Archive for August 2009

Tour Day 10: The Family that Rocks Together…


I love this picture because in Scott’s glasses you can see the reflection on the sky as seen through the bus window. My boys love to sit together and look at the sky.

35,000 fans showed up for yesterday’s show in Columbia, MD. The free Virgin Mobile Festival was held at Frank Gehry’s soaring Merriweather Post Pavilion, though I didn’t get much time to admire the architecture because I was too busy trying to keep Tariku from eating smooshed french fries out of the dirt and playing with used beer cups.

I was looking forward to this tour date, because my cousin Andrew actually organized the whole festival. Andrew is one of my fave relatives, though his wife Maria gives me a complex. She’s an MD who does research into women’s public health policy, while looking and dressing like a supermodel. I have a friend who was attacked in New York and woke up in the emergency room at Bellevue looking at Maria’s face. He told me that he seriously thought he was looking at an angel. Barf. I wish I had a picture to share, but T blew by everyone so fast I barely had time to give my family a hug. He made a mad dash for the barricades and I spent the next three hours chasing him while he romanced teenage girls. He likes to charm the ladies by pointing out airplanes, then he leans in and tries to bite their thighs.


We did catch Richard Branson’s parachuting escapade, which was impressive. We also got to spend some time with my old friends writer Shawna Kenney and guitarist/hubby Rich Dollinger, the self-titled baby roadies for the day. On most days they’re stars in their own right.

We missed the Public Enemy show, but T had his ‘fro tousled by Flavor Flav on Flav’s way off stage. In his short almost-18 months on earth, T has had his ‘fro tousled by Sir Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Flavor Flav, Jeff Lynne, the Blink guys and all the members of the Weez, of course. That’s a lot of icons to have up in your hair.


My photographs are suffering terribly as a result of my mom duties. My iphone is all I can handle most of the time. At my friend Danica’s suggestion, I got this toy camera application, which puts random filters on pictures. Cute, right?

Matter and Energy


My husband and I were early for dinner plans in Chelsea and it started to rain. We spotted an intriguing storefront across 10th Avenue between 21st and 22nd and made a dash for the doorway. The sign outside read ?Printed Matter,? but at first glance I couldn?t tell if it was a bookstore or an art gallery or an obsessive shrine to a band I?d never heard of called Destroy All Monsters. Turns out it was a bit of all of those things.


Printed Matter is a non-profit dedicated to the promotion of publications made by artists. Their website states that they ?foreground the book as an alternative venue ? or artistic medium- for artists? projects and ideas.? The friendly clerk (don?t be put off by the fact that he’s cooler than you, he’ll still take pity on you and answer your questions) told me that there is an open submissions policy. Anyone can submit their book, whereupon a committee decides if they consider it an art book or not and whether it will join the mind-boggling collection of thousands of art books on Printed Matter?s shelves.

I picked up book after surprising book by artists I hadn?t heard of, including a minimalist poet, a Dada-inspired mail artist and a lesbian collective who paper neighborhoods with posters full of provocative self-identifiers. I opened a couple of the books and had that odd experience of seeing an image reproduced from a dream I just had, or of reading a line of poetry that echoed the exact sentiment running through my brain on the subway ride downtown.

For example, I had been walking through New York for days thinking that I kept seeing people I knew. As if parallel universe doppelgangers of my eighty-four year old neighbor and my old boss and my first boyfriend were all hanging around in Central Park. Then I happened upon a book in Printed Matter called New York: Everything Reminds Me of Something, a book of photographs by Sissa Marquardt and Markus Schmolz. It?s a gorgeous little gem that I decided to add to the weight of my suitcase.

The other serendipitous aspect of my browsing experience involves the psychotic shrine I mentioned, which is actually an art installation called Hungry for Death. It showcases the work of the band Destroy All Monsters, a Michigan collective consisting of Cary Loren, Niagra, Jim Shaw and Mike Kelley among others. I happen to live two houses away from the warehouse that serves as Mike Kelley?s studio. We bought the DVD of his film Day is Done.


