On My Own

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

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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

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

(3) Thankful for Ashley Peterson. Period.

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

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

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1806

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

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

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

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

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1805

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rent

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

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

Rent at Eastern

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10:27 p.m. – 2021-11-18

Gratitude List 1801

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

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

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

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

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1800

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

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

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

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

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1798

(1) Ran five miles yesterday. First five miler in the past 35 days since I’ve been decidedly getting into shape. Also, first five miler at 2500ft altitude. I’m eager to get back down to sea level and run a 10-K.

(2) I’ve selected all five songs in order to complete the Keva album. It’s been a rush to find myself writing musical theatre lyrics again. I’ve written lyrics to two of the tunes I wrote down in Berkeley, and I’m happy with the lyrics. I’ve also resurrected a song called “The Joke,” and I’ve scored all three songs for female voice on Finale. Three songs completely scored, two to go.

(3) Also I’ve been coaching Zazen in singing for musical theatre. Cody let me borrow his Andrew Lloyd Webber anthology, also selections from Les Miserables. She’s working on “On My Own” and “Memory” now; also, my song “I Know Who You Are” that I wrote back in Berkeley, whose lyrics I just wrote last week.

(4) Tonight both of my theology groups are having a joint meeting at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Theology Afield hasn’t met for 18 months now, and we’re combining with Theology on Tap (a Lutheran group), for the duration now, meeting monthly at the church. Tonight’s material has to do with the Afghan refugees and the biblical stance concerning caring for refugees from other lands. I’m also really eager to see everybody again — it should be great!

(5) In general, I am really enjoying not being as stressed out as I often was throughout the time when we were workshopping Eden in Babylon. It’s been nice to do my running and do my Art – and do the things that I enjoy – free of time pressure and other stressors. It’s what retirement is all about, and I’m grateful.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” — Marie Curie

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

New Lyrics Update

In a certain school of thought having to do with musical theatre, the composer-lyricist writes the music first — having a general idea what the song will be about — and then writes the lyrics second.

I’ve talked to a lot of singer-songwriters who think this is totally backwards, But there’s a method to the musical theatre mania.

Cole Porter was one such composer. All those great tunes — “My Heart Belongs to Daddy,” “Night and Day,” even “Love for Sale” — were once instrumental pieces of music with no lyrics whatsoever. I am of his school of thought. If I were to write the lyrics first, the music would suffer. I would be trying to squeeze music to previously provided lyrics. As a composer, it would seem as though it wasn’t even my own music. The lyrics would also suffer, because they wouldn’t have the benefit of there being good music already prepared to match them.

Now, I realize that my argument is illogical thus far, because I have made no effort to demonstrate the primacy of music over lyrics in the little world of musical theatre that lives inside my head.

Therefore, I can only make too more-or-less empirical observations:

(1) I very much enjoy finding lyrics that match my previously composed music. Yesterday I did it twice — I finally wrote lyrics to “I Know Who You Are” and “Bone of My Bones” — two songs whose music I wrote in Berkeley in 2016. And Keva’s going to sing them, and I’m jazzed.

(2) Whenever I have written a musical play, people invariably report that among the three main components of a musical theatre libretto — book, music & lyrics — the lyrics are the best. With The Burden of Eden, for example, people mostly said: “Lyrics are outstanding, script is very good, music is kinda so-so.” For Eden in Babylon, it was mostly: “Music is great, script seems all right, but man those lyrics!”

Now I don’t want to toot my own horn here, but if there were ever a renaissance of a culture that had an appreciation for traditional musical theatre mores, I would be right there. Since there isn’t, I just want to thank everyone who has purchased our Keva album, and let you know that the lead sheets to “Bone of My Bones” and “I Know Who You Are” are in her inbox, as we speak.

Two down, three to go.

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(1) Sleeping much better lately, including an eight hour bout last night. This may be due to my exercise program. The four mile run on Wednesday was particularly exhilarating, and three mile brisk walks before bedtime have helped as well.

(2) I have 153 subscribers on my YouTube Channel now. (Last I checked it was just over 100.) This is motivating me to practice more regularly on the grand piano at the church, and also invest in some new duds. (Getting more plays on my SoundCloud too).

(3) Had a great experience playing at a nursing home yesterday afternoon (an ongoing volunteer gig that Cody landed for me). Exchanged numbers with the pastor, who had just ran a half-marathon and whose Christian leanings are akin to my own. Also got the number of the lady who runs the program, a widow whose husband was involved in Theatre Arts at WSU, and who herself is a musical theatre choreographer. Turns out she shares my philosophy.

(4) Keva & I are both jazzed about doubling the size of the current BandCamp album. I’ve been writing lyrics to some of the music I wrote in Berkeley, and this one tune is coming out quite nicely. It’s jazzy and suits her voice. Haven’t done this kind of lyric-writing in a while. It’s been a rush to get back in the groove.

(5) I often get a little tear in my eye when I think about the Kids. They could have just gone their way after the workshop and had nothing further to do with me. But they didn’t. And now that we’re not under any particular pressure, I find all the relationships to be much more rewarding. God is Good.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1793

(1) For the first time, I received a substantial donation to Eden in Babylon from a name I did not recognize. Maybe that’s a sign that things are looking up.

(2) This is the most consistent I’ve been with running since I moved to Idaho. I did 2 1/2 miles last night, 2 1/2 miles two nights before that, and 4 miles the previous morning. I’m sure I’ve lost significant weight, though have not yet been to a scale.

(3) Got another column published. I’m grateful to have been given the opportunity to express my thoughts as to how some aspects of Christendom in contemporary American culture are extremely off-base.

(4) Am officially signing a W-4 and beginning my new job at the United Church next Sunday. Yesterday was Cody’s last day. I provided special music, and we had a ceremony afterwards in which Cody’s five years as their pianist was honored. The anxious fire that incessantly burns within me was once again soothed by the spirit of love and peace that prevails over this most accepting church.

(5) Zazen committed to a month’s worth of vocal coaching and I have my first official private music student since moving to Idaho. It’s wonderful how many new possibilities have opened up in my retirement, to permit me to do the work that I most love.

Hard work is painful when life is devoid of purpose. But when you live for something greater than yourself and the gratification of your own ego, then hard work becomes a labor of love.
— Steve Pavlina

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1792

(1) Had a nice talk yesterday with my dear friend Holly in California.   Hadn’t touched base for several months, and it was good to hear from her.   Nice to have friends.

(2) Though I am still as spaced out as ever, and though my spacey nature continues to inconvenience me, I have noticed that I am much more content with being a total space case now that I no longer have a bunch of hard deadlines to meet.  It’s a lot easier to accept the fact that it’s taking over an hour to find your smartphone when you don’t really need it.

