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Music

Chaz and my uncles doing a little kanikapila

I planned on doing a post about martial arts.  But, I heard a bit of Moonlight Sonata at work and realized I wanted to write about music more than I wanted to write about martial arts.  Especially since I used one of my Aikido experiences in yesterday’s post.

I grew up with music.  My uncles always played and sang for me when I was little.  They still accede to my repeated song requests when we are all together.  I remember falling asleep around campfires with them singing and playing.  For a long time, I needed music to fall asleep.  It relaxed me.  Except for when insomnia took over my body.  That’s a story for another time.

I sang in church choirs, worship teams, and did a few special music solos.  I even co-directed children’s choirs.  In 5th grade, a friend presented me with the opportunity to buy a used flute from a relative of his so I could join the band.  And by band, I mean there were about 10 of us learning how to play our respective instruments.

Me, Stick, and some fellow band geeks at our min-reunion in 2009

I kept up with it and stayed in band all through high school.  I wasn’t the best.  I wasn’t the worst.  But, I had a lot of fun.  Heck, I met my best friend in band.  What could be better than that?

I took piano lessons my senior year in high school and did much better than I expected to.  Playing the flute for 6 years gave me an advantage over my brother, sisters, and mother, who all took lessons at the same time.  My teacher didn’t have to teach me how to read music at all.  She just had to teach me how to read bass clef, which wasn’t that difficult.  I now have a keyboard which I’ll sit down at and try to plunk out some tunes.  I even tried to learn Bella’s Lullaby when I finally got my hands on the sheet music for me.

Playing music and singing definitely gave me a better appreciation for music.  Of all genres.  I admit I still have a hard time stomaching Country and Rap/Hip Hop.  I can do old school rap.  In my head, that’s real rap.  Not the stuff you hear these days.  There are a few gems in those areas though.  I know them when I hear them.

I dabbled with writing music with a couple of my friends during my college and post-college years.  Both of them were musicians and friends from church.  One of them I affectionately called, “My male self.”  Silver was just like me only he was a guy.  We were so alike, we could finish each other’s sentences.  This made writing music with him easy.  We were even in a short lived band together.  Like most bands, at least one ego got in the way and implosion ensued.

Jack Johnson and Eddie Vedder, Kokua Festival 2007

I love listening to music.  Like food, I have memories associated with certain songs.  Most of us do.  I get lost sometimes while listening to music.  I lose track of time if I have it on while writing, reading, or crafting.  If I’m just sitting and listening, I let my mind wander.  Last Summer, we were out to dinner with Exodus and H enjoying each other’s company and some Spanish food.  If I remember correctly, we all ordered some version of the restaurant’s paella.  Good stuff.  There was a live musician playing guitar.  After dinner, my mind was wandering with the music.  One particular song had me envisioning Russians chasing other Russians down a cobblestone road.  Inspiration for a poem?  I pulled out my little notebook and wrote down what I was thinking and put it away.  I haven’t had quite the inspiration to finish it out.

I completely love drums.  In marching band, I loved when our director would let our drum section do a fun cadence while we were marching.  There is some about cadence that I find mesmerizing.  Then, there is taiko.  Almost like cadence and just as mesmerizing.  We are fortunate to have seen several taiko companies at the St. Louis Japanese Festivals as well as local festivals in Kentucky and Cincinnati.  Blows me away every time.

Wilco doing California Stars

I’ve attended many concerts.  Not as many as some of your reading this or maybe more than some of you.  My first being Jan & Dean.  Great concert at the L.A. Zoo.  There was Van Halen for the OU812 tour for Stick’s birthday.  Good times.  I even braved Bonnaroo in 2009.  I really wanted to see Nine Inch Nails and Beastie Boys.  There was also Wilco, The Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, and Lucinda Williams.  Chaz, Exodus, and Heath went to Bonnaroo together a few times before.  They were all about Phish.  I just had a problem with the group next to us toking every half an hour on the dot.  I’m not talking every 30 minutes after they finished one.  Every 30 minutes.  I told the guys that they either weren’t inhaling right or they had some bad weed.  That got a little chuckle.  The Boss was a big draw, too.  I wasn’t so impressed.  He came out with a bang, then lulled me for about an hour or so.  I was really close to falling asleep when he came back with some of his oldies, but goodies.  At least it was an experience I can say I lived through.

