The End of an Era

It has now been 92 hours since I made it impossible for me to log on to Facebook. How did I do this? It was simple.

I opened Notepad.  Then, I created a random password consisting of about thirty-five random characters in a row that I produced by closing my eyes and doing a big piano glissando up and down the computer keyboard.   I copied it, put it in the “change password” field on Facebook, and promptly deleted it from Notepad.  Then I logged off.

Since Facebook requires one to post their old password prior to creating a new one, and since I now have no idea what my old password is, I will simply never log on to Facebook again.

Why did I do this?   Let’s look at the hard facts.

(1) I just punched in facebook.com on my browser to see how many notifications I had received in the past 92 hours.  Interestingly, the number is 184.  That’s twice 92 – and I kid you not.  This means I was receiving one notification every half an hour.

Now, let’s say I would spend fifteen minutes addressing each notification.  (That, by the way, is a very conservative estimate, knowing me.)  15 times 184 amounts to 2,760.  2,760 minutes amounts to 46 hours.  In the 92 hour period of time, that means I would have spent half my time on Facebook, dealing with the notifications alone.  Can I afford to spend half my time on Facebook?   No, I cannot.

(2) I am a person who has been diagnosed with severe adult attention hyperactive deficit disorder, otherwise known as ADHD.  What this means, as far as Facebook is concerned, is that whatever stimulus is the strongest and most immediate will be the one that grabs my attention. 

One morning, for example, I logged onto Facebook in order to grab a video from my daughter’s video files to send to a friend of mine.  Before I could find the video, a friend of mine who was feeling depressed logged on, and I spent two hours in an effort to console him.  Point is, his depression struck me as being of more immediate importance than the elusive video my daughter had made, which was buried somewhere deep within her video files, and therefore less immediate.  Once my friend was comforted, no sooner did I begin once again to look for the video, when another friend of mine showed up,  wanting to discuss a subject about which I am passionate.  Her passion striking me as being of more immediate importance than my daughter’s video, I quite passionately discussed the important subject with her for another two hours. Then I had to go to work.  In the meantime, I forgot all about the video, which was the only reason I had logged onto Facebook in the first place.  Thus are the effects of Adult ADHD.

(3) As one who is Sicilian by genetic predisposition, I have a very difficult time letting go of the past.  It therefore stands to reason that if I want this situation to improve, I ought not to be hanging around too many people whom I knew in the past, and instead throw more of my focus on developing positive friendships in the present, that will lead me to a more positive future.   Moreover, reconciling with certain figures from the distant past has more than once proved to be disastrous.

And here’s where the story gets good:

(4) At one point in my life, I made a casual comment on my Facebook that was misinterpreted by a well-meaning Facebook friend.  All of a sudden, three cops came pounding on my door.  They handcuffed me, ransacked my hotel room for narcotics and firearms, (of which I had neither!) and hauled me off to an insane asylum.

I was released the next morning, but highly inconvenienced by the ordeal.  My blood pressure shot up sky high, and I had to sit on a gurney in an emergency room for about six and a half hours before it was low enough for me to be legally hauled away to the nearest local loony bin, twenty-five miles South of my hotel room.

There, I managed to convince the baffled psych techs that I was neither suicidal nor homicidal.  I was released in my T-shirt in freezing cold December weather, and I wandered around for three days until the debit card refund for my hotel room cleared to my account.  (Obviously, I lost the hotel room, where I had paid for a two week stay, because when the 9-1-1 team showed up to haul me off to the psychiatric pavilion, all of the tenants came out of their doors to see what all the ruckus was about; and due to the police involvement, the hotel manager did not want to rent to me any longer.  I also left most of my clothing in the room, along with some books.  The motel room owners claimed no responsibility for items life in the building.)

As for the Facebook friend who made the dubious 9-1-1 call?   Long story short, I basically never heard from him again, except for a total of exactly two fairly unpleasant interactions in the following four years.  Must not have been much of a friend.  But he sure seemed like a friend for a while there, because he was the only one out of my some 300 odd Facebook friends who was concerned enough about my well-being to even consider making such a call.  And this leads to my 5th reason:

(5) These hundreds of people on your Facebook “friends” list are by and large not your friends.  You think they are your friends, because you befriended them when you were both in your teens or early twenties, and it was wonderful to reconnect with them.  Perhaps they are friends of friends of yours, or maybe even friends of people who are not your friends.   You know how to find out who your friends are on Facebook?  It’s easy, which leads to my sixth reason:

(6) I gave my phone number and email address to all of my Facebook friends some time prior to my abrupt departure.   Outside of the handful of people whom I already knew to be my true friends, you know how many of them actually called me?   Exactly three.  Thank you, Paul, Mari, and Holly.  Now I know who my friends are.  :)

(7) When I found myself arguing politics pointlessly with a total stranger in New York City who would not only never change his mind, but was probably drunk off his butt and had no idea what I was even talking about, enough was enough.

What all of this points to is:

(8) I have had five Facebooks in the past ten years.  Every one of them started out fine, then in some way imploded.  Every time I started a new one, I mistakenly thought I had overcome my dysfunctional obsessive-compulsive addictive relationship with Facebook.  I was wrong.

What did Albert Einstein have to say about the matter?

einstein insanity

Touché.

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Gratitude List 692

1. Man, this Seattle’s Best Coffee is good.

2. I have three pairs of shoes today: snow boots, running shoes w/spikes, and regular dark walking shoes. There was a time when I couldn’t possibly manage more than one pair of shoes, and in fact had to sleep with them on every night, for fear they wouldn’t be there in the morning if I took them off.

3. I have seven pairs of thick winter socks now – one for each day of the week. There was a time when I had to line up every Monday morning outside of Elmer’s Van and compete with a bunch of other homeless cats for a single pair of socks that had to last me an entire week.

4. Whenever I wake up lamenting a “luxury problem,” (i.e., that I crashed out at 8:30 last night and woke up at 12:30 am after only four hours sleep), I need only remember a certain night of waking up at 12:30 am to the sight of a young man who had earlier stolen my brand new HP laptop while his partner pistol-whipped me. At 12:30 am on that particular dark and stormy night, the young thug rousted me out of my sleep to insist that I join him with two crack whores in a hotel room, in order to play five long chess games in a row.  My point? At least I have a roof over my head, and total privacy — and when I wake up at 12:30 am, that rapscallion and his two rather unappealing crack whores are nowhere in sight. I’ve got it good today, believe me.

5. Seems to me I can probably get a piano lounge job of some kind if I can ever figure out how to get to the nearest such dive and back without a car (approximately one hundred miles North of  here), or else work out a way to take a bus and somehow not lose money on the gig renting a hotel room.  (Hint hint hint.) 

6. Thank God for this page. That man’s counsel helped me to solve the biggest barrier I was having toward cultivating a healthy recovery, and a much much healthier life.

7. Had a really wonderful time with my pastor and his wife, family and friends yesterday out at the farm. Recorded three tunes on the Kawai upright, and uploaded one of them to my you tube channel.

8. Great long talk with Nick yesterday.

9. Romans Chapter Twelve, especially the closing verses — what an inspiration.

10. Using the wee hours to compile my character breakdown for the workshop, per Ms. O’s request. Moreover, I’m working on them in a nice one bedroom apartment with a “spare master bedroom” just in case any of my friends and family want to come up for a visit someday. If my Christmas is this much better than the one I had two years ago, think how much better it might be two years from now, if I keep this up. God has done for me what I could not do for myself. All the Glory goes to God.


Please consider supporting an artist in need.

It’s not that I don’t have the talent.
It’s just that I don’t have the wheels.  

ANYTHING HELPS!
GOD BLESS

 

What’s in a Name?

I hope you all have a very blessed and meaningful day today; and that whether or not you are a Christian, each of you will take a few moments to reflect upon the person and character of Jesus Christ.

No matter whether one believes that he was the Messiah, or a great prophet or teacher, or an incredible psychologist or magician, or the Son of God, or even God Himself, I think there can be no doubt (as Emmet Fox said) that Jesus Christ has had more impact on humanity than other single figure in the history of the world.

“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name.”
– Philippians 2:9

What’s in a name? A lot more than one might presume. The Greek word for name, onoma, is defined in the New American Standard New Testament Greek Lexicon as being “used for everything which the name covers, everything the thought or feeling of which is aroused in the mind by mentioning, hearing, remembering, the name, i.e., for one’s rank, authority, interest, pleasure, command, excellence, deeds, etc.”

whats in a nameApply all that to the name of Jesus Christ, as opposed to say, the name of Roy Moore (to cite a random example) and I’m sure it won’t take much more than a few minutes’ contemplation to discern that there’s a lot more to the Name of Jesus than meets the immediate eye.

Think about it! This is my gift to you, and your having pondered all this would be more than sufficient gift to me, on this blessed day.

Finally, I gave myself a number of gifts last night; and why don’t we all give ourselves some gifts today. Let’s gift ourselves with the things that will truly be live-giving in our spirits and cause us to reflect more life, love, joy, peace, and happiness to all those around us, and moreover, to our own selves.

And most of all, to the Name of God. 

God bless us, every one.

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Gratitude List 690

1. Great day yesterday.

2. Got the heater situation worked out, and had heat on in the house for the first time.  Good thing too since it was six degrees Fahrenheit when I awoke in the middle of the night to crack the window.  

3. Slept a bit fitfully with odd dreams but for a period of ten hours, all told.

4. My pastor stopped by and brought a bunch of food. 

5. Worked things out with a new friend, and am no longer uneasy about this new friendship.  

6. I’m getting victory over an annoying die-hard lousy sinful habit, having seen its relationship to my low self-worth.

7. Ran the 3.6 mile course again.  It felt easier this time.  Ran it in 17F degrees and did not feel overly cold.  Enjoyed it very much, and felt a lift in my spirits afterwards.

8. Acted according to my integrity in a certain situation and wound up getting a new subscriber to the newsletter, a software engineer from San Francisco.  Told this to G.G. and now he also wants to subscribe.

9. “Just One Victory” by Todd Rundgren.

10.I woke up in the middle of the night and realized that I am not under condemnation.  It’s Christmas Eve and tonight we’ll all be singing.  Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.   

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Holiday Moods

I’ve been playing the piano lately.   It helps to have access to a Baldwin grand piano at my church.   A while back I posted a youtube of a couple tunes of mine that came out surprisingly well.  This spurred me on, so I decided to work up a bit of a Christmas-style medley for the holidays.

I call this “Holiday Moods.”  It’s a blend of a little song I wrote to the words of Isaiah 30:29.  Behold:

Ye shall have a song,
As in the night,
When a holy solemnity is kept;
And gladness of heart,
As when one goes forth with a pipe
To come into the Mountain of the Lord:
To the Holy One.

Nice poetry, no?  You can probably hear those words in the notes I play.  After that, I went into a rather startling rendition of the carol, “The Holly and the Ivy,” followed by my arrangement of the main theme of “Jupiter,” from The Planets by Gustav Holst.  That segues into the time-honored Martin Luther hymn: “Holy Holy Holy.”   Here’s the youtube:

I hope you enjoyed that!  Happy Holidays to you — and to yours.  

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Are You Homeless?

I walked into the Courtyard Cafe this morning wearing my running shoes with spikes on.  We need to wear spikes around here to walk comfortably in the treacherous snow.  My ordinary shoes were slung across my shoulder as usual.

