Ups, downs, etc
Would you like to know something I learned this week?
Despite being a card carrying devotee of borscht, I have been living a lie thinking I’ve ever had it.
Yes, even with an entire life of B&H Dairy and glorious Jewish recipes under my belt, this week I went to Ukraine for the first time and learned just how wrong I’ve been.
This shouldn’t be such a surprise. But it was.
On July 16, 2021, I had the greatest borscht I’ve ever had.
The greatest borscht I’ve ever had occurred before my show from a restaurant attached to the venue (Kureni). Olga, the brilliant woman behind said show, asked if I wanted anything to eat. I let her call the shots because Olga is an expert at most things. She guessed correctly: Upon ingesting the soup, I nearly forgot about my performance. I asked, with forceful love, to meet the genius behind it.
Post show I was granted my wish. Here I am lovingly begging for the borscht secret.
In the end, the only thing Slava the borscht whisperer would let go was that his secret is love. This was both endearing and frustrating: Please know that I did really try to get some actual culinary secrets. I can tell you myself that though the beets were cubed, he had the carrots julienned?! And barely cooked?! So they were both crunchy and flavorful?! How did he do it?! Love, I guess. Love.
This is a taalitalk so I feel like it’s appropriate to have spent that much time talking about red soup rather than my music. Still, I was in Ukraine for an actual show, the first in this run that was a co-bill with José as opposed to one where I’m a featured special guest.
This was almost as delicious as the borscht and also a lot of pressure. I’ve never been to Ukraine before, and it was a really up close and personal way to meet a couple hundred new people. The venue was a magnificent outdoor dream built into a hillside. My stage view was just a vertical sea of beautiful faces / the single best dressed audience I’ve ever seen. Here’s a little aerial view of the front part of said hillside.
The show went magnificently. I’ll forever treasure the memory of an audience that was uniquely attentive and completely respectful. I felt like we were connected through every note. I also love this photo that photographer Yuri Gryaznov got, where it looks like I have piano wings?!
The whole night was like that. Perfect and intimate and hazy and dream-esque. A tiny two hour respite from all of the chaos.
And then we jumped right back into the new reality.
The Netherlands, while we were gone, turned a deep COVID red. Our landlord comes back to Amsterdam for the whole month of August (exciting news for where we’ll be, stay tuned!), so we needed to move out, and with our tour waging on this whole month, we really only had one day to do it.
We considered changing our flight from Kyiv to Belgium to be extra safe, but in the end we decided to rush move out of the apartment in 12 hours, trying to make sure we could both respect Belgian rules and get to my week of writing sessions.
It seemed completely impossible. And then it wasn’t. JJ below, on our final run to the storage space before we ran to the train station.
I’m here in Brussels now and I am exhausted. It felt comparatively simple to move on José’s tour with his band. When it comes to prioritizing myself, that’s a whole other can of worms. I can’t seem to find the distance to treat myself like the artists I love and value so much. Something I continue to work on.
Writing to you today counts, though, so thanks for being here in my little corner of a world.
I am tired, my love. I am tired.
I’ve had so many conversations this week in good faith with friends and new acquaintances who refuse to get vaccinated. I want to hear them, and I have expended a good amount of energy to see it from their perspective. Still, it’s enormously difficult to speak to so many people who want so desperately to go to shows and also are themselves one small part of why we can’t return to them. My livelihood is at stake and I don’t see a right answer. I don’t know what to do. I feel tired and sad and frightened for everyone involved.
Either way, the sun is setting over Brussels right now. I can see it from my little hotel room window. In the next few days, PCR test pending (cross your fingers for the speedy results!) I go back to writing songs, that treasured other part of my life. I’ll be writing for a brilliant Belgian phenom named Gala, who you will be hearing about sooner rather than later. A treasure who makes me feel optimistic about things, despite it all.
Sending you love and see you next week.
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