It is possible to be both an accountant and a musician. It is difficult, but it is possible
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
A slice of America for breakfast
On August 19th 2008 I woke up at 4am; dressed myself; stepped into a hired car and left Harlem to travel the fifteen minutes to the Meadowlands in NJ. A wave of nostalgia for India began at that sweet and quiet hour, a time for prayers and anticipation of the sun, and as I got closer to the gigantic sports complex, housing concerts, professional sports teams, all-American in its bloated enormity, I felt excited to witness the sun rise, something so simple, yet unique to my life stateside.
The car drove up and deposited me into a mass of thousands (actual thousands) of people all waiting with their friends and families, chatting and laughing in order to wait outside, then inside..all day,to sing for thirty seconds in front of tired and jaded judges. And what did I feel as I obediently listened to a 17 year old musical enthusiast rattle off the different parts she had played, giving examples, both speaking an singing? What did I feel? Strangely, I felt an overwhelming love for each person there, each teenager with their delusions of grandeur, being fed the captivating and delirious praise for their talents by parents, friends, community members, etc.
Now, before you judge me, I have to get one thing straight: I did this because I wanted to see this massive longing. I wanted to know what it meant to stake claim on something that is more improbable than winning the lottery. I needed the empirical data that comes with trying any and all strange things to find out that it doesn't fit, that it is the wrong path in concept and reality. I just needed to see for myself is all. I did not audition for American Idol because I thought that it was the right path to a career in music, I tried out for American idol because I had to make sure that it was the wrong path to a career in music.
The sun came up bright and unclouded as these kids sang to each other and chatted about the process. It kept breaking my heart at every turn. This wasn't mass hysteria, it was just a massive amount of people who all wanted to be...singers. Floating in this blissed out love for each of these quirky kids I walked into the arena. We took our seats and proceeded to be lead through television show starts and stops while camera's panned and songs and chants were taught. I actually found it funny, thousands of people singing "hit me with your best shot."
They set up thirteen tables in the middle of this huge sports arena and "producers" from the show sat at each table. They would empty a section out into an organized chaos in front of these thirteen tables. A group of four would step up and then each in turn would step even closer to the table to sing for about thirty seconds. It was so weird watching this. Well you all know that for me, "watching" isn't quite the right word. I was listening to all of these singers and then the "audience's" reaction. Those who had pretty good eyes could see who was sent to the next round of competition and who was sent home. Most everyone was sent home. A couple dumb f-ers would sing terrible in some awful costume and get sent to the next round as the thousands of waiting auditioners would boo to the judges. Honestly, there wasn't that much that sounded great, but every once in a while I would hear something lovely and my friendly seat neighbor would tell me they got sent home and then a chorus of disappointed "boos" would echo. Everyone was very involved in each person's performance. How strange we all witnessed this together.
Still feeling this love for each and all, a helpful and balanced irony kicked into accompany the former emotion. I started to feel so thankful that I was actually living my dream. I was singing. I was recording, for myself and assisting others. I was doing what I loved to do. I took my turn in solidarity with the impossible and irrational dream of stardom.
I sang thirty seconds, impeccably pitched and deeply felt.
I smiled at the compliments on my "unique and beautiful voice."
I nodded to say goodbye to my comrades who were also, "not what we are looking for, for the show."
Then I went back to Harlem, had a glass of wine, and made dinner with my best friends, only a little bit embarrassed that I had actually "wasted" an entire day to audition for American Idol.