Tag Archives: passion

Passion and Intensity

Our Little Jam Session

I know that the above headline could apply to so many things, but it’s not salacious nor prurient.

It is a description that my middle daughter either didn’t believe or didn’t want to believe about herself.

About a year ago Hannah, the boys and I (Abbi had a report she was working on and a test she had to study for) attended a picnic and jam session at a family friend’s house.  The day was one filled with food, music and just having a good time with each other.  Doesn’t matter the caliber of musician or writer or speaker or animator or filmmaker or what have you, a good artist learns from even the worst ones.  Nobody was bad here, but we all wanted to play together and have some fun.

At this particular event Hannah got up with her friends and played guitar while they tried to push through a blues riff and just jammed for quite awhile.  She wasn’t doing any Eric Clapton solos and didn’t have any aspirations to do so on the deck of our friends’ house.  However, once she started, she hadn’t noticed that the instructor and head of the music department of our school had arrived.  While many of you might shrug and wonder why this would even eek onto your radar you should know who the head of our department is.

The man who we were lucky enough to get at our school has a pedigree that spans probably every album you might have listened to from the ’80s, possibly even the late ’70s on.  He played on Madonna’s Like a Virgin.  He told stories that day of this gangly, strange looking Texan walking into the studio while he was recording with David Bowie who ordered BBQ from Austin, TX, and played blistering guitar they’d never heard before . . . a guy named Stevie Ray Vaughan on the album Let’s Dance.  He never talks much about them and I have a feeling it was a work and a passion of his and to work with this group of musicians was no different than, say, his passion for anything else.  It was second nature.  He doesn’t brag or puff his chest out when he talks about these events in his life.  One minute he’s talking playing basketball outside Bowie’s studio and the next he’s reminded of a recipe for New York cheesecake.  That’s who walked into our little party.

So Hannah doesn’t quite understand why, after just one afternoon of playing in his presence her teacher wants to put her into his band that plays at events and school masses.
“I don’t play that well,” she says.
“It’s now how much you know, Hannah, it’s that you have passion and intensity,” he tells her.

Still, she’s skeptical.

Fast forward to yesterday . . . and she’s still confuzzled as to why this man wants her in the band.
“You really think I can do this, Dad?”
“I wouldn’t have put you in there if I didn’t,” was my somewhat puzzled reply.
“I don’t really have intensity, Dad, but Mr. Sabino keeps telling me I do!”
“Because he’s right, Hannah.”

And he is . . . I see in Hannah the sparks I had when the guitar started to make sense to me.  This wasn’t my wanting to get on stage and meet girls, it was more.  I loved that when I couldn’t express myself to others I could do it with even a few notes on the guitar.  I could play for hours (and did) and not grow tired of it.  Never.  Still that way.  Hannah wakes up, has breakfast, gets her school materials together and then picks up her Strat and plays.

I said the same thing to her older sister, Abbi.  She tried out for the school’s biggest musical.  She called me today, sounding much like her mother, and in a panic told me she’d completely messed up.  She’d been told the wrong way to come back into the verse of a song by a girl who she didn’t know wanted the same part Abbi’d gotten a call-back for.  I don’t know if this girl did it intentionally or just didn’t have a clue – both are dangerous – but Abbi made it sound like she’d folded and fallen into a fetal position on the floor.

But when I asked if she’d started well, the answer was “yes.”  I asked if she’d gone off-key?  “no.”  Did she stop and just fall apart?  “no.”

But the girl who told her the wrong way got it perfectly right and sang beautifully, she says, and she got called back for 3 parts and Abbi got called for 1.

This is where Dad has to be MomandDad.  Not Dad.  Dad’s gut says go to the school, find the teacher and lobby, find the other girl and hit her in the shins like Nancy Kerrigan and then throw back my head like the Hulk because after all she’s my little girl and I’d do anything to help her and protect her and even if I’m wrong I’m right and the ends justify the means.
But a run-on-sentence like that is only for Dads.  Not Moms.  We don’t have Mom, so I have to act like I understand.  I have . . . to . . . listen.  That’s hard for a guy.  It is.  When women get angry and frustrated and wonder why we can’t just listen and give a hug and comfort it’s because – and this is important – we care.  We care enough that it bothers us and the way we get around that is by fixing the problem.

