Tag Archives: Maxwell

How Something Really Bad Can Turn Into Something Really Good–Oh, and Holy Shit, I Met Maxwell!

9 Jun

Maxwell GAP ad

Maxwell in an ad for The GAP

Last week I was racing across the street in flip-flops when, before I could stop it, my left foot landed on a pulverized rat. This was upsetting. Standing on the curb taking deep breaths, I decided to turn around and take a second look. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was.

Closer inspection revealed that I did indeed just step in rat guts with nothing more than a thin flip-flopped sole between me and them. Trying to stifle my gag reflex, I peered down at what had once been a rat but was now just a flattened layer of mush pressed into the concrete, a tail and one foot the only discernible features that remained.

Walking away, I tried to convince myself that this was not a big deal. Maybe I’d actually only grazed a sliver of the rat, or missed it entirely. A few blocks later I gathered the courage to look at the bottom of my shoe. There was black gunk on the upper left corner, and some reaching up along the left side of my shoe, centimeters from my bare pinky toe.

Not a big deal, not a big deal, I thought as I practiced Lamaze breathing. But I knew that there was no amount of scrubbing and disinfecting I could do that would make me feel OK about stepping foot back into my apartment in these shoes. However microscopic, I would never step soundly again knowing there could be rat entrails on my floor.

I looked down at my flip-flops. I loved these flip-flops. I’d gotten them at The GAP last summer so they probably didn’t carry them anymore. They were super-comfortable and the perfect neutral shade to go with everything. And I was super-broke and not excited about shelling out money for any unanticipated expenses. But the ratty flip-flops had to go.

On my way to meet a friend for coffee, I thought about cancelling and immediately heading to The GAP for my replacement. But he was going through a hard time and needed my help so I felt like I had to show up. I spent an hour with my friend, silently praying that I wasn’t at that very moment contracting the Bubonic plague. I’d planned to go to an event afterwards, but there was no way I could sit through even another five minutes with this rat on my foot, so I changed my plan and walked in the opposite direction towards the closest GAP.

Why does this shit always happen to me? I thought. Who the fuck ever steps in a smooshed rat?!? It wasn’t enough to feel sorry for myself on my own, so I called a friend.

“I’m on the way to buy new shoes,” I said. “Because I just stepped in a fucking rat!!!”

Which was when I walked past a guy who looked a lot like my favorite singer, Maxwell, but it was kind of hard to tell because he had a full beard and was wearing a baseball cap. I smiled, and he smiled back.

I kept walking, but I had to take one more look to make sure so I turned around. He was looking at me (checking me out?), AND IT WAS TOTALLY HIM!

“Gotta go, bye!” I said to my friend, hanging up. She texted me right away, “Feel better, the Universe just wants you to have new shoes!”

“The Universe just wants me to meet Maxwell!” I wanted to text back, but I had more pressing things to attend to first.

“Maxwell?” I asked, and he nodded yes.

“This is so crazy. I was just buying shoes,” he said, nodding at the shopping bags in his hands. “I can’t believe you recognized me.”


“I’m Max,” he said, reaching out his hand.


“I’m Jen,” I said, shaking his hand.

Let me semi-digress for a moment here to say that if I could meet one person in the whole entire world, it would be Maxwell. That I’ve been very vocal about my love for him for a long time (as evidenced in this, this, and this blog post), and went through a brief period in 2009 where I proactively hoped I’d meet him.

I was shaking and totally overwhelmed so I said, “I can’t believe this! I’m shaking! I’m so overwhelmed!”

