On Friday, June 14, at 7 p.m., Rand Bishop, of Newport, will debut “TREK on Stage,” a one-man, musical performance piece at the Pacific Maritime Heritage Center’s newly completed Doerfler Family Theater.
In an evening of stories and songs, the author/musician recounts a 90-day, 900-mile pilgrimage he undertook during the spring and summer of 2017. Drawing on his newly published memoir, “TREK: My Peace Pilgrimage in Search of a Kinder America,” Bishop mixes some of his journey’s most meaningful encounters and events with a suite of original compositions inspired by this life-changing journey.
In 2012, after decades as a music-business professional in Los Angeles and Nashville, Bishop returned to his home state of Oregon to assist his aging parents. For several years, Bishop, a Grammy-nominated songwriter, platinum music producer and author of five books, purposefully remained under the radar, pecking away reclusively on spec screenplays and his American Songwriter Magazine column, and only emerging from his quiet, ocean-view apartment for daily beach walks with his beagle, Millie.
“After 35 years working in entertainment capitals, under the constant pressure of ‘What have you done lately?’ I was really enjoying a relatively stress-free lifestyle … just being a regular guy with a beagle,” said Bishop.
Then, along came the bitter 2016 presidential campaign and the election’s surprise result. A lifelong activist for peace, justice, and equality, Bishop felt compelled to do his small part to encourage people to cool it with the blame game and engage in civil, constructive dialogue. On the morning of May 1, 2017, with bad knees, chronically sore feet, limited camping experience and absolutely zero knowledge about long-distance hiking, this semi-retired grandfather — Bishop was four months shy of 68 at the time — dropped off a rented car in Thousand Oaks, Calif. and began a very long walk home to the Central Oregon Coast.
As one might imagine, the physical trials for a senior citizen pushing a heavy cart across two states proved daunting. Seemingly insurmountable grades, precarious bridges, wind, heat, moisture, hunger and loneliness were challenging enough. But Bishop also faced frequent alienation from the common presumption that a gray-bearded, cart-pushing pedestrian must be homeless. He suffered major breakdowns, throbbing knees, blisters, lost toenails, and a nearly mortal bellyache. One fateful afternoon, the earth literally swallowed the pilgrim whole and attempted to bury him alive.
“But, those adventures,” said Bishop, “are just a fraction of the TREK story. I started out distraught. I wasn’t so sure there were still nice people in this country.” On roadways and front porches, in campgrounds and convenience stores, serendipity introduced him to an amazing cast of characters — old, young, every shade of skin color and political persuasion, comfortably housed or homeless, people of devout faith and those with no faith at all.
“Thankfully, I discovered something really wonderful,” Bishop concludes. “When two of us stand face to face, regardless of our differences, there’s something we can’t help but recognize — our common humanity. Meeting a thousand fellow humans, the vast majority of them nice, kind and often truly generous … that’s the real heartbeat of this story.”
Rand’s goal with TREK on Stage? “I hope to take the audience on a memorable heart-and-soul-stirring journey, from laughter to tears.”
The Pacific Maritime Heritage Center is located at 333 SE Bay Blvd., Newport. Parking is free. Doors open at 6:15 p.m., and the performance begins at 7 p.m. Seating is limited. Advance tickets are $10 and can be purchased online at www.randbishoptrek.brownpapertickets.com. Tickets for any unsold seats will be available at the door.