The hardest thing in the world for a Dad – particularly one who has to be Dad and Mom – is to not try to fix everything.  Sometimes I have to let them fall or experience the bad.  Sometimes it’s OK to see that not everyone can be trusted or is as nice as you are.  That’s hard and it’s painful . . . for me.  All I can do is calm her down and listen to her in tears and be proud when she says she held it together and didn’t cry or scream until she was out of the auditorium.

But the lesson above applies.  She was on-key.  She still acted with passion and intensity.  She lost her track and her tempo but found it back.  She didn’t stop and walk away, she figured it out.  The only advice I could give her falls short in her ears initially, but it’s this: it’s never as bad as you think it is in the moment.  (OK, sometimes it is, but no, not all the time)  The teacher knows her abilities, likes her, understands her passion and intensity.  The other director – a student director – likes Abbi and knows that Abbi was good and saved some of the lines in the understudy version of her play last year.

Abbi…on stage doing what she loves.

It’s hard to know you messed up – and harder still to keep going when you do.  But that’s what passion and intensity give you.  When you mess up, you own the mistake.  You stretch your abilities by doing it.

So at the end of the day I tell Hannah to learn from her sister’s example: to keep going.  It’s easy to take lessons and sit in the same room or at home.  But get in a group, hear the things they can do and how they perform and you push yourself to do more.  You play to your utmost.

When I played with a friend a month or so ago she noted how I didn’t play a flurry of notes constantly.  I had a slow build, that the playing was structured, like I had a path and a way I was going.  It wasn’t speed metal, I didn’t play 1,000 miles per hour from beginning to end of the solo.  My response was one I stole from Eric Clapton: – you don’t have to play 100 notes if you play just one with passion and intensity.

I don’t know if Abbi made the play.  I don’t know if Hannah will play brilliantly.  All I can say is I know what I tell them – do your best and own your moment.  The rest of the time I have to listen and learn not to act, that’s my lesson.  Sometimes a hug is better than a 2×4.

Sometimes it’s best to have passion and intensity.

I can feel your body, when I’m lying in my bed . . .

Andrea - my perfect fit

When was the last time you kissed her?  I don’t care if it’s your wife or girlfriend or even that first date you went on, when was the last one?

The reason this sticks in my mind is because I took a survey for a friend’s site (www.goodenoughmother.com  will be contributing to this wonderful, well-known site starting in January) and one of the questions asked when I was happiest.

The answer wasn’t particularly hard for me, it really wasn’t.  There were others that were, things like where I see myself in the future, questions about how I see myself.  But the easiest question I had was simply when I was happiest.  It popped right into my head the moment I read the question.  Without a doubt, it was the moment I’d kissed my girlfriend – the woman who would become my wife – for the first time.

Now, it’s funny, I can remember it was not after that first “official” date, the cold and icy night we saw the band “Rush” in concert at Omaha’s Civic Auditorium or another night.  She saw the band, but to be honest, even then I knew she was humoring me.  She listened to James Taylor and Toad the Wet Sprocket.  She loved Morrissey, for Christ’s sake!  But we found common ground in bands like The Doors and she absolutely adored old Santana.  Not the newer stuff, though she didn’t mine that in later years, but put on the first 3-4 LP’s and she was in heaven.

It wouldn’t surprise me if we had kissed after that concert.  She was dressed so pretty, wearing a black coat, velvet bordering the collar and a black hood hanging off the back.  She looked amazing and we’d both gotten a beer and had a little to drink.

I do know that after that show we went out and continued our retinue of alcohol-soaked evenings, but not to the point of being inebriated.  We were simply enjoying ourselves, something I had not done in all my time up to then.  She made me feel like loosening up, being happy, and being flirtatious.

I remember the night, though, the night it happened, and I ache because I can actually feel it as well.  I know for a fact that before we’d headed to my apartment we’d been at the restaurant “Grandmothers” in Omaha, right off 90th and Dodge streets, just a few blocks from my apartment.  We loved to go there because, being college students, we could order a pitcher of margaritas and get a free plate of nachos at the bar.  We ate the greasy, horrible chips and drank the pitcher dry.  This after a full day’s work.  You have to understand, after that concert, I wasn’t sure if she’d enjoyed herself.  I was the dumb ass, after all, who picked an insanely noisy auditorium filled with 10,000 other people and meeting friends from work who were standing there as well.  It was far from an intimate evening.  She was flirtatious, but at evening’s end she went home to her apartment, which was nearby, and I hadn’t ended up there or met her friends.

