” I’m fine because I have my house keys, I can go back to class.” After saying, that , I had my second seizure and then my third seizure in the ambulance . The first seizure happened in an English literature class at Mandeville High School in September, 1987. The three seizures happened in one day. This was the lowest and worst part of the bad years between 1985-1988. In the summer of 1986, I had started crying for no reason and becoming withdrawn. Occasionally, I would faint or lose consciousness. My grades were declining in junior high due to poor study habits and a teacher noticed I was daydreaming and had to be told ” to get to work”. Maybe, I was just being a teenager and rebelling or acting out. Looking back, these behaviors might have been early symptoms of a neurological disorder or  Epilepsy. I thought I was depressed so I asked my parents if I could see a psychologist. Perhaps he or she could listen to my problems and help me get back to being healthy and improving my mental behavior.  I started seeing a psychologist who  had a practice near our subdivision . We were having a great patient and doctor relationship. It was great to be able to trust  someone with your deepest thoughts  and have someone who would help you understand what was happening. The reason why I stopped going to  the psychologist was because of an incident that happened there. During a session, he asked me to bring my junior high yearbook. I assumed he was going to point out the many autographs  I had acquired and tell me how much people liked me and I was not alone . The opposite happened. I gave him the yearbook and he looked at the autographs and told me that what they wrote about being my friend was not true. Now, I get his point,  some people will write things to be polite and there is no deeper meaning. Most people my age would  have become angry or upset. I sat there, stunned. That was the last time I wanted to see and talk to a psychologist. After that, being alone and figuring things out for yourself seemed like a healthy alternative and  a better way of living. I hope the psychologist has improved his beside manner with his patients. The other bad thing that happened was that I wrecked our family’s new car. The summer of 1986 was when I was making the transition from junior high to high school. I thought it would be a good idea to take driver’s education so I could learn how to drive and get an early start getting adjusted to high school. My driver’s education teacher was the head coach of the basketball team that I would  manage.  I made friends with my classmates who were already attending high school and my classmates enjoyed talking with me. The driver’s education teacher rode along with me and we travelled on I–12 and some various roads around St. Tammany parish,  I was very nervous and anxious while driving, his hair might have turned gray or white while driving with me. While I was attending driver’s education, my parents had just purchased a brand new blue Honda Accord, they had not made the first payment. I was not doing well in class. My Dad was out of town and returning the next day. Mom thought it would be a great idea if I practiced driving in the new blue Honda Accord around the subdivision, using a stick shift. We were driving down the roads where there were no houses or  cars. There was a slight mist.  Mom was impressed with my driving. I handled the stick shift well. I was using the correct signals and was a very calm and relaxed driver.  All that changed when we turned into a cul-du-sac or dead end. I had never driven on a cul-du-sac before. I panicked and froze. I stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake and slammed into a tree. My Mom and I were fine but the car  was wrecked and needed repairs. Complicating things, I did not have a permit so when the police arrived to make a report. My Mom had to tell them that she was driving. Also, the next day my Dad would be returning home to find out his brand new car had been wrecked, not a pleasant situation.   The day arrived and my Dad returned.  That day, I was a coward, turned out the lights and locked my bedroom door. I was expecting my Dad to be angry and upset, I would have felt that  way, his reaction surprised me. I remember him opening the door of the house and calling out my Mom’s name.  She started to cry. He asked her, ” What happened?” She replied, ” We wrecked the car!” There was a long pause and silence, I think he left the room to collect his thoughts and take a deep breath. His next question, ” Was someone hurt?” She replied, “No”.  There was a long silence and then he said,” Glad no one was hurt. We can repair the car” . Since then, I have never driven a car,  I do not feel comfortable driving. I am aware of my limitations. This is why I walk  everywhere and choose to live in a place where I can walk to eat, shop and go to appointments within walking distance. The last thing that happened that made this the bad years was my Dad  was going to be transferred to Norfolk, Virginia and we were supposed to move with him. Unfortunately, the real estate market took a downturn. It was the summer of 1987.  I was ready to start over. I would have to wait for ten months before heading to Norfolk, Virginia. On the first day of school, people were surprised to see me , some would ask, ” You’re still here?.  The same month that I had my first music reviews published in the high school newspaper, I had my first Grand  Mal  epileptic  seizure  during an English literature class at Mandeville High School . After I had collapsed and lost consciousness, instead of calling an ambulance and rushing me to a hospital, whoever was  there asked one of the coaches to take me to the office where I could sleep it off. When I awoke at the office, I felt my house keys , walked out and told the secretary that I felt fine. I collapsed and had another seizure. The secretary promptly called  the ambulance. I had my third seizure while in the ambulance. The rest of my school year in Louisiana was a long and miserable one.  The bad years ended in April, 1988 when I moved to Norfolk, Virginia.

