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day 730: teddy’s stop & go records :)

skaters taping at the Brooklyn Museum
sun setting on st marks
this city’s in my blood and I mean it

I’m searching desperately for the conspiracy theorist;
I can’t find him and then I do.
I say hello to the man digging;
he thinks I want something from him but I don’t and he’s surprised. I’m beaming. We’re flipping so easy,
chatting,
happy.
This bubble on 7th Avenue is all charged up and life here is ok. We’re safe here. We listen here; we let it echo through our chest and then we give it up for $10 and pick up again too.

A man with missing teeth walks by and says

Old man: Look at that, Gil Scott-Heron. I got that record when it came out in 1974. That’s a gooood record you got there, I know every song on that record. I got it when it came out in 1974.

The Conspiracy Theorist: Oh yea, 1974? Let’s see… (flips the record over) 1974! You have a good memory there, Sir.

Old man: (cracked smile shining) Yea yea, what else you got? Oooooh, Ann Peebles! You got Ann Peebles?! Oh and Miss Nina too….

He starts singing To Be Young, Gifted, and Black. He looks me in the eye. He’s smiling. The conspiracy theorist is smiling and bobbing his head. I can’t feel my feet touching the ground. The overcast over head stops time and wraps me up in a fire blanket and all I can do is smile and laugh and say

Me: I’ve got Aretha singin’ it too!

TCT, surprised: Look at that!

Old man: Aretha!? Well ain’t that somethin’. Miss Nina wrote it though. You always gotta look at the writers. Look at this Ann – W. Mitchell. That must be Willy, that must be Willy Mitchell…

The conspiracy theorist is checking out my stack and says I lucked out with the Bolshevik Revolution; it just came in and he missed it and I’ll have to tell him how it is. Another man sees my Keats and says, “You’re a friend.” I didn’t need the record to know; but I’m glad he said it anyway.

I saw Devin today too. I can talk to him about God and I’m not shy or uncertain; I know that he knows what I mean. He and my Mother might be the only ones. We’re broken and almost cry but we don’t. I don’t know why he doesn’t; I don’t know why I don’t. Maybe we’re stronger now, and more thankful.

Om Gum Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha

day 724: family trees (now too)

It’s April and magnolias are budding. It’s Sunday and I don’t need a coat. By Tuesday in Brooklyn they’re full bloom.

When my father was 12 years old his family moved into a house by th eocean and planted a magnolia tree for Mother’s Day. He still lives there, and my mother parks her car under the tree.

When he was born they lived in the country. His family owned the bakery in town and built their own houses. The family had come over from England; his mother’s too, but they weren’t bakers they were importers living in New York City. They lived on pacific street and went to the mayor’s house for parties. I live on pacific street now too; my heart’s home stays there even when I’m gone.

My grandfather built planes for the government at Lakehurst. He was just a boy working at the bakery when the Hindenburg crashed and he collected little pieces of the wreckage from the airfield. They sit in my father’s office now, on a shelf by the window. My grandfather died 4 years ago. Before they moved to the shore he taught Sunday school and my grandmother baked cookies for boy scouts and they played the piano. I never went in the old house. We drove by once, but I think when happy times are lost it can be hard to look back and that’s ok; we can look forward instead.

It’s May and my feet are dirty from walking around the city in flip flops. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and I miss her. When my father moved to the ocean all that time ago he lost his mom in a fire that took 30 years to burn down. It extinguished in the kitchen just after I was born. That’s our kitchen now too. I can feel my father’s pain and it cripples me. I can feel my father’s strength and it picks me up when I fall. His love is a lighthouse; I’m learning how to keep the light on now too.

I texted Mom and asked her to send a picture of the magnolia tree; she said she’s so sorry, I’m a week too late. But a few blossoms left on the cherry trees.

Om Gum Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha

day 684: first light, late nights

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I don’t know who remembers me from Boston, but I had dreds and started smoking pot really for the first time. These two things were not related. I had my notebooks and scribbled frantic realizations. I didn’t know what it meant then or why it was important. But I know now. I was learning what love is. It started with Kind of Blue. I think a lot of things started that way.

