Two Years Have Passed
Almost two years have passed with countless stories to tell. I began a part time “career” as an extra — working as a background actor on the sets of New Amsterdam, Nora from Queens, Madame Secretary, Mrs Maisel, and many others … until NYC came to a standstill ….
Of course, the pandemic has been uppermost in everyone’s life story for most of this period. For me, I found myself somewhat accidentally falling into a full-time job in a field I have no experience in (health technology) that took me away from traveling, writing music and painting. This environment immersed me into a state of high intensity that goes with the territory of a startup. The job has generated a never before seen by me level of income that has improved my lifestyle immensely. Although the job is full time (haven’t worked full time since 1978!), I do however manage to squeeze in a tiny amount of time for painting and music — including adding my composition and voiceover for a company video, as well as composed several soundscapes and soundtracks for animation for my dear friend Susan Rostow. Here is a collection of these works, produced between 2018 and 2021:
Long Journey Home: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRd0XA9E31U
Nested World: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CE5YM8k8S58&t=116s
Waterfront Showdown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aLnA9eQZIxs
Native Curatives: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nh_OQU-XOj4&t=38s
I am delighted to see New York coming back to life again — the streets are full of happy al fresco diners and gradually everything that NYC has to offer is beginning to be available once more.
Goodbye 2019, Hello 2020
The last two years have been some of the most complex and exhillerating of my recent past. Three trips to Tanzania, and a new found freedom of expression in art, music and – acting. Acting? Yes, if you can call it that!
Approximately two years ago, I met a very talented young actor, Carter Winter, who has now become a good friend and collaborator on several projects. He threw me in to the deep end of acting in a project he created – a web comedy series called StartUps, where I assisted on the production. I was Artistic Director for the project, creating props, and then Carter created a speaking role for me as “Ruby” a random character which, if they had not lost some footage, might have made sense. But in any case, I’m in Episodes 8 at 2:15 and 9 several times. Not only that, I coached one of the other actors – a friend of Carter’s – who played “Mr. Black”. He had a significant role in the project and I helped him learn his lines. Several months later, “Mr. Black” ultimately hired me in his own real life startup! More on that later.
The trips to Tanzania came about because I had an itch to visit Zanzibar. The Spice Islands! I contacted a long time acquaintance I knew from England, who had moved back there from London, and he encouraged me to come during the Zanzibar Film Festival in July (2018). And so I carved out an itinerary of six weeks which included a few days in Dar Es Salaam, a ferry trip to Zanzibar, and a snorkeling excursion. I had spent the summer preparing for this adventure by learning to swim at the local Parks Department swimming pool near Lincoln Center. Next, I scheduled a bus to Arusha to stay for a few days, and then took a flight to Kilimanjaro, to stay with a young woman and her family with whom I had corresponded on Facebook for several months, along with another visitor from Wisconsin to explore the center of Tanzania. Then I booked a camping Safari for 7 days from Kilimanjaro. I did get to see the marvelous giraffes, elephants, lions, hippos, monkeys and all kinds of other wildlife in their completely natural habitat.
The most interesting experience was coming across a group of teenage Maasai. These young men, we were told, had recently been circumcised. The tradition is to circumcise boys at around 14 years. We were also told that it is quite normal for children to not know when they were born, although records are improving these days. So teenage boys are determined to be ready for circumcision according to their height, rather than their age! During their recovery period, they wear white stripe markings on their foreheads; they grow their hair and they are instructed not to wash for several weeks. Their healing time is also a right of passage to manhood. These roadside teens stopped our vehicle and spoke to our guide for a moment. We were later told by park officials that it was not allowed for us to take their photo.
Originally, I planned to head to Nairobi, Kenya after the safari for a week before heading home, and I had an extra week that I was keeping open, which worked out perfectly, because I had fallen madly in love with a young Zanzibari while I was attending the film festival, and so I flew back to spend some time with him. It was all a magical time, and my Wisconsin friend, Alma also joined me in Zanzibar for a few days.
I came back to New York my head spinning from the whole experience, as well as completely smitten by this young man. I was considering ways to bring him to the US, even though I knew I had such limited resources to do so. I even explored going on the TV show 90 Day Fiance, and actually sent them a photo of us together. They called me within two minutes of sending the email. They said to contact them once I filed for a fiance visa (which I never followed up on, because ultimately it didn’t work out).
