Gratitude List 1564

(1) Nice 2 1/2 mile run on that pleasant shady trail called Paradise Path.   Didn’t time it (heaven forbid!) but I clearly ran faster than usual.   It is an intriguing source of great gratitude that an O.G. like me can even still be running, after all the toll life has taken on me.

(2) Sure feels nice to be in the air-conditioned Co-Op on a day when many businesses are closed because it’s too hot for the workers in their buildings without air conditioning.   Nice that the Co-Op has reopened completely, and nice to be enjoying a salad of my choice for the first time in over a year.

(3) The fifth draft of the Vocal Score and Draft 5-T of the EIB Script are complete and have been uploaded on the Box links now indicated.   I am pretty sure I’m done, except for I need to insert a Table of Contents in the vocal score, which attempted task grossly challenged my aging nerves.

(4) Great conversations with my sponsor Matt lately, who is interested in my tutoring him in Music Theory.

(5) I can’t explain it, but I feel a bit freer than usual.  Something about the Kids, something about the workshop.   All’s well that ends well, I suppose.  Nothing like quitting when you’re ahead.   A folded hand is better than a hand spinning out of control.  At least I was able to finally love.  Only a small, select group of people received it, but I finally knew that what I experienced — for one — was Love.

“Better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.”
— Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Gratitude List 1558

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday Tuneup 96

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Disorientation.

Q. How so?

A. Thrown off.

Q. Thrown off track?

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

Q. Well, what happened?

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

Q. Why did you go there?

A. Because I had left my glasses there.

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

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

Q. Why not?

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

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

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

Q. What did you do then?

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

Q. How did that feel?

A. Weird.

Q. Why?

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

Q. Does that happen often?

A. Not as often as it used to.

Q. Why not?

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

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

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

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

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

Q. A couple musicals?

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

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

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

Q. The laws?

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

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

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

Q. Have you always obeyed the laws?

A. No I have not.

Q. Do you always obey the laws nowadays?

A. Yes I do.

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

A. That’s a very good question.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 91

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Winding down.

Q. How?

A. Strawberry milk, tylenol, water, and benadryl.

Q. Why?

A. Long day.

Q. Sleep all right last night?

A. No.

Q. Why not?

A. Too much on my mind.

Q. Why?

A. Too much to do.

Q. And now?

A. Tired.

Q. And?

A. Brain-dead.

Q. And?

A. Hoping to sleep soon.

Q. What’s keeping you?

A. Not sure.

Q. Any ideas?

A. Too many. They make my head spin.

Q. What about images?

A. A few. Good and bad.

Q. Can you focus on a good one?

A. Why?

Q. Might it bring you peace?

A. It might.

Q. And once you are at peace, might you get to sleep?

A. I might.

Q. Can you try?

A. All right.

Pause.

A. I think I found one.

Q. What is it?

A. An image. A picture of smiling faces looking at me, and me being at the piano, and our just having finished rehearsal, and me realizing that — it’s actually happening. I didn’t die a meaningless death in a gutter. I didn’t die abandoned. I lived, and I was given a chance to realize my dream.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1620

1. Grateful to have gotten a good night’s sleep and to be “up and at it” on a brand new day. There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when a good night’s sleep was out of the question.

2. Grateful to be working with such a fine team of talented, dedicated young people. Particularly grateful for the new team member, who appears already to be just as great as all the other great people on the team.

3. Even though our small, close-knit artistic community has been somewhat shattered by the Pandemic, I find gratitude in the fact that we still interact positively online, and that occasional real-life gatherings have left me feeling warm inside, with a renewed sense of hope.

4. Grateful for the Black & Decker coffeemaker and for the tasty Columbian coffee I was able to obtain at low cost at the local Winko’s. There was a time in my life, not too long ago, when obtaining a morning cup of coffee was a real struggle.

5. Grateful for the gratitude that the Giver of Life imbues upon my spirit, every time I ask for help in the morning. Grateful that, despite the pandemonium of the present day, life can still be beautiful — one day at a time.

