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It’s time to wake up
and face the day.
Sunshine brightens your mood.
What happened before
is gone like
yesterday’s night.

Going to walk out
and face the day,
breezes blow you forward.
What stands in your way-
obstacles
you overcome.

Time to be doing 
and face the day,
you don’t mind the changes.
What the weather brings-
stormy skies
will turn to light.

Sometimes something good comes out of something bad or unpleasant. I had this very uninspiring college professor, he seemed to overcriticize my work. Other students said he gave me a hard time in his class , it wasn’t my imagination. A Business Management class I took at the Unversity of Maryland on Okinawa would have a Professor who would show up and decide not to have class. He did not use the textbook. Also, he was not that great of a teacher. He wondered why half the class was failing .I spoke out about this to the head of the University but nobody listened, Also, due to a medical situation, I thought it would be in my best interest to withdraw from the University of Maryland on Okinawa. This was not an easy decision and one I do not regret.  Another thing that happened was I bought a compact disc player. The summer of 1991 was interesting . The second job I worked was at an  Obstetrics/GynecologyClinic at the Camp Lester Naval Hospital.I This was a summer hire program .  Before computers, information about a patient would be on pieces of paper called chits, someone had to sort and file these pieces of paper, this was my job.  Through talking with the doctors, I had a better understanding of women’s health and the consequences of having sex. I enjoyed doing office work and  working with people.  The doctors and staff were appreciative of my work. Unforunately, the hospital on Camp Lester is now permanently closed and a new hospital is open on Camp Foster.  A few months later , I decided to withdraw from the University Of Maryland and began looking for work. Back then, there were retail stores that sold  recorded music and stereo systems.  The retail music store at the Army and Air Force Exchange needed an employee and I thought I was the man for the job. For those who are unfamiliar with the Exchange, it was the military version of Target or Wal Mart.  I remember the interview . I asked the interviewers to ask me about any artist and they asked me about RUN-DMC . I proceeded to give a lengthy answer about their first self titled album and their work with Aerosmith. They gave me the job so I would stop talking, just joking. I was hired and began working in December.. My job was to put the newest releases or older recordings on the shelves and when the store was out of an item to let someone know so that they could reorder music. Additionally, I talked to customers. I learned about different kinds of music from my customers. Before downloading or streaming music, a way to discover old and new music was  for someone to make you a mixtape that might include songs of one or several artists. Through my customers, I was introduced to  Puerto Rican salsa music, Jawbox, Husker Du, Taj Mahal, Melvins Diamond Head, Santana, S.O. S. Band , early Commodores and Stevie Wonder. An example of how eclectic my taste was in 1991, a mixtape I made for myself had All About Eve, Univers Zero, Clawhammer, Meat Puppets and The Strawbs.  My customers contributed to my expanding musical taste and collection. The money made from working was used to buy music at  Fukuhara Music and Teruya Music which were Okinawan stores that had a better selection. I remember hearing John Coltrane’s version of ” My Favorite Things”in Norfolk,  Virginia and loving his rendition of the song from ” The Sound Of Music”. I found  John Coltrane’s ” My Favorite Things” at a compact disc store in Okinawa. Also. I found an album by The Stalin, a Japanese band that was on my playlist when I  was a guest disc jockey at MaximumRockNRoll in 1984. This was not the only MaxinumRockNRoll connection.  There was a couple who would come into the retail musiic store. I found out that the wife was a columnist for MaximumRockNRoll and the husband worked as a cook on the Marine base. They were the customers who gave me tapes  by Husker Du,  Melvins and Jawbox.  They made me aware of a music scene on Okinawa. Grunge was becoming popular and Green Day was still an unknown band.  The bands would have shows at the Kadena USO and Bachelors Enlisted  Quarters on the Kadena Air Base.  One of the most interesting bands playing at the Kadena USO was called  Headcaboose. The band sounded like a mixture of Fugazi and Jawbox, melodic guitars with occasional dissonance coupled with introspective lyrics and a great rhythm section. The aforementioned husband and wife drove me to a show in Ginowan or Urasoe. Several local Okinawan bands played but the highlight was Headcaboose. The band members were people who served in the military and children of people who served in the military.  At the time, the husband was the bassist in Headcaboose. Before the husband joined the band.  Headcaboose  recorded a three song  recording that was released after I left Okinawa. About four years later. I bought a copy from a record store in New England.  Back to the compact disc stores in Okinawa City,  I was introduced to the genre of progressive rock that combined  Classical compositional  and Jazz improvisational ideas to Rock.  I was introduced to Gong, Caravan, Soft Machine, Gentle Giant,  King Crimson , Tony Williams and Mahavishnu Orchestra.  While working at the Army and Air Force Exchange music store, I would talk to customers about music, find out what they liked and disliked. This helped me to find albums to recommend. Another thing that was an interesting talent was that someone could come into the store and hum or a sing a melody-within minutes I could tell them the artist and title of the song.  I became so good at my job that I won an award for being the Outstanding associate with a disability for the entire Pacific region which included Japan, Philippines, Guam and Korea.  The recruiter from the University Of Maryland would come into the store and tell me that I should return to the University. Apparently, she had not realized that I moved forward with my life.  The day my family were leaving for the United States from Okinawa. We had no idea where we would be going or doing. The recruiter was there. Instead of wishing me well or giving words of encouragement, she told me  I should go back to college. Because without the education, I would not be a viable part of the workforce. I proved her wrong then and now. 

