April 30, 2017

Trump Score April 30 2017

I admit that my scoring is far from scientifically sound. And it’s after the fact – I’m scoring based on what has happened thus far, and am intentionally avoiding the “what might happen”.

So after 100 days – my math has the score at less than a point. And the “taking action to split town” score is at least 5.

The score, and then some notes:

trump score april 30 2017


Okay. Most of the scores are still a zero.

  • Citizens have to register? Nope. Travel ban wishing aside – this is still a wish for the administration.
  • Judicial Branch subverted? Not yet. The administration would like to breakup the 9th Circuit because they disagree, but they don’t have the capacity to actually do that – that requires an act of Congress.
  • Military deployed? Nope.
  • Term limits? No change
  • Separation of church and state? No better or worse.
  • FOIA requests denied? Not that I can tell.
  • Peaceably assemble? BANG! Happening all of the time, and I’m not seeing even a hint of “you can’t do that”. Lots of “we don’t like it”, but that’s exactly the point, right?

    Take Berkeley for the moment. Ann Coulter has the right to say what she wants. And those that disagree and wish she would shut her gob have that same right.

  • Safe in my own home? As much as ever.
  • Speedy trial? Same as it ever was.
  • I just tapped a new IPA. Yep, still making and drinking beer here at home
  • Still able to get a travel visa? Yep. Some hints that a few countries want to retaliate for the travel ban, but since that ban isn’t happening yet – nothing going on here

So – I’m some comforted that our systems are holding. I still don’t like all of the things the administration WANTS to accomplish. But am some heartened by their inability.

There are troubling things, to be sure – but they fall into the category of “I don’t agree” which I treat differently. Things like:

  1. Rolling back net neutrality
  2. Budget cuts to USAID
  3. Loose language regarding North Korea
  4. An alarming lack of filled administrative positions
  5. A clear desire to make our water and air less clean

I’m not cavalier about these – but want to be super careful about the difference between subverting the constitution and things I just don’t like. I can see that some of these might, in total, rise to the level of subverting the spirit of the constitution. I’m  note sure yet how to measure those, but I’ll keep my eye out!

What worries you these days? How do you measure if those worries are founded? I’m interested, so drop me a note!



April 2, 2017

Trump Score April 2 2017

Ten weeks in and wow, what a show. I’m glad I’m keeping score still, because the sheer volume of things that might happen could keep me hugely agitated if I didn’t have a fallback.

But I do, and at the moment – as they used to say in Texas, the Trump effort is “all hat, no cattle“.

So the score remains unchanged. Per my metric – we’re still less than a point, and the danger zone is a 5.

Leave Score April 2

Still – things could change quickly. Which reminds me, it’s time to write another letter to my elected officials.


March 5, 2017

Trump Score March 5 2017 – Slight Uptick

No burying the lede here: Score rises a bit this week to .45

(If you don’t recall – each line item is worth up to 10 points. So I’m adding all of them up, and dividing by line item to get the score).



The good news:

Not much is actually happening. Texans used to say “all hat, no cattle” to imply that just because you had a hat, it didn’t mean you knew how to be a rancher. At the moment – despite the horrible accusations and the sheer incompetence – not much is happening. I’ll take as much of that as I can get.

The bad news:

There are a few things happening that are worrisome, even if they don’t impact my scoring sheet.

  1. The incompetence itself threatens our country. What happens in case of a national emergency? I’m not confident that we have filled needed positions, and even less confident that if we had that those individuals know what they are doing.
  2. The executive order rolling back water rules is super troubling. I’m baffled that ensuring clean water is controversial. Sure – it’s cheaper and faster to pump your chemical stew into a river. Remember the Cuyahoga River? The one that caught fire? Well – 48 years later, it is far more safe.  Closer to home, Lake Washington is also a success story. When I first moved here, anyone in the know would tell me not to swim in it. The cleanup of Lake Washington started 1n 1963, and has been a thumping success.
  3. The use of private prisons, curtailed under the Obama administration, is back. Plenty to get upset about here, too.

Populism, the ends and the means

I’m reading “all the kings men” right now, a novel that won the Pulitzer Prize in 1947. The author says it’s not about Huey Long, a populist governor and senator in the 1930’s.

