Thursday, June 10, 2010

The Calming Power of Music

I've talked about my trip to L.A. last December, but I didn't touch on how I felt when I arrived. Here's an account of how nervous I was, and how I was able to get over it.


I hopped off the plane at LAX. I had dressed in layers, because L.A.'s a desert and it can look warm but get pretty cool at night. So I was wearing a cardigan. Even in the airport I could see that my dream L.A., the L.A. I had built up in my head as this perfect marriage between art and commerce, wasn't meshing with the reality. Plastic women and suntanned guys everywhere. It seemed like everyone was obsessed with fame and excess. I have to say, I wasn't sure I'd fit in.

I jumped in a cab. We drove along for a while, and it felt like it was the first time I'd been to L.A. Sort of for no reason, I looked to my right. There, out the window on a familiar hillside was the Hollywood sign. It was all so crazy. Under the metaphorical shadow of that sign, everyone I saw seemed so famous.

By this time my stomach was in knots. I found myself homesick, which I never am. I was missing everywhere I'd ever lived. New York, Michigan, St. Louis. I'd never felt pressure in any of those places. Now I was feeling way too much pressure. I was so nervous. Then something happened that I wasn't ready for. The taxi man (that's what he called himself; he felt cabbie was demeaning) turned on the radio. And a Jay-Z song was on. On the radio, just like that. A Jay-Z song was on. A Jay-Z song. Was. On.

Well, that's just what I needed to hear. It was my song! The song I listen to whenever I feel stressed or pressured or actually when I just want to hear a good tune. The taxi man must have thought I was crazy: I put my hands up. Hey, they were playing my song! The butterflies in my stomach flew away. I was nodding my head. Moving my hips. (Which was hard to do while seated in the back of a cab.) But I had my hands up. And they were playing my song. I knew it was going to be okay. It felt like all those places I had ever lived in were sort of the same as this new strange place I was in. Sure, it was different, but anywhere I was, I could hear my song. These disparate places were all part of America. Wherever I was when I celebrated my song, it was always one thing: a party in the U.S.A. I'll say it again. A party in the U.S.A.

Well, when I actually got to the Disney offices for the meet and greet, I felt like everyone was looking at me. I imagined they were thinking something like, "Who's that guy with the rockin' tie? He's gotta be from out of town." In retrospect, they were right. Wearing a tie branded me as an outsider. But what could I do? It was hard without my friends around me. This definitely wasn't a New York party. I knew because all I saw were Top-Siders. I guess I never got the memo.

Because of this wardrobe disconnect, my stomach started its old nervous routine. Twisting in knots. To make matters worse, I started thinking about my couch and how nice it would be to just lounge around with Lindsay. I was homesick again. The pressure! I had to meet people and at the same time look competent and interesting. I was so nervous. But the DJ there must have read my mind. Just when I thought I couldn't feel any worse, he dropped my favorite tune! (Which is different from my song. My favorite tune is the one I would pick if I could only listen to one song for the rest of my life.) Yep! A Britney song was on! A Britney song was on. A Britney song was on!

So right there at the mixer, in front of everyone, I put my hands up. They were playing my (other) song! Those pesky butterflies flew away. I was nodding my head, like - yeah - like I was in the cab. And moving my hips like - yeah - like I was in the cab. (But it was easier here, because I was standing.) I wonder what the other people were thinking. But I had my hands up and they were playing my song, so I didn't care what anyone thought. I knew I was going to be okay. It didn't matter that it was an L.A. party. I imagined the same party was going on in New York at the same time. I imagined it spanned the whole country. It was a party in the U.S.A. Yeah! A party in the U.S.A.!

But sometimes that week, when I was alone and driving in my rental car, I felt like just giving up and heading home early. Like hopping on a flight back to my hometown that night. Something stopped me every time, though. Every time. I'd flick through the radio, and guess what? I'd find a DJ playing my song(s)! And I'd feel all right.

Just picture me, alone in my rental car with no one watching. I put my hands up! They're playing my song! The butterflies fly away. Nodding my head like, yeah. Moving my hips like, yeah. I put my hands up! They're playing my song, and I know I'm gonna be okay. Yeah! It's a party in the USA. Yeah, it's a party in the USA!


Craig . Kate . Xavier said...

O M G.
I was totally reading along, feeling sorry for little lost Stevie in L.A.

And now. That song will be in my head all night. You are such a DORK.

Steve said...

Awesome. Like, yeah.