Tuesday Tune-Up

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Not exactly.  But I don’t think it’s relevant.

Q. So why have you summoned me?

A. Tune-up.

Q. Squeaky wheels, eh?

A. They’re the ones that get the oil.

Q. Are they?

A. I’m honestly not sure.  I’ve tried to believe that.  I’ve read the Parable of the Unjust Judge enough times to have figured it out.   Or the Parable of the Nagging Widow, or whatever they call it, depending on the emphasis.

Q. Do you empathize with the Judge, or with the Widow?

A. I said “emphasis” not “empathize.”  I don’t empathize with either of them.

Q. Then why are you trying to act like one of them?

A. Because I’ve been led to believe that it will work.

Q. What will work?   Nagging?

gavelA. Yes — or so I’m led to believe.  You know the story.  The widow appears before the Judge with some certain request that he at first denies her.   But she just keeps appearing, and showing up in Court, and reiterating her request ad nauseum, until eventually the Judge breaks down and grants her the request, just to get her off his back.

Q. And so you figure that if you nag everybody enough, they’ll eventually break down?

A. More-or-less.  That’s what I’ve been figuring, but it obviously doesn’t work.  I am either never going to get the money to do this demo recording, or I’m going to have to go about it some other way — because no matter how many times I plead, I still see the same hundred bucks in there that I saw a long time ago.   Sure it was encouraging when it first showed up — way back when — but it’s pretty damned discouraging to keep checking the fund site, only to find that nothing has changed.  I finished the musical almost a year ago and have been trying to move onto the next stage since then! It’s frustrating!!!

People set up “go-fund-me’s” for all kinds of things these days, and get the money.  Some of the causes aren’t even worthwhile, if you ask me — yet they still manage to come up with the bucks.  Here I wrote this entire musical, I’m only trying to get basic money together for the next step in the process, and nobody will help me.   Nobody.

Q. But some people have helped you on occasion, haven’t they?

A. Yeah, but they’ve helped me — not my project.   I keep telling people; I don’t need personal help anymore; I’m meeting my own personal needs, thank you.  I’m not sleeping in a gutter anymore; I’m not panhandling – I’m not begging for change on the streets.  I’ve tried to go about this whole thing decently and honestly, but where has it gotten me?

I set up a separate fund for this thing — or rather my friend Danielle did — and we still can’t get any money together.  I’ve been as honest as I can be; and that doesn’t seem to help.   What am I supposed to do?  Turn around and start feeding people a load of bullshit in order to try to get this show on the road?   That would fly in the face of everything I stand for; everything the musical is all about.

Q. Andy, have you ever considered that maybe this isn’t the time to produce your musical?

A. Painfully, yes.  Of course I have.   I’m a  Christian, and I figure God is closing the doors until a time of His choosing, not mine. 

Q. And do you not see His many blessings in other areas of your life?

A. Sure I do!  At times, I am even grateful for them.  But that doesn’t automatically put an end to my frustration.  I spent five years trying to get this script and score finished – through seemingly insurmountable obstacles – in order for it to come to this.   It makes me feel as though I wasted my time on some pipe dream.

Q. Where is your faith?

A. That’s the $64,000 question.   And I’m only asking for 1% that amount.   So – I’ll try this one more time, but honestly, that’s about all I can take of this.   All these stupid donate buttons go against my grain.  Not to mention, they soil the picture of this blog.  I’m about the least materialistic guy on the planet, and they stick out like a sore thumb. I don’t need the gavel of an Unjust Judge to validate my mediocrity.  I’m bigger than that.  I’m better than that!   I’m an Artist!!   I’m an Artist — and I hate money.  I hate what it does to me, and I don’t like seeing what it does in others.  I’m an Artist. Somebody else manage my damn money!! I’m an Artist! I want out.

The Questioner is silent.

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


I’m being majorly spammed on the My Pitch post by multiple trolls – probably the same entity under different guises.   I keep marking the comments as spam and then removing them, but I might just let them accumulate so I can show them to the Happiness Engineers when the time comes. 

fat catProbably their motive is to get my goat, knowing that since My Pitch is an obvious appeal to get money for my demo recording and the ultimate packaging of my musical, I will always head very eagerly toward that post in hopes that it’s money I might be receiving, rather than incoherent inter-babble from fat guys drinking whiskey who, unlike Yours Truly, do not have a life.

