A Stringed Cheese Incident Report

Where does one even begin to describe the greatest place on earth?  You don’t… you just GO.  It’s like Burning Man, or Paris… there is no explanation, you just have to experience.  The culture.  The notion.  The “Vibe”.

I’ve seen a lot of musicality in my lifetime, but nothing has compared to The String Cheese Incident at Red Rocks last weekend.  Shall we take a look?

Everybody said “you will love it”… everybody said “it will be amazing”.  I knew it going in, with my heart already in love with Colorado for many years, and the red rock of the earth striking me so comfortable.

I fell in love with Cheese years ago.  I remember my friend in high school telling me, “Dude you gotta check out this band” but it wasn’t until Wakarusa 2005 that they really spiked my curiosity.  “Why is everybody hula-hooping, geesuz?”, is what I was really thinking.

But they grew on me, as all things we love do, and I found myself at a Big Summer Classic at camp Zoe in 2007.  The hula-hoop thing clicked, many of us began our  spinning journeys, and the cheese was ON.
Fast forward to July 26th, 2015, Red Rocks Amphitheater, the vibe had never been so ecstatic, dare I say?
For starter, the googly-eyes I put on my friend were epic.
Leonard, the hand puppet made several appearances:
And the cheese grins were FULL BLAST.
EVERYBODY was smiling.  The crowd was amazing.  It didn’t matter if you were standing next to your best friend, your lover or a stranger, we all celebrated as though we had known each other for years.  It is truly a showcase of the best aspects of a tribe mentality, coming together to celebrate life.

I cried three times during Nahko & Medicine for the People.  THREE TIMES!  And then he busted out an “I Like the Way You Work It” cover and I about lost my dancing shoes right there.
And Cheese.  I get goosebumps when I think about their synergy.  These guys have been playing together since 1993, originally out of Crested Butte and Telluride.   The band got the name when in Bellevue Colorado in 1996, there was an incident when Michael broke a string. All members write original compositions and sing, but Nershi has written the bulk of the group’s original songs. These guys are SO talented on so many planes.  Michael Kang has an incredible voice and his violin, wow…  Michael Travis and Jason Haun (of the off-shoot EOTO) are incredible forces of nature.  And then there’s Kyle Hollingsworth.  Say it again, because his name is so sexy, KYLE HOLLINGSWORTH, who makes me want to start an I Heart Kyle Hollingsworth fan club.  Ok, sorry, sometimes I turn into a 12-year-old girl.

According to Wikipedia, Their music has elements of bluegrass sounds, as well as rockelectronicacalypsocountryfunkjazzLatinprogressive rockreggae, and occasional psychedelia.  These guys span everything from honky-tonk to new age dumpstuck funkadelic hip hop remixes holy cow! All with this very distinct sound, or twang, of cheese.  It’s electrifying!  It’s addictive.  It’s incomparable to anything else of it’s nature, and to be so profound at such an un-nostalgic level.

For me, I believe spirituality comes from a certain sense of nostalgia.  People are drawn to moments that stimulate something comfortable from your past, and the same works vice-versa for bad memories.  Things we are conditioned not to like in religion or spirituality often make us avoid that which doesn’t suit us.  That’s why when we hear our favorite song played, we get so excited.  We can sing along.  It feels good to know it and love it.  And while it’s easy to feel that way about say, The Rolling Stones or The Beatles, it’s harder for me to find it personally in modern day music.

Now I’ve been in love with Cheese for over 10 years now, so some would argue there is time for nostalgia to build up.  And it has.  The love for this band has grown larger than I could have imaged.  Their fans travel cross country to a ridiculous magnitude, to Winter Carnivals and Hulaween celebrations.  Into Electric Forrests and into the Rocks of Red.  It’s been quite a journey.

Over the years they have worked with several artists, collaborating with names like Skrillex, Talking Heads producer, Jerry Harrison, Jamie Janover, Leftover Salmon and more.  It’s an ongoing, ever-unfolding story of magic and tease, a little bit of attitude.  It’s Cheese.

I left Colorado on Sunday and bought a string cheese as the gas station. It made me smile.  Incidents are everywhere.  You just have to look for them and listen, heart open wide.  The song is clear.

