In Memory of Craig Aspen

In Memory of Craig Aspen

I was blindsided last week by the tragic and senseless death of my friend Craig Aspen.

I take a breathe and say this with a very heavy heart.
Craig Aspen is gone. Rest in Peace my brother.
I write this as my emotions swirl like a storm. I can only hope the love spills out on to the page. Craig Aspen was my friend. For a decade and a half we trudged a road, an adventure. My tattooed friend who twinkled with New York moxie behind his mustache. We were artists, shared that common bond of having to reinvent ourselves to stay in this business we loved. Craig was so talented as a musician, a song writer and behind a camera. And yet there was a time decade plus ago he hocked his Mandolin for Heroin. The bravado got in the way of the surrender. But like in the old west the Earp Brothers saddled up and found Craig. They saw the surrender in his eyes. He went to Kirkland and spent 4 weeks being renewed. The surrender had stuck. We would all meet up at Saint Paul’s church in Ballard. Early in the morning. I can still see that beat up van pull into the gravel parking lot. On several occasions a bunch of us would go over to Chad’s house for pancakes and bacon. There was a lot of laughter. He got a tool box and started to repair the past. He was available, for his friends and family, for the woman he loved.
I remember a couple of years after the surrender I was at the Tractor Tavern in Ballard watching the Believers play. I was filled with joy watching my friends play music. Half way through the set Craig turned around and walked toward the back of the stage. He pulled out the mandolin he had hocked and started to play. Tears streamed down my face as the song progressed. I was filled with hope, I was filled with joy, my heart burst open.
He loved one woman in his life and that was Cynthia. I saw it back in the day when he helped Cynthia with the catering. When they were in the living room of the house in Seattle. I saw it when they were on stage together, there would be a glance during a song or prolonged eye contact during a harmony. I saw it every time they were together. He said to me once, “I am blessed that I am here and I get to be with the prettiest girl at the dance.” I don’t think Craig ever stopped loving Cynthia. Even when madness took him from us.
Where did that tool box go? I don’t know. I will never know. I miss my friend, his kindness, his spirit. In the end the countryside is littered with railroad spikes, shotgun shells and drunken poets.
Rest in Peace

Zack Hoffman

Eternia Part 2

Final preparations are being made to revisit Eternia.  Emails with arrangements at airports.  Rides to the light rail in Seattle.  I’ve watched the clips posted on line, video of the show and the soundtrack audio.  Remembered people and places of a time long ago.  Contacted old friends for reunions in the coming days.  I remember while being on tour someone found a button that said, “Just Visiting This Planet”.

We all loved it.  Soon all the cast members and crew were sporting buttons.  We were a mighty team, that was just visiting this planet called Eternia and all too soon we were sent back to our lives before we had known of He-Man She-Rah and the Masters of the Universe.

I thought that all I had left was those memories until I went to get sharpies for signing photos.  I found the tackle box that I bought as my makeup kit on the road.  Scratched, stained and battered it has survived all these thirty years.

There was a time when it was filled with bottles of spirit gum, a collection of Man-at-Arms mustaches, sponges, brushes, eyebrow pencils, makeup, powder and some removal products.  Now it is a treasure chest of odds and ends from the last 30 years.   Foreign coins, a Hopalong Cassidy pen knife from my old roommate, mementos from stage shows past, lanyards from comicons and conventions and of course a collection of highlighters and sharpies.

Two stickers of logo of the show remains on the case, still shiny but worn with time.   Reminds me of me.

I hope you will join me on Eternia.  Come by and say hello.

Zack

Power-Con happens on Saturday September 9th & Sunday September 10th at the Torrance Marriott Redondo Beach 3635 Fashion Way Torrance, CA 90503.

