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Sword in the Stone

24 Jun


“Be the change” has been my mantra for years.  In fact, when I was teaching in Michigan, I said it so often that students would sometimes attribute the quote to me (as an English instructor I used it as a “teachable moment” to discourage plagiarism by properly attributing it to its rightful owner – Gandhi).

Attribution issues aside, I was gratified to realize that the message was getting through because my students felt like the best hope for change, and when I left the classroom in 2012, I worried that I wouldn’t feel that hope anymore.

I need not have worried.  Thanks to technology and social media, I’m finding small pockets of people who are doing things they love and being the change in their own corner of the world.

A few weeks ago, I saw a tweet from the Baltimore band, Blind Man Leading.  I followed the link, and watched one of the most uplifting band videos I’ve seen in a long time – maybe ever.  As I listened to the music and the band members (drummer/producer Paul Mercer, bass player/vocalist Tyler Wheeler, and guitarist/lead singer Dave Wentz) talk about what inspires them to make music, what struck me was their gratitude for their fans and their desire to build a community by making music that draws listeners together.

Dave explained, “Swords is a thank you to all of the people who listen,” Tyler followed, saying, “The purpose of this album is to get people to come out and listen,” and when Paul chimed in, “We appreciate all of the people who come to see us so much.  How do you capture that in a recording – that sense of community?” I was hooked.  These guys make music because they love both the creative process of making the music and the experience of gifting it to their listeners in their performances.

So, I tweeted back and told them they should come to Chicago, and to my surprise they responded!  As we engaged in a short exchange about a tour budget and how fan lottery winnings might be the way to fund it, I was amazed at their genuine interaction with fans via what can be such an impersonal medium.

I did a little research and listened to more of their music on their Bandcamp page, then bought the album, and listened to it for a few days.  The Bandcamp description of them as crafting and playing “…melodic, expressive songs that feature bright chords and upbeat, jazz-influenced rhythms” is absolutely accurate.  There’s something very honest and real about their music, and I felt uplifted hearing them sing, “You have choices.”

Dave, Paul, and Tyler in Philadelphia

Dave, Paul, and Tyler in Philadelphia – photo credit @amorealta (Paul’s Instagram)

So, being the rookie fan I am, I found the band’s email address and wrote them asking if they’d mind me blogging about them and their positive message. They responded much more quickly than I’d imagined they would, and were incredibly open to being part of my blog and generous about answering questions.

I wrote, “I’ll tell you that what really inspired me to want to write about you guys (beside the fact that I enjoyed your music) were two things in particular: the YouTube video where you talked about how you feel about your fans and the link on your page to the International Justice Mission.  In a world full of slickly packaged, commercialized music (which has its own place/value), I think music lovers are searching for (and often desperately craving) “real” experiences and it appears to me that this is something you guys strive to provide.”

To which Paul responded, “…we’re pretty fed up with the “slickly packaged, commercialized” part of the industry you’re alluding to, so we’ve made it a point to just write the best music we can and share it with people in an honest and genuine way. We seriously appreciate people who listen to the tunes and come to see us…we mean it when we say it means the world to us. So instead of complaining about the Modern Music Industry, or trying to be part of it, we simply try to connect with people through the music.”

When I wrote back and asked for background information, they immediately sent me links to their sites and a review of their album Bostonia.

It’s bands like this that give me hope.  They aren’t out to hit the top 40 (although, I’m sure they wouldn’t object to occupying a spot) or make a million dollars (though, again, I’m sure there would be few objections), they’re dedicated to making music that they love and music that they can share with audiences who appreciate their musical ability to create and fuel a community.

Screen Shot 2014-06-24 at 9.35.59 AM

Design by Sam Paxton of Ghost Hotel

They’re currently working on their next EP release, Kerosene, and will be performing with Ghost Hotel and Seagulls on July 12 at Cafe Nola in Frederick, MD.

I don’t live close enough to make it to this performance, so I’m going to buy a lottery ticket with the hope that perhaps I can win the change that might make a tour possible!




Twitter: @BMLtheband


Vivid in the Valley

5 Jun


On this blog (and most everywhere else), I talk about dreaming big and having faith in those dreams.  I believe in this, and I try my best to walk the talk, but sometimes my faith wavers and the dream feels like it’s too far out of reach as unexpected detours take me miles away from where I’m headed.

It’s usually at that moment that someone or something presents itself as a hopeful sign of  Steve Jobs’ sage reminder that “…you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”

This week I discovered the debut single from the ambient pop group Silvery Ghosts, and as I began to learn more about the band – and the singer/songwriter behind it – I realized that this was yet another sign that sometimes the long way around is the only way to get to where you belong.

