Musical Insurgency
Volume 4 Book 2 of
Living in the Bonus Round
(Part 10)

Steve meets his match.

[ Book 4-1 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
 [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ]
[ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ]  -- [ Book 4-3 ]

November 8-30, 2004.
Ships, The Sea & A Song.
There's a picture above this diary entry called "Steve meets his match." I'll tell you about it below. But first, the set-up.

Sometimes I just have to go away from everything. Turn off the computers, the phones, get in a room by myself with a grand piano and play. The operative word being grand piano. The keyboard with the headphones just doesn't cut it. Not that I can't write some things that way but it's the sound and the vibrations of the wood that does something to me physically. Songs just get born out of those vibrations.

It's how I wrote The Last Session -- at the late great Stan Freeman's house on his piano. Nowadays these times happen when Jim does show biz lectures on cruise ships. While all the other passengers are on vacation, I'm waking up at 3am, finding myself a piano and just going at it until the ship wakes up.

These past couple of weeks have been spent doing just that. And since it rained every single day we were in port, it made it all that much easier to just stay on board, sleep a lot during the day and work at "night," which is actually morning.

Biggest cruise ship in the world.
This time I was in the Commodore Club on the front end of the ship. There was even a little elevator in the corner behind the piano that was an outside elevator, but it was hidden so I pretended I had this little private elevator to my exclusive piano room. It was so Donald Trump.

I would say more about what it is I'm specifically writing, but songs just need to be heard. The process is boring. It's me playing until I go into a little trance, then I start putting out words and writing them down furiously. Or sometimes I go in, sit down and just write words until I can't stand it one moment longer and have to get up and play.

What I will tell you is that I've been doing some lyric rewriting and polishing on The Big Voice. There were a couple of songs that I felt could be more specific and funnier. In theatre, specificity is the golden word. The more you can fill your audience's mind's eye with images and concepts, or lead them one way and make an unexpected turn, that's what I love to hear and those are the elements I'm continually striving to include in my songwriting.

However, it wasn't all work. We had delightful dinner companions -- two hetero couples, one older, one younger. Betsy was the older one. She used the word, "DAH-ling" a lot. They were DAH-ling. She was DAH-ling. It was DAH-ling. She sounded like Tallulah Bankhead without the accent. They were from Michigan.

The other couple was, I'd say late 20s, maybe early 30s. She was a veteran and had a great laugh. Jim would get her wound up and she'd become helpless, unable to stop. Then she'd try to talk and it would come out as this shriek giggle. He was a tall computer programmer.

Anytime you travel on a cruise, your happiness usually depends on your dinner compantions. If they suck, the cruise will suck. These guys were great. We all played trivia together a few times and won lots of prize coupons which we "cashed in" at the end of the cruise.

The big moment -- and here's the story of the picture above -- happened when we got to St. Thomas. All of the other ports on this cruise were kinda wiped out by rain. Pity the poor passengers who actually paid for this cruise. Rain, rain and more rain in the sunny Caribbean.

Tendering to shore.
Finally, the sun came out and we went to Bluebeard's Castle for some lunch. I ordered a mahi mahi sandwich and asked the waitress for some hot sauce. Now, the label said, "Hottest sauce in the universe!" but they all say that. I can take any hot sauce, I said to myself. I liberally sprinked the sauce on my sandwich and took a big bite. Nice. Took another big bite.

Suddenly, Jimmy looked at me and said, "I've never seen your face that red." I started tearing up. My mouth was on FIRE. I was absolutely paralyzed. I couldn't move. NEVER have I EVER been in that much pain. And the thing about hot sauce is that it doesn't just wash away with water. It gets hotter. It lingers.

After the initial pain went away, I thought this sauce would be like others. That once you're used to it, it gets easier. So I took a few more bites.


It got HOTTER. Jimmy snapped the pic. Once again, I was completely and utterly paralyzed. Nose running. Eyes watering. Mouth burning.

I'll never forget St. Thomas.

However, I got really good work done on the break. Rewrote two lyrics and finished a new song from scratch that I like very much.

The night crew cleaner was a Filipino named Casimero. He told me his whole life story. He's a graduate student in his early 30s who works cleaning floors and vacuuming on ships half the year in order to afford his schooling and the home he owns.

My heart broke for him as he told me this story. It was almost apologetic, like it was difficult for him to le me see him, a scholar, working in this kind of position. I assured him I was no millionaire either and that I wouldn't be on that ship if it wasn't for Jimmy. When I got home I got a note from Lesli:

Lesli: OHHHH i never told you we were protested by the phelps in KS. i totally stole your line of thinking. i asked why there were there. they said to inform us that we were going to hell. i asked if they could save us...i then said "what if i agree with there a satellite church i can join...i mean i go all over the world...there is a lot of damage that i could do.. they had no reply. it was pretty funny. i was hoping for a lesbian are satan's whores such luck. i guess its just the "fags" that they are pissed about.

I was so proud of her because she confronted Fred Phelps, the "fag-hating" publicity hound by saying she was a lesbian who was ready to sign up! Since Fred has no actual "ministry" to gays and lesbians and since he hates them enough to credit God with his hatred, she exposed the fact that his protests are without purpose except to get publicity for himself and his family of hatemongers.

If the "fags" he hates so desperately are going to hell anyway because "God hates fags" then why protest if you have no place for them once they've "seen the light?"

What an insane world we live in. It was nice to take a break from it. Thanks to Jimmy's lecture series we had 10 days or rest on a Caribbean cruise. I call it rest but actually I was working very hard.


I almost didn't get to the ship, though. When I got to the airport I suddenly discovered that my driver's license is expired. Luckily, I had a passport with me. So that crisis was averted.

Monday night I returned to the University of Judaism here in Los Angeles as part of their AIDS Awareness Week. Great kids. Great questions. Really smart and aware. On Wednesday I'm off to San Luis Obispo for World AIDS Day.

[ Book 4-1 ] -- [ Pt 1 ] [ Pt 2 ] [ Pt 3 ] [ Pt 4 ] [ Pt 5 ]
 [ Pt 6 ] [ Pt 7 ] [ Pt 8 ] [ Pt 9 ] [ Pt 10] [ Pt 11 ] [ Pt 12 ]
 [ Pt 13 ] [ Pt 14 ]  -- [ Book 4-3 ]

© 1996-2004 by Steve Schalchlin.
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