He stood there smiling as I traced my love for him through the years, beginning when my first roommate in New York City introduced to me to Urban Hang Suite in 1998 to the present. Some highlights included when I took a half-vacation day from work three years ago to see him perform on a morning television show and told my boss I was taking a “Maxwell Half-Day;” how I went to see him in concert at Madison Square Garden by myself because none of my friends would go with me, and in the elevator at home that night I ran into my neighbor who was coming back from that same concert and I discovered that another die-hard Maxwell fan lived a mere four doors down from me; and how I listened to his music in my cube so much at an old job that whenever I came back from being on vacation, if an issue of TIME or People Magazine had come out while I was gone with an article about Maxwell in it, my boss and coworkers would leave a copy of it on my chair. I talk fast, so I was able to cover 14 years’ worth of stories in a relatively short period of time.

Me and Maxwell“You made my day, you made my day,” Maxwell kept saying, and hugging me. Multiple times. Needless to say, I no longer cared that I was standing in rat.

“I put your songs on so many uplifting playlists!” I said, clutching my heart. “Your music has brought me so much joy!”

“You made my day,” he said, and hugged me. Again.

After Max and I parted ways, I found my way to The GAP in my post-Maxwell haze. I couldn’t believe that they had the exact same style and color as my beloved flip-flops, circa 2011–the second miracle of the night! Unfortunately, they didn’t have my size, so they directed me to the GAP on 5th Avenue which allegedly would.

Walking into the second store, I pointed to my feet. “Where are these flip-flips?” I asked a woman who worked there.

“We don’t have those,” she said.

“But the GAP I just went to said you’d have them in stock here.”

“This is Bebe,” she said.

“Oh! I’m so sorry! I just met Maxwell!” I said, by way of explanation.

“I LOVE MAXWELL!!!!” she squealed. “I walked by him once but I would have had to leave my little brother in the middle of the street in oncoming traffic to say hi to him so…I didn’t,” she said, with a look of remorse that conveyed this had been a difficult decision, and she wasn’t sure she’d made the right choice.

“He’s my husband!” she exclaimed.

“Mine, too!”

Our sisterhood cemented, we hugged goodbye and she wished me luck finding my shoes.

Then I stumbled into the actual GAP a few doors down, and while they didn’t have my size either, they assured me that their Chelsea location would. That was the next stop on my shoe mission, and I found flip-flops in the exact color, style, and size to replicate my beloved pair. And–miracle number three!–they were on sale for only ten dollars! I put them on right away, and tossed my contaminated pair in the nearest trash can.

As soon as I got home, I called a friend to give her the play-by-play of my night.

“The best part of that story is the rat!” she said laughing.

Having lived through it, I was pretty sure the best part was Maxwell.

“We give thanks for the rat who gave his life,” she said solemnly.

“–so that I could meet Maxwell,” I finished.


Stepping in a pulverized rat on a New York City street is an unbelievably crazy bad thing that is almost statistically impossible. Running into Maxwell on a New York City street is an unbelievably crazy good thing that is almost statistically impossible. Which just goes to show you, sometimes a terrible thing can change your course and put you in exactly the right place for a wonderful thing that you would have never experienced had you not had rat guts on your foot.

The catch is, to fully experience the miracles that can unfold and surprise you in life, you can’t get attached and expect them. You just have to be present to what is, present enough to notice when you walk by Maxwell in a full beard and a baseball cap. And not get attached to the bad things either, feeling sorry for yourself and lamenting why they happened. There’s a saying that goes, “Don’t give up five minutes before the miracle,” and I’d amend that to be, “Don’t give up five minutes before you meet Maxwell.”

So sometimes, when an unbelievably terrible thing happens, an unbelievably amazing thing could be right around the corner if you just keep your head up, and keep walking.

Be A Bruise

11 Sep


Photo Credit: Laurie Scavo www.lauriescavo.com

“…to just really be a bruise, to be a wounded, exposed nerve to the world so that you can cure and somehow bring a common connection between us all through sound.”

