Last Thursday, I turned 40 years old.
On the morning drive to school, the camera got turned on me by my daughter Alchemy (a future TV host, for sure) who threw me some hard questions in honor of my birthday.
She asked me if I “had any memories” from my 40 years on Earth.
I told her about a few of my fondest memories:
- Like the day she was born — at home, in our darkened bedroom. We had covered the windows with red fabric and the gauzy environment felt like we were all inside the womb, helping her gently make the transition into this world.
- Or the day her brother was born, entering the water-filled tub at the birthing center wearing his amniotic sac like a space helmet. It’s the dramatic entrance he continues to make wherever he goes.
- Or the days that I met, proposed to, and married her mother. All days that will live in my memory as some of the happiest (and luckiest) of my life.
But after I dropped her off, of course, I was flooded with recollections of so many happy (and hard) times. I laughed and smiled and even cried as I recounted some of the monumental turning points and transformative moments that have shaped who I am today.
- Like the time I wrote my first song, “Time Machine,” at the tender age of 13. It was a simple little love song (4 chords in all) and I was proud of it. My father’s band (who performed a mix of country and top 40 covers) had learned the song in secret. One night, during their regular gig at The Pines bowling alley in Black River Falls, WI, they surprised me by playing it. Hearing it come to life complete with drum parts, vocal harmonies and a guitar solo was overwhelming for me. I sat at a little round table directly in front of the band and openly wept. I will never forget the catalyzing feeling that something I had created in my bedroom with scratch paper and a cheap guitar had the potential to be polished, arranged, staged and performed for a small audience of adoring fans in a smoky bar.
- Or, the time in high school when my band performed at The Brass Mug in Tampa (our very first gig). The Mug was a legendary punk/metal club where Green Day and 7 Seconds had performed when they were virtually unknown. It’s been lovingly referred to as the “CBGB of Tampa.” When we took the stage, I was so frightened I performed with my back to the audience. 10 years later, I would not only be performing on much larger stages (and facing the audience unfazed), but I would eventually travel with The Saturn 5 to Manhattan for a record label showcase performance at the actual CBGB Lounge.
- There was the time I met Gene Simmons. I had been scheduled to perform on a morning television show to promote an upcoming concert. All I knew was that my friend Natalie (the show’s producer) had asked the “other guest” if he could take the second segment so that I could sleep in an extra half-hour (because singing on TV at 8 a.m. is literally the worst). It turned out that the “other guest” was none other than The Demon himself — in town to promote something about Indy racing. I cornered him as I was heading onto the sound stage and shook his hand. He was indescribably tall and not the friendliest person in the world. There are no words to express how simultaneously star struck and disappointed by his attitude I was. But, Gene Simmons got bumped so I could sleep in, and that’s kind of cool.
- There was the time I (along with an amazing team of people) organized a music conference in my hometown featuring some of the most talented artists in the Southeast United States. Industry and label reps came to St. Petersburg, John Doe (from X) headlined. It was a thing. We made it happen.
- There was the time I was in a band that felt like a family. We were close, we were tight. We traveled together and wrote songs that changed people’s lives. I still get e-mails and letters from people saying how important that music was to them.
- There was the time I (along with an amazing team of people) organized a horror film festival in Tampa for three years running, allowing us to showcase some amazing local filmmakers and meet some pretty cool actors like Dimitri Coats (Suck), Brooke McCarter (The Lost Boys) and Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead).
- There was the time I moderated the panel on “Web First Publishing: How Alt-Weeklies Can Survive” at South by Southwest in Austin, TX. It was a tumultuous and strange time for journalism. Newsrooms were shrinking, social media was being born. I remember later that night having a heated conversation over drinks with Max Linsky (founder of longform.org) about whether journalism could be a social enterprise and still be considered the “fourth estate.” Good times.
- Then, there was the time I collapsed to my knees in the woods of Wisconsin, all at once experiencing the cosmos through my body as a vast, spinning record with myself as the needle. In that moment, the universe was being created through sound and vibration and my body was what bridged the infinite with the finite — the mundane with the divine. That was also kind of cool.
- There was the time I learned how to practice affirmative and centering prayer and had the honor and privilege of holding space for an entire spiritual community.
- There was the time I was forgiven for something unforgivable and finally understood the healing power of love.
- There was the time I puppeteered the Green Man in Matthew Fox‘s Cosmic Mass at the Parliament of the World’s Religions.
- There was the time I started a church in my hometown.
- There was the time, in my youth, when I would ride my dirt bike through the trails at St. Anthony’s Monastery in Marathon, WI. The smell of boiling maple syrup (freshly taken from the trees) would fill the woods and I would ride those snowy trails for what felt like hours. Years later, I realized that the trail, along with its funny-looking shrines and twelve huge stone structures placed along the path was actually a meditation on the Stations of the Cross.
- There was the time I came face to face with a giant Thunderbird hovering above St. Petersburg beach one night — the moon nestled like an eyeball in its huge stone skull, its gigantic vertebrae extending down past the curved horizon. The Thunderbird — its stone wings spread wide — was simultaneously a vision of tribal power, The Christ, the wounded relationship that I had with my own father, and my own sacred masculine energy lying dormant and unclaimed.
- And, finally, there has been the time (over and over) that people actually showed up for my many performances, festivals, conferences, workshops, classes, book clubs, board meetings and church services. It continues to amaze me.
Thank you, everyone, for being a part of this journey. I couldn’t ask for a better community of friends, colleagues and supporters.
Life gets better. And from this side of the rubicon, there is simply more beauty, more goodness and more truth packed into each moment every day. What feels like more “information” simply becomes greater complexity, deeper consciousness, more understanding. And experiencing more conflict, pain and suffering has only meant an increase in space and capacity to also hold more and greater tools, practices and solutions for that pain and suffering.
For those coming up behind me in age, who think that it sucks to get old, I can assure you that what does not suck is being comfortable with yourself exactly as you are. What doesn’t suck is realizing it’s never too late to say or do the right thing. What doesn’t suck is taking the time to express how you really feel, and taking the time to do things well.
And to those who have gone before me — You go on ahead. I’m just going to stay here and enjoy this moment for a while. I’ll catch up with the rest of you eventually.