Friday, April 16, 2010

Why I Sang In Choir

I have had trouble keeping boundaries with my expectations of music. I know I have written of this before. In the beginning, as I came into my adult voice I was also a desperate kid looking for something that was missing, something I couldn’t even describe. I could not communicate about it. I had no words. I could only seek, only act out. There were some troubles of long standing with my parents arising from mistakes they could not have avoided making with me. I could easily say they should have done this or that rather than what they did, but how could they have known? How could I have known beforehand either? I had no way to guide them, to say, but this is really what I need.

I was in no way spiritual, didn’t even know you could be spiritual. That didn’t happen until I was twenty-one. What happened first were the high school and church choirs. This led in high school to musicals, dancing, hopes for drama as a college major, barbershop quartet and a madrigal group. That was the period that folk music started to get big and later on I found a coffee house with a group of performers. There was a particular guy named Paul Zeigler. They said of him that he was a guy other musicians listened to. Later he ran his own house down near the San Jose campus and in that place giants of the later San Francisco sound performed there, Paul Kantner did classical guitar, Jorma Kaukonen did his guitar picking country blues, and Skip Spence did his remarkably energetic folk rock. As I said these guys knew Paul Zeigler and honored him.

What I did was haunt the coffee house, called the Brass Knocker, and I learned Paul’s music and phrasing even though I was not good enough to do it on guitar. It was my template to learn from, carried inside me.

All of this was I demanded to become someone different, to shape shift, to get power I lacked, because I was certain that I was going to die without some freaking change. I was absolutely desperate. I had no clue how to really hold a job. My first real job was to serve in the dining room of a facility my church built for retired people. I did okay but I was not getting what I needed out of it and the nagging sense of impending doom was growing.

I had failed in my military service, going to West Point but crashing a month after Plebe Summer, knowing there was no way I could keep going under the disciplinary stuff building up. I was in the Army Reserve and hating it. Not only that, but it was in the way of my wish to be a drama major too. This was just too much.

I had been struck down with meningitis in my required basic training, lost a month to that and fried my brain with the really high fever I almost died of.

All that stuff was the ferment that was behind me when I smoked my first pot. There was no turning back when I started doing drugs, and I consider it true still that drugs quite literally saved my life. I started doing drugs in late August of 1966. By November I was absolutely committed, ready to be a dealer or whatever I needed to do. In January my mother came home from Persia, alerted by my sister that I was on the streets and appeared to be starving to death, which was a fair description, and she got me into a mental facility and started working on saving my ass from Leavenworth because I had just quit the army and was AWOL for several months by then already. She hinged my innocence on the meningitis and she was arguably right. But in my heart I knew it was bogus. The meningitis happened in the middle of the process of despair that had started back really before high school. She may have known that but there was something concrete about the meningitis which was of course a matter of record. She succeeded.

I stopped singing in groups mostly, but I continued to practice on my guitar and tried to become Paul Zeigler. That continued until I hit a wall. I was completely polished in a very narrow band of guitar music and dismally unable to broaden my scope. This is one problem of being self taught. Exhausted, I felt there was no more future. I put music on the shelf from 1972 to 1994. Twenty-two years lost to taking a false start. Since that time I returned to singing in a church choir for ten years, shifting over to an academic advanced choral group called Unistus, a group specializing in Estonian music, where I had the possibility of international travel before me. Unfortunately, I have had increasing trouble with my allergic condition as I age and no longer have the ability to trust my voice at the near professional level I need. So I have retired from group singing. I also have my keyboard work begun in the nineties. I am still hampered with the self taught stuff.

Why I Sang In Choir

The way it was then...
I sang in choir and looked for
you in some other
place because no one
near me would touch me as far
as I knew, except
the few odd ones from
the wrong side of my young mind,
could not see you then,
the way you would bloom,
the way you would know my truth
in some distant time.

May 10, 2009 11:13 AM


  1. You are one interesting man, Christopher. I think you could write a book about your life and search for god and self.

  2. I already have, Karen. It is all right here, only requires rewrite and editing to put it together as a book. I have the three hundred plus pages already. On the other hand, this IS a publishing venue and is basically recognized as such legally. The only investment here is time. It is utterly democratic and spiritual, both voluntary and free.

    I don't know if I have the energy for it the book. I am also not at all sure there is a wide enough market to justify such effort. Mostly I think I am not even close to interesting even in a niche market.

    My primary life reaction has been there are always a few people interested in me, a great middle who can't summon up much interest at all and another grouping of a somewhat larger few who are active in pushing me away and fail to value anything I have to offer at all. I have had that experience my whole life long. It has always seemed to me that the numbers who have a positive experience of me are too few for any mass market. A mass market requires that enough locate the product and that means that many who might like my work will not find it without major marketing efforts. I do not think I would survive as a product on the few who be drawn and find me by accident. So my questions become two marketing questions, why would any publisher mass market me without my own funding behind the effort, and how would I be able to justify such shameless self aggrandizement, risking the major debt myself, assuming I could even match the required funds with my credit clout?

    To me that seems realistic.

  3. Count me among the few...interested. I keep coming back for the next chapter...almost glad it is not consumed by masses. I'm selfish that way.

  4. The other day I had a conversation with someone about the poetry-music connection. Seems like everyone who writes poetry has had a brush with the musical in their lives; and maybe because of poetry, reminiscing on and talking about that musical past is always heavy with meaning.

  5. Don't sell yourself short. I think you could even be a movie. ;-)

  6. I haven't sold myself short. I have a good job that keeps me employed some of the time, doing stuff using an analytical skill set that allows for a decent wage doing interesting work. When I go out idle the same boss asks me back faster than I can ever find another job. On the other hand I am no celeb, just another bozo on the bus. There are literally thousands of people who have had lives as odd as mine, maybe tens of thousands.

    The local crowd doesn't lie. Even here on the internet maybe twenty people drop by a day. That is not a big enough audience for paying work. I am sure you know that.

    I know an author of my kind of book. He has tried to parlay a fan base into something using blogs. His book is pretty good. His fans are loyal. There is material for a second book, even a fifth by now. His first book broke even, perhaps, maybe a little less, even though he got someone to take the risk. It is still for sale on Amazon. He can't make that second book go. The first book sales were too dismal. He gets more hits a day than I do.

    That's what I mean about the curve. If you sit solidly in the far edge of liking what I do, then you might not see this. I don't think I am selling myself short. I think I have a very good example of what my stuff does on the open market. He is better than me in certain ways in my opinion.

  7. 14521 Big Basin Way is the address of the Brass Knocker.


The chicken crossed the road. That's poultry in motion.

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