Sunday, August 24, 2008

Speaking of Community

Yes, my comments about the community at Toddstock are very idealistic. We were together for one week and then we parted ways. Knowing there was an end in sight put us more at ease with each other. Our highest goals were to enjoy being on this leveling ground with an extremely gifted artist and to enjoy each other's company. Goals that were not difficult to achieve. There was a sign up sheet for each day where people signed up to cook, clean, etc. No manipulation, no big recruiting talks, just here's what needs to be done, now do something. We don't care if it's in the realm of your gifts, talents, or passion just make this happen so everyone can have what they need. So simple that you automatically gravitated to the tasks that you knew you could do fairly well or with someone's help. It all got done.

It was so much more difficult in a church community. In C. Church the unspoken goals were to produce the best image, numbers, and performance possible. The One we had come to be on leveling ground with was difficult to find and it was just too difficult to enjoy each other's company when image was such a concern. I was an outsider wanting to name problems and find solutions rather than pretending everything was fine. I moved further from the center because my temperament has no or little concern for image. I did not belong in this community anymore because the simple had become far too complicated for me.

I had hope in N. Church because this was certainly an open and affirming church. I had hope to find community in a church that refused to marginalize anyone. Turns out I had a better chance of not being marginalized if I were gay than hoping the Sunday worship were not so painfully traditional. I was told that it was a good thing that I was leaving because of the impact that it would have on the church as it grew and that it was my pattern to leave. I believe that if you are truly in community with a group - there is never a good time to leave. I'm certain my pattern had something to do with me leaving N. Church but I am certain that there were also patterns of other people coming into play here who weren't willing to own up.

Our small group of believers met this past Tuesday. We simply shared where we were emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Our relationships have been building for over a year now and this exercise opened us up to a deeper level. Strengths and weaknesses were shared. Goals met and goals yet to reach were shared. I shared with the group that my antidepressant had stopped working and that I appreciated their patience as I transitioned to a new one with the hope that it would lift this low level of depression. It was safe to be authentic with these people. I have received notes of encouragement and I will send them encouragement as well. Oh, the relief of not having to be someone else that I'm not. I can find Christ in the midst of that grace. Our goal is simple - to be a place of healing and encouragement to each other so we might bring some light to our families, friends, and coworkers. No performance, no numbers, no salaries, no building campaign, no one speaking for 45 minutes - just friends trying to follow Christ. We met Saturday morning at St. Raphael Social Services to do whatever needed to be done and again we enjoyed each other's company. I am done with church. If it works for you, that's wonderful but I am done with being marginalized by people who call themselves Christians.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Toddstock: Monday 6.23.08

Such a mixed feeling - looking forward to going home and having been part of a real community. One of the reasons the week was such a success was that people had stepped in and volunteered to make so much of it happen. It gave me hope that community can and does exist. Todd and Michele were courageous enough to open up their home to friends and strangers and took a great risk. I know it doesn't always work out but this risk paid off and people honored their courage.

I found this quote in a review of a concert by Chris Ska on trconnection:

Before “Man Up” Todd said something like, “You’re wondering who this is for... The men in power are crooked liars. For the past 7 years they having been lousy, corrupt, lying... been giving us a bad name.” The crowd cheered and he added, “Being a man is helping the weak” He said it twice, he meant it. The audience was attentive, and applauded and cheered, some guy yelled out “Real Man!”

In light of the political atmosphere Todd's quote "Being a man (I'm going to add that woman is implied) is helping the weak" if actually applied would change the world. I'm sure Todd's spirituality is very pluralistic but I think this quote comes so close to what Christ was trying to say to all of us... help the weak. Of course, I'm not implying that Todd is Christlike at all. As we declared often during Toddstock, Todd is Godd!

Toddstock: Sunday 6.22.08

This was a day that will go down in history - Todd's 60th birthday, Todd and Michele's anniversary and the debut of Todd's new CD, Arena.

Chuck had shared with some of the tech crew for the concert that he had camera experience so he was able to act a a runner for the camera guys. He had a great front row seat for the concert. Todd had men move the stage from the hillside to the koi pond (we didn't see any koi in the pond during the concert). It was the most amazing setting in the water directly in front of the open living room/kitchen. LED lights that lined all three walls eventually were used for a special lighting effects during the concert. That band was warming up and Todd appeared around 7 pm. The band consisted of the birthday guy, Jesse Gress on guitar, Prairie Prince on drums, Rachel Haden on bass and Matt Bolton on guitar and keyboards. It was inspiring to see a woman taking her stand among these great musicians. To up Rachel's coolness factor even more, she is the daughter of Charlie Haden, jazz bassist, and the sister-in-law of Jack Black.

The concert debuted the new CD, Arena, and was old school rock 'n roll. Some words were difficult to understand since the sound was difficult to control in Todd's backyard which faces a valley. We loved the words we could understand and Todd is such a great musician who gave us all hope that at 60 you could still continue to take whatever you're passionate about to a whole new level. There was such a great energy every minute of the concert and we truly felt priviledged because we were there for the debut. The tour info for this new CD can be found on

Chuck had been hoping that more musicians would have brought instruments out to jam during the week. He finally decided to bring out the red digital accordion (which is now autographed by Todd who had heard the story about the accordion riding in first class and asked, "How's your marriage?") People started gathering and we sang every Todd song that we could remember. Pippi led us through most of the songs with her strong energy. Sitting there with people from so many different places and countries singing the song, "One World", will forever be one of my most cherished memories from the week. We may have not been able to communicate with the Japanese women who were very loyal Todd fans but they knew every word to every Todd song so we were all on common ground in song. Just a glimpse of Utopia made us even sadder to think that we were leaving the next day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Toddstock: Saturday 6.21.08

We had a fairly relaxing morning. Found a store where we could buy souvenirs for friends back home. Chuck found a Hawaiian shirt because he had left his at home. You have to be properly dressed for such an occasion!