The word “populism” has been tossed about a lot lately, to describe politicians of all sorts. The irony here is that President Trump is no populist, although he’s certainly using those tactics.

In short, populism is a political philosophy supporting the rights and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged elite.

The thing about populism in the flavor we get from Donald Trump is that it isn’t actually doing anything at all to help people with less privilege.

Back to Huey Long. If Wikipedia is to be believed, here are some of the things he accomplished. In other words, the “ends”:

  1. Free textbooks for school children
  2. Night courses for adult literacy, which taught 100,000 adjults to read
  3. Established LSU Medical School
  4. Elimination of the poll tax (you had to pay to vote)
  5. Paved highways and other transport related infrastructure (9,700 miles worth)
  6. Statewide public health initiatives reduced the death rate, and increased the immunization rate

The list goes on. Rich companies and individuals paid for those things, by the way, until the time that the previously poor also started to contribute to the tax base.

And the means?

Not so great. Documented items that violate norms, if not actual laws, include:

  1. Fired hundreds of opponents upon taking the governorship
  2. State employees had to pay a portion of their salary into his re-election funds
  3. Fired the relatives of opponents
  4. Founded his own newspaper and if you wanted state funding you had to advertise in his paper

That list goes on, too. I’m left feeling I wholly support the ends, but not the means.

The thing is, I want both ends that support every person, and means that increase civic participation, make it more democratic and less prone to the influence of the already rich and moneyed (both individuals and corporations).

How to make that happen? That’s tough to answer. The “what” seems more straightforward:

  1. Get rid of the electoral college
  2. Remove gerrymandering at all levels of government
  3. Changing corporate personhood, especially the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling

Some non political good news

Don’t despair, people! Did you listen to either Barack or Michelle Obama talk about hope?  I think they are right; we won’t make it (no matter who is in the White House) without it. It might be in short supply unless you go look for it. So go look! You really can see the hope and the despair, and you should. But don’t get caught looking only at one or the other.

Here’s a small thing, about men and women experiencing homelesness. A local nonprofit (Low Incone Housing Institute) has had startling success with their Tiny house program. In 2016, LIHI case managers moved 157 people into housing, helped 103 people obtain employment and helped 30 people reunite with relatives or friends.

What is your, tiny good news?


March 5 2017

February 19, 2017

Trump Score Feb 19 2017 – No Score Change This Week

I’m composing today from lovely Galiano Island, in British Colombia, Canada. It seemed like a good idea to go experience a bit of relaxed island living in a country I like a lot, especially given that Monday celebrates US Presidents.

I’ll get right to the score: I didn’t see anything this week that makes my up my risk level any. Lots of FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). But no action that changes the score.


(This is a simple, non-weighted score – 11 items, each with a possible score of 0-10)


Worrisome Things:

EPA Appointment

The new EPA chief and his actions don’t align at all with mine. I’m trying to better understand how “good for the environment, good for local, national and global health” seem to equal “bad for business”.

Sure – doing things right costs more. But doing things wrong costs even more. If you are my age or older, go ahead and leave a comment here about how you used to change the oil in your car. While you’re at it, comment on if your car had a seat-belt or not, if your window sills and walls had lead paint, if it was allowable to install asbestos without wearing a mask and a protection suit, if cigarettes were good for you or not.

(Hey! This is fun! What else has happened in your lifetime due to government regulation that has made you and yours safer?)

Sure. I bet Dow Chemical wasn’t super pleased about not being able to dump their shit into the nearest open body of water. And the tobacco industry hated the idea that their money making product was poison.

So here’s the question: what gives a profit making business the right to earn at the expense of everyone else?

So that’s it: we get rhetoric about “job killing regulation”. But without it, we have “people killing profit for the rich”.

I don’t think this is a zero sum game: Smart business leaders and job creators and entrepreneurs can make a ton of money – while also protecting our health.

Immigration Executive Order

Thinking about the “extreme vetting” stuff and the immigration ban that my Attorney General blocked. (Go, Washington State!).

No one has said what MORE is going to be done. I’d like to pose a question to the folks in favour – goes like this:

“What numbering scheme are you going to use to keep track of immigrants, and where will you put the tattoo?”

