5.10 – Track #1 of The Great Trip Mix – Sam Cooke’s “Cupid”

“The Goddess of Music,” The Voice Professor said, “touches certain humans at birth, giving them The Gift to perform music at the highest possible level.”

“What about if you can cry you can sing?” I asked.

“If you can cry you can sing, yeah, but if you got The Gift you can cry and sing better, uh huh.”

“Alright!”

“All of our favorite musicians were Touched. Little Richard, James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, Prince, Whitney Houston… And I believe, tho raw and untrained, you have been, too.”

“Alright!!”

“Uh huh, but you have to understand, The Gift is a precious thing. It’s not enough just to have it, you have to take care of it. You gotta work really hard. You gotta almost pretend like you don’t have The Gift in order to make the most of The Gift. I can help you do this, but you gotta do exactly what I say, uh huh?”

“Uh huh.”

Then she handed me The Great List of Singing Rules.

- Practice every single day
- Warm up with nonsense words before singing songs
- Stand up straight
- Breathe
- Exercise
- Drink plenty of water
- No smoking
- No drinking
- No singing in the car
- No oversinging, especially right before a performance

I didn’t like a lot of the things on the list.

“Singing in the car?” I said. “But that’s where I do all my singing.”

 “Uh huh,” The Voice Professor said. “See, but what’s the most important thing about singing?”

“The Gift?”

“Nuh uh, the most important thing is air. You gotta think of your body as an air machine that needs to be operated correctly. When you’re sitting in a carseat, the machine is like a bent straw. You know what it sounds like when you blow thru a bent straw?”

“What?”

“Phht.”

“Oh.”

“When you’re bent you gotta use too much energy to get sound out, and if you blow too hard you could blow out your whole voice. You always gotta stand up straight to sing.”

“Alright.”

“The Rules ain’t always gonna be fun, but you still gotta follow em, uh huh?”

“Uh huh.”

“Now we gotta pick a song to practice all The Rules on and then sing at the Voice Recital.”

“But what if no one likes the songs I like?”

“That don’t matter, cuz you not gonna blow them away with the song, you gonna blow them away with the voice. Now how bout that oh-oh-oh-uh-huh song you were singing in class?”

“Faithfully?”

“Uh huh, who does that one?”

“Journey.”

“I have never heard of them before, can you play it for me?”

Then I brought it in, and we put it on. The Voice Professor turned it up loud and stuck her ears right up to the speaker and kept saying “uh uh” and “mm” and “I see.”

“Tell me,” she asked. “Who is this singer here?”

“Steve Perry,” I said. “The highest and most powerful voice in all of music.”

“Uh Haha!” she laughed. “Whatever you say.”

When she finished listening to the song, she gave one final “uh huh.”

“Yeah, I can see what he’s doing,” she said.

“What?”

“He’s doing Sam Cooke.”

Same Cooke was a high and powerful soul singer about having many Really Old Hits just before The Beatles started The Great List of Old Songs.

“What do you mean?” I asked. “Steve Perry isn’t a true original?”

“You kidding, right? Everybody in music trying to sound like somebody else.”

“Even the Beatles?”

“Please, they were doing Chuck Barry and the Righteous Brothers and Little Richard and the hundreds of now nameless to history Rhythm&Bluesmen from the South who came before them.”

“No way.”

“Uh huh way. Now if you wanna sing like this Steve Journey we gotta go to the source.”

Then she put on Sam Cooke’s “Cupid.”

“Cupid” is a song about The Goddess of Love coming down from The Other World in the form of a winged baby and shooting arrows at Realities to make them fall in Love.

“Now listen to this,” she said. “Your boy may be high and powerful, but Sam Cooke is high and powerful and smooth, uh huh!”

She was right. Sam Cooke’s voice was one of the best I’d ever heard. He could give you The Chills just from one note without even knowing what the song was about.

“Go ahead and sing along,” The Voice Professor told me.

Then I did and I was able to nail it right away.

“Uh huh,” The Voice Professor said. “The Gift.”

