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John Dickinson (1732-1808) is not the best-remembered of the Founding Fathers of the United States of America, and that is, in my not-so-humble (and almost always correct) opinion, a profound shame, especially today.

Dickinson was a member of the Pennsylvania delegation to the Second Continental Congress, and in that congress, he was the leading voice AGAINST American independence.  In fact, when it came time to sign the Declaration of Independence and to pledge to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, Dickinson resigned from Congress, refusing to sign.

His reasons for doing so, when viewed strictly through a modern lens, seem misguided at best, self-serving, unamerican, or even treasonous at worst.  However, to do so would be to do a great and loyal American a terrible disservice.  Dickinson was a true American patriot and an honest and selfless man who laid his life on the line for his country (meaning, the U.S.A.).  He argued forcibly that American independence was wrong at that time, because he believed the colonies could not win a war against the greatest military power in the world at the time (Great Britain), he believed the colonies would need the help of a great foreign nation (and we did—France) before we could declare independence, he believed we needed a national government in place before we could declare independence (he was one of the authors of the Articles of Confederation and insisted they be completed first), and he believed that violence was not the answer to settling the dispute.  While I am grateful that the voices for independence won out (and that very narrowly and only by a miracle—and by that, I mean Divine intervention), I can understand all of Dickinson’s arguments.  A lot of what he said made a lot of sense viewed through the lens of 1776.  What Dickinson did, he did out of deeply held principles.

After refusing to sign the Declaration and resigning from the congress, John Dickinson enlisted in the militia and served with the Continental (U.S.) Army.  He served faithfully and bravely.  In fact, at one point, he refused a commission and served as a lowly private.  After the revolution, he continued to serve this nation until the end of his life.

John Adams (1735-1826, Second President of the United States) led the push for independence, and he and Dickinson were bitter and vocal opponents in congress.  But when Dickinson refused to sign the Declaration, Adams said of his opponent, “Mr. Dickinson’s alacrity and spirit certainly become his character and sets a fine example.”  In other words, he praised his rival.  Even though they were political enemies in a cause they both held to be of supreme importance, they respected each other as human beings.

Can we not today learn from Dickinson’s and Adams’s example?  We can disagree strongly over issues we think to be of vital importance and still not resort to HATRED and VIOLENCE against those with whom we disagree.  Dickinson was WRONG, but he was SINCERELY and HONESTLY wrong in his firmly held principles, and he was still an HONORABLE and a BRAVE man.

Mr. Dickinson was a true American patriot.  May we learn from his example.  And that of his adversary, John Adams.  To do less, would be unamerican.

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July 3nd, Salt Lake City, UT

Home again, home again… 

Not much to say about the travel itself, but I do have a few parting words about my last tour with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. 

It has been my great and humbling privilege to sing with the Choir on this tour.  I learned a lot of lessons about obedience and humility.  I learned more lessons about enduring pain, and sanctifying pain as an offering to the Lord.  I did suffer and endure pain, and weighed against simply singing in the Choir on this tour alone, I’m not certain it would have been worth it.  But as an offering to the Lord, I am grateful that I was able to sacrifice in the service of my Savior. 

As we sang “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling,” “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing,” and, especially last night, “Come. Come, Ye Saints,”  I reflected and wept in gratitude and wonder at the limitless grace of my Lord, Jesus Christ. 

I am grateful that my wonderful, lovely Cindy is here, with me.  She is the most tangible evidence of the perfect love of my Savior.  She had to put up with a lot from me on this tour.  And I am humbled that she did put up with me. 

My knee surgery is scheduled.  Relief from my pain is coming, but the road has been difficult.  But I don’t count the cost, because I was allowed to sing on tour once more with the Lord’s Choir.  There are many choirs that belong to the Lord.  I am humbly and eternally grateful to have been a part of this choir for the past eleven years.  So very few get to have this privilege, and I am very much aware that it is NOT because I am more talented or more deserving than others.  I am not.  I am just very, very blessed—and undeservedly so. 

And my pain is nothing compared to what my Savior has suffered for me. 

And so, for every moment I am privileged to participate with this Choir, I will continue to work very hard, to memorize every piece of music, to sing every note as perfectly in-tune as I possibly can, to strive to improve—right to the end of the last performance.  Because, no matter how hard I try, no matter how hard I work, no matter how difficult it might be, I will never DESERVE this calling, I will never be ENTITLED to this calling.  I will simply be humbly grateful. 

