What a Long strange trip it’s been…Happy New Year 2018

What a Long strange trip it’s been


It is almost a new year as I start this writing. Maybe it will be the New Year, year of the Dog by the time I post this. Year of the dog, btw, is suppose to be a good year for me. I am not dog year, I am Tiger but we are compatible. Going by Chinese horoscopes. Which I have dabbled into. But that is another story time… This one is about the changes in life, paths we walk, the many lives, not just one. I am writing a book about the sailing adventure. I had not put in much background about before sailing, maybe this will go in the book…

I was going through some old pictures trying to clean up my iPad which is on the blink 😦 . I found this old shot from when I was in boarding school. A photo of me and my posse. We were a collective of gang members, who formed a mini “club” inside the school. More like, part of a club. We did not form it, not the founders. There were two groups/clubs. We all got along, but just had different members. I never did “get” why the two groups. Human tribal thing?? All the members where from different gangs out in the “world” ( The streets of Philly ). It was at times unpleasant being in this school of thugs. Like when the dorm header, an adult was gone for a weekend off. We the students would get called into the rec room , by the senior in charge for “boxing” which was really just a time for people to get out their grudges they had with other people.
This is were the “clubs” came in handy, making sure things were kept fair. There was a certain style of boxing one followed. I believe the reason for this was so that the school counselors could not see the marks/bruises from fighting. The style was called “creek boxing” two people would bend over, put their heads together and slug it out. supposedly no face shots, but sometimes it did not stay that way. One benefit of these clubs and the school really was that one met members from gangs all over the city. You became friends with them thereby could travel all over the city and drop names when you needed for safe passage. Within “Yin there is always Yang”
I am pretty sure that 90% of the guys that I hung out with there are dead or in jail now. I was not really a formal member of an outside gang perse, mostly in it by default of my area, but I knew most who were. Knowing the guys at the school was a big (hard earned) benefit for my loner travels about town.
Then there was going to sleep and waking up with my toes on fire. Everyone thought was funny watching me wakeup in terror thinking I was going to burning up, from the little fie they had set on my toes with lighter fluid, as a joke…that was really funny to all involved.
Anyway I survived, that, those and other “interesting” times and places in the city of brotherly love. Although many times I thought I would not.
So all this from the picture, got me to thinking, how many, “trips”, “paths” I have been on in this life…
I spent time in Virgina. That was perhaps my favorite part of being a kid. Living and working on the farm and properties of my grandfather. I had no fear of gangs, or people having come from the big city. Also my grandfather was well-known in the area and I was his oldest and favorite grandchild. He owned a farm, a gas station, and beer garden ( sort of like a bar). I worked on/ in all of these places when I stayed with him. I loved it. Open space, greenery, I learn to drive on a tractor and that was my “car” since I could drive on the road with no license. Sometimes it was sort of harsh , and Gramps was pretty strict, but I liked the environment much more than city life.
The layout of my gramp’s places. I am taking this picture standing in front of the service station, on the far side of the house is the Beer Garden, to the left of the house was the farm.
Living in both places gave me a real taste of the yin and yang of living, city vs country, and I could survive in either. Adapting to both when needed is an important lesson. Being at one with your environment is very “Cha’n”, it is how you survive in bad times. My siblings could not, most disliked the country life.
At that time other than playing music from time to time, I was all about fast cars, and wanted my own repair shop, which I had gotten a taste of from working at Gramp’s service station.
Once in LA, where I had always been drawn toward. So fairly young I moved. I worked as a mechanic until the music bug hit me again hard this time. I set out on the musical path, mostly for a time doing R&B. As I started getting more into the California hippie life style that changed over to Rock. Living in Hollywood, and being a musically hippie. Yoga, meditation, camping, skinny dipping, etc etc. I did some coffee houses soloing, trying to get discovered and get a contract. Never happen. But I had fun, I learned stuff.
My next turn-step when I figured out being a working singer songwriter guitar player was not going to happen for me. was to play bass. I really started playing because I wanted bass on some demo tapes I was doing and it was hard to find someone to play what I wanted. This taught me there were a lot of guitar players around but not many bass players. I started playing bass and started getting work with bands. From there went on tour a few times, got some small studio gigs, night clubs, road tours. yeah it was fun. Not much money but some.
