Wednesday, June 30, 2010

what i got for my birthday

something for every day of the month, in no particular order:
  1. selections from the 3 course tasting menu at MoMA's Terrace 5 with Los Angeles Brian
  2. an ice cream maker from williams-sonoma
  3. a fascinating bio on the curzon sisters
  4. a facial at queen jane day spa
  5. small, slight shopping sprees at kiehl's (musk "love" oil), h&m (a bikini) and sephora (murad's pomegranate facial peel)
  6. creating my own blackgrrl crossword puzzle
  7. slow but steady weight loss
  8. a bottle of ethiopian honey wine
  9. a moroccan oil gift package
  10. an impromptu guitar lesson from a stranger
  11. an afternoon of leisurely schivtzing with my permanent boyfriend at spa 88
  12. a jillion happy birthday wishes on facebook and twitter
  13. well-edited closets
  14. clearing out my junk room and finding cool stuff i didn't know i had -- like a pair of never worn still in the box with tags steve madden wooden high heels. *sigh*
  15. a movie every single day of the month (thanks, netflix!)
  16. tickets to a musical -- The Heights
  17. late night dinner at Fiorello's (a Roman cafe, ironically enough)
  18. in boxing class, learning how to pivot and lean in when i throw a punch for maximum impact
  19. writing a new song, every day of the month
  20. learning how to fingerpick on guitar (thanks, jon!)
  21. discounted spa treats for me and renee at jeniette
  22. an air conditioner in the living room (wow.)
  23. dim sum with the lovely lisa brown
  24. watching sokhna dance with mangos at lincoln center
  25. cocktails at dutch kills on a sunday with ralph, eric and cybel (and abe and ben)
  26. spending a sunny saturday afternoon wandering down the coney island boardwalk
  27. a surprise birthday party at covo (!!!)
  28. a beautiful painting from cybel
  29. a cool r. crumb book from sara jane
  30. and last but not least -- a stunning halter gown from renee

Monday, June 28, 2010

Queen Esther's Top 10 Summer Reading List

These books are what I'll be diving into as the weather gets warmer. I know a lot of this isn't light beach reading but frankly, there's no room for that in my life right now -- partly because I'm doing some serious research for my once-abandoned one person show about reparations called The Big Payback, and pushing towards finding a place where it can develop and grow. It's easy to find other ways to keep things light and fluffy when the heaviness and seriousness tends to dwell in the art I'm creating. Which is kind of where it belongs.

I must say, it's wonderful, to get lost in what I'm writing, day after day after day. There are moments that stretch into hours where ideas go rushing out of me in a rush of colors and intensity and wonder. It leaves me standing there, taking it all in as I write it all down dutifully. The whole process feels freeing and restorative -- and redemptive, somehow.

These are in no particular order. (Seriously.)

  1. Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne by James Gavin
  2. One Drop of Blood: The American Misadventure of Race by Scott L. Malcolmson
  3. The History of White People by Nell Irwin Painter
  4. The Viceroy's Daughters: The Lives of the Curzon Sisters by Anne Courcy
  5. Wrapped Up in Rainbows: The Life of Zora Neale Hurston by Valerie Boyd
  6. In Search of Nella Larsen: A Biography of the Color Line by George Hutchinson
  7. Passing by Nella Larsen
  8. Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment by Patricia Hill Collins
  9. Seeing the Unspeakable: The Art of Kara Walker by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw
  10. In the Shadow of Slavery: African-Americans in New York City, 1626 - 1863 by Leslie M. Harris

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sermonette: Jesus Cares

It's Sunday. Time for church.

Today's sermonette, Jesus Cares, comes to us from Times Square Church in New York City's theater district. Enjoy and be blessed.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

dang, aaron!

has everyone that's black and american seen this boondocks episode that aired last sunday entitled "pause" except me? in it, aaron mcgruder skewers tyler perry to the hilt. from what i understand, he lets fly with so much insider information that supposedly mr. perry fired his entire staff. when you're rich and famous, getting ridiculed in the media goes with the territory. that's why they pay you tens of millions of dollars -- to soften the blow. but apparently, this was quite a blow indeed. did mr. mcgruder strike a nerve, perhaps?

first of all, let's look at the genre. adult-themed cartoons have been all the rage for quite some time, thanks to south park. with a cartoon, you can put any celebrity on blast, lampoon them to smithereens and call it social commentary. satire in adult cartoons are a legitimate way to delve into controversial subject matter that a sit-com would never touch. sometimes the stuff they come up with is nothing short of jaw-dropping. its interesting, it's inspiring, it makes you think -- all the things that television should do, and usually doesn't. that's why i LOVE adult swim.

simply put, that boondocks episode was scathing, brilliant television. i am in awe of aaron mcgruder because basically, he's his own entity and he can pretty much do whatever he wants. there's no way that tyler perry can destroy him or ruin him or fix it so that he never works in this business again. mr. mcgruder has established himself and he is his own man. i think that's tremendous.

i don't like it when anyone in hollywood stereotypes us. it doesn't make it any easier to take when black people do it. as a matter of fact, it makes it harder for me to ignore. i'm as uncomfortable with stepin fetchit as i am with tyler perry's madea but what makes madea especially toxic is the way his popularity outside of the black community has given (black) comedians permission to parade around in a dress and behave the way that they do.

my grandmother is nothing like that. is yours?

no, tyler perry isn't the first black man to put on a dress for comedic effect. but flip wilson's geraldine wasn't a black female stereotype. geraldine was a cute chick with a boyfriend named killer, a job and a life. every so often, you'd get a glimpse into her world -- but she was herself, and that was that.