My Dad’s last job with the United States Marine Corps was in Okinawa. They thought it would be a great idea if I moved with them.  ” There’s a beach and a university on campus , you’ll meet a wide range of people.” They were  correct. Before leaving  for Okinawa and graduating from high school in Norfolk, Virginia-I was interested in attending Ferrum College located in southwest Virginia near Roanoke. The reason why I wanted to go there was that it was near my relatives who lived in towns near the college. A Ferrum College recruiter visited Maury High School and I listened to her speak about the positive qualities of Ferrum College. It was in a rural area and had small classes. Afterwards, I talked with her about attending Ferrum College. I mentioned that my parents were moving to Okinawa and wanted me to move with them.  She gave me  a surprising answer , ” Go to Okinawa, you will have great experiences there.”Years later, I contacted Ferrum College and told them this story. If I had  not gone to Okinawa, I would not have been published in a magazine or won an award for being an outstanding employee in music retail.  Because of the recruiter’s  advice, I donated to Ferrum College to show my appreciation.  In 2012, I visited the campus of Ferrum College and the Ferrum College admissions and philanthropy staff gave me a tour of the campus which I enjoyed. The staff surprised me with a gift, a Ferrum College coffee mug which I still  have and treasure. I took the Ferrum College recruiter’s advice and I moved to Okinawa in August,  1990. My Mom and I flew from Columbia, South Carolina. We had a long layover at O’ Hare airport in Chicago, Illinois. We were worried about our pet dog who did not have anything to drink or eat for a few hours. Luckily, the dog survived. We stopped at the Narita airport in Tokyo before landing in Okinawa. Here are a few facts about the history , language, and music of Okinawa. Okinawa is a part of the Ryuku Islands, located south of Japan. It was an independent kingdom before Japan took over in the 19th century.  Okinawa is most known for the battle that took place during World War II, many Okinawans died and historic buildings were destroyed. The Japanese were not very nice to the Okinawans, staging the battle there instead of Osaka. This might explain why some Oknawans like the Americans more than the Japanese. The Americans helped the Okinawans rebuild. Also, Okinawa has a different language and culture than Japan, their language is Uchinaguchi. Two phrases in Uchinaaguchi are ” Chagan  Ju” which means ” How are you?” and ” Nihedeberu” which means ” Thank you!”.  Their music is different from Japan, almost sounds like an Asian version of bluegrass, a popular instrument is the sanshin which sounds like a banjo . Two Okinawan musicians or bands I would recommend are Shokuchi Kina and the Rinken Band.  I attended college at a university on Okinawa for over a year. The university was on the bases of Camp Foster and Kadena Air Base. The university  was a satellite campus of the University Of Maryland. This was before the internet and online distant learning which is popular today. Some of the professors were good, others not so much.  I started learning conversational Japanese and did real good until I had to learn to read and write the different kinds of symbols or characters that represented words. The Japanese language has three different kinds of symbols or characters -Hiragana , Katakana and Kanji. Going from conversational Japanese to this was like going from basic math to Calculus. Not surprisingly, my grades began to go downward.  On the bright side, I was good at holding a simple conversation in Japanese when I would explore Koza City which was the Okinawan city located outside of the base. I would walk from my house to the city below, up and down a big hill. I would usually eat at a Chinese restaurant located in the  Plaza shopping center. I would buy books  and pick up the latest issue of a British music magazine at Tuttle book shop which was in the Plaza shopping center. I would walk over a mile to two compact  disc shops-Fukuhara Music and Teruya Music-this is where I would buy my recorded music when not buying from the store on base where I would  work from 1991 to 1993. I would eat at the Korean restaurants where they would bring you meat and vegetables for you to cook your own meal. It took a lot of hand/eye coordination to cook the meat on the grill. When you are hungry and paying for your meals, you do not want to make a mistake. I managed to cook a meal and the meal tasted good.  There was a beach resort called Okuma located in the northern part of the Island, this resort was for military personnel and their families. Our family enjoyed visting the beach.  Things were going good and the best was about to happen.

