When I was a little girl just about five years old while seated in my new grandma’s kitchen, pencil and paper in hand by request finally adopted into what would become my forever home, my Grandma Horty watching me intently told me I was gonna be a writer one day. Thank you Grandma for never making me feel less than capable and always ensuring that I had some sense of self confidence when I really needed some. Maybe you were right….
For people who have relationships with their blood family, it's a given – and a gift that they get to see who they look like, who they sound like, and what traits, characteristics, and talents they may have inherited. But as someone who was in foster care from my birth until I was 3 ½, I never knew. Did I look like my biological parents? Did we have similar talents and skills? Do I sound like them? I didn’t have any answers, only my intuition, my instinct, and a drive to succeed and survive. Despite not knowing who my biological parents were, I knew enough to know it was a blessing that I was alive.
I always felt that when we are born it’s because we were lucky enough to be selected to make it here in the first place no matter where we come from or how we get here. The point being to leave behind a legacy and to contribute somehow to making the world better when we leave it than what it was when we came. It also seemed to me that a name is simply a way that others know themselves in relationship to you. This is why I never minded that I have so many names; Cameron my intended birth name, Cami for short, Jennifer my fostered given name Jen for short, and Jenni Alpert my final adopted name once I landed my forever family home and what I ended up choosing to use as I became the budding performing singer songwriter I was to be. Just as names go, are also titles with which to identify by; mother, sister, father friend, a way of identifying who people are to us, and who we are to them. But what is to happen when you find you have two families somehow, maybe three or maybe even four? I find it most valuable to express why I refer to Don, for example, as my “birth father.” It is to honor his role in having “invented” me, for how special a person he is in my life now which we will get too later, and most of all for him having given me life. Simultaneously, I refer to Bill Alpert who adopted and raised me until the time he passed away as my “dad” or “father” not only because of what he did to help me in my life when he was with us and for the fact that he was all I knew as a father figure through my adoption, but also because his spirit continues to support me in my life through my mom even now and I feel it is right to honor both men semantically speaking for exactly who they are. It’s also important that I note before proceeding on that I do not harbor any judgment about the way people live or resentment for all that unfolded as I describe, for to me, sometimes it’s not about what we have around us that matters, rather who and the understanding of it all that makes all the difference.
My parents Jill and Bill never met my birth parents throughout my adoption either though they knew some of the background that came with me when I first arrived at their home at age 3 1/2 before they were to become my forever parents when I was to turn 4.
I was told that I was introduced to a piano while in my second foster home and that music was always an innate interest of mine in one way or another even at an extremely young age. Upon being adopted by the Alperts, it was mere fortune that they had an upright piano in their home as well and made sure to get me a pedal box fitted to my height in order for me to be able to play piano with the sustain pedal, something I loved to do often. Second to piano lessons came voice and third to that came acting classes after failing violin and flailing through dance. Finally came the guitar and then the push for further education. Later in life was when I realized how truly lucky I had been for all the opportunity I was granted to explore for my life could have been very different.
The day I was born, the court system intervened for my safety due to the many details of how I came to be in this world and placed me into the first of what would be four foster homes that I rotated through until I was 3 1/2. During my time in foster care, the police would come to discover some of the dangers I was being exposed to in one foster home I had been give to unbeknownst to the state due to a tip by a bank worker who called in after an interaction she had with the lady who had come with me in her arms demanding they give a loan to her then husband and her or she couldn’t be responsible for what would happen to me. With the help of the bank the police removed me immediately, and placed me into an emergency holding group transitional group home until I became eligible for permanency with adoption. I remember the police car ride, my short legs and large black shoes dangling down the backseat, and the station piled with papers on tan colored desks with the swinging door entrance quite well. I felt sorry for the lady and that’s about the extend of my memory there.
Many years later she would find me online and show up at one of my gigs to apologize. I recognized her voice immediately as I was there alone with the sound man sound checking. I told hello no hard feelings to harbor, I could feel a her need for forgiveness lingering, but for me all that I could see was simply a woman who had tried her best with what she’d been given. I hugged her ok before strolling away to sing my song Heaven on stage.
