Trapped

I wish I were self-sufficient in terms of my transportation needs–to the point where I never have to be a passenger in someone else’s car again.

A columnist friend was driving me to work because he worked in the same town. This left me in town early but I did not mind. It got me there.

What I minded was when he objected to a column that another friend of mine had written, seeming not to understand the column, and saying some rather unkind things about its author, whom I very much respect.

At that time, I strongly desired not to be in the car, and not to be having that conversation. But what was I supposed to do? Roll down the window and jump out?

He was the driver. I was the passenger — and trapped.

As for the friend who wrote the column, she too is a driver. As it happened, I asked her if she wanted to go see a show on Friday night. I’d pay the tickets and she would drive.

“Sure!” she agreed — moments before seeing a column of mine posted on Facebook, upon which she then commented.

Not sure if she had read the whole column at that stage, as she was commenting on a statement in the lengthy “lead” to the column. I’m also not sure how ambiguously the lead was worded–but she is the only person who interpreted in a way that I had not intended. I explained what I had meant to say — or tried to — and then she disappeared.

The tenor of the reaction was such that I now anticipate getting into this person’s car and immediately embarking upon an intellectual or theological argument of some kind that will then make me want to climb out of the window of that car!

I think what I’ll do is just tell her how much I defended her column against the allegations of the columnist in the first car whose window I wanted to climb out of.

The moral of the story can only be one of three things:

(1) Get a car.

(2) Move to Washington State where your job is.

(3) Stop writing columns and hanging out with journalists.

Any deeper morals out there? Your call.

Gratitude List 1822

(1) It was only after I took the first sip of my morning cup of coffee that I got the idea to make this gratitude list. This present cup tastes so much better than any previous cup has tasted in quite some time, I find myself moved to tell the world about it. (I am also about isolating exactly HOW it got to taste QUITE this good – as I would like to repeat the experience, someday.)

(2) Doing the first show I’ve done in 14 years (not counting workshopping my own musicals) has awakened the Sleeping Theatre Person who somehow all this time has failed to be rousted, while sleeping fitfully deep inside my soul. It’s been wonderful working with professionals from all over the country, and especially wonderful working on PIPPIN, for the beauty of the Stephen Schwartz score, and all the many life-messages PIPPIN sends us throughout the charming script.

(3) Also wonderful having a weekend off, though I slept most of the day yesterday. (Maybe that’s why the coffee tastes so good.)

(4) In the past twenty-four hours, I’ve listened to three unusually strong sermons, coming from different pastors, two of whom I’d never heard of before. One was about what happens beyond death, one was about the dynamics of prayer, and this morning I’m listening to a sermon on authority (which I appear to be resisting at the moment.) I do want to say I’m thankful for the YouTube spiders, in this case.

(5) One more day off, and three more days till PIPPIN opens this Thursday. I’m behind on three columns I somehow have not felt like writing, but today I have managed to finish a draft of one of them.  Today is also my birthday, which would be just another day, were it not for these observations. Life is a lot different than it was five or ten years ago. I am younger in body, soul and heart.

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Gratitude List 1821

(1) We’re getting off to a great start in the third week of our five week rehearsal period for the musical Pippin.  I’m very much enjoying the professional atmosphere at the regional theater company I’ve been so fortunate to have discovered.

(2)  It was good having the weekend off.  On Sunday I worked with Karlie, who knows all her parts for the three-part harmonies she’s going to sing over herself.  Here’s a recording of her singing the low part to the scratch track of Ode to the Universe that I’ve created with my music production software.   You can probably see where it’s headed if you use your imagination, and Karlie is a joy to work with.

(3) There’s an Open Mike every Monday night at a club around the corner from the theatre.   They’ve got a full length Young Chang concert grand, one of the better pianos I have had a chance to play.   They gave me three songs to close the place.  I did My Heart Belongs to Daddy, then Cody sang “Hunted” from Eden in Babylon, and finally I did “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”  Looking forward to going back next week.

(4)  My new therapist is really working out very well.   This morning I’ll have the fourth session of the five I committed myself to, and I am really looking forward to it.  She gave me a good book called Shame and Guilt: Masters of Disguise and she is in all manners a competent and in fact gifted therapist — quite a contrast to the last three I tried.  .

(5) Just letting you know I am presently creating this gratitude list on the new MacBook Pro I got on a $550 steal from Backwater.    So far I am having the same experience as when I graduated from the Android to the iPhone.  I simply never want to go back and use a Windows machine again.  (Guess I’m addicted to the fancy colors.)   Grateful for all the good gifts God gives us, in good time.

Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above.  These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all.– James 1:17

 

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Emoji Culture

Dear Popular Culture:

I really have no idea why, over the past few years, the excellence of the English language has been soiled by the use & overuse of ridiculous-looking comic symbols and icons called “emojis.”

I have seen highly intelligent people burst forth with a Facebook comment and add about five or ten identical emojis of indiscernible meaning or value to their posts. What exactly are these emojis intended to convey? Is this supposed to be “fun” or something? I find it completely annoying.

Worse is the phenomenon of the “moving emoji” which will actually rotate back and forth on the screen. Those of us who have been blasted with severe ADHD are then drawn to the moving symbol on the screen, and (at least in my case) can no longer effectively focus on any other word or image on the entire screen.

IDK maybe I’m just getting grouchy in my old age. But it just seems that the world of modern technological devices can be over-stimulating enough as it is, without having to stimulate us much further.

Also, when I begin to think this way, I ponder the time-honored value of getting out into Nature, soaking in the vibes, listening to the wind & the birds and watching the panorama of Beauty dancing across the screen of the sky.

I’ve even pondered how beautiful it would be to die in Nature. Saying my prayers of thanksgiving before the stars, thanking the Almighty for a job well done.

Fat chance. If this ludicrous culture keeps moving in the direction it’s going, I’ll die of a sudden stroke once some drunken Facebooker throws a 3-dimensional moving emoji at me from out of my computer screen.

Off the grid & fast.
Andy OUT

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Gratitude List 1820

(1) It was a nice feeling just now walking into my landlord’s office to pay my rent a wee bit late with fee.  There was no sense of reprimand or stern warning as may have transpired elsewhere in the past.   Instead, I enjoyed a gentle chit-chat about this-and-that, before we each went our respective ways.

(2) If what’s written on the blackboard in front of me is any indication, I would say that reasonable sayings are emerging from the mouths of University of Idaho students these days.  I see at least three:

“You don’t stop wars by jumping into them.”
—  “People love people who love people.”
—  “The greatest enemy of clear language is insincerity.”

(3) Worked 16 1/2 hours last week not counting travel time to and fro.  Mainly finished the first week of a five week rehearsal period for the musical PIPPIN.  It’s been neat meeting singer/actors from all over the country who have converged upon this tiny town in Washington in order to do the show.   Very talented bunch of very nice people.   I love the music too, how much of it is highly spirited with a Gospel flair without being directly religious.  Cool music, and I also am enjoying teaching the young piano students they gave me.

