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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Dangers of Liberation (Part Seven)

This is the final post of a seven-part series.   Though it will make more sense if you read all six of the previous posts in the series, I won’t be so demanding as to insist upon it.  My hope is that it will stand on its own, enough to secure your interest.  I don’t differ from many other writers, in this regard.

My knees got hit pretty badly by the pavement on which I had slammed them down.  They would be swollen the next day.  But I did not care.   When I stood up from the prayer I had screamed, something was different.  There was an eerie calm about my spirit that suggested a newfound confidence.   I had never prayed a prayer like that before.

St. Paul wrote: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  — (Philippians 4:8-9)

Nobody is an atheist in a foxhole.  I prayed more prayers in the trenches of homelessness than I had prayed at any more respectably churchgoing phase in m life.  But I had never felt a sense of peace engulf me as it did when I stood up from that prayer.   For the first time in twelve years, I had cast aside the sting of stigma, of all the things that people supposed my homeless experience to entail, and prayed directly that I would be granted a home.

It wasn’t long after that I remembered an old associate of mine.   It crossed my mind that a certain music teacher I’d worked with in the past had offered to get me a one-way ticket to anywhere I thought I could start a new life.   I remember being somewhat perplexed when he added: “I’m not trying to get rid of you, by the way.”  (This obviously planted the thought in my head that he was in fact trying to get rid of me.)

Whatever the case, we met to discuss the matter.  He told me he was no longer teaching, but had received a large retirement.  So he reiterated his offer, suggesting he fly me to Belize.  That was a bit far away for me.   

So I told him I would start googling keywords designed to land me in a part of the United States where I thought I would flourish.   I began to google things like “college town,” “small town,” “affordable rent,” and “low crime rate.”  I also threw in demographics tailored to my tastes, for I tend to thrive in the colder temperatures.    It wasn’t too long before the city “Moscow, Idaho” began to surface.

“This is bizarre!” I told myself.   “I was born in Moscow Idaho — but I only lived here for the first year of my life.   I know nothing about this place, except for that my dad was teaching ROTC at some college, and that he was transferred to San Diego or Long Beach shortly after I was born.”

As the city of Moscow began to work its way further up toward the front page, I took my leap of faith. 

“Why is it that I have never even pondered this town?  Nor wished to return to it?   One think I’d have been curious.  But I wasn’t — until now.”  

On a hunch, I looked on Craigslist for a room.   I saw a studio room with a kitchenette in a converted residence hotel now called the “Friendship Apartments.”  To my astonishment, the room rented for only $275 a month.

I sent pictures to my friend.  “How much do you think this rents for?” I asked.

“Oh – I don’t know.  Maybe $900?”

“Try $275.”

“We’re on!” he shouted.

Shortly later, he was buying me a $200 one-way ticket at the Transbay Terminal in San Francisco.  Forty-eight hours later, on July 27, 2016, exactly ten days after I had prayed that unprecedented prayer, I was sleeping indoors in a place of my choosing.

I have been sleeping indoors, in places of my own choosing, ever since.  Twelve years of degrading, debilitating, demeaning, undignifying, dehumanizing homelessness was ended that simply.   It was as easy as that.

I had only asked for “a lock on a door, a window, and a power outlet.”  But God gave me much more than that.   God answered all the prayers I had asked in frustration why I had to continue to be surrounding by thieves and hookers and pimps and hustlers and drug dealers, and why was I not surrounded by Artists and Writers and Musicians and Actors and Directors and people more like myself.

I walked through the city gate of the town of my birth, the place where (according to my late sister) I had lived for only fifteen months.   This is the gate that I found:

heart of the arts

This is why I related earlier that all the prayers I prayed in total outrage and frustration were answered by the God Who Is Love.   If that Love can cut through hatred as thick and vicious as mine, I believe it can cut through all the hatred in the world.

Let’s hope.   There is always danger on this earth.   I have been in danger of many things since I’ve lived indoors — danger of a different nature than one finds when one lives outside.  But there is one place where there is no danger, and one home that is eternal.

“If you make my Word your home, you will indeed be my disciples.  You will learn the truth — and the truth will make you free.”   — Jesus Christ

THE END 

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Tuesday Tuneup 56

finest work

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Getting ready.

Q. For what?

A. For a change in policy.

Q. Why does your policy need to change?

A. Because it’s ineffective.

Q. How is it ineffective?

A. Why don’t you just ask me what the policy is?

Q. Why should I ask you that?

A. Because you will then be able to determine for yourself why it is ineffective.

Q. Very well, then.  What is your current policy?

A. Reckless Abandon.

Q. With respect to what?

A. With respect to Art.

Q. How so?

A. I create continuously.   I create without letup or rest.  I create like a crazed maniac.   But I only create at random.  There is no order, nor rhyme nor reason, to the manner in which I create.

Q. Can you provide a specific example?

A. Yes.  The talks I gave recently, and the blog post I wrote as to how PTSD relates to the Homeless Experience.   This was random.  It was not something I intended to do according to a concrete creative plan.  It just sort of — happened — when I was moved to do so.

Q. And a second example?

A. The piano album I created, called Abandon.  It resulted from a comment someone had made that intrigued me.  I took off on that comment, until an entire piano album had been produced.

Q. Is this a bad thing?

A. Not in and of itself, no.

Q. Then why do you need to change the policy?

A. Because these creative endeavors have been keeping me from fully engaging a far more important creative task.

Q Which is?

A. The 4th Draft of my musical Eden in Babylon, and the 2nd draft of its musical score.

Q. Have you been procrastinating?

A. Yes.  But I prefer to frame it a bit differently.

Q. How so?

A. It’s not so much procrastination as it is preparation.  

Q. How can procrastination be preparation?

Labor of Love – A Semester’s Reflection | Kelsey BrannanA. It’s like so.  When I procrastinate, I engage my creative energies in a way that pleases me.  It is not what I have to do.  It is what I want to do.   In doing so, I practice creating out of desire, not out of obligation.   Then, when I cease to procrastinate, the desire to create remains — for I have practiced it.

Q. Do you mean to tell me that when you implement the new change in policy, the Object of your Creative Desire will immediately be changed?

A. Yes.  When the clock strikes midnight tonight, the Object of my Artistic Affection will be altered. It will no longer have anything to do with homelessness, or PTSD, or even blogging, for that matter.  Nor will it involve my piano playing.  It will instead return to what it was before I deviated off onto those artistic tangents.

Q. In other words, at the stroke of midnight, you will immediately reactivate the desire to work on your musical?

A. Not exactly.  It’s already been activated.  I just haven’t begun to do it yet.

Q. Why not?

A. Because it isn’t time yet.  It happens at midnight tonight.

Q. Why?

A. Because it’s been scheduled that way.

Q. Why adhere so strictly to the schedule?

A. You want the whole rundown?

Q. Why not?

Funny sublimation designs downloads quote funny Not | EtsyA. Very well then.  To be honest with you, when we suspended operations on the project, I became depressed.  I blamed myself for falling short.   I remained depressed for eleven days.  And I accomplished nothing.

Then I decided to deal with the depression in my typical, lifelong fashion.  I would hurl myself full force into various artistic endeavors.  But I wouldn’t work on the musical, because it was too depressing to think about it.

In the process of working on these less pertinent, less relevant side projects, I became happy again.   And now that I am happy, and longer depressed, I will resume working on the musical, and be happy doing so.

Q. So you’re trying to tell me that the same project that earlier depressed you will now make you happy?

A. Yes.

Q. Why do I find that hard to believe?

A. Probably because you’re either not an Artist, or you don’t know me very well, or both.

Q. May I ask a question that might insult you?

A. At your own risk, ask away.  

Q. Why do you think you can pull it off?

A. Because my name is Andy Pope.   Any further questions?

The Questioner is silent.

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Portrait of Betrayal

This is the 5th movement of my recently completed improvisational sonata, Abandon. The concept album consists of approximately forty minutes of completely improvised piano music in a classical and romantic vein.  Original songs of a former day are quoted, amid numerous references to Jim Morrison, Edward Elgar and Henry Mancini. Please message me if you are interested in purchasing a hard copy CD or an online piano album on BandCamp. 

“Betray” Copyright © 2019 by Andrew Michael Pope. Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, August 27th, 2019.

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Tuesday Tuneup 53

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Waiting for you.

Q. What do you want from me?

A. Questions.

Q. Why?

A. Because your questions always lead to interesting answers.

Q. Like what?

A. Like what I should be doing this morning.

Q. What should you be doing this morning?

A. In my opinion, I should be staving off depression by hurling myself full-force into an artistic project.

Q. Why should you do that?

A. Because I’ve been doing it all my life, and it usually works.

Q. Have you ever considered facing the depression directly, rather than doing something to avert it?

A. Sure I have.

Q. And how does that work for you?

A. It usually only makes me more depressed.   

Q. And then what?

A. Then nothing.  Stagnation.  Inaction.  Futility.   

Q. But if you stave off the depression through Art?

A. Then everything.  Motivation.  Action.  Meaningfulness.  

Anger-management-quote

Q. Why then would anyone ever want to face their depression directly?

A. Probably because they deny it.  If one is in denial, things don’t work too well.

Q. Are you in denial?

A. If I were, I wouldn’t know it now, would I?

Q. I don’t know – would you?

A. No, I would not.

Q. But do you feel like you’re in denial?

A. Maybe a little bit.  Nothing serious, though.  Nothing that would land me in jail or in a psychiatric facility.

Q. Where would your level of denial land you?

A. Probably on a piano bench.

Q. What do you mean?

A. When I start to suspect that something is internally amiss, I usually play it out on the piano and see what happens.

Q. What happens then?

A. I channel my feelings.

Q. And this is?

A. Healthy.

Q. Anything else?

A. Not off the top, no.  Oh wait a minute – I’m going to be posting a new talk tomorrow.  It will still be called “The Perception of Inequality” just like the talk I removed earlier this week.  It will just be a lot more thorough, more purposeful, more academic, more informative.

Q. Has working on this new talk helped you to be less depressed?

A. Yes, it has.

Q. But won’t all the depression return as soon as you’re done with your project?

A. It might.  It might not.   

Q. What now?

A. Calling my friend Danielle in about ten minutes, as per usual.   Waiting for the sky to get light.  Lacing up my shoes, going on a run.   

Q. And after that?

A. Planning on enjoying the day.  God’s blessings are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 51

Q.  What’s been bugging you lately?

A.  The Tuesday Tuneups.

Q.  Why?

A.  They’ve lost something.

Q.  How so?

A.  I think it started around about the time it would be a nice “game” to ask my readers to select a question for me, rather than me selecting one that I knew would work.

Q. How would you know?

A. Because I’ve been doing the “tuneups” since 1987, though not online, and not always on Tuesdays.   So I’ve accumulated a compendium of questions that do work.

Q. So are you going to select a new question for next week?

A. No.  I’m going to discontinue them for a while.

Q. Why?

A. Overloaded.   I’ve been dealing with what I call “Mainstream Stress” and it’s affecting my sense of integrity.

Q. Mainstream Stress?

A. The kind of stress one gets only in the Mainstream; that is, when one has multiple commitments, and has to show up at many specific places at specific times, prepared to conduct oneself according to an expected fashion.

Q. Are you trying to say you’ve been working too hard?

A. Something like that.  But I’ve always worked very hard.  I just haven’t done it to deadlines, or under pressure, in recent years.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I don’t believe that deadlines and pressures are good for the human spirit.  I also believe that my not having operated according to these Mainstream values is what has kept me generally happy and healthy over the years.

Q. And you are not happy and healthy now?

A. Still healthy, though at risk.

Q. And happy?

A. That depends upon what is meant by happiness.

Q. Why are you evading the question?

A. Scripture equates happiness with God’s blessings.  I have definitely been in receipt of God’s blessings.

Q. Then why aren’t you happy?

A. Because, apparently, I have been seeking happiness from a source other than God.

Q. What source is that?

A. Art.

Q. You have a friend named Art?

A. Um, no — I do know one guy named Art, but he’s only a casual acquaintance.   I’m talking about Art — as in Music.  Writing.  Singing.  All the things I have turned to in order to give beauty to an ugly situation.

Art


Q. What situation?

A. I can’t answer that.  I am sorry.  It’s too deep and too personal.

Q. May I then therefore be excused?

A. Not just yet.  Let’s decide when the Tuneups will recur.

Q. When would you like them to recur?

A. October 1, 2019.

Q. Deal?

A. Deal.

Angel and demon deal Vector Image #131294 – RFclipart

 

The Questioner is silent. 

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Gratitude List 1161

(1) Although my obsession with my current project kept me up till 2:30 in the morning, I managed to sleep fairly solidly between 2:30 & 7:30. Very thankful for the restorative power of sleep.

(2) Succeeding in solving about eight different problems with one decision, I finally have a full cast for the show. I am now wearing two hats — not three — and am greatly relieved.

(3) Latah Recovery Center. The camaraderie in that building is like no other place I know.

(4) My new computer will be arriving tomorrow.   Grateful for the compassionate assistance of all the people who pitched in to make sure I would have a computer capable of handling the work I need to do for this project.

(5) It’s a beautiful day here — more like Summer than Spring.   It’s Memorial Day, and no matter what that may mean for different sorts of people, I can’t help but have noticed that all sorts of people are smiling all around town.  

(6) I’m grateful for my friend Danielle, who has been helping me tremendously with the managing of my personal finances.

(7) My new bicycle.  Grateful for the friend who gave it to me.  Grateful for how it gets me to places I need to go so much faster than always having to walk everywhere.  Also grateful for the many fine bike paths, and for being able finally to get myself to some of the neighboring towns.  It feels like a “stepping stone” between my former ways as a total pedestrian, and the long-awaited day when I will finally have a car.

(8) My friends Marilyn and Melissa, whom I met at the Center a couple years ago.  They’re both doing so much better now than ever before.

(9) In a flash, I figured out how to solve all the problems in Act 2, Scene 3 that have kept me hassled and stymied for months now.   I immediately reported my “flash” on my Twitter in two successive blasts as follows:

Capture2

(10) In a somewhat gentler flash, I realized why I’ve felt so hassled with regards to my work.  I’ve been acting as though my work is the top priority, the be-all-and-end-all.  This is not the case!  Life is full of other aspects.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  Not sure if I’m dull ‘yet — but if I keep working so hard to the exclusion of all other things, I’ll be dull as can be in an untimely grave.   So I want to say that I am grateful for this revelation, and of all the colors of the rainbow that is Life.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 48

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. My relationship to reality.

Q. What is reality?

A. Well, you know the answer to that.   Reality is what’s actually happening.  It’s what is.

Q. And you are somehow not happening?  You are somehow not?  

A. I didn’t say that!

Q. Well, what are you saying, then?   How are you distinct from reality?

A. I’m distinct from reality in that I am supposed to be real and as such represent reality in the eyes of all who — who —

Q. Who?

A. Who observe me.

Q. Why did I think you were going to say something different than that?

A. Because you probably thought I was going to say: “in the eyes of all who judge me.”

Q. Are there people who are judging you?

A. Well yes, I believe so.  Or at least, they have a hard time not judging me, since they have to observe me.  Once you start observing somebody, it’s only a matter of time before you pass judgment on them.   It’s just human nature.  

Q. But wait – why are all these people observing you?   And who are these people?  

A. Who are they?   Gosh, I don’t know – they could be just about anybody.   Anybody who has access to — to —

Q. To binoculars?

A. No, no, no – to the Internet!   Anybody can pass by this page for any reason, they can look, they can lurk, they can draw conclusions —

Q. Are you trying to tell me that you are afraid of the random trolls and lifeless morning whiskey-guzzlers who idle upon your page at random first thing every Tuesday morning?

A. I never used the word “fear.”

Q. Then why am I picking it up?

A. Probably because I’m paranoid.

Q. What do you mean by that?  If you’re paranoid, aren’t you necessarily afraid?

A. No, not necessarily.  One can be totally paranoid without being afraid at all.  We’ve all met paranoid people who completely believe scenarios about reality that are entirely faulty.  Do they always act scared?  No, they don’t.  Sometimes they have amazing self-confidence.

Q. And are you one of these people?

A. No, I’m not.  But I’m not exactly scared either.   I’m just concerned about my relationship to reality.

Related imageQ. Do you see reality as a threat?

A. That’s a good question.  It’s not so much reality itself that is a threat.  It’s that I myself might never quite relate to reality in a healthy or beneficial way.

Q. How do you relate to reality?

A. Gee whiz, I thought you’d never ask!

Q. Hm?

A. I usually assess it first thing in the morning, see if it stands in my way, and exactly how much it’s in my way, quickly dispose of some of its usual, daily, meager demands, and then go about my business.

Q. And your business is?

A. You already know what my business is.

Q. But how is it that your business opposes reality?

A. It doesn’t.  Not in the highest sense.   My business involves the creation and instigation of — alternative realities.   New ways of looking at old things.   Transformative energies — you know where I’m coming from, don’t you?  It’s a bit crass to elaborate.   

Q. But reality opposes your business?

A. Well, yes.   And again, it all depends on what you think reality is.  If reality is this thing that always is, that never changes, that resists change — well, yes, then of course it opposes my business, and the business of all those like me.  If reality is this more open thing, always embracing that which is new, routinely cleansing, purging itself of what is old, inhaling, welcoming the breath of newness wherever it may be — then, no, reality does not oppose my business, but is in that sense an integral part of my business.

Q. Have you then therefore redefined reality?

A. No.  I’ve only redefined my relationship to it.

Q. And this relationship no longer bothers you?

A. I didn’t say that.   

Q. What are you saying then?

A. Only that the relationship is manageable, for now.

Q. May I then therefore be excused?

A. You may.  I think we’ve exhausted this analysis — for now.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 45

Oh well  —  I’ve dragged the ‘game’ out for long enough now to only make it boring if I don’t just up-and-choose a ‘winner.’   And the winner is Lynne Fisher, for the simple reason that her question arouses or incites the most interesting possibilities — that is, for me personally, since after all, I *am* the Answerer. 

So thank you to everybody who participated, which I believe is five of you, if I counted right.   You certainly have raised some very interesting questions!   And now, without further ado, I will do my best to answer the chosen one.

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. I have a die-hard internal conflict that needs to be resolved.

Q. What conflict is that?

A. It’s hard to describe.

Q. How do you know?

A. I already tried.  I called my best friend and tried it to describe it to her.  And not even she, in her ultra-high intelligence and exceedingly advanced listening skills, was able to understand it.

Q. Wow — maybe, try again?

A. Okay here goes.

The Answerer takes a breath.

A. For a guy who feels called to convey an important theme for humanity – you know, as an Artist, as a spiritual human being, as a Man   — I sure have a lot of lousy inner thoughts that seem to be — well, they’re below me.

Q. What kinds of thoughts?

A. Thoughts of randomly calling people who have disrespected me, and leaving nasty messages on their voicemails – like say, during the middle of the night, when I know they won’t answer, but will pick up the messages when they get to work in the morning.Th

Q. Do you . . . ever actually make any of these “random” phone calls?

A. No I do not.

Q. Then why do you still think of doing so?

A. That’s a good question.

Q. Well – thank you – but – why would you want to do something like that?   What purpose would it serve?

A. It would jar them.  It would jolt them out of their inane complacency.  It would shake them up, and get them to realize that they can’t quite get rid of me as easily as they thought they could! It would let them know that I’m still there with them — still hovering over them — ready to plague them, to torment them, for all the remaining days of their pitiful, hellbound lives — and even for an eternity in hell thereafter, if it were possible.

Q. And it is not possible?

A. No it is not.  For between the two of us there is a great gulf fixed — kinda like Jesus in Luke 16, the parable about the rich guy down in hell and the poor man up in heaven, and all that.

Q. So you will be in heaven?

A. Yes.

Q. And they will be in hell?

A. Well, I certainly hope not!  But if they are, there’s no way I can reach them any longer.

Q. And if they aren’t?

A. Then we’re all up in heaven, and it’s all good.  Join the party!

Q. Your theology amuses me.

A. Only questions, please.

Q. All right, then here’s a question for you.  Is it so important for you to shake these guys up, that you would risk your entire eternal security in heaven by heading down to hell with them, just to keep nagging at them?

A. Well, now that you put it that way — no, I don’t suppose so — no.

Q. Then why don’t you just give it up?   Can you really change these guys?

A. OMG you’re starting to sound like a pop psychologist!   But no, I cannot change them.

Q. So why don’t you just turn your attention to something more positive, useful, peaceful, beautiful —

A. Well, that’s what I do already!  I do it every damn morning, if you want the God-honest truth.

DEUS transforma! « Geração Eleita
“Deus Transformed” by Geração Eleita

Q. I’m not sure I do want the “God-honest truth,” but that’s just an agnostic aside. 

A. Understood.

Q. My question is why do you have to go through a process every single morning of overcoming all this insane hatred and vitriol, before you can get to the place where you’re bringing about peace and joy and love and kindness and all of the virtues you truly value?

A. Because if it weren’t for all the hatred and vitriol, I would have no enemy to overcome, there would be no fight, the battle would be over, and I would accomplish nothing.  

Q. In other words, you need an enemy in order to win the war?

A. You got it.   This is war, man.   This is Art.   It’s the real thing.   I’m not just fooling around here.   This is serious business.   

Q. How long have you been fighting this war?

A. Goes back to early childhood.  Between five and seven, I think, when I found out about — about —

Q. About what?

A. Isn’t there somewhere else you have to be this morning?

Q. You tire of my questions?

A. Would Socrates have tired of a gadfly?  Of course not.  It’s just that we’re about up a whole new Pandora’s Box here, and I myself would frankly like to get a bite to eat before setting about the day . . . of creating . . . things that are beautiful . . . and peaceful . . . and harmonious . . .  pretty . . . artistic . . . aesthetic . . .

Q. Out with it!!  What was it that you learned when you were a child?!   What caused you to begin this lifelong war?

A. You know the answer to that.  And you also know who is the enemy.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 43

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. Done.

Q. Are you ever done?

A. Sure I am!  Why do you even ask such an insulting question?   I’m so tired of all these ridiculously uninformed assumptions that people make about Art and Artists, and the Arts, and all that.

Q. Art?  Artists?   The Arts?   What assumption are you talking about?

A. The assumption that just because I’m an Artist, then I therefore must be some kind of  incorrigible perfectionist who is never satisfied with his work.

Q. Why do you sound so defensive?

A. Because I’m frustrated.  I want to be done, I tell you!   Done!!

Q. Done with what?

A. With what do you think?   What is this entire blog about?  What am I always driving at?   I’ve been working on this big huge piece for — gosh, it seems like decades now.

Q. You mean your musical?

A. Is the sky blue?

Q. But weren’t you finished with that?   What happened on July 4, 2018?  On Independence Day?

A. On July 4, 2018, I finished the script.  It was actually the third draft.   And yes, I did feel liberated on Independence Day.  Liberated from the burden of having to keep hammering away at the script.  

Q. Are you suggesting that there is some other aspect to this musical that you have not yet finished?   The score, for example?

A. You’re getting warm.  It’s kinda like, I wrote most of the music “in my head” — I mean, occasionally tapping my fingers on my desktop as though it were a piano keyboard.  But mostly just trying to envision internally what it would actually sound like once I got around to writing out the parts.

Q. And you’ve not gotten around to writing out the parts yet?

A. Not exactly.  I figured I’d start with the Vocal Score.   Currently, there are 16 main numbers in the show.   I have thus far scored 13 of the 16 to my satisfaction.   The 14th has been scored, too – though not to my complete satisfaction.  Nos. 15 & 16 remain.

Q. Well then, doesn’t it seem that you’ve come a long way?

A. Not long enough!  Once the Vocal Score is scored, I need to write out instrumental parts.  The bass parts.  Guitar parts.   Keyboard-synthesizer.  And drums.   

Q. Won’t that be the fun part?

A. Maybe.  Not looking forward to writing out a whole piano score.  But I suppose it has to be done.

Q. What’s your timeline?

A. Interesting question.  I almost would decline to answer it.  Anyone who knows me knows that I abhor working for deadlines.  I often boldly claim that the only true deadline is death.   So what makes you think there’s a timeline?

