You Can’t Be Serious!

Long time, no see. Man, I can’t believe I haven’t posted here for over 3 years. Shame on me. Well, here I am and I’ve got something for you.

For the past week, I’ve been sidelined with a cold. It’s pretty much your standard fall turning to winter cold. Sinuses acting up, throat dry and scratchy, coughing, wheezing, congestion, and a slight fever. Not really hot enough to boil an egg, but, warm enough to make the skin on your back ache a little. Anyway, I bedded down with a box of cold medicine and a nice supply of cough drops. You know how that first coughing session of the season is. After about the 2nd day you’ve coughed so much that your abs feel like you’ve done the abs of steel video routine and came out on the losing end. Just a tiny little cough hurts so much that you actually wince with pain and let out a little “yelp!”. Not fun at all. So, here I am a week later on the tail end of this thing. Fever sang Auld Lang Syne a few days ago, throat really isn’t hurting anymore, BUT, that little piece of phlegm at the base of your throat, the one that wiggles every time you breathe in, the one that won’t break loose no matter how hard you cough or try to clear your throat, it’s still there. Since that lung cookie is still there that means Mr, Cough is still here and hasn’t let up. Your abs have adjusted and, if you look closely, you can probably see the faint outline of a six pack, but, the pain has subsided and the cough is on its own.

If you surf Facebook on a regular basis you have to have seen these cockamamie cure-alls that people post up all the time. Ear wax on a cold sore, orange peel on a hemorrhoid, you get the idea. Last night one of these health hacks came across my timeline. This one was telling how to kill the cough, stop the wheeze, delete the phlegm of the common cold by, wait for it……..dipping a cotton ball into rubbing alcohol, then putting the alcohol-soaked cotton ball into your belly button. Are you kidding me?

I’ll be honest with you, I’m not man enough to try these things on my own. Why in the world would I put a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol into my belly button? I have to admit though, desperate times call for desperate measures. That little phlegmy thing in my throat is driving me insane. I lie down to go to sleep and it sits there antagonizing me. Well, as fate may have played a part in this, my mom way over in Florida has been hacking and wheezing for the past week also. I wasn’t sure she would go for it, but, she’s been way more desperate than I have, I fired off a copy of the article to her praying that she would try it. Again, I gave it about a 20% chance that she would try it, but, like I said, she’s been feeling worse than I have been, and, well, she went for it. I talked to her about 12 hours later and her cough was nearly gone. I asked her and she said, “Yeah, things started clearing up fairly quickly after putting the cotton ball in her navel.” Well, We don’t have cotton balls or rubbing alcohol here, but, I do have these alcohol wipes that my doctor gives me to use when I’m giving myself my insulin shots. So, I took one, balled it up, and shoved it in there. That was probably 8 or 9 hours ago. As of this writing, my cough has also subsided quite a bit. That little phlegmy thing in my throat feels as if it may not be here much longer, and, overall, I feel much better. Now, was it the cotton ball? I don’t know, BUT, I will say this. Both my mom and I cleared our symptoms up within half a day after doing this.

I don’t know if the cotton ball is the reason, but, I will say this, I’ll have my rubbing alcohol and cotton balls ready next time for sure.

Y’all come back, I’ll leave the light on for ya.

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How I Became a Hippy

It all started with a video on YouTube of a guy in India getting his ears cleaned. Have you ever run across any of those impacted earwax videos? Man, talk about disgusting, yet at the same time intriguing, like a car accident, you don’t really want to look…..but you just have to. If you haven’t seen one of these videos, trust me, watch one, it’ll change your life. Anyway, I’m watching this Indian doctor pulling these super large chunks of impacted earwax out of this guys ear. With each pull of the hemostats I felt a rush of disgust, a rush of relief, because that had to feel good to the guy, and also a bit of paranoia. “Jesus!!! Are my ears like that?”   I shower every day………..for the most part. I use soap and water on my ears then Q-Tips after the shower. Nothing too disgusting ever comes out, but I do get a bit of a light yellow waxy residue. But am I cleaning my ears the correct way? I’ve been doing this for close to half a century. Surely even with correct cleaning there has to be some build up. How can I get a good ear cleaning without going to the doctor? Google will tell me!!

