The Bushwick Book Club of Santa Barbara County

 

 

Late last year, a wonderful friend contacted me and asked if I’d like to take part in her book club’s project: read John Steinbeck’s East of Eden and write a song or two inspired by the book. My first thought was – I haven’t read East of Eden. Next, I thought about how – for a variety of reasons – I hadn’t performed in front of real people for quite a while. I ruminated and I ruminated and finally I sat down to respond to my friend’s query…

 

“…The truth is I like your idea / challenge, and the fact that it makes me uncomfortable to think about it

seems like a good reason to sign up.

Maybe. So yes. Put me down as part of The Mission.

I think. Yes. Yes. I’m in.

Am I?…”

 

And with a hit of the send button, I committed.

 

 

At first, as I read I flagged the bo0k with post-its, thinking I’d come back to an inspiring word/phrase/section and attempt to compose a song at a later time. But after a while, I remembered that when the bug hits, that’s the time to scratch it. So I allowed myself to be in the moment and wrote when the light-bulb flashed.

 

Once I’d written the song, I knew I needed to practice. Like I said, I hadn’t performed for quite a while and I didn’t want that to hold me back in my delivery. So I began working to memorize my song (thank you, Franz Liszt for forcing us all to do that) and to tweak my presentation. I knew this wasn’t a grand showcase or anything, but preparation is key. And I wanted to do well. For my friend and for myself. I suppose I also wanted to do well for “Charles” – the character that inspired my song. (It never occurred to me to want to do well for Mr. Steinbeck. Oops.)

 

 

So last week I drove myself to Santa Barbara to get my Steinbeck on, along with several other songwriters. The event was held at The Guitar Bar in downtown Santa Barbara and that joint is gi-gorgeous. Seriously. A few folks referred to it as “guitar porn” and I agreed. The shop’s owner, Jamie, was such an amiable guy and his generosity in allowing the Bushwick Book Club to stage its meetings there is fairly grand. His place is comfortable and welcoming. I strongly encourage music lovers and players to stop in his store, next time you’re in Santa Barbara.

 

 

Anyhoo, back to the show. It was truly fascinating to hear how other folks were affected by the book. Some were drawn to the same language. Some were drawn to the same characters or plot lines. And as songwriters, no two of us were the same. My brilliant friend, Kate Graves, performed a lovely song that was as sweet as it was heartbreaking…

 

 

I hadn’t seen Tom Prasada Rao for a few years and it was good to catch up with him. He was inspired to write 2 songs and I loved them both. But that first one – wow. I told him I want need a recording of it and I wasn’t lying…

 

 

When my spot in the line-up rolled around, I took the stage and va-va-voomed my way through my tune…

 

 

And then it was over. The good people attending the meeting made their way out of The Guitar Bar toward home and we musicians packed up our gear. Jamie and his crew began putting the shop back in order and good-byes were made. I hit the road for my drive back to Los Angeles and left Santa Barbara in the rearview.

 

 

When I think of how easy it would have been to simply not respond to my friend’s invitation to participate, I have to shake my head. Saying Yes to something that made me uncomfortable was a good idea. And I’m glad I did it. Giving my word and agreeing to perform were very real commitments to me. Putting in the time and rehearsing were also commitments. I was forced (by myself) to actually show the hell up. And I did.

 

I’d like to embrace this year with that attitude of Yes that got me through the first presentation of The Bushwick Book Club of Santa Barbara County. I’d like to have a little more faith in myself. I’d like to grab hold of opportunities to see the people I adore most in this world (I’m talking about you, Kate Graves). I’d like to own being Me.

 

 

Here’s to grasping our lives. Here’s to facing fears. Here’s to You and Me.

“Found Words” at The Ebell

 

 

 

This week I participated in a night of storytelling at The Ebell in Los Angeles. Six other writers and I got together to weave tales in The Ebell’s historic Fine Arts Theater. Friends, family and complete strangers gathered for the sole purpose of listening. I think Mister put it best when he said, “This is throwback entertainment.”

 

When I was initially asked to participate in this event, I immediately wanted to say no. The mere thought of getting up in front of people to read one of my stories paralyzed me with fear. What would I share? Why would anyone be interested in something I wrote? I’ve never done that! These thoughts of self-doubt (and about a jillion others) raced through my mind and very nearly kept me from saying yes.

