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The ramblings and observations of a kidney transplant recipient, although not necessarily for that reason.

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Thursday, October 12, 2006


As a child, your natural talents earn you labels. Jimmy "The Soccer Kid", Emily "The Painter Girl", Killer "The Farter"....and so on. From age 8 or so I was always Jerry "The Musician". I was happy to have a talent to be associated with, but at age 15 when I met my friend Brendan, I instantly felt underserving. While I had a natural talent to pick up many instruments and play them with extreme mediocrity, I never had the ability or drive to put mastery to any of them. Brendan was the complete opposite as a musician. Anything he did musically, and many things he did otherwise, he always did with amazing command. He was a better musician at age 15 than most people that have been playing music for decades.

Brendan and I became great friends. Though music was our main connection, Brendan possesed many endearing qualities that were hard to find in people. Endless happiness, mild naivety, honesty and openess with no limits to everyone. Always putting forth an extra effort that limits the distance in friendships. He would call when you hadn't spoken for a while. He would make plans with you when you hadn't seen each other in awhile. He always showed more interest in events of your life than his. He was the only completely genuine person I knew.

We had played in various incarnations of rock bands together, but Brendan had musical interest beyong that. He wrote a musical in high school that he performed his senior year and asked me to play in pit band for it. I could not imagine a time, then, that we wouldn't be playing music together. When I was 19, we put an original band together and made a demo in a extravagant SF recording studio. We (probably more me) had great hopes of success with that project.

I and the other bandmates were let down hard when Brendan abandoned the project to go to college in Southern CA. I mean, sure, it was the right thing to do. It was a safe move. Ask anyone what's smarter, go to college or try to play in a rock band? C'mon, no brainer. It was more of let down, that Brendan wouldn't even give us an opportunity work on it while he was in college. Maybe we could move to LA and he could do it on the side while in school. Its been done before. He (seemingly through his mother's encouragement) said he couldn't.

While he was in school, Brendan revamped his high school musical and performed it his college. Again he asked me to play in it. He knew I was hurt when he went to school and its seemed he was making it up to me by including me in projects he was working on . We had also managed to co-write some more songs during the summers and make demos of those. Brendan did most of the writing, but for my minimal input, Brendan gave me 50% credit for the song writing. He had written some amazing songs at 15, but his work was getting better with age. As his schooling progressed, Brendan made it more and more clear he was not going to pursue a career as a rock musician.

He had developed his own major at his school for "Musical Theater Composition" and that's the direction he wanted to head. I began to realize I needed to work on options in my life that didn't include trying to be a rock musician with my best friend. At age 25 I opted to work for the family business selling electrical equipment, limiting my music playing to a hobby. At various times it has been a more serious hobby than at others.

When Brendan graduated, he opted for grad school at NYU. A natural move for someone who was going to try to compose musical theater. Definately the right place to be. Our contact during these couple years was limited. I think I talked to him once before he left for New York and then again after he graduated. The funny thing was....Brendan got his masters in Musical Theater Compositon from NYU and then decided that wasn't what he wanted to do. He wanted to play in a rock band. In a conversation I had with him after he graduated, he effectively said "Why don't you move to NY and play in a rock band with me?"

Don't think for one second I didn't consider it.....repeatedly....for years. But I couldn't. I couldn't leave the only home I'd ever known, give up my job, medical insurance (which I needed), dissappoint my family and friends to move across the country and play in a rock band. Is this decision sounding familiar to you? I was faced with a similar decision at this point that Brendan had to make at when he was 18. Only now I had more security to let go of and a kidney disease. Fuck yeah I wanted to move to NY and play music, but ask anyone what's smarter? Give up a secure future or try to become a rock star? No brainer, I thought. It was ths same no brainer decision my friend made when I wanted HIM to risk something (and he didn't). There are those out there that will tell you "fuck that, follow your passion". Try following your passion when you have failing kidneys and presume you will need a transplant in the not so distant future. I couldn't. I regret not trying...and probably that regret most defines who I am today.

It doesn't reduce my regret to any degree that the following happened:

Brendan met a simarly, uniquely uber-talented musician, Valerie. She plays rock violin and sings like not many others can. They formed a band, Groovelily. They scratched and clawed at the rock/folk music industry trying to make a go of it. Got married. Caught glimpses of success. Shared stages with some very famous people. Then managed to make something of themselves in a very original manner. They brought the rock band concept to the musical theater stage. Apparently Brendan's schooling came in handy.