So I head over to Google and search “How to clean your ears”. I avoid any URL’s that look like tree hugging bullpucky and look for ones that are to medical pages. So, I get this Web MD page and, to my surprise, it says that you should never use Q-Tips in your ears. A variety of reasons really, one being you could go in too deep and injure your eardrum. Another reason is that when you stick a Q-Tip into your ear, it actually pushes wax down into the ear canal and can cause exactly what we’re trying to avoid. The Web MD page suggested just using warm water, warmer than body temperature,  so it can melt the wax and let it run out on it’s own. That got me to thinking about when I was a kid. Every summer, anytime you’d go to clean your ears, they’d be spotless…..because you had been in the pool all day and the water and chlorine basically ran everything out of there. Time to give it a try.

From that point I decided to stop using Q-Tips for a test period of 2 weeks. My plan was to use the warm stream from the shower head and point it into my ears, let it run for about 30 seconds, then leave it at that. I was not to check my ears with anything for 2 weeks. So, that is exactly what I did. I’d turn the temp of the water up so it was warmer than body temp, run the jet stream into my ears for about 30 seconds, and that was that. After 2 weeks I got a Q-Tip and was surprised to find that absolutely nothing came out. My ears were spotlessly clean. That was the day that I stopped using Q-tips on my ears. It’s been over 3 years now. I get the occasional paranoid feeling that I just have to have a bunch of gunk in my ears so I grab a Q-Tip, nothing, as clean as when it went in.

But does this make me a hippy? Not really, but I’m not finished. A girl I went to school with posted on Facebook that she was stopping using soap, shampoo, and deodorant. Yes, my reaction to that was probably just like yours “Ugggghhhh!” Disgusting, right? Well, I needed something to tell me why people do this. Google here I come again. I started reading up on using soap, shampoo, and deodorant and what they do to your body. I mean, if you really think about it, within the confines of the history of man being on this earth, soap, shampoo, and deodorant was invented 10 minutes ago. Man was not created with the thought of those things being needed. Nature takes care of itself, we know that, we’ve seen it. So why would the human body be any different? I wasn’t ready to jump in head first, but I was tempted to try. This is when I decided to see what would happen if I stopped using deodorant. The Web MD page I read said that a lot of the armpit smell comes from your body trying to get rid of the chemicals from the deodorant. Interesting. It said to give it at least 4 or 5 days to get rid of anything that had already been on there. So, that’s what I did. The first 4 or 5 days were interesting. I had some pretty bad pits going, but I was wiping down everyday and wearing 2 shirts to help conceal it. Oddly enough, after the first week, the odor I was getting from my armpits was way less than the odor I was getting when I was wearing deodorant. I just smelled like me. It wasn’t really offensive. So, I continued down that road. It’s been over 2 years now since I’ve worn deodorant. Trust me, if I smelled, my wife would be the first to tell me. I honestly don’t have much of a pit smell anymore. Granted, if I go 2 days without a shower, yeah, they start humming a bit, but a daily shower keeps me going just fine. Am I hippy? Getting there. Shampoo is next.

Not using Q-Tips or deodorant surprised me to no end so shampoo had to be the next challenge. Could I go 2 weeks without washing my hair? I’d wet it down in the shower, I just wouldn’t use any soap or conditioners on it. Why? Well, Web MD says we spend billions annually on shampoos to remove the natural oils from our hair, then more billions on moisturizers and conditioners to put oils right back on our hair. Does that make any sense? I gotta give it a try. So, I stopped. The first 3 or 4 days my hair took on a dry, grassy feel. After about a week or so it became manageable, then after about 3 weeks my regular soft hair was back to normal, and the only thing I had used on it was warm water in the shower. Did I mention that my dandruff was gone too? Something I had been fighting since high school totally disappeared. Sold……for a while. I probably went about 6 months without using shampoo, but, I just never mentally felt right about it. I started using shampoo again and my dandruff came back. I’m willing to put up with a little dandruff for the peace of mind that I’m using shampoo. I’m still sold on the idea that you can get away without it if you want to. You just gotta give your body time to get the shampoo out of it’s system and let your hair heal.

Last but not least, soap. Ok, I decided to go the no soap route. That lasted about 3 days. I just couldn’t wrap my had around not at least using soap when you shower. I don’t know, if I was able to last a little longer things may have changed, I don’t know, all I do know is that I love my Coast and don’t need crotch gravy.

