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1) I haven't done much subway busking the past couple weeks, so I'm running short on funds. Which means, soon as I'm done with this post, I'm OFF TO THE A TRAIN!

2) I have a new album available on noisetrade, my venue for Virtual Busking. The album consists of the soundtrack from the Clown Of God show back in 2010. Download it NOW for FREE.. or leave a generous tip ;) You can find more info about the show at my personal blog page.

3) A friend of mine recently did a piece on "odd ways to earn money during college." (Many of which I tried both in college and after, haha) He asked me some questions about busking and quoted me in the article. Check it out!

 
 
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At this exact moment in time there are hundreds of volunteers roaming the streets of NYC looking for homeless people to share a meal with, people for whom to provide medical attention, clothes, even a bed tonight. They are coordinated by an alliance of organizations whose collective mission is to serve the homeless in our city. This event is called Don’t Walk By.

Last week this mission was launched from a church in Harlem, where hundreds of homeless individuals were directed to be served and to share in hospitality and community. I was among the hospitality volunteers outfitting the homeless with better coats, blankets, new socks, underwear and toiletries. It was an honor to bless them and be blessed by them for my third consecutive year.

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Don’t Walk By is an annual event that reaches out to the city’s homeless population each year for four or five weeks in the harshest bitter cold of winter. It is a volunteer effort and much of the materials and resources are donated. They also need money to mobilize the effort.

For these reasons and many more, I have made Don’t Walk By NYC homeless outreach one of the recipients for my Zombie Music Campaign for peace and justice. Please click on this link for more details and to contribute to DWB and other organizations working toward peace and justice as they serve “the least of these” in NYC and beyond.

Thanks!

Gio


 
 
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The city of New York takes recycling very seriously. Building supers and business owners can get hefty fines (pun intended) for not properly sorting their trash and recycling. They are both to be left on the curbsie for pickup, though on different days, and the latter is to be bagged in blue transparent plastic rather than opaque black or clear plastic.

This is also one of those states where virtually any plastic bottle can be redeemed for ¢5 .

So perhaps it's not surprising that there are individuals who traverse the city, collecting those blue plastic bags in shopping carts and schlepping them to grocery stores and pharmacies. I've seen these people all over the city and always wondered about them - are they homeless? Do they really make much money? Is it worth the trouble?

I greatly respected the work that they do and even fantasized about one day having the expendable income to give them a 20 and a hearty "thank you." At the same time I've had some apprehensions about them - could they be dangerous? - and I never bothered to strike up a conversation or otherwise get to know my neighborhood recycling redeemers.

Then last night, as I approached my familiar treasure trove outside of Morton Williams supermarket on Broadway and 115th, I was finally confronted by one of them.

"Hey Boss."

He was firendly in his address but I assumed he was going to beg for money, which I almost certainly would have turned down. I didn't know yet that he had collected three large bags of bottles for redemption, as they were leaning against the wall of the market, about twenty feet away.

"If you take one of those bags into the store for me we can split the money."

I was impressed and intrigued by his hustle but "Why can't you take it yourself?"

"They only let me take one hundred bottles, one bag."

I agreed to help him out and set myself to food rescue while he redeemed a first bag. I overheard him telling the owner, "no, those are his bags," pointing to the other two bags leaning against the wall.

"Boss!" I looked over and nodded in agreement.

Once he returned, I went to redeem the second bag. The owner stood conspicuously in the doorway, holding another bag open as I transferred the bottles one by one, as quickly as possible. He appeared annoyed. I don't think he was counting the bottles and I certainly wasn't either. So I presume he arbitrarily decided when there were a hundred of them. He pulled away and began tying the bag, directing me to the checkout line for my five bucks.

I made the line and within a few minutes I was out the door with the money. I gave three of the five to my business partner and proceeded to rescue my food for the coming week. He asked which way I would be headed from there, wondering whether I could accompany him to the next store. I had already got off to a late start and wouldn't have time to go with him, I said. And before I could look up to introduce myself and give a proper farewell, he was halfway down the next block. His identity may remain a mystery for some time, but I'm glad to have caught a glimpse of the recycling redeemer's way of life.

