Songs for the Struggling Artist


A View from a Small Apartment in NYC

It was when I noticed I was pushing our building door open with my hip that I started dedicating clothes for inside or outside. With the pandemic raging outside, no extra precaution seemed too crazy at a certain point. So I take my clothes off at the door and go wash my hands before putting on the inside clothes. When Scott started wearing outside pants, I thought it was overkill but then I noticed all the times I made contact with the world when I went out in it – like that door and my hip.

I’ve started to realize that things are a little different for folks in other parts of the country and world, and so, in the interest of preventing other places becoming an epicenter like this, it seemed like maybe a little recounting of what has become normal for us might be useful.

It’s different in NYC, in part, because we are all so pressed together here. If you go out into the world at all, there is no escaping other humans. Take a walk around the block, you will likely pass at least twenty people. New York grocery stores are tiny and the shelves are pressed together to save space. One other person in an aisle is a crowd. You cannot pass someone without getting very close to them. Other humans pass through our apartment buildings every day – even if it’s only for each family to get a daily walk in. And we need to get a daily walk in because many of our apartments are small. The longest walk I can take indoors is seventeen paces and that’s if I walk from the bathroom, through the kitchen, living room and into the bedroom. Getting 10,000 steps by just walking around one’s home is not going to happen for many of us.

Outside, I walk more or less the same route now. It’s the one that seems least populated. It does have its pitfalls. The souvlaki truck on the corner is always surrounded by guys who seem to have very little concern for masks or social distance. They will happily eat the souvlaki right next to one another. Same with the bagel shop. There’s a fruit and veggie stand that juts into the sidewalk and is always surrounded. But about halfway through this route, there is a bleeding heart bush in front of someone’s house. I have developed a relationship with this bush. I visit it. Say hello. I notice when its blossoms fade and when it puts out new ones. Towards the end of this walk, if I need to, I go to the grocery store. It is not the best grocery store in our area but it is the least crowded and unlike all the other ones, there is never a line to get in. The produce section is a little too tightly packed, though, so I have often waited a lonnnng time to be able to dart in to collect some spinach or berries.

Before this hit, NYC implemented a plastic bag ban but nearly everywhere has given up on it and will give you plastic, just automatically. I mean, those reusable bags are a little dangerous now suddenly – especially if you reuse them. I have two and as soon as I’ve used them, they go in the laundry.

Once a week, we do our laundry at the laundromat down the street. They were closed for a month or two and we had to go to the smaller and more treacherous one around the corner. We try and only touch surfaces there with rags but it’s not easy. I use a new rag every day to go in and out of our building. Watching our neighbors open the doors with their bare hands reminds me to toss the rags in the laundry as soon as I’ve used them.

There were weeks wherein every trip outside felt like stepping out into speeding traffic without a crosswalk. We did our best to be careful but were highly aware that we could be hit at any moment. We developed some dark jokes about being careful not to step in any coronavirus out there – as if it were just sitting in easy-to-avoid puddles instead of lying in wait for us on any possible surface or in the air.

Our friends from afar want to know if we know anyone who has it or if we’ve lost people. I have a fair number of acquaintances who probably had it but cannot be sure – but, as far as I know, no close friends have been struck too low.

But we are all deeply impacted – if only by the refrigerated trucks that are parked outside our local hospital to store the dead. If only by the sheer risk in taking a trip outside. If only by being confined to our neighborhoods because of the treacherous quality of public transportation right now. And for most of us, public transportation is really our only transportation, so here we are. But where would we go? It’s actually hard to imagine going anywhere right now. Especially somewhere far from here. I feel like a walking virus. I would not want to bring what’s here anywhere else.

I see photos of friends and family sitting on their porches, out in their gardens or on walks through the woods that they were able to go to via their perfectly safe cars and I realize how wildly different our experiences of this are. I can see how abstract this virus might seem to someone who lives in a house that is not pressed up against another house and can get in their private automobile and go many places where there aren’t many other people. I can imagine that it’s harder to understand why you can’t get your haircut or go out to dinner when so much else is the same as it’s ever been. I don’t think it’s an accident that these bizarre protests of the lockdowns are coming from folks who live in less densely populated areas. They’re not used to worrying about what the people around them are doing. If you drive from your bubble of a house in your bubble of a car, it probably seems like everywhere you might go is still in your safe bubble. Why would you wear a mask if you cannot conceive of the danger?

