The following is an edited piece from my journal on March 22, 2016 xoxo. . .
Oakland & SF . . .
Wow! Let me ask the cliche “has it really been ten days since last I sat to write?!”
I sit here in Ojai, CA. 5:32 p.m. I have 28 minutes to type before this coffee shop closes and I can no longer utilize google docs to type things. I should probably download some kind of free office work thing.
San Fran—marvelous time. My hosts: generous thoughtful kind amazing Shareef Ali, his wonder-parter Claire, and their incredible chill and dope child Hazel.
A magical and moving house show on the evening of my arrival—organized by Shareef and hosted by his generous friend Sara.
Miss Erma, Shareef, and Chelsea Coleman were the fellow performers of the evening.
I don't know that I have laughed or cried so much in one evening of music.
This show especially touched me—the emotional connection between myself and the other performers and all the other attendees was made all the more deeper because it stemmed from jaw-dropping artistry.
Erma's voice alone could garner her a starring niche in old-time 1920's coquettish timbre, but her song construction is a collage of style, each piece escaping a single genre and incorporating genuine warmth and sharp humour. She has killer reviews and masterpieces galore here!
Chelsea Coleman writes what I might call indie-Americana-country and blues. I think almost all the songs she shared that night were new—and utterly powerful and vulnerable and raw—and ached with brilliant poetry accessing the like rawness in each and every person who is lucky enough to hear her. Check her out here!
Shareef is all that a sing-song writer wishes to be: unique, intelligent, not pretentious at all, folky, punky, jazzy—giving you a little bit of everything you need, and a good dose of political commentary too! He had my heart from the first time I saw him perform with his Radical Folksonomy. Check out his discography , click here!
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In Oakland I stayed up until 7am two nights in a row making bolo ties. That was wacky and productive.
I united with an old New York friend--Rebecca who emanates warmth and light. Seeing Casey and Doimnic one more time, Doimnic performing his last US show of the tour at The Plough and Stars in SF. Riding home to Oakland that night at 2am—the bus driver that picked me up gave me a ride for free. In exchange, I kept him awake as he gave me advice on life and spirituality. He was a black man with a mezmerising voice, freckles and bags under his eyes and a very generous heart. I walked home from the bus stop aware and on guard that I was walking down a street where two days before a man was shot—not news in a neighborhood considered to be one of the most dangerous in the country. But I got home safe, happy, and exhausted.
Onto Ojai and Ventura! . . . paradise found . . .
Rideshare to LA—wonderful insightful fun-loving and human-loving Isaac drove me south from Oakland!
He took me to my First In-And-Out Burger.
We were moving into a warmer world—the warmth of California—rolling desert hills, looking quite the land of milk and honey, everything spring-drenched in green and gold and cream. I’ve never seen hills quite like that--or trees quite like that--or cows quite like that, looking like cartoon paintings--blocks of color, geometrically winding like a symbolistic Klimt painting. The cows looking oddly quaint and surreal atop the crowns of glowing hills, lounging 'round the base of power lines that stretch as far as the eye can see--a literal symbol of a trail and web connecting us all, up and down the coast, across a continent, and eventually beyond oceans and all seven seas. No oceans, only humble thin rivers to be seen from Highway 5. I slept through the “grapevine” apparently. Isaac makes me feel at ease. I feel safe and connected ‘round him--I feel there is a mutual principal we share: a love and respect for any human matched with a curiosity about and hunger for the whole spectrum of human experience. We share thoughts about gratitude and thankfulness, love and sex, and how to temper emotion with awareness of reality--and how reality is mostly mystery--reality is not our thoughts and emotions. We can only observe.
In his valley-boy tenor he at one time drawls, drawing out each word with languid ease, this wise reminder: “we are all worthy of each other.” This is his offering in response to a thought I share about shame. I take great comfort in his words and the peaceful surety with which he offers them, affirming what I already know but have forgotten. His self-assured drawl could come off as lazy-sounding, but I begin to experience the cadences of his voice as the music of peace well-earned. I feel safe and cared for around him. We laugh and share anecdotes both humorous and vulnerable. We share ice cream. He sees me safely ready to board a commuter train to Ventura.
Exhausted and wide-open I arrive in Ventura, knocking on the door of the coolest-looking bungalow on Lexington—the home of my friend Christopher whom I met sometime when we both lived in Bellingham, WA—yet he is someone I more-so befriended over the airspace of facebook. I have learned over the last few years that he and I share similar views on most things: from Music being the most powerful magic to ever exist for human use, to appreciating pretty much all ideas of how the universe works(--but mostly that it is a fantastic and far-out mystery)--and to being flower-fairy-children in love with the wonders of the natural world, to being most at home in and around and by the ocean. . . and though I know him enough to trust him with my body and soul, there is still so very much I do not know about him, nor he about me! In fact, I know so little about how his person functions in the flesh (versus facebook lol) I find myself evening feeling nervous around him sometimes!