That sound horrible, right? Because it is. But short of a tattoo or an RFID chip – hard to imagine what else might be done to keep track of people. Already doing a 1-3 year review process which includes numerous in person interviews, fingerprints, retina scans and more. What gets added to that list that makes it more extreme?

And then the last note about the ban, which reminds me of the shoe bomber and the underwear bomber. It’s as if we think that ANY restrictions, bans, vetting, interrogation and so on will give us 100% assurance that we’ll be safe. It simply isn’t true, and we all know it at some level – accidents happen. People change their mind. Tools and systems age and fail. I’d love to find a way to shift this conversation to one that discusses the appropriate level of review. Are there things we can do differently?

My day job is managing projects. And we do risk assessments all of the time. But having a risk, without weighting it, is silly. You need to know three things:

  • What is the risk?
  • How likely is it to occur?
  • What is the severity if it does?

If you start and stop at the top item – you don’t have anything actionable – every fear is equal.

Finally –  the irony! God forbid that we legislate clean water, but by all means, let’s legislate huge government bureaucracy for immigration review!


My friend Miguel pointed out that the 13th amendment didn’t abolish slavery, as I was taught:

Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

That clause in there is super important, those words between the first set of commas. Because it didn’t take long for me to remember that white people were super good at creating laws that targeted black men and women that would in fact allow you to put someone in jail and on a work crew. Different words, same thing. Slavery.

Which begs the question of Guantanamo Bay, doesn’t it? Our jurisdiction. Hmm, go figure.

Trump Score Additions:

My friend Dan wonders if adding another item to the tracking list makes sense.

-Deploying US troops against an ally, such as against Mexico, as Mr Trump has threatened

Shall we add? What else should I keep track of?


February 19, 2017


February 12, 2017

Trump Score Feb 12 2017 – Still Less Than One!

Updating my score card based on the activity from last week. Thankfully – although I’ve shifted a couple of the numbers, the overall score remains the same – well under the “get out of Dodge” score of 7-10 points:


So. The judicial branch stepped up. Fantastic – that’s why we have three branches of government.

And we have a Supreme Court nominee, too. I can’t discern yet if he’s playing along with the President by sending signals that he’d be an independent thinker, or if he really is independent. But he bends towards strict constructionism, which I find worrying.

I fundamentally disagree with the idea that interpreting the Constitution in light of current events is a mistake. Especially considering some of the things actually enshrined in the Constitution. There’s a long list, but a few things that stand out include:

  • The right of women to vote. And I’ll note that the Supreme Court had previously ruled that the 14th amendment did NOT give women the right to vote. Unbelievable.
  • Slavery was legal until the 13th amendment was passed.
  • And it took the Supreme Court until 1967 to overturn anti-miscegenation laws preventing differently colored people from marrying each other.
  • The “three-fifths” compromise that said that “all other persons” were counted at a rate of three fifths when using population counts to apportion seats in the House of Representatives. Here’s the copy:

“Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.”

So the idea that we have to stick to the constitution, thick and thin or enact an amendment doesn’t ring true. It cedes judgement and wisdom to a bunch of rich white mean from 250 years ago, and while they got the country off to a good start, they couldn’t see into the future.

I’ve had a couple of friends ask me about countries not yet on the list, namely New Zealand, Australia, Ecuador, Chile. Great question.

The first answer is because I’ve yet to visit any of those spots. The deeper answer goes back to expectations: If I leave the United States because it isn’t safe, do I want to land somewhere where my values are more fully aligned with the government? Or do I just want to be safe?

If I just want to be safe there are a lot of poorly run countries that I like. If I want to both be safe and feel aligned – I think we’re talking Canada, Sweden, Finland, Norway. Probably a few others.

Write or comment. How are you holding up?


February 12 2017







February 4, 2017

Leaving Score: Feb 4 2017

A couple of weeks in for the new administration, and I’m checking my list. I’m not great with charts and graphs, but I thought I could at least do some basic counting.

Each item on my “if this happens, I should consider leaving” list is worth 10 points. No weighting, to make it easier, although you can imagine that beer drinking might reasonably be weighed a little higher!


Feb 4 2017 Leaving Score

A few people have asked where I might go. I started my list like this:

What placed have I already visited that I like?

Thailand: Fantastic food, welcoming people, lovely climate. And yet . . . now under the control of a military coup. There is a lot of nuance here – but leaving here includes having hopes for arriving somewhere better. And not just better for me, but better for everyone. I think a well-functioning democracy is the start of that, and Thailand is missing that right now.

