Friday, May 22, 2009

Symphonic Thoughts

They used to rehearse in a Senior Citizen center in downtown Van Nuys, and in the summer of 1986 I moved out of my parents’ house and into an apartment on the same street that the orchestra rehearsed! I was extremely poor back then and so I decided not to get phone service. I used to have to walk to a payphone when I needed to make calls! (Anyone remember payphones? This was in the days of horses and buggies, of course, when I was young). One Tuesday night in the Fall of 1986 I was walking down the street to use a payphone when I heard an orchestra playing in the senior center. I knew it was the West Valley Symphony, and knew that they rehearsed there. I decided to walk into the room and listen for a few minutes, and as soon as I walked in, the principal oboe player began to jump up and down, pointing at me and excitedly talking to the other players. The wind manager at that time motioned for me to come over to him, and asked if I was available to play their upcoming concert! They were very unhappy with the bassoon player who they had subbing for their regular principal bassoonist. The regular, Sam Mood, it seemed, was actually very, very sick with a fairly new and deadly disease that had begun to ravage the homosexual population. Sam was gay. Sam was dying of AIDS.
This part of the story is very serious and tragic, of course. Sam never recovered and within months he passed away from the disease. And so it was that I became the principal bassoonist of the West Valley Symphony; I have remained in this position ever since.

Some random musings on my years with this orchestra, now called the San Fernando Valley Symphony, on the eve before our season finale for the 2008-2009 season , (a concert which will be attended by ten people I know from the Gay Christian Network):

I lived in a crazy, fun, music-filled house for 8 years with the long time principal clarinetist of the orchestra, my good friend Geoff Nudell, as my roommate! Geoff and I met on Freshman Orientation day in college, and were music majors at CSUN together. We called that house, "The Overture House", because Geoff's brother told him that is where the music was happening. Over-at-your house, you see. We lived there with some ghosts as well as with a succession of roommates in the downstairs room.

I lost my virginity with a violinist in the orchestra when I was 23, in the weeks following a romantic trip the orchestra made to Catalina Island where we played in the Avalon Ballroom. I basically met Marilyn while I was drunk, on the boat cruise home, when I spilled a drink on someone and she saw it and laughed! During the course of our little fling, she became convinced that I was gay. Hmm. Now, I’ve often wondered, due to the way things happened circumstantially, if I might have a child from her. That is all I’m going to say on the subject of Marilyn the violinist.

Members of the orchestra have included some of my very best friends, some of whom have moved on and no longer play with us. I lent emotional and psychological support to a good friend in the orchestra during a very difficult time in his life, way too much and way too personal to go into. Unfortunately he kind of never really recovered to be the person he used to be, and none of his old friends really see him anymore. I haven't seen him in years.

Drugs and alcohol abuse are simply part of my story. So the "war stories" about such things always come up. For several years, our principal horn player was the man who introduced me to the Grateful Dead. One time we took off immediately after a rare Thursday night orchestra concert and drove all night long to see the Dead in Oregon that weekend! Another time, on my 27th birthday, we saw the Dead play in the afternoon and played an orchestra concert that same night. Jon, my friend the horn player, took LSD at the Dead show and was tripping on it while he played our concert. He sounded better than ever, actually, so go figure. We were young! Oh, so young.

Which brings me to another time. I was 24 maybe, when I stayed up all night long on Crystal Meth, and then played a concert without ever having slept that night. I’ll never forget how hard it was to eat a Chicken Club from Carl’s Jr right before our pre-concert rehearsal! My jaw hurt so bad from all the clenching that drug makes one do. In the concert, there was this big bassoon solo that I played, and actually I saved Jim’s posterior because he tried to cue me in too early. But I’d spent that night before, high on speed, poring over the part and knew exactly where to come in and waited! So he went on and on about how I saved us from disaster by not coming in when he cued me! And here I was completely strung out.

We went to Big Bear to play a concert one time, and ate a huge dinner at the “all you can eat buffet” at the local Sizzler! My friend Jacques ate SO much, and got SO full that he could barely play! And he had a huge trombone solo in the Mozart Requiem!

Some members of the orchestra were among the first I came out to as being gay, when I finally accepted that fact.

