OK? This?

… Is just wrong.

Lori McKenna (Keith Urban) — “The Luxury Of Knowing” Lyrics

(Song Can Be Found Here: http://www.myspace.com/lorimckenna. It has been recorded by Keith Urban, and it is included on the Target bonus version of his album, “Get Closer”)

The Luxury Of Knowing

You know when I’m coming home.
You know when I’m coming to bed.
You know that when I tell you that I love you
I mean every word I said.

You know I’m a bit too proud.
You know that I know how to pray.
You know I won’t give this up unless I have to give it up.
You know I won’t walk away.

But, baby, you’re like a diesel truck,
Shifting gears and the pedal stuck,
Heading straight to the edge and showing no signs of slowing.
And I don’t have the luxury of knowing.

You know that I like to dance,
But only when I’m dancing with you.
You know I must be bad at lying,
Because I’ve only ever told you the truth.

Just when I think you’re a hurricane,
You freeze right over and all that rain
Turns to ice and your whole world just starts snowing.
I don’t have the luxury of knowing.

Damn, it must be easy
Being in love with someone so blind.
Because I’ll tell you right the only thing I really know
Is that you might change your mind;
Any day you could change your mind.

You know when I’m coming home.
You know when I’m coming to bed.
Baby, you’re like a diesel truck,
Shifting gears and the pedal stuck,
Heading straight to the edge and showing no signs of slowing.
And I don’t have the luxury of knowing.

Back In Black

The defining moment, as I had been anticipating it would be, was putting on the shirt.

My black Face2Face shirt had hung, untouched, for almost three months, since the last time I had performed in it. The process of putting it on, of buttoning it, meant something. It meant, after months, we were back. It was visceral, and I loved it.

Friday night’s show was amazing. The audience was small, but they were great — giving us good material, and laughing uproariously. We were at Ars Nova, which meant we were working on a stage, and with theatre lighting, which added to the experience. We were firing on all cylinders, hitting everything just right. Personally, I did some good work. It was a perfect return to form, the ideal comeback. Our director, Gene, is generally our harshest critic, but, after the show, said he had nothing negative to say about it; not because it was without flaw, but because it was so good over all that it didn’t matter. I was happy.

I had two “David Hitt” moments Saturday between the two shows; moments where it kinda feels like I’m this guy that I’m supposed to be — “costume party” moments, to use a term I’ve used before. Realizing my name is in three books — without mine being among them — at the Barnes & Noble in Birmingham last weekend was one of those.

I went to the book signing for Homer Hickam and Anousheh Ansari’s new book at the Barnes & Noble here that afternoon, the first book signing they’d held. And, while there was a decent crowd, it wasn’t as big as the crowd for my first book lecture last year. Now, I’ve done many many smaller talks, and they sold a whole lot more books, and they’re event later that night was much bigger, but it was still sort of a cool moment.

I left there and went to Target, where I was recognized by someone I didn’t know — “Hey, are you going to be in the show tonight?” Those moments also still amuse me.

Apropos of nothing, but on the way to the show that night, I found myself behind a truck with the license plate IMPRVIT. My first thought, for some reason, “I’m private.” The most likely possibility, upon further thought, “Improve it.” But, as far as I was concerned in that moment, it was “Improv it!”

The show at Kenny Mango’s — well, it could have been better. The general consensus was that the first half wasn’t that great, but that the second half stepped things up a notch. For me, I was unhappy with both. I was glad for the show to be over, and that’s rare for me. For some reason, the audience was very hard for me to read, and that was unpleasant. At this point, I have a pretty decently calibrated sense of my work; I know when something is funny, I know when my timing is right, I know when my delivery is good, I know when my physicality is on, etc. And I know when I hit the sweet spot of those things, it should play well for the audience, and I should get a reaction. And that wasn’t happening.