Thailand does not make the list.

Turkey: Fantastic food, welcoming people, lovely climate. Since my visit there in 2007 though, there has been an alarming shift to an authoritarian government. Teachers and journalists have been locked up en masse. And the current president is consolidating his powers and changing the constitution. Turkey isn’t a well-functioning democracy right now.

Turkey does not make the list.

Germany: Hmm. Lots of friends there. Currently holding tight to the center. Speaking out for democratic institutions. There is a growing neo-conservative movement there, but thus far – I think Germany is doing quite well.

Germany stays on the list.

Austria: An unsettling level of neo-conservative stuff going on right now.

Austria does not make the list.

London: Brexit? Theresa May? Boris Johnson? I’d have to start my list again over there, plus learn how Parliment works.

London makes the list, but barely.

Ireland: Hmm. See London, above. A bit nervous about the agitation in the North. But common language, lots of culture, friendly people.

Ireland stays on the list.

Netherlands: Gert Wilders.

Netherlands does not make the list.

France: Marine Le Pen.

France does not make the list.

Hungary: Victor Orban.

Hungary does not make the list.

Canada: I have family there. Seems trite, yes? The “we’ll all go to Canada!” line. Lots to like, especially with their current prime minister, their immigration policy their participation in trade, and much more.

Canada stays on the list.

I’ll note that I haven’t thought much about the “how” of it all. One of my friends mentioned that an aspect of a successful move for her would include not paying taxes in the US, which would mean earning an income elsewhere. I appreciate that sentiment and also think – wow. That makes a departure much harder.

But it also begs the question of a temporary or a permanent move. Haven’t thought that far ahead yet.  Maybe I need to adjust my scoring mechanism to include learning a new language. And other locations to follow!

Patrick Shaw, Feb 4 2017



January 16, 2017

Leaving the Land

Back in the day I used to play a lot of Irish music. One of my favorite songs was “leaving the land“, sung by Mary Black:

“Leaving the land, leaving the land. Leaving all I’ve ever had, and everything I am. Leaving the land.”

I’ve been thinking about that tune lately, because I want to know if and when I should leave this land, right here, my home. Seattle.

I don’t mean to be alarmist. But I’ve been fortunate to have traveled a bit, and I’ve been to a pair of countries that were torn apart by failed governments, and one that was just emerging from repression. And two that could go either way.

It Happened There

What was it that alerted some of the German diaspora to pick up and leave? Hindsight being so clear – super easy to second guess those who stayed behind, thinking “this is as bad as it gets, it won’t get any worse”. And yet it did. So there was something that some Germans figured out.

There’s also something to be said for the courage of those who did stay, those who both saw what was happening and were determined to stick around and see if they could prevent it from happening. But they probably saw the same things that led others to leave.

And then there were the significant majority that had far less choice: circumstance, money, education, time. It’s super easy to say that you always have a choice, but choice is easier if you have those things to start.

Of course, that happened before I was born. But when I was a kid, many of the Vietnamese Diaspora settled in California. In the years leading up to and especially after the fall of Hanoi, millions of Vietnamese left their land. Their government had fallen and they left.

But it started much sooner than that, with Independence from France and the rise of a repressive government, religious persecution, and more.

Here, Too – But They Recovered

I’ve also visited the Czech Republic, but back then it was still Czechoslovakia, but barely: The Velvet Resolution had taken place 1n 1989, and I was there 6 months later, the same month that Czechoslovakia held their first democratic elections since 1946.

Jury Is Out

Turkey in 2007 was remarkable for its food, architecture, natural beauty, its welcome. Ten years later, its increasingly autocratic and barely democratic. Ironically, the man who shepherded Turkey through needed economic reforms has become alarmingly authoritarian, with an abrupt consolidation of power.

And Thailand, another country of incredible welcome, natural beauty – also tipping uncomfortably into authoritarianism. Between 2001-2008, Thailand held their most open and corruption free elections in their history. It wasn’t all rosy for Thailand, but when I was there in 2012 it seemed like there was a good chance that Thailand could continue to move towards democratic institutions. A coup in 2014 has dampened that hope.

