Wednesday, August 31, 2005

tuesday's audition

i had an audition yesterday. it was for a VH-1 vj search/on-air personality/host. here's what the audition notes said:

Please come with lots of energy. We are looking for cool, hip people with an edge. So dress the part...we are looking for those who are a great representation of the hip hop generation!

i'm not sure what "hip-hop generation" means anymore. i know that it includes everyone that was born after 1965 and that hip-hop's influence transcends race and class. (so that's generation-x, right?) it's a behemoth, really. what was once a marginalized boogie-down ghetto situation that had so much power and style has now been homogenized and sold back to the masses internationally for someone else's profit. (interestingly, no one has been able to tap into its potential for political change on a grassroots level. but they're trying. good luck.) once upon a time, hip-hop was such a threat to the status quo. and what is it now? a 21st century coon show. and everyone seems to be in on it.

i'm not saying that there's no political hip-hop out there or that hip-hop isn't, by nature, political. but when most of what we get to see in mass media is one rapper after another, bragging about how great he is or how much stuff he has, it gives one reason to pause.

so evidently, VH-1 wants to blacken things up a bit with their programming. with the buying/spending power,political base and relative cool that everyone thinks the hip-hop generation has, who could blame them?

the audition was in harlem, right off 125th street, in a breezy wide open space above a trendy looking coffee-shop/bookstore. there were folding chairs on one side of the room and a long table against a wall with headshots, cards to fill out, release forms, etc. and two monitors to move things along. i arrived on time, in my favorite denim halter dress with my hair in a headwrap and a bare face. to my way of thinking, nothing represents hip-hop nation like all things nubian. at the very least, i would be the only one with that particular look. and sure enough, i was right. the place was filled with black folk that looked like they stepped straight out of central casting, right down to the ripped jeans with heels and the neatly coiffed texturized weaves. although most of them looked video-ready, for some strange reason, everyone looked tired and somehow older than they actually were. and why would anyone in this day and age have bad skin, especially in this business? the perricone promise, my emminent weight loss and several days of oversleep had served me well. as usual, i stuck out like a sore thumb. a bit of concealer for good measure and some lipstick and i was good to go.

i sat around reading a book for almost an hour before they called me in. while i was waiting, a pretty black woman whose name escapes me (shaundra?) came up to me and said that she admired my work and wished me luck. are you sure you have the right person? i asked, pretty confident that she didn't. you're queen esther, she said. yeesh, i guess she did. she said she taught a class and used the it factor as a teaching tool. all of my students always root for you, she said. gee, i hope i win, i laughed.

unbelievable, the way people remember the it factor. it aired in 2002. then again, it's always on bravo, on a late-night rerun situation. ah, reruns: the gift that keeps on giving. well. i got what i wanted: a little screen-time, some national exposure, name recognition -- but most importantly a higher level of comfort in front of a camera. mission accomplished.

the casting director was so pretty that when i saw her, i just blurted it out -- you are so pretty! just like that. she was slim and a little taller than me, in a flowing outfit that made sense. her nut-brown skin was perfectly clear with hardly the slightest hint of makeup and she had no hair on her head. she had this warm open way about her that was so genuine and effortless, it put me at ease immediately. she looked 28. she could have been 50.

the audition scenario: i had to pretend to be at a hip-hop function/gala/show of some sort, saying who was there, waving to this one or that one and interviewing someone. i chose lauren hill. i have no idea why. as problematic as her personal life and her career have been, you'd think i would have avoided that one. but it was a pretty obvious blackgrrl choice i suppose -- i've always liked her because she's quick to speak her mind, especially about political things, and i think that takes guts.

thanks to the casting agent, i did my best. we both knew it as i left the room. why can't everyone be that cool?

Monday, August 29, 2005

little luxuries

  1. getting fully dressed before i put my dress on, in layers of old fashioned lingerie: garters, stockings, waist cinchers, slips, corsets. all that stuff.
  2. baking the perfect pound cake.
  3. walking through harlem and waving at everyone like i know them -- and everyone waving at me, like they know me, too.
  4. going into my favorite restaurant and having them greet me like an old friend and fix my usual without my having to ask for it.
  5. sleep.
  6. wandering through an old clothing store and finding the perfect vintage dress in mint condition that fits like it was made for me.
  7. buffalo china.
  8. walking aimlessly through the city with my digital camera on my wrist.
  9. manicure/pedicure at jeniette salon.
  10. daydreaming.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

my last night

the last night in montreal was nothing like the first night in nyc.

i overslept -- which is probably one of the most luxurious things i can think of. then i walked to the latin quarter, found a coffee shop and sat in the sun, writing and listening to really good reggae and daydreaming -- another luxurious thing to do. i messed around with my digital camera long enough to figure out how to work the timer and take a self-portrait in the sun.

they were playing stuff like tosh, early marley, mutabaruka, steel pulse. i almost wondered aloud: why don't i listen to reggae anymore? probably because i got permanently burned out working for a reggae music store when i was in college. the jamaicans that owned the place spent most of their time chasing white women by their own admission and blew their profits on nose candy. one night, i went back to the store for something i forgot and found one of them asleep behind the cash register. evidently, the white girl that he lived with and that had recently had his baby threw him out of the house for the unforseeable future and he had no where else to go. the image of him curled up on a filthy blanket, his leather jacket a makeshift pillow, his arm crooked under his head and him looking away from me as he waved me off with one hand in this really nonchalant way, has stayed with me to this very day. reggae? never listen to the stuff. there was a yellowman import that i loved at the time called "walking jewelry store" and for some reason, it plays in my head at full blast whenever i think about that time in my life.

