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As I See It    

 Something incredible happened this year.  After so many years of the disenfranchised and underserved populations reaching for the promise of self-evident truths and inalienable rights only to be denied and discouraged; in a world filled with fear, cynicism, bitterness and confusion; one man stood tall on the strength of his convictions and, with grace under fire, asked us to believe; to look into our own hearts and find hope again; to look into the eyes of our neighbor and see ourselves.

     America listened and as we join hands and take another step in faith on our journey towards healing the wounds of the past, together we create a new reality, according to the blueprint of our common vision where the needs of the struggling are met, where new ideas become new solutions, where barriers are removed and dreams at long last are fulfilled.  And as the world watches the dawning of a new day in our nation, and as we continue to work together to restore and rebuild, our hope will become a new wave that washes upon every shore and the voice of America, with liberty and justice for all, will echo from every mountain, inviting all citizens of the planet to expand their view of the horizon and see all the earth as common ground. earth5.jpg

-EJ 

           [As always, I welcome your comments]

 
 
 
 
 
April 2008
cherryblossom.jpg
 
Coming out of hibernation I don't have much to say. . . life is beautiful and I'm just taking it all in and processing. Here's my latest poem. . .
 
 
 

observer

 

who i am is what i see

daily defined and scrutinized by me

…whoever that may be

 

and no matter how they all try

to place me in a category

the labels just won’t stick

when the surface is illusory

 

through my window

dawn breaks on a brand new world

this mottled shell conceals a pearl

yet undiscovered

by our myopic, apathetic selves

miracles gather dust on shelves

we have only to notice

and it all springs to life

a blizzard of butterflies

before our eyes

igniting the realization

that we are no longer explorers in this land

but creators… in our hands

we grasp the double-edged sword

of  power and responsibility

whatever we see

it will be

 

-ej

 

 

 

 

 

 

thanks1.jpg

Thankful Kids   November 2007

Sometimes we need new eyes to remind us to appreciate the little things...

I’m thankful for food & water, clothes, myself and I’m thankful for my teachers. I’m thankful for my mom. I’m thankful for crayons and paper and markers and pens and pencils. I’m also thankful for alarm clocks, for school, games, colors, my friends and my sisters and all my family.

I am thankful for all the holidays and the presents I get. Also I am thankful for electricity so I can watch TV. Plus my faimly. I am also thankful for cartoons and books.

I am thankful for my turtles, Hawk and Egret. I am also thankful for my hermit crabs, Eagle and Ibis. My last pet is a fish, and I am very thankful for him, because he came from a fair that I went to two months ago and he is still alive.

I am thankful for God and Jesus. I am also thankful for the world and family. I am thankful for my books: especially “What Color is Your Underwear?” and my favorite TV show, “Zoboomafoo.” I am thankful that we are going camping because it is fun.

i am thankful for my pets. i have  4 dogs 2 cats a fish 2 baby alagater and  2  chikens

i am thankful for my friends, and family. I am also thankful for the firefighters and police for protecting or community. I am also thankful for a great life.

I am thankful for the water and my dog and ice cream.

toys and GOD

I am thankful for my family because we care about each other.  When we get mad at ecch other we talk to each other so we will feel better.  We help each other out when we get mixed-up.  We share things when we need it.  We play fair in card games and more fun things.

The color blue!!!!!!!!!!!!

I am thankful for food, teachers, paper, trees, books, back packs and my family, clothes, a place to live, clean water, juice, doctors, church, God and everything.

iM THANKFUL FOR MY FAMILY AND FRIENDS AND FOR MY BROTHER EVEN THOUGH HE CAN BE A PEST A LOT AND FOR MY CAT Macy. im thankful that im here today and my family too.

 i am thankful for having money and to not have to live in a city dump. i am also thankful for having a family who cares so much. a couple more things i am thankful for is for having friends i can play with and to hang around with and another way i am thankful is for having a place i can learn and being able to eat food and not garbage and if i could i would supply all the needy with whatever they need like food money and accessories like clothes and jewelry

for my mom
for a home
for going to school
for my dad
for food
for being able to  write and read
for being alive
for being able to walk
for friends
for family

Toys, Mommy, Daddy, my sister, God, my friend Joey, my Buzz Lightyear, my house, my Grandma, pizza, and tacos.

I am thankful friends, family, and my 8 cats and 1 dog and life and PS2s and food, water, and air. 

I am thankful for my mom and dad and my famle and frends and terkey and fiermen. 

I'm thankful that i am not a turkey.

I am thankful for the pilgrims, for without their suffering we wouldn't have thanksgiving and I would probably be at school right now.

I am thankful for my family, food, and the money we have to pay the bills. my house that i live in and the car that takes me to school. i am thankful for my school and my friends. i am thanful for my colths. my life!!!!!!! 

IM THANKFAL FOR BEING FEEDED AT TANKGIVNG

I am so thankful right now that I'm alive and healthy.  I have a great family that loves me, and that I love to death.  I have awesome friends, and I live in a country that allows me to think and be whatever I want.  

I am thankful for our country and for soldiers that fight for our protection.

I am thankful for my family, friends, pets and cheese. 

I`m thankful for my grandma for loving hugging, kissing, tucking me in bed,caring for me and I will always care for her.

I am thankful that my family, friends, and home were safe from the tornado that hit my town this weekend.

I am thankful for all the birds and turkeys and other animals running around the planet and wish that people wouldn't eat them.

I am thankful for the Backstreet Boys.  Their music makes me happy.  I like being happy.

for me my mom dad and my whole entire family

that God has given me and put me on this earth I thank God for everything that he has done for me and given me.

I am thankful for my family ,my friends, animals, the trees, the fresh air, food,
water, my life, the sun, the moon, the earth, the galaxy

My power rangers and my new puppy

I am thankful for the earth and that I live in America. I am thankful that I don't have any illness.

My mom and Dad, Baxter the dog, my neighbor Mr. Kile, his daughter, Jenny who is my friend, Jenny's mom who bakes cookies, Tammy my doll and every new day I wake up to and my guardian angel who mom says watches over me when she can't.

I am thankful for my snowmobile and pets and the world and how cool it is!

I'm thankful for my parents, my dog Cody, my grandma, my whole family, and my whole life ahead of me.

I am thankful for such nice parents.  Otherwise I'd be grounded constantly!

I am thankful for my good health, my friends, my coach (Mrs. Steph), my family, my faith, all the people in my life, all my gifts from god, for living in a free country and being on this Earth and most important I am thankful for being me.

I am thankful for our backyard with the crab apple tree that I can climb into and my swing set.

food  shelter love

Happy Thanksgiving!

-EJ

____________________________________

 

This month our guest writer is my very own brother...

 

Checking Out    October 2007

Standing in the check-out line of my local market, I was positioned to see people to the left at the automatic purchasing machines as well as those in

my line making direct human contact. To my surprise, there was little contrast in the behavioral dynamics of the transactions.

 

The young unsmiling cashier appeared to be occupied in the thought of wishing she were anywhere else. She did not greet and received no salutations. Her only verbalization was a monotone, Debit or credit?

 

checkoutgirl.jpg

Have we lost our human beingness? This is the miracle of a person in front of you, not a machine. You may have hundreds of names in your personal rolodex of friends and relatives, but none matter as much as this young lady.

Why?... because they are not here at this point in time. The only one you can possibly affect, positively or negatively, is her.

