Songs for the Struggling Artist


That Thing Playbill Said About Peter Brook
July 20, 2022, 12:30 am
Filed under: art, Creative Process, space, theatre | Tags: , , , , , ,

If you’re not a theatre nerd, you may not be aware of the stature that Peter Brook, theatre luminary who recently died at age 97, had with us theatre folk.  His book, The Empty Space, is the sort of text your theatre friends are likely to wax rhapsodic about. It has changed a lot people’s lives and inspired many a theatre maker to make more artful, high minded art. The Empty Space encourages us to both be simpler and more exacting in our work. He talked about how theatre is as simple as an empty space in which something happens and also, you better really think about what happens in there, especially for your audience.

It felt like Brook was always challenging the field to boil itself down to a more essential state. He was our theatrical philosopher. He held the ideals for the field. If you got distracted by all the nonsense of show business, you could always turn to Brook for a dose of idealism and aspiration. I know many a theatre maker who, when feeling despair about what to do next about their theatre career, would re-read The Empty Space to refresh their sense of purpose. He was a beacon for a theatre of art. I have often been surprised when people who I imagine to have sold out, who don’t seem to care about the art part, who seem to be just leaning hard into the business or entertainment, suddenly pull out their copy of The Empty Space and get dreamy looks on their faces. Brook was good for the theatre’s soul, I think.

All of this is why I found it kind of hilarious that, when he died, Playbill tweeted only one thing about Peter Brook, which was that he had three Tony Awards. Of all the things there are to say about Brook, his Tony awards seem to me to be the absolutely least consequential. Of all the many ways he mattered, the Tonys may have mattered least.

Now, it is a credit to the Tonys that they managed to honor an artist like Peter Brook at some point. But awards are almost always behind the curve. Like, the MacArthur Genius Grant went to Lin Manuel Miranda, not in his early days when he was lugging his keyboard around for his first musical, but years after Hamilton became a hit. Awards often miss the genius moment and I don’t even know what Brook’s Tony Awards are for and I don’t care. I have some guesses. And most of them are probably from his early career. Cool. Pat yourself on the back, Tony Awards! You chose well that year. Those years? I don’t know. Doesn’t matter. Not to most of us. Not to all the theatre geeks clutching their copies of The Empty Space to their chests.

Peter Brook made some exciting theatre. He made shows that people talk about decades after they happened. I’ve seen work of his that I loved and work that I thought really stank. And it’s not as simple as the early work is good and the late work is bad. I saw a fairly recent show of his a couple of times (because I know one of the actors) and it was so simple and full, all at once. Then in the same period, I saw a show of his that I just didn’t care for at all, so I just tried to forget it as soon as I saw it. I respect his failures somehow. Like any artist, Brook wasn’t a genius all the time. But his importance to us, as a field, is as someone who held the line for art, not just some guy who won three Tony awards one time. We don’t have many of those line holders left. We lost a beacon. We lost a lighthouse.

* My favorite piece about Brook in the wake of his death was THIS one by Helen Shaw. It really speaks to the complicated legacy a great theatre maker leaves behind.

Screenshot of Playbill’s Tweet. I mean…

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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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Actors Are Not So Replaceable

We were watching the 4th Season of The Expanse – a show that takes place in the future where a lot of stuff happens in space. (We call it Space Stress – as in “You up for watching some Space Stress?”) The woman in charge of Earth was on a space shuttle talking with a man who seemed to be an advisor of some sort – maybe a vice president or secretary of education? “Who’s that guy?” we asked, since we’d never seen him before. Then the woman in charge of Earth (Chrisjen Avasarala is the character’s name.) introduced him to someone as her husband and we were, like, “What happened to her previous husband? Did he die? Have we taken a dramatic jump forward in time? Has so much time passed that her sweet husband died and she had time to remarry a younger busybody one?”

We were very confused since the show made absolutely no mention of what the deal was. It took looking up both the actors on IMDB and eventually finding an article about it to understand that they meant this guy to be same character as the one before. He had the same name, the same back story. It was supposed to be the same guy.

