“Hold fast to dreams, for if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.” – Langston Hughes
When we last left our intrepid warrior, he was scaling the hills and valleys of central NY without a compass or a map, with only his wits and his guile to guide him
Once back in the comfort of my concrete surroundings, I quickly fell back into the rhythm of the city. No longer held back by the fresh air and green grass, I was free to be me. So as I got off the train on Wednesday, I was walking with a friend and I made a sudden change of direction. As I did, I could feel a tear and then a pop in the muscles in my calf. Not wanting to appear foolish and weak, I gritted my teeth and hobbled home.
Once at home, I tried desperately to massage the muscle back to life, but the pain was excruciating and I was forced to face the fact that surgery was inevitable and I’d probably gain 20 pounds from the lack of exercise as I spent the next 6 months in a walking cast.
Truth is, I’m a middle-aged man with a pulled muscle in my leg. It will probably be a few weeks before the soreness goes away, but I’m fine…
So for the past few months, I’ve made a commitment to myself to suck as much joy out of life as possible. Some days are better than others, but for the most part, it’s been a great ride. One of the things that I’ve set out to do was get back to singing, and part of that entailed seeing a vocal coach for the past few months. On Thursday, without fanfare or announcement, I got behind the microphone and joined my buddy Steve McEvoy for three songs at the Greenhouse Café Original night.
Way back before the turn of the century, when we were young and naïve, Steve and I set out to conquer the world. While we didn’t make it much further than Kenny’s Castaways, we did manage to write some decent songs together, and after a couple of impromptu rehearsals, we performed three of them on Thursday night.
To tell you the truth, it turned out pretty good.
The crowd was sparse, and most of the people, (including myself at times) were distracted by the Ranger game. Steve opened up with two songs of his own, including one, “Ballerina” that I absolutely love. I then joined him to perform three of our originals to thunderous applause… or maybe it was just polite applause from a handpicked crowd of friends and family. But those in attendance who weren’t familiar with our tunes, seemed to really enjoy them. I was pretty jacked when we were done. Enough so that I plan on doing something again this summer. I’ll let you know more as the summer progresses.
On Saturday, Valarie and I ventured into the city and made our way over to the Javits Center to the book expo where I was to receive an IndieReader Discovery Award for Split Rock Road. A few months ago, I entered the book into IndieReader.com’s contest for independently published books. After getting a 4 1/2 star review, I was pretty excited about the prospects of maybe making the finals, but I didn’t have any notion of actually winning. Lo and behold, last week I got the e-mail that I did indeed win in the short story category. As I was reading the e-mail I was simultaneously updating my facebook status, only to be crestfallen when I got to the part that said “mum’s the word until the announcement”.
Now, I’ve always been able to keep a secret, but this was ridiculous. This was the best piece of news since the home testing kit came up negative back in high school; how was I supposed to hold this in?
Well, I didn’t. I told Valarie and my brother and a few other family members just to get it off my chest, but I can’t tell you how tempted I was to post it on my page.
Anyway on Saturday, we got up early, and headed over to the Javits for the 10:30 ceremony. We made it over to 42nd street in no time at all. My leg was still bothering me, and there was no way I was going to walk from Time Square to 11th ave, so we took the cross-town bus. It was a quick ride, and the bus dropped us off at 42nd and 11th with 30 minutes to spare.
There was only one problem.
The Javits Center is on 34th street.
Now, we had two problems.
There was nothing in sight for what seemed like miles; so we began walking down 11th ave towards 34th street.
Correction, Valarie walked. I hobbled. And the faster she walked, the more I hobbled. I looked like a three legged horse making my way down the avenue.
With the pain in my leg increasing and the time ticking away, I began to grow nervous that I would be late, or miss the ceremony entirely.
When I get nervous, I have to pee.
Now I was a crippled horse with a full bladder. Things were going downhill rapidly.
We got to the Javits with plenty of time to spare, except that we didn’t have our passes, and the place is huge, and the line was immense.
And I had to pee.
I went to the first attendant and showed him my confirmation. “Am I on the right line?”
“Oh yes sir, absolutely.”
We moved through the line until I saw another attendant. “Excuse me miss, am I on the right line?”
It was 10:19.
And I had to pee.
We got to the 3rd attendant who also confirmed that I was on the right line, and pointed me to the window to pick up my passes. The woman there was very kind.
“I’m sorry sir, you’re at the wrong window.”
Now I was livid, and almost late. And I had to pee.
I hobbled to the correct line, got our passes and made our way into the hall. If you’re not familiar with it, the Javits is ginormous. I wish I could have seen the two of us racing up and down the aisles, map in hand, trying to find the right booth. We made it just in time.
But I still had to pee.
Amy, the curator of the event, assured me that I would have time to relieve my burden before the ceremony started, so I dashed off to the restroom. On my way back, I realized that the wave of running, hobbling, hopping and worrying had left me parched, so I stopped at the beverage counter inside the Javits Center for a water and a Coke.
“That will be $8.50 please.”
I thought she was talking to someone else.
I was really livid at this point. I’m gonna have to sell three books just to pay for the water. It didn’t matter. I wasn’t going to let a little bit of price gouging ruin my moment. I made it back to the booth just as the announcements were beginning. Things became blurry after that. Amy announced the winners, eventually getting to the short story category. She called my name; there were some handshakes, some pictures and a lot of smiles on my part. And then it was over. I wandered around in a daze for 20 minutes until I realized that Book Expo was a trade fair where they give away a boatload of swag. We spent the next hour wandering around, filling our bags with free books and coffee mugs, most of which are going to Christine at the Bookmark Shoppe for getting me into the Expo for free. I did get a signed copy of Bob Ryan’s newest book.
Christine ain’t getting that.
I made my way over to a booth where two indie authors were talking about how they got on the best sellers list. One woman had written 19 books, the other 20. When I asked about how to expand my audience, they asked how many books I had written. When I answered “one”, they both nodded in agreement, “write more books.”
I made some comment about having to work. The first woman said, “I have four kids”
The other said, “I have five”
I slithered away with my tail tucked firmly between my legs. I grabbed a free calendar to make myself feel better. Then I stopped and smiled. I’m just starting out. This is all still a dream for me; a camping vacation, a rock and roll debut, an award winning book, all in one week. Things are pretty good; I just have to keep plodding along.
We went to have lunch, and then it was over. The day was over, the vacation as well. It was time to get back to the real world. I had to be back at work at 7pm. Valarie had to be in at 3. It felt like when your mom wakes you up just as your about to kiss the cheerleader in the tight sweater.
Dreams are vital to our existence. Without them, life would be a sad, empty place. Like the song says –
Dream, until your dreams come true – S. Tyler