Me, Ed Kowalczyk of Live, and a bunch of strangers

I don’t consider myself a fanatic about any band (except maybe Duran Duran when I was a teen) or artist that I like, but I am a fan.  I don’t go looking for ways to get backstage passes or go out of my way trying to meet them.  Heck, I had a chance to meet Jason Scott Lee after seeing him in a local play back home but I didn’t want to come off as a crazy fan.  And I probably would have seeing as I nearly drooled over him during the entire play.  Back to my point.  I happened to win passes to meet Ed Kowalczyk from Live, 5 years ago.  The radio station I listened to in Louisville would put on loyal listener shows.  I happened to enter online nothing thinking anything of it because I had done so for other loyal listener shows and hadn’t won.  Imagine my surprise when I got an email saying I won!  There was supposed to be a meet and greet time, but because of Ed’s schedule, they changed things up.  He autographed all our passes ahead of time (a good thing since I left my CD in the car) and after the show we did group pictures rather than individual.  Lucky me got to stand right next to him.  He put his arm around me and so I put mine on his back.  Then the thought hit me, I’m touching a sweaty rock star!  That will likely never happen again.  So I enjoyed while I could.

I’ve seen Michael W. Smith a couple of times.  I always feel good during his shows.  The last time I saw him, I went with a friend and one of her friends.  I happened to get really good seats for the show and we were in heaven.  So close to the stage that we could feel the energy Smitty was giving off.  Jack Johnson is another repeat.  If you haven’t been to a show, it’s like a massive kanikapila.  The band is playing, he’s singing, and EVERYONE else is singing along with him.  It’s like being home.

Exodus, Chaz, T, & H aka The Mediocre All Stars

That’s what it always comes back to.  The music I grew up with.  Sitting around with guitars and ukes.  Totally unplugged.  It gives me joy that Chaz can join in on the kanikapila with my uncles.  He has an amazing voice which has me and our friends yelling, “BOOOO!  You’re not Chaz!” when we hear a song on the radio that he covers.  If anyone can do a song better than the original artist, it’s Chaz.  I’d say I’m biased, but I’m not the only one that thinks that.  He can belt out Like A Stone better than Chris Cornell.  In fact, when he was learning it, I sometimes had to close the door because it was driving me nuts.  We had a smaller apartment back then.  When he finally performed it on Second Life, he blew me away.  I could not believe it.  He’s wowed an entire live crowd at a benefit show.  The guys in the band said it was because the band before them was spectacularly horrible.  So horrible, I almost had to go outside until they were done.  It wasn’t simply because the band before was so off-key.  It was because they were so amazing.  Despite the name they gave themselves, they are anything but mediocre.  It’s a case of 4 humble guys just playing music together.

Music makes my heart sing and that is all there is to it.  Especially when it’s my loved ones singing and/or playing.

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Express and Excess

 

Sitting on my grandparent's car

 

My younger days were simple, laid back, and full of imagination.  We didn’t have much.  Neither sets of grandparents had much.  I did have some toys, but I spent a lot of time engaged in imaginary play.

I wanted to share some pictures of my and Uncle AJ playing together, but my scanner wouldn’t work.  Uncle AJ is my dad’s youngest brother, who happens to be a mere 8 years older than myself.  He’s like an older brother to me.  We spent a lot of time making forts with the couch cushions and Lelang’s (my great-grandmother) handmade quilts.  We would turn the short stools my grandparents had at the small counter and sit between the legs pretending we were driving a car.

Even as I grew older and collected more toys, I still engaged in imaginary play with friends.  There was lots of pretending to be Charlie’s Angels or Remington Steele.  The fact is, we played outside.  All the time.  My friends never came over to watch TV or play video games.

At one point, we had a play room.  This was when we lived in a 2-storey home with more bedrooms than we had people.  6 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, sunken living room, dining room, family room, and living room.  This was a house that my parents had built so it was brand new when we moved in.  I got to choose which room would be mine and asked for a dutch door for my bedroom door.  Nothing like having the sense that the door is closed, but not really.  I think my parents liked that they could look in on me without having to actually open the door.

Back to the play room.  My parents had their ping pong table in there, which took up much of the room.  When I had friends over to spend the night, we’d sleep in there and watch the stars and planes going through the night sky…pretending it was an Imperial Destroyer come to wipe us out.

These were the days where “play dates” did not exist.  You walked over to your friend’s house, knocked on the door, and asked if they could come out and play.  Or you saw your friends playing outside already and you went out to join the fun.  There were no cell phones to be able to check in and tell your parents where you were.  You told them where you were going and that’s where you were.  If you were planned going somewhere else, you called them from your friend’s house and told them.  The simple mandate each day, be in before dark.

