The Kiwi accent was unmistakable.
But I could not place the voice on the telephone. And the computer-generated call was not coughing up any additional information.
He solved my dilemma: "It's Ken. -- The pianist."
And so it was.
I met him on one of my birthday cruises to Mexico -- almost a decade ago.
My usual routine on cruises is to spend a portion of the first day scouting out the live music venues.
On that cruise, a pianist was playing in the central atrium. Something lyrical, but vaguely mundane. Obviously another Lloyd Webber piece. The killing field of mass market piano music.
But the tune was one I did not recognize immediately.
I had become bored enough with Lord L-W's music that I was experimenting with a trial musical separation.
Then it hit me. I knew the tune : "A Kiss is a Terrible Thing to Waste." It was a featured cut from Meat Loaf's most recent album. (The song was from Lord Lloyd-Webber's Whistle Down the Wind. Jim Steinman, Meat Loaf's regular songwriter, wrote the lyrics for the show. Thus, the odd Meat Loaf-Lloyd Webber combination.)
The song is not very good. But the pianist was. I was a bit surprised that a lounge entertainer would run the risk of playing something the general public would not immediately recognize.
When he finished, I applauded and remarked: "I see Meat Loaf is on the menu."
He looked at me quizzically, nodded -- and started laughing.
People who laugh at my feeble humor are given a pass to move to the head of my popularity queue.
The next day I ran into him while we were both running around the ship's jogging track. He told me he was a composer in addition to being a performer. His big dream was to finish a musical he was composing and to have it produced on Broadway. Truly, a Big Dream.
I asked if I could take a look at his draft. It was not great, but it was a solid piece with potential. I made some notes and suggested concept revisions, and returned the full package to him.
When I returned it, he said: "Thanks. You are the first person who has not rolled his eyes when I talk about getting to Broadway."
Near the end of our telephone call last week, I asked him about the musical project.
"Oh." He said. "I gave up on that. We all have to grow up sometime."
He didn't sound sad. Merely resigned. In a very adult way.
But it was sad. Hearing that a dreamer has murdered his own dream is always a bit too Medea for me.
When I hung up, I realized that Steinman's lyrics to the song I first heard Ken playing summed up part of my uneasiness:
The loneliest word you'll ever know:
If only, if only, it were so.
The emptiest words that there'll ever be:
It could've been me; it could've been me.
Ken's call caused me to think about the very fragile nature of dreams. And where we end up when there the future holds only dead dreams.
This is the point where essays are supposed to wrap the theme in a clever summary. But I am not ready for that summary yet.
Because there is one more slice of Meat Loaf to serve up.
Mañana -- perhaps.