You can take the girl out of Philadelphia, but you can’t take Philadelphia out of the girl. My visit this weekend reminded me of the devout pride Philly has in its teams. Yesterday, in a horribly long line for the register at the Center City Trader Joe’s, an announcement came over the loudspeaker instructing customers to chime in and sing the Eagles’ fight song, on the count of 3. That happened, in a big way, with boisterous Philly enthusiasm. Today, the at 30th Street Station, in “Eagles Nation,” the arrival of my train home was energetically announced by an Amtrak employee, wearing an oversized green Eagles jersey, beaming, shaking hands and high-fiving passengers as we filed onto the escalator. While I love the home I have made in Providence, RI, for tonight’s Super Bowl, I’d rather be an Eagles fan.
Sunday morning, I was reading an interview with New Yorker cartoon editor Bob Mankoff in today’s New York Times Magazine. When asked whether or not an artist will redo an unsatisfactory cartoon submission, he responded, “I often say the difference between an amateur and a professional is that an amateur really likes everything they do.”
And I found myself thinking, “What would be so bad about that?”
Not that I am knocking the rigor and discipline that lead to greatness. But everyone needs a place in their life where they can be an amateur. Eddie Cantor once said, “It takes twenty years to become an overnight success.” We spend most of our time seeking to achieve and to earn recognition in most areas of our lives. How many of us can honestly say we really like everything we do?
This struck me with particular poignance the morning after I’d made my debut at Karaoke night at the Boom Box, the Dean Hotel‘s cozy, subterranean club in Providence. Unusually cozy. So cozy that even sans alcohol, I found myself singing my heart (and lungs) out, accompanying myself with fist pumps as well as my hands raised in peace signs to accentuate relevant lyrics. My playlist ran the gamut from Anna Nalick’s sultry Breathe (2 a.m.) to Alanis Morissette’s irreverent Hand in my Pocket. By the time I had everyone on their feet singing a boisterous Let It Go from the movie Frozen, I was lost in the moment. My family did not recognize me, and my new club-pals cheered that I “rocked.”
The crowd quieted when someone chose to sing Bob Dylan’s Hurricane. Although Dylan’s anti-racist protest song was released in 1975, his gripping lyrics chronicling the imprisonment of Rubin Carter resonate eerily with issues of today, bringing the Boombox back to reality, for a moment.
Getting over yourself, singing with abandon, sharing the evening getting hoarse with like-minded strangers may not seem professional. In fact it will certainly offend the sensibilities of those with trained voices. But that’s exactly what is so wonderful about Karaoke and the brief sense of communal joy and relief it affords.