I’d drink coffee and listen to Joni Mitchell in the morning. I’d dream about California and ask a friend walking to the T, “It’s not gonna suck, right?” Which of course it didn’t, and not for of a lack of anything shitty but because of the presence of lessons and love. I’d sit on that roof in Boston when the sun was going down and write until I lost the light. I’d gaze out at the city as her backdrop darkened and buildings became bright stars in the sky. The Pru.

We painted graffiti on that roof.
We broke up on that roof.
We laughed and sang and made great plans on that roof.
We did a lot of things up there;
but maybe the stairwell is where it really went down.

I’m thinking about authenticity and mortality; purpose and meaning; ego and surrender and letting things go. Knowing when to fight and how to fight for love. Knowing how to let things die and how to let things live. Knowing how to hold the hands of people we love when they push us away.

I’d rather spend my life loving
than avoiding death.
I’d rather spend my life loving
than collecting breath.
I’d rather spend my life loving
knowing only that we’re blessed.

It doesn’t matter how mangled a plant has become, give it light and water it will grow. As long as it’s living, give it love it lifts towards the sun. Every time we let love we lift our hearts to become

Om Gum Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha

day 670: art + wanting

Part I: art

Alison took the train up all the way from Philly to Hudson to visit. She’s 20 weeks pregnant, and for the first time. Sweeny says she’s glowing and he’s right. She’s painting a mural on my wall; something Sandra Cisneros wrote once about the reasons we make art. We shimmied the windows open and we’re focused on our choices here. We’re determined. We put on a movie and I fall asleep and I’m glad because it’s better to hear her tell it the next day as we walk down alleyways to get some tea.

She posts a picture on Facebook and Birdie comments, “yeah we do.” She’s on the phone; she and Jaron are buying a house and they’re putting in an offer. I’m sitting on the couch thinking about death. I’m listening to a tambourine and upright bass. Ira Gitler wrote the liner notes and Van Gelder recorded. I took a picture of my front steps for the first time today – I’m in a Van Vleck apartment building and it’s about to be spring. I make lists in the morning when I meditate, and I’m thankful for it all.

  

Part II: wanting

I tell Alison I feel an urgency to the creative process. I’m wildly in love with people creating. I’m sitting in a basement in Brooklyn and I can hear bands practicing around me. Two different ones – a bass playing 8ths with drums coming in to my side, a synth organ dialing in a sound that shakes the snares in the live room behind me. The first time I came down here I was visiting Dev at his new studio. I’d gotten my very first speeding ticket on the drive down and felt terrible. Devin sat on the Leslie speaker and told me about a time he got a ticket upstate and didn’t pay it and hadn’t thought about it in a while, but maybe he should now? I left that day feeling safe. That day was years ago now.

But we’re here. I am here. I want to stay here until the day I go, and I want to leave with grace. I want to look you in the eye without fear or expectation; because I see you with love. I want you to know that you are loved, because it’s true. We make it true, you and me, and if you forget I’ll remember. Pinky swear kiss your thumb – I promise.

Om Gum Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha

day 661: so here we are

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Nice save, New York.

Remember smoking cigarettes on the sidewalk in the spring? I spent the warm morning in with windows closed; a caged bird who hasn’t realized the door fell open in her sleep. But now I’m flying. My skin is on fire and my heart is safe in the smiles of friends. I’ve been arrested and moments are not my own; my head is open and clear and neon. I need to call my family, but I have a new family too.

It’s good to be on a slow subway platform and my train pulls up just in time. Monk in my ears and the air is warm and welcoming. I spent the day

walking through memories
finding pennies in the road.
Heads up;
it’s time to go.

I’m down here looking up
at melting snow
falling from the bridge
and it’s home.

Muted sunshine reflecting through water. Heart embers gathering for bed. We wrap ourselves in stale blankets and I’m trying to give you love. Sad bitterness boiling, share the light in my eyes. If you let me go we can stay here forever. Fingers crossed,

I promise.

