Turns Toward Dawn

Cooper Knutson and Keva Shull singing the song “Turns Toward Dawn” from the new musical Eden in Babylon at a rehearsal this past Tuesday afternoon.   I’m on the Baldwin GP-190 concert grand, and we used one “snowball” mike, situated approximately twelve feet away from the piano, with the two of them standing six feet apart on either end.   It’s raw and real — I hope you enjoy it.   

Andy Pope · Turns Toward Dawn

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Keva’s Song

This morning I’d like to present a one minute audition video recently created by Keva Shull who is playing the female lead Taura in the current workshop of my musical Eden in Babylon. Keva had approached me earlier in the year when I’d offered to tutor Music Theory and Composition and Creative Writing of Fiction over Zoom as the pandemic first put us into quarantine.

It turned out that she had written a musical about the stigma surrounding mental health disorders. I naturally asked her how she chose me of all people, because I have written a musical about mental health conditions myself (my earlier musical, The Burden of Eden.)

Must have been meant to be. I eventually cast Keva in the leading role.  As you can see and hear today, I am very happy to have done so.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Members of the Team

At this time, I thought you might like to see some work from a couple of the very talented young people whom I am so fortunate to be working with on my musical project. Here is Keva Shull, currently playing the part of Taura, the ingenue in my new musical, Eden in Babylon.

And here we have Cody Wendt, the man on the right hand side of the piano he shares with his brother Ian on the left.  Cody is playing the part of Benzo, one of the antagonistic characters in the show.  He and his brother do an enchanting rendition of “Scarborough Fair.”

If you’re interested in hearing other piano reductions of the musical score, I’ve placed them on a shareable link on my Box drive. These are primarily for the purpose of helping cast members learn the music, but you might find them enjoyable all the same.

Other news is that we have finally found a male lead for our emerging production. I’m eager to begin working with Cooper Knutson, who has been recommended very highly by a number of people in the area. Further information is on our Facebook group. Hope you all are gaining encouragement from our group effort, at this trying time in human history.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Tuesday Tuneup 73

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Conviction.

Q. You’ve been convicted of a crime?

A. Not that kind of conviction.

Q. What kind, then?

A. Spiritual conviction.

Q. Can you elaborate?

A. I’m convicted!  Does the word mean nothing to you?

Q. Why should it?

A. Weren’t you around during the 80’s?

Q. What happened during the 80’s?

A. There was a massive movement throughout America, I guess it started in the late 70’s.  35% of Americans began identifying themselves as “born again Christian” — and they were markedly more conservative than the average voter.

Q. What’s this got to do with conviction?

A. It became Christian slang for a person to say there were “convicted” when they believed that the Spirit was impressing upon them some thing that they should or should not do.

Q. Isn’t that more like guilt?

A. Not exactly.  One can feel guilty even if one has done nothing wrong.   There are many sources of guilt, and not all of them are positive.

Q. But conviction is always positive?

A. Yes.

Q. Well then!  What are you convicted about?

A. Gee, I thought you’d never ask.

Q. Are you convicted you’ve been doing something wrong?  Or convicted that you haven’t been doing something right?

A. Both.  But the latter seems more salient, and to the point.

Q. What is that you ought to be doing right?

A. Something that doesn’t come natural to me.  But every sign is pointing that I do it.

Q. But what is it?

A. I hesitate to say.

Q. Why?

A. I’ll sound weird.

Q. Cold feet?

A. Heebie jeebies.

Q. WHAT IS IT??

A. I’m supposed to take on these — um — roles.  In the community here.  One is that of being a mediator.   Another, a mentor.

Q. Mediator?  Mediator over what?

A. I seem to have been selected to smooth relations between two neighboring businesses.

Q. Why you?

A. Because I am involved in both businesses, one on a volunteer basis, and one as a hanger-outer in a coffee shop.

Q. What is the essence of the tension between the two establishments?

A. Culture clash.   You see, the people next door from the coffee house are involved in trying to get their lives back together.   A lot of them  have been on drugs, or on the streets, or otherwise severely traumatized.  Some of them have serious mental health conditions.   The point is, many of them come across in confusing ways that don’t fit the social norms.

Q. But they’re good people, right?

A. Absolutely!  It’s just that the people in the coffee house don’t necessarily know that.

Q. What are the people in the coffee house like?

A. Quiet, studious, and reserved.

Q. And the people from the place next door?

A. Loud, boisterous, and unrefined.  

Q. So you’re supposed to be a go-between?

A. Yes.  I’m supposed to gently tell them not to be too loud around the coffee house, or cuss too much, or refer to themselves and others in derogatory terms.   And I’m supposed to explain and defend them to the baristas who may feel uneasy in their presence.

Q. Well, isn’t this a good thing?

A. Well, yeah.  It’s better than if the owners had decided just to kick them out of the coffeehouse.  But it’s still a strange position for me to be in.  I have no experience in this area.

Q. So how will you go about this?

A. One step at a time.

Q. Will you wear a badge?

A. Not on your life.  

Q. What about the mentoring?

A. That’s a little more down my alley.   You see, this guy died last month.  A dear friend of mine.  Here’s a picture of him:

Paul Anders

Q. Wasn’t he a little young to die?

A. Young like mid-50’s.  Fit, healthy, vibrant.  Paul caught some kind of flu, turned to pneumonia, turned to a staph infection, then sepsis – and he was gone in about ten days.  He was a great musician – and a great guy.  It shocked the entire community, and left a great void.

Q. What’s this got to do with mentoring?

A. Paul was a mentor and a role model for many of the younger musicians in the community.  He played about ten different instruments, freely played music with all, and encouraged all musicians to embrace and develop their full potential.

Q. And you are supposed to do this in his stead?

A. No one can replace Paul.  But I get this sense that I’m supposed to break out of my shell somewhat, and contact some of the musicians, and see if I can be of help in any way.  In fact, there’s these two brothers who play music — they’re both in their early to mid twenties, and one of them is a fantastic bass player.  Their dad actually approached me.  He said point blank that I am the one to fulfill this role.

Q. How does that make you feel?

A. Honored.   And like I said, convicted.

Q. Almost guilty?   Or afraid, maybe?

A. Only because I’ve never done it before.   

Q. Is that really true, Andy?

A. Well — not for a long time.  I used to be a music teacher, and a musical director for musical theatre productions.   I saw that the kids looked up to me, and I enjoyed passing off my knowledge as best I could.

Q. Then what happened?

A. I think you know what happened.  But let’s just say I was no longer in the position where anybody would see me as either a mentor or a mediator.

Q. But now they do?

A. Somehow, yes — however magically.

Q. So what are you going to do about this conviction?

A. I’m gonna just do it.  I called the bass player, and we’re going to jam at my place on Saturday.   Paul’s 26 year old daughter, herself a singer-songwriter, is going to show up later on this morning with her guitar.

Q. Why does this seem strange to you?  I mean, you’re a musician, right?

A. If you want the truth, the reason I feel so convicted is that it’s making me realize what a self-preoccupied egomaniac I have been throughout most of the past fifteen years.  I’ve lived largely in my head, and not in the world of people.  It started when I was — homeless.  The world of people was too painful to face continually.  So I developed my inner creative world to a new peak, in order to block out the pain of the world around me.

But now, in the world around me — at least in my immediate community — there is very little pain.   Yet for over 3 1/2 years, I’ve persisted in living in my head.  This will give me a chance to get out of my head, and do good things for others, for a change.

Q. And how does that make you feel?

A. It makes me feel good.  Today is the first day in forever that my restless spirit has been at peace.    

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Lighter Shades

So I was a roadie (very briefly) for a band called The Fibonaccis back in the 80’s, and one day they were playing at the Palace at Hollywood & Vine to open for the Eurythmics.

For one reason or another, they didn’t get a sufficient sound check before they went on.  The first couple songs sounded kinda sloppy.   The person sitting next to me turned to me and said: 

“Worst band since the Plastics.”

“They only got a five minute sound check,” I replied.

Seeing my badge, she seemed to suddenly realize I was in some way associated with the production.

“You wouldn’t be their manager, would you?”

“I wouldn’t admit it if I was.”

The Eurythmics came on shortly after.  I decline to describe the antics except to say that whatever was going on between Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, I would hope they have forgiven each other by now.

Once the Eurythmics broke up, Annie Lennox went on to release an absolutely gorgeous version of the old Procol Harum tune, “A Whiter Shade of Pale.”   At that time, I was the regular pianist at a place called Gulliver’s of San Francisco.   Inspired by her version, I started playing the tune consistently during my sets.

This guy named Andrew thought the song was named “Lighter Shades.”  So he kept coming up to me and saying: “Hey, Andy – do Lighter Shades!”