For more info on these folks, check out this article published in the Bronx Journal in June 2011.

 
 
Last June I began considering new living situations in NYC. I was feeling a little bit frustrated with the lack of intentional community at the Edgecombe House and I was hankering to move to the Heights, where I already spent a great deal of time volunteering and I knew Trinity Grace would plant a church in the not-too-distant future.

Nothing substantial came of my brief search, though, because I knew that little could tear me away from the Edgecombe House. Living there was amazing. I got along really well with my roommates; I loved the apartment, building, super, street, and neighborhood; I had a great view exiting the building and another from my desk in a corner of the dining room; there was plenty of common space to host small group meetings, regular movie screenings, freegan feasts, or even DIY shows; and the rent was reasonably low - I shared a two bedroom in Harlem with four other men, so my rent and utilities combined never exceeded $400 (for any non-NYC-dwellers who may not know this, rent that low is virtually unheard of here!)

A month or two later I was approached by one of my roommates who suggested that it would behoove us not to live together anymore. This was a hard word to take, but - after a week or two - we agreed that this would be the best for all of us.

So I returned to the search for people who would be willing to share intentional community with me in the Heights by December. Nobody turned up.

Then one day at Word Up a fellow volunteer generously offered for me to stay with him at his apartment indefinitely, in exchange for housekeeping chores and other labor. I needed some time to think about this - I would essentially be living rent-free in Manhattan, which was a pretty big deal, but I would also have to postpone community living. Regardless, I had no other options available to meet my immediate need - to get out of the Edgecombe House - so I decided to move the bulk of my possessions to his apartment at least through the end of 2011.

I've now been living with Bob for a whole month. I work fourteen hours a week in exchange for a tiny space to house my minimal possessions, freegan food, and sleeping body. This is our barter arrangement and yet another example of God's miraculous provision for me in the city, provision for which I am unspeakably thankful. Moreover, it has been and will be another opportunity for me to learn what it means to live in community as I continue to prepare and look forward to the future Heights Community House.
 
 
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I began playing Hey Jude immediately after switching cars on the uptown A train. I leaned back, slightly, against one of the hand poles and faced the long subway car before me, quickly surveying my audience.

I was annoyed and disappointed to see two police officers standing at the other end of the car. I knew full well that I wasn't allowed to play on the subway trains and that I could get a ticket - or worse - if I didn't play my cards right. But this was a long ride, from 59th street to 125th, and it would have been absurd for me not to try and make the best of the scenario.

Especially since, by this point, I was already halfway through the song.

I avoided looking toward them, hoping that they were doing the same for me. At the harmonica solo I began walking in their direction, still averting my eyes. 

Nobody gave anything. Not even a look or a word. It's not uncommon for train conductors to announce that giving to solicitors is illegal. Compassion and generosity are criminalized in NYC for some reason? I have yet to confirm the claim, but in any case it gives charitable riders pause when police are on board.

By the time I finished Hey Jude I was even closer to the police, shocked they hadn't stopped me yet. I didn't allow the final chord to fade out. Doing so might present one of them with a golden opportunity to approach me. Instead I hastily began picking the intro to Awake My Soul by Mumford And Sons. When I was nearly done with the song, bellowing the final chorus ("awaaaaaaake my soul!"), I saw one of the officers approaching. He made a short slashing motion with his hand across his neck, indicating for me to stop.

"You can't play on here. It's considered disorderly conduct."

I raised my eyebrows, "oh," and nodded. I already knew this.

"You could also get a ticket for panhandling."

We both knew that I wouldn't stop.

Finally he got to the point: "I don't really care what you do on your own time, but you can't do this when we're on the train with you."