here's another tidbit: not very many people know that buckwheat was a girl initially, played by a boy. remember buckwheat? so yeah, we've been listening to this one note samba for quite some time.

i mean, really. someone or something in media is always and forever on a mission to emmasculate black men and denigrate black women. the inference that it takes a black man to portray a black woman is now commonly accepted in our collective cultural subconsciousness. a black woman has her own strength, and there's absolutely nothing that's especially masculine about it. don't believe the hype.

a few days after this episode aired, mr. mcgruder tweeted: Tyler Perry has mastered the Evangelical-Christian-Afro-American-homo-erotic genre of entertainment. Good for him!!

good point.

i get the feeling that mr. mcgruder doesn't like the hyprocrisy of a gay black man using jesus to justify his cross-dressing antics or the success of his mediocre work. i could be wrong, but i'm not so sure that he's anti-christian. more on that later.

i've included the entire episode below for your viewing pleasure. enjoy!

Friday, June 25, 2010

double oy!

i really pushed myself in boxing class this evening, which means i'll wake up sore tomorrow and limp through a better part of the weekend, recovering. i'll be lucky if i can ride my bike to church on sunday...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

another 50 cent

After I read the book The 50th Law (co-written by 50 cent and the brilliant somewhat controversial Robert Greene), there were some who suggested that I take a look at a few interviews he's done recently, most notably with that Tavis Smiley (who couldn't ever hope to hold a candle to the interviewing skills of Bryant Gumbel).

After viewing this and other interviews, my initial assessment stands.

Hip-hop/rap artists cultivate menacing dangerous thug images to grow and validate their brand. (Don't believe me? Just ask Tupac.) Whether that's who they really are is irrelevant. What matters is that everyone believes that they're a gangster. (Former corrections officer Rick Ross knows all about this. Yeah, he tried to deny it -- but the truth will out, eventually.) If you really sold crack in the ghetto, it authenticates you. (Jay-Z, anyone?) Ultimately, hip-hop/rap has created a climate in our (African) American culture and in the world that has denigrated us and undermined who we are as a people. In the long run, it's done way more harm than good. The world is sure that we are the ghetto dwelling scum of the earth because of this supposed art.

Maybe I'm not the one to talk about this. I'm still sitting around listening to Public Enemy and the Pharcyde. What do I know?

Not surprisingly, most hip-hop/rap artists who are successful don't make the lionshare of their money in music. They are haberdashers -- but more importantly, they are hustlers. They sell cologne, vodka, clothing, movie tickets to whatever film they're starring in. Anything but music. Because music really isn't selling these days.

Think about it: 50 cent made $100 million by selling vitamin water. Vitamin water! Is he some sort of financial genius? He agreed to invest his capital in someone else's idea. I think that those are the kinds of opportunities that come your way when you're rich and famous. All you have to do is say yes and write a check. I don't think that's genius. I don't even think it's particularly smart. It's just common sense.

One thing is for sure. If 50 cent starts making movies, he'll probably do a far cry better than Tyler Perry.

In this video, BBC Radio 4's Today presenter Evan Davis speaks to 50 Cent about how overcoming your fears can help you get ahead in business.

In this video, 50 Cent talks to Tavis Smiley about his dark music resonating with audiences and the reaction to his success. Yes, it's the entire video. Yes, it's a little long. Yes, it's well worth watching.

Watch the full episode. See more Tavis Smiley.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

drift overload

yesterday was crazy. or maybe it was just me.

there i was, popping gum absentmindedly and listening to boston's more than a feeling on my iswitch while i was waiting to be seen for a musical theater audition, swinging my crossed leg back and forth like a metronome and thanking Jesus that they only wanted 16 bars of two contrasting songs because that's pretty much all i had in me. i remember looking down at my bag and seeing my boxing gloves, knowing that i would go to class after this and feeling the muscles in my shoulders jump a little, just thinking about my feeble puny arms and all the pushups i wouldn't be able to do.

and then my mind just kind of trailed off...

i love boston. i would get through boxing class a lot easier if i could listen to 70s dinosaur rock. or even dinosaur jr. junior kimbrough. kim wilson and the fabulous thunderbirds, austin texas, the nation's capital, capital punishment, crime and punishment, dostoyevski, bee beards, hippies, beautiful hippies, the groovy murders, the east village, the lower east side, side by side by sondheim, musical, i'm here for a musical, an original new musical, why do i love musicals?

these shoes are murder, murder she wrote, angela lansbury, catherine zeta jones, tommy lee jones, men in black, the man in black, johnny cash, cash and carry, carry nation, sufferagettes, david bowie, bowie knife, knife in the water, water? whoa - i'm thirsty! where's the water fountain? the fountainhead, ayn rand, randy the cowboy in the village people, that beautiful indian, i wonder if he was gay, gay 70s disco, gloria gaynor, i will survive, i will survive this audition, audition the book, audition a musical about auditioning, a chorus line, i can't dance well enough to be in the chorus of any musical, i'm auditioning for a musical, am i up yet or what.

