Once upon a time, I spent six months in Cambridge, England, living in a closet-sized apartment, reading Shakespeare and Dostoevsky, missing a woman with whom I’d just fallen in love, sketching a world that was 5000 miles away, and losing twenty pounds to a culture of bad food and worse weather.
Around my second term of study, and at a point when my mental health was slipping, I wound up playing keyboards and singing backup for a singer/songwriter named Jeremy Warmsley. Jeremy was rounding up a band to play a series of shows for the May Balls at the end of term, and our mutual friend Mike set us up. We got along nicely: I introduced him to Toots and the Maytals; he introduced me to Kate Bush. J’s songs were straightforward pop songs with a lot of chord changes and complex vocals. Our band consisted of a good bloke named Bob on guitars, two interchangeable drummers who looked about 12 years of age, and a pudgy, pathological liar named Dan on bass. (Dan claimed to have lost his virginity to two 18-year-old lesbians.) Once, we found an old Roland Jupiter-4 synthesizer in the Churchill College practice room–it weighed about 40 pounds and made wild, orgasmically phat sounds until it crapped out on us. We had a punk song where I jumped into the audience banging a cowbell. At one of the May Balls we drank beer until 6 a.m. and took turns riding a mechanical bull. At a time when when I had almost abandoned playing music, it was an escape that I desperately needed.
A year and a half later, across the pond, I got an e-mail from Jeremy: “Long time no hear from. how are you. i am about to sign my record deal. fame and fortune.” I checked out his new stuff on his website, and was pretty blown away: those straightforward pop songs were still pretty straightforward, but the band had been replaced with a backdrop of cut-up drums and Bjork-like arrangements. Not to mention, J. had a fantastic animated video done for his new single, “I Believe In The Way You Move.” Turns out his new EP is coming out in England in a few weeks, and is getting a pretty good amount of buzz.
But Jeremy isn’t the only amiable spector from my Cambridge days that is having good success: my buddy Dave Mitchell has just had an article published as the lead in the DUKE JOURNAL OF COMPARATIVE & INTERNATIONAL LAW. He slaved over this opus in Cambridge many a night that could’ve been spent in the pub. Dave’s not only an academic, he’s also an All-American cross country runner who has a great chance at the Rhodes. Dave was in Cleveland this weekend, and Meg and I met him and his girlfriend Michelle in Coventry, where he presented me with a signed off-pressing of the article.
The moral is this: keep in touch with the people you’ve known–they might be headed for great things.