At the end of this tour, I recognize that so many people put in so much work—many of them with very little recognition—who made this marvelous experience possible.  Simply saying, “Thank you,” is not enough, but I say it anyway.  Thank you. 

Oh, and I got some great writing done on “The Arawn Option”. 

On the airplane home, we sat in front of Elder and Sister Pingree.  He said to me, “The level of consecration shown by the Choir is impressive.” 

That’s what this tour was to me—consecration. 

July 2nd, Seattle, WA

What?  No SEAHAWK for guest conductor?  Didn’t the Choir leadership read my blog post?  Don’t they listen to me? 

Well, apparently not. 

We had the Washington Secretary of State.  And she was a lot of fun.  (And she was a lot prettier than Russell Wilson…) 

Great concert, and my last tour concert ever.  <sigh> 

Tonight, I sat next to the timpani.  I actually learned a lot about that amazing instrument.  For example, I had no idea you can cover two octaves with those four drums, because you can change pitch on the fly! 

I also learned that the puddle underneath a tuba or trombone is CONDENSATION, not spit.  (You see, spit comes out in long strings.  So you can tell the difference.  But yes, it does come out of those brass horns…) 

Before the concert, Cindy and I went down the waterfront in Seattle.  We did some shopping and had lunch.  But that’s really all the time we had to sightsee in Seattle. 

When they fed us dinner at the venue (between the rehearsal/sound-check and the actual concert), we got to the end of the food line.  There were forks and knives and napkins.  And a little sign that said, “All these items are compostable.”  Yep, our forks and knives were bio-degradable.  Just stew on that for a minute.  You see, Seattle just passed a law OUTLAWING plastic utensils and straws.  So now you get to put compostable forks and spoons in your mouth.  Yeah. 

Tomorrow, we fly home. 

 

July 1st, Seattle, WA

Another travel day, with the added twist of crossing the border back into the good, ol’ U.S. of A.  On CANADA DAY, no less! 

It was supposed to be less than a three-hour bus ride.  (A three-hour tour.  A three-hour tour.  The weather started getting rough…  Actually, the weather was GREAT.)  We got to the border station, and of course, we all had to get off the bus and go through customs and immigration.  The customs and immigration portion was QUICK.  No problems.  The line for the bathroom after we got through ICE was… longer.  And I DID notice that the ladies’ line moved much more quickly than the men’s.  (They were timing themselves.  No, literally.  I’m not kidding.)  But soon we were on our way. 

Suddenly, however, traffic started to slow.  (The tiny ship was tossed.  If not for courage of the fearless crew…)  Our AWESOME bus driver quickly figured out that we needed to take an alternate route.  We found ourselves travelling down skinny back roads.  (We passed a restaurant called “The Cedar Stump” which had a sign which read, “Rest your rump at the Cedar Stump!”)  We traveled back roads for an hour, some of it in stop-and-go traffic. 

The entire delay was caused by a fatal highway accident.  At one point, I saw a car inverted on the interstate, and Cindy saw a car inverted on the grass median.  We later learned that an “impaired” driver was driving north in the southbound lanes (our lanes). 

The final result (which for us, thankfully, did not include a fatality) was that we got to our lovely hotel in downtown Seattle an hour late.  HOWEVER, our bus started out third (3 out of 11 busses).  We arrived FIRST.  The other busses were delayed by up to three hours. 

Bottom line?  Our bus driver was AWESOME!!!! 

Tomorrow, we have a few hours to sightsee, and then we have our final concert.  Personally, I’m PRAYING for a SEAHAWK to be our guest conductor.  Russell Wilson!  Pete Carroll!  Come on!  It would be totally awesome!  Besides, I want to make my son, Jacob (who doesn’t WANT to join the Choir), insanely jealous!!! 