I hadn't shrunk away in fear and intimidation. Maybe it hurt their pride. But I also knew that he could get in trouble if he didn't at least give some kind of warning. Thankfully that's all it was. He walked away, leaving me standing on the still-moving train with the neck of my guitar gripped in both hands and lips sealed. The train was sickeningly silent. There was a void, perceivable by the other riders as well, as only the hum of the train and the faint tinny sound of bachata guitar filled the sound spectrum.

One woman stood up and approached, pausing just a few feet away.

"He said you can't play in here? It sounded great."

"Thank you! Yea, It sounds so empty now, doesn't it?"

"It does! Well.. Thank you."

And with a sweeping, defiant gesture she stretched a dollar out, dropping it in my tip jar. The train slowed to a halt. As I moved to step off the train - toward the next car, of course - four or five other people surrounded me with money in hand. They were all so.. generous, compassionate!

What disorder I had caused!

I rushed to the next car, hoping the police wouldn't follow. They didn't. Now who's to protect New York City from mayhem like me?

 
 
The presents were unwrapped and the living room left a-clutter. The event was over and everyone else in my nuclear family was recharging to meet with other friends and in-laws. Not me. I sat alone on the sofa with the sounds of Christmas glee, laughter, surprise, and Chipmunk carols only a faint echo in my subconscious. A memory. Of something long past. Of innocence.

Anais walked briskly past the living room when she stopped suddenly. I don't know how she interpreted the look on my face or the distant gaze in my eyes. She only asked, "well, what DID you want for Christmas??"

I looked up sullenly. Pensively, though I already knew the answer. Then with slight jest but real sorrow I replied, "to be understood."

Dear Santa,

My nephew and niece (5 and 3 years old, respectively) already believe that you don't exist. That is to say: they know that the heavy set man with the white beard and red suit who models for CocaCola ads, conscripts elves to create presents all year to give to the "nice" children while dropping coal in the stockings of the "naughty" ones, rides around the world on a sleigh pulled by nine reindeer, and always pauses to eat milk and cookies - they know that THIS guy doesn't exist.

Personally, I do prefer that they know the real meaning of Christmas, which has nothing whatever to do with Santa Clause, evergreen trees, or gift exchange. And they'll be the first to tell you, over an awkward Noche Buena dinner, that the real meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus. But they'll also be the first ones by the tree skirt, ruthlessly tearing the wrapping paper from packages you've addressed to them.

This is where I depart from them.

You see, they say that they don't believe in you; but they are still influenced by the spirit of unfettered consumerism that you embody in the mythology of our culture. As a freegan, I not only recognize and believe in this spirit, I denounce it! And I've done so many times, publicly, on the multiple blogs that I keep. Still, I find each year that you address gifts to me. You should know by now that I don't want them, that I'm not interested.

Look, I'm no grinch. I like presents, I really do! But I guess I turned on you when I realized that the presents you bring me are not made in the North Pole by your trusty elves. I checked the tags, Santa. The clothes you bring me are made in China, India, Sri Lanka. Even you are outsourcing your manufacturing jobs to women and children in the third world who work under deplorable conditions. I'm sorry, but I just can't abide this. Every time I read the tags it makes me feel personally responsible for the suffering of others.

"But," my sister protested, "if you didn't have any presents at all, you would feel bad."

Perhaps. But I assure you, Santa, the guilt and shame that I feel from knowing that others have suffered to produce for me clothes or toys that I don't need is far worse than any hard feelings I might have for not receiving the gifts at all.

