Songs for the Struggling Artist


Thrashing Acceptance
January 19, 2022, 11:47 pm
Filed under: pandemic, resistance | Tags: , , , , , , ,

As winter approached, I freaked out a little. The idea that we were looking down the barrel of a third pandemic winter just zorked my feelings up. (Yes, I know that’s not a real word. I had to make one up; That’s how zorked up my feelings were.) I wanted to run but there was nowhere to run to. The pandemic is freaking everywhere. You can’t escape it. It’s better in some places (a lot better!) but those places sure as hell don’t want my New York ass in their uncovidy environs. I had a couple of panic attacks. I freaked out. A friend who called to check on me got an unexpected sobber on the phone. It was a rough couple of weeks.

But somehow I turned some kind of corner. Despite everything being very bad and some things even worse than I could have imagined, I’m in a state of what I can only call Thrashing Acceptance. That is, I have accepted that this is my reality and with that acceptance is a kind of peace. Simultaneously, I hate it. It makes me furious and I occasionally have to flail my limbs around. That’s the thrashing part. It is a full body response.

I had some plans to get out of here. They’re pretty much shot. So much for getting out of here. And now is not the time to find that indoor swimming pool I was hoping to find. I accept it. I am at peace with the truth and sometimes I just need to shout and throw things.

It’s horrible. It doesn’t feel good. But I’m going on as if it’s all fine, even though it isn’t. It is what is it and Arrrggghhhh!

That’s Thrashing Acceptance.

It’s like I’m a shark, right? And some aquarium captures me out in the ocean and I thrash and thrash in their net, trying to escape and then at a certain point, I just get tired and take a break from thrashing. Then they put me in the tank in the aquarium and sometimes I swim around peacefully and sometimes I just thrash around for no particular reason because I may not be in a net anymore but I’m still trapped, really, and I can swim peacefully but sometimes I just have to thrash it out. It’s like that.

I can’t stop this pandemic. It’s continuing to happen whatever I do. I am told we are turning a corner but at the same time, every day, multiple people I know get a positive diagnosis. There may be hope. I hope there’s hope. But it currently still stinks. And it stinks even more because we’re basically on our own out here. No one will make the hard calls so all the schools and all the restaurants and a lot of shows are still open but there’s this shadow closure that’s happening, where shows are closing, performing artists, and all the people who work to make the performing arts run, are losing their jobs, having gigs cancelled or just no audiences, restaurants are going out of business and schools have to limp along without the necessary staff. There’s no relief to be had for anyone because everyone is expected to still be out there pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and toughing it out. People are having to make hard calls all on their own every day and it is painful to watch this car crash in slow motion. Most people I know are just planning for when they get Omicron, not for if. We’re not locked in the apartment this year but maybe we should be? Hospitals have been stretched thin again. This is all very very very screwed up. I’m making peace with it but it is a very noisy, very thrashy peace.

I don’t have much more to say about it, I guess. I just thought I should share the concept with you in case any of you are in a similar state. Somehow it feels good to have language for accepting what one cannot change but still having feelings about it. Thrashing Acceptance is my new way.

 

This shark make look peaceable but if it’s anything like me, it’s going to start thrashing ANY minute now.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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Waterworks at the Street Circus

When I walked up to check out the booths at Open Streets (the program that closes down/opens up a couple of blocks to give the neighborhood more public space) I wasn’t prepared for a show.

When I approached the second block, I saw a crowd and a truck and then I saw some clowns getting the crowd fired for their circus. Their performance style was so familiar, I almost just walked away – feeling an habitual “I know what this is. I don’t need to watch it.” But then I found myself not walking away. And then I found myself not walking away for quite some time – and halfway through their opening sketch, I started weeping and did not stop until I finally pulled myself away half an hour later.

Was I watching and crying because the show was so moving, so good, so remarkable? No. I mean, the show was fine. It was perfect for the venue and earnest and sweet. I’m almost certain that the river falling out of my face had very little to do with the content of the piece. There is nothing particularly tear-jerking about a Chinese yo-yo or a tapdancing ring master.

It could be the audience. There was a big joyful crowd of people and the children did not hesitate what they were asked to repeat, “We want the circus!” I, for sure, was moved by that. Maybe it was also just seeing an audience at all? I’ve only seen one other show since March of 2020 so I have not been in many crowds, nor seen them. Maybe it’s the novelty, the preciousness of a people gathering together to watch some show people on a truck bed.

