(Revised on 11/4/09)
By Adam LaMonica
October 20th 2009
It is early in the afternoon when the sun finally reaches his window. He gingerly opens his eyes, squinting at the light striking his pupils for the first time that day. He sits up in bed and runs his hands through his long coarse hair and rubs his rough and rugged facial hair. He stands and stretches his long lanky limbs. He looks in the mirror at a haggard image of himself, realizing he hasn’t showered in a few days. He walks over to his dresser and retrieves his favorite baggy. Skillfully, he extracts the perfect amount and rolls it to perfection. Quickly, he fetches his matches, for he knows a wooden match is always best. He lights up and takes a few puffs; his pupils go large as his day begins.
“Daniel! Stop eating those snacks, you are spoiling your supper!” his mother would always say, way back in his youth, back when he was but 12 or 13. He was, like many other Americans, overweight. Looking at him now you would never know. He was a lazy youth, sat around and watched TV. He never seemed too prone to do his homework, despite his failings at his tender age, things seemed to go his way. In his 8th year of schooling, he came home one day to his father. “Son, it is time for you to get a hobby,” Mr. – said, or so that’s how it is recalled. Dan was presented a guitar, his first. He wasn’t sure of what to make of it at first, but his father was unrelenting. “Looking back at that point in time, I now see that my father was anything but proud of me,” Dan admits. It was the look in his father’s eyes that pushed him to music.
After finishing his joint, he goes into the kitchen of his parent’s home. He is alone in the house on this mid Friday afternoon. With short steps he makes his way to the pantry to find very little. His options limited, he grabs the peanut butter and makes a sandwich. He eats it slowly, letting his mind wander as he chews. When he finishes his quick lunch he makes his way to the porch and enjoys a cigarette and again, his mind wanders. After a cigarette or two he returns to his room, picks up his guitar, and begins to play.
Music gave Dan something to strive for. As he learned to play during his 8th grade year, everything seemed right. Without any change in his lifestyle, Dan began to lose weight, almost to the point of drastic. Without any more educational ambition, his grades improved despite his lack of homework. It seemed to him, at that age, that music just made everything in life better. By the time he completed middle school at West Running Brook, he was borderline anorexic, his grades were all solid C’s and B’s instead of D’s and F’s, and his talent in music was as clear as day. He entered a high school of upwards of four thousand students at Pinkerton Academy in Derry, NH, in the year 2004. As a freshman, he joined the large music program that the school had to offer, taking Intro to Music. “It had become my passion in less than a year’s time, playing my guitar was all I wanted to do.”
Now, in his room, Dan had played his guitar for hours before he got the call. It was Peter; he had to work and couldn’t play with him that night. Dan tells himself that is fine, he will play alone. Realizing the time he quickly showers and trims his mustache, leaving the stubble on his chin and cheeks. He has another cigarette as he waits for his ride, having no license or car himself. His ride arrives and he is off. Another Friday night at the local coffee shop is underway yet again.
As high school continued, Dan garnered a reputation and some habits. Everyone in the graduating class knew of him, along with many in the class just under him. He was popular because he was something different. He was a true free spirit. “I honestly didn’t care much about anything but people and music,” Dan continues, “My friends supported my music and I supported their endeavors. The rest of the world be damned.” As he met more and more people he met more and more talented musicians. One such was a drummer named Tim. “Tim is one of my favorite people” Dan exclaimed, “He is the best drummer I have ever met. He introduced me to a lot.” One such thing was marijuana and cigarettes. While Tim was a casual smoker in every regard, Dan became more than that. Part of his reputation he garnered along with talented musician was perennial pot head.
He arrives at the Coffee Factory somewhat early. He purchases a cup of coffee with the money he made tuning an old woman’s piano a few days back. He picks up a paper and takes a seat. Sipping his coffee, he elongates the beverage’s contents as much as he can as he reads the newspaper; it is yesterday’s paper.
His social life aside, high school was also a place of learning. He maintained that C average, taking the minimum classes available. However, his one exception was his music classes. In his senior year in high school, 2008, Dan took Advanced Music Theory 2, the most advanced class in music Pinkerton has to offer. He credits all he is musically to what he learned throughout his years in those courses. He used what he learned to write music. He wrote and performed at many venues all over the area. He would often play solo, with just his voice and his guitar. He would also play with others that he had met. “I love playing with Tim and Peter. We just get up there and improvise, but we are so in tuned with each other it produces some amazing stuff,” says Dan. Throughout high school, Dan had various rag tag bands such as Secretly Sixty with Tim and Peter. His musical groups were always loosely defined and never really become more than just hobbies, even to Dan.
Timed perfectly, Dan finishes his coffee as the other musicians begin to arrive. He greets them, some he knows and some he doesn’t. Amongst themselves they decide who goes when. One woman said she needed to get home to her children; she went first. One man said he needed to wake up early to go to work; he went after the mother. The next trio was in high school, and demanded to go third; and so they did. The last lady worked at the coffee shop as the store manager, claiming she needed to prepare the store for closing before the last act; she went fourth. Dan was slated to go fifth and last.
Dan’s music is very independent. He has a very unique style. “When I write, I tend to just play my guitar,” Dan says, “In the back of my mind my knowledge of notes and keys come in, but I don’t think about it when I write, it kind of just comes. It is quite transcending.” When asked what sounds near to his music he can’t seem to answer indefinitely. “His music is really something you have to go and hear, you can’t really know what to expect until then,” says one high school friend of Dan’s who is currently attending college. “Dan? Well, his music is, it’s just Dan,” one person said, quite simply.
Dan listened to all the other acts enthusiastically. After every performance he would chit chat with the performer, complimenting them, creating general small talk. He was expanding his musical resources. He had a cigarette before the next act. In the middle of the fourth, Dan got a call; it was Peter. He had just got out of work and wondered if Dan had gone on yet. Jubilant, Dan told him he was next, he would wait, and he was glad Peter was coming.
Dan has never been able to hold a job through his years. He has no drive to make money. He claims he has no reason to make money. He had a job at Shaws Supermarket during his senior year. “He had someone cover his shift every day. Eventually he just stopped coming, just stopped caring,” I was told by a co-worker and friend. His high school education was under similar duress due to a lack of motivation. Dan didn’t graduate with his class of 2008. He did, however, take night classes and got his GED. Currently, he is 20 years of age, unemployed, living at home, has no plans or thoughts for the future, and plays music every Friday night at the local coffee shop, The Coffee Factory.
Peter arrives just before the store manager finishes, his guitar in hand. Dan greets him with a hug that Peter returns. They set up for their performance. They hadn’t played together in months. They hadn’t written together in months. They hadn’t practiced or jammed together in months. They played, and it was as if they had practiced leading up to this one show at the local coffee shop. The crowd was all smiles, often one of the other musicians would chime in with a bongo beat or a harmonica. The audience got involved, the one and only act in which they did. Dan finishes only when his voice is horse and his fingers bleed. The audience claps and stands as one. Dan thanks them all, and he thanks The Coffee Shop. Peter drove Dan home that night. His pupils dilated from the car ride, Dan went to the kitchen. Finding little options he made a sandwich. He had a cigarette before going into his room. There he stretched his lanky limbs and ran his hand through his coarse hair as he sat on his bed. His pupils are large as his day ends.