The Music Man

The bond between mother and child can never be broken, it can only be incomplete by degree. The bond between father and child must be nurtured to exist at all. The chances for failure are infinite.

It's been a very long day. Up at 6:00 a.m., write for a couple of hours, work all day, do some errands and run a men's group until 9:30 p.m. Now it's 11:30 and I'm standing in a smoky bar, but I neither smoke nor drink. At 51 I'm easily the oldest person here. My saving grace is that I don't have the shortest hair.

The wonderful young girls pose with delicate security to see who that good looking kid at the other end of the bar is staring at. Two hundred or so pair of eyes darting about, afraid to land anywhere for more than a few seconds. When they see it's not them being looked at, they light up a cigarette. They don't even notice that I'm taking it all in, in my best Hemingway- like tradition.

The band is so loud I can feel my pulse keeping time. It is a small college area bar, that brings in new local bands to try out one night a week. My kid is up there on stage in day glow trousers that in other times might have been a hot air balloon. His Guitar singing out in rhapsodic harmony to the monotony of a reggae beat. Incessantly. I've always hated reggae for some reason. Perhaps because I never stopped to really listen to it. I get no connection to anything that resonates for me. And yet, this group is good. I find myself mesmerized in the rhythms, delighted in the joy and happiness of the kids on stage and off. The beat of the music is everywhere. Every nimble young body, and a few not so nimble, moves to the beat...even mine. Everyone, somehow, in some mystical way, is connected.

I feel a great sense of gratitude that these kids can find a moment of pleasure in their music. As I look around, I fall swiftly into a time warp and for just an instant, remember myself, 30 years ago, in a bar just like this, when I did smoke and drink, and the length of my hair told everyone everything they needed to know about me. It was not meant for me to make the music then, although I would have battled lions to be able to. It is my son's turn now, and I get to share two dreams. Mine and his.

Suspended momentarily in my time travel I heard the music of Presley and The Beatles and Jefferson Airplane and The Yard Birds. Just as loud, the same insecure wonderful girls, the same lost young boys. I'm struck by how little has really changed. The years flash across my eye lids by in generational syncopation. I think about what it would be like to do it over again, starting here, tonight and it seems for a moment like a nice idea. I am sure that the girls in my bar never looked as good as these girls here tonight. I really want to be twenty one again and for a few precious moments I am.

Finally, the smoke gets to me and I have to leave. As I walk out the door, I become aware that I smell like an old Pennsylvania Dutch tobacco barn in the fall. The cool night air brings me quickly back into the Tuesday evening. I am thrilled that my son gets to live through all this from under the lights. I am delighted that he can and am proudly jealous of his talent. I look forward to sharing his experiences. But all in all, I think even if I could, I wouldn't want to do it again.

Once is enough--but there is great merit in the dream.

© 2008, Kenneth F. Byers

Other Transition Issues, Books

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A permanent state of transition is man's most noble condition. - Juan Ramon Jimenez

Ken Byers holds a Ph.D. in psychology with an emphasis in Men's Studies, one of the few ever awarded in the U.S. Ken is a full time Certified Professional Life Coach specializing in working with men in any form of transition and an instructor of design at San Francisco State University.

His books, "Man In Transition" and "Who Was That Masked man Anyway" are widely acknowledged as primers for men seeking deeper knowledge of creating awareness and understanding of the masculine way. More information on Ken, his work and/or subscription information to the weekly "Spirit Coach" newsletter which deals with elements of the human spirit in short commentary, check the box at or or or E-Mail You are welcome to share any of Ken's columns with anyone without fee from or to him but please credit to the author. Ken can be reached at: 415.239.6929.

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