Sunday, February 27, 2005

oh, well.

i just accepted a residency in june at makor, so going away to atlantic center for the arts to work on a book that month is out of the question. i'll have to do it here. not an impossible feat but with so many distractions in the city, it will be a challenge.

i'm on the threshold of springtime but now i'm thinking, what else do i want to do this summer? and what am i going to polish off by the end of the year?

Friday, February 25, 2005

promises, promises

no more running around everyday like a chicken with its head cut off. no more going without down time. or beauty days. or fun. no more psychobilly freakout. i'm making myself a promise: from now on, i'm not going to keep going until i wear myself down to a nub. i'm going to prioritize. i'm going to pace myself. i'm going to listen to my body. i'm going to relax.

oh, boy. where do i start?

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

i can't go

they told me in december that i got accepted as an alternate at atlantic center for the arts, for the session i wanted in march. if someone couldn't make it, i could attend. my mentor would be maggie estep. i could spend about a month working on the book version of my one person show Queen Esther: Unemployed Superstar. it sounded ideal. who would cancel on such an opportunity? i figured they wouldn't call me, so of course they did. this morning, in fact. the thing is, i can't go. even though they're coming up with a scholarship to cover the costs, i don't have enough money to cover the plane ticket and the bills that would pile up in my absence.

there's got to be something that i can do...

Monday, February 21, 2005

four days in the mountains, part two

the chance to go to the mountains surfaced abrubtly. i grabbed it.

on early friday afternoon, i found myself on a train that would take me into the catskills. i had never been there before. i didn't know how cold it would get or how rural the situation would be. i had a rabbit fur hat and i had frightfully warm and sturdy woolen socks and a great pair of boots but i had no pants. big mistake.

my host was an intellectual freak -- smart, unaffected and cool -- who'd done the downtown nyc hipster thing for real, as an artist/gallery owner, writer and musician. he was doing that apartment-in-the-city, house-in-the-country thing that happens when yankees start to settle down and shift gears, whether they get married and want a different life or they're single and sick of the city. what made him such a wierdo to me is that he was such a backwoods hick. he hunted and fished seasonally. he knew about livestock and farming. he was a master carpenter. he could butcher animals. the only people that i knew that could do those things were from the south or the midwest. they definitely weren't yankees.

i grew up around men like that. they raised me. why wouldn't i want to hang out with one?

on first glance, no one would put us together because we both looked like hicks that lived along a strict racial divide. at least that's the way hollywood and the music industry tells it. but interestingly enough, that's exactly where we connected. even historically, this has been proven to be true. my theory is, if they would stop trying to divide us up so they can sell us stuff, or convince us to buy stuff that we don't need, we'd probably be a lot better off than we are now.

we knew a lot of the same people -- more connections were made with every conversation, which was creepy but understandable. nyc is a very small world. what was really cool is that he was playing a lot of guitar and writing songs and lyrics, and he was starting to want to do something with them.

once i reached my destination by train, we had to drive for something like 30 minutes until we got to his little corner of the world. lots of pastoral scenes began to appear until everything was completely rural. his place is very "man-like" -- a veranda filled with tools and things that are getting taken apart and then a house with lots of stuffed animals that he's killed, lunging at you from this corner or that wall hanging, with a wood-burning stove, a too-comfy couch and lots of original art. not one feminine thing anywhere. the place was loaded with so much testosterone and guy stuff, you could slice it with a machete. there were blinds at the windows but he never used them. and no curtains. who would be stupid enough to stand around and look in? it was freezing outside. after a lot of talk and story-telling and a dinner of the most delicious venison steak imaginable, i stayed up way late, conked out and slept like a small child, immovable until well past 1pm the following day.

