I have been feeling a bit stale and stuck lately… And it’s not that life has been treating me harshly, or that I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch… Actually, on paper, or from the outside, things look reasonably good… But, I believe, I, and most people, thrive with newness… New information… New experiences… New discoveries… New challenges… “If you’re not living, you’re dying…” “If you’re not expanding, you’re contracting…” “If you’re not growing, you’re shrinking…”
So, with an open weekend I considered options for a new discovery…
First, I put it out on social media, to get some ideas of where other people like to go… And I started looking into options. Then, Friday morning, a “same day audition” came in for late Friday afternoon… So, I had to change my plans of getting away Friday to a shorter road trip.
Saturday morning, after hearing some newscaster ask all of his studio cohorts, how they were “expanding…” And having just read a quote by Jack Kerouac. I turned off my TV, jumped in my truck and headed out with no real direction in mind… By mid-morning I found myself in Monrovia, at quietly-deserted street fair… And, in discomfort, uninspired to continue, an hour later found myself back home, with an overwhelming feeling that I’ve seen everything there is to see within two hours of Los Angeles… (Which, isn’t actually true, but you know, feelings aren’t logical.)
“Because in the end, you won’t remember the time you spent working in the office or mowing your lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.” ― Jack Kerouac
Once I got back to my box of an apartment I once again checked the Web for inspiration, BTW, for those of you that don’t know for the last umpteen months I’ve been dealing with foot issues, which have been hampering and limiting my hiking, mountain climbing, happiness, adventuring and exploring…
I saw something posted about an open mic in Palm Springs, run by a fellow named Les Michaels. (Now, while I had never met Les, we shared nearly 100 mutual friends on Facebook, and we have been connected online for at least three years, thru my music coach.)
This is what I would do with my Saturday… Head out to Palm Springs, and hit an open mic that I wouldn’t know anyone at… Expand my audience. Expand the singers I knew. Expand the pianists I’ve sung with. It wasn’t exactly, “living dangerously,” but it was certainly out of my comfort zone.
Just about the time I hit windmill alley, a feeling of dread came over me… “Well, this is nothing more than a creative way to burn cash and fuel…” However, once I got there, I made a non-frugal, executive decision and booked a room down the street from the venue. Remembering that I wasn’t just in Palm Springs to sing, I was there to have an experience.
Relax a little… Hot-tub a little… Nap a little…
Showered, changed, and at the joint where the open mic would be, the hostess, for whatever reason, was sold on having me sit in the bar area… Maybe she didn’t want to give up a “four-top” for a single… Maybe she thought I was the “hot-tea with lemon type…” Whatever her reason, I was open to whatever the possible “grander” reason was… You know, the GRANDER reason. When a friend of mine, who lives out there, who I know from the music world in Los Angeles showed up, and invited me to his table with his friend… I stuck to where I was put… Trusting there might have been a BIGGER reason, I didn’t yet know about… And, there was.
Jim and Margie, who were sitting at the next table over from me, were also at the restaurant/bar for the first time… Apparently, both widows, and now traveling companions, neither knowing there was an open mic about to occur… Before I went up to the microphone to sing, we smiled at each other once or twice and when I needed them to, they agreed to watching my camera and notebooks when I made a dash to the men’s room…
After my first song, “I (Who Have Nothing),” a power ballad made famous by Tom Jones… Jim and Margie, and quite a few people, lit up. With youthful excitement Jim told me about an experience he had when he was a lad, in the 30’s… According to him, in New Haven, CT, he had the great honor to see a singer by the name of Paul Robeson, sing “Ol’ Man River”… And he, Jim, told me, that he hadn’t heard a voice, like mine, or been as excited by a singer’s performance as much as he was, since that day he heard Mister Robeson.
When he asked me if I knew that song from Show Boat, and if had ever sung it… I was so touched by what he said, and the sincerity of his words… Not only did I tell him, “yes,” but I opened the door, asking if he’d like me to sing it if I was asked to sing another song. (Ironically, those that have been following me for a while know how many times that particular song, OMR, has been significant in my life… The song that got me singing again… The first song I ever sang at an open mic…)
- Early “Closet” recording of “Ol’ Man River” with the story about when I started singing again… LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztLz3DscW68
Ninety-minutes or so minutes later, when I was called back up to the microphone, before the music started, I told the room why I was going to sing “Ol’ Man River” next.
After I finished, and the piano silenced, I turned back towards my chair in the bar area, surprised to see Jim standing with tears in his eyes… Overflowing with emotion.
When he offered me a cash tip for singing the song, and yet hoping not to offend me, I politely refused the offer, simply telling him, that as much as whatever I did meant to him, I had already received more than enough back… I was truly out of Los Angeles simply for inspiration…
I’m so happy I sat where I sat, that Jim and Margie were there, and that I had the experience I had. To be compared to a vocal legend by anyone is beyond comprehension and unimportant, but to touch people in a way, moving them to happiness, tears and joy… That, that is completely reinvigorating.
Pictures weren’t fabulous from where I was sitting… And the video has crappy focus and muddled sounds… But again, I’m so happy I sat where I sat.
To put a ribbon on my quick little jaunt out of town…
One more little tidbit of ironic-coincidental-serendipity-being-where-you’re-supposed-to-be information…
Written on my room key were the words, “Stay Inspired.”
– Quiche Out
PS. It was a great audience, many singers were talented, and many lovely people went out of their way and complimented me… One woman gushed about wanting to hear me sing a particular song from Phantom, but couldn’t remember the name of it… So music lovers, if you think you know what song from Phantom she was referring to, that I would “blow the roof off the place…” Let me know.
PSS. Prior to the music, I asked Les if it was cool to take photos & video of the night… So, if you know a person in a photograph below… Please tell me their name (in the comment section), and describe which photo, and I’ll add their name.
PSSS. If the hotel chain I stayed at wants to sponsor this blog, my future tour, or put me into commercials, let me know and I’ll gladly mention your name 😉
- “Closet” version of “I Who Have Nothing” LINK: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nn75dr5z_w
- Video from May 10th, 2014, “I Who Have Nothing” and “Ol’ Man River” and you can hear Jim’s voice if you watch to the very end. LINK: http://youtu.be/9UfRAlyh8xQ