Tijuana

 

When did you last sing to yourself or to someone else and what song?

Today. [laughs] Today, and it was a gospel song. “Woke Up This Morning With My Mind on Jesus.” I was singing to myself. I was singing to Him. I do that all the time. 

 

What is your favorite journey?

When I finally got a chance to take a long drive, long distance, from Chicago to Mississippi, which is like 700-some miles. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do, take a long journey. And I did that, so off the bucket list. That was a while ago. That probably was about, hm, maybe seven, eight years ago. We went to Sardis, Mississippi. 

 

What characteristics do you value most in your friends?

Honesty. I think if you really don’t have friends in whom you can trust, then how can they really be a true friend to you if you really need them or wanted their honest opinion about something? If they’re not honest to you… Honesty is a whole lot. Honesty and open-mindedness. 

 

What’s the biggest problem in your life?

Finding a job, a steady job, instead of temp work. Right now, I like the office work, administrative field, receptionist, office support. I would like to have something that opens up doors for you, that have room for growth. A job that can also help you with your education. Like if you see something in your field, and there’s classes for it, that they can help you pay for those classes so you can get that job, get that degree. Basically offering stepping stones to help people to move up in the world.

 

What is the secret to lasting relationships?

Communication. Honesty and communication. Because you got to have that. If you can’t trust the person you with… In a relationship, that’s two people — regardless of how long you’ve been together, you still really don’t know each other ‘cause you’re constantly changing every day. You have to have communication to be able to agree to disagree and come to a happy medium. 

 

When and where are / were you happiest?

Now. Right now. [smiles] I’m in a lovely, happy relationship. I’m clean and free of drugs. I love it. I’m feeling good. I’d be on before, got clean. Now I’m doing things different. I’m working the program. I’m working steps with a sponsor, which is very important. I attend meetings on a regular basis. I also do service work. I’m much more open-minded about the program than I was before. 

 

What do you fear most?

Nothing. Nothing. I been through so much. Whatever comes, I’m not afraid of it. Before, I feared dying in my addiction. I don’t fear that any longer. Going to bed, and my kids coming to my house and finding me dead. I don’t fear that anymore because I don’t do that anymore.

 

Would your childhood self be proud of you now?

[laughs] Would my childhood self? No. I say that because it’s a lot of things I wanted to do in my childhood that I said I was going to do, and I didn’t do it. The childhood self in me is like “Why you didn’t do that?” I wonder what I’d become had I done that when I was a child, had I stuck to making the right decisions instead of what I wanted to do. What would’ve happened? So I don’t think so. I don’t think my childhood self is happy with me.

 

What’s the key to life?

Being happy. Just being happy. I think that’s the key to life. Being happy. Treating people the way you want to be treated. Living each day as if it’s your last. Eating healthy. Exercise. Smile. You woke up this morning. A lot of people didn’t. 

 

What’s going to be your greatest accomplishment in the next five years?

Oooh. It may seem minute to a lot of people. My greatest accomplishment is getting married, working a permanent job, still being clean, getting my driver’s license back, owning my own vehicle again. 

 

Are you happy in your life right now?

Yes. 

 

What should I ask the next person?

Do you believe in Jesus Christ?


Pedro

 

When did you last sing to yourself or to someone else and what song?

I sang today at work. What was it? “Whatcha Gonna Do With the Danaher?” I make a song up about my co-worker. He’s a real pain in the ass. So I sing it to myself to make myself laugh. That’s what I sang today.

 

What is your favorite journey?

Driving down to Florida to Miami. I enjoy that ride, taking a road trip from Chicago all the way down. It’s very relaxing being there with my wife. We get to talk. I enjoy driving. We love the beach, the atmosphere, the vibe we get every time we go. Whatever stress we had on the ride there, it’s like each state as we get closer, another layer of stress breaks off.

 

What characteristics do you value most in your friends?

Honesty and compassion. Yes. Those two. They’ll always tell you what’s going on. They’ll be truthful to you. You can get their advice. Compassion, as far as when you make a mistake, things that you’re going through. They’ll be there for you to help you out. Life is rough sometimes. If you don’t have anyone there to share these things with or to vent to, man, you’ll blow up.

 

What’s the biggest problem in your life?

Selfishness. I need to get mine now. If I don’t get it, I become impatient and angry. I maneuver things to get it my way. Manipulating too, but the underlying thing is selfishness.

 

What is the secret to lasting relationships?

First of all, honesty. To be able to be sharing yourself truly with another person. Not judging. But also enjoying seeing someone else rejoice. Seeing someone else doing better or reach some kind of peace in their life. Helping them achieve that. Those are good values in a relationship.

