Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.
I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.
Saturday, June 11, 2011
In a recent interview, Jerry Seinfeld was asked to describe the moment when he knew he had "made it" as a comedian. Without hesitation, he said that the moment was the first time he got up on stage behind a mike and tried to tell jokes. Because at that moment he became "one of them". A stand up comedian. Whether he ever succeeded or not. The mere act of crossing that Rubicon of footlights was all that mattered.
I have always fancied myself a singer. The classic song book. Plus a few others that take my fancy. I've sung at some Christmas parties in highly partisan environs where a pally was playing the piano. But there is a huge difference when you are handed a microphone. In a town far away. During "sit in with the pianist" night. In front of total strangers.
I have written before of my favorite bar anywhere. The Whitemarsh Valley Inn. West of Philadelphia. One of the great features of this bar is that it has live music every night. And the performers let people sit in with them between sets. A hack's dream, no?
Well a few nights ago I happened to find myself stationed at my usual table at the Whitemarsh. In the bar. In the back. Now the thing about this bar is they have singers here. Not the paid entertainment. Many of the customers who sit in with the pianist can really sing. Not all of course. But enough to make you take notice.
On this particular night, I had a fine meal (one facet that makes this the best bar anywhere is that they have great food) and was working on a post-nosh cocktail when I made a mental list of the amateur performers I had seen so far that evening. One fellow walked slowly up to the piano. Wearing a tartan shirt and jeans. Probably in his fifties. Who amazingly asked the pianist for "Don't Stop Believin'" by Journey. He sang it softly and with some timid hesitation. But he sang it through. I have a notion that, no matter how good a person's voice may be, some songs are just not singable by anyone other than the original artist because that person's manner of singing and presenting the lyric makes them iconic. They are the "uncoverable" tunes. Vintage Steve Perry songs fall squarely into this category. Nobody can do them. Perhaps nobody should even try and sing them. Except that fellow the band found covering Perry perfectly in a bar in the Philippines. Anyway, I wouldn't attempt it. But this gentleman did. I clapped loudly for him at the end. Although he had proven my point regarding uncoverable songs, I had all the respect for him in the world. He sat down without talking to anyone and resumed drinking his drink.
The next two performers were very good. Both ladies who were very comfortable up in front of a crowd singing. And doing great material in stylish fashion. At one point, one of the ladies came to my table...
"Who are you, anyway? You seem to really like the music."
I felt like Kwai Chang Caine in the old television series Kung Fu at this point. I felt like saying "I'm just a man..." Instead, I said
"Um...just a guy from out of town that likes to hear people sing."
"So, do you sing?"
"Um, well, I, um, well a little I guess."
"Are you going to do a song tonight?"
"NO WAY. I am NOT doing that."
"Ok....well thanks for paying attention and clapping. Have a good evening."
Whew. Dodged a bullet that time. After another round, the pianist took another break. Leaning into his mike, he looked out my way and said...
"Say, I'm told we have a visiting singer from way out of town....[M.L.]....back in the back there.....he's going to do a song now, lets hear it for him." Some random bar applause ensued.
Frozen, I just stared at him. But at that point, what choice did I have? Sometimes fate just grabs you and tosses you out into the game. I got up and moved toward the piano. Scanning my mind feverishly for a song that I knew well enough to try to sing. I know lots of songs by heart, but it is a different thing when you spontaneously have to pull one up and just go with it. And, by the way, not make a fool of yourself. In what appeared to be a room populated with singers.
"So what song do you want to do?"
I fell upon a tune I had been listening to on my MP3 on the airplane into town that afternoon.
"Um.......I guess Walking In Memphis.......Marc Cohn?"
"Good song. Do you need me to help with the words?"
I've got the words. Hell, I've lived the words. He started playing a little intro. I could hear my blood pressure rising in my ears. Don't stick the mike too close to your mouth...try to remember the first line...
The listeners clapped politely when the pianist announced what song was to be my victim. I thought a joke might be in order.
"Thanks. I want to tell you I am what is called a Three Drink Singer. Unless I've had at least three drinks and unless every one of you has had at least three drinks, I sound lousy. I'm good on that score but if any of you has had less than three belts, you had better get with your friendly bartenders right now. For your own good."
A Dean Martin line I think. It got a laugh. Then the pianist looked over at me. My heartbeat sounded like the ocean. During a storm. Show time.
Put on my blue suede shoes and I boarded a plane. Touched down in the land of the Delta blues In the middle of a pourin rain
W.C. Handy, will you look down over me Yeah, I got a first class ticket But I'm as blue as a boy can be
I made it through.With no muffs in the words. A little late starting the second verse. Probably because I couldn't believe I made it through the first verse. Even a little gospel flourish at the "Reverend Green" part that got a soft chuckle from the pianist next to me.
When I was finished I wanted to sing it all over again. The bartender said it was great. The ladies who were the real singers gave me high fives as I strode back to my table. In the bar. In the back. "One of them". At last.
In my early 60s, widower, father and itinerant storyteller. I am a putative jazz singer, poet and novelist, dedicated to mining every minute of life for the veins of pleasure they contain. My motto is "Dum Vivimus, Vivamus"..."While we Live--LET US LIVE".