Tell Me A Story Please

As a child, my fondest memories of learning came from the stories my teachers told. I loved fables the most, there was always a common sense lesson to be had. I remember sitting on the edge of my seat, listening to their stories. All these years later, I remember those stories. They stayed with me, but more importantly, the lessons stuck. To this day, I love to listen to a good story.

John Ferreira says, “storytelling is what connects us to our humanity. It is what links us to our past, and provides a glimpse into our future.”

I recently had the pleasure of attending an evening of storytelling hosted by Tracey Segarra. Tracey is a storyteller, a Speaker and a Consultant. After listening to the Moth podcast. Tracey became interested in storytelling. She entered the Moth storytelling slam in 2016 and won. She’s been telling stories ever since.Tell Me a Story Please You Me NYC
Photo: Jason Falchook

Tracey feels passionate that stories make us laugh, make us cry and move us. Tracey has brought storytelling to Long Island. Like the Bards and Grios of old, telling stories to the community in order to entertain, educate and remind us of how we are connected.

During the evening of stories, I was moved and engaged. It was a delight to unplug, sit amongst a diverse group and listen to the personal stories of others. The entire room was still, silent and enraptured by each storyteller at the mic. The audience was getting what we all crave, a high touch, intimate experience, shared amongst a group. These types of experiences are few and far between, especially as we allow technology to invade our personal space and relationships and define how we communicate with each other.

A few days later, I sat down with Tracey to understand her passion for storytelling.

How did you get introduced to storytelling?

Well, it was actually my husband, he had been listening to the Moth radio hour on NPR. He turned me on to it. The Moth has people telling true stories about their lives. Some are funny, some are tragic, but they are all compelling because they are about important moments in peoples lives. Moments that changed them somehow, and so once I started listening to it I was instantly hooked. I am a former reporter and writer. So I used to write personal essays. Plus when I was younger I was an actress. I had dreams about being an actress. So when I heard this on the radio it married two things that I love, getting up in front of people and personal stories. So I thought OMG, I have to do this and I love this!

The Moth has these story competitions called story slams in the city.
And so I went with my niece to one of them just to check it out. People put their names in a hat and they pick 10 names randomly. They have a theme, everybody tells one five minute story on that theme. I went to one just to listen. I was hooked. The next time one came up with a theme where I thought I had a story for it, I put my name in the hat, I got picked and I won that night. I was like ok, this is a message. I had no training, no nothing, I just told a story.

When they have ten people who have won story slams, they have a grand slam. In front of 500 people at the music hall in Brooklyn, the winners have to come up with a new story. You compete against nine other story slam winners. I told a story, I won that night. Now, I am like ok, ok, I am meant to do this. I can’t remember exactly how old I was at the time, 52 or 53, but I felt like I had finally found what I am meant to do with my life. This is it, this feels so right.

I am in marketing during the day. I put my marketing hat on and I thought, there is nothing like this on Long Island, why don’t I create this. That becomes my next thing. There is a huge storytelling scene in Manhattan. Any night of the week you can go to a storytelling. I knew we needed this on Long Island.

I have never heard of this.

I know its amazing how it’s such a well-kept secret, not that anyone wants to keep it a secret

I started my show out here at a small local bookstore in Rockville Centre and within a year, I outgrew the store. The store could only hold 50 people, and I outgrew the venue. I started booking bigger venues as more and more people started coming. Then Newsday did a story on me, The Long Island Business News and then the local Herald.
People then started asking me to teach storytelling. I started doing workshops and its grown from there.

Why do you think this is becoming popular, what is energizing this?

One thing, we have become a society of people constantly looking down at their phones every two seconds, however, as you saw last night when someone is telling a compelling, true story, they have your attention; and so as human beings, we crave the connections. It forms a real connection. This is not like stand up comedy, where we are like ok, make me laugh. You know this is like wow, let me in, let me feel what you are feeling. There is something very powerful in that. As society becomes more electronic and distant, we crave the connection. We are still human beings, we still need to connect with people. Storytelling fills that need.

