“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.