The not much money part lead me to think what to do that I could make money and still get to play music. With this thought and a chance encounter with a well-known Martial Artist and TV person put me on the martial art as a teacher/ business path. I had been involved in Martial Arts since my days in high school but never thought of it as anything , but a way for me to protect myself. This person showed me the business side of things. However told teaching was not the way to make a living easy. He ran a health food store, martial art supply store and a MA school. I became involved with the business, ended up as the general manager as well as a teacher there.
This educated me into the world of health, business, herbs, healing, and Chinese Philosophy. I pretty much put aside music at this time. I was all about M.A., and the like, and training. However I still recall clearly a time playing a bass for something at the dojo, and someone saying wow, your whole face being changed when you started playing, you should get back into that…
After a time I was ready to move on from the Dojo, I wanted to set out on my own, I remarried and moved to Va. I became manager of a moving company, taught Kung Fu part-time, worked in a health food store, and played in a band for a very short time. I felt really, really out of place in Richmond, Va and ended up moving back to Ca. having found a job with the same moving company I was with therein Va. The main headquarters was based in Ca. The branch I was going to work for was in the S.F. Bay area.
I opened another Kung Fu school and took up training again with my last Sifu/Sensei. He was from the same style I had been teaching so it was a continuation of my past training. The Chinese Philosophy studies continued, with the addition of Feng Shui, and slowly music came back, with bands and schooling. Slowly becoming more dissatisfied with the business management life of a moving company, I took up graphic design training. After putting myself through college and receiving a degree in design, I became a full-time graphic designer with much struggle, and still playing music when possible.
The Kung Fu school slowly was dying. I was not really a good business man, a good teacher but not a businessman into promotion and the like. I finally got a good job in a large cooperation as a designer and put most of my money into maintaining the school/dojo. This went on for a while, in hindsight too long.
Do to the need for a place to live, I had been living in the back of the Kung Fu studio. I ended up buying a boat, and from that getting involved in the sail boat world. The economy collapsed and I lost most things including my job, condo, etc.
At this point getting up in years it was not easy to find a designer job in a bad economy. I became a security guard, a part-time assistant harbor master, sailing instructor and still taught a small Martial art class at a community center. We lived, now re-married again, in an apt on the beach for a while before moving on to the boat at the marina where I worked. It was the plan at this time, for the last four or five years to move/sail to Japan. The music life had pretty much stopped when after the last band I was with, for several years, the leaders moved to Hawaii. Now it was for me mostly water world, Boating, Kung Fu, Kyudo, Chan/Zen and making ready to go to Japan.
During the disastrous attempt at sailing to Japan, after making it down the coast of Cal., we spent a stormy Christmas in Half Moon Bay Ca.. We were lucky to just make it into the Marina.
Afterwards continuing down into Mexico. There we lived on the boat for four months. From Mexico we set sail for Hawaii. We ended up using the last of our money to fly to Japan after having to abandoning our boat during the rescue at sea. This was our was our home, and dream plans for a new business in Japan, we had to leave it at sea. Having lost steering with at sea with 6 meter waves approaching from a storm, the environment was in charge. There is a saying in Tai Chi Chuan, and the Tao Te Ching “Yield and overcome”…
So now, here we are in Japan, that part really did happen, but not without help ( some of which from people I have never met ) , sacrifices and a lot of effort. What a long strange trip for a little colored boy who grew up in the gang streets of Philly and the farmlands of Virgina to be in Japan, a Chinese Zen Buddhist priest, musician, sailboat instructor, gardener, martial artist, and Komuso.
Life is change. Life itself is interesting and what we want to make of it. Some of my dreams are gone, some are just dormant, some are just out of reach, some have yet to speak. It took a while to have dreams again…now even small dreams are good. They are seeds for life and growth.
Now 2018 is here. I recall thinking when I was a teen how old I would be when the numbers changed to 2000. Now 18 years into it. Back then I did not see me where I am now, in no dream…
All in all though what a long strange trip it’s been. Still the road continues and the river of life flows. One can not control the wind, you can only adjust your sails.
Next …the New Year Kyudo 108 arrow – 2018

