David T. Lewis

Father, educator, drinker, listener.

Read this first


I’m sitting in the Philadelphia airport. Exhausted. I’ve been working for a week straight. Just coming out of the excitement of a project launch in Austin. Now flying to Atlanta for another series of meetings.

At the gate I’m staring at a woman eating yogurt. Some of that thick Greek stuff. People call it something else, but I’m sure it’s just yogurt. It might be healthier. I’m not sure. She is stirring it and then taking big gulping bites. Swishing from cheek to cheek. Anyway, I’m listening to this song and balling. Just big clown tears. Watching this woman eat exotic yogurt and I’m sobbing.

What is so funny about sadness is how it can rush in. I’m not overtly stressed. Just thinking about being in an airport when my Father was dying. It’s been almost a year. I knew then that once I got on the flight I would never see him alive again. Only I didn’t really know that. At the time...

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How Memory Works

When someone dies it is strange to think about them. You don’t remember them in the last moment you saw them, you remember them all at once. All the time you spent together comes back as a flood of memories. Images rush back in, as your brain struggles to make sense of the crushing loss.

What I keep coming back to with Rick starts with this idea of a boy: so sweet and simple. Just a child. We are skateboarding, playing ball, talking, laughing. Then I get hit with this blur of moments. Nothing specific, but through them I get a sense of the man. The picture becomes clearer until I finally get a glimpse of him and a memory pulls into focus:

It is just this past Spring. After my Father’s death and I remember Rick’s hand on my arm. We were standing outside in my backyard and I was sobbing. He was so sensitive, so aware. He looked me in the eye and said, “I am so sorry.” But it was...

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A Fond Farewell

I lost my father and I miss him dearly.

Clearly this happens to everyone in some stage, at some point in their life. In some cases it is all too early. Sometimes it comes after much suffering. In his case neither was true. My dad died quickly after a life full of laughter and wine. I am totally grateful for that.

What I’m left with (beyond the stunning loss) is the question of, why? Not why did he die, but why do we live? I know that lots of people have written about grief and loss and this kind of existential crisis is part of the process. I just can’t help myself.

I always lived for my mother’s love and worked for my father’s admiration. That is to say I wanted him to be proud of me. And I know he was. Though not always: like the time I pierced my tongue to impress a girl but wound up getting a mild infection and going to the doctor. His exact words, “you are a fucking idiot...

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Can Taste Be Taught?

On the eve of their billion-dollar benchmark, I’m reminded that last Spring I brought Kickstarter co-founder, Yancey Strickler, to McNally Smith as our commencement speaker. He said a lot of great and encouraging things but one part of his speech more than any other stuck with me, “don’t let your talent drown out your taste.” What a staggering notion. So much of music edu is about cultivating or chasing talent; woodshedding away on your instrument. Truth is though; you will have your whole life to become a master musician, so why focus so narrowly?

Well, in a classic conservatory sense that was the best practice even 10 years ago. If you hunkered down on your instrument you might become “good” enough to score a coveted first chair or some highly sought after gig. Now in an increasingly multi-versed economy virtuosity is not enough and I wonder if Strickler is right, should we shift...

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Cast Your Own Legacy.

I almost died this morning. Walking out my front door to hike up the street and catch the bus I stepped on a patch of black ice and fell inches from a garbage truck. It might have been going 5 miles an hour but in my panic to stand up it felt like it was a train barreling towards me at full speed.

It’s my fault really, I was too busy cursing out my wife for making me toast with peach jam and wasn’t paying attention when I fell. Peach is such a bullshit jam. I was actually pissed to know we had it in our house. I might have seen it before and assumed it was marmalade, but now knowing it was peach really made me second-guess all the food in my fridge.

So I fell and the toast got all mushed up and I got snow down my pants and I almost died. The garbage truck stopped a full house away from me, but still…. almost died. It made me think about my legacy, if this were it, how would I be...