(3) Though the morning started off with a strange blast of forgetting to put the filter in the coffee maker and ultimately getting coffee grounds all over the kitchen, the good news is that it gave me the final burst of motivation I needed to attack the dirty dishes in the sink.   (Coffee tastes pretty good, too.)

(4) There’s a 50/50 chance on a paid composer gig for a new musical.   The other guy being considered is a pretty huge Broadway guy, so I might not get it.   But that guy might also not be interested in the material. He’s looking over the script right now, and if he declines, I’ll get the gig.   I got jazzed talking with the playwright about it — and “jazzed” is usually a good sign, when it comes to this sort of endeavor.

(5) Ran unusually fast yesterday.  Joined the Palouse Running Club.   I want to be as earnest about it as I was when I was President of the North Bay Chapter of the Christian Runners Association back in the 80’s – just older, wiser and stronger — God willing.  His blessings abound.  The LORD is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?   The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?  I will offer Him sacrifices with shouts of joy.  I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Water of Life

Not sure how this works as a piano solo, but the idea of getting all the Kids back together to learn the five-part harmonies feels a little bit daunting at this particular time. “Water of Life” from the (unproduced) musical THE BURDEN OF EDEN © 1994-2008 by Andrew Michael Pope.

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(1) Although I lost my wallet yesterday, I was impressed that when I went to cancel my debit card at the bank, they were able to issue a new one right on the spot. So I’ve already replaced one of the cards. I’m also appreciative of its being a small town, in this case. At least they know me at the bank and I didn’t have to go through a big to-do in order to verify my identity.

(2) Exercise has been going well except for that all the bicycling has my legs very heavy, thus making it harder to run. I did get up to four miles last Friday but have not run since. However, I’m grateful for the inherent message; to wit, I better start stretching. Just stretched my quads and already my legs feel more limber. Thank God for walking, bicycling, running & push-ups. I find it to be a great balance, though I have to go easy on the cycling (since it’s the laziest — it’s a little too easy to replace walking or running with it, on the spot, on the fly.)

(3) We recorded Urban Elegy at the church on Sunday and then proceeded to a cast party at an ice cream place. The Elegy is actually the 6th song in a supposedly 5-song demo soon to be posted, and the only one not done with studio equipment and engineering. Haven’t heard back from the Kids about it, but I’m working behind-on-scenes on a way to get a real studio version rendered (just in case they want to do it over again, for some reason). Anyway, I’m grateful for these Kids – for their devotion, and for the fun we had afterwards at the party.

(4) Managed to complete a column for the Understanding Prayer series on the religion-related news site I write for. Had me working on into Saturday — but I did take a chill day yesterday, for which I am grateful.

(5) I seem to be in pretty good spirits today, all things considered. I noticed as I rode my bike out for errands that it’s an unusually gorgeous day. I’m taking today to slowly redesign the web site in order mostly to promote my musical. Grateful for new high speed Spectrum Internet at the same monthly cost as the old DSL that wasn’t working too well; and grateful for a good coffee maker and good coffee. Life is good.

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”   —  Thomas Edison

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

The Host Awaits

People would think I was crazy if I claimed that the woman who spent the night in my guest room two nights ago was an “angel.” But in a way she was. One definition of angel is “messenger from God.” I think I needed to receive the message that this person may have come to give me. If she did not consciously want for me to receive that message, this is even more beautiful. Somebody wanted me to get the message all the same.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Tuesday Tuneup 115

Q. Where would you like to be?

A.  In a place of less clutter.

Q.  What kinds of things are cluttering up your place?

A.  Lots of things.   But we can begin with WordPress.

Q. What do you mean?

A.  I don’t have much of a commitment to blogging.   At least, not in its current form.   And the idea I keep having on how to expand and enhance this blog seems unwieldy.

Q. Unwieldy?

A. Yes.  The idea is to post six times a week with different themes on each day of the week.  But this is unwieldy.   It gets in the way of others things that I not only can do, but that I must do.   Blogging is not something that I must do.   And it ceases to be enjoyable or worthwhile, when it is done out of a sense of obligation.

Q. Obligation?

A. Obligation.   Take the gratitude list I made yesterday, for example.   It took me a good hour to come up with five things I felt comfortable with posting online, five things for which I was truly grateful.   But I wouldn’t let go of the task, because I felt obligated.  

Q. Who is obligating you?

A. No one other than myself.  But the point is, if it’s become such an obligation, why do it?

Q. Why do you do it?

A. Two reasons that I know of.  One is habit.   The other is hard to describe, but it comes from my dad.  He was very disappointed in me, because I was the first-born son, and I was supposed to follow in his footsteps.  But I wasn’t cut out to get into the things that he was good at, the things he was trying to teach me.  He also intimidated me, and I had trouble concentrating when he tried to teach me something.  So he wound up very often shaking his head in disgust and saying, “Andy, I’m afraid you can’t do ANYTHING right!”

As a result, I have become a person who won’t give up, even when I’m beating a dead horse.  I keep trying to please my dad.  I keep trying to “get it right.”

Q. Is that why you keep on blogging?

A. Well, it’s why I keep thinking I’m ever going to accede to a six-day-per-week strict schedule.   I could maybe keep blogging every now and then, like say posting an essay of some sort, when I really think I have something to say.   But all this other stuff — it just gets in the way.

Q. In the way of what, Andy?

A. In the way of the fact that I’ve got a musical to produce.   I don’t know if anyone will ever produce it, but I’m passionate about the prospects thereof.  To focus on the production of the musical, something’s got to give.

Q. But what about balance?

A. What about it?

Q. You can’t spend all your time working on your musical, can you?

A. Of course not!   In fact, the musical’s done.   Just a few more bits and pieces to get it ready for complete packaging and submission.   But it’s essentially done — I could submit it now, and supply the loose ends later.   I can balance all that out with things that don’t take up so much time and energy as blogging – especially when I find I can’t keep to the six day schedule anyway.   That is, it’s very difficult to — and not very rewarding when I succeed.

Q. Why not?

A. I feel that, no matter how many times I try to make the blogs tasteful and not too personal, and no matter how many times I try to make social statements and not personal statements, personal statements still leak through.