I’ve been a featured soloist with the orchestra 4 times, two times as a singular soloist, once as part of a quartet of soloists, and once in a duet concerto with Geoff, my friend the principal clarinetist.

The last concert of each season usually is very close in proximity to my birthday. Sometimes it’s been on it, or right after, or right before. My 40th birthday was spent in a Tuesday evening orchestra rehearsal right before our season finale concert that year! That fact was part of what got in the way and kind of ruined the plans of a couple of friends who wanted to give me a big surprise party. (I’m still waiting for a surprise party some day. hehe).

The orchestra saw me go through the huge change in my life when I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ in 2000, and then through more growth as I entered recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction through the program of AA. Which takes me back to the beginning, because my Gramma Audrey’s AA home group used to meet in that same senior center where the orchestra used to rehearse in the early days!

In closing, I guess I am struck as I recount all these memories, by the fact that this orchestra has been such a constant in my life! Through all these years and all these changes, it has remained a consistent part of my life. Five or more concerts a year. Year after year. Three Tuesday evenings of rehearsals before each concert. Sometimes concerts in the park in the Summer, sometimes providing the pit orchestra for musical theatre productions, sometimes accompanying the Nutcracker Ballet at Christmas-time. This orchestra, this avenue of making music has been in my life for most of my adult life, from the time I was 22 until now at almost 45 years old! I still often take a moment during a rehearsal or concert to just look around, reflect, be grateful and appreciate the fact that God has allowed me to be a part of this, and to have the opportunity to get to have a place to consistently make music with an orchestra that really is excited about doing what we do! Our concerts always are such a satisfying and wonderful experience. May I never take that for granted.

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dark? Well, yeah, that's Steve!

And the space between posts gets wider and wider. Why do I always do this? Why can I never follow through on things?

Oh, so the title of this post. Many years ago, one of my friends said to another (apparently, I was told by the other later), "wow. Steve can be so dark sometimes"! The friend who told me about it said that he just replied, "Dark? Well, yeah, that's Steve"! It has been pretty consistent in my life. Oddly, as consistent as my silliness and sense of humor on the other side of things. But so -

So what's going on. What is going on is too much darkness! I'm almost 45 years old and repeating the same childish patterns of insecurity, inability to believe in myself and follow through on any dreams I might have. Patterns of irresponsibility with money and credit. The amount of debt I have allowed myself to incur kills me. There's no room for saving up anything. I look around and see some of the same "hand me down furniture" that I moved out of my parents house with some 25 years ago or so. A cobbled together collection of stuff, here and there splattered with purchases of my own which were foolish.

Its so easy to look at what others my age have and be envious, and jealous, and beat myself up for being such a loser. I don't think I ever thought I'd be 45 years old and living in a one bedroom apartment furnished with hand-me-downs and "I'm getting rid of this old couch, you want it's", still struggling just to get by and always worried about money. Unable to explain the darkness inside, the lack of hope and the depth of despair, loneliness, anxiety and depression. "Have faith"! People say. "Don't listen the the lies of 'the enemy', they say. Its hard, I don't know. I'm grateful for the stuff I have, I appreciate the people who have helped me, who have given my the furniture and helped me get through the tough times financially. I want to be clear about that, because gratitude is so important.

So anyway, I pulled a Bible off of my shelf of Bibles (yeah!) the other day before church, and one of the Bibles fell off, and landed opened to the book of Lamentations. I decided that maybe I was supposed to read it. In doing so, and in reading the introduction and notes, it seems that God is trying to tell me to allow myself to once and for all just wail before him in an outburst of emotion, as Jeremiah did. Just let Him have it, just let it all out. So often I start to cry and then it just shuts up. There's stuff I'm running from, things I am hiding from. There's an underlying sadness that is always there, this desperation. And yet, I never can let myself just FALL. Just surrender. I think God is trying to take me there, wants me to go there with Him. I think that has been part of why I've been sick so often lately, and especially so sick this past week. Somewhere in the midst of this sickness, there is coming that sense of surrender. It scares me a little, or maybe a lot, that I still can't quite reach it.

Someone from church told me recently that I don't seem to be able to trust God. I've been thinking about that, and what it means to trust God. How trusting God is different in a subtle way than simply having FAITH in God. Why is it hard for me to trust God? And furthermore, why is it that I can trust God on behalf of OTHERS, but not for myself.