he has a nice big kitchen, with a long table and lots of room to move around. when i woke up, he wasn't there, so i cleaned all the dishes, made myself a huge cup of tea, looked at his stuffed dead animals up close (the coyote in attack mode was my favorite) and played guitar for awhile. he returned and looked at me sideways, genuinely surprised that i'd cleaned his kitchen. after he gave me some waterproof padded german army pants (which are the warmest and most comfortable pair i've ever owned) we walked down a hilly road to visit some folks he knew. his friend had a huge seven bedroom house that sat on 200 acres with a pond that was iced over and ripe for ice skating. i spent the better part of my time out there falling on my butt while his friend skated circles around me, declaring himself to be the gay dorothy hammill. he had to drag me by one of my ice skates to the pond's edge so i could get my boots back on. afterwards, we ate squash soup and homemade bread in a living room filled with sunlight.

the house was an unofficial artist's haven, and buzzing with visitors and residents, one of whom was my host's ex-wife. she was quite the bitter pill. probably at him. if you're that angry, a lousy breakup is always a handy target. we wandered through his property on the way back. that night, it was my turn to make dinner: ham steak with red eye gravy. there isn't much that makes me happier than cooking in someone else's kitchen. thankfully, there was strong black coffee left over from breakfast. i pulled a dan-ackroyd-as-julia-child manuver and cut my finger while dicing onions. it was totally worth it.

after that meal, i stayed up and watched "raging bull" (everyone's seen it but me -- and yes yes yes, di niro is riveting) and woody allen's "everyone says i love you" which was suprisingly sweet and endearing (i love listening to people sing who really can't sing). i finally discovered the heater in the corner of my room and drifted off to sleep like someone slipped me a mickey, lined in pork. for the life of me, i couldn't get out of bed until around 2pm.

when i did wake up, he had been up for hours, since around 7am or something, chopping wood and whatnot, like always. by this time, we'd fallen into a routine when i woke up in the middle of the day: i'd say good morning and he'd say good afternoon, like julie andrews.

on the third day, the friend from the big house came over and had dinner with us. i made red rice, he made another amazing venizon steak and there was string beans. oh, and pie. i made an apple raspberry pie on ham steak night and there was still half of it left. and ice cream. it was so good, it was ridiculous. i don't know why, but i could not make bisquits in that kitchen. it was the strangest thing. and i've been making bisquits since for ever. it felt profoundly wrong to have red eye gravy and no bisquits.

of course, while we were having this incredible meal, we fell into a bizarre conversation about race and politics and black churches and God knows what all. afterwards, i could hear a few of my black friends in my head going, why did you say anything to them? why did you bother? but i don't necessarily edit myself around white people the way a lot of my friends do. don't get me wrong. there's a time to edit yourself before you speak -- and for me, that time is most (if not all) of the time. the older i get, the less i have to say about anything. i know a lot of black people that leave the room when racial things are discussed and i'm just not one of those people.

then again, on the other hand, talk means nothing. it doesn't change anyone's mind and it definitely doesn't change the way that they think. all too often, discussing things is an excercise in futility and egocentrism and people walk away with their bent opinions reinforced. either way, i'm screwed.

when we went back to the big house, everyone had already gotten the new york times and seen my picture in the arts and leisure section. they were all suitabley impressed. i wanted to crawl under a rock. i began to pray that none of them would ask me to sing. actually, the host couldn't stop asking, and i couldn't stop saying no. truth be told, i said i would sing one of his songs to him if he'd lay off the eye medicine for the rest of the weekend. that's right about when he changed the subject. ha.

the times thing was just a blurb, but there was a picture of me and some complimentary remarks. publicity is always nice but it was exactly what i wanted to get away from and somehow it had found me, out in the middle of what i thought was nowhere. eskimos stuck in the frozen tundra probably saw that blurb, for crying out loud. the times really does wallpaper the world.

we watched a marathon of larry david's curb your enthusiasm that his friend got from netflix. (everyone was laughing but me.) i think i know too many people like that for any of it to be truly funny. when we left, a nor'easter had already hit and it was snowing with a purpose. we wobbled back up the hill and i tottered off to bed, strangely exhausted.

