Off To The Island: Living On St John, USVI
For months I was having sessions in the magic garage portal usually once or twice a week with a bass player friend of mine. He was well known and very accomplished. He held the bass chairs over years in numerous Broadway pit orchestras. We would get together to mainly explore my original compositions. One day with a rehearsal set up for early afternoon, he did not show. I waited patiently for a couple of hours since this was just prior to the advent of everyone owning a personal cell phone. It took a while before I received a call from him and I knew something was up because it was not his character to simply not show without letting me know. Quite a bit after three o’clock that afternoon he called me from a phone booth on 11th Ave in NYC where he had been sitting in traffic that was at a complete stand-still. He laughed in a cynical way and told me that the word was that Jacqueline Onassis was traveling through the Lincoln tunnel with an entourage and the security detail closed the neighboring routes into the tunnel. This was unbelievable to us. As I had already been in my mindset of conventional life making less and less sense to me, this really smeared some icing on my philosophical cake. I hung up the phone, sat on the edge of my bed for what was probably about fifteen minutes, and in a moment, I called information for the phone numbers of United, American and TWA airlines. Knowing that I could not possess any trepidation, doubt or question, I called the airlines for price quotes to St John. Within a short time and multiple phone calls I did what came to be seen by so many in my life as unreasonable. I booked a one-way flight to St John, USVI!
Departure was on July 5th, 1994 out of LaGuardia airport. Now having two months and a few days for re-distributing the bulk of my few remaining possessions, the big one settled in. What about my piano? Thoughts of a nonconventional life on an Island included, fishing, driving a taxi, working a juice bar, odd jobs etc. If all I had done musically up to that point was all I was meant to do, I convinced myself I was reconciled with this. Or so I thought. It felt important to start sharing with people close to me the decision I had made which seemed as though it would add to my conviction for not backing out. Along the way in these two short months, there seemed to be an inordinate amount of circumstances coming up that could have potentially had me derail my plans. There were all kinds of responses communicated directly to me as well as less than complimentary words spoken among others, to others. And actually to my great surprise, my older brother came to my defense in a number of situations saying to those darker judgmental ones, he’s doing something you only wish you had the guts to do! That pleased me and warmed my heart!
My determination was that I am getting out of what looks, feels and resonates on very deep inner levels, of being highly dysfunctional and paradoxically referred to as “normal”, functional society. The grand piano meant a lot and had seen me through so much musical exploration and a companion as a voice for all that came through as living the birthing processes of composing. I would only want this instrument to find a good home. The word was put out immediately and in not much time some responses and interest emerged. An acquaintance of mine, another Broadway musician and conductor was seeing a medical doctor for a condition related to playing. He described the doctor as a creative type and they were looking at pianos for their young son who was showing interest as diligent expanse into his early developmental piano studies. An appointment was set up for them to see and play the piano and sure enough a day later they said they would take it. That was indeed a big one for me. Saying goodbye to the piano brought heart sadness. However, in keeping with the transient nature of all that was learned and practiced over the last three years, it suddenly became just another fleeting aspect of impermanence. The energy of my piano’s existence as a collaborative friend and soulful mate within my music also gave me a gift and another kind of blessing - the morphing of ownership adding to my sense of some measurable financial stability to embark on the great adventure. All was good.