In the past five years, band founder Hank Kim has been through what he calls “an amazing, humbling journey.”  Kim, a native of Dayton, Ohio, released his first album, Blue Alibi in 2005 after having been introduced to New York indie rock mainstay, Mike Daly.  According to Blue Alibi liner notes, Daly, on the rebound after having disbanded his group Whiskeytown, “…became intrigued with the singer’s raw, idiosyncratic voice and melodic hooks, chronicling the jagged tales of misfits, rebels, and other bruised souls, flailing at the ghosts of redemption, in turns that are both comic and heartbreaking.”

At the end of 2001, in the wake of destruction, Kim and Daly walked into Soho’s Magic Shop and began the hopeful process of recording what would become the base for the rest of the album’s tracks.  Over the next two years, they worked with “…Dan Rieser (Marcy Playground, Norah Jones), drummer Alan Bezozi (Freedy Johnston), keyboardist John Deley (Dido), bassist Joe Quigley, and Sir Tim Bright, the renaissance man of Avenue U, who lent his distinctive touch to everything from the guitar and 6-string bass to the harmonium…” to produce an album that cleverly combined acoustic storytelling traditions with the yearning ache of Kim’s vocals and gave it a musical backing that transcended eras planting him squarely in the center of the power pop movement.

If you think I’m overstating the case, give “May/December Girl” a listen and you’ll see what I mean.

For various reasons, the album didn’t get the attention it deserved, but Kim was undeterred and set about working on his sophomore effort.  It would take him nearly four years to record Notorious Rainproof Smile, which moved Kim’s vocals away from the acoustic crooner style toward an edgier, indie rock sound.  The effort took its toll, and by the time it was ready for release he felt lost.  According to Kim, “I didn’t even bother to give the record a proper release.  I thought I was done as a musician and a songwriter.  I felt like the biggest fake – that I didn’t really have anything to say that anyone would want to hear.  All of the old demons were barking real loud.”

At that point, Kim let go of the music and began to reinvent himself by enrolling in acting school and starting his own business.  It wasn’t until 2010, after a failed relationship, that Kim felt the reemerging urge to create music.  In the spring of that year, he sat down at his computer and let loose the river of raw, uncensored thoughts and emotions that would become the basis for Love & Other Ephemera.

Finally hitting the studio in 2013, Kim tapped Nate Martinez (formerly of Pela and Theiving Irons) to produce the album.  According to the band’s website, together they worked to capture musical ephemera, a sound that Kim calls, “music without boundaries…the sense of searching for truthful expression that may or may not be relevant years from now but captures the emotional essence of a given moment in time.” They combined elements of modern electronic music and programming with traditional tools like piano and acoustic guitar as well as touches of Eastern sounds including the Saz (a Turkish 7-Stringed instrument with the intonation of a mandolin) and the sitar. Kim also brought gifted vocalist Kelli Scarr (who collaborated with Moby on 2010’s “Gone to Sleep”) on board for eight of the albums ten tracks.

In Silvery Ghosts’ first single, Vivid in the Valley, the combination of Scarr’s ripe, sultry voice languidly wrapping around the sophisticated ache of Kim’s trademark croon fans the embers and makes the song positively burn.  The official music video is currently being edited by director, Jeaneen Lund.

The release of Love & Other Ephemera on June 9 signals both the rebirth and the return of an artist who has embraced the pain of the past, recognizing that “All the twists and turns of the past were necessary for me to find my voice as a singer and an artist.”  As he looks forward to what is next,  Kim explains, “Silvery Ghosts is an opportunity to finally assert myself.  I feel like the training wheels are coming off with this record.  I may actually know what the hell I’m doing.  It’s a great feeling.”

Once again, I’m reminded that it’s the journey that matters. All of the twists, turns, and detours that create our rich, memorable lives are what we carry and, ultimately, leave behind.

The destination is simply the satisfaction of knowing we’ve finally connected all the dots.

Updated June 10: Lund’s video was posted, and all I can say is that this better come with a fire extinguisher because it’s SMOKIN’ HOT!

Silvery Ghosts will perform on June 23 at Rockwood Music Hall in New York.


Christmas in New York (2012)

13 Nov

Saks Fifth Avenue, NYC – photo by NYC Insider Guide

I won’t be in NYC for Christmas this year, but professional changes are afoot and I’m closer to NYC than I’ve been since I started writing this blog – next year may just be the year!

Meanwhile, it’s time to pull together the yearly list of NYC Christmas happenings!

1. Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting – Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It’s the 80th tree to be lit in Rockefeller Square, and this year the tree will be lit with more than 300,000 energy efficient LED lights making the celebration both traditional and forward thinking!

2. Radio City Christmas Spectacular

The Rockettes kick off the Christmas season is high style!!

3. Department Store Holiday Window Displays 

Bergdorf Goodman holiday window – photo by Ricky Zehavi for Bergdorf Goodman

Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor  unveiled their windows on Tuesday, November 13.  Barney’s showed off their “Electric Holiday” video and talked with Sean James, Christie’s Vice President of Managed Services, about how they made the magic happen.  Macy’s and Henri Bendel revealed their windows on Thursday, November 15.  The grand prize goes to Bergdorf Goodman’s beautiful holiday windows inspired by the Great Gatsby and the “roaring 20s” era.