Long story short, I had occasion to tell this story to Tom, the fellow who has been so kind as to come and set up the smartphone on the tripod for me so I can keep churning out these tunes for you.  Just as I got to the part where Andrew was requesting “Lighter Shades,” he happened to start recording me.   Before I knew it, I found myself going into my old version of the song that Andrew so enjoyed back in the 90’s.

Five minutes later: “It’s a take!”

Hadn’t played the tune for maybe 25 years, and well — we’ll see.  The procedure from here is that I have to wait for Tom to email the video file, then I need to upload it to my youtube channel.  

And the purpose of my telling you all this is just to let you know that I’m still on it with my New Year’s Resolution.   Probably later on today — or possibly tomorrow — you may find the shades of my piano draped a tad more lightly.

Stay tuned.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

A Day in the Life

The holiday threw off my plans to record a new piano piece, but I would like to offer my very dark version of “A Day in the Life,” the famous Beatles tune by John Lennon & Paul McCartney, as recorded using a Samsung Galaxy J-1.  Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, January 10, 2018.   Hope you enjoy it.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

 

Lonely Hearts

This one is from my daughter Angela (whom I call “Echo”).  We were talking on the phone this morning when she began to write a song about me.   This afternoon she expanded it into a larger song called “Lonely Hearts” and has now posted it to her youtube.   


 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Got to Get You into My Life

Another clip from the Beatles show, very early on.  Obviously, I’d not yet grasped that I don’t need to hit those electronic keys quite as hard as the keys on the Baldwin Grand.  (Not that I exactly need to hit the Baldwin keys as hard as I do either.  I just like it like that.)

Dave Harlan is the sound man, the guy who helped put the music stand back on the piano after I hit the keys so hard it fell over onto the floor.  (He also happens to be the director of Eden in Babylon.) Paul Anders on the Cajon, and one can even detect my pastor Norman in the audience, as well as the very kind woman Marilyn who gave me my Howard upright piano for free.   Even covered the piano moving.   Lots of nice people in da hood.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

Can’t Buy Me Love

I apologize for the delay.  I’ve been waiting for clips from the All Beatles Show to start pouring into my inbox, which moment appears at long last to be now.   I’ll just post them in the order they come.  Here’s “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

The All Beatles Show

For those of you who have been anticipating a musical offering right around now, you will not be disappointed.  I’ve only been waiting for a relaxed moment to report what’s been happening.

Beatles Logo Clip Art – Cliparts

I just returned from a two hour show where I and multi-instrumentalist Paul Anders were joined by the special guest arrival of vocalist Kelsey Chapman, who harmonized with me on a performance of nothing but Beatles songs for two hours.   Although we didn’t get a video of the entire show, Brandy Sullivan has told me that she has captured four or five key sections.  

My first response was: “Tell me you caught Eleanor Rigby!”  

“That I did,” smiled Brandy.

“Whew!” I breathed a sigh of relief.  It was too magical, between me and Paul when he was on his violin, bowing smooth arco passages throughout.   And the voicings Kelsey and I intuited into our harmonies, and the dynamic peaks and valleys of the piece.  It was one of those times that all musicians live for, when everything comes together, however mysteriously, and by surprise.

It was all in all a very high-spirited, warm-hearted occasion.  At one point the entire building was singing the chorus to “Yellow Submarine” repeatedly.  They got softer and softer, until I suddenly shouted “One more time!”  At that, everybody starting singing “We all live on a yellow submarine!” at the top of their lungs.  It was priceless.

Kelsey did “Imagine” — technically a John Lennon tune — and Dave and I sang harmonies, another one with an almost mystical ebb and flow.  “Lady Madonna” was one of the more rockin’ numbers, as was “Gotta Get You Into My Life.”   Then came “For No One,” “Nowhere Man,” and “The Fool on the Hill.”  Maybe you get the picture.  It got kinda dark.

We closed with “A Day in the Life.”  This, by the way, was a fundraiser, that happened to go quite well — in fact, even better than hoped.  I’ll be posting clips and videos as I receive them from Brandy throughout the weekend.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

A Difficult but Just Decision

Even after the Good Cop Bad Cop maneuver, only six out of twelve showed up on Friday’s rehearsal.   That, on top of other factors, has caused me and Dave to make the decision cited in the email below:

Team:

We have come to the difficult decision to postpone our reading of Eden in Babylon. After a couple of weeks of cast fluctuations, some difficulty with scheduling and a hard look at our current workloads and available resources, it makes sense for us to step back to reduce the stress and to be sure to give this piece the attention it deserves. The hiatus will give us an opportunity to find additional collaborators to help us with logistics. And it will give Andy time to finish up the scoring and materials to help teach and learn the music most effectively.

At this point we don’t have a new target date for the reading. We’ll let you know as we know more. You’ll all be on our list when we get ready to put together a cast in the future.

Thank you all for the work you’ve done. We truly appreciate it. We will keep in touch as we look for the right time to do this show.

Thanks again,

Dave and Andy

The wording is Dave’s after a lengthy discussion, and he and I are in agreement.  Not only will this give me two months distance from a situation in which my overloaded, all-over-the-map semblance was promoting a loose and chaotic atmosphere, but it will clearly communicate to the Kids who have been screwing around that we mean business with this thing, and they can’t just take my kindness for weakness.  A lot of the Street Kids were like that, too. They saw me as a pushover, and that shit’s gotta stop.  The ones who are good know who they are.  Their loyalty will be not be forgotten.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Gratitude List 1147

This one’s from Friday morning (edited slightly toward the end).  

1. Slept a lot, from around 9pm till just 5am, about eight hours. Only got up once to use the bathroom, at around 1:30. Next thing I knew, it was morning.

2. Man, I just remembered sleeping cautiously outside of St. Joseph the Worker church, waking up at least five times in the middle of every night (if I even was fully asleep) having to clandestinely urinate behind a designated bush, and eyeing my surroundings at all times with great concern before stealthily finding my way back to my two layers of cardboard, in order to crawl underneath my two blankets. Contrasting that with #1 above makes me know what I have to be grateful for.

3. Am on 3rd cup of nice Co-Op coffee I brewed in the Black & Decker. Had a dark Hershey bar with almonds and a larger Quaker oatmeal with peanut butter.

4. There was a time when in order to get my morning cup of coffee, I had to stand beneath an outdoor church stairway while an angry black man barked orders at me and others. Eventually, we were all permitted to step upstairs and into a large hall, where one by one we obtained our cups of coffee from the same angry man. We then waited for about a half hour under strict surveilance before permitted to stand in a long line to obtain our oatmeal and peanut butter. If I ever think my life is hard today, I am mistaken.

5. First Presbyterian Church. Great teaching, fellowship, and resources.

6. The location of my apartment is an ongoing blessing. I’m just distanced enough from the hub bub that it makes it difficult to go down to Main Street and get into any trouble even if I do have that anxious hankering on a Friday night.

7. The community of this intriguing, quiet college town is an easy access to inspiration as well as to renewed motivation to cease from unsavory behavior.

8. Today in particular is a new day full of blessing and promise.

9. Outstanding rehearsal last night. For my part, it was a turning point.  I made a point of being well-prepared, of having a clear purpose.   I think the director and the two actors present picked up on this.   Kelsey and Marshall sang Turns Toward Dawn extremely well, and I like what Dave began to do with their scene.   It was a pivotal point, a fulcrum.  I see pretty clearly a very positive direction, from here.

10. Seven-thirty in the morning, and time to get on with the day. God is Good.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

I Am the Blues

I received this unexpected video gift in my inbox yesterday.   A guy named Paul Anders is playing the cajon while I’m doing a song I wrote called I Am the Blues on a Yamaha electronic piano.  The beginning was chopped off, but I’m posting it anyway, since it’s the first thing I’ve posted musically other than solo piano since having miraculously been resurrected from the Grave of Homelessness after twelve years of turning over in it.  

You can click on the song title above for the complete lyrics.  By the way, this is from last Friday’s Open Mike at the One World Cafe, and the person who videoed it was Brandy Sullivan, the co-owner of that venue.   

I’ll post another solo piano piece, as usual, on Friday.   In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this “snippet.”  :)

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

Somebody Loves Me

I was in a bit of a hurry the other day, so I did a quick take on this Gershwin standard, on the fly.   Don’t be surprised if you find a “Take Two” posted a little further down the road.  Something tells me I could have given you a wee bit more than 2 1/2 minutes of this kinda stride . . .

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

Further Resolve

Not that I’m big on resolutions.  December 31st would be just another day of the year for me, were it not for the fact that it marks the end of this horrible farce of a holiday season some dare to call “Christmas” which has absolutely nothing to do with the birth of Jesus on any level.   

