London Calling

Now that my sleeping patterns are somewhat back to normal, I have to really sit down and reflect on what London was like.

London has had a very odd sort of place in my imagination. I grew up reading the stories of Sherlock Holmes, and pictured the Victorian London with hansom cabs and gentlemen in top hats. Hey – I was six. Shut up. :) But long and short of it, I knew, in reality, that London had a lot more to it than just the stories of the greatest detective.

As I studied history, I grew fascinated with the medieval era and Renaissance art. I dug deep into the history of the British monarchy, from the Wars of the Roses forward, and you may well remember, if you stuck around on this blog long enough, that I nearly did cartwheels at work when they announced from Leicestershire that the skeleton found in the parking lot was, in fact, that of Richard III, the last Plantagenet King of England, who actually laid down the foundation of the modern bail system that is still used today.

History has been my favorite fascination, just as jazz has been my only enduring love affair, and such were the circumstances that, at last, brought me to the United Kingdom two weeks after my thirtieth birthday.

This was the trip I selected to mark the occasion. You guys know I travel. You know I travel a lot. But there is something to be said for marking a special occasion with a trip, and I could think of very few destinations that could mark the occasion quite like London.

Mind you, it took me forever to find the right flights. It helped that two of my favorite music people had a show in Pizza Express, and definitely helped that the timing just worked. But I didn’t manage to get a solid flight until around March, by means of Aer Lingus – my first time flying with them, and the trip had a short layover in Dublin, Ireland.

A layover that did not last long enough in the least, I think.

My friend Brendan, an Irish native, refers to it simply as Home. Until I flew over Ireland, I didn’t understand why. Something about seeing the neat fields, something about the way that the Irish Sea sparkled in the morning sunshine, and the simple, straightforward manner of the people all call to the spirit in a way. Someone like myself, a wanderer and adventurer by nature, can look at this land and want to settle on a piece of it, and grow on it. It’s Home indeed, to those who hail from it, because if even someone like myself, a wanderer born into the people who have, historically, had no home, an adventurer who thrives and lives on the chase of the next beautiful places and people to see and photograph, can look at the fields of Ireland and feel a connection to the land, then what else can I call it but Home? Or at least, a place with potential for it to become home, in some decades down the line.

London itself has turned out to be interesting in many ways. I stayed only a short walk from Shaftesbury Avenue, but felt no draw to the theater. It was too reminiscent of Broadway for me to feel any draw to it; but the blend of modern technology – RFID-oriented public transit? Yes, please take a page out of this, NY – and classic architecture was a fascination. I could walk past a building and see a plaque commemorating the person who stayed there and when, and there would be twenty of those in as many blocks. Twists, turns, down this alley, past that storefront, and you find yourself in a tiny little coffee shop that is everything you can want: great food, quiet music, people who don’t disturb you. Take a trip down to the Tower, and the first thing you will see when you come out of the pedestrian underpass is a thousand-year-old castle with the Shard jutting out into the gray sky right behind it. An odd juxtaposition of everything that London was, and everything that it has become.

And yes, my trip started by journeying into the Tower.

The fact that I came out alive is something that I might joke about, but in all seriousness, I have done meticulous research on everything that has taken place in that castle. All the legends, the ghosts, the mysteries, the infamous prisoners… I have researched and committed all of it to memory.

However… have you ever walked into a place and felt the earth shift beneath your feet when the realization hits you, at last, that you are in the right place at the precise right time? Have you ever experienced something that convinces you that yes, anything in the world is possible, just because it has brought you to this exact place and time?

I have felt that all of three times in my life. The first time was aboard the Celebrity Century cruise ship in 2009, my very first music charter cruise that has transformed my life. The second time was at a particular point last year, at a summer festival where I was shooting as media, when I knew that I was on the right path for myself.

The third…was when I came out of the pedestrian underpass and surfaced right in front of the Tower.

