Sandy's Swan Song - by John Sealander

There are 2089 names entered in the contact manager I currently keep on my computer. At some point during the past ten years, I have shared a lunch, a laugh, a beer, an evening or a life with each of these people. I am absolutely appalled that I can't even recognize half of their names anymore. Nothing rings a bell. These names on my screen no longer conjure up voices. And I'm sure the phone numbers now belong to someone else. I hate to admit it, but I can't even remember why many of these people were included in the database in the first place.

Over a thousand people down the drain. But that's not the remarkable thing. What's truly remarkable is that even when I eliminate all the names that draw a blank, there are still over a thousand names left. I remember many of these remaining people quite well. And where are they now? Last year I got a grand total of fifteen Christmas cards. Most of them from people who wanted to sell me something. Maybe it's time to chuck this list and start over.

I find it exceptionally hard to hit the delete key. Each of these people has a story. And each in some small way has had an influence on what I have become today. Take for example, the very first person in the database. Her name was Sandy Anderson. I met her in a clothing store on New Year's Eve. For some reason the band I was in at the time had decided we were all going to wear black that evening, and I didn't have a black shirt. When I was telling all this to Sandy as she rung up my purchase, she mentioned that she liked to sing. I told her that I was going to put in a little 8-track studio in my house and wondered if she would be interested in recording demos of some of my songs. I don't remember getting either a yes or a no. She just wrapped up my shirt and I left.

I completely forgot about this incident until I was back in the same store several months later to buy a birthday present for a friend. Sandy recognized me and asked if I still wanted her to sing. She seemed quite animated and wanted to sing along to songs by the Bangles and Bronski Beat. When I explained that this wasn't exactly what I had in mind, that instead, she would be singing vocals to songs that I had written myself, she appeared disappointed. The offer of free tapes won her over however, and she agreed to come over the following week.

Sandy had a beautiful voice. It was hard to believe that she usually didn't have ten dollars to her name, drove without a drivers license and had a two year old daughter that her Mother was raising for her in El Paso. I'd never met anyone like this before. She was bright, fully bilingual and utterly irresponsible. In a strong Hispanic market like Texas, a person like her could make a fortune in the jingle business. I tried to get her to audition for some local producers I knew but she wasn't all that interested. She said she mostly liked to sing in the car and when she was high.

Sandy had a new career plan every day, most of which involved strange pyramid schemes or selling drugs. What little money she made at the the clothing store went to a place called the Stark Club where she hung out constantly. This was back when X was still legal and Stark was a one-stop shopping center to buy, sell and indulge in the drug. It was hard to believe that this wild child was a Mom, but she would often show me pictures of her daughter, telling me how she was going to bring her up to Dallas. I could only hope that this was not going to happen any time soon.

Strangely, we hit it off. Over a six month period, we recorded over twenty songs together. I don't think she even listened to the words. Lyrics didn't mean much to Sandy. Her voice was just another musical instrument instrument. But damn could she sing! Gradually, she became convinced that the demo tapes she was accumulating were actually going to do her some good. And I became equally convinced that my songs had some potential. She thought she could become Madonna. And I thought I could become Andrew Lloyd Weber.

It was pleasant to be so foolish. There was no romance, but there was a definite camaraderie. We would eat dinner together often. She would try to get me to try X with her and dance till 3AM at the Stark Club. I, in turn, would try to convince her to do something legitimate with her life. She never would audition for jingle jobs though. And I never did get on the list at Stark.

Eventually we drifted apart. She ran out of money and had to move back to El Paso and live with her Mother. I heard through some friends of hers that she had abandoned plans of becoming a singer and wanted instead to become a clothing designer. Once, when I was in El Paso on location shooting a TV commercial, I called the number she gave me just before she left town. She wasn't there, and nobody on the phone spoke English.

The strange thing is that if I didn't still have the tapes of all the songs we'd recorded, I could easily have forgotten her voice as well. After a while it all just blends together.

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