I went to where my past was
near the bayous and rivers,
could hear  the music playing
and the voices singing
melody  of memory.

Something familiar,
scenes from  a front porch somewhere
where friends dance  and forget
whatever came their way,
melody of memory.

This dream may come to an end.
The music plays in my head.
There is something good soon.
Can feel it in the wind,
melody of memory.

When my Dad was a young boy, he would be in his bed about to fall asleep, unaware that his older sister named Hope would be planning to surprise him when he would close his eyes and sleep. She would carefully move across the room , not to attract attention. When she would see that he was asleep,  she would yell and he would awake startled and scared.  My earliest memories of Aunt Hope was visiting her and her family at their house in Fredericksburg, Virginia. We would visit the Battle of Fredericksburg National Park and pick strawberries at a farm nearby. She  was a talented artist  and painter, my favorite painting of hers was a tobacco barn with a rooster walking on the road leading to the barn. Another painting of hers was a fishermen”s pier that was painted blue, it was on a large canvas and was at my grandparent’s house in Chatham, Virginia. I remember her and my Dad dancing to music at my Great Aunt Hope’s and Great Uncle Bert’s house. She made the mistake of wanting to pet a German Shepherd  named Spatz who belonged to Great Aunt Hope and Great Uncle Bert. Spatz did not like strangers and did not want to be touched so the dog bit Aunt Hope . Aunt Hope never tried to pat Spatz after that. Her husband  worked for the Associated Press and gave our family a book called ” The World In 1975″, this might have encouraged me or inspired me to be more interested in news, trivia and world events.  Our family would watch Aunt Hope’s sons play baseball and wrestle in Woodbridge, Virginia. They attended Stafford  High School so we would have to cheer and support the opposing team when they played Woodbridge High School. When I moved to Norfolk, Virginia in 1988, Aunt Hope briefly lived with us. That summer in 1988, I began to write many poems. I would show my latest creations to her and she would give encouragement and tell me to keep writing. At the time, her younger son was about to graduate from Old Dominion University located in Norfolk, Virginia .   She drove me to a restaurant in Virginia Beach where I had lunch with her younger son and his girlfriend who is now his wife. After 1988, we did not see other much.  In 1994 , My Dad and Aunt Hope’s father passed away.  My parents and I attended the funeral. I visited her at my Great Uncle Vince’s house who lived near Great Aunt Hope and Great Uncle Bert. She attended the funeral, her younger son and wife was with her. We had an enjoyable conversation. I asked for her address to keep in touch and to send her a collection of poems I had written.  She gave me audiobooks by Tom Clancy and John Grisham.  I sent her a letter with my poems, I was not expecting a response. Also, at this time, I was unemployed and looking for work. I was volunteering at the Baptist Church of  Beaufort and I might have started volunteering at the Beaufort County Library. Before I sent her a letter and my poems, she sent me a very thoughtful and encouraging letter, I had given her my address when we talked after her father and my grandfather’s funeral. She told me to keep volunteering because it might lead to a paying  job which it did . She gave some helpful advice about life, based on her life experiences. Also, she told me to always appreciate the unconditional love of my parents which I am still doing today.   The last time I heard  from her was when she  sent me a letter thanking me for sending her my poems and she wrote how much she and her friends enjoyed reading the poems.  Time passes , we become busy and wrapped up in our lives, we think of others but do not let them know that we are thinking of them.  After working at the Beaufort County Library in 1997 or 1998, I walked to my home and was greeted by my Mom who was sweeping the steps . I was not expecting to see her there and I was not expecting what she told me. Aunt Hope committed the cruelest form of irony, Hope committed suicide. This was not the first or last time that I lost someone I knew to suicide.  I did not attend her funeral. I wanted to remember her in happier times. I still have her letters and they encourage me to be strong. When I am about to fall asleep, her spirit is watching over me. 

