Window Seat

I was crammed into a window seat in coach. The young woman next to me kept leaning her neck pillow into my personal space. At the end of our row, a large, brightly attired elderly woman was firmly ensconced – I knew there’d be no way out for me until she decided to get up.

The cabin lights went down. The flight attendants were about to serve dinner. Six hours til landing if all went well.

Maybe the chardonnay was helping, but I felt happy.

I’ve just been traveling for a little under two weeks, remembering why I love to travel.  This isn’t one of my standard “I don’t know who I am unless I’m lugging a guitar on the jetway” posts.  Although I still have to explain and justify to myself why and how I’m allowed to go somewhere without carrying an instrument. As more time goes by I settle into the idea that I’m allowed to experience the world without a three piece band “looking at the back side of me,” as Waylon Jennings sang, or even just the breeze of an empty stage because I’m playing by myself.

With a trio of solo gigs out of the way (they were fun! I did enjoy them and made some $), I flew out to Los Angeles for a quick visit to my daughter Hazel. It was the two year anniversary of her move to the West Coast. I’ve always loved L.A. so having her there is like getting to live there myself without having to find work and a place to live. Which she has done admirably, just now moving into a new place, all while continuing to play music, both her own project and with a band that is touring some this summer.

We both love food and planned a lot of my trip around trying or returning to some great places. After she picked me up at LAX, we stopped at this huarache place in Highland Park called I think El Huarache. These are not shoes but really tasty corn tortillas in the shape of a shoe, topped with meat and cheese and onions and sauce. It was delicious.

One of the hard things about being a parent who’s traveled regularly and been here, there and everywhere for decades is to try and keep my mouth shut and not be that guy who’s always “I’ve been here. I love this neighborhood! This place is cool but have you tried________? I remember this time we went to ____________. You know, so and so used to take me to this place…” and on and on. You want to be like the child in these instances and let your kid take the lead. Maybe it’s the natural transition that has to occur IN CASE they end up having to look after you as you get old. (Or let’s be honest…WHEN they end up having to look after you.)

Like driving. I love to drive in L.A. but my daughter has a car and is an excellent driver so I just sat back and let her get us around.

Hazel in Hollywood

I stopped in at Wild Honey loft in Eagle Rock where I would be staying. Paul Rock puts on shows there right in his backyard along with his larger Wild Honey affairs like the Nuggets celebration this past weekend. There’s a stage and seating for about 50 (80?) people and then a studio and sweet apartment above. I dropped my stuff and then we headed into Hollywood to try and get in to Musso and Frank’s, the classic grill I’ve wanted to try forever. It was packed so we forged ahead to Mozza for pizza, and it was really incredible. We grabbed an okay bottle of wine in a Walgreen’s (in NY it’s only Chateau Diana for drugstore wine) and went back to the loft to watch some trashy series or other.

Wild Honey studio nightstand

The next day I moved downstairs into the Wild Honey studio. It was beautifully soundproofed, had a comfy bed and sweet Yamaha piano that Hazel enjoyed playing. I pulled out the studio Strat to try and write a song. We treated ourselves to a Korean day spa. It was like a dream – if you’ve ever been to the Russian Baths on 10th Street in NYC, multiply the size by twenty, add decent lighting and empty it of everyone except a hardworking attendant who zealously scrubbed down every surface. Hot tub, sauna, steam room, salt room, sauna, cold pool with numerous showers in between had us both in a stupor of relaxation. AND there was plentiful free parking – that always shocks me in Los Angeles, I don’t know why.

We went downtown to dine on sushi at this place Hama we’d gone to a year before. The most basic counter, lots of handwritten signs: NO CELLPHONES! NO TEMPURA! Little Tokyo is a trip, L.A. is a trip, there isn’t the feeling I get these days in NYC that only those with huge amounts of money/corporate backing can somehow get and keep a place going. All the space in LA means old places seem to hang on forever. I’m aided in this illusion by not actually living there so I don’t have to mourn places that do disappear as I never got to know them in the first place. Maybe it’s like Manhattan woven with Queens and the far reaches of Brooklyn. Can’t help but doing these comparisons but I realize it’s pointless. Each place is its own world. There are encampments and camper vans everywhere – I don’t see that in New York, it is just too cold in winter. The weather in L.A. is still part of the reason everyone lives there.