As I was listening last night, I was thinking about how we used to pass on our history through storytelling

Exactly, that was the first thing we did to record history we told the stories to our children and told them to tell their children

And That was a community event

Right, yes, to come together as a community to hear each other stories, that’s why I love the live shows. The energy of the people in the room changes how the storyteller tells the story, we feed off each other

When you envision this, what is your vision for storytelling on Long Island

Well, I would love to book bigger venues and have more people tell stories. Two of the people in my show last night are not storytellers, they are just people with great stories and I want to magnify their voices. I worked with them on their stories to craft them into a narrative that works. They had something important to share, and it needed to be heard. I am so excited. I want to start a podcast. I am a former newspaper reporter, so I have a knack for finding good stories. I know that I will never run out of stories on Long Island. I want to start a podcast for LI stories. There are so many stories to be heard. I also want to consult with businesses on how to tell their Story. Storytelling for business especially non-profits is a power tool for messaging. Organizations realize that in order to cut through the clutter you have to have a compelling message and story. I am going to a conference in a few weeks. I will be working with people who work in communications for non-profits. I will be talking about the power of stories in business and especially with non-profits. To be successful you need a compelling story. People connect to stories and that in itself is a powerful tool.

As I think about last night, and the theme, Through the Eyes of A Child. We had these different people, from different walks of life, some diversity in the room, but the common thread was that we have all experienced a childhood, we have all experienced pain or trauma in our lives, growing pains, personal family angst, that’s what connects us. We are much more alike then we think we are, I was really fascinated by hearing the storytellers. Taking us on a journey back to their childhoods, this was my experience and this is who I am because of it. I am sharing this with you.

Exactly, there was also a vulnerability, that the storytellers showed last night which drew the audience in.

What is the impact that you want to have?

I am still trying to figure this out. I want to continue to teach storytelling and producing shows, helping others find their voices and helping them to be heard. I love finding the storytellers and helping them craft their message and having it touch people. I would love to do that for non-profit organizations

there is a quote by a poet I like, Sahib Naiah

“You can reject peoples politics, You can reject their religion but you cannot reject their stories”

That’s why I do not get political, this is about human to human connection and what we have in common, not what tears us apart. We hear enough about what tears us apart.

We have to focus on how we are connected. Every business can leverage storytelling.

There is neuroscientist Dr. Paul Zaks. He has studied the effects of storytelling on the brain. What he found is that when someone is telling a compelling true story, showing vulnerability and authenticity, keeping you on the edge of their seats, it activates a neurochemical in the brain, oxytocin. Once this chemical is released you start to feel what the storyteller is feeling and you are more apt to take the action the storyteller wants you to take, you start to develops trust. It is often called the love hormone, the trust hormone. Storytelling does that.

What impact has this had on you?

It has given me a voice, I was a drug addict and alcoholic in my youth. I am 56 now, Up to the age 25, I made a mess of my life. It took many years to repair that. For many years I was ashamed. They teach you in the program that you are not a bad person getting good, you are a sick person getting well. For a lot of years, I was ashamed and upset at what I had done. Once I got into storytelling, I was like Oh my God these are stories I can tell these. Once I had the advantage of time I can now see how these life events have shaped me today. It helped me get over the bad feelings and guilt.

Is it cathartic?

Very cathartic, also I am a performer, so when I feel that I have the audience in my hands, and I am bringing them on a journey through my life and they can relate, it is an incredible feeling. I feel that I can take them on a journey. That is a powerful experience.

Last night when you were telling your story, about summers at your grandmothers, with all of the characters, I was transported, I could see where you were, I could feel the way the air felt, I was there with you. For me it was a simple way to relax and enjoy, just listen. That in Itself was calming.

I think anytime I tell a story about something that affected me its always something that is universal. We all had fears and insecurities and issues with our mothers every one can relate to that and eventually finding a safe haven.

What I have I know, especially after attending the evening of storytelling, is that stories connect us, like a spun thread weaving between us all.

Tracey Segarra is a Storyteller, a Speaker and a Consultant. For information about Tracey’s upcoming storytelling events or seminars, go to traceysegarra.com.

