Sunday, December 10, 2006

here and gone

tomorrow sky and i leave for massachusetts--we're going to do a 10 day meditation retreat there, which i'm very glad for.  this week has been good in lots of ways, though its very disjointing to keep coming back to twin oaks for short periods.  it felt really great to connect with all my women friends here, its something i really miss while travelling around.  also had a good reconnection with sky, and i feel very solid and comfortable in our relationship now.  

well, this is it for the next 10 days....

Thursday, December 7, 2006

ups and downs on the farm

i got back to twin oaks Sunday night--so far its been great and hard and confusing and satisfying. these transition points really hard the roughest part of the transient
lifestyle. the hardest part has been continuously re-negotiating my relationship with sky. sunday
marked a year of being involved, which is pretty amazing for me. generally i'm pretty relationship-phobic. i really love our relationship--we have such an ease and comfort with each other. he's also great about challenging me while taking responsibility for his own shit. its definately the most exciting and fulfilling relationship i've ever had. all of my coming and going and future uncertainty has put a lot of stress on him and the relationship, and my wild-oat sowing doesn't help either. (not that he hasn't sown a few of his own while i've been gone)

last night apple and ali, to awesome women friends and i went out to visit our buddy kate (check out her blog at she left twin oaks last year, and pretty quickly stepped into a radically different life--in a (relatively) monogomous, committed relationship with a man who has 3 kids from previous
relationships, going to grad school fully time for sociology, and living a somewhat mainstream life.

it felt so good to be with these awesome women and just talk and laugh and be silly and snuggly and supportive. its such an enigma to me that our lives have taken us to such different places
when we so clearly should all be living together somewhere.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

losing and finding center

last night aaron and i met up at Maia Meyhane, the Turkish bar on Ave. B. Romashka (gypsy band) was playing and i'd never seen them. the place filled up pretty quick and soon felt like we'd been teleported to Turkey, hookahs everywhere, people dancing and jostling the belly dancer, music blasting and beautiful. afterward aaron and i played some of that old timey music out front and made a pile of money, which we immediately spent on beer. back at the apartment, harry smoked us up and chatted briefly, my mind was dominated by an interaction/conversation between aaron and i, one of many where he is clearly holding back his thoughts. this one was about my socially awkard nature.

after the pot i was wide awake, my head racing with thoughts and reactions--i really wanted to engage with aaron, but he was just not there. i couldn't calm my mind down lying next to him, since much of the agitation was about him and us. at some point out of sheer desperation, i started talking out loud to him and to myself, just vocalizing what i was feeling. really, i just wanted him to reach out, to say or do something that showed how he felt. alas.

this morning we went out busking and then spent all the money on food at zabar's, a giant gourmet/jewish market broadway.  its just exhausting to try and keep up the stream of meaningless jokes and punny commentary.

Friday, December 1, 2006

music and more music!

yesterday i drove out to long island with bruno, an old-time fiddler who's converted to arabic music.  he plays in david's andalusian band, which is how i met him.  he's an italian from brookln, very sweet and down to earth.  its a long drive and i spent the whole time picking his brain about being a musician and living in new york. Some highlights: he advised getting totally immersed in whatever style you are trying to learn, (when he was learning to play bluegrass and western swing, he moved
 to nashville for a year!) and to learn the language of that style. then to push yourself to start performing as soon as possible.

afterward i met the aarons in brooklyn to see stephane wrembel (the modern day django) again, and aaron (lewis) borrowed a fiddle to fulfill his year-long dream of sitting in with him.  he (aaron) is so talented, its both inspiring and intimidating.  we got drunk on guiness and i and stayed the night in brooklyn. in the morning, after tacos and tamales, we went to St. Joe's for the soup line and gave them a little old timey concert after the soup line closed.

my mind is whirling with all of the different musical styles that i want to learn: old-time, bluegrass, western swing, jazz, arabic, turkish, really is endless. i told bruno and david that my secret life goal is to learn every different kind of music and dance style that exists, from every country and culture.

