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Tuesday Tuneup 99

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Embarrassment.

Q. What are you embarrassed about?

A. I scored a song in the wrong time signature.

Q. What song?

A. A song from my show.   It’s called “The Word from Beyond” — but that’s beside the point.  Why do you ask?

Q. Because I suspected you were the composer, and if you were the composer, then how can the time signature be wrong?   Doesn’t the composer decide such things?

A. It was wrong, because the signature I chose made it hard for the musicians to read it.  A different signature would have made it much easier.

Q. And the song would sound the same way with either signature?

A. Yes.  But no other similar sounding piece would have been written in the signature I selected.

Q. Then why did you select that signature in the first place?

A. Because I simply did not know the correct signature.

Q. How did you find out?

A. From one of the other musicians.

Q. And then you became embarrassed?

A. A little bit.   I guess to be honest with you, I’m more informed than embarrassed.  And that’s a good thing.  I learned something.   Embarrassment is only a function of the Ego.   Information is a function of the Mind.  Mind over Ego – in all matters.

Q. May I quote you on that?

A. Spell my name right.

Q. Just in case there are any musicians reading, what was the signature you used to score the piece?

A. 6/8.

Q. What is the correct signature?

A. 4/4 swing.

Q. How did you find out?

A. One of the musicians told me.

Q. And you didn’t know?

A. Let’s put it this way.  It would have been my second choice.

Q. Why would it not have been your first choice?

A. I shot for the easier way of the two, because I was in a hurry.

Q. And in making it easier on yourself, you made it harder on the people you were working with?

A. Yes.  But this time I’l do things differently.   This time I’ll start early in the week — in fact, I’ll begin today — and I’ll block out my time – and do it slowly but surely, and get it turned in to the musicians by Thursday.

Q. Promise?

A. I promise.

Q. What if something comes up?

A. Well – Friday at the latest.

Q. Promise?

A. I’ll do my best.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 1649

(1) On the 10th day of my new ADHD medication, I have yet to discern an intended effect.   What I’m grateful for, however, is that I haven’t had any side effects either.

(2) A couple fine conversations with my pastor yesterday reminded me of what an extraordinarily gentle and centered fellow he is.  I would say, “Christ-centered.”  I’ve really never met anyone quite like him, and I am grateful for his influence on my life.

(3) After a very sedentary month during which I gained a few pounds, I’ve finally started jogging and doing my push-ups again.   I feel better already.   Grateful for the blessing that regular exercise has been throughout my life.  Push-ups in particular are highly underrated.

(4) Being a person who has a hard time establishing a regular morning routine, I am grateful to have found a good start.  If I keep my smartphone turned to one of the Psalms, I begin reading the Psalm when I reach for the phone, first thing in the morning.   Then the words of life enter into me before anything else does.  (This morning it was Psalm 19).

(5) The Kids have outdone themselves.  As of last night, it has been decided that I no longer need to attend rehearsals.  They are perfectly capable of proceeding without me.   After all, they’re forty or fifty years younger than me, and not at all scatterbrained.  I’m grateful for the respect they all have for my work — and I’m very very grateful that they care.

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A Parallel and Opposing Culture

I’ve been thinking throughout my most recent sleepless night about why homeless rights activism isn’t really taking off. I’ve also been wondering why I have such a disturbing problem with identity politics. The two seem somehow related.

For identitarianism to make sense, we need to be dealing with actual identities.  Then we can discuss if people of that identity have been ignored, minimized, overlooked, marginalized or oppressed.  But first, it has to actually be a real identity.

In other words, if a person is Black, then to claim that identity makes sense.  It means something for them to say: “As a person of color, I ——.” If a person (usually a White person) then says: “I’m blind to color,” they may think they are expressing equality with the person of color, but what they are actually conveying is that they are indifferent to all the segregation, the systemic racism, the redlining, and all the things that a predominantly White culture has done to try to keep Black people “in their place.”

We could make similar statements with respect to women, in the manner that women have been subjugated and dehumanized in a patriarchal culture.   But we cannot make such statements about homeless people.  To do so would be as erroneous as to say “Blue Lives Matter” in reference to cops.

The woman was born female.   The Black person was born into that race.   It’s part of their birth identity, so to speak.  But the cop was not born a cop, and the homeless person was generally not born homeless.   When the cop is out of uniform, the cop is no longer “blue.”   And for the first 51 years of my life, when I lived indoors, and I had a job and a car,  an identity like “homeless” may have been hovering over the horizon, but I sure wasn’t looking in that direction.

So there was a little twelve year jaunt of mistaken identity?    Please — I’ve lived indoors for almost five years now.   I could once claim that I was a homeless person, but I can no longer make that claim.   I’ve almost forgotten that I ever could.  Women and people of color do not have that luxury.

But it’s deeper than that.  I’ve been reading statements that begin with the word “as.”   “As a woman of color (for example) —— .”  Those who speak such truths desire to speak them.   They desire to identify according to these natural identities.

The homeless person in general does not desire to make such statements, and often finds it maddening when it is suggested they do so.    I could have many times said: “As a homeless person, I find that ——-.”   But the occasions on which such statements would have been useful were far outweighed by the occasions when it was much more helpful to say:  “As a human being, I have basic needs, a few of which are not being met right now.  I also have rights that are equal to yours.   I call upon people not to see me as a “homeless person.”   Please see me as a person.   A person experiencing homelessness — but a person all the same.”

Such statements as I often made were not formed of shame or even of disgust with my condition.  They were made out of exasperation that people were dehumanizing us.  People talked loudly while were trying to sleep; they stepped over us as though we were things — not people, but rather inanimate objects in their way.   They spoke about us in third person with impunity when we sat right there before them, without directly speaking to us at all — even though we were right there.  They walked past us talking about gay rights and civil rights and equal rights — and who even thought to include us in those discussions?  Why did they care about all these other kinds of people’s rights, and not care about the rights of the people whom they so casually made privy to their conversations?   That is to say, the rights of homeless people?

Sometimes, while trying to sleep, we overheard every word.

We were by and large ignored, and when we weren’t, we were generally either judged harshly or else greeted with a feign of compassion that came across more like condescension than anything else.  People rarely asked our opinions on matters — for our opinions did not count.  We were often given all kinds of advice that didn’t apply to our situations at all.   It was assumed that we knew nothing about the “real world.”  People treated us as though we had always been that way, would always be that way, and — get this — should always be that way.

It was assumed that I was completely incompetent.   “There there, Andy,” came the vibe from the well-meaning social worker.  “Good, Andy!  You’re doing fine Andy!  Are you hungry?   Here – have a bagel!  We know you’ll never be able to take care of yourself, but have no fear.  We’ll take care of you.   For the rest of your life, we will.”

Or, it was assumed that I was a “piece of shit.” This is the part that most bothered me.   I happen to think I’ve got a bit on the ball, and a lot to offer to the planet if I can ever connect the dots and get all the ducks in line.  The infuriating irony is that I went from being an award-winning educator, twice appearing in Who’s Who in America, to a “piece of shit” in a matter of months during a total breakdown.    And when exactly did I cross that line?   At what point did I cease to be the decent, respected musician and educator, and begin to be the “piece of shit?”

My personality had not changed along that seemingly downward path.  It might have become a bit deranged compared to its previous manifestation — but think about it.   Try sleeping on sidewalks and stairwells for months and eventually years on end, and see for yourself what it does to your head!   I’m surprised I’m alive.  I saw a lot of people die.  Good people — people who shouldn’t have died.   They died for lack of two bucks to get on an all night bus to sleep; they died of hypothermia in the freezing cold.  They were whacked in the middle of the night by crazies – one guy was beat over the head with baseball bats by frat boys — to his death.

But those people were not any innately less deserving or worthy than people who were fortunate enough to be living indoors.  They just lived in a wildly dangerous world — and they couldn’t get out of it.

I never thought I would get out of it.   All roads seemed to lead back to it.  So eventually I resigned myself to it.   Whatever it would take to get out of homelessness, I did not believe that I could ever achieve it.  

