Mill Valley, CA – “How’d you Look?” – The Sweetwater – October 15, 1999

Ah, the lushness of the wine country. The sky is a skirt, that teases the ground with its lacey, foggy hem. Logging trucks thunder by on switchbacks, bouncing their open cargo. I can’t help but see the trunks as bodies and ruminate with outrage and guilt about the tragedy of human greed.

Mill Valley was sunny and warm when we arrived midway through a Friday, midway through October, on the cusp of this new West Coast tour. The entire population of Mill Valley (both men and women) were unreasonably handsome, I noted to myself as I watched them stroll in white shorts and stiffened collars. I saw them pretend to window shop as an excuse to check themselves out in storefront reflections. It made me laugh out loud and recall walking New York City streets with my dad in my adolescence. Whenever he’d catch either my brother or me checking ourselves out in a window, he’d whisper cheekily, “How’d you look?” and, busted, we’d all get a good chuckle.

Let me just say, for the record—no one treats artists as well as the Sweetwater does! Tom, Sweetwater’s owner, greeted us at the door with open, heart-quenching hugs and insisted on feeding us mountains of gourmet food. Backstage, the boys watched a game on TV in one curtained-off half of the green room, while I sank into the vastness of a red velvet couch in the other half and worked on a new tune about my time on the Colorado River.

When our opener, Matt Nathanson managed to get the audience to do a sing-along to Bon Jovi (of all things) we knew we’d have a great gig. We were not wrong. The house was packed. There was no room to stand and no place to sit either. We lit up that stage like a bonfire. Sometimes, I’ll admit, that when performing, I try to cut songs from the set mid-show. I get feeling bad for the audience that they have to stay out so late and listen to my music and clap for each song and I get thinking to myself, “These people probably wish they were at home, in bed. You’re torturing them, Sally. They don’t want to be here; you’re holding them hostage with your music. Get off stage as fast as you can and give these people a break!” But last night, those thoughts burned up in the stage light. We were one with the audience and no one wanted to go home, especially not me. It was a magical fall night.

Thank you, Sweetwater. Thank you, Tom. Thank you, October. Thank you, black cow in the golden field. Thank you leaves for your selfless, colorful sacrifice. Thank you all so very much for a great first gig of the Roadrunner Tour.

On The Drive

We’re listening to Reggae.  My red-toe nail polish is cracking and revealing the 10 coats beneath it.  I don’t bring remover on tour, I merely paint over and move on.  I’m wearing overalls and flip-flops.  Chris Soucy is doing the crossword.  I wonder if my dad’s second wife, Catherine Walker, still does the crossword.  The thought of Catherine evokes a feeling of being stabbed in the ribs. Intuitively, I sit up straight and behave myself by trying not to breathe. 

Catherine was an injured woman. I knew this even at 12 when she and my dad got married at Saint John the Divine’s Cathedral on 113th Street and Amsterdam in New York. She didn’t know how not to make my brother and me the source of her victimhood.  I recall summoning all my energy just to keep her arrows of condescension from penetrating me.  Even when my brother and I were perfectly behaved, her attitude toward us was unpredictable and abrasive. Some weekends, If we were lucky, she’d hide out in her and dad’s room with her three-legged cat “Kitty,” and her oversized glass of chardonnay full of ice cubes for the duration of our stay.

She had a closet of pets—parrots, bunnies, rats, and 100s of mice who often got lice and were quarantined into multiple cages. She had a chihuahua named “Flea,” she’d found on the street (in Texas I believe) who was always trying to bite Ben and my ankles.  When she wasn’t holed up in her room she was a storm cloud that moved around the apartment in a white nighty, sighing loudly whenever she saw us. I spent my time with her trying to make myself invisible the way I imagined I’d hide from a trigger, knowing that if I breathed wrong she might tear me to pieces with her sharp wit. 

She was full of “Oh goddddddds” followed by sardonic laughter which cut past my heart into the bedrock of my soul.  At my mother’s house, I at least had my own bedroom to escape to where I felt safe and free to be myself.  At Dad’s, all he could convince her to sacrifice for us was a single room.  No toys, no wall décor – just two single beds pushed up against a wall without a bed frame and I’m sure my dad had to fight for that.  She no doubt saw us as extensions of our mother and was only too willing to unleash the full arsenal of her venom on us hoping it might rub off on our mom when we were returned at the end of the weekend.