 

When and where are / were you happiest?

On vacation. We did Mexico, we did Hawaii, we did Florida. Hawaii was awesome. The colors in Hawaii are so much brighter, the food’s better, the atmosphere is such a serene place. Maui in particular. We went to Oahu, but we liked Maui better. Also another thing that brings me joy is playing with my nephew. Seeing the excitement in his eyes and entertaining him, making him laugh brings me so much joy. If I can’t be on vacation, hanging out with him is a joy that I have.

 

What do you fear most?

Being insignificant. Not to matter. Where people just walk by you and don’t care. That’s my biggest fear, not to be of consequence. Being ignored — as a young child, being short, being very small when I was growing up, people looking down at me, being the last one picked at teams. That, and being ignored by the girls when going into high school. You’re short and they think you’re cute, but something like a teddy bear, not something they would want to develop a relationship. That’s my biggest fear.

 

Would your childhood self be proud of you now?

I’m evolving. I think what we planned as a child didn’t come out to what we are today, but I’m constantly trying to improve myself. That’s where the younger me would be happy.

 

What’s the key to life?

Serenity. Finding peace. To be able to give that peace around to other people. To look at other people suffering and to be able to be of service. To look outside yourself and be of service to the people around you. Then you’re not inside yourself, in your head. If you’re able to help someone else, there is a sense of joy in that, a sense of accomplishment. As human beings, we should be striving to do that more.

 

What’s going to be your greatest accomplishment in the next five years?

To repair my relationship with my daughter. To be able to have a genuine, loving, caring, reciprocal relationship with her. Not just me, but her caring for me. To talk to me with respect. That’s fractured right now. That in the future would be my utmost. Also, a goal would be to have my own house. To purchase my own home or homes would be something of that magnitude. And hopefully be married and have more kids. I would like that. Yes. Five years? Yes, that would be nice.

 

Do you believe in Jesus Christ?

Yes. Yes, I do.

 

What should I ask the next person?

Did you hug someone today?


Ellen

 

When did you last sing to yourself or to someone else and what song?

Oh, it was like maybe three minutes ago. I sang to myself this song that my friends in a band called Gosh Pith just released to one of my other friends, and I got a sneak peak to hear it, and now I can’t stop listening to it. It’s called “Money.”

 

What is your favorite journey?

Last year, I was super anxious at the beginning of the year. So I did this year-long vision quest, that was like a spiritual quest. It culminated in me spending like 10 days up in northern Michigan. Four of those days I was just alone camping on North Manitou Island. That was definitely my favorite journey.

 

What characteristics do you value most in your friends?

Number one is humor. Number two is a relentless interest in working on projects of all sorts. And then, third one is probably weirdness or unexpectedness.

 

What’s the biggest problem in your life?

Time management. Or wanting to do a bunch of stuff and then you really only have a certain amount of time to do it. I would say that’s definitely my biggest problem, yeah. I feel like saying you don’t have enough time is arbitrary because there is enough time. We all have the same amount of time in that sort of sense. It’s just figuring out what you value most, or prioritizing so you’re willing to let other things not take up that time you have. That’s why I mean managing how I spend my time, not that I don’t have enough. I think I have enough. [laughs]

 

What is the secret to lasting relationships?

I feel like it’s probably, hm, maybe like a willingness to… Let me think about this. Maybe empathy. A willingness to when even if you know you’re right to just step back. It’s not always apologizing. I recognize I’m reacting this way, and I’m going to value the way you’re reacting, even if I don’t think it’s totally rational. 

 

When and where are / were you happiest?

The most recent example has been this Murals in the Market festival, in the Eastern Market, in Detroit. I’ve gotten to meet some people whose work I’ve really valued for a long time. To be able have a conversation with them or just drink beer casually has just been so awesome. I spend my days biking around in the sunshine, and painting, and hanging out, and drinking beer, and it’s fucking rad. 

 

What do you fear most?

Regret. Or… yeah. Maybe I don’t even fear that. Maybe I fear being unhappy. Or somehow feeling my own happiness is out of my control.

 

Would your childhood self be proud of you now?

Yeah, totally. I’ve always wanted to do art, and now I get to do it all the time. So yeah, totally. 

 

What’s the key to life?

I don’t know. Maybe it’s like gold. And you get it at Fred’s Lock Shop. He overcharges a little bit, but all the landlords in the area just always make you get it from Fred. So I feel like he probably definitely has it. Just a little gold key. He always uses the same key. You’re like, “Can you just put the two different keys so I know which one is to the front door and back door?” And he’s like, “No. Unless you want to pay extra.” That’s bullshit. [laughs]

 

What’s going to be your greatest accomplishment in the next five years?

