Thursday, December 23, 2010

My Favorite Things for 2010

Before I write my annual Pre-New Year Reflect-O-Blog, I decided to do a fun little list of some of my favorite things of 2010. Many are celebrations of good news, wonderful happenings or just plain fun things. Be aware however that many became favorites because of the sheer stupidity of the situation or of the person(s) involved. That said, if I poke fun at someone in your favorite political party, please don't assume I'm either a commie pinko bleeding-heart liberal OR a radical evangelical minority-hating conservative. Stupid is stupid on both sides of the aisle. Everyone equally offended already? Good! Let's begin...

1. The repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", signed into law by our President just today. It's a huge step in the right direction for HUMAN rights. I now look forward to the day when ALL people who are willing to die for this country also have the legal right to marry in it. 

2. The discovery of the modern day hero, Antoine Dodson, and the subsequent smash hit single recorded in his honor. 

3. I had an AMAZING birthday party, thanks to my beautiful and generous neighbors, friends and voice students.

4. My good friend and co-writer Levi Kreis won a freakin' Tony Award. What up with that?

5. And I got to go to the Tony Awards with him! It was my first time at an awards show as a guest and not a performer or seat-filler. I looked hot, too. That's right, I said it. I mean seriously...look at me! *ssssssssssssssssssss!*

6. Re-discovering my inner theater girl.

7. The finale of "Lost." (Cuz it was good, not cuz I wanted the show to end! Waaaaahhhhh!)

8. My cousin Jenny's wedding, where the entire family came together for the first time since...well...her brother Tom's wedding a decade or so ago, I think.

9. Christine O'Donnell. Serious. Comedy. Gold. 

10. Pat Robertson blaming Haiti's wicked godlessness for the devastating earthquake they will be recovering from for years to come. What a fine example of Christian love that guy is.

11. Heart put out a new record. Yes, I said "record." Look it up, young'uns.

12. Simon Cowell left American Idol. Good riddance, Negative Nancy!

13. Sandra Bullock won an Oscar.

14. The Double Rainbow guy.

15. The BP guy saying he'd "like his life back." Genius.

16. Rahm Emanuel's consistent diarrhea of the mouth. Looking up quotes made by him is good for hours of fun.

17. Sarah Palin. Just when I think she can't possibly top herself....

18. "Drop Dead Diva" on Lifetime. Yes. I said Lifetime.

20. Jim Caruso's Cast Party. At the Magic Castle in L.A. AND at Birdland in NYC. Which means I've had the fortune of having the great Billy Stritch accompany me and have shared the stage with huge entertainment icons.

21. My twin nieces, Rylie and Kayla, getting cast on "House." Which means not only do I get to see their cute little faces on tv (cuz let's face it - they're too pretty NOT to be on tv), it means I also got to meet Hugh Laurie, Lisa Edelstein and Robert Sean Leonard this year.

22. This Tweet while the Cumberland River was flooding Nashville: "Dear Jesus, it would be a REAL big help to us if you could turn this water into wine right about now."

23. Started filming my very first music video for my song "Go On (feat. Debby Holiday & Levi Kreis)." Hopefully we can finish it in 2011!

24. Ryan Reynolds. Single.

25. Tiffani (Amber) Thiessen accepted my friend request on Facebook. What?

Okay, though I'm sure I'm missing something important, I hope my little list put a smile on your face and encourages you to make your own list. So many of us have had a very difficult year...I have learned that counting my blessings in the midst of turmoil not only makes me feel instantly better, but reminds me what I do have and opens my heart to others. A glass of wine doesn't hurt, either.

Contentment of heart to you,

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I ♥ (Upstate) NY Part II

(If you haven't read Part I yet, scroll down so you know what's going on!)

I am currently in my friend Levi Kreis' HUGE, gorgeous apartment in New York City and this is the view from where I sit:

Charming, eh? How ya like that pile of trash, there? Ah well...I have learned that Midtown is not my favorite part of NYC. But you can't complain when the accomodations are plenty comfy AND free! (Thanx, Levi and Jason! ♥) 

So rewinding back to Friday when I was still Upstate boppin' around my home town of Johnstown, NY...THAT was a busy day. Got up for breakfast with Dad and the seesters at an AMAZING diner called "Forever Young's" -- all fresh food, bought from local farmers, everything hand cut, homemade recipes (the kind that use no measurements and never turn out quite the same way twice) and mountains of it. An example of their sausage and cheddar skillet with cinnamon raisin toast:

Are you kidding me???

After that I honestly don't remember what we did, so drunk was I with delicious artery-clogging yumminess. I think we all went back to Mom's (in whose little apartment we were ALL staying - eventually it was Mom, me, sissy Jodianne, seester Mandi, baby brudder Travis and his sweet girlfriend Meg - three bedrooms, one bathroom) and I took a little nap before I had to get to the church for rehearsal with the wedding organist/pianist, Ed Goodemote.

The bride's mother, my Aunt Chris, was a teacher for...oh I dunno...lots of years. She taught with Ed for the majority of it, so she asked him to play for the wedding. He was a very, very sweet man and as it turned out was also in the middle of doing a play written by my high school drama teacher, Roz Melita, which also featured my Uncle Tony (my late bio-dad's brother, who is fabulously gay...I guess it's in my dna, which would explain why gays find me wherever I go). This is how it is in Johnstown...everyone literally knows everyone else and no matter how long I've been away, names from my past will inevitably surface whenever I come to town. At first this freaked me out, but now I've accepted it and have come to appreciate that familiarity, knowing there will always be a place where people knew me before the Big Wide World got to me. But I digress...Ed and I had some practice time and all went relatively well. It was a little bit of work, as he was admittedly nervous and I'm used to players who are practically one-man bands, but in the end he did just fine and I think everyone was pleased. And he was truly soooooo nice.

Rehearsal dinner at The Winner's Circle in Fonda. Buffet. REAL WINGS!!! Giant platter of olives and pickles, at which point I said to mom, "This is definitely Jenny's wedding," as she was the one who claimed ownership of the olive and pickle platters at Thanksgiving every year when we were kids. The cake, however...Jenny's brother Tom was responsible for picking it up. He did not proof-read it. It said, "Congratulations Jennifer." That's it. No mention of Kevin, the groom. So Jenny, a resourceful girl, took some cookies and smashed them onto the cake over the writing. Now it was just...cake and cookies. Brilliant. Aunt Chris and her mother-in-law Charlotte sat with us at our table, which was nice but fun also cuz we got the low down on who everyone in the wedding party was. After dinner followed the bridesmaid and groomsmen gift presentations and tears were shed by all. After that mom and I left because baby brudder Travis and girlfriend Meg were due in from Boston.

Trav finally showed up, Mandi and Jo harrassed him for awhile, we all crashed.

