Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve

It is the morning of the Eve of the New Year and, as the grey day around me threatens rain, I am curled up in a writing chair with my feet wrapped in a blanket. The local classical radio station plays Mozart (again) and a pine scented candle that burned last night still lingers Christmas in the air. This may be the first year I will not saying "Good Riddance" to the passing one. This year has been good to me. So, I'd like to share my Thank You List to The Year 2015:

1. "That Kind Of Girl". I birthed a record of honesty and pain and vulnerability and surrender and relief into the world, and it was well received. It didn't change the world. It didn't get to the top of any charts or win any awards, but it helped me and I am proud of those songs. I hope it helped a few others. My then but-not-now-manager but still friend John Porter was an invaluable partner in this, always encouraging, always full of understanding and love. A cheerleader, and when you are spilling some blood out there, you need a strong cheerleader. Grateful I had one.

2. The New York Times. Thanks to fellow Amherst College alum and writer Ron Lieber, I can now say I have been a published writer for The New York Times. I had to register with The Times as a freelance writer. I got a check with the paper's name on it. I wrote a piece for the New York Times. Seriously. I may dance a bit again thinking about that. And I know, I know, it was a short essay, not a huge piece, and it may be stretching it a bit to ever say "I wrote for the New York Times" and I won't bring this up too much at cocktail parties as in "what do you do?" "OH, well, this year I wrote a piece for the New York Times" - I won't be THAT person, even though here, in this blog, I AM being that person. However, when you've been a folk singer and you bring THAT fact up at cocktail parties (and you don't even drink cocktails, which makes those parties very socially awkward after everyone else has had their few freeing drinks), the response is usually a tilt of the head, pursing of the lips in a forced smile and an apologetic, "Oh, I'm sorry, I've never heard of you" as if fame is the barometer of success in any artistic career (and it's impossible to explain to someone that there is really no such thing as "folk fame" anymore). Maybe fame IS the real line in the sand. But I've been at this creative game, whether theater or folk music, since I was 22 and so far I'm not homeless and I've mostly paid my bills on time and I've not asked my parents for one dime since I was 22. But despite my pride in my work, there was this moment when I saw my name on the Thursday Financial Section of the New York Times in March that felt as good as winning any award. Felt like a real THING. Something to send home to Mom and Dad. It was a HUGE HUGE HUGE honor to be asked to write a song and then write an essay for the Times and then have people from all over the country write to say they read it. And then to have NPR's show Marketplace call to interview me about the story. And, the kicker is, all this happened the same week my record was released. And Ron didn't even know this. It was completely serendipitous. And none of this would have happened had I not written a blog here on Facebook that Ron read a year ago about the struggle of trying to buy a house in a bohemian artist's neighborhood that is now being taken over by people with money who want to live in an artists neighborhood but build $400,000 homes around our little tiny $180,000 cottages. If I never get published again, this was a real thing in 2015.

However, my friend Mary is writing a book for Yale Press about songwriting and THAT to me is an amazing, amazing thing. Even better. Maybe I'll put that on my dreamboard. Not about songwriting, because Mary's gonna write the one everyone's gonna want to read. I guarantee it. I'll find something else to write about. There's so much out there if you pay attention.

3. Songs From The Well. After years of teaching Performance and Songwriting at various camps, with the encouragement of friends like Stacie Huckaba and Mary Gauthier and Amy Kurland and Steve Seskin, I dove in and put together my first self-led Writer's Retreat. Once I said "yes" to the universe, it all kind of came together very easily. Penuel Ridge Spiritual Retreats appeared like Brigadoon, a gorgeous deeply spiritual place led by a woman with an engaging spirit, Laura Valentine, and with the help of one of my besties, Renee Rizzo, we put together a transformative weekend for 13 songwriters. I got to watch each of them grow and have emotional breakthroughs in their writing and it went even further and deeper. I watched them all change. Jon Vezner came one night to talk for an hour and he stayed for three. Told his whole life story. Stayed available to every eager question. Played us his songs. The following night, Stacie Huckaba and her assistant Lauren came and shared Stacie's story and made everyone laugh until we all cried, including Stacie, and then, in that transformative vulnerability, she took photos of each songwriter. And I would put money on the fact that those are the best photos of each of these gorgeous people they've ever seen. Stacie brought out their natural beauty. That's what she does. I learned that I can do this. And that I LOVE doing this. And I'm doing it again in June. And hopefully in October again, too. I want to teach more.