Q. Well – you won’t live forever, will you?

A. Perhaps not.  But there’s something a bit insidious about your line of reasoning.  It seems like you’re fishing for something.   Come on, Questioner!  Out with it!

Q. Out with what?

A. The cat!  Let ‘er out of the bag!

Q. What cat?  What bag??

A. Never mind.  I’d rather do it myself.   As you are well aware, there are looming production possibilities not too far around the corner.  If even one of these possibilities comes to fruition, then there will need to be a full musical score.   People other than me will need to sing the parts.  People other than myself will need to play the instruments.   And at least one of these possibilities is looming for “mid-to-late Summer.”  We’re talking 2019!   I gotta get a move on.

Q. How possible is this possibility?

A. It’s a virtual certainty.  I’ve received a definite offer.  I just haven’t said YES yet.

Q. Why not?

A. Because there may be a greater offer pending, and if I said YES to the lesser offer, I might miss out.  I can’t have both.  

Q. Why not?

A. Time constraints.  It’s also looming for the summer, just with a different company, a different venue.   Can’t have both at once.   

Q. So you need to finish all the musical parts by Summer 2019?

A. That would stand to reason.

Q. You think you can make it?

A. Yes — as long as I get through this one very difficult hurdle.

Q. What hurdle is that?

A. Long story.

Q. Shoot.

The Answerer takes a deep breath.  

Yamaha C3X Grand Piano, Polished Ebony at Gear4music

A. Long, long ago, in the year 1974, I sat down at a piano at Struve-Titus Hall on the campus of the University of California at Davis.   Laboriously, in the spirit of Keith Emerson, I wrote a highly ELP-influenced piece entitled “Winston Greene.”

Q. Winston Greene?  Isn’t that the name of your protagonist?

A. It is indeed.  The main character in Eden in Babylon is a fellow who goes by the name of Winston Greene.

Q. So what is the connection between the song you wrote in 1974 and the character of this musical that you have written 45 years later?

A. My answer will only make sense if you happen to be an Artist of my type.

Q. Are there any Artists of your type?

A. That’s a good question.  I’m not sure I know the answer, to be honest with you.   What I have done — as an Artist —  just seems totally weird.  To even relate the information strikes me as some kind of confession.   I need for some kind of High Priest of the Arts to absolve me of my Artistic transgression.   

Q. How, then, can I be of help?

A. I’m not sure, Father Q.  Just hear me out.  And maybe go easy on the interrogation.  Just let me speak.   You will let me speak, won’t you?

Q. Why not?

A. Whew.   For a while there, I was afraid you were going to just keep interrupting me all the time.  Now I warn you, this story is long.

In 1974 I created a character in my head, and I called him Winston Greene.  I wrote a song about him, describing his departure from civilized society, his prodigality, and his failure to return to the normative world.  I even had him die in the song.  The song was very well-received.  So I played it at every opportunity, until I got tired of it.  

Q. Why did you get tired of it?

A. Because my style evolved past it.   My current style doesn’t resemble it much at all.   So I lost interest in it.  But — I did not lose interest in the character, the persona of Winston Greene.  I continued to toy with “Winston” – until gradually, it appeared I ought to make him the protagonist of a specific, larger work — albeit 45 years later.  But then, I must confess, I did a very strange thing.

Q. What was that?

A. I decided that the song, “Winston Greene,” needed to be worked into the show, with the lyrics adjusted accordingly, in order to serve as the penultimate number — Musical No. 15 – of the 16 numbers in the show.   I decided that in this case, the death of Winston Greene would only be  — a rumor.   He would actually reappear, in the flesh, almost as though there had been a resurrection.  And yet, the death itself would be a deception.   This was my way of exonerating myself for having — having — 

Q. Having what?  Having what??

A. Having killed Winston Greene.   Yes — I so identified with Winston, when I wrote the earlier piece back in ’74, I could not let him die within me, even after he had already died in the song.

Q. Is this why you let the song itself die?

A. Exactly!   But I only realized that just now, at this very moment! The song, “Winston Greene,” in which the man “Winston Greene” dies, is a song I need to kill –– in order that Winston Greene himself might live.   So he continued to live on in my heart, and the song that told of his death was banned from existence.  There would be no record of Winston having died.   

Q. Fascinating!  Is this why you wanted to change the lyrics?

A. Yes!  The lyrics would no longer relate to Winson’s alleged death, but to his endurance, his survival, and his will to live.

Q. Then isn’t your problem solved?

A. How do you figure that?

Q. Can’t you just use the same old music, but with the newer, happier lyrics?

A. I suppose I could.  If I want the penultimate number in my musical to sound like something  I wrote when I was 22 years old listening to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and not like something I wrote when I wrote the rest of the score to Eden in Babylon, some forty years later.

ELP | thebestmusicyouhaveneverheard

Q. So you are planning to write a whole new song, at this late stage?   Won’t this mean rewriting the last Scene entirely?

A. Not entirely – but to a significant degree.  I read through the last Scene last night, and actually found that it flowed quite nicely — up until the point where the rogue song rears its ugly head.  But you see, I don’t have to write a new song.  Only new words.   I can use a song that I wrote during the same time period when I wrote the rest of the music to Eden in Babylon.  A song that I wrote that I have not yet written words for.  I only have music for it.   You may find that music — in raw form — right here.   

Q. Why do I feel like you’re leaving something out?

A. I don’t know.  

Q. Can you guess?

A. Sure, but it’s only a guess.  Knowing you, I doubt you have me figured for the kinda guy who would cast aside years of sentiment related to his mysterious ELP-inspired tune called “Winston Greene” and then ditch the whole prestigious product for a much more innocuous replacement that doesn’t reflect nearly the professional prowess of the previous project.  

Q. So what else is going on?  What is your underlying sorrow?   Why must you return this song, recently so rigorously resurrected, to its grisly, grimy grave?

A. You wax a bit too alliterate for my tastes.

Q. Illiterate?

A. Never mind.  I must return the song to the tomb from which, like Lazarus, it has been summoned by its Creator.  The reason for this is very emotional and deep.  And it will reveal my vulnerability, as well as a large part of my sorrow.

Q. Your sorrow?

A. Yes — my sorrow.  For I grieve the loss of old friends.  People who were meaningful to me.  Three in particular, though their names need not be mentioned.  Three men whom I loved, and who happened to love the song “Winston Greene.”

Q. These men have died?

A. Not that I’m aware of.  I suppose they still live. 

Q. Yet you have lost them in some way?

A. Yes.  They do not speak to me.  I have lost their friendship.  I mourn that loss.  And yet they are the only ones remaining who would have had any fond emotional or sentimental attachment to that particular piece of music.  In other words, I must confesss that I put the song in the show for them.   

Q. For them?  For these three men who no longer speak to you??

A. Sadly, I confess, it’s true.  I had this vision that if I used the song “Winston Greene” in a dramatic way toward the end the show, it would move them, and soften their hearts toward me, and I would regain their friendship at last.

Q. Let me get this straight.  You were willing to throw a lousy song that you wrote when you were 22 years old into your new musical only because it might win your three friends back?

A. I was.  I do confess it.

download (1)Q. WHAT KIND OF AN ARTIST ARE YOU?  THIS IS TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!!

A. I feel like you’re about to assign me three Hail Mary’s and an Act of Contrition.

Q. That aside, what do you think are the chances that any of these three guys will come and see your musical this summer?

A. Slim to none.   They want nothing to do with me, apparently.  Why should they want to see my musical?

Q. Sir!  Why even entertain the notion??   Are these three fellows that important to you?

A. This is where the sorrow comes in.  They obviously were, at one time.  But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.  I mean, I’m sure they’re very fine fellows in their own rites, but why did I place such a high regard on their loyalty?

Q. Loyalty?

A. I did use that word, yes.

Q. You feel that they have betrayed you?

A. Not exactly.  But they’re not loyal to me anymore.  And all I want to regain is — their loyalty.   

Q. What is so important about loyalty?  I mean, in this context?   Aren’t there thousands of people from whom you will hopefully be gleaning box office receipts far more important than these three men whom you knew in the 70’s?   Why can’t you just forget about these guys?   

A. That is indeed the $64,000 question.   They’ve evidently forgotten about me.

Q. Have they?

A. Maybe not.

Q. But even if not, why is it so important to regain their friendship?

A. Well, it isn’t.  And that’s why I’m removing the number.  I’ve decided that now.  The other song is much more akin to the style of the present day.  And a composer whom I respect told me that it’s the best piece of mine whom he personally has heard.  So — once I get my lyrics together, I’m on my way.

Q. Why does something seem unfinished here?

A. Because, like I said at the beginning, I’m not done.  And I want to be done.  

Q. Why do I feel like I haven’t gotten the full story here?

A. Probably because I’m leaving something out.

Q. What could that possibly be?

A. What if — and this is a pretty big “if” — what if the music that I wrote in 1974 just happens to be better and more appropriate for the final Scene of the show than the music I wrote in 2016?   I mean, despite everything.   What if, painful though it might be, the right thing for me to do is to include this song anyway?   What if that choice is the right Artistic choice, irrespective of the sentiment, the glitter rock, the former fans, and the bygone era?   

Q. How can you know for sure?

A. I can’t.  That’s why I linked you to both songs.   The version of “Winston Greene” was done in 2010 using general midi software associated with my Finale notation program at the time.   It excels beyond the earlier, more primitive style — though perhaps not by much.   The version of “Sirens of Hope” was done using the Garritan Personal Orchestra in 2016, almost immediately after I got off the streets and was able to start sequencing my compositions again.  So – listen to them both.  You tell me which one you like better.

Q. Why should my opinion matter?

A. Why should mine matter more?

Q. Aren’t you the Artist?  The Creator, as it were?

A. I am.  But I can hardly be expected to be objective at this stage.

Q. Is something clouding your vision?

A. I’d say, so yes.

Q. What is it?  Why aren’t you seeing straight?

A. It’s hard to see clearly when there are so many tears in my eyes.

Q. Why are you crying, Andy?  Is it because of the loss of your friends?

A. They were never my true friends.  So there is no true loss.

Q. Then why are you in tears?   

A. Because Winston Greene might die.  It happens every time I get to this part in the show.  It happened when I wrote the first rough draft, and again when I wrote the second, and the third.   And now, writing out the Vocal Score, it’s happening even moreso.  Winston Greene cannot die.  Winston Greene must live.   

The Questioner is silent.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 37

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater ease.

Q. Is something making you uneasy?

A. Many things make me uneasy.

Q. Like what?

A. Well, for one thing, I made a New Year’s Resolution.  I’m keeping it, but it just seems forced.  It’s not easy.

Q. Are resolutions ever easy?

A. Probably not.

Q. Then why fret?

A. Because of — the nature of the resolution, and the specific temptations to break it.

Q. What are you tempted to do?

A. I’m tempted to continually contact my old friends in California, in order to try to prove myself to them.   In fact, I’m tempted to scream and yell at them, and to call them very nasty names.

Q. You haven’t actually done that, have you??

A. Not recently, no.  In times past, perhaps.

Q. Then can’t you just relax, knowing you’ve kept your resolution?

A.  No,  I can’t.  That’s the whole point.  I’m not at ease.   How can I relax, when I have all these horrible feelings toward my old friends?

Q. What horrible feelings?

A. Anger, resentment, bitterness, rage, and hostility — to name a few.

Q. You feel all those things toward your old friends?

A. Yes.

Q, Why?

A. Because they think they care about me, but they don’t.  This thing that they call “caring” is actually disrespect.  

Q. But how can caring be confused for disrespect? 

A. All right.  Let me explain.  Take this one guy I’ll call Richard.  He keeps insisting that he cares deeply about me.  But all his caring is only a put-down.  No matter how positively I express myself, he always finds something negative about it, and then acts as though illuminating the negative is caring.   

Q. Would you call this chap a bubble-burster?

A. I would call him names much worse than that, were it not for my resolution.

Q. Why do you think he is finding fault in the things that you think are positive?

A. Because he’s a fault-finder. 

Q. But what specifically does he find faulty?

A. Well – I think he objects to the pace at which I proceed.  Recently he suggested I ought to “slow down.”  He also said I come across as though I’m trying to “make up for lost time.”

Q. What’s so bad about that?

A. Look what it suggests.  First off, he assumes that all my years of homelessness were “lost time.”  Those happen to be the years that have provided the entire impetus for my work.  “Lost time??”  What the hell kind of concept is that?  Is any time ever lost?  Isn’t all life experience valuable?

Q. But you do see what he meant, don’t you?

A. Sure I do!   And that is what’s so insulting.  This guy has actually gone so far as to say things like “Forget about all those homeless people!”  Forget about them??  What am I supposed to do, wipe out twelve of the most meaningful years of my life, and all the many conversations with the numerous fine individuals I met on the streets?  How dehumanizing!  It’s the exact attitude I so fervently oppose!

Not to mention, Richard never recognizes that I wrote my finest music when I was homeless.  Sure, I couldn’t sequence it — I couldn’t hang on to a laptop down there, or to music production software.  But I wrote it, didn’t I?   So how does that make my time “lost?”

Q. Well, wasn’t it just a figure of speech?  Don’t you think he probably meant it was lost for the very reason that you lacked those resources?

A.  Figure of speech?   P.O.T.U.S. told Leslie Stahl on 60 Minutes that he “loves” Kim Jong and then wrote off the word “love” as a “figure of speech.”  And as far as time being “lost” because of my having been disadvantaged and underprivileged, that’s only a typical dismissal of the dignity and humanity of human beings who happen to be homeless.  They call homeless people “lost” because they lack advantage.  As though anyone who lacks privilege is “lost” — as though they got that way because of “poor choices they made” — as though it’s a moral failing to be down and out.

Q. Wow – don’t you think you’re reading a lot into it?

A. No, I don’t!  You see, I know this guy.  I know him better than he knows himself.  And not just him, but everyone like him.  All my old friends.  They have so much privilege, they base their self-worth on it.  And they look down upon people who lack privilege, because that’s the only way they can live with their absolute emptiness of spirit.  

Q. Emptiness of spirit?

A. You heard me!  When it comes right down to it, they’re basically going to hell.  They cannot possibly manifest Everlasting Life, because there is no true life in their spirits.  

Q.  But – but – aren’t a lot of these people Christians?

A. They say they are.  And they may even think they are.  But so what?   What does calling yourself a Christian have to do with the Real Life of the Spirit?   I know plenty of people who don’t identify as “Christians,” and I can tell for sure that they have Life.  

Q. In the, er, fervor with which you make such claims, can you not grasp that there is a very real sense in which you truly are “making up for lost time?”  

A. And what sense is that, may I ask?  “Making up for lost time” makes it sound as though I’m on a mad rush to get things done quickly, as though the grave were just around the corner.  To frame it that way completely overlooks the joyfulness of the process!  I don’t write all these words and music and make all these speeches because I’m a stress case, for crying out loud!  I do it because this is what I love to do, and it is what I am called to do.  

Q. But — but — if you’re not a stress case, why are you so stressed out?

A. That’s a rhetorical question.

Q. But it’s true, isn’t it?   Didn’t you begin this very dialectic with an admission of your not being “at ease?” 

A. All right, you win.  Yes, there’s stress.  I’m not going to deny it.  It’s why we’re here.  I wish things were a bit more certain, and I weren’t having to shoot so far into the dark.  I know I have the calling, I hear the call clearly — but I often can’t tell where it’s headed.  And yes, this uncertainty results in stress.  

Q. Uncertainty?  How can you possibly claim to be uncertain?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Isn’t it obvious?  Don’t you clearly come across as one of the most convicted, self-assured people on the planet?  What could be more certain?

A. My path.  My direction.  Where I’m headed exactly could be much more certain.   Much more easy on my spirit.  

Q. Now why do I find all this so hard to believe?

A. I don’t know.  Why do you?

Q. Well, didn’t this blog post come pretty easily to you?

A. I suppose it did.  I’ve been hammering out pretty rapidly with very little editing.  It’s been a joyful process.  Can’t exactly say it came hard.  

Q. Well then, what is the essence of the dis-ease?   Why are you still uneasy?

A. It’s — it’s those guys again — my old friends — the people with whom I wish I could share my current joy, the way I always used to share it with them.   They’ve either disappeared on me, or they come back at me with assault and vitriol.   They — they — they don’t get it — they don’t see me for who I am — and it’s frustrating because — these were my lifelong friends — they weren’t supposed to just abandon me like this . . 

Q. But have they truly abandoned you?  What about this fellow Richard?  Isn’t he actually very much engaged with you?   

A. Engaged, yes — but in the wrong way.  They only keep criticizing me!  They sit around and gossip, and smoke their weed, and place bets as to when I’m going to have my first heart attack.  

Q. Then why do you remain so attached to these unsupportive old friends of yours?

A. That’s the whole problem.  It’s why I’m not at east.  These are birth bangs.  The woman in Revelation Chapter Twelve cries out with travail as she is about to give birth to the New Child.  And the dragon awaits her, right outside her womb, to devour it — if it were possible.

Q. Who is the New Child?

A. In Scripture, we know this to be the Christ Child.  But anybody with a calling, with a life-purpose, has their own baby.   In my case, it’s my musical.  It’s going to fly.  I can feel it!   The Woman is bringing birth to it, even as we speak.

Q. And who is the Woman?

A. (chuckles) I need not say.

Q. And the dragon?

A. Symbolically, in this case, the enemy.   The Resister.

Q. But don’t you need the Resister in order to move forward?

A. Yes!  That’s it!  I need these guys!  I need their criticism in order to move forward!  I need these gossipy, lame-ass old friends of mega-privilege who don’t even have purposes in life other than to guzzle down more and more money, faster and faster, as though their lives depended on it.  I need them.  You’ve got it once again.  Perfect!!  I need these guys.  How could I have been so blind?

Q. Uh — you say you need these guys??

A. I do!  I need to prove them wrong.  I have to fight them in all their money-loving arrogance with all my impoverished Art-loving, Christ-loving heart!   And that’ll show ’em!

Q. Show ’em what?

A. What do you think?

The Questioner is silent.  

When They Ignore You Quotes. QuotesGram

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Beyond Neurosis

Beyond neurosis, there lies reality.

It wasn’t neurosis that made me come up with the ten disclaimers, essentially telling my followers they shouldn’t even bother listening to the song, and then posting the song the next morning anyway.

I wasn’t being bipolar when I was one way one day and one way the next. For beyond neurosis, beyond bipolarity, there lies this thing called reality.

And reality can sometimes be the last thing the Artist wants to face. In fact, maybe the fact that the Artist doesn’t like to face reality is the reason why the Artist became an Artist in the first place.

Maybe, at some long-forgotten age old time of childhood, a little boy learned something about reality that he just couldn’t handle.

Maybe his childhood was so idyllic, and he loved his parents so much, that he couldn’t handle finding out that there was this thing called “death” that would take away his father one day, and take away his mother, and eventually take away his own self.

Maybe that was so painful that for two whole years he looked around at all the people doing normal things, and thought painful thoughts of despair. “Why is that guy washing his car?” the child would ask himself. “Doesn’t he know he could die tomorrow? And what would a clean car be to him then?”

Maybe the child turned from about five to about seven, and suddenly realized he kinda knew how to do things like play Old MacDonald and Mary Had a Little Lamb on a piano, and write little children’s songs, and draw pretty pictures with colored pencils, and write little fairy tales and nursery rhymes, and sing silly songs long into the night, while pretending his fingernails were ice skates, his fingers the skaters, and the sheets of his bed the skating rink, where round and round the skaters would skate, and skate themselves out of their pain.

Maybe he figured that God’s creation was just too painful to face. So he created his own creations, and found pleasure in what he decided to create – a pleasure that cancelled out for a season, the pain of the creation that was God’s.

Whatever the case, it was not neurosis that issued the disclaimers, nor was it bipolar of me to be one guy one day, and another fellow the next. For on the third day, he rose, and he realized reality.

The reality he did not want to face.

The reality is that the song straight-up, flat-out sucks. And he knew it from the start. He wanted to be cute. He wanted to entertain. He wanted to fool people into thinking that he didn’t know the song would turn out as badly as the song in fact turned out. So he went for high drama, like the Actor that he can be, and played his show of neurosis to the hilt.

The truth is, he was never neurotic. The truth is that he knew all along the reality that he did not feel he could face. The reality is what it is.

The song sucks — and that’s reality.

But maybe the song needed to suck, because the Artist needed to face the music, and learn a needed lesson. Maybe the lesson he needed to learn is the reality all Artists must one day face.

For the creation of the Artist is by no means superior to the creation of the Reality.  And that creation is not of the Artist.  The creation of Reality belongs to God.

Image result for creation of God the Artist

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More About Artistic Neurosis

Note: I wrote all this before I posted the messed up piano piece and then deleted it.  I’m not really all that neurotic, am I?  Seems to me the thing really did suck. 

For those of you have been expecting a Friday piano piece, I’m writing rather nervously to let you know that it’s happening and is being slowly uploaded as we speak.

That’s the good news.   As for the bad news, well — I don’t want to say the news is exactly bad, but I do have a couple handfuls of disclaimers to divulge.  

Ahem.

(1) The song I decided to play is the big opening choral number in the last scene of Act One of my recently completed musical, Eden in Babylon.   I must disclaim myself by admitting that I have never played this piece on the piano before.

(2) The number is about 8 minutes long in the real show, but since I had never played it before, I kept forgetting where I was going, and it wound up being 13 minutes long.

(3) My convoluted process of getting it off of my recording device (which on my present budget happens to double as a Galaxy J-3 Tracfone), is so arduous that I doubt the upload will be complete by the 7:30 am Friday deadline.   I will, however, get it to you tomorrow, as promised.

Image result for musical masterpiece clipart(4) Another reason why it was 13 minutes long is that at one point when I couldn’t figure out where I was supposed to go, I drifted into a song I wrote back in ’74, called “When Feelings are Few.”   Actually played almost the entire song before I found out a way to return to the originally intended theme.

(5) There is a mistake that I thought was so God-awful at the time, I couldn’t help but laugh quite distastefully at my own error.  Then, true to usual process, the only thing that makes it sound like a mistake was that the fact that I was laughing at it.

(6) I was in an ego-driven state of passionate pride at the time of my performance, which caused my body to contort in an unseemly fashion when I was really “getting into it.”

(7) I interrupted my performance between the 2nd and 3rd movements of the piece to let you all know verbally at least half of these disclaimers, not yet realizing I was destined to nervously announce them in advance by recklessly composing the spontaneous admission of artistic neurosis that you are now reading.  (And incidentally, probably wondering why you’re still reading it.)

(8) I then forgot entirely how the 3rd movement begins, until I remembered that it’s the song otherwise known as Daylight, which I then proceeded to play in the wrong key.   (And I never did get to the “B” part of the tune, because I kept searching for the right key in frustration.   “A” part wasn’t too bad, however.)

(9) Piece is disjointed and chaotic on the whole.   (But at least if felt good) . . .

(10) I had intended to play a light-hearted smooth jazz piece of about three and a half minutes long, but just before my fingers hit the keys I forgot which piece I had wanted to play.  

So, after a brief announcement, I quite impulsively endeavored to play Awake the Dawn on the piano, because that’s just kinda the way it rolled.  (The link is to a Finale-generated version using the Garritan Personal Orchestra, just in case anyone’s down to hear how it’s *really* supposed to sound before deciding whether or not to proceed to the impending 13-minute elaboration thereof.)

Whew! Glad I got all that out of my system.  Now I can relax.  :)

See y’all tomorrow!

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Gratitude List 981

(1) I awoke at 7am and noticed immediately that I was no longer depressed or lonely, but was feeling like my usual, chipper self once again, thank God.  

(2) Thankful to feel like I am functioning more-or-less normally.  There is a great sense of promise and potential when one realizes that one is no longer saying and doing things that are inexplicably weird, totally bizarre, and distastefully out of character.

(3) Slept from about 5:30pm till only 1am, as I’d feared.  The good news is that I got back to sleep at around 4 and slept till 7, waking up refreshed.  Even better news is having a place to stay when I wake up at odd hours of the night.   For a lot of my life, I did not.

