I Learned to Play the Guitar for My Dogs.

I play the guitar, the ukelele and the banjo for Henry and Wilson.

I decided to begin taking guitar lessons at an age at which friends and family asked: “YOU are going to start taking guitar lessons?” Learning to play guitar was on my bucket list, along with “write and publish a book.” My list is pretty short, I suppose. I had no prior experience with any musical instrument other than the harmonica, which every guy thinks he can pick up and play flawlessly with zero practice.

I did some research and ordered an inexpensive, but-not-too-cheap guitar online, then Googled music teachers near me.

For a year and a half, I took lessons once a week and loved it. I upgraded to a better guitar and also began to teach myself the ukulele by watching YouTube videos. Eventually, I gained enough confidence in my playing; I decided to attempt it publically.

In my “real” job, I tell jokes and do magic tricks on stage in a dinner show in Orlando, Florida. I’ve been a full-time comedian and magician for over 25 years. Still, even though I’ve had plenty of flight-time onstage, adding a musical instrument made me nervous, very nervous. It was new territory.

When I decided to include live music in my stage shows, the audiences seemed confused; why is this guy walking out with a guitar when he’s supposed to make a rabbit appear? Had they never heard of Steve Martin, I wondered? I experimented, moved the musical segment around to various points in the show; occasionally switched from guitar to ukulele, and sometimes played both.

                              Promotional Shot of My Live Show

Eventually, I took live music out of the show entirely. It wasn’t because I was terrible, although, I indeed wasn’t great, (at least, that’s what I tell myself”. It just didn’t click with the rest of what I did onstage. Slowly, over the course of time, I became discouraged, stopped practicing and finally playing entirely. My instruments began to go out of tune and to gather dust in my office. Eventually, they became wall decorations.

A few years went by, and recently, I picked up the banjo I had purchased near the end of my music performing run and began to strum a few licks. It felt good, really good. “Why?” I asked myself, had I stopped playing in the first place? After all, I didn’t start out learning to play music to perform publicly or for money; I did it because I wanted to learn a talent for “me.” I had allowed the disinterest of others to affect my level of interest, thus, creating a lack of interest in it myself.

The takeaway here; they may be performance arts, but it’s okay to want to learn to play an instrument, learn to dance, sing, or whatever, for yourself and your pets if you have any. I take a tremendous amount of joy, sitting in my house and playing to no one except myself and my dogs, Wilson and Henry. The pleasure is in the “practice” and the “doing,” not “performing.” Practicing music is relaxing, soothing and meditative for me and it doesn’t bother the dogs; isn’t that enough?

A few years went by, and recently, I picked up the banjo I had purchased near the end of my music performing run and began to strum a few licks. It felt good, really good. “Why?” I asked myself, had I stopped playing in the first place? After all, I didn’t start out learning to play music to perform publicly or for money; I did it because I wanted to learn a talent for “me.” I had allowed the disinterest of others to affect my level of interest, thus, creating a lack of interest in it myself.

The takeaway here; they may be performance arts, but it’s okay to want to learn to play an instrument, learn to dance, sing, or whatever, for yourself and your pets if you have any. I take a tremendous amount of joy, sitting in my house and playing to no one except myself and my dogs, Wilson and Henry. The pleasure is in the “practice” and the “doing,” not “performing.” Practicing music is relaxing, soothing and meditative for me and it doesn’t bother the dogs; isn’t that enough?

Wilson on the left and Henry on the right in my messy office

At some point, I may decide to try performing music publically again, but no matter how talented I may become, it’s okay if I don’t play for people and continue playing for myself and my dogs.

Except, that is, the harmonica, my dogs HATE the harmonica.

Geoffrey Owens vs. The Job-Shamers

Photo Courtesy of CNBC.com

For the past few days, I’ve thought a lot about how the actor, Geoffrey Owens has been in the limelight after a shopper at Trader Joe’s snapped photos of Owens working the cash register wearing his name tag.  The lady then went on to submit the pictures to various celebrity websites, apparently with the hopes of stirring something up.

I have fond memories of watching Geoffrey when he appeared as Elvin Tibideaux on the Cosby Show all those years ago.  Although I have to confess, I had to Google his characters last name for this article; I could only remember, “Elvin.”

