116. Bruce Parker: The opportunity that was too good to be true

In episode 116 of the Access to Inspiration podcast, host Sue Stockdale interviews singer and entertainer Bruce Parker. They discuss Bruce’s love for soul and Motown music, which he grew up with in Inglewood, Los Angeles. Bruce shares his experiences of touring in China and encountering a dangerous situation with the Chinese triads.

The episode explores the concept of sliding doors moments and emphasises the importance of trusting oneself and finding stillness and clarity in life.

Bruce Parker is known as The California Soul Man, and has enthralled audiences around the world, working with legendary music icons such as Chaka Khan, Debbie Harry, and Michael Jackson.  More info about Bruce Parker

Key Quotes

  •  “That was my first real experience of having been on stage, and something touched me at that moment, and realising, wow, there’s a gift here.”
  • “I never graduated. I was just pulled toward this music”.
  • “We’re being treated like royalty. We’re given five star hotels. We’re being driven around in Mercedes limousines.”
  • “I was told, you do what Kobayashi say, or nothing your family or your government ever be able to do to find you”.
  • “We were given everything. It was this incredible situation. But having been told that by Kobayashi, I knew we were really, really in trouble”.
  •  “I call myself a spiritual person. No matter what the situation, The answers are always there”
  • “Be still, be quiet, and listen”.

Time Stamps

00:00:13 Sliding doors moments shape us.
00:06:01 Following your passion is important.
00:13:02 Trapped in China, no escape.
00:25:32 Negotiation for freedom in China.
00:36:03 Resourcefulness leads to new opportunities.
00:38:26 Listen to your inner voice.

Connect with Access to Inspiration: Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn
Sign up for our newsletter | Read our Impact Report

Transcript: Bruce Parker

Sue : Hi, I’m Sue Stockdale, and welcome to episode 116 of the Access to Inspiration podcast, the show where you can be inspired by people who may be unalike you. Today’s story focuses on sliding doors moments, those seemingly inconsequential everyday incidents or decisions that can affect us both positively and negatively. Well, our guest is a musician, Bruce Parker, who took an opportunity to tour in China and unexpectedly found himself and his band facing the prospect of working for the Chinese triads and not being able to leave. You’ll find his story and his sliding door moments a compelling listen. with an underlying message of just trust yourself. And as always, you can follow along with the transcription on our website. Go on over to accessedinspiration.org. Welcome to the podcast, Bruce Parker. It’s great to speak to you today.

Bruce: Thank you, Sue. Lovely being here. Thank you for having me.

Sue : Serendipity, of course, has brought me into contact with you here on a cruise ship where you’ve been singing a series of soul and Motown hits to the audience. So I’m wondering what you love about that genre of music, first of all, Bruce.

Bruce: Well, first of all, it’s what I was brought up with. Having grown up back in Inglewood, Los Angeles, back in the late 60s, that was played on a record player. Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding. So it’s part of my foundation of music. Having been on the road for quite a number of years singing soul and Motown, that led me into not necessarily a career, but I started writing my own songs, and I ended up in studios in Los Angeles recording music of my own.

And when I started getting into producing music myself, and then going back and listening to those old records, I think there was something in the way that the songs were written, this way that the songs were produced. The quality of the voice, the lyrics that people used back then, I think it was just very genuine. And it was very simple. The words, the lyrics, the melodies, I think they were easy for people to digest and to relate to. And because of that, what I’ve gotten out of that soul and music is just that purity.

Sue : So we’re already starting to touch on emotion as part of the conversation here and I know you felt emotion from the first time you stood on a stage and sang and I think it was with you and your friend. Tell me about what that felt like for the first time to be a performer in front of an audience and the reaction from the audience.

Bruce: I was probably about 16 about this time, and the church that I was going to, they would put on a youth Sunday. So they would give the youth 15 minutes or whatever to get up and do whatever they wanted to do. At that time, I met this wonderful gentleman named Mark Cook. Mark was into music, so when Mark and I became friends, that’s how I actually learned to write music and to produce music was from Mark. Mike found this poem, and he started playing guitar to it and playing keyboards, and I started singing this melody, and we ended up producing this song called the Man in the Mirror.