Until next time, stay sweet,

Van’s Warped Tour 2015

I went in for the Kosha Dillz….and I came out a fan of many. I really didn’t know what to expect. I’ve heard about Warped Tour for years, and as a connoisseur of festival culture, I was truly blown away by the hoard of people who got off their asses on a Thursday in July to brave the heat at Sandstone.

Yes, we’re calling it Sandstone. End of discussion.


11 a.m. and the parking lot was almost as full as the sold out Dave concert weeks before. I’ve never seen so many young people, SO hot, and SO excited to be present. It was a rocker’s paradise. Every band had it’s own tent; every band you could go and shake hands with, and every band had a 30-60 minute time slot on one of the eight stages set up in Sandstone. Six of the eight stages took over a whole parking lot, and forgive me if you’ve been to Warped Tour before, but for those of us who have not, it’s quite a picture to paint.


Kosha Dillz kicked it off early on the Beatport stage, with more energy and hutzpah than any Jewish rapper I’ve ever seen. The Bar Mitzvah of his sidekick rapper Flex Matthews was a nice touch.  (For all you goy’s out there, a Bar Mitzvah is a BIG DEAL, and yes they did the hora)


The Carousel Kings were on point with an amazing lead singer and superb crowd interaction.


Phosphene’s hot front girl really stood out, even with her backing tracks underneath!

KooKoo Kanga Roo has an amazing song about fanny packs…

IMG_7435Riff Raff was in the HOUSE! (yay)

Even the comedy tent was hoppin’ … Grant Cotter blew me away.

You can scope the full lineup of artists here: http://vanswarpedtour.com/bands

It was truly a unique festival experience. Every performer there was hustling, HARD… to get people to their show (with signs and promo featuring the time and location of their show), hustling to get people to buy merch afterwards, to take stickers, to be friends with and build up their fan base.

The whole production clearly took effort, from the volunteers, to the vast array of merchandise, sound and stage production, vendors and info booths galore… everybody there was COMMITTED and in for the long haul. (Well, except me, I came, I saw, then I got the hell out of there and came back to the AC to write this blog post… which is why some people actually get paid to do this shit… it’s hard work being out there all day!)


All in all, well done Warped Tour. Ya’ll actually had your act together, which for a rocking shit-show, can be hard to do. I for one was impressed, and with a little planning, hope to be back next year on your lineup!

MissConception, reporting live from Kansas City #WarpedTour2015

P.S. Moral of the day: “The Dream Doesn’t Chase Itself”

Go get it.



Missed Perceptions

I might come off as a person who has a lot too say (shocker), but when it comes to overly opinionated topics on Facebook, I tend to steer clear for the sake of brevity.  Who has time to read a 103 comment thread?  Not me.  And I let it go….

I usually opt out of saying anything on these seemingly important subjects…my reasoning: surely somebody is already said what I’m thinking/feeling.  I’m no expert. Why add to the clutter?  I just let others do the talking, and I pay attention.  I think about whether or not I agree or disagree.  What I would say and why.  And I stay silent.  The last thing I want to do is create another argument.

Ferguson.  Politics.  The newly founded gay marriage right.   It really is SO MUCH.  Meaning, there is SO much information out there, that I often feel that our opinions can just gets in the way of the truth.  For starters, research should be done OFF of Facebook if we are going to be real, and not based off of our news feeds.  But the reality is, we live in a world where Facebook is where we get most of our news for the day, so we might as well take advantage of it, right?

As a make-shift hip hop artist in Kansas City, I have often been accused of “not taking a stance, not paying attention, not respecting the roots of hip hop”, and this feedback I have taken very personally.  I could not disagree more about my intentions, but if other’s are thinking it, it is good to be aware of these seemingly missed perceptions.

“I want to write a song about the ’situation’, and really say something,” comes to my mind.  But how?  Where do you even begin to cover the travesties and transgressions happening in this country and on this planet?  How does one even BEGIN to impact this HUGE essential dilemma we have found ourselves in?  With a  Facebook post?


