Waking the Dead

July 1st, 2012

Dreaming about death can be a terrifying and cold song, so much so that when you wake up the raw emotions remain with you such as the case at 4am this morning.  You’re like a plane that wants to land, but the landing gear won’t drop.   And when you wake up you can’t get back to sleep again because you’re terrified and too afraid to analyze it.  The raw emotion is captivating, so much so that you possess the urge to distance yourself emotionally.

It’s your worst fear when you dream about a loved one that goes missing, then kidnapped and harmed.  Then the next day you try to assemble the pieces like a jigsaw puzzle, wondering what lead to that.  Was it something you ate? Could it have been a reaction to something that happened during the day?  In fact, you don’t have the guts to journalize about it because of the fear and the lack of getting a good night sleep.  You get a sigh of relief when reality sets in and your mind reconciles with your nervous system.

Despite the obvious fear, I think dreams about death have more to do with managing events in life.  Like death itself, it’s the dawn of a new life challenge and the eve of another.  It feels much like change which is difficult in itself.   When you look beyond the obvious, it’s a way to bring something that needs to be dealt with to your immediate attention.  Bookmark that!  No Watson, “the game is afoot.”

If change is like a difficult ship that is hard to maneuver in the night, then dreams are like light houses that pave a clear path.  When they moved the Intrepid from the Hudson River for a remake, it was no easy task.  The dang boat was really stuck in the mud for decades of being sedimentary.  It took lots of tugging and basic engineering to get her to move, but she did budge eventually.  And that’s what change feels like sometimes, especially as you grow older.

Dreams can be a gymnasium for working out life’s problems.  Dreams can also be a trip, a dimension for communicating with those who are no longer living.  When I dream for instance, I am not always conscious whether or not the people I’m interacting with are actually still living.  In fact, I have no recollection that they have passed on.  I dream of my parents, relatives, friends and even former baby (secondary mothers) sitters.  I’ve even written about my experiences with them during the dreams.

I’ve had dreams of doing things with my dad, such as cooking or driving.  I’ve had dreams of having silly tiffs with my mom or other mundane things and conversations.  In fact, I have had more fun with my dad in my dreams then when he was actually living.  I once dreamt of a cousin who came to see me.  He was wearing a white suit, looking very sharp and mature.  I hadn’t seen him since we were kids and that was 1974, but he died in the 80s.  The virus took him away and it was a family secret.

I had wished I had gotten to know him better.   My mom used to shake her head about how swishy he was.  She said he could snap you into next week.  I got the feeling we would have had a blast together and a lot in common.  In many ways, I think that’s what may have drawn him to my dream world.

I don’t think connecting with the dead is anything unique.  I think anyone can do it and remember the positive experiences.  It’s just that I tend to recall the details very easily and for years.  When I dream of familiar people who are now deceased, it’s always usually a very pleasant and peaceful experience.  We’re having a good old time in the present the way we would have in the real world.

Last night I dreamt of reuniting with some former Lavender Light Gospel Choir friends.  Three of us were posing for a group photo.  There was David M, a third person who I can’t recall since I let the time lapse before actually writing this down and myself.  I recall that we were about to meet up with other former Lav Light members and we were chatting it up and laughing.  The only problem is that David M was long deceased and yet during the dream I had no sense of that at all.  I recall now that when he was alive, he was a gentle soul and always a wonder to be around.

It’s important to write down dreams when you first wake up and I admit, I don’t do it often enough.  I keep a dream diary by my bed but lately it’s been collecting dust because if I start, my pen will burn or I will burn up the keyboard one way or another.  The end result will leave me feeling exhausted the next day.  I usually end of tossing and turning anyway which is the net difference.

Dreams about death and trying to make sense of it all  reminds me of the British TV mystery, Waking the Dead.  It was a crime series about a team of personalities who put together the puzzles of solving crimes forensically.  What I really liked about the show was that it delved deeply into the lives of the main characters and their flaws.  It exposed their strengths and vulnerabilities.  I think just about every episode they were put to the test and it was ultimately the balance of their training versus their humanity that kept them on the mission as a team.

As a team, they each fulfilled a pivotal role to maintaining the unit.  I think dreams are like that in that we dream with a purpose even though we may not be conscious of it.  All the characters in a dream fulfill a role in the whole narrative, much like a play or opera.  In the opera, the narrative can be symbolic much like Einstein on the Beach.  It very much felt a like a dream to me. By the way, I’ve seen every episode of Waking the Dead through series 6.  I discovered the show after it went off the air and thank God for Netflix streaming video.

