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"Those who wait upon the Lord will get new strength" Isaiah 40:31
I really like this line. I'm thinking of the word "wait". It's really tough for me to do. I hate waiting. I used to tell Lynnette that I was timing her while I drove around the parking lot of the grocery store while she went in to get the milk and bread. What a jerk, right? I'd actually do it, too. No kidding. Once, I told off Shanon, one of Lynnette's friends, because she made me wait. "Do you realize how much of my life you just made me waste," I asked her. I was pissed off, boy.
As a recovering addict, I had to learn patience. I learned that one of my "triggers" is impatience. I want what I want and I want it now. I'd trained myself, over a lifetime of self-reliance, to do whatever I wanted whenever it occurred for me to do it. Patience was/is a tough thing to do.
What I've learned out of that is that waiting isn't a waste of time. It actually is productive. Waiting doesn't mean being idle; it means training, or attending to something or someone, or resting ... resting.
I like the image Isaiah conjures in my mind. I see myself waiting on the Lord, as in, I'm wearing a tuxedo and I'm serving a King -- his attendant. White towel draped over one arm, looking after the one who deserves it and following orders.
Well, that's the way I see myself in a perfect world.
Resting is another interesting concept, too. Resting isn't only a rejuvenation, it's giving something or someone space. In music, when we don't play, we call it "resting" -- silence, stillness, quiet. God rested from creating everything. I don't think it was because He was tired. I think it was more of a cessation of work in order to stand back and admire the beauty -- like an artist to a sculpture.
So, I'm waiting upon the Lord. I'm endeavoring to attend to His command. I don't always understand it. I don't always really know what it is He'd like for me to do. I'm intent upon being open enough to hear and feel Him stirring in my soul, and I pray for the courage to carry it to action.
I was talking to Shaia today about what's going on with everything. Oh, yeah ... Shaia's my 3 1/2 month old daughter. She's cute. So, I was walking the dog, Nela. Oh, yeah. Nela (NEE-lah) is our 3 1/2 month old dog.
Anyway, I was walking the dog and talking to Shaia who was in the stroller about what's going on in my life right now. There are so, so many interesting things. I have a new Gretsch guitar! This thing is really, really sweet. And my brother Leonard sprung for some kick butt, top shelf, pickups. TV Jones, if you really want to know. And I'm organizing the band in a very particular way. It's not my doing, no. I couldn't be so thorough. I've kinda been getting these ... "feelings" or "thoughts" about what, or how, we should be doing things. Part of that is that I have a back log of unfinished songs.
So, I have these songs that are pretty good, but no lyrics. I've been prompted to start writing again -- prose or poetry. It's really a matter of practice, you know. Along the way I was "nudged" to Mark, chapter 10. In it, there's a rich young ruler, a prince, who talks to Jesus about heaven and what does he need to do to get in.
So, I'm strolling along and walking the dog and talking to Shaia about this fascinating story.
It seems this young dude had it all -- money, power, and I presume fame since everyone seemed to know who he was. And he asks Jesus to tell him what he needs to do to gain eternity. Jesus, and I paraphrase here, tells him he needs to treat people right according to some of the 10 Commandments. This guy says he's done all that since he was a kid. (I don't believe it for a minute). So, he wants to know what else? What else is there? Jesus tells the guy to go sell everything he owns, give all the cash to the poor, and follow Him. The guy turns around and walks away sad.
Several things strike me as particularly interesting. See, the Bible is this thing that is very real if you read it with the intent of seeing the humanity in it. I mean, it's not a text book. It's a book of real people living real lives that aren't that different than our own.
So, you have this guy that thinks he has it all. He thinks he really has his crap in order and is the living example of righteousness. He tells Jesus that he's done all the commandments. How many times have I heard that one? How many times have I used that one?? "Yeah, you've treated everyone right since you were a kid, never once screwing up and treating them like dirt, never making a fool of yourself, never putting your own interests before other people? Yeah. Right." So, lets just say, for the sake of argument, that this guy is the only guy beside Jesus to really obey the Commandments. He's still making it about him. He wants to know, since he's got all his ducks in a row, what else is there? Sorta like a taunt; like a dare. There's a certain amount of arrogance and audacity in the question, isn't there? "What else do I have to do since I'm a perfect good guy." But that's the way it is, isn't it? "I'm not the one at fault here." It's my wife who doesn't understand me. It's my boss who can't appreciate his workforce. It's that guy on the road who won't get out of my way. It's my kids because they refuse to respect me. Jesus just lays it out: Go home and get rid of everything you have, give it away, and come with me.
Cult leaders say something similar with one crucial difference: They want you to bring THEM the money. Jesus told him to give it away, not "bring it here."
And of course the guy's sad. Here he was thinking that he had everything he needed, he had his dance card punched and was holding the golden ticket. So, this guy who's been waited on hand and foot all of his life can't give it up, can he? He can't go and set his slaves free and enrich the lives of the very peasants who keep him rich. He lives a life of comfort. It's a tough, tough thing to do. 'Smatter of fact, Jesus tells us it's humanly impossible.
But He did it. Jesus gave up heaven to come over here and slum it with us. How 'bout that?
I think Shaia enjoyed the story and my observations on it. She kept "cooing" anyway. There's a song there.
Has it really been that long? My goodness, people.

I guess it goes without saying that I've been remiss in my writing. But it's a symptom of something larger that's been going on here. Maybe I can explain in 15,000 words or less.

It all really started about one year ago. We were doing alright, I guess. Really, we weren't playing as often as we would've liked, but we were having a general good time doing it. We played at the King William Fair and I was on top of the world, man. I mean, I really felt connected with what we do. Only ... somehow it just didn't feel right. Want to know something? Calling people and having them always say "No" to you is a battle of attrition. It takes a certain type of will power to accept defeat over and over again and be able to sustain it. I couldn't sustain it. In this business, people want what they can get from you for as little as they can get it and their willing to make you feel as small as possible to make it happen. For an artist, that's a very tough thing to endure year after year. So, I decided a re-evaluation was in order.

In (seemingly) other news, mere weeks later, I got to go to Chicago to the Willow Creek Arts Conference. It was here that I heard God, for the first time, call like the clarion that'd been missing in my life for so very long. I became aware that I'd become so very cynical. I never for once ever thought I'd become cynical -- but I did. And as I learned how to worship, to approach the lover of my very soul -- my essence -- and as I gathered around thousands of other artists and spoke with them and communed with them and prayed with them and made music with them I felt the scales of my heart begin to peel away and I was able to actually feel something again.

I cried.

There. In the middle of a small chapel in a foreign land I felt the living presence of God.

In (seemingly) other news. I declared that I'd realized that I really don't like myself too much. Well, at all. So, in an effort to be able to feel something again I joined a small band of believers in working out my spirituality in order to recover from my "hurts, habits, and hangups". It's a 12-step process. Once again I found myself admitting that my life had indeed become unmanageable and I was helpless to do anything about it.

And there I am, working my steps and trying to peel back the onion of pain and suffering that I've endured for so long. What I discovered is that even though I'd quit drinking and drugging, all I'd really done was learn how to be sober; but I hadn't recovered yet. I was still caught in the whirlpool of self destructive thoughts and desires and I needed to stop doing that.

Along the way God put it on my heart to get back to this thing called "a band" and get to doing it right. I sat down with a great friend of mine and he began mentoring me in the idea of creating a business plan. In order to really nail that down, I had to really nail down what we're doing -- what we're about. That led me right back to the beginning. Nothing fixed. I was doing it for me. I don't believe in me. I don't even like myself, much less actually believe in me. I mean, I believe I can play a tune and all, but I don't really think I'm that good at it. I don't really think that you, the reader of this blog, my FAN, likes me.

Crap.

So I gave in. The main thing that I've been after all these many years is a sense of self-worth and self-dignity and self-love. I'm none of those things because if you really want to know the truth of it all, I'm a degenerate. Of course I don't like myself. I was searching for my identity in Christ because I'm not worth it. Really, I'm not. And there it was. Plain as day and in front of my nose the entire time.

I can't go on the way I've been going. I don't like myself very much and I can't sell myself well because I believe it when the people I'm trying to sell myself to say I'm a loser; I affirm what they say. It felt like I was living a lie. You can say I'm coming out of the closet, so to speak. I'm a Christian ... and that's "Ok."

"So what," I think I hear you asking? It's incredibly significant because now it's not about me, dude. That's the deal. It's not ABOUT me. I'm nothing, but God is freaking GOD.

Take it this way: This is the very thing God created me to do. I don't do it for me. I can't do it for me because I don't even like myself. But, I love God with all my heart and all my mind and all my strength. I don't do it FOR Him. I do it because of Him. I am my Father's son. I can't help being who I am and despite whatever opinion I may have of myself the fact remains that this -- this making music stuff -- is what I've been built specifically to do in this world. The great sage Popeye put it best when he said, "I am what I am and that's all that I am." Amen.

So, that's the deal here. I've been on this arduous journey through the morass of my crap. And as it turns out, the more I think about it, the more I like myself. Who would've thunk it? I'm designed to do this and there's nothing else to be done about it but to follow it through. What that means is some changes that some of you might not like. Others of you will like it quite a bit, I guess. We're changing formats.

Oh, we're still playing the blues. The difference is that we're playing the blues from a Christian's perspective. That is, I can't help myself but to sing about my life as a Christian, my relationship with my Father, my relationship with other Christians, my relationship with people who aren't Christians, my struggle to live in a world that I don't belong to -- all because I can't help it, it's just the way God made me.

I don't know what the future holds. I don't even know if promoters will want to hire us. I don't know if you, the fan, will even want us. Where will we play? Will there be anyone to play to? Does anyone even care about what we have to say?

I don't know. Something says I should say that I don't care, but I do. I care very much. That's why I'm still in it, swinging away. Only, I want to do it right. I want to honor God. If you're a praying person, say a prayer of praise. If you're not, I hope you hang in there with us and maybe gain a better perspective of what a Christian goes through, 'cause it's not all a bed of roses like I used to think. Sometimes it can be a tough, tough life. Incredible fulfilling and gratifying, but a tough life, too.

It's like walking through the threshold of some doorway you didn't exactly know was there. Think of the misfit -- once they find their place, it's all roses.

I've been miss fit for so long . . . I just thought that's the way the world is supposed to be. But, here lately, I'm feeling pretty good about being who I really am. That's saying a lot considering I generally despise myself.

Cool, eh?

I heard the chiming "clink" just after the wrench slipped out of my fingertips -- tender from turning screws bare-handed a couple of days ago. "Drat," I thought. "Praise God" was not on the top of my list of thoughts, no.

But, I got down on my knees, then flipped over belly-up, shoulder-crawled under the front of my truck, reached with outstretched arm and grabbed that little bugger of a tool. I shimmied back out and as I raised my knee to kick myself up and off the ground, it hit me. "The tool!" No, I hadn't left it under the truck -- but, I did think it was probably the most fantastic thing since sliced bread.

I'm not a mechanic by trade, but by necessity.

I'd been thinking about this particular magnet for my guitar. See, magnets make the electric guitar work. This won't be an engineering class in guitar building -- but, follow me here.

This particular magnet is an aluminum/nickel alloy that has an interestingly strong magnetic field. This is important to us because the magnetic field vibrates in sympathy with the motion of the strings.

Some metals are affected more than others. Oddly enough, it's the purer ones that loose their magnetism the soonest.

You make a magnet by passing an electrical current aCROSS it. The atoms are "combed" into uniformed alignment. Once all the atoms are unified, the metal begins to have a pull of it's very own.

