Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Back to the Lab Again

"Wanna dance again?"  I asked the stunning blonde with the half-inked tattoo.

"Nah, I'm good."

Ouch.  Cue the Bill Murry scene from "What About Bob" in the therapists' office.  "ow....ow...OW!"

(To add insult to injury, she was actually a lousy dancer, even worse than me.  THAT'S how much of a fool she thought I was.)  

I've been hitting the salsa clubs with an intensity, and besides the social component, I've gained valuable insight about teaching (by being a hopeless beginner at something), confidence, and rejection.  It's this last point I'd like to mention.  

  I got an email from a comrade yesterday, and she's wondering if she has the courage to share some of her (excellent) writing with the world, and her classmates.  I get it.  I'm still terrified of singing, even though I do it all the time.  When something is so personal, and we care about it so much, the stakes get dizzingly high, and I usually fold.  

  Salsa has been teaching me otherwise.  Granted, it's easier for me to get shut down, because while I mean to get good, I never want to go pro.  My music is my (current) life's work, so there's a layer of insulation and the ability to laugh off my epic failures on the dance floor.  That being said, it's still not easy to stare down that prospect of rejection each and every dance, from the ask, to the actual dance part of it.  Sometimes girls will just stop dancing with you, and say a really catty "thaaank you" as they ooze away.  Meanies!  But I keep going back.  I have tape on my living room floor where I practice.  I watch YouTube, I go to the classes, I stomp the feet, I gradually stomp less, the moves are getting better, I see improvement, I stomp the feet again.  If the girls are snarky, there's always more.  And there's always another audience if the first one doesn't like it.

The song "Lose Yourself" applies.  "He keeps on forgetting."  "It's back to the lab again."  "Oh, there goes gravity."

  But the fear of rejection isn't deciding what I do anymore.  I drink some caffeine, and hit that floor.  I know at the very least, I'll get a good Facebook status out of it.  I'm doing it over, and over, and over.  It's getting easier (both the dancing, and the courage.)

  Now, I sure sound like a big talker.  I need to do this with artistic stuff, and I plan to.  It sure has been an interesting experiment in psychology, learning on the fly, and that "few seconds of courage" to punch that fear right in the face (or at least stomp it's fashionable foot.  I'm so sorry, Lindsey.  If you're reading this, I'll take you out for a pedicure after you get out of the doctor's office.)  

  So, to Comrade A., I say...

For those about to rock, we salute you!  Have fun, give it a shot, and you've got this!

- Josh


Friday, September 11, 2015


"Happy Friday" doesn't cut it today.

  It's been 14 years since the shadow arrived.  The elderly, paranoid neighbor called that sunny morning.  "You'd better turn on the TV, something's happening."  We hauled it out of the closet on the TV cart, put away as it usually was in my unique upbringing.  I saw the second plane hit. The elderly neighbor's paranoia couldn't stop this.  This means war.  I felt sick.  That night I crept out into the back yard with the telescope.  There were no planes in the suburban DC sky.  Humanity was grounded once again, looking up, dizzy.  Coinciding neatly with the destruction was the divorce of my parents, and September 11th seemed to mark the beginning of the Shadow.
  Today I pad around my house quietly, pouring tea and working on tour ideas.  The breeze carries the sound of crickets and a Chopin record spins on the turntable.

  I think about the Shadow.  About my friends, returned from a war that wasn't known before this day in 2001, their faces changed with the sacrifice that the Shadow demands.  There was my buddy, a young kid who used to run lights at the punk club.  I saw him the other week, barely recognizing him.  He was all grown up, and home from the army.  "I'm glad you didn't get shot or anything" I said.

 "I did.  Three times."

   There's guitar students who don't remember a time when the twin towers stood, and other guys sitting in the chair in my studio who would rather not speak about their time overseas.  "Let me know if you want help putting it in a song" I say.

  I've only been on the fringes of the Shadow, never having to walk through a NYC street or valley in Afghanistan, both choked with a dust symbolically bound.  I can feel it, though, and it's paralleled my coming of age and own struggles, while magnitudes lesser, still painful in their own way.  It's not my intention to compare war and loss to personal tribulations, as I feel that not only disrespectful, but inaccurate.

   I watch the trees sway and hear trucks rumbling on the highway.  The small businessman who owns his trash truck stops at the curb as I write this. Life goes on.  I've been reading Machiavelli's The Prince and planning The Kindness Exchange tour.  It's an odd combination.   On this anniversary, two thoughts strike me:

  Actions are both ineffective and indelible.  The attackers failed to break a people, and yet, that shadow is forever.  One must remember this in one's own actions.  What we do is ultimately futile, yet everything...everything leaves a mark.  I had a dream last night that I was rude to a beggar, and then tossed him a penny in a power play.  I told my mother with tears in my eyes "and he stooped for it - I know how he feels ."  I chased after him, hoping to give him a dollar, having a change of heart.  He ran away, thinking I would hurt him.  He never came back.

 The Shadow takes much from us, yet shows us more than any light.  For those of us still here to gaze at the sunlight filtering through drying leaves 14 years later, I think it's worth pondering.  We not only see how dark the night can get, but we live to see the day.  The dawn may be cloudy, but it's there, and so are we.

How have we changed?  What are we made up?  What's important?  What will we do with our time?

- Josh