Wednesday, November 2, 2016

My Last Best Friend

Chica, the red, floppy-eared Doby in the soon-to-be-published novel (Rafael) that I’ve just finished writing has actually been my dog, and best friend, in real life.  The descriptions of her; her actions, her behaviors, proclivities, and sensitivities, as described in Rafael are taken from actual accounts of our life together.  Hombre, the red Australian Shepherd in the book has been Chica’s friend and running mate in real life as well.  He is actually two years younger than Chica.  The three of us have all lived together on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountains in California.  Everything else in this novel is fictitious.  My dogs are not.
   Chica and Hombre came from different litters (obviously), Chica being a Doby, and Hombre an Australian Shepherd.  They are both red with tan markings, the same markings, and the same patterns.  Both dogs were the last one’s left in their litters when I found them, and the only ones red in color.  Both were the runts of those litters.  It was providential, and serendipitous, that they both ended up with me.  But it was not coincidental.
   I’m more than sad to say, and in fact I am devastated to even have to acknowledge, that two days ago (the very morning after I finished writing Rafael), Chica, my best friend and constant companion, died suddenly from what I now know was Dialated Cardiomyopathy, a heart condition that affects Doby’s, often without notice, and in disproportionate numbers to any other breed of dog.  She was just seven years old. 
   As is true of many, I have experienced tremendous loss throughout my life; loss after loss along the way; more loss than I can sometimes even bear.  But never have I experienced the kind, or degree, of grief that I have been suffering since losing Chica.  She has given me joy when I have lived, what has too often seemed like, a life of perpetual sadness.  
   She was (is) that significant in my life.

   At about eight in the morning I took the dogs down to the river for a swim, and to let them fetch some sticks in the water; their favorite activity ever.  After about ten or fifteen minutes of play Chica got out of the water, and wandered off about thirty yards away.  She walked around on the river rocks, through, and under bushes, kind of wandering around in circles.  She told me somehow that she was looking for a place to die.  I led her back down to the waters edge and she collapsed to the ground. 
   Chica lost consciousness, went totally limp, her eyes glazed over, and she stopped breathing.  I began to pump her chest, and pour cold water on her from the river.  I tried to breathe for her, but with her long snout it was impossible to seal my mouth around hers.  After a few minutes of this frantic treatment she revived.  I intuited that her heart was not pumping blood to her lungs, and determined that if I left her lying there she would die.  Wanting to get her heart pumping again I raised her up on her legs, held her steady, and asked her to walk with me and Hombre back to the truck to ‘go home’ (knowing that she would feel compelled to try and get home with us).  We walked together about a hundred yards to within about forty yards of the truck, and then she collapsed again.  I ran to the truck to bring it to her.  When Chica heard me start the truck she got up, took about eight more steps toward me and collapsed for a final time.  
   I lifted her into the truck cab and, knowing there was a veterinarian eight miles away from where we were, I took off at about sixty miles per hour on a curvy two-lane mountain road, flashing the emergency lights, honking the horn, and driving on the wrong side of the road to pass the cars ahead of me.  I did everything I could to get us to the vet.  I was too late.  With Hombre by her side, Chica died in the truck about a minute away from the clinic.
   I pleaded with the vet for a hot-shot, some medication, anything that could revive her.  She listened to Chica’s heart, and simply said, “She’s gone.  There’s nothing we can do.”
   I took Chica home, laid her on her bed, and spent the better part of the day just being with her, petting her, comforting her in her absence, comforting myself in her absence, and giving her all the love that I held (hold) in my heart for her.
    I spent the late afternoon/evening digging her burial site.
   Chica always loved to have my scent near her.  Sometimes I’d put my shirt on her bed at night, and she’d lay her nose on it for comfort.  I took off the tee-shirt I was wearing when she passed and pulled her head and front legs through it so that she was wearing it, and could wear it for all eternity.  I wrapped her in her favorite blanket, and then wrapped a white sheet around the blanket.
   I laid Chica to rest where I thought she would like to be. 
   I have been in tears since the river.  And I feel like I will be for the rest of my life.  I have never felt such profound, or boundless, grief.
   But I have never been as inspired by a creature as I have been by Chica.  She has given me love immeasurable, devotion unqualified, and protection at her own risk.  She has given me comfort in times of distress, calmed me in my anxiety, made me laugh when I needed a good release from stress, and has asked nothing in return except to simply be with me.  
   Chica has raised my consciousness, and enlarged and enlivened my heart.  She has been ever-present, and ever vigilant as a guardian for me, for her pal, Hombre, and for anyone else she considered to be friend or family.  I cannot even entertain the thought that she will never be here in my company again.  I see her in every room in the house, in my studio, where she was my constant companion, on the deck, and all over my property.  She’s in my truck with me, as she always has been, when I’m out driving.  
   Some people might say that my experience of, and with, Chica is anthropomorphic in nature, rather than an authentic understanding of her.  And all I can say about that is, “Obviously they have never lived with Chica.”