I’m watching people have these all out digital fist fights via social media, to try and prove THEIR point; to FORCE FEED what they think is correct, and while I have absolutely admire the desire and drive to push it out so bluntly, I have also chosen to choose my words carefully.  Largely because of this cartoon.
Humans, at their prime.  Misconceptions abound.

I do believe we are progressing; the call for gay marriage legalized nationally is a huge step in a right direction.  And I have very much started to see conversations emerge between the two sides, that actually do seem to be paving a way for some sense of understanding.

Just the other day I saw a man post an angry status about the legalization of marriage for all, and I pointed out that he didn’t have any likes or comments.  He yelled at me.  Other people yelled at him.  I finally asked him “what happened to you when you were younger that is causing such anger?” and he admitted online that he had been raped by a gay man at a young age and therefore hated all gays.  While I was sorry it took a Facebook thread posted in anger to coax that out of him, this realization was HUGE in his evolution of understanding why he feels that way and in helping OTHERS understand why people are indeed so angry at so many issues.  We never really know the full story, unless we ASK.  I tried to have compassion for the man. God knows, he needed it.

The moral of this blog, is that there are two sides to every coin, 6 edges on a dice and always a club to join.  Until we all individually able to truly attempt to accept multiple sides of the whole picture, we will continue to argue and fight and, yes, hopefully, seek clarity on these controversial topics.

Maybe I don’t have a song written explicitly about the horrific acts of Ferguson, or so many other stories that have exploded as of late, but the album I just put out is fueled with controversy, contemplation and oxymoronic metaphor that only someone truly paying attention might catch.  You may not get it, you may not like it… but you also don’t have to listen to it.  Maybe some day, it will make sense.

Until then, let’s make a pact? I will try my BEST to not judge you for believing in what I view is the impossible, and you try and not judge me for believing in magic, eh?  But at least, let’s have the nerve to ask each other “WHY do you believe that?” because only then will the conversation truly have any purpose.

And for the love of god, if you want somebody to hear a message, keep it short, keep it sweet and keep it HONEST.

One of these days I’ll start taking my own advice with brevity.

Until next time, please, keep asking the art questions…


The Ups and Downs of Dating

We’ve all been there.  Brokenhearted.  Dumped.  Or the dumpeè.  Single.  Looking around at these pools of fish asking ourselves… “Am I ready to take the plunge?  Ready to jump back into “The Game” of all games.  The love connection.  Am  I ready to be honest?  To be vulnerable.  To be possibly shattered?  To give up my freedom.  To give up my side of the bed.  Am I ready to snuggle?  To make plans.  Ready to listen to him snore.  Ready to learn more.  Am I ready to go it not alone?”

A wise women I know said: “Focus instead on all the reasons it’s so great not having drama in your space. How nice it is to be able to spread out in your soft and cozy bed. How you don’t have to answer or perform for someone you want to get rid of. Enjoy each moment where ever you are. It’s about acceptance in what is. It’s the only way to find happiness and to find someone who also knows how to find their own happiness.”  And I get that you HAVE to do you and love you and own you before you can love someone else, of course…. but I’m sorry I’m not sorry that I can’t help feeling like a kid in a candy store… and yes, I’m STARVING.

Really, I was ready to start dating before I even broke up with my last serious relationship.  Don’t get me wrong, I was madly in love with Him.  I thought he was THE ONE.  I wanted “him” to propose and get married and have babies and all that jazz, and I would have done it in a heartbeat if it hadn’t gone so sour.  I truly did forget what it was like to be treated like a woman, but even before his chemical-induced infidelity kicked in, we were introduced to the poly scene.  Some of our friends were doing it.  They had healthy relationships and seemed to enjoy the company of themselves and of others very much so.  And it seemed… admirable.  I for one have never had much time to juggle one relationship with the rest of my lifestyle, let alone multiple ones, so I/we never considered it. (I mean we were open to a three-some, but you can’t plan those, if they are to be done right. #factsstraight)  Moving on….