So we’ve established all this.  But what is really bothering me?   Well – it’s this:

Here I am, having sat myself down in a predominantly White, peaceful little hamlet in North Idaho.  The “Blue city in the Red State.”   Here I eventually found fulfilling companionship among a number of University professors, and am honored to attend the church that has the highest per capita number of University professors in the State.   My intellect has sharpened up a bit (gradually), and I find myself very thankful to be sleeping safe and sound (on most nights anyway).   People seem to like me.  I get along amiably with most.  And above all, I’m not a “homeless person” anymore.  Homelessness no longer needs to be the topic.   I’m a person!  Just like them — just like us.  People don’t view me from either a bleeding heart or a throne of judgment.   They say “excuse me” if they have to walk too close to me.   They extend their hands for handshakes.   They even ask me my name.   It matters what my name is. 

Finally, I’m an equal!

And as an equal, I start to learn a few things about my other equals.   Very intelligent people, very learned.   Most of them have never slept outdoors unless they like to go camping.  They certainly haven’t slept outdoors for years on end, as I did.   A lot of them seem sheltered — in more ways than one.  Yet they have strong ideals, and they care about others, about people different than themselves.  They value diversity.

But when will the homeless person be included in that diversity?

Had I been a Black man, I might have come up here and found after five years that there was considerable opportunity to embrace that identity.   But in no way am I embracing an identity that I simply don’t have.  In fact, I never had it.    Homelessness is not who I am.   Or is it?   

People who cared about social justice and racial inequality walked past us with an indifference that belied their ideals.   We saw them as hypocrites.    If they cared about all those other kinds of people whom they claimed to care about, then why were they treating us like dogshit?   Why were we not included in the realm of humanity that would be concerned with our equality?

It makes me wonder  —  if I were a homeless person in this neck of the woods, would I still be treated with the great equanimity that I have found here?   Would I still be Andy?   Or would I be — one of them?   Worthless — a piece of shit . . .

I like to think the former.  But how will I know?

There’s one way to find out.

We shall not go there.

Or shall we?

A Parallel and Opposing Culture

Maybe I need to listen to the words I spoke above – in the year 2013 — when I was still in the thick of it.   Maybe if I do, I might be comforted.   I might begin to believe again that maybe I can make a difference.    Maybe then, I can get some sleep.

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Take Two

Just a brief note to whom it may concern. We did a second take of my song “Secrets” with better sound equipment. I went ahead and replaced it on the previous post. But this is all just a tease because we’re posting a video tomorrow at 6pm PST. It’s a work-in-progress and something of a sidetrack. But I’m fairly sure it will have progressed a bit further by then. Stay tuned.

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Gratitude List 1648

(1) Really nice talk with my friend Danielle on the East Coast this morning over coffee.   Hadn’t talked with her for a while.  It was good to catch up, and it helped energize me to make the trek to the pharmacy and back in the cold.

(2) Was able to get my thyroid medication squared away at the new pharmacy near to the new doctor’s office, though it took three visits and an odd period of “without.”  More importantly, I really do like the new doctor, whom I saw for the third time on Thursday.

(3) Grateful for the unexpected three and a half hours of sleep that struck me as soon as I got home from the pharmacy.  Having conked out at high noon in my executive chair, and not awakening till 3:30 in the afternoon, I am now smelling the coffee.  I feel as though about five wayward parts of my brain have suddenly been reactivated.   I’m grateful for the restorative power of sleep.

(4) I must add that I’m grateful to have a place to sleep.   I flopped down onto the couch from the chair, right near the open window, jacket still on, and no heater running.  The cool air blessed me whilst I slept, and the sense of safety and comfort — no doubt magnified due to my experience of years of sleeping outdoors — was huge.

(5) When I mentioned this morning that the new musicians and I had settled on a weekly rehearsal time, Danielle commented how great it is: “It’s great that it’s no longer just you.  There are actually other people learning your material.”   This is coming from someone who knew me when it was “just me” — for years, it seemed.   Days may be dark, but one must remember where one has been, and take the compass thereof, and point it to the future — with strength and hope.

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Gratitude List 1647

(1) First full band rehearsal tonight at 7pm.  We’re rehearsing the opening number “Sirens of Hope” and the ballad “Turns Toward Dawn.”  Everyone seems stoked, and I’m down.

(2) Still getting more exercise, mostly brisk walking of fairly long distances.  Still losing weight, still spending less time on the Internet and more time outdoors.   Cold weather hasn’t been too much of a deterrent, though it does help me not to overdo it.

(3) Grateful for the stimulus check, being as it has helped me to rationalize four Domino’s pizzas already, not to mention the nice meal from the Co-Op I’m about to indulge on the way out the door to rehearsal.

(4) Rehearsing the “Urban Elegy” yesterday, there were spots where we all came together so nicely, and with a nice kind of driving feel throughout.  It was such a great, unexpected experience we decided to do it a second time so Keva could record it.  And then, lo and behold, the second time was even better than the first.  (Eager to hear the recording, once it materializes.)

(5) I find myself looking forward to packing up my stuff and heading into town on a slow trek toward rehearsal.  I find myself grateful that I live in such a peaceful community.  For all the insanity going on in the world today, I’m grateful for the little pockets of sanity, wherever they can be found.  Grateful for the warm and very accepting community in which I live.

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Gratitude List 1646

(1) True to resolution, I’ve been exercising much more and spending much less time on the Internet.  Mostly I’ve been engaging in long brisk walks.  I’m losing weight and feeling a bit more heightened, spiritually speaking.

(2) Just dropped off my monthly rent check at the landlord’s office — a monthly ritual as of over three years now.

(3) Grateful for the $300 anonymous donation sent to Danielle’s pool, followed by the $600 relief check.

(4) I was granted an honorable mention among eight other journalists for having placed in the top ten of every category in the annual awards ceremony conducted by Spokane Faith and Values.  Also my column on the recent anti-maskers stunt placed No. 8 in the Top Ten opinion pieces of 2020.

(5) It was recently very freeing to make an unpopular decision for the benefit of the greater good.  It was liberating to release the unpopular information, with my reasons.  It had been such a burdensome thing, holding it all in.  I have faith we’ll move forward in liberation from here.

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Tuesday Tuneup 98

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Self-doubt.

Q. Isn’t that a good thing?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Well, why should you have any faith in yourself?

A. Why should I not?

Q. Are you not completely flawed far beyond your capacity even to know it?

A. That’s what the Bible says, yes.  But still, I think in practical reality, it somehow doesn’t help for me to grasp how completely incapable I am.

Q. But isn’t God fully capable?

A. Well sure He is.  But so what?   God’s not going to come down and tie my shoe for me.  There are some things a person just has to do for themselves.

Q. How many times has God come down and helped you find a missing item?

A. Many times.  Sometimes I just shout out: “Where’s my glasses?” Then I find myself looking straight at them.   But He still won’t help me tie my shoe.

Q. Are you having a problem tying your shoes?

A. Not anymore.  Not since I’m no longer being ridiculed about the way I tie them.

Q. Who used to ridicule you?

A. Oh, the kids on the playground.

Q. Wasn’t that a long time ago?

A. Yeah, but it stuck with me.

Q. So what did the kids say when they ridiculed you?

A. Apparently, I’m throwing some kind of extra movement into the tying of the shoe that doesn’t need to be there.  They laughed because I don’t tie my shoes the right way.   I only tie them my way.

Q. But your way still works, doesn’t it?

A. More-or-less.  I do notice I have to bend down and retie them a lot.

Q. And what else do you notice?

A. Sometimes I forget to tie them entirely.  I just go about walking with them untied.

Q. Then what happens?

A. Depends on whether I’m alone or with another person.  If I’m alone, I just wait until there’s a logical place to tie my shoe without having to bend down all the way to the ground.  Like, you know, a fire hydrant.  Then I tie my shoe using the hydrant.

Q. What if there’s another person with you?

A. Usually, they notice that my shoe isn’t tied, and they tell me to tie my shoe.

Q. What do you do then?

A. Well, I certainly don’t tie it just because they told me to!   I usually respond with an expletive, adding that I’ll tie my shoe when I’m good and ready.   

Q. Do you have issues with authority?

A. I have issues with people issuing direct imperatives, yes.   Especially if they are not an authority, but an equal.

Q. Are authorities not equals?

A. I suppose they are.  They just don’t act like it.

Q. So you dislike not being treated as an equal?

A.  Dislike doesn’t say it.  I despise it.  We’re all equals and no one has the right to treat someone as a subordinate.  Unless, of course, you’re in the military or some other form of hierarchical structure to which you’ve signed on.  And in such a case, you asked for it.