   I buried her outside my studio window, where I wrote so much about her in Rafael.
   Hombre is very sad, has been laying on Chica’s gravesite, and has taken to peeing about ten feet away in an arc around the grave; a notice, I’m sure, for any intruders to stay the hell away from our beloved fallen friend.  

   Chica has been (is) for me, symbolic of, and a rare accumulation of, the best of all that is good in life.  I will miss her like I’d miss the sunrise were it suddenly, and permanently, missing from the morning sky.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


    (The following selections are a brief introduction to my forthcoming novel, 'Rafael')

   My father:  I have never known a man like him.  He is more than he appears to be, but less than he expects of himself.  I don’t know if he was born too late, or if he just came into his own too early for everybody else.  He wants to be honest, from the inside out, but from the outside in as well.  And he is.
   There are those, however, who never wanted to allow that in him.  They were just not comfortable with it.  Not because they didn’t respect him.  They did.  But because they were just not willing to comply.  It was too high a standard.  It was too much work, they said.  It was just too hard.  The unfortunate part about it is that he did not require their compliance.  He required it only of himself.   
     But honesty is not linear, it is a revolving glass door; the kind you’ll see on the entrance to a fancy hotel in the City.  Most people find it to be clumsy, though; more unwieldy than they are willing to live with, more difficult even than deceit.  They continue through life with the door of truth open only inadvertently at times, or closed up deliberately, but never transparent, as it were.  It is not circular for them.  Someone else’s honesty, they feel, does not necessitate their own.  And no, it does not for them, but it does in the broader interest of life. 
     Many continue to hide behind opaque disguises, even though it doesn’t need to be that way.  My father was never one of them.

* * *

   Dad put up a teepee and camped on the property with very little in the way of creature comforts.  He constructed it entirely from the bounty of the land, the natural resources, by his own imagination and with a practical, no-frills utilitarian sixth sense.  He focused on being alone.  With the absence of his wife, and his youngest son, he wanted to feel everything he needed to feel.  He wanted to remember every moment they each shared throughout their many years together.  He wanted to miss them both, he wanted to grieve their absence, and he wanted to become friends with the void.  During that first year on the property he explored every acre of his new world like a young boy would explore the insect world beneath an old decaying log.  He got to know every nook and cranny, every bend in Pilot Creek and the Rubicon, every pool, falls, rock, wooded glen, canyon, and anomalous outcropping.  He also got to know himself, better than most would have, even over the course of a full lifetime.  My dad became sole guardian of both his property and his own sanity.  Eventually his sanity began to mirror the 350 acres, changing quite noticeably with every change of season.

