Tuesday, December 20, 2011

i'm the decider!

i've turned a corner.

i don't know exactly when it happened. i don't know what triggered it. i don't know when all of it hit me, full on. maybe it was boxing. taking myself to my absolute limit physically every day definitely changed me from the inside out. maybe it was the clean program. so many days of deliberately eating unprocessed, healthy, organic food -- no caffeine, no salt, no sugar, no junk food, no corn, no peanuts, no dairy, no nightshade vegetables, no wheat gluten, no pork or beef or seafood -- for weeks on end. it must have shaken something loose in my soul. or maybe its all the vintage tea dances and parties and cool events and such -- glowy moments that transport me into another time and place, whether i want to go or not.

as if all of that weren't enough, i have an avalanche of unconditional love in my life that overwhelms the most mundane moments in my day to day world -- and he's right by my side.

apparently while i was beating myself up about not being able to do a military push up, my life pulled me up to this whole other level. something clicked when i read the quote above. like gabby, i made the decision to get off the couch and get physical. i made up my mind to eat healthy. i wanted to have more fun on my own terms. sure -- getting dressed up in vintage clothes and going to a tea social and dancing to music from the 20s and 30s isn't everyone's idea of a good time but it makes me very, very happy. so, nuts to you.

maybe that's the whole point: nuts to you.

it's a beautiful thing, to subconsciously focus only on the things that really matter until everything else grows strangely blurred -- and i'm left wondering why i cared about any of that stuff in the first place.

and that's another thing: there is something powerful and life-affirming to be said for gabourey sidibe having the guts to make that statement to herself, to decide that she is beautiful, when practically everything in the world is telling her -- and every other black woman on the planet -- that she is not. there's a reason why, in a recent allure magazine survey, black women were three times as likely to rate themselves as "hot" than their caucasian counterparts. that makes perfect sense to me.

i don't have anything out there in the world that's validating what i see when i look in the mirror, so i make my own world. i have my own beauty standards and regimens, my own beauty ideals. my own beauty icons. and as i surround myself with these things and more, my self-confidence grows and grows and grows.

did chris rock say it best? why yes, he did.

i know how -- i decided! -- but i don't know when i got to this stronger, healthier, happier, more beautiful place in my life. all i know is that i'm pressing on, the upward way. and i'm grateful.

Monday, November 28, 2011

the kickstarter project

i just launched my kickstarter project for my as-of-yet unnamed black americana album -- the one i've been working on since my last heartbreak. i don't know why this is making me feel so giddy. everything is rushing in all at once, all of a sudden. everything is converging. it feels like everything is happening, now.

once upon a time when i ran out of money, i'd just go get another crummy job somewhere downtown or whatever, and i'd work it until i got the cash i needed to make my art. but nyc doesn't work that way anymore -- and it hasn't for a very long time. there's crummy jobs but they don't pay enough to make a dent because the cost of living is so fracking high. that means instead of one crummy job, i'd need four crummy jobs. and i don't have it like that. i don't know how to split the space/time continuum to be in four different places at once. i'm batting a thousand when i show up awake and on time and on an even keel for the one crummy job i've got, whatever that is.

i didn't think that i needed kickstarter because that crummy job always came through for me. now that things have shifted, the idea of pre-selling the album makes perfect sense. actually, it always did. with kickstarter, i have a platform to do it.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Monday, November 07, 2011

A teach-in?

here's the latest missive from moveon.org -- a teach-in! what a great idea. i think a teach-in is exactly what america needs, en masse. wouldn't it be great if teach-ins began to spring up all over the country?

actually, there are national teach-ins -- on everything from global warming to debt, austerity and corporate greed. it seems that more and more are happening every month -- something for everyone -- with social media making it so accessible, even a total shut in can actively participate. educating the public is one way to win the fight against "corporatocracy". occupy colleges (in solidarity with occupy wall street) organized a national student solidarity teach-in last week. to find a teach-in or host one through the afl-cio for jobs and economic justice, click here.

i can't make it to this one, but i'm going to make every effort to learn all about it...


The economic collapse didn't happen by accident. It's the direct result of decisions made by Wall Street and our leaders in Washington to prioritize the 1% over everyone else.

If we want to rewrite the rules of our economy so it works for all of us, then understanding those decisions, and how we ended up here, is crucial.

This Wednesday, November 9, you can get answers and build your understanding at the "How the 1% Crashed the Economy" teach-in in Jersey City. An American Dream Movement volunteer is leading a discussion about how the economic collapse is impacting our communities, who caused it, and how we can turn things around.

Can you join the teach-in on Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, at 7:00 PM in Jersey City?

Host: Dave S., a fellow MoveOn member
When: Wednesday, Nov. 9, 2011, at 7:00 PM in Jersey City.

The teach-in isn't going to be a dull list of facts and endless charts. You'll hear the story of exactly how the 1% wrecked our economy, the history behind it, and how we can reverse the damage they've done.

The Rebuild the Dream Innovation Fund has put together a presentation, with help from leading progressive economists, for teach-in hosts with information and key historical lessons. But the goal isn't just conveying information, it's bringing together people who want to get involved and
help fix our broken system.

Will you join in on Wednesday in Jersey City? Click here to RSVP.

Thanks for all you do,

--Lenore, Robin, Joan, Carrie, and the rest of the team

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Today's Sermon

today's sermon -- accepting and giving forgiveness -- by pastor ben crandall -- comes to you from the october 18th evening service at times square church. click here for the mp3 and be blessed.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

first glimpses of "the hobbit"

for the fall season, i've moved away from my usual diet of biographies, autobiographies and history books to sink my teeth into the hobbit. now that i'm almost done, mpb says i have to take a nosedive into the lord of the rings and then the silmarillion. anything after that -- and believe me, there's plenty -- is apochyphal, according to him.

it took a sec for me to get used to the rhythm of the language and the names of the characters are a bit clunky but everything was descriptive enough to explode onto my imagination and in no time at all, i was running through the rolling green hills to have tea and toast and good ol' english jam with the hobbit as i rode the subway.

so it was with a great deal of curiousity and some small sense of wonder that i watched the following clips -- glimpses into the creative process behind the film the hobbit: an unexpected journey. (it's in two parts, by the way. it's also in 3D.)

one day in the midst of a bustling tech rehearsal with george wolfe working on harlem song at the apollo -- when we were onstage and inside one of those moments when everything was coming together and falling apart at the same time -- he offhandedly remarked that directing musicals was like storming the beach at normandy. i surmised that this was especially true if you were originating work because you are creating it as you go along. (it takes 7 to 9 years to develop a musical if you're taking the conventional route. george put harlem song together in 7 to 9 weeks.) in this way, contemporary original musicals are a microcosm of what happens on the movie set, especially when it's this ginormous and ambitious and cool. they're basically setting up, feeding and moving a small army from one breathtaking expanse of new zealand after another. it's exhaustive, just thinking about it. and if you include pre-production and post-production, they've been at it for several years, now.

this clip gives a wonderful overview of what's happening on the set and lets the world see the hobbit's little home -- which looks exactly as i imagined it would.

this is director peter jackson's first video blog from the set.

this is the latest production diary/video. it's especially interesting because it delves into the technical aspects of the 3D camera work, what the equipment is like, the renderings and how complicated all of it is to shoot.