But the next day, at work, we were business as usual.  She was getting ready to go on the air, I was working on a story that we had shot together, and I was so sure that I’d messed up that I was convincing myself that it was all wrong and telling myself that she was just too pretty and too outgoing to go for someone like me.  I was not anyone’s idea of Prince Charming.  Around the corner from the studio’s control room was the community bathroom.  It had a big mirror, those massive light bulbs used by makeup artists.  There was a single stall with a toilet in the corner, but that was it.  The door normally hung open and the reporters and anchors put their makeup on in that room.  If you couldn’t find them, the odds were pretty good that’s where they were.  I headed in there, told her how long her story was and just kind of stood there.

“Did you have a good time last night?”
“I had a wonderful time.”
“Oh, great!  I wasn’t sure if you liked them or not, but it was a good show.”

There was a bit of uncomfortable silence and I watched as she started to lean into the mirror, putting her mascara on her eyelashes.  She hadn’t said anything else.  I was directing that night, so I had to head in to start preproduction.

“OK . . . well, I better get the pre-pro going then.”

I had walked out, heading to the adjacent control room when I heard it.

“Well, Dave . . . ”

I nearly ran back to the bathroom, trying to keep my composure.

“I was hoping you’d ask me out again.  Was I wrong?”
“No!  I mean, absolutely.  I would love to go out.  Are you free tomorrow night?  We can have dinner!”

She hadn’t remembered that we’d met at M’s Pub in Omaha’s Old Market once before, talking about her best friend and reminiscing about small town Nebraska Christmases.  But I did.  I asked her to go there again.

We ate our dinner, both of us having pasta with a pesto sauce, grilled chicken and fresh bread.  I ordered that flourless chocolate torte and we inhaled it the dessert tasting so good.  We went and saw a movie, though I’m not sure what movie we saw.  I know, how can I remember what we ate but not that detail?  I don’t know.  Certain things stick in your memory.  A dark movie theater with no conversation and no way to look her in the eye isn’t something that is very memorable.

I DO remember that after we saw the movie, at the Indian Hills theater on 90th and Dodge as well, we went back to my apartment.  I know you’re thinking I had only one thing on my mind, but I didn’t.  I was out of my depth, way up over my head.  I had grabbed a 6-pack of Michelob and another of Miller Lite, both bottles, and had them in the fridge, knowing she’d want a drink.  I opened two bottles and we talked, all night.  The movie had ended at 11 or 12, a late evening, but we’d had dinner first.  She sat on my couch, wearing a fairly simple outfit, I suppose, but she was just so gorgeous.  She had on a silky par of pants taht felt so soft when I put my hand on her knee to make a point.  She wore a t-shirt that had what they called a “sweetheart neckline” which curved below the shoulders but met at a dip right in the center of her chest, giving just a hint of cleavage – nothing salacious, but it sure made it hard for me to concentrate on the conversation and keep my eyes on hers.

But all she had to do was laugh.  I stared at her eyes, and I noticed that they sparkled.  You’ll think I’m crazy, I know you will, but when that woman laughed, with her brilliant, beautiful smile, her eyes, a grey-blue like the sky after a thunderstorm, twinkled.  We talked about work a little, school a lot, the future, what we wanted to do, the fact that she wanted to do a semester at American University and intern at CNN, and listened to CDs.  I had a mixture of songs, Bonnie Raitt, Clapton, all sort of romantic, programmed into the player and playing on a 6-disc changer on my stereo.

Eventually the discussion turned to family.  She had a lot of good, and a lot of bad to say about her family.  The pull that they had on her was painful, I could tell.  She said how she must have been a horrible date with that kind of conversation.  I made a crack about a bad joke George Carlin had made during one of my horribly failed dates and the topic made Andrea think of her sister.  She’d been going through a tough time and it was sincerely weighing on her.  So much so that her entire mood shifted.  I felt awful, I had done my typical move, screwing up what was supposed to be a perfect night.  I moved over to her, sitting next to her, trying so hard to apologize.

