Gratitude List 1871

(1) There was a great teriyaki special at the Courtyard Cafe yesterday morning, and when I stepped up to pay for it, the nice lady there said it was on the house.

(2) Went to a downtown drug store yesterday to buy a battery, and they gave me one for free.

(3) Found a great therapist over the weekend who agreed to meet with me once a week.  When I went to the counseling center to fill out the paperwork, I naturally inquired about the pay. To my amazement, they said it would be pro bono.  

(4) Had a nice chat with the lady at the family-run computer store downtown.  When I asked about the apartments they own upstairs, it appeared they might have an opening after repairs are finished.  When I asked what the rent would be, she replied: “Variable.”

(5) I really enjoyed the free corn beef and cabbage dinner last night at my favorite church in my favorite town, where I happen to have been born, long ago.  Some of the best things in life truly are free.

“Gratitude opens the door to the power, the wisdom, the creativity of the universe. You open the door through gratitude.” – Deepak Chopra

Gratitude List 1870

(1) Thanks largely to the spirit of love and good will in the community of Moscow, Idaho, I have almost raised enough money to afford the deposit and last month’s rent on a new apartment.

(2) Due to record sales of piano CDs this month, I have finally been able to replace the 12-foot long makeshift power cord & wired mouse & keyboard for my MacBook Pro.  The new wireless keyboard/mouse combination and power cord from the Apple Store is much better. Grateful that I no longer have unravel all those cords  every time I pull them out of my backpack, and that I am no longer tripping over said cords every time I leave my desk.

(3) Ran into the main guy at the Jazz School yesterday, back from Seattle after a lengthy hospital visit. He gave me a big hug and told me to send the performance tracks and the rest of my Act 1, Scene 1 package to his email.  He also asked if I would stop by his office and discuss the possibility that some of his students might do the Finale formatting for college credits.  In a spirit of increased motivation, I dove into the Scene 2 work–and may even finish it by tonight. 

(4) A Zoom connection with a former singing student, now in Los Angeles, is exciting.  Tessa is 30 now, and she was singing like this (and winning awards) when she was only 14.  I’ve not taught singing on Zoom before, and am looking forward to the brave new world thereof.

(5) Many of the professors were on vacation for Spring Break last night, so out Theology meeting was a bit more intimate. I really enjoyed discussing the theme of the “journey of life.” I must say it’s been quite a journey so far–and the sunshine is bright on this gorgeous day, in the city where I was born.

“His way had therefore come full circle, or rather had taken the form of an ellipse or a spiral, following as ever no straight unbroken line, for the rectilinear belongs only to Geometry and not to Nature and Life.” — Hermann Hesse 

Gratitude List 1829

(1) The light on the power adapter of my 2015 MacBook Pro has just turned green for the first time in a long time. I’m glad my friend Matt told me about cleaning out the port with a toothpick. I clearly removed a big thingamabob that was in the way of things. Moreover, I am grateful that when I asked the workers here at the cafe for a toothpick, they gave me not only one, but three. Has anyone noticed that toothpicks are hard to come by? I have. Grateful for things that work.

(2) There have been a number of awkward interactions lately when people have responded to my friendly nature by wanting to accelerate a mild acquaintanceship into a fast friendship. On reflection, I realized this is a sign I ought not to be “putting myself out there” so readily. There’s something to be said for a low profile. Grateful for the wakeup.

(3) I’m twenty bucks shy of my $500 goal selling Turbulence piano albums, and I haven’t even released the online version yet. Along with a few other positive happenings, I find myself unusually free of financial insecurities.

(4) I’ve noticed I’m not mad at my church people anymore, and I’ve been enjoying participating in church activities. Tonight there’s a dinner after the Taize service, followed by choir practice. Somehow I no longer feel my presence is any kind of blight, nor am I bothered by the other humans. It’s nice to keep things light and enjoy their company.

(5) Just ran into Darrell, the owner of the recovery center, and had a nice chat with him beneath a beautiful blue morning sky. Grateful for the Latah Recovery Center. Without them, I would not be alive today. God is Good.

Change your thoughts and you change your life.”
— Lao Tsu

Gratitude List 1869

(1) My pastor is such a good listener. I just opened up to him about something very difficult, and I found tears coming down my face. That doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is cleansing. I always feel more whole after I am able to cry.

(2) It’s so peaceful and quiet in the church right now. A while ago, only three people were here. Now, only two. It’s so nice of them to let me use the study. I concentrate better in this church study than anywhere else in town, including my own home. There’s something so peaceful about this place. It makes me feel kinda holy.

(3) Finally ran a mile and a half this morning, after being pent up and snowed under for several days. It barely whet my appetite, and I think I’ll go run some more miles before the weather changes. Running also cleanses me, though in a different way. Thankful for running, and thankful I can still do it.

(4) I talked with Fr Rick for over an hour yesterday, and was reminded of the peace and strength of his spirit. He’s kinda like my pastor. He’s on an even keel, but it’s not the false even keel one gets from marijuana. These guys are somehow more alive than the average person, and I’m honored to know them.

(5) The weather today is so mellow. Reminds me of San Francisco. All nostalgia side, time to lace up my shoes and hit the roads. (Second run of the day is always faster.) Thank God for all things good.

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” — Henry David Thoreau

Gratitude List 1867

(1) I finished the huge job I’ve been working on throughout the past ten days. The performance tracks, vocal score, and libretto are now synced to the first scene of Eden in Babylon. One down, seven to go!

(2) Slept nine hours last night after finishing the job. Grateful for a super good night’s sleep.

(3) Starved for exercise, I walked all the way to WalMart and back circuitously, covering about five miles. It’s been a beautiful day, and the brisk walking did me good.