Friday, November 04, 2011

Mark Your Calendars

tomorrow -- november 5th -- is bank transfer day. endorsed but not started by occupy wall street, bank transfer day means exactly that: taking your checking or savings account out of a large corporate bank and putting it in a not-for-profit credit union, community bank, online situation -- whatever blows your hair back and suits your needs financially. actually, that date is more of a deadline, really. the organizers would like for everyone to do this before tomorrow because most big banks are closed on saturdays.

i think this is a pretty effective way to make a strong statement and speak truth to power. i can only imagine the seismic shift that would occur if most people in this country abandoned the likes of citibank and chase wholeheartedly.

i wish someone would sift through all of the banks and make a comprehensive list of the best ones. well, whaddya know -- someone already has.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

what, what?

i had no idea that society, the coffee lounge on a tony section of harlem's frederick douglass blvd -- the one that served such tasty treats as chicken and red velvet waffles (!!!) -- was closed as of october 10th. oh, well. looks like i'll have to have brunch someplace else.

at least the "speakeasy" 67 orange street, its sister location up the block, is still open -- so those red velvet waffles remain an option. here's a note i found online:

Society Coffee…One Last Time… (A note from Karl)

“Dear Loyal Guests,

After seven years of serving the best coffee, red velvet waffles, and shrimp & grits in Harlem, I have made the difficult decision to close Society Coffee on Monday, October 10. A pioneer on Frederick Douglass Blvd, Society has been a true labor of love and a place I’ve called home. Over the years I have shared Society with thousands; I’ve watched people meet each other and fall in love, I’ve watched families begin and grow, deals get done, and business plans get written. I’ve watched college students work, friends hang out, and poets write. I’ve met so many great people who have changed and elevated my life.

Rooted in the richness of the Harlem community and the transformation on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, Society Coffee leaves with a sense of pride and appreciation to all our friends who made each day unique and flavorful. Society has served its purpose and has set neighborhood standards for a new generation in historic Harlem. We were always very close and involved with the community and it remains in our hearts. 67 Orange Street will continue to operate and serve great cocktails.

I would like to personally thank you for all your support these past years. Thanks again for seven great years.


Karl Franz Williams

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Foreign Movies You Really Should See...

...and yes, they're all french. not that it matters. something in me tends to get giddy over things that intrigue me, and these trailers -- and the blurbs and the buzz that are trailing them in the press -- seem promising. art should excite you, shouldn't it? let's face it: if you and your date don't leave a movie talking about what you've seen, it probably wasn't worth watching.

house of tolerance is about a parisian brothel in the early 20th century. i have no idea what the plot is but here's an interesting tidbit: the soundtrack features the music of the moody blues. now that's ballsy, i'll admit -- especially if they tap into their earlier stuff -- but imagine what they would have had on their hands if they'd used muddy waters stuff instead. or lightnin' hopkins. or big momma thornton. or...

tomboy is about a prepubescent girl that pretends to be a boy. i'd love to see a movie about this. i was a tomboy -- and i still am, pretty much. it wasn't intentional. i was just being myself.

when do you ever see movies about this subject matter? i'm very curious to see how it's handled.

the artist -- a silent movie, shot in black and white, set in the 20s, and filled with foreign actors that most americans aren't familiar with in the least -- is getting a massive push from the bigwigs. it's about two artists and the trajectory of their careers as silent cinema diminishes in popularity and talkies become all the rage.

it's easy to forget that with movies, images are supposed to tell you the story -- not words. watching a modern-day silent movie that harkens back to hollywood's golden era should be a refreshing change of pace.

i wonder: outside of the usual major metropolitan areas, can most people in this country see these films? not that they'd want to but wouldn't it be nice to have the option?

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Are you seriously going to eat all that Halloween candy?

when i was a kid, my brothers and i would go trick-or-treating on halloween and come home triumphantly with shopping bags full of candy. not surprisingly, my mother wouldn't let us eat any of it. and when i say any, what i really mean is none. i distinctly recall coming home from kindergarden to her snacking on quite a bit of it with her one of her girlfriends. the rest was in the trash. i distinctly remember thinking, wow -- adults can do whatever they want. i can also remember thinking that someday when i became an adult, i'd eat all my halloween candy because my mother wouldn't be there to throw it away. consequently, i couldn't wait to be an adult. frankly, i still can't.

it should be duly noted at this point that i've never had a cavity as an adult. on the other hand, one of my older brothers has a mouth that is so riddled with cavities, it looks like ants had a wild west shoot out up in there -- and then they went camping, hence the root canal. go figure.

so it was with genuine curiousity and some real interest that i absorbed an item on the local evening news tonight. get this: you can take your sweet treats to the halloween candy buy back program, sponsored by dentists. there's a little money involved but really, it's a creative exchange. you and/or your kids get hygiene kits, coupons and more. the candy goes to soldiers overseas through operation gratitude. it's a great way to give back.

of course, i'm an adult now -- so i have no intention of giving up my halloween candy, now or ever. i'm way too health conscious (and body conscious) to eat all of it -- but that won't stop me from melting down chocolate for cakes and pies (and mexican hot chocolate!), crushing candy bars for homemade ice cream and sticking whatever i don't use in the freezer. (did you know that unopened frozen dark chocolate will last indefinitely?)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

it's working!

my permanent boyfriend gave me the hobbit in paperback last christmas. i found it recently and remembered that i promised myself to read the entire series so i stuck it in my purse, to savor on the train. of course mpb as read all of j.r.r. tolkien's work. and george r.r. martin. and every other geek fantasy writer on the planet. clearly, i've got a lot of catching up to do.

this isn't a competition, you know. i just want to be able to keep up with him when he wanders further into the geek forest than i usually do.

somehow everything goes faster in the subway when i have something interesting to read. or maybe i'm so distracted, i don't care that i've had to wait 20 minutes for the train. all i know is, i opened my book and started reading about those filthy, filthy hobbitses, got on the local and the next thing i knew, i was at 42nd street/times square. the thing is, i was supposed to get out at 50th street -- i was on my way to a matinee for million dollar quartet at new world stages, meeting up with friends and everything, and i was running late. what to do?