the next day, i overslept with my host's usual salutations to greet me when i woke up. i could never tell if he was being sarcastic, mildly accusatory or just drop dead funny. (probably all three.) funny thing is, i was being the same way. it was like that with us the whole time i was there: strangely, we were alike enough to rub each other wrong in the right way, if that makes any sense. (i guess you had to be there...)

it was a wildly uneventful night. we did the usual: argued (constructively), laughed, tried very hard to keep warm, ate well (yet again) and watched napoleon dynamite, which was a wonderfully strange little movie. (mental note: get a t-shirt that says "vote for pedro" and wear it all summer with some green hot pants and a pair of high heeled sneakers.) when it came time to go to bed, i couldn't really sleep because i had to be up at 7am to catch the train back to the city. i knew that if i let myself drift off to dreamland, nothing would wake me up. i washed the dishes, packed all of my things, gave myself a mini-facial, did at least two idiot checks and drifted in and out of a fitful rest.

the next thing i knew, i was nodding off on the train like a junkie. somehow, this was the most appropriate way to return to the city...

and oh yeah. i forgot my earrings.

Friday, February 18, 2005

four days in the mountains, part one

as some cold dark bleak weeknight crawled its way into day, i sat watching my laundry spin dry in the 24 hour laundromat up the street from my apartment. bad south american soap operas droned on and on all around me, in stereo. the place was bustling with activity, of course. everyone was thinking the same thing -- it'll be empty when i get there! -- and everyone was genuinely suprised that it wasn't. i know i was. i had been looking forward to the solace and quiet of humming machines, and getting lost in a good book. as i waited listlessly to use a dryer, i realized how much i enjoyed my time alone. i had an epiphany: i needed a vacation. not just any vacation. i wanted to get away, as far away as my no money situation would allow, from people. people were starting to work my nerves a little harder than usual. not because they were especially rude or in my way or whatever, but because they were there.

most of the time, this middle-of-the-night scenario reinvigorated me in some wierd way. when that "i'm revived!" sensation didn't come as easily to me as it usually did, i knew that i was in trouble.

i couldn't make my own vacation and stay home. my roommate was usually there in spite of his graduate school/day job responsibilities, giggling with his new girlfriend who happened to live across the street. besides, there were always things that pulled me out of my apartment when i least expected it: things to pick up, to drop off, to go look for and whatnot. there was always something that had me getting out of bed and running all the way downtown like my butt was on fire. there was no escape.

when i could pull it off, staying in bed all day was dreamy, thanks to my negrovision and my baby taylor. there were moments that were highly creative. ideas and songs and lovely visuals would come at me like shrapnel. but i couldn't hide in bed any longer. i had to go power up some place else.

i hadn't had a vacation in years. i suppose i could call visiting my family a vacation, but it's not. i don't know of anyone that visits their family for an extended period of time and comes back to their life in the city without feeling drained.

the only option was to go somewhere upstate and konk out. i had a few options, none of which i'd ever explored. my need to get away was greater than any fear of the unknown i may have harbored. president's day weekend was upon me. i could either stay in the city, watch movies all weekend and catch a white sale ( because frankly, i could use another set of sheets) or i could jump on a train and disappear.

i chose the latter.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

happy valentine's day?

i know, i know. i had a happy valentine's day. i still can't believe it.

i wanted to be all bitter and stuff, like everyone else around me seemed to be, but to be completely honest about it, i just don't want anyone else in my life right now. not on that all-consuming, i'm-so-totally-in-love-with-you-i-can't-think-straight level. not even on that let's-spend-a-lot-of-time-together level. there's simply too much to do, too much that's going right, too much to be happy about, too much that's going on. i'm writing better songs than i ever have. i'm getting my body back. and wonderful things are happening for the cd. i know me well enough to know that a boyfriend would derail all that. and it's just not worth it.

i think that having guys as friends and goofing off with them will keep me from despising them as thoroughly as some women i know. for the forseeable future, though, constant self-improvement (as an artist and as a person) is my work, my body is my job and my career is my boyfriend.

