It was time to head from New Jersey to Manhattan! I landed at my nephew Todd’s on West 82nd. How good to see the fam and the new bathrooms! Jennifer is still the admissions director at the Studio School, where Ethan is still a student; Samuel has had his first year at the High School for Math, Science and Engineering at City College – congratulations, Sam!; Todd is still an author, still at “Parents Magazine,” and still a keen observer of all of the above!
Todd and Sam escorted me quite chivalrously up to 88th and Columbus Avenue to Bella Luna restaurant for my dinner rendezvous with Tulsa Central High School friend and music industry writer, David McGee. His singer/songwriter girlfriend was in town: Lisa Mills, born in Mississippi and currently from Mobile, Alabama. I highly recommend the urbane, delicious and reasonably-priced Bella Luna. I also highly recommend David McGee’s fantastic, free on-line magazine, Deep Roots; Roots Music and Meaningful Matters (http://deeprootsmag.org/). I also highly recommend Lisa Mills’ new CD: “Tempered in Fire” (Thank you, Lisa!).
David’s career began at age six when his cousin handed over her transistor radio playing Elvis Presley. He was transformed. What I didn’t know about him until this dinner was that he used to dress as the young Elvis (not the Las Vegas one) in elementary school, lip-sync Elvis in music class and get chased around the playground by the girls! He had to have a teacher body guard. Eventually David wrote for Rolling Stone, Record World, and many other music publications; published biographies of Carl Perkins, B.B. King and Steve Earle; and created the wonderful Bluegrass Special, precursor to Deep Roots, which is currently the source of the amalgam of his endless knowledge, insight and passion about the field. Honestly, the monthly email he sends to subscribers with a description of each current issue is already overflowing with David’s gifts. If you want exposure to some of the best artists in myriad music styles who are not represented by Big Music Business, Deep Roots is your destination! In an old rockcritics.com interview with David, he describes being hired as a gofer in the mailroom of Record World with his journalism degree, allowed to review concerts that the staff editors didn’t want to cover. This is priceless: “By far my most memorable assignment was to review Anne Murray in Central Park, which meant I also had to review her opening act--Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. And I must tell you, I got the same kick inside hearing Bruce the first time as I had when I first heard Elvis, when I first heard the Beatles.”
I used to babysit for David’s son Travis in the late ‘70’s in exchange for Bruce Springsteen’s performance at the Palladium and Michael Franks’ performance at the Bottom Line (and Men at Work and Dire Straits LP’s). He drove his two sons to the Mississippi Delta to hear authentic Delta Blues jamming from front porches. Hence, the second CD I acquired at dinner: his son Kieran McGee’s “Anonymous.” My kids, when young Beatles fanatics, heard David’s story of the day he met John Lennon (David was listening to Bruce Springsteen on a reel-to-reel in an office and John popped in to say how much he liked Springsteen). I still have in my storage bin in New York the heartbreakingly eloquent article David wrote upon John Lennon’s death. And here’s what David wrote upon Elvis’ death: "In Elvis, I found someone to believe in; in rock and roll, as I learned it from him, I found a way of life that I wouldn't swap for any amount of money, because it was, and is, endlessly rewarding and fulfilling. It's only natural that I feel a certain hollowness inside of me now. A certain hollowness? I feel as if my guts had been ripped out."
The smart and lovely Lisa Mills had a triumphant gig a few days later at the Cutting Room (owned by Chris Noth, the "Law & Order" star and Mr. Big on "Sex & the City"), fronting Big Brother & the Holding Company. In David’s words: “no hype, she blew away the crowd. Even I was stunned by the power of her singing in front of that band, and how she made Janis's songs her own. After the show the club manager gave her his business card and told her, ‘Whenever you want to play here, call me.’” Luckily, someone captured the show on video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rCc3oWMK0c (“Me and Bobby McGee”).
Here’s David (on the right) with his now very grown-up son, Travis: Here’s the talented Lisa Mills:
After my one night on Todd and Jenny’s sofa, we had a great Memorial Day brunch together and more chivalrous escorting by Todd to the bus with my suitcase. I headed to my longtime friend Carolyn McMonegal’s on East 40th Street for our annual gabfest, delicious foodfest, and another comfy sofa! Her cat Kayli was very cooperative about being shut in the bedroom for the night. Carolyn continues to display her newfound level of health, agility, and the beauty that never fades. The two of us don’t understand why the world doesn’t consult us about solutions to all the crap going on everywhere! Carolyn and I go back to 1978 in various textile design studios.