So, am I hippy? I’d say partially.

Y’all come back, I’ll leave a light on for ya.







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The Day Opie Came Home


My wife and I have been wanting a dog for years, but, because of our work, we just didn’t have the time to commit what we thought was needed to raise a healthy and happy pup.

I’m a school teacher. I teach English as a second language to elementary school kids here in Japan. I am the first and second-grade teacher. The kids are awesome! Anyway, last year I decided that I wasn’t going anywhere staying where I was, so, I resigned my full-time position down to part-time and started my own language school out of my house. I hate to say that I haven’t expanded as much as I would have liked over the past 2 years, but, I won’t give up. Anyway, with my new position at the school I only teach a few hours in the morning, then I’m back home by 1:00 in the afternoon. So, we decided to move ahead with the addition of a pup.

From the beginning, a Toy Poodle was the only option for us. My family has been Toy Poodles for as long as I can remember. My last 2 dogs were black female toys. This time around, what did I want? A black female toy. So, we head out with all the local pet shops mapped out. The very first place we went to, there was Opie, a red male. Totally not what I wanted. For my wife, this would be her first dog. I told her before we went shopping “Don’t just jump on the first cute thing you see. The dog that belongs with us will speak to us in some way. Keep your eyes open. When you feel that connection, that’s the one.” So there’s Opie. I asked the lady if I could hold him and she brought him out. I fell in love with him on the spot, but in the back of my head, I had a black female. I was willing to concede the color, but not the sex. I told this to the lady at the shop and said we would pass on Opie, and we left. We went around to various shops, and even came across quite a few black females, but I couldn’t get Opie out of my head. None of these other pups were really getting to me. A few days later I said to my wife, let’s go back to that first shop, so we did. We went in and Opie was still there. I got him out again and played with him for a bit. The problem we were looking at now was the price.

The first day we met Opie he was on sale for roughly 500 dollars. It was the weekend and they choose certain dogs to put on half-price sale on the weekends. Well, Opie was back to a thousand dollars. Remember I told you that my business hasn’t taken off as I had expected? Yeah, can’t really afford a grand for a dog. I asked the lady if he would be on sale again and she said she didn’t know, it was up to the head office. I jokingly told her to call them and tell them he should be on sale. We played around with him a bit more and then left with the thought in mind that the sale wouldn’t happen. This was a Monday. Anyway, on Thursday I said to my wife “Let’s go back to that shop just to look. They may get the impression that we’re serious and put him on sale again. Bottom line is that this is a business and they need to move stock. Kind of cold to think of it like that, but facts are facts. Anyway, if they see that we’re serious, they may do something. So we go back, walk in, the first words out of the lady’s mouth were “Do you want to hold him?” and she went and brought him out. I played with him for a few minutes then I asked her “What about the price?” she smiled and gave us the universal “OK” sign. I gave my wife the keys and sent her to the bank to get the money.

The shop had one request for us. Opie had a slight bit of dandruff and they wanted to keep him for a week to shampoo, brush, etc… to see if they could get rid of the flakes. We said OK. That following week we were going to the pet shop every single day to spend time with him. We’d go up about 45 minutes or an hour before closing time and sit on the sofa playing with our new boy. We had already named him so we figured going to the shop every day to see him, using his name, letting him get used to us being around, etc… etc… may ease his transition when we finally took him home……and of course we were just head over heels in love with him and wanted to spend as much time with him as we could.

We were scheduled to pick him up on a Sunday morning when they opened at 10:30. That Friday before, my wife was working late and couldn’t go to the shop so I went on my own. While I was there they asked me if we could delay pickup until around 2:00 when all of the relative networks would be online. I wasn’t too happy about that, but what could I do. We’ve waited this long, a few more hours won’t hurt.

Sunday comes and we go to pick him up. It was a 3-hour process of them checking us, filling out papers, getting counseled on owning a dog, blah blah blah blah blah. Finally, they needed to send an email to my wife’s phone so she could confirm something. They sent it and it never came through. Sent it again and it didn’t come through. By this time I’m at my limit, I just want to get out of there. I slap the table and said “We’re done!!! Send whatever you have to send by snail mail, we’re going home” and we wrapped things up and headed out.