what am i singing. only 32 bars. i can make it through 32 bars. bars. bars of chocolate. chocolately klondike bars! what would i do for a klondike bar. not much, actually. i'd rather eat an apple. less work burning it off on the back end. work out, right after this! oh God please don't let me be late for boxing class...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

top ten - the stuff i love

stuff i love...
  1. the taco truck on 145th between broadway and amsterdam. i haven't had chicken chalupas that good since i ate at seis salsas in austin texas (the nation's capital) way back in the 90s.
  2. the murad pomegranate exfoliating facial mask. murad products make my skin glow and this facial mask is a little miracle in a packet. whenever i slather it on (usually in a steam room), i can feel it eating away at the dead skin on my face. delicious!
  3. wall street bath and spa - if i want to go to a real russian banya in manhattan (because the russian/turkish baths on 10th street are neither russian nor turkish) that's not expensive and hassle free, i go here.
  4. as a musician, lets me update everything, all at once.
  5. i love old cool guitars -- probably because i can't afford to spend thousands on the kind of stuff that everyone else plays. i think that vintage danelectro guitars are twang-tastic. i want one with the amp in the case. and yes, i'm looking for a teisco del ray.
  6. those gigantic incredibly delicious chocolate chip cookies from tiny little levain bakery. absolutely without question the best chocolate chip cookie i've ever had, bar none.
  7. listen up, ex-pat texans: they're serving migas for brunch at good enough to eat. and they're so good, it's actually a little wacky. just goes to show what wonderful things can happen when the chef/owner steps aside and lets the tex-mexicans make what they know. by the way -- i've never had migas anyplace else in this town. if you have, let me know.
  8. i lovelovelovelovelove boxing.
  9. i lovelovelovelovelove my guitar coach.
  10. believe it or not, i actually have a cremier-fromager. and i love him, too.

Monday, June 21, 2010

the longest day, the shortest night

ah, summer solstice. the first official day of summer. here's a little video (banned, of course - made by germans who thought it would be fun to pick on swedes) that celebrates it better than i did.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

happy father's day, daddy

Dad, it appears your lifelong theory about the world going to hell was dead-on

i can't even begin to say how much i miss my daddy.

yes, that's right. i'm an african-american woman with parents who were married to each other for nearly 50 years. my daddy left this world last year at the age of 92. no man worked harder than he did to provide for his family. back in the day, he held seven union cards. seven! i don't know anyone with more than two. my mother still lives in the house that they raised us in - all five of us. a big house, in cascade heights, in the ATL. and she's still running their real estate business, singlehandedly.

it makes me sick to my stomach, the things that everything in the media continually feeds us about black men and black fathers. while it's horrible that this garbage gets ingested worldwide, what's especially disturbing is that we've started to believe it about ourselves. we can't even make movies or tv shows about decent hardworking black fathers. absolutely everyone thinks they're unicorns. no one believes they're real.

so let me set the record straight, on my end: i had a daddy, a granddaddy and a great-granddaddy -- all of them, hard-working, sober, responsible, dedicated, church-going family men. and i know i'm not the only black person out here who can say that. the glass is hardly half empty.

today would have been a day of fun for him. he would have been celebrated in church, with a special service for fathers, surrounded by people congratulating him and wishing him well. and then of course a nice big dinner , surrounded by family, and then his easy chair and phone calls from near and far all day long from everyone that knows him, and opening all kinds of gifts and yelling at the grandkids and telling everyone what to do. the remote would be in his hand like a scepter, and he'd wave it around for dramatic effect whenever he would punctuate anything he'd have to say. and he had plenty to say. about everything.

if i couldn't be there, i would have sent a huge bouquet of flowers and something permanent and cool, something that he could touch and say, my only daughter gave this to me for father's day, like a tie clip. if i were actually there, i'd make dinner and serve it to everyone dutifully -- and in the middle of the meal, daddy would turn to my mother and say, in a stage whisper, our only daughter is serving us dinner, in this really astonished overly dramatic can-you-believe-it voice. like it's this massively huge thing that's not really happening right in front of him but it is. like it's something i never did when i came home. it's not like it never happened at all, ever. me making dinner and serving it and cleaning up afterwards was practically my entire childhood. i suppose he expected me to stay in that kitchen, making his oxtails and rice, until marriage put me in someone else's. but that was not to be.

it feels like i'm going to grieve him for the rest of my life. who knows. i probably will.

i'm actually okay with it, if that's what happens. everyone handles these things differently. i really don't know how else to be. besides, i am told that such traumatic things can sometimes trigger massive creative explosions. it makes a lot of sense, that something truly beautiful could eventually come out of so much sorrow.

Saturday, June 19, 2010


i recovered from last night's fabulous friday night fish fry and the japanese flag i found myself flying unexpectedly by sleeping in, hanging out at a fun family picnic in brooklyn and then wandering through the russian riviera with my permanent boyfriend.

we watched the sun fade as we sipped italian white wine and noshed on cheeses and such, and held each other and whispered sweet nothings and watched a scary movie.

and now i sit, practicing guitar and absentmindedly watching some tim burton movie while one of my well-off neighbors smokes some pretty strong pot in the well-groomed backyard of their tony brownstone.

happy days.

Friday, June 18, 2010

the things i'm going to miss

i'm going to miss boxing class today and all the stuff that goes with it -- the run that happens when i come out of the room and the steam/sauna that happens after that. but mostly sparring with my instructor and pounding that bag.

i'm going to miss that long and arduous bike ride up and down the west side highway's bike lane, because i've got so much crap to do that only a fast-moving train will accommodate me.

i'm going to miss sleeping in and daydreaming and chugging water mindlessly and yes, i will miss my guitar.

i am in audition and callback purgatory. that means everything and nothing. it's like chasing a shadow in the midst of a fog that disappears as suddenly as it arrives. even if you get whatever it is, there's always the possibility that it can slip through your fingers like a vapor. they can edit your character out of the scene or even the entire episode. they can call you back ten times and then not give it to you. or they can go in another direction after you're absolutely certain that it's yours. (that one is my personal favorite - it's such a great way to say "we don't want you.")

and yet, i jump through those hoops.

