On the Road to Find Out I Was Jimi Hendrix : A Memoir of Reincarnation
I am Superman. I have a secret identity. I play guitar like a god because I am immortal. I was Jimi Hendrix and I knew since I was a little kid. Only my very closest friends know how I can play guitar. Growing up I knew note for note renditions of many Black Sabbath Ozzy Osborne Metallica, Led Zeppelin, King’s X, Dream Theater, Iron Maiden, Nirvana, Pearl Jam and of course Hendrix tunes. I knew I could play whatever I wanted. I knew school was a joke. I was absent as often as possible. I was on a plan to drop out.
But my grandfather Benjamin had other plans for me. He wanted and expected me to go to college. He was the son of a bar owner and coal miner in the Midwest. The son of English immigrants who worked hard and scraped by and had a lot of anger and frustration. My grandfather’s father John being behind the bar all day turned to the bottle for comfort and died when my grandfather Benjamin was just 19. Seeing no future in either coal mining or tending bar, he decided to move to Baltimore Maryland where he got a job on a Good Junior ice cream truck where he made friends with another worker who had enrolled in a dental program at the university of Maryland where he met Mary and fell in love who had Paul, Nancy and Karen. Hey Paul grew up and met Martha who had Brian Robert and Matthew.
I grew up in Lincoln Park, New Jersey, but I usually say New York City when people ask where I’m from even though I live in Seattle and want to move to Los Angeles to follow a crazy dream called love.
Telling people you’re from New York City generally creates a response of immediately smile or a chuckle and a healthy respect.
Whereas Lincoln Park usually generates questions or comments about the band. And if your say you’re from California which I consider home because I loved and lived in San Francisco and Oakland people look at you like you might be a Daisy or Petunia. many years during my time pursuing a PhD at Stanford University where I sought questions about how to improve education for kids who grow up in tough circumstances however you choose to label and define them based upon your particular upbringing, core beliefs, assumptions about myriad things that you have been conditioned by based upon your particular circumstances and what the Germans call gestalt the spirit of the times in which you live, including the language you are born into the status, occupation, education, beliefs of firstly your family and secondarily the whole milieux that anthropologists call culture and optical sciences call the marketplace of ideas and what psychologists white their emphasis on individuals, pathologies, labels and diagnoses, might call conditioning if they have read Buddha. If they have read French critics they may call it habitus. If they’ve read Marx they will call it superstructure or consciousness or more likely false consciousness and people with big megaphones will call them a myriad of names depending on their own interests Co-conditioning and hierarchical positioning within whatever organization they are associated with. But that is a tale well told and I am tired of hearing people explain other people particularly the poor. It is from the so called poor that I learned about belonging, community about courage humor and faith.
Teaching is where I felt I belonged. I was giving and I was getting far more in return.
I learned about what is was like to have a tough life and to show up with determination, and effort and humor and realness. I always knew where I stood with the 8th graders in my classroom in East New York, Brooklyn where I taught English from 2001-2004.
In 2005, I helped found The Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice (“SLJ”) in Brooklyn, New York.
At the time, there was a fad for creating small schools and I was fortunate to be part of a group of educators who along with a whole bunch of amazing young people from Brooklyn Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island and even Manhattan created The Urban Assembly High School got Law and Justice. In our first week students prepared a mock case about Fluffy the Pitbull, and presented a case to lawyers and partners at Cravath, Swaine & Moore, LLC to determine whether Fluffy’s owner was liable for an attack that occurred on a roof in Flatbush. After the presentations, we got feedback and opinions from a superb litigator and ate lunch with our hosts who were amazing partners in the school, particularly Jeff who was a familiar face at The Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice where I taught English and Writing.
The young people I met there changed my life, but I knew it was time to change gears. I was burning out and beginning to resent teaching. I had no energy to play guitar, write or paint and I was often depressed.
I had always loved to cook and I have always been fascinated and in love with India and I found an apprenticeship at Tabla in New York City. There I learned enough to fill a book from Floyd Cardoz, Ty Kotz and Danny Meyer though I only met him once, his philosophy was shared by Chef and Ty, who was a sous chef when I began my apprenticeship where I began volunteering on Saturdays my day off from teaching to quarter lemons, peel carrots, dice onions, scoop avocados. I began in the prep crew with Maria, Maria, Jose and Jose. They gave me tasks and supervised for quality control. They were my first teachers in the kitchen at Tabla. From Jose I learned how to open avocados and how to make a delicious meal out of rice and beans in a single pot.
After a year I was ready to pursue questions in education that little did I know would occupy the next 8 years and give me an personal education in psychology and psychiatry as I sought help for my abysmal recurrent ‘depression’
I was labeled with various variations on a theme with suggestions from the DSM. Good at finding faults but weak on identifying strengths, pathologists lenses often unaware of their own cognitive frames, they have a name and a prescription for every grievance but not a solution to the malady, for that I looked elseverhere including self help, spiritual books, religion, philosophy, art, social science, literature, yoga, sex, drugs, work, coffee, alcohol, travel, porn, you name it, I’ve tried it. That’s to to say I’m super adventurous. My zeal for these things, was to try to find something satisfying enough to not want to blow my head off every day. And now I know what works for me and it’s probably not you’re answer, but I will just say there is an answer and the answer will come from within you. You will know it in your body or you will not know it at all.
This is the road to finding out that I was Jimi Hendrix, a fact I knew as a young child, but as I will tell my desire to teach, my ambivalence about the record industry wealth and fame and my deep and sincere drive to help kids to find out about their own gifts
First Draft of On the Road to Find Out
to help them find a voice and to discover their own value in a place, the school where kids are far more likely to be pathologized and diagnosed, described and prescribed whether rich or poor the problem is the same, the consequences are suicide, homicide, addiction, abuse, wrecked lives wrecked minds wrecked families and devastated communities.
Where I went to graduate school 5 suicides occurred each year as a young man or woman stood on the train tracks while the person who showed up to bring people to work took their life.
These kids saw no other options other than the academic rat race. I sometimes have imaginary conversations with these kids because I know I could help them to imagine other possibilities based on what is in their secret heart.
Most people have a secret dream they rarely share, and I am lucky to hear lots of these wherever I go.
I listen. I can because I hadve known so clearly my own secret dream for while I was teaching and giving my heart mind and soul to the work I did with young people my guitars sat at my moms house.
I sold my Marshalls. I sold my Soldano stack. I sold my tobacco sunburst Stratocaster, I gave away my Crybaby wah. I sold or gave away the effects boxes
and I read and wrote and taught and cooked and waited and bartended and drove and cleaned and washed dishes.
I finished a PhD and I joined Kumu a nonprofit innovation lab and accelerator in Oakland, California.
I thought I had landed in an ideal place helping people to start non profits and businesses in the social impact sector. Here I was using my knowledge of media and education and helping people make a difference. But money was tight and then the ghosts began to haunt me, so I left Oakland went back to Brooklyn to get my act together. While there, I washed dishes, help start a youth media organization in the Bronx and worked the AA program.
Grilling hotdogs at a bar haunted by teachers at the end of June while attending morning as meetings was a low point in valleys.
After a year and a half of financial struggle, I decided to sell my apartment in Brooklyn, which was now foreign to me, I sold my place and moved to an ashram where I meditated, raked leaves and practiced yoga.
Then when I thought everything was finally coming tether, I hit a wall. I was arrested twice
The truck I bought to replace the Uhaul I tended blew up a tire that sounded like a bomb went off and I had to pay another city too much money. And that was just the beginning.