I think my sub consciousness wants to schedule an appointment with kind spirits but the superego prohibits it.  When I sleep, all bets are off as I am uninhibited.  I noticed that when I dream of spirits, they appear as I remember them best. My mother and father are always in their 50s or early 60s the every latest.  My cousin is dapper and both babysitters (Mrs. Brown and Mrs. Bradley) are quite youthful.

I don’t have any conclusions to make, except that I am still on the journey.  I will hold on for the ride, fasten my seat belt and go!  It really does feel like a roller coaster ride and I never liked roller coasters when I was kid.  I remember refusing to ride them in Palisade Park when I was a kid and I don’t fancy airplanes, but I always catch that flight.

During dreams, all bets are off.  I am like a superhero without the cape and blindfold.  No joke!  And there are times when I most vulnerable.  I don’t know what to expect next, but I leap forward.  I am like Jacque Cousteau charting the next island of dreams and I kind of like the journey forward, even more so that the interpretation.  Besides, I am pre-occupied with dreaming or rather remembering than trying to figure them all out.  I suppose that’s truly the next growth step.



Occupy the Heart Valentine Variety Show

February 13th, 2012

I’ll be performing at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in lower Manhattan this Sunday.  Please come on down.  It’s bound to be fun experience that you won’t regret.  I hope to see you there:

February 19, 2012 – 7pm – 9pm

Nuyorican Poets Café

236 East 3rd Street Between Ave B & C

New York, NY 10009

Ticket price:


Other Information:

URBAN PRODUCTIONS in association with The 2012 FRESH FRUIT FESTIVAL present: “Occupy the Heart!” Valentine Variety Show Featuring LGBT and LGBT-friendly stars of the vibrant NYC area performing arts scene. A night of entertainment in celebration of love & romance! with musical host ROBERT URBAN – including performances by Ron R. Alvarez, Elijah Black; Joanne Borden, Tina Marie Carr, Nick De Jesu, Cindy Diamonds, Martina Downey, Matthew Duffy, Kelli Dunham, Daniel Freeman, Francesca MacAaron, Tracy Stark official OCCUPY THE HEART webpage.

Marriage Equality

January 16th, 2012

Recently I attended a conference on Marriage Equality sponsored by the Lambda Legal Defense Fund. My expectations were low. I thought I was going to attend an event built around someone else’s agenda but I was pleasantly surprised how it made a difference to me on a personal level. I encountered a conference that was in fact very relevant to people of color; one that was more personal than political.

It was no accident that the event was planned around MLK Day, held at the Paul Robeson Center of Rutgers University, Newark Campus and led primarily by woman of color. It worked for me but it wasn’t what I was expecting. It was attended by a dvierse group of attendees: young, old, couples, men, women and people of all colors in the city of Newark. I wonder what Dr. King would say about this?

It started out on the right track. The political aspect of the conference hit home because of the emphasis on the personal. There was a black lesbian couple that spoke about the discrimination they faced at the hospital, despite having a civil union that is supposed to be equal to marriage. The fact is society places a high value in marriage. If you say that you have a partner and are in a civil union, someone just might ask you what type of business that is. Legally, GLBT people have to take triple if not quadruple measures to back things up or face legal hurdles.

There was an Ice Breaker that was designed to get people to connect with unfamiliar faces and it worked. It got people talking right away. People who had legal terms had to match themselves with those in the room that had their definitions. It was a great way to segway into the legal discussion. There were also workshops on Personal Finance designed for different levels of experience.

Aside from learning how much money some people actually spend on weddings, the real power of the conference was the sharing of information and strategies by the participants. People were very forthcoming about sharing what worked and what didn’t.

We were entertained by the singing talents of Cheryl and Javonne, two wonderful performers whom I’ve known for years. They treated us to two original songs and really got the crowd going.

For anyone opposed to marriage equality, I challenge them to get beyond the politics and talk to GLBT families in their communities and in their own families. It’s not about someone else’s agenda or about desconstructing an age old institution. It’s about taking care of each of other.

Under The Lens

November 13th, 2011

During one hot sticky Sunday in June,  I met with photographer Angela Jimenez and her lovely assistant Cantina for the Sign Post photo shoot.   We met on the street outside of the Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX).  When I saw them, I immediately felt at home.   I was eager to get started, though a bit nervous about the whole thing.

Angela and I were back and in forth over the last fewl weeks conceptually mapping out the imagery for the shoot.  Each and every time, I came up with abstract images that seem to lead to a theme of self reflection.  As a listened to every song on the CD,  I was looking for the big picture and that’s what spoke to me.   When I stepped back and looked at it as a whole, it became very clear.

The night before I was asked to bring in props and so I went on a scavenger hunt for objects that we could build different scenes around.  I went to Enchantments, one of the largest stores of its kind in New York, looking objects I could use.    I left with one Crystal Ball and 4 pumpkin colored candles encased in glass.  I combed the streets in the East Village and came upon a novelty store and found a vintage hand held mirror.  We made good use of all of them.