Besides, I never said that I don't want presents. I just don't want presents made by your so-called elves in the developing world. So if you insist on bringing me gifts that are not made by your North Polish elves, then please just keep a few things in mind:
  1. I like the FAIR TRADE model best. By far. Such items are made in the same developing countries but they are made by people who are guaranteed fair wages and humane work conditions. You can find fairly traded items - clothes, toiletries, jewelry, games, even musical instruments - at fair trade stores and/or online. One great trick is to search "sweat free _______" on google. Just fill in the blank with whatever item you think would be ideal for the recipient.
  2. SECOND-HAND is second best. If you can't afford fair trade (ethical considerations are indeed more expensive) then aim low. Buy second hand. There are great stores that sell like-new clothes (Plato's Closet comes to mind). You may also get lucky at a Goodwill, Salvation Army, or even a garage sale (my most prized gift from last year was a toy accordion bought at a garage sale. I used it to record two new songs this year!) I also dig hand-me-downs.
  3. Buy local! Support your local artisans and merchants, designers, soap makers, musicians, luthiers, carpenters, welders...
  4. If there's no way to ensure that an item was made under ethical conditions, then buy American! There's no guarantee that American factories are doing it right either, but it's certainly more likely. Check the tag to make sure it was made in the USA, at least I'll know you tried.
  5. Consider utility and space. I live in NYC (!!!). So ask yourself, "does Gio really need this?" If you still can't figure it out, then just call and ask. Perhaps your tongue was in your cheek when you gave me soap and deodorant this year. I can appreciate a good joke, but I can appreciate utility even more! You rightly guessed that these are items I do not buy often and on principle. Yet I can and will use them simply because they are useful (helps that they were made in the USA ;) I've also appreciated the various musical instruments over the years. That's one thing I'll always make room for!
  6. Consider the environment. Avoid plastic and styrofoam and shoot for products made from recycled materials wherever possibe. Upon buying the item(s) let the clerk know that you don't need a plastic bag. And for future reference: I prefer Dr. Bronner's Castile soap, you can get it at Whole Foods or any other health food store.
  7. Be creative, not compulsive. Don't just buy me anything. If you must buy me something, make it something meaningful (if you've bought something with the above considerations in mind, then mission accomplished!) And if you're still struggling, then please don't feel pressured to buy anything at all! Create something. Say something. Take me somewhere (it need not cost anything)... Or just play board games with me.

I think that's it!

Look, Santa. I know that times are hard. You don't always have the time or money to get some of the items mentioned above. Still, if all else fails, just remember that I prefer no gift to - well, you know, the normal stuff you give me.

I do hope I haven't come off as ungrateful; but I also hope that I won't have to write another letter like this next year! Perhaps this one will help spare both of us any hard feelings. Until next Christmas, here's wishing you and yours a joyous and peaceful new year.

Shalom,
Gio
 
 
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My new album, Protest Songs (Are Dead), has been produced and the Zombie Music Tour has ended; but the Zombie Music Campaign presses on and needs your help! I have committed to donating $500 to each of five non-profit organizations that I have volunteered with and in whose work I strongly believe. I still hope to follow through on this commitment, to contribute to the great work these organizations are doing.

Between the money I've made on tour ($235), on NoiseTrade ($12), and on the facebook FundRazr page ($60), I have just over $300. That's still less than 10% of my goal and not enough to donate to even one of the organizations I've partnered with. Yet I'm confident that I will reach my goal and there's a great way that YOU can help make that happen!

For the next two weeks of this holiday season, my Christmas album A Light Has Dawned will be available to download on NoiseTrade. You can download the album for free, but if you make a $5 suggested donation on the NoiseTrade link, the proceeds will go directly to the Zombie Music Campaign! 

Please check it out and support this great cause. Happy holidays to all. Peace.

If you already have the album or if you can't or don't want to download it, here's another link where you can contribute to the

 
 
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Aspiring Intellectual
I was a young music student and aspiring intellectual when I first became privy to the crimes of the School of the Americas. The broader humanities had struck my fancy as I removed past musics from their academic vacuums and returned them to their time and place, to their historical contexts. As I learned about Bach, Beethoven, and Bartok, I couldn't help but wonder about the many extramusical factors that influenced their composition; and conversely, the ways that their music contributed back to their cultural, intellectual, political milieus.