 

Even if you think it proper protocol for her to greet you first, no supermarket police will arrest you for this indiscretion. Besides, you do not know the source of her distraction. I do not think she is mentally rediversifying her mutual funds portfolio. She could have just been derided by a previous buyer. Remember, the customer is always right even when they are crude, cruel, or unstable. Or perhaps she has a sick child with a new sitter. She might just be tired because this is a trying-to-make-the-ends-meet second job. We don’t really know, and more importantly, it doesn’t matter.

 

If this is still too difficult, ask yourself how you would like your daughter’s workday to go. After all, we are only truly different on the exterior. Like all manifestations of vegetation from giant redwoods to buttercups have their source in a similar soil, at deeper levels, we are all the same family.

 

Sometimes we have to get our selves out of the way and be more attentive to something other than our egos. One smile may be all she needs to breathe some life back into her day; likewise, a Good morning, how are you? will not diminish you in any way.

 

On the contrary, like chopping wood warms you twice…once when you split… and once when you sit by the fire, acknowledging another’s humanity is pleasing when words leave lips and when you see a smile and hear the response of a human voice.

 

  

Cole Eubanks

July 2007 
 
one man smiled 
 
I'm on vacation in Massachusetts now but I spent a day or 2 with my niece in NYC. After dropping my bags off at her office in Manhattan, I had a few hours to roam before she was done with work and kick-boxing class. I decided to just follow my intuition wherever it would lead me ( of course I had to play Anything New on my mp3 player). I did a little window shopping, almost bought a salad and soon found myself entering Central Park. No surprise that my instincts would direct me to trees and water. I had gone by the park many times but I had never been inside! I took my time, meandering past the charcoal artists, admiring the stunning photos on display and walking down the path with no destination in mind, my only goal - being in the moment. It was a gorgeous day - 78 and sunny. I was listening to my favorite tunes and feeling completely free, practicing being comfortable in my own skin. I was not anyone's mom, wife or employee. I was just me - artist, writer, truth-seeker and gateway to all possibilities. My first discovery involved three large koi fish in the pond. I watched them swim for awhile then walked on, stopping from time to time to sit on a bench to people-watch. It wasn't at all what I expected from tv and the movies. There were no thugs, no goofy mishaps and no romantic chance encounters. Instead there were families out for a leisurely stroll, sunbathers lying out on the lawn or on the rocks overlooking the water, readers perched on bridges, and lovers stealing a moment together in the shadows. I did observe a film crew recording a scene, a carnival on Wollman's rink and and I think I may have spotted Yoko scribbling in a journal. Eventually I was led down a cool shady path and found a waterfall, surrounded by trees. It was beautiful. Birds frolicked and splashed in the water. I perched on a bench and was mesmerized by the scene until space and time dissolved. I became the rocks, the trees, the birds and the water. I became aware of people passing by and observed each reaction to the waterfall. Some passed by without even a glance in its direction. Others cast a glance or two as they hurried on their way. Some even stopped for five full seconds. Occasionally families would pause to pose for a picture. My heart went out to those who slowed their pace and cast long lingering gazes as if they were being led away on an invisible leash, held prisoner by some unseen master. I remembered that feeling and thanked God for my freedom.I believe I was in that spot for almost 2 hours. During that time I played "spot the blue jay," turning away for a few seconds and then searching out the flutter of bright blue plumage. With my artist's eye, I gazed at the rocks, taking in the rich textures painted with bronze, copper and ebony. Through the eyes of my ancestors the rocks became the majestic heads of elephants. I searched through all my songs and only played those songs that reflected the mood - Get Together by the Youngbloods, Blackbird by the Beatles, Gratitude by India Arie, Watching the River Run, by Loggins & Messina, Dream Again, by Lili Anel, Sacred Ground by Red Thunder and naturally, Happy That by Jeffrey Gaines. Finally, as the light grew dimmer and the temperature dropped, I knew it was about time to return (I don't own a watch but I do pretty well relying on my internal clock). As I turned my thoughts toward finding my way back, a man came by and stopped beside the waterfall. I watched as his eyes lovingly caressed every leaf, every feather, every rock, every drop of water. He took a deep breath and then exhaled slowly and as he walked away he smiled. He had captured the beauty of that sacred place and now carried it with him. At last I could leave this spot, knowing that there would be others who recognized its splendor. On the way back to 55th and 6th I was listening to India sing "I want to go to beautiful" and I smiled because I'd been there. I wish each of you a smile like that.  
 
-Liz   
 
 
 
 
May 2007
 
This month I just wanted to share this poem with all of you. I just wrote it so it doesn't have a title yet.
-EJ
 
 
Of all the words that exist in the world
Let us choose kind ones
Let them offer hope and encouragement
Let them speak of peace and of gratitude
Let them form visions of light in the air that we breathe
 
Our words are our power
 
Of all the thoughts in the world
Let us choose fruitful ones,
Let them imagine, wonder and revere
Let them be selfless and forgiving
Let them be free of delusion and deceit
 
Our thoughts become our reality
 
Of all the actions in the world
Let us choose compassion
Let every being on the earth be relieved of burden
Let every cold heart be warmed
Let every emptiness be filled with the fullness of love
 
Our time is now
 
****
 
 
 
 
 

monarchs.jpg

beyond the beginning       
April 2007
 
I haven't written one of these in awhile. The last time I logged my thoughts here it was early fall. Today is Easter Sunday. It's also Passover. And if you don't happen to observe either of those , it's early spring and most of us can relate to that - although it hasn't felt much like spring here on the east coast. Anyhow, all of these events represent transformative change, promise, rebirth, freedom and trusting in the process. 
I'm in a very weird place right now. I've recently survived a metaphysical near-death experience in which I had to completely release control and go blindly forward, surrendering all to the bevolent force that governs the universe.
 
So now that I've arrived on the other side of the recent crisis (although not entirely out of the woods) and am settled into my new digs - now what? The raging storm has passed and I'm safe and well but all that intensity is still hanging on. I guess I could be experiencing a bit of post-traumatic stress but I am also feeling enormous gratitude just to be alive, to have all my basic needs met and to have a place to call home.
Still there is a part of me that knows there is a greater purpose in all of this. There are lessons to be learned and boundries to be guarded - not out of fear this time but from my commitment to preserving the integrity of those things which I value.
I'm thinking now that maybe the whole traumatic episode could have been avoided if only I hadn't allowed myself to be distracted by trivia, giving in to my lower impulses, indulging my id with mental, spiritual and actual junk food and slacking off on responsibilities. That was okay in my 20's when I didn't have other people depending on me. 
I totally went unconscious and my entire being was on auto-pilot. I can't even recall the past 6 months. It all seems like some blurry dream that was quite vivid at the time but now all I remember now is that I was wearing a hat.
In spite of all this, or because of it, I decided I needed to comemmorate this time in my life with a celebration. I invited all my favorite people and most of them showed up. We had a blast.
 
So now I'm hovering like one of those balloons three days after the party as it loses helium. I'm aware of all those laws of physics affecting me and am trusting that they will serve to guide me to a safe landing.
 
