They from Sheba shall come

Austria Carol Singers Locals dressed as traditional carol singers ride on horses on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015 in Dienten, Austrian province of Salzburg. Traditionally carol singers walk from house to house around epiphany to collect money for poor children in other countries. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

Austria Carol Singers: Locals dressed as traditional carol singers ride on horses on Monday, Jan. 5, 2015 in Dienten, Austrian province of Salzburg. Traditionally carol singers walk from house to house around epiphany to collect money for poor children in other countries. (AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

Greetings to all! The major holidays are done. On this second day of the Epiphany feast, I hope to persuade more kind souls to continue to help me tread water until my personal cavalry arrives in late May or June, when I will finally be apportioned a third of my late aunt’s estate. Her house and other property were sold. My portion won’t be great, but it should be enough to pay my bills long enough for me to finish writing my intensely-researched book to be entitled Be the Music : How Tori Amos Does it. I can continue writing here at the house of my friends in West Philly, where most of my research materials were recently brought from my storage unit. I now expect to be here for the duration.

I have been deeply touched and humbled by some generous responses to my recent pleas for help, as well as some of the more expected ones in the form of pre-ordered books. A shockingly kind soul contacted me and said she would take over the payments for my storage unit until I could return to making the payments again. At $214 a month, this promises to end up being at least $1,500. She said she couldn’t bear to lose her things as I had been on the verge of having happen to me, and she also suspected I own some unique and important items pertaining to Tori Amos. (I do.) She reminded me that we met at a concert in 1999 and had a conversation. She also said she heard Tori ask Mikewhy how I was at the fan meet and greet that afternoon. I’m not sure how all that adds up to her helping me out so much, but I am humbled and grateful. Whatever convinced this generous soul to take over the payments for my storage unit, it was about the single greatest thing anyone could have done to help me cope emotionally with this situation of living in the dining room of friends in West Philly while the vast majority of everything I own is in a storage unit in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Some people have donated to me more than once. One longtime friend from Maryland sent me a second $100 donation for Christmas. Someone in California with whom I have never even spoken on the phone, let alone met, has sent several donations and promises more. Someone I never even had an online exchange with sent me more than $100 from South America. Someone I had not heard from in more than 12 years popped up to say she wanted my PayPal email address, so no crowdfunding site would get any of the donation she wanted to send. She said she wanted to repay me—with interest—for a bunch of concert audience recordings that I had sent her on CD many years ago. I expected she might send me $20 to $50 to repay me for the CDs I made for her. We had first met online, then we spoke in NYC on the 2001 tour, then later on the phone once or twice. She SENT ME $500! That was way more than I gave her at 40 cents per blank CD. I was at wit’s end with worry when she did that, and I wept with relief.

I sent in an application via fax to the MS Society for some emergency money on Monday. I had called their MS Navigator just before New Year’s, and gotten an email from them with the forms for the application attached. Their email has other charity information in it such as for Catholic Charities which I have yet to explore fully. I question whether they will accept my application as I sent it, as it lacked a copy of a lease although I asked them for money to pay for back rent, because I don’t have a lease, my friends have just asked me to pay a small amount of money each month. I gave them $250 for each of the first four months I was here, June – September, but I haven’t had any money over and above my other bills and food since then, so I owe them $1,000. [Breaking update at 1 p.m. on 8 Jan 2015: The MS Society called and confirmed that they can’t send me any money for rent or utilities unless my name is on the paperwork, which it is not. They also won’t help me pay my phone bill or car insurance bills. She said she would send me a list of charities to ask for food. She suggested they might help me with rides to doctors, but then when I asked for a ride to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, she said that was farther than they would normally be able to arrange, but she would look into it.]

I spent all but 12 of the last few dollars I had Sunday on food. People here at the house have been sharing food when they prepare it, but some of the most regular sharers left town Monday for a long trip, and most of the rest will leave on a brief tour Sunday. I’ll need to buy more food this weekend. I saved enough cash to pay my January car insurance before it’s due, but my phone bill will be due on the 20th. Even with all of that, none of this is my greatest concern now, my greatest concern is that the house is behind about a thousand dollars on paying utilities, the same amount I had been expected to pay over the last four months. Should utilities start being cut off that would be a catastrophe.

I believe I have a ride to take me to the nearby Social Security Administration office Friday morning so I can wait around for a walk-in appointment to apply for SSI. My online application of months ago was recently rejected because I had not paid enough money into my Social Security account over my work years. I was under the impression that if my application was rejected on that basis, it would automatically roll over as a claim for SSI, but that turned out not to be the case. I had sent them some medical records by postal mail to bolster my case, but they replied telling me I had never applied for SSI. The first appointment to apply for SSI that they could give me was February 11, so I’m going into the office for a walk-in appointment. I hope the Johns Hopkins neurologist I saw in May was correct when she said that having MS is a fast track to getting on disability, and that they accept my claim Friday so I won’t need to rely on the good graces of kind people anymore after this post asking for more help.

