Tuesday Tuneup 60

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Thinking.

Q. About what?

A. About what to do next.

Q. What are your options?

A. Well, I can start working on one of two stories due Friday, I can continue working on my new musical, or I can do neither of the above.

Q. What will happen if you do neither of the above?

A. I’ll probably flop down on the floor from exhaustion.

Q. Have you been working too hard lately?

A. You might say so.

Q. Why?

A. Because everybody else says so.

Q. I meant, why you have been working so hard?

A. Because I’ve been hurt.

Q. What is the relationship between your working hard and your having been hurt?

A. When I’m hurt, I don’t like to experience the super-painful feelings.  So I dive into a creative project of some kind.  Something so engaging that it takes my mind off the hurt.

Q. Isn’t that unhealthy?

A. Why would it be unhealthy?

Q. Aren’t you supposed to face the hurt directly?   Walk through the pain?   Experience it fully until it has been processed?

A. Why would I be supposed to do that?

Q. Wouldn’t you be in denial if you don’t?

A. Denial of what?

Q. Denial of your feelings?

A. I don’t think so.  I already know how horribly painful the feelings are.   That’s the reason why I turn my attention away from them in the first place.

Q. In other words, your creative work is your painkiller?

A. You could put it that way, yes.

Q. How long have you been doing this?

A. I believe I was seven years old when I began to do this.

Q. What happened when you were seven?

A. Somebody hurt me.  And that same year, I learned how to play the piano, write music, write stories, and draw pictures.

Q. Who hurt you?

A. God.

Q. How could God have hurt you?

A. He hurt me in the sense that He created death.   Before I found out about death, I assumed I was going to live forever, in a very happy place, with a loving family.  Naturally, when I learned this was not the case, I was shattered.   And not only on my own behalf.  I was shattered on behalf of the entire human race.

Q. Would it be better if we all lived forever?

A. Yes.

Q. But won’t we all live forever anyway?  I mean, in heaven?

A. We’d certainly like to think so.  But apparently that statement has been the theme of much debate.

Q. Would you like to engage in such a debate at this time?

A. No, I would not.

Q. What would you like to do at this time?

A. To be honest, my heart is hugely into this new musical of mine.  When I was super-hurt yesterday, I sat down and cranked out five songs for the first scene — songs I’d already written (music only, no lyrics) and saw in a very short time how they could form the exposition and a good part of the development of an engaging new story line. And I’m psyched! This really could be the best of all the musicals, if I hunker down.

Q. How many musicals have you written?

A. Five.

Q. How many have been produced?

A. One.

Q. Why only one?

A. Because the process of trying to produce a musical is tedious, cumbersome, arduous, uncertain, stressful, frustrating, maddening, and painful.

Q. And you don’t like to face those feelings?

A. You know I don’t.

Q. So what do you do instead?

A. Usually, I write another musical.  But not immediately.  I have to let the last musical set for a while.

Q. What do you do in the meantime?  I mean, if you get hurt?

A. Depending on the level of the hurt, I either write a poem, an essay, or a song.  Unless the hurt is really really huge.

Q. What happens when the hurt is really really huge?

A. I jump the gun and dive into the next musical.   It’s the way I roll.  When my mom died, I wrote a musical.   When my wife left me years ago, I wrote a musical.

Q. And you’ve started yet another musical?   A sixth?  And you knocked out the first Scene with five songs in one morning?

A. Yes.

Q. How hurt must you have been to do something so huge!?

A. It’s not really important how hurt I was, or who hurt me, or why.  The important thing is that I’m tired.

Q. Tired?

A. Tired and weary.

Q. Tired of what?

A, Please move on to the next question.

Q. So what is this new musical going to be about?

A. The original hurt.

Q. You mean, when you were seven?

A. No.  Even more original.  I’m talking about what happened in the Garden.

Q. You mean, Eden?

A. Eden.  The Garden that we’re all unconsciously trying to return to.

garden.jpg

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 15

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Yes.  You are a feelingless generator of questions, whose function it is to churn out question after question, based on a logical follow-up to my responses, with little or no empathy for my emotional state.  Moreover, your first two questions are the same every Tuesday.  Therefore, my first answer is immaterial, since you will only ask me why I have summoned you, and it really does not matter what I’ve said.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because I can’t read.

Q. You can’t?

A. Not very well.

Q. And how does this affect you?

A. It disturbs me a great deal.  It also causes me to waste huge amounts of time.

dyslexiaQ. Doing what?

A. Trying to read.  Staring at the pages, while my head is flying, off in space, not seeming to be able to alight upon a single word or phrase of meaning.

Q. Why do I find this hard to believe?

A. Probably for the same reason everyone else does.

Q. And what reason is that?

A. The reason that I seem to be educated, and reasonably articulate, and able to write fairly well.

Q. If you cannot read, then where did you pick up all these words you use?

A. Mostly from talking to a lot of smart people, and remembering their words.  You see, I do have an unusually good long-term memory.  I am only unable to focus in the short-term.

Q. Unable?

A. Well, hardly able.  I suppose you have caught me in hyperbole.  It’s not that I can’t read at all.  I can read short articles, and emails on occasion, and unusually engaging works that don’t challenge my dyslexia.

Q. Then why did you say that you can’t read?

A. Because I can’t ever seem to finish an entire book.  I’ve finished only one book in the past several years.

Q. What book is that?

A. The INFJ Writer: Cracking the Genius of the World’s Rarest Type by Lauren Sapala.

Q. What enabled you to finish that particular book, if no other?

A. A matter of threefold interest.  There was not one, nor two, but three things about the book that intrigued me.

Q. Those being?

A. First, the MBTI.  I myself am an INFJ, and I saw myself all over the book.

Q. And second?

A. Writing.  Something I love to do.  The book was about INFJ’s who are Writers.

Q. And third?

A. Recovery.  The account of someone who had been deeply hurt, and who had escaped from that hurt by evoking a typical escape mechanism, and an addictive one at that.  But most importantly, she recovered.

Q. Have you done so?

A. Recovered?  Or escaped?

Q. Both.

A. Recovered?  Partly.  Escaped?  Totally.

Q. When?

A. All too often.   In 1979 after a break-up with a finacee.  In 1982 when I learned I was too sensitive for a highly competitive position in the music world.  In the early 90’s, after a difficult divorce.  And between the years 2013 and 2016, after being deeply hurt by a critique of my unfinished first draft to my musical Eden in Babylon, when I had turned to a friend for encouragement, and not only had received no encouragement, but the painful information that this man was not even a friend.

Q. How did you find out he was not your friend?

A. In the same way that I learned last night that another man was not my friend.

Q. How?

A. It is too painful to answer.  But it might inform you what was on my mind when I tried this morning, unsuccessfully once again, to read.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 14

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Move on to the next question.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because in a single morning, I have already been thrilled, angered, and thankful.  

Q. Why thrilled?

A. If all goes well, the third and (hopefully) final draft of my musical Eden in Babylon will be finished by sundown.

Q. Why angered?

A. Because I was on a total roll with my rewrite, when all of a sudden after a change of location my new laptop was unable to pull anything up but the previous owner’s Ubantu desktop.   

Q. Why thankful?

A. Because I came home to the previous owner who knows how to fix such things.

Q. And she fixed it?

A. Not only that.

Q. What else?

A. I asked her to marry me.

Q. What did she say?

A. She said “Probably.”  A step up from the first time I asked her, when she said: “Not yet.”

Q. How does that make you thankful?  Weren’t you hoping for a “yes?”

A. Sure I was.  But I’m thankful my Flame is somebody who’s practical.  God knows if we do get married, she sure won’t be marrying a very practical man.

The Questioner is Silent.

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Gratitude List 790

1. Now I remember why I always used to wake up happy — it was because I used to keep a cold cup of strong coffee at my bedside and chug it instantly upon awakening. I would immediately get into a good mood, and then immediately write down ten things I was grateful for. And then? I would go run five miles around a lake. No wonder I was always happy.

2. I also remember why I stopped doing this. It was because the doctors told me not to. The doctors told me to take some darned pill that’s supposed to help my thyroid a half hour before awakening, even though my thyroid had never bothered me. In that half hour, obviously I became unhappy, because I was denying myself my morning cup of coffee!! Thankful for the great revelation that it was the doctors who made me unhappy!

3. And I am happy now. :)

4. I had slept soundly, though only about 4 1/2 hours till 2:15 am. I noticed in myself an incorrigibly bad attitude. I prayed that God would show me how to improve my attitude. Then I went back at 7:30 and slept 2 1/2 hours till 10 am. Now I am fully refreshed, and in a good mood once again. :)

5. I might get a bicycle. Then I won’t rush from place to place so much when running late.  That said, the local image of this guy in suit and tie wearing a beanie jogging through red lights to get to work in the morning does have a bit of charm to it, no?

6. I see several emails from people I like — Tim, Jan, Holly, Danielle.

7. Just because I am the Artist doesn’t mean I am not fond of the Scientist. I have also noticed that the Scientist and the Artist often have one pleasant thing in common: the Philosopher. This might explain the voice that went through my head some months ago at Shari’s Restaurant: “Let the Philosopher prevail over the Artist.”

