Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Next Gig: The Salon's New Year's Eve Eve

frankly, i prefer hanging out on new year's eve eve -- there's less hassle in general, things aren't too crowded or touristy and if you find the right situation, you can lounge and have fun in a high octane enviornment with a minimal amount of fuss.  new year's eve has turned into a real amateur hour in this town. there are all these things that you're supposed to do -- like going to times square to watch the ball drop, for example -- that aren't really that much fun at all.

you want fun? here it is: the salon's new year's eve eve.

this happy gathering of well-heeled swing scene stalwarts is an annual, elegant, non-stop party of epic proportions: over 40 performers -- jazz musicians, banjo pickers, burlesque dancers, djs spinning 78s on vitrolas and the like -- take over 3 floors of the dl, a beautiful newly restored hotspot in the lower east side.

each floor will have a different band, a different vibe. the first floor will be dedicated to the 1920s -- a lot of hot jazz from red hook ramblers, a lot of crooning from gelber and manning and of course lovely tunes to dance to from dj michael "the barber" haar of the ragged phonograph program.

he's not the only dj, either. each floor will have one.

the second floor -- the red room, lined with red walls, laced with red chandeliers and studded with red furniture -- will be filled with blues from ron sunshine and his band.

the third floor -- where i'll be, for an early set -- has a beautiful water fountain, huge tropical trees and a retractable rooftop that's kind of breathtaking because you can feel the clear expanse of sky hanging just above your head. i'll be with my quintet the hot five, playing an extra special first set crammed with billie holiday's rare sides and well known tunes. i'm out by 10pm and then george gee and his orchestra takes the stage for the rest of the evening.

the hot five:

todd londagin: trombone, vocals
warren smith: drums
al street: guitar
patience higgins: tenor sax

now, doesn't this sound like a fun night out?

if you can't lindy, don't sweat it -- just show up early for a complimentary dance lesson.  there's hand crafted cocktails for your drinking pleasure, of course.  and yes, lots of burlesque all over the place.

i'm looking forward to dressing up like its 1935, seeing a lot of familiar faces from the swing scene, sitting in with ron for at least one song and going home early, like a sensible little bird. after all, i'll be chirping on new year's eve, at the astor room.

doors open at 7pm. they'll be ripping it up until 2am, easily. get your tickets in advance here for $25. (vip tickets are available, too.) the cover at the door is $30 but here's a tip: if you say "yehoodi" at the door, they'll give you $5 off.  huzzah!

see you there!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

right now

right now/at this moment/currently, i'm
  1. probably curled up on the sofa and having an after dinner/before bed hot toddy
  2. reading the devil in the white city
  3. heading to spa castle this week
  4. wondering what i'll wear for this year's new year's eve eve bash. (if i can get back into what i've got, i won't have to buy anything else...)
  5. totally in love with my fitbit one
  6. eating clean for the rest of the month with mpb
  7. doing a wintertime kccm castor oil challenge
  8. rewriting my musical the billie holiday project
  9. submitting said musical to nyc theaters next week as a christmas present to myself
  10. taking guitar lessons from this guy

Friday, October 19, 2012

Tender Moments with G. Calvin Weston, Part 1: "In my office! NOW!"

Having started his 30+ year career as a musician with harmolodic saxophonist/composer Ornette Coleman at the tender age of 17, it's safe to say that G. Calvin Weston is a drummer of epic proportions.  It's his innate musicality, however -- a seemingly indefatigable desire to emote vocally, as a countertenor would, augmented by a verve towards sound and vision -- that makes him four dimensional as an artist.  One would think he was from the deep South.  Calvin is grounded and yet he is ethereal, a heady mix of what can only be described as a sophisticated hick that is refined and aware, set adrift upon the performance stages of the world.

We just came off a European tour with James "Blood" Ulmer, hopscotching all over creation and then some.  I would say that Calvin and I became what most people would describe as fast friends but that isn't exactly true. The truth is, Calvin and I met and realized that somehow, we already knew each other. At least, that's the way it felt on my end.

How does he describe it?

It was after the gig, when we were at the bar at Kunst & Kulturhaus in Oblarn, Austria that Calvin turned to me and said, with a great deal of astonishment, "Do you realize we only met four days ago?" Then without warning, before I could fully express my mutual wonder and admiration, he smiled broadly, threw his hands up triumphantly as though he'd just made the touchdown of a lifetime and yelled at the top of his lungs, "It's like you fell out my balls!"

