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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Gratitude List 1847

(1) Back in California, the Kids were calling me an “old man” even when I was still in my thirties. Up here in Idaho, none of the Kids call me old even though I am old.

(2) You get some bang for your buck with this LG external CD writer that goes for about $25 at Wal-Mart. You not only can burn but also play your CDs on it. I guess it can also write & play DVD’s as well–a realm I’ve not yet broached–but I believe I can now rent some decent movies for free at the library.

(3) I had been vomiting pretty regularly in the mornings till I learned of this diagnosis. Its been a long time now since I’ve vomited–well over three months, I believe.

(4) I’ve not yet finished selecting the twelve songs for the online album, but I’ve burned a number of CD’s to take to the Farmer’s Market this morning. There are only three of them left this season, and I don’t want to miss any of them. The Farmer’s Market here is a great community event, and it also has two busking stations and a stage for a live band, mostly all booked every Saturday. It’s a great way to connect with people in the community.

(5) With the better weather, I’ve been spending more time in nature again. With the bicycle still broken, I’m getting into a lot of long brisk walking. I walked seven miles yesterday, and throughout had interesting thoughts that I recorded in a voice memo on my iPhone. If I could regain and retain some of the freedoms I knew when I was homeless, without actually becoming homeless again, I bet I would live an incredibly rich and rewarding life.

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Gratitude List 1846

(1) Though I am not in particularly good spirits this morning, there are plenty of things to remain grateful for–including the sentiment expressed in this sentence.

(2) Homeless at the Piano is being published in the Unitarian Universalists Class Conversations newsletter. Grateful and proud.

(3) Cooper, Keva & Cody are all being considered for leading roles in the 2023 production of Eden in Babylon at RTOP. Cooper is preparing a singing solo to match this track as we speak.

(4) Bicycle chain is busted again, but I’ve been getting some good runs in, and yesterday even felt pleasant muscle fatigue.

(5) I’m creating a bizarre-looking link that will house twelve piano tunes that are generally thought to be my best. I will either sell it to you or give it to you depending on where we stand. Performance tracks for Eden in Babylon are coming along too, and it’s a beautiful morning on the Palouse.

Don’t be a clown.
Kick it down.

Homeless at the Piano

When I was homeless, I would wake up on a couple pieces of cardboard, sometimes set over dirt. Sometimes I slept on a ramp on the side of a Catholic church. I would wake when the sky was getting light, then wander into a nearby A.A. fellowship. There I would hit the bathroom for a quick clean-up before grabbing a cup of coffee.

Make that three cups. The coffeemaker there was a homeless lady with 30+ years of sobriety in Alcoholics Anonymous. I remember her commenting how I would sit at the meeting and appear to be calmer and calmer, the more coffee I drank.

There was a none-too-pretty picture of the self-serving homeless person, who would come into the Berkeley Fellowship, grab a cup of coffee intended for an A.A. member, and then leave the premises. I did not want to conform to that picture.

So I sat for an hour, listened and occasionally spoke. I heard many wise sayings in that room, from people who had effectively found recovery from alcoholism and drug abuse. Inwardly however, I knew I was mostly in it for the coffee.

There were also a few other ways for me to find a morning cup of coffee. Sometimes I would sleep in an illegal spot on campus near to a Starbucks. I’d have saved a buck and change from the previous night, and then I would get to sit in the Starbucks with a newspaper–almost looking like a “normal” person.

The Men’s Shelter had excellent Peet’s coffee along with oatmeal, eggs, bread, peanut butter and all kinds of morning goodies. This was also an option. But my favorite coffee was the Kirkland Columbian they served at the North Berkeley Senior Center.

And it was only forty cents.

Some mornings, I would get myself to the Senior Center as soon as it opened at eight. On some mornings, I was already coffee’d up from other sources. In that case, I would head straight to one of their pianos.

There were three pianos at the Senior Center. A nice Yamaha console upstairs, a Baldwin/Hamilton clunker in a corner room, and another decent Yamaha in the main auditorium. There, coffee was available, and lunch would be served for three bucks—or free if you were strapped.

But I didn’t want to play in the main auditorium. There were too many people there, and I did not want to disturb them. Often, when I tried to play a piano somewhere—at a church for example—I was told to stop using their piano due to “insurance issues.” I guess the days of playing in U.C. dorms and practice rooms were gone, and I was generally pretty piano-starved throughout my homeless sojourn.

As for the piano upstairs, there was too much interference in the environment. Yoga classes going on, people on exercise bikes, cramped quarters. So I gravitated toward the piano in the corner of the building, which happened to be situated right next to the pool room.

Though it wasn’t the best piano, I certainly got the best reaction I could have hoped for at the time. Usually there were about ten homeless guys shooting pool in the room next door. I could hear them cheering, sometimes after every tune. Sometimes they all appeared outside the door—smiling and clapping, and asking for more. Once one of the guys came into the room and started snapping his fingers beside me, groovin’ on the sounds. (I remember it was during the song “Skylark” by Hoagy Carmichael.)

So I was getting the best of both worlds—a bit of practice and a bit of positive attention. A far cry from the mostly negative attention I was receiving from elsewhere.

But one day, as I approached the room with the piano, I saw a sign on the pool hall:

CLOSED FOR REPAIRS

Disturbed, I approached the lady at the front desk to complain.

“Why’d you close down the pool hall?” I asked Laurie. “Those guys were my only audience!”

