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My son and I had a conversation the other day that went like this:
Him: “Dad, I don’t understand how some people can listen to music on their earbuds and stay perfectly still.”
Me: “Me, either. Sometimes when I’m listening to music on the train I worry that I’ll be unable to control myself and leap into the aisle dancing like a maniac.”
Him: (Gut-busting laughter)
Granted, the sight of me dressed for “legitimate” work and suddenly busting a move on the commuter express into Philadelphia is pretty funny, but that’s not really an exaggeration. Despite the near ubiquity of earbuds (discrete, once considered cool) or those giant headphones I remember bumming off my dad to make mixtapes (now inconvenient, burdensome and therefore hipster cool), you see very few people publicly responding to the music they’re listening to.
I’m a little biased. I’m the guy you pull up next to on the road who’s singing at the top of his lungs in the car. I’m the guy on the train who simply can’t restrain some little form of rhythmic movement, whether it’s a finger tap or a head bob. God help me if I was a hardcore Rush fan, because I’d either careen off the road or injure my seatmate on the train during the drum solo for “Tom Sawyer.”
Even at live shows it’s unusual these days to see folks really getting into music. Exuberance seems to now be placed alongside social disfunction or mental illness. Honestly, I’d much rather be the crazy guy at the front of the stage dancing and singing the lyrics to every single song than the self-important turd standing in the middle of the room displaying no response whatsoever – no head bop, no finger pop, no air guitar … nothing.
Is that really how you enjoy music? If so, I’m revoking your music card, because you’re obviously not worthy of it.
I’m not going to call for you to dance like no one is watching, A) because that’s been said so many times it now only belongs on lame motivational posters, and B) because someone is always watching. But I will say this. Remember to feel the music once in a while. Tap a foot, play bass on your thigh, or break down and push your pelvis.
So for those about to shake your groove thangs, I salute you.
Hi, yes … that fateful day has arrived. Today I turn 45.
Given the new realities of the lifespan of healthy humans (and the fact that genetics are working in my favor here), unless I do something (else) monumentally stupid, I fully intend to live at least until the age of 90.
That puts me squarely at the doorstep of midlife. Half my life down, half yet to go.
For lots of folks (particularly men), this is a time of re-evaluation. To paraphrase Edna Mode in The Incredibles, men this age are often … unstable.
Well, hopefully no more unstable than on any other day. I won’t be going out shopping for a red Porsche Boxter convertible in which I’ll install a significantly younger woman. I married a significantly younger woman, and if there’s any toodling around in exotic sports cars to be done, it will most certainly be done with her.
And any instability anyone might notice was, honestly, probably there already. Folks working with a full deck rarely go into writing for a living, and they certainly don’t become newspaper reporters or novelists.
So, there’s that.
What I do have, however, is a pretty decent sense of accomplishment. I noted in this space not long ago that Stan Lee, dean of Marvel Comics and the creator of most of its characters, didn’t create cornerstone superhero Spider Man until he after he turned 40. Stan is now 90 years old, which means he’s spent the last 50 years not as Stan Lee, but as STAN-friggin’-LEE!!!, who still runs a media empire, hosts a TV show or two and maintains a busy schedule of sci-fi and comic book convention appearances.
That carries a lot of weight with me because I admire late bloomers. I never aspired to be one of those pain-in-the-ass writers who busts out of the gate at 25 with a Pulitzer Prize-winner (mainly because what those sort of writers produce is usually self-absorbed, whiny crap, but that’s another blog posting).
As someone who got carded for booze up until his 32nd birthday and took 20 years to write his first book, I realized it might take me a while to grow into this whole novelist thing. But once I managed to give birth to that 300+ page baby at the (entirely appropriate, given my genre) age of 42, there’s been no looking back. If I never write anything again, I can rest assured knowing that I have added my own little piece of original creativity to the universe.
And there are other, perhaps more significant, accomplishments, too. I have amazing friends, cultivated over decades, who remain the sort of people I can talk now exactly the way we did when we were in high school or our early jobs. They provide me with a constant source of encouragement and inspiration and I am in awe of a great many of them every day. I can only hope I send back to them just a fraction of the love, support and laughter they send my way.
And most importantly, I have an amazing family – a beautiful wife who supports me with warmth, patience and love through all the ups and downs of this writing life and frequently jumps in to help with a needed dose of reality, and two spectacularly smart, funny and kindhearted children who are always proud to tell their friends and teachers that their daddy is a writer.
But wait a minute. Let’s put the brakes on the sentimentality. Weren’t you promised presents?
Indeed you were.
Without you, the readers, my family and friends would still be with me, my work would still get done and my book – and those I still hope to write – would still be out there. But without readers, a book is only words on a page.
Once you – a stranger – pick it up and begin that first chapter, you become a willing participant in a reality that another has created. It’s like telepathy in a way. I’m putting my thoughts into your head, and in the midst of the trance-state we call “reading,” those thoughts are manifested in your own mind as an alternate reality. Other than unconditional love, I believe it’s the closest thing to magic any of us will ever really experience.
So as my gift to you, starting today I’m offering the Kindle version of Immaculate Deception free for three days through Amazon, in the hope that if you enjoyed it, you’ll be inclined to let others know that they can, as well – and with minimum risk. Other than individually shaking your hands or giving you big, wet kisses, it’s the best I can do.
Really, thank you ever so much. And here’s to another 45 years.
This weekend flew, with the usual basket full of chores and fun topped off with a last-minute, quick turnaround editing assignment from the West Coast that didn’t wrap up until 2 a.m. today. So it’s not that I really need any instruction on this, but it’s good to have some reference material to make sure I’m doing it right.