Twenty Years Later


Today was full of work and music. I slept poorly last night, waking up every few minutes to stare at the clock, and to be annoyed that only fifteen minutes had passed since the last time I stared at the clock. I woke at 4 AM, with every intention of writing. Alex was still awake, which meant he was downstairs on the computer, so I gave up that plan and slept another hour (with the fifteen minute wakey-wakey intervals spinning my mind like a machine). I showered and made my way downstairs at 5:30, and Alex was still awake. He had not yet bothered to sleep. Apparently YouTube is very interesting to teenage critters of his ilk.

I told him to go immediately to bed. He had an important recital tonight–his last one of his high school years (if he passes English. He said he would, but that is highly debatable).

Fifteen minutes later, I left for work. It was pretty uneventful day. I made drinks, cooked sandwiches, cleaned bits of the store, at a late lunch, cleaned a bit more, and went home.

I took a short nap as soon as I got home. I needed it, too.

Around 3:00 we loaded ourselves into the car for Alex’s recital. He was doing 4 pieces–all artsong. He wore all black, and looked pretty classy, all things said.

In total, the concert lasted 2 hours. Parts were amazing. Some parts were memorable. I have a feeling that Alex now wishes he had slept last night. He did well, but wasn’t at the peak of his game.

Man can that kid sing loudly. When he turns up the volume he can crumble rafters. One guy sang Schumann’s “Ich Grolle Nicht”, which Alex had done a couple years ago. At the moment of the song’s climax “Und sah die Schlang’, die dir am Herzen frißt,”…. (“And I see the serpent that eats at your heart”), well, that guy sang it in perfectly in tune.  Alex’s interpretation goes from hiss to jet engine in the space of ten seconds. Alex was rough, a bit out of tune, but thunderous, and full an ox’s arrogance.

Alex pays little heed to notes he hits right. But when he hits them… wow. Stand back.

There was another guy who was so painfully bad that he slunk out after his two songs and we never saw him again.

There was a girl whose songs made me shiver in their excellence.

I used to be able to do that all the time. When was the last time I had a song make me go all goose-flesh? Electric music. Music that transcended time, and hit the apex of meaning in your heart. Everything just stopped. How long has it been?

I used to want to be that guy: the one who could hit all the notes. I wanted to sing those thundering high As. I wanted my music to be the top of a tower. I settled for a split-level ranch home. The kind with avocado shag carpet a couple beanbag chairs in the corner. I’m not that guy anymore.  I haven’t been that guy for 20 years.  But when, as a group, Alex’s instructor has the young men go through their pre-concert warm-ups, I have to clench my jaw closed against the urge to Do-Mi-Sol-Mi-Do with them. When some novice sings “Caro Mio Ben,” I want to sing along, not because I love the piece, but because I was that guy, years ago. That song was my toil for a long time.

This entire post is just me saying, “Wow, remember when I was young, and could hit those high notes?” Me too, man. Me too… Now all I can say is “Great job,” even when it wasn’t so great, and fight back envy. You don’t know what you have until it’s gone, I guess.

I want to shake these kids by the shoulders and shout “Don’t waste it.” For God’s sake, keep up all the toil. Sing. Practice. Become.. You can hit those notes that I want to sing. I want you to sing them. Make me cry when you sing them. Make them come to life. Be a proxy note-hitter for us one-time musicians so we can make our coffee and write our blogs, and remember those days.

That’s all life really is: grabbing the high notes with one hand, and your testicles by the other, and making it happen while you’re young and you still have both.

Not that I don’t have testicles, mind.

No, I haven’t been drinking.

Now that we’re teetering on the precipice of too much information, I will end this post. Hope you all have a great week, and seize… everything. Seize it while you can. Make it all count.

And happy high school graduation to my son, Alex.

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