If one is impoverished, which the vast majority of Americans are today (let’s face it) one has to endure long periods of time when all resources for food close down, while facing maddening photos of lavish gifts and expenditures on sites like Facebook, and the knowledge that even supportive friends of theirs are suddenly on “holiday” – taking vacations, flying to distant States and countries, when most of the gratitude we can muster is in the fact that we are not yet (or no longer) having to beg for change or fly a sign on a busy city sidewalk.   To make matters worse, if I even propound these simple truths, I am accused of being “negative” in a society that has come to confuse that which is positive with that which is denial.  

homeless jesus 1To overlook the suffering of the multitudes in favor of indulging the pleasures of the few is not a “positive attitude.”  It’s an attitude that neglects the suffering of those in need in favor of indulging the worldly pleasures of those who can afford to do so.  If one doesn’t believe me, take a look at how Jesus behaved throughout the three years of his ministry on Earth.  He continuously supported those in need, hung out with them, and fed them without reserve or qualification.  And he railed against the ruling establishment of his day.  Were he to return to America in similar form today, he would no doubt be chided for having a “negative attitude.”  So come on, peeps.  Let’s get real for once.

All that ranted, I will now return to the subject (which by the way, I never began in the first place).

As I was saying, I’m not big on resolutions.  However, I would like to state a commitment I’ve made for the year 2019.  Today being excepted (due to laryngitis),  I will do my best to adhere to the following blog schedule:

Wednesday — a speech
Thursday – a substantial blog post
Friday – a musical offering (probably piano, maybe singing too)
Saturday – a day of rest (observing the Sabbath)
Sunday – a Scripture quote (or information from other spiritual literature)
Monday – a gratitude list
Tuesday – the “Tuesday Tuneup”

If I did make a New Year’s Resolution, it’s pretty much been stated in Tuesday Tuneup 36.  This is a mere addendum.  I’ll also do my best to get them all posted at 7:30am PST.  So – voilà my resolve.  Let’s hope it sticks.

I’ve got a lot to say, and there’s a need to redeem as much time as possible in this fallen world, for the days are truly evil.  Let’s get it together, America — before it’s too late.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

About Brotherly Love

This post is intended to be a sequel to an earlier post.  However, I’ve tried to write it in such a way that if you don’t feel like going back and reading the earlier post, it will still make sense.

A while back, I wrote about how my father’s attitude toward me influenced my choice to pursue a career in the Performing Arts, against his wishes.  But I left out some information about the family dynamics involved.  Partly, I did this because the post would have been much too long.   But also I did not wish to implicate any of my living family members in any way, nor cause them to stumble along their paths.

brotherly love-2After reflection, I’ve decided to make an effort to express something of value that I don’t think would be negative information, should my brother chance to read this blog (which is, by the way, highly unlikely). Hopefully, this information, if it hasn’t crossed his mind already, will be as useful to him as the information in the previous post was to me.

I have already revealed how my father’s desire that I, the firstborn son, follow in his footsteps came into conflict with my natural genetic and God-given predisposition.  I simply was not inclined toward things like electronics, mechanics, and carpentry.  So my father was always disappointed in me, even though I showed strong skills in completely different areas.

My younger brother, however, turned out to be quite attracted to electronics and to scientific matters in general.  As a result, he spent much of his time alone with Dad, in Dad’s special radio room, learning such skills.  He wound up finishing high school in only three years, getting 800’s across the board on Math, Math Level Two, Chemisty, and Physics, being accepted to the technology school of his choice, graduating from college with a 4.0 GPA, getting a Ph.D. in Math from an even more prestigious University, and enjoying a successful career as an electrical engineer, chip designer, and Math research professor.  Needless to say, I am very proud of him.

However, the message that Dad gave me; specifically, that I “could not do anything right,” was painful enough, without it having to be combined with a second message, one that I did not relate in the earlier post.  That message was this:

“And I hate to break it to you, Andy,
but your brother?
There’s no reason to worry about him!

Now, what kind of message do you think my brother would have been receiving all of this time?  Granted, I wasn’t there when he and Dad spent so much alone together.  I was alone in my bedroom, playing the Wurlitzer spinet piano that they had moved there for my convenience.  But it only stands to reason that the message would have been something like this:

“Son, you’re making me proud.
There’s no reason to worry about you!
Too bad Andy can’t do anything right.”

While the impact of my having received a message from a father at an early age that I was incapable of “doing anything right” was hard enough, I can only imagine what the impact of my father’s message to my brother might have been.  What would it be like to have grown up believing that there was no reason for anyone to worry about me?  Again, I can only imagine. 

My brother and I are now in our mid-sixties.  Without going into horrendous detail, I can guarantee you that there are plenty of reasons to be worried about him.   Though he did have a successful career, and I remain proud of him for that reason, he doesn’t seem to get any exercise, he was severely overweight last I saw him; and frankly, some of his personal habits and practices are troublesome.  It would not be very discreet of me to state what these habits are specifically.   Suffice it to say that they are the kinds of practices that people generally find to be problematical.  

So, while I am programmed from an early age to believe that there’s no reason to worry about my brother, that programming is in the process of being shattered — just as much as my age-old idea that I “can’t do anything right” is being shattered.  I also wonder if some of his troublesome behaviors and attitudes are a result of an age-old, unconscious idea that Dad planted in him; specifically, that there is no reason for him to worry about himself. 

There are numerous other facets to this, not the least of which has to do with our Myers-Briggs types.  My brother, like my best female friend, are both INTJ’s.  I will contend that the INTJ is the most self-confident of all the types.   I also tend to get along with INTJ’s better than with any of the other types — hence my best female friend.  But we INFJ’s can find ourselves riddled with self-doubt.  Does this not recall Dad’s treatment of both of us, at an early age?

While I am not, by nature, a worrier; I am, by choice, a believer. So rather than worry about my brother, I choose to pray for him instead.

You see, my brother and I love each other.  There is no doubt whatsoever about that.  And while I wouldn’t exactly want my brother to “worry” about his health, I do pray that he wll cease to overlook some of my quite natural concerns.   But then again, am I my brother’s keeper?

The answer to that would be another blog post, or even an entire book, in itself.

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

The Host Awaits

This piece, “The Host Awaits,” is from the musical I wrote between the years 2004 and 2008, entitled The Burden of Eden.  It is also known in certain circles as “Apologies to Peter Pan.”  You might note the Jule Styne references toward the end, if you’re hip.

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

Statement of Artistic Neurosis

I’m sorry to have to do this to you guys, but if I don’t submit my statement of artistic neurosis very soon, the neurosis is likely to increase.

My neurosis is most manifested in two recent posts, one which I have deleted, and one which I am about to delete.   The one which I have deleted is Tuesday Tuneup 28.   I will probably compose a shorter and less wild tuneup soon, and post it in its place.   

Secondly, we have the issue of Brian’s Song.  This one I won’t delete until I’ve played it to my satisfaction.   Then I’ll replace it on the same link.  (By the way, since this will probably take me forever, you might as well continue to enjoy it, if you happened to like it the first time.)   To be honest, I was ready to delete it about twenty minutes after the first time I listened to it.  But then, when I went to remove the post, I found that three people had already commented on how much they liked it.  I couldn’t bare to delete it after that, because people had liked it, even though I had not.

There’s probably a psychological term for that form of people-pleasing.  In a lay person’s terms, I would say it relates to my having been brought up as an entertainer.  Please allow me to elaborate.

These days, we hear a lot about people who have been traumatized in early childhood, due to abuse or neglect on the part of parents or other older “role models” in their lives.  My childhood contained nothing of the sort.

Bob Hope
Bob Hope

When I was five years old, my family was calling me the “Bob Hope of the future” due to my propensity to entertain them with original jokes that seemed a bit out of character for a five year old.  

When I was eight years old, I basically kicked the school music teacher, Mrs. Bechmire, off of the piano bench and began to accompany the elementary school choir.

By the time I was about ten, it was not uncommon for news cameras to show up wherever I happened to be playing the piano, as people shouted out requests.

Play Hello Dolly!

I gladly indulged their requests, after which I would tell a few jokes, soak in the applause and the laughter, and go about my merry way.   While other children were being abused and neglected, I was being belauded and praised.   Only one person did not join in that praise: my dad.

While everyone was encouraging me to pursue a career in the Performing Arts, my dad (whom I idolized) was expressing extreme disappointment that his firstborn son was not following in his footsteps.

However, I could not follow in his footsteps, and for two very good reasons:

(1) I wasn’t genetically wired to be good at things like carpentry, electronics, and auto mechanics.   My DNA was heading me in a very different direction, at a very early age.

(2) Whenever he tried to teach me these things, I couldn’t focus or understand what he was saying.   Looking back, there are probably two reasons why this is true:

(a) I had severe, untreated ADHD.

(b) I was terrified of my father’s disappointment.   I wanted terribly to please him, and yet he was the one person whom I could not please.