But here, we are (most of us) acutely aware of what the people around us are doing. I give the souvlaki guys a wide berth and cross the street to avoid the overly busy fruit stand. But I still go out every day because I need to get more than seventeen paces of walking in. I’m sure there are people who are truly quarantining that look at my daily walks as a luxury or a crazy risk, in much the same way that I look at someone going to (even a socially distanced) party right now in North Carolina. I keep thinking about this piece that Dahlia Lithwick wrote about how the country’s responded to NYC now and how it responded after 9-11. The difference in response is extreme. I was here for both and this time we’re on our own.

And I’m not at all interested in sympathy for our situation. We are the lucky ones here and we know it. We live here because, usually, when we’re not in a pandemic, this city has an abundance of things to offer that we cannot get anywhere else. It may be tight quarters but it’s not as tight as a refrigerated truck and I know how lucky I am not to be in one.

Did you see that post that went around Facebook by Carlos Avila, when folks first started to protest lockdowns? Well, it is a work of sweary glory about what it’s like for us here and what opening things up prematurely seems like to New Yorkers. All we want here is for other places to take this seriously as we know it is. Just because most other places are naturally more socially distant than us here in NYC doesn’t mean you won’t get clobbered. Just because it’s easier for people in other places to hang out in your gardens, doesn’t mean you should leave them. Probably, nowhere is likely to get hit with the relentlessness our city got hit with just because of our density of population – but that doesn’t mean other places won’t get hit. I keep thinking of that choir in Washington State that had one fateful practice and lost at least two of its members to the virus, with 45 members contracting it. Please please don’t get complacent. And don’t let itchy thoughtless governments pull you out of safety if it’s not time. This virus has had plenty of time to spread out and make itself comfortable in communities far beyond New York. If the scientists want you to stay home for a while longer and you can, please do.

Drive your car bubble out to the woods and shout at the trees about how much you hate wearing a mask (I hate it, too) but then put it back on around other humans. For now. We all want this nightmare to end. And the longer we resist the things that will help, the longer it will be. Check your state’s numbers on the Johns Hopkins coronavirus map and if your little tracking chart isn’t going down, maybe stick around your house for a while if you can.

For us sheltering here in NYC in our tiny apartments with little respite or escape, all those protests seem especially absurd. Oh, are you tired of roaming around your yard? That must be tough. Are you tired of driving out to look at the lake already? Yes, of course, send hairdressers back to work then! Makes perfect sense. Welp – there are plenty of refrigerator trucks here. We’ll send them to you when we’re done with them. And no, we’re not done with them yet.

 

This post was brought to you by my generous 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 iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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

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Something About Juliet, Naked

Despite generally being a Nick Hornby fan, I resisted reading Juliet, Naked for a while because of the title. When I finally read it, I remember being glad that it wasn’t actually about a naked woman. I remember liking it but I’m fairly certain I was in a different decade of my life then.

After watching the film version, I find I’m curious to re-read the book – to find out if it’s as problematic as I found the movie. I was going to say “sexist” instead of “problematic” but I’m not sure if the movie is as sexist as the world is. It just highlights some of the ways the world is sexist and it’s problematic for me because it’s also a bit seductive.

Ethan Hawke plays a rock star who has gone full Salinger and fallen off the map. Chris O’Dowd plays the leader of his fan club and Rose Byrne plays Chris O’Dowd’s girlfriend. It’s a funny little music love triangle, that deals with fandom, art and change. Chris O’Dowd is clearly the Baxter and Ethan Hawke is the sexy grandpa and who will Rose Byrne choose? Spoiler Alert: It’s Ethan Hawke. As every Gen X-er knew she would. Because Ethan Hawke is the Gen X dream man, even as he lies in his hospital bed, surrounded by all his ex wives and neglected children as a man who has always been a troubled cad. He’s just become a grandpa and he’s grappling with all his past mistakes and boy, does that guy come with a whole train full of baggage. As a woman who is only a few years younger than Ethan Hawke, I found myself wanting to warn the younger Rose Byrne character to steer clear. Don’t do it, Rose! All that baggage might seem like it’s fun to overcome from where you’re standing now – but you’re not going to change him!

