"There’s a writer named Robert Johnson – he has no relation to the musician. His autobiography, I think it’s called Balancing Heaven and Earth. In it he describes, he had not much of a family structure growing up. And then as an adult he decided, 'Because I wasn’t given a family by birth doesn’t mean I can’t have one.' And so he began to nominally create his family and say, 'This person is my grandfather, this person is my uncle, this person is my brother,' with the idea being that these people, your family, are the unconditional ones. The ones that even when they do wrong, that’s when the rules go out the window. That’s when you embrace that person, even if that person has done what you might not accept in a friend or in a colleague. That you continue to support and, ideally, be supported by those people ... Because it does feel like when everything else falls apart that those relationships will be there and that they will stand tests of endurance that other relationships will not."
Stalactites hang from the ceiling. Stalagmites grow from the floor. All are fragile crystals, born from the sweat of rocks in the depth of caves etched into the mountains by water and time. Stalactites and stalagmites spend thousands of years reaching down or reaching up, drop by drop, searching for each other in the darkness. It takes some of them a million years to touch.
Sunday night I saw Jay-Z and Kanye at the Izod Center just over the state line in New Jersey. My dear friend Susan and I were in literally the last row of the arena. We got to our seats early and were like, this is fine! There was a little platform right behind our seats and we discussed our obvious plan to spend the entire concert dancing on it instead of remaining seated. We sat down and munched on some shitty concession stand food and were talking about art and life and stuff. I saw one of the arena's employees climbing the stairs toward us and I wondered why he was up so high. He approached us and asked how many people were in our group. We both said, just the two of us. He said, here you go. He handed us two floor seat tickets and told us to take the stairs down down down. I asked him why. He said, because I'm a nice guy. Sus and I just looked at each other in disbelief, then climbed down to our new seats, about 50 feet from the main stage and 30 feet from the stage in the audience. We discussed how the universe rewards being chill - how this never would have happened if we had been somehow unsatisfied with our nosebleed seats. To me, it was more a thrilling and poignant example of how the universe rewards gratitude with abundance. It was also appropriate because I feel that Jay-Z himself is a living, breathing example of what God can do. He is so inspiring to me. From selling crack in Harlem to selling out huge arenas - because of poetry. It was a religious experience for me. Forgive the wobbliness. I was dancing my ass off.
Then, the next night, I saw Brandi Carlile at The Town Hall on 43rd street. It could not have been more opposite from the Watch The Throne show from the night before. The Town Hall is a fairly small venue, it was a solo acoustic show, just a woman with a guitar and an incredible voice. Two sisters from Muscle Shoals, Alabama opened up for her. They did a song they wrote while they were on tour in Australia when the tornadoes destroyed so many lives in our home state, in April of this year. I started crying and I'm pretty sure I didn't stop for the rest of the show. This is the second time I've seen Brandi - she likes to do this thing on one of her songs where she divides the audience into three sections and we all sing a three-part harmony along with her. It's so beautiful. I recorded some of it with my phone.
Last week a good friend of mine sent me this poem, which appeared in TheNew Yorker in June 2009. I loved it so much that I decided to send the author, Stephen Dunn, a Pulitzer prize winner, a letter in the mail. I told him I had recently been introduced to his work and that I love his poem and told him thank you for writing it. My friend also sent a letter, separately. And today, we received his response!
Dear Chris + Meghan, Very sweet of both of you to write to me about my work. Know that it matters to me, and that I'm grateful. Sincerely, Stephen Dunn