4. Holiday Markets, Shops and Fairs

As usual, there are a large number of wonderful places to buy unique holiday gifts in New York City!  Most of the markets and shops open up around November 14, and stay open until the end of December.

5. New York Botanical Gardens Holiday Train Show

Within the enchanting setting of the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, model trains zip over bridges and past replicas of New York landmarks made of plant parts such as nuts, bark, and leaves. Show favorites include the original Yankee Stadium, Statue of Liberty, and Brooklyn Bridge.

This year visitors will get an insider’s look at how the replicas are constructed. Models in different stages of completion will show how a structure destined for the Holiday Train Show is framed and begins taking shape through the addition of plant material. Photos, interpretive panels, tools, and supplies help tell the story of how the magic comes together.

6. Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square

On Monday, November 26, 2012 the Lincoln Square Business Improvement District and presenting sponsor Time Warner will host the Thirteenth Annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square – New York City’s largest holiday festival! Winter’s Eve kicks off with a neighborhood tree lighting ceremony with world renowned singer/songwriter Suzanne Vega, cast members of Avenue Q, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, WABC-TV’s Sade Baderinwa, and special guest Laurie Berkner from 5:00pm – 6:00pm. Winter’s Eve continues through the evening and features free entertainmentfood tastingsin-store activities and shopping around and about this colorful and vibrant neighborhood.

7. Macy’s 86th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade

The parade that needs no explanation!

8. New Year’s Eve Times Square Ball Drop Gala

Towering 22 and 23 stories above the million or so partiers on 7th Avenue and Broadway below, the Sentry Center offers a commanding view of the incredible festivities in Times Square and the famous Times Square Waterford Crystal ball itself. You can watch the crowds as they gather in the streets outside while you enjoy an open bar, hors d’oeuvres and desserts, DJ dance music and of course, the view to end all views! At midnight the ball drop,fireworks and confetti will create the perfect backdrop scenery for welcoming in the New Year in Times Square.

I won’t be able to join in the festivities this year, but I remain optimistic that 2013 will be the year I celebrate Christmas in New York!

Happy Holidays to all!

Christmas in New York (2011)

19 Nov

Photo by My Kind of

It’s time for Christmas in New York – again!

There are a lot of folks searching for information about Christmas in New York, so I thought I’d give a run down of what’s happening this year.  Last year, I wrote a Wish List of things I’d like to see, so this year I’ll continue the tradition and add some of the things that I didn’t include and a few new events!

Christmas List 2011

1. New York City Christmas Lights Tour.

This is a 3-6 hour fully customizable tour of the city’s Christmas lights.  The tour will be tailored to your group’s interests, knowledge of the city, native language, and even to where you want to be picked up at the start of the tour!

2. New York City Ballet The Nutcracker

“With Tschaikovsky’s incomparable score, hundreds of dazzling costumes, a one-ton tree that magically grows and grows, and a million watts of illuminated excitement, this traditional Christmas ballet is the definitive holiday must-see!” Tickets are $55-135, depending on performance and seats, and performances run November 25 – December 31, 2011.

3. Macy’s Holiday Window Display

This year Macy’s theme is “Make a Wish,” and features ornaments made by celebrities (on sale inside the store for $9.99 each with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Make a Wish Foundation). This year’s windows (designed by Paul Olszewski) will introduce the use of 3-D screens that do not require glasses in order for guests to view the images. The giant screen in Window 6 will allow visitors to make their own digital ornament and send it to their smart phone to be used as holiday wallpaper.

4. National Chorale Messiah Sing-in

With 17 conductors, 4 soloists, and an audience chorus of over 3,000, how can you go wrong with the Messiah sing-in?  You can’t.  December 20, 7:30 pm at Lincoln Center.

5. Brew York, New York

This really isn’t a “Christmas event,” but for those folks who love good beer, Chris O’Leary (a professed “beer geek” who lives in Brooklyn) provides a calendar of brew related events in the New York area.  His calendars are works of brew art, and run all year-round!

6. The Big Apple Circus

Ironically, this year’s Big Apple Circus show is called “Dream Big”! Flying through the air with the greatest of ease these acrobats, jugglers, and performers entertain audiences with their skill and talent for doing what most would consider impossible.  Designed to delight and entertain children of all ages, this show runs until January 2012.

7. 28th Annual Tree Lighting – South Street Seaport

On Friday, November 25th, TODAY Show personality and fashion expert Jill Martin will host one of New York City’s most beloved holiday traditions, with a 40-foot tree serving as the centerpiece of a seven-minute “Sparkle at the Seaport” light show spectacular. Festivities will kick-off with performances by the Darren Wallis Jazz Trio and the Soul Tigers Marching Band. All-male barbershop chorus, The Big Apple Chorus, will perform seasonal favorites, and costumed characters will help Santa Claus countdown to the tree lighting ceremony. To round-off the evening, Ronnie Spector will give a special performance, making it a night to remember for the whole family.