May as well end with Comes a Time (Grateful Dead lyrics): "You got so far away from how it feels inside. You can't let go cause you're afraid to fall. But the day may come when you can't feel at all. Comes a time when the blind man takes your hand, and says don't you see? Got to make it somehow on the dreams you still believe! Don't give it up, you got an empty cup only love can fill".

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Friday, August 8, 2008


I can't believe its been three months since I last posted here. I had such noble and enthusiastic plans to keep this updated when I began the blog. But alas, life goes by very quickly and there's always so much to do it seems. I seem to be in a perpetual state of, "Stop the World; I Want to Get OFF"!!! But as busy as I get, there's always something lacking. What's with this empty space? Its not a "God shaped hole", I have God in my life. Oh, there's issues there I suppose. I don't feel as close as I have in the past. Definitely struggling there, but is that the whole of it? I think its more of a "best friend shaped hole"; could be a "life-partner shaped hole" or at least a "sexual fulfillment shaped hole". (That REALLLY didn't come out right!) There is a "friends I used to have in my life" shaped hole. And a "posse shaped hole". As we come up to tomorrow, I can say that for sure there is a "Jerry Garcia shaped hole". More accurately I guess, a "Grateful Dead shaped hole". Is there a "marijuana shaped hole"? or an "alcohol shaped hole"? Probably not. Now, with all these, I have to wonder. Does it really still all come back to the original, "God shaped hole"? In case you have no idea what all this talk of eclectically shaped holes is about, its simply a proverbial saying in spiritual circles that "everyone has a God-shaped hole", and that all of our lusting after and pursuing things of this world, even including the desire for relationship and friendship, is in essence us trying to fill this hole, which can only truly be filled by God, of course. I believe in this to some degree, maybe even to a large degree. But - there is a point when we have legitimate and real needs for things of this world, and for human contact and relationship. But then this leads me again to wonder why even with all the friends I am blessed with in my life, and all the music, and church involvement, etc, I am still left feeling so empty? I do know that a sense of sexual denial, partly of my own choosing and due to my own choices, and partly due to lack of interest on the part of anyone I'd like to fulfill this need with, is creating a very real hole. (Dang! Again with that not quite coming out right...). I'm left with nothing more to say, on that note.

So here's some vintage Jerry Garcia with the Grateful Dead to sing us out:

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Reflections on a Life Cut Short

It's been a real long time since I've posted anything here, and I have to be better about that. And now, the first thing I'm going to post in over two months is rather dark and heavy, and intense. But here goes, I feel a need to share these thoughts with whatever audience has found my blog and is "listening". (Wondering if there is anybody out there!)

It was a tough week last week. Through my own emotional challenges a suicide in my AA community was hanging like a dark cloud. I was feeling very fragile, and anxiety and depression were overwhelming. When I'm in a "suicidal depression", I always come back to how selfish I know suicide is; though I am not now, nor have I been, feeling angry or upset about the selfishness of the one who killed himself. I "get" his pain.

I get it, with this guy; because I get not just his need to kill himself but I identify with the alcoholic/addictive element that is part of the package, or was, with him. I so want to alter my go back to those times of being so high on a drug! Forget alcohol. I want to drop some acid or something. Just go inside, and yet so far away. In search of some kind of feeling, I the absence of any ability within myself to feel loved, by anyone else or to love myself or to feel God's love.

But you know, I still keep getting up, getting dressed and going to work. Doing whatever has to be done. Somehow in the middle of my own extreme brokenness I am able to allow God to bless others through me in ways that I don't understand. And so I suppose I can do nothing less than keep on keeping on, fighting the good fight and living - as long as God continues to minister through me then I have to keep going. And these dark times do pass.

I do wish Hunter had realized this, as God ministered to others through him too; I heard everyone share about how he touched them with his wisdom, at my Tuesday night meeting last week and at the memorial.

Ask not for whom the bell tolls...

I went to Hunter's memorial service Saturday evening. It was truly impacting and revealed the immense tragedy of this loss. This was a man who touched lives very deeply, who had a wonderful and amazingly bright light. I learned of how much he had to do with saving a huge amount of local mountain land from development. Everyone spoke of his fire, his passion and his wisdom. And he was beautiful in every way possible, including the exterior. Yet - none of that prevented his suicide. Its so deeply sad.