The thought of Catherine has me looking quite shell-shocked and Soucy leans over to ask if I’m alright. This is how we get to know each other on the road. Someone’s doing the crossword inspires a childhood memory and the next thing you know, we’re trading in divorce traumas and childhood abandonment. This is how a band becomes a family.

New York City – “You’re Sylvain” – The Mercury Lounge – September 9, 1999

I remembered the green room from our show 3 months ago at the Mercury Lounge. It was the worst backstage accommodation I’d ever been in and it remained largely unchanged now. Here is what I wrote about it from our June 11th gig:

The Mercury Lounge is a dark, black box of a venue so while on stage, I was unaware how large our crowd was. When the lights came up, I was delighted to find so many of my NYC friends who’d somehow heard about the show without my direct interference. I was glad my publicist Ariel Hyatt was in attendance so I could congratulate her on promoting the gig so successfully.

My best friend from kindergarten, Rachel Zabar, embraced me with golden glittering eyes and her huge smile which has always seemed to me, to escape the perimeters of her face. Jim Hart, my stepfather, had heard about the show from a colleague at work. A bunch of people from high school, Boulder and Brown were present, and a trickle of people who insisted we’d met before and ‘did I remember their names?’ were there.

This game of “Do you remember my name?” is always embarrassing and no one comes away from it looking good. I learned early on from my dad to lead with context when approaching an acquaintance.
Ex. “Hi, it’s Sally Taylor, from Martha’s Vineyard. We went to camp together, you might not remember, it was a long time ago.”
And to re-introduce people to each other leading with context as well.
Ex. “Hey Dad, you remember Kate, my freshman roommate.”

This way, even if there isn’t immediate recognition, the person can say something like “Of course, now what have you been doing since then?” and no one has to feel embarrassed.
My friend Adam (Yes, Adam Natusch from The Boogies) used to love to make prank phone calls (these were the days before people got caller ID boxes). I’d be at his house and, with his red phone already off the hook he’d say, “Give me a number.” One day I gave him my mom’s digits and when she answered the following, now infamous, conversation ensued:

Mom: “Hello?”
Adam: “Is this Carly?!?!”
Mom: “Yes.”
Adam: “You’re never going to guess who this is.”
Mom: “Who?”
Adam: “It’s Sylvain”
Mom: “Who?”
Adam: “Sylvain Brown. Don’t tell me you don’t remember me. I’m already on the ferry on my way over to the Vineyard to see you. You wrote a song about me.”
Mom: (Sounding worried) “I did? What was the song?”
Adam: “You’re Sylvain!!!!”
Mom: “Hmmm…I’m not sure which song you might be—”
Adam: (Singing You’re so Vain) “You’re Sylvain, you probably think this song is about—”
Mom: (Click, dial tone).

Adam and I rolled around laughing on his floor for a few minutes before I tried to call her back to apologize for the prank (Side note—Do not feel sorry for my mom. She is the queen of pranks and practical jokes and can dish it out as good as she can take it). But she’d taken the phone off the hook, clearly to avoid another call from “Sylvain,” who definitely thought this song was about him. The next day when I went to call her, she’d already changed the number. Mom laughed hysterically when I told her later, that the caller had been Adam and to this day calls him ”Sylvain Brown.”

Midway through signing CDs at the Mercury Lounge, someone dropped a slice of paper on the table in front of me and disappeared into a blur of faces. Ariel and I squinted at the serrated square which read “I ENJOYED THE SHOW. YOU ARE ALL GROWN UP!” and was signed ‘Oren Segal (3rd grade).’ “WHICH WAY DID HE GO?” I shouted to Ariel. “THAT WAY,” she yelled back and pointed toward the front exit “HE HAD A WHITE T-SHIRT ON!” I didn’t have time to explain Oren had been my first crush. He’d bought me a porcelain doll for my 7th birthday and I was sure the gesture meant he wanted to marry me. The delusion of this early proposal dissolved over time but I kept that doll through adolescence displayed up on a shelf hoping someday Oren and I would meet again. It’s sort of disappeared since we left our apartment in New York, but I’m sure it’s somewhere, packed in mothballs and memories, somewhere between the center of the earth and the tips of my fingers.

Outside, the hot streets offered a miraged horizon of blurred red, yellow, and green lights. I marched myself up to the first white T-shirt I saw and said “Hi” just hoping it was Oren, but it ended up being one of those people who insisted we’d met before but whose name I did not know and ‘Did I remember their name?’ I never found him.

