Sunday, March 12, 2017

3-12-17-- Figuring Things Out

There have been times in my life in which certain responsibilities have been lifted from me, and I have more freedom to be.  This is one of those times.

Of course, I can't leave well enough alone and just relax and say, "Hey, I can be who I am!"  No, I have to pick at my freedom like an old scab because it itches.  So I am asking myself again:

What am I supposed to do?

Who am I supposed to be?

How does it look to be "normal" for me?

I'm pretty sure the first question is that I'm supposed to prepare for the next stage in my life.  This will be to slow down on helping the homeless, give over Anawim to others, sell my house and give my wife the rest she deserves.  I'm realizing that this isn't as easy as I thought, so having a year and a half to accomplish this makes sense.  Especially because I need a different income for this preparation year, and those in my house are working on how to work and have money to pay bills.

Another thing I'm supposed to do is rest.  I spent a lot of time talking about that already.  Just to say I'm still tired, still depressed, and my body pain is increasing.  Nothing unusual given what I wrote before, and I don't feel bad about this.  I just wonder how much I should actually work.

The second question is trickier.  I had a deal with God that I would work for Him and he would pay the bills.  So even though I worried about money sometimes, it was pretty much taken care of.  Now I'm dialing back on ministry (not quitting, though) and I wonder if the bills will be paid.  The donation money has been cut back as I cut back on my work, but we still need money to keep the ministry going under other leadership.  Hmmm.  I wonder what's about that.

And there are as many opportunities to get involved in helping folks on the street as there always has been.  How much should I do?  Should I limit myself to Fridays food distribution?  Or should I get involved in other things?  Training?  What about personal connection with folks?  I guess that will work out.  And I'm still tired, so I don't feel strongly to jump into anything with both feet.

That final question is a tricky one for me.  I've lived the last 35 years striving to be a "saint", a "spiritual athlete" in the path of Jesus. I am not giving up on Jesus, but what does it mean to be a "normal citizen" for Jesus?  What is "normal"?  What is balance?  It is different for everyone, but I have no idea what that looks like for me.

I'm fine today, I have no serious worries.  Just questions that I don't think I can answer.  Maybe that's what "normal" is.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

3/2/17-- Doing Better

I have had two full months of "rest".  By which I mean that I stopped the other work, apart from distributing food, and started a new job.

I found that I had to learn how to rest, because I'm not good at it.  Frankly, rest sucks.

I'm doing a bit better working part time as a cleaner.  I haven't gotten time on my own like I wanted, because in this "training period" I have been working with others whom I feel I have to entertain (simply out of my own habit).  But I've only been working an average of 15 hours a week, so it hasn't been too onerous.

I have learned that when vacuuming long halls, the most essential thing is cord management.  I'm sure there's a spiritual principle here, but I haven't figured it out.

I have learned that those who work very well are the people you don't want training you, because all they want to do is work, not teach.


The work I'm doing is cleaning apartments, hallways and offices.  It's strange because I feel that I'm on the opposite end of disgust from my previous work.   Before, I had to learn to push down my disgust at how others were living so I could help them.  Now I am cleaning apartments so a person who would be disgusted by a eyelash in a drawer in their apartment they just rented wouldn't be offended.  It's a strange transition.

This has been the "worst winter in decades" in Portland.  So much ice and snow and cold.

I feel guilt because I wasn't there for everyone, the way I should have.

But I have nothing to feel guilty about, as well.

No, I couldn't open the day shelters, but I made sure that shelters were open during the worst times, made sure they had enough food and enough blankets.  I spent a lot of time on the phone in the worst nights and I spent a lot of time transporting goods.  And I scanned the streets looking for the homeless who might be in danger.

Then there is every Friday in which me and my friends gathered thousands of pounds of food and distributed them broadly. I have nothing to be guilty about.

But my lack of activity eats at me, still.

Stupid brain.

I guess I still have a ways to go before I can achieve any kind of balance in my life. 

A Review of Elvis' First Album

In 1956, when Rock'n'Roll was released, Elvis was already well known, as he had released a number of singles for two years.  This is a collection of some of those singles as well as his versions of other songs that were known at the time.

