It's a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I'm sitting on my balcony with a cup of green tea , staring at the skyline. Two weeks of gigging has made me a caffeine person again, and I'm not happy about it, but I am happy about having gigs again. The pandemic has undoubtedly thrown a magnifying glass on my introversion, but the satisfaction I get from seeing people have a good time, dance, sing, and hug each other far outweighs my exhaustion post-lights and sound.
Four different cars are blaring music, blasting bass-heavy hip hop tracks, creating a delightful cacophony. It's keeping me awake. It's 12:55pm CST here and I can barely keep my eyes open. Yesterday, I slept 6 hours, taught 5 hours of piano lessons, drove to the burbs to play a 3 hour solo show, then drove to the Gold Coast to round out the night with a 2am gig. I couldn't wind down 'til 4am, and my body clock kicked me away again at 10.
I'm not here to complain. I'm honestly grateful to be back to doing what I love. I just forgot how much energy it takes.
I wonder how everyone else feels about re-finding their footing. We really slowed down for the better part of 15 months. I heard an interesting NPR conversation last night on Consider This called "How To Human Again". It's subtitled "advice for the long transition to post-pandemic life." One of the questions/observations the experts addressed was from a man who decided that he liked his new introverted life. He felt healthier when he wasn't running around. Another call-in (a musician, interestingly enough) noted that he was now uncomfortable with small talk. One of the experts noted that we should do away with small talk altogether. I couldn't agree more.
I spent the last year discovering that I hate participating in social events that don't feed my desire for actual artistic, human connection. This made me feel embarrassed about all the times I went to parties and get-togethers and stared at my feet, wondering what was wrong with me. It also made me feel embarrassed that I agreed to do these things that weren't a good fit for my personality or priorities. One of the experts on the NPR show advocated the normalization of saying (and accepting) "no" as a complete sentence. No reason is necessary, no apology is warranted. We should, as a society, be okay with the following conversation.
Person A: Would you like to go to dinner with me and some friends?
Person B: No. (And perhaps a "Thank you for invitation" in the spirit of friendliness.)
Because here's the thing: different people have different needs. My best friend needs to go out 6 nights a week to feel energized and happy. If I go out once a month, I'm done for. This may be, in part, due to having such an extroverted job, but I've also realized that I love to spend my free time writing, reading, creating artistic content, and hanging out at home with my husband and two leopard geckos. I don't really like talking about anything besides music, art, mental health, and food/wine. I don't like to play dress up or make believe, and whether that's a costume party or a nice dress at happy hour, I'm out of place. I thrive on real, meaningful connection, not forced social obligations.
Anyway, I thought that episode of "Consider This" was very timely and important. If you have a cool 13 minutes to spare, check it out.
I think it's time for me to have another cup of tea and do some mixing. I have to get that book and EP out by September.
Until tomorrow, stay well, stay safe, stay kind, and set those boundaries.
Well, I was today years old when I learned my favorite summertime feel-good anthem (Kanye West's "The Good Life") samples MJ's P.Y.T. (Lots of letters, I know.) So...I'm putting myself in hiphop head time-out. I don't know what that entails yet, but I'll find a suitable punishment.
"The Good Life" is my roll-the-windows-down-let's-go-to-a-street-festival sorry-uber-driver-but-I-am-not-driving-myself-there-because-I-will-be-having-a-few-beers jam. Or my jogging jam, but the first one is definitely more fun.
There is something magical about Chicago in the summertime. I'm getting emotional just typing about it. Perhaps that's augmented by a year of not having it due to COVID lockdowns. We went a year without street festivals, concerts, tourists, parades...it was spooky. Let's be honest. There's no reason to live somewhere like Chicago without the Arts and Culture (the winters...oh, the winters. *Shivers*). Sure, the people are nice, but you can find that in most of the Midwest while knocking a zero off the price of your house. (Sorry, mom and dad. I know you wish I would have stayed in CLE.)
Chicago (to me) is all about live music, good food, highly self- or institutionally educated thinkers who endorse progressive and compassionate lawmaking, and that guy on the corner of State and Monroe who told me I'm going to hell due to my short haircut. It's about walking around my neighborhood and hearing English, Spanish, Arabic, and Korean spoken, and seeing Black Lives Matter and Hate Has No Home Here signs in the windows. It's about people with shared experiences packing onto the L to go to work or see friends.
