I was in rock ‘n roll for many years, trying to make it as a recording artist. I got close a few times. Two different regional labels signed us, but we were never able to get a major label to pick up our contract. Finally, I gave up.

This is a scene from my imaginary life, had I not given up — but instead, made it big!



“I just can’t sleep in flight,” I grumbled to myself. The new jet we’d purchased hadn’t changed that, as I’d hoped it would. “There is certainly more comfort on this baby – but no sleep!”

It was still dark outside, but I could see the lights of the city on the horizon, as we approached the destination for tonight’s concert – our 17th on this two-month tour.

“Man, I can see for miles… awesome!” I shouted into the cabin, to no one in particular.

“Go on, admit it, sometimes I’m brilliant,” Zak proudly announced from the back of the craft, and then broke into full laughter, wildly bobbing his head and animatedly jabbing at his temple.

“You’re a friggin’ genius!” I called back, smiling — then hurled a cabin pillow at him.

“Hey dude, don’t abuse your stickman.”

“You don’t think trying to follow your jagged rhythms isn’t constant abuse for the rest of us,” came my sarcastic reply. “Now come on, count with me Zak, 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4… it’s rock‘n roll bro – not rocket science.”

“Screw you! It’s no worse that having to endure your off-key caterwauling on stage,” he shot back, through a pinched grin. “And I’m a damned good drummer!”

I had to admit, Zak was not only a great drummer, but he had really become quite the expert on private jets. His suggestion we install these larger windows was sweet.

“And I’m the brilliant and talented lead singer” I exclaimed. “It’s my handsome face up front on the stage, so people don’t have to look at the rest of your mugs.”

That brought a chorus of loving insults down upon me, as well as a barrage of pillows, potato chips, playing cards, magazines – anything the guys could get their hands on. It was chaos and joy.

“Glad we have people who clean up after us,” exclaimed Eric. “Are the drivers going to have the semis with our stage and gear at the arena when we land?” he continued, “I need one of the roadies to go grab my guitars – I’ve got these new strings I wanna try out tonight. They’re supposed to be ass kick’n!”

Looking around the cabin at the members of my band, each one my friend, my soulmate – I thought about the amazing journey we’ve been on now for over three decades. Our financial success, all the insane and wonderful things we’ve done, the incredible places we’ve been – I reflected, “We are so lucky — so very, very lucky!”

I tried to imagine what my life would have been if I’d given up those times when things got really difficult. When we couldn’t easily get gigs, we had little money – living in a shitty van, eating canned soup, and sometimes nothing… the stupid record companies rejecting our stuff… I almost caved in more than once.

“But I didn’t, and look where I am,” I mused to myself. I sank into my plush custom seat, slipped on my headphones, and stopped worrying about ‘what if’.

My eyes were feeling heavy and my voice was a bit raspy from lack of sleep. “Not good for the lead singer to sound like a frog,” I mumbled to myself, “I’m gonna kick my feet up here until we land. The limo will allow me to nod some – never have trouble nap’n while roll’n in our limo.”

It was almost a two-hour drive to the hotel, so I figured I’d get at least some rest – and I needed it.

I sat, reflecting on the fortunate turn of events that had brought me to this place in time, on my wife and my children, whom I missed, on tonight’s sold-out show – and I fell into a quiet sleep, as the Challenger 850 slipped sleek and silent through the night air, carrying me further into this amazing life… this dream!

rob kistner © 2007


~ by Image&VerseToo on September 10, 2007.

56 Responses to “Imagining”

  1. Fascinating read. It is amazing how one fortunate break is all that separates household names from some supremely talented artists who miss out of their day in the sun.

    If you ever see fit to posting some of your music on your site, I’d love to hear it.

  2. And now… this story is that road taken! I loved it! Thanks!

  3. Herb –

    Glad you liked it! 😉

    Fate delivers a fork in the road, and sometimes we choose the direction that brings regret.

    The irony of it all is, the woman for whom I ultimately chose to give up music, because she was with child — in the end, destroyed all the magnetic tapes of my band’s studio and ‘live’ recordings… so I have nothing, save some photos… 😦

    She also destroyed my portfolio of writing, which included my lyrics — although I’ve been re-writing some of those. Time has made my memory fuzzy.

    She also destroyed a ‘world class’ collection of baseball cards from the 1950’s & 60’s. Love hurts, but divorce is brutal!

  4. Lea –

    Yes, but only in my dreams…

    I’m pleased you liked it! 😉

  5. What fun! Always such a fine line, a nanosecond that alters an entire lifetime. Amazing. Well written.

    The site is wonderful and I’m thinking maybe I can post comments here!

