Follow by Email

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Nice Trainer

 by Erin Dickins                                                                                                                                   
Photo Michael Ramondo

As I embark on round two of my musical career, it occurs to me that once again, I am setting myself up to be in the spotlight.  And this time around, the spotlight has taken on a new meaning – I am not 23, and media is totally out of my control.  Between smart phones and Flip video, Facebook and YouTube, things are likely to get pretty ugly pretty fast.   To think that in the past I was concerned with my teeth looking white!  Hah!  That now seems now ludicrous.  God knows what horrifying poses might be innocently “tagged” for all to see!   What saggy, gray, puffy, bulgy, downright depressing images might be shared – to exist forever in the blogosphere?  As my family, friends and fans snap and upload away, my beloved Photoshop and I sit cringing on the sidelines, unable to pretty things up.  So, I decided I had better take action.

Not being one for surgical procedures, I bought the most expensive goopy skin products I could find, and hired a personal trainer. Over 40 and wrinkle-y is tolerable. Over 40 and out of shape is not.

So, for about a month now, I’ve been working with just the nicest guy.  He is kind, considerate and encouraging.  He’s designed a moderate workout plan and has put together a very manageable not-on-a-diet eating plan that is meant to fit my lifestyle.  Of course, nothing could ever fit the cherished rock-and-roll lifestyle that I so begrudgingly abandoned a while back.  My very nice new trainer tries to make sure that I do not hurt myself by over-doing it.  The last time I hired a trainer I beat the shit out of him on the tennis court.  SIGH.

In any event, even with this kinder, gentler approach, I am making progress.  I’ve lost some weight, my jeans are looser and my energy level is better.  Why, just this morning I commented to my husband that I am beginning to think that I may someday have a waist again.

While this is all well and good, I am not fool enough to believe this is all he has in store for me.  I figure I’ll get to just amble along in this loveliness for a while, and then he’ll lay it on me – the real workout, the real diet.  It’ll be brutal, I just know it.  I figure he’s just getting me sucked-in as deep as he can before he drops the bomb.  So for now, I am trying to appreciate every minute for as long as I can.

Today I received a rather disturbing e-mail from my nice trainer. Along with his usual kind words of encouragement, he sent along a very funny blog (author unknown) about working out.  Yep, this is it - I fear the moment has come.  You may not hear from me for a while, but if I manage to emerge from this experience alive, I will be the one with the ibuprofen – and a waist.  Enjoy.

A Woman’s Week at The Gym  
(Posted by Jennifer Hillier 5/15/10 Author - unknown)

Dear Diary,
For my 40th birthday this year, my husband (such a sweetheart) purchased a week of personal training at the local health club for me.  Although I'm still in great shape since being a high school cheerleader 23 years ago, I decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and give it a try.  I called the club and booked sessions with a personal trainer named Christo, who identified himself as a 26-year-old aerobics instructor and underwear model.  My husband seemed pleased with my enthusiasm to get started.  The club encouraged me to keep a diary to chart my progress.
Started my day at 6:00 a.m.  Tough to get out of bed, but found it was well worth it when I arrived at the health club to find Christo waiting for me.  He is something of a Greek God, with blond hair, dancing eyes, and a dazzling white smile.  Woo hoo!

Christo gave me a tour and showed me the machines.  I enjoyed watching the skillful way in which he conducted his aerobics class after my workout today.  Very inspiring!

Christo was encouraging as I did my sit-ups, although my gut was already aching from holding it in the whole time he was around.  But I know this is going to be a fantastic week!

I drank a whole pot of coffee, but I finally made it out the door.  Christo made me lie on my back and push a heavy iron bar into the air, and then he put weights on it.   My legs were a little wobbly on the treadmill, but I ran the full mile.   Christo's rewarding smile made it all worthwhile.  I feel great!  It’s a whole new life for me.

The only way I can brush my teeth is by laying the toothbrush on the counter and moving my mouth back and forth over it. I believe I have a hernia in both pectorals.  Driving was okay as long as I didn’t try to steer or stop.  I parked on top of a bicycle in the club's parking lot.

Christo was impatient with me, insisting that my screams bothered other club members. His voice is a little too perky for this early in the morning, and when he scolds, he gets this nasally whine which is very annoying.

My chest hurt when I got on the treadmill, so Christo put me on the stair monster.  Why in the hell would anyone invent a machine to simulate an activity rendered obsolete by elevators? Christo told me it would help me get in shape and enjoy my life.  He said some other shit, too.

Asshole was waiting for me with his vampire-like teeth exposed.  His thin, cruel lips were pulled back in a full snarl.  Excuse me, I couldn’t help being a half an hour late – it took me that long to tie my shoes.

He made me work out with dumbbells.  When he wasn't looking, I ran and hid in the restroom.  He sent some skinny bitch to find me.

Then, as punishment, he put me on the rowing machine – which I sank.

I hate that bastard Christo more than any human being has ever hated any other human being in the history of the world.  Stupid, skinny, anorexic little aerobic instructor.  If there was a part of my body I could move without unbearable pain, I would beat him with it.

Christo wanted me to work on my triceps today. I don’t have any triceps!  And if you don’t want dents in the floor, don’t hand me the goddamn barbells or anything else that weighs more than a sandwich.  Asswipe.

Satan just left a message on my answering machine.  He asked me in his grating, shrilly voice why I did not show up today.  Just hearing him speak made me want to smash the machine with my diary; however, I lack the strength to even use the TV remote control. I spent the day watching eleven straight hours of the Weather Channel.

