Felix da Housecat Week: I Never Got to be a DJ

I don’t understand people who only ever had one dream for their life. I don’t get having one path to rigidly stick to, and if you’re knocked off of it, all hope is lost. It’s like the movie Rudy where Sean Astin plays the aspiring Notre Dame football player. Don’t get me wrong, I love the movie, even though I’m not a fan of Notre Dame or football in general. Many people look at it as an inspiring movie about sticking to your goals and perseverance and heart and all of that. But other people look at the movie and see some logic flaws. Why did Rudy spend so much time on a dream that was never going to pan out in a meaningful way? I’m not saying accept your fate of working at the mill in the small town you grew up in, but have more than one dream. What if Rudy, upon having his football goals crushed again and again, said to himself “I don’t think this is going to pan out” and pursued some other passion. What if he was a really gifted guitar player and could have written the great American folk song of our age, but was so hellbent on football that we lost out on it? What if he, instead of playing for Notre Dame, went to school and became a coach for Notre Dame? He clearly had a lot of knowledge of the game, maybe his insight would have been valuable on the bench. Did his obsession with one dream choke off a once-in-a-lifetime love, or a career as a dynamic defense attorney, always fighting for “the little guy” (couldn’t resist). Maybe he could have become a motivational speaker. In all honesty, I don’t know much about the guy beyond the movie, and I’ve heard the movie has a share of inaccuracies when compared to real life. But I think the premise I bring is still valid. Is it better to bullheadedly pursue only one dream, no matter how unrealistic or unattainable, or is it better to cultivate multiple dreams?

I’m biased, since I’ve already made up my mind. I fall into the latter category. I never had just one life dream, I worked on many paths at once. Maybe it’s a side-effect of my Attention Deficit Disorder, or maybe it’s an advantage of it. Maybe it’s some little piece of realism that I’ve never completely grasped, since I don’t tend to be a realistic person. I’m a Clark Griswold type, always dreaming way bigger than is possible. But, unlike Rudy, I divided my efforts from the start. Similar to planting seeds in a garden, you’re never going to be sure which ones will take root and flourish and which ones will die in the ground without ever coming up out of the dirt. Call it hedging your bets if you will, but when it comes to life, I really do believe this is the best way to handle it.

Of the many dreams I have had over the course of my life, there are certain ones that were stronger than others. My dream of becoming a marine biologist and studying and eventually saving the whales never really got a lot of traction, and withered away after only a couple of years. Other dreams, like being a writer (there are many sub-versions of this), have come up again and again and remain alive in some form or another, if not always at the forefront.

For a long time, I wanted my own radio station. One weekend in 1991 my parents rented the new Christian Slater movie. They watched in on Friday night, but were reluctant to let their impressionable young boy watch an R rated movie without knowing what was in it. So they watched it, found nothing too untoward in it, and left me a note that I could watch it if I wanted to. I hooked up some headphones and popped the tape in the VCR that Saturday morning, not knowing exactly what I was getting in to. I remembered Christian Slater from a movie I had watched on cable called Gleaming the Cube, but didn’t know much more about him than that. The movie I watched that Saturday was called Pump Up the Volume, and for a long time it was in my top ten of movies that I loved. I’ve seen it dozens of times since. I’ve owned it on VHS and DVD. I have the soundtrack on CD. I can (and have) quoted whole passages from it.

Granted, at twelve years old, there were a lot of references that my young sheltered mind did not understand at the time. The most glaring example, I had never heard the term “hard-on.” I was able to determine from the context of the movie that it was not a “polite society conversation” term, but beyond that I had no idea, and was too embarrassed to ask. I did eventually figured it out. I also didn’t understand the name of the “Eat me, beat me Lady.” My innocence thought it had something to do with cannibalism, but I figured that one out over time as well.

I immediately identified with the movie. The main character had a gift for writing, but was socially awkward. I can absolutely identify with that. I was too young to understand the high school dynamics at play. I was also a year or two away from my own high school experiences. All I knew was this was a movie about a shy guy who was secretly cool and the most popular guy in school. I’ve been a little obsessed with the idea of an alter-ego for most of my life. It’s a natural byproduct of low self-esteem, I’m told. But instead of putting on a cape and fighting crime, this alter-ego was a little more realistic.

A couple of years later, deep into my own experiences with high school and politics and finally getting some good music into my life, I came back to Pump Up the Volume. Now older and wiser, with a little more life experience under my belt, the movie hit even harder than it had just a couple of years prior. I identified with outcast Mark Hunter even more. I, too, felt that I had a voice that was screaming to get out. I was also increasingly frustrated by the music on the radio. Why didn’t they play better bands? Why didn’t they play the better songs off of the album? The seeds of my dream were being planted, and they were quickly taking root and sprouting into something.

I should have my own radio station. But I don’t want just any station. I want a station where I could say whatever I want and play whatever I want. No censors. No commercials. Just my thoughts and my music, broadcast to anyone who wanted to listen. And I believed people wanted to listen. I couldn’t believe I was alone in my thoughts or feelings. Other people had to feel the same way, right? Maybe I could help them. Maybe they, like me, just needed to feel like they weren’t alone.

I never got my own radio station. When I went to college, I thought of trying out for the campus station, but I had already become a bit of an elitist when it came to music, and felt I was too good for them. As the years have gone on, this dream evolved from “my own radio station” to “my own record shop/bar/coffee shop,” which, if I’m being honest, is just an excuse to hang out and listen to my music all day. Plus, there were those fantasies of becoming the next Wax Trax Records.

Many years later, the movie Pirate Radio (known as The Boat that Rocked outside of the US) tickled that urge to have my own platform to push my music and ideas out to the world. It helped me start my previous blog.

Overall, I doubt I’ll ever be a DJ. The closest I’m likely to get is this blog. Here I am, spewing ideas and music at my audience. It’s not quite the same. I mean, you’re likely to hear three or four Felix da Housecat songs this week just by clicking on the player at the bottom of each post. But they aren’t all the ones I think you should listen to. And this top 40, though wide in breadth, is hardly a comprehensive list of bands and songs I would love to expose people to. But so be it. This dream, like any good dream, will never die. It will reform and adapt, and become something else. I may never have the basement radio setup of Mark Hunter and I may never have legions of followers listening to me, but I have you, and hopefully you feel a little less alone in your own thoughts and a little entertained at the same time. Plus, I have a couple of other dreams I’m working on.


Mr. Tooduloo

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