I was headed to Bloomington anyhow. I’d been planning an extended Indiana vacation to visit family this summer. I like having an 800-mile buffer zone, but even I have guilt feelings which must be assuaged at least once a year. Aside from family, the first person I planned to look up in Bloomington was my friend and collaborator Lee. He’d been working for years on a multi-volume DVD set of the first season of ROX. He was very close to getting this monstrous effort wrapped up, and I wanted to give him every bit of encouragement and support I could muster. And maybe, just maybe, I wanted to give him that little nudge that’s so often needed to wrap up a long-term endeavor. I know the value of deadlines. Not that Lee needs nudged.
And so then on March 8, I sent Lee an innocuous little e-mail message.
Hey, here’s a germ of an idea…. How about an official DVD release party in late June/early July? (In Bloomington, natch.)
That little germ would soon grow into a full-blown infection.
As soon as Lee said he was game, I notified J, who in turn reminded me of the impending anniversary of our televisual debut. Thus I concocted a grandiose name for what I thought might be a fun little shindig: the ROX Season One DVD Release Party & 20th Anniversary Celebration.
I had no idea what scale the event would end up being, but I thought it would probably be on the small side. I started to hunt for a venue. For a moment I toyed with the idea of going underground: Maybe we should just set up a card table in a back alley and see how Bloomington handles open containers. But I thought we could do something slightly more ambitious than that. A dive bar seemed appropriate.
I was directed to the Comedy Attic by a couple old friends, Tall Steve and Brad Wilhelm. I was introduced to the manager, Jared, and he was receptive to hosting the event there. I was surprised to learn that the Comedy Attic was not a dive but a classy joint with some regional prominence. Hmmm.
I joked that people should fly in from all over the country. I didn’t even think J would be able to make it from Montana. I began preparing for a one-man show.
In the end, however, our meager attempts at publicity paid off. We sent out a press release, and Mike Leonard wrote a very nice article in the Herald-Times. Eric Ost and a few others put up flyers around town on our behalf. But I think most people found out about the event through Facebook.
Soon a substantial number of people were excited about the event. Ultimately folks did indeed come in from all over the country.
Time has a way of turning our jokes into reality.
Still I think my one-man strategy proved correct. J was majorly distracted by life, and I felt lucky just to have him there. As for Xy, even though we live in the same house I couldn’t get her to think about what she might contribute for the life of me. TBlack was the only one with his head in the game, really ready to perform. Once we all found ourselves back together again in Bloomington, I concentrated more on re-establishing our rapport, rather than fussing over details.
Back in the early 90s, we premiered the second and third seasons of ROX with a live showing at the Bluebird. As memory serves, in neither case did we actually take the stage. Certainly we did not mount a live performance. Why not? It’s hard to say. After all I was fronting a rock band at the time. Strange as it may seem, we may have been shy. Reciting lyrics is one thing, but speaking in front of a group? Yikes.
I’ve since gotten over that fear. (I speak in front of groups as a part of my job. Any lingering misgivings about larger crowds were effectively shattered at the March for Survival.) In fact, I was hugely excited by the prospect of taking the stage. I hardly slept the night before.
And so July 3 shaped up to be one of the greatest days of my life so far. Seriously. It ranked right up there with the day I got married, the day my daughter was born, and that day I drank too much cough syrup and became one with the universe.
Here’s how the day unfolded: I got up early in the morning and went for an extra long jog. I even had time to meditate before everyone else woke up. Rode my bike downtown to meet two of my mentors from Indiana University (Ron Osgood and Thom Gillespie) for some great breakfast conversation at the Village Deli. Caught a live performance by Kid Kazooey & the Ballroom Roustabouts in People’s Park with my daughter. J and I had lunch at Siam House and then walked over to campus and shot some video. I stopped in at WFHB for a short live interview with station manager Jim Manion, then got some grub at Nick’s English Hut with J and Xy and TBlack. I drank half a beer to take the edge off.
So you see, even if it had ended right there, it would have been a perfectly fun day in Bloomington. But it didn’t stop there. We went to the Comedy Attic and put on a show for about 130 people.
I can’t vouch for the audience, but I had so much fun on that stage, I’m surprised it’s legal.
How to describe the event itself? I’m not sure I can. It was videotaped by CATS, and it’s our intention to edit it into a program, ROX #97, someday. I can say that the undoubted highlight was when Alice Wolfson sucked her toes.
I guess you need to see that in context to fully appreciate.
The after party was fun too. Plenty of peer validation. I guess my peers have grown up a little, though. No one got drunk that I could see, and the party wrapped up shortly after midnight.
But me? I was so pumped I couldn’t sleep. I had a late night omelet with Xy and my father-in-law, but after they went to bed, I just sat on the deck, ego-tripping, until the sun came up. That’s two nights in a row with virtually no sleep, yet I felt great. Adrenaline is an amazing thing.
And yet, I realized, it would be awfully hard to capture this essence in a bottle. Awfully hard to communicate to anyone who wasn’t there the exact qualities of this particular excitement. Awfully hard to communicate it even to myself. I wanted to write it up sooner rather than later, but time slipped away as time does, and here it is a full month later and so many details have evaporated.
This I can say with confidence, however: I’m still inspired, still invigorated, still energized.
And I want to do it all again some day.
But totally different.