“In the still of the night, how still my love…”

For the past five years, almost like my annual pilgrimage, I go to Jones Beach to see Stevie Nicks. Some years, I’ve sat by myself. Other times I’ve opened up the journey to include other people. It’s such a personal venture for me. I know politics and religion are considered conversational land mines, but to me music can be just as explosive a topic. This is why I often find myself attending concerts alone, as they are a spiritual venture for me and I hate to sit and worry about whether or not the person attending with me will enjoy them as much. Chances are, most people won’t..

Jones Beach is the venue I dream of playing the most. It is a monster of an amphitheatre, situated by the ocean and each show is determined by Mother Nature’s hand. More often, the shows I’ve attended have been brutal with cold winds and rain and the audience buckling down in ponchos and rain gear. Last year the tides came in and washed under the entire orchestra seating. Not wanting to miss the show I led my friend over thirty rows of seats, careful not to touch the ground water for fear of electrocution. For the Stevie Nicks fans in chiffon and lace dresses and platform boots, it’s not an easy venue to maneuver in most cases. Yet when the weather is just right it’s a magical setting with the salty mist of the sea, the lights reflecting on water, and the sound echoing through the theatre. It is my sanctuary, it is my refuge.

Each year I foolishly find myself questioning if I’ll make the trek and spend the money to see the same woman perform at the same venue with the near-same set list. I dragged my father to a show where we shivered and huddled in a downpour. I was escorted by a close friend of Stevie’s and introduced to her backstage, a moment that would be quite difficult to top if I tried.  I’ve sat in every major section of the amphitheatre to absorb and enjoy the show. I’ve come to realize, especially last night, that this journey is not about seeing Stevie Nicks as much as it is about remembering myself. It’s about being present to who I am and have become, listening to those same songs that change their meaning to me over time, just as I’m sure they have for her. There is one constant in my life, though. If “Dreams” ever comes on in a public setting, I will force whoever is in my vicinity to dance. My father and brother have been the most consistent victims to my impromptu call for dancing.

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Last night, I chose to buy a seat in the rafters, so I could see the entire landscape and the stage and not be worried once again that I’m spending too much money on a ticket for a “show I’ve seen before.” Every seat is a good seat as far as I’m concerned, but to really enjoy the beauty of it all, one would have to take the life form of a bird and be able to fly and twitter from the mezzanine to the orchestra. I sat by myself with no more than twenty people in my section in the nosebleeds. I think it may have been one of the best shows I’ve ever seen of hers because I was at such a peaceful state of mind. For once, I wasn’t shivering or being bludgeoned with shards of hail and rain. And when the hammond would solo into the upper octaves, or her guitarist, Waddy, would pluck at his guitar strings with reckless abandon, I felt the blissful tingles run up and down my spine. Instead of my typical worrying about the commute home or the sadness when the show would end, I found myself present and connected to every single sensation.
 

Stevie’s known for her terseness and only in the past few years has she really begun to chat with her audiences. With a wave of courage and insight, she stepped to the microphone after her final bow and opened her arms. She shouted about how crazy the world is right now and how we need to embrace music. “Go buy music and save the music industry and go dance in the streets and hear music in the cafes and start a revolution!” Music is her healer and as she declared last night, the only thing she really has. It’s melancholic to think her music is her only “thing” but I think she’s got a valid point. If more people would open their arms to joy, abandon fear in the streets as they happily dance to their own drummer (or even Mick Fleetwood) the world would be a better place.

(All photos taken last year by Adam Riemer. My camera sucks and managed to capture nothing worthy last night. I wish the perfect camera would find it’s way to me).

It was a surprise in the setlist to hear “How Still My Love.” I think this is the sexiest song of all time. Ever. Since the beginning of time… nothing compares to the live delivery.

Unity

I have far more Republicans than Democrats in my circle of family and friends. Having lived in New York and LA and working in the entertainment industry, one would think this to be quite bizarre. I can sense the eye rolls and back talk I’ll get for posting this, but I’m pretty happy for this unity of the Democrats. And Hillary only has more of my respect for going out there.

The Summer Zombie

Apparently my performing is inspiring my favourite kid in the world to come up with his own performances. I have a show upstate in a few weeks for a summer festival and my little cousin’s decided he wants to be a part of the act. We may need more rehearsals, but he’s got the lungs and penchant for stage makeup (or green sunscreen). Thanks to Nellie McKay, I found the perfect six-minute song for our adventures on Saturday.