the area was very pedestrian. lots of students (some with their parents), tourists, aging hippies, standard issue working folk and filthy punks of every variety. you know the type: mohawks, body piercings, leather jackets, monkey boots, guitar strumming with dog, guitar strumming without dog, all of them begging for money. frankly, i'm highly suspicious of people asking me for money when they're wearing stuff that i can't afford. like the leather pants this one girl was sporting. quality leather, too. did she really expect me to give her a dollar?

it could have been little five points. it could have been st. mark's place. i felt like the hipster scene was having a worldwide metaphysical hiccup and i was trapped in it. i decided to go for a walk with no predetermined destination in mind. i walked a few blocks and saw a golden lady with a crown of stars set against a picture perfect blue sky day. it was the chapelle notre dame de lourdes. almost immediately, i saw myself wearing such a crown, in silver, singing on stage, just like that. of course, i had to go in. the lady was against a blue backdrop once more, dressed in blue and white, looking quite real.

the crown of stars stayed in my head for the rest of the day: how to make it, who could make it for me if i couldn't pull it off, what it would look like, how i should have more than one, whether or not i should use it for my next photo shoot. maybe bul could make it for me. bul can make anything. he's that kind of guy.

i happened upon a street fair/festival on boulevard st. laurent that went on for so many blocks, it seemed to disappear into the horizon. later, i was told that i was quite lucky -- this event only happened twice a year. the street was closed off and the restaurants extended their walkways, so there were tables everywhere. lots of food on the street to nibble on-the-go as i wandered around, too. i had a delicious near-perfect vegetarian somosa to whet my appetite and fought the urge to buy anything because i just didn't have any more room in my luggage.

as the sun was beginning to set, a woman motioned to me and said something in french. "you look so beautiful," she said in english, "you are so lovely to look at." she was selling wooden bracelets and necklaces. i asked her where to go for a good french meal. she directed me to rue saint dominique, for the nicer places. i made a left and wandered down a picturesque side street, then wandered into a portuguese place. i knew that i wanted salmon and i also wanted to sit and write uninterrupted for as long as i wanted. the host perched me in the corner of the terrace with a cup of tea and a menu. i couldn't remember the last time i had tapas and this place was really quite good. so of course i thought about carol fineman. and for the first time all week, i actually wished that someone else was there. how could i eat this delicious food without her? somehow, i found a way...

i fell into a conversation with three women at the table next to me -- one haitian, one senegalese, one from montreal -- about the city and the africans who live there and what life is like for people of color in general and how different it is in the states. they invited me to sit at their table and offered me a glass of wine, which i thought was very sweet. we talked into the night. very insightful. i had a wonderful time. i wanted to connect with some canadian black people and lo and behold, it happens right before i leave. perfect! i ended up floating out of there well past midnight with tiramisu to go and walked in the opposite direction of the festivites until i came upon a little park with a foundain called the rue square st. louis. it was filled with people -- milling about, making out, playing chess, smoking pot, chatting. the sky was filled with stars. i felt like singing...

Saturday, August 27, 2005

maybe it's crap!

after a day of phone calls and unpacking my vintage clothes and running around, i perched myself on my bed late in the evening and watched "baise moi" on my iBook. there were moments when i felt myself flinching involuntarily at what i saw. glorified porn or feminist rant of rage and revenge? maybe it's crap.

i went down the hallway to borrow a drill from my neighbors who call themselves the fags on the third floor. only paul was there. we sat on their red ikea couch and channel surfed while i slowly lost myself in an oversexed gigantic white trash art photography book called terryworld and paul gossiped about all the goings on in the building -- from a gay perspective, of course. ("have you met the fags on the 4th floor?" no, i haven't. "did you know that there were fags on the 2nd floor?" no, i didn't. "well, we're the only fags on the 3rd floor." yes, you are.) the lovely boyfriend came home from an evening of having drinks with friends. once he settled in, he saw what i was reading and asked me what i thought of it. maybe it's crap, i said. of course it's crap, paul laughed, but that doesn't mean it's not worthwhile.

it doesn't?

that's when the boyfriend pulled out a book of photography from their shelf and warns me not to open it as he plops it in my lap. i can't remember the name of the book or the photographer's name. the images were highly stylized in black and white, with deformities, cadavers, dead flowers, dwarves and other assorted freaks. it looked like victorian porn from the very bowels of hell. all at once, i could see where so many movies got their visual ideas. ("the cell" immediately comes to mind.) and we talked about "salo" which paul used to have a copy of on videotape but he didn't know what happened to it.

that's when i told them about "baise moi." we fell into a conversation about art and film and the politics of having sex on camera and not calling it porn. the boyfriend asked me to tell him what i thought about el-lay. and i described a lonely place, filled with sunshine and great eateries. a great place to go if you want to be alone and get some writing done, i remember saying. to me, it is a city of people who all work for the same company -- flaky, self-absorbed, surgically enhanced marginally talented uninteresting individuals who use casual sex as a kind of modern day networking device. paul nodded silently as i described the typical el-lay encounter wherein you agree to meet someone somewhere or whatever and they flake out on you, again and again. how could you ever know where you stand with anyone like that? it's not just the people. it's the culture. the boyfriend said that he had friends who described portland in much the same way, after being away from the city for some time. in the south, people making a point of doing what they say they're going to do. it must be cultural, i suggested. no, paul said, it's called home training. it's called manners. they're big on that down there.