So. What might I learn from those 5 countries?

I’ll lead with the hopeful: The arc of justice and freedom bends upward. Who would have imagined that Germany would be the anchor of democratic institutions in Europe, that Vietnam would continue to embrace an open economy, and that the Czech Republic would emerge from a repressive government that relied heavily on censorship and fake trials to control its people?

And the less hopeful:

It would be naive to think that “it can’t happen here”.  Our country already suffers from massive income inequality. Add in a bit (okay, a lot) of racism, a growing division between those with more education, money and economic opportunity and those without, and a growing intolerance of anyone that seems “other”.

Leaving This Land

Subversion of our Rule of Law. This is hard, because I don’t mean “just the rules with which I agree”. In short though, it means that every citizen is subject to the law, including lawmakers themselves. This is harder to parse than it appears, especially when you consider that in the history of the United States:

  • Slavery was legal
  • Women couldn’t vote
  • We imprisoned citizens during the 2nd World War
  • People couldn’t marry as they wished

(All of those things contravene our founding documents, but we did them anyway)

So – this sort of goes back to the boiling frog thing. How do I form a fact based opinion on how our rule of law is holding up? Here’s a few things that ladder up:

  1. Any citizen has to register because of race, color, creed, ethnicity, country of origin.
  2. Our judiciary system is subverted: appointments without confirmation hearings, etc.
  3. Our military are deployed within our borders for reasons besides national disaster.
  4. Clear and long lasting legal principles and practice are subverted. For example, allowing a president to serve more than two terms without a Constitutional amendment.
  5. Religious belief becomes the rule of law. For example, mandatory prayer in schools.
  6. Freedom of Information requests are denied en masse. (I’ll note here that President Reagan signed an executive order limiting access to information. President Clinton restored those limits. President George W Bush curtailed access to information and President Obama restored them).
  7. Everything in the Bill of Rights holds, these in particular:
    • The right to peaceably assemble is diluted. This doesn’t mean “I can trash downtown Seattle because I disagree”.  The part in that article that mentions “apply to the Government for redress of grievances” is particularly important.
    • The right to be secure in their persons, houses, papers and so on, and against unreasonable search.
    • The right to a speedy trial. And trial by jury.
  8. I am no longer allowed to make or drink beer. I’m not really being funny here; this is a super concrete example of something that seems annoyingly trivial but might also be an opening salvo in curtailing my rights.
  9. Countries that currently allow me to visit them turn me away due to my citizenship

This seems like a long enough list. And I think it takes only one; no weighting required here, no “three out of nine required”.

-Patrick Shaw

January 16, 2017







November 13, 2016

Me and Roger, Part Two

I walk into the theatre with the confidence of a man who’s been recommended by Jesus.  Boosted by the hubris of a few things:

  1. I’m still in my twenties, so, I must be good at anything
  2. I’ve been listening to and playing songs from Godspell for most of my life
  3. I’m available and the show starts in three days

To be clear – Jesus was Richard Chaney. He and I were in a show together (my first real show, which of course makes me an expert in all things show biz), and he had initially said that the Edge didn’t need a guitar player. Now that opening night was close, they were re-thinking, and Richard thought I was the guy for the job.



So in I go – for safety, I bring my acoustic, my electric, my banjo, my mandolin, and a shit ton of gear. Just like a guy would who thinks he’s already got the job.

The cast is in rehearsal when I walk in. Stage isn’t built out. Set isn’t built out. SEATS AREN’T INSTALLED YET. But the vibe is great – 100 seats, energetic sounding cast, and a Hammond Organ. (More about that later). I’m about to meet Roger.

Roger is imposing – if he isn’t smiling (and when he’s working, he’s frowning, not smiling): he’s tall, big voice, confident. He strides over when he sees me with my guitar and says something like “Hey kid, Jesus here thinks you can play the guitar”.

I’m a bit daunted, but not overly much – I love the show, and I think I know it.

Roger disabuses me of that immediately: “We’ll skip the Prologue for now”, he says. “Grab your axe”.

Okay – so – I didn’t know there was a Prologue, but whatever. Roger brings the cast over, puts a foot on the stage, waits while I tune up, and then goes right into the first tune of the show. Fine with me; I know that one.