Saturday was wedding day. Dad wanted to have everyone meet for lunch, but I stayed at Mom's, alone, to shower, warm up my voice and study my lyrics (partly in Italian, which I haven't had to sing in about 20 years). I live alone. I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the people, so I needed to get my head on straight before I had to sing. I hate that I missed more time with Dad but I'm glad I had the time to myself, cuz by the time everyone got back and we had to go into "buncha-girls-and-one-dude-getting-ready-for-prom-in-tiny-apartment" mode, I was prepared (poor Mommy was out of her skin with all the stuff laying around the house...she tried so hard to keep it orderly that she'd practically wisk a glass right out of our hands to wash it whether we were done with it or not!). And they were kind enough to bring me back half a grinder from Romana's! If you don't know what a grinder is (and most people outside of the mid-New York State area don't), it's basically a toasted sub but soooooooo much better than any of that stuff you get at Quizno's or chain places. Once you have a grinder, you wil snub your nose at any other sub on the planet thereafter. And Romana's grinders are AWESOME. In fact, I want one right now. Unforch, I am in I guess I'll have to settle for an authentic slice o' pizza instead (darn the luck).

So back to the church early for one last rehearsal with Ed...and then The Wedding. And I got the best seat in the house, sitting in the choir loft! Check out this view!

I wanted to take more pictures but my cell phone camera is rather loud and I didn't want to disrupt things too much. I'm glad I got this one good shot, though.

I got through the wedding songs without having a meltdown...I am grateful for the last minute rehearsal cuz THAT'S when I got choked up, so it was out of my system by the time I had to do it for real. The service was short and sweet and over before we knew it (as it should be!). It was lovely and simple. And of course Jenny giggled through the whole thing, cuz that's what she does when she's nervous. Totally cute.

Oh, and for those who might be curious, I sang "All I Ask Of You" from Phantom and "I Will Be Here" by Steven Curtis Chapman as people were being seated, then Andrea Bocelli/Celine Dion's "The Prayer" for the candle lighting.

(Off topic side note...Levi was not here last night when I got in...he was in Montreal doing promotional stuff for MDQ and a show of his own stuff. He got back a bit ago and is now in the living room as I type running songs by Asleep At The Wheel, who are sitting in for tonight's MDQ encore...yeah, just singin' and playin' away...neener neener, LK fans!)

RECEPTION!!! We went to the Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia. The open bar was cool, but the drinks were a bit weak (in all fairness though, there is more of me to inebriate than most people). So I felt like I got a lot more sodium from my vanilla vodka & Cokes than I got happiness. No matter though, the dinner was DELICIOUS  and the dancing was a hoot. Where I come from, it's not a wedding reception if there's no sit-down dinner and a DJ or band (take notes, Southern States...mingling and finger foods is NOT a wedding reception!). I even got my juicy patootie up on the dance floor a few times! I actually went a little nuts when they played Bon Jovi's "Living On A Prayer" (I am not ashamed - everyone was singing at the top of their lungs, including me, them's my boys). My mom and her twin, Uncle Steve, did the jitterbug at one point, all my aunts, uncles and cousins were dancing with each other, Cousin Bill split his chin doing the worm, Dad and Linda cut a very fine rug, and even my 85 year old grandmother got out and did her thing once or twice. My only complaint is that it was over too soon. We had a blast!

The next day dawned way too early. We had lunch planned with Dad and Linda at The Raindancer in Amsterdam (seriously...I know I am not the healthiest or lightest of eaters on the planet, but by Sunday evening I didn't want to eat again for two weeks after this trip!). I pretty much had decided that I liked Linda by the night before, when she didn't flinch over Dad's or his kids' purposeful goofiness on the dance floor (we are a lot to take in), but dinner on Sunday made it official. Dad seems relaxed with her, able to be himself, which is not something I noticed with any other women he's dated...and since he actually went and married this one, it was a great relief. She seemed to just let him be who he is and like that about him, which is something I really wanted for my dad. Stamp of approval. Eldest daughter can rest easy.

After that, it was back to Mom's to see Trav and Meg off (way too short a visit with them) and some much needed lounging. Completely uneventful last night in J'town.

Monday morning I got up around 8:30 to pack up my stuff and get on the Amtrak to NYC for a few days. But before I got on the train, I stopped at the Willing Helpers Home, where my grandmother is a new resident, to see her one last time. She quite literally moved in there the week before I got home. She is suffering from dimentia, her short term memory is shot. And she knows she's forgetting things. Without going into detail...these were the not-so-fun parts of my trip. I face the possibility of her not knowing who I am when next I come home. I am losing my Mima and that makes me intensely sad.

The stupid Amtrak was an hour and a half late. WTH??? I shouldn't be surprised really...this is where I come from. The station is a "shanty" (as my bro called it) in the middle of nowhere. They don't even have a station agent there. What can ya do? Otherwise, it was a pleasant, comfortable trip, WAY more comfy than an fact, so comfy that I slept through the whole dang thing and didn't see hardly any of the countryside! Everytime I kinda awoke, I'd groggily think, "Oh...that's awfully pretty..." and then I'd be back out like a light (note to self: travel by train whenever it's possible to do so...but try and be awake for it, at least through gorgeous New York State). I finally get to Penn Station, which wasn't so easy to find my way around (seriously, they need a "To The Surface" sign or two!), and I was hit up for money three times by men claiming to be veterans (one of whom looked like he'd been in a bad fist fight) before I ever started my walk to Levi's apartment. Ah, Midtown. I'm back.

I think that's all I'll write for now...I'll leave my singing exploits for Part III. I'm finally feeling slightly hungry again and want to go get a slice. Yay!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I ♥ (Upstate) NY Part I

So here I am in upstate New York on a chilly November night. Day two of The Great Wedding Adventure. My cousin Jenny Jo (or Jen, as she now prefers...evs...she is perpetually six years old in my head and therefore perpetually Jenny Jo till one of us kicks it) is getting married to Kevin on Saturday. The entire fam, from all corners of the U.S., have made the exodus to good ole Fulton County, NY (which I've referred to in the past as "The Armpit of the World" -- it's cleaned up quite a bit of late) to celebrate. And I mean CELEBRATE. Open bar, people. As my sister Jodianne said, "BIG mistake. HUGE." We haven't been together as an entire family since the LAST cousin's wedding, which was over a decade ago.

It's so on.

I have been blessed. I don't say that in the way that everyone overuses these days cuz it's "hip" to be "blessed," but I say that really wondering how I got so stupid lucky. I come from a bunch of really intelligent, hard-working, proud, upstanding, athletic, creative and HILARIOUS people. Okay some are more athletic than others...and some of us get to sing. But overall, our family has never had - as far as I can tell - any huge falling out or family squabble or vile hatred of each other, etc. Divorces have happened, sure. Near divorces too, no doubt. But that's the extent of any incivility (is that a word? It is now, anyway). I can't imagine a family where this sister doesn't talk to that brother or Aunt X can't be in the room with Uncle Y or having screaming matches about who Mom liked best...or god forbid, plotting a family member's demise (I watch a lot of Law & Order). In fact, my Dad and his new wife are attending this wedding...and so is my mom. We'll all be together all day. And it's just not that big of a deal.

