I know a man-child. I had never met one before I joined the veteran’s band, but I did as soon as I started showing up to practice. He stood out. He stands out a lot.

He stands up a lot, too, up in front of the whole band. Though he couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket if it were welded inside, he’s our lead vocalist.

He isn’t that bad of a singer, I suppose, though his voice warbles out of tune with alarming frequency. He’s American Idol material, if with only this caveat — he’d only be popular in the first half of the season.

At our concerts, he’s introduced as a featured vocal soloist for the Chicago Symphony for “many, many years.” That’s his story he tells. We know that he was in a ridiculously large chorus performing beside the Chicago Symphony for a few performances, and hasn’t been back since. Maybe the director over there got as sick of his one-upmanship and unjustified self-centered diva personality as we should be.

We daren’t kick him out. He has a place here.

At the very least, he qualifies for our veteran’s band, as a former Navy SEAL. We ignore that he was kicked out of the Navy SEALs for getting his Navy SEALs tattoo before he finished training. He tries so hard to do some good, but just when you think he has something between the ears, he goes off and does some fool thing.

Especially on pieces when he’s in the back of the band playing percussion instead of the front singing or narrating, he’ll purposefully say something inane — “I can’t play the cymbal. My music says ‘suspended.'” We”ll look in his general direction to soothe his ego, and we’ll roll our eyes afterward. Our director is the picture of patience. He’s also the picture of subtly wry humor our soloist never picks up on.

He plays every instrument in the band better than the musicians who played professionally, if you believe what he says. You won’t: He can’t quite get a grip even on his bass drum and cymbal.

He is famous for his generosity, and is even more famous for how his generosity is a misguided attempt to purchase our friendship to him. He thinks it’s working because, in spite of it all, we consider him a friend.

He’s a loud, boorish cad, and the band just wouldn’t be the same without him. He’s our loud, boorish cad. That makes all the difference.


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