We walked and walked and then drove back to Eagle Rock where Hazel introduced me to Walt’s – a cute bar with loads of pinball machines. I gravitated to the Elton John Pinball Wizard model. There were people in shorts and sporty clothes. I kept shaking my head in disbelief: I’m in L.A.

Next day I met my friend Clyde at this retro-looking coffee shop near me in Eagle Rock. Cindy’s was really good and it was within walking distance of my digs so that’s a New York thing – wanting to walk to a destination – I can never let go of, sometimes at my peril.

Then Hazel drove us out to Malibu. We had a glorious hike in among the wildflowers and then strolled the beach at Zuma. Drove up through Topanga Canyon and ate lunch at the Inn of The Seven Dials, our hostess suitably hippie in her floaty halter dress, telling us all about their “triple-filtered by reverse osmosis” water, it was a lovely spot with okay food. Like many things in Southern California, you just go with it and don’t take any of it seriously.

I think we took a nap after another long drive, and then drove up to Burbank to eat (again!) at the Smokehouse. Smokehouse is one of those classic places you hear of and wonder how it can live up to the hype: hangout for movie stars and musicians and just plain folks having a special dinner out or gathering in the bar for the band. What band? It might not matter. They’ll likely play songs you or I or anyone knows. The decor is dark wood and red leather with a ranch theme sprinkled here and there, the fonts are suitably forties/fifties, the martinis are strong and served in little pitchers kept cold in bowls of ice. Everyone gets the cheese bread, which seems to have powdered Cheeto mix baked into the top and is delicious. I had tri-tip, the king of California beef cuts, Hazel had shrimp – both IN SALADS. We have some self-control. There was the feeling that nothing should ever change – not the surly waitress who softened as the evening went on; not the three generations of women dining in the next booth over. Not the old guy we saw spring up from a bench in the lobby, pulling a tambourine out of his vest pocket to join the band slightly to the side of the speaker, where he shimmied and shook for a couple of hours. Wish I knew his story. We stayed on barstools through the classic rock selections but were powerless to resist Purple Rain when a large guy who was either a drug dealer or adult film talent agent grabbed our hands and led us to the front of the stage to sing along.

I felt a little hungover the next morning. It was a nostalgic feeling. We went to Frogtown, Hazel’s old neighborhood, for some breakfast and to check out a flea market. It was fun walking along the river, something you don’t expect to do in L.A. The flea market was full of the young and fabulous. I spotted a pretty silk blouse and went to pay for it. “How did you find us today?” the twenty-something proprietress wanted to know. I just strolled on over, I said. “Oh – cute,” she said. The flea market clientele skewed mid-twenties. I asked if she took cards – “Umm. Venmo?” she offered. I’m torn in these situations, between wanting to seem as up to the minute as possible and feeling compelled to make someone explain in excruciating detail what this newfangled contraption…or umm app is. “You mean I make the payment right here with my phone? Can you talk me through it?” Just to fuck with them. But my pride wins out and I’m whipping into my Venmo as fast as you can say Grandma, delighted to realize there was money in there from my gigs last weekend.

Frogtown Flea

A walk through Arroyo Seco. More Mexican food. A gig in a house on a hilltop. Mother’s Day breakfast at Cindy’s. Pedicures and a late afternoon showing of Mommie Dearest, me and my daughter laughing and groaning through the film, me thinking “I wasn’t that bad a mom was I?” and maybe my daughter silently nodding along with Christina: “I’m not. one of your. FANS!” And then the capper, a late for L.A. dinner at Musso & Frank’s the old classic that doesn’t disappoint. The men look admiringly at my daughter, glorious in her long hair and tights and cute clothes, I feel proud and the tiniest bit jealous of her youth and beauty and self-possession, I feel like my mother, like every mother, like Joan Crawford even, ‘regard my creation!’ at the same time thinking, as I have since my daughter was born: “Kid, teach me.”

Hazel took this pic of me in Musso & Frank

Next day on the flight back to Newark, I’m against the window in a row with two other women about my age, one styling in slashed jeans, curled hair, nails to here; the other grey hair pulled back, sneakers and backpack. We work together at passing snacks and drinks, they help me find my Airpods that slipped out of my pocket. There’s that travel buzz, that filament of humanity it’s hard to get to at home going through the routine of daily life. In among the stress and bad news and doubt (should I even be flying here and there in 2023? And what about all the gas I burn with all the miles I drive…) and dischord, those moments of communion with strangers feel even sweeter than they did before.