8. Sleep is such a healer. I’m glad I’m sleeping again.

9. Stats are suddenly skyrocketing on Eden in Babylon. I must be doing something right.

10. God is not anti-Art. He’s pro-Beauty. And I love Him. And He loves me. He probably even loves doctors, despite how much money they let themselves make and those stupid fancy cars they always brag about. I betcha Dr. Matt doesn’t drive a Ferrari. Besides, he’s the only doctor who’s ever done one thing for me that I know for sure is good. He removed my dystrophic toenail the right way, with the proper anesthetic. The anesthetic I used, I have not used for almost seven months.

So I ain’t movin.’   I’m stayin’ right here, where both of those good things were able to happen. God loves this happy little town — and this happy little town loves me.

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Three More Articles Published

I learned a few days ago that three more of my stories have been published in Street Spirit.  This makes ten short pieces I’ve had published in the past six months, in Street Spirit, and in Classism Exposed.   I find this astonishing, especially because I never expected to have anything published at all.  It brings a new sense of purpose, with a connection to fulfillment in life — something I can always look towards pursuing, at times when I might be tempted to ponder that my life is without meaning or reason.  

Street Spirit

February 2018 Issue of Street Spirit

The above link is to the full 12-page issue.   I think it’s an unusually good one, if you want to leaf through it.  Or, if you just want to check out my own work, I’m on pages 8 and 12.  Terry Messman the publisher again gave me the entire p. 12, which is the back page.  He gave me the whole back page for the posting of The Revelation of Humanity, which I’ve gathered from reader response to be one of my better recent pieces. Other pieces published from my blog were On Disorganization and She Called Me Dad, both on p. 8, the former having had its title changed appropriately for the February issue: “Scrambled and Scattered by 12 Years on the Streets.”  

Now, I trust Terry’s editing in general.  Sometimes, a title change in particular will draw the reader toward a particular point of view the selected article might espouse.  There can be no doubt, for example, that I was indeed “scrambled and scattered” throughout my twelve years of sojourning on the streets of the City of Berkeley and elsewhere.   In many ways, it has been indisputable hell trying to readjust to a set of procedures that, while crucial to the more mainstream modes of living here in today’s America, is entirely inapplicable to the drastically altered set of conditions governing the lives of street people and of those who inhabit the Great Outdoors.

But there was also evidence of some pretty amazing grace that surfaced during the perplexing period when for years I drifted about the outskirts of what society holds to be acceptable.  There were even recurring gifts of a nature that I’ve been hard-pressed, while living indoors again, to replace.  This is why I know that my life has meaning.  It would be one thing if my task were only to report the sordid horrors of extended homeless living.  Some of these may surprise, or even startle or shock.  But we can be startled and shocked by sordid stories any day of the week, anytime, anywhere.  It’s the stuff that was good — that seems almost irreplaceable — that often goes unreported.

The challenge to find sufficient replacement for these blessings is something that adds new purpose to my path.   Anyone who’s been reading me throughout the past year and a half will know that my path toward accepting and positively managing the details of indoor living has not been a straight line.  It’s tempting at times to want to default back to a homeless situation, despite the inherent dangers thereof.   To address that dynamic, it makes sense that I would be about discovering what it is that certain redemptive aspects of the homeless experience were providing for me, so that I might regain their provision, in a different form, in my new story of indoor life.  

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

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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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

About That Insecure Creative

“A successful writer is one who finishes what they start while striving to improve their craft. It’s as simple as that. And the only one who can stop you from doing this is you.” – Hugh Howey*

If any of my more regular readers got the idea that perhaps I was obfuscating a hidden agenda behind the seemingly innocuous postings of three successive morning “gratitude lists,’ then I must concede.   That idea is sound.   While trying to hold everyone at bay by posting my gratitude lists, I have secretly been absorbed in the task of cleaning up both the lyrics and music to The Oracle Sequence at the end of Act One of Eden in Babylon.

This is something that I can and must do. When I wrote that sequence, though I was “on fire,” I was also quite hasty in places.  And I knew it at the time.   I knew it — but I buried it beneath the sense of fiery inspiration that I permitted to delude me.  I found thrilling the mere fact that I was finishing the Act at all.   Add to that the sense that I actually stood a chance of finishing it in a dynamic way — a way that would intrigue and delight the audience, and give them all something to talk about during intermission — and believe you me, I was overjoyed.  So overjoyed was I, that I readily overlooked the rough spots, vaguely expecting myself to patch them up later (that is, if I remembered to do so, or even decided to bother).

But then, after I had the great revelation reported earlier, I found I could no longer overlook these glaring errors.  It was time for me to perform the logical clean-up, and not to feel bad about myself in the process.   So I set about to do so.   But I kept getting snagged.   Snagged, for reasons that themselves seemed trivial, if not maddening.  Maddening, in the degree of power I rendered them, despite their insignificance. 

For example, I gave one verse of very quickly spewed, poorly written lyrics to three of my strongest supporting characters.  If those had been real life Actors, playing those characters, I’d feel as though I had dumped on them for assigning them those lousy parts.  All three of those characters, as later developed in my second complete draft are worth more to the world than the lousy lyrics I threw down on them. They’re my babies — I need to bless them with better lyrics.

Sad-alone-cute-girl-playing-guitar-sunsetNot only that, but in my haste, I took no thought as to what keys all these different characters should be singing their bits in the Sequence.  Right after the verse I just mentioned, for example, the ingénue Taura begins to sing a solo to the main theme of the song “Oracle.”  All the lights should be lowered and all the previous frenetic conflict be dissolved, as she begins to sing this song of spiritual calling.   It needs to be her defining moment, where she sings to her guitar, as they all are gather in Nature, in the Outdoors, beneath the Stars.  This is only her second solo in the show — and it is the first one that features her voice en masse before the multitudes, rather than restricted in a romantic setting between her and Winston alone.  Obviously, this crucial performance of hers should feature her voice in its optimum range.  But alas, as I just now have confessed, I took no thought for such a practical matter, so infused was I with the creative fury at the time. 

As a result, Taura winds up having to sing this theme in the key of G, with notes much too high for the contralto whom I have intended her to be.  I cursed myself.  “What an oversight!”  I exclaimed.  Yet at the same time, I recall having furiously sped from one section in the sequence to another, overlooking every peccadillo in my path in the spirit of honoring the long-awaited arrival of the finishing of the first Act, which arrival now loomed imminently on the near horizon, a virtual, visible certainty of a happy event to come.

So I consoled myself with the memory of past faith.  I figured that if I had faith beforehand — way back when — even as I plowed over every glaring error in my path like a bulldozer — I could probably summon up that same faith, and use the present day as an occasion to atone fully for my earlier carelessness, and craft the End of Act One in a manner befitting a musical of this caliber.  

When I began to exercise this renewed faith, the landscape brightened considerably.  True, the lousy lyrics were the devil to replace.  Moreover, I had to change the key in that section, in order to create a key that could easily modulate into a better key to spotlight Taura’s voice during her solo.    But  then, with renewed faith, I realized that I need not be enamored to the music itself in the section where the lyrics fell short.  I now could write new music along with the new lyrics, and make that section more transitional, and less overt.  Ah!  It all began to come together, at last.

And it continues to come together.  What is the difference?  Only faith.  Only being open to new and better gifts from that great Beyond whence all ideas are formed.  And people may mock me and scoff, if indeed they pay any attention to me at all.  I hear their imagined voices already:

“Will you never stop messing with this thing?
It’s been years now, Andy!
Get off of it! Get real!”

It puts me on the defensive, to have to answer to such objections — real or imagined.  I want to say I’ll stop messing with it when somebody finally picks it up and decides to produce it — and not a minute before.  But that’s a line of malarkey – blatant baloney and balderdash.

I’ll stop messing with it when I’m finally tired of it, and when I finally abandon it.  That’s the naked truth, unveiled.  I pray this happens before someone picks it up, and not after.  If it doesn’t happen till after, I could be hell on any production staff unfortunate enough to have picked up my baby while still in the womb.  Let’s hope for an on-time delivery.  In my heart of hearts, I wouldn’t want it any other way.   

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

(* The Hugh Howey quote comes courtesy of  M. C. Tuggle — a blog well worth the read, by the way.)

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.

 

Frequent Flyer

This version of my song “Bone of My Bones” is far superior to whatever I posted the other day.   (Incidentally, it’s Version 18-Y, for whoever’s counting.)

It still isn’t quite “complete” yet  — at least not in terms of its capacity to replicate what I’ve got going on in my head.  But is it ever complete?   I don’t think so!

In any case, as of this morning, I’ve moved on to new arrangement of the song Bubbles Taboo, intended to segue into Bones as part of the larger work described in this entry.   It’s all rolling along so sweetly that, to be honest with you, I’m having a hard time stopping all the composing in order to attend to the more mundane functions of modern life.

A lot of this newfound enthusiasm for composing is based on my having become more endeared to the software itself.  Somehow, the challenge of getting all these computer commands to resemble what’s going on in my head has begun to fascinate me, rather than intimidate me.  It’s also helping with a second aspect of my creative-artistic trip these days.  It’s helping me to enjoy the process of notating the vocal score to Eden in Babylon.   

Note how I didn’t say “Piano-Vocal Score.”  I’ve lowered my expectations, and have taken to writing out only a vocal score, without the piano accompaniment.  This will still be some representation of the music, and it might even be enough to get a producer interested in the show.   In any case, it’s forward motion.