it's a full time job, to stay in a constant state of readiness. more and more, it feels like that's a battle that i'm winning. probably because i'm into boxing and it's fun, and i'm getting my body back. once i get the gig in question, the work is fun, too. getting lost in that process, growing into a character, shooting ideas into the air and trying new things. that's too much fun.

no -- the audition is where the fun stops. the audition is the work. it is punishing, it is backbreaking, it is unforgiving. sometimes i'm good at it. (i think.)

i've got to stick to my routine in my downtime. (stick and move, stick and move...) tom petty was right. the waiting is the hardest part.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

am i a hoarder?

after seeing one too many episodes of that A&E tv show hoarders, i spent the better part of the day in my junk room, sorting, organizing and throwing things away. most people i know who live in nyc don't have a room to shove stuff into, to make the rest of the apartment look halfway decent. i've been doing it for years, so you can imagine what it looks like. that room has spoiled me. if things keep going this way, it will undo me. i need it now -- or rather, we need it now -- so circumstance has forced me to seriously deal with everything in there. and of course, nothing makes it happen like a deadline.

i don't know what it is -- change in the weather, weight loss, hanging out at everyone else's hot spots, or the nightmarish situations those filthy obsessive people get themselves into -- but for some strange reason, i'm turning into howard hughes.

or maybe i'm just reveling in the special feeling that only a clean room can give me.

feng shui says the first rule is, declutter. wish me luck. i'd like to give myself a cleaned out second bedroom for my birthday.

and no. i'm not a hoarder. things are in complete and utter disarray in there, but i know where everything is.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

...about that seattle cop...

everybody's seen the video by now -- a seattle cop named ian walsh gets into a shoving match with a 17 year old black girl and punches her in the face. hard. it's pretty compelling stuff, him pulling his fist back as swiftly as he did, with or without the backstory. partly because every news organization all over the world is showing it over and over and over again, sometimes in slow motion, like peckinpah. and like peckinpah, the violence becomes more disturbing the slower it gets. was it racist? who knows. clearly, this cop was losing control of the situation and (according to the seattle authorities) he did what he was supposedly trained to do to regain it. but when even bill o'reilly comes down on the side of the black teenaged victim, it should give anyone reason to pause.

what happened?

the cop stopped the 17 year old black girl and an 18 year old woman for jaywalking. jaywalking! who gets arrested for jaywalking? everybody does it -- which is probably why he wasn't taken seriously when he spoke to them in the first place.

not only did they verbally berate him when he told them to come over to the police car (surprised?) but one of them even walked off dismissively. (i mean, wow. some would get a bullet in the back for that one.) once he put his hands on the 18 year old, she began to struggle in an effort to get away. the 17 year old got in between them to defend her, a shoving match ensued, and then they were off to the races. so the upshot of it all is, he didn't hit this girl because she was jaywalking. that's why he stopped her. he hit her for putting her hands on him, for resisting arrest, for being a public nuisance, for obstructing an arrest. and so on.

there's a lot that's wrong with this picture.

i found this situation sickening to a dizzying degree, mostly because neither of the victims seemed to have any real respect for authority. both of them were blissfully unaware of protocol -- how to talk to police officers, how to behave when one approaches you, what is illegal and what is not. jaywalking is one thing but once he told them to come over to that police car and put their hands on the hood, it was a whole other ball game. they should have known that.

it's also especially unnerving because they never seemed to understand how much danger they were in. anything could have happened. his gun could have gone off "accidentally," if you know what i mean. happens all the time.

don't get me wrong. i don't like cops. i'm sure there are good ones, but too many of them move forward full tilt on the slightest assumption, violently and with menace, trafficking in stereotypes to harass decent hardworking law abiding black folk everywhere. whether you're driving while black, opening your front door, out with friends on the eve of your wedding day or simply a black ivy league professor in your own home, minding your own business -- racial profiling by the police will come for you sooner or later, if you're black. that's why i assume i'm dealing with a bad cop when i deal with any of them. if i'm right, no harm done. and if i'm wrong, it's a pleasant surprise.

thank God someone's camera phone was fully charged and at the ready, or we would never have known about any of this. well. i would, because it would have been our news item -- the kind of thing we discuss amongst ourselves ad nauseum (like girl x) and white people refuse to believe because there's no proof. but even when there is proof, there's no proof. didn't we learn that lesson with rodney king.

whatever happened to officer friendly?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

goodreads review: the 50th law

The 50th Law The 50th Law by 50 Cent

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
i don't like 50 cent. i never have and i probably never will, in spite of the way he's recently cleaned up his image and repackaged himself to mainstream/middle (white) america, readying all of us for his next incarnation. he's not stupid. he knows that his gangsta rap moment has played itself out and it's time to move onto the next -- probably acting (he's getting his tatoos removed for this purpose) and producing. there's an astonishing amount of money in film/tv, no matter which side of the camera you're on. truthfully, he's become more of a businessman and haberdasher, like most of his ilk who are successful -- with a line of clothing, vitamin water and whatever else makes him more money, all the while maintaining a menacing dangerous image to validate his brand.

and therein lies the problem.

it started out with its heart in the right place, as a way to report what the black urban underclass was experiencing, something that the rest of america was blissfully unaware of. but eventually, when hip/hop and rap saw the money, it branded and sold itself to the highest bidder in the name of multiculturalism and opportunity. now it's pretty much a black-faced caricature of itself. the thug posturing and posing that's supposed to represent all black american men of a certain age. the idea that bitch=(black) women. the casual/liberal use of the "n" word. and many more things that have fostered a climate in our culture that's perpetuated almost as many stereotypes about black people to the world as stepin fetchit, arguably. all for the sake of money, material things, and beef/"reputation" (whatever that is).

