After being gone for close to a week I find myself back in Oak Park, Illinois and back to the good old Midwestern gray skies once again. It was nice to see blue skies out in Tucson, Arizona, and to enjoy a short hike in the desert without burning up in the process. My family and I arrived home yesterday evening and picked up our dog, George, from Spike’s Boutique Hotel for Dogs shortly thereafter. This morning I had a rehearsal with one of the blues-rock bands I’m playing with, The Blu Wavs, and tomorrow night I have a gig with them in Palos Heights. I’m off this New Year’s Eve, which is a plus because I can spend it with my family as well as avoiding the inevitably impaired drivers that come with that particular holiday. On the negative side it’s usually one of the better payouts of the year, so I’m missing that. Saturday is New Year’s Eve, and my wife likes to set aside some time to review the passing year, making note of good things that happened, places visited and experiences accrued, as well as some time to consider the incoming year and set some benchmarks for it.
This past year has had some interesting turns, particularly toward the end, assisted somewhat by taking both the summer and fall semesters off from teaching college. This past summer I did teach three weeks at the Dominican Gifted and Talented Camp, one week of Creative Writing, one week of Star Wars Fan Fiction writing, and then one week of American Literature focusing on Ernest Hemingway. It was fun for the kids and for me as well and it was two more weeks than I taught the summer before. I had two weeks scheduled for the previous summer, but only one flew. This summer I was scheduled for two and picked up the third due to a scheduling conflict with the originally slotted instructor. I managed to acquire the third through a combination of networking, social media, and luck.
The summer was slow in terms of gigs because I was officially band-less. I did a couple of pickup gigs for local block parties, which were fun, and I also performed with a group that was assembled for an original music block that was also fun. Through these gigs I added contacts and now have some increasingly reliable folks with skills to draw from for similar situations. Starting in August I started increasing my musical commitments to what I have right now, four groups, two of which are actively performing and two of which are in the process of building up to it. This is a welcome shift in the tides as well, as I was not working nearly as much from a year ago in August to last June.
I’ve also landed a part-time gig teaching English Composition for this Spring Semester at Moraine Valley Community College. I have two classes stacked around mid-day on Tuesday and Thursday. The pay is much better than where I was teaching last year, and it only requires that I’m there two days a week versus the four I was at the old position. I’ll still need to plan preparation time, grading time and allow for a longer commute, but the result is I will still have a good amount of time for my writing and musical projects, two distinct plusses. MVCC is south of Oak Park, and is very close to a large natural area with many acres under the auspices of the Cook County Forest Preserves that are quite nice.
With everything that has come along during the past six months or so, I’m finding myself developing a strong desire to clarify my musical direction, especially the overall arc of where I want to go with it. I’ve piled on the projects, hoping that they will start to generate income, and a couple have started to bring in some funds, at least in bits and pieces. It’s definitely not a living as of yet, but it’s a start. However, I do think that I need something more from it all, as well as a good deal more cash coming in from it. I’m coming to the conclusion that I really need a solid direction that is under my control and that excites me. I’m a fairly steady guy; not much really gets me excited. I look forward to things, but in so far as getting a real charge out of pretty much anything, it really doesn’t happen all that often. So this is something that I really need to do something about in the next year. I think that it is truly vital that I do this in the very near future. After all, another year has passed and so has another birthday. It looks like one thing is certain, I’ve done some preparation for tomorrow’s time with my wife and daughter!