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

Toad in the Hole

Yesterday, three of my friends from the house in West Philly where they have graciously welcomed me into their lives on a day to day basis since six months ago, traveled with me for over three hours in my car to visit my rented storage unit in Hagerstown, Maryland. We rented a U-Haul truck near there on the way. By the time we arrived at the storage facility, it was freezing, windy, and starting to get dark. My friends went through nearly every bit of my storage unit and put all of the research materials they could find into the U-Haul. It remains to be unloaded here in West Philly today on Tuesday. They put a padlock on the back door for overnight. I am bent, and, at least for the time being, broken. I could only drive as far as Towson before needing to relinquish the wheel of my car, but even just being a passenger takes a lot out of me. After a while at the storage unit, my hands felt as if they might get frostbite, and I sat in my car for a few minutes with the engine running to warm up as the headlights were trained toward the inside of the storage unit.

Much of the first floor and basement of my friend’s rented house here in West Philly were rearranged and opened up over the last few days, even an old upright piano was trashed, in order to receive the six bookshelf units of my research collection, and as many of the relevant sound recordings and papers as they could find while rummaging through the storage unit in the freezing dark. They were on quite a roll for more than 2½ hours, finding most of the items.

It began to snow.

They soon put the various emptied contents of the storage unit which had been placed on the asphalt roadway outside of the unit back into it, and we began our three- and four-hour treks back to West Philly in my car and in the U-Haul truck. I have in the bank, ironically, the sum of $214, the exact cost of a month’s rental of the storage unit which a kind and generous soul began paying on my behalf two months ago. The U-Haul rental was $180-plus with insurance, gas and tolls must also be paid, so I’m already in the hole again just from the trip to get the research materials so they can be made accessible to me and and I can get back to writing. I don’t know how much my state of mind will be holding me back as I worry from day to day where my next meals are coming from or how my bills can get paid in the meantime, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have these research materials brought here after my friends remarkably suggested remaking the main floor of their house to accommodate them, so I can finish writing my book before the MS overtakes me.

I am now entirely invested into this house in West Philly to, somehow, even with its many distractions, finish writing my book. I am to go back to Johns Hopkins Hospital on Monday for a second MRI on my brain and another neurology appointment, to follow-up on the ones I had there in June, when I was officially diagnosed with the Secondary Progressive form of Multiple Sclerosis. The idea is to see how quickly the disease is causing damage. I am, in fact, getting around better than I was when I moved here in June, seemingly because of the medicine I was put on. I don’t know where the gasoline, tolls, and stamina are going to come from to be able to do this, but I can keep pulling over to recuperate if no one who drives can go with me, at least, I can, if I have enough money for gas and tolls. I already have about half the gas I need in the car.

I still believe the Social Security Administration will approve my application to begin receiving monthly payments under their disability program, but there is nothing to hang onto specifically to believe this is about to happen any day. I will contact the MS Society again, this time for some emergency funds, and hope they can get a couple hundred bucks sent my way, but the red tape involved with doing that will surely be one more thing to distract me and sap the little energy I have day to day. But this is the only way forward that I can figure now as I await the meager inheritance from my aunt’s estate next summer. A recent exchange with my cousin who is the estate’s executor reinforced the idea that this inheritance will be meager, indeed.

Please, if you are able and so inclined, donate anything you can spare to me on Go Fund Me, or with PayPal via my Gmail address if you know it, where I will get every penny. (Go Fund Me takes a small cut.) If you want to donate on expectation of a premium such as a printed book or eBook down the road after I manage to finish writing it, you can go to my Authr page and donate there with PayPal after choosing a premium. More bio and other details can be found at the links to my blog pages which are given on that Authr page, but the current situation in which I find myself as described there changed at the end up May when I had my stuff put into storage and came to this dining room in West Philly. I realize this all sounds preposterous, but this is genuinely some of what I’ve been going through. Thank goodness my longtime friend was able to convince his household to allow him to fulfill his long-time promise to keep me from living on the street.

This friend brought along a framed poster from the storage unit yesterday, putting it into the U-Haul truck as soon as he came across it. He brought it into the house and hung it up on a nail sticking out from the top of a window in this dining room where I live, even as nearly all the other items remain to be brought in from the truck later today. It’s a poster from the 2 December 1999 Jingle Bell Jam, a Christmas festival concert at the Oakdale Theater in Wallingford Connecticut, one of the so-called Blackmail Tour concerts Tori was pressed to perform and did perform despite a miscarriage days before, lest any of the sponsoring radio stations play her music even less than they did already. This concert was the day I posted the message on the Precious Things mailing list and elsewhere which inspired a kind gentleman with outsized faith in me and my abilities to ask me to write a book on this music, which has compelled some of us to travel far and wide to experience as much of it as we possibly could. I think of this poster as a personal manifesto:

Wallingford poster in West Philly

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