(4) Noticed and skimmed a nice email from my friend in Scotland across the waves.

(5) Starting my 3rd cup of free Pikes Peak coffee at the Courtyard Café.

(6) Scraped up an old laptop I can use outside of the house.  While it has many problems, thankfully music notation software is not one of them.   Observe:

(7) There may be a small paycheck in today’s mail.  Also, I can probably sell more Exile albums if I get back in the groove of it.

(8) I’m in a good mood this morning.   I no longer feel threatened by my own personality.  Stay this way for a while, and I will do great things.

(9) Lots of promise, lots of potential, comes of just one’s being oneself.

(10) His blessings are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.

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Gratitude List 928

(1) Managed to get some sleep last night.  Although I awoke after one hours sleep to a punk kid in the hood ringing my doorbell at 3:15 in the morning, at least I didn’t wake up to two rookie cops shining their flashlights directly in my eyes and telling me to “move on” on Christmas Day.

(2) Ran two miles yesterday and did 18 push-ups.   Easily, too.  I guess I still have it in me.  Most guys my age can’t run down the block.

(3) I can still kinda play the piano.  Some people even say I’m getting better at it.

(4) I’m in good health.  (Physically, that is.)

(5) I’m alive, and I believe I am going to heaven when I die; because although I have many sins, past present and future, I sincerely believe that Jesus died for them all.

(6) I like my church.  In fact, I love my church.  I even like the pastor.  I’ve never liked a pastor before.

peg(7) I’m not in California, where everybody treats me like I’m crazy.   Nobody up here treats me like I’m crazy, and I am so so glad.  They don’t treat me like I’m worthless.  Their smile toward me is genuine.  They don’t get into my shit, and I don’t get into theirs.  Nobody’s trying to change me.   Nobody’s trying to put one over on me.   Everybody accepts me for who I am.  The prayers of years have been answered.  I love North Idaho, and I super love this town.

(8) It’s always darkest before the dawn.  There will be a light at the end of this winding tunnel; and this too shall pass.

(9) I don’t like my personality very much, but at least I’m not a deceived Nazi Aryan white supremacist violent idiot.

(10) At least I have my space.   I’m an Artist.  I need my space.  I pray I put it to good use, after this.  For so many years, I did not have my space.  And people mocked me because of my devotion to my Art.  They kept trying to transform me into somebody I was not, and they laughed at me when I didn’t conform to the mode – as though I were a curiosity piece, a knick knack, an item of decor, placed on their dinner table for their entertainment.  I still remember the two of them, whom I thought were my friends, finding hilarity in the fact that I was having a first-time manic episode and losing my shirt.  But nobody treats me like that up here.  Nobody mocks me.  Nobody jeers at me.  Nobody scoffs, or sneers.    And I love it.    I hope I never again forget what I’m truly about.   God help me, if I ever again forget who I am.

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Gratitude List 913

(1) Awoke with energy to the pitter-patter of an outdoor drizzle.  As I pulled the covers over my body, I pictured myself lying on three layers of cardboard outside of the East Bay Area Works facility, pulling a single sheet over myself, that being sufficient to separate my skin from the rain.  I’m grateful both for the memory and for the very different place where I woke up this morning.

(2) Took a 10-K walk and noticed that the tread on these Nikes that I got for only $5 at the Goodwill far exceeds the tread on the last two pairs of running shoes I had.

(3) There’s something of a positive community in this town.  It’s non-religious, it’s artistic in focus, and it seems to hub around a certain coffee house. It feels good to have been accepted within this loosely-knit — and yet close-knit — community of like-minded Artist types.

(4) Grateful to have been published for a third time on Classism Exposed.   It’s interesting the way she assigned me the story on Friday the 21st, I got the ideas and wrote the whole thing on Sunday the 23rd, turned it on on Monday the 24th (her having told me it was due on Tuesday the 25th), and then saw it published on Wednesday the 26th.  Felt like it was meant to be.

(3) I think my Autumn Leaves came out all right.  I laid heavy on the B-part and it was a bit rushed.  But all things considered, I think I made a statement.

(4) Personal reconstruction. Putting all my pieces back together after their having been smashed to smithereens.  This is a sacred and holy order of business — you have been warned.

(5) Something of a role or function in the world right now.   There’s no reason to feel I should only be getting published in Street Spirit and Classism Exposed.  One led to another, and the two can lead to a third.  I only need to be discerning and a bit more aggressive (as I was earlier on).

(6) Tuesday Tuneup 27 is getting record RT’s on Twitter (and RT’s upon RT’s).  I guess that’s what happens when you reference Christianity, Paganism, and Satanism in the hashtags.

(7) Ran into Erika at the Round Table the other day.  She was in town for a wedding – a total surprise.  She wanted to pray out loud, right then and there, and she did so, quite eloquently, even surrounded by students, professors, and cafe workers.  Something about the content of what she decided to pray, and its very genuine nature, was phenomenal.  I even have it written down, most of what I remember.  She also told me I was a “great composer” on her way out.

(8) Gentle rain this morning outside my lightly-cracked window.

(9) The Age of Nevermore.   Diligence.  Bridging the gap;  connecting the dots.  This is going to be a good week.  Things could be a lot worse.

(10) I’m very grateful that they’re not.

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Gratitude List 910

1. Norman. Really grateful for my pastor and supportive friend.

2. My apartment. It’s in a nice secluded location; it’s quiet; the neighbors are quiet and unintrusive; it’s spacious and well-furnished; and it gives me personal space, privacy, and solitude — much appreciated at this time in my life.

3. A friend offered me $50 to help me through the rest of the month.

4. The haircut place, and Carmen being such a nice person and a good barber. Glad I got a decent haircut and beard trim yesterday.

5. The city in general. It’s a very positive and accepting community, and very supportive of the Arts.

6. My church. It really is a nice church. People are intelligent, and educated for the most part, and kind.

7. The One World Cafe. It’s really a nice place to work on my vocal score. A nice atmosphere with a nice staff and crew, and a pleasant group of regular customers, mostly students and professors from the University.

8. Danielle, who has been such a great and faithful friend over so many years.

9. The way that everybody here at the Recovery Center likes my music, and how they’re even going to pipe the piano pieces from my youtube channel over the speakers at the Fairgrounds when we have our picnic on Saturday. The way that this directly contrasts how everybody at the fellowship in the Bay Area kept telling me that my music was my biggest problem.

10. Nobody is mad at me these days. I’m not perceived to be in any way weird or different or wrong. It’s just such a great feeling. They kept telling me I was “crazy” for so long, it got to me. I’m not crazy; I’m just different. And that’s okay. Ir’s better to be me than whatever it is they all seemed to think I was supposed to be. And what’s great right now, is that whoever I am is all right. It’s so wonderful to be respected, to be treated with courtesy — as an equal, and not like some sort of lesser being, leper, or pariah.

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Tuesday Tuneup Nine

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Yes.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because it’s Wednesday.

Q. Uh – isn’t the Tuesday Tuneup supposed to take place on Tuesday?   And haven’t we been here before?

A. You asked me two questions at once.

Q. What’s wrong with that?

A. And now there are three unanswered questions!   Really, sir, you overload me.  And I’m already overloaded.

Q. Why so overloaded?

A. Perhaps you haven’t heard. 

(Takes a deep breath.)

when_opportunity_knocksI’m engaged in this huge process of getting all these singers and musicians to learn my music, so as to record three songs from my musical Eden in Babylon and have the long-awaited demo recording finished by Sunday night.  It isn’t often that a decent sound engineer offers me free studio services and resources, and his availability will not last forever.   

Q. Do you mean to tell me that you are actually working to a deadline?

A. (sighs) Much as I despise the concept, ’tis true.  

Q. Now why do I find that so hard to believe?

A. Probably because I am noted for espousing wild philosophies I picked up after years of living on the streets.  I’ve even gone so far as to say that no human being should ever be required to show up a specific place at a specific time.

Q. But don’t you work better when you don’t have a deadline?

A. I do, yes.  Others do not.  But the point is that my own work as the composer-playwright of Eden in Babylon is already complete.  It’s only a matter of getting a finite number of people to respond accordingly.  It may well be that these people work well to deadlines.

Q. And when is this deadline?

A. Four days from today.

Q. Have you — er — succeeded in getting the money together to pay these singers and musicians?

A. Almost.  I am prepared to pay the remaining $150 out of pocket the at this stage.  But I would have to wait till the beginning of the month, which might inconvenience a couple of the singers who are strapped.  And of course, I am also strapped.  I have made myself strapped in order to succeed in this venture, as any other devoted Artist would do.

Q. Won’t you become even more strapped after contributing $150 from your fixed income?

A. Of course.  And I’d prefer the $150 come from somebody who can actually afford it.  Still, the joy of seeing this leg of the project finally coming together after all these years is certainly worth a lot more than $150 to me.

Q. But – but – won’t you starve?

A. I prefer the word “fast,” thank you.

Q. Are you not parsing words?

A. Not at all, sir.  When a starving artist decides to fast in order to produce a work of Art he believes in, it is no longer a matter of health.  It is a matter of Spirit.  For Art is a spiritual matter.  It is a matter of the Heart.

The Questioner is silent.

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Limitations of the Divine

I truly abhor the process of having to search high and low for money to get this show packaged.   I truly do.   These are not the words of a scammer, a hustler, or a con artist.   They are the words of a frustrated, serious Artist who happens to hate money with a passion, and who prefers not to ever have to even think about it.   I do not live in a world of financial gains and losses.  I live in a world of Music, Art, and Writing — and whatever gains and losses there may be —  well, they basically come with the territory.

limitationSo hopefully what I just wrote on my Proposal Page will be written for the last time.  I’m bright enough to be able to discern that every time I make this pitch, I sound a bit more desperate.  But it’s like I said earlier, I feel like I’m racing against Alzheimer’s trying to get this show on the road.   I understand that $700 is a considerable chunk of change in just about anybody’s world, but if I could at least get something toward this venture, my spirits would sure lighten about the whole thing.

Otherwise, there are still positive signs of impending progress.  I heard from the lady at the University, who approved of my detailed character descriptions and suggested I also make flyers.  I found a zealous young fellow with a degree in Marketing who wants to help me with the flyers and other such details.  So maybe he can make monetary proposals that sound a wee bit more professional than the super-honest gush of laying my heart on the table that you will read on my Proposal Page.

But that gush is me – at the moment anyway – and I’m not about to change it.   I just want it to be over.  I want to get the money for the singers and the overall package, and get this damn show on the road.

Like I said, all other systems are go.  The workshop will probably begin within the next two weeks, with or without singing.  It will be a bit of a stretch trying to figure out what to do during all of the musical numbers, but you know, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  And God has a Will.  And a Way.

Problem with God is, he just doesn’t sign checks.

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The End of an Era

It has now been 92 hours since I made it impossible for me to log on to Facebook. How did I do this? It was simple.

I opened Notepad.  Then, I created a random password consisting of about thirty-five random characters in a row that I produced by closing my eyes and doing a big piano glissando up and down the computer keyboard.   I copied it, put it in the “change password” field on Facebook, and promptly deleted it from Notepad.  Then I logged off.

Since Facebook requires one to post their old password prior to creating a new one, and since I now have no idea what my old password is, I will simply never log on to Facebook again.

Why did I do this?   Let’s look at the hard facts.

(1) I just punched in facebook.com on my browser to see how many notifications I had received in the past 92 hours.  Interestingly, the number is 184.  That’s twice 92 – and I kid you not.  This means I was receiving one notification every half an hour.

Now, let’s say I would spend fifteen minutes addressing each notification.  (That, by the way, is a very conservative estimate, knowing me.)  15 times 184 amounts to 2,760.  2,760 minutes amounts to 46 hours.  In the 92 hour period of time, that means I would have spent half my time on Facebook, dealing with the notifications alone.  Can I afford to spend half my time on Facebook?   No, I cannot.

(2) I am a person who has been diagnosed with severe adult attention hyperactive deficit disorder, otherwise known as ADHD.  What this means, as far as Facebook is concerned, is that whatever stimulus is the strongest and most immediate will be the one that grabs my attention. 

One morning, for example, I logged onto Facebook in order to grab a video from my daughter’s video files to send to a friend of mine.  Before I could find the video, a friend of mine who was feeling depressed logged on, and I spent two hours in an effort to console him.  Point is, his depression struck me as being of more immediate importance than the elusive video my daughter had made, which was buried somewhere deep within her video files, and therefore less immediate.  Once my friend was comforted, no sooner did I begin once again to look for the video, when another friend of mine showed up,  wanting to discuss a subject about which I am passionate.  Her passion striking me as being of more immediate importance than my daughter’s video, I quite passionately discussed the important subject with her for another two hours. Then I had to go to work.  In the meantime, I forgot all about the video, which was the only reason I had logged onto Facebook in the first place.  Thus are the effects of Adult ADHD.

(3) As one who is Sicilian by genetic predisposition, I have a very difficult time letting go of the past.  It therefore stands to reason that if I want this situation to improve, I ought not to be hanging around too many people whom I knew in the past, and instead throw more of my focus on developing positive friendships in the present, that will lead me to a more positive future.   Moreover, reconciling with certain figures from the distant past has more than once proved to be disastrous.

And here’s where the story gets good:

(4) At one point in my life, I made a casual comment on my Facebook that was misinterpreted by a well-meaning Facebook friend.  All of a sudden, three cops came pounding on my door.  They handcuffed me, ransacked my hotel room for narcotics and firearms, (of which I had neither!) and hauled me off to an insane asylum.

I was released the next morning, but highly inconvenienced by the ordeal.  My blood pressure shot up sky high, and I had to sit on a gurney in an emergency room for about six and a half hours before it was low enough for me to be legally hauled away to the nearest local loony bin, twenty-five miles South of my hotel room.

There, I managed to convince the baffled psych techs that I was neither suicidal nor homicidal.  I was released in my T-shirt in freezing cold December weather, and I wandered around for three days until the debit card refund for my hotel room cleared to my account.  (Obviously, I lost the hotel room, where I had paid for a two week stay, because when the 9-1-1 team showed up to haul me off to the psychiatric pavilion, all of the tenants came out of their doors to see what all the ruckus was about; and due to the police involvement, the hotel manager did not want to rent to me any longer.  I also left most of my clothing in the room, along with some books.  The motel room owners claimed no responsibility for items life in the building.)

As for the Facebook friend who made the dubious 9-1-1 call?   Long story short, I basically never heard from him again, except for a total of exactly two fairly unpleasant interactions in the following four years.  Must not have been much of a friend.  But he sure seemed like a friend for a while there, because he was the only one out of my some 300 odd Facebook friends who was concerned enough about my well-being to even consider making such a call.  And this leads to my 5th reason:

(5) These hundreds of people on your Facebook “friends” list are by and large not your friends.  You think they are your friends, because you befriended them when you were both in your teens or early twenties, and it was wonderful to reconnect with them.  Perhaps they are friends of friends of yours, or maybe even friends of people who are not your friends.   You know how to find out who your friends are on Facebook?  It’s easy, which leads to my sixth reason:

(6) I gave my phone number and email address to all of my Facebook friends some time prior to my abrupt departure.   Outside of the handful of people whom I already knew to be my true friends, you know how many of them actually called me?   Exactly three.  Thank you, Paul, Mari, and Holly.  Now I know who my friends are.  :)

(7) When I found myself arguing politics pointlessly with a total stranger in New York City who would not only never change his mind, but was probably drunk off his butt and had no idea what I was even talking about, enough was enough.

What all of this points to is:

(8) I have had five Facebooks in the past ten years.  Every one of them started out fine, then in some way imploded.  Every time I started a new one, I mistakenly thought I had overcome my dysfunctional obsessive-compulsive addictive relationship with Facebook.  I was wrong.

What did Albert Einstein have to say about the matter?

einstein insanity

Touché.

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Of Creation and Control

I’m writing on a text file in Open Office. I have the emerging text to The Oracle Sequence open on another file. I’m making a conscious point of avoiding the typical Internet venues on which I write. That means WordPress, DiaryLand, Facebook, Twitter, and all email-related interfaces, such as Zoho or G-Mail. I’m trying to break certain negative associations I have developed with all of those venues, for they seem to be thwarting my progress on this particularly pertinent portion of my project.  Never before have I felt such an enormity in the gap that separates the degree of my desire to progress with the degree of my actual progress, as pertains to a specific project or piece. I want nothing more than to begin making substantial progress on this project. I want the piece to “break.”

But let me explain what I mean by “break.” I use this expression a lot, but I don’t often take the time to clarify what I mean.

ionescoWhenever I am in the process of creating something substantial, my progress seems to proceed extremely slowly for the first several days, taxing my patience. But I endure, for the knowledge that at some point soon, the piece will “break.” When it breaks, it is as though floodgates have been opened. Where the rate of progress before was tortuously slow, all of a sudden I am progressing at a very rapid, steady pace. The process of producing the piece has begun to “flow.” With that sudden huge burst of energy comes a renewed confidence. I no longer brood with the sense that the inevitable break I await will be delayed interminably. Instead, I exult in the creative process.   Whereas, days or hours earlier — or even moments earlier — various aspects of the process seemed to pose nothing but horrific obstacles toward my progress, they now seem to work marvelously in my favor, as if by magic.  And before you can bat an eye, I feel that I am actually completing the piece in question.

You heard me: completing the piece.  The prospect of its elusive completion no longer buzzes about my brain like an annoying insect I can never manage to swat.  Completion occurs readily, rapidly, precisely — and in fact, numerous times

“What?” you may ask.  “How can completion occur numerous times?   You just got finished telling me that until this thing ‘broke,’ you couldn’t even complete it once.” 

That’s a very logical question, and please allow me to explain.  For you see, it seems I’ve substituted one problem for another one.

What happens after the piece “breaks” is that, in my greatly increased productivity, I get from A to Z so fast that my emotions can barely handle the sudden positive turn of events, and I decide that everybody needs to know about it.  So I gleefully send out a “completed” version of my piece to all my dearest friends and family members, hoping they will be as excited at the surprise “completion” as I am.  But then, little do they barely have the chance to open their email, when BAM!  I decide that the recently completed version wasn’t quite good enough; and so I send a second version of the piece; say, Version “1-B.” 

After that, I send Version 1-C, and then Versions 1-D thru F, and so on down the line.  People in my life are suddenly receiving so many versions of some new work of mine, they naturally have no idea when the bombardment will cease, and exactly which of the many versions, if any, they should bother with.  

correlationWhile this is happening, I vaguely sense that there is something wrong with my approach.  Oh, I understand exactly why this pattern has come into being.   The hugeness of the moment when the piece finally “breaks” is typically too much for me emotionally.  You see, I had been frustrated for days, perhaps weeks, all around a relatively insignificant creative project of mine; for example, this polishing of The Oracle Sequence that has come to receive such prominence in my head lately.  But once The Oracle Sequence “breaks,” then to whatever extent that I had earlier been impatient and frustrated, I will now have become just as excited, and in fact, full of glee.  Excited, exuberant, and gleeful.  I feel almost mischievous at that level of enthusiasm.  In that sudden, newfound elation, it will be extremely difficult for me not to burst forth with a constant, incessant gush, exulting in the experience of excitement that so elates me, and exuding that ecstasy upon the world.

But when I do this, I forget that the world is not necessarily predisposed to tuning into the value of my creation at that moment.  Moreover, the world does not necessarily care about my creation — at least not yet. If I want them to care in some future, positive scenario; then probably I shouldn’t be bombarding them prematurely as though to prove my prowess and prodigy in an a priori fashion. Wouldn’t it be better to hold back, until I really have a product worth releasing; and even then, to release it to the world with humility, and grace?

graham_wallasOf course it would be. I therefore must commit myself to terminate my earlier practice, difficult though that termination may be to effect emotionally.   I need to cease to involve all my close friends and family members in my process.   Henceforth I will not even go online, not even to WordPress, but do all my work in secret, offline, where nobody will see me, and where I will nor be tempted to share my work prematurely.  Far better will it be for me to regard this wonderful burst of creativity as a private matter, something that speaks for the ineffable unity of the Creative Mind.   In this way, it is akin to the moment of “illumination” delineated by Graham Wallas in his work on the four stages of the creative process.  According to this model, the previous period of frustration and confusion actually parallels an unconscious process of “incubation,” whereby the piece is quietly being constructed with great direction and progress in the unconscious mind.   The conscious mind remains unaware of this inner process, and in fact believes falsely that nothing is being accomplished at all.  According to that model, The Oracle Sequence is at this very moment being polished, refined, and completed — even as we speak — though in my limited awareness, I feel as though nothing is happening at all.

Obviously, this explanation is pleasant to the ears of the Artist.  But how valid is it, really?  There are other ways of framing this event of “breaking,” this sudden bursting of the floodgates, and the subsequent steady flow of unprecedented Artistic creation.   Some of those ways are not particularly favorable, however, or sympathetic with the Artist’s dilemma.  Take the view often espoused, for example, by those in the mental health profession.   These are those who contend that the Artist is only subject to his mental health disorder, since his pattern clearly manifests the mood swings of manic depression, nowadays known more commonly as Bipolar Disorder.   In this view, the Artist is unable to create while in the depressive phase, because his depression prevents him from doing so, on a basic neuro-physiological level.  When, in my case, I experience the event of the “breaking,” followed by a fast flow of creative prodigy, I am according to the psychiatrist merely in the “manic” phase of my “disorder.”

I am further told that during the depressive phase, the Artist may not even be aware that he is depressed.  This is due to the intensity of his Artistic focus, in which he is completely immersed —  even as he gets nothing accomplished at all.   His focus, after all, is on his Art — whether he is succeeding in manifesting that Creation or not.  So if he is not succeeding, he may well be depressed and in fact rather irritable.  But he does not know this, for his focus is not on his feelings — but on his Art. 

psychiatrist couchThe psychiatrist continues to advise him that the reason why nothing is getting done is on account of his depression.  The depression, claims the psychiatrist, has overwhelmed him, and rendered him inert and immobile with regards to his creative goals.  But the Artist doesn’t see it this way.  He argues that the converse is the case.  The only reason he may be depressed is because nothing is getting done.  And besides, the word “depression” doesn’t quite cut it.  “Annoyed,” perhaps.  “Annoyed, irritated, aggravated, frustrated, impatient, confused, bewildered, and generally out of sorts.   But depressed?   You gotta be kidding me!  Depression is for less inspired, less purpose-driven men than I.”  

At this, the psychiatrist typically only nods her head.  “Give it about a week, my boy, and you’ll be just fine.” 

Be this as it may.  We have the clinical, ultra-behavioristic approach of the detached, unfeeling psychiatrist, dismissing all the mysterious spectacles of Artistic angst with a cold, calculated DSM-V approach to life.   A bit more pleasing, we have the intriguing approach of Mr. Wallas and his followers, an approach that is definitely more Art-Positive than diagnostic in nature.  But neither of these perspectives really assists me in confronting the essential anxiety that I must endure in order to attain to a happier state of affairs.  The one way exalts Art above all, the other poo-poos and dismisses the Artistic character, even hinting at attributing the Artistic Focus to some form of mental illness.  Yet despite this glaring difference in the two perspectives, they both point to one very disturbing factor that they share in common.   In each case, the Artist is at the mercy of a psychic process that is largely beyond his conscious, creative control.  

What is needed, then, is greater control.   

As to just how this greater control is to be gained, please don’t think for one minute that I have not already pondered this question eternally.   There are in fact several text files on Open Office already, exploring this perennial question.  I even draw near to a solution or three, in places.   But let me take my leave at this juncture, and advise you of my findings when they are bit more conclusive.   It may well be that as I complete my analysis as to what it will take to complete my piece, the completion of the analysis may prove to be a more important creation than the completion of the piece itself.

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Gratitude List 658

1. Moscow, Idaho: Heart of the Arts.  I came back to the city I left when I was fifteen months old — after sixty-two years — knowing nothing about it, and I found out quickly that Moscow is the Heart of the Arts.  I was born here!   No wonder I turned out the way I did.  