     Get those ideas from the brain-experiences and imagination, just stare at the blank page and begin typing,, words appear,, that is how the process goes. What shouldI I write now? If I write about friends, they will recognize the memories and be wary of talking with me-lest they want to be mentioned in the future. If I make something up, have to make it seem realistic so that whoever reads might think what I write could happen. On the other hand, have to add something so it might not seem too true- embellish a few details or make it seem like a dream. Nothing really happened, just filling in space. What I am doing now, waiting for something to come from somewhere, an action that would cause a reaction- crying, laughter or empathy.  This could come from an awkward situation that everyone has experienced or a sudden unexpected loss or a familiar scene that reminds the reader of their childhood or where they live or someone they know. 

   Once upon a time in a land far away or  in a place nearby, a writer muses, hoping to find inspiration from whatever is around him or her. He or she could be facing a sunset, watching the waves break and water rushes onto the beach sand that is almost white in color, the tide begins.  Another scene, he or she could be sitting in a cafe or restaurant or bar,  having a cup of mocha or a glass of wine, looking out  at the tree lined streets and the different kinds of people walking past , wondering what stories are going on in their lives.  The sky could go from clear blue to dark,  storm moves through ,  rain falls or wind blows, people seek shelter or take out their umbrellas or if the wind is really strong-umbrellas are blown inside out. Add a person to the scene and there is a conversation, could be friendly with people smiling and nodding and seeming interested in what the other is saying. Something could happen,  voices rise. There is an argument, people disagreeing, one yelling at another. Someone walks away and soneone sits alone. Or a different settting, someone could be out in the country walking along a two lane road located in a valley  of green grass near a mountain. Someone could walk up that mountain  where the road twists and turns until one reaches the top. Then, one looks out and sees the green valley with other mountains and trees.. There are barns, animals and people below. The most important part of the story is the end.  There has to be an ephhany or a point in the story preferably happy so the reader feels that he or she has not wasted their time by reading this. Also, there has to be a quote tthat the reader remembers like words appeared then disappeared-this is how a story ends. He, said ” Hello”. She said ” Goodbye”. The writer is left to muse.