Gorillaz Gone Ape In the Barclays

Closing in on the colossal stadium, in the now metropolitan, which is Fort Greene, lies the Barclay’s Center.  The Barclays Center is certainly a circus of lights, advertisement and a certain glint of “New York” spirit. Whether it is the most out of place Roc-A-Wear clothing store or extremely lit (with actual lights) subway entrance to guarantee that you’ve definitely made it to your destination the Brooklyn way. Making my way into the colosseum in the city there’s a brief halt to the glamour and glitter while being checked in through the short security section. The lobby area is nothing special, especially when comparing to the light show that’s going on outside. Once past all the meekness of entering the tunnel to get to your seat, lies vendor after vendor serving decadent meals and frosty cold beers. The homage train car near the exclusive “American Express” entryway isn’t lost on this New York however, it does serve as a cool separation for the haves and the people who are actually riding the train.

Gorillaz Gone Ape You Me NYC(Image Courtesy of New York City Theater)

The Internet was a sublime opener for those previously unaware of the group. With a cocktail mix of R&B, hip-hop, funk and electronic they served as the perfect amuse-bouche to the audience. Even though there were a number of seats still being filled in, the waiting crowd was vibing to the beats.

Anticipation wore heavy on me wondering with questions of what form the band would appear in for the show. Previously known for concealing their identity with some groovy animations or using their silhouettes, the band storms on stage with a wild energy. Their outfits matching the presence of their music, electrical and eclectic.  All except for the frontman of the band, David Albarn’s character 2-D, represents a similarly grungy, laid back, cigarette ashing on my washed out black T-Shirt vibe. The other members performing as the backup in some radical bright patterns and eye-catching colors, like the animated videos in the background showing the remaining animated members of the band.

Gorillaz Gone Ape You Me NYC(Image Courtesy of Brooklyn Vegan)

The first song bringing the band on stage “M1 A1” screams out an ominous call for help, behind a building guitar riff which is reminiscent of early guitar hero strumming that breaks into an electrifying brit rock anthem. It was an excellent way to start and rile up the crowd after a comparatively calm band like The Internet.

Followed up by ‘Tranz’ a trancey toon with an animated video of the nonhuman portion performing, gives a feel of what some of the first songs put out by the band.  There is more of a rock influence backing the track.  ‘Last Living Souls’ was next up using a beat machine.  David Albarn introduces a tougher hip-hop beat while the song sings out questioning the humanity of people while alternating between beats and a country-like ballad.  This song shows how the band can seamlessly incorporate different genres.

The band coasts through “Rhinestone Eyes” a softer melody before getting into the far creepier “Saturn Barz” featuring Popcaan. The song is dark visually and linguistically.  Popcaan sings through some of the painful realities of his life growing up in Jamaica, to a contrastingly creepy electronic rhythm. The electronic presence of the group, likely wouldn’t have translated as well without the harmonious background cast of all black singers. There, a solo by a spectacular talent that was especially appreciated by the audience.

Other highlights of their epically extravagant set include a variety of guest stars including De La Soul, Peven Everett, Bootie Brown and a Brooklyn native Mos Def. The experience was a definite separation from a typical concert experience with well-choreographed animated videos, to bring clarity to the lyrics that are usually far more serious than their sometime’s pop-punky backtracks. Towards the end of the show, most of the sparsity in the crowd was filled with standing fans singing along. This being a more personable performance for the band, it only leaves us fans anticipating what the transformative group has ahead of them.

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

The chickens have come home to roost and I love every minute of it.  We all know, the “Yellow Cab” industry had quite the monopoly in New York City for years and now it is crumbling.  It was almost impossible to get a cab to take you out of the city a few years ago.  Hailing a cab and taking it to Harlem was out of the question.  The farthest I would get is east 96th street, along with a constant scrutinizing eye on me, from the cab driver, as we made our trek uptown.  Let’s not forget the appalling treatment of the African American and other minority communities as well.Chickens Coming Home to Roost You Me NYCThe chickens have come home to roost now that the rideshare game is in full force.  What amazes me more than anything else, is that instead of coming up with an innovative way to combat the rideshare industry, the medallion owners cry “foul”.  What a bunch of crap, they went and cried to mommy(New York City Council), that they can’t compete.  So what does mommy do, they cap the number of rideshare vehicles for one year and require that drivers be paid a minimum wage as well.