So I enrolled in several humanities courses during my time at UCF, each examining the humanities (philosophy, art, science, architecture, religion - that which distinguishes us as humans) of a different era. The modern humanities began to touch on a time and culture with which I was more familiar, to which my own so-called postmodern era was responding. This was the era where the crimes and ideology of the nefarious School of the Americas fell squarely into place. And my own generation's response to the tragic existence of the SOA has been rather typical: ignorance, ambivalence, apathy.

Will these be the hallmark of postmodernism, the legacy of my generation? Not if I have anything to do with it!

The School of the Americas is a US military agency that trains latin American soldiers and dispatches them back to their countries to commit terrible atrocities against their own people. Graduates are notorious for murdering diplomats, educators, political and religious leaders, union and community organizers, missionaries, and virtually anyone working to organize or help poor and exploited people in these underdeveloped countries. Renamed WHINSEC, it continues to this day, proliferating a violent, repressive, and imperialist US foreign policy in Latin America.

It sounds unreal, like something US-ians would never allow to exist; but most people have no idea that it does.

I began soaking it in myself during the fall of 2007, at the aforementioned humanities course. We read about the life and activism of Rigoberta Menchu, about US military engagement in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, about the SOA. I could no longer feign ignorance.

The following fall I made plans to join the annual two-day protest and vigil at the gates of Ft Benning, GA, where the school calls home. This event has occurred for over twenty years, organized by the ever vigilant SOAWatch and attended by thousands of religious, radical, and peacenik groups persistently calling for the close of the school. The numbers exceeded 20,000 that year and I was proud to be in their number.

It was heart breaking to hear the names of thousands of torture and murder victims read off, each repeated by the haunting chant "presente." It was also empowering to see the solidarity shared by so many people working for peace and justice in the world.
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I've just returned from my fourth year at the event. I have played on stage, taught workshops, joined direct action groups, played drums and participated in puppetista parades. I have also joined actions in NYC and DC with music and solidarity. But most importantly, my song Pax Americana is largely inspired by the evils of the SOA and I have repudiated the school many times in my blog writings. I have thus found my own place as an artist and writer in the 21st century USA and global economic empire. I have contributed to the humanities of my era and perhaps we'll see our collective social consciousness increase as a result.

Until then, the school remains open, funded with taxpayer dollars while most people remain totally unaware of it's existence and the numbers at the annual vigil dwindle and the unspeakable violence of the SOA continues.

BUT! Now that you're swimming in the still shallow pool of collective consciousness regarding the SOA, you can also do your part. Educate yourself, educate others, and support the SOAWatch! One way you can do this, while also supporting my contribution to the humanities, is by supporting the Zombie Music Campaign for peace and justice. Part of the money supports my recently released album, Protest Songs (Are Dead), which includes the song Pax Americana. Another 10% will go to SOAWatch so that they can continue to shed light on the SOA and its crimes, until it is finally closed.

 
 
Got my guitar, sleeping bag, jacket, and long johns. Think I'm ready to #takewallstreet.
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Sept 17 at Zuccotti Park
Twitter was my horse and I was Paul Revere. It was September 17, 2011 and I had just witnessed what I could only presume was the spark of revolution. The time had finally come.

After nearly ten years of war and atrocity in Afghanistan and Iraq, the complete plunder of the American economy, the co-opting of our political process by corporate interests (sanctioned by the US Supreme Court), the foreclosures of thousands of homes by predatory banks and financial institutions, and a persistently grim outlook on the job market - after all this and so much more, a small band of opportunistic lower-case anarchists and democrats were about ready to take back the reins of our wayward country, to be the change we wished to see, and to occupy Wall Street all the while, until somebody paid attention. I found myself at the center of the action.

I had waited for this moment at least two years, about the same amount of time that I had been writing protest songs - and these were my own response to the milieu described above. After moving to NYC where injustice, greed, exploitation, materialism, and corruption were unavoidable and unconscionable, I couldn't help but notice the relative silence coming from the arts community, the very people that, as far as I'm concerned, are charged with speaking up, crying out, and standing against institutional violence with Truth, Beauty, Peace, Justice. I found that this silence was most sadly (and ironically) deafening from the music scene. As an aspiring songwriter myself, I felt the great weight of responsibility fall on my feeble shoulders; I began writing protest music.

