My Superman underwear were red, naturally. (I'll get back to that.)
This morning, I taught a poetry class for Harlingen High School, small town Texas, and let the students know that fame is overrated (not that I've ever been famous, but... I'll get back to that).
The point was: coming up, all the bands (one-man's included) wanted some place like LA, or Nashville, or New York City on their resume.
Gotta prove you're big-time, right?
So, the booking agent complies, and you're finally driving to the City of Dreams, having bypassed those — you know — lesser shows in towns that you could sneeze through (I mean, the kids were cool but image what tonight will be like).
You load in to some dungeon down a staircase (as pitch black as the walls are) into a basement where exactly three humans have fathered to watch you play.
Well, two of them are the eclectic acoustic duet opening up for you with a beautiful mixture of both Jack Johnson and 21 Pilot covers).
The third is your presale count, which — on an incredible, big city, 70/30 split — you get exactly $5.60 of, so your door deal covers a solid one and one quarter gallon of gas in your guzzler after the door man nearly forgets to give you THAT at one thirty in the morning. (It's important to start so late that your one fan's mom has to force him to leave — he's got school in the morning — at right about halfway through your second song.)
Anyway, don't trip too hard over your pride. People see you not looking them in the eye on your way toward "next."
Play Harlingen. Or Beaumont. Or Nacogdoches. Or Carthage. Man — those Carthage kids were some of the most enthusiastic people I've ever met, and none of them care about your tour routing.
Don't forget to be thankful for what you have.
My Superman underwear were red, naturally. I'd rock them like a normal human when I went to sleep, but as outwear during the day (on top of my blue sweatpants). This, back when my sister was still sporting Hanson t-shirts and I had just discovered that the DC Talk Nu Thang tape my dad gave me had a Side B.
After months of listening to tracks one through five, it was insane to discover WALLS on the other side), and I'd wake up refreshed as Clark Kent, ready to fly, opting to hide.
It's hard to let yourself be seen. Put your glasses on for this Daily Planet.
Last weekend, I went to church with my mom. Cried through the entire service. It's been too long. I kept thinking, "I miss everything. I miss everyone."
After the closing song, four humans (that's one headcount more than the basement gig) just a few years older than the students at Harlingen High, came up to introduce themselves to Levi The Poet (my blue medical mask disguise not clever enough to thwart the throngs) and I remembered how much I love the people in this world even though it has been so hard to step back inside of it.
"I never left, but I couldn't stay. I don't think that it will always be this way, and thanks for having me."
My mom called me fifteen minutes after we parted ways in the parking lot.
"Levi, I always forget that you have fans, and that's sweet and all, but when I watch you sign things, I think, 'Do these people know that this is the kid who used to wear his red underwear inside out on top of all his clothes?'"
Don't forget who you are, kid.
(But when you do, and if you can: let yourself remember it.)
👆 Day No. 06 of Austin Kleon's 30 Day "Practice and Suck Less" Challenge.
This afternoon’s exercise was inspired by laughing about underwear with my mom, and a great guest-teaching session with Christopher and Harlingen High School's Poetry Club this morning. (If you'd like to book me for your school / club / classroom / university, shoot me an email here.) From the mouth of a teacher, Chris said:
"I think it's an incredible option for teachers. We're constantly looking to ignite inspiration in our students."
If you decide you’d like to see something beyond practice-pieces, check out The Fraction Club — a patron-based community of folks who support my creative work in exchange for exclusive writing, performance, commentary, interaction and more — or my book, It’s All Worth Living For.