Shortly thereafter, what would be my fourth ‘emergency’ placement, the Alperts were called and told that there was a girl available but that they had to come and get me tomorrow. So the following day, with a little bunny in hand for me, we met with my brown paper bag full of my few things, and by a specific request of my biological mother’s family later I was told, I was then taken to a stable Jewish home as the rest of my life would unfold. That foster home put up a fight to keep me themselves, and though they would lose, a second court case would begin with regard to my life before I was even four.
From the moment I arrived at the Alperts, the survival skills I had gained in foster homes - namely charm and the ability to play music - helped me through the transition. My new home came with three older brothers, two of whom where my adoptive dad's birth sons who frequented our home, and the third who had been adopted also but as a baby by my mom and her previous marriage whom now lived in the same home as I did for the years before he left for college.
At 4, I was old enough to understand that I had been in foster homes; and in the process of being adopted, I had been told bits and pieces of my biological parents’ story, but most of the details were kept from me until I was a teenager. Looking back on my childhood, I don't recall identifying too strongly with negativity or a sense of sadness; I was an optimistic child but I did often feel a sense of disconnection linger from time to time.
I always had an interest in my biological roots, but I was strongly advised to focus on my current life rather than to delve into any past. My adoptive parents, siblings, and extended family made sure that I understood that I was loved and wanted. They gave me the support to discover my tools and talents as well as the life skills for self-reliance of which I am forever grateful for. When I was adopted, I couldn't yet read, write, or identify letters, colors, and numbers, so my adoptive parents hired tutors to help me with my education. They fostered my love for music, composition, singing, writing songs, acting, and movement by enrolling me in various classes to help further develop my talents. They also protected me when past haunts from foster care found me and started following me to elementary school, tasking up work with my dad’s good friend to try to stay close. It was for this reason I switched schools mid year to a totally new world with new challenges to face with the harsh kids there at school. Still my artistic drive consumed a lot of my focus and my mind in healthy and positive ways throughout my childhood. From time to time in my youth, I can recall feeling emptiness: wondering exactly where it was that I came from and what my biological lineage and cultural heritage was. I often wondered if my artistic skills were genetic since none of my adoptive family was musical at all, but I was also aware that this was something I might not ever get to know.
I always knew from the moment I arrived to the Alpert’s that that the people were raising me weren’t the people who brought me into this world, but it was around age 11 due to a lot of contention at home as mothers and daughters often have discord from differences, is when I started to really wonder where it was that I came from. I discovered an old photo album that had traveled with me through the foster care system and while flipping through them one day, a photo fell out and happened to have notes written on the back of it notating what I guessed might of been my original last name Morantz so I looked up every number in the white pages and called them all to see if I could find one related to me. It wouldn’t be until years later when I actually did start to meet the remaining living members of the Morantz tree prior to my biological reunion with my birth father several years following that, but notating and researching developed among some of my many tools at a very early age.
Music and Me
Because I struggled with some aspects of traditional learning in school, I had planned to go to New York to live the life of a performer upon completing high school, but thanks to my adoptive parents urging, I attended UCLA and was granted a small scholarship to entice me with their prestigious new Jazz program. While working on my degree, I began to write, record, and produce my own music alongside learning jazz.
And following, in my 20s I discovered ways to market, brand, and sell my music, tenaciously googling to connect throughout the years then recording with some the greatest producers, engineers, and musicians that I personally admired, namely; Niko Bolas, George Massenburg, Nathaniel Kunkel, Steve Greenberg, Steve Greenwell, Mikal Blue, JJ Blair, Stevie Blacke, David Pearlman, Nicola Fantazzi, Rob Matson, Doug Sax, Eric Boulanger, Russ Kunkel, Dean Parks, Matt Rollings, Viktor Krause, Jimmy Messer, Joel Martin, Jimmy Paxson, Chris Chaney, Zac Rae, and Guthrie Trapp to name a memorable few, performing all over Los Angeles, the country, and ultimately in over 14 countries around the world, with a backpack full of my CDs, my guitar and sometimes a mini keyboard, charm, and networking skills to maintain friends and contacts in each given city in order to return again and again with their help, building before facebook existed a loyal fan base for my music while managing it all single handedly. It never much bothered me that nobody knew who I was.