The following Sunday was Youth Sunday, and the minister invited us to get up and do our little song. Now, as you can imagine, the congregation, they’re very appreciative. They’re being patient. Okay, the kids are going to get up and do something. We get invited on stage. Mark’s playing his guitar. My brother was actually playing drums. We had taught this little chorus to the younger kids in the congregation. So we had this really kind of neat production that we put behind this song. So we start playing.

We launch into it. I’m singing the song. The kids are singing the chorus. The little ones, Mark’s playing his guitar. We’re having a wonderful time. It’s very relaxed. I didn’t feel any pressure. There was no nervousness. It was just, oh, OK. We finish the song. We stand up. We take our little bows and everything. and dead silence. The entire congregation, the entire hall is silent for what felt like an eternity. It was probably only a few seconds, but out of nowhere, the applause started to kind of popcorn and get one little pop and then all of a sudden, before we knew it, the entire congregation is on their feet, applauding with tears running down the vast majority of the people in the audience. That was my first real experience of having been on stage, and something touched me at that moment, and just kind of realizing, wow, there’s a gift here. I’ve been blessed with something. I had no idea what to call it. I had no idea what to call it at the time, but I just remember feeling that sense like, this is a blessing. But this is something that I can do.

Sue : So did that shape, then, your career aspirations, given that you were a teenager? Or what were you thinking of doing? From there on.

Bruce: Oh no. Oh no. It wasn’t as simple and easy as that. Going back, my great uncles having toured with Sam Cooke. Musicians in general, back in the day, have never really been paid well. There’s a joke that goes on. What’s a bass player without a girlfriend?

Sue : Rich.

Bruce: Homeless. And that was how musicians were perceived. It was a labor of love. So that was in the minds of most people. That was the mentality of my minister. That was the mentality of all my teachers in high school. And that was definitely the opinion of my mom. So when I started turning 18, I started putting these bands together, joining different bands. So by the time I was 18, I had that feeling I would love to pursue this. Had a little conversation with my mom, which, as you can imagine, didn’t go well. Oh, no, no, no, no, no, no. That music stuff, you can leave that as a hobby. That’s great if you want to do that with your friends on the weekends. But you’re going to university, you’re going to get a proper job. And that’s the end of it.

Sue : So did you follow your mom’s advice?

Bruce: Well, yeah, I followed mom’s advice. Mom tracked me down to USC, University of Southern California, where she was an alumni. Signs me up, registers me, picks my classes for me. Apparently, in her mind, I needed to become a computer scientist.

Sue : Yes, interesting.

Bruce: I had no interest in being a computer scientist, but that was the mentality. Long and the short of that, all my buddies were in LA. all my music buddies. So, I was never going to class. I was sleeping in, missing classes, in the evenings, going out with my friends, jamming in the living room, jamming in the garages, jamming wherever we could. And unfortunately, I never graduated. I was just pulled toward this music. And of course, being in Los Angeles, full of musicians. I ended up, my mom, not knowing what she had done, by putting me in center of Los Angeles at USC, surrounded by all these musicians, she put me in the middle of exactly where she didn’t want me to be. And I ended up, yeah, joining these wonderful bands and producing this great music and ended up being one of the hot bands in Hollywood at the time. We’re going back to the mid to late 80s now, so we’re going by 85, 1986. At the same time, that’s when I got involved in acting as well, which led me into working with certain artists like Michael Jackson. So yeah, it’s been on and on and on.

Sue : So given that you were beginning to be successful in the world of music and entertainment and working with some of the big names, as you’ve mentioned, then life took you to China in an unexpected way, given that you had a decision to make between joining the Disney tour or going to China.

Bruce: Yes, yes, yes.

Sue : What made you take the China decision?

Bruce: Well, just a quick background to give the listeners an understanding of how that came to be. I end up in Monterey, Santa Cruz, becoming part of a theatre group and getting the part of Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar and playing Joseph in The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I did that for about three years. And after three years, I moved back down to Los Angeles, and I just started opening the audition publication. And there were a couple of auditions that really stood out for me, that really resonated with me.

There was one audition put in there by Disney World, Florida. And they were looking for some actors to join a touring group to tour the United States, touring this wonderful production. That was one of the opportunities. A second opportunity, which was in the same publication, was this quote-unquote “Chinese” agency looking to promote a funk soul band to tour China.

