He would have been 70 today.

I was a college misfit. I went to a school that was a mix of (local) East LA kids on scholarship, and east coast boarding school kids. There were four of us from flyover land – two from Kansas, one from Detroit, and me. Scholarship kids, too. None of us could afford private school. And I soon learned I did not belong in LA.

One of the local kids befriended me and every weekend we hit the record stores in his blue Datsun pickup truck, where he would prowl the cutout bins. Sometimes the clerks would alert him to a new arrival. He listened to everything. He was a rock ‘n’ roll fan in a big way. While he never played a note, he moved on from college to working in record stores for the rest of his life.

He would have been 70 today but died in 2015, from complications of diabetes. I did not know until later, but he died with dear friends at his bedside. I wrote about him here. My eulogy wasn’t the only one. As the Coachella Valley Weekly noted about the 2015 Los Lobos release “Gates of Gold”, “the title track is a bucolic back-porch ramble tethered to a galloping gait. The melody is buoyed by honeyed guitar and loping Bajo Sexto notes. The lyrics look beyond the temporal pleasures of this world, focusing on more spiritual concerns. It serves as a sweet elegy for longtime pal, David Okuma who passed away in June.”

Gates of Gold, 2015
One of the best songs ever. The link on my original post has been taken down, so here it is again, from 1987. To me, this album was their masterpiece.

David and I traveled to San Francisco in that pickup. We hung out at the home of one of the rich kids from school at his home in Pacific Heights. Mom and dad had flown to LA for a party, so Gardner said we could sleep over. He sent me down to the kitchen for beers when his parents, dressed to the nines, walked in. Oops. I introduced myself and ran back up to his third floor aerie and told him what happened. Seconds later the phone rang. He said, “That’ll be Mom.” Somehow we passed muster and were allowed to stay. It was David’s first time out of LA. A few years later I convinced him to fly to Wisconsin to visit – his first time out of California. So much for my impression of all Los Angelenos being jet-setters. While he lived on the freeways of LA, he was a small-town kid at heart. His small town was the music world. His jet-setting was limited to chauffeuring his friends to the airport when they went on tour.

David Okuma, 1953-2015 – ¡Presente!

Author: halffastcyclingclub

We are a group of friends who ride bikes. Some of us are fast, some of us are slow, all of us are half-fast. In 2018, one of us rode coast to coast across the US. It was so much fun, he's doing it again in 2022! If we meet Sal Paradise, we'll let you know.

7 thoughts on “He would have been 70 today.”

  1. Los Lobos is an overlooked gem of a band. When my daughter was 2 we went to see Los Lobos (and Robert Cray) play a free concert outside the Kennedy Center. The crowd was small. My daughter and I danced to La Bamba right in front of the band. They got a kick out of it. Saw them again at Wolf Trap. Just a fantastically talented band. I’d see them again in a heartbeat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’ll get no argument from me. That they aren’t in the rock and roll hall of fame is evidence that that organization doesn’t mean much. When they had their moment of fame after La Bamba, they had the guts to follow it up with an acoustic album of traditional music played on traditional instruments (with a couple of original tunes in the mix). I missed them the last time they came through here. My bike and I were in South Dakota. If you haven’t heard the work of Los Super Seven, check them out – Hidalgo and Rosas from Los Lobos along with Flaco Jiménez, Freddy Fender, Rick Treviño, Joe Ely, Ruben Ramos and others. (They weren’t always the same band.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I love Los Lobos. As for LA? Everyone and no one belongs there. It’s a conglomeration of small towns, not at all what people who haven’t been there think it is. I like it a lot — what I wrote here could be said of San Diego, too. My “hood” was a small town surrounded by different small towns all touching each other, neighborhoods with names and identities, “You know, that Mexican health food place in Normal Heights? The satellite of that one in Ocean Beach?”

    “Oh yeah, that’s Ranchos.”

    “I can never remember the name.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. When I realized, after my first rain, that my eyes didn’t hurt anymore, I knew LA wasn’t for me. They’d been burning (a gradual onset, I guess) for two months. I came back for a visit with my family and drove up on Muholland Drive to look out over the city to give them the lay of the land before we dropped down into the valley. The smog was too thick to see anything. On another visit I made eye contact with a deer in Griffith Park. As we stared at each other, I said out loud, “We don’t belong here.” I cut the visit short and headed for Yosemite the next morning. I told that story here: https://halffastcyclingclub.wordpress.com/2020/04/17/a-story-for-another-time/

      Liked by 1 person

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