Friday, May 27, 2011
Thursday, May 26, 2011
Tuesday, May 24, 2011
Sunday, May 22, 2011
Thursday, May 19, 2011
“I got a serious problem. I need to talk to Pastor Ros.”
Ros was upstairs just getting ready to leave choir practice. I was feeling generous, so I thought I could handle this one myself and save the clergy the trouble of talking to Joseph that night.
“What do you need Joseph?”
“I got a serious problem,” he repeated. His voice had the timbre of a garbage disposal with a fork dropped in it.
“What do you need Joseph?”
“I’ve been in jail for the last few days. I was released from Orient Road Jail today, and I started walking toward downtown hitchhiking. There was a man who picked me up and gave me a ride. I got a serious problem. I need to talk to Pastor Ros.”
“Why don’t you talk to me right now. We can’t help you with food till tomorrow.”
“Well…the man who picked me up, he started some hanky-panky when we were in his car, and he put something up my butt, and it’s something hard like a marble, and I can still feel it in there, and I keep grunting like UUUUUUUHHHHHHHHH, UUUUUUUUHHHHHHH but it won’t come out, and I think it’s still in there, and I keep going UUUUUUUUUHHHHHH, but it’s stuck, and I got a serious problem.”
Quickly realizing that my training as a church organist had never prepared me for a situation like this, I reversed my previous plan and said, “I’ll go get Ros. Stay here.”
When I reached the choir room, I quickly found Pastor Ros and said, “Ros, Joseph is outside.”
“Tell him to come back tomorrow morning. We can’t help him tonight. What does he want?”
“You’ve got to hear this. You’re not going to believe it.”
I proceeded to recount the whole story including the jail time, the words “hanky-panky”, and my best imitation of the grunting. When I had completed my impression of Joseph, Ros appeared to be made of carved marble. She seemed unable to either close her jaw or change the uncanny expression that had spread across her face during the grunting. The only visible sign of life was the vibration of her brain as she attempted to process the information. The words struggled out of her open jaw as she made her decision. “Which entrance is Joseph by?”
“The East entrance.”
“I’m going to go out of the West entrance. You go tell him to walk across the bridge to the hospital.”
I returned to Joseph and told him that Pastor Ros had already left. “Walk across the bridge to the hospital.”
“But, I got a serious problem. There’s something up my butt, and I keep grunting, going UUUUUUUHHHHHH, UUUUUUUUHHHHHHH and it won’t come out.”
“What do you want me to do?!! I can’t help you with that! I’m not going to check it out for you! If you need help with that, then walk across the bridge to the hospital.”
I, unfortunately, had to leave Joseph there on the side of the building. I always hate to leave homeless people in difficult situations, but this was a special case. When I arrived for work on the following morning, I went to check my box for mail. All three pastors at the church had heard the story and had conspired together against me. In my box was a latex glove, a tube of KY jelly, and a note attached that said, “Can you meet me in the library? I got a serious problem, Joseph.”
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
1. blood 2. frogs 3. flies
4. noxious creatures 5. pestilence 6. boils breaking out into blisters
7. hail 8. locusts
10. the slaying of the firstborn
Sunday, May 15, 2011
The letter came in early Spring.
My mother beamed with pride.
"You've been accepted into college, dear. They're offering a full ride!"
My father walked into the room,
and sitting by my side,
congratulated me and wept,
his arms help open wide.
It was then I gained the courage,
to speak freely and confide
the dream I'd hidden secretly.
I looked at them and sighed,
I want to study music.
I want to sing.
I want to study music.
I want to sing.
My mother shook her head in shock,
like I'd committed treason.
My father sat and wept again,
but for a different reason.
I want to study music.
I want to sing.
I want to study music.
I want to sing.
I spent two years in theory until I was able
to give every root, third, and fifth its own label,
Inversions of sevenths and chords I resented
Like Picardy thirds and French Sixths all augmented.
Part writing, voice leading, form and analysis,
Parallel fifths that can lead to paralysis,
learning to sight sing by singing solfeggio
nearly compelled me to jump of a ledge-io.