I kept trying to stop my tears, because it became a little embarrassing. My handkerchief got soaked. A man came out of the crowd and looked right at my dripping wet face and smiled a little bit. He had a knowing look about him – like he knew what it was about. Did he? Because I’m not sure I know what it was about. It wasn’t the girls pretending to tap dance in their sneakers, though that had its charms. I did not notice anyone else crying their face off at the street circus so this would seem to be a me thing.

I have been cautious about going back to the theatre, despite some really tempting offers for precisely this reason. I know that whatever I see in a theatre again for the first time is going to be seen through the waterfall of my tears and I’m being careful about what that show will be. I don’t want to miss the show itself because of my response to the experience.

The half an hour I spent at the street circus was about all I had the stamina for. The loud music was hard on my brain that was just emerging from a migraine and I ran out of tissues after a while. I’m going to have to ease back into performances it would seem.

I think it’s probably from love that I’m weeping. The thing is I love performance and performers. I love audiences and shows. I am show people all the way through and this pandemic has so thoroughly cut me off from that part of myself, I’m not sure there is anything for it but to cry.

The marketing team can declare “Broadway is back” all it wants but as far as I can see, it’s really out there, more or less by itself, with a few well-funded buddies. Small companies like the one I saw on the street in my neighborhood are much fewer and far betweener. This particular one has been part of the landscape of NYC performance as long as I’ve lived here and it is a relief to me to see them out here, still kicking and juggling. I may not recognize any of the people anymore but I know their history. I was there for some of it. I don’t really know how a small circus got themselves through this mess. I don’t know how I got my theatre company and myself through this mess. And I don’t expect we’re really through this mess so much as on a temporary reprieve. (I’m sorry. I know there is not a country on this planet who has opened back up and not had to shut back down right quick like.) Mostly, I guess, I try not to think about it – but sometimes the feelings about all that just make themselves known. The crying I was doing at the circus was very bizarre in that I did not necessarily feel sad or happy or moved. I couldn’t have told you what those feelings were.  I felt disconnected from my own emotional world. It’s like my tears were flowing without me.

As an actor who can sometimes be called upon to cry, I cannot help but interrogate this new style of crying. It felt so involuntary. It was like when a strong wind blows in your face and makes your eyes water. I guess these are my new “watching a performance” tears. I don’t have to work up my particular feelings, I guess, just watch someone giving their all to an audience and the waterworks will flow.

I want to go back inside and see shows again. I love the red curtain. I love the wooden O, the wooden arch, the wooden frame. I love a black box and a dance studio. I long to return to all of them – but I have yet to hear an epidemiologist recommend it. I feel like folks are doing shows indoors again not because it’s safe and we’re ready but because Broadway producers want to make some money. I don’t blame them – there’s no support for anything or anyone – to put folks back to work is the only way to put food back on a lot of people’s tables. It may be safe-ish since everyone’s theoretically vaccinated and the audience is masked. It’s not the least safe space to be or at least it wasn’t until Omicron kicked off. Now shows that just opened are closing again. There’s something about the place that I love most in the world becoming so dangerous that it had to be closed, everywhere – that makes me feel like I need it to be thoroughly safe now.

Stumbling on a show two blocks from my apartment in the middle of the street is my dream of NYC come true. This is, definitely, what I hoped for when I moved here – and twenty years later, it happened. But only because we all had our little performers’ hearts broken in a big way last year. Based on the major waterworks that kicked off at the neighborhood circus, mine is still in need of repair I’d say.

This photo is probably blurry because it was taken through my tears. But check it out! This glorious woman is balancing on bottles on top of a truck bed!

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help this show person keep creating even when there are so few shows?

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Inspiration Obstacles

Ladies and Gentlemen, Whales and Snails, Lobsters and Crabs, Crayfish and Crawlers: I have something of a reputation for keeping going in the face of difficulty. I am a self-proclaimed shark and I swim ever forward. I hold space for people who once stood where I stand and need me to keep going as a sort of beacon. That is a responsibility I take very seriously and I hold that beacon high, my squids and octopi. But I have to confess to you that my arm has gotten very tired of holding that beacon up and I’ve been falling down on the job a lot this last year.

When the pandemic hit, I knew exactly what to do. I went into creative overdrive and I made something happen. I’m good in a crisis. I get creative in a crisis. I started my theatre company in a crisis. I recorded a bunch of albums in a crisis. My band’s album came out the day after a crisis, so really still in crisis. Last year, I made an audio drama in a crisis.

But I gotta tell you, my crisis muscles are exhausted. This crisis has gone on too long and for the bulk of 2021, I went to the inspiration well every day and if I came back with an eyedropper’s worth of inspiration, I counted myself lucky. I don’t got it, my oysters. I don’t got it. I don’t got it and I don’t know how to get it back.