New Orleans is hot and humid especially in the summertime. The best way to cool down is to stay inside your house or step into an art gallery or record store where there would be music playing. On the weekends, my Mom would drive me to Jackson Square in New Orleans . The historic Saint Louis Cathedral is located there.  Around the square, artists have their paintings for sale. Sometime in 1988, I bought my first painting by an artist named C, Passage. The painting was of the garden at the Hotel Maison Deville in the French Quarter. He was selling the painting for $75.  I wanted the painting at a cheaper price so I stood there and kept looking at the painting. I told him how much I enjoyed the colors. Whatever I said or did must have worked because he offered the painting for $35. I still have and enjoy this painting for almost thirty years, it’s propped on a shelf in my house.  My Mom took me to see the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Irma Thomas at either Audubon Zoo or park. I was introduced to the traditional  New Orleans jazz of sax, trombone, horns, and drums with an uptempo rhythm that made you feel good, I met the members of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band afterwards and told them how much I enjoyed their music. I enjoyed the rhythm and blues  songs of Irma Thomas. I was very fortunate to have someone with great musical taste, glad my Mom took me to see the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Irma Thomas. For my sixteenth birthday, I wanted to go to the New Orleans Jazz& Heritage Fesitival. At the time, I was into Robert Cray who had a popular song  ” Smoking Gun”.  Sometime in May at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage festival, I was lucky to see Etta James, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and Robert Cray.  I was familiar with Etta James. My Mom had a copy of her great live album called ” Rocks The House” which had great tracks like ” Seven Day Fool” or ” Something’s Got A Hold Of Me. She also did a cover of “I Just Want To Make Love To You” by Jimmy Reed. Watching Etta James at the Jazz and Heritage festival was great. About thirty or more years after ” Rocks The House”, she still had a great voice and stage presence, soulful and rocking.  After Etta James, it was the Fabulous Thunderbirds who featured the older brother of Stevie Ray Vaughn named Jimmy.  The band played their style of Texas blues with a rocking feel. My favorite songs were ” Tuff Enuff” and their version of ” Wrap It Up” which was originally done by Sam& Dave.  The Fabulous Thunderbirds wrapped up their set. Then, Robert Cray took the stage and played songs from his recent album ” Strong Persuader” which featured ” Smoking Gun” and my personal favorite ” Right Next Door( Because Of Me). He played some older songs like ” Bad Influence”.  By this time, I was close to the stage and had a great view of the band, this gave me a great memory. Over a year later , my first music review for the Maury High School newspaper in Norfolk would be Robert Cray’s followup to ” Strong Persuader” called ” Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark” . Twenty seven years after seeing Robert Cray in New Orleans, I would see him perform at the Peace Center in Greenville. When I moved to Mandeville,  one of the first songs I bought was the new single by Phil Collins and Philip Bailey called ” Easy Lover. The song had a great bass guitar line and guitar parts. The drumming was very good. I enjoyed the vocals of Phil Collins and Philip Bailey. Naively, I dedicated this song to someone at a junior high dance, I later found out what the lyrics meant. I thought she would enjoy the song because it was danceable and this sounds cliche-it had a great beat or rhythm.  This was a teachable  moment for me.  After that, before dedicating a song, I would listen to the lyrics so I would not make the same mistake.  Someone would not get the wrong idea, become annoyed or upset and have their boyfriend talk to me.  Back to Phil Collins and Philip Bailey, I was familiar with Earth, Wind and Fire and Genesis. I had heard ” Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind  and Fire and ” That’s All” by Genesis on the radio. I wanted to know more about the band called Genesis. This is hard to believe for people who are teenagers now. There was no internet or music app where you could learn about bands, you had to read books or magazines to find more information about older and newer bands.  I bought a book about Genesis and was shocked to learn that Peter Gabriel was a member of this band.  Genesis had a guitarist named Steve Hackett who played on their earlier albums. Steve Hackett would be my first concert experience when he would play at the Saenger Theater with GTR in the summer of 1986.  At the time GTR’s big song was ” When The Heart Rules The Mind”. My brothers attended the concert with me. The opening acts were Steve Hackett playing acoustic material from his solo albums and his former band Genesis and Steve Howe who was a member of GTR playing acoustic material from his solo albums  and from his other band called Yes.  