Though while in foster care I experienced my first piano, it was actually in high school when I began to love to perform and speak in front of audiences in order to connect.
From being president of and a soloist in my high school choir, to becoming a proactive member of our school debate team, to joining the Model United Nations club, to being the school mascot, to set designing and acting, often staring in the school plays and musical, I eventually also took up songwriting on both the piano and acoustic guitar inspired by my mom’s suggestion to learn to play something portable and had my heart set on heading to New York City upon graduation.
My mother on the other hand had other plans for me.
My Dad Bill
It was during my junior year of high school when my father got sick with cancer. He was home with treatments a lot. Many days and nights it was just me, my mom, my dad, and the big scary c at home after school. I didn’t know exactly what cancer even was as the time, but the doctor and hospital visits, millions of pamphlets, and regular treatments of all kind told me it wasn’t something anyone would ever want to go through alone if they didn’t have to.
All the while caring for my father, my mother was desperate for me to obtain a well rounded education despite my commitment to the arts so it was she who marked off UCLA in my college application for the UC schools as an options because back then you could write one series of essays but apply to as many UCs as you wanted on a checklist.
Personally, I never really thought of college, and furthermore never even considered that I would end up going UCLA let alone get in, nor had I ever dreamed that I would even take an audition there. The day I arrived and began singing for the faculty, a man in the audience, later known as Al Bradley the admittance counselor of the department at the time, actually left mid way during my first song solidifying, for certain in my mind that I was not going to get in there. “If I had known this was going to be a classical audition rather than performance Jazz, I would have learned an aria” I said jokingly before my final song, put a smile on my face, persevered on, and sang my heart out with ‘Teach Me Tonight’ by Sammy Cahn.
As I proceeded to swiftly walk out of the audition I was stopped for a chat by Al just outside the classical music audition room who confirmed to me that my style wasn’t really a fit, which it hardly ever was anywhere anyway so I wasn’t surprised, but then after a pause as I nodded and got up to leave, he took my hand and asked if I would come back and audition for the great Jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell for his new Jazz program instead later that week. "Who?” I wondered to myself? For at the time I knew very little about music, most only about the performance of it. But sure, what was one more drive over the hill to the city in order to miss another day of class back home to get to sing some more for whoever he was, why not.
Getting into UCLA 's Ethnomusicology Department’s World Music Studies emphasis on Jazz Program coined as the first Jazz Vocalist to be admitted into the newly designed four year program was really wild to me. Though kind of par for the course in my pave it yourself kind of style, secretly, not only did I not yet know who Charlie Parker was, I really didn’t even know how to read or write music much at all. This seemed a funny feat - actually getting into UCLA, but not so outlandish after all, as the rest of my independent music career and other performing ventures would unfold in similar fashion throughout the years to come. To call UCLA directly before the acceptance letters even printed just to learn the outcome so one could plan their future was equally unheard of, but when Al Bradly answered my call and replied “we don’t normally do this as we are not allowed to say anything until the acceptance letters are sent out, but how would you feel about being the first Jazz vocalist to enter our new four year program here at UCLA this fall?” was a pretty amazing experience deemed accomplishment considering I had a long road ahead of me in learning how to write essays let alone a music score.
But ultimately attending UCLA made the most sense due to the fact that my father was still struggling in his third year with malignant melanoma, a cancer, rarely if ever survived. And after eleven surgeries and treatments he had throughout my senior year of high school, which seemed unbelievably unfair to all those who knew and loved him, ultimately, he left us with loving memories and a legacy of lessons for all of us to remember him by as the years would pass on without him.
He would die my freshman year of college, a huge loss for everyone.
The Lot of Losses
My freshman year of college proved to be a collection of equal gains and losses, but the death of my birth mother never getting to meet her and just before my dad’s death was another loss added to the list. I was to learn just months before losing him, that my birth mother of whom I would now never know, was to die on the sidewalk from heart failure due to a cocaine (in crack form) overdose, something she got into just after my adoption took place and never again was to kick until the end of her life.
