Why Be Good At Going Home Early?

 

My daughter looked up at me asking, Hey Dad, should we stop believing?

She was impossibly crammed in the couch between my friend and myself, both of us elbowing her in the excitement. She squirmed her head up at me, looking.

No. This is how the team always plays. They come from behind and all of the sudden they wake up. They remember they are champions and after that, they win.

The Seahawks were trailing 19-7 with 5 minutes to go for NFC Championship game. Or was it still a game? For all purposes it looked like it was already over.

Almost everyone thought it was over.

Unbelievably, even the fans were leaving the stadium. Seriously? The stadium that the 12th Fan, not Man to my girls, built! Even they gave up?

As they were leaving I was reminded of a Jim Rohn quote. I’ll have to paraphrase, but the gist of it is: When you go to a performance don’t leave before it’s over. Think about all the time they spent practicing. All the time away from their families. If the score is bad, stay and show the team your support. With so many things to be good at in life, why choose leaving early?

Dad, why do we believe?

Because without faith, there is nothing worth living for.

She was quiet for a time. Then looked up again as we scored a touchdown.

Does that mean if they lose we have nothing to live for?

No baby, they might lose. That doesn’t even matter. What matters is we believe in the possibility that they may not.

The Seahawks scored again. There was Green Bay Field goal. Complete chaos was breaking around us. For the first time in my life I felt the deep adrenalin rush of watching, I mean really watching, a sporting event on television.

I’ll have to back up here a bit. Bill Donnelly, Co-Creator of TH3RDFORCE, had few greater joys growing up than inviting me over to his house to watch football.

I hated football.

I did, however, suffer from adolescent-boredom syndrome. It’s a terrible burden for both the afflicted and their friends. So I would sit there or up in his room reading books while the game went on. I always hoped his team would win because if they didn’t it meant he was in a bad mood for the whole night.

So how did I find myself in this particular situation, elbow to elbow with crazy Seahawks fans?

Fate. No other word for it.

I married a Canadian. She hates football for not being hockey. It’s a crime the NFL will never come back from. I have two daughters. I thought I was safe. I thought I had seen my last pro game in high school.

Then Rowy struck. What is a Rowy, you ask? She is my daughter and she’s crazy about the Seahawks. She got into the sport last year. At her school they had Seahawk Fridays. Kids got to wear their jerseys, hats, etc.

Soon enough she told me she was the only kid in her class without a jersey. We asked her teacher. Her teacher said, well yes, she is the only one in our class. She said this giving me the look. Not the you should feel guilty look but much worse, the my God, why don’t you know about this look? Pity, that’s what it was. Pity.

Off to the store to feed the machine. I felt a little ill paying for the NFL jersey. The sting was softened by my kids immediately putting them on.

Next came the Super Bowl. Safe, I thought, we don’t have cable. One of our friends has a daughter about the same age as my kids. He called and invited us to his Super bowl party saying the kids could play. Laughing, I told my wife, yeah right. The kids heard and that was that.

We watched the game. I have to admit. I kind of liked it. Gone were the grotesquely fat, slow, football heads of the past. In their place were the Seahawks who looked more like lacrosse and basketball players than the behemoths I remembered.

This season I didn’t even think of the whole Seahawks thing. But wouldn’t you know it. Rowy asked if we were watching the game this weekend.

The game?

Yeah, the Seeeeeeaaaaa HAwkssss.

Fate stepped in. My parents were over for dinner.

Sure, my Mom said. You can come over. I’ll even pick you up.

We never missed a game. Not one.

And that’s how I found myself sitting in the living room. You see by now I had been won over by the sheer athletic ability of the Seahawks as well as their strangeness. Let’s face it. They are as eccentric as any characters in any novel.

Back to the game. It went into overtime. Russell Wilson, the quarterback, had scored perfect 0 in ratings until the last few minutes.

After two absolutely perfect throws the Seahawks won in overtime.

He went from a 0 rating to a 100 rating.

Why?

Pete Carrol, the head Seahawks coach said it best, Russ has an internal conversation going in his head that doesn’t allow him the possibility of giving up.