* * *
   I must admit, after so many months apart early on, seeing my dad in an old hotel bar in an ageing gold rush town was a very difficult challenge, an unexpected first impression for me to get past.  With his grey scraggly beard, and weather-worn demeanor, he looked as if he’d wandered out of the makeup trailer of a spaghetti-western movie set in the hills of rural Italy, or like he’d been lost in history, waiting for the world to come back to catch him up on things.  I got a cramp in the pit of my stomach, my heart raced with anxiety and bewilderment, and my eyes moistened like a mirror in a settling fog.  But when he opened his mouth he immediately became my dad again, the man I know, the dad I’ve always known.  He said, almost under his breath, “Had I known you were coming, son, I would have shaved, and worn something more appropriate to the occasion.”  We both laughed, and we were back on familiar ground.
     It was a long time ago, but I remember that we met up at the Georgetown Hotel on Main Street.  We spent a couple of hours catching each other up on the previous year, then jumped into his 4-wheel drive light beige 1972 Ford F-250 pick-up truck for the twelve mile drive out to his property.  He’d named the truck Henry.  Still has that old dinosaur today.  Says he wouldn’t trade Henry for a Hummer.  I was anxious to see how my dad was living, where he was living, and what it was about that particular place that had so captivated him.  What was it that had the kind of hold on him that nothing, or no one, had ever had, other than my mother?  The picture of our meeting is still vivid in my mind, like an old Polaroid photo you might have carried around in the pocket of your coat for all these years.  A little faded, crinkled, ragged, but vivid, nevertheless, because of its importance to you. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016


Honestly, what’s so damn difficult about being honest?  Telling the truth, and not misleading people, is all that it ever requires.  What’s so bad about the truth?  It’s been said, “The truth shall set you free.”  What’s so bad about being free?  I kind of like being free.  If you haven’t tried it yet, I’m sure you’d like it too.  At least try it to see if you would. 

Lying has become so common in our world today that most people no longer even consider it to be lying.  To them it is simply a way of positioning themselves with others like they want to be positioned; whether it be family, friends, bosses, acquaintances, or strangers.  If it involves being less than truthful, so be it. 

‘To give a false impression’ is actually one of the common dictionary definitions of lying.  There are not many people today who even consider giving a false impression to be lying.  But I am not one of them.  Giving a false impression is actually of deliberate and conscious intent, the intrinsic character of a lie.

Sure, our political leaders lie, our national religious leaders lie, our celebrity royalty lie, the corporate executives lie.  It seems as if all the ‘successful’ people lie.  Our parents lie, our grandparents lie, our teachers, mentors, coaches, and local priests, ministers and rabbis lie.  Yes, it seems that all of our role models lie.  So the question is, “Why can’t I?” 
Well, to be perfectly honest with you . . . . . . . . you can.  That’s the point.  And now you can lie via Facebook, Twitter, and text messaging without ever having to look the recipient in the eyes.  You can lie any time you want, and to whomever you want . . . . .  just like they do.  And, I must say, “You will be just like them when you do.”  If that’s what you want, go ahead and continue to lie as much as you’d like.  And then let me know what you think of yourself.  Let me know how that has impacted you in such a positive way.  Let me know how it’s elevated your self-esteem, and allowed integrity to take root in your life. 

If you’ve ever taken to heart the admonition to build your house on rock (rather than on sand), so that when the ground quakes and shakes your house will remain solid and intact, then you understand the principal at work in preparing wisely for the future.  Or if you’ve ever considered the admonition to build your house on higher ground so that when the river rises your house will not be swept away, then you further understand the importance of planning ahead.   Common sense says to not build your house on sand, or on a flood plane.  It would just be stupid.  Well, experience and common sense teach us that lying is the life-equivalent of building your house on shaky ground, or in a sketchy place.  Building your life on lies is stupid.  It will often serve you temporarily, but your ignorance and deceit will come back to haunt you, at various times, and in various ways.  You can count on it.  And, in fact, it hurts and offends other people too; especially those who love you.  Why not avoid all that personal and collateral damage in your life?  If not a question of conscience for you, it seems to me that (at the very least) it would simply be the smart thing to do:  The smartest thing to do.

Monday, November 9, 2015

No Longer Alone

I spent the evening in San Francisco the other day at my son’s concert.  Hadn’t been back there in awhile.  I’ve been living in the mountains for about the past six years.  I do come down out of the mountains fairly regularly, so it’s not as if I’m completely out of touch with the greater culture going on in our world.  I also do read, listen to the radio, and watch television.  And If I were to guess, I’d probably say I’m at least as conscious of our world as the next guy, and probably more so than most.  Being retired, I have time on my hands to stay in touch.  That’s one of the beauties of my circumstances. 

