the next service is in Los Angeles on June 11

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Another great gathering of The Secret City

Another great gathering of The Secret City yesterday – the theme was MONSTERS, and it was fun/scary/creepy and deep. The community continues to amaze me in how it grows in size and strength – another full house of interesting/interested people, and a lot of new folks. Our special guest artists BROUGHT IT – Sxip Shirey tore it up with microphone, sampling, a great story about his ancestors and a song about a backroom at his grandfather’s barber shop where he wasn’t allowed to go.
Rachelle Garniez tore it up, too – and took us on a creepy odyssey about frogs and regeneration and then killing and addiction. By the end the audience was rapt, horrified, saddened and moved by her artistry.

Laura Breen’s ghoul series proved the perfect visual art for the day – KINDERTRAUMA 2: Urban Prey. We’ve got one of her pieces up here on the site now and we’re going to share more over the course of the next month.

The wonderful Julia Pearlstein read the Cultural Calendar, and Micia Mosely had the reading of the day and brought the house down with her rendition of Where The Wild Things Are.

The choir – under the leadership of our dear Stephanie Summerville – sang two great songs – BOOGIE MONSTER, a Gnarls Barkeley tune, and Thriller, as the closer. They threw in some great choreo, too.

Oh, and did I mention that the band was SLAMMIN yesterday?? Jeremy Bass and the guys really delivered – sexy and rockin.

Thanks for a wonderful service, everybody! Now, a little rest before we gear up for November and, TRASH!


We celebrated CHILDHOOD


Thank you to everyone who supported The Secret City via our last Indiegogo campaign ever. We raised $27,090!

We are now on summer vacation, but here’s a recap of the last service of the season in NYC. We celebrated CHILDHOOD on June 30th.

The Cultural Calendar was read by Eric Powel Holm.


We looked at miniature dioramas in matchboxes by Bridget and Rita Carpenter.

We also looked at the drawings we each made on construction paper with crayons before service.

We enjoyed a taste of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

We heard a song from Oded Gross: Mama Never Let Me Be a Cowboy Among Other Things that Start with Cow.

We watched Shakedown Dance Collective dance to Ain’t No Thing.

Charlotte Booker read The Thing I Miss Most About Being a Child, a poem she crafted that day from our answers to the question “what do you miss most about being a child.”

Chris Wells read a story: Where I Grew Up. There were many references to shag carpets.

Sisters Leah Coloff, on cello,  and Rachel Coloff, on vocals,  offered a song called Outfits.

The Secret City Choir closed service with a touching cover of Ooh Child .



Reflections on an afternoon at the altar of NYC’s The Secret City


Simply put: don’t deprive yourself of the pleasure that is a Sunday with The Secret City! Get thyself to service.

Upon advice from a regular attendee I decided not to worry over the questions of the “what?” and the “why?” of The Secret City.  Instead I showed up ready to imbibe whatever that Sunday in April had to offer with the theme The Earth.

I arrived a few minutes late and scurried to my seat. In my scurry I was greeted with a showering of rose petals over-head from an energetic toss of Chris Wells, the man in charge, who at the time was wearing pink-rimmed glasses, a pair of overalls and freshly painted pastel fingernails.

During the next two hours my mind was blown: I tasted a bitter French Sorrel leaf, freshly picked from a city rooftop garden; I listened as two musicians brought me to tears with one ballad and one fiddle; I heard an artist share about her vibrant colored origami shaped collages bursting from the walls and ceilings of the room around us; I heard the choir sing, “I feel the earth, move, under my feet!” and indeed in a packed basement in the lower east side of Manhattan on an otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon, I did.

The ambiance of The Secret City is awesome.  What The Secret City offers is unique, inducing spontaneous smiles and eye contact with strangers. Imagine! And all of this community is in the name of serving artists and the arts. There is an open invitation to attend and create the adventure for all.

The Secret City at Dixon Place does indeed feel like a portal to joy.

Won’t you join us?

Upcoming Services: The Secret City LA – Obsession on June 16 & The Secret City NYC on June 30.