As the game ended and the room exploded, I found myself grinning like a school boy. I hugged my daughter and for the briefest of moments felt a hand on my back. It was Donnelly reaching through time, probability and space – a high five for the team.

Lessons learned: Don’t leave early, never give up and never say never.

Silence and Stars

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Loneliness is a common theme from patients at the clinic.

Sometimes they come in, worse for the wear, after years of social misfitry. Sometimes they had a social group, say college, but outgrew that set, staying in the same town. Other people move to town for a job and have trouble connecting to people in/outside of work. Even worse, people who are married with kids and still feel isolated. Alone. Lonely.

A patient came in a while back. She was complaining about her lack of social life. I asked her a few questions telling her, in the end, to study friendship. Find a friendship mentor if she needed.

Do something.

I got the impression she wasn’t really listening. Although she was asking questions, she wasn’t waiting for answers.

She came back the following week with an idea.

I think what’s wrong is that I don’t engage people with enough questions. I am not showing enough interest in them. I am not letting them know about me. You know what, it all comes down to, she said, talking rapid fire without breathing. I’m talking about filling up the room with so much information that they can’t help but become glued socially to the execution of my delivery.

I cleared my throat.

She looked expectantly at me.

I feel like running out of this room just listening to your prep. What you are talking about is a form of social assault. In fact I’ve already taken a few hits. I can feel them. Inside. Hurting now.

She looked back at me. Eyes tearing.

Too rough, I thought. We didn’t say a word for a few moments.

I can see the way you are looking that I hurt your feelings. Would you rather I help you or agree with you?

Yes, help.

But do you see the difference? If you kept talking at me the only thing I would know if that you were streaming endlessly a conversation that I was not interested in.

So what are you saying then? I don’t get it.
Perhaps what you need is some space in between the questions.

I still don’t follow.

No problem. I believe that questions are only part of the equation. Statements too. These are mostly the least useful part, by the way.

They are?

Yes, more often it’s the space between questions that count.

Years ago my girlfriend was always wondering what my buddy and I did all night. It became kind of a game with us. She would go out with her friends. Come back home happy. What did you guys do? Nothing. Oh come on. Must have been something. Nope. She was intrigued by how close we were. So far in that town, she hadn’t connected well with anyone.

So one night she stayed home.

“Can I hang out with you guys,?” she said.

Sure.

We had a great dinner. Put on some music. Afterwards we grabbed some beers and sat on the couch. The evening came softening the Arizona light. As it got darker we put on some music. Leaned back into the couch, pulling on beers as needed.

A couple of hours later she got a bit antsy.

We kept sitting there. Taking sips of beer and talking occasionally.

About an hour later she stood up and said, You guys suck. All you do is sit here drink beer and listen to music. This is it? Really? This is what I have been wondering about?

She was right.

On the surface that’s all we did. On a deeper level the more comfortable the silence with someone the better I feel around them. The better I feel about myself.

I want someone to be there with me through the good and bad times. Laughing when it takes us. Talking when we want to. Sharing a calm moment in an otherwise constantly spinning life means more to me than the chatter.

Mostly through, I want someone in my life I can climb on my roof with. Bring a bottle of great wine up there. Put on some blues and have enough quiet in our hearts to watch the milky way paint the sky in unbelievable shades of white, purple and black.

I stopped speaking. We sat in my office looking at each other.
Oh she said, looking at me in a way that let me know she was thinking about something. So I don’t own a house. What am I going to do about the roof thing? And wine? I don’t . . .

These Shoes Were Made For Walking

I went out on a limb several months ago and bought some gorgeous old-school wingtips. They arrived. They fit perfectly. Hermes started stalking me. It was embarrassing at first, but hey, if that’s what it takes.  Life was good and then a buckle broke within the first week.

Sent them back for another pair.

They arrived. They were beautiful. They were stylish. They were wet walking through a puddle.

What? Hermes, suddenly looked less interested.

Looking down I saw the heel had delaminated, letting water in.

I sent them back.

In a flourish of well-oiled leather these monuments of style and flair came back to me. They still fit like a glove. They weathered puddles. We were in love. Hermes started showing up again.

Stepping out of my truck about six months later I felt a piercing lance of nerve, not pain, but sensation rocket through my foot. Thinking nothing of it I went inside to the chaos of my home. Hermes looked at me sadly, staring at his winged feet.