That said, I got a little taste of the fun we'll be having on Saturday already. The bride-to-be stopped by yesterday afternoon (we don't know where she found the time!) and had a nice visit with me, my sisters and Mom. We laugh a lot when Jenny's around...she laughs at everything we say, but she's pretty hysterical herself and doesn't give herself enough credit for it. She also informed us that she's told people that "the entertainment has arrived." She wasn't just referring to me singing at the wedding. She meant "my crazy cousins from California are here - wait till you meet THEM!" No feeling blue that day, I guess! The show must go on! Not that we would be feeling blue...Jenny's getting married to a very nice man and she's gonna be the prettiest of brides, ever. And no doubt the smiliest. Cuz her smile is 1000 watts even on her bad days.

Today my and seester Mandi's friend Nan drove all the way down from Burlington VT (about 3 1/2 hours) just to have lunch with us! Nan is a friend from L.A. who is an upstate NY native and moved back east a few years ago. We haven't seen her in a couple of those years, I think. So it was not only delightful to see her, but impressive that she would make that trip down and back in one day just for US. We didn't have nearly enough time to catch up, but I'm grateful for the time we did get. And she brought us Vermont treats. We love Nan. ♥

After returning from lunch, Dad and new wife Linda stopped by (*surprise!*), as they'd just got off the plane and had a little time to kill. This is my first time meeting Linda, even though she was apparently the nurse at my elementary school (I have no recollection!). There wasn't much of a chance to really get to know her in that half hour, but she seems very nice so far. The real litmus test will be how she handles family dinner on Sunday afternoon. Dad has been known to play "war" with the remains of his surf-n-turf on his plate. Does she know THAT Dad? I hope so. And I hope she loves that Dad.

After that, we raced off to Uncle Steve (Mom's twin) and Aunt Penny's to hang with them, his daughter (Cousin Lindsey), my grandmother Mima and Aunt Micki and "Uncle" (dude's my age) C.B., who'd just gotten in from Colorado. Cousin Bill unfortunately had to work. Aunt Penny can COOOOOOOK, peeps. Lasagna, meatballs, an unbelievable salad, wine, wine and more wine...and sooooooo much laughter! I was so tired (cuz I flew in on a red eye Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and between that and the time zone change my clock is all whacked out), but not nearly ready to go when Mom called time (early work in the morning for her). I was glad to know more was to come on Saturday.

So far so good. Tomorrow breakfast with dad, pre-rehearsal with the pianist, wedding rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, then my baby brother comes in from Boston. I guess I'd better rest these cords as I'm on the job tomorrow. Who says there are no jobs out there? There's always work for a singer. :-) be cont'd...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

For Matt

Feeling unmotivated is a dangerous place for Darci to be. It's different from just feeling lazy...lazy for me means, "I'm taking the day for myself. I'll watch a movie or two, maybe read a little bit. Make the conscious decision to shirk responsibility because I need a break." Lazy can be healthy on occasion.

However, unmotivated means, "I'm in a rut. I don't know what to do or where to focus next. IS there even anything to do or focus on? And if I do manage to get my ass in gear I'll probably manage to screw it up..."

And just like that, Dark Darci has broken into the building, taken Delightful Darci hostage and beaten her right back into submission.

I was wondering why I woke up feeling this way when I'd been doing so well recently and I have to attribute it to two things of which I'm aware:

1) I've had a sinus infection the last couple weeks that just won't quit (actually I think it turned into a little head cold, but don't tell Delightful Darci, because she's choosing to believe that "even now her body is restoring itself to its original state of perfect health and well-being."). Turns out I'm not a very good patient. Prolonged under-the-weatherness tends to wear on my attitude faster than anything else that presently comes to mind.

2) My neighbor Matt, he who can MacGuyver a back yard into a full fledged mini-amphitheater, is back in the hospital with pneumonia...and most likely numerous other things that he will not tell me about. "I'm fine, dear, I'll be fine."

Those who know me and participated in Angels Over Nashville will recall that a couple days after we put on that fundraiser, Matt was hospitalized for a collapsed lung. He had about one week after he came back home where he was full of energy and could not stop eating (he definitely needs to eat) but after that he started hiding away in his apartment for a few days at a time. Now, Matt hasn't been well for years. He was born with health issues and had, if I remember correctly, something like 70 surgeries on his feet by the time he was five years old. But he's the Terminator, you can't stop him, nor will he EVER say no to someone he cares about and when you say "keep it simple," that to him signifies, "pull out all the stops." The weather got unseasonably cool during this time, so I assumed he was feeling achy and taking it easy, because having had a few surgeries myself, I know how incision locations can be uncomfortable during drastic temperature changes. I never allow him more than three or four days of disappearance though, before I call him or let myself into his apartment to check on him. This time on the fourth day, I left him a message asking for his advice on how I should paint a piece of furniture I'd just bought (he's always refurbishing things), but didn't hear back. By my other neighbor Chris later that evening, I'd found out Matt was back in the hospital.

Without regaling you, dear reader, with the details of his health issues over the years (many of which I probably don't even know), I'll simply say this: it appears he will be in the hospital for some time - and I personally fear that it doesn't look good this time. And I'm not sure what to do about it because I am terrified that if - God forbid - he never comes home that I'm the one to blame. Between my birthday party in May and A.O.N. in June, I believe he planned and designed and hauled and lifted and built and painted and constructed and decorated way way way too much for his body to handle (he's freakishly strong for someone of his frail appearance, but I think he's also in a bit of denial about how much he can take, too). The doctors suspect he had that collapsed lung a good couple or three days before we even did the show - and he kept working right through it. My pleas to keep it simple went naturally ignored, as did my questions about whether he'd put anything in his body other than white wine and cigarettes all day. He's not been the same since he got back from the hospital after A.O.N. And he did that for free, for me, simply because I asked if we could do it.

I'm afraid I'm killing him.

So I'm unmotivated and in a funk and in a strange mental suspension. Not to be macabre or anything, but if he never comes home, life as we all know it at Riverton Bowl will drastically change. We, his neighbors, have had this at the back of our minds for a long time, now. This isn't Riverton Bowl without Matt. What was once a dirt mound in the middle of a strip of auto and industrial shops, Matt has single-handedly (and out of his own pocket) turned into this little Eden:

This is my front yard.

With his bare hands he made this stage for my birthday party and the Angels Over Nashville benefit:

(Kelly Z. and Perry of Kelly's Lot)

And this lovely set up for the audience and party goers:

If my pilot lights go out, he comes and lights them for me. He often shows up at my door with something he found at Big Lots that he knows I could use. He painted my coffee table for me. When I approached him about teaching voice lessons at home his response wasn't to complain about all the noise it would make but said, "Well it's about damned time you decided to make some money with those gifts of yours. At least SOMEONE in that apartment will be singing!" And now, he waits to water the lawn till my voice lessons are done for the day. He never orders a pizza without asking if I want to order, too. He bought me a welcome mat simply cuz he thought I needed one. He asks me every spring what color flowers I would like in the planter in front of my window. He feeds my cat, DangerPickleKitty, whenever I go out of town. He leaves copies of Cabaret Scene magazine wedged in my door when I'm not home. He brought me a flower one day because the day before I'd had a bad day. When one of our neighbors was out of work, Matt offered to pay him to go through his mother's LP collection and inventory everything (in which they found a 78 of the Jackson 5 signed by Tito, Jermaine and yes, Michael Jackson, worth a minimum of $3000). And every holiday season, starting on October 1st, he decorates lavishly for Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Many of these are things I cannot do, or wouldn't actually think to do myself. Whomever comes after him certainly won't.