“Dating is like test driving cars, you never know for sure if you really like one till you buy it”… – Drew   And sometimes, you sell it.. or you’re just renting, or stay only for a few nights.  That’s where dating is at for me right now.  When I was in my past relationship I thought about what it would be like to be with the same person for the rest of my life, and while that idea was romantic, it was also a little constricting. And then, all of a sudden, I found myself single, like so many before me, and actually very ready to mingle.  And mingle I have!  I am 30-years-old and for the first time in my life I am actually DATING, and it’s incredible!  I’m not sure if I just took it for granted in my past relationships (backstory: I was never really in a with-standing relationship at all until I was 23, and since then I’ve been in a handful of relationship back to back), so being single as a “woman” in 2015 is a very new thing and at 30, and I’m taking my freedom very seriously.   What they don’t tell you in “The Horrors of Dating for Dummies” is that being taken to dinner, is FABULOUS!   Better yet, asking a guy out is even MORE fabulous (yes, I have no shame… who has time to waste really?)

I’ve gone out maybe five times in the last week (I apologize if you are one of the men I am seeing and you are finding this out via my blog post)… that being said, I am truly blown away by the quality of gentlemen I have experienced over the last month.  For the record, no I’m not a whore, no I’m not sleeping with ANYBODY at all, which is sort of an odd twist to this whole dating scheme… but that’s for another blog post.  I’ve become fascinated with the art of dating!  Putting yourself out there.  Being vulnerable and awkward and the mysteries of not really knowing how it’s all going to end up breaths excitement into my life.    Which got me to thinking of all the different types of relationships and ways people approach this phenomenon.  So, I took a very un-quantitative poll on my Facebook feed over how people feel about dating, and the highest response I received was that people are truly avoiding dating.  Hard.  Largely because of past trama, or anticipation of future drama.  Too many broken hearts. Some people have been single for 5 or 10 years and aren’t trying, which blows my mind.  (I’ve always been a sucker for a crush)  I truly believe we were put on this earth to experience the PHYSICAL.  We can do the emotional or ethereal in our dreams, in the after life, in many forms… but physical touch and communication is a very precious and taken fore-granted past-time, which I refuse to give up.  Just because you’re doing YOU doesn’t mean you still can’t explore what’s out there.Just to be clear, I’m not super wrapped up in the lucidity of being taken out and doted on, but rather the idea of falling in love, to me personally, is just SO intriguing and so invigorating, I’m with the opinion that WE all have to go for it, as soon as possible, as much as possible, as many as possible, with as much love as possible before it’s too late!   That being said, the idea of being a polyamorist (yes I accidentally coined that term, for the sake and because of this blog) is becoming more and more appealing.  When I posed my blog research question online, I didn’t intend to focus on polyamory, but the responses certainly wanted that!  Everybody had something to say about it, good or bad, but mostly in defense of the lifestyle.

“Polyamory vs Fucked Up”
There really shouldn’t be anything wrong with cultivating as much love as possible.  Some ancient tribes fostered it.    It’s just a shame it’s so hard for us to detach emotionally today, because let’s face it, love can hurt.  Bad.  When it goes wrong.  More people can often equate to more emotions at play, and while I have seen it work out beautifully for others, I have also seen it blow up in many faces.  That’s the chance you take with love I suppose…

“I’ve been single for a while now. It’s working out pretty well. I think I might be the one.” – Jason Buck

I used to think being single was a curse.  I was terrified that I would never find someone.  But then I realized, it just means that you have OPTIONS!  This time around, being single is liberating as fuck!  Nobody to answer to.  Nobody to check in with.  And while yes, nobody to cuddle…. there’s also nobody’s mess to clean up.  It is a give and a take.  And it just makes that first real, good kiss that much more mind blowing.

Dating is also not without it’s liberatory advantages.  It’s empowering.  It’s daunting, but it’s rather rewarding.  Just having coffee with someone, or going to the zoo for an afternoon can be so engaging and enlightening.  You never know what you’re going to learn.  You never know if you’re even going to see this person again, and you don’t have to know that.  You don’t HAVE to make long term plans.    But for just one afternoon, your souls can connect, and go to a place nobody else will ever know.  And maybe it will last a lifetime.  Maybe not.

