Gratitude List 853

1. It’s great to have my own shower and be able to change into clean clothes, and lay on my own bed, and feel as though I am an honored guest in my own home.

2. Good exercise today, a brisk three mile walk in the warm breeze, between around six and seven.

3. There is a wonderful woman in my life today who loves me.

4. God loves me. He doesn’t see me according to my past, or my sin; but according to my future, and my righteousness in Christ.

5. Nice hanging out with R. today, and having him over for conversation with me and Jan.

6. It is great that Echo found a room on the Delta, and that she’s going to have a dog.

7. I finished Eden in Babylon on July 4th, and here it is again linked to you, formatted as best I can. It’s a much better script, thanks to the MFA playwrights at the critique, and very special thanks to Jan.

8. Stats are booming:

booming

9. Jan gets to visit our friend Sippa for a few days, and this is a very good thing.

10. God is Love.

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

 

Use Fire

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Yes.  It took me a while, but I figured it out.

Q. So why have you summoned me?

A. Because I am miserable.

Q. Why are you miserable?

A. What a stupid question.  Isn’t it obvious?

Q. I don’t know.  Is it?

A. Of course it is!  I can’t seem to get back to where I was before March 4th of this year.  Try as I may, everything I do turns to dirt.

Q. What happened on March 4th?

A. I finished the script to my musical, Eden in Babylon.  

Q. Isn’t that a good thing?  

A. In and of itself, yes — a very good thing.  I had been blocked up for over three years, over something stupid.   Something a friend of mine did — or a former friend — or someone whom I thought was a friend.   It’s hard to explain, but once I got past the block, I finished the script with a vengeance.

Q. A vengeance?  Against whom?

A. Against the guy I just told you about — the guy whom I thought was my friend — who ripped it apart – ripped it to shreds, assassinating my character in the process.  I finished it, not despite his scathing condemnation — but because of it.  I wanted to show him what I was made of.  And then —

Q. And then?  

A. I dedicated the musical to him.

Q. (trying not to laugh) How masochistic can you possibly be?

A. It wasn’t masochism!  More like — manipulation.  I thought that, somehow, if I dedicated the script to him, it would soften his heart toward me.   He would relax about it all, and then sit down with a glass of wine on a Sunday evening, and read the script more closely, with caring, savoring every word.  He would be willing to believe that it just might be a good thing after all — since I had (after all) dedicated it to his very self.  Finally, with an approving smile on his face, he would at last come to appreciate what I was trying to do with it — before just assaulting my integrity and writing me off, along with my hard-earned labor of love, as though I were just — just — scum.  

Q. Scum?

scumbagA. You heard me — scum!   I keep thinking about all these rich people I went to high school with.  They think I’m scum because I wound up on the streets — or maybe I was scum beforehand, because my parents were poor.  I don’t know — if I hadn’t have been a piano player, they’d have never given me the time of day.  And now, even with the piano playing, it’s not powerful enough to negate that image — the image of the guy begging for change on the streets — even though I never really begged, but — 

Q. But wait – what does it matter what they think?

A. What do you mean, what does it matter?  Of course it matters!  I’m trying to produce a musical — not just trying to be some random guy who’s into not caring what anybody thinks of him, as though that’s what he needs to maintain his mental health, or some other boring, irrelevant proposition.  Of course I care what people think.  I need an audience — I want them to think well of me, or at least — of my work.  

Q. But what does it matter what he thinks?

A. Lifelong friend?  Theatre Arts professor – reputable?   Certainly, his opinion counts.

Q. But does it count enough for you to have let it condemn you?  Snag you for three years?  And then want to dedicate the show to him?   Have you even heard from him since you did so?

A. No — he won’t talk to me.   He hasn’t talked to me since shortly after he condemned me.

Q. Why would that be?

A. I guess because — well — I sort of accused him of not having carefully read the script.  I said something snide, like – maybe he gave me twenty-five minutes at the most on a busy day, feeling pressured.  I might have pressured him.  I was stuck at page 58 — eager to get feedback, to be encouraged . . .  to move forward . . .

