Costumes

I know it’s over but Halloween is probably my favorite holiday.  Not that I believe in ghosts and goblins, etc., but you don’t have to believe to have a fun time with family.  You don’t have to believe in Santa, or the Easter Bunny or even Christianity in order to have a good time on Christmas or Easter.

Beliefs are kind of like costumes that clothe your soul.  As you spiritually grow, you may find you need to change your beliefs to fit your soul properly.  You may grow completely out of your old beliefs, or you may have to at least take the cuffs out.

I still hold some superstitions, like if I wash my truck, that pretty much guarantees rain.  I notice our culture still holds many superstitions (I love hotels that have a 13th floor).

Anyway, in the spirit of Halloween, hope you had a good time, and that your costume still fits.

JackOLantern

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Bodhi as Laughing Jack #creepypasta

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Luther as Laughing Luther #creepywolfdog

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Salem graveyard – taken 2013

6%-ers

Well, it looks like I’m part of the 6% – ers.  Last November, they told me that approximately 6% of people with my diagnosis get rid of the cancer.  As of last Thursday, I was told I was cancer free, and thus CHEMO FREE!!!!!!  In the last couple of months, I have been lying low with my phone turned off.  The chemo and the numbness in my feet and fingers was very annoying and getting me down.  I was tired a lot.  I was fighting the chemo and not the cancer.  I got a scan done over a month ago that showed “no discernible mass”.  Then I got an endoscopy last week, with biopsy(s) that confirmed that there was no cancer present.  Now, I’ll be having scans every two months just to check up, check in with my doctors, say hi to the nurses and keep an eye out.

I owe this “win” in this short period of 11 months (which doesn’t feel that short when you consider you’re doing chemo every other week) to many different things.  It was a combination of being healthy enough, finding it at a relatively early stage, thinking positive and refusing to dwell on it too much, getting good advice, changing my diet (less sugar and red meat); I’m pretty sure that extra virgin coconut oil, and Phoenix Tears with lots of CBD’s (both are tumor fighting agents) combined with the prescribed multilayer chemotherapy helped as well.  I also have all my family and friends from different tribes with their positive thoughts and prayers to thank, because just knowing that everyone was out there pooling that energy was really helpful.  I should also thank my three dogs for bringing me extra happiness and laughter, but unfortunately they can’t read – although I’m not really sure about Luther…he might actually be able to read.

I haven’t been writing lately…because, why?  I’m not sure.  The chemo was making me more tired, but overall I knew I was winning.  In the beginning, when I felt very mortal, I possibly felt that I had to get the words out and say all of these things before it was too late.  Now, I have been feeling a lot better and I’m back to feeling more immortal.  I don’t have death staring over my shoulder therefore I’m not as inspired to write.  Hmmmm….could it be that the grim reaper is my muse?  Well, that sucks.

C’est la vie.  Life goes on (thank goodness).  Live it while you got it.

DeadEnd

Unique & Very Unique

Eyes

Here’s lookin’ at ya!  Well, I’m up all night on chemo again.  I feel more like I do now than I ever did.  :/

Sorry I haven’t been keeping anyone updated.  I’ve been reading more and writing less.  Went to see some different oncologists a few weeks back at Loma Linda University Medical Center in Redlands.  They said that they would do the same exact chemo regimen that my current oncologist has prescribed.  One of them is a Thoracic specialist.  He said, from looking at my reports that I was in a “very unique” position.  It’s very rare to see anyone completely cure a stage 4 esophageal cancer diagnosis, but I seem to be close to doing it.  He seemed kind of excited, like I was some kind of anomaly.  He recommended that in August, after I get my next scan, that I should get another endoscopy and biopsy.  Then they can tell if there is any tumor remaining or just scar tissue.  My last reports are only showing a thickening in the lining of my esophagus, and not actual tumor, so they need to get in there to get a close up so they can decide what to do.  Anyway, they were amazed at how well I had “taken to the chemo”.  They also referred me to a dietition (nutritionist) and Physical Therapist who apparently has a PT technique that is getting great results for neuropathy (numbness in hands and feet).  At this point, I hardly need to fight the cancer; I’m fighting the chemo.  I’ll still probably be on it for quite some time.  I’ve been told by many over the years that I’m a unique person, but it’s nice to be told in this context.

