One day, when Fifer was eight, we received anotice that our local community center washosting tryouts for The Wizard of Oz. For theauditions, kids had to sing a song withoutany accompaniment. My daughter learned“Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” with helpfrom her grandmother and Bonnie, and thenthey trundled off to the audition.“They wouldn’t even let me be a Munchkin,”Fifer said upon her return, with adisappointment that was not tinged withbitterness, if an adult can imagine such athing. And this is a kid with perfect pitch.I’m not bragging, because her talent doesn’tcome from me. We had started learningsome songs together, with me on the guitarand her on vocals; I would look over at thetuner, during an obscure part of the Beatles’“Within You Without You,” for instance, andshe would be right there on the B-ﬂat. Iremember a friend of hers, a kid symbolicallynamed Dylan, once asking her, “Why are youalways singing?” Fifer replied, “Because it’smy destiny.”Besides being fated to become a vocalist, mydaughter loves money (she’s a Capricorn). Tosee this trait so apparent in a child’s eyes wasa little shocking, but it gave me an idea: Wewould step it up on the songs we had beenpracticing—which made me happy, fulﬁllingmy role as the father who was supposed tomake her stick with things—and then wewould play them on the streets for money.Busking is what it’s called; we learned thatterm together. “Some dads take their kidsﬁshing,” Bonnie said. We would performSgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Bandstraight through twice (with the exceptionof tracks two and four, which we never gotaround to learning). Though Fifer vowed meto secrecy—she wanted to keep her “normalgirl” status, playing softball (pretty well) andviola (no worse than anyone else in thirdgrade)—she looked forward to our “gigs” asmuch as I did.Her enthusiasm for performing didn’t surpriseme. One time when she was about three, weattended a crowded story time at the locallibrary. After the reader had stepped down,Fife crawled between all the sprawled-outkids and patient parents and got into the bigchair. Then she picked up a book. “Now it’smy turn,” she said. She couldn’t read yet, soshe sort of performed the book by looking atthe pictures. The reader, an older gentlemanwho was vaguely famous, came over andclapped me on the shoulder. “I’ve never seenthat before. Good luck, Jack.”Maybe it was genetic. In my early twenties,as a performance poet, I had stood in front ofthe American Express ofﬁce in Prague afterdawn, declaiming Bob Dylan lyrics, with ahat placed on the sidewalk to collect tips.
They wouldn’t even let me be a Munchkin