(4) Looks like I may be able to get an iPhone 14 Pro Max on a decent Verizon plan, as soon as I can remove the freezes from my credit files. It’s larger than the iPhone 7 I’ve been using, and I should be able to more consistently hit the right commands and not get so lost as I have been on the smaller phone. This also motivates me to call the credit bureaus and finally get the age-old freezes removed.

(5) It was nice seeing some people at the local cafe this morning and feeling I am a part of a caring, close-knit community here in Moscow Idaho. But at the same time, as I sit in the church study alone, I am grateful for the peace and quiet I have found here. I’ve had a hard life. It’s good to spend more quiet time in solitude than I ever could before. I have not always had the option of aloneness. For years I slept with eyes in the back of my head, ready for anything. It is so good, and so precious, to be able to be alone.

“I live in solitude, which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity.” — Albert Einstein

Gratitude List 1866

(1) This morning, as well as two mornings ago, I awoke at 6am instead of the usual 4am. As a result, I have decided to change my prideful attachment to getting up during the wee hours. The extra two hours of sleep did me a world of good. I was fully focused and productive till at least noon each morning, leaving me plenty of time for more brainless, mundane tasks in the afternoon.

(2) I am thankful for Moscow First Presbyterian Church. It’s hard to imagine any church being a greater blessing than this.

(3) Grateful for Moscow Idaho. Once again I am eager to put our great city on the map for some reason other than that we have a multiple murderer currently incarcerated in our County Jail.

(4) Yesterday’s highly preoccupied effort to sync the vocal score, script and performance tracks to the new opening scene of my musical was something I will never forget nor wish ever to repeat. Suffice it to say it was successful. I’m eager to fine-tune the work this morning and release it tomorrow to the powers that be. Maybe now we can put Moscow on the map and show the world who we really are? Here’s hoping.

(5) Beautiful trudge through the snow this morning, taking the route across campus, and discovering new shortcuts. The snow has its own shine that adorns the mornings. Every day is new in God’s grace, and his lovingkindness never ends.

“An early morning walk is a blessing for the whole day.” — Henry David Thoreau

Gratitude List 1865

(1) In an act of unprecedented mercy toward myself, I gave myself permission to sleep in for three extra hours. Though groggy at the moment, I sense it will be a productive day (barring the unforeseen).

(2) My former spiritual director of five years (between 2004 & 2009) now lives in Spokane, the city that hosts the Faith and Values website, uniting people of different religions from all across the globe. Now a retired Episcopal priest, Fr Rick has agreed to have a candid conversation concerning certain changes that may be in the works.

(3) The Courtyard Cafe is now fully open at the hospital where I was born, having been closed for medical reasons throughout the pandemic. They’re still giving me the volunteer discount on the best home-cooked breakfasts in town.

(4) In the past ten days, I have now made three times the amount of money in Turbulence sales than I made in an entire month teaching Piano and Voice at the Academy last year. Moreover, the commute from my house to the grand piano is about a mile and a half. The commute to said academy was eleven miles.

(5) Grateful for the happy tunes that have sailed through my head lately, inspiring a new piano album where catchy old ditties will be played in a ragtime style. So far, I’ve got “King of the Road,” “What a Day for a Daydream,” “Won’t You Come Home Bill Bailey,” “Henry the Eighth,” and “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” I’m always thankful when new beginnings embrace a love of good things old.

“The direction you choose to face determines whether you’re standing at the end or the beginning of a road.” — Rachel E. Goodrich

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It will keep the piano tunes coming!

Gratitude List 1864

(1) Whatever snowfall fell overnight, it sure is a beautiful day.

(2) I really enjoyed singing in the Choir this morning. We did “This Little Light of Mine.” I sang bass and had a good time. One of the other men thanked me, saying my presence really helped.

(3) I’ve discovered two new beautiful pathways to get to the downtown area from where I live on the edge of town. One goes through campus, another along the running trail I often use. Though of greater length, they are much nicer than the straight path down the long, lonely highway.

(4) Tracy Simmons, my editor at Spokane Faith and Values, prompted me to post an addendum to my piece, The Invisible Composer. I am also very grateful for Tracy, and the wonderful work she has done uniting people of all different faith practices in the city of Spokane, Washington.

(5) Posted a Craigslist Ad for a housemate to see me through the next months till the lease is up, and hopefully help me get the apartment in rentable shape for the next tenant.

“The secret of change is to focus all your energy not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”– Socrates

Please help if you can.

Gratitude List 1863

(1) In five days, I have made more money selling my new piano CD Turbulence than I ever made teaching piano and singing in a single month at my last job.

(2) I made all this money without having to leave my hometown of 25,000 people and without having to bum a ride off of someone to get to another city in another State.

(3) I’m really enjoying the camaraderie in my church choir these days, and in fact I generally feel the church to be a great blessing at this time.

(4) Grateful for the Latah Recovery Center, without whose love and support I would not be alive today.

(5) Grateful for my daughter Echo and the wonderful rapport we have developed through the iPhone voice text feature. Now we never interrupt each other anymore, for which I am also grateful.

“The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
— Anonymous

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Gratitude List 1862

(1) Nice of the guy who manages the local Co-Op to buy me breakfast upon my arrival the other morning. I gave him a Turbulence CD in return.

(2) My anger towards others was drastically decreased a while back due to a wakeup.  As a result, I have renewed my commitment to my church home.  I’m showing up all the time now, and finding the church is making me happy once again.

(3) Since Turbulence was released Saturday at noon, I’ve already made over $100 in sales. My goal is $500, and I think I’ll hit it by March 10th.  Gives me something to do while Keva’s often at school in Cheney WA and has not been making regular trips home to work at her parent’s shop in Pullman.

