Couldn’t sleep last night and made the fatal error of eventually taking a few valerian root pills which are now being counteracted by a venti awake tea soy late, extra hot to help ease the chill from this mornings Chicago CTA blue line train ride to O’hare. At least the security guard was in a great mood and so the usual “random” search, prompted either by my Rastafarian tam and sandalwood prayer beads or by the hint of my south asian heritage, was amusing. I don’t really mind the stereotype. I understand their fears and have no need to perpetuate the rabbit like negativity which breeds in an American airport.
“That’ll be $7.75 ma’am”. The barista, clad in his Starbucks colours, intended his automated ‘ma’am’ as a sign of respect but this morning I just felt old. Older. An elder my intention but the kid in me these days just wanted to crawl up in my daddy’s lap and go to sleep. However, it’s not my father to whom I fly today but rather one of my mothers. Mum. My birth mother and best mate. This morning’s flight is bound for Canada. Winnipeg, Manitoba. Home.
My whole life I’ve been running away from home. I find myself falling in love with a country, city, family and then jumping ship to land anew and rebuild from scratch. New country, new city, new family. So I ought not have been surprised, after 12 years in The ‘Peg, Winnipeg Manitoba Canada, when the familiar seemed gan green and in need of amputation. My skin began to itch for the new and unknown.
The gathering of the life I had grown was a much easier task than the impeding unravel. After the break up of my beloved first band Acoustically Inclined, where I had spent 7 musically fundamental years, I decided that music was too hard and too risky and too much to ask. The voice of my father became my own and I was decided the logical course of action was to get a degree and a real life just like everybody else. First I enrolled in University, then I found a man who fell in love with me. A degree became a job and my lover became my adoring husband. Our home and big screen t.v. hosted many a weekend dinner party and board game night. I had it all. The North American dream. White picket fence locked and guarded.
It wasn’t a sudden realization. It was there all along, seething. I had become like a caged bird confused by her wings. I was growing a pension and enjoying health benefits on top of my regular paycheque deposited bi weekly in time for the automated billing system to filter out the numbers as necessary. Still, my steel blue Ford Caravan along with the steel blue eyes of my dedicated life partner became empty comforts. Soon every music video gave me chest pains. Every song sent me fantasizing to my own visions of the stage. Once a woman full of love and support for even the prettier girl in the room, I became envious of artists I respected. Every drop of blood in my body knew that I was on the wrong path headed in the wrong direction. Every part of me knew that my cowardice was choking my art. My fear was punishing all who loved me. My job was making me sick to the point of medication and stress leave. The ideas in my head and the music in my throat were stuck and uselessly spinning like summer tires in a wintery ditch. My life was wrong. I was wrong.
I was safe yet longed for the unknown. How to unravel more than a decade of a life especially when you fought so hard to build it? How do you tell the man who would walk through fire for you, happy to burn if it made you smile, that he was incidentally in the way of your calling? The thing is when you come to know of that which you were born to do, you must either take the path that calls you or choose to suffer. The road is unlit and untested because we each have our very own to forge but the life that opens to you and the you that opens to life is magic. Still, knowing the truth of it and acting on that truth are two very separate issues. I needed to muster up faith and take a deep breath and jump. I wish I could tell you I did it courageously but it took a great deal of trial and error since one of my best skills is distraction and self sabotage. But that’s a story for another blog. Suffice to say for now, I took many running starts.
I finally gathered up my life into three suitcases, two boxes, and my dress bag. Then I jumped from the nest and in to the void unsure of my wings but praying that they would be enough to take me where I was meant to go. A gypsy once again as I had been in my youth, the road and several couches became my home for the next three years until I found, in the most surprising place, the music that had been in my head all my life and the life that had been ahead all along.
