I kicked off 2011 with extreme financial and existential instability. At the same time I had a profound (-ly vague) sense of purpose for my life - I was to be a "voice in the wilderness," a songwriter, artist, activist. I wrote, exactly one year ago today:
People do not understand my art; and they may or may not WANT to understand my art. I'm learning what that might mean for my practice and career as an artist.
2011 turned out to be a year of great growth for me as an artist and activist. In many ways I've clarified that sense of purpose that I felt a year ago. It was also a year of transition as I moved slowly toward stability without ever quite arriving - there was more than enough uncertainty and change to ensure instability. Keeping busy has helped, as you'll soon see; I anticipate that my perseverance will continue to bear fruit in the new year. Distinct from 2011, however, I actually have some plans for the coming year (I again hope to reach that stability by June) and I will detail them in my next post. But first I want to take a good look at the past year, to have a clearer sense of where I've come from . Here's my past year in review.
January -- Terrified that I couldn't earn enough to pay rent and my various debts, I sat with Torrey - a roommate at the time and fellow songwriter - calculating the bare minimum I would have to earn per day. I began busking as my primary source of income.
February -- I earned more on the trains than I had anticipated and I committed to eating 100% freegan (not to mention doing media work for freegan.info). I projected a budget to get out of debt by June. I also began rock climbing - falling quickly in love - and made my first major financial mistake of buying an un-budgeted seasonal membership and climbing shoes at Brooklyn Boulders (totaling more than $300).
March-April -- Dawn called out to me and I desperately tried to answer. I had 7am meetings on Tuesdays and Thursdays with the worship and poetry teams of Trinity Grace Church. I learned a great deal from the worship pastor, especially how to pray, and began playing with the band on Sunday mornings.
May -- Morning meetings ended as TGC began major structural shifts to a neighborhood parish model. I began taking requests for my cover album project.
June -- Busking did not prove so lucrative beyond the winter and financial stability was no longer on the radar. I began volunteering at the climbing gym (BKB), which earned me a free membership there. I also volunteered at Wild Goose Fest, a progressive Christian event in rural North Carolina, which also earned me free entrance there. Afterwards I played a show at Staycation in Burlington NC, the home and venue of DIY musician and promoter Zach Corsa.
July -- As the votes for my cover album continued to come in through July 15, I also wrote and recorded original songs for a new album, Protest Songs (Are Dead). The head honcho at my apartment suggested that we not continue to live together, so I would have to find a new place to stay by November. At the end of the month I went on a mini-tour to Minneapolis and attended the Jesus Radicals conference there. During that time my freegan profile was published in HuffPostFood, also appearing on AOL's news home page.
August -- I began spending much time and energy at Word Up Books, a new non-profit all-volunteer-run bookstore in Washington Heights. I was now convinced that God wanted me to live in the Heights and I began to seek roommates for community living in the neighborhood. On August 17 I released Protest Songs (Are Dead), my second album and EP, digitally on NoiseTrade.
September -- On September 17, exactly one month later, I was among the few and the proud who braved the cold and NYPD to occupy Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan. I lived there full time for one week and continued to camp for two more. I also began booking for the Zombie Music Tour.
October -- I began recording songs for the At Your Request cover album, releasing them one by one on youtube. I also sustained an injury while slacklining at BKB which rendered me unable to participate in the actions at Liberty Plaza. My streak of bad/no luck with the living situation ended when another Word Up volunteer offered to allow me stay with him through the end of the year.
November -- In the first week of November I hurried to moved my stuff (getting two parking tickets in the process), finish the cover songs and release them on NoiseTrade, and produce CDs of Protest Songs, all before shoving off on the Zombie Music tour. Then I traveled to twenty cities and played at five shows, nine occupations, four campfires, a radio appearance, the SOAW protest in GA, and even a wedding (my sister's, congrats Amy & Brandon!). Zach Corsa joined me for a significant part of the tour and we've made plans to collaborate on a major project this summer (stay tuned!)
December -- I returned to NYC for two weeks and spent most of the time at Word Up, getting the space ready for a big rent party and celebration on the 17th. Then I flew back to Florida to spend the holidays with family and friends.