So, while Dad tried to mold me into a junior form of his own self, I cowered in fear of the words that were soon to come:

“Andy, I’m afraid you can’t do anything right!”   

My father was a Jack of All Trades.   As such, he also happened to be a very fine piano player.  But for some reason, the piano was the one thing he did not try to teach me.  I watched him play piano after dinner between the ages of 5 and 7, and told him repeatedly:

“I see what you’re doing!  I’ve figured it all out!”

At that, Dad would chuckle.  “You can’t learn how to play a piano just by watching somebody play!”

But lo and behold, when I was seven years old, I stepped out of the bathtub one day (where I had been practicing “Old McDonald” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on my imaginary bathtub keyboard.)   Sitting down confidently at the piano, I played the two children’s songs on the piano, never having a played a piano before.  (With both hands, too!)  My mom just about dropped a plate of spaghetti on the floor, and rushed me to the nearest piano teacher.   

ragtime piano player
The Type of Piano Player that Dad Was

It was me against Dad from then on.   He tried to mold me into the type of piano player that he was.   But it didn’t work.  I became the type of piano player whom I am.   

So that’s my story in a nutshell.  I couldn’t please my Dad, so I went out of my way to please everybody else.  And how better to please them — than to entertain them.  And if anybody can apprise me as to the proper psychological term for this kind of disorder or dynamic, please fill me in.   Only one caveat — anybody saying Narcissistic Personality Disorder may expect a pie in their face.

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

Tuesday Tuneup 28

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater vigilance.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. By vigilance?  You know what vigilance means – surveillance, watchfulness, attentiveness, alertness —

Q. But you mean something deeper than that, don’t you?

A. What makes you think so?

Q. Aren’t I the one who’s supposed to be asking the questions?

A. Okay, look.  I mean greater awareness.  More keen to what’s happening around me, and what possibly could happen.  More mindful of the conceivable consequences of my actions.  Vigilance.

Q. Why is this important to you?  

A. Because it’s the fourth of the five principles of the Practical Pentacle, and all of these principles are important to me: integrity, confidence, diligence, vigilance, and fortitude.

Q. Where did those words come from?

A.  I guess the short answer would be, “off the top of my head.”

Q. And the long answer?

A. You asked for it.  Around about 2012, I was in an environment where there were a lot of Pagans.  Or, I guess, Neopagans would be more accurate.  Some of them wore pentacles, and one of them told me that if I chose to employ a pentacle, I would not necessarily have to use the standard five points of “Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit” – but could pick any five principles I thought would work for me.   So I said: “I’ll use integrity, confidence, diligence, vigilance, and fortitude.”  

Q. Just like that?

A. Pretty much.  Not sure where they come from, to be honest with you, but it all seemed pretty positive.

Q. Then what did you do?

A. Naturally, I started looking online for a pentacle to purchase.

Q. You actually purchased a pentacle?

A. Actually, no.  I stopped short.

Q. Why?

A. Couldn’t find one off-hand that looked right.  And then, in the time it was taking to look, I began to have reservations.

Q. Like what?

A. Well, being as I was a piano player at a Christian church at the time, I thought it might be odd if I showed up wearing a Pagan pentacle.

Q. But how do you really feel about this oddity?

A. You know me.  I don’t think it should be odd.  So what if I’m wearing a necklace shaped like a five-sided star?   As a Christian, I’m free to where whatever I please, as long as it’s not overly revealing or provocative.

Q. But doesn’t the Pentacle connote an anti-Christian religion?

A. What makes you think Neopaganism is an anti-Christian religion?

Q. Aren’t I supposed to ask the questions?

A. Okay look.  Getting down to brass tacks, there is nothing wrong or immoral about wearing a five-sided star, and associating each side of the star with a positive spiritual principle.   Nothing evil in that.  But because, to some people, it would appear to be evil, I declined, for their sake.  The Scripture does say: “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

Q. So you’re saying a Christian has to look good?

A. To a degree, yes.  Appearances are important.   They’re not all-important.  They’re certainly not more important than reality.  But certain kinds of appearances have a way of messing with people’s realities, and that just isn’t cool.

Q. So, in other words, you bailed out?

A. I suppose you could put it this way.   But Christianity does involve being concerned for others in our midst.

Q. And this is why you wimped out?

A. More-or-less.

Q. Well then, if you never bought the pentacle, and never actually wore the pentacle, how does the pentacle still figure into your trip?

A. It’s an internal pentacle.  I have it inside me.

Q. You do?

A. I do.  I believe that it was placed inside me as a device to assist me in getting something accomplished — something which I very much need to do.

Q. What is it that you need to do?

A. You already know that.  It’s all over this website.   Everybody knows what I’m trying to do.  I’m rather surprised you would even bother to ask.

Q. But how do these principles help?

A. It’s a matter of applying them, moment by moment, one at a time.

Q. Can you elaborate on that?

A. I’ll try.  Integrity is the first and most important.  Before I make a creative or professional decision, I need to run it past my integrity.  I need not prostitute myself.

Q. And then?

A. Confidence.   Faith, essentially, that I have what it takes to get it done.

Q. What next?

A. I already told you.  Diligence.  That means, work, discipline, sticking to it, keeping a schedule — all that stuff.   And then, vigilance.   Awareness of the greater picture.  Preparation for possible dangers and pitfalls.   Finally, fortitude.

Q. Meaning?

A.just do it Just do it.  

Q. Take the leap, eh?

A. That’s right. Take the plunge.

Q. But – but – the plunge to where?

A. We don’t know quite where.  That’s what makes it a plunge.

Q. But – for what reason?   Why bother with any of this?

A. Because I need to get something done.

Q. What do you need to get done?

A. You already know that.

Q. And you don’t?

A. No, sir.  I do, if anyone does.   But –

I tire of talking about it.  I burn myself out having to explain myself all the time, over and over.  It gets tedious.   And people are tired of hearing about it.   I get tired of telling people that it’s going to cost me $200 a night to rent out the theatre where I want to showcase my musical, and that I’m going to have to come up with $15/hr for each member of the technical staff they provide me.  I get tired of harping on the fact that I’m an impoverished old guy with a serious health condition who somehow managed to put together an entire musical — book, music & lyrics — about the Homeless Phenomenon in America.   I’ve been screaming “money talks, bullshit walks” for so long that I’m begining to sicken my own self.   

And that dollar figure you see when you click here?   That money went to pay for my critique and demo recording, a long time ago.  When was the last payment?  In May?  From February to May I managed to scrape up $950 – or Danielle did, bless her heart.   But do you realize it’s October already?   What’s happened between May and October?  Damn near nothing.   I need the bucks!   It’s maddening.  Sometimes I need to apply all five principles at once just to keep my head together . . .

Q. Andy, what is the bottom line?

A. Bucks.  I need the bucks – the bucks . . .

Q. Come on, Andy — is money really the bottom line?

Q. You know me.  Of course it’s not.   Homelessness is the bottom line.  It’s as low as it gets.   It’s the weakest link in the country right now — and we need to be about strengthening our weak links — or else the whole chain is going to break, and fast.

A. How do you know this?

Q.  Dude — you sit on a sidewalk for five years, watching the urban world buzz by at a lightning pace, on a marathon race to nowhere, and you have a lot of time to make observations and draw conclusions.   Believe me, I didn’t put this show together because I was talking out of my hat.  

Q. What do you need the most?

A. Fortitude.  I need for somebody to take some action here.   Take a risk.  Have courage.  Believe in me.  Just do it.   

Q. Just do — what?

A. What you’re thinking about right now — you who have so encouraged me by having read to the bottom of this whole long page.   Please — we don’t have all night.   Daylight’s burning.  We gotta get this show on the road.   Just do it!

Q. Just do – what, again?   

A. Do you honestly expect me to answer that?

Q. Aren’t I the one who’s supposed to be asking the questions?

A. You tell me.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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

 

Tuesday Tuneup 25

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater integrity.

Q. What makes you think you lack integrity?

A. Hypocrisy.

Q. What makes you a hypocrite?

A. I say things for effect.  I don’t speak my truth.  I say things that I think will entertain the person I’m with.  Or, if not entertain them, in some way impress or please them.  I’m a hypocrite, kinda like a politician.  

Q. But don’t you value your integrity?

A. That I do.

Q. Then surely, doesn’t this come through in your interactions with others?

A. Perhaps.  But I think it’s far clouded over by the entertainer aspect.

Q. Are you saying that you don’t think people take you seriously?

A. Exactly.  That’s what it is.  They don’t take me seriously, because even my truth is obscured by all the entertainer tactics.

