It was a rainy, cold Wednesday in June. Not that you could tell from inside the dark, warm Sidewalk Café. The back room was dimly lit and sparsely populated as the band took the stage. Somewhere outside, the street was shut down to allow the Presidential motorcade to pass. The rain and the barricades meant that while the band played their first song, people continued to trickle in.
“I’m not coming to all your shows, you know,” I had told my partner when I found out the band he was in had landed a residency for the months of June and July. “Every Wednesday is just a bit much.”
But they started booking really cool guests and I knew that this week, at least, I wanted to see the show.
So, sometime after the room had filled up, Molly Crabapple took the stage and began reading an excerpt from her recently published book, “Drawing Blood.” As she read, the band played. Normally when they play I watch my partner’s hands fly over the strings of his bass. But when Molly began reading I couldn’t tear my eyes from her. She was holding the book up facing me and sometimes she looked up from reading and directly at me. The rest of the room went away.
It felt as though she had picked the reading just for me. She read about herself and her friend surviving as artists in New York. She read about love and self-doubt. She read about her friend’s self-creation. I was transfixed.
In that moment everything seemed possible.
Looking back, it seems almost too meta, like one of those scenes in a movie that is so heavy-handed and sentimental that no one would believe it. Here I am, a writer, having lived in New York just over a week, sitting in a room with other artists, all of whom have worked their asses off for years, listening to an excellent and successful artist read from a book about her own life while my musician boyfriend and our other musician friend who has lived in New York doing artistic things for years play music.
But for that moment the voice in my head, the one constantly commenting and analyzing, was quieted.
Later on, Sarah Kay, a poet, took the stage and read two powerful and beautiful poems while the band played. The feeling of possibility remained, after all, I was in a room with friends who were the sorts of people to say, “Hey why don’t we do a book reading and poetry while playing punk jam music?”
For the first time, I have begun to feel like a distinct person with a voice, among other people with voices yes but I have interesting and worthwhile things to say just like they do. I might be gaining a modicum of confidence.
The old style of artist is a sad white man in a cold attic who has traded his last memento of his dead father for canvas and brushes. But I like the new style of artist better. Artists these days may still be broke, rushing from their day job to the studio, coming up with a thousand cheap ways to prepare ramen, but we are more often found with friends than alone. Creation may be a solitary process but we need each other.
It may be my own hard work which will lead to any success I might gain, but I could never find the courage to begin that work if I were not surrounded by other artists. So whether you’re my partner, a friend, or just someone whose work (and work ethic) I admire, thank you. You will never know what you have done for a girl who once thought she couldn’t be anything but a wife and mother.
Want to see awesome shows with Jamie Kilstein and the Agenda + amazing guests? Show up at the Sidewalk Cafe every Wednesday through June and July at 6pm.
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