Last week during the course of my work I came across a person with the last name of Toomey and immediately I thought of Jenny Toomey. She was the singer of a band called Tsunami (amongst others) and she also co-ran an indie record label in the Washington D.C. area during my time there called Simple Machines. I bought a lot of Tsunami 7" singles in addition to other releases by Simple Machines. Also in the area was a band called Velocity Girl who were friends with Toomey and the rest of Tsunami.
While musing over my time in D.C. and pulling out the aforementioned vinyl I realized that I had been an idiot and wasted a lot of time there. True, I was going through a rather horrid broken marriage and divorce and was (okay am) a creature of habit so it was very difficult for me to break out of my comfort zone once one had been established. For instance, even though I bought their music I never actually got to see Tsunami, Velocity Girl or hell, even Fugazi and D.C. was pretty much their damn town. And when I say got to see I really mean I never made it happen, a failing that has followed me thus far in life.
Let me back it up for a moment. In 1992 while on active duty in the Army I was stationed at Walter Reed Army Medical Center which is located in the far North of Washington D.C. Once there I slowly started to make some feeble attempts to find something different culturally and musically. The greater D.C. area is a great place for that. The first place I gravitated to was the 9:30 Club, a dark, dank hole in the wall club located on 9:30 F Street. I loved it there. The way it looked on the outside was the way I felt on the inside. While I could have gone there (or any other club for that matter) much more often I was able to see many very cool bands like Sugar, Cracker, Jesus Lizard, Rocket From The Crypt and Clutch to name a few.
Once firmly established with a music venue I found myself a record store that was only about two to three miles from post. It was called Vinyl Ink and it was legendary. Unfortunately I was too intimidated by the staff and my own lack of knowledge for indie music so I never tried to really connect with them and be guided to some vital music. Had I done so perhaps life would have been much simpler. Instead I would just go in, leaf through the bins and eventually decide on something to buy which still worked out rather well. Within a few miles from post was everything I thought I needed, a McDonalds, a Chinese restaurant, a Jamaican restaurant (something new for me), my record store and even a movie theater. The only thing I had to travel for was live music.
I had it all or at least I thought I did. Even after I moved off post into the surrounding suburbs in Maryland I still stayed true to my comfort zone only adding a video store and changing to a theater and a McDonalds less than a mile from my apartment. The truth is I missed out on a lot. I could have seen far more bands play in a lot of different places. What’s more I could have gone to the people who ran the indie music labels and at the very least become friendly with them. It’s more than likely they wouldn’t have minded some goofy soldier volunteering and helping them out from time to time. What an education that would have been and it would have come in handy for some things I’m thinking about doing now.
Those days were the baby steps I was taking towards becoming the person I wanted to be but it’s only now that I’m becoming mature and realizing that doing the things I always dreamed about can be accomplished. It’s beginning to look like this will be the year that I finally get out and do some spoken word. I’ve found a place in Tulsa that encourages writers creatively like that as well as another that hosts a monthly Story Slam night. There are a few different kinds of music venues that I just became aware of catering to punk/indie music that I’m going to check out even though I’ll probably be labeled as the creepy old guy but that’s all right. I’ve been called better and I’ve been called worse.
Lastly, I’m finally writing lyrics/spoken word the way I’ve wanted to since I got out of the Army back in 1995. Yeah it’s been that long ago, what can I say, I’m lazy like that. My best friend and his son are going to work with me to put some of my words to music and the goal will then be to record them and get them into the Internet-osphere in some form or another. Presuming I can get that done doing a live show wouldn’t be totally out of the question although it would be rather terrifying. You see, another motivating factor is I want my son to see me doing things, making my dreams come true, so that I can teach him to live a life doing what he dreams of instead of waiting around for something to happen like his old man did. After all, actions speak louder than words and I’ve grown tired of talking about it.
Now it’s time to get out and do it. We'll see what the future holds very soon because it's never too late to learn. It just would have made things a whole lot simpler if it hadn't taken me so long
Written and Published by Don Leach. May not be used without permission from the author.