First my mothers home to gather some strength. My mother is an Angel. She is an Angel who earned her wings one feather at a time, breaking her fingers with each effortful win and piecing together the kind of Soul whose depths bring both tears of joy and sorrow in the same instance. She and I were separated when I was 18 months old and reunited again when I was 14 years old. She had become my very best girl friend and most trusted confessor. I miss her everyday now that I am again so very far from her. When I landed at her home to lick the wounds of the separation from my Knight I tried to thank her for taking care of me. She simply said, “Think how wonderful it is for me to be able to mother you.” The day I left her home as an adult was nearly as difficult as the day I left my husbands. But moving from one nest to another is not the same as flying and I knew I needed to fly or I would perish.
A few months before leaving my mothers home I had befriended a woman at a workshop I like to think of as ‘therapy bootcamp”. It is something called The Hoffman Process and though I cannot describe with any justice what I learned there I can tell you truly that I fell in love with myself for the first time there. I fell in love with myself and with my dreams. The awareness of life that I gleaned with the 23 people who shared this adventure is a gift for which I will be forever grateful. One of those 23 was an amazing Quebec woman named Gigi. She invited me to come and stay with her in her home just outside Montreal. Gigi guided me through the fear of self doubt and terrible homesickness that plagued me. She held me up so often that I’m sure when I finally found my path again she must have needed to sleep for a week. There are certainly thorny times between us, especially when her trigger connected to my father taking me away from here as an infant is touched. She changes so completly and has no way of seeing it or changing it or hearing me when I speak my needs about it. I have to learn to be mature and hold space for her when she goes there but they way she speaks to me when this trigger is pulled always seems to cut me in two and then we both just bleed all over each other. Stll, there is deep love. Always love. One day I will find a way to make up to her the kindness and generosity she gave and maybe there will be a time she and I can be together without gun fire.
Chicago. The thing that is most notable in my fairy tale, Grimm’s as it may be at times, is that I lived in Palos Heights IL from the ages of 4 to 11. I’m writing a book about those years but perhaps ought to wait until all my caretakers from that life have passed away before I can publish. Suffice it to say that coming back to Chicago was a surreal event for me and to discover that my destiny was waiting here all along is baffling at times.
I travelled from Illinois to Florida to The West Indies to Manitoba from where I checked for my destiny all across Canada and back with a few journeys to India and Europe in between. Last year was my journey to Quebec before finding my fate right back in Illinois.
It was my father who connected me to this pinnacle of my artistic fate. The irony in that fact is greater than I’ve even yet surmised. My whole life my father was dedicated to my traditional education. His hierophantic ideologies guided me as a child to believe that economics was vital and in that concept I concede in so far as the freedoms that money allows. My father was right about so very many things not the least of which is that one can do anything you set your mind to if you plan well and work hard enough. Anything but be an artist. You see my father comes from a third world country where economics is a matter of life and death more than any first world country inhabitant can imagine. He grow up in India and was fortunate in his families financial position. He worked very hard and became a highly trained and recognized physician. He is very good at what he does. I think he might even enjoy some of it sometimes. Was it his dream to be a doctor? His calling? I don’t think so. He once, after a few after dinner cocktails told me that he had been given a scholarship to a reputable film school when he was a youth. In India film starts are a logical progression to politician. It is not like the jokes about Ronald Regan and Swartzanegger. In India successful actors and musicians are highly respected and earn positions of power. They can rise to a place where they are able to effect their society in a big way. And my father, let me just tell you, was absolutely gorgeous. Smart, charming, talented, ambitious hard working and hot. These are the key elements to any successful actor or musician. I know he would have done very well. But he was raised to believe that professional trades are the right lifestyle choice.
I am an artist. Because I am an artist, my father can understand the pains of a old fashioned man attempting to convince his son not to be a homosexual. In some thing, we have no choice. Happiness is internal and no one knows my insides better than I do so long as I am paying my insides the attention it requires and deserves. My father used to tell the same story over and over and over and over. Once when he was in a cafe in Germany, he heard this amazing singer. The singer was also his waiter. The whole room was mesmerized by his waiters song and my father can still recount the quality of his waiters musicality. In the same year he heard, in England, another singer. Some horrid hack that no body paid particular attention to. The “hack” turned out to be Engleburt Humperdink. He never heard of the waiter again. The moral of the story? Music is a luxury not worth the risk. And yet, after this many years he has finally come to see that his great wish for my happiness must align itself with my artistry. That is the only authentic way to love me.
