Music has always been an important part of my life—not that you’d know it from my guitar playing. But there was never a time when writing songs was more important in maintaining some kind of balance than in Obama—sublimating frustration through “socially acceptable channels.” Freud was right, and he never heard of Obama. (See STORE/CDs for complete TuneTown and Autumn in New York CD song lineups.)

If You Were Mine

I like to compare my first glimpse of Emiko at IAY to the imprinting of a newborn duckling laying eyes on its mother as it comes of the shell. “If You Were Mine” was written during the ensuing months of longing looks. Nuff said.

Runnin’ With the Wrong Crowd

This is my “Americanized” take on finding myself best friends with a yakuza godfather and the repercussions that entailed.

Some People Know How to Live

“Some People Know How to Live” and “Fishin’” were inspired by several monks at Hosshinji who had arrived at a place I hoped I would eventually get to.


“Some People Know How to Live” and “Fishin’” were inspired by several monks at Hosshinji who had arrived at a place I hoped I would eventually get to. “Fishin’” is advice to myself—to chill out, take a look at the bigger picture. Now all I need is a song to remind me to take my advice.

You Got Me Goin’

Mari was always “the flower on the mountainside just out of reach”—a feeling that haunted me even after we became intimate and, in the end, proved brutally accurate. After the attack at her apartment by her old boyfriend, I watched helplessly as she slipped away as if disappearing into a pit of quicksand. The tune itself is considerably more upbeat than the back story by intention.

Famous Last Words

Communication is hard enough speaking the same language, much less when two collide. I spouted gaffes like a lawn sprinkler for years—some laughable, others which almost came to blows—and these eventually sparked, “Famous Last Words.” (For one of my hall-of-fame malaprops, check out “The Tale of the Disappearing Doberman” in The Lost Chapters.) Moral of the story? When you open your mouth, keep a close watch on what comes out!

Specialty Man

Chapter 10 describes the hardships of cold training and my adaptations to them—like letting my mind wander during begging when the pain in my fingers became unbearable. One such day, trudging through ankle-deep slush, fingers screaming for relief, the phrase, “I’m a specialty man,” popped into my head and wouldn’t stop. Once I got back to my guitar weeks later, I fashioned this parody of Americans’ incessant bragging about how hot they are in bed.

Queen of the Silver Dollar

This tune was inspired by a waitress at Moka and one of the most stunning women in Obama. I had heard she had a sugar daddy and I had rejection issues of my own, but after several encouraging glances I finally resolved to confront my fears. At the next sesshin, I made, “Who is afraid?” the focus of my zazen and, slowly, forged a store of courage. The day after sesshin ended, I marched into Moka to ask her out—only to discover she had run off with the scrawny, wispy-haired, very un-rich guy behind the counter three days before.

Doin’ It On the Sly

“Doin’ It On the Sly” is my social commentary on love in the land that invented the “love hotel.” See my discussion with Kishin on the significance of this curious institution and the case for discretion in Japan in Chapter 8.


(coming soon)
Ellen was a part-time English teacher at IAY. She was nice, but I barely knew her—only that she had a Japanese husband and no children. One morning after several months in Japan and a growing familiarity with the isolation that often comes with it, I walked into IAY to discover that Ellen had committed suicide by immolation. After almost 40 years, I still wish there was some way I could have helped her get through that night.

The Concert Tour

Yup, that’s me in the promo shot for my first and only concert tour—a five-day, six-event odyssey through Kyoto, Osaka and Kobe. After mind-numbing days of nothing but travel, restaurants, practice, set ups, concerts and corner cots, I was so burned out that no amount of sex, drugs or adulation could have ever made me do it again. I shiver to imagine how the Beatles must have felt.