I’ve decided to fulfill my homosexual destiny and start working out. I’ve resisted it a for a long time- for various reasons that I’m about to admit- but I’m planning on getting some new photos this fall for an album cover and such and I’d like to not look bloated. So to be clear, it’s pure vanity. Bonus homosexual points!
I’m about to turn 45. I think I still look pretty good considering I’m kinda lazy as fuck and I drink a bottle of red wine most nights. But I’m about 200 pounds and I think 185 is my “doesn’t look fat in photos with out taking them at extreme high angles” weight.
Yoga would be my preferred exercise. The atmosphere in most studios doesn’t trigger me (the thing I’m about to talk about why I’ve avoided the gym life). But that shit is expensive. It’s rich white lady exercise. Don’t get me wrong, I fully intend to eventually be a rich white lady… at which point I’ll be in the yoga studio full time drinking crystal charged water out of a mason jar. In the meantime… it’s Gold’s Gym.
I realized recently I’ve been carrying a weird belief about physical fitness through my adult life. And it all started in elementary school gym class. I was never overtly bullied. I guess I experienced the normal amount of American public school bullshit, but I was never singled out and was generally well liked. But gym class showed no mercy on most of us.
You’re forced to take off your clothes. Then run out into a gymnasium where a redneck asshole with a whistle is screaming at you. You are then tested and swiftly judged by whether or not you are naturally good at playing basketball.. or some shit… If you are, you are elevated into the awesome category. If not, you’re in the fucking faggot category.
When you are 11 years old, this is a terrifying experience. One that is forced upon you 5 days a week for a decade.
When I got into high school, thankfully the PE teacher was a kinder human. Also, I discovered my identity in rocknroll. I played in a band. Grew my hair long. That’s who I was. Not a dumb meat head jock. Then I made my way out into the world. A world that didn’t include weights and treadmills.
This isn’t a thing I’ve been carrying around like heavy baggage or anything. But I do have to admit it’s affected my life choices.
So a few nights ago I walked into the gym for the first time. The atmosphere couldn’t be any “bro-ier” and I’m actually glad for that for comedy sake. I told myself all I had to do was get my account set up, see where everything was and just get on an aerobic machine for a few minutes. Just let myself feel ok in the space.
it was fine. totally fine.
Here’s to undoing all the subtle negative things that were once done… and vanity.
I was 34 years old. My entire life’s work of pursuing a record deal had come crashing down around me Behind-The-Music style. I’d gotten wind of a cruise ship job that literally went around the world. It seemed the perfect remedy for my lost and broken heart.
For the first month aboard the ship I was mostly in rehearsal for the cheesiest comedy lounge show of all time. I had limited time off, but I did try and poke my head off the ship when I could— which at that point was traveling through the Caribbean. Those were mostly tourist ports with palm trees and colorful huts serving up fruity cocktails with paper umbrella garnishes.
Once the “show” was open (I need to put show in quotes for my own dignity’s sake) I was finally free to spend some time away from the ship, which was then making its way through the Amazon.
The water of the Amazon river looks like thick creamy coffee. There are strange bugs EVERYWHERE. I stepped onto the muddy shore of this new world and had the brain altering moment a lot of people have during their semester abroad, after which they return to school saying “cheers” and “no worries” nonstop.
Here was an entire people… far away from any sort of life that resembled mine… living their whole lives right here on the Amazon river. Their houses were on stilts. There was a man with a monkey and you could touch it for a dollar (and I did.) Music I’d never heard playing on the radio from someone’s open window.
A person might live their whole life right here in this small rainforest village. They’ll have a dream of their own that takes place in this context, not mine. They’ll love. They will experience loss. They’ll build a house of their own on stilts. Then someday fade away into history. A history so far away from mine.
It made me feel small. and insignificant. Every dumb thing I’d stressed about– my record contract, all the time traveling from city to city playing in smoky rock clubs hoping to get someone’s attention, all this stuff that had eaten up so much of my soul… just utterly and completely did not matter.
What did matter? It was a new question. One I’m still answering a decade later.