-EJ
 

Scares Me 

September 2006

One of the bravest things we can ever do as human beings is to admit that we're afraid.
We are all afraid of something and basically we're all afraid of the same things - death,
pain, failure, bondage, rejection, the unknown. Everything else pretty much fits under one of these
categories. We experience fear as tension, pressure, contraction, panic, dread...even physical pain but fear is a master of disguise, often showing up in our lives as guilt, frustration,
anger, hate, crime, depression, addiction, procrastination, judgement, abandonment,  violence,
sarcasm, humor, poverty, illness and extreme behavior.  Fear is a necessary although uncomfortable sensation. Fear is the mind's reaction to danger, real or imagined - anything that appears as a threat evokes the
fight or flight response. Fear is a messenger that tells us there's a choice to be made. But when we are
incapable or unwilling to make that choice we choose to close the door of consciousness and
turn to one of those avenues of escape listed above - anything not to feel our inadequacy.
There is one type of fear that we don't often consider but most of us - if not all - have experienced it at
some point in our lives and that is fear of our own power. Fear of success, happiness, love, freedom and wholeness.
Why is it that when the very things we all so deperately hope for and search for are within our grasp, we hesitate.
We're so suspicious of anything good. Where is the hidden agenda, where's the deception? We've all been burnt before.
Why go back into the fire? Why risk what we have now for the possibility of something better. We could lose it all.
We hold on much too long. Often everything in our being is screaming "Go! Yes! Move! Now!" and suddenly we're paralyzed
by doubt. Soon the moment passes, the ship has sailed and we realize we've missed the opportunity of a lifetime and
may spend the rest of our lives trying to compensate for the loss.


So how do we get past our animal instinct of fight or flight? We have to allow ourselves to go beyond, rise above, transcend
our mammal experience and realize that to be human is to have the choice to rise above our reactions. Unlike our furry and feathered brothers, we can open
the door to a higher awareness to get a glimpse of the bigger picture and see the real truth behind the illusion.
If only we could just let go and and break free we could access that blissful state of love, clarity and confidence.  There are many ways to
get there - meditation, prayer, journaling, inspired reading, creating art, communing with nature, sharing our hearts with others, giving comfort to those in need.  Anything that opens us up and creates that warm expansion of spirit. When we are willing to change, to surrender the familiar for the unknown then we are ready to take the leap of faith.

Ultimately, no one else can tell us what is true. We have to find out for ourselves. That is our journey here on earth.
Our mission is to find the truth and put it into action.  Each day
presents opportunities to transcend fear - in all of it's manifestations. A coward is only a coward until the next challenge.
Be a hero today.
  

-EJ     

newguitar.jpg

 

Playing Guitar August 2006

Jeffrey got his first guitar when he was 15. He traded in his vintage drum set which he now realizes was worth a lot more than "the 1.99 guitar" the shop owner handed him. He still has it though - that was over 20 years ago. What is this powerful bond we have with guitars?

I guess I was about 11 when I first picked up a guitar. It belonged to my older brother and even though I never saw him play it, he would never allow me to touch it. He kept it way in the back of his closet behind a large sketchbook, a pile of smelly sneakers and his cherished comic book collection.  

I never was a kid who liked to follow the rules so one afternoon when he was out I sneaked into his room and after poking around in his dresser drawers for loose change, I remembered the forbidden instrument. The fact that it was off-limits made it all the more enticing.  

The first strum - though horribly out of tune - was pure magic.  I spent the next hour plucking, picking and sliding. I had no clue what I was doing but I fell in love with the sound. 

I had taken keyboard lessons at school and taught myself a few tunes on the recorder but somehow the guitar was different. Holding it against me I felt strangely powerful, as if I had connected with some mysterious force. As I embraced the smooth, beautiful curves of polished wood, a bond seemed to form between us. It seemed so happy to be free. But all too soon my brother returned and I quickly and reluctantly stashed his guitar back in its lonely corner.  

It was my brother who introduced me to Joni Mitchell and although I didn’t actually “get “ her until years later, there was something about her sound that totally mesmerized me. I knew that everything she played was authentic and from the heart. And I knew that she played the guitar like no one else I’d ever heard. This wasn’t just entertainment – there was love in that music…and pain. The music gave voice to her soul. I thought she was brilliant. I longed to play like her. I wanted to be her.

Through the years I have sought out and discovered other artists who speak to me – usually there is a guitar involved.

They make it seem so effortless. Legends like Carlos Santana and BB King don't just play the guitar, the two become one and in that moment nothing exists but the music. Did you know that Lucille actually saved BB's life? Now that's a loyal instrument.  And I recently read that Jimi Hendrix got his first guitar out of the trash. It only had one string but he’d sit for hours trying to get every sound possible out of that one string – and another genius was born.

I didn’t become a genius.

I continued my piano lessons for awhile, learned how to read music (sort of) and was able to play a few piece. I even wrote a song or two but like most teens I lost interest when my social life picked up. Now my kids are teens. Where did the time go? 

This summer my six-year-old nephew bought his first guitar. He saved up his allowance for months. I went to visit a few weeks ago and spent most of my time trying to tune the thing. I didn’t know what I was doing but I knew I could make a more harmonic sound come out of it. Unfortunately one of the pegs refused to stay put so all my efforts were in vain. I guess the dissatisfaction must have lingered in my subconscious because I began scanning the net daily for affordable used guitars. Last week I found it.  

I’ve observed that whenever there’s a pivotal moment in my life a mirror appears, someone who shares so many things in common with me that it transcends coincidence. Call it synchronicity or serendipity or kismet - it was all of that. Her name was Liz ( coincidence? ) and although we looked nothing alike she did resemble my lifelong best friend. She was moving to Boston, not far from the little town where my mom grew up and where I spent all my summers as a kid.

She lived in University City just blocks away from my old apartment. I met her at 30th Street Station

and as I picked up my guitar for the first time, I felt that same strange force filling me. My entire being was smiling – beaming - and I became giddy with excitement and anticipation.

As I said goodbye and wished my mirror luck, she handed me an electric tuner and a purple pick – my favorite color. On the way home several people stopped me to ask if I played and to share their guitar experiences. I was in the club now. 

After just ten minutes at home, I popped a string while tuning it and could hardly wait ‘til the next day to get it replaced. I was hooked.   

In the guitar shop I was surrounded by guitars and guitarists. Suddenly I belonged to an elite group consisting of rock stars, songwriters and blues singers.

I practice every day but I must admit it's harder than I thought. I have so much more respect for all those guitarists out there. I didn't know there was actual pain involved!  But last night I got a new wave of inspiration when Jeffrey gave me one of his picks so now I am determined to see this through. I know I'll never play like Jeff or any of those other guys who make it look so easy but if I can just learn to play one song I will be ecstatic and if it happens to be one of mine I can finally check one dream off my list.

 

-EJ

 

Got a guitar story? Send it in and I’ll post it!

 

 

Free     July 2006

 

On Thursday night, Jeffrey presented us with a challenge. As he introduced the song, To Be Free...

 

            I'd like to encourage you all to take full advantage of that option (freedom); while you can.”

 

That brief statement resonated in me and still lingers with me 24 hours later. Did I sell out? Did I trade my freedom for security? The answer is yes.

 

We did what we were told. We studied hard, got a job a spouse, a car, a house.  Now we can sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labors, right?  The only thing is there seems to be a whole lot more labor than fruit.  These days the work never seems to end. After putting in 40 hours at the office, we come home to stacks of paperwork and endless phone conversations with Insurance companies, banks, medical personnel, etc. And after taking care of our kids, pets and cars, we flop down in the chair with the remote, too tired to do all those things we were planning to do with our free time. But isn’t  that what grown-ups are supposed to do?

 

To preserve our sanity, every once in awhile we need to remove ourselves from the endless stream  of obligations, take a deep breath and cast a glance in a new direction.

 

We wait in the darkness for something, someone, anything to come and take us away from our ordinary existence, if just for an hour.  And suddenly he appears, at the edge of our world, surrounded by the glow of some faraway place.  It’s the magic dust from so many days of adventure, of  life celebrating  itself.  It is the aura of possibility, imagination, play and wonder.  We are enchanted by his charming smile and intrigued by his stories. He invites us to come out and play but we can only join him if we believe and are willing to let go of fear and other earthly limitations.