As I was purchasing my treasures, I admired a little round book bound all the way around with a spiral binding. It was entitled Boundless, which is a good word to describe Printed Matter as well.

Green is Cool and Quiet-Like


I’m inspired by Margaret Atwood’s attempts to stay environmentally conscious during the book tour for her new book The Year of the Flood. I’m following her blog about her efforts and hope to mirror them to some extent.

I left a comment on her blog, attempting to turn her on to Mt. Hagen instant organic coffee. It’s a road necessity. We’re obsessed with it. We even started drinking it at home. I’m expecting an email from her any day…

Dear Jillian,

Thanks so much for your coffee suggestion. You are clearly a brilliant and fascinating individual. Perhaps you’d like to join me for a cup when I pass through in Los Angeles, during which time we can trade all kinds of environmentally friendly touring tips.

Your new best friend,

In preparation for my imminent meeting with the great Ms. Atwood, I’m on a crusade to get everyone around here drinking out of aluminum water bottles. Scott and I drink tap water rather than waste a billion little plastic bottles every night. Yes, tap water. The baby drinks it, too. And we bring our own shopping totes. They have the cutest little Weezer totes this tour. I swiped one for myself last night.

Tour Day 7: We Heart New York


This used to be my town, but leave New York and it leaves you behind so quickly. I don’t know what restaurants to go to or where to shop or where the nearest subway stops are anymore. At the end of the day, I prefer my garden and my house and my slow, sunshiney LA life, but I still always feel a sense of longing when I arrive in New York. There’s something about the pace of the sidewalks here that feels like home to me.


I thought that Tariku would probably like it here, but I didn’t quite anticipate the depth of his passion. Our hotel is four blocks from the park and we’ve been spending hours there every afternoon. He pretty much thinks he’s entered paradise on earth. Horsies, buses, airplanes, flowers, swingsets, boats, fountains, the zoo, a giant meadow, hot dogs, street musicians, break dancers, a sketchy guy making giant bubbles with a rope contraption and a bucket of detergent…the list goes on. Each of these delights could alone fill an entire afternoon. But a place with all of them? I’m sure he wonders why I’ve been holding out on him for so long.


We’re not going to all of the New York area shows because the drives are a little long for T without a bus. I’m also scrambling to get some work done in a town where I know people and I can get a babysitter for a couple of hours. After we get on the bus on Sunday, writing is going to be a whole new kind of challenge. But we had a fab time at the PNC Bank Center show last night. Jersey is my home state, so Grandma and Grandpa came to the show. They were definitely the only senior citizens sitting in the first ten rows, but they’re old pros at this now. My mother actually called afterwards to offer some lighting suggestions.

I didn’t get great pictures. Try taking pictures while keeping a squirming baby from ripping off his headphones. I did get this one from the dressing room…


Current tour reading selection:

The time demands of motherhood have made me a greater short story enthusiast. In my spare moments, I’m reading Mary Gaitskill’s Don’t Cry. I feel about her work the way Tariku feels about Central Park.

Tour Day 3: Toronto Trauma


Toronto is all shiny silver beams and wide blue sky. It feels modern and wind-blown and clean. And I knew that it’s supposed to be so international and all that, but I was still surprised when nearly every single person with whom we came into contact had a different foreign accent. We met some lovely Jamaican vegans at an outdoor market and they fed us the best curried hummus I ever ate. We also met people from Australia, Russia, Romania, England, Thailand and Kenya.

Another Canadian curiosity (and I say this as a rabid devotee of Paris): super-friendly people with French accents. Brian lost his phone on the plane and they RETURNED it, to our HOTEL. Merci, indeed.


We were in Toronto for a few days, so Scott and T-Bone and I got to do some sightseeing. We wandered the harbourfront and caught a couple of songs by a world-beat kind of band. T danced a little bit, but really, all he wanted to do was watch the airplanes take off over the water. His is a world of airplanes. It doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re doing.

