Feeling the Years

Ever since coming home from school, I’ve returned to taking voice lessons. My teacher wanted me to be in the music-school’s end-of-year concert, which is how I found myself roped into singing the lead in Bob Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” as well as doing backing vocals for half a dozen other songs.

The other girls singing with me are of various ages between eleven and eighteen. I’m the oldest by three years, having recently turned twenty-one. Let me tell you, nothing makes a twenty-one year old feel her years like spending hours with girls six years her junior and realizing that they’re actually not as interesting to her as the eleven-year old. What is it about the middle teenage years that seems to erase half their brain-cells? One of the other singers, an incredibly talented girl who’s also very sweet, polite and bubbly, actually takes Justin Bieber seriously and thinks that he’s the bee’s knees.

Then there’s the issue of the guy who used to be my guitar teacher when I was a freshman and sophomore in high school. I hadn’t seen him for ages, until tonight when I found out that he was leading the rehearsal we were having. Since seeing each other he’s become more clean-cut and I’ve had time to go wild and come back down a little again. It was strange seeing him and realizing that six years had passed since spending weekly hours together with our guitars. Knowing that I’m now at an age where he looks at me like an equal, an adult, is frightening in some ways, exhilarating in others.

Growing older is strange, but so far it’s not actually displeasing.

Busker in Berlin

Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London…

He sang on Wilmersdorfer Strasse, dressed in khakis and a button-down shirt. If it weren’t for the fact that he was busking, he could be taken for any other professional walking up and down the busy shopping street. In fact, he probably was a professional, maybe a lawyer or a teacher, with a roof over his head at night, and maybe a family.

His hair was white and silky, and it fell almost boyishly onto his forehead. His face was wrinkled, and as his lips moved each line was accentuated, so that once you could see the deep lines below his nose and then you saw the valleys in his brow.

So how can you tell me you’re lonely, and say for you that the sun don’t shine?

He smiled at the photographer taking his picture. He looked to the photographer’s left, and saw a girl smiling back at him, so his own grew wider. He came to the delicate melodic part in the song that he loved most of all, and he closed his eyes as his fingers plucked the strings.

In our winter city, the rain cries a little pity for one more forgotten hero and a world that doesn’t care.

He finished the song and saw a Euro drop from the photographer’s fingers and into his small case, littered with coins. He nodded, grinning, at the pair, and they smiled back and walked on. He looked after them, although they didn’t look back at him. He saw them draw nearer each other, remembering that they had each other and being thankful for it.

He didn’t need to be out there on the streets of Berlin, singing and playing for strangers. At his age, he could retire comfortably and didn’t need the income. But he didn’t play for the twenty or so Euros that would accumulate within a couple of hours. He played for the joy and the sadness, for the truth and the lies and for everything else that a voice, words, and a guitar could express.

The Jazz Bar

The jazz bar is situated off of the main pavilion where the common pubs are located. The pubs on the main drag are all basically the same – crowded, smoky, electronic music blasting too loudly from the speakers. The jazz bar, however, is different. It’s roomier, more spread out, with tables both inside and out. They’re all simple affairs, black plastic tops on stainless steel legs, the chairs matching them. The main difference, of course, is the music: live jazz. The musicians change, sometimes during the course of one evening, but they make up the same basic grouping: a drummer, a bassist, a pianist, sometimes a guitarist or a trumpeter, occasionally the odd harmonica-player. The atmosphere at the jazz bar is relaxed. Although the live music is loud, louder than you would expect, conversation is still an option.

Saturday night found the jazz bar full to bursting – yet still, the space outside didn’t feel cramped. Four young men and a young woman, none of them long out of adolescence, shared a table. Four of them sat and sipped their beers while the fifth slurped his strawberry-melon-smoothie moodily, wishing he hadn’t made himself the stupid promise of zero-alcohol-for-a-month. They sat and listened to the music, one of the youths, who was on his break from drumming, occasionally made snide comments about the trumpet player who was blasting his sounds into the air. The conversation went back and forth, encompassing everything from the latest party to the correct technique of asking a girl out to dietary tips to tattoos.

The group was clearly comfortable together. The solitary girl, who wasn’t a regular addition to the group as she was the girlfriend of the curly, black-haired young man, was welcomed among them and felt surprisingly at home with them. She talked easily and laughed readily, not fearing being ridiculed and not taking to heart the light teasing that is often a single girl’s lot among boys. It dawned on her that this, too, she would leave soon. Oh, she would be back, of course she would, but the experience was all the more precious because she knew it might not be repeated for a good long while.

Teenager Sarah – Chapter 1

“This old man… he played 8… he played knickknack on my gate… with a knick… knack… patty-whack, give the dog a bone, this old man came rolling home…” I drone on wearily, getting up to ten and then I’m forced to start all over by the fascinated three year-old I’m baby-sitting for.