the boyfriend is looking at the terryworld book now. when a picture of vincent gallo as jesus pops up, paul suddenly remembers that he's got the blowjob scene from the brown bunny on his computer. while he's setting it up, there is a general chat about blow jobs in general and why she had to sexually service him and not the other way around. all three of us stand around looking at it for a moment in silence. both of them agree that chloe sevigny doesn't know how to give head. paul thinks it's a prosthetic of some sort. the boyfriend thinks that her career must be in the toilet by now but interestingly enough, it seems to be doing just fine according to imdb. it looks painful and difficult and weird. paul says it's supposed to. so she's acting right now, i ask. we listen to her whimpering. and then the boyfriend says, she's a bad actress. they've seen the whole movie and try to put it in context for me and explain why the blowjob needed to be there in the first place. i get it and i don't get it. what did people do to tell a story before everyone decided to have sex in the movies and call it art instead of porn? how did hitchcock make it happen? what about fellini?

it's a really crappy movie, they say. maybe it's art, i counter. that's always the case when people say that something is crap, isn't it?

i get home and i realize that all of the porn i've been looking at all night has formed a black cloud in my head that's completely desensitized me. i want to watch north by northwest but i can't. i take a shower but it's just not enough. i know what i need. i need to physically exhaust myself in the gym with a good hard sweat. and then i need to steam and sauna and soak. and then i need a cobb salad and a good night's sleep. tomorrow, i tell myself. i'll do that tomorrow. that'll get it off me. (i hope.)

i go to bed, genuinely relieved that i'm not having sex with anyone at this juncture and wishing that i'd never had any kind of sex at all, with anyone, ever -- not even myself. i end up dozing off, wondering how i can avoid sexual contact with anyone for the rest of my natural life.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

i really love being alone

in my fun time alone with friends in montreal, it suddenly dawns on me that i really love being alone -- so much so that i can't even begin to imagine what my life would be like if i were with someone else. you know, as part of a couple, doing that couple thing, spending time together and all that crap. i used to think about that sometimes. i'd think, wow, i'm going to have a boyfriend eventually and we'll do this and we'll do that. but now i'm thinking, thank God i don't have a boyfriend, so i can do this and i can do that. i know this sounds wonky, but there are so many things that i'd want to do by myself if i were with someone else that i think i'd be resenting the person in question for keeping me away from them, even if i were having fun.

what am i saying? especially if i were having fun.

or maybe he'd be so cool that i wouldn't care. but that would have to be some kind of cool because frankly, i've forgotten what that feels like, to be with someone that's that cool. cool like that doesn't exist anymore. or if it does, it's married or living with somebody else. don't get me wrong. i meet cool guys all the time and when i do, i think, wow, he's cool. and then it's over. the distraction is so fleeting and then i'm thinking about my laundry again or an unfinished song or how to play the last chord i learned on the piano and the guitar or how i should call my grandmother when i get home and tell her what happened to me yesterday or the nars mudd i'm running out of and how i'd like to give myself a mask the next time i'm soaking in the tub. stuff like that is running through my head when the cool guy's cool factor wears off. usually within about 15 minutes or so, depending on what we're talking about. especially if he's conventionally good-looking. frankly, i don't really like conventionally good-looking guys. to my eye, it becomes very ordinary looking in no time at all. and then he looks like everybody else. the next thing you know, someone goes, wow, he's good looking and i say, yeah but in my head i'm thinking, yeah?

yeah, that's the way it goes.

the thing is, i can't think of anything in couplehoodlandia that i want. or need. i don't even want to live with anyone else. i can hardly stand having a roommate -- and he's not there that much. it's not just about having my time infringed upon. that happens all the time, anyway. the world rushes in and my day is gone. that's life. it's all this other stuff i don't have to deal with. like someone else's issues, someone else's problems, someone else's emotional trauma. i don't know. i've done such a great job of dealing with mine and i'm such a happy girl right now. sometimes i'm walking around and i'm feeling so happy and so free and i think, God, i know i won't feel like this all the time because that would be insane but please let this last for a really long time. and it totally has. i'm so productive right now. i'm learning so much. so many wonderful things are happening creatively. what could being with someone give me that i don't already have?

maybe i've become a selfish cow. (somehow, that's always a possibility.) maybe i still have intimacy issues and this is my way of dodging the commitment issue. (no, that one isn't true. i dealt with all of that in therapy. thank Jesus.) maybe i've reached a new level of my singlehood and i'm reveling in it, really enjoying my time alone -- and that isn't as socially acceptable for girls to do as everyone thinks it is. (this is probably the right answer.) or maybe i'm just superjaded. (yup.) i don't know.

what i do know is, i really love being alone.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

it's official! i am on vacation!

now seemed like the just right moment to take advantage of a standing invitation to visit montreal, for three reasons:
  • my parents are going to be here for labor day weekend. my aunt is turning 90 and there's going to be a birthday dinner. (and there really should be. how often does one reach such a milestone?) even though they won't stay with me and i'll be glad to see them, it will be stressful in that "you've-lost-weight-what-are-you-doing-with-your-life" kind of way -- that special brand of giving me the "once-over" that destroyed me when i was in my 20's. and now i'm like, whatever. it's my life and whatever you think of it is none of my business. but it still winds me up a bit to have to even deal with any of that. actually, they've turned the crank way down lately because they like the biggish band cd so much. go figure.
  • my voice hasn't recovered completely. that bothers me. i don't want any vocal trauma. i want my voice to be fully healthy and as clear as a bell, like it always is. whatever i have to do to make that happen is worth it. the drugs kicked in right away but i need two weeks for everything to take effect. this is the second week. a self-imposed solitary confinement in canada seems appropriate. it is foreign, after all. i don't speak enough french to talk to anybody and by the time i catch up with my friends, i've spent most of the day by myself -- sleeping in, soaking in the tub, having a decent cup of tea in a cafe somewhere and taking random snapshots, which makes me blissfully happy.
  • i haven't had a vacation in years. hm. then again, i can't remember the last time i had a real vacation: no business to do, no family to visit, no real agenda. just me, going somewhere, goofing off and de-stressing. i manage to have vacation moments when i travel but to take a trip specifically for relaxation purposes only? yipes. has that ever happened?
as it turns out, i don't have acid reflux, also known as GERD. i have laryngeal reflux, also known as LARD (and yes, that cracked me up considerably). i know that all of this sounds harmless but it's no fun, whether you sing or not. (the larynx, as it turns out, is a special world in and of itself. who knew?) this is especially horrible because most people who have LARD don't have any symptoms at all. no pain, no heartburn, no nasty side effects. you just wake up and you have no voice at all. believe it or not, there are a lot of singers out there who suffer from this and they don't even know it. who has the money to go to a specialist and figure it out? they just stay slightly hoarse all the time. and over time, that can grow into something really bad. God help them.