To be able to continue to sustain myself on art and creative projects, and be recognized for it. Just the level of projects that people trust me with or the amount of responsibility. I’m starting on this small mural, but maybe to do something way larger where I have to have a team. Bigger projects. Reaching a wider audience.

 

Did you hug someone today?

Oh yeah. Mhmm. A bunch of people. Do you want me to name them? I mean I could, but also maybe it’s meaningless to the people listening. I hugged Wheezy, and Patrick, and Garrett, and I think Roula, and Kashink.

 

What should I ask the next person?

Describe a situation when you did something totally bizarre and unexpected in public.


Linda

 

When did you last sing to yourself or to someone else and what song?

Don’t remember. Don’t know if I’ve ever sung to myself. 

 

What is your favorite journey?

Life itself. The things you learn along the way. You think you know it all when you’re, you know, teens and early 20s. You find out you didn’t know as much as you thought you knew. And the older generation, you really need to pay attention to them and listen to them. 

 

What characteristics do you value most in your friends?

Being trustworthy. You confide in your friends. You tell them things that you don’t expect to be passed. 

 

What’s the biggest problem in your life?

Financial. Just having enough to get by. 

 

What is the secret to lasting relationships?

Being trustworthy. Be able to trust them, and them to trust you. 

 

When and where are / were you happiest?

When I’m quilting, I guess. I have a quilt room. I go in there, usually late at night. I make quilts for the Bags of Love, for children that are taken out of their homes. It’s worldwide, but we do it out my church, and it stays in this county, the ones that we make. 

 

What do you fear most?

Bad health. Cancer and whatever else. As you get older, you think more about it. Try to make better choices.

 

Would your childhood self be proud of you now?

Probably not. [laughs] I think you expect a lot when you’re a kid. You’re going to do all these great things. And you don’t. I don’t know. I was thinking when I was a teen to go into fashion and stuff. Didn’t have the money to go to college or a school for it. Couldn’t afford it. I had some other jobs, but basically retail type stuff. 

 

What’s the key to life?

Don’t know. Haven’t found it yet. Just to be happy where you are, to be content where you are.

 

What’s going to be your greatest accomplishment in the next five years?

Just staying on top of things financially and health-wise. Be a good role model for my grandkids. I have 14. The youngest is 14 and the oldest is 28. I’ve already started on great-grandkids. I’ve got seven of them.

 

Describe a situation when you did something totally bizarre and unexpected in public. 

I recently rode on a unicycle again, which I used to do when I was a kid, and then I ended up breaking my foot doing it. My two granddaughters that live above me, their mother told them, “Well go down and see grandma, she knows how to ride a unicycle.” Because she’s seen me ride one, when she was little. They brought it down. The seat was loose, the tire needed to be blown up. I shouldn’t have been on it to begin with. It was at the fire auction, but nobody bought it, so they gave it to my granddaughters. I decided I’d try it anyway. She kept saying, “Don’t let go of the truck, grandma.” But I did. Fell off and broke my foot. That was about six weeks ago. I broke three bones right in here on my left foot. They’re small bones, so they healed. I still limp a little bit, but I’m doing ok. When I was a teenager I used to ride it a lot. One time, we went to visit my mother, probably when I was in my late 30s, and I was riding it. So my daughter saw me do it. So she knew I knew how to do it. Or used to. Don’t bounce like I used to though. [laughs]

 

What should I ask the next person?

Where do you expect to be in 10 years?


Will

 

When did you last sing to yourself or to someone else and what song?

I’ve studied sacred Indian music singing and opera for many, many, many years. Just today I sang a little opera to myself. I believe the song was “It’s A Painful Loving.” It’s a beautiful Italian aria. One of the greats.

 

What is your favorite journey?

Well the spiritual journey is the journey to take, as far as I’m concerned. So that’s a lifelong journey that has many twists and turns. The spiritual journey from darkness to light to sanity to profundity. That’s the journey — whatever the external journey is — that’s the journey that I’m trying to locate, and find, and stay true to.

 

What characteristics do you value most in your friends?

Compassion for the suffering of everything and everyone, which makes people wounded and real and vulnerable and truthful, and therefore capable of intimacy and friendship. Without that, selfishness blocks compassion. Selfish people are limited in their ability to be friends.

 

What’s the biggest problem in your life?