BTW, our welcome dinner (our last meal together on tour) was fantastic.  It had pork with Walla-Walla Sweet Onions!  (And yeah, the meal was delayed for a bit, so everyone could get there and eat it…) 

My last tour is coming to an end.  One more full day and one more concert.  And then it’s home on Tuesday, and I no longer get Cindy all to myself…  Talk about depressing… 

 

June 30th, Vancouver, BC

The Orpheum Theatre in Vancouver.  This older venue was not built for a choir and orchestra of our size.  So, space on stage was very tight.  But BEHIND stage, there was a passage that we had to pass through.  It was cramped—only one line of people could pass through at a time.  I literally had to duck my head in places (and I’m not that tall).  I kept thinking, “The Phantom of the Opera is there inside your mind…” 

From where I was sitting (yes, I was sitting for the concert), I was right behind the trombones and the tuba and just to the right of the percussion section.  I couldn’t see anyone else in the Choir.  I couldn’t hear anyone else singing.  I could only hear myself, the trombones, the tuba, and the drums and cymbals.  Boy, could I hear the cymbals! 

I learned three things at this concert: 

1.       Since I couldn’t see anyone else clapping, I had to be absolutely certain I was correct on the songs where we do synchronized clapping. 

2.       I had to be absolutely certain of every note and every word (since I couldn’t hear anyone else singing).

3.       An ENORMOUS puddle of spit forms at the feet of a trombone or tuba player. 

Tomorrow, it’s Canada Day, and that’s also the day we return to the U.S.A. 

 

June 29th, Vancouver, BC

We are BORING people!  We are in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, and what do we do on our “recovery/sightseeing” day?  We slept in (or at least I did), we ordered room service for breakfast, we went to Boston Pizza for lunch (I had French onion soup at Boston Pizza—at a pizza joint!), and then we went to the movies!  We saw “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (which was very good, BTW).  Then we went shopping (and by that, I mean GROCERY shopping TWICE).  Then we came back to hotel.  We ate dinner in the hotel restaurant and split a steak (which was EXCELLENT).  Then we went up to our room and watched Mission: Impossible 3 on my laptop. 

That was our whole day!  Other people did EXCITING things.  Not us.  Nope.  And you know what?  It was a lot of fun being boring with my bestest girl. 

 

June 28th, Vancouver, BC

This was a travel day.  Cindy and I didn’t have to get up until 8 (although Cindy was up before then) and didn’t leave the hotel until shortly before 9:30.  Others had to leave the hotel at 3:15.  By the time we all arrived in Vancouver, they looked like “frogs in a flashlight beam” (to use an old Midwest expression). 

Our travel was uneventful.  Even our passage through customs and immigration in Vancouver went well, with the assistance of a very helpful lady with a strong Chinese accent at the passport station.  This reminded me, of course, that Vancouver is a very international city. 

The welcome dinner was EXCELLENT, the best catered dinner we’ve had on our trip.  Our room is fantastic, with a great view. 

But our bus driver from the airport to the hotel was wonderful.  He told us all about the area and the buildings along the way.  And he’s not even from Canada! 

Also, we saw the huge geodesic ball that gets lit up in the background of one of the early Highlander episodes (which is supposedly set in Seattle, but was actually filmed in Vancouver).  So the trip is a complete success! 

 

 

June 27th, San Francisco, CA

We had a great concert at Weill Hall at Sonoma State University.  The hall itself was phenomenal, but it OPENED up at the back to allow for more people to sit on the grass behind the hall.  I understand there were 2000 people sitting in chairs on “The Green”.

The audience was great.  This is an area that was devastated by the wildfires.  There was a man who was there whose every piece of clothing, including his sunglasses, had been donated after the fire. 

Our guest conductor was a former publisher of the SF Chronicle.  He helped raise over $33,000,000.00 to help victims of the wildfires.    

Tomorrow, we get up early to fly to Vancouver, BC.  Some of the Choir and Orchestra members have to leave the hotel at 3:15 AM.  I don’t know how or if those folks will bother to try to sleep.  Cindy and I don’t have to leave until 9:45.  Feeling very blessed. 

 

June 26th, San Francisco, CA

Cindy and I had a wonderful day together. 

We breakfasted on crepes at Pier 39.  We went shopping.  I bought her an Alcatraz nightshirt that fits her more snugly that she might like, but she looks hot in it.  We went to the Aquarium on the Bay. 

We’ve visited this aquarium a few times in years past.  They have a large octopus there.  In the past, the octopus has been very shy.  You couldn’t use flash photography and you had to be very quiet, because she spent most of her time hiding from humans. 