“I’m so sorry, I had no idea, I would never had said anything if I’d known, I’m so sorry, Andrea.”

She leaned into me, and I could feel her body press next to mine.  She was so gentle, so soft, and she seemed to fit perfectly next to me, the curves of her body fitting perfectly as she laid her head on my shoulder.  I didn’t think it was possible for anyone to physically touch me like this, to have such a perfect fit, to be so amazing, and I was screwing it all up.

“It’s not your fault.  It’s just so hard, and I can’t do anything to help.”

I told her she had nothing to worry about, that I was sure she was doing everything right.  I put my hand on the back of her head, I felt the soft stands of hair, like silk, and I leaned over and kissed her on the forehead.  I tried to be as gentle as I could, she was so soft and perfect in her movements.  And then it happened.

Andrea looked up at me, half of her laying on me, those beautiful eyes staring straight into mine.  I didn’t think I had done something right, I was sincerely trying to make her feel better.  It was like a John Hughes film.  She probably didn’t look for very long, but I studied her entire face, it was just so perfect – perfect for me.  I moved my face closer to hers so I could feel the brush of her nose next to mine, waiting to see if she would pull away.  When she didn’t . . . I kissed her.  Slowly, passionately, I kissed her, amazed again at this wonderful woman, holding her and hoping she’d never leave.

She didn’t.  Now, I know I’ve given a lot of very vivid detail here, but it’s all that happened.  It obviously wasn’t the only kiss we shared that night, but it was all we did.  By this point it had already been close to 3am, we’d been up most the night.  I fell asleep on that same couch, with her next to me, her body fitting perfectly. It was as if I’d been missing a piece of myself and never knew it wasn’t there until she had shown up.

This is the point of my story here.  When is the last time you kissed the person you love like that?  When did you look them in the eye, pausing, reading their face, so close you can feel their breath as it touches your face?  If you haven’t, if you don’t, or you can’t remember, I want you, tonight, to do it.  Go up to that person, put your hand on their cheek, or run you fingers through the back of their hair and look them in the eye.  Live your own John Hughes film and kiss them, like it’s the first time you’re doing it all over again.

You see, I don’t get to do that anymore.  I didn’t get to.  That last day, believe it or not, in the room for the last time, seeing her body there, cold and so completely opposite of the woman I’d met twenty years before, and I couldn’t even go through the motions.  They hadn’t removed the breathing tube.  She was covered in equipment, and I had yet to go home and tell my children she was gone.  Like that first kiss, I had to lean over, and gently, deeply, kiss her on the forehead, this time the tears coming off of my cheeks, and tell her goodbye.  I couldn’t tell her before, not while they worked on her, tried to keep her alive.  I looked and truly did remember that very first kiss, the press of my lips on her forehead, and I was dizzy, hoping I could see those beautiful eyes, that michievous twinkle, just one more time.  I didn’t get it.

I can’t tell you the last time I got to kiss her like that, to feel her press next to me, to touch her hair and feel her head on my shoulder.

Just like that night, where I realized that this person, this amazing, wonderful woman, was the perfect fit to me, she fit me perfectly.  Not just emotionally, but she fit next to me, her physical presence the missing puzzle piece to my life.  I go to bed and I can feel her body when I lie there.  When I close my eyes and remember that night, I can feel her, the press of her lips, the soft press of her skin, the gentle caress of her cheek as it brushed up against me.

People say that times will change, things will smooth over, that life won’t be so difficult.  But I don’t want it to go away.  I don’t want to wake up tomorrow and be OK with it, or to go back to the feeling I had before those pieces fit.  The moment I can’t close my eyes and physically feel her lips against mine is the moment that I’ve truly lost her.

So for me, just this night, this one time, find the person you love, remember that first night, that first, second or third date . . . and kiss them.  Not a peck on the cheek.  Not a quick smack that ends with “luv you.”

Kiss them.  Mean it, feel it, and tell them.  Tell them you love them and that you miss this.  Because take it from me, it’s just like the song says: I can feel her body when I’m lying in my bed.  There’s too much confusion going ’round through my head.

Give yourself that memory – not the vision, the muscle memory, the feeling, the press, the touch.  You never know when you’ll need to close your eyes and go back there yourself, because one day, it may very well be the only thing you have left.