I asked a worker here if the spikes were creating dimples in the hardwood floor.  He said they probably were.   I mentioned that I hadn’t been in Idaho for very long, and I was still getting used to all this stuff.

Suddenly, a lady sitting across the way asked me: “Are you homeless?”

“No, I’m not,” I replied.  “But I’m curious.  That’s an odd question.   People don’t generally ask me if I’m ‘homeless.’   What prompted you to ask that?   Is it the way I look?   The beanie?  The beard?”

Ando Smiling“No,” she said, possibly lying. 

See that guy to the right?   That’s how I look.  This is my most recent look, after having lived for just about a year and a half now, here in Idaho, after escaping twelve years of on-and-off-again homelessness (mostly “on”) in a State I hope I never have to set foot in again, quite frankly.

“You’re dressed like every other guy in this town,” she continued, possibly telling the truth.   

(I did notice upon moving to this particular city that just about every man in my age group wore a beanie or cap, had a beard, and usually carried a backpack.  It made it easy on me.  Nobody assumed I was “homeless.”)

“You said you were new in Idaho, so I thought you might have been homeless.  I’m sorry if I offended you.”

“No, you didn’t offend me at all,” I clarified.  “Nothing wrong with being homeless.  I just wondered what it was about me that got you to think so.”

She drew a breath.  “A lot of people who are new to Idaho were homeless in another State.  It’s because here, people are just people.  They don’t judge you for being homeless in a place like this.   They don’t think of you as a scum bag or a loser.  They just figure you’re down on your luck – and they try to help you out.”

“Are you homeless?”  I asked.

“No,” she replied, looking a bit puzzled.  

She then walked to the counter and came back with a breakfast for me in a to-go box.

“Merry Christmas,” she smiled — and walked out.  

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Source of Happiness

feed starving artist

WordPress, as we all know, is free.  I paid an annual fee to get the domain name, and another annual fee to remove the ads and gain access to chat support.   The total is $35.99 a year, which I suppose even an impoverished sort such as myself ought to have been able to come up with.

However, I was working when I made that decision.  I am unemployed and considered disabled at the present time.  Long story short, the automatic payment failed.  So I contacted WordPress with these words:

I don’t have any money right now.  I didn’t get a warning on this.  I’m disabled and I don’t get paid again until the beginning of January.  Is there any way I can get an extension?  WordPress is my main source of happiness.

(To say that WordPress is my “main” source of happiness was a bit hyperbolic, but I did want to let them know how much I appreciate this site.) Anyway, this was the very kind reply I got from the Happiness Engineer, who will remain unidentified:

Your plan doesn’t expire until January 16, 2018, so you can definitely wait until the beginning of January to pay for your site. To make a payment manually, you can go here:

https://wordpress.com/me/purchases

If we can help with anything else, please let us know.

Resting assured that I wasn’t going to be thrust into the red or robbed of my wherewithal, I relaxed.   In the meantime, a friend of mine on the East Coast wired me fifty bucks for groceries.  Then suddenly, I received a mysterious receipt for my “payment.”  My response:

Um, I think there has been a mistake?  I told you I could not pay this till January.
You said it was not due till January.  Then all of a sudden I get a “receipt” for a payment.  I check, and it was taken out of my PayPal.

And what can I say?  I was honest with you.  I told you I am poor and disabled.
You told me it was not due till January 15th.  I agreed to pay it at the beginning of the month, when I get my check.  You robbed me of my grocery money.

Please return every penny of that 35.99 that you robbed from me to my account.  My PayPal is andrewpope109@gmail.com.  Thank you.

Their reply:

Looks like the subscription renewed automatically. I apologize about the trouble!  I’ve gone ahead and gave you a full refund, and you should see the money returned to your account in 5-7 days.

To let you pay for this on January 15, 2018, I prepared an invoice for you here:

https://manualpayments.wordpress.com/?u=24d2cbc6a1

If there is anything else I can do for you, let me know!

Note the grammatical licentiousness here:  “I’ve gone ahead and gave you a full refund.”  I thought that was cute.  Anyway, here’s what I had to say next:

To “let” me pay for it on January 15th?  It was not DUE until January 15th!!!

So I hear Automattic is hiring?  Do they take long distance employees?  Or do I have to move back to San Fran and probably land on the streets again?

Thank you for taking care of this.  I’ll send you the medical bill for the heart attack you just gave me.  Enjoy your day.   I suppose I can go another 5-7 days without eating until this clears.
 
Take care and God bless you.  (At least you didn’t get away with it.)  Geeze….
Their reply:
 

Glad to be of help! Have a nice day as well.   If anything else comes up, please let us know!

In conclusion, if anybody mistakenly thinks that this post is a “cry for help” and not a social statement, please refer to the blog post simply entitled Social Statement, and then read The Story on the home page of this web site, in order to find out what Eden in Babylon is all about.
 
Dayight’s burning, peeps.  Let’s get this show on the road. 
 

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

A Fountain of Tears

Oh, that my head were waters,
And my eyes a fountain of tears,
That I might weep day and night
For the slain of the daughter of my people!

Oh, that I had in the wilderness
A lodging place for travelers;
That I might leave my people,
And go from them!
For they are all adulterers,
An assembly of treacherous men.

 “And like their bow they have bent their tongues for lies.
They are not valiant for the truth on the earth.
For they proceed from evil to evil,
And they do not know Me,” says the Lord.

Jeremiah 9:1-3

On Disorganization

Disorganization has been my mortal enemy lately.   So much so, that I often feel that if it weren’t for disorganization, I’d probably be able to get my musical produced.   Although we all have a tendency to be set back by forces beyond our control, it seems to me that disorganization is something that I can control.  It therefore leads me naturally to wonder why it is that I have become so disorganized.  I used to be one of the most organized people on the planet.

I used to be so punctual that people practically set their clocks according to the time that I was going to show up.  Once, back in around 2003 or so, my client told me they had almost called the cops out of concern for me — only because I was ten minutes late.  It was unlikely that I would have shown up later than a minute before the prescribed time.

I used to run my morning ritual like clockwork.   There were about five or ten actions that I performed religiously every single morning, in the same order every morning, without pausing.  Nowadays, the occasion of getting out the door in the morning is almost nothing but one giant pause.

“Where’s my shoes?”   
“What happened to my headphones?”   
“I could have sworn I had one last coffee filter!”

So how exactly did I become so scattered?   The answer could be given in less than four words – but here are the first four that come to mind:

TWELVE YEARS OF HOMELESSNESS!

homelessoffice
“Homeless Office”

When I was homeless, I had no problem finding my shoes because I slept in them.  Why, you may ask, did I sleep in them?   For at least two reasons.   First, at any time of the day or night, anybody could come out of anywhere and interrupt my sleep, sometimes with knife in hand.  I needed to be able to get up and run as fast as I could, as far as I could, calm my nerves, and find another place to sleep.

Secondly, if I took off my shoes and set them at my side, there would be a strong chance they wouldn’t be there in the morning.  They just might be the right size for another homeless guy whose shoes had been stolen as well.  Even if they weren’t the right size, they would still go for at least five bucks at the pawn shop.   And five bucks when you’re homeless and out in a thunderstorm can save a homeless person’s life.  That person can get on a warm bus and sleep all night, rather than die of hypothermia in the elements.

Headphones?   Do you think I would dare own a pair of headphones under such conditions?  Well yes, I often so dared, and I would have to buy a new pair before I knew it.   Why bother?   A pair of headphones equals a twenty dollar bag of dope in that realm, and I might even risk bodily harm if I tried to defend myself.

(The absurdity of there being any role for coffee filters in such a realm is too absurd to warrant an explanation.)

But the bright side of all this is a fact that not many people would even guess, had they not themselves been homeless over an extended period of time.   For that same homeless person who stole your twenty-five dollar SONY headphones will later drop a twenty dollar bill in your cup without saying a word.

Barring the sociopathic and criminal element — which does indeed exist but is far from the norm —  the homeless person doesn’t steal because he is a thief by nature.  He steals out of desperation, and feels pretty bad about it.   Even a young man who stole an entire laptop from me felt so bad about it, he ingratiated me with various gifts for two years, until I finally told him we were even.

So it’s not too much of a surprise I’m having a bit of difficulty getting organized, considering the level of “organization” I was dealing with for the better part of twelve years.  I’ve only lived indoors again for about a year and a half now, and old habits — or the lack thereof — die hard.

And if you want to find out what homelessness is really like, find out from someone who has been there.  Not for a week, or a month, or a season.   From someone who has been homeless for nearly half of his adult life — and who amazed everyone he knew by pulling out of it.

Find out from Eden in Babylon.   Please support this timely project, and please be “punctual” — while there still is time.

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Of Creation and Control

I’m writing on a text file in Open Office. I have the emerging text to The Oracle Sequence open on another file. I’m making a conscious point of avoiding the typical Internet venues on which I write. That means WordPress, DiaryLand, Facebook, Twitter, and all email-related interfaces, such as Zoho or G-Mail. I’m trying to break certain negative associations I have developed with all of those venues, for they seem to be thwarting my progress on this particularly pertinent portion of my project.  Never before have I felt such an enormity in the gap that separates the degree of my desire to progress with the degree of my actual progress, as pertains to a specific project or piece. I want nothing more than to begin making substantial progress on this project. I want the piece to “break.”

But let me explain what I mean by “break.” I use this expression a lot, but I don’t often take the time to clarify what I mean.

ionescoWhenever I am in the process of creating something substantial, my progress seems to proceed extremely slowly for the first several days, taxing my patience. But I endure, for the knowledge that at some point soon, the piece will “break.” When it breaks, it is as though floodgates have been opened. Where the rate of progress before was tortuously slow, all of a sudden I am progressing at a very rapid, steady pace. The process of producing the piece has begun to “flow.” With that sudden huge burst of energy comes a renewed confidence. I no longer brood with the sense that the inevitable break I await will be delayed interminably. Instead, I exult in the creative process.   Whereas, days or hours earlier — or even moments earlier — various aspects of the process seemed to pose nothing but horrific obstacles toward my progress, they now seem to work marvelously in my favor, as if by magic.  And before you can bat an eye, I feel that I am actually completing the piece in question.

You heard me: completing the piece.  The prospect of its elusive completion no longer buzzes about my brain like an annoying insect I can never manage to swat.  Completion occurs readily, rapidly, precisely — and in fact, numerous times

“What?” you may ask.  “How can completion occur numerous times?   You just got finished telling me that until this thing ‘broke,’ you couldn’t even complete it once.” 

That’s a very logical question, and please allow me to explain.  For you see, it seems I’ve substituted one problem for another one.

What happens after the piece “breaks” is that, in my greatly increased productivity, I get from A to Z so fast that my emotions can barely handle the sudden positive turn of events, and I decide that everybody needs to know about it.  So I gleefully send out a “completed” version of my piece to all my dearest friends and family members, hoping they will be as excited at the surprise “completion” as I am.  But then, little do they barely have the chance to open their email, when BAM!  I decide that the recently completed version wasn’t quite good enough; and so I send a second version of the piece; say, Version “1-B.” 