I’m having the Church van pick me up for services today so I can go and thank God that this week is over.   I will also pray that next year my husband will choose a gift for me that is fun – perhaps a root canal, or a hysterectomy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

I Quit by Erin Dickins

I Quit

by Erin Dickins
Photo by Michael Ramondo

 I’ve been trying to quit music for more than twenty years.

Actually, it’s not so much the music, but the business of music that wears me down. Music in its essence is a muse, a Sirens’ call that is ever out of reach for the conditions that surround it. To experience music in its purest form, one would have to treat music as a hobby. Something you do for love alone. You get a day job and play music whenever you can fit it in. You jot down lines in a notebook by the bed, and read them six months later wondering why you never wrote that song. But even as such, reality will find a way to compromise the love affair. You “play out” just for the sheer joy of it, but, let’s face it, the cats need to be paid, the club requires that you fill the seats, your music doesn’t fit that venue, you are too old (or too young, not indie enough, too hip for the room, not the look we want, too avant-garde – although that one’s never been applied to me). So the joy and the pain get all balled up together, and I guess THAT is the real deal one must face in this relationship with the beloved, Music. You gotta “pay to play.”

I spent my early years in New York as a successful studio singer after a very cool run with the Manhattan Transfer, which I founded with Tim Hauser, Marty Nelson, Pat Rosalia and Gene Pistilli in the late 60’s. I was so young in the Transfer days that my mother had to sign contracts for me! It was a great experience, but not a fit. I found singing harmony absolutely delicious but longed to develop my voice as an artist. So we parted ways after several years together performing, and having recorded a charming album, Jukin’.

Living in New York at that time, being a studio singer was the most logical way to earn a living, and it had great allure. It was lucrative, anonymous and a light workload. I recorded almost every day with New York’s most elite singers and musicians (like Valerie Simpson, Melissa Manchester, Patti Austin, Irene Cara, Daryl Hall, John Faddis, Rob Mounsey, Steve Khan, Will Lee, Steve Gadd - just to name a few). Boy, do I have stories. I sang on everything from Burger King commercials to the Talking Heads, from American Airlines to Yoko Ono. The job description read: Learn how to copy the sound of every singer and every style in popular music today, and reproduce it in the studio within a matter of three minutes, and we will pay you buckets of money. Whoa.  This was big fun, but still I had not found my voice as an artist. I hadn’t even explored it. I was busy being “everybody’s everything” as my good friend Ed Shockley recently said.
During this amazing time, I found the idea of touring pretty much irresistible, and offers came through my studio singer/musician colleagues.

My first road experience was with the Gregg Allman Band. We did a two or three month tour (who can remember) in the United States. Butch Trucks, Chuck Leavell, Randall Bramlett, Tommy Talton and Greg Boyer, strings and horns and the marvelous Annie Sutton (with an occasional visit from Dickey Betts) were in that band. It was brilliant. My parents were absolutely horrified, and when my mother came to a concert and met Gregg at the Academy of Arts in Philly, I was equally horrified to witness her telling Gregg that the green lighting gels were not flattering. But, in hindsight, that was a very good place for a rock and roll stage mother’s attention to have been focused.

Shortly thereafter, I was offered an incredible international tour with Leonard Cohen. We had just completed work on Leonard’s album, “New Skin for the Old Ceremony,” produced by John Lissauer, and the band was astounding. Leonard is indescribable so I won’t even try. The music was delicate and rough, sophisticated and carnal and an experience I will cherish forever.

This is when I got it – the part about being an artist. Working with Leonard made a profound impression, and although I did not leave New York for another ten years, I knew I was changing on a cellular level.

The first time I actually tried to quit the business, I moved to Hawaii – as far away from the New York recording scene as I could get without ending up in Guam or something. “They’ll never find me here,” I thought. It worked for almost three years until I started meeting some amazing players and couldn’t resist the call. I was sucked back into the vortex (more on that later) but still hadn’t figured out the lesson.

Over time, Hawaii in itself gave me the answers I sought. The environment there is one of deep connection to earth and self (Haleakala Crater on Maui, Hawaii is considered the earth’s fire vortex – no wonder I felt sucked-in). It is an environment where most everyone you meet is on a spiritual path; you can’t help it surrounded by such power and beauty. So far removed from the pressures of an inauthentic business, it was there that I learned that I am not my resume, not my age, or weight or bank account. That what matters is not me. What matters is the gift of music I have been given, and my willingness to share that gift.

I consider it my honor and my responsibility to spread the joy that I experience every time I open my mouth to sing. Music is an instrument of transformation, and I am wholly transformed when I sing. We all listen to music and attend concerts for that purpose - to be transformed. We come together to forget our worries and fears, our limitations and our sorrows.  Whether conscious or not, when we allow ourselves to surrender to music, we return to the place in our souls where Love resides.  Where joy is rockin’ the house!  And, so we become en –lighten-ed by music. We literally lighten-up.
If I can be an instrument for that transformation, just for one holy instant, then I have done what is asked of me. That’s how you heal the planet, right? One song, one person, one joyful encounter at a time. It’s nice work if you can get it.

I am not sure why I have tried to escape this calling so many times over the years. Maybe it felt too big for me to handle, or maybe I had to get to know a more authentic me in order to carry it off. But I have finally surrendered myself completely to my passion and my calling, and I am up to the task, whatever it takes.
And, in the instant of my surrender, I realized that there is nothing left to for me do but cherish every joy-filled second of the ride. Everyone and everything I need - musicians, writers, producers, songs and support team have all arrived, as if on cue. Funny, I now no longer see any obstacles. It is all just perfect.

And, I will gladly “pay to play.”