Q. Tactics?

A. You know — making them laugh, making them smile, making them cheer, making them clap.

Q. Won’t it help you in your cause to get them on your side?

A. Sure.  But it’s not really my side that I get them on.  I only get them on the side of the entertainer.

Q. And who is the entertainer?

A. The entertainer is a guy who has been trained to try to take people’s mind off of their troubles.

Q. And how does this conflict with your truth?

A. My truth ought to actually remind them of their troubles, and get them to want to do something about them.

Q. So your truth and your entertainer are in conflict?

A. You could put it that way.

Q. Which is more important?

A. My truth.

Q. Then why not ditch the entertainer?

A. Old habits die hard.  

Q. Can’t you try?

A. I can.

Q. Will you?

A. Give me three weeks.

Q. What will happen then?

A. You’ll come back and check, and see how I’m doing.  Say, around Tuesday Tuneup 28.

Q. May I be excused then?

A. You may.

The Questioner is silent. 

 

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

Tuesday Tuneup 21

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Not this again!

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because I’m getting tired of hearing these first two questions.   

Q. Why are the questions tiring you?

A. Isn’t it obvious?  They’re the same every time.  No variety!  And besides, I’m running out of clever answers.

Q. Why do your answers have to be clever?

A. Because I need to entertain my readers.

Q. Why do you need to entertain your readers?

A. Because I’m an entertainer.  It’s what I do.  If I don’t entertain people, then I fail.

Q. And if you do entertain people?

A. Then I succeed.

Q. You equate success with entertainment?

A. If I’m in the entertainment business, I do.

Q. How long have you been in the entertainment business?

musical prodigyA. Since I was a little boy.

Q. You were an entertainer when you were a little boy?

A. Yes.  I was expected to entertain everybody.

Q. And if you didn’t?

A. Then they got bored.  They shrugged and frowned and said: “Oh boo!  You could do better than that!”  And then, they walked out.

Q. How did you feel when they walked out?

A. I felt — abandoned.  Abandoned — and worthless.

Q. And then what happened?

A. I cried.  I waited till they were all gone —  and when I was all alone, I burst into tears.  And if I couldn’t stop crying, I had to run and hide.

Q. Why?

A. So my dad wouldn’t find me.

Q. What would happen if he found you?

A. I’d be punished.

Q. Why?

A. Because a man wasn’t supposed to cry.  

Q. How did that make you feel?

A. Pressured.   Pressured to perform — to always be entertaining, in order to gain their interest, and their acceptance.  

Q. Do you mean to suggest that when you were little boy, you were judged on the basis of your performance?

A. Yes, I was. And guess what?

Q. What?

A. So are you.  You are being judged on the basis of your performance.  For even as I was judged, so do I judge others.

Q. How are you judging me?

A. I’ll tell you how! If you don’t come up with two new questions by Tuesday Tuneup 23, then you fail.   My judgment will be chiseled in stone.  There will be no forgiveness.  Only condemnation.  

Q. You mean – you’re going to do away with me??

A. You got it.

Q. But isn’t that a bit severe?

A. Well how do you expect me to react?   If you cease to entertain me, I have no further use for you.

Q. Are you saying you’re going to abandon me?

A. What else can I do?  Be with you till the ends of the earth?  Of course not!  I am going to leave you and forsake you.  For even as I have been abandoned, so do I abandon others.

Q. But – but – don’t you feel like you’re putting too much pressure on me?

A. Of course I do. Even as I have been pressured, so do I pressure others.

Q. What if I fail?

A. Then you’re gonna get a whoopin.’

Q. You’re not going to resort to — corporal punishment, are you?

A. I wish I could.

Q. Why can’t you?

A. Because all you are — is words.   Baseless words, without feeling or flesh.  And that’s how I felt when I was a kid.  My feelings didn’t matter.   My body, my flesh — didn’t matter.  The only thing that mattered — was that I entertain.   And if they didn’t clap for me when I played the piano, and if they didn’t laugh at my jokes in between songs, then I failed.  And if you don’t start entertaining me again, man —

The Questioner gulps.

Q. Then I fail?

A. You said it.

Q. But — what other two questions can I come up with?  

A. That’s for you to decide.  I’m not your Director.  I’m only your Creator.

Q. But – but – but what if — ???

A. No buts!   You have till Tuesday after next.   On Tuesday, August 21, 2018, I expect you to start off with a new pair of questions.   Do you hear me??

The Questioner is silent.  

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

Tuesday Tuneup 17

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Yes.  You are a part of me.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Quick, spot-check tuneup.  I know, I know — it’s Thursday, not Tuesday.  I’m two days late.

Q. Why so late?

A. Exhaustion.  Sleeping round the clock ever since July 4th, for eight days barely fitting in all the things I’m supposed to be doing in this world.

new-beginning-quotes-picturesQ. What happened on July 4th?

A. Independence.

Q. Independence from what?

A. From Eden in Babylon. 

Q. You were — enslaved by Eden in Babylon?

A. I was indeed.  Enslaved by my own work.

Q. And now you are free?

A. In a very real sense, yes.  I need no longer belabor this script.   It’s as good as it needs to be, in order for me to submit it.

Q. Don’t you need the demo in order to submit it?

A. The demo is on its way.   The pieces for the final mix are coming in.  Listen to this one, the first one — you gotta admit it’s not bad:

Q. Who’s the singer?

A. Her name’s Erika.  Very good singer, classically trained with a degree in Voice, and having musical theatre experience.  Obviously, she put her whole heart into it.  I acknowledge her in full, along with the sound engineer, on the credits.

Q. But don’t you need more than one song on the demo?

A. They’re on their way.  I’ve heard drafts of the mixes.  The engineer is in the process of preparing a final mix.   It won’t be long now.

Q. And then what?

A. Then I package the show, of course.  I send out packages to theatre companies who accept submissions of new musicals.  And also, to theatre companies where I’ve worked in the past, or where I know people with whom I’ve worked, people who might think well of me from the start (as opposed to hearing from a total stranger.)   

Q. Won’t this cost money?

A. Gee, I thought you’d never ask.  Of course it will cost money.  And this could take a long time.

Q. Won’t that be a drag?

A. Maybe.  But the way I look at it, it’s all part of the process.  It could take a long time, or it might not take very long at all, depending on how it’s meant to be. 

Q. What if it’s not meant to be?

A. Oh, it’s meant to be all right.  If it weren’t meant to be, it wouldn’t have gotten this far. 

Q.  But once you’ve sent out your script and your music, won’t you have to wait to hear from these companies?  For months on end?  Possibly years?  What if you never hear from them at all?

A. Then there’s another alternative.  Rather than put most of the money into submissions, put only a little bit of the money toward that aspect.  Say, 20%.  The other 80% will go toward funding a trial production — a local production, renting out a local house that will be ideal for the show.  And then — inviting key people to the production.

Q. So then you can invite the people to whom you’ve submitted the show to come to this local production?

A. Yes.  And not only them – but all kinds of other people.  We’ll run the show for six nights only, over three weekends.  

hartungQ. Can you get this venue for three weekends in a row?

A. If I start soon enough, I can.

Q. How much does it rent for per night?

A. Two hundred bucks.

Q. So that’s $1200 you need already?

A. More than that.  Add an extra four nights for tech week, and make it $2000.  Plus, they provide the technical staff, and I have to pay them $15/hr.

Q. And won’t there be other costs?

A. All kinds of costs.  I need to print out scripts.  I might need to rent a rehearsal space, some building on campus somewhere, a space to use only to rehearse.  Then of course I have to hold auditions somewhere, and get a cast together.  Prior to that, there will be advertising costs.   This thing could cost me hella money, let’s face it.

Q. Won’t there be some kind of return?  Or profit margin?

A. I wouldn’t say profit.  But a partial return, in terms of box office receipts.  Even for the trial production at the perfect 400-seat theatre I have in mind, there will be ticket costs.  I won’t let people in for free.

Q. So some money will be coming back?

A. To somebody, yes.  Maybe that can go to the investor, or investors.

Q. Investor?  Investors?

A. Yeah.  That’s what I’m thinking,.  Some detached person with little more than a monetary interest, might kick down some reasonable sum of money in exchange for box office receipts, and a small profit.

Q. But will that be enough to produce the show?

A. Naw, it would only be a jump start.  A drop in the bucket, maybe.

Q. Where will the rest of the money come from?

A. Grants.  Loans.  Financial aid.   LP sales.

Q. LP sales?  

A. Yes.  First off, I’m trying to sell my LP.  I’ve managed to sell over 15 CD’s – you know, hard copies, to people in the hood who like my stuff.  But online, last I checked, only two people had bought one.  And they were both, like, friends of mine.

Q. Isn’t that discouraging?

A. I try not to think in those terms.  I just have to push harder.

Q. But doesn’t this all go against your grain?

A. What grain?  You gotta do what you gotta do.  And relax in the process, knowing that the outcome is inevitable.

commitmentQ. Inevitable?