(4) CDC determined out County is “in the green” which makes me feel slightly better about County-wide lifting of mask mandates.  There is definitely a more lively spirit in the area, especially for a Monday.  I still content myself to hide out in a distant corner table of the coffeehouse, where I would like to hide out, pandemic or no.  Nice to have a quiet home-away-from-home, for the time being.

(5) Though no one has turned in any tracks for the Oracle Sequence yet, I’m confident they will do so within the next twenty days before their deadline.  If not, I’ll have been informed, and there will still be three months left in which to switch gears.   Interesting how the project is put into perspective by my doing a show at the time.  I’m now in the same mode as everyone else on board, rather than in an isolated function.  Good to be part of the gang.

“The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.”
      — Coretta Scott King 

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Gratitude List 1819

(1) I’m grateful for how peaceful and quiet is right now in Room 33 at the church. Often I am frustrated when a friend calls me as I’m out and about, and I can’t find a single spot to relax and listen, where I can actually hear what they’re saying. Grateful for this spot and for the occasional phenomenon of “peace and quiet” in general. With a mind as noisy as mind, external quietude can be a real blessing.

(2) A brief conversation with my pastor reminded me what an extraordinarily good listener he is. Not many people would have understood what I was saying, let alone have been able to empathize. I’m happy to have found this church.

(3) The second therapy session furthered my feeling that this therapist is particularly outstanding among all therapists I’ve tried. Stuff is already emerging that’s causing me to take a step back and think about how I’ve been going about things lately, as well as throughout my life in general.

(4) First night at PIPPIN rehearsal went very well and was informative. The only downer is that I have to play one of those modern electronic pianos, instead of the time-honored old Hamilton clunker I’m used to using to get the “boom-chuck” that is the hallmark of American show tunes. If you’re on the older side, you might identify. They all thought I did just great. Me, I left the theatre thinking: “I need four things: a hearing aid, reading glasses, a water bottle, and an acoustic piano.” Seriously, I am thankful for the opportunity.

(5) After living in a city composed almost entirely of White people throughout the past five or six years, it was refreshing to be in a city where I encountered people of different races and cultures. The gentle drizzle and cloudy sky, combined with hills and a metropolitan flair, reminded me quite a bit of San Francisco. After rehearsal, I went to an Open Mike at a very large, sophisticated pub with un upstairs section and several dining floors. I got to play a Young Chang concert grand – one of the finest pianos I’ve ever played. The experience was an eye-opener. There’s a lot more to life outside the curious little hamlet where for almost six years I have been so pleased to dwell. But if I were to move anywhere, how long would it be before I became homeless again? I don’t have a very good track record of holding on to living situations. I am grateful for my community, my apartment, and the love I have found in the city where I was born.

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Gratitude List 1818

(1) I have been offered a position as Assistant Musical Director of the musical PIPPIN at a regional theatre in Washington State. They also want me to teach singing at their Academy, have arranged for transportation for me to and from my home in Idaho, and have told me that they are interested in my musical.

(2) Hard to top that one, but my Harvey’s Tune has been sent to Harvey Brooks the composer and is sitting on the top of his timeline. My friend George shared it, and a friend of his is a friend of Harvey’s, so it landed with Harvey pretty quickly.  (He hasn’t heard it yet or said anything about it.)

(3) My column on the so-called Afterlife has been published at Spokane Faith and Values.

(4) Found a decent piano tuner who wasn’t overbooked and got my home piano tuned for the first time in about three years.   Really sounds great now, and I’m preparing to do recordings from home.

(5) During an unusually communicative conversation, Keva revealed that if I were to give her a definite deadline, she would be sure to have her work turned in by that day.  She agreed to a deadline of March 27th,.  I then told her to be sure to wish me a Happy Birthday on that day, because it would likely be the best birthday present I have ever received.

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Gratitude List 1817

(1) It’s a new day.

(2) Grateful for Spokane Faith and Values and in particular for the current Afterlife Series.    I was able to pitch in with my own take on the concept, and am fascinated with all the different ideas people are propounding.  I very much enjoy the discussions all the interesting journalists and religious figures I have met there.  It feels good to be respected and for my opinions to be considered.  But it feels even better to be among people who can disagree with each other, not only without fighting each other to death, but actually enjoying the great diversity of opinions that we, as thinking human beings, tend to form.   God bless them all.

(3) People are really nice to me here in this curious little hamlet — even people whom I am afraid may regard me only as a weird freak on strange trip.   This really is a pretty cool town.

(4) Saw a fabulous production of Stephen Sondheim’s COMPANY at the Regional Theatre of the Palouse on Saturday, thanks to my friend Cody who drives.  I rarely leave the area (or even my house for that matter) but this time I’m glad I did.   It’s a show about marriage, and I happened to have been the Assistant Musical Director of the first nonprofessional production of it as in 1972.   Fifty years ago, yet I remembered practically every word and note.   Excellent production in a wonderful little theatre.  I got to sit second row orchestra.

Cody and I played and sang two songs from Eden in Babylon in the Green Room after the show, and the Artistic Director emailed Cody today to ask what my name was to see if he can get me on staff at R-Top.   When one door closes, another one opens.  I sure enjoy teaching singing.   Thankful for Cody too, that’s two jobs in a row he’s got me.

(5) Not sure which of three blessings to report, so I’ll capsulize.  I had a great four mile run on a beautiful afternoon on Friday, had a great conversation with one of my previous pastors (and it turned my head around), and I am starting in with a new therapist tomorrow at ten.   She says she will advocate for my true diagnosis with my new doctor once she’s convinced what it is.   She and the doctor are both runners, and that somehow seems it will help.   Looking forward to a new chapter in this surprisingly new life.

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Gratitude List 1816

(1) In trying to make close male friends since I’ve been up here in Idaho, I have noticed that — while I don’t seem to be making close male friends — I do seem to be meeting some very interesting men with unique ideas.  These guys are also very accepting of me and my own sometimes unusual ideas.   They may not be particularly interested in sharing personal matters with me, but that’s fine.   I’m getting tired of sharing my personal matters with people anyway.   That is to say, the subject is getting old and boring.  Grateful for all the interesting and unique people whom I’ve met up here in Idaho.

(2) Another thing about life up here that’s different and better than how things were before is this.   I’m not thought of as a person who does not have something to offer.   It’s hard to describe what a wonderful feeling this is, when I had gotten so used to being thought of as someone who was worthless — who not only had nothing to offer to society, but who would leech off of society and steal from society at the slightest opportunity.   But after over five years of living here, that memory — of it being assumed that I was worthless –– is beginning to fade.

(3) I notice I’m not nearly as uptight this morning as I’ve been for quite some time.   Probably this is due in part to a sense of accomplishment and of letting go of “ownership” of the scratch track that I finally sent out to everybody involved in the Oracle Project yesterday, with or without disclaimers.  I also don’t mind if you listen to it (otherwise I wouldn’t have linked to it) but don’t expect super-musicality.  It’s just a device to keep all the singers and musicians on beat until we replace it with something else.  (But it does illustrate the entire Oracle Sequence from start to finish.)  Anyway, feeling less uptight, and like I have more personal space to enjoy life, aside from my various deadlines and commitments.