By Jamie J. Hagen, writer & activist


Service Recap: MEMORY: Photos, Videos, & Cultural Calendar

farrah painting

On Sunday, May 19th we celebrated Memory with a beautiful gathering of artists and friends.

farrah painting

Our visual artist was Bobby Lucy, who shared his painting of Farrah Fawcett inspired by the iconic 70s poster.

The food offering was sweet New York Honey, presented by Chris Wells.


Ayun Halliday presented The Complete History of The East Village Inky- in song! Here’s a video of her performance:


We watched swing dance presented by Joy Grad and Nelson Rodriguez. Check out this video:


The reading was from The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne. Read by Emilio Delgado. Here’s an excerpt:

So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way, in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.


Jazz singer Nancy Harms sang for us. Here’s a video of the performance.

Patricia Scanlon read The Cultural Calendar. Excerpted below:


  • K.J. Holmes performs a dance work in progress at Movement Research at Judson Church, Monday May 20 at 8 p.m. It’s called Hic Sunt Dracones, and it’s free. Doors open at 7:45.

  • Our own Raquel Cion is gonna get her country on singing with The Lonesome Cupcakes, Friday, May 24th, 8 pm. Hank’s Saloon, 3rd Avenue and Atlantic in Brooklyn! Free! Yee haw!

  • Double Bass Double Voice, featuring today’s guest vocalist Nancy Harms, appear at Bar Next Door on MacDougall St, that’s tomorrow night, with 2 sets, 8:30 and 10:30 – see Nancy for details.

  • Great Small Works presents the 10th Annual Toy Theatre Festival at St. Ann’s Warehouse in Dumbo, with a calendar full of lots of incredible performers and artists. June 11th – 23rd. Visit for details.

  • Isabel Rose is bringing her swinging cabaret/lounge act to 54 Below, Thursday, March 30th at 7pm, in anticipation of the release of her newest album. See Isabel for details, or visit for tickets and information.

  • And, Figment, the free, outdoor art festival on Governor’s Island takes place the weekend of June 8th. Featuring interactive sculpture garden, the City of Dreams Pavilion and an artist designed mini golf-course. Check out for details.

  • And, ladies and gentlemen, Citi Bike, the shared bike program we’ve been waiting for goes into operation next weekend. So get yourself a helmet and we’ll see you on the streets!



THE EARTH: Photos, Videos, & Cultural Calendar


Chris greeted us with a shower of polyester flower petals!


Our guest visual artist Natalie Collette Wood shared White Noise: paintings, collages and sculptures inspired by nature and represent the landscapes of imaginary worlds.


Anastasia Cole Plakias presented the food offering from the urban rooftop farm Brooklyn Grange: French sorrel, a sour leafy green.


We played “You and the Earth.”


Kaina Quenga danced the hula for us. She explains the meaning of the dance in this video:


Our musical guests were Melody Allegra Berger, who played the fiddle and Ross Martin, who played the guitar.


Hugs and smiles!



Charlotte Booker read the Cultural Calendar.

Secret City Visual Arts curator, Bobby Lucy has curated a show for the gallery at HERE theater space in SOHO. It’s called THE COLOR WHEEL and opens Friday, March 10th. See Bobby for details.

The Good Boy, a new solo show by Michael Bonnabel about growing up the hearing child of two deaf parents is playing now at the Abingdon Theatre in the West Village. Visit for details.

The new musical Here Lies Love is burning it up at The Public Theatre – do what you have to to get a ticket.

Pull My Daisy, a cabaret concert featuring a trio of singers, including our own Remy Block, is at Don’t Tell Mama, Friday, May 10th and Saturday, May 18th at 7pm. See Remy for details.

How to Make Movies at Home, a feature film written & directed by Morgan Nichols (and featuring the talents of many Secret City pals and regulars) will have its world premiere in Brooklyn on May 18th.  See Morgan for details.

Also on May 18th, Dance Parade, the largest display of dance in the city of New York, is coming up on May 18th join hundreds of dance companies as they dance their way down Broadway. Visit for details.

