If you want to really know me, listen to this interview. The big question for me in this lifetime is, “Does everything matter or does nothing matter?” A few months ago, I gave the most personal interview I’ve ever done. My friend, mentor, and storytelling hero, John Bucher, introduced me to Josh Chambers and Leiv Parton, hosts and producer of the podcast, How Humans Change. My interview is now live. our wide-ranging conversation includes career, science, sustainability, the health of the planet, biomimicry, dinosaurs, product development, therapy, curiosity, change, the economy and capitalism, time, technology, work, culture, implicit bias, life-changing moments, storytelling, writing, poverty, trauma, writing, my book, mental health, strength, resilience, therapy, fear, courage, my apartment building fire, how my plane got struck by lightning, and so much more. Despite these dark topics, there is a lot of light, fun, laughter, and healing in this interview. It’s the most personal interview I’ve ever given, and some of the details I reveal about my personal path and past I have never discussed publicly before now. I hope you enjoy the podcast episode and that it inspires you to live the best life you can imagine.
In my early 20s while I was working in theater management, I had the great privilege to travel all over the U.S. and Canada with different tours. I was always amazed by the beauty, history, and culture of the restored spaces where we played, and those experiences began my interest in historic preservation. Now whenever I travel to a new city (or even around cities I know well), you can find me looking up and building facades and examining the internal architecture that makes buildings so unique. It’s one of the things I love so much about New York City; the variation in architecture there is endless!
I decided to get a little bit more serious about this interest and enrolled in an online class called The Architectural Imagination. It’s being offered on the edX platform by four professors of architecture at Harvard and it’s free. If architecture and historic preservation is something you’re interested in, too, sign up and we can go through it together!
More info on the class here: https://www.edx.org/course/architectural-imagination-harvardx-gsd1x#!
“Why would you do that? You’re not black.” This is what someone said to me when I told them I made a donation to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Thanks to Lonnie Bunch, the founding director of the museum, I had an answer. I made a donation because the history that it commemorates and celebrates is America’s story.In history, we are all united, and that’s how I’d like us to be in the world, too. If you make a donation of any size today, Hyundai will match your donation dollar for dollar up to $500,000 as part of the museum’s campaign called Giving Day.
The museum’s stories can teach something to everyone who takes the time to listen to them. Some of the lessons are horrible and painful, and some of them are joyful and inspiring. That’s life—it’s beautiful and terrible in equal amounts. I am humbled by what the staff members of the museum, and so many others who came before them, have done to assemble this treasure of a museum in the city that I now proudly call home. I can’t wait to see it and I’m so glad to be able to support its message of hope. It’s a message we all need. #GiveNMAAHC
On a crowded corner of Plaza Vieja in Old Havana, you’ll find the best ice cream you’ve ever had. Coco Glace is nothing more than coconut milk, coconut water, and pieces of coconut served in a half coconut shell and it’s incredible. I devoured it with my new friends on our last day in Cuba under a brutal sun and sky-high humidity.
Alex, the maker of Coco Glace, is pleased to tell you that he loves Madonna and Beyoncé, hates Taylor Swift, loves America, hates Chris Brown, loves being gay, and will see you on Broadway as soon as he sells enough Coco Glace to get himself out of Cuba. He calls himself the Beyoncé of ice cream, and in my humble opinion he isn’t exaggerating. Coco Glace is incredible. I’ve been dreaming about it ever since eating that first marvelous spoonful.
Cuba was full of simple pleasures like Coco Glace. Nothing there is extravagant, but it’s honest, pure, and real. There are no additives – in the food, in the people, or in their way of life. There are no pretenses. People and things are exactly what they appear to be, and in this day and age that is a triumph.
After finishing my ice cream, I made my way back to Alex and told him how amazing his ice cream is.
“Mami, ju don’t know how happy you just made me,” said Alex. I love ju. I love America. I’ll see you there soon! Look for me. Tell Beyoncé!” I just smiled and said I would. So Beyoncé, consider yourself told that you have a Cuban compatriot who puts on a show for all his customers and he is fabulous.
I hope someday I’m strolling down the Great White Way and that I look up and see Alex’s joyful smile and unapologetic moxie plastered all over a giant marquee. And I hope Coco Glace is one of the many things we exchange with our Cuban neighbors. Maybe Beyoncé could make both those dreams come true.
“If you want to understand what’s happening today, find out what happened 150 years ago. If people had the courage to live that history, the least I can do is read about it.” ~Rhiannon Giddens
Last night I went to see and hear Rhiannon Giddens, Layla McCalla, and Bhi Bhiman perform at Lisner Auditorium in a performance they called Swimming in Dark Waters: Other Voices of the American Experience. While work songs and spirituals have been songs of protest and freedom, Rhiannon explained that they wanted to travel a different musical road last night. They wanted to use a mashup of folk, classical, and pop to tell a story of struggle, personal power, love, change, and hope. It was an incredibly powerful performance. Their voices, music, and message were so concentrated that they pierced the hearts and minds of the packed house.
All of the songs were rooted in culture, history, and art, and for me that was the message I needed. History is a potent tool. It can help us make sense of what’s happening around us now, and inform the decisions we make going forward. I left the concert feeling both whole and heartbroken, sad and joyful, determined and dreamy. And that’s the magic of music – it can make us feel so much all at once and then help us to reconcile the internal and external difference.
This week I’m going to start a 3-week audio storytelling class and I’ve been thinking about different ideas for a podcast project.
I’ve been getting to know the many sides and faces of the D.C. cultural scene in all of its beautiful forms. Though D.C. is largely known for government and politics, there is a very rich creative scene that exists here and it’s constantly growing. I’m thinking about some ways to be a part of this community and to promote its many talents.