After that, I send Version 1-C, and then Versions 1-D thru F, and so on down the line.  People in my life are suddenly receiving so many versions of some new work of mine, they naturally have no idea when the bombardment will cease, and exactly which of the many versions, if any, they should bother with.  

correlationWhile this is happening, I vaguely sense that there is something wrong with my approach.  Oh, I understand exactly why this pattern has come into being.   The hugeness of the moment when the piece finally “breaks” is typically too much for me emotionally.  You see, I had been frustrated for days, perhaps weeks, all around a relatively insignificant creative project of mine; for example, this polishing of The Oracle Sequence that has come to receive such prominence in my head lately.  But once The Oracle Sequence “breaks,” then to whatever extent that I had earlier been impatient and frustrated, I will now have become just as excited, and in fact, full of glee.  Excited, exuberant, and gleeful.  I feel almost mischievous at that level of enthusiasm.  In that sudden, newfound elation, it will be extremely difficult for me not to burst forth with a constant, incessant gush, exulting in the experience of excitement that so elates me, and exuding that ecstasy upon the world.

But when I do this, I forget that the world is not necessarily predisposed to tuning into the value of my creation at that moment.  Moreover, the world does not necessarily care about my creation — at least not yet. If I want them to care in some future, positive scenario; then probably I shouldn’t be bombarding them prematurely as though to prove my prowess and prodigy in an a priori fashion. Wouldn’t it be better to hold back, until I really have a product worth releasing; and even then, to release it to the world with humility, and grace?

graham_wallasOf course it would be. I therefore must commit myself to terminate my earlier practice, difficult though that termination may be to effect emotionally.   I need to cease to involve all my close friends and family members in my process.   Henceforth I will not even go online, not even to WordPress, but do all my work in secret, offline, where nobody will see me, and where I will nor be tempted to share my work prematurely.  Far better will it be for me to regard this wonderful burst of creativity as a private matter, something that speaks for the ineffable unity of the Creative Mind.   In this way, it is akin to the moment of “illumination” delineated by Graham Wallas in his work on the four stages of the creative process.  According to this model, the previous period of frustration and confusion actually parallels an unconscious process of “incubation,” whereby the piece is quietly being constructed with great direction and progress in the unconscious mind.   The conscious mind remains unaware of this inner process, and in fact believes falsely that nothing is being accomplished at all.  According to that model, The Oracle Sequence is at this very moment being polished, refined, and completed — even as we speak — though in my limited awareness, I feel as though nothing is happening at all.

Obviously, this explanation is pleasant to the ears of the Artist.  But how valid is it, really?  There are other ways of framing this event of “breaking,” this sudden bursting of the floodgates, and the subsequent steady flow of unprecedented Artistic creation.   Some of those ways are not particularly favorable, however, or sympathetic with the Artist’s dilemma.  Take the view often espoused, for example, by those in the mental health profession.   These are those who contend that the Artist is only subject to his mental health disorder, since his pattern clearly manifests the mood swings of manic depression, nowadays known more commonly as Bipolar Disorder.   In this view, the Artist is unable to create while in the depressive phase, because his depression prevents him from doing so, on a basic neuro-physiological level.  When, in my case, I experience the event of the “breaking,” followed by a fast flow of creative prodigy, I am according to the psychiatrist merely in the “manic” phase of my “disorder.”

I am further told that during the depressive phase, the Artist may not even be aware that he is depressed.  This is due to the intensity of his Artistic focus, in which he is completely immersed —  even as he gets nothing accomplished at all.   His focus, after all, is on his Art — whether he is succeeding in manifesting that Creation or not.  So if he is not succeeding, he may well be depressed and in fact rather irritable.  But he does not know this, for his focus is not on his feelings — but on his Art. 

psychiatrist couchThe psychiatrist continues to advise him that the reason why nothing is getting done is on account of his depression.  The depression, claims the psychiatrist, has overwhelmed him, and rendered him inert and immobile with regards to his creative goals.  But the Artist doesn’t see it this way.  He argues that the converse is the case.  The only reason he may be depressed is because nothing is getting done.  And besides, the word “depression” doesn’t quite cut it.  “Annoyed,” perhaps.  “Annoyed, irritated, aggravated, frustrated, impatient, confused, bewildered, and generally out of sorts.   But depressed?   You gotta be kidding me!  Depression is for less inspired, less purpose-driven men than I.”  

At this, the psychiatrist typically only nods her head.  “Give it about a week, my boy, and you’ll be just fine.” 

Be this as it may.  We have the clinical, ultra-behavioristic approach of the detached, unfeeling psychiatrist, dismissing all the mysterious spectacles of Artistic angst with a cold, calculated DSM-V approach to life.   A bit more pleasing, we have the intriguing approach of Mr. Wallas and his followers, an approach that is definitely more Art-Positive than diagnostic in nature.  But neither of these perspectives really assists me in confronting the essential anxiety that I must endure in order to attain to a happier state of affairs.  The one way exalts Art above all, the other poo-poos and dismisses the Artistic character, even hinting at attributing the Artistic Focus to some form of mental illness.  Yet despite this glaring difference in the two perspectives, they both point to one very disturbing factor that they share in common.   In each case, the Artist is at the mercy of a psychic process that is largely beyond his conscious, creative control.  

What is needed, then, is greater control.   

As to just how this greater control is to be gained, please don’t think for one minute that I have not already pondered this question eternally.   There are in fact several text files on Open Office already, exploring this perennial question.  I even draw near to a solution or three, in places.   But let me take my leave at this juncture, and advise you of my findings when they are bit more conclusive.   It may well be that as I complete my analysis as to what it will take to complete my piece, the completion of the analysis may prove to be a more important creation than the completion of the piece itself.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Turns Toward Dawn

This has been a very strange and telling phase in my life.  While I’ve not seen myself make much headway in the areas where I have typically been placing my focus, I have noticed that progress appears to be taking place on a completely different level.   This is the second time in recent months when the desired progress toward the production of my new musical appears to be at a standstill, but yet an unexpectedly bright happenstance is seen taking place on an entirely different plane.

The first time was during August through October, when I saw five of my short pieces on the homeless phenomenon in America become published in Street Spirit, a Berkeley-based periodical dealing with such issues, distributed throughout the East Bay Area and in Santa Cruz.   (A sixth article, by the way, was published in the November issue, which unfortunately has not yet made it online.   The article is called The Class Gap, and is based on my blog post The Voices That Count.  The link on the title is to a pdf of the full page devoted to my story.)  The sudden opportunity for publication in the hitherto unexplored periodical coincided with a dry spell in my own efforts to persist in pushing my musical toward production.

Similarly, in the past two weeks, I really haven’t progressed at the desired rate with my usual push to produce the show.   But I have seen the community here come to embrace my piano playing on the local level, which is something for which I have been silently longing.  First, on Wednesday the 29th, I had the opportunity to play for the annual holiday dinner hosted by the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute.

There were probably close to a hundred people there. All nice people. I played jazz standards like I used to play when I had a regular piano job in the 90’s in the Bay Area.  I got paid for the gig in cash, and made decent tips, too.  I felt so good about it all, and was so appreciated, that it made me want to do it all the time. Imagine if only I could make that kind of money on a regular basis! I wouldn’t have to do anything else in life, other than rejoice and relax, I suppose. I mean, I’m sure that binding obligations would arise as usual, life being life. But it would sure solve a lot of problems.

The most flattering part of the night was when a critic named Donna from the Tuesday Night Critics Group showed up. She put a tip in my jar and said: “I’m the one who emailed you raving about your new musical.” Then I remembered that I’d met her briefly when I had shown up for critique one night. She went so far as to read the entire show and write to me in detail. It was funny too, because she had an idea for a device in the last Scene that I had to admit was a good one, and I wound up using it in the second draft that I finished on November 8th. She hasn’t read that version yet, but I assured her it was in there.

Then, last Tuesday, December 5th, I played the piano for the Community Event of Remembrance, when every year people in the community gather to commemorate those who have passed away in our lives throughout the past year. Usually the music is provided by whoever does the stuff at funerals, but for some reason they had to back out at the last minute. So I was called.

I believe I did a good job, despite myself. I think I selected appropriate music for the prelude and postlude, as well as an interim processional when everyone was approaching the tree to be given an ornament representing the one who had died in their life.  There was a tenor from the Evangelical Free Church who directed the hymns and sang special music at the piano. I was otherwise at the Baldwin grand piano, and messages were delivered by the priest from St. Mary’s, the pastor from the United Church, and my own pastor.  It seemed very well-coordinated, despite little rehearsal.  Moreover, it was a very meaningful event, where people were in no way disingenuous or full of affectation, but extremely real and genuine, authentic, and without hypocrisy of any sort.  Afterwards, I received a number of very kind compliments.  People seemed genuinely moved by my presentation, which was a little odd, considering how detached I felt from it all. But it was definitely an honor to have been given the opportunity, and it was good that I rose to the occasion.

Otherwise, I’m on the new computer now. I found one like it on Amazon — it lists for $875. It’s a pretty amazing machine, came with 8gb installed RAM and an Intel i7 processor, 2.8ghz. It’s a real blessing. Having a new computer is kind of like having the new apartment. It gives me a chance to start afresh, and not make the same mistakes I made last time. It’s also about as much better of a computer than my last one as this apartment is a better apartment than my last. So there’s a positive sense of moving up in the world.

One of the first things I did with the new machine was upload this you tube of my playing piano at Moscow First Presbyterian Church on Wednesday the 30th.  It came out surprisingly well, especially considering it was recorded using my pastor’s iPhone.  But in a way, that gives it a raw, uncut quality that I believe informs its artistry.  It’s amazing what kind of effect a fine piano can have on one’s musicianship.

 

Well, I need to get to church and sing with the Choir.   I wanted to make sure I got this stuff to you beforehand.   I did – so now I can relax!   Hoping you all have a blessed Sunday.  Take care, and God bless.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

Gratitude List 673

1. I slept for nine hours, between about 9 pm and six in the morning.  It was just showing 5:59 am as I got up.  So I got more sleep than usual, and I feel very rested in comparison with days prior.
 
2. Sky’s about to almost get light already.  Yes – much more rested.
 
3. Second cup of unusually strong Folger’s coffee – the last in the batch, on yesterday’s filter (which was the last filter.)  
 
asus4. People like the youtube, and we might make another one this morning.
 
5. Taize was strong last night, and powerful.  
 
6. New computer is great so far, and fast.  Started up quickly from nothing this morning.  It shows the familiar Windows 10 prompts and snags, but not for periods of gross delay.  
 
7. People have been letting me play the piano lately, and it’s a good feeling.  It increases my sense of belonging in the community, especially when my playing is so genuinely appreciated.  
 
8. Choir was good last night, and Susan was very helpful in taking us through the two new pieces.  The “Midwinter” arrangement recalls Dvorak (New World Symphony, the “Going Home” theme), and is also reminiscent of Copeland in places.  It is also quite unlike my own, which is derived from Jane Siberry on her Sushan the Palace album.  I’ve noticed that everyone claims Gustav Holst as the composer of all these widely divergent themes, of which I’ve heard many more than just the two now cited. I can and will investigate.  This is an example of why Jim the Janitor believes that we none of us should ever be bored.  Always something to challenge the inquisitive nature, cf. Genesis Three.  
 
9. Nice lentil soup last night, and bread.
 
10. I have so much more energy this morning than usual.  I want to go out, but at 22F degrees and high humidity I wonder if I will need my spikes?  I can wait a while.  Making sure all my former folders and their files are fully loaded onto the new system is a home-bound task, involving both computers, patience, and presence.  I have my work cut out for me, and God is good.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

About That Insecure Creative

“A successful writer is one who finishes what they start while striving to improve their craft. It’s as simple as that. And the only one who can stop you from doing this is you.” – Hugh Howey*

If any of my more regular readers got the idea that perhaps I was obfuscating a hidden agenda behind the seemingly innocuous postings of three successive morning “gratitude lists,’ then I must concede.   That idea is sound.   While trying to hold everyone at bay by posting my gratitude lists, I have secretly been absorbed in the task of cleaning up both the lyrics and music to The Oracle Sequence at the end of Act One of Eden in Babylon.

