Wednesday, November 21, 2012

I'm STILL Walkin' Here!

Last night between my stop at Vesuvio's and my check in at Red Devil Lounge to see Junkyard Academy, I did something that I have done many times, but never in the rainy dark. I wandered my way through the rain to the top of Nob Hill and walked the Labyrinth in the courtyard of Grace Cathedral.

I've been walking these labyrinths for nearly 20 years and I've been on them inside and out, crowded with pilgrims and alone in the quiet. One of the first times I ever walked the labyrinth inside the cathedral was at noon on my 40th birthday. Due to some weird schedule changes in the morning I wound up on the path just before noon. The moment I stepped into the center, the clock struck 12 and all the bells in the cathedral started to chime! It was amazing and blessed and it set the tone for several days of personal reflection and celebration that I still look back on for insight when I'm trying to figure out where I'm headed next. The labyrinth (a symbol of which I also keep around my neck most of the time) has provided me with 20 years of centering and focus in a life that often has neither.

Last night was dark and drippy and I was alone on the path. As I walked the flowing circles, I could look up to the top of The Mark across the way, where I stayed exactly 11 months ago; 11 months, and a whole other world, ago. That morning, I stumbled bleary eyed through the hallway of the hotel, into the elevator and up the hill to walk the labyrinth in the chilly early morning. I was alone on the path that time as well. That morning, on December 22, just after the longest night of the year, celebrating the birthday of my sweetheart, I was gazing into a future that looked cheery and encouraging, rich and hopeful, both personally and professionally. In the ensuing 11 months most of those dreams and visions have fallen to the side of the road. Despite setback and lost hopes, I still remain encouraged by thoughts of whatever might happen next, but I'm definitely not as buoyant as I was back then.

Still, I do as I have done over and over since I first moved away from The City 23 years ago. I return to my original home, the place where I learned to love city life, the place where my daughter (and now granddaughter) was born, and where I always seem to find my soul again, buried and tattered, but somehow always there waiting for the next round. I stumble my way back up the hill, I look across the city skyline, I take a breath, and I step on the path once more.

Yeah...  I'm still walkin' here!  

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Death to my Hometown

For several days I've been putting my brain around a blog post about the experience of Katrina 7 years ago today and the way my life has traveled since that day, but I'm still not finished with the attempt.

At the same time, I absolutely cannot let the day go by without a beginning stab at the way I feel about such things. Oddly enough The Boss has done a good job of putting my thoughts into words with a song off Wrecking Ball that is about our more recent great debacle. There are very few things that do as good a job describing BOTH these events like "Death To My Hometown.

However... when you're done watching this one, check out my Blues Routes show about Springsteen's more specific response to Katrina when he played that following spring at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival (and in so doing, won the accolades of New Orleans locals as well as his legion of fans).

And to my friends back home... Hang in there babies!!!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Follow Your Bliss

Chungliang Al Huang from pat solomon on Vimeo.

I am a big fan of Joseph Campbell and have been since the very first airing of Bill Moyers' earth shaking interviews with him in The Power of Myth nearly 30 years ago.

Watching the Moyers video again this morning, I caught the comment that Campbell makes about transformation of consciousness... "You're thinking in this way, but now you have to start thinking in that way. Right now is feeling like one of those transformational moments to me. As Al Huang comments in the clip above, it "may take some time for you to find it [your bliss], but that's what you need to do."

The confusion over the concept of "follow your bliss" has always been kind of amusing to me. On the one hand there are the people who take the phrase, not only literally, but sort of fundamentalistically. They advocate the idea that it's essentially the same as saying "Do What U Wanna" which is a GREAT tune for a second line (and oh how I miss the second lines!) but it's not really great as a philosophy of life.

It's also NOT what Joseph Campbell was saying.

The other reaction to this perspective tends to come from the opposite side, taking extreme exception to the idea that people just want to "follow their bliss..." doing any thing that feels good at the time. Or to quote an old saying from the 60s, "If it feels good do it."

That's also NOT what Joseph Campbell was saying.

What he WAS saying, is both obvious and profound.

Bill Moyers asks, "What's the journey I have to make?"

Campbell responds by saying, "Follow your bliss... find where it is and don't be afraid to follow it."

He expands from there, but the point is clearly that "follow your bliss" is the WAY to find what you are supposed to be about. It's like the "follow the money" line in All The President's Men. Watch closely the trail... see where it leads.... The path itself will tell you what's going on and what you need to do.

What do you really love? What excites you? What gets you out of bed in the morning? What is your answer when you look in the mirror, as Steve Jobs suggested, and ask yourself if what you're planning for the day is something that would be satisfying if it was your last day on earth.

For me... in the passage of the last several years (and especially the last eight months) I've been digging deeper into the excitement and love I have for certain ways of being and certain things I think and feel and do. As Al says above, it's taken me a long time to catch the through line, to truly "follow my bliss." To watch the way things go... to see what makes me laugh and smile and fall in love with being in the world. And I - to my great disservice - give up the path easily and often. I don't trust the basic feelings at my core. I let the dragon slay me (to use Campbell's metaphor) rather than slaying the dragon.