Seeing that castle for the first time made everything tilt. There was nothing for me, or my eyes, but the turrets and the structure of that castle, nothing but the thousand years of its history reciting itself rapid-fire in my ears. Elizabeth I and Robert Dudley, did they know where each other was held at the time Mary I imprisoned them? Did they meet, dine, walk the grounds in secret, aided and abetted by a sympathetic jailer? Did Anne Boleyn know at the time of her coronation that the same rooms she was in would be the same rooms where she would later await her execution, or where her own daughter would later end up before she became queen? Did the Princes in the Tower, Edward V and Richard, Duke of York, walk these rooms, these courtyards? Elizabeth Woodville, the mother of those princes, popularized as the White Queen, shut herself up in the Tower when her husband, Edward IV, was captured by Warwick the Kingmaker; where was she? In the Beauchamp wing? The White Tower?

The enormity of it all just hit me like a ton of bricks when I set eyes onto that castle. Like the buzz of modern London, the traffic and the electronics, all ceased to exist. Like for the briefest of seconds, it was the medieval era, with all the fear that this castle struck into the people’s souls.

The last thing I should have done was go into the Bloody Tower by myself, and definitely not as the first stop. If there is ever any place in the world that will forever convince you that ghosts are real, then I can think of nothing better than the Tower of London as that place, and the Bloody Tower as the wing in which you will find said proof.

One of the rooms in that castle has been set up as an exhibit dedicated to the Princes int he Tower, and ties it to Richard III as the culprit behind their disappearance. Frankly, this is something I disagree upon very firmly, for the simple reason that Richard III hero-worshipped his brother Edward IV, and out of loyalty alone, I truly doubt that he would’ve harmed a hair on the boys’ heads. If he is responsible for their disappearance, I would think it would be only in getting them silently out of the Tower and somewhere safe. After all, Richard himself was sent away to Flanders for safekeeping during the Wars of the Roses as well. There’s also the part where it’s rumored that Edward IV was a bastard, fathered by an archer, and this is corroborated by the contemporary descriptions of the Plantagenet men: the Duke of York, their father, was a man of a small, slender build, dark-haired. Richard III and George, Duke of Clarence, were both built very similarly. Edward IV was huge: over 6ft tall, built broad, and blond. The Lady Cecily Neville, their mother, was also of a slighter stature. So whose genes showed up in Edward IV? If you want further proof, look at the skeletal analysis of Richard III, conducted recently, and compare that with the grandson of Edward IV…whom you know as Henry VIII.

Genetics are funny like that, they expose certain things. But this would mean that the Princes in the Tower were, in fact, legally barred from the throne, because their father, Edward IV, was never the legitimate king in the first place…which would mean that Richard III was, indeed, legitimately able to claim the throne.

Nonetheless, those two boys did vanish somewhere in the Bloody Tower, and when you take the tiny, steep, twisty spiral staircase up to the Room of the Princes, you start to feel the enormity of that history weighing on you. The cold stone wall under your hand seems to vibrate. Your breathing quickens. Maybe it’s just the knowledge of the history, or maybe it’s the feeling like you really, really shouldn’t be there alone. But I will tell you, even though I was alone on that staircase, I could not breathe for anything. And I sure as hell didn’t feel alone.

You walk through everything that the Tower offers, and despite the solemn splendor of the Crown Jewels, despite seeing the Armory exhibit with King Henry VIII’s suits of armor, you can’t help but remember all the bloody incidents of history that have haunted this place from its inception. This is not the place that has a benevolent mark in English history, nor that of the world, and being inside it, even knowing that you can now walk out of it alive, makes you remember all the multitudes who were denied such a privilege.

I didn’t go to St. Peter ad Vincula, which is the final resting place of many of Henry VIII’s victims, including Queen Anne Boleyn. That’s something for the next visit. But after being in the Bloody Tower, to go there just was a little Too Much.

I’m always one to believe in reason first, and I would love to chalk this experience up to just my encyclopedic knowledge of history being recited rapid-fire with every step I took in the Tower. But really, it was more than that. The window that whipped open when I walked in the Beauchamp Tower, that vibrating feeling under my hand whenever I touched a wall on my way into another room… When the evidence adds up to a picture that doesn’t quite fit into the laws of reason, you have to take the improbable solution as the answer.