Most importantly, if not for Matt, I might very well have ended up homeless five years ago. Times were very rough for me and I was looking for an apartment with a bankruptcy on my record. No one - and I mean NO ONE - would rent to me, despite the facts that I'd been at a stable job for two years and that my mother was even willing to cosign. When I came to look at this place, both my options and time were rapidly running out. I could tell Matt, who was acting as property manager for the purpose of showing the apartment, took a shine to me immediately (as 99.9% of gay men do) and said he'd put in a good word for me. He told me later that after I left he immediately called our landlord and said, "I want HER." Landlord said, "Well I have to check her credit and such," and Matt said, "There's a bankruptcy, but I don't care, I want HER to be my neighbor and I'm not letting anyone else look at the place. If you want to show it to anyone else you'll have to come do it yourself." And just like that, it was done. Thank God, thank God, thank God for Matt. Two weeks later and I would've been on the street, but instead I was moving in next door to a chain-smoking, wine-drinking, award-winning lighting/set designer with the patience of Job, the heart of a lion, a gifted green thumb and a knowledge of musical theater I'd dare anyone to best.

Don't get me wrong. Matt's my neighbor and he still finds ways to annoy the crap out of me, cuz that's what neighbors do. Blasting original Broadway cast recordings and gay icons at decibal eleven with his front door open is one of them. But I'd be okay to hear Barbra's machine-gun vibrato or a few very loud bars of 42nd Street right about now. I just want him to come home.

I'm not sure my heart - or my conscience - could deal with the alternative.

(If you'd like to comment on this blog, you are most welcome to, but please do not privately email me about this. I don't want to have discussions going on in several different places. In fact, I don't really want to discuss it any further than this at all at the moment. Thanks for understanding.).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Lessons in Letting Go

So, I have interesting things upon my heart this evening but am not quite sure where to begin or quite how to share any of it because other people are involved...and I don't wish to rock anyone's boat, including mine. However, I have learned much about myself this week about how I am beginning to deal with relationships as opposed to how I have in the past, experiencing miracles...I feel compelled to share.

Quite simply, I am learning to let go and let God.

(Okay, I realize some of you reading my blog don't believe in God in the traditional Christian sense or even at all. I hope you won't feel discouraged to read on, but will apply a moniker that is comfortable to you...Higher Power, the Universe, Goddess, etc. Uh...except Satan. I have to draw the line somewhere. Moving right along...)

Lesson #1:

Earlier in the week a new friend dropped me from her friends list on Facebook. I know right? OH THE HORROR! 


This new friend has been a bit of a dilemma to me since we met. Her first impression was NOT good. But being a person who does not make good first impressions herself (as I've been told all my life, I am apparently "intimidating" upon first meeting and it seems NO amount of either true sincerity OR syrupy sweetness I employ in my "Nice to meet you!" makes a difference), I decided to give her a second chance when she approached me to get together. So we had a couple outings, a few phone calls, all went well enough.

But my gut nagged me. And nagged me. And nagged me.

I dismissed it and told myself that I just needed to find my footing with this person. That perhaps we simply weren't a natural match, we were both strong women and needed to just allow each other to be who we were and accept each other as such. At least, I would do so with her. After all -- in trying to learn not to judge myself so harshly (I have a real abusive streak within myself), I am trying not to do so with others as well.

Alas...this woman, while very intelligent, driven and talented, seemed to be dogged by drama everywhere she went. And without getting into gory details, I dare say stirred the pot herself on several occasions. Over the course of two short months I watched her establish and sever several new friendships, both in person and via Facebook. A couple posts she made seemed suspiciously undermining to me personally, but I will give the benefit of the doubt that I'm mistaken because things aren't always as they appear (and shockingly, the world doesn't actually revolve around me...uh...whatEVER!). However, she was also very critical of others, prone to gossip and - I hate to go here - opportunistic. There is a difference between someone who is friendly and a good networker and one who is merely an opportunist. Living in L.A., it is often very hard to tell the difference. And in one particular situation her opportunism did involve me, though I never mentioned to her that I'd found her out.

And dilemma was what to do about this new person in my life. I am working hard on choosing happiness and joy on a daily basis lately (not an easy task for a New York-raised temperamental and stubborn French/Italian girl), asking God to lead the right people to me (either in friendship or business) who are also seekers of joy. By her words and actions this person had indicated that she was not interested in that. And really that's perfectly fine...but it is not an ideal environment for me. So I had been asking of God, "How did I attract this person and what am I supposed to learn - or perhaps teach - here?" And then I'd said, "It is what it is. Whatever is going on, just allow me to be a vessel of good and let the chips fall where they may."

As it turns out...that's all I had to do. Because it wasn't long after that that she dropped me from her friends list (allegedly because I had someone on my own list that she claims to have a very bad history with and didn't want to be found by). And so...she severed another new friendship. Just like that.

There was a time when this sort of action would DEVASTATE me. I would blame myself, whine about what I did wrong, obsess over why that person didn't like me enough, etc., etc. This time not so much. Not because my heart is a cold little lump of coal and I didn't care about the person, but because I let go of control of it and let the Universe handle it. And handle it it did. Knowing I'm pursuing a different kind of life for myself, one of joyfulness, love, prosperity and service, and seeking people of like mind, God removed a possible obstacle in that path almost faster than I could blink. When I said, "It's all yours," it was done. The End.

No doubt I will still see her around - and I harbor no ill will and will be more than friendly and courteous to her when I do. And I sincerely hope that she will one day find a way to break the chains of her own discontent.

Lesson #2:

I have a long time friend in another city far away who is the grandest of all fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants types you will ever meet. Ever. I MEAN EVER. Often to his detriment. And often, unwittingly at the expense of people he cares about.

I'm a planner. To a degree. I've learned though, since I've stopped working those miserable 9 to 5's (or 6's, as is actually the case these days), how to go with the flow a little bit more. As a musician, voice coach and part time nanny, my weekly schedule often changes from day to day. And I've learned to be okay with that.

(This also means the income fluctuates too...which I'm not quite so okay with yet. Learning. Drop a tip in the jar? Thanks! --->)

Except when I'm traveling. Especially when I am relying on the kindness of others to put me in a bed at night and I've spent my hard-earned money on a non-changeable, non-refundable plane ticket(s). It's a lot to descend upon a person's already-established routine and personal space, especially when a significant other also shares that space - and so I don't assume anything. I PLAN.

Unfortunately my friend doesn't know how to answer his phone, a text, an email, a Facebook post or a direct message on Twitter. If MySpace mattered anymore, he no doubt would've ignored a message there, too. Seeeeeeeriously. ANSWER A DIVA!!!

Finally, at least knowing I'd prior been given an open invitation to come visit at any time I'd like, I send an email saying, "Tried to call and verify dates with you...I'm coming to stay with you on X,Y and Z. Hope it's still okay, can't wait to see you."