To use a nerdy analogy, on a zero-g airplane flight, you’re most likely to have problems with motion sickness not when you’re weightless, but when you’re pulling the hyper-g periods between the weightlessness. You’re heavier than normal, and as a result, your vestibular system is registering each motion as more than it normally would. At 2 g, you move your head, and your eyes see that you’ve moved x distance, but your vestibular system says you’ve moved 2x distance. Your brain doesn’t know how to mesh the two signals, and gets confused.

That’s what happened to me Saturday night — I got comedy vertigo.

Which isn’t to say the show was without redemptive moments. One of my favorites was during the game “Party Guests,” where one of the players was sent outside, the rest of us were given characters to play, and the other player came back in and had to guess who we were supposed to be at a party he was hosting. The character I picked, combining a couple of suggestions — “Johnny Cash, Rocket Scientist.”

Characters like that, I love. I love combining musicians with other elements, retooling song lyrics on the fly, and, ideally, as mentioned last week, inflicting my horrible singing on an audience. So upon introducing myself to the host, I explained how I once “shot a man in a rocket, just to watch him fly.” Then, later, I went into this convoluted story about how I’d had June helping me on a project I was working on, and that she had figured out a better way of delivering the oxydizer to the engine, so I told her (singing), “because of your line, my rocket’s fine.”

And then, making it even better — later in the show, we’re doing an entirely different scene, playing different characters in a different game. I was a mad-scientist supervillain type in a game called “At The Gates,” in which the “surprise” ending is that we’re all dead, and we each take turns telling part of our story until they all tie together at the end. The stories all start separately, and then all come together when we die. One of the other players was my arch-nemesis, Captain Combustible, who didn’t so much have a superpower as he did just really enjoy setting stuff on fire. So by the end of the scene, we’re at a high school, and he’s set everything on fire, and someone else in their part talks about how they tripped me and so it’s my turn to go out and finish my story:

“So I was there in the school, and there were flames everywhere, and I was going through the hall, and someone tripped me …

“And I fell down, into a burning ring of fire! I fell down, down, DOWN — and the flames went higher! And it burned! burned! burned … that ring of fire!

“And that’s why I’m here, at the gates.”

The Song That I Sing

This is a song that nobody knows
I still can’t begin to describe how it goes
But it makes me cry or laugh right out loud
It’s a song that I sing when there’s no one around
It’s a song that I sing when there’s no one around
— Garth Brooks, “When There’s No One Around”

I discovered this song recently in my iTunes, and put it on my list to blog about. It ties in pretty well with this week’s Reconstruction topic, so this is as good a time as any.

The lyrics above really captured the point for me (and, conveniently, fit the topic, but the song is variations on that theme:

This is the man that nobody sees
He wears my old clothes and he looks just like me
Just one of the boys who gets lost in the crowd
He’s the man that I am when there’s no one around

This is a glimpse of the child that’s within
He’s so immature but he’s still my best friend
If he could learn how to fly he’d never touch down
He’s the kid that I am when there’s no one around

And the song struck home because it’s exactly what I hope is not true about me.

I sing. A lot. I sing while going for walks. I sing in the car. Heck, I sing sometimes walking through Target (albeit generally sotto voce — generally), especially if something good is on the radio.

I also, as I mentioned in the last post, sing badly.

That fact has no bearing on anything. I sing at improv shows. I’ve sung at work. Not only do I sing in the car, I sing in the car when people are riding with me. And I don’t wait until you get to know me to feel comfortable enough. I’ll sing in the car the first time someone rides with me. Because if you can’t handle me singing badly in the car around you, you don’t need to ride in the car with me, and you deserve to know that from the outset.

And that’s the point — my goal is to strive to be who I am. Because, ultimately, I am. So there’s no point in pretense. I feel no need to be in-your-face about that, but just to simply be.

My goal is for there to be no man that nobody sees. Character, they say, is what you do when there’s nobody looking. For me, there should be no difference. The man you see and the man I am in private should be one and the same. My character should be the same.

