Finally!

 

 

You may not believe this, but I finally finished reading East of Eden by John Steinbeck.

 

Perhaps you recall a post from the beginning of February, in which I described the impetus for picking the book up in the first place. And how I’d gotten through at least enough of it to be inspired to write a song. Though I didn’t go into details at that time, a lot of life (namely health stuff) was swirling around me and I was slow in attaching myself to Mr. Steinbeck’s tome.

 

Cut to the last few weeks, and I found myself wanting to get through the danged thang if only to put it on a shelf and be done with it. And then something funny happened. At around page 400 (I kid you not), I finally got interested. So the last 200 pages of the book were really compelling for me.

 

As a general rule, I believe life is too short to read bad or uninteresting books. I don’t know why I kept coming back to East of Eden, but I’m glad I did. In the end, I absolutely loved it. I’m guessing my failure to find interest in the first two-thirds of the book is due to my own shortcomings. Sticking with it, however, is due to my tenacity. (See – sometimes I’m nice to me.)

 

One final thing… When I re-read that original East of Eden post from early February, I loved the last lines about saying Yes to life. If nothing else, finishing the book and revisiting that post reminded me to go for it. Whatever it may be…

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.

Yes!

 

 

On Tuesday, after a couple of loads of laundry… After waiting for the A/C repair person to arrive and work his magic (we’d been without conditioned air for over a week)… I made my way to the record store and got the new Raining Jane / Jason Mraz CD, “Yes!” (I am fully aware it is referred to as a Jason Mraz CD, so don’t feel you need to educate me on that one, thank-you-very-much.)

 

I continue to be super-proud of my friends in Raining Jane. They’re the kind of gals you’d donate a kidney to. And perhaps even more important, I love each of them. That’s for real, y’all.

 

So I’m happy to report I’m part of the beautiful first-week sales success! I’m also happy to report that my friends will be on tour, supporting their work, for the next several months. Catch them if you can. Woo-hoo!

Rah! Rah! Sis Boom Bah!

 

 

“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.”

Maya Angelou

(1928 – 2014)

 

 

It started with a playwright. Actually, it started so many years ago, I can’t fully trace its origin. Lord knows, I’ve tried, but for the life of me I can’t figure out when I started doing it.

 

The playwright. I met her some weeks ago and during the evening’s events, I introduced her to a few people and got the ball rolling on a couple of new professional relationships. We were both in the same place, and it seemed easy enough to make introductions that might be fruitful for her, so I took the reins and did it. It was no big deal.

 

Or was it? A few days later the playwright sent me an email, thanking me for being an advocate on her behalf. She expressed her gratitude for my actions, for building her up and recognizing her talent and validity. Her appreciation was sincere and honest.

 

So I started thinking: am I a cheerleader to the good people in my life? That question’s answer came pretty easy, for yes – I am definitely a cheerleader to those around me. And I’m okay with that, as it’s an honest part of my being. But in acknowledging that part of myself, I was faced with a larger, darker question: if I’m a cheerleader for others in the world, why am I not a cheerleader for myself?

 

That hit me hard, folks. For sadly, it’s the truth. I do tend to encourage and support the souls in my life. I can build someone up and in the very same breath, I can tear myself down. For instance, the night I met the playwright, it was said by someone that perhaps I could perform at a specific venue in the near future. Without a second’s hesitation, I shot down the idea and changed the subject. What’s that about?

 

After reading the playwright’s email, I thought about my cheerleader tendencies a bit, but didn’t obsess over it. Then the other shoe dropped: Mister and I watched “The Spectacular Now.” If you saw this beautiful film, you know it’s about a high-school dude who happens to – what else – support and encourage everyone around him without giving the same attention to himself. (It’s about a lot of stuff, actually, but I’m short-handing this, y’all.) I loved the movie, and I’m so glad to have seen it. I did not expect to relate to any of its characters, however, least of all a teenage boy. But there you go. Life throws you for the occasional loop. Some are big, others fit on a screen.

 

After seeing “The Spectacular Now,” I decided to confront myself and reconsider my stance on excluding me from the support I give to the world. And here’s what I decided…

 

I am worth my own faith. I deserve to believe in myself. When I try something and fail, I can love me enough to get up and try again. When I succeed, I can love me enough to appreciate me. When life places opportunities right in front of my danged face, I can scream Yes! Yes! Yes!

 

Okay. I don’t see me doing a lot of screaming anytime soon, but saying “Yes” should be an option, y’all. Why not? I mean, I get this one go-round and it’s all-too-short. Shouldn’t I make the most of it? Shouldn’t we all?

 

So here’s my big plan: I’m going to become an advocate for myself. I’m already doing it for those nearest and dearest to me. I’m just adding my name to the roster. So far it’s a subtle life change. But I can’t help but thinking that in the long run, it could equal monumental change in my little world. My beautiful, small, overwhelmingly large world. 3 cheers – for all of us!