Kick the ball into the net and hit the ball off the tee, my life in sports started in northern Virginia. I was a proud member of the Kings who were an indoor soccer team of the Dale City Recreational Center. Our uniforms were black with white lettering. Later, I played outdoor soccer with the neighborhood outdoor soccer teams called the Cobras and the Aztecs. My brief taste of glory happened on the last game with the Aztecs. An opposing player was moving down the field with the ball. I used my legs to steal the ball and head toward the goal. I kicked. The goalie missed and the ball rolled into the net. I was so excited and so were my teammates. They thought I had  scored a goal.  This was not the case, the ball touched a teammate’s leg so my teammate made the actual goal.  On the bright side, I was credited with an assist.  I enjoyed playing T-ball with the neighborhood team called the Pirates. Our uniforms were purple and white. We were named after the Pittsburgh Pirates who won the World Series. T-ball is different from baseball. Instead of a pitcher throwing a curveball or fastball to you, you had to hit a ball that was placed securely on top of the tee which was a standing pole. It sounds easy but when you are young, it is very easy to miss hitting the ball. According to a clipping from the local paper from years ago,  I hit a triple and single, meaning players  on my team scored runs or points due to someone on the opposing team not being able to catch the ball that I hit into left, center or right field. My career in soccer and T- ball lasted from 1978-1980.  I was active in physical education in elementary, junior high , and high school. My next involvement in team sports happened at Mandeville Junior High. One of the players on the junior high football team asked me if I wanted to be a manager.  Naively, I thought I would be like a baseball manager, have an office and be able to tell the players what to do. Also, I thought this would make me more popular and attractive to female classmates.  I was in for a surprise, I was in charge of equipment and was responsible for making sure that the football team had everything they needed like  footballs, towels, and water to win the game. I relearned something about sports, players did not just play on game day, there were intensive practices before the games. The coaches made sure that the players memorized and knew each play so that they would be prepared when they would play a game against an opposing team. The coaches made sure that I performed my job correctly, making sure I had all the equipment ready on and off the field. They let me know when they were not happy if I did something wrong, they treated me as if I were a player. Our junior high football team did well that year. Before the last game. the head coach called me into his office and told me to suit up or wear a uniform. Against Boyet Junior High, I wore the white helmet with blue shirt and white pants, 20 was my uniform number . I did not play but was happy being next to coaches and team players who appreciated my hard work.  I had so much fun being the football manager, I became the baseball manager. When I attended Mandeville High School, I became the manager of the freshman football team. Our team did much better than the varsity team which did not do that well. We were undefeated but then we lost to Hammond High School. I remember a big varsity football team player came up to me and gave me a hard time about our team losing. I looked at him and said, “Well, at least , we win games.”  He gave me the finger and I walked away. We both laughed. Back then, I was fearless.  The coach of the freshman football team was also the coach of the junior varsity basketball team. He called me ” Fast Andy” because I was quick, dependable and reliable. He told the head varsity basketball coach about me. I became the basketball manager. That year, our school grew in size and was promoted to a bigger and better conference. Unfortunately for Mandeville High School, it meant the other teams were bigger and better. The final scores had Mandeville High School on the losing side.  As a result, the head  varsity basketball coach would lose his temper and become angry at anyone who might be near him during and after a game. Whenever he would take off his jacket, someone was in trouble. Don’t  take it personally, it’s just the moment and not really about you.  When I left for Norfolk, Virginia  due to  our house finally selling after months on the market, he wrote in my yearbook that I was the best helper he had. I wasn’t  so bad. Also, he gave me a Mandeville High School keychain which I still have. At my next school I focused more on academics and literary efforts,  this ended my life in sports.

