A.J. put on my headphones and then turned to me and gave me a look like I was cannibalizing myself. I stammered to explain to him why I was listening to that particular music. Suddenly, I didn’t feel the coolness I had expected. He gave my stereo headset back and didn’t talk to me for a while. It was a few hours before the curtain went up on opening night of our fall semester college play when he saw me with my Walkman. I was listening to the music that I thought best would psyche me up to get onstage. I was acting my first lead role in a stage play.
The last time I had been onstage was only about 5 months back in a dance concert at Maui Youth Theatre. Five months back, a few hundred miles away, and a completely different world. It had been my last time onstage before going off to college. I was cast as an actor rather than a dancer in the opening dance number and lip-synced to a song from the movie musical, Xanadu. The number started off in a 40’s style with a USO canteen look. Three girls did an Andrews Sisters imitation to the voice of Olivia Newton John. I would stand in the wings while the first part of the song played. It was a bubbly tame sound. I would breathe and gear myself up. Then the number transitioned into a more 80’s hard rock song. I stamped out onstage, the lead singer flanked by two girls. I lip-synced to the chauvinistic lyrics, not paying attention to anything but the high I would get from being a great big ham. I felt like I was the coolest dude on the planet. It was one of the biggest thrills I’ve ever had onstage. The dance concert closed in August and I was already getting ready to leave for college.
I kept a cassette tape of that song. I had it at college where everyone seemed smart, wealthy, or good looking. I felt like I didn’t belong and sometimes listened to the tape whenever I was feeling rather uncool. The song began sweetly with the female vocals. Listening to that part would begin to build me up. Then it went into the hard rock part. I would close my eyes and remember the past and how cool I had felt.
So on opening night, the cast of The Real Inspector Hound was sitting out in the risers before the house opened. I sat listening to that song my Walkman. I was trying to remember the high I would get listening in the wings. A.J. was a little more of a theatre veteran but must have thought I was cool because he was interested to see what I was listening to. I handed over the headphones with the music still playing. He heard just a little bit of Olivia Newton John singing to “forget about the blues tonight, sweet babe”. A.J. looked grossed out. How could I explain: Wait!!! This music makes me feel cool. I was cool to this music once, no, lots of shows over three weekends. I was king of the world! I was COOL!!!
No that was the past. The coolness was gone and grasping onto it that night had not made me feel cool, it had made me worse than not cool. I was uncool.
That was 1986. I would like to say that I learned my lesson after that and saw the wisdom it letting go of the past and focusing on the now. But I have always had a tendency to dwell in the past. Even though this seems to provide copious fodder for my blog, I think that it’s mostly a character flaw. But I hope today’s entry can be an example of how I can deal with this in a healthy way. Here was an incident (in my past) where my dwelling on the past had an opposite effect of what I wanted. Today I think I am better. I try to focus more on what is happening now. Although I am a product of my past, I am also very much a husband and father today. I cannot be distracted by the past because there is too much to live for right now. It feels like a hard slough to wade out of sometimes, but the truth is I’m not there anymore.
It is fun to reminisce about 26 years ago and connect with the old friends I had good times with. Thanks for those memoires, you know who you are. I won’t forget the past, but I think I’ve finally started moving on. A lot of that is thanks to the friends I’m surrounded by today.