We got here to the house and introduced Opie to his new home, his cage, his water bottle, food bowl, toys, etc… We played around with him for a bit then my wife had to go to her mother’s house and she left me with the boy. Opie and I played around for a bit and then I realized that he really should get some sleep so I put him in his cage and then I lied down next to it and put my finger through the bars. He was exhausted. He laid down right in front of me, slowly put his head down on the towel, with his nose up against my finger, and he slowly crept off to la la land. I stayed there with him for a good half hour until my wife came home. I motioned for her to be quiet when she came in. She crept into the room and sat down with us and, having the three of us together in this quiet moment, I just fell to pieces crying. I’m not exactly sure what it was. I guess it was a culmination of everything that had happened and finally having him here, knowing that he’s in a loving home and not in that tiny little viewing box at the pet shop. Knowing that he’s going to be spoiled to death and never have to worry about having a family that loves him. I literally cried like a baby. I couldn’t turn the tears off, hell, I’m getting watery eyed now just thinking about it.

Anyway, that’s the story of the day Opie came home. He has been such a great addition to this house. My wife and I have a strange relationship in that we’ve been together close to 20 years and are still on our honeymoon. We do everything together. We’re best friends. I swear to God I can count on both hands how many arguments we’ve been in over the past 2 decades. We just don’t fight. I’m guessing it’s because we never had kids. We’ve been able to devote our time to each other without any distractions. Opie has ramped our lives up a billion percent. I’m really glad he’s here.

Y’all come back, I’ll leave the light on for ya.

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Remembering Shachou

Hello, all. I apologize for not posting for such a long time. Something is happening this weekend that got me thinking about something I’d like to share with you. Grab a cup of coffee and get settled in, this one’s gonna take a little time.

I came to Japan in Feb. of 1991. At the time I was REALLY into playing billiards and my first full day here that is what I did, I searched for a billiards shop and went there. Before too long I was meeting the local guys my age that played. One guy that I met was a long hair, thin, wiry looking fella with a really handsome face. His name was/is Yuichi. As we got to know each other over the coming months we learned that we both liked the same kinds of music. He told me that he played guitar. I had a little background with the guitar. I wasn’t very good, but I enjoyed it immensely. Anyway, one day we were at the billiards parlour and Yuichi told me that he was going down to the guitar shop to pick up some strings and asked me if I’d like to go along for the ride. Sure, why wouldn’t I? So, he took me to this little shop in town called Music Town Rasta. The shop was small, but it was filled with all kinds of really cool vintage guitars, nice amps, etc… etc… This was no place for someone looking to pick up a cheap beater, the goods were in here. Imagine the world famous Norman’s….in Japan.

Anywho, the owner of the shop greeted us when we came in. Yuichi seemed to be a regular customer in there and was very comfortable just pulling up a chair at the counter and shooting the bull. The owner seemed really interested in me. He loved America, he went there at least once a year to buy guitars……and he frequented Norman’s now that I think about it. Along with his love for America he was really into American football. I too am a HUGE fan of American football so we hit it off real quick. Before too long, I too was a regular customer of the shop. Many, many days just going in to hangout for the day. The owner’s name was Takashi, but everyone called him “Shachou”, that is word the Japanese use for “President”….of a company, not like the President of the US.

As the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months, and the months into years, Shachou and I became good friends. Some mornings he’d give me a call and we’d go hit the pool and get some swimming in before going to open the shop. I knew his family and I even taught his daughter English for a while. I spent a lot of time in that shop. I always got to mess around with guitars that most people only dream about. I could kick myself for not buying that ’68 Les Paul Black Beauty he had for 3,000 dollars. I couldn’t even look at one of those for that price nowadays.

Oh, a little side story. In the shop he had this drum throne that he kept back amongst the guitars. If you wanted to play a guitar or test an amp you could sit on that drum chair. The only down side to that was that the frickin’ thing was broken underneath. Whenever you’d pick it up by the seat part of it it would come off the post and you’d be left with a round drum seat in your hand and the rest of it was on the floor. I always bitched at him to get rid of that piece of crap and get a new chair. He wouldn’t have any of that talk though. “No reason to waste money” he would say. “You’ve been here long enough to know it comes apart, stop picking it up like that”. hahaha!!