4. Songwriting with Soldiers I can barely even process that 3 days with a handful of men and one woman who have served our country shared their stories with me and we made those stories into songs. I have never encountered such bravery. I'm still reeling and it's been months. Darden Smith has created a very important program, Mary Gauthier encouraged him to bring me into the family and through this, I met Monte Warden, who may be my favorite living Republican (besides my Dad). He is an extraordinary songwriter, a deeply intentional human being, and one of the raunchiest, funniest dudes I've ever met. And his wife is hot and awesome. And his kid is amazing. They paid me to do this, but I'd do it for free.

5. Friends. I gained new ones. I deepened old ones. I didn't lose any. That's a good year. 

6. Family. Everyone's healthy and thriving. There are no feuds. No one owes anyone any money and is grumbling about it. My parents are very healthy, fun to hang out with, curious about the world around them. My siblings are my friends, as are their spouses. My nieces and nephews are gorgeous and fun and silly and I love all of them so much and don't see them often enough.

7. Money. Whatever. I made enough to keep a roof over my head, buy some nice boots, save a bit, buy a new used Prius and make sure Flo eats the super high priced grain-free food she demands. I have all that I need. 

8 Career. From writing to touring to teaching, I've cobbled together an extraordinary life, even if it's just me who knows about it. I don't want and never wanted fame. I am lucky. I worked hard, but I know that I am blessed and I'd be really bad at a 9-5 job anyway. However, I'd like to figure out a way to make enough money and NOT be away from home all the time. My US agent, Craig Grossman of Green Room Music Source has been really great about keeping me on the road working and understanding when I don't want to be out there. Things are shifting for me. My friends say I'm in a kind of "shivasana", that meditative nap you take after a hard yoga class, where the teacher encourages you to stay prone on the mat resting for at least a few minutes and tells you that this is where the work settles in. That the nap is as important as the sweat work. So I'm in shivasana right now, letting the work settle into my bones while I allow change to come, however it will manifest. In the meantime, I've got a new record coming out in 2016 with my side project Applewood Road, and dates in Europe and the UK and this country. And some extraordinary opportunities to do workshops with Mary Gauthier and Bessel Van Der Kolk (a leading psychiatrist in Trauma work) to explore how writing and performing can elide with trauma therapy. The doors are swinging open right now. I just can't see to the other side, so wish me luck as I walk right on through, trusting.

8. Clarity. Yoga. Meditation. Running. No intoxicants of any kind unless you count chocolate. I stopped drinking booze 3 years ago. I got sober 2 years ago. It was about more than just not putting things into my system that numbed out the pain. It's a day-to-day thing. And it's changed how I live and how I feel about myself. None of the rest of this list would be possible without that kind of holistic sobriety.

9. Love. Fell in love. Got engaged. I moved in. I sit in my new home I now share with this man I will marry, a skittish dog I rescued and the man's German Shepherd who sits right now as close as he can get, guarding me as if I was his one true love. Our home is small. We had to compromise. His couch went. Mine stayed. His desk stayed. Mine was sold. A new TV was bought. A new bed. We combined books and records. Ditched the CD's. All of this was not something on my radar 2 years ago. 18 months ago. This is the number one thing I am grateful for today, on the last day of 2015. This home feeling - finally. Love. I'm not bragging. Or even humble bragging. This took work. Took a combination of hard work on my own (and on his own) and a little bit of luck and then hard work together.

Let me tell you a little story about serendipity.