I also made it to Jazz Choir finally, and enjoyed singing the interesting music of Dan Bukvich in a context consisting mostly of University students, but also including members of the community, several of whom were my age or older.  I saw Erika there, the new Director of Music at my church, and she again said she’d be happy to sing on the Eden in Babylon demo.  Maybe she knows some other Jazz Choir members who might be interested.  Perhaps I won’t even have to pay them — although frankly, the idea of not being able to do so is irksome to me.   Again, if anybody wants to donate, that’s where the first money will go — to pay singers and musicians something, even if it’s not what they’re actually worth.   

But not to get off on all that.  I’ve been snagged on this demo thing, mostly in a depressed or discouraged state, for over five months now.  It really is time for this thing to pick up steam again.  But whether it does or not, there’s a third aspect to my “trip” these days, and I can’t overlook the fact that it’s the aspect that’s been getting me some recognition lately, even though I didn’t really do anything consciously to attract it. 

It’s all the writing I’m doing on the Homeless Experience.  People are tuning into it.  After A New Pair of Glasses was published in Street Spirit in August, I had three more pieces published in September.   Then I offered to come up with three more by Friday, and Terry Messman the publisher asked me to nudge him when they were done.   It’s beginning to look as though I’m becoming a regular columnist all of a sudden.  This is something I never dreamed would happen.

So, between the three, you might see a few more postings from me than usual.  There will probably be more for me to report here than ever before.   I’ll try to keep them short.  But be advised that as far as WordPress is concerned, you’re going to be dealing with a “frequent flyer” until further notice.  

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Despair

I’ve never felt a depression anywhere near this deep before.   The depression keeps me from being able to do simple things in life.  Wash the dishes.  Take out the trash.  Make my bed.  Wash my clothes.  

It just doesn’t seem that there’s any way out of it.  I hesitate to write, to even post, because it consumes me so entirely.

It used to be, there was a reason to be depressed.  Now it’s just — constantly happening.  I keep telling myself that maybe if something changes for the better, I will feel better, and I can start anew once again.  Or I tell myself, I will just pick up where I left off, before I got so sidetracked.  But nothing works.  Nothing helps.  

I used to be able to rely on this person, this Andy, who was always motivated, who always gritted his teeth and faced whatever adversity there was, and endured it.

Now I can’t rely on him anymore.  He’s missing, he’s vacant, he’s gone astray – he doesn’t know where he is.  He can’t do the things he used to do, and enjoy doing them.

I’ve been writing music for several days.  But I don’t like the music.  It’s lousy.  I don’t enjoy it.  I don’t want to be writing it anymore.

I wrote this musical – but – how easily it came to appear to me to be useless.  I can’t even put a demo together; I can’t find singers; I should not even try any more.  All it does is increase the depression.

I just feel like – God blessed me so hugely in bringing me here, bringing me off the streets. Then I somehow transformed the blessing into a curse.  It used to be the other way around, and it should be.  I used to be able to transform curses into blessings.  That was my strength.

I just don’t know what to do with myself anymore.  I pray – but I feel so disconnected from God.  I just can’t see a light at the end of this tunnel.  It just goes on and on, winding in a way that I never can tell what’s ahead.  All I know is what is ahead — is total darkness — and I am always, always in despair.   

No Longer an Island

I mentioned in this recent post that three more of my pieces have been published in Street Spirit. It looks as though Terry Messman, the publisher, is going to want me to contribute regularly.  So far, he has published one story in the August edition, and three in the September edition.  I told him I would try to come up with three publishable pieces each month after this.  I’ve noticed that he and I seem to see eye to eye on these themes, and I am basically blown away that a newspaper even exists wherein my work would be appropriate.  I am no longer an island unto myself.  

I’m writing today to let you know that the online version of this month’s Street Spirit is now available.   Below are links that will lead you to all three samples of my work, along with copies of the illustrations attached to each.  (The beautiful painting below is “Serenity Base” by Christine Hanlon.)

SERENITY_BASE-770x257

The Voices of the Streets

MobyNO

Easy to Say No

(Please note that in addition to the story now entitled “Easy to Say No,” you will also find an exact copy of my short statement, I Told Them I was Homeless, on that same page.)

I want to thank Sally Hindman for connecting me to Street Spirit, and of course I want to thank Terry Messman, the publisher.  Information on these two very interesting people, and their connection to Street Spirit, may be found here.  It strikes me as interesting how I never actually met Sally and Terry when I actually lived in Berkeley, but am now connected to them now in a very meaningful way.  For I have discovered a wonderful newspaper, created by like-minded “kindred spirits” who, prior to the past two months, I did not know existed.   This, coming as it does at a very tumultuous period in my admittedly very rocky and uncertain life, is a true sign of hope.

Finally, I want to thank all of my faithful readers for your ongoing interest in my creative work and in the cause therein embraced.  Thank you all for your support.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

Daylight

This will undoubtedly be a more difficult post for me to write than the two more wild posts that have preceded it.   What has been happening is that I have been coming to terms with how severely my personal issues of the past six months have completely interfered with the discipline I need to move forward with my larger creative projects.

When I first moved into the Friendship Apartments on July 27th of last year, it seemed an incredible godsend.   This was especially the case when compared with my previous “place of residence.”  I had been on the streets for three years consistently in Berkeley prior to that, and for twelve years I had been homeless off-and-on in Berkeley and other towns.  That a trustworthy landlord even appeared who would trust me with a one-year lease on an apartment was remarkable.  So I cannot claim that Friendship Square has not been a blessing of tremendous magnitude.

However, something began to change within me, maybe not exactly on March 4th, when I reached the “pinnacle” described in the previous entry, but in a gradual way following that date.  Whereas before, my studio apartment had been a place of refuge and solitude, it gradually became on open door to all the social activities I eventually found among those who also took up residence in the Friendship Apartments.  I’m not sure how to describe what happened to me, other than to say that my loneliness eventually superseded my aloneness.  

The blessing of aloneness had been in solitude, seclusion, and sanctuary.  I found creative asylum in aloneness, and I proceeded with the Berkeley Music and the Babylon Script with a disciplined fury, only taking Sundays off from my writing.  Slowly, however, the blessing of solitude was transformed into a curse of loneliness.  I began to interact with whoever happened to be nearby, often another lonely person like myself.  I honestly think I did not even realize that I was lonely.  I doubt that many of the other men in my building were in touch with their loneliness either.  It isn’t easy, after all, for a man to admit that he has such feelings.

Before I knew it, I had befriended every man, and most of the women, in the Friendship Apartments.  It seemed they were called the “Friendship Apartments” for a reason.  Much reveling took place.  I would sometimes wake up in the morning wondering what I had done with myself.   (At this point, I am certain I need say no more.)

My pastor at my church had become concerned, along with those few members of the community whom I had truly befriended, including Young Paul down at the Bagel Shop.   We were all decidedly looking for a new and better place for me to stay, even as I was clinging to the model of Friendship Square as the answer to years of prayers I prayed on the streets, praying only that God would grant me “a window, a lock on the door, and a power outlet.”  After being homeless for so long, I was convinced that this was all I would need to be happy.

I got on a list for subsidized Senior housing.  Then, just yesterday, something came up.  It’s a two bedroom apartment, actually, for only $318/mo.  It’s in a good area, near Paradise Path where I run, and near the Safeway at the East Side Mall.  It’s off the beaten trail of the student partying at the Main Street pubs, as well as the more insidious, invisible “tweaker” scene that lurks menacingly all around the current block.   It isn’t at all a certainty yet, but I feel a real hope about this option.  Also, if it falls through, Young Paul has offered to let me take over the lease on his one-bedroom apartment (also in an excellent location) as soon as he and a roommate move into their two-bedroom.   So it seems fail-safe.

If any of you are the praying types, please pray about this.  I believe that, while it may not exactly “solve” my problems, it will put me in an environment much more conducive to their being solved.   And in any case, I awoke this morning feeling that some unweildy burden had been lifted from me overnight.  I am no longer so “wild,” nor have I been contemplating the unfeasible.   It is entirely possible that, the next time you hear from me, I will be standing on higher, more fertile, ground.

“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
–Romans 13:12

Published!

To those of you who might be more accustomed to getting more substantial pieces of prose or poetry published in more prestigious periodicals, my excitement about having been published yesterday may appear to be entirely unwarranted.  Therefore, I will try to subdue it.

As I mentioned earlier, I submitted three short pieces of prose to a San Francisco Bay Area newspaper called Street Spirit.  The pieces I submitted were Homeless Tinge, I Told Them I was Homeless, and A New Pair of Glasses.   Yesterday, I was informed that “A New Pair of Glasses” had been published – although the publisher change the title to A New Way of Seeing.  I didn’t mind the change, however, in light of its having been published.  I also find the layout to be very professional, and the illustrations to be marvelous.  Both are duplicated here below, with a link to the story itself sandwiched between them.  

Scavengers-1

A New Way of Seeing

Forgotten

The publisher Terry Messman offered to send some hard copies of the newspaper to my home address here in Moscow.  If anybody wants one, please leave a message on my Contact Page, and we’ll take it from there.  

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

Red Squigglified

My awareness of my failings is so huge right now, it prevents anything positive I might have to offer from being — what would the word be? “Offerable?” Shucks – I knew it would get a red squiggly.