Dejected, I walked back to the venue. There, a very pretty woman named Ann Taylor (no relation) introduced herself. She’d come across our web page in the most unexpected, roundabout way. “I was looking on a search engine for Sally Taylor Orchids,” she said, “did you know there is a flower called The Brother Sally Taylor?” I said I hadn’t known but was delighted all the same. “Well,” she said tossing a blond lock behind an ear, “I was searching for this flower when the engine came up with your web page and I clicked on it. I’ve been following your Road Tails ever since and that’s why I’m here tonight.”

This internet thing is amazing!?!?! Until recently, I’d assumed I was shouting into the void. But maybe my words are actually making it through the abyss. Perhaps real people are reading this and enjoying it and what we have to offer. Maybe they’ll consider coming to a show or listening to our music in the future. I can’t believe it. My mind is legitimately blown. Now back to vocal rest and on to Rhode Island.

New York City, NY – “A Musical Reunion” -The Mercury Lounge – June 11, 1999

The venue wore vampire black…Typical of New York, so I wore red.

Our trip into my hometown earlier in the day was chaotic, to say the least. Cabs and trucks with signs that read “Caution: Toxic Material” darted in and out of our lane, expecting our extend-o-van, chock full of heavy musical equipment, to be able to stop on a dime. Brian, cursed behind his teeth, behind the wheel as he navigated the congested highways. It was a maddening cycle of stopping, accelerating (to avoid being cut off), and slamming on the brakes, all while backseat drivers yelled conflicting directions: “Not this exit,” “Get off now, turn left… Left!,” “Do not go over this bridge! Whatever you do, avoid the bridge! Oh no!” The heat was oppressive. We bit our nails to the quick and with every jolt, engaged in an impromptu, all-afternoon, abs workout. But eventually, we made it to the Mercury Lounge and somehow, despite the chaos, managed to call all our old friends to invite them, last minute, to tonight’s show.

We were two hours “fashionably” late for our sound check and asked to leave the stage almost as soon as we arrived so the staff could set up for the first event of the night; a fancy private party we clearly were not invited to.

If I were generous, I’d describe The Mercury Lounge’s greenroom as a dungeon designed for a play about Hades. We corkscrewed down so many castiron flights of stairs I lost count. The underground landscape was illuminated by yellow bulbs that flickered and jittered to the beat of the traffic above. We were escorted through a maze of insulated pipes painted black, down below the subway system, down deep into the hot belly of the dark city.

Huge mutant black flies buzzed threateningly past us like knives swimming in shark-like patterns. How did they get down here? I wondered. They looked like part of some lost dinosaur lineage or a gruesome subset of the fly mafia. Our escort unfurled a spool of keys and ushered us inside a cell-like closet. Inside was a bench on a cement floor, and we took turns sitting on it, swatting away meaty mob boss flies and waiting for midnight for our set to begin.

When we were released from our jail-like greenroom and took the stage, the black box of a joint was full of friendly faces. I recognized people in the audience from 3rd grade, 6th grade, Tabor Academy, Brown University, and summer camp. I saw family friends, friends of family friends, friends I’d met on vacations, and even friends who insisted they were friends who I swear I’ve never seen before in my life.

My glorious brother Ben showed up with his girlfriend, Bridge to surprise me. I didn’t even know he was in the city. He sneakily jigged in front of the stage mid-set. His face shone out of the darkness like a Francisco Goya painting. I thought he might have shaved his head bald but when I instinctively called him up to sing with me, I saw he had, in fact, dyed his hair white blond; a style I hadn’t seen on him since grade school. He looked great and it was beyond glorious to have him with me on stage.

Wired after an inebriating gig, my brother, a crew of old friends, and a handful of new acquaintances who insisted they were old friends, cabbed it to Tribeca for dinner at Walker’s. Somehow I got stiffed with a $300-dollar bar tab. So much for new old friends.

Back across town, we limped, through the slow strobe of lamp-lit streets, to our pal Ian’s pad. The last surviving soldiers of our group hiked a steep flight of marble stairs to find our beret-wearing host at his door wearing a guitar and little else. Inside, the party raged on. With a hodge podge of Ian’s instrument-wielding friends, we played until 4:00 a.m.

