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Finding an Inspiring Groove

By Director of Community Rehabilitation and Emergency Services Victor Martini

We who work in the mental health field have stressful jobs. If we’re not careful, we’ll take that stress home with us to our families, loved ones and friends. Over the years I have watched what my colleagues do to manage that stress. I have found two excellent ways of handling it: physical activity and significant artistic pursuits.

I tried both – for years I was a daily runner – 3 to 5 miles before breakfast. I could feel the lift it gave me to sustain my energy during the week. Recently I have focused on an artistic pursuit — writing songs. I sing, play guitar and harmonica, and write, write, write. Music seems to pour out of me at times that I do not control; yet there are other times that I apply the Thomas Edison approach and work hard at it (“Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”).

I have found that many people working in this field also pursue music. For years in my previous job I had a co-worker who played a mean blues harp and penned humorous blues ditties, and I joined him with my guitar – we became Alimonia Delta Lee (that’s me) and Blind Lemon Jello (that’s Rich Angehr). We performed at local mental health gatherings and always got laughs from the crowd.

Here at work I regularly get together at noon with Tom Madison, our Vocational Coordinator. Tom plays just about everything he can get his hands on – but mostly bass and guitar. I write the songs, he adds in the bass or another guitar part, and we drift into musical nirvana.

Songs can be uplifting, inspirational, sadly emotional or conscience-raising, and I find that I write all types. I once awakened from a dream and rushed to find my guitar. I strummed a rhythm pattern and wrote down several chords and a few lines of verse then went back to bed. I awoke the next morning to find my scrawled song and wondered where it came from. Then I remembered. It came from my dream.

I was riding on bus going cross-country. As I gazed at the landscape flying by, I heard the strums of a guitar, and noticed out of the corner of my eye that the person sitting next to me was playing. He had some interesting riffs and unusual chord patterns and it grabbed my interest. I turned to watch him and commented on his style – “hey that’s pretty cool – I really dig those chord changes” – then I looked at his face and recognized him. It was Frank Sinatra. “Frank” I said, “I didn’t know you play guitar.” “Yeah Vic” he replied, “and I wrote this song for you!”

Think of it – I have a song written for me by Frank Sinatra after he died, and he gave it to me in a dream. The style of the song is nothing like the songs I write. The lines are nothing like the lyrics I write and the chord structure is one that is not appealing to me. But, it’s kind of catchy and sometimes I like to play it.

There are times that my songs reflect the work we all do in the mental health field. Some of them inspire me and hopefully inspire others. Here are some of the lyrics to “Land of Plenty”. I wrote this song for all of the people who are on the outside of society – left behind, yet truly remarkable people. It reflects why I do my job.

In the land of plenty when the sun goes down
And the cold wind blows, but there ain’t no shelter
For the ones we scorn and there ain’t no cradle
For a poor momma’s baby – don’t it make you crazy
To be living in the heart of the land of plenty
In the land of plenty in the land of plenty
To be living in the heart of the land of plenty
And to care     And to care     And to care     And to care

When the poor baby cries, and she looks in your eyes
And you don’t have a clue, but you know it’s a sin
And you search in your heart for an answer within
But the message is void, and your eyes are blind
And your ears are deaf, and your voice is mute
And your hands are empty, in the land of plenty
To be living in the heart of the land of plenty
And to care     And to care     And to care     And to care

When cathedrals embrace stilted dogmatic grace
But the church doors are chained to disabled and pained
And the homeless sleep on the steps at the street
And the sweet cherub choir boys are humped in the end
Peace love and understanding just haven’t a friend
And the spirit is empty in the land of plenty
To be living in the heart of the land of plenty
And to care     And to care     And to care     And to care

When the leaders smile from both sides of their face
The Senator’s in bed with the billionaire’s wife
The child without means can’t save his live
His cancerous body’s pre-existing condition
And the protester’s voice is labeled sedition
While each vote is purchased in the land of plenty
To be living in the heart of the land of plenty
And to care     And to care     And to care     And to care

When riches abound, cries of poverty sound
While champagne flutes clink as the working man sinks
The rich gaining riches, the poor losing hope
The playing field tipping, it’s a slippery slope
Sins of the church are hidden by the pope
And truth is buried in the land of plenty
To be living in the heart of the land of plenty
And to care     And to care     And to care     And to care

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