But it’s Ethan Hawke. So you sort of get it. Yes that guy is trouble but he’s trouble in a way that seems fun. He has a heart attack and terrible relationships with all but one family member but still a charmer. He’s a heck of a project for a guy in his late 40s.

But the thing that troubles me is that there is no comparable story with a woman in her late 40s. No younger man comes along to absolve her of all her past sins and to help her make a come-back.

In the Juliet, Naked film, there was nary a woman over 35, as far as I could tell. Maybe one of his exes for a few seconds but mostly not. The lead romantic interest had to be young because she wants to have a baby and the drive to have a child is what drives a large portion of the plot.

And I don’t know, I guess I agreed with cranky grumpy face O’Dowd’s character who’d just rather not have kids. And I’m mad that there are never female characters who feel that way. There’s something in the way movies always talk about this that makes it feel like it is a woman’s innate natural desire to reproduce and if she doesn’t, it’s because some uptight man, like Cranky Grumpy Face, is in the way.

The movie of Juliet, Naked tweaks the standard romantic comedy story just enough to feel like it’s subverting the genre while it actually reinforces it. There’s just no way we could ever see its opposite. It’s the same reason the gender swap of High Fidelity doesn’t really work. Because those types are so strongly gendered and any reversal just makes it clear that is not a world we live in.

There are so many barriers in the way of gender swapping Juliet, Naked. Let me pitch it to you and notice where all the stops are. In it, I’ve recast Ethan Hawk’s character as Parker Posey, an indie Gen X dream girl. Byrne and O’Dowd have just switched roles here. SPOILERS implied.

Chris O’Dowd is feeling unfulfilled in his life and relationship. He wants kids but his long term girlfriend, Rose Byrne, doesn’t. Rose Byrne is a mega fan of a Patti Smith-like reclusive rock star, played by Parker Posey. Parker Posey had a number of artistically successful albums and then disappeared. The mystery of what might have caused the disappearance keeps Rose and her fellow fans very busy on message boards. Then someone sends a demo copy of Posey’s hit album to Byrne – but O’Dowd hears it first. He listens to it before Byrne and declares it not as good as the finished album. Then Byrne hears it and falls in love with the rawness of it. There is conflict – but they both write reviews of it and Posey emails O’Dowd to tell him he’s right.

Posey and O’Dowd start an email relationship wherein they confess their baggage. Posey’s is that she has had and abandoned four children, and is finally giving motherhood a go with her 5th. She becomes a grandma when one of her erstwhile kids has a kid and so she comes to the country O’Dowd is in. Then she promptly has a heart attack.

O’Dowd comes to the hospital and discovers the noisy family who have come to see her. Posey invites herself to his house to recover from her heart attack. A romance blooms between the young O’Dowd and the aging Posey.

Do you see how this movie is sort of impossible? I mean, I’d watch it – because I love Parker Posey and it would be super weird but also, it would be super weird!

But whatever, you know, man, whatever. The movie is problematic, so what? So what? I don’t know so what. For me the so what is that there are so many things about this movie that I liked, so many twists on the romantic comedy structure that I found it very compelling and it is its compellingness that makes it especially problematic for me. I felt sucked in by it and melancholy when it was over. I wanted those crazy kids to get together! Do they?

But should they get together? No. I don’t think so, actually. I think Ethan Hawk’s character should get together with a woman his own age and not go around fathering any more children.

And Rose Byrne’s character should hook up with some nice man who’ll make her dinner and worship the ground she gorgeously walks on. I mean. I don’t know. There was just something about this movie that so insidiously cracked open the seams of the genre while also making me feel the usual things this genre makes a susceptible person feel. I don’t like being a susceptible person and I felt like this movie made me succumb to its charms – and then left me in the record bin, nostalgic for some lost time and also like, disappointed.