An air-conditionless apartment made near nudity a necessity and we stripped and nessled into a pile of Moroccan rugs. A dozen candles guttered in the early morning air. An assortment of comfy sofas cupped out tired bones. Incense billowed through stained glass bay windows, and a tall arched ceiling offered the perfect amount of reverb to our well-spent voices. The music and incense eventually lullabied me and tucked me into colorful dreams. I fell asleep on a velvet maroon sea of a sofa, my head propped against a stranger’s shoulder, my feet rolled up like a splif, in a sheepskin rug.

Amagansett, NY – “Days off with Mama” – Stephen Talkhouse – June 9, 1999

My two days off with my mom on Martha’s Vineyard were delicious. She fed me on memories of her childhood, tucking them around me like feathers in a nest. Like a thirsty plant, I drank her history in gulps letting her sensory-rich imagery add new coats in scene-by-scene detail. She painted a picture of herself as a young girl, growing up in an apartment building in Greenwich Village which her father bought to house his entire extended family. There were grandmothers living together on the 3rd floor and naughty uncles in the basement. There were crewel aunts with voodoo dolls, cousins who organized family choral groups, and doormen who shuttled them between each other’s lives. She was a free-range child in this colorful building of characters, visiting different familiar portals whenever she got tired of her current settings.

Lucy, Uncle Peter, Mama

She described how she used to steal jewelry from her mother, like Robin Hood, to give to her nanny Allie 2 floors down. It became a joke the grown-ups had as they watched Andrea Simon’s jewelry carted out in little Carly’s heavy pockets each morning to be returned by Allie before dinner as they all laughed behind their hands at young Carly’s early Socialist instincts. Mama described her sister Lucy’s love for bread inspiring her to hoard and, later for others, to discover molded glutenous stashes in the back of drawers and under beds. She gifted me visuals of her mother’s high pompadore hairstyle and shoulder pads which bolstered her 5’4” frame to what my mama considered Amazonian proportions. She described her mother’s wide toothy grin and charm bracelets that tinkled when she came to kiss her goodnight in mink stoles before the theater. She recognized her father’s charm, creativity, and depression. She remembered his last days huddled in a topcoat in an overheated room pulling down the shades on the windows and locking the doors as a means of shutting death out. We drank tea, our long legs tucked under us like deer hooves, laughing in bathrobes and leotards meant to inspire some form of fitness that never came to pass.

Despite the restful break at home, I found myself missing the road and my band even more. My pal Heidi, who’d already planned to attend our NYC show, offered me a ride and on a overcast morning, picked me up down my long, puckerbrush-lined, dirt driveway. In a reversal of roles, I kissed my mom fairwell and headed back on the road.

We were on track to meet the boys on Long Island well ahead of schedule, but just before exit 1 on I-495 N, Heidi’s check engine light illuminated. “Check Engine?” Heidi mused aloud before panic set in and smoke billowed from under her hood. Something metal inside the car screamed and green coolant splattered the windshield. This chaos was exacerbated by our convertible’s top being down. We pulled over, wet and coughing, and I called AAA.

Our rescuer, Dave, towed Heidi’s vintage Aston Martin and, charmed by Heidi’s beauty, repaired her car on the spot. We expressed our gratitude with a CD and a dime bag of weed and made it to the Long Island ferry just in time.

Stephen Talk House at first glance, looked like your run-o-the-mill Long Island bar, but inside, lining the walls, were photos of every famous musician you can think of. It was surreal to think I’d be playing on the same stage as legends such as – Jimmy Buffett, Paul Simon, Taj Mahal, Ronny Wood, Keb’ Moe, Luther Allison, Koko Taylor, and Kris Kristofferson just to name a few. Unfortunately, we hadn’t publicized our gig very well and The venue was quiet, save for a few delightful fans and sports enthusiasts there for the NBA playoffs, their occasional cheers reminding me of past gigs played under the shadow of televised sports.
Despite the mixed audience, we had a memorable night, hoping for a return – ideally, after the Knicks win an Eastern Championship.

Pittsburgh, PA – “Uncle Liv” – Three Rivers Festival – June 6, 1999

I’m up in the air. Uncle Livingston is flying. He lets/makes me take off and fly the plane for a couple of minutes, under his supervision. I’m scared, and who could blame me after my plane accident in Peru, landing on the PanAmerican Highway and hitting a car. *(See plane accident here. Be sure to scroll)

My voice is scratchy, and I’m exhausted after an all-night drive from Ocean City, MD, to Pittsburgh last night.