I am all for drivers getting paid a consistent wage and getting paid more.  Driving on the road 8-12 hours a day is a tough gig.  “Our city is directly confronting a crisis that is driving working New Yorkers into poverty and our streets into gridlock,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement.  I couldn’t disagree more with this statement.  What does ride-share have to do with driving working “New Yorkers” into poverty.  Funny, I thought “Gentrification” is what is driving working “New Yorkers” into poverty.

Gridlock, rideshare is the cause of that too, according to our mayor.  Forget about the fact that almost every street in the city is under construction with lane closures.  What about everywhere you look there is a new luxury building going up?  How many more glass atrocities do we need in the city?

Conclusion

What’s funny about rideshare is that we have already been doing it.  Brooklyn, and all the other boroughs established the “Dollar Van”.  I can’t speak for Staten Island, I have no clue what they did or how they take a cab to that borough.  The “Dollar Van” has been and currently is the equalizer to the “Yellow Cab” industry.

I was in a “Yellow Cab” this morning and it was the usual.  The cab stunk, the driver had a piss-poor attitude and of course he didn’t want to leave the city.  He better remember something, Uber and Lyft drivers have no problem leaving the city.  I have no problem replacing the “Yellow Cab” with a nice, comfortable and enjoyable ride with one of the many rideshare apps at my disposal.  “Yellow Cabs” are a part of New York City history, however it’s a part I don’t mind saying goodby too.

The Painted Lady Suite

The Painted Lady Suite is the debut album by the Michael Leonhart Orchestra (MLO).  Inspired by the incredible 9 thousand mile migration of the the “Painted Lady” butterfly. This suite is broken into two parts with seven movements.  Each part represents, two separate journeys of the “Painted Lady” butterfly. One journey is over North America to Canada.  The other from the Arctic Circle over Europe to North Africa.  Additionally, this compilation also contains three earlier pieces composed by Leonhart specifically for MLO. Michael Leonhart Orchestra The Painted Lady Suite You Me NYCFirst, is the additional track “In the Kingdom of MQ”.  A cool march , with a stimulating solo by tenor sax player Donny McCaslin. “In the Kingdom of MQ” is dedicated to Leonhart’s younger son Milo.  Portraying his son’s confident steps from toddler-hood to the joyful discoveries of being a young boy.   Next,” Music Your Grandparents Would Like” is what fusion is all about.  A “big band” swing with a rock feel, guitarist Nels Cline delivers a solo which Zappa would appreciate.  Thirdly the piece, “The Girl From Udaipur” depicts a family trip to India.  The baritone sax solos of Ian Hendrickson-Smith and Jay Leonhart bring this album to a chilling close.

First of all, I love this album because each song delivers a taste of the classical masters, such as Ravel and Stravinski.  If you are familiar with “Bolero” by Ravel, you can definitely recognize his influence in a lot of the music on this album.  Furthermore, you can also hear the influence of rock guitar legends Frank Zappa and Jimi Hendrix on this album as well.  Finally, the glue holding this album together is the style of Miles Davis and Quincy Jones.

Conclusion:

This is a definite “add” to your collection.  This album is perfect for any mood, therefore a must have for all Jazz aficionados.  Additionally, the progress and evolution of MLO parallels the journey of the “Painted Lady” butterfly.  Hence the creation of “The Painted Lady Suite”, which really hits home.  More importantly, this album is an illustration of a blend of genres that work well together.  “Painted Lady Suite” is solid, however the three additional tracks are what really make this album exceptional.

Ethiopian Gold Queen of Sheba NYC

Queen of Sheba, is an Ethiopian restaurant, that is a true treasure.  Right in the heart of “Hell’s Kitchen” New York City, is where you can find this gem.  As I walk through the door, the place is full.  Then again why wouldn’t it be, I am never disappointed when I come here.