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”
     ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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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.

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Sleep Paralysis

I never knew what it was called until they came up with a name for it about five or six years ago.  I’ve been having it since I was 14.  I believe my brother has been having it since he was 15.  My daughter has it but her mother, my ex-wife does not.

The reason why I’m bringing it up is because, although I’ve been dealing with this phenomenon at varying levels of discomfort throughout my life, it has never been as bad as it’s been in the past ten or twelve days.   I’m having it day after day; I’ve been to Emergency about it; I’ve even had a guy from my church come over and perform a kind of charismatic exorcism.  

I’ve probably averaged three or four hours of sleep a night for the past ten days or so.  Only on one night did I get a good seven hours sleep.  The night I went to Emergency the doctor there gave me 0.5 mg clonazepam on my request, which was the same medication I swore off cold turkey on May 10, 2004.  A reaction to a prescription of 6mg / day I was given on the morning my mother was to die caused me to start behaving very strangely, uncharacteristically.   Anybody who’s heard my story knows that between October 9, 2003 when Mom died and May 17, 2004 when I spent my first night homeless at the Burlingame CalTrain station, I lost everything I had.  I took clonazepam (klonopin) all that time till I quit cold turkey on May 10, 2004.  

The reason I bring this up is that I don’t ask for a clonazepam lightly.  But I’ve known that a low dose like that is usually sufficient to get me from a waking state to sound sleep without stopping at that horrible zone where you kinda feel like this:

What Are Your Experiences With The Sleep Paralysis Demon Like?

Seriously.  Something from somewhere is pressing upon you.  You don’t quite see it, but boy do you feel it!  It’s one of the most terrifying experiences I know of.   

The night of the exorcism (not quite the right word; I think he use the word “intercession”) I slept very well.  It seemed all sense of such invasive entities had stopped completely.  But last night the invasion resumed.  I jumped out of bed pretty mad.   When is this thing going to end?

I was so mad, I ran three miles at midnight, did eleven push-ups, then wiped myself out enough to conk out from about two till six in the morning.   My vital signs were good at the doctor’s visit – lost eight pounds, medium to low blood pressure, heart rate 56.  Lots of exercise lately, and not much rest.  That could be a factor, but man, I am getting tired of this!   

I called the guy from my church and we prayed I would just get a decent night’s sleep.  I’ve been contacting old friends, and preparing for the worst.   I’m not sure how much longer I can hold up.  I have never had it night after night, day after day, on the bus, in the doctor’s office, sitting on my desk, sitting in the cafe — it’s horrible.

I’ve alternated between thinking that the loss of my medication might have something to do with it, but it was happening before that as well.  I’ve thought the medication itself might be involved, but one way or the other, I don’t like it.

I know this isn’t my usual post, but I’m not sure I’ve got much longer.  Every night I wonder if I’m going to get to sleep, or if I’m going to wake up, when it’s done.   So, if I’ve seemed to be weird the past few days, this is why.   

Today is the third year anniversary of the day I stepped off that bus on July 27, 2016 to start a new life.  If you pray, please pray that the new life will manifest fully from here. I’ve been feeling like I’ve been half asleep and half awake. Half in Cali, half up here. Half outdoors, and half inside. I’m in paralysis. I want to be full and complete from here on in, and paralyzed no more.

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Tuesday Tuneup 52

Q. What are you doing here?

A. What do you mean, what am I doing here?  I’m here to answer your questions, as best I can.

Q. But didn’t you say you weren’t coming back until October?

A. I changed my mind.

Q. What made you change your mind?

A. There’s much less stress in my life now than there was when I made that decision.

Q. But didn’t you give me your word?

A. I did, yes.

Q. Then why are you breaking your word?

A. Are you really taking this game that seriously?

Q. What makes it a game?

A. Hmm – good question.  I used the word “game” automatically, without really examining it first.

Q. Why do you think you did that?

A. There was a game on my mind.  A game where we used to always give our words, and shake on deals, even though a lot of the times, those deals were broken.