Q. What’s wrong with that?

A. I’m trying to get a musical produced.   Does the world need to know my personal issues?

Q. Does the world read your blog?

A. Not right now, but they will if I actually get my musical produced.

Q. So what’s your solution?

A. People can find my piano pieces by subscribing to my YouTube channel, and I strongly encourage those who have enjoyed my gratitude lists to create their own.  Counting one’s blessings is a valuable tool for the sustenance of well-being in a challenging world.   My articles may be read wherever they are published, and I can continue to communicate with the five or six people who faithfully read my blog through other interfaces.

Q. May I ask a final question?

A. Only if it’s final.

Q. Isn’t your musical about a personal issue of yours?

A. Not at all.   But you’re just going to have to read the script to find out.

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1563

(1) Trying to get in shape is actually working this time. I’m not bailing out on my morning runs, I’m doing healthy nice long walks, and I’m up to 18 miles on my bike rides. Up to 20+ push-ups in two sets and losing the pot belly.

(2) Found an editor for my book deal who will work closely both with me and the publisher. Very excited to finally be publishing an anthology of all my writings so far on the subject of homelessness.

(3) One thing I can appreciate about the current heat wave is that it’s decreasing my rather huge appetite, so I’m probably eating half as much as usual. I’m also drinking at least five times as much water. So I feel like the heat wave is helping to flush out my system.

(4) As of our fifth rehearsal for the summer musical workshop, many problems were solved. It’s the first time that I think we all felt that we will actually meet our goal – and then some. The three part female harmonies are become slicker and more “angelic” in places. Most of all, I heard my lengthy four-movement piece “Awake the Dawn” performed from start to finish for the first time since having composed it in 2012. It brought a tear to my eye, because I never thought I would live to see the day.

(5) I provided guest music for a church service yesterday. During the service I felt the Lord’s peace, and He convinced me that I am forgiven. This meant more to me than even having to forgive myself – which in my case is much more difficult. I truly believe that this is not only a new day, but a new season. His blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Snippet from Sunday

I don’t usually do this sort of thing, but I want you guys to hear how these three female vocalists sound while SIGHT-READING the new introduction to my song “Ode to the Universe” from the 4th Draft EIB Vocal Score.  In no way had this been rehearsed prior to recording. Zazen, Keva and Karlie were reading their notes off the written score for the first time.  In fact, the three of them were singing together for the first time ever.

This thirty-second snippet reveals how the harmonic blend turned out — and well, you can hear it for yourself.   I’m getting a good feeling about this summer’s musical workshop — assuming we all survive the heat.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1562

(1) The more I think about it, the more I realize what a positive atmosphere we have here in our community at the Latah Recovery Center.   It seems that anyone coming from anywhere can expect to find support there as well as the opportunity to be supportive of others, no matter their personal struggles or journeys.   I know of no other place like it.

(2) On Thursday I attended an outdoor gathering, a discussion on critical race theory.  People seemed content to gather in a professor’s back yard, and there was wine and such.  Some very informed people made some very intelligent comments.  I mostly listened, as it was very informative.  Grateful to have been included among these interesting, academically inclined sorts of people.

(3) I must admit it’s nice to have my own place, where I can get up before sunrise, make my coffee, read interesting articles, hear the birds chirping outside my window, and watch the sun come up.  It’s nice to have my own desk and quietude in the mornings.

(4) All rehearsals have gone well, though as of the fourth such rehearsal some issues have clearly arisen. Mostly however this informs me what work I need to do on my own part.  The Kids for the most part are great.

(5) I resisted a big urge to go back to bed and waste the goodness of the good morning.   Instead I found myself having a breakfast bite at the nearby A&W — where also the coffee is good!  Today’s a good day to take things one step at a time.   It’s a beautiful new morning.

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.”
– Marcus Aurelius

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Gratitude List 1561

(1) Ran 4 miles on Thursday, did 21 push-ups that night (in two sets) and rode 18 miles on the bike out to WSU and back yesterday. I noticed a visible decrease in size on my Aloha video. Lately I’ve been succeeding both in exercising more and in eating less. The latter is very important, as one endeavors to become lighter in every way.

(2) The first two rehearsals of the summer musical workshop went very well. The second one was especially encouraging, involving all the men and Keva. The increase in advance preparation is benefitting us all, and I find that finally I am “in my element” as a vocal director for a musical play.

(3) I very much enjoyed the second regular meeting with Dr. Gier on Wednesday. He’s intelligent, perceptive, and supportive. I like his columns too, as the Palouse Pundit. He’ll also be attending a Thursday evening theology group along with myself and Kurt Q as well, on the subject of critical race theory. I’m honored to be asked to attend these events, where I always learn a great deal.

(4) Music I composed “in my head” in Berkeley is beginning to resurface, and often affix itself to more recently conceived themes. There may be a renaissance of such themes on my new piano videos – beginning with the Aloha to be honest — and proceeding to emerging themes that bear enhanced investigation. I also find myself exercising more creative writing skills, a welcome release from journalism.

(5) It’s 85F degrees even at nearly six in the evening. I may take a stroll in the cool of the evening, say around ten at night. But till then I am grateful to have a nice cool place of my own. That’s not always been the case — and I’m no stranger to the heat.

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Tuesday Tuneup 111

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater satisfaction.

Q. Do you feel unsatisfied?

A. This morning I do, yes.

Q. Why?

A. I’m not sure.   It may just be a Tuesday morning mood.

Q. Without basis?

A. Not entirely.   I’m dissatisfied with certain aspects of the way things are going, invariably related to behavioral patterns of mine that need to change.

Q. Like what?

A. I seem to often make blanket decisions when I am dissatisfied.   And later, I am dissatisfied with those decisions.

Q. Like what?

A. A while back I decided to stop posting piano pieces on Fridays, at least for a while.   In my heart, I felt a huge desire not to post any further piano pieces at all, to be honest.   This is a “blanket” decision.  It’s black and white.   It goes against the gray areas that comprise reality.

Q. What else?

A. I recently decided to stop writing about homelessness.

Q. Why?

A. Because I was dissatisfied with it.

Q. Why?

A. It’s not objective.  It’s emotional.  It derives from subjective personal experience.   It relates more to my own personality than it does to any concrete statement about society.

Q. Are you sure about that?

A. Yes.

Q. But can’t you do anything to change this for the better?

A. I probably could.  I recall reading yesterday the last words of Romans 12:

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

Q. How do these words apply to you?

A. I get overcome by “evil.”  I post piano youtubes and look at them in disgust.  For one thing, I never seem to be able to lose enough weight to look thin or healthy enough to satisfy me.  For another thing, I never seem to get it together to obtain new clothes or an interesting wardrobe.

Q. Why is this?

A. I think my priorities are screwed up.

Q. So you are dissatisfied with your priorities?

A. Yes.   They need to change.

Q. Let me see here.  If you don’t prioritize writing about homelessness, and you don’t prioritize playing the piano, what will you prioritize?