Last year this man walked into a room that I was in and I noticed him and he noticed me. He was there because of a guy named Bob. Bob is a man who drove us crazy. Talked too much. Rambled and rambled. Was a bit dirty (he was a mechanic), oil and grease stains under his nails. His stories sometimes wound around to make a profound spiritual point. Most times they didn't and he just took up everyone's time. Bob had told Jamey about this room and that's why Jamey walked into this room. I liked Jamey the first time he said hi to me, thought he was cute and funny and smart and tall and had a kindness in his eyes that I trusted, and I probably wanted to kiss him right there, but I didn't want to screw up yet another relationship and I still felt a bit unsure of myself, whether I was truly over the last one, ready for something new. I wanted to make sure that if I were going to date, I was going to go in with a wide open heart, not mistrusting from the start, not looking for doom around every corner. So I waited a long time. And I didn't make any move or even flirt. I just allowed our friendship to blossom naturally. Looking back, it's clear. He was definitely the one. Not that there's just ONE, but in the pantheon of potential "one's", this guy had a light over his head from above directed toward me in retro funky neon bulbs like a vintage gas station sign, blinking. So, fast forward, months later and we go vinyl shopping on a Sunday early afternoon and my hands are full of Sarah Vaughn and Willie Nelson and Debussy and he kisses me on my front stoop and then says "see you tomorrow" and leaves me there speechless. And hopeful. 

We don't see Bob anymore in that room and we wonder what happened to Bob. Over the year, Jamey and I become a real thing, a couple, and then we're serious and in love and then one night we find out sad news that Bob had had enough of this world and made an awful decision and was gone. Just like that. And we go to his funeral and cry and hold hands. That room now has a gaping hole left by Bob who used to fill it with his long and winding stories. I wanted to thank Bob for somehow being the strange angel that brought me and my love together. And that I'm sorry he checked out. And although suicide can make people angry, I just choose to think Bob had done his work and punched the clock. I'm sad he's gone and I'm really sad for his family he abruptly left behind. But I'm really glad that part of his work here on earth was pointing Jamey to me. Even if he didn't even know it.

So on this last day of 2015, as the clouds darken the sky and my dogs bark very loudly at every sound outside despite our having a Dog Whisperer try to teach us to teach them to NOT do this, and the local classical station frustrates me by playing the same music over and over and the NPR station talks of yet another gun death and the world can seem like such a terrifying place with mass shootings and terrorism and cancer and depression and homelessness and poverty and addiction and refugees looking for a home and monsters like Donald Trump out from under the bed there is beauty everywhere and there is hope everywhere and there is love all around. And this is something I might not have written on December 31, 2013. Or maybe even 2014. So bring it, 2016. 2015 will be a hard one to beat but I bet you can. I'm ready....

Love,
Amy

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Obituary for a Fan

I don't remember the first time I met Bill Vordenbaum, but I know it was Texas. It may have been a Folk Alliance show in Austin. He wrote a blog, a music blog, reviewing live shows, critiquing albums. He introduced himself to me as a music journalist. He didn't write for The New York Times or for a music magazine that I knew of. And I'm fairly sure if he was paid for his writing it wasn't that much. I'm fairly sure he did it for the love of music. He interviewed me for a few minutes that day in Austin. He was awkward and big, he stood a bit too close, but he was kind and he knew a lot about my songs, could quote them to me, was a real fan and I appreciated his generosity and attention. He wrote about me when I released "Fable", my first self-released record in 2001, a rough record of some of my first songs. If you heard that record now you wouldn't recognize me and I don't suggest going to find it. Bill Vordenbaum, super fan, sometime music critic, liked that record and started following my music from Day One. He was at almost every show I have played in Austin from that day forward. When he wasn't there, I noticed and wondered how he was doing. He wrote a review of almost every album I've made. He would send me questions via email for interviews that I'd email back, questions that went a bit deeper than "who are your influences" or "music or lyrics first". Our longest conversation was that first one. Since that day, I'd say hello to him after the show, thank him for coming, put him on the guest list. I knew nothing about him. Nothing about his life. His friends. Where he came from. Where he lived. There are people who come to shows in different parts of the country where I recognize their faces but have to work my memory to find their names. Bill was not one of them. Bill Vordenbaum. I knew his name and right now, even writing that name, I see the balding round face, the round eyes, the crooked smile. He carried one of those top spiral medium sized notebooks and a pencil. He wore white t shirts, jeans a few sizes too big and a few seasons off style. White sneakers. He was not a friend. I didn't know him. But I did - he was more than a face in the crowd. He was that man who comes to every show I have played in the 15 years I have been touring. He was that man who sits alone in the front row, or stands off to the side by himself, smiling, swaying a bit with the music. He was that man who knows the door people, the sound people, the other musicians in town, who says hi to them, who has their records, who can't afford to Kickstart but does anyway. He was that man who comes early to the show to get a good seat who says hello who I hug hello, awkwardly, that kind of body parted double pat on the back acquaintance hug. Something a bit more than 'thanks for coming, Bill'. You see, it's people like Bill Vordenbaum that make up my audience, that make up the audience for people like me, under the major label radar artists that make a living playing places across the country, across the world. One night playing to 300 people and feeling like something is happening, something caught on, feeling like "if only every night could be like this, maybe just maybe..." and then the next ego-deflating night playing to 3 people including the bartender and the sound guy. That 3rd guy? That would be Bill Vordenbaum. And while we are kicking ourselves that we never had a Plan B while people who buy our CD's are saying "how come I've never heard of you?" or "good luck with this" and you bite your tongue, smile, and say thank you, while really wanting to shout your resume of stages you've played, reviews and quotes and the cool things that have happened in your career, Bill Vordenbaum stands there to the side of the stage, knowing all the lyrics to your songs, interviewing you with the fervor as if you were the Next Big Thing. 
I just read that Bill died on Christmas. I can't say that I knew him. I can't say anything. But I read it and my heart flipped and my throat closed up as if I'd heard of an old friend from high school dying suddenly. And I wanted to say to him, I didn't know you, Bill, but you mattered and you were noticed. Isn't that what we all want? Just to leave some mark on the people we meet. It's why I write. I'm sure that's why Bill wrote. I'm sure, too, that there are many of us, musicians who have met Bill Vordenbaum, who had a moment thinking, oh man, THAT guy? That guy...so sad.... I'm writing to somehow say to Bill, safe passage, man. You will be missed. Thank you for gracing my life for a short time. Travel well....