Q. You did?  What if you got drafted?

A. Good point.   I’d have escaped to Canada, myself.

Q. Might you still?

A. Might I still what?

Q. Escape to Canada?

A. At this point, that would hardly be an escape.  More like a practical maneuver.  But I doubt they’d let me in.  I think I have to marry someone there, or something like that.

Q. Would you like to marry someone from Canada?

A. Sounds pretty romantic, but probably unlikely.    

Q. What about a marriage of convenience?

A. I wouldn’t know anything about those.  I’ve only been in a marriage of inconvenience.

Q. What was inconvenient about it?

A. Uh — conflict of lifestyles.   But aren’t we getting off the subject?

Q. What was the subject?

A. Something about equality and authority.

Q. Ah yes, how could I forget?

A. I have no idea.

Q. So — as I was saying, do you dislike being treated as an unequal?

A. Of course!  Who likes to be treated with condescension?  

Q. Why is this on your mind?

A. Something disturbing that happened a few days ago.   An unpleasant interaction with an old friend of mine.

Q. Who did not treat you as an equal?

A. Well – triggered the memory thereof.  The memory of —  almost never being regarded as an equal.  A time in my life when I just accepted the uneasy fact that most people looked down on me, as though I were despicable.

Q. Why would you have been despicable?

A. Uh — homeless — and homeless in the Big City.   It’s cold enough in the Big City to begin with.  When you become homeless, you find out just how cold it can be.

Q. But you’re not homeless now, are you?

A. No I’m not.

Q. Why are you so hung up on the past?

A. That, sir, might be the most important question you have ever asked me.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 1645

(1) The other day when I was running, it crossed my mind how great it is for people to recognize the reason why I’m running — that is, for health and exercise.   In my previous life, up until a few short years ago, if someone saw me running, they generally assumed I was a criminal who had just committed a crime and was running from the law.

(2) Although I will admit to having been intimidated by the prowess of the highly skilled musicians in whose company I have suddenly found myself, I can truthfully say that I am much more enthused than intimidated at this stage.  I’m grateful for the great musicians who think well enough of my music to want to help me bring it to life.

(3) Grateful for my apartment.  I’ve lived here quietly for over three years now.  It’s a true place of shelter from the storm.   I’m grateful I’m not homeless anymore.  It took its toll, but it’s a relief not to be living in all that chaos.   Grateful for peace and quietude.  

(4) This may sound weird, but I’m grateful for the wake-ups that sometimes come my way.  There were a couple of them this past week.  They don’t feel good, but they are good — because they happen for a reason.   And once again, at the risk of sounding prejudicial or stigmatic, I am extremely grateful no longer to be living in California, and more than grateful to have discovered North Idaho.

(5) This Christmas Day was really the best one I’d had in years.  I think it’s because I lowered my expectations so completely, I didn’t even expect it to be a bad Christmas, let alone a good one.  The exchange of well wishes all throughout the day made Christmas what it ought to be — the hope of peace on earth and goodwill toward all.  

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Christmas Offerings from the Team

First I’d like you to hear a couple of the musicians I’m fortunate enough to have landed for our Eden in Babylon workshop.   That’s Liam Merchant on saxophone (he’s playing sax, flute, and keyboard synth in the EIB band).  Bobby Meador is the guitarist, as they do an intriguing version of “The House of the Rising Sun,” sung to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” 

On a more traditional note, here are the Wendt Brothers — Cody, Ian, and Tyler — with their charming Christmas Special.   Numerous carols are here displayed, evoking the signature Wendt harmonies and piano stylistics.  In addition, Cody narrates the Christmas Special with accounts of how these carols came into being.   

May the warmth of the season embrace us all, and God bless us — every one.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 97

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Disruption.

Q. Disruption of what?

A. Of the natural flow of things.

Q. What is the natural flow of things?

A. Oh, it’s the flow of like, going to bed at around 9:30 at night, getting up at around 4:30 in the morning, having a cup of coffee, going for a run, eating breakfast, and — hey wait a minute!  Why do you ask?

Q. Why do you ask why I ask?

A. Because everybody has a natural flow of things, don’t they?

Q. I don’t know.  Do they?

A. Well maybe not.  But I do.  Or, at least I like to think I do.

Q. Well how has it been disrupted?

A. I think it has something to do with the arrival of the musicians.

Q. Musicians?

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A. Yeah – musicians.   They’re unlike the other people I’ve been working with.   I’m having a little bit of trouble switching gears — you know, changing hats.

Q. Why should you have to change hats at all?

A. Because the other people are not so much like musicians.   They may sing and even play music, but they’re — a different type of people.

Q. What type of people are they?

A. They’re musical theatre people.

Q. How are those types of people different than musicians?

A. I don’t know — they’re more like me, I think.   I don’t feel like I have to play a role.

Q. But isn’t theatre all about playing roles?

A. Sure it is.  But that doesn’t mean you have to play a role in order to play a role.   You can be yourself, and be authentic – and reserve the roles for the stage.

Q. But isn’t all the world a stage?

A. Maybe.

Q. Don’t musicians also perform on stages?

A. Good point.  But musicians are different.   They have a different energy than theatre people.

Q. Why are you stigmatizing musicians?   Aren’t they all unique individuals?

A. Yeah – but they all got something in common.   Can’t quite put my finger on it.

Q. Are you saying you don’t feel comfortable among other musicians?

A. Not quite, no.   I guess you’re right.  I don’t.

Q. Why not?

A. Past experiences.

Q. What kinds of experiences?

A. Late nights.

Q. You don’t care for the night life?

A. Morning person.   Theatre gigs get me out at ten or eleven max.   Music gigs?  Party till the cows come home.  Groupies.   Partying.   Uh, er — drugs.

Q. You think your musicians are on drugs?

A. Not at all.  It’s just an association with past experience.   I haven’t played with other musicians in a really long time.  Not with a whole band of them anyway.

Q. Are you afraid of musicians?

A. Come to think of it, yes I am.   First rehearsal tomorrow afternoon, and yeah I’m a little on the nervous side.

Q. Why?

A. Intimidated.

Q. Why?

A. They’re — seasoned.  Disciplined.  Cultured.   And they have a strict code of conduct.   They’re impressive — and they have —

Q. What do they have?

A. They have —

Q. What do they have that you don’t have?

A. All right, I’ll come out with it.  They have training.  They have college degrees.   They went to jazz schools and conservatories.  They probably have biographies in Wikipedia.   They’re too —

Q. Too good for you?

A. Yeah kinda.  That’s it.   They’re too good for me.

Q. You do not deserve to play with good musicians?

A. Not really, no.   They’re out of my league, to be honest with you.

Q. Then why do they want to play music with you?

A. Uh –

Q. Are you paying these cats?

A. Uh, no  . . . not at the moment, if you know what I mean . . .

Q. So why do they want to play music with you?

A. I don’t know.

Q. If there’s no money in it, why are they bothering?

A. Um — good question.  I don’t have the answer.  Do you?

 The Questioner is silent.  

Gratitude List 1643

(1) A period of holiday-related depression appears to have subsided, and a healthy holiday spirit is upon me once more.

(2) I was distracted both by a personal dilemma and by the need to finish script revisions in order to better display why my protagonist would pose such a threat to the authorities as to motivate his attempted assassination.   I forgot to create my Monday morning gratitude list in the process, but I find something gentle and healing in expressing my gratitude at the end of the day.   Grateful to have resolved my dilemma — with the help of a friend and a counselor — and grateful to have finished the revisions, thus generating Draft 5-P and submitting it to the team.

(3) Just learned today that the church will be holding an outdoor service on the front lawn on Christmas Eve.   I invited everybody to come.  Usually the neighbors show up for the lawn services, and it promises to be a warm and peaceful gathering.

(4) Had a great Zoom meeting with Kurt Q. the recently retired linguistics professor.  He recommended a book called The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialogue by Deborah Tannen, and sent two of her essays.   Also recommended the work of Peter Elbow.  Kurt is great for intellectual stimulus, and we decided to meet every Monday now.  

(5) My daughter found a forgotten book of her poetry from the year 2011 and already has written a new song based on one of the poems.  It’s poignant.   Things have been rough, but we seem to have alighted upon a strong bond.     God is Good.  

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What Child Is This?

Here are the Wendt Brothers, Cody to the right and Ian to the left, who are portraying the characters Benzo and Timothy in our current workshop of my new musical Eden in Babylon.  This is their charming version of the old English carol, “What Child Is This?”  