Anyway, onward and upward with uniqueness.  Every one of us is as unique as a fingerprint without even trying.  “Everybody says they got to be they’selves, but everybody wants to be like everybody else”.  Don’t worry too much about what other people might think.  Revel in your uniqueness and know that we are all very special.  Don’t try to change.  (Well, unless you’re a jerk, or a bitch, or an asshole…or a thief or a grifter… or a hornswaggler, or a boondoggler…or a brutal murderer).  Wait.  Maybe I should rethink this “don’t change” business.

I’m not sure how to segue into this, but in thinking about individuality and uniqueness I want to show some pictures of a kind of uniqueness that has always really impressed me.  Around the world and in this country, California especially, people consider what they drive as part of their image, or somehow, a reflection of their character.  In the Philippine Islands, there is something called the “Jitney” or “Jeepney”.  These are big, stainless steel, station wagon type vehicles that are made in old jeep factories left over from World War II.  They use them like small buses that go from neighborhood to neighborhood, in the big cities and in the small towns.  The owners take great pride in them and great pains to have them custom painted, pinstriped, adorned, embellished, decked out with lights and chrome and mirrors and holy cards.  All of them have the neighborhoods and towns they traverse written on the side and front.  Not any two are the same.  This is something very unique to the Philippines, and very dear to my heart.  The following are some pics of some Jitneys in Baguio, a mountainous area that is very cool (not so humid and sweaty), several hours outside of Manilla.

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Jitney6

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Jitney2

These are all unique.  And now, for something very unique.

I give you..a clown shoe repair shop in Paris.

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Paris_Clownshoes (3)

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You can’t fly the freak flag much higher than this, but I challenge you to try. Don’t lose your uniqueness.

Gravity and Space

Gravity is heavy.  Probably heavier than what our bodies are made to handle.  It is probably one of the biggest factors that makes us grow old.  But then, it does keep our asses from being whipped off into space by the speed of this spinning planet, so it’s probably a good trade-off.  (At the North Pole the rotational speed of the planet is close to zero.  At mid-latitudes it is 700-900 mph).  Someday we may be able to use gravity waves to sail between planets.  Cool.

Anyway, once again, perspective is everything.  In space there is no up or down.  We usually equate up or down with our heads and our feet.  Our bodies assume we are walking upright on top of the planet.  According to the North and South Poles, most of us are walking sideways on the side of the planet.

Gravity

Many years ago, a good friend taught me how to stand on my head.  It’s not only good health-wise, as in readjusting your organs and such, but it’s also good for altering your perspective.  Literally.  Because you’re standing on your head.  While standing on your head, light fixtures and ceiling fans sprout up from the floor, and chairs and couches hang from the ceiling.  The real fun is outside.  Standing on your head with a huge panoramic view is incredible.  At the ocean, it is beyond awesome.  It doesn’t take long for it to seem like you’re hanging from a ceiling of writhing, chopping liquid.  Still, my favorite of all is standing on my head on a clear night in the desert.  In your mind’s eye, you are literally dangling by head and hands from the bottom of an orb in outer space, looking at the universe between your feet.  Coolest.  It’s a pleasure to be conscious of such a giant wonder.

Meanwhile, I went for a scan today and will see the doc in about a week to find out if the demon is still shrinking.  I’m feeling fine, except for the neuropathy (chemo caused numbness in hands and feet) and sometimes extra naps that I need to take during the day.  Feeling positive and still walking upright, unless I’m standing on my head.