The next service in NYC will be May 19. The Secret City LA will have a service on June 16th; please visit our Facebook page to vote on the theme.


Service Recap: LA excited by THE BODY


“…Finally, something worth worshiping!  A communal, spiritual, art-fest without the g-o-d talk.  From a neo-pagan, dionysian, tantric, taoist, atheist, sacred humanist…thank you for creating something worthy of the 21st century.”

The above quote was in an email I received on Monday, from someone who attended our latest LA gathering. It’s one of my most favorite notes I’ve ever received about the experience of The Secret City. It was a truly phenomenal gathering this past Sunday; the theme was THE BODY – and something about it and the crowd and the talent and the music and the choir and the food and the African Dancers, and the drumming and the nudity (!!!) – well, you get the idea. It all added up to a major explosion of joy and love and community.

I have always felt that the work of the Secret City had endless potential to reach WIDE and DEEP into the hearts of our country’s artists and creative people, spiritual seekers and outcasts. In the past few months – I’ve seen that growth start to really take place, to spill out of our walls and select community into an ever expanding, ever connected sea of people.

I feel so happy and grateful. And, I think we need more costumes. Maybe in general, but certainly in our services. More costumes. And maybe more nudity. We’ll see. People really seem to like it. As Walt Whitman said, “If anything is sacred, the human body is sacred.”

We’ll be back in New York City on Sunday, April 28th, the theme will be THE EARTH, and then back to LA on Sunday, June 16th. The theme for LA isn’t set yet – we’re going to take suggestions and then vote on them. Feel free to comment here with any theme you think we should do.

– Chris Wells, Founder & Artistic Director

Mario Calvano was our featured visual artist.  Notice his nude paintings, Allegories,  hanging above Chris.

blood orange


from Matthew Feitshans, who did the food offering of blood oranges and chocolate with salt.

An offering of food…

Taken inside you, delivered to your cells by the world’s greatest delivery system..
Your personal Fed Ex, the big brown UPS truck of your life (barreling down streets way too narrow for them to be driving that fast) that’s your blood, racing — racing…
My hands, my very clean hands, racing in the chill of three AM this morning, peeling, dipping, chilling, dusting.
Three elements: blood orange, chocolate and salt.
Citrus Sinensis, a fruit made sinfully crimson by its “anthocyanins”, a pigment that only develops in the coldest of winter nights…
All oranges are hybrids, but the blood orange is a mutation, a citrus hemophilia, gushing forth from the earth’s body and turning into taste…
Just as chocolate is squeezed from the cocoa bean, the nib its blood covenant, given unto us…
Dripping chocolate like blood, spattering across my stovetop.
So valuable, Aztecs and Mayans used cocoa beans as currency, offering it as tribute to chieftains.
Just as those who founded Solnistata, the earliest known town in Europe, built around a salt mine, traded the crystals like money — “That man’s worth his salt!”
My fingers trembling over every slice… Not too much —  just a hint —
Acutely aware of salt’s second provenance — destruction,  a bloody and vindictive army general salting the earth, “No citrus will ever grow here again.”
Salt, chocolate and sweet blood, in our mouths, transporting us… Together….
Technically, histologically, blood is a “connective tissue” —  it reaches down to touch the deepest pits of your bone marrow as fine filaments, liquid becoming solid…
Take this then, my blood money, born in the deepest cold last night.
My offering to you, my tribute,
We’re connected.


tscla3 tscla11


Kulu- A Dance of Celebration performed by: Shaunte Johnson, Michelle Chua, Tanita Fadyeyola, and Indira Tyler (dancers); Anindo Marshall and Fred (Shangowale) Jones (drums).



A song: The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face by Patrice Quinn, Jeremy Bass (guitar)


John C. Reilly and Justin Welborn.



We Celebrated TECHNOLOGY: March Service Videos


See video clips from our March 24th service in NYC featuring dancer Sun Kim, poet Jennifer L. Knox, and Afro-Electronica musician Val-Inc.  The Cultural Calendar follows below too.

First, a video message from The Secret City founder and artistic director, Chris Wells.