Until some clueless ninny heaves her roller bag out of the overhead practically braining me and my row of flight sisters, then pushes ahead of us oblivious.

I went home for a minute, stopped off to visit my Dad in New Jersey and a day later landed at Gatwick. Eric’s aunt passed away a few weeks back and he was set to give the eulogy at her funeral, on his birthday. I’d offered to join him. It was easy to take the train from the airport right to Worthing where she’d lived. Sitting on the train at 9 AM, looking around at all the people going to work and school, felt like a kind of miracle. How is all this possible? I guess I used to take it a lot more for granted.

They used to grill me at immigration coming into the UK, thanks to a load of work visas stamped in my passport. I had my story down: “Visiting family and friends,” and it was true. The system’s all automated now, nobody cares to hear my story. I didn’t speak to a soul until the platform in Brighton when I asked a guy wearing cool sunglasses which was the train to Worthing.

The train stopped at Shoreham where Eric’s mother lived. She’s been gone five years this August. From her bedroom window you could see the train platform, and now here I was, sitting on a train stopped at the platform, looking back at her window. I wondered who lives there now? I was out in the world again but felt strangely like I’d arrived home too. The train moved on.

“Gimme A Slice…”

Is it okay to admit that I’m scared?

It’s not the driving. Driving feels as natural as breathing to me these days. I remember when I first owned a car, back in New York City around the time my daughter was born. I would have to give myself pep talks to get behind the wheel, especially if it involved heading out onto the turnpikes and interstates. Maybe it was a few close calls I’d experienced in band vans, or the fact my mother had been badly head injured in a car crash, her life and my entire family’s changed forever. I was terrified each time, but I did it.

Maybe terrified is too strong a word for how I feel about going out to play three solo shows in a row this weekend. I have decades of experience doing gigs. But what used to feel as natural to me as well, driving, has become much rarer and less usual. I look back at the weeks and weeks of gigs and events I did in October and November of 2019 when my book came out – a combination of driving myself to bookstores and clubs from the Northeast down South back up north to Chicago and back around to New York; Flying out to Portland, driving down to L.A. stopping here and there along the way and back up again to Seattle and home for a few more gigs just before Thanksgiving. Readings interspersed with songs, talks with other writers. I’d never done it before but I was raring to go. I seemed to run on a combination of hubris and bald ambition I’m not sure I possess anymore.

Which is fine! After three years of stop and start, enforced exile, I guess I’ve entered a mellower phase. Part of it is self-preservation. We all had to learn to sit at home and like it and I discovered I do like it. I like writing and taking walks and checking out other musicians and bakeries and screenprinting in the basement. I like throwing myself into cover songs just for the heck of it and watching movies and shows and reading and listening to podcasts. I like recording. I think I’m bored with cooking. There are so many things I like to do that don’t even include nice weather that’s just arriving and with it bike rides, boating, swimming and looking at the stars at night.

Then there are the things I am tasked with- they just need to be done. Basic maintenance: dentist, eye doctor; mammograms, Covid tests. Cleaning, yard work, laundry. The last two years it was my dad unmoored but thankfully he’s well looked after in a nursing home now.

So what is this thing called performing? Where does that fit into everything? Showing up in a place you’ve never been, getting the lay of the land. Carrying in equipment, marking out the territory on stage or whatever part of the room if there isn’t a stage. Plugging in, tuning up, checking checking checking; running through a song or two. Grabbing some food, trying to look presentable, setting up merch, dashing off a set list even though you sort of have already worked out a framework of songs. Trying to start strong but allow things to unfold, taking the temperature of the room – who’s resistant, who’s into it (knowing that it’s easy to mistake concentration for surliness, shyness for boredom). Loosening up, taking a chance, falling on your ass (hopefully not literally though it has happened and ended with a trip to the emergency room). Taking a break, breaking a sweat, forgetting the words, asking for help from the audience. Falling in love again with this thing you thought you could take or leave, realizing you can never stop. Like eating the best slice of pizza – you can’t describe it, you just know when you’ve had it and that you’re going to want it again.

And just as I wished back in early February when I practiced and prepared and got myself together for one single show that was over – poof – like that – this weekend I get to do it a second night in another town, a different state! And a third night in yet another. What doesn’t work in one place might click in another. A chance to get in the groove, each night a different experience. Almost like being on tour again.

What exactly was I afraid of?

I think pretty soon I’m going to want a whole pizza.

