How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Voice on the Radio

Well, “love” might be too strong a word, but I didn’t mind it—and that’s an improvement!

If you’ve never heard me talk, I suppose you wouldn’t know that I have a fairly deep voice. Sometimes people who called our house when I was growing up thought I was my brother; I was the lone mezzo-alto in the school choir (I come by it honestly—my mom’s a tenor!); and I had an easier time singing R.E.M. in my college dorm shower than I did Tori Amos. Etc.

But out of all the things I was teased about as a kid—wearing thrift store clothes, riding to school on the back of a tandem bike, liking to read!—I was oddly spared any comments about my voice. Which was great! But that didn’t mean I myself was super cool with it.

man playing stand up bass

Did I mention I also played stand-up bass as a kid? (Though probably not as well as this guy.) How appropriate!

Still, I’ve always loved hearing other people’s voices: listening to the radio in particular has long been one of my favorite pastimes. I even aspired for a while to become an on-air DJ, a dream that only went so far as a year of interning at WERS while I was at Emerson College, and (maybe this counts?) a stint of reading books out loud for Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic (which is apparently now called Learning Ally). But I’ve been a proud public radio member-nerd here in NYC for 10 years, and “become an awesome radio DJ” remains somewhere on my to-do list.

Part of the issue, I think, was that I didn’t super-like the sound of my voice when I heard it on tape. I realize most DJs are probably not required to go back and listen to their own recordings after doing a show, but the idea of too many people hearing my low-low tones was perhaps a bit off-putting. Until now!

Enter Ken Kinard, a creativity coach and chief creative officer at the marketing agency Accent Interactive. Ken and I met last spring, during a team-building program he directed for my client Pilot Projects. A few months ago, he told me he was planning to produce a podcast or two about the freelance lifestyle and asked if he might interview me for material. I thought it sounded like a hoot, and hey, maybe it was a chance to see if I’d outgrown my aural awkwardness?

The result of Ken’s and my interesting afternoon conversation at the Housing Works Bookstore Cafe in Manhattan is a two-part ‘cast—also featuring freelancer Meaghan Ritchey of Curator Magazine—that explores the ins and outs of today’s freelance species: what drove us to this marginal existence? how do we manage our time? do we miss having coworkers? Or, the podcast intros themselves put it this way: “As more people are going independent, the way work gets done is changing. We explore how freelancers are living the lives of executives and the impact it has on vacation, family, security, and the community.”

Workwise podcast #10: Nice lance. You free?

Workwise podcast #11: Lancers for the win

Ken’s questions to Meaghan and me are interspersed with reflections from the studio as he and his cohost, Mike Boyes (a leadership development consultant, coach, and president of Credo Consulting), listen to our answers and relate our work experiences to others’. I think (and I’m not biased at all here) that they did a really nice job of asking good questions, representing me (and Meaghan, I would imagine) accurately, and drawing some really interesting insights and further provocations from our conversations.

Plus, I was able to listen to both episodes from stem to stern and not cringe once at the sound of my voice! (Although I notice I did talk pretty fast.) Thanks for whatever magic you wrought there, Ken. Now I’m this much closer to chasing my dream of becoming an awesome radio DJ.

The next time you’re working it in the gym, chopping carrots in the kitchen, or toiling with the toilet brush, perhaps you’ll want to take a listen to these fun shows and let me know what you think? I hope my bass vibrato isn’t too much for your earbuds.

Writing about architecture is like… dancing about music?

People wearing building costumes

I had no idea until this moment that there is a persistent mystery surrounding the origin of that famous quote (which of course I chopped and screwed above).

But whoever originally said it doesn’t really matter for the purposes of this blog post. What matters is that some words I wrote about architecture recently appeared in the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter‘s newsletter!

The Ways and Whys of Incorporating Social Science Methodologies into Architecture Curricula

What does all that mean? You’ll just have to read it to find out!

Many thanks to my very righteous clients Scott Francisco of Pilot Projects and Melissa Marsh of PLASTARC for hooking me up with this fun gig.

Now, let’s dance!

Delicious courage

Although I didn’t attend Sarah Lawrence College, I’m always pleased when people see my byline in their terrific magazine and think I did.

Sarah Lawrence comes out twice a year. It covers all the usual alumni magazine stuff like updates about goings-on at the school and news from notable alums, but blows most other alma mater publications out of the water with its commitment to producing a score of thoughtful stories about fascinating people, places, and projects in every issue.

Rohan Kamicheril Tiffin Club

Rohan Kamicheril at work (photo by Mike Jesson)

Take this sampling from their most recent edition, themed “Finding Courage”:

(In addition to presenting you with these opportunities for top-notch reading, I would be remiss if I didn’t shout out the aforementioned chef’s supper club by name. The Tiffin Club pops up periodically with inventive menus, bodacious wine pairings, and excellent camaraderie. Worth your time!)

