07 August 2009

On DJing

A couple of weeks ago, on a Thursday afternoon, I came home from work to a son with a fever of over 100. There went my weekend. I had Friday off, and was planning another biking outing with Eli. We had biked Millennium Park the previous Tuesday, and I was torn between going back because the trails in Millennium are awesome, or finding some other trails that were a short drive away. Now, with Eli sick, we couldn't go. Instead, we spent Friday enjoying a Pixar film festival from our couch.

Saturday was not much different, except for a just-to-be-sure-we're-doing-everything-right doctor visit. We were doing everything we could, but it was nice to find out why our son was sick. Turns out he had herpangina. Again. We try to tell him he should just stop putting everything in his mouth, but everything tastes like candy to him apparently.

Saturday morning turned into Saturday lunchtime, and lunchtime gave way to nap time and early afternoon. When Eli woke from his nap, he was a bit cranky. Aside from the trip across town to see the doctor, he had been inside since Thursday lunchtime. Eli, like his Mommy and Daddy, tends to get a bit restless when he is indoors for long periods of time. Mommy and Daddy, for their part, were restless because they were busy watching a sick child.

At this point, I had been indoors for over 24 hours, and it was hard to tell who was more cranky, Eli with his throat lesions, or me with cabin fever. For the health of all four of us, I went outside to finish up some landscaping.

It's funny how kids don't act sick when they have something to occupy them, and such was the case with Eli. When I went outside, he watched my every move from the slider. He eventually threw a fit until Mommy let him outside, fever and all, to run around the backyard. He played in his sandbox, helped me level out some of the gravel, and threw things into the ivy bushes around our deck.

While Eli was acting completely normal despite his fever, I heard music. It wasn't close music, it was drifting on the breeze from far off. It must have been loud, because from our backyard, we could still hear enough to make out what songs were playing. But it was mellow, muffled, distorted somehow, like hearing Charlie Brown's parents. It came to us in waves, sometimes loud, sometimes not so loud. It seemed to be coming from the other side of the park, somewhere across the lake.

And something began to happen. It was so subtle at first that I hardly noticed. I was finishing up the landscaping and I grabbed a beer. Shan was sitting on our deck talking with me, and Eli was running around acting normal despite his fever. The music was drifting into our backyard, and the moment was absolutely beautiful. The stress and anxiety from the past few days was dissipating, seemingly blown away on the same breeze that carried the music to us. It no longer mattered that our weekend plans were ruined, or that our kid was sick. I faced the wind and inhaled deeply.

I spent over a decade of my life as a mobile Disc Jockey, playing music and entertaining people at wedding receptions and other parties all over West Michigan. It was a wonderful time, with many wonderful memories. I doubt that I will ever be able to attend a wedding reception for the rest of my life without poking my head behind the DJ table and checking out the system. I will pretend to be nice (mostly), but what I'm really doing is making a mental checklist of everything that I would do different (better) if this were my show. So it happened, there in my backyard, that I was thinking back on DJing, and wedding receptions, and the life of an entertainer.

It was a wonderful trip down memory lane, crazy kids and loud music, finicky equipment and long miles, people loving you and hating you all at the same time.

It's funny how some things become a part of us, even though we insist they're not. How a part-time job can easily consume your identity if you let it. It was that way with DJing for me.

I had a blast doing it. What other job lets you party it up week after week and get paid for it? Where else can you gain exclusive access to some of the best reception halls in town, what other job has you dressed to kill every night you work?

Before long, you become a DJ. Not just at your shows, but in your normal life. When people ask you where you work, you tell them you DJ before you tell them what your full time job is. A co-worker gives you a nickname, and you begin to use it all the time. Even when you're not working, anytime there is music, people look to you to be the entertainer.

But with any identity, the energy you put into it has to come from somewhere else. I was a DJ, and often I put that before being a husband. "The show must go on!" I said, "Shan needs to understand that." Other times, when I was at my full time job, I would put off my responsibilities there in order to take care of DJ business.

For years Shan had been trying to talk to me about it, trying to get me to see what I was doing. But I didn't get it. Finally, after Eli was born, I realized I couldn't do both. When Shan and I were finally getting to experience our pregnancy and childbirth, it began to wear on me. I would be DJing, and out of nowhere I would feel this sense that I should be somewhere else right now. Sometimes, that feeling would come at me before I even started playing music, sometimes on the drive to pick up the equipment, or on the way to the show. "I should be home right now. I should be spending time with my wife." I finally understood what Shan had been saying.

I remembered how hard it was some days, knowing I wouldn't see my wife or my family until the next day. Or having to leave the beach or pool or something early in order to go to someone elses party.

When the time came to finally call it my last show, I talked with my friend on the phone for nearly twenty minutes. That phone call consisted almost entirely of me going back and forth trying to work out options where I could still DJ, knowing that what I wanted was impossible: I couldn't be the Husband and Daddy I wanted to be if I was DJing all the time. And I couldn't be the best DJ I could be if I only did it once a month or so.

I had to walk away.

But that Saturday, that beautiful moment with the breeze blowing the music into our backyard, it was easy to see why I DJed for so long. You always remember the good times. I breathed deeply of that light wind and let it carry me in a pleasant jumble of fond memories. I was taken back, briefly, to the place where I was DJing and that was my life's purpose.

But as I sat there drinking my beer and reminiscing, a thought continued on looped playback in my mind: "If you were DJing, you wouldn't be here."

I wouldn't be on my deck with a beer in my hand. I wouldn't be watching Eli heal "miraculously" from being outside. I wouldn't be sitting next to Shan, enjoying her company and her voice and the music and the sunset. I wouldn't be where I wanted to be, where I needed to be.

And so we sat. And we talked. And we listened to the music, and chased our "sick" boy all over the back yard. We breathed in the moment and the music and the breeze.

And for the first time in years, I didn't want to be behind the system.


1 comment:

Ted M. Gossard said...

Very good. I love the idea of DJ-ing. But what takes its place as you say here is where it's at, really.

Deb and I played Super Scrabble last night and it was fun. I mentioned it on my Facebook this morning, as well as on my blog posting. Thought you'd enjoy hearing that.