 

Power-Con website: http://www.thepower-con.com/

 

 

A Trip to Eternia

A Trip to Eternia

30 years ago, I was touring with a sword and sorcery musical version of He-Man She-Rah and the Masters of the Universe.  In ten days, I will get a chance to talk about that tour for the first time and get to see some old friends. I got to play Man at Arms, the second banana to He-Man and She-rah.  It was a job that took across the United States and into Canada for over a year.  I am proud of my work and even more proud of the cast and crew that surrounded me.  We brought it every show.  Thrilling children, bringing to life their television cartoon heroes and sending the message that “you can be the hero of your own life if only you believe in yourself.”

This is such an important message for our world today.  He-man, She-rah and the Masters of the Universe need to saddle up and spread the word again.   I would volunteer to do the show again.  Unfortunately, this cowboy is not equipped to ride a fifty-pound neoprene suit across this earthly landscape.  I will turn that over to talented people who are much younger and adventurous.  I have put down my sword.

What I did pick up is my computer mouse and edited a small moment of the show which I will share with you here.

If you are a fan of the show I am looking forward to meeting you and talking Power Tour ’87 memories.

More soon.

Zack

Thursday’s poem

A Thursday morning post.

On Saturday, I was in an auto accident.  Hit from behind.  It’s strange when you don’t see it coming.  Can’t prepare.  Can’t brace yourself.  After the impact, it was like an out of body experience, seeing me flail forward and then jerk back as the loud shattering bang rang in my ears.  Now the job is self-care.  Rest and healing.  Seeking the doctors and insurance adjusters, mechanics and parade of automobiles.  How long will it take to put the pieces back together?

The attempt to get back to the practice of writing.  Finding words, finding my voice.  I will put on the headset and continue to transpose.  My time shortened as I am gentle with myself.

Took my first poetry workshop in many years.  It was scary and fun and a chance to connect.

I leave you with one of the poems I created.  See you next week.

 

fading mambo

 

I am weary of this world

but you will be my girl

who will say that I’m not quite obsolete

 

even in the end

you will be my facebook friend

schooling foodies on the hippest place to eat

 

wearing purple blue and green

you dance the serpentine

and flail erotic while I’m on my knees

 

with a long-surrendered shout

my tattered soul comes out

I iron it so it becomes pristine

 

you will bite it with your teeth

I will bleed to get relief

we are vagabonds who travel without dreams

 

I help you with your words

you say “aging’s for the birds”

I kiss you before you start to lie

 

fearless to undress

with your head upon my chest

morning makes you glisten in my eye

 

 

Zack Hoffman  2017

Late for the Blog

Late for the blog this week…like being late for the party.  Here is my week…

The definition of overwhelm:  to overpower in mind or feeling.

There is a great disarray of writing in my life.  Poems unfinished.  Two different long writes in different states of incompleteness.  Late for the blog post.  No relief in sight.  But I push on.  It’s what we do.  I am continually grateful for Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down the Bones”.  She constantly reminds me that I am not here to be perfect.  I am here to write.  That it’s okay to write the biggest pile of crap the world has ever seen and call it good (not that I want to).  All I need to do is put pen to paper.  So once again, thanks Natalie.

Yesterday I sat with a small group of brave people at the Vios Café in Ravenna and wrote for 45 minutes…then we read, our voices were heard.  It was beautiful, it was clumsy, it was poignant, it was disjointed, it was elegant but most of all it was our truth for that moment in time.  I heard a friend say this morning, “I am going to try and be where my feet are today.”  Me too!

Read this book.

Zack Hoffman 2017

My Voice

My Voice

My voice has been lost and found and lost again.  I keep looking for my voice.  Form and rhyme, substance and style.   My voice has been through many changes.   As I walk the earth I learn to speak, gather words and ideas.  Make mistakes.  Find a victory.

I’m a poet and a singer and an actor and a writer.  I have been a human doing and now I thrive to be a human being.  All parts of me have a voice.  The man, the child, the seeker and the runner.   All these parts of me have voices.