-Maxwell, on the purpose of making music as a service and not out of being wrapped up in your ego, at the BLACKsummersnight Listening Party & Press Conference 4/28/09

This summer, I blogged about Maxwell’s Q&A at the BLACKsummersnight Listening Party & Press Conference, and there are so many juicy goodies in this interview that I want to return to it.  And also, not that I’m counting down or anything, but I’m going to see him in concert at Madison Square Garden in 17 days and 5 hours and 29 minutes…

In this interview, Maxwell talks about how some artists today get so wrapped up in their egos that they forget that making music is a service, and that the purpose is to heal.  And you do this, he says, but putting yourself out there as “a bruise…a wounded, exposed nerve to the world.”

This reminds me of when I was a rehearsing an emotional scene for a play over 10 years ago before I retired from acting, and my director saying that in life when you are crying and in pain, you put your head down and hide it from the world.  When you are acting and you are crying and in pain, you have to hold your head up and let the world see you like that.

This is what I strive to do in my writing – take the pain I have experienced, that I want to stuff down and hide from others and from myself in my life, and crack it open for the world (or whoever is reading my blog etc…) to see.  And it is totally hard and scary to do this.  The times that I have been the most open in writing, say, my Writeous Chicks Newsletters, like the ones about my depression or anxiety or insecurity, I will sit at home alone in front of my computer scared to put myself out there so much, wondering if I can really go through with it and press Send and usher my vulnerable, exposed words/wounds out into the world of my email distribution list.  But the ones that I have been the most scared to send have been the ones that I’ve gotten the strongest response to, and received emails from people thanking me and telling me how much they related to my writing.

Sometimes I put myself out there and it is not so well-received.  A few months ago I performed a story at a venue where I’ve kept my stories pretty light and comedic in the past.  But this time I wanted to delve deeper and talk about something that was difficult and painful for me, in a very open and honest and put-it-all-out-there kind of way.  As I told my story, the audience was silent, and I was unnerved that I wasn’t getting the laughs that I usually did.  After I finished speaking, I stood in front of the crowd feeling like a wounded, exposed nerve, and a very vulnerable one at that, and I walked off the stage in a daze.  I got lower scores on this story than I had on my previous stories, and although a few people told me they liked what I had done, it definitely wasn’t the positive response I was used to.

I continued to feel completely raw and exposed and didn’t even know when the event had ended, and had to ask my friend if it was over.  The next day I felt humiliated, and berated myself for putting it all out there like that.  But then, I remembered my intention, which was to do just that – to take a risk and put myself out there.  And I was able to shift from humiliation and self-reprimanding, to feeling proud of myself for my courage in admitting to and sharing my pain, and lifting my face up in a world that encourages you to deny and hide your pain, and keep your head down.

Maxwell splits his heart open and pours his pain into his music, which is in part why people resonate so strongly with it.  He also pours his joy into his music, and holds the whole range of human experience, the light and the dark, within his songs.  And because he puts it all out there, we then, as listeners, can connect to something within him that is also within us.

In writing or music or whatever form you are creating in, challenge yourself to be a bruise.  Sometimes you won’t go far enough and sometimes you will go to far and feel like a raw open wound exposed to the world.  Keep returning to the goal of healing and connecting, and eventually you will strike the right balance.  And keep heaping compassion on yourself as you do this and you will find that exposing your bruises and wounds will not only heal others, but will ultimately heal yourself, too.

Got Insecurity? So Does Maxwell.

10 Jul

“I’m a really, really insecure person at best…”

– Maxwell, Q&A at the BLACKsummers’night Listening Party & Press Conference on 4/28/09

A few years ago, I blogged about how John Mayer gets anxiety attacks.  And lately, with all the Michael Jackson coverage in the news, it’s been mentioned a lot that Michael Jackson was extremely shy.

OK, these are obstacles.  Big obstacles.  If you have “crippling anxiety attacks” as John Mayer’s were described in a September 2006 issue of Rolling Stone, one could assume that you might not be able to perform in front of huge crowds, have your albums go multi-platinum, and win Grammy Awards.  and if you are extremely shy, maybe you are just not meant to be the greatest pop star of all time.  Or maybe just maybe, you would be able to perform in front of thousands upon thousands of people, wow crowds, and maybe even become the King of Pop.  Maybe, despite all the obstacles that would seemingly make these things impossible, you can, and you do anyway.