8. Twelfth Annual Winter’s Eve at Lincoln Square

Monday, November 28 at 5:30 pm (no matter what the weather!) stores, restaurants, cultural organizations and public spaces in the district will be buzzing with activities for both children and adults. At the same time, sidewalks along Broadway from Time Warner Center at Columbus Circle to 68th Street will be alive with performers, street musicians, jugglers, stilt-walkers and more, making for a festive fun-filled stroll through the streets of this dynamic Upper West Side neighborhood.

9. Union Square Holiday Market

Between November 18 through December 24, Union Square will play host to a holiday market with over 100 local vendors!  Hours: Monday – Friday, 11:00am to 8:00pm; Saturday, 10:00am to 8:00pm; Sunday, 11:00am to 7:00pm.

10. American Museum of Natural History’s Origami Holiday Tree

From November 19, 2011 to January 2, 2012 the American Museum of Natural History  displays the annual origami holiday tree.  This year’s tree decorations pay tribute to some of the largest and most impressive animals and inanimate objects found in the Museum halls through the art of origami.

I can’t be in New York City this Christmas, but my thoughts will be filled with all of the wonderful things to look forward to doing when my dreams come true!

Happy Holidays!

Dream Like New York

23 Oct

The First Step... photo by JAS

“What ever happened to those childhood years?/When we thought we could fly/We got to keep those dreams alive.” –Tyrone Wells

The past few weeks have been an incredible reminder of the power of dreams and the miracles that come from keeping dreams alive – no matter how impossible they seem.  Some people might call it luck, but it’s reinforced my belief in the idea that you get back exactly what you put out into the world.

But let me explain…

My rockstar fantasy has been the cornerstone of  a lot of my blogging and teaching.  I first talked about it last year with my Information Literacy class, who responded more than favorably, and fed my dream.  I knew then that becoming a rockstar was going to involve a lot more than simply dreaming optimistically, and, at the time, I didn’t have the time or the inclination to begin the process of learning to play the guitar – but the dream stayed alive.

Earlier this summer I went to Chicago to visit J. and while chatting with her downstairs neighbor [who is a professional musician and was looking into starting an online guitar teaching business], I jokingly told him about my rockstar fantasy, and then played the opening lines of “Rock You Like a Hurricane” for him on my iPhone and said, “I don’t care about music theory, or even really about becoming a great musician, I just want to play that solo.”  He laughed a bit, and then nodded and said, “I’ll have to think about how to do that, but I think it might be possible.  You are; however, going to need a guitar.”  I laughed and said I’d work on it, but that money was too tight for me to be spending even a minimal amount on such a luxury item.

But I kept the idea in the back of my mind, and knew that when the time was right, it would all work out – because it always does!

In the meantime, I was looking forward to the August release of a new album from Dream Theater, my all-time favorite band.  I mention this because when talking about my rockstar fantasy I always get laughs and nods when I say that I envision myself playing on stage with guitar heroes like John Petrucci [the lead guitarist for Dream Theater, and the player who, according to internet lore, can play “four million beats per second” on his guitar]. Those in the know immediately understand where I’m coming from – and how completely insane my idea is.

In addition to the new album, DT had scheduled a tour and a few weeks before the album’s release, one of my students informed me that the band would be playing on October 3 at the Royal Oak Music Theater.  I sat and debated whether or not I should buy a ticket – for about 60 seconds – and then got online and purchased it.  By the time the concert date rolled around, not only was I excited, so was everyone else around me [or at least amused enough to support my excitement].

Dream Theater’s live performance was amazing, and I loved every minute of it!  I returned to the classroom full of excitement and tales to tell about the concert, and my students generously shared their own transformative concert moments.  I was pumped and ready to play the guitar, again!  However, the lack of an instrument was still my biggest obstacle.

I wasn’t worried about it, but I felt a little sad that, again, my rockstar fantasy wouldn’t begin to come true.

Two days later, a student brought her electric guitar to school and offered to loan it to me  on the condition that she could be the bass player in my band once I learned to play.  I was overwhelmed by the incredible generosity and the fact that she believed I actually could not only learn to play, but also form a band once I did. As I assured her that she would absolutely be the bass player, students around the room began piping up about what they wanted to play.

I strapped on the guitar, and found myself suddenly leading a band [named “Flaming Salad,” don’t ask…] that currently consists of a lead guitarist [who needs to learn to play], a bassist [who already knows what she’s doing], a wanna-learn-to-play-keyboardist, a tambourine player, a triangle player, and five drummers.

We’re going to be stars.

Later, when I posted the picture of me and the guitar on my Facebook page [with the title “One the Road to Rockstardom: 1. Learn to hold the guitar. 2. Learn to play it”], students chimed in and told me I looked like a “super bad ass” and that they knew where I could find the online resources that would teach me to play.  The student who lent me the guitar told me that she thought it shouldn’t be any problem to learn to hold and play the guitar, rip on solos, and then, contact Petrucci and ask to play with him – on stage.