Soulful City Walks

I’m a walker, through and through. Manhattan may be an expensive city, but the greatest treasures are free. Of all the places I’ve marched and strutted, nothing compares to New York. I’ve made many a man suffer in my walking adventures, particularly in Hawaii when my Irish beau would be short of plans and I’d insist on walking until the sun came up.

Tonight I had quite a bit on my mind, still immersed in the Oprah-Tolle class and decided to walk through Central Park and forty blocks to my apartment. It was an unusual night, where I was hired to mingle at a corporate party for financial services. Four hundred men and miraculously seventy-five attractive women who just “happened to be invited” to the event. I’m always amused by the need to maintain secrecy at these parties when it’s quite clear a modeling agency was contacted to break-up the testosterone-filled crowd. For whatever reason, rather than having the men invite their wives or girlfriends, the organizers find it wiser to hire minglers. The event was carnival themed, as grown men in suits held out their arms while dangling from sky-high swings. Yet as the party droned on, the levity subsided and darkness prevailed as alcohol intervened. The married men started dancing with random girls, debauchery taking hold.

People watching is New York’s other great and gratis main attraction. This party was designed for seasoned people watchers. I sat beneath a tree on a bench when I was approached by two CEO’s of a hedge fund in Midtown. Whenever I’m asked what I do, I stutter with hesitation. How can I possibly define my life into a one to two word definition? I generally throw “singer” into the mix and it either stilts or invigorates the conversation. Tonight it was a trophy almost, some unusual profession that intrigued these music-loving finance chaps. Compared to the sword-swallowing diva, the sequined contortionists, and snake-bearing belly dancer, I’d think my own occupation would be viewed as dull in contrast.

But conversation after conversation I was told how lucky I am to do something I love and be pursuing it. “My job is soulless and ruthless,” one of the hedge fund guys confessed. “I’m great at math, at what I do but it doesn’t make me happy to wake up each morning. I don’t feel good about myself.”

I rationalized that whatever money he makes gives him advantage to put that money to a greater good. “Your industry may be soulless but you have a soul,” I kept thinking to myself. I’m not in the most soulful of professions either, but I’ve managed to stay true to my soul’s journey. When I told him of his great opportunity to put the money he makes towards worthy causes, he merely smirked. His greatest concern was that he felt bad taking money from the pockets of other people, but I rationalized that it’s simply business and he’s taking the money from bigger pockets.

As he worried about his own obligations, I thought of the carnival booth attendant I spoke to earlier. Not more than 20 or so, she was a lively black girl that ran one of the games. The space was rented for the party, but generally her game would cost $3 per try. In order to win a large prize, someone would have to be successful at 18 games. Often times, people would offer her $50 just to walk away with an over-sized plush toy. Without choice, she was required to work the regular 8 hour shift and then stay until midnight for the party. How much was she getting paid? $7.15/hour. Seven-dollars and fifteen cents an hour. To work this party she was not making over-time or anything additional. As far as I was concerned, this was a much greater tragedy than Morgan Stanley losing a few million due to their own stupidity.

I even questioned myself, attending this party and making more than five times this girl’s salary just to show up and smile and bullshit with the city’s finest bullshitters. Instead of drowning one’s guilt with Dewar’s and soda, why not tip the poor staff making minimum wage while the carnival owners could easily made six-figures for the night. If he had tipped her twenty bucks it would’ve made up for nearly half her daily take home after taxes. I don’t even understand how the party planners can allow such an oversight.

But tonight, underneath the stars and amidst the gardens of Central Park, I found further reinforcement for how lucky I am. No road is easy, but I’m glad to walk with my eyes fully open and heart full of compassion. I’m grateful that I’m one of the few in this world who pushes towards what I love to do and comes from inspiration.

A New Earth Regarding Sex and Politics

The title of this blog is possibly saucier than the content it may contain. First, I’m months behind in the Oprah-Tolle-Change-Your-Life-In-The Power-of-Now online classes. Instead of letting the discussions drag on for ten weeks, I’m reviewing the courses in five days. I’ve always been in favour of rushing and condensing. I’d like to develop a formulaic approach with Fred see if a flaky plan can be exchanged for some more rhyme and reason. Part of this “New Earth” diet is to let go of resistance, control, and fighting for things in life. As I learned today, “the need to fight and win” is more enervating than the actual fight. Actually, I may have incorrectly paraphrased that. But what I learned in today’s lesson is that we are meant to be transparent in situations of drama, turmoil, and noise. Like the polluted Hudson River that my exposed rump endures on my kayaking adventures… you’re just supposed to go with the flow and not put up walls of resistance. The control freak in me does not want to be like the Hudson River. It wants to be a fighter.

