These Romantic Dreams In My Head

It was only last night, but it already seems like a long time ago.

My friends are the best. I’m lucky for them. We had a really good time at the “Besides” CD release. Primarily because it wasn’t so much about the CD release at all, but about a bunch of friends getting together to have some beers and sing some songs.

I went to the gig straight from work, which is even lamer than it sounds. I had a bunch of square meetings — bandwidth, DSL vs. DS3, Vivix video production, cabling, A/C, T&E, yada yada yada — and then had to recalibrate and try and get in some kind of rock ‘n roll head. Luckily, my buddy Dan and his pal Valerie helped. We shared a cab downtown, and then went to a bistro just down the street from Pianos. We bumped in Ryan crossing the street, which never happens. A few minutes later, I ducked out for some Excedrin (no better way to get your rock on than alcohol, caffeine, and acetaminophen) and bumped into Chris crossing the street — which never happens.

So we had a beer and some laughs and I choked down my Excedrin and — and my phone rang. And it was my buddy Wes Verhoeve, co-founder of Family Records, Cross Pollination, and The Undisputed Heavyweights.

“Dude,” he said. “When are you on? The sign says 9:30 but it’s 8:30 and some other band is just starting to set up.”

Fast forward to 9:15. The other band still hasn’t gone on. I can’t find the dude who booked me. So I’m sitting there texting Abbi thinking (like the dudes in “Lethal Weapon”), “I’m gettin’ too old for this shit.”

But then Casey and Langhorne showed up. And Meg walked in. Then my buddy Z and his wife Vicki. And Wes Hutchinson. And “G, and Rach, and on and on and on.

And then we’re on stage. And then we’re playing “Harder To Believe,” and I’m thinking maybe we’re playing it a bit too slowly. And wondering why everyone’s talking. And then the lights dim, and I remember Casey telling me that he’s been trying to remind himself to smile while he plays. And I see Rach singing along way off in the back. And I smile, and lean back into the song, and…

Casey joins us on harmonica for “No Surrender.” Our performance is great, and heartfelt, but the song choice goes over like a lead balloon; it’s way too quiet and mellow for such a loud room. But I don’t care. There’s a thesis tucked away in there. And it isn’t for everyone chattering away at the bar, it’s for Casey and Wes and Ryan and Chris and Tony and me.

And then the dude says “ten more minutes” in the monitor and I think, “Already?” So I play a line of The Heavyweights “Roll Your Windows Down,” tear into “Elizabeth,” then turn “Wonderwall” into “Ina Gada Davida.”

Moments later, it’s over, and we’re downstairs singing along with our pals in Sundown. And smiling. And then we’re in a cab, our heads on each other’s shoulders…

In a few hours, Abbi and I are hopping a plane to Iowa to meet up with our pals in The Nadas and sing a few songs with them too.

So it dawned on me. When I was a kid listening to Styx’s “Paradise Theater” in those big, padded earphones, I never even began to imagine what being a grown up would look like. I never imagined any part of my rock ‘n roll fantasy other than being on stage, or in a music video, or in the pages of Rolling Stone. And in all of these years in New York, I never imagined I’d actually be a part of something, something meaningful and moving and small and simple.

But here it is. This is what it looks like. It looks Chris and me harmonizing while a thunderstorm pours rain on the city. It looks like Ryan squinting through his glasses and banging on his drums. It looks like Tony dancing in a lime green tie, Abbi and Meg laughing in the corner, and Casey, Wes and Andy grinning at each other. It looks good. It looks real. Like waiting your turn at a show, knowing full well that the universe takes its time to deliver those dreams. And even when they arrive, they look a little different than you thought. And then they pass. And you wake up the next morning, and wipe the sleep from your eyes, and do it all over again.

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