Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wandering Into a Dream.

On Tuesday, March 24 2009, music - and the world - lost a legend, and a gentleman. A gentle man. Uriel Jones, Motown drummer, member of the legendary "Funk Brothers" died in Michigan from complications of a heart attack suffered a month ago. He was 74. In his honour, I decided to watch the 2003 DVD, "Standing in The Shadows of Motown." As I watched, and listened to the music, which I refer to as "the soundtrack of my life, I felt all the emotions that the memory of those songs recalled. As a boy, I heard Diana Ross and the Supremes, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, Smoky Robinson and The Miracles. As a teen I heard Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, The Temptations all on the Motown label, all backed by the same remarkable musicians.

Growing up, these songs, along with songs by The Beatles, The Hollies, The Dave Clark Five and many, many more inspired me to pursue a career in music. I practiced and played along with their records, the music feeling safe and comforting. Years later I was able to play music with some friends in High School and eventually I began touring and performing all over Canada, the U.S. Australia, and New Zealand. What experiences and joy I experienced... I also got to know the not-so-nice side of all things musical; the unending traveling, the fighting, the bad food, illness, and lonliness which in turn led to drug and alcohol abuse, self-destructive behaviour, and finally alienation.

Somewhere along the way, music began to represent not joy and elation that I felt listening to the radio in my room as a youth, but something that led to grief, sorrow, and the urge to just leave it all behind. In short, my dream became a nightmare.

There is an old saying, "Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it," which seems to accurately sum up my musical career. I got it all right, and as I look back on it, I realize that the dream looks much different from behind, that is to say, the memory is much different from the anticipated future.

Yet, as I listened to such songs as "What Becomes of The Broken Hearted," "I Heard it Through The Grapevine," "Heat Wave," and others, I once again felt that dream awaken, and I began to, like that boy of so long ago, wish I could one day grow up to play music like that. There was great soul in those songs.

I met Uriel a few years ago when he came to Cape Breton as part of the Cape Breton International Drum Festival. About a year and a half later he returned to participate in an event to kick off the upcoming Festival. I got to speak with him briefly, share some memories, and thank him for all those great hits that meant so much to me and inspired me. In his humble, almost embarrassed way, he thanked me and shook my hand. We had our picture taken together and said goodnight. But the boy got to meet the drummer, the backbeat to the soundtrack of his life. How cool is that!??

Rest in Peace Uriel. Rest in FUNK!

~Still Wandering...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Wandering into perseveration... Sort of.

Finally! Some time to myself! I've been as busy as a one-armed painter with a bad itch for a few weeks now and it's time I took some time for MYSELF! It's also good to note that the local geography is experiencing symptoms of spring! That makes me feel better.

I sometimes wonder if the Universe or "That Which we Call God" doesn't have some perverse sense of humour... I keep getting pushed back into activities and situations I have been trying to leave behind in my life. I have been a musician since 1969, making this my fortieth year. I have been trying to "retire" from music for a number of years and I keep getting asked to perform. The same goes for teaching music. No matter how often I try to stop doing that, I keep getting asked to teach. Of course, the fact that I need to earn a living does not help; If I were independently wealthy I could afford to not play or teach music any more and I could be free to "follow my Bliss" to quote Joseph Campbell. Alas, that doesn't seem to be the case at this time in my life.

This brings me to a point. The word I used in the title, "Perseveration" is described as, "the pathological, persistent repetition of a word, gesture, or act, often associated with brain damage or schizophrenia." So is continually ending up in the same situation a form of perseveration? Can I be subconsciously putting myself into repeated behaviours due to some mental disorder? Am I really the architect of my own grief? Or are these things happening simply because people know I do (or have done) what they require doing? I have often thought I am cast in a role the world will not allow me to break out of. Call it typecasting if you will... But seriously, I have become known as a good musician and I think people expect me to WANT to play, and they expect me to be a good teacher because I have been a successful player. But after forty years of it, am I not allowed to want something else for myself? Am I not allowed to go on an extended vacation to another location? Must I always be in beer parlours and concert halls with dressing rooms that smell of beer and doobies? (Spell check underlined the word doobies, and suggested boobies... That might be nice. LOL) Perhaps in the end I keep returning to what I know best because I don't know too much else. Let's just hope I'm not perseverating!