Hanging out at the shop all the time I got to watch him working on guitars. Eventually I just flat out asked him “Hey, can you show me how to change a pickup?” It was there that my lifetime, so far at least, love for tinkering around the innards of a guitar started. Whenever I’d see something I didn’t know I’d just ask him to show me how to do it and he would. The majority of tinkering I would do would be on my own guitars. Eventually though, when a customer would bring in something to be fixed, he would turn it over to me and he’d stand there and watch me and give me tips on how to make it better. One day he was getting ready to run out for a little bit to get a few errands taken care of when a customer came in with a 50’s Tele that he wanted the soldering to be touched up a bit. Shachou, without skipping a beat, told him that he needed to go out for a while, then he turned to me and said “Jim, take care of this”. I didn’t work there, I was just a customer, but he was leaving the store with me in charge and handing me a guitar that costs more than my house and wanted me to do the repairs on it. He told me to go over it and make sure the neck was straight, screws tightened, check all the connections etc…. and fix up whatever needed to be done. He said if I come across something I didn’t know, just set it aside and he’d take care of it later. I had arrived.

Fast forward 14 years. I went into the shop one day and he was sitting there playing his guitar, he had a Sonic Stratocaster, pearl green body, maple neck, ebony fingerboard, no fret markers. Anyway, he was sitting there playing through a Fender Blues Jr that had come in a few days before. The sound of that amp was incredible. Of course his playing had a lot to do with that too. Anyway, I really liked the sound of that amp so I asked him “how much is this going for?” and he said “It’s not for sale. I like it so much I’m gonna keep it here.” I told him I’d buy it but he said “no way.” Later that evening when I was going home I was heading across the parking lot to my car when I heard him call my name. “Hey, Jim, come back here” So, I went back in. He said “Take it, it’s yours”. I was like “Really, how much?” and he said “Nothing, just take it. It’s yours”. Damn, Shachou, that’a awfully generous. He carried it out and put it in my car. That’s how I got my Blues Jr.

About 2 weeks after the Blues Jr. incident I was coming in from work on a Friday evening when my friend, we call him Dr. T, called me. Dr. T and I are guitar buddies. We’ve gigged together quite a bit and he’s someone that I consider a really dear friend. Anyway, Dr. T calls me and he says “Jim, Shachou died today”. It felt like someone kicked me in the stomach. “What?? He’s only 49 years old!!”. Dr. T told me that everyone was at the shop so I jumped in my car and ran down there. Turns out that he was at home that morning watching a baseball game lying on the sofa. His wife came in and told him he should probably get ready for work, the shop opened at noon. He said “OK”, stood up from the sofa, raised his arms above his head to stretch, had a massive coronary, and dropped dead where he was standing. From all accounts he was dead before he hit the floor.

I get to the shop and it was a madhouse. Shachou wasn’t very good at keeping records and there were a bunch of people there that had guitars out for refinishes, or orders that had been placed and partially paid for….it was a mess. I can understand their feelings, but, can you at least let the body get cold before doing this shit? We spent the rest of the evening there trying to get things in order. It was an insurmountable task and I was getting pissed off more and more when someone would say something about possibly getting screwed out of money. My thought was “hey, let’s wait until after the funeral to take care of this”. Needless to say there were some people that showed their true colors that evening and I, in turn, cut them out of my life.

We just passed the 10th anniversary of his death in April. This coming Saturday night we are having a tribute live show to remember Shachou. 5 bands joining consisting of people that used to hang out there regularly. My band seems to be the main event of the night. I usually do an EVH style solo spot in our shows but this time I’m going to take that time to talk a little about Shachou, he deserves it. His wife has since moved out of their house and I don’t know where she went. If I could get a hold of her I’d like to borrow his guitar and have it on stage with us. No way to find her though.

Anyway, that’s my story. I hope I didn’t bore you with it. This Saturday, if you remember, about 9:00pm Japan time, give a little nod to the heavens for Shachou. I know you guys would have loved him.

Y’all come back, I’ll leave the light on for ya.


P.S. As I was leaving the shop that night, I grabbed the drum throne. It’s up in my room next to my desk. I’ll never get rid of it.

P.P.S. Remember Yuichi from earlier? He’s the bassist in my current band. All these years later and we’re still friends.

L to R: Yuichi, me, Koji


Poster for the Tribute show. Rest in Peace, old friend.


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2013 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 4,700 times in 2013. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 4 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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