Sunday, August 23, 2020

2020 Random Thoughts

 Its probably a universal statement said countless times around the world: "2020 is a S#?TSHOW!!!". So, there, I said it....and for me, personally, it has. Its been trying. A few highlights:

  • I was in Germany back in March, questioning the reasons why I was there as the world seemed like it was teetering towards the unknown. My questions were validated halfway through the trip when President Trump announced he was banning all travel from Europe to the U.S.. A mad dash to get out of the country was followed by 2 weeks of quarantine....and that was just the beginning of the whole world turning upside down. 
  • In February, my cat Fiona died. She was sickly so it wasn't a surprise. 13 years old. But at least I had my favorite cat in the whole world, Punkin, still around....until....
  • In April, Punkin suddenly died from what I guess to be a heart attack. He was a fat sucker. But he was the best pet I've ever had. A heartbreaking loss in a time where loss seems to be a constant. 
Per earlier posts, I lost my father in September 2019, 16 months after I lost my sister. All this loss has, surprisingly, taken a mental and emotional toll on me. I say surprisingly because I felt I was better prepared for death. In hindsight, that was a silly assumption. How does anyone in this society, where we never talk about death and pretend that youth and vitality are forever, cope with death when it actually happens? I must acknowledge that the weight of loss and the voids have left me struggling with fear, anger, and self pity. I could go on about this but, in short, I'm working on getting to a new normal where the void left by my Dad, sister, and, yes, my two cats is coped with. 

On a lighter note, my daughter is about to give birth to her first child, a son. This will be my 5th grandchild and I must say I adore being a grandparent. This latest grandchild will be named Bjorn Brun Imberg, the middle name being a tribute to my father. It almost seems balancing that Bjorn will be born just over a year since my father passed away. 

On a musical note, I've been stockpiling some music for release. Not sure when or on what platform but...something musical strange this way cometh.....

Sunday, October 06, 2019

In memory of my father, Brun Imberg

My father, Brun Imberg, was many things in his lifetime: sailor, merchant seaman, cable car “grip man”, mechanic, counselor…. a husband (3x), brother, uncle, stepfather.…. recovering alcoholic, spiritual seeker (and spiritual “Luddite”, sometimes simultaneously) and, of course, father.  All these roles can lend themselves to seeing him in different lights and context. I suppose that’s what makes the reflection on a life so challenging.  As his only child, I’m going to share a glimpse of the importance my father was to me, though not just as a dad but as an example of an imperfect man who set an example of how to (and how not to) recover from errors and failings,  finding redemption and grace (both for himself and his son) along the way.

I am the only child to my parents. For my entire life, they have represented a binary outcome for alcoholism: life (dad) and death (mom). When I was born, both of my parents were active alcoholics. My father always marveled that I didn’t suffer from fetal alcohol syndrome. My mother would die from alcoholism when I was 9 years old. Dad, however, was led down a different path, in part because of me. As he told it, his “moment of clarity” came in 1969 after a hard night of drinking where he had passed out in the living room and woke up to see me coming down the hallway in dirty diapers, looking for mom and dad. Soon thereafter, he sought sobriety and was able to maintain it throughout the remainder of his life.

I wish I could say it was “happily ever after” when Dad got sober, but it wasn’t. My mother, likely suffering from mental issues in addition to alcoholism, would abuse and terrorize me for several more years. But Dad’s sobriety was a ray of hope for me. Even as a little kid, I knew that he was my haven from the madness that my mother suffered. Never was he more a savior than on one morning in 1974, as I’m walking to school on Noriega Street in SF, when he unexpectedly picked me  and “rescued” me from the nightmare that was life with an alcoholic mother. We went to another town to start anew. That was the end of my time with my mother who would die from cirrhosis of the liver brought on by her alcoholism within a year.

I could go on and on about all the good times and not-so-good times that came after that day that Dad rescued me but that would be laborious. All I can say is that throughout my youth, as his only child, we would share in the benefits of his growth as well as suffer the consequences of his mistakes. Again, he was a flawed man but one who kept trying to get better and who did some remarkable things that made a huge difference in my life.  