~Still wandering...

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Wandering into Like, ... Total Awesomeness, Dude!

Originally posted Wednesday, July 16, 2008

As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, our words have great meaning. Words cause vibration through sound, but the sounds they produce also cause vibrations of a different kind.

When we say certain words, their meaning is released into the Universe in vibratory energy. As this energy travels, its meaning is manifested and brought back to us in that manifestation.

However, when we over-use words, particularly very descriptive words, they begin to weaken in meaning. Today, everything is “awesome.” But is it? Is everything we see or experience really worthy of Awe? Awe, for those of you who don’t know, is described in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “inspiring a feeling of reverence, fear and wonder.” So can a skateboard or a guitar really inspire feelings of reverence, fear and wonder? Wonder, perhaps, but I doubt reverence and/or fear apply.

Using words to create irony is nothing new, but again, when overused, they begin to take on their original meaning. Like Awesome, wicked is one of these over-used words. Wicked means “evil or morally bad,” but used in an ironic manner it would mean “great.” But, again, it is over-used and becoming meaningless both as irony and in its original meaning.

The teachings of Buddhism, ask that we practice Right Speech, which means to abstain from false speech, especially avoiding lies and deceitful speech. We are asked to abstain from slanderous speech and to not use words maliciously against others, and to abstain from harsh words that offend or hurt others. Further, we are asked to abstain from idle chatter that lacks purpose or depth.

It is also my opinion that we should reserve some words for “special occasions,” times when they will have the greatest effect. Those of you who know me personally know I spent many years playing music in a number of bands. Musicians are not the greatest at displaying discretion in their speech. What I mean by that is that I have a vocabulary that would cause a sailor to blush. While I am pursuing a more spiritual path in life, I still find my language is that of a musician. Out of habit and non-mindfulness, I find myself using words that create negative vibrations in the universe. Using such words in everyday speech gives them no meaning.

But I’m not ready to stop calling my best friend the “biggest f#*%ing pile of Ugly I ever saw.” If I were to avoid such speech with him, he’d most likely have me visit a hospital to make sure I’m not ill!

~Still Wandering...

Wandering in Grateful Amazement

Originally posted Tuesday, July 31, 2007

In the 2004 film, What the #$*! Do We Know!?, there is a scene where the female lead, Amanda, is waiting for a subway train. While waiting, she sees a demonstration of the work of Japanese Doctor Masaru Emoto who has had remarkable findings working with simple water. Dr. Emoto explains that by simply adding written words to the outside of a water container, we can change the crystalline structure of the water within. Now, we've all been told to be careful what we say, that our words have consequences, but this was a new spin on that. In the 2006 book and film The Secret, the statement "Thoughts become Things." is made more than once. As I began to assimilate this information and put those ideas together in my mind, I reached a disturbing conclusion. If water can be turned black and vile by simply writing "I hate you" on the bottle, and if thoughts can indeed become real things, then what we think and say can seriously affect our health and state of being! Another well-known doctor, Bernie Siegel, has been saying that for over thirty years. Dr. Siegel has had remarkable success in treating cancer patients with nothing more than their thoughts. Then it occurred to me... No wonder there are so many people with serious illnesses in western society. We are in a constant state of agitation, bombarded by negative images from our televisions on networks such as CNN, negative news on the radio, negative topics in our conversations and the music we listen to, all of which is happening as we eat our meals and drink our water/milk/tea/coffee/whatever. We are literally ingesting negativity into our bodies with our meals! The Secret also mentions "an attitude of gratitude"... of mentally giving thanks for what we have, even if it's not yet all we want. So why not adopt an attitude of gratitude (a sincere one) with our food and water? Perhaps we can change the molecular structure to something more positive and beneficial. Maybe in this way we can reduce the amount of sickness in our bodies and minds. Once that is done, it will be easy to bring peace to our planet and learn to love one another instead of always starting wars to kill each other.