In a recent Q&A at the BLACKsummers’night Listening Party & Press Conference, Maxwell confessed to being a “really, really insecure person at best,” and this is what he tweeted before his dress rehearsal for the BET Awards in June:  “on the STAGE gettin’ ready to do the dress rehearsals… so NERVOUS…”

I have long been fascinated by insecurity and fear, and how it can stop you.  Or not.  In my own life sometimes I will hit a wall of fear that is so scary it makes me want to stop, drop, and roll under my covers, question if it’s worth it, and be tempted to just give up altogther on that particular hope.  And it is easy to think that if you are at all insecure, shy, nervous, anxious, or fearful, well, maybe that big bold dream just isn’t for you anyway.  Maybe it’s for those totally secure, calm, fearless people, and you, well, you can stay hiding out, snuggled under those covers, and settle for a listless life devoid of meaning, in which your dreams are absent, having been chased away by your fears. 

But who are those supremely confident, ever-unflappable people?  Does anyone really not have to walk through some form of fear or insecurity on the path to their dreams?

Whenever I’ve performed or spoken in front of large groups, and even when I teach small groups, I often get very nervous (the heart-racing-difficulty-breathing-sick-to-my-stomach variety) beforehand.  A calm then sweeps over me once I get onstage or get started, but I’ve wondered if there are certain people who are extremely successful at what they do who just get to skip the fear step.  I’ve wondered if there is a way to override those nervous jitters and instead only embody complete confidence and calm at all times, in all situations, even in the most jitter-inducing of circumstances.  Seeing people who just SHINE, or ROCK, or do whatever they are doing to its fullest and most radiant expression, I’ve longed to know, what is their secret?

And the secret is this:  these people are often insecure, shy, nervous, anxious, or fearful.  But they do their thing anyway.

Maxwell describes himself as insecure.  Watch this video for “Pretty Wings” and see if it appears that he has anything at all to feel insecure about, or if “insecure” is one of the top five adjectives that comes to your mind to describe him.  Personally, I think, “dizzyingly beautiful, amazing voice, off-the-charts-talented, soulful, and sexy.”  Insecure doesn’t make it anywhere close to my list.  Or check out this performance for the CBS Early Show and see if you could guess that he ever gets nervous before performing.

In this recent Q&A Maxwell said, “I’m a really, really insecure person at best,” and he then continued with a laugh, “I mean, I know I front hard on that stage, let me tell you, it’s all fake.”  That’s the other piece of the secret:  sometimes you really do just have to fake it ’til you make it.

Fear, shyness, insecurity, anxiety, and nervousness can be obstacles that stop you in your tracks, propel you into hiding under your covers, and chase away your dreams.  But they don’t have to be.  John Mayer gets anxiety attacks.  Michael Jackson was shy.  Maxwell is insecure at best.  But they all stepped through their fears to share their incredible gifts with the world.  Don’t let those things stop you from sharing your gifts with the world.  Just take a deep breath, front if you have to, and step out into your spotlight to rock.

Maxwell Is Singing To My Soul…& Curing My Anxiety

9 Jul

This is how it started:  two weeks ago I was listening to Pandora.com as I was getting ready in the morning and Maxwell‘s song “Pretty Wings” popped up, reminding me how much I love Maxwell.  I didn’t realize it was a new song and thought maybe it was just one that I had missed in the past.  When I got to work, I told my co-worker, who sits behind me and gets to hear about all my musical loves, about my excitement over hearing that Maxwell song.

“You must be really excited for his new cd then!” my co-worker exclaimed.

“What??!?!”  I had had no idea that Maxwell had a new cd coming out after the 8 years since his last one.  I had been excited about creating a new Maxwell station on Pandora; now I was over-the-top about the news of his new cd.

