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INSIDE MUSIC: I’ve fallen (into the vortex of a stereotype) and I can’t get up!

By Rosemary Conte

originally published: 12/21/2017

INSIDE MUSIC: I’ve fallen (into the  vortex of a  stereotype) and I can’t  get up!Recently, I had a nightmarish experience….my thoughts so skewed that I felt a long-held cultural bias was breathing down my neck. Later on, it would appear hilarious, and worthy of a Seinfeld or Modern Family episode. But, it didn’t start out that way. 

It would be a one-meal day when after working late that night, I cooked up a quick and easy dish. I sautéed garlic and shrimp in extra virgin olive oil, and ate it over brown rice pasta.  Later, relaxing with tea, I longed for a piece of the banana bread I bought at a farm market, and that waited in my freezer to become a “welcome to the neighborhood” gift for the newcomers.  But, I caved…and ate half the loaf.

Some fifteen minutes after eating the banana bread, loud, high pitched sounds flooded my ears. I had scary thoughts and visions, and no control of my limbs and speech.  I thought I was having a stroke!  I called 911.

I entered the ER on a gurney, holding my sheet of intake info---list of medications, medical history, contacts, and occupation: Jazz singer. From inside the vortex, those words evoke a pitiful Billie Holiday in the last days of her life…or a junkie Anita O’Day, in a dark, hazy room, suspicious characters, illicit behaviors and a wailing tenor sax.

It felt unreal as I was rolled from room to room for diagnostic tests.  Blood work done and IVs running, the ER doc who didn’t bother to introduce himself or get close to me announced from the doorway that I was malnourished. (I was low in potassium and calcium.)  “And there is marijuana in your urine!”

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What?   How could it be? It must be in the banana bread!

I pictured a guy in the bakery stirring weed into the banana bread batter, preparing a loaf for him and his sweetie, and then losing track of his personal loaf as it merged with dozens of others to be delivered to the farm stand where I would buy it. I felt a need to convince everyone that I had not smoked or knowingly ingested marijuana. I was on the defensive in the vortex…“I’m a mature person…a grandmother…see?  My hair is graying!” 

I was being admitted. The male ER nurse was abusive and scary. Did he treat all the patients this way?  What a terrible attitude to carry around people ill and in  distress.  He phoned the fourth floor nurses station to prepare them for me.  I was certain he was telling the upstairs staff I was a pot head. I had already heard him tell his co-workers I accused him of being a Republican, and I was a bad patient. 

Upstairs, staff came and went from my room giving me disparaging looks. What’s worse, the doctor on the floor didn’t feel it necessary to introduce himself; or, that I was not so worthy that he should identify himself to me.  The first and only words out of his mouth were, “Do you smoke marijuana regularly?”  See?   See the prejudice?  I was feeling miserable and nobody cared, because I’m a jazz musician.

I remained “out of it” for 24 hours. The next day, as the high began to weaken, I told my daughter to file a police report about the pot-infused banana bread. The remainder of the loaf was given to the detective who would test it. The test was inconclusive.  Perhaps a more sophisticated test was needed.

By the third day, I began to see the humor in overdosing on banana bread.  My family came to visit, and my roommate’s family and mine laughed until our faces hurt.  I said it was a good thing I didn’t give the banana bread to the new arrivals on my street. 

INSIDE MUSIC: I’ve fallen (into the  vortex of a  stereotype) and I can’t  get up!

My son asked what else had I eaten that fateful day. It was a light bulb moment!  Only then was I able to recount my steps accurately. I recalled being at the stove and noticing that the pan of garlic and shrimp was missing my favorite Italian herb---basil.  Quickly, I went to the freezer and grabbed one of the small plastic bags of home-grown, frozen basil I had stockpiled for use this winter. I dumped the whole thing into the pan, hoping that in spite of adding it a little late in the process, it might, at least, add a little flavor.  It didn’t.

My son reminded me that two or three years ago, a friend gave me marijuana in a small plastic bag and urged me to try it to relieve my chronic pain. He remembered I refused to use it. I have no memory of any of that.  And I wasn’t aware that a bag of pot had integrated with my basil stash.

By the third evening, I was out of the hospital and home with a reminder headache and greater-than-normal carbohydrate guilt. I would not follow up with the detective and hoped he would not follow up with me. 

I’m back to my usual self, but with a lingering feeling of having been insulted, and a concern that musicians might forever be regarded with skepticism…as pot heads or worse. Or, maybe, it’s just the way things looked and felt to me because I had been stuck in the vortex of a stereotype.

If I had celebrated Halloween this year, I would have been royally outfitted, crowned, and identified as Your Highness, while enjoying the pun, as we musicians so like to do.  

