Another dime in the jukebox
It’s been an interesting week at the Toy Factory. I’ve been fighting pirates (Yar! No, really.), supervising some toymaking, and creating some toys of my own. It’s been hectic, but interesting. I’ve turned in two major projects this week, so I feel like I’ve earned a weekend.
Yesterday I knocked off a little early to go see AJ’s band rehearse for the school talent show next week. I’m going to miss it, just like I missed their last gig, because I have to be in New York this week. It’s performance review week. I’ve got my meeting with my boss on Wednesday and I’m meeting with my supervisees on Thursday. In fact, I’ve got 3-4 hours of meetings every day this week except Friday. It’s looking like I’m not going to get a lot of work done. It’s one of two weeks since I started working here that I absolutely had to be in the office. I hate this part of the traveling the most. On the plus side, I’m staying with Cranky and Baby J this week. Hooray!
But I digress. AJ’s band rocked. They were really fun to watch. They played “Smoke on the Water,” “It’s a Long Way to the Top (if Ya Wanna Rock N Roll),” “Hey, Bulldog,” and “TNT.” They auditioned a girl who really wants to sing with the band. She wanted to sing Gotye’s “Somebody that I Used to Know,” but that was vetoed in the band meeting and they went with “I Love Rock and Roll,” which suited the husky voice of the singer, a cute girl I’ve known since she and AJ were in summer camp together in kindergarten. She’ll be joining the band as a special guest at their next gig, the fifth grade graduation party on the last day of school at the village pool. AJ says they were a little distracted at the rehearsal (probably because of the girl), but I could still see how far they’d come. Only one of them, the keyboard player, has been taking lessons for more than a year. My friend L (mom of the drummer, AJ’s longtime friend O) is coaching them. She gives them snacks, helps them find music they can play, and teaches them chords if they need help. But mostly she just helps them figure things out for themselves. They discuss what they like to play. They make suggestions for instrumentation. AJ really wants to write songs, but can’t get anyone else in the band too excited about that. “Why don’t you just write one and bring it in?” I ask him. “I bet they’d try it.”
“I can’t write lyrics.”
“I’m too embarrassed.”
“If you’re too embarrassed, just write something silly. Or write something where you pretend you’re someone else.” AJ has been trying to write songs about his life. I only know this because Mr. Spy listens in when I’m in New York and tells me about it. When he thinks we’re not listening, he sings songs about his parents driving him crazy, about being an only kid, about having to clean his room. I wish he’d let us hear them so we could help him record them or write them down. Because it is pretty awesome to hear what an eleven-year-old wants to sing about. But he plays them alone and then forgets them. His eleven-year-old thoughts are ephemera, not embarrassingly inscribed in diaries with rainbows and unicorns on the cover, like mine were. AJ’s not really the rainbows and unicorns type. But even with rainbows and unicorns, it’s pretty hard to put yourself out there, even in front of your friends. Maybe especially in front of your friends.
AJ is worried about the decision the rest of the band made to wear band T-shirts. AJ doesn’t want to dress like the rest of the band.
“That’s what all the girls do when they’re dancing to Taylor Swift songs.” He’s talking about the Talent Show.
“What do you want to wear?”
“Just what I usually wear. Jeans and a T-shirt.”
That’s what he was wearing at yesterday’s rehearsal: jeans and a black White Sox t-shirt. With his op-art black and white guitar strap slung over his shoulder, he looked pretty rock-and-roll for a kid who still sleeps with a sock monkey.
This morning he invited me up to his room to listen to him practice. He fingered his way through “Purple Haze,” which he’s learning with his guitar teacher. It sounded good. Really good. AJ knows how to bring out the blues in a tune.
I’ll miss next week’s gig, but you’d better believe I’ll be there when they rock the 5th grade party. I’ll probably even be wearing my band T-shirt. Maybe I’ll bring a cigarette lighter. I wonder if they’d try “Freebird?”