I’m not one who usually believes in great cosmic forces conspiring to shape events to their liking. And yet …
This story starts a few years back, when I spotted a guitar at a yard sale for $40. The miser in me said no, but then came a vision of what might be: Learn to play, Scot, and maybe you, like Mandy Moore, will be discovered by a FedEx driver doubling as a talent agent. And once you’re famous, perhaps Bob Kraft will hire you to play at those lush private parties he likes to throw, and when you bump into Tom Brady there, you can tell him how you’ve defended him to the neighborhood kids who think he’s a cheater by insisting that if he really did have those footballs deflated, it was only because he throws the ball so hard that if he accidentally hit an opposing player, the impact of a fully inflated ball could send them right to the ER. And then you and Tom could start palling around like the besties you were always meant to be.
I bought the guitar and started strumming. Destiny, however, had its detours. My music didn’t attract any of the many FedEx drivers who use our street as a NASCAR course. It didn’t even soothe the pair of not-so-savage beasts who share our household. Seeing me reach for my instrument, they’d rouse themselves from their 12-hour naps, flatten their feline ears, and exit indignantly through the cat door.
My wife, who can’t fit through the cat door, took a different approach: She bought me guitar lessons for my birthday. Whereupon I discovered that I didn’t really like someone pointing out my many musical mistakes. After 20 minutes or so of that, I’d offer my guitar guru an IPA. That time-out subtly called, he’d regale me with tales of his days touring with his band for the rest of the hour.
It was a hoppy halo of happiness — until the lesson funding was pocketbook vetoed.
“I’m not paying someone to come drink beer with you. You have plenty of friends who will do that for free,” Marcia reasoned, logically if a bit churlishly.
Fast forward to a college-tour trip to Colorado with a friend and his son. Local TV featured a story in which state wildlife officials warned people to stay well away from grumpy bears exiting their caves after a long winter’s hibernation.
Ursine inspiration roared: I would find fame by writing a catchy PSA.
“Be bear aware/ Don’t stare at their hair/ As they exit their lair/ Yes, it’s askew/ But yours would be too/ If long months had loomed/ When it went ungroomed/ When you’re out looking for food/ for your hungry brood/ the last thing you want/ is a ‘Hey, cave-head’ taunt/ So don’t provoke an attack/ Stay 100 yards back/ Be bear aware/ Show them you care/ In this world we all share.”
At first, “Be Bear Aware” fared no better than my other hoped-for hit, “I saw a mobster eating a lobster” (“It’s from the sea gutter/ The taste makes me shudder/ I won’t have anudder/ Not even with butter …)
But then the cosmic forces seemed to perk up their ears. A close friend lobbied her teenage son and his band, Turtle on a String, to play my ballads. Since their oeuvre runs more toward high school heartbreak and their cratering crypto holdings, they shook their collective heads no.
Fate, however, had no truck with teen apathy. Near summer’s end, black bears took to wandering through a variety of Bay State communities, prompting police departments to caution residents “to be wary of bears.” As in, be bear aware. The aforementioned friend texted me a Globe story about those warnings, with this message: “THIS IS YOUR CHANCE!”
Next, a fellow feline doorman forwarded me a clip of Taylor Swift naming as many breeds of cats as she could in 30 seconds.
Whereupon lightning struck: What if Taylor were to sing “Be Bear Aware?” She’d make it instantly famous! And I’d become the unsung — well, unsinging — backstory!
Still I hesitated.
“It’s truly amazing that 2.4 million people got tickets, but it really pisses me off that a lot of them feel like they went through several bear attacks to get them.”
That, my friends, isn’t fortune politely ringing my doorbell. It’s impatient fate wielding a cattle prod.
So, Taylor, when you come to Gillette in May, please do as destiny demands and add “Be Bear Aware” to your set list. I ask nothing in return — except, perhaps, a half-dozen tickets to the concert.