Judy Garland Was Right!

The day of the vote was a record breaking 74 degrees and sunny. Bright azure skies, back-to-Summer-breezes-in-Autumn ruffled the remaining russets, greens and golden leaves.

It was a spectacular day for leaving the front door open and birds serenaded on their fly-bys; prompting me to add a few notes of my own to join the morning musicale.

After barely being able to breathe from a whopping clobber of bronchitis for the last couple of weeks, why not warble?  Who’s going to hear? It’s not a performance.  No one’s listening. Why worry about vocal perfection?  It’s just me and the Andrew Sisters on Sirius and the beat is swinging as sashaying squirrels dance bushy-tailed-bootyliciously across the lawn.

Softly tiptoeing into the rhythm and lyrics; building up breath and confidence, I scatted and trilled and purred til I could roar with the biggest band and hush and hold with a velvety smooth “Over The Rainbow.”

It felt good to play with the sounds; allowing oh’s and ah’s to round like butterscotch drops on my palate and melt away; rising like mist to the upper regions of the cathedral, to soar out on the surprisingly bountiful breath.

Without audience or critic, it was playtime and I felt free and good.

As I sat at my desk, the beauty of exercising my vocal chords and lungs spread sunshine of its own accomplishment to energize my whole body and the music of “Tangerine” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” put the zest into cleaning the decks of my desk as I cleared the cobwebs from my voice.’ Not much rust on the ol pipes today,’ thought I happily to my inner critic.

Surprise, surprise! Here was that part of my voice which I have always loved; the low, throaty blossoming, nasally sounds that roost in my chest and head; the husky breath which keeps me in lower register, broadens that range and makes me sound rich and lush.

Not so gorgeous, I think, when I’m trying to gasp for breath in between wads of tissue and kreksing; dismaying I’ll ever perform well again.  Yet, oh so yum, when I have no brain ability to overthink or strive for the high notes.  Just this incredibly easy ‘sending’ appears like my friend and Diva Divine, Ms. Anita Darian, reminds me to do when I’m preparing for or in a role. “Send, send, send!”

The ‘woodshed’ is a pleasanter place to ready myself for work when I cease struggle for breath and heights.

Nothing like a good head cold to stop a singer mid tracks and give a pause that refreshes in reminding that there’re whole different pathways which can give  golden opportunities to hear one’s voice as others hear, instead of the way I think I should sound.

And just as I was relishing the solo sound in privacy and an ease of acceptance; a joy in the fun of playing with the music; harmonizing; my own arrangements taking shape and boosting note-taking for other albums and concerts, mid end note to “Aint Nobody Here But Us Chickens,” I heard a knocking at my door.

As I peeked around at the corner, there on my front porch, clipboard in hand, smile in face-place, stood a young man now ‘helloing.’

Taking in the rumpled sarong, Pebbles Flintstone bed head,” and the surprised ‘oh we gave at the office’ look taking shape on my face, he launched into his script to head my ‘haven’t-got-time’ dismissal off at the pass.

“I’m from the Democratic Party and was just here to remind you today is the day to vote.”

As my energy of cranky-flag-flying began the ascent up the pole, something stopped me and furled that sharp-edged cloth back in and I simply said, “Yes, I know.”

My unsaid piece bubbling below the surface was, ‘Hey, this is a private matter and I don’t much care for being imposed upon at home to push for particular votes. Really, I don’t like unannounced visits from strangers on my doorstep, spam or dinnertime phone calls.  I’m on the no-call list for crying out loud!’  And here is someone (albeit it a nice, well meaning, non-ax-murderer-looking college kid) peering through my screen door (did I lock that? Like what good would that do against a possible hidden box cutter or gat?)

“Hey Tom! When you’re finished on the phone with the sheriff across the street, there’s a guy here from the Democratic party who wants us to vote!” I yell towards the back patio. (Where, really, no one but the crows are chatting.)

Anyway, the guy gets it and begins to turn away, saying, “It’s just so hard to do this.  Not many people want to hear or take the time to vote anymore.”

Again that little, illusive something moves me to push past the odd costume of the day, my curmudgeony tendencies and the possible lack of safetly issues, to reply, “It’s not that.  It’s just that people don’t want to be bullied into voting. We’re getting overkill with no meaning or substance.  Every night, calls from the Democrats disturb our dinner hour and evening.  Electronic phone spam.  It’s always a machine talking to our machine and no way to get taken off the list. It’s illegal for marketers to continue to call when you ask to be taken off the list.  Why should people in political parties be exempt from that which is basic courtesy?  Why would anyone want to vote for people who bully their way into our privacy? What happened to ‘who I vote for’ being my own business? And don’t get me started on the Republican calls.  Both parties are downright rude.  It’s aggressive and counterproductive. The electioneering can’t be done in front of the polling places so now they take it into our homes.  Doesn’t engender warm fuzzy feelings.”