~Still Wandering...

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wandering In The Post Love Wasteland Part II

(Originaly posted August 30, 2007)

1968, like a middle child, rests uncomfortably between the two greatest years of the most wonderful time of my life.

If 1967 was the summer of love, 1968 was the spring of death. Beginning with the assassination of Civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Junior in April, the horror continued with the slaying of Robert Kennedy in the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, exactly two months after Dr King was killed.

When I try to explain these events to my younger friends like Saltwater Tibs and the ever lovely Susie Chambers, words fail me. I know they have their own tortures to deal with in their own ways, but I don't think they can ever grasp what it was like to know that people, including young people their age, were being killed for having an opinion that was contrary to that of the "Establishment." Not in Communist Russia, nor Red China, but in North America.

I recently wandered back to that front step where I sat in 1967, listening to my pocket radio. As I sat there, it was easy to remember the way it felt that evening forty years ago... I could once again hear the music that was popular at that time, thanks to a new device known as an MP-3 player. :-) I could also feel optimistic again. For a moment I allowed myself to believe that love and peace could one day be a reality. While I cannot condone war, I can remember those who died to bring attention to the atrocities that war brings. Martin and Bobbie, your message got through, you will not be forgotten.

~Still Wandering...

Wandering in The Post Love Wasteland.

(Originally posted July 19, 2007)

* When I originally posted this, I was in a very dark time of my life. I had begun to think that everything I stood for and believed in, was no longer relevant. I was bitter, lonely, and in great emotional pain. The negativity in the post is no longer a part of my life, but the message from 1967 is still important to me. So, here in its original form, is the first re-post from the old blog.

Welcome to the post-love wasteland...

"1967.... Yeah, I remember.

It was summer and I was sitting outside on the front step, listening to my pocket radio. (Still a pretty hip device for its time) They had just played "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)" by Scott McKenzie when the announcer came on and said "Well folks, it's official. It has just been announced that this is to be known as the summer of love!" At that moment the Wanderer in me was unleashed. I wanted to go immediately to San Francisco and wear flowers in my hair. I wanted to see all the great bands living there: The Grateful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and The Holding Company with Janis Joplin, even the names seemed exotic. The marches of opposition to the U.S. involvement in Viet Nam. I wanted to go... But I was twelve years old and had to babysit my dumb sister who was two! So I couldn't go. But the ramifications of that announcement reverberated through my soul like a speedball in my brain. Love... The Utopic dream of a whole displaced generation of baby boomers. I looked at my sister and thought, "You're so lucky. You're going to grow up to live in a world that knows no war, no hatred, no racism..." When I told her about that evening many years later, a tear fell from her eye as she said, "It's worse now than it was then."

The troops were pulled out of 'Nam in the early '70s and our music gave way to disco, (shudder) and then punk, rap, metal and all their variations and sub-categories. In the '90s the U.S. went back to war. This time in the Middle East, and the enemy was not communism but oil shortages. Here we are, 40 years later and the U.S. is back in the Middle East, once again to gain dominance over the oil industry. The music has morphed into something dark and sinister, albeit with an occasional hint of the glory days when we all believed peace could really happen and love could steer the stars."

~Still Wandering...

Wandering into Unification.

As I stated last week, I had another blog that for some reason, I can no longer access. Still, there are postings on that blog that I feel are pertinent and I would like to make them available. Therefore, I have decided to re-post them on this blog rather than expect people to use the cumbersome link to find the old blog. To that end, I will be copying and pasting for as long as it takes (including coffee breaks and other such diversions) to get that done. The first of these re-posts will be here in a few moments, and I will get to work on the others soon.

~Still Wandering...