What happens? Butthead goes and books himself another committment OUT OF TOWN on one of the days I'm coming to visit!


I felt like someone had just shredded my soul. I was sooooooo hurt, thinking, "Oh my God...he forgot I was coming to visit...I am at the very best an afterthought to him." This is a person who is family-of-choice for me. We've been through a lot together. We've definitely had our issues and we've worked through them. This is not a person that only crosses my mind once in awhile, or is just an acquaintance or business contact. He is family. He is stuck with me.

And it felt to me that despite being told I am the same to him, it was never true. Because who the hell goes out of town when their sister-from-another-mister is coming to visit???

And so I left him a "You'd better call me NOW!" voice mail and then had a really REALLY good cry for a few minutes. Okay more than a few minutes. This was not the first time my friend's happy-go-lucky ways have ended up causing me pain, frustration or plain ole outrage. Truth be told, I have always felt like an afterthought to him and this felt merely like solid, unmistakeable proof at long last. And so, after the good cry, I prayed and considered what to do next. It seemed I had a decision to make. I would not go through this sort of thing anymore. I just wouldn't. And miraculously, I let it go. My anger dissipated. I was still hurt, because it is sometimes painful when it's a person you've decided to let go, but I had peace about it. In my mind I said, "Whatever happens will be fine. He might fix it, he might not, we might stay friends, we might not, but either way it's all good, because I cannot try to make him be something he is not...but I am also not willing to feel like this anymore."

And for the first time in my life, I did not dwell. I knew we'd talk about it eventually, but in the meantime I didn't put on my sackcloth, go sit in a pile of ashes and gnash my teeth waiting for a call. I didn't lose any sleep that night (this is saying a lot for an insomniac). I didn't writhe and moan and cry out, "Oh God, why doesn't he caaaaaaare??? Why doesn't anyone loooooooooove meeeeeeeeee???!!!" Hello...I didn't even go get me some CrackDonald's! I simply didn't put on any of those comfortable, smelly old shoes.

You people don't know. This is HUGE for me. I mean HUGE. An Oprah-worthy breakthrough!

We talked the next day. Turns out his job is sending him out of town, so he had no choice, but I can still stay at his place while I'm in town. I said that where I'd stay wasn't the point. So I was tearing up a little bit (cuz I'm just not as confrontational as people think I am) and he didn't understand why. So I told him how it looked to me and how it had made me feel - like he hadn't remembered or cared that I was coming to visit.

And then a miracle happened. For the first time in all the years I've known him, with all the arguments we've had, I have NEVER heard him say the words he said next:

"Oh my God, I'm soooo sorry..."

That made me cry more.

He went on to say that I should never think that I'm an afterthought and of course he knows he has to get better with communication and scheduling but I could show up on his doorstep tomorrow and it would always be okay and one of the reasons I'm in his life is to help him learn this very thing and blah blah blah. I didn't hear much else because I was so stunned by his reaction, which in the past is usually something closer to frigidly saying, "Well...what you think isn't true, so you shouldn't feel like that." Not exactly comforting, ya know? This is a testament to how hard he's been working on himself as an individual as well, that for the first time we've had a misunderstanding he apologized to me and even sounded appropriately horrified. It was a salve on my heart. And all I've ever needed to hear, I realized later.

When we hung up the phone, I thought back to other misunderstandings we'd had over the years and how worked up I'd get, how much drama I'd make out of it, how hard I tried to get him to change...and how he in turn would shut down, detach and act unconcerned about how I felt. I don't know if our conversation today was anywhere near the big deal to him as it was to me...but I know that if I had not chosen the night before to take responsibility for myself only and not try to manipulate the situation into what I wanted that our conversation would have ended very differently. And it wouldn't have been a good ending at all. I am so grateful for the changes that are going on within both of us and the long-needed repairs to our friendship taking place, even this many miles away. All from handing the control over. It's amazeballs.

Now if can just learn to let go of this nagging little sinus steps, I guess...

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gifts The Storm May Bring (Part Three)

Alright...I'm finally making myself finish part three of this blog that all two of you have been patiently awaiting! To read part one, click here and to read part two, click here. Or, just scroll down a bit. Or...A LOT.

So where we last left off..."Angels Over Nashville," the benefit I threw together for flood victims. Having lived there for twelve-thirteenish years, I was heartbroken over the devastation to the beautiful city I got my career started in. I HAD to do something. So, having had so much fun at my birthday party, my wonderful neighbors (Matt, Chris, Jen and Leslie) were agreeable to hosting a concert on our property (aka: "Riverton Bowl"). It occurred to me that it was much more cost effective than trying to get a venue in this pay-to-play town. This way, 100% of the cover goes to the cause and NOT the venue, parking's plentiful and free, there are no drink minimums and the atmosphere was casual and pressure-free. AND we could webcast it so our friends in Nashville could watch if they wanted.

The lineup that night was Illusionary (instrumental smooth jazz), Melissa Collins (adult contemporary/pop), Marie Pettit (comedy), Bobby Werner (neo soul/hip hop),  Kelly's Lot (blues/rock), HiTPLAY (Joe Hogue and Sean Peterson - pop/hip hop) and of course, moi. Not in that order, exactly. Here's the poster I made, which I'm pretty dang proud of for someone who has NO graphic art skills or owns Photoshop!

So I had decided NOT to send the money we raised to the Red Cross because they weren't actually dispersing the funds they raised to families in need. They delegated them to other things, which perhaps in some crisis is appropriate, but in this case homes were completely destroyed and no one in this landlocked state had flood insurance. Therefore many desperately just needed money to rebuild. They didn't need a therapist with a boxed lunch. I instead chose to send part of the money to MusiCares, because not only were they the only organization I'd heard was actually distributing cash to those who needed it, but they'd helped me out a little over a year ago when I needed it. I also decided to adopt a special family who qualified for no FEMA or tradtional charitable assistance but had $40,000 worth of damage to their family home and no way to pay for it. 

I cannot describe to you the many blessings that came out of putting on this event. My neighbors Matt and Chris built a stage complete with pretty lighting! Chris' brother-in-law, who works for the Ellen Show, donated our sound system and Illusionary donated the use of an FX mixer to round it all out. Kelly Z. of Kelly's Lot got Widmer Beer, who sponsors them, to donate beer for our event. We had amazing raffle items - photography sessions, makeup sessions, handmade jewelry by Gina Venturini Designs (my Tony jewelry designer), space organization sessions, original artwork by Gene-Manuel and Lori Bowen, signed CDs by our artists that were performing as well as my friend/cowriter and newly-minted Tony winner Levi Kreis, portable workout equipment, signed headshots from Booboo Stewart ("Twilight: Eclipse"), free voice lessons (of course from me!), baked goods from MandiCakes, acupuncture sessions, massages,, man so many things that I can't think of everything or possibly link to EVERYONE who donated goods or services. On my neighbor Jen's brilliant suggestion (as she works for the Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce and her life is seemingly one charitable event/raffle after another), I ended up pooling together certain relatable items and creating three large raffle packages and those who purchased raffle tickets could bid some or all of their tickets on whatever package they wanted most to win. First, I made a "Zen Package" full of things that make you feel good (like the massage, acupuncture, MandiCakes, bath and body stuff, some artwork, etc.). Next  a "Supah Stah Package" full of stuff that actors and/or musicians could use (like headshots, makeup session, fabulous jewelry, voice lessons, etc.). And finally a "New Music Package" that contained all the autographed merch from the artists involved plus a few others. After that we still had a bunch of gorgeous jewelry and a few other items that we raffled off piece by piece.

