Portrait of the Artist as a (not so) Young Man

26 08 2015
This is not a portrait nor a young man...discuss.

This is not a portrait nor a young man…discuss.\

Yes- leave it to me to pick a nerdy title for a blog post. I’m special that way. Now onto the blogosphere….

Last weekend I got to sit out in the evening at a local pub – the mahogany bar in front of me and on the other side of a wooden divider, the sounds of a lone singer belting out classic tunes by Neal Young, Pearl Jam and other amazing artists. It was as close to my version of “The Voice” as I had come to before….hearing the vocals but only being able to imagine from whom they arose.

The singer had a fantastic range and a syrupy but deep tonality that surprised me for the range of various different songs he was playing on the guitar while strumming away. I had an image in my head of who this guy was. When I took my beer and headed over to the patio where he was performing, I was surprised to see a guy not much taller than myself with a pair of jeans, spectacles and an unassuming blue and gray plaid short-sleeve shirt. My first impression was, “man, this guy looks like Moby but I don’t think Moby sings like that.” My second was: “did we go to school together?”

I was thoroughly enjoying this guy singing and even wanted to catch up with him after as I have been looking to hire a vocalist to record (or re-record in some cases) some original music I have written. After he played his last tune, he thanked the audience and also said that he had an original 10 song CD for sale for $5.

An older gentleman sitting with his 3rd or 4th wife – I couldn’t tell the exact number; it’s so hard to tell these days – started laughing and quipped to me: “$5 for 10 songs? How good can it be? He’s a little old to be hocking CDs.” In one minute he was able to convey every horrible judgement that some inappropriate distant relative from the past had said to me at one point or another about something or somebody.

Thankfully, I had not let my “beer voice” talk on my behalf and instead, just said something to the effect of “well, he’s really good and clearly enjoying himself.”

I was so frustrated by this guy. Was I internalizing his comment a bit? Probably – sure. What gets me though is the ease with which he felt comfortable making fun of this artist. Had he been 20, I am sure he would have still said something like “let’s see where you are in 20 years” but have accepted the fact that he was giving it a try. The message here was that his age had something to do with the acceptability to express a passion of his – guitar playing and singing. (OK, OK  – editors note here – I AM internalizing that part because, honestly, for all I know he hates singing and guitar playing and was just doing it to pay the bills. But based on the looks of his tip jar that night, I highly doubt it.)

Why is our society so comfortable with allowing youth to explore but once you reach a certain age limit, it becomes more acceptable to judge? I am the first to find annoyance with all of those adults still “finding themselves” but that doesn’t mean that people necessarily should stop finding a part of themselves.

Sometimes people are found – they don’t need to look anymore. They are born into families that are supportive (financially, emotionally or otherwise) or have a natural gift for those faculties that are easier to get caught and be found – athletics, academics, the last name Kardashian. However, many of us have a lot of exploring to do and this should not be seen as the antithesis of responsibility. It’s quite the opposite. Show me the person who has nothing left to figure out and I’ll show you someone who continues setting unrealistic expectations on someone – a child, an employee, an entire Republican party (hello Mr. Trump – I’m talking to you).

But in all seriousness, Joyce wrote about his protagonist breaking away from conventional norms and figuring out his identity. He was a young man but his age wasn’t what made it exceptional. It was his journey. This doesn’t have to stop just because you happen to be an older man of means sitting with your 3rd or 4th wife watching an amazing guitarist and singer for free on a beautiful weekend evening. That’s not “making it” at all – that’s barely even “finding it” if you ask me.

Until next time,



The In-between

18 05 2015


I think I have become too reliant on the GPS. It’s probably typical to look for the most direct route from point A to point B and that is certainly a benefit. However, visualizing that thick blue line on the screen gives me a false sense that it is really that easy: follow the map, a turn here, a turn there and then before you know it – I will have arrived!

The truth is that sometimes Siri (or whatever cosmic force is in charge) decides not to allow the GPS to work or more likely, there is some unforeseen detour that needs to be taken. This is unexpected but the unexpected should always be expected.

For all intents and purposes, I am in the midst of raising two teenagers (a 14 year-old and a 12 year-old). I have my good days and my bad days. After a string of successful weekends, excursions, conversations, the gods let me know to not get too cocky and I had a bad parenting moment this weekend with my oldest. The dialogue was straight out of a bad after school special, right down to the “I learned it from you dad. You!”. (No, it wasn’t drugs…though after the argument, it seemed like a reasonable alternative.)