(4) My column on the problem of evil is in good shape after three drafts.  Now all I gotta do is edit out the egomania, and I can probably submit it to Spokane FaVs in the morning.  This is good news, because I really want to get back into scoring the performance tracks.

(5) Had a nice long talk with my good friend Holly last night. It’s nice to have a handful of close friends who understand me and vice-versa.  Better to have a few who do than a lot who don’t.  Grateful for the friends I have made along the way.

“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”  — George Washington 

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Gratitude List 1861

(1) A civil dispute in my neighborhood has been resolved in a manner I consider favorable to me, and hopefully favorable to the other parties involved.

(2) I’ve been playing the piano a lot more these days, and I think I’m getting better at it. I’ve also found it an excellent way to process difficult emotions related to the first point on this list.

(3) I enjoyed our theology meeting last night. I particularly appreciate the objectivity of the professor who facilitated the group. Though Kurt has his specific leanings, he’s remarkably objective when it comes to biblical research.

(4) Everyone at my church has been commenting how unprecedentedly happy I have seemed lately. What they don’t realize is that they are the ones who are making me happy. I’m thankful for my church of the past six years–for the pastor, the fellowship, the whole works.

(5) My piece The Invisible Composer Finds His Way to the Heart of the Arts has been published on Spokane Faith and Values. Through a maze of music and mania, a tortured Artist finally found a home, and a place of peace, at last.

Please pitch in if you can,

Dark Holly

“Dark Holly” is based on the little-known French version of the carol “The Holly and the Ivy.” You have probably heard the English version, which is in a major key. The French set the same text to a minor key, and I have taken off from there.

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Gratitude List 1860

(1) I was 199 lbs when I weighed in at the doctor’s office yesterday. First time I’ve been below 200 in over five years. Running, working out, and grateful.

(2) Once again I am grateful my daughter Echo is a daily figure in my life.

(3) I woke up humming the old Herman and the Hermits tune, “Henry the 8th.” You may expect a ragtime version in short order. Grateful for all the little tunes that pop into my head these days.

(4) Great five mile walk this morning, heading to WinCo’s and back to buy microwavable meals with my new Idaho State food card. I was awarded $142 in food benefits, which will greatly reduce any food insecurity I have been facing on my budget.

(5) The show Plaza Suite, which I’d been planning on attending with my professor friends last night, was canceled due to Covid. The good news is I was given a restful repose for the evening, and a decent eight hours sleep for the first time in ages. I believe I am a healthier man than I was two days ago. Grateful for my health, my fitness, my high energy, and my life.

“They who wait on the LORD will renew their strength.
They will run and not be weary.
They will walk and not faint.”
— Isaiah 40:31

Gratitude List 1859

(1) Grateful for the local family-owned cafe, where the kind Christian family provides for poor people who can’t always afford coffee. It’s wonderful to be able to come here after a long dark night, sit down over a cup of Joe, and chill.

(2) The head of the School of Journalism just approached me with a cheery salutation, not having seen me for several months during his recent sabbatical. I surprised myself by greeting him with a hearty hug, being as I’m not a hugger in general. This indicates to me more and more that I should cease to hang around the relatively random residents of my neighborhood, and finally begin to hang around professors, journalists, pastors, teachers, writers, and people more like me.

(3) Hunger was aggravating my mania at around lunchtime yesterday, when suddenly all kinds of hot dogs and chips were brought into the Recovery Center. God provides just when it is needed (sometimes).

(4) Grateful for a professional relationship with an amazing young singer named Keva Shull. She could have gotten any hot young accompanist on the block, but chose the O.G. out of respect. I have also been impressed by her fortitude. She had her pancreas removed at the age of 22, is left with Diabetes Two for the rest of her days, and yet hopped right back on the saddle. Thank God for Keva and for people like her.

(5) Thursday evening I will be returning to Pullman WA to attend the Neil Simon comedy Plaza Suite. Being a guy without a car, I am grateful to be attending with my friend Kurt–also a professor, newly retired–and his wife Ellen. They’ve also agreed to take me out to dinner before the show.

If all goes smoothly, I will have sent them performance tracks for the first two scenes of my musical by the time I see them. If all goes well, Eden in Babylon will still be produced at the RTOP Theatre. If not, somebody somewhere will do it. But mostly, I am grateful for all the many fine professors, journalists, pastors, teachers and writers whom I have met throughout the past six years.

For they are the ones who have impressed upon that I am not a dirtbag, that I am not a piece of shit, that I am not worthless homeless scum, deserving of death in a gutter. It does not serve my purpose to hang out with anyone who does not see this. God free me from the grip of those who do. AMEN.

“It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
— Anonymous

Please pitch in if possible.
The O.G. is too set in his ways.

Gratitude List 1858

(1) I want to do another take of Benny and the Jets and have it be a bit stronger. I think the piano gets in her way sometimes. My playing was choppy and erratic because I was overexcited. As soon as she said “Benny and the Jets” my heart practically jumped out of my chest. I see no reason why this album, largely of well-known covers, should not be my first artistic priority. Grateful for Keva and am honored to be her accompanist.

(2) Thinking maybe getting a roommate at my present apartment may be a better solution than living with Rod. I want to live with Rod for two weeks however, so we can both see how it works out. Anyway change is in the works and it’s all good.

(3) About to sync the first two scenes of performance tracks to the vocal score of my musical. Am seeing the Neil Simon comedy Plaza Suite on Thursday, going with one of the professors from my theology groups. They will have received the tracks by then, and perhaps after the show we will have a positive conversation.

(4) I’m happy that I’m no longer a stoner who smokes pot all day long.