as the train came to a stop, i looked out the window at the uptown track and saw the express arriving, and i guessed that the local wouldn't be far behind it. so i did the unthinkable: i sprinted out of the train like a starting gun went off -- down the stairs and through a corridor, around the corner and through a corridor, up a flight of stairs and straight into the local train as it arrived.

as the doors closed and i gathered my wits about me, i stopped short and realized that i wasn't out of breath. not even a little bit. how did that happen? i can remember when i wouldn't have even attempted something like that. or if i had, i would have barely made it to the bottom of the second staircase, holding my side and gasping for air. i actually felt the need to supress a grinn as i mulled all this over. maybe its true, what a workout pal told me some months ago -- that you can make the clock turn backwards and if you work hard enough, you can make it stop.

i made sure my bookmark was in place and made my grand exit at 50th street, bounding up the stairs effortlessly and into the snow, which was falling sideways. wheeeeee! i was happier than a kitten chasing a leaky cow.

can i do military pushups yet? nope. can i make it through a boxing conditioning class without crawling to the showers afterwards? nope. but for me to move with such speed and to move that way so abrubtly means that something is falling into place inside me physically. it was confirmation, however slight. all i could think was, its working. all this sweat and muscle ache and falling down and failing up. it's working...!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Black People CAN and DO Swim, Part 2: African-American Firsts

African-American firsts in competitive swimming history:
  • ◆ The first African- American swimmer to score in an NCAA final was Nate Clark of Ohio State, in 1962.
  • ◆ The first swimmer of African descent to win an Olympic medal was Enith Brigitha of Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. Enith won two individual bronze medals in the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. The only swimmers to beat her have since been proven to have used performance enhancing drugs.
  • ◆ In 1981 Charles Chapman became the first African American to swim across the English Channel.
  • ◆ The first African American swimmer to make a US National Team was Chris Silva of UCLA, in 1982.
  • ◆ In 1988, Anthony Nesty, of Surinam and the University of Florida upset favored Matt Biondi to become the first swimmer of African heritage to set an Olympic record and win an Olympic Gold medal.
  • ◆ In 1997 Stanford’s Sabir Muhammad became the first African- American to break an American record.
  • ◆ In 1999 Alison Terry became the first African- American female swimmer to make a US National Team.
  • ◆ In 2000, Anthony Ervin became the first American swimmer of African descent to make the USA Olympic Swimming Team and win an Olympic gold medal.
  • ◆ In 2004, Maritza Corriea became the first woman to make a USA Olympic Team.
  • ◆ In 2005, Genai Kerr and Omar Amr become the first African-American men to make the USA Olympic Water Polo Team.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

occupy wall street #4 - one month and one day

initiated by the canadian activist group adbusters and inspired by the arab spring movement, occupy wall street began in zuccotti park 31 days ago. although political pundits were dismissive initially, occupy wall street has proven to be a well-organized, well-funded machine, global and gaining in momentum and impossible to ignore. everyone that is anyone in washington, dc and the media is being forced to weigh in and assess the situation -- and hardly anyone is getting it right.

one thing is certain: anyone who doesn't know or understand what this movement is about or what they want isn't paying attention.

consider this: on saturday october 15, there were over 1,500 events in 82 countries -- over 100 events in this country alone. if they've managed to do this in a month, what do you think they'll accomplish in a year?

this is a small slice of what happened in times square the other night. question: who is the supergenius that thought it was a great idea to have police on horseback in a crowd of thousands? what if the horse gets excited and rears up or falls or tramples someone?

i especially love the fact that there are so many cameras floating around all over the place. something happens and everyone whips out whatever they've got, even if it's just the one on their phones. they swarm around the action and pow! everyone's got a mini-documentary film going on.

God bless this brother right here -- u.s. marine sargeant shemar thomas. in this video, he verbally castigates the nypd after watching them assault unarmed protesters. sargeant thomas even went so far as to boldly approach them and continue to chew them out. that ballsy move in and of itself alone would have been enough to earn him a beat-down of epic proportions from the blue line. maybe the army of cameras -- and knowing that whatever they did would be on youtube.com the next day -- kept them from wilding out.

stay tuned. clearly, this is only the beginning.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

instant hibernation

i hit a snag and hibernated for most of this week. gathering stuff for graduate school applications, working on this ever blossoming libretto for spring 2012 performances, working with blood on a new idea, decluttering the love nest and throwing stuff away, digging into billie's blues: the billie holiday story 1933 - 1959 by john chilton, watching a new movie every day, auditioning and auditioning and auditioning, mentally preparing for several rounds of oral surgery that begin next week, and editing my closets and refining my personal style for the cold weather season. getting my favorite combination cowboy/motorcycle boots resoled. finding business cards and old letters and keys for doors long forgotten all over the place. everything must be sifted through carefully and assessed, and then everything must go. well. almost everything.

everything is shifting slowly and yet ever so drastically, and i'm not ready. i haven't been to boxing conditioning class in days -- and i can feel it. i should get my piano tuned, practice the guitar more. what happened to my beautiful uptown songwriting circle?

the rest of the year will find me elegantly well-appointed, dressed mostly in vintage, up to my neck in rewrites and in a great deal of physical pain, eschewing most if not all of my daily boxing rituals and drinking my meals through a straw. i'll have to cut back on the excercise. i won't have the energy for it. i have no intention of giving up occasional jaunts to speakeasies, burlesque shows, pie contests, korean day spas or teatime. because fun isn't overrated, no matter how broke you are.

looking forward to wandering through the new york city comic con tomorrow afternoon before evening services at tsc, a long walk afterwards and of course, tea.

Friday, October 14, 2011

occupy wall street #3 - another moveon.org missive

there are over 1,500 cities participating in occupy events. find one at http://www.occupytogether.org or http://www.meetup.com/occupytogether

i'm not sure that i'll make it to the wall street protests tomorrow -- i'd like to go and take pictures, at least -- but for those who'd like to know what's up, here's some interesting information from moveon.org.


Have you heard the incredible news?

Thanks to the unflinching commitment of the Occupy Wall Street protesters, and support from New Yorkers and hundreds of thousands of people across the country, they won their fight this morning to continue the occupation of Zuccotti Park . 1

Mayor Bloomberg and Brookfield Properties, the real estate conglomerate that owns Zuccotti Park, backed down on their threat to evict the protesters in the face of massive public opposition.

