Updated: Aug 15, 2020
Little Darling, It’s Been a Long, Cold, Lonely Winter*
While it’s common to hear someone say that they love bridges, it’s not too often that you’ll hear someone tell you that they love tunnels. It’s simple to understand why. A bridge, after all, is breathtaking, whether you are on the ground below or you are traveling on it. From the height of a bridge, the open-air is above you, calm waters are below you, the horizon is all around you, and the destination is clear and straight ahead.
In short, a bridge is everything a tunnel is not. You often can’t see a tunnel from the outside. While on the inside, there is nothing to look at but cold walls, and you usually have no idea what is going to greet you on the other side. Therefore it’s fitting that the world on the other side of the Holland Tunnel is full of dazzling Technicolor, but often feels far from home.
My brother lives in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, so I often visit NYC, but this particular journey finds me meeting up with longtime family friend Josh Pannepacker and his band Cheerleader, as they hit the stage of the “Gap House Sessions” (a private staff show at The Gap HQ in Tribeca), and as I continue my quest for perspective on following a dream. I usually listen to a familiar soundtrack as I travel. But on this trip, I choose a brand new work that I cannot shake from my mind.
Having debuted November 22, 2019 as a duel performance on the rooftop of the Citadel in Amman, Jordan, Coldplay’s Everyday Life celebrates the miracle of the ordinary, and illuminates the essence of the universal human experience. Perhaps it was the stunning cinematography, the unbelievable backdrop of a sunrise and a sunset in the Middle East, or the beautiful acoustics of a rooftop performance, but something about the work shook the earth beneath my feet for the first time in a very long time. So to me it is fitting that it is my guide on a journey to a place that, for better or for worse, never fails to rock my world.
You’re asking me, will my love grow?*
Friday, December 13th, 2019
The morning after a quietly sublime Gap House Session performance by Cheerleader, Josh and I are both in Brooklyn, meeting up for breakfast, to conclude a conversation that we began over a month ago. I discover that Josh has been on a quest of his own. Back in November, he described a message in a dream. But on another late autumn morning, while deep in meditation, he found himself in a scene colored in glorious detail.
Over hot coffees and warm bagels, Josh describes being in a forest with a burning campfire. It’s up to him to keep the fire going. Emerging from the meditative state, he immediately knows what it means. “It’s not enough to reach a point in your life where you say, ‘It’s done, I’ve reached where I want to go.’ You constantly have to keep adding to the fire to keep it burning, to keep it going.”
I truly believe that what is the most simple in principle is ultimately the most profound. Indeed, we always think of the destination. But what if the journey is the destination itself?
Everybody’s laughing, Everybody’s happy**
Thursday December 12, 2019
Walking into The Gap House is like walking into a carefully produced commercial. It’s surreal aesthetic perfection for as far as the eye can see. I’ve had my hair blown-out at the Soho salon my brother manages. I’ve carefully chosen my outfit: a vintage pair of Gap true skinny jeans (as a nod to my host); my favorite loose, soft Audrey Hepburn t-shirt (for both calm and strength); a chunky, cream Universal Thread by Target cardigan (for cozy comfort); and my well-worn Forever 21 tan ankle boots (for familiar grounding). I feel as ready as I’ll ever be.
But nothing has prepared me for the casual sartorial perfection that greets me upon arrival to The Gap House, home to a brand that I have loved and followed since I was a teenager. It is difficult not to feel intimidated, especially when surrounded by the very people who have designed or have directly inspired the clothes you are presently wearing. But very quickly, my expectations are turned on their head in all kinds of ways.
We make so many assumptions about the people we meet along our journeys, especially those we perceive to be in a different or “better” position than ourselves. It’s amazing how many of those perceptions are dead wrong. I start meeting the people in the room. I wasn’t expecting them to be friendly, unassuming, and down-to-earth. But they all are.
Come together, right now**
As the evening is officially in full-swing, I am surrounded by warm Christmas string lights, on one of the many soft sofas and throw pillows that fill the entire loft-style space. The opening artist DJ Stoopkid, is spinning classic hip hop and r&b (including personal favorites A Tribe Called Quest). Opening performer Juilan Soto’s soaring vocals and introspective lyrics take everyone in the room to wonderful place, far away in our imaginations. I couldn’t be more comfortable.