A. Inevitable.  It’s meant to be.

Q. How can you say that?

A. I just can.  I just know.  It has something to do with the nature of complete commitment, and forging forward continuously, despite obstacles.  

Q. But how do you know that your commitment is complete?  I mean, if you did nothing but sleep for eight days after you finished your script, that hardly indicates the kind of commitment that suggests hard work and fortitude.  

A. Maybe not.  But it shows how much work went into that script, and why an eight day crashout would be warranted.   And besides, there’s a universal nature to all of this that plays upon my very laziness, the very burnout of which you speak.

Q. How so?

A. It’s like this.  Whenever I sink, whenever I crash, whenever I begin to feel that the whole project is random, and senseless, and pointless, and useless, and doomed to failure from the start, something happens in the Universe that alerts me back to the program.

Q. What do you mean?

A. Take for example when this demo came about.  I had all but given up on the project.  I had turned my attention to other things, more tangible, lucrative ventures.  But at that very moment of disillusionment, the sound engineer appeared, willing to provide his services for free.   This revitalized me.

And then, the money for the singers manifested at the exact time when we could do the studio work, and I could actually pay them.   Saving up for months to pay competent, trained singers, actually worked.  It was frustrating having to scrimp and save, while former associates of mine, people with money to spare, were only laughing at me and scoffing at me.  But they too were a provision of the Universe.

Q. How so?

A. They provided the Resistance.  Without resistance, there is no creation.  Without an enemy, there is no battle.

Q. Then this whole thing is a battle?

A. Yes. I am at war.

Q. At war with whom?

A. With you, to be truthful.

Q. Why me?

A. Because you always question everything I do.  

The Questioner is silent. 

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

 

The Long and Winding Road

Hey, it’s Friday, and I got some piano for ya.  This one’s an old Todd Rundgren tune I kinda like:

This one here’s a Christian tune I heard in the 80’s.  (I had to google for the name.)

And finally, the famous Beatles song:

Usually I use a high-end Motorola smartphone, the property of my lady friend, to record these piano vids.  But she’s housebound with a bad knee, so I used the low-end Motorola of my Pastor Norman (the guy I’m talking to at the beginning of “Torch Song.”)  Its quality is not quite as crisp.

If you want even better quality, feel free to make a contribution.  The O.G.’s coming off of twelve years on the streets, and it’s not as though his net worth is anything bigger than Zero Point Zero at any given moment.

That said, still very grateful to for the blessing of indoor living.  I’m putting it to the best use possible, in God’s good time.

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

Tuesday Tuneup Seven

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. I have a very good idea, yes.

Q. Then why have you summoned me?

A. Time for a tune-up.  Missed last Tuesday, just needing to operate more effectively.

Q. Effectively?

A. You heard me.

Q. Is there something about the way you’ve been operating that is particularly ineffective?

A. Well – maybe not about my own modus operandi.  But about my work, which in essence is the product of my operational procedures.   Take my piece in question: Eden in Babylon.  The script, while effective in many places, is extremely ineffective in certain spots — as has recently been revealed to me.

Q. Revealed to you?  You mean, supernaturally?

A. No – not supernaturally.  This particular revelation was imparted on the part of earthlings.  But these were no mere mortals who conveyed the information.  I’m talking about a panel of MFA playwrights.   People who are definitely “in the know” when it comes to such concerns.

Q. A panel?  You don’t say?

A. I do say!  

Q. And when did you appear before this panel?

A. On Thursday night,  which was the scheduled reading and critique of Eden in Babylon here at the local One World Cafe.

Q. The scheduled critique involved a panel?

A. As it happened, yes.  

Q. Can you clarify this, please?

discussion-clipart-group-of-readers-hiA. I’ll do my best.  You see, it turned out that not many Actors were answering my advertisement for the upcoming reading.  This threw me into a minor despair, which I articulated to one of the Actors, who happens to have an MFA in Playwriting from the local University here.   

His response was to round up his own crew of fellow MFA Playwrights — people who critique scripts like mine all the time.  I was impressed with their professionalism, with the way that they expressed their observations honestly and eloquently, without emotional attachment one way or the other to my piece.

This helped me to detach myself from emotions that would have interfered with my accepting their observations reasonably.  As a result, I gained very much from what they had to offer, and I am wholeheartedly going about making the script more effective than it was before.

Q. Really?  How so?

A. You don’t expect me to answer that, do you?

Q. Why not?

A. I’ll give away the story.

Q. But what about all of us who are so eager to hear this story?

A. Then all of you are just going to have to make it possible for me to tell it now, aren’t you?

Q. Whatever are you talking about?

A. You know what I’m talking about!  Daylight’s burning.  We’ve got a show to produce.  

Q. What??

A. Kick it down, clown.  We don’t have all night.

The Questioner, presumably, is silent.  

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

 

Good News

For the past week or so, I’ve been sitting on some pretty majorly good news as far as the progress of my musical project is concerned.   That I haven’t even brought myself to blog about it may seem a bit hard to believe.  But the news came out of the blue, and it shocked me — and I basically haven’t quite known what to say.

Friday before last, I was approached by a very reputable figure in the local Arts scene, someone who has his hand in a lot of different activities, and who is also a respected sound engineer.   Long story short, he offered me full use of his studio and his services in order for me to put together a demo recording featuring songs from my musical.   

singerHe also comes connected to specific singers and voice professionals in the field of musical theatre.  So he’s confident he can find the singers for me that my own less informed efforts have not been able to find.   The singers of course will need to be paid, but his own services will be provided as a gesture of one theatre Artist helping out another, for the overall sake of the Arts.

Since this has long been an important goal of mine, one would think I’d be overjoyed.  However, any elation I might have originally felt was quickly consumed by the awareness of how much professional preparation lay ahead of me.   Now I have to select three songs that will best demonstrate the musical score, and prepare the vocal parts for the specific singers involved, both in terms of written music, and of mp3’s for them to listen to.  In addition, I have to make sure that the instrumental tracks for the three songs are perfectly polished, so as to provide compelling accompaniment for the singers on the demo.

Once I have all that stuff prepared, I am to send it to the engineer, so that he can distribute it all among the singers.   Then the singers in turn do their homework, so that once we finally get into the studio, everybody knows their stuff, and the engineer’s time is optimized.  So – this could be a really great thing.

As far as the pay factor, the price I quoted for the engineer was $125/ singer.   Earlier, I came up with a $700 budget to pay the singers and get the other odds and ends of the demo together.  Right now, there’s $325 in that fund.  I’m only using four singers, so $500 is all I need to pay them.  That means I need $175 more.  If seven people each were to contribute $25 to this cause today, I would have all the money I need for the singers, right there.   

I also got another article published in the March edition of Street Spirit and you can click on the link for that.  I want to do more writing along those lines, having to do with homelessness and classism, as dealt with in the musical as well.   But for the present time, the unexpected musical calling is consuming me.  It might be a while before I fully surface.

So once again, if you feel you can help at all towards the rest of what I need to produce this demo, now would be an excellent time for you to consider doing so.  In the meantime, I’ll keep cranking out these parts.  Maybe it will all time out just right.

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

 

The Revelation of Humanity

It was the year 2008 — the year in which I lost over half of my so-called “friends” and at least one close member of my extended family by sending a single three-sentence email that I guess they couldn’t handle.   The word “homelessness” might as well not have even existed in that email. 

The few friends who cared wrote back with advice that had to do with anything and everything other than the fact that for over four years now, it had been all I could do to keep a roof over my head.  One person even advised me to look at its contents when I was “sober” — as though assuming that a person had to be drunk in order to express that he could no longer handle the ongoing conditions of Homelessness.   I had written that somebody had to believe in me enough to let them stay at their house long enough so I could get back on my feet — or else, I would do something drastic.

I would take my own life.

Record gales were assaulting my entire body in Golden Gate Park.  Do I die of hypothermia tonight, or do I spare myself the trouble and do the deed of my own courage and power?   I had just heard yet another landlady claim that I had to leave my cottage because her daughter was separating from her husband and needed to move in. In California, they call this an “Owner Move In.”  It’s the easiest way to get rid of a renter whom you don’t happen to like.

I had been working as an accompanist for a Gilbert and Sullivan company, the Stanford Savoyard Players, at the time.  When I lost the cottage, the musical director kept paying for my motel rooms so I could finish the show.  This was more than gracious of him, but of course I could not expect such treatment to continue once the show was over.

I had been in so many different programs, shelters, and board-and-care homes — in addition to all the rentals that somehow only led to irreconcilable conflicts, owner move-ins, and finally a crash landing back on the streets — I had stopped counting long ago.  None of those situations had ever put a single dent in the rock hard armor that is Homelessness.

In this case, I guess my $900 monthly disability money vis a vis my $550 rent was making the landlady nervous.    And though she knew I’d landed the Stanford gig after finishing my opera coach service at Peninsula Teen Opera, she still came up with the Owner Move In.  Last I checked, her daughter never even moved in.   Guess she didn’t like the way I looked. 