A Dance by Sun Kim

A Reading by Jennifer Knox

A Song by Val-Inc


Pound for Pound Bakery Answers Your Questions


A message from The Baker at Pound for Pound Bakery, who provided the delicious food offering of chocolate truffles at our February 24th service. Pound for Pound Bakery will also be providing baked goods for after the service on March 24th.

Dear Chris,

I want to thank you for the opportunity to be involved with The Secret City.  Your organization is wonderful and it was a privilege to contribute to the last service.  We hope to do so more in the future.

I understand that some of the people in attendance had some questions about Pound for Pound Bakery.  Here, I hope, are some answers.  I hope these are the questions you wish to have answered.

1) Where are you located?

We are not located.

2) How can I find out more?

Ask Chris.  Or someone else who knows about us. Or go to our website:  Best to ask someone who knows, they will have tried our food and be able to describe what we do.

3) What do you bake?

We bake things we love.  And things that are typically not out there in the world in a meaningful way.  The bakery only makes things which are not well represented. (Why compete? If someone is doing things well – the world has it already! Enjoy!) Everything made is pound for pound better than what is out there or we would not make it.  Right now we are making the following:

Chocolate Truffles (these are what we gave to the Secret City)
Carrot Layer Cake
Tarte Tatin
Raspberry Tarte
Flour less Chocolate cake
Pear Cake
Chocolate Laye cake
Caramel Tarte
Lemon Tarts
Chocolate chip cookies
Rice Pudding

but it changes, check our website for listings.

4) Referral only?


5) Why referral only?

The Baker is tired of serving people who entertain themselves with ‘knowledge’ and some kind of ‘self proclaimed’ pedigree based in finding something or discovering something or generally thinking they are better in any way.  Go find your ‘single roof sourced’ persimmons baked in a wind powered oven and served with free trade organic vanilla made by a person with one leg and a 10 minute explanation elsewhere. That is simply a story to entertain and make you feel good, somehow.  No interested in this in any way. The Baker is not here to feed your head or entertain you with stories.

The truth of food, of baked desserts, is that they are not about sourcing, knowing, or any obscure process – they are about taste, sensuality and experience.  Anyone can source, not anyone can bake; it is skill that makes our food good. The Baker is here to bake and provide to those who love to eat and experience life.  The rest can stay away.  So can those who eat to ‘critique’ and ‘gather’ food ‘accomplishments’ .   If you have a list of places to try in order to tell people you have tried them and how cool you are…if you want to eat food in order to think about it and find what is wrong….if you want to make a 100 point scale and graph what you have eaten: not interested either.  Go find someone who wants to make money through image and not product, do not come to Pound for Pound for food.  If you love food and want to live your life, we will bake for you.

6) How do I get a referral?  How can I get some of your food?

To get a referral you need only to want to appreciate things and eat for love and sensuality.  And know someone who has a referral already. To be ignored forever you need only to want to collect and criticize food in general, say ‘I have a referral’ (with pride and exclusivity), or ask where we source our ingredients and expect to be entertained.   The Baker only bakes for people who want to enjoy food and life for what they are and in the moment.

7) Do you make cupcakes?

Important:  We will NEVER make cupcakes.   They are the result of lazy parenting and contribute to generations who are numb.  Besides, the frosting to cake ratio is all wrong unless you tear off the top and put the frosting int he middle (marginally better) but then it is a whoopie pie.   It used to be that parents learned to make a cake.  Or bought a mix.  Then they spent TIME making a cake which would be for their kid.  Sometimes it was great…others not so much.  Regardless, there was a person making something for another person.  Problem is: you need plates.  And forks.  And…who gets the frosting with the writing? Wait…is my piece bigger? No – I wanted that piece….  All part of the process of growing up.  Even if you bought a cake – you had to do this part as well.  But…lazy parents popularized cupcakes which are self contained, no utensil, equal size, easily portable, blah blah blah.  Lazy parenting.  Everyone gets equal, no clean up.  No fighting.  No chance to share your better frosted piece and give the frosting to the neighbor boy/girl you have a crush on.  Childhood experiences lost! Lazy parenting.  Bad baked goods.  Numb kids. The Baker will never make them.