looking forward to going to the country, but this visit has been great. coming around with aaron, too, remembering why i love him. he's just so solid and steady. it's a relief to me.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Pharoah's daughter and Capoeira

i felt very emotionally low today, and went to see the band pharoah's daughter tonight, on my own. from their website:
Blending a psychedelic sensibility and a pan-Mediterranean sensuality, Basya Schechter leads her band, Pharaoh's Daughter, through swirling Hasidic chants, Mizrachi and Sephardi folk-rock, and spiritual stylings filtered through percussion, flute, strings and electronica.
it was at Joe's Pub again, but this time i arrived early and got a choice spot of one of the plush velvety red couches, front and center. i nursed a beer and let go into the swirling wash of beautiful sounds. dancing felt good too. it was very inspiring to see folks playing slow, meditative and very deep music. music that heals the musician and the listener. i want to create more of that in my musical life.

after the show, i was heading home and saw a guy on the street with a berimbau and asked him where i could find a capoeira class.

from Wikipedia:
Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art developed initially by African slaves in Brazil, starting in the colonial period. Some people believe that capoeira was created in Africa. They say that capoeira originated in Nigerian tribes where they fought with music and the winner won a partner, usually female. Participants form a roda (circle) and take turns playing instruments, singing, and sparring in pairs in the centre of the circle. The game is marked by fluid acrobatic play, feints, subterfuge, and extensive use of groundwork, as well as sweeps, kicks, and headbutts. Technique and strategy are the key elements to playing a good game. Capoeira has two main styles, known as "regional" and "Angola."

he said there was one right now, upstairs, and i should come watch. he wouldn't take no for an answer, and once i got up there another dude took over in getting my onto the floor. that was all it took, and i was fully in, throwing crazy kicks and pushing myself to keep up. it was amazing and intense and felt so good to surrender body and mind to this dance/martial art form.

stating to feel ready to go "home" to twin oaks, good friends, organic food, and quiet nights.

Monday, November 27, 2006

nest interrupted

today was a loooooooooong ass day! last night i stayed over at aaron's friend aaron's house (how do these things happen!??!) in outer flatbush/mangolia...then it was a long morning of meeting other aaron's high school friend at the H&H bagel factory on the water front: long train ride, long walk etc. i took my bagel stick to the waterfront for some much needed peace and quiet, and it was quiet lovely, in a Manhattan sorta way. the water was comforting and the air cool and breezy.

afterward, we bussed and trained to union square and played for while as a banjo/fiddle/mandolin trio, making shit for money. finally i took off for home, put in a solid 45 minutes of UWS busquing, and then wearily made my home home to recuperate from 24 hrs out and about.

tonight we saw borat, which was disturbing and hilarious, then indulged in mass quantities of amazing sushi and saki. i bid aaron farewell for the night and came home to the nest. sometimes, i wonder if he even likes me at all--i don't have the same fast paced sense of irreverant humor that all his friends cultivate.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

jamming and drinking

wow, today was just amazing! i went down to park slope, brooklyn in the late afternoon to play music with david and his friend bruno. they taught me an arabic tune--it felt so good to play that kind of music though it was totally knew to my fingers. it felt immediately accessable, likley due to the endless hours of persian music my father listened to when i was growing up. then bruno and david played some moroccan and arabic stuff for awhile, violin and dumbek/rik (egyptian frame drum). it was really beautiful. bruno has very little classical training but lots of passion, and david is just solid and peaceful on the percussion.

we drank almond tea and ate goat cheese and apples. eventually, they wanted to hear some klez tunes and after that we just started jamming on any/everything--klez, old-time, bluegrass, swing, name it. bruno has a great funky style, and can play along with anything. we smoked a joint and i transmorgraphed to planet elation as the jam got further and further out there. our rendition of "somewhere over the rainbow" had an extened and zany some point i wasn't sure who was following who, and the chord progression was there only in theory.

after we finished playing, i walked over to zilli's, a new turkish bar also in park slope. carmine's turkish ensemble (oud, violin, dumbek) was playing there. the bartender welcomed me with open arms and started giving me free drinks/shots, so i proceeded to get drunk and bond with the people around me. it was very relaxed and silly. i hung out at the bar all night, drinking turkish beer and doing girly shots (at my request). now i'm trying to come down in preparation for aaron's arrival tomorrow.