5.1 – Voice Training

The next year at Artsy Lawless I signed up for Voice Training. It was taught by The Voice Professor, an old Downtown NewYorkCity Reality who always wore a bright yellow and green sweatsuit that made her look like a parrot.

First she needed to figure out whether to put you in Amateur Group Training or Expert Private Training, so you hadta do an audition where you sung something you already knew by heart. I had never sung before without The Radio being on at the same time and couldn’t remember the words to things without it. When it was my turn I had to be honest.

“I don’t know anything by heart,” I said.

“Uh huh,” The Voice Professor said. “See that’s not true, cuz everybody at least knows how Happy Birthday goes.”

“Happy Birthday” is a song about wishing someone is happy on their birthday. All the words are known by every Reality everywhere.

I did know that song, and sang it for her, but it didn’t give me a chance to match any high and powerful vocals. I couldn’t help sounding like a kid who just wanted the song to be over so they could get cake and presents.

“Uh huh,” she said. “We’re gonna put you in Group Training.”

Group Training was me and several other Realities. The Voice Professor would make us stand in a row, and she’d go down the line and sing nonsense words at us like “wawamamawama,” and then we were supposta sing it back. Some Realities were able to repeat it exactly, and then she’d go “uh huh” to them. But most Realities just quietly mumbled the wrong pitch, and then The Voice Professor would ask them if they could cry.

“Yeah,” they’d say.

“Well,” she’d say. “If you can cry you can sing. Now go ‘Waaah!”

Then they’d try to go “Waah!,” but they still wouldn’t do it right.

It was like this for a long time until one class The Voice Professor said we could finally sing a line from a real song of our choice. The only thing I could think of was the “oh whoa whoa whoa oh,” part of Journey’s “Faithfully” cuz it didn’t have any lyrics to remember. I knew there was a good chance the class was full of MeNotzies who hated that song, but most of them had also embarrassed themselves by poorly singing nonsense words so I went for it.

“Uh huh?” The Voice Professor looked confused. “Could you sing that again?”

“Alright,” I said.

Then I sang it again, and she squinted her eyes and leaned her ear in right next to my mouth. Her eyes suddenly widened.

“Ooh!” she said.

She hadn’t said that word in the class ever before.

“Can you sing the rest of that song?” she asked.

“Not the words,” I said.

“What about the sounds? Can you just sing the sounds?”

“Maybe.”

Then I did the song just singing ‘la’s’ instead of the lyrics, and I realized I did know the melody and was actually nailing it.

“Uh huh!” The Voice Professor said. “I think you may… I think just maybe… You’ve got It.”

“Got what?” I said.

It.”

“What’s It?”

“You don’t know what It is?”

“No.”

“Uh huh, well, It is The Gift.”

“A Gift from whom?”

“The Goddess of Music.”

“Ohh!”

After that I didn’t have to go to Group Training anymore, cuz I was in Private Training.

2.15 – The Goddess of Faith

Before I got to Chicago I was able to make Wings go as fast as I wanted in a long straight line, but suddenly there were lots of orange cones and Road-workers and Detour signs everywhere. If you wanted to stay on Road-80 to Ohio you hadta really pay attention to all the signs. It all forced you to go way under 75 miles per hour. And to make things worse I kept yawning, and my eyes kept shutting.

“This isn’t supposta happen, and I hate Chicago,” I told Wings.

I drank some more Dr. Pepper and played The Mix really loud, but it wasn’t enough. My head kept suddenly snapping up, and every time I’d realize I’d just been asleep even tho I was driving. One time when I suddenly woke I noticed the cars were going fast again, and there was a sign that said, “Welcome to Michigan.”

“No!” I said, “We’re supposta be in Indiana.”

“Dammit, Bad Driving Endurance,” I said and hit the steering wheel with my fist.

I was going 75 miles per hour again but down the wrong Road, and I could see how at that rate I’d quickly end up straight in the Slums of Detroit, home of riots and abandoned buildings and a MeNotzie basketball team that usta be known as The Bad Boys.

“No way,” I said.