It happened so  fast, the horse and the cart crashing through the backseat window of the Malibu station wagon.  The station wagon was bought in Lake Ridge and shipped by  a freight ship across the Atlantic Ocean to Dakar.  It was colored beige and had a seat  facing the back window.  Luckily, I was in the front seat and Mom was driving.  We had left a talk by Michel Renaudeau  sponsored by the United States Embassy.  Michel Renaudeau was a photographer whose photos were in many books about  countries. His photography in books about Senegal, The Gambia, Cape Verde, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau , Mali  and Mauritania are on my bookshelf and are treasured souvenirs of my time there. Renaudeau holds the distinction of being the first person I asked for an autograph.  He was surprised, pleased and wrote his name on a card I still have.  Back to the horse cart and Malibu station wagon,  the horse had lost its footing and crashed into the back window of the Malibu station wagon.  A crowd had gathered and police were called. We were nervous and not sure what was going to happen. After talking to the police, it was decided the best way to handle this situation was to drive to the United States Embassy with the driver of the horse cart  sitting behind us in the Malibu station wagon.  It was a weekend so there was usually not someone there.  We waited at the front door with the horse cart driver.  After a few minutes. someone we knew came and helped us. He talked to the horse cart driver and told him in French that he was lucky we did not want to press charges. The horse cart  driver had to find his way home. I hope someone picked him up. After that incident, we were very careful around horse carts.  That was not the only incident that included the Malibu station wagon. When we moved from California to Louisiana. we had no definite idea of what house would be our home.  We carried some valuable possessions in the Malibu station wagon. For me, it was my coin collection and new red shoes that my parents bought me. For my parents and my family, it was jewelry from West Africa and our medical records .  Arriving in Louisiana, we stayed at a motel in Covington that was next to a fast food restaurant.  This was the summer of 1984. Mandeville was known for its seafood festival and my family thought it would be a great idea to see and  taste the food of Louisiana. I remember seeing a local hard rock band called  Strait Face play a cover of ” Sister Christian”.   After walking through the festival, we decided to eat a restaurant called Bechac’s located  across from Lake Pontchartrain. We enjoyed a wonderful meal of Crawfish Etoufee. My parents paid and we walked outside. It was almost nightfall. Unfortunately, someone forgot to lock the doors. What was inside of the station wagon was stolen and could not be replaced-the jewelry from West Africa and our medical records. At the time, I was more upset about losing my coin collection and red shoes.  The West African jewelry and other items could have been found in pawn shops in Washington or St. Tammany Parish.  If I handled the case, this is where I would have looked. After  that, whenever we stepped out of the Malibu station wagon, we always  locked the doors and never left important possessions in there. Malibu station wagon had some great memories. My Mom took my brothers and me from California to South Carolina so we could attend our grandparents fiftieth anniversary and meet up with our Dad. On this cross country trip, we saw Coalinga which had just had a major earthquake and we spent the night in Barstow located in the Mojave. The next day , we travelled through northern Arizona and saw the Grand Canyon. I was surprised to see trees in Arizona, I always assumed it was desert and cactus. The climate is different in northern Arizona.  While staying near the Grand Canyon, we saw Navajos performing tribal dances. We stopped and toured where a meteor left a huge crater in Arizona. In New Mexico, we stopped in Gallup and saw inebriated or  drunk Navajos walking the streets. In Albuquerque, we visited the downtown area where they sold Navajo jewelry. We were denied service at a well-known restaurant chain in Tucumcari, long before they were sued by customers for discrimination. I do not remember much of Texas, Amarillo seemed nice. The best part about Oklahoma City was the Cowboy hall of fame.  Other highlights include visiting Mud Island in Memphis, Tennessee. Mud Island was and still is a place that has outdoor concerts, museums and recreational activities for families. I enjoyed walking around Mud Island. The day we were there, Luther Vandross was playing a concert., We visited the Country music hall of fame in Nashville. On the way back , we took a different route and saw the many dams of Paducah, Kentucky, Dinosaur national park in Colorado, Mormon tabernacle in Utah and we stayed at not one of the best motels in Reno, Nevada.  My parents sold the Malibu station wagon to our postman. Hopefully, he kept the doors locked and was very careful around horse carts.