(5) I am happy that my daughter Echo is in my life. I am blessed by our frequent voice-texting throughout the day on our iPhones. In fact, I am happy I even have an iPhone. There are so many good things happening, I wonder why I don’t always focus on the good. I guess you can’t hide from the bad, but that doesn’t mean we have to live there. God is Good.

“In the world you will find trouble, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”
— Jesus Christ

Please help if you can.

Gratitude List 1857

(1) A change of residence is in the works. This could go one way or another. I’ve not yet forsaken my longtime apartment, but I will explore co-inhabiting with a man who needs to rent a spare private room. I’m thinking this will help me overcome some of the bad habits I’ve practiced from living alone (not the least of which is over-texting my friends in the wee hours.)

(2) Finally found a new therapist to replace Sarah. This is a woman named Lisa. Conveniently, her office in the same building as my doctor. Working out the financial details, it will be paid partly with insurance and partly with help from the church.

(3) Someone told me I might be eligible for food stamps, which for some reason I’d not considered. Last time I was on General Assistance was in San Francisco in 2005, and I remember it felt really weird. This time I was awarded $142/mo in food benefits. It’s even prorated, so I can get about a hundred bucks of food in a jif.

(4) I gave a spare key to my church friend Susan, who will be gradually helping me clean up the place. She also drove me through nice areas of Moscow where there’s low income housing. It may be good to be away from the “student housing” area where I’ve been living, and often hanging out with 20-something kids. It will be good for me to start hanging around professors, pastors, teachings, journalists, and people more like me.

(5) If you can keep your pants on, Keva and I will be blowing your socks off in a couple hours, if all goes well. Thank God for this professional who has miraculously come into my life.

“The change is gonna do me good.”
— Elton John

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Gratitude List 1856

(1) In the first 48 hours after releasing Moondance, Keva and I made over two hundred dollars, and the song was played on local KFRP radio. I asked Kev to select a number of other covers she likes–and I’ll play ’em.

(2) I got together with the editor and assistant editor of the Faith and Values site, and we came up with seven ideas for columns I might write. This will give me something to do aside from my musical scoring, and help me take my mind off my troubles, as well. This writing gig in Spokane is really pretty cool, and I’m thankful for the opportunity.

(3) I’m also enjoying these theology groups, mostly consisting of retired professors and their spouses in my peer group, and some ministers and retired clergy. We’ve all learned a lot from each other throughout the past three years. I never dreamed I’d be welcome intellectually among academicians either.  There really are a lot of nice new things going on in my life today.

(4) Several of the members of the theology groups go to a Lutheran church here, and I am compelled to visit.  These people are very much fun to be around, and I notice the Presbyterians get kinda stone-faced on me.  The Lutherans are charmingly irreverent at times, not to mention I’m allowed to let out a cuss word every now and then.  I might just hang with these cats for a while, and you know, maybe have a good German beer while I’m it.

(5) I got distracted by a civil dispute in the neighborhood and failed to meet my self-imposed Friday deadline.  But I’m headed over to the University library to check out the spot.  They’re open from 6am till 2am every day, and I bet I can get into the zone there, and submit the performance tracks for the first two scenes of Eden in Babylon later on this week.  I’m motivated, and life is good.

Gratitude List 1855

(1) I have a roof over my head. It’s cold outside. This is something to value.

(2) Within twenty-four hours, it is highly likely I will have some money, and the period of being broke and hungry at the end of each month (and not handling it very well, by the way) will finally be over.

(3) I didn’t score any music during the long dark night, but that means it will be better when I get back at it. I’ve noticed throughout life that the more destructive I feel, the more creative I become. Two sides of a coin, I believe.

(4) The Different Drummer whom I hear plays a beat so elegant, I wish you all could hear it too. For that Different Drummer, to whose step I keep pace, I am grateful.

(5) It’s always darkest before the dawn.

Please pitch in, my stomach’s growling.

Gratitude List 1854

(1) Someone looked me in the eyes the other day, someone who never looks me in the eyes anymore. I saw the look of love in their eyes, and it felt really good.

(2) This reminded me of an old song called “The Look of Love.” Spontaneously, I strolled over to the church and did an unusually cheerful rendition of the happy little ditty (soon to be uploaded to my YouTube channel).

(3) I met with Keva today for the first time since her operation.  We did “Moondance” and “If I Were a Bell” from Guys and Dolls.  Recorded them too, and Moondance came out pretty nicely.  Great to see her again, and to be making music with this very talented young singer.

(4) Scoring the performance tracks has been self-soothing.  It may seem strange, but it’s a therapeutic process.  It’s like growing a garden. I’m also learning more about music production software, and very much feeling a sense of newness and freshness in this music I wrote so many years ago.

(5) Put in my two cents on what’s happening in my hometown around Bryan Khoberger.  I darted it off quickly at home the other day, just 350 words.  Grateful to have someone who very often publish my thoughts, and grateful to have a nice quiet place with solitude where I can work in the wee hours if I want to.  It’s good to be home.

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Tuesday Tuneup 123

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. I’m not sure.

Q. How can you become sure?

A. By thinking it through completely.

Q. By thinking what through completely?

A. All the factors of getting my show produced, maybe getting my job back, and all that.

Q. How does getting your show produced relate to getting your job back?

A. Darn it! This is why I wish I had a therapist.

Q. What do you mean?

A. You ask me all these questions. What I need are strong, solid suggestions.

Q. If you found a therapist other than me, would they offer you strong, solid suggestions?

A. Hm . . . come to think of it, most of them only ask me questions. Okay you win.

Q. Now once again: what is the relationship between the production of the musical and your job?

A. The job’s a musical job. A theatre company needed a singing teacher, a piano teacher, and a musical director. They hired me to do all three, but I had to leave early in the middle of the third show–for health reasons. The idea is that I’m supposed to become healthy again and come back when I am.