If I wasn't mortified the first time he said it, the third time probably sealed it for me.

Of course, the back end of the bar roared its approval and applauded raucously. I opened my mouth to scream but nothing came out. All I could do was cover my face with my hands. Later, I remember thinking, well that was a compliment, really -- as only Calvin could give.

And that's pretty much G. Calvin Weston -- in a nutshell, so to speak.

Once they were up and positioned and tuned, Calvin had the habit of calling his drumset his office. There were too many moments when he would insist that I photograph him there.  It is with this in mind that I give you a pastiche of images from any given soundcheck from our happy jaunt through the Rhineland and beyond -- Calvin, hard at work, in his office.

Looking over Calvin's shoulder...

Rehearsal, Music Hall Worpswede -- this is our sound engineer Joerg Mohr's home base.

G. Calvin Weston, soundcheck - Porgy & Bess 10/1/12

G. Calvin Weston, in his office

Porgy & Bess, Vienna Austria


That's a glimpse of Joerg, moving and repositioning that drumset for the 5th time.

Soundcheck, Cinema Paradiso - St. Polten, Germany

Cinema Paradiso St. Polten, Austria

Calvin, in his office

Calvin, posing. Again!

Altes Kino, Landeck Austria

Calvin, tuning up in his office

BIX Stuttgart Germany

Soundcheck, A-Trane

A-Trane, Berlin Germany -- with Joerg checking Blood's monitors.

The view from backstage

The view as I tilt open the backstage door.

Soundcheck, Altes Plandhaus

At Altes Plandhaus in the round, Cologne Germany

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

We had big fun in Oblarn!

As we drove through the Swiss Alps into Oblarn, I remember thinking that it looked like something out of a German fairy tale: it was a simple little village at first glance -- such pastoral surroundings replete with cows and sheep, and then wooden bric-a-brac trim and shutters framing pastel-colored houses that were sandwiched together just so, with snow capped mountains that imposed themselves upon you in every direction, hovering just out of reach, heavy with fog and wonder. Only the cars that zipped through the narrow streets made it all tumble into the present day.  I was genuinely surprised to see cottages tucked into so many crevices in the mountains. If I were a little kid, I would think that’s where all the happy little goats and rams live.

As soon as we got near the venue, Calvin snapped to it abrubtly and remembered exactly where to park and how everything was situated. As it turns out, he was there in April with bassist Jamaaladeen Tacuma and guitarist Vernon Reid as Freeform Funky Freqs. There was no internet in the hotel but the venue – Kunst and Kulturhaus, built in the 12th century – had wifi and luckily, it was open for immediate load in. From there, everything exploded into a million beautiful particles that continue to shine. What a big surprise. Oblarn turned out to be the sleepy little place that wasn’t so sleepy after all. The food, for example, was tremendous.  I had the trout, which I loved. I should have gotten the lamb, which was astonishing. (Isn't Calvin nice to let me eat off of his plate all the time?) Mark had the beef stroganoff, which tipped the scale towards fantastic. Unfortunately, that was enough to send us to bed, or at least a good little nap. When I eat that well, I know I'm going to sleep like a child.

In spite of a momentary snag during the set – Blood thought someone was videotaping the show and he stopped everything to figure it out – things only got better from there, really.  The music began to shift into overdrive early on. I distinctly remember the feeling of being blown back by the sound of Blood’s guitar – like a jet engine, churning and unwinding – and not being able to stop my body from flinching repeatedly. And then I looked into the audience and saw another girl who was having the same reaction. The visceral response is an honest one.

The audience was warm, enthusiastic and genuinely appreciative. Later, as I went to search for something to eat, I found the bar and more people. Hans gave me a long narrow beautiful bottle of local schnapps. I can’t get it anyplace else, I can’t order it online. What a conundrum. To me, local things are really the best there is because they are so inherently unique. As commercialism threatens to turn everything into a strip mall, such things grow more and more precious. And sacred, somehow. I don’t usually drink and I just loved it. It tasted like pears and elderflowers. Treat it like medicine, Hans intoned. I am absolutely drop-dead terrified that I will break it before I return to Harlem, so I wrap it very carefully in a thick towel and bury it in my luggage everytime we stop and go. 