I can’t recommend this movie, obviously. But if you watch it, please tell me. I feel like I need help sorting out the box of problematic things it revealed. And by problematic, I might mean sexist. 

Here’s Parker Posey in a photo via WikiCommons by Tabercil. Don’t you want to see her play Ethan Hawke’s part just to see what would happen?

This post was brought to you by my generous 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 iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify 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 Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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How to Help Artists the Most

As a self-described struggling artist™, when the pandemic struck us and people suddenly started worrying about struggling artists, many folks thought of me. I appreciated it very much. It was quite remarkable to suddenly receive support I didn’t explicitly ask for.

But as a Struggling Artist™ (just kidding, it’s not trademarked,) I have felt some ambivalence about the resources for us that I’m seeing emerge. The bulk of them are emergency funds and they are incredibly necessary for so many people. I bow down to those who are raising those funds. But one thing I’m thinking about a lot is how few artists I know who would actually apply for these sorts of resources. Everyone I’ve talked with about them is leaving them for someone who is in real need.

See, what constitutes an emergency for many artists is fairly extreme. Is it just not having the income to pay rent? Because we’ve all been there before. Is that really an emergency? It is. Sure. But it’s a familiar one.

There were also a lot of institutions out there talking the talk of raising money for artists but essentially paying themselves and/or making artists prove their worthiness for the money raised. The best resources for artists seem to be the ones generated by other artists who are streamlining their processes dramatically. There are also some supports emerging from the unions and guilds. What’s sticky about all this is that the people who can make the best cases for their emergency funding are people who lost something. The actors who suddenly lost their Broadway gig, the playwright who had their show cancelled. Those are clear and obvious things to redress.

But as an artist who did not have a job to be fired from or a production to lose, the loss for me is just sort of normal. Sure, I can’t do some of my day jobs – but for the most part the emergency happened several years ago. I’ve already lost many things. My time for emergency funding has passed. I think there are many of us in this state. Artists who were already living on the edge, who already had our fall.

It’s like, we’ve been compelled to walk a tightrope for all these years and suddenly, now that there’s an earthquake, everyone’s like, “Oh, here’s a little net.” Not a particularly robust net – just a net that might allow you to fall without getting smashed to pieces in one go. And you have to search for the net store and fill out a bunch of paperwork and very possibly have to sit on the phone with a broken unemployment system for hours at a time. And the funding you might have been eligible for as a freelance self-employed person has already run out, thanks to corporations like Shake Shack and Harvard who bogarted the money.

And of course, of course, we’re grateful for the net but also it would have been nice to not have had to walk a tightrope in the first place. And in my case, I already fell. So asking for a net now feels silly. I’ve been knitting one that works down on the ground for years. I’m okay. Not amazing – but I’ve had some surprising nets appear in the last couple of years so I’m okay.

For a brief moment, it looked possible for this country or state to do the things that would have helped provide a real net for everyone, not just artists. They could have canceled rent. They could have provided a UBI. But those ideas seemed to have vanished as quickly as they bubbled up. The real relief has not come, so now it’s emergency grants, left and right. Artists are applying for $500 here and $500 there, which will be helpful in the short term but will only break the inevitable fall.

I saw one resource that would have provided a substantial amount of money to an artist. It stipulated that it was for an artist in “dire financial need” and it made me think about how sticky “dire financial need’ Is. How dire is dire? Some things are obvious. There are those without health insurance or who can’t afford groceries. We know that’s dire. But I know artists who are in a cold panic about what they will do after they’ve paid this month’s rent out of their savings – but, of course, they have a savings. Had. They won’t for long. But meanwhile, someone who’s unable to make payments on their summer cottage may see their situation as dire. Dire is relative and a lot of artists live so close to dire already we don’t necessarily know it when we see it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the emergency funds that have sprung up and how reluctant many artists are to take advantage of them. I remember reading an article about artist housing and some jerkwad commented on it, railing about how artists were always looking for a hand out. It made me mad then and it makes me madder now – because not only are artists generally not looking for hand-outs, many can barely be convinced to take them when they are offered with the explicit purpose of helping them. In my experience, artists just want to be paid for their work, like anyone. We literally just want someone to pay us for the thing we do. We want to be paid for our writing, our performing, our music, our art. We would like for folks to buy our book or our album or (when we’re not in a pandemic) tickets for our shows. But the problem is, while most people like and care about art, they’re not inclined to pay for it. So – even now, in this moment where art that can be enjoyed at home is the thing that is making most people’s quarantines bearable, most of it is free.

