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24 April, 2009

How did I manage to miss so much?

How did I manage to spend my teens and twenties listening to Bananarama and Huey Lewis when I could have been listening to The Jam? I want to attribute it to small town America. But I didn’t grow up in a small town, really. And there were plenty of people in my high school who were listening to The Three O’Clock and Echo and the Bunnymen. In fairness, I did like some good music. The Cars, The Police, Devo. And a lot of the mainstream rock like AC/DC or Aerosmith, that everyone got in large doses. But it seems like anything that would be non-mainstream, artsy, or otherwise not played on the hit radio stations, I feared and avoided it like the plague.

But it wasn’t just the music. It was food too. The extent of my cuisine experiences at age 21 probably included nothing but Italian, Chinese, and American. Now, that’s probably because this had been the extent of my parents’ experience as well. But why would I limit myself? I suppose that in these suburbs where I lived, there just were not any Thai or Indian restaurants until around the time I moved away. And to me, the concept of Mexican food was defined by “Chili’s”. And it really wasn’t until my late 20’s that I had tried all these cuisines and realized that other people made good food – in fact, most non-American food was better than anything that was traditionally American.

I guess I am glad that I didn’t miss these things forever. The food story is one that is easy to recover from. You eat the food, you learn the good restaurants, and you can become an expert just like anyone. The music is a different story. No matter how many bands I discover, or am introduced to through members of my band, or other friends, I will never have that music engrained in my existence. People grow up on music. They can tell you how they remember riding their skateboard and listening to early Nirvana. Or partying at a Dandy Warhols show in college (though, of course, I am pretty sure that when I was in college, the Dandy Warhols were probably in middle school). Music becomes an integral part of our history and who we are. And I am stuck with Madonna, Wilson Phillips, and The Bangles in my formative memories. Of course, I also have The Kinks, Kiss, Rush, and The Rolling Stones. But who didn’t? As far as I can tell, I was walking living proof of the life that lives without exploration or delving for anything unique or interesting.

The other types of experimentation, I can barely even bother to mention. I never tried anything when I was at the age that people tried things. And it’s not, again, that there were not people around who were probably trying them. So it was not impossible. I think it just had to do with the family environment in which I grew up. My parents, being much older, had me pretty well sheltered. And for some reason, I grew up deathly afraid of doing anything I wasn’t supposed to do. I rarely just did things because I wanted to do them, without fear of consequence. While that may be an admirable trait, I think it probably causes me some difficulties in rationalizing my choices even to this day. And now I wish I had the experiences, and the stories, the battle scars, the knowledge and “street cred” of many people I know. But I can’t justify starting that education at this point in my life. That would be even more lame than the simple fact of having never done it when it was the appropriate behavior, if you want to call it that.

To add to my list of regrets…

I wish that I’d been writing songs these last 25 years. Actually, I did write songs when I was in junior high school, and even into high school. And they were mostly terrible. But I wrote them. And finished them. Probably wrote more of them between ages 13 and 18 than between ages 18 and 40. Not sure if it is perfectionism. Not sure if it is lack of inspirational influences (having listened to mostly mainstream things, and then being surprised when everything I play or write sounds like something else). Not sure if it is that I never did the other kind of experimentation, that could have led to alternate perspectives or, at the very least, lowered the volume of my inner critic.

I’m not unhappy with who I am. Or maybe I am. I really don’t even know. I just wish that I had a little more to show for my life than I presently do.

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