No one behind the bar had ever heard of mescal – my personal favorite. I think I’ll send some as a thank you. If I could, I’d leave a bottle of high grade mescal in my wake, everywhere I go that loves me.  When it’s done right, it’s the absolute limit.

I had to leave eventually for the sake of my voice -- my physical body is my instrument and if I don't get the rest I need (and not strain my voice by talking in loud bars) I won't be able to sing. It doesn't help that I have GERD, either. 

On the other hand, Mark and Calvin closed the place down. Calvin is a big kid but I think that Mark is still recovering…

Monday, September 17, 2012

My #1 Eat Clean Inspiration: Annette Larkins

lean, strong, vibrant, healthy - with a glowingly pretty, wrinkle-free complexion and plenty of energy to spare. who wouldn't want that? then again, i suppose the real question is, would you be willing to give up eating garbage to have all of this?

the first time i saw this story in the video below about mrs. annette larkins, it freaked me out so much, i didn't eat meat for a week. i'm not the kind of person that can't make it without a hamburger ever other day but if what little meat i consume is damaging me as much as i think it is, i'm ready to make the jump - if not to veganism, most definitely to eating clean. as a matter of fact, i stumbled onto the eat clean program after i saw this. it's been slow going since then but thankfully, i haven't looked back.

this 70 year old lady - a resident of miami/dade county, by the way - has maintained a raw vegan lifestyle for 27 years. she grows what she eats in her backyard - everything from nuts to aloe - which she calls her fountain of youth. she simply doesn't eat anyting that's cooked.

absolutely no cosmetic surgery whatsoever. amazing, right?

here she is with her husband of 54 years.

people usually assume that she's his kid. he takes medication for diabetes and high blood pressure daily. he looks like he's falling apart - especially in comparison to her.

i honestly believe that after a certain age, you can't eat and drink whatever you want without paying a high price for it - especially nowadays when so much of what we consume has been genetically modified and is loaded to the absolute hilt with salt, fat, sugar, additives, antibiotics, preservatives and lots of other colorful and interesting things that our great-grandparents would never consume.  they'll put anything in food these days. anything.

i'm growing towards eating clean and after 3 very solid go-rounds, i'm very nearly there - totally over starches like rice and potatoes, carbs like pasta and fast food like mcdonalds. i can even keep salt and sugar and fat at arms length without freaking out too much. i do have a permanent weakness, however, for chicharones. (God help me.)

don't get me wrong. i've always stuck to a pretty healthy regimen. the thing is, i've hit a fork in the road, so to speak. i have to work harder to maintain it all and i feel myself giving way sometimes - eating the wrong things, not hitting the gym for a week, falling off in one way or another. when this happens, i see and feel it almost immediately. 

i can't slack off anymore. i've got to get a grip. i mean, seriously. look at annette!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Today's Sermon

here's a video sermon (!!!) from today's service, with pastor carter conlon of times square church -- Prayer For a Desperate Hour.  watch, listen in and be blessed.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

wait - whodidwhat, now?

apparently, myspace is making a comeback. this should be interesting. (hm. better find my passwords and update my junk...)

The new Myspace from Myspace on Vimeo.

Friday, September 14, 2012

the charleston sc short list

i can't leave here without these five things:
  1. benne wafers
  2. muscadines
  3. black pudding
  4. palmetto roses - my favorites!
  5. vidalia onions - i know the season for growing them is over, but maybe someone has pickled a few...

Thursday, September 13, 2012

progress: fitness, clothes, life

Fashion can be bought. Style one must possess.” — Edna Woolman Chase

good news, sports fans: i'm getting my body back.

every season, i fight for it all over again -- the size 4 body i had when i came to new york city a million years ago. i don't fight for it out of vanity, either. sure, it's a job requirement. pulling this off certainly feels like a full time job. and yes -- after years of living hand to mouth with absolutely no insurance whatsoever, i consider maintaining a lean, strong, healthy body with exercise, clean food and vitamins to be preventative medicine. the real reason is that i'm simply too cheap and/or broke to buy new clothes.  i love my vintage dresses, pencil skirts and what little designer items i have too much to throw them away.  i'm not trendy enough to keep up with what's hip.  wearing the latest fashions takes a lot of money. most of that stuff looks pretty tacky on me, anyway.

