Monthly Archives: February 2013

Road trip serendipities

I just finished reading the memoir “Elephant Girl: A Human Story,” by writer/blogger Jane Devin. After a staggeringly difficult life that looks as if it might end in suicide, the heroine somehow finds her way and decides to go on a road trip across the USA, writing about her experiences and interviewing people she’d met through her blog, many of whom offered her places to stay along the way. Before she left, she approached General Motors, because she’d heard that they were involved in supporting various networking events for women. The upshot was that they gave her a sponsorship to test drive a number of their cars during her trip.VW-Van_jpg_1086853gm-f

When I read that I thought, wow! I wish there had been something like that back in the late 60s when I went on my road trip from Boston to Guatemala with my five-year old daughter! Instead of testing a series of brand-new vehicles, I bought a second-hand VW van with bald tires, because that’s all I could afford on my pay as a lounge pianist in a Mafia-owned club in Boston. But I did have my own little windfall. Here’s an abridged version of how I describe what happened, in my book, “Getting Down to Brass Tacks – My adventures in the world of jazz, Rio, and beyond”:

My idea was to buy some sort of vehicle and drive as far as I could in the direction of Brazil. I continued to work at the Mafia club and finally scraped together enough money to buy an old Volkswagen van and get it fixed up. But I didn’t have enough money for new tires to replace the balding ones that came with it.

One night when I was playing at the gig, an elegant, well-dressed elderly gentleman came in with several other people and they sat down right near the piano bar. I noticed that he was watching me the entire time I was singing and playing and barely spoke with his friends. When it was time for my break he immediately stood up and walked over to me.

“Hello,” he said with a kindly smile. “My name is James Pettibone and I’ve enjoyed your playing and singing very much. What’s your name, dear?”

“Thank you,” I said and told him my name. Mr. Pettibone asked me to join him at his table, where he introduced me to his friends and invited me to sit down. It was very pleasant and they all asked me lots of questions about how I got started in music, did I like my work, and so on. As the conversation progressed and I began to feel comfortable with this little group, I ended up telling them my secret: I was planning to drive to Brazil with my five-year old daughter in a second-hand VW van.

Mr. Pettibone’s eyes opened wide and he said, handing me his business card, “You’re an adventurous girl! I’ll tell you what—I’m the president of the Vulco Rubber Company. If you stop by the office one day before you leave and sing a song for me and my colleagues, I’ll give you four new tires for your van.”

I couldn’t believe my luck! I had no reason to believe that he wasn’t serious, so the following week I took the subway to the Vulco company and rode the elevator up to Mr. Pettibone’s office, guitar in hand. I was greeted by a group of smiling people, including the ones who’d been at the club that night. They all shook my hand, along with Mr. Pettibone himself, who hugged me warmly as if I were his daughter. I sat down with my guitar and played and sang “When I Fall in Love” and “Guantanamera.” Everyone applauded, and then Mr. Pettibone led me into his office, where he signed a voucher for the tires. I thought, “This is the way life is really supposed to be!” I thanked him profusely and he shook my hand and wished me a safe trip.

So even though I didn’t get a sweet deal with a major car company, nor was there any internet in those days to create a network of friends that I could visit along the way, I had my unexpected gift of four beautiful new tires from a man I’d never met!

To read more about my trip and my life:


Filed under the book

The latest about my book

My autobiography now has 34 5-star reviews! Cover_Getting_Down_to_Brass_Tacks_Duncan

Here’s the link to my Amazon page.

The e-book is also available at iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, and various other online e-book stores.

If you’re planning on reading my book, have read it already, or are reading it now, I’d love it if you’d write a review for Amazon (the more the merrier!), and also if you’d click on “like” on the Amazon page. This helps to get the word out!

If you’re reading the e-book/Kindle, don’t forget to check the Appendix at the end of the book. There’s a link to photos there.

If you’re on Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, please share this blog post so others can find out about my book. I’ve been hearing from my readers that there’s a lot that resonates with them in my story, and I’m glad to hear that, because I never intended for my book to be just a “vanity memoir” to share with family and friends. If my story can encourage someone, then I would really love them to have access to it!

If you’re on Facebook, you can sign up for my author page by “liking” it here:

This is a place where you can make comments, ask questions, etc.

For a sneak peek at the paperback:

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Never give up – ever

By now, practically everyone knows who “Arthur Never Give Up” is. For those who don’t, Arthur Boorman is the disabled Gulf War veteran who suffered knee and back injuries and was told by his doctors that he would never again be able to walk on his own. The video about his amazing recovery has gone viral on YouTube with 7,606,340 hits as of today.

So what really happened to Arthur? After the doctor’s predictions, he became depressed and gave up. He took the experts at their word and accepted the fact that he would never walk again without support. So Arthur, at age 47, became a couch potato and kept gaining weight until he had packed 297 pounds onto his 5’8” frame.0

I’m just guessing at how he must have felt—maybe a combination of desperation and apathy. Maybe because of the doctors’ predictions it never crossed his mind that anything could help him. Maybe he just felt resigned.

But then something happened. Something shifted in his thought and he “stumbled” on an article about Diamond Dallas Page, a retired professional wrestler who invented his own Yoga hybrid system—DDP Yoga. Arthur started watching videos and trying to do DDP, falling down and getting up countless times. He also sent Dallas an email telling him his story.

If you’ve seen the video (posted below), you know what happened. Arthur recovered completely. He lost over 100 pounds and now can not only walk, but run. So what happened?

It seems to me that the spark of life that’s in all of us just wouldn’t be silenced. Arthur’s intuition told him that his life was worth something, that he was worth something. It wasn’t just that he suddenly decided to do Yoga. Before he even got to that point, he must have sensed the importance, the sacredness of his own life, even if he wasn’t fully aware of it.

And he didn’t give up after a few attempts. He doggedly kept at it until he saw success. He developed his natural God-given strength through persistence, obedience and patience. What an example! In this day and age of instant gratification and premature quitting, this is exactly what a lot of us need to see and embrace.

Can’t each one of us at least try to do as Arthur did, no matter what the challenge? Before you say “Impossible!” consider that every life is valuable, and that means yours and mine. And that mental attitude is the most important thing, not what your body might be saying (or screaming). I know that his story has had an impact on my own life—he’s a great inspiration to me. Happily, Arthur’s story is now being made into a documentary, Inspired: The Movie, that also includes stories of other people who overcame seemingly overwhelming obstacles. I’m sure it will encourage people who are confronting daunting situations. Thanks, Arthur!


Filed under individuality, spiritual, Uncategorized