They were pulling a thing that they do on soap operas where they just change actors, without any reference to it. So, one day (in the 80s, just for example) you can be watching the soap opera, Santa Barbara, for example, because you really like Robin Wright’s performance and then, for example, suddenly her character has someone else’s face! (Yes, this happened. Yes, I’m glad she went on to do cooler things but my middle school self is still mad about the sudden switch!)

In the case of The Expanse, this switcheroo happened because they’d been canceled on one network and before they got picked up by Amazon, the actor playing the husband had another gig and was therefore unavailable. A challenge, for sure.

But there are a myriad of other solutions to this problem! Why did they think it was better to try and fool us? The second guy appears to be at least twenty years younger than the first one. (He is! He’s a full 18 years younger! I looked him up! He’s Gen X and the previous guy was a Boomer! There’s a whole generation in between them! The wife was born the same year as the first guy!) The new guy has an entirely different physique. They dressed him differently. AND, most frustratingly, they wrote him a completely different personality.

The first husband wasn’t around much on the show. He was a quiet presence who took care of their grandchildren and mostly offered love and support. He was the character the Earth ruler would send away to keep safe. The new husband was ALWAYS around, always chiming in or criticizing and the grandchildren they’d both been so concerned about were nowhere to be seen. He’d be an interesting character on the show if he weren’t supposed to be the previous guy. As a trusted advisor to Avasarala, he makes total sense – as her husband, he’s baffling. And I spent much of the show distracted by it. When the husband complained that Avasarala had changed, I was like, “Her?! Come on man. It’s you who’s changed! You are a totally different person! In every way!”

I just don’t understand why this show, which is good in so many ways, went so far off the rails with this choice.

They took us to a whole new planet in a whole new galaxy but they couldn’t maintain one logical human relationship? Why? Why? They could have done this EXACT story line if this guy was her gay best friend in an advisory role, for example. He could be her minister of New Worlds who we get to meet for the first time. They could have killed off the first husband, if they wanted to – and he could have been her second. They could have told us her husband was taking care of their grandkids on some other planet for a while and let this whole dumb story line go.

But instead they wrote an entirely new character in the place where a beloved old one was. Honestly, the husband had almost nothing to do in previous seasons but he’s such an extraordinary presence, we worried over him anyway. The new guy is a very good actor – but he’s betrayed by the position they’ve put him in by having him do something so out of line from what we knew the first guy to do.

This show doesn’t do a great job of writing dialogue for personal relationships. Whenever the characters try to have a meaningful talk that isn’t about space or interplanetary politics, it tends to get hilariously cliched and clumsy. Seeing how they seem to think one human can be exchanged with another without any hiccups helps me understand why those personal chats aren’t as good as the rest of the show. They just aren’t that interested in that human stuff. I mean, it’s fine. We watch this show for its space stuff, its alien stuff, its future gazing, interplanetary exploration stuff – not the human stuff so much. However, it just would be nice if they realized that different actors are different people and allowed for the audience to experience people as consistent humans. They can do better.

Unless – maybe aliens are writing this show and they don’t know the difference! Maybe to them those two guys are exactly the same. In the eyes of an alien, we are all alike and infinitely replaceable.

I made a poster of an alternate show title. Hey, if they can replace an actor, I can replace the title, right?

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 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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I Miss the Smiling
September 30, 2020, 9:34 pm
Filed under: American, feminism, pandemic, space | Tags: , , , , ,

I’ve been going to this little sandwich shop in my neighborhood lately. It’s got a garden in the back and it’s usually pretty empty so I can take my mask off and write back there fairly easily. I never went pre-covid because it had table service and I didn’t really want a sandwich.

But since I returned to Queens after almost two months away, I’ve been going a couple of times a week. It’s always the same people behind the counter and sometimes they seem to remember me and sometimes not. This last time, it was as if I’d never been there before and it strikes me that with everyone in masks, we are all a lot less recognizable than we used to be. We’re all just these eyes over cloth – and if we change the cloth every day like we should, we look like a different person every day.

I’m used to becoming a regular somewhere. Usually it doesn’t take long. At the tea shop I used to go to, when I first started going there, they recognized me after the first day. When I went in there in mask and hat and sunglasses, after two months, they STILL recognized me. But in this new spot, I’m as much a stranger now as I was five visits ago.