Few days later, nerve sensation, this time pain. A single bolt. I looked down at my lovely shoes and thought that’s strange. Haven’t had that one before. That jolt of pain severed the line connecting Hermes to us. That electrical feeling must have reminded him of Zeus, lightning bolts and all.

In the following days it became worse. I started to get that nerve pain on the weekends as well.

It was time for a change. I looked lovingly at my shoes, polishing them with a tear in my eye and said to them, breath a tremble, good b. . . What you need is a good insole.

$100 later (for two identical pairs) I matched the highest rated insole with my most cared-for shoes. It was a match made in in a tightly sown heaven.

Insole meets shoe decides to get together with foot. Just not enough room in these babies.

So I loosened my straps and everything was fine. For a while.

Took a week off of work and those shoes. Came back, gleeful that my feet didn’t hurt all day.

Woke up last night, ankle and foot pain. Sitting here typing I can feel the electrical current on the plantar surface of my foot ebbing and flowing.

I’m done.

Having never had a good fit and then throwing away another $100 to make what didn’t fit, worked in my life I am calling it quits on these babies.

Take a look at your life and see what doesn’t fit. Find out where the synergistic link has devolved into wishful thinking.

Make a change. Don’t wait for the pain. And certainly, don’t compound the pain with vain effort.

Let 2015 be the year, as my children have taught me, to let it go!

Flex Your Head

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 Ever take a look at the program running you? You know, the one reading this writing. It has to be asked sooner, or later, who is reading this stuff?

Program you say?

Yes, we call them expectations and assumptions. These are the pre-conceived, unconscious parameters that define what we experience. For the most part it’s not a problem. These assumptions save time and energy.

However, these assumptions do become a problem when we are doing anything but repeating patterns. Think of it this way. All of our experience points in the direction we are going in. The routine and monotony of daily life is so insidious it’s hard to even be aware of it taking over.

I had a good taste of it this weekend.

I was in Seattle for a seminar. I took the family so they could have some city time while I worked. My daughter and I woke up early to find a bakery in Pike Place Market. I also wanted to grab a coffee.

As we walked out of our condo we hit the streets and I was suddenly. . . Uncomfortable. There was dirt. Noise everywhere. People. Did I mention the people, in various states of disarray? From the walk of shame (singles staggering towards home after an unplanned sleep over) to the people who call the streets their home. Busses. So loud. Like shrieking banshees calling out for blood in the dimly lit and stinking streets.

Did I mention I am not a city person?

I went to University 15 miles outside of Washington D.C. At night I would look up at the orange sky stained from far too many lights. At times I couldn’t take it. I would hop into my car and drive into the Shenandoah mountains. I would drive until my eyes couldn’t focus. Pull off on a dirt road and then throw my sleeping bag down at the ground. I remember my eyes being so tired and the air cold. The feeling of my tears streaming down my cheeks as I looked up at the stars and the Milky Way. I recall, working my mouth into words as shooting stars carried my prayers with them on their nocturnal journeys.

What was that?

Oh yeah, people yelling at each other in an alley. We are moving quickly. We find that French Bakery right outside Pike Place Market. Order some baked goods and then head back to our condo.

As we are crossing the street a homeless person is talking to me. I turn my head forward, pretending he is not there. He stops walking. I am now looking at him. Tensing. Getting ready. I’m sinking into my knees, breathing deeply. This is all automatic. I don’t even think about it.

He’s now pointing to his wrist where his watch should be. The sound cuts in, “can you tell me the time?”

I blink my eyes a few times. Stare at my clock. The numbers aren’t adding up. Quickly I look up at him, “8:15.”

“Kid he says,” talking to my daughter, “Stay in school don’t end up like me. Listen to your Dad.”

He walks up the hill. I think about what he has said. I slow my pace. Take in the city.

My daughter looks up at me.

“Did he make you nervous baby?”

“No, papa. I’m glad we slowed down enough to help him.”

“What do you mean?”

“What do you mean,” she says jumping high into the air. “We’ve been running, pant, pant, ever since we left the condo. I’m out of breath. Pant. Pant.”