“Nothing personal,” she began, “but your friends were getting drunk at eight in the morning, and kinda wreaking damage to the building. We had to kick them out to fix up the place. They can’t be drinking like that on our property.”

“Well,” I retorted, “I didn’t even notice they were drunk! I just thought they were an unusually appreciative audience.”

At that, Laurie didn’t miss a beat.

“Well play out here then!” she suggested, pointing to the main auditorium.

“But if I do that,” I replied, “all you guys will be able to hear me.”

“We WANT to hear you!!” she shouted, as though trying to jolt me out of a delusion.

“Oh,” I said, sorta shuffling in my shoes. “Well, in that case, I guess you can be my audience.”

The sense of identity crisis that went through my head at that moment was quite profound. Why on earth would I only want to play the piano for other homeless people?

I think it was this. I had gotten so used to only being accepted by people who were outside, and being looked down upon by people who lived inside, I couldn’t imagine them doing anything other than to look down on me, even as I played the piano.

After all, my piano playing is not appreciated by all people at all times. Many people like it, but others don’t. Inside me, however, it was seen as something that gave me a sense of value. It separated me from the picture of the burned out homeless person, having lost all incentive, having lost all hope.

I did not want to hear the cries of derision and mockery from people who lived indoors– I heard them too often on the streets, and I had not permitted them to touch my musicianship.

Until now.

For now, I started playing every morning in the main auditorium, and was actually very surprised at the reception. Even a fellow from the Catholic church on whose ramp I slept stopped by, quizzically enjoying the music. Occasionally I received tips from homeless people who hung out all day in the computer room.

It wasn’t long before I was doing a full-on concert at the North Berkeley Senior Center. People filmed me on their smartphones, using those big tripods. I still have footage from the concert, to this day.

I remember it was a momentous occasion. I even delayed an opportunity to rent a room on the Russian River from a Facebook friend-of-a-friend. I remember Jonathan, one of the men who helped run the Senior Center, trying to persuade me to take the room instead. He thought I should have jumped at the chance to grab a rental far away from the scene of my chronic homelessness, on the beautiful Russian River.

“No way!” I told him. “That room can wait!”

Needless to say, I lost the opportunity to get the room due to my unusual set of priorities. I did however show up for the show—in as fine a form as ever. How I enjoyed the discussion, the smiles—all the applause from people in my age group, people who appreciated music just like me, and who just happened to live indoors.

After the last song, which I believe was “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” I was so happy I crossed over to the other side of the auditorium to grab another cup of coffee.

There, I was denied my coffee—for I did not have forty cents.

“Homeless at the Piano”
© 2022 Andy Pope

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Gratitude List 1845

(1) Farmer’s Market is kinda beautiful this morning. Six months a year every Saturday they have it here, with two busking stations and a stage for live band. I notice a phenomenon once again that I noticed when I first moved here six years ago. The smile in this town is not phony, nor does it mean someone wants something from you. The smile here is genuine. When someone says “have a nice day,” they sincerely want you to have a nice day.

(2) Grateful for my MacBook Pro, my music notation software, and my iPhone. Scoring music for the Eden in Babylon performance tracks is bringing back all the joy of working with these amazing programs and devices. Moreover, I find working with music notation software to be therapeutic. Happy to be back at it.

(3) Grateful I was given two strong legs and a good set of lungs. It’s been a long time since I ran that half mile on April 9, 1976 and puked my guts out. 46 years later and the man is still in the running. Grateful I was given a good set of teeth too, while I’m at it. I’ve still got all my natural teeth except for two wisdoms and a molar. Many people who have done the drug I have done have no teeth left at all.

(4) Four years clean from crystal methamphetamine as of October 1. I’d tell the whole world if I didn’t know it would probably lead to relapse. I want to do that drug all the time, just about every day of my life. What keeps me clean is keeping it close to my chest. People who boast about their recoveries are always relapsing, and they put the word “Anonymous” in the name of that program back in 1935 for a good, sound reason.

(5) I’m grateful for my apartment and for the $275 worth of groceries I bought on the 1st of the month. I’m grateful to be living in a peaceful, quiet neighborhood, and I am grateful for the all-night convenience store on the corner. I’ve met many fine Kids who work at that store, and I guarantee you, as fine as they are, half of them would be homeless if they had to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. I myself would be homeless if I were to move back to California. Grateful for my amazing new life.

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Sirens of Hope

You might like this new version of “Sirens of Hope,” the opening number in my musical Eden in Babylon. This is an audio facsimile of a draft of the music notation file I will use for the performance tracks for the Summer 2023 production. The idea is that the sounds replicating the score will eventually be replaced by those played by real human musicians. And of course there will be much singing too.

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Annoyed and Paranoid

Sent this text to a student/friend of mine whose mother might be into witchcraft. Thought it might make an interesting blog post, out of context.

Okay.  I’m paranoid because I identify as a Christian which in this neck of the woods is regarded with enmity by people who practice witchcraft and therefore maybe even your mom.

I learned after a hard experience with a Pagan lady that the Pagans and witches in this area are quite adversarial toward professed Christians. This was not my experience in the Bay Area, where i was often advised I could be a Pagan and a Christian simultaneously.

On rational reflection, since your mom has always appeared to be favorable, I tend to doubt she’s about to go cast a spell against me.  Therefore the paranoia is probably unfounded (except in the case of some previous Pagans, such as that other lady.)