all that, from something as innocuous and simple as what you eat and when you eat it.

i've cherry-picked my way through that whole "this-is-all-the-stuff-you-can't-eat" food list (what's good, what's bad) enough to know what i can get away with, so i'm not even worried about that. for me, it's not so much about what i eat but how much of it i eat and when i eat it. so. i won't eat anything until noon. i won't eat anything at least 4 hours before i have to go to bed. i won't recline right after i eat. i won't eat until i'm stuffed anymore. i won't sleep on my right side anymore. i won't eat mints anymore. and even though i know that i'm supposed to, i won't give up mexican hot chocolate. I. Just. Can't.

and there's no way that i can drink too much water.

i've made a few other changes as well. from now on, my cellphone is off and my answering machine is on until after 12pm. if i'm not asleep, i certainly won't be talking. (email will come in awfully handy right about then.) if whatever it is can't wait until after 12pm, someone else is going to have to figure it out. most opera singers i know have a specific day of the week where they don't speak at all, so they can have optimum vocal rest. i love that! anyone that's singing a lot should have a period of vocal rest for as long as they need to, no matter what the genre is. it's only common sense.

i should learn sign language.

as a vocalist, my physical body is my instrument. the better my body is doing in general, the better i'm doing vocally. i like to work out in the mornings, before everyone gets to the gym, even if i've had a late night. i'd like to pretend like i'm an early morning person or that i'm so efficient and together and stuff -- but really, i just want to get it overwith. that way, as the day crawls on and if don't get anything else done, at least i can say i had a good workout. and over time, i can look at my physical self and see results of some kind. that's way better than sitting around complaining about how awful my thighs look.

how long does it take to break a bad habit and create a good one? i'm hoping i can shift gears and implement all these things before the end of september. it's very important. this kind of vocal trauma hardly ever happens to me but when it does, good habits should be in place to help the healing process along -- not more bad habits to hinder it. and really, all of this came about because of a small slight summer cold that got way out of hand.

i have every intention of rewarding my good behavior from time to time. hm. a spa weekend getaway before the end of the year seems to be in order...

Sunday, August 21, 2005

i did it!


evidently, i look better in a bikini than i thought i did.

at first i just put my head down, stuck to my guns and kept working out. i didn’t think about what was actually happening. if i did, i probably would have stopped. and i didn’t listen to anyone tell me that i was fine as a chubby girl, because everyone else was fine with it. i don't want to live by someone else's standards of what's physically acceptable for me. after awhile, i didn't feel comfortable in my own skin. so i created a little program and i stuck to it. pretty soon, i got results. i had energy to spare. my bad cholesterol level went down. my skinny clothes came out of the back of the closet. and then we went to the beach yesterday and i saw some photos of me in the black string bikini i gave myself for my birthday and i thought, gee, maybe i shouldn’t be so hard on myself. i can be such a tough grrl when it comes to plowing through with goals and objectives and such, mostly because it makes me feel so good to get things done. like, wow—i’m not wasting my time, i really am making progress.

or maybe i should keep this whole workout regimen/”tough self-love” thing up, with a little more objectivity though, so i can stay on point. the bikini is an end result of the discipline that has been so good for me. it has seeped into other areas of my life and has had a wonderful effect on my work ethic—and my stress-level, which is virtually nonexistent. i don't know why i take so many things in stride nowadays, but i do. i've learned to pick my battles, i suppose. i am the picture of health and vitality. and needless to say, my self-esteem/self-confidence is through the roof.

all that from working out.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

the lovely upshot

i know, i know -- i don't have a "day job." and in the conventional sense of what that is, it means that i'm not supposed to be doing so well. but here's the real deal:
  1. my time is my own -- for practicing the piano in the mornings, bouncing in and out of auditions, taking voice lessons, messing with my guitar, writing more songs/lyrics, baking the perfect cake. i can do whatever i want creatively. it's a miracle.
  2. i'm watching three or four movies a week, thanks to netflix. (i'd like to say that i'm entertaining myself but really, i'm doing my homework.)
  3. i'm using all of my favorite products on my hair and skin and its starting to show (that's perricone for the face and khiel's for the body, for those of you keeping score at home.)
  4. i'm losing weight and getting my body back, thanks to a supercheap city gym membership, acid reflux restrictions and -- what else? -- genuine heartache.
  5. i'm treating myself to all of my favorite edibles (like fresh blackberries and lady grey tea, and meals out at my favorite restaurants) because my reflux situation puts so many restrictions on me, and i have to make my stomach happy whenever i can.
  6. my music career is on track (finally!) with not one but three totally different really cool bands
  7. i go to my favorite museums all the time and sometimes watch art movies, usually during the week when the tourists aren't around. it gives me ideas.
  8. i'm grateful to God that i've got really cool friends to goof off with, write letters/send packages to, visit and talk to out of nowhere in the middle of the night. and i'm also very grateful that i've still got my immediate family on this side of the grave: all of my brothers are alive -- including the baby brother, who's still in iraq. and my parents are still married and together and happy, and i still have my grandmother. whenever things seem horrible, that's one of the first things i think about: my support system.
  9. i've got a beautiful iBook.
  10. i'm reading more books, 'blogging more, writing better songs, coming up with better ideas. i want to do kwaanza right this year so i'm knitting, for crying out loud. i don't know. it feels like i've had a power surge creatively and it's giving me some sort of superstrength in every part of my world. i'm not a superhero but more and more, it's beginning to feel as though i have powers beyond those of mere mortal men.
i don't know what it is but everytime something awful happens to me, something truly wonderful takes its place. i think this is the way it's always been in my life. nowadays i can see it clearly when something especially horrible occurs because the shift towards grace is so direct and overt and complete. or maybe so many horrible things happened so quickly, the world stopped turning for a moment just so i could feel that grace. and now for the some strange reason, the lovely upshot is that i feel so happy all the time, the way i used to when i was very little. happy and grateful.