Now, maybe these folks just aren’t that into recognizing people. But also, I think, most new people recognize me by my smile and no one can see that right now. No one can see anyone’s smile. Or rather, we shouldn’t be seeing one another’s smiles in person so much.

But as much as I miss seeing people’s smiles, I also miss being able to flash mine. I feel like I’ve lost access to my main social tool. This is what I use to win people over and historically, it tends to work. But I can’t use it right now and I find it both illuminating and frustrating. The frustrating part is not being able to interact with people the way I’ve always done. I cannot charm strangers the way I’m used to charming them and the illuminating bit is realizing how much of my interaction with people depends on my charming them. I wouldn’t have thought so – but it is, in fact, the case. Without this smile, I have to try other things and that becomes very interesting.

Maybe I could move through the world without charming people. It’s an interesting challenge. The problem is, though, the charm is a way to feel safe – and without people who smile back at me doing my smiling, I don’t know whether I’m in safe territory or hostile. It is a lesson of some kind, I’m sure – though not a pleasant one.

Smiling can be loaded for women. We are told to do it all the time. And some of us do do it all the time. And it can keep us safe. 

I’m sure you’ve run into an image or two about stopping telling women to smile. I mean, listen I’m smiley as hell – but even I used to get told to smile by random strangers if I happened to not be smiling for a moment. For many women, wearing a mask has meant a break in the tyranny of being told to smile all the time. If you have what’s (problematically) known a Resting Bitch Face – this moment may be a reprieve.

It feels more complicated for me. I feel sort of hamstrung by the loss of my smiling super power. I feel like I’ve lost the best tool in my arsenal. I recognize that the smiling is a socially constructed skill that helped me get what I want – but I went with that tool because it was the thing that was most likely to get me what I wanted. It would be great if not being able to smile people into my good graces somehow made them more likely to just listen to my ideas – but that is not what’s happening. As a woman in my 40s, I am much more likely to be ignored entirely without the smile. And I do not like it.

I don’t see many people in this new socially distanced world, which is maybe why I seem to need so much more out of my brief interactions with strangers. I didn’t realize how much juice I used to get out of getting people to smile back at me – but I miss that juice as much as I miss seeing my friends and hugging.

Anyway – the woman who failed to recognize me on my way in to that sandwich place wished me a warm and familiar goodbye on my way out that day so I know developing rapport and recognition is possible. It’s just going to take a much longer time without my face in play.

Please, my fellow Americans, wear your masks so I can get back to smiling at people again soon.

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 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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And Then the Internet Went Out

While I was polishing up my blog about the power outage, I googled Tropical Storm Isaias to double check I was spelling it correctly. The request timed out but I figured it was just this thing the wifi does in our apartment where it gets moody about the distance between my computer and the router. After bringing it closer and then plugging in the ethernet cable and switching everything off and on again a million times, I had to accept that there was no internet. I found it ironic that I was trying to post a blog about the power of power, in which the power of the internet played a role, and could not because, while I did have electricity, I had no internet access.

The next day, the company said it would be fixed by 5pm, and then within 24hrs and then by 5pm the following day. Concurrent to all this, my phone had begun to switch itself off at every opportunity and would only rarely turn back on for a moment or two. My access to the world, beyond my physical presence, was largely cut off.

I didn’t know what to do. Every task I thought about tackling seemed to require the internet. I spent the first couple decades of my life living in a world without internet. It was fine! There were a lot of great things about those times! Why was it so impossible now?

Late Monday night, in order to maintain my weekly podcast posting, I realized I could potentially access the internet via these LinkNYC things – the structures we call “propaganda sticks.” I was 100% sure they were a privacy nightmare, in addition to being corporate tools – but I had a deadline – so I took my laptop and a little stool I’d bought for a cowboy clown show I made a few years ago and went to sit next to the LinkNYC column.

Just as soon as I’d gotten the blog posted, I saw this stream of liquid emerge from the other side of the column. Some guy was pissing right next to the thing, like it was a tree in the woods and his piss was flowing downstream right in front of me. The splash got very close to me and I scooted quickly away, swearing loudly. I found a new spot closer to the closed-up Greek travel agency office behind me. Later, as I got the two podcasts uploaded, the guy from the Mexican restaurant next door brought me some chips and salsa because he liked my “set up.”

