Wednesday, October 17, 2007

From country club to nightclub

This weekend I'll be headed south to Cleveland, Tennessee, the place of my upbringing (I would say "where I grew up" but obviously that process is not past tense) to join with my fellow high school alumni in marking the 25th year since our graduation. Some will be celebrating the great time they had at Bradley Central, and some will be celebrating their liberation from it. I'm mostly in the former group, but the latter has a point.

I didn't love it but I didn't hate it; the academic side was mostly easy, so that made it tolerable, but the social side was definitely mixed. I wasn't as awkward in real life as Napoleon Dynamite, but I can definitely relate to him. Lived in the boonies, had no car, rode the bus through senior year, drew a lot in my spare time, was fairly clueless about style and girls (never went to dances or ballgames--I had NO dates), and tried to make up for it all with the false bravado and "cool" exterior most high schoolers probably feign as a coping technique in order to survive (many never stop feigning). Instead of numchucks I had humor. Thank God for the church youth group, the center of my social universe. And I still wear a plastic Casio watch (when something works....).

I didn't see much of anyone from h.s. after graduating. I found it odd that out of a class of over 500 I was the only one I knew of going to the University of Tennesssee, but being thrown into that huge pool was what I needed...that, and the Baptist Student Union (now Baptist Campus Ministries). And, again, church.

The 20th reunion was the first one I attended; that was a fascinating experience...seeing who'd changed, who hadn't, revealing my secret crush to the "victim" (her husband was understanding) and then to everyone, a la a Conan O'Brien sketch (which killed, to my delight). And doing a couple of songs for everyone, and getting few (solicited) laughs as well. These were my equivalent to Napoleon's "sweet" dance routine that wins over the crowd (you have to see this film). Mine was 20 years later, but good enough.

This time, I have no wife or kids or hot girlfriend or even a date, or great career or property or car, or much of any of the typical things men like to display at these things as a way of saying "See? I'm NOT a loser!" Or even a CD to show for all the time I've spent doing music instead of pursuing the typical American dream. I do, however, have plenty for which to be thankful: family and friends, memories and stories of experiences I wouldn't trade for anything (and in some cases the accompanying pictures), and a body and mind that still cooperate. And hair. And most importantly, I've been blessed with the gift of grace and a hope for an even better life beyond this one.

So I guess my role will be to make the guys who do have all that stuff all the more thankful, and to remind everyone (incl. myself) that God's grace is sufficient to make complete that which seems incomplete. And if a few married folks look my way with a sigh of envy for my freedom...well, I wouldn't celebrate it but it can't be helped.

After the banquet at the Cleveland Country Club on Saturday I'll go straight to Midtown Music Hall in downtown Chattanooga to do a solo set as an opener for a young band of local rockers. Better wear a collar so as not to get cultural whiplash.

I don't expect to fit comfortably into either "club," but I'm happy to give it my best to make both my own for the time I'm there. And maybe offer something of value in both places. These days that's as much as I ask least until I record that CD.

"Cool Bear in Repose" (my title) by fellow alum Elvis Wilson. Named after you-know-who, and currently an art director whose past credits include the cover art for Bela Fleck's "Cosmic Hippo". Now that's cool.


Suzy said...

MKH, thanks for commenting on my blog. I love Nashville. Me and my group Single, Married & Divorced played Zanies years ago and rocked the house.

We sold it out and the lines were out the door and the freakbag who booked it lied to us about how well we did and shorted us on the money, cuz we did a door deal. They're notorious for screwing over the comics down there. And we're ALL women so imagine how that went down!

Wishing you the best...

Jessica P. Wallin said...

Hey Mark, classic high school pic you got there! Did you see mine:

Those were the days, or not!

I just wrote you a long MySpace reply email, and of course it said, "Sorry, an unexpected error has occurred." Stupid MySpace.

Generally, the gist was, I can't believe you actually read my raunchy blog...I'm really sorry I missed your show, but we're having money troubles at the moment and I don't get the chance to come up Chattanooga-ways too often anymore. We wound up missing the radio show today, and Nathan and I had a fuss b/c he used some of my birthday money to buy gas on the way up there. I did happen to see a copy of Enigma for once, so I'm glad your article made it in the paper. I saw that some other dude is doing most of the music reviews, and it's weird b/c all the ones he said sucked I really liked, and vice versa. So, I'm going to have to write some rebuttal reviews or something!

Don't be shy; come say hello on my blog sometime!