Archive for musicals

Maybe This Time

Adair,

It’s odd how January never seems like the new year to me. I’ve mentioned how my birthday is usually my marker for the beginning of a new year, both because July is a more optimistic time than the dead of winter, and it’s in line with my inflated ego to reorient the calendar around me. But there are other moments, my anniversary, the beginning of the school year, and Christmas that also make me pause and think about the year past and the year ahead.

If I had to look ahead right now, I’d be thinking about another year in New York. Another fall that just makes me feel like I’m in When Harry Met Sally, a winter that snows us in just once, a spring that begs for pictures in parks, and another summer sweating in the subway and longing for relief.

The next year is going to see a lot of new projects, and a push like never before to create things on my terms. Working with you has opened me up to working with other partners, and those relationships are beginning to blossom into new ventures that may well be “the project.”

Another year will bring another year of marriage and the wonderful joys and inevitable hurts of a life long partnership. We are also striving to create together, which brings us back to the army days of our friendship working together. This summer’s production of The Last Five Years reminded me of the importance of our creative connection and what beautiful richness that adds to our lives.

My apartment is changing layout and design, I’m changing my diet, having a car is changing our transportation, and the relationships in my life keep changing the creative means I have at my disposal. The next year is going to be one for the record books, no matter how it all turns out.

But why am I looking ahead in the middle of September? What marks this as a moment of reflection and resolve? I’m giving pause right now because in a year we won’t be writing these letters. At the end of this month, we will be finished with this project and moving on to another. I won’t begin to tackle what that means in this letter, but I know that whatever comes next, we’ll still be bothering each other about it every week.

Same time next year?

-Dan

I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues

Adair,

If there is one thing I know about myself, it’s what I can’t do. The list is long and includes welding, drawing, tailoring, Russian folk dancing, and writing jokes in Braille. I’m not great at making lists either, but it seems odd to mention that now.

I’m accomplished in a very finite definition of the word. I excel at using grandiose words to describe my leviathan-esque inferiority complex, but I have trouble spelling my own name. I’m okay with these facts, because I have done many of the things I want to do in life, and I’m working towards others.

But for all my attempts at humor and striving towards some sort of excellence, I know I do lack certain skills. Some, like cooking, I’ve managed to pick up and become competent. But there are some skills that either age, inclination, time commitment, or another excuse have kept me from pursuing. And one such unobtained skill haunts me above all others.

I wish I could play piano.

I sing like I’m trying, I read music like a toddler, but I still perform a fair amount. But I have never had the patience or the diligence to acquire any real level of piano proficiency. This is much to the chagrin of my various piano teachers over the years. Oh yes, it is not opportunity or specialist training I lack, but the wherewithal to focus in an academic setting to master a skill. Because who likes practicing, am I right?

I am reminded of another hack, Kanye West. The man cannot sing, but he still wanted to make music. I can’t play, but I want to make music. If bands still had “front men” I might be in luck. And if I never compared myself to Kanye again, I might actually get ahead in life. But here I sit, barely able to hit the right keys on a laptop, and counting black keys when I find a key signature in a song.

If I could, I’d play the entire Billy Joel catalog. And if I get my life together, over the next 50 years I could get there. But I had a couple shots at gaining skill at piano playing, and I wasted them. This is par for the course of my life, but something I am actively trying to correct as we speak.

Some day, I may play Root Beer Rag with the greatest of ease, but it is not today or tomorrow or five years from now. The truth is I should be a piano player and I am not. But someday I might be better, I might push harder, I may even play a song I love and sing along as if I had been doing it for years. Today, I hunt and peck around middle C and sing songs nice and loud.

Plunking out his part,

-Dan

Hound Dog

Adair,

We both know the unbridled joy that comes from having a pet. I say “having” because “owning” a family member only happens when they play me at cribbage. The furry friends we take into our homes take root in our hearts and we wonder how we got by without them.

But like all of life’s joys, our time with these companions is fleeting. We share a part of our lives with our dogs, our cats, and our domesticated cave spiders. And a part of our lives is gone when they leave us (not a literal way, my dead dogs were not my Horcrux). But thinking back on our time with these fuzz balls offers a sort of beautiful pain in my chest. And in remembering them they live again.