Shakespeare mentioned that all the world is a stage and we're the players. That implies a play write. Someone who has orchestrated the story in advance and already knows how the story goes.

I've always felt that there is a specific purpose for my life. I guess everyone does. Musicians mostly feel like their purpose is to be rock-stars, unfortunately. I've always known that there was something I was supposed to be doing. My life has illustrated this in that I've always been doing "this" while I was endeavoring towards "that". How 'bout you?

About 4 1/2 years a go, I lost my magnetism. All my inner self was nullified and everything I knew ceased to be. The play came to an abrupt end. Rather, the play within the play ended, the set was removed and I was left standing naked on the stage.

I've spent the last three months asking the writer of my play to run aCross me and unify my very being with the story of the play. I'm a player. I want my part. I need to know my part. It's a disparateness I've never know before. All my struggles with self-identity, self-esteem and self-loathing will find reconciliation. I will have a pull of my very own; I will then be moved in sympathy with the vibrations set in motion before me without choice but to perform the very thing I was scripted to do. Satisfaction. Resolution. Reconciliation.

I wade in slowly
Seeking the subtle force
Moving the the rhythm
Set to me.

Set for me.

This weekend was Mother's Day. The day Hallmark gave us to remember our mothers -- because without them, where would we be? Mom: No one can inspire such soaring love or such sheer terror.

Now that I'm a father, I can understand a lot of what my own parents went through -- and more than that, what they were willing to go through. The tears they shed, the wrinkles they wear in their hands today from when they wringed them from worry over me -- over us 6 kids.

I must have been around 3 or 4 -- long enough ago that the memory is vividly hazy -- when I chased after my sisters as they walked to school. They'd already been gone a little while, but I'd seen them walking down the street and I was confident I could find them. So, there I went. I walked about 6 blocks when (on the right course! See, I told you I knew I could track them!) the crossing gaurd, Tina, caught me trying to cross a major street barefoot and in my underwear. She had me wait there with her until her shift ended and then she carried me home. She was our neighbor and knew our family. I remember begging her not to tell my mother about what I'd done. I went inside and promptly hid in the king of all hiding places: under my bed. Next thing I knew, I was dodging a broom swooshing under the bed. I knew the jig was up and I crawled out to face the music; and I cursed Tina for ratting me out.

On another occasion, I can't remember why, exactly, but surely I'd done something to aggravate my mother. I just don't know why I did what I did. I ask you: What would you have done? See, she was holding a lit match to my lips, threating to burn my tongue if what I was claiming (innocence, I'm sure) was a lie. Somehow I lost my sanity, all my 6 year old powers of logic and clear thought escaped me, and for reasons that I'm not clear on to this day, I pursed my lips and blew the damned thing out.

The last thing I remember was how neat the little wisp of smoke slowly, but interstingly, meandered upward from the burned phosphorus tip -- then darkness.

To me, life was idyllic and full of adventure. I didn't have a computer or video games or anything electronic (well, maybe a radio). I had a freaking ball, dude. Red. Rubber. Hours and hours of entertainment. Oh, yeah, and a box. I had a red rubber ball and a card-board box. So, I'd go outside and play, alone, while all my brothers and sisters were at school (a relief because all they'd do is torment me anyway!). I was confined to my back yard; and while to a 5 year old kid, it was a large yard, it was too small for me. My mother would force me to siesta with her -- I hated it because we were buring good daylight! So, I'd wait until she fell asleep, and then I'd sneak out the back door, grab the plastic baseball bat, use it to undo the latch on the gate -- and later days! Well, my neighbor across the street, La Seniora Lopez, busted me and ratted me out. So, mama put a pad lock on the gate. The next siesta, I snuck out, and this time, climbed over the fence. I mean, it made sense. The wire fence was like a ladder, up and over the little metal dogs at the top, and I was a free man! This time, Tina (now my sworn mortal enemy) caught me and sent me back to the slammer. I was a prisoner in my own home. I was serving a life sentence. I was tied to a chair and placed in front of "As The World Turns". Again, I waited for her sleep, I openned the back door, jumped the fence with the metal dogs . . . freaking mailman! What's a brother got to do around here for a little freedom?!

The last time, I had it all worked out. I was going to wait until I was sure she was sawing logs, see? Then I was going over the fence, see? Yeah. This time, the back fence. It was unknown territory, but the other fences had gaurds -- the rat bastards. So, there I was, tied up to the chair again, when I heard her breathing deeply in the next room. I quietly wriggled out of the rope across my chest, got my hands loose and undid the knots at my ankles, figured out the new lock on sliding back door, crawled along the ground on my stomach towards the back fence, looked around, climbed the fence, threw my legs over and landed and looked up to see Mr. Hester with his hands on his hips and a crescent wrench in his pocket. That was it, I knew it was over. I knew the warden was going to let me have it. I was going to get the chair for sure.

When my sisters and brothers came home, they pointed and laughed at first, then they started to feel bad for me because I had to wait for my father to come home; I was tied to the chair with 3 ropes, which was then tied to the meat locker, all of which had me sitting in front of "As The World Turns."

I can't seem to recall the rest. But, I'm sure it was well before then that my mother placed the curse of all mothers upon me -- "I hope one day you have children, and I hope they're just like you!"

Know what? The curse works . . . .

My friend Scott didn't come back home. He'd left early that morning to fly to Corpus Christi, TX to pick up his little (teenage) daughter. He was a professional pilot, which makes it all the harder to understand. Flying is what he did for a living for the past 20+ years. What happenned that morning that his years and years of training couldn't over come? We're told it was instantaneous. What I know for sure is that when he left that morning, he had every intention of coming back home.

You could tell because his office was still a mess, his shoes were still muddy and waiting to be worn again, his flight schedule had to be hurredly filled with other pilots . . . things were left with the intention of coming back to them.

I wonder.

Scott was a man of grand bravery, honesty, and integrity. I could count on him. He was one of those men that you just knew you could always count on him doing what he said he'd do. Stallwart and trustworthy, steady and solid.

So, I stress. Do the people in my life know how much I love them? It's not enough to just tell people you love them. My on-going training as a spirit-driven person continuously, positively, informs me that love is a verb. You want to know if I love you? Let show you how much I care. And I fail all the time.

I don't call my mother nearly enough, all my father ever gets is a brief hand shake, I haven't spoken with my god-daughter in ages, people I really care about don't hear from me for weeks. I've written before that unless you're my arm's length away, I'm not thinking about you. It's my fallacy. As much I try to not be selfish, the more glaringly clear it becomes that I am.

The excuse is that I'm busy getting on with getting by. I'm calling people trying to book the next show, writing a new song, scheduling students, giving concerts, training my body with physical workouts and musical training, on and on. That's what I'm busy doing. It's what's happened in our society. I want to not take it lying down. I want to care about you and love you and show you how much I care.

Unfortunately, I'm stuck on shaking my fist to the sky with tears of frustration rolling down my face and angrily asking God why my life is so freaking hard? I'm playing the same song I've been singing for years. Why don't I have hundreds of fans showing up to my shows like someone I know? Why can't I save money on a consistent basis, like a lot of people I know? Why can't I have what I want?

Then, sometimes it all comes crashing on top of me and all I can do is lay down and be still at the awesome granduer, immensity, and intensity of God's personal attention and love of me. It's so big and deep and wide and strong that all I can do is fall on my knees at His majesty.

There's this popular book out there that starts with the words, "It's not about you."

It really isn't about me.

I can't help but want to make it about me.

a compelling need to communicate.
my tongue bankrupt;
Over-extended
on its credit of words. my spirit
sores.
(overly wrested and too severly taxed)
In the middle of the night I
toss
in the meating of my thoughts.

Compelling.

Wild frontier:
Say "Yes" to God.
Anyone can say "No" to God.
Believe
(not in) Me.
It'll make you all knew again.

Compelling.

Thoreau yourself over the cliff.

I've been in bed for four days. I became ill from a couple of different things; a dose of stress, a touch of a flu bug, and a heap of exhaustion.

Gotta tell ya, laying in bed for that long ain't all it's cracked up to be. I kept thinking, "Man, I'd LOVE to lay in bed all day." Then, I get the chance, and it sssuuuucccckkkkkssss. I watched all the Oprah I could handle, Dr. Phil, and Ellen. I've had plenty of commercials, PBS broadcasting, and Dog the Bounty Hunter for a good long time.

In other news, the cement in my face is diminishing. The cold chills are abating . . . and the chripping morning birds aren't pissing me off so much.

All this just when I've come to a "new" perspective on my life. It's not so much "new" as revisited (again)(and again)(and again). Thing is, I just want to do what I'm doing the best I can do it. For so long, for so many of us, we make plans for that "eventuality" we hope for and dream and plan for. So, I've decided that this is it -- no more waiting. All that's left is to be the best at it I can be. Why wait for the rush hour traffic? Let's just all get on with "it" as if all our plans are in the present. No more of this, "One day, when I grow up" crap. It's on, baby. Carpe diem and all that.

But I've got to watch it, 'cause like I just said, I got sick from exhaustion. There are days when I'm on the go for about 18 hours straight moving from one thing to the next and watching the world out of the driver's side window of my truck. Sometimes a whole week will pass before I see my son. It's not uncommon to have about an hour's worth of relationship per week with my wife.

Want to know something? There's nothing more that I'd rather be doing than living this life. I hope everything I just wrote doesn't come off as if I'm complaining. I'm not. Just the opposite is true. I don't think I can ever fully express the appreciation I feel for having the opportunity to live the life that I do. I mean, I can play the freaking guitar, man. And people pay me to teach them to play the way that I play, and people pay me to come play at their club or restaurant, or people pay me for the chance to own my CD and hear me whenever they want. I can compose songs and lyrics and people tell me how pleased they are with my art. I mean, get real, dude! This life freakin' rocks!

This is the reason I say that if it weren't for you, I wouldn't do what I do. That's true for any of us. If you weren't there to let me, and people like me, hold a mirror up to the world we live in and tell stories about it, there would be no jobby-job.

Ok. I'm tired. I need to get back to resting. Mainly, I wanted to tell you, "Thank You."

Oh . . . . and that I love you.

We'd gone down to Mexico to help some family members build a church in their neighborhood. The church already existed, all they needed was a building to go with it. Actually, they had the building, too, but, they wanted a better one not made of wood and thatch roof, and maybe one with bathrooms.

It's funny that when I think of Mexico, I don't think of a third world country even though it is. In this one particular town, right on the edge of the Rio Grande, a small community of squatters arose. It's a community that's been around for a long enough time that the city that it borders has dained to officially ignore it. It came up as a result of people trying to get across the river. It was founded on a former trash heap, a land fill, and the people are actually the children, or grandchildren, of those that didn't get across; or, haven't gotten across. It seems the families would camp out and wait for those that were caught trying to cross the river to come back home. Further, it seems that they made it their job to get across, and the families were there to support that endeavor. You can imagine that there were no permanent dwellings to begin with, and that the goverment reluctantly added infrastructure. That infrastructure isn't much, though. I think they get something like one power line per 10 blocks, and the houses are all "rigged" off that one line. Therefore, power shortages are the norm. The "streets" are actually broad and pretty straight paths, unpaved, and unkept. I know they have sewage and water, but I'm not too sure where the water comes from, and I'd hate to know, if you want to know the truth. It's peopled with "foreigners" from Central and South America; the locals, I'm told, resent them and look down on them. So, we went to build them a church -- one that has a bathroom (for men AND women), and some walls and roof.

The stories from those days are endless. But on this one day, we went to look for scaffolding. We were going to put the finish on the cieling of this one-room church. I can't be sure, but I think it's standard that they use cement on everything. There's no sheet rock. So, once the roof (ie, ceiling) was poured, it was time to smooth it out by adding cement to the underside (the cieling, that is). Picture those guys smoothing out a cement side walk with those trowles. Now picture that upside down. Gravity becomes a real . . . menace.