We’d rushed loadout and departed at 2 am after the gig.  In the door light of the passenger seat, I changed out of my pink top and tight black skirt trading them in for green sweatpants and a pair of knee-high orange striped tube socks. Starting a road trip so late at night reminded me of road trips we used to take from New York City to Martha’s Vineyard when I was a kid.  Since my mom was not fond of flying we’d drive up to our summer home in an old 1978 New York City Checker Taxi my dad bought and painted white.  

We’d slip out of our apartment on 135 Central Park West after the scary paparazzi that swarmed our stoop from noon til night had all gone home. I remember the coldness that bit at my exposed skin as my father bundled me in a duvet and escorted me from the building to the chubby car. I remember the empty streets and the traffic lights that turned from green to red for no one.

Inside the Checker, my dad would have laid two massive cushions from our couch upstairs into the foot well on either side of “the hump” and that’s where Ben and I slept while my mom and dad took the front seat and blinked back sleep to drive through the night. My mom would wake us when we got to The Woods Hole Ferry.

Those mornings on the water, the first boat of the day, sipping clam chowder from styrofoam cups, feeding gulls oyster crackers off the bow of the deck. Those moments with my mom and dad still together, before the sky shook off the stars, before the haze lifted off the shoreline, our eyes still coated in dreams- those were truly the best times of my life. I can still feel the excitement of summer just beginning, barely opened, like an unwarranted gift.

Back in the van, I propped a hard-cover book behind me to support my lower back and pressed some yellow earplugs into my ears. Brian drove the first shift and somewhere outside of D.C., stopped for gas. In the parking, Bri made silly pig faces and grunting noises at me which I videoed through 4 a.m. blurry eyes. We sang “Happy Now: …stopped for coffee on the way….” when he returned from the gas station with two pipping cups, one for each of us. Our singing woke the rest of the band.

We all swapped seats and Delucchi took the wheel. Having secured the comfiest seat for the first stretch of the drive, I agreed to the least comfy seat for the second. The least comfy seat is the one directly behind shotgun. It’s wretched because you have to sleep with your knees propped into your chest in a vertical fetal position. Somehow as the drive continued, I managed to maneuver into a horizontal position with my feet against the door panel but when I woke up at 6:00, Soucy’s butt was on my ponytail stapling my head to the seat, so I just went back to sleep.

When we arrived in Pittsburgh it was sweltering. The haze was thick and it was as muggy as the inside of a shower stall. My pants stuck to my legs as the five of us birthed ourselves from Moby’s womb and slugged through The Three Rivers Festival fairgrounds. Dazed from the all-night drive, we wandered past cotton candy and fried dough stands and shacks advertising “Chick’n on a Stick’n” and “Veggitarian’s Delight All Pork Hotdogs.” For breakfast, I chose a $4 Chick’n on a Stick’n” and a cherry snow cone which melted immediately in the heat into a pool of cherry slush.

Our outdoor arena featured a giant lawn and a big stage with a white clamshell dome where we found my glorious, tall, and very awake, Uncle Livingston. He was a sight for sore eyes and his Taylor-isms made me miss my ol’ man. I was delighted to introduce him to my band who fell in love with him on the spot, mesmerized by his interminable energy and captivating storytelling. When I mentioned we had two days off he offered me a ride to Martha’s Vineyard on his plane in the morning. I took him up on it.

Now, halfway through our 3-hour flight, and almost at the bottom of a thermos once full of coffee, Liv excuses himself: “Can you hand me that gallon pee jug in the back?” I giggle as he puts the plane on autopilot and turns himself around in his seat. But half an hour later I’ve got to use it too!

The clouds are curdling up here as we float close enough to skim them like foam off the top of a latte. The peacefulness of the untouched sky is unmatched save for some of the snowshoed forevers I’ve been privileged enough to meet.

Thanks for the ride Uncle Liv.

New York City – Donald Fagen is Producing My Song – July 12, 1998

I’m in the studio with one of my all-time favorite musicians, Donald Fagen (Of Steely Dan) and he’s about to produce my song.  How did I get here? 

My mom’s naughtiest running partner and oldest friend, Libby Titus, happens to be married to Donald and somehow my cheep little demo tape with my hedgehog, Fatty J’s scratchings on it, wound up in his cassette player and he had feedback about my song “When We’re Together.”

