The Dirt continues to pile up.

OK, so I’m a couple of months late with the progress report. It’s all right, though, because we are really close to finishing up. We’ve rescheduled our performance dates to start in February. (See below)
One reason for the delay in this project: To make something accessible to the musicians, we needed to create a score for the music, but we also needed them to see and react to the words in one-man script that Pat wrote.
So we came up with a new name: “SCORPT,” which combines the score and the script. It’s an actual “book” that sits on the music stands and contains not only the notes each instrument plays, but the salient lines from the script that I speak, AND, since the musicians move around to different positions during the show, instructions (blocking) for their movement, and finally, since they also speak on occasion, the words they must utter. YIKES.
However, Olivia has been up to the job and the SCORPT is nearly complete. We are interviewing musicians as you read this, so if you know of any, let us know!
Here are the instruments we need:
1. Honkytonk/Stride Piano; Piano often carries bassline in lieu of string bass.
2. Bass Trombone (score includes arrangements, as well as sections where chords are provided as in fakebooks and trombone is invited to act as bass)
3. Trumpet (includes written parts and opportunities for improvisation; familiarity with New Orleans style is preferred)
4. Viola (mostly melodic lines but some sections call for rhythmic chord comping a la Appalachian fiddle style); Doubling on Musical Saw preferred (mostly effect)
5. Banjo (mostly chords/rhythm with some arranged melodies and opportunities for improvisation); Doubling on Harmonica preferred
6. Percussion including timpani, snare, high hat, crash, and more! Foley effects include: chainsaw, loon and bear, to name a few.
Show Dates so far:
Rehearsals: mostly in late January and early February
Preview Performance – Friday, February 15, 2019, 7:30PM
Spokane Community College at the Lair Auditorium

Grand Opening Weekend
Friday, February 22, 7:30PM AND Sunday, February 24, 3:00PM
Sandpoint, Idaho, the Panida Theater

Spokane, March 1, details TBA

Other performances to follow if the show is a hit!

Also, I just wanted to share my relief. Olivia has REDUCED the time she spends talking to me in Capitals. But then again, she as reduced the time she spends talking to me at all, so maybe it’s not so good.
One of the inspirations for our work is Spike Jones: go to YouTube and check this out, or any one of his zany compositions:

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My Favorite Toy Was Dirt: An American Story in Concert.

For the next few months, this blog will report on the progress, problems and prospects of the new Musical McManus Comedy, “My Favorite Toy Was Dirt: An American Story in Concert.”
We will also keep fans up to date on our new Facebook Page, “My Favorite Toy Was Dirt.”
Yes, you, dear reader, will have a bird’s eye view of either:
a) A great new and successful enterprise, that will make audiences roar with almost unstoppable laughter, or, possibly
b) One of the biggest misadventures in the annals of musical and comedic creation.
I can remember how it all began. Pat was my advisor at Eastern…the University, not the hospital or the corrections center….although they all have a lot in common. I had enrolled in to get an MFA in creative writing. Pat was a professor there at the time, and he mentored me, much like Rancid did to him, although Rancid was a lot less cruel.
After two years of hard work, Pat took me aside just before I got my degree, put his hand on my shoulders, and looked me in the eyes with what I misinterpreted as incredible sensitivity. “Tim, after reading your stuff for two years, I think you better stick to acting.”
“And now, since you will be getting a graduate degree in English, which practically guarantees you will be unemployed, I should probably write something for you to perform right away.”
Scarcely five years later, Pat said he wanted to do a theatre piece. I asked him what kind. He described a “comical musical” with singers and dancing girls, lots of dancing girls, glitzy scenery, a cast of 35 and some dancing girls. Then he showed me the budget for this extravaganza, and that’s when I knew we had a one-man show.
But now, thanks to some wonderfully generous Kickstarter contributors and thanks to the Spokane Arts Commission, we have a small nest egg that should get us started. Olivia Brownlee (at is the composer and she will be creating original music for this show (and conducting the first few performances) that will be a testament to Pat’s humor, imagination and his ability to make people laugh so hard that when I perform, the laughter hurts my ears.
So, let’s get into the nitty gritty. How to describe the piece? Think Mark Twain meets Spike Jones. Or Frank Zappa confronts the Marx Brothers. Or Peter and the Wolf on steroids where nobody dies in the end, not even the wolf.
It is scored for 7 Musicians Versus 1 indentured Actor. The musicians actively perform in the piece, interjecting, interrupting, and contributing to the hilarity and mayhem on stage.
Olivia and I have known each other for years, but this is the first time I have had the opportunity to work closely with her and I have to say, I’m a bit terrified. She brings a baton to our meetings, and often when I am talking, she sharpens the baton with bits of sandpaper she pulls out of her pocket. Why would a conductor need a sharp baton?
She also gently reminds me that the McManus performances I have done are of one-man shows where I have had complete control and didn’t have to work with others. She states, quite simply, “THAT WILL NOT BE THE CASE HERE.” She often talks in capitals to me. I have not yet found a response to capitals, but silence is working right now.
Which is what I’ll be until the next round…..which we’ll publish in mid-August.