The show itself went amazingly smoothly, considering I didn't know as of that morning who was emceeing (Neighbor Leslie stepped in and was FANTASTIC) or what I was singing or whether or not one of my artists would make it from a family function in time for his set. Most everything righted itself by showtime and the remainder did as the evening progressed. The webcast looked and sounded REALLY good (according to feedback) and we were blessed with absolutely perfect weather. Everyone was relaxed and enjoying themselves. 

As you can see, we had an AMAZING night! (See a whole bunch of more pictures here)

But at the end of the night, we'd only brought in about $700. We just didn't have the attendance I was hoping for. I was soooooo disappointed. I busted my butt to get the word out. I personally spent hours one day putting fliers on cars in my neighborhood and in Burbank (and was threatened with legal action for doing so by Bob's Big Boy...JERKS! BOYCOTT!). We had announcements on several podcasts and blogs (thanks to my friend Karen Brundage who helped with the PR). But, much of my fanbase is gay, and it was Gay Pride weekend in San Francisco (in case you don't know, San Francisco = gay Mecca). So lots of my friends/fans who may have come to the event otherwise travelled for Pride that weekend - with their "disposable incomes." I had a lineup of great talent, but mostly newcomers whose fanbases weren't established yet. Still, I had thought the perks of not raping my audience's wallets with drink minimums and parking fees - AND OFFERING FREE BEER! - would save us.

Alas, it didn't. Oh, L.A. Are you trying to kill me?

I was deflated. I knew MusiCares would be just fine, since even the littlest bit coming in from all manner of places adds up for them...but I definitely felt like I had let our adopted family down, the father of which happened to be an old friend from college. He assured me that even half of that would buy a hell of a lot of sheet rock and that they were just blown away that a bunch of strangers would come together to do something for his family 2000 miles away - but still I was inconsolable. The day after A.O.N. I just went to Karen's (aforementioned friend in P.R.) and caught up on that season's episodes of "Supernatural" so I wouldn't spend all day in bed feeling sorry for myself.

Because of course, this was all about ME, right? About God blessing MY efforts because I was doing a good thing and for Pete's sake no one else was bothering so all the good karma was on its way to ME, right?


Monday morning comes and I'm still enjoying my pity party. I get a phone call from someone who had attended the concert. She said she and her husband simply couldn't get our adopted family off their minds and felt compelled to do something more. She asked what the take ended up being and I told her. She then explained that they set aside money every year specifically for charitable donations and they wanted to donate enough to make our earnings for the event an even $2000. One condition: anonymity. Because "God asks us to give, but He also asks us to do so humbly," she said. I just burst into tears. I couldn't even believe it. As my little sister Mandi would say, "It's a Christmas miracle!" Christmas in June, at any rate!

And guess what? It was NEVER about me. DUH. Ah, creative types. We are terribly, terribly self-absorbed sometimes.

Give. And do so humbly.

Maybe JLo isn't the narcissistic hack I've always maintained (and heard). Maybe she does charitable things and donates gobs of money to the needy quietly, when the papparazzi aren't looking. How do I know she doesn't?

What? A girl can dream.

And so...there's not much else to say except that calling our adopted family to tell them was one of the greatest moments of my life. The one and only time I was more than happy to hear the words, "Shut. Up!" directed at me. I've never been happier to make a call in my life. And I detest talking on the phone.

My sincerest thanks to all involved - my amazing neighbors Matt, Chris, Jen and Leslie, all the wonderful musicians who donated their time (and merch), everyone who donated goods and services for our raffle, my dear friend Nick who designed the fabulous logo, Karen with the P.R. and especially our Anonymous Angels! I don't plan to stop there...I would like to write a song with Levi and record it and donate the profits to the ongoing relief effort. Nashville's doing much better, but there was $1 billion worth of damage and still thousands of families displaced. They will need our help for a long time. 

If you missed the concert or the webcast, you can still donate to help our adopted family, the Scoggins', or MusiCares at the following links:

To the Scoggins Family:
(Ms. Paige is Mr. Scoggins' sister)

To MusiCares:

And more pics here!

Storm: Nashville, literally.
Gift: Angels, everywhere I go, everywhere I am.

Life has just been such a wonderful ride lately. More stories to come! Thank you sincerely for reading!

Friday, July 09, 2010

Gifts The Storm May Bring (Part Two)

July 4th - this is a continuation of Part One, so you might want to scroll down and catch up with that first so you know what's going on. After you get a snack and a beverage and make yourself comfortable, that is. This puppy's practically a novella. Check out a bunch of pics from my NY trip HERE.

Alright...on Monday I checked out of the Hampton Inn and since no one at La Casa Levi was answering phone calls, I wandered around Midtown for a few hours since I couldn't check into my new hotel for awhile.

Again, Midtown stank. But the people-watching was AWESOME!

At one point, I thought I was sitting outside of Penn Station and updated my status on Ye Olde Facebook and Twitter saying so. My sweet friend, the fabulous up-and-coming artist Gene-Manuel (who I would be meeting for lunch on Thursday), texted me and said he'd meet me to say hi cuz he was close by. Well, in the course of more texting, we discovered I'm a doofus and I had been sitting in front of the Port Authority, indeed NOT Penn Station (cuz somehow I'd not noticed the giant "PORT AUTHORITY" marquee over the doors - ???). That boy went and ran ten blocks to meet me ANYWAY! Crazy fool. But it was lovely to see him even briefly that day. He took me to get my weekly Subway pass and then told me how to get back to the hotel to get my stuff. He also said Midtown's "pretty much a pit" and he's pretty much the most positive guy living on the planet, so I can rest assured it wasn't just me being a snob! :-)

Got my luggage, took a cab to my new hotel on the Upper West Side (frou frou!), On The Avenue. Suh-weet digs! I'd never stayed in a hotel room with a mini-bar before (not even in Vegas, where I visit often - or used to, when I had money to waste). I promptly disrobed and climbed into the AMAZING, poofy bed with way too many pillows (I swear it felt like sleeping on a cloud) and napped. VERY HARD.

And then finally, after about five years of online-only friendship and a few phone calls, my friend Tiffany Keiller - who made this whole trip possible - descended upon New York City from Canada, eh. It didn't even feel weird to meet her. I just said, "It's YOU!!!" and we had a big hug and then jumped on her bed and started yakkety-yakking like school girls.

That night we got dressed and went to the world famous jazz club Birdland for Jim Caruso's Cast Party (read all about my experience with Cast Party in L.A. in my "Magic at the Castle" blog!). I was SO excited to a) finally visit Birdland and SING there after hearing of it my whole life and b) to check out Cast Party where it originally began, AND c) get to see my longtime friend Mark Aaron James (we met back in our Nashville days) who told me about Cast Party in the first place and had just moved back to NY three weeks earlier after a couple years in London. Oh and d) to see my sweet and talented friends Marla and Richard from here in L.A., who were in "Not Your Mama's Broadway" with me and who just happened to be vacationing in NY at the same time! How small IS this world, people? And you don't think there is a Grand Design? I mean C'MON!