When I think of Buster, I still cry. Maybe it’s because he only died 18 months ago, or because he was “my dog,” or maybe it’s guilt for feeling like I didn’t give him a very good life. Thinking about the morning we buried him in the backyard is worse than remembering David Tennant’s regeneration scene. We put Buster in one of my old t-shirts, because he would always steal them when I was away and sleep with them until I got back. It was the first grave I ever dug, and as long as Clark stops sending me “House Music” mixtapes I think it will be the last one.

It’s hard to think past the end. The final days of a dog who waited until his whole family was home to mourn him together were heartbreaking. I knew when I saw him this would be his last Christmas. But he waited all the same and that kind of makes me think he was smarter than his dumb beagle face would have you believe.

But there were thirteen Christmases before that one. Thirteen years of running up the Rims, chasing rabbits, rolling in roadkill, and licking the tears off your face. Through high school and college I was a shit owner, and he became much more of my mother’s dog. And they had each other as the kids slowly left town.

That dog loved popcorn and chewing up underwear and shoes. He ate more elastic and leather than kibbles ‘n bits. But the thing I will always remember about Buster has his singing voice. Because that Beagle could belt.

Buster loved to howl. If you’d howl, he’d howl. He would bray for minutes on end. But there was no time he howled louder or with my passion than when we played the piano and sang. If you were playing a song that got much higher than C4, Buster would try to harmonize. But like me, he was shit at harmony and ended up just being loud. But he sang along with “Ave Maria” and “Zero to Hero” alike. He rounded out our family of singers.

Maybe in a few years I’ll be able to think about Buster without crying like I just watched a Pixar marathon, but today I’m having a hard time reading my screen to type this. But even when the thought of my dog no longer makes me burst into tears, he’ll still be with me. To quote a musical because this is my post and I can, “you’ll be with me, like a hand print on my heart.”

Remembering my the seventh singer in my family,

-Dan

Country Disappeared

Adair,

The drive from Billings, Montana to Fort Peck, Montana takes four and half hours, ¾ of a tank of gas, and a piece of your heart. U.S Highway 87 and State Highways 244, 200, and 24 take you the 264 miles up through the middle of the state by a route that makes a point of cutting through the land like a river, turning, rising, and falling with the land. The forested hills giving way to deep coulees acting more as traveling companions than obstacles to overcome. The use of demolition on the hills to make way for the highways has been minimal. The asphalt was freshly painted most places, the shoulder displayed shining reflectors, and the path out through the wild green yonder of Montana kept going in a way both natural and engineered.

This drive welcomed me back to Montana. This last month I’ve been back in our home state. I’ve been doing what I love, performing, with the one I love, my wife, in a place I love. I was “home” but not in my hometown or my college town. I was back where I came from doing what I do and I was having a great time.

I saw a lot of family and friends while I was in Montana. Some came to the show, and some were working with us at the theater. I had worked and lived in this town six years prior for one of my first professional gigs. And the show we were performing, The Last Five Years, was one I had been in before. This gave a familiarity to the whole experience. But something was different this time. Something has changed.

The first go around, Fort Peck was a hard job for me. I was the youngest employee of the company, I was under 21 and so I couldn’t participate in most of the social time outside of work, and some personality clashes made me feel pretty isolated. And, while there were some great moments and I made some friends, my experience kept me from seeing it for what it truly was. This time around I did not make that same mistake.

The land up there is complicated. The planes are an unnatural green for Montana. The hills have badlands hiding in them. And the water is like a sheet of blown glass. The whole area is both untouched by time (even sporting fossil caches) and completely mastered by man. The dam waters and the unspoiled planes intermingle in way that makes you think there could have been another future for this land.

My time back in Fort Peck was good for my career, my marriage and my sanity. The scenery informed my poetry and awakened stories that are screaming at me to be told. The company made me long to find more creative community in my life and to not lose touch with how the land we live on can affect our souls.

Missing Montana,

-Dan