So artists, not inclined to take a hand-out are languishing, unpaid, for work that is the lifeblood of the culture. The amount of creativity bubbling up out of our sudden removal from capitalist everyday life is really quite staggering and beautiful. I mean – the guy who made a restaurant for squirrels? Come on. No one would have ever given him a grant to make such a thing. But many an artist is too panicked about survival to create a squirrel restaurant and emergency funding to a handful of them who already had access to some resources isn’t going to solve it.

I keep thinking about this funding scheme invented by some artists who have already achieved notable success. They are creating content that people will apparently pay to watch (will they, though?) and then those artists select other artists to receive the money. It is a nice idea. Except it definitely feels like a way for the cool art kids to pass on some resources to the just about to be cool kids, like the kids who have a couple of fancy credits but not a Broadway show yet. Listen, I’m cool but not the kind of cool that Taylor Mac is likely to give a 10k grant to. That grant is def going to the latest indie cabaret star most like Taylor Mac. It just is. And I mean no disrespect to Taylor Mac. If I were in charge of selecting art, I would be more likely to fund the work most like Emily Rainbow Davis, no matter how hard I tried not to. So – the resources are swirling around the places there were resources before, of course. And that makes sense. We can’t fix the whole field while the whole field is benched, can we? Can we? I doubt it. I’d like it if we could. But I doubt.

So how can you really support artists at this moment? You could donate to an emergency fund. There are a few that really do deliver such things. I am a fan of the Indie Theatre Fund and personally know an artist who received funds from them quickly. But the best possible way to support an artist is to pay them to do what they do. If they have a book for sale, buy a few. Get one for you and a couple for your friends. If they have music for sale, buy a few albums. If they have a Patreon, sign up to be a part of it. If they make visual art, buy some! If they’re a performing artist and you can hire them for some video work or voice work, do that. Or you can always follow the advice of Raja Feather Kelly and just ask them what they need.

And, listen, if you don’t like the artist’s work, but you like them, maybe buy their work anyway. Buy it and give it to someone you know who will appreciate it. Hell, I’ll take it. I want everyone’s art! Everyone seems to always be making decisions about whether art is good or bad and they’re very sketchy about paying for art unless it pleases them precisely. Generally, people won’t donate to fundraising campaigns unless they’re really sold on the project. I think they feel like their dollars are the arbiters of taste. Just donate. You don’t have to think your friend’s project is the best thing in the world. We don’t have any national funding for individual artists; sometimes fundraising campaigns are our only hope. You don’t have to like everything to support one.

I feel like sometimes people treat art like it’s furniture and they won’t buy anything unless it absolutely fits with the rest of the house. They won’t buy the book, or the album or the fund the project if it isn’t exactly to their taste. And yet the same person will worry that an artist won’t be able to afford to buy groceries this month and donate to some arts organization that will use it to keep the lights on at their institution. If you want to really and truly support an artist, pay one for something they do. It’s that simple.

For me, there are a multitude of ways to do that. That’s the net I’ve been knitting. Patreon is the frontline. There, my patrons pay me for these blogs and the audio version of the blogs that is the podcast. And, at the moment, I’m fundraising for the audio drama podcast I’m making. This is my big work right now and it is what is allowing me to pay a bunch of OTHER artists to do what they do best at a time when there is not a lot of work on offer. Will it buy me groceries? Not until I’ve paid everyone else. But, yes, eventually, if I can get the whole thing made, it could also buy me groceries. Not yet, though. If you’re worried about me eating, hit me up on Patreon, PayPal or Kofi. But I’m fine. I have a net with Patreon but not everyone has been knitting all this time. That’s why it’s not a terrible time to be this Struggling Artist™ – because I’ve been around this work-drying-up-block a few times and I know how to show new folks around the neighborhood. I also know how to help them and now you do, too. (Buy their art!)