18rbgc“Presentable” comes close. My gifts, my strengths, my good points — are simply not presentable. They’re not presentable, so long as I remain unpresentable. (Another red squiggly – somebody please cue me in on where to uncheck that annoying default, so I can make up any word I want!)

Guess “uncheck” is another one. Now come on — there have got to be more qualified candidates for a red squiggly – than that.

Basically, this morning, I feel that this techno-culture is going to place a red squiggly line below anything meaningful I have to offer. Now if that’s not a social statement, I don’t know what is.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

Succeeding

I’ve been succeeding in putting in the three hours a day that I promised myself I would do in order to notate my piano-vocal score, but I have *not* been succeeding in getting the three hours to occur consecutively one after another, or in the same place at the same time each day.

The first day was the best. I found a spot at the Co-Op with a power outlet that was just perfect. I did the first two hours until I noticed I was beginning to nod. So I went home and took a power nap, then returned to the same Spot to wrap things up. My pastor Norman came in while I was working there, and he gave me a good muse.

teensuicideintervention_1186378
INTERVENTION

So, I was extremely encouraged after the first day. Tuesday consisted of three scattered hours at totally different times, and also turned out to be a day (naturally enough) when nothing else was accomplished. Then yesterday, I worked the three hours pretty much consecutively, although I was seeing stars in the third hour. This is probably due to my having to manage multiple choral parts and solos in the gargantuan Opening Number, entitled Intervention (only a mere fraction of it being reproduced on the foregoing link.) But then, I had enough to time to prepare one of the four speeches on the Homeless Experience I’d planned to prepare.

I worked on that speech for six and a half hours, but it didn’t come out too well. I knew there was something wrong with it when I went to bed late last night, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. My friend Danielle listened to it, and said it was “pedantic” and that I sounded like I was “lecturing” and that I had “no real feeling for what I was saying;” that is, up until the very end, when I seemed to pour my whole hugely indignant heart into it. She said she liked the earlier speeches on my Talks page a lot better, because they just sound like “Andy talking for a half hour or so.” (She’s certainly heard Andy talk for a half hour or so, without stopping, many times on the phone in the past.)

Well, I guess I’m just a talkative guy. But I do agree with her perception. I left the speech on the shared link, but I’m going to re-do it once I have the presence of mind. Also, I am committed to getting the three hours of score notating done before I pursue any more pleasant projects. It will be good if I can get myself regularized (fat chance!) and do them concurrently, rather than all over the daily map.

Today, I’ve only done one hour so far, but I’m all set up at the Bagel Shop and about to do the other two. I’ll be done at four, then I’m going to see a show tonight at the Moscow Art Theatre.

So I’m right at the spot at “Intervention” where all the adversarial characters in the Opening sing at once, just before the hook where they are joined by the characters sympathetic to my protagonist. It will be a cacaphonic nightmare if I don’t determine just the right harmonies. But it will be good for me – and let’s get crackin.’

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

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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Anything Helps – God Bless!

Homeless Tinge

I wrote this piece somewhat spontaneously last year, when the novelty of living indoors still amazed me.  Somebody recently suggested I submit it to three San Francisco Bay Area periodicals that deal with such themes.  I just received the address of the publisher of one such periodical from an East Bay minister and activist whom I hope will let me use her name.  So I’m in the process of submitting it, there and elsewhere.  Let me know what you think.

Homeless Tinge

I’m sure you guys are going to think I’m just the junkie from hell, but after not being able to sleep the entire night, I finally reached down into the drawer and tugged the last possible two hits off of a roach that had been sitting in the ashtray for God knows how long. I had a makeshift clip on it made out of cardboard, and I would venture to guess I smoked more cardboard than paper and weed combined. But I did sense the weed, at least in the first hit, so we’ll see if anything happens, and if I can get to sleep after this.

When I got a wiff of the weed, I suddenly had a flash glimpse of it being just about this time in Berkeley on a Saturday morning. I would have packed up my bedroll and stashed it neatly at the illegal spot where I slept every night on U.C. campus, then walked down Oxford Way till I got to University, turned right on University downhill toward the Marina, checked by Ace Hardware to see if Hunter and Tweaker John were awake yet, and if so, headed down with Hunter toward McDonald’s, where he & I would have gotten stoned in the entrance way to the bike shop next door. Maybe Bertha would have been with us, maybe someone else. But we would have gotten stoned before going inside for a Senior Cup, and if we were flushed, a Big Breakfast.

Hunter always had this weed he called the “bombarooski” in that weird language he was always speaking – the language in which I was “Poparooni” and sometimes even “Pepperoni.” He would have laid his whole street philosophy on me, about how each and every one of us had a role to fulfill in the Berkeley street community, all of it centered around a kind of crazy micro-economics, where everything mattered down to the very penny, and it was all about buy and sell. He’d hop on his bike after that and begin his “hustle,” while I would go sit at my Spot out in front of the Mini-Target, and stare like a puppy dog into the eyes of all passing female citizens until one of them took enough pity on me to put some change in my cup, or maybe a sandwich.

Life was somehow easier then, and yet much, much harder. It was easier in that I was my own boss and I didn’t have to answer to anybody. It was harder in that everybody else was their own boss, too, and we didn’t all play by the same rules. I would cringe whenever Andrew the thug came walking down the sidewalk, even though I must admit he was always nice to me, three years worth of nice to me after hitting me on the head with that there gun that time.

It’s almost uncanny how opposite of a world it is that I live in today. I brought almost nothing I did in Berkeley with me to do here in Moscow. And I’m doing things in Moscow I never got to do in Berkeley. I hang around professors and people whose first thought is that I must myself be a professor. I’m even considering applying for an adjunct professor position in the Creative Writing division of the English department – a full-time $48,000 gig. I’m balking, but why? They said to submit a twenty-page sample. I almost want to submit twenty-pages out of Part Four of Anthology for Anathema, just to see if it would work in my advantage to admit that I was homeless not six months ago, and yet here I show up smelling like a rose.

I guess what it is is, I’m not ready for a full-time job yet. I’d actually be afraid that they would hire me. What’s eerie, though, is that it’s the only job listed right now that I could actually walk to, and I still don’t have a car.

Life is incredibly different than it was down in B-Town by the Bay. You don’t see any panhandlers in Moscow, you don’t hear anybody on the hustle asking you for spare change or a cigarette. I remember the first time Seneca reached out her hand behind the counter at the One World Cafe and said, “What’s your name, by the way?” I had to duck into the bathroom to cry. I had only been in Moscow two or three weeks, and I could not believe that a barista in a cafe would actually care what my name was. It was too good to be true that I was actually not being viewed as a worthless piece of shit everywhere I went.

What people don’t seem to know about homelessness unless they’ve actually put in some really serious homeless time themselves is that the worst thing about being homeless is not having to endure the elements, or the lack of indoor conveniences like a space heater, shower, sink, or (of course) bed in which to sleep, or the lack of ready access to food or other basic needs, or difficulty maintaining personal hygeine, or any of that stuff. The worst thing about being homeless is the way that you are treated.

Homeless people in general don’t want pity or even compassion half the time. It seems like half the people pity homeless people and the other half pass judgment. All we really wanted down there, any of us, was to be treated with normal human respect and dignity, and treated as equals, not as inferiors. We wanted to be listened to, we wanted our voices heard. But people in general wouldn’t listen to us. They sure talked to us, and after a while we had heard it all.

Communication is a two way street. People in this country, especially in the upper classes, need to start listening to what poor people, disabled people, and homeless people have to say. They need to realize that these people are human, that they have valuable life experience, and that their experience is worth listening to, and learning about, and understanding.

When that happens, there will really be change in this country. We’ll start building bridges again, instead of burning them. With email and voice mail and social media abounding, with deletes and ignores and blocks aplenty, it has never been easier to burn a bridge in the history of this nation. And what has that done but caused the national morale to reach an all-time low? We need at some point to realize that to “make America great again,” we need to start talking to each other, hearing each other out, making an effort to understand each other’s perspectives before we just ditch them like they’re all a bunch of losers.

Homeless people, believe me, are anything but losers. Quite the opposite is the case. Homeless people are the winners. They’re winning life, day by day, against all odds. What do we win by treating them as sub-human creatures? Not a thing. What would we gain by hearing them out? Or even by sharing in their experience?

We might just gain our country back.

Andy Pope
Moscow, Idaho
6:45 a.m. – 2016-12-10

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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.

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?

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.

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.

The Wheels Are Spinning

After church yesterday morning, I spoke with my pastor briefly. He said he had listened to some of the Eden in Babylon score as posted on this page. Anticipating his objection, I waited for him to elaborate. He phrased it positively when he did, and I’m also certain that he would never have characterized his observation as an “objection.”  It’s just that I’ve heard it all too often before, so I tend to be on guard.  And for good reason – for he basically said what everybody else always says: that he would like to hear it all put together – meaning the singing as well as the instrumentals.

That’s a friendly way of saying that it’s hard to tell from hearing the music alone just how the words are supposed to fit in. People look at lyrics I’ve posted; they listen to the music I’ve posted; and they think “OK – these words are supposed to match up with this music? How, exactly?” It really does put a damper on people’s ability to appreciate what I’m about. I can deny that obvious fact no longer.