“As my beloved Aunt Dorothy said after being dumped by Uncle Marv who found another young lover, ‘There is a lot to be said for friendship and adventure.'”- Greg Patterson

Thanks Greg.  I get that dating can be depressing.  But maybe, if we really did tune into our own needs and taking care of ourselves, dating could be as invigorating as it used to be, because we aren’t necessarily relying on the other person to make us happy… we’re just simply having dinner and learning about one another!

Devon Taylor said: “I used to be polyamorous only between monogamous relationships… aside from one terrible open relationship that was toxic from the start. That said, after doing a lot more self-study I’m identifying as poly in a sense that I’m trying to avoid strictly monogamous relationships altogether now.”   Well there’s one way to go…. to each his own, and it sounds like quite a lifestyle.

I’ve personally always been a huge hopeful romantic.  One day he will just appear, and everything else will fall away, right?  But until then, I fully intend to take advantage of this newfound independence by dating as many people as I can.  And I will wait patiently to get laid until there is some damn chemistry, because without chemistry, there are no second dates.   Call it genetics.  Call it polyamory.  Call us ladies “whores” if you must to justify it, but only you know how open your own heart is, and good one’s intentions can be.  Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it.  And please, for love’s sake, I’m not judging your relationships, try not to judge mine.

“Not really sure if I can put myself in one category. Loving myself is first and foremost. Every personal relationship is different and I’m still trying to figure it all out. Honesty about what you want out of any relationship is the best path to success” – Justin  Torbol

Thank you all for your wisdom and patience.  Conversation creates understanding, and it is only until we are willing to talk openly with our hearts out on the table, that we will truly begin to grow as a society in the tide of love and peace.

Sincerely and Forever Yours,

Photo Credit: Seen Photography / Mollie Hull
Photo Credit: Seen Photography / Mollie Hull


Music Festivals

Waka Waka Wakarusa

Precursor: Accuracy of dates and information are as reliable as my memory.  Please forgive any inaccurate facts, as being ass-deep into this experience for 12 years leaves some room for misconceptions.

200px-Wakarusa I attended my first Wakarusa in 2004, when I was 18.  My friend told me to buy a ticket that some great bands would be there. I loved OAR and they were the headlinder, so it seemed like a reasonable experience.   When my parents dropped me off at my camp site, they almost didn’t let me get out of the car.  After having my eyes blown open to a culture I had known very little about, I told myself I would go every year if I could afford it, and that I would never look back.

