Things I Learned from R. B.


Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 2

There is definitely a reason that patrons of literature over the centuries have sincerely warned those who put pen to paper (or in our time, fingers to keys) that it is never wise to write something in the first person. Just too many I’s for the “eyes” which will read it.

Yes, it’s safer to let your tale be told by a he, a she, a they or even an it.

Then, if your character ends up being a scoundrel—even temporarily—you don’t have to personally wear the orange D on your chest—for Dumbass.

But when I talk to you about R. B., I must speak in the first person. These are lessons I had to learn which you perhaps already knew, or will decide to ignore.

I will simply have to own the good with the bad, the silly with the serious and the righteous with the sinister.

Let me begin by saying that I wrote a musical. Fifteen songs plus little interludes sprinkled among them which I referred to as “widgets.”

I was very proud.

Actually, most of the musical was written in less than three months—with a song or two trailing off to coincide with the calendar year.

I got my band together and we recorded the music on a reel-to-reel tape system, overdubbed through a cassette machine, until we had something that sounded like an entire cast performing the tunes.

I had no idea what I was going to do with this collection of lyrics, notes and melodies.

I played it for an old buddy of mine in Columbus, Ohio, who immediately fell in love with the whole idea surrounding the project—so much so that he decided to make it his pet purpose. Before I knew it, he went out and secured fifteen people to invest in this endeavor, giving us a whopping ten thousand dollars to do something with what we had.

I was young. I probably should have taken it slow. But honestly, those two words—“young and slow”—rarely appear together in Earth’s environment.

Therefore I went into a professional studio and hired musicians to record the soundtrack and decided to put together a cast of nine characters for a twenty-five-city tour of the United States of America. This would be a daunting task for someone who knew what he was doing, let alone for a sheep in the woods, unfamiliar with the ravenous wolves.

My first step was to hold auditions.

I thought people would flock to have an opportunity to travel for two months across the great American plain—to sing, dance and act in front of audiences in hometown theaters from Pennsylvania to Texas.

I was wrong.

About twenty-five people signed up for the audition, and they all came with three questions:

  1. What am I going to make?
  2. How much does it pay?
  3. What will be my remuneration?

On the night of the audition, they all came in having much less talent than ego. Also, they were more greedy than giving and critical than appreciative.

Chief among them was a fellow named R. B. He was a sweet enough guy, but his New England upbringing had led him to believe that he was one of the Sons of the American Revolution.

He had exacting demands:

He didn’t want to audition the way everyone else did. He wanted to set up his guitar amp and sing his own songs instead take a crack at mine.

Also, he was so nervous to audition in front of the rest of the contestants that he demanded a private room. He sang a hair off-key, breathless from nervous energy. Yet, he still had just enough of a voice to be considered.

I was young, too eager, and uncertain whether I would be able to fill all the positions from the handful of souls who came out for the trials.

I gave in too much to R. B.’s requests.

I just didn’t know if I would ever find other people to staff our show, so I was careful not to close a door to anyone. Through that experience, I learned that sometimes if you don’t close the door, all the flies come in.

Four days after the auditions, still having three spaces to fill, I hired R. B. to be in my musical and travel with the cast. I made the decision after about three hours of a back-and-forth conversation with myself that went like this:

“Sure, he doesn’t have…”

“But then again, maybe…”

I learned, from this first encounter with R. B., that when you base your future on maybe, you always end up with what will be—wishing for what could be.

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