So – a logical next move would be round up some singers and put them over the instrumental tracks. But who are these singers?  It is one thing for me proclaim: “I will round them up.”  But what does this mean, precisely?  Round them up – from where?  From whom?  Will they sing for free? The pastor suggested I might be able to use the church facilities, meaning the sound board, the mixer, and the microphones. He hinted at my even using members of the Choir, and I’ll admit there are some awfully decent voices there. But can they handle my style?   Well, perhaps.  But will they truly vibrate with the groove?  Doubtful.  There’s a certain type of worldly, non-churchy vibration in the music itself that lends itself to something a bit down-and-dirty at times.   It’s kind of the pastor to have offered, but it’s also uncomfortably recalling how I could easily find the right singers and pay them what they’re worth – if only I had the money.

But since I don’t, it strikes me that the School of Music might be a more likely place to find competent singers who can sing in the style of my characters and who would enjoy learning this music and recording it with me – possibly even to the point of doing so for free. About paying them, I can sort of “feel it out” when I talk with them, and definitely seek to make an impression on an academic musical level, so that they’ll recognize me as a composer-theoretician, and we can all mutually vibrate on that level as amiably as is to be expected.  Money can be brought up at around about that point.

Also, to sort of wade gently into the unknown waters here, this “rounding up effort” can be realistically restricted to a small number of “character singers” at first. I need Winston, Benzo, Mortalis, and Taura – that’s four.  Throw in a fifth woman for other female parts, and me doing the other male parts, and we have ourselves a pretty decent blend. So that would be five people to concern myself with having to pay, five people with whom I would have concerned myself with “rounding up” to begin with.  Whether the field I tap is the School of Music or anywhere else, if it’s a matter of advertising, then I’ll need to word my advertisements in a compelling manner, as well as cultivate an appealing approach, in general.

singers-in-rehearsalI’ll need a legible score, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I can extract parts from my Finale files. It will only be a problem if I become perfectionist about it, and allow it to enclose me back into isolation. This I can avoid by churning out one number at a time, while in the process of slowly gleaning singers. If we’re only talking about a handful of singers besides myself, whom we may assume will need to be very decent musicians and/or musical theatre people who have a real, built-in reverence for the kind of prodigious accomplishment to be found in the flagrant manifestation of remarkable musical score; then these being the caliber of people whom I seek probably wouldn’t mind working for free at this stage. It’s also possible that maybe I can simultaneously seek some small measure of financial support, so that they won’t have to render their services for absolutely nothing.

The wheels are spinning, anyway. I have a complete script now, so it doesn’t make much sense that the next phase of the project would entail too much more isolation. I ought to be able to use the fact of the completed script to encourage further human involvement, such as by holding a reading. But I don’t want to just focus on that, at the expense of connecting the musical dots, because I feel that to do so is a higher priority.  Although it’s true that I’ve now completed a libretto, I don’t even have a full vocal-score to present to singers or to a musical director, nor do I have (especially) samples of the music including the singing as well as the instrumental accompaniment, on which anyone can clearly hear what the score is all about.  So despite that I’ve completed a script full of text, I still don’t have a completed package.  It’s still not quite marketable.

It does seem, however, that to prepare the next piece of the package will need to involve about five other people, to do it decently, by whom I mean singers, who can sing the different character parts, along with myself, and I can maybe just accompany all the songs on the piano, if that’s the easiest way for them to learn the music, and for me to put it across.  After all, it’s what I’ve been doing all my life – so I might as well  go the extra mile here.  As to exactly where to find these other comrades of the Arts, this is another story.  But I am firmly affixed that this is the next step.   

The End

This post will be very brief.

As most of you know, I have been working on a musical play, off and on, for about five years.   This included a writer’s block of three years that was finally broken over Thanksgiving dinner last year.  I picked it up again on Thanksgiving night.

As of 11:15am this morning, I have finally put the words THE END at the bottom of my  document.   Eden in Babylon is complete — book, music, and lyrics — 132 pages in standard script format for a musical play.

Please fill out the contact form on this website if you would like a copy of the script, and we’ll see what we can do.  No doubt changes will be made, being as this is an initial draft.  I will say, however, that the satisfaction I am feeling at this moment far exceeds any previous form of satisfaction I have hitherto been known to feel.

Special thanks to Mary Donohoe and to all the members of the Palouse Writer’s Guild for their support — and to all of you, I offer a very special thank you, on this day.

Home Stretch

I’m on the home stretch.   It’s one-thirty in the morning here in Cascadia, yet the idea of stopping to sleep borders on absurdity.  I just reached the bottom of p127 of a show that I had estimated would run 135 pages in standard script format for a musical play.  I’ve been writing for so long that it’s difficult to conceive of slowing down and doing some light reading before bedtime, but I know it’s the right thing to do.

chi-the-homestretch-trailer-20140911I did go back after the last post and remove the four unnamed Kids from the cast as well as the entire Mainstream Chorus Line, whose players were doubled from other parts.  This significantly reduces the concentration of actors who will need to be onstage at any given time, although it only reduces the cast size from 27 to 23.  That’s probably about right, because I definitely need for this to have the feel of a large cast traditional musical without being too unwieldy.

After that, there was about a day and a half when I couldn’t put pen to paper, but since about 4pm Tuesday afternoon I’ve been working on the final Scene incessantly when I haven’t been hassled by sudden personal problems of almost maddening proportions.  I did succeed in filling out my application for the new position and submitting it to the pertinent people.   In fact, all aspects of life pertaining to work and to my church have been proceeding very well, but just about every other aspect of life is in such disarray right now, I truly fear that when I finally write the words THE END at the bottom of this document, I will not only find myself completely depressed, but possibly even collapse from utter exhaustion, after which I may find myself in a coma for weeks to come.

Anyway, that’s the buzz if you wanna know what’s happening.  This blog post was my wind-down.  Time to catch some sleep.

Moment of Decision

I’m trying to relax my high goal here, but at the same time not be wasteful with the energy that I need to apply toward it.  I just now made the difficult decision that has been blocking my efforts ever since I finished Act Two, Scene Two in the musical play I am writing.  I have finally decided to reduce the size of the Chorus Line of Street Kids from 12 to 8, and eliminate the Chorus Line of Mainstream Citizens entirely.  I had previously decided to double parts in the two chorus lines due to having earlier been cautioned that my cast size was becoming too large.  The two chorus lines never appeared at the same time in the same place anyway, and there would be plenty of time for costume changes.  But still, the presence of the Mainstream Chorus Line is unwieldy and unnecessary. 

in-any-moment-ofAlthough I sort of knew this to be true, I was resisting making the right choice because it would involve going all the way back to the beginning of the libretto, yanking out unnecessary parts and, if need be, replacing them with parts that can be performed by existing players.  So now, I have to do that very thing.  Of course I am a bit daunted by the ardor of the task.  But it’s the right thing to do.   So I’ll do it.

This changes things.  I’m thinking that, because the eighth and final Scene still remains to be written, hopefully the task of sifting through the show from the very beginning up until the end of the seventh Scene will help clarify decisions I need to make in the last Scene that have still been vague in my mind.  In any case, it seems highly unlikely that I’ll be able to crank it all out in one sitting.  On the other hand, there’s a chance it will be out of the way by Wednesday night’s choir rehearsal.

I told the people at work that my application for Minister of Music will be in by Thursday.  The present Music Minister does need to retire, and I’d like to rise to the higher calling if I can.  But I don’t want my absorption in this project to be a deterrent.  I want this draft to be done by the time of my interview.  If that’s putting too much pressure on myself, so be it.  All I can say is that working without any deadline whatsoever as of the past five years sure hasn’t gotten the job done.

An Odd Feeling

The odd feeling I described in the last paragraph of the previous post seems to be in the process of panning out into an approximate facsimile of the predicted reality. Specifically, that feeling was stated as thus:

I have this odd feeling that the next time I put pen to paper, I’m probably not going to stop until the long-awaited moment arrives when I write the words “The End” at the bottom of the document.

A bold claim, if there ever was one. However, what has been happening is much akin to my feeling, despite its alleged oddity. At a certain point yesterday, I began working on Act Two, Scene Two; and I found myself quite unable to stop until the inevitability of a certain annoying necessity known as “sleep” bid me do so. I saw once again the eeriness with which the time when I wrote the words “End of Act Two, Scene Two” at the bottom of p.116 coincided with the exact time of 1:45am. Strangely, I seem to be finishing up at the quarter of the hour, every time I do finish up. Not sure what it means (if anything) but it’s an interesting thing to behold.

So – what is being manifested is an approximate facsimile of the predicted reality. I had predicted I wouldn’t stop until I reached the end of the entire script. This proved to be a completely unrealistic prediction, though I must admit it spurred me on. Instead of finishing a complete draft, I still have one Scene to go. Not only that, but I went to bed disgruntled. There were still strange inconsistencies in the story line that were heading me toward the dreaded deus ex machina. I went to bed having no idea how to resolve them.

aha_titleThe good news is that, not a half hour into the morning, I had another luminous moment of “Aha!” Who would have thought it? I now sit cheerfully in the local cafe where the Writer’s Guild meets on Saturdays, awaiting the arrival of the other Writers, so that I might share my jubilation with those of like mind. In fact, I hope they may add fuel to the fire, that all remnants of a cheap “wrap-up ending” will on this day be discharged for good.