Q. What game was that?

A. Do you really need to know?

Q. Why shouldn’t I know?

A. It’s privileged information.

Q. Am I not privileged?

A. You are not.  And neither am I.

Q. Well, can you give me a clue?  

A. Can we have a guessing game?

Q. Okay.  Where did this game take place?

A. On the streets.

Q. Who did you play it with?

A. A bunch of other people who lived on the streets.

Q. What was the game called?

A. It was called the Game.  Capital G.

Q. How long did you play the Game?

A. Three years.  I began, to be honest, in July 2013.  I stopped in June 2016.

Q. Do you have a photographic memory?

A. I’m not sure.

Q. What did the Game consist of?

A. Interactions with others based on monetary exchanges, supply and demand.

Q. Were you a merchant in the Game?

A. No.  More like a customer.

Q. Why did you stop playing the Game?

A. Because I was no longer interested in the products that were being provided.

Q. Did you then begin to play another game?

A. I did not.  

Q. Why not?

A. Because, as a dear friend once told me, I am not immortal – and life is not a game.

The Questioner is silent.  

Life is Not a Game - Being Effective for God (April 2012)

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Shedding the Streets

“Shedding the Streets” is a 21 minute impromptu talk in which the speaker expresses the necessity and difficulty of abandoning tired old values acquired from years of living on the urban streets. If you like my work, please feel free to share it.  

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The Responsibility of Those in Authority

The words of King Lemuel – an oracle his mother taught him.

What shall I say, O my son?
What, O son of my womb?
What, O son of my vows?
Do not spend your strength on women
or your vigor on those who ruin kings.
It is not for kings, O Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine,
or for rulers to crave strong drink,
lest they drink and forget what is decreed,
and deprive all the oppressed of justice.
Give strong drink to one who is perishing,
and wine to the bitter in soul.
Let him drink and forget his poverty,
and remember his misery no more.
Open your mouth for those with no voice,
for the justice of all the dispossessed.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
and defend the cause of the poor and needy.

–Proverbs 31:1-9

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Who Has Woe?

Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has contentions? Who has complaints?
Who has needless wounds? Who has bloodshot eyes?
Those who linger over wine,
those who go to taste mixed drinks.
Do not gaze at wine while it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup
and goes down smoothly.
In the end it bites like a snake
and stings like a viper.
Your eyes will see strange things,
and your mind will utter perversities.
You will be like one sleeping on the high seas
or lying on the top of a mast:
“They struck me, but I feel no pain!
They beat me, but I did not know it!
When can I wake up
to search for another drink?”

–Proverbs 23:29-35

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Tuesday Tuneup 33

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of peace.

Q. Are you at war?

A. Yes.

Q. With whom?

A. With my enemies, of course.

Q. And who are your enemies?

A. Good question.  I tend to think that there are two of them — two young rapscallions from the hood, deluded young gentlemen who are often ringing my doorbell at odd hours of the night, for lengthy periods of time, and only to request annoying favors of me.

Q. These two young rapscallions — are they truly your ememies?

A. Probably not.   My enemies are probably more internal than external.  

internal enemyQ. What do you mean by that?

A. Well you know, I have all these inner blocks or demons that try to prevent me from staying the course, from keeping to what I’m about, and all that.

Q. But if a guy rings your doorbell at three in the morning, and keeps ringing and knocking until you finally give up and go answer it, and you can’t get back to sleep, how is that your fault in any way?

A. You know something, you’re right.  Almost any O.G. would not be able to get to sleep after something like that!

Q. So why are you being such a pushover?

A. That’s the internal enemy I’m talking about.  I’m a pushover.  The Kid knows that once a month, I’m going to be available to walk down to the nearest ATM and get him money for his chewing tobacco.   So what I’ve got to do is just say NO and say it firmly.  