No problem whatsoever.

As the conversation continued, more students weighed in and they began introducing themselves to one another and asking each other questions.  All of a sudden we had a community of music loving people discussing guitars, finger exercises, guitar heroes and how to best teach me to play.  Since that day, students have offered me all kinds of tips, tricks and suggestions, and one accomplished musician has even brought in his own guitar and ukelele and performed for our class!

I still don’t have any illusions about actually becoming a rockstar [mainly because I am just now realizing the horrible toll that playing electric guitar strings takes on one’s fingers.  It’s painful and not pretty at all], but the process of dreaming out loud has created new ways for people to connect with one another and talk about their dreams!

In the end, I think that keeping the dream alive is what matters the most.

And as Tyrone Wells sings, “I only strive to stay awake/But the child inside me/Dares to believe I still can fly/Can’t let those dreams just die.”

So, if anyone’s got Petrucci’s number, I think I’m just bold and crazy enough to make the call.

Just dreamin’…again.

“Dream Like New York” by Tyrone Wells


7 Sep

Union Square - photo by MAG

Frank Sinatra always manages to sing his way into my life when I need it the most.

Lately, people have been asking me exactly when I’ll be making the move to New York. I understand the question to be part curiosity, part support and part desire to know that someone is making their dreams come true. And while I know that I began this blog as a way of actively moving toward my dream of living in the city, the truth is that I don’t know.

In the past year, I have traveled more than I ever imagined – both physically and emotionally – and I’ve come to realize that it’s the dreaming, not the outcome of the dreams, that matters the most. I can’t know where I’m going to end up, I can only plant the seeds of a dream, tend the garden, and accept that, no matter how hard I try, I cannot control Mother Nature.

I know that sounds fatalistic, and maybe even pessimistic, but I don’t see it that way at all. I view my life as an experiment – a hand’s-on learning lab of sorts – and in order to gain the most from it, I have to let go of the notion that to be “successful” means I must, somehow, achieve absolutely everything I set out to do.

Not all crops make it to the harvest season, but even the ones that fail to thrive serve a purpose – those crops fertilize the ones that remain viable.

Around this time last year, I was teaching, was on the verge of starting a second job, and was still dreaming about finding a way to travel to New York City. A year later, I’m still teaching, have left the second job, and spent an amazing week in New York City. I learned that teaching is my passion; it’s my reason for getting up in the morning and the one job I would do even if I didn’t get paid to do it. Teaching is who I am. My second job, in sales, was instrumental in helping me understand this, and I will be forever thankful for the experience and for the opportunity to work with some of the most intelligent, creative, and incredibly kind people I’ve ever known.

And New York…well…New York helped me realize that it’s not so much where I am physically, as it is my perception of and my attitude toward where I am that matters the most. As long as I am learning, growing, and excited about all of the possible adventures that each new day brings, I will be happy anywhere.

For me, New York City really is a state of mind.

This epiphany freed me from a lot of “have to’s” and “should’s”, and opened up new ways of thinking about where I am, and where I want to be. It has me realize that the people who truly love and support me [my students, colleagues, friends, and family] are absolutely vital to my growth efforts because they continue to have faith in my wide-eyed optimism and my belief that I can grow something in even the the most unlikely soil. The people I love celebrate when my garden flourishes, and generously share their resources during the lean times.

So, what’s next?

As usual, I’ve got new ideas, new plans, and new dreams, and I’ve begun planting a few seeds with the knowledge that every savvy gardener possesses – growing things takes patience, time, and faith in nature’s cycle. Earlier this week, I was reminded of this when I heard Old Blue Eyes singing the words, “Life is like the seasons/After winter comes the spring/So I’ll keep this smile awhile/And see what tomorrow brings.”

I believe I’ll do just that.

Night Moves

25 Apr

Financial District. Photo by DMT

T minus 47 and counting!

I’ve been exploring options for evening activities in New York City, and I can barely contain my excitement!  There are hundreds of things to do in the city in June – and the vast majority of them are FREE!

From June 6-July 30, Shakespeare in the Park will be staging both Measure for Measure and All’s Well that Ends Well!  Free tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis at the Delacourte Theater in Central Park, but the line appears to begin at 6:00 am on the day of the performance with distribution beginning at 1:00 pm.  I’m familiar with these types of lines, so the question will be whether or not I want to spend a portion of one of my days waiting in line for a ticket.  It could be an adventure, though, so I haven’t ruled it out!

On June 14, from 5:45-9:00 pm NYC hosts the 33rd Annual Museum Mile Festival.  Called “New York’s Biggest Block Party” the festival covers 23 blocks and offers free admission to nine of the city’s most popular museums.  This year’s opening ceremony will take place at El Museo del Barrio, and then move into the streets for a festival of art, music and street performances designed to excite and entertain visitors and residents alike.