Q. Wait wait — you think he didn’t read the script very carefully?

A. No – not at all.  He might not even have read any of it.  His comments were all the kinds of things he could have said had he only skimmed it briefly.  All except for the big one, where he insinuated that I was some kind of over-the-top political activist, or grandiose sociopath, or whatever it he perceived my main character to be.

Q. Now Andy — let’s get down to it.  Do you think that he even read your script?

A. No, I do not.  He did not read the script.

Q. Then wouldn’t that explain his silence toward you?

A. How so?

Q. Could it not be that he simply is shying away from you because he doesn’t want to fess up to the fact that he dissed you so flagrantly?

A. Cowardice.  It’s occurred to me.  But I am not one to complain about cowardice.  I myself am just about the wimpiest bloke on the block.  I struggle to promote myself; I faint at the slightest trace of adversity.  I can’t even get a gig playing the piano anymore, I’m so timid about letting them know my interest.   I’m just not courageous, like I used to be.  

Q. Like you used to be?  When?

A. When I first decided to live outdoors – to be homeless by choice — in Berkeley, in April of 2011, six years ago.  I was brave then.  I spoke my mind.  I was inspired.  I didn’t just cave in to the Mainstream.   

Q. And you have been “caving in to the Mainstream” lately?

A. Yes.  I’m becoming passive, like most people in the Mainstream.  I’m starting to just “go with the flow” — even if the flow is decidedly downstream.  I do nothing to attack or challenge my circumstances.  I don’t fight like I used to.  I just – shrug my shoulders, and let it all happen, even as I descend deeper and deeper into hell.

Q. And this descent all began on March 4th?

A. Yes.  I had reached the highest height.  I had finally finished Eden in Babylon – or, a first rough draft, at the very least — after all those years of blockage and despair, feeling mocked by friends and family, and by prospective producers everywhere — I had reached the pinnacle —

Q. And then you fell down?

A. I fell off.  I plummeted down to the dunes.  I sank in the quicksand.   I still sink, ever lower, even to the heart of the earth.

if_all_else_fails____by_picolo_kun-d9p190aQ. Do you know the story of Icarus?

A. I do.  I even wrote a song about him, years ago.

Q. Have you heard of the Icarus Project?

A. I have.  I believe I receive their newsletter.  I pay them no mind though.  They all seem crazy to me.

Q. But don’t they have something in common with you?

A. Well – looking into them a bit more closely, they do appear to be more-or-less like myself.  They’re activists.  They would like to see transformative change in society.  Many are Artists.   Many have Bipolar Disorder.  

Q. Do you have Bipolar Disorder?

A. Ha!  They say that I do.

Q. Do you believe them?

A. When I’m not too busy being offended by them, yes, I do find a shred of truth in their undying diagnoses and psychobabble.

Q. Then why not revisit the Icarus Project?  

A. You bore me.  I would have liked your suggestion to have more to do with my regaining the courage I lack.  The courage with which I once gave up everything I had — and chose to be homeless in Berkeley.

Q. Will you regain courage by returning to the streets of Berkeley?

A. Probably not.  Especially since I’d be escaping all the things I’m afraid of at Friendship Square.

Q. What are you really afraid of, Andy?

Short pause.

A. Myself.  I’m afraid of — my own self.  Afraid of where my mind might take me.  Indeed, where it has already taken me.  Whenever I am not consumed in a creation about which I am passionate, my mind takes me to deeper forms of darkness than I’d thought imaginable.   It’s the difference between day and night with me.   Day — and night.

Q. And now?

A. Deepest, darkest night.  It’s unfathomable — I can scarcely even see where I’m going.  It pains me.   For seven months, from when I first moved here at the end of July, till the beginning of March, I was shining as bright as the day.   Since then – my God, it’s been almost six months now — it has been nothing but the dreaded, dead of night.

Q. When will it end?

A. Will it ever?

Q, Won’t it?

A. I suppose a new day will dawn.

Q. Doesn’t it always?

A. Has so far.  But all my efforts at seeing the light of day have failed me.

Q. And when all else fails?

Long pause.

A. Use fire.  Flame the fan of the sun yet to rise.  Light the heart of the night with fire.

Use Fire!

