This past weekend I went back to my hometown and was the Grand Marshall of the Daffodil Parade. I am one of two people born in Meriden, Connecticut to go on to success in the music business. There may have been some guy in 1920 who lubed up John Phillip Sousa’s trombones but for all intents and purposes his name and fame have been lost in the swirling eddies of time. (Brad Devlin 1886-1946)
Rob Hyman lived up the street from me and was a founding member of the group The Hooters (“All You Zombies”, hot wings). He and I seem to be it as far as musical icons go. The graph spikes between 1951 and 1952. Apparently Rob was a bit lacking in the sucking up department because when the 2012 Daffodil Festival rolled around, who got the call? Me. That’s “Mr. Grand Marshall” to you.
What kid doesn’t leave his home town and dream that one day he will return, draped in glory, to be feted and adored, the key to the city snug in his hand and the town council at his feet? You know you did. How the town would tremble. My enemies would suffer. The girls who rejected me in High School would rethink just how important bad posture and a lazy eye IS in choosing a mate.
I expected a Cadillac, top down, draped in crepe, (disclaimer here…I was in a band in Junior High called, coincidentally, Draped in Crepe”). Did I get a Cadillac?? No. I DID get a cool ass jeep driven by my old friend from school, Gary Keating. He fumbled thru the gears as smoothly as he could but every time he let the clutch out I came thisclose to flipping out the back in mid-wave. I got a giant banner held aloft by classmates that proclaimed “Meriden’s Music Man” (I kid you not. I have it hung up in the living room right now. I’m looking at it.)
I was the guy in high school who knew he could sing but never won the talent shows because there was one guy in school who could SING!!! I would sing an album cut from the first King Crimson album and he would sing “On The Street Where You Live” from My Fair Lady. David drew better odds against Goliath. I was the kid who wanted to try out for the lead in our junior and senior musicals but I was needed to play baritone horn in the orchestra because our trombone players arms were too short to work the slides and hit low D. I was far from this town before I blossomed and started singing and playing and became the well rounded entertainer that you would see before you today if you were standing outside my window in violation of most privacy laws.
I’ll take the jeep. I’ll take the 40 degree weather. I’ll take the fact that I had a cold and had tissues in every available pocket. I’ll even take the fact that, because of last month’s warm spell, all the daffodils in the park had already bloomed and died. Being the Grand Marshall of my hometown parade rocked.
I saw old friends and neighbors lining the street and waving…. I saw kids smiling and eating cotton candy and letting me know that my sweet little town has a future as well as a past…. I saw stars as Gary double clutched and I banged my head yet again on the roll bar of the jeep. As Grand Marshall, I probably had the power to have him put to death for hurting me but I was feeling benevolent. He lives.
Meriden, Connecticut. A great town to have grown up in. A great town to come back to from time to time and reflect on how much being raised a New Englander contributed to whatever success I have had. I worked for my Dad as an electrician before I sold my first song and he taught me how to work and deal with the world in no nonsense New England fashion. Got a hundred things to do? Do the next thing. Don’t look up and count what’s left. That’s where madness lies. Just keep doing the next thing and when you reach for the next thing and there isn’t one…. you’re done! Give everyone the benefit of the doubt until you have no doubt they’re trying to screw you. Then, no yelling, no fuss…. just walk away with as much dignity as you can muster. Maybe it’s the cold weather. Maybe we pick our battles so we don’t have to expend more energy than we have to because we’re saving it to run our vital signs. I am glad my two sons grew up as New Englanders. I see it in the way the handle themselves and the way they find the warmest spot in any room they enter and stand in it. The Meriden Town Council could not have picked a man prouder of his heritage than me to stand up in their parade and say: “Doesn’t this fucking Jeep have a heater?”
Next year may indeed be Rob Hyman’s turn but for the next 360 days I get to be the Grand Marshall and I may find a loophole in the town charter that lets me stay in power indefinitely. Like Marcos.