This morning, we saw what happens when hundreds of thousands of us mobilize. So now, Occupy Wall Street is calling for a global day of action tomorrow against Wall Street greed , with events in more than 950 cities and 82 countries. 2

But New York is the flagship city for this growing movement, so it's crucial that we show up tomorrow. There are two main occupation solidarity events in New York—come to either, or both!

Stand for the Dream Against Chase Bank
When: Saturday, October 15, 11 a.m.
Where: Liberty Plaza, Church St. and Cedar St.
What: A day of action against Chase Bank

The Occupation Party
When: Saturday, October 15, 5 p.m.
Where: Times Square
What: A stunning moment of hope and solidarity (wear white)

After the news hit that the Occupy Wall Street protesters would be effectively evicted from Zuccotti Park, the call went out across the country.

300,000 MoveOn members signed an emergency petition to Mayor Bloomberg in less than 24 hours , which was delivered to the park and City Hall last night. Tens of thousands of people across the country put in calls to the city, demanding that the protesters be allowed to stay.

And at 6 this morning, thousands of MoveOn members, union workers, community organizers, and other brave New Yorkers swelled the ranks of the protesters, standing with them shoulder-to-shoulder against their impending eviction.

Most incredible were the 99% protesters themselves. They stood their ground, in the best traditions of nonviolent resistance. And in an amazing show of organization and action, they undertook a full-scale cleaning of the park, taking away the false pretext of a "cleaning operation" under which Brookfield and the city were threatening to evict them.

It will only get better, so join one of Saturday's solidarity actions in New York tomorrow.

Stand for the Dream Against Chase Bank
When: Saturday, October 15, 11 a.m.
Where: Liberty Plaza, Church St. and Cedar St.
What: A day of action against Chase Bank

The Occupation Party
When: Saturday, October 15, 5 p.m.
Where: Times Square
What: A stunning moment of hope and solidarity (wear white)

Thanks for all you do.

–Justin, Sarah, Elena, Stefanie, and the rest of the team

P.S. To make sure you're kept up-to-date on urgent Occupy actions, like the threatened eviction this morning, click here to sign up for SMS alerts on Occupy Wall Street.


1. "Occupy Wall Street Protesters Hold On To Zuccotti Park For Another Day," Huffington Post, October 14, 2011

2. "#OWS VICTORY: The people have prevailed, gear up for the global day of action," OccupyWallStreet, October 14, 2011

Thursday, October 13, 2011

occupy wall street #2: the live feed!

according to gil-scott heron, the revolution will not be televised, will not be televised, will not be televised - but that doesn't mean it won't be on the internet. now you can be in the thick of it all, whether you're all the way across the country or all the way across town.

i hope the whole world is watching when the cops clear everyone out of the park tomorrow morning, so it can be cleaned. i suppose it doesn't matter that everyone is cleaning it now. it's surprisingly organized down there.

Watch live streaming video from occupywallstnyc at livestream.com

too bad i missed tom morello's performance in liberty park as his acoustic guitar-slingin' alter ego the nightwatchman but i had an audition that wouldn't wait.

i leave you with a few powerful remarks from gil-scott heron -- because there's just way too many intelligent, educated and supposedly well-informed people in this country who don't know who he is.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

stuff that happens before a legit audition

in today's audition, i must use my legit (otherwise known as legitimate) voice -- something that traditional musical theater requires. this voice is operatic, open and full.

that's a little sticky for me today because i've got some mucus rattling around in my throat, and it won't leave. maybe it's the cheese i had yesterday. maybe it's the milk in my tea. maybe it's the fact that i left the bedroom window open the other night when the temperature dropped so abrubtly. i don't want to wait for an agent submission for this one. i want to make sure my hat is in the ring, now.

according to aea audition rules, this is an open call. that's cool. no one (that i know of, anyway) is born with an equity card. we were all non-union once upon a time. they start seeing women at 10am. that means they call names and numbers from the sign-in sheet by 9:30am. that means i should leave home by 8:30am to be sure that i get there by 9:30am. that means i should get up by 7:30am to give me and my voice time to wake up and warm up before i leave the house.

it's gray, damp and raining, and it's so early, it's still dark outside. i've already put the kettle on. i'm starting to vocalize and move around to loosen up physically. i give myself an hour to sink into things and let my voice wake up. i showered and shaved last night, so i can have this gigantic cup of tea and not think about anything. unfortunately, i can't stop thinking. i've laid out what i'm going to wear but i don't like it anymore. momentary panic ensues. all of a sudden, i have no clothes.

if it weren't so soggy outside, i'd go for a quick run in riverbank state park. nothing gets rid of that nervous edgy feeling like physical exhaustion. after a few miles, i'm quite literally too tired to care. but that can't happen today. there's no time for a quick pit-stop at the gym, either. i have to pack a bag. usually it's a small suitcase. it's basically as many outfits that i need for all of my auditions. this is all that's happening for today, so i pack heels, wear flats and dress appropriately. i also pack sheet music (sometimes that means bringing my book), headshot, makeup and whatever else i can think of. like breath mints.

i get out by 9am and somehow magically, i get there before 10am. and that's where the rubber hits the road...

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

more la baker

i've read a bio or two about josephine baker. i know the trajectory of her life, stateside and in paris -- her poverty stricken childhood in east st. louis, her initial successes, her delusions, her children, that bombastic ego, her downfall, her triumphant return -- but whenever i see her take the stage, it shakes me to my core. in the clips from the 60s and 70s, she is clearly not a young woman by any far stretch of the imagination. and yet, she is gorgeous, she is vibrant, she is sexy, with this lean, toned body that's so full of energy and vim, it's absolutely astonishing. as a performer, she's even more of a powerhouse than eartha kitt -- and that's saying quite a lot.

some time ago, someone told me that i reminded them of josephine baker. i didn't really get it at the time. they said that it's because i like to talk to the audience spontaneously, especially when things go wrong onstage. apparently, miss baker was a regular chatty cathy, too. i can't stand the idea of a dead mic. if something goes wrong, it's my job to deal with it head-on -- not walk off-stage until it gets fixed. if people got off the couch and paid good hard earned money to come and see me perform, the least i can do is give them a show.

they said that like la baker, i tend to drift towards elegance when i sing onstage. who doesn't look pulled together in a gown? i'm not so sure how far i delve into fantasy, though. clearly, she's a showgirl of the highest order, at all times. sylvester is definitely the male embodiment of that aspect of her performance. he actually met her before she died and she told him, it's all about the fantasy, give them the fantasy.

i'm kind of annoyed that she's wearing pants in the first clip because her legs are kind of fantastic.

there is something buoyant about all the charm she displays in these clips. so highbrow and yet so accessible and real. she looks like someone who should hold themselves away from you and yet she reaches out to you warmly, wanting to hold onto you, wide-eyed and friendly and smiling incessantly.

i know the following video says it's from the 50s but it was actually shot in the 60s. la baker was nearly 60 years old. (!!!)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Reconsider Columbus Day

someecards.com - Let's celebrate Columbus Day by walking into someone's house and telling them we live there now

They lied to you in school. Christopher Columbus was an obsessively cruel religious zealot, a genocidal maniac responsible for slaughtering millions of natives in the Americas in the most violent ways imaginable and initiating the slave trade. Oh -- and he was also a heroin addict. No one knows what he actually looks like. Most historians aren't even sure what his real name is. He may not even be Italian.

