferson, and the aunt who was grandmother to William Shakespeare (making him a distant cousin). One stray cousin was none other than Lady Godiva and, closer to home, my great, great, great, great grandfather discovered gold in north Georgia and set off the very first gold rush in the United States.

Now, those are some fun names and facts to toss about. And I’ve been enjoying referencing my lineage around the house by saying things like, “Charlemagne wouldn’t have to do the dishes,” and “King Henry would not eat hot dogs.” But let me share some of the coolest names in my crooked family tree.

There’s Olive Branch (Sr., Jr., and III — all males); Temperance Flowerdieu; Simon of Nettlecombe-Raleigh; Alice Fitz-Piers Fitzherbert; Lettice Pennystone; Ten More Davis; John Blower Blow; Lottie Bell Key; Stubble Stubbleson; Jemima Britton; Ludgate Sparks; Turold of Coventry; Merfyn the Freckled; Paternus of the Scarlet Cloak; Sigurd Snake-in-Eye; Bertha Broadfoot de Laon; and Fredegunde (“one of the most blood-thirsty women in history”). “The Merchant of Boston” was the moniker of one immigrant. And there were many who were “known as,” like “Richard the Good,” “Robert the Devil” and “Pippin the Short.”

I just love knowing that these people existed at some point in time. And that I share their DNA. Yes, there were nobles and royalty. There were also concubines, crazies, peasants and slave owners. The royal blood may be mixed in there somewhere, but I know my pedigree is more mutt than pure. And that’s okay with me. I’ll own my lineage honestly.

So I thank Miss Pat (first cousin, once removed — see, I’m learning) for not only doing so much research, but also for sharing the results with her California cousin. Miss Pat sent me a package and she brightened up an otherwise average day. She gave me knowledge. She gave me entertainment. Most importantly, she gave me roots. Just when I needed them most. For that, I will be eternally grateful.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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June 2010

Hey–

Three male dogs encounter a beautiful female poodle and immediately fall in love. Well aware of her own charms and her effect on the males, she announces, “I want a mate with brains, therefore I will only date the dog who creates an imaginative, intelligent sentence using the words ‘cheese’ and ‘liver.’”

The first male dog, a Labrador Retriever, quickly responds, “I love cheese and liver!”

“How childish,” huffs the poodle. “That shows no imagination or intelligence whatsoever.”

She turns to the second male dog, a Cocker Spaniel. He responds tentatively, “Uh, I hate cheese and liver?”

The poodle shows her disgust. “That’s no better than the other sentence! What about you, Mr. Chihuahua?”

The final, tiny dog grins, turns to the other two males and says, “Liver alone! Cheese mine!”

(I cannot guarantee this joke to be funny.)

Last week I had a rough morning and needed help. These things happen. I got in my car and let my heart navigate. In no time at all, I was at my friend Nagle’s house. I knew she’d be able to help. I knew she’d be able to guide me to reason and comfort. I knew she’d gently lift my spirits. I just knew she’d be there for me. Only she wasn’t, as she wasn’t home.

I decided to sit on her front porch, hoping she’d soon pull in the driveway. It was early and I had a lot to do, but I wasn’t able to “get on with it” just yet. I needed to cry a bit and work through the clouds before I could get to the light. Nagle’s front porch seemed as good a place as any to ride out my storm.

The morning was cool and sunny. All was quiet at Nagle’s house. Right up until it wasn’t — her dogs had spotted me through a window, charged out the dog door in the back and were flying around the house before I could even brace myself. I know Nagle’s two dogs, and there was a new, third dog with them that morning as well. But I’ve never been alone with them. So while I wouldn’t say I was scared, I will say I was a bit skittish.

What do I know about dogs? Nothing, really. When I was a kid, we always had dogs. Mutts. And I loved them all. I still love them. They were my friends. But my family gave up dogs before I was a teenager and I haven’t had one since. (I don’t have any pets, not even a fish.) Many friends not only have dogs, they also seem to know more than anyone should about various breeds. I mean, I can recognize a poodle when I see one, but a Labra-doodle? A Whippet? A Rhodesian Ridgeback? I don’t think so. I don’t know a dang thing about dogs.

