In the last couple of months, I've had some experiences that have really made me think about the activities I took part in during my late teens and early 20s that I did for me, because they were things that I wanted to do and things that I thought should exist. These experiences, these moments... they were similar to a degree, and they've made me stop and consider the impact that a person can have and lasting impressions that we make on others.
The most recent was this past evening. I went to a small show at an art space. I had to leave for a little while to pick up my partner from work. On the way out it was suggested to me ny the promoter that I could grab one of my homemade instruments on the way back and join in a jam session upon my return. So, when I got back, a few of us were talking outside and introductions were made. One of the gentlemen that I was introduced to recognized me from my band of 12 years or so prior and told me he still had the 7" we'd released.
I got awestruck by this and more than a bit anxious, because, honestly, I was not the nicest person in those days. More likely to curse out an audience than to thank them, I was hot-headed, short-tempered, and nearly got into fistfights many times. To put it bluntly, I'm embarrassed at the way I acted and treated people in those days. We had 2 major areas that we played, our local area in upstate NY and the area in and around Wilkes-Barre, PA. The scenes' receptions to us were like night and day. Locally, we were reviled as killjoy militant straight edgers (we were not a straight edge band at any point) by the local drunk punx and skins. Wilkes-Barre was far more welcoming and supportive and the scene there was pretty nurturing and our friends there watched us grow from a barely competent trainwreck to a tighter more structured trainwreck. At home, rumors flew around that we hid in the bushes of the local college town, shooting BBs at drunken fratboys. Kids talked shit, fucked with us when we played, and I got quickly fed up and they got the reaction out of me that they were looking for. I got pissed off, violent and out of control.
I still talk to a few of the heads around here that did support us, one guy chuckles about the idiotic stuff and seems most impressed with the intricate, handmade packaging on the 7" we did. Another told me that it was because of a bunch of advice I gave him on putting out a record, that he went ahead and did it- again and again and he runs a pretty successful label now. Those are some of the things I am not embarrassed about, steps I took and things I did that made a positive impact. Also we were always very punctual. I get embarrassed when someone I don't know remembers that band. I don't know what they remember and which sides of me they saw. I clearly left an impression on this fellow, he recognized me after a decade. I don't know why though. I didn't ask.
The former of these moments was on a trip to the store, and I stopped in and asked the clerk for whatever I was getting that day, and he said to me "Hey, I recognize your voice..." and went on to tell me that he was in middle school when my radio show was on the local college station and he used to call in all the time and that he loved listening to my music and it was exactly the stuff that he liked. Again, this radio show was 14-15 years ago, and this guy recognized me by my voice. I asked his name and he did that thing where he says his first name and then says his first name again with his last name. Now, I had 2 clicks happen, one at each uttering of his name, these along with the surreal buzz going through my mind of the bizarrity that I had been voice-recognized for something I did once a week for 4 months a year (one non-consecutively). When he said his first name, I instantly remembered him calling all the time and my friend and co-DJ saying to me "Hey, it's so-and-so again. He wants to hear 7 Seconds. I think he's like 12." He was 12, by the by. Then when he said his first name with his last name, I recalled that this was the guy that replaced me when I got kicked out of another band. Once again, I got nervous and anxious because who knows what he'd heard. This was a big dopey thing with message board flaming and junk like that and me getting kicked out seemed to have a lot to do with scene-cred and I wasn't dressing "hardcore" but rather wearing linen clothes and no shoes. It also had a lot to do with my marriage that was failing and everytime I left to go to band practice it was a damn battle in the house and I came into practice constantly looking like a weary warrior and my lyrics got more and more bizarre (Red Riding Hood from the point of view of the woodsman, the life cycle of a tree, etc) and my stage presence was quickly devolving into my old ways, violent and confrontational.
When I got kicked out, the guys couldn't look me in the eyes, they couldn't come right out and get straight to the point. I knew what was happening and it was infuriating. That, combined with what was going on with my ex-wife led me to a lot of lashing out and name calling, really bitter stuff. And again, I don't know what this kid heard or remembered, or even if he put 2 and 2 together that I was the same guy.
It comes around, it goes around, and the impact I had in those days seems to have resonated with some people. And there I was, an angry, frustrated kid with no foresight to the positive or negative implications of my actions. What's that thing about burning bridges? Where it stands, I sit here everyday thinking about mistakes I've made and the things in life I can't fix. I get myself so far into a rut that I've all but forgotten the positive impact that I can have on people, and have had on people and hopefully currently have on people. I can't say that if I get recognized on some back-in-the-day thing again that I won't be embarrassed or nervous, but it's time to exorcise those demons because I have learned and grown from seeing my life from this side. I want to know what it looked like from out there and what I can do to have people remember me for positive actions more often.