I’d like to share with you the ongoing true story of how my band Kaju’s Off the Hook - NYC’s most exciting party band for hire - by way of my mysterious hand disorder and malady is coming back from the brink of disaster to re-establish old client reconnections through reviews. And to make many new ones.
However more about the reconnections and reviews in Part 2. First let me give you some background.
Life happens. Conditions change and so do your predilections.
Over the past 13 years, Kaju’s Off the Hook was once a prime time in-demand party band for hire blessed having performed over 1100+ shows, including over 300 private events. That’s the good news.
Then My Life came Crashing down…..
For the majority of my life, I have always been considered by my peers as a brilliant guitar player, and have taken great pride in achieving a very high level of playing through over 10,000+ hours of practice, and once could play all styles of music i.e., rock, jazz, classical, fusion, rhythm & blues, funk, etc. with equal facility and proficiency, and having composed as a song writer over 130+ original songs on guitar and piano.
Then one day life came crashing down
One morning in January 2010 I woke up and noticed I couldn’t play the strings the way I used to. Overnight, my left ring finger and pinky could no longer bend, and both fingers would “fly out” uncontrollably. WTF!
The 5 Stages of Grief and Loss: My Focal Hand Dystonia
That’s when during that first catastrophic month I experienced the 5 stages of grief and loss: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
Well, actually the first two.
Over that first horrible month, my mysterious malady continued on a daily basis without any sight of improvement. Forget about even not playing the strings like I used to, I couldn’t even play the most basic open chords on guitar!
First I was in utter denial. Still being completely stunned, I walked around for one week in a fog and went about my business as if nothing was wrong.
By the second week, I woke up one morning and became totally enraged.
My anger toward the world sent me on an unrelenting dire quest to see as many different doctors and hand specialists as possible over the following 9 months (imagine being angry for 9 months!), all of whom performed a wide variety of x-rays and nerve tests. Surgery was ruled out, and none of the various tests ever yielded a conclusive diagnosis.
By July, I went to see a recommended acupuncturist for a total of 4 sessions. This didn’t help either
By late 2010 after witnessing additional bizarre changes in my hand, I spent countless hours of exhaustive internet research and reading leading me on the path to find a most controversial specialist at Columbian-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City specializing in rare hand disorders. Desprate and looking for answers, I made the appointment.
Within 30 minutes upon my arrival and giving him my complete detailed history and symptoms, this controversial doctor offered his diagnosis to my malady.
That day on September 15, 2010 I was told I had a rare neurological disease called focal hand dystonia.
But I will save these additional focal dystonia details for another later blog post. Stay tuned.
For a short two-week period of time after my diagnosis, I went through the bargaining phase. I blamed myself for my own malady, citing my arduous practice sessions from late 2009 as the cause for my disease.
Practice in recent years had been sporadic and intermittent for me; when you have been playing for many years only minimum practice is necessary. So there were days I would hardly practice for months (other than performing with the band live) followed by short bursts of heavy 3 hour per day sessions.
Near the end of 2009, there was an unusual three month period I was practicing lots of complex guitar melodic patterns, scales, and riffs with the metronome. Soon I was working these practice exercises up to break neck speeds, playing in tandem with You Tube videos by speed demons i.e. Paul Gilbert, Joe Satriani, Paco De Lucia, etc.at times reaching 184 rpm’s on the metronome.
I began questioning and blaming myself with “What if this” or “What If that”. For instance “What if I didn’t subject myself to those rigorous speed practice sessions and exercises, could I have averted this horrible hand disorder?”
By the beginning of October 2010, my world was rocked and steadily collapsing inward around me.
I became severely depressed over my hand disorder. Compare this to an athlete or a writer. How would such an athlete runner or writer feel if he or she could no longer have the facility to run without a limp or the ability to see the written page?
However, I was lucky. Due to unique opportunities created, not everything was gloom and doom.
To cope with my depression, fortunately I became involved in several projects which became diversions. Several of these “diversions” you may have read about in my profile. The “Karaoke Battle USA” ABC-TV show in 2011, singing and playing guitar for the “Don’t Give Up Gospel Choir” from Japan to raise funds to support the tragic tsunami victims of March 11, 2011, and our performance at Gospel Fest at the Prudential Center directed by Danny Eason opening for legends Kirk Franklin and Donny McKlurkin.
As I’ve always cherished helping others especially the ones most in need, thus becoming involved contributing in several philanthropic activities for the Red Cross and Memorial-Sloan Kettering Cancer Center provided comfort and solace for me. And two radio interviews on WGBB with Lou Telano covering “Karaoke Battle USA” and the Japan choir provided a necessary distraction.
My depression eventually turned into apathy.
By 2012, Off the Hook had an old website hosted for several years on Network Solutions and I let it go. Whatever prior interest I maintained with band marketing and promotion slowly waned.
However, my overreaching passion for live music performance never died. That’s the only reason why the band continued playing regularly despite my hand disorder, at least on our regular monthly club date. And the same passion which still gives me the motivation and perseverance to drive forward.
By this time the group took a long hiatus from performing special private events save a few.
Still I continued to ”trudge” forward and continued playing every gig with only “2 to 3 fingers.” This became extremely frustrating for me, as being always a strictly-trained guitarist who played one finger per fret “by the book”, I was at first very resistant to accepting my new found condition or to changing my playing to unconventional fingerings.
Eventually, in order to get through every performance I had to change the left-hand fingerings on practically all the songs we performed to overcompensate for my new limited status as a guitar player. Slowly I began to make adjustments.
Gigs started to get better and slowly were becoming fun again. In 2016, Kaju’s Off the Hook performed our annual Waldorf Astoria private black tie event for Young Audiences on the third week of November. Then on December 9, we performed a phenomenal show at Capitale NY in front of 1600+ frenzied guests and completely knocked it out of the park!
This was a complete breath of fresh air. I’d come full circle!
That’s when I decided it was a New Year, and on January 1, 2017 after not having an active website for almost 4 years, I started to build our new website on Wix. The site was “completed” on January 18. Well actually not, problems with the Wix site continue - you all probably already know that story! But I digress.
Soon thereafter, I would “stumble” upon a great internet marketing community called Wealthy Affiliate. I immediately knew this was “my home” and if I signed up as a premium member, there would be great upside and value in this.
So far so good. Life was sunny again. Renewed motivation!
This concludes Part 1 of the blog post.
Thanks for reading!
Coming up: “Mysterious Hand Disorders and Reconnections: Part 2”.