Archive for ‘Good Things’

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.

godspell

 

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.

roger-kelley

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 15, 2015

Friends at the Edge

I started an essay back in 2004; it wasn’t ready yet so it just occupied space on my computer. In 2008 I updated it a bit, but it still wasn’t ready.

The title was a play on words: for years I literally had friends at The Edge of the World Theater –we called it “The Edge”.

But I’ve also had friends on the edge – challenges with relationships, physical and emotional health, employment, and a lot more.  I was thinking a lot about the nature of friendship, and how mine are so wonderfully varied.

This week one of my friends from the theatre passed away, and I’ve been thinking a lot about him in particular, but also about my friends from that time.

I’ve flirted with theatre more than I’ve had a relationship with it. And perhaps some of the emotional importance of my theatre friends is due to the sheer intensity of a show: night after night, week after week, and most of the time – laying bare pretty much everything. Too hard to have a lot of pretense when working that hard. And I think some, too, is because those were formative times for us. We were hitting our stride, confident, ready to take on big challenges, and make a big difference in ways that were important to us.

Anyway – not sure that my essay is done, but now that Thomas has stepped past the edge, I wanted to share it.

————————————————————————

Friends at the Edge

I’ve got a lot of these: Drug addictions, unemployment, dire relationships, medical complications and more. Lately, I’ve been looking for some common thread (besides the accident of me) that ties these things together and what makes a friend.

I’ve just found out that a local theatre company that has been home to me off and on for close to fifteen years seems to have shut its doors. And while some of the players have moved on (and some have moved) some also remain the same – or at least constant. This rather small group of people reminds me that people do change, that relationships are static and dynamic all at the same time, and that kindness and compassion spring from sources both likely and not.

Roger has been the music director from the very beginning, and these past fifteen years have brought him many changes: He’s been divorced, quit drinking and smoking, took a full time job somewhere besides the theatre. And in the midst of these rather remarkable changes, he hasn’t changed at all. He remains one of the wittiest men I’ve ever met (and I’ve met a lot!) and has a capacity for kindness that seems rather limitless. I remember one show when an actor arrived at the theatre in poor shape – had just learned of a suicide. He’d barely hit the door before he began apologizing for what he felt would be a distracted performance on his part. Roger, without even waiting for the end of the sentence, was up and across the stage to embrace him. At the time, I was working at an agency with a Christian mission statement – and I had an immediate sense that the folks at my day job wouldn’t have responded nearly as well.

During a run, Roger, (with much eye rolling and sarcasm) also fixed my guitar amplifier, brought strings, a strap, some additional gear, a harmonica and an inordinate amount of patience with my playing. Clearly, Roger and I are friends.

And yet – Roger and I see each other maybe once every eighteen months or so, and rarely correspond in between. Over the past twelve years, I’ve probably performed in 10 shows with Roger – that’s maybe a year in actual time. Despite the fractured nature of our time together – I also know that I could phone Roger from jail at 4:00 in the morning and he’d come and fetch me. You can see that I’m re-thinking what it means to be a friend.

There’s another person at the theatre, too, whom I’ve known for about the same time. In that time we’ve lost a friend to cancer, I played at her wedding, and was around for her divorce. Lori and I have been in perhaps five shows together. Granted, a show is intense – five or six weeks of 5-7 nights a week. And we’ve played a few gigs together, too, and mourned the loss of that friend. And somehow – Lori knows me. One night after the show the cast was out for a drink, and someone asked me what I did for a living. “I work for a tech company”, I said, and Lori immediately looked stricken. She reached out and touched me, so I continued, “It’s a nonprofit, and I help other nonprofits”, I said, and Lori relaxed and a beautiful smile crossed her face. “I just so think of you as a do-gooder”, she said, “It would be so weird if that weren’t true.”

I was deeply touched. Somehow, despite the small amount of time that we’ve spent together, Lori knows one of my essential truths. Clearly, Lori and I are friends.

And then there are the people who I just don’t see anymore. Richard, Kathleen, Steven, Thomas, Doug, Mark. We’re all in touch. When we are anywhere near each other, we visit. I know what they are all up to, where they are, and (I like to think, anyway) the important truths about them. So, even though we only connect at the edges these days – it’s a pretty strong connection.

And I have other friends on the edge. A college friend and long-time music buddy is in the throes of beating an addiction. (So far, so good). We don’t see each other much anymore, either: I’m a part of an old story for him – and while I wasn’t a part of the addiction story – you can imagine how late nights, music, and cold beer went together all those years – and now – not so much.