Now, I’m not retired in the purest sense of the word.  I spend a great deal of time writing books, music, and recording albums of my original songs.  But I am retired from the daily hustle-bustle of the work-a-day world.  And I like that part of retirement.  I have lots of time on my hands to choose what I want to do on a particular day, in a particular week or month, etc.  I am also alone quite often.  It is not something I ever dread, but quite the contrary, it is something that I relish.  I have time away from distraction, from noise and visual clutter, and from people.  It is valuable time. 
I never had to learn to be alone.  I have always coveted alone time.  It is something that is important to me; to every human being actually, whether they realize it or not.  Aloneness allows the opportunity for self-reflection.  It allows time for understanding and adjustment of who I am; my outlook, my behavior, my sense of my own equilibrium, my degree of self-acceptance or dissatisfaction.  It allows time to listen to, and to actually hear, my own conscience, the still small voice within me; the one voice that is critical for every human being to hear.  Some would say the voice of God.  I would not trade my alone time for all the wealth in the world.  It is the one thing that will give birth to the only kind of wealth that really matters.

I have a cell phone like almost everybody else these days.  I make calls, text, check email, send photos etc.  But when I’m out in the world I observe, and participate in, that world to one degree or another.  Where I am not (when I’m out in that world) is on my phone.  As necessary, yes, but not because of my own anxiety, for my own entertainment, or for a pervasive need just to not be alone.  Invariably, the more connected I would become, the more of myself I would lose.
What I have been observing most everywhere (and particularly the other night in San Francisco because it was so much more exaggerated than in many other places) is the dearth of alone time that people have these days.  Not by a deluge of inadvertent circumstances, but by choice.  Yes, by choice.  And I am sad about it.  Very sad.  I noticed people alone, and in groups, being connected to others outside of their own immediate circumstances.  Everybody was on their phones, talking, texting, checking emails, taking pictures of their surroundings, sending pictures of their surroundings, taking selfies, playing games; taking themselves out of their own present to be somewhere else, to be in another reality.  What they were not doing is . . . . . observing their own surroundings, observing others, talking to other people, even their own friends.  I saw groups of five or six people congregated on the sidewalk in a little circle, but nobody was talking to each other.  Everyone was on the phone.  I saw people waiting in line to get into a club.  They were on the phone.  I saw people in the windows of restaurants and café’s.  They were on the phone.  I saw loners waiting for a cab, or a bus.  They were on their phones.  I saw people on their phones while crossing busy streets, never even looking where they were going, or checking to see if a car was coming.  I even saw a father pushing an infant in a very small wobbly stroller through an intersection with cars coming from three different directions; a very large and dangerous intersection, even for somebody paying attention.  I watched the man very closely.  He never once, not once, looked up from texting on his phone.  I wanted to snatch the baby up and give him to someone more conscious of the child’s wellbeing.  More conscious period.  Obviously I couldn’t.  

We’re no longer alone. 

Yes, nobody has to be alone anymore.  And very few will choose to be.  They choose to always be connected.  I pity them.   They will never know the beauty of being alone.  They will never know themselves; truly know themselves.  They will never know self-reflection, as would be necessary for the art and practice of pragmatic or objective thinking.  At least not like would be possible otherwise.  It’s a shame that the future world will be ruled by the judgment and guidance of people who are stunted, only partially developed, as deep as a puddle rather than a well.

For this I grieve.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Cosmic Cafe

Placerville’s got talent.  Yes, that’s a fact. 
You may not know where Placerville is, but I live near the town.  It’s a smallish community in central California about 45 minutes east of Sacramento in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains; kind of a gateway to the south shore of Lake Tahoe. 
You might hear it described by some people as a hick town, a redneck town, a backwater town, or a right wing bastion of conservatism.  And if you visited you might even describe it as such.  And you may not.  But I’m here to tell you that it may be some of that, but Placerville is much more than that as well . . . .  . . . . . . . much, much more.  There are communities within the community, made up predominately of very interesting young people, and the Cosmic Café attracts these different groups like a flower attracts a bee.  

