By Alexandra Jones
Today I present you with a day in the life of Jen Levins. This isn’t really a typical day, but it happens often enough to cause trouble…
I’m sitting in a café in the upper east side of Manhattan. There was a time in my life when I had a long-standing boycott against New York. My friends might even say that I am notorious for hating the city. As a musician, I don’t seem to get a choice in whether or not I have a relationship with the place and I am trying to make amends.
This all began little more than a year ago. I had found a small café near my house with a great musical community. One Saturday night, I went to see a show there. Philadelphia is a hot bed for singer/songwriters and it’s fairly commonplace for me to befriend these local talents. On this particular night, the owner of the cafe introduced me to Blair Bodine. I am probably forever indebted to both of them.
Blair, a fellow songwriter, recommended that I get involved with the New York Songwriters Circle. I admit I was a bit hesitant at first, but this was advice from someone booking real shows whereas I was relegated to open mic nights. I eventually took that advice. One summer night, I drove myself to one of their events. They typically have concerts that feature up and coming artists and they play in the round. However, this particular event was actually an educational panel on making a living in music with the current state of the industry. One of those panelists happened to be a voice coach, and I had been searching for a good one for a while. I mean, after spending a few years in a conservatory, I wasn’t going to study with some random person I found on Craig’s List. I’ve been traveling between Philly and New York ever since.
I’ll be honest. There are a million things that suck about this. I don’t know the last time I had an entire weekend to myself. My garden looks like a jungle and my dog seems to have developed a case of doggy A.D.D. My laundry is so backed up that it would take me a week just to catch up. On the plus side, I get to spend hours doing nothing but listening to music while traveling.
This particular trip is on a Monday. I used a “vacation” day from my real job to come up here. Vacation is a relative term. I was up by 7 a.m. (thanks to my dog) and was looking up subway and train schedules by 9 a.m. One need only spend a single night sleeping in the Trenton train station to realize how important this is, but that is another story for another day.
If you ever find yourself in my shoes, your best bet is probably the Bolt Bus. It tends to be the quickest and most affordable way up here. It costs less than going fully public transportation (SEPTA to NJ Transit to NY Penn Station). I know because I’ve done it many, many times. The Bolt Bus was not an option for me today. After my lesson, I’m heading downtown to see a show. The last bus out of here will leave before the show is halfway done. I’m hoping to forge a few new friendships, so my exit strategy involves a tight schedule of trains to get to my car parked in New Jersey.
The band I hope to see is a fairly unknown duo from New Zealand, Evil J and Saint Cecilia. It consists of Eliza Jane Barnes and Ceci Herbert. I’ve been following them since they formed, but that is a more embarrassing story for a day I hope never arrives. Let’s just say that this is an opportunity that I can’t pass up. The problem is that if I don’t get out of New York City in time, I will miss the last train to my car and I won’t make it to work in the morning. As it is, I’ll be lucky to be home by 2 a.m. It’s a bit like Cinderella. My car will turn into a pumpkin at midnight, but instead of getting Prince Charming, I just lose my job.
In the mean time, I’m sitting in this tiny café eating while I have the chance and listening to Neil Young’s Le Noise. I suppose this is the real upside. I could be sitting at my desk dreaming about better days. Besides, where else could I see a guy rolling a joint in the middle of the street or a woman flossing her teeth on the subway? Perhaps this trip has already been successful.