I was just 17 when my adoptive parents were informed by the state that my biological mother, Mary Lou, had died. Since at the time my adoptive father was quite ill himself, my adoptive mother waited until I was 18 to tell me, hoping I would be emotionally able to handle this information and its consequences. When Mary Lou died, I learned that my biological parents had not been in anything resembling a traditional relationship. My biological mother conceived me in her 30s while my biological father was just 16: they were surrounded by a life of drugs and crime, and they both struggled with relationships to mental health, what I call the mental wellness spectrum. Both of them were wards of the state, my birth mother for her mental wellness challenges and my birth father for his lifestyle of drugs and petty crime thus neither one of them could be my raising parents.
Upon her death was yet a third court case wrapped around my life, the first being my adoption case, the second between a foster home and my now parents, and now this the third which closed in on the fight to allow birth children to receive an inheritance delegated to them despite the sever of adoption if written into an estate, which is exactly what my birth grandmother, when my birth mother was to pass after her, had done for me. Apparently the two lawyers that paired up from Denver and Los Angeles were quite a team because they not only won my rights for me, but also rights for other future adoptees to come.
The Biological Quilts that Weave
Just after Mary Lou died, I was privileged to meet many of my biological mother's side of the family and they have been good to me ever since. I always felt so fortunate to connect with my parts of my maternal side which has deeply enriched and fulfilled a part of me. Hearing from most everyone to never delve into the paternal side had me honor that for most of my life, for I understood them, and loved them for their awareness and honesty. The time came however, one day much later, for me to make a personal choice, and so alone to learn of my birth paternal side, eventually I did just that.
But several years prior to the reunion story with my birth father, came the story of my birth mother though she was no longer here to tell it, and I met my maternal birth aunt, her sister first. After all, it was due to her generosity and honesty that reconnected me with the family and the family estate all together and I appreciated her and the opportunity to learn about her so. Though it had been the will of my birth grandmother and my birth mother that I be written in as a bloodline member, it was my birth aunt who saw it through upon my birth mother’s death and that she cared so much about my well being touched me deeply. She wasn’t able to adopt me when I was little for her own reasons, so years later, when she thought of my best interest in the next best way she could, I was forever thankful for her. That small inheritance not only helped me create and release music and tour independently for quite some time, it also afforded me the creativity to interior decorate my first home which later I would share with my birth father upon reuniting with him while guiding him towards a new life in transformation. The irony of the combined support from my adoptive and birth families for my stability and well being to then lend me the foundation to help someone else was truly profound.
Prior to my first encounter with a biological relative, I consciously made an effort to ensure my birth aunt of my stability and life experience after having learned more detail of my birth mother and the dynamics that surrounded her in the court documents I received upon her death. In hopes of establishing a deep new connection I started to share myself with her by writing letters. Though she had already moved at the time from the address typed in the court papers that I had, my letter somehow ended up at her new address anyway and set forth a whole reunion story of its own though it was slightly short lived. Our first trip in person was amazing. We connected on so many things all the way to having the same perfume and taste in teas but despite all the holes she filled in for me about my birth mother and our our family tree showing me her fine art and telling me stories, I could sense her uneasiness for all the rest that began to surface which was meant to stay safely stowed away, hopefully forever. And, ultimately, and common for some biological reunions, it was too hard for her to continue to know me for all that I reminded her of. It took me many years, but eventually, I came to understand, I reminded her too much of my birth mother and of where my birth father came from, and sometimes the pain of the past is just too much for the present.
My first deep long term connection with a blood relative since my birth mother’s passing was with my second birth cousin Paul. He was the son of my birth grandfather’s sister and a quintessential Morantz. There aren’t enough pages to describe the connection we have but he did tell me more than once he didn’t know whether to love me or hate me for having saved his life. At the time we were introduced, Paul was struggling with a rare form of red blood cell aplasia that had stemmed from a cancer treatment that took away his particular cancer at the time, but left him with a list of other ailments to manage along with the depths of his mind for the rest of his life.