But I didn’t know how to get back on the Road to Ohio Industrial City (Rubber).  I just wanted someone else to be with me to tell me how to solve it.

“Dammit, dammit,” I said to Wings, “I hate Alone Reality.”

I was starting to panic again, but then I remembered my Training. I rolled down the window and yelled.

“Gods, it’s Bluebird The Reality Traveler, and I need help!”

Nothing happened, and then I realized I needed to make a sacrifice. I grabbed the first valuable thing I could find, my last two-liter of Dr. Pepper, and threw it out the window. I watched it fly back onto the Road, and the car behind me crushed it with its tires, and sweet pop sprayed out everywhere.

“Well,” I told Wings, “I guess it was getting warm anyway.”

Then suddenly a large bird came flying right at us. At the moment it should’ve cracked and splattered blood all over the windshield, it went thru like a ghost, and just like that my Guardian Angel was in the passenger seat. She wasn’t totally naked like the last time, but was still only wearing golden ribbons that covered certain parts.

“Bluebird!” she said. “What’s wrong?”

“I made a wrong turn,” I said.

“It’s Alright, Baby!”

Then she touched my arm, and her It’s Alright, Baby came inside and made me feel better just like it did in The Mountains.

“First,” she said, “I think you should get off at the next exit and park at a gas station and get in a powernap.”

“But I was supposta make it the whole way without sleeping. And I was supposta wanna go on this Detour and accidentally ends up in The Slums. And I was supposta follow that Goldfinch in Iowa.  And I was supposta to save the Deer-in-Headlights from the Buffalo MeNotzies in Nebraska.”

“It’s Alright, Baby, you did the best you could.”

She rubbed my arm again with both hands, and then I didn’t care about Driving Endurance or Detours anymore. I pulled off The Road like she said. I went to a Michigan gas station parking lot and fell into a deep, peaceful sleep right away.

When I woke up later, my Angel was still in the car.

“How do you feel?” she said.

“Like I got a full night sleep!”

“That makes me happy!”

Then she handed me a fresh, cold 2-liter of Dr. Pepper.

“Here,” she said, “I got this when you were sleeping. Now you should have enough for a second wind to make it home.”

“Wow, thanks!”

“Now you need to get back on the Road in the opposite direction. You’re going north so now you’ll have to go south. Then when you get back toward Chicago there will be a sign that says how to go east on Road-80 to get home.”

“What if I miss the sign again?”

“I’ll stay with you and keep my eyes peeled, too.”

“Alright.”

Then we got back on The Road and I followed her directions.

“Hey,” I said. “What should I call you? Guardian Angel?”

“You can call me The Goddess of Faith.”

“I like it. It reminds me of the Journey song, “Faithfully.”

“I love that song.”

“MeToo. It’s on The Mix I made for the Great Trip.”

“Oh! I love Mixes.  Let’s listen to it.”

Then I put it on, and The Goddess of Faith started singing along, and she had a great voice and knew all the words. Then I started singing along, too.

“Bluebird, you have such a beautiful voice,” she said. “It’s like a Goddess of Music touched voice.”

“Thanks!”

“Hey, wanna Rock Out to this?”

“I do!”

Then I turned up the volume and put the windows down and started moving my arms and shoulders any way they wanted to go. And she started shaking her head really fast and her golden hair bounced wildly all over the place.

“Hey, Faith,” I said, “watch this!”

Then I put Wings on cruise control and kicked my driving leg up.

“That’s The Kick,” I told her.

“I like it,” she said. “How bout this?”

Then she kicked up both legs into the air at once and wiggled them.

“Yes!” I said. “I came up with another very advanced Rock Out move last night called Head-Out-of-Window. I was even thinking of going for Whole-Torso-Out-of-Window, but it’s probably too hard to do in the middle of the day traffic.”

“Maybe I can help. What if I steered for you?”

“Alright.”