(4) One more thing about the scratch track.  Although the software can barely replicate real rock sounds from my score, and although the rock effect in “The Word from Beyond (Reprise)” is particularly dismal, the representation of the main Oracle Theme (first appears at 5:00, then is developed from 6:15 to 8:15) is unusually accurate.    There is even a sense of it being emotionally moving in places — and this is very encouraging to me.

(5) Time for a cup of coffee.  My ex-wife always said it made me “stop babbling.”   Grateful to have a nice Black and Decker coffee maker and a nice kitchen in which to make a nice cup of coffee every morning.   Grateful that I no longer have to wait down a stairway outside an old church building having orders barked at me by an angry security guard before being permitted up the stairway into a long line with a bunch of other caffeine-deprived homeless people before finally being dished out my morning cup of coffee by the same angry security guard.   I will say that the angry security guard sure knew how to make a good cup of coffee — otherwise why would I have been waiting in that line?  I mean, really?  (Think about it.)

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Gratitude List 1815

(1) This coffee tastes so good right now, the very first sip reminded me I wanted to sit down and write a gratitude list.

(2) Weather has been so unexpectedly nice lately, with the snow melting all about. One wants to take a ten mile bike ride to the nearest college town in the most adjacent State. Yesterday I walked six miles; and though still crunching in the snow, I found it to be salutary.

(3) Can’t help but be grateful for this nice out-of-the-way apartment, and for all the wonderful opportunities it affords me – especially as contrasted with many living situations and non-living situations in the past.

(4) Working with Karlie on the three-part harmonies on Sunday was a welcome reprieve from all this self-isolation. I was able to get a clearer perspective on how this project appears in the greater picture, to others who are involved, not just the way it often appears through my own somewhat tainted prism of perspective.

(5) Finally finished the fifteen minute “scratch track” that is to be provided to all singers, musicians and technical personnel on board the Oracle Project. I’d been absorbed in it for nearly two weeks now. Turns out to be 17:45 which appears to be the current duration of the Oracle Sequence. This includes all the many tempo changes and key changes, everything correct, exactly true to score. Once the singers and musicians complete their parts, the scratch track will gradually be replaced by a much more sophisticated soundtrack. So as of today–as of submitting the scratch track–the dynamics of the Oracle Project have changed. I’m grateful to be moving on into the next phase.

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Gratitude List 1814

(1) You know you’re losing it when you plug the laptop charger into the kitchen wall socket, somehow thinking it will help you boil a pot of coffee. Grateful for the good laugh I got when I finally realized what I was doing.  Coffee tastes good too — Guatemalan, I believe.

(2) Feeling threatened by today’s deadline on my new monthly column for Street Spirit News, I surprised myself by cranking out a decent rough draft yesterday afternoon.  Grateful for the gig, and glad to be working with Alastair Boone once again.  

(3) Encouraging conversation with Norman, the pastor at First Pres, after church yesterday.  We decided that wearing masks has helped us to develop our reading of each other’s eyes — a useful skill that was left largely undeveloped during the days when we got to see the whole face.  (Mathew 6:22 comes to mind).  He also said he’d read a study where a majority of people now believe a masked face is “prettier” than a face without a mask.  (I immediately came up with two reasons why this could be true — but we can leave that for future discussion.)  We talked a bit about certain kinds of sports — “sports of aim,” I call them.  The book Zen in the Art of Archery came to mind.  Wonderful intelligent conversation with a very intelligent man.

(4) Had a great time on Friday driving around with Jodie, the pastor of the United Church.  She reminds me of myself somewhat — the things I like about myself, that is.  Same Myers-Briggs type and astrological sign, too — not that I put much stock in the latter.  (The former can be fun, though.)

(5) Keva Shull returned to the project last week, under terms with which I gladly agreed (since I’d come up with same terms, for all players, myself.) Matt came back a few days later, and now all the Kids are back. The Oracle Project is picking up steam, and I’m grateful to have found a group of talented young Performing Artists who believe in me. At this time in my life, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained.
–Marie Curie

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M.I.A. Update

I’ve been way too absorbed in trying to prepare a sophisticated yet flexible “scratch track” for all the solo singers and musicians to utilize to help them record all their parts remotely, from wherever they are, while sheltering in place.

This process has been assaulted by numerous attacks against my sanity, including the inexplicable loss of my phone service when once again I was confused for the person who gave me the phone a number of years ago. This time however I am unconvinced I can get the problem resolved.

The disturbing events did however inspire a new podcast that I hope to publish tomorrow, prior to my Monday gratitude list in which I will announce, among other great news, that Keva Shull has returned to the project.

Really into editing the podcast right now, but I believe the scoring of bass parts is a priority. I’ll post it tomorrow sometime, assuming I meet the self-imposed deadline that it is against my spiritual principles to have created.

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Gratitude List 1812

(1) Oracle Project blasted off yesterday like a rocket ship. Click to hear the voice of Karlie Smith who is singing all three of the Three Girls harmonies — with bluesy improv when appropriate. I’m also very much enjoying working with George Petersen, who was executive editor of Mix Magazine – a leading magazine in the Sound Industry — for twenty years and an expert on Sound Design.

(2) Finally started moping over the snowfall and ran yesterday in 22F degree weather in my spikes — and on thin ice to boot. It was a life-changing experience, and I am far more enthused for living as a result.

(3) Once again I am thankful to have this peaceful secluded one-bedroom apartment, a true shelter in the snowstorm. Also arranged my two functional computers so that the work laptop (which can be taken out of the house) is in the living room and the other computer in the bedroom. I’ve compartmentalized it so that I only work on the living room laptop and do all things restful or recreational in the bedroom.

(4) If I mentioned this earlier, I’ll mention it again. My wallet, lost for over six months, was located by a total stranger ten miles away on the Palouse River when she was looking for a geocache. She messaged me on Facebook to ask if I were the Andy Pope having that street address. The wallet was trashed, but all six of the plastic cards were fully functional, and my photo Id and vaccination card are still intact. I’d only replaced the ID and a single debit card. Now I have library card, Safeway card, Winko’s card, Hope Center card, PayPal debit card and two debit cards as well as an alternate photo ID. Michelle was kind enough to soak all the cards in warm soapy water and wrap the worldly-worn vaccination in plastic before she drove to my house and gave them to me. I didn’t know what to say, so I asked God to bless her and gave her a free Hyfrydol CD.

(5) I can’t say how warm my heart became when I attended a 15-member Zoom meeting last Thursday evening. It consisted of myself and 12 of the main contributors to Spokane Faith and Values, as well as two invited onlookers. I was taken by Steve Smith, retired professor of journalism, and the resident FaVs atheist. I also very much enjoyed the fellow who represented the Bahai Faith. The one evangelical Trump supporter stood up under considerable fire from myself, a non-Trump supporting evangelical, and Dr. Smith. All of us got to know each other better, and I went to bed that night believing that I am truly among friends.

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Gratitude List 1811

(1) If I ever start going stir-crazy from staying alone indoors too much — as I did earlier this morning — all I need remember is that a single walk to the corner store and back along the freezing snowscape last night was sufficient to bring me home singing songs of gratitude that I don’t have to sleep in it.   Thankful for the roof I’ve been able to keep over my head for over four years now, and thankful for a positive relationship with my landlord.

