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 such 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.

Gratitude List 1796

(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.

Gratitude List 1571

(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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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”

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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  

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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

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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.

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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.  

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Gratitude List 1649

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

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

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

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

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

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Take Two

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

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