I know my voice with music.   I’m a bass baritone.   I sing other people’s words.   The voice of rock and jazz and Broadway contemporary songbooks. The voice of standards and parity. The voice of Tommy James and the Shondells to Lerner and Lowe.  I love to sing.  I don’t do it enough.  My friend Gary looked up the definition of “amateur”.  It was a person who does something for love instead of financial gain.  Then Gary said, “I never want to lose my amateur status!”   Me too.  The search is on for my amateur status, it is something I have lost and will have to find it again.  I know it’s there, all I have to do is pick it up.

I’ve lost my voice to emotional laryngitis.  If I could only love her enough she wouldn’t leave me.  If I only gave up my voice then perhaps she wouldn’t leave me.   But she had planned to leave me all along.  It was like a sucker punch to the solar plexus.  Double to over with no place to go and no place to live, I wanted to die.  There will always be some external factor that will try and silence me.  I persevere.  Fear tried to silence my voice.  The house of narcissism tried to silence my voice.   The house of sexual abuse tried to take away my voice.   They were waiting for me to stop talking but I found something else.  The voice of recovery.  The voice of reprieve.  The voice of one day at a time.  We come and we encourage. To tell our stories with our voice what it was like what happened and what we are doing now.

I remembered that feeling that feeling of no voice and I knew where to go. I had friends. I had people who were just like me.  They understood what it meant to give their voices to someone else.  Together we said our names over and over again until we heard them.  Until we owned them.  Until we celebrated them.  I remember the celebration.   I remember dancing in Glendale with a beautiful redheaded woman.   We saw our bodies through the garments wet with sweat as the B-52 screamed about the Love Shack.   We went home and whispered secrets in each other ears.  The secrets in our voice.  I can keep a secret.

Ruthie taught me to sing.  Told me, “Yes I could.”  I will always be grateful.  Thanks Ruthie.

Zack Hoffman 2017

The Week in Malchut…A Journey’s End

The Week in Malchut.  A Journey’s End.

In 1974 I went to Israel and spent a year on two kibbutzim and a few months just outside of Tel Aviv.  I thought I was going to immigrate to Israel but I left still lost but changed forever by being in the promised land.  My journey has taken me back to the practice of Judaism.  Back to Sinai.  This year I counted the Omer.   I have made this journey counting the Omer many times in the past decade.  At times it has felt like leaving Israel…still lost but changed.  This time it feels different.  It has been a long journey, powerful, sad, joyous.  I come out of the desert changed but ultimately I am still me.  I will do what I do, which is to tell a story.  Tell a story about the first time I traveled to the Promised land.

I landed at the Kibbutz Ashdod Yaakov Meuchad.  The Kibbutz was a large farming community near the Jordanian border.  I had signed up to be part of the Ulpan.  Volunteers who worked the fields half day and studied Hebrew half day.  Most of us volunteers worked in the Banana fields.  Historically the land we were on was King Solomon’s plantation.  The desert reclaimed the land hundreds of years ago.  The  Israelis were not  deterred by this and with the use of drip irrigation had again taken back the land.  We worked in the morning and had classes in the afternoon.  There were two classes…the other class would work in the afternoon and study in the morning.  We alternated weeks.  We were young and had a lot of fun.  Here is a picture of our Ulpan celebrating Halloween.  With very little, we made the most of it.

After being on the Kibbutz for a month a few of us left the Kibbutz to take a short trip to Jerusalem.  Three days.  It was me, Jesse and a young girl named Sue.  That morning we worked in the fields and after breakfast we headed out to Jerusalem.  I had a grapefruit sitting by my bed on a small night stand, I ate it in the dark before I went into the field.  There was no refrigeration and the fruit had turned.   By the time we had gotten to the bus stop food poisoning had set in.  The bus came at 11 am.  I fell to my knees and puked as the bus arrived.  “Stay or Go” I heard my friends say …I pulled myself up and made it to the bus.  Put my backpack in the overhead rack, plopped into a seat near the front of the bus and then passed out, a sweaty mess, much to the dismay of the woman I was sitting next to.

