Here it is, Earth Day 2023. Here it is, Dystopia 2023. When you look around and see what is happening sometimes you just want to cry. We are pushed each day in so many directions. Do we “stick our heads into the sand, just preachin’ that all is grand, and hope that everything turns out okay”? or do we speak out, or turn inward, or put on our tunnel vision glasses? What do we do?
There is nothing like a major life event, whether it be in your own life or in a loved one’s life, to shake you up and reevaluate what is important. As I look back in time, what has proven to be important keeps shifting like the mental shape shifters we all are.
I began to get away from my writing here shortly before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. I was working, making money and had little time for much else as I threw myself into work, spending many days away from home and many hours of overtime. With the pandemic came major changes. I began working from home as travel pre-vaccine could be lethal. There were some brave souls who continued but with my age and health situation I could not afford to do so. I lost my sister during the summer of 2020. I almost lost my oldest brother, his wife, and his oldest son to COVID in January 2021. Two long time family friends did lose their lives due to their trust in lies about the virus, as did a prominent member of my high school graduating class. Additionally I lost my sister-in-law (the one mentioned above) to cancer in December 2022.
In March 2020. after returning from a work engagement in New York City I became very ill with respiratory symptoms. I checked with my medical HMO and they said it did not sound like COVID but tests were limited and therefore I could not be tested. Later I understood that the symptoms I had could very well have been evidence of COVID but at that point in time the world medical community did not know enough to say for sure. But after recovering from the worst flu symptoms I have ever experienced in March, 2020, I began to have symptoms of significant weakness and occasional chest pains that would come and go.
Thankfully in February 2021 we were able to receive our first Moderna vaccines with the second in March. I discussed with my pulmonary specialist the chest pain I had been experiencing, especially when driving to higher elevations at Mt. Laguna. With telephone medical visits in April they sent me a heart collar to wear for several days and send back. It revealed that my heart stopped a couple times for just a second or two but it was significant enough to necessitate an emergency surgery to implant a pacemaker in my chest in late April. While the surgery is simple enough, this was a physical and mental life changing event for me. I can no longer look under the hood of the car when it is running. I have to go through a security screening at airports and other offices using electronic screening in a way different from others. I can no longer operate an amateur radio nor a radiotelephone device so I have let my amateur and radiotelephone licenses lapse. And, mentally this has taken it’s toll on someone who enjoyed hiking and at one time bicycled across Wisconsin – from Kenosha to La Cross and back.
Due to the pandemic, conducting trainings via Webcast instead of face-to-face, I was doing more sitting than standing. I fell at home injuring my right knee in May, 2020 and could not get in to see a doctor for nearly 2 years. Finally as things began to open up, I was able to get into physical therapy in early 2022. With that and the help of a masterful masseuse I am now rid of the pain I experienced when I walk. However lately I have begun to have severe pain on the other side which sent me to the ER just over a week ago with spasms so severe I could not walk, sit or stand without severe pain. That is subsiding now, but it all points to my physical limitations.
I only traveled for work twice in 2021. I traveled three times in 2022 and one was a state conference in February that year. The mask orders were still in effect except where I presented at a state conference in a Southern state. Nobody was masked except me and one other presenter from another company. A week after I returned home I was diagnosed with COVID despite keeping up all my booster vaccines. Extreme weakness was the result with minor respiratory symptoms.
I have only been to a few music events since the pandemic. None in 2020. A couple outdoor events in 2021 and 2022. I did attend the Adams Avenue street fair in 2022 but did not make a day of it due to painfull walking for both me and my wife. So while I will be discussing music events locally here as I begin to use this blog more and Facebook less for reporting on such events, I will be discussing my music collection more.
So here it is April, 2023. Two very tragic events have already occurred locally. First, I lost a friend in February – one of the best harmonica players I’ve ever met, Dane Terry. Dane was in two different groups locally – Cadillac Wreckers, which was a jump blues band, and Plow, which is an old-time and bluegrass band. Dane was on his way to work one morning in February on his motorcycle. A driver ran a red light, striking and killing Dane. I did not hear the news until a couple days later when the leader of Plow, Chris Clarke, reported it on Facebook. It stunned me. My last conversation with Dane was in January when he and I were talking about how we never know when we will be taken from this life, so make each day count. There was a memorial for Dane at Heroes Wood-Fired Pizza in Wynola, coordinated by Chris Clarke with both Plow members and Dana Duplan of Cadillac Wreckers performing, and some of us told some stories about our time with Dane over the years. It was very moving.