i hope it was worth it.

so i was thinking all of these things and more as i read this book. i read it because a friend suggested it and admittedly, i am a huge fan of Robert Greene. i've read pretty much all of his books and i think he gives an interesting and thought-provoking take on media, power and societial dynamics. this book is basically mr. greene taking on the idea of fear, the 50th law, and using 50 cent's life story and personal philosophy to augment and illustrate his intent. mr. greene didn't take this lightly. he followed 50 cent for years and was a fly on the wall in his life in and out of boardrooms, heady confrontations and power moves. he did his homework, and it shows.

it's a provocative premise. curtis "50 cent" jackson is probably the only gangsta rapper out here that was actually a gangster in real life and not a wangsta, someone that cultivated that image to make money. rick ross (the boss), for example, was a corrections officer in florida for years -- and in spite of him insisting that it's not true, there are pictures and paperwork to prove it.

we've all heard tell of what it takes to be a gangster. why not hear it from the source?

this is what makes the book a fascinating read. it delves into the details of mr. jackson's life as a drug dealer in queens and his rise as a gangsta rapper to pull up details that augment this idea: all of us have the capacity to live a fearless life, and to live life to the fullest, and to live to the fullest of our potential, we must find a way to eliminate that fear by any means necessary.

apparently, curtis has come a long way. it's no surprise that what he has observed by working for gangsters initially and usurping them to create his own power base has come in handy when doing business in the corporate world and the entertainment industry.

i don't want to get into too much detail. it's a very juicy read and in the end it didn't tell me anything that i didn't already know about fear and how it can undo you. but i must admit, mr. greene found a very interesting way to tell it.

View all my reviews >>

Monday, June 14, 2010

the real girls in the room

today in boxing class i watched a guy that was much bigger and stronger than me hit the bag like a total girl. he didn't put his body into it. he didn't pivot. he just threw his arm forward repeatedly in an almost absent-minded way, like a little kid. he had this stupid grin on his face while it was happening, like he knew what he looked like. and he certainly seemed to care but it couldn't be helped.

oh, yeah. and he had chicken legs.

he had a friend with him, who was just as big and strong and goony as he was, and who hit the bag the same way that he did. his friend wasn't smiling. he was watching the women in the room and the way their punches landed with impact and power. neither of them were really working hard with all of the cardio that keeps you exhausted and out of breath and on your last leg. squats. sit-ups. push-ups, endless push-ups. once things became a strain, they backed off and did the minimum -- the way some girls do, that don't want to sweat their perms out or whatever.

sparring with the boxing instructor made chicken legs giggle. i remember thinking, he's such a chick. i wonder if these two will come back?

george (my boxing instructor) is 100% right. boxing isn't the exclusive domain of men because they have more testosterone or whatever. it's all a matter of technique. either you know how to fight or you don't. the guys who don't know what they're doing are the real girls in the room.

i don't know why i want this so much. because i'm learning so much, all at once. because my body is changing. because it's fun, and when something is fun, it's not work -- especially when it is work. because it's a useful skill. because i have more stamina, overall. because when i do it right, it's like dancing -- and when i do it really well, it's like dancing and flying at the same time.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

...and the Tony goes to...

i should have made some hard and fast predictions about who would win a tony and who wouldn't but that's no fun when pretty much everyone knows -- or thinks they know -- how it's going to go. it's thrilling to see greatness onstage or onscreen but i think actors get awards for their body of work -- not necessarily for their particular performance. it's all about star power. remember back in the day when an oscar nomination for katherine hepburn meant that she would win? everything she'd done was under consideration, everything was under that microscope. even her personal life. especially her personal life, probably. you gotta have a backstory.

something to think about, the next time the actor you're cheering for loses. or never gets nominated in the first place.

i just saw a documentary called i knew it was you about the film/theater actor john cazale. (you know who he is, you just don't know it. he's just that good.) he was only in 5 movies. they all received academy award nominations for best picture. something like a total of 40 nominations. although hitting five in a row is quite an accomplishment for any actor, mr. cazale never got one nomination for his work -- and yet, he was and still is the actor that other great actors are in awe of and inspired by. his work still resonates.

awards, evidently, aren't everything.

i must say, i especially liked viola davis' thank you speech. maybe it was the dress, but i thought she was radiant.

the aftertalk is always interesting, isn't it. here's denzel and viola in a backstage q&a.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

i don't want to be famous

let's get one thing straight.

i don't want everyone to know who i am. or where i live. or who i goof off with.

i don't want to be harassed in public places, or followed through the streets like a common thief, or hounded and singled out whenever i'm recognized because of some acting gig i had.

i don't want people taking pictures of me at random. like when i'm eating salad with my fingers. or when it's laundry day and i'm wearing something especially filthy. or when me and my friends are on the beach, naked. or whatever.

i don't want a detail of security guards.
i don't want a stalker.
i don't want to be a prisoner in my own home.
i don't want people staring at me all the time.

i don't want to drive a big fine fancy car. i don't want a fleet of cars in my backyard. good grief. i don't even know how to drive. (yet.)

i don't want to be on cribs.
i don't want my personal private life on display.
i don't want to be easily found.

i don't want to be a celebrity, a glitterati, a media whore, an A lister, a B lister or any variation therein.

i don't care if i'm ever bankable as an actor or not.

i don't want handlers.
i don't want to give anyone my autograph.
i don't want to take pictures with strangers.

i don't want the minutae of my personal private goings-on -- however real or imaginary -- to be the fodder that sells magazines or tabloids or drives up internet hits or whatever.

i don't want anybody telling me what i can or can't do creatively -- or who i can or can't work with, for whatever reason. or where i can or can't go. or who i should or shouldn't hang out with.
i don't want anyone telling me what to do, period.

i don't want to be famous.

i am the antithesis of all that noise. i am an artist.

i am incapable of treating my art like a hobby because i am following my God-given creative impetus where ever it leads me.

to quote harlan howard - He wrote the songs -- i held the pen.

more later.