The musical is–well, a musical. After I did a decent job on the first show, they approached me with an offer to produce my musical.

Q. How did that feel?

A. You already know. I’d been working on this musical since 2009. The production of this musical has been a life’s dream. I was overjoyed. Words failed me. I walked alone in nearby Nature for an hour, with tears in my eyes, and silently thanked the Lord.

Q. Then what happened?

A. Well, I had the health issue, and I had to leave the job, on very short notice.

Q. Does that mean they won’t produce the musical?

A. I don’t know.

Q. Why don’t you know?

A. They won’t tell me.

Q. Why not?

A. They don’t say.

Q. Why do you think that is?

A. Probably because they themselves do not know. Since I left for health reasons, how can they know when I will be healthy again? Or even if I will be healthy again?

Q. But do you have to be in good health for them to produce your musical?

A. Of course not! I could be dead and they could still produce the musical!

Q. Then what’s the problem?

A. The problem–as I see it–is that they don’t want to do the show unless I am also there on hand. I would need not only to be the musical director of my own show, but of most of the other shows as well.

Q. And they won’t let you do that?

A. Not if they don’t think I’m well.

Q. Do you want to do that?

A. I don’t know. If I return to a job that made me unwell, and nothing is different, it could make me sick again.

Q. Wait — did the job make you unwell?

A. I just said that, didn’t I?

Q. Put it this way: did any of the details of the job make you unwell?

A. No. I can’t say that the job details were in any way toxic. This is work that I generally enjoy.

Q. Did any of the people on the job make you unwell?

A. I think so, yes. There were a couple guys whose personalities were challenging,

Q. Did they say inside their hearts: “Let’s make Andy sick?”

A. What are you driving at?

Q. What is your favorite chapter in the Gospel of Mark?

A. Well, that certainly came from left field! I would say probably Mark Seven. It’s the one I most often quote.

Q. What did Jesus say in Mark Seven?

A. Um . .. well, for one thing, he said: “There is nothing entering into the man from outside him that can defile him. It is that which comes out of the man that has power to defile him.”

Q. So did these two guys outside you have the power to make you sick?

A. You’re not saying I’m the one who made myself sick, are you?

Q. Let’s put it this way: whose responsibility is your health?

A. God’s!

Q. Not your own?

A. Well I can participate in it. I run, I don’t smoke tobacco cigarettes, I don’t hang out in bars. But God has the final say in such matters. He holds the keys to sickness and health, and to life and death.

Q. Did God make you sick?

A. Yes. The sudden sickness was not my doing.

Q. Are you healthy now?

A. I certainly think so.

Q. You don’t know?

A. How can I know? I can tell you I feel good. I can tell you my vital signs are good. But this is not about physical health. It’s about mental health. How can I possibly gauge the health of my own mind?

Q. If you can’t, who can?

A. Society.

Q. How so?

A. Society is the entity that judges whether people are sane or insane. I could avoid human beings for the rest of my days, sit here and score my music and write my columns, and no one would be the wiser. But if I tell another human being I have a mental health disorder, they will then begin to look for signs of it–whether they know anything about it or not. They will no longer see me as sane, whether I am sane or not. In this manner, I become insane–in their eyes. The people of this society have become the judges of the crazy. In my own mind, I am always eminently sane.

Q. In other words, your recent employers are going to be the ones to assess your sanity?

A. Yup. I have no plans to deny it. But since I cannot be trusted to gauge the health of my own mind, it’s their call.

Q. Then where to we go from here?

A. We keep up our dialogue until this matter has been thought through completely.

Q. Same time next Tuesday?

A. You’re not putting me on a yearlong waiting list or refusing to pay my copays, are you? See you Tuesday.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1853

(1) I felt a burst of gratitude just now, putting on my pullover sweater. I was a little chilly, I put on another layer of clothing, and I was warm. I felt warm inside too, thinking of all the times I’ve been cold. I believe that the ability to appreciate freedom from cold weather is directly proportional to the number of times you’ve frozen your butt off.

(2) Unusually nice run this morning, which surprised me. It’s only my third time back after the snowstorm, but I did three miles without stopping.  It was also 29 degrees Fahrenheit, but I did not feel the cold–even though I ran in running shorts with heavy gloves.  For me, the extra layers on the upper body make all the difference in the world. Glad I ran, and glad I still can.

(3) Last week I finished the first draft of the performance tracks for the first two scenes of Eden in Babylon.  I’m right on target, and grateful.

(4) I was a little down yesterday, but after writing a small piece and playing a song on the piano, I found my spirits lifted. I’m thankful for all the creative outlets that help me to process my feelings.

(5) Grateful for the good people of Moscow Idaho and especially for the friends whom I have made at my church. I came to my front door the other day and found a large can of coffee, with filters. (Just when I was running low, too.) When I misplaced something in Berkeley, it would invariably be stolen. When I misplace something in Moscow Idaho, I later find it having been placed anonymously on the Baldwin grand piano at my church. Grateful to be where I belong.

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”
   — Ralph Waldo Emerson 

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Tuesday Tuneup 122

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater integrity.

Q. Is something compromising your integrity?

A. Yes. But I must say, the sense of compromise is much less pronounced than it was a week ago.

Q. What happened a week ago?

A. I began sequencing the tracks for Scene Two.

Q. And this distanced you from the sense of compromise?

A. It reminded me of the strength of my integrity. For one week, I did nothing but sequence these tracks. As I sequenced them, I thought not of pleasing anyone in particular, but only of doing it right–according to my integrity.