It's no small wonder that many Americans would prefer not to celebrate Columbus Day. There is a growing movement to reconsider this holiday, see it for what it is and deconstruct it entirely for a day that honors people of color. The state of South Dakota has officially changed Columbus Day to Native American Day. Meanwhile, 22 states refuse to recognize this holiday.

Now, that's the kind of stuff that makes me proud to be an American. If you agree, you can sign the online petition to create a national holiday for Native Americans.

Here's a few fun facts about Christopher Columbus that will probably blow your hair back, if you've got any. How much of this did you learn in school?
  1. Columbus was a fervent Catholic who believed God had chosen him for a great destiny -- but his folks may have been "conversos" -- converted Spanish Jews!
  2. Christopher Columbus’ real name is not Christopher Columbus, although interestingly, that's the name that he chose for himself. His name varies from country to country. In Genoa (his birthplace, supposedly) it's Chrisoffa Corombo. Some historians claim that Columbus was in reality a Portuguese Jew whose real name was Salvador Fernandes Zarco.
  3. Columbus wrote in Spanish -- not Italian or Latin! -- his entire life. (See #1 and #2.)
  4. Columbus began sailing at the age of 14.
  5. Columbus never wanted to prove the Earth was round because everyone already knew it. His goal was to find an overseas trade route to India and China. Thanks to their proximity to the Mediterranean Sea, Italy controlled trade to the East -- so they weren't all that excited about him looking for a new route.
  6. It was Columbus' younger brother Bartholomew’s idea to sail across the ocean -- not his.
  7. Contrary to popular myth, Spain's Queen Isabella never sold her jewelry to pay for Columbus's voyage. She and King Ferdinand financed the trip partly through investors -- Italian investors! (See #5.)
  8. Columbus made four trips west but he never actually set foot on U.S. soil. Initially, he landed on an island in the Bahamas.
  9. Columbus always insisted -- in spite of mounting evidence to the contrary -- that the land he "discovered" was a part of the Asian continent, as described by Marco Polo and other European explorers.
  10. Columbus is responsible for the deaths of millions of innocent men, women, children and infants in The New World. He's the one who opened the door for Cortez the Killer and many other European explorers to sail to the west and decimate the indigenous people of the Americas. He all but wiped out the Tainos, the pre-Columbian inhabitants of the Bahamas, Greater Antilles, and the northern Lesser Antilles. They were beaten, tortured, raped, enslaved and murdered. According to Ward Churchill, former professor of ethnic studies at the University of Colorado: By 1496, the Taino population had been reduced from as many as eight million to around three million. In 1514, a census showed only 22,000 Taino remained alive. By 1542 there were only 200 remaining and after that, they were considered extinct, as was becoming more and more the case throughout the Caribbean basin. The Taino are NOT extinct, by the way.
  11. Columbus was the new world's first slave trader. Failing at finding enough gold to pay investors in in his second voyage, Columbus returned to Spain with 500 Arawaks (Tainos) of which 300 survived to be sold “naked as the day they were born.”
  12. Columbus reintroduced horses to the West. YES, there were horses here some 12,ooo years before the Spaniards showed up with Mustangs that went feral and ran wild across the plains. Scientific evidence shows that although the horse (equues ferus) originated in North America and thrived here for over 57 million years, they died out after the Pleistocene era. There are interesting theories as to what may have happened.
  13. Columbus was an opium addict -- the same drug used in producing modern-day heroin. (This wasn't unusual in the 1400s. The King and Queen of Spain were hooked, too.)
  14. Paintings depicting Columbus are not based on his actual looks. He is said to have light eyes, freckles and red hair.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Today's Sermon

today's sermon -- don't despise the day of small endings, by pastor carter conlon -- comes to you from this morning's 10am service at times square church in new york city. click here for the mp3 and be blessed.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

occupy wall street #1: mr. jesse lagreca - fox news' worst nightmare

am i the last person on earth to see the fox news interview of mr. jesse lagreca that happened earlier this week? the one they refused to air?

todd the merman told me about this interview in passing earlier today when i was wandering through the brooklyn flea with him and mpb. to tell you the truth, i almost didn't believe him. it sounded like something he made up: a generic looking fox news producer named griff jenkins plunges into the crowd in the heart of occupy wall street territory to find someone that will answer a few basic questions about the movement. sounds easy, right? especially easy when you think of the way fox news tends to twist questions and tilt everything towards their side of the argument.

he ends up with what looks like a fairly harmless victim -- an expressionless, clean shaven, pudgy looking white guy in a civil war cap. who would have guessed that guy was jesse lagreca, a freelance writer and frequent commentator for the daily kos. mr. lagreca proceeded to give this producer a gigantic smackdown of epic proportions politically on camera that has reverberated around the world, one internet click at a time.

of course, fox refused to air the footage. this from the "fair and balanced" network, after the producer said that they were there to give voice to whatever he had to say. (and yes, he said that on camera.) that's okay, though, because someone shot the interview. that footage exploded onto the internet and now media outlets all over the planet are interviewing mr. lagreca, including abc news' this week with christiane amanpour on sunday. i can't wait to hear what he's got to say next.

if you'd like to read a transcription of the following video, click here.