But no more.  She LOVES humans.  She is NOT shy at all.  She was crawling all over the glass.  Children were noisy.  (So were adults.)  Both Cindy and I shot great videos of her.  In a cage on the floor were six large crabs.  Apparently, they were waiting to be fed to our friendly octopus… 

Rather than eating live crabs, Cindy and I opted to eat at the Boudin Café.  I had chili.  Cindy had a turkey and avocado sandwich.  Both Cindy and I have discovered that when eating sliced turkey in sandwiches, about halfway through, the turkey begins to taste like tuna…  So, she didn’t finish her turkey, but my small bowl of chili was delicious! 

Next, we took a bus tour that drove us across the Golden Gate Bridge and out to Muir Woods.  Our bus driver/tour guide was Willie.  Willie was fantastic!  He told us bits of history that you just don’t get on pre-recorded audio tours.  He made an extra stop to show us the Palace of the Arts.  Driving across the Golden Gate Bridge was thrilling, but it was NOTHING compared the twisty, turny, NARROW, winding road up to Muir Woods.  That was thrilling, but not in a fun way.  However, Willie kept pointing out all the dangerous spots.  Sometimes he would crack a joke about it.  Sometimes, he would… ENHANCE our fear.  The poor guy across from me looked like he might lose his lunch at any time.  (Maybe he had a sliced turkey sandwich too…) 

The Muir Woods park was magnificent, with giant redwood trees that were thousands of years old.  This particular tour was very important to Cindy.  I’m very glad we got the chance to see these majestic, ancient, living things. 

Then we reboarded the bus, and Willie drove us to Sausalito.  And the drive down was… exciting.  And the poor fellow across from us didn’t look like he was doing so well…  Willie gave some great commentary on the way down (and not all of it was about the dangerous road).  Cindy closed her eyes most of the way down, but when the road is as EXCITING as it was, that might be a recipe for reheated lunch. 

Cindy and I walked along downtown Sausalito, had dinner, and boarded the ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf.  The ferry ride was the perfect end to the day—relaxing and just cold enough for Cindy to snuggle up next to me.  (YES!!!!) 

 

June 25th, San Francisco, CA

So we sang at this wonderful outdoor venue in Mountain View, CA.  Once again, I was not allowed to stand for the performance, but I WAS on-stage, I DID get to sing, and I was right at the front of the Choir (so I didn’t feel hidden away).  And the concert went very well.

Our guest conductor for the encore number, “This Land is Your Land,” was the director of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus.  25 members of the SFGMC sang with us during the rehearsal.  (We usually have guests who sing with us during the rehearsal, so that part is NOT unusual.)  As for the conductor, he did a great job.  (He knows how to conduct a choir.)  One might expect for there to be tension, but (from where I was sitting), there wasn’t.  Everyone treated each other with respect.  Obviously, we disagree on very important subjects, but we can still be nice to each other without betraying our principles.

The conductor of the SFGMC stated on social media that he hoped to be able to help some closeted gay member of the Choir to know that he is not alone and to support him in his secret gay lifestyle.  Oh, well…

I have a dear friend who is a member of the Choir, has a current temple recommend, and is openly GAY.   (Meaning, he is sexually attracted only to men.)  He keeps his temple covenants.  He is a great guy.  He is chaste.  Yes, it is possible to be gay and still keep ALL the Lord’s commandments without equivocation.  This guy is one of my HEROES.

So, during the rehearsal, I looked back, and my friend was seated right between two of our guests from the SFGMC.  There were smiles, and there was respect.  And we sang together.  And that was very cool.  And my friend is not going to suddenly abandon his temple covenants.

So often I am told how much I HATE gay people, because I, like my gay friend, believe that sexual relations are sanctioned ONLY between a man and a woman legally and lawfully married.  Seriously?  I disagree, therefore I HATE?  Disagreement on principles is not hatred.  We can love and respect each other and still keep the commandments of the God who gave us life.

To quote one of my favorite hymns,

Oh, to grace how great a debtor

Daily I’m constrained to be. 

Let Thy goodness like a fetter

Bind my wand’ring heart to Thee. 

Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. 

Prone to leave the God I love. 

Here’s my heart.  Oh, take and seal it. 