(2) A Broadway singer-actor who teaches at the Yale School of Music and has a bio on Wikipedia gave me a complete commitment to sing the male lead vocals on the Oracle Sequence.   Keyword is Broadway.  (Let that sink in.)

(3) My daughter and I are getting along better than ever, after both of us having realized that the best way for us to communicate is in successive voice texts on our respective iPhones.   We’re even getting to know each other better, and I find myself letting my hair down at times, as well.

(4) Yesterday I received $200 more in donations to the Oracle Production Project, now topping $1000 of the $6000 desired by March 1st.  Also received a final (?) paycheck from the United Church along with the $50 bonus given to all staff members as well as $100 “just because.”  Pastor Jodie has a very big heart and is a wonderful human being.  I still however find that I am much more competent doing things like this, and if I can find two more singing students who treat me as kindly as Zazen does, I’ll comp the money lost from the church gig without having to step outside my door.

(5) Despite the doctor’s verdict that my levothyroxine dosage should be upped from 137 to 175, I have examined myself carefully enough to know that I have still never experienced any symptoms of hypothyroidism, throughout all this time — even going weeks or months without, when I was homeless.  Furthermore, about an hour after I took it at night-time, I noticed such a drastic negative mind-altering effect that I found myself speaking in Christian terms: “This substance, whatever it is, is not of God.”  On the other hand, though it’s a strain to imagine Jesus having a morning cup of coffee, I find myself thanking Him for the experience.  Enough said.

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On My Own

I won’t have the podcast about my Christian experience ready for a few more days. I’ve been getting feedback from a couple other people and it just doesn’t seem ready to post yet. Parts of it would be unintelligible to anyone who doesn’t know me well, and I need to make it simpler.

Why don’t you soak in my student Zazen’s rendition of “On My Own” from LES MISERABLES in the meantime.  This is from our lesson on Monday — so it’s highly informal.

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Podcast Update

I like to post podcasts on Wednesdays but I was up late editing and lost a whole lot of edited work. I’m re-editing now and it may be best if I post the podcast tomorrow morning. (I did learn something from the experience and have created an organizational tool that will help prevent such mishaps in the future.)

The podcast will be an attempt to explain why I believe as I do, and how I came to Christ. It may be a little wild from some people’s perspectives but it’s about time I did this so I won’t be confused for someone I’m not. (If that makes sense.)

Anyway I’ll first run it past other Christians of the Reformed leaning and you may expect tomorrow morning at 7:30 PST.

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Gratitude List 1810

(1) Mercifully, I got my ride to Winko’s on the 2nd of the month this year (so I wouldn’t keep squandering my monthly grocery money at the nearby A&W.) Cupboards are all stocked up and shelter-positive. Furthermore, I made it all the way through the month last month on one trip to Winko’s.

(2) The Oracle Project appears to be taking form. The pastor at First Pres okayed 20 consecutive Sundays in the room housing the Great Green Piano, last night a Broadway singer-actor with a bio on Wikipedia expressed interest in singing the part of the male protagonist, three of the Kids from the previous workshops have hopped on board, and today we received an unexpected $500 donation.

(3) Thankful for Ashley Peterson. Period.

(4) It looks like my daughter and her boyfriend have landed a nice two bedroom on the Russian River, far away from the high crime district where they currently live in Oakland, California.

(5) Tomorrow is the day when I will be seeing a new doctor, strongly recommended by three members of my church. Hopefully I will have a regular personal physician for lab work, etc., and hopefully he will in some way realize that I have Severe ADHD, that this transcends any other diagnosis, and that we will together find treatment that works.

“Tis a lesson you should heed, try, try again.
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, and try again”.
    — Thomas H. Palmer 

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Gratitude List 1809

(1) This is the second day in a row that I awoke in an insanely good mood for no clear reason.

(2) Prayer works. A number of people in the local arena began to trouble me over the holidays. When I finally got around to praying for them (like I’m supposed to do, Luke 6:28 and all), something changed. What changed was that I began to see the innocence of their hearts, and I developed compassion. Since before praying, I basically hated their guts; and since after praying, I began to see them as fellow, hurting human beings, I would say that prayer works.

(3) Grateful for having reconnected with a theatre composer whom I worked with many years ago. He must be in his 80’s by now. He’s had nice things to say about some of the music I’ve written lately, and I’ve set my SoundCloud to always play his “six piano pieces”‘ by default.

(4) More money in the fundraiser. But I also just realized that it’s almost 2002 already! I better craft a detailed budget and rehearsal schedule and get on the ball here. Daylight’s burning, and I keep slacking. Definitely grateful for Karlie, who obviously knows how to sing. She may not exactly be you-know-who, but she’ll do her homework, show up on time and do the job.

(5) Tracy having published my somewhat edited column last night, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from a dear friend of mine, a gay man whom I know from Musical Theatre,. who happened to read it and was highly approbational. What I was mostly grateful for in Part One of the series is that I got agreement from left-leaning Christians, right-leaning Christians, and unbelievers alike. In this era of division, that’s the kind of thing that thrills me. Hopefully this one will also “fly” — though I had considerably more difficulty with it. Anyway – on to Part Three.

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Gratitude List 1808

(1) Seeing as it is 8 degrees Fahrenheit now, I find things such as meditation and a hot bath very useful in the absence of vigorous outdoor exercise.

(2) Very good singing lesson today.   My student and I both agreed it was very constructive.   I really enjoy the arrangement and only wish I had maybe three or four other students as well.

(3) Spontaneously came up with a fairly decent podcast that seems relevant to basic stuff that’s happening, here there and everywhere.

(4) Christmas was peaceful.  I basically just treated it like any other day, and tried not to think about all the fun other people were having that they probably weren’t having anyway.

(5)  The more I shelter, the more I notice I don’t feel like spending a lot of time online.  There’s something about doing stuff offline that is so much less anxiety-provoking.   Lots of possibilities, anyway, when one has a computer, lives alone, and has ideas.

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‘Cause this is all what I’m cracked up to be

Amid any other consideration, I must say that my eyes have been opened as to the truth about the myth of my old age.

For the second day in a row, I wore my regular comfortable old walking shoes with soles worn out and holes in the tops, and I trudged the surface more comfortably and with less inclination to slip & fall than I ever have in my boots.

I am no longer suffering under the illusion that I’m too done in to further endure the cold weather conditions with the hardiness of my lifelong modus operandi.

I walked all the way to Matt’s place, stopping at Walgreens to pick up my levo, and when the time had come, walked all the way back, hoofing it through intriguing new territory en route.

Brisk four miles of walking, feeling the cold air like a tonic salve on my lungs. Good to be home but even better to have been outdoors!

And to think I thought I was becoming a softie! I’m gonna crack the window.

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Gratitude List 1807

(1) It felt nice to get out for exercise after being “snowed in” for about a week.  It was especially good to feel the cold fresh air getting into my lungs — a welcome reprieve.