However, after coming back to the US, I decided I would go back to spend some more time with the young man and see whether there could be a future. In preparation for that second planned December trip, I followed up on an offer I was made by friends of friends to help with a project to work on in Dar Es Salaam Two projects to be exact. One project was to do with music – developing a recording studio for underprivileged young people in Dar Es Salaam – The Invisible Dar People project, and the other was developing programs for European visitors (Dutch and Belgian) to volunteer at schools and medical facilities in Iringa, Tanzania. I worked diligently on both of these projects, and was promised more writing opportunities and support (in the form of food and lodging) for my return trip. I began taking footage to develop into a documentary, and was able to go to eight underground recording studios around Dar Es Salaam.
The second visit in December 2018 was fraught with problems. Upon arrival, my young friend and lover had come down with a bout of malaria. He visited me in Dar Es Salaam, but was very unwell. Not only that, his father fell and broke his hip and so he had to return almost immediately to Zanzibar. It was not a happy time for us. Also, my projects were not going as expected. My host’s original accommodations had fallen through, and I was staying at a hotel and was given the understanding that all had been taken care of. Then he left for Europe leaving me on my own to fend for myself. The arrangement was collapsing. Happily though, he introduced me to a friend of his who cheerily became my guide and companion.
After my host returned from Denmark, other plans we had made were falling through, including the unfortunate broken promise of returning money I lent him was also falling apart. It took six months for him to finally pay me back, with me feeling the need to hound him weekly to maintain his integrity and keep his promise to pay me back.
My time in Tanzania for the second trip resulted in me become quite attached to my new companion, and I asked him to accompany me to Iringa, along with my host and his Danish girlfriend, which he happily agreed. We spent the next few weeks together without barely leaving eachothers’ sides. We also managed to do a music video — he is a rapper, and I met his family – everyone! His father, sisters, brothers, his 3 year old daughter, and his mother, who he had not seen in about six months himself. Everyone seemed to think we were destined for marriage. I thought the relationship had some potential, but I needed to see if he was able to become economically viable. I was not going to be able to carry him and his family, which is what I suspected was the aim. I helped with some ideas, some equipment – a computer and start up funds. They all came to nothing for a variety of reasons.
When I returned home on the last day of January 2019, February was a dark and sad time. I could not think of anything but Tanzania and I missed my new companion. In just two months I would have a very big birthday, and I decided I wanted to spend it with him. I immediately booked my third trip and returned in April. I stayed with him in his tiny shack in a small town outside Dar Es Salaam. I was already used to the simple life and having his companionship meant more to me than all the luxuries and comforts of home. Never mind no refrigeration, no proper bathroom, no running water, mosquitoes, cooking on propane, no kitchen, intermittent blackouts. It didn’t matter.
I had my birthday celebration where his family threw me a big party and invited the whole neighborhood. His sisters dressed me in a special dress they had made me for the occasion. We were all dressed alike for the evening. It was a great celebration.
Later, I travelled with my friend to Madaba to meet the rest of his family. Beyond that town was his village where the rest of the family lived. We visited the burial ground of his ancestors and cleared the gravestones of months of debris. It was a beautiful experience. No-one there spoke English. They don’t even speak Swahili.
I returned back to the US rejuvenated and ready to take on the next phase of my life. I made a commitment to completing some artworks that had been lying unfinished for years. Although I have been painting without much interruption for many decades, this large piece had been abandoned due to its daunting size. Three large panels – made from full size doors – had been languishing. I had to decide – finish them or throw them out. I committed to finishing them. Currently they are almost half finished. Since they will be hinged together, they need to be painted on both sides, but I’ve only managed to almost finish one side. I will get back to them eventually.
Of course, while I’m painting, all I want to do is write music. When I’m writing music I want to paint. It is a battle. My dear friend Susan Rostow hired me to write music for her stop-motion animations. I’ve now done several projects with her. The latest being Native Curatives, a project created in conjunction with the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, and the work was on exhibition at Brooklyn College in September 2019.