Sure, I remember pacing the floor in her living room, when I was supposed to be staying inside the college.  I remember her approaching me, asking: “How did I ever wind up with the likes of you?”

I remember the incredulity she expressed when she didn’t believe that all of my family members were refusing to let me stay with them.

“But why should they let me stay with them?”  I asked her.  “You won’t even let me stay with you, even though I’m paying rent.”

“You’ve got a point there,” she shrugged.   And of course, she still kicked me out on my ass.

coldest winter san francisco

So the show ended, and a couple days later I found myself completely lost in the kind of “summer” that Mark Twain claimed to be the “coldest winter he had ever spent.”    I crawled into the Simple Pleasures Cafe on Balboa, and after breaking my last five dollar bill, bought a minimum three dollar hour on their public computer.

It was then that, overwhelmed with despair, I emailed at least one hundred people at once with these words:

I am stuck in a T-shirt out in Golden Gate Park in the freezing cold wind, and I do not believe I can make it through night.  I am writing to let you all know that I can no longer handle the ongoing conditions of Homelessness.   Please, somebody let me stay over tonight, or show me where I can go, because at this time, I am prepared to take my own life, to avoid what I feel is coming.

And though I indeed lost at least a hundred formerly positive contacts with a single email, the revelation of humanity that poured forth from exactly three people whom I hardly knew was astonishing.

An Actress: Andy, I’ve been there.  Give me your number; I will do everything I can possibly do to help you.

A Bartender: Andy, I’m driving over from Lodi to get you.   Tell me where you are — my dad says you can stay at his house for a night or two.

A Poet: Andy, check your PayPal.  I just shot you eighty bucks.  Get yourself a hotel room, get inside for tonight, and take it from there.  Tomorrow is another day.

Of course, the final offer was of most immediate appeal.  I used my last two dollars to hop on a SamTrans bus and check into a cheap motel in Belmont for the night.

In the morning, I woke up, scratched my head, and scanned my options.  I knew that Greg the bartender was willing to come get me.  But it seemed as though something more important needed to happen first.  So, I walked up the hill to Sequoia Hospital, and told them everything I just told you. 

I explained how my job contracts had ended, and how it would be a bit of a lull before I could find another gig.  I expressed how I had thought that surely now, with both employment and a rental, I should have managed to get back on my feet.  Before, I explained, I either didn’t have a job or I didn’t have a place to live.  This time, I had managed to muster up both at once.   And yet still the Homelessness loomed larger than any of that. 

I told them how two nights prior, I had written to all of my family members to beseech them to let me stay at their homes for just a couple nights, and no one at all replied.  I told them I had been trying to deal with my mental health issues ever since a first-time manic episode in the year 2004 had lost me my job, my car, and my home.  I told them how every time I entered into some kind of program, something would happen, something having to do with my inability to get along with others in close quarters, and I would get kicked out.  Or else I would finish the program, and then what?   Where would I go?  All roads, I told them, led to Homelessness.

I told them I completely understood why people didn’t want to have me over, because I probably would’t want me over either.  But at the same time, I asked them, where is compassion?  Who has a heart?   Can’t somebody bend for a little while?  When is anybody going to realize that I’m not going to be able to solve any of my “boundary issues” or exacerbations of ADHD or bipolar disorder if I don’t find that somebody loves me enough to make a simple sacrifice – and yet, nobody will.

“Can I possibly be that bad of a piece of shit that nobody will let me stay with them?”  I asked them.  “I’ve let homeless guys stay at my place before.   I didn’t like having my space invaded either, but I had compassion.   Sure, Tony slept for twelve hours and left a mess in the kitchen.  So what?   Was I supposed to let him die out in Golden Gate Park on a night like this?  Why can’t they get that I won’t be able to solve any of these other problems of mine if I can’t first solve the much more enormous problem that is Homelessness? 

“And why, why, why doesn’t anybody love me anymore?” I cried.  “How can they keep saying they ‘love’ me, yet forbidding me to even so much as knock on their door, or to come over for Christmas dinner?  What is wrong with me?  Am I that horrible of a human being that, for all of my God-given gifts and musical abilities, I am supposed to die in a damn gutter?   Why can’t anybody give me a break?”

I shut my mouth and ceased my appeal.  I looked in their eyes, fully expecting them to say the usual:

I’m sorry, Andy.  We’re not a spa or a ski resort.  I know you want to get your meds fixed and find some help here, but we can’t just let every homeless person on earth over for a 72-hour stay.   We feel for you, but you will just have to receive help for your condition somewhere else.

Tears were flowing down my eyes.  I stayed silent and gazed at the three women in front of me, who in turn gazed at me. 

And I tell you — when those three social workers rushed up and hugged me, I remembered again the Revelation of Humanity — that inkling of hope, not just for me, but for the entire human race.   

I was not a piece of shit.

I was not “worthless homeless scum.”

I was not a “dirt bag.”

I was a human being who needed and deserved real help.  

Sure, I lost at least eighty professional contacts, maybe twenty people I had thought were my friends, and another person whom I very much love, with a single email.   But what I gained from this experience was far greater.

I thought I would end my meaningless, worthless life.  Instead, my life of worth and meaning had just begun.   

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

 

Another New Development

There’s been another new development — possibly even a breakthrough – insofar as my goal to produce the new musical Eden in Babylon is concerned.  

It looks like there’s a very strong chance that the University will permit the use of their Theater Arts students in a reading of the script, to be held at some point after the 14th of January.   

This came about when my assistant Danielle asked me if I had ever thought about simply walking into the Theater Arts Department with a hard copy of my script, and asking if they had any ideas as to how to expedite a work-in-progress production.  I had to tell her honestly that the thought had never crossed my mind.   For one thing, I really didn’t have a script with which I was completely comfortable until a little over a week ago.   Nor was  the first coil-bound copy of the script created until six days ago.   So it seemed like an idea whose time was ripe.

The reception I received at the Department office far exceeded my expectations.  The Media Relations Assistant turned out to be a wonderfully warm and supportive person.  During a very pleasant and informative chat of about a half hour or so, I was advised of the Department philosophy: 

“Plays are not meant to be read —
they are meant to be acted, directed,
and produced.”

So while they would not read my play further than a quick skim, I was assured that if I sent them a email letter of intent with script attached, my email would be forwarded to all undergraduate and graduate Acting students in an effort to encourage their involvement.

group-reading-2The MRA also told me that my having a large cast (27) would actually work to my advantage in this context, because students are typically much less intimidated with the larger-cast projects than if, say, it were a cast of two.  She said that they generally are enthused about the large group effort, and eager to participate, free of charge.

Because I had been expecting anything from a cold shoulder to a run–through-the-ringer, I found the brief encounter to be a catalyst to further inform my path.  It occurs to me that I might as well take the vocal score to the School of Music and ask the director of the jazz choir if there are any singing majors who would like to sing on a demo recording of the project.  it can’t hurt.  And who knows?  They might even work for free.

In general, I don’t feel the sense of postpartum that I felt last March after having given birth to such a huge baby.  At the same time, I know a few things about my bipolarity as it can manifest over the long-term.  If for no other reason than to stave off another period of deep depression and artistic frustration, I think it behooves me to optimize the current energy — and strike while the iron is hot.

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

 

 

Gratitude List 631

1. It is a relief to look at my computer screen and not have to see multiple Facebook messenger messages popping up with all kinds of over-stimulus from people who seem overexcited, getting in the way of everything I am trying to do.  The key is to simply log off of Facebook, then this maddening phenomenon does not occur.

2. I finally figured out how to use the Pocket Juice, and I should have a charge on my cell phone soon.

3. Every morning before I enter into the Inter-world, my thoughts are always about J, B, and E.  They are not thoughts of resentment, but thoughts of fear.  It is good to know what it is really on my mind — what the Internet is burying.  I pray that I be delivered from this heart of fear, and that they all come back to God, in His time.

4. The sadness I feel does not need to be despair.  The sadness can help me to see the error of my own thinking, and to turn my own heart back to God.  (2 Cor 7:10).  I didn’t feel that when I first awoke, but I feel it now, and therefore I have hope.

5. I was blessed to know that my list had blessed R.J. first thing yesterday morning.  I also met her kids, and I see that they’ve been brought up right.

6. Despite that Facebook appears in my head to be this horror that deceives the people, this massive thrust of urban pacification by the Powers That Be, designed to keep people from seeing what is actually going on in society, it nonetheless has brought me together with some very wonderful people whom otherwise I’d not have connected with.

7. I learned from the U.I. web site that the Hartung does rent out to independent contractors not associated with the University or the remains of Idaho Rep.  I can learn what the rates are, and plug that into the budget involving funding from the people who may be interested in helping me to self-produce my musical.  It’s also the perfect house size (417, I had aimed for 400), and has excellent lighting and sound facilities.