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Perfectly Unbalanced

I started to write this piece on work / life balance early in the week and it was a total lie. I began by explaining how important balance is, how you must carve out time for family and friends, put aside time to workout, to meditate each day. Truth is I don’t do any of those things…. and I don’t think I ever will.

Last Friday I took part in the yearly Giant Steps conference. One session was a discussion on this very topic and the moderator asked what percentage each guest spent on work, self, family, community, etc. That hit me hard. I would want to say equal balance, “oh, you know I spend 30% of my time on work and like 40% of my time working on my abs, the rest is all family.” In all honesty it is more like 100% on everything…. all the time.

Thankfully, I don’t really see that as a problem. In the last 20 years of work I have lost the ability to distinguish my “job” from my life...

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Let the robots be.

AT&T turned off my phone. They did it because unbeknownst to me I have been very slowly acquiring overages on service. Each month our data plan has gone over by these super cute data trickles and each trickle – no matter how small – amounts in an adorable $15 fee. Those little fees have mounted and now I am something like $100 past due on my bill. I called and paid $40 of which through an automated phone process.

The robot on the other end seemed to appreciate my payment; it beeped and clicked its approval. Yet somehow it wasn’t enough to restore my account. I calmly started to bang my face into the keypad of my phone. Each time chanting, “person please?” After about 5 minutes of this I found my way to the turn the knife hold music that I’m pretty sure they use to take a simmering rage to a full blooded boil.

I sat on the phone at 6pm, in my office, so angry. Rocking...

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Don’t worry about it. Be cool.

I’m not cool. I’d like to think I have moments of being cool, but then as soon as I realize I might seem cool I get nervous and pour coffee all over the place or say something uncool like, “howdy.”

Being cool has been hard for me to wrap my head around. I want to ask cool people about how they do it. Like how can you look cool on the bus? Just hanging out listening to music on your cell phone super loud and wearing Garfield PJ’s in public. If I did that someone would call the cops. Yet somehow this one guy on the bus totally owns it and he’s cool. Cool fashion always freaks me out. I have been considering getting a faux-hawk for almost 8 years now. When I think about bow-ties and mustaches I basically fall apart. How can you do it? Like seriously. It’s impossible. Yet somehow, some people – you know who you are – totally cool.

What about hats? I saw a guy wearing a hat the...

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“It’s not you, it’s me.” Why I’m breaking up with Spotify.

After a year plus of paying around $10.00 a month I’ve decided to split ways with hottie streaming music service provider Spotify. The relationship had been great and we spent a lot of time together, I’m just not happy with who I am becoming and it’s time to make it right.

It was always easy to love Spotify. It provides a seemingly limitless catalogue of every track ever made, to match your every whim. If you are feeling like an embarrassing trip through your hardcore punk youth, you can just pull up Snapcase and Into Another and quickly be reminded of just how old you really are. Maybe you have no idea who Rustie is and you want to impress the cool looking girl at the local coffee shop. No problem. Just type in Dub Step and a few painful seconds later be – yet again – reminded of how old you really are.

It all works seamlessly and beautifully. Until one day you look in the...

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On courage.

It’s not easy. As an adult it feels like a shameful topic, but the truth is we are all afraid. Afraid of saying the wrong thing, afraid of being made fun of, afraid of being discovered as a fraud, afraid of falling down, afraid of being embarrassed, afraid of losing our jobs, our loved ones, ourselves. So our tendency is to retreat, to hang back and hope nobody calls on us.

Now in some cruel twist of fate that we wind up with children, managing a team of people, a small business or something equally dreadful, here are some quick ideas to help lessen the blow as we all struggle to step out of our timid shadows and into those harsh lights of adulthood.

Have a ritual.

This can change all the time, but have a song – mine is almost always some Superchunk track – and routine that can really help you focus. I have always taken a moment before anything stressful to go on a walk. Then after...

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