If you know me and my PayPal email address, please help me out there if you can spare anything. Any amount small or large will be a great help. If you want to pre-order a copy of my book to be delivered after I finish writing it or maybe buy one of Karen Sparks’ wonderful four-color art prints of Tori Amos, you can head over to my Authr page and select a premium. If you want to donate to help me out, not get a premium, and we don’t know each other, please head to my Go Fund Me page.

Now that I have most of my books and other research materials here out from storage, I can get back to writing again.

shelves

There are a lot of distractions in this house, but I will soldier on nonetheless.

Great thanks again to all, and I hope not to need to write another one of these pleas.

Richard Handal

Advertisements

Own Karen Sparks’ unique ceramic Storyteller Doll named Talula

I put the unique ceramic Storyteller Doll named Talula that Karen Sparks made for the cover of “Be the Music : How Tori Amos Does it,” up on my Authr crowdfunding site as a premium.

Be the Music book cover

I have loved Storyteller Dolls since I first saw one. I bought one to display where I write to remind me that what I need to stay focused on is telling the story. Storyteller Dolls were invented in New Mexico in 1964 by Helen Cordero of the Cochiti Pueblos. The idea of an elder passing the ancestor stories down to the next generation instantly made sense when I saw a doll, and it is important to me.

My long-time friend Karen Sparks is a wonderfully creative artist who is talented in many media. I first saw Karen’s work in person in 1999 after meeting her online the year before, so I knew how amazing her work is. Long ago she said she wanted to do the cover and maybe other needed art for this book, and I was happy that she said she still wanted to do it when I asked her. One day as I was brainstorming to come up with a cover design for “Be the Music,” I glanced over to the shelf by my turntable, and flashed on what I wanted the main design element to be.

I asked Karen if she was up for making a ceramic Storyteller Doll. Lucky for me she agreed. I suggested maybe the hair might be an orange, corn needed to be in the design, and maybe some pianos would be involved; Tori Amos and many little girls who play piano tell them their stories, so it makes sense that pianos are among the doll’s listeners. With Tori’s 1994 b-side “Frog On My Toe” in mind, in which her late, beloved grandfather she called Poppa has a conversation with her and shares some of his Cherokee wisdom, I’m sure Karen found putting a frog on the doll’s toe irresistible. We went back and forth in email and sharing photos for weeks, but all the wonderful elements and detail of execution are Karen’s.

Karen named the doll Talula. Talula: front. Talula: back.

Once we had Talula, we needed to figure out an overall book cover design. Again Karen wanted to do the art, and I had the kernel of an idea: let’s put Talula in front of a backdrop of mountains near Taos where Under the Pink was recorded in 1993. I found a photographer who makes such photos and sells them online, and she is a librarian, to boot. Lisa made some new images of mountains near Taos for us and we chose one. Then I extracted Talula from the background of the professional photographs Karen had gotten made of her, presented Karen with a mock-up design, then let Karen be Karen to choose fonts and do a final design. It turned out Karen is as talented with Photoshop as she is with other tools. I hope you are as pleased with what Karen created as she and I are, and that you will be inspired to learn more about my book project and support its completion.

Now that Talula has given her all for the book cover, it is time to let her go. I created a premium so you can donate to be able to own her on my Authr crowdfunding site. Talula is approximately 6½ inches tall, 7½ inches wide, 9 inches deep from the bottom of her feet to the rear hem of her dress, and she weighs 1,229 grams [2 pounds, 11.4 ounces]. As a fine work of art, she isn’t cheap, she’s $5,000, but there are premiums going for as little as $2 on the site.

Own Tori Amos art prints for my book “Be the Music” by Karen Sparks

Tori Amos art prints by Karen Sparks

Tori Amos art prints by Karen Sparks


My talented friend Karen Sparks is allowing me to offer up to 12 signed and numbered copies of a four-color art print she made of Tori Amos back in 1998 to help me raise money so I can continue to write “Be the Music.” This is how Karen describes these prints:

On July 28, 1998, Tori Amos performed during the Plugged ’98 tour at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. I took photos from first row, center, and created a silkscreen print with cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. I edited the print to include a censorship bar over her crotch. I made approximately 25 of these. Tori Amos has one.