My daddy has a good friend is a woman who is a skilled artist in her own right. She once dedicated her time to dance and moved into the art of jewelry making and soon collecting and trading and now has a wonderful international antiquities business based in Chicago. Shell Reis believed in me. I still don’t fully understand why. I think she’d say that she has an ear for talent and regale how talented I am. Her efforts feel more familial than that to me but I can’t argue that “Aunt Shell” has great taste. Her role in my destiny was vital and for that I am very grateful she stepped into my life.
I admit that the idea seemed too good to be true and I used to think that if it seems to good it probably is. An accomplished platinum award winning producer is looking for talent with regards to a new indie label he is masterminding and I had an hour meeting booked with him. My father offered to fly me to Chicago so Shell can deliver me to Vince Lawrence of Slang Music Group. I figured a weekend in Chicago? Why not? I had some old wounds to investigate here and my dedication to healing them could use some literal walks down memory lane. I also have some estranged family here that I was quite interested in meeting. Finally, I was so very excited to go to The Green Mill. It’s reputation was alluring.
I landed in the afternoon and was taken directly to meet with Vince. I arrived wearing my favorite new Montreal made red cocktail dress I bought to impress a new Montreal made boy and well worn black patent vintage pumps. Vince was wrapping up his previous meeting and I had to wait, a habit I am now very used to witnessing. Vince is never still. I don’t think he sleeps either though he does disappear between about 4 am and 9 am. I am pretty sure he’s an immortal but he wont confess. If he is an immortal it would also make sense of the overwhelming feeling that he and I have known each other for lifetimes.
The first thing he asked me was, “What’s your story?”. I replied, “You want the whole story?” Shell interjected to clarify that he meant my musical history but Vince went on to explain that he in fact wanted the whole story. He wanted the ‘who are you’, all of it. I laughed silently because my story is so complicated you need a map. My family tree alone is required just to answer the simple question, “Do you have siblings?”. But I understood what he was digging for. I spoke for an hour about my ancestry and geographical history. I explained about my husband and why we are no longer together. I told him about my recent Winnipeg jazz project The Lush Life Cabaret. I told him about my gypsy journey across Eastern Canada and the musical friends I worked with there and I told him of my wish to make a new album as I felt my last one, Live at the Moment, didn’t represent my full potential.
He listened intently then asked, “When you close your eyes, what kind of audience do you envision for yourself?” Do I tell him I dream nightly of hundreds of thousands of adoring intelligent musical fans in a field under an open air festival sky crooning out the words they’ve memorized to my songs all perfectly in tune and in time because they love the music that much? I simply replied that I need a listening room for my show to be effective. It’s true, I need a stage that attracts to it musical fans who are happy to share their energy with the artist opening themselves up for their crowd. I have learned to pull back into my band and into the sounds on stage when the audience demotes me to background. I have learned that my ego can be hurt when someone isn’t totally engrossed in me. This makes taking a lover very challenging but that’s another conversation altogether. I told Vince that my skill is as a storyteller and so the venue needs to accommodate. He became pensive for a moment and when he spoke again it was like I was watching a painting being created. He painted with his words what he thought he heard me say. And it was precise, even the things I was merely thinking. I took a deep breath and fought to stay in the moment. A lesson I must work at daily.
More than comfortable with each other Vince and I began to speak of musical influences. My hour became two and then dinner and then the weekend and 10 days later we had created, “Illusion”, the first of many songs. We agreed we’d been looking for each other for a long time that we were meant to create an album together.
