Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Explaining My Other Self ...

On Valentine's Day this year, I sang at my first-ever open-mic night. This is what I wrote when I got home to send to friends.


I wore red today. Determined not to be cynical about Valentine's Day, I wore red, to be hopeful. Not just about love, but about it all. Life, possibility.

I had set aside Monday as a play day, a reward for finishing a lot of work over the past week. I met my friend Chris for coffee, I went to see my friend Dave at his studio, and I had dinner at Jay's before the two of us headed to Davenport's Piano Bar, where Monday is open-mic night. Just to soak up the open-mic vibe. Life-Coach Friend Jeannie had suggested it -- two years ago -- as a step toward getting over my fear of singing in public.

As we were getting dinner together (that'd be dumping Thai food onto plates, instead of eating from the containers), Jay asked what song I'd be singing.

"Oh, I'm not singing tonight," I said. "I'm just going there to get used to the *idea* of singing."

Jay scrunched up his face, as if to say, "Coward."

But I held my ground.

I drove to Davenport's, and boy, it was emp-ty. Just a few of us there. George was at the piano for the evening.

"Come on," Jay urged. "You can sing. There's no one here to hear you!"

But it didn't feel right. If I *was* going to sing, I figured there should be more people in the room. Seemed I wouldn't be getting over much of a fear of singing in public if my only public was Jay and the bartender.

I ordered a Scotch.

Then another.

Then it was two hours later.

I had a songbook in front of me. I was flipping through it. Others were singing. I was not.

One woman, honest to God, sang an aria from "Tosca." Yeah. She's a professional singer. A professional opera singer. Right. Not gonna follow *her.*

Then it was another hour later.

Jay said he was going to get a cab home, but that I should stay and sing.

I was starting to get nervous inside. I *could* not sing, like I planned on. But I knew I'd feel like I let myself down.

Then George announced that he was taking break.

"Ooh," Jay said. "You're saved by him taking a break."

"I was going to sing next," I said.

Jay scrunched up his face, as if to say, "Liar."

"No, really. If you go ask him if he'll do one more song before he takes his break, I'll sing."

"Really?"

"Really."

So Jay walked up to the piano and leaned over to talk to George. George looked at me and said, "Well, come on, darlin'! Let's go! What are you singing?!" (George, you may have guessed, is gay.)

I put the book in front of him. "It's De-Lovely." Cole Porter. I hadn't sung that song in at least a year. But it's up-tempo. (The song I really wanted to do, the song I made George do earlier in the evening to see how he played it, was "All the Way" (I've fallen in love with Iva Davies' rendition of it and can't stop singing it), but I figured, with the nerves I had going on, I'd better steer clear of anything resembling a ballad.)

So I took the mic, George introduced me to the crowd, and let them know that I was performing in public for the first time, and that's when I realized that I picked a song that requires that *I* bring in the piano, not the other way around. George played an intro anyway, and then said, "That was completely useless."

So I sang. And at the end of it, George brought me back for a second time. I sang, essentially, twice.

The crowd was great. Hearty applause. A fellow open-mic-er insisted I come back. "The first time's the hardest, and now that's over!" he said.

He had a point.

And, as I told Dave later on my drive home, " I didn't die. I lived to call and tell you about it."

So, friends, for all of you who know how long I've wanted to do this, and how scared I've been, I did it.

Life is what you make it.

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