What inspires me to write? This is a question I am often asked.  My answers could be places I have lived or people I have met or what I would like something to become or anything that comes to mind.   Sometimes when I’m happy, I write very sad lyrics .  Someone who hears my lyrics or reads my poems will realize that they are not alone in feeling that way . When I’m feeling  down, I might write a happy lyric to cheer me up or  make someone feel better.  Some poetic and lyrical works are based on my life experience. Others are works of fiction.  The inspiration can come at any time of the day-morning, afternoon and night.  Sometimes a letter from someone you knew a long time ago can inspire a poem.  ” For Rachel” was written about someone I knew in high school who enjoyed my poetry and encouraged me to keep writing. After high school, we lost contact and went our separate ways. This was before the internet. If you did not have their address or have an idea where they might live, it was less likely to find the person.  I had her address in my high school yearbook. A few years later,  I wrote her a letter and thanked her for encouraging me to be a writer.  I did not expect a response.  A few months later, she replied.  The poem was a reply to her letter. Each line of the poem had five syllables, the number of syllables of her first and last name.  I carefully chose my words.  The poem had five verses. I wanted to offer friendship but not scare her away or make her feel uncomfortable.  Here are two verses that stand out in the poem. The first is ” I can only guess what you have been through,  places you have seen,  the things you have done.,Has it been so long? Tell me about you. I would not forget.”  The poem ends with ” And the memory of you would always stay-your smile , your eyes green with the brown hair down to your shoulders. It would get me through a day without you.”  Later, we reconnected and reestablished a friendship.  She was honored to have a poem written about her but felt that this could be about anyone who has lost touch with someone and gets back in touch with someone. Memory is a common theme in my writing. I am afraid I will forget so I try to remember everything,  the happiness and the sadness. There was the person I met where I worked. She would tell me these things  that would happen in her life, sounded like lyrics to a country  song, heartbreak and lousy situations. This was our running joke between us, I would write a country song about her. Though she made me laugh and made me feel better and brighter, something you never hear in a country song. Her name even sounded like the name of a country singer. The last time I saw her alive, I said she should be a country singer. She replied , ” I can’t sing.” We laughed and I thought I would see her tomorrow.  That night, she was involved in a serious car accident.  She was in a coma and passed away  a year after the accident. I decided to write a poem and mention things  that we talked about at work. At the time, I did not know she was in a very serious condition. These things I remembered , I thought would trigger her memory and she would wake up.  I was also thinking of her family and wanted her family to know that she had a positive impact on someone’s life. Again,  I carefully chose my words, wanted to offer support to the family and friends but not make them upset or uncomfortable. The poem had three verses.  Here are two verses that stand out. The poem begins with, ” When I hear a  song playing about heartbreak and crying. I never feel that way when you would smile at my words.”  The second verse is ” You stand there with light brown hair, the conversations we share, you always make me feel good , days seem bright and better.” The  original chorus was ” I  can’t write you a country song, nothing ever seems to go wrong.”  This sounded like the beginnings of a song. On my way to work, I would walk by a music shop run by a person who played and wrote music. I had this idea of turning the poem into a song. We met and he asked me to add a few lines to the verses and chorus which I did. He gave me about three minutes of music and I had to make the lyrics fit the music.  I had to make sure that I did not go over time given.  