Playing live a few years back, before this fave shirt wore out

Solo shows this weekend and band gigs in June:

  • Fri May 5 Rosie’s Cafe house concert Belmar NJ sold out
  • Sat May 6 Packing House Willington CT TICKETS
  • Sun May 7 Argyle Brewing at Cambridge Depot Cambridge NY TICKETS
  • Fri Jun 16 Avalon Lounge Catskill NY  TICKETS
  • Sat Jun 17 One Roof Concert for the Homeless: Northampton MA TICKETS
  • Mon Jun 19 Loft at City Winery New York NY (w/Mary Lee’s Corvette) TIX

My Own Shoes

Owning up to being female

“There probably won’t be any guys there,” I told my brother, when explaining the live event I’d be playing a few songs at last weekend. That idea—no men — felt kind of strange, since I’ve lived my life surrounded by them. But Everything Is Fine is a podcast For Women Over Forty so it made sense. I was looking forward to it, having enjoyed listening to Kim France and Jenn Romolini’s show for the last two years. I was delighted to be a guest on the show some months back and now we were all meeting up with listeners on Easter Sunday in a venue in Manhattan.

I love men, too much probably, but EIF podcast is a femme space where I laugh and argue in my head with Kim and Jenn: mascaras, fillers, family; to drink or not: heels, art and ambition, fave shows and profanity. I usually listen when I’m making dinner or cleaning the kitchen.

I’ve always thought my songs would connect with female-identifying listeners but it can be hard to find them, as hard as it is to find the actual occurrences of Ladies Together hijinks I see in movies and shows: Yellowjackets, Sex and the City all the way back through Mary McCarthy’s The Group to Lysistrata. I just enjoyed listening to JoJo Moyes’ new book Someone Else’s Shoes, where women from all different social strata join forces in London to take a bad man down. I like to think I could garner my female friend forces if the need ever arose—I feel lucky to still be great pals with my college roommates, and to keep in touch with female bandmates and musician friends from over the years. Work and music pals who I text with or meet for coffee. But those wine-fueled getaway gal pal weekends you see in movies—I just don’t know if any of us will ever have time to actually get one of those together.

So the Everything Is Fine live event seemed like that getaway concept condensed into a manageable two hour timeframe, with the added bonus that I’d get to play a few songs for a group of  female peers. Of course I wondered what to wear but in the end I just went easy on myself: green silk blouse, jeans. I thought of wearing these cute sneakers I got but their trajectory has been kind of fraught and maybe I wasn’t quite ready to put them down on NYC asphalt.

Those shoes —see this is where I need my female cohort, I just don’t know if most men could understand the indecision and angst that enters into my relationship with shoes. The male world of footwear is blessedly limited unless you get very into all the sneaker permutations and that’s a bit niche; hiking boots same. The pressure on a pair of shoes to hold up various attempts at a new personality is something I don’t see most men engaging with.

I’d ordered this pair of sneakers from TheRealReal, a great clothing resale site I learned about from Kim of course. They really were just so perfect for me— striped white and navy high tops, never or very gently worn – and actually fit which is not a given as I’ve gone from a size 9 to a 10 (or UK 7 to 8) over the last few decades. So why, when I’d felt such joy seeing and fitting into them in person did I take them off, leave the room, come back and gaze at them on the floor wondering if they were really me?

Because I still at the age of 64 am never exactly sure who that is! Regular readers might remember the overalls of 2020, the sunglasses of summer `21. The shirtdress of 2014, haircolor conundrums, eyelash battles. I am starting to understand that I will always be a work in progress. When I finally settle on who I am, I will be dead, hopefully embalmed in a diorama wearing the perfect outfit, hair and boots it took me a lifetime to achieve, but my sense of purpose to find all those things will have gone too. Sure, I think, if I could settle on my forever uniform, I could use all that spare time and energy to devote to actual real problems in the world, or even to just practicing guitar. But that would be an acceptance of myself as a static being and it’s the sense of possibility that I chase and will likely do so til they put me in that glass case.

I actually went so far as to send the striped sneakers BACK. After trying them on numerous times I decided they were just a little too “I’m a kooky older lady who still knows how to rock” and I wasn’t sure I was quite ready to declare that to the world. Back they went and my money was refunded and sat in my PayPal account. Until…

Every time I went to get dressed, I wished I had those sneakers. Everything else was just too predictable, too staid, too no nonsense. Those shoes had been fun, and they’d fit perfectly. Sheepishly, I went back on TheRealReal, reordered the shoes, kicking myself (didn’t have shoes on so that was fairly painless) imagining these very stylishly dressed ladies who pack and ship the orders in New Jersey laughing at me – “wait, she said they DIDN’T FIT – yet she’s ordered them again and fool had to pay shipping TWICE” (another thing I hope to do til I die is imagine the real people involved in even the most generic and far-removed enterprise noticing and judging me every step of the way).

