Tuesday, August 25, 2009


When my wife and I were dating, she mentioned more than a few times that she was a little worried that I might be too much of a dreamer. Each time I responded with this:

"So far, everything I've ever wanted to do, I made happen."

These aren't idle words. Granted, I haven't wanted much. Minimalist by nature, my wants have always been more about experiences than they have been about material things. I've always wanted to be a musician. One day, when I was in seventh grade, we were herded into the auditorium to choose our extracurricular activities for the next year. I immediately got into the line for marching band, only to be denied access once I reached the front.

"You're going to play football." I was one of the biggest kids in my class.

"I don't want to play football, I want to play saxophone."

"No, you're going to play football."

"I want to play saxophone."

"Get into the line for football. Now!"

Much as I hated to postpone my dream of learning a musical instrument, my brain was hard-wired to obey authority (at least back then, anyway) and I signed up for football. I played for a few years, quit the team, and taught myself to play the guitar. When I was nineteen I had a marathon six hour writing session that produced ten new songs. I drove to Radio Shack, bought a cheap mike and a blank cassette tape, and raced home to record one of the new tunes.

Oh boy, I thought, this is gonna be good.

At this point I'd never heard a recording of myself, but reasoned that if I could speak, surely I could sing. I recorded the song and hit rewind, the anticipation of being able to hear what would soon come out of my tape deck driving me insane. Finally, I hit play.

It was horrible.

To this day, I've only heard one person that sings worse than I did back then, and although he was terrible, he was only incrementally more terrible than I used to be. I played the tape back a second time, fiddling with the settings on my stereo, sure that it couldn't have been as bad as I thought.

It was.

My first inclination was to not ever even talk again, much less sing, but I soon realized that this was not an option. I'd been making songs up since the first grade. I wanted to be a musician, and I wanted to sing. If I taught myself to play the guitar, couldn't I teach myself not to suck as a vocalist? I played the tape back a third painful time, and then a fourth. I noticed that there were exactly two notes in the song that I hit vocally. What did I do right when I sang those two notes? How did my chest feel when the sounds were springing forth? I recorded the song again, trying to modulate my voice until I felt that sweet spot deep in my chest. This time I still sucked, but not as bad. I kept practicing. By the next day I could sing. I still had a limited vocal range, and thirty years later I still have a limited vocal range, but by God, I can sing.

I've made other dreams happen, most of them having to do with being a working musician or songwriter. Now I've got two more dreams that I'm working on and the deadline is next July when I turn fifty.

1. I'm going to write a manuscript for a novel before my fiftieth birthday, and
2. I'm going to celebrate that birthday in Paris, France, during the Bastille Day festivities.

The manuscript is going slow, but it's going. The Paris trip is going to be paid for by freelance writing and blogging. That too is going slow, but both projects are moving in the right direction, and everyday that I spend working towards these goals makes the next day easier and gets me closer to the finish line.

Until next time, au revoir.

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