Somewhere in the midst of this service, I sensed Hunter's spirit. Saying to me something like, "hang in there, stay in the present; I know you think maybe I didn't like you but I did, and I love you from where I am now. I had my own problems that made it seem like I wasn't wanting to be bothered with you but that was just your perception"....and along with this came encouragement and inspiration I can't put into words. But someone did put it into words. As I hugged my "grandsponsor" after the candlelight ceremony, he whispered to me, "stay sober. don't be afraid. live your life with passion. keep on shining that big wonderful light of yours". He said he just felt that he had to say those things in that moment.

One of the speakers said that Hunter was "a huge bright light, but he also had an incredible darkness inside of him". I know I have an incredible darkness inside of me. It occurs to me how many people there are who share in this description. But among these same ones who struggle, lie some amazingly loving and wise, bright lights.

I just want to put it out there -
no matter how hard it gets, hang on! God uses us in and through our broken hearts and lives and gives us light to share with the world.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Cruel Christianity

There is a new movement afoot among a segment of Christians in California, called California Exodus. Their goal is to have all Christians leave the public school system, both students and teachers. The reason? The straw that apparently broke this camel's (ass's?) back is that despicable foe of all that is Christian, us deviant homosexuals! Here's a sampling of the verbiage spewed forth on their website:

"Governor Schwarzenegger recently signed a package of public school legislation that represents a complete reversal of 2,000 years of Christian moral teaching on human sexuality, family, and marriage. This is to be accomplished by using the California public school system to indoctrinate children to accept homosexual and other sexually deviant lifestyles as normal and morally acceptable, beginning as early as pre-kindergarten and continuing as long they are in California's public schools"

Even if it weren't for the reason it is (that is, anti-gay/homophobic), the very idea of Christians separating themselves off from society, creating an Island unto themselves; this concept and the attitude behind it is just so completely repugnant on every level that I don't even know where to begin!

Okay, so I'll begin here: If they actually went through with it completely, then there would be no one to share the Gospel with the other kids in public schools! And there would be no teachers to share the Gospel with other teachers! And I don't mean that students and teachers should be going around hitting people over the head with the Bible, but the Gospel can be shared and preached through the simple presence of Christians in any given social setting. By living as examples while letting their faith be known, Christians throughout time have effectively brought people to the Lord. Jesus said that His followers are to be the salt of the Earth! Salt doesn't fulfill its purpose by staying in the shaker! Jesus said to be the light of the world. Light can't shine into the world if it's covered up by an opaque lampshade, keeping to itself. How completely arrogant and repulsive is the attitude of this movement! How self righteous can you get? "We're too good for this place, and as far as we're concerned you can all rot in hell", is literally what this movement is saying.

What a cruel, heartless, selfish type of Christianity this is! The spiritual origin of this isn't from Jesus Christ, this is from Satan!

Oh, but what is our response to be? Can we fight them? Do we get all invested in this and get angry and make a stink? Or do we really just have to continue to live lives of authentic Christian faith and pray for them, leaving the battle to the Lord. It's possible that some of us are called to do the former, but certainly we must all pursue the latter.

Bless their well intentioned, misguided, pointy little heads.


But you know something, it occurs to me that of course, not every Christian is going to follow suit and remove themselves from the schools! In fact, maybe this could all be a very good thing, maybe this is God's plan after all! Now the cruel Christians - okay, "well intentioned, misguided (pointy headed) Christians" - will be purged from the system, leaving the loving ones behind to do God's work unhindered!

This all reminds me of a bumper sticker:

"Lord, save me from your people!"

Perhaps He's answering that prayer!

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

The Cows Will Come Home, But We Ain't Waitin'!

The use of the phrase, "when the cows come home", to refer to something that is not too quickly forthcoming strikes a contrast to another phrase, "when heck freezes over" (okay, I know its not "heck"!). The latter implies that something is simply not ever going to happen; the former that it will, but its going to quite possibly take a very long time! The name of this blog refers to something that is probably going to take a very long time, namely the full acceptance of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, trans-genders, et al, by society, and particularly by Christians. Even more specifically, the full acceptance that one can be gay and Christian! But the fact that the name of the blog is not "When Heck Freezes Over" means that there is, in my estimation, hope that this acceptance will come! (And I still know the word is not really "heck").