Really, though, that alone was what made London memorable for me. The fact that, though the London Eye does give you the best view in the house, apart from the quiet, majestic stillness of Westminster Abbey and the tombs and chapels of everyone who has graced the pages of legends and history books alike, that there is such an immersing experience as the Tower. Where you walk into the walls of the castle and, immediately, travel back five hundred years into the history and the unexplained.
For that reason alone, and for the reason of needing to visit St. Peter ad Vincula, Hampton Court, Windsor Palace, and all the locations of medieval England that I couldn’t squeeze into just one week, I absolutely know that I shall be going back. I don’t know when, but go back I shall.

Kat G.

An Experienced Jazz Cruiser’s Guide to Jazz Cruising, Part 2

Yes, there’s more! so join me, ladies and gents of the jazzy-and-cruising persuasion, for some more inside info on jazz cruising. Or, at least, have a giggle at my trials and tribulations.

So I started packing for the Capital Jazz Supercruise already. 

“But wait!” you say. “It’s still September! You’re not leaving for another month!”

Yes, I know that, and I’m also an accountant who is running headfirst into deadlines, and my calendar contains other things as well. Whether or not I want to admit it, that cruise is literally around the corner, and it’s going to gobsmack me well before I’m ready for it. So hell yes, I’m getting ready now! I’d rather have only my camera left to pack after everything is said and done, as opposed to running around the day before I’m set to fly out, and end up forgetting stuff I actually need.

I’m set to shoot a Long Island fest, jaunt really quickly to Phoenix for a private event, shoot two back-to-back NYC shows the following week, and guess what! the cruise departs two weeks from the city shows. And another major work deadline is two days before my departure time! This is not counting the meetings I have scattered between those things. That cruise is a blink of an eye away, and I know it.

So what are the lessons du jour?

1. Don’t be afraid of the Second Checked Suitcase when you fly.

Believe me, I know how counterproductive it sounds. However, as I’m now discovering, I may not have a choice, and who’s to blame – none but my own self. 

How so?

Well, story goes like this. After three or so years of heavy duty travel, my Big Suitcase started coming apart. So I replaced it with a nice strong one of a similar size – key words – and brought it home. Until I actually dragged it out and began to pack, I didn’t realize that it’s actually smaller than the suitcase I had to dispose of. Expandable or not, it’s just of a smaller capacity.

Houston, we have a slight problem here. 

I’m efficient like nobody’s business when it comes to packing. If I had to push it, I could be ready for a trip like the Capital Jazz Cruise in 24 hours to departure. However, that is wildly counterproductive. Last-minute packing is a guaranteed way of forgetting something. This is why I pack in advance. This is also why I am glad like hell that I started packing a month ahead, because if I discovered this size disparity in my big suitcase any later, I’d be in a world of financial hurt.

In other words: airline overlimit baggage fees

I’ll wait for y’all to stop cringing. 

This is the thing for me this year: my flights are paid for by the airlines themselves. My return flight, with Delta, is paid for with my miles. My American Airlines’ disaster last year, where they tried to bump me off my flights, ended up in me being issued a $300 voucher, which has paid my flight to the pre-cruise hotel in full, with pre-boarding and extras, such as the coverage for the first checked bag. I still have a little left over from that certificate, and while I’m not too likely to use it, it’s still something that could come in very handy – such as, well, checking a second bag. However, I checked the terms of service, and nowhere did it indicate that the first-checked-bag fee makes the bag exempt from weight fees. That is a problem. Also, seeing as I tend to go over the weight limit when I pack, this creates A Problem, because those fees are from $75 to $125 each way. I speak from experience, that is to say, a very ouchy wallet. 

So I figured that I would do a lot better if I were to pack a smaller suitcase for a second bag. This way, neither of them will go over the weight limit, and instead of about $100 each way, the max I’d pay is….. $40. Each way. 

Better? Oh hell yes. 

Also, it’s more practical. Explanation as follows.

Think of the logistics of your trip. Just the basics of when, where, why, and how.