There were a few prominent images that we built our theme under namely: The Veiled Woman, reflection of Eyes In The Mirror and Martina Under Candlelight.


The Veiled Woman

Angela has an amazing eye for detail.  And you could tell she was literally building a scene from scratch, but it worked.  The Veiled Woman was an image of me at the center of the universe.  The effective use of the light made me appear as if I was being beamed up to an alien ship through a funnel of light surrounded by celestial objects.  All of this was done by carefully veiling me through a colorful scarf with careful use of light at the right angles.  I have not yet decided yet but this image screams of the album cover itself.

The origin of the Veiled Woman was inspired by an image I saw the Internet.  It was an opaque image of a woman’s face thinly veiled by a silk scarf.  You could carefully see the outline of her face.  We re-created something similar but went the additional mile of creating a vortex of light with me at the center.


The Crystal Ball

There were several shots of me posing with a Crystal Ball but the money shot are two photos: one that is an upside down photo of me inside of the Crystal Ball while I’m holding it right side up.  It’s a photo of opposites.  During the second image, the camera instead focuses on me instead of the Crystal Ball.


Eyes in the Mirror

Eyes in the Mirror is an interesting trick of capturing reflections through mirrors.  Through the use of two mirrors and careful positioning, Angela photographed the reflection of me instead of me directly.  It was an interesting concept because I was one of the ideas we spoke about a few months ago.   During an Internet search, I came upon the eye of Horus and I was quite intrigued by this Egyptian symbol.  During my scavenger hunt, I was actually looking for the eye of Horus but came up empty handed in terms of objects so we decided to create the effect ourselves through mirrors.

I had always wanted to work with mirrors.  The technique involved careful positioning the two mirrors at the right angles to capture both the light and my eyes exclusively and it worked.


Martina Under Candlelight

Our first attempt was to create an altar with me at the center.  We settled by using just candlelight candlelight to illuminate the canvas, mainly myself.  The room was pitch black with only the pumpkin color light in the backdrop.  Dark Caverns was playing in the background for effect and I felt like I was in the stillness of the night.  It was a very serene scene.  The result were images of me sitting under campfire light.

We worked very hard that day for three hours but everything seemed to come together. I got a chance to see some of the outtakes of the shoot that day and I was very impressed.  We left with a plethora of images that I’m going to have fun working with as well as the designer.

Giving Birth to Sign Post: My New CD

October 9th, 2011

Giving birth is certainly no easy task and sometimes it takes a little longer than 9 months, but I am very proud to have released my new CD, Sign Post.  It is now available at CD Baby, iTunes and Amazon.  Soon it will be available on many other digital platforms.

The hardest thing about the process is letting go.  It’s the kind of project that you can tinker with it forever, but if it’s not shared then what’s the use.   I’ve worked hard on the songs and have had some life changes during the process: a death in the family and a fall towards the end of production, but still I rise each day.

Sign Post was a collaborative project that involved many talents.  I’d like to thank first and foremost my producer and multi-instrumentalist, Robert Urban of Urban Productions.   He kept encouraging me to carry on and pushed me towards excellence.   We had many magical moments in the studio together.  I’d like to thank Steven Sullivan who played bass, Barbara Tone for her sax works and my partner, Tawanna for her technical help and editorial feedback on the lyrics.

As for the songs, they stand onto themselves like little islands.  Some were written prior to going into production.  Others were written during this period.  What I find really interesting is how I can really measure the growth from the first song we recorded to the last.  By the end of the project I was really comfortable stretching my wings in all sorts of directions.

And now it’s time to share these songs with the world.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.






September 11th, 2011

I have spent the last few months mending from surgery on my left ankle and learning how to walk again. It stemmed from a “slide in tumble, slide in stumble” I had late last December and it hasn’t been easy. It has given me a deeper understanding of what life must be like for someone who is permanently disabled, but finds a way to cope in the world.

For all practical purposes, I am temporarily disabled. I learned how to adjust my routine to enjoy life and found innovative ways to work with mobility devices. However, the reality is I knew that in the back of my mind I would be walking again. I think it’s having the knowledge of being temporary versus permanent is the key difference.

A Night on the Town: Video from the Fresh Festival at Nuyorican Poets Cafe

February 15th, 2011

Alas, I am happy to share the video of my performance at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. It’s a cozy place. Enjoy.


January 23rd, 2011

Last night, I entered into a deep coma of a sleep and ended up on the corner of Christopher Street and the Westside Highway. Some street merchant was manually towing a stack of cans from the marketplace. The wagon had one wheel on one end and two handles on the top end. Someone bumped into him and everything came crashing down.

