Saturday, November 26, 2005

the day after

i spent black friday cleaning house and throwing things away. i woke up one day a few weeks ago and looked around me and wondered why i had so much stuff. it was probably my uncle horace's death that got me going in that direction. that and my space bags. i certainly can't take it with me. so i started to toss things out and shred paperwork with a vengeance. believe it or not, i'm making headway.

i'm sure that what i'm doing is completely emotional, on some level.

ralph called right as i was going to do my laundry. we went to barrio chino and ended up sitting next to patrick, one of the owners of the place, who proceeded to give us an informative mini tutorial on tequila and mescal, and a tasting of several kinds. i had the shrimp tacos, which blew my mind. i ended up floating home like a balloon and collapsing onto my freshly made bed. somewhere in there, the phone rang. it was paula pow, set adrift from out of my past, somewhere in the bronx, visiting family for the thanksgiving holidays. i knew her from waaaay back, when i would hang out with all of these freaks down in the lower east side when it was still cool, at a place called king tut's wah-wah hut. she was a wild girl, i suppose. alcohol, drugs, you name it. i thought she was adorable. and now she's a married social worker with three kids, a born-again christian that's living in a house with an actual honest-to-goodness white picket fence. all she needs is a minivan and she'd be a total soccer mom. (two of the kids are his from a previous marriage. the youngest one is four and she wants to try for another one next year.) she even went back to school and finished her master's degree. freaky.

interestingly enough, she remembered that i didn't drink or smoke anything or do any drugs even then. she said that she would often wonder why i was hanging out with all of them. to tell the truth, i was having fun. i satisfied my curiousity about drugs when i was in college. i never needed to get high to amuse myself. there was plenty of opportunity for that, clean and sober.

for a minute there, it was all about who we haven't seen and who overdosed and who's doing what. matt's a lawyer. kenny's bartending and playing bass in punk bands. e. married a stripper and moved to australia to escape a warrant for his arrest. evidently, he beat up a gay guy pretty badly. (sounds like par for the course.) and of course i still love edward, who's remarried and still on the west coast. somehow, the past is always running to catch up with you, no matter where your life is now. paula went to a seminar about drug addiction and saw her ex-boyfriend eddie and his friend nunzio in the "just say no to drugs" video presentation. he'd lost almost all of his teeth. as soon as his face filled the frame, paula jumps up and yells, i used to go out with that guy!

she sent out an email a week or so ago, for anyone and everyone that remembers her to come to a tapas bar in the lower east side tomorrow. i was going to show up without calling, just to surprise her. but it feels like it's going to be a surprise, anyway. i'm really proud of her for getting her life together and finishing school and growing a family. she's proud of me for sticking it out and achieving success with my art in nyc. i don't think i've done all that much. she says marriage and kids are totally overrated. i suppose everyone looks at what's on the other side of the fence and sees greener grass. right now, i'm grateful that i've got any grass to stand on at all. or that i'm standing. or that i'm even here, amongst the living. i'd love to want more. but right now, that's more than enough.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

bloom and grow in the dead of winter

the weather is turning cold and wet, finally. if it hadn't been so warm in the past few weeks, it would probably be snowing. for once, i feel ready for the lousy weather at hand. i love my government issue parka so much, i can't wait for the city to turn into an ice cube, so i can brave it like a native. i've been spending a lot of time uptown lately. everything i need is within walking distance. fairway. the bank. a decent movie. staples, fer cryin' out loud. the only reason why i go downtown is because i have to meet someone there and now that everyone is skipping town for thanksgiving, that's not an option.

the winter months are a time to hibernate creatively, a time to nurture some project along so that it can bloom in the spring. tracey moffatt's latest exhibit has really inspired me: it's called under the sign of scorpio. it's basically her posing as various females throughout history, all of them scorpios. everyone from mahalia jackson to joni mitchell. there were quite a few. she took the photos in the dead of last winter with an assistant in her 10th avenue apartment. she invited a few of us to see all of the photos a few months ago before they were delivered to her dealer and even made posters that showed how she did it -- standing in her bathroom with baby powder in her hair and a scarf on her head, and with ugly glasses on, pretending to be indira ghandi. just brilliant.

like the grade school teacher that asks what you did with your summer vacation, something in me always asks what i did with my winter months, when i usually have nothing but time on my hands. if you're creative and if you have your own ideas, that's ultimately what you want -- free time. the season seems to hand it to me on a silver platter: everything gets snowed over so there's nowhere to go, everyone is out of town so there's no one to hang out with and i get snowed in. there's nothing to do but workout every day and practice, practice, practice. somewhere in there, i get to go home so my parents can chew me out about what a lousy life they think i have, and then i return to the city and get back in the saddle again.

actually, i always feel the need to have something that i've done in my hands every season. i can't stomach the idea of living in nyc and not having anything to show for my time here. this mentality has turned me into an underpaid overachieving highly creative workaholic that lives in a constant state of readiness.

there are a lot of flowers that bloom in the winter. my favorite is the narcissus. by the way: it's not named after the beautiful greek boy that was transfixed by his own reflection. it's name comes from the greek for numbness. interestingly, the plant is a narcotic.

i know that daffodils are in the narcissus family but they're a little too yellow and happy and sunshiny for my tastes. seeing them everywhere is like living in a place that never has inclement weather. they belong in the spring, in someone's window box.

lets see if mine will bloom again this year. i think i'm going to try to wake them up before the end of december. heck. i've already got two projects on the front burners. there's never enough philodendrons but an indoor garden that blooms sounds pretty tantalizing. why not add one more log on the fire?