We hold hands walking up the street. I’m moving slower now. Checking things out. I eject the CD playing in my head: Cities are corruption in physical form. Listen to your Dad, I think. What have I been telling her on this walk?

The danger of our automatic responses is that they dehumanize us. When we act automatically, we are actually dehumanized. Not the rest of the world. The rest of the world is a living, breathing, growing thing spreading itself across time.

Take a moment today to check yourself. See if you are reacting or responding to your environment. Take yourself out of auto-pilot. Plug into real time. See what is actually happening, not what you think is happening.

What better way to celebrate the coming Holiday Season than with a new way to look at life?

See you all in 2014 and we thank you for your support this year.

What Words Did Your Year Write?

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One of the funny things about language, culture and economy is how certain words come in and out of fashion. These word you see are not just casual letters strung together. Words make definitions and these definitions define who we are and what we do.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution you bought goods at a higher price and you often waited a long time to get them.

The tradeoff was that you knew exactly who produced what you bought. You know how they produced it. You lived in the same town and reputations were forged over a lifetime.

The word craftsman was a beginning point for business.

Flash forward to modern times when we have an industrial-technological system producing goods on a dramatically larger scale.

The pluses or easy to see: lower cost, greater circulation, continual changes in the technology used to manufacture, etc.

The negatives are we no longer know who is making what or how or even where the producers live. While the materials are certainly better, their durability is not.

There’s a frenetic energy built into our current system. When people line up at box stores in the middle of Thanksgiving just to get a good deal for Christmas, it’s like robbing Peter to pay Paul. Awash in the flotsam and jetsam of the consumer mindset it’s easy to lose your footing.

Buzzwords on these sales are simple: prices slashed, lowest prices of the year. I perused a few advertisements and only found price-driven messages. There was not even a ghost of yester year. No hidden claims of quality or heritage.

The irony here is that producers are now returning to the craftsman model. Take Filson from Seattle. They are making by hand “heirloom quality” goods right in their shop in Seattle.

You see what they did there? They took a pre-industrial model and made it sell. They started making gear for prospectors and foresters over a hundred years ago.

People are paying up to $500 for a jacket that promises to “last a lifetime.” They don’t have sales. They don’t discount. They offer goods that do not fit our cultural norms.

And that’s fine. I absolutely love Filson gear. Wouldn’t trade it for anything. They have been doing what they do for over 100 years.

Besides having truly great quality, Filson made its mark by standing out. In a sea of technologically advanced and machined fabrics they offer handmade wool jackets. If you want rain protection, forget about Gore-Tex, they use wax. Just like the jackets I saw in Ireland back in the early 90’s.

Let’s take a lesson from Filson. Let’s see how your year stands out. Look back on this last 12 months. Take stock of the major events you experienced. Write a sentence about each event. What words come to mind?

Pick a word for each event and write it down somewhere to the side. Now don’t just pick any word. Find one. Dig deep in your word smithy and craft a word that speaks loudly to you.

Next look at the words. They will paint you a picture for the year. What did your sentences say?

An example of this could be:

  • Having a baby.                                             Joy
  • Not getting any sleep since the baby.          Deprivation
  • Getting a raise.                                            Money
  • Finishing that nursery.                                Accomplishment

 

String the sentence like this: 2014 was a year which married joy, accomplishment and positive cash flow. Tempered of course, by deprivation: sleep is hard currency at our house.

Review your sentence. How does it feel to you? Does it sound like you are making the best use of your time and resources?

Let’s look at it another way. Same events, different descriptors and mind set.

  • Having a baby.                                                 Prison
  • Not getting any sleep since the baby.              Injustice
  • Getting a raise.                                                Deserve
  • Finishing that nursery.                                    Debt

 

Let’s have some fun at the expense of our dear writer: 2014 was the year that imprisoned me in debt. I got what I deserve because there is no justice.

So, reader, who would you like to be? The former or the latter?

I like making these paragraphs. I read them as a summary or chapter review for what my year looked like. Being that it’s close to New Year’s day, it may be time to put pen to paper and see what story this year told.

Leave some of your sentences in the comments if you like. We are all in this together.

