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








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