Dane Terry in the photo by tip jar, Chris Clarke mandolin, Dana Duplan guitar
The other tragic event was reading a Facebook post from our dear friend and phenomenal violinist and human, Jamie Shadowlight, who was writing from the hospital in what sounded very desperate. I had no idea what was happening but could not do anything at that time due to my own severe pain and limited movement. I so badly wanted to visit her in the hospital. Then her friend Monette Marino posted what was going on. Jamie had stage 4 cervical cancer that had spread to all the lower abdominal organs. It was inoperable. It had stopped the flow from her kidneys to her bladder and she had to go through emergency surgery, putting tubes in her kidneys to drain off the urine and bring her kidneys back to health. The surgery worked, eventually she was released from the hospital and in the meantime Monette had helped to start a GoFundMe page for Jamie, since she was without health insurance. Jamies’ musical skills defy genre categorization. We have seen her perform with a variety of jazz artists such as guitarist Robin Henkel, keyboardist Mikan Zlatkovitch, flutist Lori Bell, percussionists Monette Marino and Nacho Arimany, her old Americana band Western Collective, Grammy winner guitarist Larry Mitchell, and a host of experimental artists in multimedia “happenings”. She was also part of Strings of Thought with former Ringo Starr and Taylor Swift touring violinist Caitlin Evanson, Pedro Talarico, and Nico Hueso who were noted for doing impromptu performances of various famous songs from all eras and genres. She has toured in South Africa and elsewhere and most recently experimenting with sound vibrations using violin, electronics, and its effect on water and light to create an ambient healing experience. Jamie performed with the Latin-World music group Todo Mundo touring all over the country.
In 2016, while I was in Oklahoma, my wife Nancy tripped over our blind dog going down the steps and broke bones in her shoulder and wrist. While I was on the road and Nancy was in a cast Jamie came over to our house to play a mini concert for Nancy. The next year Jamie was scheduled to perform with Todo Mundo at the Joshua Tree Music Festival. Todo Mundo’s band leader, Santiago Orozco, was offering free tickets if someone could answer some music questions (which I cannot recall at the moment) and I won the contest. He paid for Nancy and I to attend the 3 day music event. This was our first time seeing them perform and it was amazing. The other bands present from all over the globe were also wonderful to experience. We saw Todo Mundo one more time at The Music Box later that year. Unfortunately Todo Mundo disbanded about a year later and Santiago began a new music venture with WITHN, and Jamie was part of that on some of the WITHN releases.
Knowing Jamie’s situation, Santiago reformed Todo Mundo with what former members were available and put on a fundraising performance at Winstons in Ocean Beach earlier this month. When Jamie was released from the hospital she said she would be there for a couple songs. Well, a couple songs turned into the whole concert! Before everybody arrived I had caught a free moment to say hello to Santiago. I had not had a chance to talk to him since going to Joshua Tree. While talking to Santiago we heard someone beating on a drum and turned to see Jamie beating a medicine drum as she greeted everyone. We got to talk briefly with her. Since everyone wanted to talk to her the meeting was brief. Once the performance started it was like magic. The sound was as if they had never broken up. Truly professional artists. Besides Santiago on acoustic guitar and lead vocals there was an electric guitarist with a bit of flamenco flair to his playing and an electric lead guitarist producing some of the wildest sounds this side of Hendrix. I recognized the fellow on electric bass from seeing Todo Mundo in the past. And there was their old trombonist, hair a bit longer and just as wild whose gargantuan sassy sounds echoed the gregarious nature of this musical unit. Then there was the drummer who sounded like he had just walked off the stage performing with Shakira. The overall Todo Mundo sound was a bit like Carlos Vives but definitely unique to Santiago. There is a definite Vallenato sound, cumbia and even reggae. I only know a few words of Spanish so it was difficult to understand what Santiago was singing but it was from the heart and that was clearly communicated. Monette Marino was there and joined the band for a few songs. After the first, she was ready to leave the stage and Santiago said “where are you going?”. Laughingly she stayed for a few more. Jamie was there from the first note. She first played medicine drum and after the first song switched to violin which she played for the remainder of the concert. She also sang background or with Santiago on some songs.
My heart was lifted when we saw Jamie perform that evening. She is a remarkably strong person with a gentle and loving heart, and is inseparable from her music. She is convinced she is going to defeat the cancer in her own way. I am dedicating this blog post to Jamie Shadowlight, who continues to teach me how to be a better person and to be my own light. BTW, if you would like to donate to Jamie’s GoFundMe it is at: https://gofund.me/df7f2de1
Todo Mundo featuring Jamie Shadowlight (center right)
Santiago Orozco and Jamie Shadowlight
Update: Finally figured out how to insert photos in the updated version of Word Press.
In the meantime, peace, light and love to all. Enjoy Earth Day 2023!