Friday, June 11, 2010


there's a lot going on this weekend -- big apple bbq in madison square park, the puerto rican day parade, tony awards parties, world cup parties -- but because i took two boxing classes tonight, i'll be in hibernation: oversleeping, daydreaming and spring cleaning.

oh, yeah. someone suggested i take "before" pictures in a bikini so i can chart and monitor my progress. not a bad idea. photos don't lie -- and neither do scales.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

and now a word from our sponsor

hey, new york/tri-state area folk! believe it or not, there's going to be an actual new orleans style second line jazz parade in three different neighborhoods in the city this month. for details, click here. and yes, i'm going.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

thank you

i stopped in the corner bodega on the way home tonight for my usual naked protein shake. now there's something i couldn't have said not even 5 years ago.

actually, there's one one either side of the street. and up the street. and down the street. they're peppered all over the neighborhood and they've gotten pretty swanky, with their inlaid wood walls and shelving, those gourmet organic potato chips and toblerone bars and all the other specialty items that many would think have no business being sold in the ghetto. those well-chilled imported belgian beers are a far cry from st. ides or colt 45, if you know what i mean. but that's the thing. we've been snacking on such treats all along -- it's just that we always had to go below 96th street to get whatever we wanted. now that white people are here, everything is shifting to accommodate them. and it's really aggravating.

why couldn't they accommodate me? i like toblerone bars.

there's the usual suspects in this narrow space -- dominican old men, loud kids messing around and buying candy, crackheads, buppies, arabs chatting back and forth with the guy at the cash register and reading the paper out loud and the like. oh, and white hipsters. always, the white hipsters.

everyone is talking all at once. there's arabic music playing underneath it all, and every so often the cashier sings along absentmindedly. he's on and off the phone, he's laughing and talking to his pals, he's yelling things to the back grill, he's popping gum. it's a real sonic blast. as i move to the back and then the front of the store, all of it comes at me in waves. most of it is indecipherable but i 'm listening to the arabic for a change. i think it sounds pretty.

after i pay for my things, i say thank you in arabic. moroccan arabic, to be exact. this stops the cashier in his tracks. for a moment, he's like a deer in the headlights. his pleased expression is one of genuine disbelief and some bewilderment. he mumbles you're welcome in arabic and bows to me slightly. and he smiles slightly, still staring. as i leave i see his friends looking at me with the same expression.

nothing bridges the gap quite like polite behavior.

i remember when i lived in a building on the upper west side that was filled with eastern europeans and gnarled old jews. they treated me like i was an alien. i still remember the way they would point at me and stare, dumbfounded. one day, i started to say hello and goodbye to everyone in their own language. there were quite a few languages, believe me. it wasn't easy -- but after awhile, it became a game and we were all in on it. the next thing you know, i was getting hamentashen every year at purim. i remember coming home late one afternoon and having a group of them invite me to sit with them, to watch the sunset. it was beautiful, to be accepted for myself -- but it was wierd, to be inside that circle and watch them exclude others.

more on exclusionary tactics later. i know that eventually, that cashier and i will have a nice long chat. for now, i'm practicing my arabic -- one phrase at a time. learning to say thank you is a pretty good start.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

a day in the life of queen esther

wake up early. too early.

realize that you're not ready for your 10:20am audition because you haven't learned the original song they sent you. no, they didn't send the actual song. they sent sheet music. and you know what that means. it means that you have to find the song on iTunes, and if it doesn't sync with what's on paper, you have to find a pianist to play through the song so you can record it and obsess over it for nearly a week until you know it well enough to give some semblance of a performance when you go into that audition room and face most of the production team. not a "sing your way through this" kind of a deal. i mean, nail it to the wall. perform.

thinking about this exhausts you so much that you immediately go back to bed. and thinking of standing in front of that long table freaks you out so totally, you can't go back to sleep. so you lie there and stare at the ceiling and try to remember the melody of the song, to somehow reassure yourself that you've got some of it marinating in your head. but the only thing that comes floating back to you is the last song you had to learn overnight. it's called how blessed we are from the musical big river: the adventures of huckleberry finn. and once it comes back, it stays.

this is the start of your day. fun, right?

when you finally crawl out of bed, you are more than relieved that you popped a zantac before you went to bed because you ate something before you abrubtly fell out. simply put, acid reflux is a bitch. nevermind what you're supposed to eat. none of that really matters. not with you, anyway.

by 9:30am, you run out of the house like your butt is on fire - with the wrong address. once you actually get there, they've been alerted and all is forgiven. you go into the room and give one of the best auditions you've ever squeezed out of yourself, ever. everyone is smiling and warm and glowy. it feels like an amazing first date.

and to think - they were actually expecting queen esther marrow.

you run out, get time sheets, run to the bank, deposit money, run out of the bank, find a mailbox and mail stuff, run to drop off the time sheets. somewhere in all that running, your commercial agent calls. you've got an audition in the flatiron district for a lowe's spot. you stop and ask: what about the one i thought i missed yesterday, the pizza hut spot? they put you on hold, pop back on the line after a brief pause and say, you can go in for it but you have to go before 12:45pm. that means you drop everything and go now. everything is your new boxing gloves. you're annoyed that you're going to miss your 12:30pm kickboxing class but a national commercial is at stake. you very quickly get over it.

