This is my tree

Before the show:

Lemon Twigs tonight with Em!

That band marks time for me. It reveals all sorts of things to me. Beginnings and ends. New connections.

The last time was the end of J.
The time before that was the previous end of J and the beginning of COVID.

After the show:

Remember that I told you The Lemon Twigs are all about beginnings and endings? Well…

This guy Jesse (aka Taylor Hicks) was at the show. He’s the first guy who ever introduced me to Crown Heights. He insulted Tyler the first night I met Tyler. Travis called him Taylor Hicks to his face. He introduced me to Érica who introduced me to Maddie. He DATED (and was not nice to) Imani Coppola who just happened to have been in a band that Tyler ended up being in. Oh and we have the exact same birthday. 6/15/1979.

We matched on Tinder in 2017 but never dated. It wasn’t until August 2018 at the Gary Clark Jr. show that we met in person. And he was THE PITS.

It’s not a total surprise that he was at the show. We went to a Lemon Twigs show together at Baby’s All Right in 2018.

He knows better than to talk to me now. But there he was.

And then Harry, a friend of Susie’s, comes up and says hi to me before the show. I’ve apparently met him TWICE now. The last time was at Mikey’s birthday where we talked for hours. And I still manage to forget his name and introduce him to Emily and Anthony as David. As soon as I realized my error (thanks, Andrea), I ran past Jesse/Taylor Hicks to apologize to Harry for my error.

He tapped me on the shoulder at the end of the night to say goodbye so I don’t think I did any permanent damage.

But yeah. I live here and run into people I know at places in different boroughs.

The Lemon Twigs were great. Their bassist wasn’t there. They had some other guy instead.

It’s my 8th Lemon Twigs show. I love them so much.

I don’t know what this show marks beside all that I just told you. I probably won’t know for a while. Tune in and find out.

Later at home:

I’m in bed and the Observant Israeli just texted me.

He saw my Instagram story and told me that I talked about The Lemon Twigs on our first date.

Another Lemon Twiggy thing to happen.

Also, I was kinda cute tonight. At least from the waist up. Here’s a very lightly filtered video. You can tell it’s not very filtered. It’s just good lighting and great makeup (if I say so myself).

Undercurrent

I went to an immersive art installation in East Williamsburg tonight only because it featured The 1975. And as you know, they are my guiding star.

It’s called UNDERCURRENT, and it’s “a new event that immerses visitors in over 11 original audiovisual art installations, created by influential musicians to inspire positive impact around the Climate Crisis.”

The exhibit was tied into the United Nations climate change conference here this week. Tonight was the last night.

If you know me, you know that The 1975 rebooted my life. They got me here to NYC. They grew with me as my life changed. And then they had fellow autistic Greta Thunberg on their last album. And now, as I start to make moves to apply to grad school in museum studies, The 1975 has an art exhibit in a very groovy, very inspiring show.

I went by myself, completely anxious from pain. But by the end of the exhibit, I was calm, grateful, and inspired. The 1975 exhibit was Greta’s track off the album with visuals. I loved every single exhibit. And I got to talk to one of the ushers, Manuela. Her favorite exhibit was The 1975. She said it made her cry. It moved me to hear how it moved her.

This is why I want to get a masters in Museum Studies.

This move feels right to me. I want to be a part of change for good. Writing is part of it. Performing is part of it. Creating multimedia performances is part of it too. But now there’s an opportunity carved out of so many life experiences and interests for me to amplify my voice. Whatever comes my way, I’m going to welcome it. I’ve learned that this is how my life unfolds. With tiny electric impulses that make the hairs stand up on the back of my neck and then the courage to follow those impulses to unforeseen places.

The last book I read was The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd. The main character, a fictionalized version of abolitionist and feminist Sarah Moore Grimké, really spoke to me.

Grimké’s the one who said:

I ask no favors for my sex. I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is, that they will take their feet from off our necks, and permit us to stand upright on that ground which God designed us to occupy.

The author was inspired to write about Grimké after visiting the Brooklyn Museum in 2007. The exhibit she saw was called The Dinner Party.