Anyway, I was sitting there on Nagle’s porch, crying, and these three dogs just, well, they took care of me. Moxie, the big yellow dog (that’s the best I can do to tell you about her breed), sat beside me and placed her paw on my heart. Gherkin, the little but mighty dog, lay right across my lap and looked into my face. The new dog — a large, black and friendly fella — wasn’t able to get anywhere near me. Each time he tried, Gherkin growled and circled me, keeping the new dog at bay. It was as if Gherkin was saying, “Liver alone! Cheese mine!” As for me, I didn’t talk too much. Moxie and Gherkin just stayed there with me, silently caring for me.

I know this may sound crazy, but I really believe those dogs were trying their very best to comfort me. And they did. They kept me company. They gave me love. They let me cry until I was finished. When they stepped away from me, I knew it was time to get in my car and get on with my day. And that’s just what I did.

Don’t get me wrong, folks. I know that those dogs would have responded that way with whomever may have been sitting on the porch that day. It just happened to be me. And I will be eternally grateful to Moxie, Gherkin and Deluca (the name of the new dog, which I learned a few days ago). They gave me such good vibes. Those dogs have sweet souls and I am honored to know them. Until I get my own dog (and I will — at some point), I may have to hang out with the Nagle Trifecta. Those are some deep, deep dogs. Damn.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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July 2010

Greetings–

“One bad apple don’t spoil the whole bunch, girl.

Oh, I don’t care what they say,

I don’t care what you heard.”

“One Bad Apple”

written by George Jackson

(b. 1936)

Cheese and rice.

I’ve been working through (and sometimes around) a lot of my issues lately, and I’m feeling pretty good. Just the other day, I was at painting class, and I felt flippin’ great. I mean, what’s not to love? It’s a creative space. I’m learning. I’m painting. It’s awesome.

And right in the middle of it, a few people began to bring drama to the scene. It was just plain odd. Here we all were, blessed to be there, and a few bozos felt the need to rain on my artistic parade. One student kept complaining – to me – about our instructor spending too much time with a few other students. As there were only a handful of us in class, I didn’t share her opinion at all. She had pulled up a stool beside my easel and just went on and on (and on). I finally told her the reason our teacher was helping others was simple: they had asked. I don’t think she liked my response, as she rather quickly moved away from my area. Works for me. The next bit of drama proved a bit more sticky.

The painting class I attend is quite the experience. The students are from various countries and they speak several different languages. Honestly, I don’t understand more than half of what is being said. And I like that. It feels like I’m traveling when I’m there. I just sort of do my thing, with an international sound-track around me. (I won’t go into my feelings about having been told – many times – that I should make the effort to learn another language so that they don’t have to translate for me. Especially since I’ve never asked for a single translation.) Anyway, I know that when I’m there, I represent only one hue. As a class, we come together and equal a fabulous rainbow. And it’s lovely. Except when someone decides it’s okay to openly slam either an absent classmate or an entire group. And that’s what happened. Someone decided to tell me (me!) how very awful every single member of a particular religion is, no exceptions.

Let me be clear about something. There are bung-holes all over the globe. You can find one in every religion / group / club / faction / gang / affiliation / fraternity / sorority / gathering / assemblage in the world. And while that’s a bummer (no pun intended), it’s okay. Because there are far more good, decent human beings than bung-holes. The good folks don’t get nearly as much press, but they still outnumber the bad guys.

So when this particularly negative student made an absolute statement about several million people, I looked her in the eye and said, “I simply do not accept what you’re saying.” And that proved to be enough. She shut her pie-hole right up. Since I didn’t allow her to monologue, there would be no more dialogue. Again, works for me.

I’d love it if more and more of us could move toward acceptance of one another. That would really change the vibration of this planet. I say “acceptance” because it’s heartbreaking that we often merely “tolerate” one another. But I’ll take tolerance. If that’s the best we can do, so be it.

I wanted to tell the intolerant student that as surely as she’s judging an entire religion, someone else out there is doing the same to her and her religion. But I didn’t. She has to come to that one on her own. In the meantime, I plan to send a few good thoughts her way. It might not help, but it sure won’t hurt. She’s not so bad. She’s just a little misguided is all. And, like it or not, we need every well-guided and misguided color, size, shape, religion, gender and belief to have a complete rainbow. Works for me.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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August 2010

Hey, Y’all–

“We are the C.I.T.s, so pity us.

The kids are brats; the food is hideous.

We’re gonna smoke and drink and fool around.

We’re nookie-bound!

We are the North Star C.I.T.s!”

“Meatballs”

1979

26 July, Monday

I’m beat. It’s only 9pm, but I can barely keep my eyes open.

