Once upon a far more irresponsible and optimistic time, I was in the music business. True story…

Red Carpet

Opening for Common at Studio 54 in Las Vegas

We had ourselves a band, a dream, and an independent record deal purpose-built to land us a major label record deal. We had a phenomenal producer and four skulls full of heady ideas and ambitions.

So it’s no surprise that people frequently wonder aloud why I walked away from it. I understand, because in weaker moments, I’ll admit I also wondered why. After all, who in their right mind would give up on all the fun?

Key Club

Playing The Key Club in LA

Fun, like staying in private suites in Las Vegas casinos that I couldn’t have afforded (and likely still couldn’t afford even now). Fun, like meeting gorgeous women with positively adorable accents. Fun, like carousing around the country with some of my best friends. Fun, like meeting a young kid who was actually eager to tell us how much our music mattered to him or her. Fun, like seeing a swaying crowd full of raised fists at hometown shows.

It was every variety of fun that a lazy dime-a-dozen bassist from Tampa ever wanted and never deserved. Andy and Johnny deserved it all. I didn’t. They weren’t lazy, they weren’t dime-a-dozen, and they weren’t bassists.

But to answer the questions around my experience and ultimate departure, I’ve only really found one way to explain it all. Before, during, and after…

It’s like Disneyworld. Allow me to explain.

Before you get there, you’re like a giddy child squirming in the backseat and begging to know how close you are after every third mile-marker. An impatient kid willing to accept their lack of total control of the vehicle carrying them in exchange for the promise that it will eventually get them there.

Then you get there and it’s every gilded fantasy that you always told yourself it would be. It’s a sensory whirlwind of new sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and feelings that steal the breath from your lungs. You run madly through Paradise, throwing yourself wildly at every attraction it offers you.

Magic Kingdom Panorama

Then, eventually the intercom barks out a closing time. A warning, if you will. You check your watch and it’s far later than you realized. You turn your attention from the rides and sights to the impending exodus from Paradise to its parking lot. It’s time to go.

The park is closing. Paradise is closing, kid. And for that matter, you’re not the kid you were when you arrived. So, with the staff ushering everyone toward the exit, you hurriedly fly through the souvenir shops. You snatch up every last parting token you can afford to remind yourself on wistful days that you got to be here once upon an irresponsible and optimistic time.

Then, with a sigh and an armful of mementos, you shuffle reluctantly toward the exit. You pause long enough to look backward as you cross the threshold and see that the only folks staying behind are the park workers. The jaded Keepers of Paradise that you yourself might have one day become had you stayed there.

They’re dutifully pouring bags of kitty litter on another vomit stain just outside a closed attraction. And in that silent and slow-motion moment, you know you made the right choice. It was a sad choice, but it was ever the right one.

So you fight your way out of the parking lot and make your late trip back to “normal”. Sure, you’ll try to manage your envy every time a friend vacations in Paradise or even just gets a job there. You’ll smile as you lovingly dust off your old mouse-eared hat. You’ll pause a for a few long minutes when you stumble upon a souvenir snapshot of you “surviving” some roller coaster or log flume. You’ll forget why you left. You’ll wonder why you left. You’ll remember why you left. But if you’re smart, you’ll just feel very lucky. And probably a little old.




About The Author

Mark Allen

I write and drink whiskey.

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