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Archive for June, 2018

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. 

 

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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! 

 

 

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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. 

 

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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!!!!) 

 

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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. 

 

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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!!!!

 

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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??????

 

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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.

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