In 1992 while living just outside of Rome I had a tendency to skip organized school activities that were not mandatory. I chose Oktoberfest over a Florence trip, I skipped a 4 day travel weekend to write a philosophy paper (to prove I could), and I bailed out of a couple of organized art walks of the city to stick around campus and spend some time alone.
While I would like to participate in those art walks now as I could not tell you Rococo from Rembrandt I do not regret for a minute the choices I made. My alone time was usually spent writing but on a particularly pleasant sunny day I decided to put on my headphones and sit outside awhile to take in the views of the suburban countryside and reminisce.
I had made a few tapes of music from home and had found a fellow Texan in my class who shared a passion for Texas folk music. I had some killer mixes of Jerry Jeff Walker, Robert Earl Keen, and of course Willie Nelson to sing me to sleep on nights when I was sick of Italy, my classmates, or my own mind.
I remember this day that I was listening to some B sides from Garth Brooks and in the moment I became lost in the beauty of the place and began to sing. Now, I may not be American Idol material as I just don’t have a big range; however, my voice was made for country and the twangier the better. I think I was belting out Same Old Story from the “No Fences” album when I heard some sudden whistles and polite applause from a window above me.
Clearly I had not been alone and I was startled mightily and immediately embarrassed. The two young ladies had stayed behind to rest and were actually napping when my neo-country drawl took them from their slumber. They called down to me and were in fact quite polite about the ordeal. I was mortified of course because I was in that “dance like no one was watching” mode and felt violated.
I think it was 12 years or so before I ever sang out loud in public again, at a wine warehouse in San Francisco. I still listened to “London Homesick Blues” on that trip to Rome; I would just mouth the words to myself as I drifted to sleep not to disturb anyone or call unwanted attention to myself. Without my singing hobby I was forced to write with greater frequency and perhaps that is why I am here today writing and crooning alone in my home; living while no one is watching.