(Oh well.   At least I learned that I don’t like the picture of the Rainbow Kids dancing around making music.   It just seems weird and phony.    I’ll replace it with something more along the lines of “Power to the People” and see if that works better.)

On the money note, we did receive a $100 donation on the latest bid for seven hundred bucks.   I also want to make a true confession here, which will at least assuage my guilty conscience, if not make me any money.

More than once I have taken money intended to be used for the project and instead have paid my phone bill or bought groceries.  I did it out of desperation, and it has not helped my cause.  It’s true that my rent is $175 more per month than it used to be, and that I am also a disabled man on a fixed income.   However, it is also true that $175 is worth the fact that there are no more tweakers knocking on my door day in and out asking me for cigarette lighters (although I do not smoke) and where I’m hiding the drugs (because nobody can possibly type as fast as I do unless they’re high on speed.)

Unfortunately, there are limits to human compassion.   Ah, but I digress.

Because of my earlier indiscretions, Danielle and I have set up a fund site where all donations will simply sit in limbo until the $700 is achieved.   At this point, I am happy to announce that $100 has already been received toward that goal.  So we only have $600 to go.

Let’s get the $600 together, guys — and let’s get this show on the road.  It’s not as though the cat has nine lives here.   Enough said.

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

About That Insecure Creative

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!



“Get a Job!”

The spot where I used to sit on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley was in close proximity to a pub where Cal students would often become intoxicated.  I usually left before this could happen, but occasionally a drunken fellow would emerge in the daytime.

One day I was sitting there quietly, lamenting as usual the fact that too many people were approaching me telling me where the organized meals were, where the shelters were, how to get government “crazy money,” and so forth.  It tended to depress me, because I obviously knew all that stuff already.  What I wanted was some cash and some food for my stomach, so I could smile at them before they moved on.

But then this drunken guy came out of the pub, even though it was only about two in the afternoon.  He was making loud abusive comments toward women, and generally seemed pretty disgusting.  Of course, I probably seemed pretty disgusting too — just the sight of me sitting there — even though I wasn’t saying anything.  (As you know, if you’ve been reading me, my whole gig was to never open my mouth, and simply sit there, holding up an informative sign.)

Eventually, the young man staggered his way toward me, and stopped in front of my sign, staring at it silently, as though dumbfounded.


Lifting up his eyes after what seemed an eternity, he then began to stare directly at me for an even longer eternity. Finally, he spoke.

“Get a job, man!!  Get off your butt!   Get a hustle!!!” 

He then staggered off of my spot just as sure as he’d staggered onto it.  I watched him stagger away, and once he was out of sight, I turned my head and saw another young man.  This new fellow, obviously more sober, was laughing.  Whether he was laughing at me, at him, with me, or with him — I cannot say.   Whatever the case, he apparently found the situation amusing.

I decided to break my rule at that point.  (That is to say, I opened my mouth.)

“You know what?” I said.

“What?” he asked.

“He’s right.”

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


Somebody Gave Easily

Lately there has been a gnawing sensation within me that a critical part of my story has been left out. I’ve been wanting to relate a certain turn of events that occurred in July 2016, after I had left Berkeley, but before I had moved up to Idaho. It may explain why it is that I am so passionate about what I am writing, and why I now know that my life has meaning.

To provide some background, I left Berkeley, California on the day that I received my monthly Social Security check for July. On that day, I bought a laptop. Knowing that four laptops had been stolen in a three year period in Berkeley, and that I was a known “mark” for the thugs and gang bangers who hung out by the local rapid transit station, my plan was to silently leave town before anyone caught wind of my acquisition.

The city where I landed on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula was a small town of about 25,000 composed almost entirely of upper-class Caucasians. I selected it because it was noted for a low crime rate and a peaceful aura. However, it wasn’t particularly friendly toward outdoor homeless types, and after the second time my sleep was interrupted by an officer of the law, I agreed to be transferred from my spot behind the local library to a shelter about twenty five miles South of there, in a more industrial neck of the woods.

