Led Zeppelin IV
I met Ryno in Kansas City. He was wearing a shirt adorned with the iconic symbol from the greatest album in the history of music, Led Zeppelin IV. Guys need to have something by which to start a conversation. His shirt proved to be the perfect ice-breaker.
We talked Led Zeppelin and Breaking Bad (I was wearing a Breaking Bad t-shirt) long bus journeys and big dreams. Ryno (his nickname, not real name) was 48 and fresh off open heart surgery, and showed me the scar to prove it. He had had four heart attacks in 15 months and comes from a genetic pool that did not lend itself to longevity (both his father and paternal grandfather died of heart attacks in their mid 50s).
We eventually got around to his reason for going Greyhound. "I'm heading to LA to try and make it in the music business." He'd always played music and spent much of his life around bands, but mainly in lighting and sound roles. He'd been writing songs for a long time, but didn't have either the courage or luck to try and break into the brutal world of professional music. Then, he found himself laying on a hospital gurney with his chest open and his life passing in front of him. And, he knew what he had to do.
Listening to Ryno's story in that Kansas City Greyhound terminal made me wonder how many dreams started on a bus ride from some sleepy burgh to places like New York, Hollywood or Nashville. Here's a guy who knows he's up against it, knows that his chances of finding anything resembling fame or fortune are minute at best. It took a brush with his own mortality and an acceptance of his genetic shortcomings to prompt him to start his unlikely journey.
I find myself rooting for Ryno, drawn to his story of life kicking in when death comes knocking. His bus journey to Los Angeles with only a few bucks in his pocket and a bunch of songs in his backpack is classic "American dream" stuff. But what makes it interesting to me is that his particular dream has always been one reserved for the young, the naive twenty somethings who leave mom and dad for a chance at something bigger than themselves; too stupid to realize the odds stacked against them, but perhaps comforted by the fact that if they fail, they have an entire life in front of them make up lost ground.
The American Dream, especially the one about rock star glory, is not intended for a 48 year old guy with a fragile heart. He knows he doesn't have much time to make up lost ground if he fails. Perhaps that's what makes his story so compelling.