Dishing Out The Lifelong Goals

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

– ee cummings

At 17, I was unstoppable. Set free in the rapid, urban tempo of New York City (actually, I was stationed on the rather dismal, seldom heard of, Roosevelt Island), I felt there was nothing I couldn’t do. Many of you know that after gaining my independence, I hit the road with a new friend in college and inevitably became a Bette Midler stalker, following her concerts from city to city. If I thought Roosevelt Island was happening, you can imagine the thrills and allure of Cleveland when my co-hort and I arrived for our umpteenth intake of the Divine Miss M, preceded by a death-defying transit, a visit to a random local cemetery and Cleveland’s finest Greyhound terminal. But somewhere along my life’s trek from Cleveland to life in my current super-cozy Manhattan dwelling during the most sweltering summer known to New Yorkers, I lost sight of my drive and direction. Sucked into the vortex of the vile, decrepit entertainment industry and changing times of the music biz, my daily concerns shifted from my next conquest to who’s ass I needed to kiss, what bills I needed to pay, and what miracle it would take to bring me a stroke of stardom and rise to the top. Because as a child I was well aware, lightening does strike. It may be only once in a lifetime, but I sure as hell haven’t been singed yet.

So as the years flickered by like a firefly in the wind and I’ve been judged and shredded by critics, agents, casting folks, fat, unemployed, YouTube viewers, and the meanest monster of all time- myself, the very optimism and naive hope I had took the back seat. And not just the back seat of a sedan. Those hopes, premonitions, and undeniable yearnings took the back seat of a Greyhound that never returned from Cleveland. Fortunate for me, in this kind universe (as Einstein once said, it’s up to us individually to choose if we live in a friendly or hostile universe), I took to written manifestations at the peak of my optimism. Since I first learned to scribble down a few illegible words in a journal, I have documented the sequence of my life. And out of that I have what the sappy film with Jack and Morgan would describe as a “bucket list.” At the time, in 2001, my bucket list was conceived in its fully glory but simply referred to as my lifelong goals. And what I’m re-learning upon finding this list is that my goals were not only lofty, but also unconventional and deeply sacred. During a recent bout with the self-destructive monster that is me, I felt myself floundering beneath an increasingly suffocating ebb of toxic thoughts and questions of “why” this or that had or hadn’t happened. And out came the bucket list to assess what I have and have not accomplished. My “why’s” became transformed into “what can be done?” and I tackled the easier items I once dreamed up. Incidentally, I wrote this list before I had ever completed an original song in my life and on the first page I wrote that I would release an album of original material. To date, I have released two and though neither garnered me a Grammy Award (also on the list), I thankfully did not specify when said award would be awarded.

Having noted the feats that I have accomplished, never truly celebrating them once completed, I made a vow to pay respect to each fulfillment. Which brings me to this week and the clever synchronicity of life, which reveals itself in the strangest ways. At the age of 13, I was completely obsessed with “The Prince of Tides” by Pat Conroy. I read the book at a rather inappropriate age, but had always been wise beyond my years. When an entertainment career was banned from being the subject of my eighth grade career report, I instead wrote about being a psychiatrist modeled after the character of Lowenstein. The film captivated me in a way that I later worked at Barbra Streisand’s film company, Barwood Films, and developed a great respect for Nick Nolte, regardless of whatever mugshots or crazy reports of the actor appeared. The novel shaped my expectations of what a true love story would contain and often found me paired with men I hoped to heal; men who were wounded beyond repair. Out of this fixation, I also developed two quests on my lifelong goals: to meet Nick Nolte and Pat Conroy. After many missed opportunities of almost meeting Pat Conroy, I drafted a letter to him almost a year ago and it went unsent. So this summer, I once again penned a letter and finally mailed it off to my favourite writer. I included a copy of “Sweet Clarity,” and expressed how his lyrical language and work has created an indelible mark on my life and said that my musical works have been inspired by such. I never expected to receive a reply.

This week, I was assigned to a job I did not want to take but had already booked. It consisted of endless hours sitting around, but fortunately I had picked up a copy of Conroy’s latest novel from last year, “South of Broad.” Halfway through the book, I was called to set to work, and as I was running up a set of stairs, I ran directly into Nick Nolte. It felt like a surreal experience as I said hello, completely unaware he was involved with this booking. The day was long and in spite of having ample reading time, I felt like my life and time were wasting away. Until I returned home, and in my mailbox I uncovered a fancy envelope sent from South Carolina. Enclosed was a letter… from Pat Conroy. In it, he offered advice and compliments, artist to artist. It was a level of validation that reached my core. Coming directly from one of the most influential artists in my life, I received gratitude from him as he explained that my music and talent had inspired him. At 13, if you had told me this exchange would one day take place, I would have not imagined it.

I am not as famous as I hoped to be. I am not as wealthy or well known as I hoped. And I have not created my greatest work, or anything close to it. But I have gotten up, a few days of this year, and really connected with my passions and my dreams. And through that, and only through that soul connection and disappearance of the egoic monster that loves to nitpick, can I find peace and pave my way through this list of lifelong goals. The funny part is, sometimes we just have to write it… and the universe reveals it to us with little effort on our own. This week I am more than happy to scratch off two more items from my bucket list.

