Being Me Fully (Happy Pride!)

For the longest time, I thought that because I married a man and had babies, I couldn’t be pansexual.

When I first met my husband-to-be as a wee 22 year old, I hadn’t yet claimed queerness as a part of my identity. I’d been on dates with other women, had engaged in plenty of fantasies involving women, men, and enbies, but it took decades to work through the shame United Baptism had left inside of me surrounding my sexual identity and expression. After I let go of that shame, I still felt like an imposter. How could I be queer if I hadn’t even had sex with a woman? How could I truly be pan if I’d married a man?

Turns out I was repressed, oppressed, disconnected from myself, and completely confused about what queer means.

The past two years have been transformative for me. My sister began her journey with transitioning, inspiring me to more fully embrace my own queer side. I realized that I don’t need to sleep with anyone to prove my sexuality. Covidlife also made me realize how so very wrong America is in basically every way possible. A white supremacist, heteronormative, capitalist, imperialist, war-mongering, oligarch-worshipping patriarchy? Yeah, not surprised it sucks.

But instead of forcing myself to fit into one of its checkboxes, I’m ready to step outside of the whole thing, to live another way, focused on honesty, creativity, collaboration, collective healing, and love – for myself, for you, for all creatures, for the entire planet.

Guess what? It feels great! It’s awesome to finally accept and explore my full self and to restructure my days around the philosophies I believe in rather than the ones I was raised in and still felt chained to as an adult.

What’s also awesome is how incredibly supportive my husband has been throughout this journey. Not just supportive, but totally on board. I’m so grateful to have such a co-collaborator/conspirator in life (I think in a few past lives, too). Together, we are raising and homeschooling two kids, creating and maintaining a beautiful home, making loud rock-n-roll music, engaging in local activism. Now we get to explore my queerness together, too? I’m swooning.

Sending big love and good-sex vibes out to everyone. Happy pride, y’all!! 🌈

New Music Video “Anthem for the Millenials” Out Now!

I made a music video! It’s for my duo’s rock song “Anthem for the Millenials” about how capitalist America is failing artists, from our EP called One Day.

I’m so excited to share my first foray into video editing with y’all! Check it out below, and learn more about The Brooklyn Players Reading Society here.

Connect with us!

YouTube: The Brooklyn Players Reading Society
BandcampThe BPRS
Facebook@TheBPRS
Instagram: @TheBPRS
Website: thebprs.com

Is real life just a fiction?

One day when I was angry over the constraints of American society, I created a 20-something, closeted bi girl named Jessie. Her story took place in a yoga studio where she was trying to discover why her artistic inspiration had vanished. Without thinking twice, I threw in my favorite meditation.

The idea of this meditation is to envision yourself lying in a beautiful forest beside a river, surrounded by fallen leaves. As a thought enters your mind, you picture yourself picking up a leaf and dropping it into the flowing water. It drifts onward and away, just like the thought drifts in and out of your mind. But Jessie is a ruminator, and also resistant to change, so her version went like this:​​ 

“She envisions herself lying in the woods by a creek, the warm sun beating down on her skin. Breathe in, hold, release.  For every thought that enters her mind she picks up a leaf from the ground, feels its crinkly, dry edges on her fingertips, and drops it into the water.  Then the leaf plasters itself against a rock, splayed out so she can see every word of the thought shining in the sun.”

Whenever I tried this meditation again, leaf thoughts started splaying out for me, too, and I could no longer let them flow onward. My favorite meditation was ruined. I told myself that day: be more careful about turning real life into fiction. 

As I was drafting my first novel, a futuristic dystopian story about a young musician connecting with her radical side, I found myself analyzing the reverse of this. Just ask any sci-fi writer: fiction can become real as quickly as reality can become fictional. 3D printers. Tablets. The metaverse. All of this was thought up in fiction well before it existed in real life. If you can dream it, you can make it.

I began to wonder what the difference between fiction and reality truly is. Isn’t society itself just one big Paracosm, an incredibly detailed, imaginary world, that we’ve all agreed to believe in? 

I find this thought to be full of hope. The next time I sit down to meditate, I try the river in the woods again. The leaf thoughts drop into the water, flow toward a rock, and, for the first time in years, keep going, the river carrying them away toward a future built on dreams.

Studio Magic: North Star Steady

 

North Star Steady” is a love song I wrote for Dave during a bout of insomnia, purposefully set to a minimalist keyboard line so that I could focus more on the vocals. Dave’s drum line was rockin’, and I liked that there was breathing room in the song. It worked live. In fact, it was one of my favorites to perform.

But when Dave, engineer Salmak Khaledi, and I were listening to the recording of it in the studio, the song felt incomplete. We ate pizza and drank coffee and listened to it again and again, commenting on how it could use this or that but not landing on anything quite right. Then suddenly, Salmak leapt up, ran over to the Moog, and, within minutes, was playing a killer groove that had all of us dancing. We recorded it then and there. 

The “magic of the studio” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot, but it’s SO TRUE. Salmak breathed new life into our songs, not just through his bass line but through all of his production choices and mixing edits. It was a real honor to record this album with him and to share it with all y’all.

Now it’s time to get back to it. We’re super excited to work on some new tunes and get those out to you later this year. Be sure to follow The Brooklyn Players Reading Society on all the socials to stay up to date!