I must have passed out for close to two hours.  The driver had the radio playing.  Broadcasting at the time was a pirate radio station coming from a boat in the Eastern Mediterranean off the coast of Israel.  It was Avie Nathan’s “The Voice of Peace”.  When I came to I saw a sign that said, “Bethlehem 10 Kilometers”, at that same moment the music I heard was the Band’s song “The Weight”.  The opening line is, “Pulled into Nazareth, I was feeling about half past dead…”  It was a moment of profound synchronicity.  I was exactly where I was supposed to be, doing exactly what I was supposed to be doing with the people I was supposed to be with.

Whatever was going on with me at the time, Jerusalem cut through to my core.  I believe it is the spiritual center of our world.  That’s why it is so chaotic there.  There was a vibration for me that I felt when I stood in the place where three great religions met in a space that size of a football field.  There was so much I had yet to deal with.  A year later, the death of a friend shook me and I was drawn back to Los Angeles.  A long journey we seem to never finish.

Music has always been something that I have taken with me.  I am glad to have counted the Omer with music.  I hope you liked the playlist.  Perhaps it opened your ears, I know it opened mine.  I have a lot of music on my computer, enough to run a radio station.  The final song for Malchut was found on my computer.  I did a search using the word “awake” in iTunes.  Mumford and Son’s “Awake My Soul”.  It was on my computer but I had never heard it before.  One more gift as this journey ends.  May you find yourself at the foot of Sinai waiting for the shift.   Love and blessings.

Playlist for the week

Day 43.  Chesed in Malchut.  Kissed by Nature by Elaine Elias

(This song found me via the radio. Observing the world, knowing “love is everywhere”.)

Day 44.  Gevurah in Malchut.  New Frontier by Donald Fagen

(Boundaries and borders have changed on the last leg of this journey.)

Day 45. Tiferet in Malchut.  Loves the Only House by Martina McBride

(Reflections of our world which needs an open heart.  This song sparks emotion in me.)

Day 46. Netzach in Malchut.  Ball of Confusion by The Temptations

(Walking the Kingdom in today’s world. A song just as poignant today as when I heard it over 40 years ago.)

Day 47.  Hod in Malchut.  Going Home by The Rolling Stones

(A traveling song, over 11 minutes of Stones.  The last part of the journey is harder to get to than you think.  Almost home.)

Day 48. Yesod in Malchut.  The Weight by The Band

(This week I remembered a story of the first time I was in Jerusalem.  This song will always take me back to that road, that place, that time.)

Day 49. Malchut in Malchut.  Awake My Soul by Mumford and Son

(This last song for the journey roots me to the tree of life. Having had a spiritual awakening as a result of this journey.  We are at Sinai.)

 

Zack Hoffman 2017

 

The Week in Yesod

The Week in Yesod

Six weeks ago, when I started this journey, I was at the Interfaith Seder with Rabbi Ted Falcon.  To begin the Seder, he made us all repeat the following words out loud:

I am exactly where I am supposed to be.

With exactly whom I supposed to be with.

Doing exactly what I am supposed to be doing.

At times, I find it difficult to remember this.  This week brought up a lot for me. The desert swirls around me.  The sands of confusion inside and out.  Feelings of joy and brokenness, elation and exhaustion, it all intermingles, the fragrance of life.

The sefirah of Yesod.  The location is in the genital area.  I go back and forth between sex and ego. In my youth, I was driven by both.  And now in the desert it feels like a place of brokenness.  I do not want to look at low self-esteem. I do not want to look at my aloneness.  I do not want to look at the things I have created that have gone nowhere.  I do not want to look at my creations yet unfinished.  The sands are swirling.