Luckily, we had a foreman who knows the ropes -- his name is Maestro. The task at hand was to grab hammers and ding the crap out of the cieling and chip away at any smooth spots. The idea being that when we splatted trowels of wet cement on it, it would stick better. So, some of us spent the day shoveling yards of sand and cement piles from spot to spot. Some of us spent the day sifting the cement and making the right consistency. Some took breaks and played soccer with the neighborhood kids in the "street" outside. The heat was oppressive, the breeze was hot and the smell of human waste riding on it was daunting. Still, we worked hard and generally kept up our spirits.

In order to get the cieling done, though, we need the scaffolding.

One of the skilled workers (all of them lived in that "colonia") said he had some piping at his house. So, my friend TJ jumped in the back of the truck and I with him as his interpretor along with some people and off we went. Along the way there was talk of where they lived and how "nice" it was; they named this particular section of the colonia "Beach Front Vistas". I was thinking how thankful I was that we were leaving, even for just a little bit, the deplorable conditions of the neighborhood we were working in. What we actually drove up on (while holding on with a death grip because the pot holes were so big it was more like off-roading) was breath taking -- literally.

It was getting harder and harder to take a breath because the air was so dusty, so hot, so freaking foul, dude. So foul. The neighborhood started to have a definite change. The houses became shacks, then became adobe shacks, then finally just adobe huts with thatched roofs; a spotted dog all skin and ribs looking at us as we bounced by. We pulled into an encirclement of homes, and on my left there, just over the wall of the first house, was the beach they were refering to.

Now I knew where that sewage was going.

It's a scene that I will forever vividly recall. I just sat there and kinda stared at that. TJ jumped out and started grabbing pipes -- I was shaken back to the task at hand.

Getting back to the church, I was so glad to be back in the lap of luxury. Someone asked on that trip if the people truly knew the conditions in which they were living. I think so -- I know so.

What to know something? The people were so proud of that church, man. My apartment is bigger, and more comfortable (with indoor plumbing and carpet and air conditioning and heat, and a fridge with FOOD) than that church. But it doesn't have half the value. And when we met for service that night, the people came -- clean, pressed, tidy, hair combed, shaved, with humility, with honor, wearing their best clothes and entering with a sense of reverance.

Today, the editors of CNN.com thought I should know Anna Nicole's baby's birth certificate might be a fraud.

Do what you're passionate about doing. Faith is knowing that it will be ok. I think about what people would have to give up in order to do what they're passionate about doing; it's tough.

The tougher question comes when you're not too sure what you're passionate about.

I heard the glass clink when it gently smacked another one on it's way down to the table. I was momentarily focused on that hand releasing it's possesion and retreating to it's master. " . . . are you listening to what I'm saying to you?" The two answers obvious: a) Lie and maybe have to contend with the challenge by repeating what I was just now not listening to, or b) Be honest and widen the gap between us . . . .

What would you have done?

It's not like I mean it. I don't. Sometimes, though, I just get caught up in my thoughts. It's like a speeding train, sometimes a train wreck. Something happens and I'm lost in thought, or someone says something and before I know it, I'm about 100 miles away from the germ that started it off.

It can even happen while I'm the one doing the talking. " . . . and then I grabbed my guitar and . . . . Wait. What was I saying?" The only reason we talk is so we can be heard; and not hearing someone, especially when their screaming the softest, can be a tragedy.

Maybe people want to say something, but don't know that they can. Maybe people are trying to say something, but don't know how. Maybe people don't realize how broken they are because they haven't been fixed enough to know the differece. Listen to yourself today and see what you're saying to people. What's the message?

I've been donig some research and developement. It's becoming apparant that the world doesn't share my passion (read: obsession) for my craft. That's ok. Sometimes, it's a little annoying to know that I have this "tick". I'm not suprised that the general population doesn't share this illness, I'm suprised that I didn't come to see this earlier (resting my chin on my fist, elbow on crossed-legged knee).

I remember, vividly, the first time my 6th grade school band played together. What a joy. I don't lie to say that my head literally swam with the resonance of the sound -- surrounded by the music, and being a part of it . . . boy did we suck! I didn't care. I was making music. Real music.

Since that day to now (sitting back and looking at the cieling, nostalgia), I've been chasing that sensation again. Gosh, it's such a wonder. I don't know how to explain it. It's like downing a bottle (750ml) of black label Jack in one sitting, it's like the first downhill of the Rattler at 6 Flags, it's like an ice cream cone at the ball park on July 4th, it's like a warm shower when you're stoned, it's like going over a waterfall, it's like standing on the rooftop of a car going 50mph, it's just . . . a special kind of exquisit.

Really, it's a spiritual thing. The more I know, the more I know what I don't know (grimicing at my arm-chair philosophy). It's like that with my spiritual walk, too. The more I know, sense and feel, the more I realize how insignificant I really am. And in that insignificance, I'm elevated by grace and mercy.

Those first days of sitting in Mr. Luderos' 6th grade band at Whittier Middle School created in me a sense of "oneness" with something bigger and larger and better and far older than me. Music has been around since the day the heavens were created and the angels sang their praise. And I get to be a part of that.

It's just something you can't put your finger on. It's a mist of a thought, a whisp of insight, a glimpse of clarity in your periphery . . . .

The world is a progressively smaller place and the concentric circles of people sometimes intertwine. Last night, I walked into a place of love and spirit. After the days I've been having, I needed something like that. It's not very common (sadly) to see people giving of themselves for the good of another -- maybe someone they don't even know. People were glad of heart to know that the time and money they were spending were for the good of a very sick friend.

Maybe the person in need will be able to pay some bills; maybe be able to pay for an hour's worth of medication or therapy. But that's not the point. The point is that a community of people gathered together to show their love and support and help prop up the spirits of a family tired from the strain of battling a dibilitating illness. Someone asked me, "How much money did they raise?" I don't think that matters as much as what was raised was the will to continue the fight knowing that there are many, many people in Chuck and Jan's corner; many people who genuinely want to see them through.

It's also a testament to Chuck and Jan who inspire all of us to continue our little petty up-hill battles because, by comparison, we've got it pretty light.

Please visit www.fixupchuck.com. If you want to join the cause, great. At least go by and see what this is all about.

You can say we survived the "Winter Storm of '07" here in our end of life. Personally, I didn't think it was such a big deal. Diego thought it was a REALLY big deal and wouldn't stop calling everything snow. "Look daddy, SNOW!" "That's ice, mijo." "Look daddy, SNOW!" "Put that dead cat down, son. It's frozen." Stuff like that. He also went stir crazy. I found him one morning running circles on his bed and laughing a goofy laugh. "Honey, grab your purse! We gotta run the boy out!" So we went to that bastion that so definitively marks us as being "civilized" -- the mall. Did the trick, though. A couple of hours later and he was wishing he could go home again. Ahh . . . nothing like miles and miles of pavement.

Along the route, I discovered some of the old familiar roads we travel were worn for the wear. Seems mother nature had taken her toll on the older portions of the roads, worn by busses and the sun . . . certainly the recent water and freeze didn't help matters much.

Up the road from our parking lot, there are two particular spots that, after every good soaking, open up all over again -- perpetual pot holes, it seems.

Oh, people come by and fill them in after a couple of weeks. At first, I was a little suprised that they would re-appear after a rain . . . not so suprised anymore. In fact, it's so predictable, I just instinctively swerve to avoid hitting the holes. They appear in the sames spots, every single time; I know exactly how far to the left I should go, then to the right, then back left again . . . straight, quick left, slow float to the right (middle of the road), slow float back the left and I'm turning left into my parking lot. Kinda like a combination lock. Speaking of those. I hate combination locks. And why are we required to spin twice before executing the combination? And more importantly, why do I do it? I mean it, I'm an idiot. Even if no one's looking, there I am, spinning the thing twice before I attempt the combination. . . but I digress.

Maybe dodging pot holes is in my genes. Boy, do I wish that were true! Metaphorically speaking, of course. True story: About 12 years ago I took a bus trip down to Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico to try to bring my grandfather back to San Antonio for a visit. He was about 80 years old and my father didn't want him taking the road trip on his own. So, my father thinks up the brilliant idea to have me go down there, and "trick" my grandfather into letting me drive him back to Texas. Stupid idea. My grandfather knew what was up the second I called from the bus station. "Papa Arturo? Si. Here I am, out of the blue, in Mexico. Yes. Yes. . . yes. I came just to see you. Yes. No, I'm not drunk this time. Yes. No, for real, I'm not drinking . . . yet. I'm coming over." The first thing he tells me when I get out of the taxi in front of his house is, "You can tell your father I'm not letting you drive me to SA." I thought, "Crap! What the heck did I just ride 5 hours with a chicken and a goat for??" Oh, well. We proceeded to have a couple of beers and shoot the bull. The next day, I drove us over to visit one of his daughters (my aunt, you see).

Let me explain something to you. In Mexico, an engineer's idea of city planning is a lot like . . . how should I put this . . . a musician's idea of city planning. They just kinda go with the flow. If they need a street, they build a street. Never mind that in about 10 years, people may need to connect another street to it, without thinking that they should erect street signs, without thinking that a straight street is important, or that maybe the thing should be even driveable. I'm not saying it's a bad system, it's just a system I'm vastly unprepared to drive in. But my grandfather, this was his jungle, boy.

So, after a nice visit and fabulous dinner at my aunt's house, it's time to go home. The sun is setting and I want to get my drink on before it's too late. There we go, driving along. My grandfather couldn't much see in the day, at twilight even less. I couldn't, for the life of me, remember how to get home. "Papa Arturo? You think you could set me hip to some directions back to your pad?" "Oh, si, mijo! Just take Guadalupe to San Fernando, hang a left at Santa Clara, do a dog-leg at the corn vendor's stand, hang a "U"-ey at the spotted goat, turn left at Revolucion, a right at Simon Bolivar, and there you are." "Um. . . right." "Oh, don't worry, mijo. I'll tell you as we go." This really instilled confidence -- a nearly-blind man leading me, throught the dark, home. Right.

Sure enough, though. There he was, sitting shot gun and telling me exactly where to turn, how far to go straight, to watch out for that traffic light because it never stays green long enough (as if it really matters in Mexico!), to slowly start getting into the middle lane ("There are lanes??), and even -- yes, no lie -- "in about 5 meters there will be a HUGE pot hole. You'll want to avoid that."

Let me tell you something. That summer night, so long ago, I'll never forget it. Here was this man, nearly blind but with the tallest vision of anyone I knew, so grand in my eyes, leading me -- a young upstart who thought he had the world by the testicles -- through the night, in a foreign world, down foreign roads into the darkness of unfamiliarity, this truly had an impact in my life. I will never forget it.

I wondered how many times did he smack those pot holes that he knew where they were; and could tell me about them? How many times? How many people had he seen cream those holes only to be left without an axle on their road? How many times had those holes been covered up only to be drilled and carved out again by the rain that always comes? And it always comes.

Seems these holes up my road have been there at least a couple of times before. I should go wake up Diego and tell him where they are.

This past holiday season went pretty good. Except for a few (very) minor things, we had a pretty nice time. New Year's Eve was nice and cozy and loads of fun. Then, here comes life again and we're back at it.

This past week I wrote a check for my rent. Yes, it's that time of the month where we have to pay for our abode, our lodging, so to speak.