Friday, August 19, 2005

it's nearly dawn

listening to bob dylan's "blonde on blonde" after having just watched warren beatty in "shampoo," a farce about the sex in the swingin' 70's.

debbie fisher looked so young. and yeah, the clothes got me: goldie hawn's silver lame minidress; julie christie's sparkly black backless gown; some of those squared off suits i saw the extras wearing; the hippies and the freaks at the party and how they were presented. after seeing beatty rolling around on the floor all over julie christie by the light of that fridge in the poolhouse/cabana naked from the waist down, i totally get why everyone carried on over him the way that they did, back in the day. he looked kind of stunning in that movie, riding around on a triumph motorbike, his perfectly coiffed hair flying in the breeze just so.

i can't stop thinking about how he went around having sex with everyone and it didn't mean any more to him than a handshake. how everyone else shifted gears about their free sex approach and changed/readjusted in some enormous way except him. or maybe he did, finally -- but it was too little, too late.

next up tomorrow: tom cruise in "born on the 4th of july" and hitchcock's "north by northwest."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

i don't know what's wrong with me...

jc hopkins and i are doing an interview for npr (national public radio) tomorrow morning at 10am to promote the biggish band cd Underneath A Brooklyn Moon. it's almost 2:30am. why am i not asleep? what in the world am i doing?

well. at the moment, i'm watching the vh1 reality show "hogan knows best" with one eye while i clean and organize my room with the other. i just got through scrubbing out my kitchen, right down to the dingy off-white floor that never seems to get clean enough, even after i blast it with bleach and cleanser and whatnot. when i got to the back of the fridge, i found a dead mouse that had been in a glue trap for so long, it was rotting. i didn't know what it was at first glance. how foul is that? i'm annoyed because i scrubbed my vinyl embroidered martha stewart tablecloth with a bleach based cleanser and it dripped onto my martha stewart chair pads and totally ruined at least two of them. and yes, i love martha stewart's products. i love her 250 thread count bedsheets. i really do. i don't know anything about her as a person and i don't care to know. as long as she keeps making quality stuff that's affordable and that makes my apartment look more like a home and less like a crummy place that i sack out in every night, i will totally keep buying it.

i used to clean everything once a week but then i fell off because i was working all the time in the middle of the night and then sleeping during the day. and now i've fallen back on because i'm spending a lot of time here and i want a clean place to live. a dollar and a twinkie says that my roommate complains about the smell tomorrow because i used bleach. he's quick to clean a dish in the sink but he won't scour the apartment unless one of his parents is coming from the west coast for a visit. whatever. as soon as i get some real money, i'm going to buy a place and live alone. even if i ever get married, i'm going to live alone. we'll have to have conjugal visits. we'll figure something out. but i'm not living with anyone else. i've had it.

okay. now i'm watching iron chef on the food channel. weeeeeeee! i love iron chef. (gasp! they're having an asparagus battle!) i can't wait to see what kind of dessert they come up with for this one...

am i turning into a sleepless howard hughes or what? then again, it feels so good to walk into a clean room -- especially if that room is a kitchen. i'm on a roll. i can feel it. whenever i wake up in the next day or so, i'm definitely going to clean everything else.

this is going to be a very interesting interview tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

queen esther at lenox lounge (with cake!)

queen esther at lenox lounge
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
finally, at long last! i've finally done a gig in harlem's beautiful historic lenox lounge, at 125th and lenox avenue. THE lenox lounge. the one i've always heard about and read about and dreamed about and seen in movies and such. like shaft (the original and the remake.) bessie smith's watering hole. billie holiday's hang out. i even sat in her favorite booth when i wasn't singing. i shudder to think about who was in and out of there during harlem's heyday. those are probably some of the only walls i'd want to hear, if they could actually say anything. what am i thinking? those walls wouldn't talk. they would sing.

it was our second cd release party. there's a third on saturday 8/20 at the slipper room. after the gig, there's going to be a burlesque show. totally appropriate to have a party there because that's where it all began. not very many people know this, but the band started out as a back-up outfit for the burlesque dancers, or what jc calls "the professional tassle girls." that's where the song "trouble in tassletown" came from. from those humble beginnings, it grew into what it is now -- a biggish behemoth of hard be-bop proportions, with a american standards finish.

there was no cover, by the way. it was an early show -- we started at 8pm and we were done by 10pm. the place was packed, the food was great. the band was in rare form. there were three photographers -- sylvia, who was shooting the soundcheck for "the new yorker" magazine; wanda lee, who's a really cool rock and roll photographer; and tanya braganti, who's with the daily news. actually, someone was interviewing jc for the daily news for this saturday's edition and tanya didn't even know it. now he can use her photos for the article. kismet!