So I saw both of the auditions. I went to do both of the auditions and I won both. So Florida’s really wanting me. Florida’s throwing money at me. They’re upping the contracts and Alice, the Chinese agent is also telling me, you know, it’s a wonderful opportunity. You’re going to go to China, you know, you’re going to get this, you’re going to get that. So I’m weighing it up and I’m thinking to myself, OK, which one is the adventure? And of course, being an American, I can go to Florida anytime. That’s where my mind’s thinking. So I chose to go to Communist China, which no one I’d ever known, no one I’d ever met had been to China, let alone go there to tour and work throughout China. I was like, wow, that was it. So I called Alice, said, OK, I’m accepting the contract. Alice says, great, can you put a band together? So I put this band together. They trek themselves down to Los Angeles. We get on the plane, LAX. and we fly to Beijing.

Sue : And what happened next?

Bruce: Well, what we ended up finding out is Alice was no more an agent than probably you or I. Basically, when we landed in Beijing, the first thing that happened to us is they took our passports.

Sue : Did that concern you?

Bruce: Well, it did, but Alice was very good at talking, getting us to relax by explaining why it all sounded very logical. So then she took our passports, but somehow she made it that we have to do this thing where we have to get the stamp into this. And long story short, Alice was a member of the Chinese Triad Mafia.

Sue : Wow. Yeah. And what then did that mean for you?

Bruce: Oh, well, it was such an incredible experience because here we are with these five Americans, this band, if you could call us that, in China. We’re being treated like royalty. We’re given five star hotels. We’re being driven around in Mercedes limousines. the run of the city, anywhere we want to go.

Sue : So it wasn’t bad.

Bruce: It was absolutely amazing. Now here’s where things got interesting. We were in Beijing for a very short time. We were then put on a 36-hour train ride to a very small little town called Harbin. If you’ve ever heard of Harbin, it’s possibly the most northern city in China right before you cross into Siberia. It’s north. And now we’re there. This would have been late January. When I stepped out of the train for the first time, my lungs seized up. It was that cold. I’d never experienced anything like that in my life. And I’m not joking, my lungs. And it was almost a sense of panic, but I just kept calm. But it was at that point we realized we were never going home. I’m even getting affected right now, that hit me hard.

Sue : Did you feel a sense of responsibility for the others in the band, given you’d encouraged them to join up?

Bruce: Absolutely. The overwhelming sense of responsibility and having to cover that up for them to not show panic, to not show fear, to not show worry, stress, doubt, anxiety. I have no idea what the word even to describe what I was going through when that reality hit. To the point where one of the triad mafia leaders, and I remember his name clearly, his name was Kobayashi. Half Japanese, half Chinese, dressed in probably a $50,000 suit. I remember the occasion very, very clearly.

We were in this very, very old building. We were in a very, this dark room. And I remember it’s one of those images out of like an old 1930s movie. It’s like a mob scene. Kobayashi’s sitting with his suit over on one side of the room, very small room on the sofa. He’s got this very flamboyant and very camp Cantonese boy who’s his translator. And there’s me. Now, the band wasn’t with me. None of the other guys were with me for this meeting. Kobayashi calls me in because he understands I’m the leader of the band and I’m the one taking care of things. Now, I walk into this room, I sit down, and if you can imagine, on the side of the sofa where they’re sitting, near to the side where the little Cantonese boys are, there’s a safe. Okay, it’s probably about a meter high and about a meter wide. And the door is open to the safe on the floor. Stacks. of $1,000 bills pouring out, it’s so much money, it’s pouring out of the safe onto the floor.

And so you can imagine this dingy, dark scene and Kobayashi’s sitting there with this, you know, this Japanese, Chinese man. And he’s speaking to the Cantonese boy in this very aggressive Japanese. And he’s mumbling something to the Chinese boys, translating to me. I was told, Kobayashi say, You do what he say, or nothing your family or your government ever be able to do to find you.

Sue : Well, how did you react to that?

Bruce: I didn’t. Now, we’d already known at that point that we weren’t going home, but to then have Kobayashi sit down and actually translate it to make it clear. You’re here to stay. We have you. And they knew we couldn’t leave, especially up in the city of Harbin, where you couldn’t even make a phone call if you didn’t speak Mandarin. So we were pretty stuck.

Sue : So how did you get yourself out of that predicament? And once your other band members realized the reality, how did you respond to that? And then what did you all do to get out of this?

