Wednesday, April 8, 2009


"The procedure was unsuccessful." Given all the confusion and emotional roller coaster on which I had been these past few weeks, I was pretty much prepared for anything, but I was not prepared to hear the surgeon utter those words.
On Thursday night, I was in the studio working on some arrangements, but anxious to get to the hospital in time to be with my sister. While there, I got a phone call with an update and recommendation that I not leave just yet. I was given estimates and such, so I had a little more time before heading out. I decided to chill with my aunt, who met me at the studio. She got on the keyboards, and I put on my earphones and jumped on the drums (just got this new set – it’s slick ). It reminded me so much of my mother – she on the organ and I on the drums as she instructed me where and how to break. (An aside: I still kick myself for forgetting (losing) her favorite guitar on the bus that day. I had all my books and back pack, and don’t know how I got off without it.)

On Friday morning, at about 5:00AM, after breaking night in a long late session, I made a quick stop at home and ended up eating breakfast. I packed a frozen Cran-Rasberry juice and several pieces of juicy Bazookas. If there is anything about my traveling habits it’s that I won’t be caught without some sort of grub with me. At any rate, I knew I’d be at the hospital for several hours, so I’d make a day of it, and the only way to do that was to bring several snacking goodies, a warm jacket, books, laptop, earphones to listen to my drumming CD, and my PDA for texting, IMing, and twittering, if necessary. Wow, what would I do without my PDA and electronic gadgets? I guess read and write more, but I would definitely miss my texting.

I then drove directly to the Ronald Reagan UCLA hospital to be with my sister. I had not been to UCLA in a number of years but the new hospital was absolutely stunning to me; state of the art. I felt as if I was walking into an art deco museum with its vast ceiling. I thought I might look up and see one of Michelangelo’s frescos. I was directed to the waiting area—and it was so huge I thought, “oh, a public library.” The patio areas looked like a national park… I may have even seen a deer run across the very manicured lawn.

My sister checked into the hospital to undergo a heart surgery. She was born with an irregular heartbeat that causes her to have frequent trachecardia episodes, which are rapid irregular heartbeats that may lead to a stroke or heart attack. While she has always had these episodes, they have increasingly grown more severe and frequent over the years. So as it was explained to me, this surgery was supposed to minimize, if not eliminate, these episodes. Unfortunately, it didn’t go as planned. After about 5 to 6 hours of waiting with delirious tiredness, I learned that the surgery was unsuccessful. I’m glad that they prefaced the news with “she’s awake and in recovery” because I would have just fallen face down had they come out and only said “procedure unsuccessful.” But I was still confused. When I heard that, I thought, “unsuccessful – what does that mean?” because usually when we hear of an unsuccessful heart surgery we think, “O my, the patient didn’t make it... the patient died on the operating table…” But I was assured that she was fine in the recovery room. They said it was unsuccessful because since they could not tell which part of the heart was being affected by these episodes, they did not want to continue burning tissues for fear of burning healthy heart tissues, and in effect doing more damage. So in hopes to pinpoint the section of the heart that is being adversely affected, the next plan is to take her off of medications to purposefully induce the episodes then do the procedure. Clearly the risks are heightened because the episodes may be even more severe and lead to a full attack.

While some have reservations about the risks associated with inducing episodes, I guess one could rationalize in favor of it by just doing a risk-reward trade-off analysis. She can choose against it, and live with episodes growing increasingly severe and frequent until eventually one of those episodes claims her life. On the other hand, she can choose for it, and stand a chance of eliminating the episodes all together, or inducing a fatal one sooner than later. I guess this choice is based on how one looks at life. How do you want your trip to your final destination to be: on the “express and non-stop” or on “cruise control with lay-overs?”

Finally, I entered her recovery room and she gave me a faint smile. I kissed her on the forehead and asked her how she was feeling? She was in a bit of pain coming out of anesthesia and admitted to being a little disappointed. Considering the very worse scenario that could have resulted, I was just relieved and thankful.

It seems like the heart takes us out one way or another. Go figure: Who knew that the matters of the heart could be so risky? Of course, I’m being tongue-in-cheek. But seriously, we put ourselves through so many stressful situations and never think about it. Our hearts can be so strong for certain things, yet so frail in ways that we least expect…still we take its beat for granted.