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State Theatre Presents Diana Krall: Turn Up the Quiet Tour
(NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ) -- State Theatre New Jersey presents Diana Krall live in concert as part of her Turn Up The Quiet World Tour on Friday, October 12 at 8:00pm. Tickets range from $43-$153.50.  This concert will feature songs from Diana Krall’s stunning new album, Turn Up The Quiet, out now on Verve Records as well as a mix of some fan favorites. 
Kean Stage Presents The Manhattan Transfer
(UNION, NJ) -- Going strong after more than 45 years, Grammy Award winner The Manhattan Transfer, with tenor vocals from Kean University alumnus Alan Paul '71, will captivate Kean Stage audiences with their distinctive four-part harmonies at Enlow Recital Hall on Sunday, September 30 at 3:00pm.
3rd Annual North Jersey Indie Rock Festival
(JERSEY CITY, NJ) -- The North Jersey Indie Rock Festival returns to Jersey City on October 6. Presented by Mint 400 Records and Sniffling Indie Kids, the festival includes acts from those labels and Little Dickman Records, Rhyme and Reason Records, and State Champion Records.  The festival takes place at White Eagle Hall. Doors are at 4:00pm and the music starts at 4:30pm. Tickets are $10 in advance and $12 at the door.
Bobby McFerrin To Kick Off the 125th Season Of Princeton University Concerts
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- On Friday, September 21, 2018 at 7:30pm, 10-time GRAMMY award-winning artist Bobby McFerrin launches Princeton University Concerts’ (“PUC”) 125th Anniversary Season in a special event performance at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall. The concert will feature McFerrin alongside members of his a cappella group Gimme5 in a program titled “ Circlesongs ” -- an evening of spontaneous music-making through shared improvised sound, in a language growing out of tribal chant and sacred music. 
The Dryden Ensemble Presents Bach Cantata Fest
(PRINCETON, NJ) -- The Dryden Ensemble will present a Bach Cantata Fest on Saturday, October 20 at 7:30pm at Trinity Episcopal Church, 6587 Upper York Road, Solebury, Pennsylvania, and on Sunday, October 21 at 3:00pm at Miller Chapel, located on the campus of Princeton Theological Seminary, 64 Mercer Street, Princeton, New Jersey. Tickets are $25 for general admission and free to students with an ID. They may be purchased at the door or online at

“Here’s Lucie!” Lucie Arnaz LIVE! at the PNC Bank Arts Center
Even though the weather outside Holmdel, NJ’s PNC Bank Arts Center is cloudy with some light intermittent drizzle this Wednesday, September 12, 2018 afternoon, the venue’s stage is still shining brightly with talent thanks to a live performance by television, film, and stage actress/singer Lucie Arnaz!
Mike Aiken Talks About Aiken & Friends Fest, North Branch At RVCC
(BRANCHBURG, NJ) -- Raritan Valley Community College presents Aiken & Friends Fest, North Branch on Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22.  The three-day event will feature a number of different musical shows by Mike Aiken, as well as other solo artists and groups.  
Virtuoso Jazz Violinist Jean-Luc Ponty LIVE! at the Newton Theatre
It’s a warm but lovely Aug. 23, 2018 evening here in Newton, NJ. After enjoying some hand-dipped Cliff’s ice cream from the window at Hayek Market, we march up Spring Street looking forward to hearing some world-class jazz at one of the Garden State’s favorite concert venues, The Newton Theatre.
An Interview with Bernie Williams
Four-time World Series Champion and Latin Grammy-Nominated guitarist and composer Bernie Williams will perform with his All-Star Band at the Jersey Shore this Saturday, Sept. 8, 2018 at The Grunin Center of the Arts in Toms River, NJ!
“Unleash the Love” The Beach Boys LIVE! at The Great Auditorium
So what were you doing at 8:18 pm on 8/18/18? Well, we’re not sure what you were up to, but we know that on that hot August night, we were listening to “America’s Band” — The Beach Boys — and watching them “Unleash the Love” while performing their incredible catalog of hits at Ocean Grove NJ’s Great Auditorium!

Event calendar
Thursday, Sep 20, 2018


ELI YOUNG BAND WITH CODY BRYAN @ The Stone Pony, Asbury Park - 7:00pm

CELTIC THUNDER X @ Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown - 8:00pm

Lost 80's Live @ State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick - 8:00pm

Citizen Cope @ The Newton Theatre, Newton - 8:00pm

ICON 2018: ELIMINATION ROUND 2 @ Hamilton Stage @ Union County Performing Arts Center (UCPAC), Rahway - 8:00pm

Linda Eder @ Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank - 8:00pm

Doug Deming & The Jewel Tones @ Lizzie Rose Music Room, Tuckerton - 7:30pm


Souvenir @ Surflight Theatre, Beach Haven - 2:00pm and 8:00pm

East Lynne Theater Company presents SILENT SKY @ First Presbyterian Church (Cape May), Cape May - 8:00pm

The Shuck @ Cape May Stage, Cape May - 7:30pm

Auditions for Seussical at CDC Theatre @ CDC Theatre, Cranford - 7:00pm

Playhouse 22's Third-Thursday Play Reading Series @ Playhouse 22, East Brunswick - 7:30pm

West End Festival of the Arts- Opening Reception @ West End Arts Center, Long Branch - 6:00pm

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest @ Black Box PAC, Teaneck - 8:00pm

Brick City @ Premiere Stages at Kean University, Union - 8:00pm


New Jersey Film Festival @ Ruth Adams Building #001, New Brunswick - 6:00pm


Crybaby Matinee: The Triplets of Belleville @ Hopewell Theater, Hopewell - 11:00am

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