why, it's almost as though i'm about to get a new wardrobe because i'll be able to wear all these clothes i haven't been able to fit into in ages.  more on that some other time.

what's my big secret? i stopped eating garbage and got my butt to the gym everyday. i try to make it happen in the morning because although i love the way exercise makes my backside look, i really don't like doing it. and no, i'm not a morning person.

here's an interesting little clip about how little exercise it takes to change your life.
Source: via Queen on Pinterest

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

ten things

i'm getting ready to skip town with blood. in my head, my bags are already packed -- sort of. one of them is practically empty to make room for all the stuff i'd like to bring back, like kirschwasser and kindereggs (just in time for halloween!) and of course, something strange and unexpected, like a vintage pair of lederhosen. (just in time for halloween!) who knows what i'll find, if i look hard enough.

believe it or not, i need a separate zippered container in my suitcase for all of my beauty products -- because frankly, my left leg could drink up one of those travel sized bottles of lotion overnight, all by itself. and no, i'm not even going to get into how thirsty my thick, thick hair is in its natural state.

this is my latest list, spun out of me haphazardly on the way to the gym:
  1. zantac
  2. grether's pastilles blackcurrant glycerine drops
  3. universal adaptor
  4. digital recorder
  5. humidifier
  6. slippery elm tea
  7. small (but powerful!) mini-speakers
  8. collapsible water bottle
  9. collapsible to-go container
  10. motrin
there's got to be a better, more efficient way to travel internationally -- without paying a lot of fees. maybe this is it.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

I don't get it

Why would Mr. Peanut want to know how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll?

Sunday, September 09, 2012

see how beautiful harlem is?

stunning, right? taken earlier this afternoon as i was zipping down the cherry walk on my bike. enjoy.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

saturday classics

when i was a kid, it wasn't really saturday unless i spent the morning watching bugs bunny in my pajamas. so of course nowadays something in me wants to oversleep, crash land on the couch in my underwear and watch cartoons.  i can't think of a better way to start the weekend.

i don't understand people who think that television is bad. i think there's something fundamentally wrong with them -- especially when they watch tv shows on whatever computer they use.

it's not an idiot box. it's whatever you make of it.

i love bugs bunny -- but more importantly, i love chuck jones. he was and still is a constant inspiration. through those wb cartoons, i learned about opera, slapstick, vaudeville and consequently, the proper usage of the lazzi from the classic commedia dell'arte tradition.  because you really can't do comedy without understanding the anatomy of the lazzi -- and nothing teaches it to you like a good bugs bunny cartoon. 

of course, i learned a lot of novelty tunes and tin pan alley songs. sometimes i even sing them on my gigs. more on that some other time.

Friday, September 07, 2012

a few thousand words

i almost forgot.

here are a few stellar moments from a performance of an as-of-yet untitled piece that i'm growing with dancer/choreographer francesca harper. its an exploration of billie holiday's life and times through movement, music and multimedia. these moments photographed here found us dancing to the sound of her speaking voice, edited from an interview that she did with mike wallace, accompanied by pianist jeremy bacon.

we did this at the first ever harlem arts festival in the newly renovated marcus garvey park ampitheater. huzzah!

this performance has clung to my heart ever since for several reasons. first of all, it happened on my birthday. i really felt as though something wonderful was born on that stage that day. or maybe it was growing out of the pit of me all along. what it was, i can't say exactly. i remember feeling especially overwhelmed by it all. and grateful.

secondly, i danced -- something that i was always made to feel that i was incapable of doing. more on that some other time.

interestingly, francesca has instigated all of this movement in my life -- or at least, tilted my perspective enough to make me believe that i can do it. and i am doing it -- professionally. i met her at a boardwalk empire audition for jazz dancers. we both got the gig and i've been kicking up my heels (more or less) ever since. it's so important for me to challenge myself, to do things i've never done before, to push myself outside of my comfort zone, to try new things. if i don't, i will not grow. and if i don't grow, then really, what's the point?

 as kenyatta beasley watched me dance with the francesca harper project, i think he was totally overwhelmed.   "i didn't know you could do that," he kept saying, like a mantra.

"neither did i," i replied breathlessly.

and lastly? afterwards, kenyatta remarked, "you danced for me today. you dancing was a gift you gave me." and him saying that felt like the best birthday present i had ever gotten and would ever get, ever ever ever.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Lillian Lopez, Rest In Peace

 I couldn't help but take notice when I heard about the passing of Lillian Lopez today, at the age of 76, from cancer.  She was an original member of the 70s dance group Odyssey, the one who sang their biggest hit, Native New Yorker.  I quite liked the group. I thought they were breezy, lush and elegant.