If you’re going on a music cruise, the common-sense thing to do is to arrive to the port city the day before your departure. I don’t say this idly: you have no idea what can happen to your flight on a good day, never mind in inclement weather. Most of the time, if you’re leaving out of Florida, the ship departs at 4pm. It may not be a problem for you, per se, but again: expect the unexpected. Suppose your flight gets delayed. Suppose you’re rerouted. Suppose you’re stuck on the tarmac waiting for someone to shovel snow (if your cruise leaves in January, this concern is valid). Whether or not you like it, the ship will leave at the suggested departure time, on the dot, regardless of whether or not you’re on it, and it’s in your best interest to be on that ship. And if you want to get aboard the ship early and you want to get there day of departure, guess what this means: 6am flight! Are you up for waking up at 3am for a cab call? 

Yeah, I didn’t think so. 

So fly in the day before. One, you get to chill for a whole day before your big cruise, and believe me when I say, stock up on your sleep now, because if I were you, I wouldn’t plan on sleeping on the big trip. Too much music. 

Now, what does this mean in terms of your packing? 

Suppose you’re me for a second. You have your big suitcase, and it’s stuffed to the gills with all the Party Essentials for 8 days. Swimsuits, check. Cover-ups, check. Show attendance clothes, check. Comfy clothes for in-between, check. Toiletries to last, check. Sunscreen, check. Shoes, check. Hair dryer, check. Makeup and jewelry, check. All of that adds up to a LOT of stuff, and even if you take a tip out of How To Pack Like An Engineer, you would still have to dig into that case when you arrive to the hotel to make yourself comfortable, etc. And you know what that means? Repacking when you go to the pier.

What you may or may not know about the cruises, it’s this: on board the ship, delivery of your suitcases takes quite a bit of time. Think about it: 6,000 people all surrender their bags when they’re at the port, and this does not include the musicians’ instrument and gear cases. The ship has 12 decks total, of which 7-8 are strictly the residential decks. That is a lot of work for the crew. Last year, my suitcase didn’t arrive until about 6-7pm, which meant that I had no way of changing into gig clothes for the first show of the night – and I was lucky as hell that I chose early dining that year and just caught a quick meal while I waited, because I don’t know about y’all, but if I’m on a cruise, I don’t much like showing up to a main-theatre concert in my traveling clothes. Cargo pants and a tee are cool for airport and portside, but not cool in the front row of a show – at least that’s my opinion.

How does an extra bag help matters?

When you go on board the ship, a small wheelie will be your second carry-on – and if you set up your packing right, it’ll tide you over A-OK until your big bag is delivered to your cabin. 

So how to do this efficiently?

Well, first tip is to see the link above for the best Youtube video on the subject. 

Second: think. Think very carefully. Think of your clothing, think of what you’re taking, and think of what you’re most likely to use when you’re in layover at the pre-cruise hotel. Do you plan to sleep? Pack a set of comfy clothes to serve as pajamas (or if you’re me, pack flannels). Dressing up for dinner? A nice oufit; pants and top, or dress, and shoes, makeup as you like it. Lounging at hotel pool? Swimsuit, beach towel, sunscreen. Going to pier tomorrow? Pack another set of comfies. And pack a spare set of all the toiletries you’re putting into your Big Suitcase. 

Altogether, you’ll have just enough clothes for 2 days, and it’ll be just enough to fill up a small wheelie case and still leave packing room for souvenirs, shopping, and so on. And best of all: when you’re packing your suitcase back up at the end of the trip, that little tote for Night Before stuff I talked about in my last jazz cruising post? Goes right into your wheelie, which contains that spare set of travel clothes. 

And, you’re covered for your overflow. Ever had that moment where you ask yourself, “How the hell did I pack all this when I was departing?” I have. And rather than asking a friend to sit on your suitcase to get it to close, have a little extra room for overflow.

All of this talk about flying out, though, reminds me:

2. Watch your itineraries carefully!

I run into this dilemma routinely, I hate to say, and I’m not at fault this time. Unfortunately, I run into this because I do a lot of flying.

I think you know this, but if you don’t, I’ll happily reiterate: airlines often change their flight times, and depending on whom you fly with, you don’t get notified before you’re bumped off onto another flight. 