“The performance isn’t completely sure of itself and there are some pitchy notes,” I cringed as Mom and I hung on his every word, sharing the receiver between us.  “But overall, you’re a great singer and you have a really original thing going on.”  Oh phew, I thought! “I think you have two options,” he continued “#1 You let it be.  It’s a great song and you can leave it as is.  #2 You re-record it and you let me produce it.  I’m free tomorrow and Friday.”

What What What?!?!? How could I turn down that offer?!?!?  

But… I was terrified.  I didn’t know if I could sing the song any better and feared making a fool of myself in front of one of the great musical legends.  “I’m so honored Donald.  I mean, I can’t believe I’m saying this but I am not sure I can make it to New York that soon.”

“Don’t be a fool!” Libby grabbed the receiver giving away her position, “Go to New York tomorrow and let Donald produce this track.”  In a girlish teasing fun-loving way, Mom repeated all Libby’s sentiments ganging up on me  “You’re a fool to turn this down.” “What have you got to lose?” “Don’t you want Donald to do your track?” as my mom and Libby’s voices tangled into a dance around my heart I admitted my insecurities just to stop their love heckling. 

“You know, I am so completely flabbergasted” (yes, I said flabbergasted) “by the opportunity but honestly, I’m insecure about whether or not I can actually do it better.”  This statement only baited the girls into greater peer pressure:

“You CAN do it better.”  They insisted “You’re a fool.”  “You’ll regret this.”  “Come down to New York.” “Why don’t you want to do this?” and suddenly Pheobe Snow was on the phone too (where did she come from?!) joining in on the girl chorus with “It’s a great song, Sally.  You go girl.  Come record with Donald.”

And the matter was settled. 

I flew from Martha’s Vineyard to New York on Friday.  I did vocal exercises for an hour and then practiced the song over and over and over until the bass distorted the speakers. Finally, shaking like a leaf, I hailed a taxi to River Sound Studio on East 95th.  When I pulled up, the driver didn’t have change for my $20 so I ran into a Chinese laundromat where I was promptly turned away.  But miraculously, the driver told me not to worry about it!  Even when I insisted I pay him he drove away apologizing to ME for not having change. 

Donald was walking up the street as I was walking into his studio.  I kissed his cheek in a knee-jerk nervous reaction and he laughed.  He introduced me to Phil, his engineer, and showed me around his phenomenal space filled with Asian rugs and gold records and a punching bag called “Slam-Man” who I deduced was used to de-stress between difficult takes.  As Donald and Phil set up I admitted to them I was nervous.

“Aw, don’t be,” said Donald “I spent years in this studio creating badly pitched tracks.”  It was kind of him to say but did little to alleviate my shaking.

It took 12 takes.  The whole song.  Only 12 takes.  “From that, we have enough to create the perfect track,” said Donald.  He complimented me a lot, probably because he knew how worried I was about the whole thing.   “I love your voice,” he said, and “Man, this song is really a winner,” he said, and “You’ve got great pitch” and “I think you’re going about making this CD the right and smart way.”  And then he said “You can’t pay me for this session.  I really enjoyed doing this for you.”

And when the night was wrung dry, and the perfect track had been mixed, Donald held his breath for a moment, turned to me, and said “There’s just one thing missing.”  There in the wee hours of New York City morning, Donald Fagen donned a pair of headphones, entered the sound booth, and lay down a track of wind chimes.  “Now it’s complete.”

“Do you mind if I call in my partner Walter Becker in to give it a listen with fresh ears?” asked Donald. Are you kidding? Of course I was ok with that! Steely Dan’s other half walked in with blue and white corner store coffee in hand. He gave me a little hug and a smile and then turned his attention to the song.

“Is this your song?” Walter asked

“Yeah,” I replied.

“It’s really great,” he said. 

Together, Steely Dan punched and mixed and replayed my song over and over like it was a piece of molten gold that needed to be washed of impurities. When the song was done we walked down the 5 flights of stairs. We said our goodbyes as the night bled into a new day. Donald ceremoniously handed me our track on a tiny cassette and Walter, as he walked away called over his shoulder “Call me when it goes gold.”

Genius!  Thank you, Walter. Thank you, Libby.  Thank you, mama.  Thank you, Donald.