...and here's a pretty cool follow up interview.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Finally! -- The Sister Rosetta Tharpe Documentary

sister rosetta tharpe was an internationally recognized powerhouse performer and guitar-slinger that infused the rock 'n roll she played with gospel lyrics. although she was versatile -- she sang and played jazz with big bands -- she was the very first gospel recording star, with a heyday that began in the 30s and 40s and continued through the 60s. combining the sacred with the secular may not be a big deal to many but for some, this was (and still is) absolutely unthinkable. sister tharpe did it first, way before ray charles or even sly stone -- and she set rock 'n roll in motion, way before chuck berry or even little richard. the fact that a black woman did this on guitar can't possibly be overemphasized enough. and yes -- in a genre (rock 'n roll) that was (and still is) a (white) boy's club, she was formidable.

i have always admired sister tharpe. she has inspired me to become a guitarist. if they make a biopic of her (and someone should), i want to star in it. on second thought, maybe i should hurry up and get famous, so i can make that movie myself.

absolutely anyone that thinks they know anything about popular music and rock and roll in this day and age should know who she is. if they don't, they are missing the mark, and then some.

i highly recommend the biography shout, sister shout! the untold story of rock and roll trailblazer sister rosetta tharpe by gayle f. wald. until you get ahold of that book, here's sister tharpe's documentary, in its entirety -- only about an hour long and well worth watching.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

stew and the negro problem, and then some

looking forward to seeing some great performances this month. last night was stew and tonight is bridget everett and the tender moments, both at the new and improved joe's pub.

here's a taste of stew and the negro problem, along with something of an explanation as to who he is and what he's about.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

for your viewing pleasure

now that october is upon us, it's time for halloween: stocking up on candy for the kiddies that may stop by or the neighborhood thugs that will invariably bang on the door; pulling together a costume from out of your own closet so you won't have to get something generic and pricey from ricky's; haunted houses that really scare you; and scary movies that sometimes freak you out way after the fact.

halloween is one of the nights i almost always stay home if i'm in new york city. everything seems so safe these days, even in the ghetto. but it's still new york city, no matter how sanitized everything is. i mean, honestly. if you want the suburbs, move to long island.

there are a lot of scary movies out there -- this is a list of 50 of the (supposedly) most popular ones of all time -- but nothing is more frightening to most folks than the truth. with that in mind, here's a few documentaries to consider when it's time to make some kettlecorn and dim the lights.

ah, yes -- h.h. holmes: america's first serial killer. at first glance, he looks a little too much like daniel day-lewis' bill the butcher, blue eyes and all. the bestseller the devil in the white city entwines his gorey antics with daniel h. burnham, the architect of the chicago world's fair. i don't know what creeped me out more -- the elaborate hotel he built to efficiently murder travelers or the fact that he tortured, killed and dissected small animals as a child.

this one is pretty disturbing -- the iceman interviews. with an expressionless face, infamous mob hitman richard kuklinski recounts one murder after another in this unaffected monotone that should guarantee at least one solid nightmare after viewing. you know what's really creepy? this guy spent his last few years of freedom with his wife and three children in a new jersey suburb.

...and of course, no halloween eve should end without ed gein: the ghoul of plainfield. if you don't know who this is, you are the unibomber, living in a cave, cut off from society and all that rot. can you believe ed died in 1984? i mean, wow. that's kind of recent...

watch out -- this one is hella graphic. (sure, it's halloween when you'll see this so you're expecting gore of some kind. i'm jus' sayin'...)

any creepy documentaries on your list? please recommend a few. i'm always looking for more...

Monday, October 03, 2011

an open letter from moveon.org...

when i got this email from moveon.org, i couldn't resist the urge to blog it.
please read this.
please participate, if you can. (i'm thinking about showing
up and taking a few photos.) and please repost. (everyone should
know about this...)


We're going to stage a massive "Virtual March on Wall Street"
online to show our support for the Occupy Wall Street protests
this Wednesday.
Sign up to join hundreds of thousands of voices
of solidarity and help show just how widespread the outrage
Wall Street really is.

Over the last two weeks, an amazing wave of protest against Wall Street
and the big banks has erupted across the country.

In Seattle, San Francisco, Ohio, and Boston (where 3,000 people rallied),1
grassroots groups have shut down banks and held sit-ins to demand that
giant banks pay their fair share of taxes, end the foreclosure crisis, and
create jobs.

In financial centers like Chicago and Atlanta, hundreds of people have set
up encampments in front of major financial institutions for
round-the-clock demonstrations.

Outside Los Angeles, community members have been running a 24-hour vigil
around the home of Rose Gudiel, who faces eviction after getting
foreclosed on for being two weeks late on a mortgage payment after her
younger brother was murdered.2

But the biggest protests are on Wall Street itself. "Occupy Wall Street,"
which began with a brave group of young people, has swelled to thousands
of students, unemployed folks, union members, and others who have
persevered through intense police harassment and mass arrests to sustain a
rolling 24-hour-a-day protest against the bankers who've wrecked our
economy and undermined our democracy.3

On Wednesday, MoveOn members will join labor and community groups in New
York City for a huge march down to the protest site--the biggest yet.

And because we can't all be in New York, we're going to stage a massive
"Virtual March on Wall Street" online with our friends at Rebuild the
Dream. Together, we'll add hundreds of thousands of voices of solidarity
from the American Dream Movement for the protests across the country and
show just how widespread outrage at the Wall Street banks really is.

Click here to sign up to join the Virtual March on Wall Street this

The protests on Wall Street have been running for two weeks straight and
are only getting bigger every day. The signs, placards, and chants focus
on standing up for what the protesters are calling "the 99%" of us who are
suffering while Wall Street bankers grow richer by the day.

In a telling moment last week, a group of bankers even went so far as to
mock the protests while sipping champagne from balconies overlooking
thousands of people marching down Wall Street.4

But adding mockery to the callous disregard for our country that we've
seen from the big banks isn't slowing down the Occupy Wall Street movement
one bit. The protests on Wall Street are set to grow even more this week
and solidarity actions are already planned in dozens more cities.

You can see what's planned in your area by visiting the solidarity site
Occupy Together: http://www.moveon.org/r?r=264645&id=31654-1286937-W4A_otx&t=11

And you can sign up to add your voice to the national "Virtual March on
Wall Street" online here:

Thanks for all you do.

--Justin, Robin, Peter, Elena, and the rest of the team


1. "BofA's Boston Building Draws Protesters; 21 Arrests Are Made,"
bloomberg.com, September 30, 2011

2. "La Puente Family Fights Eviction from Foreclosed Home," KTLA.com,
September 29, 2011

3. "Anti-Wall Street Protestors Vow to Keep Up Fight," Reuters, October 2,

4. "Occupy Wall Street Protestors Meet Champagne Sippers," abcnews.com,
September 30, 2011


Visible links
.. http://www.civic.moveon.org/joinvirtualwallstreet/?id=31654-1286937-W4A_otx&t=10
.. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=264645&id=31654-1286937-W4A_otx&t=11
.. http://www.civic.moveon.org/joinvirtualwallstreet/?id=31654-1286937-W4A_otx&t=12
.. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=264642&id=31654-1286937-W4A_otx&t=13
.. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=264643&id=31654-1286937-W4A_otx&t=14
.. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=264644&id=31654-1286937-W4A_otx&t=15
.. http://www.moveon.org/r?r=264649&id=31654-1286937-W4A_otx&t=16

