Happiness Graffit

One thing I’ve learned over the past five years with my Seeking Shama journey is that the absolute best way to kick start the flow of my life and keep things fresh is to step outside of the box. When I start to feel blue, it’s usually because I’m stuck in a rut and have let life become stagnant and stale with routine. That’s when I know I need to shake things up. My favorite way of doing that is road tripping with Yoda. Without fail, we meet people and have unexpected adventures that breath new life into my veins. Yet it’s not always convenient to pack up the car and hit the road. So what to do when daily obligations have me tethered to home? A 9-year-old boy gave me the solution yesterday with Jack Day.

chosen ideasMy friend Karen’s husband and youngest son are out of town this weekend. So she and her oldest son Jack invited me to have a Jack Day with them yesterday, a day that was to be all about having fun with Jack. We met for breakfast and each wrote three ideas for an activity on Post-it Notes. Then we drew one of each of our ideas out of a hat and proceeded to spend the next eight hours doing them.

laser tag

First up, laser tag at Blazer Tag, the largest laser tag arena in Texas (guess whose idea this one was?). Trust me, this is something Karen and I would never have chosen to do on our own. We were the oldest people in the arena, and not surprisingly, we came in last place. In fact, at one point we were both doing so poorly that we stood next to each other and took turns shooting the other so we could wrack up some points.



Next up was Karen’s idea of visiting Inner Space Cavern. This extraordinary cave system is estimated to be 90-100 million years old, and skeletons of prehistoric Ice-Age animals have even been found there. After an hour tour, we bought Jack a cherry ICEE and piled back into the car to head to our final activity for the day.

First up, we stopped at Lowes and bought three cans of spray paint: orange, purple and green. Then we drove to Austin’s Baylor Street Art Wall, a graffiti park at an abandoned construction site that is open to the public. With all the rain we’ve had recently in Central Texas, the place was a bit of a mud pit. But that didn’t stop the throngs of spirited people armed with cans of paint.

art wall

Jack and I painted matching peace signs, and then the three of us took off in opposite directions to hike and climb around the mammoth park to experience on our own all the different layers of graffiti. This outdoor art park is the kind of place that captures the unique, creative, free-spirited part of Austin that I fell in love with when I first moved here four years ago. Eventually, the rain got the best of us and we decided to call it a day.

peace signs

By that point, I felt every bit my age. I was so exhausted from our eight hours together that I was actually sound asleep by 9pm last night. But when I woke up this morning, I must say, I feel lighter, happier, and less stuck in my rut. The flow in my life has started again, all thanks to a 9-year-old. One of the bits of graffiti from yesterday that spoke to me the most about keeping life fresh was where someone painted “HAPINESS [sic] IS WHAT YOU MAKE IT…” How true that is.

Quite possibly the secret to ongoing happiness is to shake up my normal routine and have a Jack Day more often.

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Stage 4Have you ever told yourself that the thing you wish most for in life is too far fetched to ever become reality? Have you wondered if you are sitting still, getting older, just watching life go by without you being an active participant? Have you ever struggled to silence that very loud voice in your head that is doing its best to convince you that dreams coming true only happen to others, and not to you?

This story is about my landlord Fred. He’s 62 years old and like most of us, he likely thought all of those things at one point or another…until everything changed overnight. This is a story that seems like it should have been crafted by a Hollywood screenwriter. But it wasn’t. It’s real life.

Fred is a talented musician. But like most artists, he hasn’t been successful at consistently earning a living with his craft. In his heart, his real life’s work is his music. But his day job, the one that pays the bills, is working for a courier service.

Fred’s all-time favorite band is The 13th Floor Elevators. The Elevators are often credited with coining the term “psychedelic rock.” Formed in 1965 by vocalist Roky Erickson, electric jug player Tommy Hall, guitarist Stacy Sutherland and drummer John Ike Walton, they played together until 1969. They made a short, but lasting impression on the music world. When the band broke up Roky Erickson was admitted to a mental hospital, and years later Stacy Sutherland was shot and killed by his wife.

BalloonsIt seemed the world would never again hear from The 13th Floor Elevators. Fred wanted to ensure that would never happen because, as I mentioned, The 13th Floor Elevators are his all-time favorite band. So to keep the legacy alive, Fred formed a popular 13th Floor Elevator tribute band called The Tommy Hall Schedule. Google them and you’ll find a couple videos out there of Fred fronting the band.

A few months ago I ran into Fred, who was basically jumping out of his skin with shock and excitement. The 13th Floor Elevators were reuniting and headlining the Austin Psych Fest, which in honor of the unexpected reunion, was even changing the musical festival’s name this year to Levitation, a track from the Elevators’ second album.

Even better, not only were the Elevators reuniting, but they had just asked Fred to join the band to replace deceased guitarist Stacy Sutherland.

“Things like this don’t happen in real life!” said Fred.
“They just did and I’m so happy for you,” I exclaimed with complete joy for him.

Stage 2 The next couple of months involved a flurry of rehearsals leading up to last Sunday’s performance. Fred’s wife Jill and I attended, joking that we were his first real groupies. We stood backstage before the performance looking out in awe at the crowd of ten thousand people (yes TEN THOUSAND people) who cheered in expectation of the band taking the main stage.

When The 13th Floor Elevators started playing, the crowd completely lost its mind for the next 50 minutes. Jill & Kee Kee Jill and I danced while I simultaneously tried without much success to get some good behind-the-scenes photos on my iPhone. Eventually I gave up trying and instead watched Fred jam on his guitar as I shook my head in wonder about how life really can sometimes sneak up on you and make your wildest dreams come true.

Fred and JillAfter the show Fred emerged from the stage sweaty and happy as he hugged Jill. In the days that followed his photo has appeared in countless magazines and websites, including the granddaddy of all music magazines, Rolling Stone.

It’s still up in the air about when and if the Elevators will ever play again. But for now, on one incredible night last week, I watched Fred become a piece of music history. That’s enough to convince me to keep striving, wishing and believing, because dreams really can come true.


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Yoda’s Sugar Dust Has Earned Him a New Bed

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The Huffington Post – An Enchanting Road Trip to New Mexico’s Hot Springs

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I love road trips and I love hot springs. That means my recent road trip to explore New Mexico hot springs was pretty much a win/win.  This was one of my favorite road trips to date. If you are wanting an off the beaten path summer getaway, this one is calling your name! Read about […]

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