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World Naked gardening day


It is said that working in dirt, feeling it, helps cure depression. I can see how that would happen. There is a certain feeling that comes from working with clay, doing ceramics, bring something to life from dirt. Gardening is bring something to life from dirt. I call it the God complex, they have I am sure other names. Anywho, yeah, doing gardening is therapeutic, very Zen active mediation kind of thing, Kyudo, Tai Chi, shakuhachi, kind of Meditation. Other faces of Chan. I heard one of my Chan Shifu recently say that, along with every day life is Chan, Chan is everyday life.
So my Chan gardening meditation project, spring session has started. I thought it would be a one day project but it has turned into three. It is a good golden week project. I will be working with reduced hours for a while, so on another level it is good to be planting food. Helps to eat fresh, save money, eat healthy. I do not have enough space to really be serious about growing. However herbs, tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplant, teas, can be grown easy and enough to be worth the effort as harvested.
It took me travels to three places for soil, food, misc. It was a large undertaking.
I am putting more effort into the garden this year. Last year was weak, very weak. The first year was better. This year I am adding more organic fertilizer, but of a different type. We’ll see if that makes a difference. I am also setting up a computer sheet, showing what was planted where, and what date. I will not rely on guessing what was growing. I tried labels, but they come off, get wet, something. This is a better idea…so far.
This time I have a chart with pictures as well. This way I can recall the seed. Don’t know if I can find these again, i got them from a place in northern Ca called the seed bank. It is an old bank changed to a retail seed store. I have my oldest in contact still friend living in the same town, so there is a chance of a repurchase. God be willing and the creek don’t rise.
I finished up the planting yesterday. It was a three day task. The downer of two of those day was my trip to the dentist. First time in many years. I need work. 😦 Three shots on day one! My mouth was a wreak trying to take a Shakuhachi class afterward. I also ended up chew my cheek flesh a bit, when eating and not being able to feel. It made the evening not too pleasant.
On the third day a cold struck ! Maybe from the dentist…the chill change in the weather, stress from being in the chair, holding on for dear life. Actually, I started thinking about Kyudo, if I can remain relaxed while this guy is digging in my mouth, I can easy stay relaxed when at Shinsa. Although, being relaxed at shinsa is not my issue, hitting is….I digress
So yeah the third day. I heard that May 2nd is World Naked Gardening day. I thought, wow, perfect timing. As I am finishing up today. So I joined in the celebration. I took a couple of photos, because you know the saying, if there is no pictures, it never happened.
So the first picture, I could not find my tripod, so I took it while holding the camera.
I was called away afterward so I could not get back to working until after the dentist, and my shakuhachi class via skype from Chicago. That is kind of different iznnit! Lesson from Chicago on a Japanese instrument, while I am in Japan. I am learning one certain song that is why. I need this in order to get the Komuso experience …coming soon. Oops , digression, the picture, yeah, so I got back out to finish up, I found my trip so I was able to get a full shot, it was a little dark though. Oh, well…

I am looking for a good harvest this year. I have some ideas in place that I have been thinking on from the last couple of plantings. The practice is evolving.

Things change…

1960s – As a youth I spent time with my Grandfather, in Virginia. There was a “white high school” and a ” colored high school”, a party line telephone. We had no central heating. Gramps wore “long johns”. I thought dang seriously old Man’s style. It was part of my ” chores’ to get the house heated in the mornings. We had wood stove and kerosene heaters. I would have to walk across the yard to our gas station, open the shop and get the oil container filled up, the back to the house to start the fires …

2017. I can speak with someone on the other side of the world on my phone that I carry in my pocket, there has been a “colored” President, now a new one who is backed by the KKK, we have no central heating in Japan, I am still filling the kerosene cans, and starting the fire,…
The difference… I wear the “long johns”

