the next service is in Los Angeles on June 11

Posts In From our Grand Poobah

Grand Poobah | Celebrating The Solstice



It’s that time of year again—and I couldn’t be more excited. This Sunday is our 2nd Annual Winter Solstice celebration at Judson Church. We had such a big, glorious celebration last year and I’m excited to see what will happen this year as we apply what we learned from the year before. It was our first evening service ever and our biggest service ever, too. This year’s theme is SPACE and, in characteristic Secret City fashion, we aim to explore the theme in all of its many dimensions—outer space, personal space, performance space, the space between people, safe space. It’s a rich, rich theme. Our colors are Silver and White and, my outfit is being finished as I type—I promise to deliver sequins and platforms and spectacle. And, my hope is that we will create an evening that brings people together, providing joy to all in these scary times. A service that focuses on community and kindness, creating a tonic against the darkness. I know I take solace and great comfort from knowing the Secret City exists—and happiness in knowing we will all gather together in just a few days, to celebrate the greatest aspects of being human: art, cooperation, kindness, community, creativity, music, food—I hope to see you there.

Sunday, December 18th at 6:30 at Judson Memorial Church, 55 Washington Square South. Bring a treat to share for coffee hour afterward, dress up in silver and white if you like. There’s a $20 suggested donation. No one is turned away.

The Secret City. We worship art.


From our Grand Poobah | TRUTH AND LIES

Spring is FINALLY here – the bulbs in the yard and the sun through the trees and the fact that I can walk outside barefoot, wearing shorts – well, let’s just say, I’m no dummy. It’s SPRING!

Our next NYC service is Sunday, April 26th and the theme is TRUTH AND LIES. It’s a fresh theme for us and it’s really fun to curate around. The more I ponder Truth and Lies, in terms of art and creativity, the more I see the slippery nature of both. It was Picasso who said, “Art is the lie that reveal the truth.”

We think of truth as something fixed, absolute, but living our lives, we’re reminded of the subjective nature of the truth–and of lies, too. Perhaps art, creativity, artistic process, etc – reminds us of this. The complexity, nuance, the great greyness of everything.

One truth I can share with you is this: at this month’s service, we’ll be presenting our first piece of theater. Meaning, we’re presenting a short play in the middle of the service. The wonderful playwright, Christina Anderson, is writing a piece inspired by the theme and we’re assembling a small company of players to perform it. It’s something I’ve been wanting to add for some time. We have so many wonderful playwrights and actors in our community and it’s exciting to start creating original work with them.

In fitting with the theme, and in the spirit of balance, I feel like I should now share one lie so here it goes: I hate this sunshine, this warmth, the bright blue sky and the joy that comes from the woods and the yard coming back to life. I hate spring.

See you on April 26th.


From our Grand Poobah | ANIMALS!


ANIMALS! Wow – it’s a new theme for us and what a WILD theme it is…makes me think of the horse we had when we were kids, none of us rode her or took care of her but we loved her! We lived in the suburbs but dad really wanted us to have a horse. She lived in a stable across town…we would go visit her but, frankly, she scared me. I was afraid she would kick or bite me…we got rid of her a few years later, sold her to the woman who took care of her for us. I had chicks one time from the fair – didn’t do so well with them either. I loved them but they were chicks and they lived in a birdcage in the downstairs bathroom and didn’t survive much beyond the week after the fair. I wasn’t one of the 4H kids, far from it. I had, and still have, a great love of animals but am not a great steward. I did have a parakeet for a few years, his name was George and he was yellow and blue and pale green…he sang so sweet. ANIMALS also makes me think of when we went on safari when I was a kid – we saw elephants and rhinos and zebras and cheetahs and all the amazing wild animals of the bush…pink flamingoes taking off into the sky en masse. We also had cats and dogs – the cats always intimidated me but it was the dogs who stole my heart. I’m gonna write about all of this for this month’s story…the dogs in my life, esp the last one and the current one. (this pic is of SALLY, our new little dog – we adopted her in December.) And, as is our way in The Secret City – we’ll really be looking at the HUMAN ANIMAL, us, with our bodies and hairs and skin and bones…This Sunday, March 15th in LA – and then we’ll be doing ANIMALS again in NY on Sunday, March 29th. Hiss. Purr. Growl.


