Tuesday, March 12, 2013

So How Did the Gig Go, Collin?

At this point, I have come to believe that not only does everything happen for a reason, but that everything in my life happens for a good reason. That doesn't mean that every experience is pleasant and wonderful. It means that for me, whether I can see it or not at the time, things are always playing out in a way that in the long run, will be for the best.

There have just now been too many times when, in the moment, I have cursed some set of circumstances or series of events, only to later marvel at how necessary they were for some fantastic thing that happened to me down the line.

But this is a relatively new outlook on life for me.  So there are definitely still times when it is challenging for me, in the moment, to view one particular experience this way.  Last night was such a time.

First, although I was aware there were two different Lestat's Coffee Houses in San Diego, I was sure that the open mic I was ready to play was at the one on Park Boulevard.  I realize now there was no good reason to make this assumption.  I had been at Lestat's on Park once before, and there was a performance setting up in the back room.  I just never thought to myself, "Gee, maybe they do performances at the other Lestat's, too."

So last night, I got to Lestat's on Park, in the University Heights neighborhood, at 6:05pm PT, only to find that the back room was not set up for an open mic, or any sort of performance.  I inquired, and they told me the open mic was most likely at the other Lestat's, in the Normal Hieghts neighborhood, on Adams Avenue.  

So I tossed my guitar back into the back seat of my Honda Civic, found the address of the other Lestat's on my iPhone, entered it into my GPS, and started driving.  I was pretty anxious by this point. The website said sign-up for the open mic was at 6:00pm, followed by a drawing for time slots at 6:30.  It was now 6:15 as I drove to Adams Avenue.  Because I am new to San Diego, I had no idea how far away the other Lestat's was, until I looked at my GPS.  It was showing only 5 minutes of travel time, so luckily it was pretty close.

It was close, but at first I could not find any place nearby to park.  In addition, there was a large construction site just east of Lestat's on Adams Avenue, which made it challenging to drive around looking for a parking space.  But this is not Lower Manhattan, so after calming down a tiny bit and turning down one more side street, I pulled into a very convenient spot, hopped out, grabbed my guitar, and began hoofing it over to the other Lestat's.

Upon entering the coffee shop, I noticed 3 things.  First, there was nowhere for a performance to be happening.  The shop was very small, and had only a few tables and chairs.  Second, musicians were in line to write on little pieces of paper and toss them into a clear, plastic container.  I assumed they were signing up for the time slot drawing that had been mentioned on the website.  Third, once the musicians plunked their little piece of paper into the container, they were leaving, as if they were never coming back.

At this point my anxiety really ramped up.  My stomach was already in knots from believing I would soon perform in front of a live crowd for the first time in a very long time, compounded by the misstep of first going to the wrong Lestat's, and then compounded again by the unnecessarily frantic parking search.  Now there were just too many questions running through my already-addled mind: Where the heck do we play?  Where do they hold the drawing?  How exactly does the drawing work? Why are all the musicians just leaving?

My self-talk was now loud and clear in my mind: "I f___ing hate playing a new venue for the first time!"  Fortunately I was not moved to say this out loud.  But part of me does hate it.  Because of everything I've just described...everyone knows what's going on, where to go, and how it all works, but me.  Every gig I've ever played for the first time at a new place, whether it was an open mic in Manhattan, or a full set with my first band Victor Bravo in Cleveland, it's always been the same.  I walk in, and I'm frickin' clueless.  Until I talk to someone, or things just start happening, and it all begins to be revealed.

I saw several musicians head to the left when they departed the coffee shop.  No one was coming to collect the plastic container.  It was 6:35.  I figured: follow the crowd.  So I left the coffee shop, turned to the left, and voilĂ !  There is a second part to the Adams Avenue Lestat's, a small but cool performance space with a stage and a black curtain behind.  In fact, once I looked up, the separate doorway to this space had a huge marquis above it that read, in big black letters: "OPEN MIC NIGHT TONIGHT!"  Must have missed that in trying to avoid the construction mess...?

So a few minutes later, three people get up and announce the time slot drawing.  It is soon evident that there are about twice the number of musicians and comedians (it's an open mic for both types of performance) as there are time slots (of which there are 24 - one every 10 minutes, beginning at 7:00pm and ending at 11:00pm).  Names are pulled and called until all 24 time slots are filled.  My name is not called.  I will not be playing.  Better luck next time.

When I first read about this open mic on the website, I had thought to myself, "Drawing? I wonder if sometimes they have so many people come to play, that not everyone gets a time slot?" But then I dismissed that thought, as a prime example of some of my older, unfortunate patterns of negative thinking.  But here it was, my stray negative thought become reality.  I stayed for the first performer, not knowing exactly what to do next.  I had really wanted to play, and I wasn't going to be able to.  

In the middle of the second performer's second song, I left.  I went to my car, got in, and called my sister.  She helped me feel better.

So there I was, sitting in my car, about to drive home to Imperial Beach.  Mr. Silver Lining.  "Everything happens for a reason," I thought. "Everything is working out for my greatest good, whether I can see it now or not," I said to myself.  Yeah.  I wasn't buying it.

But what I remembered is: I'm rarely going to be able to see the silver lining right as this type of thing happens, or right afterward.  It's about trust.  That if I keep following my heart and doing what feels right, all roads will keep leading to a great life.  And my life is pretty great right now.  So I drove home and went straight to bed.

Then I woke up this morning and had the oddest thought.  "You know, by the time I got to the drawing last night, I was super-nervous.  I was a complete basketcase.  And most of that was because I didn't know where the place was, where to park, where to go once I got inside, what the stage looked like, how many people would be there, and how the drawing worked.  Now that I do know all of that, and when I go next Monday night, I'll probably be much less nervous."

Huh.  Look at that.  Just one possibility for the silver lining, 12 hours later.

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