A survivor of a rattlesnake bite placed in his mailbox by the cult Synanon that he single handedly dismantled, left him with post traumatic haunts throughout the rest of his days. Between that and the overwhelming desire to pen his life stories and feats, for he had a lot to say and an even deeper need to be loved, he was still often met with disappointments, and that too would weigh heavily. But he inspired me so much and all I could do was admire his mind for the law and language it bared, for his stories and charisma, and his ability to follow duty as a lawyer and realize his dream as a writer, persevering with pride and passion alone.
The first weekend we spent together upon our introduction, the reunion of sorts set up by my birth Aunt for us all to meet was electric and exciting. Through her I met the most amazing birth relatives. My cousin Amanda and second cousin Shelly are extremely dear to my soul for the many memories we’ve shared, the sisters I never had but always wanted. So many to mention, so many to love ... Chaz, Steven and Greg, Jen and Jeff and so many more. Each and every one a notch in my heart and a huge piece of life I love so dearly; I love you more.
What they each added made me more whole and more full. As it came to a close and everyone dispersed back to their lives when I left his home an initiative uneasy feeling lingered inside. Later that night I impulsively drove back to find no one coming to the locked front door though the lights were on and fortunately a window open, for when I glanced inside, I saw pale Paul laying on the floor with blood escaping his nose and mouth in a pool by his face. This was the one and only time I ever had the confidence to break and enter by crawling through that window that night and I’m glad because that return afforded me many more years watching movies, listening to stories, making meals for, and spending time with with a man I was fortunate enough to know and would come to unconditionally love no matter what as an extended bloodline of my own, someone who was a sense of family, and a sense of home.
I am My Own Country
By this time in my mid twenties, my main focus was on performing, recording, and making music which had become a daily pastime.
I’d always worn hats and had many to rotate from for myself and to get my message in music out there in the world whether it was acting as artist manager, booking agent, publicist, promoter, tour manager, record producer, songwriter or artist ... you name it, I did it for myself, paving my own way thanks to Donald Passman’s book “All You Need to Know About the Music Business” and the pioneer of independent female musicians who I admired most at the time for the path that she paved, none other than Ani DiFranco.
My simple misunderstanding that she ‘did it all on her own’ had me playing every role Passman outlined and defined until I myself was developing professional recordings, booking my own tours both nationally and internationally, setting up the routes to get there and back, and running the promotion for them to boot literally all by myself. In the early days while pounding the pavement playing what was called the circuit on little indie tours to get my music out there, I’d hub out of New York annually even though I lived in LA, my first gig ever there at The Bitter End opening for a rock singer Watt White who’s leather pants split wide open mid show, “welcome to New York City bare bottoms up”, as he rocked it anyway like a champ, one of the greatest performing singer - writers I first met. I’d spend my days researching artists’ posters to find all the music nights, open mics, and songwriter festivals that were happening back then and would jump on the Chinatown bus north or south singing through my Taylor guitar frequenting Club Passim and the Burren in Boston, The Bitter End, CBGB’s, and Sidewalk Cafe on Avenue A in Manhattan, The Point just outside of Philly and the World Cafe, traveling onward south to Baltimore performing for the locals there before expanding to the Carolinas, Atlanta, Alabama, Nashville, then up to Detroit, Chicago singing with American Babies, then touring with Bump, opening for Kaki King, and becoming a tweener opening second sets for jam bands like Kernel Bruce Hampton and Moonshine Stills thanks to Seth and his promotion company Shimon Presents, opening for Jennifer Nettles at Eddies Attic after winning their songwriting competition one year, and supporting local touring acts in Atlanta because of Mike over at Smith’s Old Bar after having already had some brief noted history opening for Left Over Salmon back on the West Coast by chance.
I met so many supportive and amazing people and musicians on the circuit back then, and one of the first was Hugh McGowan, a songwriter in Somerville, Ma who started and ran a music night, a staple circuit stop, at a pub called The Burren and would be one of the first to give me a chance on a big stage. It would take some time for it to hit me how sad I would become when he was to suddenly pass many years later despite our keeping in touch, for never having said exactly how much the small moments in our music friendship over the years that we shared actually surmounted to so much. And I didn’t realize how much he would be missed and how much I had forgotten about my first few years on the road and how much those early years shaped me to be the musician I was today until he was gone.