The answer might be something in the realm of this: The things that matter exist right in front of you. In the world you are actually living in… not someone else’s. Artists especially fall victim to a thing.. something about being quite concerned about recognition in some hypothetical existence far away from the one you are presently in.
The man on the Amazon with the monkey couldn’t care less about my failed record contract.
As I get older, my attention has calmed down to focus on the things and people directly in front of me. That’s what time does to a man I guess. I still want to create. I still want to tell stories through music and other genres, but the desperate energy of youth is gone.
That’s a good thing.
I’m at the beginning of this phase of artistic creation without the pressure of expectation. What does that look like? Time will tell…
(PS I want to clarify something… when I say without the “pressure of expectation” I do not mean I don’t want my films and music to “go somewhere.” To be clear, I most certainly do… but it’s with a different energy. My self worth and daily happiness do not depend on it.)
In my earlier post, I mentioned that my greatest fear when I was young was that I would become a “middle aged broke loser.” Underneath everything I did in those days was this existential darkness… what if after all this sacrifice and heartbreaking work… it doesn’t happen (“happen”)
And little by little, it all came true. I became the man I feared I would become.
All the things I was striving for in my 20s didn’t happen. I spent most of my 30s broke and frustrated. I was a prophet of my own failure.
Unexpectedly, another thing was happening as well. My perspective was shifting. My values were shifting. My awareness of what actually matters in this ridiculous and tiny little life was shifting.
Yup. My greatest fear came true. Also, I didn’t realize then that it doesn’t matter. Today, I’m not living by my 20 year old self’s standards (Thank you Jesus)
Let me be really clear, although I joke a lot about “being old” I’m really enjoying moving through life. I’m a much better 40-something than I was a 20-something. I’ve acquired a lot of wisdom and perspective and my artistic abilities are aging into something really special (if I do say so myself)
25 year old Kevin was fucking delusional and lame. Today Kevin is where it’s at.
Around 2007, after nearly a decade of total insane sacrifice, my band started to crumble and along with it the dreams of my youth. The following 5 years I was lost. But like, lost in a good way. Lots of experimenting and finding myself. I would say it’s only in this recent era of my life where I feel like a whole person. Like someone who has been drained of the delusion and filled with the desire to express the human existence through art.
Ok that was pretentious. But that’s how I feel.
I know the entertainment world is youth obsessed. I’m not even trying to compete with that. I’m not even on the same plane of existence with that. I’m just going to do my thing in the best and truest way I can, and let what happens happen (“happen”)
Here we are playing one of our more popular songs of that era in 2005 at The End in Nashville, TN. It was our favorite room in town. The sound system was incredible and the soundman (Brad, who I believe is no longer living) was an audio whiz. We were in full on dream mode in those days- playing all across the country for little money. 3 years later it would all be finished.
I want to try and document something here. It’s really for my own eyes and brain, but if someone else gets something out of it as well… then great.
Before I tell you where I’m going, I suppose I should tell you where I came from. I grew up in a small-ish town on the Indiana/Kentucky border right where the Ohio River makes a curly bend. It was a extremely conservative religious community, at least that was my experience. I suppose someone could have had a different experience, but this was the 80s and early 90s and there wasn’t much to do in pre-internet small town America. So I went to church.
It was an attractive place for a kid with creative leanings. There was an audience. A stage with microphones. You could get up every single week and perform a thing as long as you did it for Jesus. And so I did. Or so I thought I did.
It was a decent incubator. I wrote songs. Played them in front of an attentive crowd. Began to dream. (for Jesus, of course)
I was instilled with a delusional sense of purpose. If you are doing something for a god, it better damn well be something giant. My formative years were filled with voices telling me god had given me talents that were meant for the masses (in a “for Jesus” way.)
It all got complicated when I wrapped up my senior year of high school with a spectacular teen pregnancy- abortion- coming-out-of-the-closet scandal ( I know it doesn’t make sense but that’s what happened. It’s a much longer story maybe I’ll tell another time.)