So the sneakers came back and I hugged them, happy to be reunited. We really did seem destined for each other. BUT when it came time to go to the city for Kim and Jenn’s podcast, it was a cold day and I actually felt like I needed the solid base of a pair of boots instead of my jaunty sneakers. Spring is like that.

I scored a parking place easily just around the corner from the Lower East Side venue, which I remembered as soon as I descended the staircase to the basement space — I’d read from my book for an event there with Tish and Snooky, Andy Schwartz and Guy Story back before the pandemic. So many events from that heady 2018-2019 period seem to have been wiped from my memory, only revived upon contact with one of the elements involved.

Downstairs at Caveat Kim and Jenn were getting set up, I did a quick soundcheck and then found a seat in the audience next to a nice woman April who was there solo. The room filled up mostly with women though there were a few guys and I felt bad I hadn’t invited my brother along but I knew he had other plans that afternoon so it was fine. There were a lot of laughs, and tears too, through the hosts’ rapport and their guests which included Kim’s mom who was wonderfully inspiring. And me—I got up last to turn a little weepy thanking our hosts and to sing two songs and then we were done. I popped my guitar in the trunk of my car and moved it to another street so no one could see that I’d stored a guitar in there, and then walked way downtown to a bar everyone was meeting at for drinks.  Many many blocks downtown…I wished I’d worn those damn, adorable sneakers. But I knew they’d be waiting for me back home.

I had such a lovely time watching the show, then playing for its audience—being part of this “for women over forty” thing myself. Forty feels a long time ago and I’m fine with that! I even had a cocktail in a bar with some new female friends. I think if someone would’ve been walking down Clinton Street and seen us through the window, they would’ve thought wow those ladies are having a blast! Where can I find a group of friends like that? 

And as I drove back upstate I thought “hmm `kooky older lady who still knows how to rock’ – is that really such a bad thing to be?”

Those spicy kicks

I have gigs coming up!

  • Fri Apr 28 Pop Conference /NYU Brooklyn NY panel on Tier 3, 11 AM Free
  • Fri May 5 Rosie’s Cafe house concert Belmar NJ sold out
  • Sat May 6 Packing House Willington CT TICKETS
  • Sun May 7 Argyle Brewing at Cambridge Depot Cambridge NY TICKETS
  • Fri Jun 16 Avalon Lounge Catskill NY  TICKETS
  • Sat Jun 17 One Roof Concert for the Homeless: Northampton MA TICKETS
  • Mon Jun 19 Loft at City Winery New York NY (w/Mary Lee’s Corvette) TIX

Forever Mom

The Book Of Love and other things

They say one secret to staying young is keep doing new things. As a touring solo musician that is built in—every gig in a place you’ve never been before requires navigating unknown territory, strategic maneuvers involving parking and sometimes even finding the right door. Your set might stay the same but the stage changes each night and the people do too, you have hundreds of encounters and meet dozens of new faces.

So in a period with not so many shows, things at home can get a little stagnant. I’m lucky to work at the bookstore/bar while I stay close to home trying to make new work. Handling the needs of the customers gives me energy, not quite the high of performing but it’s usually fun and gets me out of my own head.

Or sometimes it helps to go see someone else play. I surprised Eric with tickets to Magnetic Fields the other day. One of our vehicles had 69 Love Songs permanently lodged inside so I knew we’d both love it. Spotting Stephin Merritt when he lived in Hudson used to be like seeing a rainbow in reverse — he’d be suitably curmudgeonly and the day would just brighten. I’d seen him perform solo but the chance to hear those magnificent songs in 3D made my heart beat faster.

Brought out the heart pendant for the most romantic band

The main wild card was the venue: City Winery’s mysterious Hudson Valley location. We’ve played at some other CW’s: NYC, Chicago and Nashville. They’re great clubs but always in major cities. This place is hunkered down in New York’s rural Orange County, somewhere around Newburgh and Middletown. But see, this is the stuff that makes life fun. What would it be like? It was almost like setting off for a gig together, without the bother of having to rehearse and load the car with equipment.