I am a creature of habit. I stay with the same hotels if the price is right and they treat me well. If I like a particular airline, I stick to them like glue until they do something that makes it difficult for me to stay their client (hasn’t happened yet). If I like a particular flight for how I can time my day, I’ll take that same flight year in and year out. So when I got the American Airlines voucher last year, I went with the same flight I always book when I fly American Airlines to Florida – which was a 10am NYC-MIA. Why Miami, when the cruise leaves from Ft. Lauderdale? 1. It’s a direct flight, while NYC-FLL isn’t for that particular airline, and 2. dirt-cheap. It’s an early wakeup call, but not too early, and I land in Florida at around 1pm, which means I can write, relax, sun myself, read a book, and enjoy the hotel for the rest of the day before vamoosing to the port the next morning.

You can imagine, then, the look on my face when I got an email from American Airlines, wherein they notified me that my new flight time was…wait for it…


They changed the time again to 6:55am since, but to say I’m less than pleased is an understatement.

I took the 6am flight all of once, when I was leaving to Montego Bay in 2009 for Jammin’ in Jamaica. If I had the choice, I wouldn’t repeat the experience, even if sunrise in NYC is absolutely gorgeous, and reminds me of why I like window seats. I absolutely detest early wakeup calls enough as it is, and if you consider a half-hour to get to the airport, plus about the same time for security and check-in, plus having to be there at least another hour beforehand, I generally look at a 3:30am cab call with a 6-odd am departure time. Not happy. I wasn’t a fan of all-nighters in college, and even less of a fan of waking up at a time that I not-so-lovingly refer to as ass o’clock.

But nonetheless, it’s a flight that I paid nothing out of pocket for, and my bitching about the asscrack-of-dawn wakeup call will be limited. Plus, if I’m landing in Miami, I get to have papas rellenas for lunch, and there’s nothing I love more than good Cuban food when in Florida – which, in MIA, is easy to find. 

There is one  good thing about that sort of an early-morning flight: I can catch a long nap on the plane, and when I get to the hotel, I have most of the day ahead of me. So I can get some more sleep and more writing done this way.


One kind of similar incident about flight changes took place not a couple of days ago, and I have to hand it to the DeltaAssist twitter crew. (If you’re a Delta customer and have a problem, tweet @DeltaAssist and they help you in 15m or less).

Yep, it was another schedule change. The problem? It was such a change that made it impossible for me to make the connecting flight. My route was NYC – Tucson, two hours’ layover in Salt Lake City. Except the SLC-Tucson flight was now scheduled to leave a solid hour before I was scheduled to land in SLC. 


Cue some tweets to the DeltaAssist account, and fifteen minutes later, I was rerouted through Atlanta instead, and set to land in AZ a whole three hours earlier than I planned. Good? Yes, but even better on Delta for notifying my schedule change with an alert of “Call customer assistance, for you may not make your connecting flight”. 


What are our take-aways from the day?

Plan ahead! If it means you have to spend money, then find a way to spend less of it. 

Oh, and make sure you have very good alarm clocks for the early flights. 


Chasing Music 2013

You know, it’s been a long time since I’ve written about music.

In part because the political matters in this country had gotten to be intense enough to become distracting, and in part because I’ve gotten way busy – long story! – I’ve almost forgotten all the things I’ve had the chance to see this year, so far. But how can I forget? I have all the photos I’ve taken, thousands of them, that commemorate the shows I’ve seen, and that bring back some of the finest memories of the year.

Of course, I write this in the ramp-up towards another photo jaunt, this one planned well in advance. What’s absolutely most important about this jaunt is that there’s a buzz to see what I will turn out. Not just my own as an adventure-loving photographer, but turns out that my audience has been wider than I originally anticipated. My photos were seen, actually seen, and they are an anticipated thing. It’s a heady, exhilarating sort of feeling, to know that your venture is gathering buzz and success. And this upcoming adventure…well. :) We’re going to see what that’ll turn out.

This has been an interesting year for music so far, and I’m glad to say that there have been new experiences. I’ve had to sit out Newport Beach Jazz Festival – the lineup didn’t strike my fancy – but I had the chance to go to the Capital Jazz Festival in Maryland in June, and that was certainly an experience. My first time in MD, my first time at the Cap Fest, and my first time having people whom, for the life of me, I can’t recall by name, asking me about the pictures. But the hallmark of that fest, who else but Dave Koz?