I don't know why, but somehow small things like this send my mind a-spinning. I wrote a check, a payment, an installment for another month dwelling. Yes, it's nice. But it's nothing to make back flips over. And anyway. We all have to pay, brother. Some people pay more than others, but we all pay.

It's narrow to think that while I'm here (earth), this is all there is. I mean, there's more than meets the eye. But, it's so hard to get out of the box because I'm encombered by this "meat sack"; I'm stuck in my own centricity. I can't think about much else expect that which is around me at the time. Someone once said, and until recently did I begin to understand, "Whereever you find yourself, there you are." Look at it this way, "Out of sight, out of mind." If you're not an arm's length away, I'm not thinking about you. It's a sad thing to concede.

This dude once put it like this. He told a story about how this guy built a vineyard with all the constituent parts -- wine press, vines, bottles . . . . He left the thing to some of his workers to watch and keep and work it while he went away. Well, after some time had passed, the workers began to think the vineyard belonged to them. They were dividing the profits of their labor amonst themselves, they took liberties with the product, and basically mismanaged the place. One day, the owner sent his peeps to say he was coming home. But, they didn't like that and killed the messenger. So, he had to send his own son. The farmers killed him, too. You can only imagine how they reacted when the owner himself finally came home.

I don't own anything. I feels like I do, but I don't own one thing. Not my guitar, not my car, my wife, my son, my apartment, not my career, not even this "meat sack". There's scientific confirmation for this hypothesis; I don't own it because I can't take any of it with me when I die. And one day, the owner's gonna come home.

I'm not buying, just renting.

You'll be happy to know the in-line skating is coming along quite well. I was pretty cautious, as you might expect. I was holding on to the walls in the hall-way of my apartments. First things first: I learned how to slow down and stop! Then I learned how to fall -- well, that actually came from on the job training. Know what, though? All the working out I've been doing really came in handy! I was able to stretch and control my fall (too bad not spiritually). Subsequently, it was a gentle landing. I was just skating around here in my apartments parking lot. Even learned how to hop; I'm not quite up to jumping, yet. But, I will be. Oh, yes. I will!

There are plenty of TV shows that feature fixing up old and/or broken down homes. Surely you've seen them. Sometimes it's about sending the family out on a well deserved vacation so they can return to their dream home. (Hurray!) Others, it's about fixing up the home just enough to sell that thing. That's the one where people come in and talk smack about the house you live in, then some pretty girls and boys come in . . . and "presto", badda-bing, you've got a sellable house. There's one in particular that's caught my attention. They call the show "Flip This House" or something like that.

The last one I saw, the dude said that before every construction, you have to deconstruct.

Wow.

That speaks volumes.

Here lately I've been passing through some turbulent times. Sometimes I think I'm experiencing an early mid-life crises. Sometimes I feel like I dispair. Can't quite put my finger on it, really. I was reading this book written eons ago by this man named Isaiah, and in it, he speaks of being purified my fire. So, my mind started connecting dots.

It's not too far fetched to say I don't believe in coincendences, and that things that catch my attention have specific meanings. I was having coffee with a friend of mine over an intersting life conversation the other day. We were talking about how our world view, when sufficiently challenged, causes a change in ourselves. Picture the little me in my mind pointing his finger in the air and proclaiming, "EUREKA!"

And so it was. I understand, I think, what God's been trying to say to me here. It's a pretty common theme, too. Pruning is a cutting into the flesh. It's not meant to harm, but to cut away the impedance to growth. But it hurts like a mother, nonetheless! You have to tear down the house if you want to make it better than it was, man. And that ain't no walk in the park. You know, I've made some pretty significant changes here these past five years or so. And everytime, I think I'm getting the hang of it. Know something? The more you walk this walk, the more that's on the line. It's almost like everytime I go through this pruning, this deconstruction of my world view, my faith in my Creator gets put on the line in a bigger way. Almost like He's challenging me to stay in the game because it's so easy to just bail and have it "my" way. Have it, life, the way I want it to be; pleasing and glorifing to ME. What's so much more incredible is that I'm given the freaking choice, man! I can leave anytime I want. I can go back to controlling my life and doing all the things that please me; no sweat and there's no one to tell me "no". But I've done that. Look where that got me. Nothing.

I'm shown faith that I will trust my life in God's hands. Like, your parents give you the keys to the house and go away for the weekend, trusting you to behave in a way that honors them. I'm being deconstructed and renovated; made new again in His eyes and in the eyes of the world. I'm trusted to keep on keeping on with Him even if it hurts to do it, because in the end, I will be better for it, and He will be shown to have known better than me -- glorified.

I'm compelled to honor God's faith in me by being faithful to Him while he fixes up this old and broken me.

Ain't nothing but the truth, baby.

I wish I could explain my love of pie.

Sometimes, it's not normal. I guess I should know this about myself by now . . . but NO, it still suprises me.

Last week, I had the gracious opportunity to enjoy two Thanksgiving dinners! And they were both really good. Day one: friends came over, I stressed, I ate, I felt better. We talked about stuff, and talked some more . . . it wasn't so much about the dinner, but the dinner was excellent. I ate more of it the next day!

Then the "real" deal came and that was about the end of it all.

I can't say I know why, but I ate about 4 slices of pie that day. Hmmm . . . . That amounts to about 5 pounds of expansion.

Thing is, I've been working so hard to "shape up" lately. Weeks and weeks of sweat and hard work down the pipe and onto the belly. Yes. ONTO the belly in the form of jiggles.

In other news. I just last night pulled out my inline skates from when I was in college. I think I'll try riding them again. Should be less impacting on my knees and hips. Whatever. It's just another way for me to enjoy my workouts. I have to learn how to skate again, though. The last time I tried was . . . well, in college. I remember very clearly.

I remember it was a cold morning. And cold mornings in Denton, TX are magnificent. Just glorious! So, I thought, "I'm going to ride my skates today!" I'd just gotten them. I'd only been on them something like, twice. Once in the grass, once holding on to a parked car. Yeah, I was a novice. So, I'm out in my parking lot, just kinda pushing myself off of cars, coasting for a few feet, and then pushing off again under my own power. So, after about 10 or 15 minutes, I start to get the "feel" for it under my feet. I mean, it wasn't too hard. I'd been ice skating, and it felt very much the same. And it was cold. And the ground was cold. And the air was crisp. And the sky was a particularly brilliant blue that morning. I was feeling good, man. I was feeling alright! So, I'm putting the rest of my gear on, wrist guards, elbow and knee pads, helmet . . . I'm feeling confident that I'm no longer a novice and I can venture out into the real world and enjoy my day. So, I push off and head down towards the rear of my building. There was a hill back there, probably about 45 degree slope downward. I figured I should try a hill just to make sure I know what I'm doing -- before going out into traffic and all. As I approached the slope, I think, "You know, I should probably bend over like a downhill skier and really hook that forced left turn at the bottom." Mistake. A whoaful mistake.

First, I learned an important lesson in physics: The less friction (say, wheels), the faster the moving moving body (say, me) moves down an incline (45 degrees of gravity-pulling asphalt hill). Second, I learned that the "wake and bake" philosophy of a college student tends to impare judgement, and make one feel more confident than one should. Third, I learned that it's tough to remain over your wheels while you're bending at the waist to crouch like an experienced downhill skier while going down and asphalt hill. You can imagine the result. Yes.

It was all going pretty good until I attempted the left hand hook turn. I remember watching my feet rise and continue in an arc over my head. I remember the peaceful feeling of weightlessness as I experienced flying on my back for the first time. I remember how serene the crisp north Texas sky looked from that particular angle. . . .

When I came to, the dust was settling, I was thinking how unpleasant it would be taking the asphalt out of my butt. The frat guys that lived in the frat house next door were pointing and laughing. The wrist guards and helmet did their jobs, as did the elbow and knee pads -- I sustained no injuries there. My pride was wounded, so was my butt and my back. As I sat there and took off my blades, searching for any flesh I may have deposited on that hill, I decided that was that. I never put those skates on again until last night.

I'm going to try again. I'm going to do good this time. I'll let you know how it goes.

Lately I've been on a quest to rediscover melody.

It's that sublime aspet of music you can't really put your finger on. It's nebulous, ethereal, surreal, but a good one smacks you like a ton on bricks and sinks your heart . . . maybe even makes you cry.

Ok. Confession time. I like to listen to the "Sound Of Music" soundtrack. Stop laughing long enough to let me tell you why. You know that "Do Re Mi" song? "Do -- a deer, a female deer . . . ." Well, it makes me teary; I'm secure enough in my manhood to admit that. It happens for several reasons.

This was a song my sister, Blanca, and I used to sing together when I was in the 2nd and she in the 5th grade. So, it brings back some tender memories of a life not yet tarnished and ravaged. Also, the composers (Hammerstein and Smith, I believe) had an impecible sense of melody. Thirdly, the counterpoint there at the end is too much for my little brain to take in all at once -- the voices, the strings, the brass, the snare drum driving it all. It takes it over the edge. And out of sheer joy of the graduer of it, my heart does sommer-saults and I get teary. (Ok. Now you can laugh.)

Melody.

I've spent hundreds of hours studying, emmulating, then writing in the compositional styles of Bach, Hayden, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Brahams and others. Know what all these guys had? They had melody. But, you look it up, and nobody can give you a good definiton. It goes something like, "A group of tones organized and arranged in both pitch and rhythm so as to cause a pleasant sound." Blah-blah-blah. But when you hear it, you know it.

I read somewhere once that Mozart sounds like a effervesence. Brahms sounds like a blooming flower in slow-motion to me. Hayden sounds like nylons on royal legs; grand and stuffy. Beethoven sounds wild and pissed off, yet soulful and delicate as a whispy cloud. Bach sounds like those old TV test patterns to me, mathematical and highly, highly organized; perfect.

But where did all that go? I miss that. I'm after it; chasing it down. But it's a spiritual thing, too. Like, the harder you push, the more it evades. You just have to let it come as it comes. Where's your melody? And can anyone hear it? Are you broadcasting your sweetness to the world?

I never expected to be alive this long. My youthful endeavors were to cease this planet after my 25 years. I never planned for this. Kinda like having guests drop by at dinner time. Well, kinda not.

Last night I was sitting with a group of wonderful friends - brothers and sisters, really - when I started to feel the sensation of a ghostly life. As I sat there, I could see myself, feel myself, actually taste what it would be like to just have one beer again. Just one. I wonder if you know what it's like to wake up everyday and know that you can't do what you love to do - ever again?

The thing is, I love to drink. I mean, I love it like no other thing in this world; at one time even more than God. It's true. No. I'm not kidding. Even more that God. I love it so much I've actually changed my molecular structure to crave it; depend upon it. That's how much I love it. And I can never do it again.

But I took it back down to my coping mechanisms. I took it back down to, "I don't know about later on tonight, or tomorrow, but for now - just right now - I'm not going to do it. Just then, the woman's voice coming to me over the Public Address - God's voice - like a hand reaching through the darkness reached out. She mentioned something about Abraham. And my mind went spinning to the vision of Abraham climbing that mountain.

Abraham got up and climbed his mountian. He didn't want to, I'm positive. But he did it because he trusted God. He went up there to sacrifice the one thing he loved more than anything else in this world, his only son. God wanted to know just how much he loved him, and Abraham's hand was raised gripping the knife with white knuckles. But God didn't let him do it. Instead, God did it for him. He brought his own son up that mountain and sacrificed Jesus instead.

It's not that I feel like I have to sacrifice what I love to do so much as a resurrection. All of that life that went on before, I can never do again - it's true. But in return I have been given a true life. One with love and peace in my heart and light in my world. This is better than being dead; which is what I'm coming from. This is truly life.