 

Moloka`i Hot Bread. Nothing like it in the whole world and we'll stand in line for hours to get it if we have to.

 

Back in those days, eating out meant going to a restaurant and ordering at the table from a server.  Rarely, did we go to a fast food restaurant in my early years.  Once my brother arrived, there was more McDonald’s, which became his preferred meal.  He would not eat Chinese food when we’d go out and my parents would have to stop and get him a hamburger to eat at the restaurant.  He was 4 the first time he went to Hawai`i with me.  He had never really experienced local food.  Or Filipino food for that matter.  We were on Moloka`i with our grandparents and various other family members.  Every mealtime he would exclaim, “I want MeeDonald’s!”  That boy was SOL.  There was no such thing as fast food on Moloka`i.  It’s so laid back, it doesn’t really matter how long food took between ordering and having it set before you.

Kaunakakai, the main town on the island, finally had a pizzeria open during my college years.  It was a bit shocking to come home to during a visit, but someone met a demand.  Grandma always made sure she greeted me with home cooked food, though.  And at some point during my visit she would always make my favorite clam dish.  Nothing like picking up those clam shells and sucking the clam out along with the broth.

Maunaloa, the original plantation town on the island, where pretty much every family lived when they came to the islands to work the plantations, began to rebuild.  Movie theater went in.  KFC opened.  Yes, KFC.  An actual franchise.  A Subway opened in Kaunakakai, too.  I believe it was the Subway that opened before the KFC.  I was a bit sad when they came to the island, but sometimes you can’t stop change.  As long as we could still stand in a long line at the back of the bakery in town late at night for some fresh Hot Bread.  Good things are worth waiting for.

Kanikapila time. Guitars and ukes come out and the music starts.

My favorite part of going home and being with family is when we get together and the instruments appear.  Guitars and ukulele (pronounced oo-koo, not yoo-koo) are strummed and requests are shouted out. “Blackbird!” “Sunday party!” “On and On!” This goes on for hours.  No one cares about the TV or the computer.  Those not gathered around are usually found nearby playing Pipito or Spoons.

There is magic in the air.  I’m transported back to the days of my youth when my aunties, uncles, and older cousins would take me camping on the beach and we’d sit around the fire singing and playing.  Or we’d craftily sneak out of the house after Grandma and Grandpa were sleeping to see one of my uncles play a gig at the resort.  That was a mean feat, too.  The house made lots of noises.  My grandparents had a shell curtain in the doorway from the hall and the kitchen, which we had to carefully get through.

These days I’m surrounded by people who can’t live without their smart phones.  It is as if they had them permanently attached to their hands. Kids are in front of video games all day rather than outside engaging their imagination and soaking up some natural Vitamin D.  We want things as soon as we order them.  We don’t want to stand in lines.  We want to drive in special freeway lanes to avoid traffic.  We can’t wait until we’re out of the car to make or take a call, or even text.

We buy, buy, buy.  We have more food in our pantries than we can really eat in one week and that would last past a nuclear holocaust.  If you think I missed the mark on that or need a visual, check out What Is On Family Dinner Tables Around the Globe.  The gluttony of Americans is pretty apparent.  I was pretty sad when I saw this yesterday.  So much processed and refined foods.  This is what happens when we want more, faster.

 

The back of our apartment

 

I make a conscious effort to not care if the line I am waiting in to check out is taking a long time to move.  I enjoy the radio while stuck in traffic.  I know that good food is worth the wait and takes time to make.  I try to make sure I’m not buying more than we need.  But yes, there are purchases that make at times that are what I want.  Those are fewer and farther between.

For those of you who don’t follow my other blog, Hunter’s Lyonesse, we moved back in October.  The day we were unpacking and I was in the dining room that looks out to the back, I heard noises.  I had the blinds fully drawn and the windows open.  I looked out and there were kids out back.  Playing.  Not sitting there with hand-held video games.  Actual imaginary play.  It was like I was a kid again.  I vowed that I would never let the sounds of their play irritate me.  They were outside playing the way kids should be playing.  Now that it’s warming up again, some of the boys have taken to playing war games where they stand there a few feet from each other making shooting noises while pointing their guns at each other.  No one was dying.  I guess either no one wanted to die or today’s video games and movies have gotten to them thinking they can’t die.  Either way, it’s cute and it made me laugh.

 
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Posted by on April 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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