Saturday, December 30, 2006

Pieces of the Week

1. I do not understand the FAA's "put your liquids/gels in a plastic bag" thing. If I were planning to make a bomb of those things, does the baggie render them useless? Does it become, upon passing through the X-ray machine, impenetrable? This is just plain weird. One security guard even told me that "the area beyond this checkpoint is sanitized." Right. I've been to your bathrooms. It sooo is not.

2. Someone threw up on my car. I had to park it in not-my-neighborhood after returning from the airport. The spot I found was outside a bar. I'm sure that didn't help. I just hope it rains soon.

3. I'm reading this book. It's kind of changing everything. You can get it for free here. Please do.

4. New "favorite thing in the world"? These mittenlets, a Christmas gift from Lindsay. Top four reasons why they are awesome: They are green. They are cashmere. She made them. I love her.

note: please forgive my nails... they're kind of gross from all the packing I've done today.

5. Danger is in town for the holidays. He just accepted a job in the sub-Amazonian jungles of Bolivia. He'll be cutting trails for hikers and plotting routes for climbers. So, for now, he has dreadlocks. How fitting! Also, he brought me this bracelet from Bolivia. The bird represents hope. Beautiful!

6. On Jan. 1, I am heading to ATL for Passion '07. Then I fly to Denver to begin the tour out west. Please come see me.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Hi, Jeff

Today at lunch my brother Jeff commented on something I had written here. It took me a few seconds to make the connection that he'd been reading my blog. What a fun and terrifying surprise.

So... welcome, Jeff. Welcome to my world. You will remember nothing that you read here. You will think I am wonderful. I am your favorite sister. And you owe me a thousand dollars.

"Um... we just landed... I don't know, in a cornfield, I think."

That's what a woman on the plane said to whomever was on the other end of her cell phone, shortly after we touched down at Tri-Cities Airport in Kingsport, TN. The airport has two gates. A and B. It's charming, actually.

The flights were long, blah blah. You've been there.

So it was good to see my parents, good to be in Tennessee, and funny to hear people actually correct those who say "season's greetings."

At the airport, I heard a flight attendant say, "Happy Holidays!" to which the patron replied, "And a Merrrrrry Chriiiiiistmas to you, too!"

Sunday, December 24, 2006

"It's Christmas time in the City..."

Today was monumental: I purchased my first Christmas ornament.

I haven't had a tree in all of my adult life, nor have I sent cards. I buy few presents, and I rarely bake for parties. Admittedly, I've been a bit of a Grinch. But something was different this year. I'm pretty sure that it's because of... well, you guessed it: New York City.

Tonight, I had a mission to find an ornament with My Boyfriend (the Chrysler Building) on it. There are lots with the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty, but no Chrysler. I had an inkling that Macy's might deliver, being that it holds the title of "largest store in the world." But that meant I'd have to go headlong into Tourist-Ville.

I went in baby steps, stopping first at Union Square, which offered a great view of the Empire State Building and the Met Life Tower in full red-and-green glory.

Then I made my way through the Holiday Market, but not without picking up a sterling silver ring for $12.

Heading uptown, I made my way through the Union Square light display. Little snowflakes form around your body and follow you through. Pretty spiffy!

Then, off to Macy's!

Here are my top 3 pics for favorite window displays:

Actually, let's be honest. Those were just the 3 that I got the clearest shot of. Let's go inside, shall we?

Once inside, I asked where the Christmas section was, and the information lady told me it was on the 9th floor. The ninth floor??? Okay. Saddle up. Time to ride the super-cool old escalators!

The 9th floor held a lot of promise. Tons of ornaments. And this giant tree, cluttered with large ornaments of all variety of NYC paraphernalia. But sadly, there was no sign of a Chrysler ornament.

That's when I saw it. On the back, facing the wall, about a foot from the top and far beyond reach... the one remaining Chrysler ornament in all of Macy's. YES!!! I summoned an employee, and within 10 minutes, I had my first Christmas ornament in my adult life.

