A Magical Moment in Time in Chicago

Hi everybody…

Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve written. . . I kind of dug a hole for myself with that last two-part blog entry on How To Write a Song, and I wasn’t sure how to get out. I still haven’t finished the bridge on “This Too Shall Pass,” so I felt funny about writing about something new until I’d finished the song here on the blog. Well, screw it. I don’t know when it will be finished. And I don’t know if it will be interesting enough to write about or read about at that point. So let’s not worry about it.

I found that trying to disseminate the process felt really weird and disengaged from the mystical/creative/purer parts of the writing. . . I felt that I was presenting writing as if it could be broken right down into a series of left-brain choices and logical decisions, when that’s not quite it (although it can be a helpful part of the editing process, for sure). I don’t find that writing really works that way, typically, but I guess I was trying to keep the whole thing more accessible for people who’ve wanted to experiment with songwriting but have felt intimidated by it. It was a valuable exercise for me in that I’ve had to realize that as much as you can get better at seeing what’s working (and maybe a little faster or better focused at it), songwriting still holds a ton of mystery and magic and connection to something else for me, and hopefully for you as you listen to songs that you love. And this mystery/magic/connection is not something that any one person has for just themselves. Every person has access to this, and can find its unique porthole into his or her life. We can always try to understand the way we do things, but it doesn’t really always reveal why we’re good at them (or not), why people respond to them (or not), why we love these processes (or don’t), and it doesn’t mean that our way will work for anyone else.

So…thanks for walking with me down this little path…more synthesis and coherence, hopefully, in upcoming posts.


Spent a few days in Chicago this weekend for a gig, and got to see my Mom and hang out with her, which was great. The gig was for a guy who wanted to do a really special proposal for his girlfriend, so he flew me in and put me up at a lovely hotel on Michigan Avenue and basically booked me for a private concert for their (hopeful) engagement. It went off without a hitch, and Brad and Marnie looked really happy throughout the concert and evening, very romantic and sweet. It took place at a funky little piano bar on Ontario called Grape Street and Vine, and the staff there were all great. Good Chicago people. I miss that scene so much sometimes.

Here in Utah, people are extremely nice, but also usually extremely polite, which — when combined with a low rate of drinking alcohol — makes for very quiet, reserved crowds at shows. Chicagoans are, by nature and heritage, a more rowdy bunch — more outspoken, more outgoing, more full of commentary and personality at times. I was getting into a cab on Monroe, strugglying a little bit while loading my bags into the trunk by myself, and a woman walking by pointed at the cabbie and said crustily: “Do NOT tip him! Sitting there at the wheel while a nice girl is putting her luggage in the trunk by herself! Argghh!!” I mean, where else can you get that kind of commentary?

On the way back from the show (sorry that it wasn’t open to the public, good fans of Illinois), I walked the couple blocks back to my hotel and TONS of people were out — shopping, eating, walking, drinking. It was so lively and light, a warm night, and I was wired from the gig so I’m sure I was smiling like a crazy person as I walked at a good city clip. A talented saxophone player was jamming his heart out on Michigan, adding so much to the atmosphere that I jogged over and gave him a big tip. He gave me the biggest smile, worth every cent. A couple guys seated at outdoor tables and well on their way to a festive Cinquo de Mayo asked me to come hang out and have a drink with them as I walked past. They were sweet and inviting, but I just encouraged them to have a great time and kept walking, enjoying my solitude and the beautiful evening.

The next day, I went to a great restaurant called The Grande Lux Cafe. I was alone and had come for breakfast, and the hostess seated me in this gorgeous rotunda part with window seats that overlooked the Magnificent Mile. I felt like I’d won the seating lottery. I had a beautiful, slow breakfast and loved watching the people, a conveyor belt of humanity moving by on the sidewalks below.

A dozen other lovely moments resonated for me as I enjoyed my time in the city. It had been ages since I’d been there alone for a day, with no real responsibilities, and it was awesome.

I love all my trips with Mark, and with family and friends, but it was a very different experience to be alone in a place rich with possibility and stimulation. It’s like part of me woke up that had been really sleepy. It’s so natural to filter our experiences and choices through the people that we’re with that I think we begin to forget to recognize or remember our own true preferences. And it’s a very good thing to find that singularity in our viewpoints from time to time, and to nurture it.

There’s a line in my song “Circle of Desire” that people have had trouble understanding sometimes. It goes:  “But still I can see my life through single eyes, a wisp upon the breeze,  Following every whim I please… so different but no higher…In the circle of desire.”

This is exactly what I’m talking about in re-finding a singularity of vision. There is a part of us that is positively (that is, not negative about being) selfish. A part of us listens to a hundred little signs a day about what might be exciting or delightful or fascinating, and we too often have to tell this part that there’s no time right now, or no energy, or its needs are less pressing than these other ones here, sorry.

Your “single” eyes are your way of seeing and being before you were looking out for what someone else might prefer, need, or want. For an hour, or an afternoon, or a day, it would mean making choices based on just what you are drawn to and find interesting. (NOT what the kids might enjoy, or the food your honey always likes, or the show that you should watch so you’re up on this topic for your bookclub or whatever. No shoulds, compromises, or habit...just choosing from moment to moment based on instinct and desire.) It can be harder than you think. You might find yourself wandering aimlessly a little bit, or taking a long time to decide where to have lunch, or what to order when you get there. That’s okay. Drift! See where the hour takes you. I think it’s an important part of identity and creativity to allow things to unfold, at least occasionally (but preferably a lot!). It’s flow. It’s freshness, away from habit or constant confines of responsibility and roles.

Plan a magical moment in time for yourself in the next week. And let us know how it goes!

Til then…

7 Things I’m Thankful For Today:
1. My very swanky flight yesterday.
2. The fascinating book I’m reading by Barbara Sher called “Refuse To Choose” about incorporating all your creative and life interests in a way that makes you happy
3. Lots of new adds and fun people and messages on my myspace page
4. Meeting Mike, Carol, Mardi and all the other nice people at Brad & Marnie’s concert
5. Having such a nice overnight with my Mom at Oakbrook on Thursday
6. That my Mom let me drive after I white-knuckled it on the trip from the airport
7. The opportunity to sing “Someone To Watch Over Me” with complete abandon the other night as I warmed up and the club was nearly empty…it had been years since I remembered how much I adore that song.

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