This is something that I can and must do. When I wrote that sequence, though I was “on fire,” I was also quite hasty in places.  And I knew it at the time.   I knew it — but I buried it beneath the sense of fiery inspiration that I permitted to delude me.  I found thrilling the mere fact that I was finishing the Act at all.   Add to that the sense that I actually stood a chance of finishing it in a dynamic way — a way that would intrigue and delight the audience, and give them all something to talk about during intermission — and believe you me, I was overjoyed.  So overjoyed was I, that I readily overlooked the rough spots, vaguely expecting myself to patch them up later (that is, if I remembered to do so, or even decided to bother).

But then, after I had the great revelation reported earlier, I found I could no longer overlook these glaring errors.  It was time for me to perform the logical clean-up, and not to feel bad about myself in the process.   So I set about to do so.   But I kept getting snagged.   Snagged, for reasons that themselves seemed trivial, if not maddening.  Maddening, in the degree of power I rendered them, despite their insignificance. 

For example, I gave one verse of very quickly spewed, poorly written lyrics to three of my strongest supporting characters.  If those had been real life Actors, playing those characters, I’d feel as though I had dumped on them for assigning them those lousy parts.  All three of those characters, as later developed in my second complete draft are worth more to the world than the lousy lyrics I threw down on them. They’re my babies — I need to bless them with better lyrics.

Sad-alone-cute-girl-playing-guitar-sunsetNot only that, but in my haste, I took no thought as to what keys all these different characters should be singing their bits in the Sequence.  Right after the verse I just mentioned, for example, the ingénue Taura begins to sing a solo to the main theme of the song “Oracle.”  All the lights should be lowered and all the previous frenetic conflict be dissolved, as she begins to sing this song of spiritual calling.   It needs to be her defining moment, where she sings to her guitar, as they all are gather in Nature, in the Outdoors, beneath the Stars.  This is only her second solo in the show — and it is the first one that features her voice en masse before the multitudes, rather than restricted in a romantic setting between her and Winston alone.  Obviously, this crucial performance of hers should feature her voice in its optimum range.  But alas, as I just now have confessed, I took no thought for such a practical matter, so infused was I with the creative fury at the time. 

As a result, Taura winds up having to sing this theme in the key of G, with notes much too high for the contralto whom I have intended her to be.  I cursed myself.  “What an oversight!”  I exclaimed.  Yet at the same time, I recall having furiously sped from one section in the sequence to another, overlooking every peccadillo in my path in the spirit of honoring the long-awaited arrival of the finishing of the first Act, which arrival now loomed imminently on the near horizon, a virtual, visible certainty of a happy event to come.

So I consoled myself with the memory of past faith.  I figured that if I had faith beforehand — way back when — even as I plowed over every glaring error in my path like a bulldozer — I could probably summon up that same faith, and use the present day as an occasion to atone fully for my earlier carelessness, and craft the End of Act One in a manner befitting a musical of this caliber.  

When I began to exercise this renewed faith, the landscape brightened considerably.  True, the lousy lyrics were the devil to replace.  Moreover, I had to change the key in that section, in order to create a key that could easily modulate into a better key to spotlight Taura’s voice during her solo.    But  then, with renewed faith, I realized that I need not be enamored to the music itself in the section where the lyrics fell short.  I now could write new music along with the new lyrics, and make that section more transitional, and less overt.  Ah!  It all began to come together, at last.

And it continues to come together.  What is the difference?  Only faith.  Only being open to new and better gifts from that great Beyond whence all ideas are formed.  And people may mock me and scoff, if indeed they pay any attention to me at all.  I hear their imagined voices already:

“Will you never stop messing with this thing?
It’s been years now, Andy!
Get off of it! Get real!”

It puts me on the defensive, to have to answer to such objections — real or imagined.  I want to say I’ll stop messing with it when somebody finally picks it up and decides to produce it — and not a minute before.  But that’s a line of malarkey – blatant baloney and balderdash.

I’ll stop messing with it when I’m finally tired of it, and when I finally abandon it.  That’s the naked truth, unveiled.  I pray this happens before someone picks it up, and not after.  If it doesn’t happen till after, I could be hell on any production staff unfortunate enough to have picked up my baby while still in the womb.  Let’s hope for an on-time delivery.  In my heart of hearts, I wouldn’t want it any other way.   

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

(* The Hugh Howey quote comes courtesy of  M. C. Tuggle — a blog well worth the read, by the way.)

Gratitude List 662

This is actually yesterday’s morning gratitude list.   I scribbled it out very quickly before church, and didn’t look at it again until just now.  As I saw and recollected what I wrote, it made me feel so grateful I just had to do something with it.  So I posted it here on WordPress, yet again.

1. Got caught up on my sleep — it’s only eight o’clock.
 
2. Walked six miles again yesterday, and got into a good fast clip in the last two miles.
 
3. It’s only 47F degrees now, and no colder.  I won’t dread walking to the church, but rather will enjoy the jaunt.
 
4. Just hopped out of a nice quick shower, am all dressed up and ready for church.  This wouldn’t have happened in Berkeley.  I remember one time having my cardboard laid out over dirt turned into mud by the rain outside of the Rubicon building, having to decide that a single sheet was better for shielding the rain than a warmer, heavier blanket, since the blanket caught all the moisture.  The sheet wasn’t bad until I was forced to shake it off, then walked to the Lutheran Church of the Cross in a shivering state to teach the Bible Study.  Life is much more conducive now.  
 
5. Moscow, Idaho.  I love this town more and more, the more I wake up to it.
 
6. Gorgeous, spectacular day yesterday at around noon when I was walking.  Had a nice talk with Alex on the phone, about Judah Loew ben Bezalel, the legendary Maharal of Prague, and other subjects.   
 
7. I really like the Writers I have met online on WordPress.  They are very supportive, as well as in most cases knowledgeable and talented.  It behooves me to read their work, most of which is available on the Kindle at a very low price, next month.
 
8. I’m feeling that early morning workaday mainstream buzz of high competent energy, the kind you feel when you look forward to being a part of the day ahead, a worker among workers, in America.  I feel this way even though it’s Sunday and all I’m doing is going to church and singing in the Choir.  But I also feel it a lot on the days when I volunteer now, and before Taize service.  Think how much more often I will feel this wonderful workaday feeling, when I actually have a job.
 
9. Listening to “Oracle” right now – Version 17-C on the new 15-system template designed specifically for the Eden in Babylon orchestral score.  Almost done with it.  Why has it been easier to take on the more elaborate, intensely involved project than the earlier project of far less size and substance?  It’s simple.  This larger project is much more enjoyable, despite its intimidating grandeur.
 
10. I get to have breakfast at the Courtyard Cafe before church this morning.  There are so many conveniences in my present life today for which to be grateful.  In Berkeley, I’d have been having to stand in line in Provo Park with two hundred other homeless people, some of whom were of very dubious character, in order to get breakfast on Sunday.  Fights would be breaking out, and all kinds of aggressive drug dealers would be roaming up and down the food line, issuing varying stages of irresistible offers and threats.  Life is better today than it’s ever been.  Glory to God on High.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Gratitude List 661

1. Slept well, from about 9 – 4:30, seven and a half hours or so.

2. Should have a good run this morning.

3. Did a six mile walk yesterday.

4. Got the check for the November article in Street Spirit.

5. Terry published “The Voices That Count” (changed the title to “The Class Gap”). This was the one I was hoping he would publish.

6. Got a really nice note from Sally, which I put up on my wall:

Hi dear Andy,
Enclosed is a check to pay you for your wonderful November article.
Thank you again for your deep concern for justice and compassion.
It’s awesome having you as a contributor to Street Spirit.
Love and blessings,
Sally

7. I keep noticing how many things are so much easier now that I live indoors, and especially inside this spacious apartment, replete with commodity and accoutrement. I can take my own shower, I never lose my glasses any more, and everything is just where I want it.

8. Just downed a first cup of coffee and am feeling rested and alert. Coffee tastes great this morning — I think I’m finally getting the hang of the coffee maker, and what exactly to do with the grounds.

9. If I get that city job, I can buy a new computer after the first two weeks paychecks. Then, even if they were to let go of me after two weeks or so, I would still have acquired a computer out of the deal. (Not that I’m only in it for the computer, mind you.)

10. I get to sing with the Choir tomorrow. We’re going to do “For the Beauty of the Earth.” Also, I’ve begun working on “Oracle” — that being the next logical song to do with the new 15-system template — and the computer hasn’t freaked out yet. I noticed that some of the lyrics, written hastily toward the End of Act One, are inconsistent with the (minor) characters as they had developed. But this is a good thing. I can work from there — backwards and forwards — and the character development will be stronger, less puzzling, and more engaging. Life is Good, and God is Love.

“Oracle”
from the new musical Eden in Babylon
Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope

All Rights Reserved 

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

Gratitude List 658

1. Moscow, Idaho: Heart of the Arts.  I came back to the city I left when I was fifteen months old — after sixty-two years — knowing nothing about it, and I found out quickly that Moscow is the Heart of the Arts.  I was born here!   No wonder I turned out the way I did.  

2. Thanksgiving celebration last night when the Latah Recovery Center rented out the One World Cafe.   R.J. insisted that all the background music be my original music, so I made a playlist that was in the background the whole time, and sounded nice coming out of all those One World speakers.  Brandon was the OWC worker behind the counter and I got to see everybody from LRC, also Jim the Janitor.  Really nice time, made me very grateful for #1 above.

3. My apartment.

4. Talked with Holly.

5. A sympathetic friend is going to help me with a new computer.

6. There was a big turkey left over from last night, and it’s in my freezer now.

7. I get to have Thanksgiving dinner with my pastor and his family out at the farm.

8. A proverb this morning reminded me to make sure I remember to go pick up that city job application.  (It was Proverbs 22:13) –

9. Therapy was good yesterday with Dave; and though we still didn’t really get to the root of the recently returning problem, we came up with some ways I could avert it.  I later realized some things on my own at home last night about what probably causes it, so all that was good.  I’ll keep working on it.

10. Sally said the November check was mailed yesterday.  I still don’t know which pieces were published, since I sent him the entire Part Four of my book plus everything on this link.  But I guess I’ll find out.   Recognition results in relaxation, because it means there’s less to be impatient about, in life.   God is Good.  

Moscow-Idaho

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The Spool of the Spirit

Haughty eyes and a proud heart — the unplowed field of the wicked — produce sin.
— Proverbs 21:4

It’s been pretty crazy in my world the past few days.    I’m feeling like I owe my readers some kind of explanation.  And, at the same time, I’m feeling that my readers probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

Yesterday I freaked out totally over my aging computer’s refusal to cooperate with what I had judged to be an inspired fifteen-staff template for the accompaniment score to my new musical.  The very concept of this score is something that suddenly dawned on me in a flash, giving it the feel of revelation.  In an instant, a solution to two separate problems was revealed to me — both of them longstanding issues that had kept me at a disturbing standstill with regards to my major project.   For a long time, I had been stymied by a pair of dark realities, acting in concert, one with another.  That dastardly duo of dynamics would probably best be described as such:

(1) My inability to motivate myself to create, not only a gargantuan piano-vocal score (the p-v score to my last musical taking up 242 pages on a single 6.4mb pdf file), but even a much less tedious vocal score, which probably would have consumed 100 pages at the most.  