The museum is about a mile and a half from me and I knew the exhibit because I’ve seen it. Because I moved here. Because this was the right place for me.

I know a thing or two about looking for inspiration. Just taking everything in like a baleen whale and filtering the plankton.

But what about the other side? Curating exhibits that will spark inspiration in artists? This is the dialogue that interests me. I can be a writer and curator. That’s what I’ve been doing with Instagram.

This past winter, all I wanted to do was create safe spaces for artists to interact. This is a way to do it, as well as get paid for lifelong learning, and guarantee that I get to live in thriving cities that appreciate museums and art galleries.

I wanna prove to you

There was this night in early September 2018 when I just knew.

I’d just come home to Tucson from a month away in Brooklyn that felt like a punch in the gut followed by a sweet caress and a sad farewell. I begged for home those first few weeks and kicked myself for having sublet a room sight unseen in a place I’d never stepped foot in.

You do that at 19 or 22 and no one blinks an eye. You do it at 39 and the mistakes don’t seem precocious or cute anymore. They tend to leave a mark. By the time I’d gotten home, though, I came back with heavier shoulders than the ones that ached with wanderlust a month prior.

Tucson didn’t feel like home anymore. But the thought of picking up and moving terrified me. I felt like I was hurdling toward a decision point that I’d never even set out to make. I didn’t go looking for a midlife crisis. If anything, I’d been weary from searching for youthful resolve for years.

It all came to a head at a Lemon Twigs show in downtown Tucson. The Twigs came to town and 20 people showed. Maybe ten of them got it? Maybe two of us loved it? I’d just seen them two weeks prior play to a packed house in Williamsburg.

They didn’t belong in Tucson and I didn’t belong in Tucson. And I wasn’t doing myself any favors by pretending I had so much to risk in leaving.

I didn’t tell anyone. Before I’d resolved to leave, when people would ask me why I hadn’t moved to NYC, I pretended not to care. Caring too much meant heartbreak and letdown because it was never really going to happen. After I resolved to leave, I kept it pretty much a secret because I didn’t know if I’d flop. It wasn’t insecurity. It was that my mother could turn any aspiration of mine into shit with a few well-placed words and I needed this to work out.

I finally started saying it as though it were a done deal in January. But holding that secret was one of the loneliest things I’ve ever had to do.

Those last months of September through May were just stages of grief cycling over and over. I had to say goodbye to everything that ever felt safe. Every meal I had was potentially the last of its kind. I tried to remember the freckles on friends’ faces and how they smelled. The whole process was grueling. Therapy got really dark. I cried a lot.

My mother did manage to get her say in. In a drunken stupor, covered in snot, with my hand pressed to her face she told me I’d kill myself if I moved to NYC. In my darkest moments here in the city…her words echo in my head and I choose to live just to fucking spite her.

Things didn’t feel right until months of living in Brooklyn. But I got healthcare insurance. I started taking writing classes. I started learning my way around. It wasn’t what I daydreamed living in the city would be. But it was good.

I left behind a lot. Everything nice I had pretty much got lost, stolen or broken. It cost me a lot of money to move here twice. There are times when I feel like I’ve been pummeled with a meat tenderizer. But I’m better for it.

I have health insurance here. I have friends. I don’t feel so alone in my eccentricities. I can tell people to fuck off if I want. I’m not constantly sucked into my parents’ subterfuge. It’s not easy for me here. But it’s not easy for anyone. We all know it. And we’re in it together.

I saw the Lemon Twigs play Elsewhere tonight to another packed house. It was a very loose set. I loved it. It isn’t some giant metaphor for anything. I’m still me. They’re still them. I can love them purely without needing them to be something they’re not. Things can be complex and still have a purity to them.

Everyone I went with was a giant pain in the ass in completely expected ways. John freaked out because they required vaccination cards. I get it. Showing papers is a scary proposition, civil liberties wise. Emily had to be an ironic GenXer with bullshit observations. Jon had to be a square and a downer, checking his phone.

I just wanted to have a good night. And I can’t be myself around this shitty energy. It’s depressing and I’m compensating by drinking and smoking weed. They won’t fix what’s wrong. I’d rather be lonely by myself than lonely with people around. I feel lighter.

