The Japanese Zen Master Suzuki Roshi was asked what hell is. He said it’s “training.” I’ve been in training for nearly two weeks now. Today I woke up feeling the worst was over. We’ll see. I’m eager to get back to work.
Archive for September, 2011
I’ve had my life taken over completely by a flu. Almost a week now. It seems to have finally broken. I hope to be back here soon.
Reading the news and watching our constant descent into greed, anger, and frivolousness, I’ve become increasingly pessimistic. I haven’t been able to see how it’s ever going to end. Then, a couple of days ago, I started thinking about how change, when it does happen, comes about in the most unexpected way. One afternoon, a little over 38 years ago, I was walking down Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley, heading for a cafe to get something to eat after singing on the street for change. There was nothing auspicious about the moment. I was simply heading down the sidewalk, focused on food. As I crossed a street, a woman stopped me briefly to tell me how much she liked my music and to ask a question. She continued on then and I went to eat. At the time, it seemed a minor event. Yet it turned out to be the big turning point in my life. I’m still living with the effects of that encounter.
We don’t know what the future has in store for us.
When I was in my late-teens and very early twenties, I was a connoisseur of singer-songwriters. Wanting to be one myself, I studied them. One of my favorites was the rather obscure Paul Siebel. He came out of the Greenwich Village folkie scene and in 1970 recorded an album Woodsmoke and Oranges that I used to play over and over. His songs were intelligently crafted and incredibly musical. He was a very good singer. One of his songs, “Louise,” became a hit for Bonnie Raitt and Leo Kottke. Siebel made one more album, Jack-Knife Gypsy and then vanished.
I got rid of all my records back when I was living on the street, so I hadn’t heard Woodsmoke and Oranges in decades. Just two weeks ago I saw that it had became available as a download, so I decided to revisit it. I found that I still loved it—enough so that I had to stop listening to it. The songs were playing constantly in my mind, and I couldn’t focus on my work. I’ve been wishing vaguely that I could send this Paul Siebel an email telling him how much that record touched me. But I have no idea where the man is or how one would get hold of him.
So here’s the reason I’m telling this story: Today I was going through some old emails, looking for a piece of information that I needed for my manuscript, when I came across something I’d written six years ago to a friend. The friend had also been into Siebel, and I was telling him that, a few days before, I’d been approached by someone at a Berkeley bookstore reading who wanted me to sign a copy of my book for his friend, the singer-songwriter, Paul Siebel. I’d forgotten all about it. I hope he liked the book.