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A Marriage of Art and Politics Chapter 1: Church Meetings

Ian’s Chapter 1
A Marriage of Art and Politics

My buddy Jim, who was the lead singer/songwriter of Nylon & Steel, said to me:

You gotta go see the Vance Gilbert show in December.  This guy’s great.

Congregational Church of Huntington, UCC

Congregational Church of Huntington

Though I just knew Jim for a year, I trusted his taste in music.  So I planned on seeing Gilbert on the first Saturday of December 1997 at the Folk Music Society of Huntington. The Folk Music Society holds their events at the Congregational Church of Huntington.  Jim must have had us cancel our usual Saturday night rehearsal so we could all go.  And we pretty much all did.  Paulie, Troy, Lotek & Cool Breeze were there.  After convincing all of us, Jim got sick and couldn’t make it.

Over the past year, I had been spending a lot of time in church, but none of it praying. In 1997, I had taken a hiatus from dating to concetrate on me.  Or as a friend quipped at the time, to date myself.  I had started going to the PeaceSmiths Coffeehouse regularly.  Susan Blake, the longtime organizer of PeaceSmiths, served up a monthly blend of music, poetry, and politics.  Peacesmiths met at Amityville’s  First United Methodist Church.  Besides meeting amazing people, PeaceSmiths met a lot of my personal agenda.  I had started writing and publicly reading my poetry that year.  I wanted to get re-engaged with politics.  At PeaceSmiths, I got an education in pacifism.  And as I was doing more poetry, I realized I wanted to do spoken word with music.  During Peacesmiths famous open mic, I saw an amazing band called Nylon & Steel.  The band introduced me to the hand-drum and acoustic guitar joy of a jam band sound.

At the next month’s coffeehouse I gave them the poem I had written, Common Ground, in response to their music.  I soon found myself doing spoken word to their music.  Or as my now-wife Kimberly puts it I became their “Poet Mascot.”  Common Ground became part of our regular repertoire. 


When I met Kimberly in December 1997, dating had recently re-entered my vocabulary, but marriage was nowhere to be found.  We met standing on the hot beverage line during the intermission of the Vance Gilbert show.  My friend Mike Kornfeld was standing in front of me in line.  In my usual over-exuberant manner, I was recounting how I had already paid for my tea. I had just bought a brownie on the neighboring line for 50 cents.  When I handed over a dollar, the woman asked me if I was buying a  cup of tea.


Because you can just tell them you paid me instead of my giving you change back.

As I waited in line for the tea, I asked Mike if he thought they would believe me.  I heard from behind me a woman’s voice say,

You have an honest face.

I turned around to find the voice belonged to a beautiful woman.  (I found out years later that Kimberly thought I must have been trying to get her attention because no person would talk that loud in a normal course.)  The little voice in the back of my head said,

Say something, stupid!

I don’t remember what we talked about as the line approached the table.  I just remember a little voice in the back of my head again prompting me:

Mention something about poetry.

In a rare instance I listened before it was too late.  Though I can’t remember exactly what I said about poetry.

Jim was more right than he knew about the importance of going to this concert..  Vance Gilbert was great.  I remember Gilbert humorously dealing with the paucity of other African-American folk singers with his own song, Country Western Rap. Cool Breeze was dancing in the back, blithely unaware that he was freaking out the staid Folk Music Society.  After the intermission Troy & Paulie asked me about the woman I was talking to.  I told them I had just met her.  After the concert, Kimberly & I went back to the break room to talk some more.  It was now used as Gilbert’s dressing room.  We interrupted him changing shirts.  We apologized and went back to the lobby where I gave Kimberly my telephone number.

I guess the little voice in the back of my head knows something.  My second date with Kimberly was to see me read poetry in Farmingdale.  Kimberly principally remembers me reading Wendell Berry‘s Manifesto:  The Mad Farmer Liberation Front  with the snow falling outside the window behind me.

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