 

Yes, it’s Peter Pan, the keeper of dreams, who wins our hearts each time he comes to the window of our lives.  But he’s traded his sword for an acoustic guitar and his green elf suit for a black t-shirt and jeans. 

 

jeffaspeterpan.jpg

We eagerly take his hand and fly away, far above it all where everything is so clear and beautiful. Finally, we are free. We experience pure joy and exhilaration. We laugh, we cry, we trade stories and, in the blink of an eye, it is time to return. There are people and things that need our attention.  We knew it was too good to last.  It takes courage to choose freedom and most of us just aren’t brave enough to follow our hearts wherever they might lead us. 

 

Fortunately, there are enough of us who still believe in the possibility of the dream and that openness to wonder keeps the magic alive. We believe and so he exists to keep our dreams alive for us.

 

And so we will wait by the window until he comes again to set us free.

 

 

-EJ

 

Butterfly

Metamorphosis June 2006
My son is graduating this week. Twelve long years in the chrysallis are finally over and a new adventure awaits him in  college. He is entering the next life phase, becoming a brand new creature, trying his wings for the first time. I celebrate his independence even as I see the approaching storms and know that I won't be there to pick him up when he falls.  It's not my job anymore.
 
When he walks through that door his life will be his own.
 
I know he'll be fine but maternal instinct prevails.  I totally get that this is the natural order of things and that independence is the goal we've always been shooting for but I will miss him.  
 
As the day of his departure draws closer I become more nostalgic. Lately, every time I look at him I see the three-year-old with a sticky popsicle and a towel for a cape who laughs at all of my jokes and I can't help thinking this may be the last summer we'll all be together as a family. 
 
I must remind myself that life hates stagnation. To be alive is to grow and change continuously. When we resist, things can get ugly pretty quick. Just try resisting birth pangs.
 
We can't always see the wisdom beyond the pain of giving up our comfortable existence for the promise of the great unknown but the universe knows. It happens every day in gardens, forests and oceans all over the world.  It happens in galaxies millions of light years from our own.
 
Every moment the universe is reinventing itself. Living things are transforming and evolving all around us.
 
We get so caught up in how, when and why life happens that we miss the miracle. Life is! It's all happening right now! It's not a dream. It's not a movie. It's real. We can touch it and taste it and roll in it.
 
Yet, here we sit inside the chrysallis. We've overstayed our time in the safety of our paper-thin shell, trading our hard-won freedom for a false sense of security. Yes, there will be storms but there is a lifetime of adventure waiting just outside the door.
 
Be brave little butterfly.
 
-EJ
 

The Empty Stage  May 2006

 

There it is…the spotlight. Inviting isn’t it? All of us at one point have dreamed of standing there, for just one moment pouring out our souls, shouting for all the world to hear, “ I  EXIST…I MATTER…I HAVE SOMETHING OF VALUE TO SAY”.

Like so many of us, I was silenced as a child. I longed to sing, dance and give voice to my experience but all my attempts were discouraged and so I had to redirect that fountain of creative energy into smaller channels. I began to draw, paint and write. I surrendered to my imagination and lived vicariously through the adventures of characters in books. I took my camera with me everywhere in an attempt to capture the intangible essence of the moment. And I sang…in my room behind closed doors when I was sure no one could hear.

I have always admired those with the guts to get up in front of a crowd and sing their most intimate thoughts to friends and strangers. Ever since I first heard Joni Mitchell in my teens, I’ve always known that I missed my calling.

I was determined to encourage my children and everyone else’s children to be as expressive as they dared to be so I taught theater arts to kids. As I invited their silenced voices out to play I began to free my own. I rediscovered my playfulness and spontaneity and eventually accepted several opportunities to speak and recite my poetry publicly.

Now I’ve created this space. This is my stage. I am grateful for those of you who come to hear what I have to say and I do appreciate hearing your feedback since I don’t get applause.

And although I still harbor some envy for people like Jeffrey, who stand confident in the spotlight, I also realize that it is a great responsibility to be the symbol of everyone’s unfulfilled dreams. Maybe that’s one reason why I want so badly for him to make it big. I’d feel that in some small way I was part of that.

I do sing now…everyday in the shower but I no longer care who hears. My family used to complain but they’ve gotten used to it. Surrounded by all that tile, I sound great!  Who knows, someday I may be really brave and try karaoke.

 

Peace

-Liz

 

 

Living in the light April 2006

 

As a performer, Jeffrey steps onto the stage, under the blinding light and exposes all of his hope and despair before us. He speaks for the silent…for those of us who lack the boldness to give voice to our fear and desire. He doesn’t claim to know any more than us; he is our mirror… as we all are to each other.

Whether we realize it or not, we are all living in the light and as much as we might think we are hiding all of our secrets neatly behind that mask of perfection, we give ourselves away in subtle ways each day. Our external behavior is a reflection of our internal struggles. Excessive eating, drinking, and shopping reveals some emotional and spiritual imbalance. Escaping for endless hours into drugs, movies, television and casual sex exposes a lack of real meaning and substance in our lives ( I guess that covers most of us). We often consider these things acceptable vices and we excuse and rationalize our behavior rather than admit there is work to be done. Who wants more work? Isn’t life hard enough? Don’t we deserve a little pleasure to help us cope with the pain?

I don’t have all the answers but I know that there comes a point in time when we become aware that we are not where we need to be. We choose to take the easy way out by numbing ourselves to the pain only to find that the pleasure isn’t nearly as sweet as it used to be. Isn't it time to be brave and come out of the shadows, deal with the issues, pay off our debts, open the windows and let in the beautiful sunshine? Not only will we sleep better and be able to face ourselves in the mirror but everywhere we go, people are watching us…judging, resenting or admiring what they see in us – the neighbor, the boss, our friends and especially the children in our lives who are disillusioned each time they see a hero tarnished by greed, lust, rage or cowardice. Now, who will they turn to for inspiration?  You can be that hero… just pick up your shield and go fight some dragons. You don’t have to be perfect… it just takes one small act of bravery...go on, take off the mask, be yourself, speak the truth and let the sunshine in.

 

He that has light within his own clear breast may sit in the centre, and enjoy bright day: But he that hides a dark soul and foul thoughts benighted walks under the mid-day sun; himself his own dungeon.   

 

 - John Milton

  

-EJ 

 

 

Back On Track

February / March 2006

 

It happens to all of us. One minute we’re happy, healthy and carefree, then suddenly the roof falls in, the rug gets pulled out from under us and  we’re flat on our backs wondering what happened. Suddenly we’ve lost it all –  money, health,  job, love… and we never saw it coming. So here we are in the middle of nowhere…where do we begin?

I don’t know about you but my first instinct is to panic and shut down. I’m in shock. It’s the end of the world as I knew it. After a day (or week or month, depending on how big the problem is) I come out of my cave and look around for something I can grab onto to keep me from sinking any deeper into the muck. It’s never the solution – just a temporary security blanket.

Finally I begin to begin to take inventory – physically, mentally, and spiritually. I open my journal and look for the root cause. Eventually, I find that quiet space where I can be completely still and listen to that inner voice… God, the universe, the higher self, whatever it is that you call that deep intelligence that we all have access to when we need wisdom and guidance. There I begin to see where my priorities and boundaries are again. Usually, there are things in my life I need to let go of and other things I need to embrace. Often there is some difficult course of action I’ve been avoiding. Always, always it’s a matter of awareness. I just wasn’t paying attention.

