PSYCHIC PHOAM (2/2002)



This has got to be the friendliest coffee house in all of Chicago! Barristas greet you with a smile and a wave- of all things, a wave. Today the wave comes from a male barrista (Ben) who looks and sounds like Blake Willis. There is one exception however, Ben has too much of a surfer styled way of speaking. It isn't that he uses words like 'dude' and 'totally' its more like the _way_ he says what he says. His statements begin with lots of happy energy and end in bong water. I like his smile and his bright and cheerful eyes so I play along with the conversation about my soon to arrive, hearty healthy lentil soup. Aside from 'problem free' coffee boy Ben, the place buzzes with people passing through walkways rearranging furniture, picking up and putting down a multitude of objects: glasses, stereo equipment and personal artifacts. It resembles a dance ensemble equipped with domestic props and plenty of shelf space. More interesting to me at this moment is the vibe this open space is presenting, that running free Dayna Mcerlean vibe.

Little to no attitude, a lot of openness to experimentation and the possibility that the people you interact with are most likely not evaluating you. Interesting how a smile can be so disarming. Skip the shit and get right to the love. Show your power and smile- give away that you may actually have room for an additional friend in your life or trade the cool for a moment of simple happiness. It is that exact open and free mentality that lead me to let go and try singing lessons. The perfect segway to my next bit- "Singing with Wendy".

I was searching through the Chicago Reader for musical instruction listings and I found Wendy. Lucky for me, her focus is on adults who have never sung before. Feeling good about meeting one of the prerequisites for her class I scheduled an appointment. Laying on the floor and making zipper noises was not what I expected for my first session, but I later came to understand the point of that and many other strange but fun exercises. The goal in all of the scales and breathing and growling and hissing is to "find your voice". I asked Wendy, "How will I know when I have found my voice?" and she replied like so many artists and gurus do, "You just know, you will say to yourself, 'oh yeah that was me singing just there', you'll know", she reassured me.

Classes pass and I practice, often performing for Jay or singing with David, the painter downstairs. All the while searching for my voice. Each class finishes with me singing a song that I choose. For week 3, I decided on 'Maybe This Time', from the musical, Cabaret. It was during that song that I officially found my voice. The exact line that my voice decided to show itself was 'Maybe this time, I'll win'. Wendy stopped the cd, went to the piano and had me sing it again. Then she gave me the best advice ever, she said "Think of a time when you wanted to win at something", "ok got it", I responded. "Now think of who you would tell about that to, and sing it like you are telling them". Unsure of itself, my voice slowly did what she said. Wendy had me do it several times, all the while chanting 'yes' and 'yeah thats it'. Then she said, "I want you to hear yourself" and grabbed for the microphone. I couldn't help but laugh at the whole scene, me with a mic in the basement apartment singing like this was the first time I was alive. It was funny but at the same time it was sad because to some extent it was true... I was myself, maskless and unguarded much like the people in this very coffee house at this very moment.