Q. Why haven’t you done this already?

A. He keeps catching me off guard.  Both of them do — the other one’s not so flagrantly nefarious – but he’s still got his angle.  And his angle involves me, because—

Q. Because?

A. Because I’m a pushover.  And worse yet, I just told the whole world about it.  Pretty soon, every rambunctious rapscallion in town will be knocking on my door.  On MY door!  On the lockable, locked door that I EARNED – after putting in twelve hard years on the streets, where there was no door to be locked, or even to offer the slightest separation from me and all the evils of the night.  What a fool I am to willfully descreate and violate the sanctity of my sanctuary!   Damn, I’m pissed.

Q. And now?

A. And now what?  I just have to make the internal change, and enforce it, and be firm about it.  It’s like — a life lesson.  It’s something I’m supposed to learn here, while I’m on this Earth, and take it to the next stage of experience, when I’m not.

Q. You think so?

A. Sounds good to me.   Not knowing how to stand up for myself and say NO to people landed me in a gutter for over ten years.  I daresay I shan’t make the same mistake twice.

The Questioner is Silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 32

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. Right where I am right now.

Q. Where’s that?

A. In a cozy cafe on Main Street, not very far from campus.

Q. What do you like about where you are now?

A. It brings out the best in me.

Q. And what, by the way, is the best in you?

A. The best in me is a part of me that seems most authentic, less contrived, and less compelled to veer from my designated course.

Q. And what is your designated course? 

A. I think you know.

Q. Do I?

A. Sure you do.  It’s all over this blog, isn’t it?

Q. Is it?

A. Yes, it is.

Q. Is that why you’re being evasive?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Well, isn’t it evasive of you not to provide me with a direct answer?

A. No – not evasive.  I’m just tired of it all.  Tired of always having to define myself.

Q. Is that tiredness a form of ennui?  Or perhaps burnout?

A. No, not really.  I’m not tired of the designated course at all.  I only tire of describing it.  

Q. Well then — if you don’t wish to describe the course itself, can you tell us what to veer from it looks like?

A. Certainly.  I veer from my course when I encounter a certain kind of compulsion.  

Q. What are you compelled to do?

A. I dare not say.

Q. But if you will neither describe the path nor its detours, how can we possibly learn anything about this disparity?

A. That’s a very logical question.  And I can’t say I didn’t anticipate it.   So I have prepared an illustrative reply.   May I proceed?

Q. Why not?

crossroadsA. Here in this small, close-knit, Art-positive community, there are two establishments in close proximity to each other on Main Street.  Like many of our residents, I have been known to frequent both.  Down the way from this cafe, there is a very different kind of place.  It is a much louder place – a looser place.  A place where just about anything could happen at any time.  

Q. A bar?

A. Not exactly.  No alcohol is served.  But the energy is a bit like a bar.  Logical social boundaries are often broken, and with great disregard for consequence.  

Q. Do you find this threatening?

A. Yes.  Threatening – and at the same time, compelling.

Q. What are you compelled to do there that you would not do elsewhere?

A. Lots of things.  Just about anything associated with a casual cultural standard.  Cussing, for example.  Or discussion of — you know, dirty things.

Q. Dirty?

A. You know what I mean.   Personal pollutants.  Those things that soil the soul.

Q. Why on earth would you want to pollute your person?  Or soil your soul?

A. Because to do so presents me with a consuming problem with which I am already quite familiar, and therefore comfortable.   Thus it provides an escape from a present-day problem that is unfamiliar, and thereby making me very, very uncomfortable.  To the point that I can’t even sleep at night.

Q. Didn’t you allude to this yesterday?

A. I did.  Point No. 5 on my gratitude list alludes to it.

Q.  So you wish to replace an uncomfortable problem with a comfortable one?

A. Exactly.  The comfort would ease the pain.

Q. Isn’t that dangerous?

A. Very much so.  That’s why I left the building.   I was not only compelled — to do something that I ought not to do — but sorely tempted.  The temptation came in the form of — a woman.  A beautiful woman.  Need I say more?