Wendt Brothers Facebook Page

Wendt Brothers YouTube Channel 

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Gratitude List 1642

(1) Yesterday three new musicians joined the team.  Now we have all five members of the band that can accompany the whole show.  This will be better than the fully interactive accompaniment envisioned earlier.  Richard the bass player has been learning the music already, and practicing with me.  These three new players, all musicians he currently performs with in various bands, will fill out the sound we need.

(2) I’ve been absorbed in making sure that instrumental parts were handed out to the three new musicians who just joined up yesterday.  So I haven’t surfaced till now, but am very grateful to have finally gotten all this stuff done — having done nothing else all day long.  

(3) Beautiful snowy weather in which I don’t mind exercising, when the spirit is right.  Recently however I’ve found more reasons to stay inside than to venture outdoors.  Grateful for shelter from Winter weather.

(4) My recent article published in Faith and Values has been shared 193 times and viewed over a thousand times:

Capture

(5) Meeting with Tom and Vanessa tomorrow, who are playing the parts of the father and mother in the Audio Show.   Then I should be ready with the lines.  The whole project is expanding.   I’m pretty grateful.  

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Health Before Wealth

At around eleven o’clock yesterday morning, numerous members of a right-wing group called “De-Mask Moscow” barged into the large TriState Outfitters sporting goods store in Moscow, Idaho, refusing to wear masks in compliance with store policy and the city-wide mandate.   Also included in the barrage were members of ChristChurch, a cultish megachurch here in town that gives a bad name to the Reformed Christian doctrine and I and others endeavor to embrace.

According to Doug Wilson, the pastor of the church, this stunt was carried out in order to “bless the business” that no doubt was “caught between the demands of the city government and the realities of keeping a business open.”

I have a few problems with this.   Apparently, Joe Power, the President of TriState Outfitters, did too.

“We were not asked,” wrote Power, “if we felt we were caught between the demands of the city government and the financial realities of keeping a business open.”

To the contrary, the employee-owned company had decided to put “health before wealth” this year.  “The risk to our employees’ health this year is far more important than putting a few extra dollars in the registers,” said Power.

As the anti-maskers insisted on remaining maskless, TriState responded by closing the store and demanding they leave the premises.  The police were called in case they did not comply.   Mask-wearing customers were allowed to complete their purchases, and a half hour later, once the anti-maskers had dispersed, the store was reopened.  However, doors were kept locked for several hours, and a number of employees stationed at the entrances made sure that no one would enter the premises without a mask.  

Apparently, this unfortunate event resulted from a memo that Wilson had sent first to his congregation and later forwarded to De-Mask Moscow.  “If you are out Christmas shopping today (without a mask),” wrote Wilson, “I would like to ask you to hit Tri-State between the hours of 11am and 1pm.”  (Note usage of the word “hit.”  Italics mine.)

Fortunately, the event was aborted shortly after eleven, before who knows how many unmasked citizens would have invaded the store property with a flagrant show of unwillingness to abide by the ordinance that our Mayor had established for the sake of the health of the community.

That this is microcosmic of a greater ill in our society is obvious.  It is not Christian love to flaunt one’s affection for “freedom” in such a way that it infringes upon the free rights of others.   Mask-wearing shoppers obeying store rules were inconvenienced, and the store itself probably lost thousands of dollars in the process.

The Apostle Paul makes it clear throughout his letters that we are to abide the laws of the land except in the event that these laws directly contradict the laws of God.

“Let every person be subject to the ruling authorities, for the powers that be are ordained by God.”  _ Romans 13:1

Now you tell me — does the simple act of wearing a mask violate a law of God?   If so, I would certainly like to see that law.  And if Jesus Christ made the supreme sacrifice of his entire life during hours of grueling torture suffering on a Cross — that we might have everlasting life —  why can some Christians not see that the simple sacrifice of complying with a city ordinance is trivial in comparison?

For Doug Wilson and his congregation to regard the lawfully rendered mask mandate as “demands of the city government” is to ignore the fact that this ordinance is being followed by the vast majority of the Moscow community who do not regard it as a “demand.”

This present day issue dividing maskers from anti-maskers has nothing to do with “left-wing government oppression.”  If you want to see government oppression coming from the Left, look at the likes of Joseph Stalin.  That we in America should feel so inordinately entitled that the simple concession to wear a mask is seen as a restriction of our freedoms is frankly ludicrous.   Moreover, if people believe that we all should be perfectly free, then why are they going about obstructing the freedoms of others?

This is not Christianity.  It is anarchy.  And this act of reactionary pseudo-Christian impudence has nothing to do with Jesus Christ — with His Spirit, His ministry, His teachings, His life, or His love.

Do I need to put a “thus saith the Lord” after this one?  Or is this message not obvious to anyone who truly endeavors to follow Christ?

Submitted to Spokane Faith and Values, December 11, 2020.

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Tuesday Tuneup 96

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Disorientation.

Q. How so?

A. Thrown off.

Q. Thrown off track?

A. Not sure I was ever on track to begin with.

Q. Well, what happened?

A. I walked into a building I seldom frequent, and I had a bad experience there.

Q. Why did you go there?

A. Because I had left my glasses there.

Q. Why had you gone there in the first place?

A. Because that’s where a guy was who could fix my iPhone for free. He fixed it, and I left hurriedly because I didn’t feel safe there.

Q. Why not?

A. Somebody who usually hugs me wanted to hug me, and she seemed not to accept my reasons for not wanting to touch her. It made me uneasy.

Q. What happened when you went back to get your glasses?

A. Another person wanted to hug me. When I explained my reasons, she asked if I was serious.

Q. What did you do then?

A. Realizing I had a mask and gloves on at the time, I gave up and hugged her.

Q. How did that feel?

A. Weird.

Q. Why?

A. I didn’t act according to principle. I caved in under social pressure.

Q. Does that happen often?

A. Not as often as it used to.

Q. Why not?

A. I don’t go out as much. I stay inside most of the time, and conduct most relationships on the Internet or on my phone.

Q. Doesn’t that deprive you of social contact?

A. Not really. I have social anxiety in public social situations. I am very comfortable with Zoom meetings and other forms of Internet interaction. My social anxiety is not aggravated that way.

Q. But you don’t stay in all the time, do you?

A. Not at all. I exercise vigorously outdoors, usually once a day. On Tuesdays and Thursdays up to ten of us meet in the sanctuary of a certain church and rehearse a couple musicals I’ve written, while social distancing.

Q. A couple musicals?

A. Yes. At first there was only one, then they became interested in another one. So we’ve got a lot of music to do, and we find this very rewarding.

Q. Don’t you want to hug each other? Isn’t that what musical theatre people do?

A. We want to, sure. But we don’t. We stand six to ten feet apart from each other, and obey the laws.

Q. The laws?

A. The laws. The mask mandate, and the governor’s rulings.

Q. But the people in that other building don’t obey the laws?

A. Many of them do. But enough of them don’t that it makes me uneasy.

Q. Have you always obeyed the laws?

A. No I have not.

Q. Do you always obey the laws nowadays?

A. Yes I do.

Q. Then why hang out with people who have no regard for the law?

A. That’s a very good question.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1641

(1) After nearly two weeks of enduring a totally erratic sleeping schedule, I believe I have finally returned to my preferred early-to-rise routine. Already, I am feeling calmer and more confident than I did throughout the week last week.

(2) This also blessed me to see an absolutely gorgeous sunrise, which unfortunately I failed to capture on camera. The sight of it reminded me of new beginnings, and hope for new blessings in the week to come.

(3) Someone left a workstation and an executive chair about a block down the road, with a sign that said “FREE.” As I paled at the task of dragging the items down to my apartment, a kind couple across the way asked if I needed help. The upshot is that I was finally able to replace my large collapsing table with a very nice black workstation, creating more space in the apartment and making me much more comfortable at my new desk.

(4) In the process of excitedly hurling the many items off the previous very messy table, I created such a horrific mess in the living room that I was finally motivated to perform a thorough tidying-up thereof. No doubt I will soon continue this happy trend with the kitchen and bathroom.

(5) Tears of joy put me to peaceful sleep the night before last, after receiving the greatest show of respect I believe I have ever received from a group of people in my entire life. Somehow, a musical I’d almost forgotten I’d written came up during a meeting of my Eden in Babylon team. Noticing that the current team consists of four very fine male singer-actors and three equally talented female performers, I saw how the seven Artists corresponded almost magically to the four male characters and three female characters in The Burden of Eden.