Om Gum Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha

day 552: in like a lion

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I have a fractured concept of hope. I see nature in everything and my innocence was destroyed in a fire a long time ago. So here we are. It’s snowing outside. I’m sitting in the basement of an old Lutheran church that was desacralized when Henry bought it so he could record music here. The tape machines are spinning and there are layers of sadness on the floor. There’s always something to look out for here; but I’m learning to let go.

Om Gum Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha

day 504: strangers in the night

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Sinatra tastes like
Los Angeles and smells like
shadows. La smells
like jasmine flowers and tastes
like a dream; it’s barely real.

It surprised me when I hopped out of my old Jeep at 1am the night I got in to Venice Beach. I thought this was going to be home; but home is familiar and this was landing on the moon. Gravity failed me as I unpacked the car, high as a kite on I don’t remember if it was the trip or the thoughts or whatever they had bought at the store that day. Brandon has a prescription and there were lollipops and cookies and every/one/thing was smiling.

The next morning I woke up early and set out on bikes with Vanessa. We paddled up Lincoln to Washington to yoga. The world was a sea woven in different shades of cement grey that I had no frame of reference for. That night we cooked the best dinner I’ve ever had; I washed the dishes and cried and Vanessa smiled and hugged me. I had escaped. It was over. But I didn’t understand what I had run from and I didn’t know where I had run to. I didn’t know anything – more so than usual – so I went to sleep and slept for a long time. The next day too. And then I started working in the studios of Los Angeles and everything changed. I adopted Amy Correia’s California as my anthem and guide and set out with wide eyes to see what I could get in to. I climbed down into the echo chambers at Capitol Records. I met strangers with faces that are more familiar than my own. I bought some clothes at a thrift store and texted my brother but he was mad at me for leaving so it took him a while to write me back. I ate tacos and dated a dark brooding producer; he was 20 years older than me with issues and it probably wasn’t a good idea but I built a brick patio with Vanessa and we threw darts and made fires and hung out with Jeff and Shaun and the gin seemed ok, so.

Everyone says La takes a year to settle in to. I never did settle in to town, I just settled in to not knowing what the fuck is going on, ever. I’m glad for that. I’m glad for a lot of things in La.

Anyway; I got out of there too.

Om Gum Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha

day 494: let me explain

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Being a mess in Philadelphia is my most natural state. Chipped fingernail polish, aging dye job, knotted hair and mismatched clothes. In New York City and my mother’s house I would inspire cringing disappointment. But not here. Here the sidewalk greets me with glowing eyes and excited voices. Here my Dr. Seuss scarf matches the joy in my body and the color in Sweeny’s blue orange walls. Here we have records and tea and unconditionally loved children. Here I walk down the middle of the street and my car gets hit and the rules run in a slightly lighter way; kites floating in the sky anchored to the weight of the earth. We are candles in the darkness; candles on the table in the eternal home of my heart. The seat of my soul. South Philly.

I fit right in here,
running my fingers down the rippling sea of row houses.
Front windows filled with tacky figurines
guarding the living tombs behind them.
Rooms with sloppy paint and holes overflowing
with vinyl and instruments and art.

Everything is sacred here. People love you loudly in your face so you know it. Life is not pretty, and we know it. We’re not embarrassed to be alive here. We don’t waste time on appearances here. We spend our time loving. I love you so much I could cry. But I won’t, because music is waiting.

It takes the woman at the coffee shop a few minutes to recognize me. I used to sit here writing until they closed. She’d lock us all in and pour whiskey shots in espresso glasses and I’d light a cigarette. I don’t smoke anymore. I fell asleep last night in an arm chair watching Let’s Get Lost with a glass of wine and a brilliant artist and his dog sleeping in my lap too. I’m in the Italian Market and it’s cold and the street vendors are burning fires in metal trash cans outside. A man bought my coffee to pay it forward and told me not to forget. I told him I won’t. I almost did, but I never will. I promise.

Tara and I smile and share a silent disappointed knowing that we want me to stay but I’m leaving so Steve tops me off for free. It’s a harsh awakening when I get home; I sleep on the couch and get a headache and notice I can do the next right thing a little better than before. I’m sad and I sigh and I kneel to kiss the ground and pray and say thank you again.

Om Gum Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha

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