By the time I was 18, I was well on my way down a path of dysfunction and destruction of my own making. I had become an angry and rebellious person. The more self-destructive I became, the further I pushed Dad away. I know this hurt him greatly but, to his credit, he didn’t attempt to “rescue” me then as he did when I was a kid, knowing that the opposite result of further distancing was the likely outcome. He knew that I had to learn things for myself…and I would, albeit by learning from his example.

In December of 1990, my own path of dysfunction led to me being incarcerated for the Holiday’s. This would be the lowest point of my life. I had come to the realization that I was following in the footsteps of my late mother. While a terrifying thought, there was a sense of inevitability to it. But, as stated earlier, both my parents represented the binary outcome of such a lifestyle in my eyes (and yes, I’m now aware that addiction is not as black and white/simplistic as a kid’s binary perception). It was through a chance encounter with a fellow inmate that I was reminded of the path that my father had taken. And while his path was part of what I had rebelled against in my adolescences, it was something I had become humbled enough to consider while ringing in 1991 in a jail cell. 
Long story short and without going into detail, on February 9th, 1991, I chose to start a new way of life and follow a path akin to the one my father followed when he saw me in the poopy diapers all those years ago. Again, no “happily ever after” here, largely because my journey is still ongoing. I will say that the path I chose has yielded more peace and joy than I could have anticipated with reconciliation and redemption being part of the journey.

Early on my own recovery, I had the chance to share with my father some of the finer and more painful parts of my journey up to that point which created a new dynamic to our relationship that grew and sustained for the remainder of his days in this world. We were able to have a relationship for most of my adult life that was based on substantive and impactful things: Spirituality, reconciliation, sharing of mistakes and triumphs, being friends. There is so much I can share about my relationship with my father. In a nutshell, he was my hero and I loved him.

His final week of life was spent in my home with me and my family. I will forever be grateful for this time and the gift that was being able to serve my dad in his final days. One moment that will forever be in my heart is his final Sunday. He was weakening and he knew his time was short. He had some abrasion wounds on his arm that I was redressing with fresh bandages while he sat watching TV. While doing so, he turned to me and said, “you are a good man”.  In the corner of my eye, I could see my wife, Lilian, stop in her tracks and tearfully smile at both of us. I too began to cry and told him, “you taught me”, to which he replied, “I didn’t teach you that”.  At this point, I had to lighten the mood and told him, “I’m not saying you can walk on water, but you did point me in the right direction”. He just mumbled “…. different path”.  He was never one for sharing tender moments but this one hit me hard. I put him to bed and went to my room weeping.

On September 4, 2019 at 9:42 am, my father passed away. The night leading up to his death was excruciating for me. Watching a person die is traumatic. Watching my father die….even more so. But, having a month to process his passing, I know that it was a gift to both of us: for him to be here and for me to serve him. He knew I loved him. I don’t think there was much “left on the table”.

Following his death, my cousin delivered some of Dad’s personal items to me. One item I never saw before was a coffee mug that had the following inscription:
“A hundred years from now
It will not matter what my bank account was,
the sort of house I lived in,
or the kind of car I drove….
But the world may be different because I was important
In the life of a child”
Dad, you were indeed important to your only child and I’m so proud and grateful to be your son. 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Notes Regarding My Album "For the Light to Break Through".

With the release of my latest (as of Jan. 2019) collection of music, "For the Light to Break Through", I thought I'd give some insights into the inspiration and thoughts behind the music.

The pieces that comprise of the album (is that even a thing if its only available digitally???) were composed and recorded between 2016 and 2018. There wasn't an over-arching and unifying theme in that the pieces were recorded as time allowed. Some of the pieces were conceived as potential "cues" for prospective and imagined visuals, perhaps in the vein of Brian Eno's "imaginary soundtracks". But I continued to collect pieces until I realized that there was enough to release as an album.

Like past albums, I can see a common and unintentional thread within the music, in that they are reflective of the time of my life in which they were conceived.

The stunning photo I used for the artwork is compliments of Madhu Shesharam.