Summertime Ramblings

I’m torn between going back to sleep, or drinking another iced coffee and writing a new blog. I haven’t blogged or journaled in months, which is quite lazy indeed. Instead I’ve wasted countless hours researching new apartments and potential puppies to adopt. For six years I have lived in my current abode, subletting with the hopes of someday being the lease holder. When my elderly building owner called a few weeks ago, insisting to have a meeting with me, she arrived at my apartment with the offering of a lease. Imagine, all my early twenties were spent concerned that I may have to up and leave this rent-stabilized gem on the Upper West Side. I held onto this apartment for dear life, fretting over losing my cozy sanctuary, awaiting the chance for it to officially be mine and as my landlady explained it was time to put me on a one-year lease, panic set in with this one recurring thought: I want to move!

That is the irony of life. Like a lover from my past who I agonized over for years and years, awaiting the day he would finally commit, by the time he came around to discuss a serious relationship and potential marriage and kids down the road, I had to suppress my guffaws. Really? I wanted to be with him? I outgrew any possibility of being with that dude in the same way I’ve begun to outgrow my apartment. 

This summer has been creatively fulfilling and challenging. I’m in the process of recording a Stevie Nicks tribute album, something that scares and excites me. Last month, I performed at the Bitter End for the official release of “Sweet Clarity,” and per usual, the show was scheduled in alignment with a frigid monsoon. My producer, Scott Slater, and I have begun to offer our services to drought-weary locales, promising that if they book us for a show, they will in fact receive rain. This past weekend, we traveled upstate to my childhood town to perform at the annual street festival. It rained. Luckily, by the time we took the stage (ie the heat-trapping white tent on a side street), the rain ceased and we had a great time. I had two caveats at this show. The first, being that I absolutely did not want to run into any nemeses (yes, plural) from my high school. Ten years has apparently not been long enough for me to forgive or forget some of the snide remarks and nastiness endured when I was the first to skip my junior year and become valedictorian of the class ahead of mine. The second, was being relatively unprepared to add some old, barely practiced songs to our set. Of course, the moment my mom flags me down to indicate someone in the audience is “important” (which I later learn he’s part of a start-up local radio station), Scott and I launch into the one song we haven’t played in a few years. I’m not sure a single part of the chorus landed on a correct chord, which is the worst feeling when performing because you can’t just stop in the middle and declare, “This is a fucking train wreck!” So I sang through it, ignoring the clashing chords, and post-performance, the audience was none the wiser to our errors. Or so they deceptively told me.

During the show, there was a little girl in a hot pink dress that matched my ensemble for the day. She started in the second row (given the odd distance between the stage and seats, was at least thirty feet away) and gradually moved to the front row. After the set, I was so impressed by her attentiveness that I approached her and her family and asked if she might want a cd for being such a great audience member. She froze and I wondered if she was autistic or hearing impaired, as she didn’t process what I said. So I asked again, this time placing the cd in her hand and she remained still. Her mother interjected, “Say thank you!” and the young girl came back to life, stuttering a polite thank you. As I walked away, she regained more confidence and shouted, “Thanks!” The poor thing was just terrified. It reminded me of my college professor, who would complain that television has numbed us into thinking there is constantly a screen between an audience and speaker/performer so we don’t interact and think we are invisible.

While upstate, Scott and I found our amusement in the local Walmart superstore. Living in Manhattan, it is easy to be swept away by the grandeur of a real supermarket. Visiting Walmart felt like visiting from another planet, inspecting the multitudes of foreign processed goods and unusual contraptions that can be found in the American superstore. I was able to experience all the crazy, obesity-causing snacks without the need to consume them. However, I could not turn away from the twenty-plus flavour selections of coffee creamers. Even though my allegedly unbreakable French Press shattered across my apartment floor last week, I’ve taken to making coffee the “cowboy way” over a stovetop flame and filtering it through an unworn pair of silk stockings. Nonetheless, I narrowed down to the “English Almond Toffee” tub of creamer that cost a mere $2.88! One cannot even buy a small bottle of the stuff for under $2.99 retail. It was success.

Additionally, I received a thank-you gift from Folgers for the jingle that Scott and I submitted a few months ago. In lieu of the $25,000 grand prize, we were awarded a gift basket of free coffee, mugs, paper, spoons, and pens. The thought was sweet, but the gift itself left me with a strong feeling of guilt. It was packaged with a few thousand styrofoam peanuts and shredded paper and plastic wrap that nearly filled an entire garbage bag when I disposed of it. I’m not sure how many people entered the contest, but that a massive amount of trash when I would’ve been just as happy to receive a few gift cards or coupons or less ornately packaged prize. Also, thought I did not win the grand prize for the Lililth Fair competition (www.ourstage.com/missdiatribe), I was awarded a pair of free tickets! To receive small tokens along the way, I feel better to know my efforts are not entirely in vain.

 

I have hesitated to write about my awesome albeit quirky boyfriend, respecting that his desire for anonymity and shyness may not receive my observations well. But after spending a multitude of weekends with his gay dads and the flamboyant gays of Fire Island, including the Invasion of drag queens on Independence Day, I’m inclined to out him and his modest ways. He is my most consistent source of amusement these days and I feel it is a great disservice to my blog readers to leave out the tales of our many adventures. It will be a true test of our relationship. 

I’d also like to leave a message for a certain blog reader of yesteryear, who occasionally tunes in, fearful that his name will appear and affect his political desires and public persona. You sir, are still an asshole.

And for those reading now, I promise to follow more coherent, thematic blogs in the future. But at least this rambling has brought a necessary update and fire under my ass to return to weekly blog entries.