Yes, I believe that one day the world, even the USA, will fully accept us homosexual folks. One day we will have complete equal rights and no one will say we have "special rights" and complain. One day we will have marriage equality. One day Christians everywhere, even here in the USA, will accept us and realize that the Bible doesn't really tell them what they once thought it did about us. One day no one will contest the fact that we can be both gay and Christian, and no one will question if we are truly Christian, or truly saved, if we continue to be homosexual after we accept Christ as our Lord. One day. When the cows come home. Who knows when, or how long.

But guess what? Those of us who are gay, and know Jesus, we aren't waiting for those cows to get home!

We're not going to wait for our brothers and sisters in Christ to get around to resolving all their debates about us. We've already started following the Lord! We have already sensed His calling. We've surrendered our lives to Him, and we don't need to go out into the cow pasture and step all in the manure in order to try and get those cows to come home any sooner than they are willing, either. I used to be so concerned with wanting to convince Christians who opposed homosexuals, that they were wrong. Really, who cares! I'm done, and I think we all need to be done, with that. Its time to simply follow the Lord and leave the rest to Him!

The cows will begin to come home, in fact they are already trickling in. They will come home more and more as they begin to see us fruits bearing fruit! As the Gay Christian community lives out authentic Christian community, as individual gay Christians live authentic Christian lives, people will begin to become confounded and ultimately be led to re-examine "what their Bible tells them so", and the Holy Spirit will begin to bring truth and conviction to Christians everywhere, and those cows will come home. It is going to take time. We must persevere and not become discouraged as time goes on. In fact, the reason we are following the Lord and living our lives in accordance to His purposes, forging authentic lives and community, is not merely to convince other Christians to change their views!

Our purpose is in being about God's business in our time and generation, and within the homosexual community; its about the Great Commission! There are people that need to know the Lord, whom He wants to bring to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ so that they may spend eternity with Him and with us, and with our un-accepting family members in Christ as well! Besides that, God wants to advance His Kingdom in the world today, and He asks us to participate in doing that! John Lennon's imagination is nothing compared to what a worldwide community of truly compassionate Christians of all types can do to transform this planet! Not that it will ever be any kind of Utopia until Christ Himself returns, but He is asking us to prepare the way for His return!

I truly believe that God is doing a new thing. I believe that He is using the outcasts, including the homosexual community, to begin bringing this new thing about, to bring a new reformation to His Church. We can't wait until those cows come home! We can't worry about going out into the fields and dragging them home, kicking and screaming. No, the time is come for us to put aside all that distracts us from our relationship with Jesus Christ. The time is now to simply be about being obedient to our Lord and love Him; with all our mind, all our heart, soul, and strength. And love others as ourselves. The cows will come home when they are ready.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

This is "so L.A."!

I had to be in Koreatown today to sign up at an employment agency. I mapquested it, and saw that there was a Metro subway stop right near it, so I decided that I would take the subway! I haven't actually ridden it yet. I've been thinking that I really ought to start thinking in terms of taking it when there is a stop near where I'm going, you know, to maybe do a little more to help the environment, etc. But if you have a car in this town and are not completely dependent upon the Metro system, including the good old fashioned buses, you really don't want to deal with said good old fashioned buses; you drive to the subway station and take it from there! Which is actually kind of silly.

I just love how they ripped out the trolley system we used to have (before my time!) "This is a car town"! We love our cars in Los Angeles, and our idea of mass transit when "planning" that kind of thing out way back when, was to build the network of freeways and tear out anything we even had in the way of city rail transit. But I digress. Kind of, it is relevant to the story. Anyway...

I checked the schedules, and by the time I got out of my place I was cutting it close as far as catching the latest train that would get me to my appointment on time. But I had enough time. Except - I pulled into the parking lot, and lo and behold, there is not a single parking space to be found!!! I mean, really!! How ridiculous is that, and yet how VERY L.A.!? I do think there are some other lots, but it was too late to figure that out, so I ended up just driving.

I tried. I guess I'll try harder next time and research where those other lots are and leave earlier. What a lot of trouble one has to go to in order to use the Metro in this town!

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