November 1, 2009:

Uncle Hugo


My wife’s father is Richard Maiocco. His brother is Hugo Maiocco.

They are as fine a people that you could find anywhere.

I feel tremendously blessed to have these people, and Pia’s entire family, in my life for the past 31 years.
Uncle Hugo has had a profound effect of my life and I wanted to write a little bit about him and post this short video interview of him.

Uncle Hugo is a true lover of life. Now in his mid 80s, he still plays tennis, takes music and art classes, and has a thriving medical practice of clients as a family practice physician. In his lifetime, Uncle Hugo has delivered thousands of babies. He has saved thousands of lives. Listening to stories of some of his treatment techniques and the resulting successes with his patients over the years is an extraordinary experience. Uncle Hugo has an inspired blend of medical expertise, knowledge of psychology, character insight, empathy and finely honed intuition.

He is compassionate, selfless, witty. The list of his positive attributes is indeed a long one, and trying to paint a picture of Uncle Hugo is like trying to describe love itself. Meeting him is a charming encounter, having him as a family doctor is a blessing, but getting to know him can change your life forever. The most important part of my own relationship with Uncle Hugo is that over the 31 years I have known him, he has freely shared his wisdom. When I was a much younger man, he taught me what Joseph Campbell said is the secret of myth: “to teach you how to penetrate the labyrinth of life in such a way that its spiritual values come through.” Uncle Hugo told me about his stays in a Buddhist Monastery at the base of Mt. Shasta in Redding California. His stories of the solitude, mediation and spiritualized atmosphere of the Abby inspired me to visit the place and on two separate occasions I did visit the monastery for extended stays of intense meditation, silence and pillow stuffing. Yup, pillow stuffing. The guests would do various work duties and one of the duties that I performed was stuffing pillows. The pillows would eventually be sold for the support of the monastery.

After my stay I would climb to the top of Mt. Shasta. Most of the “For the Love of God” video was shot on that mountain.

“You have to be friendly with yourself,” Uncle Hugo once told me. I have never forgotten those words. They helped me to understand what all great spiritual teachings mean to say when they tell us to love ourselves.

Uncle Hugo’s brother Richard, my father in-law, is similar to Uncle Hugo in that they both have tremendously warm personalities.

At one point, both Uncle Hugo and my father-in-law, Richard were both All American track and field champions, and held the world record for running in their respective classes. Hugo ranked # 1 in the world in 1950 and 1951 in middle distance.

There is one story that Uncle Hugo told me that has had a gigantic impact on the way I approach playing the guitar, and also life in general.

One day his coach told him to run the track as fast and as hard as he could. He was to give 100 percent of his strength at all times.

Uncle Hugo ran the track as he was told, giving everything he could, even when he thought he had no more to give.

His coach then told him to do the run again but this time only give 90%. He was not to push as hard as he can but was to pull back just slightly.

The 100% race was one of his worst times ever and his 90% run broke all of his records.

People will occasionally ask me what to do about getting nervous on stage, how can they play their best, why do they get tense in front of people. I believe one answer lies in the secret of learning how to relax and only give 90%.

When we get to visit Uncle Hugo and Aunt Carol, which unfortunately is not as often as we would like, our conversations go late into the night. There is nothing a person could tell him that he wouldn’t understand, and every conversation with him leaves each person uplifted and calm.

Uncle Hugo is a precious jewel, an angel on Earth. I sincerely hope you enjoy watching the video interview of this much beloved man.