There was a time I kept my (naturally long and strong, baby) nails done and my whole self primped and polished for gigs, both the gigs I had regularly, plus the always last minute work that was a staple of the industry and community I worked in. Had to be ready at all times. It was an amazing life.

Slowly the venues closed, the undercutting and ‘showcases’ mostly ruined the last few spots that paid, and I began to hate the competitiveness of it all as there were more dancers and less opportunities, and I saw the musicians getting older as the dancers got younger, and I could no longer ignore the blatant cultural appropriation and wishtory and dancers who had never set foot outside of a safe white fusion studio suddenly becoming ‘contemporary middle eastern dance artists’ here to “elevate” it all from the oppressed brown people or some such nonsense, and my work became more about making the music and teaching and working in my community than about performing dance.

Earlier today, I looked down at my hands, covered in earth from repotting plants I raised up from seeds, who are ready for bigger pots and even the bigger outside, and laughed. Then I went out and put on some tunes and did a little dance for them, and they danced along in the everpresent wind we have here and we all turned our faces to the sun and shimmied and spun and they didn’t even mind my short nails, dirty hands, and wild hairdo.


Note: This was originally published on my private instagram a month or so ago.



Four Aches

I saw a coyote last night. I was standing at a bus stop near San Francisco State, a bus stop I have never stood at before, leaving an event filled with many folks whom I hadn’t seen in years. It was dark, though only about 6PM, and raining mistily. There were two other people waiting, all of us in our own worlds under umbrellas and hoodies. I was zoning out, and came to when I saw a coyote running down a median strip of grass, fast, focused, and maybe a bit scared. I must have made a noise, because one of my fellow bus stoppers looked up at me. Coyote, I said. We watched it lope down the median, then cross the street. A car was coming. I think I whined. The car stopped, and it ran onto the sidewalk, continued for a bit. The car sat there for a while, then continued. I watched the coyote, now a long block away, cross again, both sides of the median now, safely to the other side, and run up a hill. I knew it was entering the SFSU campus, and I hope it went to some of the wilder parts there, away from cars and humans and artificial light and concrete. It left me feeling guilty and sad and worried and like all I wanted in the world at that moment was that coyote and all the coyotes it knows to be free and have fun and hunt and eat and be alive and be coyotes. I wound up chatting with my fellow bus stoppers about animals and water and random stuff, and it was that good conversation you can only have with strangers you’ll never see again. The bus lumbered up, all wet and crowded, and we each got on to go about our lives. Thank you coyote.

I miss Either Or Bookstore in Hermosa Beach, one of the most important places of my life from about 8th to 12th grade, so from ages 13 to 17. I spent so many hours in that rickety, oddly-angled place, reading all the things, hanging out, sitting around, escaping from a middle and then high school life that continually left me supremely unsatisfied. I never spent a lot of money, and they never cared. Something hit me this morning, and I miss that place like I might miss a person.

My paternal great-grandmother died when I was 14. I was lucky to know her, but damn I wish I could go back to inhabit younger me for a minute and talk to her and hear more stories. I became a memory keeper for my family, a family which excels at living in the present, but back then I didn’t know what I didn’t know I would later want to know. I may never know. Related: My maternal grandfather, also a keeper, would have been 100 yesterday.

My right knee.


My great grandmother and fellow fam. Brooklyn in the 20s.
Four Aches

The Now

Feeling the pull away from some of my chosen forms of expression into new ones. Curious and scared to see what it will look like. Even the thought of changing what one has done for a lifetime is scary, though aging makes it easier as you realize time marches on. Trying to remember I don’t have to rip, tear, cut, sever. I can pull apart, stretch out, away, let the dough of it all pull apart, morph, take new shapes, bake or stay raw. Wondering if a clean, surgical, cold, calculating cut is the best, though. Like ripping off a band-aid, just fucking do it. Trying to stay open-minded, open-eyed, open-hearted, and remember that finding a place in a scene, appealing as that can be, is rarely all it’s cracked up to be in the long run, and finding a place you can live with when you are by yourself in the quiet times is the way to follow. Breathing. Staring at the wall. Watching the stars behind the swirling fog. Marveling at the blue. Excited, scared, at the edge of a cliff, floating on the river, going with the flow, middle fingers up, chin high, shining eyes down, riding the wave, trusting the self, going deep, staying broad, cutting out the chatter, laughing at the good jokes, side-eying the bad, calling it as I see it.
*sniffs* *whimpers* *howls*
Change is in the air.
Bring it.
Neighborhood fireworks show through the fog, July 4, 2017 ©Monica B.
Neighborhood fireworks show through the fog, July 4, 2017 ©Monica B.
The Now

What to Wear

World, nations, governments, religions, people, men, women, humans: Stop telling women what to wear, women here, women there, or women anywhere. Women you know, women you love or like, women you are related to, women you don’t know, women in pictures, women who are famous, random women on the street, women on the beach. Take a deep breath and butt out.