New York City – Mom’s Birthday – June 26, 1998

It was Mom’s birthday yesterday.  She sits so tenderly inside my soul these days.  I can feel her hand on my hand guiding me tenderly into this scary world of music.  She took me into the living room in the early morning light, overlooking Central Park.  She told me she was proud to watch me producing my own record saying “You have to pass the torch on at some point, you know.”  Her eyes twinkled with restrained emotion. The fabric of her, I cradled in my arms.  How can this brilliant, pioneering, sweet angelic spirit be part of my makeup I thought.  She asked me if she could play me one of her new songs and when I said “Of Course mama!” she sat me down on the red velvet couch, fiddled with the dat recording device, and made unnecessary disclaimers about the sound quality and vocal performance before sitting beside me and holding my hand.  Of course, the song was beautiful. It was deep and soulful.  I felt so close to her and feeling close to her I felt closer to the sky.

Ben made focaccia bread birthday cake and lit a votive candle. We sang Happy Birthday which Mama couldn’t help but sing along to in harmony.  By mid-day, I had to get down to BootsTown Studio to finish up mixing with Wendy and Michael. When I got there they gave me the bad news:  “We’re not going to be able to finish all 11 songs.  You got to cut one.”  They recommended “In My Mind”  saying it just didn’t sound as “quality” as the rest of the tracks.

I asked for a moment to think and went into the drum booth to reclaim my stolen breath.  I was confused.  I felt so attached to “In My Mind” being on this record.  Who knows if I’ll ever make a second one, this might be its only chance to shine.  I walked back into the windowless control booth and announced “I want ‘In My Mind on there.  Let’s do what we need to to get it done.”  I felt the wind knocked out of my colleagues who’ve been killing themselves with 18-hour days to get these tracks done.  My guilt at their herculean efforts led to my relenting ½ way through the mix, “Maybe you’re right. Maybe the song’s not worth it.” I said.  “We’re all tired.”  I felt sick to my stomach leaving the song dead like roadkill on the battleground of the studio floor. It seemed to yelp as it joined the other discarded 2-inch tape on the chopping block.  By 3 am I was home looking through old drawings from 1979.  In the morning  I met up with Wendy on a park bench near a hot dog vendor.  “I’m afraid we might have to—“

She knew what I was going to say.  “Whatever Sal.  We’ll do whatever you want.”  I could have kissed her on the mouth.  We returned to the studio where Michael threw a silent fit but finished “In My Mind” in only an hour and a half.  Ahhhhhhhh.  I feel so much better.

Mixing is completed

New York City – Mixing at Whitney Huston’s Studio – June 24, 1998

I’ve decided to mix “Tomboy Bride” in New York at Whitney Houston’s studio.  Kipp connected me with Whitney’s engineer, Michael White, and he’s agreed to take on my project as long as we can finish all 11 songs in 5 days.  I’m here now, in the hot city with Wendy Woo and at the moment we’re working on “Sign of Rain.” 

My mom made a special trip down to the studio today.  It’s such a role reversal.  I spent my entire childhood and adolescence traveling to mid-town to her studio sessions, ordering grilled cheeses from take-out menus and finishing up homework assignments as musicians like Mic Jagger, Debbie Harry, Harry Belafonte, Ry Cooter, and every session player you’d ever want to meet passed through the reception area.  I drank Lipton tea by the bucket, downloaded receptionists with my latest relationship sagas, and between subjects I rewarded completed assignments with the arcade game of the month for the price of a quarter: Donkey Kong, Ms. Packman, Space Invaders, the car one I can’t remember the name of.

Today at Whitney’s I ordered Wendy, Michael my mom and I turkey subs. We ate while mom wheeled herself around on a console chair like a boss yelling half-chewed suggestions at Michael like “Fly it over.” “That’s the one.  Don’t touch it now” and “Buy it baby! buy it!”  Before she left for the day, she requested a copy of the track.  “I want to blare it through the streets of Martha’s Vineyard and scream ‘This is my DAUGHTER!”  I felt so so so so grateful for her love and tutelage and hand holding and accolades.  It’s her birthday tomorrow and as we finished the day I sketched out this letter to copy into a card I painted:

Mom wanted to know what I was going to do about distribution for the Record. “But it’s not really a record mama.” I explained, ” It’s more of a glorified demo.” I’m not sure I want to deal with retail or a professional distributor.  I’d have to deal with returns and comps and shrink-wrapping CDs. For now, I got myself a mailbox at a local Post Office in Boulder and a website “”  I think I’ll take orders by snail mail for now, and test the waters just to see if there’s any interest.  I can also sell CDs at shows.  In total this record has cost me $7,778 plus a few dinners and brewskies for players who’ve refused payment. I just want to make my money back at this point.