Q. Has enough been said?

A. Perhaps not.  Only the tip of the iceberg has been revealed.

Q. Where did you go when you left the building?

A. That you know.  I went down the way, to the cafe where I am now so content to sit.  

Q. And this cafe holds no compulsions to veer from your designated course?

A. Not in the least.   It rather fortifies my commitment to the course that has already been laid out for me.

Q. How so?

A. Here I have met the finest Artists.  The greatest musicians.   The most inspired social visionaries.   The most engaging speakers, and the most fascinating storytellers.  I am never compelled to veer when I sit here.  I am only compelled to expand upon that which I already have.

Q. Then why didn’t you just come to the cafe in the first place?  What compelled you to go to the other place down the block?

A. I don’t know.   I don’t want to be thought of as snooty or aloof.   

Q. What does it matter what they think?

A. It doesn’t.  I think I just learned that.   Well — I knew it — all along.  But I didn’t think I could practice it.  Now I do.  I was scared when I sensed where the woman was heading me.  And I fled.  After fleeing that iniquity, a sense of peace has come upon me.  The peace has come upon me — because the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. 

Q. What does that got to do with anything?

A. I have an echo on this planet.  An echo in whom my voice resounds.  When my echo is dissonant — or suspended, or irresolute — often I am as well.   This is because the echo feels that her sound is that of an angel — yet in reality, the Angel has fallen. 

But now, you see,  I am consonant.  Released.  Resolved.   And the peace that transcends all human understanding now guards my heart and my mind — through the Spirit of the God of Love.   And if that incomprehensible peace has come upon me, then it can come upon my resounding echo.   And my Echo will be at Peace.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 29

just-say-no-to-nike-v-1200x630Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater fortitude.

Q. And what is fortitude?

A. Something like courage, but not quite.

Q. What’s the difference?

A. “Fortitude” implies more of a “just do it” approach.  That is, even if one lacks courage in general.  Just do it anyway, even when scared.  “Saying no” is a good example.  I need “fortitude” (not courage) to say “no.”  That’s what I think the difference is, anyway.

Q. Does this apply to something in your life today?

A. Lots of things.

Q. How so?

A. I burn out a lot.  If I don’t feel like doing something, I usually don’t do it.

Q. Then how does it ever get done?

A. Because I know that later on, I probably will feel like doing it.  So I wait till that happens, and in the meantime I do what I do feel like doing — knowing that I probably won’t feel like doing it later.

Q. Does that apply to everything?

A. No.  It doesn’t apply to things that I never feel like doing.

Q. What do you never feel like doing?

A. Washing the dishes.  I never feel like washing the dishes.

Q. And the dishes have piled up?

A. “Piled up” is an understatement.   

Q. How did you allow this to happen?

A. Well – it’s a bit on the personal side, but I guess the answer would be: “When have I not allowed it to happen?”  I’m just lousy at washing dishes.  They were clean for a while when there was someone here helping me with that kind of thing.  But that person isn’t here right now.  And anyway, dishes are just an example.

Q. What’s another example?

A. Saying “no” in general.  Keeping a couple people from knocking on my door at any hour.  And they don’t just knock.  They ring the bell.  Then they wait, and then ring it five times.  Then they wait, and start pounding on the door.  Then I finally realize it’s never going to end.  So I get up, even from being fast asleep, and explain that I’m sleeping and could they please come back another time.

Q. Where did you meet these guys?

A. At the Recovery Center.

Q. And you gave them your address?

A. Well yeah – we had the one guy over for dinner a couple times, when there was still two of us here.  It didn’t seem a big deal at the time.

Q. Then why does it seem a big deal now?

A. Other than that I’m being woke up in the middle of the night a lot?  That’s not a big deal?

Q. Isn’t there a bigger deal?

A. Well yeah – at the root of it, there is.  The bigger deal is I never just flat out tell these guys that I’d rather they don’t come over at all.  