(2) Finally created the “big pitch” to be issued to the regular recipients of my irregular newsletter.  Sent it out right at solstice this morning (that is, 7:59am PST) and quickly got a one hundred dollar donation.  So now it says $300 has been donated by 4 donors when you click on the GoFundMe.  Off to a good start.

(3) Finally got all remaining Hyfrydol CDs into the mail.  Hopefully folks will still get them by Christmas.  Also, I got to talk with my friend Danielle twice today while doing errands, which was nice, her being in Georgia.

(4) A little recording made between me and my singing student confirms that my home Howard piano creates a fine sound for vocal accompaniment.  This was only a “practice take” but we can do a more refined take later.  The whole arrangement really blesses me.  

(5) Trudging in the snow, having to be extra careful even in snow boots, and feeling my fingers get all frozen over and having to thaw out over doppio in a downtown cafe, has made me very grateful for the nice warm abode in which I have been for several years so pleased to dwell.  Be it ever so humble, this is it.  

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Gratitude List 1806

(1) I turned in Part Two of my series The State of Christendom in Contemporary American Culture to Spokane Faith and Values.

(2) On Saturday, I gathered 2 hours and 40 minutes worth of conversation between me and a formerly homeless person named Benjamin Clewell for a future podcast. Though it will probably take me more than two days to edit it down to size (all things considered), I will still probably have a decent podcast by Wednesday based on Christendom Part Two.

(3) Nice to be inside the nice warm house while the snow is falling down outside my window.

(4) Thanks to enhanced income over the past two and a half months, I have paid all my back bills as well as all this month’s current ones, and am stocked up with enough food for more than a month.

(5) Karlie Smith has learned the five new songs I wrote, and also has agreed to sing on the Oracle Production Project, which is my present day baby. Am in the process of contracting other reputable people, including a bassist, guitarist and drummer of some repute. It’s all in the early planning stages – but we can make it work.

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Piano Update (Feed the Birds)

I’m so wacky from a sudden PTSD onslaught I only slept two hours I was so triggered. I’m under quarantine and trying to figure out how to set up the tripod. If I can get some sleep, I’ll feed the birds on my home Howard piano, assuming I figure out the tripod, which procedure is grossly inhibited by the severity of my ADHD. Ah – were it not for mental health diagnoses, where would we be? Catch y’all soon.

The Leprosy of Homelessness

“The Leprosy of Homelessness” was first posted to my online diary on July 14, 2016.  I believe nine “followers” had access to these words.

As you may recall, on July 17, 2016, I fell to my knees, sick with a flu and suffering outside, and screamed to the heavens that Somebody would put a stop to all this homelessness. On July 27, 2016, I stepped off the bus in the city where I was born, a city where I’d not been for 63 years. On September 1, 2016, I signed a one-year-lease on my first apartment here.

I unearthed “The Leprosy of Homelessness” two days ago, while searching for the address of a guy named Barry who had me stay with him throughout December of 2010. I wanted to find it so I can pay off a $40 debt that’s been nagging at me.

I’m incredibly sick with this awful flu, more so than even at the start. I’m outside in the elements. I’m sick with a flu. Don’t people get it? They ask me things like: “If you’re homeless, how come you have a laptop?” As though a homeless person couldn’t own a laptop.

They ask me where I’m sending these messages from if I’m homeless? I tell them I’m sitting outside the Burlingame Public Library shivering with my laptop plugged into their outdoor power outlet.  But they don’t believe me.

People always act like I’m trying to pull of some kind of scam — just because I’m homeless, or else the scam is that I am homeless — if like say, they know me from the Internet, and they think I’m “too intelligent to be homeless.”  They further suspect me of being a liar, a scammer, a hustler, a criminal, and a crook.  But why? Can people not believe that my situation is as critical as it is??

I petitioned everyone on my Facebook friends list to let me in for a few days, so I can recover. But of course nobody will let me in. I got kicked of the homeless shelter where I caught it, because they figured I would spread it. The hospital wouldn’t let me in. They said if they let me in, they’d have to let “all of us” in. I got kicked off the night bus because it was obvious I was sick–and I get it.  I might contaminate somebody.  But I’m only trying to stay alive — why am I getting all this suspicion and distrust? Or worse yet, indifference?

It reminds me of that scene in New York where something like fifty-one people watched a guy get stabbed to death and nobody wanted to get involved. It was a big news story when I was a kid. Or even in Berkeley a couple years ago, where that guy beat this guy to death with a tire iron for asking him for a cigarette. People stood by and watched, and I remember somebody shouted: “Somebody with a gun, shoot that guy!” But whoever might have had a gun (who knows?) nobody brought it out, nobody shot the guy. Everybody just watched as he beat the guy to death before the police came.

You guys have been following me here.  You’re all in my corner.  We’re all cool.  But say if I were to post it on my Facebook (which I just might), people are  probably only going to say: “Aw, come on, Andy! Get a grip!” But that’s because they don’t know. They can’t imagine. I put all these words together, in an effort to get people to picture what it’s like down here, but usually the only response is: “I can’t imagine what it must be like.”

I become infuriated. I want to say: “Did you even read a single word I wrote? Are my writing skills and my communication skills so God-awfully bad that after I go out of my way to describe what it’s like, all you can say is “I can’t imagine what it must be like?” It’s damned insulting! If someone’s not interested in what it’s like down here, why don’t they just say so? Or else, don’t follow me, for God’s sake.

When a number of my acquaintances died on the streets of Berkeley a while back, I would write to my brother and my remaining friends in the Mainstream trying to demonstrate how somebody would not have died had they been inside, or had they even had a dollar or two to ride all night on one of those buses. First off, people have a hard time figuring out why we have trouble coming up with a dollar or two, or why a couple bucks is going to make such a huge difference in a homeless person’s life. But I watched Darlene die overnight. She didn’t need to die! Two bucks would have saved Darlene’s life.

I told my friends about it. They offered condolences, and their condolences were accepted. But this was not about receiving condolences. I hardly knew her. I hardly knew Tom, or Jimmy, or any of them. I only know that they were outside trying to deal with medical conditions that are best dealt with inside, and that they died. I was trying to illustrate how in one guy’s case, three bucks would have spared his life. But people don’t want to hear that. They only want to shrug it off with a superficial condolence: “I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your friend.” Unless the person was of crucial closeness to them, they don’t really care how they died. And me? I care – because I’m one of them. I care – because I’m trying to get a point across.

We are a nation that has become plagued with the Leprosy of Homelessness. And it is entirely unnecessary! Services, Shelters – they will not solve the problem. They do not address the core heart of the issue. They only keep a person bound in the shame and stigma of a conspicuously visible condition that nobody wants to look at. Why? Is it because they know inwardly how soon it could happen to them? They, after all, are human too – like us. Or are we human? Do we need to be dehumanized in order for our separation from the rest of humanity to be complete? If that’s what it is going to take to ease the conscience of the Mainstream, I guarantee you, that’s what’s going to happen.

It happened in Nazi Germany. Don’t think it can’t happen here.