Bruce: To answer the first question, in a way, I kept them from that last bit of information I shared with you. I didn’t share that with them. It was hard. I’ve never felt anything like that. I’ve never had any reason to feel anything like that in my life. To think about I’m never going to see my family again. And the other side of that, that I brought these people here with me. But we all went there under this understanding that we were going to be a touring band for six weeks. The contract was supposed to be, air quotes again, six weeks. And we’re going to have this wonderful tour of China.

Now, none of us had family at the time. We’re all young, single people. So to try to give you that context again, we’re in this beautiful city of Harbin. Harbin was a college town. It was a city that they had this wonderful university there. And it was a Mecca of this young talent of Germans, of French, of Arabians, of Americans, British. It was incredible. So like I said, we were in these five-star hotels. And if you can picture this, me, 5’9″, with my shaved, chocolatey head. The guitar player and the bass player were over 6′ tall. black gentlemen with dreadlocks down to their knees. So when we’d walk around the city, people were coming up to us taking pictures. We were signing autographs. They had no idea what we were doing.

Sue:  You were making quite an impact.

Bruce: We were already kind of like these little celebrities. So the reason I’m telling you that is in the minds of the other people I was there with, they almost kind of didn’t see a reason why they needed to go home.

Sue : Yeah.

Bruce: We were given everything. It was this incredible situation. But having been told that by Kobayashi, I knew we were really, really in trouble. I’m thinking, OK, we got to call the American consulate. OK, we got to call the American consulate. Again, the thing with calling out is you must speak Mandarin. You pick up the phone and no matter what you want to do, you hear an operator speaking in Mandarin. If you can’t speak Mandarin, they hang up the phone. The story about Harbin being a college town, and there were other English-speaking people there, that’s the first thing that helped us. We ended up walking around the city, we just were meeting these young college people, and we started having conversations with them about, well, how do you call out? Oh, you have to speak Mandarin, and then the operator puts you through.

Sue : Do you speak Mandarin?

Bruce: We found some young people who, brought us to a phone and got us to make phone calls. The first call I made was to my mom. Trying to hold my composure, letting my mom know, got through. I’m like, I’m okay. Oh, how’s China? Oh, it’s great, mom. Oh, we’re having such a wonderful time. How are they treating you? Oh, they’re treating us in blah, blah, blah. Made the phone call to mom, got that over with, because it had been some weeks already, which mom hadn’t heard from us.

The second call I made was to the embassy. The embassy was down in Beijing, which we’d not long left a few weeks ago. Call the embassy. I speak with the gentleman on the phone. He says, oh, OK, OK, we’re going to fly a representative up to Harbin. We’re going to be there in a couple of days. So the gentleman flies up. At this point, I do get the rest of the band together, because I do want them to know that if there’s a plan, they need to be involved with that. It’s at this point I’m getting them to understand, guys, we’re in trouble. We need some help getting out of this. Wonderful as this is, we can’t stay here. Because if we stay here, we are never leaving. If we buy into this, if we succumb to this, we will become part of the infrastructure and we will never leave. And I’m kind of talking to them like that now, that this representative from the American Embassy is flying up.

So I bring the gang there, we sit down. The American Embassy representative walks in. Lovely, well-dressed black gentleman comes and sits down. On the opposite side of the sofa, we’re sitting in this hotel lobby. Okay, explain what’s happened. And we think, oh my God, this is it. He’s gonna hear our story. We’re getting out of here. We tell the story. They took our passports. And now they won’t let us leave. What are you gonna do? He leans back after hearing the whole story. Okay, our best recommendation for the situation that you’re in is to A, try to do whatever they tell you to and then B, hope for the best.

Sue : And that was the advice you gained?

Bruce: That was the advice and because now I’ve involved the rest of the band thinking he’s going to have good news so it’s going to be a positive and he comes out with that and he’s getting ready to leave. He’s just he’s just said his spiel and wait, wait, wait, whoa, whoa. We’re all American citizens. Aren’t you going to get us out of here? Yeah, that’s really all we can do. We, as Americans, have pretty much no jurisdiction in communist China. And he’s talking to very polite and very calm like that. And he’s still trying to leave. And I’m like, wait, OK, so you’re not getting us out of here? I said, why did you fly up here? He put his briefcase back down. Now he’s standing there. He says, I needed to fly up to first of all just make sure that you’re not being tortured. Okay? Because if you’re in a torture situation, then things become different. You’re not being tortured. Seems like you’re being well taken care of to me, which was true. Then I said, so why are you here? He said, the American Embassy, the only thing we’re able to do here is if you get arrested and you need legal help, we help provide you with an attorney. Or if you die, we ship your body home. That’s all we can do here. And he picked up his briefcase and that was it. Now I’m sitting there with my band and well that didn’t go as planned.