The venue was tucked away in a refurbished old knitting factory outside the town of Montgomery. The parking lot was already packed with cars when we arrived – the show sold out. “What’s the demographic of a Magnetic Fields show do you think?” I asked Eric as we walked down a hill from the car to the venue, the sun setting next to a majestic brick smokestack.

The staff was super-nice, like all the City Wineries. The stage was set up in a large brick room, backed on to a wall of industrial sized windows. It reminded me a little of DIA Beacon, an art museum in an old cookie factory, but instead of massive pieces of art the room was filled with tables and chairs on the diagonal and a couple hundred people eating dinner and tasting wine flights. We ordered and then the hostess was seating a…couple of children at our table?

Golly and Aphrodite were their names. Golly looked about twelve and Aphrodite a little older. I’d wondered about the band’s demographic – firmly middle-aged. I’d say Eric and I were almost the oldest people in the place and our tablemates the youngest. They were delightful. We all shook hands like disparate friends of the bride and groom at a wedding who’d been seated a ways away from the action. I felt immediately like my mother used to act in these kind of public situations: overly nosy, overly share-y. “Where do you two live?” (they’d come up from Manhattan for the gig but were from Chicago and LA respectively) Had they ever seen the band before (the band’s touring heyday had been before both of these two were born so…no. They saw this as a rare chance to see a legend and there was no NYC show. We told them how we’d met. They were so sweet and curious and open and made me glad we hadn’t had some dull couple engaged with their wine flight sitting next to us.

The show started, our table mates were fans of the opening duo Lomelda who were dressed so lowkey and casual and spent a lot of time tuning their twelve strings but sounded great. At one point the lead woman who sported a crew cut congratulated the bride and groom. The audience laughed. “Y’know – vibes,” she said. Weddings are the lifeblood of this particular City Winery operation, there was no doubt. I envied her being on stage, that ease and confidence. I wished I was up there but thought they were wonderful.

I said hi to Tony who plays in the band. I’ve been following their progress around the country through his Facebook posts. He was pleased we’d made the trek.

Magnetic Fields took their seats onstage: Stephin towards one side on a stool, Sam the violinist, and Shirley with a sort of ukelele and vocals on the other; Tony on guitars and Chris the keyboardist behind. They were magnificent, I wish I could remember all the songs they played but there was definitely Andrew In Drag, Book of Love, Kiss Me Like You Mean It; Papa Was A Rodeo, Kraftwerk in a Blackout. Claudia Gonson came out to sing on The Day The Politicians Died, getting a rousing cheer the day before Donald Trump was to be arraigned in Manhattan. It was a perfect show, the resonance of Stephin’s voice almost not needing a mic, you could feel it through the old wooden factory floorboards. Everyone in the band was spectacular and the audience was just so into it and unannoying which is never a given these days. We were all in rapture I think. Spellbound. Thank god for music to transport us. Any time I see a live show these days I’m just so grateful in a way I never felt before.

The lights came up. Everyone was glowing. I asked Aphrodite and Golly if they’d driven from the city. Turns out they’d taken the train. “Oh are you staying up here tonight?”

“No, we were just going to get a train back down.” Oh to be twenty again. (It would definitely be easier than having a twenty year old again – all the worry and none of the fun.) Eric and I explained there aren’t trains or buses this far out in the country at this time of night. We offered to drive them to the bigger town of Kingston where maybe they could catch a bus down to Port Authority. “What’s that?” They checked and there were no more buses at this hour. I was amazed how carefree they seemed about the possibility of being stranded. 

I saw them chuckle when I thought about leaving without paying our tab which had never materialized but I said “I wouldn’t want to stiff the waitress” and realized I sounded like Bette Davis in a gangster movie from the 1930s…stiffwaitress. Do people use these words any more? I slip sometimes and ask for the Ladies Room. Between us Eric and I were almost a century older than each of this pair.

I couldn’t help it, I felt worried for these two being stuck out in the middle of nowhere. “It’s okay,” they said. “We’re gonna order a car to take us back to the city.” I thought one of them had to have been from money, somehow.

We went downstairs to say hi to the band. We stayed chatting quite a while and when we went to leave the venue had to find a side door out. The parking lot was empty. On the steps next to  the driveway our table mates were lounging with their tote and backpack, waiting under the moonlight for the car that was supposed to be coming to pick them up.