Broadway offers Rush and SRO tickets to popular shows at substantially discounted prices, if one is willing to get up early and be at the box office hours before it opens.

Nasty Mondays at Le Poisson Rouge sound like an amazing mix of rock, punk, country, new wave, alternative, where “no genre is off limits and no era is out of place”according to Barcelona DJs Max and Soren! The only drawback might be that NYC clubs are geared toward the terminally hip, and at 44, I think I might have crossed the line from hip to middle-aged and boring about ten years ago, but you never know unless you try!

On June 14, the Joyce Theater will stage Performance A of Rioult. The Joyce says, “Acclaimed for exquisite, sensual dancers and masterful choreography, RIOULT presents two world premieres on two diverse and superb programs. Program A features the much-anticipated world premiere of Bare Bach, an evening of powerful dances, set to Bach masterpieces, that magically transforms the experience of the composer’s works. Program B switches gears with a world premiere, performed to the music of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, Aaron Jay Kernis that inaugurates RIOULT’s Dance to Contemporary Composers series. Passionate, intensely human, intelligent work for audiences who are ready to be deeply moved — see RIOULT.”  A limited number of discounted tickets [$10.00!] can be purchased by calling Joyce Charge at 212-242-0800.

What excites me about the nightlife in New York City is that there is so much to do for so little money!  I recognize that the trade off might be time spent waiting in line or having less than perfect seats at a show, but the reality is that performances and events are about the experience of being part of community of observers and participants.

And while I have no idea what I’ll actually be able to experience while in New York, I am intrigued and excited by the “night moves” that the city has to offer!

One Year to Move Soundtrack

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

21 Mar

East Village. Photo by DMT

82 days and counting!

Last week I booked my flight to New York City, and wrote about conquering fears through researching my options.  This week I think it a good idea to share the resources I used [and will be using] to make my decisions.

A couple of months ago, while surfing the web at work and becoming quite frustrated, a travel-savvy co-worker literally leaned over my computer and pointed my web browser to the Kayak site. Kayak is a site that consolidates information from hundreds of other travel sites, and allows users to find flights, hotel rooms, cars and the best deals on all things travel-related. That small act of kindness led me to download the Kayak app for my iPhone and allowed me to search for flights at my convenience, bookmark the options I found, and program settings to notify me when ticket prices changed.  As a result, I was able to find the exact flight times and dates I needed, and paid less than $300.00 for my ticket.

During our 2007 trip, J. and I stayed at the cozy SoHotel, and enjoyed everything about it. Well, almost everything. J. does not enjoy sharing a room with me because apparently I snore – rather loudly.  We promised that the next time we traveled together, we’d find a hotel where we could book separate rooms at a reasonable rate.  Reasonable rates for separate rooms in New York City?  Right.

Never doubt the [research] power or perseverance of a woman who requires a good night’s sleep.

J. found the perfect place at The Jane.  Located at 113 Jane Street in the West Village, the hotel was designed by William A. Boring [most well-known for the Ellis Island immigrant station] and originally built as a hotel for sailors. As a result, The Jane offers rooms with a single twin bed – much like a ship’s cabin – and shared bathrooms on each floor.  The rooms are surprisingly well outfitted for such a small space, and offer flat screen televisions, iPod docking stations, and Wifi access – all for the reasonable price of $99.00 a night [plus a 14.75% city/state tax and a $3.50 hotel occupancy fee – quite a switch from the hotel’s original fee of “.25 per night for sailors, and .50 per night for all others.” I wish].

The hotel was renovated in 2008, and is absolutely beautiful – both inside and out! If you want to learn more, read Christopher Gray’s wonderful article in the NY Times, entitled “Popeye Slept Here, and Now Olive Oyl Can, Too!”, about The Jane’s history.

One thing that has made me simultaneously excited and nervous about traveling to New York is the public transportation system [and not just because I hold out hope that Rod Stewart will, in fact, be there singing to me. C’mon, this blog is all about dreaming big!!].  I loved the bus and subway system during the last trip, but that was because I was with an experienced traveler who knew how to efficiently navigate the system.  This time, I’m on my own, and although I have an incredibly good sense of direction [late night holiday season excursions in downtown Detroit notwithstanding], I tend to get flustered when I feel like I don’t know where I’m going or how to get there.

One would think that the teacher in me would be able to negate this fear.  After all, how many times have students heard me say, “The only stupid question is one that is not asked”?


The truth is that I get nervous because I’m afraid of looking out of place.  That make me nervous because I’m worried that what they say about New York will be true – visitors are easily targeted because they don’t look like they know where they’re going.  I don’t want to become a statistic, but then who does?

My biggest fear was how to get from La Guardia Airport to the hotel because I knew I’d have to take both a bus and the subway, but I had no idea how to determine that itinerary.  I got fairly worked up about the problem, until I realized I had a big gun [of information] at my disposal  – a native New Yorker.

