Rockin’ to a Zydeco Beat

Aaron stuck his gorgeous head through the kitchen window. “It’s my birthday Sunday,” he smiled. “I’m having a bbq in the back yard if you wanna come.” A bigger smile. “There’ll be music and food, poetry…”

Okay. I’m in. Not only is Aaron the cutest thing since the Ken doll, but he’s a brilliant musician.  And he lives in the mother-in-law house in the back yard. “What can I bring?” I asked in typical Minnesota potluck fashion.

“Do you have an instrument? Or a poem?”

Do I have a poem? Is the Pope still Catholic?

This is North Oakland. A block away is Berkeley. The neighborhood rocks with color and vibe. Aaron rocks with color and vibe! So Sunday morning I scanned my provisions and put together a chicken avocado salad to share with other guests. Around 3:30 I could hear happy sounds wafting through my open windows. What was that…an accordion? Definitely drums… I grabbed my salad and strolled into the back yard.

Suddenly I was back in Bali. It was a hodge-podge of people from toddlers to older folk, and nationalities that spanned the globe. It was community. Angelique and her little angel were crafting graffiti on the fence.


So were Dubonwi and Larry.

P1040609P1040613Summer stenciled blue paint around a giant leaf from Aaron’s garden while also manning the bbq.


P1040614Jimmy sat next to his wife who had dressed in pink bunny ears for the occasion. He swore that he didn’t know her but the twinkle in his eye said otherwise.


Their son, Mali, remembered me. He had passed me on the sidewalk while I was walking. He was skateboarding. I remembered him because he said, “Hi!” as he went past. I said “Hi!” back, both surprised and impressed. But after meeting his mom and dad…not surprised but still impressed! They are the friendliest folk!

The table groaned with food from all ethnicities.

Aaron passed out instruments that he had harvested from who knows where! Anything that could make a sound had been commandeered for the occasion. I saw an egg beater, a very large cowbell, a metal dish drainer, and a can filled with something noisy, like rocks. That was my instrument of choice.


I-dream-of-Jeannie, a vision in polka-dots and a sassy red hat, played masterfully on the accordion. The music swelled into the air and suffused the neighborhood with syncopation. We rocked. The poetry was rap, spontaneous, bawdy, and sometimes sweet, paying tribute to Aaron on his special day.

P1040617Here’s the man himself, Aaron, on the box drum, world-class musician beating his little 33 year old heart out.


Aaron has played in Bali. He’s seen the traditional performances. I was aware that a group of guys had gathered behind me but, deep in conversation, I paid no attention. Then it was kecak, a wild, Californianized version of male voices simulating the background chorus for the Ramayana saga. The force of that familiar sound stopped my heart.

What are the chances? Really, what are the chances that I would find kecak in my back yard in Oakland, California? It seems, like everything in my life, the chances are very good. The flow of energy, the aligning of experiences that bring joy, the magic of synchronistic happenings no matter where I am, has become the norm. I blinked away tears and allowed gratitude to once again flood my being.

Happy Birthday, Aaron. You are a gift.

4 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. sageblessings
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 15:46:15

    I love this post. When I first opened it, the photos made me think you were writing about Bali and had just saved this one to publish here. You’re right, what a gift.



  2. healingpilgrim
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 15:22:10

    Love this story – and pix! Of course, kecak cak cak cak, here there and everywhere.., fabuloso!



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