Oddly enough, the Christian thing didn’t really become a public statement till I moved up to Idaho. Down in Berkeley, I was regarded as a Pagan–pentacles, circles, the whole shebang.  The Christian thing there was a function of churches often needing piano players, though it is true that I have embraced an inner spiritual reality. But I have also always enjoyed digesting the teachings of all the many conflicting denominations and cults.

A position as a church pianist was a perfect way to learn of these denominational differences, since I wound up losing jobs with every major denomination. But here I am up in Idaho and writing for a religious news site, somehow having had the effect of dredging up personal beliefs from out of my inner heart of privacy, and making my weird notions known to the masses (albeit largely misunderstood, as stated earlier.)

In my experience, psychologically speaking, paranoia is a product of guilt.  As a guilt-ridden individual, it’s often challenging for me to determine whether I’ve actually done something wrong, or am merely feeling guilt out of a guilty nature.

A religious upbringing during a very staid and repressive decade no doubt contributed to the guilty excess.  However I do feel there is a transcendent spirituality that can be sought and found, and I don’t feel that Christianity, despite its many problems, should be excluded from that realm.

Christ is real. This is a real Spirit with whom people interact and who assists them in their decision making. How that relates to the Christian religion is another story, and would be the substance of an extended conversation.

Odd I would even become paranoid at all, actually. I very often felt paranoia down in California, but very seldom since I’ve moved to Idaho. Last time I was paranoid, I was concerned that a biker might have been out to get me. But that was over a year ago. Now he and I are cool too, thus demonstrating that it was only a paranoid fiction.

So that’s all really.  I’m not paranoid anymore but just kind of annoyed with life, which usually happens at around this time every month before I get paid, three of four days from now. However, I may need to explore what is making me feel guilty.  This seems the most critical matter in terms of psychoanalysis.

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(It’s needed.)

Patreon

I started a Patreon. Somebody told me to, like I might be able to make some money that way, maybe off of my YouTubes.

Speaking of which, I’ll probably head over to the church & record something soon. I may need to borrow an iPhone from someone, probably one of the Kids. But we should get a pretty good sound.

Here’s the link to the Patreon, such as it is, thus far.

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Gratitude List 1844

(1) I amazed myself by teaching all the music in Guys and Dolls to a large cast in a single 15-hour week of evening rehearsals.  I further amazed myself by organizing the week’s rehearsal schedule and (for the most part) sticking to it.  Michael says he’s proud of me, and I must admit I can’t remember the last time when I was either this organized or this focused.  The myth of my old age has once again be debunked.

(2) Though I can’t seem to make a morning cup that’s strong enough (or lasts long enough) I’m grateful for morning coffee and for the good night’s sleep that preceded it.  After last week, my brain literally shut down at 9:30pm last night. The Sabbath on this day has taken on new meaning.

(3) I’ve been both running and riding my bicycle a lot, since I rely primarily on my bike to get to work.  Wednesday I both ran 2 miles in the morning and rode about 11 miles on the bike.  I feel a lot better when I exercise than when I don’t, and I am thankful I’m able to do it.

(4) Work is going so well, as far as my ability to coordinate complex connections in my head while conducting a choral rehearsal, I’ve pretty much let go of my earlier frustrations over not being able to find ADHD meds.  If a thing works, don’t fix it.

(5) There was a time last week when I was internally expressing frustration over always losing my socks. That night, there was an array of crew socks of varying design and color, sitting atop the table where food and hygienic items are usually placed at the Recovery Center. The next morning, I found two of my clean socks in the laundry room on top of the dryer. Grateful for the little ways God cares for me.

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Gratitude List 1843

(1) I’ve been reveling in the simple pleasures of life lately. One of them is the sensation I get if I drink nice cold water while chewing bubblegum. Very pleasant sensation, one I have noted since childhood.

(2) If I’m not mistaken, I believe I have the day off today. Beautiful weather too, though a shade overheated.

(3) On Sunday I agreed to music-direct a production of Guys and Dolls at the RTOP Theatre. Man, that score is fantastic–that Frank Loesser dude knew how to write a good show tune.

(4) Somehow managed to write a 1625 word column on free will for Tracy & send it to Dr Q for proofing, just a few minutes ago.

(5) Got paid yesterday. Whew.

“I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”
— Blaise Pascal

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Gratitude List 1842

(1) Just logged on after running, push-ups & shower. I’m grateful for all three, but I feel especially thankful for the shower at this moment. There have been so many times in my life when, in order to take a shower, either I had to wait in a line for hours, or I had to share a shower with about 15 other guys in a residence hotel, many of them being intravenous drug users. I would often find cigarette butts carelessly tossed on the shower floor. That for five years now I have had my own shower less than 20 feet away from where I sit is not something to be taken for granted.

(2) Similarly, it’s nice to have my own kitchen, food in the fridge & in the cupboard, with positive liquids to be consumed after exercise. Right now I’m having a Gatorade. How many times did they ever serve us Gatorade? Coffee at feeds was awfully good and usually dished out profusely. But I think I must have drunk nothing but coffee & water for many years. Grateful for the option of good nutrition and the power to choose what I will eat, what I won’t, and when.

(3) Moreover, how many times when I was homeless did I have a closet full of clean clothes? And not only clean clothes, but clothes of my own choice? The types of clothing I like to wear? When I get around to making piano vids again, hopefully you will agree, I have a fairly reasonable wardrobe now.