And speaking of textile design, I had a lunch date the following day with David Barrow, who arrived from England at Carolyn’s and my studio around 1980. He is now literally the only person I know who still has a career in home furnishings textiles in New York! (…decimated by China). After catching up on families and selves at lunch, I realized that I was ready…hankering even…to visit a textile studio for the first time since 2000. David is the stylist for the high-end line of prints for Richloom Fabrics, and his tour of the studio made my day. It’s all about the walls – festooned with ideas, color swatches, new designs and printed-out samples of the current, beautiful collection. As usual, I was too absorbed to take any photos, not that that would have been allowed!
It seems to be a tradition that it rains exactly after David Barrow and I meet for lunch in Manhattan. I wandered down to the Flatiron Building to see the new area that is closed to traffic. I know a sunny day would fill the place, what with the incredible food and drink offerings there. Tablecloths and umbrellas from Marimekko – one of my favorite textile companies in the world (Finnish). Wow. The new Citi Bike-sharing experiment is just getting underway in the city. Will the traffic and bicycles adapt effectively? Here’s one of the stations.
My next stop was at 96th and Park for a night with our longtime, world-traveling friend, Nancy Taylor. I could say that the incredible Burmese order-in dinner was a highlight, or being in the muted-grape-painted room with red moldings around the ceiling and Marcel Breuer’s Wassily chair in bright yellow leather was a highlight, but actually, the highlight was putting on our jammies and gabbing, like a real slumber party! Too bad I was too absorbed to take a photo of that room! Nancy’s travels this year included Borneo, Sulawesi, Bali and Thailand…and in her words: “After really roughing it in Indonesia among some fascinating tribes (one who dresses their mummied relatives and parades them in the villages once a year, and the Sea Nomads who live their entire lives on boats in the Celebes Sea), I meet my sister for a change of pace on the Eastern Orient Express from Bangkok to Singapore and spend several days at Raffles Hotel there.” It’s typical for Nancy to brave a tent in Ladakh or meet a jet-setting Indian princess at a polo match! Here she is deluxe on the Orient Express. And she insists on hearing my stories…PULEEEZE!
My biggest transportation challenge came the next day when I caught the wrong subway…with suitcase and carry-on (at least now 3 pairs of Brazilian Havaiana flip-flops lighter!). Instead of emerging at the George Washington Bridge Bus Terminal, I was way to hell-and-gone in the Bronx and had to turn around and ride back, drag the suitcase down and then up stairs to get to the opposite side of the subway station, then ride uptown again on the proper train. The wait for the Nyack Bus was over an hour, but I received word the Blue Rock School Spring Play, to which I was headed, had been postponed due to the threat of rain, SO I would not be late for that. Better still, my former Blue Rock School staff cohort and music teacher, Joan Cornacchio - children and adults alike often got the two of us confused - had come from Massachusetts to see the play and was also spending the night at the one and only Lucia Gratch’s – Blue Rock School kindergarten teacher, photographer, gardener and mutual friend par excellence. It turned out that there was neither the play nor the rain, so we were forced to share some wine in Lucia’s garden (dominated by purple this year), watch her dog, Little, crunch on cicadas, see her adorable sons, Josh (a good friend of Jake’s) and Julian, and grab a bite at our old haunt, O’Donahue's Pub. It was a superb reunion!
The next day, Joanie stayed in to wrestle with requirements for her new endeavor – an advanced certificate from the Syracuse University Disabilities Studies program in order to create the ideal post-secondary program for differently-abled people like her wonderful, talented daughter, Olivia. I know Joan’s musical genius, astute observation, wisdom, and practical experience will combine to hit the nail on the head!
I spent the day at my beloved Blue Rock School. I was sorry to miss the production of the Spring Play that evening, as I was flying off to Texas, but I loved watching the rehearsal that afternoon. I sat on the dirt risers in the amphitheater in the woods, engaged in the fantasy world created by these self-assured 7th and 8th grade children - many of whom I have known for years - while other-worldly cottonwood wisps floated down on everyone from the surrounding tall trees. It was precisely the magic I had come for! Thank you, close staff friends and amazing children - and cottonwood - for my BRS fix.
Newton was flying from Japan to Austin, so our rendezvous was imminent at last. It would be our first opportunity to see what all the fuss over Austin is about!
from Sandy Needham
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