The Tiffin Club

My hearty thanks to Sarah Lawrence‘s smart and gracious editors, who are wonderful to work with and who somehow keep inviting me back to write stuff. Coming this fall, an interview with a Davis Projects for Peace winner who’s making cardboard furniture with inner city kids!

Fly By Night: Duke Riley turns everybody on at the Brooklyn Navy Yard

“Duke Riley’s Fly By Night brings the rock dove back to the forefront of the New York story once again,” reads the program for the performance we saw last night, “assembling an unprecedented fleet of specially-trained birds that pay homage to the inhabitants of Cob Dock [the largest U.S. Navy pigeon coop, previously located in the Brooklyn Navy Yard and now defunct] over 100 years later.”


As they got started, a hush fell on the crowd

Extremely cool artist and “long-time pigeon fancier” Duke Riley is partnering with one of my favorite organizations ever, Creative Time, to enact a fairly thrilling bird-based performance on a semi-secret corner of NYC’s waterfront this spring. Creative Time says:

“Friday through Sunday evenings at dusk, a massive flock of pigeons will elegantly twirl, swoop, and glide above the East River, as Riley orchestrates a series of performances… At the call of a whistle, thousands of birds will emerge from their home in a grand, converted historic boat docked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The pigeons will circle above the river as the sun sets over Manhattan, and small leg bands, historically used to carry messages, will be replaced with tiny LED lights, illuminating the sky in a transcendent union of public art and nature.”


The birds’ changing shapes, swoops, and dives were mesmerizing!

One might wonder “why pigeons?”, but then one only need read further into the event program, which was so good that I’ll just quote it verbatim again:

“As the oldest domesticated bird, the rock dove has been part of the human story for thousands of years. …These delicate and talented creatures are deeply loved by the humans who raise them and widely misunderstood by their urban neighbors. … Letter carrier, spy, camera operator, educator, and soldier are just a few of the professions cited on the long resume of this often underestimated bird.”


In the dark, it resembled a giant game of Pong on steroids

The romance of the many points of light, the pigeons’ swirling flight patterns, and the long, almost melancholy whistles of the jumpsuited “conductors” were not lost on the crowd. Most of us kept our seats on the temporary bleachers and craned our necks back to watch the half-hour show, while others reclined on the pavement for a panoramic view. Judging by the general silence and periodic gasps of delight, I think we were pretty much all peacefully entranced.

From any vantage point, it was nice to see NYC’s proverbial “rats with wings” literally cast in an artful and appreciative light. (I’ve never had an intrinsic problem with rats either, come to think of it. Maybe a performance starring them will be next? Paul Jarvis would be proud!)

Guys Posing as Nuns, Astroturf, and Thousands of Pieces of Fake Fruit: LoftOpera’s Le Comte Ory

That was the working title of a preview I just wrote for Brooklyn-based opera company LoftOpera‘s newest production, Le Comte Ory (translation: The Count Ory) for Bushwick Daily.

LoftOpera performs Tosca photo by Robert Altman

LoftOpera does Puccini’s Tosca—by the looks of it, a more sober production than their upcoming one (photo by Robert Altman)

Here’s a preview of the preview (you can read the whole thing here):

“It’s totally ridiculous; almost unexplainable,” says Daniel Ellis-Ferris [the company’s founder and executive producer]. “It’s new for us to be doing something this playful.

“For example, there’s a threesome at the end of the show. When they did it at the Met [Metropolitan Opera], they just had three people sitting on a big bed, fluffing a duvet around. That’s about all you can do at the Met. But we’re working with gymnasts and circus people in a warehouse deep in Bushwick! So we can make ours a lot sexier. And our audience will have fun with that, rather than be offended by it.”

Sounds like the makings of fun for sure. I’m going to see the show with my friend Charles, a certified opera expert, next month. Extremely psyched!

Finally, Victoria’s Secret gets it

Arthur and I dropped our passports off at a Russian visa expediting service in Herald Square last week, in anticipation of our June trip there (godspeed, little passports!).

When we walked out of the building, I saw these ads beaming out from the nearby Victoria’s Secret:

Happy women in unpadded bras

Woman in unpadded bra staring

Woman twisting in unpadded bra

VC: This is what I BEEN sayin’!

For how many years have I wondered where all the honest-to-god, regular bras are? Ones that aren’t lined with three-quarters of an inch of memory foam?? For as long as I’ve been in the market, American Apparel has been my only reliable source for such sensible garmentry. While that’s a decent scenario if you’re only given one option, it’s just blown my mind that there haven’t been more.

Maybe now, VC will help set the tone for more Natural Woman hippie breakthroughs in unmentionable-wear? And we can repurpose all those foam getups into nerdy, useful bike shorts??