In a moment of clarity I realize that I am all that I am.  All my imperfections. The ones that lead me to manipulate. To put on a show. To put on a face. To accept my smaller self.  I am all my triumphs.  The ones that touch people through laughter and tears.  The ones that allow my genuine self to emerge.  A search for intimacy with imperfection. Being human.  Celebrating human.

At a moment of incredible synchronicity, I am in a doctor’s office and across the room a friend in recovery is in the same office. We hug. We are both there to take care of ourselves, and for each of us it is challenging to do selfcare.  The screwed up believe that if only everybody around us would be taken care of then we would be that whole complete human being.  But in that moment, we get to bear witness on the action we take, the journey of selfcare.  When I am greeted by a fellow traveler on this road of recovery I know:

I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be,

doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing,

with whom exactly I’m supposed to be with.

 

The music this week was soulful and soul-full.

Playlist for the week

Day 36.  Chesed in Yesod.  Thank You by Sly and the Family Stone

(The lovingkindness of the separate self.  The celebration of self.)

Day 37.  Gevurah in Yesod.  Standing in the Shadows of Love by the Four Tops

(The shadow self.  The polarities of love.)

Day 38. Tiferet in Yesod.  Give Me Peace by George Harrison

(The heart space echoes as I search for peace. )

Day 39. Netzach in Yesod.  I am a Child by Neil Young

(Accepting all the parts of me…man and the child.)

Day 40.  Hod in Yesod.  Walk Through the World by Marc Cohn

(Moving through the desert, I do not go alone.  There is community.)

Day 41. Yesod in Yesod.  Sexual Healing by Marvin Gaye

(I have lived in darkness, I have dared to look deeper, I have sought a path of recovery…of healing.)

Day 42. Malchut in Yesod.  Feet Fall on the Road by Bruce Cockburn

(In a week of being stirred up like the sands in the desert I am finally at peace with the journey.  This song moves me to continue walking.)

Zack Hoffman 2017

The Week in Hod

The Week in Hod

The sefirah of Hod.  The energies of Glory.  Five weeks gone. Walking through the desert.  This week was a roller coaster.  Felt like quitting early in the week.  Lost my way because I couldn’t comprehend the tree of life.  The result was frustration.  Frustration is a key, a hot button, something that when it gets pushed makes me want to escape. To leave.  To quit.  The moment of not-enoughness. I have been here alone before and left the journey, but I have someone who is keeping me accountable, my friend Katie in Los Angeles. We try and talk every night. I stay with it. Keep moving, breathing and meditating.  I see my pattern. I see my DNA. I see my life my, my memories and they all come into play.  Frustration and I am running. Frustration and I am throwing up my hands. I feel not smart enough, not evolved enough, not clever enough, not spiritual enough. Why bother it will all disappear anyway.  I fight through all that chatter inside my head.

I take action.  It helps.  I do research.  Find blogs and books, and in my search I find a few sentences that makes sense to me.  It changes the focus. It changes me. I look at the tree of life again and see the energy not running through a tree but running through a man, a human form…me.   The sefirot of Chesed and Guevara are the arms. The sefirot Netzach and Hod are the legs. The arms and legs all connected through the heart space of Tiferet. The energy flows again, the ideas flow again.  I am back and breathing.  The meditations this week are about form and physicality. The vessel. The vehicle. The host.  The name of God this week and last contained the word Tzeva-ot.  It means host.  My legs host me as I walk through this world, physically and spiritually.

My energy has increased this week. I am in the present. This week I have sat in cafes, written with other writers, been part of the creative process.  I have produced poetry and listened to warriors with pens, talented and brave.

Music carries me.  It has carried me in the past and it carries me now.

Playlist for the week

Day 29.  Chesed in Hod.  Spirit by Al Jarreau

(The embodiment of spirit.  The lovingkindness of Al Jarreau.  Have loved this song since I heard him sing it at the Bla Bla Cafe)

Day 30.  Gevurah in Hod.  The Shape I’m In by The Band

(“The world of form is confusing to us.” I am challenged as I walk this path.  My energy and physical being are in need of care.)