The café is located on Main Street in downtown Placerville.  Sometimes when I feel a change of scenery would do me good I’ll go over to the Cosmic Café to write.  I’ll usually go in mid-morning after the bagel and coffee breakfast crowd has gone, and before the lunch crowd arrives.  I’ll set myself up on the second floor where it’s quiet, and where I can concentrate on what I’m writing, rather than being distracted observing the going’s on, as I might be doing downstairs where most of the people tend to linger.

Yesterday evening I went over to the Cosmic for an open-mic music casserole that they hold every Thursday night.  Just a low-key night out for us, and an opportunity to hear an array of different singers and musicians.  I’ve always enjoyed the open-mic format anyway.  It’s a chance to be entertained, but also an opportunity to encourage young artists in their struggle against their own nerves; another small step for each of them in expressing themselves, and in moving just a little bit further forward in pursuit of excellence and recognition.

Last night the bad performances were good.  The good performances were really good, and the really good performances were great.  There was a mish-mash of young people there, and, in fact, it reminded me of Greenwich Village, or the Haight-Ashbury in the sixties and early seventies.  Different though.  Different in that there seemed to be a broader variety of social subgroups represented.  I remember thinking how glad I was that these young people had a place such as the Cosmic Café to hang out, to express themselves, and to connect with others.  It did seem like many of them might be the outcasts from their schools, and perhaps even from their own families.  It seemed as if they might very well be wandering aimlessly if not for the focus they had with their music, and the embrace they’d found amongst one another at the café.  There was a real sense of acceptance, of family even.  It was quite evident that they enjoyed one another, encouraged one another, and by all appearances seemed to even love one another.

My friends and I never had a place like the Mystic to go to when we were growing up.  So many of them had talent such as I witnessed last night, but nowhere to express it, no place to channel their creative energy and find the acceptance and encouragement of others. They’d been the outcasts from their schools, and some of them even from their own families.  Not only were we not encouraged in our artistic inclinations and endeavors, we were discouraged from pursuing anything even closely related to creative expression. 

Too many of my friends died before reaching adulthood.  Perhaps a Cosmic Café might have given some of them the acknowledgment and support they needed to keep them from wandering aimlessly.      

Friday, September 4, 2015

Tears of Gratitude

   I stood on top of a mountain this morning and surveyed the granite lake below.  A wind was blowing constant across the water raising waves no higher than a foot or so, but aligned with one another in perfect duplication as if an artist filled a canvas with the same stroke of a brush a hundred thousand times until he ran out of space to paint.  I saw evidence of the wind moving across the lake but could not see the wind itself, only the hint of its existence.  

I moved my eyes towards a peak to the east that rose another thousand feet above the one upon which I was standing.  I scanned the granite mountainside while drinking in the splendor of its uncommon strength and beauty.  I took humble notice of the sea of boulders scattered, seemingly, so indiscriminately across the slope as if they’d fallen willy-nilly from the heavens, taking root, as it were, in the granite earth. Wind-worn and time-tested pine trees bent their ageing knees in homage to the sky, reaching rugged branches towards the sun, growing astoundingly from out of the ancient rock as if to prove that their survival was just a matter of will.  And perhaps it was.  Perhaps it was.

My dog, Chica, breathed deep to fill her lungs with the high mountain air, as if inhaling helium from a living balloon, as if collecting the best of her surroundings to take home as a remembrance of this very sacred place.  My dogs together paused in wonder, temporarily foregoing their roles as guides and protectors to acknowledge and appreciate the moment, to be mystified and amazed by the grandeur of their surroundings.  I stood in awe of the majesty of God, in gratitude for my life, for the wonderful creatures that are my dogs, and for the remarkable place that I’d been given to partake of.  I allowed, for the first time in a long time, tears of gratitude to leak from my tired eyes, to roll down my weathered cheeks as if it were the first time I had ever encountered such amazing grace.  

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Blogger Etiquette

--> 1. No profanity.
2. No racist or homophobic slurs.
3. No personal attacks on the author or other users.
4. No impersonating real-life public figures, alive or dead.
5. You’re perfectly welcome to be negative or critical while expressing your point of view.  
 But be respectful.

