Lately I wonder why I am here.
Maybe all old men get to this point eventually. Looking back at their lives and wondering what it’s all been about. I don’t have a god, or kids, or a financial empire, or a career in music that I can point to and say “That defines me, that is what my life means.” At almost 68 years old, I am still making it up as I go.
I mostly see the universe as random, so there’s no particular reason why I should seek these anchors, or even wonder why I don’t have at least one of them. But I read a lot of fiction, mostly trash, some of it classic, and the characters all have a mission, in the story if not in life, so I am in constant literary communion with “people” who do have goals, dreams, defining characteristics. And I’m a political junkie. Looking at politicians and hangers-on in that world I keep coming across their “stories,” and it’s easy to forget that these narratives are illusory, and imposed upon the more or less random facts of existence. That makes me think that I, too, should have a story, something with a beginning, middle and end, inspiring, or at least interesting.
Meryl Streep is now in a movie about a woman of my generation who is, not a rock star, but a working rocker, and a grandmother. I am never disappointed by Streep’s performances, so some day I will certainly see her film. In the meantime I have discovered that her character is loosely based on a real person, Terry Cieri, the screenwriter’s mother-in-law and yes, a grandmother. She’s a singer in New Jersey cover band Silk & Steel, which strongly resembles cover bands all around the country, including the ones I have played in most of my life (and probably will again). If you follow the link you’ll see that she and the band are not bad at all. You could do worse than spend an evening drinking and dancing to this bunch.
Discovering this got me thinking about my lifetime on bandstands, and the rock’n’roll dream that kept me going through the decades. In the beginning it was just pure, raw fun, playing as loud as I could, competing and (sometimes) cooperating musically with bandmates, emulating the real rock stars that we heard on the radio and saw on TV. Then I began to think I could make a living at it, or even get rich. I never got rich, and most people would say I never even made a living at it, but it has gotten inside me somehow, and now I keep doing it despite that outwardly there seems to be no reward for me at all: Audiences have dwindled, venues have discovered that they can get away with paying local bands almost nothing, the market for rock’n’roll has splintered in so many ways that it’s difficult to find a fan base, even if you are really good.
It all makes me wonder why I do it at all. I admit I don’t know. It’s all I’m good at, I guess. And it’s the only activity that gives me any satisfaction. It ain’t the money, that’s for sure.
I don’t have a band right now, or even a job, so I’m getting introspective. But I guess I’ll take these last few years that I have, and try to be what I’ve always said I was: a songwriter, a performer, an artist, a rocker. That’s my story. So far it has a beginning and a long middle. I hope I will have finished it before I get to the end.