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Here From There


Today I went to hear a bluegrass band in a small Tennessee town park that was lead by a man named Robert E Lee, who played a bit late after a botched American flag burning ceremony lead by a group of Legionnaires while it sprinkled rain, after a very long and exhausting kayak on the wide River with a fast current. Tonight I watched my favorite display of fireworks so far that I can recall, special because they were semi private, not a thousand people crammed together, but a few families along a river.  The lights snapped crackled and popped over our heads and I thought of last year, alone at home, and what Jamey said to me while floating along Goat Island this morning, that from where we were two years ago, there was no way to get here from there. 
Here from there.
And the miracle of a small town hot dog with a Korean War veteran, a shy little girl smiling on a pony ride, and a fantastic display of sparkling lights exploding in the sky above my head which rested on his shoulder like home.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

June 26, 2015

Tonight I got to watch the re-airing of the President's eulogy for Rev. Pickney's funeral as I got back to the hotel after a long day and a long week of doing my best to give these girls some tools to write songs, some confidence that music is in everyone and that music is not a competition and that music can be a way to express our secrets safely and can be a way to heal ourselves and our communities and can be a way to express joy and love and there was President Obama, stretching his own comfort zone, stretching from speech into song, into Amazing Grace, in a speech that was maybe the most moving oration I've ever heard in my lifetime, a lifetime that started with a misguided war and a deposed shady President, a lifetime that started in the year of the summer of love but a childhood under a cynical view of leaders and politics, names of the dead scrolling down the TV screen, long lines to get gas, a hostage crisis, a shooting of a president, the live explosion of the Space Shuttle on the TV in my Algebra class, my first vote being for someone for whom I didn't even really care except his Party allegiance, to my 20's when I could vote for someone I did stand behind who was dynamic and, in the end, completely disappointed me personally, not in his very human failing but in his equivocations which were insulting, to personally watching the Towers fall from the edge of the Hudson River and the dust of the debris gave me a bronchitis I couldn't kick for months, and a President who hovered over a darkness and deceit for 8 awful years and my cynicism grow until the day in 2007 when I heard that Obama had won while I was in a meditation retreat and away from cell phones and computers and television and had to celebrate silently, tears streaming down my face, to tonight, to this morning, to this heavily weighted gorgeously poignant week. A President of half a different skin color than my own with a middle name that made me think his election would be impossible in this very divided nation. A President of my own generation. A President who had a checklist of things to do when he arrived in 2008 and has sometimes slowly and sometimes quickly checked things off that list. A President who miraculously passed an affordable healthcare act that has allowed me to be able to have affordable healthcare and not go bankrupt trying to beat my asthma each winter. A President who paved the way for the Supreme Court today to rule that marriage is a right for every person, every citizen. A President who eulogized a man shot down by a racist and who sang "Amazing Grace". This day I want to remember my friend Dave Stefano, who came out to me my sophomore year of college, and, when I said, "oh, yeah, that's cool" he said to me, "No, I know it makes you uncomfortable and if you want to ask me any questions, let's do it" and he took me to an all night diner in Florence, MA and we sat up till dawn eating pancakes so I could ask him questions about how he knew, when did he know which honestly was the door that opened me from being ignorant and fearful of the unknown to being curious and open. And today I have spent this day unabashedly emotional in my patriotism. I did not think in my lifetime I'd ever see something like this. And by "something like this" I mean all of it.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Spent




