13 02 2012

A few months ago I found out my neighbor is a guitar player. We had spoke of jamming some together. The first attempt did not go well we could not get a hookup. Last Sat we finally made a hookup and had a short session in my office. He is planning on going into the studio this spring to make a demo and wants me to play bass and second guitar. Love it when I get to put on my music hat.

The guy brought along a few tapes of his songs. They were ok, simple rock stuff nothing that was complex. After I listened to the one he wants to record , I played along with the tape and him to get a feel for some patterns and licks to add. The whole practice session went ok. Nothing to make a great blog post about but it was nice to make music again. Next session we’ll be a bit more structured and relaxed.

He wanted to hear some of my recordings, I am looking for a cd with a couple of my songs. As things like that are mostly packed up, it is a search mission to undertake. 😦

This maybe the last time…

21 12 2010

… or next to the last, post for the year

Kung Fu

Sat was the Christmas party at Shifu’s. As usual there were new faces and lots of food. I took it easy on chowing down that night. One plate, some wine and that was it. I thinking passed on the desert. I did not break out camera this time because pictures of a table of food and people sitting around eating gets kind of old to look at. I had not heard anything more about the jam however had brought along my acoustic Bass just in case. The Jam never happened, a bit of a bummer but not really a surprise. One classmate did bring a electric keyboard along for his son to “play” on. Another real musician showed up would could play keyboards but he had to leave as soon as he arrived as his son was sick… Bummer! The rest of the evening was spent with the regular chat other than Shifu’s partner and I had a long conversation about Shin and Zen Buddhism.

Music Axes

Back stepping to the subject of music and Basses. A while back I went to LA to pick up my late brother’s Bass guitar, a six string model. I already had one of those but since this was my brothers I felt I should claim it out of hock ( pawn shop).

So now I have two six String Basses I had planned on selling mine. It is very nice but not as expensive as my brother’s , still a very nice Bass and I like the finish. The natural maple. When I was in LA on the retrieval mission I showed my brother’s Bass to a Kyudo friend who loved it. He is a hopeful Bass player. I received a call from him over the weekend on a musical question and the topic came up about my brother’s Bass, which lead to speaking of mine.

As it turns out he was interested and wanted to see a picture. After viewing it he was hooked. He asked about cost and/or a swap. I really did not need anything more than cash these days. However it did occur to me I planned on buying a inexpensive Yumi to take on the Zenamaran for my ceremonial shots in route to Nihon. I told him my need, but I still needed money. After some consideration on his part a deal was made. I will be getting an old 17/18 kilo Yumi of his plus some pictures of dead haoly presidents on green paper in exchange for my Bass. So it worked our nicely. It is good when a plan comes together. The Yumi is much stronger than what I have been using , but, I was told in Nihon by a Sensei, mine was too light for me. 18 kilo maybe too much, but I have shot a 16/17 with no problem, my form has improved so it maybe good for me to use a stronger bow, like using a heavier straight sword.


Now since I am on the topic of Kyudo. That was a smooth segway , ne!? I read on the Mu blog a seminar is coming in April of 2011 in Nihon. After an invitation to stay with the family of this same Kyudo Bass Player I very briefly dreamed of attending, even as I was talking with my friend I said very doubtful. I made the mistake of asking LZ to get some details from Japan about the event. I was quickly shut down on any fantasy of attending with a passionate telling of the cost involved (-_-). So much for that. It would have been so much more interesting than testing in Minnesota this summer, just south of the boonies in the middle of nowhere. Anyway I knew from the beginning it was out of the question, it was just a bit of mind diversion fun.

What is real though is RSD’s 2 annual 108 +1 Arrow shoot on New Years Eve. Anyone else going for it?? If you do not know what I’m talking about. In Japan they ring the temple bells 108 for each sin, to release them ( sort like that). We are doing a Kyudo version, with arrows.

This up coming year is the fifth year of this blog. Does not seem that long. In appox 630 days we’ll be off to Japan. Wonder should I start a new one then forom there… The sailing blog will continue throughout. This one…hmm, well still I have time to think. Maybe Zen’s Sekai- I …Nihon

LA – Kyudo, Kung Fu and Music – Part I

24 10 2010

After putting it off for several times I got my act together and hit the road for LA. The weather was a shock after roasting here in the Nor Cal for the last week it was weird being in chilly and rain. However it did not lessen the quality of the visit.