Your Guide To Thriving During the Holidays


 

The season’s upon us, it’s that time of year
Brandy and eggnog, there’s plenty of cheer
There’s lights on the trees and there’s wreaths to be hung
There’s mischief and mayhem and songs to be sung

  • Dropkick Murphy

Ah we are in the midst of it now, aren’t we? The lights are lit. The wreaths are set. Temperatures have dropped. The evening sky is filled with stars. Snow falls and the earth, you can almost hear it, grows quieter.

To nature we respond with?

One heck of a long, loud and big party.

It’s called the holiday season. Let’s take a look at how we put this part of the year together:

Step 1: Halloween. Sugar overdose. Less light in the evenings. Weather begins to turn sour.

Step 2: Thanksgiving, the 4,500 calorie meal. It’s darker than not at the end of the work day.

Step 3: Christmas Pre-Season. Lots of work, community and family gatherings. Too much food, drinking and not enough exercise and definitely not enough sleep.

Step 4: Christmas to New Year’s Eve: Most of us enjoy more time off and of course, getting prepared for the big blow out of New Year’s Eve.

Step 5: New Year’s Eve: The big night. Multiply all of the holidays by two and here we have it: excess on display.

The Finale: What do we have in January and February? Flu   season. You see we’ve been preparing for it since October, no wonder it hits us like a ton of Kleenex.

So is it the weight gain that has us down and out?

Nope, according to ABC news, we only gain about an average of one pound during the holidays. So that’s not it.

It’s not one thing. The lifestyle during this time of the year reads like a shopping list for the flu season. Imagine your immune system. It’s shopping at the store and here is the list provided by your lifestyle:

  • Eat the wrong foods
  • Drink too much alcohol
  • Don’t exercise enough
  • Don’t get enough sleep

Immune system to Self, “What are we shopping for?”

“A complete breakdown,” says the self.

You need to rest and you are just doing more. So we are just going to increase the pace until you can’t take it and you break down. That way, you will be resting one way or another.

So now, let’s look at the shopping list a little different. Let’s break it down in stages.

Food: You know you are going to eat too much, especially in the evenings. Eat a lighter breakfast, a protein shake for lunch and before you hit that party, drink a pint of ice-cold water. This cold water will help suppress appetite and fill you up a bit.

Drink: If you partake in alcohol, limit yourself to one drink on work nights. Weekend party? Have a couple and call it quits.

Body: Make a rule. If you have a day off, that’s one hour exercising. Doesn’t matter what kind: walking, running, snowboarding, etc.

Mind: If you have one day off, you have at least 15 minutes in the morning to meditate or pray. You also have 15 minutes before bed. Meditation and prayer operate as bookends. They will add closure to what could be a chaotic day.

This is the time of the year when we celebrate this wonderful life. Let’s take care of the body before it reminds us who is in charge.

Giving Thanks

Driving to school today my youngest daughter pointed to a house with a mural. The picture was of a turkey and two pilgrims.

Dad who are those guys with that turkey?

Oh, they are pilgrims.

They look happy.

They are. They are giving thanks.

Thanks for the turkey?

Yes, thanks for that too.

Why is the turkey still there?

What do you mean?

Aren’t they giving thanks to the turkey that they are going to eat?

Ummm. Yes.

Isn’t that bad?

Ummm. No, it’s especially important to give thanks for the lives that support us.

It’s bad for the turkey, she says shaking her head. If a monster were going to eat me and somebody took a picture and put it up on their house. I don’t think I would like it.

Well, yes. That’s a good point. But.. .

DAD!

Yes.

Do you think the turkey knows? Is it thankful?

No it doesn’t know. (In my mind, well yes studies show animals sense panic before they are, love this softener, harvested).

Dad.

Yes.

Are they hanging that picture up because we are eating turkey?

No it’s for Thanksgiving.

Oh.

She is silent for the last few minutes of the drive.

We should come here on Saturday.

Saturday, why?

Do you think they will have a picture of a pig and us?

No. Why?

Saturday is bacon day at our house. I’m thankful for that.

 

Giving thanks is never as easy as it seems. It’s a great idea this time of the year to spend some time reflecting on what has led us to this exact moment in time.

