Just This Banjo is almost finished. I have a few more pages to pour over and then Dear Old Dad will complete the final edit.
There is a lot I can say about the writing of this book. Tragedy, health issues and more rained down on me as I wrote, but the process of revisiting the events of our past served to strengthen the bond I share with my father.
To let folks get a peek at what we are creating, here is a chapter from the book in PDF and plain text format:
Titled Just This Banjo, the book tells the true stories of the people and places I encountered as a teenager struggling to learn the banjo and guitar.
From the introduction:
I took my banjo and my crappy guitar out into the streets of Philadelphia. No idea of where to go, no money in my pockets and no goal in mind. Into the streets, out into the night and into the bloodstream of the city. Nothing between me and the world but my instruments.
I met saints and sinners. I made music with and for Mafiosos and the IRA. I have sung for and with the sick, lonely and crazy. I played for millionaires and jammed with a man so poor he did not own matching shoes.
I had no armor or protection. Just this banjo.
Writing, editing, formatting and publishing this work has been a monumental task, but I am proud of the end result. Some of the stories are outrageous, some are sad and others downright funny. All are true.
Just before the book is released we will be making the ebook version freely available to our Patreon sponsors. Everybody else will have the opportunity to purchase a copy in print, digital format or even as an audiobook. We also have a few surprises in the works.
Warning: This film is basically harmless, but it is not for everyone.
Miami Connection (1987) Rated R for ninja violence, language and improbable 1980’s strangeness.
People are sometimes baffled by my love of terrible movies. It’s easy to look at a film like 1987’s Miami Connection and blow it off as nonsense.
The year is 1987. Motorcycle ninjas tighten their grip on Florida’s narcotics trade, viciously annihilating anyone who dares move in on their turf. Multi-national martial arts rock band Dragon Sound have had enough, and embark on a roundhouse wreck-wave of crime-crushing justice. When not chasing beach bunnies or performing their hit song “Against the Ninja,” Mark (taekwondo master/inspirational speaker Y.K. Kim) and the boys are kicking and chopping at the drug world’s smelliest underbelly. It’ll take every ounce of their blood and courage, but Dragon Sound can’t stop until they’ve completely destroyed the dealers, the drunk bikers, the kill-crazy ninjas, the middle-aged thugs, the “stupid cocaine”…and the entire MIAMI CONNECTION!!
There are bad movies that are garbage and there are bad movies that go so haywire that it becomes a working example of the Taoist concept of the happy accident. In other words, art that you could never intentionally create. Like a ray of light falling on a leaf floating down a mountain stream, the charm is unintentional. Things just come together by random chance to make something unique.
The people who made Miami Connection tried very hard to make a good movie with a positive message. They even put part of that message in Dragon Sound’s opening song.
Friends through eternity Loyalty, honesty We’ll stay together Through thick or thin Friends forever We’ll be together We’re on top ‘Cause we play to win
Movies like this have helped me to avoid overthinking success or failure when I am creating something.
When Miami Connection was originally released it was a dismal failure. Today it is loved by B-movie aficionados all over the world. Sometimes art needs time to find an audience.
I will refrain from sharing my opinions or insights concerning this quote. Like picking up the chord progression to an unfamiliar song at a jam session, Lao Tzu works best when you stop thinking about the details and trust your intuition.
Yesterday is done. Tomorrow never comes. Today is here. If you don’t know what to do, sit still and listen. You may hear something. Nobody knows. We may pull apart the petals of a rose or make chemical analysis of its perfume, but the mystic beauty of its form and odor is still a secret, locked in to where we have no keys.
True story: I once found a massive tome containing the complete works of Carl Sandburg at a library book sale for less than a dollar. I was thrilled! Literally drunk on beautiful words. Then the idea of a library devoid of Carl Sandburg made me so sad, I sneaked in and stealthily put the book back on the shelves for some other pilgrim to discover.
A few days ago I got a message from Shoebox telling me to download my photographs because the company was going out of business and the images were scheduled for deletion.
This was surprising. I do not remember Shoebox.
I managed to log in and discovered thousands of photographs I had thought long lost. Nearly every moment Amy and I photographed at home or traveling in our time together.
My memory is kind of unusual in that I can remember moments so clearly that I can sort of rewind the tape in my brain and watch it all over again. Not just images but tastes, textures, emotions and things like that. Because of this I was not worried about losing this archive . . . but rolling through the pictures has been nice.
I look forward to the day when these photographs and memories will not hurt so bad, but I fear that will be a long time coming.