Gazing out into the distance,

the hills and valleys below,

wondering about the future,

sun rises and the moon falls,

dreams awaken from the light.

Here are possibilities ,

explore the many landscapes

from shadows to brightest light,

find the one that suits you best,

make it reality.

One upon the precipice,

weather the storm and the stress,

colors fill empty canvas,

expression of nature’s mood

that changes with perspective.

” Hey, you’re sitting in our friend’s seat . He’s gonna be pissed when he finds out!” . This was spoken by a rough looking dude who was playing a game of pool with his friends at the back of the bar. I apologized and quickly moved to the nearest table next to the wall, Hoped that no one would notice me. The reason why I was here in Burbank, California was to see Pat Todd & the RankOutsiders. I have been aware of Pat Todd since 1999 when his previous band, The Lazy Cowgirls, was featured on a compilation that I ordered from Bomp Records. Their music was raw energetic rocknroll mixed with country, like a mixture of Merle Haggard, Ramones and early seventies Rolling Stones. I bought ” Tapping The Source”, “Radio Cowgirl”, “Ragged Soul” and “A Little Sex And Death”. The one album of theirs that made an impression on me was a later album called ” Here And Now:Live!” where they played acoustic versions of their electric high energy rocknroll songs. This album showed and proved that they were talented musicians because some of the songs sound better than the originals on the previous albums, most notably ” You’re Charmed Life’s Fading Fast ” and ” Somewhere Down The Line”. I was also impressed by ” Don’t Count Me Out”, ” Lies” and their version of ” Route 66″. A few months after I bought this album, The Lazy Cowgirls broke up and Pat Todd started a new band called the RankOutsiders. Their first release was a double album titled ” The Outskirts Of Your Heart”. This album had some hard rocking songs like ” Just Another Stupid Guy”, ” November 11th”, ” Hell’s Half Acre” and ‘You Can Yearn Right On”. There were some great surprises – some heartfelt ballads and acoustic songs like ” Where Is She Now?”, “Thanks For The Misery” and ” One Long Breakdown”. This was a brilliant start. About eight years later, Pat Todd& the RankOutsiders released their third album ” 14th&Nowhere” and were going to have the record release party at the Park Bar&Grill, I decided that I wanted to attend the record release party so I booked and boarded a flight from Greenville, South Carolina to Burbank, California. I planned some other activities, toured Warner Brothers studios and visited Bomp Records. I took a taxi from my hotel to the Park Bar&Grill. The place had wooden doors and when you walked into the club, it was dimly lit with a jukebox on the right . The pool table was located in the back. I seated myself at the bar, this was where the showdown almost began. After I moved from the seat at the bar to the table near the wall. I was very nervous, began to think I made a huge mistake. Then, Pat Todd walked through the door. I introduced myself to him. He said that he had heard of me . After that, I was relaxed and began to feel comfortable. Pat sat at my table until he had to perform with the band, We had a great conversation about music and songwriting. He introduced me to the poem ” Bluebird” by Charles Bukowski. The other musicians joined us at the table, I enjoyed meeting Nick Alexander, Rick Johnson and Bob Deagle. Before Pat Todd& the RankOutsiders performed, there were other bands and musicians performing that night. I was introduced to Al Perry from Tucson who played old style country similar to Hank Williams , He was a member of a band called The Hecklers who played songs by Little Walter and the 13th Floor Elevators. He hosts a great radio show called Clambake which can be heard on the radio or the Internet. Another band that played was the Black Widows. This was the big surprise of the night. When they went up on stage to perform , they were dressed in ninja uniforms. I thought it was not going to be good. I was wrong, One of the guitarists was in a band called The Bell Rays, The Black Widows sound could best be described as a mixture of early Ventures(surf instrumentals), Link Wray and early Blue Oyster Cult. They played instrumentals and a member of the band would announce the next song by flipping a sheet of white paper that had the song title, The second to last band of the night was Pat Todd& the RankOutsiders. Due to having an early flight in the morning , I was planning on hearing a few songs and then leaving. They were so good , I stayed for the whole set. The set list was ” Carry N A Torch”, ” Your Sugar Is All I Want”, “Back To The Wind”, “Small Town Rock Ain’t Dead”, ” Dancin’ To A Pack Of Lies”, “Known Ta Stumble, Known Ta Fall”, ‘ You&Your Damn Dream”, ” Sometimes Trouble Has A Name”, ” Long Love Letter”, “Bear In Mind”, ” Where Is She Now?”, “14th&Nowhere”, “Why Don”t You Marry Me?” and ” Route 66″. I know these were the songs that they played because after the band finished playing their set, their drummer, Bob Deagle, gave me a handwritten set list of the songs that is now framed and hanging on my wall. After I returned to Greenville, I wrote Pat Todd and thanked him and the band for being nice to me. He replied and quoted one of my favorite Lazy Cowgirls songs, ” Somewhere down the line, we’ll meet again.” I certainly hope we will.

When you were young,

everything seemed possible.

Now, you’re older,

everything seems uncertain.

Can’t go back to yesterday.

Future starts tomorrow.

Look for the best of today.

The sky was blue

as you used your imagination.

You ruled the world,

found some friends and inspiration.

Can’t go back to yesterday.

Future starts tomorrow.

Look for the best of today.

Clouds block the sun,

cold brings sense of isolation.

Where you find light

is through sheer determination.

Can’t go back to yesterday.

Future starts tomorrow.

Look for the best of today.

Never give up.

Learn to let go.

When you feel down,

don’t let them know.

If you need help,

somebody cares.

You’ll feel better,

give it some time.

Can’t go back to yesterday.

The future starts tomorrow.

Look for the best of today.

This is a tale told before

but some people never learn.

The promise of happiness

replaced by an emptiness.

Have to fill space with something,

a way to always feel high.

Through the veins, eyes and the mind-

find pleasures to block out pain.

This is how some will behave.

When the dream ends, life begins.

Some recover and have hope.

Some drown in seas of darkness.

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-
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 University 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. Unfortunately, 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 music 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 a few seconds 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 Okinawans 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 visiting the beach.  Things were going good and the best was about to happen.