They wrote a winter holdiday musical, "Striking Twelve", about a lonely man on New Years Eve, home alone, reading the fairy tale "The Little Matchstick Girl". It is a cross between a "musical" and a rock concert. The story is told by the rock band through dialogue and song while on stage, Brendan on Piano, Valerie with her Flying-V Violin, and their drummer Gene. The three tell the story together each playing characters and narrators, all of them playing instruments and all of them singing.

The show had runs in various cities over the past 4 or 5 years. They have had so much success with this format that they have concentrated on writing new musicals in the same format. Last year their co-writer of "Striking 12" won a Tony for "The Putnam County 25th Annual Spelling Bee". Also, "Striking 12's" director won a Tony for "A Light In The Piazza". How cool is that? One of my good friends is working with not one, but two Tony Award winners.

This year "Striking 12" will be off Broadway in NYC for the first time. Every stage writer/composer's dream. I couldn't be happier for my friends. I have seen the show and can tell you its great! If you are in the NYC area this winter, please go see it. Not just to support my friends, but because it is a terrific way to spend a few hours.

What's with the friendship now? Well....I don't know. Last couple years, Brendan and I mutually made an effort to be more active friends. "Striking 12" was in Palo Alto a couple years ago and I went to see it. After one of the performance I went to drinks with Brendan. It was the first time he told me that he lost respect for me when I opted not to move to NY and play music (or make some other risk to do it without him) and that my consistenly choosing security over the years was a big let down for him (and the first of the deep wedges driven into our friendship). It was also the first time he heard that my kidneys were failing (so I mostly forgave it). It was hard for me let go of the fact that he'd chosen security when I was ready to take a chance and that it was at least mildly hypocritical for him to look down on me for making my choices, a point I made to him that night.

Then a couple summers ago I went to NYC and visited Brendan while I was there. I got to see his apartment and music studio. We also had drinks one night. It was...luke warm? On both our parts, I'm guessing.

Then next time I saw Brendan, was while he was touring on the West Coast. I went to see one of their shows in Marin. I had dinner with them. I also fucked up after the show and said something too personal to the wrong people and made everyone in the bad mad at me. I was embarrassed that I forgot for one moment that best thing and worst thing about me is that I usually don't say much. I think I lost my Unlimited Groovelily Backstage pass that night and drove in another wedge.

Brendan made a couple of attempts to contact me when their son was born. It was around the same time I was going through kidney failure and transplant. Due to that major event in my life and my inability to get over the fact that I fucked up, I have not responded in kind. I think I have sent him one email since.

I figured out that I love Brendan, who he was then and who he his now. And I miss Brendan, but mostly only the Brendan of 20 years ago. Many of the qualities about old Brendan (among them - endlessly happy, mildly naive, honest and open with no limits to everyone) seemed to have gone. My take on it is NYC will do that to someone. I'm sorry to those of you love the big city, I just think it has a way of adding layers of bitterness to people that didn't have it before they lived there. Native New Yorkers may be immune.

So....friendship? Probably not so much anymore. Love, respect, admiration without bounds for a person who deserves more of it then I can offer? Hell yeah. Go see the show, it's worth it.

I'm sure when Brendan finds this link on his site meter he will take it in all kinds of the wrong way.

Sorry man, the thing about you that rubbed off on me the most is "honest and open with no limits to everyone" including the wrong people at your show and including the internet.
posted by othur-me @ 5:05 PM  
3 Comments:
  • At 8:13 PM, Blogger Killer said…

    Assuming I am the "Killer good at farting", thank you. It is nice to be recognized for your skills.

    I really enjoyed this read, I too have grown apart from some friends from the past.

    The show they put together sounds great. I will have to keep an eye out for it.

     
  • At 12:36 AM, Blogger Jester said…

    It's always hard to combine your passions with friends... it can be amazing and very intimate, exactly what causes the most problems when it turns sour.

    I'm sure that the time will come again when you and Brendan move past this.

    And I agree, everyone should see the show. It's great.

     
  • At 12:00 PM, Blogger othur-me said…

    Killer - that was definately for you. There is a CD of Striking 12 available at Tower Record (now going out of business), you might be able to get it cheap if you have one near you.

    Jester - when you're that young you don't think about it like that. It's obvious now. We may move past this, but I'm not holding my breath. FYI- Brendan was the original Eric hater. He hated Eric before Eric went off the deep end.

     
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