Mindfulness training


Back to muscle work

It had been a while since I had been working for the silver center doing landscape work. They had not called, which was really ok with me, but now things had slowed down with the boating and money was get tighter. LZ called to find out what was up with no calls from them. They said they thought I was busy so did not bother. Hmmm, well whatever. She told them I had time, they said they still needed help and to pick the days I wanted to work. So I am back to the labor job, on Monday and Weds. I figured that was good. Two days a week and a break in between the days. It is good, at least I can depend on them for work for this time of year still at least until year-end. I no longer have any trust in the Yacht company. More on that later.
Monday and Weds I work for them, the Silver center, Tues I do Kyudo, Friday I work at the boat yard. Thursday I can choice to do nothing or something. Plus I have flexibility to switch as needed. Cool. This is a good time of the year to do this outside work. Much cooler. This summer was brutal so I am glad I missed out.
Everyone was pleasant when I came in to work. A few of the old guys I like came over to talk a bit. They said I lost weight, etc, etc. One change I noticed is before I would be the only one doing warmup stretching when I got there. Now they have group warm ups in the morning before going out. One guy I noticed was not really putting any effort into the warm ups. I teased him about it afterward. He laughed and said some things I did not understand , but I got the drift.
As before I am the guy on the rake detail. It is fine I am used to it now. Although I have developed calluses on my hand even through the gloves. I am bummed about that. What is really funny is as I am the youngest, I am the muscle guy for lifting. Little me, I am put on the parts that need some strength to do, loading the truck, pulling a load of grass and such up a hill to the truck. It is kind of funny. I look at it as training, some physical work is good, more so at my age, it is a good thing.
So any way, it is simple work no hidden agendas, I am sure there is some ego thing involved, because people are people and there is the “sempai” thing with the Japanese, meaning the new guy vs the seniors. I am somewhat beyond that being a Gaijin, it is not so much in my face. I get a pass, sort of. But I see it with others.
Anyway, it is a good Zen practice, being in the moment, dealing with only the task at hand. Still my mind wanders and I am constantly bringing it back to rack the leaves, pulls the rope, lift the branches, load the truck, not interesting , not fun, just is work, paid work, and Motion Zen training. Sort of like walking meditation…being fully present in what you are doing.



Virgina, was the main section, #2 of the trip. Here we go to see my mother in the nursing home. I am not going to say much on that because it is personal stuff and no concern to most. So, Just a bit. I asked my Mum if she knew who we were ( she has Alzheimer/Dementia ) , when my brother and I went. She surprised me and said yes. Big shocks as she usually does not know anyone. Also the next day we had a small conversation, she was not all there but there was a couple of times she was shockingly aware of what I was saying and about who/whom.

After seeing my Mum on the first day we went to see my Uncle, my Father’s brother, the last of my father’s generation. Uncle Fred is 88 , a year younger than my Mum, but he is still sharp alert and getting around on his own. It was a short visit with him as we had to travel more that evening.
We headed further south into Virginia, my cousin, a school supervisor had sent me a Skype message. I had replied back but got no answer. My brother and I had to drive by my cousin’s house on the way to my mother’s property. I saw some people in the yard and it turns out to be my Cuz and his wife. We were all shocked at the timing which worked out well. He was off and in town that week, they were going the next day On a vacation to Florida. He was just home to do some yard work and such. They usually stay in South Carolina were they work. So anther connection came together for my fast lane tour to America. Chatting with my cuz was fun, he, his wife and I all went to high school together for a time.
from the porch cousins-and-highschool-mates-in-jamaica-virginia_28595123976_o
One of the things I found out was there was an earthquake there which shocked everyone. Yeah, it is a changing world on many levels.
After a while we moved on. We went by our family land and I also stop at my mother’s parents gravesite. Something I do every time I am there. We had problems locating one of the properties as it had been grown over by pine trees and such. 

However after a time I figured it out. From there we went to another piece of land. This is the one with a house on it I helped. Built when I was a child, and almost died in the process , almost having the tractor I was driving almost flip over on me. As it turns out there was someone living in the house, we had mot been aware of this.
My Uncle, my mother’s remaining brother, had not been in touch with us concerning the place. It was the daughter of his girl friend living there. Not a problem, actually good since someone was there taking care of the property.
This also was lucky as we wanted to get in touch with my Uncle, my mother’s brother but had been unable to. She took care of that and got us hooked up. We drove over to his girl friend’s house and met him.
There was another cousin on the list of people I wanted to see however, time was running out. Therefore I skipped the last visit. We returned to my father’s brother’s place and encounter a cousin I had not seen in many many years. Then we went again to the nursing home to visit our mother. This was sad and joyful…I said my goodbye.
The next day I spent just hanging out at my brother’s. Sleeping, teaching my brother how to meditate, organizing for the next section of the trip, introducing my brother to ZatoIchi and also getting the real story on my sister’s behavior concerning my mother estates.