I immediately wrote D. who gave me several options – the bus/subway combo, which would take an hour or so, at a cost of $2.50 or the cab option, which would cut travel to 30 minutes or less, but cost me $30-40.00.  D. kindly advised me that the bus option would be “a pain in the ass if you have big luggage,” to which I replied, “I travel pretty light -one bag [on wheels] and one purse – now, the number of pairs of heels in the bag…”

I also located David Pogue’s succinct NY Times review of the most helpful navigation apps for New York City.  I downloaded HopStop, an app that gives travelers both walking and transit directions to and from any location in NYC, and found it useful as I started planning my time in the city. I have also been using my iPhone map app to get acclimated to where things are, and that makes me feel a little more secure.

What I can actually do while in New York is yet another concern because while I want to have a great time, I do not have the budget [this time!] to live large in the Big Apple.  Though, I must admit, that there is something incredibly fun and challenging about figuring out how I can have the best experience for the least amount of money.  I think this is a throw back to the fact that I derive the greatest satisfaction from that which meets my needs at the lowest cost – those who know me will recognize this as the “cost-per-use-benefit analysis” that I use for buying shoes.

As I plan my meals in New York, I’ve found Urbanspoon New York to be incredibly useful.  This app allows users to search by location, type of food and price, and provides links to reviews, both by restaurant critics and the average customer.  The mobile app has a feature that I’ve grown to love as I’ve used it – you can lock one of the three categories [I lock price in the $ zone] and then “spin” the wheel to get a location and type of cuisine!  I’ve started compiling a list of places that sound deliciously interesting!

Finally, for anyone planning any kind of trip, Slide Share posted the “Fifty Mobile Travel Apps You Should Know.” I’ve found many of them interesting for my urban trip, but there are lots of apps aimed at helping those who are driving to their destinations, as well.  It’s a great presentation with a lot of useful information!

I’m excited about the planning because it will provide me with so many options that once I’m actually in New York City I won’t waste a moment being nervous or worried about what to do or where to go.

This girl is going to have fun!

One Year to Move Soundtrack

Christmas in New York (2010)

10 Dec

Liberty Plaza. Photo by DMT.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

I have always wanted to spend Christmas in New York City. Everything about the season seems like it would be bigger, bolder, and more beautiful in the city with all of the hustle and bustle of the crowds, the softly falling snow flakes, and the twinkling store windows.  I’m sure that native New Yorkers probably find these things irritating and annoying since they’ve had years to experience the “magic of the season” and now just want to escape the crowds, dry off the snow, and avoid the tourists who clog up the sidewalks as the gawk at windows the residents see every day.

I can’t help it, though, I believe in the magic.  I believe that Christmas in New York would fill me with awe and wonder at every turn.

So, in the spirit of my fantasy Christmas in New York, I’ve created a list of the things that would make my holiday season joyful.

2009 Bergdorf Goodman window. Photo by Dan Cross.

1. The Christmas Windows Walking Tour: This map provides visitors with a route that takes them past the decorated windows at Macy’s, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Bloomingdales.  The site recommends dressing warmly, wearing comfortable shoes, and keeping a close eye [or hand] on one’s belongings since the sidewalks in front of the stores are quite packed and provide the perfect opportunity for pickpocketing.

The Pond at Bryant Park. Photo by Bryant

2. Ice Skating at Bryant Park: The Pond [as it’s referred to] is open to anyone who wants to skate, and does not charge admission.  Skates can be rented for $13.00 a pair, however.  I know I would spend my time on the ice clinging to the wall, but it would be worth it to skate on the rink where Kate Beckinsale and John Cusack finally meet in “Serendipity.” [Correction: As my friend and trusted NYC fact checker, D. points out in his comments, the rink they meet on is actually in Central Park, but I like the image of them meeting at the Bryant Park Pond better, so I’m not editing out my mistake].

3. Radio City Music Hall: It may be cheesy and commercial, but who in the world doesn’t want to see the Radio City Rockettes performing their perfectly choreographed high kicks in matching holiday costumes?  Seriously.

St. Patrick's Cathedral. Photo by Wiki Commons.

5. Midnight Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral: While I jokingly refer to myself as a “recovering Catholic,” I find that when I think about Christmas in New York, it always includes a trip to St. Patrick’s for midnight mass.  I’ll have to make a note to myself for Christmas 2012 because midnight mass at the cathedral requires reserved seating.  [Does God know about this Catholic version of Ticketmaster?]

6. New York Philharmonic – Handel’s Messiah: Click on the link and listen to a recorded portion of the performance.  The recording sends chills down my spine, so I can’t imagine the experience of actually sitting in Avery Fisher Hall listening to the choir build on each “Hallelujah! Hallelujah!”

Brooklyn Bridge at NYBG. Photo by Heather Cross.

