Back to School

*originally published in Sound Waves Magazine September 2018

You’re never too old to learn something new, especially when it comes to music.  Music is like this vast, unbridled, unchartered universal thing that never stops giving.  Somebody’s always finding new ones to make it.  Third world countries make musical instruments out of the remnants of garbage; year 2018 music can sound like it’s 1960 and 2018 at the same time, that sort of thing.  Sometimes I have to learn fancy new things on my guitar because my guitar player can’t make a show – the tricky little beginning to Fleetwood Mac’s “Rhiannon”; the snazzy fingering to “Can’t Find My Way Home”; or the upper neck greatness of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On.”  I never stop learning.

As a new school year is beginning and as I patiently wait behind school busses on my morning and afternoon commutes, and there are school supplies everywhere even at gas stations, I am reminded of 9th grade.

For some unbeknownst reason, I received straight As in school – except for Science class, that is. I just didn’t get most of that stuff. I paid zero attention in Science class and did not listen whatsoever. It may have had something to do with the fact that in ninth grade, Science class was first thing Monday morning, and the only thing on our minds at the time was Saturday Night Live from the weekend. SNL was everything to us. This was the Jane Curtin, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, and Bill Murray days. These were the “Jane, you ignorant sl*t” and “Roseanne Rosannadanna” days. We sat in the back of class and instead of greeting each other, someone would pick a character’s line from Saturday night’s show, then somebody else would chime in with a response, and then somebody else would chime in, until somebody else moved onto another sketch. When it was time to pay attention, we would just whisper the parts to each other, completely dying of laughter and holding our stomachs, hiding behind our notebooks and unused science books. Nothing – no dead frogs or periodic tables or theories of evolution – could get in the way of our recaps of SNL.


We were the kids who would go to McDonald’s and order a “cheeburger cheeburger cheeburger.” The poor teenage boy behind the counter who had to work every Saturday night would say, “So that’s three cheeseburgers?” and we would just laugh and laugh. We’d walk around saying things like, “I’m Sue Menhart and you’re not” and somebody would fall over a table like Chevy Chase. We were all “wild and craaaazy guys” who wanted to visit Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood. We would roll our eyes at the insanity of everyday life and science labs and stupid studying and thought life should be just one big never-ending hilarious improv. We were laissez-faire I tell ya.

I had secretly hoped to one day be the musical guest on SNL who would also be the host, who would blow the entire world’s mind (especially my former classmates’.)  This hasn’t happened yet, but I remain forever hopeful, especially since it hasn’t been canceled yet! I recently devoured Tina Fey’s “Bossypants” and Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please” and while both are well-written, it pains me to no end that they got to do all that stuff on SNL that I was supposed to do. The difference is of course, they worked for it, planned for it, and are actual comedians. I’m just a singer in a band who likes SNL.

Most musical performances on SNL are epic – whether for their greatness or failure – Ashlee Simpson’s lip syncing debacle to mind, but also Miley Cyrus’s first performance changed my mind completely about her.  Sometimes at my gigs, a guy from Science class will slither up to the stage and whisper, “Hi. I’m Fred Garvin. Male Prostitute” and I always pee my pants, and go on with my show in my little venue in my little town, with not the famous SNL band behind me, just me and the boys.

The point is, all teachers are saints for putting up with any of us and our aspirations and non-attention spans.  And don’t even get me started on music teachers – mega saints they are!

And don’t pass school busses with their stop signs out – Jeez!

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