they fed us buffet style after the soundcheck and i baked a pound cake, as per claire daly's suggestion at wfuv. (i can cook and bake my butt off, by the way. just so you know.) they had set it out so beautifully on a little table while we were having dinner, with little plates and a serving knife and everything. i thought, perfect. i brought dessert! it went over so well that i'm thinking i'll probably bake a cake for every gig we do, just to practice and keep my chops up and everything. (saturday's cake is a special request by warren: chocolate cake with chocolate icing. i'll get imported south american cacao chocolate from fairway, so it'll be especially dark.) one thing's for sure: musicians never say things like "i can't have any, i'm watching my weight" or "oh, i couldn't have another piece" or "don't bake anymore, i'm on a diet." if it's one thing i can't stand when it comes to dessert, it's leftovers.

later on, i went looking for my cake dish and plate. someone had washed and dried it and set it aside on the counter. how sweet, i thought. later on, i called my grandmother as i was leaving because the chef wanted to speak to her. he was from south carolina and he said he'd never tasted better pound cake in his life. (i couldn't give him the recipie, of course. it's a family secret.)

i called her earlier in the afternoon because i wanted to make sure that i was baking it at the right temperature. it feels so good to be able to call her and ask her some stupid question like that and have her answer it in the same calm voice that i've always heard from her my whole life. i can't imagine ever not hearing that voice.

she's given me a lot of secret recipies. the next one? red rice, prepared in the oven.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

emmett's new suit

yesterday, shell and i ran around together in the late afternoon/early evening. she came with me to dr. kessler's office to get my vocal cords examined because i wanted her to see what was involved. afterwards, we went to the post office to send off packages and then we zipped up 3rd ave through midtown in her mini van and ran some quick-fast errands.

lets see now. well, i got my next to last check from the day job with some sorrow and fanfare. i hate change. even if it's good for me. and this change definitely is. my good guy boss was nice enough to come outside and bring it to me because i couldn't bring myself to set foot in that building again. and then we met up with wanda, the cool rock 'n roll photographer that took pictures of me for my gig and for the gig with jc at makor. she was nice enough to come outside and give us the photos on cds. i'm sure they look fantastic.

the last stop was at jc's tailor. as the proprietor put his suits in a bag, i looked around the place. it was so beautiful. lovely silk ties and hand-made shoes and manly suits. the most extraordinary shirts in colors like pink and a soft green that exploded in the window like a bouquet of wildflowers. my first thought was, i want to buy a suit for emmett from this place. something elegant and refined and manly and cool. something he'll have from now on, from me especially. he deserves that. i think it would be the just-right wedding present.

i may have six brothers, but i only have one emmett. he's more of a middle child than i am. he's found the love of his life. i'd like to celebrate it with him, somehow. they don't want any wedding presents and i know they'd like a special suit for him, for the wedding. this one will be special, from me. the more i think about it, the more i want him to have it.

Monday, August 15, 2005


thankfully, the radio interview/performances with jc hopkins on wfuv's idiot delight with vin went off without a hitch. read all about it (and anything else i'm up to music-wise) at my music blog This Rock 'n Roll Blackgrrl's High Life: A Cautionary Tale.

the good news? they're going to archive the whole thing on their website as of wednesday (the day after tomorrow), so anyone in the world can listen to it whenever they want. (just put jc hopkins biggish band in the search box. it should pop right up.) the kicker: i sing, for the very first time ever, a really beautiful song called "everything is going to be alright" that jc wrote with vocalist victoria williams, who lives in the mojave desert. (i don't know why i think that's so bizarre and cool that she lives there, but i do.) it's the only recording that's out there so far, and it's only available online on that radio show. is that cool or what?

and if you want to see my digital pix on flickr, go here.

Friday, August 12, 2005

i went and did it

someone sent me a credit card last week. can you believe it?! me, with my lousy credit rating! well. evidently, it's not so lousy anymore, although i'm sure that i'm not out of the woods yet. let's just say i've found a well-worn trail that should lead me towards civilization, or at least a dirt road of some sort. for awhile there, i was wandering through the wilderness financially, eating nuts and berries and whatnot like a caveman, and wondering if i'd ever get out of that situation. i hit a snag when i filed my taxes a few years back with the wrong social security number. without my knowledge, interest gathered on what little i owed. when i finally realized what happened, they made me pay it anyway. and it was far from pretty. that's when i started checking my credit rating regularly, correcting things that were inaccurate and all that suze orman crap. trust me, it works. reading her books forced me to rethink money and what it meant to me, how i treated it and how it was supposed to work. brilliant woman. she's helping jillions of fiscally irresponsible people like me reform themselves and get it together. if it weren't for her, i'm sure i'd still be in that cave.

and how did i find out about her? i hate to say it, but i saw her for the first time on oprah.

there were some other black marks on my credit rating that were quite unsavory. it takes two years to wipe that stuff off of my record and i want to buy a place eventually, so i rolled up my sleeves and made a commitment to fix my situation. so far, so good. i'm still making payments on my student loans but at this point, they've been whipped into submission. my dilligence about making payments and being fiscally responsible has paid off, thanks to the day job i just lost. i suppose that's why i'm getting all this fan mail from credit card companies now, when i'm at my weakest. and let's face it, i'm very weak right now. the band is starting to play out a lot more. i have at least two photo shoots coming up that are very important. and i just lost my day job, so i could really use some retail therapy.

for a long time, i looked at that card like i was a junkie and it was some premium skag.

i'm not going to use it, i told myself. and then i seriously considered shredding it. but then i thought, hang on a tic: why don't i use it responsibly? that's what it's for, right? this could be a golden opportunity to improve my credit rating. if i make regular payments, my score goes up. they'll think i'm responsible, whether i am or not.