A. The answer is at the end of Matthew Six.   Surely you know this!

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God — and His righteousness — and the rest will be added unto thee.”

Q. Have you not been seeking first the kingdom of God?

A. Not always, and not lately.

Q. What have you been seeking first instead?

A. Isn’t it obvious?

Q. I don’t know – is it?

A. Obviously, my first order of business is to seek the production of my musical.   This is the real reason why I am tired of writing about homelessness, and tired of playing piano solos on my youtube channel.   They take so much energy, they take away from the energy I feel I need to put into my musical, in order to get it produced.

Q. But if you were to seek first the kingdom of God, what does that mean exactly?   What would it entail?

A. It means putting God first.   Serving others — not self.   Finding out what He wants me to do — and doing it.  Not just doing what *I* want to do, at the expense of helping others.

Q. But won’t your musical help others?

A. Not if it’s my first priority, it won’t.   I’ll become so obsessed with the musical, it will override all other concerns.   Not just the piano.   Not just the journalism.   But everything!   I will cease to eat.  I will disdain sleep.   My house will deteriorate into a filthy mess.  I won’t lay hands on a vaccum cleaner, for fear of taking precious time away from working on my musical.

Q. And then what?

A. Then something will go wrong.  Terribly wrong.   And I will be tempted to drown my sorrows.

Q. As in drink?

A. I do not drink.  There are other ways for one to drown one’s sorrows.   Unfortunately, these ways are illegal in the State of Idaho, though I notice they are legal in adjacent States.

Q. When was the last time you drowned your sorrows?

A. It was right after the close of the Pandemic Workshop.   I had thought we were ascending to higher heights.  I had thought everything was expanding.  And then — suddenly — everything collapsed.

Q. Are you to blame for this?

A. Not entirely.  But I do know that I failed to seek first the kingdom.   I was seeking first the expanding production of the musical.   And then, seemingly at that moment, it ceased to expand — but rather contracted.

Q. Have you learned from this?

A. Yes!  I am doing everything I can to make sure it doesn’t happen this summer.

Q. But you still feel that your priorities are screwed up?

A. Dude!   When was the last time I washed the dishes??

Q. What can you do about all this?

A. Just what the Bible says.  It must become more important for me to be of service to the people around me, than it is for me to produce my musical.

Q. How can you better be of service to the people around you?

A. What I have to give to them, to offer them, needs to become more important than what I think they should be offering me.

Q. Does this apply to any group of people in particular?

A. It applies to all people — of course.

Q. But aren’t you thinking about a specific group of people right now?

A. Of course I am.

Q. Then isn’t that a part of the problem?   Why should that single group of people be more important than any other group of people?

A. They shouldn’t be — it’s just that — they’re the people I am called to serve . . .

Q. Called to serve?

A. That’s an interesting expression.   Not sure why it came out of me.

Q. Are you beginning to rethink the situation?

A.  Somewhat, yes.

Q. How so?

A. It cannot be denied that the Lord does put certain people into our lives for certain reasons.   Undeniably, we are called to serve those people.   That’s what love is.

Q. Do you feel that you are unloving?

A. By nature, yes.  But I’m not so bad off that the situation cannot be remedied.

Q. So you have found the problem?

A. Yes.  I have found the problem, and the problem is me.

Q. Anything else I can do for you?

A. See me next week.   Let’s pursue this theme further.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 1560

(1) I’m up to three miles now running on Paradise Path.   I’m moving faster and more breezily through life, and people tell me I look thinner.

(2) I finished the Vocal Score on Friday, formatted more neatly than earlier.   It encompasses everything that was learned during the Pandemic Workshop.   I must say I am grateful to Karlie for proofreading it and to Kathy the church secretary for coil-binding ten copies of it on her last day of work before retiring.   Also grateful for all the Kids who helped me to refine it during the workshop.

(3) In a period of eleven days, I raised over $1500 toward honoraria for the summer workshop.   This is the first time I’ve conducted a fundraiser that has actually succeeded.   Grateful for the show of support from those who contributed, and the very encouraging words that they wrote.

(4) A publisher in White Plains MI has agreed to publish an anthology involving much of what I’ve written about homelessness in the past five years.   I’m in the process of organizing it all in .docx format.  Grateful not to have to mess with self-publishing and all that, glad someone’s interested.

(5) Slept six hours last night from 8:40pm to 2:40am, deep REM sleep with vivid dreams.  Woke up and read Romans 12, which is always inspiring.  Then my daughter came on Messenger as she was just going to bed.  A very nice way to start the morning.   Birds are chirping, the sky will soon be light.   God is Good.

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The Wide Wide World of Homelessness

I recently reconnected with the kindhearted person who assisted me in July 2016 by blessing me with a one way ticket out of California.  When I first got up to Idaho, this person suggested that, while I ought to write and give talks about homelessness, I ought to wait five years first. After five years, he suggested, I would be more objective.

Coming Full Circle

As it turns out, he was right. Five years have just about passed, and I find myself to be considerably more objective. As a result, I am objective enough to have realized that in the past five years I have submitted column after column about homelessness, most of my words falling on deaf ears, while my stress level constantly increases and I make almost next to nothing off of these columns financially.  In short, it’s reached a point of diminishing returns.  And that’s fine with me. I have already said, in many blog posts and speeches throughout the past five years, everything that I have needed to say.

So I have decided to submit one last post about homeless rights activism before the Far-Left ideologues in Portland spread their “houseless” euphemism all over the nation, as if the change of wording does anything whatsoever to dignify the homeless experience. They influenced impressionable young people and used language such as “We will forgive you if you can’t make the switch right away. Positive change takes time.”

Note use of the word “forgive.” This puts in the young person’s brain the notion that it is a moral error, that they did something “wrong” by using the word “homeless” instead of “houseless,” for which they needed to be “forgiven.”

Now I will openly admit that I lean a little bit to the Left these days.   But the tactics of these ivory tower ideologues are so insidious, they remind me of the fact that liberal social workers in Berkeley treated me like less like a human being and more like a “number” than even random conservative cops who stopped to question me.

Cops treated me like a human being. Liberal social workers, with whose politics I might have otherwise agreed, treated me like a round peg they were trying to cram into a square hole. To them, my Social Security Number was more important than my name.

But I need to add that my “lived experience” is subjective.   For example, I was old enough and wise enough to know that, when a cop approaches, it is best to be cordial and conciliatory.   A lot of the younger homeless people immediately became defiant on approach of a police officer.  Of course the cop would be nicer to me in that event, than to them.

