5.14 – The Voice Recital

The Voice Recital was at the ALC Auditorium and there were lots of seats all filled with Realities who wanted to hear God-Given Gift singing. Even El Puma came.

“Your singing may be like a big net,” he said, “and when the chicks in the audience hear it, VUSH! You scoop up all their Love.”

I had worked on “Cupid” every week with The Voice Professor, and I was nailing it easily every time. I was even able to learn all the words without having to hear them. The Voice Professor didn’t know, but I was even nailing it without following The Rules of Singing. I never practiced cuz it was boring, and I Rocked Out hard every time I was in my car. It never seemed to affect my voice, and I wondered if I was just more Gifted than even The Voice Professor realized. I couldn’t wait for everyone to hear me and get The Chills and fall in Love with me.

Backstage everyone was singing their nonsense words to warm up. Including The Hottest Chick. She was finally all alone to talk to. I summoned my courage and trusted El Puma’s training would carry me thru.

“Hey,” I said, “you’re a really good singer.”

“Thanks,” she said.

“I’m in Private Voice Training, too. The Voice Professor says I have the Gift.”

“Good for you.”

“Are you also a Reality Traveler?”

“Yeah, isn’t everyone here?”

“I guess so, but I just got my Calling Card to the Reality Travel Training School.”

“I’ve known some Travelers who’ve gone there. How’d you get in?”

“I hadta MeToo a gritty down-and-out looking local truck driver.”

“I’ve MeToo’d a few truck drivers in NewYorkCity. Also truck drivers in Paris and Buenos Aires.”

“Sounds far off and exciting.”

“It was okay.”

“Oh.”

“Next semester I’m going to MeToo truck drivers in Sidney with my boyfriend.”

“Boyfriend? Does he go here?”

“No way. He’s a NewYorkCity Reality originally from Australia.”

“Like Crocodile Dundee?”

“I don’t know. I don’t watch TV.”

“Oh.”

Then she stopped looking at me, and I didn’t know what else to say to her. And the only thing to do was to start to pretend like I needed to practice my song. I was nailing it like always and vibrating air off all the right spots in my throat to make the right pitches. The Hottest Chick noticed and even raised her eyebrows. I wondered if my voice might be good enough to steal her away from Crocodile Dundee, but there was one little spot that wasn’t working right. I’d vibrate air off it, but it wouldn’t make a sound. I couldn’t even feel the air on it, and it was like it was numb and dead. But I really needed that spot, too, so I could hit the high and powerful “Cu” in “Cupid.”

“Dammit,” I said to the throat spot.

Then as I kept going thru the song I noticed other spots stopped working. It was like the numb spots were contagious, and soon I was missing lots of notes. It started to sound like I opened up my Gift and it was actually a wrapped up box full of poop.

I found the Voice Professor right away and told her about it. By that point even my speaking voice was coming out more scratchy and weak. She put her ear up close to my mouth, and I tried to sing for her.

“Uh huh,” she said gravely.

“What?” I said.

“It’s The Dead Voice.”

“What’s that?”

“Have you been following all The Rules of Singing?”

“Well, last weekend I did drive home to Ohio and sang a little bit in the car.”

“How much?”

“Really not too much.”

“Uh huh, The Dead Voice don’t lie.”

“Alright, I sang way hard for like the whole seven hours each way.”

“Uh huh.”

“I thought it wouldn’t matter.”

“No one is above The Rules.”

“But…”

“There’s nothing you can do now about it. The Gods gave you a Gift, and you didn’t take care of it, and now they’ve taken it away.”

“Forever?”

“No, but it ain’t coming back tonight.”

“But there are so many Realities here I have to MeToo.”

“Uh huh, and you would’ve. But sometimes you have to get humbled like this to respect The Gift.”

“Dammit.”

Then I didn’t wanna be there anymore. I didn’t wanna hear anybody else sing if I couldn’t prove I was better. And then I just wanted to get back to Alone Reality in my room as fast as possible.

“Hey,” The Duckling stopped me on my way out. “When are you singing? I don’t want to miss it.”

“Just leave me alone,” I said.

It was the last thing I could say loud enough to hear, and it was the last thing I ever said to her. When I got back to my room I cried. Tears came out of my eyes, but no sound could come out of my throat.

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.”

