I was 14 when I started my first band. We were called Fire Out of Stone. It was supposed to be a power pop quartet with me on keys.
The drummer moved his things into my grandma’s basement and quit before our first practice but he left the kit. I sat behind it instead the keyboards on our first practice and found out that apparently, I could play the drums. I had absolutely no idea until then.
Partly out of my new found love of the The Clash and The Replacements but mostly because the only beats I could play were punk, the next band we started was The Easy Franklin Vantrip. We were a punk rock band that believed in punk rock things. We were going to be cool and different.
It was mostly beautiful but probably naïve but it didn’t matter. It was pure. We were all 15, dressing and acting like punk rockers. We kept the band rolling through high school, attitudes and all.
At high school graduation, Ms. Setzer, an English teacher, shared a long metaphor about how the world was the sea and there are many ways to navigate the waters, many different ships, boats, and sails. She said that the only boat that stayed on course without any other people aboard, the only boat that didn’t need to pollute the waters with an engine, the only boat that took sheer solo man power and nothing else was the kayak. She asked the crowd “Are there kayaks among us?” We put the statement on T shirts at our merch tables. It screamed punk then and still does.
The band broke up and we went off to college but I never really grew out of my punk rock phase even after college. I was in a few more bands through my 20’s and spent the latter half cooking in a restaurant and playing in a punk band. This band was my most successful one and so was the cooking job.
I found I was living a rock star style life, creating and recreating art in two jobs concurrently; cooking for a farm-to-table James Beard nominated restaurant and playing guitar in a punk rock band. My life was complete. I had finally become the artist I wanted to become.
Fame and fortune were unnecessary. I had done it. I had become a kayak in a sea of sailboats. There I was, bobbing along and taking it all in quietly. And I was miserable. Completely freaking miserable.
The band broke up just before my son was born in my early 30’s and I decided to leave the restaurant job. I started writing again for the first time since college and trying to take it seriously. The idea of creating an idea without having to recreate it excited me. Cooking the same dish night after night or performing the song well in front of crowd was fun but not stimulating.
With writing you don’t ever have to recreate the art. Once it’s created it’s gone. You don’t have to get anyone’s buy in to create the message either and your bassist doesn’t show up wearing a Ronald Reagan mask and bad Christmas sweater, drunk on gin before a show at the Bug Jar. You get to think of something, execute it, and then it’s gone. It’s ephemeral and it’s wonderful and it’s punk rock.
Creating is my passion. Not recreating. Standing up on stage or sweating behind the line trying to recreate a piece of art I dreamed up was making me unhappy. The ultimate in punk rock is the spur of the moment blast of art that can’t be done again. The complete in the moment off the hook wildness map-less navigation of uncharted waters in a kayak heading in directions unknown, uncaring art is what I strive for. It’s what I imagine lots of artists strive for.
I miss the restaurant and the band. But not for the art, for the camaraderie. Being alone and hacking at an old laptop in the dim twilight of late summer pacific northwest evening at my kitchen table is romantic but not half as fun. The charge I get from an article being published is nowhere near the charge I got hearing myself on the radio the first time.
But it has never been about the thrill or the tribal association of a bunch of musicians or cooks, it’s about being a kayak. It’s about being a kayak, holding afloat an idea for as long as I can paddle without jumping ship. It’s about that feeling we all got sitting in the gymnasium when Ms. Setzer asked that questions and we all knew. We all knew we were kayaks.
This post is republished on Medium.