Besides, I promised the Minister of Music at my church I’d be done with this draft by tomorrow. She’s hoping to retire soon, in which case there’s a chance I might be called to assume some of her responsibilities. But I’m enough of an Artist to know that for me to presume to do so right now would be foolhardy, as long as this script still dangles. And I’m enough of a Christian to know that at a certain point, I’m going to have to sacrifice some of my current absorption in my Art to focus more fully on my devotion to Christ.

It’s a fine line.  One way or the other, I can honestly say that I’m almost done with the initial draft of Eden in Babylon.  It’s been a long time coming — and it won’t be long now.  When I do write the words “The End” at the bottom of the document, I can assure you — you’ll be the first to know.

 

A Long and Winding Tunnel

The other day, another blogger cautioned me not to let my blogging get in the way of my Art.  She’s got a point there.  I reflected on this, and I realized that there have been days when I’ve put more energy into describing my project than I have into the actual project itself.  For this reason, I have decided that my earlier decision to try to post “every other day” is unrealistic.  I’ll post when I have something to say.  We must, after all, remember the wise words of Plato:  plato1

The fool speaks because he has to say something.  The wise man speaks because he has something to say. 

That said, I do have a couple things to say this morning.  I may be getting way ahead of myself here, but I worry about my song Children of the Universe being taken out of context.  In the musical, the Street Kids are fed up, they’re out in the elements, they have an inkling that they’d rather be “safe” in jail, and they decide to vandalize the homes of the wealthy where their friend, Winston Greene, was born, so they can go join him in jail after his wealthy birth family put him there.  It’s a vengeful act, and not an uncommon sentiment among those who feel they’ve been screwed left and right by society.  This is how revolutions have been started throughout history.

But once again, I’m a spiritual person, and a morally minded person.  Do I  myself advocate violent uprising against the bourgeoisie?  Actually, no — I do not.  I am a man of peace.   But I am trying to make a point here.  The point I’m trying to make is that if we don’t get a handle on the effects of classism in America, it’s probably going to happen.  Many people in the impoverished classes are incredibly frustrated that wealthy people seem at times to view their poverty as a moral failing.  They would prefer that people in the privileged classes respect them enough to at least listen to their points of view, and consider that what they have to say might be valid.  I am far from wealthy myself, but when I was even more impoverished than I am today, I felt this frustration.  I was simply receiving too many lectures from people who thought they knew the answers for me, when in reality they knew nothing about the world of poverty, and I often felt that I had a lot of answers for them.  But in general, they wouldn’t listen — and this was a frustration.

This frustration was shared by almost everyone else I knew who was in a similarly impoverished position.  Apparently, it was also compounded by the tensions of urban living.  This is one reason why I finally made the decision to relocate in a rural area, which is just about the wisest move I’ve ever made in my life.  Since then, my wrathful resentment toward those who flaunt their opulence has been reduced to a relatively mild disdain.  (We don’t “do” upper crust in this neck of the woods.)   

In light of that personal transformation, I would hate to go down as one who advocated violent revolt against the establishment – or against anyone or anything, for that matter.  But I wouldn’t mind going down as one who issued a warning that it’s probably about to happen if we don’t shape up.

The second thing I wanted to mention is that I’ve been vigorously working on the second Scene in Act Two and am beginning to see the light at the end of this particularly long and winding tunnel.   I have this odd feeling that the next time I put pen to paper, I’m probably not going to stop until the long-awaited moment arrives when I write the words “The End” at the bottom of the document.  This time, unlike my earlier efforts at getting this show on the road, I can see the end from the beginning.   For that progress, I may thank my  Writer’s Guild , my pastor, my Minister of Music, my friends in my current community of Artists and musicians — and all of you.  Without the support of other writers and like-minded thinkers, I would never have been able to reach this stage  — in fact, I wouldn’t have come near it.  So – what I have to say in closing is:

thankyoured

Alive for a Reason

frustrated-woman-cursing-while-doing-her-taxes-royalty-free-clipart-1nulfg-clipartThere’s something I haven’t mentioned yet about this musical script I’ve been trying to write.  I’ve noticed that it’s almost impossible for me to put pen to paper on this project until I have cleared my head of any resentment or anxiety that could possibly deter me along the way.   This is undoubtedly why I was not able to work on the script for three years following the essential completion of the score.  There was a resentment against a certain individual that was so unwieldy, I basically couldn’t even look at the script without beginning to cuss the person out in my mind (and sometimes even out loud.)  This is also the reason why I wrote nothing at all yesterday.  There were simply too many resentments and anxieties to have to get out of the way first.

This morning, however, I think most of them have already been successfully banished.  I’ve been up for a little less than two hours, and I’m about to get rolling.  One thing that did occur yesterday, as I found myself immersed in the annoyances of moral and practical obligation, was a huge and sudden illumination that just about took my breath away.

I suddenly realized the parallel between the suggestion in Part Four of my anthology and the huge happy ending that my musical Eden in Babylon is headed for.   I’ve also not mentioned the anthology, and just this morning created a new page  to explain it.  Essentially, it’s an account of the five year period of time when I lived continuously outdoors, except for ten months out of those five years.   The suggestion in Part Four of the anthology is extremely radical and no doubt will make many people uncomfortable as they endeavor to grasp it.  However, in the musical it can somehow be transformed into a happy ending. 

This is because musicals traditionally do not depict life as it is.  They depict life as it ought to be.  This at least is how I was brought into the realm of musical theatre, with a high school production of Man of La Mancha.   Since I was terrified of going to VietNam at the time, the message of hope and idealism in the story of Don Miguel de Cervantes and his famous creation, Don Quixote, was enough to convince me that I would probably be doing musical theatre for the rest of my days.

Unfortunately, however, musical theatre is not what it once was — or at least what it once ought to have been.  Hamilton and Les Miserables notwithstanding, most of the musicals that have come out in the past twenty to thirty years are disappointing crap.   Many of them appeal to musical theatre people only, and not to the general populace.  I frankly gave up about thirteen years ago.  I’ve only done one show in the past thirteen years – a Gilbert and Sullivan show, The Yeoman of the Guard, at Stanford University.  Outside of that, and teaching a few workshops, I’ve mainly been a recluse.  But in that isolation, one thing I did begin to do — was write.

In writing this musical, I hope to help brighten the picture of musical theatre in today’s world.   I’m thankful for all the years I spent outdoors.  It wasn’t easy to write about at the time, but the wealth of source material for this musical is something I could never otherwise have harvested.   As far as the anthology, which obviously draws on the same wealth of material, I have found a publisher as of approximately six months ago.  He contacted me when he was ready about a month ago, and I had to tell him that I was not.  I could finish the compilation, but it would mean dropping the musical, and I just can’t do that right now.   In fact, it’s entirely possible that this musical will be my gift to the world.

I am alive, after all I’ve been through, for a reason. 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

Another Scene Down

I’m not sure exactly how many hours I put into my writing today.   It seems I didn’t really get started till about one in the afternoon.   Let’s say there was an hour break for dinner and bathroom stops.   So I guess I wrote for eight hours.   All I know is that when I wrote the words “End of Act Two, Scene One” at the bottom of p.104, I looked down at the computer clock — and it read 10:00pm exactly.

I had a feeling today would be a good day.  I awoke in good spirits, feeling relaxed and relieved after having resolved a difficult situation at work.  I also knew I had the day off — and I knew what to do with it.   Most of the writing of the 17-page Scene consisted of refining the six pages leading up to the song called Hunted, finishing the lyrics to Hunted, writing all the dialogue between Hunted and the following song, writing a new monologue called the “Mainstream Monologue,” and finally finishing all the lyrics to the song Children of the Universe.   (If you happen to listen to the music of that song, you can easily discern how writing its lyrics was no small task.)

Obviously, I felt very pleased when I finished all that work.  But there’s something gnawing at me.

real-writerIf you’ve been reading me much at all lately, you’ll know that I’ve been contemplating the different stages of the creative process as well as the different spaces of Bipolar Disorder, and how they seem to coalesce in order to yield long periods of time when nothing gets done at all — at least not consciously — followed by long periods of time when all kinds of work is steadily produced.   Even though I only have two Scenes left to go, and I can actually even see the light at the end of the tunnel, I have this horrendous fear that the next period of depression – or incubation – is going to last even longer than the last one, which was damn near seven days. 

For the sake of balance, I want to stop writing now, and rest my weary head and bones.  But for the sake of getting the show finished, don’t you think it would be better if I forged forward, while I’m still on the roll?   I’d hate to plunge into another week or two of dry vacuous nothingness.

But no – I must seek a more healthy balance here.  I have tomorrow off as well, so I might as well get some rest, and have at it once again in the morning.   I’m starting to get the feeling that God is actually going to allow me, after all these years, to finish the damn thing.  I need to ride on that hope.   There’s no turning back by now.

Never the Twain Shall Meet?

It’s been a week now since I’ve updated.   Mostly it’s been all bad.   The day after I last posted here, I was chewed out at work by a person who is not my boss but who insisted on giving me a ride home, evidently so she could lay on me all the things that she thought I was doing wrong.  Because I’d had a bad night that night, trying to function on very low sleep, and continuing to try to adjust to this new medication, I sort of felt as though I was being hit below the belt.  To address all her criticisms effectively would have involved implicating the conductor, which I did not want to do.   I felt, as I have often felt while accompanying this particular church choir, like a scapegoat.  It’s easier to blame things on the accompanist, whom you can clearly hear; than on the conductor, whom you cannot clearly see – and this is part of the problem.  I became really angry over the whole thing, and I almost quit my job.  It doesn’t pay me well enough to have to keep putting up with all this pettiness, when I feel I’m doing the best job I can do.

