There's no neon sign to tell you when thoughts are going to overtake the normal everyday grind. Nor construction posts to point you in the direction of the next bumpy road to overcome. Riding down Highway 101 to a previously small town that has exploded with urban growth over the years due to its proximity to the Mississippi and the gateway to the excellent fishing resorts up north, I spent the time watching the sprawl of what was a quiet dirt road one shutter seasonal produce shop with chipped paint, now a full-sized year-round greenhouse with "activities" like a corn maze and pedal car track.
The night was to support a singer, an 19 year old daughter of my wife's co-worker. She was playing a set list of popular soft country, soft rock songs along with original tunes stenciled down in lavender pen with the torn edgings from a tattered notebook. The guitar was brand new, a gift from the doting mother and father who sat seven feet away hanging on to each of her notes the filled the 3/4th empty upper-scale bar. The set up was small, taking up no more than corner as patrons slowly finished their tall Grain Belts hardly paying mind to woman by the smoking exit belting out hand strummed music.
While only a few kids and drink slingers at the bar took most than a few seconds to stop and listen, her parents mouthed the words to each song as they were no strangers to the "stage". This isn't what one envisions in a day and age "American Idol" and "Coyote Ugly". Just have a decent voice, nice body that doesn't have people running for eye bleach, and you're on your way to that seven figure contract and private jet flying you around to perform in every Hooter's location until that first album warrants a real tour. Or maybe that closet-like space to play is the life for these musicians, as I've never been exposed to the local scene found in City Pages filled with bands and singers who are insurance adjusters by day, dreamers of the microphone by night.
When I saw her parents looks I remember getting the same look from my parents only it was a baseball field or a hockey game when their son's lanky buck-nothing frame managed to weave around a defense for a goal. A sense of pride. While my dreams of stepping onto Fenway with mom and dad in the stands died with a thud after a mid-80s fastball couldn't impress the scouts enough, a different direction was needed. For years there was no direction, then the road changed completely with marriage and kids. No more late-night volleyball and softball benders as they were replaced by mortgage payments and potty training. No more freedom to just step in another direction and go as there were others to consider before my selfish decisions.
This Friday in the office of a small college with a counselor and cute Mimi Driver look-alike finanical aid rep with the Minnesotan accent (I declined to ask if she was auditioning for the sequel to "Fargo"), a new path will be set with the blessings of those most affected (ok grammar nazis did I use it right?) in the future. And as Lindsay finished up her first set and my passable tall Samuel Adams Seasonal reached its bottom there's a renewed interest to see my parents in the stands with that look in their eyes but instead of Jofa-branded helmet or Osseo Orioles baseball cap uptop of my head, it will be an overpriced slate of cardboard with a tassle that will hang from my rear-view until my wife tells me to stop acting 18 and take it down.