(My white notes were fine on Do Sol La Fa Mi Ti.
My black notes, however, were more like some Fi Si.)
In diction I learned all the sounds that were dentals,
and labials, and plosives, and suprasegmentals,
uvulars, palatals, lateral fricatives,
velars, and glottals, and also the ejectives,
all so my accent would be irreproachable
only provided my tongue would be coachable.
(Ich würde auf Deutsch jetzt lernen zum Singen
mit Freuden und Sorgen so gut aus zu klingen.
Italiano piacere, con fuoco e forza.
Français manifique avec je ne sais quoi.)
History taught me the names dates and places
That after the test my mind promptly erases.
Schubert and Schumann both Robert and Clara
and Chopin's girl "George", who wore no mascara.
Schütz, Bach, and Sweelinck, and crazy Carl Orff,
and Ditters von Ditters von Ditters von Dorf,
Ravel, Cimarosa, Duparc, and Bizet,
Gesualdo, (who murdered his wife, by the way),
Guido d'Arrezzo who taught boys to sight sing,
Jean Baptiste Lully who died from conducting.
Schönberg, and Webern, and old man Zemlinsky,
Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, and even Stravinsky.
(I learned all my eras, Medieval, Romantic,
In spite of my teacher, who was quite pedantic.
Composers from Italy, France, and Moldova
were a petulant pain in my great big arse nova.)
I finally finished with somber elation
and promptly began a grand celebration,
my friends at the party came over while sneering,
especially the ones who had studied engineering.
"I'm a Bachelor of Science," one would casually say,
"I'm planning on making five hundred a day.
What did you say your degree's called again?"
I have a B.M. I have a B.M. I have a B.M., a B.M."
After two years of teaching just to subsist,
(it's expensive to pay for a good therapist.)
I finally decided to chase my ambitions.
I quit all my jobs, and I went on auditions.
It was a chance I was sure I could take.
I would soon be discovered and get my big break.
My break wasn't big but came sooner than later.
I got cast in a part at a dinner theatre.
There aren't any roles that are lesser or greater.
I accepted my lot and became the head waiter.
I would have preferred a role on the stage,
'cause I wanted much more than minimus wage.
In order to get the director's attention,
I used all my training and skills, not to mention,
a modest amount of deservéd pretention.
(I was, after all, a studied musician
despite the contraints of my current position.)
When customers ordered, I'd give a response
by singing my question with great non-chalance.
If somebody orders the rasberry jello,
I sing, "Vi gradiscono le pattate fritte con quello?"
If someone requests the fish al fresca
I sing, "Voudriez vous des pommes frites avec ça?"
Order any meat that was cooked with a flame,
and I sing, "Würden Sie mögen Pommes Frites mit dem?"
In every language it's always the same,
Waiting on tables while waiting for fame.
Finally using my college degree,
and never once singing flat.
I take their orders and respond with a smile,
"Would you like fries with that?"
Saturday, May 14, 2011
Late have I loved you, Beauty so ancient and so new, late have I loved you!
Lo, you were within,
but I outside, seeking there for you,
and upon the shapely things you have made
I rushed headlong – I, misshapen.
You were with me, but I was not with you.
They held me back far from you,
those things which would have no being,
were they not in you.
You called, shouted, broke through my deafness;
you flared, blazed, banished my blindness;
you lavished your fragrance, I gasped; and now I pant for you;
I tasted you, and now I hunger and thirst;
you touched me, and I burned for your peace.
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
The real Hotei – which translated means “hemp sack” - was a strange rascal who always carried a sack made from hemp, hence the name. (If you check the statue next time you enter your local Chinese restaurant, you will see the sack). Hotei would put all sorts of nonsense into the sack as he meandered from town to town. He stuffed it with his half-eaten egg rolls, bits of candy, rocks, garbage, small children, and anything else that he found along the way. Children loved this fat, old guy and would run up to him when he wandered through their village. He would open up his sack and show them the contents. Holding up an object, he would say, “Look at this!” Then he might give the object to one of the children. The problem with getting a present from Hotei was that you never knew if he was going to give you a sweet piece of candy or a rock. The parents in those towns probably weren’t too sure about him, but he gave them a surprise too. One day, he told them a secret. He was really a bodhisattva in disguise.