And then September my life suddenly changed again! The man who had played Mr. Black in StartUps tracked my down through Carter Winter, and asked if I would work for him for his own StartUp. I thought I would give it a try, but I had just begun working as a background actor. I had been on a few gigs and was liking the social aspect, as well as the extra pocket money. I had been on the set of New Amsterdam, The Politician, The Hunt, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Akwafina Show, Madam Secretary, and a couple of films and commercials. I didn’t want to have to give up those fun gigs. But for the most part, I have done so for MDPortals. I am managing so many projects for this startup company, and am enjoying it all immensely – seeing the fruits of my labor. Now I am writing this during the Christmas holidays, where I am finding time to catch up on my life. I will be jumping back into the corporate life tomorrow and heading into 2020 with renewed ambition and energy.
March 1, 2018
Of course I had every intention of updating this chattings page a lot more frequently than once a year. But let me think back over the last year or so and share some of the highlights.
My Iceland trip culminated in a very magical journey. I had made a new friend through Facebook who lives in Arkansas. She was going to be there at the same time as me, and we planned an excursion by car to Vik. Melanie was the perfect travel mate. Since we made our plans so far in advance, we had an opportunity to meet in New York when she came here on business, and I also accepted her invitation to visit Bentonville right before Christmas. We have visited each other a few times since then and I hope to be able to celebrate her upcoming wedding to Joe later on this summer.
Let me say that Vik, where Melanie and I did our excursion in Iceland, is one of the most charming places I have ever visited. Apparently it has a population of 200 people that swells to 2000 tourists during the high season. Our hosts at the B&B, Mani and Andrew and the dog they looked after were intriguing characters. The black sand beaches and volcanic outcroppings made the place otherworldly. The disgusting fermented fish delicacy we tried were a good excuse to drink the alcohol provided afterwards.
At Vik’s “Knitting and Games” night (the only thing going on in the town at that time) we met a few other colorful local characters, one of whom invited us to go ice climbing on a nearby glacier the following day. I had already booked the glacier trip the day after, so I ultimately did it twice. The first time, I took loads of photographs. The second time, I just enjoyed the journey and the amazing experience of eating ice that was millions of years old. Sadly, we were informed that the glacier is melting at a very rapid rate. The parking lot was a very long half-hour dry walk to the get there as it had melted so much since they built it.
After Iceland, I flew to my home town (London) for a few days, and one of the highlights was a family brunch where I got to meet more cousins and their children and grandchildren. This trip was closely followed by a 4 day visit to join Robert (my Dad’s cousin) and his wife Dorothy at their house in Lanzarote (Canary Islands). They took me to see the landscape, and we enjoyed the delicious fish restaurants, played scrabble and enjoyed watching the sun rise and set from their beach view hideaway. Lanzarote actually reminded me a bit of Iceland because of its volcanic origins.
The rest of the winter and spring are a bit of a blur, but last summer I had the very good fortune to be able to rent a place in Lorgues, South of France for three weeks. The plan, which I would say was 100% successful, was to paint. I brought with me 20 9×12″ hardboard panels and a suitcase of acrylic paint, and the plan was to complete all these pieces during the visit. The place was glorious — a swimming pool, and good friends in the main house to hang out with – Katia and John. I got to meet their friends around the area, and Katia (who I’ve known for decades) and I took several trips, including day trips to Nice, local villages, walks in the forest, Lorgues market, Marseilles and a few very enjoyable swimming trips to lovely destinations.
Upon my return to NY, the only thing I could think about was to plan my next trip. With Iceland off my list, I realized that I actually completed my list of all the places I wanted to go. So I simply started a new list.
Top of the new list is Zanzibar (Tanzania). And so after some research, I have booked a flight and will be heading there in July, 2018. The trip will be for six weeks, and I have yet to plan it all, but I hope to meet the Masaai people, do some volunteering, visit some animal sanctuaries, attend the Zanzibar film festival, go on a camping safari, and will also visit Kenya before returning to NYC mid August.
One project I’ve taken on is producing a TV show entitled “Live Life Your Way” featuring a friend of mine who is a Personal Life Coach. Noreen is a very wise person, who loves to share her knowledge and wisdom and hysterically funny and poignant stories, to move people beyond their potential. The show appears once in a while on the local access station Manhattan Neighborhood Network. I also have been throwing in my original music for the intro and outro, and using my South of France paintings as backdrops. I will be recording a new show next week.
January has flitted by so quickly, I almost forgot about updating my blog. Having landed an office job for a couple of days a week has got me out and about with a little extra cash in my pocket!
Rehearsals have begun with The Brearley Singers, and I have also been busy editing their Holiday Video, which has about fourteen songs on it. Will be a lot of work, as there were a lot of cameras capturing various angles, as well as a few different sound tracks to sort through.