Seal it for Thy courts above. 

 

Music can and does unite us.  Love, the pure love of Christ, can and does unite us.

June 24th, San Francisco, CA

The Pride Parade today passed right by our hotel.  It was LOUD.  Fortunately for me, I couldn’t understand most of the music and… stuff braying outside.  Unfortunately for Cindy, she could. 

But during the early part of the celebration, we were inside having a wonderful sacrament meeting with Elder and Sister Hallstrom.  His talk was on “reverence.”  One of my biggest takeaways from that sermon was that reverence is the same as “humble submission to the will of God.” 

After sacrament meeting, Cindy and I returned to our room.  I wrote some, then took a nap.  Cindy was unable to sleep with all the noise.  We had to eat out, so we waited until well after the parade was over.  Then we went out.  We went to Chinatown and ate at the House of Nanking.  Cindy and I have been there at least twice (once on a previous visit to San Francisco), and I must say that it is the best Chinese restaurant we have ever visited.  Ever.  The best meal of the trip so far. 

But getting there and back?  An absolute nightmare.  We had to wait 45 minutes for our Uber ride (and two drivers finally just said they couldn’t get to us, so they left us hanging).  To be fair, several city blocks were blocked off for the celebration of depravity.  I know.  I know.  People will object and say it was a celebration of “love”.  Well, tell that to the guy who was completely naked from his waist down to his white furry boots.  Not even a thong.  Completely bare.  He walked up and down our block, stopping to talk for extended periods with women on the street, pretending as if what he was doing was completely acceptable.  Tell that to the guy in the rainbow Pride shirt who threw his trash down right in front of us and sneered at me as he did it.  Tell that to the two women holding hands and wearing T-shirts that read in rainbow letters, “I’m awesome.  F— you!”  And those were some of the milder ones, frankly. 

There are WONDERFUL people here, but so many of the LOUDER voices seem to be shouting about only one thing.  And it isn’t love. 

 I have my own temptations, my own failings, and my own sins, so I’m not claiming to be more holy or more righteous than others with different temptations, failings, and sins.  But the only true love is made possible by the atonement of He Who loves all the children of His Father.  And what does He ask of us?  A broken heart and a contrite spirit.  He requires reverence, not loud voices celebrating that which He has forbidden.  He invites us to partake of true love, and that means humble submission in this life. 

June 23rd, San Francisco, CA

Berkeley, California?  In the middle of the Pride Festival?  What were they thinking?

Honestly, I expected someone to expectorate on me or throw things at me.  (I.e., I expected to get stoned—and not in the “California” sense…)  However, everyone was really nice to us.  It was an outdoor venue.  The weather was great.  (It was hot during the rehearsal, but I was in the shade.  Some members of the orchestra had to use parasols to protect themselves and their instruments.)  But during the concert itself, the weather was fantastic.  The audience was into it.  They really enjoyed it.

Personally, though, I had a setback.  Because of my problems during the last concert, I was not allowed to stand during the concert at all.  I was on-stage in the second row.  I sang.  But I was not allowed to stand.  Physically, the concert was very easy.  No pain at all.  Emotionally, I felt disconnected and discouraged.  I hope this isn’t going to be the pattern for the rest of the tour.  However, one of the great lessons of the Choir is that we do what we are told to do.  We serve where we are allowed to serve.  “What e’er thou art, act well thy part.”

Berkeley is an interesting town, especially compared with San Francisco.  It looked very NORMAL for an older college town.  Older houses, a 7-11 (covered with ivy).  Lots and lots of fraternity houses.

However, as we passed under a bridge, I saw a beautiful playground (complete with swings and slides) on one side of the road.  It was completely EMPTY.  Deserted.  Across the road was a long, semi-permanent-looking homeless camp.  I wonder if there is a connection here…

Now, we are back in our lovely hotel room.  We ordered pizza delivered.  A medium pizza with 5 toppings.  $35.  Not kidding.  Obviously, it wasn’t Dominoes…

Oh, and last night in our room, we watched Rowan Atkinson in “Johnny English: Reborn”.  I didn’t think the first one was all that great, but this one was HILARIOUS.  A sequel comes out this year.  I can’t wait.