Q. Would someone want you to have done it wrong?

A. It would seem so, yes.

Q. How so?

A. Like many other numbers in this show, the main number in Scene Two–The Age of Nevermore–suggests it be presented in a large hall. One imagines rock instruments and a live band, pumping out the sounds. But as far as I know, only one theatre company, having a very small house, has stated an interest in producing the show.

Q. Too small to include a rock band?

A. Much too small. In fact, too small to include any band at all, even the smallest ensemble. This is why the pre-recorded performance tracks are so useful.

Q. They don’t take up as much space as a band?

A. They take up about as much space as a link to a url on a desktop.

Q. Then so what if it sounds all rocked out? You can just adjust the volume to suit the small house, can’t you?

A. I suppose so.

Q. Then why not go for it?

A. It just feels like compromise.

Q. Aren’t you being a bit fussy?

A. Maybe.

Q. Why kick a gift horse in the mouth?

A. Okay – it’s not going to be the perfect production, if it even happens at all. But there’s another sense in which someone doesn’t want me to do this thing right. That’s the sense in which they don’t want me to do it at all.

Q. What do you mean?

A. I made noise about a manic episode. A doctor diagnosed me Bipolar and put me on Lithium. I’m supposed to be taking care of my health, not slaving away over musical tracks.

Q. Can’t you do both?

A. That’s what I’m trying to do. And that’s why I feel a relative increase in integrity. I did finish the tracks–at least good enough for this stage. A number of those sounds will eventually be replaced by live instruments. And some will be removed, in accompaniment of singing. I did remove a lot though already, and–

Q. Wait, wait–you mean that within the past week, you suddenly took off and did what you thought you should do, despite what you think they think you should do?

A. Yes.

Q. Isn’t that huge?

A. Sure it is. But it’s also connected to another factor.

Q. What’s that?

A. In the past week, I’ve stopped taking my Lithium.

Q. Why?

A. It was creating a highly uncomfortable and inconvenient urinary challenge. A few days after I stopped, my plumbing returned to normal.

Q. What about your head?

A. What about it?

Q. Isn’t the whole point of the Lithium to take care of your head?

A. I suppose so. But when I was taking care of my head, was I writing any music?

Q. I don’t know, were you?

A. No. I had no creativity. No drive.

Q. And now you do?

A. Yes.

Q. But if you don’t take the med, how can you get your job back?

A. I don’t know. I just have to be honest with them. If I don’t get it back, I don’t get it back.

Q. And you’re okay with that?

A. Well–I’m not okay with compromising my excellent physical health and fitness for the sake of taking a head drug that might help my stability and definitely decreases my creativity. For me, that’s compromising my integrity. Both my integrity and my health are more important than the job.

Q. But are they more important than your getting your musical produced?

A. That, my friend, is an excellent question.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1852

(1) The snowstorm has passed and the weather is finally conducive to outdoor exercise.  As I start running again, I marvel how the body never forgets how to run–even though weeks may have gone by.  And then, I feel so much better after I do so.

(2) Found two new pairs of pants at the Hope Center for only $18.  And they’re not getting ripped in the washing machine either.  The Hope Center expanded during the pandemic, and there are all kinds of knickknacks there too.  Great resource for affordable stuff.

(3) Grateful for this small college town and for the Palouse region in general, having two major Universities built on land grants ten miles apart.  The average person one meets in Moscow is civil, courteous, and culturally conscious.  The students are back from break now, and there’s a general spirit of relief that the suspected murderer is in custody.  But Moscow has a way of staying the same, and staying strong. It’s the earnest, genuine nature of the people here.  I know of no other place like it.

(4) In the past week I’ve made a big breakthrough in arranging the performance tracks for Eden in Babylon.  I’d forgotten how many options I have with Finale software.  Once I get on a roll, it’s hard to get off of it too.  The program seems to be both addictive and therapeutic. But mostly I am grateful that I am embracing the process, without being hindered by fears as to how it will be received.  It’s what I can and should be doing at this time, and for this task I am grateful.

(5) Christianity is kinda like running, though in a much larger way. No matter how far I stray–no matter how much I begin to depend on things other than the Lord–I never forget that there’s a better way. I never forget that God is real.  Every morning His blessings are new. Every day we have a fresh start.

“For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.”
     — 1 Timothy 4:8 

Tuesday Tuneup 121

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. Sitting in a therapist’s chair.

Q. Then why aren’t you?

A. Lack of affordable therapy in this neck of the woods.

Q. Why is therapy indicated?

A. I’m taking a new medication. It’s recommended I work with a therapist while adjusting to it.

Q. What is the medication?

A. Lithium.

Q. Are you bipolar?

A. That’s what they say.

Q. Do you believe them?

A. Sometimes.

Q. Why are you skeptical?

A. Past history. I was diagnosed bipolar at the age of 51 and given a bunch of meds. Nine months later I was sleeping on a bench outside a CalTrain station. I lost everything I had–approximately $13.000, a car, a nice rental, and all my accounts. Then I was homeless for roughly twelve years. Had I never accepted the diagnosis or the medication, I would not have become homeless.

Q. And you fear this will happen again?

A. The parallels between my life today and that of 18 years ago are glaring.

Q. How so?

A. I was attaining a higher profile back then. Newspaper articles were being written about me. I was being interviewed, I was winning awards, and I got into Who’s Who then too.

Q. Who’s Who?

A. Yeah, and it went to my head (even though, looking back, I think they only wanted me to buy the gold-plated book.)

Q. Do you think you became more manic as you achieved more notoriety?

A. You nailed it.

Q. Well, lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, does it?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Can’t you learn from your past experience, and ensure you don’t repeat the same errors?

A. Frankly, I’m trying to figure out what errors I have made.

Q. You don’t think you’ve made any mistakes?

A. Of course I’ve made mistakes! What I mean is, which of my many errors are the ones that will land me on the streets again?

