I met Stacy in a bar last summer while I was working. She told me I have a fun job. Stacy and her husband, Larry, paid two grand so that Larry could spend the day jamming with rock stars at Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp. I spent the day watching him for a Baltimore Magazine piece on ways grownups and kids can kick out their own separate jams at summer camp. (Ironically, the jams are the same: classic rock.)
I "worked" for thirteen hours (with a one-hour break from four to five to change clothes and chug a beer). I dragged my tired, forty-five-year-old butt into Towson University’s Union at 8:00 a.m. to hear some morning banter before check in, and I wobbled out of the Ram’s Head Live at 9:00 p.m. In the hours between, I wandered in and out of five band rooms, taking pictures and notes, eavesdropping, and interviewing campers about their experiences. I followed the godlike Earl Slick to the patio, where he smoked a Marlboro. I taped three minutes of a twenty-minute impromptu jam featuring Earl and Gilby Clarke. And I got to touch Kip Winger. On the stomach. And it was good.
* * *
While I was touching Kip Winger, an old friend from high school found me on Facebook and asked me to catch her up on the last 28 years of my life. I thought: who can do that in a paragraph? But a sentence was all I needed: I’m married to the man I fell in love with 25 years ago; I have a beautiful, smart daughter who plays electric guitar and soccer; I am having my first book published by Simon & Schuster in April; and I spent the day reporting on Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp.
Though we both have beautiful, smart children and good husbands, she decided my life was more glamorous than hers. She's an accountant.
* * *
This morning, I was lamenting to a male friend the lack of female participation at the Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp. Why don’t moms let their daughters grow up to be rock stars?* “Because it’s a stupid lifestyle,” my friend told me. But how is it more stupid than, say, being an accountant? Shouldn't we all find some way to follow our passions for pay? Isn't that how we keep from jumping off a bridge on purpose?
Mark Hudson, one of the Fantasy Camp counselors, knows for sure that as long as he's doing something with music, he's sane (though sane might not mean the same thing to us; Hudson's dyed his facial hair to resemble rainbow sorbet). Meeting him in the hallway shattered all my preconceptions about the camp; it was the light-bulb moment that I live for when I'm writing. He had stopped me to apologize because I'd come into his room at the moment he was admonishing his group for missing a cue. He couldn't help it; music is his passion, and that's why he participates in the camp each time. Hudson's face lit up when describing the joy he gets from watching his bands click after just a day of rehearsal.
So Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp is not, as I'd once joked, a bunch of guys on the Who Was list of rockers getting their egos stroked by computer analysts and accountants (and writers). And it's not about people who didn't follow their passions, either.
I love all the things I do—even when I'm editing newsletters for Johns Hopkins or writing some quick ad copy for a local market. A sentence is a set of words, and it can be as exquisite as I want to make it. I'd hate for some snob like me to think I was on the Who Was list of writers because I chose to teach or lead a workshop.
* * *
People dream of becoming some perfect success at some perfect thing. But I bet more people dream of becoming a rock star than anything else. I still dream about it. Why did I give up guitar lessons after just four of them and wait until April of 2008 to try again? And why didn't I join another band when my own broke up in 1982?
That's what the camp is about. Maybe there's still time for me, like there was for those eighteen guys and one girl who paid $2,000 to practice and perform with seasoned, passionate pros. When I told friends I was reporting on the camp, they all wondered who would pay so much to do that. Now I can tell them. I would. Twice.
Hell, I'd even pay to touch Kip Winger's tummy again.
* * *
*My first baby gift, while Serena was still in my belly, was a tiny red electric guitar pick from my cousin, Stacey. It sits in a shot glass with the others I’ve collected over the years, including a few with the Camp logo, which I lifted from a table. I'm just tickled that she already knows how to use them. Much as I love the idea that she could one day grow up and jam with Brandi Carlile, I'd still rather people pay to jam with Serena.