Sue : Now I know listener that there is a happy ending to this story. So how did it end Bruce and how did you get out of the country and on to what you’re doing today?

Bruce: Well the very reason why Alice took our passports in the first place was kind of full circle of what saved us. Putting the pieces together, from what I understand, we were involved in the Chinese Triad Mafia. It wasn’t an agency. It wasn’t a business. We were with the mob. We were the Chinese mob. The way that it was supposed to work is the mob were supposed to eventually come up with some fee, whatever the police department and the officials at the immigration department had come up with. We have no idea what that monetary number was, but apparently there was some amount of money that they wanted to receive in order to grant these, they still needed the official work permits in our passports, but they just weren’t going to give them back to us. But the mob still needed those passports stamped in order for us to be able to do the musician work that they brought us over there to do. And apparently, This amount of money must have been so extortionate that not even that pile of money spilling out of the safe was enough to take care of that. But whatever it was, the gangs that we were under were not willing to pay that. But they were still trying to keep us there. So what ended up happening is at the end of the sixth week, the immigration and the police department show up at all our doors one morning. You leave now. Plane waiting.

Sue : And you went, whew.

Bruce: I almost dropped down on my knees. Almost dropped down on my knees. And it was literally, they had a bus outside the hotel and the plane was already at the airport with the props going, waiting for us to get on. And we were still at the hotel and they were saying, plane, leave. And so we’re scrambling to shove whatever we can into the suitcase. Now Kobayashi shows up. with the Cantonese boy at the hotel. Now, this is where it got really, really interesting and a bit hairy. Kobayashi follows the bus in the limousine. We’re all in the bus. Kobayashi’s following the bus. We all end up at the airport. Now, the flight is not waiting for us. The flight’s going to leave. The immigration and the police department want us on that flight. Now Kobayashi’s there with the Cantonese boy trying to negotiate still with the police and the immigration department while we’re at the airport. He’s negotiating. I don’t know if he’s negotiating the fee, but what he’s trying to negotiate is to keep control of us in some way. And the only way he could keep control of us is to keep us in China.

So he’s trying to negotiate with the police and the immigration to fly us somewhere in China, which of course doesn’t work because the police and immigration want us out of China, not out of Harbin. But this conversation, this back and forth banter, and Kobayashi’s getting a little bit, you can tell he’s getting heated, and the immigration police is getting heated, and it’s all this, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. I don’t know where this came from, Sue. I’m American, we don’t tend to have great geography, at least I didn’t in school. So I’m watching this situation transpire, and it’s getting heated, and I’m catching on. Kobayashi’s trying to keep us in China. And my heart, I don’t even feel it now, forgive me. Ooh, I feel it, Kobayashi’s trying to keep us. He’s trying to keep this control over us.

And I got it, for some reason, I don’t know how I got it, but I got the understanding that this conversation is Kobayashi’s trying to get us to Shanghai. He’s trying to get us to this city. He’s trying to get it, and I didn’t understand the words, but I heard these city names. And he’s trying to keep us in China. And I don’t know if he’s winning the conversation, that didn’t seem like, because it’s getting heated. With my poor geography, I somehow, the light comes on in my head, Hong Kong. I had no idea what Hong Kong was about, no understanding. But for some reason, it hit me, Hong Kong is a part of the UK.

And I spoke up. Spoke up in this heated argument. And they’re looking at me now, the immigration department, the police department, Kobayashi, and the accounting department, looking at me like, what do you have to say? I just very calmly, I don’t know where it came from. I have no idea where it came from. What if we go to Hong Kong? Because I understand if we don’t get out of China, we’re not going anywhere else. If I could get them to agree to Hong Kong, I somehow, I don’t know where this came from.