It had been almost a year since I went down to LaLaland to visit and see my late brother and clear out his apt with his passing a week later. This trip was about getting his Bass out of pawn. The interest was adding up and I did not want it to be lost or keep paying. I was lucky to get a tab on it when I thought it was already history. Since it turned up I felt he would be pleased if I saved it. I saw some pictures of his joy when he purchased it and some of when it was just hanging on display before he purchased it.

This Bass will be one of the three I take to Japan, the other is his 4 string and my Acoustic Bass. I am hopeful to restart my musical life there. Here it, among other creative things has seemed to reach a dead end. Just surviving is the challenge.

Retrieving the Bass was the first thing taken care of on my arrival to LA. Once that was done I was able to focus on visiting, Kyudo and some fun.

While in town I stayed at a hotel for a change instead of with friends. I found this hotel in the Japanese section of town where I used to live. It was not fancy but clean and cheap. In a way it was like being in Japan or at least in Hawaii.

The desk staff spoke Japanese. They were were surprised when I spoke to them in Japanese. One woman had such a look of shock, I had to tease her. Nanda doshite bikuri. The signs everywhere were in Japanese. There were a couple of big Japanese markets around so I picked up some Shochu on sale and some Sake to take back home.

Breakfast was included at the hotel. The weekend menu is not as full as the weekday. My breakfast for the two days was rice, seaweed, and pickled veggies. Some green tea and a croissant. It was light and free.
Free being the key word.

My first stop after business was to see one of my Kung Fu brethren who runs a large traditional school in town, Lomita Shaolin Temple Kung Fu School. I had a fairly short visit with him . We got to Chat only for a bit as he had a private student waiting and a class afterward to teach.  We spoke of a meal together later but I was on a mission and couldn’t commit to anything. It was a walk down memory lane in visiting his school. All the old pictures around, wall lined with trophies and dance lions, the school still has that 70’s feel, unlike the highly polished and sterile schools that line the area currently run by “masters” who gave been training for the average of 10 years…

My big disappointment was, next before going to the Kyudo dojo. I went by my favorite Chinese Veggie place for lunch, it was closed down and no more, bummer. Adapting and moving on, I had lunch at the hotel with something good I picked up at Trader Joe’s.

Kyudo time:
I head over to Long Beach to visit and practice with Team G3 and their class.

The park were the class is held is very nice. There is a seniors something archery contest going on at the time. The lady at the gate was not sure if other classes were being held so she let me in the parking area for free…Cool or what!

I watched and visited a while and got off one Makiwara shoot before Sakurai Sensei president of the Southern Cal Renmei showed up. We had only spoke very Briefly in Japan and other than on Facebook had not spoken live to each other.

We got to chat for a while on this and that, Kyudo and non-Kyudo items. Soon Joined by Marcus Sensei we had a nice visit. I forgot to take a group picture though before he left.

After that I put in some Makiwara time to work on my form. M3 watched me shoot and made a suggestion on how to stop my left hand from dropping.

Part of the solution was to have me shoot from a kneeling Ashibume. This way I could feel the difference from my stance being more stable, I’m guessing. The other part was on turning when releasing. Hard to explain. It is however like what Ling Sisuk told me about doing a forward stance or toe stance, call a cat stance in Karate. Kyudo is about Mind , body , spirit. This tip was very much about mind and spirit affecting the body.
Basically curving the mind, the thought upward on release. It was a small thing but made big difference. The next shot was clean no hand drop, the ya hit the Makiwara deep and level. Another little something to add to the line up to recall when shooting.
Another tip was to use power on my left hand to help with the spin on Hanare.

Kung Fu:

My next visit across town is with another couple of Kung Fu brethren.

One of them worked with the late David Carridine on the 2nd Kung Fu series. For several years he has been working on these things called Phi Chi sticks. They are a training aid, designed to help one work with spiral motion and energy. He has gone from working with them with bamboo to PVC to now Acrylic. They have the nicest look and feel.

He has given me samples over the years. Today was no different. His latest one still built on this curve he has calculated is just is portion of it. This is my favorite so far. I like the way it fits in my hand. It can be used to hurt or heal. Easy to carry and conceal. He said when he saw this finished it had my name on it. It seemed perfect how I move.

One of the cooler aspects of this is it can hurt or heal. It works as well for combat as it does for massage/acupressure. One can not get lost in just the negative vibe of combat with Kung Fu. Like Shaolin Temple even though it has a side of violence, Shaolin Temple is really about Love.

Amazing Grace…

1 02 2010

An old gospel hymn, I had been working on a version of this, this week, to do at my the memorial service for my brother. Today it was held.