Giving thanks is reverse navigation. By looking back at the year and the things we can truly be thankful of we can assess progress, measure outcomes and get an overall feel for how the year went. I see Thanksgiving as a time of reflection. New Year’s is the time for planning.

Nice as it is, there is also a shadow side to giving thanks. Draw a list of things that were painful or hard to deal with this year. Look back hard at them. What part did you play? More importantly, what did you learn?

Successful people learn from their victories and failures. Which one will you focus on during this reflection? Both, I can hear it from here. Both will teach you the most because they are a complete picture.

Most often when I meet a truly successful person and ask them, what’s the recipe? They reply,  I do what other people don’t like to do.

What is it in your life that you could start doing that you may have been dodging? What would the outcomes be?

Play the table game. Go home and put on paper your greatest triumphs this year. Write them down and put them on dinner plates at your table. Next write your biggest failures or regrets. Put them on plates. Now for the fun, place two (one happy one sad) together and see what comes to mind.

For example, one of my biggest thanks is that my daughter didn’t wind up in the ER this year. One of my biggest regrets is that she has diabetes. Match these two up and what do I have?

A stalemate.

The fact that she has an incurable disease is weighed in balance by the fact that my wife and I are truly doing our best to protect her from the ravages of the disease.

This exercise balances that scale for me. My scale was broken for a long time.

How about you? What did you write? What did you pair together?

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I actually take the things I am thankful for and the ones’ that cause me pain and mix them up, dealing them out Vegas style. What comes together really makes me think harder about them than when I choose the pairings.

Stack up your cards and deal them out. Dinner is ready.

Photo Credit: Donal Link,  Thank you for your Boudin -Stuffed Turkey Recipe,  which is now our family tradition. Readers if you want to try something spectacular, click here: http://www.saveur.com/article/Recipes/Boudin-Stuffed-Turkey-Breast

The Road to Audition

I thought that for a little change of pace I would talk about my 3 most unique, awkward and hilarious circumstances that I have ever encountered, while auditioning for various roles here in NYC. You see, my buddy Doc P has just begun his journey and initial foray into the publishing world and in many ways the experiences are simpatico.

 

My very first audition was an open call for some background roles in a major motion picture. Yes, they even audition for non-speaking parts where you’re barely, if at all visible. Basically, even if you were to book the part, it would be virtually impossible for family and friends to verify you were in fact, part of the picture. It’s often referred to as a ‘cattle call’ and everyone and their brother from all walks of life, show up for a chance at the big break. 

 

On this particular afternoon, the line was wrapped the entire length of 26th street and back around 7th avenue, almost to MSG. That’s almost 6 avenue blocks… It was late January and it was fucking cold. Meanwhile, I’m dressed to impress, not combat sub freezing temps.  No matter, I thought, this is my chance and I’m going to stick this out. 

 

It was one long day, but it was buoyed by two girls I befriended on the line and a few strategically placed Dunkin Donuts that served as our oasis on the frozen concrete. The hot coffee and the open bathrooms were a godsend. The banter with the girls and the delicious coffee helped me to forget the cold and the interminable wait and finally, after 5 long hours we reached the building where the auditions were taking place.  Almost inside we were rejuvenated and anxious to strut our stuff. The door pushed open and out walked one of the audition coordinators. “Sorry folks that’s all we can see today, thank you for your patience.” With that the door was pulled close and we were left wanting.

 

I have only gone on one musical theater audition since I’ve lived in NYC and this experience may be partially responsible. It may also be because of my lack of interest…

 

I answered an ad in Backstage Magazine for an Irish looking male, between 25-35 years of age and a tenor vocal range. At the time I was qualified right across the board, so I eagerly sent my headshot and resume and shortly after received a phone call to come audition. It was a period musical set in the 60’s about growing up in New York’s Hells Kitchen neighborhood. The audition was at the writer/director’s apt (I know what you might be thinking, but not that unusual here, as many people have studios in their apartments) and was to be the next day.

 

I arrived the next day and the concierge rang the apartment and I took the elevator up to the 7th floor. I proceeded to the appropriate number and was greeted at the door by a woman who cheerfully informed me, that her husband had just got out of the shower. He emerged from the bedroom, still wet and hastily dressed and it was readily apparent that he had forgotten about the audition. It was also apparent that this was a one bedroom apartment with no studio and I was wondering where the hell I was going to sing. 