Some consider Elvis' first single, That's All Right, to be the first rock'n' roll song. Well, if we consider Rock 'n' Roll to be the white version of 40s and 50s rockin' soul, then I suppose so.  But Elvis' version was a toned-down rock from what Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Big Mama Thorton, Ike Turner, Fats Domino (although he was really doing boogie woogie) and Little Richard were already doing for years before.  Even Bill Haley and the Comets, a country band that decided for a couple years to borrow on the black sound, released Rock This Joint before Elvis hit the scene.

This album of Elvis songs was compiled a couple years after he hit the scene with his first single, but it's a good collection of his early work.  He has a great voice and his stuff is smooth to listen to.  It may have been insane to white kids in the early 50s, but it seems so tame compared to Little Richard.

I like Elvis' version of Blue Suede Shoes better than Carl Perkins, but I think that has more to do with production than performer.  Carl's version is rough and a bit hard to hear.   It's easy to see who was the favored one at Sun Records.

"I Got a Woman"   This one was written by Ray Charles based on a gospel tune "It Must Be Jesus".  In the original, it's Jesus taking down the names of the righteous and, well, Ray certainly did a makeover on that.  But Sun Records did a number on this song, changing it up from a simple big band rock to something that mixes and rocks and quiets down and really gets you going.   You can hear some early Beatles influence here as well.

"I'm Counting on You" was written for Elvis and really focuses on his vocal performance and his sultry voice.  And he's really got it here.  The lyrics aren't so great, the back up pretty simple, but his vocal work is really nice.

"You're Right, I'm Left, She's Gone"  Basic country song, influenced more by Hank Williams than the rock background.

"That's All Right"  This was written and released by Arthur Crudup ten years before this album.    The original is so very similar, Sam Phillips didn't do much of anything to change it.

"Money Honey" was written for and released by The Drifters in 1953.  In my estimation, they do a better version, but I'm a real Drifters fan. I like the echo effect they give Elvis on the chorus, though.   For Elvis' song, they up the tempo slightly and put the booogie woogie piano at the forefront-- all to good effect.

"Mystery Train"  Written by Junior Parker who recorded it with Sun Records in 1953 based on a Carter Family Celtic standard, "Worried Man Blues."    Great blues song.   Elvis' version is sped up and given some country pickin' instead of the sax.   To me, this is a perfect distillation of why Elvis' worked.

"I'm Gunna Sit Right Down and Cry" Another, less successful, blues song.   It was a pop ballad before Elvis made it his.   The Beatles did a powerful version with their sound in 1962.

"Trying to Get You"  Released by The Eagles (no, not THAT Eagles) in 1954, if you listen to that recording you can really hear Elvis' sound all put together, in a group vocal.  Great sax in that version.  Elvis' version, in comparison, is fully guitar rock, taking out the piano and putting the guitar right in front.  I like both versions.

"One Sided Love Affair" Very boogie woogie, and Elvis is really owning those vocals.  He's almost a southern preacher, here.  Originally recorded by Bill Campbell, but I couldn't find it.

"Lawdy Miss Clawdy" A Lloyd Price song that introduced the New Orleans sound that we usually associate with Fats Domino (who played the intro on Price's version).  This recording replaces the sax solo with a rough guitar solo, which is tough to choose between.  But I have to give the vocals to Lloyd Price.  He smoothly takes control of the song, while Elvis sounds like he's trying a bit too hard.  Both versions are good, though.

"Shake, Rattle and Roll" A Big Joe Turner song made famous by Bill Haley and the Comets.  Honestly, I've been a long fan of Joe Turner's version with the piano at the forefront and the sax echoing the vocals.   Elvis' version ups the tempo, but it doesn't improve the song as a whole.  It just feels noisy in comparison to Turner's version.

In general, I feel that rock n roll of this era is really a time of singles, not albums.  There are some masterful singles on this album, but some of the songs I don't care for as well.  I made a playlist of the old rock n roll of this era, and that's how it works best for me.  Hearing the best from the late 40s through the 50s and ignoring the mediocre.  Certainly this album has some of the best songs of the time-- Mystery Train, Blue Suede Shoes, I Got a Woman, and That's All Right are fantastic.  But the album as a whole doesn't work for me, because I hear all these songs in the background, some of which are better.