It then was not long before the complete piano-vocal score to that show had been submitted to them, and my team was excitedly going about learning their songs. After years of having my work written off as that of a “crackpot,” I have finally found good people who believe in me. I’m crying now, just thinking about it. It’s almost too good to be true.

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Secrets

I don’t have a piano piece for you tonight, or any clips from our current workshop. However, a stroll down memory lane unearthed this studio recording of my song “Secrets” as performed by people involved in a workshop of my previous musical, The Burden of Eden, in June of 2006. You’ll have to click twice to get full credits from my SoundCloud.  But I will say that the 18 year old woman named Lauren Mack who sang this solo learned it in San Jose while listening to the musicians from Marin County playing it on an mp3.   She then arrived in Berkeley and recorded this fairly dazzling rendition in a single take.  

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Morning Cup of Crazy

In the year 2008, I was sitting at the breakfast table in the psychiatric facility of a certain hospital in California, when I noticed something disturbing. All of the other people had coffee — the kind with caffeine — but only I had decaf.

Naturally, I summoned a nearby psychiatric technician, and I asked him why I was given decaf, rather than regular coffee. I remember his name was Steve.

“Because you are bipolar,” said Steve, “a cup of coffee will hype you up, and put you at risk of having a manic episode.”

“But I drink coffee every morning, Steve,” I said calmly. “I find that my morning cup of coffee relaxes me, and helps me to focus.”

“If you were ADHD,” Steve continued, “your cup of coffee would relax you. But since you are bipolar, your cup of coffee hypes you up.”

“Well then, I must be ADHD, because my morning cup of coffee relaxes me. And really, Steve, don’t you think I know how my cup of coffee affects me? I mean, I’ve been having a cup of coffee every morning since I was 19 years old.”

“Andy,” frowned Steve, “I know that you sincerely want to be helped, but you seem to want to be helped on your own terms.”

At that, I could no longer suppress my outrage.

“My OWN terms?” I cried. “Me and a hundred million other Americans!?

(Granted, I was a bit agitated. But what do you expect? It was early in the morning before breakfast, and I hadn’t even had a cup of coffee yet.)

Long story short, my outcry attracted the attention of a number of other clinicians, and before I knew it, I was forcibly given a shot of concentrated Zyprexa on my tongue, before the words “I have the right to refuse any medications,” could emerge from my mouth.

What followed in the next few minutes is hazy in my memory. But evidently, I shortly later fell into a deep sleep. Either the next morning or the morning after, I awoke. A psych tech named Tim was standing next to me.

“Andy,” Tim said in a compassionate tone, “don’t make a big deal out of a cup of coffee here.”

I shot up from my bed. “WTF!!??”

Me being me, I made a totally big deal out of it! I went over people’s heads until I found the guy who was in charge of the place, who happened to be from Austria. Apparently, they do things a bit differently in Austria than they do in the San Francisco Bay Area. Or at least, he had a sense of right and wrong.

“That was horrible what they did to you!” he said. “And of course, you may have your morning cup of coffee from now on.”

Year 1 | Puss Bank School

I was considerably calmer each following morning, for obvious reasons. It also caused me to wonder if I had been misdagnosed. Later in Berkeley, a clinical psychologist and a psychiatrist both independently diagnosed me with ADHD, and both of them said I showed no symptoms of bipolar disorder.

Not to overemphasize demographics, but they do things differently in North Idaho, too. My present physician is considered to be an expert on mental health conditions. I saw him twice a couple weeks apart, and thought I was a little “manic” the second time I saw him. He reeled off five known symptoms of bipolar disorder and explained why I demonstrated none of them. Then he said, “If there were a line-up and I had to pick who was bipolar out of the line-up, I would not choose you.”

Prior to getting my Medicare and Medicaid with my retirement income, I was at the low income clinic where again I was disturbed that the bipolar diagnosis was on my chart, following me wherever I went. After much self-advocacy, which included accessing records from the psychologist and psychiatrist in Berkeley, the physician there diagnosed me with ADHD. I also took a test on my own — something I found on the Internet that seemed reasonable — that labeled me “Severe ADHD.” Then my physician gave me a test independently, yielding the same results.

I was put on the drug Straterra, and after three months of urinary retention and sleep paralysis, I stopped. I was able to urinate normally within two weeks after stopping, and the sleep paralysis stopped as well. I’ve not taken a psychiatric drug since then, although I’m certainly not opposed to the concept. I get tired of being a total space cadet. A little bit better focus, a little bit better reading comprehension, would be welcome. But you know, I also like my excellent physical health, and I don’t like it being messed with.

Maybe I’m proud. All I know is my morning cup of coffee relaxes me. Just ask my ex-wife.

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Tuesday Tuneup 95

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Insomnia.

Q. Are you trying to tell me you’ve been up all night?

A. Yes.

Q. But aren’t you an early riser?

A. I pride myself on it. But even early risers are prone to insomnia at times.

Q. At what kinds of times?

A. Oh, you know — times when there’s too much on the mind.

Q. But don’t you have a highly active mind?

A. I do. So what?

Q. Then how can you say that there’s too much on your mind?

A. Are you being a smart-ass?

Q. Why do you ask?

A. Because it’s obviously not the massive bulk of brain activity that has led to the insomnia, it’s the content of the activity — the kinds of things that I’m thinking about.

Q. What kinds of things?

A. Oh – human relationships. I botched up one of them totally, just a few days ago. Somebody who seemed to like me, too. But for all this guy liked me, I still couldn’t make it work.

Q. Well, do you like him?

A. Come to think of it, no I don’t. But that makes me feel guilty, because he likes me. Or — at least he did, before Monday.

Q. What happened Monday?

A. I asked him not to write to me again.

Q. Isn’t that unlike you?

A. Yes. I did it at a moment of exasperation.

Q. What were you exasperated over?

A. His apparent lack of empathy.

Q. But didn’t he like you?

A. Not the same thing as being able to empathize. Hustlers on the streets “liked” me because when I was an easy mark and a pushover. People sometimes like you because you’re supplying something they need. They like you because they succeed at using you. That’s a far cry from empathy.

Q. How do you know he lacked empathy?

A. He’d seen me more than once when I was — well, hurting. His responses were not those of one who could feel or even understand my pain.

Q. What were his responses like?

A. The same as always. He didn’t change at all, when I started to have a hard time. He still just kind of smiled and gave me unsolicited advice, as usual — even though I was shaking, and practically crying. And that’s not right. We’re supposed to flow with people’s ups and downs. Scripture says we’re supposed to “mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.” My pastor does that really well, as a matter of fact. And he’s genuine. You can just tell that he feels your joy as well as your pain. Even if he hasn’t lived through the kinds of situations you have, he still identifies with — with — the human condition, in all its various shades and colors. He’s rare. But he’s a good example.

Q. Then why not talk with your pastor?

A. Oh, I did! Three times, actually. And he empathized all three times, even though he saw me in three different states of mind, messed up in different ways at different times over the same thing.

Q. What thing?

Pause.

A. That thing is myself. It’s not about that guy who lacked empathy. I could just as well say it was about anyone else on the planet. But it boils down to me. It’s me whom I’m messed up over.

Q. Have you ever tried loving yourself?

A. Oh, please.

Q. Why do you dismiss my question?

A. What in heaven’s name is “love?”

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1637

(1) Great meeting with Kelsey this morning on Zoom. Interest in the project was revitalized after a lull over the holidaze. We touched on a lot of good stuff and she’ll be working with Cooper on Friday. Thankful for her — I am certain she is the right person for this job.

(2) Had a nice three mile run. I’d have gone four miles as usual but had to be somewhere. It was good I could fit it in between Zooms.

(3) Counseling went well today. I had a lot to talk about, because the PTSD was triggered first thing in the morning and I was pretty disoriented. But it’s good to have talked it through.   This is the first time since we’ve been doing the weekly sessions that I was actually upset about something at the time of the counseling.   So naturally it was the best place to be.

(4) Unearthed this speech I gave in 2018, because it came up when talking with Kelsey.   Aside from that one would think it natural that the speaker be angry about what they’re speaking about (in this case), I want to express gratitude that I am not as angry a person today as I was 2 1/2 years ago. Also, I’m truly grateful to have unearthed the speech, because I think it says what needed to be said. I forwarded it to the group thereafter.