Here's video of me singing that night (and I hope those of you without Facebook can view it, haven't had time to get it onto YouTube yet):

I cannot put into words how this felt, to be singing at a world famous jazz club, to have shared a stage with Linda Lavin (who had been nominated for a Tony this year), Sarah Paulson (who did some funny impressions at Jim's behest and was in the fabulous but short-lived Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) and other unbelievably talented musicians and entertainers (including an Italian dude who I just saw on America's Got Talent for standing on his head on a basketball - which he did for us at the club - and swallowed some balloons - inflated). AND I got enthusiastic applause, too! Man, New York audiences are tough and they've heard the best singers in the world (and many have sung at Cast Party), so they are not easy to impress, so I kinda felt pretty dang good about that. What a night! AND their food rocked! Delicious roasted rosemary chicken, garlic mashed potatoes and collard greens. Sooooooooooooo good. Oh AND the guy who seated us got up and sang "Stormy Weather" and blew the freakin' doors off the joint! I FREAKIN' LOVE NEW YORK!!!

Me. Onstage at Birdland. Yep. That's right. ME!

So Tiffany was a real trooper and lasted quite a long time for someone who'd been on a plane all day, but finally she started crashing and we had to go before all the entertainment ended (though that's the thing about Cast Party, it can go on for HOURS and unlike L.A., NY bars stay open past 2am). So back we went, feeling euphoric, full and sleepy, to our hotel.

Tuesday dawned and Tiffany, being a mother of two, was up way earlier than me. This happened every morning. She was kind enough not to wake me before 9am, though. We tried to go see the Statue of Liberty but by the time we got there there was a line as far as the eye could see. We asked an employee when the best time to come was and he deadpanned, "8 o'clock." Aka: in the morning. My favorite. So we planned to return on Thursday. We walked around Battery Park  a little bit and then decided to head to site of the new World Trade Center construction and St. Paul's Chapel across the street (where the Ground Zero workers would go between shifts to rest, eat, receive massages and love from volunteers from all over the country).

Construction at Ground Zero.

St. Paul's Chapel. George Washington used to worship here when he was President. It's the last standing colonial era church in Manhattan. It took two years to clean up all the debris from the Twin Towers from the property.

Now, Ground Zero is much different from when I visited in 2006 and was inspired to write "Go On." The makeshift memorial walls have been removed (and stored away for the time being) so that construction could begin. But as Tif mentioned, the atmosphere was still heavy. I anticipated that it might be a bit emotional for her being in the area for the first time, but I was surprised at how much it still got to me. Particularly once we went into the chapel, which still has services but is very much serving as an interim memorial, a tiny museum. They had removed all the pews but one (which was at the back of the chapel and covered in scuff marks from the workers boots who'd slept on it), I suppose to make it easier for visitors to move about and view the discreet displays, which are generally makeshift memorials with pictures of missing loved ones, information as to what went on there during the clean up efforts, personal notes and messages from volunteers and workers, hand-made signs and banners of encouragement from all over the world, one remaining rollaway bed, a reverend's robe covered in patches from all kinds of volunteer workers' uniforms from all over the world, even a tattered pair of boots and FDNY jacket, which I couldn't bear to take a picture of or look at very long. It was heartbreaking all over again, but also interesting to walk it through with my good friend from Canada, who was seeing this for the first time and whose wonderful people were there for us immediately after the tragedy. I was happy to be able to share the experience of what it meant to her, a citizen of another country. It opened my eyes a bit to what the city of New York and the U.S. in general stands for to the rest of the world. This is an honor that our leaders of all political parties have perhaps abused and taken for granted in recent decades and certainly must be rectified. We are so lucky to live here. We must never, EVER forget this or act like we, the still living, are entitled to be here. The blood of the dead - from the first Native American slain by the hands of a new settler to the most recent loss in Afghanistan - bought it for us. We should be grateful and humbled.

Sorry. Preachy. I get a little carried away sometimes.

After that, were were definitely ready for some levity. So we got ourselves ready to go see Levi's Tony-winning performance in Million Dollar Quartet at the Nederlander Theater!

Now there was an experience. Levi has been in this show for something like four years, originating his role as Jerry Lee Lewis from when it was just a table read. The show started in Seattle, moved to Chicago and finally landed in New York. I had never seen it. I finally got to and it happened to be his first show as a Tony award winner. Let me tell you something, this little show rocks. It's a jukebox show. Full of wonderful rockabilly classics, good ole fashioned fun. Levi's Tony was deserved (seriously, I'd like to see any PREVIOUS Tony winner sit on top of a piano and play it backwards), but I'd also like to compliment the rest of the cast, who I feel did some really fine work, particularly Robert Britton Lyons whose Carl Perkins was much more nuanced than the book allowed for (and the guy can shred on guitar). If you get a chance to see this show, just go. It's a blast!

Afterward we went backstage...we walked behind the set and saw panel after panel of cast members' signatures from every show that played the Nederlander you can imagine, including Rent:

Tif and I were all set to get our picture with the whole cast backstage. But freakin' Rhoda stole our thunder! We got over it, cuz we got THIS picture instead:

Valerie Harper and the cast of MDQ

But WE got to go up to Levi's dressing room, which is filled with little inspirational sayings on stickies, but desperately needs a woman's - or gay decorator's - touch. So I got this picture, which I lurve:

And Tif got THIS picture! What a sassafrass!

And then Levi showed me the box of chocolates that Whoopi Goldberg sent him (uh, no link necessary!), at which point I had a hissy fit and told him I was OVER being gracious and happy for him and now I was just plain jealous and then I wove a tapestry of obscenities that my parents would be MORTIFIED to have heard come out of my mouth. Tiffany and Levi, however, GREATLY enjoyed my little tantrum.

I mean c'mon. Who gets congratulatory chocolates from Whoopi?



So then we left the theater and said goodbye to Levi, as he lives within walking distance. Tif gave me a minute with Levi and that little private moment is just ours. ♥

On that note, I shall take a break and go to a cook out and celebrate Independence Day with my L.A. Family of Choice. I will finish up maybe late tonight or definitely by tomorrow. Would I have had this much fun in ANY other country in the world? GOD BLESS AMERICA!

