Category Archives: Musings

Damn, Chop, Last Night I Dreamed You Died Again!


Dad with my baby brother, Anthony.

I dreamed about my Dad dying again. It was weird. Especially now, at this stage of my own development as a father. It had a slew of rituals surrounding it that I can only attribute to the recent passing of my Father-in-Law, which happened about 2 months ago. My love for my Father-in-Law, Baba, Farokh Faranjpour, is tantamount to the love that I had for my own father. Different, but a strong and powerful love nonetheless. I think that I loved Baba so much, because he was that missing Grandfather that my children had in the absence of my Dad. Yes, Baba was absent because of distance, but he was still alive for a major part of their lives, and someone for them to know and speak to every now and then, even if it was across the ocean and a major continent.  Plus, Baba Farokh was very cool.  Now, Chop, he was cool too. My ace. My Pop. My erudite without even knowing that he was all of those things. He was street wise for sure, but he had book sense, although I know that he felt that he didn’t. But that’s another tale, and something I’m not trying to get into right now. What I do want to deal with is this damned dream.

Now Chop’s death was ages ago. We are talking about something that happened shortly after I got out of the Army way back in 1986. Wow, that was 31 years ago. I was just two months shy of turning 21 years old and obviously traumatized by the loss, but unable to cry or mourn his death until much later in my development as a young man.  I guess that’s what spending 3 years in an elite military unit as a Paratrooper will do to you. Now I was in those units, the 82nd Airborne Division, and 1st Special Forces, but I remind you that I didn’t see a day of combat. There were no wars going on at that time. Grenada was over with by the time I went in, and they didn’t go into Panama to get Manuel Noriega until after I was out.  And of course the first Gulf war in Iraq was just being concocted, and by that time, I was doing my thing, or getting ready too, with Spanish and Flamenco and the world that I was creating for myself. So what you should probably understand is that I was merely trained for combat and only half impacted by what our veterans of war are going through when they get out. That coupled with me being a young pup so hardened and ashamed of showing weakness, left some deep, deep wounds within me, which took a while to heal and even understand the nature of being wounded.

Pop at my Benjamin E. Mays, High School Graduation in 1983 (L-R, Anthony, Mom, Me, Aunt Susan, Dad) We are in front of the Atlanta Civic Center.

I guess that’s why I’m so shocked about dreaming about the old man again after 31 years of being without him. Is there something major getting ready to happen? I have to ask. I mean, is there something that I have I forgotten about him,  some special date, say his birthday, which did happen one May 13, which caused me to dream that he had walked off, hand in hand, with my oldest when she was just about 7 years old. It was a message from my mind, or him I suppose, that I should never forget him, and that I should share who he was with my little ones. This is something that I have done, more with my oldest for sure, but it is definitely something that I have done. So it’s understandable why I’m perplexed that I should dream about him dying once again, and my having to prepare to mourn him again. Maybe I’m dealing with the loss of Baba. Syncing up those two passing’s in some strange way. Either way, it’s stirring up some emotions. It’s got me reaching out to siblings and asking for pictures. It’s got me thinking about my own mortality and what I will leave behind.

Let me know what you think it means. Send me a note. Private Message me. Let’s chat. I’m not really looking for answers, I stopped going down that rabbit hole with a lot of things, and with others, I’m like a Dachshund going full bore, but with this, I’m just interested in hearing other folks ideas and thoughts about the great beyond.

 

Another Thanksgiving Done come and Gone…which means…

When I was a kid, it seemed as if time passed with the urgency of snails moving up a hill. Now, at 52, I’m trying to hold onto every second, every minute, every grain of sand that passes through the waist of the hour-glass that is my life. It’s normal I suppose. That desire to not get old when you’re obviously getting older. That youthful desire to not be young when you are perhaps, dare I say it, way too young. I, as many others on this journey, have learned that the grass ain’t always greener, and in fact sometimes don’t turn out to be grass at all. Nevertheless, the battle must be fought and folks have to experience things for themselves, despite being told, “Hey, maybe you should do this way,” or “If I were you, I would do this, that and the other,” by folks who have gone down that particular road.

Hey, I tell my kids all the time about what they should and shouldn’t be doing, only to realize as the words come out of my mouth that they are falling on deaf ears. I impart whatever perceived gems of wisdom onto them knowing that they have to do the things that they want to do for themselves. Experience it, and lay blame, give thanks, or accept responsibility as they see fit. I mean, hey, I did it my way and had my own experiences by not listening to that older generation of mine, even though the way I grew up is much different from they way that my kids have. I mean, they have never felt that hunger from not having food in the fridge or dreading and loving summer vacation because, going to school meant that you would at least have breakfast and lunch, whereas in the summer, especially if you weren’t in some camp program, you may not eat at all, especially if the Food Stamps ran out.  But, hey this ain’t no Pity Party, I’m just saying that the way I grew up made me feel more equipped to fight off the wolves, become a wolf, despise the wolves, learn from the wolves, etc., etc., at least compared to the way that my kids have grown up. Shit, I still see my kids as little diaper wearing humans crawling around the floor and reaching out their arms for me to pick them up. However, at 21, and 13, I know that they are far from that, and even when they need my help, they never admit it, until it’s too late or I can no longer save them from their mistakes.