5.4 – Track #15 of The Great Trip Mix – Ace of Base’s “The Sign”

After Kat I had to move back into the ALC Dorms, and they were still having the same kinda parties there. Everyone but me was Adventuring in Alcohol Perception and gathering in circles and MeTooing about things I didn’t know about. Like NewYorkCity. I hadn’t been there yet, cuz Kat never wanted to, and I was kinda scared to after how it went in the last huge city I went to. But I guess they’d never had anything like that happen to them.

“I partied so hard in NewYorkCity last night,” or “Realities are so much more Real in NewYorkCity,” or “My boyfriend lives in NewYorkCity,” they’d say.

And they would also always play NewYorkCity music. It would mostly be some La Renarde-like local band that wasn’t supposta be on The Radio, or it would be New Downtown Radio Hits.

Downtown Hits are songs made for Realities from Downtowns instead of Suburbs.

New Downtown Hits were on a different Radio Station than Mom listened to, and I hadn’t really heard any of them. Most of them seemed to have no singing and went too fast to even know what they were about.

At one party I couldn’t believe an old Suburban Hit called “The Sign,” actually came on…

“The Sign” is a song about getting lost. Sometimes when you’re trying to get somewhere and don’t know the directions, you end up in a dark place you don’t want to be. Then you hafta hope you see a sign that leads you back in the right direction to some light place where you belong.

I’d always liked the song and was seeing new ways it could be about my life after Kat and how I’d got the Calling Card sign and was getting back into the light of Reality Travel. I looked around the party for anyone to MeToo about it, but they were only making faces like something smelled bad.

“Oh my god,” a Reality held their nose, “Is this Ace of Base?”

Ace of Base is a band, from the far off and exciting Realities of Scandinavia, about trying really hard to sound like American Downtown Hits. Their songs all accidentally ended up on American Suburban Hits Radio tho.

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” someone came running, “That was a mistake! I’m changing it.”

Everyone laughed and took a deep breath, and then the song was off and soon replaced by more pure Downtown Hits made by actual American Downtown Realities. It all made me want to escape to Alone Reality in the trees outside again.

But before I could, a girl from Group Voice Training came up and stopped me. She’d had a terrible offkey singing voice that sounded like a quacking duck. She’d also always wear a heavy down coat and snow hat no matter what, as if she’d just been in a cold pond at all times and needed them to prevent hypothermia.

“Hey,” she said. “How come you don’t come to Voice class anymore?”

“Because I’ve advanced to Private Training,” I said.

“That’s awesome! You are like a really, really good singer.”

“I know.”

“So don’t you think The Voice Professor is kinda weird? What’s with all the baby noises and ‘uh huhs’?”

“I like the ‘uh huhs.’”

“I know, MeToo!”

I didn’t really want to be talking to her anymore. I couldn’t stop remembering the sound of her duckily bad ‘wa-was.’ Also her down coat looked way too stuffy, and it was making me sweat.

“Can I get you a drink?” The Duckling said.

“I don’t drink.”

“What do you mean? Doesn’t everyone drink?”

“I don’t. It makes me throw up.”

“Ha, are you some kinda Lightweight?”

Then she poked me in the chest with her finger and it kinduv hurt.

“I think I’m going to go now,” I said.

“Oh, but I’m just teasing you,” she said.

But I didn’t want to be teased by such a bad singer, so I kept going toward the door. On the way I was stopped by yet another Reality. He leapt in and put his arm around me even tho I didn’t know who he was.

“Pardon me,” he said in a foreign accent. “I could not help overhearing your conversation. May I say you did the right thing by walking away. I also do not drink at these parties. I feel I must keep my eyes focused and alert for Love.”

As he spoke his vision scanned the room like a jungle cat.

“Allow me to introduce myself,” he said. “I am El Puma, the Reality Traveler from South America.”

It was the first time I’d met someone from such a far off and exciting location. I introduced myself and told him I was a Reality Traveler too and had just gotten a Calling Card.

“Wow!” he said. “This comes as a great relief to meet such an expert as yourself, Traveler Jonathan. This party is full of MeNotzies. All night I have been hunting for a chick to Love, but so far have had little success. Tell me, does a chick Love you?”

“I don’t think so, not anymore.”

“Ah, then you are now ready for a new chick to Love?”

“I guess so.”

“And you are also hunting for one here?”

“I don’t really hunt. I just kinda wait for someone to come to me.”

“Come to you?! But you may have to wait an eternity for this. If you hunt well enough you can fall in Love again right at this very moment.”

“I don’t know how to hunt tho.”

“Do not worry Traveler Jonathan. I have some expertise in this and can show you.”

“Alright,” I said.

And then me and El Puma became a Traveler Team.

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.