8) How much do your baked goods cost?  Where is the price list?  If I get a referral how do I pay you?

Any baked goods produced for referral from the Secret City, or Chris, are at no charge; please donate what you feel they are worth to The Secret City to help them continue to thrive and grow.

I do hope this helps answers your questions – please feel free to ask more in the future should they come up.

The Baker

Pound for Pound Bakery



Coming to My Senses


by Charlotte Booker

I’ve enjoyed the Secret City since its inception, five years ago.  Every month I look forward to the unexpected within the ceremony, the sharing of inspiration and ideas, and dare I say the fellowship (a word that for me until now has conjured awkward conversations in church basements). I love that the five senses are honored every service: music and spoken word to hear, art and dance to see, food to smell and touch and taste.  And I do love the realization of a theme.

So I was REALLY happy that February’s theme was The Senses—and excited  to read a piece from Vladimir Nabokov’s memoir, SPEAK MEMORY—a piece about synesthesia, something I know a little bit about.

Nabokov’s experience of synesthesia involved “hearing” color in the sounds of the alphabet.  He writes of the letter M as a warm pink flannel and H being the color of a shoelace—making poetry of what some would call a neurological disorder.  He recounts the day he told his mother that the colors on his building blocks’ letters were all wrong.

As a child, I had the same response to the numbers and letters on my first-grade classroom walls.   It took until college for me to learn that not everybody automatically connects color with numbers and days of the week.  An embarrassing confession in a large lecture class taught me to keep these things to myself.

Until yesterday at the Secret City.  After the service I met a fellow synesthete, and heard stories about others—including Dmitri Nabokov, Vladimir’s son.  I’ve since learned that Duke Ellington, Jimi Hendrix, Pythagorus, Edgar Degas, and Munch were all synesthetes, too.

Bet they would have liked the Secret City as much as I do. (Imagine THAT after-service fellowship over coffee and conversation!)



The reading for the February 24th 2013 service which celebrated The Senses.

SYNESTHESIA: The production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.

Here, in an excerpt from his autobiography Speak, Memory, Vladimir Nabokov describes the experience of being a synesthete:

…I present a fine case of colored hearing. Perhaps “hearing” is not quite accurate, since the color sensations seem to be produced by the very act of my orally forming a given letter while I imagine its outline. The long a  of the English alphabet has for me the tint of weathered wood, but the French a evokes polished ebony. This black group also includes hard g (vulcanized rubber) and r (a sooty rag being ripped). Oatmeal n, noodle-limp l, and the ivory-backed hand mirror of o take care of the whites.  Passing on to the blue group, there is steely x, thundercloud z, and huckleberry k. Since a subtle interaction exists between sound and shape, I see q as browner than k, while s is not the light blue of c, but a curious mixture of azure and mother-of-pearl.

I hasten to complete this list before I am interrupted. In the green group, there are alder-leaf f, the unripe apple of p, and pistachio t. Dull green, combined somehow with violet, is the best I can do for w. The yellows comprise various e’s and i’s, creamy d, bright-golden y, and u, whose alphabetical value I can express only by “brassy with an olive sheen.” In the brown group, there are the rich rubbery tone of soft g, paler j, and the drab shoelace of h. Finally, among the reds, b has the tone called burnt sienna by painters; m is a fold of pink flannel.  The word for rainbow, a primary, but decidedly muddy, rainbow is in my private language the hardly pronouncable: kzspygv.

The confessions of a synesthete must sound tedious and pretentious to those who are protected from such leakings and drafts by more solid walls than mine are. To my mother, though, this all seemed quite normal. The matter came up, one day in my seventh year, as I was using a head of old alphabet blocks to build a tower. I casually remarked to her that the colors were all wrong. We discovered that some of her letters had the same tint as mine, and that, besides, she was optically affected by musical notes. These evoked no chromatisms in me whatsoever. Music, I regret to say, affects me merely as an arbitrary succession of more or less irritating sounds.

(This was read by Charlotte Booker.)

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