2. Thanksgiving celebration last night when the Latah Recovery Center rented out the One World Cafe.   R.J. insisted that all the background music be my original music, so I made a playlist that was in the background the whole time, and sounded nice coming out of all those One World speakers.  Brandon was the OWC worker behind the counter and I got to see everybody from LRC, also Jim the Janitor.  Really nice time, made me very grateful for #1 above.

3. My apartment.

4. Talked with Holly.

5. A sympathetic friend is going to help me with a new computer.

6. There was a big turkey left over from last night, and it’s in my freezer now.

7. I get to have Thanksgiving dinner with my pastor and his family out at the farm.

8. A proverb this morning reminded me to make sure I remember to go pick up that city job application.  (It was Proverbs 22:13) –

9. Therapy was good yesterday with Dave; and though we still didn’t really get to the root of the recently returning problem, we came up with some ways I could avert it.  I later realized some things on my own at home last night about what probably causes it, so all that was good.  I’ll keep working on it.

10. Sally said the November check was mailed yesterday.  I still don’t know which pieces were published, since I sent him the entire Part Four of my book plus everything on this link.  But I guess I’ll find out.   Recognition results in relaxation, because it means there’s less to be impatient about, in life.   God is Good.  

Moscow-Idaho

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

The Dialectic (Part One)

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. To be perfectly honest, I’m not quite sure.

Q. Why do you say that?

A. Because I thought I knew who you were, but I thought wrong.

Q. Who did you think I was?

A. My superego.

Q. Your superego?  Why would you think such a thing?

A. Because you seem to represent my conscience, my higher faculties, always questioning everything, encouraging me to look before I leap — as opposed to my id, who has no conscience, questions nothing, and only seeks immediate gratification with no regard to consequence.

Q. And who are you?

A. I am my Ego.

Q. Why do I find this laughable?

A. Because I was wrong about you.  You have no conscience – no feelings.  You are merely a machine, generating inane questions from deep within the core of my confused and convoluted consciousness.  You are not my superego; you have nothing to do with morality or even with Sigmund Freud, for that matter.  You merely show up every now and then at times of particularly angst along my journey, and occasionally our dialogue is helpful to me.

Q. And this is why, on occasion, you summon me?

A. Yes.

Q. And this is a time of particular angst?

A. Yes.

Q. How so?  Haven’t things suddenly taken a turn for the better?

A. Yes and No.

Q. No?  In what way, “no?”

A. My external enemies having disappeared, my internal enemies have resurfaced.

Q. Can you say that again, please?

A. My external enemies having disappeared, my internal enemies have resurfaced.

Q. And who are your external enemies?

A. All those people who kept knocking on my door, trying to engage me in all kinds of nefarious activities at any time of the day or night, neighbors who were more nosy than neighborly — all of them.   Everybody who lived at Friendship Square.

Q.  Your neighbors were your enemies?

A. “Enemy” might be a strong word, but it sure felt that way.

Q. And you call yourself a Christian!?

A. That would depend upon your definition of the term, I suppose.  But yes, I do identify as a Christian, of a certain type.  So – what are you driving at?

Q. Doesn’t the Lord say: “Love thy neighbor?”

A. But that’s the whole problem!  I loved my neighbors so much I couldn’t get any work done!   Everybody wanted to talk to me, at all times – it was uncanny.   I had to escape – I had to get out of there — but now that those guys are all gone, and I’m alone, I’m faced with my internal enemies.  

Q. Loneliness, perhaps?

A. Ha!  Loneliness is for lesser men.  I’m talking about the Enemies of Art.  They’re like these — inner demons.  They surface whenever I begin to immerse myself in projects about which I am passionate.  The more passionate I am about my project, the more they try to interfere.

Q. Can you give me an example?

A. Well, for that, we need to revisit the Professor.

professor
(So throw a pie in my face.  I couldn’t resist.)

There was a certain professor whose unfavorable reactions to my half-written rough draft of Eden in Babylon kept rushing through my head for three years every time I tried to sit down to work on the script.   Now that I have solitude again, and am away from all the “hard knocks,” so to speak, I’ve naturally taken up the script again, thinking quite innocently that now would be a perfect time to do a second draft, polish up a few rough spots, and so forth. 

So, I sat down the other night to embark upon a very simple scouring of the script in order to return four unnamed characters to the Kids Chorus Line, after I had irrationally removed them from the script at the last minute.  For you see, the Professor had warned me about having too large a cast size – and of course a large cast is a deterrent.  The first version he saw had a cast of 56, according to his count.  I myself was neither counting nor concerned, since at the time I was aiming to submit the show to a specific theatre in the Bay Area that was requesting submissions for “large cast traditional musicals with a full orchestration.”  But this is long past.

I proceeded to whittle down the cast, doubling parts when necessary, and actually feeling quite good about the whittled version.  But at the end, I made the serious mistake of significantly reducing the Kids Chorus Line while not significantly reducing the cast size!  So I sat down this past Saturday night to return the four unnamed Kids to the Chorus line, and thus enhance the experience musically, while only increasing cast size from 23 to 27.

I had presumed this would be a simple matter.  However, it involved a technical nightmare of placing an unformatted, unpaginated copy of a script next to a paginated copy, locating all the places where the Kids had once been involved, and making the appropriate adjustments.  This challenged my dyslexia.  Moreover, as I tired into the wee hours of the night, I became less and less focused, but more and more determined not to let go until I got the job done.   That was when the Professor surfaced.

I would see a line in the show that I thought was particularly exceptional, and I would suddenly remember his scathing critique of my earlier draft.  I would fly into a rage inside my head.  I would shout within myself: “How could he?!  How could he not see how good this is??   How inspired I was!!!  Did he even read the script??”

So, my old enemy, of associating the script revision with the unfavorable response of a previous presumptuous professor of the past, had returned.  And that’s only an example.

Q. A second example?

A. My other friend, seeming to have money, and not wanting to kick it down to help me pay the singers, but dismissing my request for assistance as evidence of a “mental health episode.”   He also appeared in my mind, and I also became enraged at the thought of his classist arrogance.   Rich people are often quick to blame the abject poverty of poor people on some kind of problem the poor person has, as though I’m supposed to spend the rest of my days solving whatever problem they think has resulted in my poverty, in order to become rich like they are, and similarly blame the suffering of those less cozy than they on some random peccadillo in their personality, thus silencing my conscience. 

Q. And just who are we calling “classist?”

A.  Look, buddy.   I had to spend years sleeping in a gutter getting the shit kicked out of me, while one by one, every so-called “friend” I knew from my previous life of opulence dismissed my legitimate need for shelter by telling me to see a psychiatrist.  And so what if I do have a psychological problem or two?   I’m in my damn sixties!   I’m practically fighting Alzheimer’s trying to get this show on the road!   What am I supposed to do?  Spend the rest of my days trying to solve some elusive problem of mine?   Or spend my days trying to figure out a way to use my God-given gifts for the good of humanity? You can’t shovel out the darkness!!  You can only turn on the Light!! 

So – obviously, don’t you think it makes a hell of a lot more sense for me to throw my energies into  looking for singers, musicians, a venue. a crew, a cast, a production staff, and $50,000, than to keep hammering away at trying to keep shit jobs that I always lose?   And wind up feeling demoralized?  And incompetent?   Sure I’m incompetent in every area of my lifelong failure — so why don’t we start focusing on the relatively few but valuable things that I can actually manage to occasionally do well?  I am not incompetent in the areas of my expertise — I know exactly what I am doing!   I am not crazy!  I am a very talented, but spaced out, absent-minded, but ingenious, agitated, but highly determined, totally stressed out man!

Q. Fifty thousand dollars?

A. You heard me!  But this pointless dialectic is nothing but drivel!!  Let’s adjourn until tomorrow.  Your incessant questioning of everything I do or say angers me.  Goodbye.

The Questioner is silent.

A. And don’t you dare ask me if I am in “denial!”  If I want to hear about denial, I’ll go to a frickin’ 12-Step meeting, for God’s sake!! 

The Questioner is still silent.  

A. And I am not lazy, either!!!

The Questioner, quite wisely, remains silent.

TO BE CONTINUED

The Crying of the Muse

I thought about calling this post “I’ll Be Brief” in order to remind myself to do so.  Yesterday I set out to write a “brief” post, and yet somehow it consumed five hours of the early morning, and wound up becoming eleven paragraphs in length.

In all that verbosity, it seems I inadvertently obfuscated the information that I have moved.  Yes – I have finally left my 14-month tenure at the apartments euphemistically known as “Friendship Square.”  The good news is that I am no longer surrounded by felons, cons, tweakers, thieves, and hustlers.   The bad news is that it’s going to cost me an extra $175/mo.   But the good news is that it’s worth it.

In the confusion, I have been composing compulsively.   When I compose music, I am somehow completely focused.  I enjoy the process very much, even if the product is lacking.  When I write text, however, I am almost completely unfocused.  Yet, yet, yet — everybody seems to like my verbal writings, and almost nobody appreciates my musical writings.  It’s a sore spot for me.  I didn’t go to a Conservatory of Music in order to spend all my time writing about Homelessness.

Then again, what is it that made me homeless to begin with?  I mean — outside of socio-economic factors, what was it about me that caused me not only to become homeless, but actually to embrace Homelessness?  (That is, before I literally got the sense knocked into me.)

Quite simply, life was not rendering me enough space to focus on writing my music.  Ah – I remember it well – the last straw.   In April 2011, I was living in a small house with the landlord, his four year old boy, and another roommate.   I had been homeless before, off and on for seven years.   So I knew that I could generally handle it.   But could I handle the four year old boy bursting into my bedroom, right at the moment when I was making the final edits to The Crying of the Muse, shouting “Hiya!” and waving a large plastic spear over his head?

It seems the young fellow wanted to joust with me.   And don’t get me wrong – I would gladly have taken up my spear, and jousted with him at another time.  But he just happened to throw me off of my delicate musical balance at that moment — and enough was enough.  I needed space. 

So, in order to find the space I needed, I quite naturally headed to Berkeley, California, where I figured I would “blend” with approximately 1,000 other homeless blokes, and write my music invisibly, without such annoying intrusions.

It worked for a while, till the thrill was gone.   And Friendship Square worked for a while, too.   Here’s to a new and more productive chapter of my highly-driven, restless life.   I’ve gotten as far with my current compulsive composing as meets the eyes and ears below.  The eyes see a telling view of Friendship Square at night, illuminated as if with fireworks.   The ears will hear a fraction of the piece tentatively entitled the New Royal Rhapsody.   Please enjoy — if at all possible.  

Art is Hard Work.
They keep firing me because I’m absent-minded and too easily stressed.
Art will never fire me, nor will I quit Art.
Please pay me for it here.
Thank you.

 

An Incredibly Empty Place

As most of you know, I am a person who became homeless at the age of 51 in the San Francisco Bay Area during a midlife crisis of enormous proportion, after working for many years as an elementary school music teacher and private teacher of Piano and Voice on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula.  I struggled in and out of homelessness for the next twelve years, mostly on the streets of Berkeley, California.  For the past fourteen months, I’ve successfully maintained an apartment in a completely different part of the country, and have been gainfully employed throughout most of that time.   Still, however, I sometimes miss the allure of the streets.  I find myself wanting to “hit the road” — to chuck it all, to flick it in, to flip the switch — and to become homeless once again.   But when I read something like this short blurb I wrote in 2015, I remember why this might not be such a good idea.

An Incredibly Empty Place

Believe it or not, the streets used to inspire me. I used to feel free here. I wrote ten songs from the streets, arranged them, recorded them – here in Berkeley, in 2012, I wrote decent interesting music — while homeless. But now? They all recognize me. They see me on the streets.

Who’s “they?”   Whoever it is who assumes — is they, and not we.   Whoever stigmatizes is “they” — not we.   We know who I really am  — we who neither stigmatize nor assume.   But they?  They assume, because they see me on the streets, that I’m all about the hustle.  Then, if they are not on the streets, they look down upon me, as though I am a dirt bag, here to rip them off.  And if they are on the streets?  Then they assume I am one of them.  I’m supposed to have a hustle, supposed to have a game.  When they find I have no hustle, when they find I have no game, then they assume I am their enemy.  I then become a target.   I must be a nark, a snitch, a rat.  Why is Andy never in jail?   It can’t possibly be that Andy isn’t about committing crimes, can it?   It can’t possibly be that he wants nothing whatsoever to do with that game.   It must be that he is a police informant.  He’s going to turn us all in.  We better get that guy Andy — before he gets us.

I’m either one of them — or I am their prey.   And as for Music? What is Music?  As for Art?  What the hell is Art?  Isn’t life all about the hustle? About taking from people who have even less than you have? And feeling good about it at the end of the day? As though it were an honest day’s work?

But to write music — what is that? Does it make me any money? No — not yet, anyway.  Perhaps it never will.  But why is that the prevailing question?   Why is the question not whether I do another person harm?   Does my writing music intrude on others at all? No.   It does not.  Then why am I not left alone, as I once was, in 2012?   Because they think they know me now.  They think they know me — because they see me.    Whoever they are who assume, they judge the book by its cover.  Whoever they are who stigmatize, they see me, and think they know me.  In reality, they know me not.

Some of these hustlers don’t seem to think they can make any money in life without totally infringing upon the rights of others.  Their means of earning money involves invading other people’s space.  All day long I hear them: “Got fifty cents?  Got a cigarette?   A light?   A cell phone?   Can I sync my cell phone to your laptop?  How much you want for that “top”?  What do you mean, it’s not for sale?  Who the hell do you think you are?”

I had a guy who calls himself my “friend” con me out of my last BART ticket. I paid for that BART ticket with my own earned money. It isn’t easy to sit there with back up against the brick wall of that BART station, flying a sign all day, and and keeping my mouth shut long enough for somebody to “get it.”   I’ve had jobs that were way easier than that!  But I’ve got my pride.   You won’t hear the words “can you spare some change?” come out of me.  I don’t want to be like those hustlers.  I don’t want to intrude on people’s mind-sets, or invade their space while they’re rushing to get from one gig to another in the Mainstream.  The sign says it all.  

need a miracle

But I tell you – some of these people just get to me.  They have no respect for other people. They don’t respect me. I have no value to them except for what they can con me out of. I don’t need their food stamps, their marijuana, their attitude. I don’t need them. I tell them I’m hungry, they tell me I should give them my last two dollars. I would so love to be able to eat regularly – to eat real food without having to wait for hours in a line every day, with fights breaking out, with security being involved and police being called — I’m tired of it all. Down here, it is either assumed that I am a criminal or, like I said, it’s assumed that I’m a mark. I’m either a potential perpetrator or a potential victim. There is no in between.

How did I ever get myself into this irreconcilable mess?  I should be hanging around college professors, theatre directors, school principals, and parents of singing students and piano students!  Like I used to be!   I should be hanging around Actors and musicians and set designers!  Like I used to!  I should be hanging around playwrights and screen writers. Piano players, singers – composers like me. But I am exempt from hanging with people like myself.  Somehow, it does not happen. Somehow, I cannot climb out of this hole. It’s too deep. My best hope is to communicate – and keep communicating – until someone feels me.

Does anyone feel me yet?  Do you?  I am constantly visible. Constantly seen – by whom? By everyone.   And believe me – some people down here – that’s all they do is look.  Look, lurk, watch, wait — and lay in wait.  They cannot sleep at night — unless they have done somebody harm.

There are no walls around me. I have no roof over my head. I have no bed beneath me. I am vulnerable – through visibility. And I am associated with all those who are similarly vulnerable – through visibility. Many of whom are violent. To find identification, I look to pimps, hustlers, hookers, and drug dealers. Why? Because they live in the same world that I do.  We have that in common.  I smile and laugh and joke in the presence of people of whose lifestyles I disapprove.  Why?  Because it keeps me from getting the crap knocked out of me, day after day after day.

And yet, through all of those smiles and all of that laughter, through all of the identification, the unusual common ground, the ground that validates us, that separates us from those who live “inside,”– throughout the foundation of our amazing common dignity, the buck always stops when the fine print is read.   And the fine print said:

I’m sorry, bro, but I really don’t want to distract that guy while you steal his bicycle.  I mean, I’m sorry man, but I’m just not into it.  I know you just turned me on to a bud of great medical weed.  I know, I know, but still, but still . . . 

How does one convey that just because one does not desire to partake in a criminal activity, this does not mean that one is the enemy of those who do?   At least five times a week, I have to look into the shocked, threatened eyes of someone who has just realized that I simply have no desire to commit a crime. No desire to steal from anyone. No desire to do someone bodily harm or psychic damage in order to obtain what I want for myself.

At that point, our common dignity means nothing. I am only an easy mark. My personality means nothing, really. And so, nobody recognizes me for who I am. It’s an incredibly empty place to be.

Andy Pope
Berkeley, California
June 15, 2015

 Anything Helps!
God Bless!

 

The End from the Beginning

I tend to use the word “composing” a bit loosely.  The word “arranging” might be more appropriate for what I’m currently about.   I wrote the song “Bone of My Bones” in my head a little over a year ago, when I was still homeless in Berkeley.   I arranged it shortly after I moved up to Idaho, and used that arrangement as the first movement in my Royal Rhapsody.  But then, throughout the months that passed since creating that arrangement, I kept “hearing” a different feel for “Bone of My Bones,” one that suggested rock instruments and a driving rock beat in places.  So I created the arrangement linked to the title below, and I called that process “composing.”

Bone of My Bones

Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope
All Rights Reserved

It often seems to me that I am not truly “composing” the piece in question until I actually put the notes down on paper, reasonably replicating the way that I “hear” those notes in my head.  Hence, the looseness of terminology.  Also, I’m intending to use this version of “Bone of My Bones” as part of a much larger piece, described in this post.  All of the themes I allude to have already been “composed” in my head.  But have they truly been composed?   If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear the sound, did it really fall?  

Well – if you want my opinion, it did.  But enough people differ from that opinion, I figured it would be best to post a more-or-less philosophical disclaimer at this time.  We basically do not know at what point in the process the “composing” of the musical piece actually begins.   In like manner, we also do not know when the composing of the piece of music ends.  

Case in point.   When I started working on Bones again, I decided to name the first file “Bones 17-A” since this was the year 2017, and I wanted to distinguish it from the 2016 version.   When I got to Version 18-F, it therefore meant that I had created 32 versions of the piece, going all the way through the alphabet once, from 17-A to 17-Z, and then up to the letter F with the number 18 preceding.  I then played Version 18-F for a friend of mine named Cindy.

Cindy liked the piece of music, even though it wasn’t nearly finished yet.  Then, when I got to Version 18-W, the 53rd version (the one you are hearing now), I wanted to play it for her again — but she said:

Why

Apparently, she thought it was fine the way it was, and that I had no need to work on it any further.  Yet I had already created seventeen more versions of the piece!   At that point, I was afraid to play it for her, for fear that she wouldn’t think it had evolved.

But if I defer to my own sovereignty in the matter (since after all, I am the Artist here), I still don’t think it’s done, even at Version 18-W.  The only reason why I have stopped here, and am permitting you all to hear it in this highly incomplete state, is because I know it’s only one theme in a much larger work, and I want to get onto the other themes, and start connecting them together.  In that process, many things are bound to change anyway, so I might as well not be too much of a perfectionist.  At the extreme, I would keep working on it until it was Bones 47-C or greater.  And I would never get anything else done, in life, at all.

I once lived behind a Fine Artist – a sculptor, in fact, one of great renown.   I had to walk through his studio in order to get to my apartment.  (A bizarre but symbiotic arrangement.)  Once, for days on end, I saw him become increasingly frustrated working on a certain sculpture.  Finally, he said something to me as I passed through.

duchamp
Marcel Duchamp

“Andy, do you see that spot there?  I’ve been trying for days to get it off of this damn thing!   It’s ruining the whole sculpture!”

“Spot?” I queried.  “What spot?  I don’t see anything.”

“Right there!  Don’t you see it?  It’s right there, damn it — getting in the way of everything!!”

“Uh…er…Darryl — who is the sculptor whom you revere the most?”

“Why, Marcel Duchamp.  You know that already, Andy.”

“And what did Marcel Duchamp say about the completion of a work of Art?”

“He said that he never finished a piece of Art.  He only abandoned it.”

“Well, I hate to break it to you, Daryl, but I think it’s about time you abandoned this sculpture.”

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Culture Shock

I haven’t been active here lately because I’ve been trying to deal with complex issues related to my mental health and my Christian faith.  Much of this is explained in a 27-paragraph Facebook timeline post that prints out to 16 pages double-spaced.   It’s extremely lengthy and revealing, but if you want to read it, I will of course be highly gratified.  I’ll post again with a progress update once the smoke clears from this most recent explosion of nerves.  Take care in the meantime, and God bless you.

CULTURE SHOCK

Whenever I’ve had a Facebook in the past, there has usually been a much larger number of “friends” here, and I have created timeline posts of substantial length and content much more frequently. This wasn’t such a bad thing, because it provided a forum for the expression of some of my rather unusual personal views. However, it also got me into trouble. Not that I couldn’t handle the lively debate I had in fact been hoping to incite, but that sometimes I would be misconstrued in my core intentions. Sometimes, people would become concerned about me personally, when basically all I was trying to do was render a social statement based on my experience.

The classic example in my history would be the event of having three Oakland city cops knock on my door and haul me off to a loony bin over something I wrote on my timeline. To this day, I’m not even sure what I wrote, or how it was thus misconstrued. If I recall correctly, it had something to do with the ownership of a certain type of firearm, and how it related to 2nd Amendment rights. It was *not* along the lines of my being about to *use* a firearm on anybody. In fact, I have never owned a gun in my life. But this is the kind of thing that can happen here on Facebook. It was an unfortunate event, but like all unfortunate events, it did motivate me to think a few things through. I am always grateful that God gifted me with an unusually analytical mind, because the intellectual analysis of social details is invariably far more pleasant and productive than any mere depression in which I might otherwise engage. So – call that sublimation or what-have-you. I am an Artist and a Writer – or at least, I think like one. As such, any negative experience I have will immediately become source material for a future work of Art. That’s just the way I roll.

But many other things about my relationship to Facebook concern me. They seem symptomatic of a larger ill. I am never quite sure how much is *my* ill – my boundary issues, communication problems, impulse control issues, impatience, and so forth – and how much of it is due to the fact that the world is simply evil, and that Facebook instantiates the evil that is in the world already. If so, it’s a pretty huge, multi-billion dollar replica of that evil, and not just something to be trifled with. Whatever the case, Facebook is a lot more manageable if I keep it on the down low. But I will keep it. There are people in my life who will never answer my emails or even check their email. There are people in my life who won’t even call me on the phone or answer back if I call them. If I want to find these people, I know where to find them: Facebook. It’s a fact of modern life, just like the damned smartphone that so annoys me. The O.G. is just going to have to live with it.

rotary telephoneFor my part, I would rather we all still had rotary land line telephones that had only one function. Nowadays the smartphone has so many hundreds of functions, it frustrates me no end trying to keep track of them all. My sense of isolation from humanity is completely fed and fostered by modern-day technology. Am I the only person who has all these weird issues around Internet communications and social media? Maybe I’ve just never really bothered to explore it deeply enough to learn what’s truly useful and enjoyable about it all. But it just seems to me that all these different devices, and syncing them together, and two-step verification, and all that other rot is essentially a ploy on the part of the Powers That Be to rob us of our privacy and personal sovereignty, under the guise of increasing our security and convenience. Then again, I can never quite tell how much of this is *me* and how much is *it.* So I take the middle road, and have a smaller Facebook that I use much less frequently. Life is easier that way — for me.