No apartment complex is complete without its own disguised bodhisattva, and ours appeared in the person of Bob. “Crazy Bob,” as we liked to call him, lived around the corner in the next building with his girlfriend Terri and their two children. Bob, was also from Florida, and he had just moved to our apartment complex from a jail in Daytona Beach. Bob was like Hotei in that he loved to pick up things at random, walk under my balcony and yell, “Look at this!” The problem with whatever Bob was carrying was that you never knew what sort of live animal it might be. I know deep within myself that Bob was probably just trying to show me that the Buddha was in all things. Imagine an unshaven, good-natured man with a tangled tuft of hair who was an expert at rolling cigarettes from the time he had spent in jail. He might come around the corner of the building carrying a ten pound carp that he had picked up from White Rock Lake saying, “Hey Kurt! Hey Kurt! Look at this! It’s a ten pound carp!”
“What are you doing with that?!”
“I just wanted to show you.”
“How in the world did you catch it?”
“It was swimming around, so I just picked it up with my hands.”
“Well, what are you going to do with it?”
“Nothing. I’ll go throw it in the dumpster. I just wanted to show you.”
“What!?” Derrick interrupted from below my balcony. “Why don’t you eat it?”
“Derrick, you can’t eat that. It’s like a giant goldfish. The meat is bloody and nasty. It’d be like eating a sting ray.”
“I’m eating it.”
True to form, Derrick cooked it up on a little Hibachi. Bob and I stood around in wonder while Derrick ate a full ten pounds of goldfish meat.
Bob and Terri walked over one day saying, “Hey Kurt! Hey Jenn! Look at this! It’s a furry kitten!” This event, incidentally, marked the beginning of our long and troubled history with domestic animals. We accepted the animal as a pet. We asked young Zachariah – who was in the phase of learning to speak commonly called “jabbering” - what he should like to name it, and he responded (phonetically) “Ellafyookinfyoogal.” The name stuck, but was spelled “Ellafuqenfugal” for legal purposes.
All in all, our apartment complex was a neat little community. Granted it was a community of ex-convicts, ex-welfare, ex-everything else people. But we got along with each other fairly well, and when we didn’t, the cops were there several times a week to serve as mediators. The arrival of Ellafuqenfugal came with another new addition to our little community. A family moved into the apartment next door to our own.
We were introduced to Sammy, a woman as ample horizontally as befit a West Texan. Ervin was a short, kind fellow, who was extremely helpful in spite of the conspicuous lack of a “G” on the end of his name. It was as if his parents had learned gerund forms in West Texas. I was only surprised to learn that they hadn’t actually included the apostrophe on the end of his name. They had a son named Tyler who was born on the same day and year as our son Zachariah. Sammy, Ervin, and Tyler were not disguised bodhisattvas. They were the first people we met who considered themselves citizens of the Republic of Texas (which is a separate entity from the other United States). They were from Lubbock. Ervin’s daddy had worked for the TI plant, and his daddy’s daddy had worked for the TI plant. Thus, Ervin and his family had come to the big city so that he, too, could work at the TI plant. Their big dream was to buy a piece of property in West Texas and live in a “double-wide.”
On the day when our Crown Victory broke down again, Ervin offered to help me fix it. Jenn and I were downstairs looking at the car with Ervin. We had, for the first time, left young Zachariah in the apartment for a mere thirty seconds. When we re-entered the apartment, a sickening sight greeted us. Ellafuqenfugal was on the floor, attempting to stand. Her front legs had managed to raise her head off the ground. Her back legs had managed with less success to raise her other end. In between, was a mid section lying limply on the carpet under a back that contained an extremely sharp bend. The backbone was clearly broken, and the cat was making a noise like a broken klaxon siren. Lying prostrate, nose to nose with the cat, was our young son repeating, “I’m sorry kitty. I’m sorry kitty. I’m sorry kitty.”