 

But then I realized my fear was only fear. And that the worst case scenario was I would keep my head down and read my story during my time on stage, never looking up. I mean, it was a reading after all, right?

 

So before I could second-guess myself… Before I could shun the people who believed in me enough to invite me in the first place… Before I could sabotage what might be a new and positive experience, I said Yes. I committed to participating in the event and that was that.

 

I worked on my story. I did. I practiced reading and I even consulted a fabulous actor friend, taking her advice and trying my best to incorporate her excellent suggestions. She told me that the more I could memorize, the better my eye-contact with the audience. I knew what she meant. I’m often “the audience” at such events and it definitely makes a difference if one feels a connection with the performer. I love that feeling. Of course I wanted to foster that from my side of the podium. So I practiced some more. On one particular day, I went over my 10-minute story so many times I was left hoarse. But it was the right thing to do.

 

I wanted to give my best. Now, I felt this way simply because, but I had also invited several folks to the reading. And – lo and behold – they were actually planning to attend. If I told you how uncomfortable I was in simply inviting people to this event, you wouldn’t believe me. I go see friends as they pursue various performing endeavors all the time. And I love it! Concert? Sure! Stand-up? You bet! Theater? Dance? Recital? Gallery Show? Yes, yes, yes and yes! But to ask people to show up for me is beyond painful. Let me just say there was a lot of deep breathing involved and a lot of denying my dark side. But I did take the breaths and I did quiet the critic and I did ask my friends to attend.

 

Here’s what happened: people showed up. They braved traffic. They bought their tickets. They gave me more love and support than I ever expected. And though I’m not very good at receiving, I tried. And I said Thank You. And I hugged each of them, and even slow-danced with the gal with the second greatest dimples on earth (Mister’s receive top billing, don’t you know). I marveled at the love I was given. I felt my heart stretch at its crooked seams. And I realized I actually have friends. As much as I go through life thinking my love for these wonderful souls is one-sided, it absolutely isn’t. Whether or not I’ve admitted it, I am loved in return. I can’t tell you how it makes me feel to own that. To accept it. To allow it into my walled existence.

 

Anyhoo, the other night I got up and read my story, and I was fine. I was off-the-page enough to feel good about looking at the audience, and when I did look down I somehow managed to know just where I was in the telling. I got to hear the other stories and I got to meet the other writers and I got to check off my First Reading. All in all, it went pretty well.

 

For what it’s worth, I can tell you my goal was to warrant being included with that group of storytellers. I simply wanted to hold my own, to be my finest version of me. Nothing more, but certainly nothing less. I think that goal was accomplished.

 

But if there were doubts, they were certainly quelled when I received a beautiful note from a friend the morning after. She shared a personal experience, then tied it to my self-doubts about the previous evening’s Reading. Her note ended, “Just let go. You’re a lot better than you think you are.”

 

To her, and to all the Friends who showed up, laughed and applauded – Thank You. You will never know what your support means. And if your affection for me is a mere smidgen of mine for you, well, I am blessed beyond all measure.

One Night Only!

 

 

Tonight I will be appearing with 6 other writers at The Ebell of Los Angeles for an evening of storytelling. “Found Words” will feature Brian Baldini, Karin Bugge, Jeanne Darst, Margaret Finnegan, Kelly Russell, Desiree Zamorano and myself. We’ll be reading our own works and then meeting and greeting folks after the show.

 

I tell you this because if you’re in the L.A. area, your presence would be greatly appreciated! Not only that, but I think you’d really enjoy seeing the historic Ebell’s Fine Arts Theater. It’s a beautiful old space, and it holds so much life. Did you know it was the last place Amelia Earhart spoke before departing for what would be her last adventure? I’ve been there a few times now and I absolutely love the joint. It’s pretty danged special.

 

I’m thinking the night itself will be special, too, and I’m super looking forward to hearing the other storytellers weave their tales. I’m fairly mortified of my own part of the evening, but I figured that since it scares me so much, I must face the challenge and get up there and friggin’ do it. In other words, I’m trying to be brave and live my life. I’ve heard that’s what we’re supposed to do. I guess I’ll find out.

 

Again, if you’re in the ‘hood and are looking for some entertainment, come on down to The Ebell. And be sure and say hi after the show. I’ll be the one who’s giddy with excitement at having survived.