Yeah!

Ooh mens padded bike shorts!

See? USEFUL.

A Most Brooklyn Saturday (with some Manhattan thrown in)

Here at Unsolicited Vibe Assessment, we strive to give the people what they want. (That is what we strive to do, isn’t it? And by “we,” I mean “the royal we,” aka me.)

The Dude Lebowski

The Dude knows all about “the royal we”

When I emailed a former New Yorker friend the other day about Arthur’s and my Very Brooklyn Saturday, she replied:

“Enjoyed reading about your epic day in Brooklyn! Are you going to blog about that?? What an unforgettable mix of all things BK and happy life there. So very excited to visit you across the bridge and hang with all of you there soon. I can feel that Brooklyn happiness in me already. If I ever return to NYC, it will definitely be either BK or Upper-Upper West Side. After your e-mail, BK is winning by a few points : )”

I’m nothing if not a Brooklyn booster, so yes, friend, I shall blog about it! Perhaps we’ll be able to make a few more fans for our beloved borough.

Arthur and I bought our wedding rings today!! They’re recycled gold, because we’re giant hippies.

Wedding bands

Rangs

Actually, today was such a nice day that I want to tell you more about it.

Arturo went to hot yoga at 10:00 am and I repotted some plants that were overgrowing their bounds. I also listened to a radio program about the genocide in Syria, which is so horrific, of course. That kind of stayed with me all day—perhaps not the best audio choice for this moment… But gotta stay informed.

00 Pizza

00+Co (photo from Yelp; those are not my beautiful hands)

Then we met up and biked into Manhattan to try a new vegan pizza place in the East Village, went to SoHo to get our rings, bought a few books at the Strand, and met up with our friend Andy at The Lot Radio, possibly the most Brooklyn thing ever: a streaming radio station located in a shipping container in a vacant lot that also sells cold brew coffee and vegan cookies.

The Lot Radio via Hyperallergic

Courtesy DJ Haram

Top: The Lot Radio (photo from Hyperallergic) Bottom: A DJ sesh live from their webcam! (photo from, and quite possibly of, DJ Haram: djharam.tumblr.com)

Then Arthur went to meet some friends for dinner, and I came back here to write to you :)

I’m always glad to be in NYC, but particularly on the first hella-sunny Saturday of the springtime, with the best of friends and most delicious of itineraries, I’m even more keenly aware that there’s nowhere else I’d rather be.

Readers! Where’s your happy place?

Scholes Street Studio: Making my day in all kinds of ways

I did an interview a few weeks ago with the lovely human beings Anita Mercier and René Pierre Allain, long-time Williamsburg residents, accomplished parents, and co-owners of Scholes Street Studio, a gem of a music space in our fair neighborhood.

The fascinating couple took more time than was necessary to show me around their beautiful and impressive live/work/performance space, and we enjoyed talking about their collection of African masks, the benefits of a metalworking background in the context of a major building renovation, and the ever-changing arts landscape of NYC.

Artists By Any Other Name performance

Artists By Any Other Name perform in 2015 (photo courtesy of Scholes Street Studio)

I felt the story I wrote about it for Bushwick Daily basically did the conversation, and Scholes Street Studio itself, justice. Plus it came together pretty easily once the interview was done, which always feels good from the ol’ craftsmanship perspective. But I was totally and wonderfully shocked when Bushwick Daily’s managing editor Emilie Ruscoe sent me the following feedback a couple of weeks after it was published:

“This is way overdue, but I have been meaning to email you back regarding your amazing work on the Scholes Street Studio piece! It was outstanding! Seriously beautiful, thoughtful, elegant features writing that, in my estimation, made up a story that seems like something the most discriminating news outlets I read would have been proud to run. I feel so lucky that you wrote it for us and so proud to have something so great among the stories I’ve edited for this site. Thank you so much!!”

Jeez, Emilie—you made me blush! You also made my day. Heck, my week! While trying to write well is its own reward, it’s a huge, huge help to get thoughtful pats on the back like this from time to time (as well as thoughtful critiques, which Emilie is also good at!). Helps make all the time spent staring at the screen totally worth it.

So this is pretty much a win-win, right? Memorable conversation, solid story, and morale-boosting accolade. (Well, if my math is right, that actually constitutes a win-win-win.) Just had to share.

Fellow writers (or anyone else): Tell me about a notable compliment you’ve received!

Two upcoming writing events very worth your time

I think I could write a story every week about some awesome person I know who’s doing something fabulous that I want more people to know about. (And what’s stopping me, I suppose?!)

This week is even more fabulous-er than usual, because I have not one but two admirable friends’ events to shout out, AND they’re both really useful and enjoyable writing events!