Q. Why not?

A.  I don’t know.  I feel sorry for the one guy.  He’s been out in the cold a couple times.  Less sorry now, though, because I think he stole from me, and I heard he’s in jail right now.   Didn’t figure him for the “type,” but I noticed something was off last time.  Probably they switched his meds or something.   

Q. What about the other guy?

A.  I keep coming up with a use for him.  He’s a computer whiz, and he helped me get the right adapter so I could use my ThinkPad as a desktop now that it’s screen is cracked.

Q. Your laptop screen is cracked?

A. Yeah.  I had to plug it into an external monitor and start working from home.

Q. How did this happen?

A. I have no idea.  All I know is that it happens all too often.   And now I’m tempted to go over to the guy’s place with my old Dell, because I can’t get it to start up.  

Q.  But didn’t you start it up this morning?   Didn’t I read that on your gratitude list?

A. Yes, you did. But it only started up that one time.  Every other time I’ve tried it gets into a weird loop telling me it needs to restart, then I restart, and it tells me it needs to restart.  And so on.  

Q. Do you ever feel like you’re having more than your fair share of technical problems?

A. What do you mean?  New cell phone gets damaged due to water damage.  Second new cell phone gets cut off because they think I’m supposed to have the number of the old cell phone.  PayPal account gets locked for “suspicious activity” when I try to change my phone number.  Trying to send money from my PayPal somehow takes the money out of my bank account instead of my PayPal balance (Lord knows why) and now my bank account is overdrawn, plus I never succeeded in sending the money.   It’s still just sitting there in my PayPal account.  But when I try to transfer it to my bank I get a message telling me that they’re “not sure it’s me.”  I called them, and apparently when a person changes their phone number, it is regarded as “suspicious activity.”

Q. Anything else?

A. Thanks for asking.  So I wake up yesterday morning to a broken laptop screen.  And finally my back-up computer refuses to start up.  Well fine.  I’ll just work at home even though I’m totally paranoid these Kids are going to start pounding on the door any minute now.

A. Is that all?

Q. Probably not.  I mean — I’m an Artist.  I live for these moments of ecstasy I get when my work is going well.  I don’t know how to make money.  I don’t know how to deal with all this technical stuff.  They should only lay technical difficulties on people who can afford to deal with them.

Q. When did your life become so erratic?

A. One guess.

The Questioner is silent.

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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.

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Tuesday Tuneup Twenty

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Does it matter?

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. You didn’t answer my question.

Q. Am I to provide the answers?

A. Yes.

Q. Then why can I only ask questions?

A. Because that’s how the answers come.

Q. Through questions?

A. Through questions.

Q. Such as?

A. Such as why.

Q. Why what?

A. Why not?

Q. What kind of an answer is that?

A. A frivolous one, I suppose.

Q. Frivolous? Or evasive?

A. You suddenly seem to challenge me. I would say — frivolous, and evasive. I did have a question looming in my mind. A question that begins with “why.” But it doesn’t end with the word “not.”

Q. Why not?

A. Because it’s deeper than that. And larger. And more germane to my recent struggles.

Q. What was the question?

A. The question was: “Why can’t I let go of past hurts, and enjoy the blessings of the present?”

let-goQ. Was that your question?

A. Yes, it was.

Q. Then why didn’t you ask it in the first place?

A. Because no sooner did I form the question, than I had already realized the answer. And then I didn’t need you any longer.

Q. But — but — what is the answer?

A. Ask me the question, and I will tell you the answer.

The Questioner clears his throat.

Q. Ahem.  Why can’t you let go of past hurts, and enjoy the blessings of the present?

A. I can.

Q. You can?

A. Yes, I can.  And, in fact, I have.

Q. You have??

A. Yes, I have.

Q. When did this happen? 

A. About a half hour ago.

Q. Are you trying to tell me that a half hour ago, you let go of past hurts, and began to enjoy the blessings of the present?

