Sunday, December 11, 2016

v 2.0

I submitted my acapella rap to a production going on in Asbury this winter called THE AMERICAN FLAG: TRUMPED. Why not?! I revised it a bit so that it isn't so specific to the time and place it was born. Wanted to share it with you guys, since I'm not at open mics every Tuesday, and it was burning a hole in my pocket. 

The difference is basically more cursing, more anger at the election post-mortems, and my admittance that I never did like Thomas Jefferson. (Listening to the Hamilton soundtrack has only reminded me of my first impression and confirmed my distaste.)

Hamilton State of Mind

My baby cousin’s
got this Hamilton-
Rapping play on replay.
Michelle Obama,
Music Drama,
And it's on All day...

But we all got that upset-
Trump threat,
It's liberal hell-
Can Lin-Manuel
Take all of this
pain away?

It's just a little hip hop,
Some say,
But they’d be wrong-
ALL Day.

Cuz we all know
That words matter.
The pen shatters
the sword-
Paper smothers the rock-
A bill could kill the glock!

There's still time-
Si se puede
Don't be shy.

Putin’s coming
for our democratic government.
The keys to our kingdom
Went to a capitalistic internet.
Wall Street’s getting richer,
While the poor die in the street.
Obamacare can’t save you-
“Live free or die” – Preach!

You think this is all the Davos Man?
Motherfuckin C’MON MAN.
You can’t kid yourself now.
You just thank me later--
Imma tell you how
This shit’s much, much plainer.

It’s so simple that you missed it.
You’re too close,
And now you’re twisted.
It’s that sado-misogynistic-
Thomas Jefferson
hypocrite shit.

It’s ridiculous!
Can’t you see it?
America’s a dream!
So sobeit!

But there’s no rest for the wicked.
And without it, you don’t last.
Guess who invented “this too shall pass.”
Do you have land, for the taking?
Free labor from a chain gang?
Resources for the grist mill?
And/or a reproductive system?

Turn down your white noise,
Forget the Founding Fathers--
It’s that mythic City on the Hill shit,
That when it’s built,
you gotta build a wall around it.

Don’t play stupid with me-
And we’re way past denial,
And whatever you do –
Don’t you tell me to smile.
I’ll come for you softly
Like a hot knife through butter,
I don’t have time for fools,
I’m a full-time working mother.

And I’m done listening to other people
Hogging all the air in the room,
I stopped bothering,
Putting myself in the conversation.
So that’s it! This is my revelation.
I see now, you depend on my participation.

But who am I to say?
And what am I to do?
I’m just gonna to have to be me.
And you’re just gonna to have to be you.

And we’re going to Hamilton
the hell out of this,
And when we look back,
we’ll know we wrote for justice.
We were the voice of welfare,
and the blessings of liberty,
And it was done by little you’s
and little me’s,
From sea to sea to shining sea.


Sunday, November 27, 2016

A Very Rappy Thanksgiving

After Thanksgiving dinner my little cousin introduced the family to AutoRap, an app that takes anything you say and makes it into a top 40 hit (seriously, it almost could). It was the perfect thing to get past the tryptophan. The little ones were super cute, I sounded like Iggy Azalea, my jazzy uncle threw down with some baritone "Hello Big Bopper" (CLASSIC), and my mom spit a verse from "Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening." It was so good it was stuck in my head for 3 days.

Those same cousins listened to the Hamilton soundtrack for hours on the drive up to Maine. This led us to watch Lin-Manual Miranda freestyle battle rap Black Thought from the Roots on Jimmy Fallon over Black Friday breakfast. Only watch if you want to see an electrifying display of genius-ness.

Coincidentally that night was our annual dinner concert, put on by various members of the family. It's usually a few jazz numbers, maybe a few Beatles songs, and lately the kids have performed a few numbers as well. My AutoRap little cousin was preparing an original rap over an instrumental, and told me he could be in his crew. I was honored, and pumped given all the hip-hop stimuli, but my toddler toddled off to another room and I had to leave the rap "studio" jam sesh.

But armed with iPhone Notes, I was off to the races. Maybe it was the liberal bubble, maybe it was the love of family and the exuberance of the kids, but I started telling everyone I was going to rap at the concert. And I did. And it was so fun. I had red cheeks and tears in my eyes at the end. 

When I was 18, the apple of my eye asked me if I'd be his Robert Hunter. Hunter was the official lyricist for the Grateful Dead. This invitation was a blessed outside confirmation of both my deep love of music and my way with words. I was very flattered by the offer but never felt I knew how to write a song. It went nowhere. He's dead now. Not Robert Hunter. My friend.