Also, I had to  do the vocals. This was a challenge because I could not sing. I practiced for two weeks until everything was perfectly in sync. I counted the time and memorized where the verses and choruses would begin and end. When I felt ready to record, I went to his studio and did the song in one take.  I sent the song to the family and let it go. The family loved the song and went out of their way to pick me up so I could attend a fundraiser held for her. I was honored and touched by their response.  About a year later, I was not feeling well and needed inspiration, this song made me smile and gave me hope . I decided to put the song online and others have enjoyed the song.  The song made the local country charts on an online app or site. These are two examples of what inspires me to write. Sometimes, something as simple as a letter in the mail or memories of a conversation with  a friend can inspire poems and a song.  The results can surprise you and make someone feel better or  brighter. The happiness and sadness, these experiences happen to everyone, we are never alone.

I fell asleep with books in my bed at my house in Lake Ridge, Virginia in 1977. To paraphrase or use a quote from a teacher in elementary school, ” While I’m glad that he enjoys reading, I’m concerned that he is avoiding work that he doesn’t want to do or  situations that are uncomfortable.”  This is true, I used reading as a means of escape. I could visit Madeline in Paris or be with Charlie as he toured Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.  There was a great librarian at Marumsco Hills elementary who inspired students to read  and gave us quizzes where the answers would be found in the various sections of the library. We had to be curious and take the initiative. I was fortunate to be able to reconnect with the librarian and thank her for encouraging me to read . Her actions may have influenced me to work in libraries.  I wanted to be someone who helped people find what they needed and maybe inspire creativity or a passion for learning. I am glad I reconnected, found out she passed away a few years ago.  Take that chance or risk, message someone or let them know the good things that they might have done for you.  One day, someone will be gone and you will not have that chance. These were the directions to our house in Lake Ridge, turn off the main road into the entrance of Lake Ridge, go past the swimming pools on the left-continue on Oakwood Drive for a couple of blocks and then make a right turn on Crabapple court.  Crabapple court was a cul-du-sac or dead end. When you arrived at the end of the court, you would have to turn around and head back up the street. Our house was a white two story house that seemed big but now is quite modest. There was a red painted balcony that was added to the back of the house. This was where I experienced a painful memory. The summer of 1977, I was practicing with the swim team called the Ridgewood Barracudas. The night before the first meet, my parents decided to cook teriyaki beef on the grill. This was my favorite dish. I first enjoyed this meal when we lived in Hawaii.  The sky was overcast, gray and looked like it was about to rain.  There was a jar of gasoline that was used to kill beetles.  My Dad tried starting the fire, the charcoal would not light up. Without thinking and without intent to hurt me, he poured the gasoline on the fire. In a matter of seconds, the fire jumped from the grill  to where I  was standing on the balcony near the door. The fire did go up on my Dad’s jeans but he was safe with no injury. I was not so lucky. I wore a bathing suit and the flames went up my legs causing third degree burns. My Mom screamed and my Dad  saved me from further injury by covering me and putting out the fire. The ambulance was called and I was sent to Potomac Hospital for ten days. My parents stayed with me and brought me a Sesame Street coloring book to draw and books to read. My Dad brought me the teriyaki beef I had missed.  I remember when  the nurses would take me to a hot tub with rushing water and begin the process of debriding. Debriding  is where the charred skin is taken away so  the body can heal and new skin can take its place. I do have a funny memory from my hospital stay. I was wheeled on a gurney and placed next to  a boy my age who had been playing with matches. They assumed we might have something in common. However, I did not set myself on fire.  