The second year, I remember spending $79 on my ticket (I got the early bird special).  Wilco and Gov’t Mule were apparently a big deal?  Lawrence, KS never looked so good that summer going into sophomore year of KU.  Chipotle sponsored a food/music tent, and it was the greatest event known to man in my eyes.  Andrew Walker wore a red speedo with Trey Anastasio’s face and I spent most mornings on a fallen tree branch that hung out over Clinton Lake, thinking to myself “why couldn’t we live like this every day?  In some sort of village…. with our friends.  And great music.  And good food and art?”  I’m an idealist, what can I say…
2006 I joined the art team.  Terribly proud, we painted street signs and snarky reminders like “wear sunscreen” which hung all over the festival and promptly got stolen.  Lesson: Make art that is indestructible and that won’t walk off.  Meet me at the piano is a great example. Meet-Me-At-The-Piano-Wakarusa
That year I slept on top of my car because there was a spider in my tent.  The Flaming Lips were there, wearing orange hazmat suits and doing what appeared to be very silly, yet important work, all weekend.  My friend tried to buy me a hula hoop, but I said no.  Didn’t really look like my thing… I can tell you that Michael Franti  changed my life, though.
The 2007 lineup was fresh.  I took it upon myself to run the Wakanvas, a giant piece of plywood that was an open canvas for anybody who wanted to paint.  It was a lovely experience…these people worked on it all weekend and it was incredible.  I walked away for a short while on Saturday night and somebody covered the entire mural with black paint while I was out, ruining this amazing piece of art.  Lesson: Don’t leave important projects unattended.  Anything is possible at Wakarusa.
2008 I became an intern for Pipeline Productions, working for the Barrett brothers in Lawrence, KS. In 2009 I began  working on the street team, handing out fliers in Lawrence and KC in exchange for my ticket.  I was more than thrilled with this arrangement.  That was the year of C-mon and Kypsi.  Another story, for another time, but I think it’s safe to say that weekend still may have been the best weekend of my life, to this day.
Then the next year, everything changed.  The arrangements in Lawrence became heated. From what I understand, the police situation was getting a little outrageous, and the festival itself was damaging the National Park land of Clinton Lake.  The festival made a decision to move the event to Mulberry Mountain, outside of Fayettville, Arkansas, however at first, nobody trusted it.  In reality the magic was never lost.  The festival’s original name stemmed from the Wakarusa river in Kansas, from a native word literally meaning “ass-deep”.  Mulberry Mountain and the wacky nature of Wakarusa itself, never ceased to fulfill that title.
2010, The Black Crows headlined, and I’ve never seen a show like that again. STS9 was a staple at this point.  G Love.  Galactic. Yonder Mountain.  EOTO.  JJ Gray.  Everybody that was anybody was there.  I was thankful to be  there, in Arkansas, the year I FINALLY learned how to hula hoop…  and I wanted MORE.
Wakarusa allowed me bring a small team of fire spinners to help with the crowd entertainment.  We called ourselves, the Vibe Tribe.  Cicada Rhythms hosted a spoken word intermission featuring MissConception and Nightlife Jones.  It was a good year for artists.  That year Widespread Panic took the lead with Umphrey’s McGee, and Wookiefoot came on the scene.  Spoonfed Tribe met The Heavy Pets, and it was all smooth on the Waka front.
2011, the vibe came on strong, with Thievery Corporation and Mumford and Sons to name a few.  I worked the artist check-in that year, and while it felt like one small step for my kind, it was a tough position because I missed all the action!  I wanted to be out in the thick of it.  Not just experiencing the festival, but participating in it.  Creating it.  This experience gave me a huge appreciation for the people who run and work this festival, all of the volunteers and Pipeline Staff, who work endless to create this experience for us.  THANK YOU WAKARUSA for doing it right.
2012 Pipeline brought Primus and Girl Talk…. OMG!  What more do you need?  I upped my game by bringing a team of 30 people and we created an artistic village, with light up jelly fish puppets, workshops and costumes galore.  MissConception and the VibeTribe even had a set that year at the Satellite stage.  Maybe a highlight of my performance career. The year there were storms.  It was hard, on everyone.  But NOBODY was prepared for 2013.
“Muckarusa” was a very real experience.  Humbling.  If you’ve never tromped around in nine inches of mud for four days, you really haven’t lived on the edge. It doesn’t matter who was playing, half of it was cancelled.  I really only remember Snoop Lion bombing.  Nobody had fun.  Everybody was miserable. Nobody ever wanted to go back again.  Ever.  It was a low moment for the Waka crew.  But it only made us stronger.
I went back.  Those of us, who died hard the year before, we STILL went back.  I went back namely because of the shrine that was built for Toby Keith out of the broken tents and chairs when all of the shows were cancelled during the mud storms.  I went back because of the moment we were under Yosh’s geo dome and the tarp ripped off by the rain and we all scattered like ants for safety.  I went back because, how could it get ANY MORE insane, right?  I went back because that is the exact kind of wacky-waka spirit that was there since the beginning, and I couldn’t not see how it was all going to go down.
The only thing that could have saved 2014 was the String Cheese Incident… and by golly they did.  By the grace of the Gods and the String Cheese Incident, Wakarusa prevailed… It was the Greatest Show on Earth.  It was everything you would want in a festival and more.  It was home, again.  Bassnector, Wookiefoot, the Flaming Lips, Infected Mushroom, Edward Sharpe, John Butler, Claude Von Stroke, Nahko.  That 1 Guy.  It was BIG.  We were larger than life.
Proudly, as this year’s the 2015 Live Art Coordinator for the Wakarusa Music Festival, it is with my whole heart that I jump into this experience year after year…. knowing that there is no greater place on earth for my soul, than ass-deep amongst my best friends rockin’ out to Slightly Stoopid, spinning fire beneath those mountain stars – it’s EXACTLY where I need to be June 4-7th.  You buy the ticket, you take the ride, and you never know what you’re going to find…. but I find comfort in knowing that at Wakarusa, it’s going to be something interesting that leaves me begging for more. Wakarusa. “Where music meets mother nature”.  This year it is with deep gratitude that we bring to you not only more live painters and interactive art, with an emphasis on participation and circus entertainment, installations and also with a focus on leaving no trace.  You can attend a solar workshops.   Reusable and functional art are the goal.
  I look forward to making it to  Mulberry Mountain every year, and for many years to come.  Thank you Wakarusa community for sticking it out and making this so all so magical!  Until next year, you have my heart, Wakarusa.  You always will.
Unknown Love,

