This is where the soul of man never dies

Recently I have taken up with a bunch of musicians. Some of them are even convinced that I too am secretly a musician. I am not sure about that one yet but I do know that music has never had as strong a presence in my life as it has had in the last 8 months.

Music was always there, of course. On the radio in the car. Sometimes at Christmas. My mother singing in the shower and waking me up. In the background during High School and College. But it was never here. Or I was never here, being Jonah swallowed whole by the music whale. Even when I was dating and playing with the music makers in my early twenties, listening to the old timers jam together at Velvet Lounge or sitting on the stoop listening and watching a song being birthed, I was always the outsider looking in.

I always considered myself musically challenged. A road block possibly instilled early in my psyche when my grandmother made a frantic phone call to my mom when she heard me humming out of tune at age 2. This was a big deal because my grandmother was a singer. My mom wanted to be a singer too. But there was never a real emphasis on music in my house growing up. I never learned to play an instrument and I never learned how to sing. Although I spent 5 years in choir and performing in musicals. And I made at least 3 attempts to learn piano. I can successfully find middle C. I think.

I wasn't really into music in the same way everyone else was. It wasn't that thing for me. I couldn't tell you who the cool new bands were. I couldn't even name a band I really liked. I still can't carry a tune in a bucket. I can't pick a song at karaoke and I refuse to sing in public. And don't ask me to whistle, clap, hum a few bars or name that tune. And yet...

I am really interested in everyone's favorite band. I love hearing new music. I bribe my friends to burn me cds. I went out with my boss to hear her friends' bands play. Then I asked her to borrow some cds that we listen to at work. Once I was having drinks with a friend and we were joking around and I went "Ahahaha!" in some sort of musical way when he said I had a nice voice. A professional musician just told me I have a nice voice. I don't believe you. I went to see a client's band play and became friends with her and her band mates. I left their basement at 2am this morning after hanging out for band practice and jam night.

I feel like I am in the twilight zone. I have an ever growing list of new bands to check out on my phone. I have discussions about music with other people. I tell others about musicians and bands that they have never heard of. I have a monthly itunes budget, with a wish list. I try to never miss a show. I just geeked out because one of my favorite bands is releasing a new cd and their tour is coming through Chicago in a month. I seem to know what's going on.

I am getting comfortable in the belly of the whale. I am enjoying the way music brings people together. The way we listen, and smile and dance. The way music measures time and doles it out in perfect slices to take us away from the rest of world, the problems of the day, the worries and anxieties built into us by being human. It does all this in a way only music seems to be able to do.

I watch as everyone filters into the basement. Each person, in turn, finding their place. Picking up an instrument, getting a beer from the fridge, greeting a friend, sitting down. I watch my friend's 4 year old son running around under the bar stools and playing the song he wrote on his miniature guitar. I wonder what it would be like to grow up in this, surrounded by music from the beginning. But I quickly forget because they have started playing a song I know. Everyone starts singing and I am miles away from the thoughts in my head. Nothing really matters except the sounds that fill the room. We laugh as someone forgets the lyrics. Make faces at each other when we get to the words that remind us of one another. And pass around instruments and more beer between songs. It can and it does go on all night.

To those who fed me to the whale: Rocko Walker Jr, Antje Kastner, Jake LaBotz, Gabe Bowling and every single one of The Blind Staggers.

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