Friday, November 24, 2006

weary and overstimulated

today was a rough day. things finally flipped from the high i've been on all week. i'd been savoring living the life in nyc, having fun adventures with attractive i've been feeling scared, unsure, unstable. various folks keep urging me to move to nyc, saying that if you want to play music its the place to be. i worry about not having really good friends around. i can only be driven internally for so long, and then i need to be nurtured and supported by other folks on a similar path. the city is scary and daunting for me; the year that i lived here straight out of college was the most isolated and emotionally paralyzed i've ever been. part of me wants to face the challenge and prove (to who?) that i can "do" it.....but i wonder if this is like twin oaks, better to visit then to actually try and make it your home. luckily i don't need to know the answer anytime soon.

i started learning a new waltz this morning, it was very satisfying to play only for myself after all this intensive busking. the middle of the day was one giant frustration, attempting to meet up with a friend to play dumbek/fiddle on the street...lots of subway time and waiting and locating. in the end we had a quiet cup of tea, and after we parted i forced myself to push through the exhaustion and put in a good 45 minutes of playing in the subway. i was totally worn out by the end, but it felt good. then i came home and treated myself to a vanilla almond bark toffuti/almond milk shake and an episode of west wing (i'm secretly obsessed).

aaron called at the end of the night, and we talked for awhile. i couldn't bring myself to tell him about my latest sexual adventures, it didn't feel right to do it over the phone since he'll be here in just a couple of days. and, i feel unsure about it all myself. that makes it hard to communicate things in a clear and compassionate way. i felt dishonest though, like i was purposely deceiving him.

well, hopefully tomorrow will bring a more positive outlook. david invited me over to play some fiddle/rik (an egyptian frame drum) and learn some arabic tunes with his friend bruno. in the evening carmine is playing with an oud/violin/dumbek ensemble. perhaps the soothing vibe of park slope will help mellow things out.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


me and the rest of the nation will collapse into our collective beds tonight, drugged up on tryptophan, cranberry sauce and giant slabs of pie. i spent the evening at my uncle's girlfriend's house. she's an absolute superstar; june cleaver with a career, a social conscience and a sense of wonder and delight that match that of her amazing kids. it was somewhat awkward, but the wine with dinner, music after desert combination helped.

A good friend of mine once described conversations as being an exchange of “me, me, me me, me” “you, you, you, you” “me, you me” etc. alternating ego-assertion with acknowledging the other person's ego. i guess that's why its such a relief to play music, its an easy way to step outside of social dynamics while still engaging and connecting. moving through these radically different and alien social scenes each night is beginning to wear me out! i'm looking forward to Aaron's immiment arrival, my soul brother fiddle-playing jew from michigan with a strong grasp on life's essentially silly nature.

little israel

i skipped a couple of days, this is from wednesday night:
i had a date with an israeli friend tonight, we met at floyd world music festival a year and a half ago (our bands were the only middle-eastern type music there). we've kept in sporadic touch, but is the first time that we've hung out. the evening was an exploration of israeli New York. there's something very appealing about the israeli manner to me, it feels very relaxed and open while still being intense and engaged.

we ate at an israeli-run restaurant in the village, a little hole on the wall place with great hoummous and a nice atmosphere. then we went to joe's pub to see an amazing django reinhardt-esque guitarest named stephane wrembel. he was playing with a fantastic french fiddler, a drumset, bassist, and another percussionits who had a steel pan that he'd constructed with various percussive attachments. he played it by tapping with metal thimbles on his fingertips. the place was absolutely packed, and the show was amazing. this dude can play! he whipped out these crazy beautiful jazzy melodies and solos at breakneak speed. the band was very tight, playing off each other musically and throwing on sorts of sharp breaks and stops.

after the show, we walked through the blistery cold wind and rain to another israeli hangout, called the cupping room. a bar/restaurant with a live band playing middle eastern music, this place was also packed with israeli's. there was a little dance space in front of the band, which folks took advantage of to belly dance, line dance, circle dance, and just generally get their groove on. why are israeli's so beautiful?

