the cloths of heaven

funny, music, Yakima No Comments »

When I was in high school, one of my friends had a reputation for being a prankster. Sometimes I found myself guilty by association, and sometimes I was an actual accomplice. He went through a phase during which he liked to find pictures of nude or scantily clad women and post them in friends’ lockers or Pee-Chee folders, so that when the person would open the folder, he’d have a little surprise waiting for him.

He actually got in a bit of trouble when he did that to a girl in our choir. The girl had red hair, you see, and so did the girl in the picture, and the picture was exceptionally lewd, so the girl reported my friend to the teacher. By way of a reprimand, the teacher famously told him, “Now, I like to look at a Playboy every now and then—“, which still makes us laugh, even all these years later. Hindsight being twenty-twenty, my friend thinks that was a cruel thing to have done to the girl, and if he could do things differently, he would. He also has daughters now, and that tends to make people grow up real quick, as well as to make them much more sympathetic to the tribulations that girls often experience in school.

Back then, however, the picture prank was something he did somewhat regularly. Once, he went to the library and found a National Geographic magazine with a story about Tahiti, which was full of half-naked women, so he pulled out a page and kept it for his own nefarious purposes. We sat next to each other in choir class, which meant that we shared a music folder. On that fateful day, when we sang the song “The Cloths of Heaven,” I opened the music and found the picture of a half-naked Tahitian woman. Ha ha. Then, when we finished the song, we put the music and the picture back into the folder, never to be looked at again, since the two of us learned and memorized music faster than most people. I only mention that fact because it’s apropos to the story. We had the song memorized from that day on, so we didn’t use the music anymore.

Three or four months later, our choir drove to a college an hour or so away, in order to participate in a somewhat prestigious regional music festival. I don’t remember much about the trip, to be quite honest with you (it’s been almost twenty-five years now), but I do remember that we did well enough during the afternoon performance to qualify for the finals later that evening, and one of the songs we performed was “The Cloths of Heaven.” At some point between the afternoon show and the finals, a couple of people came up to my friend and me, saying, “That wasn’t funny, you guys,” or, “Not cool.” We were mystified, and had no idea what they were referring to.

That night at the finals, it was our choir’s turn to take the stage. We filed onto the risers in our robes and awaited the announcer, who walked out a moment later. “Interesting story about this next choir,” the announcer told the audience of several hundred. He explained to them that the judges got quite a shock when they opened the music for “The Cloths of Heaven” and found a picture of a half-naked Tahitian woman inside. Our choir director was unaware that this had happened, but he had no doubt about who was to blame for this disgrace. He glared furiously at the two of us as we realized what had happened and tried unsuccessfully to suppress our giggles. Our surprised choirmates turned to each other, saying, “Who did that?” and others turned to us and asked, “Was it you guys?” as the entire audience erupted into laughter.

Our director was really angry, and after our performance he pulled my friend and me aside into a rehearsal room. He was convinced that we had done it on purpose, to prank the festival. We had to explain to him that no, this was just a private thing, and that we hadn’t used the music for months. We’d long since forgotten about the Tahitian. Out of the seventy numbered music folders our choir used, each one of which contained one or two copies of “The Cloths of Heaven” (our folder had two, one for each of us), the teacher’s aide had unluckily grabbed OUR numbered folder, and THAT copy, to turn in to the judges. I don’t think the director believed us at first, but eventually he had to admit that the circumstances were pretty funny, and we got off with a Well, Don’t Do It Again.

Oh, and our choir won the competition, by the way, so there you go. Apparently, sex sells.


funny, pictures, Portland, sad, true 1 Comment »

When I was in high school, my brother and I were lucky enough to get to see Monty Python’s Graham Chapman in a very rare live performance.  It was 1986, and he appeared at the Masonic Temple (now the new wing of the Art Museum) here in Portland.  We begged our dad to let us go, and he somewhat reluctantly agreed.  I think he knew how obsessed we were with Monty Python, and that this was quite probably a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see even one of them in person.

I still have my ticket stub floating around here somewhere.  It always turns up when I’m not looking for it, but it disappears again on the rare occasions that I need it.  I realize that this entry would be slightly more compelling if I could provide photographic proof, but for now, you’ll just have to take my word that I still have it.

That night at the dinner table, Dad gave us his equivalent of a warning.  “Now, British comedy tends to be a bit. . .blue, so they may say things that you guys aren’t used to hearing, and make some crude jokes.”

“Yeah, Dad, we know what to expect.  We’ve watched Monty Python for years, and they’re definitely not ‘blue’ or whatever.”

“Is there an opening act?”