So I used one of the H-words and both of the S-words.  “Homeless, Shelter & Services” have come out of my mouth, but not “Housing.”  I shoot myself in the foot every time I use these “buzz words.”  A “real human being” doesn’t seek “shelter” — he seeks a “place to live” for God’s sake!  But what does it matter now? In the light of possible death, what does my recently accelerated search for dignified indoor dwelling mean now? Not much. God will provide me the dignified internal dwelling space that I need. And outside will be dogs, and adulterers, and idolaters, and every person who loves the lie more than the the truth – because their deeds are evil. — (And that’s Revelation 22:15 in case you suddenly thought I was a great poet.)  Do you want to be that kind of person? Do you want to be outside the gates of the City of God?

Probably not, if you really were to stop to think about it. I know I wouldn’t want to be excluded among everybody who loved and practiced falsehood. That’s why I’m so adamant about getting a truth across, a truth that in this society, as concerned as we are with liberty and justice for all, most of us have not really paused to consider. I know I didn’t, before I was thrust into first-time homelessness back in 2004.

So consider these words of truth. These are not the rantings of a political radical with an aggressive agenda. They are the best words I can think of to describe a reality that affects me and my homeless brothers and sisters every single day of our lives. How many times has it been been pouring rain in a thunderstorm, and a single dollar got me into McDonald’s for a senior cup of coffee, to get out of the rain? Lots of times. How do I get that dollar? Well, some people called “hustlers” don’t have too hard a time running up to every Tom, Dick, and Harry saying “Spare some change? Spare a dollar? Spare a dollar? Spare some change!” But can you imagine me doing something like that? I sure hope you can’t. I can’t. And I’ve been homeless for the better part of twelve years.

Homeless – for the better part of twelve years. How many times have I had the flu in those twelve years?Exactly twice. Like I said, God bless her, the first time my friend D. was able to take seven hundred bucks off of her credit card – I didn’t even ask for it, God bless her – and that got me a hotel room for a couple weeks. When I got my check at the top of the next month, I sent her the seven hundred dollars back. That was a totally positive, one-time huge favor that she did for somebody she cared about. She can’t do it right now. Why?

For one thing, she has to take care of her mom and her brother, and have them in her house, crowded though it might have been, because they were in some kind of straits, and I don’t want to go into the personal financial details of a friend of mine, but suffice it to say she helped them out at a time when they needed to be let indoors. And this, she did while six months pregnant with her first child.

I also know for a fact that George would let me in if he didn’t have his nephew and his sister over their right now, and his wife hadn’t have broken her leg, because that’s just the type of guy he is. Hell, D would probably buy me a house if she had the money. One time when I needed to eat, George and his wife went out of their way to meet me at a Burger King near a motel I had put money down on, and make sure I ate, and make sure I had some cash. I told D about this, and she immediately quoted the Proverb: “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

That’s for sure. I don’t want to talk about my brother– and you don’t want to ask about him. I love my brother and he loves me — and let’s leave it at that. We just don’t see things the same way. He’s helped me when he could help, and I have appreciated it. But that help stops at the border marked by his front door. Now let me reiterate: I have been homeless throughout most of the last twelve years. In that period of time, exactly five people have let me so much as walk through their front doors, at a time while I was homeless. George was one of them. This guy Barry was another.  And a stranger wants had me over for spaghetti and a shower.  And Howard let me house-sit.  And then there was Art.

And Barry – I don’t even know this man very well. I remember he and his wife were extremely cordial and accommodating. I got a lot of music written. There was some issue about my “panic attacks” but it wasn’t so bad, if I recall. Later, however, Carol had to take care of her granddaughter – so my staying over there wasn’t an option. But when it was an option, what a wonderful period it was in my life! I got so much music written. Why? Because somebody let me in, at a time when I was not able to get myself “in” – by myself. It’s that simple.

But year after year goes by, day after day. The times I’ve even been let inside somebody’s car now amount to exactly twice. The people who have let me in their cars are Paul and Cary. It might have been Paul’s girlfriend’s car, but the point is WOW! Somebody actually trusted a homeless person to sit in the back seat of their car!! I felt LOVED. Loved! You can’t imagine what it feels like to step inside somebody’s house, and feel the sense of home – the sense of protection, the sense of warmth – the sense of LOVE!!

The feeling of stepping into a MacDonald’s in the rain, of getting that single dollar – believe me, I might not feel loved by the person who let me have a dollar, but I feel loved by God when that kind of thing happens. He will not chasten me forever. He will, in the end, be merciful. And God will always, always let me in. All I need do, is knock.

Knock – and He will open. Ask – and He will answer. Seek – and He will be found. And I will seek Him! And I will find Him — in the day when I seek Him with all of my heart.

I recently reconnected with my old friend Sara, a Christian musician. I was chatting with her last night, pondering if I should remove my previous post on the matter, wondering if it was too strident, if I ought to have been more mellow, if I ought to have been less dramatic, perhaps, and most importantly, if I risked laying a guilt trip on everybody.

She instantly said: “Leave it.”

I asked her: “Why?”

She said: “You spoke from your heart. You’ve told them – the hospital does not have beds reserved for illnesses that are readily dealt with in people’s homes. You don’t have a home. Your only recourse is for somebody to let you in – or else for you to get a motel room, which costs money you don’t have. So why aren’t they letting you in? Leave it! They should feel guilty.”

Be that as it may. If my brother were to call me up, and he had lost everything, and he was out on the streets, and he asked me to please let him stay over for a few days, there would be no guilt left for me, but only the joy of being able to say: “Steve, you’re my brother, I’ll get the coffee on, you get over here right now!

Why someone would prefer guilt to that simple surrender of love that lets their own family back in their house, is beyond me. But maybe someone has something to hide. That’s the condemnation, right? The guilt Jesus talks about in the third chapter of the Gospel of John. “And this is the condemnation: the people loved darkness more than light, because their deeds were evil.”

Evil? Am I the one who called you evil? If you’re evil, then I am evil as well. Compared to GOD, we’re ALL evil! So you don’t want me to see the messy kitchen. So maybe you watch porn and you don’t want anyone to know about it. Am I going to go about snitching you out in light of you having done something so huge as to have been the sixth person in twelve years to let me inside your front door??

Or is it me? Do I smell? That Mexican gal on the train sure didn’t seem to mind. Am I a space case? Will I rant and rave and talk your ear off? You can stick a rubber ball in my mouth for all I care. Will I space something out? Leave a towel on the bathroom floor? Leave the broiler oven on all night? Probably – but really – is the just punishment for being the Absent-Minded Professor — HOMELESSNESS???

Do I have anything to hide? I daresay I do not! I knock – and He is opening. I ask – and He is answering. I seek – and He is found. For I have sought Him, and I have found Him, in the day when I will have sought Him with my whole heart.

That day – is today.

Let me in. If you don’t, He will.

I have nothing to lose.

Andy Pope
Burlingame, CA
July 14, 2015

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Gratitude List 1805

(1) The two people with whom I’ve had the closest contact since summer have both tested positive for Covid-19, two days apart. Thankfully, each of them is young, they both work out, and neither of them has pre-existing physical health conditions. Also, I’m relatively low risk because it had been a while since I’d seen them. Still, this was a wake-up, causing me to realize how much time I’ve been spending in high-stress environments full of Covid Confusion. I’d forgotten how much sheltering in place agrees with me. Now I remember, and I’m glad.

