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Saturday, September 22, 2007

the neon lights of broadway - surviving the enlightening Manhattan

Wednesday Sept 19. Manhattan. Peaceful busy-ness. Constant sounds like a hum in the inner ear drum. Roadsweepers, horns honking, somewhere close, a jazz quartet rehearses their notes. I am on 98th and West End. The Upper West Side. Amused by the creative chaos of my own thoughts, I am so excited to be here on one of my many (now yearly) pilgrimages to New York.
I wrote this when I was 21 in this city:
"So much to do,
So little time,
So many thoughts,
Running through my mind.
Keep a step ahead of the rest of the crowd,
Don't fall under, Success is where I'm bound"

It wasn't easy getting to New York this time. "Ease" has been the operative word, but as sometimes we are meant to be tested, so too was the car battery. Dead. Luckily, we didn't want to drive into Manhattan. Still, leaving a dead car in New Jersey for the remainder of the week was not of interest to us. At first, it was a dead battery (a leaking battery as Asif our mechanic up the road told Melissa). Then, some calls later, he tells us that the alternator is kaput. That will be $475 total thank you very much. I didn't know this for sometime, as i was packing for NY, while Melissa frantically looked up car places for second opinions. As soon as I found out this decidedly unclear and dubious piece of information, I grabbed Melissa and marched up to tell Asif a piece of my mind and get under the hood(U.S)/Bonnet(real translation), myself. I'm not going to let some suburban mechanic ruin our entire tour fund. Yikes.
I began to chat, (wo)man to man. "Asif, are you sure it's the alternator?". "How can the alternator and the battery go at the same time?". "Is your meter faulty" "Do you speak English?". As if, Asif, it should cost that much!" All done with a smile though. Anyway, we gave him 20 minutes to double check his mechanic resume and the car and find out if in fact it really was the alternator or, perhaps, just perhaps, maybe a wire got unplugged. Sounds rather "girly" to say, "he mister, maybe (eyes fluttering), it's one of those (smiling flirtily) wires, a little, you know, askew?"
CAN YOU believe it? We were goddam right. It was a silly little wire. THANK you Asif for listening to women for a change. I felt so proud of my dad's drilling in me about how to be like a mechanic with mechanics. The bush did me right!
We parked the car in Harvard Yard. No we didn't. I just wanted to write that, like Bostonian's say it. "Paak tha caa in Haaavid Yaaad". We parked the car back and Patti's and Susie's (see right, pic with me, Patti and daughter Grace) - and Melissa and I hopped on the #66 DeCamp bus to Manhattan... destination broadway, 42nd street. Fabo!
And here I sit, now 98th and West End, at Carol's. I remember my time here in 92, going after the big dream on rollerblades and a copy of Backstage, living on a banana a day. Today, I had to take Melissa to my and Jeff's favorite pizza joint on 96th and Amsterdam: Famiglia's. That juicy, cheesy slice, just melts in your mouth. Fifteen minutes later, I passed out in Central Park. The week was already catching up on me. It's taxing being on the road. Gosh we had the BEST weather in New York. The best I've ever felt. Sunny, warm, slight breeze. Perfect. I fell asleep with the light afternoon sun caressing my face, dreaming of inspiring stages for the next 3 nights.