The present-day version of me will now step in and tell you that there was indeed an opening act, but we’d never heard of them, either before or since.  They were quite terrible.  In fact, I can remember only one line of their boring sketch comedy routines:   someone yelling, in a mock-drunken stupor, “Start the fuckin’ car!“  Oh, the hilarity.

“Well,” Dad continued, “I’m sure you guys will be fine, but don’t be too surprised if blah blah blue blah blah—“  I don’t even remember the rest of what he said, actually.  I was much too excited to finish dinner and get downtown.

Dad drove us to the Masonic Temple and dropped us off by the door.  We waited in line, everyone buzzing with excitement, until the doors finally opened and the line of people was let in.  It was the first live comedy show we’d ever seen, and we expected to see Graham peeking out from behind a curtain or, if we were really lucky, sitting on one of the metal folding chairs in the audience somewhere.  We kept glancing around the room, hoping for a sighting.  The opening act came out and did their thing, and like I said, they were terrible.  The audience dutifully clapped, and some people even laughed a bit, but we thought it seemed like a mistake to have an opening act for a colossus like Graham Chapman.  Anyone coming between us and him was an unwelcome distraction.

After what seemed like forty-five minutes (because it probably was) of torturous comedy, Graham came out on stage.  He received a thunderous standing ovation before he settled into his part of the show.  It wasn’t a comedy performance, as such.  He mostly told stories, some of which were funny and some of which were not.  He talked about his new Dangerous Sports Club, which involved lots of skydiving and things, and warranted a longish slide show.  (I think Douglas Adams was in the DSC as well; I seem to recall him being in a picture or two in the slide show.)  Graham talked quite a bit about Monty Python, obviously, and told us a great story about how during the final season of Flying Circus, the censors started to suspect that one of the members was homosexual.  One of them was, of course, and it was Graham, although he was still publicly in the closet at the time.  But when the Pythons kept getting letters from the BBC saying You Guys Really Need To Do Something About This Homosexual Problem, it all came down at the exact same time that John Cleese decided to leave the group.  The remaining members took the funny opportunity to write to the BBC:  “Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  We have discovered the offending member, and he has since been sacked.”

My favorite moment of the show, however, was during the question-and-answer session near the end of the evening.  Most of the questions were the usual variety of softballs like, “Do you miss being in Monty Python?” or “How hard is it to get into comedy?”, but one guy stood up and asked, “What’s a jindiggot?

“A what?”

“A jindiggot.”

“I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re referring to.”

“But you said it.”

“Er, I don’t. . .think I did.”  Graham was gamely trying to answer the guy, but by this time, everyone was looking at each other in a what-in-the-world-is-this-guy-talking-about way.  We all turned and looked at him as he started to really get nervous.

“Yeah, you did.  It was in The Holy Grail. . .the scene with the French guy yelling insults at King Arthur from the top of the castle.  You said, ‘You and all your silly English jindiggots.’ ”

At that point, everyone realized what he was talking about, and we all burst into peals of laughter.  The French knight couldn’t pronounce the word ‘knights’, so it sounded like ‘ken-NIG-ots.”  This guy had misheard the line and wondered for years what a ‘jindiggot’ was.  Now Graham was performing in HIS town, and answering HIS question, which must have seemed like the most amazing opportunity in history.

“Um,” Graham said diplomatically, “there seems to be a slight misunderstanding.”  The audience was howling by now, as Graham had to good-naturedly explain the joke that everyone else in the world knew so well.  Furthermore, it was John Cleese who had spoken the line, not Graham.  Graham was King Arthur, standing at the base of the castle and the opposite end of the conversation, being taunted by Cleese’s French knight.  As the audience continued to laugh, the guy realized his mistakes and slunk low in his seat, presumably praying for a quick (and hopefully invisible) death.  That was definitely the highlight of the night, and no one had any further questions, so Graham took the opportunity to wrap up the show.  He thanked us and walked off to another thunderous standing ovation, after which he came bounding across the stage like a rabbit, with his fingers raised next to his head like rabbit ears.

I don’t think anyone knew yet that Graham had cancer.  When he died three years later, there were rumors of AIDS, but they proved to be unfounded.  The world was stunned; he wasn’t even fifty years old.  The other Pythons are all still alive and presumably well, but I’m pretty sure they’ve never been to Portland.  It was a huge honor to have been able to see him here, and I certainly won’t forget it.

R.I.P., Graham.  Happy Monty Python Day.



best of BFS&T, 2010 edition

beautiful, blogging, cello, dreams, funny, love, music, Oregon, pictures, Portland, recording, sad, true, Washington, Yakima No Comments »

2010 has been very strange.  At the beginning of the year, I was still on blogging hiatus, so it took a while to get back up to speed.  Springtime was crazy, with lots of great musical endeavors and memorable trips.  By the summer, both my life and this blog went into overdrive, when I really started writing again, and found my full stride while sharing a bit too much about my childhood.  Suddenly it was October, which is the month of my birth, but this year was also the month of my stepdad’s death, which has sent everything into a tailspin since then.  A surreal trip to Yakima for the funeral was followed by multiple trips to Seattle, both for gigs and for family functions.