It’s “Prepare Ye”, and it’s super fun: Lots of vocal pyrotechnics, fun syncopation. Roger doesn’t play it like I do, but we’re close. When it gets to the end, and I play the solo, he grumbles at me “So you think you can solo, hey kid?”.

“Save the People” is next, and also a stable in my tool-kit, right down to the finishing guitar lick.

So I’m feeling pretty good. Into the next tune (Day by Day) which also has a cool little guitar lick at the start, and also has a neat time change: it starts in three, and then switches to four. Anyway, I hang in there with Roger for that tune, including another cool little guitar part to finish.

I hang in on the next tune, but barely. It’s a vaudeville style tune (and wickedly fun to play, turns out) but I’m not good at it. I feel like I’m slipping.

“Bless the Lord” is good – I know that one. Roger isn’t exactly smiling, but he’s not frowning.

When we get to “All Good Gifts”, I also get out my recorder, and play the solo – I want Roger to know I’m serious.

And so it goes. Win some, lose some. Most of all though – it’s super clear to me that Roger knows the show FAR better than I do. And that he’s a WAY better guitar player than I am.

I totally punt on the first two tunes of the Second Act. Turns out I don’t know the show like I thought.

But Roger rolls his eyes, sighs, and says something like “Okay kid, I think you’ll do. But you better go learn the 2nd act”.

And just like that – I’m in. And by in – I mean I’m in the show, and I’m in Roger’s circle. I don’t really know it yet, but I kinda feel it: he’s got my under his wing.

So. This story is about Roger (and Godspell). But Roger’s brother Michael and the Hammond Organ are a part of it, too. I don’t know this at the time, but Michael and I will sit next to each other for 5 nights a week for 160 nights. Michael is the director, and the keyboard player, and Roger the musical director. So after Michael gives final stage direction, he puts on his keyboard hat, and that includes playing the Hammond.

Not the one we used for the show, but close!

Not the one we used for the show, but close!

It’s a gorgeous piece of furniture and the best sounding rock keyboard in the world. They are rare to find in good condition, finicky, and at their best – also include a Leslie speaker. It’s the thing on the left – a big speaker on a spindle. And slots in the cabinet for the sound to spin through. Michael can control the speed of the Leslie, and there isn’t anything like the sound of a Hammond organ played through a Leslie slowly coming up to speed.

So I know I’m in because now that I’m in the band, I have to help move both of them. The Hammond is close to 500 pounds, and the Leslie another 150. But the stage isn’t quite ready yet, so we move it around for our first practice (which is starting right then) and I know that we’re going to move it a few more times before the show starts.

Roger tells me to go get the rest of my gear, so I do. The theatre is on the 2nd floor of a strip mall, so getting the banjo, mandolin, and stands isn’t a big deal. But my amp is another story. Roger conveniently waits until I’ve moved it up before telling me “Hey dumbass – you can park behind the theatre to load in your gear”.

And that’s the start of my relationship with Roger: he insults me in a way that’s like having a nickname: you know he had to think about you enough to get one. And it’s funny, what with the eye rolling, the sarcasm, and so on.

I went out and purchased the full soundtrack to Godspell this week; I had bits and pieces of it from various different collections, and I wanted to have it start to finish. I listened a few more times this week and I’m already a little less sad. But I can also see Roger when I hear the music; he was always across the stage, with the drummer. He was super particular about the tempo of “Save the People” and super particular about the exact moment he wanted me to start. He couldn’t count it in, not from across the stage. So he’d give me a silent foot tap to watch for tempo, and then he’d point his finger at me like a gun, and then pull the trigger for me to start. I miss that. And thought I’d get to do that again, despite the theatre not being in business. Talk about cognitive dissonance: I really still thought it would happen. Or that me and Roger would chat about it someday, all of the small things that we did when we played together.

So. I’m collecting my Roger stories. I fall asleep at night, switching a bit between sad and happy. Sometimes laughing out loud at some comment I remember Roger making, and sometimes getting a little tripped up when I think of him being gone. This lyric from the show, helps, because me and Roger did this, for awhile:

“Let me skip the road with you, I can dare myself, I can dare myself”.

More to write.



November 6, 2016

Me And Roger (Part One)

(Apologies to Michael Moore)

My friend Roger met his new road on Wednesday.