Like this photo? I downloaded it from Pixabay for free but you could pay this photographer for their work. My goal is to pay for the photos I use in the blog one day – when my net is a wee bit less porous.

This post was brought to you by my generous 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 iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify 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 Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to be a part of my net?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

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

 




We Tried Asking Nicely.

The former prime minister of Australia was on a podcast talking about how the gender pay gap won’t be closed for decades at the current rate. She found this “frustrating.” I found it enraging. And it’s not new information. I know that every single measure of equality is moving at a glacial pace.

But it struck me as I listened to her that the problem is that we are attempting to make change without making waves. The current pace, the current rate of change is unacceptable – but anything faster or more aggressive will rock the boat. The waves will be too big to allow us to go along as we’ve always done. If there’s anything we’ve learned so far in the current pandemic moment it’s that going along as we’ve always done isn’t going to work anymore.

The upshot of it is – we won’t see real change without pissing a lot of people off. For all these years, many women have advocated for change, but, like, a nice change, a change that doesn’t really upset anyone. Like, just give us the right to vote. Just an itsy bitsy voting privilege. If you don’t mind. If it’s not too much trouble. We just want a tiny slice of reproductive rights, nothing greedy. You can have a slice first, of course. Yes, please.

I’ve been this kind of feminist myself. I called myself a Hello Kitty feminist a few years ago. You know – a non-threatening, cute, smiling, sort of feminist. The kind who’ll ask for her rights and give you a greeting card. I was nice and polite and didn’t want to trouble anyone. And honestly, I still don’t. I’d really much rather give you a slice of pie than demand one for myself. It is very confusing to have spent a lifetime trying to avoid confrontation and now be leaning into radical change. I’ve found myself in deep admiration of the early suffragettes who created chaos and anarchy in order to be heard. I’m impressed by the bomb makers, the balloon droppers, the strikers.

Did I really think equality would be given us if we just asked nicely enough? I might have. Or at least I hoped that the world would see reason and begin to adjust itself. It won’t. The rate of progress is embarrassing. The blatant misogyny that has risen to the surface is impossible to smooth away. My former self would have attempted it, would have found a way to see the good in even the worst perpetrators. No more. I’m in a head knocking mood now.

And not just about feminism, either. I saw a show about a coal mine disaster that was caused by corporate neglect and malfeasance and while I was touched by the stories the actors told us about the workers’ lives and attempts to get justice, all I wanted to do was go storm that CEO’s mansion. I came home and listened to The Coup’s “5 Million Ways to Kill a CEO” on repeat. I haven’t stopped listening to it since. In this world of glaring income inequality, I have found The Coup to be my music medicine of choice. It’s always a good time to listen to “The Guillotine” for me these days. (“We got the guillotine. You better run.”) Do I really want to kill a CEO and/or bring back the guillotine? No. Of course not. I can’t even watch someone get an injection on TV without hiding my eyes so of course I don’t want to see an execution. But I think the fact that a peacenik like me is so thoroughly enjoying revenge fantasies in stories and music is a sign that a corner has been turned. I’m at the point where if I saw an angry group of Amazon employees who’ve been denied PPE and bathroom breaks drag Jeff Bezos from his home, I might just cheer them on. The revolution may be upon us and it might be violent and that might be just, actually, and what has happened to me that I feel this way?

I find myself in a constant state of flux – feeling both the, “It’s fine. I don’t need anything, thank you so much. You’re so sweet.” And the flames shooting out of the side of my head.

Watching Elizabeth Warren take Bloomberg to task was one of the most liberating things I have ever had cause to see. I’m sure Warren is a real sweetheart when ordering a tea but get in the way of her and someone’s rights and you’re in trouble. There she is, the best listener on the block, a model of feminine compassion – but not everyone deserves her kindness. Some deserve her fire. Just as some deserve mine.

I have to figure out how to find that pathway – how to be as courteous as I want to be and knock heads when it’s time to knock heads.