These are printed on expensive heavyweight paper, the size is 22″ x 30″ and the print area dimensions are 15 ¾” x 26″.

Karen and her Tori car, 1999Karen tells me the prints she is allowing me to offer are numbered 4 through 15. These have the typical minor variations from one to the other which exist due to the handmade printing process. Each of these will ship within days of your making a $50 donation to help me write “Be the Music” via my Authr fundraising site.

And remember to see my offer for $2 digital photo downloads of Karen’s ceramic Storyteller Doll sculpture named Talula here: http://wp.me/s48QmJ-dolls

Thoughts on Providence, 10/30/99

Providence-1999

Date: Wed, 1 Dec 1999 17:32:25 -0500 (EST)
From: Richard Handal
Subject: Thoughts on Providence, 10/30/99

Hello:

I was moved to express a few thoughts on last night’s Providence show. This isn’t exactly a review, but anyhow…

Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Providence, Rhode Island, 10/30/99


“The whole air seemed alive as if the tongues of those great cold, hard metal things had become flesh and joy. They burst into being screaming with delight and the city vibrated. Some wordless thing they said touched something so deep inside you that they made tears come.”

—Emily Carr (Canadian painter, 1871 – 1945)

I’ve learned that there’s no way to know in advance from one show format to the next how Tori’s going to drive when she comes out of the garage. On the ’96 Dew Drop Inn tour she had a sports car, and proceeded to lead us at great speed through mountainous hairpin turns–pushing her limits and ours, seemingly daring herself to see how hard and how fast she could lead us without drifting over the edge of a cliff.

Those shows were often quite scary, and they came to seem sometimes like some sort of ritual testing ground of naked human emotion: How much feeling could she get in touch with, dig out and project toward to us? How much could she take, and how much could *we* take? She seemed to be keeping few secrets hidden, and on any given night anything and everything was fair game. I loved those shows with an abiding passion. Some of the deepest emotions I ever experienced in my whole life came around on that tour, and I never forget to this day how important all of that was and is to me.

The band shows last year and this seemed as if countryside jaunts in the family SUV. She used a more powerful one for the arena shows than she did for the smaller venues, but all were larger-than-life experiences, developed in no small part to impress with their pure might. Surely, she went off-road and utilized four-wheel drive over rugged terrain at points during these shows. Unlike some people, I loved the band shows a great deal, and to see how well she was ultimately able to pull off her vision of them gave me feelings of pride in her abilities as a talented and varied performer. And I liked having a few solo piano songs within the paradigm of a band concert. The shift at those shows between the types of instrumentation was pulled off in a way that seemed both casual and appropriate, and we got to experience the best of each world. For all their sheer force of energy, the band shows were approachable, engaging, welcoming, and often even joyous. I loved the hell out of the band shows.

It was with a huge amount of trepidation that I attended the solo piano show last night in Providence. I didn’t think my nervous system these days could take a harrowing concert of the type the DDI tour came to exemplify. Frankly, I didn’t enjoy watching her having to bear the bulk of the musical burden on her shoulders then, and even just for her to have endured the wear and tear on her body as she did in ’96 took a visible toll on her as well. I mean to refer to more than just a physical toll, but an emotional and spiritual one as well. I don’t know what all she was going through out there on the road in ’96, but we saw enough of its effects on her as a person that I came to be quite concerned for her by tour’s end. And although I attended nearly three dozen DDI shows, merely by reading accounts of those shows and talking with people who were there, one could readily tell that bubbling beneath the surface, there was a lot going on with her that year. I was relieved when it finally came to an emotional and life-changing conclusion.

I was therefore extremely relieved when I attended last night’s solo piano outing in Providence. Yes, she had her lithe sports car, but instead of taking us out at a breakneck pace, she seemed a calmer, less furtive and more seasoned pilot than I had ever seen at a solo show. I am perfectly content not to have to follow her at top speed along dangerous curves. Being led with introspection down dark and winding country roads suits me fine. It’s more than enough for me to be able to accompany her on these journeys, no matter what their nature. It’s great to simply be with her, and there surely was plenty of her in this Providence concert.

Tori has shown that she can pull off a variety of show formats. She has nothing to prove anymore. Now seems to me to be an upcoming time off the road to regroup musically, and simply to live. I think that holds true for many of us, including those of us who go to the shows.

I believe she needn’t worry who’s going to be around the next time she emerges from her garage to take a spin. I’m confident that many of us will be there with our thumbs out hoping to catch a ride, waiting to see where she has decided to take us next. I continue to have an immense amount of faith in her musical sensibilities, and where they steer her on her personal musical journey. And I love her very much.

Richard Handal