Jheri curls and dreams
Times Staff Writer
When I was 11 years old I met a goofy-looking kid named Freddy Hall. When I say goofy I don’t mean it negatively. He was simply the only kid I’ve ever met that had a natural Jheri curl that only existed on the top of his head. Ironically enough, it would be these natural curls that were the first to call it quits — the top of head now shines in a bald glow under the sun.
We bonded over our unique sense of humor (which included his penchant for telling girls I liked them while I was standing right next to him), our musical taste, and most of all, our desire to be artists one day. We would spend hours in the summer avoiding the northern Virginia heat by air-jamming in his basement to ‘90s alt-rock. Neither of us played an instrument at the time, but he was the best air-guitarist I’ve ever met, and likewise, I was the best air-drummer he knew.
Freddy wanted to be a great musician one day, and I wanted to be a great writer. We lost touch after I moved to Georgia, though we maintained our passions in various ways. After reconnecting more than a decade later, having not spoken since our pre-teen days, it was astonishing to see that our summer-afternoon musings had somehow remained.
Freddy had trekked his way to Broadway — the real Broadway in New York City. He found his niche as a guitarist for various Broadway shows, all the while saving up to hit the studio to record his own music while living in Brooklyn.
A week ago, Freddy — better known by more than just his first name on the East Coast — dropped his second album, titled “Nothing in the Open,” to favorable reviews.
After downloading his newest musical creation on iTunes, I peered over the ominous black and white album cover that had his bald head, tight lips and tight eyes looking back at me. While he’s moved on from his Jheri curl days and into a life as a professional musician, I laughed at how far we’ve come from those days in his basement.
Nostalgia hit me, and continued to do so as I listened to each track, one of which was titled “Riverbugs,” in which he sings of the Potomac River near where we both once lived. I thought back to the days of our youth and wondered how we somehow knew then what we wanted. While I was lost in the reverie of his lyrical prowess and catchy melodies, I brought myself back to the present, and thought about the Gunnison High School (GHS) seniors who are about to graduate.
I reminisced to when Luke Tovar sprinted down the sideline for a touchdown against Kent Denver nearly fours years ago. It was the first game of the season, and when the then-sophomore crossed into the endzone he flashed his infectious grin — one that would become his trademark.
I thought back to the time I wrote a story about siblings on the basketball team three-and-a-half-years ago. Jarren Howard, then a sophomore, was bashful as she nervously tried to find words for my questions.
I remembered the first time I met Josh Wallin — before he and his hair became “Most Likely to Appear on the Cover of ‘People.’” He was quiet, even shy, as the eager understudy to his brother on the football field. The then-sophomore’s uniform was typically clean from a stint on the sidelines, and he was much shorter then too (like his hair).
While Tovar is still flashing that same grin, Howard has found her words, and Wallin his humor, I wondered what their dreams — as well as those of other GHS athletes — were.
As if on cue, Freddy sang out “I know you think dreaming is for fools, but I’ll try my best for you,” over my speakers, and I laughed at the coincidence — or was it?
I thought of the things I’d tell young Bobby given the chance, and I thought of the things I tell graduating seniors even now. What I’ve concluded is that while dreaming is sometimes considered foolish — given that it is just a thought — it can become a reality if you decide for it to be.
While Freddy and I took various paths to get to our genres of art, and lost or gained hair in the process, it started as simply as a dream. But the dream became words, and the words became action.
So, if I were to leave GHS graduates with any parting words, I’d say: Dream big — because all great things start simply.
Now, enjoy tossing your hats up in the air Sunday, take a million selfies for Instagram, and get to work making those dreams a reality.
(Bobby Reyes can be reached at 970.641.1414 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)