O'Malley now must march to a different drummer

April 03, 2005|By SUSAN REIMER

ONCE YOU ARE under the yoke of a marriage, a mortgage, a couple of kids and a semi-responsible job, you realize something has got to give. As in, give up.

And that something is usually something pleasurable, like your book club or your pick-up basketball games or movie dates or sleep.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley is giving up his rock band.

Since his election in 1999, the Clark Kent mayor has been shedding his shirt and tie to become the well-muscled lead singer of an Irish rock band.

(No shrink-wrapped jumpsuit for O'Malley, but the sleeveless T-shirt sends the same message.)

But he is not-officially running for governor now and that will eat up what little spare time - and energy - he has left at the ripe old age of 42.

"At this point in my life, every ounce of my aging creative energies are going to have to be focused on continuing our city's remarkable progress and being laser focused on getting our state moving in the right direction again," he said in announcing the end of O'Malley's March.

This isn't exactly the break-up of the Beatles, but it still made me feel sad.

I have seen O'Malley perform and it is clear that he is completely happy doing it. I hate to see him give it up because it echoes all the happy things so many of us give up in the name of grown-up responsibilities.

Granted, if I am the mother of O'Malley's four young children, I am saying to him on any given Saturday night, "You are going where? To do what? Not without taking at least two kids, you're not."

Whatever promises he made to Katie O'Malley in return for a kitchen pass to play with the band, it gave him what can only have been a tremendous break from being a mayor.

"It has been a place of respite," O'Malley acknowledged in a telephone conversation between meetings. (He sounded tired.)

"But increasingly it had been difficult to arrange. When your public profile gets higher, when you get successful, it becomes harder to leave your job behind, even for your hobbies.

"I am happy in a lot of other places, too," he said, sounding resigned.

There are only so many hours in the day, and for the next 19 months, O'Malley will be running a city, with all the crises and nagging problems that come with it, and he will be - at some point, officially - running for governor of the state.

"It will be a tough campaign on top of a tough job," O'Malley said.

And it would not do for the candidate to have ladies throwing panties on stage or for a drunken brawl to break out at one of his concerts. Talk about staying on message.

But still, I hate to see any of us give up something we love to do in the name of duty because we might not get it back when that duty is done. Tomorrows are guaranteed to none of us.

The little pleasures that keep us sane are hard won and harder kept when the busyness of parenting and real life begin to crowd them out.

"We still have a few more jobs before we close out," he said. "Yeah, the band has been great. It has been a special place. But I don't think I will ever give up music.

"I might get together with friends or do an underground CD for release at a later date," he said, laughing. "Every now and then I might show up at a session, like Woody Allen."

I remember what my husband, the often beleaguered father of two young kids, said to his younger brother and his wife when they were expecting their first child.

The young couple bowled, had matching bags, monogrammed bowling balls and belonged to a couple of leagues.

"You like bowling?" he asked his brother. "Then bowl like hell."

I think O'Malley should rock like hell.

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