A. Yes.

Q. How did this happen?

A. It’s a miracle.  It’s the Miracle of Life.   The hurt was huge, and I prayed, and I prayed fervently, even after accusing God of never answering my prayer.  And then, I can’t explain it, but the hurt was lifted from me.  The hurt of an entire year or more, the way I was mistreated by — by someone whom I loved.   Somehow it was removed.  Completely removed.   And the whole world opened up to me.  I am no longer angry, or afraid.

Q. You aren’t??

A. No.  I’m not.   

Q. Will this last??

A. Does it matter?   All any of us have is today.

Q. But what about tomorrow?

A. We know not what it brings.

Q. And yesterday?

A. Gone.  All gone.

Q. Are you honestly trying to tell me that you have let go completely?

A. Yes.  And there are tears of joy streaming down my face.  All the anger: all the inner rage; has been replaced with inner peace.  This is one of the greatest days of my life.

Q. Then what more can I do for you?

A.  Not much, I’m afraid.  But I do appreciate your indulgence on this matter.   It’s just that — I have no further need of you — for now.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Tuesday Tuneup 15

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Yes.  You are a feelingless generator of questions, whose function it is to churn out question after question, based on a logical follow-up to my responses, with little or no empathy for my emotional state.  Moreover, your first two questions are the same every Tuesday.  Therefore, my first answer is immaterial, since you will only ask me why I have summoned you, and it really does not matter what I’ve said.

Q. Why have you summoned me?

A. Because I can’t read.

Q. You can’t?

A. Not very well.

Q. And how does this affect you?

A. It disturbs me a great deal.  It also causes me to waste huge amounts of time.

dyslexiaQ. Doing what?

A. Trying to read.  Staring at the pages, while my head is flying, off in space, not seeming to be able to alight upon a single word or phrase of meaning.

Q. Why do I find this hard to believe?

A. Probably for the same reason everyone else does.

Q. And what reason is that?

A. The reason that I seem to be educated, and reasonably articulate, and able to write fairly well.

Q. If you cannot read, then where did you pick up all these words you use?

A. Mostly from talking to a lot of smart people, and remembering their words.  You see, I do have an unusually good long-term memory.  I am only unable to focus in the short-term.

Q. Unable?

A. Well, hardly able.  I suppose you have caught me in hyperbole.  It’s not that I can’t read at all.  I can read short articles, and emails on occasion, and unusually engaging works that don’t challenge my dyslexia.

Q. Then why did you say that you can’t read?

A. Because I can’t ever seem to finish an entire book.  I’ve finished only one book in the past several years.

Q. What book is that?

A. The INFJ Writer: Cracking the Genius of the World’s Rarest Type by Lauren Sapala.

Q. What enabled you to finish that particular book, if no other?

A. A matter of threefold interest.  There was not one, nor two, but three things about the book that intrigued me.

Q. Those being?

A. First, the MBTI.  I myself am an INFJ, and I saw myself all over the book.

Q. And second?

A. Writing.  Something I love to do.  The book was about INFJ’s who are Writers.

Q. And third?

A. Recovery.  The account of someone who had been deeply hurt, and who had escaped from that hurt by evoking a typical escape mechanism, and an addictive one at that.  But most importantly, she recovered.

Q. Have you done so?

A. Recovered?  Or escaped?

Q. Both.

A. Recovered?  Partly.  Escaped?  Totally.

Q. When?

A. All too often.   In 1979 after a break-up with a finacee.  In 1982 when I learned I was too sensitive for a highly competitive position in the music world.  In the early 90’s, after a difficult divorce.  And between the years 2013 and 2016, after being deeply hurt by a critique of my unfinished first draft to my musical Eden in Babylon, when I had turned to a friend for encouragement, and not only had received no encouragement, but the painful information that this man was not even a friend.

Q. How did you find out he was not your friend?

A. In the same way that I learned last night that another man was not my friend.

Q. How?

A. It is too painful to answer.  But it might inform you what was on my mind when I tried this morning, unsuccessfully once again, to read.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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