I had to convince Kobayashi through talking to this Cantonese boy, get this down. I had to convince Kobayashi that if he’d let us go to Hong Kong, We would do what he said. I had to convince Kobayashi. I said, listen, here’s what I promise. I didn’t talk this over. I said, here’s the plan. Here’s the plan. If you let us fly to Hong Kong, we will stay there. until you sort it out and we promise we will fly back and do the work you want us to do if you let us go to Hong Kong. And I told that to the Cantonese boy. He translates that to Kobayashi. Kobayashi sits in grunts for and he’s not happy with it. And I’m looking at him in the eye, keeping just keeping composure as best I could, because I’m really it’s all hanging on that decision. And he agrees.

The Cantonese boy, Kobayashi says, OK, but you go Hong Kong and you come back. I said, yes. Now, Kobayashi is now trying to do whatever he can to keep some kind of link to us. He comes up with this idea that in order for me to let you go, it’s being translated to the Cantonese boy, you must leave something here. that I know you’re coming back to get. What does he want? He doesn’t know. So each of us have two suitcases. I said, what’s in that suitcase of yours? I’m going to one person. I’m just, what’s in that suitcase? That’s got my T-shirts and my clothes and my tooth. You’re leaving that one. What’s in that suitcase? It’s got my pair of trainers that I released. You’re leaving that one. You’re leaving that suitcase. And we pile up the suitcases. OK, Kobayashi, this is what we’re leaving to prove to you air quotes, that we’re coming back. Okay. So Kobayashi’s still grunting. We’re still not on the plane.

Now, during all of this time, the police and the immigration are still shouting, plane leaving. So that got us through that. We got a pile of suitcases. Kobayashi’s grunting and agreeing. The plane is leaving. Now, customs come into the room. And the luggage that we’re going to take, now we’ve all got to open up every single… The customs, they go through every single sock, every single shoelace. It’s ridiculous what they’re doing. They get through it. They throw us on the plane. The plane starts down. its approach to turn to get on the runway. Now, mind you, we’re really the only ones on the plane. It’s pretty much an empty plane. Once we get on the plane, the guys start cheering. I’m sitting in the back of my seat, my head’s back on the seat, everybody’s cheering, everybody’s so happy, and I’m just quiet. I’m just quiet any minute, any minute.  we’re turning, The plane gets on the runway. We’re on the runway. The engines rev up. I’m just, my head’s still back in the seat. I’m just looking, I’m just staring up at the ceiling of the plane. Any second, he’s gonna wake up and this plane is gonna stop and we’re gonna get off. The plane starts down the runway. We take off. It wasn’t until the plane landed in Hong Kong and we were let off the plane and we were let through Hong Kong immigration and we were standing on the streets of Kowloon. I went on my knees and I literally kissed the ground. We were saved. We were saved.

Now, I’m still watching over my shoulder. What happened in Hong Kong Again, doors open. We had no money. Through a chance meeting back up in Harbin, the bass player just had this conversation with a guy on the street. Young guy. One of those conversations that we were having throughout our six weeks in Harbin. Now, at that point, that was early. Larry, the bass player, met this gentleman, this young guy going to university on the streets of Harbin, and they started talking. And out of the conversation, the gentleman, the guy told Larry, gave him a card, said, hey, you guys, you know what? You ever think about going to Hong Kong? At that point, no. No, we’re going to be touring China. But he gave Larry a business card of his girlfriend that was working in Hong Kong. Never thought we’d ever use it. Larry put it in his pocket and forgot about it. The guy said, yeah, if you ever go to Hong Kong, just call her. I can’t remember her name. Yeah, you know, if you need anything in Hong Kong, she’ll take care of you. We needed her that day. And Larry had the card in his pocket.

We’re on the street. Now, mind you, we’re musicians, OK? So we’ve landed in Hong Kong. We’ve been let out of the airport. Now we’re on the street corner. We have no idea where we are. We got a taxi from the airport. We’re in the center of Hong Kong, standing on a street corner. It was about 11 o’clock at night. Each of us have a large suitcase. I’ve got two guitars to my back, the bass player’s got two bass players, and so we’re standing there. Now, as you can imagine, three of us are black, two of us are over six feet tall with dreadlocks down the back, and we’re standing on the street corner. What do we do now? Larry remembers the card. I guess he was wearing the same shirt. I don’t know. He pulls out the card, said, I think we should call this girl. He calls her up and she answers. And sure enough, this lovely lady comes from wherever she is in Hong Kong, finds where we are, and sets us up with some very limited accommodation, tells us some cheap food because we’re all starving. And again, just that next step of the universe opening up and providing And so now we’re in Hong Kong. We’ve got this little tiny room of accommodation.