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

this morning, i went down to St. Joseph's house, a catholic worker house on the lower east side. catholic worker houses are radical catholic anarchist activist communities.
here's a snippet from their website,

The Catholic Worker Movement, founded by Dorothy Day and Peter Maurin in 1933, is grounded in a firm belief in the God-given dignity of every human person. Today over 185 Catholic Worker communities remain committed to nonviolence, voluntary poverty, prayer, and hospitality for the homeless, exiled, hungry, and foresaken. Catholic Workers continue to protest injustice, war, racism, and violence of all forms. Catholic Worker communities are independent of each other, and vary in their activities, relationship to the Catholic Church, and how they incorporate Catholic Worker philosophy and tradition.

St. Joseph's house was one of the original catholic worker houses, and has been around for over 50 years. they are a non-profit and exist entirely on donations--they have no independant income source. a mix of white, middle class volunteers and formerly homeless folks live in the building and run the soup kitchen 4 days a week. they also have a clothes closet and other services. i originally found out about st. joe's because i'd visited Little Flower, a rural catholic worker community near twin oaks.

whenever i'm in town i try and spend a few mornings helping out at the soup kitchen. its been nearly four years since i first spent time there; folks are familiar and it feels like home. it feels good to connect with other community-minded folk, give a TO update and catch up on what's going on. it also feels really good and also to give whatever kindness and comfort i can to the "guests" and connect with them (there's no uncheesy way to say this.)

its always kind of hectic there; the air is soaked with the smell of coffee and cigarettes, folks are finding seats and calling for coffee, bread, and the volunteers are running back and forth with bowls of soup and pots of cofee. it's sit down service with about 30 places at the tables. the atmosphere is cozy and homey in a nyc kind of way, and there are lots of regulars. folks often remember me from previous visits and will call me over to ask about virigina, the band, and my current relationship status...the majority are men, mostly a mix of black and hispanic. the women that come are usually extra tough and can hold their own. sometimes altercations become heated, but generally there's a very positive vibe, with lots of joking and jibing going around.

people have unique sensibilities: some people consume massive amounts of sugar and margarine, asking for more soup and more bread. others are very particular, asking for only half a bowl, or only broth. some want white bread, others prefer brown. or rye. i'm not sure how many of these folks are homeless, but they are mostly very clearly down on their luck. however, i'm always impressed at how many of them still hold themselves with a deep sense of dignity and self-respect, making very particular requests. others expound at length on a variety of intellectual and philosophical topics.
i've had many proposals of many sorts, its taken me a while but over time i've honed the fine art of deflection. nearly everyone is incredibly sweet and kind, and appreciative of the food and kindness.

today a lady marched in after the line was officially closed, dressed in frilly pink clothes and a very boosting bustier. she had a pink bow in her hair, announced herself as Joan of Arc, and began complaining and demanding things of people: soup, bread, pastries etc., culminating by yelling, "does anybody WORK here??!?" this sort of situation presents an interesting dilemma,
and i'm not really sure what is the best way to respond. i try and react kindly and respectfully, but without indulging the unneccesary level of rudeness.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

a musican in the city

deciding to busk daily has given my life a certain (albeit loose and flexible) sense of structure. its also helped solidify my identity as a musician, independent of my klez band. taking the time to connect with folks in this way on a daily basis by expressing myself through my instrument has been an amazing experience. and, it means that i'm often carting the fiddle around town, having just finished busking. folks seem to express an immediate trust and respect once they spot that black case.

dorky klez busqing moment of the day: walter zev feldman, one of the originators of the klezmer revival as well as an amazing klez musician and dancer, walked into the 110th st. subway station this afternoon (i was playing a beautiful original klez tune by steve greenman). total klez dorkout moment, but i was just thrilled when he came over and put a quarter in my case! that makes 2 klez star sightings this week! (alicia svigals, klez fiddler extraoirdinaire spotted me on the corner of 110th and b'way). what can i say? life's challah good.