(2) My inability to create an attractive enough package, in terms of a listenable instrumental recording of my show tunes, to attract competent singers to work with me on a demo recording.

Because I saw myself become extremely frustrated over both these issues shortly after I finished the first draft of my musical on March 4th of this year, I did not want to repeat the experience after finishing a second, more polished draft only a couple of weeks ago.  I would not want the upcoming months to be like the months following the March 4th milestone.  Yet I felt the frustration start to churn inside my belly, causing brutal upset at a time when I had expected to remain inspired! And behind that frustration was confusion.

I was confused which way to turn.  It seemed on the one hand that, if only I had sufficient money, I could attract singers to my demo project, simply by letting them know I had the cash to pay them.  But I wasn’t coming up with such money, and I could not realistically expect to do so.  So I began to contemplate that my appeal would need to pique the interest of these as-yet-unknown singers, without my having money, solely on the basis of the quality of my work.  This of course is a much higher, if not loftier, artistic objective.  So I began to ponder how to pursue it.

Although I was not too astonished that I didn’t want to embark on another 250-page piano-vocal score, it somewhat disturbed me that I was equally unwilling to dive into a mere vocal score. even though this would be a much less arduous task.  At first, I attributed my resistance to sheer laziness.  This disturbed me.  No one likes to think of themselves as a lazy person, and I would hope that my prolific prodigy, at least with respect to my own Art, would already have been adequately proven by now.

I could feel the deep depression seeking to take root in my spirit.  It was an all too familiar, and quite unwelcome, almost terrifying sensation.

But then, at approximately three in the afternoon last Saturday, something wonderful happened.  As I played with the Finale music notation file of my song The Word from Beyond — the central song of the charismatic protagonist Winston Greene — I realized that I could solve both problems at once in a way that would not cost me any money at the start, and yet keep my enthusiasm for my work renewed.   This realization was based on the revelation that a piano-vocal score, much as it would seem a basic requirement to package the show, is simply irrelevant to the kind of show that Eden in Babylon is, in a modern, technology-driven era.

What, after all, would be the purpose of a piano-vocal score?  It would be for a rehearsal pianist to accompany the singers during rehearsals, and a conductor to conduct the orchestra during performances.  But does Eden in Babylon need a rehearsal accompanist?  No, it does not.   And does it need a live orchestra?   No — it doesn’t need that either.  So why bother?

Many shows are rehearsed these days using a rehearsal CD of an accompaniment similar to that which the singers will hear during the actual performance.  Also, many shows are produced using a recording of a live orchestra.  I’ve seen such shows at theatre companies such as the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts.  The singers themselves provide the live element, and usually the audience cannot even tell that the orchestra is “on tape. “

In such performances, the role of the conductor has been altered from that of tradition.  The conductor now conducts the singers on stage, usually wearing a head-set, with which he or she merely listens to the orchestra on a recording.  

As I remembered this modern fact, I saw how it applied nicely to my own new musical, and how I could employ my expertise with Finale music notation software to inform a superior production.  For with Finale, I can replicate the sound of a pit orchestra, using the sounds of the Garritan Personal Orchestra that comes with the software.  With only a few more instruments to the template, and I would have my fifteen piece pit orchestra — without having to hire or pay a single musician.

So I set about to create the fifteen staff template described in the previous entry.   Unfortunately, however, the result of my inspired fury will live in the annals of infamy.

icarus fallingMy archaic computer simply could not handle the stress of the added instrumentation.  As it complained beyond repair, my sense of inspiration plummeted to new depths of despair.  I likened myself to Icarus, who dared fly ever higher and higher, and finally too close to the sun.  As a result, his wings were scorched, and he fell unsupported down to the Earth.  His highfalutin plans now “toast.” 

As my computer collapsed, so did I myself collapse in kind.  For what are our computers, really, but extensions of our own selves?  My self-collapse turned quickly into rage, as my class issues were aroused.   

“A rich man,” I thought, “could very easily replace his broken computer.  But me?  This could set me back for months!”  A bizarre combination of envy and indignation engulfed my spirit.

So I called a sympathetic friend from my church for emotional support.   The upshot was that the fellow gave me far more than mere consolation.  He actually wound up offering to help me with the purchase of a brand new computer!

What an unexpected relief!   For now, the bizarre boulevard on which broken dreams are strewn shall neither sport nor boast my own dreams so abruptly spawned.  For the spool of the Spirit on which such dreams are spun is a spectacle of wonder, cherished like a treasure buried deep within my core heart of hearts, in a place hitherto invisible to others, and now, in a way most mysterious, somehow becoming unearthed.  With the emergence of supportive friends in my life, the energy with which I go about constructing the Template of My Dreams need not be aborted or delayed.   I can move forward still, and mount the music of Eden in Babylon in a manner befitting the marvel that I have inwardly dreamed it to be.

I can easily extract the vocal score from the much larger score that I’ve already endeavored to build.  It will be nothing compared to the larger edifice in which it rests.  If people chide me for going about this the “hard way,” they know nothing of labors of love.  Yes, it will be a lot more work — but it will be a work of wonder that I attack with passion, not a work of drudgery that I avoid with dread.

I can also again rejoice in the miracle that is Moscow, Idaho in my life.  Back in Berkeley, people would understandably look at me and shrug, thinking: 

“Andy sure has a problem!  How can we help him to solve it?” 

They would shake their heads at a loss, and I would shake mine with them.  But here it is a completely new and refreshing dynamic: 

“Andy’s got something to offer! How can we help him to offer it?”

If you can feel the force of such a huge dynamic difference, then you can feel the fact of a former futility transformed to new promise, and purpose, and joy.   I wouldn’t trade my life today for my life of many sorrows past, for all the riches flaunted by every wealthy fool on Earth.    

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

The Template of My Dreams

There is a lot of pent up frustration inside me right now.  My computer pretty much crashed earlier, and I lost it emotionally. I’d just gotten geared up to use a new template I’d created for the instrumental accompaniment score to this most recent release of Eden in Babylon obviously the winner in my book. With added instruments from the original score, it amounts to two drum sets (midi trap and electronic GPO kit), Fender jazz fretted bass, clean Gibson electric rhythm guitar, distortion Ibanez electric lead guitar, solo viola, string section, Steinway grand piano, Hautwerp all stops organ, tenor sax section, trombone section, trumpet section, harpsichord, and flute solo.

I was gleeful as I created a new sound for Winston’s central number, The Word from Beyond until all of a sudden BAM! I overloaded the system entirely and soon was faced with a total crash.

I was able to recover my file, and start over after I let the machine cool down a bit, but things were pretty dicey there for a while. The old 2011 Dell Latitude was distinctly complaining. I, meanwhile, freaked out, as I said. Screamed and yelled and cussed. I was pretty pissed.

While I was still angry, I called a friend at my church for emotional support.  After a lengthy conversation, he agreed to help me with a new computer — although that was not the initial reason why I had called him.  He believes in me.  He feels that I truly need a new computer by now, and that my project is of value. I sent him my tune in its current condition. (I don’t dare add the singing to it — even my own measly voice — at this unstable, highly tenuous stage.)

So, when he asked what my requirements were, I decided to err on the side of caution.  I woudn’t want to get a computer with similar specs to the current one.  So I shot for bigger and better than that.  Boldly, as it were, I asked him to get me a Windows 10 machine with 6gb RAM and at least a dual core 2.7ghz processor, hopefully one with a wide screen.  I asked this huge boon of him in a spirit of necessity — because as far as further future Finale music scoring is concerned, this puppy is toast.

“The Word from Beyond”
from the new musical Eden in Babylon

Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope.
All Rights Reserved.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Gratitude List 652

1. Went back to bed for four extra hours of sleep after first getting up at 4:30. This took away the raw feeling in my throat, as though I’d been about to come down with something. Also much improved my mood, and I don’t have to convince myself that I’m sufficiently rested.

2. Realized after #1 above that I don’t really *need* to always get up *quite* so early.

3. Thankful that the current freedom of schedule permits extra sleep – because in my case, at this stage, Sleep is a major healer.

4. Awoke to interesting email replies from Guy M. and Lynne Fisher, two very bright and vibrant people.

5. Embracing my Extrovert. Getting ready for a more public life.

6. Despite #5, I rejoice in that I neither need nor desire to leave the fort today, except to go running. Have actually been enjoying holding on to cash — (rather than enjoying spending it.)

7. Was alerted to a non-invitation-only Webinar this Monday at 1 pm, free and participatory, for the purpose of ending classism. It promises a positive approach, and is hosted by an expert on classism and an expert on sociocracy. (Contact me for info, if interested.)

8. During the extra four hours sleep, I had a continuous rush of symbolic dreams, all along the same theme, and all informative, and pertinent. It behooves me to be obedient in this matter.

9. Can’t believe what a better frame of mind I’m in after the much greater amount of sleep. It’s as though a part of my brain is functioning again that had earlier been disabled.

10. I gained a lot from a brief phone conversation with Howard before the Taize service yesterday, and also from a brief chat with Paul D. Also enjoyed a lengthy phone conversation with Holly. It’s nice to have supportive friends at this time. Thanks, guys! God is Love.

Another New Development

There’s been another new development — possibly even a breakthrough – insofar as my goal to produce the new musical Eden in Babylon is concerned.  

It looks like there’s a very strong chance that the University will permit the use of their Theater Arts students in a reading of the script, to be held at some point after the 14th of January.   

This came about when my assistant Danielle asked me if I had ever thought about simply walking into the Theater Arts Department with a hard copy of my script, and asking if they had any ideas as to how to expedite a work-in-progress production.  I had to tell her honestly that the thought had never crossed my mind.   For one thing, I really didn’t have a script with which I was completely comfortable until a little over a week ago.   Nor was  the first coil-bound copy of the script created until six days ago.   So it seemed like an idea whose time was ripe.

The reception I received at the Department office far exceeded my expectations.  The Media Relations Assistant turned out to be a wonderfully warm and supportive person.  During a very pleasant and informative chat of about a half hour or so, I was advised of the Department philosophy: 

“Plays are not meant to be read —
they are meant to be acted, directed,
and produced.”

So while they would not read my play further than a quick skim, I was assured that if I sent them a email letter of intent with script attached, my email would be forwarded to all undergraduate and graduate Acting students in an effort to encourage their involvement.

group-reading-2The MRA also told me that my having a large cast (27) would actually work to my advantage in this context, because students are typically much less intimidated with the larger-cast projects than if, say, it were a cast of two.  She said that they generally are enthused about the large group effort, and eager to participate, free of charge.

Because I had been expecting anything from a cold shoulder to a run–through-the-ringer, I found the brief encounter to be a catalyst to further inform my path.  It occurs to me that I might as well take the vocal score to the School of Music and ask the director of the jazz choir if there are any singing majors who would like to sing on a demo recording of the project.  it can’t hurt.  And who knows?  They might even work for free.

In general, I don’t feel the sense of postpartum that I felt last March after having given birth to such a huge baby.  At the same time, I know a few things about my bipolarity as it can manifest over the long-term.  If for no other reason than to stave off another period of deep depression and artistic frustration, I think it behooves me to optimize the current energy — and strike while the iron is hot.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

 

“Get a Job!”