 

The man’s wife politely excused herself and left the two of us to the audition. As I was surveying the room, it was becoming even less clear as to how this was going to go down. The mystery was solved when he asked me to help move the coffee table that was resting on a rug in front of his couch, rearrange a chair or two and slide over his rug. Once this was accomplished, he plopped down on the couch and the audition began. I was literally 5 feet in front of him, belting out Maria(from West Side Story), which I thought appropriate given the circumstances and decidedly uncomfortable. Sixteen bars later, I awaited his reaction.

Normally, you’re given 16 bars of a song to sing and after you’ve finished they say thanks(maybe) and you leave the room. No feedback whatsoever. You either get called back or you don’t. This situation was slightly more complicated and bizarre. I was sort of trapped and he felt compelled to review my performance, American Idol style. He went over several aspects of my voice, what he liked, what he really liked and a few things he thought I could work on. Also, he explained the part had been filled, but that I would make a good understudy. He then went on to say that he would work with me privately on the songs from the show…for a coaching fee. Well, I politely said I was short on funds, but I would think about it. We shook hands and I never saw him again.

 

 

Recently, I was at an audition for a deodorant spot that was to run on the internet. The premise was a guy and a girl on their first date talking about how their day was blah blah blah. The girl had already been cast and I was one of three callbacks waiting to read with the female lead.

 

Well, she never showed, so we had to improvise…we took turns playing the girl while the other would be Romeo, played the male’s part. Needless to say, I was a wee bit out of my comfort zone, but we each took the situation in stride and had as much fun with it as we could. The director and producer really appreciated our efforts and it led to a separate audition for me later on.

 

Unfortunately I didn’t end up getting the part, but these experiences have led to some funny stories and perhaps brought me one step closer to realizing my dream: acting opposite Jennifer Lawrence on day. Morning Jay part 2 perhaps…

 

I look forward to hearing Doc P’s stories and experiences, as he moves towards becoming a published author and garnering the representation he deserves.

 

And for all: Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.

 

May the Th3rdforce be with you.

 

Part 2: Staying Together Is Even Harder To Do

 

After DC Space closed, the 930 Club became the center point for the music scene in Washington DC. The whole place was a ball of kinetic energy that night. We were all gathered for a Pixies show. Everyone was excited. Bodies cramming into bodies. The line was out the door. I couldn’t wait for the show to start.

The Pixies are a band very close to my heart. They are a weird, off tone, shrieking, intense, strange and catchy mess of a band.

Funny thing is, they didn’t even really play well live. Half the time they didn’t face the audience. But we didn’t care. We just wanted to hear the music, because that was what this band was all about.

This tour was in support of their latest album, Trompe Le Monde. They had enjoyed tremendous accolades from music critics and college radio stations alike. After several release they were set to take over the world. What happened instead?

They broke up after this tour.  Black Francis sent a letter to the band saying, I quit and that was it.

At their best, the Pixies were credited by Nirvana front man, Kurt Cobain, as being the only band whose lyrics are worth reading and the band that taught Nirvana their signature style of soft and slow, loud and fast.

What happened after the big break up?

The lead singer Black Francis, changed his name to Frank Black and started touring on his own. He ended up playing local bars in the Phoenix area: http://th3rdforce.com/?p=446

Kim Deal formed her own band, The Breeders. Both artists had some commercial success, but it was short lived.

Unlike Kim, Black Francis continued to make music. Some albums were good, some just plain bad. He fell for the UFO album concept. Note to reader, if you are in a band and you think it’s a good idea to have a UFO theme thing, just listen to Frank Black’s The Cult Of Ray, or the People’s Key by Bright Eyes. It’s a death trap. Don’t do it.

Neither Black Francis, nor Kim had anything close to the success they shared as a band.

Why did they break up?

It was simple, Black Francis and Kim made no secret that they didn’t like each other. Even though Black Francis was the leader, and driving force behind the band, the fans fell in love with Kim. One of my favorite concert moments was at this show.