Heroes

 

 

I’d been waiting to watch it. My friend Betro was waiting, too, so that we could watch together: the Kate Bush documentary that recently aired on BBC. A buddy had sent a copy from the UK and Betro and I wanted to make it an occasion.

 

When we finally sat down together, our focus on the television screen, neither of us had any idea what to expect. Betro pressed play…

 

Do you have heroes? Do you have people whose talents you admire, if not downright envy? Is there someone in the world you look up to? Someone you don’t actually know, yet you’re grateful for?

 

Kate Bush is one such person for me. And while I have her entire musical catalog in my possession, I can’t say I’ve ever known much about her. Her personal life has never been a topic of conversation in my little world. And I’m not so stalkerish as to wonder where she lives or how she goes about her day-to-day existence. All I’ve cared about is the music. Her songs have provided refuge and entertainment. I’ve listened to her music when I’ve felt alone and when I’ve wanted to dance. I’ve depended on her talents for inspiration and comfort. Again and again, her music has been there for me.

 

When the documentary ended, I covered my face with my hands, to enclose my tears. I finally looked up and saw Betro doing the same. It seemed we were both profoundly affected by the Kate Bush doc. Our ensuing conversation covered not only our feelings about the documentary, but also our personal histories with the music of Kate Bush. We talked about how we perceived her talents and choices. We talked about our own life choices. And fear. How there’s far too much of it. How it cripples.

 

And we talked about how grateful we are that some folks find a way to move through their own fear (if they have it) and produce beauty in this world. About how our tears were joyful. About how nice it was to be able to share our thoughts and feelings together.

 

Heroes sometimes wear uniforms. Sometimes they stand high above the rest of us. More often than not, however, they look just like us. Doing their best to get along in this world with what they’ve got. Make no mistake – they are not without fear. Like us, their thoughts occasionally run to the perceived pain of failure. But unlike many of us, they go ahead and try to make their lives into – something.

 

Thank goodness.

RCGLA 2014 – Day 2

 

 

 

Day 2.

 

At the beginning of Day 2, I decided to hit my own personal re-set button, as it was after all, a new day. I leaned on other volunteers when I needed them and I tried to be there for them when they needed me. The campers shone a bit more brightly in my eyes and I loved seeing their excitement. The strides those girls make on a daily basis is astounding. And powerful. It’s such an inspiration to watch fearlessness. It’s also inspiring to watch a chick conquer her fear. So much life, y’all. So very much.

 

So one of the highlights of my day was getting the above “tattoo.” One of our extraordinary volunteers brought her 3-year old – Bea – for a visit. I heard Bea liked to draw tattoos, so I asked her if I could book an appointment. She high-fived me and said yes, so I moseyed down at the appointed time and Bea picked a color. She then free-styled some ink on my arm. It was a sweet, fun, creative, beautiful moment.

 

That’s what Rock Camp is all about – those moments. You never know when they’ll show up, or how many you’ll get. And you don’t need to know. You just need to show up with open arms.

 

Though you can’t quite see it in the photo above, the number 42 is hidden in my Bea-Art. It wasn’t lost on me that 42 is the answer to Life, The Universe and Everything. Talk about a moment.

Tell Me A Story

 

 

I just finished a book. It was given to me years ago, and only recently found while unpacking a box. I admit, I never thought it would be my kind of book. There’s a dog on the cover, for cry-eye! I love dogs and all, but I just don’t see myself as the kind of gal who gravitates to books with dogs on their covers. Does that make sense?

 

Anyhoo, I decided to give this book a chance and cracked its spine.

 

Why do we like books? What is it about a story that draws us in, causing us to lean forward in our seats and to hold our breaths? A good book can stop the ticking hands of a clock, and before we know it we’ve engrossed ourselves in a book for hours on end. I suppose a good movie is just the same. But what is it that digs into our attention in the first place?

 

I’ve read that in many cultures, women are the keepers of stories. They are charged with holding on to the tales and fables that make up a people’s history. (In other cultures, men protect the same.) As this responsibility of story-keeping has lasted through millennia, it is clearly important and worthy of safe-guarding. This says to me that our regard for and attraction to stories have always been a part of us. And for the life of me, I can’t figure out why. Our desires and hopes for more in life? Our longing? Our sense of thrill at being frightened? The joy of laughter? The catharsis of crying?