(4) Unfortunately, I learned over the weekend that this thing they call PTSD is not going away. However I can honestly say I am grateful for the insights I have been receiving since the immediate storm has passed. I never realized before yesterday how many of the “triggers” have parallels in the themes engaged in my activism. My writing has taken off since the episode. So in a very weird way, I am grateful I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

(5) The Sound of Music closed yesterday to sold houses, standing ovations, and people being turned away at the door. It was an amazing group effort of total teamwork and trust. Also, may of the values uplifted in this iconic show are such as we could really use in today’s society. Maybe that’s why it sold out. I hope so, anyway. Cast party at 3pm today & looking forward to what’s next.

“It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”
— Babe Ruth

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Gratitude List 1841

(1) Only 6:50 in the morning & I’m already back from my 2.6 mile run. First run in 11 days actually. Legs felt a little wobbly (like they hadn’t been running) but breathing was fine & in fact I got a second wind. Thankful for running & that I can still do it.

(2) Coffee tasted unusually good this morning at around 5:20, even though it was “only” the Folgers Classic Roast from the nearby 24 hour store. Nice to have good tasting coffee to start the day off right, especially after spending the first half hour of the day madly searching the house for my missing levothryoxine.

(3) We’re opening The Sound of Music this Wednesday at the RTOP Theatre. It’s been wonderful to have experienced all the goodness of this particular show, and the whole way it has become a huge team effort, with very little shuffling of egos. In fact it’s been wonderful working at RTOP and knowing the community effort. I really did wind up with a great bunch of people.

(4) 11:50am already, five hours ex post facto. It appears I am already up in Pullman WA and in fact right around the corner from the theatre, at a pleasant cafe where they make me feel most welcome. Prices are pretty good too, and I’m now having an apple juice–(liberating myself from my unconscious “coffee only” policy, for the time being.)

(5) Strikes me as a good thing that here I am in this vibrant new multicultural community this morning, about to explore whatever possibilities may wish to make themselves known. However this transition is to manifest–whether it means a car, or a new place to live, or what-have-you–it won’t manifest if I only sit idly at home all day. Here’s to New Beginnings.

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Gratitude List 1840

(1) Tracy just published my recent commentary on Roe v. Wade as it pertains to the state of Christendom in contemporary American culture, the tense in the final paragraph adjusted accordingly. I’m grateful for Tracy’s warmth in permitting me to express the views I developed while flying a sign for five years on a Berkeley city sidewalk. In am additionally grateful that the Spokane FaVs columnists will now be moving on to a more universal theme (that of “free will.”)

(2) Had an unusually nice 2.6 mile run along the Latah Trail this morning, fortified by a strong cup of Seattle’s Best Portside Blend prior to the jaunt. My legs are stronger from doubling up on my running since the “change of diet,” and I’m feeling vigorous, energized & ready to roll.

(3) Meeting with Kelsey Chapman this morning, the woman who did acting coaching for the Kids during the pandemic-driven workshop of Eden in Babylon. She’s recovered from Covid and is passing through town from Portland, Oregon on her way to visit her dad. It will be great to see Kelsey again, and I’m very thankful for her many years of devotion to my project.

(4) Thanking the quasi-anonymous donor from a somewhat different faith dimension who has not once, but twice, contributed to my well-being. You know who you are (and so do I) and thank you.

(5) I’m continuously grateful to be doing musical theatre with a bunch of great people on the team of the RTOP Theatre. For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.

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Viewpoint

I keep forgetting that I don’t want to publish my unconventional views on controversial subjects here. I’m getting my musical produced and I don’t need the heat. Tracy will publish that column eventually. If you want to see an expansion that may clarify my position, my articles No. 3 & 4 on the current state of Christendom in America will probably round it all out.

My views are based entirely on logic, the lessons of history, biblical research and prayer. I am also not the only person who holds such views. But I am so tired of the controversy. The solutions to our nation’s ills are found neither in the Christian Right nor the Christian Left but in God Himself. I pray America will turn to Him, as never before, en masse.

Gratitude List 1839

(1) Ran a really flowing four miles Friday night after midnight. Not a soul was in sight on campus and the temperatures had cooled to make it bearable. Thankful for what running can often effect in a person’s overall body/mind, and thankful I still have it in me.

(2) Couldn’t find my levothyroxine over the weekend and skipped three mornings in a row. Mercifully, though my insurance wouldn’t cover a replacement, they replaced it for only $5 on a sliding scale for poor people. (It would have been $3.70 with the insurance anyway, so it wasn’t a big difference.) Now if I find the others, I guess I’ll have five months worth on hand.

(3) Noticed I was irritable this morning, and I could feel the bags under my eyes. Thankfully, they let me fall asleep at my table at the cafe here, conveniently tucked away at a corner, with two walls I can lean on whilst I crash. When I awoke, it was like starting the day anew. I no longer felt the bags under my eyes, and the annoyances of the morning had faded into the past. Thankful for new beginnings.

(4) They’re going to come get me sometime between now and 5pm and take me up to RTOP. I’m glad. Having four sudden days off in a row didn’t sit well with me (though they don’t need to know that).

(5) When I was looking for my levo, I was reminded of the song “Levon” by Elton John. Hadn’t thought about it for years, but went to the piano and it came out pretty well. Still haven’t found the levo–but at least I found Levon.

The times are lean. Please help if you can.

Gratitude List 1838

(1) They gave me a night off last night, which really helped.  I was first asleep at 7:30, awoke at 10pm, then slept from midnight till 6:30 in the morning.   Ran 2 1/2 miles at 8am, barely beating the heat.  Thankful for good rest, good exercise, and good spirits.