One last thing.  At dinner, the Choir and Orchestra was served (among other tasty things) a KALE salad.  Sorry, to all you kale-fanatics out there, but it doesn’t matter what dressing you put on kale—it will still taste AWFUL.  Honestly, if God wanted us to eat kale, He would have made it taste good.  To whomever came up with the idea of eating kale, there may very well be an especially dark place in…  Well, you get the idea.

Tomorrow is Sunday.  I LOVE Choir sacrament meetings!

June 22nd, San Francisco, CA

This is a “recovery day.”  And to help us recover, somebody pulled the fire alarm in our hotel at 4:30 AM.  That was an adventure.  Luckily, hotel security figured out it was a “non-emergency” just as we were exiting our hotel room and preparing to descend the stairs from the eighth floor.  So… we went back to bed…

Cindy and I went to Fisherman’s Wharf to do some light sightseeing.  For me, the highlight was touring the USS Pampanito, a WWII submarine.  The tour ends with an account of how the Pampanito rescued 73 Australian and British POWs.  Somehow, they crammed all those extra men aboard that cramped vessel.

We ate at the Bubba-Gump Shrimp Company.  We split and appetizer and a light entrée.  And we couldn’t finish either.  The food was great, but I appreciate the lessened appetite.  I’ve been slowly losing weight…  We had a great view of the Bay.  We even saw a police boat rescuing a woman who had gotten capsized on her outrigger kayak.  They helped her right her boat, and soon she was on her way again… rowing against a stiff current.  We saw a sailboat tacking against the strong wind and leaning at what appeared to be 75 degrees.  We saw seagulls.  We saw pigeons.  But we didn’t see a single sea lion.  Or smell one.

We saw many, many homeless people.  And lots and lots of rainbow flags.  Even the Marriott is flying a rainbow flag.

We also did our first-ever Uber rides today.  The first one was great.  Easy as pie.  The second one… Well, didn’t get dropped off at our hotel, and it took us a bit (because we are in the middle of a concrete jungle) to figure out where the hotel was.  We finally made it back, but we had to use Google Maps…

On the way out of Pier 39, we met some friends from the Choir, and they directed us to a “fairy” shop.  I spent what felt like an obscene amount of money on a sculpture of a red-haired princess in a gorgeous blue gown petting the heads of two massive dragons.  What struck me about this sculpture was the idea that she, as a woman—not a sorceress or a fairy—was controlling two massive creatures who were capable of great violence.  And she was controlling them merely through the quiet majesty of femininity.  You see, I believe, as I’ve expressed in my novels, that woman is God’s final and greatest creation.  And the woman in this sculpture calmed the potential for destruction, because that is what women do, that is what women are capable of.  A woman doesn’t have to be Wonder Woman or Supergirl.  She is Woman—and that is majesty and power enough.

Tomorrow: Berkeley!

June 21st, San Francisco, CA
Not much to tell about today. We rode busses from Newport Beach to San Francisco. The ride was uneventful for me (especially since I slept almost the entire way) and lasted about eight hours.
When we arrived, the Marriott Marquis San Francisco folks were fantastic. Everything was ready for us. We had a great welcome dinner and went to our rooms. Cindy and I have a corner room with TWO windows.
We rested up. Boring, I know, but I needed the time to recover.
And yes, Cindy is an amazing wife!

June 20th, Newport Beach, CA

The Walt Disney Theatre in downtown Los Angeles!  What an incredible venue!  The acoustics were magnificent! 

In the morning, I slept in and we chilled.  In the afternoon, Cindy went shopping.  She knew I would need some carbonation after the concert, so she bought me not one, but TWO root beers!  She texted me and said, “I am an amazing wife!”  After all these years of marriage, I have finally convinced her of the truth!!! 

As for myself, the concert was a near disaster.  You see, I have a bad knee—my left.  I’m getting a full knee replacement next month, but for right now, I’m taking a lot of pills—no, I’m NOT taking oxycontin—and trying to endure.  But during the fourth and fifth set of the first half of the concert, my GOOD leg (my right) suddenly just gave out.  It was as if it had fallen asleep.  It wouldn’t support my weight.  All I could do was hang onto my good friend Alex Lindstrom on my right and have my good friend Brad Winn hold my left arm.  These two good brethren supported me until the intermission. 

