It's so hard to admit I'm wrong sometimes.
I've put forth this sentiment several times before in a much more general way, but this time I'm talking about something specific.
My mother and aunt have come to many of my musical performances over the years. They've seen me when I was bad, good, great, triumphant and mindblowingly amazing.
I'd like to think I was more on the right hand side of that spectrum but it's hard for me to judge.
That's why juries aren't culled from the victim's families. It just wouldn't be fair. There would be no perspective. It would be inaccurate, to say the least.
My mother, God bless her soul, had nary a bad thing to say about the many appearances she proudly attended. I’m sure it had a lot to do with her being my mom and seeing no room for criticism over something her boy had worked so hard on. Something he had devoted his life to. Something that, if he didn’t have, might render him a well intentioned misfit with not much more than a high school diploma to show for himself.
That's a bit dramatic, but up until recently, I would have had no idea what I'd do if I wasn't playing music.
I'm also sure that a part of the carefully phrased praise, especially on nights where I wasn't all there, lay in the fact that she didn't want to upset me. Because, she figured that if I was upset, I might let the frustrations in my mind sneak up and blindside my body; hit myself over the head with a full bottle of Jack Daniels, if you will. Well, hit myself harder, anyway. Sanitize the cut I just ripped open. Maybe even purposefully leave some glass inside for future subcutaneous abrasion.
This is a sad reality to come to terms with. I never wanted anyone to treat me differently because of what I might or might not have done. It doesn't keep me up at night, but it is on my short list of regrets: I wish my self-destructive habits had ripped apart my skin alone.
This, of course, is an impossibility. Buckshot tends to scatter.
And this well intentioned behavior on her part, dissected in retrospect, is a sad textbook example of the enabling tendencies those closest to us often exhibit.
The identity of executioners has historically been kept secret. This is to spare them and their family from the public's scorn and contempt.
Only the sickest of individuals would want others to know that their job is to kill people.
My aunt, unlike my mother, usually had a bit more to say in the way of criticism.
It's not that she didn't like my music, she did. Well, most of it. No, her criticism lay in the act of public contamination. And not just my personally intended consumption. It wasn't the couple of beers I'd bring up to the stage that bothered her. It was the incessant delivery of alcohol by the "well wishers" in the crowd.
Talk about peer pressure. I don't have a problem saying no to one person at a bar who wants to buy me a drink-- a drink that sometimes would constitute a portion of my compensation for the night. But, to publicly say no to any number of people who just forked over a sizable sum for something I should want anyway. Well, that's just plain rude.
In some states, this practice is technically illegal. They do not allow performers to publicly drink during a show. Heathens, all of them.
I never did understand why I couldn't bring drinks up to the stage in places like New Hampshire and Maine. The resentment just made me drink more, drink faster, and drink in secret. That'll show 'em.
But I guess they consider you employees of the bar. How ridiculous is that? I mean, really. I don't work for the bar, do I?
But my aunt has never seen the altruistic connection to this very old, very self-defeating tradition.
"Why do they want to see you drunk, Alex? Why do they publicly dare you to smash into a brick wall?"
"Oh Aunty, you just don't understand. It's tradition. It's my job. It's expected of me. I can't be the hero if I don't wear my cape. No one would recognize me."
Well, even Superman has his Kryptonite, the one weakness in an otherwise invulnerable hero.
This tradition doesn't occur as much now as it used to. When it does though, it doesn't make me happy. It makes me mad as hell. My aunt was right. Why do they want to see me fall? This is a game which can only have one outcome: to rob me of the musical acumen that has taken a lifetime to accrue and hours upon tedious hours to perfect in seclusion. The unwitting protagonists can safely, publicly witness the venom seize its victim who maddeningly denies the bite, stumbling towards its lair with a smile on his face.
Please take me. It's what I want.
Still, I don't have a problem passing the poison on to whoever may be closest to me when the work is over. I can't just let good booze like that go to waste.
But then, I guess, that just makes me an executioner without a mask on.
Thanks for reading.
PS: For those who may say I am one to talk, you are right.
One of many.