(2) I’ve discovered a great thrift store in the area.  It’s a lot closer than Goodwill and much better stocked.  It’s the Hope Center.  I got nice pants, T-shirt, and button-down long sleeve for only $21 the other day.  Eager to go there when I have a paycheck and time on my hands, and procure a variety of appealing garments, at last.

(3) The D below Middle C has been fixed on the Baldwin Grand, so I’ll be able to head over to the church and record a piano piece pretty soon. (Will aim to post it tomorrow morning.)

(4) Tracy adjusted my byline for the publication in Spokane to include the information that Eden in Babylon has been sold to RTOP.   My About Page has also been duly adjusted.  But mostly I am relieved and grateful to have finally encountered professional musical theatre people who recognize me as a professional musical theatre person.  Thankful for the RTOP Theatre.

(5) Looks like I’m all set up in an air-conditioned cafe to start working on my columns. Looking forward to a gentle day preceding an exhilarating sing-thru of all songs with dance and movement, marking the halfway point of our four week rehearsal for The Sound of Music.  Things certainly could be–and have been–a lot worse.

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A little goes a long, long way.

Christendom Four and General News

Tracy went ahead and ran Christendom Four today. Many thanks to those who have helped me towards ad removal.

I’m faring fairly well this morning, though moving a bit slow after a brisk 24 mile bike ride yesterday. I made a list of things I have to accomplish from home in the next two days–all good stuff, including a music rehearsal schedule for The Sound of Music, a newly revised version of the Eden in Babylon libretto based on decisions made on Sunday, my monthly column for Street Spirit News, and three new songs on the Baldwin Grand so’s to release a new album of piano songs to the likely suspects.

I will at some point need to alter my home page, since all arrangements involving the production of my musical are essentially wrapped up in my relationship with the Regional Theatre of the Palouse. The reading and sing-thru held Sunday the 26th was the first of four or five we will conduct between now and May, while I’m also working on Guys and Dolls and South Pacific for them. After the season closes with South Pacific in April, we release the “package” in May–all materials needed to produce the show economically in a house of any size. This will include a fully recorded instrumental track of the entire score, to be used to accompany the singers while they are performing.

This all leads up to a production of Eden in Babylon at RTOP in Summer 2023. There was an unusually nice turnout for the reading on Sunday, and we hope that throughout the next year, more word will gradually get out, and chances of a high audience attendance will increase. All of this is of course if the Lord wills — but these guys seem to know what they’re doing. The producer and I are conceptually in sync, and it’s been a relief to let other people handle all the administrative details that have never been my forte.

Meanwhile, WordPress is still on the back burner. They’re hitting me for the domain name now too. I knew it was coming, but I’m not sure having a “domain name” is high on the list of life-priorties now. Putting it into perspective, if one considers that “seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” is one’s top priority in life, I would think that “domain name” falls fairly low on that roster.

I’ll be back again when I’m back, probably with those three piano songs. Thank you all once again for your support —

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Tuesday Tuneup 117

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater certainty.

Q. About what are you uncertain?

A. I still don’t know if I should stay here in Idaho or move closer to my job 12 miles down the road in Washington.

Q. Is it that hard to consistently get to a place only 12 miles away?

A. Let’s put it this way.   It’s so hard, that it becomes very frustrating when I am expressing my reservations, and people reply with ideas about what I “should” be reserved about instead.

Q. Why would they tell you what you “should” be reserved about?

A. Frankly, it’s because they all have cars, and they don’t empathize with the difficulties one has when one does not.

Q. Do you think it’s a class issue?

A. No.  It’s just that people identify most easily with situations that are akin to their present-day experience.

Q. Do you need for these people to identify with your situations?

A. No, no really.

Q. Do you need their empathy?

A. I’ll survive without it.

Q. Then what’s the problem?

A. The problem is that I’ve got a job I love in a city that I cannot consistently get to.  I can ride my bicycle, weather permitting.  How often is weather permitting?  Lately, less than half the time.  Then I’m forced to bum a ride off of someone,  unless I want to spend $30 on a round trip bus ticket.

Q. So why not get a car?

A. That’s what the other singing teacher asked me.  “How come you don’t drive?” she said.  And what was I supposed to say?

Q. Well why don’t you drive?

A. Because I don’t have a car!

Q. You mean, you can drive?

A. Last I checked, I could.

Q. Then why not buy a car?

A. I can’t afford a car.

Q. Did you tell that to the other singing teacher?

A. No–I was too embarrassed to admit it.   Also, it might have seemed crass.

Q. Don’t cars cost a lot of money?  Upkeep and all that?  Aren’t you merely one of many people who choose not to drive?

A. All that is true, yes.  But at some point one has to take a risk.  You know–make an investment.   Decide that if one has a car, one’s options will be so greatly increased, one will probably start making even more money than one is now, and then one can afford the car.  Not to mention, one will be able to see Seattle before one dies.  And Portland.  And maybe even cities further away.  How often have I been outside of the immediate neighborhood in the past six years? Not very often.

Q. Are you jealous of people who have cars?

A. No.

Q. Are you sure?

A. Yes.

Q. I sense an incomplete response.

A. Jealousy is not the word.  I’m frustrated with the statements that people make when they own automobiles and I don’t.   They underestimate the extent to which my transportation issues have reduced the scope of my being.

Q. What do you mean?

A. They don’t see transportation as being the main obstacle, because it isn’t their main obstacle.  So I feel disbelieved.  I sense they think I’m making a big deal over something fairly minor.

