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.

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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.

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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.

Gratitude List 1654

(1) Taking a week off from EIB rehearsals was just about the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time. I caught up on my sleep as well as on reading and housecleaning. Was also able to devote more time to my daughter and to my friends. Grateful for the power of rest.

(2) The first column in the five week series is beginning to take off, surprisingly enough. Though the essential message — having to do with stigma — is a challenge to articulate, I have confidence that after five weekly columns, I’ll have gotten the point across. Grateful for the opportunity.

(3) I’ve sold five new From a Distance piano albums already. Taking the cash bit by bit to the Dollar Store for groceries is reminiscent of a former time of thrift, when all throughout the 90’s I took my tip money four nights a week to a Lucky grocery store after getting off my regular gig at Gulliver’s Restaurant. Never had a food bill in those days, never had to go to a food bank, never went hungry.

(4) I was a new man when I arrived at the recording session yesterday. The spirit of professionalism was striking, and we nailed “Turns Toward Dawn” on the 3rd take. The way that Liam and Cody work together, both with expertise in their respective fields, neither having known the other before a few short weeks ago, is beyond impressive. After the session, we ran “Oracle.” This was the first time I’ve accompanied it since Cody took over teaching the choral parts, and it rocked. I was blessed — I was jazzed — I was proud.

(5) Grateful for my church, where I’ve been a member now for over 4 1/2 years. They have supported me in my best and put up with me in my worst. Very thankful for my new life in Idaho, after years of struggling on the San Francisco Bay Area streets.

Don’t lose faith. Promise yourself that you will be a success story, and I promise you that all the forces of the universe will unite to come to your aid; you might not feel it today or for a while, but the longer you wait the bigger the prize.   — George Bernard Shaw  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1652

(1) Health and self-care have been distinctly better since having finally finished a very challenging and unanticipated task. Actually got eight hours sleep the night before last, and six hours last night. Starting to run again – did three miles in the snow with my NanoSpikes. Sat down to meditate thereafter, and though I slept through most of the twenty minutes, it still seemed beneficial.

(2) Finished the first column for the five-week series on Spokane Faith and Values. Completed a draft of the second column, which I’m about to edit and submit. Grateful for the opportunity.

(3) It was nice to hear my daughter introduce me to a friend of hers yesterday by saying: “This is my dad Andy.  He was on the streets for like thirteen years and now he’s a published journalist and widely respected, and they’re producing a musical he wrote about youth homelessness.”  (A bit hyperbolic on both ends, but still nice to hear.) Grateful for a daughter who is proud of me.

(4) Big night tonight, if Cooper doesn’t get snowed out on the mountainous 30 mile drive.  Five musicians and five singers are going to be gathering with sound engineer and all kinds of recording equipment, hopefully to record “Sirens of Hope” and “Turns Toward Dawn” before we lose Cooper to a lead in a TV series.   (Asking for prayer).  

(5) Observed a very restful Sabbath on Saturday, which no doubt contributed to the unprecedented eight hours of sleep.  One thing I did do was fix the ending to Desperado.  It was a labor of love as opposed to all the stressful stuff that constitutes “work” in our high-pressure, fast-paced society.  You might check it out — we all need to let Somebody love us — before it’s too late.

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, power and grace. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1651

(1) Finally got that huge project concerning the time signature change out of the way.  Even got inspired in the process and heard some cool three part harmonies in my head that I was able to add to the score.   The result is a 12-page combined vocal, bass and guitar score to my song The Word from Beyond.  I’m not only proud of my work, I am relieved and thankful to have finished it.

(2) Really enjoyed the Coffee Talk on Saturday morning. I always enjoy hearing the perspectives of all the religious journalists, and often more so, the atheists who are clearly freethinkers and untainted by dogmatic doctrine.

(3) One of the Kids came over and helped me clean up the house.  Got a jump start anyway – still gotta do the bathroom.  She sang while she worked, too.  Nice to have supportive people in my life.

(4) I agreed with my editor-in-chief to a five-week series on a certain theme, to begin on the 17th and run for five consecutive Wednesdays.   Also, my Hobo, Homeless or Houseless piece will be published this Wednesday.   So I get six in a row — this could lead to something even better.

(5) I hope you enjoy this rehearsal version of The Urban Elegy that we did yesterday.  It’s a rough recording, but the essence of the song is there.   You can hear the Wendt Brothers harmonies as well as solos by Zazen and Keva, and four part harmonies throughout.   I’m proud of these young Artists.  We’re all proud — and I’m grateful.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Tuesday Tuneup 100

Q. Where are you coming from?

A. What do you mean, where am I coming from?

Q. Just what I asked – where are you coming from?

A. Don’t you usually open with a different question?

Q. What do you mean?

A. Don’t you usually ask me: “what’s happening now?” on Tuesday mornings?

Q. Don’t you think it’s time we came up with a different opening question?

A. Come to think of it — now that you mention it – I was getting a little tired of that question.

Q. Why is that?

A. For one thing, I was running out of answers.   

Q. Do you like the new question?

A. Kinda.  I just think that if somebody’s passing by this morning, and they’ve never read one of my Tuesday Tuneups, they’re going to wonder what the heck we’re talking about.