Monday, December 8, 2008


For the past three weeks, my time has been completely consumed with studio work, writing new material and stuff, and I really haven't had a chance to blog as regularly as I had hoped. However, I decided to take a break and share a thought or two. A few days ago, I watched a documentary about the late Nina Simone. As she played the keys of the piano, she leaned her head back and closed her eyes... a position I have taken many times when I play. It was as if she transcended somewhere else and left the rest of us here to enjoy the beauty of the melodies that she was playing. She was free. Interestingly, in the documentary, she says that freedom is to have "no fear at all", and the closest we ever get to being 'free' is the state of a child. Children follow the desires of their hearts and are completely uninhibited in doing so. I guess that is freedom.

As we get older, we become more cautious and apprehensive about our approaches and pursuits of the desires of our hearts. We think and over-think things to the point where we convince ourselves that there will be certain pitfalls and roadblocks ahead to preclude us from reaching our goals or being successful. In effect, we condition ourselves to believe that we are not free to proceed and/or progress due to some supposed external condition beyond our control. Notwithstanding the oppressive conditions to which Nina Simone was referring in the documentary, in many other instances we often hinder ourselves. Of course, seldom do we admit to restricting our own progress because of our own uncertainties and timidity. It's easier to succumb to the restrictions of our fears than it is to forge with the convictions of our courage. That seems counter-intuitive, so why? It's safer. Fear averts potential danger from the unknown, while courage confronts it. Clearly, there is an inverse relationship. However, in the course of my life, I have found an interesting continuum between fear (oppression) and courage (freedom). The more the "unknown" (i.e. danger, failure, loss, rejection, etc.) materialized in my life, the more my fears decreased and my courage increased. So, the "unknown" got me closer to courage and freedom. I once heard someone say, "There's relief in failure." He probably did not mean it in the same context, but it certainly makes sense to me.

I don't know that we will ever revert to the state of freedom that exists in children. They don't consider or analyze dangers within the scope of their wants and desires, so they don't yield to any warning signs. For example, a four year old doesn't normally think to stop for oncoming traffic when he/she hears the ice cream truck. A child doesn't perceive the danger of going with a stranger when his heart's content is to play with a puppy. A state of total freedom can sometimes eradicate the line that separates safety from danger, good from bad, and right and wrong.

Although I am pretty courageous, I am cautious in my pursuits and undertakings. During moments of meditation, I think about things that I would like to pursue, and I parse out the ones that I have convinced myself may not be a good idea. This helps me understand me a little better. It also helps me approach situations that I deem highly improbable or tenuous with courage and resolve, irrespective of obstacles. I do consider the obstacles for the purpose of planning around them, but I don't allow them to overcome me. That's my way of preserving some of that 'free' child in me.

To view the documentary, visit:


Thursday, November 6, 2008


On Tuesday November 4, 2008, the election for the 44th President of the United States of America was historical. For the first time since the founding of this nation, a Black American candidate was elected to the presidency with a significant margin over his opponent. While historically Blacks have overcome many legal and social obstacles, most never envisioned a Black American President, much less a Black American First-Lady, in the White House in their lifetime. Overcome with emotion, I am thankful to have been able to witness such a special moment. As President-Elect Barack Obama reflected about Ann Nixon Cooper, who is 106 years of age, she lived through a time when the events before us were not a possibility. Given the effect that this moment has had on this generation, I can only imagine the confluence and intensity of emotions that she and others from her generation must have felt.

If the reconciliatory tones in Senator McCain's concession speech and President-Elect Obama's victory speech are any indication, we can look forward to settling our disagreements with a modicum of civility and meeting our challenges with unity. As President-Elect Obama quoted from President Lincoln's inaugural address, "We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection," I saw many tearful eyes from individuals who have neither seen nor experienced what Ann Nixon Cooper has. Yet, young and old of all races alike were equally moved. I am grateful and humbled by the experience, and I pray that President Obama does an outstanding job for our sake. God bless him as he leads us, and God bless America.


Thursday, October 30, 2008


Have you ever experienced a form of displacement? You know like…If you approach a group and join in, you interrupt. When you introduce yourself, you inappropriately interject. If you stand on a line, it's the wrong one. If you take a seat, it belongs to someone else. If you wore jeans, you should've worn a gown. If you wore sneakers, you should've worn stilettos. If you cannot be labeled, you're nondescript. If you're reserved, you're too secretive. If you excuse yourself, you're timid, but if you don't, you're rude. If you apologize, you're weak, and if you don't, you're heartless. If you reach out to others, you're too forward, and if you don't, you're aloof. If you went left, I should've gone right. If you showed up, you should've stayed home. Of course, if you stayed home, you should've been there. If you're serious, you're too mean. If you wave and smile, you're silly and foolish. The list never ends, but you get the point. Whatever you do, you're out of place; you lose.