When I watched several interviews, I was impressed by the honesty and sincerity with which Mr. Owens spoke.  Below is one such interview:

I know where Mr. Owens is coming from; I have been in the entertainment business for more than thirty years as an actor, comedian, writer, and magician.  To support my family and me, I have worked temp jobs, sold advertising, sold copiers and computers, so many other jobs I can’t even recall.  In the nineties, after reaching a level of success to which I didn’t expect to have to go back to a “real” job, I found myself cleaning carpets for Stanley Steemer Carpet Cleaning Company.

It was a humbling experience for me, and I’ve had nowhere near the level of success Geoffrey Owens has and most likely never will.  Showbusiness is fickle, and no one should enter into it if they are driven purely for money.  It is not a 9-5, weekly paycheck business.  Good for Geoffrey for taking an honest job to support his family between gigs and not being ashamed when attention was brought to it.

The irony of the situation is that the very people attempting to job-shame Geoffrey has boosted his status back into the celebrity realm.  He will no doubt, be again working as an actor very soon and we will all be the better for it.

 

Every Body

 

About a year ago, our oldest daughter, Jessa, helped a transgender teen with their ill-fitting clothing dilemma.  By altering this kids clothing to fit better, the result was that this child felt better about himself, felt comfortable and felt less scrutinized. 

There aren’t ANY stores for people transitioning.  This sparked an idea;  by having Every Body available for these kids, they will feel better about themselves, less judged and more love while shopping.  Plus, they will feel more comfortable in what they look like day-to-day.

The following is the transcribed Facebook message by Jessa, detailing how it all started:

Hey Rachel! I’m sure you’ve seen me blasting my company’s campaign all over. Thanks for liking the Page! A few people have told me that I should share the whole story of Every Body and my part in it. My best friend Alicia’s stepson, Aaron, came out as transgender about two years ago when he was 15 while spiraling into deep depression. He was afraid his family wouldn’t love him anymore, grades completely dropped, slept all of the time.. not good times. The summer before he came out I bought a sewing machine and fell in love with making clothes. I wasn’t really good at it but I was going to be. Through learning what Aaron’s needs were for transitioning, one of this biggest struggles was finding clothes that fit the way that he wanted them to fit. Chest binding, hiding feminine features and expressing himself as male. Aaron and his dad, my friend, Hector, would go shopping for hours and come home empty-handed. Not only were there no options for his body type but he was extremely uncomfortable shopping because of the dirty looks and snide comments.

Hector was researching online stores for trans folk and found nothing. I had just taken a business class for sewing and how to start a company but none of it applied to what I had been working on (Babes of Space). My heart wasn’t in that venture enough to apply ALL of the immense info I had just taken in. Alicia and I worked at a cafe together and in passing she said that Hector couldn’t find any stores for transgender teens anywhere. Everything I had learned in my business class applied!! I FREAKED. I was like “I KNOW HOW TO DO THIS” and I love Aaron.

So, here we are! A year and a half later and I couldn’t be happier. I love these kids. I’m extremely connected to them mostly on Instagram and they really need us. They are alone and overlooked. They can’t find clothes that fit them and they are literally scared to go shopping. I’m writing this in hopes that you will at least share our campaign and if you can donate. No amount is too small.

Here is the Every Body website:  https://www.everybodyfitsin.com/

Mitzi and I are so proud of Jessa and her passion for helping others.  We stand by her and support her, just as she supports the trans and non-binary community.  All people deserve to be loved.  Please follow this link and donate and share.  If you are unable to donate, still share.  Help us get the word out.  We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/every-body-clothing-for-transgender-teens–2#/backers

The artwork for Every Body was created by Bella Campos.  Bella can be found on Instagram at www.https://instagram.com/abstractrea1ist

The Fort Towers Coastal Crier

Recently I asked readers to help name the local newspaper for my fictional town of Fort Towers, Florida.  Below are some of their excellent suggestions:

The Fort Towers Tribune

The Fort Towers Coastal Crier

The Fort Towers Leader

The Towers Times

Towering Times

Castle Chronicle

Fort Facts

The Daily Post

The Towers Herald

The Daily Mirror Star

Fort Rialto

 

These are all great. However, one kept leaping out of the page at me and seemed to fit my fake, spooky town to a “T”; therefore, say hello to your new subscription to “The Fort Towers Coastal Crier.”