“Oh my God! Zachariah! What happened! What did you do to the cat!” screamed Jenn.
“I’m sorry. I stepped on kitty’s back. I’m sorry kitty. I’m sorry kitty.”
“We have to get her to the vet!”
“Buddha is a dead dog on the road,” I thought.
We scooped her up in a towel and carried her to the vet that was located on the corner, a block away from the apartment complex. The vet was closed for lunch. Being without transportation, there was nothing we could do but carry the animal back and try to comfort her while the vet fed himself. We arrived back at the office an hour later, filled out plenty of paper work, and were eventually admitted to a large room with a steel island in the center. We recounted the awful tale and included a few “I’m sorry kitty’s” for effect. The vet removed the cat from the towel and placed her on the steel island. The cat still stood awkwardly with its mid-section low to the ground beneath the nauseating bend in her backbone. A series of movements followed with the polished ease of a professional doing routine work. He first grabbed the cat by the neck, jammed his bare, non-gloved finger into the cat’s posterior far enough to hide the second knuckle. He removed the hidden digit swiftly and flung something small from his finger onto the steel of the island. He looked up at us, and said in the most matter of fact tone, “Tapeworm.” While we attempted to refrain from flinging our lunches onto the island to join the worm, he grabbed a jar, removed a pill, forced it down the cat’s throat, and handed us a bill of $45.00. He must have noticed our dumbfounded looks because he asked, “Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“What about the bend in her back and the horrible noise she’s making?” I asked.
“Oh. Well, this cat is in heat. Haven’t you ever had a cat before?” he queried.
“If you want her to stop doing that, you have to get her spayed. It costs $80.00.”
“Oh. Well, thanks.”
We re-entered our apartment with many things to contemplate. It was certainly within the realm of possibility that Ellafuqenfugal contracted her case of parasitic infection by eating a piece of partially cooked carp. If that was the case, then Bob might have been trying to teach us that cats eat fish, worms eat cats, fish eat worms, and the ten thousand things are all one. That is a difficult concept to grasp when you have recently taken a sexually aroused cat to a vet and suggested that its back was broken. Perhaps, if a Hotei had reached into a sack and pulled out a gift, we would have been enlightened. Instead, we had just watched a man reach into a cat and pull out a tapeworm with his bare hand. With that sight permanently burned into our memories, only one koan formed in our minds: What is the sound of one hand clapping with a tapeworm?
Monday, May 09, 2011
Shall we receive good at the hands of the Lord, and shall we not receive evil?
The Lord gives, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.
The Lord gives, and the Lord has taken away.
2. Credo quod redemptor meus
I know that my redeemer lives, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth;
and in my flesh shall I see God. Whom I shall see for myself. And mine eyes shall behold, and not another. And in my flesh shall I see God
3. Si credimus
If we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. Wherefore sorrow not even as others which have no hope. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. Wherefore sorrow not even as others which have no hope.
4. Ecce, quomodo moritur justus
Behold, how the righteous dieth, and no man layeth it to heart. And the just are taken away, and none considereth. From the evil to come is he taken away, and his memory shall be in peace. In peace he rests, he rests in the earth. And in Zion is his habitation. His memory shall be in peace.
5. In pace in id ipsum dormiam
I will lay me down in peace and sleep. None of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. Whether we live therefore or die, we are the Lord's.
Monday, May 02, 2011
It is quite easy to despair over the fact that in all likelihood, he will continue to be more well known and well regarded as a musician than I will ever be in my life. He will probably make more money than I ever will even though I have dedicated my life to becoming the best musician that I can be. However, there is one place of comfort. My friend Tom Trenney puts it like this. “It is the ones who love being a musician more than they love making music who struggle to embrace the wholeness of what we do.” Ultimately, I’m responsible for developing my own craft. I always come to the place where I realize that my calling is to faithfully nurture the gifts that I have been given instead of comparing those gifts to someone else. That's a good place to be, and it always allows me much more freedom to celebrate the gifts of others more fully.