Today was the first day of “Rock Camp for Girls, L.A.” and I’m a camp counselor. I went into this thinking it was a good way to volunteer and to do something with music at the same time. I didn’t have to worry about managing my expectations, as I had no idea what to expect. I couldn’t have possibly imagined the reality.

I’m working with “Flats” — girls under 12 years old — and today they formed themselves into bands. Our band decided to call themselves “Pop Fusion.” They are flippin’ precious, too. The four of them are ages 8, 9, 10 and 11. And as cute as they are (and they are), they are also challenging (and they are). One in particular, who shall remain nameless, pushed me right up to the very, very end of my wits. And then she pushed a little more. As I didn’t want my camp experience to include choking a child, I had to pull back and think about this little darling. I decided she’s just really smart and needs to be challenged. And loved.

I’ll try to remember that tomorrow. And the next day. And the next. And… Day 1 video…

27 July, Tuesday

Almost 9 o’clock and yes, I’m about ready to hit the hay.

Second day of Rock Camp was amazing. “Little Darling?” Oh, yeah, she’s definitely karmic retribution of some sort. And I’m completely certain this child was sent as a tremendous growth opportunity for me. I just haven’t figured out how to move to that growth.

But today saw an entirely different challenge placed before me. I became so overwrought with emotion, I had to excuse myself from one of the workshops. These girls are so very young and so very amazing. And I just hit this wall today. I don’t know what happened or how, but I felt so protective of them and I sort of lost it for a moment. I managed to leave the area before anyone saw me get wiggly, and I was able to talk through it with other counselors (which left a few of us in tears) and the talking helped. A lot. I hadn’t bargained on this raw-nerve aspect. And it drained me.

That and the morning’s non-stop dancing have left me too pooped to pop. But not to rock! I can’t wait for tomorrow. Day 2 video…

28 July, Wednesday

I can’t believe we’ve only got 2 more days.

Today I decided to deal with my “Little Darling” challenges, and I dove right in. I asked a few other counselors for advice and received several brilliant ideas. I used their suggestions and it really paid off. Not only did I end up getting support and help, I also felt really positive at the end of it all. And I think our camper benefitted as well. I truly hope so.

I got to bond with some of the other counselors today, too. And that was just awesome. What a fabulous group of chicks! And we all had a great time after camp was finished for the day… did someone say “kegger?” Yep. We all kicked back and had some sweet, sweet adult time. Honestly, I think we needed it. I know I did.

Have I mentioned how incredibly proud I am of each of these girls (little and big)? They are so rad! Day 3 video…

29 July, Thursday

Are you kidding me? “Pop Fusion” is the most awesome band ever! Seriously. These girls have formed a band, written a song, made their own t-shirts (and I was able to snag one for myself) and now they’re rehearsing for their debut at the Troubadour on Saturday. Not only that, a couple of them picked up their instrument just this week. For the first time. Ever. I am in awe of these kids and their creativity. If you knew how many times I’ve had to wipe tears away, you’d laugh. I could cry right now, just thinking about how cool these kids are.

I think maybe the thing that gets to me right now is how they’ve accepted me. They greet me each morning, sporting gi-normous smiles and a few of them come right up and hug me. I knew this would be one hell of a week. I just didn’t know how.

It’s nearing 9 o’clock and I have a lot to do before tomorrow (the last day of camp!). I want to make sure I’m ready for the girls. They so deserve it. And more. Maybe I do, too.

30 July, Friday

I don’t know what to say. I cried while driving downtown this morning. Just knowing that this amazing week was nearing its end was a bit overwhelming. You could tell that the kids were feeling it, too. But we all managed to keep it together. Right up until we didn’t.

At the very end of the day — after our last group-sing-a-long of the Rock Camp L.A. song, after having watched all the youngest girls’ bands go through stage rehearsal, after a post-lunch dance party — we were saying goodbye to each other and spreading the love. I was fine, really. I had gone up to each of my band members and told them how proud I am of all that they are, and I was doing the same with a few other girls, too. I found the last little girl I wanted to touch base with and when I looked her in the eye, I started to slip. I soldiered on though, and felt like I could make it. And then her father put his arm around me and told me what the week has meant to him, as a parent. Dude. I totally lost it. I had to beg him to stop, as I didn’t want to fall on the floor in a crumpled heap (NOT very rock star).

