My Faithful Co-pilot and Companion

This post starts by going way back. We don’t often see how the things we love actually impact our day to day life. We’re not looking for reasons. Their impact is simply there, with us, a part of ourselves. If we’re lucky we become mindful of our thoughts in a way that kind of ties it all together.

I have loved the world of Star Wars for a long time now. Back in “the band” days I had my 1971 Dodge Demon. I loved that car and so did most anyone that rode in it. We could fit our guitar rigs in there PLUS the drum set. It was quite the workhorse yet, more importantly, it was big, ugly and white. This gave it the nickname of Millennium Falcon. She didn’t look like much but she had a loud, strong motor. I made many modifications to it myself, just like Han.


One mod I was particularly proud of was installing plastic racing bucket seats in the front. This allowed me to unbolt the passenger’s side seat by undoing 4 bolts whenever I needed to take on more cargo, mostly for the aforementioned band gigs. At some point I learned George Lucas was quite the hot-rodding fan. American Graffiti would have a big influence on me, further fueling my love for musclecars and big V8 motors. I was never much of a mechanic but I sure got my hands greasy back then. If only I had a hydrospanner…

The band was no longer a part of my life and the Falcon was soon gone. I hardly drove it as I had a company truck now. Selling it felt like the right thing to do. A father bought it for his young teenage son and he seemed so thrilled I hardly felt bad about it. I never lost my passion for musclecars though.

The 1970 Plymouth Barracudas and the 1970 Dodge Challengers were my top favorites. Fast forward through a whole lot of life and I was now the owner of a 2010 Plum Crazy Dodge Challenger.


Fast forward some more and I found myself in a very different place. I made some bad choices and things were pretty bad. Somehow, I eventually emerged from the chaos. Certainly I can’t discount how valuable other persons in my life were, but, I also know that my faithful companion Pepper pushed me through scores of tough days.

One day, I’m looking over at Pepper and I realize – This is it! This is my new life and this is my new and improved Millennium Falcon. It’s better than the old one. Sure, it’s not raw and loud like my 1971 but it’s simply a better car, hands down. No more scary brakes and foggy windshields. Those things are only fun in drunken memories. It’s a better life now. The best part? I have my very own Chewie! I call her Pee-a-Bacca when she’s in the car as she is part Yoda, part Chewbacca. She is always there, to my right.


I’ve always been young at heart and I find myself embracing it even more now. Go ahead and talk to yourself. Go ahead and sing. Do a funky chicken dance. Why the hell not? Rob Lowe recently did an AMA on Reddit and I really liked his words on youth.

Well, being youthful is an inside job. Think about what youth is. It’s kids, kids are enthusiastic, energetic, interested, optimistic, engaged, and curious. If you’re not all of those things, you can have no lines on your face and a 32 inch waist, and no one is going to call you youthful.

When I’m backing out of the garage with Pee-a-Bacca I pretend like I am engaging some complicated ignition sequence. It helps that the Challenger has a console mounted on the headliner. The switch to open the garage door is located there. I definitely channel Han when I push it and the “hangar door” crawls open, making its Rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr noise. Then, I futz around with the diagnostic screens, checking various pressures and temperatures before backing out. Us boys love our buttons ‘n’ switches and I use as many of them as I can, as often as I can. If I’m feeling especially nerdy I look over to Pee-a-Bacca and tell her to make sure she has programmed the navi-computer. After all, we don’t want to end up in an Empire construction zone and be late for work.

When I’m working in the garage at night (probably detailing the Purple Falcon or organizing my tools) I will open the garage door and pretend it’s the Hoth hangar. Pee-a-Bacca faithfully keeps a watchful eye for Wampas in the alley.


As the night progresses I have to break the news to her, “Sorry Pee-a…we have to close the shield doors now.” She looks on with resignation moments before I hit the switch.


I seem to recall the Buddhist philosophy being an influence for George Lucas. I can’t say I’ve ever studied Buddhism but I find myself using “calm-Jedi-face” many times throughout the day. If I feel myself losing control I kick in to this calm state and start breathing. It works. It really does. I picked up this Buddha at Ross one day and I have several Yodas so this happened:


My mom actually made those little hats for Pepper but her Force was too strong for them so they ended up here. You can’t help thinking a happy thought when you pass my little altar. (Keen eyes will spy Shadow photo bombing these Jedi Masters.)

Here the Purple Falcon flies low across the Arizona desert.


It doesn’t stop at Star Wars either. Sometimes I imagine Pepper having a little silver helmet like Merlin in Excalibur. Then, I tell her it was her love that brought me back, just like Arthur told Merlin once before.

I really need to stop now. Next thing you know I’ll start talking about Blade Runner. It’s 2 in the morning and I am fading…what was I trying to say? Oh yeah…I love Star Wars, I love musclecars, I love Pepper and I put them all together as often as I can.