The trip was joyful and sad…

Next up going back to Calli



Balance is life,

One thing that Kyudo, Tai Chi Chuan, and Chan/Zen have in common is balance. Harmony of life, living, eating, etc. nature is balance. Living well, is balance. 
I went to Kyudo yesterday, it was a fairly good day. I did not do great, but I did ok. I started out good, slipped some, then again good, still by the end of the day, I had shown some improvement. Looking at my score tracking record, there has been improvement, slow steady over all. Some days somewhat sucky, but they balance out. So overall I felt good about my practice. What had been bumming me out of late, is not so much the thought of not passing the Shina, but that I was not Improving. I will pass the shinsa at some point as long as I keep improving. For some time I felt like I was stalled, even back sliding. Now I see some improvement I am ok with whatever happens, I will do my best. 
Yesterday, today and tomorrow, I am free to practice or do whatever. As I said yesterday I went in to the dojo, practice some 3-4 hrs. I even got in a trial Resha run in a Shinsa setting with my sempais. I only had one correction which was my step back after my first shep was too large.
I changed my string for the Shinsa. I am using a hybrid now, that is a new direction for me. We’ll see how that works out. I also found out the reason many of the seniors are in training mode is the big event in Kyoto in April. Not only is there a Tai Kai but advance level Shinsa as well. Now to figure out which day to go. If I can get a cheap enough ticket I will go two times, once to watch the Hanshi’s shoot, then for my sempais.
So today, I had given some thought to going in again to the dojo and putting my nose to the grindstone. I have been thinking about TaiJi principle as of late and Kyudo, as one can tell from my last post. Part of that Philosophy is yielding to overcome, relaxing under pressure. Like one must do when in Kai, so I decided not to go to the dojo. I would get in some balance. After my morning Chan Ding ( ZaZen) I went and work in my garden, weeding, cutting, a little replanting, feeding, cleaning. Getting some things ready for spring planting. It was a good choice. Reconnecting with the earth, re-grounding with the earth element, physically, mentally, Spiritually. 
Afterward, I went over to the Shinto grounds for some Taiji and Fu practice. After a round of TaiJi, and Hsing-i, I felt much much better. I threw in a bit of Mantis for good measure. Ahhh. I felt like my old self. I returned home. 
shinto mantis
I had sent up Makiwara shooting stand before I left. So my next thing was to get in a few rounds of working on my draw and basics without the pressure of a mato. Excellent choice for the day. LZ is off out of town with her sister. So I have the peace of the place to myself, internet Jazz with dinner. Some Shakuhachi practice and a little reading later on then to bed.
Tomorrow in to the dojo early for a half day or more of practice. Then I am scheduled for working the two following days. Next week I have only one day of work, which is doing some gardening for the sailing school owner. After that it is a week of intense Kyudo training

Onomichi, Hiroshima


A while back, a couple of months, we took a trip to Hiroshima, via bullet train, regular train, shuttle, and ferry to reach a very nice hotel LZ had found. Great view ! Great Food ! Spoke Spanish, Tagalo, English and Japanese with some of the staff. This is the photo blog for that, it took me a while to get it together. Sorry to my three readers.
LZ has a new p/t hobby/job, doing reviews on hotels and resorts for a magazine so we will get to visit some different places, for free! Cool or what!