There’s a way that having to go out into the street to reach the wider world really put me in touch with the immediate world in ways both pleasant and unpleasant. When the real physical world was all I had, it all got very physical very fast.

In wrestling with my world without internet, in addition to pushing me out into the street, I found myself really noticing how blended my creativity and the sharing of it had become. I could practice a song. I could even record a song and podcasts but without the internet, all of that could go no further than the room they were made in.

We finally got a little green light suggesting our internet was back but in various computer tests, the signal could go no further than the internet company itself. It’s as if we could communicate a tiny bit but we could only reach one person and even then, it was just to wave. There could be no meaningful discourse.

There’s something about this limited signal that I found poignant. It felt a bit like my entire artistic career. I make something and put it out but only a few people have the tech to receive it.

We have these internet connected light bulbs, for example, which I was astonished to discover could still work, even with the area outages preventing us from interneting. It turns out it’s because they’re local. They communicate just within our apartment. But we cannot reach beyond our local network. Our internet problem is a communication problem.

It cannot take us beyond our apartment. And a lot of my struggles as an artist are similarly about an inability to get beyond my apartment. The work makes it around the apartment, no problem – and even to a few points beyond – but the signal always seems to run into an obstacle somewhere. Out there in the physical world, I do alright. I might get pissed on occasionally but I also get free food and warm greetings.

In the internet world, which, more and more, given the lockdowns, seems just as real, there are many places I can’t reach.

And like, power, when someone is without the internet, their lack is invisible. To the one who has been cut off, it feels as though they are cut off from the bulk of the world – but the world will never notice their absence.

The local is the only bit that remains. It can involve piss and salsa – but it is real and where the action actually is.

*

This post was brought to you by my wise 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 expand beyond my local connection?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

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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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Invite Me to Your Party
September 20, 2019, 12:16 am
Filed under: community, space | Tags: , , , , ,

Are you having a party? Invite me. I would like to come. Can I guarantee that I will make it? No. Stuff happens and sometimes migraines happen to me. So I am unfortunately not a terribly reliable guest anymore. Also if it’s super late and the trains aren’t running again on the weekends, it can get a little sticky but please invite me anyway.

I can make no guarantees but I am watching my social net develop a lot of holes so I need to get out more and I’d like to do it at your party.

I don’t always love parties. Since it became cool to be an introvert, I think a lot of us have become more comfortable confessing that sometimes a night in is more pleasurable than a party. But that doesn’t mean we don’t want to go to parties at all. It certainly doesn’t mean we don’t want to be invited to them. If your introvert friend confessed that they don’t love a party, it doesn’t mean they won’t go and maybe even enjoy themselves! Invite them anyway!

I don’t know if it’s my age or where I live but no one seems to have parties anymore. My Gen X peers used to throw some real good ones – but maybe everyone’s too busy with their kids and/or parents to throw a party anymore?

One of the factors here in NYC is that it is tricky to find a space big enough to throw a party in. Those lofts in Williamsburg where eight artists used to live together and throw parties are now owned by a hedge fund manager – and he’s not inviting us to his parties. I used to know people with lofts. No more.

I mean, I’d invite you all over but my apartment is so small – just one extra person in it makes the place an obstacle course. No one likes a sardine party. Unless we’re playing sardines in a big old house in the country with lots of space and fun nooks and crannies. People like those parties.

I understand why people have fewer parties than they used to. It’s often expensive to throw a party and these days it’s really hard to get people to show up for anything – even free food and booze. To go to all that expense and trouble for nothing?

I mean. I have had gatherings wherein no one showed up. Not one person. For my most recent birthday I invited 40 people to come out with me and only one of them made it. (I didn’t really want a 40 person party but this isn’t my first birthday rodeo. Previous ratios suggested that if I invited 40, I’d get 4.) I have put on shows that I have had to cancel because no one came. I know many other theatre makers who have struggled to get people to show up for them. I heard about a party wherein the hosts had offered to pay for housing and flights to Europe for their weekend birthday and most of the guests cancelled at the last minute. I mean, if you can’t even get people to show up for an all expense paid trip to Europe, we’re in a bit of social crisis.