I read a thing on Facebook that I haven’t been able to find again because I didn’t interact with it because I was mad at how exactly the algorithm knew where I was and I didn’t want it to know it was right. It was a thing about grief and how things can start to seem flat and pointless and it’s hard to get excited about anything so one should just follow anything with any hint of a spark whatsoever. And I wish this were just true from the last few months after my brother’s death but I think I was grieving even before I was grieving. My city (not to mention my field) has been gutted by the pandemic. Small businesses and even slightly bigger corporate ones have all disappeared. The map of the places I used to go is now a map of what used to be there. The world has narrowed so painfully and as winter hits it narrows even more. One of my favorite activities used to be turning up in a neighborhood and wandering around until I found a coffee shop to go write in. I can’t do that anymore.  It’s not just that most of my favorites have closed; it’s also that I might never find one with conditions that feel safe to write in. 2021 has almost been worse than 2020 because things seem like they’re a little normal but are really still not and very few are acknowledging what has come before even as they catapult into a faltering future. Anyway – all that to say that I think I was grieving even before I was actually grieving.

Folks keep asking me what I’m working on and I don’t have a good answer. That (possible) new audio drama I’ve been writing during my writing practice this last year might turn out to be something but I’m not, like, any more confident in it than I am in the cup of coffee I make every day. I think Season Two of The Dragoning – which I wrote in 2020 – is pretty good but fundraising for Season One was so harrowing  – I had not been able to imagine going through that process again until just a couple of weeks ago. Honestly, one of the things that got me over the hump was somebody on Reddit asking the podcast group at what point they thought a podcast that they listened to was dead. (We’re “not dead yet!”)

To get something to production, I have to believe in something so hard that I will fight through the agony of fundraising and organizing to get there. I have to be buoyed up by my own faith and hope and inspiration to put myself through it and I haven’t had access to that in a long time. I suspect that it’s probably since I put out Season One without paying myself. It seems like it might be important to find the money to do that – as it has held up quite a lot, just energetically, just, inspiration wise. Which, let’s face it, is pretty much my only currency. Sometimes you have to pay one currency with another. But this is not my only block.

There are a lot of things that can block inspiration. It is a little like a body of water, in that inspiration’s natural inclination is to flow. The bigger the body of water, the more difficult it is to dam. But when you’re getting by with a tiny stream, a couple of fallen trees can jam up the whole works. Sometimes it seems like the logs are the block and then you realize there’s a boulder further downstream or maybe some beavers have gotten busy with some reeds.

The only thing for it is to set about removing whatever obstacles you can find – whether they’re the real stoppage or not. However you can get the flow going, even if it’s only a trickle, is good.

This post, I think, might be one of those logs in my inspiration stream. I started it at least a month ago. I wasn’t going to publish it. I just felt like I had enough of these “struggling with inspiration” posts this year. But then I came up dry for future blogs. “Why do I have nothing.” I wondered. And I thought – hey maybe it’s that post about inspiration that’s clogging up the pipeline. Maybe it isn’t. I don’t know. All I can do is clear the pipeline. Or the stream. Or whichever water metaphor is right for this situation. And then hope the water starts flowing again soon. I know this is my dry season generally but that doesn’t make it all that much easier to be thirsty.

I would love if my obstacles were this clear. I’d go in there, apologize to the beavers, of course, but then start hauling branches to get that inspiration flowing.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me clear some obstacles?

Become my patron on Patreon.

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



2021 Year in Review
December 31, 2021, 2:09 pm
Filed under: pandemic | Tags: , ,

Happy New Year!

Last year I summarized 2020 because it seemed important for history. Like, 2020 was so significantly terrible it needed to be documented. Having now experienced 2021, I’m not sure quite how unprecedented 2020 was because it seemed to set a precedent and now we’re just stuck in this terrible lane and there seems to be no place to exit.

I did re-read the recap of 2020 that I wrote last year and it already feels very far away so perhaps there is some value in documenting our second pandemic year. By the way, I have now read several other folks’ years in review. They are mostly lists of their impressive accomplishments. This will not be that. (Unless mending my clothes is an impressive accomplishment?!)

January – I spend most of January writing at the Toast and Roast, feeling generally uninspired but also discovering that that was pretty normal for January for me.

February  – like January but worse because it’s February. I guess I spent it watching Spanish TV and listening to podcasts?

March  – I got my first dose of the vaccine! I was so full of hope! So much joy! Absolute euphoria. It was also my first ride on the subway in a year – which I took to go get the vaccine at Aviation High School. They shut that site down the day after I went because school was re-opening that Monday. It was a giddy hopeful time for everyone.

