Almost Like Heaven

Wrapped in the cocoon at 48 Viewmont Avenue, 1966

After the rain took a break yesterday, I put on a pair of black sweatpants, long sleeve t-shirt, faded Warriors hoodie, black waterproof windbreaker, and laced up my hiking boots to get ready for my daily 4-mile walk. Once I put sunscreen on my face and filled a Hydro Flask with cold water, I topped off the ensemble with a new brimmer hat and securely placed Airpods into my not so small ears. 

As always, I thought about what I wanted to hear coming from those technological wonders. Every Monday, I listen to the George Lopez OMG Hi Podcast. I highly recommend it. The show is thoughtful, informative about the craft and business of comedy, and funnier than a motherfucker (excuse my French). Tuesday is reserved for any number of other podcasts that catch my fancy. The rest of the week is dedicated to music. 

Yeah, yeah. I know it sounds like the boring life of an old man. That lifestyle caught up to me sooner than expected. Countless surgeries, including a couple of open heart operations and scores of post heart transplant procedures have a way of slowing life down. Even though I feel fantastic and younger than ever, taking care of a transplanted heart requires lots of discipline. Routine keeps me in the game. 

Making a decision about the music selection is no easy task because my taste in music is all over the place. Inspired by a recent OMG HI Podcast episode, I paid homage to East LA with Tierra and Los Lobos. The playlist of the past month or so includes Eddie Money, GQ, The Intruders, Frank Sinatra, Dua Lipa, Los Tigres del Norte, Lakeside, Muddy Waters, Sarah Vaughn, Harry Styles, and Boni Mauricio y Los Maximos. You get the picture. The list goes on and on. 

A few weeks ago, I settled on “This is Little Joe” on Spotify. For those who don’t know about Little Joe, he’s the leader and front man of arguably the best and most famous Tex-Mex band of all time. One of the things I loved to do as a kid was sit next to dad’s stereo listening to his albums with big headphones covering half my little head. When I hear Qué Culpa Tengo, my favorite Little Joe song, I fondly think about my sister’s 1976 wedding. One of dad’s treasured Little Joe albums remains safe in my collection.

My favorite Little Joe album – Arriba! Little Joe and the Latinaires, recorded in 1968

I’m sure my daughters and nieces would argue that Selena and Los Dinos deserve the title of best Tex-Mex band of all time. Nice try, I say. But, that’s neither here nor there. What matters is that the King of the Brown Sound always takes me back to my boyhood and the secure confines of Viewmont Avenue in east San Jose.

I saw Little Joe for the first time in 1986. The dance was in the cavernous Expo Hall at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds. I stood close to the stage to take it all in. The funky horn section, rhythmic guitar lines, thumping drumbeat, and Little Joe’s soulful voice and signature grito was food for my soul. Since then, Sandra and I have danced the night away at many Little Joe concerts.

I truly believe that heaven is the next stop after God taps my shoulder to bring suffering in this world to an end. The thing is that I’m not too sure that heaven looks like what the King James Bible tells us in Revelation 21:9-14. Maybe, just maybe, heaven might look like 48 Viewmont Avenue, circa late 1960s to mid 1970s.

Fifty years ago on Viewmont Avenue there was no college failure, no subsequent drunken carousing, no election defeats, no heart attack, no acute respiratory distress syndrome, no medically induced coma, no scary ICU delirium dreams, no heart failure, no LVAD, no post heart transplant depression and anxiety, no starting over at fifty-six. That sounds like heaven to me.

Revelation 21 also tells us that “there will be no more death or mourning or crying pain” in heaven. Ok, so maybe I’m overselling 48 Viewmont. My grandma died in 1974. Our dog Tequila followed a couple of years later. Yeah, I cried my eyes out both times. So I guess that doesn’t make Viewmont a strong candidate for a blissful afterlife in heaven.

But there’s something about being in the cocoon at 48 Viewmont, riding bikes with friends in the summer, playing basketball on the driveway and two-hand touch football on the street, and watching my parents dancing to Little Joe in the living room that brings peace and serenity to my soul. Don’t get me wrong, many beautiful things have also happened to me since those carefree days. Sandra, Marisa, and Erica to name three. 

Being with my three girls at 3211 Stimson Way listening to music, playing board games, and talking smack as the crazy world swirls around outside also brings peace and serenity to my soul. Maybe heaven includes all of life’s wonderful experiences with family and good friends mixed in a beautiful cocktail of faith, hope, and love. Shaken, not stirred, of course.

About six or seven years ago, Sandra and I were at History Park in San Jose watching the King of the Brown Sound live on stage. It was a warm and sunny day. We were having a blast with compadres and close friends.  I had a few Jack and Cokes dancing in my head when Little Joe’s band started playing Borrachera (no pun intended), his classic tune about drunken revelry. The music washed over my body as Sandra and I blissfully swayed together arm-in-arm. For those three minutes, I didn’t have a care in the world. It was almost like heaven.

None of us will really know what heaven looks like until we get there. Maybe it will look like the King James Bible description, “clear as crystal . . . with a wall great and high, and twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and their names written thereon.” Maybe it looks like 48 Viewmont Avenue in 1972. Maybe it’s Christmas 2022 at 3211 Stimson Way. 

Whatever it looks like, I’m pretty sure that Little Joe will be there belting out fun music. My family and dear friends will be there with me dancing and laughing. There’s no doubt in my mind that “there will be no more death or mourning or crying pain.”

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