One More Time - The Story

I firmly believe actions speak louder than words. So whereas I may be singing about there being no point to singing about it, in the end, I took the time to sing about it anyway. That's the undertone.


i quit

In 2006 I published an album called Mind Division – a sophomore album under the pseudonym 'al yell' (RIP). I continued writing and amassing songs with the intention of producing a third album. I never released it.

Essentially, I succumbed to the rampant insecurities that befall too many creative types, on top of getting burnt out trying to keep a failing business afloat. Notably, this would have coincided with the time the newfangled Internet created the perfect storm, flipping the music industry on its side.

At different intervals I experimented with things that today are commonplace: YouTube tutorials, blogs, vlogs, podcasts. And this is in the mid-2000s, before any of that stuff was cool. None of it really appealed to me. Despite my efforts, whatever enthusiasm and drive I possessed when I started, some seven or eight years prior, was beginning to circle the drain.

I've always loved making music, but I'll be damned if trying to earn a living by it didn't fuck me up pretty badly. I hit a rough patch of indecision and heartbreak. And I struggled. I stopped performing. I stopped writing.

martial arts

I remember bumping into a friend whose arms, at the time, were covered in bruises. He explained that he'd been training at a Kung Fu school in the area, and that they taught all the same weaponry used in a film that had just come out, called Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. Although it would be another couple of years before I finally stepped foot through the door, I was sold. I'd always been athletic – even studied martials arts as a kid – and I needed something physical to do after high school. Plus, it seemed like a great place to hide.

While at the crossroads of my music career, I found some solace in my training and the extraordinary group of people that it attracted. I reached a point where, at least from my perspective, it would have required a notable escalation in commitment and effort to reach the next stage. Every time I came close to securing my foothold, something burdened me. It wasn't where I wanted to make the climb. Though I did, in fact, want to ascend in some way. But where? I'll tell you where it wasn't...


For nearly three years I settled down at the felt (virtually, mostly) and embarked on what appeared to me as the solution to my woes. I studied the game, was under the tutelage of good friends, held regular hours, and proceeded to play hundreds of thousands of hands of poker.

It was novel. The focus, the culture, the study, the mystique and allure of it; I'd found a better place to hide. But not unlike my entry into the music business, the timing wasn't great. I had just missed the "golden era" of online poker. Ongoing litigious battles between regulatory bodies and private enterprise, and an increasingly competitive player pool, painted the landscape of my sojourn.

Before long, with every flop, turn, and river, I grew more and more weary; more and more complacent. I couldn't see myself spending my time like this. So how, then? I thought the answer was pretty clear when, in 2011, at the suggestion of a mentor, I returned to school.


At first, I dipped my toe in. It turned into a five-year stint. I'd found the perfect place to hide; a socially acceptable and condonable way to spend my time. Granted, I did discover the perimeters of my capacity and filled gaps in my knowledge. Working with various people, in different conditions, was informative and rewarding. But, ultimately, school was working at being busy. And having already run a small business for nearly a decade prior, I knew what busy was.

Luckily, I was offered a coveted internship with the regional hospital as part of the last stretch to the MBA program. It was real work I could lean in to. I learned to code and oversaw interdepartmental projects. I got to examine the inner workings of a large, complex organization. It was educational.

So I walked out of there with a couple of degrees and some confidence. The expected trajectory was that I would land a job at the hospital; however, it was for entirely different reasons that I would end up spending more time within those walls.



Just prior to starting my post-graduate studies, I became a father. While my son was still an infant, my wife and I noticed he made very little use of the left side of his body. Imaging revealed he was born with a severely malformed brain. The prognosis was dismal. The doctors informed us, it was likely, that he would not walk or talk, would have learning disabilities, and experience seizures. But there was hope.

We were fortunate to have access to tremendous services, including a variety of therapies. Several times a week, for the first few years of his life, we shuffled him to-and-fro, making sure he never missed an appointment. I even skipped my graduation ceremony because he had an appointment that day.

