Recently, a number of friends each sent me a Facebook request, one of those electronic chain letters where you’re supposed to write down 25 Random Things About Yourself. I read both of their lists and was completely surprised by what I learned about them. I thoroughly enjoyed reading the intimate details of their lives and the way they delightfully unpacked them in 25 short paragraphs.
Then I panicked a little bit, thinking that they probably wanted me to share the same transparent and witty details of my life that they had with theirs. Uh, okay.
So I am cheating. Instead of 25, I’ll give you ten. And instead of my entire life, I’ll narrow it down to irrelevant minutia dealing with the artist part of me. (After all, that’s what this blog is supposed to be about.) I hope you enjoy it.
1. I was a cartoonist for my college newspaper. My comic strip was called “Mental Vagrancy,” and it was about a student that daydreamed in class. It started quite by accident—Bored in my calculus class, I started a comic strip on the top of my desk. It apparently caught on with the different classes sharing the room, and I soon found myself putting out a strip a week. (By the way, being a cartoonist is hard!)
2. Weird Al Yankovic once “opened” for my band in college. Weird Al went to Cal Poly the same time I did, and frequented the campus coffee house where I regularly played. It was inevitable that we would eventually be booked on the same night. He didn’t actually open for me, but he did play right before my band. He was great (he is actually quite a musical force, to be honest). We sucked.
3. I was in the California All-State Honor band in high school…playing clarinet. I have many memories of marching and symphonic bands, playing my honky little clarinet from fourth grade all the way to college. Yes, I was a band geek, like Squidward but with better tone.
4. I wrote a song for my wife when we were dating. Some of you know I wrote a song for my wife, Debbie, for our twenty year anniversary called “Twenty.” But way back when we were dating, I wrote another song entitled “Debbie Just You Walk Away,” which was about our secret office relationship (she was my secretary). At the time, Jefferson Starship was getting a lot of airplay with their hit, “Sara,” and Hall and Oates had released “Sara Smile.” Deb had jokingly complained to me that there were all these songs about her best friend, Sara—and none about her. So I wrote her one. I think she had to marry me after that.
5. Speaking of my wife, Debbie bought me a soprano sax for my fortieth birthday. It was the most frivolous gift she could have gotten me, and I loved it. I take it out occasionally and play for myself (insert your favorite Kenny G joke here).
6. I may be highly influenced by Francis Schaeffer, but my secret dream is to be Paul Shaffer. I think the quirky and talented band leader for the CBS Orchestra (the house band for The Late Show with David Letterman) may have the best job in the world. He gets to hang out and play with everybody.
7. I’ve never gotten into a bar fight, but I’ve been close. It is a statistical truism: Playing a lot of dive bars in northern California greatly increases one’s chances of being in a bar fight. In my younger days, I used to play everywhere from Vacaville to Stockton to Coloma, and the establishments we played didn’t always have the classiest (or soberest) clientele. But I can honestly say I never played at a place with chicken wire in front of the stage…
8. I think the best thing about Christmas is being able to play selections by Vince Guaraldi. Guaraldi (the composer for all the Charlie Brown Christmas specials) is one of my esoteric jazz piano heroes, which also include Bob James (keyboardist, producer, and co-founder of Fourplay), Joe Sample (keyboardist and co-founder of the Crusaders), and even the overlooked John Costa (musical director and pianist for Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood), to name a few.
9. I hate my voice. It is no small irony that I earn a living, in part, by singing. Yes, I do try to train my voice and work on improving it. But I’ve never really considered myself a vocalist; I am a pianist who sings. So I kind of put up with myself most of the time.
10. I would like to write the great Filipino-American novel. One of these days before I die, I really want to novelize the story of how my parents met. It is a beautiful and engaging story really, full of drama and intrigue and extravagant grace, and set in the racially segregated agricultural backdrop of the Salinas Valley in the 195os. I would like to develop it as a vehicle for illustrating the plight of the Filipino immigrant, which is a subject near and dear to me.