Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Critique

We all know life is weird. We all tend to figure that out on our own, after a while. There are only so many weirdnesses that can occur before we realize that it's not just a random series of events, but an indication that  somewhere up in the offices of heaven, there must be an Administrator of Weirdness, who sits at a computer and checks to see if each of us has gotten his daily dose of weirdness. If not, maybe his hits us with a crazy dream at night, just to make up for it. But there will be weirdness -- make no mistake.

The other night, when my band had finished playing, I was in the process of breaking down my drum kit (a process that always makes me wonder why I didn't choose the piccolo) and I heard a conversation off to my right. Two youngish guys were sitting there, ignoring the bartender's yelps about it being time to leave, and one guy was saying, "... classic rock, some modern rock and dance stuff. Yeah, they were actually pretty good."

Buddy Rich, who grew up to
be more not-crap than just about
every drummer, ever. . 
He was obviously talking about our band. And it just made me laugh a little about the absurdity of human endeavor.

"They were actually pretty good."

So that's it. Some random guy in a bar has spoken his opinion: we were actually (this was a surprise, apparently -- maybe because when we took the stage we looked like we would be horrible) pretty good. Not great; not excellent; not really good -- just pretty good. One man's observation.

So, years of sweat, paradiddles, blisters and study of my meat and potatoes instrument (and the same for the other guys in the band, minus the paradiddles); years of playing together, in front of crowds of thousands and crowds of teens; years of lugging equipment in and out of trucks and cars at three o'clock in the morning in the freezing weather, and, for this guy, it all amounted to our being "actually pretty good."

I've said before that I don't believe the world owes us anything for our hard work, but you have to admit, it's kind of funny. On my end, a lifetime of dreaming and playing and self-critiquing; on his end, we were, shock that it might have been, not crap. We were sufficiently not-horrible background noise for his evening's drinking.

It's funny in a heartbreaking kind of way, don't you think?


  1. Was this dude from the Midwest? They're masters of the backhanded compliment (and I do mean backhanded -- right across the face!) there.

    It's the "actually" that does it in. "They were pretty good" stings so much less, doesn't it?

    My own beloved husband (a Midwesterner) once famously brought a large family dinner to a screeching halt by taking a large forkful of my contribution to the festivity and pronouncing "Hey, hon, this is actually pretty good." My my sister's husband, like you a native of the fair state of New Jersey, was particularly incensed by that turn of phrase.

    My husband still doesn't quite understand what was wrong with what he said but he's more careful about deploying that "actually" now.

    1. Hi, 'nora. I'm pretty sure this particular critic was a Jersey guy. I suppose we let "actually" fly more freely -- at least, I hope so...