anyway, i ended up going out on this completely impromptu date with this guy that i've known for, like, ten years or something stupid like that. we've been running into each other for ever, in the wierdest places and situations and stuff. he keeps resurfacing in this really bizarre way and in spite of all the junk that tends to swirl around you in the city -- career, lovers, whatever -- he's always liked me and he always seems to find me. he just came back to the city a few months ago from a stint on the west coast with some career hi-jinx and a long term relationship break-up. this time, he found me through my website. he's still in the same apartment he had when we met. ten years running is pretty creepy, though. hm.

i had way too much fun with him. i forgot how much i like him and how easy he is to talk to. good thing he came from out of nowhere and caught me totally off-guard. if i had time to think about it, i probably would have said no.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Funeral Details for Ossie Davis


12:00 NOON







PO BOX 1211,


Tuesday, February 08, 2005


i told you about the audition, so it's only right that i tell you about the callback.

monday was james "blood" ulmer's birthday. he thought i forgot. why, i have no idea. i didn't know what to get him because in a way, he already has everything. if i had a jillion dollars and if i could get him anything in the whole wide world, i'd get him a cool guitar. but he loves that big black ivory trimmed hollow-bodied thing that he already has so much, he'd probably never play it. he'd just point at it when anyone came over and say, look what "b" gave me! (that's what he calls me all the time. i have no idea why.)

i came over to his house bearing long stemmed fresh cut flowers and black grapes and hung out all afternoon. i got them from chinatown after lunch with a friend. chinese new year is wednesday and everything is even more abuzz with activity down there than usual. just walking through it sparked something in me. i wanted to get blood a little cake or something special but there's so much that he can't eat, just like my daddy. oh, well. birthday grapes would have to do.

it took awhile to find something to put the flowers in. we finally decided to use these high long carved ceremonial looking wine goblets made of wood. next week, i'm going to come over with my baby taylor (which he'll think is cute, i bet) and have him give me a guitar lesson. he says he won't teach me "no do-ray-me shit." he wants me to tune the guitar to A and keep it there, and play to make this singular sound. i wonder what he'll show me?

from there i went to the callback. same location--in the 30's, all the way on the west side. this time, there were people milling about. as i walked in, i saw a sign for "RENT" to my left--they're probably casting for the movie version of the musical. (yeesh.) i veered to the right and in short order, i was polaroided by a perky assistant and sitting there with two other black women, going over the same four lines that i said last week. one of them was pretty mum, the other was pretty friendly. small talk. very small. over my shoulder, i saw a few white guys and realized that we were all in clusters and they must have been auditioning for the same part. there really weren't that many people there. the casting agent was about 20 minutes off. just enough time to nail my lines.

i didn't wear any makeup because i thought it would make me look older but before i went in, i looked at my polaroid to see what they'd see. sure enough--i looked late twenty-something, at best. i sighed, secretly pleased but slightly concerned. clearly, sticking to my exfoliating regime coupled with all of those weekly NARS mud packs have been doing me a world of good but this mom part is mid to late 30's. my skin was glowing, for crying out loud. i looked peachy.

the next thing i knew, i was in another area right next to the room i was to enter. there were two people in front of me: the black woman who wasn't chatty and a waspy looking white guy. she went in and then there was screaming and stuff and me and the white guy both looked at each other at the same time. we were probably making the same face. the "crying on cue" face. (yeesh.)

finally i was in the room. and yep, there was a camera. both scott rudin and joe roth stood up and introduced themselves to me at the same time which made a funny and pleasant exchange and broke the ice for me because it made them regular guys. we talked for a few minutes. we talked about the music i do. scott was the one who knew who blood was. joe was the one who had been to the low country. i remember doing it three times and readjusting as he instructed. and then it was over as abrubtly as it began.

i did fish all of the mary janes out of the candy dish that was on a big desk as i made my exit. i thought i would shove them into my bag to find them there all week at random, when i needed a pick-me-up.