 

I swear, I should probably not wonder at all why I love a good story. I should just keep seeking them out. Reading when I can. Watching good movies. Telling others about a good story when I cross its path and asking them to do the same. Have to try to remember that.

 

For now, I have to admit – I ended up falling for a book with a dog on the cover. I ended up respecting and admiring the dog. In fact, the dog ended up inspiring me to be a better person. I could cry right now, just thinking about the final pages. Instead, I think I’ll dry my tears and drop this book off in my neighborhood little free library box. Maybe someone else is ready to conquer her aversion to books with dogs on their covers. Lucky, lucky them.

Joy

 

 

I forget. Often. Not where I left my keys or the phone. Not my name or where I live. I forget joy.

 

It’s an ugly habit, forgetting joy. I am blessed beyond words and yet I often forget to simply relish every ordinary, uneventful, run-of-the-mill day. Because I am blessed, that means I am forgetting to relish most of my days, for the majority of my life is run-of-the-mill. Wonderfully so.

 

Cut to an early morning last week. I was sitting in the rumpus room, sipping coffee and thumbing through the latest Oprah magazine and listening to jazz. I could hear hummingbirds wrestling for ownership of the feeder outside the kitchen window. Squirrels were practicing acrobatics in the neighbor’s trees, just within earshot. Mister was taking a shower, down the hall. As I cracked the spine on the mag, I started reading about how others conquer worry and fear in their lives, and as I read, I realized the music was providing the perfect soundtrack to my morning: “Hymn to Freedom” performed by The Roger Kellaway Trio. For just a moment – a moment was all it took – I was present. I felt gratitude. I felt comfort. I felt alive.

 

I don’t know why I get so wound up. I don’t know why I lose track of my soul. I don’t know why, period. And I don’t like it.

 

So what can I do about it? How do I stay in touch with my spirit, the spirit that is gratitude and vibrancy? How do I diminish the anxiety, worry and fear that I’ve created in my realm? How do I re-claim me?

 

I’ve got a few ideas on this front. Maybe dance more. Maybe laugh more. Maybe start meditating. Maybe a lot of things. Only this time – unlike so many times before – maybe I’ll actually do some of these things and not just think about them. Maybe I’ll set a timer for 2 minutes and just laugh. Maybe I’ll set a timer for 5 minutes and just meditate. Can’t I spare 7 damn minutes a day, for my sanity?

 

When I think about my state of being, how it feels to be on edge most of the time, I can’t believe I even have to deliberate over setting aside a few minutes a day for myself. This life is all too short, and Lord knows I’ve wasted far too much of it already. I pray I can actually commit this time. I pray I can care enough for myself to make me a priority and to save me from, well, from me and my neuroses.

 

I do love this world and this life, y’all. In fact, I think now would be a good time to take a super-long walk. For exercise. For deep breathing. For me. And that’s the best reason of all.

Lockdown

 

 

I’m in a crowded room with about 50 others. Only a few moments ago, I was outside with about 50 others. It took us a while to hear the helicopters as they blared warnings to seek shelter. Get inside. Bolt the doors. Stay there. Lockdown.

 

This wasn’t part of the plan. This was supposed to be a gathering. A bunch of musicians getting together. Jamming. Making up songs. Sharing some beers. You know – a party. That’s what it was supposed to be. Supposed-to-be is a dangerous place.

 

I was supposed to be about a jillion different things. But I ended up being me. I didn’t know it would go the way it did, and I’m not complaining. Really, I’m not. It’s just that it’s easy to get wrapped up in supposed-to-be, resisting what-is. I’ve fallen prey to my own version of that game so many times, I’ve lost count. It’s uncomfortable. And I should apologize to myself. For I’m truly sorry for my behavior during those times.

 

But back to lockdown. A call was made to the local police, and it turns out there’s a burglary suspect in the immediate area. Maybe in this very building. Armed. Dangerous. Probably frightened and desperate. I don’t know how long we’ll be here. I’m told someone will call the police in about 45 minutes, if we don’t hear something sooner. I expect those 45 minutes will be long ones.