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Walking the Dog

I don’t have a dog. Which makes walking it a lot easier.
Instead, I interact with the neighborhood dogs. Kind of. I don’t escort them around the local City Park paths. No, what I do is watch out for dog walkers.
My walks are a must if I am to exercise these old bones. Dogs I encounter help me stay alert and fit by providing a different kind of exercise, one that combines awareness, judgment and fear.
The Park has signs posted all over: Dogs Must Be On Leash. Not so unusual since the City’s street ordinances also instruct that Dogs Must Be On Leash.
Evidently this directive applies primarily to all of us who have no dogs. Because for people that do, the signs seem mere suggestions, hints, or worse, simply stopping points so that pets can check their pee mail.
It usually goes like this.  I am walking up a hill, trying to avoid slipping on the ice beneath me and still keep up a good pace. Occasionally I’ll see a few winter sparrows and chickadees that stay around all winter because they have become too lazy to go south, because people feed them tankfuls of sunflower seed….but that is another story altogether.
Then it happens. A brownish mid-size mastiff and his owner appear a few dozen yards ahead of me. Of course the dog is not on a leash. The leash is on the owner, encircling her neck.
The dog sees me, and immediately bounds my way. I stand perfectly still, something I am very good at, having been forced to practice on a daily basis for years, and wait. The dog stops bounding when he reaches me. He bends his thick neck downward and sniffs my gloved hand. Then he growls, a deep-throated growl, assertive but not yet aggressive. I do nothing because I know he is telling me to wait, that soon we will all see how this will work out. The owner is closing in, perhaps 15 feet away, and she laughs, a kind of coy laugh containing embarrassment, dismissiveness and a slight trace of cruelty.
“Don’t worry,” she says, laughing, “he won’t do anything.  He’s perfectly harmless.”
Well, that’s sure comforting. Could have fooled me.  A 100 pound bag of harmless! Although, as I point out to her, “He already has done something.  He growled. And he has his nose on my hand.”
Now she is close to me, which is NOT comforting, because as the distance between us shortens, the dog repositions himself in front of me and growls again, prepared to “intervene” should I try to get too chummy (fat chance) with his mistress.
“Oh,” she laughs. “That’s just Brutus’ way of greeting you. You don’t have to worry.”
I want to blurt out: “What if I want to worry? What if worry is all you have when you’re not armed?  What if worry is the thing that keeps people alive when confronted by forces stronger and bigger than themselves?  Forces like Brutus.”  But I don’t say it. Because Brutus might take offense or she might hate sarcasm and have already trained Brutus to hate those that practice it.
And now comes the important part. Since she does not volunteer to place the leash on Brutus, and since I really doubt she’d be able to “control” Brutus even if she did, but still feeling that I’d be much more comfortable with a leash somewhere between the brute and me, I say: “Would you mind putting his leash on?”
This is the turning point. Either she will or she won’t. Mostly, people equivocate:  “Well there’s really no need, you know.  He’s friendly.”
Friendly to whom? That is the question of the moment. I believe that Brutus is friendly to his mistress. I believe he may even be friendly to other family members and small children and maybe even musicians, but alas alack what reason does he have to be friendly to me?
As calmly as I can, I respond: “I don’t doubt Brutus’ ability to be a friend.  He is probably a good friend to many who know him.  It is not the “friend” part of Brutus that I am worried about. It is the “dog” part.  And of course the long, sharp teeth. And the fact that he’s in much better shape than I am.”
She laughs, but to my relief, also begins to slip the leash around the hound’s neck. “You know,” she says, “you really ought to have someone look at this irrational fear of dogs you have.”
“Lots of people already do,” I say, “mostly dog owners who have a fear of following a simple city statute about walking their dogs ON A LEASH.” Brutus growls when I raise my voice.
But it’s okay, now, because I am already back on my walk, heading for the next rise in the path and the pit bull on the other side of it.

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National Senior Citizens Day, August 19th, was initiated by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to acknowledge and celebrate the life-long contributions our nation’s seniors. So I believe that achieving “seniorness” is honorable and nothing to hide. However, not everybody reacts so enthusiastically.

For instance, recently my wife said that she didn’t “feel like” a senior. That she was going to defiantly delay seniorhood for quite some time, maybe years. She said to me “After all do I look like a senior?”

Now I have been married for 22, er 24, er 27….more than a score of years, and I knew this was an important moment in our marriage. A straight answer to a question like that was needed and needed quickly. No hesitation allowed upon pain of some seriously undercooked seafood.

So I just blurted it out: “Have you taken the test?”

“What test?” she asks.

“The senior test, the one that lets you know when you’re a senior.”

For instance, you know you’re a senior when most people you talk to end their conversations with the phrase “For goodness sake, Write it down.”