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Today's Sermon

today's sermon, when healing comes from a broken place, comes to you from pastor william carrol of times square church, deep in the heart of the theater district in new york city. click here for the mp3. listen and be blessed.

unbelievable but true!

crime really doesn't pay, does it.

this guy got sandwiched in between two buildings when a robbery in patterson, nj went wrong. (brilliant, right?) at first glance, i can't even begin to imagine exactly how he ended up here -- or how they got him out.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


nablopomo's theme for the month of october is between. of course, that could mean anything. my immediate thought is of indian summer -- that strange expanse in between fall and winter that can bring stunningly beautiful sunny breezy blue sky days or an absolute water-logged slosh fest. or both! in nyc, you get the full visual spectrum of the changing seasons. a constant sunny blue sky year round sounds like fun but it seems abnormal, somehow. kind of like dealing with someone who grins at you all the time. after awhile, wouldn't you think there was something wrong with that?

all those women in that movie a boy and his dog with their pasty faces and painted on overly rosy cheeks and lipstick. full of sunshine, totally disturbing and strange. i guess that's why some people have a fear of clowns. that fear is called coulrophobia, by the way.  geez. i guess there really is a name for everything.

if you haven't seen a boy and his dog, it's worth watching. here's the promo. it stars a very young (and very pretty) don johnson.

Monday, September 19, 2011

nyc avalanche

i'm up to my neck in rewrites for next week's show at dixon place and another funky fresh idea that i can't stop thinking about, i'm decluttering the apartment a little every day and editing my closets in anticipation of fall/winter, i'm assembling everything i'll need to make a cool video for my kickstarter campaign to finish my black americana album and all i can think of, aside from how slow i am in boxing conditioning class when i'm doing mitt work and how badly i need a mani/pedi, is this bread pudding recipe. that bourbon sauce looks potent.

i'm almost afraid to make it because i'll just eat most of it, so the next dinner party is going to get a nice big one, hot and fresh. in the meantime, i'm bringing letitia a green tomato pie to our brooklyn rehearsal tomorrow night. won't she be pleased?

in the meantime, the great news is that i'm running 2 miles a day -- pushing towards hitting a 10 minute mile. i hate running, so i figure if i do a mile right after each boxing conditioning class and get it overwith, i'll raise my stamina considerably. somehow, after wearing myself out so thoroughly and leaving the room with an all over ache that only a long sitdown in a steam room can get rid of, running that fast for that long is nothing.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

"what do you do in boxing class, anyway?"

aside from pounding that bag, some simple stretches, variations on the push up, the sit up and the jump squat -- and of course running around the room and up and down staircases ad nauseum -- exactly what kind of excercise do i do in a circuit boxing class?

i'm glad you asked.

here's a few videos to illustrate some of what usually happens in an hour. i try really hard to do two sessions a day. there are some days when i'll do three, if things flow a certain way. the thing is, there is usually someone calling me out by name if i'm not giving 100% the whole time i'm in that room. and i'm in there for what feels like an eternity. for some reason, i have this bad habit of looking at the clock when i think a fair amount of time has passed -- probably because i'm sweating so hard i can't see -- and wow, its only been 10 frackin' minutes.

the routine i'm in now leaves room for three trainers: gennaro (who may as well be a negro and who yells a lot), negro (who isn't a negro and who mumbles a lot) and jay (who is from long island -- nuff said). sometimes there is george and sometimes there is son of gennaro. no longer do i wander off with anyone i don't know. i don't want any surprises anymore.

i've made a lot of progress physically and i've lost some weight but i still feel as though i've got to get in shape on some basic level so i can get through the whole class without having to stop because i feel as though i'm going to pass out. or die. when i can zip through class comfortably, i will believe that i'm in shape.

until then, here's what i'm up against.

mountain climbers -- this sister gives a great explanation of the right way to do this one. unbelievable, the way it wears my upper body out, in short order.

bear crawl -- we have to do this around the room over and over, and we have to drop and do this over and over and sometimes, he (that is, gennaro) makes us leave the room and do this around the gym over and over. the closer to the ground you get, the more effective it is.

spiderman crawl -- an especially foul move for me because i don't have much upper body strength. and like the bear crawl, the lower you get, the harder it works you.

burpee or squat thrust -- named after dr. royal burpee, this basic movement is the foundation for the burpee test. now there are variations that have found many colorful and interesting ways for me to throw my legs out from under me abrubtly, or repeatedly spring off the ground in short bursts of energy. no small wonder. burpees require agility, speed, coordination and a ton of core strength.

body builders -- he (that is, gennaro) makes me do 100 of these whenever i'm late for class. they are beyond gnarly. this video shows otherwise, but we do a jumping jack that falls into a plank and then a push up and back again. and you know what? i don't walk out. i take it like a man and i do the 100. sometimes he'll stop me before i'm done but lately he's been leaning on me...

focus mitt work -- this is really important because its makeshift boxing against an unknown opponent. the trainer is like a choreographer, putting together combinations on the fly that force me to move with speed and power. in a perfect world, i get used to moving at the torso, blocking shots and letting my movements flow with technique and form.

shadowboxing with weights -- this is what i really feel the next day. throwing my arms out there, even with three pound weights in my hands, is a burning sensation that just won't let up. sometimes he (that is, negro) makes us run around the room and shadowbox with weights.

why do i love boxing so much? i seriously don't know. it's physically way more challenging than anything i've ever done. and maybe that's it, maybe the physical exhaustion and growth is impacting the rest of me so completely, i can't relinquish it. sure, it feels good to hit people -- but it also feels good to get good at it. i can look in the mirror and see wonderful changes coming on. that's a kick in the head.

i love it that boxing is genderless. it's not something that belongs to boys. it's all technique -- and to my way of thinking, that levels the playing field completely. the bottom line is, either you can fight or you can't.

where it takes me is anyone's guess. how long will it take me to get my true body? who knows. what i know for sure is that i'm going to get great at boxing because i can't stop doing it. i can't give it up.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

happy september, everyone!

if you are african-american, if you lived through the 80s and if you aren't skipping through gotham in this gorgeous breezy blue sky sunshiny day and singing this song somewhere in your soul, you're a zombie. this is the theme song for the season.

one of the beautiful things about living in nyc is that you actually get to have seasons, and if you hold still long enough, you get to watch them happen. september is a transitional moment, heralding indian summer and all hallows eve.

even my grandma loved earth wind and fire back in the day...!  here's your slice.

Do you remember the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the mind of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away

Our hearts were ringing
In the key that our souls were singing.
As we danced in the night,
Remember - how the stars stole the night away, yeah yeah yeah.