I made a full recovery. The year after the accident, I was playing  T-ball and soccer. You would never know that I had an injury to my legs.  My parents instilled a  love for museums and the performing arts,  Washington, DC was thirty or more miles away. We would visit the Smithsonian museum, the Corcoran Art Gallery, and plays at the John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts.  Before leaving for Dakar, we saw a Senegalese dance troupe perform at a theater in Washington, DC.  I have an amusing memory about watching a play at the John F. Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts. While my Dad was overseas in Okinawa, my Mom took my two  brothers and me to see a performance of ” Oklahoma!” which was a musical by Rodgers & Hammerstein. I enjoyed all the songs and would sing ” Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin'” for days and months after seeing the musical.  There was an intermission during “Oklahoma!”, my brothers and I decided to go down to the lobby and purchase refreshments. There was a large crowd in the lobby,  people having conversations and waiting in lines.  For some unknown reason, I fainted, this might have been an early sign of a later medical condition. When I was regaining consciousness, I remember two women were talking, one said to the other ” I thought he was faking!” I remember thinking what an unusual thing to say, who would pretend to collapse and faint?  I liked getting attention but not going that far or doing it that way.  While I might have experienced some painful memories, reading and being exposed to museums and the performing arts gave me a means to escape and I became interested in the world around me. This is why I have become a writer. Books are not on my  bed but there are many on a nearby bookcase within reach or on  a computer or electrical device.

When I lived in California, turning on and listening to the radio gave me  an introduction to new possibilities. and  more styles of music.  After Dakar, my Dad was stationed in Alameda. My family and  I lived on the now closed naval station on Alameda.  During this time, I would head over to the Naval Exchange which was was a retail strip mall for people who lived on the base. I would browse  the magazine section,  came across a magazine that covered new wave bands and the burgeoning underground music . The name of the magazine was  Trouser Press.  Through this magazine, I discovered  The Clash and Big Country.  In the summer of 1983, my family and I travelled  from California to South Carolina. While on the east coast, we decided to visit some family friends in northern Virginia. A son of a family friend gave me a  tape of Ramones ‘ Subterranean Jungle”. This had a huge influence on me.  When I returned to Alameda. I tried to find stations that played this kind of music. The first station I listened to was The Quake 99 FM which used to be a hard rock and metal station. I would hear ” Wonderland” by  Big Country, ” The Stand” by The Alarm and  a song ” 10-5-60″ by The Long Ryders. About thirty years later, I would meet the producer of the Long Ryders song while attending a Pat Todd& The Rank Outsiders show in Burbank.  I would get more adventurous and listen to KALX and KPFA , the former being the radio station of Cal Berkeley and  the latter being  a community radio station located in Berkeley.  I remember the first time I heard MaximumRockNRadio in November, 1983.  They were  playing  loud, fast and short music with almost screaming vocals called hardcore punk.  What I enjoyed most was when they played a style of music from the 1960’s  known as garage rock. Take the best qualities of early Rolling Stones The Who and even the Beatles but played by somebody who may not have been as good as those bands. The music was not produced  well, sounded like it may have been performed in someone’s basement or garage-hence the name.  The two bands and songs I remember hearing were ” E..S.P.” by the Beaver Patrol and ” Help Me, Mummy’s Gone” by the Game.  Later I would learn that ” E.S.P.” was a rewrite of ” £,S,D,” by the Pretty Things who are a great underrated band from the 1960’s. The song had  this great melody and guitar riff that I still remember and enjoy.  ” Help Me, Mummy’s Gone”  had this great guitar riff with a guy singing about the bad things his mother was doing. The music was like the early Who or The Creation which was another underrated band from England,  After hearing these songs, I wanted to purchase the music. My Mom drove me to Tower Records in Berkeley where I purchased  Pebbles #11 which was a compilation of obscure American garage rock bands from the 1960’s and featured the track by The Beaver Patrol. I was  unable to purchase the song by The Game until I visited Bomp Records thirty years later and found the song on a conpilation of obscure British bands.  After hearing that  MaximumRockRoll were looking for guest disc jockeys,  I called their number and they very graciously asked me if I wanted to host.  At the time,  I did not have any records that would fit their format. I visited Record Factory in Alameda which is long gone and randomly picked two albums. The first album I picked was ” Over The Edge” by The Wipers and the second album I picked was ” Eternally Yours” by The Saints. Contrary to popular belief , punk music was not popular at the time. I bought The Saints album for two dollars.   On May 8th, 1984  my parents drove me to KPFA  studios where I met Tim Yohannan, Jeff Bale, Steve Spinalli and Ruth Schwartz. For my playlist, I picked ” Over The Edge” by The Wipers and  ” Know Your Product” by the Saints. Tim added songs by Corrosion Of Conformity, The Stalin and  a few other bands. My parents thought the music was loud and noisy. After playing  the songs, I had to tell the title and performer of each song . During this time,  I had a bad stutter or stammer. Surprisingly, I did not stutter.  Tim interviewed me. Because I was only 13 and nervous, I may have babbled or given some silly answers. I was not expecting the interview but I handled it well.  While there, I met a band from Minnesota called Otto’s Chemical Lounge The drummer of Otto’s Chemical Lounge would join  Halo Of Flies. Otto’s Chemical  Lounge were very nice to me  and  gave  me their debut record which was produced by Bob Mould and Grant Hart of Husker Du. The band gave me a press kit which featured flyers from a band that would become Soul Asylum.  While leaving KPFA studios with my parents, I said hello to Jello Biafra from the Dead Kennedys who was entering the studio. MaximumRockNRoll had a magazine and I subscribed for a few years . What I liked most about the magazine was not the fashion, music or politics, it was a way to meet people in other states or lands who shared similar interests in books, movies and music. I still keep in contact with people who I met through the magazine today.  When I moved to Louisiana, an AM radio station had a guest disc jockey contest. I wrote the station a letter and won the conttest. Unfortunately, I never was heard on air, due to some bad luck. The first time I was scheduled to be on the station. New Orleans had very cold weather.  I lived in Mandeville which was located on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain .  The only way to get to New Orleans was on the Lake Pontchartrain bridge. Because the roads on the bridge were closed due to the weather, I could not make it to the station. They very kindly asked me back a second  time.  This time there was lightning and a thunder storm, I managed to make it to the station. I met Beaver Stevens who was a disc jockey for the station.  He showed me what to say and we were having a good time.  At tbe precise moment that I memorized my lines, the station had an electronic malfunction  and was off for the hour that I was supposed to be on air. As soon as my hour was finished , the station was back on air. Because I had written that I enjoyed hard  rock, Beaver Stevens gave me an album by Krokus called ” The Blitz”. He autographed the album and wrote ” You’re a  bad omen.”‘ He meant to be funny and was joking. I hope!   The Krokus album with the autograph is still in my record collection.  1983 and 1984 were the years where I started listening to the radio and changing my music tastes while discovering that I could be a success and failure as a guest radio disc  jockey.  Also, that year, I managed to publish one issue of Alameda Alternative where I interviewed local bands like Intensified Chaos and Special Forces and reviewed albums by Run DMC  and the aforementioned album by the Wipers. My brother did the cover art for the fanzine.   Though the fanzine would last for one issue, this was the beginning of writing music reviews, something I would continue to do in the future. What a change from Dakar!