I'm turning 35 this week. It's taken me as long to discover that figuring-out-how is a great stopper of things. It's better to just do, without worrying whether your output will be right, good, or perfect. Save judgement for after it's done, if you ever get that far. Donald Trump is our new president. I'm going to die one day. You are too. There's an opiate epidemic out there claiming people. There's global warming. Syria. What are you going to do? 

Remove your stoppers. Pierce through the blockage. Creation is an anecdote. It causes movement, makes openings. Pathways to other places.

So here's my acapella rap. Next up, beats. Imma let it flow.

Hamilton, The Sequel

Stella's got this Hamilton-
Rapping play on replay.
Michelle Obama,
Music Drama,
And it's on All day...

But we all got that upset-
Trump threat,
It's liberal hell-
Can Lin-Manuel
Take all of this
pain away? ...
He said we got 
this one shot-
One shot!
Yes we got 
this one shot-
One shot!
So we gonna
be like Steph Curry
in a hurry-
Melo be that ball hog-
Those Trump loners,
Selfish soldiers,
won't in it for the long haul...

We got 4 years:
grinding gears-
bake sales, epic fails,
Eric Garner, Trayvon Martin,
mass shooting, Portland's looting.
Black lives matter,
so do I, 
you do too-
White silence
causes violence-
Get up now,
I mean you.

Are we gonna stay here?
Drinking pour over?
While the fly overs
Are playing Red Rover?
No! -- 
We be those rabble-rousers,
Trouble-causers, bubble poppers.

Revelation? Revolution!
It's a Pant Suit Nation
of Dependence upon
Common Sense--

There's still time-
Si se puede
Don't be shy.

Is this land your land?
Or my land?
His land?
Or their land? --
It's our land.
Don't forget it, regret it,
alphabet it--
From Z to A, and A to Z,
Bangor, Brooklyn and Jersey.
From The Golden Gate 
to the Tappan Zee.
We build bridges-
And democracy.
Yes it's our land-
from to sea to sea to shining sea-
To little you, 
to little me
Just sitting there, 
in your seat...

It's just a little hip- hop-
Some say-
But they be wrong-
ALL Day!
Cuz we all know
That words matter.
The pen shatters
the sword-
Paper smothers the rock-
A bill could kill the glock!

Can't talk dirty to me--
Throw my name in the gutter-
I'll kill a fool
Like a hot knife through butter.
I write the rules,
The rhymes, 
And the blues.
I'm standing here,
With no microphone,
Just a pen a paper-
Check that -an iPhone-
To say this ain't a house-
It's a light green home.*

We're here to stay,
And I'm here to say-
That I'm the D A double-L A S
Live on West Broadway--


*My uncle just got Midnight Green shutters, and is really excited about how they bring out the light green color of his house. This was my favorite part of the rap.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Snapshots From My Liberal Bubble

A large part of the allure of New England is its timelessness. The barns, the cedar shake, the rock walls, the colonial architecture. It's an unchanged, idealized, airbrushed snapshot of Americana to bask in while you eat your lobster roll and your blueberry (apple?) pie.

We're in Maine this week for the Thanksgiving holiday, 21st year running. We stayed three nights in Kennebunkport for a little R&R before the family gathering in Bangor. 

There are no awkward dinner conversations across party lines here. It's a retreat to our family bubble. And you know what? For a vacation, for this week, it's fantastic.

Monday, November 14, 2016


The global nightmare of what I've been referring to as #Trumpocalypse has been upon us for almost a week now. I can best describe my feelings about it as an elevator of sadness, because there are so many levels to my upset and disappointment. I won't spell them all out for you here, because if you are reading this, odds are you already know too well what they are.

I heard a journalist on "The Run-Up" describe the surprise of Hillary's loss as "a failure of expertise on the magnitude of the fall of the Soviet Union or the Vietnam War." 


Media failed us. The Information Age failed us. In the oppressive nowness of the Internet, data, social media platforms, and our so-called "smart" phones, we’ve lost something. Our heads are down, glued to the shadow play of our screens. We’ve willfully surrendered a dimension of our reality. We've been flattened. 

In the election post-mortem, a slow-mo replay of the sucker punch, the dominant narrative looks like it's going to be that Hillary didn't do anything to connect with the white working class. I think when it's written in the history books, they'll tell a different story. A more obvious one. 