July 9th - I'm back. Several days later than anticipated cuz it's been a busy week and I ended up with a nasty sinus infection that's trashing my voice. Lots of singing to get through this week so YAY for that! Happy to be on antibiotics and sterrhoids yet again. *thumbs up*

But enough now I'm having a hard time remembering what all we did on what day! I think Wednesday we stayed in the vicinity of our hotel, which was within walking distance of Central Park (which Tif checked out in the early hours of the morning before waking me up). At some point we had lunch at the amazing, hands down BEST burger place ON EARTH (and I ladies and gents, am a cheeseburger connoisseur)...The Shake Shack. Seriously, the burgers melt in your mouth like buttah! And they serve CRINKLE CUT fries! Ruined me for burgers anywhere else, ever again. Okay that's a lie, but I know where the best are. Then we visited the Museum of Natural History, which was REALLY cool. I LOVE museums! And I believe it's the one in Ben Stiller's "Night at the Museum" movies. Got lots of cool pictures of the ummm..."stuffed"?...animals to show the 3 1/2 year old twin girls I sit a couple days a week. They were enraptured. For five minutes. Then they were back to being shrieking little banshees. ♥ But I digress. That evening we decided to have a low key night and not be out too late so that we could scrape our butts out of bed early enough to see Lady Liberty the next morning, so we went to Times Square. And weirdly, it was quite relaxing! It was THE most beautiful night, humidity had let up, there was a light breeze, temperature was just right and there were enough people to make it bustle but not so many that you got annoyed. We sat for awhile and just watched people. There was an African-American dude dressed up like The Joker (a la Heath) who wouldn't let you take a picture of him unless you gave him a couple bucks. Said he's an actor out of work, with a little girl to feed. Nice guy. Of course, may have been insane and totally just never knows. After that, we debated - and chickened out of - going to the Empire State Building because we are both not so much in love with heights. I think I could've dealt with it, as I'd been to the top of the Twin Towers before as a kid and that was nauseatingly dizzifying, but since Tif was a first timer in NY, I kinda let her take the lead as to what she wanted to do. And she did NOT feel like conquering her fear that night! So we went back to the hotel eventually and got some rest.

The Joker wreaking havoc in Gotham.

Me protecting Times Square from the Joker. I'm ferocious, huh?

Thursday dawned - which is just an evil sentence in and of itself. Dawn...*shudder*. Lady Liberty day! We made it down there and in line by 8:30am and it went zip, zip, zip, just like Deadpan Boy from the other day had said. I love boats, I've decided. You have to get on one to get to the statue. Another perfect weather day, wind in our hair, the water splashing, and then the MAGNIFICENT site of the statue as you pull up to it. You see pictures of her your whole life, but seeing her up close and in person is really quite an emotional experience. I cannot imagine what the sight of her must have been like to immigrants from other countries who'd been at sea for weeks or months at a time, who had sacrificed everything for just a chance at a better life, not even knowing if they'd survive the trip. I must admit I got veklempt.

"Give me your tired, your poor
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore
Send these the homeless tempest-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door."

Words by Emma Lazarus, music by Irving Berlin

Then...Ellis Island. Sobering. I suspect I had relatives from the French side of the family pass through there but I don't have proof (yet). I did a report on it in 4th grade, so it was very interesting to see it in person finally. For the number of people who came through every day in its heyday (about 5,000), it didn't seem that big. I got the heeby jeebies thinking about how claustrophobic it must've been...all the unbathed bodies, all the confused and crying children, all the languages of the world being spoken at once, all the sick and injured and some probably downright crazy, how grumpy the employees probably were. Again...all of that...just to live in America.

I could've spent hours reading every little piece of information in that place (cuz I'm weird like that), but eventually we had to leave to meet our friends Gene-Manuel and Jhon Centurri for lunch. We met at a little pizza place in the West Village and chatted up a storm. Once upon a time, Gene stumbled upon a blog I wrote and dug it. He shared it with Jhon. He dug it. They both befriended me on Facebook and we've been buds since. I met them in person for the first time last September when they visited L.A. and I booked a little acoustic show and bbq in their honor in my backyard (aka, "Riverton Bowl", more on that later). Well Tiffany, being my friend online also became their friend online. And then, being a supporter and lover of the arts, she commissioned magicalized portraits of her kids from Gene. And now FINALLY, she was getting to meet him! Anyone who wants to gripe about the evils of the internet can bite my lily white one...I think it's AMAZING. If not for the internet, I would not have been in New York City that day in the first place, let alone enjoying some time and delicious pizza with three truly good-hearted human beings. Brilliant!

Come to find out...we were mere feet away from historic Stonewall and I didn't even know it! So after lunch, the four of us walked over there to check it out. And since I'm practically a gay man inside, I could not help but get my picture in front of the place.

I'm a tourist in NY, I know I look tragic. Don't judge.

Unfortunately, by this time in my trip, my last full day in NY, my feet were screaming with pain from all the walking. In L.A., no one walks anywhere. We drive. Even the skinny people drive everywhere (they have to get to the gym somehow). I'm admittedly an exercise-hater (why have a couch at all if not to sit on it?). So I knew this trip was going to be a lot for me. That said, I am REALLY proud of myself and how much physical activity I did accomplish throughout the week. I had been so worried that Tif would regret this trip with me, but she said a "more relaxed pace" turned out to be good for her cuz as a mom she's always rushing everywhere.'s good to keep a juicy girl around, aiight? I was DONE with a capital D and if I didn't get off my feet and prop them up soon I was going to start crying. They were literally throbbing in rhythm with my heartbeat and I could feel my knees shaking. I'm not even kidding. So sadly my afternoon with Gene and Jhon was cut shorter than I wanted and I went back to the hotel. Tif stayed with them and hung out for awhile longer. So sorry guys! Next trip I'm planning you in the BEGINNING before I lose mobility! Or...maybe I'll go on a diet. Nah, probably not. But it's the thought that counts.

Finally, that night we went out to hear my aforementioned friend Mark Aaron James play at Bar on A in the East Village - which, come to find out, cannot be reached by subway easily. Read: lots more walking. (C'MON!!!) Anyway, this was a new residency for him so the crowd was small, which meant I got to toss out requests for all my favorites of his originals cuz he wasn't really under that much pressure to do a bunch of covers. I'm not sure he loved me all that much for that, but I was happy and Tif enjoyed it. The place was a little bit dive-y but that's my kinda place. I can't stand swanky, glittery, pretentious, touristy joints - or the kind of people who frequent them. I prefer places with stories to tell and this was one of those. My favorite places in New York are the real New Yorker's places. It was a nice, low key last evening in town.

And we split a cab back to the hotel.!

Me and my longtime buddy, MAJ.

And the ONLY pic of me and Tif together on this whole trip. Seriously???

The next morning, we packed up, checked out, had some lunch across the street at Big Nick's Pizza & Burger Joint (better burgers than pizza, but still not better than Shake Shack!) and just walked around the area a little bit more, enjoying the architecture of the Upper West Side. Yes...I could live THERE. During spring and early summer anyway. Then, we got car service to the Newark airport and I hugged Tif just long enough to start to tear up and then I ran away into the airport like the jaded, emotionally-stunted freak that I am while the car drove her off to her own gate and back to Edmonton, Alberta.

Tiffany, I cannot adequately put into words how to thank you. I hope you just know inside how very grateful I am for ALL of it.

Storm: So unimportant.

And so I returned to Los Angeles rested, grateful, energized, strangely confident and with a fire lit under my booty. And for starters, I'd take on the "Angels Over Nashville" benefit at Riverton Bowl just a week later. And wait till you hear about THOSE gifts... be continued in Part Three. I know, I know. I PROMISE there will be no Part Four!