There were some standout moments from this last year that didn’t manage to make it into the blog, for various reasons.  For example, here’s a video of a particularly interesting recording session that I was lucky enough to be involved with, albeit in a small way.  A local singer-songwriter, who is also a friend, put the word out on SocialNetwork that she wanted to create a cacaphony of 50 pianos, all playing an F chord at the same time.  I jumped at the chance.  She rented a piano showroom downtown, and my friend and I (and forty eight or so other people) joined in to participate.  I brought my camera to capture a bit of the action.

Another memorable moment from this last year was Trek in the Park.  This theater group gets together every year to re-create a famous episode from the original Star Trek television series.  This year’s was Space Seed, in which we meet the infamous character Khan (who returned in the movie The Wrath of Khan).  It was a very well-done production, with live music and everything. . .and it was all free of charge.  Here’s the climactic fight sequence between Kirk and Khan.

IrishBand released our self-titled EP this year, as well as an amazing animated video that a friend created for us.  I would post that here, but our band name is very unusual, hence the pseudonym.  To celebrate, we went to Port Townsend, Washington (the hometown of three of the band members, and an adopted home away from home for the rest of us) to play a CD release party and catch the Rhododendron Festival and parade and everything.  It’s always a huge party weekend for PT, and this year was the tenth reunion for PT High School, which included Violinist and a bunch of other friends, so I actually went to the reunion barbecue in Chetzemoka Park during the afternoon, since I knew so many of the people there.  (God forbid that I actually go to any of my own class reunions; I haven’t yet.)  I also performed in the parade, in disguise, as an honorary member of Nanda.  I’m the guy with the Mexican wrestling mask, playing the bass, miming along to the dance music that was blaring from the speakers in the back of the truck.

I had the opportunity to see the Oregon Symphony perform many times this last year, with some pretty big-name performers.  Violinists Midori and Hilary Hahn, violinist Pinchas Zukerman and his cellist wife Amanda Forsyth (who, incidentally, gave a cello master class at the Old Church that afternoon, which I also attended, even though I’m far from being a cello master) who performed Brahms’s Double Concerto together, and a number of others.  This month, I have a ticket for pianist Emanuel Ax’s concert, which I’m very much looking forward to.  Yo-Yo Ma performed here a month or so ago, but his concert was sold out in the spring, only a few weeks after tickets went on sale.  Curses.

So it’s been a good year, overall, but I’m really hoping that 2011 is better, or less confusing at the very least.  I have lofty goals for the upcoming year, which include finding a job, finding love and a real relationship, taking care of some things that have been dogging me for a while now, and producing more CD’s.  I have a bit of news on the music front, actually.  A friend of mine hurt her arms a year ago, and has since been unable to play the piano, but that hasn’t stopped her from singing, or from writing lyrics and melodies, or from having tons of ideas.  She e-mailed me at some point to ask what people in her position do in the music business.  I told her I don’t know about ‘the music business’, but I’d love to give the songs a listen, and that maybe I could put music to them.  She sent me some mp3’s, and I instantly felt like I knew where the songs should go.  They felt familiar without being predictable, which is always a good sign.  That was about two months ago, and we already have five or six collaborations in the works.  Pretty awesome and exciting.

In other news, December is the fourth anniversary of this blog, so it seems appropriate to have a little birthday party, no?  Come on, let’s have some sis-boom-bah.

So anyway, on to the Best Of.  Here are the lists of what I consider to the best entries BFS&T has to offer from this past year, which naturally includes a list of the most interesting dreams, as well.  Enjoy!


SteamCon – the steampunk convention in Seattle in which PolishCellist and I played, and had a total blast doing so

tragedy – the death of Stepdad

struggle – the early aftermath of the death of Stepdad

sitting here thinking about the Holocaust – one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard on the radio

folk festival fun – Portland Folk Festival, starring IrishBand, Dan Bern, Roll Out Cowboy, etc.

I’m kind of an a-hole – see for yourself

birthday present – prostitute schmostitute

the unicorn code – love it, learn it, LIVE IT

no one’s laughing – a peek into our family dynamics

d̩ja vu Рwhat it feels like, and a friend who claims to never have experienced one

the truth is out there – interesting UFO story, I promise

it’s not for shaving – Occam’s Razor, and how it applies to recording music

what if it is? – a very memorable and touching moment from the show Six Feet Under



love and curiosity

he ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

the final innocent tryst



lights, camera, dream

festival dream

shape shifters

inimitable and imitable

subconscious and libido

this needs a name


Just in case this wasn’t enough for your insatiable appetite for blog entries, here’s the Best of BFS&T 2009 entry, for your gluttonous pleasure.

