Lungs, Freedom, etc
Hi, my love.
You know what I realized on the train to Philly the other day? I’ve only been breathing with half my lung capacity. For two years.
It came to me the way most deeply true things come to me: Quietly and without fanfare.
Sitting on an Amtrak out of DC, Big Yuki in the seat to my right. There was a perfection dog named Willow in front of us. Australian labradoodle. A breed, according to his equally sweet owner, bred literally as therapy dogs.
(Was it the calm of Willow?)
(The security of having José two rows back talking to his musical brother Marcus for the first time in two years?)
(The lull of a train’s windows, taking us swiftly to the next stage?)
Maybe none of those things. Maybe some of them. Maybe all.
What I know is that my body said it quietly and therefore truthfully: I’ve only been breathing with half my lung capacity. For two years.
What happens when you’ve been starved of oxygen for two years?
You learn how to breathe with less.
Your lungs adjust, your body gets smaller. You convince yourself that the resulting productivity of near absolute solitude is the prize. You find little breadcrumb-gems to lead you out of the forest and ease the pain of the shrinking.
(You learn to make pie, really well! [Which makes the whole “shrinking” metaphor far less literal! You learn to adjust to your new pie body!])
(Get your curls back on track after they were poisoned and nearly destroyed!)
(Maybe start a little weekly e-letter to your community!)
But at some point you hit your breaking point. A point you can’t quite put your finger on, but one that leads you to jump the frack out of your skin.
Miraculously though, you return. At first you don’t trust the return. Your lungs legitimately sting with the pressure of this new/old air.
You adjust. And then it all hits you like a deliciously welcome tidal wave. A text message exchange below to that effect with my best friend Dylan who by now I hope you feel is your best friend, by proxy (and what a best friend to have, by proxy or by actual). Blue texts are me.
Tour isn’t work. It’s the oxygen I need.
Making the bed, eating breakfast and shit. *That’s* work to me.
Tour is the paradise life I am beyond fortunate to live. It checks all my boxes: Calms and sates my endless ADHD need for stimuli, creates a set and understandable schedule, harkens back to my nostalgic family roadtrips, even scratches my forever wandering Jewess itch.
And though it’s a life that doesn’t make sense to many humans, I meant every word of what I said to Dylan.
I understand how foreign this life of white freeway lines and mile markers seems to others. Understand that there will never be a way to impart the romance, the infinite possibility of a curve in the road ahead of me. I’ll never be able to encapsulate the clarity of a train window, the clouds beneath me, or a tour van’s massive windshield.
A van full of my favorite humans and the literal love of my life.
(As I typed it to you I felt a swell of emotion, so I tried to take a photo to share)
(It did the experience absolutely zero justice)
(Which was enlightening, in a way)
(I realized I’ll likely spend a lifetime trying to put this into words)
(I may keep failing but it’s worth a shot)
(Anyway here’s the photo)
I’ve only been breathing with half my lung capacity, my love.
For two years.
This week I took a deep, deep full inhale.
It was exhilarating to finally walk into rooms just absolutely full of fresh air.
DC, Philly and Portsmouth down.
There, on stage with the absolutely monstrous band that is the Rainbow Blonde collective, I’m singing these songs you and I have been writing together to beautiful full rooms of humans supporting our vision. Speaking a collective language, watching the songs expand the way they can only do live.
The tour started in DC, a magnificent US homecoming show. I have so much family in DC that it felt, despite a room full of audience/strangers surrounding them, like my second Bat Mitzvah.
(Your girl’s a woman now!)
(Send $18 checks and a donation to the temple sisterhood in my name!)
We moved on to Philadelphia, where the show was equally delicious (albeit less bat-mitzvah esque.) And then yesterday we landed in Portsmouth, which, henceforth, I will call the city of surprises.
Portsmouth, New Hampshire. A cutie little haven of small business and delicious food. Also the home of Jimmy’s Jazz, aka the greatest kept secret venue that I hope no longer stays a greatest kept secret to my fellow artists.
Because Jimmy’s Jazz is fracking paradise.
When we met its epic program director Suzanne Bressette she let us in on one of the venue’s missions: To create a space as heavenly for the artist as it is for the audience.
(Which, as amazing as it sounds, actually makes Jimmy’s pretty much alone in its class.)
They have succeeded in this mission. A trillion fold.
We walked into a gorgeous, palatial room. A former YMCA converted into a state of the art performance space. Every single employee was generous, brilliant and in love with music. The bar made fresh squeezed orange juice.
There was a miscommunication in our gear list, so we were momentarily without a rhodes. The entire Jimmy’s staff went into full recon mode, eventually locating an absolutely pristine one that happened to belong to someone’s friend Mike.
(Thank you, Mike!!!)
(You! saved! my! show!)
Which brings me to the whole *show* of it all. The magnificent feeling of connecting with this audience. The ability, finally to tell the stories of these songs, sing, clap and cry together.
A deep, deep, inhale.
After the show I came up to the green room (a full apartment sized space that I would be ecstatic to rent in any city! Equipped! With! A! Turntable! Sound system!) to sit and reflect.
I ate a ridiculously good steak (Jimmy’s just casually serving up gourmet food rather than a “band menu”) while watching Ben’s set, magnificently filmed, on a wide screen TV.
At some point our green room manager (who as far as I am concerned is now a family member) Stacey came up to check in. I got to hear about how the songs resonated with her. And that’s how I learned that Stacey and I both lived entire lifetimes in the pandemic.
We both saw our lives furl, unfurl, reassemble.
We both learned to breathe with half our lungs.
It was heartening and heartbreaking to hear Stacey describe her version of this. Here is a picture with her, the greatest green room manager I have ever had the enormous privilege to meet so far.
We cried together.
We took one big inhale together.
And then did the thing I’ve been waiting to do for two years.
We let the tension out. And we exhaled.
More next week.