Let’s get down to business.  I sat at a table and looked over the menu which I know inside and out.  However, Queen of Sheba will make a subtle change every once an a while.  Lentil “Sambousas” are my favorite appetizers.  Queen of Sheba cooked up these delicious dough packets to perfection.  This is an excellent way to start off a meal.

Next, for my main course, the “Doro Tibs” is what I ordered along with the “Taste of Sheba”.  The “Doro Tibs” is sliced chicken breast marinated in onions, olive oil, rosemary-jalapeno, with a touch of Chardonnay.  I am almost positive that there are some secret spices in the mix as well.  The “Taste of Sheba” is a sample platter that includes a mouthwatering taste of 8 items.  There are too many to list.  The sliced chicken breast was succulent.  The “Taste of Sheba” was delicious.  Adding a glass of delectable honey wine is the perfect compliment to this exquisite meal.

Aside form the good food, my readers know service is just as important as the meal to me.  Queen of Sheba’s service is impeccable and also very accommodating.  I normally don’t place too much emphasis on decor.  However Queen of Sheba’s setup takes you back to Ethiopia.  They arrange the seating, to heighten a sense of community, therefore making me feel like I am eating and enjoying with everyone in the restaurant.

In conclusion, if you are looking for a charming restaurant with a  neighborhood feel to it, then Queen of Sheba is the right choice.  Whether you are by yourself or with a group, Queen of Sheba will satisfy your palette for delicious food and enjoyable company.  Make sure you tell them Dave Jacobs sent you.

Queen of Sheba You Me NYC

Location:

650 10th Avenue
New York, NY 10036
Between 45th & 46th Streets

 

 

Post NYC

“Post” is a place I have never been to before and it is not on my normal breakfast circuit.  I received this tip from one of our readers so I made my way over there, to check it out.  Referrals are always welcome.

When I walked through the door, I observed an intimately set counter.  There is also a small counter at the window for that outside feel.  This is an establishment that takes great pride in presentation.  Each space has its’ own bottle of ice-water and a place setting welcoming to anyone.

Post NYC You Me NYC

Immediately, I was greeted by a server behind the counter and was told to have a seat anywhere.  I take my seat at the counter and peruse the menu.  Before I can make up my mind the recommendation was “Biscuits and Gravy”.  “Wonderful, with a cup of coffee” was my response.  That is the first time in a long time, I went with a suggestion from a new place.Post NYC You Me NYCMy meal arrived within a few minutes, a nice healthy portion topped with an egg.  My first bite to the last, each was better than the one before.  I have to admit, I killed that meal within minutes.  All I have to say is “delicious” along with the coffee.  The biscuits are homemade and so is the chicken sausage in the white gravy, the taste proves that.

When the server came back to check on me, he laughed at how fast I devoured my meal.  I started to converse with him and found out that they are relatively new.  They have been open for a little more than a year.  Now everyone knows I am all about breakfast and really don’t care for brunch.  “Post” has a brunch so for the brunch culture in this city of ours, come out and enjoy.

“Post” also does lunch, dinner and has a “chill” nightlife vibe according to the server.  I let him know I would be back for dinner and engage in some after diner activity.

Post NYC
42 Ave B
New York NY, 10009

 

Summer Rental

So here I am, in an overrated and overpriced coffee house, having a conversation with a lovely lady which I can’t avoid, about how her husband rents her the same house, each summer in the Hamptons.  I also get to hear how it’s just for her and her girlfriends only, no husbands(lucky husbands).

I asked her if it is rented for the whole summer and she replied “Absolutely, I can’t just go for a few days”.  She then looked at me, as the typical “Entitled Ones” usually do, as if I am a peasant walking by her manor.  I don’t know what could’ve come over me to ask such a question.

I asked her another question as we’re patiently waiting for our 6 dollar cups of coffee.  I asked, how often she goes to Long Island for the summer and her response was “Oh, I don’t go to Long Island at all, I only go to the Hamptons”.  I furrowed my brow and walked over to the pickup area as my name was called for the small fortune I spent on a mediocre cup of “Joe”.  Really!!?

The Black and White

There are things that native New Yorkers know that transplants don’t like what “regular” coffee means, or what a “smear” is or a “black and white”. These are just some of the best things about New York.