Sometimes, or maybe a lot of times in my past, when I decide that I like someone, but I feel like they have not seen enough who I am, I find myself not being able to trust them to like me very much. “Most people I admire do not seem to admire me”--where the heck does such a thought come from? It can’t be true. Or, at least, it could never ever be proven. Why do I get nervous around people I like? Do I actually have some kind of undiagnosed PTSD from my childhood? Has my Joy been successfully tarnished and permanently damaged due to feeling dis-valued by males again and again and again and again and again? Am I—what's it called--jaded? Are these emotional incidents just passing feelings based on nothing real? Probably. How is it that I sometimes feel I love and trust each person immediately to a greater degree than most people allow themselves, yet I seem to hold back some kind of final stock of trust much longer than most people?? Though I suppose everyone is holding back something all the time—whether we want to or not.
We can talk and share as much as we care to try, but until the day we can actually fuse minds and souls, we can never be absolutely sure of an other’s experience—we can never claim to truly understand. And so, my turn of thoughts remind me once again: do not assume any one thing—surrender to the mystery. And thus I remain floored and awed, baffled with gratitude that I find what I call Friendship with everyone I meet—from Isaac the rideshare giver, to Christopher my interweb-found-stranger-of-a-soul-brother, to bus drivers, train riders, baristas, and bums. I see the familiar in all of them—I see them trying and yearning and I find them able—and though I may fail sometimes, I think it is the best thing I can do to try and leave people with the feeling that they are seen and witnessed and respected—that they are familiar to this stranger(me)—and in that way, in any way, I might help spread the feeling wherever I wander that we are indeed all together, all the time. We are indeed living altogether all at once. We are all dancing with each other—and though I may not understand the movements sometimes—they are all necessary and all beautiful.
Late that night we drive up into the hills into Ojai for an open-mic at the Deer Lodge. It is St. Patrick’s Day we recall as a motley and considerable crowd soon fills the sprawling watering hole. There I meet Hannah and Alarra--two of Christopher’s best friends in the area. I feel immediately a blooming emotional warmth from them—and I think I see a clarity of sight-beyond-sight in both sets of dark, sparkling eyes.
When I get to sing, I start with an old traditional ballad in honor of the Irish spirit. The bar hushes silent. My next two songs are originals—when I hit a crescendoing high note on my second one, everyone gasps and cheers, as much for the words as the sounds, I hope. After my third song, I am hugged by a dozen new friends. I spend the next half of an hour enjoying myself talking to a trio of men in their fifties who are out from Minnesota--they are convinced that I was born to sing Irish music, that they can hear the ancient power of the bard in my voice. I hope they are right. Such enthusiastic support for me always makes me blush and laugh and actually believe in my self more! One of them plays the comb with a bit o fly paper. They are a charmingly earnest trio and look like a painting of men with potbellies of various size done by Norman Rockwell if he designed the story-board for the film Fargo.
Christopher is saddened on my account the next day when we find out that all the videos and pictures he took at open mic got erased when he joined his new phone with his computer. We both agree to not cry over spilt milk. All the same, I wonder if I’ll ever have evidence to show for these fleeting moments of group connection—will I ever have something to point to, a video or recording or even a god damn picture showing how I am able, sometimes, to ignite a roomful of hearts and sing the song of a bar full of beautiful souls?? Thirty years and no evidence captured yet. And every year my voice loses power due to the gaping hole in my sinuses caused by a faulty surgery I had as a teenager—but that is a long, strange, on-going story which I will tell some other day. I hope to have some videos and recordings of myself someday—a portrait of who I was as a performer. I don’t want my song to be momentary dreams—I want to sing more and more and more. I want to have a portfolio of work to show so that I can get more gigs and travel more and sing as much as my voice allows me! Folks, I have been avoiding admitting this, but really: I think I was born to travel and sing. Connecting quickly with strangers in strange places is my specialty. Growing roots in one spot—while may be my greatest lesson, I likewise believe it is not the goal I should work towards. My strength is in movement. As long as I continue to learn gratitude and joy, as long as I strive to live more authentically without ego, as long as I continue to grow in meditation, and manage fear better, and grow kindness more lasting. . . then what does it matter if my home is a roaming one? And so the great mystery as to why I can’t sit still continues. . . though my worry fades as years go on. . . which is always a good thing, a good sign—the fading of worry, that is . . .
The next day, I wake a little rested. Before we go up to Ojai for our show at The Vine--a lovely wine bar--we stop at the ocean for a minute. I can’t stay out of the water. The sea is warm, the rocks call my name. I come away with wet clothes, a handful of stones, and feeling a tonic has washed across and through my body.
Up to Ojai we go again, a small tour of a hippy town full of healers, nestled in valley beneath the watchful ridge of Topa Topa. Evidence of old Spanish architecture is everywhere. Huge trees—oaks and pines and palms—weave the settlement together. We drive to a hillside through blooming orange groves--everything is in bloom here! The desert-scape is verdant green and everywhere we go perfume dances through the air—gold blushes on the hillside, bursts of red and yellow and cream, fushia, purple, pink, and poppy.
Technical difficulties and a disconnected audience aside--the show is grand. Christopher’s band Crow Magnet is pretty fucking magical, click here for his bandcamp!