Life is easier for me in a lot of ways, these days, than it has been for many years. This is why I am writing tonight. I haven’t created too many lengthy or meaningful timeline posts, and it’s about time I made a contribution. The lamentations that I have indulged regarding modern technology and the effects of classism on our culture were once those of an embittered old man who assumed he was on his way out. Despite my dreams, despite the worldview about which I am passionate, and despite my God-given talents, I was consigned to die a miserable, meaningless death on the streets, among others who were slowly doing the same. I would have died, as Cervantes wrote about the soldiers he saw dying in battle, not wondering why I was dying, but why I had lived. When I moved from Berkeley, California, to Moscow, Idaho, all of that changed. The sense of culture shock, though still quite shocking, was at the same time a true inspiration.

culture shockBut don’t get me wrong. I still believe what my unusual experiences have led me to believe. I still romance the year 1975, when we all had rotary land line telephones with only one function. But it was remarkable how many things that I loved about the seventies, that I thought had disappeared for good, were obviously still alive here in Moscow. So any despair I might have felt over the state of affairs here in America was instantly removed from my system of social perceptions. I almost feel guilty expressing optimism at this time in our history, but if you can get a grasp of the hugeness of the culture shock, and of its overall impact upon me, you will understand why. I simply did not know there were any places left in America where people still trust each other and believe in each other, where the average person has no reason to suspect that his neighbor will steal from him, and where it is ordinarily assumed that the person in his midst is a competent individual, capable of making rational choices and earning his own living. You have no idea how encouraged I have been to have made this discovery.

Even so, people in California warned me that I would find Idaho to be “backwards, bigoted, and behind the times.” Even as I gushed about how thrilled I was to have finally been able to pick myself up off the streets and craft the lifestyle I had been longing to know for years, many of my friends from California would only emphasize the negative. This could have been a reaction to the effusive and sometimes hyperbolic nature of my ravings. Or perhaps they were jealous that my life had suddenly become easier than theirs. Maybe they just wanted me to chill out, or calm down, or not to fly too high. What happened when Icarus flew too high? He crashed and burned. People who have known me for years know that I have this tendency, which in modern terminology is known as bipolar disorder. But there are other ways to frame the effects of this tendency rather than to treat it as a disease. I got a little bit hot under the collar when I was trying to express how wonderful life had suddenly become, and most of my friends in California were responding by telling me to go see a psychiatrist. Whatever the case, the inability of almost everyone I knew in the State of California to simply be happy for me, without inserting uninformed criticisms of the State of Idaho into their responses, angered me to the point where eventually, I decided to cut all contact with people from my previous existence. This was a rash and blanket, catch-all decision, which after a few weeks I recanted. But it kept me focused at a time when I was, in fact, beginning to “fly too high,” and I needed all the focus I could get.

So let’s take a step back and analyze the gist of their warning. Essentially, the warning states that Idaho, and every other State besides California (with the possible exception of Oregon and Washington) is “backwards, bigoted, and behind the times.” I hesitate to speak for “bigoted” because of the obvious fact that there is no distinct race in Idaho with a large enough population to comprise a target for bigotry, other than the White race. For bigotry and racial tension to be active in any environment, there would have to be at least two races of substantial population in that environment. However, I also want to say that I haven’t really met anyone here who expresses prejudicial or bigoted sentiments. I include this information partly because of something that Julian Hoover posted on a meme recently, regarding the Trump administration, and how racial tension and distrust have increased since his election. This may be true, but since I personally am emerging from a background of such *extreme* racial tension, it’s difficult for me to imagine how much worse it may have gotten since the election. After all, I’m not there anymore. I can only read about it in the papers. But when I was there, in the situation I was in, I was constantly being accused of being a racist by people who did not know me at all, who made this accusation on first sight, merely because my skin was White. Now in that dynamic, who exactly is the racist?

soical-stigmaThis is not mere prejudice. This is stigma. It is the event in which, as the sociologist Erving Goffman wrote in his work on the subject, “perception spoils identity.” I was being judged, not as an individual with his own unique identity, but as a member of a social faction that, in the perception of the person making the judgment, was composed completely of racists. It’s like assuming that the man begging for change on the sidewalk is a drug addict. Or that every drug addict is a thief. Neither of these things is true. In my opinion, the sooner we can all relax and see each other as the unique individuals whom we are, perfectly molded and crafted through our DNA by intentional divine design, at the hands of an invisible and ineffable Creator who knows exactly what He is doing, in a manner that we mere human beings cannot even conceive of, then the better off we will be. This is another reason why I was so overjoyed in coming to Moscow, Idaho. It was the first time in years that anybody was bothering to take me at face value for who I appeared to be, and not just lump me into some box. In the previous world, I kept feeling that the representatives of a political philosophy were trying very hard to put the round hole whom I am into the square box whom I am not. They almost succeeded, because their influence was so pervasive, I almost came to believe that they were right. Had I stayed in that environment much longer, I might have lost my identity completely.

Then, as far as “backwards” and “behind the times,” I think we need to take a look at this as well. For one thing, I have really come to question what is “progressive” about a society in which people have no good reason to trust their neighbors. Have we “progressed” to the point where there is so much theft in our worlds that we turn a blind eye to it, and much of it goes unreported? When I left my wallet at a Starbucks in Berkeley, it was gone fifteen minutes later. I had to replace all the cards, and of course I never got the cash back. When twice I left my wallet in the laundry room of my apartment building here, each time it was returned to me within three days by the janitors, once with $75 in cash in it. I also bought five cell phones during a five year period of time. With the exception of the one I sold when I was destitute, all four of them disappeared from my backpack overnight, whilst I slept. Finally, as most of you know, I had four laptops stolen from me in a three year period of time in Berkeley, and a fifth in Oakland, during that same period. Two of the Berkeley thefts were strong-armed robberies, meaning that I was pistol-whipped in the process. Outside of having to deal with the indignity and trauma thereof, I was extremely frustrated for the interruptions. I had work to do that was important to me, if to no one else, and I was tired of not being able to have a solid place where I could sit down, plug in my laptop, and resume my projects. Finally, I bought a laptop from Bill at the Used Computer Store on Shattuck Avenue, then quietly left Berkeley without saying a word. It has been over a year now. I still have that same laptop today. How long would that laptop have lasted me in Berkeley? Your guess ought to be as good as mine by this point, but I can guarantee you it would not have lasted an entire year.

get-a-jobWhen I lived in California, it was generally assumed that I was unemployable, due to an alleged mental health condition, the veracity of which dates back to January 1, 2007. On that day, I made the two biggest mistakes I have ever made in my entire life. Both mistakes were a direct result of my having bought into the lie that I was unemployable. The first mistake was that I placed myself on Social Security Disability Income at a time in my life when I was easily young enough to be working – and was, in fact (unbeknownst to them) still working. To what degree this was a “scam” of mine, I honestly cannot say. Most of us are glad to receive extra money, no matter where it comes from. But as I accepted the $875 monthly government crazy money that I had not earned, along with the $15,000 back payment that I did not deserve, I had to see the words LEGALLY INCOMPETENT placed in capital letters on a bizarre document informing me that I could not, and should not, ever work again. And, as I saw those words, I believed them. Why did I believe them? Well, that has to do with the second big mistake, which was even bigger, and which we need not discuss at this time. (You all know what it is anyway – or if you don’t, I’ll write a book about it and get back to you.)

Dealing with the rising cost of living as we all were down there, and working less and less the more I leaned on my government money, I eventually landed on the streets. There, I lived for years, desperately trying to find my Andy, and get my Andy back, while not one person validated for me the notion that maybe I could still work. Local agents of the Powers That Be incessantly kept trying to put me into some kind of institution, agency, program, shelter, halfway house, board and care home, or other such strictly structured residential environment. Only once did a stranger passing by me look down upon me, and shout: “GET A JOB!” You have no idea how good it felt to hear those words, when all around me, it was assumed that I was completely incompetent, if not gravely disabled, and in need of some sort of assisted living situation. Honestly, I still remember looking up silently at this total stranger, and hearing him shout: “GET A JOB, MAN! GET OFF YOUR BUTT! GET A HUSTLE!” All I could do, after hearing everybody else around me only tell me where the free food was and how to get a bed in a homeless shelter, was to look up at the guy, and silently think: “You know something? He’s right.”

But the pervasiveness of the identity-crushing, dehumanizing ideology that insidiously weaves its way into the hearts of every free speech advocate who dares take up residence in the city of Berkeley was overwhelming. I consistently thought that I was wrong, and that all of them were right. I couldn’t possibly be right, and the whole world wrong, could I? I must be wrong, I thought. So I permitted them to place me into all kinds of programs and facilities, only to my hurt. For whenever I did succumb, and try to take up residence in one of those God-awful situations, I only found myself surrounded by other people who were also thought to be completely unemployable, if not criminal, and I only drifted further away from my simple goal of regaining the Andy whom I had lost. I lost him when he was smothered in the maze and mire known as Stigma. I would last maybe five weeks at most before it finally dawned on me that I was happier pitching a tent in Tilden Park and quietly saying my evening prayers to the stars. In that solitude, there was a glimpse of the Andy whom I had lost, and even a hint of hope that I might regain him. But I honestly never dreamed I would truly get my Andy back, or even a part of him, until I moved to Moscow, Idaho. Here, after years of living on the streets, I had a job within three weeks after my arrival. Backwards? Behind the times? If this is “backwards,” then give me “backwards.” If this is “behind the times” — all I can say is: Bring It On!

The move I made was phenomenal, abrupt, swift and unforeseen. It seemed to everyone I knew that one day I was dying in a gutter, and the next day I had a job and an apartment in another State. Four days after I arrived here, I signed a one-year lease on an apartment. Would that ever happened down in California? Not on your life. There would have been a complex series of providing references from past landlords as well as personal references, not to mention a credit check and a criminal background check. In the process, some other applicant would have beat me out. But here, when my present landlord even hinted at querying about past landlords, I only had to tell him that they were all a bunch of lying crooks, and that if the tables were turned, I would never provide a reference for any of them. “You, on the other hand,” I smiled, “seem like a genuinely decent fellow.” That was all it took to get a one year lease on an apartment. He trusted me; I trusted him; we still both trust each other. In Berkeley, even after four months of renting a room in an old Victorian, there was never a moment when the landlord and I truly trusted each other.

And the cost of living? I was paying $900/mo. for a place just like this in Berkeley six years ago, only without an on-site laundry room. Here I pay only $285/mo. — with all utilities paid, and free wireless Internet. One might wonder, then, if the clientele consists of completely dubious characters. I can tell you for a fact that I am easily the most dubious character of them all – and that I truly try not to be. I have stolen from no one, nor would I. No one has stolen from me — nor would they. Nobody has assaulted me, or accused me of being a “racist” or threatened to knock the crap out of me, only because my skin is White. I still have the exact same laptop that I bought on the day I left Berkeley. In Berkeley, I had been frustrated that I couldn’t finish a large project – a full scale musical with a cast of 27 – throughout the whole five years since I had conceived of the idea. In Moscow, I sat down between Thanksgiving Day and March 4th of this year at the Moscow Bagel and Deli, and finished the entire thing, all 135 pages of it. I had been furious that I could not score any of the music I had been composing, a song cycle including 18 songs, and a certain instrumentation. I sat down in the One World Cafe in Moscow, Idaho, and I finished the whole damn thing, 400 pages of music, fully orchestrated. Given those personal successes, weighed against my background, one would think I would have no reason to complain about my life at all. And I basically don’t, except for one single horrible, inescapable truth:

I, Andy Pope, have not changed. Oh, I got my Andy back all right – and when I got him back, he was same arrogant, obstinate, stubborn, touchy, finicky, over-talkative, over-sensitive, boundary-breaking, foot-in-the-mouth son-of-a-gun that he always was and probably always will be. (Guess it’s the DNA I was gushing about, and maybe a little of that “divine design.”)

change-231x300I need to change. If I cannot change my heart, which is deceitful above all things, than I at least have to change my approach. Everything that happened before I left my church job on April 15th was stuff that could have easily happened down there, were it not for my circumstances. But I never changed inside of me. I didn’t even try to. I didn’t want to. All that happened was that I got to show my good side for a change, to myself, and to a bunch of other people whom one year ago, I never dreamed I’d have met. But that’s not enough in the long haul. The reasons why my job began to frustrate me were no different than they have ever been in the past, except for maybe that I’m older now, and my ability to roll with the punches of normal workaday stress is even more diminished. I’ve always been too sensitive. I’ve always been too absent-minded. I’ve always stressed out too easily over things that weren’t stressing the others out, leaving them wondering what the problem was. But to move from those relatively minor shortcomings to LEGALLY INCOMPETENT was a big mistake! All it did was to erode my confidence even further, in an atmosphere where everybody around me believed it, and I dared not think they all were wrong. Believing that lie has led me nowhere but to the unenviable position of unemployment in which I find myself tonight.

In the past three months, I have watched myself do everything I have ever done anywhere else in the world in order to shoot myself in the foot. I have committed the same sins I have committed at any other time in my past, whenever I have “crashed and burned,” and in so doing, inexplicably destroyed everything it had taken me months to build up. But what is different is the type of responses I’ve been getting from people in the community here. I have been stopped by cops three times over situations that, had I remained in California, nobody would have cared about. This is great. It means that I am getting wake-up calls for the very same things that would have been completely dismissed down in a State where the jails are too overcrowded for the cops to care. I have had a lady approach me to tell me that she saw a private message I sent to her son and had told him to delete me from his friends list. This is also great. Now I might start being a lot more careful about who I accept as a Facebook friend, and what I say in a private message. I have learned that personal emails I’d sent of a highly sensitive nature, erratic emails that I sent when I was in a volatile state, were shared by the recipient with her associates. This is even greater. Maybe now I will finally be able to address my perennial “email problem,” because in the past whenever I have sent such emails, everybody ignored them, and nobody even cared enough to call me on my stuff. But the most painful thing of all was the sudden rejection I received from a young friend whom I genuinely loved, when he inexplicably blocked me and made communication with him impossible, immediately after informing me that these emails, not intended for him in the first place, had been shared with him. But something stood out in all the mysterious things he was suddenly saying about me. It was his cryptic statement: “You only care about one thing.”

Of all the totally weird things that have happened to me in the past three months, things that would never have happened in California, that was the weirdest and by far the most hurtful. It has been almost impossible to find anything positive about somebody whom I loved absolutely refusing to talk to me, for reasons about which I can only speculate. But for anybody who knows me at all to declare that I “only care about one thing” is a total red flag. It’s a bigger wake-up than any of the other things that have thrown me off balance in the past three months, at a time when my main focus has been trying to regain my balance. The truth is that, in a sense, there actually is only One Thing that I care about. Any caring I might have for anything else stems from that One Thing. And yet, I am completely negligent in letting anyone know what that One Thing is. Most people don’t even want to hear about it, but the plain truth is this. If I don’t start being more vocal about my Christian faith, then the second of the two mistakes I made on January 1, 2007 will rear its head again, for the fifth time in the past three months. In that event, any words I may speak pertaining to the Person of Jesus Christ will be completely ineffective, if not ludicrous and disgusting. And as for Stigma, my avowed nemesis? I can only be grateful to have finally learned just how unscrupulous and indiscriminate my enemy can be. Stigma marches militantly through the narrow minds of the deluded and the depraved, like a ruthless crusader on a quest to rob each and every person on earth of their true and valid, God-given unique identities. If I thought Stigma was my mortal enemy in Berkeley, I had no idea how lethal it would be up here in Moscow. I will attack that monster with all my strength, before it kills me, and every word I write will in some way address its poisons, until I finally get my message across. As I said, every negative thing that happens in my life immediately becomes source material for my Art — and this one is just about as negative as they come.

After informing me that I “only care about one thing,” the young man also very kindly suggested that I ought to save up my money and move back to Berkeley to be closer to my daughter. It was a nice sentiment, and I know that when he said that, he was remembering that I also care very deeply for my daughter. But I have to tell anyone who has bothered to read this whole thing that I am not about to go back to Berkeley. After all the things I just told you (and that’s just the tip of the iceberg) why would I? Sure, I miss my friends from California, people who have known me since the 70’s I so fondly revere, people with whom I hope to always retain contact. But that doesn’t mean I am going to move back to the dangerous, costly, life-threatening situation that I have just now attempted to describe. In California, generally speaking, if I had a problem, everybody ignored me. They decided that it was my stuff, and that I had to work it out on my own, or at best, at their most compassionate, they referred me to some agency that would help me deal with it, claiming that they did not have the personal expertise to address my issue. As near as I can see, if I have a problem here in Idaho, everybody rushes up at me and gets totally in my face about it. I would say that I honestly don’t know which is worse, but that would be total bullshit. It’s a lot better to feel cared about, even if the caring is misplaced or misguided, than to feel as though nobody cares about you at all. So once again, thank God I am in Moscow, Idaho. I was born here, and I will die here, so help me God.

The difference between Moscow and any other city where I have attempted to live is this. By and large, except for a few minor, regrettable events, you guys have not tried to put me in a box. All of you, Paul and Niko and anyone else with whom I’ve talked to any meaningful extent, have obviously accepted me for who I am. This may seem very normal and commonplace to you here in Moscow, but outside of a few close friendships, it’s not something that I have in my experience. Whenever I was asked to resign a job at a Christian church, it was with the strong inference that they did not believe I was a Christian. And yet, my friend Danielle with whom I would talk every day on the Internet, had no doubt that I am a Christian. And this woman is easily one of the strongest Christians I’ve ever met. So what’s up with that? If, in my earlier exuberance for my new life here, people couldn’t even tell that I’m a Christian, then that’s a pretty huge problem — and I will definitely make sure I do something about *that.* A large part of being a Christian is to identify as such, and to let people know about it. It’s a difficult thing to do in a world that has disdain for Christians, but it is a necessary thing. It lets people know where you stand, and it keeps you from falling into sinful practices that could easily ensnare you if you are leading people to believe that you’re all right with those practices. I have to remember that Jesus warned us all that the world would hate us because of our beliefs. He said that the day would come when those who killed us would earnestly believe that they were serving God in the process. But he also said that if they hate us, to remember that they hated Him, before they hated us. They hated Him enough to nail Him to a Cross and force Him to endure the mockeries of those who tortured Him to death, while He was in the process of performing the greatest act of self-sacrificial love that has ever been accomplished in the history of the world. Had He not done that, I for one would be burning in hell. If you don’t believe this, that is perfectly understandable. There was a time when I didn’t believe it either. But there came a time when I reflected, and I realized the truth in it, as well as the power. Maybe that time will one day come for you as well.

View from northeastWhen I left the church job that I had somehow managed to keep for nine months, despite my alleged incompetence, I was discouraged. But again, the discouragement was overpowered by the essential difference between Moscow, Idaho and any other city where I have attempted to live. I was not rejected for blowing my gig. I was not ostracized or abandoned or deserted at a trying time in my life. I did not leave a church – I only left a job. As far as my faith is concerned, Moscow First Presbyterian Church is my home. If I made a mistake in Berkeley, if I messed up somehow, I woke up in the presence of other people who had fallen into the same hole as myself, many of whom were making the same kinds of mistakes that I was making, and many of whom did not care. That kind of environment offered me no incentive to rectify my error. If I make a mistake in Moscow, I awaken to a beautiful city that has received me when I was at my best, and that has every reason to deserve my best. If, at some earlier time in my life, I could not tell how much of it was *me* and how much of it was *it,* then it might well have been because my self-esteem was so low, that I really could not tell how much of it actually *was* it, and how relatively little of it actually was “me.* Here, the disparity is much more glaring. I think I can honestly tell how much of it is me (a lot) and how much is *it* — (relatively little).

You see, I am a Christian. Part of being a Christian is to recognize that our true home is in heaven, and that we are all pilgrims and strangers on the earth. Our true body is a spiritual body, that we already have in heaven, and that will be made manifest instantly at the moment of our deaths, when we finally shed this fleshly body, which is only temporary. We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience. I think this sentiment is prevalent among all the major religions, the perusal of which I also enjoy. But I remain a Christian, and Jesus Christ is central in my life — or if He’s not, He should be. But like Icarus, when I was flying higher than I’d ever flown in my life, I almost thought I had literally died and gone to heaven. But no way had I died and gone to heaven – I had only moved to Moscow. As a military brat and a lifelong wanderer, I have lived in so many different cities. They all have their different pros and cons. But as a Christian, I believe the words of Hebrews 13 and all the other Scriptures hat I clandestinely have referenced in this post: “We have no continuing city – but we seek one that is to come.”

My true home is not any of the cities or states I have been talking about. My true home is in heaven, where my place has been secured before the foundation of the world. I err when I empower Moscow to such a degree that its positive power becomes akin to that of God’s. I err when I think that Moscow will overpower or overwhelm me if I stay, and that I must then move — to where, exactly? Where else do I go? And when I go there, what will I find? I will only find the same arrogant, obstinate, stubborn, touchy, finicky, over-talkative, over-sensitive, boundary-breaking, foot-in-the-mouth son-of-a-gun that I always was and probably always will be. If I give this city so much power that I feel I must escape it, then I only rob power from the One who has all the power. So why should I empower any person in this city more than I empower God? I know these words may make no sense at all to anyone who is not a believer, but I write them in the hope that they make sense to somebody other than myself. It is God who effected the change that was “phenomenal, abrupt, swift and unforeseen.” I could not possibly have effected such an enormous transition on my own power, without invisible, superhuman, supernatural aid. It is He who snatched me up so suddenly out of all of that chaos, and plopped me down onto Friendship Square on July of 2016 — just the same way that He took me out of an untenable situation in Antioch, CA in September 1990, and I suddenly found myself in Burlingame CA in a three piece suit at a piano job that I was able to keep for nine more years. At no other times in my life has anything like that happened. I could not possibly have created all the sudden conditions that would enable such a dramatic shift of circumstance on my own. It is not a coincidence that I am here. If I were to move, I basically would be denying my faith in the very God in whom I try to put my trust — the very same God I initially thanked so much for putting me here – the God whom I need in order to live, without Whom I am nothing.

homeless-sign-3In the final analysis, God is the One Thing I ought to be caring about. Any caring I might have toward any other human being will then only result from the caring I have toward God. So, if I am to care about God, then I need to ask myself: has God told me to leave this city, just because times have gotten hard, and I am beginning to fall into old patterns that I had hoped to leave behind me for good? After blasting me with so huge a blessing as this, why would God be telling me to go anywhere else at all? You see, all my life I have moved around, first as a military dependent, then as an itinerant theatre person accepting jobs at different regional theatres, and finally as a confused, compulsive, chronic relocator who couldn’t seem to settle down for the life of him. So if I might have mouthed off lately about going back to Berkeley and sleeping on a stairwell while making meager bucks and an occasional slice of pizza flying a sign on a sidewalk, please know that any such sentiment stems from self-delusion and despair — not from any values I would truly wish to cultivate and embrace. I can only thank the Lord that all the insanity of that negativity has provided not only source material for my own Art, but for the ever-evolving, enduring work of Art that is continually being created by the most brilliant Artist of them all. Who am I to challenge the ultimate, perfected Artistry of the Divine?

Nothing in God’s Universe happens by accident. All things work out for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. It is not a coincidence that my sister saw the piano on which I learned how to play being wheeled out of the van of a door-to-door piano salesman in Moscow, Idaho, in the year 1953 when I was in my mother’s womb. It is not a coincidence that Idaho Repertory Theatre was founded in Moscow, Idaho in 1953, the year I was born. It is not a coincidence that there is a school of Reformed Theology directly across the street from me, and that the name of that school is “New Saint Andrews College.” My friends have been calling me “Saint Andrew” ever since. It is not a coincidence to have gotten into long-distance running, and to find that there is a running shoe store on the very corner of the building where I live. It is not a coincidence to have found out from my sister, God rest her soul, where to find the house where I was born, and that in walking up to that house, the cross-street read “HOME STREET.” Most of all, it is not a coincidence that although I only lived here for the first year of my life, I came back in my 63rd year to see what this town was like, and I loved it so much, it almost seemed custom-designed for me. To leave this beautiful city, only because I began to have the same problems I have had in every other city, everywhere else I have tried to live, for the past 34 years of my life, would truly to be to kick a gift horse in the mouth, don’t you think? Far better it will be to remain here, and actually deal with those problems, rather than continue to escape from them.