It was not that great a start. My sister was due in on Friday, however due to a major storm in D.C. all flights were canceled. My 2nd brother calls me a couple of hours before LZ and I are heading to Sac. and says can you pick up sister on your way? Huh! Sac airport is not on my way!, ( I’m 1.5 hrs away, they are 20 mins. Something is wrong with this logic) Sigh ok! But she has to wait until we get there.

About 30 min later I recall, hey I do not know what airline. I call my brother back, no answer. Great! LZ and I head out to parts unknown basically. The service is at 2:00pm. We get to the airport at 1:45 after going to the wrong terminal first of course. Finally I get in touch with my brother. Oh, they do not have the same setup as Philly everything is at one check out. Ok…crimany I think.

After having to make two trips around the airport because she is not there the first trip, we finally find her. She has just arrived the plane was late. Sigh. Ok, so Now we find out the service has been changed to 3:30, so it’s all good.

We head over to the church and get things setup. There turned out to be a lot more people than than we expected. My Mum’s church family turned out to support her. It was a thoughtful show of support. Also in attendance were my favorite Aunt from my Mum’s side, as well as my brother’s wife neither of who I was expecting, beside my favorite cuz.

The service was nice, some old pictures from the old days, some shared sentiments, some tears and laughter. A very good Pastoral message from the minister and a well received song from me. I was not as nervous as I thought I would be, the old musician kicked in and it went very smooth. The church organist, volunteered to play along with me, so that was a nice added touch. LZ was shocked to hear me sing, it was her first time. I had forgotten she seen me play before, but I never sang. She was pleasantly surprised she said, as were the other family members who I had forgotten I had never preformed in front of before.

So everything worked out well.  It was a fitting memorial service for my brother who was all about being the musician and artist. If his spirit was still around I’m sure he was pleased and can now RIP.

Return to Roots

29 01 2010

My last trip to LA was to clean out my Brother’s apt. He was still alive, it was weird. His main concern when I told him I was going to do it was to get his instruments. I did along with other misc stuff. A short time later a matter of two weeks if that he passed away. I have his Bass, I tinkered with it a bit. Not that long ago I purchased a new Bass for myself, which I wrote about just before doing some studio work on a audio book sound track. So I was not really that interested in his Bass. Anyway, It is a 6 string, this one of my brothers is a 4. I am finding though it is very nice. I plan on taking it to Japan as part of my musical gear.

A couple of weeks, well almost a couple of months really I went to church with Mum and came up with the idea of doing a song with Lil brother’s Bass for his memorial service. I figure my sister will spring something on me to do like a speech which I dislike. This way I’ll beat her to it and be in control. I’ll do a little tune on his Bass.

It is this Sunday, I have been practicing this week. My chops are really bad, I was ready to change the plan and back out of this more than a couple times. I found out this Bass is really nice after listening to it through an Amp rather than just feeling the action un-plugged. But that is not the point. I applied some Zen philosophy to my playing and uncomplicated what I was trying to do. Tune into the music not how I was playing and keep it simple and just play. I’m feeling better and the song is coming along to the point I feel like I can pull it off. Part of the thing is I’m doing a solo, it has been years since I’ve done that and even then with a guitar and a harmonica, not just a Bass and Harmonica. I found was trying to play to much to fill in the missing pieces.  Focusing on what I have, not what I’m missing made the difference.

I’m still a bit nervous because I know I will made some mistakes, and there is no band to cover it up. Also it will be the first time playing in front of my family and Mum’s church folks. It will make her happy, it will make me nervous. I think I owe it to my brother to ganbatte. It will be good practice also for centering and being calm under the pressure I will face in Japan. In a way it will be like doing Kyudo, focus on doing the simple form correct ( notes), not rushing, complete each part, being mindful, the arrow will find the target.  Just another form a training. Sometimes it is not that you make a mistake, like dropping an arrow,  it is how you handle yourself or the situation after you make the mistake. Yosh!

The Island life

20 04 2009

It really feels like we live in a different world here on the island from being where we where inland. The vibe, it is all about the vibe. Sat. was was a good day. LZ is in a good mood, due to a “Shigoto” matter which I will not go into. We both were up early on Sat. and did a mild warmup together. Some yoga, Motion Zen and sitting Zen. Then took off for a Sampo (a walk). It was a good day for a walk slightly cool, mildly overcast.  We walked for about 1 mile. it was good.

I took off afterward to a Marine swap-meet and to deliver a logo design I did for someone who is taking off on her Catamaran with family on a world cruise.