Monday, November 20, 2006

scenester x2

The last 2 evenings, i've had the opportunity to participate in very different social scenes. at the moment i'm feeling a bit burnt out on being among groups of people that i don't really know, and just want to curl up with a buddy and a blanket for some good snuggle talk!

but its certainly been interesting, and I’m grateful for the weird-ass and fascinating opportunities life keeps throwing my way. Sunday night i caught the end of an evening highlighting the "superstar" belly dancers of new york city. the show was at Makor, a branch of the 92nd street JCC; i think of it as the kosher meat market for upper west side 20 and 30 somethings. I arrived late (after my self-required daily busqing stint). the room was packed and dimly lit, the crowd whistling and cheering on the dancers. i caught the last 4 or 5 acts and it was interesting to see their different styles; some were traditional, some very modern. they had a variety of interesting props as well as a male belly dancer. belly dance is such an interesting art form; it can be intensely sensual, or very personal and intimate. when watching belly dancers, i often feel unsure what the proper reaction/response is. somehow it feels wrong or disrespectful to just all feel hot and bothered..........

here's a snippet from Wikipedia about belly dancing, or raqs sharqi in arabic:

Raqs Sharqi dancers internalize and express the emotions evoked by the music. Appropriately, the music is integral to the dance. The most admired Raqs Sharqi dancers are those who can best project their emotions through dance, even if their dance is made up of simplistic movements. The dancer’s goal is to visually communicate to the audience the emotion and rhythm of the music. This especially apparent during the drum solo portion of a performance.

i find this very inspiring for my own music playing, and resonant with my dance experiences as well. The last dancer was the one who embodied this the most--she was so deeply immersed in her body and her sensuality, and it showed clearly in her face. that's what i aim for when performing music--to be deeply and fully in the music, having an intensely personal experience. I think that this then allows the "audience" to share in some small piece of myself, making the performance a deeply spiritual act.

after the show was over, i tagged along with the belly dancers and musicians for dinner at a shmansy greek restaurant nearby. it was weird and fun and kind of exhausting to be immersed this totally unique social scene—belly dancers are a lively, vivacious bunch, and there's surprisingly little overlap with the klezmer scene.

last night i had a very different, equally weird experience of cultural immersion. busking at the 110th st subway station, i was spotted by a fellow jew who was on his way to a benefit celebrating several leading lights of Yiddish theatre. he invited me to come, and following my philosophy of accepting all invitations, i hopped onto the downtown train once i'd finished playing. the theatre was on christopher st., nestled amidst a plethora of gay porn shops. The show was an absolute mob scene of mostly elderly folks, kibbutzing in yiddish. I had a bit of culture shock, after a night out with the belly dancers, and the program was conducted entirely in yiddish! I was able to understand little bits here and there, the musical portion was wonderful, and it was interesting be immersed in this unique culture. Yiddish is such a rich and interesting language, with idioms like “a geshvir iz a guteh zach bei yenem untern orem” (a boil is fine as long as it’s under someone else’s arm) and “a kloleh iz nit kain telegrameh: zi kumt nit on azoi gich” (a curse is not a telegram: it doesn’t arrive so fast). if you're interested in yiddish, or even just creative insults, i highly recommend Michael Wex's website,

and remember, “oifen balken ken kain korn nit geroten!” (you can’t grow corn on the ceiling!)

striding on, or thanks, life!

well, against my internal tuggings, my soul seems to be striding on..........

after moping about for part of the day, i finally get my butt in gear to busk in the 96th street subway. my first subway busqing expidition, it proved interesting and about as lucrative as the street. funny how quickly i feel a connection to my "audience", and beholden to them to continue providing lively, engaging music.