Although my home life and situations were different at their age, meaning, when I was 13, I was working and putting food on the table, and by the time I was 21, I had served 3 years in the Army, I still realize that there were a few things I could have done as suggested by my parents, or older family members that would have made things easier.  Ahh, but experiences are so memorable aren’t they, and I be damn if I didn’t have a good and bad time experiencing them. Memories that will always be with me, and some that I have denied so much that they are less than lint floating through the air, only occasionally climbing into the nasal cavity of my mind to cause irritation, depression or stress.

So with Christmas and the New Year, literally right around the corner, I muse about the passing of another year, along side things I’ve learned and still have very little knowledge about, and the ebbing of time that I will never recoup or capture, and my life of course, as I experience things on this big blue marble. along with the rest of you It’s all good mi gente, I’m enjoying the ride and hope that you are too.

Falling off that Horse

Launching-Creative-Falling-off-HorseMy gig at Café Sevilla in San Diego this past Friday night did not go off as planned. I felt out of sync with Joef, a.k.a. Joseph Fargier, and felt that the communication between us was non-existent. It made me realize how much I need to work on my chops and expand myself out of Flamenco and into other music forms in order to better understand Flamenco.

It made me buckle down this weekend and practice more scales, more speed techniques, more theory. It made me really realize that falling off the horse is sometimes the only way you can get back on the horse, if you truly wish to become “un Jinete…” a Horseman.

I did just that this weekend, I fell, and fell hard. It was impactful for me, because it hasn’t happened in a long time for me, at least from a moment that was so memorable. Usually, if I’m arrogant or not open to something, I’ve found myself failing and so after 50 years of life, I’ve learned to always check my ego at the door, and if not remain, completely open, open myself up just enough to learn what I needed and move on from there. This time, however was different. I didn’t walk into the gig feeling I knew everything I needed to know, and of course I was open, because I’ve never really been a “Rumbero” and its something that I’m beginning to enjoy more and more, especially after hearing the voice that so many good “Rumberos” have, Joef being definitely high on that list. No this was definitely something different and so after having a hard go at myself after what I considered a major falling down, I got back up on that horse, but first I had to catch that son of a gun, adjust the saddle, you know, do my homework and check my p’s and q’s.

I started with doing what Maestro Miguel Espinoza recommended I do, and analyze and learn the Keys. You see, after getting some steam into my engine these last few months, I had fallen off of that particular study routine and it was crucial that I return to it. After that, I worked on my Improvisational technique that I started using from a system called Improvise For Real. I had fallen off with it as well, which I should have never done, because it allowed me to count the notes within the scale, which essentially is equivalent to learning the keys. After that, which didn’t take place right away, and actually happened this morning in my study session, I listened to songs, rumbas specifically, and played the scale and the chords I felt were associated with them, not staying on one song, but listening to a variety of songs and finding a key note, finding the root, and playing the scale as rhythmically as I could. That is what I will be focusing on for some time now, especially since I see it as the weakest link within my playing. I’ll be listening and trying to play lead. I don’t think this will hurt me as a primarily rhythm guitar player. My compass as always been strong, but I do believe it will allow me to better support the artfulness of my singer and communicate with them, even when verbal communication is not at the forefront.

Facing the Inevitable

imageOff_the_wallPrince

 

When the “Thin White Duke,” a.k.a. David Bowie, passed, a piece of my youth went with him and I remembered such hits from high school, as “Let’s Dance,” “China Girl” and others that were catchy dance tunes, along with the avant-garde hits of “Ashes to Ashes” and so many others that are far too many to name right now. I also remember the song “Changes” which came out in 1972, when I was literally a child, and didn’t understand the lyrics in songs, but knew that music was something special and had power.

It wasn’t because of Bowie that I wanted to play guitar, in fact I’m not even sure who my true guitar idols were. I loved Hendrix! Adored Parliament and all of their different evolutions. I wanted to be smooth like the Isley Brothers, and thought that Devo was the end all and be all to my misfit-like nature. And then of course there was Rush, the three ring circus that put the modern, future and post-apocalyptic world into perspective for me. And of course there was the man, the myth the legend. Michael Jackson. However, that is a weird and short history for me in regards to musical love. A sort of time freeze, if you will, because my desire to be like Mike, the King of Pop, ended with his album, “Off the Wall” which for me, despite what everyone may say regarding all the albums that came after, was his greatest album. It was his greatest for me because in a sense it was the end of who he was from the time that I knew of him as a child and going into to my young adulthood. It was the epitome of who I thought that I should be as a young Black Boy in America and so that was it, caput, finito. His death was a blow to me, but like I said, in a sense he had already been classified as departed after “Off the Wall” which came out in 1979. I mean “Thriller” was good, but “Off the Wall” was it, and so I guess Michael was gone for me in 1982, when “Thriller” came out.