Hey hey hey,
Ba de ya - say do you remember
Ba de ya - dancing in September
Ba de ya - never was a cloudy day

Ba duda, ba duda, ba duda, badu
Ba duda, badu, ba duda, badu
Ba duda, badu, ba duda

My thoughts are with you
Holding hands with your heart to see you
Only blue talk and love,
Remember - how we knew love was here to stay

Now December found the love that we shared in September.
Only blue talk and love,
Remember - the true love we share today

Hey hey hey
Ba de ya - say do you remember
Ba de ya - dancing in September
Ba de ya - never was a cloudy day.......there was a
Ba de ya - say do you remember
Ba de ya - dancing in September
Ba de ya - golden dreams were shiny days

Now our bell was ringing, aha
Our souls were singing.
Do you remember every cloudy day - yau !

There was a
Ba de ya - say do you remember
Ba de ya - dancing in September
Ba de ya - never was a cloudy day.......there was a
Ba de ya - say do you remember
Ba de ya - dancing in September
Ba de ya - golden dreams were shiny days

Ba de ya de ya de ya
Ba de ya de ya de ya
Ba de ya de ya de ya - De ya.....

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

cleaning it up and clearing it out

i am bound and determined to clear out the pesky junk room in this apartment, once and for all.  initially, it was a second bedroom that was a terrific rehearsal space for me and a makeshift office/mancave for mpb. somewhere along the way, i started sticking stuff in there until after awhile, i couldn't really open the door. last week i looked through one of the window panes and could hardly see the floor. how did it come to this?  once upon a time, it was a place we both spent time in and then all of a sudden, it wasn't. well, i don't care anymore. i want it cleaned up, cleared out and organized.

it's unbelievable to some that i have this much space in new york city, but it's fairly common in harlem.  i've seen some amazing spots up here. actually, my place is a little nook compared to some of the cavernous apartments in my building.

nothing gets it done like a deadline, so this weekend will be my last chance to knock it out of the block. i've spent the last few days shredding junk mail and sorting through business cards, bits of paper and whatnot, and something like 7 years of receipts. at least that's the first layer of stuff. the next layer is a little more stubborn. but everyday, there's less and less. the more i sort through, the further down the rabbit hole i go.  lots of old letters and postcards to reread that make me think and wish and wonder.

the truth is, nothing gets it done like deciding to get it done.  you have to want it. it's just that simple.

once all this is settled, you'll see shocked and amazed by the before and after photos. (actually, so will i.) next project: editing my closets, tim gunn style, followed by end of the season donations to the salvation army.

so far, i've shredded 3 garbage bags of paperwork, which made me feel like a total hoarder. that's probably what's motivating all this: i've seen one too many episodes of hoarders and when i find myself incapable of throwing things away, i think maybe i'm turning into one of those people -- which of course could have me pulling a howard hughes in my old age.

getting everything up and off the ground is paramount. tomorrow, mpb is going to put a hook in the ceiling for his 15 speed bike.and i'm going to cut that junk pile in half.

Monday, August 29, 2011

august in retrograde -- or irene, good night

i tried to stay home all month, like an urban hermit that's taken a vow of antipeople: just me, my guitar and my bright ideas. i have no idea why. something instinctively compelled me to close the door upon myself. in retrospect, it wasn't a bad notion -- not this august, anyway. it was oppressively hot, dangerously hot. so hot, it felt as though the sun pummeled me about the head and shoulders with a bright yellow sledgehammer whenever i went outside. running around at night was no fun, either. the heat was still on and on and on, muted yet insolent enough to sass me, with the kind of sweat that made my entire backside sticky mere minutes after i stepped into it.

navigating the city on the weekends was unthinkable. there's just too many drunken idiots out there, trying desperately to dress like they're in new york city and pushing hard to make sure they have some kind of new york city fun. it's exhausting, just being around them. in the end, they're the epitome of the generic and the average and the ordinary that they're attempting to escape. why? because there is no escaping who or what you really are. to paraphrase the great john lee hooker, it's in you -- whatever it is -- and it's gots to come out. especially if it's your culturally condoned incompetence.

as if all of that weren't enough -- and you know it is -- there's more: mercury was in retrograde for practically the entire month. it seems that everything is crawling out from under that introspective boulder right about now. not that i co-sign astrology but when i read it from my comfy bunker in harlem, it seemed to explain a lot. and yes -- if you're enough of a hippie enough to know what any of that means, you probably wanted to stay home and avoid the world, too.

yes, of course there's the stuff that's absolutely necessary. church. boxing. foraging for victuals at the dominican grocery store up the street. the rest was extra and although there were some things that couldn't be avoided -- a weekend getaway, perhaps or a get together with friends -- i zipped home as fast as my well-toned legs would carry me.

yet and still, i felt compelled to hibernate. this special month of record breaking heat waves, golf ball-sized hail and water main break flooding, topped off by a hurricane found me at home, growing things -- working on the libretto for the billie holiday project (it goes up in september at dixon place), practicing guitar, vocalizing with my slightly out of tune piano, making several submission deadlines for all kinds of stuff and writing more songs and lyrics.

hurricane irene turned out to be the icing on my summer cake.

i can't even tell you how many southern relatives called me, laughing at the yankees they saw on the news who were frolicking on the beach under such ominous skies, and ignoring warnings from the police and fire department. my aunt in charleston south carolina told me one supergenius somewhere on the jersey shore remarked that he lived on the second floor of his building, so he would be fine. hilarious!

for everyone in her neck of the woods, hurricane season is just starting. they've got another two months or so to live through -- bracing themselves the same way some yankees did: shopping for food, taping up windows, filling the tub with water, unplugging everything, burrowing themselves in shelters or leaving the state entirely, well into the month of november. they do it every year during hurricane season. it's a way of life.

how well i remember the many hurricanes of my southern childhood, when we would turn off all the lights and throw open all the windows and unplug everything and gather in the den and pray. even a summer storm could turn violent and deadly. all of us -- cousins and uncles and aunts and my grandparents -- huddled together in the darkness. we were so collectively solemn and profoundly unshaken for the most part, even when the lightning would streak across the sky and a powerful clap of thunder would follow, and shake the ground itself.

listen, my grandfather would say, after an especially loud jolt would rattle me all the way down to my little girl bones, and i would shudder involunarily. it was almost as though my body knew to be scared, even if i didn't. listen, he murmured softly, holding his pipe between his thumb and first finger, the ashes glowing in the darkness. he would lean forward and point at me and give me a knowing look. listen, he would say. God is talking.

apropos of nothing, i leave you with one of my favorite neil young songs, like a hurricane. what a beautiful love song.