A couple of weeks ago I got a random call from a writer from The New York Times. Full disclosure, it was acclaimed author Ron Lieber, with whom I went to Amherst College.  He was editing a special section of the Times that would include stories about financial turning points and remembered I’d written a Facebook post a little over a year ago about my process of looking into buying a house and having to move.  He invited me to contribute something to this special section. He wrote me, “Maybe an essay….maybe even a song.”  I was in the studio on the day of the release of my newest album, ‘That Kind Of Girl,’ making another record with a side project of mine called Applewood Road (an acoustic trio of three women singer/songwriters) and my first thought was ‘Now? I’m completely exhausted…”  My second thought was ‘THE New York Times? Hell yes!’  You see, a few months ago, maybe even a year ago, I started contemplating a life that had more balance.  A life that included less time wasted in cheap motels in days off in between shows miles away from home. A life that would make space for gardening, time at home with friends, dating, maybe even – gasp – a relationship.  And part of that contemplation involved a lot of meditating and prayer about wanting to write more and tour less. Not just songwriting. Whatever-writing.  A week prior to Lieber’s invitation came another invitation to guest write for a column in the Nashville Scene. So my prayers were being answered, I could see that and be really grateful for it, but the timing was a bit fishy. I was overwhelmed and depleted and didn’t think I could do it.

Knowing that I had to do this, not ‘gun to the head’ kind of have to but a personal mission of ‘I WILL do this’ kind of have to, I called Neilson Hubbard, one of my favorite people and one of my favorite songwriters. I told him the assignment. I said, we have to do this today. He said, ‘I’ll be over at 5.”  That’s the best thing about living here in East Nashville. I am surrounded by people way more talented than I am, way more fluid as songwriters, as musicians.  And we live within a mile or so of each other. We write songs. We record songs. We play guitar or bass or drums or produce or tour. When we are home we are HOME. When we are not, we are in far flung places for a good amount of time.  And when called upon to write a song, we show up and write a song. I have a wonderful group of songwriters I meet with mostly every week to share new songs with, for critique, for the experience of throwing a new idea out to the world. We write all the time. Because our neighbors are writing all the time.  It’s not a competition at all here in any kind of negative way; it’s more of a call to arms to the artist inside. Create! Produce! I love it. I feed on it and being here in the middle of the juice has made me a better writer. 

We wrote a song called “Spent” in about an hour.  It was easy to write once we decided our subject matter was pretty much right next door.  We live in East Nashville, TN, a bohemian neighborhood in Music City right across the Cumberland River from downtown that, for many years, has been home to one of the most diverse populations in this city.  Bisected by Gallatin Pike where an uber-hip coffee shop might sit in between a Discount LIquor Store and a Check Cashing Shop, this area is peppered with quaint cottage homes, that, until just a year ago, were affordable for the Artist Class. 

In the past five years, we’ve seen an explosion here in development downtown, and that has crept across the river to East Nashville, as well, where small, once-affordable homes are being bulldozed to make way for quickly-built condos and larger homes.  The artist class is being pushed out to make way for the nouveau riche hipster. 

A little more than a year ago, the owner of the home I’d been renting for 5 years gave me a month’s notice to buy the place or find someplace new. I started the process of looking into buying a home of my own for the first time, which was daunting.  I am a single woman in my mid 40’s.  I make a living at making music. I do not have a ‘dayjob’. This is my dayjob. And I make a living at my art, which is a dream fulfilled. 

