I originally wrote this for April Fool’s Day,but I thought I’d pulled it down because of this conversation:
Me: Hey, would you read my post?
J: What’s the joke? I don’t get it. All this is true.
Me: It’s that one part, you know…
J: Well, okay, but no one is going to know that it isn’t true, given that everything else here is true.
Me: Really? My readers know me. They know that’s not going to happen.
J: I don’t know… I mean, easily 90% of this stuff is 100% true. I thought you were going to write about your trip to SpaceX.
Me: Okay, you’re right, you’re right… it’s not funny. I’ll kill it.
But this morning, I got up and found it had published, I must have done something wrong when I unpublished it, or somehow the settings on my clock are off. I was going to delete it, but what the hell, 90%, maybe 95% of this is true, so why not just leave it. April… Fool’s?
That three weeks I spent in bed with the flu gave me a lot of time to think. A lot of time. It’s not like the bug I had was going to kill me; I was going to get out from under it eventually, but being so sick made me think about what, exactly, I’ve been doing with my art as of late. Three weeks of being thick witted and a little fragile and not able to do things you love will make even the most confident of humans start to wonder what they’re prioritizing and why. That’s exactly what I did, I sat in bed asking myself this: What do you really want to be doing?
I’ve been thwarted on completing my book about the ukulele — it’s sitting on the hard drive at about just over 20k words — by my increasing responsibilities at the day job. I know — some of this is time management, and if I’d just get myself together to write, I’d probably make progress. But I’m not; I’m unable to focus when there are so many distractions, when I’m always packing to go off on another trip.
In the meantime, things are going nothing short of spectacular with my band, The Castaways. Critics and music producers we meet love us, our fan base is loyal and growing, and we’re recording a second CD. Now that I’m mostly over this flu thing, it’s my turn in the box. We’ll probably hold off on vocals for a bit longer in hopes my hearing finally clears up 100%, but next week, I start laying down tracks. (See how I talk now? I say things like “laying down tracks.”) I can’t wait, it’s fun, and the results are totally worth the effort.
We have some great local shows booked — we landed a main stage at Folklife and are getting signed for choice spots in the summer festival season. The other night, when we were unwinding from our show at the bar, I mentioned that I was really surprised that we’d landed such great venues. Our percussionist didn’t see why I should question this, but given that I’ve not been in a band before and am very realistic about my skills, I had no expectations of us gaining popularity. I figured we’d sit comfortably somewhere between the novelty and community theater level. We’d play some parties, our local coffee house, and that would be the end of it. I never dreamed that we’d be on our second album and landing big stages.
Compare this not quite rocket like but still excellent trajectory with that of my travel writing career. Sure, I have had some great gigs and been able to do some amazing things. But I’ve made more money in my first year as a musician than I made in my first five as a travel writer. My impressive bylines didn’t come until four, five years in as a writer. But music, I kid you not. I go out, I play, I have what is consistently a rollicking good time in the company of four nothing less than fantastic guys, and I come home with a pocket full of cash. I learn something every time we play, I make new friends, and I am dizzy with the joy of it. And it’s not just me on some solitary honeymoon, my band mates feel the same way. We’re not struggling with power trips or flakiness or weakest link syndrome, though I’m totally the weakest link. Or I thought I was until one of my band mates said, “Don’t get sick like that again. You’re indispensable. The band needs you.” (I have no intention of doing so, and I hope to not be sick like that again for a very very very long time, if at all.)
All this is the long, complicated way of saying that things are nothing short of excellent in my surprising second act as a musician. Doing music like this requires something I never thought I’d be willing to do — it involves staying put — at least until you’re on tour, and even then you’re committed to your band obligations first, you can’t go swanning off around town when you’re supposed to be sound checking or setting up or restringing your uke or any number of things that happen when the show comes first.
That’s why I’ve decided to put travel on the back burner for the foreseeable future. During the three weeks I was out of commission, I missed three practices, one show, one meeting with a guy we’d like to interview as our agent, and one meeting with our video producer (oh, yeah, we’re working on a second video too). No matter how many times I watched Spinal Tap (that movie is nine times funnier to me now) or played my uke in my jammies (the ones with the penguins on them) it was nowhere as good as being with the band.
At our gig last weekend, our lead guy got to talking with an audience member who’d asked for some of our back story. “It’s like a marriage,” he said, “only with five people. And it’s kind of reverse Mormonism, because we have four guys and only one woman… uh, what were we talking about? Oh, yeah, Craig’s List, we kind of started on Craig’s List.”
Surfing isn’t something I know anything about, but I totally get the idea of catching a big wave and riding it all the way to the shore. If I cut out the travel, I can stay home, recover the momentum I need to finish my book, and, most importantly, I can ride this unexpected giant wave of ukulele driven rock and roll until it spits me out on the sand. There’s something to be said for knowing a good thing when you see it and going all in. Right now, this is better than travel, and consistently better, happier, more fun, more satisfying than anything else I do. I’m going to settle down and work on my music, like some misdirected teenager who’s breaking her parents’ hearts by making a totally ridiculous career choice.”Music? Really? Could you at least get a job in, I don’t know, a record store? Something with a regular income? Anything?” “No way, man, you can’t pin me down! I’m going to be a rock star! You just watch!”
I’m happily married, but even my husband hasn’t been able to make me do that. But four guys with music? Let me unpack that suitcase and tune my axe, I’m on my way. The next time you read about me traveling, it’s going to be in a van littered with sports drink bottles, Emergen-C packets, and a staggering pile of ukuleles. You can”t pin me down. I’m going to be a rock star. You. Just. Watch.