The world is spinning. I know it. I feel it beneath my feet.

Days pass before I even remember to breathe. Does this ever happen to you? My world is a swirl of activity that mesmorizes me into hypnosis - I'm awake while sleeping.

Sometimes, whole weeks pass.

I want to stay connected. We were talking, and I was saying how it feels like a mast is shooting straight out of my head, upwards, from the depth of my spine, connected and the base - attached to my hips; and I have these huge sails available to be blown full by the breath of the Spirit. Sometimes, the sails are furled.

So, I drift.

It's just crazy how much time passes by and I still haven't updated this blog. I'm sorry. I've heard from the faithful readers that they're just waiting and waiting. . . . Sorry.

This will be really short. First, I'm way supprised at the amount of work companies are expecting from employees. Two friends of mine are really struggling with the strain. Not too long ago I heard on AM Radio this guy talking about how in the "good old days" people could make a decent living. You could be a butcher, or a serviceman, or a milkman and you'd earn enough to feed and support the whole family. But, thanks to illegal immigaration, we're now in the situation we find ourselves; they will take the same jobs for pennies on the dollar.

Ok. I don't buy that. You're looking in the wrong direction here - or at the very least, only half way down the road.

The truth is that companies will get away with anything they can get away with - namely, they'll get anyone to do however much they can get them to do it, and for as little as possible. Meaning, they'll want you to do more and more and more and more and pay you the least amount. Sure, the argument is that if you put up a fight, they'll just find someone else to do it, and for even less!

I don't know where I'm going with this; but I do know that people that I care about and love are feeling terrible because they can't succeed in a work place that is demanding more and more. That's not right. It's just not right.

We should prosper and bloom, not wither and suffer. Suffering is a natural part of this life, and a certain amount is expected. But, we shouldn't have to suffer to the point where suffering is our only existence.

Here's the thing.

The more I look around, the more alone I feel. Know what I mean? The world is so isolated. It's so hard to not be, though. What with the mortgage and car payment, and the kid's karate, and that son of a gun boss who just doesn't understand that you haven't seen your wife/husband all week. . . . The irony is that it doesn't have to be. I can see a place where people care about people. I think of Dante's image. People in one room (level) of hell are trying to feed themselves with these really long spoons. They can dip the ladles in the pot, but they can't bring the ladle to their mouths because the handle is too long. OR, contrasting image - same scenario - but this time people are using the long handles to feed the people across the room, everyone gets fed.

I was talking with some friends about something similar the other night. I was commenting on this passage I just read in this book written by a doctor on the life and ministry of Jesus - his name is Luke. Anyway, in it, Jesus is saying how we need to love our enemies, and not just those we love. And at first, I just dismissed it. "Oh, yeah. I'm supposed to love my enemies, right. Can you pass the corn?"

The facinating thing about Jesus' life is that he walked the talk, dude. To the end, he walked the talk.

Imagine this: You're walking along, enjoying life, listening to your iPod with the 300,000 songs . . . then WHAM, you're being attacked and murdered. And not a single person comes to help. Not one. And the people doing the attacking are pretty much enjoying themselves; they're torturing you and placing dibs on who gets what of yours, generally disregarding your pain and agony. And you just go with it - not resisting, not fighting back. Instead you're loving them all the way through. You even ask God to forgive them!!

Dang. By that I mean, "Dang. . . . "

I couldn't do it. I'm too busy looking out for number one. I can't help you, I've got to make this phone call because I don't know if I'll have a drummer for my next gig. No, I won't give you a dollar, you might spend it on a brewski and I really need to buy some gas. No, I can't help you jump-start your car, I've got groceries to get home - the milk might spoil.

And I wonder why I feel so alone sometimes.

I never quite understood Dylan when he sang, "The answer is blowing in the wind." I just, all these years, let it go as yet another Dylan thing I just didn't get. But you bet your yahoo I smile and nod that knowing nod whenever anyone asks me what I think about Dylan.

But that's not what this is about - but sorta is. . . .

I'm going through this personal upheaval in my soul. There are very few people who truly know what I'm talking about here, but bear with me. All my life I've known what I've been built by the hand of God to do in this world. And for most of my life, I've avoided it. I've spent my time living as a (fill in the blank) in order to survive and then I'd play music - ostensibly for that ONE day when I'd do it for a living. Slowly, slowly, and with loads of prayer, we've been moving toward that life. And now it's here.

Oh, we've been at it for a little while now, my wife and I, that is. So, here we are; at the apex of a life so tremendously blessed and yet . . . I just don't know exactly how to explain it.

It just all seems so stupid. I guess that's what I'm trying to say here. Man, I've chased this thing my ENTIRE life. Can you dig that? Surely you can. Surely. Now that I'm here, it just all seems so stupid. It's the same thing over and over again. You start to wonder if what you're doing with your life has any real and lasting impact; you start to imagine that if only things went your way, then, THEN you could really do something with your life.

The difference from before is that I didn't have anything with which to fill that hole. But, now I know. I know.

I've prayed about this thing; I'm really lucky to do, for a living, what I'm absolutely passionate about doing. I have in my hands the greatest opportunity to gather up my cash and stash it away for that day when I don't get to live this life any longer. But, isn't that what we, all of us, do? I ask you this: What's the freakin' difference, man?? I think of that cartoon where the shephard dog's job is to watch the sheep all day and the coyote's job is to steal one - they drearily punch the clock in, "Hey Ralph.", they drearily punch the clock out, "Good night, Stanley." What? Is this all there is??

I'm here to tell you. NO. This isn't all there is. I'm turning this little rock-n-roll group into a thing that matters, man. No more of this, "What can I earn for me" crap. This thing, this life, has to have meaning! Aahhh! I'm trying to reach through you're computer monitor and shake you!

We have to let personal cares blow in the wind; just let it go. Anybody can grab a guitar and scream, "Passion" into a microphone and make a buck, dude. Anybody. Any monkey. We have got to make a difference in this world - and the only way to do it, ironically, is to quit trying to be ROCK STAR. Can you dig that? In order for me to have a life, I must give up that life. That's the truth, baby.

Ain't nothing but the truth.

I might have mentioned I entered one of our tracks, "Big Little Guy", into a contest on the site, garageband.com. Turns out it's won some awards!

We've won
Track of the Day for 07/19/06 - make sure you tune in!
Best Drums
Best Melody, and
Most Original -- all for the week of 07/17/06.

A huge Thank You to John Condit for his contribution on the drums. Know something? He keeps downplaying his role in this. What a guy. Everyone knows how good he is, and now people around the globe have agreed and proved it to him!

The track itself is steadily climbing the charts. As of this writing, it's peaked at #74 and is sitting at #75.

There are interesting things afoot here. I can't wait to see how it all comes out.

Hmm. People are funny; we're so linear. "I can't wait to see how it all turns out." Truth is, what I really mean is that this journey is more important than the end result. This journey is incredibly exciting!

DUDE! I just can't express how freaking behind I am in all my stuff. It's like, the summer sun came and bowled me over. But, it's all good stuff. ALL good stuff - and some other stuff, too.

First off: I wrote down there, somewhere, about doing what you're built to do in this world, about being what you're intended to be, and having the forthrightness to understand when something ain't your bag. Well, after some careful thought, and some hand wringing, and a general scratching at the sand . . . we came to the decision to let our drummer, Javier, have a go at another project. Yes. Javier is moving onwards and we wish him nothing but the best of luck in this precarious industry of ours.

AND so . . . we find ourselves in the position of finding another drummer. Well, that's the way the story goes, and it isn't the first time, and it's just a part of being in this business. The up-swing is that we've hired a temp drummer, R2, from the band Kevin Goes 2 College. R2 is a heck of professional. He played with us out at Patsy's Ice House the other night. He played each song about once a piece and then went "live". Know what? It sounded like he'd been playing these tunes all his life. What a guy. So . . . we're in between drummers right now. Oh, we've been talking and such, and we're eagerly anticipating the arrival of a new one here, but we'll just keep that under wraps until the first down beat, if you will.

AND, we signed up for this cool website, garageband.com. It's a nifty site where you can register and review recordings of bands across the globe, in multiple catagories. The suprising thing is that one of our tracks, "Big Little Guy", won an AWARD: "Track of the Day" in the Blues Rock catagory! Wow. What an honor. Based on our peer reviews, we're moving on up the charts. Lord willing, we'll see just how far this thing will go!

AND . . . I've been teaching an incredible bunch, too. It's keeping a guy really busy. I like the work. It keeps me honest and it reminds me of just how hard I have to work at what I do. Well, this is all, for now. Stop by my myspace page and drop me a line. I'd love to hear from ya!

Last night was our anniversary. That's right. 6.6.6. Ahhhh! It wasn't scary at all! Figures.

So, we've been married 8 complete years, now. And who would've thunk it? I like to think we got all our junk out of the way quick and now we can cruise the rest of the way. She's a good girl. She's hung in there. And I haven't been the prince, know what I mean? I've been quite the maverick. But she's still here. We've been together for about 13 years. Crazy.

We went to this place that shows movies and food. Movie was Da Vinci Code (lame) and the food wasn't what I'd expected. It was kinda like fast food, only microwaved. I'm not complaining, just stating the facts. I couldn't sleep last night because my stomach was doing sommersaults.

Da Vinci Code. I don't know what all the hoopla is about. I mean, yes, it does present some pretty dicey thoughts. But, they're not plausible, given the written record - both ecclesiastic and nonecclesiatic. So, what are the Christians flapping about?

Probably because people who don't/won't take the time to know the real story will take this piece of entertainment for truth. Blah, blah, blah. All I've got to say about that is that it's entertainment.

Anywho. Happy Anniversary, baby!

I keep telling my students that music lives in the transitions - it's all about the changes and how well you make it through each one.

It's like that with everything, I guess. One minute you're sitting there jamming in the pocket - the "groove" as some prefer to call it. Another minute you're passed point A and you'd better be on point B with the rest of 'em.

It's all about the changes.

A person can liive life in a static state. In music it's equivalent to playing only one chord, or rythm. Sometime, somewhere, somehow, it's all going to change. How well am I prepared to make the transition? Some musicians, that's all they practice - they call it "running the changes". They sit there and work and work and work how to move from place to place without effort and flawlessly. Hmmm. I wonder how well I'd do in life.

Can I run the changes of my life without effort? Can I navigate the river without hitting a sandbar - and if I do, can I improvise my way out?

Music isn't about being able to play the part - music is about being able to play the part between the part. Can you dig it?

Someone once said - Coltrane, I think - the best composed music sounds improvised and the best improvisations sound composed.

Yes.

Seeing is done with more than just the eyes. Peel back enough of the sack cloth and your heart can see, too. Draperies adorn your window only on the inside. . . can you feel me?

The movement under my feet isn't the planet giving way to my weight - though it can be that, too; sinking. The movement under my feet is the growth of life overcoming; despite me.

The Kingdom is at hand. And this is true. Truer than anything I've ever lived to tell about. I don't own anything people value. Not time, not money, not love, not my child, not my spirit, not my body, not my music . . . nothing is owned by me. I'm a perpetual renter.

And the more I disown, the more I belong. This has been ordaned long before me; as if this were a shifting photograph, I AM.

It's a phrase that gets handed out like you're at the soup kitchen. A ladle full of feel-good for you're emptiness. It could almost be depressing. . . .

I'm not one to go about telling people what to do. I don't believe in it. Mostly, a person's going to do what they're going to do out of a deep (false) sense that they're actually in charge. (I chuckle)

But this I know. This I actually try to do.

Don't force people in your circle to live where they're not meant to live.