But for many of us working-class musicians, painters, artists, writers, we live a precarious financial existence of our own choosing.

I remember a few years back, a conversation with my father.  He’d been a company man for my entire life. A salesman, then a Regional Manager, then a Vice President, then one of a handful of owners who bought the company they’d worked with for many years.  I remember the year of the buyout well, because my father was able to buy all four of us kids cars – not new ones, used ones, but our own car.  We all got computers. I didn’t have to carry a student loan for my final year of college. My parents’ took us all on an incredibly extravagant vacation where we learned to sail a boat together.  A few years later, though, the owners sold the company to a multi-national, whose executives then turned around and ‘let go’ of the original owners one by one. My father was jobless at an age (and salary) it would be impossible to compete with younger men and women competing in the same field for less money.  My father was out of a job but more than that, he was deprived of the thing he’d been working for all those loyal years: the golden ring at the end of the 1950’s corporate rainbow – the retirement party, the big hoopla over a life well-spent towing the party line.  My Dad did all right on his own, created his own company and consulting business until he chose to retire to volunteer for the Boy Scouts of America and spend more time with his church and with my mother and his grandchildren.  All the time I was in my 20’s and 30’s, working three jobs, trying to ‘make it’ as an actress and then a singer and songwriter, bartending by night, personal assistant or temp-secretary by day, working my way up the artistic food chain until I had a manager, a booking agent, a label, until someone famous recorded a song I’d written and gave me my ‘break’ and I could live very modestly off my artistic work without a support job…all that time my parents held their skeptical tongues. Until one day, my father said to me, looking back upon his own career, “I’m so proud of you. You are your own boss of your own business. You did something you love. That’s the most important thing in the end.”  It was one of the most important conversations I’ve ever had with him.  That he saw me and got it. 

I have a friend who used to say “We don’t make great livings but we have great lives.”

We are the artist class. Some months we make nothing. Some we make $10,000.  It’s the rare one of us who knows how to manage our money.  And it’s the very rare one of us that has a corporate entity like a Major Record Label who pays for all the things we need to make our art.  We are all independent artists in the end. And we rely upon our audience in order to make a life and a living. Whether that be from record sales off the stage, the cost of a ticket to see a live show, or help from Kickstarter or Pledge or any other patronage that may luckily come our way.

I did find a house I could afford and, with the help of a generous friend, we entered into a rent-to-own situation and, for that, I am extremely grateful.  But they are tearing down the small cottage homes nearby to throw up $400,000 homes and changing the aesthetic and social fabric of this little area where a session musician or a non-famous folk singer could once buy a house and a piece of the proverbial Dream. 

"Spent"  (Amy Speace/Neilson Hubbard)

Come take my hand let's walk to the end of this rainbow
Do you think that we'll ever know
Where to find all that gold

Once I heard someone singing a dream we could have and hold
Something of our own
A place to call home

We're head over heels
And in over our heads
We borrow and steal to pay the rent
How we gonna save any money when it's already spent

Years keep rolling the houses keep falling like dominos
They're throwing up condos
The new for the old

It's not enough to hear your own song on the radio
When your credit is far below
What they need for a loan

We're head over heels
And in over our heads
We borrow and steal to pay the rent
How we gonna save any money when it's already spent

Can we stay or do we have to go
Could this be the end of the road
How we gonna save any money...

We're head over heels
And in over our heads
We borrow and steal to pay the rent
How we gonna save any money when it's already spent

Friday, January 2, 2015

Resolutions


I'm not much on resolutions.  I can resolve all I want and the next day something will come up because something always comes up and there goes my resolve, melting like the butter on my toast.  And then I'm left with soggy burnt bread and a deflated ego that says "you failed again, didn't you." So rather than resolve, how about I intend a few things? Intentions seem more honest to me. Intentions have an out clause, an apology built in for human frailty.  Intentions say "I'm going to do my best and I know I'm flawed so if I don't make it each time, it'll all be ok."  Resolutions demand. Intentions ask. Resolutions are the closed fist of an aggressor, challenging the Gods. Intentions are an open palm to the kinder spirits. 