Q. Well, you are making a big deal out of it, aren’t you?

A. Right now I am, sure.  But that’s because it’s on my mind.

Q. If it’s on your mind talking to me, don’t you think it would be on your mind talking to them?  Don’t you think you might be talking too much about it –with them?

Pause.

A. You have a point.   Why should I make my problem their problem?

Q. Exactly.  They don’t care how you get to work, as long as you get there.

Pause.

A. I’m really having a hard time getting there.  That’s why I’m looking for an apartment closer to work.

Q. Any luck?

A. Maybe.   I was rigorously honest in my application.  I had tell them I had filed for bankruptcy at one point.  I had to tell them I haven’t always gotten my complete deposit back.   And like I said, I have no credit rating that anyone can access.  Haven’t used a credit card for almost twenty years now.

They do seem to like me though.  I guess I can just tell them, I prefer a simple life.  No car, no credit card, job close to home, home close to job.   And running trails and bike trails abounding!

Just think–no more “junk miles.”  No more having to walk and bike huge distances just for transportation.

I’ll actually get into shape.  I won’t be fat anymore.   I’ll settle down, no more stress from moving to another town, another State–and I’ll be closer to Spokane–and Seattle-and Vancouver.  I can keep moving further and further North, so in the event that POTUS 45 should become POTUS 47, I will have make the Great Getaway.

And then — I can expatriate.  This will no longer be the America to whose flag I once pledged sincere allegiance.   By that time, I will have written three books, two new musicals, and—

Q. And isn’t all that a lot better than stressing over why you don’t have a car?

A. Indeed it is.  But there’s just one thing . . .

Q. What’s that?

A. I am the only person I know, of anyone with whom I associate in real life who does not have a car.   One of the Professors I hang out with even has a Tesla.   And don’t you think the thought has crossed my mind that–

Q. That what?

A. With the money he spent buying that Tesla, he could have bought two cars half as dazzling–and given one of them to me.

Q. And if he had done so?

A. I would be beholden to him, for the rest of my days.

Q. We wouldn’t want that, would we?

A. No we wouldn’t.

Q. What do you conclude?

A. I conclude I should nail that apartment in Washington State–or one like it–and continue to live a life free of debt, free of credit, and free of automotive anxieties–in another town.

Q. What will you bring to this new town?

A. I will bring–myself.  Just as I am today!  Unaltered, except geographically.

Q. Have we solved your problem?

A. Almost.

Q. What remains?

A. I gotta land that pad, man!

Q. When will you know?

A. Soon.

The Questioner is silent.  

Ode to Song

This gig was extremely impromptu. I learned it was happening less than an hour before I showed. I have no idea why this song was going through my head.  I wrote  in the early 80’s because I remember where I was living at the time, in a trailer court.  Corrected lyrics are below the vid. Hope it works for you.

Since times I’ve been seeing
Your face in the town
I’ve been like the lonely
Who chase you around
I’ll run till I find you
Or sit still and long
For the moment till when I am bound
To turn my longing into Song.

Where was it that I saw you?
I know I seen you places
Downtown on the bricks of the buildings
Are traces of faces of you
And I know I saw you running
Down the roadside
At that moment of shine in the pouring rain
I saw you and you eased my pain

Since times I’ve been hearing
Your voice in the crowd
I’ve been like the restless
Who call you out loud
I’ll run till I find you
I’ll run till I’m strong
Run, I will run till the sight of you
Should grace my path with Song.

Where was it that I saw you?
I know I seen you places
Downtown on the bricks of the buildings
Are traces of faces of you
And I know I saw you running
Down the roadside
At that moment of shine in the pouring rain
I saw you and you eased my pain with Song

You built a might monument of Song
To reach the very pinnacle of Song
And fill this lonely universe with Song
I saw you and you eased my pain with Song
You built a might monument of Song
To reach the very pinnacle of Song
And fill this lonely universe with Song

Ode to Song from The Burden of Eden
© 1994, 2008 by Andrew Michael Pope.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1825

(1) Though I’ve only done the 24 mile bike ride twice, I noticed it went much more smoothly the second time. I also find that I’m getting “addicted” to the course already—which in this case is a good thing. Finally, I’ve noticed that on the long open stretches, I have plenty of time to reflect, pray and plan. It’s good healthy solitude on that 12 mile trail.

(2) Got my Homeless No More column for June turned into Street Spirit News after much writer’s block. Interestingly, it was after I gave up and told the editor I wouldn’t have a column this month that I looked at it afresh—relaxed and free of deadline—and with new eyes the writer’s block was broken. I’m pretty sure this illustrates a spiritual principle, or three.

(3) Full reading and sing-thru of EDEN IN BABYLON is being scheduled at RTOP for a slot between mid-to-late June. Exact date not yet decided (still culling schedules, wanting both Keva and Cooper to be available.) Thankful that John Rich the Executive Director is letting us use the space.

(4) The Professors will be meeting at 5pm today to discuss the Resurrection. I will likely be the only person in the room who believes in it. It’s an exciting event and I am grateful to be included among the Professors. However, what I am most thankful for is the laryngitis I have, for it will assist me in biting my tongue.

(5) My rental application has been completed and submitted, with all pertinent fees paid. Thankful to have sought out a new apartment at a time when I was not desperate. Thankful for my present place to live, and looking forward to being the Musical Director of two or three shows in the RTOP 2022-23 season. Thankful, after all of these years, to have once again found people in my field who believe in me.

“Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.”  
     — Anais Nin

Please donate to Eden in Babylon. 

The Impossible Dream

This was in no way prior rehearsed, but Cody & I more-or-less spontaneously decided to do a rendition of “The Impossible Dream” for your listening contemplation. I think my friend Cody resonates very strongly with this particular theme. Enjoy.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Tuesday Tuneup 116

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. I’m not sure.

Q. Why not?

A. Both places have merit and I’m not sure which is better.

Q. What places are you talking about?

A. My old apartment and my new apartment.   That is, if they decide to rent to me.

Q. Why would they not decide to rent to you?

A. Could be a number of reasons.  I don’t have a whole lot of references.   I was homeless for a long time.  If they ask for the last three landlords, we could be going back a while.   I don’t have a credit card or a credit rating.

Q. No credit rating?  How is that possible?

A. Security freezes were placed on my credit files in 2003, and I haven’t been able to figure out how to get them off.

Q. Why did they place security freezes on your credit files?

A. Identity theft.

Q. Someone stole your identity?

A. They tried to.   Anyway, I was given three 6-10 digit numbers, to be known only by me and each of the three credit bureaus.   That was 19 years ago.   12 of those years were spent being homeless and borderline-homeless in the Bay Area.   Do you think I memorized those pin numbers?

Q. Can’t you call them?

A. Whenever I call them, I have to prove that I am who I am, and not the identity thief.

Q. Is that impossible?

A. Probably not.

Q. Then why not call them?

A. I suppose I must.  It seems an arduous process and frankly I bailed on it due to its inapplicability to my life.   There’s never yet been a time in the past 19 years when I thought someone would need to run a credit check on me.

Q. Not when you landed your present place?

A. Interviewed with them at 4 in the afternoon one day, they called 9 the next morning to say “everything checked out.”  They couldn’t possibly have checked my references even in that period of time.  They just liked me.

Q. What about your iPhone?

A. It was a gift from a friend.

Q. What about cars?

A. What about ’em?

Q. You haven’t bought a car in 19 years?

A. Bought a car?  I haven’t even driven a car!!

Q. So you’re afraid you might not get the place because they can’t run a credit check on you?

A. Kinda.  But that’s fairly superficial.  I’m just going to tell them what I’ve told everybody else for the last 19 years, which is basically what I just told you.  I live in a debt-free world and I wanna keep it that way.   If it’s meant to be, they’ll rent to me.

Q. Do they like you?

A. Yes. And I like them.

Q. What about the place itself?

A. The place looks even better in real life than it did in the ad.  They call it a “studio apartment” but they could have gotten away billing it as a one-bedroom.   The bedroom is a separate room from a larger room that’s a combined kitchen and dining room.  There’s a bathroom in between on one side of a small hallway, and a large closet space adjoining the bedroom on the other.  Best part is that I’m on the top floor of three, one bedroom wall is to the back window with a view, the other to an outside wall of the house.   So the worry of bothering neighbors and vice-versa is fairly well eliminated.

Also of course it’s two blocks away from work.   My commute being so short, it will eliminate a lot of the “junk miles” I put in when I walk and ride my bike for transportation.  There are beautiful running trails abounding in the area, and I will soon be putting in real miles on the roads.   Being a pedestrian has really taken a chunk out of my training.  I’m eager to start exercising for real.  

Q. So if they accept your application, you will take the place?

A. Still not sure.

Q. Why not?

A. Like I said, both places have merit.

Q. What’s the merit of your present place?

A. Stability.  I’ve lived here longer than I’ve lived in any single living situation since the 90’s.    It’s stable.  I like the landlords, and they like me.  I’ve lived here nearly five years now.

Q. So if a thing works, don’t fix it?

A. Right.  The only reason it’s not working is because I can’t get to my job in a different town in another State very easily.   On a good day I can ride my bike.   We’ve had a lot of bad days lately, and I don’t like bumming rides.  Not to mention, the bus is $15 one way.

Q. What else?

A. The job doesn’t pay particularly well.

Q. Then why do you work there?

A. Because I love the craft, and apparently I’m a good worker among workers there.   I love musical theatre, but I also like these people in particular.   They’re honest, good people.  We communicate well, and I can trust them.

Q. But are you afraid that if you leave your present apartment, you might lose the new apartment?

A. Yes.

Q. Why?

A. For one thing, a lot of people these days are having a hard time keeping up.   For another thing, I’ve already been homeless, I’ve already lost more living situations than I can count.   Homelessness just — looms.  It always does — even here, where I’m thought to be stable.

Q. Who thinks you to be stable?

A. My landlord.

Q. And the new landlord?

A. Will have to take the old landlord’s word for it.

Q. Uh — do you want to move?

A. Not really.  I become sad when I think about it.

Q. Sad?

A. Yeah.   This place was supposed to become my home.    They said it was the Heart of the Arts.   But it’s not really.   Whenever I tried to get people interested in my show, I kinda got the feeling anyone who counted figured me for a semi-homeless dude on a weird trip.  I doubt they even read the script, or listened to the music.

Q. What about these new people?

A. This guy’s already talking about producing my show, practically on principle.   It’s a different vibe, these people are practical, businesslike, no nonsense.  I like that.  No academic fluff.   Specifically, I don’t have to worry about changing the word “homeless” to “houseless” every time it appears in the script.  They’re not caught up in the intellectual labyrinth.  They’re more real.