Being as my lived experience is admittedly subjective, to what degree can I possibly represent the vast array of homeless people, in all their diversity and variety?

Anyway, before these verbal hygienists succeed in getting Homeless Rights Activism changed to Houseless Rights Activism, I am going to go my way. My feeling is that the likelihood that that the human rights of homeless people will ever be validated, and the homeless experience will ever be dignified as a legitimate way of life, is so depressingly slim, why am I bothering any further?   I’ve said all there is to say, and no one involved either in homeless services or homeless rights is listening.

My buddies in Berkeley tell me that only the youngsters are saying “houseless.” Gee it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that one out!   And of course, everyone who is outside simply says “outside.”  It happened just the other day.   A friend of mine who has long hair and a beard was sitting with me on a bench in the woods by Paradise Path.   A guy rode up on a bicycle asking if we knew “Robert” or “Jeremy.”

“Are they outside?” I asked.

“Yeah, they’re outside.”

The whole way that people don’t listen to a person who has actually been homeless is all part of the fact that homeless people are not acknowledged as full human beings. I felt it for years. I was a not a person. I was a homeless person.

Letting Go of the Past

In order to put it all the past, don’t you think I have to put it all in the past? I allude to PTSD and balk at ever discussing the initial traumatic event. I told my best friend on the streets, a black guy named Jerome, and he said: “Do me a favor. Do not ever tell that story to anyone again.”

I started to tell my best female friend Lauren and she shouted: “STOP! STOP!” In this twisted society, you just can’t talk about the thing you most need to talk about.

I’m through! I’ve said it all except for one thing, and I’ll say it today:

Homeless Rights Activists in Berkeley advocated for the “rights” of career criminals committing heinous crimes who should have been behind bars. They didn’t distinguish who was a criminal from who was not, because they were so hung up on noticing who was “sober” and who was not. As if a sober person can’t commit a crime, and is if many people with drug problems are not perfectly decent people who simply have serious problems.

Similarly, those of us who were not criminally inclined were treated like criminals by Left-leaning social workers, like this one guy who had a van and drove around delivering socks and other self-care items to the homeless. In our conversations, it was almost assumed that I should be a criminal. I was encouraged to do gnarly things that violated my Christian moral code.

There is another thing I must add.   The reason why homeless rights activists were focused on how “sober” a person was (as opposed to being drunk or, more likely, on drugs) was because they equated homelessness with drug addiction, as though the two were synonymous.

Also, if someone developed a drug problem, it was assumed that it was the drug problem that led to their becoming homeless, and not the other way around.  If a homeless person told them the truth about where the drug problem began, they assumed that the homeless person was lying.   The idea that, surrounded by drug abuse year after year, a straight-laced Christian-type guy might eventually become drug-addicted, was not accepted as factual, even when it was the truth.

It was all part and parcel of the way that the social workers dehumanized and undignified us.  And now, since homeless/houseless rights activism has been co-opted by the Far Left, there really isn’t much room for truth.

Let Your Eye Be Single

So —  that’s all I have left to say. I’m through. I’m done! I am only a piano player, and that is the only person whom I want to be. I’m tired of losing sleep at night over all the ridiculous crap I have to contend with in order to maintain my stance among all these people.

Tired of spreading myself thin. It’s ungodly. Jesus said: “Whoever is not for me is against me; and whoever does not gather with me, scatters.” Why am I scattering myself? I have a job to do. I have a musical to produce.

Jesus said: “If your eye be single, then your whole body is full of light. But if your eye be evil, than your whole body will be full of darkness — and how great is that darkness!”

These are stern words. I would prefer to heed them. There is a chance — an outside chance, perhaps – then when Eden in Babylon is produced, people will kinda “get it.” They’ll get what it’s actually like, or at least what a cross section of the Wide Wide World of Homelessness is like. They might leave the theatre, merely entertained. Or they might have learned something.

That alone is a noble enough goal. I spoke with someone last night who said: “You are not only a piano player — you are also an excellent writer!” I felt like retorting: “Have you ever heard me play the piano?  No you haven’t.   Are you going to hear me play the piano, and then tell me I should be a writer?”

I don’t have the power to direct the course of my life from here. In my book, I would get the show produced, become a total recluse in some far-off land, collect royalties, and play my piano till the day I die. But let’s face it. My book is not God’s book – and it never can be.

So when I say “there is no way,” maybe there actually is a way. With us mere mortals, it is impossible. With God, all things are possible.

Matthew 12:30, Matthew 6:22-23, Mark 10:27.

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Expect the Best

Kelsey and I talked this one through two days ago. Since then, another person from the previous workshop has signed on for the summer workshop, and more money has been raised for summer honoraria. It’s a challenging time in the history of this planet — but there’s more hope than we know. Kelsey Chapman and Andy Pope do the talking on May 24, 2021.

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Gratitude List 1558

(1) I’ve started running again after a lengthy lull.  I seem to be more dedicated, and I’ve already done three two mile runs – Monday, Wednesday and Friday of last week.   Also did 17 push-ups today (though in two sets, 7 in the first and 10 in the second.)  Tonight after work I plan on doing three miles, and taking it from there.  I feel more motivated these days in general — and I’m grateful.

(2) I’m loving my new job so far.  I’m on the 4-8pm shift now, having had three Zoom meetings today before four.   I finally feel like I’m doing something for the community (other than to try to keep getting everybody to produce my musical.)

(3) Kelsey and I met this morning on Zoom for an hour and fifteen minutes.  I believe I can trim it down to a half hour podcast for Wednesday.  We appear to be on the same page about the summer workshop and about the imminent completion of final stages of the project.  For this and other reasons, I’m getting a really good feeling about the Summer of 2021.

(4) All you have to do is click here to see the phenomenal progress that has been made in the past two days toward reaching our goal of having all money for honoraria for the summer workshop secured by July 9.   This is the first time in my life that I’ve organized a fundraiser that actually looks as though it stands a chance of succeeding!

(5) Best news of all: I have been reconciled with a dear friend of many years whom I thought I would never see again.  We had a falling out in 2013 over something rather trite, and I ought never to have overreacted to his words the way I did.  We met for an hour on Zoom today, and our friendship is reinstated.  I am grateful that, among many broken relationships, at least one very meaningful one has been mended.   Grateful for my good friend Phil.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting our trespasses against us. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”  — 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

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Gratitude List 1556

1) Though we’re rapidly returning to real-life settings in these parts, I am thankful for the experience of Zoom and for the Zoom meetings I will continue to enjoy.  I imagine this would include my weekly Monday afternoon meeting with Kurt the linguistics expert.  Although it hasn’t happened yet, I always enjoy it, and usually learn new things.

