Had glimpses in performing tonight at the Village Tavern (N. Scituate, RI) of the spirit of the end. Seeing this, I feel – you know, temporarily – finally able to begin. That end is contained in Hamlet’s final words: Let Be.
It was what I take to be a fairly typical night at the VT. I walked in early to sign up. Then, not feeling that the scene was really right for my music, I went out to charge my phone in the car, while looking at Facebook and listening to the radio. Once back in the car, I started to really feel the exhaustion that has been stalking me since the moment I woke. My sleep schedule on the road has been too late and too brief. Add to that 6.5 hours of driving yesterday and I am feeling wiped.
I checked back in a little while later on the scene; and, not feeling it again, headed back out to the car. My mind drifted to the thought of renting a movie at a Redbox. I wondered if my mom’s DVD player actually works and thought of calling to ask. Didn’t really matter. I needed to buy some yogurt, so a drive up to Greenville was worth it, even if I ended up not being able to watch whatever I rented.
Ten minutes later I was crawling around the parking lot of what (at least) used to be called the Apple Valley Mall, looking for the Redbox, feeling a bit disappointed that what used to be an Almacs was now a TJ Maxx.
Anyway, I found the Redbox and it was inside a Stop and Shop I had never seen before. Bought some yogurt but passed on the movie and drove back to the Village Tavern.
Checked the scene again. Sat at an empty table and felt exhausted and hungry. Even though I had the idea that I’d eaten recently, I started to wonder if the weariness was in part hunger. Decided to go next door to Famous Pizza, where I used to stop most every day after soccer practice with my old friend Harry. Harry died a couple years back, less than a year after we reconnected for the first time since high school. He was a great friend I didn’t know I still had, and then he was gone again.
One of the first things he said after we reconnected was how he had always told his kids that some of the best times of his life were talking about life with me at Famous Pizza. I have been wanting to go back in and eat a pizza, as a sort of private memorial. Tonight was that night. I ordered it to go, but then ate it there, watching the Sox lose to Baltimore and chatting a bit with the two guys working there. Turns out one guy I grew up with still works there.
I had given up on the idea of the open mic; but, before leaving, I checked back in one more time. I ended up standing by the big screen watching the Sox, going back and forth in my mind about whether I would play if the host asked me. She was up there again herself, this time with a harmonica player. They were playing well and pleasing the crowd. I had decided that what I do just wouldn’t make any sense in that context, so I would just say no and head out. Moments later, though, she told me it was my turn and I got right up there.
Over the course of the last couple weeks I have been developing a sort of open mic set. This time, though, I started with Dr. S&P. The bluesy quality of it seemed to me the best bridge from what was just happening.
My body had responded to the cheese from the pizza by producing phlegm on my vocal chords. I didn’t feel much range, but I sang forcefully. Didn’t feel great, but then I did something I had been moving toward while out on the road: I believed in myself… or at least in my ability to do what I do. In short: I let myself be. And really, it didn’t feel like a musical high point, but the more I just went with it rather than judging myself and withdrawing from the act, the better I got.
I tend to think that people aren’t going to like my music. Particularly in this setting, where most everyone plays covers. That, I though, is what people were there to hear. They wouldn’t want to hear my idiosyncratic songs about Captain Kirk and Time Machines and my Dad. Or, you know, whatever my songs are actually about. This time I kept letting myself be.