II was born in Moscow, Idaho, and there’s a good chance I will die in Moscow Idaho. Now how beautiful of a creation is that? Glory, I say therefore: Glory! Glory to God on High! I thank God that if I seek love, I now know where love can be found. If I looked for love in the “wrong places,” I need do so no longer — because I know where the Right Place is. Glory to the One who loves the unlovable. Glory to the Name of God.

Andy Pope
Moscow, Idaho
July 20, 2017

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

The Questioner

Q. Do you even have the slightest idea who I am?

A. I know exactly who you are.

Q. Then where were you last night when I needed you?

A. Too wiped out.

Q. You weren’t avoiding me, were you?

A. No – not really.  I just didn’t have much to say to you.

Q. Do you realize how small that makes me feel?

A. Vaguely.  But perhaps you’ve been a bit too big for your britches lately.

Q. What makes you say so?  Why would you even think such a horrid thought?

A. Well, it’s one thing for me to have finally summoned you as a last resort, when I was in a bind.  But you outlived your usefulness when you started becoming all codependent on me.

Q. Codependent?

A. You heard me!   My personal habits and manner of self-care are my own business.   All you codependents are alike.  Constantly harping on me to take care of myself, as though you practically owned my body.   I’m the one who lives in the damn thing! I’m the one who knows what it takes to function properly.  I’m the one who hasn’t had a serious disease in sixty-four years of living, while all around me all these sick people keep harping on how I “don’t take care of myself.” 

Q. Are you calling me “sick?”

A. Aw, you’re healthy enough in low doses, I suppose.

Q. Don’t you think you’re beginning to come across like Job in Chapter 33?   Exalting your own righteousness above that of the Holy Name of God??

A. Oh please.  The transparency with which you resort to throwing the Book at me is odious.

Q. How so?

A. You always pound the Scriptures at me in order to bring guilt upon my head, just at the moment when you figure nothing else would work but a religious guilt trip. 

Q. But can’t you see that I am only trying to help?

A. That’s what they all say.

Q. But what do you say?

A. I say that yes, I thank the Good Lord God for keeping me in decent health long enough to finally get a good crack at my life’s work on this planet.  But at the same time, I can’t deny that following some simple rules such as (1) not smoking cigarettes, and (2) getting sufficient, moderate physical exercise, have had at least something to do with it.   God didn’t waste his gift of good health on a guy who was going to sit on a bar stool all night long whining with a Camel non-filter hanging out of his mouth as though it were a blue tooth in his ear.

Q. How can you claim to have always made healthy choices?   Is not the very notion preposterous?

A. I never said I have always made healthy choices.  I am only saying I make a point of taking care of myself, whether anybody else thinks so or not, and when I fail or lapse, God has been merciful in letting me wake up in the morning without hangover.  Or similar such show of mercy. 

Q. Why is that you seem so damned smug today?

A. Because you and I are splittin’ up, baby!  I got to the point yesterday where I just did not need you or your flagrant codependent guilt trips, you flailing flimsy excuse for a superego, you!  I made a speech last night.  I’m going to edit it tonight to taste.  And I worked for three hours on my piano-vocal score, according to my schedule that I’m determined to keep up till the end of October.  I even enjoyed the work.  And I ran two miles!   And did fourteen push-ups!  When was the last time you ran two miles?  Not to mention, before you completely fade and fizzle into the oblivion where you and all your moralistic guilt trips belong, heed the wise words of Bertrand Russell, my agnostic hero.

Bertrand
Russell: “One should never worry about one’s health unless one is unhealthy.”

A. My agnostic hero chain-smoked till he was 80, became unhealthy, stopped smoking, and lived to be 97.   Are you going to live to be 97?

Q. Are you?

A. We shall see!

The Questioner has been silenced — for the time being . . .

 

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The Mark of Cain

“Do you really need that thing?”
I heard the softness
of a half-familiar voice
as my eyes were opened.
And I saw a pair of young White hands,
playfully swinging my brand new HP notebook
from side to side,
and to and fro,
and side to side, again.

“Yeah, I do,” I smiled, looking up
from my half-slumber,
from the bench on which I sat,
just outside McDonald’s,
on University and Shattuck Avenue
in Berkeley, California.

It was still dark.
McDonald’s would not open
for another ten minutes or so.
I had seen other friends of mine
across the street,
and had waved.
It did not seem like any other morning,
as we all awaited our senior cups
and the single refills we would receive
as long as we promised not to linger
more than twenty minutes in the store,
and promptly took our first and only refill
for the road.

I was certain this was a young buddy of mine,
playing a joke on me,
as others had in the past,
when they noticed I’d acquired a laptop.
“High Top!” they would shout.
“High Rise!” – and I would grin.
But the grin of the green-eyed monster
was much wider than the smile
which which I looked up at the lad,
only to see his hoodie obscuring his young face,
like a veil, and his body,
like a cloak.

Then, in an instant, I felt a metallic force
carving a ridge into my lower back,
and just as quickly, a sharp yang,
a strike less than half an inch
below my right eye.

“Take it! Take it!”
I shouted, as though consenting
to be plundered, or condoning
the crime as though it had been mine
to commit as well as theirs —
as though having counted all the costs,
I no longer cared
that it took me a month to save up for that “thing” —
I in fact had slept outside,
when I did not really need to.
I had left a cozy cottage
in another County,
to prioritize the purchase
of the device I called my home.

Then I saw a large Black hand grab my backpack.
There went my new headphones,
a bag of marijuana, and a pipe,
a new lighter, socks, and sunglasses –
But no matter:
I was alive.

I got up and watched them closely –
the Black man on the right,
his gun facing sideways to his right,
as though informing me he was armed
and dangerous.

Mesomorphic.
The taller ectomorph to his left,
With the hoodie.
Him I recognized,
but I knew not where or why.
I watched them jog,
I noted that the White boy on the left
was a runner.
No one runs with a form like that,
unless he has been trained.

They turned off to the left
and darted down Berkeley Way,
not to be seen again, until —
One day at my Spot,
I saw them together walking past,
That view from behind that I shall never forget.

“Are you who I think you are, Officer?”
“I am,” she said, turning to me
with that inscrutable austerity
That so defines her nature.

“I know who stole my laptop.”
And I told her who and who,
For each of them had walked past me
on the same day
and flashed at me the peace sign,
which I returned in kind.
I also questioned the younger one,
And asked if I should bother to replace it,
Getting right into his face,
feigning a crazed countenance,
eyes bulging widely,
as I chided him with these words:

“Or will I just get jacked again?”
The young man never missed a beat,
but looked up at me shrewdly:
“Do you really need that thing?”

“I tell you it was he,” I told the stoic,
jaded cop with whom I spoke so candidly
in broad daylight just outside the station.

“I’m not at all surprised,” she said,
without expression on her serious, worn face.
“But watch your own back
and be wise as befits your years,
Because we know that you are of the streets
when you call it Provo Park
and not Civic Center Park,
or when you call it Ho Chi Minh Park,
instead of Willard Park.
And know that on your forehead
there is the Mark of Cain,
because for all intents and purposes,
you yourself have killed a man.”

© Andy Pope
Moscow, Idaho
17 June 17

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A House Divided

Q. Back so soon?

A. I promise there won’t be more than a third time before the weekend’s out.

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. I think so.  More so than I did yesterday, anyway.

Q. So why have you summoned me?

A. Insecurity and uncertainty as to my path.  Stuff that has to be resolved.

Q. What stuff?

A. Work-related.  And spiritual.

Q. To what work do you refer?

A. My life’s work.   A calling I feel I have been shirking.

Q. What calling?

A. It  has to do with classism in America, especially as seen through the eyes of one who has been fortunate enough to have been homeless for many years in an urban area of great social and racial tension, and to have escaped it and been granted the great gift of solitude in a favorable social and racial climate.

Q. How have you been shirking this calling?

A. In two ways that I can think of.

Q. First?

A. First, by throwing my energy toward projects that, while inviting, do not pertain to the calling.

Q. Such as?

A. This novel I’m compelled to write.  I wrote a first chapter, and sketched the second and third chapters.  Sent Chapter One to my Writers’ Guild, who will critique it this morning.

Q. Are you afraid of their criticism?

A. Yes.  I’m afraid they might like it.  And if they like it, I will be tempted to pursue it.  But it has nothing to do with what I am supposed to be about right now.

Q. How do you know this?

A. When I am working on what I am supposed to be about, eventually something comes over me — like chills.  Sometimes the chills engulf my entire body.  They seem to come from some place far beyond my normal experience of human consciousness.  I get this sense of inspiration – of privilege and honor.  As though I have been selected to channel something of great, great magnitude and consequence.  As though I am a conduit – an oracle.

Q. Don’t you think that sounds a bit grandiose?

A. Of course it does!  But it is true all the same.  I can’t deny it – or if I do, I suffer for having done so.  As I have suffered for the past three and a half months.  And this is why I hesitate to discuss it — with anyone, at all.  It’s so deeply personal, yet at the same time universal.  Nobody will believe me.  People will think I’m nuts, even here in Moscow, as they did in Berkeley and Stockton, and other places where I have attempted to live throughout my highly dysfunctional, disoriented, aimless past.

Q. Can you put that past behind you now, in order to focus on your calling?

A. Yes and no.  I don’t want to put certain elements of it behind me, because they are crucial to the inspiration of the calling.  Had I never lived on the urban streets continuously — for years on end, that is — and had I never been a member of a cohesive community of others who were in the same predicament as myself, I would never have gained these unique perceptions on society that many people either have never shared, or, if they share them, are unable to articulate them with clarity.

Q. You feel that you are able to articulate these unique perceptions with clarity?

A. Yes. This is my calling.  This is what I have been put on this earth to do.

Q. How do you know this?

A. I just do.  It’s evidenced in the chills that come over me, when I am on fire for this cause.  It’s also evidenced in my health.  I marvel that my heart and lungs are in such good condition, my cholesterol is low, I have never had the diseases that many people my age have had and that most people who have lived on the streets have had.  I have never had Hepatitis C or Diabetes 2 or any kind of STD, unlike almost everyone else I knew when we all lived together on the streets.  I’ve been spared all these physical sidetracks – for now – for a reason; and I am convinced that it is because I am to offer these perceptions, through my Art, to the world.

Q. Do you understand how arrogant that sounds?

A. Of course I do!  This is why I continually shirk my calling.

Q. Are you afraid of your calling?

A. Only when I am shirking it.

Q. So what keeps you shirking it?

A. Incredible psychological blocks that sometimes last for months on end.  And this is the second thing that I’d meant to mention.  I not only throw my energy into irrelevant projects, but I balk at the natural roadblocks that arise when I try to go about my relevant projects in an organized fashion.  Take, for example, this piano-vocal score.  It has been almost three and a half months since I have known that it was the next logical step toward the production of my recently completed musical, Eden in Babylon, and yet, only last night did I actually complete a single number in that score. 

Q. But can’t you just forget about the past three and a half months, and build upon the victory of having completed one of your numbers?   And forge ahead to the next number?

A. I can.  But only if I accept a few hard facts.

Q. What facts?

A. First off, the compilation of this piano-vocal score is a chore that I will probably not enjoy too very much.  It will be full of drudgery and the promise of further technical hurdles along the way.

Q. And secondly?

A. Secondly, like any other thankless task, I will need to discipline myself stringently in order to accomplish it.

Q. How so?

A. By allotting three an only three hours a day for it, say between 8:30am and 11:30am, six days a week, and laboriously slaving away over it for an estimated five more months, until it is complete.

Q. Will this be total drudgery?

A. Nothing is total drudgery.  There are always ways to maximize and optimize the enjoyment of a miserable procedure.

Q. Such as?

A. Rejoicing in the success of a disciplined life.  Rejoicing in the benefits of a regular schedule, with fifteen minute breaks every forty-five minutes, as is conducive to the efficiency of the human brain.  But most of all, knowing that once 11:30am has come, I am free to work on other, more enjoyable projects, as long as they are not irrelevant to the cause.

Q. Again, such as?

A. Talks 2017.  I’ve already outlined the four talks.  I can get cracking on them.  My home studio is a perfect venue for their creation.  This will be an enjoyable and fulfilling process, and it will balance out the relative tedium of my having to compile my piano-vocal score.

Q. Anything else?

A. Finishing the sequencing of the music that I composed “in my head” while I was without music notation software — or any other possessions for that matter — in Berkeley.  Even though the themes may not seem to pertain to the calling, they actually do.  I was actually was writing some pretty decent music in Berkeley while all around me the only response I received was a highly resonant “Shut the f–k up, you worthless low life idiot!”  The fact that most people couldn’t even tell I was composing music at all, and that they all assumed I was crazy, is only yet another strong statement of the huge evil that is Classism in modern-day America.  I need to demonstrate to the world that I am a talented, Conservatory-trained composer, so as to bust through the stigma they carry that I, and people like me who have somehow been drawn toward the urban streets, are all worthless, low-life, drug-addicted, over-medicated, mental-health-disordered, unsightly blots upon our society — not to mention “idiots.”

Q. Do I detect a note of vengeance in your calling?

A. In a sense.  But I wish nobody harm.  Proverbs 24:7.  Romans 12:19.  I fight not against flesh and blood, but against a foul spiritual principle.  Ephesians 6:12.

Q. You dare to back up your insanity with Holy Scripture!?

A. Indeed I do.

Q. You presume that this mere musical comedy of yours is indicative of a godly calling?  A spiritual calling??

A. Kind sir, I would hardly refer to years and years of intently focused labor as “presumptuous.”  But again, your retort is exactly why it doesn’t matter how much I am mocked, sneered at, scoffed at, and ridiculed in my quite reasonable expression of my calling.  In a sense, all of that condemnation is immaterial.  The only person I have to truly answer to, in this context, is God.  But in another sense, the fact that they mock, sneer, scoff, scorn, disdain, jeer, and so forth — has everything to do with the calling.  It reveals that I am in no way distinctly different than any other formerly homeless person on the urban streets.  I am no different than anyone else  who had to fly a sign on a sidewalk and endure constant ridicule in order to survive.  The stigma has got to be broken, and people in this country have got to start listening to what homeless people have to say.

Q. Do I detect a tone of inspiration?  Are you getting the “chills” yet?

A. No, I am not.  And I probably won’t – until rare moments.  But because of those moments, and because of my faith, I press on.  I know what I am supposed to be about in this world.   99% of the people I know have no clue.  I am privileged.  I am honored.  I am called.

Q. In light of such grandiosity, how dare you even publish such words?

A. Chock it up to a pep talk.  I let three and a half months go by, basically forgetting I had any purpose in life at all — except to be a decent father to my daughter, to try to be a good friend to my friends, and maybe to sing hymns in the back-most pews on an occasional Sunday. It might be that the three and a half month lull will have been useful, when viewed in retrospect.  When I looked at my script afresh last night, I was astounded.  I saw this whole picture of what I am supposed to be about, and how, as I write the piano-vocal score, I can refine the script, and touch it up, and come up with a second complete draft that exceeds the first in Artistic and dramatic quality.  But I’ll be damned if, when Monday 8:30am rolls around, I only continue to draw a blank.  I’m revving up my engines.  This is it.

Q. So what about the time beforehand?

A. Talks 2017There are four of them: (1) Homeless By Condition: Part One.  (2) Homeless by Choice. (3) Homeless By Condition, Part Two. (4) Homeless No More.  They exceed Talks 2013 in clarity, truth, and power.  And this will be my gift to the world.

Q. Aren’t you still concerned about things like arrogance, mania, grandiosity, excessive goal orientation, flight of ideas, fragmentation, and pressured speech? 

A. Dude!  I am not a psychiatrist!  That the unscrupulous agents of the so-called mental health industry will never cease to regard creative genius as a disease to be treated with pills designed to dull the senses and numb the Spirit is only further proof of my purpose.  No doubt they were among the masses who mocked me and shouted abusive assaults as I merely sat in Ohlone Park playing drums on my pants legs and singing the various instrumental parts of my creations, after all my laptops and software were repeatedly stolen by crack heads and traded within minutes for grams of methamphetamine and cocaine.   Of course I am traumatized!  I don’t even report the most horrid of these assaults, for I have been strongly advised never to speak of them, by almost everyone I know, inside or out of the therapist’s office.   Of course I am dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  But all of that is further fuel for my fire.  Nothing — not even you — can stop me now.

Q. But what about — humility?

A. Humility is only knowing where you stand with God.  Believe me, I’ve got plenty of thorns in my flesh to remind me just how depraved and broken I am.  But I still know the joy of having a clear and distinct purpose on this planet.   Most people don’t know that joy.   It mandates me to do justice to the call.

Q. Don’t you think it is only quite understandable that at this time, I should be extremely concerned about your mental health?   Will you promise to check in with me again tomorrow evening, before you embark upon this path of wanton masochism and self-defeating self-torture?

A. As you wish.  But I will not let you crumple me.  I’ve got Matthew 12:26 and a great speech by Abraham Lincoln on my side.  For can Satan cast out Satan?  A house divided cannot stand.

The Questioner is silent.

lincoln3

 

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The Summons

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Kind of.  More-or-less.

Q. Does this make you uncomfortable?

A. Occasionally.

Q. Why?

A. Because the Bible says: “The question is in the mind of the man; the answer comes from the Lord.”  Proverbs 16:1.  Just read it this morning – this being the 16th day of the month.  But what we’re doing, you and I — it seems the other way around.

Q. Then why have you summoned me?

A. Because it works.  I really try not to summon you too often.  It’s a last ditch effort.  A gesture of desperation.  But – it does work.

Q. So what’s on your mind?

A. My incompetence.

Q. What makes you incompetent?

A. I can’t do it.  I can’t even begin to create a simple piano-vocal score.  I stare at the page, knowing it should be easy to open up the script to the proper place on one window, find the cue I need to input, input it onto Scroll View on the Finale template in another window; convert it to Page View, and see if it all looks groovy.  Yet I stare at both windows mindlessly, aimlessly drawing a blank, and feel guiltier and more helpless every damned day.

Q. Might not this simply be another Writer’s Block?

A. If it is, then I’m sure not blocked up about any other writing project I’ve got going on.  It’s just that those projects are not what I am supposed to be doing.  I’m supposed to be notating this grueling, arduous, tedious piano-vocal score that will take me five months to complete even if I do get on the ball with it.

Q. What makes you think you’re supposed to be doing it?

A. I’m supposed to be doing it because nobody will ever produce the show without a written piano-conductor score.

Q. Why not?

A. Because nobody will ever be able to play the piano part, except for me.

Q. Then why don’t you just produce it yourself, and play the piano yourself?

A. Because I don’t have enough money to do so.  I can’t even rent out the theater less than two blocks from my house.  You can’t do anything without money in this world. It sucks.  Talented people go to their graves with their dreams unfulfilled, while people who are rich by inheritance use their money to screw around with high-class call girls.

Q. Is that really always true?

A. No, it is not.

Q. Then why are you so hung up on the theme?

A.  I don’t know.  I’ve got some kind of chip on my shoulder.  I get tired of being lectured by rich people, because they have no idea what it’s like to be poor.  Nor do they have any comprehension that I would never want to be rich; never want ot be like them.  I only want enough money to produce my show.  And still – this piano part – I say I can play it, but that’s a crock.  I can’t even play it.  It would take a pianist much better than me to play it.  So the score needs to be notated, whether I were to self-produce the show or not.

Q. Then what’s keeping you?

A. The block.

Q. What is the essence of the block?

A. I’m not sure.  Somewhere between lack of confidence and laziness, or some combination of both.

Q. Are you lazy?

A. Um — no one who truly knows me would characterize me a such.

Q. Do you lack confidence?

A. Yes.  I’ve watched over three months go by without me being able to get started on this simple task.  How can I not lack confidence?

Q. Is there a way you can proceed without confidence?

A. I hadn’t thought about that.  Perhaps so.

Q. How so?

A. Maybe if I — if I pray – if I trust God — if I ask God to just get me through this block on His power, being as my own power is insufficient.

Q. But would that prayer be sufficient?

A. Only if He answers it.

Q. Why would he not answer it?

A. If it is not within His will.

Q. Why would it not be within His will?

A. If my creation of this p-v score is actually not what I am supposed to be doing.

Q. How will you ever know?

A. If I try.  If I pray.  If I pray, and then open up the windows, and see if the prayer has been answered.

Q. Then why don’t you?

A. I will.

Q. Will you?

A. Yes, I will.

Q. Honestly?  How many times in the past three months have you said you would get cracking on this, and yet not budged an inch?

A. Innumerable times.

Q. Then why should this time be any different?

A. Because it has to be.

Q. But what if you don’t even pray?  What if you’re scared to?

A. If I don’t pray, then somebody else will.  But I will pray.

Q. How do you know you will?

A. Because I just did.  And I ask other believers to pray for me as well.

The Questioner is silent.

 

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Scarlet Letter

I’ve been having a lot of emotional problems, largely related to my inability to move forward with my work.

The computer I’m using now only has a single 1.4ghz processor, insufficient to handle Finale orchestrating without frequent crashes.  I ordered a decent computer from Rakuten with a dual core 2.7ghz processor, but it arrived with a broken sound card.

This, on top of numerous setbacks, threw me into a livid rage that lasted most of the night.  I finally got it sent back to them with the assurance of a full refund.  My friend Danielle handled the phone calls for me, which she did very masterfully, being as I was too afraid of flying off the handle at the time.

Although it has seemed to me that having left my job and winding up in much greater financial need has been at the root of the problems that have kept me from moving forward with my project, it would be odious of me to request assistance at this time.  I am too depressed by now to move forward, and the greater issue has become my mental health.   And nobody can help me with that but God.  I have a stack of unpayable bills for therapy higher than my ceiling – I only pray they don’t go into collections.

I won’t be posting in the future until things are brighter.  Maybe that won’t be as far away from now as I think.  People at my church have been very supportive, and they still seem to like me at the Bagel Shop downstairs. But otherwise, I have been walking around this small college community visibly perturbed, using wild arm gestures (as is well-documented in other cities where I have attempted to live), talking to myself, and attracting the attention of the local cops.  I don’t drive, so this behavior is particularly conspicuous.  But I need to work off all this steam somehow, and sitting cooped up in my room isn’t doing the trick.

0559918bce9b1ca7cdcf70aadc4361baI feel as though there is a Scarlet Letter on my forehead.  It will be very difficult for me to make any further Artistic progress in this environment.  My fit of rage at the cafe yesterday was quite visible, when I thought I was all set to start notating the score again, only to find the headphones suddenly non-functional.  I threw them away, unfortunately, and only later discerned it was the sound card.

I strapped myself for the month on food, rent, and computer.   I really hope I get the refund, even though I might use it to leave town.  I need to find a place that will be as supportive of my artistic endeavors as this place used to be, before everybody began to ostracize and condemn me, over things they do not understand.  I regret having opened up to so many new people to begin with, when I was only looking for a quiet life.

I had no idea how narrow-minded and conservative this so-called liberal progressive community has turned out to be.  My daughter has suggested a quiet community of Artists on the Washington Coast where she spent some time as a little girl with her mother, and of which she has fond memories.  That might be a better place for me to show up with my music notation software.   But right now, until my technical issues are resolved, unfortunately I cannot write a note.

I truly am sorry about all this.  I hope things get better from here.

Respect

Things have not been good.  Until yesterday, I didn’t gain any confidence I could even begin a routine such I described in the previous entry, one that would actually facilitate my construction of this piano-vocal score within the next five months.   Since the previous entry, I’ve succeeded only in notating the initial underscore, which is 24 measures of slow nothingness.   Even that was left unfinished because I couldn’t remember how to insert text into a Finale score (cues, etc.) even though I clearly knew how to do it the last time I created a score, back in 2008.

I finally wrote to tech support, being as Finale has discontinued their phone support, and got a lecture in return.  Whoever answered the request objected that it was not a “technical request” – I suppose that means the software wasn’t crashing, or whatever.   I don’t know what other kind of issue it was supposed to be.  All I knew was that I woke up depressed and unmotivated as usual, and that when I saw his impertinent, impetuous response, my depression transformed rapidly into a livid rage.   I won’t quote my first reply, but here is my second:

John –

I apologize for the foul language.  I am an old guy and we do not “flex” as easily as the younger people in this world.   I had somehow expected a direct answer — not a lecture.