7. The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens: The Holiday Train Show at the New York Botanical Gardens features model trains traveling around the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory amongst over 140 replicas of New York City landmarks. The replicas are created by award-winning designer Paul Busse using only plants.

8. The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree: A Norway Spruce lit with 30,000 lights and topped with a Swarovski crystal star?  That’s the ticket!

9. Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche: From November 30 to January 6, the Metropolitan Museum of Art offers “A vivid eighteenth-century Neapolitan Nativity scene—embellished with a profuse array of diminutive, lifelike attendant figures and silk-robed angels hovering above—adorns the candlelit spruce.”

The Met Christmas Tree. Photo by the Met.

10. Santa at Macy’s: I’m not sure that I have a burning desire to sit on the jolly old elf’s lap, but the little kid in me definitely wants to see Santa Claus in all his glory – preferably before the crumb snatchers arrive.

Is Christmas in New York better than Christmas anywhere else?  I can’t answer that question, but I can say that, for me, the beauty of the season lies in love, hope, wonder, and my optimistic faith that magic and miracles are entirely possible – if we chose to believe in them.

Here’s to Christmas 2012 in New York City!  I believe!

(UPDATE: If you are interested in this year’s Christmas events in NYC, check out my 2011 Christmas List!)

One Year to Move soundtrack

Magic Power

1 Sep


Photo by DMT


I don’t think most people dream nearly enough.

I’m not talking about dreams that come during the night and help us make sense of all of the information our brains store in our subconscious mind, I’m talking about the big, bold daytime dreams.  The dreams in which we are the courageous hero or the daring adventurer; the dreams that take us to the outer reaches of our ambitions and desires; the dreams that, if uttered out loud, would probably cause people to shake their heads and tell us we’re crazy for even thinking such things.

I dream of becoming a rock star.

One of my favorite things to do on my half hour drive to and from work is to plug my iPod into the car stereo, crank up the volume and imagine myself as the lead guitarist in a stadium-tour band.  In my fantasy, I wear black jeans, a black tank top, and a killer pair of stiletto boots as I rip into solo after solo, belting out the lyrics to whatever song fits my mood that day.  I thrash my little heart out along side the real guitar heroes – Petrucci, Emmett, and Malmsteen – matching them chord for chord as the crowd roars for more.   No matter what else is going on in my life, for sixty minutes each day I am a strong and powerful stage performer, a skilled musician — a total badass with great hair and a screamin’ guitar.

The first person I ever mentioned my rock star fantasy to was D.  It was scary to let someone else see a dream that was just starting to flourish.  For months, I’d only allowed myself quick peeks at it, and then one day while listening to Triumph’s Magic Power,” I saw it all with perfect clarity.  I saw myself wailing on the guitar as my bass player sang,  “She’s young, now/She’s wild, now/She wants to be free!” Impulsively, I sat down at the keyboard and quickly pounded out my vision of the entire performance.

It should have been enough just to have written the scenario, but being the control freak I am, I added “listening directions” and instructed D. to crank up the song and while reading my writing. While I was excited to have him read my dream, I also cringed when I thought about how I had exposed my secret and opened myself up to potential embarrassment. After all, D. is a musician himself, and actually knows what it feels like to be on stage.  I, on the other hand, could only imagine what it would be like, and I was afraid that my description wouldn’t be accurate.  I was afraid that he’d be able to see all of the flaws and, that when he pointed them out, the budding rock star in me would be smashed like one of Pete Townsend’s guitars.  However, being the wonderful friend that he is, D. not only followed my instructions, he also quickly wrote back and told me that not only did he love the writing, but that he could actually feel the performance as he listened and read.  I was thrilled that, as a real musician, he had taken my silly little daydream seriously.

Later, I thanked him for believing in me, and exclaimed, “You never tell me any of my ideas or dreams are impossible!”  In his usual way, he calmly replied, “And I never will.”

We all need someone who supports our dreams, but more than that, we need to believe that we have the right to dream.  We need to believe that no matter how impossible it seems, we have the right to entertain the notion that we could be or do or say anything at all. We need to believe this because being able to dream the impossible dreams can lead to action on other, not-so-impossible dreams.  For me, being able to envision myself as a rock star motivated me to maintain my workout schedule, helped me shed many of my insecurities, and has made my commute something I actually look forward to every day.

I don’t harbor any illusions that I’ll ever actually be a rock star, and it’s not because I’m a pessimist.  I’m simply pragmatic.  I understand the reality, and while I do think that I could probably do just about anything I set my mind to, I also recognize that in order for me to become a rock star I would not only have to learn to play the guitar, but I would also have to kick my shoe buying habit in order to tour dive bars in a cramped vehicle.  Oh, and then there’s the small matter of learning how to sing on key.  The reality is that I don’t have the time, energy or motivation to devote myself to the task of becoming a rock star, but that doesn’t mean I can’t dream about it.

And I can definitely buy myself a pair of kick-ass stiletto boots.

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