Breath deeply the responsibility. Consume the love it takes to get your brothers or sisters out of the world you've created for them. People will be what you set them up to be. Isn't it ironic? Humans feel a veiled sense of control but are quick to relenquish their kindgom. The reason is people are role players and want to be loved. Sometimes people want a thing so badly they can't see that it's bad for them. And it feels good to you because they're playing the character you've cast for them in the play of your life.

Sweet-Spot.

Coffee cup in hand as I'm feeling a little blurry. This weekend started last year. Four days of pouring out your soul because it got crowded out by God's spirit - this can be taxing.

My journey started about 3 years ago. Climbing mountains. I've been to the summit once before... but I get drawn to go back. And back. And back. This time I actually went - again. I took the steps, grabbed the outcrops, found the footholds, clawed at times, bled a lot. Or, it's like this:

Walk slowly into the ocean. Slowly. Step by step - intentionally. First the knees, then the hips, the chest, the neck.... in time, you're in over your head.

You can flail and fight it, and struggle, and die.

Let it go, and float.

It can be as simple as letting your arms fall. Maybe it's not that you take a breath, but the way you take that breath. It's not always about what you do, what you see, what you hear, or even about you, for that matter.

It's the difference between batting your wings furiously like a humming bird, or lazily soaring on the warm thermals.

Certainly, both types of flying are flying, for sure. In one instance, you can hover; but it's that hovering that's costing you your life, man. It's all about the nectar 'cause without that sugar rush, you don't bat nothing, not even an eye-lash.

OR

You have to have the strength to keep your wings spread out wide, the discipline to know that you're not falling, the trust to know that you can feel that force keeping you up and aloft.

And you'll think you're being tested, but you're not. It's a little immature to think that affirmation is the green light. A father will tell his child that a party is granted - that doesn't mean get out the pointy hats, though. It just means get ready, 'cause the party's coming!

My friend was fond of saying, "There's a heap of a slip betwixt a cup and a lip." Amen, Petey. Amen.

It's just been so crazy, man. Just so crazy. This is what I've been working toward my whole life, and it's just busy. But, I'm doing more than I should be doing. This weekend, a cousin from a life-time ago came to town. I say life-time ago because his daughter is about to enter college, and I'd never met her. But it gets me to thinking about when I was just a kid and dreaming the dreams of a child - what to be when you grow up. Most kids were talking about the usual stuff - doctors, lawyers, nurses, dentists, engineers.... Me? I always knew this was it for me. Somewhere along the way, I got so busy with life that I kept getting distracted away from what was really important to me.

It's happenning again. Now. You might think, "What could be so important? You're doing everything you've ever wanted to do." And that's true. But, as I've changed, so has what's important.

I was trained to be deligent and serious, an example my father always set before me - sometimes to a fault - and that's the way I am; hardworking and tenacious. I work incredibly hard to attain my goals. Here lately, I've been seeking the other side of me.

I been trying to remember a time in my life when I was freer, simpler, more alive than what I am now. I was a child dreaming the dreams of a child. Now, I am a man in hot pursuit of a goal. That's not where I really want to be, man.

There are things eternally more important than crossing some imaginary finish line. The cost of my determination is being paid by my family. It is not right that my child should only get to hang out with me on a Sunday afternoon after I've given all I have to work. That's just lame. The correct priority is the opposite of that.

So, I'm working on peeling it all back. Soon, I will be spending more time with my family, the people I love more than my work.

This cousin of mine, Paco, is from a family that is much more jovial than what I'm used to. Seeing him with his wife and daughters reminded me of the times when we were kids ourselves, and all the fun we had. Of course life happens, but it's the way you take it in that counts. Paco reminded me that I was jovial at one time, too. When did I become so freaking driven? So, serious?

I endeavor to walk with a less serious attitude about life. This career? Let the cards fall where they may. I'm more interested in the people in my life. This weird thing about this life - for me, anyway - is that the more I want something for the way it will benefit me, the farther away it gets. It's like you have to not want a thing too badly - almost like you have to not want it at all. The ends is a by-product of the means.

Dig?