I remember the first time I had a black and white cookie. It was first grade, 1977. Theresa Catina carried one in her lunch box every day. One day, she shared hers with me, splitting it against the grain, so that I had an even bit of black and white.

I was so excited I never had one before. That first bite was magic, I was hooked. Let me explain for those who are not native New Yorkers. A black and white is more than a cookie, its really more of a cake. The base is a yellow cookie/cake with a hint of lemon essence. Half the cookie is frosted with a white glaze the other half is frosted with a chocolate glaze. There is nothing else like it. Each bite is soft and chewy with a delicious sweetness.Black and White Cookie You Me NYCEveryone I know has a different way of eating a black and white. I am a chocoholic, I eat the white side first and save the yummy chocolateness for last, always the best for last. Some people prefer the white side, so they eat the black side first. Others just go for it and dig in. It’s The perfect cookie for sharing as they are the size of a desert plate. They are a NYC staple.

Next time you walk by a NYC bakery, not a cupcake place, pick one up and share it with someone you love or savor every bite for your self. They are worth the calories.

Mike’s Coffee and Deli for Breakfast

Mike's Coffee and Deli You Me NYCTucked away on 32nd street, midtown Manhattan, there is a tiny storefront serving some of the best breakfast in New York City.  I am talking about Mike’s Coffee and Deli.  There is nowhere to sit and nowhere to stand so if you are looking to go and take a load off, don’t bother going to Mike’s.  There is usually a line around the corner, packed with people that are looking to get their breakfast and go.  Don’t worry though, if you see a long line, it moves fast.  You will be at the front within minutes, paying for and receiving your food not too long after.

Mike’s is a breakfast spot for the fast paced. People waiting on line know what they want and know that they don’t have to wait long for it.  The employees, know your own order better than you do.  Every once an a while, an order could change up and then one might have to wait a few extra seconds.  One patron was talking about how all she has to do, is make eye-contact with one of the counter people, nod and they will have her order waiting for her when she gets to the front of the line.

Affordability and quality, Mike’s nails that on the head.  Probably one of the best bacon, egg, and cheese sandwiches in the city, along with a good strong cup of coffee to get you out of your morning fog.  If you are ever in midtown and crushed for time, Mike’s Coffee and Deli is the spot to satisfy your morning feeding routine.  Even if you are not in a rush you can save time by stopping at Mike’s, think about what you can do with a few extra “New York Minutes” in the morning.  Stop by and enjoy, tell them Dave Jacobs sent you over.

 

Mike’s is located at:
44 East 32nd Street
New York, NY 10016

 

A Coffee Shop Institution

An institution of all coffee shops in NYC, the “Lower East Side Coffee Shop” says it all.  I love this shop, and pretty much all “Original” and “True” New Yorkers love this place or at least know of it.  What I love the most aside from the price, is that it is completely unchanged and in keeping with the “Coffee Shop” tradition.

When you walk into this java hub, you are taken back to a vintage era.  An age of leather booths for four and tables for two.  The aroma of freshly brewed coffee and breakfast foods, that get your taste-buds going, fills the air.  The staff is professional and seasoned and probably have been at this coffee emporium since its establishment.

Lower East Side Coffee Shop You Me NYC

My favorite time to visit is early morning.  There is nothing better than listening to “WBGO DJ” Gary Walker spinning timeless Jazz classics over a hot cup of coffee.  That first sip of coffee with the anticipation of my favorite breakfast is what I like to call “Great Expectations” as the early morning stress melts away.  Every once and while, you can relive your youth, watching a young guy make an ass out of himself to impress his date after a night out on the town.

What makes early morning special, is you get to see both sides of the city.  The night time crowd retiring and the early risers beginning their day.  Either way this place removes the weight of the world off of you, for however long it takes to down a cup of coffee or a bowl of oatmeal.

The “Lower East Side Coffee Shop” is open 24 hours a day and believe me, I have been there all  hours of the day and evening.  From a night of hard partying with friends to actually meeting first dates.  The “Lower East Side Coffee Shop” is truly a great spot to start your day or end your evening.  It is a staple in the realm of the “Coffee Institution”.