(2) I’m thankful for all the professors I met in the two theology groups I discovered a while back.  On Thursday I met with Nick, a professor emeritus of philosophy who was the director of religious studies at the University here.  We had a wonderful conversation, in which he expressed his interest in my musical as well as theology.   I’m thankful he’d listened to Talking Shop Part Seven and Reaching for Your Hand, because he had useful observations as well as encouraging things to say.

(3) In the past year and a half, it seems that a niche has been prepared for me in the local journalism community.   I now count 22 columns I’ve had published in Spokane Faith and Values, where I’ve met numerous journalists with whom I am able to network.  Also thankful for all the local journalists I’ve met here in town, and at the University.

(4) Keva and I met again on Sunday.  We dd a new recording of “Reaching for Your Hand” in which we used two iPhones spaced strategically in different spots near singer and piano.   I’m in the process of mixing it down for my SoundCloud.   We also did a video of a song I wrote called “I Am the Blues.”  On examining her work closely, I told Keva she should feel free to interpret my songs as she chooses.  She does have that power, that gift.

(5) I’ve been meeting one to one with people who are interested in reinstating a musical workshop for the summer.  It won’t be the same exact team, but I am encouraged by the genuine interest and enthusiasm I am finding in those with whom I meet.  It’s been wonderful to have slowly realized in recent months that I am not the only person who enjoys working on my musical.   It’s been wonderful overall to have gradually discovered that I am no longer isolated, no longer alone.

“I realized if you can change a classroom, you can change a community, and if you change enough communities you can change the world.”
   — Erin Gruwell

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Gratitude List 1554

(1) It’s been great getting to sit in the café lately, where a number of people have told me I look more relaxed and healthy than ever before. Funny too, because I haven’t been running and I think I’m fat. But if I transcend the personal perception of potbelly, I can be thankful for the compliment.

(2) Just sold a Pensive CD for $15 on the site. Thankful for my first sale.

(3) Looking forward to meeting with Kurt the retired linguistics professor this afternoon at 3:30 as usual on Zoom.  I continue to be grateful for the ongoing search for knowledge and purpose that I have found here on WordPress, as well as in my University community, among all the scholars whom I’ve been privileged to meet.

(4) Keva did an amazing job on both of those songs yesterday.   We’re planning to do another version of “Reaching for Your Hand” once she doesn’t have to read it off of her phone, but even so, it’s the best anyone I know has ever sung that song — out of many singers, over the years.  I’m grateful for Keva as well as for all the other young performing artists who recently have shown an interest in my work.

(5) Beautiful day, cool and breezy.   Nice running weather.  I may be a slouch but I am grateful I have two strong legs and two long lungs.   They’ve come in handy, here and there, throughout life.

“Education is not the filling of a pot but the lighting of a fire.”
— W.B. Yeats”

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Authenticity and Community

To start off this Thursday’s post, I’m going to spin off of something I wrote last week:  

“What is being brought to light in the podcasts is how, when we were homeless, we were not in the position to be able to distinguish, among all the authority figures and “pseudo-authorities” in our midst, who were the ones who represented benign agencies whose role it was to assist us, and who were the ones who represented more-or-less adversarial institutions designed to investigate and incriminate us. All these “higher ups” were relegated into the box of our “observers from inside” – and thus it was difficult to distinguish them, one from another.

“In a corresponding way, it was difficult for those who lived indoors to discern from among those who were outside who was a legitimate candidate for genuine assistance, and who was of a criminal bent.   Those in the latter camp often feigned a need for assistance in order to gain benefits.  They were also often very good at it.  Whatever the case, I can assure you that I didn’t look much different than any other person on the streets — at least not at first glance.”

Having become homeless, I was dealing with this dynamic from the start.  Add to this the conditions under which the homelessness began; that is, that I had been subjected to a costly medical misdiagnosis that at first I embraced naively, only later to find myself headed for the streets.  The further I fell, the more it appeared that people in the medical profession were assuming authority over me.  This in fact was indicative of a greater phenomenon:  The further one descended down the socio-economic scale, the more people began to exert power and authority over that person.  The lower I got, the higher became the number of “pseudo-authorities.”  As more and more people seemed to grab power over me, I literally felt myself losing my last shreds of personal power–losing my value to society–as I became homeless.

The more people assumed authority over me, the more I rebelled against them.  After all, they did not know me personally and made no effort to engage me meaningfully.  What authority qualified them to boss me around?  Why should this particular batch of emerging new people, eminently random in my span of life experience, be the ones to whom I hold myself accountable?   In the case of the medical professionals in particular, I not only ceased to hold myself accountable to them, but I went so far as to address them from an adversarial stance, sometimes even a hostile one.  For it was they who had, in my view, initiated my demise. 

Abuse of Authority

The absolute audacity!  The very sort of people whom I thought should be held accountable for my downfall were now in a position of supposed authority over me!  They lived indoors; they had jobs with responsibilities and tenure; they wore badges.  Mental health professionals did not differ much from security guards in their approach toward us, when we were homeless.   Nor did we ourselves hold any particularly greater degree of respect for them than we did for anyone else who wore a badge.  

While my previous relationship with my psychiatrist had ordinarily been pleasant as well as at least potentially helpful, my new position with respect to mental health professionals was clearly one of assumed subordination.  Earlier, when I lived indoors and paid into my Kaiser health-insurance, I was happy to discuss life with my psychiatrist and more than willing to take her suggestions, since I felt she and I were on an even playing field.   But now, mental health officials often showed up in cahoots with police officers and fire department personnel, in a scenario where the badges even of emergency medical technicians seemed no less intimidating than those of the chief executive officers of major corporate hospitals.  The idea that any of these detached pseudo-authorities should even care to get to know me personally, let alone that I should be expected to blindly obey their uninformed commands, was absurd.   There was no reasonable choice other than to rebel.  

It was with such biases weighing upon me that I found myself eager to give musical and dramatic form to my emerging worldview.   For one thing, the season of life was quite exciting.  I was meeting other men and women who had fallen into the same predicament, and their views coincided closely with my own.  In fact, our perceptions began to build and feed upon each other.  Before long, I found myself overtaken by an alternate view of reality.  It was as though I had become a member of an alternative society, formed by the interactions that entailed among myself and others, as we all set out to interpret what had befallen us in a way that made mutual sense.