Calm before the storm

Calm before the storm – Pre-typhoon training

I got my chocolate butt in gear early today and hustled on over to the dojo. I needed to get there early to meet my Sempai, the one who plays Shakuhachi. I decided to bring my lighter 13 k yumi. It is beatup, cracked, fiberglass and shorter than my Sansun, but it works. It is also forgiving of my long draw since it is a glass. 
My reason for getting in early was two fold.
One: a Typhoon is coming. Osaka is on Typhoon alert. It is due to hit tonight. I wanted to be home and settled in way before it was due, just in case the trains stopped running.
Two: my Sempai is lending me his extra Shakuhachi ! Cool, cool cool! I have been looking forward to playing on a real one for a while. The PVC one on loan from my Sensei does the job, but the sound quality is lacking and the feel of real Bamboo. Somewhat like shooting with a TakeYumi over a Fiberglass one. Transfer that feeling to sound and you will get an idea what I mean. That went well. He gave me a couple of points to know about it then said Ganbattemasu! Awww yeah. Real quality Bamboo Shakuhachi are like quality TakeYumi, expensive! This was a good score to get. 
On to Kyudo…
I saw another club member had his Takeyumi wrapped on bamboo at a couple of places because it was over 50 yrs old and coming apart. He told me the local shop in Osaka did it. The sempai group saw my taping of mine and got a laugh. It is funny looking. I will take it into the shop next week or so and have them bamboo wrap it. It will at least look better.
So I shoot with it for my two hour practice today. I must say, my score did not really improve, however my grouping did some what. I need to adjust my aim to the new Yumi.
Also it felt better. I was able to correct my form from DaiSan into Kai and my release was smoother being in the right position. I also noticed much less dropping of the left arm when shooting, and less opening of the hand. Yeah, so using a light Yumi is the way to go for now. Watase Sensei was in today, his correction on me was not the usual, relax your shoulders that I get and was reminded of at the TaiKai the other day. Today it was only draw more and lower my right elbow. I was going too high backward and need to give it more downward angle. I tend to make my Kai parallel to the floor. However it is not. There is a slight angle upward from the right elbow to the left tenouchi. Another thing I found when a another Sempai corrected my tenouchi is that it is easier to adjust my thumb angle pressure with a smaller diameter Yumi. Also easier to adjust and hold my left arm correct in and out of Daisan. Yeah, I need to switch Yumi. At least until my skill level improves. Depending on the next three weeks, shooting with the light Yumi and if the repair cover up looks better, I still may join the Shinsa in Sept. I have to decide by mid Aug.
The wind builds, the typhoon cometh.
I have prepared the garden on the back forty best I can without moving things inside. This is another type of test for the home garden.

Earth connection, life connection

There is something grounding (pun intended), spiritual about growing one’s own food. Even if it is just a small amount, besides the benefits of being organic if you chose. and why should you not, food is medicine, the taste is most times 100% better. Even in the case of just herbs, for seasonings and spices, having fresh herbs on hand is outstanding.
My front garden is doing well. I have added another mini water pond to the collection, so it is now complete as far as wanting to add stuff. Well stuff that grows anyway. There is always upkeep, weeding, trimming, but the rewards are internally great. That connection to growth and life force, priceless. With planning and some effort it is not really costly, or I would not have it. It is a living art piece, project. Other than the mosquitoes it is pain and stress free.
This year as I have said I have added a veggie garden to the back balcony. It is working out. In ways better than the front for growing veggies as the bugs are not there eating away my efforts. I planted a couple of things in a small space in the front, the bugs attacked them badly! The basil was pretty much killed. I save a couple of cuttings and planted some in a pot on the balcony, it has been reborn. The shiso was also attacked, but it seems to be recovering now. Growing faster than the bugs can eat or they have lost interest, or the natural repellant I sprayed is working. Whatever the reason it is growing fairly well now.
I so far have gotten three eggplants , some lettuce for several salads from the back garden. Yesterday I got a small amount of Cuttings from one of the basil plants and made pesto. I took it to my Japanese class with some Humus chips, they loved it!
I also served up some basil, tomato, olive, mozzarella lady bugs, which also went over big.
Yeah I do other things beside, Kung Fu, music, Zen, Kyudo, Sailing, blogging. Life is short I intend to enjoy whatever I can, while I can. Sometimes things do not work out, like the sailing to Japan plan, and sometimes they do. Some days the sun shines, some days it rains. THe trick life is finding joy dancing in the rain, not just waiting for the sun. Enjoying what you have, not lamenting over what you do not.
In Kyudo it is not just hitting, it is the act. Life is not just the destination it is the journey. Victor Wooten says in his book that each note, is a song. This is in keeping with the philosophy of Shakuhachi, enlightenment lies in each note. Enlightenment lies within each arrow, each shot, in the art of Kyudo, each sprout of a new seed. Everything is connected.