i need a new laptop. i've never had a new computer of my own. i've always had machines that i had to figure out or dance around or something. someone makes an upgrade and i get the problematic troublesome faulty but functional cast-off. besides, i wanted something a little more tangible than my rent and bills paid in full to show for my time in that day job. so i activated the credit card and bought an iBook.

what does it feel like to have a new laptop computer, you ask?

it feels like i was hanging out on a beach in england thinking, this is great and then i moved to rio de janiero in brazil. like i was getting around on a bike and then all of a sudden, i got a motorcycle. like i was drinking ginger ale because i like ginger so much and then i tried some ginger beer. like i was eating butter and then all of a sudden, i got ahold of some devonshire clotted cream. like i've been eating scones all my life and then one day someone passed me a hot buttermilk bisquit.

it feels like the sun has finally come out and is shining on the rest of my life.

i'm going to pay off the entire amount that i owe within a month because i'm so freaked out that i actually did this, and also because i want the laptop to be mine. and until it's fully paid for, it's not. (have i learned my lesson with money and credit or what?) actually, i'm going to do that with every purchase i make. the credit card company is going to be so disappointed that they sent me a card. i'm afraid that i'm not going to make a very good victim...

Thursday, August 11, 2005

ten more things that are better than money

71. sacred heart milagros.

72. wandering through a museum, having most of the art wash right over me and then all at once i see something that moves me and i am riveted.

73. killing time with familiar strangers in a foreign country.

74. having a beauty day at home because i’m too broke or too lazy to go anywhere else.

75. getting the last of something that i know is really good, no matter what it is—a particular bottle of shampoo, a funky looking tumbler in an old shop, a bite of food, the last piece of pie.

76. wandering through vintage clothing stores, whether i want to buy anything or not.

77. standing in my grandfather’s bedroom—smelling his pipe, seeing his clothes in the closet and imagining that he’s nearby. all of a sudden, he’s not gone forever—he’s gone to the store, and he’ll be right back.

78. running around anywhere in texas with jack.

79. having ralph explain something layered and complicated that somehow flummoxed everyone else when i asked them, but he makes it sound simple and cool, even.

80. getting lost in a really good book, especially if i’m surrounded by people in a public place.

guess what?

i got a management deal! undertow collective has decided to add me to their roster. they love the cd and they "get" the "Black Americana" concept. the first order of business: getting me a record deal. it's been a long hard road, folks. i'm humbled and so very grateful to God to have made it this far.

i'd jump up and down if i weren't so exhausted. i still haven't caught up on sleep from my third shift middle-of-the-night life. that may not happen for months anyway but my forgetting to turn the ringer off because everyone loves to call me before noon doesn't help, either. i got to bed around 4am and then my mother called me at 7:30am and then my brother damon called around 9am. after that, everything was a blur until the meeting with amy later that afternoon.

i think i'll celebrate this momentous occasion by going to bed early.

Monday, August 08, 2005

clean house, clean slate

now that i don't have a conventional job, i've rolled up my sleeves to unhinge my apartment -- i'm scouring everything, rearranging my bedroom, sorting through paperwork, throwing all kinds of things away. strangely, it feels good. my theory is that somehow, i'm emotionally attached to all of this stuff. the more i toss out, the more unencumbered i feel internally. i'm such a packrat! i came home in the wee hours of saturday morning and i thought, what is all this stuff? then i freaked out and threw away a huge stack of magazines. right now, some crackhead is probably sitting on the curb up the street, trying to sell my old BUST and Bitch magazines. i wish him luck.

i think i'll have finished up the house cleaning/arranging basics by the end of the week. there's a front closet that has to be wrestled into submission and i want more houseplants. philodendrons are the only kind of houseplants that i have, besides the two narcissus bulbs that live on my kitchen windowsill. i'm watering them dutifully every other week, in the hopes that they will wake up and bloom obediently in december. that's a long time to wait for a flower. but when they come alive in the dead of winter, it sets off an avalanche of memories and feelings and sensations that i can't quite describe. that something so beautiful and delicate can blossom when everything is so desolate is nothing short of a miracle. the fragrance reminds me of the honeysuckle that grows wild in gigantic bunches along the fence in my parents' front yard. in my mind's eye, that scent epitomizes the south. and since i can't grow honeysuckle in my apartment, narcissus will have to do.

until i have flowers, i have ideas. a hook will throw itself at my feet. some word or phrase will get stuck in me and i'll walk around for weeks on end until something happens to me and i stitch that phrase onto my situation and turn it into a song. in this way, songs are no longer songs, per se. they haven't been songs for quite some time. i'm not sure what they are anymore. stories, i guess. personal little stories, very simply told, in my own way. sometimes they happen to me. sometimes they don't. more and more, i'm able to put into song what i can't or won't put into words. it's a great way to sum it all up. get the last word, in a way. get some kind of revenge, even. it's a remarkable outlet.

jc wants to write songs for the next biggish band cd. craig wants to write songs in his studio upstate. there's talk of another black folk cd with blood because of the success of the first one. and i'm working on new songs for my next cd while the first one percolates. so there's plenty of room to grow and go in whatever direction the song takes me. i'm just writing and writing and writing and writing and writing. how could i be this productive if i had a job?

in the meantime, i think my upright piano is starting to like me.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

what a day!

i got fired from my middle-of-the-night day job yesterday. i was told confidentially that somebody had it in for me. i remember thinking, someone always has it in for me. when has that ever not been true? i know who she is, of course. she'll feel the satisfaction of not ever again having to watch me, That Black Girl, walk down the corridor with a carton full of gourmet chinese food that i just raided from some executive meeting in the conference room -- with that smug self-satisfied look on my face because i got the last of the shrimp lo mein -- or doing anything else that i'm not supposed to do. but i do it, anyway. such enviornments always make me feel entitled. i think it's an after-effect of everyone else's sense of entitlement rubbing off on me. corporate osmosis.