Monday, November 14, 2005

my latest meme (hmmm....)

The Keys to Your Heart

You are attracted to those who are unbridled, untrammeled, and free.

In love, you feel the most alive when things are straight-forward, and you're told that you're loved.

You'd like to your lover to think you are optimistic and happy.

You would be forced to break up with someone who was emotional, moody, and difficult to please.

Your ideal relationship is lasting. You want a relationship that looks to the future... one you can grow with.

Your risk of cheating is zero. You care about society and morality. You would never break a commitment.

You think of marriage as something that will confine you. You are afraid of marriage.

In this moment, you think of love as something you thirst for. You'll do anything for love, but you won't fall for it easily.

Monday, November 07, 2005

what i did with my extra hour

amie and me, looking alike
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
this was taken at a salon on the upper west side that was thrown a day or so before halloween by pianist/composer patrick soluri. (i'm not sure what his twin brother andre does but they're both excellent swing dancers.) somehow with all the makeup that amie is wearing and all the makeup i'm not wearing, we can make the same face and look very much alike. trippy.

the party was fun. everyone was dressed up in elaborate costumes and hairdos, and there were musicians playing and sitting in and there was poetry that was read. amie sat in on french horn. in spite of the small space and the restrictive outfits, there was swing dancing. patrick and andre's parents were there, drifting amongst the guests and enjoying themselves. whatever anyone wanted to do was fair game. lots of cheeses and varietals, lovely things to nibble on and of course a gigantic pitcher of the authentic honest-to-goodness sweet tea that he promised me. patrick has a huge box of luzerne tea from new orleans that's like contraband up here, if you're a southerner. he brews it the old-fashioned way, God bless him. it made me so unbelievably happy, to sit around sipping that sweet tea all night. i have no idea why. i didn't sit in. it was enough, just to get out of the house.

i brought a still-warm pound cake that went pretty quickly, even though the party was about to find its second wind. there were a bunch of people on the landing outside when ralph and i arrived because the apartment was too crowded and heated, and a lot of them said that were on their way to nora's, whereever that was. but they came back eventually. it was all so relaxed and chatty and cool.

so there i was, on the couch catching up with vibes player nick mancini who lives in harlem now. i did a russian-jewish wedding reception at the top of the world trade center about two weeks before the towers were decimated. i remember it well because it was so beautiful up there. bright, clear, sunny. i recall that i sang whatever standards i wanted and the wedding party fed all of us. it was just delicious. roast beef au jus with mashed potatoes, carrots and asparagus. they put us in a little room with its own bar, right next to those impossibly high floor to ceiling windows that made me feel as though i were floating in midair. it gives me vertigo just thinking about it. so i have sweet lasting memories of that top floor and of nick and my last gig there. that gig is also when i met andy sanesi, drummer extraordinaire and band whore. but that's another story.

nick and i are laughing so much, i don't even realize that the extra hour has passed but it was a great way to flip it, with him telling me stories about music and girls and the wierd things that happen to him. and me, totally forgetting about all the pain in my jaw to chime in with my own gunk when i can. God knows i've got plenty.

what am i usually doing when the extra hour and everything falls backwards? somehow, i'm never asleep.

Friday, November 04, 2005

it's time...

i'm going to renew my gym membership at the city gym across the way from me today, at riverbank state park. it's a very special place. i'm so happy that it's in my backyard. believe it or not, gym membership is only $162.00 a year. the workout area is small but the equipment is first rate and they have such great facilities that i can excuse the loud merengue that blares at me relentlessly if i show up too early in the morning. and i have to show up in the morning. if i don't, my workout just won't happen.

think about it: even when everything snows over, i've got an olympic sized swimming pool, a huge gymnasium and an ice skating rink at my disposal.

i love harlem.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


closer still
Originally uploaded by queenesther.
tonya b. and i have been planning a shoot at morris-jumel mansion for months. it seemed so appropriate to take pictures there: it's actually georgian, italian in design and probably the oldest free standing structure in new york city -- built in the 1700s. needless to say, it has so much history that it's kind of overwhelming to walk through the doors. there's pewter dishes and cookware in the basement, big square locks on all the doors that still work and beautiful furniture everywhere. the last owner of the property filled some of the rooms with napoleon's things after a trip to europe. the first time i saw the turquoise blue room upstairs, i thought it was a children's nursery! when washington fought the british in the battle of harlem heights, he stayed there, to strategize and regroup. it's much bigger than it looks and it sits on a hill, surrounded by grass with an herb garden in the back with a sun dial. from the front yard, you can see yankee stadium.

the just right sunny day didn't seem to come along and when it did, my hair and my body and my clothes weren't just right. and then the summer was over and i thought our chance had passed. but when i saw that the weather would turn right one more time before everything settled into fall, we decided to go for it.

finally -- we've finally pulled it off. no stylist. no art director. no assistants. no make-up artist. no catering. just me pulling dresses out of my bag and going, whaddya think and doing my own make-up. and tonya, directing me. it was fun and then all of a sudden, it was over. i've got a lot of cool shots to choose from for the next cd cover art or poster or whatever. i think that this one is especially nice.

what a huge relief, to have done this. but then again, there's always more photos to take, more ideas to explore.