Dave Koz and Summer Horns, a tour and a force to be reckoned with. Mindi Abair, Gerald Albright, Richard Elliot, and the Koz himself – with a handpicked backing band – didn’t just take over the festival. They dominated the stage. And not just with music out of their catalogs, no; they took all the classic horn-section-powerhouse artists – Earth, Wind & Fire, James Brown, Tower of Power – and reimagined it. Four powerful saxophones, all the music close to your heart, and an energy that defies description. If you have never seen a pavilionful of people up on their feet, having a grand ol’ party within the first five minutes of a song, then you have not attended a Summer Horns show. And, considering that that tour is coming back next year, I say that it’s imperative you see it.

Even at the gig that I went to later on, the Ridgefield Playhouse, back in August, the entire theater was up and partying within moments of Got to Get You Into My Life. But the show-stoppers were, hands down, Gerald Albright breaking out his inner James Brown, and Richard Elliot taking front and center on Reasons. I’m definitely a EW&F fan, even though I wasn’t even a concept in the universe when most of that music has been released – well, most of the good music has been around well before I was born, anyway – but Richard on that particular tune… Blazing sax doesn’t quite cover it. Explosive doesn’t do it justice. The way that Reasons rolls off the bell of Richard Elliot’s tenor sax is something that has to be seen and heard to be experienced; it floods every nerve in your system, well after the initial Good Music Goosebumps. You know what I mean. Even if you have never heard the song in its original variation, when Richard Elliot will get into it, you will remember it very, very firmly. You just don’t hear a rendition like that every day, and right now, looking through the Ridgefield shots, I feel the same heady thrill that I felt when I heard it strike up and the roar of the crowd as they remembered their favorite old-school song.

No school like the old school, eh?

And of course, there’s Dave, turning the last bit of the show into Dave Koz & the Sunshine Band. Yes, I’m going there, and everyone in the audience at both Cap Fest and Ridgefield can relate to what I mean.

You know, guys, this is a huge part of why I love to photograph live music. These things will grab you by your heart and soul and not let go.

One of the other pivotal moments in this year of music photography and music listening was the Long Beach Jazz Festival – Long Island’s Long Beach, that is – and it’s all the more crucial considering that Long Beach was never quite the same after Hurricane Sandy. I’ve not been able to – mentally, mostly – set foot there much prior to the fest. Just couldn’t put myself up to seeing the storm-ravaged town that, prior thereto, has been a home away from home, a place that I’d go out to just to while away a long weekend, see some music friends, and hang out on the boardwalk. Sandy, of course, wiped the original boardwalk out of existence.

But the new one has been finished up in time to open the first sections well before the festival. And of course, I had to go. The LBJF has been a staple of my life since 2007, and I wasn’t about to miss it. It was a sweet, lovely festival, complete with not your everyday swing band – Uppercut – and old known favorites: Special EFX, Edmar Castaneda, Steve Adelson, who put this entire thing together time and again… It’s always the place where I can have a lovely reunion with friends, as well as crank up my photo mojo.

Another new thing on the musical radar was my first foray into the Lyman Center series, that is to say the concerts at the John Lyman Center for the Performing Arts. Every year, they have a great music series, and every year, the music series sells out like nobody’s business. I see why: the lineup is stellar! I got my season tickets early and right now, in retrospect, am I glad I did. The lineup is all the people I enjoy seeing, and all the people whom I enjoy photographing too: Marion Meadows & Cindy Bradley as a double bill, Boney James just two days ago, Acoustic Alchemy… I won’t be seeing Najee and Alex Bugnon, though. Can’t be in two places at once…whoops.

Yeah, there have been a lot of places for me this time around. Rochester, NY and West Point Academy’s Ike Hall (no photos from either of those – drat), Ridgefield, CT, Baltimore… and very soon, I’ll be embarking on yet another photo adventure; very very soon, I’ll be on a ship headed to many a beautiful island, where the music and the landscapes both await only one thing: my camera shutter.