Some of the best waves I have bodysurfed were at  a beach in Dakar near a mountain with a lighthouse at the very top. Local Senegalese women would sell Ananas ( pineapple pieces) and Nougat(Peanut Brittle). to beachgoers.  For a. nine year old going to  the beach at Dakar,  the biggest surprise and shock was that some of the women were not wearing tops.  It wasn’t the Senegalese women but the women from Europe or someone from the United States Embassy who was the mother of one of your schoolmates  who attended Dakar Academy.  It was hard to concentrate on what  a woman was saying when her breasts would move up and down.  Seeing a woman’s breasts had its downside, the American Club showed a movie called Silent Partner starring Elliott Gould and Christopher Plummer. In the movie,  there  is a scene with a very beautiful nude woman. Being ten or eleven, I was aroused and fell in love. The love affair lasted  for about fifteen seconds. In the next scene, she was decapitated and her head was floating in an aquarium . After seeing this, I was traumatized for a few days.  After going to the  beach, my family and I would return home and have dinner.  Sometimes, my parents would prepare a local dish called  Chicken Yassa, the dish was chicken  marinated with limes, onions, garlic and hot peppers. The limes tenderized the. chicken which was tough,  after a few hours of tenderizing and grilling, the chicken would be tender enough to eat. There was another local dish that consisted of tomato purée, rice and the local fish of the day.  Our family did take some vacations. We visited two countries, Mauritania and The Gambia,  Mauritania is north of Senegal and is more Arabian than African. Either going there or coming  back, we stopped at a Senegalese town called Saint Louis. It was the first capital of French West Africa before Dakar.  The town had French architecture similar to the French Quarter without the bars serving alchoholic drinks and burlesque places.  We had brunch at a restaurant at a hotel in Saint Louis, a delicious omelet with mushrooms.  We arrived at the Senegalese and Mauritanian border, we waited for a ferry for several hours, there were no bridges.  There was not much to see on the road to Nouakchott which was the capital of Mauritania, mostly dust. When we arrived in Nouakchott , we stayed at the guest quarters at the United States embassy . The United States embassy was located next to the Presidential palace of Mauritania. Luckily, there was not a coup or we would have been in trouble.  I remember going to the markets,  we bought a silver teapot and some locally made rugs with some beautiful designs.  We had dinner at a French or Swiss restaurant, I accidentally dropped a plate and the owner  made me feel better by saying  it was a custom in his village for people to break plates. I finished my meal without. breaking another plate. I do not think the owner would have been happy if I did it twice.  The other country we visited was The Gambia. The Gambia is located in the middle of Senegal and bordered by Senegal on three sides.  The Gambia was a former British colony and the people there spoke English. On a side note, Kinte, someone who worked for us was from The Gambia. After a few months in Senegal, Kinte and I went on a journey through Dakar, viewing another side of  the city. We rode the combination bus/taxis that were colored blue and yellow. It was like someone  taking a nine year old from overseas and showing the not so scenic sides of New York City.  I loved hearing the sounds, smelling the various smells and seeing the sights.  Back to The Gambia, we stayed  at an All Inclusive resort that catered to European tourists. We had eggs with Hollandaise sauce for breakfast or a  choice of cereals. We lounged around at the pool, not wanting to stare at the European tourists who chose  to go topless.  Later that night, a misunderstanding brought a comic result,  either I or someone in the family wanted hot chocolate. The people who worked there gave us a puzzled look and then disappeared. After a few minutes, they returned with melted bars of milk chocolate.  If you add milk, it tastes the same. The beaches  there were beautiful and we managed to buy some handcrafted art from The Gambia. We bought wooden figurines of a man and woman. At a local book and gift shop, I asked my parents to buy me a book,  this was my introduction to the Gambian poet and journalist named  Swaebou Conateh. His debut collection of poetry  had an impressive and original title- ” Great  Wrinkles Up  The Sky’s Sleeve”.  In our travels to the beach, Mauritania, and  The Gambia, there was sand , water,  and experiences worth remembering.  In order to experience a country,  you have to see both sides and appreciate both.  I am grateful for these experiences.