Q. What landed you on the streets last time?

A. Spending over ten thousand bucks fairly rapidly, wrecking my car in an accident, acting weird in my apartment, thus arousing the concern of the landlord . . .

Q. Do you have ten thousand bucks to blow?

A. No.

Q. Do you have a car to wreck?

A. No.

Q. Have you been acting weird in your apartment?

A. Yes.

Q. Have you aroused the concern of the landlord?

A. Not at all. Every time I see him, he smiles at me, and I get the feeling he’s fairly thrilled that I always pay my rent on time.

Q. Then what makes you think you might land on the streets?

A. It’s hard to explain. I just feel the way I felt back then.

Q. Can you describe the feeling?

A. Unusually high energy, and a sense of grandiosity.

Q. Grandiosity?

A. Yes. I keep seeing myself as more important in the overall scheme of things than I actually am.

Q. Why do you think this is?

A. It seems to result from having seen a few articles about me published on a few local sites. This causes people to approach me saying they read about me in the papers.

Q. So you’re becoming more famous?

A. On a local level, spanning about four counties. I’m not nearly famous, but it’s starting to look as though a lot of people know who I am.

Q. How does this make you feel?

A. Paranoid.

Q. Why?

A. The excess of human influence will overload my brain, and I fear I will implode.

Q. What does implosion look like?

A. It looks a lot like depletion. Emptying of all inner resources. Lying down on the floor. Not wanting to get up. Telling them I couldn’t possibly make it to work.

Q. Not possible?

A. I honestly think that if I had an apartment close to the job, and not a twelve mile bike ride away, I would have gotten to work. Some unpleasant things had been happening for the past three or four days, and my head was getting overloaded.

Q. What does overload look like?

A. I tried to integrate two separate incarnations of my musical project. I could not rectify the sentiment of the workshops we held for two and a half years and all the Kids who so devotedly helped me to prepare this musical, with the fact that it had now been released to a professional theatre company.

Q. Cognitive dissonance?

A. Yes. My heart wanted to include all the Kids who had worked so hard. But my head knew that this was professional theatre, and that they would only be cast if they showed up at auditions and were considered the best people for the parts.

Q. Surely you were professional, weren’t you?

A. I tried to be. These guys really liked me, and for seven months I served them well.

Q. Then what happened?

A. I collapsed.

Q. What does collapse look like?

A. Loss of willingness. Loss of motivation. Loss of heart.

Q. Is this when you went to the doctor?

A. Yes.

Q, What did the doctor say?

A. He diagnosed me Bipolar One and said I probably had a manic episode. Then he prescribed the Lithium.

Q. Then what?

A. I told the boss. He said “Very good, Andy. Just get well.”

Q. What does “well” look like?

A. Neither he nor I knows what it looks like. I’d go back and work there tomorrow if they’d let me. It’s been nearly three months of trying to “get well” in a clueless vacuum of no communication, no contact, and no trust.

Q. So now what?

A. Now I sit down and try to create these performance tracks so my musical can be produced.

Q. Who wants to produce the musical?

A. That, I am sorry to say, is a very good question.

The Questioner is silent.

Gratitude List 1851

(1) My Christmas may not have been the happiest one in history, but at least I didn’t spend it huddled under a Starbucks awning in a thunderstorm. Grateful for my apartment.

(2) Since my work at the theatre has been reduced, my daughter and I have come back into each other’s lives. I’m sure our relationship is stronger than ever.

(3) I don’t like taking this medication for Bipolar Disorder, and I am skeptical that the diagnosis applies. However I do find that in this doctor I have found someone whom I can work with, and I am willing to take the time necessary to get the right treatment.

(4) Keva has been discharged from the hospital in Oregon and has returned home without a pancreas and with diabetes. Her spirit however is strong. She sent me a voice text suggesting we return to the concept of creating an album together. I’m very much looking forward to working with her again.

(5) I’m not in a relationship and maybe I shouldn’t be. They tend to lead to a lot of pain and heartbreak. But what I am thankful for, in addition to my aloneness, is my relationship with God. It’s sometimes painful, but it’s worth it in the end.

“Whatever you fear most has no power. It is your fear that has the power.”
— Oprah Winfrey

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Gratitude List 1850

(1) Really good coffee, this Supreme Roast from WinCo’s. It’s made me a consistently nice morning cup for quite a few days now–and sometimes a pleasant afternoon cup as well.

(2) My daughter and I have been enjoying a nice “correspondence” of exchanging voice texts back and forth on our iPhones. Grateful for my daughter, and grateful for my iPhone–without either of which this correspondence would not be happening.

(3) Grateful for the local Latah Recovery Center, where there will be a noon meeting soon, and general peer counseling and direction towards all kinds of resources. It’s a great place to hang out, where one feels unafraid to discuss one’s issues.

(4) Really grateful for the church and the Baldwin grand piano there. I should be able to get over there today and do more Christmas tunes — maybe “We Three Kings,” “The First Nowell,” and “Adeste Fideles.”

(5) The ground is packed with snow, and I might find myself knee deep on the trek to town. The good news is I’m no longer in California, where I might have the opposite experience (if you can picture it). There is a lot to be thankful for, on this earth.

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Tuesday Tuneup 119

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater freedom.

Q. Freedom from what?

A. From worry.

Q. What are you worried about?

A. People.

Q. What people?

A. All people.

Q. You worry about all people?

A. Didn’t I just say that?

Q. What is there to worry about?

A. Offending them.  Crossing them.  Hurting them.

Q. What makes you think you do these things?

A. I have a bumbling personality, and I frequently put my foot in my mouth.

Q. For example?

A. Talking with a lady, I asked her when she was expecting, and it turned out she wasn’t even pregnant.  I watched her go off and cry, and I felt horrible.