It's one thing to wish and be hopeful, it's another thing to realize a dream. Have you ever seen that dude on PBS (does anybody still watch PBS? That was "cable" back in the day!) that does that speil about the power of positive thinking? I was sitting around watching him one night and he was going on and on about all you need to do is think a thing into existance. It was provacative, but misleading. I thought, "Wow! All I have to do is think of a million bucks and 'sha-zam!' there it will be?" What a bunch of malarky. If what this dude is saying is true, the world would be a different place - actually, the world would be heaven, I think. It's like this. I've been needing to get a vehicle for a good little while now - and all the positive thinking in the world did nothing for that. But I've been praying and praying over the thing. Something about prayer is that it teaches more about yourself and your place in the world than just giving a run down of "I wants/needs" of your life. Prayer teaches patience, understanding that things come in their time, things come if they're willed by God to come, things happen because there's more at stake in the world than you realize, there's an bigger picture of people loving on each other than you (at first) think, it teaches that this life - ironically - isn't about you. I think of a child. A baby person is very needy and dependant upon their parents. They cry and they get. They're hungry, they cry and they get food. Poopy diaper? Cry and it gets changed. A pattern gets set. Cry = Good. It's all about what the baby wants. In order to grow (spiritually, too) all that has to change - the reciever must move into the giver catagory. It's immature to expect positive thinking to make things happen. I mean, c'mon! It's not about you. The world does not revolve around you. But, if it's God's will to make a thing be - it will be. Last night, God willed it to be that I got a new truck. It's totally awesome. It does the trick and more. But this isn't a story about positive thinking. It's a story about petition and God's will. I know, because I've been positively thinking about a new vehicle now for about a year and it got me two things: Jack and Squat.
Things are pretty exciting right now. It's tough to try to stay focused on what's real and what's not. It's like the lottery. You've always wanted it. You've always dreamed about what it'll be like when you've won all that cash. You buy the ticket and look for the numbers to get rolled out. One by one they start matching up. The anticipation builds.... It's been like that this past year (four, actually). It started with me quiting having my own project. Some very, very special friends bought me a very special guitar amp for my birthday last summer, a ca-chunk of cash came my way, and it was like God was saying, "Don't quit." So, here we are. The record is now on sale at CD Baby!, and I'm working out a digitial distribution thing where you'll be able to buy the individual track you want to download for your mp3 player through whatever you use (iTunes, Music Match, Rhapsody, etc). I'm booking the shows. Talking with radio. Talking with "brick and mortar" stores about retailing the CD (The Compass Christian Bookstore amoung them). Rehearing the band. It's cool. Way cool. The unexpected part? I'm not writing. I've got the tunes, but I don't have the time to write. It's a good problem to have, though. Any way. No deep thoughts or oberservations today. Just a note to keep you up to par with the life.
I just (about 10 minutes ago) responded to by email to my good pal, Renee, about something that really gets under my skin. She was writing to try to get me to let myself off the hook about slacking - she's great like that. That set me to ruminating about the subject of letting stuff slide. I'm the kind of person that doesn't easily let stuff slide. I'm a driven and ambitious person, and as such, I give myself little slack-room. If you're like me, then I'm sure you'll understand. In my job, I have the priviledged opportunity to meet ALL KINDS of different people. And in that capacity, I have to be able to extend ALL KINDS of slack (grace) to people; mainly because they're not me. And that's cool, that's kinda easy, actually. The music business is filled with musicians and business people who are... well, we're just like that, catch my drift? And my students teach me about patience and perseverence. That's a form of letting it slide. I see them struggle and stuggle, then one day they can do the thing they had trouble doing. But that's a lesson that's tough for me to re-learn. I mean, I know the point and the importance of letting it slide and giving yourself some grace. What's frustrating is having to keep learning the thing, man. I mean, come on! I think it was Carl Jung who said "You can't step into the same river twice." What he was talking about is that every situation is different, therefore it may look the same, but it's different content. But, man-oh-man, it sure FEELS like the same old crap, doesn't it? I mean, it's still cold, it's still wet, it's still deep. Learning to let myself slide is a river I keep crossing. It's tough like that. So, that's that, I guess. I'll just add that to the list of things I have to keep working on. I'll leave you with these sage words by Wild Cherry: "...And they were dancing and singing and movin' to the groovin', and that's when it hit me - somebody turned around and shouted, 'Play that funky music white boy.'" Dig. (snapping fingers)
"The way I see it, you're either 'us' or 'them'" "Aaaaannnnnddddd... which one are you?" "Clearly, I'm 'us'." "How can you tell?" "'Cause, I'm here, just as plain as day, you see. 'They' are over there." "Clearly.' "And I want to be 'them' - one day, when I grow up." "What makes them so attractive?" "Because they're *not* me, of course!" "Do you suppose any of 'them' want to be 'us'?" "God. I hope not." And now for something kinda different (but not compeletly, if at all - well, it's actually related now that I think about it... it's just that it came to mind). I saw Bono on a television interview once (crazy that some people don't even need last names they're so popular - or *real* names at that!). He was saying that all the differences between America and Ireland could be summed up succinctly. He said that in America, people look at the people living up on the hill in a big house and say, "You know, one day I'm gonna get a house like that." In Ireland, people say, "You know, one day I'm gonna get that son-of-a...."
That's right. I got out of my old digs and here I am! What do you think? Pretty cool, huh? Thing is, as a buisnessman, a guy's got to do what a guy's got to do. The other site hosts were alright and everything, but not very friendly. See, I'm a musician, NOT a magician; I had to learn html and stuff and it was all just too much. Plus, I want to sell the new record on line. So, here we are. Poke around. It's exactly like the old site, but different. From this point back, all blog entries were imported from the "old" site.
This time I'm writing cause I'm scared. I'm scared L-Man's gonna kick my yahoo if I don't get something up here. It's late (2:30a) and I'm tired. I've been jacking with this website for a long time, I was working on my press kit when I hit the wrong thing and zapped all my work. So, I had to start all over again.... I've been looking at the vans on the road. An E-250 is what I think would work best for our little project here to motor around the state in; so, I've been on the look out for those vans. Man, some of those vans are all pimped out, dude. If you're into that kind of thing, that is. It's a pretty ubiquitous van. So, I've been aware of them out there. That's when I noticed the "Sticker Van." It was the oddest thing I've ever seen. I wish I could've taken a picture of it. I just googled it, but nothing came up. So, imagine this: An RV. That's right, a BIG RV plastered with stickers! Bumper stickers, big stickers, small stickers, little decals for models, slogans, whatever. This thing was covered with stickers and parked on the side of the road - selling 'em, man! I thought, "What the...? Dude! These people have nuts!" The bottom line of any business is this: Have what other people want (or can't live without), and charge them for the privilege of having it. Talk about niche! The first thing I thought was, "Hippies." I bet that guy/gal would make a killing at Kerrville Folk Festival or a Rainbow Gathering, or a String Cheese Incident concert. The second thing I thought was, "Man, if they can make a living selling stickers...." Just goes to show you. Have the faith of a mustard seed and you can move a mountain. True.
The other day I was reading an article on the website How Stuff Works. I'd never been there before, and I landed there by accident as I was googeling something. But what I read was neat. It was an article on "How To Make It". I'd been looking for an average price on a van since we're going to be gigging in and around the region (Texas). Google turns up this article I'm talking about. In it, one of the band members is quoted as saying "Everyday I don't do something for the band is a day something doesn't get done for the band." Easy-peasy, I thought. No deep revelations there. But the more I thought about that, the more I think that seemingly simple thoughts can hold very important messages. Topically, it's the idea of "carpe diem", right? Everyday I don't do something for (fill in the blank) is a day I get to wallow in my sorrow, in my regret, in my blaming other people for my lack of courage. Whatever, you can fill in all the blanks you want - I think you know what I'm trying to say here. This little life here that I'm living is a small life. It's not grand in the sense that we don't have "things", we don't go places (cruises, vacations, Disneyland, skiing...), we don't own stock, we don't lots and lots of things. It's enough to make a person think the world sucks, man. Well, it does, but NOT because of that. The world sucks because it's not going according to the original plan, and we're all responsible - but I digress. No, it's not about the "having". "Everyday I don't (fill in the blank)" can be taken from another perspective. I grew up in a culture where one was encouraged to not trust the "establishment" and to look for one's own answers and truths; that's made me a man with a pursuit to find the "other" meaning. Everyday I don't drink is a day I get to be alive. Everyday I don't sink into the perspective that life is tough is a day I get to really experience life. Everyday I don't see this world in the downward spiral it's heading is a day I get to notice the beauty of our world and it's wonders. Every day I don't die is a day I get to live. On and on - get it? Yes, my life maybe a small one, but it's rich and full of life - can you dig that? I'm very, very, very lucky to live this life because not many people in the entire world, throughout the history of the world, get to live their life on their terms, with their values intact, without their morals compromised, chasing their dreams and staying happy. I'm blessed beyond description. This is all very relevant to my latest news. Ladies and gentleman, 12 days ago, on 02/01/06, I became the proud daddy of a bouncing baby CD! That's right. Phase II of "The Plan" has now commenced and we'll be taking the show on the road to a bar near you. Everyday I don't do something for my music is a day I don't get to be a musician. And having this little record under my belt is a huge relief for me, and it's exciting and terrifying and stressful and buoyant and incredibly exhilarating.
This in from the new "interactive" blog: "Dude! Why don't you change that [blog]? You're making me read the same s*** twice!" -"L-Man" from all the way over in San Antonio, TX. Thank you, L-Man. Now, keep those comments and questions coming! So, without further ado, and with much haste (for the masses are clamoring): These past 10 days have been... "je nais ce qua".... So, I was talking with my really good friend, Renee, about working out. In case anyone's still wondering, I'm a Christian; I'm not religious, by any means - it's a spiritual thing, a way of life, dig? I write that because it's relevant to today's story. Anyway, we were talking about working out and how I just have to do it because it centers me like nothing else in this world does. I mean, there's gigging, yeah - but that's more an act of "one-ness" with God. Working out puts me right in the center of the ring (ie: fight) and serves to remind me of how weak (spiritually speaking) I really am. I work out 6 days a week - 3 on some pretty serious cardio and 3 on cardio with weight resistance. What that boils down to is that I'm on the treadmill, going as fast as I can walk, with 3-pound weights in my hands, on grade 10 (out 15), for 45 minutes. It gets my heart rate up to about 180 or 190 bpm, and my clothes get pretty wet from that kind of excerption (even my socks!). Aside from the normal "runner's high" that comes with that, there's a point right about mid-way through that I just want to give up. Every single time. I want to give up because I'm tired, my arms are burning, my legs are starting to feel weak, there's sweat in my eyes, my heart feels like it's about to make an exit in the front of my chest, my calfs are throbbing from the incline, and my spirit is whispering in my ear, "C'mon. Just give up. What could you loose? You're tired. You've earned it. C'mon. You know you want to... it'll make you feel good. Besides, there's always another day. What's one little day? No one's going to know...." And that's the way my (spiritual) life is. Here I am busting my hump to get this "thang" off the ground, and I've had obstacles after obstacles come in my life, but there's nothing that's going to get me to quit. Nothing. See, working out is physical training, yes - but it's spiritual training, too. How many times have you chosen to satisfy the flesh without even batting an eye about what it's doing to you spiritually? That's not a sermon. That's a serious question. I do it daily! Let me paint a clearer picture here. The first time you quit, it ain't so bad - and you've satisfied the yearning of the flesh. But you've set a precedent, spiritually. The next time, it won't be so hard to quit. The time after that, you won't think of quitting as bad thing. It gets to the point where you don't even start anything because your spirit knows it's going to quit - then you start to feel bad about yourself. One day you're sitting around thinking about how different your life would be if you'd just have the chance. But you've quit your chance away all those times ago. I know because that's the story of my life, man. Can you dig? So, I'm there. Working out. Giving it all I've got. And when I hit that wall - and inevitably I hit that wall - I close my eyes and whisper, "Jesus, I need you. I can't do this without you. " Oh, he doesn't make the pain stop, he doesn't give me super strength or extra power. But he does make me feel better, inside, knowing that I'm not in this fight alone. That's what life is like for me. I have to put myself there to remind me that I can't do it without Jesus. I've proven to myself that every time I think I can steer my own boat, I sink it. Every time I think I can keep on with the work out, I quit. But every time, and I mean every-single-time I ask for Jesus' help, I finish. I'm not religious. Ask anyone who knows me and they'll tell you. It's a spiritual thing. It's a life style.
You know... before I know it, it's been two weeks since my last entry. WOW. That kinda reminds of dark memories: "Forgive me father for I have sinned, it's been two weeks since my last confession..." There are very interesting things afoot around here. My life is very exciting. Let's look at that. See, in science, heat usually excites things, like electrons. And those electrons go flying off into whatever. Or, at the amusement park, exciting is white knuckle gripping the handle bar of your seat as you tear around the corner on a wooden roller coaster (and you just KNOW that when it goes, it'll be when you're on it!). I was talking with Lynnette last night about different kinds of people. You're either in the "a" camp or "b" camp. She was telling me that sometimes, people from different camps want to be in the other; "a's" want to be "b's" or vice versa. Hmmm, I thought. That must suck. I don't think I've ever experienced that. Have you? What's it like to want to be something you're not? It's hard for me to comprehend because if I want to be/do something, I'll just go right out and do it. Then, something else came to mind. This woman I know, Sue, was telling me about an article about different kinds of learners. It seems there are four types: You either jump right on in and start the doing, you research the thing to death before you start doing, you start building something and then figure out what you're supposed to be doing, or you look for step by step instructions on how to do what you're supposed to be doing. (How is this exciting, Luis?) It's like this. I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. I don't always know how that's supposed to go, but I'm working my butt off to get there. I don't see mistakes as failures; they're learning opportunities. If you're charting uncharted territory, you're going to run into obstacles. You just have to keep on keeping on and remember where you've been in case you see it again. It's been my experience that tenacity will propel you to your goals. That's exciting. What are you doing? What are you working towards? For about half of the people (no scientific data to back that up, strickly opinion) the answer will be, "Nothing. This is it." And for the other half it will be "(fill in the black)". There's no judgement in that, either. Everyone has a role to play and there's no "good" or "bad" with that, it's just a thing that "is". I'm on fire when I'm out there trying to figure out how to get to the "promised land", success is in the exploration of a new path and not in the discovery of the goal. How is it for you? Are you on fire when you're knee deep in "Holy crap! What have I gotten myself into?", or are you humming along like a fine diesel engine keeping on keeping on with what you're doing? By the by.... I'm not good at website stuff. I'd wanted to have a comment section in this thing so you can respond to me and all of us here can read what we all think about all this goofy stuff, but I accidentally disabled the site when I tried. So, I encourage you to respond to any of this by sending a message to webmaster@luisarizpe.com. I'll post your thoughts, if you'd like. If you'd not like, just let me know that too. I can't wait to here from you....