There are so many distractions these days that some of us create an entire existence from just the distractions. It’s called a lifestyle. If we don’t stop from time to time to focus on what is really important in our lives, one day we’ll wake up to discover those things we care most about are gone.

Modern life is becoming increasingly more complicated. If we keep adding people, places and things to our busy schedules, eventually some things begin to fall through the cracks. It’s like going into the grocery store just to pick up a few things. We walk right by the carts and baskets and proceed to collect items from the shelves. Soon we’re struggling to hold onto ten items and we’re miles away from the nearest cart or basket. Don’t we feel silly now? If we keep adding to the load something’s gotta give. This is stress. We tend to think stress is a bad thing but stress is just information – “Hello…you’re carrying too much…put something down …get some help…get a basket already!”

Maybe life isn’t really all that complicated. Once we put everything in the basket we can see what we have clearly and make reasonable decisions. On some level, we usually know what needs to be done. The hard part is actually doing it. Maybe discipline and responsibility don’t sound like much fun but when you take care of those necessary things first you can enjoy the party with a clear conscience.

Ya see, I know all this but I still have a hard time with the whole “being a grown-up” thing. I guess there’s still a little teenage rebellion left in me. Okay, okay...I’m putting back the oreos and picking up the broccoli. It’s a start.

 

-EJ

 

 

Resolution  January 2006

 

I was listening to Right My Wrongs the other day and it brought to mind the subject of New Year’s resolutions. How life affirming to take personal inventory of our lives and see just where the holes are, determined to repair them. But  It takes guts to take a good long look in the metaphysical mirror and recognize that with a little effort we could be so much better. Of course, only the bravest and most determined souls will complete the course but even if we lose momentum along the way, just the act of starting the journey “on bright new ground” is sometimes enough to bring us to the next level.

 

Although we may find it easier to just coast through our days, giving just enough to get by, ultimately it only leaves us empty and seeking out anything to fill the endless void. It has been my experience that when I’m living by my convictions – honest with myself and others, respectful of all creatures great and small, hardworking, compassionate, aware, facing my challenges without running, blaming or making excuses – I am fully engaged, in tune with the rhythm of life, connected by some unseen force to all other living things. There are no holes to fill. I have peace. There is no need to depend on anyone or anything. I have joy. I am overflowing with love for my fellow man. There is no guilt, no anxiety, no jealousy. I am free. It’s not always easy to get to that Island in the Sun. Usually I arrive there quite by accident. Suddenly I look around and everything’s changed and I’m just happy to be alive.

 

More often I find I’m struggling with all my might to crawl out of some pit I’ve dug for myself, desperate for just a glimpse of sunlight. Upon further reflection, I realize that there is always a moment, a turning point when I can choose to be aware and responsible for my actions or ignore the voice of clarity and reason and follow my id blindly into the house of mirrors, where I can convince myself that the illusions are real. How quickly we forget the inevitable fall each time we find ourselves at that crossroads.

 

Jeffrey says he’s not making any resolutions this year. His ambitions are too big to have them all come true. But I believe there is magic in setting a course for a grand adventure, even if we never reach our destination. Just for the moment, as we spread the map and make a plan, anything is possible. So go ahead…dream big!

 

-EJ

Being Peace  December 2005

I'm finding it difficult to get into the Christmas spirit this year. In the wake of war and natural disaster, the jingle bells ring hollow in my ears. I could fake my way through it, put on my best smile and lose myself in the mania of shopping and decorating that Christmas has become but I'm choosing instead to look for ways to make this time of year more meaningful and find more ways to connect with family, friends and strangers. I'll start by making a gift for everyone I know and giving to those who are truly in need. I also plan to spend a few moments each day in silence in order to hear that inner voice that so often gets drowned out in the flurry of the noise and activity.

So, at this time, as we all hope for peace on earth, I hope that you will take a moment to reflect on the ideals of peace and how we can bring more peace into our lives. That is the first step to being the peace we want to see in the world... so take 3 minutes out of your hectic day... take a deep breath...relax your shoulders and just let the words wash over you...

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.
Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees.
The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.
--John Muir

Better than a thousand hollow words is one word that brings peace.
--Buddha

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.
--Sy Miller and Jill Jackson

Peace cannot be achieved through violence, it can only be attained through understanding.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson

There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children. There is no duty more important than ensuring that their rights are respected, that their welfare is protected, that their lives are free from fear and want and that they grow up in peace.
--Kofi Annan

Peace can only last where human rights are respected,
where people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.
--The XIVth Dalai Lama

Peace is every step.
--Thich Nhat Hahn

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.
--Mohandas K. Gandhi

We look forward to the time when the Power of Love will replace the Love of Power. Then will our world know the blessings of peace.
--William Gladstone

If we are peaceful, if we are happy, we can smile and blossom like a flower, and everyone in our family, our entire society, will benefit from our peace.
--Thich Nhat Hanh

Peace is the respect for the rights of others.
--Benito Juarez

Mankind must put an end to war, or war will put an end to mankind...War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.
--John F. Kennedy

Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal...the past is prophetic in that it asserts loudly that wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.
--Abraham Lincoln

Peace may sound simple - one beautiful word - but it requires everything we have, every quality, every strength, every dream, every high ideal.
--Yehudi Menuhin

There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.
--A.J. Muste

If you want peace, work for justice.
--Pope Paul VI

It isn't enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn't enough to believe in it. One must work at it.
--Eleanor Roosevelt

This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.
-- Peace Pilgrim

Peace, like charity, begins at home.
--Franklin D. Roosevelt

Peace is not an absence of war, it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.
--Baruch Spinoza

At the center of non-violence stands the principle of love.
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

The first peace, which is the most important, is that which comes within the souls of people when they realize their relationship, their oneness with the universe and all its powers, and when they realize that at the center of the universe dwells the Great Spirit, and that this center is really everywhere, it is within each of us.
--Black Elk

All works of love are works of peace...if we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
--Mother Teresa

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace; where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

--St. Francis of Asisi

Peace is our gift to each other.

--Elie Wiesel

************************************

I wish you peace.

-Liz

voice

November 2005

As a kid, it  seemed the adults in my life always  wanted me in when all I wanted was to be out. So I spent a lot of time looking out the window...at home, church, in the car, at school - what was happening outside was always far more interesting than anything going on inside. So many years are wasted in classrooms when the best education is found in the school without walls. The answers to our most profound questions can usually be found by sitting still and listening.

 In the early morning when most of the world is still asleep you can hear the wind whispering in the trees, water rushing over stones and the songs of birds as they wake and greet the dawn. If you listen carefully, you can learn each unique voice. Robin, chickadeeand  mockingbird are easily recognizable with their familiar repetitions. Canaries, warblers and nightengales are well known for their talent as musicians. But there is one bird whose song captures my heart every time. The humble starling pales in comparison to the glory of the peacock, the strength of the eagle, the majesty of the owl. Perching on the wire above, he flaps his wings and in a burst of pure joy, pours out the sweetest tribute to the new day. His is not the most beautiful of songs, in fact, it sounds like random notes strung together without a thought or care, with a few clicks and squawks thrown in for no good reason. The sound is comical at best, but it is sung from the heart and I challenge you to find a happier, more enthusiastic, more inspirational singer among all creatures. Funny how the value of common things is overlooked as we seek out the spectacular to arouse our dulled senses but it is in the quiet moments that truth is revealed through simplicity.

I heard a song once that went like this...

 

"All God's children got a place in the choir. Some sing low and some sing higher. Some sing out loud on the telephone wire and some just clap their hands, paws or anything they got now."