And to think: all of this started with someone I know convincing me, back in May of 2008, to take a trip aboard a ship departing Miami in January of 2009. My very first Caribbean trip was, by all accounts, a life-changing experience, and it continues to pay itself off in more than just any money I earn through photography: it pays off in memories, experiences, and connections. And that, in and of itself, is what makes this life of mine colorful.

But this year also, there’s something else that’s very different. Since the trip is in November, not October like the usual, I’m also participating in NaNoWriMo while aboard. So I get to back-to-back photography and novel-writing. To say that it’ll be a busy trip is an understatement, and I’m sure I’ll need to set aside a few days for just sleeping everything off. Won’t happen, though; I know my life.


Summer Horns at the Capital Jazz Festival:

Summer Horns at Ridgefield Playhouse:


Until the next adventure…


A WordPress writing prompt

Write about your strongest memory of heart-pounding belly-twisting nervousness: what caused the adrenaline? Was it justified? How did you respond?

…Way to make me remember certain things, WordPress…

Honestly, I’ve had many such moments, and they all had to do with one thing in common: risk. Each time, I was taking a risk, and each time, I had to make a choice: would I step forward and throw caution to the wind, or step back?

It’s a bit embarrassing for me to say it, but I’ve stepped back far more than taken the leap of faith at times like these, and usually, I regretted stepping back. Usually, it had to do with someone, rather than something. The one time I did decide to jump in with both feet and did not follow through, turned out that not following through was the best choice. It’s a bit of a pattern for me, unfortunately: when I feel an adrenaline rush, my immediate impulse is to take stock of all variable and possible outcomes, instantly, and decide on the safest course.

I tend to err on the side of caution, and sometimes, it’s to my detriment.

But the most recent moment of such nervousness came aboard the Capital Jazz Supercruise. Stanley Clarke Q&A. And Stanley Clarke in the world of music, especially among bassists, is kind of sort of synonymous with the Holy Grail. This was the man who played on Charles Mingus’s bass. Legend is a bit of an understatement for him.

And when the Q&A came around, I wanted to ask him something. He’s been around the world many times over, and looks it; his eyes speak volumes about what he’s seen, and me being a perpetual student, I wanted to learn something about his perspective.

You know how for some people, public speaking is a challenge? Their mouths dry up, they forget what they want to say, they stammer? I’ve not been one of those people…until that moment. All I knew was, when Angela Stribling handed me that mic, that here I was, a whippersnapper girl of 27, who’s got a knack with a DSLR camera…and I was standing across from a jazz legend who’s seen it all and I had no idea what to say. The noise of my blood in my brain was helping me very, very little. All I could think was, even though I want to know what I want to know, how in the universe can I possibly ask it of someone who has traveled the world over in such a way that my own mind can’t wrap around? It was, for the lack of words, a student-meet-teacher moment, but such was the school and such was the teacher that, for the first time since I had gotten entrenched in music, I truly felt how new I was in all of this. For the first time, I truly felt like a student getting schooled in perspective.

Later on in the cruise, though, at lunch, when I had another brief chance to converse with Mr. Clarke, I did not feel as nervous as before. But that original adrenaline rush, that feeling of absolute newness in all of it – and I’ve done a lot of traveling for the sake of jazz and music so far – that will stay with me for a while.


Jump In With Both Feet

The more I think about what I’m doing lately, the more my logical side is forcing me to ask the crucial question of, “Woman, are you planning to sleep?!”

Uh…not really?

And yeah, the lack of sleep is starting to make my short-term memory go off-kilter, which blows.

However! This year had started with some very exciting things, and I have been delighted to wrap up an edit for a client, do two new graphic designs for another two, and am kicking off the photo sessions with Big Bad Voodoo Daddy at BB King’s tomorrow. Hotdamn, swing in the city! I feel all sorts of glamorous, even though I’m not quite ready… and yes, I’m breaking out the pencil skirt for this one. For those of you who know me, you guys know I’d rather keep my yoga pants on 24-7…but hey, swing music in BB King’s demands it.

