I am back, and I did miss you, whoever you may be.
I am not a magician. However, I do have one hell of a vanishing act. I can disappear so brilliantly that no one will ever question my disappearance or inquire as to my whereabouts. There will be no hand-wringing when my absence lasts a week or a month, or even several years. No search party will be formed. No sign will be tacked to any neighborhood telephone pole offering a reward for my recovery, a courtesy afforded to the mangiest of cats.
There are very few people in life that are interested in my continued existence in any meaningful way. I state this without malice or bitterness. I am the epitome of estrangement and the cause of this condition. Having the sensibilities of an artist only compounds the social ineptitude that is inherent in being on the Autism Spectrum somewhere between Emily Dickinson and Rain Man. I've always been more compelled to observe people rather than engage with them. Party of five? No, thank you.
Thus, it is an improbable fact that I spent fifteen of my finest years as an entertainer on a Raleigh stage in front of crowds of tipsy strangers, singing and playing piano. I know, because I was there, that I brought joy to many people. I encouraged strangers to forget about their troubles for a little while and sing loudly the happy rock'n'roll melodies of yesteryear. I never took for granted the applause or the compliments of grateful bar patrons. They were the ones, after all, who afforded me an opportunity to use my musical talent to live well and prosper.
The version of me onstage was a creation, a projection of who I aspired to be. It was hard to sustain. Offstage between sets, I would revert back to my true self, occupying a corner outside where I could view the show through the window and mostly avoid interaction while I rested. The job was not that difficult, but maintaining my stage persona was extremely draining. After any gig, I would often sleep ten to twelve hours to recharge my psychic battery. Still, it was completely worth it.
There were a number of internal and external factors that led to the demise of my beloved piano bar, none of which are relevant to this particular story. What matters is that my regular gig imploded and I found myself at a crossroads. I had no great yen to travel or sleep in any room that did not contain my lovely wife, Heather. Years of defying my Asperger's wiring on a nightly basis had left me pretty exhausted. Plus, I had a new challenge to face: hearing loss and a constant ringing in my ears, the dreaded tinnitus.
With bills mounting and my musical career in limbo, I decided to try something completely different. I became a mailman. You can't make this stuff up. I easily passed the entrance exam and graduated from Postal Academy just in time to be deluged by a ton of holiday packages. The stress was unbelievable, but somehow I made it through the Santa season, earning some pretty substantial pay. One check alone was $2500. I lost 25 pounds in two months!
Unfortunately, the demands of the USPS were slowly taking a toll on me. I could not socialize with my fellow carriers like a normal person might. The frenetic pace and lack of a set schedule greatly stressed me out. People like me need a lot of routine, but a new carrier is expected to do a number of things at a moment's notice. Express Mail, which is delivered by a set time, was the worst. I am not a "Beat the Clock" kind of guy. After nine months, I resigned, citing medical issues. Now what?
Next: Oregon and Bust