I think, with all the social media at our disposal, we have come to feel as if our social needs are taken care of – because we have a thousand Facebook friends, or followers on Twitter. It’s CLOSE to being with people – but it’s not close enough. We need to have times where we are face to face. We need to go to parties even when we’d rather stay home and watch GLOW on Netflix. I know I need to be more social. I need to get out and start knitting up the holes in my social fabric. The holes are nobody’s fault – it’s just shifting norms, living in a migratory city and the traffic patterns of urban life.

So if you’re having a party. Please invite me. I am usually pretty fun at a party. If you need someone to start the dancing, I’m your girl. If you stopped inviting me because I never came, try me again. I’m trying to be better. I think a lot of us are. I can count at least three friends who have said that they are trying to be more social these days, too. Invite us all! We’ll have a good time! And hey, if you’d just rather watch GLOW on Netflix, invite us over for that. Let’s watch it together. A quiet TV watching party is fun, too! Just – if you have the space and you were wondering if you should have a party, you should. And you should invite me.

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

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

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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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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The Cafe Wall of Fame

On the wall at Café La Habana in Mexico City is a plaque that proclaims the previous presence of Octavio Paz, Ché Guevara, Gabriel Garcia Marquez and more. The rumor is that the Cuban Revolution was planned there. It is an inspiring place. The conversations of these public intellectuals soaked into the very walls.

Also, not a single woman is listed in its storied history.

It was founded in 1952. That means Frida Kahlo could have gone there in the last two years of her life. Remedios Varo and Leonora Carrington could have gone there. I know they didn’t live nearby but still, they could have. Laura Esquivel was two years old when the place was founded but I imagine she’s been there at some point in her life.

I mean – did no women come and plan there? Or they just haven’t done it yet? What if we planned the feminist revolution there? The Cuban one worked out reasonably well for the guys who started it.

I have a lot of questions about this particular place because it feels like a kind of magic to write in so potent a place. But I wonder if that magic has only ever applied to men. Did women not go there? Were they somehow unwelcome to the public intellectual’s realm? Or was it unsafe for women? Or were they there and then forgotten about? Or did they just have their coffee, conversations and revolutions at home?

As a woman who has spent time in coffee shops in many countries, I can confirm that public spaces like cafes are more male space than female. In some places I’ve been, I’ve been the only woman. On holidays I am almost always the only woman in the last open café.

It does feel as though despite our many advancements, public space like coffee shops still belongs to men. Soraya Chemaly gave one of my favorite TED talks on the subject of public spaces. The gist of it is, almost all public space is male space, in that it was designed by and for men. I can’t stop thinking about this. I’m fascinated by the architectural projects that are JUST beginning to address it. There is a movement coming, I think. But without the history, it’s very difficult. Show me the café that brags of all the women who frequented the place. (Seriously please show me – I’ll go there.) Show me the city that was planned with women in mind. (Vienna comes closest in that they made adjustments based on a survey of women’s needs back in the 90s.) All space is men’s space that others find our way through. All cafes are for men, for men’s ideas, men’s revolutions. The women’s revolution is in the house, I guess? Which maybe explains why we haven’t really had a revolution.

If women have no public space in which to gather, if we aren’t seen in public together (except for once a year at our march) then we have no public power. We try and claim space when we march. We chant. Whose streets? Our streets.
Now maybe it’s time for:
Whose café? Our café.

I’m not here to call out Café La Habana. Honestly, I can’t think of a single café in the USA that honors literary greats or revolutionaries of any gender on its walls. Café la Habana is way ahead of us in honoring writers, artists and intellectuals and I respect and admire them for it. I’m a fan.

One day in the future, I hope to make it back to that cafe, where I’ll drink another delicious lechera and on their updated plaque I hope to see many women’s names. Or maybe one of you will start a café with women in mind and we’ll all turn up to hang out and plan our revolution and someone will hang a plaque up decades later. I’d like to be on that wall with the rest of you.

Photo by Donna Shaunesey

 

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Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are now an album of Resistance Songs, an album of Love Songs, an album of Gen X Songs and More. You can find them on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

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