My husband, who makes Bernie Sanders look like the center-left establishment, has this theory: no one has done anything really to help the poor in this country. The Democrats have aligned themselves to welfare and bureaucratic assistance programs, which, when you get up close to them, are horrible. Better than the alternative Republican philosophy (survival of the fittest), but no way to live. Dispatches from your local community organizer. 

The thing is, I am a partisan Democrat. I was brought up on NPR, PBS, and LWV. But the reason why I vote Democratic down the line is because I believe in what the party stands for. It's not perfect. It may get perverted or watered down in practice, or lead to bloated government, but the Democratic Party in my lifetime has stood on the side of good more often than not. While the Republican Party is out there capitalizing on religious fervor, racism, and xenophobia, we're making room in the tent. If that is going to cost me a little more in taxes, sobeit. I was raised to believe that those who can spare some should. 

What I got from listening to my husband is that I have the luxury of worrying about the optics and the principles of my politics, while families living in poverty may not have the time. So I've made a commitment to myself to spend my time more wisely. Less Netflix, more politics. 

Wake the fuck up, Dallas. Be that change. 

I didn't fully realize how much Hillary Clinton meant to me until she didn't become our next president. All those people who hate Hillary so much... Why? Would they feel that way if she were a man? To be that determined, focused, unwavering, calculating, and hardened... Every quality that got her to be The First is every quality that was hated about her. It's a goddamn fact, and I had to look inside myself and see how I have been living into that paradigm. Always be likable. Don't go too far out on a limb. Don't let people judge you... 

It keeps you small. 

The first time I told my 5 year-old daughter who was running for president, she got to say “I want the girl to win.” I never had the chance to say that. That is a big deal.

I was out of my mind when Beyonce endorsed Hillary. Beyonce is the embodiment of female empowerment in pop culture today. She spoke of the importance of her daughter seeing a woman leading the country, less than 100 years after women gained the right to vote. I reposted a picture of the moment on Instagram, and an aunt of mine commented with a “thumbs-down” emoji. HRC would tell me not to take it personally, but I did. It's shocking to me how much women reject their own identity politics.

Like I said, so many levels. So many levels. It's a long elevator ride. 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly… Some of us believe in government. Which is why the election of a man who, thus far, has shown no respect for it or the office he will hold is so deeply troubling. I can only hope that the weight of the office, and the burden of carrying the entire country on his shoulders, will shape him more than he will shape it. 

There, I mustered up some optimism.

I went to the DMV today to renew my driver’s license. Margot and I were there for almost two hours. As tedious as it was, it was also restorative. There, in a government building, filled with a cross section of our citizenry -- all nationalities, all races waited patiently in line, chatted each other up, answered each other’s questions. We got our papers, got back into our cars, and went back to where we came from. 

Six days after, it was a minor miracle for which I give thanks.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Dispatches From Cape Cod, Part 1

We are up in Cape Cod with my in-laws for the week. It's my first time and so far it's just perfect. Our little cottage is 2 houses in from the beach. The water is warm and very calm so Lil Pip and I are swimming around like mermaids. When we arrived on Saturday night we took a walk down to the beach at sunset and she waded in so deep her dress got wet. Five minutes later she was duck diving waves. It was like witnessing a communion with the sea. Baptism? Whatever. You get the idea.

My grandmother had a tree growing in her front yard covered in trumpet vine. Every day she'd sweep the fallen flowers off the walk.

Driveways paved with shells.

Hydrangeas! Check.

Privet hedge! My favorite summer smell.

Every house has cedar shingles. Why doesn't every town do this? There are no ugly houses.
Wildflowers by the side of the road.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Take the A Train

They used to put short poems and excerpts from classic literature up in the subway -- Poetry in Motion they called it. I read this on the ACE my freshman year at NYU and scribbled it down (before Google was so prevalent you only had to remember key words for later). It used to get stuck in my head and I'd say it over and over again. I love the sound of it. It laid dormant in my brain for many many years until it came back again a few months ago. 

God I love poetry. Good poetry that's like an all out game of tag... Just out of reach and then you catch up to it, and grab it, and its meaning is revealed to you. This one is mostly just fun to say, and that has its reasons for existing too. 

Plus, it's peach season. Go get one and honor the moment with one of the earths juiciest fruits. 


A mouthful of language to swallow:
stretches of beach, sweet clinches,
breaches in walls, pleached branches;
britches hauled over haunches;
hunched leeches, wrenched teachers.
What English can do: ransack
the warmth that chuckles beneath
fuzzed surfaces, sweet velvet
richness, plashy juices.
I beseech you, peach,
clench me in the sweetness
of your reaches.

-Peter Davison