I fled to a liberal arts college and landed softly in the liberal arms of the Musical Theatre department. That move probably saved my life. But it also furthered the delusion: I was bound for stardom. As you can imagine, a college theatre department is a fishbowl of ego. Talented yet spoiled kids (like myself) enter a tiny world led by frustrated former talented yet spoiled kids turned adult. Auditions and lead roles and non-stop gossip about who has what it takes to “make it”
I should pause and say I’m terribly embarrassed about all this. The world is burning. Fascism is descending upon America. Gay men are thrown from rooftops in Syria and Mexican children are sitting in chain link cages with mylar blankets. I’m currently sitting in an air-conditioned Starbucks sipping on a venti iced soy latte contemplating the failed dreams of my youth and if I’m going to turn a mid-life crisis into another attempt at launching a music career. It’s fucking stupid.
What is a dream? For the last few years it’s a word I’ve been kind of annoyed by. It’s a word you paint on a little girl’s bedroom wall to make her feel like a special princess. I’ve wondered a lot if we’d be better off without instilling this into our children. “Hey kids, how ’bout just be content and at peace with yourself? Be thankful you were randomly born into some level of privilege, you aren’t starving, and shut the fuck up?”
I do feel that way in some sort of overly simplified manner. But, as I move through the years, it all feels more nuanced.
When I finished college (6.5 years, shut up) around the turn of the century I moved to Nashville to conquer the dream. My band and I rented a dilapidated house on the wrong side of the tracks (back then. this neighborhood is now a gentrified playground for rich white people… as is most of Nashville today.) and got to work. We were really doing it. A buzz was quickly building around us. the Nashville Scene gave us an award for our 2003 album and printed full color full page photos of our handsome faces. Tan men from LA started to fly out to watch us play semi-full houses at the Exit/IN.
It totally seemed like it was happening. Until it didn’t. The drummer of that band and I often rehash what went wrong. I still don’t really know. We had all the “right” ingredients. We were doing all the “right” things. There was the unforeseeable force of the internet and MP3s changing everything under our feet that certainly played a role. I don’t know. It didn’t happen.
To make the story even a little more painful, everyone else around us got famous. We signed with a hot shot entertainment attorney who had just signed a couple other acts. Those other acts? Paramour and Kings of Leon. My roommate was dating a new country music hopeful… a recent young transplant from Texas… Kacey Musgraves.
I started questioning everything I’d ever done and hoped for in my life. I was then in my early 30s, and it felt like my greatest fear… that I would be come a middle aged broke loser… was becoming more of a possibility.
This story is getting too long.
I spent the next decade on a whacky adventure. On a whackier adventure. I took a job on a cruise ship and traveled the world. I moved to Los Angeles for a year to perform stand up comedy. I wrote a musical. I wrote a few one-man shows and toured them all over the country.
I’ve unexpectedly lived a really cool life filled with a lot of creativity. It wasn’t the thing I thought I was after when I was a kid, though. That’s ok. That’s how it goes for most I think.
I turn 45 in November. I feel quite settled and centered. I’m engaged to the kindest man I’ve ever known. We have 3 adorable cats in a quiet neighborhood on the far west side of Nashville. I really love my life.
I’m still constantly experimenting with creative ideas. This past year I wrote and produced a feature film that I just submitted for film festivals in 2019. We will see where all that goes.
By “see where all that goes” I don’t mean it in some sort of delusional “reach for the stars” way. Not in a way that I would have done 20 years ago when I was a much different man.
I’m also working on a new set of songs and thinking about getting back out in Nashville. Yes, in an attempt to take another stab at a music career… but no… not in the manner the child version of me would have. In the way the 45 year old version of me would…. will… All this to say, today I am an artist. With a lifetime of experience. I really love creating. Films. Stories. Songs. I’d like to find a way to put it all out into the world.
that’s what these blog entries are about. working out some thoughts. Maybe you relate? Maybe you had a dream. Maybe you’re still chasing it. Maybe you let it all go. Maybe you are thinking about picking it up again. maybe you are sitting in a Starbucks slurping on a iced soy latte.