Several months ago I was standing on the train on my way to work. When the train pulls into my station at rush hour it is already pretty full and I rarely get a seat. On this particular morning there was a man sitting very near to me dressed all in black. His clothing was dirty and a little ragged, and he had several large bags with him. he may have been homeless or just down on his luck.
The most distinct thing about this man was the fact that he had a drum in his lap. It was kind of like a half a bongo, only the top part of it. And he was playing it, banging on it, non stop at 8:30 in the morning, on a fully packed train, on some random Tuesday, and he was showing no signs of stopping.
At first my thoughts were probably the same as everybody else on the train;
STOP STOP STOP STOP STOP OH MY GOD STOP!
It was obvious that people were frustrated. I caught more than one person giving him the evil eye and heard plenty of exaggerated sighs. Even though everybody wanted him to stop, nobody said anything. Maybe because everyone realized anybody playing the bongo on a rush hour train may be a little off and therefore, not worth antagonizing. It takes about 25 minutes to get from my stop to midtown, and this guy didn't look like he was getting off anytime soon.
Let me say that it is not unusual for Bongo playing to take place underground in new York City. In fact I would argue it is a staple of the subway experience. But it is something you usually hear on the platform. A tightly packed train car is the opposite of a good place for a one man bongo show.
I watched him pretty much the whole train ride. It was hard not to. I had a book with me but I couldn't really keep my focus on it. He would play for a bit and then stop for a minute; he would smile to himself as he tried out new beats, or replayed ones he knew well. He would laugh here and there as though a certain particular beat was particularly amusing, like the beats brought back memories.
Maybe they did.
But the longer I stared at him the more my thoughts changed. My frustration changed to curiosity, and then ever so slowly into introspection. It wasn't just the noise of the music of the bongo that got me thinking... it was the guy himself. Something about him and what he was doing spoke to me. And then I realized;
He was my metaphor.
Now I didn't realize it right away, because at first I thought he was just crazy. I kept wondering, doesn't this guy know he's not any good? Surely he must know that or he wouldn't be a homeless man playing bongo on the subway, he would be off somewhere in some famous bongo band.
But no matter how many people sighed or shot him dirty looks, he didn't seem to notice. He just kept right on drumming. It was almost beautiful.
He didn't have a hat out, or a sign asking for money. He didn't ask anyone to make a contribution to his fund. He just sat there, playing the bongo however he wanted, for as long as he wanted. For whatever reason, something compelled him to do it. Until somebody forced him to stop, or he completely lost interest, he would bang his drum. Just like I have been banging my drum for the past 12 months. Except my drum is a blog.
A little over a year ago I was looking for a reason to write more. I had pitched a couple of magazines with story ideas but never heard back. I knew I wasn't going to get better unless I started having a regular reason to write. The word "blogger" had taken on such a negative connotation that I had no desire to create an identity as one. But the more I thought about it, a blog was the best way for me to have the freedom and the ability to write as I wanted.
I thought I had some interesting things to share and some unique stories to tell. Most of all I thought I might be able to make people laugh. The only way to figure that out was to try. And so Boehmcke's Human Condition was born.
I started sending it out.
Nothing came of it right away and still at this point, nothing has come of it. Well, that is not entirely true. I have met some wonderful people through writing and blogging as it were. I have created a tremendous amount of meaning for myself through the process of writing. To say it gives me a sense of purpose sounds too severe, but in some ways it really has. It has given me a drive and a focus I didn't have before. I love to do it, and I love the reception I get, be it positive, negative, or just plain creepy.
But in terms of life changes... I haven't had any really that I can attribute to the blog. At least not yet. No movie offers or book deals. No newspaper or magazines asking me to syndicated myself nationally. No special on Comedy Central. No appearances on the Today Show. And yet, I keep writing.
I do so because I believe in it deep down in my bones. I believe that this is something that is going to change my life. And unlike the other jobs or internships or part time work I've had, this doesn't make me a dime. But I love it. Just the act of doing it makes me feel good.
So I keep banging my drum, sending out my blog week after week. To people I know well and barely at all. To other bloggers and other bloggers' friends. To anybody who friends me on Facebook and anybody who asks; "What types of things do you write?" I keep sending it out.
Like the bongo player, nobody asked me to start. And thankfully, as of yet, nobody has asked me to stop. But I will continue to do it until I have a reason not to, putting my writing out into the world for all who care to see until I have nothing left to write. Hoping that somebody likes it enough to make it worth my while one day leave the desk job behind.
And granted I don't read my blogs aloud on the train at 8:30 in the morning, many mornings I am thinking about them. The link is there. This bongo player and me, both unpaid, same train, both doing something that makes us happy, doing it until we run out of steam, until the gods of our art and our craft put a stop to our drumming. Until there is a reason not to.