Not so long ago a tree limb fell in my yard after a big storm and I had to move it to the curb. It was a rather large limb and my wife asked me if I wanted her to help me move it. I rather gallantly said, “No – I’ve got this.” I remember thinking to myself, what was that all about? I’ve jumped out of airplanes, I’ve climbed mountains, heck I even taught fifth grade! I don’t need any help.
So, I went about lifting this huge thing. I grabbed a smaller branch connected to the larger piece, gave it a big tug, moved it a bit, and then it all came crashing down on my left big toe! I then tried to free myself and I made the situation worse. By trying to slide the limb off of my toe I almost completely ripped my toenail off. Gross, right? A real inconvenience, right? Yes, and yes, except for the fact that I was scheduled to perform at Carnegie Hall that week.
After a trip to the E.R. I was given instructions on how to dress my wound and I was told to stay off my feet for two weeks. Suffice as to say, that didn’t happen. I had the performance of a lifetime to get to. I had to figure out how I was going to be able to walk and stand for a long time with this injury. I bought a cane, several rolls of gauze, a bunch of surgical tape and I was good – until I tried to put on a shoe. There was no way that foot was going in that shoe any time soon. Luckily Robert Nemir with P. Nemir in downtown Navasota came to my rescue. Rob was able to put together a mixed pair of tuxedo shoes with a size 11 left shoe that matched a size 10 right shoe for me, and I was in business! All I had to do then was get to New York and sing.
The backstage area of Carnegie Hall is nothing to brag about at all. It is mostly like a loading dock and there isn’t even a place to sit. Very drab. The group I was performing with was a choir of about 100 singers from the Houston area and at the time I was also singing with the Brazos Valley Chorale and my church choir all at the same time. I think I sang over 200 pages of music that year.
Anyway, the stage manager came out right before we were to go on and told us that we were going to be taking a series of stairs that twist and turn and that it was very important that we all stayed right on the heels of the person in front of us on the way up towards the main stage. He also said that once we got on stage to resist the temptation to stop walking and say, “Oh my God!” I, of course, completely dismissed that because I was a “Pro.” I had performed on a variety of stages, I had sung in 9 different languages, and I didn’t need him to tell me how to walk onto a stage.
Well, as I got to the stage and I could see what was out there, I had to literally make myself continue to move because my feet felt like they were made of lead and the only words that came to my mind were, “Oh My God!” Imagine, if you can, seven wraparound balconies colored with rich burgundy and trimmed with bright, shiny gold. It was almost more than I could take in. “I can’t believe I’m here,” I thought. “How did I even get here?” I asked myself. “Practice, practice, practice, that’s how.”
The concert went off without a hitch but then I had to come back down to Earth. I still cling to the memory of that day and of all the things that led up to it. There were lots of lessons learned and I certainly had my ego adjusted properly, but I would not have been there without the insistence and guidance of my dear friend and church choir director, Judith Lafontaine. Thank you, Judith, for believing in me and for bringing out the best of me. We will always have New York.
Alan Shoalmire is a resident in Grimes County and the owner of Grill Sergeant and submits a column to the Navasota Examiner every other week.