 

I believe we are here on this earth to find our own place in the choir. To discover and develop our gifts and to share our own authentic voice with the world.

 

-EJ

 

 

fusion

October 2005

My family tree has branches that spread far and wide. From Portugal to Madagascar, from England to Mexico. I grew up listening to my aunts and uncles speaking spanish and portugese.  My father quoted Thoreau, my brother quoted Angela Davis.  My mom listened to Frank and Dino; my dad, Beethoven and Brahms; my brothers, jazz, blues and acid rock.
Throw into the mix the fact that I was born in the sixties, my formative years spent in a whirlwind of political and social upheaval, and you have a recipe for total confusion. I lived in that state for decades...until I began to look for the common threads and found that I could weave them all together and create something unique and beautiful and express that through art. 

Over the years I found myself gravitating towards anyone who shared that vision of finding and making connections where they never existed before in that particular form. Jeffrey is the latest in a long line of synthesizers I consider kindred spirits. Santana, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Walt Whitman, DaVinci, Edison, Einstein, and so many more. These are the brave souls who are intrigued by possibility and for whom the word limitation has no meaning. Once we step through that door all boundaries are blurred. Music, art, poetry, science are no longer separate entities but a swirling wind of creative energy fueled by wonder, imagination and passion. It is this same energy, I believe, that sustains the universe and once we embrace this level of understanding, words begin to lose their meaning. Everything is everything else. We have no need for comparing and defining. We just enjoy the ride. In these manic modern times we all find ourselves needing to find ways to organize and compartmentalize our lives to make sense of it. I propose that we do just the opposite. Just for today, let’s blow all the pieces like dandelion seeds into the wind and see where they land.

-EJ

 

outside the fishbowl

September 2005

At the Wildflower Café, Jeffrey started the show by announcing that from now on he was just going to play and let the music do the talking but a few songs in he reconsidered and shared a few of his musings about life. I can’t speak for the rest of you guys but I happen to love that part. I can go home and play all the songs (and I do…every day) so when I come out to a live show I’m looking for something different. Each show is a unique experience…there’s the vibe of the place, the energy of the crowd, the tone of the music and Jeffrey’s stream-of-consciousness ramblings about anything and everything…from early childhood memories to stories from the road.

 

As a visual artist and a songwriter, Jeffrey is both observer and reporter. He views the world at a slightly skewed angle. With his head tilted to one side, he takes in every detail, absorbing it all like a sponge. Then he wrings it all out up there on stage, flooding us with insights and witticisms.

 

Most of us live inside the fishbowl, where we go through the motions to survive in our chosen form of captivity. We move in our familiar patterns of rest and activity, stopping every so often to wonder if there is more to life beyond the boundaries of our reality. If only we had the courage to risk it all and find out. So many of Jeffrey’s songs speak to this theme and it is a universal dilemma, security vs. the realization of dreams.

 

We look for inspiration from artists, poets and philosophers who live outside the fishbowl where anything can happen. They continue to remind us that life is a blank canvas and each of us is equipped with a box of bold colors and an assortment of brushes. Some of us never even open the box. Some make an attempt to create but quit at the first mistake. Others continue to experiment and gradually acquire the skills and tools to find satisfaction with their creative efforts. Regardless of what the rest of the world thinks of our finished piece, we have experienced pure freedom in choosing to leave behind the ordinary world and open the door to limitless imagination.

 

Unfortunately, the fish, with his physical and intellectual limitations, isn’t capable of making that choice. Once inside the fishbowl, he is at the mercy of his caretakers. We, on the other hand, have only to think beyond the glass and instantly the bowl vanishes and we find ourselves swimming free in an endless sea of possibility.

 

Being an artist and writer myself, I spend a great deal of time outside the fishbowl looking in. I am also a parent,  teacher and homeowner, which requires me to function within the confines of society. So I live in two worlds and it is a constant challenge. But I can’t stay inside the bowl for long before claustrophobia sets in. I know where I belong. Gotta go now… the ocean is calling.

 

-EJ

The Fans

August 2005

 

A few months back at the Tin Angel, Jeffrey joked about the fact that no one ever comes to his shows dressed like him. Whereas crowds routinely don elaborate costumes to be in sync with their favorite performers “we just look like we’re waiting for a bus!”

 

It’s true; the connection isn’t an obvious one. Jeffrey Gaines’ fans represent a cross-section of America. Looking around the room, you are likely to find teen fledgling rockers, some guys who just came for the beer, married couples, serious music aficionados, a sprinkling of pageant contenders, some guys who came along to appease their girlfriends and a few gen x-ers who came just to hear “In Your Eyes.”  Then there’s the core group of Jeff’s supporters who for some reason connect to this guy and would follow him anywhere. I’m not saying which category I’m in but considering that I’m spending a gorgeous Sunday afternoon typing this article, you could probably guess.

 

I am personally offended at the tasteless choices we are handed in the movies, television and music industries today. I am just as offended by all of us who are willing to accept those choices and just live with them. It’s mostly garbage. The media spoon-feeds us mediocrity on a daily basis until we begin to believe all those small, fragmented, isolating thoughts that reinforce our insecurities, convincing us that we are never enough. They seep into our consciousness and begin to form our existence. Where is the quality in our lives? There is so much talent out there – underrated, under promoted and under supported. We just need to care a little bit more.

 

I once overheard a club manager remark to Jeffrey that he’s never seen anything like the devotion Jeff’s fans have toward him. We hang around long after the show hoping for a few brief words, a photo or a JG on our cd cover.  Jeffrey is always generous and accommodating.  

 

We come away from the show feeling validated, appreciated and inspired. We can take all that back into our lives and function from a slightly higher level of awareness as the words and music still resound in our minds and hearts, reminding us to be bold, to care for each other and to focus our energies on the things that really matter.

 

I wasn’t at all surprised to find that many of Jeffrey’s fans are caring, compassionate and creative. They are teachers, artists, photographers, caretakers, builders, writers and musicians; people I’d like to know better. The JG café is a forum for just that kind of interaction. I hope more people will write in just to say hi. Don’t be shy! I love mail!

 

- EJ

 

Leap of Faith (July 2005) 

     From time to time we all have to face that moment when we choose to risk it all to follow our true path, leaving behind what has been comfortable and familiar for so long. Nature shows us that this is how life adapts and evolves. The tadpole becomes a frog, the caterpillar becomes a butterfly. We have given up so much to preserve our security but now the winds of change are blowing and it is time to move on.

     In the past we may have lingered a while, contemplating all of our options but these are bold times and if we don’t act when we know we should, we may just miss that window of opportunity and we’ll never know how amazing our lives could be.

     In order to keep the flag of hope waving high in an often hopeless world, we’ve got to step out and stand tall. That’s what Jeffrey has been telling us all these years and he's right. We can’t let our fears hold us back from becoming who we were meant to be. We have to trust that there are indeed benevolent forces at work in the universe that will come to our aid once we gather our courage and intentions and take that leap into the void.     

     Suddenly, the winds of change become warm thermals and we grow eagle wings. Gliding effortlessly above it all, we can see farther and clearer than ever before and in our new form we find we can travel to distant and unimaginable lands.

     It’s not easy breaking free of all the ties that bind – home, job, family, friends  - there are invisible strings connecting us to all of that and even though they can’t be seen, those strings bind us tightly to our current existence, like the reins of a horse, determining the course of our lives.