after making enough $$/running out of time, i headed up to symphony space for the bulgarian women's choir concert ( in line i fortuitously met a dude who organizes world music concerts on the upper west side, and in the row in front of me a charming, talkative and delightfully dorky oud/jembush player. the concert was lovely. here's an excerpt from the program:

"From the Soul of the Village to the Cries of the City" includes many songs from the repertoire of legendary Bulgarian vocalist Kremena Stancheva. Yasna Voices worked with Ms. Stancheva last summer, after recieving a grant from the Trust of Mutual Understanding to study in Bulgaria. Assembling in Kremena's birthplace, the small village of Kovachevtsi, we were introduced to songs from Ms. Stancheva's repertoire, many of which she has known since her childhood. Many of the women of Kovachevtski chimed in, singing these song with us; at the town square, in their own kitchens, or while visiting Kremena's front yard.

the program was a mixture of the straight up traditional village-style tunes, as well as their own new arrangements of these haunting, lyrical melodies. They all had traditional Bulgarian dress, giant flowers in their hair, and beautiful smiles. they even brought out their teacher, Kremena Stancheva for a number of tunes. Her voice was amazingly intense---sonourous and almost buzzy, it cut through the prettier voices of the other women transporting us back to her small Bulgarian Village. i think my favorite aspect of the show was how these women were so clearly enjoying the music and each other, and were just delighted to be able to bring it to a wider audience. very inspiring.

after the show, mr. oud player swept me along with his gorgeous british friend for a drink, which turned into bar hopping, and you know where that leads.... we started off at a french restaurant, drinking red wine and sharing beets and fries. they were both quick witted, engaging, hilarious and very kind. The conversation ranged from belly dance contest judging in Hungary to life on the commune at Twin Oaks, to the perils of online dating. although at times it was all i could do to follow the conversation, it was very delightful and i couldn't help dissolve into giggles a few times when their pace and sheer volume of hilarious witticisms washed over me in a tidal wave of sparkling humur.

this delightfully unexpected evening seems to have succesfully turned my dark mood around, although i do have a bit of a hangover this morning!


ok, to explain who/what/how i am............

last august the vulgar bulgars (central virginia's finest klezmer band) decided to take off on extended tour for the summer/fall. after an intoxicatingly wonderful 6 weeks of travel and music, i was totally addicted. life on the farm just wasn't cutting it anymore. so around mid september, i decided to just go for it, jump in, head out and step off into the void. originally my plan was to travel for 3 years, find a home, and settle down for a good long while. we'll see how it goes...

At the moment i'm in nyc, staying with my sociologist uncle on the upper west side of manhatten. i've got 3 weeks here, and am helping the uncle organize his life, playing the fiddle on the street, helping serve soup at St. Joseph's house (a catholic worker communty on the lower east side), and trying to have some fun adventures of my own, as well.

right now my biggest struggle seems to be embracing this new solitary status. i'm currently in 2 big romantic relationships, both not here, and they have been colonizing my brain a little bit, stifling my inner fiercly independant nature. time to throw off the emotional yoke and stride forth into my life!

Today's plan includes playing fiddle in the 95th st. subway until i make enough money to see the bulgarian women's choir at symphony space. bulgarian women's choral music is haunting, beautiful, and deeply emotive for me. i also have a personal connection since i grew up hearing this kind of music (my parents were big folk dancing afficionados).

til then, its a grey day perfect for curling up with an ursula leguin book and a mug of tea.

relationships, shremationships

what a grouchy, negative place to start this project from.....

well, here goes. since one of my deepest core value is to seek out and and speak my truth, both to myself and others, it seems appropriate somehow that i begin this blog on a personal note. i recently had a tarot reading done by one of my partners' co-parents/partners, and one of the major themes was being caught in a negative mind state and orientation towards the world and my life. Turning this around would bring me into the flow, remaining stuck in it would result in all kinds of nasty, unpleasant experiences (with sharp, pointy teeth).

At the moment i'm teetering on the edge; easily within reach of either negativity and lashing out, or regrounding and centering. the negative side sure feels tempting......