I’ve been thinking about him a lot, and thinking about Roger also makes me think about The Edge of the World, a theatre company that was important to me, and thinking about the Edge makes me think about Godspell, the musical that has been part of my story off and on since I was a kid.

Hard to consider all of those things without dipping into all of the time I spent being part of the Catholic Church, and while I’ve (as Roger might have said) “quit that bullshit” – there were a lot of formative and good things in and around the church while I was a part of it.

So I’ll take these on bit by bit, to see if writing about it makes me feel better.

My Godspell theatre mates will get the inside joke about “meeting his new road”. It’s a line in “By My Side” a tune in the 2nd half of the show. Roger isn’t the first person from the Edge to meet a new road; my friend Thomas did so about 18 months ago. When Thomas passed unexpectedly, I laced up my running shoes, put Godspell on my phone and went for a run in the rain.

How many times before something becomes a pattern? I didn’t know what else to do, so I did the same for Roger: laced up my shoes, grabbed my phone, and ran that same loop.

It’s a new phone, so it decided to play the soundtrack in random order; Roger would have been pleased to know that my run started with the Finale – it’s where Jesus is crucified. He’d have laughed his ass off (Roger, but maybe Jesus, too). So there I am, running down the Burke Gilman trail, crying and laughing all at the same time, and thinking about how Roger had moved to the other side. (There’s another inside joke there – part of one of the sketches in the show, about the sheep and the goats).

But wait, there’s more: Just like after Thomas passed, at my first opportunity, I grabbed my score, and played the entire show. I waited until there wasn’t anyone at home, partly because I’m a bit rusty on the guitar, but mostly because I didn’t want to get caught crying.

Most productions of Godspell skip the prologue, which is too bad: it really sets up the rest of the show. It opens with the cast taking on a series of philosophers (Socrates first, and Buckminster Fuller last), and singing just a bit of each of their philosophy. As I played along, I figured that Roger would have picked either Nietzsche or Sartre, if he had to pick one:

Nietzsche: “What is noble, nowadays?”

Sartre: “Atheistic existentialism, which I represent is more coherent, I do believe it. There is no such thing as human nature, not in all or few men, since there is no God to conceive it.”

But maybe, just maybe, he’d have been okay with the last line in the prologue: “I seem to be a verb.

Roger was certainly that.

Anyway, playing through the score was all fun and games until the 2nd act. That’s when “By My Side” appears, and even just the opening line did me in:

“Where are you going? Where are you going? Can you take me with you?”

It sort of turned into a snot-fest for the rest of that song; my dogs were very concerned that I wasn’t well. And they were right about that – how do you be well in the midst of coming to grips with someone passing? I don’t know exactly, but I generally run, play music, and write.

The next song after that is an up tempo tune and brought back fantastic stage memories for me. It has a key change for the final verse, and it’s giant and sudden and the whole cast goes from prone to full height and in belt voice sings:

Grant us hope from earth to rise, and to strain with eager eyes, towards the promised heavenly prize: We beseech Thee, hear us!”

It was a super fun song to play, and almost impossible to keep sittng down. One night, the guy singing the lead had a cold, and me and Roger bet on if he could hit the high note after the key change. Roger bet he could, and I bet he couldn’t. Roger won that one.

Remember when I said this is about more than just Roger?

On closing night, Richard Chaney was leaving town, and while we were going to strike the set and have a closing night party anyway – it was additionally bittersweet for me: Richard had introduced me to Edge of the World, we lived nearby and Steven Boe and Richard and I once in a while played open mic nights . . .

Anyway – during “On The Willows”, Richard (he was Jesus in the show) says goodbye to all of the disciples.

It was always a teary part of the show, but that night, even more so, because it was closing night.

I loved the little guitar interlude in that song (sometimes played it on mandolin) and was watching and playing. Just as we were to transition to the final chorus though, Richard changed his blocking and headed towards Robert Olding and Roger (Roger on bass, Robert on drums), to say his goodbye’s to them, too.

Michael Kelley (keys and Hammond organ) looped us back through that cool guitar part, and from across the stage I saw Roger and Robert give Richard a big hug, at which point, I fairly well lost it and started to cry.