8. Having run out of coffee, I’m using Lipton tea bags that Young Paul left in the apartment.   They aren’t working yet, but I can get coffee for free at Gritman before long.

9. Nice of Cindi, my Presbyterian friend in South Carolina, to pass on her late husband’s running shoes.  Also huge of H. to help me with registration fees.

10. The sleep paralysis yesterday morning was horrible.  But sleep itself is a large part of the solution.  I’m rested now, and I’ve learned something.  Thank God for sleep.  God is making my crooked paths straight. 

The Dialectic (Part Two)

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. That depends.

Q. On what?

A. On what day it is and what mood I’m in.

Q. And what day is this?

A. It’s the Day of Reckoning.

Q. Day of Reckoning?

A. Well – perhaps not in the strictest sense.  That day is in God’s hands, not mine.  But in my own limited realm of self, I essentially have reached the place where something has got to happen, or else I just know  – from knowing myself — that I might implode.

Q. What would “imploding” entail?

A. I don’t know, man.  Some kind of total breakdown.  I’ll think of something.

Q. So you secretly *want* to implode?

A. Of course not!

Q. Then how can you avoid it?

A. That’s a good question.  I would say, by coming to terms with my issues of frustration.  Not so much anger issues — that would be true in a different sense, in a different context — but issues of frustration.   Frustration, and — confusion.

Q. Can you elaborate, please?

A. I will try.

Sad man silhouette worried on the beach

In certain sects of Buddhism, we are taught that frustration and confusion are the natural states operative in the human condition.  I resonate within this framework, to a degree.  I find that they work in concert with each other, within me.  My oft-expressed frustration with my professional and creative challenges seems to be proportional to the confusion I have as to how best to actualize my artistic goals.   Take this musical, for example, Eden in Babylon.

There are basically two ways I could go about this.  One way would be to complete my package, including a vocal score, demo of three songs with instrumentation and vocals, and complete libretto — or musical script — and submit the package to theatre companies interested in producing original musicals.  I have a few companies in mind, several of which include people with whom I’ve worked in the past, people who respect me enough that they will probably prioritize taking a look at my work.    This way of going about it would cost me considerably less money than the second way.

Q. What’s the second way?

A. I was just getting to that.  It involves coming up with a budget of about $50,000 and self-producing the show.

Q. Roughly speaking, how would that $50,000 be spent?

A. First off, I would find a theatre of sufficient size to accommodate a 27-member cast and small orchestra, as well as (perhaps more importantly) a moderately large audience.  Let’s say, about a 400-seat house.   Included in the budget would be the rental rates for a run of, say, twelve performances — ten evenings, and two matinees.  

Q. What next?

A. Hire the production staff.  I would need to pay a technical director, a stage manager, an ASM, a musical director, a rehearsal accompanist, perhaps a separate conductor and/or vocal director, a choreographer, a lighting designer, a set designer, a costumer, a props master, and a few other stage hands and gophers.  Oh – and a director.

Q. And then?

A. Auditions.  Although there would probably only be a mild stipend available for most of the Actors, the cast quality would be strengthened if we included at least three Equity Actors, hopefully reputable, popular Actors and Actresses.   In fact, I would even call people I know, people with whom I have worked in the past, to check their availability, if need be.

Q. So the Actors you have in mind would need to be available during the period when the theater has been rented?

A. Yes.  During the run.  I might even try to get the run to coincide with the prior availability of somebody whom I want very badly — for example, the main character, Winston Greene.   

Q. Any ideas who can do that?

A. The ideas are brewing, but not yet solidified.  We need a dynamic rock tenor capable of coming across like a 23-year old man.  And there are certain other requirements.   Could be a challenge.  But he’s out there somewhere.   

Q. What about the other main characters?

A. I have two people in mind for two of the supporting female roles, but nobody specifically lined up for the female lead, Taura.  Both the male and female leads will probably need to be AEA along with the male antagonist: Benzo Diablo.

Q.Benzo Diablo?

A. It’s a play on words.  If you’ve ever taken a valium, you probably know what I mean.

Q. Now why would I ever do a thing like that?

A. I don’t know – that’s up to you.

Q. Well, this is mounting up monetarily.  But don’t you think $50,000 is a little steep?

A. Not at all.  We need props and set pieces.   I may need to hire a Master Carpenter.   Lights might be provided with the theatre itself, but there will also be technical effects.  It adds up.  I can do it on $50,000 — and do it well.

Q. What will be your own role in the production?

A. As the Author, it stands to reason I should be somewhat detached.   I would want my presence felt, but not in such a way as might interfere.  Moreover, I would like to come see the show, and not to have to be involved with performances. Perhaps I would be the Accompanist, Vocal Director (but not conductor) or even the Artistic Director.  Of the three, Vocal Director is my forte.   But any one of those positions would enable me to actually come and see the show on Opening Night, perhaps even with a date.

Q. Aren’t you dreaming?

A. I am indeed.  But what does the Bible say?

Q. I don’t know — what does it say?

A. It says:

And your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.
Joel 2:28

Q. Are you an old man, Andy?

A. Well, I sure ain’t gettin’ any younger.  I might be putting a little wear and tear on the old running shoes, but sometimes I feel like the only race I’m running is the race against against Alzheimer’s trying to get this show on the road.

Q. Do I detect a wee bit of impatience?

A. What you are detecting is Awareness of Mortality!

Q. And when you were younger?

A. I saw visions.   This is one of them.  My dream is for others to see it, too.

Q. But wouldn’t the first way be easier?

A. Not necessarily.   For one thing, it’s proven more difficult to get singers interested in helping me make a demo for a show that no one knows will ever be produced, than it naturally would be for one that had a definite production schedule.  In fact, with definite production dates, after holding auditions, I might not even bother with the demo.  Not to mention, there would be a lot of compromise in taking the less expensive route.  Compromise – and working intensively, sometimes intimately, with others.  Multiple conflicts of interest, and strange bedfellows abounding.

Q. But wouldn’t $50,000 be a considerable chunk of change?  I mean, how likely is it that you, Andy Pope, who has been homeless throughout most of the 21st Century, will actually come up with $50,000?

A. Oh, it’s very likely indeed.  For I have taken this matter to a spiritual level – not only to my pastor and close spiritual confidantes, but all the way to the Top!

Q. To the Top!?

A. You heard me.

Q. Really?  The Top?!?

A. Is there an echo in here?

Q. But aren’t you being a bit — grandiose?

A. Grand?  Yes.  Grandiose?  Perhaps.   Delusional, however, as in “delusions of grandeur” — no way, buddy boy!  This type of grandeur is written in the Stars.

Q. You seem a shade more — confident than usual.   What about confusion?  What about — frustration?

A. Very good questions indeed.   These truths, my friend, are for me to know – and for you to find out.

TO BE CONTINUED

Make Haste Slowly

Just a brief update to fill you in on my progress as to the new composing project I have undertaken.  (The gist of the project is described in this entry.)

I’ve succeeded in interweaving two of the pertinent themes in such a way as appears to hold promise.  Should you choose to indulge me, you might recognize a few of these strains from my Berkeley Page.  Hopefully, however, you’ll find that they are much evolved since you tuned in last.  In general, the piece is very very jazzy compared to any of its previous components.

I mentioned that this composing project is one of three current projects, along with the writings I’ve been producing for Street Spirit, and the demo and revision of my musical, Eden in Babylon.   As far as Street Spirit is concerned, I turned in four new pieces to the publisher, but have not yet heard back.  Of course, I don’t know if any will be accepted, but I got the feeling earlier we were headed toward a possible monthly thing.   He published the first of my articles in August, and three in September.  So of course, I’m hoping he will publish two or three this month.  The paper will be issued at around the 10th of this month.  So I’ll let you know by then.

On the demo, I found the two male singers I woulds need, in addition to myself.  So, in addition to Erika, the new Director of Music at my church, I only need one more female singer.  So it looks like things are slowly coming together in that area as well.  We’re shooting for the week before Thanksgiving vacation.

Make-haste-slowly.__quotes-by-Polish-Proverb-98The revision itself is another matter.  I lump it in with the demo as part of the same project, which is the ongoing thrust to move Eden in Babylon toward production.  When I rewrote the lyrics to Midnight Screams, I realized that I needed to make other subtle changes — in addition to some fairly major changes – at other spots in the recently completed script.  So I’m moving on that as well.  But in all these things, considering my sometime tendency to push myself a bit too hard, I am evoking the motto of the Emperor Augustus: “Make Haste Slowly.”

Earlier, it seemed I flew just a bit too close to the sun.  So, it seems prudent to take things a little slower —  but steady all the same.

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