I have been in packing mode for Iceland. Taking a bag that gets checked in I thought would make this trip a little easier, but in fact it is just as difficult to pack a large bag as a small one – especially since I’ve decided to make a stop in the Canary Islands – so I will be dealing with three different climates. Iceland, England and Spain .. close to Morocco! I will be landing and going straight to the famous Blue Lagoon before heading to Reykjavik. I have booked some sightseeing tours that will get me out of the town, and then I will join my Arkansas friend for a two day road trip to Vik.
Although I had predicted a busy month, I didn’t realize how much fun it would be. Not only did I have the good fortune to spend a few days with a new friend in Bentonville, Arkansas, I also got to reunite with Alan, my 1970s boyfriend with whom I arrived in the USA many moons ago.
My good luck connected me with a young woman who is going to Iceland at the same time as me, in February. She kindly invited me to visit her in Bentonville, and since I had the time (and airmiles) I obliged. I already knew some history about Bentonville – it being where the headquarters of Walmart is situated, and that the Walton family (founders of Walmart) have bestowed a beautiful art museum in the lovely town. Also a hotel with an art collection to rival the Museum of Modern Art is also just off the town square. We also were lucky enough to stumble across a performance by the blugrass group, Sad Daddy, who are the embodiment of what the best bluegrass is about. They just blend their beautiful singing tones into their instruments and forge a mix that is sublime.
Montreal is where I spend several days, where I got to see the gorgeous townhouse that Alan remodeled. With several inches of snow, hiding treacherous ice, I didn’t venture very far afield, but also met up with old friends who were visiting their family at the same time. Lots of great food, great wine, and lively conversations, and a good amount of laughter. Although the temperatures plummeted down to below 0 Fahrenheit, I was warmed by the company and just the right amount of reminiscences to contemplate.
What’s going on, and what’s coming up:
It’s been a busy month so far … I am attempting to get my sleep patterns under control so as to prepare for Election Day when I have to get up at 4am, and work at my polling center all day and do my best to stay alert until I finish, hopefully before 11pm.
I have also got back to writing music – a few new instrumental pieces are in the works, and two of them are posted on my Music page. I’m also working on completing some new sculptural works, entitled Facets.
I’ve got a few social commitments with entertainment attached, and this month has been quite unusual with so many of them.
Joining Blue Hill Troupe (as a backstage worker) has so far proved to be a joyful experience. Soon I will get to see the fruit of my somewhat limited labor – a couple of hats made and some set painting – Gilbert & Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance. I’ve seen a rehearsal and I’m very excited to go see it next week.
Tonight I’m going to see The Other Mozart, an off Broadway piece about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s sister. Will write more about it later.
And last night I saw Who Will Sing for Lena, an off Broadway play about a woman of color put to death in the electric chair for killing the man – her boss – who raped and terrified her, back in 1950s Georgia. A powerful one-woman show, which needs to be put on again — it was a one-day event. She was posthumously pardoned in 2005.
Tomorrow evening I will be attending a cabaret of music by members of the Peace of Heart Choir.
I am also going to begin another course at Manhattan Neighborhood Network, a public access TV Station, learning how to produce field TV shows. Will report on that after I start on Monday.
Monday evening it’s back to rehearsals with the Brearley Singers. Due to a scheduling snaffoo, I will miss our own concert, but I will be hard at work working on editing the resulting video from their December concert.
During the election, my dear cousin, Stuart Acker Holt will be staying with me from Europe, while he is doing a short film about getting the pulse of New Yorkers on the day of and the day after. I suspect that most people will be too exhausted and perhaps exasperated to talk about it, but hopefully he will get some lively and interesting footage as he cycles in a heart-shaped route around the NYC area to collect his sound bytes.
December will no doubt prove to be a fun month, too. Using some dusty old airmiles that I’ve had forever, I’m heading into the heartland of America to visit a new friend – and will be exploring Bentonville, Arkansas – with its world class art collection by the Walton family, founders of Walmart (Bentonville has Walmart’s headquarters), closely followed by a nostalgia trip to Montreal where I will see an old friend who I haven’t seen for several decades.
This year I had a solo exhibition at Santander Bank on Broadway and 82nd Street.
Here is a link to the price list: 2013 EXHIBITION PRICE LIST