The above rules were presented on a SF Giants baseball blog to ensure proper etiquette/decorum for readers responding to the writers posting.
Inspired by them, here are my rules for ‘Coyote Tracks’.

  1. No insanity.  If you’re insane go follow somebody on Twitter.
  2. No baseless or xenophobic slurs.  If you’re going to slur foreigners first walk a few miles across the Sonoran desert in their shoes.  
  3. No impersonal attacks.  If you’re going to attack me, at least make it personal.  No other kind of attack will have the same impact.
  4. No impersonating fictitious figures.  If you’re going to impersonate a fictitious character, impersonate a politician.  Most of them have begun believing their own fiction.  And everybody else believes they actually used to exist.
  5. You’re perfectly welcome to be positive and non-critical while expressing your point of view.  But disrespect will get you noticed much quicker. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Third Eye Blind

There’s a band called Third Eye Blind, but this is not about them. 
This is about us. 
We supposedly have what many religious traditions call a Third Eye. We can’t see it, but we’re supposed to be able to see with it.  I say we supposedly have a third eye because with many of us you’d never know it, you’d never even get a clue that it exists.
In the Hindu culture it is often depicted by women with a red jewel placed on the forehead between the eyes.

The Third Eye belief system is found in Hinduism, Taoism, Western Wisdom Teachings (Rossicrucian), fringe Christian teachings, Gnostic, (Kundalini/Chakras), Buddhism/Shiva, Kabbalah, in meditation schools such as Yoga, Gigong, Zen, and many Martial Arts.  All of these religions, or practices, incorporate the idea of a third eye.
Some even believe it is the partially dormant pineal gland, which resides between the two hemispheres of the brain.

But, unfortunately most of us only see life with two eyes.  Figuratively one eye sees in black, and the other sees in white.  Look with both eyes together and we see gray.  What’s missing is the consciousness of dimension with which we were born to see life.  What’s missing is the color, depth, imagination and stimulation with which we were intended to live and experience life.

For many of us that third eye truly is blind.
Somehow, we’ve got to find a way to fix that.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Missing Joe and Janis

I miss Joe Cocker and Janis Joplin.
That’s right.  Both of them.
Equally powerful, equally mesmerizing, each in their own inimitable and wonderful way.

If you’ve never seen or heard either of them, you may not know it, but you miss them too.  And if you have experienced them you know you miss them.  More so than I can even express. 

I don’t need to be reminded about the void left in my once well-satiated soul.  My psyche is just a little out of sync since they’ve been gone.  My equilibrium is just a little bit off-kilter.  The pop-star-strippers the star-makers keep running out in front of us are mere wannabe’s, pickpockets, and imposters compared to the likes of Joe and Janis.  These pretenders are not here to enhance our lives with their pop drivel.  They never have been.  They’re here to enhance themselves.  And they’re here to allow us the privilege of purchasing four hundred dollar tickets to their shows so they can maintain their mansions, their private yachts and jets, while collecting costly wardrobes to impress their equally narcissistic friends, even though their designer garments are dripping with the sweat of our own brows. 

But Joe and Janis . . . . . passionate, authentic, captivating, fascinating; each in their own peculiar way.  Each one as unique as the other.  Each with a voice the size of their desire, and a heart the size of their fiery voice.
Janis was the tortured soul-searing singer who could bring you to your knees in a passionate plea for mercy.  She could give you gifts you never knew existed.  Take it.  Take another little piece of my heart now baby.  You know you’ve got it, child, if it makes you feel good’. 
And Joe, the trembling vocal jester with convulsive soulful gestures resembling both the agony and the ecstasy simultaneously in song.  ‘You are so beautiful to me.  You’re everything I’ve hoped for,
e v e r y t h i n g   I    n e e d.  You are so beautiful to me’.

Joe and Janis.  Gone too soon.
Gone but not forgotten.
Never have been. 
Never will be.

