I flew into Denver a week before the Conference on World Affairs began, 'cause if I'm traveling - I'm gigging. I had a couple of rehearsals with the boys in the Boulder band that Lisa Bell and I had put together for a gig just before The Conference on World Affairs began at the really rather fetching Highland City Club in Boulder and another mid-week at The Laughing Goat.
I've been performing our material with lovely Maestro Marco for so many years that not having him with me was simultaneously frightening and liberating.
I'd decided on a setlist with a mix of both Hippie Tendencies and NoteSpeak material with a few covers thrown in. The first rehearsal blew away any doubts I may have been harboring. Guitarist and bandleader Chris Malley could not have been better prepared; his preparation extended to meticulous charts drawn up for everyone and he knew the material inside out.
By the second (and last) rehearsal we had learned that the venue was sold out and I was thrilled to play once more with bassist Eric Thorin (he graced us with his groovalicious chops in September at the American debut of NoteSpeak) and felt an instant affinity for drummer Christian Teele and his discerning, elegant stylings and, well, anyone who's read this blog at all knows that Lisa Bell always figures prominently and this one is no exception, she elevated my performance as usual with her vocals.
So hurrah all around for what turned out to be a pretty magical night at Highland City Club- performing for my newly found birth mother Shirley for the very first time... The day after we met... Pretty much one of the scariest performances on record; with a full house and Mom and Arthur - who has since told me to call him Randolph...
( He said, in his delicious drawl,
"I didn't even know my first name was Arthur until I was in the sixth grade since no one called me that!" )
...front row center.
After a sad, (temporary!), goodbye to Mom and Randolph, the next day it was down to the business of the CWA.
CWA-More of an adventure than I could have imagined
At the welcoming dinner, I was delighted to find there was an aperitivo time before seating began for dinner. Ahhhhh just like back home - wait, what? This IS home, isn't it? Uhhh...anyway, glass in hand I set out hobnobbing.
In a white room, that is to say, a predominately white peopled gathering; it is amazing the magnetic superpowers of the brown people to click together in a solidarity and recognition of what it is to represent.
The first person I met is extraordinary. Her name is Maggie Duncan Simbeye- She's the executive director and founder of Dare Women's Foundation. Based in Tanzania, DWF is an NGO working to empower young women.
She said to me,
'Look behind you.'
I looked into a sea of white.
'Quick, take a picture, it's just us. ' Maggie laughed.
We smirked at each other each acknowledging the complexity of what it is to be the only two women of color in the immediate vicinity and began a conversation about our work that took us through dinner.The bright buzz in the dining room was invigorating as over 100 speakers and performers milled about and then tucked in.
After the opening speech had been made author, journalist, comic, all-around fabulous, human being Bonnie Burton got up and did a spontaneous bit with Republican writer Robert A. George. Both were funny, razor sharp and no bars were held which, in hindsight, set the tone for the week to come.
Bonnie swiftly became one of my favorite panelists. She speaks in one-liners, has a rapier wit, is generous of spirit and is funny of the kind that makes me snort and shoot my wine out through my nose. We decided that evening that we must be married in an alternate universe.
I loved participating in the panels, arguing and drinking with, alas not contemporarily, too many to list here. It was pretty much a love fest on my end-
In addition to Maggie, Robert and Bonnie; within the first two days of the CWA I had found my people. Each panelist with whom I interacted was intriguing in some way but some of my favorites:
For his vast intellect coupled with the silliest sense of humor Michael D.L. Johnson. He was hilarious yet insightful on my first panel- "Podcasts: What are you listening to?"
CWA felt rather a lot like summer camp.
Fast friendships were formed immediately, time elongated; much meaning was packed into a teeny space of time that also seemed eternal.
I must mention both Gregory K.Tanaka and Kayhan Irani from the "Presenting Culture through Art" panel as we connected with the audience and each other on such a deep level that it felt profound and made us want to take that show on the road!
I'd be remiss if I didn't also cite the sage, the enlightened, Mille Chen - who so generously took me through her exhibition in the museum on campus. Her work is literally astounding in thought and execution.
And what to say about Danielle Feinberg ?? It was an honor to sit on the panel "LGBTQ is Not Easy: Acceptance"- with her. I was charmed by the intriguing mix of her stellar sense of humor and wonderful intellect touched by an underlying pathos. What an exceptional woman. I know you must think I am being very liberal with my superlative adjectives in this blog, but I assure you they are all beyond merited. 'Danielle Feinberg Light's Up 'Coco'!'- her keynote speech was fascinating. If you ever have the opportunity to see her speak, she will open a world to the layman that is magical. Watch her Ted Talk and you'll get what I mean. Easily some of the happiest 12 minutes you'll spend today.
The panels were spectacular fun and thought-provoking and I was struck by the camaraderie amongst the speakers. Exceptional people from all around the world; from every walk of life united in the exchange of ideas. From drinking tea in the green room to sharing cocktail hour, meals and concerts with these exceptional people I was by turns, moved, exhilarated, tickled, and fascinated- certainly never bored! And Beauties, I haven't even GOTTEN to the musicians yet! Coming next week...
To catch some of the panels check out CWA's Youtube as they have begun - and will continue - uploading several of the sessions.