I find, having never really learned how to channel my anger, I tend to toggle back and forth between fury and accommodation and I don’t always get the settings right. Sometimes I automatically accommodate someone and then suddenly realize that they were not worthy of my accommodation. That makes me mad but it’s not nearly as tricky as the moments where I’m more aggressive than I meant to be. Those are harder to forgive myself for – because the niceness is the baseline and deviations are disruptive, not just to the person I am not nice to, but to me – because niceness is my baseline. But as the reality of possibility of change in the world sets in, as I realize how unlikely it is that we’ll see any gender parity in so many arenas, or economic justice, my baseline starts to shift. I feel less and less uncomfortable with not being nice and more and more ready for wave making change.

We tried asking nicely. We tried incremental change. We tried pointing things out in calm, bright, friendly voices and writing polite well reasoned articles. It got us next to nothing. Those in power will not release their hold on it until we wrest it from their cold dead hands, I guess. Maybe it’ll be the guillotine that gets them. Or just their own venality. There are five million ways to kill a CEO.

This post was brought to you by my generous 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 iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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

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Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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The World I Imagined When I Was a Teen

I wrote this a few months ago and haven’t posted it because so much has been happening and a post about imagining a different world feels so weird in a world absolutely none of us imagined. But maybe it’s nice to time travel. Maybe it’s nice to pretend we’re in the world of a few months ago when this is what I was thinking about.

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Once upon a time, I dreamed of the world I would inhabit as an adult. I thought I would grow up to be Ann Magnuson or Annie Potts. I thought I would hang out in the cool clubs from Desperately Seeking Susan and be taken to a restaurant that had glass tables where I could watch myself while I was eating. The adult world I imagined featured a lot more cool haircuts and funky suits than I ever see in my actual adult life.

I have been thinking a lot about the way we create expectations but also how we create our worlds. The world I imagined no longer exists. It may have only existed in film and TV and it was created by the adults of the moment.

It may have been the underground in the 80s but that underground is long gone.

I find I’m a little disappointed. I live in the very city that used to look so cool in Jonathan Demme or Susan Seidelman’s films but there is nothing here that is as cool as those films. There are so many banks and yogurt shops and hardly any funky thrift shops. You will never stumble upon a crazy cool jacket like Madonna wears in Desperately Seeking Susan – but you can find a dozen high-end cupcake shops.

It just strikes me that every generation probably imagines that their adulthood will look like the cool adults in the previous generations. We think we will grow up to live like what we saw in our youth, despite the fact that when you look backwards, the common denominator is change.

No one grew up to live in the world they imagined when they were children. No one. The first generation to grow up reading novels probably imagined they’d have a life like the ones in books but those lives were already in the past by the time they read them. The children growing up reading the first novels likely lived in a world that looked nothing like the one they imagined.

Maybe a few decades ago, someone dreamed a future full of banks and yogurt shops and so created a New York that reflected that dream. Possibly a yogurt shop and bank New York looks very cool to young people coming up now and they will be disappointed to arrive here in ten years time when yogurt shops are no longer in fashion and there are no more brick and mortar bank branches.

I suppose the tragedy and gift of the world is that change is so inevitable, no one can ever live in the world they imagined when they were young. In so many ways, the world I live in now is far superior to the one I imagined. A South Korean film won best picture and there’s so much interesting TV. There’s been enormous gains in social justice (though not quite as many as I’d hoped for) and technology is like magic.

There’s better coffee and abundant Poke to be had. I bought a pair of glasses for $15 and the Affordable Care Act has made health care a possibility for me and many of my artist friends.

There are a lot of things that are way better than what I imagined but some things are worse, too – and mostly a lot less cool. I’m an Ann Magnuson girl in a bank and yogurt world who knows the world is ever in flux and will never be as it was or what we imagine it will be. That’s just the deal. I know it and I still think it’s weird.

 

Look at Ann Magnuson in the early 80s. This is the only photo of her on Wikicommons and it is perfect. She’s so cool. Why isn’t the world this cool?