From our Grand Poobah | SOLITUDE


SOLITUDE. Deep winter up here in the Catskills – there’s a foot of snow on the ground and the sky is pale grey except around 530 when it slowly breaks into bright orange and pink to the west. Lots of icicles hanging from the eaves and tomorrow night it’s predicted to be 11 below – you get the picture. It’s cold. It’s funny, for a native Californian, I’ve really come to love winter in the Northeast. Don’t get me wrong, I love Southern California and miss it all the time – but, I also have come to love the dramatic seasons and the gifts that each one brings. Sometimes I struggle with the feeling of being trapped indoors – but it’s a rich time, too. A time for introspection, taking stock, planning for the burst of energy to come in just a month or so. And, in its own right, to be still with the quiet of the woods – to turn inward. Our theme this month is SOLITUDE, in honor of this time. I read something recently that said, for people living in places where the climate changes a lot over the course of year, that winter is when you really learn what a place is made of. it reveals the bones underneath a place – I know I learn about myself in the winter – my less-showy parts, perhaps, come to light.

I’m looking forward to the 22nd when we gather to celebrate SOLITUDE – already the line-up of performers and artists is inspiring me to go deeper into this time of year.


From our Grand Poobah | PATTERNS

PATTERNS! They’re everywhere – on pineapples and seashells, pine cones and waves, they show up in our clothes, our habits, our lives and our relationships. Patterns is the theme for our next service – Sunday, January 25th in NYC. It’s a new theme for us and seems fitting for the new year, when we think about how we do things and the things we’d like to be doing, but aren’t. After a nice, long holiday break, where I stopped some of my patterns, revisited some of my older patterns and just ept on with a few of my regular patterns – well, we’re back in the groove, which means a return to familiar, even as we embrace the new. Funny, as I’m thinking about patterns, I’m falling into that sort of Op-Art feeling – falling, vertigo…visual patterns can do that, too, as you stare at something for a long time it can change, and it can change you, too.

I had vertigo a few years go – what a strange experience. I woke one morning feeling as if my head had slipped off the backside of the pillow and was sliding backwards off the bed. When I finally stood I nearly fell. I grabbed the wall and had to hold onto something the whole way into the living room. I went to the doctor – not much to do, I guess. Maybe it was inner ear – all I know is that my balance was off for about two weeks. We take so much for granted, don’t we? Balance, walking without the help of a wall or chair to guide us, standing up straight – we take the patterns of our lives for granted, even as they are often the things that give our lives meaning.

A pattern is like a ritual – repeated, ingrained, creating a groove in the world, in our lives. They’re powerful, patterns, to make and break.

Come celebrate with us on the 25th, if you’re near New York. Let’s kick off the new year together.

This is a pattern designed by Alexander Wyly, our visual artist for this month. I love these colors and the dynamic, starburst effect.



From our Grand Poobah | VISION


Wow! It’s a Secret City Whirlwind! We had our most recent LA service this past Sunday and the theme was SPACE – what a fantastic day it was. Great performances, energy, games, artists, food and music. The choir was fantastic! And, Patrice Quinn blew it up with two great jazz standards – Fly Me To The Moon and East of the Sun, West of the Moon. Felt as if we all took off on an astral plane together for a while there. Just beautiful. I also LOVED the food offering on Sunday – Astronaut Ice Cream. Freeze dried. So perfect for the theme. The Choir did Space Oddity – a fantastic arrangement by Laural Meade and Fred Cassidy. Lots of tears in the house with that one. Oh, the game was really great, too. So fun.

Now, I’m staying in town for another week to teach an intensive of WRITING LIFE – that’s this weekend. Then, it’s back to NY for our next NYC service on Sunday, December 21st. The theme will be VISION – inspired by the solstice.

The community is really blowing up right now – so many great people and wonderful connections being made. There’s also a LOT of behind the scenes stuff taking place – board development and infrastructure building and planning for the future. I’m excited that we’re getting more organized than we’ve ever been.

These past 7+ years have really been sort, well, if not seat-of-the-pants then purely instinctual – it’s amazing to thing about what we can do with some strategies and the addition of a bunch of smarty-pants helping out.

In the meantime – we continue to gather in the ways we always have – grassroots, person to person, looking for the present moment with each other and celebrating the creativity that runs through us all.

Here’s to now, and to the great new year.


From our Grand Poobah | SPACE


SPACE is the theme for our next service – it’s this Sunday, December 7th, in LA. Sometimes, when we pick the themes they just sound cool – as a lot of you know, we repeat themes sometimes – Memory, Light, these are some that we’ve had a number of times. Other times we look for interesting new themes that will force a fresh take on the service and the stable of artists we’re creating and drawing from. Sometimes, we pick a theme with no idea what’s going to happen – and so it is with SPACE. I’m in the thick of it here, prepping for SPACE – and, it’s my favorite type of theme – has a LOT of different meanings. Space as in outer space. Physical space – as in where you live, your home, office, etc. Space as in spiritual space – spaciousness, I guess. SPACE, the area between things.