A fork stuck in the road

I don’t know what it was like to watch Dylan plug in and feel betrayed. I’m not that old. But I do know what it was to watch Billie Joe put on a skinny tie over a black shirt.

I got really lucky to experience punk before Blink and emo came in.

When I hear millennials wax nostalgic about the bands they loved and their razor cut hair and skinny jeans and their love of MySpace, I can’t relate. I was so swept up in the DIY/punker-than-thou bullshit at that time. It’d gone out of fashion. I’d never been IN fashion.

Most of the punk from the late 90’s/early 2000’s doesn’t hold up. The pop stuff does though. Britney, Christina, TLC, Destiny’s Child etc. I had to listen to that stuff when I was alone, like a lot of young women I’d imagine, who had partners who thought pop stars were worse than Cambodian dictators.

So why shit on Billie Joe for wearing a skinny tie?

It wasn’t so much that he sold out. It was that he no longer belonged to me and my rebellion. He belonged to someone else’s. He’d been a Pooh bear of sorts through my youth and my time for rebellion had passed. I was so busy trying to grow up and be an adult in law school that I couldn’t express myself as an individual anymore. It was time to put away childish things. I bought my clothes at Ann Taylor, for God’s sake.

I was 24, frigid and scared most of the time.

My friend Jonathan came over last night and said my place was “fun.” Jon’s said the same thing. I’m fun now because I’m finally free to be me. None of it is a put on. Fun is my reward for shaking the people in my life who sat on my chest and then demanded I fly. And then ignoring their voices that echoed in my head and told me everything I did was wrong.

I wince when I hear people my age say that they wish they were more fun. When they wish for anything really. I’ll indulge them. I’m not about to lecture everyone on their lack of ambition. But wishes are a sign of defeat. I don’t wish for anything. I imagine things that could be. I don’t lament the things that can’t. If it’s in my power to change, I do.

I’ve gone only so much time and I don’t want to spend it with people who whine.

My friend Jonathan and I met up at Pilar for empanadas last night. I was hoping we could take them to the park and drink booze I’d brought with me but it was too hot. So we ate them there.

But then the heavens opened up and rain poured down and neither of us had umbrellas. I rode the bus and he biked to my place. We were soooooooooaked.

I gave him a shirt and I changed clothes. We drank jalapeño tequila with mango nectar and lime and tried to one up each other with the nerdiest videos we could find. We both love History, Weird Al and Bad Lip Reading. He’s college friends with one of the brothers who made the “Hide your kids hide your wife” video, so we watched a few of those.
And old Lonely Island stuff.

I cannot tell you how wholesome and nerdy it was.

Oh and we watched some Yebba/Mark Ronson videos because Jonathan has this series called “Scales and Friends” and Yebba wants to come out on it. It was a good night. I am no longer a grumpus.

Yo te quiero tanto

Taking care of myself like it’s my job. Tonight I made green pozole:

On weekends, I like to make big batches of flavor rich ingredients that I can then use throughout the month. I’ll caramelize a giant pot full of onions over the course of an hour until they barely cover the bottom of the pot and are jammy. They go into frittatas and anything that needs a mellow sweetness.

This weekend I made enchilada verde sauce and froze a ton. It’s super easy. You roast poblanos, tomatillos, garlic and onions with a little olive oil until everything is blackened. Throw it all in the Vitamix (including the juices but not the poblano stems). Freeze what you can and keep some in the fridge. It’s another great addition to eggs, great on chilaquiles and the starter sauce for pozole verde.

I had a pork chop and needed to use it today. So I cut it up and browned it in a pot with onions and olive oil, added water, dried beans, fresh frozen hominy, the enchilada sauce and salt. Every hour or so I’d stir the pot (a little one) and add more water.

I chopped up fresh cilantro and onion and threw it in the bowl on top of the stew. And it is ah-maize-ing. I’ve never made any kind of pozole (red, white or green), but this stuff tastes like love.

As for love, well, I have to remember I’m surrounded by it even when people aren’t close. Last night Tyler came over and we had a lovely night. I made green chilaquiles and beans. He scarfed them down.