As of late, I’ve been spending a lot of time with guy friends and tearing apart the bizarre world of dating. One of these friends, who I dated briefly years ago, felt that dating itself is the problem. He alluded that dating is a manufactured, awkward, and uncomfortable experience for all people involved. I tend to disagree, but as they may say- practice makes perfect. Serial dating has taught me the art of handling bizarre conversations, initiating new questions to beat the standard prompts about family, work, blah blah blah, and having an overall good time no matter how weird either of us may feel. I have no issues with dating. I actually think of it as a novelty. It’s the evolution or conversion from “dating” to “relationship” that is always a particularly difficult and often fatal (metaphorically speaking) turning point I find. I am, in fact, a magnet for emotionally unavailable and terrified men who put up a long, ardent fight until they get me interested. Then they run, hard and fast. My straight dudes, with their advice will often claim that our friendships are so open and great that if we ever were to date we wouldn’t have that problem. I then argue the obvious mistakes they may have made with women in the past. Because there is a point in all “dating” scenarios that one or both of the parties involved will aim to sabotage the good. It may be through unconscious actions or blatantly dumb moves, but the moment always arises right around or before the “transition.” Wining, dining, and making out in Central Park on random romps were simple. The funeral march begins after a few of these otherwise awesome encounters, for those rare times that a second and third and fourth date occur. In the New York dating scene, anything after a first date can also be considered rare.

But  why do we even go through this? It’s like an intense cardio workout that is nothing but brutal for the first twenty minutes. The harder the routine, the more I find myself questioning if I want to continue. But once I hit my stride, the endorphins rush, my heart soars, and I feel victorious for hanging on for the relief. In retrospect it wasn’t so hard afterall.

If  dating wasn’t complicated enough already, we now have the added benefit of the Internet where passive aggression can take a firm hold and sabotage a budding relationship. Befriending one another on Myspace or Facebook is just another nail in the coffin during the courtship period. Last year I was seeing someone who communicated his sudden disinterest in me by removing me from his number one friend on Myspace to the number twelve spot. I was devastated at the time, particularly when he argued that everything was fine. Looking back I wonder why I even gave a shit. Everything can be misread on these blogs and tagged photos, leaving someone to wonder is he or she dating that person? What does that comment left by some other girl about cool-whip and chocolate sauce really mean? When did he go to Ireland… he told me he was hanging with friends this weekend?! Not only does online stalking become totally acceptable, but people begin to feel like they have a real relationship with someone else based on reading status updates and drunken blogs and tagged images. Thus begins cyber-warfare in the dating scene. And cyber-warfare does little to aid us in emulating the Hudson River. And that is the goal, after all. To be one with water.

The problem with those dating experiences that never surpassed the conversion from “hooking up” to “relationship” is that these people feel there is a continuum, which can amount to a parade of “formers” who want another chance. See if you were never officially in a relationship, then there was never an ending, right? Wrong. One drunken text of late told me that there is “clearly a connection” still between me and the drunken former and it was somehow childish of me to not return his calls and meet in person. It’s funny because I clearly saw that connection for the five years I spent waiting for this person to wake up and spend time with me, when he was more comfortable dodging phone calls and keeping space between us.

Now, how does this tie into politics? Everyone knows I am a die hard Hillary Clinton supporter and have yet to openly support Obama. I just didn’t have much of a sense of the man behind the suit. Then today, my decision to rally for this man came from the words of a woman- his wife. I caught her on “The View” this morning and found her to be educated, strong, empowered, and empathetic. She is completely supportive and committed and any man who is capable of being married to a woman with such strong opinions and ambitions of her own has my vote. It was a reminder to me of why any of my close friends or even I go through all the circuitous games and bullshit of dating and the dreaded “conversion” period. Within us all is that shred of hope, that “audacity of hope” for something that withstands the test of time while allowing for our own spiritual and personal growth.

In the meantime, I’m going to practice being like the Hudson.

Finding my Zen on the Hudson

Next to the sanitation department on the Hudson River, I may be risking my health but I’m maintaining my sanity.

It was also my first time sharing a kayak with my instigating partner in crime. I think today we’ll go solo. If you’re in NYC, I definitely recommend checking out one of the three kayaking locations. It’s free all summer.