     Naturally, we must take into consideration our serious obligations to those who truly need us. Caring for young children, aging parents or a disabled spouse may delay us on our journey to self-fulfillment for a while but a life of true loyalty and selflessness is always rewarded, although not necessarily in ways that the rest of the world would consider valuable. Then again, the intentions of the heart can sometimes open doors we never knew existed. Whatever your circumstances, keep your dream alive, practice your craft and refine your skills. When opportunity presents itself, you’ll be ready.    

     It seems that Jeffrey has reached a crossroads and is lingering in the doorway, surveying the horizon. We have supported him over the years and he has responded by rising to the occasion with the music and words we all needed to hear but it’s a new day and it is time for Jeffrey to leave the proverbial nest. We need to show him that same support as he ventures out into a new way of being, a new direction, whatever that may be and have faith that when the dust settles everything will be as it should be.

     Jeffrey is hard at work on his sixth studio album and isn’t giving us many clues as to what we should expect. At recent shows, he has hinted at making some changes towards a more alternative and edgier sound. It appears the time has come to leave the security of his comfortable niche and explore beyond the boundaries that currently hold him back from greater success. He has always been destined for greatness and it’s only a matter of time before the rest of the world comes on board.

     Hopefully, he won’t venture too far from the quintessential Jeffrey Gaines that we’ve all grown to love. Hopefully, no matter what form the new music takes on, at it’s core we will find the provocative, courageous, compelling and liberating words that inspire us ever onward.

     For those of you who cringe at the thought of leaping blindly into thin air from a mountaintop, allow me to offer another, perhaps gentler, metaphor. Every thought, action or expression that we put out there in the world is a little paper boat in a stream, full of hope and promise as it sails out of view. If, by chance, it should arrive on a happy shore where it is found and cherished – wonderful, though it could just as easily get tangled in some vegetation and eventually decompose. 

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream."

-- Mark Twain

 

     Hopefully, with a steady wind and a large stack of paper one of our little boats just may make its way out onto the sea of possibility, sailing among the big ships and finally come to rest on an island paradise. There, at last, the dream meets reality and life becomes pure magic.

   

Happy Sailing!  

-EJ           paperboat.jpg

 

 

 

Heroes (June 2005)

 (At the time of this writing we are celebrating Memorial Day. It seemed appropriate to reflect on the lives of those who have lived a life of purpose)

              

       The hero theme runs strong in Jeffrey’s lyrics. And it’s no wonder, he’s an observer and when we stop to take a good look around, there aren’t too many examples of true heroism to be found, especially if you base your reality on what the media serves up. You’ve got your overpaid athletes and your diamond-studded rappers but we can do better than that. 

       There are many definitions for the word hero and, being a purist, I opt for the one that refers to honor and courage.  So where are these brave, noble men and women? My parents exhibited some of these qualities but they were flawed so I dismissed them as heroes at an early age and vowed to do just the opposite of everything they ever taught me. Still, somehow, I ended up exactly where they were… only poorer.  

       Other definitions of the word have to do with power, ability and impressing people. I believe we’ve settled for this lesser type of hero due to the fact that the world has become increasingly superficial and tends to make gods of anyone who has more than us. The popular, rich and good-looking draw our undying devotion as we flock to catch a glimpse of these new royals. In contrast, the humble, compassionate and honorable seemed to pale in comparison, nearing extinction as a species…that is, until a few years back when a few off-course planes changed our lives forever.

       If anything good came out of the 9/11 incident it was the long overdue appreciation of the unsung heroes. Finally, we paid respect to firefighters and police officers and all those brave young men and women who put their lives on the line to protect our country. We even got a glimpse into the lives of doctors, nurses and those family members who searched tirelessly for lost loved ones. We all banded together and found the courage to live our lives again.

     Unfortunately, America has amnesia when it comes to principles and character. No, it’s more like mass attention deficit disorder. A never-ending stream of trivia and sales pitches flashes on like Times Square in our minds and our thoughts are no longer our own. Thanks to the media, we now know more about the weekly antics of pop divas than our own families. 

       Since becoming a parent myself, I have seen fit to pardon my parents for their shortcomings and now consider them both true heroes. Together, they survived abusive alcoholic parents, the depression, war, poverty, discrimination, segregation, assimilation and raising a large family during the turbulent sixties. We may have been dysfunctional but none of us ended up insane, addicted or incarcerated. I know they weren’t perfect but they showed up and got the job done. 

       There is a hero in each of us and with each new day we have a new opportunity to shine bright.  Maybe we’ll never rescue someone from a burning building, maybe we’ll never have our 15 minutes of fame but being a hero was never so much about being the best or the strongest but about being brave enough to go forward into unknown territory to speak your truth, give voice to your passion and live your dreams.  

       I read a line years ago, in a book called Urantia, that changed my life.

 

“The quickest way for a tadpole to become a frog

is to live loyally each moment as a tadpole.”

 

       Jeffrey, I believe, is well on his way to froghood. Each time he walks out onto the stage he rises to the challenge. And each time he sings from the heart he sings for all of us who haven’t yet found the courage. He has survived adversity and yet makes the choice each day to step boldly and fully into the moment. Against all odds, he perseveres to be what he set out to be. He inspires me to be more, to give more, to live more. There haven’t been many heroes who have had a major impact on my life. I could probably count them on one hand. Jeffrey is one of them.

 

Live brave!

-EJ

 
 

Musical Slavery

(May 2005)

It seems I have gotten myself into a financial bind. I’m not alone in this fiasco. My husband was instrumental in helping me get to this point. We are so broke in fact that out of sheer desperation, I have elected to willingly compromise myself and register to win a cash prize from our local soft rock station. You know the type – all top 40 pop hits from the 60’s to the present with nothing controversial so that it can be played in the workplace without offending anyone. In other words, pablum.

Okay, the songs aren’t all bad. In fact I actually like one out of twenty but that’s a lot of bland to swallow. There’s only so much Rod Stewart and Celine Dionne I can stomach so I usually keep the volume turned down as low as possible. Whenever they play a song I absolutely hate, I change the station for a minute or two and then panic and return to the slave master.

I don’t know how much longer I can hang in there; I’m beginning to hear these songs in my sleep. I ask myself daily if it’s really worth it. The worst part is that, although I have enlisted friends and family to cover for me when I can’t listen, there have been a few times when I’ve missed hearing a name called. What if they already called my name weeks ago? I could be listening to this crap all summer and never reap the benefit of my enormous sacrifice. Now I’m trapped.

My great grandfather was a sharecropper and I’m beginning to feel that I haven’t made much progress since that era.

So what does my predicament have to do with Jeffrey Gaines? Absolutely nothing. Jeffrey wouldn’t sell his soul for money. I am completely embarrassed to admit that I have.

      I’ve always been such a good hippie – seeking out the truth behind the facade, resisting media hype and fashion trends, protesting oppression, being a champion for the underdog, living on the fringe of what is socially acceptable – and now it comes to this. I think I’m going to have to do some more soul searching. In the meantime, I will be listening to the “pleasant music” station. Today could be my lucky day.

 

-EJ

Best of Both Worlds

(April 2005)

      Jeffrey seems pretty content with what he has achieved as a musician in mid-career. As a purist, I happen to think that his greatest accomplishment is that of keeping his artistic integrity intact when the industry wants to mass produce pop stars and package them like breakfast cereal. There are times, though, when he admits that he’d enjoy the perks that come with mega-fame if only for access to some of rock's legends and the ability to score more comp tickets. I would be happy just to see a little more recognition of the man’s talent.    

      It’s not that Jeff hasn’t had a taste of the big time. After the first cd, he did the usual media circuit as a dynamic new talent on the scene and over the years he's traveled the world with some pretty big names, performing for thousands. There’s got to be an incredible rush when you’re dealing with that kind of energy. You're surfing that wave of mass adrenalin and you never want it to end. But I can’t imagine not being able to turn all that off and just go home and chill for a while.