I was so happy that I decided to take My Boyfriend on a spin through some other sights in Midtown. We went to the Rockefeller Christmas Tree.

On the building behind the tree (the MetLife Building... not to be confused with the Met Life Tower shown above), there were falling snowflakes. You can't see them well in this shot, but trust me, they're pretty!

Here are some skaters who paid way too much to be there, and stood in line for way too long. So I hope they're having fun!!

Think I was lying about the wait? Here's the line:

And just behind all those wonderful people, you can see the light show on the Saks building on 5th Avenue. Here's a short video from YouTube. The light show is set to "Carol of the Bells."

I topped off the night with some Tasti D Lite and a viewing of The Holiday. I'm starting to like this Christmas thing. Who knew?

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Something Old... Something New... Something Borrowed..

Today, after I finished up a long day of working on bookings and replying to emails, I had plans to meet up with my friend Robbie for dinner-ish. In keeping with my rule of never going to the same restaurant twice, I logged on to MenuPages and checked out places in my neighborhood that I hadn't visited.

We decided to hit up Tisserie in Union Square. I had the turkey and cheese quiche and Robbie had this amazing barbecue pizza, which he was kind enough to let me taste. He only ate about half of it, because he dances with the New York City Ballet and had to perform in The Nutcracker in just over an hour. Yikes!

Then we went to the Holiday Market in Union Square. They had some amazing smelling candles. This particular one ("Cut Spruce") was like having an entire forest in your nose!

We also had an interesting lesson in new insult terms.

I don't really think Robbie has a neckface... do you?

Then I got a call from my friend Shawn, who is one of the 27 people I know who are visiting NYC this month (no kidding). It was a fun surprise!

Shawn used to live here, so all the guys were happy to see him. (Josh, Seth, Shawn)

Then, Shawn and I caught the train to go visit Kimberly for her big birthday party tonight! The following pictures were NOT taken tonight, because my camera died. However, I want to keep you in the loop, so I am posting some old pics from when Kimberly, Adrienne, and I went to eat at NYC's new automat: BAMN!

What's an automat? It's like a room-sized vending machine with hot and fresh foods in the little slots. There's a guy cooking it in the back. Automats were pretty popular before the advent of the fast food restaurant. Then they all died. But now we have one again! Hooooray!!!

We had donuts. They were tasty.

Happy return to NYC, Shawn! Happy birthday, Kimberly!
Happy opening-a-few-months-ago, BAMN!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Side-Project Collaboration

At the end of my last tour, I ran into a guy I've known for about 5 or 6 years now, and we started to talk about writing songs together.

Not only is he incredibly talented, but he happens to major in the thing I minor in, and vice versa. I've been focusing primarily on lyrics, and Lee makes them come to life. After I gave him the first bits of lyrics (which he also helped write), he had the demos finished within 24 hours. Unbelievable!

We're working on a bunch of new stuff that I'm really excited about. But for now, you can listen to our first two songs on our MySpace page.

As we were coming up with a name, I suggested we go with "Tara Lee" (haha!) but Lee had a better idea... something that merged the notion of his small town South Carolina-ness with my NYC-ness.

Thus, we are: Trailer Park Avenue.

Here is our flashy-trashy picture, brought to you by the wonderful and lovely Lindsay. Dig it.

P.S. I'm not saying that one of us is "flashy" and the other is "trashy," but that the picture itself is both flashy (glitter sunburst) and trashy (um... glitter sunburst).

Monday, December 18, 2006

Unsilent Night

On Saturday night, three of my friends and I participated in the 15th Annual Unsilent Night in the City. What is it, you ask?

This year, roughly 1500 people gathered at the arch at Washington Square Park, some of whom had large boomboxes in hand. Composer Phil Kline passed out tapes with various instrumental recordings to the people with boomboxes. At 7:00 pm, the countdown began, and everyone simultaneously pressed "PLAY."

Then we began a slow, steady march from Washington Square Park to Tompkins Square Park (roughly a mile), through the streets of Manhattan, boomboxes working together to create a symphony. It was surreal. Traffic stopped. People watched from their high-rise windows.