I can’t believe I took this job. I have to baby-sit for Max 4 hours a day for the next two weeks until the toddler-daycare starts. I’ve already been at this for a week.

I like kids, don’t get me wrong, but Max is so tiresome! Little kids are supposed to like to sleep a lot, right? Well, not Maxi here. No, no, no, Max likes to PLAY: “I play on pony! I wanna play with puzzle! Make up a game, Sarah!” I’ve made up so many silly games, I’ve rocked him on his wooden-pony thing, I’ve helped him with his puzzles, and he STILL WANTS MORE.

At least I’m getting paid pretty well. I’m saving up for a new amp. I’ve got a really small, pathetic one- only 10V. My parents are ok with me getting a bigger, newer and better one, but they refuse to pay for it. They say that they paid for the guitar and the amp I have and that I should be satisfied. So I’m working my butt off in a baby-sitting job because I started looking for decent summer jobs too late and there was nothing left in my area.

“Sarah! Sing that song about the bucket! I wanna hear the funny-bucket song!” Max calls out after the fifth round of patty-whack. I try to understand what the hell the funny-bucket song is, and then I realize and start singing to him.

“There’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza, there’s a hole in the bucket, dear Liza, a hole!” I continue on, singing the Henry parts in a deep voice and the Liza parts in a high-pitched voice, and Max loves every minute of it. He claps along and giggles and repeats “dear Liza” and “dear Henry” in the appropriate parts. When I’m done I open a puzzle for him and tell him that I’m going to make a phone call and that he can start the puzzle without me. He pouts, but starts fiddling with the puzzle-pieces anyway.

I walk to the kitchen and slump myself down at the table. I take the phone and dial Hannah’s number.

“Hello?” Hannah’s mom answers.

“Hi, it’s Sarah. Can I speak to Hannah?” I ask. Hannah’s mom sniffs disapprovingly at the sound of my voice, but calls Hannah to the phone nonetheless.

“Sarah? I knew it must be you; my mom had such a look on her face. She’s never going to get over what you – quote unquote- did to me.”

“Geez, all I did was take you to a punk-rock show. Everyone gets bruised and beaten at punk shows! I mean, we were in the pit for gods-sake!”

“I know – it’s her who doesn’t understand. Honestly, you’d think that at 17 she’d be a bit less protective and give me some independence. I had a blast at that show, but she only cares about the bruise on my collarbone and the split lip. Anyways, what’re you calling about? Aren’t you at work now?”

“Yeah, I am, but I needed some respite from the three-year-old’s excitement. Listen, you up for going out tonight? I mean, I don’t have work tomorrow, since it’s Saturday and Max’s mom will be home to take care of him.”

“Sure! Out where? And with who?”

“I dunno… I didn’t really think it through, I just want to get out tonight for a bit. Are there any good shows around tonight?”

“Wait a sec, let me check the paper. Ok, um, there’s a jazz show at the Pallet club, there’s some lecture at the Secret Theater and there’s some band I don’t know at The Slob. I say the first two are a no-no. But the name of this band at The Slob sounds promising- Dragon Blood. It’s only 5 bucks, and it starts at 8, so I can even be home by my stupid 11:30 curfew. You want to check that out?”

“Sure, I’ll meet you outside The Slob at like ten to 8? Ok, great. Oh, and invite Mathew and Steve, they might be up for a good show.”

I hang up the phone feeling a little more cheerful, and waltz back into the living room, ready to take on the incredibly energetic infant.

Back home, I get ready to go out. There’s not much to do: I don’t wear make-up beyond eyeliner, and I dress pretty much the same for every outing: my black jeans, a black t-shirt [generally sporting the name and/or image of a band on it] and my black Converse. That’s pretty much how I dress daily, only with the bonus of the eyeliner.

I head out at seven-thirty and walk towards my meeting place with Hannah. The Slob is this very cool music club. Apart from their folk-night evening, they normally have pretty good bands that play there. I hope my band will be able to perform there sometime in the not-too-distant future as well. It’s the smallest venue around, but it’s a great place to get noticed.

I arrive at the doors of The Slob and Hannah’s not there yet. I lean against a lamp post and look around hoping to catch a glimpse of her or the boys. It’s pretty crowded, which means that this band we’re seeing has some sort of following. There’re actually a couple of girls in obviously home-made t-shirts bearing the words “Dragon Blood” on them in bright red glitter.

“Sarah!” a masculine voice calls from somewhere behind me. I turn around and see Steve. I hug him, and we begin chatting about the last band practice we had. Steve is the drummer, I’m the lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist, Hannah is the lead guitarist and Mathew is the bassist. They always say, form a band with your friends. That’s exactly what I did 4 months ago when I decided that I wanted music to be my career.