It was odd: back then I was still a church goer, and I loved hearing the Godspell story every night. Even now, when I take away the stuff about religion that I dislike so much – the core part of that story still seems true: love one another. Be kind. Don’t worry overly much about the future. And that’s what our little cast did, together. Loved each other a lot. Were kind to one another. Didn’t worry overly much about what was next.

Anyway, as Richard headed my way, I stood up so I could give him a hug, and I was bawling pretty hard. And in that moment I was keenly aware that I was saying goodbye to a friend and at the same time was a part of that much older origin story and wsa saying goodbye to Jesus in the show, too. And also saying goodbye to that particular cast.

That’s a lot of goodbye, packed into a small moment.

So that’s what I’m doing at the moment, getting through some of these goodbyes.

Roger’s on his new road.

I have more to write, but not now.

November 6, 2016







January 25, 2016

Vietnam Trip Wrap Up

That was some trip! So glad to have had the opportunity to go and see such a lovely country! Here are some things I learned, and a few tips, should you decide to go. In no particular order:

  1. Start in Hanoi, and finish in Ho Chi Minh. Don’t get a round trip in and out of the same city; you’ll spend your last couple of days just getting back to where you started! And Hanoi is a little less busy – so you’ll get in some practice!
  2. Don’t worry about bottled water – they’ll give you plenty. Almost everywhere we stayed, there was both bottled and filtered water available. We rarely had to purchase any.
  3. Don’t drink the tap water. The Vietnamese don’t, so you shouldn’t, either.
  4. Skip the hotel breakfast. Most offer a buffet, and while some were great – you’ll have a lot more fun and experience more if you go find out what the locals do for breakfast. Don’t mistake value for price here; just because it’s included doesn’t mean you have to have it.
  5. Eat where the locals eat. There are a few spots that cater to tourists that are awesome still, but our very best meals where at spots that were tourist free. Spicier food, more adventurous, and far less expensive. Don’t be shy; walk in sit down, and point at something that looks delicious. Most vendors will steer you away from stuff that is a hugely acquired taste.
  6. Skip Nha Trang. Medium sized city, but full of pushy tourists. Sure, you can get away to the beach (about a 25km drive). But I wouldn’t go back.
  7. Cross the street by walking in a straight line, and a steady pace and don’t look nervous. There are rarely speedy drivers, and few cars. They’ll go around you. If you are nervous, wait for a local to cross and stick with them. It’s sort of like magic.
  8. Don’t book in advance – you might arrive somewhere and have to stay for a couple of nights because you booked. Sure – if arriving late in the afternoon, and you think you’ll be tired  – book a room. But just for one night. If you like it, odds are great that you can extend.
  9. Go to Sapa. It’s up north, it can be colder, but well worth the visit. Plus you can by knock off down jackets for less than $20.
  10. Haggle,haggle, haggle, haggle – especial when buying merchandise or taking a cab. Don’t ever get in a cab without asking the price.
  11. Fly. It’s a long country – about 1,000 miles. So getting from Hanoi to Denang is either an overnight train or a $40 plane ride, and the plane takes an hour. Do it.
  12. Travel in the center of the country is a bit harder – getting from Hoi An to My Lai is a car ride. And not a lot of easy to find places to stay. So you’ll want to plan a bit more carefully for the spots between Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh.
  13. You can say “Saigon”. No one cares what you call the city.
  14. Ha Long Bay is gorgeous. Spend a bit more and get a boat that lets you swim, but also shows you the sights. Otherwise, you cruise out during the day, see stuff, and then cruise home. So do your research here.
  15. If you can avoid tours that select all of your food for you, your options for eating local go up!
  16. It’s okay to talk about the war. My Lai and the War Remnants Museum are great places to visit to learn more. And the Vietnamese have moved on; not a whiff of anti-American sentiment where we were.
  17. You probably don’t need a power adapter. Most phones/tablets will auto switch to the right voltage. Check your device to make sure – but we didn’t have any trouble.
  18. Pack less. You can buy toothpaste, shampoo, sun-screen, hats, t-shirts, shoes. We each carried less than 15 pounds. That means we cleared customs on both sides in 10 minutes and never had to wait for luggage.
  19. If you are from Seattle, have a map handy. When you say “Washington” the Vietnamese folks say “Obama”.
  20. Learn a few words. Hello, please, thank you. Amazing how far that gets you when chatting with the locals.