Q. But can’t they just click on one of the three Tuesday Tuneups below and figure it out?

A. Sure — that is, if they care to.   Why should they not just surf off to some blog that makes more sense than this one?

Q. So what if they do?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Why should you care?

A. Good point.   It’s not as though I’m exactly into “collecting followers.”   WordPress tells me I’ve got almost 1000 by now, but I can guarantee you there are probably less than 100 who actually follow.  And I can only think of five or ten to whom this Tuneup will even be appreciable.   And even those people might be bored by now.

Q. Do you want to change the subject?

A. Kinda.

Q. What would you rather talk about?

A. Basically, I want to tell you where I’m coming from.  I never answered your first question in the first place.

Q. Well, where are you coming from?

A. Brain-dead. 

Q. Brain dead?

A. In a daze.

Q. Why’s that?

A. Oh – I busted my butt trying to get all this stuff done by last night.   By the time we had the first joint rehearsal of all the musicians and singers, the band had all their parts written in 4/4 swing and the singers were still working out of the book where the song was in 6/8.  This meant the measure numbers were different in both books.   It stretched the limits of my intellectual faculties trying to keep things moving.

Q. But wasn’t Cody in charge of the singers?

A. Cody was working with the singers in Room 33 using the Green Piano.  It’s a large room and the seven singers could social-distance there.  I was working with the band on the chancel in the sanctuary.  But since only three of the band members showed up, we decided to combine the two for the last half of rehearsal, because 7 + 3 = 10, which is the legal limit for a gathering under the city ordinance.

Q. And how did that go?

A. Well, outside of the conundrum I just tried to describe, it was wonderful.   With what Cody Wendt has done for our singers, combined with what the musicians from the School of Music are doing, I couldn’t be happier.   I hadn’t been sleeping well for stress of deadline and pressure..  But last night I conked out and slept the sweet sleep of the innocent.   Woke up a new man, although —

Q. Although brain-dead?

A. Not anymore!

Q. Why is that?

A. Good coffee.  And I’m going to put it to good use.

Q. How so?

A. You don’t know?  I gotta get those vocal parts into the right time signature!

Q. Aren’t you a bit imbalanced these days?

A. Well – duh!   That’s what happens when you have deadlines.   You let everything else go, you don’t clean the kitchen, you don’t clean the bathroom – you cram as if your life depending on it.

Q. And is this healthy?

A. Not at all.  It’s just modern life.

Q. What do you make of it?

A. In the ideal world, there would never be any deadlines, any pressures at all.  As I just told Lauren Sapala, I would work at my own pace, slowly and steadily, and not release my work until it was absolutely complete.

Q. Isn’t that called perfectionism?

A. Not in my book.  It only becomes perfectionism when you have to rush to meet a deadline.  So you turn in a half-done job, like I did last night, and when you whine about it, people call you a perfectionist.  If there were no deadlines, there would be no perfectionism.

Q. What would there be?

A. There would be a beautiful new world full of relaxed people who have time for each other and who don’t block other people out of their lives only because they have to meet a deadline.  We would all stop running The Marathon Race to Hell.  

The Questioner is silent.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1649

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

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

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

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

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Take Two

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1647

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

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

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

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

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Christmas Offerings from the Team

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

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

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Tuesday Tuneup 97

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Disruption.

Q. Disruption of what?

A. Of the natural flow of things.

Q. What is the natural flow of things?

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

Q. Why do you ask why I ask?

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

Q. I don’t know.  Do they?

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

Q. Well how has it been disrupted?

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

Q. Musicians?

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

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

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

Q. What type of people are they?

A. They’re musical theatre people.

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

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

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

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

Q. But isn’t all the world a stage?

A. Maybe.

Q. Don’t musicians also perform on stages?

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

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

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

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

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

Q. Why not?

A. Past experiences.

Q. What kinds of experiences?

A. Late nights.

Q. You don’t care for the night life?

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

Q. You think your musicians are on drugs?

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

Q. Are you afraid of musicians?

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

Q. Why?

A. Intimidated.

Q. Why?

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

Q. What do they have?

A. They have —

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

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

Q. Too good for you?

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

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

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

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

A. Uh –

Q. Are you paying these cats?

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

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

A. I don’t know.

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

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

 The Questioner is silent.  

Gratitude List 1643

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

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

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

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

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

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What Child Is This?

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



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Wendt Brothers YouTube Channel 

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Gratitude List 1642

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

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

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

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

Capture

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

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Tuesday Tuneup 96

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Disorientation.

Q. How so?

A. Thrown off.

Q. Thrown off track?

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

Q. Well, what happened?

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

Q. Why did you go there?

A. Because I had left my glasses there.

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

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

Q. Why not?

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

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

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

Q. What did you do then?

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

Q. How did that feel?

A. Weird.

Q. Why?

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

Q. Does that happen often?

A. Not as often as it used to.

Q. Why not?

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

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

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

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

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

Q. A couple musicals?

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

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

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

Q. The laws?

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

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

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

Q. Have you always obeyed the laws?

A. No I have not.

Q. Do you always obey the laws nowadays?

A. Yes I do.

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

A. That’s a very good question.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1641

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Secrets

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

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