Thanks for being here and reading all this, and for supporting this blog for such a long time now.  I really appreciate it.  I hope we all have an excellent New Year’s Eve, and Day, and that 2011 allows us to learn, and to grow, and to change for the better, a little bit each day.

Happy New Year!


beautiful No Comments »

“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.”

–Tom Stoppard, “Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead”

Love it.

Also, here’s a longish interview with Gary Oldman about the film.

wedding, play, garden, hike, learning

beautiful, blogging, cello, music, Oregon, pictures, Portland No Comments »

What a weird week.  Since the end of April, which was one of the busiest I’ve ever had, my schedule has been blissfully activity-free.  Andrea’s wedding (at which I played cello) was touching and beautiful, and I spent the rest of the weekend lying low.

IrishBand’s singer and I were going to see a movie on Sunday night, but I got a mass text message from one of my actor friends saying that he was performing that night, and that everybody should come down.  I called Singer and said, “New plan for tonight.  We should go see this play.  My friend’s in it, and I have no idea what to expect, but the group wrote it, so I’m sure it’ll be good.”  He agreed, and I drove to his apartment to pick him up.  We went to the venue (not an ‘actual’ theater, but a room in the Eagles’ Lodge) a bit early to scope the place out.  Turned out we were too early, so we sat in the bar, had a couple of drinks and shared a basket of surprisingly delicious fries.  It was funny and a bit strange to be the youngest person there by about thirty years.

The show was inspirred by Busby Berkeley’s productions, and even used old piano music and quoted bits from movies.  It was really entertaining and fun.  My friend described it as a ‘farce’, with elements of burlesque.  There were dancing girls and a woman-pretending-to-be-a-man, and a gay boy, and forbidden love, and my friend, who somehow managed to incorporate bits of all of those elements.  It was great.

From there we walked across the street to the Sapphire Hotel, which is one of my favorite places.  We went there and waited for ActorFriend to join us after he changed his clothes and stuff.  He was meeting a woman friend for what Singer and I thought was a date, but it turned out that they were actually ex’s, and were meeting to catch up on each others’ lives.  They invited us to join them at a table next to theirs, which was better for conversing than our noisy table, so we slid it over and settled in for a great conversation, as well as delicious food and drinks.  I hadn’t seen my friend in quite a few months, and catching up was long overdue.  His friend turned out to be a singer-songwriter, and a very interesting person as well.  Here’s to many more evenings like that one.

Monday and Tuesday I was exhausted and pretty much slept the days away, but yesterday I woke up early and felt great after finally getting a full night’s sleep.  I called my friend J to invite her to the Japanese Garden, which she felt was too expensive, so I suggested the Chinese Garden, which I had a couple of complimentary passes for.  It was an offer she couldn’t refuse.

I hadn’t been there in years, but I used to have a membership there, which is how I got the free tickets.  A couple of months ago, I got a letter in the mail saying, ‘Come back!  Renew your membership’, et cetera, so I took the opportunity to take J, who hadn’t been there before.  Naturally, I brought my camera, and here are some of the results.

moongate pavilion garden


bananatreegate bananatreegate2

j mallard


In one of the buildings was a chest of drawers with a jar full of numbered sticks on top of it.  The idea was that you shake the jar of sticks, and whichever one comes out first is the one you were meant to have.   Mine was number 23, so I found the drawer marked ’23’ and pulled out a single piece of paper, which read:


In case you’re one of the people who reads BFS&T from a feed or something, it says, “You have made a deep impression on someone dear to you.”  I love stuff like that, as you may already know.

Lovely place, lovely day.  From there, we left the car parked at the Garden and walked to the MAX train to ride downtown to the bank for cash, then walked back up to Old Town to an incredible little Thai cart for a super-cheap dinner, of which I have some left over and will happily finish tonight.  After that, we drove around aimlessly for a while, and I headed up to the Alphabet District in Northwest.  We both felt like walking some more, so I drove us to Macleay Park, where we ditched the car and hiked into the woods.  I took no pictures, because we were having a pretty deep conversation, and I wanted to pay attention to her.   We hiked a mile or so in, to the abandoned Stone House, climbed all over it, then turned back.

We left, exhausted, and I dropped her off at home, because I needed to learn a bunch of songs for tonight’s rehearsal with a new songwriter with whom I’ll be playing accordion occasionally.

That’s why I’ve been so absent from blogging lately; it’s because I’ve been out there living.

Time for Thai food!