The Heart of the Matter
December 10, 2008
So Far Beyond the Blues (revisited)

jake and elwood-1.jpg

In honor of Maharaji's birthday, what follows is a previously posted story about his 50th birthday event in San Diego last year -- or at least an aspect of it, seen through the eyes of yours truly. Happy 51st birthday, Maharaji! You have taught my heart to sing a song so far beyond the blues.

OK. Here's the scene...

It's December 3rd, five days before Maharaji's 50th birthday event in San Diego, when the phone rings in my kitchen. Its Kate, one of the program coordinators, wondering if I'm available to be the "back up MC."

"Back up, MC?" I ask. Kate laughs and deftly explains that Maharaji has already selected the MC for the event, but they always like to have a back up, "just in case."

"In case of what?" I'm thinking. "A heart attack?"

Two thoughts race through my mind...

One is the wow-amazed-humbled-what-a-beautiful-opportunity thought that spontaneously arises from deep within the heart of someone who loves Maharaji and wants to be of service in any way possible.

The other?

"Oops! I'm in big trouble now. I'm not exactly who you think I am. I'm in way over my head and will surely screw up Maharaji's event for thousands of people, proving, once and for all, that I am a complete idiot impostor.

I think you get the picture.

So there I am on the phone, metaphorically breaking out in hives and maintaining the last remnants of my rapidly disappearing persona, when Kate -- picking up on my obvious mini-meltdown -- goes on to tell me that there is very little chance that I will actually be needed as the back up.

"Hey, this could be the best of both worlds," I'm suddenly thinking to myself. "I'll get a great seat, feel extra good about myself for being chosen, and maybe even get to see Maharaji at the dress rehearsal.

"Sure," I say to Kate. "Count me in."

Kate thanks me and proceeds to tell me what Maharaj said he wanted from the MC at the event. It all makes sense.

I hang up and start floating around my house like some kind of astral bodied Marx Brother. I'm pumped. I'm psyched. I'm pooping in my pants.

The next day I get to thinking about what Kate said Maharaji wanted from the MC and suddenly, I get an inspiration.

"Hey!" I think to what's left of myself, "I could write a funny blues song, poking fun at premies! I can send it to Kate and she can give it to the real MC -- and he can decide if there are any good lines in it to include his opening remarks.


Cool! Whew! The pressure's off! I like creating new things -- especially blues songs I won't have to perform. The best of all worlds!

It's a work day for me and I only have 30 minutes to spare, so I write some lyrics on the fly. Done! I email them to Kate -- and just as quickly forget about them, getting back to the business of working.

A day goes by. Then the phone rings again. It's Kate.

"So...," she says, without much need for a segue to the second part of her sentence. "You're going to be performing your blues song at the San Diego event."

I heard what she said, but didn't quite understand it. Performing? Blues song? San Diego? Me? She says it again just for good measure and goes on to explain that, after reading the lyrics and laughing loudly, she showed them to someone on his way to Maharaji's residence who also found them funny, so she gave him a copy and he showed them to Maharaji who read them immediately, laughed, and said something like "Good! Let's have Mitch perform this song at the event."

I am stunned. Dazzled. Baffled. Befuddled. The weird thing? In times gone by, I've spent years working on a piece of writing for Maharaji and never heard boo in response. Now, after 30 minutes of parody blues writing, I'm getting an invitation to perform for him and 5,000 people at his birthday event. Huh?

"But Kate... I'm NOT a musician. I'm NOT a singer. I don't have a blues band."

Kate talks me down from the ledge -- explaining that I didn't really need to sing the song, I could talk it -- like the talking blues -- and I didn't need a band -- a blues guitarist was being located to accompany me.

In over my head, I am praying my heart will show up soon.

Kate assures me that everything is going to be fine and that, hey, my blues performance won't happen until the party which is going to be on the afternoon of the second day when everyone is going to be so blissed out that I could read the San Diego phone book and people would probably applaud.

The next two days go by very quickly. I seem to be working. I seem to be a husband. I seem to be a father. I seem to be packing. But I'm actually imagining myself performing a blues song in front of Maharaji and 5,000 people from all around the world. "Be here now?" Not exactly. It's more like "Be there then."

So there I am in my San Diego hotel room, the day before the day before the event, munching on chocolate covered almonds from the overpriced mini-bar, when the phone rings. It's Kate again, mumbling a few pleasantries before cutting to the chase.

"So... it looks like you're going to be the MC," she explains. "The MC couldn't make it. Something came up. Oh," she adds, "Maharaji wants you to start the event with the blues song!"

"Medic! Mommy! Man overboard!"

I didn't sleep too well that night -- sort of like a baby tuna flopping around the deck of a very expensive yacht.

The next day was rehearsal time in Kate's room. Picture it. Me, the non-black, non-musician, pinch hitting, balding Jewish guy getting in the groove with the recently drafted classical guitarist -- Manuel Iman.