Not in my house.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

All Roads Lead Home if You're Lucky

I did some traveling through Europe for awhile back in the day, but also settled down periodically to live briefly in various places around the continent.  Just remembering some that still have pretty vivid, and lasting, imagery for me.  Today I can see that, although I was out there exploring the world, I was actually looking for the one road home.  They say that home is where the heart is, and that’s where I really always wanted to be.  Sometimes you have to leave home to find it.

Pack on my back, guitar slung over my shoulder, and on a mission to find the right direction in my life.  Any direction is not necessarily the right direction, but it is a different direction than the one I was pointed in at the time, and sometimes a different direction is the only one left to choose from.  That’s kind of how I began my months away. 

I stayed for a couple of nights with people I met in Paris.  They organized a ‘Welcome to the City of Lights’ party for me.  It stretched out over a couple of days.  Invited all their friends over.  We drank wine and ate well, then spent the afternoons in the sidewalk café’s.  No one I ever knew back home had ever organized a party like that for me.

I stayed in a little medieval stone village for a couple of weeks, tucked away in the mountains in the south of France.  The only way in or out was by a long hike through the woods.  No roads.  No gas or electricity.  No running water, just a gravity shower that was heated by fire.  I gathered firewood every day in the forest, and water from the stream.  Huddled close to an open hearth in a small stone cottage at night.  It was wonderful, and it was peaceful, but I felt so desperately alone.

I stayed for a couple of weeks in a little pension just off the Puerto de Sol in downtown Madrid, Spain where the girls on the street smiled at every passing, and the boys smiled even bigger.  Smiles painted across the faces of the girls like children on Christmas morning.  Although I was able to at the time, it was hard to resist the company of such uncannily bright and inviting propositions.  Siestas in the afternoon, evenings in the square, and late-night dinners in lively restaurants with strangers who called me friend.

I stayed with a family for a bit in Taormina, Sicily, in a house about a thousand feet above the sea where I gave guitar lessons to a 12 year-old boy and sang my songs in a local restaurant.
The family and I watched the Godfather together on their little black and white TV.  Talk about a Twilight Zone experience.  Unequaled by any I’ve ever had. 

I stayed for a while on a roof in Athens, Greece. A naked woman lived in a little caretaker shack on the roof as well, like in some kind of dream sequence from a Louis Malle film.  When I say naked, I mean she was always naked.  It didn’t bother me a bit.  We had coffee together in the mornings, and wine in the evenings.  Business as usual for both of us, as if she weren’t naked at all.   

I stayed in a centuries old hotel room in Istanbul, Turkey with bugs I’d never seen before.  Didn’t even know such bugs existed.  Big ones, like reptiles, and a floor soaked inches deep with water every time it rained.  I attached tarps above my bed to divert the water that was pouring down on me from the ceiling.  It was just above the Pudding Shop, a meeting place for vagabonds from around the world.  And the pudding was to die for.

I slept in a park in Lausanne, Switzerland at minus10 degrees.  My sleeping bag froze to the ground, and my body froze in the bag. 

I slept in the courtyard of an abandoned castle in Austria.  Met a beautiful woman there.  She wandered in to the castle just to kill a little time.  She was a teacher from a nearby school who invited me to come and speak and sing my songs to the student body at a hastily organized assembly.  Invited me to stay with her for a few days.  I availed myself of her generosity and we found that we could trust each other with our honesty.  It became the force behind our platonic, but liberating, relationship.

I stayed in a remote hostel in the Swiss Alps across from The Eiger peaks, where, through binoculars, one could see the skeletal remains of climbers who perished there attempting to scale the mountain.  Cow bells echoed throughout the valley as cows meandered around the mountainside grazing on the good green grass.
It was on one of these peaks that I wrote, what I believe to be, one of my best songs.  Atheist’s Dilemma.

I stayed in a myriad of places in Europe, Asia and North Africa, but really always wanted to be home.  No matter where I was it wasn’t home.  The irony is that when I was home I often felt homeless, and when away from home I always wanted to be back there once again.  The world is a big place.  In the greater scheme of things I was but a grain of sand in the desert.

I remember thinking, All roads lead home if you’re lucky.
And they have.
And I am.