During the intermission, I felt better.  All seemed well.  I did the two numbers that involve choreography fairly well.  But during the second set, where we sing five numbers without a break (and finish with some choreography), my good leg gave out again. And again, with the help of those two brethren, I made it through.  Barely. 

God is good.  He sustains me. 

 

June 19th, Newport Beach, CA

Yesterday, I joked about a whale-sighting (my own bloated carcass on the beach), but this morning, we went on a whale-watching cruise.  In the immortal words of Commander Montgomery Scott, “There be whales here!”  We saw TWO blue whales!  TWO.  The largest creatures to ever inhabit the planet, and we saw TWO.  The larger was probably 75 feet long.  I even got a picture of the tail.  These magnificent mammals were no more than 20 feet away at times.  We also saw hundreds (literally) of dolphins.  They came right up to the boat.  We also saw some sea lions.  It was a very successful cruise. 

I had some very expensive fish and chips for lunch… and found a fishbone. 

Next, it was off to Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa.  The hall was magnificent, and the sound was incredible.  The concert (our first) went very, very well. 

Tomorrow…  Walt Disney Theatre!!!!

 

July 18th, 2017 – Newport Beach, CA

Today, we began our sixteen-day tour with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  Cindy and I had to get up at 4:00 AM to catch an 8:25 AM flight.  Needless to say, it’s been a LONG day.  But it has been fun. 

I’m always amazed at how well Marriott takes care of us.  Even though we weren’t supposed to be able to check into our rooms until 5:00 PM, the hotel had our room ready when we arrived before 10:00 AM.

Cindy was raised down here in southern California.  She spent many summers on the beach.  She is the epitome of the California girl (in all the good ways).  “I wish they all could be California…”  So, on our first day on Tour, we went to Newport Beach for an hour or so.  She didn’t actually go swimming (she barely got her feet wet), but I did.  We saw a sea lion swimming nearby and seagulls that would glide by, almost in arm’s reach.  The weather was perfect—not too hot, a light breeze, and clear skies.  The water wasn’t cold (once you got in it).  I had fun playing in the waves.  Then, when it came time for me to crawl out, I told Cindy she didn’t have to go whale-watching, because she’d seen me.  (You know, me, crawling out of the water like a beached…  Never mind.  If you have to explain the dumb joke…)  Anyway, it was fun. 

So, tomorrow is the first of seven concerts.  Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA.  Touring with the Choir IS a lot of fun, but it is also a LOT of work.  And I’m looking forward to every single minute of it!

One VERY SERIOUS complaint!  I’m 19 miles from Disney Land.  Just 19 miles!  And I don’t get to go to Disney Land!  AAARRRRGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!!  How do you got to southern California and NOT go to Disney Land??????

 

From Jenny Flake Rabe, author of Playground Treasures:

C. David Belt has done it again! In the Witch of White Lady Hollow, Belt has outdone himself, expanding himself in his writing, including another fantastical mystery for readers to explore. He doesn’t disappoint with his sympathetic, relatable characters and dialogue that pulls you in and has you laughing one minute and crying the next. He is one of my favorite writers and authors to follow and is a gem to the writing community.

I am not a plotter or an outliner.  I cannot sit down and map out each chapter in a novel, outlining what will happen.  I can’t write that way.  I’m not criticizing anyone who DOES write this way—it just doesn’t work for me.

The reason is simple—characters are complicated.  They have faults, fears, and foibles.  They are self-deceptive.  They have doubts.  They love and hate.  They like and dislike.  They have political views.  They have religious beliefs.  They have biases.  They do good and bad.  They commit sins and transgressions and sacrifices.  They are noble and petty.  They are debilitated by childhood trauma and ennobled by overcoming tragedies.  Their families and their relationships are imperfect—sometimes wildly so.  Characters are quirky and boring, exceptional and ordinary, talented and clumsy.  They are intelligent and stupid.

And all at the same time.

In other words, they are human.  (Even if they are Vorlons, Narns, Centauri, Vulcans, Klingons, Ferengi, or Picard-fans, they are still human.)

Heroes and heroines are not exclusively heroic.  Villains are not exclusively evil.  The throwaway character on the street is not simply a device used to ask a question of our hero or get our heroine to save a kitten up a tree or a turtle in a sewer.  They are collections of WHATs—they are a glorious mishmash of WHYs.

