My Fragile Family Tree

I hear him from ten blocks away. I see him across the river. My cousin, the rock star.

Andrew called me twice in two days. That’s unprecedented. “Um, dude, we’re playing a show on Pier 54 at eight o’clock on Thursday.”

Did he really think I’d miss it? I trecked out to BK way before it was happenin’ to see his college band, Tundra something or the other. “Funeral music,” my dad called it.

Not World Leader Pretend. More like Radiohead meets Wilco meets Semisonic, with a dash of Motown. Oh, and a kick-ass keyboard player.

I’m walking downtown towards Pier 54. I’m running late thanks to my Big Corporate Job. I hear the music over my iPod. I pull out my headphones and hear Andrew’s keyboards bouncing off of the buildings. I look out over the river and there he is, way, way out in the middle of the Hudson: my cousin, bathed in pink light, banging away on an upright piano.

I walk straight for the stage and stand there below him. I throw up a pair of devil horns, but resist the urge to shout out his name. I’m beaming ear to ear.

After the show, standing there with Andrew, plastic cup of warm beer in hand, I say, “Now that everyone’s distracted, I’ll tell ya’ how proud of you I am.”

I’m proud of him for riding bitch in a van with six other musicians. I’m proud of him for sleeping on the floor at the Best Western. I’m proud of him for living on twenty bucks a day. I’m proud of him for following his dream, even if — especially if — I didn’t.

Andrew gets a dozen of us into the Spin afterparty at some hip, aqua-blue basement on Seventh and Bedford. Chris and I are standing at the bar next to The Von Bondies, and I say, “Dude, he did it. I’m so proud of him. And I’m so jealous.” Chris, ever the big brother, says, “Dude, you just chose a different path. That’s all.”

Later, after the tequila shots, Andrew and I are huddled in a corner yelling over the DJ. We talk about our fathers, and our brothers. We talk about love, and dreams, iTunes, and Wilco. And I feel close to him. And I feel proud of him. I tell him I’m covering “I’m Always In Love” on the next album.

“Dude,” he says, “listen to ‘She’s A Jar.’ That song kills me.”

I get home late. Really late. Like, three o’clock late. On a school night. Seventy-two hours before running a triathlon. I stumble up the steps, pour some Gatorade, and scoop a bowl of Breyers. I sit down at my laptop and listen to ‘She’s A Jar.’ And I know exactly what he means.

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