It was in such an atmosphere that I naturally conceived of the musical that was to become Eden in Babylon.  I felt an eagerness to use my particular skills to hone a medium through which a picture of youth homelessness in urban America could be presented.   Naturally, the Kids in the story would hang together and be protective of one another, in an environment where they were constantly having orders barked at them by desensitized pseudo-officials.  In such a scenario, an idealistic protagonist who finds himself subjected to brutal torture on the part of the “powers that be” in a psychiatric facility seemed to fit right in.

A New Life

Fast forward about ten years, and we find the playwright in a quiet college town in North Idaho, having not only lived inside for almost five years now, but actually having become acclimated to an accepting community of artists and academicians.  In the process, I cannot help but have gradually embraced some of the details of functioning in a healthy indoor community that, when I was outside, I would have shunned as “mainstream.”  The same system of tacitly acknowledged social conventions that I disdained when I was outside now appears at worst to be a necessary evil, and at best a convenience designed to make life easier on myself and on the others with whom I come into contact.

In such a markedly different culture, the thought of finding a compatible doctor and therapist, and of exploring medications that might assist in adapting to the established social norms, does not seem very far-fetched at all.   There is at least a tangible ideal of connecting meaningfully with mental health professionals who may assist me along my path.  Before, it was like, “get him in, give him some meds, get him out of here.”  I’d be ejected from the system turnstile just in time to have all my new meds stolen out of my backpack in a food line.

But it is not only my position with respect to medical professionals that has changed.  If something unruly is taking place in the neighborhood, I am confident that I can call the local cops, give them my name, receive their assistance, and be regarded as a responsible citizen in the process.  This would not have been the case when I was homeless.  The menacing nature of all the “badges” has diminished since I’ve been back inside.  There appear to be fewer of them now, and the ones that there are no longer hover so high above me.  

Also significantly diminished is the sense of inexorable evil wrapped up in this entity we called the Mainstream.  No longer do I feel that there is this giant social ogre — the Mainstream — ready to expel me from all the blessings of indoor living if I don’t abide precisely by all its confusing restrictions and demands.   Because of this, I feel that the cry that was so often expressed by my homeless brothers and sisters has been heard in the affirmative.  “How can we get back inside without getting caught up again in the Mainstream?”  That was the perennial question.

Authenticity and Community 

The answer for me has been twofold.  I had to first agree with myself to be genuine and authentic in my approach toward others and toward life.  I had to be myself decidedly, and to believe in myself — otherwise I would construct from all my guise and façade the very Mainstream that I was trying to avoid.  Life would again become a game in which I had already proven myself a very poor player, and I would risk being cast outside once again.   

Secondly, I had to agree to give of myself to a community that I would serve and in which I would play a part.   Here in Moscow, I have found a supportive church group, I have volunteered at a recovery center where I have found an emotional support group, I have found artists and musicians committed to my work, and I participate in theology groups with professors from both of the nearby Universities.  This accountability – or connectivity – keeps me from the isolation that would occur if I were still setting myself as an entity separate from and almost opposed to the world — the natural iconoclasm that sets in when one becomes homeless.

Thus is found the construction of an authentic life within an authentic community.   This differs hugely from what I experienced for years before ever becoming homeless.  I remember on the Peninsula wondering if I had any friends among the many associates whom I classified as consisting of the “three C’s” — clients, colleagues, and co-workers.   Many of my associations were contractual, and more money was indeed made.  But few of my associations were truly meaningful.   In a sense, this experience of a threatening Mainstream that sought to devour my true identity was itself only a social construct, because it was composed of the consequences of my own hypocrisy.  All its many conventions and protocols were but a reflection of my own personal falsity.  

That ugly scepter need not return to rear its head, for it has been dissolved in the greater reality of authenticity and community.   And, as Kelsey Chapman pointed out in one of the podcasts, Eden in Babylon has evolved accordingly, in a way that parallels my own personal transformation.    According to Kelsey, earlier drafts evidenced a protagonist who himself stood separate from the culture with which he was concerned, and who felt a false sense of empowerment that he could fix the situation from a detached, single-handed position.  It’s possible I was a bit like that myself.  In any case, the new protagonist – the new Winston – is a person who, like his creator, now merges in an even way with his community. 

So the picture of the tortured Artist who ten years ago sat beneath a Starbucks awning in the dead of night while homeless, conceiving a scene in which his main character was subjected to torture in a psych ward, is no longer the prevailing picture.  The Artist is no longer tortured by same.

The workshop was more than a mere musical workshop, for it awakened the desire deeply driven into all of our Actors to display how each of their characters represented a greater principle at work in today’s society.  In that more holistic view, Eden in Babylon ceases to be a statement about the mental health industry or even about homelessness, for that matter.  It becomes a statement about classism — and how it fosters the abuse of authority and power — as seen through the eyes of those who lack power the most.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1552

(1) I was grateful to see that the little Greek gyros place on Main Street has opened up for indoor seating now, as long as people wear their masks when not seated.   Nice to see things returning to a semblance of normalcy.

(2) In the past couple days I’ve been blessed to accomplish much more reading than usual, by way of research.  Among other things, I read all kinds of information related to the “social construction of reality,” culminating in this excellent 14-minute video.  All of this is turning out to be very useful in the blog sequel I’m slowly composing for Thursday.

(3) Gorgeous clear day today, having gotten up to 48F degrees already, though it was 26F when I first awoke in the morning.   Doppio at the cafe makes me want to walk vigorously, like I did yesterday, four miles.

(4) Grateful for this A&W being so close to my house, because it has really fast Wi-Fi and they don’t mind me sitting in here for a while.   Good coffee, too.   A nice place to take my new laptop after an afternoon nap.

(5) I’m really grateful for Kelsey, because she is such a grounding force in the project, both conceptually, and in terms of providing a bridge between me and the younger actors.  It’s been wonderful working with her on the deeper themes during these podcasts.  Grateful for Cody & Keva and the others who remain enthused.  Their spirit is helping to sustain a feeling that I’m not in this thing alone.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
   –Will Durant

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1551

(1) Going to meet with Keva this Sunday and do some singing and maybe more recording – not necessarily all stuff from the show.   Grateful for the connection.  Just because the workshop is over, it doesn’t have to end.

(2) An idea for a new column came to me out of the blue this morning.   Grateful to have been given something new and interesting to focus on at this time.

(3) New Lenovo arrived from Office Depot.   Great computer, never read a bad review, got $220 off on the deal, everything appears to be working perfectly.

(4) I really like this town cafe, which they expanded during the pandemic.   Takes up a whole block now with two new sections, including a beer and wine bar for after hours.   Looking forward to settling into a new phase of working quietly from here — gotta finish the 4th draft vocal score, and finally begin the piano score (having left the hardest part till last.)  Then the show will be ready for whoever.