It is understood that emotional connectedness to a song - having it belong to an important person or situation, for example - is what sells it and keeps it alive. Immediately, my mind floated back to the moments when I would ride around the city with Ralph on our way to God knows where, blaring this song. The way that he would stop, sometimes in mid-conversation, to sing these particular lyrics emphatically will be forever engrained in my memory.

And love, love is just a passing word 
It's the thought you had in a taxi cab  
That got left on the curb  
When he dropped you off at East 83rd

Click here for a colorful and interesting blog/blurb/review of their self-titled album. (Totally forgot about the Good Times episode.) Interesting tidbit: they were managed by (a then unknown) Tommy Mottola.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Election Protection? There's an app for that!

there's a jillion apps out there for everything that you can think of -- from the mind-numbingly idiotic to the daily necessity. sorting through a veritable sea of options at the flick of an eye is the way we define ourselves digitally and stitch together the ordinary moments in our modern lives. in the best case scenario, an app will make the world -- or at least, your world -- a better place.

along comes election protection, an app that puts all the information you need to know about voting -- including the rules and regulations for each state! -- in the palm of your hand. this could seriously hinder voter fraud and give everyone an instant civics lesson.

from their website:

In order to meet the needs of the Digital Age, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, National Association of Latino Appointed and Elected Officials Education Fund, New Organizing Institute, Rock the Vote and Verified Voting Foundation have joined forces to deploy the Election Protection Smartphone Application to provide all information and resources, in English and Spanish (branded Ya Es Hora), that voters need to fully participate in the 2012 elections.

what a brilliant idea.

stats say that most people who use cell phones prefer smart phones, most people of color use smart phones and the smart phone usage is strongest amongst african-americans aged 18-34. why not reach people of color right where they are -- on their smart phones.

i suppose that would shed some light as to why black folk and latinos dominate twitter, for example. but i digress.

wouldn't it be great if everyone had this app?

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

pause, shift gears and go

i'm eating clean for the next 30 days -- and working out diligently every single day with my boxing coach -- to jumpstart my system, dropkick myself into fall and give myself a boost physically. whatever seasonal sluggishness i feel needs to dissipate. i have way too much work to do.

i even joined a workout group, to keep me on the straight and narrow. the sticky part? taking "before" pictures and weighing in every week.

everything feels like a new beginning, somehow. the rain is off and on all week and i want to feel sad about it but its washing away the filth in the streets and making everything new all over again, especially when the devil beats his wife. 

yeesh. it almost feels as though i'm saying goodbye to the sun.

Monday, September 03, 2012

Happy Labor Day, y'all!

"A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life depend on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving."  -- Albert Einstein

I hope everyone found a way to enjoy what has become the unofficial last day of summer. The great news of the moment is, now that the season is pretty much over, i've found a way to grill in the ghetto.  And I didn't do it on the sidewalk.

I can't believe summer is about to be over.  Time is flying, crazy fast. If you're in Gotham, here's some things to do in the month of September that might soften the blow.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

big dreams, scary moments

I don’t know where my ideas come from. I used to think I dreamed them up but sometimes when I take a long walk, they jump me in the street and drag me away. I resust, of course. But I know when they stick when I can’t stop thinking about them. Unfinished songs -- bits of lyrics and imagery and feeling -- spilling all over my clothes and making my hands sweat. A twist to a one act that I would never have considered if I hadn’t gone down that street and run into that guy and had that conversation. Hearing an argument and writing it down compulsively.  Sneaking away from a bunch of screaming, cavorting friends to sing a strange melody into my phone. How ever do they want me, pretty much.

Tuning into all of this is where the fun begins. Having the discipline to organize all that flotsam and keep chipping away at all of it until it grows into art – well, that’s fun, too. What am I saying. Nevermind my student loans, hanging from my neck like an invisible noose. When things are purely creative, it’s a fun life.

And now, as everything shifts –body weight and waiting games and weighty matters, summer into falling into the back of my closet, the sun moving away from me dejectedly – I am starting all over again, as usual. Twitter – yes, Twitter – has presented several challenges that are going to clean me up and out just in time for me to be bright and shiny and new in time for the new year.