As the minutes dragged on from receiving the news of that great loss, moments of memories from the early days of my music adventures began to surface with reminders of the first generation of those that really helped and supported me out there. Hugh made room for me at the Burren when I showed up year after year, having me play my songs and piano with his and then opened up his home to me without fail come rain, shine, or snow - every. single. time. He became my first road music mentor and why I made sure to drive to Boston from New York to explore Boston’s music city as my guide, showing me the ropes and took me around, lending me his car, and showing me how he got his music sound. “Hugh had fostered a wonderfully inclusive environment for performing and listening to live music (in Somerville, MA, but really for musicians to connect somewhere musically in the US). All were welcome. You could witness somebody perform in front of an audience for the very first time, and get your mind blown by a veteran troubadour that just happened to stop by - all in the same night. It was a space to hone your craft, or just simply share in the experience over a few pints. The stage was sacred. Hugh made sure of it. Of the opportunities and community that Hugh created, it’s impossible to quantify the “ripple effect” for everybody else.” (Jesse D, songwriter Ma). Despite struggling with deep dark addiction for most of his life, he was the light on the stage. Having started and ran one of the longest lasting music nights in the US of its kind helping so many, upon Hugh’s passing it really became the end of an era.
He was the kind of guy who would jump in the car and come back to New York with me and my friends to perform his songs on a gig of mine just to be along for the ride, and even made sure to be in the audience years later when I graduated to touring opening act supporting Loudon Wainwright and then Luka Bloom, always treating me like a solid musician even when I was still learning and made me feel like I was somebody worth stopping for to meet and listen to.
What a privilege it is to hold such history with someone for over twenty years, and knowing me that’s no small feat. Most of all his loss to addiction woke me up to remember to always to stop and call friends and family to let them know how much they mean while making sure to cherish every minute in the moments that you have together.
Hugh one was among an early select few that were a huge part of the start of my journey as a young musician along with Ken and Paul from The Bitter End and my best friend B in New York, Matt Smith from Club Passim, Jesse Lundy from The Point and Ralph in Philly, Jim in Baltimore, and Seth out in Atlanta who put me on festivals and shows with local musician there to name a, all of them helping me significantly to develop when I first stared out on the road.
Inspired by my friends, I even attempted being a promoter sometimes with small venues inviting in local singer songwriters from all the neighboring cities to specific regions like New York, Philly, and Atlanta to perform together under a concept called Art of Expression featuring music from Hugh from Boston, Regina Spector and Joie DBG from New York, Liz Clark from Denver, Tim Kaye from Baltimore, and many others on the circuit at that time, which was multi-media performance program that included music, art, film, and spoken word poetry with merchandise for sale so we could cross culture our arts and share fan bases. Then during the day I would volunteer with Musicians on Call in each of those cities singing in hospitals. I met a lot of great people many of which who became life long good friends.
Over the course of the next twenty years this would continue on and expand in over 14 countries regularly extending my music hubs internationally mainly out of France, the Netherlands, and Italy for overseas performances. And with some help from a savvy independent booking agent Inge, my international Spanish professor and then fast friend from when I had studied in Spain for college credit Birgit, and local promoters in Holland, I started supporting larger touring acts like Jon Allen, Giovanna, and landed my first opportunity supporting Luka Bloom and getting some solid radio play there. And at the same time, Italy became a second mainstay for me after meeting musician that first summer I studied abroad and staying in touch which led to returning many times and recording a vinyl record with Nicola Fantozi, touring and performing regularly there with guitarist Paulo LaGanga, making more amazing memories while performing through England, Scotland, Sweden, and Australia. With the continued help of friends and musicians in each city and country translating for me along the way, this afforded me performance platforms to share my message of resilience through music straddling international cities as well as both coasts in the US and central US namely Denver while casually meeting a birth cousin here and there, running an indie showcase in Austin for independent artists called Spin it Indie during SXSW all the while ultimately releasing over eight recordings all on my own. Waiting for no one to tell me I could or to help me with what I should, allowed me present moments I could never take back for a team I always wished I had but that I never did. I was used to surviving so creating a way to be was nothing new for me.