Your wife sends you to the store to pick up a few items. By the time you get the car started not only have you forgotten the items but why you’re in the car in the first place, so you run back and say, “Honey, could you write it down.” You know you’re a senior when she says: “Write what down?”

You know you’re a senior when you show up for your colonoscopy…at your optometrist’s office. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming.)

You know you’re a senior when you find yourself brushing your teeth with hemorrhoid cream…..write it down.

You know you’re a senior when you discover your seven day pill container is empty, so just to make sure, you double down on your blood pressure meds….and there goes Friday….

You’re a senior when you refer to one of the grandkids as “it” because you can’t remember if Erin is a boys or girls name…..write it down

You’re a senior when your visits to the doctor become more frequent than dinners with your family….and then you start asking the doctor to come to dinner with your family.

You’re a senior when you start calling everyone “Love” or “Hey there” because it’s easier than remembering actual names….write it down.

You’re a senior when you begin to enjoy and appreciate menus with pictures.

You’re a senior when you can’t read instructions anymore so the tricycle you just assembled for the grandkids has all three wheels in the back.

Or during your whirlwind trip across Europe you spend more time staring down at bathroom tiles than palace frescoes.

You’re a senior when most of your major body parts have started to shrink.

You think that wireless blue tooth is something that’ll cure your gingivitis.

And you find it ironic that the only thing keeping you from visiting other continents is your incontinence…..write it down.

You’re a senior when people ask “how are you?” and you actually spend an hour telling them.

Or you realize you’ve forgotten to brush your teeth…because they’re still sitting on the sideboard.

You’re a senior when you get tweeting and twerking mixed up, and dislocate your hip trying to send a message.

You know you’re a senior when you plan your trips around rest stops.

You’re a senior when your pulse hasn’t been detected for two years.

Or when the remotes in your house outnumber the devices you own.

You’re a senior when your hearing test indicates you have become stone deaf, but only in the frequency range of your wife’s voice.

You’re a senior when “A Night Out” means you forgot your keys again….write it down.

You know you’re a senior when your family won’t let you help clean up after dinner, when you nap as much as your cat, when fiber content becomes more important than taste, when you carry more pills in your pocket than spare change and when they tell you they’ve discontinued your blood type.

But there are good sides to senior status. When you’re in a hostage situation, you’ll probably get released first.

And you won’t have to spend any more money on books. Just reread the ones you have for the first time again.

And when there are screaming kids and babies in a restaurant or an airport or park, you know they’re not yours!

As George Burns said: You can’t help getting older but you don’t have to get old. Write it down.

Oh, by the way, I should tell you. My wife passed………The test, the test!

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Theatres I have encountered in my travels!

I was just thinking about some of the places I’ve performed and wanted to share….especially for those of you who get the idea that touring is glamorous!

The Opera House in South Texas where dust and mold from the vaudeville days clung to the main drapes and curtains like jelly on bread and the dressing room had this warning sign posted over the sink, right below the cup dispenser: “Whatever you do, don’t drink water from this sink!!!”

The Basque Hotel in Winnemucca where I performed a cold January night on a 6 inch elevated stage that was 8 foot square. It ran the against the wall of what was ostensibly a dining room with seating for 60, except during the winter, when they allowed 90 in to see the show so that the increased body heat could replace the broken heaters. Of course I wasn’t about to freeze since the ancient stage lights hung from a light bar about a foot away from my forehead.

Lincoln, MT’s Community Center/roller rink/movie hall/wedding venue and trauma center. A huge popcorn maker provided free bags at any event, almost every night. The first batch, the extra and the leftovers were dumped out the stage door in back. Consequently the local deer population usually arrived well before show time to chow down on the treats. They congregated so thickly in front of the stage door that when I arrived I had to shoo them away with my hands, literally beating them on their rumps so they would move, and I could get in to perform.

The large school room in Stanley, Idaho, where the Mountain Mamas brought me in to rid the town of winter blues. They were great. They had no stage lights so they “borrowed some lights” from the edges of the landing strip that graced the runway of the small airfield just outside of town and mounted them with bungees to the tops of ladders at the sides of the room.

The tattered Elma Theater in Elma, WA, which was on its last legs, and no one was looking for prosthetics. I agreed to a benefit show to help, and it is the only time I experienced rain on the stage and me during a performance. It came pouring down from the fly space above, a fly space with holes as big as your fist. There were also sparrows nested in the wings and every once in a while, one of them would simply dart across the stage, sometimes missing me by inches.

The huge calving shed in Hermiston where hardy wheat farmers and ranchers crafted a stage by laying sheets of plywood over hay bales. The uneven surface of the stage didn’t bother me nearly as much as the fact that they made the evening a dinner theatre where everyone sat and ate on more hay bales. They had decorated the bales with candles and kerosene lanterns.  In theatre, you are told to pay 95% attention to the show at hand and 5% attention to make sure that the theatre is not burning down.  The percentages were reversed that night.  I have seen a hay bale burst into flame and I didn’t want to repeat the vision.

Ah, touring, ain’t it grand!

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