D'joo have a good "Holiday"? Seems we had some weirdness there this season, eh? There was some kind of hula-baloo about not saying Christmas, and instead making it "Holiday". Here's my short of the long - it's a Christian holiday, it should be "Christmas". If you're into "Kwanza", the correct reply to "Merry Christmas!" then, would be, "Sure! And you have a happy Kwanza!" Enough said. Santa was good to Diego this year. Lot's and lot's of remote controlled trucks and cars and things. I just didn't catch the spirit, ya know? It's been like that for a couple of years now. Some very special friends came in from out of town and we all got together for one night. That was really nice. These guys, we've been palling around for about 20 years or so, a couple since elementary school! They are each great, great men. They are smart, whitty, insightful, stoic, capable of intellectual acrabatics... heros, in my book. I'm waiting on some pictures to be emailed to me so I can post them up and then you can see for yourself. (Wink, wink, hint, hint - LINDA [no rush, darling]). It's a special time of year, of course. And in our family we're book ended by birthdays. Diego has a birthday early in the month, then Christmas, New Year, then Lynnette has a birthday right after the new year. It's a good "family" time. The CD artwork just got proofed and we're going to print!! That's all I got to say about that.
Well, well, well. I had these two gigs here recently and they were a lot of fun. I was supporting my really good friend Chris Taylor. Chris is an awesome guy. He can write a simple, yet powerful song. I like playing side-man to him because his stuff is so open. I can pretty much just let it rip and he gives plenty of space to do that. He's generous with his playing and and doesn't mind if you take a lead in a spot. It's like jazz that way. He doesn't rehearse, he just slips a chart in front of you and then, hang on! We did this one set at BRCC. The stage out there is really cool because the auditorium seats about 1000 or so but it's situated and built so that it's pretty intimate, they had candles on the stage and nice lighting. We played for about 300 people, probably. I can remember a time when I was very intimidated to play in front of 20! Now, though, it's not too bad. Oh, I still get the pre-jitters and all that. But it's not haltingly gripping. Funny, once that first downbeat hits it all... just fizzles away. The best part of music is when you quit thinking about what you're doing and just BE with the flow. It's that high that I used to chase so furiously in my life. It's becoming one with something that's fluid and pleasing. So, as I was sitting there playing these tunes, I thought about that. I wasn't so much thinking about what I was doing, per se - but it was there, yes. I was just thinking about how cool it is to be playing for people, having the experience of them enjoying our music and feeding off of that energy. I wish I could explain it more for those of you who don't get to play.... It's like when you're sitting at your desk and plugging away and not really thinking about what you're actually doing, but doing it anyway. Not like mindlessly working by rote, more like flowing with the project. And every now and then when you look up, people are smiling and applauding and you're just like, "What? I just typed 'the' and 'if', and that makes you happy?" Or it's like when you're running, and there's this hill, and you're thinking about getting to the top of that hill and your lungs are burning and your sweating and your heart is about to blow a hole in your chest, then suddenly you crest that hill and you look around and people are happy that you made them feel good. I don't know. It's something like that. The CD is coming along. It's being replicated as we speak. We kinda ran into some art-work issues that are being worked out by my very good pal, Robert Vogel. They're stamping the CD's and printing on them. So that part is progressing. I'd SO wanted to have it out in time for the Christmas holiday season and try to capitolize on people being more liberal with their money, but plans and schemes are only plans and schemes. It'll all work out for the better, just you wait and see. And when it finally arrives all packaged and shiny, it'll be the sweeter. Right now I'm studying substitutions, and transcribing loads of music. Since I started teaching at Delview some of those students are asking for transcriptions of stuff I never thought I'd play - either out of choice or because I thought it was too hard for me. But, being the "teacher", that sort of implies some (false) sense of "mastery" - that is, they think I can actually play. It's like that, though. It's like people expect that you know how to do things, and not just know - but be able to play them, too. I keep waiting for the shoe to drop and everyone will look at me and know that I've just been pretending all this time. I think of other professions - I wonder if it's like that, too. Say you go to the doctor, you're fully expecting that he's going to know what that lime-green orangey thing growning on the back of your knee is, and how to get rid of it, but really he/she is actually just as stumped as you are - and is probably thinking, "What the heck is that?? I've never seen that in any of my medical books, is there even a PILL for that thing? Oh, my gosh! How'd you get that thing? How can I get out of here? Gloves! Where are the gloves? NURSE, get out the hypodermic!" Anyway... chord substitutions. I've been studying this type of jazz thing where you replace chords for other ones and still make it sound right. That's pretty much stretching my musical intellect (oxymoron) because it involves SO much thinking and planning ahead. It's like you're playing along and then you have to put this little "carrot insertion" mark in your flow and plug in chords that are foreign to the key you're actually in... then all these sharps and flats start flying around in my head and I'm working out which one is the "ii7" and which one is the "dom7-9" and blam!, you're there. But it just sounds so sweet, dude! If you do it right, it's like you're sitting on the wings of angels, if you do it wrong it's like raking your fingernails across the blackboard!
Wow. I hadn't realized it's been over a month since my last entry. So, there's some catching up to do here. Let's see, we'd just started rehearsing.... Well, we've kept rehearsing and the band just keeps sounding better and better. Something that's troubling about leading a band is that as much as you want to, you can't blame anyone for what you're dissatisfied with but yourself. On the other hand, you can't take credit for the successes either because the guys you're playing with are bad-mamma-jammas! And that's where I want it to be, anyway. Let the light shine on Bruce and Javier because, truth be told, they're are a couple of musicians who are good at what they do AND great people to be around. The life of a working musician is one of adventure and complexity. I've been incredibly blessed with opportunity and success. See, sometimes you wonder if you're doing the right thing - if you've chosen the correct career. It's not a life of comfort and security - but if you have the right perspective, that's what makes it so good. I started to run out of money. And this school (Delview Music School), that I would substitute at up until about two weeks ago, called me up and offered me two teaching studios! That's about 20 kids I get the honor of teaching how to play guitar; I get the honor of teaching them about music. I may not be living in the hills of Hollywood or across from Central Park in NY, but I'm doing what I'm absolutely passionate about doing and making a living out of it. How many people in this world can say that? From that point of view, I've made it. Yeah, I stress a little because I don't have any dates on the calendar portion of this site, the CD has been a real pain in the ying-yang to publish, my guitar is driving me crazy, my truck keeps breaking down and leaving me stranded in weird places... but I'm successful, man! I don't punch a clock, I don't wear a tie, I don't have someone trying to impress their will upon me just because their on some power trip. I'm free. FREE. That's where it's at, baby. And like the saying goes, "Freedom ain't free." The cost of that freedom? Material comfort. It's a sacrifice I'll pay TWICE, know what I mean? And if you have faith, it all comes out anyway. Like I said, I ran out of money, so paying for rehearsal space was no longer viable. Bruce steps up and finds us place to rehearse, anytime, for any length of time, for free! Ha! I came up short of money to publish the CD, and this very good and amazingly generous man offers to make up the difference! My truck broke down, and Mike Spell (who appeared on our record) lends me his car while he goes and changes out the starter - for free. I was going to have to pay the CD replicators (so much) more money to have them lay out the art work for the CD, and Robert Vogel (art director) steps up and decides to learn an entire new software system and not only shoots the photography, but lays it all out - for how much? You guessed it - free. My guitar tone was just going to pot, and my real good friend, Gary Loper, practically gives me a new pedal (I wouldn't let him give it to me for free) that corrects the problem! It's unreal, man. I don't ask for any of this, people just step in and help out of their own accord. It's not so coincidental. I could go on and on about how much grace has been heaped upon me. But I don't want to bore (that's not a spelling mistake) you with that. The point is that this is the best life I've ever lived! It's crazy, it's stressful, it's beautiful, it's ugly, it's bountiful, it's barren, it's RICH of adventure. And I do what I've been built to do: play and make music! WOW!
Someone told me they were reading the blog! "Oh, crap!" Now it's like "live" and everything... Hope you like delving into the mind of musician. Just be sure you wear a safety strap and goggles! And bring a flash light - 'cause it's pretty spacious and dim. Tomorrow is my boy's birthday. Diego will be 6! Man, that's the age, isn't it?! Six years ago I was in a TOTALLY different place - physically, mentally, spiritually, health-ily, professionally... Six years ago, on a cold winter's night, my son decided it was time to join all of us. I busted out with a lot of booze and a couple of "j's" and had myself a good ol' time with my pal, Pete Ross. Since that day, my life has never been the same. It's a wonder to watch a child grow. It's a wonder I'm not dead. It's a miracle I'm clean and sober! It's a blessing to have Diego in my life. You can put it any way you want to, but, DUDE!, that kid has helped me grow. You hear a lot (at least I do) of people saying stuff about their kid like, "You taught me this or that...", or "You changed my life...", or "If it hadn't been for you...". Let me tell you something, being a practicing addict and trying to be a parent DON'T mix. I've done stuff I should burn in eternity for, plus 10 years! But that's not the story here. The story here isn't that Diego had some profound impact in my life. No. That's not the story. The story is that Diego has become my life. He's an amazing kid. He's smart, he's sassy, he's brave, he's funny, he's generous with his love, he's giving his kinder teacher a hard time (yeah! Stick to the man!), he's respectful, he's gracious, he eats with his fingers, he doesn't sit still in a restaurant, he questions authority (yes!), he's a leader, he's a follower, he's... in every respect, a fully developed personality all of his own. I didn't make him that way. He's been that way since the day he came to be. I get to be a witness to his unraveling seed. Isn't that cool? "And now, for something completely different...." Sent off the artwork and CD masters to be replicated by EMA in Austin, TX!!! Dude! I can't begin to tell you what that feels like. Talk about having a child! This is the first step in a MAJOR career move. From here on it's all about "Phase II" of "The Plan." This occasion marks the close of a very, very long and arduous undertaking. This is going to come as a shock, I know - so, brace yourself. Musicians are flaky people. (GASP!) Yes, it's a tough pill to swallow, but true. I've gone through dozens of musicians trying to get this project off the ground. I've had equipment failures and shortcomings. I've written roughly 3269.065 songs, and trashed them all. I've quit a couple of times. But here it is. The record. It's called Big Little Guy and it'll be in a store near you. It'll be for sale at all our shows. It'll be on CD Baby, too. So, the gigs will be coming soon. The radio play, the paper write ups, the disappointment, the disillusionment - it'll all be there. And it'll all get recorded here. So, stay tuned! Don't touch that dial (does anyone touch the dial anymore? are there even dials anymore?) and we'll be right back with more of your favorite tunes....
We've been rehearsing now for two weeks - well, me and Javier, that is. Bruce has joined us twice, now. Let me tell you something. I've been playing in and out (and back in... then down and out, then kinda in... hoping to get out...) of bands for more than half of my life. Some of them were pretty good. Good enough to garner radio play and paper write-ups. Some haven't been my band, per se... just gigs I've played as a side man. I've been in some rockin' concert halls and some real seedy dives. Sometimes it's been awards and roaring applause... and sometimes it's been just me, the PA, and the crickets. In all of just two full-band rehearsals, this band is probably the best band I've had the honor of playing in. And I could list all the reasons for you (dynamics, tempo, groove, etc). But you want to know the real reason? It's the people, man. Bruce and Javier are GOOD people. And without them, this thing wouldn't be. And without you, the listener, the fan, the supporter, the friends... this band wouldn't be. It's all about people. Otherwise, I'd be just sitting in my room, brooding over what I hear and want to do - wishing and dreaming. I know, because that's where I come from. I've been dreaming this life for all of my life. And here we are. Success isn't a destination... it's the process. There is a deep, deep appreciation for all of them, and you. It's a great thing to be alive, man. People: you gotta love 'em.
Good things are happening! It's all coming together so fast, man. We finished mixing the CD down late last week. Tony Francoviac (mixer) from over at Cactus Country Studios, and Chilton Vance (engineer) did a real shiny jobby-job on that thing. It's pretty slick. And by that I mean, "It's pretty slick!" My buddy Jeff Gablemann, also of the Notorious Sinners, turned me on to a friend of his, Robert Houston. Robert does mastering. I took him the raw, mixed down, CD. He worked on one song, Shake 'er, and "KA-BANG!" that thing is just smoking! By that I mean, "It pretty cool." HOOOO-WEEEE!!! Folks, this thing's rocking! So, I got caught behind the ball here for a second. I just thought I'd have more time. But Robert tells me he can have the entire thing finished by next week! Oh, man! I better write those liner notes this weekend, I better start working out again so I can take the pictures (no one wants to look at a "fluffy" front-mang, know what I meang, mang?), I better get the art work and lay-out designed,... I better learn how play the tunes! On that front.... A reason why I was slacking on the other stuff is because I've been putting so much effort into finding a drummer. I think we've found one! This week I met with Javier Gutierrez. Javier is a drummer from these parts and has been looking for a more full-time permanent-type of gig. What a co-inky-dink! I've been looking for the same thing in a drummer. And he can swing and rock, and he can play dynamics and all that fun stuff. We rehearsed a bit tonight. It's all good. Be looking for his bio soon. It's all good. It's ALL good.
Started this new web site today. I must say, it's pretty spiffy compared to the last one. I've been working on it now for about 5 hours and just about done. It's been a heck of a life, man. It's wonderful to be alive. Never in my life have I ever experienced so much pain and joy at once; it's enough to let you know you're alive! Just to catch you up on all the jive: Circa: 1998 I'd been dreaming about a musical project where we play Big Band style swing and horn licks with a small horn section and a big ol' stand up bass and we all would wear the tux's and stuff... but naahhhh. That was just over the top. Circa: 2001 Then I was into the Texas THANG with Americana and all that; you know, like my friend Tony says, "bad singing and outta tune guitars". I thought, "Yeah, dude! Someone FINALLY gets me!" But, naaahhhh. Circa: 2003 Then I heard Big Jay McNealy and Louis Prima... and I was born again! This time I thought, "If I don't play that, I won't be able to breath, or breed!" And THIS time I just jumped in up to my ears in blues and jump-blues. My pal, Gary Loper (of the Revelators, and a freakin' great Blues-man) set me hip to all kinds of stuff. I'm talkin' the standards. Guys I knew the names of, but didn't really know too well; Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, B.B. King, Clearance "Gatemouth" Brown, Albert King, on and on. I threw in some Ray Charles, some Louis Prima, some Red Prysock, some Little Johnny Jones.... I was in love all over again. And that lead me right back to Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller.... What could I do? I mean, what could I do? So the Band of No Reputation (unknowing my decision to quit music entirely, but that's another pathetic story) pools together some dough and they bought me a kick-butt Fender Hot Rod Deluxe amplifier for my birthday. Man, it was like the sun burst through and bunny rabbits and grass growing and flowers blooming! Then a ka-chunk of cash comes my way, and I'm like: "Let's make a record!" Bruce comes chiming in, our friend John Condit, from the Notorious Sinners says he'll record with us and we're off and running! August 2005 After 2 rehearsals in which we played through 12 songs twice, we go to the studio to lay down the basic tracks. These guys are like "one-take-johnny's"! We must've taken about two takes each track and they're done! John was sitting there banging away at the skins and Bruce Witter was just setting down that groove! Those cats are mean, dude! I came in and banged out about 8 songs a night on guitar, then turned around and did it again on vocals and leads.... Some advice: If you can avoid making a record in that fashion, you really must! That was the most grueling pace of work I'd ever done! Then, due to studio time and other scheduling conflicts.... September 2005 We've got the thing mixed down and now we're about to go to master the thing. And I must say, it rocks. Taking pictures this weekend, I think. Writing liner notes, and shopping for a replicator. CD release parties and shows are on the horizon, hiring a full-time drummer would be good! If you know of any, send this way! So, this blog is about a hard working musician's life. The pit falls and the mountains of glory. It'll all be here. It's going to be a hell of ride, man.

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