Q. Don’t you know that you’re never supposed to do that?

A. It slipped my mind, because I was pretty sure someone had told me she was expecting.  What they had actually told me was that she had three kids.

Q. When did this happen?

A. Oh, maybe a year or so ago.

Q. And you’re still dwelling on it?

A. Not really.  You just asked for an example, and that was the first thing that came to mind.

Q. Have you put your foot in your mouth at any time since then?

A. Yes. Many times.  Or, if I didn’t, I fear I did.

Q. When?

A. Yesterday.

Q. What did you say?

A. Lots of things. I was talking with a friend, and I wanted him to hold some things in confidence.

Q. And he did not?

A. He might not, because I fear he cannot.

Q. Why do you have that fear?

A. Well, he later called me and asked which portions of what I had asked him to hold in confidence could be revealed to a mutual colleague.

Q. Did you then remind him you had asked him to hold all of it in confidence?

A. No, because it crossed my mind at the moment that some of it would be okay to reveal to the third party, and some of it would not.

Q. And you don’t think he can tell where to draw the line?

A. No. He’s not that sophisticated.  He’s as bad as I am, if not worse.

Q. So what is the solution to all this?

A. I don’t know.  If I could make my mouth speak about half as much as it does, it would probably make things twice as good as they are now.

Q. Then why not do that?

A. I lack confidence. I’m an Introvert. Most Introverts, when they’re nervous, they clam up.  When I get nervous, I start foaming at the mouth.  I babble incessantly, and things come out of my mouth that really should not have entered into my brain in the first place.

Q. So you lack social savvy?

A. I think so, yes.

Q. Well what are you going to do about it?

A. I know what I’d like to do, if it were possible.

Q. What’s that?

A. I’d like to hole up in my nice warm apartment here, not to talk to anyone at all, and work on my project.

Q. What project?

A. Seems I have to readjust the opening and closing scenes of my musical, simplify the vocal score so that all the music can be taught in a single week, write out full guitar and bass parts, extract extraneous parts from the performance tracks, and–

Q. And what?

A. I’ve got too much work to do.  I can’t have all these people flying through my head all the time, worried about whom I offended by saying what, when and where.  I’m not a people person.  I’m an ideas & concepts person.  We all need people, but there are just too many of them for me to manage.  I just need a better balance.  I want to be free from the consequences of words spoken idly. I want to give the world my best–not my worst.  Really, I should never talk to another human being for the rest of my life.

Q. Isn’t that a bit extreme?

A. Of course it is.  I’m speaking from feeling, not from reason.

Q. Then why not start speaking from reason?

A. What do you mean?

The Questioner is silent. 

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Gratitude List 1849

(1) Thankful for good health. Running and upper body exercises are working wonders, plus I walk upwards of ten miles on many days, just needing to get around. Weight and vital signs are down. I feel positive and productive. Health is a blessing, for sure.

(2) After living in the heat of California for so many years, I find today’s snow to be very appealing. Got some beautiful pictures to send to my homeys back in Cali, some of whom have never experienced the snow. Thankful for the sense of winter holiday and approaching Christmas.

(3) I really have found some good friends since moving up to Idaho. It’s wonderful to feel respected and to engage in even conversations with equals, after so many years of feeling most people were looking down upon me, thinking ill of me. My world has really changed for the better in the past six years.

(4) Keva is recovering from major surgery, having had her pancreas removed at the age of 21. I think her life will be much different from here on in–but manageable. I spoke with her the other night. She’s in a lot of pain right now, but her outlook is strong. I believe she will still be able to sing and if all goes well play the female lead in my musical. Her resilience and positivity ought to be an inspiration to us all.

(5) Well, my bipolar disorder threw a curve ball at me midway through Guys and Dolls. I once again had what psychiatry calls a “manic episode” and was excused midway through the show to take care of my health. The good news is that Dr Ray has correctly diagnosed me and prescribed me Lithium. I’m in the third week, and I think it’s working. I’m not sure what will happen with the production of my musical slated for Summer 2023. But I’m moving forward with confidence, and somewhat relieved not to be having to get to another city in another State five days a week without a car. I’m grateful that life takes interesting turns. If it didn’t, let’s face it–I’d be awfully bored. God is Good.

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Gratitude List 1848

(1) The Courtyard Cafe has finally reopened after the pandemic.  I’ve been enjoying the full traditional breakfast I get for four bucks with my discount with free Starbucks coffee and unlimited refills.  It’s also been great seeing all the hospital workers again, people whom I enjoyed conversing with when I played piano regularly at the hospital where I was born.  That four dollar breakfast and coffee is the best way to start the day.  Grateful for the best kept secret in Moscow Idaho: the Courtyard Cafe.

(2) We’ve been having beautiful brisk days lately, and I’ve been doing a lot of running and brisk-walking. Also, I usually do 22 push-ups now, when I used to only do 17, probably due to weight loss. My heart rare was 52 and blood pressure 116/74 at the doctor’s office last Thursday.  Grateful for the beauty of nature and for the ability to traverse its pathways on foot.

(3) For the first time in forever, I have a doctor now whom I can trust and about whose prescriptions I have no complaint.

(4) Found a bassist who has agreed to do the  bass parts on the recording of the performance tracks of Eden in Babylon.  He has played first chair, first bass in the Idaho Jazz Orchestra and also has a great deal of respect for my musicianship.

(5) A multiple murder here has left the community in shock.  However, I am grateful for the solidarity we have been expressing and how this has brought Moscow Idaho together again.  I am more than grateful for the way that Moscow turned out to be, when on a whim in July 2016 I decided to check out the city where I was born.

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