Q. Would you then conclude that the job, despite low pay, is  worth it?

A. I would.

Q, Then why not move?

A. Because I’m change-resistant.

Q. Is that a good thing?

A. No.

Q. Anything else?

A. It’s like this.   Just because I’ve been homeless a lot doesn’t mean that I have to stay here forever, whether things are working or not.  When it comes right down to it, I’m just afraid of taking the risk.

Q. So you’re thinking the right thing to do is to move?

A. Yes.  But again, they need to approve my application.   Today I’m putting down $100–a holding fee.  If they approve me, it will go toward the deposit.  Then I don’t have to worry about first-and-last till August 9th, when the place is available.   Many things can happen between now and then.

Q. And if they don’t approve your application?

A. Then I stay where I am.

Q. What about the job?

A. I guess I keep looking–either for a place to live, a car, or both.

Q. When was the last time you drove a car?

A. Almost twenty years ago.

Q. Are you afraid to drive?

A. No.

Q. Then why not get a car?

A. Cars cost money.

Q. But apartments also cost money, don’t they?

A. I believe the rent differential will be $70 in my favor on the studio apartment.   I gotta get this place cleaned up spick though.   It would be good to get the deposit back and make a smooth lateral move.

Q. Anything else?

A. I should only move if God wants me to move.   My own feelings are secondary.

Q. Why is that?

A. Because God’s always right, and I am often wrong.

Q. How can you find out if God wants you to move?

A. Something like this requires a threefold confirmation.  Not to be legalistic, but it ought to be confirmed in fellowship, in the Word, and in experience.   1 John 5 and all that.

Q. Has it been thus thrice confirmed?

A. I haven’t seen anything in the Word.   Only fellowship and experience have confirmed it.

Q. Fellowship?

A. Talking it over with my pastor for example.   He reminds me that mental health awareness will be greater in Washington than in Idaho.   Washington’s kinda a purple State, Idaho beet red.

Q. Experience?

A. The signs are telling me to move.

Q. Signs?

A. “Signs” isn’t quite the right word.   Scripture says:  “My sheep hear my voice.”   I heard his voice a couple times–three times actually, twice in close succession–and each time He was urging me to move.

Q. How did you hear His voice?

A. That I can’t explain.  But it’s the experience of hearing Him that keeps me believing.  His sheep hear His voice.

Q. Isn’t the Word where you usually hear him?

A. Yes.  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.”   But this time, no.  Three things happened, and each time they happened, something inside me said: “God is talking to me right now.”   I usually trust that.   It’s just that if it’s not confirmed in the Word, it could be a false voice, and imposter, etc.  

Q. Were you looking for a sign?

A. No.   I actually was not even going to consider moving until I heard His voice the first time.

Q. How did you hear His voice?

A. You asked me that already and the question is impossible to answer.   It’s like trying to prove there’s a God.  It’s not possible.   It’s something that is repeatedly confirmed in experience.  This is why we remain Christians and this is why the world thinks we’re crazy.

Q. Crazy?

A. That’s another thing!   These people do NOT treat me like I’m crazy!

Q. Has somebody recently been treating you like you’re crazy?

A. Yes but they don’t know they’re doing it.

Q. Why don’t they know?

A. Beats me.  I can just tell that they think their treatment of me is reasonable, but it’s really not.   But I stopped talking to them about it long ago.  It just started to feel pointless.

Q. Is there a sense in which you may be escaping these people by moving to another town?

A. I fear that.   This is why I need more confirmation.

Q. When was the last time God spoke to you through the Word?

A. You mean directly, specifically, majorly?   About three months ago, I think.  I read something about Moses and drew a parallel to my life, and I got that sense again, I “heard His voice” — it’s inexplicable but I heard it.

Q. What did He say?

A. I really don’t want to tell you.   Not sure how we got off onto any of this, quite frankly. I appreciate your line of questioning, but some of this stuff is, well–personal.  It’s not meant to be shared.  Let’s focus on the living situation–and maybe reconvene next week.

The Questioner is silent. 

Gratitude List 1824

(1) Ran two miles for the second day in a row and noticed that if I run the first mile purposely slower than I would like to, the second mile goes much more smoothly. Thankful for the relearning of old lessons.

(2) This wonderful fellow named Tim who teaches Hebrew at a religious college dropped what he was doing the other day to join me in a discussion around Genesis Three. I love it when this happens, especially when Dr. Kurt is away on sabbatical. I just don’t run into too many people with whom I can engage intelligent discussions around Holy Scripture.

(3) The Associate Director at the company where I work suggest I might music-direct three traditional American musicals for them next year. Totally down to MD all three — The Sound of Music, Guys and Dolls and South Pacific. However, transportation issues to another city in another State have been so consuming that my answer was: “I’ll do it if I can find a place to live that’s just around the corner.”

(4) Couldn’t find any apartments for less than $700 in that town till one studio at $460 leaped out at me. Checked the map and it’s exactly two blocks away from the company–and not in a seedy downtown area either. Up a hill in a residential district. Also, I don’t need first-and-last but a single $300 security deposit. I’ve got an interview with the landlord on Monday at 4:30.

(5) Figured I should run it all past my pastor. First thing he interjected was this: “Mental health services and benefits will be better in the State of Washington than the State of Idaho.” He’s got a point–a pretty sharp point, in fact. All in all, it does seem that greener pastures are right around the bend. For such, one cannot help but be grateful.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work.”
— Thomas Edison