The spot where I used to sit on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley was in close proximity to a pub where Cal students would often become intoxicated.  I usually left before this could happen, but occasionally a drunken fellow would emerge in the daytime.

One day I was sitting there quietly, lamenting as usual the fact that too many people were approaching me telling me where the organized meals were, where the shelters were, how to get government “crazy money,” and so forth.  It tended to depress me, because I obviously knew all that stuff already.  What I wanted was some cash and some food for my stomach, so I could smile at them before they moved on.

But then this drunken guy came out of the pub, even though it was only about two in the afternoon.  He was making loud abusive comments toward women, and generally seemed pretty disgusting.  Of course, I probably seemed pretty disgusting too — just the sight of me sitting there — even though I wasn’t saying anything.  (As you know, if you’ve been reading me, my whole gig was to never open my mouth, and simply sit there, holding up an informative sign.)

Eventually, the young man staggered his way toward me, and stopped in front of my sign, staring at it silently, as though dumbfounded.

sign

Lifting up his eyes after what seemed an eternity, he then began to stare directly at me for an even longer eternity. Finally, he spoke.

“Get a job, man!!  Get off your butt!   Get a hustle!!!” 

He then staggered off of my spot just as sure as he’d staggered onto it.  I watched him stagger away, and once he was out of sight, I turned my head and saw another young man.  This new fellow, obviously more sober, was laughing.  Whether he was laughing at me, at him, with me, or with him — I cannot say.   Whatever the case, he apparently found the situation amusing.

I decided to break my rule at that point.  (That is to say, I opened my mouth.)

“You know what?” I said.

“What?” he asked.

“He’s right.”

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Somebody Gave Easily

Lately there has been a gnawing sensation within me that a critical part of my story has been left out. I’ve been wanting to relate a certain turn of events that occurred in July 2016, after I had left Berkeley, but before I had moved up to Idaho. It may explain why it is that I am so passionate about what I am writing, and why I now know that my life has meaning.

To provide some background, I left Berkeley, California on the day that I received my monthly Social Security check for July. On that day, I bought a laptop. Knowing that four laptops had been stolen in a three year period in Berkeley, and that I was a known “mark” for the thugs and gang bangers who hung out by the local rapid transit station, my plan was to silently leave town before anyone caught wind of my acquisition.

The city where I landed on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula was a small town of about 25,000 composed almost entirely of upper-class Caucasians. I selected it because it was noted for a low crime rate and a peaceful aura. However, it wasn’t particularly friendly toward outdoor homeless types, and after the second time my sleep was interrupted by an officer of the law, I agreed to be transferred from my spot behind the local library to a shelter about twenty five miles South of there, in a more industrial neck of the woods.

At first, I was very impressed with the shelter. They had a number of programs designed to help homeless people get back on their feet and regain self-esteem. It was, however, assumed that I was an alcoholic or a drug addict, and daily twelve-step meetings were required. Still, I acquiesced.  I think twelve-step meetings are great, in general.  The only thing that bothered me was the assumption that I needed one. 

About five days into my sojourn at the shelter, an unfortunate turn of events took place. In the Men’s Barracks, where I slept on a bunk in close proximity to about twenty-five other men, I caught a flu.  I went to the hospital, where I was told I had “viral bronchitis” — which I’m pretty sure is just a fancy name for a high-follutin’ flu.  I definitely do not have bronchitis in any other sense.  In any case, I was given the usual stuff, and told to “rest in bed for ten days.” 

But when I went back to the shelter, they told me that because I had a contagious disease, I could no longer stay at the shelter.  This disturbed me.   After all, I had obviously caught the flu at the shelter.   So I was not the only person there with a flu.  Half of the guys in the barracks were coughing, sneezing, and wheezing from all their cigarette smoke anyway.  Here I’m this guy with an unusually strong immune system, who had caught exactly two flus in the past fifteen years, works out, doesn’t smoke or drink — it very much upset me that I was being reprimanded for my honesty.

So I went back to the hospital and explained what happened, hoping they would let me in to recover.  But at the hospital, I was told that they couldn’t show any special preference for me, just because I was homeless.  

“I know you have the flu, Andy, but let’s face it.  Homeless people come in here trying to get an overnight stay all the time, for all kinds of reasons.  If I were to let you in, I’d have to let in the whole lot of you.   I’m sorry, Andy, but that’s just the way it is.”

A rush of numbing fright consumed me.  I suddenly realized that I was going to have to fend with this flu outdoors!  I’d seen homeless people die overnight after catching a flu!  I feared death – but I was too young to die — and generally a very healthy, fit human being.   But what could I do?

Throughout the next five days, my condition worsened.  I was sneezing, and often visibly perspiring.  The driver of the all-night bus stopped letting me inside the bus at night, because all the other homeless people who used the bus as a sleeping spot were complaining that I might be contagious.  I told him that viral bronchitis is only contagious in the first two to three days.  But this was to no avail.

Then one night, something came over me.   And this is why I now know that my life has meaning.   I was walking by the Sequoia Station in Redwood City, wondering where to sleep that night, when suddenly I dropped down on my knees and screamed at the top of my lungs.

God!!  If there is Anybody out there, I don’t care Who you are, or what your Name is, if you can feel me, where I’m coming from, please — I do not care about drug addiction or alcoholism, or mental illness, or being a lazy bum or a slacker or a slouch – I care about Homelessness!  Please put an END to twelve years of totally unpredictable, totally unreliable, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, ANYTIME ANYWHERE HOMELESSNESS!!! In the name of Jesus Christ I pray –
AMEN!!!!

Granted, it was an impulsive emotional outburst, and I’m sure any theologian worth their salt could easily chop holes in the wording.  But I felt an eerie sense of calm when I got back up to my feet. 

I looked around.  The night was still and quiet.  My spirit was overwhelmed with the clear feeling that Somebody had heard that prayer — and that Somebody would honor it.

A couple days later, as the symptoms of the flu subsided, I remembered an associate of mine, a now retired music teacher with whom I had worked when I was still a sheltered elementary school music teacher making a modest living on the Peninsula, before all this homelessness ensued.   He had earlier said that if I could choose a spot outside of the State of California where the rents would be cheaper and I could conceivably live off of my Social Security, he would spot me the one-way ticket.

The rest of my story I have told.  Here, there, and elsewhere.  Within forty-eight hours, I had rented a room at Friendship Square on a temporary basis.  Three days later I signed a one year lease on an apartment that would have rented for $900 in Berkeley, and was only $275 in Moscow, Idaho.  I alighted upon the city of my birth for the first time in sixty-three years — a city that I knew nothing about whatsoever, other than the fact that I was born here.   Three weeks later, I applied for a part time job and was hired — after years of being considered unemployable and mentally incapable of working in the State of California. 

I only later learned that Idaho Repertory Theatre was founded in this city on the year I was born, and that the Lionel Hampton School of Music sports a city-wide jazz festival every year here — in the town where I was born.  I only later walked through one of the city gates, and saw the city proudly proclaiming itself: “The Heart of the Arts.” 

I’m not going to ask you to believe in God, if you don’t already, after having read these words.  The word “God” after all, is only a word.  If you ask ten people the meaning of that Word, you are likely to get ten different answers.  I know what I believe, and you probably do too.

But I will ask you to believe that my life has meaning — and purpose.  If you can help me in any way to move that purpose forward, please do. I’ve been sleeping in gutters for almost half of my adult life.  That I did not die a meaningless death on the streets of Berkeley is an absolute miracle.   I have written a full-length musical about homelessness since I have been off the streets, in addition to numerous blogs, and five articles published in Street Spirit.   If you can help me in any way with the money I need to make a demo recording of three songs from my musical, please believe me:

giving-is-easy-620

That one has got to be true.  After all, Somebody gave pretty easily — once I finally, earnestly asked.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Gratitude List 644

1. Ran in the new shoes for the first time yesterday.  They fit perfectly – best fit I’ve had in years.   Also I felt fine running even though I hadn’t run for about a month.   Did two miles (just checked the distance on MapMyRun) and felt good the whole way.

2. Showered right afterwards, felt good.  Sure is nice to be able to take a shower without having to wait in a line with fifty other guys, some of whom would no doubt be of dubious moral character.

3. Carnation Instant Breakfast, vanilla flavor.  Too good.   Also made my Folgers Classic at the right strength this morning.  When it runs out, I get to buy Kirkland Columbian, like they served at the North Berkeley Senior Center and the Hillcrest Lodge here in town, best coffee yet.

4. Got a really nice card from all the tellers at my bank, and the bank manager Tamara, thanking me for one year of loyalty.   That’s a first!!

5. My daughter called last night for the first time in a while and we talked at length.  She seemed good, and wants to call me every day now, for which I’m glad.

6. Nice chat with my lifelong friend Kent from Stockton yesterday morning.  He always sounds so positive these days, and his energy helps me to focus on the positive.

7. Really good work with R.J. yesterday at the Recovery Center, got me to thinking constructively about my codependency and other issues.

8. Also nice chatting with Susan B. at the church when she was practicing on the Marceua.  She taught Organ for 35 years at the University and is a very nice lady.  Turns out she made the switch from Piano to Organ as early as 11th grade, and that she (like me) learned Piano through the Schaum and Thompson courses, before piano pedagogy got hijacked by modern weirdos.  

9. I have 250 followers on Eden in Babylon now.  

10. Received the first knock on my door last night and learned two things: (1) I am totally not practiced at not answering the door, even when there’s a peephole and I can see that I don’t know the gents.  (2) I am totally not down for theological debate with Mormon missionaries at this time in my life.  Well, at least they weren’t tweakers waking me up at 3am to ask me for a cigarette lighter, and not believing me when I tell them that I don’t smoke.  Progress not Perfection – God is GOOD.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Gratitude List 642

This one’s from two mornings ago, but I just thought I’d post it today.   Further gratitude to follow. 

1. Got my dystrophic toenail removed yesterday. Within 48 hours I’ll be running in my new Mizuno running shoes (that I got for free – a gift, and not a ground score, either.)

2. Did the wash last night. Nice to have a decent, reasonably priced washer-dryer less than 25 feet away from me. Remembered to wash my beanie this time — nice to have a clean beanie wrapped around my ears in the Winter.

3. Planned out my meals for the rest of the month and bought $110 worth of groceries at Winko’s. Amazing some of the prices there – and now I’m all stocked up.

4. Nice to see all the people from my church standing by the doorway in the clinic when I stepped out from surgery. I’m grateful for my church — for the people there being so nice.

5. Though I freaked out last night, when I realized I had locked myself out of my bathroom, I was able to break in with the aid of an earpiece of an old pair of readers that I used as a wedge. Sure is nice to have my own bathroom, and clean towels now, too. This is the first time I’ve had a place with my own bathroom since 2010 — and it’s half of that rent, and in a much better location.

6. Kathleen W. from the church liked my writings in Street Spirit. She said they were “very insightful” (a nice compliment) and she forwarded them to her son in Seattle, who works with the homeless there.

7. Slept unusually well last night, for seven hours.

8. This is the first time I’ve had a place to live in as long as I can remember where I wasn’t all tripped out about my neighbors and/or roommates. It’s helping me to be as much of a homebody as I’ve always wanted to be, and I bet that the rent difference is easily made up for in the lack of coffee out and meals out. I don’t feel as much of a need to go out for stuff I can have at home. There’s nothing to *escape* from here. (Below freezing helps too.)