  6. Tumblewords –

    Glad it was a fun read for you… 😉

    The ultimate path our life takes is directed and redirected by every choice and decision we make. It is amazing when you reflect on it.

    This site, ‘Image & Verse Too’ exists in order that everyone who visits can post comments.

    Thank you for your kind words!

  7. Hi Rob! I really love this — you wrote awesome dialogue and created a really real feeling of friendship and journey in this. Really nice!!

  8. Clare –

    Thank you very much! 😉

    It was easy to write. I spent many years and tears with my band ‘buds’ — I still can vividly feel the camaraderie… even after all these years.

    And the scene depicted in the story I’d dreamt about, in one form or another, for so many years — its imprinted in my psyche.

    I loved writing this. Someday I’m going to write a book about a band on the road.

  9. It is clear you really loved those old days of rock and roll. Enjoyed reading this glimpse at what might have been.

  10. Patti –

    I loved that period of my life. The freedom of creative expression, the strength and endurance I had to perform on stage, the almost naive optimism, being part of ‘the movement’, the belief we could change the world — the incredible release it is to sing out full and loud… it was euphoric! 😉

    I have some regrets that I gave up the band, but I do not regret the life I’ve lived — it is exactly as it was supposed to be.

  11. She destroyed all your tapes?? My breath literally caught in my throat when I read that. What a devastating loss, it must feel like a piece of your soul has gone missing. I’m so sorry.

    You know though, years ago I was in New Orleans, and I heard this older man, a janitor getting on in years, perform. He’d had a hard, hard life, and he’d given up music for his wife. 30 years later he had a new wife who heard that dream and helped him reach for the stars, and then rubbed his feet after the performance when he could barely stand up after a day of cleaning and a night on the stage. He never hit the big time, but the disc I bought that night is one of my most treasured – both for the music and for the realness of the emotion in it.

  12. Rob, I like your new banner. And this story is fascinating, particularly from a “what if” perspective. It’s strange how things turn out; often for the better, even though we don’t think so at the time. It sounds like you had a lot of fun and made some good friends while you were playing music – and in the grand scheme of things, that’s more important than a record deal, yes?

  13. What an amazing piece! If this is kind of post I am going to get to read, I will have fun at WI.

    I am trying to rope in more writers for that Island!

  14. that is quite a dream rob… how i wish it had come true for you….

  15. I really enjoyed this look at what “might have been,” and can see this vignette easily expanding into quite an interesting story (one that perhaps includes a vengeful ex-wife who destroys the groups tapes !!)

    Great post – and thanks for being the Big Kahuna on the Writer’s Island. It’s a great new place to hang out 🙂

  16. Robin –

    Yes she did, and portfolio of writing, and my extremely rare and valuable baseball card collection. It was a very bitter divorce.

    I had thought to prosecute, but instead, was able to get consideration from the courts in the final divorce decree — but there was no way to replace any of what was destroyed.

    Years later she expressed remorse, but our relationship remains cool — but the relationship, for what it was, did continue after the divorce… we had children.

  17. Tara –

    Glad you liked the story…

    I appreciate you shining a positive light on my decision to quit — and essentially, you’re correct… but it would have been great to have a recording deal.

    At 60 years of age I can still sing quite well, and I harbor a fantasy of getting back into the studio one more time with a quality band — just to cut a CD for my personal satisfaction… but I’ve yet to act on it.

    I have not been involved with musicians since I moved from the east coast to the west coast 17 years ago, so it would be a real challenge to get a recording gig together. There are far fewer active musicians around my age, and the youngins’ ain’t gonna wannna mess with an old geezer… but who knows?

    If I found a few players my age, we could call ourselves: “Irregular & the Old Farts”… 😉

  18. Gautami –

    Thank you for your kind words…

    I purposely opened the island to a broader variety of writing types hoping for an interesting variety of posts. I personally plan to contribute both poetry and short stories… probably and equal mix.

    Thank you for supporting and promoting Writers Island. The more writers on the island, the better the beach parties will be! 🙂

  19. I think my husband could have made it in a band as well…. but then, he wouldn’t be helping as many people as he is now. Fate’s a tricky thing.
    I am glad you made it in your imaginary life anyway!
    So, your a singer, huh?!

  20. Whypaisley –

    I appreciate your very kind wishes… 😉

    I held the dream since I was in the 8th grade in 1960, and started my very first band called “The Top Notes”. I worked continuously toward that dream until 1986, with one short break between 1971 to 1973 for marriage and a very ugly divorce… but one amazing and beautiful daughter.

