essays

yo yo collectionThe Essence of Yo

Once upon a time, back in the '80s, I amassed a collection of yoyos. I remember how it started, too. I was working as Masetro Salazar's assistant with the Ventura County Symphony at the time and one night at a Nutcracker rehearsal, the guy who played the bass clarinet pulled one out and began using it. It was like a meditation. Beautiful, fluid, calming. He didn't do a lot of tricks, or show off, he just... yo'ed. I enjoyed watching him so much, he gave me that yoyo. We were, all of us, sitting in the orchestra pit and things can get kind of chummy down there.

I was composing a lot of classical music in those days and I found that yoyo to be quite helpful when I got stuck on a passage and needed to unleash my subconscious a bit. I'd get up from the piano, pull out the yoyo, and walk around my music room Tom Smothers and yoyoswhile sending the gliding object into the relentless force of gravity. It was indeed meditative.

That BC Rainbow up there was the model the clarinetist gave me and, although through the next decade I collected many different styles, it remained my favorite, probably because it was made of inlaid wood rather than plastic. It felt good in the hand. Solid, smooth, natural, warm. You could feel the little stripes of color.

Later, maybe two years, I saw the Smothers Brothers in concert and Tommy did a segment by himself as The Yoyo Man. He talked about the Essence of Yo and I learned that a lot of people use these toys for meditation. And Tommy Smothers made it fun, too.

Later, in 1997, I moved into my 1914 penthouse in Ventura and met a guy who lived in the building across the alley. We became quite good neighbors. rainbow yoyoI comforted him when someone poisoned his cat and he helped me open a bottle of wine. He climbed into my utility room window when I'd locked my keys in the house and I introduced him to the girl downstairs. He was much younger than I, and a surfer. Very spiritual, very sweet, and he could yoyo like a devil. I found out only much later that he was Tommy Smothers, Jr. He never said anything about it, except when he was opening the wine bottle for me. When I thanked him he said, "It's cool. I've opened a few bottles, my family is into wine." Indeed.

Of course, my collection of yoyos got lost in The Big Dump of 2001. I haven't thought about them much--I lost things of much greater sentimental value, after all: family pictures, all of my musical instruments, every single musical score I ever composed, thousands of LPs, family heirlooms, my dad's ashes... Yoyos just didn't count. But now I'm thinking that I'd like to start a new collection, and I will begin with a BC Rainbow. It may take a little while because money's tight and there are more important things, like food, but this is where I'll begin. I'm sure I can locate one online somewhere.

I could use a little Essence of Yo in my life!

Steph Waller is an author and composer. Her novel, With A Dream, is available internationally in paperback. Learn more at her book site or blog.

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