”The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” – Hunter S Thompson
I started to call this “book”, chapter by chapter, “Second Act Sunday” because it’s about my second act in this lifetime. If you saw recently the picture of me at age 9 with the stethoscope playing “Emergency!” with my little brother juxtaposed with me now with my real stethoscope you know what I mean.
I’ve decide to actually entitle this project “How I Screwed (Up) My Way to the Top.” Amidst much success there were also many mistakes and blunders, which now, I’m able to start laughing at. Actually, I’ve laughed about them for a long time, just not publicly.
In January of 2003, I accepted a job working in-house with the band I had just been on the road with. It paid less than I wanted, but in terms of a per annum figure it wasn’t that bad. The job had been offered to me even though I was highly unqualified for the position.
I saw it as a chance to segue off the road to a different way life. I was tired. Being on the road nine months a year, year after year had taken its toll.
With hindsight, a lot of it, I wish I had taken six months off, or even three, but I had just bought a condo in Culver City. I wanted to stay in one place for a while and live in my first real adult home. My bank account was depleted in the purchase, so I felt motivated to get back to work.
I also hated to say no to work. A-level work was A-level work. Plus, all involved had thought highly enough of me to consider me in the first place. I felt honored. They didn’t realize I was unqualified. More than once in my life people have thought me capable of more than I could handle.
When I accepted the gig, I knew it would be challenging and a lot of work. I was my style then, as is still my style now, to jump off the highest diving board I could find only to be submerged way in over my head in the freezing cold water of the deep end of the pool and learn how to swim all over again.
By early July, I was told that I was rendered redundant. I’ll save those details for the final chapter. When I was let go, I felt as if I’d been set up to fail. I was behind before I even started. Even worse was the realization that ultimately, I, myself, was the one who set me up to fail. I should have said “I’m not your guy, buddy.” I’d like to think by now, all these years later, I’ve learned to say no. We’ll see. Just know that I had truly put my full heart and energy into the job. By the time I was let go, one of the band members had become insufferable and only now can I forgive him.
(Yes, chucklehead, I forgive you. I even began listening to your latest album this week. I wish you well.)
I stayed on for the next eight weeks at full pay, handing off to the next person who lasted on the gig about as long as I did.
At the heart of it all, I was embarrassed. I thought the firing would follow me around. I’d lost jobs before, or had not been invited back later, but this somehow felt different. I failed to recognize that sometimes being sacked by people known to be difficult could be a viable calling card unto itself. It was little consolation that on their next tour they did housecleaning of personnel, anyway.
A friend gave me an opportunity to interview at his company. I got the job. I was excited to start a new career in sales.
A few leads came in for road gigs, which with hindsight, might have been really great tours. I turned them all down or didn’t follow up. I, as has been my modus operandi with many a relationship, turned my back and walked away.
Music had been my life for forever. It had been more constant than any friend, lover or anything else. It had been my “thing.” Leaving the touring industry felt as if my best friend, no, a part of myself, maybe the biggest part of me, MY IDENTITY, had died.
I mourned. I grieved through the various stages of a denial, anger, bargaining and depression. I stopped listening to music. It took years to go to a concert again as a fan.
I’ve never been diagnosed as manic-depressive, but I certainly have tendencies. All my life my moods have ranged from dysthymic to hypo-manic. If I’ve ever disappeared on you as a friend, just know it was me, not you. I, for whatever reason at the time, wasn’t in a great place and couldn’t stand the emotional pain of answering the simple question of “How are you?”
I’ve always regarded myself as a high-functioning depressive. I knew that sometimes the highs were too high and lows were to low. Life is, as Sue Marshall reminds me, about finding a broader middle spectrum.
The last two years have been a time of reinvention. I’m truly happy, even though I’m making far less than I used to make. For now. School is beyond rewarding. My internship at the hospital fulfills me. I have a true inner purpose again and a reason to wake up every day before the alarm clock. I am in a great place emotionally with a new passion and career-beginnings, carving out my little corner in health care.
Even though it’s been nearly 30 years, I feel the same buzz that I used to feel. Walking into the hospital feels like what walking into a load-in used to. Hearing a sick baby cry or someone scream in pain moves me more than the house lights going down and the punters cheering ever did. Comforting someone who’s afraid, connecting with them, human-to-human, feels better than faxing a show settlement at one in the morning and heading to the bus and the comfy confinement of my bunk.
I look forward to each new day and each new learning moment. I’m in my zone. I’ve found my new tribe. I’ve found my new “thing.”
Even Michelle doesn’t know much of these years of which that I’m about to write. I just didn’t talk about, until recently. I can now write about my years in that cruel, shallow money trench, that long plastic hallway.
I’ve finally reached acceptance.