The conductor herself is not faulting me for my job performance, either.  It’s only the members of the Choir.  I’ve talked with my pastor about this, and basically what I’m supposed to do is try to remember Who is being glorified here.  But that’s the problem – God is not being glorified.   There’s just a bunch of petty bickering that makes me feel like I don’t belong there.   To be honest, I’m still thinking about quitting.  I’m on a fixed income anyway – and when the Feds found out I was working, they charged me all kinds of money and chopped my Social Security payments practically in half.  I’d have been making more money had I never dared to get a part-time church job to begin with.   So I’ve definitely only been hanging on to the job for its propensity to glorify God.   It’s not as though there’s a monetary advantage in my keeping the job.   In fact, ideally, I would only be a member of the church, with no job responsibilities whatsoever.   But somebody has to do it, and I have a funny feeling I’m not going to be able to quit.  Something tells me that, much as I dislike my world right now, it’s still the best of all possible worlds, for me.

So all of this has been preoccupying me.  I fell into a deep depression, and I called in sick on Sunday when, to say that I was “sick” was probably more than a minor understatement.  I couldn’t focus on my playwriting at all.   I had begun to worry that I have been focusing too much on the playwriting anyway, and not enough on my job.  I had even discussed this with my pastor, and no doubt will discuss it with the therapist when I meet with him next on Friday.  The church is supposed to provide a spiritual anchor – and I guess, in most ways, it does.   God probably also knows some things I am loathe to admit; for instance, that if I didn’t have the job, I probably would never make it to church.   So any “anchorage” I’m getting from the church itself wouldn’t be happening if I didn’t have the job that goes with it. 

I slept round the clock for three days solid.  Finally, I cut back on my medication unilaterally.  I just can’t be as exhausted as I’ve been, and expect to get anything accomplished on any level.  I’m beginning to curse myself for even conceding to take the meds.  They’ve never done me any good in the past.  Why would now be any different?  I thought they were helping me to handle the social interaction of my Writer’s groups.  But now I just want to lay in bed all day, and not interact socially at all.   This is unlike me.  I’m not prone to depression, as a general rule.  Maybe the meds are making me depressed?

I think I’ll take back my mania, thank you.   But gosh – there’s got to be a middle ground! I’ll call the doctor today, and hopefully he’ll either take me off the meds or cosign my decision to cut back.   I should have called earlier, but I was too depressed to deal with reality.  Only this morning did I finally arise at a normal hour.  Only last night did I make some headway with the script.   And, I didn’t like letting a whole week go by without updating, so I figure I’d post my truth.  Now, if you don’t mind, I must cease this whiny rant and all the self-piteous bemoanings that go along with it.  I abhor these kinds of personal entries; I’m an Artist; I have pride.  Guess that’s the bottom line.  

I’m an Artist – and I must have pride.   But I’m a Christian – and I must not have pride.  Somehow there’s a “never the twain shall meet” aspect of all this — and it doesn’t sit well in my stomach.

The Second Act

I’m currently lodged within an out-of-the-way fast food joint on the edge of town with a Wireless connection and a very limited number of customers on site.   I figure I’m removed enough from my ordinary itinerary that I’m not likely to be disturbed as I try to sink my teeth into the Opening of Act Two.

I did write four pages Monday morning before my first meeting with the therapist to whom I have been assigned.  I had been struggling for about three days with exactly how to begin the second Act, prior to its opening number: Hunted.   During those three days, there was a sequence of illuminations, each one drawing me closer to the point where I could confidently put pen to page.   Then, when I wrote those pages, I was rolling.  They were almost right.  However, the first time that new characters needed to arrive, I got stuck again.  Something was wrong.

I retreated into incubation; and arguably, into depression.  I really wanted to be rolling — to be flowing.  I don’t enjoy these lulls.  But once again, during the lull, I gradually received a substantial illumination.  It is now clear to me that if I want to know what the entrance of the new characters is all about, I’m going to have to go back and rewrite the first four pages.   Those four pages in and of themselves seem very effective, but they are not sufficiently continuous with the end of Act One.  The continuity that I need in order to proceed must be evident at the very beginning of the Act — not midway through the first Scene.  

light-goes-onSo the light had gone on, and I could relax a bit.  Still, none of this is as important to me at this moment as the substance of this first meeting with my therapist.  I had been nervous prior to seeing him.   I’m not a person who very readily places his trust in psychologists or psychiatrists.  At times, they have even seemed to be the very enemies of Art in my highly defensive view.  But this time, I had too much to get off my chest — and too much at stake.  Moreover, the doctor who recently diagnosed me as “mildly bipolar” strongly encouraged me to seek therapy in order to supplement the low dose of the mood stabilizer that he had prescribed.  So I was eager to meet with Dave, the therapist — though admittedly very nervous.  

To my surprise, Dave made me feel quite comfortable the moment I walked through the door.  As it turns out, he is from a musical family.  He himself is musical, as are his parents and siblings, and his daughter is a high school music teacher.  More crucially, he thinks like an Artist.  So I could tell that, as I discussed the dilemma of the Writer’s Block that had paralyzed me for three years, and its lingering effects, I sensed that he identified. 

When I finished my explanation, he said something very profound, and I quote:

Wherever Art is involved, the ego of the Artist
is something that the Artist will seek to protect at all costs.

His insight was that, in the manner in which I could not “take or leave” the perplexing implications in the professor’s critique (see this post), I was protecting my ego for the sake of my Art.  The manner in which I protected my ego was, unfortunately, to pester the professor, badger him, and possibly be perceived as a threat to his own well-being as I persistently tried to persuade him to clarify his mysterious review before it drove me nuts.  All the while, I was blocked against further work on the project, because I couldn’t rectify my respect for his opinion with the fact that I was unable to understand it.

His theory is that the professor himself, also being an Artist, had to protect his own ego, for the sake of his own professionalism.  He had hoped I would “take it or leave it.”  Had I been more professional, I most certainly would have left it.  Unfortunately, due to my very low station in life at the time, being lucky enough to have secured a 30-day stay in a homeless shelter during the Winter, with no possessions to my name other than the laptop which was, in fact, a gift from the professor, I was unable to ascend to the level of professionalism the professor expected of me.  In my downtrodden state of being, I considered that script to be all I had going for me.  Since the professor was the only person in the business who was paying any attention to me, I placed an inordinate amount of hope in his estimate of my work.  Then, when he “panned” me, I felt attacked.  So I protected myself – by fighting back.   He then protected his own self – by withdrawing, and eventually removing me from all Internet interfaces.

This all seemed somehow perfectly understandable.  Dave was able to help me see a broader view, in which the professor and I were more alike than different.  Our artistic egos are strangely locking horns in an invisible dimension of the Arts.  Both egos desire the horns to be unlocked.  It only takes one entity to unlock both horns.  I only have the power over the horns of one of the entities.  It’s time I unlocked the horns of my ego – and my ego will be at peace.

horns Dave then asked how the script was coming along now.  Perking up, I was able to convey the happy news, how the block first began to break at a cathartic Thanksgiving dinner, where a kind family from my church permitted me to express my angst without judging me or writing me off as some kind of petty bastard, wallowing in the bitterness of a broken friendship.   I shared how, gradually, more and more people in my community have tuned into my project, and have shown a surprising amount of support for my work.  But most of all, I shared how I had proceeded much further into the script than ever before, more slowly and carefully, reaching the end of Act One even, and on into the second Act.   The 91 pages now are far more evolved than the earlier 56 pages of relative drivel I submitted in haste to the previous professor.   Nor am I at an impasse or any kind of roadblock, but plowing steadily forward to the end of Act Two.  My creative life has been transformed far and away for the better, since the darker days of dejection, despair, and dependency upon the approval of a single, detached individual.  As I approach the end of the Second Act, I need neither praise nor blame.  My approval resounds from within and without me.  My God has accepted my work.

Highs and Lows

A while back, in my post The Creative Process, I wrote these words:

There is a theory, most notably espoused by Graham Wallas, that once a creator is fully committed to their creation, the creative act continues constantly, even when nothing is being considered consciously.  This process of unconscious creation is known as incubation.  Then, in conjunction with a moment of illumination, the creative process is consciously resumed.   Arguably, this is what took place during the week when it seemed that nothing was accomplished.  Suddenly, much was accomplished on a single day.   Of course, there are other theories as to why this could have come about. 

At the risk of being stigmatized or stereotyped, I’m going to open up about one such theory.  It is said that some very creative people have Bipolar Disorder; and it is also quite possible that I might be one of those people.  If so, it is possible that, for me, the stage of “incubation” corresponds to the low end of the bipolar mood swing, commonly referred to as depression.  Then, the stage of “illumination,” – and all the satisfying work that follows – may correspond to the high end of the swing, commonly referred to as mania  I’ve noticed that ever since I’ve been writing this play, I’ve been cycling back and forth between these two stages — whatever they’re to be called – and that the cycling has been occurring like clockwork.