2014 started out in the perfect place: in confusion. It might be my age, but I honestly don't remember where I was on New Year's Eve last year. Was I with friends? Was I at home alone? I just can't remember.  This year, looking back on the past 10 or so, I remembered the long-ago years at Steve & Alex's brownstone in Jersey City, 3 years in a row or more, I think.  Great dinners -  the four of us, sometimes five or six depending upon who was visiting, loads of good cheese and bread and wine (so much wine...blue-stained-teeth kind of nights).  We'd have these amazing intellectual conversations about music and art and film, laugh and dance to the Rolling Stones until the words started slurring and I'd slink an Irish Goodbye out the backdoor at about 2am before anyone could see how sad I'd become, leaving the party to rage without me until the sun rose. Those were great dinner parties and I remember them fondly. At least the first few hours. That's about how it always was.  I'm not in touch with them anymore, the friendship went the way of the marriage as these things sometimes do... and in my gut, I can almost physically remember the disparity between the beginning of the night and the end. Before the ball drops and after. It was always a tricky thing, getting out before the sparkle changed.

Where was I last year? I honestly can't remember...

I remember chasing cabs in the heart of the Village, party-hopping in heels with friends, in my early and late 20's on a champagne and tequila buzz, heading to the Jane Magazine Party because we knew someone who knew someone. Or landing in a dive bar on Avenue C that had the best jukebox in the City, loaded with Lou Reed and Jerry Lee Louis and Louis Armstrong.  Or at the Pierre Hotel with Lainie Kazan and Gregory Hines and Bette Midler because I was Lainie's assistant, dressed in black velvet, holding Lainie's purse.  Later in my 30's, I remember watching the Macy's fireworks from the rooftop of a friends' Jersey loft, surrounded by friends and lonely at the same time, freezing in the night. I remember my childhood, being babysat by my beloved grandmother, triscuits and cream cheese while we counted down along with the television. 

But I don't remember where I was last year.

So that's the way 2014 began: in a daze.  I worked. I toured. I wrote. I was stuck. By February, I was still in a daze and decided to do something about it and confront some huge dark cloudy shadowy things that I'd been dragging alongside of me, using them to cover me up like a blanket at times, making excuses for years, standing (depending upon my mood) defiantly in front of them, hiding behind them, sometimes denying their existence, sometimes trying to stomp them out by force, sometimes letting them just lay on top of me so I could sleep in the dark.  So for a week last winter, I stood directly in front of these monsters, called them by name, decided they looked a bit less scary and maybe looked a bit like myself at age 7, like a favorite photograph: a floppy hat with blonde braids at the lake, a pink misfitting bikini, my long gangly legs and arms akimbo, crooked teeth, freckled cheeks. Awkward and beautiful.  In February, at a high ropes course in Memphis just down the street from where I'd made a record a few years before with the late-great Sid Selvidge, I walked out over a 50 foot drop on a single wire, repeating silently the Lord's Prayer over and over like a mantra to keep my legs steady so I wouldn't slip off the rope until the paralyzing and terrifying fear of heights gave way to a calm trust and the shaking and tears slid away and morphed into a giddiness I'd never felt until I was skipping across that tightrope.  I came home from Memphis the day I turned 46, a hard turn, no longer in my 'early 40's', like a pivot northward, and yet, felt younger than I had in years, and after February, something shifted and everything started to change. An ease... Music poured out. I did more yoga. I laughed more. I made more friends. And in the very last few hours of summer, I fell in love for the first time in a very long time. Maybe for the first real time ever.  And so next year, when looking back on how 2014 ended, I'll remember where I was on New Year's Eve. I know this to be true.

Back to those intentions.

I'd like to be better at making time to exercise when touring. I'd like to make time to write every single day, not just think it's a good idea and then not do it myself. I'd like to write letters, not just texts. I'd like to finish more books than I start. I'd like to save more money than I spend. I'd like to be the best friend I can be. I intend to listen more and talk less. I intend to sleep longer. I intend to Allow. Rather than Resist. I know this sounds a bit New Agey but I was a fist pumping angry atheist a few years ago, and then cardinals started appearing, and then I lost my voice for a month, and then I went to learn to meditate with some Buddhists, and then my inner voice split in two during a 3 hour sit and I'm fairly sure I heard the voice of Truth, and then I stopped drinking and then I stopped lying and then I stopped all of it and stood still. And then when I'd stopped looking, the thing I was searching for found me.

Happy New Year, indeed.