Off To The Island: Living On St John, USVI
An Adventure of Pragmatic Mysticism
The “magical” first spring day on the block was met with meeting my Soul-friend, Eileen and her then husband, Paul. To my great surprise, they were acquainted with me as huge and very appreciative fans of the music from my RCA recordings from just a couple of years earlier. They were an eclectic pair and Paul had a very colorful path leading him to a defined zen-like approach within life. Their beautiful and very insightful daughter Zoe was sixteen at the time. Eileen and Paul were both a little bit older than me and held a wisdom that I could tell was going to play a significant part of my life in Weehawken. That it did for sure! Eileen was a spirit more than a physical being in this incarnation. Her day to day life was as an elementary school teacher who possessed a passion for seeing the kids as souls, not necessarily as bodies with personalities. She developed the first theater program at Weehawken High school to support the expression of a soulful life. We spent much time together and if there was anyone within my journey on this spaceship Earth that was an auspicious spirit guide in human form, introducing me to something so radically unlike what was familiar up to that point in time, it was Eileen.
On first visit, I entered Eileen and Paul’s apartment encountering beautiful and numerous wall hangings of all sorts of metaphysical domains and dimensions. Precious crafts and trinkets from all over the world occupied shelves on end. It was obvious and unquestionable that their heart’s emanated from within their Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion. Also was a vast and very diverse vinyl record collection which always draws me into where people are at in their views of life and how I might be able to fit in with them as friendships are about to emerge. One of the greatest understandings I acquired out of meeting Eileen, was and still is, that we have our web of relations throughout this life. There is always family or perhaps extended family. And no matter where we might travel to the farthest corners of our home Mother planet, we will without doubt always have those that we intuitively sense as family. I learned to walk my path knowing this, that there are always the friends and close relations of seeming cousins or even siblings of simply just another parallel genetic channel. But none-the-less, close family.
A very enriching and massively expansive year and a half passed. I decided that I wanted to have my grand piano with me for the exploration of new possibilities within my playing. The piano had been in storage since I moved from a converted and modernized farm house in Far Hills New Jersey. Far Hills was and still is a very exclusive enclave that culminated my metaphorical past life. The piano was one of the few material possessions that I kept in humble honor of who and what I am/was as a musician. With the constraints of moving such an instrument into an upper level apartment where the early 1900 stairwells were narrow with sharp turns into doorway passages, the likelihood of having a sizable piano in my living space seemed more and more out of the question. After just a bit of pondering, Eileen began imagining how we might configure the garage of the building that she and Paul lived. These were tall and somewhat narrow generally two family homes with some having a one car garage on the street level. Their particular building had a small one bedroom apartment behind the garage. The owner of the building was a New York attorney. As an acquaintance, he was friendly with Eileen. His father, Aldo, who appeared to be a Bohemian type of artist lived in the ground level apartment. Eileen pursued the idea of having us create a little practice and rehearsal space out of the garage. Of course everything would be makeshift and no permanent alterations would be made. No problem there because the space was a garage - cement, cinderblock and obviously as old as the building. Aldo, his son the owner, Eileen and I agreed on a very small fee for what was to become my “vortex portal” of bringing forth the greatest adventure of my life: trekking with all abandon of doubt, fear and trepidation, to live on the island of St John in the United States Virgin Islands!
We hung heavy plastic and corrugated materials from used shipping boxes as insulation for the piano studio. I picked up a space heater and all in all the garage was snug and comfy. My good friend Dennis who was an accomplished guitarist and piano tuner lived a block away and shared his skills beyond generosity in keeping the piano in consistent good tuning. The support that anyone could express was surpassed by unimaginable bounds when one day shortly after getting the piano moved in, I open the door leading from the main floor stairway, and I am beside myself with the new interior design of the piano room. Immense and powerful energy emanating from posters large and small had been hung on the walls. These were beautiful depictions of Tibetan tangkas which are paintings on cotton, or silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala. Also, staring at the piano bench right where I would be sitting for hours a day, was a big poster of the Dalai Lama with his infinite eyes and kind, gentle and wisdom-knowing smile. The “piano studio” was transformed into the “Magic Room” !