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

Sacrifices with Strife

I had to go back to the post The Next Step to find out exactly where I had begun to veer off course. For it was clear that I had strayed, and very clear what kinds of elements had characterized the diversion.   I only lacked a decent starting point, in order to resume my course, and avoid those elements that earlier had polluted the purity of my path, and had instead instilled a sense of paralysis and meltdown.   The deleterious elements of which I speak involved, invariably, the ill-timed and often ill-equipped efforts with which I most awkwardly attempted to enlist the allegiance of local talents of various sorts to assist me in some way in promoting my project.

First. there was the concert that never came about.  We had to cancel our earlier show when it came clear that my musicians could not possibly get enough practice to turn in a decent show by the predesignated time.   It was suggested we reschedule; I, for one, insisted we cancel entirely.   My music seemed intimidating to them, and theirs to me.  I would have to listen to them first for a while, and they to me, before thinking about making something like we had all earlier envisioned come about.  So that was rightly set aside.  Instead, I would set about to try and find singers for my demo.

This proved to be only another example of the same fruitless expedition.  It was far more stressful trying to get these singers together than it was to concede that it just wasn’t going to happen.  It would cost money – money that I don’t have, and that I knew not how to get.   As I began to endeavor to raise funds, a part of me that I hate rose into prominence, and I cannot feed that demon inside me in any way if it’s going to lead me to some of the preposterous propositions such as I began to entertain.  I was sickened with myself, infuriated, disgusted, disillusioned with my fellows, disaffected with society, alienated, isolated, self-abnegating, neglectful of my needs, abusive of my body, disfigured, disheveled, mistreated, misshapen, mortified, mutilated, and finally: majorly incapacitated.  I lay on the gurney in the Emergency Room, electrodes probing every pore, as the third EKG in my entire doctor-leery life assured me that this steady chest pain I’d developed was nothing more than pleurisy, and treatable by ibuprofen.

drawing-boardI believe I should leave the rest of the community out of the picture for a while, and dismiss any idea of enlisting their services.  Clearly, this was not the course.  The Next Step reveals exactly where I would be wise to begin.  Aside from talk of organizing a read-thru, which may or may not be necessary (or even wise, considering all I just wrote), the guidelines in that post paint a clear picture of a new starting point that doesn’t involve awkward attempts at creating new associations among my acquaintances, but only involves things that I can do all by myself.  I was thriving when intensely focusing on my music or my script, and their seeing me so thrive is what impressed them from the start — whoever “they” are, which is probably more irrelevant now than I’d ever thought before.

It doesn’t matter who they are, or even what they see, just so long as they don’t see what I’ve been showing them most recently.  “Better a dry morsel,” saith the Preacher, “and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1)

That’s the only house that I’ve been building lately.  It has no sure foundation.  If I sit still, and quietly proceed to notate my piano-vocal score, and look for reasonable revisions to be made in my script in the process, there’s something sure and steady about the construction of that house.  Whatever dry morsels I might chew on throughout, their cost will not be half the cost of what I just endured.   And maybe by the time it takes me to complete that score and second draft, I’ll have a thousand dollars in the bank to invest on hiring singers for the demo, not just trying to round up people in my midst whom I cannot pay and all have better things to do.  I risk being perceived a pest.  This will not do.

DONATE

Let’s throw some chicken gumbo soup into the microwave and make another turkey sandwich.  No sense in doing the town.  The town has just done me.

Moment of Decision

I’m trying to relax my high goal here, but at the same time not be wasteful with the energy that I need to apply toward it.  I just now made the difficult decision that has been blocking my efforts ever since I finished Act Two, Scene Two in the musical play I am writing.  I have finally decided to reduce the size of the Chorus Line of Street Kids from 12 to 8, and eliminate the Chorus Line of Mainstream Citizens entirely.  I had previously decided to double parts in the two chorus lines due to having earlier been cautioned that my cast size was becoming too large.  The two chorus lines never appeared at the same time in the same place anyway, and there would be plenty of time for costume changes.  But still, the presence of the Mainstream Chorus Line is unwieldy and unnecessary. 

in-any-moment-ofAlthough I sort of knew this to be true, I was resisting making the right choice because it would involve going all the way back to the beginning of the libretto, yanking out unnecessary parts and, if need be, replacing them with parts that can be performed by existing players.  So now, I have to do that very thing.  Of course I am a bit daunted by the ardor of the task.  But it’s the right thing to do.   So I’ll do it.

