Back in 2003 while I was living in Las Vegas, my childhood friend James called me from Germany where he was stationed in the Air Force, and told me that he had been taking college courses during his time there and was going to graduate in May, and that he’d love if I were to be there with him while he walks down that aisle of academic achievement. Of course, I exclaimed… I’d never been to Europe, and he was there for my graduation at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, so it’d be an honor to return the gesture of support to be there with him.
So as time drew closer, I had moved from Las Vegas – my home of nine years – back to my childhood stomping grounds of Chicago, IL. When May came around, I boarded the plane with James’ family and mine, and before we knew it, we had landed in Germany.
While we were in Germany, James presented me with a bus ticket and said, “Look, I’ve got a lot of stuff to do for the next couple of days and you need something to do too, so here’s a two-day trip to Paris. Have fun.”
“You gotta be kidding me,” I said. “You know we just invaded Iraq, right? And against the wishes of the entire world, especially France, right? I’m gonna get spit on out there!”
He smiled and assured me that I’ll have a good time. I sighed and jumped onto that bus for the long road trip to Paris.
I was sitting on the aisle seat on the bus next to my loudly snoring father who was somehow taking up the window view, so I didn’t pay much attention as we entered the Paris city limits. But finally the bus door opened and I slowly, and reluctantly trudged out of the bus and stepped on to the sidewalk and took my first deep breath of Parisian air. When I lifted up my eyes and looked all around me, I felt like I was struck by lightning… only not the kind that would electrocute you, but the kind that would revive you, a defibrillation that brings your very consciousness back to life.
And suddenly time stood still.
For a moment, I lost myself. I felt “it.” The “it” that you heard about in books and movies, but never understood. That “it” that I’ve been missing all my life. I had no idea what “it” was, but it took over me, vibrating, oscillating right through my very soul. “It” was different. “It” was a feeling that I’ve never felt before. I looked all around me and felt the very vibe that I had been missing all my life.
In America, we’re born to produce and consume. We’re hell bent on being “number one,” accumulating wealth and experiencing the latest and greatest “things.” We only care about “what’s next.” To a certain extent, there’s nothing wrong with that. But in order to experience the rest of life, that is, an everlasting veneration for history and the arts and humanities – the very things that make us uniquely human – you have to actively seek it. Where I’m from, you have to go out and find it. However in Paris, it was all right there staring right at you in the face. Surrounding you. Embracing you. Welcoming you home. This resounding feeling overcame me in that micro-moment I got off that bus.
I spent the next two days in a euphoric daze, walking around the historic sites with a hint of envy, but overwhelmed by inspiration. Eiffel Tower, Cathedral of Notre Dame, the Louvre, cafes, the beautiful people, the architecture, the hundreds of years of profound history, and the undying love of literature, philosophy, art and music… especially jazz. It was heaven.
We took an evening boat cruise along the Seine, the artery of water that gives vitality to Paris, floating from one breathtaking landmark to another. When the Eiffel Tower came into view, shining its spotlight majestically into the evening sky, one of my favorite all-time big band songs came on the boat’s loud speaker. It was Count Basie’s “April in Paris.” I was so overcome with such amorous emotion, wishing so badly that my then-girlfriend (now wife) was with me, that I bought a rose from a young vendor on board, and gave it to my father to give to my mom.
And before we knew it, the trip was over.
No one on that trip felt what I felt in Paris. To many, it was just another “nice” big and busy city. Some people felt Parisians were rude though I had the opposite experience. I’m positive that two days in Paris means nothing to most people, and that my tourist experience is vastly different to someone who lives there. But to me, that trip was the start of a personal evolution. It was a healing experience. My love of the historic arts was always suppressed and taken hostage by the modern American pursuit of money, power, and fame. But Paris showed me that it’s okay to be in touch with the humanities – the very expressions of our human experience. So it was on the bus ride back to Germany when I decided to pursue the arts as a vocation, and to hopefully heal and inspire others through the music of the great American songbook of vocal jazz.
Over the coming years, I got my Las Vegas jazz buddies together and we recorded my one and only jazz vocal album. And to honor my love of Paris, I chose to record “April in Paris.” I then lived a life of music for four years until I decided that healing through Taoism and holistic medicine was going to be my ultimate expression of love and compassion. My life has evolved dramatically since then.
Nowadays, I’ve been able to help many people with the acupuncture treatments that I provide here at Purple Cloud. Some of my patients have even told me that I’ve changed their lives.
None of it would have been possible if my buddy James never got me on that bus to Paris.
Thank you, James. Thank you, Paris.
And during this time of great mourning… Paris, I mourn with you. I’m indebted to you. My heart is forever with you.
So as an epilogue, although I’m profoundly embarrassed by my own singing voice, attached is my rendition of “April in Paris.” 🙂
You can download it here.
Drums: Nolan Stolz
Piano: Tony Branco
Bass: Geoff Neuman
Guitar: Richard Forrester