My design will be out there sailing the world before me. Kind of cool…

From there it was a quick stop at the (not) All sail Boat show. I can across an interesting man who I ended up buying his book called “Sailing Grace” . When I was asked about my name to sign in the book, I said, just put Captn Zen. He replied in my 20 some years of sailing I have never heard that. It was some of that “Zen” philosophy that got me through the problems I had to deal with. So I took a picture with him.


John Otterbacher and Captain Zen

Now that I am into reading the book and listened to some of his video I can say he gets it, maybe being that close to death does that. I came across another sailor who does and teaches Meditation. his brochures say. Crisis is the Catalyst, Meditation is the cure, Relationships are the test. The crisis, any crisis, was also mentioned in the The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which a elder sister gave out parts of it during our Thursday Chan session. Troubling our human nature needs to have something, tragic to open our hearts  and eyes to there is more to living than struggling for a buck at any cost to our body, mind or spirit.

‘From hospital ward to the stormy Atlantic, this hard-edge story will resonate with anyone who has struggled with profound adversity – be it divorce, disease, depression, financial crisis, or the “heavy weather” that unexpectedly blows through every life.’

Anyway I recommend the book even if you are not into sailing. Just reading a true story about the valiant human spirit, from “my new friend” as the author signed in the book to me.

The rest of the afternoon was spent lounging at home, with LZ. We were off later in the afternoon to our first social gathering here on the island .  Another sailor who I had met via my blog , who is also planning a sail to Japan with her family invited us over for a housewarming party.  Not knowing many people here I was looking forward to the gathering. The house is just a few blocks from us, so it was just in our “hood’. There was a a fairly large turnout and rainbow of peoples of many ethnic backgrounds. There were lots of beautiful little rainbow babies running around.


Pix by Mitzi

Pix by Mitzi

Pix by Mitzi

There was lots of food, drink and comradry. We played drums, and someone bellydance, it is always good to be a musician again.


It was a good beat to end the day on.

American Ikizawa..or…hanging in Monterey.

15 12 2008

We took off for the weekend a get-a-way to Monterey for a visit with the Tokyo Delegation. It was a cool Friday, with a forecast of rain showers at some point. It a was great time to travel as the gas prices are down to a reasonable level…very cool!

After a short 2.5 hr drive we arrived in town. I got a tour of the Naval Post Grad admin teaching facilities on base, whilst the Ladies stayed home organizing. After we gathered them later we went to a Hotel on Base.


I was told it is the oldest Hotel in Monterey, I think. Here the big guys from the times past hung out. Pictures of the old timers were on the wall. The likes of  Admiral Nimitz . The Naval Post Grad School is full of history being built at he time of WWII. In the Hotel is a Bar which reminded us of a Japanese Local izakaya . The drinks were large and the food was cheap and good!! It was a good place to hang out, since it was a military establishment, not just anyone could get in, and the armed MP’s around really gave one a sense of safety.


My brother in law would have loved to visit this place as he is into the US military stuff. Maybe they well get a chance to visit again before we head West. That would be way cool as we did nto get a chance to do as much as we would have liked when they visited last time. ( got that Sis, come back!! ) (^_^)

The walls of the place were lines with old military plaques and insignias. The ceiling was lined with cups/mugs.


Check out the size of the margeretta...sugoi

The locals/regulars purchase a mug, put their name on the mug and it gets hung up. So every time that person comes in the get their drinks in this mug. I was given one as an omiyage by my bud.


Sat. morning after breakfast we headed out to cannery row in Monterey. We headed to the new walkway for a bit, took some pictures.



It was pretty quiet down at the waterfront as it was quite chilly. There was only one sailboat out on the water. I want to sail the bay there one day, but I did not envy the folks on the boat that day as it was way chilly.


From there we headed over to a new wine tasting place. The Schied vineyard tasting club was excellent.


Good decor, fireplace, excellent wine and a nice chat with the workers. There wines are produced in small lot under their own name the rest are sold to other wineries. We spent some time there and picked up a couple of bottles to take home.


Or next stop before going back to the Apt, was in a local Antique shop. Amazing to see stuff from my childhood, now at outrageous prices! Wow!
From there a walk home. Some wine , some exercise, fresh air…The rest of the evening was spent at out friend’s Apt. Another couple came by later, which we had met on our last visit when our lil sister was visiting from Kobe.
We spent the rest of the evening with wine and snacks. The ladies prepared spaghetti for dinner and got to chat comfortably in Japanese. While us guys checked out misc music videos.


A large part of their talk was about food. I find it amazing how into food the Japanese are and yet stay so small. How does that work? After dinner we spent the evening, playing round-robin selecting music videos on You-tube. Good times.