But suddenly, I am directly called out from the stage by the event’s charismatic emcee, Gregg Lance Amisial, (also a super inspiring Instagram fitness coach @Greggy4RealCycle) who jokes that I have to immediately post all of the many many pictures I’ve already taken of the night to #GapHouseSessions. It is a rare individual who can make someone feel more at ease by putting them on-the-spot, but Gregg is an amazing host, who has set the night’s tone of warmth, friendliness, fun, and community for the entire room from the start.
Gap House Sessions emcee, Greg Lance Amisial
I meet two Gap designers between acts, and we end up talking about how much we love yoga, and how much it helps us to find a space to relax. Then I, as a lifelong lover of fashion, feel more than a little silly telling the designers how much their work inspires me, and that their work is so important. I thought that they would have rolled their eyes and thought, “we know”. But they seem so appreciative, and thank me profusely for telling them so. And when I told them that I was a teacher (after they asked what department at The Gap I worked in, thank you Audrey for your magic!), they begin thanking me.
Finally, I have the privilege of meeting novelist Tiffanie DeBartolo, both an accomplished novelist and the founder and CEO of Cheerleader’s record label, Bright Antenna Records. We talk about music and fashion for an age, and within the hour, we are following one another on Instagram. As an aspiring writer, it is beyond inspiring to meet her. But from a personal point of view, she can’t be any nicer, and talking to her about a mutual love of U2, Pearl Jam, and NYC fashionista Olivia Palermo is easily one of the best parts of the entire night.
So the dream has, on this night, proven to be a much more inviting place than I ever could have imagined. I had expected this world to be very different than mine and, in many ways, it is. Airbrushed aesthetics and a full buffet of hor d’oeuvres including warm pretzel bites and melted cheese are enough to leave me star-struck. But in one very surprising way, it is exactly like the home that I’ve momentarily left behind.
I’d like to be, under the sea**
Gap House Sessions artist Cheerleader
Cheerleader’s acoustic set is the perfect ending to the night’s three musical performances. The band plays three new songs from their sophomore album Almost Forever (out February 7th), a lovely arrangement of “Sunshine of Your Youth”, and an absolutely heart-melting version of Nat King Cole’s “Christmas Song”. In the end, the entire room is singing along–which that is unreal to me, considering that the audience is a fashion crowd in NYC. Bravo to Joe Haller, Paul Impellizeri, and Josh Pannepacker of Cheerleader, truly, for getting them to sing along to a Christmas song penned in the 1950s. Maybe there is more binding us all together than we think, wherever we are on our walk in life.
But it is the second performer on the bill, Miette Hope (who has such a beautiful voice and looks like a Gap model), who unearths the night’s most revealing moment of universal humanity. She asks for some help from the audience and proceeds to perform an outstanding cover of U2’s “With or Without You”. The crowd sings along to the “ohhs” of the bridge so pitch-perfectly that she remarks, “I would love to take you all on tour with me”. And here, the singularly most surprising moment of the night occurs.
Gap House Sessions artist Miette Hope
Seemingly every single person in the room smiles and genuinely laughs, but utters some form of the response “Please do”, and pulls a face that says, “Take me away”. And I just think, “Are they kidding? This is the summit, the peak of the mountain.” But then as I glance around the room, I notice that there are a lot less people in the room than there had been when the show started an hour ago. And I quickly realize that it isn’t because they didn’t like the music.
You could most definitely tell that The Gap staff absolutely love their work, their passion. You could sense it from the level of enthusiasm for a ‘work event’ as soon as you walked into the room. But at the same time, it was 9 o’clock at night, and a lot of them had taken a break, and have now returned to their work. Or have left for home after a long day that only just recently ended. I disappointingly notice that the two designers who were sitting in front of me have left, as well. I wished that I had been able to say goodbye, and tell them again that their work made a difference.
And thank them for letting me know that mine did too. No matter who we are, we all need to hear it.
You’re gonna carry that weight**
And it finally hits me: None of us walk an easy road, no matter how glamorous the path seems from the outside. But we all walk an important road, no matter how insignificant it may seem to us. And all of us inspire someone else, whether we realize it or not. At times our journey may feel as exhilarating as a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge under the clear blue skies of a perfect San Francisco/Sausalito April afternoon. At others, we feel the fear and the darkness of being stuck in a tunnel in London’s Wembley Stadium after an Oasis concert, surrounded by hundreds of possible football “hooligans” in various stages of intoxication, ready for a fight (yes, very specific, but very real stories for a different article, and a different day).