9. I’ve been starting to “hear music in my head” again, since I got this new apartment — for the first time since I left Berkeley.

10. Our house is a very very very fine house
with two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
’cause of You 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

No Longer an Island

The Medieval poet-cleric John Donne is credited with having said a number of fairly amazing things.   But the one that’s always stuck in my mind is: “No man is an island unto himself.”  I realize that this is the case, at least metaphysically speaking.  But it sure feels like I’ve been an “island” — trying to get this project happening.  

john-donne-hires-cropped
John Donne

This is why I’m going to take the liberty at this time to express how grateful I am for the qualities of  practicality and common sense that characterize my new assistant, Danielle Stephens.   As has so often been the case in the past, Danielle seems to compliment my skill set by being strong in the areas where I am weak.   But what I’m really so grateful for is that I am no longer an “island unto myself.”  

On my end, you see, it’s simply necessary that any donations to my project not go to me personally, and that they do go to somebody like Danielle.  For one thing, I don’t have any common sense at all, as near as I can tell after almost sixty-five years of fumbling through this mysterious world of ours.  And probably the most practical thing I’ve ever done is to turn everything over to Danielle.

For another thing, it seems to make sense — even to me, who has no common sense — that my personal and business dealings ought to remain separate.   This is especially the case now that I’ve moved into a more expensive apartment.  Although I’ve figured out how to manage my monthly income in such a way as to make ends meet, I don’t even want to be tempted to take money from donations intended to further the project, and wind up spending it on personal needs.

This is where Danielle comes in.   Her particular strengths are, as I’ve said, complimentary to mine.  Consider, for example, what has happened in the past week alone.  During the past seven days, I have finished my 2nd draft of the Eden in Babylon script.  (This is why, by the way, you haven’t heard from me recently.  I’ve been obsessive about making certain adjustments that had gnawed at me during the six months or so when I basically didn’t look at the script.  It took me two months to complete the revision, and in the past seven days have been especially focused toward this end.)

So I got the idea that I probably ought to self-publish it through Lulu or CreateSpace, and also run off a hard copy of it to lug around with me and show people in “real life.”  I didn’t know how much any of this would cost.  But a few days ago, before I was even finished with the revision, I asked Danielle if she would send me forty dollars out of the donation fund, where she has been patiently holding the money.

Immediately, she advised me that there would be no reason to send me the money until I had actually finished the revision and knew exactly what I was going to do with it.  I thought about it for a moment or two; and realized that she is, of course, right.  What’s the point of having her hold the money, if she’s going to send it right back to me for no clear reason whatsoever?

This is where she and I differ – in a good way.  In my mind, there is usually no difference between the forty dollars that I will “probably” spend in a “pretty good way’ at some point further down the road.  In her mind, she needs to know the exact reason for the expenditure, needs to know that it’s justified, and probably even would like to see a receipt.  

So – now that I’m finally done with the script revision, I’m going to go over to Fed-Ex, run it off, put a nice cover on it, and send Danielle the receipt.  How can I go wrong?  I am no longer an island!

I also want to express my gratitude for the two small donations that were offered within the past week.  Without them, I really couldn’t have rationalized running off a personal hard copy of my work.  With them, I feel that I am getting myself something that I not only can use business-wise, but that I can keep for myself as my own — a symbol of all the hard work I have put into this creation.  

Without your donations, and the help of my assistant, not even that single gift would have been possible.  So once again — and you know who you are — thank you for being so supportive of Eden in Babylon.  We’ll get this show on the road yet.  

Donations Gratefully Accepted Here 

can-do

ANYTHING HELPS
GOD BLESS

                                                                                                      

 

The Voices That Count

In the sixties and early, pre-Watergate 70’s, we heard a lot about the Generation Gap.  It seemed that the schism between those who represented the Establishment, and those who had “dropped out” or represented what we called the counter culture, was much too wide for the sake of constructive communication.  Much tension occurred as a result, and it often morphed into violence.

That gap was called the Generation Gap because those who comprised the Establishment were substantially older than those of the emerging counter-culture.   But today, I find ourselves immersed in an even more serious gap than the age-based gap — a gap that is based on class.  

Speaking in general terms, it has not been uncommon for there to be a millionaire in office.  But a cabinet composed largely of billionaires?   That’s a new one on me, as of 2016.  And I’ve been watching this kind of stuff go down since the sixties – since before Watergate – since before the War on Drugs.   

And what about on the other side?   Poverty has abounded forever.  But for so many poor people to lack roofs over their heads?   For poverty to engulf the disabled and the developmentally challenged?  The Class Gap has never been so wide.

There has always been division – but not like this.   There has always been tension – but this is unprecedented.  And what about communication?  It’s almost impossible for those in the privileged classes to even understand what the impoverished are trying to say.  This creates frustration among the underprivileged, and frustration turns to anger, turns to outrage, turns to hate.  I see a lot of outright hatred emerging from those who struggle,  as they turn to those whose material and monetary wherewithal make them better equipped to help balance the scales, and receive only insensitivity and indifference in return.

I have lived almost sixty-five years, and I have watched this trend worsen.  We tend to frame our differences around race, gender, culture, ability, sexual orientation and age.  But seen through a lens less often considered, many of these differences really boil down to differences in socio-economic class.

I have worked for the wealthy, and I have generally found them to be very nice people: courteous, accommodating, and caring.   I have also been down and out, and have lived on the streets, where the tension is much more intrusive, and etiquette is held to be unnecessary — so much so that any use of it is often viewed to be hypocrisy.   On the other hand, the language that is commonly used for communication on the streets is often regarded as crass or even abusive among those for whom such communications are unnecessary.

A poor person who is broke, who finds five dollars on the street, will naturally see it as gift for which to be grateful.  But when I told a person who was wealthy that I had found five dollars, that person literally shouted: “Shut the f—k up!”   Once when I was renting a room from a very wealthy landlord, he came down and saw me counting the pennies on the table.  Scowling in disgust, he shouted: “Stop that!”  When I was in a similar position, and I asked a friend for five dollars, he replied: “Five dollars is not going to solve your problem, Andy.”  But five dollars could have kept me alive another day.

I saw five homeless people die overnight, having preexisting medical conditions, unable to withstand one more night in the cold.  Had any of them had but five dollars, they could have gotten inside a bus and slept throughout the night.   Granted, the problem of homelessness would not have been solved by five dollars.  But a far greater problem might have been solved — the problem known as death.  

This is why frustration mounts, for that same person was perfectly magnanimous toward me when he wasn’t hung up on needing to “solve my problem.”  Nor was I asking him to provide a solution, as though nothing but a detailed plan to get me off the streets would be satisfactory.  I was only requesting a small amount of money, fearing an overnight death in the cold, as I had seen my other friends die.  So naturally, it is easy to rage and roar at the rich in light of such a constant cold shoulder.  But to do so does little good for the cause, for some have done so with violence.   

I have written a musical that explores the effects of classism, social stigma, and homelessness on the youth of today’s America.  I conceived of this musical because I have been there.  The impoverished may not be able to afford tickets to this musical once it is finally produced.   But the impoverished, the homeless, and the underprivileged, are not the ones who need to see this production.  Those who need to see it — at least according to its author’s intent — are those who have never experienced the energy of the streets, nor of the outdoors, of Nature, and the terrifying adventures thereof.  I write from a position of one unsheltered, and I write to the sheltered – not to shatter their shelter, nor scatter the remains of their relics abroad to destruction, but to show them the shamelessness of those who are without, that they might be moved, and share of the shelter that is within.

The gap created by class distinctions and social stigma in America has always been wide.  Throughout history, it’s been very wide, and a very difficult one to bridge.  But it can be bridged — and it must be bridged — if America is to endure.   After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.  But we do nothing to strengthen our weak links.  We throw our elders into poorly run board-and-care homes, rather than care for them ourselves.  And some of the shelters into which we throw our homeless are little more than glorified prisons.  Should we really be that quick to discard from our company those who have lost their homes?   

viktor frankl
Viktor Frankl

Many of us who have escaped the horrors of continuous homelessness seem driven, or even desperate, to convey a message that at first may appear to be unintelligible.  A similar dynamic took place, on a much more grotesque, grandiose scale, when those who survived the Nazi concentration camps emerged with a sudden upsurge of vigor.  Viktor Frankl reports that many such survivors entered immediately into massive consumerism, guzzling beer and gobbling down huge helpings of their favorite foods, of which they’d been deprived.  In Frankl’s case, he launched wholeheartedly into the book that became Man’s Search for Meaning.  They who have survived the conditions of homelessness often display a similar spike of renewed motivation, drive, and sense of purpose. 

The gush of enthusiasm with which we who have survived the conditions of homelessness often seek to reveal the hidden secrets of the Homeless Experience can be off-putting.  But the message itself is little more than a restatement of time-honored principles that have helped hold this nation together for over two hundred years.  I did not coin the phrase: “United We Stand; Divided We Fall.”  Still, because of the frustration we tend to express when we feel we are not being heard, and the violent, hostile nature of a conspicuous minority among those who seek to express it, they who have the power to do something about the matter quite naturally turn their ears to more appealing voices.  If only they knew that in so doing, they are shunning the voices that count.  

By Nature

Note: I tried several times to post this on my facebook timeline (where it belongs) but they wouldn’t let me do so — for some reason.   So here goes.

BY NATURE (an excerpt from my personal diary)

It seems I often awaken in a depressed state these days.  But the depressed state usually is based on extreme black-and-white perceptions about what others think of me.  These perceptions soften within the first ten minutes of the day, as I gradually realize that everything can or should be viewed in black-and-white terms.  While it is true that I often feel extremely misunderstood, it is not the case that everybody misunderstands me.  I can think of four people who understand me right off the top: Norman, Kathy, Danielle, and Jack.  And I’m sure there are others — or at least there can be, if I branch out and start meeting the right people.  

Yesterday morning was a case in point.  black and whiteI awoke depressed as usual, but was able to transform the depression into a sense of quietude. In that quietude, I prayed for all the people who had been troubling me. Then I sipped my coffee, and it was the best coffee I had ever tasted. I felt blessed, for having done the right thing. I even felt I could go back to bed, and I had the time to do so, to catch more sleep before Writer’s Guild.

Instead, I logged on to Facebook. It wasn’t long before the sense of over-stimulation, combined with loss of control, me becoming rattled, my nerves being strip-mined, my balance off-set by all the notifications, buzzes, comments, etc. was too much for me. Trying to order my responses seeming next-to-impossible, while imposing chat windows pop up in the way of my efforts to moderate the new Lincoln Summer Theatre group, and all kinds of other stressors, gradually put me into battle mode, feeling as though I was a soldier in battle needing to fire at the nearest, most dangerous approaching tank.

My sense of peace shot up to high anxiety within an hour or so, as my sense of inability to control the Power Greater Than Myself that is Facebook expanded beyond all reasonable proportion. I enjoy being connected with wonderful people from the “past” (?) in the “present” (?), but isn’t this all a but unnatural? If there were a meeting in quote-un-quote “real life,” where there were twenty people in the group, and I didn’t like one of them, I would either stay in the group, or drop out of the group. I wouldn’t have the unnatural social power to simply “block” the person I didn’t like, not see him or hear any of his statements, and yet still interact with the other nineteen. This is unnatural.

It is unnatural, and is what is unnatural healthy for us? I begin to doubt it.