To be honest,  I enjoyed Steve Hackett’s acoustic material played on a guitar with nylon strings, had a mixture of Flamenco and Classical like Segovia, relaxing and engaging. Years later, I wrote him a letter and told hm how  much I enjoyed his music and that his music inspired my poems.  He wrote me and told me that he was glad that he inspired my poetry. Also, I have autographed copies of  his later albums-” From The Tunnel’s Mouth ” and ” Wolflight” . A good example of his acoustic playing are his albums ” Bay Of Kings”, “Momentum” and ” Metamorpheus”.  While on the subject of Genesis, I was introduced to Peter Gabriel who was the original singer of Genesis by purchasing his albums at Sound Shop at the Hammond Mall and at a local record and tape store called Sound Trak in Mandeville. The two albums I purchased and enjoyed were Peter Gabriel 3 or the melting face cover and Peter Gabrel 4 or known as ” Security”. My favorite songs on 3 were ” Games Without Frontiers”, ” Not One Of Us” and ” Biko”. ” Games Without Frontiers” introduced me to the vocals of Kate Bush.  I enjoyed the  lyrics about children playing silly games. I could identify with the lyrics of ” Not One Of Us” -not feeling you were part of the group which made me feel better. Someone knew how I felt. The song ” Biko” made me aware of the death of anti -apartheid activist Steve Biko in 1977. The song inspired me to learn about the anti-apartheid movement which was the South African version of the civil rights movement in America. I was familiar with some of the songs on 4 or “Security”, I remember hearing ” Shock The Monkey” when I lived in California. The opening track of the album” Rhythm Of The Heat” had this percussive beat that reminded me of Senegal, though the drummers were from Ghana.  The other track I enjoyed was  “Wallflower” which was either about a political prisoner or a patient at a mental hospital. It may have been before or after purchasing the album that I heard instrumental tracks from this album and the previous album  while watching  the film “Birdy” , Peter Gabriel composed and performed the music soundtrack for the film. ” Birdy” was based on  a book by William Wharton. After  seeing the film, I read the book by William Wharton. He has been an influence on my writing and is one of my favorite authors. In Norfolk, I would read a book called ” Dad”  by William Wharton that I enjoyed and I could identify with the characters. The book is about three generations in a family-the grandfather, father and grandson. Each chapter is told from a different perspective. It might be the grandfaher talking in one chapter. The next chapter might have the father who is the son of the grandfather talking.  The chapter after that would have the grandson talking. Though they were different ages, they were going through the same issues, dealing with the world around them.  At the time when I was living in Norfolk, my grandfather was living with us so I could identify with the characters.  Years later, while working at the Beaufort county library, I found a hardcover first edition of the book in the free book section. I picked the book up and took it home where I enjoy rereading the book.In 1986,  I was listening to a Classical station from the University of New Orleans.  The station would play avant garde composers like John Adams or Philip Glass. I enjoyed the minimalistic and complex compositions by Philip Glass. In the summer of 1986, I read that Philip Glass would be giving a lecture and presentation at Loyola University. I asked my Mom to drive me there so I could attend the event. Philip Glass gave a lecture where he discussed his compostions and played excerpts from his operatic works. After the lecture , there was a question and answer session, I asked him what album would he recommend as an introduction to his compositions. He recommended ” Glassworks”.  Also, I asked for his autograph . He graciously obliged and gave me his autograph which I still have. Lastly, a record shop I would frequent in the French Quarter was Record Ron’s which was owned by a big intimidating yet friendly man named Ron. He had gray hair in a ponytail and a beard. I made many purchases at his store. This was my introduction to obscure bands like Jade Warrior and Nektar. The reason why I bought these albums is that they were cheap and I liked Jade Warrior’s album covers.  Record Ron had a great promotion or incentive for customers. If you saved your bags from Record Ron’s- a minimum of ten bags would get you a free album. So I saved my bags until there were ten. Then , I received a free album. Also, I had him sign the bag which had an illustration of him. I still have the bag. The heat of New Orleans inspires a rhythm of  creativity of art and music.. I was fortunate to hear the different sounds of music and appreciate art from Jackson Square.