you zip over to chelsea from columbus circle, you do the deed. you go home and change clothes because you need casual attire for the lowe's spot and you know the wrap dress you're wearing just won't cut it.

when you come out of the subway, you buy a gigantic melon in the street from some mild-mannered dominicans. and it's so supercheap, you smile all the way home. you turn on the soaps while you check your makeup and change your clothes and slice that melon and shove it in the fridge to chill. you leave your place in a t-shirt and blue jean skirt. you think to yourself, yeah, i look like i'm married and shopping for stainmaster carpet. as you're running down the street in the flatiron district, looking for the address, you run into chris. he comes to the audition with you and afterwards, he takes you to lunch at la petit abielle. a really terrific salmon salad, actually. you have a wonderful conversation. as it turns out, chris used to box as a kid. you show him your boxing gloves. he laughs at your pink hand wraps. we take the 1 uptown - you jump off at 50th and hit the gym. he goes to catch up with a friend for the museum mile festival, which sounded like way too much fun.

after the gym - which did not include boxing conditioning class, and that makes you feel cheated, somehow - you could go run around but you'd rather go home. because you haven't touched your guitar what feels like forever, you've got rewrites to deal with and yes, you are officially in preproduction on something else. besides -- it's taco night.

the end -- more or less.

oh. here's that song that you couldn't stop singing all day long, from that musical you weren't auditioning for, as sung by jennifer leigh warren, for those of you keeping score at home. enjoy the money note!

Monday, June 07, 2010

great news!

i'm going to be a judge for the jazzmobile jazz vocal competition this year. it's happening on monday july 26th at gospel uptown - a wonderful venue right above 125th street on adam clayton powell blvd. and yes, the food is kind of amazing.

i think it's a great idea that they include a vocalist on the panel each year and i'm honored and somewhat floored that they chose me. God knows i'm going to take my duties very seriously.

and hey, vocalists - it's not too late to audition for this! they will see you on thursday, june 10th from 3:00 PM - 8:00 PM at the Harlem School of the Arts, 645 St. Nicholas Avenue, NY, NY 10030 (between 141st & 145th Street). *If they are not able to audition all singers registering by 7:00 p.m., a second day of auditions will take place on Friday, June 11, 2-5pm.

more details as they develop.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

an impromptu beauty day

i must be pretty serious about conditioning class because went to modell's and got a pair of boxing gloves today, and a set of pink hand wraps to go with them. i just couldn't take using the gloves at the gym anymore. they're way better than nothing but most of them are falling apart. and as if that weren't bad enough, they have the worst stench imaginable. my hands reek when i'm done - like i've been handling rancid meat. i have to soak them in hot soapy water and antibacterial solution before i go home because i don't want to carry that funk with me on the train. when i don't wear my hand wraps, it's even worse.

and then of course afterwards, i paid my eyebrowist a visit, got a mani/pedi and had a salad at one of my favorite spots in soho. because evidently, i'm such a lady.

i'm supposed to have a beauty day once a week because i learned a long time ago that if i wanted to look a certain way, i had to give myself over to that on a regular basis. that's just a holdover from theater/musical theater, when i was doing 8 shows a week with one day off and i'd spend that one day off in a spa. now that the weather has turned great and i'm getting into the habit of riding my bike everywhere, i have to up the ante. i need to sit in a steam room after every conditioning class, especially if i'm going to ride my bike home. what am i saying. i need it, regardless. and a banya once a week? glorious.

egad. what am i saying? boxing gloves? eyebrowists? russian bathhouses? yes, new york city is turning into an expensive generic nondescript strip mall, yes, everyone is leaving to make art elsewhere, yes, i can't afford it. but hey - it's still new york city. even when things are supposedly pretty bad, they're still pretty good.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

everything starts right now

i spent the better part of the afternoon sipping white sangria with randy and my permanent boyfriend in a sun drenched peri i cafe near trump towers in riverside park, near the 72nd street entrance, where eleanor roosevelt perches herself carefully, forever lost in thought. although it is a somewhat crowded and busy cafe, replete with wide umbrellas and fresh flowers and condiments, it is nevertheless a hidden one, tucked underneath the west side highway next to a set of basketball courts and a small field of green, suitable for soccer. so i feel pretty crummy about telling anyone anything about it. when i find something this good, the last thing i want to do is share the wealth with strangers. but there's just way too many people that i know who live in the area that don't know it's there.

case in point: randy lives on the upper west side and he' d never been there. mpb and i make it a regular pit stop, of sorts. i can't remember when i first discovered it. probably when i decided to ride my bike everywhere, for the sake of burning a calorie whenever i could. when i zip by on my bike, trying to make time to get to midtown without missing a step, i can smell the fine-tuned residue of char-grilled meat still lingering in the morning air. i can stop for an espresso on the way to work. and on the way back, i have to flit through an innocuous cloud of mesquite smoke and chatter to get home. in the evening, i can have a three course dinner if i want. with a view! it's like a good time that's always waiting for me. people are out there like it's their living room. and why not? babies are all over the place, little kids and dogs and grandma and everybody. you can even bring your own food, if that's your pleasure. no one will stop you.

but trust me, you really don't want to bring your own food. the menu is spot on and tasty.

so there we were, in the sun and sun drenched and drenched in white sangria, and i thought many things. i thought, this is beautiful. i thought, my life is beautiful. i thought, i am full of joy. i thought, thank God for this. i thought, this is the start of the summer, i hope the whole summer stays like this. i thought, everything starts right now. everyday that last thought churns through me like a sonic boom. somehow in moments like this, it's more real than any other. everything beginning and ending and being all the time, all at once. everything starts right now.

and that's when i began to hear more songs inside myself. i had to hurry up and get home, so i could catch them in a jelly jar before they flew away.