Improvising

For me, the most rewarding part of playing music is improvisation; performing without preparation, playing extemporaneously, inventing off-hand.  (From the Italian “improvasari” which is from “improviso” meaning “sudden”, and from the Latin, “improvisus” – meaning “unforseen”).   One can read music, or one can copy recordings.  But, to make your own music is something special.  I spent hours and hours for years playing scales (still do).   Scales are like a tactile road map for your fingers.  This is the foundation for improvising.  You start by making phrases; very simple at first, like learning a language.  The blues are a very simple common denominator in music; easy to jam on.  I would copy blues phrases, then turn them around and make them my own.  Jazz is probably the most complex form of improvisation, but it all starts with the blues.  In both blues and jazz, songs are written out but these are just charts or vehicles to improvise or jam around.  There are only 12 tones in music, but the choice is infinite on their order and timing.  At first your musical phrases are limited.  You have to concentrate and think about what you’re trying to say.  As time goes by, you think less and less and just let your fingers do the walking (or talking).  This is when it starts getting very spiritual.  I almost think this type of playing is not just coming from me but also coming through me, like it’s floating around out in the aether, and I’m just a medium interpreting it, kind of like a filament in a light bulb, grabbing electricity and shining it out to the world; but shining it, in accordance with my background and personal style.  It’s not like the exact phrase is floating out there, it’s more like a kind of feeling or wave that your fingers interpret into a phrase.  Sometimes I’ll play and think, “wow, where did that come from?”  Ok, guess I can’t get any more hippie-heavy than that.  The chemo is kicking in good tonight.

Anyway, I prepared with scales.  Improvising in real life is sometimes harder for me.  Seems like whatever you do in life, preparation is one of the keys to improvising without being prepared.  Does that make any kind of sense?  Prepare yourself to not be prepared so you can do it on the fly.  Wing it.  CURVE BALL!!!!!

Be ready to use your brains and imagination; ready to MacGyver it.  We all know Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong will go wrong.  I usually adhere to O’Toole’s Law, which states – Murphy was an optimist.  Anyhow, species that can adapt are the ones that will survive.  To adapt you often need to improvise.  So be prepared to be unprepared.  Embrace the change.

So anyway, here is some more street music.  Some of them play stuff that they memorized, some play stuff where they don’t know what’s coming next.  Like most musicians, they will play for free, but really appreciate getting paid.  I always try to take a little time to listen and donate to these people.


Rome, Italy
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Brandenburg Gate – Germany

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New Orleans


Edinburgh, Scotland

Life & Death

I think there are two main defining factors in life.  One, the luck of the draw – where you were born and who you were born to, how and where you were raised and all the outside people and things that happen to you along the way in life.  Two, the way you handle or deal with all of these people and situations.

Maybe our heaven and hell are both right here on earth, in our daily lives.  Just a thought.  Maybe we’re being rewarded or punished for a past life.  If that be the case, it must continue.  For instance, we get reincarnated up or down the scale.  It’s still in motion, it’s not complete.   Why then, are those of us in the heaven stage so easily annoyed, irritated or harassed by those currently in the hell stage?  And it seems like a lot of those people in the hell stage, should be in the heaven stage, and for sure, it seems like a lot of those people inhabiting the heaven stage, should be in hell.  Just a thought.

Death.  It’s not a topic that most of us want to dwell on for any length of time, seeing that it’s inevitable.  I mean, why bother?  So, if you prefer, read no further.

It’s scary, because you don’t know when it’s coming and you don’t know where you’re going.  Just the word is creepy to many.  A friend of mine once said, “when you die and go to heaven, all the pets you ever had run and swim and fly out to meet you.”  That is a happy thought.  Another friend said, “Geez, I hope they don’t all want to be fed right away….”

