Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Sing Off

I once was a lead singer in a band. We played to a packed house. Our rendition of "Under the Boardwalk" was inspirational. Of course, attendance was mandatory at my grade school assembly, I was 11 years old, and my career ended as soon as I left that stage. But the point is that as far as I was concerned, and my mother fully concurred, I had a voice worth hearing.

I am now almost 60. Over the last half century, virtually anyone within earshot has been subjected, at random moments, to listening to a few seconds of my version of some tune. Those most vulnerable, of course, are my family. And they can't fathom, for one moment, what I am doing. My son, and one of his best friends, has compared the noise that comes from within me to that of Kermit the Frog. And my habit of either humming or singing in places from the streets to supermarkets, and everywhere in between, is deemed more of a condition than a performance.

However, some of my critics, who encompass everyone except my mother, who is now almost 94 and can't hear a thing, find that there are brief moments when I am not horrible. And so, as the songs in my head keep playing, I continue to bring them to the public, hoping to recapture the magic I exhibited on that stage at the Whittier School.

Yesterday, my wife and I took a 3 hour hike with some very close friends. On a mountain where we should have been skiing at this time of the year, we climbed instead. Up, not down, and then out beyond the boundaries of the slope and deep into the woods.

As we walked, we saw and heard no one else. At one point, one of my friends advised that up a certain hill was a retreat. There, he said, no one spoke. In the middle of nowhere, I guess to find one's center, there has to be silence. Not for me, I thought.

As we continued on, in the midst of all this isolation, it happened. And then it happened again, almost immediately thereafter. Something someone said triggered it, and I was once again doing my best impression of that 11 year old. Finally, my friend, said to me, in words that I have heard, in one form or another hundreds of times, "I love you, but not your singing". Even in remote woods, where the beauty of nature should have calmed the beast, it had emerged.

Like I have ever since I walked off that stage, I interpreted the critical review as but a bad joke. For I wanted to believe that deep inside, each person could hear the strains of "Under the Boardwalk" and was silently cheering for me. It is hard being able to accept the criticism and continue to move forward, but, like the millions who have stood in line waiting for their chance at stardom as the "American Idol" or the "Voice", I have always had faith in my talents.

But the sad truth is, I do sound like Kermit the Frog most of the time. And it is strange, bordering on bizarre, for me to break into song whenever and where ever I wish. It is not cute, or endearing, as much as I would like to suggest. It is, dare I say this to myself, annoying. And maybe, after 50 years of trying to impress those in my presence of the possibility of my greatness, it is time to stop.

I did not sing after my friend's gentle admonition. I will try, I think, to tone down, literally.  And see if there is an open spot for me at the next retreat deep in the woods.But I still wonder if they have a mandatory assembly every day there. And if, just one stanza of "Under the Boardwalk" might not help shake things up.


gail said...

I for one love to hear your "voice" at any time and in any way. That includes your phone calls, your blogs, your poetry, and, yes, your singing.
However, I no longer live with you, so I can be generous!

Marc said...

Sorry, Gail, but your sisterly love must have left you tone-deaf. Count me in the "I love you, but not your singing" group!