I ran ahead trying to avoid the impending disaster. Then, it occurred to me I’d be safe if I dived into the Hudson and so I gathered a few breaths and in I went. I started swimming and was able to manage quite well. Ironically, I could see quite well under water despite what people say about the Hudson. It was dark in these waters. I came up for air and imagined that I had oxygen on my back and a motor for paddling.

Then, someone gave me permission to fly and I preferred that. It was at that moment that I emerged from the river and flew high in the night sky. It was a clear night and I could see all the stars about. I think I flew about 2000 feet above the ground, when I felt myself sinking into another level of consciousness.

I emerged through a narrow tunnel and found myself in a mansion. I was in the drawing room with its high ceilings; total darkness kept at bay by a small gas lamp. I sat in a big chair and like a Disney park ride; the chair started moving fast like a roller coaster. The house somehow managed to stretch itself along the way so the distance seemed an impossible trek.

Drifting deeper and deeper into sub-consciousness, I emerged in a modern village. There was a chapel up ahead, lots of people of all colors walking about peacefully and in harmony. They were going to a concert and I could hear the mass choir sing from a distance through the doors. There was a glimmer of light reflecting outside, a cue that something magical was happening inside.

The music was heavenly, nothing like I’ve ever heard before. It was a performance given by two choirs that had merged to form a mass choir. Although I had never heard the piece before, it seemed somehow familiar to me because I had written it. Even though I wasn’t performing this night, I could not help but take over, conducting from my seat, like a secondary driver taking control of the wheel.

The music was straight out of the Renaissance. Can you imagine if the Three Musketeers had boom boxes, and what they’d be listening to? There were oboes, cellos, flutes and lutes. There were bells, bells and more bells. It was something straight out of a fairy tale. It reminded me of courtly music you’d hear if you were in some European castle.

And when I woke up this morning, I managed to retain a fragment of the music from the dream. I whipped out my digital recorder and started singing all the parts that I had remembered. I call them seeds. These seeds are inspirational and motivate me just enough to create something new. However, I want so bad to cheat, to undergo hypnosis so I can remember every note, ever measure of music, every nuance. That wouldn’t be work I suppose. Inspiration is the impetus; it’s the byte size chunks of information that tease you to labor the rest during consciousness. After the dream, the rest is up to you.

Pics From the NYC Fresh Fruit Playhouse Variety Show

December 27th, 2010

Having sprained both ankles, a feat that even my doctors were surprised by, it wasn’t enough to deter me from delivering a performance when duty calls. I was determined to crawl to the show, but arrived in a rental wheel chair. I managed with some help to hobble on stage and used my cane as a prop.

I sang “Sign Post,” which is the title track from my next CD. Here are some photos:

The Fresh Fruit Festival was a lot of fun. It was my first time at the Nuyorican Cafe and I’ll be back for sure.

Now Performing……

December 6th, 2010

Please come out and support me at the Fresh Fruit Festival on December 19th. I will be accompanied by Steven Sullivan and Robert Urban and there will be a host of other artists. It should be a lot of fun and I’m looking forward to it:

this time to present The FRESH FRUIT PLAYHOUSE Variety Show at NYC’s legendary
Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe.

Sunday Dec 19th’s show is a winter/holiday-themed blockbuster, featuring a star-studded, eclectic cast of singers, musicians, poets, comedians & more.

The evening will also include an auction of strange & fabulous items to benefit the Fresh Fruit Festival.
(the perfect opportunity to snag bargain bizarre holiday gifts!)

musical host Robert Urban
singer/songwriter/pianist Tracy Stark
comedic monologist Jonathan Calindas
singer/songwriter Roger Anthony Yolanda Mapes
“mouthmatics” vocal impressionist Jay Stone
singer/songwriter/guitarist – Corinne Curcio

monologist Joanne Borden
singer/songwriter/guitarist Tina Marie Carrr

spoken word artist Lizzy Fox

R&B vocalist – Nick DeJesu
singer/songwriter Martina Downey
musical storyteller – Marjorie Conn

singer/songwriter/guitarist Elijah Black
Flamenco singer Nilsa Martinez

with additional musical accompaniments provided by musical artists:
bassist Steven Sullivan,
saxophonist Barbara Tone (and yours truly on geetar….)

Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe 236 E 3rd Street NYC (btwn Ave. B & C)
$10 no drink minimum!
For more info: themusenyc@aol.com or artisticdirector@freshfruitfestival.com
Sunday December 19, 2010 @ 7pm Resrv./info: http://www.nuyorican.org/
[click on the calendar for December 19]

Carol Polcovar – FFF founder; Frank Caro – FFF artistic director