When I was in college, I got this feeling.  I know many other students had it also.  We didn’t really look forward to graduating, because we would have to go out into the real world and start our real lives.   It was scary.  Many wanted to be students forever (and some succeeded).  As time has gone by, I’ve had several different close friends from those old days pass away and many family members as well.  I think of them as having graduated to the next level, which is really how I perceive death and any concept of an afterlife.  Some people think we go to a place, where there is an old guy on a throne, with a big beard and a bigger stick.  Or some people picture a place with 40 virgins, etc., etc… Maybe heaven is just an after hours party, that lasts forever.  And maybe hell, is just the day after an after hours party that seemed to last forever.  I don’t think the afterlife is really a place.  It’s something way beyond what our “undergraduate” minds can imagine.  Maybe we become much more aware that we are all pores in the skin of the universe.  Maybe we’re all just cells in one giant being.  We’re all part of what we think of as “god”.  (Wait, what if you’re a cell in the brain, do you get more consciousness than a cell in the forearm?  And I’d hate to be one of those brain cells that inevitably gets burned out in college…)  Anyway, what if, what if, etc., etc., ad infinitum.  Blah, Blah…Blog.

Maybe death is when we finally get to hang with all the souls that are the real grownups; like being promoted from the kids’ table at Thanksgiving.  Perhaps we will be enlightened way beyond anything imaginable.  It’s normal to be timid or anxious about “graduation”, but that doesn’t mean it’s a sad or bad thing.  So many people think of it as “the end”.  What if death is just the beginning?  Thinking, thinking, thinking….

 Zen Zone at WiseAcres:  A Place to Stop Thinking
ZenZone

The Closet Brothers / Closetini

In a semi-recent comment on this blog, a friend mentioned losing an old Closet Brothers’ tape.  They signed off as “a faithful Closetini”.  It’s time for a little more background, if you would please indulge me.

Back in the 70s, one of the original bands I was in, that formed in Elsinore Valley, was Johnny Katt & the Closet Brothers.  I was Johnny Katt (a parady name of Johnny Cash, but actually a kitty litter brand).  The Closet Brothers were Barry Lewis (M.T. Closet) on drums, and Phil Jones (Dark Closet) on bass.  After a while, I dropped the cowboy hat and the name Johhny Katt, and we just called ourselves The Closet Brothers.  Now that I’m thinking about all of this, I should have named myself Joaquin Closet.   Darn.  Anyway, we played the local bars and parties for the regulars and irregulars in the valley between Elsinore and Temecula.  We played originals, old Stones and old country.

Closet Brothers – Me, Barry Lewis, Phil Jones
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Closet Brothers – mid-70s
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Quite a few of the local teens became faithful followers.  We referred to them as the Closetinis (pronounced, “clozeteeneez”).  As time went by, Mike Canipe (Pipes), my good friend from The Flying Crowbar in Laguna Beach, starting coming over the hill to play with us.  He added another guitar, and incredible vocals.  In no time at all, another good friend and great guitar player, Doug Suman (The Prof), started coming out from the Brea area to jam with the band (he just wouldn’t go away).  At this time, Pipes implemented the maximum three guitar player only rule.  The band became a five piece and we started calling ourselves the Closetinis.  To us, Closetini became more than a name.  It became a a way of life that signified a loud, obnoxious fashion sense, highlighting vintage 50s sports coats and mismatched everything else, and a somewhat benign, sort of smart ass, joker attitude.  The Closetini salute was a back handed flip of a hand under the chin, Italian style.  The Closetini handshake was a fakely sincere reach for a handshake and then, at the last second a quick pull-back with a flip of the thumb over the shoulder.  We would comment during gigs on each other’s guitar solos, saying things like, “don’t use that tone with me”, “you could shave with that tone” or “your solo probably cleared the mice out of the building”, etc, ad infinitum.  We would critique dancers on the floor at our gigs by announcing over the mic that they looked like ducks on a hotplate, or a national geographic movie.  All harmless, fun making.  We were happy jokers.  GOOD BAND, GOOD TIMES, GOOD TRIBE.

It’s a little sad that this is one piece of history that cannot repeat itself, except in the memories of those who were there and remain faithful Closetinis.  I raise my glass to all the friends, players, fans, and families who experienced and participated in the Closetini dynasty.  Unfortunately, because of the chemo, any glass I raise cannot have alcohol, but that does not distract me from my sincerity.

Closetinis – Halloween Mid-70s
L-R(Prof, Pipes, Jonesy, Louie, and WoodZ)
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