(5) And I can move on.   It’s weird when change is “trying to happen.”  It feels so awkward needing to navigate new territory.   But change is necessary — I just have to keep trusting in the One who does not change.

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1549

(1) Exercise appears to have been reinstated, with corresponding weight loss in the works.   I ran 2 1/2 miles three days ago, walked four miles briskly the day after, and eight whole miles yesterday – though it was only brisk throughout the first four miles thereof.   Though innervated today, I’m confident I’ll have a good run tomorrow morning.

(2) Working on the 5th and final column of my five-part series for Spokane Faith and Values.   This one should drive the point home.   I’m grateful for the opportunity to have aired this particular viewpoint, at this time.

(3) Beautiful weather we’ve been having lately, which made the walk up and down the hills circling campus very pleasant yesterday, as well as quite brisk on the uphill at the start.   Today’s a shade on the cloudy side, but I like it a lot.   Reminds me of San Francisco.

(4) We closed out our pandemic-based Eden in Babylon workshop yesterday, with tears of joy and thanksgiving on my part.  I’m deeply moved that these people seemed to show up out of nowhere — talented, dedicated singer/actors, who helped me more than they know.   We also recorded three more songs — “Midnight Screams,” “Daylight,” and “The Urban Elegy” — with piano, singing and professional sound design on the part of Liam Marchant.   The band will keep rehearsing every Monday indefinitely, but outside of further future podcasts that Kelsey Chapman and I are planning, the involvement of the singer/actors is formally complete.   The whole having been uniquely beautiful, I’m sure we’ll all stay in touch.

(5) I finished the new version of the script on March 12th, the first revision since December 21st, incorporating everything we learned in the workshop, and then some.   I’m standing on new ground spiritually, and thankful, and taking heed lest I fall.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Talking Shop, Part Three

Here’s the sequel to Talking Shop, Part Two, in which the character known as Winston Greene is further explored.  This time we talk about how the misconception that a person of Winston’s considerable privilege ought to be a rescuer of those not so endowed is no longer applicable to the kind of person that Winston has become.   14 minutes w/intro & well worth a listen imo.   Some of it may be a bit esoteric — but you can always buzz me with any questions.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1548

(1) A lady from my church came over two days in a row, helped me clean the house, and showed me how to fix the toilet too. I learned all kinds of things about housecleaning that my own mother never taught me. As a result, I’m enthused about maintaining a nicer, cleaner place.

(2) After wrangling over it for three days in a spirit of merciless self-criticism, I have completed the first draft of my fourth column for the five-week series on Spokane Faith and Values. I submitted it to Kurt, the retired linguistics professor (and the man with the beret whom you see in Microcosm.) His edits on my second column were very helpful, and I look forward to more of the same.

(3) Looks like I’m losing weight again.  Haven’t been running so much, but have been enjoying long brisk walks in the morning and at night.  I use them as a time for prayer and reflection.  They also help to deflect the fact that I’ve got a lot of food in my cupboard these days, and that I’ve a tendency to munch.  Grateful, however, not to be going without.

(4) Mixes are starting to come in from our studio session Sunday before last.   New versions of “Hunted,” “Oracle,” and “Turns Toward Dawn” are available.   The last of these three clips is by far the best, earning us a wonderful commendation from the head of the jazz department at the Conservatory.   

(5) Our church met indoors for the first time yesterday.   We still wore masks and social-distanced.  It was well-coordinated and well-attended, and it made me feel warm inside.   I keep getting a sense that something really positive is in the works.  I can’t quite put my finger on it — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t real.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Talking Shop, Part Two

In this sequel to Talking Shop, Part One, the character of Winston Greene — the protagonist in the new musical Eden in Babylon — is explored.   Three of us involved in our ongoing workshop of this production express how Winston acts as a “shield of protection” for those of his chosen tribe.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

“Turns Toward Dawn” (Studio Version)

“Turns Toward Dawn” — Studio Version. Recorded (along with five other songs) on Cooper Knutson’s last day, serving as the main character, Winston Greene, in our ongoing Eden in Babylon workshop. Cooper Knutson and Keva Shull, vocals. Andy Pope, piano. Sound design by Liam Robert Marchant. I am at this stage nothing but proud of everyone involved. The world has yet to hear a better “Turns Toward Dawn” than this.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1655

(1) Just got the second dose of the Moderna vaccine, about two hours ago.   Fulfilled my civic duty, and we’ll see what happens.  No fluish symptoms as of yet.  Grateful for this leap onto what will hopefully be a new and better stage.   

(2) Walking into the cafe, signs of new beginnings are in the air.   People wearing masks appear to be smiling.  Customers are less isolated and more chatty.   Had a couple meaningful conversations with strangers — two ladies I’d not seen before — who gave two different accounts about reactions to their vaccinations.   Sat down in my favorite venue and composed this gratitude list.   God has been good to me today.

(3) Got a nice compliment on Bridging the Gap from a staff member of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival (AKA Ashland) — someone whom I haven’t talked to since 2004 (ironically, the year most referenced in the audio cast.)   After dispelling the immediate fantasies that Eden in Babylon might be produced at Ashland, I realized that two people who usually don’t comment have made appreciative remarks toward that single talk.   That means it’s probably useful, and I pinned it to my Twitter profile.   Glad I dug it up — hope it helps.   

(4) Because yesterday was Cooper’s last day, we recorded five of his songs back to back in the sanctuary.  Liam engineered the recordings and will have them ready, he says, by Thursday.   All were done with piano only, and most included five back-up singers from the team.    Though it’s difficult to lose Cooper, I’m grateful we used his last day wisely.   (Besides, you never know — he might come back someday.)

(5) Yes – definitely – new beginnings are in the air.   I can feel it.   It’s all around me.   It’s a beautiful day in the city of my birth.   I am somehow where I’m meant to be — where I belong — for now.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Talking Shop, Part One

This Wednesday’s podcast is an excerpt from a long conversation involving myself, Kelsey Chapman our Artistic Director, and Cooper Knutson our male lead in the ongoing workshop of my new musical Eden in Babylon.   If you’re interested in my personal story involving wealth, poverty, and homelessness, you probably don’t want to miss this one.   Toward the end, it fades after revealing the connection between my own story and that of the main character in the musical drama, whose name is Winston Greene.  

The song referenced by Cooper, called “Hunted,” involves Winston’s arrest in the second Act, which precedes his attempted assassination.  An instrumental version of it may be found here.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.