Sometimes I think my wonder is due to my occasional naiveté. I grew up next to a National Park (awesome), then moved to a small town in Michigan for my undergrad (also awesome), and finally settled in Chicago because of the gig opportunities. I spent my first year here with my eyes bugging out of my head and a jaw on the sidewalk, awestruck. I've been to NYC 9 times, LA twice, Paris, Rome, Amsterdam, Bangkok...and a shit ton of other places. Nowhere else feels quite like home.
Of course, Chicago has its share of problems. Systemic racism, police corruption and brutality (I'll save that one for another post, but in the meantime you can read this), rats (rattiest city in America, baby), and on a lighter note, traffic. I see that. I want to be part of the solution, and I'm involved with my neighborhood and ward as much as I can. But this blog post isn't about the necessary progress we must achieve. It's a short love letter. Don't worry. I'll cycle back with my radical leftist opinions another time.
So, hey. If you feel safe to visit Chicago sometime soon, please do. I'm only an honorary Chicagoan (7 years as of 4/4/21!), but I gotta say...this is the best place on earth. Come eat the food of the incredible multicultural chefs, dance in Crown Fountain, explore some wacky art boutiques, and wear your favorite Defund the Police shirt. I'll be waiting.
Until next time, stay well, stay kind, and...
Welcome to the good life
Where n***** who sell D
Won't even get pulled over in they new V
The good life, let's go on a living spree
Shit, they say the best things in life are free
The good life, it feel like Atlanta
It feel like L.A., it feel like Miami
It feel like N.Y., summertime Chi, ahh
Now throw yo' hands up in the sky
I got my second Pfizer vaccine in mid-April. It was an incredible relief. I'd spent the better part of the previous 14 months terrified for my health, avoiding any social contact, and financially stressed. As soon as my two week waiting period over, I was nervous and excited to get back to playing gigs.
After two weeks of work, I can say that people seem really happy to have a live music experience again. Most are both generous and respectful. If there's a positive to come out of the pandemic, I think it's reshaped the way we interact. I haven't been inappropriately touched onstage once. People seem kinder too. I'm hearing a lot more "please" and "thank you", instead of "play my song! Now!" Kinda wild. Most people don't stay out too late, either. I'm definitely more of a crash-early house cat type these days. I don't mind it.
I've sort of been burning the candle at both ends, so to speak. I teach piano lessons a few days a week and hit the clubs at night. I'll be cutting back on my studio come June, which is both saddening and a relief. I just can't do it all.
This whole "return to normal-ish" has me reeling. I was jumpy at my first few gigs, seeing lots of people packed into bars, dancing, drinking, hugging. It took a few mental pep talks to remind myself that this was the deal; after the shots, I had to go back to work, and I am mostly protected from the virus. It's been awesome to see people laughing together and having fun. Surreal, almost. And not to be a downer, but I think it's going to be a really long time before things are completely the way they used to be. 100% capacity and all that. Or maybe I'm wrong. I hope I am. In any case, the dive back in has been weird and wild.
After a few more weeks of a full teaching schedule, I'll become a night creature again. Almost all bar work, singalong, and bad jokes. It'll take a few weeks.
Livestreaming was a great outlet the past year, and John and I will continue to do our Wednesday show (7-8:30pm CST) for as long as we can. It was a fun way to reconnect with old friends and family who don't live in Chicago. But I have to say, playing for in-person crowds and hearing the cheering and singing really lifts my spirits. For an introvert, I really like being the ringmaster of Nightlife Circus several days a week.
This post is a bit scattered, well, because I am. I was up til 3am coming down from the high of the gig and I woke up at 8 because my body clock made me. I'm on a teaching break and I still need to eat something. No complaints, though. It's nice to be back.
Until tomorrow, stay well, stay safe, and stay kind.
P.S. The transition back to gigs is why I haven't blogged in a bit. I'm hoping to do at least a few posts a week moving forward. Thanks for staying in touch!