(5) Rough morning, and I thought I’d never recover.  But I’m grateful to have had things to do today on a strict schedule.  It distracted me from the trigger, and when I was able to talk about in therapy, and it was helpful.   Grateful for my life.

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Gratitude List 1634

(1) For about a day and a half, I found myself in a place of self-pity, in which past regrets played a greater role than present hopes. The way I got out of it was through prayer. I twice prayed on a walk to the nearby twenty-four market, and when I got back home after the second prayer, I noticed that the regrets over past mishaps and breakups had disappeared, and had now been replaced by an appreciation of the present day and an enhanced sense of hope for the future.

(2) I am grateful on this Thanksgiving morning for my church. In the past four years, they have put up with my unusual personality and have seen me through all kinds of trials. My pastor/counselor has been particularly patient with me, and I have learned that I can be completely honest and open with him, without fear of judgment. The church has given me my own code to enter the building, they have let me play their Baldwin grand piano whenever I choose, and they even have let my musical team rehearse our project free of charge in the sanctuary. No other church I have known in my life has offered me any of these things.

(3) This may sound trite, but as an extremely absent-minded person who loses at least five masks every month and has taken to buying multiple dollar readers at the beginning of every month at the dollar store (since I can’t possibly hang on to a single pair of glasses throughout an entire month), I want to give thanks that in the past four years, I have never once lost the gray beanie that I wear “for security reasons” at almost all times. (Currently, however, it is hanging up to dry in the bathroom, after I unwittingly wore it in the shower.)

(4) In a few short hours, I will observe the Thanksgiving tradition I’ve held sacred since 1976. I will go out for a four mile run, having missed only three years that I’ve counted since I first began running on April 9, 1976. (It’s always possible I counted wrong about there being only three years I missed. In this case, however, a “recount” is not possible.)

(5) There’s a lot for us all to be thankful for, and to look forward to after many of us got the crap kicked out of us by 2020. It looks like there’s a vaccine on the way, and the upcoming administration is at least putting an emphasis on unity and healing, rather than on perpetuating division in order to retain power. But in my personal world, I have to give thanks that, after basically being laughed at for years and told that my priorities were all screwed up, I have found a number of talented young people who believe in me and in my work. It may not seem like much to my naysayers, but it’s a start — and a good one. And my naysayers have nothing on me. I’m thankful that I’m a survivor, and that I’m not the kind who gives up for good.

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Tuesday Tuneup 94

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Anger.

Q. Anger? Over what?

A. These two guys who ghosted me.

Q. Friends of yours?

A. Yeah. Or so I thought.

Q. What makes you say they’ve ghosted you?

A. Because they haven’t gotten back to me, no matter what. One of them I’d been buzzing a lot on Twitter, hoping he’d converse back with me. But he kept ignoring me. So I finally blocked him.

Q. You blocked him? And not the other way around?

A. That’s right. I blocked him because I got tired of never hearing back from him, no matter what I said.

Q. Wasn’t blocking him a bit severe?

A. I suppose.

Q. Couldn’t you have just stopped buzzing him, but remained friends?

A. You call that “friends?”

Q. Okay, well what about the other guy?

A. Same thing. I even issued a heart-felt apology at one time, and he ignored it completely.

Q. For what did you apologize?

A. For snapping at him when he was telling me how I was supposed to eat, and criticizing my long-distance running, and general over-criticism of my personality.

Q. Why do you hang around people so critical?

A. I don’t know.  It just seems like, for a while there, everybody I knew was critical of me. It just seemed par for the course.  And there are likable things about critical people. I don’t know. You put me on the spot.

Q. Say, uh — how much do you value these friendships?

A. I value them immensely. Why do you ask?

Q. Why do you think?

A. What are you driving at?

Q. I don’t understand — WHY do you value these friendships?

A. I don’t know. Friends are hard to come by, I guess. I figure if I’ve managed to stick it out with somebody for forty or fifty years, then it’s valuable.

Q. You’ve been friends with these guys for that long?

A. Yup.

Q. Well then, why not just call them up? Ask them what’s happening? Ask them why you haven’t heard from them? I mean, why not?

A. I don’t know. Maybe I lack the courage.

Q. What’s to be afraid of?

A. Further criticism. And I guess, to be honest with you, I’ve taken to criticizing them back recently. I didn’t used to ever do that.

Q. Why not?

A. Low self-esteem. I just assumed that their criticisms were true, because they were somehow better than me, for some reason.

Q. So you’re not going to bother calling them? Even to say hello?

A. Why bother? They’ll just let it roll over into the voicemail.  They don’t want to run the risk of my criticizing them.  Why should they?   They’re the ones who are supposed to be criticizing me.

abandon

Q. So you think they were only using you?

A. If they’ve truly abandoned me, then yes, they probably were.  And anyway, there’s no sense beating a dead horse. If somebody repeatedly refuses to return your messages, even well wishes and apologies, doesn’t it stand to reason that they might not want to talk with you?

Q. Where’s your courage?

A. Discretion is the better part of valor.

Q. So you’re choosing wisdom over courage?

A. Fools rush in where angels fear to tread.

Q. Are you trying to tell me you’re letting go?

A. If you love someone, let them go. If they come back, they’re yours. If they don’t . . .

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1633

(1) I’ve recently noticed a direct correlation between the quality of my sleep and the quality of my exercise the previous day. Thankful for the ability to exercise vigorously. Thankful for sleep, and for a safe and quiet place in which to obtain it.

(2) My daughter and I have been writing a song together, our first collaboration. It’s about ghosting. We’re going to try to record it thousands of miles apart and present it on our respective platforms. Excited about this!

(3) Thankful for a budding new friendship here in town, with an intelligent journalist whose ideas appeal to me and with whose life-situations I can identify. I’d thought we’d made fast friends, then it seemed he may have ghosted me. So I withdrew and didn’t pester him, and now it appears that we’re still friends, as the other day I ran into him and we had a fine conversation.

(4) I finished the vocal score that had been hanging over me. Now I can focus on doing the edits for the Audio Show. Good to be in the groove.

(5) Grateful that Governor Little rolled Idaho back to “Stage Two.” No gatherings of over ten people are allowed. I’ve returned to more intensive sheltering in place, and the team is working toward doing the Audio Show from our various abodes. Thankful that life seems a bit more well-defined now. Thankful as always for the Gift of Life.

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Vocal Score

Finished this last night. It’s the third draft of the vocal score to my musical. Music, lyrics, and vocal arrangement.  Maybe you just heard that song “Daylight?” Here’s a screenshot:
And here’s what a considerably more complex page looks like: Capture You may not read music, but there are plenty of words involved, too!  If if you feel like checking it out, you can always click on the link with the title below.   This way you get the whole 90 pages of it:

EDEN IN BABYLON VOCAL SCORE

Hm, it just crossed my mind that maybe you do read music.   You probably even know how to write it.  In that case, don’t judge me too harshly for my many peccadilloes.   I’d rather have you help me score all this stuff out, because believe me, getting all those little black dots in the right places with Finale software can be a real pain in the you-know-what.

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Daylight

This is just a snippet of a much larger piece we pulled out of Tuesday’s rehearsal.    Keva Shull sings “Daylight,” the second movement of “Awake the Dawn” (the opening number of Scene Five in Eden in Babylon.)   All very informal — I’m at the piano.   Lyrics here, if you want them.   

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Gratitude List 1632

(1) Though a more devastating blizzard has been foretold, thus far it’s not been a deterrent to my getting out of the house.  Peak winds have been 17 mph so far, and on each day the weather’s been conducive to a long brisk walk or jog.

(2) Having determined new functions for three of my team members, we now add to the previous roles of Cody, Richard and Zazen the duties of musical direction, orchestral direction, and stage management respectively.  This not only takes a load off of me, but also it enhances the overall team spirit, giving a couple of our Actors and one musician more of a role on the team outside of that of being a performer.  It’s all about optimizing each individual’s  contribution while gradually reducing the size of my own role.  And this is a good thing, for the overall team.

(3) Zazen reports that people have sent their schedules to her, and she’s already scheduled a big “Sirens of Hope” rehearsal tomorrow afternoon.  The delegations — and semi-delegations — appear to be working.

(4) Somebody whom I probably need not identify was there for me at my lowest moment, and I felt the love and support that’s real, that’s based on something that’s not only promising in the long run, but tangible in the here and now.   In fact, a number of supportive people then arose to encourage me, and that included most of the members of the team, and beyond.  It has been this great, unprecedented experience of massive love and respect.  Moreover, to top it all off, yesterday there was another unexpected anonymous one hundred dollar donation.

