Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rhythm and Finance: Fears of a 45-year-old Drummer

The other day, I played a short video for my class. The purpose was to teach them to be analytical, even without the vocabulary they need to do a truly thorough analysis. I played a clip from a live concert of a drummer doing a solo. Their job, in writing, was to tell me why what makes him a good drummer, as best they could, without the technical knowledge of drumming that would aid them otherwise.

As I was watching this guy play -- this guy who had dedicated a life to playing drums -- I started thinking about the tug-of-war that goes on inside me and (I hope) in those like me: the feeling that there must be more to a life than just doing the job and paying the bills, but that a life of self-indulgence is, indeed, selfish and irresponsible.

As I sat with my wife last night, with a financial adviser, all I could think was: We need to do this, but, another ten minutes of it and I will start beating my head on the table. I found myself hoping my wife understood all of it, because, at times, he sounded like the teacher from Peanuts, to me: wha-wha-wha....

In the end, I think I did follow a lot of it. But, about stretching a guy to the edges of his every-day-life threshold. (Every person, I think, has his or her own tolerance level when it comes to those sort of things. Mine is severely limited.)

Sometimes, I feel cavalier and confident about this; like I am one of the last bohemians, carrying the torch for creativity and colorful living. At other times, I feel like a naughty little kid, cutting class.

The only thing I can hope (and I really do believe it is the case, when all is said and done) is that all of this writing and thinking and song-writing and daydreaming has put me more in touch with my favorite subject of study: the human animal -- that my distaste for everyday life is not really a distaste for reality; that it is, in fact, a true interest in the most important or realities: the tendencies of  human hearts and minds.

I know there are those who might think that it is foolish for a 45-year-old man to play drums in a rock band or to keep writing novels no one is reading, but, I think it might be worth it if it has made me a half-decent dad, husband and teacher. (Pulitzers and Grammys are not likely to come, so there has to be some payoff.)

In a way, this is an open letter to my wife, Karen, because I have to imagine that it is easy for women to fall in love with guys who tend to walk outside the lines of common thought, but that it is pretty hard to put up with them for years on end, afterward.

I can only hope that it is all worth it; that even though I can't tell a 401K from a Roth IRA, I can  figure out the needs, tendencies and actions of those around me a little better than some; that, even if my kids won't benefit some day from my savvy investment strategies, they may well be a little more sane than they otherwise would have been -- with some more responsible dad. (Fingers crossed.)

The drummer in the video? Kudos to him. For all I know, he is a wonderful dad.


  1. I just wanted to say that you shouldn't worry, Mr. Mat. As a fellow drummer, I all too often drool over shiny, expensive cymbals and save up for these items that are completely useless in the real world. I always feel guilty after spending some absurd amount of money on something that I know I don't really need. I feel the bittersweet sting knowing that I flushed two months of gas down the toilet or wasted a nice night out on the town with my gal on some fancy, "brilliant finished" plate of metal. But then, just as my guilt reaches its peak, I remember exactly how much one of those Coach purses cost and all the sudden, I feel a lot better. Everyone is selfish sometime. It's the reason for industry and competition. I know this is a stretch, but it's the reason communism doesn't work. (That might be one of the most uneducated, un-backed up statements I've ever made) As far as responsibility, I don't live in your house but I am assuming your boys have food to eat and a roof over their heads? At that point, you're leagues ahead of other fathers I know.

    1. Well, they eat as long as I don't have to buy cymbals...haha. Thanks, Joe. In truth, I believe that the balance between drums and life is a good one. It's what I need, at any rate...