He listens, shoulders sagging, clipboard now hanging at his side and admits, “Yeah.  I know.  It’s just sad.  Candidates don’t even talk about what they’re going to try to accomplish.  It’s all just mud slinging.  I’m out of work and I thought, rather than sit in front of the TV with a bag of chips, I’d do something worthy by volunteering to get the vote out.  I feel it’s important and I’m finding not many just don’t want to do it. They don’t believe anyone anymore.”

“Yes.  We’re all tired of the blah blah blah.”

He says.  “I think we’re worth better.  I’m finishing college and writing my thesis comparing the voting in France and America; taking a look at what motivates so we can do a better job in the future.”

“Admirable. A good goal.”

“I don’t know who to talk to about this though.  The local politicians seem to be all about fighting each other.  I want to do something meaningful.”

“Call or write President Carter or the Clinton Initiative,” I suggest.  “They have good ideas of ways to help people and make positive changes. Might be a good fit for you. Check it out.”

“Wow! Thanks. That’s a good idea.” he perks up, “See, this is what it’s about. Communicating with people. Thanks for your time and suggestions. I appreciate it a lot.”

“You’re welcome and thanks for coming by today.  Good work you’re doing,” I say, as I turn back to my desk and, once again, join the melodies still pouring forth from the background of the radio.

He stops mid porch-leap, listens; turns around and I hear, “By the way, was that you I heard singing?”

I swivel back and smile, “Why, yes.  It was. You could hear me?”

“All the way to the sidewalk.  It’s what drew me to this house.  I was getting down and about to quit going door to door when I heard singing.  Made my day. Wow! That was you?  You have a really great voice! ”

“Thanks,” I say, omitting the disclaimer of bronchitis, not-up-to-par and oh-this-old-thing.

Off he goes, happier camper, skipping down the path as I sit back and smile in the exchange of appreciation.

And I am reminded of the story of another time, on a blizzardy night, in a small upstate New York town, where a fledgling singer, named Edie Gormé was performing two shows nightly and, on this one, wondering, ‘Who in the world would go out in all that freezing ice and snow to go to a nightclub?’

She’d had a head cold and  thought they’d close the club, considering the hazardous conditions, yet stayed to do the early and late show when the club owner held to contract.  She went on, eased in vocally and, warming, played with nuances she’d not scripted and sang as though the place was packed.

About half way through her set, she noticed a small figure in black had slipped in silently to sit at a dark table in the back of the room.  Ms Gormé did her whole act and, when she finished her last song and the lights came up, she found herself looking at her audience of one…none other than the great (and also stranded in the storm) Ms Judy Garland, clapping to beat the band.

“You’re terrific!  Give it all you’ve got. Every performance.  You never know who’s gonna be there to see and hear you.”

That night many years ago a lovely lesson was taught and learned.

Do your best.  Give all you have to your work.  Sing each time with your complete heart, no matter where you are or how large or small the audience- or if you think you are alone.  Even if you think you’re not up to your own par, play with what you’ve got at the moment.  Maybe wind up surprised that you’re better than you think in different situations. There’s always someone listening and you may just be bringing joy with your gifts and talents-just as they are- to the Angels (Earth and Celestial) who are called to cross your path to bless and be blessed by you.

And once again, in this day-my day, when this singer; head-colded and stuffed-up-nose; on a Fall day turned Summer, thought no one was listening, some one was.

You never know.

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2 Responses to “Judy Garland Was Right!”

  1. Ray Says:

    Thank you so much. I too have been annoyed with the political phone calls and the door knocking. I’ve also been discouraged with a small or no audience. Many years ago I was delegated to DJ a very early radio show. While going trough the mandatory chatter, (No Dead Air) I found that what started out to be happy chatter for my listeners actually help my spirits. There’s always someone listening.

  2. Florence Says:

    absolutely.
    just did some needed editing.
    thanks for reading and responding, ray.
    always a pleasure.
    i find that intertwined within one experience are threads of others which make for interesting tapestry.
    and we each have threads necessary to the whole.
    nice voice.
    in light
    florence

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