Friday, April 13, 2012

on the voice

Last month my brother called to tell me that he was coming down to audition for the next season of The Voice.  He asked if I would join him and after a day of thinking I couldn't because I would only make a fool of myself, I decided the experience of it outweighed any doubts.  I thought of how we could talk about it years from now, about that time he came down to New York and we stood outside in the cold for hours just to sing in front of a TV producer, and changed my mind. 

And so the Saturday night before the audition he got off the bus from Boston and made his way out to our place.  We walked to pizza and then practiced, him coaching me on my chosen song, each of us anxious and tired but too excited to go to sleep.  The next morning the cab dropped us off at the back of the Javits Center, far behind thousands of others.  We huddled in the cold and willed the sun to move faster up the back of the building in front of us as the Hudson kept things bitter behind us.  By nine we were ushered inside to the perfectly choreographed registration and then waited in our seats as would-be divas tried to out belt each other in the corners of the huge room.  It was around that time that we realized we would be auditioning in groups of ten, by row, and that we would get to audition together.

I didn't take the process very seriously for myself but I wanted this for my brother.  I thought he had the audition nailed before we even went in the doors and was already thinking of what we'd do for the rest of the day after we learned of his inevitable callback.  But the producer behind the desk didn't look up for my brother, or me, or the seven other auditioners until the 16 year-old Bieber look-alike started to sing.  He sounded sweet, but certainly was no Voice (just watch, he wins the whole thing next year), but within seconds of opening his mouth her head snapped to attention and we knew he had it.  And then it was over.  After the ten of us finished she announced that he and another young woman would be called back and then we were thanked and told to have a great day.

That was it.  All those days of preparing and hours on line just to have it end in a two second sentence.  The speed of it was too much.  Shouldn't there be an appeals process?  Another producer to try out for since this one obviously had a "type" in mind?  But there wasn't.  We found our way out of the basement audition rooms and only after we were through the revolving doors and onto the street did it hit my brother.  He had wanted this.  And it was over.  Even if it was just a TV show, something we'd joke about at some point down the road, in that minute it was more than that.  I put my arm around him and we stood with our backs to the sun as we watched the pool of hopefuls behind the Center's glass windows below us. 

So in honor of my brother, of his voice (which doesn't need the approval of some twenty-something producer on an early Sunday morning), here he is singing at our wedding.  His taking the mic was a surprise for everyone in the room and his voice is my favorite sound of that day, of any day.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

on so it goes (April 11, 2007)

Written in April 2007 for the friend I never knew: 

Kurt Vonnegut has died and I feel like we have lost a friend.
It's a very strange thing to feel so affected by someone you've never met.  But he was my friend too.  When my mother tried to end it for the first time, I found him.  He too knew that strange loss of sharing a space with someone who is still living but doesn't want to be.  And I remember the summer when I was 19, when I moved up to Albany and into that empty place three months before all of my other housemates.  Living in that creaky house by myself, with the drug dealers outside on the corner yelling up to me that they knew I was alone and didn't I want to come out and play, Vonnegut kept me company.  I read Slaughterhouse Five on repeat that summer and the voices became so familiar that my journal entries from those months are cluttered with phrases of "so it goes".  
He lived to be 84 but died from a brain injury after a fall in his Manhattan home.  And that death just doesn't seem fitting.  It's too normal.  I think that maybe he should have simply disappeared.  And for years we'd wonder if the folks from Tralfamador had come to take him away and all of the not-knowing would be fantastic.
But he is gone.  And I am sad.  So it goes.