The other thing that made this fun was that it coincided with SantaCon, an all-day long parade of Santas throughout the city.

So, alongside all the regular people at Unsilent Night, there were also several hundred people dressed as Santa. Spectacular!

Here's a pic from SantaCon. I'll have a video from Unsilent Night posted soon!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

On Visiting NYC

There are few things I love more than watching people fall in love with the City that has stolen my heart. I know it can be a bit of a strange place and sometimes the locals don't exactly throw out the welcome mat, so please allow me to give you an absentee guided tour, along with a few tips and bits of info that might make your trip more enjoyable.

Note: NYC is made up of 5 smaller cities (aka "boroughs"). They are: Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx, and Staten Island. Manhattan is the part of NYC that most people think of and refer to as "the City." Since I never seem to make it to the outer boroughs, I'll only be dealing with things in the City. I've attached a map of Manhattan below.

* Avenues run north to south
* Streets run east to west
* 20 street blocks = 1 mile
* 5 avenue blocks = 1 mile
* BUT! None of those things apply below 14th St ("below the grid") where everything gets crazy!
* When people say cross streets, the order is Street then Avenue (i.e. "10th & 3rd" - 10th is the St / 3rd is the Ave)
* If you drive, no right turns on red
* In NYC, Houston is pronounced "HOW-stun" not "HEW-stun"
* Don't fall asleep on the subway, no matter how tired you are
* Take cabs after midnight
* Subway lines are referred to by number or letter, not color
* People say "uptown and downtown," instead of "north and south"
* Uptown is roughly anything above 59th Street
* Downtown is roughly anything below 34th Street
* Midtown is everything in between
* The east side / west side division occurs at 5th Ave

Note: most of these places are in the Village (btw. 14th St & Houston)
* Spring Street Natural (food, brunch) - 62 Spring St @ Lafayette St
* 7A (great, cheap brunch) - Avenue A at E 7th St.
* SaraBeth ($$$ brunch) - Fave is @ the Whitney / 1295 Madison Ave @ 93rd St.
* Corner Shop (great food) - 643 Broadway @ Bleecker St
* Think Coffee (where to hang out) - 248 Mercer St @ W 3rd St
* MudTruck (coffee) - big orange truck / usually parks at Astor Place (E 8th St @ 4th Ave)
* Doma (coffee, food) - 17 Perry St @ 7th Ave
* Sensa (dinner) - 676 6th Ave @ 21st St
* Highline ($$ Thai) - 835 Washington St @ Little W. 12th St.
* Union Square (people watching) - 14th-17th Sts, Park Ave to University
* SoHo (street shopping) - Broadway, btw. Houston & Broome Sts
* H&M (shopping) - Fave is @ 51st St & 5th Ave
* Cafetasia (Thai, Pan-Asian) - 35 E. 8th St (btw. Greene & Broadway)
* Spice (Thai) - 60 University Pl @ E. 10th St
* Tasti D Lite (frozen yogurt) - they are everywhere!
* Chocolate by the Bald Man (dessert) - 841 Broadway @ 13th St.
* Redeemer (church) - meets 4 times Sunday in different locations / check site for details

* Walk fast.
* Walk faster.
* When stopping to check a map or convene for a discussion, move against a wall. In NYC, the sidewalks are the main routes of transportation. When you stop spontaneously or walk slowly, it's akin to slamming on your brakes or doing 35 mph on the Interstate.
* Don't refer to it as "The Big Apple"
* Many of the best things about NYC aren't in a travel guide. Ask the locals what they recommend.
* If at all possible, avoid eating in Midtown (near Times Square). Prices are ridiculous. Actually, just avoid Midtown altogether.
* Don't wear your "I heart NY" shirt, as it will mark you as a target.
* No fanny packs (this is a LIFE RULE).
* Bodega ("bo-DAY-guh"): quick-stop corner shop (like a gas station, but without the gas)
* Do NOT use street ATMs or the ones in bodegas. That's a quick way to get your identity stolen.