Nearly two years later, and only one month before the occupation was to begin, I released my first opus of such material on an EP called Protest Songs (Are Dead). Little did I know the perfect venue to perform these songs was soon to crop up in the financial district of Manhattan!

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After seeing the first general assembly at Zuccotti Park on September 17, I tweeted giddily as I picked up what was needed to camp the first night at #OccupyWallStreet. For the following week I occupied the newly-dubbed Liberty Plaza almost 24/7: participating in GAs, marching, playing drums and protest songs, dancing, interviewing, and otherwise building friendship and community with people of struggle - we who would call ourselves the ninety-nine percent.

And that tiny spark, flicked brightly on September 17, ignited a conflagration that quickly spread across the country and the world. I was continually encouraged by the news coming from Liberty Plaza, especially relayed updates from occupations in Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, and so on. This was indeed a real movement!

But as time passed and our humble occupation grew, so too did the police presence and abuse, tourist interference, and media attention (there was a virtual blackout from corporate media until the mass arrest on the Brooklyn Bridge). I felt increasingly uncomfortable at the occupation downtown and spent less and less time there, though my solidarity did not dwindle in the slightest. After that first week I only stayed at the park for morning marches, evening GAs, and overnight camping; after three weeks, I only came for certain special occasions.

I spent the time instead tweeting, writing, and supporting the occupation from my home in uptown Manhattan: I started the Zombie Music Campaign (a portion of which will go directly to OWS) and began working occupy visits into the schedule for my Zombie Music Tour to support the new Protest Songs album. On December 4 I started the tour and have since played for occupations in Philly, DC, Asheville and Chattanooga, with many more occupations to come. It has been great to meet with the other occupations, to see the work they are all doing to resist violence and injustice with peace, compassion, and a hopeful vision for the future ever in view.

The Zombie Music Tour continues tonight in Athens and the campaign, still going on now, could really use your support. 50% goes to five great organizations working toward peace and justice, one of which is Occupy Wall Street in NYC. The rest of the money will support the production of the Protest Songs album and tour.

I do hope you'll consider: if you believe in the occupy movement and/or the role of artists and musicians to inspire and speak truth to power, and if you have the slightest amount to contribute to my existential tip jar, then you can make a huge difference as I trek along on my Zombie Music Tour for peace and justice! Please check out this page for more info and I hope you'll consider nudging me along on my journey.

Please also be sure to learn about and support your nearest occupation. It can be very fatiguing out there, especially as smaller occupations meet resistance from police and local governments. Your local occupy needs your support!

Finally, if you're interested in the Protest Songs album, you can download it from iTunes or listen for free on YouTube. I hope you'll check it out!
Thanks so much for your support and solidarity. We are the 100% and we're all in this together.

Peace friends,
Gio

 
 
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It's tough to book shows on weekdays because people don't necessarily plan to go out to events throughout the week. Most venues don't even bother. But when on tour, a band or artist can hardly afford to just sit on their hands for five days out of the week. 

Besides - this is New York City!

So I get frequent e-mails from traveling DIY bands hoping to book shows in the greatest city in the world. I do warn them that we don't really charge cover at Word Up, a new non-profit and all-volunteer-run bookstore in Washington Heights. The best we can do is pass a donation jar for the touring acts, who will split the earnings 50/50 with the bookstore. And these acts likely don't anticipate the costs of the tolls across the George Washington Bridge from Jersey or the likelihood of getting exorbitant parking tickets. Oklahoma acts Luna Moth and Blue Valley Farmer scored two of them for parking too close to fire hydrants in Brooklyn. And those tickets were $115 each! Ouch.

These folk crooners contacted me on CouchSurfing, hoping that I could help them book a show in the city on a Tuesday night. They were in luck! 