“Are you okay? I’m worried,” I told them, sounding like my mom again. Or a mom, any mom.

“We’re fine, we’re fine!” they said, probably wishing we’d leave them alone. As we got in my car and drove back north on the Thruway, I wondered if they’d just end up spending the night sleeping under a bush, waiting for a car that never came. I thought oh to be that young again.

Uh, no thanks.

I felt so inspired by MF I had to learn and record this one yesterday, All My Little Words

Manny More…Ann Dothers

Being where you are

Eric and I used to joke that we should change our names and then we would always have a place on the poster for festivals. Down at the bottom, hanging out with the ellipses: dot dot dot Many More…dot dot dot: And Others. With some clever spelling adjustments, it could work. You’d forever know exactly where you stood.

Last week I found myself squirming about my billing on a festival coming up this summer. It sounds churlish to care or grouse but I do and I will. And then I’ll just accept it and go ahead and play the damn thing, for a good cause. And feel lucky to have a gig.

When the schedule was first announced and a poster appeared, I was somewhere in the middle regions. Not top billing, wouldn’t expect that. Not even next to the top billing, or the line below that. But firmly in the middle, above the local bands and pony rides.

But they’ve added a band or two and I’ve watched my position drop til  – I am now on the bottom line. There is nowhere further to fall. They’d have to make the poster longer. How much crow is an artist supposed to eat?

Anyone who is an artist or knows an artist probably has a good idea that the answer is: plenty. Learn to love crow! Served up with a nice chianti. It’s not so bad! There’s many worse things than crow.

I know I should just say Yay, at least I have a gig at this nice festival for a good cause and I never did an artist video in the 90s and am not really that well known outside of the people that know me. I have a dedicated group of fans and friends and followers who buy my stuff and come out to see me play and that’s not nothing. I still have my faculties and my energy and still write and play music and will continue to do so. And I do say Yay – the pandemic has receded, and I’m still alive and some nice promoter thought enough of me to ask me aboard their event.

But the festival poster is such cold hard evidence of one’s station in the performing terra firma it makes me wonder what sadist came up with the whole idea of BILLING? I imagine big artists have contract specifications about placement and font size and I don’t blame them. It hurts! It’s cold! It makes me wonder how and why I ever thought this public performing thing was something I could and should do.

I don’t think I ever thought “Is this a good idea? Is my ego strong enough, have I got a thick enough skin for this?” Does anyone? I just started writing songs and playing music with my brother and my friends for people like us and whoever might be interested and even though it’s often been challenging I keep doing it, because I love it and think I have a knack for aspects of it. That’s not nothing. I’m an artist. And time goes on and I guess I start to accept (not all the way) that this may be as good as it ever gets and I’ve lived a full interesting life mostly due to music. Next summer there might not even be one festival that will have me, or maybe it will finally really be my moment and two festivals or more will want me. I know that sounds unlikely and preposterous but ask yourself if you’d keep planting seeds in the ground if someone told you nothing would grow there. For sure you would if planting seeds was what you loved but in the back of your mind you’d continue hoping that as much as you loved the act of dropping seeds, the warmth of the sun on your face and feel of the breeze in your hair, the possibility of seed in soil, you were putting those seeds there to make something happen. You’d always hold on to the idea, at least a little, that your efforts made a difference in the overall picture.

So perhaps me writing about the billing at this festival, where a local hero band who reformed after twenty years have knocked me down to the bottom rung on the poster ladder is another way to celebrate this crazy world of music making. Why oh why didn’t I just go away for a good long time so I could regroup as myself? At least I’d be more of an event! Instead, it’s just a case of “who?” or “aww, she’s still at it?” I did a search to see if anybody else was a little crybaby about this topic and turns out there’s a whole world of high stakes jockeying for position on big name festival posters that I can’t even get my head around – artists with teams making threats and personal vendettas, stuff I can’t even imagine being involved in but then I probably wouldn’t have to, I’d have people to do that for me.

So now that I’ve vented I’ll move on to things I have more control over, like making the best record I can and revising my book and screenprinting and rehearsing for shows. I’ll probably drop a few seeds in the backyard too, just because it’s so nice out there in the sunshine, and i’m lucky to have a backyard. Who knows what might come up in the next few months?


Here’s those springtime dates and honestly, it’s all good!

Here’s a cover of a Traveling Wilburys song I always dig when it comes up during long drives. Thanks so much for subscribing, I really appreciate the support.