You ever heard someone say, “going around your ass to get to your elbow?”
That’s what the morning drive to the train station’s like for me.
On rare occasions, there’s VIP track-side access awaiting our lil green Scion (her name’s Willow).
There she is chillin in a Boston alleyway–
But most of the time, the early train birds have already nested their mid-size SUV (M)asses into these spots.
So I get to lurch by these occupied spaces awaiting the left turn arrow to wend my circuitous way to the north side of the tracks.
I get inordinately angry at these early parkers. That little spot tucked in on the side is MINE, don’t they know??
There’s a not-short-at-all shortcut I sometimes take that means I drive well north of the station and around a reservoir, but it does guarantee me mostly continuous motion and lovely pond views.
Semi-colon, HOWEVER, this route eliminates the possibility that I may just snag that coveted platform-side position.
Which way to drive? THE STAKES ARE SO HIGH!
I mean, do you see another alternative that doesn’t involve molecular rearrangement in order to pass through buildings and the freight train that’s sitting on the adjacent track every morning? LMK
To borrow another turn of phrase from my native land, yesterday morning I felt like a one-legged man in an ass kicking contest.
I just couldn’t get out ahead of anything— (hence why I’m writing you on a Wednesday instead of a Monday this week.)
I parked as the train dinged its way toward the platform, grabbed my various bags (AND remembered my coffee!), hopefully locked the car, jogged up the metal stairs, cantered across the overpass, and then saw that the boarding line would allow me enough time to slow to a light dad shimmy-shuffle down to the platform.
As I’m clearly in a mad hurry to get on the train, a man sauntering down the stairs says, “Hey, can I ask you something??”
“I have to get on the traaaain!” I cry, much like Sweeney Todd says “I have no tiiiiime” before he sends the Beggar Woman down the chute.
People getting there before you; longer routes; folks tryina stop you mid-sprint; and too many asses to kick.
Ring a bell tone?
This past weekend, I got to hear my students sing their spring recital.
I’m reflecting on how many of them said something like this to me this year:
“I just feel like I’m behind.”
To which I asked, “Behind what? Or Whoooom?”
Then Sunday at 11 am, I saw all of these folks get up on that recital hall stage and be perfectly themselves.
One student commented, “Everyone was so different from everyone else.”
That’s when you know you’re on the right track.
And let’s talk for a lil sec about technical skill.
Every one who got up on that stage who’d told me in the fall, “I just feel like I’m behind,” coordinated mechanical and storytelling skills in front of folks that they didn’t have in September.
⏱ They’d felt like their peers got to the station first.
🚗🤬 They’d felt like they had to drive around the reservoir to figure out how to get their breath and their thickeners and thinners to cooperate.
🤢 They’d felt like those off-hand comments from peers or perfectly aimed TikTox were puling their focus from their lane.
🤯 They’d felt like they couldn’t handle one more project, assignment, family crisis, Covid exposure, or double shift at the restaurant.
And there in that moment too early on a Sunday morning, every one of them got up there and sang damn good from their hearts.
The moral? There’ll always be hot messery.
If you’re picking up the tools available to you and using them in the 15 minutes you’ve got to walk from A to B, then those tools fire the neuron trees you need to be strong when you’re in front of the folks doing the thing.
I tell my students the only time I have to practice is walking from the train station to school with my earphones on or in 10 minute spots between scarfing an Amy’s burrito and asking the next student, “Wait, what did we decide on for your jury?”
I didn’t give my students any kind of system or even a freakin vocal exercise practice recording. I’m too administratively challenged to follow through on anything so systematic.
What I found was that they show up, I listen, I give a shit, I say some things they remember—never the things I think they remember, and then they learn stuff in other classes and talk to their friends, and then things come together.
Then they’re on the stage being brave and making me cry.
It’s not a neat series of steps, not in my experience.
So here’s my encouragement to you today—
trust the traffic;
trust the longer routes, and look over at the morning sunshine on the Farm Pond;
and remember you can only kick, punch, or head-butt one ass at a time.
And most of all, remember that there is biologically and objectively only one you, and folks NEED to hear the story only you can sing.
ps I got to visit these terrific, brave, and quick-study singers at Brown University last Saturday, and we had so much fun.
pps When you go hiking, don’t forget that being Batman and the Mandalorian makes things funner. (And insisting your dad talk like Thor the whole time, too). Hiking sticks courtesy of Gram.
ppPs and if you missed your flight to Boston for Scott Nicholas’s 🎹 and my faculty recital on April 9, never fear. You can pop some popcorn, throw in some Raisinets, and listen to some Richard Strauss and Stephen Sondheim as much as you want now. You can even boop down into the description and click straight to you favorite German jam.