Also – I got obsessed with Lubalin’s Tik Toks and made two puppet Tik Toks based on his songs.

April – Got my second dose of Moderna and I was ready to roll!

May – When I was fully cooked, vaccination wise, I went to a café and sat inside to celebrate. It turned out to not be the relief and fun I was dreaming of, as I spent most of the time worried about all the people not in masks who might not be vaccinated. It was much more stressful than I expected. I think I’ve only tried it again once, in a place where I could sit facing an open window, which was basically like sitting outside.

June – They disbanded a lot of theatres. The one that really broke my heart was Kneehigh. But – I traveled! For the first time in so long! I saw my family for the first time in ages who I had missed a great deal. I managed to celebrate Father’s Day and my mother’s birthday in my hometown. I flew on a plane and it was fine!

July – Had a super fun time being in my friends’ movie for cameo part written for me. I think the last time I was in a movie I was in high school, filming a PSA sort of film for a non-profit.  I am such a theatre dork. I love to watch films but the making of them is still mysterious to me. I tried to make films myself in grad school but it mostly showed me what a theatre brain I have. Also saw my first live performance in over a year and wept through it, of course.

August – I traveled again! We got in a car with a hurricane right behind us – but it veered off somewhere so we were perfectly safe. We got some wild blueberries by the side of the road from a man with an oxygen tube in his nose. We got tomatoes and cucumbers from a farmer but we had to step around the goose poop to get them. I swam in the Atlantic. It was very kelpy in that spot. I swam with the kelp! (Like swimming with sharks but slimy.) Also – did some voice-over for another friend’s film. I’m grateful that this pandemic has made my friends creative in filmy ways. It has not had that effect on me.

September – My youngest brother was killed. Anything else that happened in September was obscured by a veil of tears.

October – I mostly walked around looking at Halloween decorations. Folks invited me to go see shows that were just starting to come back but I was worried about the combination of the emotional experience I would be bound to have walking into a theatre again combined with the unpredictability of grief. I didn’t want to be that person sobbing in the lobby of The Music Man or whatever.

November – I started plotting how to get the hell out of here because it is Pandemic City still (even when everyone’s pretending it’s fine).

December – I took the train to go see my family for Christmas just as Omicron was bearing down on us here in NYC. I tested both before and after the trip but was still very anxious that I would be bringing the bad news from somewhere.

When I got back, it seemed like the city’s wildlife got some orders from a vindictive city witch to come after me. Anybody got a spare house in the Caribbean?

Other stuff that I did in 2021 that I don’t really have a timeline for:

I got into Reddit where I have joined groups around crafting (the nicest places on the internet), period drama, Gen X and curly hair. Why did I join a subreddit about curly hair? Well, last year, my hair became something of a project as I grew it out in order to donate it to wigs for kids with cancer. I really just wanted to get this mass of hair into some kind of passable shape to donate it – so they didn’t feel compelled to instantly throw it in the sea. But I have now learned about porosity and curl types (a controversial possibly racist construct) as well as protein, sulfates and silicones. I know about plopping, squishing to condishing, praying hands, breaking gel casings and co-washing. And after many expensive product experiments, I’m not sure my hair is any much better than I started. My pre-pandemic self would be horrified that I have spent this much time and attention on my hair but the longer it gets, the more knots there are and the more time it takes. I said I would cut it when the pandemic was over and this shit is not over. I guess I’m starting to understand Rapunzel stuck in her tower with nothing to do but her hair.

I got into darning my socks. I mended every garment I could find with a rip, tear or a hole. I learned more about sashiko. I did some embroidery.

I wrote a bunch of blogs, many of which did not come easily. I recorded a bunch of podcasts and songs for the podcast. I made a few initial steps of raising money for Season Two of the Audio Drama I made last year.

I saw a handful of friends this year, bless them. Not as many as I would have liked – but so many more than last year.

I do not think I will think fondly on this year – but because it has been such a blur, it may be necessary to mark it. It was here. It mostly sucked and it was here.

Sashiko Goals

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me make it through 2022?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



The Face I Made Up
December 28, 2021, 11:21 pm
Filed under: Imagination, masks, pandemic | Tags: , , , ,

In the year or so of going to this café, I have only ever seen the owner in mask – until yesterday. Yesterday, he was outside working on his shed and he was without his mask. For the first time, I saw the lower half of his face and if he hadn’t greeted me warmly and started chatting, I would never have recognized him. I am fascinated by this trick of my brain.