i used to dream of this day
i never thought it would come to this
all of those weary nights
poems by candlelight
i danced alone in my own world
i feel so much alive
i remember the fear i felt
never believed the dreams in me
time to receive all that i need
time to reinvent my human nature
time to begin the child
time to begin
We took our time to Greenwich Village, for our first gig in Manhattan. No keyboard to carry, each venue promised one to use. Phew. I used the Honor Society band's keyboard. You can check them out at Thanks boys! They actually had a korg triton, like mine, PLUS a whirlitzer, and I made a right angle with both so I could go back and forth. It was quite an experience. The local crowd was not much, but the room was awesome. Melissa delivered her rock-ness, I played it more mellow. I'm very much an audience artist. If there is one, it's w.o.w. If there isn't, i'm like "ho hum, ready for a glass of wine." I really did like this venue though. Thanks Maria for the gig. 40 year anniversary of this cool hole in the wall on Bleeker street. After us, The Lenny Brothers played after Talk about south of the border, N'Orleans meets Elvis coolness. So ego, just soul, blues and a great hair cut. Melissa and I ended the night popping our head into various Village clubs, like one of my old haunts, the Bitter End (this girl was singing, and playing violin at the same time, while her band rocked out. soo cool). Late night nachos and a jazz club and we headed uptown with a slight skip in our step.
Still, I traveled back to the pad feeling a little despondent. I'd traveled all this way to where... an almost empty room? This isn't the New York I remembered. I remember Baggot Inn last year with the walls humming, and Town Hall with Eric Idle, and Cutting Room with fabo piano and photos and industry and.. and... Here I am on the subway riding uptown on the 1, thinking... "i have to change this. i have to change who i've become, and get in touch with that warrior, innately creative, spirit... again. Will this town feed me like it once did?"
Sleep, 11am sleep in, groggy head, and a green tea soy latte at starbucks. Today, I felt it early...., was going to be sensational. My fiance (yep folks, you heard it), says that "it's always darkest before dawn". How true. I had sunk into deep 21 year old blues (it flooded back) and enlightened in the morning to my mature 30s "I can take on this world" view of things. It worked. We began the day strolling down the Hudson River in the park, watching the yachts and the geese. A vignet of New York I never knew existing. On 79th and the water there is the most fabulous cafe, with an in the round Rotunda type eating area and raised stage. Views spectacular the happy hour beers are $3. If I were getting married in New York, this is beyond a doubt the place i'd get married. A cafe, a bar, a place to rest, the views were magical, and nothing over the top at all in price. What a location.
Chelsea next. The moment that shifted my NY perspective. I had an awesome meeting at United for Opportunity. Same ilk as me and my warrior girl music. I'm psyched. They just released Ani DiFranco's latest Best Of album. Need a say more? .... More news about that soon, i hope. That night, a fabo, awesome, hot, rock-ness, coolness gig at Mo Pitkins House of Satisfaction. Couldn't get cooler. Amy Clarke, also pianist of extraordinary bliss, hosted the night which we titled "Songsalive! Sirens". We actually started the night at 7.30pm with a song critique workshop which was very cool for our local writers to gather and gain valuable, positive, critique. (Pic Left is Dan Schteingart, Chloe Watkins, Melissa Mullins, Amy Clark, Steve Archdeacon and moi. The NY Contingent).
Then we had so much fun to, phew, a full house. Gosh I was so excited, centered, and felt funny and got response back, and Love our new chica aussie friend Chloe who came and hung with us. She showed us around East Village and what an assortment of cool venues to play at next time I'm back: Living Room - has to be THE place for me, and unlike the popular downstairs room, the upstairs smaller space has a grand piano. Love it. Next door, Pianos. But no piano. Weird. Rockwood Music Hall round the corner, also very intimate and fabo for songwriters. This is a great part of town. We ended the night back uptown with a cup of tea and a left over piece of pizza slice.
>Fast Forward interlude: I'm currently listening to Ani DiFranco, at a later time in space as i write, and her new "Canon" album is absolutely stunning. Flows, spoken, sung, melodic, rhythmic, perfect for a 2am writing spell.
Friday twenty first of september is supposed to be a fabulous day. 9+ 21 + 2007 = 21. Good number. I'm sitting in a little cafe (Starbucks, he he) with Backstage and my gtsl. I'm observing the new york foot traffic out of the floor to ceiling high windows. There is a lot of noise. Goes with the territory. This is New York. I'm really getting into the thick of things now. I'm feeling my inner muse come back to life. I planned that this would be, by the time I hit Manhattan. I feed off the energy here. Simply Red is playing on the radio. How serendipitous. I met them recently in West Hollywood at Virgin Records, where Mick was releasing his latest record. I gave him my cd, extraOrdinary life, and his wife/manager was very kind. I haven't received the call. I wonder if my manager heard from them. Manager, manager? anyone? bueller?
It was a great day to see the Statue of Liberty on the free Staten Island Ferry.
Here in Manhattan I've been honing in... getting closer to "it". I've been so... disconnected from my "path" for about 2 years, really. I thought it was just months, but it adds up. Time passes swiftly. I had been milling in a quagmire of productive energy expulsion, with no sense of creative direction. I've done so much, yet felt so little. I've been a walking zombie, creatively, living on automatic pilot at gigs, meetings, productions, performances. I haven't sat down and written in ages, songs nor my book. I have produced a huge festival ( in August, and Dayjams the rock music camp, with 17 staff, and produced various albums for others (, and yes toured, and spoken at conferences, and yes, i've been out there. But the "in" became stagnant. I have played this game so long, I had lost how to make it fresh. My friend Jon Batson says "Gilli, when you've won the game, you no longer need to play it." So true. I had absorbed that piece of information, 10 days ago, on Virginia Beach, realizing that that is why I had become so numb recently. I have done this ALL before, and I have done it well. I have played the live performance game, the recording industry game, the internet game. So where to now?
Right now, it's about inner creative peace. That's the challenge. And this tour is ***WAKING*** me up! I am getting my creative juices back. Last night my show at Mo Pitkins was unbelievably satisfying. I felt in touch with my spirit I laughed, I was in joy. I was quirky, my voice, keys and eyebrow expressions were all connecting like a well oiled machine. I "Felt" my lyrics and the emotion transcended beyond me to the room. An extraordinary day for an ordinary girl.
The final gig at Baggot Inn was small, and the keyboard I was subjected to was the worst most rotten keyboard with no piano sounds. I felt like I was playing a toy dinky child's keyboard. But I DIDN'T CARE. One tequila shot softened the blow and I just let it out with fun and ease. How can you burst a bubble when it's protected by inspiring light? Darren was great on sound, notwithstanding, and the bar tender had the coolest magic tricks with shot glasses.
Vignet: Our last stop was in Bayonne, the arm pit of New Jersey, in an equally um, humble apartment, for the opposite *MAGICAL* live internet show with Jerry from - We literally performed in the kitchen!
Summary: I am falling in love with my performance again, and more importantly, my art again. The artist within is shining. I'm loving meeting new people. My heart is beating, centered and joyous. My legs are killing me fro walking 10 miles and 100 blocks a day, but this is what it's all about...being the ox. Thank you Manhattan. I am alive again.
gilli moon & melissa mullins - east coast barefoot ordinary tour

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