Another friend is at the edge in a different way – he’s still making music full time. Most of my music buddies from back in the day are mortgaged and married – and late nights and erratic paychecks aren’t in the cards for them anymore. But Joe has managed to keep singing and playing. He’s made a commitment to doing what he loves, and ‘tho I think that puts him at the edge for some – in other ways – he’s right at the center of where he wants to be. You can imagine that our paths don’t cross nearly enough, but when they do, it’s pretty spectacular. Joe sang at my wedding recently, and one of my other guests wanted to know why he wasn’t famous yet.

And now one of my friends, Thomas Arthur Grant, has stepped over the edge; he passed away this week. I’ve been thinking a lot about him.

We were in Godspell together, a musical from the early 70’s. It’s the Gospel of Matthew, set to music.

Thomas was tall, elegant, handsome, and with a huge, open smile.

Despite it being November (or maybe even December), our friend Richard convinced us all to go white water rafting before the Sunday show. I can’t remember many of the details, but remember it was fun, wet, cold, and then even colder, particularly at the end when we had to wait for someone to come and pick us up.

I was freezing, and Thomas noticed. I can’t remember if he said anything, but he wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into a gigantic bear hug. The physical warmth was almost immediate – I have no idea how he could have had any warmth to share. The warmth from his kindness warms me to this day.

When I found out that Thomas had passed, I found an old copy of the soundtrack, and went for a run in the rain. I don’t have any pictures from that show; but I can remember in detail the smile on his face, the part in one of the tunes where he’d catch my eye and play a little air guitar along with me. And I remember the way he would move from prone to full height, to strike a pose – everything from his toes to his fingers a perfect, straight line.

So. Theatre friends. Music friends. Friends in trouble. The more I think about it, almost all of my friends are at an edge, one way or the other. And that’s good.

-Patrick Shaw

2004 and 2008 and 2015

January 2, 2007

Off to a Good Start

First day back at work, and the first real day of the new year – and I managed to get to work early, leave about on time, and make it to the gym -so"
 
Small
 
Not driving in traffic!
 
Big
 
I love my job – even after a long break!
 
Hope
 
To say the same things a lot in 2007! 
December 19, 2006

today’s good things

Small:
 
Having a better take to work lunch than anyone else at the office. I don’t mean to be petty – but – I have exceptionally tasty and nutritious food every day. If that’s not a good reason to be thankful, I don’t know what is!
 
Big:
 
A nice run with a longtime friend AND the opportunity to do a favor for another one. Friedship is best when it goes both ways.
 
Hope:
 
Lordy – Kind of a crazy time at work with holiday, vacations, hardware going kaput! Here’s hoping to get through it with my sense of humor intact!
December 18, 2006

today’s good things

Small:
 
A visit to the doc that only took 10 minutes. No kidding – called to get an appointment, arrived at 2:10, left at 2:20. That’s how healthcare is supposed to work, right?
 
Big:
 
Electricity. Some of our friends are still without – and here where Puja and I live – we have power, heat, light – make no mistake – we’re living in the lap of luxury!
 
Hope:
 
To wrap up my work commitments in the next few days so that the holiday break is work free!
December 14, 2006

today’s good things

Small:
 
Sudafed. That’s right – drugs. I caught a nasty cold – and am hoping that drugs take care of it!
 
Big:
 
A great home-cooked meal. Who knew that a little pasta, a little Prosciutto, a little parmesan, and a great cook (that would be my girl) could add up so quicly and so nicely? Well – I did – but still – what a nice good thing!
 
Hope:
 
Okay – so -exercise this week is a write off. I’m shifting strategies and am hoping for a cold that passes quickly so I can get back to it.
December 13, 2006

Lessons Learned

Lesson One:
 
Being right isn’t always good enough. I’m just back from a meeting – and – I’m pretty sure I was right about some of the budget items. But the rest fo the folks weren’t on the same page – so I shut up. Insisting on being right would have been counter productive and hurt in the long run.
 
Lesson Two:
 
The more you find out about people, the more there is to like. You just have to pay attention.
 
Hope:
 
That I pay attention to the difference betweeen being right and doing right.
December 12, 2006

today’s good things

Small:
 
Home-made chili, with cheddar, onion, fresh lime and sour cream. I highly recommend Cover and Bake from America test Kitchen!
 
Big:
 
A job that I really like – even on crazy days. Today was a crazy day – and yet – I get to help nonprofits make my community a little better. Lucky me.
 
Hope:
 
Two days without exercise and I was doing so well! I hope to get back on the bandwagon tomorrow.
December 11, 2006

today’s good things, and the day before that!

Small:
 
A whole day with family doing all of the unimportant things.
 
Big:
 
An 8 mile run – the first since my half marathon in October. I don’t want to get fat this holiday season!
 
Hope:
 
To help my condo association without being a pest!