Being Grateful

We all know we should be grateful for what we have but, it seems that we need a reminder of this more often than we care to admit. More likely, events in our life will do just that when we least expect it. After coming back from my short holiday break I was hit with this:

I am not going to pretend to know this young man better than I did. The truth is he was a casual acquaintance. Still, I consider myself a pretty good judge of character and I believed this person was a kind, gentle soul. He always said hello and smiled often. Anyone who works at a school knows there can be a bond with students that you just can’t explain. I wasn’t his teacher but he was a student that we all cared for. May you rest in peace Yogi. We will miss you.

Sometimes it does take a horrible accident like this to realize, “I’m glad to be alive!” I’ve experienced some hard times lately but you know what?! Screw all that negative thinking, all those dark thoughts…I’m still here. Being alive, like being in good health, is something you can’t buy. It’s precious. A few days later I experienced even more reminders.


Thursday morning I experienced a horrible nightmare. I dreamed that I was holding my beloved puppy Pepper and she was dying in my arms right before my eyes. I woke up screaming, “Noooooo!” It was terrifying. I was so relieved to realize it was a dream and feel her little body sleeping next to me, however, the morning would become worse.

My mother called me very early, just an hour or so after my nightmare. She never calls me that early. Something was very wrong. My sister and my niece were involved in a pretty bad car accident. I rushed to the scene. It was only 2 minutes from my place. As I approached the scene I began to make out the shapes in the distance – a big fire truck, paramedics, CHP cruisers, an ambulance. Then I saw what made my heart drop. I could barely keep it together. Everyone was converging on my niece, getting her out of the car. Soon she was on a stretcher with a neck brace. Those minutes of uncertainty were truly horrifying. Fortunately, the car absorbed most of the damage. They are going to be fine. My niece walked away without a scratch. I am so grateful for their safety. They are still here too.


So yeah, this week I was reminded of some pretty big things to be grateful for. Of course, there are tons of smaller things to be grateful for but that’s another post for another day.

What are you grateful for?

Who sleeps there?

This post is not about throwing a pity party for myself. It’s more about the beautiful mind of a child and the profound things they surprise us with. I actually had a pretty good day. I played catch up most of the morning. Listening to music, catching up on replies and planning the day with my computer (along with my revolving stash of handwritten notes) is certainly a favorite activity of mine. Soon it was time to get ready for spending the rest of the day with some good friends and family.

We took my niece to see a play. It was probably her first live theater experience. Here she is talking up her wishlist with the Santas. I believe she asked for a Barbie, amongst other things of course!

After the play we grabbed a bite to eat at a sushi restaurant. She’s a very picky eater but I figured chicken teriyaki is a safe bet with kids. Wrong. She did go for chicken but it was basically a dish of breaded chicken strips. She loved the white rice too. This gave her some major energy.

She was bouncing off her booster seat the entire way home. This was no short ride either. I don’t think I could have turned up my radio loud enough to cover her voice. I didn’t necessarily mind but half an hour of that kind of energy can get tiresome. Eventually we made it home safely.

We were all back at my place. I fired up the television and got some music videos going. I went upstairs to perform a quick check of things and feed my kitty. I am a pretty organized dude but you never know when your underwear might like to make a guest appearance. Everything was pretty much where it should be except for my bed. It was kind of half made. I heard the unmistakable sound of my niece running up the stairs. She walked in my bedroom just as I was pulling the covers over the right hand side pillow, completing my 10 second bed making operation.

“Uncle, who sleeps there?”

“I do, that’s my bed.”

“No, who sleeps there?”

“What do you mean, this is where I sleep, that’s my bed.”

“No! Who sleeps there, where you just covered up the pillow?”

Oh gosh, I thought…she sees two pillows and thinks that it means two people sleep there. My mind drifted in to so many places at once. Would I simply say that the number of pillows don’t matter…a don’t-worry-about-it-kid kind of explanation? I then remembered that I committed to honesty after a recent, painful experience.

“Well…unfortunately…” I began.

“Fun-futch-ly what?” she asked, waiting patiently for me to finish.

“Well…I sleep alone here.”

“But uncle, then who’s going to take care of you?” she asked, with genuine concern in her eyes.

Fuck. I completely melted inside. Without missing a beat, she went from trying to pronounce the big word I had just spoken to that. Just try to imagine a little 5 year old asking you that and you can probably see why I had no response. I might have said “I don’t know baby,” but I can’t be sure. A better answer would have been that I was slowly learning to take care of myself, to define myself again.That’s not exactly material to share with a child though, is it?! It didn’t really matter. She had made my night and continued to bounce off the walls promptly thereafter.

Later in the evening I played guitar and sang to my niece and her mother. It was a rare moment…too rare of a moment for a musician to be having actually. I need to do that more often.

I’ll leave you all with a song I shared with them. Everything about this song is simply beautiful. I hope you love it as much as I do.


Olivia Newton John – The Promise (The Dolphin Song)