At first, I was very impressed with the shelter. They had a number of programs designed to help homeless people get back on their feet and regain self-esteem. It was, however, assumed that I was an alcoholic or a drug addict, and daily twelve-step meetings were required. Still, I acquiesced.  I think twelve-step meetings are great, in general.  The only thing that bothered me was the assumption that I needed one. 

About five days into my sojourn at the shelter, an unfortunate turn of events took place. In the Men’s Barracks, where I slept on a bunk in close proximity to about twenty-five other men, I caught a flu.  I went to the hospital, where I was told I had “viral bronchitis” — which I’m pretty sure is just a fancy name for a high-follutin’ flu.  I definitely do not have bronchitis in any other sense.  In any case, I was given the usual stuff, and told to “rest in bed for ten days.” 

But when I went back to the shelter, they told me that because I had a contagious disease, I could no longer stay at the shelter.  This disturbed me.   After all, I had obviously caught the flu at the shelter.   So I was not the only person there with a flu.  Half of the guys in the barracks were coughing, sneezing, and wheezing from all their cigarette smoke anyway.  Here I’m this guy with an unusually strong immune system, who had caught exactly two flus in the past fifteen years, works out, doesn’t smoke or drink — it very much upset me that I was being reprimanded for my honesty.

So I went back to the hospital and explained what happened, hoping they would let me in to recover.  But at the hospital, I was told that they couldn’t show any special preference for me, just because I was homeless.  

“I know you have the flu, Andy, but let’s face it.  Homeless people come in here trying to get an overnight stay all the time, for all kinds of reasons.  If I were to let you in, I’d have to let in the whole lot of you.   I’m sorry, Andy, but that’s just the way it is.”

A rush of numbing fright consumed me.  I suddenly realized that I was going to have to fend with this flu outdoors!  I’d seen homeless people die overnight after catching a flu!  I feared death – but I was too young to die — and generally a very healthy, fit human being.   But what could I do?

Throughout the next five days, my condition worsened.  I was sneezing, and often visibly perspiring.  The driver of the all-night bus stopped letting me inside the bus at night, because all the other homeless people who used the bus as a sleeping spot were complaining that I might be contagious.  I told him that viral bronchitis is only contagious in the first two to three days.  But this was to no avail.

Then one night, something came over me.   And this is why I now know that my life has meaning.   I was walking by the Sequoia Station in Redwood City, wondering where to sleep that night, when suddenly I dropped down on my knees and screamed at the top of my lungs.

God!!  If there is Anybody out there, I don’t care Who you are, or what your Name is, if you can feel me, where I’m coming from, please — I do not care about drug addiction or alcoholism, or mental illness, or being a lazy bum or a slacker or a slouch – I care about Homelessness!  Please put an END to twelve years of totally unpredictable, totally unreliable, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, ANYTIME ANYWHERE HOMELESSNESS!!! In the name of Jesus Christ I pray –

Granted, it was an impulsive emotional outburst, and I’m sure any theologian worth their salt could easily chop holes in the wording.  But I felt an eerie sense of calm when I got back up to my feet. 

I looked around.  The night was still and quiet.  My spirit was overwhelmed with the clear feeling that Somebody had heard that prayer — and that Somebody would honor it.

A couple days later, as the symptoms of the flu subsided, I remembered an associate of mine, a now retired music teacher with whom I had worked when I was still a sheltered elementary school music teacher making a modest living on the Peninsula, before all this homelessness ensued.   He had earlier said that if I could choose a spot outside of the State of California where the rents would be cheaper and I could conceivably live off of my Social Security, he would spot me the one-way ticket.

The rest of my story I have told.  Here, there, and elsewhere.  Within forty-eight hours, I had rented a room at Friendship Square on a temporary basis.  Three days later I signed a one year lease on an apartment that would have rented for $900 in Berkeley, and was only $275 in Moscow, Idaho.  I alighted upon the city of my birth for the first time in sixty-three years — a city that I knew nothing about whatsoever, other than the fact that I was born here.   Three weeks later, I applied for a part time job and was hired — after years of being considered unemployable and mentally incapable of working in the State of California. 

I only later learned that Idaho Repertory Theatre was founded in this city on the year I was born, and that the Lionel Hampton School of Music sports a city-wide jazz festival every year here — in the town where I was born.  I only later walked through one of the city gates, and saw the city proudly proclaiming itself: “The Heart of the Arts.” 

