Tara Trinity and the Beat Beat Beat of the Rain

My friend Tara Trinity is truly one-of-kind. I honestly know no one like her. She’s vivacious, supremely talented, and game for anything. Literally anything. This girl has more fun than anyone I know. She loves her life.

We’re friends because we’re both loud, restless, and high energy. We’re easily bored. We love to dance. We love meeting new people.

Tara called me one Sunday afternoon and asked if I wanted to come with her to the middle of nowhere in Virginia to drop off her son at his father’s. I went. It was a beautiful afternoon. We blasted merengue from the car with the sun roof open. Afterward, I convinced Tara to go to a klezmer dance lesson with me at the DC JCC. Dance lessons are free every Sunday night. This, in my view, is a serious find. I love dancing. I love music. I could even go so far as to say I love klezmer. It’s high energy, it’s emotional … You get to clap and stomp your feet. I mean really this is the ideal activity for someone like me.

In any case, Tara was not especially excited about going, but she went, because that’s exactly how Tara is: She’s never one to turn down an opportunity to do something new. And obviously, being the very talented artist she is, she was far better at it than I was.

Afterward, we found it was raining outside. Tara drove us home. We joke we’re secret best friends because we’re more or less neighbors. We sat in the car talking when we got to my house. “Oh! I have something you should listen to,” said Tara. She had met these English boys in Miami and they had sent her a playlist of a bunch of Euro house (of course – this would happen to Tara). On it was a Zwette remix of a Tom ODell song that would in a span of two weeks garner more plays than any other song I had listened to that year.

“Isn’t it good?” She asked. We sat in the car, listening to the song. The rain pattered quietly against the windshield, like the beat of the music.

I don’t see Tara as often I should, especially given that we live right by each other, but when I do see her, it’s always amazing. There are always magical moments like that. She has such joie de vivre. It’s infectious. I could only be so lucky to live my life to the extent that she lives hers. She is a very special friend.

Friendship Across Lines

The other day, a package arrived from my friend Jone in Spain. It contained a necklace with the laubur, an unofficial symbol of the Basque Country. It bares resembles to the swastika, but the laubur, known in other languages by other names, is an ancient symbol long used by a number of different cultures and only later appropriated for alteration by the Nazis. Laubur means simply “four heads” in Basque. It’s rotated axis pushes forward and symbolizes the constant evolution of life.

I know there is a lot of controversy over the Basque Country, but politics aside, I have never experienced anything but the most genuine friendship from the people there. I spent several weeks in the Basque Country while living in Spain in 2011 and 2012, and my Basque friends made every effort to be inclusive, sensitive to the fact that I was uninformed about Spanish history and politics, let alone Basque history and politics, and respectful of my own cultural norms and traditions. I went everywhere from the beautiful cities of San Sebastián and Bilbao to the town of Irún and even smaller towns whose names I can’t even remember — places with all-night long garage punk concerts and heritage festivals; a fog-enveloped winery on the top of a small mountain; a storied church at the top of two hundred stone steps on a rocky island. A friend of mine’s family took me to the beach to walk long the shore that connected France and Spain. Another friend’s grandmother served me up a whole fish when we dropped by her house unannounced.

It is a beautiful place.

I wanted to learn more about this incredible culture so I started learning the Basque language. It is an ancient language — far older than most languages in existence in the modern day — whose roots are largely unknown. It shares almost no commonalities either in terms of vocabulary or structure with other tongues. There are many hard consonants, yet the words have a way of rolling together.

It is difficult to find Basque language textbooks in the United States. There is one in the entire D.C. public library system. This past spring, it was a terrific surprise when I received a package from my Basque friend Judit. She had sent me a Basque textbook and workbook as well as a Basque children’s storybook with which to practice.

And shortly after, another surprise package arrived from my friend Raquel, Obabakoak, one of the only few hundred books originally written and published in Basque. The version she sent me was in English, thankfully (I’m still working on reading the children’s storybook Judit sent. Diligent student though I am, I have not yet progressed beyond a basic understanding of the language!), with stories that beautifully capture the communities, folklore, and landscape that characterize the Basque Country.

Raquel doesn’t speak Basque. Judit and Jone do. I have Basque friends who are separatists and Basque friends who want to remain part of Spain. I have still other friends who are indifferent.

The politics are not, at this point, what’s important to me. If I were living in the Basque Country myself, or if I had roots there, or even if I were living again in Spain, maybe the politics would be of greater importance. But what’s important to me now is the friendship I’ve experienced from all the people I’ve met there. When Jone sent me the laubur, she included a note. “I want you to know that every day I think about you,” she said. “I would like you to feel the same way about us, your friends and family, and also about the Basque Country. This gift is a symbol of the Basque people, and I want you to have it.” She also wrote, “Enjoy life, it’s beautiful!”

It’s true.

Backstage at the 9:30 Club

Last weekend I had the enormous privilege of seeing musicians from the 9 Songwriter Series play at the 9:30 club. I arrived late, without a ticket, and was stalled and questioned at the door, but I successfully convinced the bouncer to let me in because my friend Louisa Hall was playing RIGHT AT THAT SECOND, I could HEAR her, and I explained rather forcefully that I NEEDED to see her. After additional pleas and negotiations which will remain top secret, I bounded in the door and up the stairs to the balcony where I saw Louisa and some others of the 9, just in time.

I’ve written about the 9 before, and this is because it’s truly a great group of talented musicians. Apart from that, I’m friends with some of them, so that’s an added bonus (lucky, right?). But I never would have guessed that the 9 would have played at the 9:30 Club. Nor that I would get to go backstage, up to the balcony behind the stage, and look out across the entire club where all my friends had made their mark.

Amazing things happen sometimes.

Louisa and Kevin de Souza and Justin Trawick and all the other 9 songwriters, including those of you who were on the side, there in support of everyone else — you are fantastic.

Here’s Kevin leading the audience in “One More Good Thing.” The video’s a bit shaky because – no surprise here – I was dancing. You can hear and purchase the original here.

Thanks, 9 songwriters, for being so awesome. Here’s to you guys. You are living my dream.