 

This post was brought to you by my generous 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 iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify 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 Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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Want to help me keep it cool?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

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 Inspiring Solidarity of The Cable Girls

If we’ve talked about TV in the last few weeks (and we MAY have talked about TV a lot in these virus times,) I’ve surely mentioned Cable Girls to you. I’ve become a bit obsessed. It’s a Spanish TV show about switchboard operators in the early 20th century. It is stylish and sexy and most impressively, about women’s solidarity.

There is nothing the women in this show won’t do for their friends. And I mean nothing. They will tank their relationships, start a strike, even stage a prison break. They are a group of friends who show up for each other in some really extraordinarily ways.

There are many things about this show stretch the bounds of credulity. It is very much like a telenovela in terms of its plot twists. Amnesia? Check. Love triangle? Check. Sudden appearance of an identical twin? Check. It is not a realistic show. But the bonds of these friends always seem absolutely credible. While I don’t necessarily believe the prison break, I do believe that they would do it to help one of their own.

Watching these women choose each other over and over makes me realize how rare it is to see women together like this. So often, on screen, women are portrayed as competitors, as spatting rivals, not colleagues. The women in Cable Girls (Las Chicas del Cable) begin as colleagues and grow into collaborators and friends and even accomplices and comrades in multiple heists and schemes.

Watching a team of friends pull off a heist is, I suppose, a fairly common dramatic structure. But it is rarely a team of women and almost definitely not a team of women whose difficulties arise from outside of the group, rather than within it.

It gives me enormous solace to watch a group of women friends take on the indignities of sexism or encroaching capitalism or the sexist structures around them and do it together. When the main character chose her friends over her lover and clearly articulated that that was what she was doing, this TV show showed me something I had never seen before. This show has these women continuously choose each other, over and over. No one can come between them. Everyone who knows these “girls” knows that if one of them is in trouble, the others have to go.

It’s powerful to watch a group of women take on impossible situations. It feels like what’s been happening on international scale for the last few years. Groups of women are coming together, like the Cable Girls, and facing what seem like impossible situations and sometimes winning.

Is the show silly? Yes. Very. (Heist. Twins. Amnesia. It’s silly.) Is it soapy? So very much. But it’s, like, stylish soap. Sexy period soap? With pearls and cloche hats. I cannot get enough. Also, the Spanish is incredibly musical. I don’t speak enough Spanish to be able to identify what’s happening – but it seems like there might be a sort of stylized theatrical quality to the speech? I sometimes feel like I could sing it after watching an episode. Turn off the dubbing and turn on the subtitles for the optimal feminine solidarity experience. I wish I could also turn off the weird contemporary music in English that I’m guessing Netflix has added to appeal to us Americans but alas there is no music adjustment setting.

It might be just the right show for the moment – or just the wrong one. For me, in these times when I miss my own friends so profoundly, it is a comfort to watch a group of women support each other. In the absence of hugs from my community, I get some visceral joy from the group hugs that the Cable Girls have fairly often. For someone else, the absence of such comforts in our current situation of social distancing might make it hard to watch. But there are some robberies to make up for it, though, so maybe it’s just the ticket!

Anyway – I’m just a few episodes from the end of the final season, which I’m finding not QUITE as light and airy as previous seasons. Unfortunately, since it’s based on history, I sort of know how this Spanish Civil War situation goes and it’s not a happy story. It’s particularly not a happy development that may have opened the door for subsequent fascism around Europe so I’m not quite sure how the usual feel good Cable Girls are going to get through the end of this season in their formerly uplifting way. (Don’t tell me if you’ve already seen it.) But, see, if they do manage it – if they do find some way through that brutal fascistic experience, I think I might take some comfort in that. I think I might need that kind of inspiration.

It is a silly kind of revolutionary show of togetherness but maybe that’s just what we need to have modeled right now. Or what I needed to have modeled right now. If you’re my friend, I just want to let you know, I will help you with your bank heist if you need to escape your abusive husband. Just know that I will. (Unless you’re the police, in which case, I know nothing about that bank heist. What bank heist? I won’t snitch on my girls.)

 

photo by Fred Romero of Las Chicas del Cable in Madrid via wikicommons

This post was brought to you by my generous 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 iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify 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 Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me keep my friends out of trouble?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

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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