It was one of those perfect moments. The band had just finished playing a song. I know it’s hard to imagine in a concert, but after that song, there was one perfect moment of near silence. My friend Andrew, screamed as loud as he could, in a beatlesque parody: We Love You Kim. She heard it. The audience laughed and she said a very soft, thank you.

Judging from the lack of success Back Francis and Kim achieved after the breakup it has become obvious that part of their genius was the friction between warring factions. How many successful bands have broken up only to have their members swim in a sea of mediocrity until that inevitable “reunion tour,” takes place after the wounds have stopped hemorrhaging?

Look for these moments in your own life. Where is the friction paying off? None of us like these situations. But these situations just might prove to be the foundry for our best work. Creative tension brings out the best in us because it pushes well beyond our boundaries into territory we can’t navigate by ourselves.

Listen carefully to the music in your life. Take a moment and ask yourself,  what is it telling me?

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

Safe bets rule most of our decisions in life. Safe bets are there specifically because it’s nice not to have to break ground each time we do something.

Earlier this summer my wife and kids packed up for their annual concert/festival tour. This trip is a yearly tradition for them. They get to travel for a few weeks.

This year they spent three days in Oregon listening to Yonder Mountain String band, the crowned king of the jam/new bluegrass movement. About 8,000 other revelers joined the fun.

I did not.

I was actually here, http://th3rdforce.com/?p=433, during all of that. On my own retreat, if you will.

Last Friday one of the key members of Yonder Mountain, Jeff Austin, was playing a very small local venue. My wife invited me to go. We had dinner and went to the show with some of her friends.

The band was very, very good. The band is actually a combination of a former member of Yonder Mountain String Band and Danny Barnes, from the Bad Livers, the king of progressive/experimental bluegrass.

Last time I saw the Bad Livers was at Bumbershoot in Seattle. Average attendance to Bumbershoot is around 100,000 people.

There was maximum, 80 people at the show Friday.

What compelled these people to leave their safe gigs? What made them leave a safe bet and wind up at a local pub on a rainy night in November?

 

I have to admit I was full of admiration looking up at these fine gentlemen. Although the band had only been playing a couple weeks together it was clear they were enjoying sharing the stage. And I’m a sucker for the upright Bass. Can’t get enough of it.

But then I started running numbers. It’s in no way possible to make a living playing for the few people gathered at the show. How do the numbers work? I felt a deep pang of worry for our balladeers.

This was entirely a project in its infancy. Sitting in on the show was literally having an eye on a newborn as it struggles to find its way in the world. I said a prayer for the lads as the show ended. Wishing them well on this venture.

Recently I took a big risk by going to a writer’s conference. I had never been to one before. I am quite comfortable in my Chinese Medicine world. I put on workshops. So to go, as a student, was a leap I was really worried about making.

Beginning as a newbie at 43 years of age, wasn’t what I had in mind. But to get that book of mine published, I would have to break new ground. And so I did. 

The workshops were great. Very fine, professional and enthusiastic teachers. I had a meeting with an agent. Totally blew it. Yep. Ever see Say Anything? That John Kusack movie. He has a habit, which reminds me of, well, me. When he gets nervous he starts talking continuously, making connections that don’t really fit and just not stopping for a while. So here I was, acting like a high school kid trying to pitch a book idea to an agent. Yeah, you know this book is about. . . .and I wove Dao De Ching hexagrams. . . Holy mountains in Korea. . ..  Ben Bulben in Irealand. . . Fugazi concerts, you bet. . . Do you get it?

What a mess?

Well, later on I had another meeting with an editor of a small press in Seattle. I bumbled my way through that one too. But you know what, something in the idea caught her attention. She asked to see the manuscript? Mine? You mean the one I wrote? 

I haven’t heard back from her, yet. I feel like those musicians must have felt before their first show. Not knowing what would happen or where the project would go, they still picked up their instruments and played like tomorrow didn’t even begin to matter.

Can you hear that music in your own life? What new projects or risks are you involved in? What is out there that you are specifically not addressing?What projects are you ducking?

Go ahead, make a list you have time.

Next week we will examine this same phenomena from another perspective: the combustive force of creativity, or why being uncomfortable just might be what you need.

Photo credit: Gratefulweb.com