This changes things.  I’m thinking that, because the eighth and final Scene still remains to be written, hopefully the task of sifting through the show from the very beginning up until the end of the seventh Scene will help clarify decisions I need to make in the last Scene that have still been vague in my mind.  In any case, it seems highly unlikely that I’ll be able to crank it all out in one sitting.  On the other hand, there’s a chance it will be out of the way by Wednesday night’s choir rehearsal.

I told the people at work that my application for Minister of Music will be in by Thursday.  The present Music Minister does need to retire, and I’d like to rise to the higher calling if I can.  But I don’t want my absorption in this project to be a deterrent.  I want this draft to be done by the time of my interview.  If that’s putting too much pressure on myself, so be it.  All I can say is that working without any deadline whatsoever as of the past five years sure hasn’t gotten the job done.

Alive for a Reason

frustrated-woman-cursing-while-doing-her-taxes-royalty-free-clipart-1nulfg-clipartThere’s something I haven’t mentioned yet about this musical script I’ve been trying to write.  I’ve noticed that it’s almost impossible for me to put pen to paper on this project until I have cleared my head of any resentment or anxiety that could possibly deter me along the way.   This is undoubtedly why I was not able to work on the script for three years following the essential completion of the score.  There was a resentment against a certain individual that was so unwieldy, I basically couldn’t even look at the script without beginning to cuss the person out in my mind (and sometimes even out loud.)  This is also the reason why I wrote nothing at all yesterday.  There were simply too many resentments and anxieties to have to get out of the way first.

This morning, however, I think most of them have already been successfully banished.  I’ve been up for a little less than two hours, and I’m about to get rolling.  One thing that did occur yesterday, as I found myself immersed in the annoyances of moral and practical obligation, was a huge and sudden illumination that just about took my breath away.

I suddenly realized the parallel between the suggestion in Part Four of my anthology and the huge happy ending that my musical Eden in Babylon is headed for.   I’ve also not mentioned the anthology, and just this morning created a new page  to explain it.  Essentially, it’s an account of the five year period of time when I lived continuously outdoors, except for ten months out of those five years.   The suggestion in Part Four of the anthology is extremely radical and no doubt will make many people uncomfortable as they endeavor to grasp it.  However, in the musical it can somehow be transformed into a happy ending. 

This is because musicals traditionally do not depict life as it is.  They depict life as it ought to be.  This at least is how I was brought into the realm of musical theatre, with a high school production of Man of La Mancha.   Since I was terrified of going to VietNam at the time, the message of hope and idealism in the story of Don Miguel de Cervantes and his famous creation, Don Quixote, was enough to convince me that I would probably be doing musical theatre for the rest of my days.

Unfortunately, however, musical theatre is not what it once was — or at least what it once ought to have been.  Hamilton and Les Miserables notwithstanding, most of the musicals that have come out in the past twenty to thirty years are disappointing crap.   Many of them appeal to musical theatre people only, and not to the general populace.  I frankly gave up about thirteen years ago.  I’ve only done one show in the past thirteen years – a Gilbert and Sullivan show, The Yeoman of the Guard, at Stanford University.  Outside of that, and teaching a few workshops, I’ve mainly been a recluse.  But in that isolation, one thing I did begin to do — was write.

In writing this musical, I hope to help brighten the picture of musical theatre in today’s world.   I’m thankful for all the years I spent outdoors.  It wasn’t easy to write about at the time, but the wealth of source material for this musical is something I could never otherwise have harvested.   As far as the anthology, which obviously draws on the same wealth of material, I have found a publisher as of approximately six months ago.  He contacted me when he was ready about a month ago, and I had to tell him that I was not.  I could finish the compilation, but it would mean dropping the musical, and I just can’t do that right now.   In fact, it’s entirely possible that this musical will be my gift to the world.