So we bed down. And our goal was to look, we got to get back home. We can’t afford flights from Hong Kong to L.A. We can’t afford flights from Hong Kong anywhere right now. So we got to get some work. So the very next morning, I’m still asleep. I’m so tired now, Sue, from all the stress and everything. I’m dead to the world. But late that morning, the guitar player, Bern was his name, comes and wakes everybody up. Hey, guys, guys, guess what? We got a gig. Like, what? How did you get that? Bern’s very resourceful. So he went out, knocked on doors, found this pub called Delaney’s, which is an Irish pub. And the manager happened to be there that morning, cleaning up or doing something. What’s the chance of that? So he goes in, talks to the manager. And Laverne’s a smoother. Talks the manager into giving us a gig that night.

Sue : So you had your first step forward.

Bruce: The second night in Hong Kong, we had a job.

Sue : Fantastic.

Bruce: We had a job. We had a gig. So we go do the gig and we storm it. Absolutely storm it. The manager is so happy and over the moon. He’s like, can you come back this same time every week? Sure. And he says, by the way, we have another Delaney’s pub on the island side. Would you like to do that one as well? Yeah. We did the Kowloon side on the Tuesday and we did the other one on the Thursday. So we had two shows a week. Every week. This was looking good. This was looking good. We’re going to have our flights home in no time. Having done the Delaney’s on the island side, a manager of another Irish pub called Mad Dogs happened to be there. And said, oh, by the way, we got this other problem. So long story short, we got the two shows at Delaney’s twice a week. We got the two shows at Matt Dog’s twice a week, every week. And it snowballed from there. There was a club called the French Club, which then invited us. There was a club called the Jazz Club, which then invited us. We ended up, it was just a matter of days, working every single night of the week. and we stayed there for two years.

Sue : So I’m so pleased there’s a positive end to the story, Bruce. Reflecting back on that journey, those serendipitous moments, the highs and the lows and the frustrations and the challenges, what have you learned from that experience?

Bruce: I call myself a spiritual person. No matter what the situation, The answers are there. The answers are always there. Some of the answers maybe would not have been specific choices. But their answers nonetheless, and by following, I don’t know if you want to call it intuition, just following that inner voice or whatever. I was brought up to listen to that inner voice, to be silent inside. When it’s the most chaotic, most stressful, most frightening moments, the last thing you want to do is panic. And it doesn’t have to be a life-threatening situation. We end up in situations with our spouse, with our children, with our co-workers, where stress mounts, anxiety mounts, fear mounts, depending on the choices that you might be presented with at that time. When we let ourselves get caught up in the madness of stress, anxiety, fear. Because all those things are there every single day. We’re all having to manage those things.

But what got me through all of that, I just remember always coming back to the teaching of it’s time to be silent. It’s time to be still. It’s time to focus on the moment. What’s happening right now? What’s in this moment? Be still, be quiet, and listen. Not to necessarily what’s going on around you, listen internally. And the answers have always, always come to me, Sue. And it’s scary to me. It’s a beautiful thing, but it’s overwhelming sometimes when I sit back and I look at my life You know, it’s been the cat always landing on its feet. We all have it. It doesn’t matter what religion you’re from, what walk of life you’re from. It doesn’t matter what you believe in any sense of, you know, what your life is about, whatever. That stillness and that quietness inside, the answers are there and they come when you allow that moment to be that moment.

Sue : Well, I think that’s a lovely end to our conversation, Bruce, and such a powerful and simple message, which really takes me back to the start point of the essence of what you got from those records, the clarity, the simplicity, the authenticity. It’s been a real pleasure to hear your story, to inspire our listeners. If they do want to follow up with you and find out more about you, how might they be able to do that?

Bruce: I would say the best way is LinkedIn. And from there, we can start a conversation. Fantastic. Love to see you there.

Sue : Well, thank you again for your time. You’ve given me some inspiration and a great reminder about how important it is to slow down, listen, and trust ourselves.

Bruce: My pleasure. Thank you, Sue.

Sue : Well, thank you, Bruce Parker, for sharing your inspiring story with us. Let us know what you enjoyed about this episode by sending us a voice note or message via our website contact page. And remember to subscribe to the podcast so that you will easily get notified about new episodes. I’ll be back next week with a guest hosted episode and hope you can join us then.