Still Jew-Ish

I am often presented with the imminent wonderings of… “hey…. you’re Jewish!  How does it feel!?! …. I’ve always wanted to take to a Jewish person about Judaism…I knew a Jew once….”

My response: “Awesome, I LOVE the Jews!  YES Let’s talk about  being Jewish… it’s.  It’s wonderful.  It’s everything.  It’s… I got nothing”

“So like… do you believe in heaven or hell?” is usually the next question I get.

My response: “Do you?”.

That being said… year’s ago, I asked MY Rabbi this eternal question of heaven and hell.  Earnestly. With my big eyes, looking at him, knowing rightfully so that I probably would have known that answer to that if I paid attention at Hebrew School.  He looked at me wistfully, and then handed me what must have been an 1,000-page book and said “I’ll answer you that question after you read this book”.
Really, there just wasn’t a simple answer.  There never is to a good question.
Judaism, simply put, in my view, is about choices.  Are you Reform, Conservative, Orthodox or Hasidic? (I’m Reform, the easy one).  Do you keep Kosher or not? (We didn’t).  Do you want to have a Bat Mitzvah of not? (I did, though my parents really didn’t care either way, mostly because they didn’t want to foot the bill, I speculate).  We were always frugal.  But always had plenty of money for what mattered.   Judaism taught us: Family First.  Always do acts lot loving kindness.  Be nice to your neighbors.  And really, I grew up being taught that God is everywhere, and God is you and me and this food and my clothes and it is all encompassing.  It is nothing.  (Ein Sof)
While there are at least two sides to every story, there are about a billion takes on this ONE collection of stories. It really all started with THE BIBLE, and us Jews specifically like to focus on the Old Testament, we call it the Torah.  The first five books of Moses.  But what about the other books, I always wondered?  I mean why these five, and some of the others, but not all of them?  Why did we go so wrong with Jesus? SO MANY QUESTIONS!!!
Welcome to the never-ending story….
So, I’m having lunch with my OTHER Rabbi just last week, and I ask her the same question, “do we believe in heaven and hell”? and the answer I got is “sorta, it’s complicated, do you?” and she then proceeded to break down even further about these ancient texts and books I wasn’t entirely aware of.
Enter: The Talmud. The Talmud is the central text of the Rabbis.   It’s a collection of stories and conversation had ABOUT the Torah.  It is composed of two parts, the Mishna, which are documentation of the oral instructions and teaching of the time when the Bible was written.  Gemara is the other part, which are writings of explanations that the old Rabbi’s marked as worth being printed, as to clarify what was being said in the Talmud.  Are you following me?  I’m barely there.
Being raised at a local Kansas City Reform synagogue, that I now just so happen to work at, I can safely tell you, I feel very confident and comfortable in my “Judaism”.  But it’s not something that I can entirely explain or even begin to translate, just what it is about Judaism that pulses so strong…that feels so good.  I do feel it.  Even though I don’t always acknowledge it. Then again, I think EVERYONE can feel the pulse, whether you are jewish or not, but you have to tap into the well, intentionally.
When I got the job working for the temple, MY Rabbi (who I had known since birth), asked me to house sit while he was out of town.  It was a lovely home, and I regret not spending more time there.  One quiet evening I came by to feed the fish, I walked up to his giant bookshelf and said “show me a book… give me my book”.  I reached up and pulled out without hesitating: “God is a Verb” by Rabbi David A Cooper.  “Kabbalah and the practice of mystical judaism”. “PERFECT!  I’d always wanted to study Kabbalah”, I thought to myself.
You’re supposed to be a 40 year old male to even consider studying the Kabbalah (which literally means: “To Receive”).   Some say Kabbalah can only be learned from a gifted teacher.  Others say it comes in the school of Ecstatic reality.  Some tap into the akashic records of universal everything.  God is everything.  You are everything.  If you can believe it’s possible, it just might be true.  But it’s up to…. you choose what you believe in.  What I’m saying is, I fell in love with this book, this concept of God being a Verb.
“Kabbalah is not a system, as some suppose.  Rather, it is an outlook, a way of perceiving the nature of reality In Essence, Kabbalah is founded upon mystical conceptions regarding life, death, creation, and creator.  it teaches us about the mysteries of life, how the creation works, where we are going, and how we get there.” – God is a Verb
God is an action.  It is how you treat people.  It is how you chose to live your life.  With kindness.  Dignity. (And maybe a hint of magic and wit).  While I will continue to read this book from start to finish over and over again, probably for the rest of my life, attempting to understand just a bit more each time, I have accepted that none of us will ever know the full true story until we are gone.  We can only enjoy the ride, and hope it’s entertaining enough to take care of yourself and live healthy, happy and holy.
My father, who is now an active member of a local orthodox synagogue here in KC, is rather devout, and there is so much pride in his prayer.  And why I love it, I don’t know that I could give my life to it.  I’ve thought about Rabbinical school, but it seems limiting.  I wish I could fit myself into the nice box of religious understanding, but it just doesn’t seem to work that way.  So I still say, “yes, I am jew-ish.  I can’t tell you a whole lot about it that makes much sense, but I can tell you what’s working for me.”  And why I may not entirely understand the weight I am carrying, I too will remain prideful and humble in my faith.
“I am he as you are he as you are me And we are all together”
-The Beatles
As if that wasn’t enough for you… Jew-Ish Spoken Word Piece:

Love All Ways,

I am an artist

I am an artist – an entertainer in every sense of the word.  I live for art.  Art is why I get out of bed most days.  And I don’t have a whole lot of say about it….  The impulse oozes out my pores and into my essence.  I get EXCITED about organizing my jewelry box.  Every thought becomes a plausible song lyric.  Every open mic an opportunity to be understood.  I live for craft day, okay, picking out my clothes every morning is an exciting opportunistic projection of expression.  Cooking dinner turns in to Instagram masterpieces, with a slight inkwell filter.  I have a tendency to turn my bedroom is a temple, with candles and sentimental shades of beauty. My bumper stickers have to say something.  I live to dance and I love to sing. Sing. SING!  Every moment is a chance to throw my hand up with a classy twist and a punch line (KISS) to wish you away on the ultimate ride. Tonight, I want to throw a party and invite everybody I know.  Get ‘em all in one room until they are best friends and forget to even call me when they throw their own parties.  When I do get invited, I’m on the guest list.  Because I am an artist.  In every sense of the title.  In every sense of the curse.  In ever sense of a blessing. I am an artist, and it’s the artist’s job, nay, DUTY, to preserve the past while creating the future, in a sense, providing comfort to those who do witness its glory.  Art is like God… not understandable.  not comprehendible.  not really tangible.  but still very powerful, if you chose to accept it and see it for what it is.  I often underestimate the artistic tendencies pulsing through my DNA, I just know that I have to express this…. this… this thing.  It’s art.  It’s, me.  And maybe you it’s you, too…. all of us, at different times in different ways get lucky and have something worthwhile to say.   And this really isn’t about luck.  This isn’t about entitlement.  This is not my ego screaming at your ego for telling me to sit down and shut up and listen (or don’t listen) to THIS or THAT Art, no… This is an infinite-way conversation ever-evolving composite of passion ready to erupt at any time.  This is not easy.  This is not profitable.  This isn’t an option.  The question is, do you have the time to share/care?  Because if not… my art will go fleetingly smooth into the night with all of the contributors who’ve come before and will ride again.  Should you chose to care, about this one artist, in one moment, creating this one memory, choose to remember this:

Art, is possibly the only thing that will be left when we are gone.  Let it legacize yourself, and to each his own, with honor.   And don’t forget to do it with a smile… because the show will go on.  Question is, would you rather be in the audience or on stage?