Somehow, years ago, when I wrote the score represented on the link below, I knew how to do what I had requested.  Now I *still* don’t know.   Finale, like every other program, keeps changing all its names of commands, and a guy like me just cannot keep *up* with all that.

The Burden of Eden: Full Piano-Vocal Score

As you can see, in those days I knew how to do this.  I did not abuse your support service.  I contact you people as infrequently as possible out of respect for you.  To be treated in turn with total disrespect is what enraged me.

You could have answered my question directly, like you guys would have done when you still had phone support.  You could have shown me some respect.  Now I have to weave my way through a bunch of tutorials until I happen upon the answer that I’d have gotten in five minutes from phone support?  I am not a musical nit-wit, but what I’m telling you is that I am getting old and I have a deadline to meet.   It’s called DEATH and I am trying to get my life’s work done.

If you could please kindly tell where this “expression tool” is to be found on the toolbar, that would be a wonderful start.  After that, please answer my politely well-worded questions, directly.   I repeat, I did not need a lecture, young man — any more than I needed your D— R——— to squeeze $350 out of me on a technicality when I was practically starving to death on the streets.

Composing and arranging music is important to me.  Notating all the music I’ve “written in my head” is important to me, so that other musicians can play it after I die.   I can’t even *think straight” after being blown off the way you just blew me off – much less wrap my mind around finding all these damned new commands for something I could have done on Finale 2008 back in 2008.

Please show some respect next time.  At this rate, I will DIE before I get this musical score notated.   Show some respect for the elderly, and for lifelong dedication to Music, if you please.

Sincerely,

A.P.

Anyway, so that’s where it is,  and here’s my crassly placed request for financial assistance once again: please help if possible.   Damn – I want to get my work done!   Tired of being so broke I can’t think straight!!

But it’s all my fault.  I should never have quit that church gig.  I blew off 33% of my income because I couldn’t handle the disrespect I was getting from those finicky Choir ladies.  It’s some thing I acquired post-50’s in my life.  It comes from having landed on the streets where I had to desensitize myself to the constant flow of disrespect I was receiving from practically everybody in my midst.   Then suddenly, I get a job and a new place to live in a different part of the world, and I’m overjoyed to finally be treated with normal, human respect and dignity.  I got so much work done between July 27, 2016 and March 4, 2017 it isn’t funny.

But since then?  I just can’t get with it, and it’s killing me.  I don’t know if I should even try for the rest of this day.  I should just say, okay, the week failed, I didn’t get it together, I let all the obstacles overwhelm me.  But – daylight’s burning, I’m not going to live forever, I’m an old man, I brought up a daughter and a stepdaughter — or at least tried to.  I just wish I could somehow come to learn from my mistakes, and do the right things in life, but since I can’t — at least, dear Lord, please let me get my work done before I die.

My Choice

I’ve never written a novel before.  All I’ve written so far are a number of plays, some of them musicals, numerous short stories that I lost in a storage unit (unless the English department at U.C.Davis happens to have kept a hold of them, which I doubt), thousands of blog posts and diary entries (for whatever that’s worth), the couple handfuls of poems posted on this web site, and zillions of songs, complete with lyrics everybody seems to rave about and music that nobody likes at all.   Oh – and I also wrote a couple “rock operas” when I was younger, two movements of a flute sonata, and scattered piano preludes.  No first symphony, as of yet.  Typical story of a lifelong burned out starving artist. 

That said, I read the first paragraph of my new novel to the other members of the Palouse Writers Guild this morning.  All of them agreed that if those were the first words that befell their eyes, they would keep on reading without hesitation.   One guy I showed it to later even said he’d probably buy the book right off the bat.   But the problem with all of that is, of course, that there’s no book to buy.  Will there ever be?  Am I capable of writing an entire novel, just because I happened to get off to a good start?

I’ve been advised to barrel out 10,000 words as rapidly as possible, just the way I churned out the first five pages.  But I don’t know that I can.  Or even want to.

nothing-in-the-world-is-worth-havingOr even should.  Since feeling the worst impacts of all the demons that have come storming down my stairwell ever since I finished the script to Eden in Babylon, I wonder what my next course really ought to be.  It is clear that for lack of a definite, disciplined project I have practically let myself be devoured by all the local wolves, and whatever strange poltergeists inhabit my creepy confines in the dead of night, full of trickery and tripe.  But should I really dive head-first into an entire novel, just to hide my head from all the hunger, the hysteria, and the hurt?

Why not just notate my piano-vocal score like a good little musical comedy composer?  It would seem the thing to do, if anyone other than myself is ever to attempt to play such bizarre tunes.

There’s also this third idea hovering over my head, haunting me.  It has to do with the themes that were left hanging when I suddenly dropped the Berkeley project some months ago and dove head-first into my musical script.   Not that this was a bad thing to do, for I did, after all, finish the script.  But as I took from the Berkeley music those songs that seemed most to fit the Eden in Babylon style — the showiest, the most “musical theatre” of them all — I find that what is left is an intriguing set of strains.  The remains seem much less show-tune, less schmaltzy, more seriously operatic in nature, and somewhat other-worldly.

But this causes me to recall the neuro-physiological conditions under which I placed myself in order to conceive of such music; specifically, highly altered states of consciousness.  Somehow I just “heard” the music in those unnatural states of mind.  It fascinated me so much that I promised myself I would orchestrate it all once I “came down” (and once I had regained access to a laptop and a regular power outlet in which to plug it).   So I did that until the thrill wore off.   Yet, on examining the music of Sirens of Hope, and of The Royal Rhapsody, I must admit that the thrill returns. 

So – if I went by what others think I should do, I’d have to say that the other Writers in the guild probably would like to see me follow through with the novel, especially seeing as I got off to such a surprisingly good start.  That would probably also be the easiest and most absorbing thing to do – at least, in terms of generating a very rough, rough draft.  Who wants me to write music?   A bunch of stoners in a flop house who won’t even listen to it anyway.  Nobody ever listens to my music.  It makes me feel like all the huge effort I put into writing it is all for nought.

Now, the arduous task of painstakingly notating my piano-vocal score is something I’ve been avoiding for a good month or more.  Obviously, it’s what I’m supposed to do.  Otherwise, I won’t be able to live with myself.  There it would be, even should I die before my time: a complete piano-vocal score that conceivably some conductor could pick up on, some group of singer-actors sing and act from, and some pianist, other than myself, actually play.  How gratifying.  Worth its weight in gold.

The first chapter of the novel looks good, but knowing me, it would degenerate into mindless pornography before Chapter Three.  I’ve made my choice.  And you know what?  I’ll start tomorrow.  Today’s the Lord’s day and I’ll do my best to rejoice in it — even if it means putting on my headphones and rocking out to the music that no one else will ever hear.

Sacrifices with Strife

I had to go back to the post The Next Step to find out exactly where I had begun to veer off course. For it was clear that I had strayed, and very clear what kinds of elements had characterized the diversion.   I only lacked a decent starting point, in order to resume my course, and avoid those elements that earlier had polluted the purity of my path, and had instead instilled a sense of paralysis and meltdown.   The deleterious elements of which I speak involved, invariably, the ill-timed and often ill-equipped efforts with which I most awkwardly attempted to enlist the allegiance of local talents of various sorts to assist me in some way in promoting my project.

First. there was the concert that never came about.  We had to cancel our earlier show when it came clear that my musicians could not possibly get enough practice to turn in a decent show by the predesignated time.   It was suggested we reschedule; I, for one, insisted we cancel entirely.   My music seemed intimidating to them, and theirs to me.  I would have to listen to them first for a while, and they to me, before thinking about making something like we had all earlier envisioned come about.  So that was rightly set aside.  Instead, I would set about to try and find singers for my demo.

This proved to be only another example of the same fruitless expedition.  It was far more stressful trying to get these singers together than it was to concede that it just wasn’t going to happen.  It would cost money – money that I don’t have, and that I knew not how to get.   As I began to endeavor to raise funds, a part of me that I hate rose into prominence, and I cannot feed that demon inside me in any way if it’s going to lead me to some of the preposterous propositions such as I began to entertain.  I was sickened with myself, infuriated, disgusted, disillusioned with my fellows, disaffected with society, alienated, isolated, self-abnegating, neglectful of my needs, abusive of my body, disfigured, disheveled, mistreated, misshapen, mortified, mutilated, and finally: majorly incapacitated.  I lay on the gurney in the Emergency Room, electrodes probing every pore, as the third EKG in my entire doctor-leery life assured me that this steady chest pain I’d developed was nothing more than pleurisy, and treatable by ibuprofen.

drawing-boardI believe I should leave the rest of the community out of the picture for a while, and dismiss any idea of enlisting their services.  Clearly, this was not the course.  The Next Step reveals exactly where I would be wise to begin.  Aside from talk of organizing a read-thru, which may or may not be necessary (or even wise, considering all I just wrote), the guidelines in that post paint a clear picture of a new starting point that doesn’t involve awkward attempts at creating new associations among my acquaintances, but only involves things that I can do all by myself.  I was thriving when intensely focusing on my music or my script, and their seeing me so thrive is what impressed them from the start — whoever “they” are, which is probably more irrelevant now than I’d ever thought before.

It doesn’t matter who they are, or even what they see, just so long as they don’t see what I’ve been showing them most recently.  “Better a dry morsel,” saith the Preacher, “and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1)

That’s the only house that I’ve been building lately.  It has no sure foundation.  If I sit still, and quietly proceed to notate my piano-vocal score, and look for reasonable revisions to be made in my script in the process, there’s something sure and steady about the construction of that house.  Whatever dry morsels I might chew on throughout, their cost will not be half the cost of what I just endured.   And maybe by the time it takes me to complete that score and second draft, I’ll have a thousand dollars in the bank to invest on hiring singers for the demo, not just trying to round up people in my midst whom I cannot pay and all have better things to do.  I risk being perceived a pest.  This will not do.

DONATE

Let’s throw some chicken gumbo soup into the microwave and make another turkey sandwich.  No sense in doing the town.  The town has just done me.

Excerpt from Insomnia

I won’t go back.
At all.
I can’t let my not having a gig right now
Propel me back to homelessness
In a God-forsaken land.

I had all my possessions set on fire before my eyes…
I lost the only remaining CD’s of half my work –
A punk ass kid poured lighter fluid all over my backpack –
Set it on fire when I wasn’t looking –
just because he could.
Destroyed a PowerBook, pair of headphones –

I went to the Berkeley Fellowship in the morning –
thinking there would be compassion.
The lady there literally said: “Aw, so what?”
I went to the church council president.
He said: “Well, how did you expect them to react?”
On the other hand, I called my best friend in Georgia –
And she said (of course): “That’s horrible!”
So why couldn’t anyone in Berkeley have sympathized in kind?

The bottom line is:
Moscow will happen if I make it happen.
My nature works against me.
So I have to work against my nature,
to make things work.

Andy Pope
5/17/17 3:10am
Moscow Idaho USA

Six O’Clock and All’s Well

There are a number of unpublished and/or recently deleted posts sitting in a folder on my desktop.  I could at any moment publish any number of such posts, but I disdain because I don’t want to be perceived as vomiting on my readers.   However, I do think I ought to make some kind of communicative statement as to why these as-yet-unpublished or no-longer-published posts exist.

Recently, I gave up writing in an online diary I have kept, in one form or another, since 2002, almost fifteen years to this day.  When I began the online diary, I had only been online for about three years.  The Internet was still new and fascinating to me.  I ran across a site called DiaryLand, where I quickly observed that people were actually publicizing all the details of their inner daily weirdness.  This intrigued me.  In some cases, they would code-name the true identities of people and places in their lives, so as not to be “found out.”  In other cases, they would utilize the option to “lock” the diary, and have it be password-protected.  That way, one could be more lenient about their location and the basic first names of their associates, but the readership would be restricted only to those who could be trusted with the information. 

rantEventually, I opted for the latter.  At the time that I left the diary site, approximately one month ago, there were only five readers with permissions to read my diary.  I was pretty sure I trusted them all — but that was no longer the critical issue.  The issue became my dependency on the diary, and in particular, on the dubious practice of letting off steam or “ranting” whenever I felt a need to work through my frustrations.   While it might have been healthy to “rant” in the short-term, it seemed actually to further my anger issues in the long run.  I basically had become addicted to letting off steam.  In other words, my online temper, through the medium of this online diary, took on a form that was much more furious than whatever temper I might have actually been displaying in real life.  Many times, I showed not the slightest bit of real-life irritation while I proceeded to rage online over how badly I wanted to give somebody a piece of my mind.  In fact, it started to feel as though the diary had become the venue where fits of temper could be safely and legitimately performed.   Still, it seemed a performance of questionable box-office value, if you ask me.

It wasn’t just the ranting that eventually got to me.  It was the hyperbole — all the dramatizing I would apply to the details of my life.   It seemed I had an Artist’s need to make the situation somehow more engaging, more compelling to a readership than a mere, dry diary could ever possibly be.   So naturally, I asked myself why I should not apply all those devices to my real writing?   It just seemed I was barking up the wrong tree.

Because the Internet was fresh and exciting in the year 2002, I jumped right onto the online-diary bandwagon, at a time when the word “blog” was almost unknown in the common nomenclature.   The online diary did shape my attitude toward blogging, but I would never have gone for it if it had arisen in my life today.  It was the novelty of the Internet that was at the core of its appeal.   Because I understand this now, I am able to keep my commitment not to return to the site, no matter how addictive I found it to be.  The Internet is simply no longer a “novelty,” and so a decision I made on that basis no longer applies.

This has, however, left a void.  So, if you have found that I am posting a bit more often than usual, know that I’m in the process of trying to fill a void.  This might also cause some of my posts to be more personal than earlier.  Be that as it may.   I found that when I wrote on DiaryLand about my creative work, very few people responded favorably.   People mainly wanted to hear things more along the lines with of my crush on the lady cab driver, which bills I was postponing paying for what reasons, or how much progress I was making not trying to scratch the scab off the top of my head.   I do miss discussing such mundane topics – but as they say, there’s a time and a place for everything.   It just seemed like – it wasn’t the time or the place any longer.  It was only an old habit — dying hard, as do they all.

Ah well – I’m about to attend somebody’s graduation party.  I did manage to engage the interest in the young woman Aubrey whom I mentioned may be singing on my demo.  I also forged ahead to Version 2-M of my Long Version, before I realized that it had basically peaked on Version 1-Z, the presently posted rendition.   I feel like I’m moving a bit too slow — on this demo project, and everything else.  There’s too much precognition going on, and not enough action.  This makes me restless.  But otherwise, it’s six o’clock on a Sunday evening in the city of my dreams – and all’s well. 

A World of Make Believe

If I can possibly give you an idea of how many times I had to delete a version of my song The Very Same World and replace it with a more evolved version, please know that I routinely save all previous versions of everything I compose or arrange, and that the version posted as of 11:20 last night was Version 2-G.

This means that, beginning with Version 1-A, I must have created 33 different versions of the piece before posting the one that remains.  Thirty-three equals twenty-six plus seven.  That is, I went from Version 1-A to 1-B all the way through the 26 letters of the alphabet, then added 7 more till I got to 2-G.

How do I know that it’s done now?   Because I started working on 2-H and burned out on the notion.  You see, I can always think of something to adjust, to make it better.  What I can’t always do is decide that it’s not worth it any more.  Once I make that decision, I am done.

a-art-10274-Leonardo-da-Vinci-Quote-Art-is-never-finished-only-abandoned

I actually did not know that this quote was first attributed to Leonardo before I ran a google search on it a while back.  I had heard it from Marcel Duchamp, and also from E.M. Forster.  Whatever its origin, the idea seems to find common credence among certain kinds of Artists, myself included.  While I may not always easily reach the point where further obsession on perfecting the piece is no longer interesting enough to motivate yet another revision, this is still easier than having to decide that the piece is ever good enough to be released for universal inspection by all eyes and ears.  In short, it’s easier for me to eventually burn out on making it any better, than it is for me to ever believe it’s good enough.

So the criterion for completion has changed hands.  In lieu of my ever being motivated to come up with anything better,  the Thirty-Third Version is where it stands.

On perhaps a more progressive note, it looks as though I may have found a female singer for this demo project.  I’m not exactly certain yet, but a couple different people suggested I approach her.  She’s a barista at the local cafe.  I had asked the entertainment manager there if he knew of an easy way I could track down a decent female singer for a recording project that would involve little or no financial recompense, and he told me to talk to “Cooper” or to “Aubrey.”  Cooper being a musician might just know of a singer, and Aubrey?  Well, it turns out that she is herself a singer – and a rather good one, at that.

I knew it even before he said so.  You see, I had overheard her singing — in something akin to a musical theatre voice — when I came in for coffee the other morning.  But when I naturally queried about this intriguing activity, she merely brushed it off: “Oh! In the shower, maybe.  Just make believe.”

Then I quipped:

“But isn’t the whole genre of Musical Theatre founded on make-believe?”

That got a grin out of her, but I still wasn’t thinking of asking her to sing for the project. That didn’t happen until the other two other people suggested it, the one being the entertainment manager, the other being the young woman’s boyfriend.   Both of them characterized her singing as “fantastic.”  They both said she would be shy about a live performance, but probably down for a studio recording.  I myself am also shy about such things, as evidenced in the fact that I am even writing about it without having taken any pertinent prior action.  

Still, I never cease to revel in that I have somehow found myself in a community where the faith is high, and there’s a sense that Artistic projects will always find the support they need in order to get themselves to happen.  So all of this is a step in the right direction.   I’ll talk with her Aubrey soon; and I do have the young man, Josh, from downstairs as well.   If I can find one more female vocalist, I can probably just teach the parts and even use my own space here for the recording.  The hardwood floor provides good acoustics — I’ve already tested them.

The Long Version

I’m starting to use up minutes on my free SoundCloud account.  It’s because I’ve been using it as storage for all these different versions of my tunes.  I’d have to pay to upgrade, so instead I deleted one of the earlier versions of this same tune that had become outmoded.  That meant deleting the post here that featured it as well.  Otherwise, it would have included an empty link.

What you have above is the full 4:47 version of The Very Same World, as it figures in the show.   Now, I could tweak this a bit more — and no doubt I will.  But it’s basically what the singers will hear as they record the song, give or take a few of the instruments that would then be doubling melodic lines unnecessarily.  Also, once the singers have been assembled and have succeeded at recording the piece, I can always adjust the accompaniment track again afterwards.

So it stands to reason that now would be the time to proactively seek out singers.  It’s possible I’ve been a little slow at this, being shy by nature.  At the same time, I wanted to make sure I was sufficiently prepared.  Now, I am.

More of the Same World

I cut yet another version of this today.  I didn’t exactly work all day, but almost.  At one point I took a walk out to the Arboretum, just because everybody says to do so.  There, it was very pretty.  Shortly later, however, I came back, and resumed work.

I finished this a little past 3:24 of what is in reality a 4:40 piece.  However, I faded it at around 3:02, just like its predecessor, because there’s a natural fade there where it won’t be anticlimactic.

I’ve been feeling angry over an attitude I’m getting from some people who knew me when I was in entirely different circumstances.   These sorts of people don’t seem to understand that their ongoing attitude is unacceptable to me.   By and large, they never actually listen to my music or appreciate the prodigy invested in it.  All they do is notice that there are no vocals, and say something to the effect of: “My time is more important than this.  I’ll listen to this once you have the singing on it.”  In so doing, they completely overlook all the detailed scoring of instrumental parts I put into this effort.  It’s extremely condescending, and I’m not sure why I put up with it.

I’m strongly compelled to equate this attitude with a “California attitude” that many people in other States find puzzling.  However, it’s more likely that I myself was caught up in that syndrome when I lived there, and I can just thank God to have escaped it.  Besides, another friend of mine, also from California, listened to this song from a sincere heart, without scoffing at me or dismissing me as though not worth his time.  Not only him, but his wife and twenty-year-old daughter also appreciated my work.  I could tell that their appreciation was genuine; then my friend also followed me on my SoundCloud.  

This is a good thing.  I’ll take the good with the bad, as my dad always used to say.  I don’t know why I get hung up trying to please everybody.  The truth is that I don’t have the female singers yet.  I also don’t have the exact accompaniment down yet, to be heard by the singers, and support them.  This, what you’re hearing today, comes close.  What I’m hoping is that I can overlook the cynical voice of opposition enough to keep moving forward.  My hope for the week is simply this.  I would like for the much-needed singers to emerge at around about the time I’m finished with this instrumental accompaniment.  In any case, it makes no sense to drop the accompaniment as a project and look full-force for the singers, if when I find them, I don’t have a complete accompaniment for their use.

The Next Step

Tomorrow it will be two months exactly since I finished an initial complete draft of my musical play, Eden in Babylon. I told myself earlier that I would wait two months before looking at it again.   Obviously, the two months are almost up.

What will I see when I take a look at the gargantuan labor of love that I hammered out between Thanksgiving Day of 2016 and March 4th of this year?   Well, to be honest with you, I took a little peek at it two or three nights ago.  What I have seen, so far, is this:

1. A number of the characters don’t quite act like themselves when they first enter into the action.  This is because I got to know them better as the story unfolded.

2. Although it is a musical, and one expects the characters to break into song periodically, sometimes the songs are not sufficiently motivated by what’s happening in the story line.  Or, if they are, the transition between spoken dialogue and sung lyrics is awkward or forced.

3. I run the happy risk of pissing of right-wing fundamentalist evangelical Christians left and right, even though I am a Christian.

4. It might be too long.

5. My plan to obfuscate deus ex machina by throwing in so many instances of it into the final scene may or may not work.   Either the audience will be skyrocketed into a higher dimension of suspension of disbelief or they will be completely let down.   There seems no in between. 

The first of these should be pretty easy to fix, now that I do know my characters fairly well.  The second may take some work.  However, my plan to smooth out those transitions while in the process of creating the piano-vocal score seems sound. 

ChurchillThe third is actually more of a bother than I may let on, but that’s only because I’m paranoid about being lambasted by others who identify with a Christian belief system.  In reality, some of those ultra-right-wingers don’t give anybody a break.  The fourth is a much better problem to have than its opposite.  Better to submit it too long, and permit the director to chop it up at discretion, than to submit it too short, and have it appear to be incomplete. 

The fifth is an issue for almost every novelist, playwright, or filmmaker.  How do we end the story effectively, without it seeming to be a wrap-up?   To be honest, I have no idea if what I have done will fly.  Of the eight or nine people who have read the script, no one has yet complained.  But that doesn’t say much.  No one has yet complained about any aspect of the script.  (All I ever hear is praise — and that’s not good.)

The next step, after making adjustments while notating the piano-vocal score, is to organize a read-through.   I’ve secured a location for the read-through, which will be in the back room of the One World Cafe.  In the time it will take me to notate the p-v score, I can probably round up the 23 readers I will need to pull this off. 

Realistically, this will take me till the end of the year 2017.   On the other hand, who said anything about being realistic?

A Role Revised

For anyone who may have been following my recent journey, I must say that as I attended church for the first time today as a mere parishioner, and not a paid employee, I was blessed far beyond my expectations.

It was refreshing not to have to be worried about what was supposed to come next in the order of worship, but only to sit in the pews and soak it all in.  I found myself focusing on the language in the prayer of confession, the hymns, the sermon, and all other aspects of the service.   When I still had the job, all I could do was nervously worry about what was going to come next.   Would I wind up in the wrong key?  Would I play too fast, too slow, too loud, or too soft?   Was I about to be heavily criticized for my failings after it was all done?  Or, even if they were to compliment me, were they complimenting me for the wrong reasons?  In short:

Did I come across more like a musical theatre or pop-contemporary accompanist, or worse yet, a lounge lizard, in the sacred context?

lounge lizardMy God – my anxiety increases as I even indulge the memory.  Be that as it may.  The “good news” is that I was very blessed to be a simple participant.  I also was freed up to attend a book study before the service, where only six people were present.  Moreover, I can go to another book study on Wednesday evenings when the Choir would have rehearsed.