Friday, February 04, 2005



that's right, y'all. i got a callback for that sam jackson movie, freedomland. i go back in on monday evening--and this time, everyone will be in the room: the producer scott rudin, the director joe roth, the casting agent...everyone that decides whether or not i get the part. and there will be no callback. no callback and no cameras. (this is where internet movie database comes in real handy...)

wow. i guess that when she told me that i did a great job after i read for her, she really wasn't shining me on.

of course, i can't tell anyone about this. not my friends. definitely not my family. and telling my parents is out of the question. they'd all just wind me up about it and if i didn't get it, everyone would weigh in with their theories and i just don't want to hear any of that. i don't want to hear my little brother the plumber tell me why i didn't get a part in a movie. and i know what my mother would say. she would blame my hair. her long-standing theory is, if i'd straighten my hair, i'd get all the work in the world. and i'd have to beat guys off with a stick. and all would be right in my world. but my theory is, hair matters with black girls but knowing how to act in front of a camera means way more than she can understand. and another thing: if i have to straighten my hair to get a black man's attention (or any man, for that matter), he's just not the one for me.

but i digress.

i'll be reading *surprise, surprise* the same three or four lines that i cold read the first time around. memorizing it won't be a problem. talking myself out of the part, that's the problem. david stopped me in the middle of a nervous rant i was having in the middle of his apartment and said, quite sagely, don't try to get into their heads. don't try to figure out what they want or why they like you. just do what you did before in that room the other day and you'll book it.

no pressure.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

another day, another auditon

this audition was for a movie called freedomland, starring sam jackson and juliana moore. the plot? ms. moore gets carjacked by a black man with her small toddler child in the backseat. sam is the detective that's got to get to the bottom of everything and keep a riot from tearin' up the town. he pulls it off, i imagine. we need that upbeat ending, now don't we. especially if it's theme is racial. (why does that plot sound so familiar?) yet again, another movie filled with more angry non-descript black folks whose desperate struggle is largely used as an exotic backdrop to the foibles of white people. that's the way it's sliced with just about every mainstream civil rights movie i've ever seen. from "the long walk home," past "mississippi burning" and on over to that medger evers flick. (sigh...)

my character was lorraine, one of the mothers from the projects on the black side of town. and yes. lorraine was furious.

no script to read, no scenes to pick up, no lines to memorize. the casting agent wanted everyone to do a cold read. i liked the idea of that immediately because i knew that she would be able to see whether any of us were any good, right off the bat. i showed up early in the afternoon but they hadn't started yet. i returned late in the evening, when it was pretty much all over. there was no one there to audition except me. it was a wide area, with white walls and huge windows and partitions here and there. the cluster nearest to the entrance was where there were chairs and a board that had character breakdowns and the plot summary. as soon as i looked them over and skimmed through my lines (only one page, maybe a half dozen of them), i was shown into the casting agent's office.

nice lady. long dark hair with an open face. she put up a sign in the cluster area, apologizing for not shaking anyone's hand because she was just getting over the flu. in spite of the no handshake stuff, she was warm in a genuine way. i felt at ease almost immediately, which is hard for me because i'm such a shy person. there were no cameras, although i did see a monitor behind me. i guess this was the prescreen situation. and why not. you have to see what you've got before you can put it on tape and show it to anyone else.

needless to say, i was out of there as soon as i was in there. the one thing i remember is that she gave me a bit of direction and i followed it completely, making the necessary readjustment smoothly, which pleased her. at least, that's what she said. i feel that she was telling the truth, i'm sure she was--but no matter how well things go, there's a shred of doubt that occasionally contaminates the entire recollection. i'm sure a part of it is my inexperience in front of a camera. nevertheless--there's always a bit of el-lay to these tv/film/commercial situations. no matter how cool the people are, i'm always left wondering if they're blowing smoke up my butt when they tell me anything.

it's the exact opposite when auditioning for theater and musical theater. for me, anyway.

i left there thinking, so what if she liked me. there were probably a jillion black girls to be seen for that role. but then again, there are a jillion to be seen for anything i've ever done. and somehow God's favor found me, just as it always has. whether i get it or not has already been decided. i do believe that. so there's no worry involved. it really is what it is.