Vision and the Bottom Line



It was early September, and the high school was holding our annual open house. The idea behind this yearly ritual was to prove to the parents that we teachers were educated, human, and approachable. I must confess that I hated coming back to work after a long day, but when it was over I was always glad I came. 

One evening stands out distinctly among the others. Blabbing away about some Civil War general, or Cold War president, the last bell rang, closing the evening program. One father wanted to continue the history discussion, despite the PA thanking the public for attending. In a clear cockney accent he called out across the rising crowd, “William Wallace (Braveheart) was actually an English nobleman!”

“Oh. I never heard that before,” I hollered back, thinking people sure love salacious rumors. But I was wrong about the parent as a rumor-monger, and over the course of the school year we became good friends.

Now, I’m not going to reveal names because I don’t have his permission, but he was hiding away in our little corner of Idaho. And as we became further acquainted I found out, to my astonishment, that my friend worked as a tour director for a famous, very famous, and venerated guitarist.  Yup, that’d be the one.

My friend explained to me that his path was set early 1960’s London, when, as a young man he stumbled into the growing music scene. He became a driver for a new English band, which over time introduced experimental symphonic touches to their music. (A-choo Moody Blues, gesundheit!). When my friend motored around with Justin Lodge and the boys, they played clubs out of their beat-up van. He recalled rolling that old van onto a Channel ferry for engagements on the continent. As he reminisced about his early days, his voice grew sentimental and affectionate describing his starving days with an emerging English band.

Telling his story, still in his cockney dialect, my friend’s tone suddenly turned cooler. Explaining how the group finally signed their first record contract he came to realize that that event marked the end of the magic. Once the “suits” took over the music business the wonder evaporated, the energy deflated.

It’s Friday morning here in the beautiful mountains of Idaho. We have five hundred copies of River of January in the back of my car. We have sold a few, and buyers have emailed me about how much they enjoyed the read.

Writing this book felt a lot like love. Finishing the manuscript and holding the volume in my hands was a powerful moment. So where does the heart turn the work over to the bean counters who are only interested in money? I can’t seem to bring myself to Barnes and de-Noble-ize my work.

Book publishing is a fixture of the real world, and I understand that fact. But is it still possible to “mom and pop” creative projects in a corporate universe? Can business savvy folks appreciate the beauty and the passion expressed by a hungry band or in my book, River? Do they even give a damn? Surrendering control of the fruit of my intensity to cold, indifferent hands feels like negligence and abuse.

This writer can’t seem to shake the message of that transplanted Englishman from the East End. Is turning over my passion to decision-makers seated around generic oval tables the beginning or the end of creativity?

Consider purchasing River of January today. 


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