(5) In pastoral counseling this afternoon, it came about that I am to be thankful for this new sense of community that has been formed in our Eden in Babylon team.  And there’s no reason for me to deprive myself of a due experience of enjoying that community, even to the casting aside of reservations and doubts.

“Unity is strength. Where there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”
— Mattie Stepanek

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Turns Toward Dawn

Cooper Knutson and Keva Shull singing the song “Turns Toward Dawn” from the new musical Eden in Babylon at a rehearsal this past Tuesday afternoon.   I’m on the Baldwin GP-190 concert grand, and we used one “snowball” mike, situated approximately twelve feet away from the piano, with the two of them standing six feet apart on either end.   It’s raw and real — I hope you enjoy it.   

Andy Pope · Turns Toward Dawn

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The Show Must Go On

The current snowstorm is coinciding with a sudden urge to remain horizontal as well as unconscious. I have now slept for fifteen hours, barring brief periods of time when I arose only to send concise texts (and in one case a lengthy text) to people whom I hoped would be concerned.

I thought I was feverish again but it appears to have passed. Moreover, the feverish fervor with which I have forced my fantasy upon an innocent group of young people also appears to have passed. I saw myself through new eyes at yesterday’s rehearsal, and what I saw was not a good man.

Admittedly, it was a difficult number, and I could have been more prepared. At one point I left the musical direction up to Cody. I observed him at that point to be a much more competent musical director than I. I had taken a break, ostensibly to use the bathroom, but more poignantly to see if someone other than myself could possibly take over that function. That is, the function of Musical Director (not the bodily function involved in going to the bathroom — I still have competence in that area.)

When I had been trying to teach the big choral number, “Children of the Universe,” even though I had written and arranged the piece myself, I could not possibly keep track of all its nuances. At one point, I was reading notes as though they had been written in bass clef, whereas in fact I had written them in treble clef. This shows how little ability I have to remember even my own music that I myself have composed.

The voice inside me that kept telling me I was “not good enough” was so strong and ever-present, it actually generated a self-fulfilling prophecy. I could not possibly focus even on the aspects of the project on which I remained competent, for all the noise in my head advising me how incompetent I truly was.

When Zazen agreed to position the iPhone for me so as to video the piano piece for Friday, as she has been doing every Thursday, I found I could not get through an entire song. Tears fell thereafter – but now I’m getting personal.

I like my home piano, the Howard upright, and I have playing it more frequently for emotional release. If I can figure out how to position the phone, I may still produce something today. I’m not going outside. The weather suggests hunkering down.

My internal climate is like unto the weather. It suggest some form of retreat and deeper reflection. As of today, I have no remaining energy to be involved in my musical project. I feel that, in trying to get the concept of my story across to these very talented and dedicated young people, I have unwittingly engaged them in my undying personal fantasy — a world of my imagination, quite incompatible with the reality that we all must share.

It is unconscionable that I have done so. But God may have been merciful. If any group of people could possibly determine how this show could conceivably be engineered without me, it is they. I will henceforth seek to remove myself gradually from any involvement with this musical.

That said, the show must go on.

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An Interview with Matt Perez

This Wednesday’s audio presentation is an interview with Matt Perez, who is currently playing the part of John James — a street hustler, drug dealer type — in our current workshop of my musical, Eden in Babylon. I know that not all of my followers take the time to listen to these talks, but if you can manage to fit this one in, I think it’s unusually strong. Then, if you feel like backtracking for further info, all six of the interviews have been posted on this playlist.

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Tuesday Tuneup 93

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Another Tuesday has begun.

Q. And what will this Tuesday bring?

A. How should I know? It might bring happiness. It might bring sorrow.

Q. How does that differ from any other day?

A. It doesn’t.

Q. But did I ask you about any other day?

A. No, you did not.

Q. Then why don’t you answer my question about today? Isn’t today Tuesday? Why did you generalize? Why did you extrapolate? Why did you just answer about any old day?

A. Wow – you’re certainly firing a lot of questions at me!

Q. Isn’t that my job?

A. I imagine so. But in this case, the rapid-fire is a bit overwhelming.

Q. Rapid fire? Am I firing at you? As though I intend to harm you? Do you see me as an enemy? An adversary?

A. You might well be.

Q. Why would that be? Why?

A. Well – think about it. If one is trying to be confident in what one does, and another person is questioning them constantly, wouldn’t that undermine their confidence?

Q. Are you suggesting that my role is to undermine your confidence?

A. Uh — er — not exactly. At least, not all the time. You seem to — um — wear different hats, and —

Q. Why are you hemming and hawing?

A. I wasn’t aware that I —

Q. Do you think you can pull the wool over my eyes?

A. Well, I haven’t really thought of it in those terms, although —

Q. Although what? Why are you beating around the bush? What are you really trying to say? Why don’t you just come out with it?

A. I — uh — er — am — um —

Q. I uh er am um? What on earth is that supposed to mean?

A. I — uh — er — am feeling a bit intimidated at the moment.

Q. Intimidated? Why in heaven’s name should you feel intimidated? Am I not the most harmless character you’ve ever run across?

A. I can’t say that you have ever harmed me physically, no.

Q. Are you suggesting I have harmed you psychologically?

A. Let’s just say you’ve sometimes shaken me up a bit.

Q. Am I shaking you up right now? Am I?

A. As a matter of fact, you are. And you’re reminding me of someone.

Q. Who?

A. About five years ago, there was a man who shook me up on the streets. He was a very aggressive man. He would not take “no” for an answer. Always trying to sell me marijuana. I would tell him I had no money. But he would insist I could pay him later. I would tell him I wasn’t interested. I would say this and that, but kept on insisting.

He was a very strange man. He kept a King James Bible on the dashboard of his car, and showed up regularly at the Bible Study. At first, I assumed he was a devout Christian. But as I got to know him, I realized his Christian veneer was but a cover. The King James was merely a good luck charm, and he attended the Bible Study largely to find customers to whom to peddle his marijuana. That, and to schmooze with attractive Christian women.

Q. Why didn’t they kick him out of the Bible Study? Isn’t such behavior ungodly?

A. This was in Berkeley — a city noted for tolerating what it shouldn’t, and not tolerating what it should.

Q. Should you have tolerated that guy?

A. Well, I should have put up with him. But I shouldn’t have caved in to his conniving nature.

Q. How did you cave in?

A. By not saying “no.” The easiest thing to do was to accept the marijuana and tell him I’d pay him later. That way I could finally get rid of him.

Q. Do you have trouble saying “no?” I mean, in general?

A. Yes.

Q. So why did he shake you up?

A. Obviously, he shook me up when I failed to pay him.

Q. Are you saying you smoked the marijuana, but did not pay him?

A. If I recall correctly, the last time he did this, I instantly gave it all away to people more interested in smoking it.

Q. You’re not interested in smoking marijuana?

A. Not really, no. At times I have been, but not in recent times. And not back then, either.

Q. How much did you owe him?

A. In that case, $120. Earlier though, I only owed him $20. And that was when he shook me up.

Q. He shook you up over twenty dollars? Why would he do such a thing?

A. Probably because he felt disrespected.

Q. How did he shake you up? What did he do to you?

A. He saw me walking down the sidewalk in his direction, took off his jacket, glared at me, and hit me on the right shoulder with one hand, on the left side of my waist with the other. Then he walked off, pointing back at me, and admonishing me: “Don’t f—k with me!!”

Q. Were you hurt?

A. Not at all. Just a little shook up.

Q. So how do I remind of you of that guy?

A. It’s your aggression. Granted, you’re not always this aggressive. But neither was he. On some days, I find you more annoying than others. This particular Tuesday, your level of annoying aggression approaches that of the aforementioned adversarial entity.

Q. Entity?

A Well — I would have said “asshole” to complete the alliteration, but I don’t like to cuss.

Q. Why do you think I’m being so aggressive? And why have you thought about that fellow?

A. Not sure. Maybe it has to do with the letter I got in the mail recently.

Q. The letter from Mike?

A. Yeah. I took his good will at face value. I wrote back, and even left a return address.

Q. And you’re suggesting that Mike might not be trusted with your address?

A. Well, I usually don’t give it out to anyone. I don’t even let people in my home community know where I live. But the content of Mike’s letter warmed my heart. So I made an exception.