And then there was Prince. I admit that when Prince came onto the scene, I listened and liked his music on a secret, in the closet, if you will, type manner. He was too out there for me from a sexual perspective and I wasn’t as comfortable in my own sexuality perhaps, to deal with him. He wasn’t someone I went around saying I liked. But hey, in 1979 when I first heard of him, I was 13 of 14 and was definitely not into anyone trying to confuse me with the androgynous nature of how Prince was. It wasn’t until later in life that I began to appreciate the artist that Prince was. Later when I myself started playing guitar, around 25 years of age and when I realized the complexity involved of entertaining a public. I started the music game as an adult, and don’t regret it. I’m enjoying the things that I’m learning, and enjoying be able to appreciate the artistry that existed in and exist in so many folks. I’m also even more impacted now by the death of Prince, perhaps because it took me so long to recognize and appreciate him for who he was and what he did as an artist and a member of society.

57 years old, and gone. Just like that, within the blink of an eye. They say that he was a vegetarian. He looked to be in good health. I don’t know if he did drugs, but doubt it, based on the way that he lived. But hey, who knows. Maybe it was pain killers, or perhaps that Flu that he had the week before. I don’t know. What I do know is that nothing and no one lives forever and the more I profess to know this, the more I’m shocked when I hear of someone’s passing. Facing the inevitable, is not as easy as it sounds and as much as I’d like to think that I’ll be ready when it comes for me, or someone that I love, I never am.

 

 

Who is Agustín y Quien es Austin; enjoying the Mania atreves del Flamenco

Agustinintensivo

People often ask me, who’s Agustín, and who’s Austin. I laugh and tell them that we are one in the same, although it should be obvious to them. We both play guitar, and we both love Cuban Rum. We have both loved and lived through Flamenco, and we both enjoy bailando Salsa, playing Tennis, dabbling in writing, and laughing when the mood gets too intense at a family gathering or when folks take themselves too seriously. Sometimes Agustin and Austin become Elleguá, the trickster and the punisher, the child and the old man… but that’s another realm and you probably don’t need to hear about that.

In brief, here’s the key thing you need to know about them both (and yes, sometimes I refer to “them” in the the third person because why not embrace the personalities you own if you can and still maintain your sanity). I know this, Agustin emerged when Austin learned Spanish, although rumor has it that he always existed. Also if you want to know them, and I mean truly know what they care about you should know the following regarding their love of Flamenco:

I’ve been a Flamenco guitarist for twenty plus years now, and with love, adoration and sometimes pain, I remember the steps that were taken in order for me to get to where I am today. When I classify myself, I realize that I’m still proud to call myself a student, and my goal is to keep learning with gusto every day.

I remember my trip to Spain back in 1992 and the the two teachers that I had while I was there. One was very bad and one was very, very good. I knew nothing about guitar, but loved Flamenco and soon realized that the good teacher, (Jose Marîa) was able to share with me not just his knowledge about the Flamenco guitar, but also things about, Andalucia, Peña Flamencas and being in Andalucia and so much more. He was a great facilitator and opened the door for me to come back home to the States and seek out further instruction, which I did with the same passion that took me to Spain.

When I got back to San Diego, I took my first lessons with Paco Sevilla, who I am forever indebted to because he sent me to Juanita Franco’s studio after only four months of instruction. It was essentially a trial by fire, but it introduced me to playing for Baile in the best way possible.  The experience was awesome, and Paco was a magnificent teacher. Everything the class learned, I learned, and everything that I didn’t know, I took back to Paco with questions and perhaps too indepth an inquire on how I should handle it and how I should play for them.

From there I found my way to folks like John More a.k.a Juan Moro, David de Alba, Richard Marlow, Jason McGuire and Ethan Margolis. All had something to share with me, but it was Ethan who taught me about a family that I fell in love with when I first came back from Spain; Pedro Bacan and Los Clan Pininni. I still listen to their four CD set, Luna, Fiesta, Solea and Alba with the religious fervor of a dying man, and of course my own love of Diego del Gastor, Lole y Manuel and Camaron fueled the rest of my learning.

So what’s my story…que es mi cuento? Although it’s a complicated one, I think its worth the wait and a listen and it explains why I am both Agustín and Austin, and why I’m constantly seeking to improve on what I can do, who I am and who I can be. I am both because in Flamenco it allows me the opportunity to deal with change. It allows me the ability to be the same and different. I can approach things in away that I’ve never done before, although it’s always me approaching those things. Me as Agustín or me as Austin or that other I mentioned. Now that may seem an odd thing to say when el compas is always the same for each Palo or the Falsetta’s I play have the same notes and tones associated with them. But to be honest, what I’ve found is that you can equate it in the following manner. Just as I am always Agu or Agustín or Austin, I am different every day that I wake up, drive to work at work, on the tennis courts or doing anything that I do. Sometimes I am good and sometimes I am bad, but the bottom line is; I am always me. I am sometimes angry and I am sometimes overjoyed, but I am always the me I want or don’t want to be at that moment.

My Bulerías and almost every Palo that I’m familiar with has the same rhythm that it was born with, just as I have the same or similar essences that I was born with, although the moment and time or experience have made the interpretation different. It is the same and different all in one instance and so am I. Yo soy el mismo y diferente en el mismo instante.