Now, I don't know about you, but there's a moment in everyone's life when you are not only uptight, but everyone knows you are uptight and they don't want you to be uptight (because they love you or are depending on you to be cool for a particular purpose) and they approach you and start massaging your shoulders so you will be less uptight, but the very act of them approaching and massaging you is such a dead giveaway that you are hopelessly uptight that even if their massage was perfect, the fact that they've identified you as someone who needs a massage makes you even more uptight in a way that no massage could ever be enough to relax you.

That's the condition I was in, sad to say, during the first part of our rehearsal.

And so it goes...

"I woke up this morning,
I got off the plane,
I went to the airport,
My suitcase went to Spain."

OK. Fast forward. It's half an hour before the program is supposed to start. I'm looking snappier than usual in my dark blue Hugo Boss suit, suitably sitting in the front row, patiently waiting for my cue, when the Hanuman-like Scott Cronin brings the newly blues-riffing Manuel and I a rather large tuna on rye.

"Are you hungry?" he asks.

Yes, we are, not having eaten since 8:00 am, but since it's obviously not elegant to be eating a tuna sandwich in the front row just minutes before the program, Manuel suggests we slip behind the curtain and have our pre-program repast backstage. Voila! We open the curtain to find a place to munch and there, just 15 feet away, is Maharaji, casually talking to a few smiling premies.

Manuel and I become very still. Time stops. Space stops. My attempts to think of cool metaphors to describe the moment stops. We're in the eye of the storm. But there is no storm -- only the impossible-to-translate experience of standing in the effortless radiance of Maharaji.

And then he turns and looks at me.

"So, Mitch, how are you feeling? Are you ready to MC?"

"Maharaji, I'm feeling really good," I say. "Yes, I am ready to MC."

Whatever residual nervousness or self-consciousness may have been clinging to me evaporated in that moment.

The next thing I know, the program has started and I'm onstage singing the blues...

"I woke up this morning,
I got off the plane,
Went to the airport,
My suitcase went to Spain,
They told me not to worry,
They'd bring it to me soon
'Soon coming' is a phrase I've heard
that could mean the end of June.

I woke up this morning,
Maharaji on my mind,
With oh, so many premies,
Would I have to wait in line?
Would I find myself a good seat
Or be stuck in the mezzanine?
I've heard of getting high,
but that's not really what I mean.

Maharaji, you're almost 50
Not to mention timeless, too
Can you tell me where's the usher
Who can seat me next to you?

I woke up this morning,
I practiced for an hour,
Did all techniques in order,
Then took a nice, hot shower,
Watched the news and checked my email,
Then brushed my last three hairs,
But I couldn't find my Smart Card,
Couldn't find it anywhere.

Maharaji, you're almost 50,
And five decades are complete,
Can you tell me where's the usher
Who can help me find my seat?

I woke up this morning,
Went down to the lobby,
Saw all of my friends,
Billy, Joe, Pam and Bobby,
Billy weighed 500 pounds,
Bobby had "special needs,"
Pamela had a triple chin
And Joe... could barely breathe.

But hey, they ain't my problem,
Don't matter what they do,
I came to San Diego, boss,
Only to see you,
So I ran straight to the program,
Dashed across the street,
Focused only on your birthday
And a front row seat.

Maharaji, you da man,
You da Hanuman of Love,
You da best friend that I got,
You da mezzanine above,
You da reason we have come here,
You da universal glue,
Maharaji, happy birthday,
Maharaji, we love you!!!!

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:18 PM | Comments (7)

February 11, 2008
It's Hard to Write a Blues Song in Jamaica

It's hard to write a blues song in Jamaica
Or any island in the tropics
With all those mangoes and papayas
I can't seem to find the topics,
Yeah, it's hard to write a blues song
In a place that's always sunny,
When you're thinking 'bout your tan
You can't worry 'bout your money.

Life is so simple down by the sea
When you're laying in a hammock strung between two trees.
Nothing much to do here, but watch the clouds float by
And the only highs and lows are coming with the tide.

It's hard to write a blues song on vacation,
Spending all day in your shorts,
Readin' night skies like a Haitian.
Not no quarterly reports,
The only thing that's blue here
Is the blue that's in your eye
With no one in the red
And no one asking why.

Life is so simple when you're drinking your rum punch,
Goes with absolutely everything except a power lunch,
There's nothing much to say here sitting still beneath the moon
Feeling yahmon with your maker, not no business tycoon.

Oh, it's hard to write a blues song in Jamaica
When the sunset's turning red
And you're eating a banana
Not thinking bout the fed
The only thing that's blue here
Are blueberries in your cream
And those troubles way back home?
They be fadin' like dream.

Life is so simple when the fisherman at sea
Ain't fishin' with no internets and nothin starts with "E"
There's nothing much to know here and nothing to forget,
If there's an uptight rasta man, I sure ain't met him yet.

Other fun blues lyrics and mp3s

Posted by Mitch Ditkoff at 06:25 AM | Comments (0)

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