When you think about it, anonymity has some great perks of its own and moderate success in the music world may just be the perfect balance. I mean, Jeffrey can walk into Wal-Mart and buy an assortment of embarrassing sundry items without having it plastered all over the tabloids the next day.  He can grab a slice at Pizza Hut whenever he wants without fear of being ravaged by a stampede of shrieking pre-teens and he can enjoy a quiet walk on a Sunday morning without tripping over paparazzi hiding in the shrubbery.

            But, several nights a month, when he walks into a venue all heads turn and the staff eagerly jumps to accommodate his needs. He plugs in, strums a chord and he rules the stage; rocking, wailing and crooning to an adoring crowd, who cheer, applaud and beg for more. He’s in his element and we’re right there in the zone with him because ultimately it is all about feeling the music. And what better vibe is there than spending an evening with a few dozen friends who share your passion and shower you with love?

 

-EJ

 

Home  (March 2005)  

At the Godfrey Daniels show, Jeff told us that he’s homeless now. He lives on the road. I can’t even imagine what that must be like, how disorienting that would be for most of us, yet he seems to embrace it as his lifestyle of choice. I began to think about the meaning of home and how much it symbolizes the “American dream.”

When we’re kids, home is where Mom and Dad are. It’s where you keep your comic book collection and where your name is carved on your dresser. As a teen, home is where your stereo is, hopefully in close proximity to tv, phone and fridge. In college, home is where you come to de-stress after exams. You do a few dozen loads of laundry and return to campus with a full stomach, a suitcase full of clean clothes and the warm glow of family bonding.

 As adults we want all those same comforts. Home is our oasis, our fortress of solitude, where everything is comfortable and familiar. You can leave your troubles at the door and curl up on the couch in your favorite pj’s. Hopefully, we all have someone there we can laugh with, who can lift our spirits when we’re down and give us a hand when we’re carrying more than we can handle.

After hearing Jeff’s statement, my first irrational instinct was to offer him our very uncomfortable pullout couch. But upon further reflection, I realized that putting down roots isn’t necessarily what is best for us humans. Many civilizations have been happily nomadic. Think about it – no utility bills, no mortgage and no toxic mold, radon, carbon monoxide or asbestos. When the food runs out or things get too uncomfortable, you just pick up your house and move on.  I think this idea still lives in most of us on some level. Someday soon I plan to rent a VW bus, tie-dye all my clothes and take off to see the wild places of North America while they still exist.

The industrial revolution has spoiled us all. We are now married to our modern conveniences and we have become too fearful of the unknown to be open to a new way of being. Our need to be safe and comfortable has driven us to seek security from external sources and so we never feel safe enough because real security comes from inside. We hold on when we need to let go. We surround ourselves with more and more stuff to compensate for the nagging feeling that we took a wrong turn somewhere. Thank God for people like Jeffrey who remind us that it’s never too late to be who we could have been.

I guess when your home is the road you’ve got to be a turtle, taking your home with you wherever you go. In your heart, you’ve got to bring that warmth, familiarity and comfort and then home is everywhere.

And so home is the stage and home is in his guitar and in his voice. And finally, home is in the hearts of all of us who love and support him. We are family.

 

-EJ

 

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Let's Rally! (February 2005)
     There are many great injustices in this world - too many. We're all becoming overwhelmed, desensitized and emotionally and spiritually paralyzed. But here's a wake up call...it's not getting better unless we do something about it. We don't have the right to complain if we haven't put some serious effort towards resolution and healing.
     Now that we're in gear and ready to take on the challenge,  I'd like to turn your attention to one smaller but significant injustice that is going largely unnoticed. In the frenzy that has become the entertainment industry, true and deserving talent is going unrecognized. There are thousands of them; rich in wit, wisdom and music. They are full of passion and integrity. They sing to soothe our wounded souls and to fortify our spirits but don't look for them on the charts.
     I truly get that music is its own reward but c'mon, Britney and P. Diddy are multi-millionaires! Something's wrong here. Where are Jeffrey's grammies? When's the last time you heard one of his songs on the radio? We have the power to change this. Here's what you can do...
  1. Play JG for your friends and family...in the car, at a bbq. Invite all your friends over for a JG Live DVD concert!
  2. Request a JG song on the radio. Your local college or alternative station are your best bets.
  3. Attend concerts...once a year - good, twice a year - better. Bring your friends!
  4. Email a link to the JG Cafe to all of your family and friends.
  5. Buy JG cds. Complete your collection or buy them as gifts (but don't burn 'em, please). Complain to the manager if there are no JG cds at your music shop.

     So with a few simple steps maybe we can fix this. We've kept him to ourselves for long enough. With a hot new product out there (JG Live ), it's time to share Jeffrey with the rest of the world. Let's take this to the next level, people. Together we can help Jeffrey Gaines finally get the recognition he deserves.

--EJ

 

What It Is ...about Jeffrey Gaines (January 2005)

     Last week Jeffrey mentioned that some people find him intimidating. I find that hard to believe. He’s such a genuine, down-to-earth kinda guy, I feel right at home with him. It’s like he’s my cousin or something. Not to deny the man’s hotness; that’s definitely part of the package.

     Now, I could just go on and on here and make a reeeeeaaallly long list of all the qualities I find appealing about Mr. Gaines (and someday I will) but I’d rather try to go straight for the heart – aha! that’s it! The amazing voice grabs your attention but It’s the honesty that hooks you. No gimmicks, no cheap tricks – whether you’re listening to the cd or live it’s 100% pure Jeffrey straight from his heart to yours. And once you make that connection you’re looking into a mirror.

      He reaches you on such a personal yet universal level that through his song you share the essential human experience – balancing love and pain and finding the courage to risk it all for joy. Bombarded daily with all that is artificial and superficial, I am grateful for the opportunity to hear truth in any form. It’s not always easy to hear but we need it desperately. Once we let it in it changes everything and life is all about change.

     And maybe that’s what some people find intimidating. People who aren’t ready to do the emotional work required to live life head on, people who prefer their music polished and packaged may find Jeff’s style a little too unpredictable, raw, challenging, even threatening.  He doesn’t fit neatly into the mold. That’s one of the things I love about him. I have yet to find a comfortable mold and have vowed to annihilate as many as possible in my path before leaving this earth.

     Am I rambling? Is there one cohesive thread to tie this all into a neat little package? Maybe, but that’s for you to discover. Keep listening.

--EJ

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What kind of music does he play? (December 2004) 

     I always get this question and I don't believe I've ever answered the same way twice. I guess it depends on the song I've heard most recently because he changes the style to capture the mood and essence of each song. Eclectic, folk-pop, rock alternative, soul-folk, rock n soul?

     I've heard others compare him with John Maher, Tracy Chapman, Lenny Kravitz, Seal, Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, Elvis Costello, The Beatles and Bruce Springstein (Wow, that's an impressive group!) but I see him more as a cross between Jackson Browne (insightful poet) and  Bill Withers (soulful troubadour) with a dash of Bowie (iconoclastic rocker).

      I guess being hard to classify makes it difficult to market him to the masses but then again once you've been put into a box it's not that easy getting out. I've never been a big fan of boxes (except for those big refrigerator cartons that you can climb inside of and pretend you're in a spaceship).

     But what can I say? Jeffrey is Jeffrey. I long for a return to the 70's when artists could experiment with different sounds, instruments and styles of music and it was all just called rock.

 

-EJ