Joan Crawford was right. Everything is discipline.

Saturday, September 01, 2012


i'm headed to the deutchland in a few weeks to sing/perform/have fun/cut up with guitar icon james "blood" ulmer so there's a lot of german words spinning through me at random these days.  i don't care if everyone speaks the good king's english. i intend to pick up a phrase book and learn how to say a few basic things while i'm there. stuff like, what is that and don't touch my stuff and where's the bathroom and what time is it and get away from me. (heh.) yeah, stuff like that.

i'll level with you: when i was a small tot, dreaming of becoming a chic, sophisticated chanteuse/performer, set adrift in the world whilst drowning in flowers and champagne and happiness -- i thought i'd be the toast of paris,  not berlin.  but berlin, as it turns out, was -- and still is -- quite the decadent little metropolis, and germany is a very trippy place.

oh. we'll be in austria, too.

the line-up:

mark petersen - bass
g. calvin weston - drums
james "blood" ulmer - vocals, guitar
myself - vocalist

my phone won't work over there but (hopefully) i'll have internet access and if i do, expect some crack up stuff. in the meantime, here's one of my favorite songs from blood -- "church: are you glad to be in america?"

Friday, August 31, 2012

once in a blue moon

the blue moon is making me sway in broad daylight.

i can feel it pulling me towards what can only be described as my permanent cliffhanger, the one that lurches along, free floating just above my head, just out of reach.  a series of what ifs spill all over me, out of breath and scurrying to fall into place.  they know where to go. they know how to get there. it's all i can do to get out of the way, stay out of the way.  don't block the blessings, someone said to me in passing the other day. 

 i am filled with the kind of wanderlust that only a true pirate can understand.

all at once, i feel lighter and stronger and more realized and more vulnerable than ever.  i am filled with energy and i am completely exhausted.  i am losing weight. i am gaining ground. i am filled with joy. i love everyone -- even the people i can't stand. (crazy, right?) even in my sleep, i hit the ground running. i make lists, endlessly. i box and when i do i think, am i getting any better at this? and then i look at my stance, i look at my left hook, i look at my body and i see progress. i can't even begin to tell you how good it feels to hit something over and over again. hard. (hulk smash!)

everyday is boxing. everyday is practice - voice, piano, guitar. everyday is rewrites - libretto, one act play, lyrics, short stories, novella. everyday is a long walk and thinking aloud with a confidante. everyday is making beautiful art out of nothing. everyday is the dream made real.

all of this is churning inside me violently whilst i sing and dance and win pie baking contests and have fun in the sun.

the blue moon won't happen again until july 2015. i hope you make this one count, where ever you are. as for me, i will sit and spin contentedly and wallow in the strange velocity of my life.

photos and video coming soon. (really!)

Attention, West Harlem: the garden at @thechippedcup is now open - and it is BEAUTIFUL!

(when the weather is nice, my writing desk is at the chipped cup.)

Thursday, July 05, 2012

the hard work of eating clean

this is my third time on this eat clean program merry-go-round. you can do the pre-cleanse and the post cleanse. you can do it with shakes and supplements.  you can do it with an online forum and you can call an 800 number and/or email councelors for support and information and a ton of encouragement. or you can simply not eat certain things for 3 weeks and see how it affects you physically.

here's how it works. for 21 days, i remove certain foods from my diet: salt, sugar, sweeteners, anything that's processed and loaded with bad fat but also things i may unknowingly be allergic to (because most people are) like white rice, corn, peanuts, soy, oats and whole wheat/wheat gluten, as well as most meat (beef, chicken, pork - eating wild game is encouraged) and seafood (i can have cold water fish like salmon and trout). oh, and no coffee or tea. or citrus, except for lemon. and no nightshade vegetables (potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, etc). no dairy, either. yeah. no cheese. and no alcohol. or cigarettes. or recreational drugs.

what can i eat? pretty much everything else.

this time around, i've discovered that i love buffalo, rabbit and ostrich. eating those things is really not that deep for me. when i was a kid, we ate plenty of game. venison was a constant. so was squirrel.  i really love just about every green vegetable there is, especially bitter greens, wheatgrass and kale. i drink water instead of soda or other sugary drinks. i've made a shot of green vibrance a daily habit. yes, i'm losing weight. going to bed hungry still feels like mission impossible but it's doing wonderful things for my constitution, my energy level, my skin, all of it.  my acid reflux problems that plague me whenever i don't eat right are totally nonexistent when i don't eat at night. poof! gone. just like that.

