Ducks, disco, etc
Happy Sunday, my love. The album is coming along. Sometimes it’s so close it’s excruciating.
I’m annoyed at myself for this, because I know better. When they’re struggling with their writing, for example, I encourage José and my students to do what I usually do on a good day:
Work on the song a bit. Go eat a sandwich. Watch a television show. Hate yourself, think your work is the very worst work of all the work. Call your friend Bri or Dylan. Work on the song for a fiery and abundantly helpful 9 minutes. Love yourself, think your work is the very best work of all the work. Go for a bike ride, listen to a bounced recording of what you’ve worked on. Come back. Eat an orange. Work on the song for a bit. Etc.
This is tried and true advice, but with the last few songs on this album, I’m not following it. It feels, instead, like it’s bloating me. Pushing against my body.
I know it sounds just unbearably dramatic, but I feel myself changing in real time as this album tumbles and wrenches out of me. I’m grateful to honor and finally let go of pesky old feelings, and habits. But the process of both the songwriting and these negative patterns trying to exit my cells can only be described as painful. I can’t seem to do either the way I fully need yet, and I’m not being graceful while I attempt to.
It’s not great. José is being a hero. He picks up his guitar and sits by me, helps me with lyrics and brings me a heating pad every so often when my Jewish stomach tries to exit my Jewish body. On any given day, I look up from the couch and have the true privilege of this being my view.
An abundance of riches. An enormous tree, outside our enormous window, growing its buds and waging on, with no knowledge of anything but its need to stay alive. And a fucking hero, ladies and gents, on a very comfy chair.
I’m grateful to that hero for all sorts of things, including guiding me through a fairly intense crash this morning. Instead of ruminating on why I’d never write a song that would honor these nebulous rumblings in my gut, José suggested we grab a coffee and go for a walk. This was a good idea, not only for the coffee, but for the glorious disco song the baristas had playing while making said coffee. I couldn’t figure out why, but the singer kept singing an incredibly catchy melody with the lyrics, “Leave your woman behind.”
It didn’t make any sense, and I loved it. So I spent the next twenty or so minutes walking the streets and intermittently shout singing said melody along with its lyrics, “Leave your woman behind” (Sorry, Amsterdam, still that v intense New York broad, but also I love you but also I promise I’ll try and stop scream singing things on Sundays and/or other days).
It didn’t occur to me that maybe these lyrics weren’t correct until José pointed out they seemed aggressive/not really disco-y and were likely, “Leave your worries behind.” A quick Google search validated this point, and so I modified my scream singing and had this Heatwave song to dance to while we walked through Vondelpark.
An excellent song, to be sure, and probably a good reminder as we head towards some semblance of normalcy.
I’m not ready to leave my worries behind just yet, but Amsterdam seems to be. Cafes are opening, lockdowns are being eased. Yesterday in this glorious May reality, we had a picnic with our amazing friend Ido.
Midway through, a mother duck and her three ducklings climbed out of the canal and walked, I’m not joking you, right up to us. I mean within six inches. The babies were so small we didn’t know if they’d even be able to follow their mom out of the canal. It was so cute and so ridiculous that I didn’t have time to snap a photo, opting instead for a clumsy Instagram story while I made very stupid noises in shock. Here is a screenshot from that Instagram story because you, too, deserve to see this over the top cuteness.
Talk about leaving your worries behind. I am still stunned and frankly jealous of their fearlessness. Mama duck could have had that disco song in her little duck ear pods, for all I know. She embodied the duck version of what I’ve been hearing everywhere, aka, “Hey, I don’t care if you’re just about 200 times my size and could literally snap my neck and eat me for lunch, it’s time to party.” Human, child, or duck, it seems everyone is ready for / keeps talking about the upcoming roaring 20s.
I get it. This has been hell. We’ve suffered a worldwide collective trauma, and we all miss our lives. Of course I won’t begrudge anyone their need to feverishly dance, copulate, travel, or indoor dine at every single restaurant while shouting, singing, and/or sneezing on each other when the world opens again.
But me, I’m going to need a bit longer to process the complete tumult I’ve experienced. The seemingly unending death that surrounded us. The complete loss of our income for two years straight. The need to consistently reinvent ourselves, the need to stay creating to quite literally survive. The moving to three different locked down locations. The year we looked like scifi characters and just … got used to it.
Oh god I can’t wait to see you, when the world opens again. But we’re going to have a lot to talk about.
So I stay working on this album. It won’t be a compilation of 12 songs to dance, copulate, or indoor dine at every single restaurant while shouting, singing, and/or sneezing on each other to. Instead, it’s looking more and more like an honest accounting of my experience. Burning the whole ass field down for more fertile seeds. Silver bullets, the lack of them. Trauma, the fear of never finding success or fear of finding it and wondering who you’ll be then.
I want it to be a hug as well as a rallying cry, because I need both.
And maybe that’s it, now that I think of it, (thanks for this therapy session! I love you!). Maybe that’s the way I’m leaving my woman/worries behind. In twelve songs and a vinyl album I can hold on to, so I don’t feel crazy and unmoored and like this never happened while the 20s rage on.
To that end, we filmed Silver Bullet last week, with a gorgeous string trio and arrangements by Ben Williams. The video will likely be out in June. It was so beautiful and spiritual that I didn’t even think to snap a photo, which I’m regretting now. Thank god for José James who takes photos and also knows disco lyrics better than me for grabbing the below.
Tisha was even more of a superstar than I thought they’d be, which is saying something. The string players tore my heart open. But the best news is that I finally, finally, was able to just exist and enjoy the music rather than obsess over the details of the video. I hope it translates, and either way, can’t wait to share it with you.
In the meanwhile, hope you’re able to leave your worries/woman behind a little bit, however you can. I’ll try my best to, as well.
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