I’m a little concerned about the substantial decrease in my monthly cash flow — but not too much.  It seems to me that I was living high on the hog to begin with.   I’m used to living on almost nothing at all.  Suddenly having even a little money left over after paying the rent was almost too much for me.  Ah – but I hyperbolize.  As someone said this morning, there is probably a better job in store for me.   All I need do is look.

So, I just wanted to submit a brief blog to share the glad tidings.   I’ll now return to my Writer’s Guild meeting.  Ta ta for now.

Forward Motion

Things have actually progressed remarkably smoothly since my last update.  There has not been a moment throughout the past week when I have felt that “life” was getting in the way of my artistic progress.   To the contrary, I finished scoring all the parts for the other players tonight, and we’ve arranged a time and place to practice this Sunday for the upcoming show the following Saturday.   One more practice after that, and I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.

As I might have mentioned, I agreed to continue to accompany the Wednesday evening Taize services on a volunteer basis, while no longer being on salary at my church.  I understand that the woman who is replacing me for the next two months is very capable, and I’m looking forward to sitting in the pews on Sunday, soaking in the sermon and all aspects of the service, and no longer having to concern myself with the strange conflicts that would rear their heads whenever I tried to play piano or organ properly for the occasion.

It would seem that my background in Musical Theatre somehow interfered with my ability to grasp the worshipful context.  Although I identify as a Christian, it was unusually difficult for me to shake the idea that my playing was a “performance” rather than an “offering” or a “presentation” before God.  I would constantly refer to the chancel as the “stage,” to the prelude as an “overture,” and to the postlude as “exit music.”  I am certain that a period of observation, without mandatory participation, will help me to shed these conflicts.   It’s entirely possible that when the four months are over, and both of my replacements have served their terms, I might regain some kind of paid position with the music ministry.  But I’m neither banking on it, nor shunning the prospect.   To paraphrase John the Baptist: “God must increase, and I must decrease.”

Along with this transformation, my zeal for the production possibilities of my own musical has skyrocketed.  Of the five originals that we will be performing on Saturday the 6th, three of them will be from Eden in Babylon.   If you want to look at the lyrics I will be singing, here are the links thereof:

Heart Song

Ode to the Universe

The Very Same World

I’ve decided on four theatre companies where I have worked in the past, or where I know people with whom I’ve worked, where I will submit the musical immediately upon completing my demo.  Then I think I’ll relax and see what we can do about producing the show on a regional level here in the Palouse Empire, where I have chanced upon a community of like-minded Artists who believe in me.   I’ve been here only nine months as of yesterday, and I never cease to marvel at the miracle of it all.

I didn’t have to let an entire lifetime go by without seeing the city where I was born — where I had only lived for the first year of my life.   When I first saw this city, I saw that it seemed custom-designed for me — right to the point of their being a running shoe store conveniently placed on the lower floor of the very apartment building in which I live:

friendship square

There also turned out to be a Conservatory of Music that I didn’t even know about in this town, sponsoring an annual jazz festival.  Moreover, Idaho Repertory Theatre was founded in this city in the year I was born.  And when I went to see the house where I was born, the cross street as I approached said: “Home Street.”

Sure beats being hit on the head with guns by gangbangers and having four laptops full of costly music production software stolen in a three-year period of time! I still have the same laptop I had when I moved here — in fact, I even have a back-up, in case this one should fail me.  Once again — there is a God.

Resignation and Debut

On Monday I resigned my position as pianist and organist of a local Presbyterian church.  They haven’t found someone to replace me permanently yet, but they have two people who can cover the stretch of time between now and the end of summer.  I also told them I desired to remain a member of the church, but not an employee.  They then agreed that this is their desire, as well.

The main reason for my resignation was that the stress of the job reached the point of interfering completely with my day-to-day spirituality.  Being a church job, this is rather ironic.  But that’s why I decided to continue on with the church.  I found the church itself to be a great contributor to my spirituality – just not the job itself.

Here is the text of my letter of resignation, submitted by email to the entire congregation:

My physical health is good, and I am generally in good spirits, but there are some issues with my mental health that are hard to grasp and have me occasionally feeling very disoriented. These are aggravated by stress. I cannot explain why this is, but somehow the simple piano-organ position that I had expected to be very easy for me and full of joy has become associated with an unbearable level of anxiety that, when it reaches a peak, causes me to make irrational decisions that have enduring consequences. If you can fashion a prayer around these words, please deliver your words to the One who has power to heal.

Also, while I regret that I was too ill to fulfill the Holy Week services, Norman has advised me that they went very well with the substitute. I will not be in church this Sunday, but I hope that thereafter you will all accept me as a member in good standing of First Presbyterian Church but not a part of the music ministry. While I occasionally enjoy playing the piano and recognize it as a gift from God, I have decided that things like reading music, following conductors, turning pages, piano-conducting, etc. are basically in the category of health risks at this time. I will eventually find some kind of piano lounge where I can play at random while daydreaming, make a little more money, and live a bit more comfortably here. So I hope you all will take this in the spirit in which it is intended. First Presbyterian Church of Moscow is the greatest church that I have ever happened upon in all of my lifelong church-hopping, and I will hop no further, so help me, God.

Thank you all for showing me true Christian love. I need that more than I need a job, at this time.

Grace and Peace,

Andy

As a start to a new day-to-day foundation for spirituality, I picked up a hard copy of a book today called The Celebration of Discipline, by a theologian named Richard J. Foster.  I think that to become a little more routinized and regularized (but not “regulated,” mind you) might help with my musical work as well.  I agreed with Pastor Norman that I would still play the Wednesday evening Taize services on a volunteer basis.  Otherwise, I am mainly focused on putting my show together for my debut as a singer-songwriter in this area:

One World Cafe Downtown Moscow

Andy Pope and Friends, Saturday May 6, 7pm, One World Cafe, 533 S. Main Street Moscow Idaho. Be There.

Even the demo is on the back burner for now (although I have rounded up most of the singers).  Today I found all the band members for the show two weeks from tomorrow, so I’m diving wholeheartedly into creating a set list and writing out parts.  I’ve got an Ibenez custom hollow body, a Yamaha electronic keyboard, and a good percussionist on the Cajon who also plays fiddle and mandolin.  My bassist is from Lionel Hampton, and I’ll be using the house sound system for my singing.  If you’re for any reason in the neighborhood, feel free to cruise by.  I mean – don’t bust your back or break any laws, but you know where I’ll be.

There is a God

The piano-vocal score to my song “The Very Same World” is finished now.  If anyone wants to take a look at it, you can click on the title below.   (It will lead to an 11-page pdf file.)

The Very Same World

from the new musical Eden in Babylon
Words and Music by Andy Pope
Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope

I’d hoped to get three of these finished and then approach a certain professor from the nearby School of Music.  A number of people told me that he would be the logical person to talk to, if I wanted to find singers to help me out with my musical demo.   But a couple things arose to deter me, much as I so desperately desired to proceed unhindered.  First of all, I got behind schedule.  I had been hoping to have two of them done by Friday, and the third by next Friday.  Instead, I only have one of them done — and it’s already Monday.   Secondly, I was somewhat intimidated by the man’s awe-inspiring credentials.  This played into my natural shyness, and I began to doubt my fortitude.

But then, a mysterious turn of events took place.  As it happens, the professor is actually coming to meet me.  You see, the departing Minister of Music at my church has to leave during Holy Week due to the poor health of her husband.  It turns out that she knows this professor, and so she called him to take over our rehearsal on Wednesday night, as well as the Good Friday and Easter Sunday services.   So by this Wednesday, I will be following his conducting on the piano as I accompany our church choir.  Naturally, I used this as a deadline to finish the score to The Very Same World I printed it out today, and after I make minor corrections, I can simply show it to him.  So my shyness and timidity are no longer an issue.  

I also just happened to  meet three decent singers who have expressed an interest in working with me on this project.  One of them, a mezzo-soprano whom I ran into at the local pub, looked over my score briefly, then said she would reply to my call if I “posted a notice.”  Being the new kid on the block here, I haven’t exactly found out where to post this notice.  She said it with such authority, I did not want to admit my naivete.   But then, I met two young men at a cafe who were working on theory assignments on music paper, so I invited them to come look at my score.  Turned out one of them was a baritone, and we exchanged contact information.  They also advised me that anyone can audit the Jazz Choir that meets in the afternoons throughout the week, and that I could pick up a bass part and sing with them.  I don’t have to be a University student to participate.  Finally, there’s this fellow Josh who works at the Bagel Shop downstairs from me, who has a degree in Acting and has sung professionally in musicals.  He seems eager to help me out with this as well.   So perhaps I already have two or three singers.  I only need two or three more.

All of this points to an eerie phenomenon that might best be explained once it’s understood that I have only lived in this particular city for eight months.  I came here from the San Francisco Bay Area, largely because the rising cost of living was getting to me on numerous levels.   Six years ago, I lived in a situation that was almost identical to my present digs, as far as basic specs were concerned, and it rented for $900/mo.  What do I pay here in Northern Idaho for the same set-up?   You guessed it.  $275/mo.   So I finally came up here on a lark, answering a Craigslist ad, looking for a mere hole-in-the-wall where I could plug in my laptop, unhassled by numerous disconcerting factors: high crime rate, distrust among neighbors, frequent homelessness, and so forth.

friendship squareI moved into small studio in an old-style apartment building, where there are business on the first floor, and residences on the higher floors.  What I did not expect was for there to be a running store in my very building.  Being a runner, this intrigued me.  I then noticed yoga centers and bike shops.  A health-and-wellness emphasis, I thought.  Very good.   I then learned about the School of Music, and that the State Repertory Theatre was founded here as well – in the year I was born, incidentally.  As you soon will find, that’s quite germane.

The second week I was here, I applied for a part-time church position, was hired, and still hold that job today.   Before I knew it, I was surrounded by Artists and Writers of all kinds.  And as for music?  I’m doing gigs all up and down the main drag.   And culture?  I heard more decent music my first five days in this small college community than I heard in Berkeley, California, in five years.

There is more to this story, so I might as well tell it.

Why did I choose Moscow, Idaho?   Out of all the small out-of-the-way villages where I could have sought affordable housing, why Moscow?   Because I was born here.  I lived here the first year of my life when my dad was teaching ROTC at the University.  Then his Navy career took us all over the country as well as to other parts of the world.  I didn’t want my whole life to go by without seeing what Moscow, Idaho was like.  When I came here, I was astounded.  This city seemed to be custom-designed for me.

BerkeleyIn the first four months I was here, I sequenced all the music I wrote internally after four of my laptops were successively stolen in Berkeley, and I could not afford to replace them.   In the next three months, I sat down and finished a draft of the musical I had been struggling, through adverse circumstances in California, for five years.  Now I’m working on the piano-vocal score to that musical.  I have the same laptop now that I bought shortly before I left Berkeley.   Had I stayed in Berkeley, I would never have been able to retain a laptop that long.  It would have been stolen by now.   In fact, considering the huge upsurge in violence that has taken place on the Berkeley streets since the election of our current clueless leader, I can’t help but wonder if I would even still be alive today, had I stayed in this unfavorable town. 

This is why my faith has increased as much as it has.   I was so angry and discouraged when I was homeless on the Berkeley streets, that I shouted out to God:

“WHY am I always forced to be hanging around thieves and hustlers and pimps and hookers and panhandlers and criminals and murderers?   WHY does nobody care about my Music or my Art?  WHY am I not hanging around Actors and Directors and Musicians and Writers and Artists??”

The question “Why?” is often moot.  But if the desperation in that oft-repeated query could be interpreted as an entreaty to an unseen God, then the proof of the answer to that twisted prayer is in the very experience I own today.  It happened in less than forty-eight hours.   I hopped on a Greyhound, alighted randomly upon this little town in Idaho, answered an ad for a studio, and three days later signed a one-year lease.   I’m where I am supposed to be.  There is a God.

Starving Artists

Just to keep you guys in the loop, I’m a bit behind on my goal stated earlier.  I’d wanted to get two of my songs done by tomorrow, and then take them down to the open mike at the Green Frog.  It’s looking as though only one of them will be done.  I’m basically done with “The Very Same World.”  It’s all scored.  I just have to format it.

It may seem that I set my goals too high.  Often this is the case.  But in this case, something happened that interfered with the progress.  I lost a good five days.  It’s not so important what happened.  The important thing is that I’m back on track.

Also, it’s important for me to remember that, no matter how reasonable my goals may seem to be in the ideal state, there’s this annoying nuisance called “life” that will occasionally get in the way of those goals.  Suffice it to say that life was in the way for about five days, and that it’s no longer in the way.

Starving_Artist_by_EbonyLaceI also take solace in the fact that I’m not the only starving artist in this world.  I do what I can to put food on the table and pay my rent.  But I have to admit it can be depressing when it all hits you at once.   You work hard on a project for a five years and you can’t even come up with $85 to register it with the United States Copyright Office.  You can’t buy a couple books you were eager to buy — including and especially the book called The War of Art.   It was recommended to me by this writer, and I’ve been dying to read it.  I’ve even recommended it to my daughter and to other writers.  I can’t buy a couple other books I wanted, just because life once again got in the way.

Does it sound like the Poor Boy is whining?   Well – get a load of this:

You can’t find your headphones you lost two weeks ago.   Your mouse broke and you hassled yourself for days over whether it was worth $15 to buy another one, or whether you were going to continue to stress your nerves to shreds trying to use the touch pad.  As if that wasn’t enough, you spilled coffee all over your computer keyboard.  Now you’re using an external keyboard that’s about five times as loud in public places, and getting dirty looks because you learned how to type on an Olivetti manual typewriter back in 1966 and never did quite get the hang of these modern keyboards.   All this is aggravating your class issues, and to make matters worse, people who have never been poor start laying loads of unsolicited advice on you, as if they have any idea how to maneuver the various details of abject poverty.  You seethe internally.  Your anger toward people in the privileged classes only increases, at a time when you’re trying to learn how to love them. 

As I write these words though, I curse myself inwardly.  What can I do in the month of April to keep life from getting in the way?   Here I sit in the local pub once again, indulging in a cup of coffee and a muffin.  How many external cups of coffee, how many scones and muffins, do I have each month?   But then again, if I stay inside my room and write, I run dry.   I need to see people – outside of church and work — I need to see smiling faces during the course of the day.  I can just hole myself up in my room all month.

Not to mention, I’m an Old Guy.  I worked hard all my life.  True – I made the unwise error of never saving up for any kind of retirement – I just worked, worked, worked until I had a total nervous breakdown.   Then they put me on this awful thing we have in America called Social Security Disability Income, which primarily robs people of their self-esteem.

But it put food on the table before I got around to realizing I could probably still work, despite what “they” said.  Anyway, if nothing else, during the ten years that I have been on disability, one thing I have done is what I always wanted to do — and what I never found the time to do, when I was working full time.   I’m only working part-time now, but at least I’m holding down my job.   Why I ever allowed the United States Government to be the entity deciding whether or not I was able to work is beyond me.  IF only I had known then what I know now!

Nobody can call me lazy.  One thing I have done in the past ten years — is write.  And I’ll keep writing.   I’ll see my Day if I keep at it.  But it never ceases to annoy me how the wealthy in this world have everything, and yet don’t know what to do with it.  I’m a guy who has nothing — but at least I know what to do with it.

I almost wish it were the other way around.   Ah well — back to work.

Labor of Love

In case anyone’s wondered, I’m still in the land of the living, and I have not yet dropped off the face of the planet.  I realized earlier today that it’s been nine days since I’ve posted.   I was planning to delay this post until I had completed the piano-vocal score to the third musical number in Eden in Babylon, the song called The Very Same World.  But then I realized that even the completion of that score will only reflect a far greater pleasure — one that has already made itself manifest in my experience, and quite unexpectedly, at that.

Remember how I said I wasn’t looking forward to having to create an entire piano-vocal score for a musical so huge?  I alluded to the tedious ardor of having to put The Burden of Eden together nine years ago, and not having attempted a score of that magnitude since.  But to my pleasant surprise, I have found that I am actually enjoying the process of creating this score.  I’ve been working on “Same World” since Monday, and I honestly believe I will have it finished tomorrow, which is Friday.  (Or later on today, to be more accurate, since I am up after one in the morning as we speak.)

Steinway-Model-D-Grand-Piano-52626-Brazilian-Rosewood-1I think part of the difference lies in the software I’m using now, as opposed to back then.  In those days I only had a general midi replica of a piano sound.  Now I’m using a sampled Steinway grand.  Believe me, it makes a huge difference.  I’m also undergoing the intriguing challenge of trying to create a piano part the way that I myself would play these tunes on the piano.  This challenge is made even more challenging by the fact that I have never played any of these songs on the piano.  I don’t own a piano; and I wrote them, like I write all my music, “in my head.”

But hearing the sound of that Steinway, I’m eager to at least try to play them on the church piano, which is a Baldwin grand.  Once I have the music written out, it will be much easier to do so.  All I’ll have to do is change hats and read it – as though it were somebody else’s music, and not my own.  I honestly think this process will fascinate me enough, that the tedium I’d earlier dreaded will no longer be a legitimate threat.  More likely, this current fascination will morph into a gigantic labor of love.

So, I’m in the final formatting stages of “Same World” tonight.  Our church secretary said I could sent the pdf file to her, and she would print it out for me in the morning.  Then I’m going to examine the hard copy, pencil in any adjustments, and print out a final version.   My goal is to have both “Same World” and Heart Song scored by next Friday, so I can take them down to the Open Mike, where I just might meet some interested singers for the project.

Many other nice things have been happening lately, and my goal to get this musical produced seems a bit more attainable now.   The plans I’m devising to go about this are a bit less vague and a bit more fully baked than they were the last time you saw me.  But I’ll save the details for a near-future entry.  I want to take another look at the “Same World” score before I ponder the unappealing notion known as “sleep.”  I’ve long been of the camp that contends something like sleep, in situations like these, to be for the faint of heart.   Food also seems to be quite unnecessary.   My theory, as expressed in this post, is this:

What physical nutrition I lack is made up for in the spiritual nutrition with which this music is feeding my soul.

No wonder they bipolarized me!  But would I have it any other way?  Probably not.   They can bipolarize me till the cows come home.  When I take care of my soul, the rest of me takes care of itself.

Patience and Prodigy

Practical realities have often managed to elude me, especially when I find myself feeling pressured or in haste.  I’d rather do the thing immediately and do it poorly, just to get it out of the way, than exercise the patience and prodigy required to do it later — after sufficient preparation — and do it well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACase in point.   I mentioned in this entry that I’d realized the next logical step in the process of preparing my musical for production.   So,  I boldly walked into the School of Music to inquire randomly as to the availability of certain singers who would learn some of my music and assist me in recording a demo that I can present to prospective producers.

I carried no score with me.  I didn’t even have a printed out copy of my script.  I brought no items with me that could prove myself in any sense.  Fortunately for me, it turned out to be Spring Break, and nobody was in the building.  The office was closed and dark.  I prepared myself to leave, when unexpectedly a man stepped out of the dark office.

Introducing and explaining myself briefly, I found the man to be very cordial.  He pointed me to the particular professor to whom I should address my inquiry.   I looked into the professor’s credits, was mildly intimidated, took note of his office hours, and determined I would return when school was in session.

Good thing I didn’t.  It suddenly just struck me – wouldn’t it be far better if I showed up with a hard copy of the script and at least three of the songs printed out?  That would show him not only that I’m serious, but he’d have a chance to check out the manner in which the piano-vocal score had been prepared.   He’d realize at that moment that I know what I’m doing – at least in terms of creating a legible, functional musical score is concerned.  So that would help, right there.  Anybody can say they wrote a musical.   To show up with neatly written music for the singers to sing would work much more to my advantage.

What I’m hoping is that some students needing a Senior Project might eagerly learn my music for a grade.   This was in fact suggested in a blogger’s comment a while back.   It’s crossed my mind since then that singing students in search of a good grade might actually do an even better job than more-or-less mercenary professional singers I might have hired who would be more likely to do it just for money.   While it is totally against my nature to present myself as someone whose music might be worth a non-paid rehearsal or two, I think that to carry the actual music with me will no doubt work in my favor.

So – time to score about three songs.  That’s about the minimum, I think, to demonstrate the score.   If they ask where the rest of the score is, I can tell them I’ll come up with it if I know for sure they’re interested.   Who knows?   Maybe I could get a mild commission to notate the rest of the score.   After all, it’s no small task.   The last time I wrote a musical score without commission, it’s done nothing but sit on my shelf for the past ten years.   Check it out:

The Burden of Eden

(Complete Musical Score)
Copyright © 2008 by Andrew Michael Pope
All Rights Reserved 

Whether you know much about music or not, anybody can see that it obviously took a bit of effort to produce that 242-page piano-vocal score.   It’s not the kind of task I’m eager to repeat unless there’s a good reason for going about it.    In fact, even trying to score three of those numbers could throw me back into serious isolation.   I don’t want to go there.  

Well – the wheels still spin.   Necessity is the mother of invention.   Perhaps there is an easier, softer way . . .

Eden in Babylon: Complete Script

I’m at the cafe near my apartment with three other members of my Writers’ Guild. We meet here every Saturday morning at ten for an “Edit & Write-In” that lasts till one o’clock. Although conceptually this is somewhat akin to the Write City group in which I participated for a while in San Francisco, it actually is a bit looser than that.  At Write City, we would all write non-stop for a prescribed period of time without discussion of any sort.  Total silence wasn’t just a concept — it was a mandate.  But here, we’ll stop and talk with each other sometimes.  In fact, possibly even too often.   For example, it was just recently suggested quite audibly by one of the members here, for example, that I stop talking in order to let him get his work done.  Since that moment, approximately fifteen minutes ago, everyone has been completely silent,  according to concept.  Before that moment, it seemed to me anyway that we were all about talking — though perhaps I was the main culprit.

In any case, I’m here on a mission.  As reported earlier, I decided that I would refrain from looking at my script for two weeks.  Those two weeks being up today, I have been scouring the Eden in Babylon script  to see where obvious edits need to be done, as well as note any major irks.

secret-to-editingI am irked by the Big Mac reference in the “I Am Buddha” monologue, which I find odious. I am also irked by the effusive God-talk in the Winston/James confrontation. There’s a major typo on p.84 where I forgot to eliminate the Four Kids and redistribute their lines among the remaining Eight Kids, and (possibly worst of all) there is no front quotation mark to the Rousseau Quote at the beginning of the script, nor does the quote necessarily apply to the currently completed script the way that it might have applied to my vision of it in 2012, when the quote was first associated with it. Maybe there should be another quote, or no quote. Or maybe I should dedicate the play to a certain person – I can think who probably would warrant the dedication by now —  or have no dedication, or no quote –  or some combination of the foregoing.

Whatever the case, I’ll begin making the pertinent changes today and readjust them on the shared link.  However, since I don’t want to water down the “I Am Buddha” monologue, nor the Winston/James confrontation for that matter, I won’t bother to change them if I can’t think of a way to assuage my irk without doing so.  But I can at least promise technical fix-its, insofar as I notice them. Perhaps you will notice others. Anyway, here it is:

EDEN IN BABYLON: COMPLETE SCRIPT
Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope.

All Rights Reserved

Otherwise, I still don’t really feel like putting much energy into further refining or polishing this thing. Even though it’s a first draft, it’s taken me so long to come up with it, considering all the weird obstacles, blocks, etc. that have taken place in the past five years, it just seems sort of ridiculous to plow into further editing right now. Maybe not “ridiculous” – but at least self-defeating on a larger level in life. If I were to dive wholeheartedly into the refiner’s fire with this thing, I’d probably isolate myself so hugely, it would defeat the more primary purpose of getting this show on the road. The more I can involve other people in my efforts, from this day forward, the more chance I stand of gaining not only external support, but external perspective. What is right and wrong with this show will more likely be determined in some future read-through, staged reading, or work-in-progress production, than they will in the solitude of my messy room, where I will sit for hours on end scratching my head.  You get out into the real world, you start to get a director involved, and Actors — and the proof is in the pudding.