As for some of the pieces, here is the inspiration behind them:

  • "The Dance By The Lake": This was a rare creative moment when an experience of strong emotion gave rise to a musical idea that was semi-formed in my head before I even picked up a guitar. The experience that prompted this was the wedding of my cousin Molly in 2016. Molly was raised by a single mother, my cousin Amy. At the point of the reception where the traditional "Father-of-the-bride" dances with the bride, it was the mom who fulfilled this role. Knowing their story that led to that moment, it was one of the most beautiful moments I had ever experienced. It truly felt like we were at the center of the universe. I was brought to tears at that moment and was so grateful to be there. This music is my expression of awe and gratitude.  

  • "Desert Resolution": During a flight from Dubai to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, I was struck by the beauty of the barren desert. I imagined a cinematic scene of some sort of journey to resolve some emotional situation, be it a conflict, a love story, whatever.

  •  "Wake Up Old Man": I took the title from a statement Bono, singer for U2, said about some of The Psalms in the Bible that were pleas to God. This piece is in a style similar to my older piece "A Psalm of Psorts" which I view as a wordless Psalm...of sorts. 
For more information about "For the Light to Break Through" or any of my other releases, please visit my website

Sunday, July 22, 2018

Lisa (a.k.a. The Red-Headed Step-Sister)

On May 1st, 2018, Lisa Lusk (my sister) passed away unexpectedly. She was only 53 years old. I always thought we would have more time...time to spend together...time to reconcile some unfinished business...time to continue to love each other...and that is the hard part about her being gone. There was so much I "left on the table". In the days between her death and her memorial, as I was out in California comforting my family, these words kept echoing through my head: "Tomorrow is but a hope, not a promise". So much truth in that statement. My words of advice to all: Leave nothing left unsaid. Make the phone call...take the phone call...make the visit...take nothing for granted.

What follows is a eulogy I composed on May 3rd and read aloud at her memorial.

Eulogy for Lisa Lusk

A few times throughout my life, I’ve had to answer the question “Why do you and your sister look nothing alike”? Well, here’s the answer. 

In 1977, I was 11 years old and an only child. It was two years removed from my mother’s death and months removed from the dissolution of my father’s 2nd marriage. It was an eventful period for a young boy and would get even more eventful before that year was complete as my father entered into yet another relationship, an unwelcome development from my perspective. The woman, Martha, would eventually become my 2nd stepmother. She had 3 children of her own: Michael, David, and Lisa. My future step-brothers were significantly older with Mike already off to college and Dave getting ready to go off to UCSB. Lisa, however, was only a year older than I and, like me, was none too pleased about the circumstances we were being forced into. 

Our 1st meeting was awkward. I remember this “freckly red head” girl glaring at me like I was an unwelcome stranger and the feeling was mutual. We were put into situations where we had to get to know each other better but it felt like we were both doing so “kicking and screaming” on the inside. This period culminated, for me, with a concert my dad and future step-mom forced me to go to. 

At this point in our lives, the only common ground we could find was “Star Wars”. But, at the time, we could not have been more different in our taste in music. While I was a hardcore Kiss fan. Lisa loved The Bee Gees, Donna Summer, and (worst of all) ANDY GIBB!!! Mr. Gibb was coming to town for a concert and she HAD to go. My dad and Martha got tickets but there was one problem: I had to go! I protested to no avail. They promised me that they would take me to see KISS (that never happened). So I went to this concert, sulking and glaring at Lisa the whole time. (We have since recounted this moment with much laughter...she even gave me a complete set of Kiss bobblehead dolls in 2014).
I would recover from Andy Gibb and a funny thing happened: We began to bond. It was a silent thing where I believe we both struggled with the changes that we were forced into and that gave us common ground from which a friendship would start. 

Our relationship blossomed into full bloom in 1980 when we were forced into another “traumatic” change. Our parents moved us to Petaluma, disrupting our social lives as I was on the cusp of high school and she completing her freshman year. We were now having to start over in a new school with no friends. It was just us so we latched on to each other for support. 

