O’, Freud, Where Art Thou?

Eight days ago, I played my first gig. It was Tuesday, the 20th, at Baker Street Café in Bowling Green, Kentucky. I had been contacted about playing a night at Baker Street in early December, and I was electrified – with both fear and excitement – by the idea. I swallowed the fear and said “yes”. It wasn’t a matter of whether I wanted to do it, but I had struggled with myself for a long time about actually making a real effort to be heard. January 28, 1998

I wrote these words almost 20 years ago, reflecting on the first live show I ever played. The idea of wanting to be heard and the reality of “making a real effort to be heard” were, at the time, difficult for me to reconcile. It had been that way, for me, from the beginning. When I was 16 years old, I bought a little black notebook because I was consumed with thoughts and feelings that I wanted to convey in some creative manner. But, though I was drawn to personal expression, the idea of opening myself up to others was as inviting to me as the occasional dream I still have about showing up to church in nothing but my skivvies.

O’, Freud, where art thou?


In truth, I don’t think the inner conflict between the desire and apprehension of being “heard” is unusual. I suspect it is quite a normal phenomenon that people of all creative walks experience at one point or another. For me, that phenomenon was rooted in the fear that what I had to say wouldn’t matter to anyone else. It was, and is, the fear of finding out that my voice carries on the wind to nowhere, to nothing, and to no one. Frightening.


Still, I remember how alive I felt when, at 16, I bought that little black notebook. The simple act of creating, of filling the pages with words, was thrilling. For the most part, I wrote poetry, and – for the most part – it was not good. But don’t be too tough on me. After all, it was 1989, and my cultural palate consisted of MTV, The Lord of the Rings, and whatever 80’s glam-rock cassette tapes were on sale at Mr. Music. Suffice it to say that my poetry was filled with all the teenage angst that Small Town, Kentucky, could offer, all gloriously centered on the universal theme of – you guessed it – looooooove.

In the midst of this, my personal teenage wasteland, I started writing songs. Since I didn’t play guitar or piano, all I could do was write down the words and try to remember the accompanying melody. I can still remember those melodies when I open up my notebook today. Of course, those songs, like my early poetry, were not good; but they reflected my desire to be heard and that was a start. Most important, that little black notebook gave me something I longed for as a teenager and still cherish to this day – a place to encounter myself and to explore what it all means.

That’s a good place.

So, you might be wondering, how’d the Baker Street gig turn out? Well, I wouldn’t have needed all of my fingers and toes to count the people in the room. In fact, if not for a handful of friends from Bardstown and my roommate, Danny, I might’ve been playing for the bartender. But I guess it turned out well enough, since I wrote the following in my journal: I feel good about life right now because I believe I am opening up to what I want in life. I’m not just dreaming about things that I’ll never do. I know, at least, that I can try. January 28, 1998


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