Friday, June 04, 2010

hair apparent

guess what, sports fans. i got a callback for a capital one commercial. yeah, that's right - the series with the visigoths tromping around wrecking stuff. maybe it's me, but i think they all look like bears. imagine that! (heh.)

frankly, i was totally shocked that they wanted to see me again because i didn't wear a wig. i was totally going to wear a wig. i was planning on it. i had it all picked out and everything. even my agent told me to wear one. (think about that.) should i wear a wig or not, i asked her assistant innocuously and i could hear her yell out in the background, wear a wig! like she was a little kid in class and she had the right answer and she had to just let it out.

wear a wig! that little phrase reverberated all the way through the rest of my afternoon like an echo. i made every effort to make it happen. and therein lies the rub. doing my hair is an all day event. the longer it gets, the more upper body strength i need. they called me in the middle of the afternoon to let me in on the audition that was happeing the next day. no bueno. i wore myself out with a 14+ mile bike ride and a thorough gym workout that's still kicking my butt. i had the strength to ride home after class, to make a spectacular dinner, to houseclean. but i simply didn't have the strength to do my hair. again, no bueno.

and you know what? this is impossible to explain to anyone except other black women out there with a head full of healthy natural hair. if you're not in that particular group, i honestly don't expect you to "get" what i'm saying. it's just hair, some idiot said to me last week. no, it's not. in certain situations, it's a fairly bold political statement. and here's why.

my hair was (um, i mean is) a freshly undone and filthy, tangled, glorious mess of raw heavyness. it is a mystery and a wonder. it is indignant. it is unapologetic. it is relentless. it is unforgivable. indeed, it is the epitome of what i like to describe as unforgivable blackness. my hair is a highly visible societal indicator, the one thing i've got that shows my compliance to the powers that be. to walk into a situation with this african face and hair so raw and full that african cab drivers give me the dap as i traipse up the block means that when i show up, i will be considered suspect, no matter how shiny my penny loafers are.

you have to think about this stuff when you audition for commercials. you have to think about everything. they will type you out in a flash, solely based on what you look like. and exactly where are they getting the idea of what they think i should look like, as a black woman? you tell me.

good thing they caught me at a weak moment -- too weak to wash my hair. oy! and oh yeah. i thought i did a super crappy read.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

bring the pain

in an effort to burn a calorie in the most mundane moments of my life -- like when i'm in transit -- i rode my 15 speed mountain bike from my place in west harlem to a new york sports club on 14th street. and because i had to take it there physically, i took a boxing conditioning class that worked me so hardcore, it made my arms and legs tremble involuntarily whenever i stood still.

the beauty of it all is that i was never allowed to stand still, really. i had to stick and move and run and shift and go go go every nanosecond that i was in that room. because there was this jumbo sized freakshow of a trainer that was screaming over the music constantly, a most excellent trainer who decided that he liked me (how do i know he liked me? because he came up to me as he was telling everyone what the routine would be around the room and he said, i like you, love. you spar with me first...) and that meant that he had his eye on me for the whole hour. so when i wasn't moving, he made a point of calling me out in front of the whole class. he'd say stuff like, what are YOU doing, love? are you trying to HIDE behind that bag? give it to me! keep that front leg steady! put your body into it! all this directed at me as a bag worked me across the room, while he was sparring with someone else. now that's love.

what was worse? maybe it was the sweat that poured off of me so steadily, it looked like my whole body was crying. maybe it was the bad disco/house music. and when i say bad, i mean God-awful. don't get me wrong. i don't mind a big beat. but that thud-thud-thud eurotrash sucks. more fatboy slim, please. less haddaway. and no, they don't know who fatboy slim is. if it stays this bad, i may be wearing headphones during the next class...right about now/funk soul brother/check it out now/funk soul brother...

by the way, i zipped down the cherry walk along the west side highway to get downtown. the bike path is complete and it is pristine. shockingly so. maybe it was the sun and the heat or whatever but that 12 + mile bike ride was punishing, way harder than i thought it would be. so hard on the way there, in fact, i seriously considered taking the train home. but then i thought about all the cool vintage clothes and whatnot in my closet that i can't fit my larger than usual midsection into these days and i powered my way through it. when i got home, i downed my second quart of water, had a naked protein shake and sat still on my sofa, listening to my body hum.

yeah, i know. tomorrow i'm really going to feel this. it will be that low dull steady ache that makes me feel muscles i didn't know i had, in places on and in my body that i completely forgot about. if i keep this up, i'm going to need a banya. every week. a lot of banyas, actually. and when i say need, i mean require.

yeah, i intend to keep it up. God help me.

here's a little taste of fatboy slim for you, the uninitiated. long live the 90s! whoo-hoo!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

i got nothin'!

i'd like to blog something interesting, but i'm overwhelmed at the moment. working by day, working on more songs, working out -- work, work, work. and yeah, i've got a commercial audition tomorrow. still and all, it was nice to take a long walk in the sun this afternoon and get a taste of summer.

my biggest question at the moment is whether i should wear a wig for this audition or not.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010


have i really not written anything on this blog since the middle of april? that's just nuts -- so nuts in fact that i will do my usual extremist stance and join nablopomo's writing efforts for the month of june. an entry every day for the next 30 days? piece of cake.

this month's theme is NOW. whatever that means. and yes, it could mean anything. i'll have days on end to explore it.