Day 31. Tiferet in Hod.  Heart of the Night by Poco

(The heart space in the midst of the wilderness.  This song give me hope.)

Day 32. Netzach in Hod.  Every Breath You Take by The Police

(Physical vitality is met at this sefirah. It all begins with breath.)

Day 33.  Hod in Hod.  Edge of Glory by Lady Gaga

(The celebration of Lag b’Omer.  This song rings with freedom, movement and joy. Could not think of a better song.)

Day 34. Yesod in Hod.  Here To Love You by The Doobie Brothers

(I am responsible for the love I give and the love I withhold.  Have always loved this song. Hod makes gratitude possible.)

Day 35. Malchut in Hod.  Walk of Life by Dire Straits

(The understand of sefirah, the way I walk in the world both physical and spiritually.  Moving to the beat.)

Zack Hoffman 2017

The Week of Netzach

The Week of Netzach

I have been challenged by my physicality this week.  My body slowing down.  Sensitive to food.   I am aware I eat too much sugar.  That when I eat fast food it affects my digestion.  My tinnitus is high and I am challenged to hear.  Insomnia haunts me.  I have weights by my bed to keep my muscles alive.  I am told to stretch before I get out of bed.  All the forms of my physicality  manifest around me.

Energy low and having to work to keep pushing through.  I feel the pain of the people in the desert moving forward.   Each day measuring energy and form.  The less I carry the better it is.  The more I open my heart and let go of anger and resentment the more energy I have.  Stacks of books I have yet to read.  Poetry I have yet to transpose.

Netzach, memories and music.  The second day takes me somewhere between judgement and music.  I listen to Jackson Browne’s “Running on Empty”.  It reminds me of Reuben’s Steakhouse where Paragon (a local cover-band) played live music Wednesday thru Saturday nights and they would always close the night with that song.  Listening to the CD, the opening of the song is 30 seconds of silence waiting for the music to begin.  It’s a live recording.  In my mind, I can hear the shuffling of the waitresses and bartenders at Reuben’s, serving late night drinks.  The band tuning their instruments and chatter from the dancers on the floor.  The guitarist finally strumming out a downbeat and the opening chord hitting you like a body shot.   At the last break in the song the lead singer for Paragon would yell “Goodnight” and we knew it was last call.  I would walk in to Reuben’s sweaty from work, dance and drink.  I loved a waitress who worked there.  I wonder if she still has that picture of a movie star I gave her.

I breath, I meditate.  See what needs to be taken care of.  See the self-care that I need to invest in.  I play tennis, write, create, reach out to friends.  My world is large.  I marvel at how vivid a memory can be, all from the silence of a song.

The music this week made me dig and search.  Open my ears.  I danced.

Playlist for the week of Netzach

Day 22.  Chesed in Netzach.  Soul Meets Body by Death Cab for Cutie

(lyrics vibrate the meaning of the spiritual meeting the physical)

Day 23.  Guevara in Netzach.  Running On Empty by Jackson Browne

(the emptiness of “last call” energies I still carry in the desert)

Day 24. Tiferet in Netzach.  Love Will Keep Us Alive by the Eagles

(this song always awakens compassion and light)

Day 25. Netzach in Netzach.  Room To Move by John Mayall

(Endless possibilities, moving forward, dancing forward, past the half way point.)

Day 26.  Hod in Netzach.  Working on a Dream by Bruce Springsteen

(the struggle of bringing my dreams into physical reality, the energy of perseverance)

Day 27. Yesod in Netzach.  Life is a Highway by Tom Cochrane

(lyrics sing to me and shake the sefirah.  Dance of bringing our work in the world)

Day 28. Malchut in Netzach.  Changes by David Bowie

(Netzach’s challenge of facing my physical self at 67 years old)

 

What did you dance to?

 

Zack Hoffman 2017