Put a piece of fabric over this guy’s face, I could easily pick him out of a crowd. Without it, I think I’ve never seen him before. It’s clear that my brain made up a face for this guy, one that has nothing to do with his actual face. The face I made up doesn’t exist and I can’t really describe it but if I saw someone with it or something like it, I could have pointed to it and said, “That one.” It’s not just that I didn’t know what this guy looked like, it’s that I thought I knew and I was super super wrong.

The face he actually has is as good a face as the one I made up for him but it somehow tells a different story? I feel as though I’ve uncovered a strange secret of how my brain works in grappling with the discrepancy of what he actually looks like compared to who I imagined.

It turns out that I’m making up stories about people based on their faces. It’s not just that they might have a different face than I imagined, it’s also that I assume they must have a different story. Subconsciously, I’m going, “This person is like this. That person is like that.” based on nothing other than the shape of their chin or whatever. I can’t yet really unpack what my assumptions are or were – but they have to do with social class, geographic origin, personality, upbringing and who knows what else? Like – the guy I imagined was from Connecticut and the actual guy looks like he’s from New Jersey. What does this mean? I could not tell you. The only thing I know is that my brain cannot stop making up stories – both metaphorically, as in the story of the lower half of this guy’s face, and more literally – like what that face I made up means. I feel like this is where the root of prejudice must live – because surely I am not the only one making up stories, making up associations, making up characteristics, based on someone’s face. We do this, surely, for everything and do not know we’re doing it. It’s not just facial structure. It’s bodies. It’s skin. It’s hair. It’s a movement pattern. We think we’re being intuitive or sharp but really our brains are just imaginative chunking association machines.

I’m not sure what we can do about it except perhaps to recognize that it happens and to wonder at how wrong we can be. I’m certainly not one to try and silver lining this pandemic. It sucks and I hate most things about it. I hate all the dark things it has revealed about a lot of humans. However, as uncomfortable as it makes me, I suppose it is a kind of gift to start to see the assumptions my brain makes – to see them in process and to question myself because of it. I can question my own notions of what someone from New Jersey looks like. I can perhaps assume less at the get go and try not to make up so many stories based on faces.

For some reason, I don’t make up faces for masks like this. Like, I literally have no theories about what any of these people look like but give me half a face and my brain’ll go bananas.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me make stuff up besides faces?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



I’m Sorry But the Temptation to Say This Will Be Great
December 15, 2021, 12:35 am
Filed under: community | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My favorite café closed and it was really the only choice in this particular neighborhood, which I pass through with some frequency. In the interim, someone has opened a chain café that has some decent outdoor seating on a spacious sidewalk so I’ve ended up there a few times when I’m in the area. The place is called Joe and the Juice and it’s important that you know its name as I tell you about it because its name is the key to this story.

This particular Joe and the Juice sits just south of Columbus Circle and north of Times Square so it is a well travelled corridor and a street that many tourists pass by.

Having had the occasion to sit here a few times, I’ve now experienced this phenomenon literally every time I’ve sat here. Here’s what happens as people pass by. They shout “Joe and the Juice!” (Again, this is the name of this place.) Every single person says it in a way that sounds as if they felt quite original in their reading of it and ALSO sounds almost identical to the way every other person has exclaimed it. As I sit there, and I am sitting there now, as I write this, I hear a river of “Joe and the Juice!” There is a flow – well, no, not a flow, it is more like Joe and the Juice popcorn. Every few minutes someone shouts “Joe and the Juice!”

If I were a devil and I needed someone to call my name a number of times to manifest, I would name myself “Joe and the Juice.”

*

A short play:

Art thou the devil, Joe and the Juice?

Ay, that I am, for no one can resist calling my name as they pass this establishment.

*

I find it hilarious and kind of charming how like one another humans can be. This is comforting in these times when so many other things seem irreconcilably different in us. Many of these people would fundamentally disagree on who deserves basic human rights but they would all be unable to resist calling out, “Joe and the Juice!” while walking by a Joe and the Juice.

I’m not QUITE sure what it is about this place that makes it so hard to resist saying. It’s not that it’s so popular that people just shout with joy when they see it. Mostly people seem to be seeing Joe and the Juice for the first time. They are reading its name and discovering it. I suspect they find it amusing.

It’s a funny pairing perhaps? Or it tells a story? There’s this guy, Joe, right? And this is a story about his juice. Or it’s Joe and OJ in conversation? It is full of potentiality. It’s alliterative and full of monosyllables, so I suspect that’s part of it. It has a punchy quality in its rhythm. Metrically, it’s known as a choriamb because it’s like bookended stresses. Is that what makes it irresistible?

