I’m locked down and content. More than that, I am elated. I didn’t think I would be, not for this long, but I am. I miss touring. I miss performing and singing songs to people in the lanes at faire. Today I climbed up a rickety ladder to the roof with my ukulele to check out the work being done and sing a song or two. I tried to sing a song to one of the roofers.
“What kind of music do you play?” he asked.
“Rock and folk mostly,” I said.
“I only like Country,” he said and walked off.
Hard sell here on the roof of a three-flat. I sang Indica to the confused people below strolling down the sidewalk from the train station. And that was fun.
Here, in my studio, I do what drives me, what I love. Putting yourself out there is risky even on the roof. It’s not too far of a stretch to make this artist life work for me. Money is just as scarce as it has been for the past decade, so I tighten the belt a little more each month. Here are some ways that I continue to survive as an artist.
1. I make my own food, eat less and don’t eat out. I have a service deliver organic yums right to my door. If I order $60 or more, delivery is free. And delivery is only $5 to start. It’s $4-5 to take the L or a bus to and from a store in Chicago, and then I have to schlep my groceries to the station or carry them for blocks.
2. I don’t use my AC/Heat much or keep it set at 85/62. In Chicago, it only gets in the 80s and 90s in the summer, so it’s easy to do that here. However, it does get chilly in the winter. Yet I only turned my heat on a handful of times last winter. And only at night. It was fine. Humans adapt.
3. I don’t buy much stuff. It’s hard, I know, but I use what I have. A good solution is to wait until the next day OR A WEEK! I give myself a little time for my emotional yes-anding to wear off. Ignore this if you are considering purchasing my music! I waited almost a year to buy a fucking spatula; however, when I finally bought it, Red Silicon Sugar Sopper, it was the most glorious $4 that I had spent in a while. And it came with a friend, Smaller Red Silicon Sugar Sopper. It has made friends with my mother’s wooden spoon, Wood Hurt Ass, that I feared as a child. DO NOT anger Mummy when she’s cooking. She’ll grab the big wooden spoon and beat your bottom.
Most of what we buy is bought out of convenience. I ran out of shampoo, toothpaste and needed socks. Fuck it. I made my own shampoo specifically for my hair type (which is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find at stores). I stopped using toothpaste and wearing socks. I don’t like socks anyways. They make my feet smell. Now my feet are odor-free and I adapt easier to temperature changes.
And you don’t need toothpaste. A little water works just fine. And there’s a story about this. A couple years ago a Homeland Security guard confiscated my awesome organic travel toothpaste that I had just purchased because it was 5.4 ounces and the limit was 3.8. I just spent $8 on it! Well, fuck that. No more toothpaste for me. And I don’t miss it.
4. I share, borrow and help others out. Why buy books when there are libraries? I share with my community, my neighbors and flatmates. Not every household needs a giant five-gallon popcorn-making pot. And how often do you use that blender?
5. I live with people. There’s only three people living here, a small household compared to my normal living arrangements; however, we all share the bills. My last apartment housed seven of us. If you own your own place, rent out rooms. I’ve rented out my sofa for cheap. And when I first moved to Chicago, I rented my friend’s 6’x9′ sun room and Aydan and I slept on a pull-out twin loveseat. Josh put up a curtain rod. Voilà!—a door. Me happy. It’s just a place to sleep. I never understood why people pay so much for hotels or pay anything at all. Camping is so much more fun.
The water bill is covered by the building. It’s glorious that I can shower whenever I want. That makes me happy. And all of these easy money-saving tricks come second nature to me. For the past eight years, I’ve been accustomed to living in a tent. A solid roof above my head is a luxury. And that’s the crux of it all. My living requirements are low because I just don’t care about status. I have no status. I’m an artist. And I put all of my energy into that. Art is my way of cheating consumerism?! But I don’t have a choice. Musicians make only 20% of what we made thirty-five years ago!
It was especially advantageous to have a solid roof above our heads during the tornadoes and high winds that blazed through Chicagoland last week. The storm uprooted large, mature trees. Streets were wrecked. The day before there were beautifully shaded avenues lined with aged, majestic oaks and maples. Today the alleyways were shadier. But that’s how life goes. In a breath everything you know to be true, and have come to depend on, can change.
There is no normal, and assuredly, there is no new normal. That is myth built upon myth.
Now we have a comfy bed rather than a pull-out loveseat. And for the first time in my adult life, I own a headboard. That was a splurge, but sometimes you have to treat yourself. Especially when not having one means sitting up in bed might lead to falling out of the third floor window. Well, that’s a tad histrionic.
Even writing this blog has spiked my change meter. Blocks? What the hell are those, WordPress? And where’s the quote thingee? And you’re killing me by hiding the change font color palette. But I’ll adapt. I suppose that my response to this new format, given ample notice, was even worse than how badly the United States responded to the COVID-19 pandemic. Nevertheless, the consequences for my ignorance were far less severe. Like my 2007 MacBook, I’ll keep on running headlong into the fray of change and hope that there is still a place left in this world for me.
Hello Pandemic, My New Friend…
There is a point to all this jabbering, I promise. And it is difficult to write it down and see it look back at me in candid horror. I’ve published FIVE albums since December. A sixth is being mastered, and I am two-thirds through my seventh with number eight waiting in the weeds. Number nine is calling to me too. And the moment that I take a break, songs pour out of me like a rainstorm. And books too. I’ve written one, The Bardic Tales, and two more are in the works. And I’m blogging again. And, and, and…
I’m afraid that I am not able to do anything else. There’s no side job I can do. And I’ve tried. All I talk about is writing and music when I do anything else. I drive people nuts in a cab. And I sell albums when I drive too. And with this pandemic, I can’t even consider stopping my work.
I took Aydan to their Kung Fu class and brought my uke to rehearse in the gardens behind the studio. I ended up entertaining several people in the courtyard there and sold an album. It’s what I do. And there’s no other way for me anymore. This blog is my escape and my connection to the outside world. Even if I am hurling shit into the void, it doesn’t matter. It feels good to write, to express. Why should we feel bad about the pandemic? People are dying, I know. And that’s horrible. What am I to do? What can I do besides talk to you and be my artist me.
That’s what I’m doing here. A non-binary speaking in binary and wrangling my wet noodle to give me permission to be happy about my life. And to express that happiness. I don’t listen to the news and I’ve been reading a lot again. Words sooth my brain. Falling asleep to them is wonderful. However, Pose is a fun show. But all shows lose their luster when music and writing calls me home.
And I have a new hip. I had surgery in February, pre-COVID-19. I can finally fucking walk without wincing in pain. Well worth the two-year plan. It played out beautifully for me, this pandemic. I sometimes feel that I am in a dream and at any moment that balloon will pop and I will fall back into the real world. But what I truly believe makes my life work is that I plan ahead and work things out. And plans get trashed sometimes, but I create another one and make it work.
Mackledoodle ate my back-up drive this morning. The photos from the trip to Ireland with Aydan in 2014 when we first starting seeing each other are gone. It would be cool to have all of them. We hiked to the Cliffs of Mohr from Doolin cross-country. Me in my kilt and Aydan dressed as Xena. We popped out on the main trail five hours later and were treated like rock stars. I guess we were. Who does that?
And I want to do more things like that. I got on the road eight and a half years ago and have never stopped until now. We are recharging and working our hineys off. Expect more music and books from this worker bee artman.
Michael, et al