 

Many of the people here are musicians. They’ve put together a jam. To take our minds off the situation. It appears to be working for some folks. As I look around the room, there are more than a few other faces that look to be unaffected by the music. Like me, they seem to be thinking of the people waiting for them. At home.

 

I could text Mister, but I don’t want to worry him unnecessarily. At the same time, I’d like to hear nothing more than his voice right about now. He’s the soul who calms me. He’s the soul who strengthens me. Right now I’m feeling neither calm nor strong. But my desire to keep him calm is bigger than my need for comfort. Maybe.

 

Lockdown. It’s a word I’ve heard. A word I’ve used. But it isn’t anything I ever imagined going through myself. But there you go. That’s life for you. And since there’s no use fighting the situation, I think I might as well go with it. Someone’s singing a spicy Latin song. The rhythm is stirring. The vocals are saucy. I may even take a turn on the mic myself. If I do, I will not sing about lockdown.

 

Okay. Here’s what I’ve decided: I’m going to text Mister, telling him I’ve had a bit too much to drink. I’ll say I need to hang out at the party a while longer, so that I can sober up for the drive home. That should let him know why I’m not there yet and ease his mind. It doesn’t matter that I’ve not been drinking at all, or that I’m not allowed to leave. He doesn’t need to know all that. I’ll tell him the truth later. Once I’m home. If I get home.

 

The music is getting a bit more frantic now. It feels like our collective situation is creeping into the melodic distraction more than any of us prefer. At least, it feels that way to me. And I’ve decided I don’t want to take a turn on the mic after all. It wouldn’t be sincere. And I’d probably just start singing about wanting to get the hell out of this party-gone-wrong.

 

Lockdown. If I get out of here, this word will never again be flat, lifeless. For now I know just how curved and edgy it truly is. And I am reminded of how very much I love being alive. How I wish I were home right now. Home – with all its flaws and chores. I can’t imagine a more perfect place.

 

Note: This went down several weeks ago. Clearly, I survived – without incident – and all is well.

Fly

 

 

“I know I should feel welcome here, way up in the atmosphere

but I am afraid…”

Fly by Adrian Belew

 

Sometimes I find myself above the clouds, marveling at the beauty of our collective home. And no matter how stunning the view may be, eventually my mind wanders to an Adrian Belew song, Fly.

 

I remember the first time I heard it. I was mesmerized. To this day, the lyrics grab hold of me and don’t let go. The chords take me on an unexpected journey. It’s a haunting song, and it’s beautiful.

 

Personally, I’m not afraid of flying. But each and every time I find myself hovering above earth, I am afraid I’ll forget the words to this song. Luckily, it resides in my collection, to help me remember. No need to fear. None at all.

Saying Yes

 

 

I’ve been trying to figure out what’s causing the tension in my neck. I have a lot to do, but it’s all do-able, so that’s not it. I could use a workout, but I can carve out just enough time for it, so that’s not it. I’m in the middle of an avalanche of contracts, but that shall pass (eventually). That’s probably part of it. I don’t know. I suppose it all adds up to “it” – whatever “it” is.

 

There are a lot of unknowns right now. And I guess that freaks me out. So much of my life has been established as routine. So much of my life is predicated on predictability. Straying from that sometimes throws me for a loop, which sends me running back to my little cocoon of perceived safety.

 

But is that really living? If I know exactly what each coming day will bring, if my routine is so managed as to be expected, is that a life? What about change? What about spontaneity? What about the damned monkey wrenches that get hurled around by, well, monkeys? Am I so afraid of the unknowns as to want to forgo them entirely?

 

I think I know the answer to that last question, but my frazzled nerves tell a different story. And that’s my conundrum. How do I calm the frightened child within while also challenging the lust-for-life junkie? How do I protect the girl who wears sunblock every day of her life, while also cheering on the gal who’s jumped out of an airplane?

 

Right now, I don’t have an answer. And maybe I never will. Maybe I just keep moving. Forward, hopefully.

 

And maybe it’s okay to be terrified of life’s dark alleys, as long as I don’t shy away from life’s invigorating street fairs.

 

For the honest truth is, I don’t want to miss out on this ride. I don’t want to say no to living my all-too-short life when I could be screaming yes-yes-yes!

 

The sun is trying to peek through – outside and in. I want to say yes to its rays. And so I clear my throat…