Waiting for no one to tell me I could or to help me with what I should, allowed me present moments I could never take back for a team I always wished I had but that I never did. I was used to surviving so creating a way to be was nothing new for me. Additionally, I supported myself with several jobs to acquire as many revenue streams as I could to keep myself afloat. Through licensing my music, the sales of my CDs, teaching music, English writing, and Jewish studies, excelling specifically in Jewish music education and aiding students in areas of special needs and what I would call unique learning abilities classified as special, often defined as students on “the spectrum", I learned to be an educator and a shadow for autism basically connecting all the skills I had acquired through UCLA to earn a dollar or to volunteer with any non profit that correlated with my interests including homelessness, foster care and adoption, incarceration, youth forced into prostitution, addiction, or spectrum solution solving for a difference when I wasn’t on the road touring designing rehabilitation and expression programs for many along the way. A hybrid of stable home and road life was a perfect medium for my balance.
For the World at Large
Yet, after settling home for a while upon meeting my birth cousin Paul, I set in to assist him with his bi-monthly blood transfusions and lifestyle for a few years in order to spend as much time with him as I could simply because he too, was my family. Over time as Paul got more independent again, I started to get hungry for the road and starved for music with a purpose larger than myself and wrote a song called Listen to Your Heart coming up with an idea to partner with the non profit America's Blood Centers the independent entity version of the Red Cross, and created a tour concept called Blood Driven inspired by Paul and his situation, an irreplaceable extension of my own bloodline. The goal was to raise awareness of the value of donating blood to save a life ... well, three actually and to try and inspire people to do it.
This also would be the advancement of my fascination with documenting, as part of the tour I designed that crossed over into seven states had me visiting and performing at blood centers and blood drives while people donated blood, then visiting hospitals to perform for those receiving blood, and finally to interview and performed live for those who gave blood asking why they chose to and posting video clips of all the perspectives and what was to happen when someone donated blood and the other would received it trying to inspire all to encourage people to “Listen to Your Heart, Donate Blood, and Save a life.”
With that, I offered a free download of the song to anyone who donated and posted about it as a creative way to generate a ripple effect and inspire others to make a difference in the world by doing the same. To my surprise it actually worked and people were getting the blood they needed and entertainment to boot. So as far as documenting and sharing went, this became my next favorite pastime to music, capturing what is in the moment for a present in the future.
When the Inside doesn’t match, Underneath there Surface
It is also true though that despite being creative and driven in solution solving for survival, my personal life was often deeply challenged as my moods were sometimes overpowering and overwhelming for myself and others when communication breakdowns happened. Anxiety and panic would surface when I didn’t even see them coming. When off stage and not singing, communicating and expressing myself would become some of the hardest struggles I faced. I did not, until later, connect these challenges to the possibility of my attachment and processing styles or perhaps lack thereof due to my early childhood development. The best I could do was work hard on myself to manage these qualities and give my all to my relationships and friendships as I have always considered life to be a wonderful gift despite its challenges. I’ve often wondered if the horrors and terrors of traumas and abuse that we subsequently sense or remember are actually part from a biological biochemical makeup of sorts delivered to us through genetic DNA receptors perhaps claiming some of them to our ancestors. Maybe Heaven is a place I’m running from. And as history has a way of simply repeating herself, perhaps it could be that awareness is keeping us awoke for the healing of it all.
Maybe this is why I ended up at and graduated from UCLA to begin with. Maybe this is also why I took up painting for a summer, completing over 40 paintings having never done so before. And perhaps why the search for a stable partner to create a family has been part of my life’s work. Maybe it was all to complete the things my birth mother never could.
For in search of love, real true love that is, shame will never bind us.
VI. CONCEPTION, CAMI BABY
“The sun had just set on a Friday night in early May ... after getting as high as we all could, we jumped into my brother Jimmy’s dark green pontiac and raced down ...”