    C’est la vie!

  21. Regina Clare Jane –

    That’s cool that hubby was in bands… and it’s cool he’s helping people now!

    Dreams never die.

    Yes, I am a singer… and at 60, I still got my pipes. I sing constantly for pleasure — my wife Kathy will attest to that… 😉

  22. The dreams of what-if fill the oceans. Good prompt to get us going.

    I’m still left thinking that we aren’t who we are without the life that we led.

  23. Deb –

    Thank you, glad the prompt sparked you… 😉

    We are absolutely the product of all we’ve done, and I do not regret my life. I now have a wonderful wife, two beautiful children, and beautiful memories of a third child, killed when he was 18 years of age… so I have been blessed.

    That said, I was solidly on the path of music and performance for many many years — but it became my ‘road not taken’… and it’s fun to wonder what that life might have been.

  24. You’re still singinng loud and clear Rob! Thank You for sharing your island ;~)

  25. You’re still singing loud and clear Rob! Thank You for sharing your island ;~)

  26. I often wonder if those who do make it, as in, find huge commercial success, I wonder if they think “What if we didn’t make it? What would our lives be like?” Perhaps some of them long for a quiet life in the country, producing music behind the scenes.
    Good for you for still loving music.

  27. Geez, Rob. Your afterwords is as interesting as the story itself! I once got mad at my husband and filled his new TR3 with about 100 lbs of dirt and leaves, etc, but that’s the worst I ever did… All of my five sons are musical. The oldest once traveled with a punk band called “Hard Corn.” The next was more mellow and did lovely lyrical stuff. He and his friend made lots of demo tapes–but were turned down because they “needed to sound more like MC Hammer” (whoever that is). The third was in a thrash band called “Starving Artist.” Gosh, I forget what the fourth’s band was called, but they sounded great when they recorded in an actual studio. The fifth just graduated with a degree in music composition, plays classical piano as well as guitar. Anyway, this is probably more than you wanted to know….Thankfully, I still have tapes of all of them doing their thing.

    What was your band called?

  28. Redness –

    Thank you! 😉

    And I am literally still singing, in the shower, while I’m driving, karaoke at parties, walking in the forest — tests my family’s love for me at times… not because my singing is bad (still pretty good), but because it is incessant.

    Can’t help it — gotta sing!

  29. Gillian –

    I hear you, and understand your perspective, and I know money can’t guarantee happiness — however, unless one has screwed up one’s line with addictions or acute vanity… financial success certainly opens a great many options by which to pursue happiness… including that secluded life in the country.

    Don’t mean to be contrary, I appreciate your thinking… 😉

  30. Pepek –

    Wow! What a blessing to have such a musical family.

    I started or was part of, a number of bands early in my career. Names (not in chronological order) like the ‘Triptides’ (my first band — 8th grade), the ‘XL’s’, ‘Little Caesar & the Romans’, the ‘Casinos’ (had a hit record in 1967 I was a paid part of their floor-show), ‘Brothers Royal’ (we weren’t really brothers), ‘Life’, ‘Say Boom Piggy’ (don’t ask), ‘Jazz Gents’, ‘Bright Lights Big City’, ‘Cruise’, ‘Myles R. Gyles & the Sox’, ‘Rob Kistner Presents’ (Vegas Show Band), ‘Blackbirds’, and others… these were primarily iterations of the same core players. But the bad name e kept the longest, and under whch we performed duing the 60’s in the early 70’s was: ‘Stone Fox’ — it was under this name and iteration, that we came the closest to true success in rock music.

    Bet you’re sorry you asked the name of my band(s), but you must realize — I was int it for nearly 3 decades… I tried! 😉

  31. I’m sorry your big break never happened but I’d love to listen to you sing in a audio blog sometime. 🙂

  32. Tammy –

    My life’s been great, just different than I thought it would be when I was a young man… but that is likely true for most people.

    I’ll see if I can arrange to create an audio post of me singing. If I do it, nothing schlock — I’d want to record it in a studio with a backing band, so it won’t be soon… but I’ll let you know. 😉

  33. Hi Rob,

    it’s a very plausible scenario. it’s so vivid I almost can see myself riding in the cabin with you. still, don’t give up hope yet. who knows, maybe one day your writings and poetry will end up winning the Booker Prize, then you’ll get to buy that challenger.
    WI is a fantastic place. Let’s give it a few more week, and I’ll definitely list it in the BOTW directory.