Q. Do you feel that you might have “caved in” to Mike?

A. Interesting question. I feel that I trusted Mike. But I also feel that the trust, in this case, was a risk.

Q. Why?

A. Because I like my anonymity. I like to be reclusive. I’m an Artist — I like to create. And I don’t like people to mess with me. I prefer that no one knock on my door.

Q. Did you get messed with on the streets?

A. Yeah. They were always messing with me. It interfered with my desire to produce my Art.

Q. Are you afraid that this guy might come up and mess with you?

A. Which guy? Do you mean Mike?

Q. No – no – the dealer. The guy who shook you up.

A. Now that you mention it, yes.

Q. Isn’t that highly unlikely? Don’t you live about a thousand miles away from him?

A. I do, but so what? Many things happen that are unlikely.

Q. Do you still owe him money?

A. It’s not about owing or not owing. It’s about respect. That’s what the streets are all about. When someone feels disrespected, they being to plot vengeance against those who have disrespected them.

Q. But wasn’t that about five years ago?

A. Ah – but in those five years, nothing has changed.

Q. Do you respect that guy?

A. I’ve given him no reason to believe that I respect him.

Q. Do you respect me?

Pause.

A. Yes, I do.

Q. Even though I remind you of that guy?

A. Yes.

Q. Why?

A. Because you’re another story. And because this life, where you and I have engaged, and where my Art has been produced, is not like street life. The Old Story has passed. We’re all living in a New Story.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1630

(1) I’m feeling more peace about things than I’ve felt for a long time.

(2) I’ve been playing piano tunes lately from my set list at Gulliver’s of San Francisco, the gig I held throughout the 90’s. They seem to reflect a happy, more contented spirit than the earlier, more tumultuous, more boisterous stuff.

(3) Finally made it to Winko’s last night. Nice of Susan to give me a ride there and back. I had planned to buy $260 worth of groceries, eyeballed it at the store without a list, and came home with $261 and change. Pretty sure I’m good for the month.

(4) The team had a great meeting yesterday afternoon, in which our direction was clarified. We’re focusing on the Audio Show now, and I’m enjoying receiving lines that everyone records into their phones and mixing them at home using Audacity. Also, we’ve been getting more donations lately on the site here — some from entirely unexpected sources. It’s encouraging to see us all having a good time with the project, and it’s a good feeling to know that people are drawn toward it.

(5) I don’t know how to say this, so I’ll just say it. I’m thankful that I don’t live in California anymore. It can be a beautiful place, but it’s just so nice not to be struggling to survive in that chaotic, cut-throat culture. People up here are just nicer enough and I have just enough more breathing room, that I no longer feel incapable of doing the things I enjoy, for all the struggle I was having down there trying to “make it.” I’m thankful for my retirement income. I’m thankful that this month marks three years where I’ve paid rent on a place of my own, where I’ve lived in peace and quiet. I would have died in a gutter down there. I’m thankful for my life.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” 
-Harriet Tubman

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Tuesday Tuneup 92

Q. What’s happening now?

A. You again?

Q. Why do you ask?

A. You left me alone last Tuesday. Why couldn’t you leave me alone now?

Q. Am I that much of a bother?

A. Never mind.

Q. What’s on your mind? Why are you being so weird?

A. You know what Tuesdays are like.

Q. Aren’t they usually your busiest, most stressful day?

A. Usually.

Q. Then why aren’t you always so weird, every single Tuesday?

A. You know the answer to that.

Q. Something about the election?

A. That, and a general sense of powerlessness.

Q. What do you do when you feel powerless?

A. Me? Well, ordinarily, I think of positive things.

Q. Can you think of any?

A. On this day? I’m hard-pressed. Within forty-eight hours, irrespective of the outcome of the election, it will be end of life as we know it.

Q. May I quote you on that?

A. Please spell my name right.

Q. Where have we heard this before?

A. Heard what before? About spelling my name right?

Q. No no – where have we heard you say your quote about the outcome of the election?

A. Oh – I said it once before. I said it earlier this morning.

Q. To whom?

A. I believe it was to Sally Hindman, the director of Youth Spirit Artworks.

Q. What had she said to you?

A. She said “We will get through this.”

Q. And then what did you say?

A. I said: “Within forty-eight hours, irrespective of the outcome of the election, it will be the end of life as we know it.”

Q. Is that all you said?

A. No – I added something else.

Q. What?

A. I said: “But you’re right. We will get through this. For we are the Human Race.”

Q. Do you believe that?

A. We’ve gotten through everything so far. The Human Race has an uncanny ability to pull itself together just in the nick of time. We’ve done it throughout history. We may bicker and procrastinate until it’s down to the wire — but when we need to, we pull together.

Q. What about now?

A. What about it?

The Questioner is silent.

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Re: “She Called Me Dad”

I have a Tuesday Tuneup planned but am foregoing it – and all other things — until this piece of social activism has been submitted. This may be a trigger for some people.

Something happened yesterday by surprise that was so emotionally wrenching, I burst into tears in the midst of all else that is going on at this time.

A few days ago I heard from Alastair (the Street Spirit editor) that they’d received a letter at the Spirit Office that was for me. They said a man had walked the letter into the office, unaddressed, and asked if they could please get it to Andy Pope.

Me being me, I naturally was fairly convinced that it was from some street hustler whom I’d offended, possibly with a threat against my life, or else contained some horrible blackmail attempt such as a photograph of the time I practically defecated in public I couldn’t hold it any longer. In fact, one of any number of high-profile formerly private activities could have been filmed or photographed — the privileges that one sacrifices when one gives up all privacy by living on the streets.

Instead, it was a handwritten letter from a dear friend named Mike. Mike and I had been homeless together for years down there, and we had a mutual friend whom I shall call “Maria.” Mike said that he had been reading my columns for “a few years” and that he especially appreciated the one I wrote about Maria.

Of course, I had been hesitant to write about a real person, and I changed her name to “Maria” when I wrote the story. I wrote nothing bad about her, but still feared it would embarrass her if it got back to her, or anger some of her friends. Still, I was moved to write a column called She Called Me Dad because this young Hispanic woman with a severe mental health condition — possibly Dissociative Identity Disorder — sat across from me where I had my spot where I flew my sign, and pretended I was her Dad so as to protect her.

As a severely disabled young woman alone on the streets, she was very vulnerable. Tweakers took advantage of her all the time, and Berkeley cops could have cared less, because people with conspicuous mental health disorders were generally lumped into the same bag as the other “losers and dirt bags” who appeared to populate the streets.

So Mike sent me two pictures of her — I wish I could scan them and show them to you — but of course I can’t do so without her consent. And like as not, I will never see her again, let alone do I know how to reach her.

In one picture she is seen holding one of two newborns in her arms, obviously caring for her baby as any mother would. In the other, she is seen at the Spot we shared, though of course without me.

He related that she had again been raped (I have no idea how many times she had been raped previously), went through with the pregnancy, and gave birth to twins. The twins of course were immediately taken from her by Child Protective Services.

I stared at the words and the pictures, and tears flooded my face. I’m not a crier, you know. That is, I don’t cry readily or easily. But it was too much for my heart not to be softened and touched.

Mike also shared that “Peaches” had died — which I had already learned from Kathy Kitzman, who was the Admin of Homeless Lives Matter at the time — and that my friend “Lillian” who had had three strokes and suffered from psychomotor impairment had come back for a while and then disappeared again. His reports brought back a panorama of a Berkeley that I’d forgotten about.

I usually think of Berkeley as this horrible place in time where a number of us did our best to look after each other while being routinely treated like shit by practically anybody who lived inside, and by at least half of the people who lived outside. I usually think of Berkeley as this horrible world. What I forget is how much LOVE there was among the decent people who had wound up homeless.

In a way, I’ve lost a lot of that love because life hasn’t been hard – I even get bored these days — which for me is inexcusable. Did I ever get bored on the streets? I remember how when we were homeless, if someone managed to score a hotel room for a week, it was a joke to say: “Wow – you might even get bored!”

Homelessness in Berkeley was a lot of hard things and a lot of good things, a lot of pain and fear and anger, and a lot of fun too. But it was never boring.

“What right have I?” I asked myself when I saw the two pictures of Maria and the vulnerable look in her eyes, “to be bored?”

I have a calling, I have a purpose. I better get on the ball.

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Anything Helps
God Bless!