While I was a social introvert, she was becoming an attractive young woman and it was this development that gave me a social circle. She started dating Andy Neff. As this relationship developed, Lisa needed an accomplice to help her “sneak out” for dates. We would tell our parents that we were going to the movies but, in truth, ended up going to Andy’s house or hanging with his friends. This quickly developed into ¬our circle of friends. She became the epicenter of my social network. Our high school years was a mixture of great times and drama. But it was all experienced together. Our differences diminished as our common ground grew.

One fact that I only just realized the day I learned of her passing: As we hit our teens, our musical tastes became more common. Music has always been my passion as evident by my life time of guitar playing, music listening, etc. From that Andy Gibb concert on until 1986, we went to every concert together. And this was a large amount of events that were some of the most formative experiences of my life. Van Halen, Iron Maiden (3 times), Judas Priest (2 times), Y&T (13 times!!!), Scorpions (3 times), Rush (her favorite), Michael Schenker (the concert that inspired me to learn guitar), Journey, Sabbath, Ozzy….and on and on and on. All those shows, she was there with me. So many good times. 
She was with me for every pivotal and formative moment of my life from 1977 through early adulthood. She was protective of me, especially when it came to my step-mom. While my relationship with my step-mom was challenging and, at times, adversarial, Lisa always “had my back”. She would defend me and encourage me. She truly was my “big sister” and my dearest friend. She was even there at my lowest moment when I had to spend my 1990 Christmas and New Years in jail. She dropped me off so I could start my sentence, being very concerned and encouraging as I walked through a nightmarish situation. 

As we came into adulthood, our paths went in different directions with marriages, break ups, more marriages, children, etc. But through it all, she was always my sister. 

As I write this, I’m sitting in her home with her husband. It’s the 3rd day since her passing and each one is getting harder as the realization that she’s gone sinks in. I’m heart broken. There is so much I left unsaid that I wish was spoken. I took for granted there was more time. The irony is not lost on me that, prior to 1977, I was quite happy to be an only child. But, a lifetime later, I’d give anything to have one more day with my older sister.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Random Thoughts on Music, Politics, Books, and Life

My blog has been getting neglected in favor of what little random social media blurps I here's some randomness on a variety of topics:

  • Music: I’ve been deliberately trying to expand my appreciation for The Grateful Dead this past year. I’ve been listening to a lot of concert recordings from the 60’s through the 90’s. I’ve found some impressive variation in styles, set variation, and (most surprising), performance quality. There were nights throughout the decades where they were on fire but there were shows where they were pretty boring. I’ll never be a “Deadhead” but, at the least, I’ve overcome a lot of negative bias towards The Dead.
  • Politics: A rhetorical question for both supporters and detractors of Trump: Is anyone surprised? I’ll leave it at that...for now. 
  • Books: I’ve been reading Thomas Merton’s journals lately. In my opinion, he was one of the most enlightened Americans in this country’s history, precisely because he transcended national identity, as all prophets do. 
  • Life: It has been over 2 months since my sister passed away. Reminders of her absence and importance continues to arise with regular frequency. I suspect that will evolve but never diminish. The void she left is meant to be felt, mourned, and celebrated. I believe there is a blog post about her in my future. I miss her. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Current Listening - June 2017

I thought I'd share some of my recent listening. Some old, some new...and at least 1 artist I've been challenged to over-come a life-long prejudice.

  • Tinariwen - Elwan: I started listening to this band in 2010 when I read raves by artists such as Robert Plant and Radiohead. The band consists of Mali Toureg natives that play a blend a traditional Mali-style guitar music (ala Ali Farke Toure) along with elements of Moroccan folk, Rock, and Blues. On their latest album, they have a guest appearance by Mark Lanegan (QOTSA, Screaming Tree). All the songs on this album are really good but the two that really stick with me is Ittus, a sparse piece with just acoustic guitar and vocals, and Talyat, a building and repetitive "call and answer" piece. I haven't a clue what they are singing about but I love the music. 

