You know... we all come to a crossroads* in life. That fork in the road where we have to pick one or the other. Do we take the low road or the high road? The easy way or the hard way? What's it gonna be? Sometimes, both choices are hard...
Recently I was cleaning out the guest room upstairs, and came across an old poster board I had made. Ah, why yes, I remember this. Good times...
It was a poster board with large pictures of the moments that meant the most in my life. It was for the Final in Oral Composition, a kick-ass speech class I took my senior year in high school. The class was great -- only 13 students! And one really cool teacher
It was a family atmosphere. We all knew each other, and, throughout the course of the semester and the natural public speaking/sharing nature of the class, got to know each other perhaps more than we wanted to. Every "group" was represented: there was your jock, your pretty blond girl, your Asian cheerleader, your cool guy (that's me!), your loud-mouth rebel, your quiet "he could go Columbine up in this mutha at any time" guy, etc.
Like I said, very diverse and very interesting mix we were...
Our Final: we had to speak about our life and how it's come to be. Presentations had to be at least 20 minutes long. I'll never forget the girl who broke down in tears when she shared the story of how her father had raped her
It was something she never told anyone, not even her best friend. Yet there we were, with her throwing her skeletons straight in our faces... confiding in us. I remember being choked up and thinking, "This is the most real class I ever been a part of. Everything else now seems almost like BS"
My presentation went great. I was up there for 30 minutes, but it felt like 10. My opening line was: "If it wasn't for bad luck... I wouldn't have any luck at all."(a line I borrowed from the late great Jack Lemmon I believe it was)
I looked around and everyone had the serious expression "This could get pretty emotional..."
I HAD THEM WHERE I WANTED 'EM!
Then I broke out with a smile. "Nah -- just playing! I was blessed with a great childhood and loving family"
Everyone laughed, probably out of relief more than anything else
ANYWAY, where was I? Oh yes, the pictures. One made me especially smile. It was at my uncle's wedding... I remember that night as though it only happened yesterday *rubs chin and cue dreamy flashback sequence*
My uncle was tying the knot. The wedding was held at a big fancy restaurant. This restaurant was HUGE and I mean HUGE. There were at least 200 people in the house, maybe 300 [Tonight we dine in Hell! -Ed.]
I sat with my brother and our cousins. Our cousins are 5-10 years older than us. I saw lots of relatives I knew, and so many people I didn't know. Wow this place was really jammed!
So the night goes along and everyone's eating having a good time. Billy the Maniac was at my table and drank like there was no tomorrow. He was my cousin's boyfriend; the prototypical cool, wild and unpredictable party animal kind of guy. I was 14 and looked up to Billy for those just reasons. Of course, he had a little bit too much to drink y'see... (he's the affectionate drunk)
Mike, who was sitting close to me, asked me if I was interested in doing a karaoke song with him on stage for my uncle. Mike was my cousin's friend, he was a comedian type. I said sure why not. He asked if I had any song in mind
"How about Where Do You Go by No Mercy?"
"Sounds good. Go sign us up"
So I went over to the karaoke signup sheets and signed Mike and Steven from Table 6. According to the signup sheet, we were 7 songs away
By the time we were 3 songs away, Mikebacked out on me. I tried convincing him to go through with it but he said "Sorry man. I'm getting a bad case of stage fright. Why don't you go to the sheet and just cross the both of us off. Sorry"
I was sorry, too. I really thought it was going to be fun. And I didn't know he was the type to get stage fright -- he's such a comedian in front of people.... but I guess... singing before 300 people is a different story than telling some jokes for 10
I walked to the signup sheet. I crossed his name off first. I started to cross mine off... butthen I stopped
Wait just a damn second here, I thought
I could do this solo. It would be intimidating as hell, but my uncle is only getting married once (hopefully)
I was at that crossroad. That was my moment of truth. Do I cross out my name too and chicken out... or do I muster up the balls to stay on board? Do I try to do something special for my dear uncle? IT'S NOW OR NEVER... which road do I choose?
I put the pencil down
Steven from Table 6 remained on for Where Do You Go
BILLY THE DRUNKEN LOVER AND THE BATHROOM
So now I was ONE karaoke song away from being next. Now I was feeling the heat! I decided to hit the bathroom to clear my mind...... besides, I had to take a leak, y'see
So I'm in the jon right... and Billy the Drunken Lover enters! He was banging on my door like a mad man, screaming at me to let him in. That night I came to appreciate locks that much more
In a weird way it got my mind off the anxiety of my upcoming solo performance. I knew then that I just had to... face the music [*slaps forehead* -Ed.]
When I left the restroom, I heard the emcee saying in the mic, "Steven from Table Six... you're up now pal! You're singing... how appropriate, WHERE DO YOU GO?"
I made my presence known by awkwardly raising my hand. Suddenly a spotlight fixated on me, just like in the movies, blinding me. As I was walking slowly to the stage, everyone stopped eating and looked at me. Some faces I knew from my wee days in a diaper. Others I had no idea who the hell they were. Some smiled and cheered me on quietly as I walked by. Others leaned into their neighbor's ear to whisper something
... Did I... is my... fly down? *quick subtle-as-possible check* Whew I'm okay...
The walk from the restroom to the main stage felt like 20 nights. But as I trudged forward, with all my 14 years of experience and memories, I never felt more alive or important than at that moment in time. I looked out to the sea of faces, and saw my parents, my older brother, my cousins, that bastard Mike, my uncle getting married -- with huge smiles on their faces. I'll never forget it. Nervous as heck, yes, but their support gave me the strength to march on
When I got to the stage the emcee whispered to me "Go get 'em kid"
I grabbed the mic.... looked out to the 200 or 300 people decked out in their dresses and tux's, all their eyes planted on little ole me... pure silence. I had that "deer in a headlight look"
Everyone was waiting for me to start. But I was paralyzed...
AN OLD FRIEND TO THE RESCUE....
Suddenly, my eyes met Vince's. Vince, at that time, was my 24-year-old cousin, and he was like my 2nd best friend growing up. I always looked up to him. When I was ages three through nine, I always went to his house to hang out with him, his brother Bruce and sister Vivian. But in 1994 he had a daughter, and life just changed. Changes...
Vince gave me a nod. A vote of confidence -- it helped a little... but I was still in a state of shock from the pressure. When he noticed I was still struggling, he stood up. Now everyone turned their attention to Vince! The light, which was transfixed on me, suddenly shifted to him!
And before I knew it,he was making his way up to the stage! He stood next to me, grabbed an extra mic, and said "Let's rock the house" with a confident grin... the same kind of "I can do anything" grin I had known all too well all those years ago
As the song loaded up on the screen and I sang the lyrics (softly behind his booming lead of course) I will never forget the flashes -- from the cameras to the little multi-colored disco lights dancing around the restaurant that evening. Vince and I rocked the house indeed, or rather, he did, and for those five minutes it felt like 1991 all over again. When life was perfect
The night went from being a potential disaster to one of my greatest memories ever, all thanks to an old hero
These days I still keep in touch with Vince, mostly through family gatherings. He's aged and now in his mid 30's but still full of zest, and full of life. His daughter, my niece, has turned out to be a beautiful young teenage girl
And every time I hear WHERE DO YOU GO play randomly on the radio, I can't help but think back to that crazy night of Valentines '98.... the night where I found myself at a crossroads, a moment of truth... and through the smoke came to my rescue the man I had always looked up to all those years ago. Ever since that fateful night, I've vowed to be a positive influence to my little cousins in the same way he was to me growing up
Hopefully, I have done at least half for them... what Vince has done for me