I might add more to this later if I think of other things. If you're coming to town, drop me a comment, because it would be fun to meet up with you for coffee if I'm in town. Hope this has been helpful!


Friday, December 15, 2006

Hope, meet Crappy.

Hmm. Early-morning phone conversations have a way of kick-starting your day. I got a call this morning while I was parking my car, and it was one of those that sent my mind spiraling.

I am not prone to emotional fluctuations -- I'm usually operating in one of two modes: focused or happy/peaceful. "Focused" is easy to recognize, because it usually comes when I'm in front of my laptop or when I'm setting up for a show. Otherwise, notsomuch. "Happy/Peaceful" is the rest of the time (not to say that "focused" doesn't have its own share of "happy/peaceful" in there).

Today I just felt like, "What? Who AM I?"

I have not, for quite some time, felt any sense of urgency about being alone. It never makes me feel like I'm in any big hurry for anything. But today has been filled with some sense of that. What is the match that lit this fire? Is God awakening this within me... Or is this something I need to fight against? Is this His way of opening me up to something... Or just a momentary selfish desire that I should ignore? Perhaps tomorrow will tell.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


First there were the three nights of no sleep, the worrying, the frustration, the striving...

I spent so much time booking the tour and preparing for the book and CD release that I barely had time to breathe. I thought, "This will change when the tour starts..."

Then there was the driving... 5,000 miles in 5.5 weeks, 30+ shows, so many people I wanted to spend time with...

I couldn't seem to settle down... couldn't find a peaceful moment.

But at the end of the tour, Angela asked me to stay in Anderson, SC, for a couple of days, where I had no agenda, little-to-no internet access or cell phone reception, and a place to shift into my lower gears... it was incredible...

I work too much. I work too hard. I know this. I can't seem to change it.

So why is it that the City That Never Sleeps is able to give me a sense of rest and peace? Something about the size and pace of this island makes me feel like I'm able to stand still in my own head... it has been the space, the break, the very breath of fresh air that I needed. Everything that felt unsettled within me has found a place to rest.

Oh, hope feels so good... I remember it now.

And in the midst of everything that the world throws at me, or that I throw at myself, I stopped and smiled, right in the middle of Union Square. I let the people brush past me, on their way to the Holiday Market, to the subway, to the Farmers Market. I closed my eyes, breathed deep, and took a few steps blindly as Mat Kearney sang into my ears:

...and i don't know much, but i found you here, and i cannot wait another year... don't know where you're coming from, but you're coming soon....

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Lucky To Know You

The release tour ended today. Five weeks, five thousand miles, and so, so much fun.

As I packed up my car in Anderson, South Carolina this afternoon, I put in a CD that Lee gave me, and I began the 12 hour trek to NYC. I got in around 3:30 a.m., feeling rather horrible from the drive. But as I emerged from the Holland Tunnel, Blue Merle's "Lucky To Know You" came on, and I shed a tear or two... not just because I'm happy to be home, but mostly, actually, because of all the wonderful friends I've left out there across America... I love you all so much and you bring me such joy. Thanks for joining me these past few weeks...

This is for you:

"Lucky To Know You"
(Blue Merle)

Friday morning all alone
One by one, the stars each say goodbye
Yeah pictures and a thousand words
A thousand miles turning into song

And I want you to know
I feel lucky to know you
Cut open my heart
And you'll see that it's true
I want you to know
I feel lucky to know you
I feel lucky to know you

Yeah summer fades into fall
And with it Came the writing on the wall
So I sent a thousand letters on the
Backs of silver angels through the sky

And I want you to know
I feel lucky to know you
Cut open my heart
And you'll see that it's true
I want you to know
I feel lucky to know you
I feel lucky to know you

I took a drive it's what I do
And wrote another song for you
The things we want, The things we crave
We have no choice, the choice is made

And I want you to know
I feel lucky to know you
Cut open my heart
And you'll see that it's true
I want you to know
I feel lucky to know you
I feel lucky to know you
I feel lucky to know...

Friday morning all alone
And one by one, the stars each say goodbye