Website: thebprs.com
BandcampThe BPRS
Facebook@TheBPRS
Instagram: @thebprs
YouTube: The Brooklyn Players Reading Society

My Luck Dragon

 

One winter evening long ago, I was out with Dave and our friend/band member Ben Jaffe when we stopped by “The Thing,” an awesome secondhand shop in Greenpoint filled with extremely strange and wonderful objects. Ben picked up an old dusty piece of art in one of those gaudy brass frames and said, “This one’s from the Willy Wonka art dealer!” We giggled then took turns offering up commentary on other random items.

But the Willy Wonka art dealer stuck with me. I wondered what else he would buy and sell, how he would describe each piece, what his voice would sound like. He was probably creepy. I would probably want to hide from him.

The lyrics to this song started from there then grew into an outlet for my angst and anger over being young in America – how we were left with a recession, a broken society, a dying planet, yet were still expected to work 9-5 and pay the rent. I wanted a luck dragon to fly in and rescue me, leaving nothing but flames behind. 

This anger rings truer today than ever before, but instead of hiding or running, I’ve become more empowered to get organized. Capitalism in America has run amuck. We don’t need a luck dragon to save us; if we come together and fight as a collective, we can save ourselves.

Not sure how to do this? Consider getting involved with the Working Families Party, a movement focused on creating a system that supports all Americans, not just the 1%.

And if you’re into rock-n-roll, check out Ben Jaffe’s latest musical project, Pill.

You, Ruminating

 

Renee Ashley (pictured) is a phenomenal poet, one who breaks rules, challenges conventions, and leaves her readers changed. I discovered the poem “[you]” shortly after my mom left her body; its words rang in my head during those sleepless nights, both comforting and haunting me.

Rumi’s poem, the spoken-word intro to this song, also resonated with me during this time. I found the concept of a thousand barrels of wine to be wonderfully absurd, and I loved the idea of being so genuinely apathetic that nothing mattered beyond those barrels. The whole thing had a playful feel to it, yet I sensed something sinister there. I ended up putting the two poems together, turning “You, Ruminating” into a place to explore and transform my grief, and into one of my favorite songs from my band’s recent album, One Day,

Want to hear more of our songs? Check out The Brooklyn Players Reading Society at:

Website: thebprs.com
BandcampThe BPRS
YouTube: The Brooklyn Players Reading Society

Organize, Act Up, Disrupt!

The Way is Already” – a protest song from One Day, an EP by my band, The Brooklyn Players Reading Society


I am absolutely thrilled over the facts that we have a new president and a more progressive Senate. I loved watching Kamala Harris’s historical inauguration and Amanda Gorman’s powerful performance. I celebrated the win in Georgia and gleefully toasted a glass to Stacey Abrams. And damn, it felt good.

But y’all, as much as we want him to be, Joe Biden is not our savior. He’s obviously an improvement, but if his track record as an Establishment Democrat means anything, he’s not going to end inhumane deportations, secure reproductive rights, protect transpeople, overhaul our justice system, nor begin the long overdue process of dismantling white supremacy – unless we make him.

It’s on us to hold our new president and Congresspeople accountable. Remember, they work for us. It’s also on us, especially those of us who are white, to work on ourselves, on recognizing and undoing our biases and on committing to a life of actively being antiracist.

But guess what? We don’t have to do this work alone. In fact, we can’t do it alone. It’s time to start collaborating, to come together and organize, act up, disrupt. And what a nice thing it is to be able to use our joy as motivation to keep up the work!

Not sure how to get started? Here’s a list of suggestions for you:


Social justice organizations I like (there are so many more):

Photo: Martin Luther King Jr. quote on a Pride Flag, available for sale by hburrell

Coming Home



One Day,” the song that lent its name to The Brooklyn Players Reading Society’s new EP, was the very first song I ever wrote. I was 23, working in coffee shops, unsure about what I wanted in life and anxious as hell about it. The words to this song had been floating around my brain for weeks, but I hadn’t yet recognized them as lyrics. I was confident in my identity as a writer, but my anxiety disorder had buried the musician in me long ago. The idea of singing my words had never occurred to me.

And then one evening, after a profound conversation with Dave in which he’d convinced me to try making music again, I found myself on the G train, lugging an enormous 88-key Yamaha home from Guitar Center, listening to those words bounce around my head.

At first I only played through scales and a few songs I remembered from talent shows, but over time, I started improvising a little – something I’d never done before. My past life as a musician had been focused on playing sheet music perfectly, and this focus only fed my anxiety. The act of sitting down and playing whatever I wanted felt freeing, empowering even.

I kept returning to a simple bass groove with a syncopated melody over it, but I was never quite satisfied. The words in my head continually protruded themselves into my mouth, daring me to let them out. One day, when I was certain that Dave and our across-the-hall neighbor were both at work and therefore unable to hear me, I finally decided to give it a try. Heart pounding, I opened my lips and sang. It was scary, but it was also amazing, and the more I sang, the better it felt.

It took a couple of weeks to work up enough courage to play my song for Dave – so long as he sat in a separate room of the apartment in silence with the lights out – but that was enough to urge me on. “One Day” grew from there until a few years later, I got up on a stage, sat behind my keyboard and started singing into a mic, Dave on the drums beside me. My fingers shook, my breath came in spurts, and I wanted to puke, but I didn’t. Somehow, I made it through the song, and when the crowd clapped and “woo”-ed for us at the end, a rush of pure glee came over me. I understood for the very first time that performing could actually be fun.

“One Day” has morphed and grown over the years, but still, whenever I play it, I feel a special kind of contentment settle in me, like all the different versions of myself are coming home together, warm and safe inside this song.