The Smell of Fear on a Brand New T Shirt

This is an update to the previous story. The original deal was that I would receive some sort of monetary reward for doing the drawing for the Quilcene Shin-Dig tee shirts. Fine, but things evolve. It ended up that I did the drawing, got some copies made, added some color. This became the poster. I paid for the printing of ten full sized and twenty flyer sized copies, distributed a few, at the cost of somewhere around $52.00, and traded this for three t-shirts, which would sell for $60.00 at the event; and then bought another, last year’s version, by a different artist, for another $20.00. Then, on the day of the event, because these shirts make such fine gifts, and because the image of the guitar player carving is based on our son, Jaymz, my wife, Trish, insisted I purchase more. $80.00 worth.

So, speaking to our daughter, Dru, on the phone this morning, and, before I had a chance to tell her she would be receiving a shirt, and before I could rant about the actual event, she quoted her mother quoting me saying, “It was the most expensive piece of art I’ve ever done.” Well, yeah; no, not really; but, let me get to the part where I actually performed.

Actually, I’ve not quite recovered from that, performing two original songs (“You Never Said Goodbye” and “I Guess I’m Lucky”) to a small crowd standing in the rain, with an uninvited, retired music teacher standing at the next microphone, totally unaware of what I was planning to do, interjecting little… I don’t know what he was singing, or scatting, or saying… he said he was going to ‘wing it.’

My vision was limited to… I guess I was trying to look at my harmonica… that’s as far as my vision seemed to go. I couldn’t really hear myself; I could hear the occasional interjections, sort of, on the periphery.  I continued with something akin to muscle memory; songs performed so many times driving to or from a job, or a distant surf spot, one hand on the wheel.

When it was over, I walked through the building, tried not to let loose on Mr. Hodgson; walked around the block to my car, and drove home. When I arrived, Trish said I smelled funny. Maybe it was because I had been sitting in the just-started rain for a while in my (advertising, Trish said) orange Shin-Dig t-shirt before I went on. Maybe that’s just what fear smells like… rain, fear ahead of the performance, something like total confusion and embarrassment afterword; all mixed with the smell of me still thinking, somewhere in my brain, maybe from that place that told me I have these songs and someone should perform them, and if it had to be me… that perhaps-self-delusional bit of wiring; that thought had me holding out some hope that my audience, mostly made up of musicians who had performed or would perform later, might realize the lyrics are worthwhile, useful… possibly in their band.

Later, trying to get back to sleep, I was still mulling, still asking, “Just what where you thinking, Jim?”  His answer, out near the street, his truck parked across Surf Route 101 in the Post Office parking lot, had been, “I was calming you down. I was helping.” My response since, not to him, is that I was ready to succeed or fail on my own. As with most things in life, I’m still not sure which is true, but I know there’s a big * next to anyone’s perception of the performance. And that includes my own.

If could compare it to something in surfing, it would have to be that my actual thoughts in riding the biggest barrel I was ever in, at Sunset Cliffs, was not some time-slowed-down version of joy; but was fear; that peripheral vision of the actual cliffs, too close, through the curtain. The joy, or, at least, satisfaction, would be added later. Edited. Like words on a computer. “Backspace.”

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