We all experience feelings of displacement in the course of our lives. I often find myself observing and identifying behavioral patterns, however subtle, of people when they are trying to adjust to environments and/or "fit in." It's funny because whether it is riding in an elevator, looking for the designated gate at an airport, or asking the attendant at a parking kiosk for help, here's what I almost invariably see: individuals attempting to look comfortable and act natural in the most uncomfortable, if not outright humiliating, situations. For example, I step into an elevator, and everyone tries to secure a corner or wall spot. Those who don't can't quite figure out whether they want to face those along the wall or the door. Then I notice how all eyes divert. Some fidget with watches to avoid eye contact; some look up, down and others fix "death stares" at the panel indicating the floor numbers as they move. Of course, there is always that one who tries to break the ice with a witty comment. How about the guy who can't remember that he parked on Level A, so he roams around the entire parking structure passing the kiosk attendant several times looking for his car. He's puts his best face on to pretend he knows where he's going. But were it not that we've all seen him circle the structure about three times in utter frustration and despair, he'd be pretty convincing. And of course, there is that one individual who will further sear in the poor guy's sense of displacement with "You can't find your car?!"

The point is that no one wants to be the focal point of unflattering spectacle or uncomfortable situations. So in our efforts to avoid that, we sometimes engage in very funny behavior that further highlights our displacement. When I was growing up, I always looked to find "my place." As I got older I came to the understanding that my place was ever evolving. There, I found the Eklektikos, or Eclectic, which derives from various sources. But more importantly, I learned to subject my fears to courage. I embraced variability: the 'different', the 'old', the 'new', etc. So I am drawn to individuals whose creativity, styles, thought process, and presentation extend beyond the standard with authenticity. I am not necessarily interested in the "different" for the sake of difference. I'm interested in the "authentically different" because their roads are paved in authenticity and everything that is real to them. They are often the 'first of firsts' to do a thing, trailblazers, or pioneers. They are inspiring. While at first they may seem displaced in their respective industries, time often proves that they define those industries.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008


(Originally published Monday, October 13, 2008)

Some of you have asked me whether I would post my poetry along with commentary. So here is a short piece I wrote using Personification, one of my favorite literary techniques. However, while I did consider posting it with commentary, I chose to not do so because often poetry carries entendres, both hidden and overt messages, which can mean different things to each reader. Therefore, if I make a commentary, I will have restricted its meaning to all readers. At any rate, I really appreciate and welcome your thoughts; what it means to you. Hope you enjoy it.

What satisfies time?
The ever consuming tide

Placing a day within the grip of her vice
Calendars fall under the weight of her might
Imposing herself even on those who seek cover
She thirsts for another and yet another

She has engulfed centuries in her vacuous form
And like the grave that enlarges itself
Unyielding to the pleas of those that go before
For her subjects she longs more and more

With ages in her possession
Who may triumph in her affection?
How do I still her, convince her to stay
As she walks the route in her measured pace

She sits quietly then moves rapidly
Tarrying for none; yet for some
Her presence seems unending
And she takes no thought of befriending

What satisfies time?
That ever consuming tide.


Monday, October 6, 2008


The recurring greeting I usually get from people out of state is "How are you doing in sunny California?" To that I usually respond, almost without thought, "Fine!" But given the weather conditions to which people have been subjected in other regions, I have deviated from the same monosyllabic response. So the last time I was greeted, my response was "it's HOT like Summer on the first day of Fall, but I'm grateful that I'm not standing atop my roof watching my sofa float down the street." The recent storms and hurricanes of some of our neighboring states reminded me that I have no reason to complain about the heat, from which I can easily find relief, however temporary, in an air conditioned building, by sitting under a fan, or even going to the beach. There are many options if you really think about it, in comparison to other places in the world. The Sahara doesn't find me wandering aimlessly in her backyard, parched, thirsty and panting after mirages. I'm not exposed to subterranean temperatures in Antarctica, where I'm certain those beautiful, white polar bears are adorable only from a great distance, like high definition television. They reside in their natural habitat right where they belong, and are not being groomed and expected to conduct themselves as civilized human beings, which seems to be a difficult and impossible task for some humans. Just try getting close enough to wrap a scarf around those necks and place the cutest mittens on his paws; the bears, I mean. That'll be the day.