That evening there was a pig roast done by cooks on the island who truly knew what they were doing. The vegetarians took off to find a restaurant where there were no animal faces staring at them. Todd’s wife, Michele, was carried around on a surfboard as queen of the luau. She had a huge headdress fit only for a Hawaiian queen or Carmen Miranda. Todd, Michele and their son, Rebop, were gracious with those who wanted to take photos. Todd’s other sons were not able to make it. The Toddstockers had collected money for a sushi table for Todd's birthday and we also celebrated Todd and Michele's anniversary. Both events offically happen on Sunday, June 22nd but it was just the right time to present Todd with a gift. The food was tremendous and the conversation flowed. Prior to the dinner we had been treated with performance by Toddstockers who had learned a Hawaiian dance earlier in the week. They were good sports and gave it their best shot but should leave it to the locals.

That evening there was a Todd trivia game with extremely difficult questions. They knew these were hardcore Todd fans so easy questions would be a no brainer. These questions were so difficult that Todd may have not been able to answer some. The prize was an autographed can of Spam. Yes, Spam! Spam has been an island staple for a long time and popular among the locals. The vegetarians were not subjected to Spam as an award.

The partying carried on into the night. Most of us were realizing by now that the end was in sight and we were already talking about whose backyard to camp in next.

Toddstock: Friday 6.20.08

Some folks went tubing instead we took a boat trip to Napali coast with Joanna and Biljac Burnside. We saw several kayakers out in the ocean which made me grateful that our boat had a motor and someone else was driving. The coast has a surreal velvet cover. We could see hikers that were on the trail that Todd and the crew had taken on Wednesday.

Our favorite part of this ride was when the captain took the boat back into a cave. It was dark and you looked down into clear water. Looking back and watching the light come through the opening to the cave is one of my favorite pictures from the trip.

The boat was anchored in the calmest waters that the captain could find and we were able to snorkel. This spot was not nearly as calm as Annini beach, of course, but we were able to adjust to the waves and see some very colorful fish and turtles.

This evening was an interesting Q&A time with Todd. Doug Ford of Rundgren Radio ran the Q&A with Todd at his side. The interview can be heard here. Todd told interesting stories about how Kauai came to be his home and how they acquired the property. If you want to know more about the Q&A time you have to consult Chuck. I camped out in the hotel room with the air conditioning. My apologies to Roger D. Linder - I orginally said that he ran the Q&A but Roger runs the TRConnection which keeps all of us up on any news and tour info about Todd. I told ya Chuck knows alot more about this than I do!

Toddstock: Thursday 6.19.08

We woke up this morning in a real bed. There was no snoring from others in a nylon walled tent, no red dirt and a hot shower. Well, Chuck woke up. I still had more sleeping to do. That morning Todd led the group on a hike along Napali coast and Chuck was on his own for this event. No one could tell that it was Todd’s 60th birthday by the way he left others in the dust on the hike. The hike was up and downhill so when Chuck rolled in from the hike he looked like it would take him some time to recover. He was covered in red dirt from head to toe and I still can’t get the red dirt out of the socks he wore on the hike. He did say that the views were amazing and he was glad that he did it. I was glad I slept in.

We were treated that evening with a concert by Ken Emerson. He made it in for Todd’s birthday and Todd sat front and center taking in the music from Ken’s guitar. I would have loved to see what would happen if Ken and Todd had played a song together

Then it was back to the martini bar and getting to know more people. Todd wandered through the crowd so if he was around people would gather and listen to his stories. If he wasn’t in the food tent or at Michele’s bar then he was at the Tiki bar making and serving martinis. Such a gracious host.

Toddstock: Wednesday 6.18.08

We had been to Waimea Canyon on a previous visit to Kauia and knew we wanted to return to this spectacular view. We made the trek with Ronnie, his son, Allen, and Karen. Karen lives in England and is originally from Australia. We loved her quick wit and her comments about being Jewish and looking for a synagogue on Kauia were hilarious. She is also a songwriter although we didn’t get to hear any of her tunes.

Waimea is known as the small Grand Canyon. I’ve not seen the Grand Canyon but the clouds parted long enough for us to see the Napali coast and ocean and provide a view you won't find at the Grand Canyon, of course.

We returned to the campground after buying leis to take part in the house blessing for Todd and Michele's house. It's been under construction for 3 years and when I asked the forman who happened to be sitting next to us one evening when it would be finished he looked at us and said, "Never." Truly a work of art in progress. The roof has curved lines and is covered with copper. The foreman told us that it was constructed on the ground and then attached to the house. Todd's ability to see a vision and then make it happen continued to amaze and inspire me.
Of course, it was a Hawaiian house blessing. The spiritual leader explained as she moved through the blessing the purpose of each part of it and then she spoke in Hawaiian. A tea leaf was planted at each corner of the house to remind them of this day of blessing. We waited outside while the family went inside and spoke words of their intentions for each room of the house. When they were finished the rest of us were invited into the house. When the front door opened the view was breathtaking. We looked straight through the house (because there is no fourth wall on their living room/kitchen) to see the water of the koi pond at the edge of the living floor and look directly out into their valley view. Only an artist could know how to take advantage of such a view. Then each person was permitted to share their words of blessing for the house. Most of the words were beautiful and appropriate. My word was "martini" and it went downhill from there so Todd knew to put a halt and invite people to tour his home. When we are released to share our pics I'll post some of our better ones of the house here.
We had a great dinner that evening and continued to mingle and share in the beverages.