it takes time to break bad habits and create good ones. what's bigger than this is my newfound ability to listen to my body -- give it what it needs and remove what isn't necessary. some days that's an easy thing to do. some days, it takes a herculean effort to not inhale a gigantic bag of potato chips with a side of sour cream and wash it down with a coke.  with the possible exception of thick cut country bacon, how i look and feel and how healthy i am far outweighs any momentary joy that eating delicious food ever gave me.

i have to admit -- the first time i did the eat clean program, it was a shock to my system. the second time was a struggle. i thought this time around would be a good chance to do it again to recalibrate myself physically as a birthday present to myself.  my remaining week on this program led me to a strange set of crossroads and a massive epiphany: if i want to stay lean and strong and healthy and vibrant, i am going to have to keep this up for the rest of my life.  the closer i adhere to the program, the better i look and feel. so which road would i choose: eating clean or eating with abandon?

of course, it doesn't have to be one extreme or another. but this requires a lot of moment-to-moment discipline from me and that feels daunting. and exhausting.  don't get it twisted.  irregardless of whatever you are born with -- after a certain age, you get the body and the good health that you are willing to work and sacrifice to attain. being fat and unhealthy is a choice. that's really all there is to it.

very meal is a decision, every bite of food is a struggle. i hit the gym every single day.  i am fighting for the body i want and the good health that comes with it.

joan crawford was right. life is discipline.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

i've got a beautiful feeling...

every day is drenched in sunshine and possibilities. even the rain means growth and nurturing and promise. if new york city is this lovely and amazing, the south i know and love and miss must be stunning -- replete with blooming scented trees, shady groves and azaleas everywhere. when everything around you is this beautiful, you really can't help but feel that beauty, too.

and so of course -- musical theater geek that i am -- the day finds me skipping through gotham like a sepia-toned shirley jones with an afro, singing that song from the musical oklahoma! you know it, too. everyone knows that song.


i was tipping through midtown the other day and when i turned my head, i saw this.

beautiful, isn't it.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 26: dance, dance, dance

earlier this evening, i went to a dance rehearsal for the as-of-yet unnamed billie holiday piece i'm doing with francesca harper for the harlem arts festival on this saturday. two of her dancers were there -- pliable and open and smart, and willing.  i had no idea what to expect. i thought i was going to watch them create this something out of nothing but fran insisted that i play with them, and simply move around in the space and improvise. let's play! sounds innocuous enough. there was no choreography, per se. we were moving around and thinking aloud and cracking jokes and wondering how this might look or how does this feel or does this work this way.  as everything began to unravel and we explored the audio and got lost in the sound of billie holiday's speaking voice, telling these little stories about herself, something else gradually took over.  i forgot about the time. i forgot myself. i forgot my fear of dance, that thing in me that said this isn't mine.

through it all, fran's voice was this guiding light, shaping everything, suggesting something, requesting this, asking that. slowly but surely, we found our way. there was a moment when all of us were throwing so many ideas into the air, i could feel whatever worked sticking to us from the inside out. that was glorious.

all of it was storytelling, every single bit of it. because i knew the storyline, i could do the movement. but it was so much more than that. for the first time in my life -- with the bright exception of the lindy and of course those tea social dances from the 1920s -- i was moving with grace and ease and purpose and i wasn't lost. i wasn't self-conscious or uncomfortable, either.  it didn't scare me. it made sense. it felt right. it fit with what was happening around me, with what everyone else was doing and most importantly with the music that flowed through the piece. and it was fun.

thank God we videotaped it!

this is francesca's gift to me, though i suspect she hardly gave any of it a second thought, aside from yay, we're making cool blackgrrl art. when i tried to explain myself, i sounded like an idiot.

perhaps someday if she ever meets my brother the dancer, she'll understand.

Monday, June 25, 2012


  1. wit – always surprising when it comes from me and intoxicating when it comes from someone else
  2. an endless supply of fresh fruit
  3. insight
  4. wheatgrass
  5. the spectacular beauty of a harlem sunset

Saturday, June 23, 2012

kids programming at the 2012 harlem arts festival

here's some information that isn't featured on the harlem arts festival's website. if you have a kid or know one that likes to have fun with you, here's some details about next week's festivities that's especially for them.