And that’s how all the parents have been. They’re all so fabulous, just like their girls. Drats. Here go the waterworks again. I pray for the strength to get through tomorrow’s show at the Troubadour. I think I’ll go put a handkerchief in my bag right now…

31 July, Saturday

It’s nearing midnight and I’m finally home. It’s been a long day. It’s been a long week. I feel like I’ll be processing all of this for some time.

Today’s show at the Troubadour was packed, about 300 people total. The girls did an amazing job and some of them blew my mind. Seriously, I still can’t find it. “Pop Fusion” was pretty awesome, just as I knew they would be. And I was really proud of them. I think they’re proud of themselves, too. I certainly hope so.

After all the “fans” had left the building and we had loaded out all our gear, we all walked down the street for a celebration. That’s when we had to face our own music and acknowledge that we wouldn’t be seeing one-another every day. There were hugs. There were a few tears. There was plenty of praise and love. And it was completely sincere. I had to leave early to hit a Hollywood Bowl show, but I still felt the good vibes. I feel them now.

A few months ago, I decided to volunteer at Rock Camp for Girls. I wanted to give back. I wanted to be part of the circle of good in this world. I ended up going to summer camp. For the first time. Ever. And while it wasn’t perfect (that problem child tested me right up until the very end of the last day), it was practically perfect. And here’s what I learned at summer camp: I am awesome. I am fabulous. I am allowed to be me. I am smart and funny and people actually like me. And I am a rock star.

I can’t wait to go to camp next summer. There’s no telling what I’ll learn…

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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September 2010

Friends–

“We are the music makers,

And we are the dreamers of dreams,

Wandering by lone sea-breakers,

And sitting by desolate streams;

World-losers and world-forsakers,

On whom the pale moon gleams:

Yet we are the movers and shakers

Of the world for ever, it seems.”

“Ode”

Arthur O’Shaughnessy

(1844 – 1881)

I never saw “Roots.” I was only a small child, granted, but I remember being told that we wouldn’t be watching that in our house. Oh, the claws of racism…

But I did watch “The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau” and “The Thorn Birds.” To this day, I absolutely adore “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory.” Now, if you’re wondering why I’m thinking of such random entertainment, well, I’m not being so random at all. You see, all of the aforementioned productions were brought to the world by David L. Wolper.

Mr. Wolper passed away a couple of weeks ago, and last night I attended his memorial. I was there to support his son and my friend, Michael. I had been introduced to Mr. Wolper a few times over the past couple of years, and I was always in awe of the man who gave me “Willy Wonka.” Though I can’t claim to have known him really, I did respect him for his tremendous body of work. Last evening’s memorial only solidified that admiration.

It was a packed house. Friends, colleagues and family members all paid tribute to the man they knew and loved. There were famous faces there, yes. Respect was given. Funny stories were told. A “60 Minutes” interview with Mr. Wolper was shown. All in all, it was a positive, inspiring and touching memorial.

And isn’t that the most we can hope for? Not many of us will have buildings named for us. Not many of us will change an industry. But don’t you hope that, after you’re gone (a long, long time from now), people will speak kindly of you and express how you touched their lives? Don’t you hope you are touching lives? Dear Lord, I hope that for myself. I mean, I am so fortunate to have beautiful beings crossing my path each day, reaching out and inspiring me.

And Mr. Wolper’s service was no exception. Not only was I able to marvel at his fully-lived life; not only was I entertained by the sweet souls who graced the stage; I was profoundly touched when Michael stood before the theater to eulogize his father at the close of the memorial.

Michael was more eloquent and more distinguished than I’ve ever known him to be (and he’s pretty debonair to begin with). He spoke with dignity, but he did it in such a way as to allow all of us to glimpse inside his heart and its pain. He told us that while the stories being shared were wonderful and appreciated, he just missed his dad. When he spoke of disappointing his father, so many of the people in attendance knew exactly what he meant and they empathized. Michael took a big risk to stand before us and be vulnerable. In doing so, he was more of a man than ever. I cried then, and I’m crying now. I know that wasn’t easy for him. I’m terribly proud of him for doing it anyway.

While Michael mourns the loss of his father, I wish him well. While the world mourns the loss of a gifted producer, I wish us the same. Personally, I will spend the rest of my life searching for that “golden ticket.” It’s bound to show up. Otherwise, I think it’s high time I watch “Roots.”

Godspeed, Mr. Wolper.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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October 2010

Hello, Dolls!

“Among those whom I like or admire,

I can find no common denominator,

but among those whom I love,

I can: all of them make me laugh.”

