Why I Backed Away From the Music Industry

Photo credit: Alison Gordy

In light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and in support of all the brave women who have come forward,  also those victimized by Bill Cosby, another on-trial preditor, I’d like to add my voice. I cannot name names because all these years later, I have no “proof,”

I started performing at coffeehouses, open stages, VFW halls, etc. when I was 13 years old. I had nobody to protect me: my parents were dysfunctional, and I really was on my own. The unwanted attention started immediately. “Can I take you home?” “No, my mom is coming to pick me up.” “Can I buy you a drink after the show?” “No, I’m 13.”

Over the years, I kept playing, and as I got older, the overtures were bolder and more insistent. Groping, sexual comments, suggestive offers. All of it made me feel icky and in danger. Still, like a black kid in the projects who see sports as a way up and out of poverty, I clung to my music and kept going. I was going to make it up and out of my dysfunctional childhood and play my music in front of a world audience.

Fast-forward to the 1990s. I was part of the Folk Revival movement in Greenwich Village, playing in all the key venues. I had a lawyer, who, unfortunately, convinced me that he knew “someone” at Sony who could get me a record deal. “How far was I willing to go? Answer: Not that far. He did nothing for me but put his hand up my skirt and take my money while I took him out to dinner.

I ditched him when he asked for half my publishing.

I had a meeting with a major label, demo in hand, and was asked to give a blowjob to the A&R rep. I refused, and that was the end of the meeting.

I finally took my music and formed my own label, Anvil Records, in 1994 and have released two CDs, Broken Hearted Angel, and Darkness Visible. I decided to remove myself from the predators’ pool because it was utterly demoralizing.

Harvey Weinstein is just a pimple on the acne’d face of the entertainment industry, and let’s take it a step further, on our society in whole. There is a deep vein of hatred towards women and their “ample assets,” “pert derrieres,”  “bikini-ready bodies,” ad nauseum. Women who are strong, capable, and willing to make a difference in society are hounded, pursued, derided, and discredited. In other words, there are a lot of men who really hate women, and will go to the ends of the earth to keep us as tits and ass toys.

I gave up on the music industry for those reasons. I support all the women who have come forward to decry this gross (and I mean that in all ways) injustice done towards them. Let’s put an end to this “I grab ’em by the pussy” mentality. It has to go. Look at who we have in the White House. Harvey’s brother.

Do I still play? Of course. Old musicians never die, we just decompose.

Brian Tobin, a NYC Original

On August 13th, my friend Brian Tobin passed from this world into whatever heaven we perceive. He was a gentle soul. We met in the early 90s and he told me he was available to help me cart my PA and gear to gigs far and wide. And that he did. He was better than a mail carrier. He showed up in rain, snow, floods, extreme heat, he was there for me. He never missed a NYC gig.

When I got a job offer in South Florida, I called him, and he cheerfully agreed to drive me (and my two pets) from North Jersey to a moon landing called Port St. Lucie. Brian was living 20 miles away, then, in Tequesta, with his wife Meta, and he became close friends with my husband, Greg.

Brian has been a tightly knit part of the fabric of my life for so long, and now that he’s transitioned to the other side, I’m okay for a few days, and then I just break down in tears. I’m grateful to Meta for her friendship and for the love and care she gave Brian over the last months of his earthly existence. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, but she did it with grace and love. I am honored to count her among my friends.

I chose the New Mexico landscape with the single insistent cloud to represent my buddy.   Jesus, I’m going to miss him.

For all of you who are grieving for a loved one, I am with you.

Photo credit of Brian: Rod MacDonald

Invictus

 

My grandmother who is pictured above, Jean Castrovinci, asked me to memorize this poem by William Ernest Henley. It was one of her favorites, and she said to me. “You will need these words, one day.”  Oh, how right she was. This poem has served me well in many instances.

The photo of my grandmother was taken in the 1920s.

INVICTUS

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole.
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced, nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody but unbowed. 

In this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me unafraid. 

It matters not how strait the gait
How charged with punishment the scroll.
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul. 

Gilding the Silver Lining

Dad and Greg July 2017

When you look at this photo, you see two men dressed to hop on a surfboard and ride a wave. My father-in-law is on the right, and my husband is on the left.