Tracy Sayre

A picture of Tracy that is unrelated to the conference, but that is super fun

Coming right up, next Saturday, April 9 in Manhattan, I can recommend Tracy Sayre‘s fifth Writers Work conference to writers of many stripes: novelists, short story peeps, anyone curious to learn more about the publishing world, and on from there.

I’ve been to at least two of Tracy’s epic conferences and spoken at one, and am happy to say with utmost surety that you will get your time and money’s worth. Tracy is uber-connected, super-serious, and hardcore-dedicated to her mission of helping writers develop their craft, career, and community.

The April 9 conference will include a pitching workshop, an online marketing tutorial, and talks by a former New York Times editor, a multi-bestselling author of thrillers, and publishing industry mavens galore. See lots more info and sign up here.

Danielle DeTiberus and Ryan Schenck

Danielle and her pardner Ryan outside my apartment before her reading at The New School with Sherman Alexie last fall!

Coming up a little later, June 18 to 25 (which is good, because you’ll need time to pack your bags and get a base tan!) is the Best American Poetry-anthologized, Charleston School of the Arts-teaching, Program Chair of The Poetry Society of South Carolina Danielle DeTiberus‘s first writing retreat! With yoga! In COSTA RICA! If I weren’t already getting married this year, taking a trip to Russia, and possibly trying to buy a house, I would be there in a heartbeat.

“Whether delighting in the view from the mountain top, coming to the mat, or giving your breath a voice on the page,” reads the event info, “we will find our strength, our creativity, and our intuition.” Plus the whole thing is called “Elevated Union: A Yoga and Writing Retreat. Shifting Perspectives on the Mat, on the Page, and on the Path.” Sounds dope, right?! You can see some mesmerizing photos of the tropical venue and surroundings, read more about the retreat, and get sign-up info here.

Lastly it wouldn’t be April Fool’s Day without a little fun for fun’s sake, right? Well, as usual, you’ve come to the right place for that! Anyone who’s still reading this far down is cordially invited to Neil Totton‘s and my joint birthday party in Hell’s Kitchen tomorrow night!! Here’s the flyer. Bring your A game! (Or your B game; we’re not picky.)

Neil Totton April Greene aries birthday party

Behind burqas, more than bodies

I first became acquainted with the righteous, personable, accomplished (and stylish!) Grace Aneiza Ali when she wrote a guest post for the blog Idealists in Action, which I was co-editing at the time with one of the great platonic loves of my life, Celeste Hamilton Dennis.

To put my introduction to Grace in context, I should begin by saying, perhaps quizzically, that I don’t read too awfully much on the internet. I mean read-read. For sure, I look at the news, I peruse my neighborhood listserv, and I click over when I see an acquaintance has a new job. But—though it’s not a point of pride—after staring at the screen all day in the service of most of my work and life tasks, I don’t usually feel I have the energy to sit down with it for even longer when I actually want to read. (For this, I turn to paper books and magazines.) The loss is all mine, I know!

But occasionally, something does first catch my eye, then keep my attention, then resonate with me enough afterward that I keep a link to it in my “favorites” doc, look for ways to share it, and sometimes even read it again. Grace’s story for Idealist, “Do we miscast rural communities as places to leave behind?” was one such piece.

Grace Aneiza Ali and Celeste Hamilton Dennis

Grace + Celeste (photo by Terrence Jennings)

Grace caught my eye again a while later when I saw her in the New York TimesSunday Routine, and then a third time (the charm?) just last week in NYC. The occasion was the event The Art of the Burqa, produced by the art-meets-activism magazine Grace founded, OF NOTE, and hosted by Pen + Brush (“the only international nonprofit organization offering an outlet for women in both the literary and visual arts in the city of New York”) with help from the Afghan Women’s Writing Project.

Through the fortitude of their mutual awesomeness, Grace and Celeste have stayed in touch since the Idealist days, and Celeste recently became Editor of OF NOTE, which was pretty thrilling news for me. (And here I’d been thinking that ’90s Hillary and Bill were the world’s most iconic two-for-the-price-of-one!) Naturally, I high-tailed it to Gramercy/Flatiron for the event, and spent the afternoon feeling more enlightened by the minute.

Highlights for me included the conversation between Suzanne Russell—an extremely badass lawyer, writer, and visual artist—and Afghan artist Hangama Amiri about the latter’s portrait series that features her burqa-clad mother inhabiting a variety of indoor and outdoor spaces; and the multimedia artist, educator, and writer Gia Harewood on the artist Behnaz Babazadeh’s Burkaphilia project—especially this wild video. But all the afternoon’s segments went a good distance toward illuminating the meanings and impacts of this iconic garment that extend far beyond the cloth itself and the body it covers.

It’s hard to picture a better event than one that combines a visit with beloved friends and mentors and a timely and affecting program—all in a beautiful space with a rapt audience. So my hat’s off to all of you! I look forward to only more greatness.