I had some dreams ... they were klowns in my koffee.

(With apologies to Carly Simon)

This is my journey through job transition from a toxic environment to a better life. Join me for a few thoughts and a few laughs along the way.
What are "klowns in my koffee"? They are the factors large and small that make you less than you are. A "klown" can be a grossly incompetent boss,
a short-sighted policy or a moronic coworker. They won't kill you, at least not immediately, but they abrade the soul
as you scrape past them to get through the day. Sometimes it's best to dump them out of the cup.


Day 75 - Klaim to Fame

Watertown, New York, was described by my friend, Douglas Shambo II, as a "good place for an artist to be from." The implication was that it was a reasonable place to start out under the assumption that elsewhere was the necessary destination.

The late balladeer, Harry Chapin, of "Cat's in the Cradle" fame, was less kind. I have a recording where Harry introduces his song "Better Place to Be" by saying that the song captures a story he heard in Watertown where "I spent a week there one afternoon."

Despite Harry's harsh pronouncement, Watertown managed to produce Frank W. Woolworth who founded the retail chain and Richard Grieco who looks cool and dated Yasmine Bleeth. I didn't know either of them. Ditto the Bouchard brothers who founded the band Blue Öyster Cult, though I had heard of them when I lived there.

Even though I just missed knowing these pop culture icons -- and fortunately barely avoided meeting a Watertown resident serial killer known as the Genesee River Killer -- I knew and went to high school with two students who emerged from the Watertown cocoon to become celebrated performers.

One was Viggo Mortensen, the versatile actor and modern Renaissance man who appeared in Lord of the Rings, Hidalgo, GI Jane, The Road and many other movies. I'll dig out Viggo's high school yearbook photo and post it one of these days. When my daughter was in junior high, she took the yearbook for show-and-tell to display Viggo looking somber with the rest of the tennis team.

As well known to aficionados of sacred music as Viggo is to movie goers is Douglas Shambo II. Douglas was a year ahead of me in school and was "the guy" in the vocal and instrumental performances as well as the musicals that are high school staples. I was the hanger-on with heart and no talent while Douglas seemed to excel in any musical avenue. He took courses at the local community college with the aim of hitting the ground running for a career in medicine. He grew a beard to appear in a local semi-professional theater production of Fiddler on the Roof and retained it through the rest of high school, drawing more than a few second glances as the only high school boy with a full beard and the appearance of being about 35 years old. My ever helpful eight-year-old brother cornered Doug by the refreshment table after services in our Episcopal Church to shout over sandwich cookies and watered-down juice, "My sister likes you" and my sixteen-year-old self flushed in a way that I can still feel today; I always sat behind a pillar after that.

I lost track of Douglas after high school, only knowing that he had chosen to attend a college in Connecticut to focus on music. Years later, one of the first things that I did with my new computer and internet connection was to search for a few high school friends. Ironically, I found that Douglas had been living here in St. Paul for several years. I had somehow missed his appearance on A Prairie Home Companion or reviews of his performances with local opera and early music groups.

A year or so later, I read a music review in the paper and noticed that Douglas was one of the performers. I attended the performance and was delighted to find that he recognized me. My sixteen-year-old pillar-hiding self was gratified that I must not have been completely part of the wallpaper and my grown up self had a drink with an old friend and got up to speed on the last score of years. In the true spirit of sixth degrees of separation, we each knew people who knew each other and it was only coincidence that we hadn't run into each other at some concert during those post-Watertown years. It was a delightful summing up and I'm glad that we have remained 'Christmas card friends' for the last several years.

Douglas was the musical director of St. Clement's Episcopal Church in St. Paul for a number of years and now is devoted fully to composition. He lives with is wife and pets in St. Paul. His Sacred Music blog is on my blog list. When I emailed him to ask if he minded if I did a post on his career and achievements, he replied that readers should be made aware that his topic is sacred music and his posts are reflective of his deeply felt spiritual viewpoint. So noted.

Among his many achievements, Douglas performed on an AIDS Quilt Songbook compilation album called Heartbeats that can be downloaded from iTunes. I have the CD and all the selections are profoundly moving. Even Viggo hasn't achieved that yet.

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