Sunday, May 07, 2006

The World's Most Dangerous Polka Band

The World's Most Dangerous Polka Band

I can't imagine what it would be like to someday be able to say, "I just finished my first movie." Those were the words of Sonya "Sonny" Tormoen as we were doing our best to focus on weaving through heavy traffic from JFK to downtown Manhattan. As we were deplaning after a 2 1/2 hour flight from Minneapolis to New York City, Sonya asked if I'd like to share a cab. I responded that I could do her one better. "How would you like a ride in my rental car in exchange for being my map reader?" I figured I'd at least minimize the opportunity for getting lost in New York City before I had to head north to Conneticut, which was my final destination that day. I could have flown to within 30 minutes of Wallingford, Connecticut but life for me is more about creating adventures. I wanted to drive through New York City because the last time I'd been there was many years ago. Back then I had gone with a friend to see the David Letterman show.

Sonya had just finished premiering her first movie and was now on her way to a last-minute opportunity to get the attention of some heavy hitters that may help further her career. She was on her way to the U.N. building for a party that evening in which she was hoping to meet billionaire Jeff Skoll. Jeff Skoll and partner Ricky Strauss have created a production company that strives to make socially relevant movies. Sonya wanted to pitch an idea and all she needed was a chance to hand off a DVD to those who might watch it and decide to help her. Only on a "God moment" opportunity had she been given the chance to be at this "invitation only" party. With all invitations gone, a friend had arranged for her to attend the event as a volunteer helper. She was more than willing to do whatever it took to be there.

As we visited, laughed, and jockeyed for position through traffic, Sonya told me a bit of her life's story. We laughed as she told me she still lives with her parents. I told her that I didn't see that as too odd since "creative types" seem to struggle forever to make money by using what comes most natural to them. As an example there's the joke about what you call a guitar player without a girlfriend. Homeless. In other words, making a living as an artist or creative person is next to impossible. I assured her it was just fine with me that she still lived at home as long as she keeps her bedroom clean. The real reason she was there though had nothing to do with being creative. She had suffered many years with health problems and home was where and how she had finally recovered.

The journey that Sonya had traveled in the last few weeks was incredible and complicated. I didn't quite follow all of it but the fact was, getting to meet Jeff Skoll was a divine appointment in her opinion. She even told me I may be giving a ride to the opportunity of her lifetime. She laughed as she said I should be honored just in case this becomes the big break she's been looking for. I said it was my pleasure to be providing the ride to her dream.

We got to Manhattan without missing a turn. For two "creative types" that's a miracle in itself. Sonya gave me all the finger-pointing and hand gesturing needed so I could stay focused on each turn. Through the honking, pedestrians, and limousines that thought they owned the road, we eventually found Sonya's destination. To further prove her destiny may have had a divine appointment , there was an open parking spot right in front of the building we needed to be at. If you've ever been to Manhattan...well, you know. What a confidence builder for Sonya. Here she was on a moments notice finding an opportunity to meet a big wheel in the movie industry. Not only that, she was getting a free ride from the airport and a perfect parking spot to unload her luggage. Considering the fact that she had told me how broke she was after producing her movie, it appeared to me, her destiny was getting a little help from above.

What's my point to all this? That day was not about me. This happened last Tuesday, May 2nd, 2006. I thought I was on my way to Conneticut to another speaking engagement. What I eventually discovered was, I was also on my way to helping someone realize their dream. I was right in the middle of someone else's destiny and giving them a free ride was my contribution. How exciting is that?

Somehow I was chosen that day to share a rental car with another "creative type" such as myself. Her world made total sense to me even though I'm sure she was convinced I was going to think otherwise. I got it when she described how many wrong turns she'd made throughout her life and I promised her I'd made more. I got it when she told me she struggles with self-esteem and I thought to myself, me too. I got it when she said her friends tease her about not having a real job and I asked her, what's a job? Everything Sonya said, I got it. As a result, I was able to give her some pretty sound advice and explained a few lessons I'd learned about people such as ourselves. Oh, by the way. When I say "sound advice" I mean my mouth was making a sound while I pontificated on the "JL outlook" on life.

I called Sonya on my way back from Conneticut. She had made it to her party. She got to meet and deliver her proposal to three other partners of Jeff Skoll. She didn't get to meet Jeff but she was pleased with what she had been able to achieve.This week I plan on heading over to the Bell Auditorium at the University of Minnesota campus to see The World's Most Dangerous Polka Band, produced by my new friend, Sonya. It appears it will only be showing on Wednesday and Thursday but I'll be there for one of those showings. I can't wait to see this documentary about a polka band from Minneapolis whose drummer is over eighty years old.

The next time you find yourself wrapped up in a day in which you believe it's all about you, take a minute to step back and offer someone a ride. You never know, you may be delivering them to the heart of their destiny. Life isn't always about me. It used to be, but that's changing.