I’m not going to ask you to believe in God, if you don’t already, after having read these words.  The word “God” after all, is only a word.  If you ask ten people the meaning of that Word, you are likely to get ten different answers.  I know what I believe, and you probably do too.

But I will ask you to believe that my life has meaning — and purpose.  If you can help me in any way to move that purpose forward, please do. I’ve been sleeping in gutters for almost half of my adult life.  That I did not die a meaningless death on the streets of Berkeley is an absolute miracle.   I have written a full-length musical about homelessness since I have been off the streets, in addition to numerous blogs, and five articles published in Street Spirit.   If you can help me in any way with the money I need to make a demo recording of three songs from my musical, please believe me:


That one has got to be true.  After all, Somebody gave pretty easily — once I finally, earnestly asked.

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


No Longer an Island

The Medieval poet-cleric John Donne is credited with having said a number of fairly amazing things.   But the one that’s always stuck in my mind is: “No man is an island unto himself.”  I realize that this is the case, at least metaphysically speaking.  But it sure feels like I’ve been an “island” — trying to get this project happening.  

John Donne

This is why I’m going to take the liberty at this time to express how grateful I am for the qualities of  practicality and common sense that characterize my new assistant, Danielle Stephens.   As has so often been the case in the past, Danielle seems to compliment my skill set by being strong in the areas where I am weak.   But what I’m really so grateful for is that I am no longer an “island unto myself.”  

On my end, you see, it’s simply necessary that any donations to my project not go to me personally, and that they do go to somebody like Danielle.  For one thing, I don’t have any common sense at all, as near as I can tell after almost sixty-five years of fumbling through this mysterious world of ours.  And probably the most practical thing I’ve ever done is to turn everything over to Danielle.

For another thing, it seems to make sense — even to me, who has no common sense — that my personal and business dealings ought to remain separate.   This is especially the case now that I’ve moved into a more expensive apartment.  Although I’ve figured out how to manage my monthly income in such a way as to make ends meet, I don’t even want to be tempted to take money from donations intended to further the project, and wind up spending it on personal needs.

This is where Danielle comes in.   Her particular strengths are, as I’ve said, complimentary to mine.  Consider, for example, what has happened in the past week alone.  During the past seven days, I have finished my 2nd draft of the Eden in Babylon script.  (This is why, by the way, you haven’t heard from me recently.  I’ve been obsessive about making certain adjustments that had gnawed at me during the six months or so when I basically didn’t look at the script.  It took me two months to complete the revision, and in the past seven days have been especially focused toward this end.)

So I got the idea that I probably ought to self-publish it through Lulu or CreateSpace, and also run off a hard copy of it to lug around with me and show people in “real life.”  I didn’t know how much any of this would cost.  But a few days ago, before I was even finished with the revision, I asked Danielle if she would send me forty dollars out of the donation fund, where she has been patiently holding the money.

Immediately, she advised me that there would be no reason to send me the money until I had actually finished the revision and knew exactly what I was going to do with it.  I thought about it for a moment or two; and realized that she is, of course, right.  What’s the point of having her hold the money, if she’s going to send it right back to me for no clear reason whatsoever?

This is where she and I differ – in a good way.  In my mind, there is usually no difference between the forty dollars that I will “probably” spend in a “pretty good way’ at some point further down the road.  In her mind, she needs to know the exact reason for the expenditure, needs to know that it’s justified, and probably even would like to see a receipt.  

So – now that I’m finally done with the script revision, I’m going to go over to Fed-Ex, run it off, put a nice cover on it, and send Danielle the receipt.  How can I go wrong?  I am no longer an island!

I also want to express my gratitude for the two small donations that were offered within the past week.  Without them, I really couldn’t have rationalized running off a personal hard copy of my work.  With them, I feel that I am getting myself something that I not only can use business-wise, but that I can keep for myself as my own — a symbol of all the hard work I have put into this creation.  

Without your donations, and the help of my assistant, not even that single gift would have been possible.  So once again — and you know who you are — thank you for being so supportive of Eden in Babylon.  We’ll get this show on the road yet.  

Donations Gratefully Accepted Here