What does an apology cost you? Nothing. What does pride taste like when you swallow? Nothing. In fact, there’s no aftertaste. Wheatgrass has a horrible aftertaste.
And wheatgrass is supposed to be good for you.
We have all these rituals for falling in love. There are love songs, fairy tales, romantic comedies, engagements, weddings, baby showers, business deals, corporate retreats, bluegrass bands, improv teams, puppies. But there are no rituals for splitting up.
So we fight. Or build the case. Or henpeck. Or browbeat. Or trash talk. Or pay a steep admission price at the Russian Baths to weep in a hottub.
We put all this energy in going for the win. I don’t date to win. Maybe it helps explain why I stopped dating.
I take a spark of chemistry, add silly banter, sprinkle in ambition, let desire simmer at 425-degrees, cover in tinfoil and see if the romance holds. Otherwise, I’m happy being alone.
Are you dating?
Why aren’t you dating?
Those aren’t questions. Those are jabs. Can’t tell you how often I have to bob and weave, just to keep myself from feeling bad when those cheap shots are thrown at me in rapid succession. I remember meeting a psychic in Sedona. She told me I was about to enter a phase of my life called “The Shoulds.”
By now, you should be married. By now, you should have kids. By now, you should have an upside down mortgage payment. By now, you should have an ex-wife you’ve spent longer divorced and suing than married and loving.
Speaking of romance, and the romantic swelling of music used to underscore emotion, there’s a program I’ve been fiddling around with called Garage Band. I’ve been writing songs my whole life. But the past couple years, I changed my approach.
Just last year, as I was leaving Max’s Deli and walking to the gym, I passed Guitar Center. They had a sandwich board outside announcing guitar classes.
Inquiring about guitar classes, I asked the guy in charge of signing-up new students if I could choose a different guitar, off the wall, every time I took a class. The guy blinked. Then he blinked again. Even though inventory is their competitive advantage, I could tell he’d never thought about treating the inventory as a student perk.
A split second before he said no, between blinks, I watched him re-think his position. I could tell he needed new students more than he needed to uphold the ill-defined rules of his corporate masters.
He said said the magic word, “Yes.”
Yes Is The Answer.
For over a year, once a week, I’ve been taking classes at Guitar Center. I’ve played more than 56 different guitars: expensive Gibsons, well crafted Taylors, the omnipotent Fender, dull black guitars with shiny strings, orange guitars with green cactuses on the fretboard.
In the end, prestige begets debt.
Last year, I set out to write 25-songs. I wrote 13-songs, 1-song being a cover of “Plastic Jesus.” So technically, I wrote 12-songs, which comes out to 1-song per month.
Not bad. But not what I set out to accomplish.
This year, I set out to write 17-songs, which comes out to a little over 1-song per month. I’m feeling a little more clear-eyed in setting reasonable songwriting goals.
Speaking of dreamers, and the days when unreasonableness reigned supreme, Willis reached out to me. We used to bump into each other back when we were in bands, rehearsing on 24th Street, in a derelict building, where Giorgio Gomelsky was the resident slumlord, renting space by the hour to neophyte wannabees.
I told Willis I’d been writing songs. He asked me to send him a few. So I did. I even sent an email with lead sheets attached, something I couldn’t have done before I began taking classes at the Yale School of Music (AKA Guitar Center).
Soon after, Willis asked me to Skype. He was living overseas, and there was no other way for us to talk. So we Skyped.
It was good seeing him again, after all these years. He said my songs were good. He said there were holes in my tempo, but no holes in my songwriting. His only concern was age.
He asked, “Are we kidding ourselves?”
Willis always promised himself he wouldn’t be the guy in a mid-life crisis band, a 50-year old wannabe, passing around an unwanted demo, groveling for an in with T-Bone Burnett, crusty.
I actually thought it sounded like a great idea, forming a mid-life crisis band. Is there such a thing? A mid-life crisis, I mean. Of course there’s such a thing as a band. But I get the feeling this whole idea of mid-life crisis is just another label we hang on people to shut them down by forcing them to over think what they’re doing instead of giving themselves permission to jam.
There it is, pride stuck in my throat like a chicken bone.
By now, I should be rich. By now, I should be famous. By now, I should be making a speech at the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame, pretending I’m not flattered by a lifetime achievement award. By now, I should be buried next to Jim Morrison at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris.
Happy to report, I saved-up money and bought a few microphones at Guitar Center. Happy to report, I upped my game on Garage Band. Happy to report, I closed the holes in my tempo by working, pretty much every day, with a metronome. Happy to report, I recently added an additional class at the Old Town School of Music (AKA Yale Without The Pretentiousness).
I jumped into Glam Rock 101.
My goal is to learn every song from “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.” I’m not into Bowie. I’m not into Lou Reed. I’m not into glitter mostly because I don’t look good in glitter.
Never in a million years did I expect to be in a music class dedicated to Glam Rock. Then an accident happened, when the teacher in my Folk Rock class took a week-off to vacation in Mexico. The substitute teacher showed up to class with songs by Bowie and Lou Reed.
I’m not into Bowie. I’m not into Lou Reed. But a particular chord progression she was teaching the class reminded me of “Wicked Little Town,” a song I hadn’t thought about in years. It reminded me how great it is to have your heart broken.
So I asked her if the chord progression was from Hedwig. She beamed at me and said it was impressive my ear noticed the chord progression and attached it to the appropriate song. Then she added, “Hedwig is an homage to the genre.”
I swallowed my attraction, it tasted like a schoolboy crush. So I did the only thing you can do when you’re an ambitious schoolboy: drop your schtick, and the very next day, sign up for Glam Rock 101.