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Country twang has an effect on me similar to Pavlov’s ringing bell. My ears perk up, tong rolls out my mouth, and I’ll do just about anything for the bell-ringer if I get to listen to that sweet nasality. When …...

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Filed Under on December 7th, 2010

Life (a review)

By Seth Kabala

Country twang has an effect on me similar to Pavlov’s ringing bell. My ears perk up, tong rolls out my mouth, and I’ll do just about anything for the bell-ringer if I get to listen to that sweet nasality.

When I say “just about anything,” I mean I am a believer in nose-to-the-grindstone, ass-to-the grass hard work. One of the best truisms in life is “You make your own breaks.” “No one cares,” as Dennis LeHane says. How does anyone know how passionate and dedicated you are unless you show them?

To this regard, it may sometimes be necessary to postpone family time in favor of pursuing a hot career lead. Caveat: you must make sure this is a one-time-only-will-result-in-nuclear-war-if-I-don’t-attend function. Otherwise you just stepped in it, Son.

I think a family that knows the dad is committed to making the best life for them–including time whenever possible with said dad–will forgive missing a birthday or a family gathering, but only if the “missing” episodes don’t escalate to MIA. Only if avoiding the absence would have been foolhardy, more of an excuse to be lazy than a desire to be with your family.

This judgment presented itself to me recently when I had the opportunity to review a big-name country act that came to the i-wireless in Moline. Being the country junkie I am, I salivated at the possibility of free tickets.

Problem: the performance was scheduled for the same day as my wife’s family’s annual gingerbread house making day.

The Kabalas’, Turners’, Schippers’, and Mohs’ don’t just slap up four pieces of spiced, hardened flour, spread some icing, and call it a day; we measure, cut cardboard forms, use impression dies, test stress tolerance limits, and sometimes end up with creations that are strikingly similar to real life. (Check out my Facebook page for more details.)

With all the prep-work involved, not to mention the actual construction, the process takes all day long, leaving no margin of error for finishing early, and certainly no time to slip away to write a concert review.

I’ll admit, however, I thought about it. What if an industry exec sees me and can feel my talent and asks me to perform on the spot and I miss out on the opportunity of a lifetime?–and–What if a rep from Rolling Stone magazine sees me scribbling notes and asks me to forward them a copy of my piece, all but dangling the position of “columnist” in front of my eyes? were some of the more prominent, and altogether ridiculous, thoughts that went through my head.

Reality: this was not a do-or-die opportunity.

I’m a writer and a musician, so I love to experience the talents of professionals first-hand, and if I get a writing credit and a few bucks for my troubles, so much the better. But since that credit would have come from a local paper, which I’m fairly certain didn’t have a direct line to HR at Rolling Stone, no breakout success would have come from my attendance and subsequent review of the concert.

So I emailed the assigning editor, told him of my prior commitment, and enjoyed my Sunday breathing ginger-scented air with my wife and kids.

Most concerts are 2-3 hours long, depending on opening acts and set lists. On a good day, I can file my review within an hour of leaving the venue. A published review, depending on space, can run anywhere from 500 to 1,000 words, give or take.

Contrast that with your “life” review. You’ll live (hopefully) longer than 2-3 hours in your lifetime, and a biographer will probably need more than 500-1,000 words and an hour to adequately relate your story to the world.

If your wife and kids were the only reviewers of your life, how many stars would you get? I’m going for four.

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Seth Kabala

About: Seth Kabala
Seth is an entrepreneur, writer, musician, family man, and juggler of balls--big ones. He lives with his wife and three children in Portland, OR.

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