  34. Rob,
    I think that it’s when we stop remembering, dreaming, and what- ifing that life ends. I have no regrets, in retrospect, for all the decisions I’ve made, but I certainly turned some corners into the unknown and against “sage” advice that might have turned out differently….We have the moment, the rest is history.

  35. Rel –

    I agree, our dreams give us reason to go on, a destination for which to reach — our memories nurture and teach us, preparing us for the journey.

    I have no regrets, for to regret my life is to regret myself… and I do not. We live in the eternal now, upon which we can exert reasonable influence, but certainly touched by the hand of fate… always that ‘fickle finger of fate’… 😉

  36. Ah, did we not all dream of what could have been? Great story. I wish I could write like this. Every word just flows into the next. I loved it.


  37. The Spanish philosopher called this kind of imagining the “ex-future I”, el yo ex-futuro. So many paths we could have taken , but didn’t. It was fun to read how your ex-future would have played out.

  38. Wow what a fantastic story. Knowing that your imaginary life is a real “could have been” makes it all that much more engaging. The thing is you HAVE “made it” but just in a very different way. As a new writer, well a writer who is now trying to be a better writer, I admire what you do so much more than any rock and roll band – well except for maybe Bon Jovi (No laughing I grew up in the big hair band generation!). I always learn something from your writing – from this post I learned that “making it” can come in many forms – not necessarily the ones we think it will come in and I learned that “caterwauling” means “to make the characteristic cry of a rutting cat”. I had to look it up. Then I had to look up rutting and then I blushed! Thanks for starting this place.

  39. Life . . . (sigh) – I also had an ex that destroyed what he knew I loved: my journals, my creative writing and my books – yeah, sure hurts. Hope you find delight in the life you lead now. Do you still make music for yourself?

  40. Melanie –

    Yes me all have our what if’s, because were are sentient beings with the ability to make choices — then live with the results.

    Thank you for your kind words… 😉

  41. Mariacristina –

    You have a beautiful name — so lyrical… 😉

    My el yo ex-futuro would have been fun, but I am also very grateful for the life I am living.

  42. Michelle –

    Thank you very much, you humble me… I’m blushing…

    I’m pleased you find value in my work — and that you’ve learned two new words… 😉

  43. Kimberley –

    It can be brutal when love goes bad. I have read that there is a fine line between love and hate.

    I still sing constantly, but only for my personal pleasure — no performing anymore.

  44. Rob as far as I’m concerned you made it big.
    Big on talent and spirit.
    Thank you for letting me know about Writers Island.
    It’s just the best.

  45. Becca –

    In the confusion of the Writers Island launch today, I missed your comment the first time through… sorry!

    Sounds like the story of my life — it might be fun to write, change the things that didn’t quite work out the ‘first’ time.

    Thank you for your kind words, and there are no Big Kahuna’s on Writers Island — just fellow islanders who share the love of writing… for the sheer joy of it! 😉

  46. Frances –

    Thank you… 😉

    …and you are most welcome. Glad you like the island!

  47. Visiting those alternate universes containing the roads not taken, can be both delightful and regretfully painful, to visit. Sometimes I wonder if somewhere ‘out there,’ another me is cashing the royalty checks for the books that were written and illustrated years ago 🙂
    Fortunately, I think it’s possible to live out some version of our dreams, at any point along the path – even though they may not look exactly like we initially envisioned them – right up until we reach that final destination.
    You’re never too old to rock and roll – just ask Jagger 🙂
    Thanks for sharing your imaginary life – and the island, with us all!

  48. Tinker –

    You are most welcome… 🙂

    …thank you for coming to the island!

    “You can’t always get what you want
    But if you try
    Sometimes you get what you need”

    If only I could afford Mick’s medical and training team… 😉

  49. What a fun life. And thanks again for setting up this wonderful site.

  50. Jo –

    When its imaginary, you can edit the bad stuff… 😉

    …you are welcome!

  51. Love the what if. Thanks for sharing your life. 🙂

  52. Brian –

    Thank you… 😉

    And thank you for stopping by my I&VT here.

  53. This is the stuff that dreams are made of. Thanks for visiting my blog. I’ll be able to participate more fully in a couple of week’s time. Great site!

  54. Watermaid –

    You are most welcome!

    Thank you… 😉

  55. My father was in Say Boom Piggie, did you know Robert Newmark?

    • Yes, I certainly did. He and I and a guitarist named Scott Ackley (I believe that is the spelling of Scott’s last name) worked together for a while in an iteration of “Say Boom Piggie”, but I eventually left to join up with guitarist Joe Madrigal to form a group entitled “Life Everlasting” — so my time working with your father was abbreviated.

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