He, his voice, and his composition style are like a cross between Jim Morrison, Jimmy Page, and Jerry Garcia. Authenticity of spirit and rock n roll prowess is pretty damn evident--and if you don’t see it immediately, the evidence of a dozen dancing gorgeous women in an otherwise quiet wine bar should be enough. Scott the drummer and Daniel on bass are tight as fuck, too, btw.
In a courtyard adjacent the bar there is a young homeless man from Spain who plays a kind of guitar I’ve never seen before. He inspires me to dance and dance and dance some more. I give him all my snacks and he is grateful. He does not seem mentally ill—like a lot of people who sleep on the street—he actually just seems like a homeless traveler. I did not have enough mental faculties at the time to ask him everything—I was kinda tipsy—but learned that he is indeed sleeping on the street but that he says he is doing alright.
Maybe I wasn’t born for traveling and singing. Maybe I was born to take care of homeless people. I haven’t done shit about it though. Who are we to see the homeless as outside of our world? Society as a whole causes such situations. We are all each others responsibility.
Christopher and I take a day for the ocean. Oh man, She is the mother, the killer, the knower, the cleanser. I am never too cold to baptize myself in the eternal surf of salt water. The constant roar is some kind of music aligning all vibration. Chris says something like: “Man that sound just shakes my etch-i-sketch of all it’s lines and squiggles” I say something like “The ocean is the only place there is room to dance enough.” After our spirits seem satiated we agree that seeing more nature and the unfamiliar is what we want to do, and thus Christopher drives us up to Carpenteria to meet up with Daniel.
At a second hand store called something like Buddha House of Reincarnated Treasures, I see a beautiful broken piece of abalone shell with sand-worn edges hanging out in a jewelry case. After I express interest, the woman working there offers it as a gift. She and I seem equally surprised and touched at the giving of the token-- “Thank You!”, I say, “this makes me so happy!” “Well,” she stutters, sort of blushing and baffled, “Now I’m so happy too!” I wish her a good day, a good week, a good month--she adds laughing, “--a good life!” Little exchanges between strangers like this—a few words and a broken shell—bring me the greatest joy.
Daniel takes us on a long walkabout through shortcuts across town to the wetland preserve and beyond to the beach. I see a type of heron I've never seen before. We are gone for hours and eventually end up watching the sun go down on the far end of town, where black pitch bubbles up out of the beach sand. Way back when, Native Americans would come here to seal up the cracks in their boats.
That same black pitch is signs of oil. Offshore oil-drilling platforms are permanent fixtures on the horizon here—ugly reminders how we humans continue to deplete our earth of natural resources, polluting our environment in the process, all in the name of “profit”.
When the hell will we stop the earth-damaging process of oil extraction? When there is literally NONE left? Why not stop earlier now that we know how seriously damaging the process is—and now that we have alternate technology and power resources—but they just can't seem to compete with the power of huge Oil companies. The burning of fossil fuels is changing the pH-level of our oceans at such a rate that marine biologists do not believe the ocean will be able to produce life 100 years from now. Think about that. That means if we don't take huge remedial steps to correct THE issue of climate change and ocean acidification, the entire food-web of the earth will fall apart and we will all die in less than two hundred years. If you don't believe in climate change, you are grossly under-educated and you need to go read about it right now. . . .
Read about ocean acidifiation on the NOAA website here.
Or watch a video about it here.
Read about the horrors of fracking here.
I make some bolo ties for Chris before he leaves to head back to Washington state for his grandmother’s 90th birthday party. (Hey--my grandpa shall be 90 in May--maybe we should throw a party too, eh?) He chooses his favorite piece—crystals and pyrite, rhodizite and beach stone--nurturing peace, supporting and fostering emotional clarity, personal power, creative clarity, astral travel, meditation, positivity and balancing all chakras.
I meet up with Hannah in Ojai for ecstatic dance and much conversation. My favorite part of the evening's dancing: the circle afterward when the group holds space for each other to say what each person needs to say in that moment. I love the meeting of the two inextricably linked activities: the communal dancing--visceral, primal, meditative, physical--followed by a listening session--focused witnessing and acceptance of voiced thoughts and reactions. Both activities are, sadly, not the norm in this society. Both activities are so very necessary for healthy awareness of ones self and connection to all reality. Both activities, thankfully, due to much experience in performing arts, are ones with which I am familiar and know where to find, and, sometimes, create for myself and others. I am lucky.
Group transformation process. That’s what religious ceremony is all about. But that can be found at a community dance, or a potluck, or an open mic. What is the difference between group versus individual; transformation versus static; process versus product? I think it is the ability to notice, to listen, and to acknowledge. Noticing, Listening, Acknowledging, Witnessing---we need to practice these things for our own individual health which is completely linked to our level of connectivity to a collective community of any size. Holding space for each other and saying ‘I see you, I hear you’ is vital for a group to transform on a journey together--whether it is listening to a coworker say what they need to say, or dancing with strangers to live music--saying yes to each others’ movement, allowing for each others’ process is what life is.
I need to go busk now. Tomorrow I shall leave this foothills desert oasis near the sea, and head into the sprawling tentacles of Los Angeles. . .