I must have been about 15 years old. The proportions of the rest of my body had just about caught up with the length of my arms, I was showering everyday, and it was really important to have a boom box. I was the paper boy too. And upon delivering to one of the houses on my route, I happened upon an outdated amplifier that had a blown fuse. The visions of stardom erupted. And my rock star fantasy was ample fuel for my blast-off from paper boy slavery to jukebox hero. The few days that led up to hooking up my keyboard synthesizer to the amplifier with two other high schoolers who shared my fantasy are blurry at best. They played guitar and drums. Together, the three of us rocked, playing cover songs and such. Well, we never really played for anyone but ourselves, but who cared- we talked a big game. We were larger than life. And I brought that feeling home with me. I talked to my dad about our sound. He was hesitant to express his true feelings to me at first. Surely, he was asking himself, 'how could my son, whom I have heard play oversimplified arrangements of broadway tunes on our baby grand piano, want to play a gig in front of a live audience?' He did ask me what the definition of a 'rif' was though. I was so ready to pounce on the first indication of doubt he might have uttered. But my dad kept quiet. Until the next day:
"You know, Rich, there are night clubs in New York City where, if you think you can do it, you can step right up onto the stage, improvise, and play with other musicians.It's mostly jazz bands. But I will do whatever I can to help you explore it. Who knows where it will take you to."
What a lucky boy I was. What a good man my dad was.
Manny Roth was an influential New York City nightclub owner and entertainment entrepeneur. Manny Roth owned the famous New York establishment Cafe Wha?. In the early 1960s, Cafe Wha? provided a stage for ameteur acts such as Bob Dylan and Bill Cosby. Manny Roth is an uncle to David Lee Roth. So, basically, because I didn't have the balls to pursue my pipe dream, I gave up living a life like Diamond Dave's. I would have to settle for seeing the Van Halen concert at the Nassau Coleseum a couple of days ago. Alex Van Halen, the drum player, was a perfect blend of Buddy Rich and 'Animal' from the muppets. Eddie Van Halen shredded tunes on his guitar. And David Lee Roth was the ultimate entertainer- Bruce Lee spinning back kicks, top hats, outfits, you name it- he pulled out all the stops. The guy is 53 years old, and he is still 'killin it' out there.
Just like Diamond Dave, I get such a rush outta 'killin it' as an EMT. Hope I can still do it when I'm 53. But the types of calls we have been getting lately have really been buzz kills- a guy riding a bicycle gets hit by a car, and refuses medical attention. An elderly lady falls, bruises her hip, and calls the EMT taxi service. A guy gets drunk at a local restaurant. But time and time again, I will respond. I will do whatever I have to do to capture that clarity of thought I experience when I remove all compassion, all emotion, all sympathy- and help- really help a patient.
I had my son in my car when the tones came across my pager today, so I couldn't respond to the call. 'The Circle of Life' from the Lion King soundtrack began playing on the radio:
"Daddy, is the song about us?" my sweet 4 year old boy asked innocently, yet so much more keenly than he will ever know. My dad died before my son met him.
"Yes," I explained. "It's about us."