I’m excited to see where this leads.
For the past couple of months, I’ve been exploring D.C.’s cultural side. Through a wide variety of newsletters, blogs, Twitter feeds, Meetup groups, and random findings, I’ve managed to turn up some fantastic experiences and meet great people along the way. A few friends recently asked me how I learn about these events and places so I decided to try out a weekly feature on this blog on Fridays that captures cool things happening in D.C. in the week ahead. I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a Meetup group, too. Please join me at any of these activities and share with people whom you think might be interested!
The week ahead:
Labor Day weekend is a busy one as we try to squeeze out our last drops of summer fun!
First Friday in Dupont
I’ve enjoyed First Fridays in many cities around the country and I’m excited to learn that D.C. has one, too. The art galleries in and around Dupont Circle have extended hours on the first Friday of every month. Get inspired by the event “Where Art Comes Alive in D.C.”
Kennedy Center Page-to-Stage
The Kennedy Center hosts more than 50 D.C.-area theater companies in a series of free readings and open rehearsals of plays and musicals being prepared for Washington premieres in the 2015–2016 theater season.
Free museums with Bank of America card
A lot of museums in D.C. are free but the ones that aren’t can be a little pricey. If you’re a BOA customer, your debit card can get you into some museums for free on the first full weekend of every month. Check with the museum just to make sure they’re honoring it when you want to go. This weekend I’ll be hitting the amazing Newseum!
Yoga at U.S. Botanic Garden
The US Botanical Garden has graciously invited WithLoveDC to continue our amazing community yoga classes through Setpember and October! Bring your mat, your water bottle, your smile, and an open heart as we join together every Saturday from 10:30-11:30am to flow, smile, and sweat (a little bit).
The National Book Festival
The 15th Library of Congress National Book Festival will take place Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015, and feature more than 170 authors, poets, illustrators and special presenters. To mark this anniversary, as well as the the 200th anniversary of the Library’s acquisition of Thomas Jefferson’s personal library, the festival has as its theme Jefferson’s quote, “I Cannot Live Without Books.”
The Lamont Street Collective Bi-annual Salon de Libertad
The Lamont Street Collective is hosting its bi-annual Salon de Libertad – an all day salon-style art show where every inch of our house is covered in the work of local artists. The events will feature live performance art, music, workshops, 2D/3D art, and activities for kids. We want to celebrate the wonders of our local artists here in DC, and open our home to communities across the District.
Paint Nite at Crios
You buy a ticket and create a work of art in a fun, vibrant atmosphere. Guided by a master painter, all participants leave with a beautiful work of art that they created themselves.
Happy Hour at the Hirshhorn
The Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden is offering Happy Hour at the Hirshhorn, in collaboration with “SMITHSONIAN at 8,” every Monday, Aug. 10–Sept. 14, 5 p.m.–8:30 p.m. Galleries will be open late, so visitors can view exhibitions such as “Shirin Neshat: Facing History” and “At the Hub of Things: New Views of the Collection.” Admission is free, and there is a cash bar, operated by Tortoise and Hare Bar and Grille. Last call to enter the galleries and to order drinks is 8 p.m.
Woolly Mammoth Pay What You Can performance
Woolly offers Pay What You Can tickets for the first two performances (usually Monday and Tuesday) of every production. The season opens on Labor Day with a new play entitled Women Laughing Alone with Salad staring a D.C. favorite performer, Kimberly Gilbert. There is a second PWYC performance of this show on Tuesday, 9/8/15.
Author Joyce Carol Oates at Politics and Prose
In A Widow’s Story Oates gave a powerful and moving account of her husband’s sudden death and how the loss led her to fresh perspectives on life. In her new memoir, the award-winning writer and Princeton professor of the humanities jumps farther back in time, chronicling her childhood and adolescence in rural western New York. An avid storyteller even then, Oates credits Alice in Wonderland with inspiring her to find adventures in everything, and she remains true to that spirit, bringing to life family and friends (which include a chicken) and reflecting on hard work.
Glen’s Garden Market behind-the-scenes tour by Knowledge Commons
Go backstage at Glen’s Garden Market, an all-local grocery, deli, and craft-beer bar in Dupont Circle. You’ll see the kitchen and back-of-house operations, and talk with owner Danielle Vogel about opening and operating the mission-driven store, which launched more than 35 food vendors in its first two and a half years.
Mortified – A storytelling event at Town
Experience a night of adults sharing the embarrassing things they created as kids– in front of total strangers. Doors open 1 hour prior to showtime.
Rorschach Theatre presents Truth & Beauty Bombs: A Softer World at Atlas. Pay What You Can performance.
Somewhere, not far from here, there’s a place where we can touch the clouds and all the monsters are real. Based on the web comic by Emily Horne and Joey Comeau, this softer world explodes with brutal honesty and dark wit. As a photographer goes blind, he sets out to capture as much of the world as he can. Through his lens he discovers laundromats that eat hope, cameras that capture souls and a love that just won’t die. Created and directed by Jenny McConnell Frederick and written by Randy Baker, Norman Allen, Heather McDonald, Shawn Northip, and Alexandra Petri.
Pay-What-You-Can (PWYC) tickets are only available at the door, or by phone at 202.399.7993 ext. 2.
Friday, September 4, 2015 at 8:00pm
Saturday, September 5, 2015 at 8:00pm
Sunday, September 6, 2015 at 3:00pm
Thursday, September 10, 2015 at 8:00pm
Friday, September 11, 2015 at 8:00pm
Enjoy the long holiday weekend and get your fair share of culture in D.C.!