But whether we are on the bridge or are in the tunnel, there is beauty, whether we can sense it or not. And we are traveling on our amazing journey, whether we realize it or not.
As for this night, I am so grateful to have the opportunity to not only experience something completely out of my ordinary, but also for the space to appreciate my life in an entirely new light.
But oh that magic feeling, nowhere to go**
My brother Vince, Tiffanie, and I help Cheerleader pack up and carry their equipment down to the lobby of The Gap House, and then to the car that will take two of the members of Cheerleader home. [Even rock stars lives are not as glamorous as you think!] But we are certainly enjoying ourselves as we briefly step out to a way-too-loud Tribeca watering hole where we have to comically play “whisper down the lane” to speak to each other. We don’t stay very long; Tiffanie is the first to leave, and then shortly thereafter Joe and Paul , all three eager to return home.
And as Josh, Vince and I have all of NYC at our feet, we choose to spend the rest of the evening as we might have in our hometown in the late 1990s: listening (and dancing like Scott Weiland) to Stone Temple Pilots, eating Dominos Pizza, and watching one episode of the classic Beverly Hills: 90210 after another.
Josh and my brother Vince. Beautiful collage in the background by Gap House Sessions featured artist Robert Malmberg.
Seriously, this is happening. I have to leave right after Brenda and Dylan break up. It is emotionally too much.
And soon it will be my turn to return to my home: to my wonderful boyfriend and two sweet cats at home, to my dear parents who live around the corner, to my curious students who will certainly ask “Where were you?” on Monday morning…
And to the opportunity to write this story when I return, whether it pulls in two hundred readers or two. And I realize as I’ve made yet another trip down the Yellow Brick Road, that in my travels, I’ve once again found home. Living the dream of everyday life.
Whatever it is that calls your name today, it is within your reach I promise. Find what makes you happy, and go out and grab it. Even if you are your only witness.
Once there was a way, to get back homeward**
Friday December 13th, 2019
For the trip home, I choose Abbey Road, recently remixed by Giles Martin, son of legendary Beatles producer George Martin, for its 50th anniversary re-release. Even though they had recorded their entire spectacular catalog three years before I was born, my childhood was full of Beatles music and they will always be home and the ultimate inspiration to me. They were never afraid to venture out into the unknown, yet they always knew who they were in their heart of hearts.
As I listen to the start of the final medley of Abbey Road – to the Beatles swan song and goodbye to the world – I realize that they had reached arguably the highest heights of anyone’s wildest dreams of achievement. Yet they were leaving to find home in quiet, domestic life.
But they left us with a masterpiece as they walked down Abbey Road that one final time. As grateful as I am for new music and for new experiences to inspire me, few things make me as happy than the familiar opening guitar notes of “Here Comes The Sun”. And as I hear those beautiful sounds once again, I begin thinking about the story that Josh told me, about how you have to keep adding to the fire to keep it going.
It’s a fascinating image, and I believe that Josh absolutely had that vision of that fire for a reason. Thank you to him, again, for sharing his vision with me and with all of us.
And in the end, the love you take**
But the fire is not only about the action that we take in the world. The fire is about the love and appreciation that we give to the people that we meet on our walk. The fire is the passion we find in the light and the darkness, and the strength to keep walking on despite the joy or the pain. And lastly, the fire is the courage to return home to who we truly are in our hearts, and find happiness in exactly where we are right now.
By now it should be no secret that, to me, the most profound motion picture ever made is The Wizard of Oz. Its simplicity belies its depth. If you haven’t seen the spectacular performance turned in by Renee Zelwegger in Judy, go and see it before she takes home the Oscar. Her final line in the film comes right before she sings “Over The Rainbow,” and is a perfect ending sentiment as our journey together comes to a close for now.
“This isn’t a song about getting anywhere. It’s about walking towards something you’ve dreamed of. And maybe the walking is everyday of your life. And the walking has to be enough”. ***
Thank you so much for traveling with me once again. Love and Blessings, and I’ll see you on the road that leads home.
*“Here Comes The Sun” and “Something”, lyrics by George Harrison
**”Sun King”, “Come Together”, “Octupus’s Garden”, “Carry That Weight”, “You Never Give Me Your Money”, “Golden Slumbers”, “The End”, lyrics by John Lennon and Paul McCartney
***Judy, screenplay by Tom Edge.