But it’s also basic. What do they sell here? Mostly coffee (colloquially called “Joe”) and Juice. That’s what they have here.  That’s more or less it. That simplicity is possibly the stuff.

I’m not here to sell you on Joe and the Juice, let me be clear. It’s fine but I wouldn’t come here if it wasn’t geographically convenient. However, I am absolutely captivated by the human behavior that repeats over and over outside this establishment. (There went another one!) If I were a fancy radio producer, I would totally come out here with a mic and just record all the people saying Joe and the Juice all day long and then make you a glorious montage.  As a humble blogger (and blogcaster) I will only tell you about it and let you shout out “Joe and the Juice!” yourself.

This might look like a picture of a coffee cup but behind it is the river of people just gearing up to start shouting the name of this place.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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My Genius Idea for a Book
December 8, 2021, 6:44 pm
Filed under: space, writing | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I just remembered this absolutely genius idea for a book I had about 25 years ago. When you hear it, you’re going to be like, “Yeah! What a brilliant idea! What a shame you didn’t put that together! You’d be a millionaire already!”

Here it is: A guide book of cafes around the country, with reviews and photos and maybe little drawings and scraps of writing I’d done in them.

Can you believe I missed out on this golden opportunity?

I’m kidding of course. I know this idea would have gone absolutely nowhere. And it cracks me up thinking about it now.  It was not long after I had this idea that people started creating multiple review web sites for all things, all around the world. But at the time, there was very little café culture to speak of and as I made my way around the country, finding a little spot where I could happily drink good coffee and write, was like finding little jewels scattered around the place. I thought I might go on a little search and seek them out, like an old school explorer.

Now you can find a Starbucks in every town and a laptop on every table. Café culture has simultaneously grown and practically disappeared.

I wanted to write such a book because I wanted to be able to use such a guide. And despite the fact that Yelp and Trip Advisor and Google exist, I sort of still do.

For one thing, these web services are hardly even good for what they should be good for. For example, while they may alert me to a café possibility in the location I am searching, they often do not tell the whole truth. Especially lately. Yelp, for example, has a handy filter feature that allows you to search for only places that are open now and/or have outdoor seating. I got all excited! Hooray! This place looks cute, is open now and I can sit outside, where I feel safer! When I arrive, though, usually after a good long walk to get to this miracle spot, I discover that they have no seating or just one (occupied) table out front. Or – even worse and also more common – the place, reported to close at 7, closed at 3 or 4. So this modern, up to date, technology is, in fact, no more up to the moment than a book would be. With a book you’d at least know the hours might have changed. You’d plan for that. With Google, you expect it to be accurate. Or at least I did before.

More significantly, there are things I want to know about a place that these websites rarely tell me. Will it bring me inspiration? Is the atmosphere rich in ideas? Can you feel a history in the walls? Is there art there? Is the art good or just for sale? Are the baristas artists, too? If we paused in our work, would we end up talking about philosophy or the fascinating musical history of Ziad Rahbani? The fact is that the Starbuckification of cafes has meant that there are a lot of chairs at tables that will give you a cappuccino but there’s not a lot of soul out there. There’s no soul rating on Yelp. There’s no box I can check to let others know I got hit with an inspiration wave at the table by the window or had a life changing conversation under the skylight. My book would have told you that.

But unfortunately, given the way the internet has worked, historically, it tends to collect things into boxes of popular and unknown and there’s nothing about this book of mine that would have been popular. It would never have sold. Even if I could have magically popped it into existence when I thought of it. It mostly makes me laugh to think of how unpublishable this idea was, how of its time it was. It’s a funny sort of unfulfilled dream – the kind you know would have been a failure but you’re still a little sad you didn’t make it.

Why, yes, good sir, I’ve gone back in time to publish my genius book idea and I wondered if you might sell it here in this 19th century bookshop.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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The One Who Called 911
November 30, 2021, 9:36 pm
Filed under: American, community, Healthcare | Tags: , , , , ,

The one I can’t stop thinking about is the person who called 911, the person who witnessed the accident that killed my youngest brother. I feel enormous tenderness for that person, even though I know nothing about them. The only thing I know is that they saw the accident and called 911.

They will likely have the image of it in their brain forever. I have an imaginary version of it in my brain that will likely be with me for as long but the caller has the actual event there in their brain. I’m sure it is not a nice thing to have there and yet I am grateful that that person was present, that they called the emergency line and did something. It was too late for my brother, but they tried and I think of them, this person I know nothing of, with so much warmth. They were there for the last moments of Will’s life. They were witness to his exit. I’m not sure why it moves me but it does.