  • Roger Waters - Is This The Life We Really Want?:  His 1st Rock album in 25 years is a mellower but no less angry album by the lyrical architect of the great Pink Floyd. The production quality is very contemporary but some of the vibe calls back to Animals. The lyrics are typical Waters brilliance. I had the chance to see him in concert this month and, even with the worst seats in the arena, was blown away. 

  • Grateful Dead - Dead Set: I've owned this album for 35 years and played it maybe 5 times before last weekend when I was convinced by a long-time acquaintance to overcome a common prejudice we've had against the Dead, the prejudice being more towards the stereotypical view of the fan base and the overwhelming cult-of-personality surrounding the late Jerry Garcia than the music. There have been bits of The Dead's legacy that I've enjoyed and I certainly appreciate their impact. However, I could never understand the hard-core devotion they inspired. That said, after listening to this album, I still don't "get it" but I did develop an appreciation for this album that has languished in my vinyl collection for much of my life. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Fear and Loathing in America

2017 seem metaphorically darker than normal. The news seems to leap from one bad story to a worse one. I do my best to keep news, with the inherent bias of the reporter, in proper perspective. But I don’t discard news as propaganda, though it certainly is used as such. I temper my digesting of the news of the day with skepticism on the reporting, trying to discern the facts from the opinion. But even taking away the commentary and opinion, it feels bleak…and its too easy to get worked up…AND GET ANGRY...AND FALL INTO DESPAIR…AND BRING THAT ANGER AND DESPAIR HOME…AND START SLAMMING DOORS…AND YELLING AT THE CAT….AND YOUR SPOUSE…AND…ARGH!!!!!!

Let me take a step back. I’ve been as guilty as anyone of getting worked up into a place of fear as a result of a steady diet of news. And, in recent weeks, the topic of the reliability of news has been front and center, thanks, in large part, to the current U.S. president. But, as I see it, it’s a recurrence of an age-old theme.

I want to avoid getting all “political” in this space…though I must declare that I am not a supporter or fan of Mr. Trump. That said, I’m not willing to give in to the hysteria that is both a response to as well as a result of his intentions.  I will respond in kind, as I’ve always done, to issues that affect me. But, as a core belief, I refuse to be motivated by fear. I believe that fear is the root of all negativity and must be combatted deliberately, with the primary “battlefield” being one’s own heart (a battle I’m constantly waging with varied results).
Back to the news: From my experience, the best way to avoid fear is to be informed, to educate, and to be objective. This requires proactivity and critical thinking.
Much has been made about “fake news” and I’ve seen/heard people state that there mainstream new is nothing more than propaganda, liberal bias, fake news, “…letting the public down by not doing their job”…yada yada yada… I find such comments annoying to be honest.  Let me address them with my own thoughts (as meaningless as they may be):
  • ·         “Bias”: I chaff at the specificity of “liberal media bias” because this is usually stated by someone who identifies themselves as “conservative” (who then define what I means to be “liberal”). But, that said, I’m fully aware that there is bias (even “not conservative” bias). How can there not be bias of any sort? Any human endeavor will be biased by those doing the endeavoring.  I contend that it’s the responsibility of the consumer to weed through the bias, opinion, etc. Facts are there but it’s the responsibility of the reader/watcher to discern the fact from opinion….Someone once said they don’t have the time to “weed” through news. Fair enough…but the same person would repeat talking points of their preferred news outlet’s paid “talking head” which clearly aligned with their political viewpoint. In my opinion, that is gross intellectual laziness. Seek the truth…don’t get spoon-fed the facts mixed with opinion of others.
  • ·         “News in propaganda”:  There are multiple definitions of propaganda. One or more do apply. But my rhetorical response is “what ISN’T propaganda?”…news, advertising…we are awash in propaganda of one sort or another. Again, its up to us to weed through the chaff.  
  • ·         “Fake News”: Instead of restating points, click here for a helpful resource

 On the topic of “fake news”, this isn’t something that was a recent invention, though the present manifestation of the problems such new presents is exacerbated by present technology (e.g. social media, internet). But I believe we have new circumstance for an age-old problem. Bottom line, being informed and seeking truth isn’t a passive activity….and neither is combating fear.