And I don’t want there to be a kid that I am when there’s no one around. Not because there’s no child within, but because he’s without, also. Yeah, there is definitely an aspect of the childlike to me, and I’m going to nurture that for as long as I can. But I’m also not going to be ashamed of it and hide it. That, also, is who I am.

So if you’re unfortunate enough to encounter me singing publicly — the song that you’re hearing? That’s the song that I sing when there’s no one around.

80 And Life To Go

This is the latest in my series of blog entries taking a fresh look at a variety of topics over the next year. I’ve set up a page on the blog explaining the project and linking to my entries. This week’s topic is “Octogenarians.”

Photo via the Houston Chronicle

John Houbolt turned 90 last year.

Which means, when I met him, he was in his 80s.

George Mueller turned 90 two years ago, which means he was also in his 80s the first time I talked to him. Chris Kraft was still in his early 80s when I first met him a few years ago.

Chances are, if you ran into John Houbolt somewhere, you wouldn’t know who he was. Heck, even given his name, you probably don’t know who he is. You may or may not know either of the other names.

But without John Houbolt, the United States may not have beat the Soviet Union to the moon. And the same may well be true for George Mueller and Chris Kraft.

On their Wikipedia pages, these men are history-shaping heroes. At Target, they’re the old men fumbling for change ahead of you in line.

Working on Homesteading Space really drove that home for me. I interviewed men whom I would not have given a second glance if I’d seen them in public, and yet who played key roles in shaping the American space program. And it made me aware that I had no clue who these people were. Would I get as frustrated with the guy who can’t figure out the self-checkout scanner buying groceries if I knew that he was like that?

And in Huntsville, that’s relevant to my world. These are my personal heroes. But the same is true anywhere, in other ways.

How would I respond to the person in front of me, if I knew he had accomplished more in his life than I ever will?

This Mess (You Say) — Aya Peard Lyrics

OK, another one of those posts were I come across songs in my iTunes that I look for lyrics to, only to discover they’re not online, and go ahead and transcribe the darned thing myself. I came across this a few years back on a sampler CD I got at Target. You can listen to or download the song for free here.

I closed my eyes
Saw stars all around you.
How did I lose
You before I found you?
Once you said you
Loved some things about me.
Now you say you
Are better off without me.

Where did I go wrong?
It’s just a word you say.
A word is a fine gateway
To something I’ve never expressed:
A way to get out of this mess.

You say you have
Good reason to doubt me.
You say I have
Myself to blame.
You say you gave
Everything you had,
And you say I said
This is not enough.

Where did I go wrong?
It’s just a word you say.
A word is a fine gateway
To something I’ve never expressed:
A way to get out of this mess.

You say you saw
Open words together.
You say you were
Fooling yourself.
I spent my time
Dreaming those adventures.
You say, “Too late,
This is not enough.”

Where did I go wrong?
It’s just a word you say.
A word is a fine gateway.
To something I’ve never expressed:
A way to get out of this mess.

Where did I go wrong?
Where did I go wrong?

There’s a second, underlying vocal track:

This mess I made
I was afraid
I fucked it up
I am to blame
I made mistakes
Pushed you away
I am sorry
Can you hear me?

Wood And Fire

If you’ve never experienced a wood wick candle, it’s a pretty cool thing. As the name implies, the wick is wooden, which results in the candle making a campfire crackling noise. It’s very mild, but can be rather soothing, particularly in combination with the flickering of the flame. Previously, I’d only seen them at Cracker Barrel, and I’ve had better things to do with my money lately than pay what they’re charging to buy a candle.

I recently discovered, though, that Target is now selling Nature’s Wick wood-wick candles, at a somewhat more agreeable price. They have the candles, reed diffusers and combination gift sets. They’re also all fall scents — a cinnamon spice, a green fall apple candle, pumpkin cheesecake, vanilla latte, and the one I bought, which is a wood fire smell.

Anyway, if you like candles, go to Target and check them out.