(2) The pastor of the new church gave me a downstairs office where I can prepare for the service in quietude. I’ll let her know on Saturday (when I get my Covid test results) if I’ll be able to use it this Sunday. Grateful for her caring, and for the knowledge that she’ll keep me on payroll even if I test positive and can’t show up for a while.

(3) Finished the 4th draft of Part Two of my critique of contemporary American Christianity. Submitted it to Dr Kurt Q for proofing and will submit it to Spokane Faith and Values thereafter.

(4) The bio and synopsis pages on this website have been considerably corrected! An old friend wrote the bio, and someone named Anonymous wrote a very eloquent A-Z synopsis, revealing the complete story line of Eden in Babylon. Web site now includes all materials needed for anyone to produce the show, shy of guitar chords.

(5) Thankful for the good friends I have made in this life, and for the ever-increasing friendship I’ve been forming with my 36 year old daughter. Life can be sweet, and even its trials can be used to enhance the depths of joy that lay dormant within our spirits.

“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
— Albert Einstein

Dark Holly

“Dark Holly” is a medley of various themes sacred & secular, based on the French version of the Christmas carol “The Holly and the Ivy.” This is not to be confused with the more well-known English version, which is in a major key. The French version is in a minor key — and my version is even darker.  I’ll try to lighten things up next week with maybe “Sleigh Ride” or something along brighter lines.   Enjoy —

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Gratitude List 1804

(1) After an unusually stressful day yesterday, I came home and decided to shelter in place till Thursday. It seems a nice time to read & reflect, maybe write a little, listen to music, play the piano — and only go out for exercise. It’s interesting that it feels like I’m “on vacation” in my own place of residence! Grateful for the solitude; grateful for the leisure.

(2) On a similar note, I’m grateful for Zoom meetings.   I only have two Zoom commitments in the next three days, but neither of these people could care less if I showed up in my bathrobe.  Grateful not to have to go through a totally stressful process in order to arrive somewhere on time.  I really don’t miss searching for my keys, my wallet, my glasses, my mask, my iPhone, and whatever else I need, putting down one thing unconsciously somewhere while picking up the other, and worrying all the time that I’m going to be twenty minutes late because of it.   With Zoom, a cup of coffee, and a couple clicks of a mouse, we’re rollin.’

(3) Grateful for running and for the role it has played throughout my life.   Did two miles yesterday charging up the hill and feeling quite chipper.

(4) Although I lost the beanie I have worn every day for nearly four years now, and although it is nowhere to be found, and although it felt really strange to go through two church services and a Choir rehearsal in my fedora, I am very grateful to have run into a certain Math professor who, feeling my plight, responded by gifting me with his beanie.   Grateful for this wonderful little college town and all the nice people whom I have met here.

(5) Speaking of loss, I may have overreacted recently in interpreting a certain person’s professional declining to complete a project “at this time” as a “loss.”  Something in the wording sounded like they never wanted to see me again.   Later, I found that I was reading too much into their words — due to my own abandonment issues.   Anything is possible.   Though this particular project has been suspended, there may be a project in the foreseeable future wherein they & I just happen to come together again.   And that may be sooner than we think.

It is nice to be valued.   But it’s even nicer to value someone.   I’m very grateful for the beautiful artistic experience that this very impressive person has brought to my life.

“It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything.”
Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club.”

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Piano Update — “Get Together”

I made it over to the Baldwin Grand yesterday and played a version of the song “Get Together” by Dino Valenti.  You may know it.   It’s a 60’s tune popularized by the Youngbloods.  It has lyrics such as these:

Come on people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love on another
Right now!

Certainly a fitting theme for the present day.   To look at social media posts, one would think we’re all intent on doing the exact opposite — and hating one another.   

I myself found myself in a PTSD flashback for the first time in several months yesterday.    As the details were amplified, I found myself hating an entire social group, to which many of my friends belong.   This amounts to nothing more than stigma and prejudice, which I decry.   So while it hurts my heart to have found myself entertaining stigmatic perceptions that I abhor, it does evidence the fact that we are all human.  We are all — as the song goes — “but a moment’s sunlight fading in the grass.”

Interesting that in this account of the song’s history, those lyrics are referenced as “Zen-like.”  Perhaps so, but it’s sad that these are direct allusions to Christian views of the human condition that were widespread back in those days, and associated with what used to be known as “Christian Love.”

As we all know, Christianity these days is less associated in the common populace with love, and more associated with judgment.   Maybe the tides need to turn, yet again.   

Anyway I have to take care of some personal needs and I’ll have the song uploaded later on this afternoon.   Thanks for listening.  

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Gratitude List 1803

(1) This is the year that my best friend and I reconciled after not talking with each other for eight years.

(2) This is the year when I finally realized that the Latah Recovery Center is a very positive place for me to be.

(3) As of the beginning of this month, I have paid my rent on time for four years, in an ideal one bedroom apartment in an out-of-the-way location. For the first time in many years — 22 to be exact — I have had my own place and my own space.

(4) Last year and this year, I have had the opportunity to use skills that I have missed using, and I have been surrounded by a group of young people who admire me for those skills — and more. A church also let me use their rehearsal space and piano free of charge for this project, and continue to allow me to play an outstanding Baldwin GP-190 concert grand most every Friday to make my YouTubes.

(5) This year I got a job playing piano at a small church. Not only that, but my local reputation was good enough that they hired me over the phone without asking for references. I’m about to fulfill my 9th week there and get my second month paycheck.

(6) Thanks to a guy named Cody, I have seen two live musicals and now an amazing musical movie — Les Miserables — in the past month.

(7) This is the year when enough people believed in a certain project of mine that they collectively donated $1500 in an 11 day period in order to help me finance a summer workshop.

(8) I have a wonderful 36 year old daughter with whom I am forming a meaningful lifelong friendship.

(9) For 14 years now, I have had an intelligent, compassionate Christian friend named Danielle, and I don’t know where I would be without her.

(10) Somebody gave me a great coffeemaker when I needed one. With it I have made the current cup of coffee with which I am revving up to do the four mile run I have done every Thursday since 1976 except for the three years when I was fat and a handful of other scattered odd years. And God gave me perfect running weather on this day. Makes me wonder who much I can possibly give Him in return. Happy Thanksgiving.

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Gratitude List 1802

(1) Z’s singing lesson went well again & we also had a great conversation. I felt this rush of gratitude as soon as I started playing my standard vocal warm-ups. This is especially heartwarming considering that five or six years ago, I was fairly convinced I would never be able to use those skills again.

(2) Heard from Keva whose show has closed now so we can get back to the album. For those of you have already bought it, we may be doing touch-ups on a couple of the earlier five tunes, as we gradually put the next five together. Grateful for Keva’s professionalism.

(3) Thankful for my gig at the nursing home, where I met a really interesting pastor / long distance runner who just agreed to have lunch with me next week.