[laughs] Ultimately the only problem in life is a lack of spiritual depth. In my particular life, just for the heck of it, because it does seem to be a serious problem, I was given a boss who is literally out of hell. In the past month, that has disturbed me to an infinite degree. I thought I was strong enough to deal with it. Imagine the person that would most irritate you in the world, whose qualities are entirely opposite of everything you value and respect, being given to you in the job you really care about. That’s a painful problem. The root problem is, of course, not understanding this matter spiritually. But it doesn’t seem to be understandable. I’ve never seen anything like this person. Never. Literally. And I talked to his boss and said, “Do you know that this guy blah blah blahs?” He said, “No, and I don’t care.” What? Weird things happen in this weird life. 

 

What is the secret to lasting relationships?

The secret to lasting relationships seems to be forgiveness. People make mistakes. People have their own issues. People have ego complications. They’re going to do things that are offensive, and sometimes downright mean, and unloving, and painful, and hurtful. Without a capacity to forgive and forget — which I think is a spiritual matter, not a personal matter — because you’re going to get hurt and wounded in some way. The only way to maintain a relationship is to be able to forgive and forget. And sometimes let go of a relationship, because some relationships you can’t save. I would say it’s forgiveness, which again, comes from a spiritual depth. I’ve been very blessed to meet profound spiritual beings. Their capacity to love in the midst of complete betrayal is beyond me, far beyond me. 

 

When and where are / were you happiest?

In my own life, they’re both the same context, but I’m most happy when I’m singing in a performance setting as opposed to a practice setting. Those settings for me are very sacred. They’re sacred places, they’re sacred occasions. People are coming for spiritual inspiration and to not just hear a performer, but to find the depth of art, to find what transcends life. The true beautiful is divine, it’s inspired, it’s beyond what’s normal to a human being. For me, to be in that context of performing and to be drawn beyond myself in a sacred occasion, it’s pure happiness. It’s worth countless hours of practice and suffering just to have that one transcendent moment. If another person feels it, great, but they tend to because it’s something different than going to work and hanging out.

 

What do you fear most?

My boss. [smiles] No, I think death is certainly high on the list. What did Woody Allen say? Well, anyway, Woody Allen said a lot of things. But certainly death, and what that all is, and the great mystery of things. I’ll go with death, but there’s plenty of things to be afraid of, that’s for sure.

 

Would your childhood self be proud of you now?

[laughs] I guess it depends on which childhood self. But yes. I had some very challenging times in childhood. Just to be alive and breathing right now is a huge accomplishment. So yeah. Definitely. 

 

What’s the key to life?

Believe it or not, my friend Dustin, I’ve spent a lot of time pondering this. When I was a young man, about 22, I was out drinking with friends in Illinois of all places. We’re at this Burger King. I won’t really explain it very much, but my friend says to me, “You know, the key to life is that k is a vowel.” [laughs] We were talking about all this weird shit about ks. We ended going to this bar called Kays, with a capital k in Urbana-Champaign. What a fucking night, Jesus Christ, we got hammered. So when he said k is a vowel is the key to life, right, this is true, my mind stopped. I started thinking about, what the fuck is the letter k? What is anything? I wasn’t smoking weed or anything that particular evening. But it’s like my mind cracked in a way that I just didn’t understand. I started to ponder. What is k? What are we doing here? What’s Burger King? What’s anything? My mind was completely blown. I couldn’t understand what anything was, who anything was, what my friends’ names were, why we were doing this. I couldn’t figure anything out. It was like the mystery of existence was just blown open. I felt like there was a divine reality. It kind of set me off on this spiritual journey I was talking about. The key to life is definitely to locate the happiness that transcends the ups and the downs. This cup of coffee is delicious, but it’ll be done. The best meal you can have is going to be done. The best relationship you can have, that person is going to die. In the midst of all this temporary happiness, what’s true happiness and infinite freedom? So anyway, the key to life is that k is a vowel, which would completely confound your mind to the point where you’d have to go on a spiritual journey where you’d have to find a source of wisdom, and inspiration, and power.

 

What’s going to be your greatest accomplishment in the next five years?

The other thing I do besides sing is I write. I would like to finish a book I’ve been working on for 30 years, that has meaning and humor and brings light and can help people and hopefully make people laugh as well as inspire people on their own spiritual quest. That would be a great accomplishment and legacy to leave behind. 

 

Where do you expect to be in 10 years?

I expect to be living in an ashram, that’s where I expect to be, which means very much involved in a sacred life, moment to moment. It’ll be in California, or Fiji, or Hawaii, or somewhere. An ashram is a set-apart place for sacred life and very serious spiritual people. I hope to be able to devote my life full time to spiritual pursuit. Thank you for the question, Linda.

 

What should I ask the next person?

Have you ever had an experience walking in nature where you came across an animal in a very mysterious way and it taught you something or it had some meaning for you?