W.H. Auden

(1907 – 1973)

I’m busy-busy here, but wanted to share a giggle with you…

On Monday, I was at my local warehouse store (Costco) and it was crazy in there. I think it had something to do with the record-setting heat here in L.A. Anyway, as I was checking out, the clerk said something I didn’t quite understand. He said, “Mikki — that’s hot.” Now I was only buying two things, and neither was supposed to be hot, or even warm. I looked at him with complete confusion, and he pointed to the photo on the back of my membership card. “Your picture,” he said, “that’s hot. I mean, you look like a rice farmer in Asia.”

Friends, you may know this about me already, and if you don’t, allow me to share: I don’t usually wear make-up. I don’t usually glam-up my hair. I don’t usually wear anything other than work-out clothes. Usually.

But when I do decide it’s time to put forth a little effort, I clean up well. Real well, if I do say so myself. I’m not saying I’m the belle of the ball, I’m not. In fact, I spend so much time with totally hot babes, I’m often rendered invisible. And that’s okay, because I know that when it’s time for me to shine, I’m able to do so — as my best me. So don’t think I’m comparing myself to anyone else. I’m comparing myself to myself.

So here I was, being told by the Costco guy that my card photo was a little less that Vogue-worthy. I just about cried — from laughter. It was so flippin’ funny, and really, it is a whack-job photo. (I’d ridden my bike there on picture day. And it shows.) As I laughed at the whole dang situation, he laughed with me. I turned to leave and heard him greeting the next customer, and that clerk was just as happy as a denuded lark in a thistle patch. And so was I.

But seriously, next time I go to Costco, I’m dolling it…

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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November 2010

Hiya–

“I want to be thoroughly used up when I die…”

George Bernard Shaw

(1856 – 1950)

No doubt the change of seasons has me focusing on — what else — change. In fact, the other day I saw a tree that was being tossed about in the relentless winds, and that tree was fighting with all its might. I mean it. Not only did it look like the tree was absolutely refusing to shed a single leaf, but also resisting changing its hue. I couldn’t imagine a tree fighting change, but there it seemed to be. On the human hand, I know exactly how it feels to be a person fighting change.

Why do I fight? I don’t know. I don’t. Somehow I get the idea in my head that I’m being tossed about on the Sea of Change, with the dreaded claws of undertow pulling at my feet. And friends, that’s just bull-biscuits. The truth is, while the waves may be a bit rough, I’m usually bobbing along on the surface — inflatable, rubber penguin around my waist and margarita in my hand. Rocks. Salt.

The only constant in life is change. Resistance is futile. (That’s for all my Trekkies. Word.) As I continue the shedding of my skin, I’m just gonna keep going. Why not? Yes. I say yes.

Best–

Mikki Brisk

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December 2010

Winter Greetings!

“Music, when soft voices die,

Vibrates in the memory…”

Percy Bysshe Shelley

(1792 – 1822)

Years ago, I was driving home on the 405. It was very late and there wasn’t too much traffic. I was listening to the radio and I heard a particular piece of music for the first time. I was so taken by what I heard, I immediately looked for an exit off the freeway, so that I could pull over and succumb to the feelings arising from the sounds.

Has this ever happened to you? I bet it has. I bet you can tell me exactly where you were the first time you heard something that affected you profoundly. Maybe, like me, you remember the first time you heard The Clash. Or maybe you can describe the room you were in the first time you were moved to tears by Mary Chapin Carpenter. I can not only recall the scenes involved with the aforementioned examples, I can also remember quite a few others. Those memories are a part of me, and they’re sweet. Music has been in my life since I was old enough to bob my head from side to side. I’m happy to say I’m still deeply affected by a brilliant piece of music, be it bebop or pop, reggae or rock, jazz or hip-hop.

And so, a few weeks ago, when I heard about the passing of Polish composer Henryk Gorecki, I paused for a few moments. For you see, it was his music that stirred me so deeply all those years ago as I drove home late one night. It was his composition that moved me so completely that I had to pull over.

We are all blessed to have music in our lives. And if we’re able to attach memories to sound, all the better. I can’t imagine a more fitting tribute to music creators than to honor their works with warm remembrances. Mr. Gorecki will never know what the inside of that old car’s dashboard looked like as it glowed in the dark, or how the car’s heat smelled in the cold night; how sparse the traffic was as I came over the hill to see the lights of the valley before me, and how his music swelled just as I was able to take it all in. He’ll never know, but I’ll never forget.

Best–

Mikki Brisk