We talked about all sorts of things. One of my stories had to do with the last solar eclipse visible in the northern hemisphere and he remembered where he was on that day in 2017. We didn’t know each other then, but it tied us together to remember our individual experiences.

We watched Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and I laughed harder than I have in a good while. He said he’d been waiting for a very long time to show it to me and last night it was an imperative. It’s a deviation from the artsy stuff we usually watch, and I’d actually seen it before but dismissed it the first time around because I knew a lot less about music and was such a prude.

I mentioned George Jones during the movie, so he had to show me a Mike Judge cartoon on YouTube about George and Tammy Wynette. It was also hilarious. This song just fucking kills me every time:

I’m starting to feel a little more like myself again. Taking it about as easy as Glenn Fry in Winslow, Arizona.

See, I can make music references now because I got ‘em in spades. Didn’t use to. Used to be that I was afraid of exploring and experimenting and caring about anything too deeply lest it be ridiculed or judged. But that ain’t the case anymore. I know what I like. I’ve got good taste and better instincts and I’m surrounded by musicians and aficionados who keep exposing me to songs and artists that change my life.

How could I not love myself for making that happen?

Thoughts about James Burke while watching You’ve Got Mail

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Jeff Bezos is the uberfurher of the current age.

He made his bones off of discounting books. Books cost money because it takes a lot of work to make them. Ever tried to write a book? It’s a life’s devotion. And then someone has to edit it. These things are valuable. So valuable that Gutenberg’s moveable type made books accessible and that led to the Reformation in Europe. Before that, illiterate Christians relied on a priest at the pulpit and stained glass windows to tell them what was what. After it, anyone could buy a Bible and interpret it how they chose. It loosened the monopoly of the elite but led to anti-intellectualism.

Bezos squeezed the little guy to sell consumers what they wanted. And now anyone can own basically any thing published. And, without a formal education or dedicated self-study, everyone thinks they know things they don’t. Everyone is an authority. Information is cheap and so are opinions.

This isn’t my theory. At least not about the democratization of information. That’s James Burke. But I’ve yet to hear him comment on Jeff Bezos or Mark Zuckerberg by name. He has commented the age of mediocrity that would arise when people who have no business owning opinions they can’t ground in truth and logic. Jeff and Mark make money because people have settled for mediocrity.

James Burke’s solution to this giant mess we’re in? Contextualized education. Show how things are interrelated. Establish an interdisciplinary network with strings to follow to understand how one thing led to another, even when the links are not obvious. At its basis is critical thinking. And critical thought is at a huge premium right now. It’s the compass to guide us through the inundation of facts and data.

But also, as an aside: There’s this scene in You’ve Got Mailed when Greg Kinnear is on a talk show and blowing the host’s mind with things Meg Ryan’s heard him say before. I think about this a lot. Every time you meet someone new, do you blow their mind with things you’ve said before? Maybe put them in your repertoire? Maybe hear your friends repeat things to impress potential sexual partners? If you’ve been dating for any number of years, you probably know that there is nothing new under the sun. That band he likes? Maybe it was something he got turned onto when he was fourteen. Or maybe a girlfriend played the album for him. That joke he tells over dinner? How many other women has he told that joke to? Are we all just reiterations of our former selves? Combination locks we keep spinning to get to the same numbers just waiting to be unlocked by someone who finally gets it?

In the beginning it was guys who talked about The Pixies and Mulholland Drive. Then it was guys who liked Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits. And then Television, but especially Tom Verlaine. Every one of these guys moved the ball forward in my pop culture education. And then when the next guy came along, I knew what he was talking about and the conversation went one step deeper. We are all of us collections of past relationships.

I love it when someone can quote things I’ve never heard about. I love learning from people. There’s a big difference between someone who will add weight to a conversation and someone who is jumping at the bit to repeat something they heard on a podcast and take credit for the critical thought. How do you encourage critical thought in adults who made it through very prestigious colleges without having to think for themselves very much? How do you fight against the tide of conformity, even when it is found in very same people who think of themselves as so contrarian and anti-establishment? I want to hear from the man who doesn’t pray at the alter of David Lynch. I want a man who will read A Wrinkle In Time and Jacob Have I Loved or any of the books that shook me to my core and reassembled the rubble into a new foundation.