My approach to parenting teens is that this is very much a between stage for them and I have to remind myself constantly to cut them some slack. They could go from needing a parent to proclaiming complete independence in about the time it takes a 14 year old to wolf down a cheese stick after school. I like the idea of the “in between” for budding adolescence because it is a platform that I can grasp and even articulate to my kids. Basically, “look guys, you’re figuring stuff out. It sort of sucks sometimes but it can be super exciting and there’s going to be lots of things happening now that will inform who you want to be – good and bad. Just make decent choices because some choices can last forever and you don’t want to jeopardize what is looking to be a pretty amazing future.” Anyway, it goes something like that.

For me, it’s been a different story. As much as I have embraced meditation, writing, authenticity and self-forgiveness, it is hard for me to not benchmark myself against where I “think I should be”. It’s difficult to not look at my internal GPS and ask “how did I end up here?” and try to blame it on Siri. I never really expected the unexpected. I don’t mean that I should have expected my marriage to end but I also should not have necessarily expected a smooth journey from point A to point B.

In a way, I am no different that the teenagers living in my house – being exposed to experiences I hadn’t been involved with before and figuring it out. I am figuring out that the “in-between” phase is not age restricted, nor is it restricted to one experience. There are “In-between” phases in everything and learning to accept this can be a meaningful (and even fun) way to get through. In fact, as you may have heard, the journey is often more gratifying than the destination.

A good friend of mine said I am on a bridge right now and just transitioning from the past to the future. Isn’t that always the case? We are all in-between, regardless of what we may think.

Until next time,


Great Expectations (or living life on the side)

3 03 2015


“I’ll have what she’s having.”

For those of you hoping for a lively review of the Dickens classic or an examination of cinematic treatments of the female sexual response (see graphic above) – my apologies. Yes, I may have lured you in with that nice graphic above but this is about me and my “great expectations”. However, not unlike the protagonist, Pip, in the literary classic, who wanted something so opposite of his orphaned beginnings – to be a “gentleman” – I, too, had aspirations greater than that of my humble beginnings. (Or I hope that that sounds interesting enough to read on, anyway.)

I spent most of my life living ‘on the side’. Much like the famous character of Sally played by Meg Ryan in “When Harry Met Sally”, ‘on the side’ was a very big thing in my family. This wasn’t a food thing either. It was a life thing.

It seems like almost anything and everything I was interested in really didn’t fit into the norm growing up and due to lack of money, lack of comfort, or both, I was often relegated to pursue things ‘on the side’. What I have realized since, however, is that I never stopped categorizing things between the main course and the side dish. As an adult, I neutralized any excitement to pursue things ‘on the side’ due to the mismatch with my great expectations.

If you’ve ever been passionate about something, you may recognize how difficult it is to scale back and have that thing take 2nd or 3rd fiddle to anything else – in other words, work on your passion ‘on the side’.

The older I grew, the more responsibilities I encountered that not only mandated that anything that I was personally excited about – music, comedy, writing – would have to be ‘on the side’, but that the ‘side’ kept getting farther and farther away.

As some of you may have read from previous blogs, I have been learning a lot about the complex web that impacts a person’s happiness. It turns out that expectations have a lot to do with it. If our expectations are too great, it is almost impossible to achieve them and even if that does occur, the process and self-talk is so tortuous that it makes the entire thing worthless. What is the point doing the thing you love if you don’t enjoy it anymore?

It has occurred to me that I let my great (and completely unrealistic) expectation of being the best I can be in anything I pursue get in the way of me actually just doing it. Having “great expectations” of yourself is a wonderfully cowardly way of simply masking fear. “I would love to try (fill in the blank) but I won’t be very good at it and don’t have the time…etc.”

My kids are older now and that definitely has freed up some time for me to pursue things that I hadn’t pursued in well over 10 years. But, more than that, as I start to just type that first word or play that first note or throw that first punch, I am learning that my ‘on the side’ doesn’t have to be that small. Maybe one day, it will even be the main course and then as the infamous scene in “When Harry Met Sally” notoriously proclaimed, you might even have what I’m having!

Until next time,

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