If your personal feelings of comfort or liberation or anything at all rely on what the person next to you has or does not have on their body at any given moment, at the end of the day that is your problem. Talk about it with your peeps if you want, judge away with your pals if you must, cover or uncover your own fine body as you wish, decide who you want to hang out with, but ultimately? Look away and get over it.

Note: I originally wrote this on my personal facebook page. -mb

I have no idea who took the most excellent protest photo in France, below, but I love it. If you know the photographer please let me know so I can credit them.


What to Wear


I live in an area where there is something amazing going on every day and every night. There is something interesting to do at all times. No exaggeration.

I do little to none of it.

I used to go strong, events in the afternoon, something else in the evening, often I was performing at one thing then supporting another, then closing down the bar after it all. Now? Not so much. I can blame it on being older (true.) I can blame it on not gigging as a dancer anymore and just occasionally performing as a musician (okay, okay, as a percussionist) at the moment (true). I can blame it on happily nesting (true, I mean…I have a cat to take care of now!). I can blame it on cynical burnout (probably a little true though I hate to admit it). I can blame it on being overwhelmed by it all (true). I can blame it on shit being expensive (kinda true, but the rich folks have their sparkly shiny things, and there is still a lot for the rest of us even as the rich take over more and more spaces, plus it is scary/ego-gratifying/weird how often I can still get myself on a list in this town *snaps*).

I found myself wondering if I lived in a place where there wasn’t much happening if I would make more of my own happenings again. Or if I would be so grateful for something interesting going on I’d be there with bells on. I don’t think so, though. If I leave this city, and even the region, would I still find my nest so appealing? Do I love being home a lot because I know the thrum of everything going on around me is…there? Do I take comfort these days in knowing I could go do all the things right now if I damn well pleased, and since I mostly damn well don’t please, the joy in quiet time with sweetie and cat are made even more sweet?

I think that also just might be true.

But then, maybe the shiny happy rich part is ruining all the things just a little bit, too. Back in ye olde punke rocke days, we talked about posers. I know, I know, it is silly. But it can be a useful lens to occasionally peer through once in a while. In an area and a time where everything has to be monetized, and everyone has to make a lot of money just to have a roof and a meal, it changes things. You can’t have a hobby anymore, you have to be serious and try to make money off of it, or at least people will casually say ‘hey, you could make money off of that’. So people hustle hard to make you come to their thing, that they are so professional at now, and that they really need you to come to, okay, okay, please come out to the thing, it is what I do now. It is exhausting. You have to cut through a lot of, well, posers to find the ones with heart, often not the shiniest, prettiest, most athletic, youngest, or most popular and with a lot of likes or followers on virtual spaces. They are doing it because they have to, because it is how they grew up, how they live, what they live, eat, breathe, and it is real, and you want to go, even if you are not on the list, just to be near them. Not because they have good promo photos. But becasue they make you feel something in the land of noise and all the things, all the time. Them I go out for, and I would no matter where I lay my head. Them I want to be. Them? Not posers. Few and far between, though, few and far between.



Research ramble

Working with students on research papers is an interesting experience (it’s for film theory at the moment, but I get to cross genres quite a bit in my graduate student support work). They have scads of information at their fingertips, so it often becomes a matter of facilitating critical thinking about their sources (99% of which are weak as heck). Finding out about one nifty thing sometimes becomes an end point, and encouragement to keep delving and looking for more history and background for the “discovery” (oof) they’ve made is met with resistance. A thing gets shared, everyone says ‘ooh’ and any context for it is missing, ignored, boring, and that thing become a favorite for a minute again, and is forgotten soon after. I appreciate the excitement of seeing or hearing or reading or learning something new, but don’t always get stopping there (which I suppose says something more about me and what might be perceived as nerdiness about topics that get under my skin…yeah yeah).