However, when I read the symptoms of the disorder, they seemed to me to be much more extreme in general than what I was experiencing.  It may surprise you, for example, that I wasn’t so concerned about the low end of the ebb.   Sure I was depressed when my sister died.  Of course I was depressed when, three days later, we in America elected a reckless and unscrupulous, inexperienced buffoon to be our chief political officer.   I was also more than a little depressed whenever I was first trying to break through my three-year Writer’s Block, and could not get my mind off how my failure to make progress with this piece seemed inextricably linked to a failed 45 year friendship.  But as far as depression that would be experienced as part of a cyclic mood swing — no, I did not experience depression at any level nearly commensurate with the awful accounts I read about.  If anything, I felt a bit annoyed that I seemed creatively dry, and I was eager for the situation to change. 

It was what happened when the situation changed that concerned me.  True, I would have incredibly satisfying bursts of long-winded creative accomplishment, such as the day when I wrote for sixteen hours.  It’s also true that I would sometimes enter into elation, and feel that I needed neither sleep nor food, on the premise that my soul was being fed.  While excessive goal orientation and loss of interest in food or sleep are both known symptoms of a bipolar “manic episode,” I still wasn’t concerned.  What concerned me was that I became so happy that I was finally getting into my script again, after an infuriating three year Writer’s Block, I could barely sleep at night for excitement.  All I could do was lay awake in bed at night fantasizing about who was going to be playing what part on Broadway, and what my acceptance speech would look like when I picked up my Tony Award.

So I went to the clinic and saw a doctor, who had me fill out a simple questionnaire.  He wound up diagnosing me as “mildly bipolar,” and put me on a low dosage of a bipolar medication.   This turn of events seemed reasonable to me.  My level of bipolarity, so to speak, is not so huge as to cause gross disruptions in my personal, social, and professional relationships.  However, it is pronounced enough to have caused me to become concerned and seek medical attention, before the situation should worsen.

It has now been ten days since I began taking the medication.   Although at first I didn’t enjoy its effects at all, I’ve begun to notice some things that I can’t help but interpret as positive.   Let me list a few:

  1. If a problem is solved during Writers Guild meetings as a result of intelligent feedback from the other Writers, I don’t become so excited about it that I can’t focus on applying the solution.
  2. I no longer lay awake in bed all night fantasizing about future successes, but rather wind down normally, do some light reading, and drift off into sleep.
  3. I’m more relaxed in my work situation, and less anxious about missing my cues.
  4. Probably most significantly, the amount of time spent in what I’ve been calling the “incubation” or “depressed” period is significantly reduced – at no expense whatsoever to the amount of time spent in the highly productive period.  The only difference is that I am now more inclined to stop the production, get some food or rest, and continue the high level of productivity the next day.

As to point #4 above, I’m in the process of getting the first Scene of Act two prepared, which will include the musical number I call Hunted.  I wrote this in 2012, when I first conceived of this musical, as described on this page.   I’m eager to finish the lyrics, and apply its dynamics to the current incarnation of Eden in Babylon.   In the meantime, I’ve linked to a instrumental recording of it below.  It is my hope, like that of any other Artist, that you will take a few minutes to enjoy and appreciate my work.

Hunted

from Eden in Babylon
Copyright © 2012, 2o17 by Andrew Michael Pope.
All Rights Reserved.

Done with Act One!

As I wrote the words “End of Act One” at the bottom of p.86, I looked at the computer clock.  It was 6:45am.

No – I did not stay up all night.  True, I got to work on time last night by the skin of my teeth.  A phone call to announce I’d been searching for my missing keys seemed appropriate.  Granted, the keys were only missing for about five seconds.  But at least I didn’t lie about it.

Four hours of work was fine.  I concentrated well on the job, when called for.  I was unusually silent during dinner hour — and I’m sure you all know why. 

As soon as I got home, I grabbed my laptop and headed to the Bagel Shop.  There I remained until the first rush of drunken students arrived.  I returned to my room, and wrote till midnight.  As the clock struck twelve, I gave up.  I had been belaboring the end of the Act for so long to no avail, I’m sure all the Muses were snoring in their sleep from boredom.  Soon, I was snoring too.

And it’s a good thing.  I got up at around 4am, took my thyroid medication, drank some water, did some reading, made some coffee, called a friend, and finally braved the unknown. 

Then, what didn’t happen last night happened this morning.  It was uncanny.  It’s a rare experience, and very difficult to describe.  The same experience occurred when I wrote the Siddhartha Monologue, and the lyrics to “Midnight Screams.”  The rush of creative fire ripped through my bloodstream.  It practically burned through my pores.  As I wrote the “oracle” that my protagonist, Winston Greene, is supposed to be “receiving” at the end of the Act, it was as though I myself were receiving it — from somewhere.   It couldn’t have happened last night, either.  Last night all I did was stare brain-dead at the page.  It must have happened when it was meant to happen; for this morning, I was on fire.

tom
Tom McKenzie

Honestly, I got so excited when the final verses of the song came about, I could barely focus to write.  Mercifully, I was able to contain myself just long enough to finish the Act.  At that, I heard the voice of my Theatre Arts mentor, the late Tom McKenzie, clearly saying what he no doubt would have said to me at that moment – God rest his soul.

“And now, it’s time for you to put it aside for a while.”

This calls for a glass of wine.

At the End of the Act

This will be very brief, since I have to be at Taize service at my church in 45 minutes, and I like to show up a half hour early to run through the music with the conductor. 

I didn’t write at all on Sunday, and in fact felt lethargic and innervated throughout the day.  Once errands and other life-related tasks were out of the way yesterday, I began writing with vigor, and stopped after finishing the first major confrontation between my protagonist and one of the two main male antagonists.

taize

Today, I am almost at the End of Act One, having completed 83 pages of text, which will extend to a greater number of pages once I fill in some song lyrics to the big showstopper at the end of the Act. 

In a way, I wish I didn’t have to go to work for the next four hours.  But in another way, it might be the best thing for me.  The Taize service, followed by a church dinner, and finally Choir rehearsal, will “get me out of my head” and give some of the quick decisions I have made in the past few hours a chance to ruminate.  I was hoping to get it all done before church tonight.  It’s a good thing I didn’t, because it would have been sub-par.   But it’s a good thing I rushed to a self-imposed quasi-deadline, because I got a lot done, despite myself.

I believe I will be finished with Act One later on tonight.   Doubtless, I will not let myself rest until I am. 

The Creative Process

It’s crossed my mind that it must seem a bit arrogant for me to keep referring to “the creative process” – as though there were only one creative process at work in the Universe, and I just happen to be in tune with it.  But there really doesn’t seem to be a better way to describe the experience I’m attempting to discuss — at least not in keeping with my own artistic philosophy.  In my view, there really is a single, unified creative process.  But by no means do I claim to be in close touch with it.  I believe in this fascinating process, much the same way that I believe in God.  However, I’m about as close to the essence of this process as I am to God Himself – and believe me, that isn’t very close.

It is my belief in this process that is at the core of this blog.  In fact, I would venture to suggest that if we all understood this process better, we would come to a better understanding of the nature of God.  After all, who is God but the Creator?   By definition, He is not just “a creator” – but the Creator.  All other creators and creations are subject to His single, all-embracing Act of Creativity — that which always was, is now, and always will be: the continual creation of a highly creative Universe, in which all of us are privileged to create.

If that were not the case, then I wouldn’t be a believer.  But since I do believe in God, it really doesn’t seem to me as though there is any other way to look at it.  Besides, God or no God, the theme of creativity–with all of its processes, procedures, and protocol–simply fascinates me.  I want to learn more and more about it, as my creative life goes on.

While my oft-usage of the word “muse” is purely figurative, there does seem to be a frequent and common experience of sensing the “presence” of a powerful creative force.  Or, as I tried to describe in the previous post, I can at times sense that the arrival of this creative power is imminent.  As it happened, I did not manage to muster any motivation for my current playwriting project on Friday, even though I “felt” that something was about to “break” as early as Thursday night.  But Saturday was another story.  I began my process of writing, editing, and rewriting at about eight in the morning, and basically did not stop till midnight.  This morning, I did a few final edits, and can now announce that I’ve completed up to p.75 of this piece to my satisfaction.  The last time I made a progress report along these lines, I was only up to p.64.  I had finished the first four Scenes last Saturday.  Then a week of “nothing” went by, and I finished at least half of the fifth Scene the following Saturday.  

graham_wallas
Graham Wallas

But was that “week of nothing” really only “nothing?”  I think not.  There is a theory, most notably espoused by Graham Wallas, that once a creator is fully committed to their creation, the creative act continues constantly, even when nothing is being considered consciously.  This process of unconscious creation is known as incubation.  Then, in conjunction with a moment of illumination, the creative process is consciously resumed.   Arguably, this is what took place during the week when it seemed that nothing was accomplished.  Suddenly, much was accomplished on a single day.  

Of course, there are other theories as to why this could have come about.  But there are also many theories as to how the Universe came about in the first place.  Could God Himself conceivably have “incubated” for an eternity or so, before the illumination that instigated the Universe was initiated?   How much incubation has occurred worldwide, on a planetary level, before this most recent series of illuminations could take place?  To what kind of creations will all these “illuminations” lead?   It boggles the mind to think about it.

But think about it we will — and we must.   I would venture to suggest that we’re all going to be thinking quite creatively in the days, weeks, and months to come.  We will have to – and we will – for we always have.   We were created in His Image, and in His Image we will sustain ourselves -for we are the highly creative, divinely inspired Human Race.