I am once again at a place where I am seeking the courage and the strength to stay on the journey down... to figure out exactly what I... "need to do.

My life depends on it... According to Campbell, all our lives depend on it; the very fate of the earth depends on it.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Just... Be

A friend of mine from a few years back, Marc Lesser, has a great blog out this week that focuses on the topic of a new type of corporation that has just come into being in California (and many other states as well). The B Corporation (officially a Benefit Corporation in California legal parlance) is a relatively new development within the world of corporate structure, and for many in the business world it seems to come across like some kind of strange hybrid beast from a mythological land. For others, like myself, it's something that we've been waiting for, longing for, and trying to make happen for a very very long time.

The first discussion I ever had about the concepts behind Benefit Corporations occurred in my living room in San Francisco in 1982, the year my daughter was born, as a group of us were forming a record company that eventually became known as BrierPatch Music, Inc. Starting a business that we hoped would be about more than making money... that WAS about more than making money... led us into a struggle about whether to form our new little company as a non-profit or not. At the time, I was the lone voice of entrepreneurial capitalism in our bunch. I believed then - as I believe now - that businesses have not only an obligation, but also a great opportunity, to do wonderful things in the world AS BUSINESSES. I believed then, and still believe now, that the music we created and the products we produced were important in their own right and deserved the basic respect that standing up on their own in a market economy suggested of them. To me, developing our business as a non-profit (and I've spent 30 years of my life working with non-profits, so I am not about dismissing the importance and significance of non-profits) was a way of suggesting that the work didn't really stand on its own; it felt to me like asking for help from people, when what we were providing held intrinsic value (and deserved to be treated that way). The circumstances of our business were such that to do otherwise felt akin to beginning our project with a corporate self-image problem. Something akin to saying, "we're not really that good, but we want to be, so won't you support us anyway?"

I didn't believe that about what we were doing and I don't believe it now.

In the U.S. we exists in a corporate free market (mostly) economy. The rest of the world is rapidly moving in that same direction. Many see that as a bad thing. I am not one of those people. I believe the danger of capitalism is not inherent in the free market concept, but rather in the destruction of the free market concept through a distinct lack of concern for the basic factors of corporate responsibility and good citizenship. The greedy nature of so much corporate wrong is based directly in the idea that its not only possible, but indeed profitable, as well as conceptually important, to rig the system by fouling the planet, abusing employees, stealing from governments, and lying to customers. This is not only bad business... it's bad morals.

If corporations are effectively "people" then they have the same basic moral responsibilities of people. They have the responsibility to take care of their environment, to treat people fairly, to refuse to lie, cheat, steal, and murde, and to tell the truth about who they are and what they do. Corporations as "people" have the same responsibility as REAL PEOPLE. They have the responsibility - and the joyous privilege - to be good citizens.

Back in 1982, I won my argument and we formed BrierPatch Music, Inc. as a California C Corporation. I had some great heros and mentors (chiefly Ben & Jerry, Paul Hawkin, and Yvone Chouinard) to lead the way and provide exemplary guidance in the journey we set out upon.

What I was not aware of at the time was that basically my concept of socially responsible business was a great idea.. a good thing... a mitzvah, if you will, but it was not in any way supported by corporate law. Corporate law was (and largely still is) based on the idea that the only thing a corporation is to consider is the maximization of shareholder wealth... period. For a great little tutorial on that reality have a look a this TED talk from the B Corp Website.

As you can see from the talk above... that perspective, and the law that supports it, is changing. In California, on January 2, 2012, a new law introduced in the California legislature by Jared Huffman established California as one of only a handful of states where it is possible to establish your corporation as a "Benefit Corporation" with the right AND THE LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY to act for the benefit of, not a single, but a triple bottom line: People, Planet, Profits.

This is joyous news to me personally, because not only does it vindicate what I have believed for most of my adult life, but it also provides a new corporate form that allows my business partner and I to establish our new company , Barrier Free Adventures, Inc. as such a company. While we formed last October as a regular California C Corporation, we will be resubmitting our Articles of Incorporation in the next few weeks to take advantage of this new corporate designation.

What's that do for us? It allows us to move forward with the clear declaration that we are a company (like BrierPatch Music 30 years ago) that is intentional about doing good in the world while also seeking to do business and make a profit. Mainly it gives us the platform to declare what we already believed, that Barrier Free Adventures will not simply be about increasing the single bottom line of profit (which we expect to do very well at by the way) but also to state that we intend to also do good in the world, provide community service for our clients and communities, and to treat our people well. We are a "triple bottom line" company that cares about Planet - People - Profits. It also gives us the protection from people who might still feel like the only reason for a corporation to exists is maximization of profit.

I'm excited about this... I believe, as Jay Coen Gilbert of B Lab states it, that this is the beginning of a new way of doing business in the world. I believe that it is a world changing meme that I am happy to be a part of.

If you'd like to know more about how things move forward with us at Barrier Free Adventures, leave a comment here, check out the website at (with news on a whole new suite of services coming within a couple weeks) or drop me a line at