Maybe because of this grateful 911 “song” that keeps playing in my head, I also haven’t been able to stop thinking of a 911 call I had to make for a stranger a few weeks before Will’s accident. It was a much different situation but the events are somehow linked in my mind. I’ll tell you about it.

About halfway up my block as I walked from my apartment, I noticed a young man, who I thought was sitting on a stoop but turned out to be crouching. As I approached, he fell to the ground in front of me. Not quite at my feet but awfully close. I asked if he was okay and though he did not answer, it was clear he was not okay. I asked him a couple of questions and he seemed not to be able to speak. I asked him if I could call him an ambulance and while he couldn’t really say anything, the look in his eyes and the slight nod gave me the permission I felt I needed. (Note to my readers from other countries: Because of our outrageous health care system, people will often object to having emergency services called for them as ambulances are incredibly expensive and are not always covered by folks’ insurance. Many people will not thank you for calling an ambulance.)

When I called 911, they seemed unconcerned really – more interested in the scrape he’d gotten on his fall to the ground than anything else – but they asked me if he was male or female and I found myself unsure of how to proceed. He looked male but I did not want to presume when he couldn’t speak for himself. So I said “male?” while looking at him inquiringly and he nodded so we were clear there. (Side note: Is gender identity really necessary for this sort of thing? Like how important is it to know what gender someone in trouble is?) Then they asked me how old he was so I tried asking him and I THINK he said 22 and he did not object when I repeated it back. And then they were on their way.

The elderly woman who’d been standing nearby all this time asked me something and I told her the ambulance was on the way. I’d thought she was standing there because she was concerned for this fallen man’s welfare – but no, it turns out, she was asking for my assistance in walking her around him. She was very unsteady on her feet and was making her way down the block by holding on to fences and the 22 year old was on the ground in front of the fence she needed to get by.

So I gave her my arm and walked her as far as she would let me then came back to the young man on the sidewalk who was now passed out and entirely unresponsive to my voice. As we waited, a woman passed by and said dismissively, “Drunk.” I said, “I don’t think so.” And as we chatted, she revealed that her husband had had Parkinsons and people were always assuming he was drunk when he categorically was not. I was fascinated that someone who’d had such a painful experience of someone dear to her being misjudged in this way would do the same to a helpless stranger on the street. A group of young men passed by on the other side of the street and laughed and shouted about drugs. Several people passed by, ready to dismiss this guy because “drugs.” Was it drugs? Maybe. But people on drugs need help, too. Also, I’ve seen “drugs.” This did not look like drugs. I was stunned by how little compassion folks had.

This stranger on the sidewalk had just started to turn blue and I was just starting to panic when the ambulance arrived. The arrival of the paramedics brought him back around a bit and the paramedics seemed just as unconcerned as everyone else until they took an oxygen reading and then they swung into swift action, getting out the stretcher, putting him on oxygen and getting him into the ambulance. Meanwhile, cars behind the ambulance started honking. It was entirely obvious there was an emergency here and these assholes were honking. Come on, guys. Come on. The honking was clearly an annoyance to the paramedics but they also seemed entirely used to it. I could not believe how jerky these people in their cars were.

The stranger on the stretcher was sort of awake now but very disoriented and kept trying to pull the oxygen out of his nose. They told him they were going to the hospital and off they went. And I don’t know what happened to him from there. I don’t know anything. I haven’t seen him on my street again, but then, I’d never seen him on my street before. I hope he’s okay. I feel strangely tied to him, like, having been with him at this terrible moment, he’s now sewn into the fabric of my life and yet I’ll never know how the story will turn out. Nor do I know if that elderly lady tottering on her red pumps, holding onto fences, ever made it to her destination.

I sort of understand why people don’t stop to help, don’t stop to call 911 – because you do become tied together somehow, in tragedy or fate or something. When you start to care, you can’t unstitch yourself from that caring. Every time I pass the spot this guy fell, I think of him. This 22 year old, who could have been my brother, only seven years younger than my brother, really, ended up on the sidewalk in big trouble and very few people stopped to help. Not only that, a lot of them were real jerks about it.

But someone did stop to help my actual brother when he was struck by that motorcycle. Someone was there. Someone made the call and they were a witness. Even though it ended in tragedy – my family’s tragedy – it was a good deed that person did and I am so grateful to them for it. It can’t have been easy and probably continues to not be. But I am grateful. Also, I realize I’m not 100% certain this person exists. I got a lot of information in a highly concentrated and emotional moment. I’m not entirely certain I didn’t make up this person who called 911 at my brother’s accident. But I think I’ve got this right. Someone must have called emergency services because they came.