Presenting our youth and family activity lineup for the 2012 festival! 

The Harlem Arts Festival will feature two days of family programming. Join us on either day at the Kids' Corner for arts and crafts for all ages. Then, on Saturday, June 30th in the Harlem Library, join us for a full day of dance, theater, music, and art classes and activities at Start With Art!

Kids' Corner
Fri-Sat, June 29th & 30th, 2012
Marcus Garvey Park

Friday, June 29, 12:00pm-4:00pm:
Family Yoga with Land Yoga
Face painting, arts and crafts, and more!
Saturday, June 30, 12:00pm-4:00pm
Button-Making with Cooper Hewitt
Mural Making with Harlem School of the Arts
Arts & Crafts with Harlem School of the Arts
Visual Arts Workshop with Artistic Dreams
Face painting, and more!

Start With Art!
Saturday, June 30th, 2012
11am-4pm, Harlem Library

Merengue Dance Class, Ballroom Basix

Poetry Workshop, 
Mayhem Poets

Harlem Swing Dance Class, 
Ballroom Basix

Theater Workshop, 
Harlem School of the Arts 

Griots in Concert, Yaffa Productions

Looking for more information on the festival? Check out our 2012 Festival artists, here!

Friday, June 22, 2012

the next gig: harlem arts festival 2012

THE HARLEM ARTS FESTIVAL is a FREE annual festival presenting Harlem-based music, dance, theater, and visual arts. Taking place at the Richard Rodgers Amphitheater in Marcus Garvey Park June 29-30, 2012, we invite the community to celebrate Harlem’s vibrant cultural landscape and contemporary artistry.

for more information:

there's a gallery walk, performance art, exhibits, music, dance -- and all of it is based in harlem.  francesca and i will be performing on the main stage at the newly renovated (and newly renamed) richard rodgers amphitheater.

here's the gist of what francesca and i will do: In this as-of-yet untitled theatrical performance, Queen Esther explores black feminism by continuing to deconstruct the iconic siren Billie Holiday through movement, sound and vision.  With Ms. Holiday’s speaking voice as an aural backdrop, Queen Esther sings her more relatively unknown yet timeless songs, melding this soundscape into Francesca Harper’s compelling choreography, exploring a relatively unknown side of Lady Day.

see you there!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

this is something i should do everyday

someone suggested that i do this awhile ago, to stay in a place of gratitude consciously. eventually, this will probably be much harder than it sounds – and it shouldn’t be.
for the moment, these are the things that float to the surface effortlessly.
  1. my life and
  2. God’s presence in it
  3. MPB
  4. stellar physical/mental health
  5. emotional maturity

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

30 days of birthday -- day 20: summer solstice

i spent the longest day of the year indoors, blasting the ac and blaring my favorite billie holiday box set -- chugging ice water, making lists, roasting chicken, working on my new idea, decluttering and reorganizing and swiffering, doing a severe amount of housecleaning, channel surfing and washing my ever growing natural hair. i got things done, i made progress. i ate clean -- even when i snacked.  (yay!)

good thing, too. the great urban outdoors was hotter than georgia asphalt this afternoon.  it's days like these that make me miss that southern heat that makes me feel as though something heavy is gently pulsating onto the top of my head with gentle thuds that make me walk like i've got absolutely nowhere to be for the rest of my life. and then all of a sudden, i realize oh, wow -- that's sunlight.

there maybe a moment that carries that kind of sweltering intensity up here in yankeelandia but those moments don't stretch into weeks and weeks. it's a day or two here or there. and then it's over. everything cranks down to somewhere in the low to mid 80s and nobody stops complaining about it.

i just want to slingshot each and and every single one of them into the barren hellish nothingness that is west texas in june so they can know what real heat feels like.

click here for my good news of the moment. (yippee!)

maybe i'll stay in tomorrow. if i keep this up, i'm going to attack my junk room with a vengeance before the weekend falls on top of me.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

30 days of birthday - day 19: happy juneteenth!

a juneteenth celebration in texas -- june 19, 1900.

juneteenth -- our independence day -- is the day that the abolition of slavery was announced in galveston, texas in 1865.

i blogged all about it here -- pretty funny, too...!