At first I figured we would be too far apart in genres to have an understanding of each other but I have never been more wrong. I shall never underestimate his musical knowledge again. My jazz foundation and skill with poetic expression and lyrics with his extensive work in house, dance and electronic music as well as his own powerful sense of music, rhythm and verbal communication became a formidable team.
I want you to take a moment the first time I sing for you. Listen. Let me in for a few of those moments. Stay with me, dance with me, listen to me. I want you to fall in love with the moments we spend together. With yourself. With him or her or them or that. Fall in love with me. Be in love. Be. In. Love.
My music is about my wish to return to certain moments and re negotiate the memory more deeply or at lest differently the first time I experienced it. Every time I visit that moment I can see and learn something new. The pain and the pleasure both bring me the same passion.
Every story I write is true as I experienced them. Each poem a piece of my life inspired by someone who remains important to me. The songs on this particular record are the story of a relationship told by the gathering of my memories of the most significant romantic relationships in my life. It’s my purging of the end or lamenting about a beginning. It’s the varied moments you spend in your head after a break up. The fears that were real and the ones created from defense or longing or grief or delusion. I write so I wont forget. I can go back and learn or seek answers or just be with him again in the moment I’m in. What happens next? What happened them? The could have and the should have. It’s about the choices, weather to try again or never again. It’s about time spend alone weather over that whole tub of haagen daz or with the entire bottle of Glenffidich, crying over the surrounding boxes and empty spaces or dancing about the freedoms and lessons learned.
When I love I love completely. The love need not disappear even if the presence of the beloved must. I want the men I love to hear their song, not to change or hurt or blame or do anything but so that they will be with me in that moment if only for a moment and feel what they inspired in me. The real challenge is to love the other person how they need and want to be loved. I wish that for myself. Like the words of Kalhil Gibran, “Love does not possess nor would it be possessed. For love is sufficient unto love”.
Last night I had a stress induced carb infusion of a too full bowl of quinoa pasta and olive oil. No vegetables. No solid protein. Just the yummy comfort of my imaginary Italian grandmother, hugging me with her potion from over seas. This comfort was unfortunately and I’ll admit instinctively reduced by several facts the main of which is that I was completely unable to ground or be mindful of the moment. I often repeat ideas learned from my teachers about being present and open to the moment you are in rather than getting lost in the moments that have past or are potentially yet to come. These things do not exist. They are not real and have no meaning other than the meaning we create for them. I am that I am, right here, right now. Sometimes my mind simply rebels like a drunken fifteen year old told to go immediately to their room and stay there. The too loud, “Fuck You!” resonated through me. Then that damed camel and his bloody straws in cahoots with Mr. Murphy landed in my inbox. My photo shoot results. I looked fat. The hours and hours of pre shoot back breaking workouts seemed to have done nothing. The mindless magazines spouting bullshit about how hard it is to stay slim as you age placed next to the botox laden perfectly photo shopped anorexic models posing for mulit-billion dollar weight control industries clad in a dress that cost two thousand dollars. It really was a beautiful dress and I stood their planning my commitment to a new work out routine and marketing strategy that would get me into that dress. The images began swimming in my ego laced brain. Shake it off Mira! Shake it off! Bullshit indeed! Now, wasting time in the airport I wander to a news stand and compulsively scan the racks. Definitely an oder of shit emitting from them. Still, they reflect my culture. There must be truth in it or else why would the majority of the world support it? Why? Because the reflection perpetuates the dissatisfaction both feeding the cycle of distress and false solutions. We see that our lives don’t look like the pictures. The pictures paint such glory. The glory is attached to the product. You want ease from the suffering of life that a Buddhist hopes to show is simply a part of the journey of evolution. Evolution happens under duress people, that’ just science. But we want the fast track out of pain and the magazines have an endless supply of anesthesia for the willing junky. The sight of Adel on the cover of the Rolling Stone made me smile and I felt relieved by her size 14 beauty, her music and lyrics flow through my mind like a salve.