Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Bongo B: Keep on Drumming!

When Bongo Barry asked a crowd of a thousand people at the first Kansas City Jiggle Jam to start chanting the phrases "Charlie Parker plays jazz" and "Really great barbeque", I thought he was nuts. And he was nuts. That's why I loved him.

He was nuts about music. Nuts about people. And nuts about life. Bongo Barry could get anyone to sing or dance. He had the talent and the passion and, most important, the genuine love for his fellow humans.

Barry unexpectedly left his earthly body today to take on his next spiritual assignment. A shocking and devastating blow to all who love him, including the children's music family in Kansas City.

He was a truly beautiful, loving soul who included everyone in whatever he did. He was the only performer I know who would bring enough instruments to a
show so everyone in the audience could participate. Really! He had tubs and tubs loaded with oodles of drums, egg shakers, and film canisters full of beans.

And here's a classic example of the whimsy and love he sprinkled on our world...He recently made a road trip to western Kansas for some shows. Along the way he stopped at highway rest areas and left behind colorful plastic percussion egg shakers with his name and website printed on them. This was no marketing ploy, it was another example of Barry sharing the gift of rhythm with the world. And that's what he did best...share. He gave and gave and gave of himself, always. Including his sweat. He perspired more than anyone I've ever met. After every show -- soaked to the bone. I'll miss those sweaty hugs.

And I'll miss seeing him at the winter solstice party leading the singing in his Santa hat -- the only Jewish Sufi I know who also celebrated Christmas and solstice. He celebrated it all. Imagine the drum circle forming in heaven
right now! No doubt, Jerry Garcia is jammin' with him.

To you, my dear blessed Soul Brother, I send my love for a swift and rhythmic journey!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Are you rich?

Kids ask a ton of questions. That's one of the reasons I think they're so cool. It's part of their drive to quench their insatiable thirst for learning.

Today kicked off the school assembly season for me. And, as always, I look forward to the barrage of questions from curious little minds...

Is that your real name? Do your feet really stink? Why don't you just take a bath? you really have bugs in your basement? Are you telling the truth about that dinosaur dancing in his underwear?
Have you met the president? Are you Miranda Cosgrove's dad? Are you famous?

Most of the time I just smile and nod vigorously like a well-oiled bobble-head. But there is one question that sends my noggin into overdrive every time I hear it...Are you rich?

Many kids assume that since I carry a guitar and have my name on some CDs that I must be rich. Anybody who has been interviewed on TV by the local weather personality has got to be famous.

"It depends on your definition of 'rich'," I tell them. "By my standards, I am very rich."

I do what I love, and I love what I do. I get up with my girls every morning and read them stories and cook them breakfast. I sometimes get to nap with them after lunch. I play for a living. I get to travel around this great country and sing with kids. I've got food in my belly and a roof over my head. My family is happy and healthy. I own an automobile that works and another that sometimes works. I pay taxes, and I had a dental appointment this year.

That may not sound very rich to some people, but it sounds pretty well-off to me.

(Here's an ironic aside... A financial planner has been hounding me for months to become his client. I finally agreed to meet with him, and once he found out how much money I make, he hasn't called me back! Now, that's rich.)

If I'm ever feeling down about money and or some perceived "lack", I just plug my seemingly meager salary into a world wealth calculator (check it out here -- you'll be amazed) to be reminded that I'm living like a king compared to most people on this planet. I'm among the richest 3 percent in the world, and I'm 55 times wealthier than a billion people.

Humbling indeed. Blessed indeed. I am livin' the dream.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Perspective on Life

Hug your loved ones tightly and often!

My veggie oil-powered Jetta died last week. Just wouldn't start. I've been very proud of that car and thrilled that I could drive to and from shows all over the Midwest and never pay for fuel. Perhaps my pride contributed to its demise.

The verdict is that it will cost about $2,000 to get it running again. That's after I put $2,500 into it last fall for a new tranny, a $1,000 a year earlier for a new timing belt, and about another $1,500 in various other ailments. Bottom line: I'm confident the universe will provide the money to fix it, but is it worth it? I could really use that money for new carpet in the basement, a real vacation, and Lyda's college fund.

This is a classic example of what my friend Kate would call a "Middle Class Drama." It goes like this:

If I were poor, I would have no car problems because I wouldn't have a car at all. And I would only dream of owning two. And if I were super "wealthy", also no car problems. I surely would own something other than a "clunker" or would simply buy a new one.

So, here I am in the middle. Blessed to have the means to own two cars (actually one, now, since the Jetta doesn't run -- which, oddly enough, makes it ineligible for "cash for clunkers.") And hog-tied because it'll take some creativity to pay to fix it.

While I'm wracking my brain trying to devise a solution and feeling sorry for myself and fretting whether or not I'll ever be able to afford college for my girls, life sends me a harsh and shocking reminder of my blessed existence.

Last Friday my former classmate Tom Murphy was killed instantly by a falling boulder that smashed through his windshield while he was driving home from a mountain vacation with his family. Bam -- just like that. No signs.
No warnings. Nothing he could have done to avoid it. His wife Jenny was able to prevent further tragedy by grabbing the wheel with one hand and applying the brakes with the other to bring the car to a stop. I can only imagine the utter shock and horror.

Tom brought such great joy and laughter to this world. His unexpected death reminds me to pray for peace and healing for his family and to approach life like he did.

All of a sudden my car drama doesn't seem so serious. In fact, cars and other things of this world now seem rather trivial. I'm blessed beyond belief with a healthy, beautiful family, and a fulfilling career. I'm hugging my wife a bit tighter today and loving on my girls a bit more enthusiastically.

Oh, and I'm riding my bike to fetch groceries more often -- with a smile.