We've seen phenomenal footage and photos of intrepidly daring photographers and cameramen, who probably awaken each morning anticipating their next dangerous, yet exciting encounter. During the recent storms, even brave anchorman reported from their various on-the-scene locations, some attempting to maintain their balance as the fierce winds blew all around them, which is a metaphor for life. I'm not sure how well I'd do with the hair blowing in the wind part.

I did have a few concerns, not just because I know people in some of those areas, but because natural disasters are beyond our control. We can only attempt to make certain precautions after being advised of impending dangers and not assuming too much. There are those of great faith and hope, but it's not nice to tempt Mother Nature. And I may be presumptuous in taking the liberty to say that I don't think the Lord bade anyone to literally walk on water this time. I am aware that not all have the luxury of moving swiftly, but wisdom is a principle component to have in this life. Tests are not on my list of invites. I hope to minimize them as much as possible.

As for sunny California, well, the earth does quake every now and then, as we find ourselves dazed, like "what just happened?", even though we are most certain that we are not hallucinating. However, once it's realized, you first ask yourself "dummy, why the heck did I freeze, as if the shaking would stop if I didn't move?" Secondly, we immediately get on the phones with our loved ones and friends, asking, "Did you feel that?" We are sometime more relieved that our china didn't fall out of the curio cabinet more so than the roof caving in our heads. Some would even be disgusted if the sprinklers went off because we'd just gotten our hair done. What vain creatures we are. As for me, I couldn't just run out into the street in my pajamas. I need to at least look decent. I'd put my make up bag, along with an extra set of clothes, right by the door, with my keys, guitar, 2 favorite pairs of boots, maybe a black blazer, and oh lord, how could I forget my kick- butt CD case of favorite artists? Clearly you can see where I'll be... under the rubble!


Tuesday, September 30, 2008


(Originally published Saturday, September 27, 2008)

Today I went to one of my favorite places. It's somewhere facing the water. I parked my car, took my sandals off, and stuck my feet out the window to feel the cool breeze between my toes. Then, I watched the sun set into a bright red horizon line. From afar, the waters seemed to ready the waves to rush towards me and dash against the shoreline rocks, creating a violent splash right in front of me. At other times, they were calm and peaceful, almost as if the hand of God had stilled them for my amazement. The view was absolutely remarkable. I like going there for inspiration. My first thought was about absolute autonomy. I was completely unrestricted and free to create either something as breathtaking as the view before me or not. I figured I'd write anything that came to mind; there needn't be a point to any of it because, after all, it was supposed to be an autonomous experience. Who cares whether or not I had run on sentences, colons instead of commas, 'but' instead of 'and', fragmented phrases, misspelled words, or even improper sentence structure? Bad syntax? Who cares? I knew what I was feeling, and my writing was merely a reflection of my emotions. So, I wrote. After about two hours, I had used up my entire pad. I was done, and I felt good about everything I had expressed on paper. The point is to capture the thoughts and feelings at that moment without restrictions.

As a creative artist, I have autonomy over my thoughts, their composition, expression, and presentation. Of course, that autonomy can often be compromised when there are elements that restrict and/or alter free expression, be it for business or other purposes. For instance, it is quite rare to be lauded as a great literary writer when your body of work is riddled with incorrect grammar, lack of punctuation, poor syntax and word usage. Likewise, it is almost impossible to produce flawed literary work, at least according to the grammatical rules of Standard English, and safely land in a comfortable spot on the New York Times Bestseller List. While, a literary writer has the freedom to write about anything, he/she must do so within defined constructs of writing formats. As musical writers, there is more freedom to write exactly what is on our minds without a care for word or punctuation usage. For example, in Believe It Or Not, Nickelback sang "Believe it or not everyone have things that they hide." While the use of 'have' instead of 'has' is obvious, it worked. When Aerosmith introduced Sweet Emotion, "My get-up-and-go must've got up and went," they couldn't have said it any better to drive the point home. Erik B. & Rakim did just that in their song What's On Your Mind when they said, "Hello, good looking is this seat tooken" The flagrant use of a 'made up' word almost assaults your knowledge and understanding. You find yourself asking, "what in the world! Is that a word? !@$%^&*" And who can overlook Sly and the Family Stone's song title "Thank U (Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Agin)" Clearly, the play of words, pronunciation, and spelling lend for a very lighthearted and comical take of language, and that's the point. As a creative people, we maintain artistic autonomy in order to effectively touch others musically, even if it means breaking away from convention.

The time was well spent. By then, the sun had been completely consumed into the ocean, and I couldn't see the horizon anymore. A clear night had come upon me, and it was time to head back home to get ready for tonight's event. But it's ok. I'll come back; I always do.