Sunshine In The House
Advantage: Sunshine Even in New York City, before the leaves began to fall, you were nervous about your plans for next summer in the Hamptons. You’ve been thinking about contacting Devon since Labor Day when he suggested the gig in East Hampton. He’d guaranteed to have you at his day camp “to do tennis and possibly teach songwriting lessons or guitar to the kids…or something.” But you weren’t born yesterday so it makes you nervous when ‘or something’ is tacked onto any statement. Not only does it mean nothing is written in stone, but it’s not even written in sand. Its promise fades as quickly as the words themselves dissolve into the atmosphere. It means nothing. However, you trust in the fundamental goodness of people. It has guided you in all of your private sojourns, thus far. From Beverly Hills to Bristol, Osaka to Oklahoma, you feel lucky to have had your life touched by a great many people. Nevertheless, in November, you toss all your clothes in one bag and your faith in another and set off for Florida, leaving New York City for the first time with no return on your itenerary. Your winter plan is to work with your songwriting partner in Miami on a collection of dance-pop songs to distribute among music publishers in the spring. A few notable connections in the industry give you confidence that, upon completion, the finished product will find itself in the right hands. You work ardently, day and night from November until April. The songwriting is the fastest part: The melody, rhythmic flow, tempo and energy, then the lyrics and narrative — these elements all arrive gently and of their own accord, like casually arriving guests at a last minute dinner party. Eventually they all show up, around the same time, more or less, with smiles on their faces, bearing gifts and kindly sentiments. You and your writing partner compliment each other on a job well done. “Good job, Sunshine,” he says. “Good job, Sunshine,” you say. You are not twins or brothers or related by blood in any way and have no reason to call each other “Sunshine” except that he calls you that, so you call him that. You don’t question it. When the songwriting is finished your work is still nowhere near complete. Previously you had left these next steps in the hands of capable music production and recording professionals. You quickly discover that harnessing and corralling the sounds for pop music production is like throwing a house party at a large college, where you don’t know and have never seen the bastards that are showing up at your house, walking around drinking your beer and grinding their cigarettes out on your dining room floor. You spend more time kicking people out than grooving and vibing with the cool peeps you invited in the first place. Fights break out. Trust is broken. Girlfriends are crying, and you are grateful and somewhat surprised that no one called the cops. In the aftermath, the party is over and you have 3 finished songs and a strained and possibly permanently damaged relationship with your co-writing partner, Sunshine. It is suddenly late April in Florida. You find the heat pushing down on you from that big bright thing in the sky somewhat discomforting — but nowhere near as discomforting as the disturbingly low account balance that greets you when you visit the ATM machine. This is your freelance life. You’ve come to understand that money and heat enjoy an inversely correlated relationship: the lower your finances, the warmer the weather. You begin to think about East Hampton, again. You wonder if you will meet a girl, settle down and never leave. It sounds like the kind of place where that can happen, where real love can grow on a rolling stone, maybe hold him still for a while. But East Hampton Devon isn’t answering his phone and with each passing day your once hearty hopes are withering. You’re calling him two and three times a week, like an overzealous and insecure stalker, leaving amiable phone messages laced with pleasantly ambitious overtones and glowingly positive undertones to gently remind him that you need him to come through for you. After nearly a month he still has not called you back. You are getting very nervous, now. Is he stonewalling you? Is this really happening? If he doesn’t want to work with you, why doesn’t he just cut you free to float away? It’s the imaginary tether that’s strangling you, here. You fear he is going to burn you like the Hindenburg, light you up in broad daylight. Your life line becoming your death line. Your mother happens to be visiting and though you’ve decided long ago not to ask her for advice, you can’t help complaining about Devon’s inability to hit the ‘call back’ button on his phone. She says, “Text him.” Irritated by her naiveté, you say: “That’s never going to work, Ma. You don’t understand how it works, Ma. When men are conducting business they need to talk, Ma. It’s one of the rules of the jungle that’s probably carved into a petrified tusk somewhere in Africa.” “Just try it,” she says. “What could it hurt?” “Okay,” you say peevishly, eager to prove the immobility and indifference of this mountain of silence Devon has set you up against. So you text him right then as the shadows grow and stretch like long fingers across the beach. Your mom is smiling, gazing towards the ocean, probably wondering why she still loves you after all these years and the mean things you say to her. Within seconds, Devon texts you back. “Hey man! How are you?” Your mom smiles. “See,” she says. “I thought that might work.” You briefly marvel at her batting average on these Gordian Knots, because it is uncanny. You are growing anxious to check The Book of Fate to see whether it has the Hamptons 2014 written in it. Somehow you are feeling the time has come to experience the Hamptons’ cool waters. You want to take a deep breath and dive in head first, swimming all the way down to touch bottom, taste it, smell it, feel its very core and essence — and then hopefully come up at the end of the summer with enough money stuck to you to survive until you write a hit. So, you respond to Devon via text, because evidently that’s how business is conducted in 2014. “I’m good,” you say. “Thanks. Been trying to contact you about what we are doing together this summer in East Hampton.” “Sorry man. Been busy. And it looks like we won’t need you this summer, after all. I’ll let you know if something changes.” And, like a long-gathering gray ash on a smoldering cigar, with one soft tap your perfect vision of a Hamptons summer falls unimpeded to the ground, landing without even the tiniest thud, and expires. You want to cry. Your mom says, “Don’t worry. You’ll figure it out.” You say yeah, yeah, yeah. You know. But you don’t really. You don’t really know. Maybe you should have never come to Miami. Maybe you should have stayed in New York making money teaching tennis and working on the songs with Sunshine, remotely. The darkening waves lap on the beach in a lazy rhythm congruent with the hot stress licking at your brain like a lazy Mississippi Bloodhound. The next day you call up your songwriting partner, Sunshine, who you have a strained, possibly permanently damaged relationship with; and, incidentally, the one who hooked you up with Devon. Sunshine answers the phone, whenever he thinks you’re going to be nice. “Devon burned me,” you say. “I don’t know what I’m going to do with myself this summer.”. “I’m sorry,” he says and he sounds like he means it. “Thanks,” you say. “I bet we can get you into a place in Southampton.” “Where is that?” “You’ll see. It’s nice. You’ll like it. And you’ll make money, so don’t worry. I’ll take care of it, Sunshine. You’ll be fine.” And you wonder then, for the first time, why he calls you Sunshine. Perhaps it’s an ironic nickname. Because you don’t feel like sunshine. Not at all. But maybe Southampton can help you with that. Maybe it can.