Then she grabbed the wheel and gave Wings a little It’s Alright, Car-Baby, and I was free to climb outside. At first I stuck just my head out again to feel out the situation, and when I realized the Goddess of Faith had things under control, I started to inch out until my whole body down to the belly button was hanging out of the car. The wind pummeled worse than ever, and the cars next to me thought I was a reckless freak and MeNotzie-honked me, but it made me feel so powerful to withstand it. I couldn’t hear anything but The Road, but I could sense Steve Perry hitting his final intense “Oh-whoa-whoa-whoa-oh’s” and soon it was like each skin cell was going “woah-whoa!” and opening their wings like they were Angels.

“I’m getting The Chills!” I yelled back in to The Goddess of Faith.

“MeToo!” she said.

When I could take no more I climbed back inside and explained what had happened.

“It was like Double Chills,” I said. “One was the actual Music Chills, and the other was the temperature chills from the cold and hard Road-air.”

“It was a very genius Rock Out move,” she said.

“Thanks for helping.”

“It was an honor.”

It wasn’t long before we got back close to Chicago.

“There it is!” The Goddess said.

And then I saw a sign which clearly said “GO THIS WAY TO GET HOME.”

I made the right move, and we were back on Road-80. We clapped at first, but soon the Goddess of Faith got sad.

“I like The Mix,” she said. “I want to hear every single thing on it over and over and discover new frontiers of Rocking Out. But I have to go now.”

“Oh,” I said.

“Last time I got in trouble with my boss for staying too long with you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“It’s Alright. It was my fault. I know The Rules.”

“What are the Rules again?”

“There’re a few really important ones. But I’ll have to tell you later, cuz I really have to go.”

“Alright, I guess if you have to, but it gets very lonely on The Road.”

“Alright, well, then here’s one for The Road.”

Then she leaned in and hugged me and gave me a full armed dose of It’s Alright, Baby.

“How do you feel now?” she said.

“Like I’ll never be lonely again.”

She smiled and sprouted her wings.

“Bye, Bluebird.”

“Bye, Goddess of Faith.”

Then she opened the door while the car was moving, and the wind blew in. She leapt out in one swoop, and then flew high into the sky until she disappeared into the sun.

1.3 – Track #9 of The Great Trip Mix – Journey’s “Faithfully”

I first learned about the Great List of Old Songs from Mom. When I was a kid she would drive me to places like The Mall and play The Hits Station on The Radio. Songs would come on and if one was good enough Mom would go, “ooh, this is a catchy one,” and then sing along. She especially liked the Hits by singers with high and powerful voices. One time one came on, and Mom said, “This is Journey. Their singer, Steve Perry, has the highest and most powerful voice in all of music.”

It was “Faithfully.”

“Faithfully” is a song about being full of Faith. And Faith is about believing in something no matter what. Like Journey was a band of MusicMen Travelers who were always on The Road playing songs that could MeToo far off and exciting new Realities. And when their Lovers were left at home, they worried that Journey might find new and better Lovers. But Journey reminded them that they were SoulMates in True Love and this meant they could believe no matter what that they’d be forever their’s, faithfully.

The song opens with the piano, and soon the high and powerful voice of Steve Perry comes in. Then the high and powerful drums and electric guitar join them, but Steve Perry’s voice is still the highest and most powerful thing. Throughout the song they keep building the intensity and somehow Steve Perry goes to a whole new level of high and powerful, and by the end he’s singing the word “Faithfully” over and over in the most high and powerful notes ever sung in a song. And it makes you think no one has ever meant that word more than this person does right now. You feel great for their reassured Lovers, and it makes you want someone to Love you like that, too.

“It’s making me shiver,” I told Mom.

“MeToo,” she said. “When a song is good enough and the singer is high and powerful enough, the music comes inside your body. You’ll feel a cold surge under your skin, and then your hairs will stand up, and you’ll start to gently shake. It’s called The Chills, and it’s The Goal of Music.”

“How does he sing so high and powerful?”

“Some people just have a God-Given Talent.”

Then I imagined there was a Goddess of Music who would go to hospitals and touch certain newborn babies, and they’d suddenly get musical superpowers. And then I thought how great it would feel if I were one of those babies.