I enjoy theatre.  I most enjoy theatre when I’m part of the cast.  I’ve had BIG parts and small parts.  And if I am the lead with hundreds of lines and a dozen songs or if I am a spear-carrier without a single line, I still need to understand who my character is and what makes him tick.  We’ve all seen the mocking commercials where some overwrought actor whines, “What’s my motivation?” and all he’s being asked to do is to drink a soda out of a can.  We laugh and say, “How ridiculous!  Just drink the soda already!”  But it’s true.  As an actor, I need to understand WHY I’m doing what I’m doing.  Otherwise, I’m just a model.  Otherwise, I’m just there to look pretty.  (Stop laughing, Cindy.  It’s just an expression!)  And yes, I do realize that models sometimes need to portray an emotion and therefore might need a motivation, but you get the point.  (Seriously, Cindy, it wasn’t THAT funny.  And it was more than a sentence ago.  You can stop laughing now.  Breathe.  Breathing is good.)

Back to characters.  Characters have to be human and relatable.  Even villains must be sympathetic (at times) or at least understandable.  Otherwise, they are BORING and PREDICTABLE.

And for me, characters drive the story.  They aren’t just there to move us from Plot Point 17 to Plot Point 18.  Characters DO stuff.  And that STUFF changes the story.  We might go from Plot Point 17 to Plot Point ZZZ93XXX, because Moira Morgan gave £100 to a “throwaway man-on-the-street” character who looked down on his luck, just for taking a picture of Moira and Carl at Stonehenge.  (Yes, folks, Moira and Carl are BACK!!!)  When I wrote that scene in my current work-in-progress (WIP), I certainly hadn’t plotted it that way.  But it was exactly what Moira would do.  And it CHANGED EVERYTHING.  That’s right—a simple act of charity, done in typical Moira-style, sent the plot off in a completely unexpected direction with unintended consequences.  Last night, as I was rehearsing with the BeOne Celebration Choir, it came to my WHY I had named another “throwaway” character… what I named him.  (Possible major spoiler for students of Celtic Mythology, so I’m not going to use his name here…)  Suddenly, his motivations became clear.  And it CHANGED EVERYTHING.  When I finally understood who Branwen is in my current WIP, it CHANGED EVERYTHING.  My beta readers said, “I did NOT see that coming.”  (And frankly, neither did I!  And that is what’s so COOL.)

So, even if you are a plotter or an outliner, don’t get so locked into your plot or outline that you don’t let your characters take over.  They know who they are better than you do.  I know that sounds insane, since they come from the author’s head, but… you gotta listen to the voices in your head.  I know I do…  By listening to your characters, you can allow the plot to go off in a different direction than you originally planned.  And who knows, it could be the RIGHT direction.

When it comes to real life, however, we cannot be plotters and outliners.  However, sadly, we too often are.  Because people are HUMAN (even if they are purple Drazi).  If we think we have someone else—anyone else—all figured out, if we put them into neat little boxes based on their apparent political affiliation or their religious headgear or their eye color or the fact that they think Picard is in any way superior to Kirk or their need to drink human blood to survive, we have sold them (and ourselves) short.  We have given up on getting to know them.  And when we do that, we don’t allow the plot (life) to move forward in the direction it SHOULD go.

And remember, don’t let fact that a Picard fan is completely and utterly delusional cause you to treat that poor soul as less than human—they’re mistaken, not evil.  That delusional and wrong person is more complicated than their choice of the wrong starship captain.  Remember the most important thing here—John Sheridan can kick any Star Trek captain’s butt.  And even if you believe (mistakenly) otherwise, I can still treat you like a child of God.

 

Written with his customary clear prose, C. David Belt has crafted a knock-your-socks-off paranormal novel set in the late 70s in Missouri. Tabitha Moonshadow and her divorced mom, Molly, are trying to start over as disparaged Mormons in a small, rural town, but overwhelming obstacles keep them on edge, dealing with forces of evil they had never even imagined. With delicate language, Belt handles the touchy issues of secrets, sexual assault, incest, and magic, while deftly guiding Tabitha in her journey involving the defense of her best friend and wielding mysterious power. Highly recommended for mature LDS readers.

Marsha Ward, author of The Owen Family Saga

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