The Road Not Taken

A few posts ago, I ranted about how jealous I was of my high school friends who’d pursued a musical career.

I talked to one of those friends today and told him how I felt. He said his career had been a hard road, what with having to perform day after day with people he hated, riding a bus with a bunch of “stinky feet” guys and so on. Many times he wanted to quit but what kept him going was that so many people got pleasure out of his music.

I don’t doubt him. In fact, I know exactly what he’s talking about. After high school and college, I hung around enough musicians to know how hard it is. Chasing gigs all the time, wondering if and hoping that people show up for your show because what you get paid depends on how many drinks the nightclub owner sells. And so much more.

But the key here is that the pleasure he gave his listeners is what kept him going. My day jobs never afforded me that. I didn’t and don’t care if people get anything out of what I do. It’s a paycheck and I need the money. If I could, I’d walk away from it tomorrow. Or right now, even.

That’s where writing comes in. It’s what keeps me going. I love to write my stories, and it gives me pleasure that other people get pleasure from reading them. It’s a shame I came to the realization… Continue reading

Oddz ‘n’ Endz

Just a few random thoughts that crossed my mind today.

I am officially old. The gym I go to plays music, I guess it’s supposed to help your workout. After finishing my shower, I’m back in the locker room getting ready to leave. Listening (you can’t help but do so), I came to the conclusion that today’s music is absolutely banal. No artistry in the instrumentals. The lyrics are stupid. Then a memory surfaced. My mother and I had a very similar conversation in the car when I was a teenager. The song on the radio was Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You.” Mom said she thought the lyrics were too suggestive to play on the radio. I countered with Bessie Smith’s “Kitchen Man,” which makes the lyrics to “Rock With You” sound as innocent as a nursery rhyme. Then she said, “well, I don’t think a 19-year old should be singing a song like that.” Then another memory surfaced. An ancient television show, it might have been Steve Allen, and anyway, this guy on camera was reading the lyrics to the Beatles’ “I Wanna Hold Your Hand.” The look on his face was one of pure disdain. And that was me now. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Today, while driving to the gym, I asked my housemate when he’d next be out of town. He thought for a moment and then said around the July 4th weekend. It gave me a start. It’s almost July. This is… Continue reading

Another Year Gone

If you could live your life over again, what would you change?

Yeah, I know. The epitome of tired old questions. But I ask for a reason. My birthday is in a couple of weeks, and I’m not happy about it. I haven’t been happy about my birthday for almost a decade. It’s not so much that I’m growing older, though I’m not happy about that either. It’s that when I look back on my life all I see is gray. To be sure, there are bright spots but the gray consumes all. When I look the other way, toward my future, I see the same. Bleak.

Me, I would make several huge changes.

When I was 12 (or even earlier), I’d have figured out some way to convince my parents that there was something wrong with me, that I was emotionally unstable. I would have badgered them to take me to a psychiatrist, instead of retreating because I figured they didn’t care about me. Then again, when I was growing up, black folk didn’t go to mental health providers unless they were going to the loony bin. Psychiatry and such was for white people. Black people worked out their problems in private. Don’t air dirty laundry.

I’d have stayed with my music studies. Become a professional musician. Years ago, I caught up with some of my friends from high school. One is a bluesman in South Carolina who performs with his wife. They travel the globe doing their thing.… Continue reading