Q: Tariku, do you see that boat?
A: AIRPLANE!!! (insert airplane noise and point at the sky)
Q: Tariku, do you see that horsie?
A: AIRPLANE!!! (you know what to do)

By the time we showed up at the CN tower, the line was an hour long. So Scott and T ate hotdogs, then Scott left for rehearsal and T and I cruised Queen Street by ourselves for a couple of hours. In between the hand-painted clothing boutique and the record shop, we met the friendliest nun, wearing the whole old-school penguin habit. That’s like saying I went down to Melrose and met a nun. Anyway, I was glad that T seems to like just walking around and people watching as much as I do. T is outrageously popular with the ladies, nuns and all. For a small fee, I’m willing to loan him out for walks to any single male friends who are looking for a date.


Then we got in the van and went to the show. Ah, the rock show. T has been to them before and loved them, so I wasn’t anticipating any trouble. I anticipated wrong. He was fine for the first hour or so. All the Blink guys have their kids along, so there’s a big play room set up at the venues. I met Mark’s smoking hot wife and their son and then…

(a side note – I think I’m going to have to bust out some serious shoes if I’m going to keep up with these ladies)

.. and then T was playing with the other kids and having a good ol’ time, when suddenly things went south. Way south. Like three hours of uninterrupted hysterics kind of south.

I did everything. I walked him around the parking lot. I brought him to listen to the music. I took him away from the music. I tried to feed him. I tried to give him milk. I gave him homeopathics. I busted out the big Orajel and Motrin guns. I sang to him. Concerned security guards were bringing us stuffed Toronto Bluejays bears and glow-in-the-dark yo-yos. I abandoned ship and took him back to the hotel. Still he screamed like someone was ripping his toenails out.

We still don’t know if it was his teeth or if, in fact, his toenail was getting ripped out. He has one toenail that’s falling off after a particularly nasty stub, and it might have gotten wedged wrong in his sandal. That’s my best guess. Though I would have thought he would have least been pointing at his toe, if that was the case. He finally exhausted himself and went to sleep. I was traumatized. Though he woke up just fine and very excited to go to the airport and see the AIRPLANES.

I hear the show went great. I have a tradition of taking a picture of the outside of every venue we’re at, so at least I got this one picture.


Kickin’ it Family Style


Here’s the Toronto skyline from across the harbor. While Scott was rehearsing last night, T and I took a walk to the water, where we sat and watched the birds. T does a spookily realistic imitation of a seagull.

We’re both looking forward to the big rock show tonight. I hope he keeps his earphones on.

On another note…my friends Brandy and Susan, a sassy two-mommy team, started a website called The Next Family. They describe it in the following way:

“The Next Family is a diverse community where modern families meet. It is the start of an on-going open minded and sincere dialog between urbanite families, adoptive families, in vitro parents, interracial families, same sex parents, single parents and so on. It is a way to remind people that the Next Generation of families already exists in larger numbers than the old model of a ‘family unit’.”

Among other blogs, they’re featuring my posts about our experiences in Africa and beyond. If you’re interested in alternative family structures, check them out.

Day 1: La Fete Commence


We’re officially in motion. Off to Toronto, the first stop of the 2009 Weezer tour.

This time the pre-tour chaos was worse than usual, as we were plagued by computer poltergeists and sharp new baby teeth. When traveling, I’ve always loved the moment that the plane leaves the ground and anything I left behind is gone and forgotten. Because I hate packing. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. I hate packing with a baby even more. But I love to travel. And I love to go on tour. So pack I do, and often.

Tariku is crazy about airports and airplanes, so the only real challenge was the boredom in between take-off and landing. Some of it was spent just gazing out the window. I wonder what Tariku thinks when he looks out at the clouds from above. He kept saying “sky” and “blue” and “airplane,” so he understood that we were up in the air, but was it more magical to him than the wonders of staring at the ceiling fan? Is everything equally magical when the world is so new?

I have no idea what the road will have in store for us with Tariku along. Tour has always been such a fun and selfish time for me, with no obligations other than showing up at lobby call and putting on a pair of nice shoes for the show every once in a while. I could hole up in the back of the bus and write whenever I wanted. I could just wander the streets of foreign cities and get a latte while everyone else worked their tails off. Now, I’m on the job, too. Raising a future rock star is a big responsibility.