It reminds me of how I found some of my favorite songs and bands when I was a kid. I would listen to a record or 45 or tape I loved, or hear a song on the radio (thank you KXLU, and then a bit later KALX and KUSF), then try to learn who that band was influenced by and go listen to them. Or I would find out that a song I liked was actually a cover, and then get my mind blown tracking down the original, then going back to what they were listening to, and on and on.* Backwards thinking? Maybe! But it often led to seeing both the forest and the trees, and knowledge that nothing exists or is created in a vacuum. I’ve done it with dance that way over the years, too, and with my other studies. Having had to do research, both as a hobbyist, academically, and for work, without the internet, I sometimes get bummed seeing what can be perceived as superficial knowledge taken for granted or as solid truth, with no critical thought or context required. A blog post or a facebook post or a you tube video does not research or education make, though it can be a great start and a most useful tool. But it is never an end.


Maybe I need to appreciate a sense of wonder in others more. It’s the stopping point that baffles me, I suppose, along with deciding you have heard or learned something as fact and then setting yourself up as an expert on it (though that is another post). What is wrong with being and staying a student for a long time? Every damn thing being monetized may be part of the problem.


Meh. Curmudgeonly (but well meaning, I promise) meandering random thoughts on a foggy but slowly brightening Sunday morning before I go to rehearsal to play music of Sayed Darwish for 5 hours! (Only going back to the early 20th century today!).


*For example, I was a huge Damned fan in my early teens. When I found out Looking at You was an MC5 cover, I ran to my record store all wide eyed to find out more. Mind blown. Best ever, you guys. Another example was Jim Carroll leading back to Patti Smith who led back to Rimbaud…and on and on and on. Granted at 12 or 13 everything is new and exciting, but ultimately it still works that way for new-to-me music, dancers, films, poetry, books.


Research ramble

Regram: Do the work

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 8.45.22 AM

Via questlove on Instagram:

“Lessons we can learn. Kanye declares it (albeit in a kanyesque way) and so it is. When you watch #TheRoadToOffTheWall you will also be amazed at the number of manifestos that #MJ wrote to himself that manifested. This is a note that #OctaviaButler wrote to herself: as motivation and as mission statement. Don’t get me wrong: you can’t be all “imma be a billionar–actually wishing for the “prize” or “the life” or “the reward” is (imo) the wrong path. TRUE fulfillment is the joy of the task at hand (i.e. I love playing records so much I do it for 5 bucks or 500,000 bucks, or free thousand bucks)—anywho point is if you manifest being the best quarterback ever, then you better put in those prep hours to make it happen (be in shape, eat and live in good health, train longer and harder than your team does, proper rest, mentally prepare for high altitude games, sub 0 weather games, study the greats, running, plays, plan b plays, everything!) not just say “imma be the best quarterback!!”—this is anyjob: all you designers should know every aspect: science of colors. Math for measurement. Types of material and where they come from—not just you glance through Vogue every 13 days and you can name drop a designer or two—you gotta DO THE WORK. Even when you think it’s thankless. Use this note as motivation. Know your craft. And immerse yourself in the craft. THATS when the reward comes. Don’t chase the “reward” chase and catch the dream. Then it comes. Signing off #16JobsMon


Regram: Do the work

Try to Remember

The beauty of feeling excited by new things, projects, adventures, ideas, breakfasts, while at the same time other things fall apart, get swept away, crumble, go bye bye, or just feel totally and completely fouled up and mean and nasty and demoralizing. The little spark of life, you guys. The people by your side and at your back. Recognizing bad and selfish behavior from others for exactly what it is, and taking away from it a lesson in how never, ever, to act or to treat others or to be, because all we control is ourselves (and barely that some days, am I right or am I right). That’s the ticket people! Life is a constant cycle of passings and rebirths, small ones and large ones, and learning to go with that flow is the hardest lesson, and a constant lesson. Recognizing it, knowing it is true viscerally, trying to grab on to it to never forget, falling apart, forgetting, then remembering, then grasping, then forgetting, then seeing, grasping. Try to remember. Trust, trust, trust.


Photo by yours truly at the San Francisco Movement Arts Festival, Grace Cathedral, January 2016.
Try to Remember