(4) Check it out: Over 4500 views on “An Affair to Remember.” I even got a couple of downvotes! I must be moving up in the world. :)

(5) Shivering last night, I grabbed a second blanket and suddenly felt the same gratitude I used to feel when I needed another blanket when I was shivering outdoors. I always said “Thank you Lord” as soon as the second blanket made the shivers stop — and I said those words last night as well. Nothing like feeling God’s got you covered! (Let that sink in.)

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Rent

The ol’ bones are movin’ a bit slow this morning. Rainin’ cats & dogs too. Okay so what am I excusing myself over? Well – I missed it last week & really want to get down to the grand piano and do a version of “All You Need is Love.”

Give me a little time to figure out a way down to the church. In the meantime you can read these thoughts I jotted down in my personal journal last night before bedtime.

Rent at Eastern

Being as I can count on two hands the number of times I’ve stepped away from the Palouse Empire in five years, it sure felt nice to get out of town for the evening. Just got back.

We were running a little late and got there just as the show was starting. They weren’t reserved seats — it was self-seating after proof of purchase. The only two seats left together were in the front row right by the (stage right) orchestra.

Quick rundown. Production was great, artistic direction was great, most actors were very good, vocal direction outstanding. Neither Cody nor I had ever seen the show before. He was displeased on the basis of perceiving the show to lack a solid plot line or sympathetic characters (the latter of which is debatable. Lack of a solid plot line may have been intentional, but the “wrapped up” ending makes me wish [a certain company] had gone ahead and produced The Burden of Eden, because one of the three reasons why they said they didn’t was because the ending was ‘wrapped up.’ Maybe I should have pointed out their hypocrisy when they produced RENT – but you know, I’m a nobody. It would have been like pointing out the “hypocrisy” of — (edit: TMI).

I didn’t like the first Act music very much. Also, this modern treatment of musical theatre, making it somewhat more like an opera (with limited spoken dialogue and lots of sung dialogue), is something it always takes me a while to get used to. It wasn’t till Act 2 that I could really appreciate the flow of it (and as Cody pointed out, the music in Act 2 seemed better too.) Once I got adjusted to it, it got better and became more appreciable.

I see how several musicals I’ve seen in recent years have followed this pattern: Sideshow was like that, and Sunset Blvd, and now Rent. It does make my work appear to be very old-fashioned, at least in structure, if not in content.

Cast was full of very strong singers, everyone with an individual body mike. Two of these singers were exceptional, those being Keva and the woman opposite her, whose name I don’t recall. Strong black woman, super voice, hit a high C & did not screech.

I turned to Cody and whispered: “Judge Jimson, Eden in Babylon.” We talked about it after the show and he concurred.

Cody commented that Keva’s performance was all-round the best performance of the show, though he copped to being biased.

I replied that even if I hadn’t have been biased, I’d have dubbed her the best performance. She was phenomenal. Singing-wise I heard some notes and turns of phrase that, in my experience, only Keva Shull can pull off effectively. And that Acting is nothing to shake a stick at. Keva’s primary artistic identification is “Musician” but the subtlety of her Acting skills is something she may not have fully recognized. I just wish we could somehow get EIB up in time for Kev to actually be Taura before she becomes too old to play a female character who is specifically written to be 18 years old exactly.

I’m trying to remember if there was ever a time in my life, maybe on one of my better MD gigs, when there were enough great singers to choose from, whenever I had some kind of musical project going on. I don’t think so – maybe back in the 80’s when I was MD of UC Davis Student Musical Theatre — yeah it seems I wasn’t hurting for female voices back then. But it also seems to me that this time in life is unique.

Maybe EIB being “different” – and this era being different — the production of it will be mounted from a radically different approach. Something tells me that’s the best bet. I just have to really reflect on how to go about it, and how to keep people on board.

Or maybe there will a magic moment when Kelsey or somebody finds a theatre in Portland or somewhere that she just happens to describe the show to, and they just happen to be interested — and a bunch of other things just “happen.”

God can make it all happen, if He wants to. I just have to seek Him. He can do it, where I can’t.

Space was pretty cool, we were up close of course, but it was proscenium and pretty cozy. I do love the way that “Seasons of Love” figures throughout Act Two.

About the five remaining songs for the album, I agreed with Keva just to leave her with the four of them and let her choose the fifth when we wax, which now looks like Winter break. We’re going to try and see Cody in Jane Eyre at that time.

Had a lot of weird new thoughts about myself and all the strange little things I keep doing wrong, or doing period — stuff I just need to chuck. Somehow it comes clear to me during a rare trip out of town, and somehow it becomes vague again as soon as I get behind my computer.

Well – it was a beautiful night. I’ll probably be back in the morning.

10:27 p.m. – 2021-11-18

Gratitude List 1801

(1) We’ve been getting a lot of good rain lately.

(2) Definitely been living a bit more comfortably this month, having the additional income from the church.

(3) Though Kurt and I only had a half hour to meet yesterday on Zoom, it was a strong meeting, and I felt enthused afterwards.  Mostly talked about the introduction and first chapter of Ashley Peterson’s new book, A Brief History of Stigma.  (He hadn’t read it, but I had.)  I related mainly how stigma is employed by dominant class groups and also how it is produced through the social construction of reality.  I’d thought such things before but had not seen them presented in such a scholarly way until now.  Kurt was able to enlighten me somewhat as to why that might be.

(4) I’ve been decidedly spending much more time outdoors than usual–despite changes in the weather (or in a way, because of them.)  If it’s not raining, I better just get out there and experience it.  It’s a great antidote to the gnawing sense of stagnation that often strikes after spending too much time in the house alone.

(5) Cody & I got tickets for this Thursday night to go see Keva in Rent at Eastern Washington University.  This will be a nice change-of-pace, involving a trip out of town (out of State, technically) – and a nice reconnection–not to mention she’s going to be great on those Idina Menzel tunes.  It will be great to see her.

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Gratitude List 1800

(1) I created a new piano album called Hyfrydol (after the Welsh hymn that is included on the album).  My friend Kathy designed the cover, and sales of CDs have been going very well locally.

(2) Received a first paycheck for a month of work at the new church, and my student paid me in cash for two months of lessons last Saturday.  So I’m enjoying a distinctly increased income this month (though at the same time, I’m trying to forget about it, so I don’t fall into the trap of thinking I’m “rich.”)

(3) I finished four of the five new songs for Keva and have sent them to her, piano practice takes — lyric sheets, lead sheets, etc.  Don’t expect to hear from her very soon (as her show is opening on November 17th), but I also have been enjoying getting the tunes out to various instrumentalists and back-up-singer types who may be interested.

(4) Found a complete Hal Leonard “Essential Songs of Broadway” book with piano-vocal arrangements of over 85 classic show tunes.  This will be good to keep around in general, and to work with Zazen in particular.

(5) Good meeting with Kurt yesterday, though I sent him a misleading email capsulizing my new theory, and was not able to complete some essential thoughts during the course of being questioned about it.   This is inspiring an exhaustive email that may later morph into a blog post, column, or bigger.  I do enjoy writing on certain themes, and I am thankful for the leisure I’ve been granted to exercise these gifts.

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