Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Woke up this morning with one of those once a month headaches, piercing, as if someone were driving nails through my left temple. The day has been temperamental, alternating between warm sunshine and cold overcast. One of those Bay Area days that could be any season, except for the low slant of the light.

Last night G won free tickets to Yoshi's so we went. It was a singer named Sony Holland, a pretty blonde in a red dress who did a brisk hour of jazz standards, with some original tunes thrown in. I know I am biased, also spoiled because of all the great artists I know, but she couldn't hold a candle to my friend Carla Zilber, who does a portrait of a burnt-out wedding singer so poignantly and explosively in her one-woman show Wedding Singer Blues.

Sony was good, she has a lovely voice, nice timing, good dynamics, but she just wasn't giving that extra je ne sais quoi from the belly that distinguishes a good performance from a great one. It was 10:00 on a Monday night. Maybe she was tired, maybe her feet hurt in those sparkly high heeled sandals. She did come really alive on a beautiful cover of The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, which has to be one of the most gorgeous songs in the world.

Being a great performer demands a kind of energy that most people (myself included) don't have. It goes beyond being talented or entertaining. Holland has a nice voice and good control. She obviously loves the music. But being able to rip someone's heart out and hand it back to them dripping and raw--and being able to do that night after night, year in, year out-- is an art, it's a sacrifice, a perverse, sacred calling. You have to be crazy enough to lay down your own life, the most intimate aching parts of it, for whomever is there to listen. And really, why would anyone want to do that?

So many talented folks I know are working their butts off to get to the privileged difficult position of being a working artist. But talent is only the tip of the iceberg. Once you're there, you have to keep risking everything. For the rest of your life. Is it any wonder someone would prefer to just put on a sexy dress and sing some nice songs in a pleasing way? Who could blame her?

(Just because I'm analyzing why Sony's performance didn't rock my world doesn't mean it was a bad time. The sax player was phenomenal, the piano player was very good, and we liked just people-watching.

On the subject of people-watching: true, politically-incorrect confession-- there was a large older woman in the audience with white hair and glasses. From the neck up she looked like a 60-year-old reference librarian. She was wearing the most low-cut, thrusted-bosom-baring top I have ever seen outside of a plus-sized Frederick's of Hollywood catalogue. And her "nursers" as my nephew would call them, were monumentally huge, size MMM or something.

I was fascinated, no doubt because of my own issues with bustiness and aging. I wondered who she was: a sex surrogate for older men? A retired Vegas showgirl? A woman who was publically reclaiming her sexuality? On a dare? Just another big-breasted woman who got tired of the way the fabric pulls and gaps and you just look lumpy and fat in a turtleneck? I felt repelled and fascinated: was she trying to prove something?

I even found myself thinking, why doesn't she get them reduced? which is a terrible thing to think, or say, but God help me, I thought it and now I'm saying it, which just goes to show there's some road left to travel on my own body-acceptance issues. G. gasped when he saw her, and the guy sitting behind us gave a little involuntary yelp when she turned around; why were we so...reactive? Is it that the image of an older woman's public sexuality is disturbing, or was the outfit just aesthetically unpleasing?)

The house feels a little crazy now, with David and Julie just moving in, boxes everywhere, everyone in transition. I'm working, through the headache, trying to see everything as a gift, and the gifts are abundant. A dear friend sent me a bunch of organic food. The yoga studio where I performed at Enver's benefit last Friday offered a free month of yoga classes. I'm gratefully accepting all this bounty and trying to stay simple; clean my room, call Internet providers, put away the piles of books and magazines.

I met today with a friend who spent twenty-five years in prison and lives in a trailer and makes beautiful gourds with goddess images on them (and wasn't the older woman at the show last night some kind of seldom-seen goddess of our time--maybe the shadow side of Aphrodite in her outh?) Tonight I'll see my old friend Oscar who escaped the army in El Salvador when he was 13, had a harrowing Odyssey to get to this country, and is now a grown man adopting his Salvadorean nephew. David keeps interrupting me as I try to write because he needs my help moving his furniture in. And the beat goes on.

Meanwhile: keep praying, drink water, pull a few weeds, track the moon's cycle. It's almost the birthday of the trees.

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