…Now that the good stuff is out of the way…

I find myself gravitating more and more towards photography. In fact, I’m finding that a lot of my writing had become more visual, so to speak, and having been previously described as cinematic in my writing, I’m wondering if that’s the direction that I need to pursue in further endeavors. I briefly mentioned wanting to screenplay The Index Series, and I think I am going to get brave and do it. The only problem is, of course, is that I have no idea how the film industry works. A lot to learn and dig into, and if there’s a producer in this world who’s willing to take a shot and make this series something awesome…well, if it’ll help me finally have my own apartment, I’m game for it.

There’s a lot on the menu travel-wise, and what better way to start the year than DC? Yes, the capital. I’m going to see Cheikh N’Doye, a bassist, whose special guests include Lao Tizer, Karen Briggs, and Chieli Minucci. My camera and I are ready, and I’ll get into town early enough to do some sightseeing, and get out of there midday Sunday.

However, all that being what it is, I will be keeping my money very close to the vest for the time being. I’m not in good shape, and I know it. Tax time will be kind, but just enough to fill the stopgap; the real rescue will be coming to me in the form of overtime. By then, though, I will have the coveted Newport Beach tickets.

This is the thing with Newport: I will buy out the room, if I can handle it. If people want to share with me, fabulous – just reimburse me the costs. I will also get to CA early, rent a car, and hit the road…why? Because there are people and places to visit. I can’t wait to see San Diego.

My traveling will likely be limited, and I want to make sure that I will save up enough to not make CapJazz a misadventure any more than what it has been financially in the past. This time, I want to actually finish this year at zero revolving debt, if possible, while doing all the traveling I can.

But I will see to getting out of town often. NY is great, but life outside of NY is even better.



On CapJazz 2011

Now that I’m back on dry land, I can tell you that it has been quite a trip. I’ll have only a few highlights, since – for once!!! – I focused on relaxing much more than I did on the music. And man, it paid off. I wrapped up Book 5, at long last, my first two days into the cruise. The rest of the cruise, I had, well, cruised.

I won’t lie, it’s the first time I’ve had a trip with any sort of traveling issues. You have the posts below as evidence of that, I’m sure! And now that I’m here, back at my desk, and staving off the oncoming Annual Throat Bug(tm), I am reflecting back on everything that happened there.

From the top!

1. Gerald Veasley & Sounds of Philadelphia – Excellent show, no question there. And watching Gerald on the bass is a show within a show; he is an absolute gas when he plays. No question, he’s an ideal host for a jam session, and he proved it time and again.

Which brings me to…

2. The Jam Sessions –  One fine day, I’ll stay up long enough to see one all the way through. And let’s just put it this way: Patti. Austin. Just…wow. She made the entire audience blush on the first night, and none of us are saints to begin with.

3. Vinx – Granted, I saw him only in jam session (the Pieces of a Dream show ran a bit long, and I couldn’t make it to the Underground to check him out in a solo show…pity) but he was impressive. Not every day you hear someone do a bass line with a djembe drum, and not every day you encounter someone with a Vandross voice in a vocal-percussion medium.

4. Nick Colionne & Norman Brown – last jam session, they turned up their inner George Benson on Breezin’ and that brought back memories. For a second, I could’ve sworn I was in the theatre at the Celebrity Century again, and waiting for Boney James to jump in from the sidelines.

5. Phil Perry – One word: damn!

6. Fourplay – I will be honest, I would’ve loved to see them have the theatre rather than the pool deck, but they did wonderfully with it, and the sound was outstanding. Sunburn can get bent. That’s where the party is.

7. Ken Ford – …daaaaaammmmmn, That is all I can say. First show of the cruise, and he did not disappoint.

8. Sinbad – Aside from being pretty damn hilarious, I had no idea that he played guitar.

Aside from the minor brouhaha escaping Hurricane Rina, which was effectively in the ship’s path if we were to continue onto the course to Belize, it was a wonderful, amazing vacation. Key word is vacation.

And just to note, rough waters because of hurricanes are not a fun way to navigate. The ship was rocking violently enough to make me quite seasick, and I don’t get seasick at all. My sunglasses actually broke because they bounced off the desk, and the sound of flapping closet doors and drawers kept me awake until I used my luggage to barricade it. Not fun. But that’s what I get for cruising in hurricane season!

Now…to have a hot cuppa, snack a little, and get work done. Glad to be home.