Here he is with Animal, his favorite buddy. I tell him that it was given to Scott by the actual Animal, which is the truth. Scott got the doll on the set of the “Keep Fishin'” video, in which the guys co-starred with the Muppets. How awesome is that?


Preserving my Sanity


We have two beautiful old fig trees. I love to lie under them and look up at the sky through their leaves. This year I scrambled to do something with the figs before we left for tour. I made fig preserves and fig bread and gave bushels of figs to the neighbors and I still barely made a dent, but I did my best.

I woke at six and canned the fig preserves while I waited for the Fedex man to show up with my edits for the manuscript. It’s been an anxious and emotional time, and though I’m no great cook or gardener, I feel that my attempts at both this summer have helped to keep me grounded. That and the endless help I get from my man and my friends. Someone’s got to chase the baby around while the preserves are simmering.

This is the recipe I used. I love that it’s a hundred years old and I love that it’s simple. I shortened the time that the figs sat in the sugar and I added some pectin while it was in the pot to help it set. Is that cheating? We ate the preserves on English muffins and over vanilla ice cream and they were heavenly.

By the way, if you’re on my holiday gift list, you now know what you’re getting.

100-Year-Old Fig Preserves
Mrs. Lillian Levis
134 Hermine, San Antonio, Texas

5 pounds peeled figs
5 pounds sugar
1 lemon sliced

Peel and quarter figs, add sugar and sliced lemon. Let stand two or three hours to draw juice, stir now and then to help dissolve sugar.

When sugar has softened, start cooking. Let come to a rolling boil. Boil 25-30 minutes, stirring constantly so liquid doesn’t stick to bottom of pot.

After foam disappears and juice has thickened a little, ladle into hot jars and seal.

Jersey Girl Makes Good


We took Tariku to my parents’ house in Jersey last week because my brother David was in town from Israel with his six-year-old son. David is Hasidic, so the two boys live in different galaxies, but it didn’t seem to matter. They were so sweet together, batting around a beach ball and screaming in the pool. Don’t they look like they’re planning to take over the world in this picture? I’m skeptical sometimes that T will be able to maintain any kind of relationship with his cousin, but that’s an assumption formed from my own anger at religious extremism. Children have a way of discarding all of those obstacles in the name of a good splashing match.


T also had a reunion with Eliyashu, one of his old friends from the care center in Ethiopia. Eliyashu’s mommy Nehama, a rabbinical student and an extremely rad lady, performed a little Hebrew naming ceremony in our backyard. T’s Hebrew name is Sippur Ya’akov, after my grandmother and grandfather. Sippur means “story” in Hebrew, as Tariku means “history” or “my story” in Amharic. Indeed, he has a big story already for such a little guy. Check out his awesome kippah, handmade by grandma.


T was his ever-awake self on the airplane and slept a total of an hour on both flights combined, but he has a Gypsy soul (Gypsy soul, Ethiopian blood, Pagan parents, Hebrew name) and loves to be on the move, so at least he was cheery. His eyes were saucers as we lifted off the ground. He kept looking at me like: are you seeing this!? He says “airplane” at least sixty-three times a day now.


Have I Mentioned That I Want Chickens?



I’m lucky enough to have an incredibly talented friend like Austin Young to shoot my author photo. He’s dreamy. And so tall and handsome, too. And he has pet chickens. The first picture is me with Austin, Trevor Wayne and the chickens. The second is me with Raina Antle (a hairdresser I befriended and stole from the band at the last video shoot) and Helen the chicken.

Trevor was modeling for the cover of Frontiers after I left. For his shoot, he wore a Louis Vuitton jock strap with suspenders. We arm wrestled to decide who would get to wear it, but he won. Damn him.

When I got home, I launched into my trillionth campaign to get Scott to let me have chickens. The verdict: no way, no how, no chickens. No chickens. No chickens. No chickens. Then he proposed building an Ultimate Fighting octagon in the backyard instead.

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