Just surprise me is all I’m saying.

Tyler: in pictures

So Ty is coming out with a new album and we’ve been talking about image. It’s not pertinent to him as an artist. It’s pertinent to him as a product for mass consumption. How he packages himself. So I critiqued his photos for him.

I can’t take him seriously. He’s a 25-year old curmudgeon. A very talented curmudgeon, but nevertheless a dorky Michigander who loves Cheers, extols the virtues of the Tigers baseball franchise, and drinks Vernor’s every chance he gets. But we need to get the people (girls who actually pay for music) to want to listen to him.

So let’s go down the list of Instagram Tyler, the artiste:

This kid doesn’t know if he’s serious or seriously Justin Bieber. Big thumbs up for the little girls.
Still cutesy…non-threatening.
This is the dirtbag your mother warned you about…so he’s sexy and a little dangerous.
This guy has tattoos…but he has glasses. So he’s an intellectual rocker. Probably read Burroughs. Probably uses words like “niche” and “ouvre.”
This guy is a grown man. He’s serious. He’s got things to say, but he’s hot, ya know?
This young Padawan is studying to be a Jedi…but might turn to the Dark Side. We just don’t know yet.
This guy has a broken heart. You could eat him with a spoon. A black emo spoon.
This guy is a hashtag musician. Look the word up in Webster’s and there his picture you will find. He books gigs. People leave their apartments and head to the East Village, pay a cover and buy overpriced beer just to hear him play. Women love him. Men want to be near him. He makes his grandmother proud.
I don’t even know this guy. He could be a young Kevin Corrigan in Goodfellas. I don’t know if I want to know him…
If a camera could capture your soul (jury’s still out on that one), this is a picture of Tyler’s.
This is the Tyler I know and love. Repping his love for the Tigers and mildly disappointed.
This Tyler I’ve yet to meet, but he seems like fun. He even might pay for a round of drinks…maybe.
Here we have the pensive professional producer. He’s kinda hot…I would swipe right on him…and he would have already swiped right on me…and then we’d go out and I’d be like…um, I’m definitely not cool enough to be in this conversation.
This guy owes his bookie money, but he’s working the angles. Odds are 2:1 he’ll end up with a broken leg and still keep betting on the Lions to win. He ain’t ever gonna learn.
Now this guy’s album I would check out. He’s mildly groovy but not in a way that makes it look like he’s trying too hard. Cool enough to peak curiosity, not so cool that he’s a bloated, pretentious douchebag.
Unlike this guy on a waterbed. This guy wanted to be a professional musician but ended up running a speaker/beeper/glass tinting shop in Cleveland. I really hope this night was fun.

There you have it, folks: the man (is he? hmmm…), the myth, the (soon to be) legend.

And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea

How can I not be in love with this life? I’m intoxicated by it every single day here in NYC.

Even with my back to the window, the sounds filter in and flood my mind with visions.

I hear a phrase from a song as a car passes, and I am in the back seat, windows rolled down, my hand out to catch the air current and the silky humidity that coats my skin.

In its tumult, in its chaos, in the anarchy of the street below, there I find God. The promise, the arduous and complex challenge, the vulgarity, the loss, the pay off.

And on a night like tonight, I revel in the sticky sound of masking tape tires make as they shed water left on new drenched asphalt, laid down on Marcus Garvey Boulevard in the course of a few hours yesterday.  A miracle in itself for a girl from a place where pot holes dash and dot under axels like Morse code over country roads.

 

Not quite this beauty:

but equally majestic for its organic origin. It is no less a song than that of Route 66. In fact, it is the very embodiment of the lyrics:

Oh beautiful, for heroes proved,
In liberating strife,
Who more than self, THEIR country loved,
And mercy more than life,
America, sweet America, may God thy gold refine,
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain devined.

 

Even on a night like tonight, when discord and disharmony and dissent abound, I can find joy in the sounds of life, teeming and thriving, in a world on the other side of a single pane of glass.