We’ll be out there Thursday and hitting the ground running. I love these trips to LA – they keep me connected to the place I come from. The SPACE i come from. And, as we slide into winter here in the Hudson Valley, it’s nice to have a week of warmth and suna nd maybe even beach time.

Come see us, if you’re in LA – let’s share some space together. And, fill it with music and dance.


From our Grand Poobah | ANCESTORS


What a time it is! I’m in Woodstock and it’s been raining all day. Literally. I love it – but I work at home and don’t have to deal with the city like I used to. I am getting excited to get back into town, though, and have our service for the month. I love autumn, and I love how the events start to get deeper and a bit more somber with the darkening of the year. ANCESTORS, that’s our theme for this month. It’s funny – the word ANCESTORS seems to belong to other cultures and not so much my own – I think of Asian cultures and the importance of ancestor worship. Or African cultures – how those who’ve come before seem to be more present than in my own, middle-class, waspy culture. But this is ridiculous, isn’t it? We all have ancestors and, when you think about it, we all share ancestors. You trace any family line back far enough and they’re bound to connect. And, you know how The Secret City is about connection – it’s the foundation of what we believe and celebrate, connectedness. So, ANCESTORS – whether it’s our grandmothers or our ancient forefathers who wandered the earth – may they all be in the room with us on Sunday, in some form or another – memory or otherwise.


From our Grand Poobah | THE UNKNOWN


Autumn is upon us – here in the Catskills it’s rainy and cool and the forest is yellow and moulting. It’s that delicious time of year when we begin to enter the darkness, the dying off of the fruits of spring and summer. After a glorious service in LA on the 12th celebrating WATER we are now gearing up for our next NYC service and the theme is THE UNKNOWN, perfect for this moment.

Ever since starting The Secret City I’ve dreamed of growing our community and our reach – in all ways, I suppose. How to deepen out event, how to become more inclusive, how to curate artists who aren’t in my immediate sphere – all of these questions drive me. This month turns out to be a perfect opportunity to address some of those very issues, or to begin to, at least. I’ve decided to use the theme of THE UNKNOWN to hand over the curating to a bunch of different folks within our community. That means I don’t really know what’s going to take place this Sunday. That’s a first. I mean, we’ve often had things that I didn’t know the exact way it might play out but this is the first time that I don’t know the songs the choir will be singing or what the visual art will be or the food offering or the song following the meditation and so on and so on…

It’s exciting to grow and change – RISK, that’s something I think about a lot. I think risk is necessary to stay alive – certainly for the creative artist, risk is a necessary part of process. We must change, right?

Autumn teaches us that – dying leads to rebirth. Transformation.

I hope you can join us Sunday for THE UNKNOWN.

Happy Autumn.


From our Grand Poobah | WATER


We arrived in LA last night – the air is warm and dry. So different from the heavy fall vibe we’ve got going on in Upstate New York right now. We left fall foliage, rain showers and crisp mornings and landed in a drought stricken southland. Visited the desert last night to see my folks and its really bone dry out there – their lawn out back has died. I mention all this because, well, it’s what’s happening – severe drought (even the signs on the freeways announce the drought, HELP SAVE WATER…) and because our theme this coming Sunday is WATER. I chose it because I knew the conditions of the summer were bad and that things probably weren’t going to change much by the time we came back here this weekend. So, WATER – it’s a challenge to curate around such a topical theme: how to capture what’s really going on with people and their environment? while also remembering that we are artists and our job is to make art that draws people’s attention to the theme…so, back to my idea of art mindfulness. We will bring our focus and attention to WATER on Sunday and by doing so ask others to draw their attention to it as well. And, we will have a communal experience around water. I’m excited to see what happens. Our old pal, Jonny Rodgers, who performs under the moniker Cindertalk, is coming down from Oregon and he’s going to build a human rainstorm using the community, wineglasses, electronics and built in cues and loops and samples. Joining him will be our pal Ameenah Kaplan on drum and the band and audience. We also have a great line up of artists – Christophe Cassidy’s paintings of Ballona Creek, a food offering by Michael Dunn, inspired by the water ritual in Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land. My fantastic friend of many years, Patti Tippo, is bringing vintage bathing suits and we’re going to hang them all around the space. The poet Mariano Zaro is going to read a poem, also about swimsuits. Laural Meade and Fred Cassidy are cooking up the choir with some TLC and Al Green/Talking Heads.

Ok, enough of the details – I’m excited for the event on Sunday. Looking forward to seeing folks and celebrate WATER.

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