I'm happy to report that he has defied all expectations and is, indeed, thriving. He's an insightful, curious, humorous and emotive individual. He enjoys school, makes friends easily, and is often just as full of shit as his old man.


I now needed to decide where to burrow. Fate, once again, would make that decision for me (and my family). And it involved yet more time spent at the hospital.

The news was delivered so casually, so imperturbably, that it had us in a trance. "It's cancer," said the doctor. We barely stirred. The lump in my wife's breast that had been causing her discomfort turned out to have the power to rip apart the normalcy of everyday, predictable life.

I played nurse for a few months, learning to change bandages and drain fluids and what have you – a tall order for someone as squeamish as me. But it was nothing compared to what my wife had to endure. To say nothing of its lingering effects. It's hard to describe. The reality is barely approachable.


Reality does, though, in its time, raise its eyebrow at you... beckoning. Mine, as I knew it, was irretrievable. Some time after my wife's recovery, I had a meltdown. I managed to take refuge in something I hadn't done in a very long time: I wrote a song. I felt a little better. Then I wrote some more. I enjoyed it. The more I did it, the more it's all I wanted to do. And I figured, if I was writing again, I might as well share it. So I started hurling pixels, formally and figuratively and so on...

"But I'll be damned if trying to earn a living by it didn't fuck me up pretty badly." Oh, so I'm back here again. Only different this time. Sure, but not in the way I had hoped.

I don't know if it was COVID, or some other virus, or years of repression and stress, or losing loved ones – perhaps a combination of all those things – but in early 2020, I became debilitatingly ill. I spent the next couple years doing my best to be productive despite experiencing a constellation of problematic symptoms: nerve pain, dizziness, indigestion, headaches, rapid weight loss, paleness, fatigue. I saw several specialists that put me through a litany of tests. I even starting talking to a psychotherapist. All in an attempt to get to the root of the problem. I ended up with more questions than answers.

quod me nutrit me destruit.

If I permit myself to make one observation, it's this:

I fear that my meaningless, artistic gallivanting causes anguish to those who support me – those on whom I am wholly reliant – and impresses a hardship on them in subtle ways. And that the ever-increasing weight of it all becomes too much to bear, as they nervously wait for me to make something of myself. I, all the while, too selfish and narcissistic to abandon my pointless pursuit, refuse to relieve them of their Sisyphean task. They'll tell me they're happy to do it. I'm not convinced. I tell myself I'm leading by example. I'm not convinced. Maybe I'm crushed by my lack of reciprocal power.

And I wonder why I haven't been feeling well.

I am draped in ambiguity. What I know is that making music feels meaningful. To the extent that I buy into the idea that the pursuit of meaning is worthwhile – that it's as viable a choice as any, regarding how to live – I cultivate my chosen craft. But at what cost? And to what benefit to others? Can there exist meaning in self-destruction?


I can't quit music. And trust me, it's not for lack of trying. "Don't die with your music still in you," said Wayne Dyer. Okay. But also, Charles Bukowski said, "Find what you love and let it kill you." If those statements, if they're to be taken seriously, don't create the conditions for an Ouroboros, I don't know what does.

So I'm at it again...

Not long ago, I dredged up a recording of a song I wrote in 2010, called One More Time. I pulled it out from a box, covered in dust, tucked away in a corner. It was on an unmarked CD. That stands for "compact disc" for those born after Napster took a shit on the now-defunct technology. And Napster was a website that.. well, don't worry about it.

The recording didn't age well, so I created a 2022 rendition. I have only one small, slightly sadomasochistic request: play it loud enough that it hurts, just a little.

It may be tempting, after hearing it, to write me off as a nihilist. But bear in mind that I firmly believe actions speak louder than words. So whereas I may be singing about there being no point to singing about it, in the end, I took the time to sing about it anyway. That's the undertone.

Thank you for taking the time to read, listen, encourage, and support me – for making it matter.