ignoring her, of course. always ignoring her. honestly, i thought i was invisible. as "The Only Black Girl In The Office," i'm always invisible, in a high-profile kind of way. well. i made a mistake. she snagged me on it. the end. here's the kicker: i don't care. believe it or not, i actually feel terribly for her. think about it: there i go, leaving that situation like a winner, relieved and happy, triumphantly striding into the rest of my life -- my writing, my music, all the cool bands, the acting, the fun and mayhem that will inevitably ensue from all of it. all that. but that situation is pretty much all she has. everyone on the job knows it and they pity her. she needs a hobby of some sort. i don't know. maybe knitting. i love knitting. it makes me feel...productive.

i thought i'd feel some kind of fear or maybe even panic. i was waiting for my chest to tighten or my breathing to change. any indication that i was freaking out. all i could feel was sweet relief. and in the end, that was no surprise. i'm so used to flying by the seat of my pants, i don't know if i could live any other way.

i wanted my life back. having to keep that graveyard shift routine up for weeks on end was draining the life out of me. in my world, turmoil everywhere else in my life means that home should be more orderly than usual, and my apartment was a complete mess. i know how far off i am by how long it's been since i made my bed -- and it's been weeks. besides all that, my roommate has a girlfriend now. they have to eat and sleep together and have sex all the time, so she's practically moved in with us.

i made good use of the money i made and got myself out of a hole, but i am fearless in the face of poverty, regardless. i'm not going to put the brakes on my happiness to obsess about a thing like money, anyway. it will come and go, just like it always has. for now and for the next good little while, all of the basics are covered. enough said.

after goofing off with everyone in my room that worked my shift, i cleaned out my desk and skipped out to see "the aristocrats" in times square.

bizarrely enough, earlier that afternoon, i had an audition for the movie "dreamgirls" at jay binder casting in midtown for the role of "effie" (yes, she's the one that sings that drag queen anthem "And I am Telling You"...) i left there with the utmost confidence, knowing that i did a really great job -- in part because i knew the person that i was reading against, a really cool black woman that i'd seen in and out of auditions for years. actually, she was at my last commercial call, a regional spot for new york lotto the day before at beth melsky's. we went in together. we both felt that seeing her in the room and reading with her was a good omen. she silently reassured me with everything that i did.

i picked up sides a few days before and pretty much memorized them but they wanted a pop song from the 60's - early 70's, too -- so i sang "What Kind Of Fool Am I?" to the camera. God, i love that song. it really sums it up, you know? and i loooove anthony newley. charlie and the chocolate factory was lovely but it had a hole in it because "pure imagination" wasn't in the soundtrack. what a beautiful song. hm. maybe i should have sung that at the audition...but i digress.

wouldn't it be funny if i got a callback? wouldn't it be funny if i got the part? the day i lose a job, i land a lead role in a major motion picture. i'm telling you, you really can't make this stuff up.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

start over again, for the first time

two days ago, i stood against the blue wall in the hallway of my apartment as my roommate took pictures of me in a black string bikini: front, side and back shots. when he asked me about it (“are you in a contest or something?”), i mumbled something about body for life and tried to change the subject. it’s hard to talk to him about any of it because he’s got a steady girlfriend now and all they do is eat and have sex and argue. so he’s got this bulk around his waist now and he doesn’t care because they’re together and she likes him for who he is. whatever. some months ago, he was trying to work out all the time and then he hooked up with her and now it’s like, why bother, she’s mine. he wouldn’t understand that i’m doing it for me, for my personal best. or maybe i didn’t feel like explaining it.

what they say is true: the camera doesn’t lie and a bikini does not forgive. at first i was a little surprised because it didn’t match what was in my head. but then i took a deep breath, got really objective and looked again, remembering the last time i stepped into a ladies’ locker room and flashing back to what i saw. i consoled myself, a little. i didn’t have any cellulite, anywhere, at all. no spider veins, no rolls of fat or excess skin at the waist, no lumps that made me look misshapen. curves were starting to happen at my waistline and my stomach held definition without me having my breath or something. i am a lot closer to my goal than i thought i was. and frankly, i look a lot better than i thought i did. i just look a little swollen, for lack of a better word.

i want a longer, leaner look. i’m giving myself until the end of the summer—september 22?—to get it. that’s about 7 weeks. if i lose 2 lbs a week, i’ll healthfully reach my goal.

wow. this seems do-able. i wonder if i’ll actually pull it off?

Monday, August 01, 2005

believe it or not...

queen esther self-portrait
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
it's national romance awareness month. i'm not really sure what this is or what it means, but it's really annoying. whoever made this up is married and they're not getting laid. why does it always have to be a "couple's world"? why does everyone treat single people like wierdoes? i feel like standing on a remote mountain top and announcing to the entire world: yes, i am very much aware that there is absolutely no romance in my life. thanks so much for reminding me. actually, i don't care about romance anymore. (seriously.) don't get me wrong -- i'm a very happy girl but when it comes to men, i'm superjaded. especially if i like them. at this point, i just want to finish my second cd before the end of the year, right as i'm continuing to push my first one, write a slew of new songs to record in the spring for a third release and learn how to play the piano. getting a really powerful mac laptop with protools on it before the end of the summer would be stellar, so i can write and record anywhere. oh, and boxing lessons. i want boxing lessons!

well. that's not completely true about the romance thing. i am totally in love with my new digital camera...