I just want to say, being a caregiver to my husband’s parents is an honor and a privilege. It’s also hard, frustrating, and exhausting.

To all caregivers — I salute you. You may ultimately find me asleep in the laundry room. There’s a little bit of room if you need to join me… just no cell phones allowed. You know why.

One Step Forward…

 

Last Thanksgiving Day, I was putting several heavy dishes up onto a high shelf with my right hand. All of a sudden, it felt like a small explosion took place in my elbow.  I had a houseful of guests, and I thought I just “tweaked” a muscle, and it would calm down, so I plowed through the day. And the days after that.

December came and went, and then January, February, and then, in March I finally couldn’t stand it anymore and saw my doctor, and she referred me to a specialist. As it turns out, I hadn’t strained a muscle, I had torn a tendon in my forearm, (which explains why I had to have a friend and colleague carry my computer bag on and off several planes because I couldn’t lift it). The specialist gave me a cortisone shot and said come back in a month for the second shot.

Fellow procrastinators, you know what happened after that… my elbow felt better and I figured I was good.

Nope. Not by a long shot. I’ll be making that appointment for the follow-up shot tomorrow.

I took the photo above from my hotel window in Boston a few days ago. I could actually lift my arm high enough to (just barely) make the shot.

Almost the Spring I Feared the Most

It was really balmy here in Southeast Virginia a few weeks ago, and it made me a little bit nervous. Where I grew up, March was the trickiest month of the year. It really could “come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.” In other words, March could be damn cold–cold to the bone. And God help you if you didn’t have shoes that could keep your feet warm or a coat that couldn’t keep the wind from blowing right through! The ice settled in your back, arms, and shins, and made a left turn into your consciousness.   

As a kid in Northern New Jersey, when we had the one-off day in late winter that felt like spring, I worried about the forsythia that bloomed popcorn yellow on Route 287 on my way to and from Rutgers-Newark and the crocuses that poked up through the snow. What would happen if all the plants and trees thought it was spring and bloomed unwittingly, only to have the frozen Alberta Clipper descend upon the land once again? Yes, I worried about that. Because back then, the seasons were much longer than they are now. Back then, a month was a very long time, a season: Forever. 

That spring of falsehoods never occurred in my younger years, but this year came close. It began to warm up in February. It got warmer and warmer. Soon, none of us at work were wearing our coats. We had sweaters, and what I now know to be a Southern phenomenon, the men in the office began to wear shorts and “tennis shoes.” In New Jersey, we called them “sneakers,” but I’ve gradually come around to the Southern way. (Although I will never say “buggy” when I mean “shopping cart.”)

The trees began to swell with buds, and my now beloved tulips, yes, all 20 of them, began to make a showing. 

April Fools have come and gone, and I will make these observations: Last year, I had variegated tulips–red, white, bright yellow. This year, they are all white, with the exception of one yellow tulip. Also, the trees that are usually the palest of greens and reds, are all a dull brown. 

I felt somewhat somber until this week: The cherry blossoms and the redbud trees are in bloom, peonies abound in their vivid multi-colored splendor, and yellow pollen coats the cars and the lining of my lungs. Fellow allergy sufferers, I feel your pain. Fellow optimists, Oh, God, what glorious days lay ahead! 

An Early Southern Spring

It’s barely March, and spring has sprung in Southeast Virginia.

It’s barely March, and already the daffodils are blooming, the Bradford pear trees are ablaze with white blossoms, my tulips are pushing green leaves up through the ground, the redbud trees are buzzing, and periwinkle carpets the hill with their tiny blue blossoms. 

I can’t remember spring ever being so early. In the Northeast, where I lived until I was beating down the door of middle age, March still held one or two gut-punches of snow, wind, and rising damp. I was always cold. Until I moved to South Florida, and there, I was always hot–I’m entirely unsure which was worse. 

So, here, in Southeastern Virginia, the moderate climate never ceases to amaze me. If it snows, the scenery outside my window is magical…and then the snow is gone a few days later. The languid summer days drift by, and the fall is gentle. I will say, we do have our stretches of gray skies and drizzly days, but I don’t mind. 

Like Goldilocks, I’ve finally found my “just right.”