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After all, I've had a penchant for booking, promoting, and playing DIY shows ever since my days as singer songwriter and guitarist for Miami-based punk band SnootiBounse. I was in high school at the time, working with many friends and colleagues to keep an all-ages DIY music scene alive. Our shows occurred in back yards, living rooms, churches, and dance clubs - any place that would have us. It was a blast.

Then, in 2004, I moved to Orlando where 1) I'm not sure that anything like that even existed and 2) I didn't play much music outside of my studies at UCF (aside from a couple stints with musical theater and a one-off ska show with a brain child called Shaving Esau). 

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It wasn't until the Black Box Collective cropped up in Orlando, four years later, that I fell back into my old groove - booking, promoting, and playing shows at a warehouse in Paramore filled with beautiful graffiti art, crusty punks, roaches, profanity, and possibly the presence of God herself. But now I also volunteered my time and energy at this venue - sweeping, recycling, working the bar, bottom-lining shows, running sound, etc - which I could not have afforded to do back in high school; and we had dreams of making this a real community center in the heart of downtown Orlando, to create a safe space in a heavily blighted neighborhood, overrun with homeless people, drug addicts, violence, prostitution. The Black Box became my home away from home, the venue for my debut album release show (a defining moment in my life), and a place that I have missed a lot since moving to NYC in 2009. 

I was again in limbo.

New York City has plenty of DIY venues, but as far as I can tell they're all in Brooklyn. And I live in uptown Manhattan. While I was happy to discover some semblance of a DIY scene in NYC, I felt that it shouldn't take over an hour to get to and from decent shows in the city. As far as I was aware, there were no options in Manhattan. This needed to change and I wanted to be a part of it.

I started booking acoustic, freegan (food and all), DIY, all-ages shows at my apartment in Harlem, but my roommates did not tolerate that for too long. I needed to find another venue that would be open to this kind of thing. But how could I ever find such a venue in a city that practically runs on consumerism, corporatism, individualism, greed - values that fall in direct contradiction to those on which I hoped to build a DIY art and music scene? I certainly could not afford my own start-up (though I did once call a real estate agent regarding a vacant storefront on Amsterdam and 130-something) and I could not have anticipated that anything like the Black Box would have materialized in my neighborhood without me. Thankfully something did!

I got involved with Word Up Books a few weeks after they opened and a few days before they learned that the donation of their former-pharmacy space in Washington Heights would be extended through the end of September (now going on five months rent free!) I knew that something big was happening there from the moment I stepped foot inside this Broadway storefront. I needed to get involved.

My first order of business was to let the other volunteers know that I was interested in booking shows. Once I attended a few volunteer meetings and earned their trust I began organizing events, was given keys, joined the Space and Events committees, helped organize the used books, gave report-backs from #OccupyWallStreet, procured a couch... I'm all in.

Word Up does a ton of great work in the neighborhood. We provide a safe space where folks of all ages can hang out, read books, listen to music and poetry. We host events of all kinds - open mics, book readings, film screenings, plays. We sell the work of local writers, poets, artists, photographers, musicians, and crafts-people. We provide an enormous selection of used books and vinyl records for $1 and plenty of radical literature at discounted prices. We are at once a book store, music venue and community center. Non-profit and all-volunteer-run, mostly by writers, artists, and other creative folk. 

And yes, we'll book shows on a Tuesday night.

It is for all these reasons - and more - that I chose Word Up as one of the orgs that will receive 10% from my Zombie Music Campaign, going on NOW. Please consider supportng the work that we are doing to bring peace and justice to the neighborhood of Washington Heights - and beyond!

For more info about the campaign, please click here!

Also, if you live in NYC, come check out my CD release and tour kickoff show at Word Up next Saturday, Nov 5. Joanlie Shiah will also be playing and there will be a screening of the most epic film: V For Vendetta. Click here for more details and to RSVP. Thanks!