I am alive, after all I’ve been through, for a reason. 

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

Writer’s Guild

As I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve been feeling the need to find a writer’s support group in order to help motivate me to finish the musical script I’m writing.  A couple people suggested I contact the professor who teaches the undergraduate playwriting class.  He replied very cordially to the email I sent him, but told me that the class was filled up to capacity this semester, and that he also did not think he could help much with the “musical form.”  

Although his suggestion that I contact the School of Music was a logical one, I really am not in need of support on the musical level.  The music and lyrics to this show are essentially complete, and I’m pretty happy with the score.   It’s the script that continues to concern me.  

I last reported I had made it up to p.53, then reached an impasse.  Since then, I’ve made it up to p.58, which is almost to the end of Scene Four.   I could probably write a couple more pages this morning and wrap up the Scene, more-or-less sloppily.  But at this rate, without a support group to sustain my motivation, I probably won’t finish the script before the Second Coming of Christ.

guildIt occurred to me that there might be a Meet-Up writer’s group in the area.   With very little online research, I located one that happens to meet this very morning at ten.  They call themselves a Guild, and this morning’s meeting will take place exactly one block from my apartment!  So I’ll be there at ten this morning, either with the first four scenes completed, or ready to wrap them up on site.

The facilitator of the group also informed me of another writer’s group that meets at a bookstore also located fairly near my place of residence.  That group includes another playwright who prints out his scenes so that other members of the group can read the different characters.  In addition, there is another meeting of the Guild taking place at a restaurant this Tuesday evening.  While the meeting this morning is “write only,” the Tuesday night group will provide, according to the facilitator, “valuable feedback on plot and story line.”  All three of these resources could prove invaluable.

So – I think I’m on the right track if I can only relax about this thing a little bit.  The process of writing music is much more enjoyable for me.   The process of playwriting is arduous and annoying, but it will be worth it in the end if I will have produced something of value to offer to the world.

Baby Steps

I’m sitting in the local pub in a highly neurotic state.  No worries – I’m not drinking, and perish the thought.  But when the clock struck 4:20 a few minutes ago, I must admit I experienced more than a vague inkling to dip into the dubious diversion of delectable desirability, duck into the nearest dark alley, and burn one.   It’s hard for me to deal with anxiety; and as I expressed quite emphatically earlier, taking a valium or a klonopin is no longer a viable option for me.

Since the previous post, I actually went back to the beginning of the script and wrote up to p.53 a second time, making adjustments – some minor, some fairly significant.  I got into the “zone” at one point and completely rewrote the intro to the female antagonist’s first song, which I call “Midnight Screams.”  I sent it to my brother and my daughter hoping for feedback, haven’t heard from either, and am feeling a bit pathetic on this whole feedback thing.  I hate it when I become “insistent” that people peruse my work.  It never works in the first place, not to mention it makes me feel like an annoying pest.

leonid_pasternak_-_the_passion_of_creationThere’s no getting around it.  I’m going to have to break out of isolation here, and present myself as best I can to the world of other artists and writers  engaged in projects of equal importance to them.   So, I more-or-less boldly wrote to the fellow who teaches the current undergraduate Playwriting class at the University, even though I could already feel the stab of rejection slicing through my heart over the Intraweb — pseudo-prophetically, as it were.  My confidence is at an all time low.

But – it was a baby step.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll see if there’s a Meet-Up group of some sort.  Either way, I’m going to have to stop bugging my friends and family members for feedback.  I need to go about this decently and properly.  Bottom line is, the idea of sitting around a table in a classroom and sharing all my crazy ideas with a bunch of other writers is scaring the living daylights out of me.  But that’s all the more reason why I’ve got to take the plunge.  You don’t learn how to swim, after all, by avoiding the water.

Opening up to p.53 and the current minor impasse.  The wheels are starting to spin.  Obviously, a twisted love song is in order, both lover and lovee a bit on the delusional side.  Welcome to the wonderful world of Musical Theatre.  Maybe if the owner of the pub steps in, she’ll let me play the piano for a free meal like she did last Saturday.  Here’s hoping.