This is how it really started:  In 1998, I graduated from college and moved to New York City to go to acting school full-time, and into an apartment on the Upper East Side with two of my best friends from high school.  One of my roommates had Maxwell’s cds “Urban Hang Suite” and “MTV Unplugged” and introduced me to the wonder that is his music.  She had been introduced to Maxwell’s music by her ex-boyfriend who had played his cds when they were still dating, while they were making out.  I imagine that that guy smartly put Maxwell’s cds on permanent rotation in his bedroom cd player.

In my first New York City apartment, Maxwell cds were often playing, for musical enjoyment purposes not making out purposes, although I did go on to follow in my roommate’s footsteps and make out with my own boyfriend circa 2000 to the live version “Whenever Wherever Whatever” on the unplugged cd.  I played Maxwell’s live version of “This Woman’s Work” off that same cd as emotional preparation when I was acting in plays where I had to be sad, crouched down backstage in the dark, or in a green room, listening to it repeatedly before going on.  I had a painful break-up with boyfriend circa 2000, wrote a play about him, and used the aforementioned version of “Whenever Wherever Whatever” in the play’s soundtrack.  Years later, I’ve happily divorced that beautiful song from the painful memories of the break-up and can deeply enjoy it once again. 

In August of 2001 Maxwell’s last cd “Now” came out.  I got it right away, and listening to the songs “Lifetime” and “Get to Know Ya” made me feel happy, and hopeful.

And I remember a mix of Maxwell songs on the soundtrack of my first few years living in New York City in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, woven in with the experiences of my 20’s when I was new to the city, everything was an adventure, and I was guided by my dreams.

This February, I was meeting my Dad and Stepmom for dinner at a French bistro in Manhattan.  I got there early and was waiting at the bar when “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” came on.  I felt flooded again with that same sense of happiness and thought, “I love this place!”  After dinner I stopped at Barnes & Noble on my way home to buy my very own copy of “Urban Hang Suite,” because I have not lived with that Maxwell cd-owning roommate since Maxwell’s last cd came out.

Back to Summer 2009, for the past two weeks, I have been so excited about Maxwell’s new cd coming out, and have been listening to his music practically non-stop.  And here’s the thing.  Sometimes music can bring you so much joy, and just make you feeeeeel soooooo goooooood.  And Maxwell’s music does exactly that.  Several times over the past few weeks, I’ve been walking down the street when I’ve noticed anxious thoughts creep into my mind, and I’d start down the path of worrying about some insignificant thing that is a waste of my time and energy, but a familiar and seductive pattern nonetheless.  And several times I’ve grabbed for my iPod Shuffle in those moments, shoved the headphones in my ears, and pressed play to “Pretty Wings.”  I’ve discovered that hearing it just melts away my anxiety, and makes it pretty much impossible to give any time or energy to a negative worried thought, because all my energy becomes captivated by the music instead.  And on a crowded subway, I will throw in those headphones again, and blast “Pretty Wings” or “Fortunate,” and suddenly I am literally bursting with energy and excitement (and sometimes dancing), oblivious to space-invading rush hour commuters, transported into a whole nother, more joyful, zone.

Maxwell Concert July092I got his much-anticipated new cd “BLACKsummers’night” yesterday, and today, I took what I called a “Maxwell Half-Day” at work, and went to see a free outdoor concert that he was doing for the CBS Early Show.  I had wanted to go to his concert at NJPAC in Newark which was the closest show to NYC listed on his tour schedule, but it had sold out the week before.  However, the same day I found out that that show was sold out, I learned about this free NYC one.  Walking from the subway to the outdoor plaza where the CBS concert would be this morning, I was so excited that I started having difficulty breathing and I had to pop a Tums.  It was an amazing, joyous show from an amazing, joyous performer, and it always inspires me how something so simple as a song, has the incredible power to transport, transform, uplift, and even, when needed, to cure anxiety.

Stay tuned, there is a good chance I will write more about Maxwell, and this just might turn into Maxwell Week on my blog…