If the circumstance arises, make the call. Someone will be grateful, even if you never meet them. And please don’t honk at ambulances taking care of someone in an emergency. At the very least.

Poster by Alfredo Ponce

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

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Now Is the Winter of My Discontent
November 23, 2021, 7:36 pm
Filed under: American, masks, pandemic, theatre | Tags: , , , , , ,

The temperature has dropped. I pulled my winter coat out of the closet. Our third pandemic winter has begun. Last year, I sat writing under the heat lamps outside at the Toast and Roast, grateful not to have to be at my kitchen table to write but dreaming of the day we’d get the vaccine and I could safely sit inside a café again. And here I am. Back outside at the Toast and Roast (the only coffee place with heat lamps in my neighborhood) despite the fact that I have been vaccinated and have been so since I last sat here in the spring.

Could I go inside somewhere? Sure. Despite the fact that sitting indoors to eat or drink is one of the riskiest things we can do, I’m sure I will at some point. But despite the fact that proof of vaccination is required to sit inside cafes here in NYC, very few places here have been diligent about asking, which does not give me great confidence about the vaccination status of those indoors. Especially given the signs on some windows proclaiming they “don’t discriminate” against unvaccinated people. I mean, at least those signs make it clear where I definitely will not be going.

The me who sat at this Toast and Roast table a year ago would be shocked to learn that so many people have been resistant to getting the vaccine. Didn’t we all go through this nightmare together? Did they not hear the ambulances screaming through the night? Did they not walk past the morgue trucks? Did they not sit, feeling trapped, inside their apartments, afraid of any passing contact that could be dangerous with a loved one or stranger?

When I last sat here at Toast and Roast, under the heat lamp, I would have chewed off my own arm to get a vaccine. But the thing of it is, it doesn’t matter all that much that I, as an individual, have the vaccine, if the community around me is not fully vaccinated. Like, sure, when a mass shooter decides to start spraying bullets, it’s good to have a bullet proof vest on but it won’t save your neighbors and you could still catch a bullet. Better to not have a shooter, number one, but barring that – it’s better if shields can be up for the whole community. (And yes, this is a very American analogy, isn’t it? Ay.)

I cannot understand why someone who can get the vaccine, would not. I start to wonder if maybe the pandemic just hasn’t been so bad for some folks – like maybe they just love Zoom and they want to stay on it forever? Not only would I have chewed off my own arm to get a vaccine, I’d have welcomed almost any side effect. Like, oh, we’re going to get you vaccinated but….you’re going to grow a tentacle. Fine. I’d like to introduce you to my new tentacle. It’s very useful in slippery situations. And if we all grew tentacles when we were vaccinated? Great. At least I’d be able to tell who the hell was vaccinated so I ‘d know If I could sit inside with them or not. I’d hang out indoors at the tentacle café without a care in the world. I’d never have to go to Toast and Roast again. (Sorry, Toast and Roast guys, I love you but your bagel shop café has now become a symbol of my winter sadness so it’s hard for me to keep going.)

At this point, I would welcome a tentacle if it meant I could safely sit in a café or a theatre or concert hall and know, for sure, that everyone is vaccinated and that break out infections would be rare. It would make buying clothes really tricky but you know, I can sew and I’ve learned a few new tricks while sitting in my apartment for nearly two years, so….Give me a tentacle! As this third pandemic winter bears down upon me, I’m not sure I can take winter’s punishments (but I could handle a tentacle).

All around me, things are returning to “normal.” People are pretending everything’s okay when over a thousand people (on average) are still dying every day in this country. And even the normal is not normal. I saw a video of a final dress rehearsal of a college production and all the actors were in masks. But not cool theatrical masks. They’re doing a naturalistic contemporary play in the masks we wear to the grocery store. Is this production going to be safer than most because of those masks? Sure. But it is hella not normal. It is apocalyptic.

The answer is not to adapt to putting shows on in masks, it’s to not need the masks anymore.

Or to put on a show where everyone has tentacles! I mean – what would you rather watch? Also – side note for any vaccine literalists who happen to be reading – this tentacle business is entirely a flight of my own fancy. You will not grow a tentacle if you get the vaccine. You might get a sore arm and feel kind of tired for a day or two. (I lost my appetite for a little while. People pay money for that kind of side effect.) But I’ll crochet you a tentacle if it’ll convince you to get the vaccine. It might help keep you warm in this wretched winter of discontent while we wait for everyone to get it together.

Ladies and Gentlemen, my favorite vaccine side effect!

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me get through this winter?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis





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