What is natural is that life runs its course from birth to death; we move from job to job, town to town, and in some cases, from marriage to marriage. I’m a Sicilian who has a hard time letting go of people, places and things. By nature, I am never done with anyone. By genetic nature, I either stay friends with them, or if they dump me, I am still not done with them, because I will track them down to the ends of the earth. By nature, I reward loyalty and punish betrayal. That’s my nature, and I struggle to overcome the extremism thereof by exercising restraint and observing traditional standards of morality and etiquette. For another person, this may not be so much of a struggle, because it is not their nature, and their nature may provide them with other struggles – as well as other strengths – naturally.

So is it healthy that I, who already is struggling against my nature telling me not to move on, not to let go of people, places, and things that haven’t worked out for me, to be enveloped in an atmosphere that continues to flash the very people in my face that I am already struggling to let go of? Twice now — and I am not faulting anyone for doing this out of utter innocence and good nature — I have had to see the face of a person whom I thought was a very good friend of mine, flashed in my face (so to speak) on Facebook Messenger, knowing that this person had told me never to talk to him again and that any further contact from me would be considered harassment.

This is not natural. It doesn’t happen in what we used to call “real life.” I would have never reconnected with that individual (on Facebook) to begin with. He would have been somebody I’d have stopped seeing whenever we first parted ways — by nature — back in the seventies or so.

I have enough trouble “moving on” and “letting go” as it is. Does anybody feel me?

Here’s what happened to me personally after I had been rattled yesterday morning by making the dumb decision to log on to Facebook at a moment of idle down time. I became progressively more uptight, and finally drained. I had only slept three hours anyway, and I figured I had about an hour to kill before Writer’s Guild, so I went down for more rest. But did I rest? No way.

Me personally, I was almost instantly assaulted by what seemed like a demon spirit from hell, grabbing ahold of my neck and my back, thrusting his/her arm around my waist, and taunting me with the words: “Okay, Mr. Wonderful – how does *that* grab you?”

Now I’m glad I no longer live in the State of California or a densely populated urban area, where even making that admission might cause somebody to dial 9-1-1 and I find all my artistic progress further delayed by yet another pointless stay in a psychiatric facility. Just for speaking my truth.

The point is, had I not logged onto Facebook, had I followed my gut and gone back to bed while in a rested state, I would not have become so uptight that I would have risked entering into an hour’s worth of hell in sleep paralysis, fully conscious of my surroundings, knowing that I was dreaming and having a specific sort of nightmare, and unable to move my body for an entire hour, except for rare intervals when I came to, through the use of a couple techniques I learned through research, and then descending into sleep paralysis again. It is not fun.

Nor is it caused by Facebook. But if that’s the kind of height of anxiety that Facebook can trigger (not *cause*) in me, (not *you*), then what the heck am I doing here? This is the 5th Facebook I’ve had in ten years. Every other one of them imploded. Who am I trying to fool? Will I be any better able to handle this Facebook than any of the others?

rotary telephoneOf course not.

So here’s what I am going to do. I am going to go down and get a rotary telephone, like we had back in the Good Old Days, when the phone would ring, and we all would simply answer it. We weren’t afraid of each other in those days. We didn’t have the unnatural power to block out any and every person we didn’t happen to want to deal with from our lives. We didn’t burn bridges left and right. We built them — in ways that are natural. I’m going to plug it in my wall, and I am going to make sure there is no Call Waiting in any form attached, no touch tone, nothing.

Even when two of my Facebook friends were cool enough to actually indulge my natural neurosis and agree to talk with me on the phone, the very next day I had to contend with the phenomenon of Call Waiting, whereby I couldn’t even get through a conversation with before the little “bloop bloop” that tells me somebody else is calling kept continually interrupting my focus, as though this new person calling in was the “most immediate and threatening danger on the battlefield.”

I’m not saying that you guys necessarily encounter these same difficulties. But there’s a reason why I do, and just has to do with the way I’m wired. Call it ADHD or what-have-you. Every single time a Facbeook Messenger box pops up while I’m trying to do something else, my attention is *immediately* diverted to the Messenger, I ex it off, and then I return to whatever I was doing before, asking myself, “Now, where was I?” Sometimes I even forget completely what I was doing before. Sometimes I even forget that what I was doing was the only reason I had logged on to Facebook in the first place, like, for example, to find somebody’s phone number that they had given me in a Facebook comment, or to ask the previous tenant of my new apartment how to turn on the heater.

THIS IS NOT NATURAL. And correct me if I’m wrong. Am I the only person who is tired of having to tolerate all these unnatural social media weirdnesses? Probably not. And that’s part of the reason why this time I will not destroy my Facebook, I will not give up yet again, only to find that I miss everybody, wonder how they’re all doing, and start a Facebook again. I will take my lumps, I will take my chances, and I will bow before the monarch that is Facebook, while at the same time doing my best to give homage to my own King, whose name, by the way, is Jesus.

So – not upset, not defeated, not exasperated, not infuriated. Just a little miffed, and figured it was about time I spoke my piece, as cogently and clearly as I can.

But do me a favor. Let’s not make this entirely about my “mental health,” OK? I decided my mental health was either shot to smithereens and irredeemable, or else completely irrelevant when I first made the decision on August 8, 2006 to drop out completely from the Mainstream of Modern American Life and try to become the best Writer I could be. After all, every effort to become the best Musician or Teacher I could be was pretty much consumed in a confluence of losing one job after another due to things like absent-mindedness, tardiness, or general inability to keep up with the insanely fast pace of workaday urban life.  I’ve got a fast enough pace going on inside me as it is, without anybody else having to add to that velocity.

I’m a Writer. I wrote an entire musical about social dropouts, why we drop out, and what we can all do about it. To hell with my mental health! Click on the link below, and LET’S GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD.

Daylight’s burning. I’m not going to be around forever.

Please consider making an any amount donation to Eden in Babylon at this time.  The stuff that gets people interested in original musicals by unknown playwrights unfortunately does not grow on trees.   

can-do

Anything Helps
God Bless

Please note.  As of October 30, 2017, all donations to this cause will be sent to my assistant, Danielle Stephens.  Further information as to this arrangement may be found here.   Donations in any amount may be made safely here.   

Gratitude List 631

1. It is a relief to look at my computer screen and not have to see multiple Facebook messenger messages popping up with all kinds of over-stimulus from people who seem overexcited, getting in the way of everything I am trying to do.  The key is to simply log off of Facebook, then this maddening phenomenon does not occur.

2. I finally figured out how to use the Pocket Juice, and I should have a charge on my cell phone soon.

3. Every morning before I enter into the Inter-world, my thoughts are always about J, B, and E.  They are not thoughts of resentment, but thoughts of fear.  It is good to know what it is really on my mind — what the Internet is burying.  I pray that I be delivered from this heart of fear, and that they all come back to God, in His time.

4. The sadness I feel does not need to be despair.  The sadness can help me to see the error of my own thinking, and to turn my own heart back to God.  (2 Cor 7:10).  I didn’t feel that when I first awoke, but I feel it now, and therefore I have hope.

5. I was blessed to know that my list had blessed R.J. first thing yesterday morning.  I also met her kids, and I see that they’ve been brought up right.

6. Despite that Facebook appears in my head to be this horror that deceives the people, this massive thrust of urban pacification by the Powers That Be, designed to keep people from seeing what is actually going on in society, it nonetheless has brought me together with some very wonderful people whom otherwise I’d not have connected with.

7. I learned from the U.I. web site that the Hartung does rent out to independent contractors not associated with the University or the remains of Idaho Rep.  I can learn what the rates are, and plug that into the budget involving funding from the people who may be interested in helping me to self-produce my musical.  It’s also the perfect house size (417, I had aimed for 400), and has excellent lighting and sound facilities.

8. Having run out of coffee, I’m using Lipton tea bags that Young Paul left in the apartment.   They aren’t working yet, but I can get coffee for free at Gritman before long.

9. Nice of Cindi, my Presbyterian friend in South Carolina, to pass on her late husband’s running shoes.  Also huge of H. to help me with registration fees.

10. The sleep paralysis yesterday morning was horrible.  But sleep itself is a large part of the solution.  I’m rested now, and I’ve learned something.  Thank God for sleep.  God is making my crooked paths straight. 

The Dialectic (Part Four)

This is it, guys.  It’s the final post in the four-part series known as “The Dialectic.”  It is what it is.  I’m moving on now.   I’ve done my part, as best I can.  The rest is up to God.  

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. At this point, you’ve basically been reduced to a literary device that makes it easier to get my point across.

Q. From superego to literary device in one blog alone?  I’m crushed.

A. Join the club.  I’ve been crushed for thirteen years.

Q. So what’s your point?

A. My point is that $50,000 is not a whole lot of money to somebody.   Maybe not you, and certainly not me — but somebody.  Maybe not one person.  Maybe a group of people.  Maybe someone wants to invest?  Fine.  We’ll start talking about a return.   Maybe someone’s a patron of the Arts, and would simply like to be a donor.  Or maybe somebody just likes me — believes in me — and would like to see me succeed.  One way or the other, the $50,000 is obtainable, as long as we draw the right people to the cause.

Q. And what is the cause?

A. The cause is to produce the musical Eden in Babylon, which deals with the effects of homelessness on the youth of today.  I have placed within this piece a persistent suggestion that the solution to homelessness lies in better communication between those who are sheltered and those who are not — between those who have not yet seen the streets, and those who are forced to live there.   I know it’s sounds like I’m dreaming, so let me ask you this: why not?  What do we have to lose?   It just might be that if we embrace our common humanity, whether we be rich or poor, sheltered or homeless, we will bridge the Class Gap while it still glares, before it tears us apart.

Q. Why Musical Theatre?  Why did you choose that genre?

A. Largely, because that’s where my proficiency lies.  But also, the classic view of the traditional musical is that it is intended to present life, not as it is, but as it ought to be.  Man of La Mancha.  Carousel.  Camelot.  See a show like that — a show like mine – and you don’t leave for home in despair.

Q. Well then surely there must be patrons of the Arts somewhere who will resonate with such a cause.  But who will be these people be?

A. Well, they certainly won’t be poor people.

Q. But isn’t Eden in Babylon an exposé on classism?

A. It is.  So what?

Q. Well, don’t you think that the people who might have the kind of money to back you are the very people whom you have often antagonized?

A. They are.  But fences can be mended.  In fact – they must be mended.  It’s what the play is all about.

Q. But won’t you run the risk of antagonizing them again?  Or antagonizing people like them?   The kinds of people who tend to piss you off?

A. There are always risks involved in an enterprise of this scope.  Take no risks, and you get nowhere.  Besides, they no longer piss me off.

Q. They don’t?

A. Not often.  Not for the reasons that earlier got my goat.  You see, I am not in the state of demoralization in which I often found myself when I was destitute and frustrated, earlier in life.  In those days, I actually lived in all the indignity and insanity displayed in this show.  Today, on the other hand, all of my personal needs are met.  I’m in a decent living situation, in a secluded setting, with solitude — the kind of environment a Writer dreams of attaining.   I enjoy a fixed income, payable rent, eatable food, and lots of nice running trails, where I work out, and work things out, and sometimes let off steam.  I’m in a good place in life today, on a day that — though beautiful — cannot promise to last forever.   Best to strike while the iron’s still hot.   

Q. But what about the way that the wealthy are portrayed in the story itself?  Are they not the antagonists?

A. Wherever did you get that idea?  None of the three main antagonists are wealthy.  Two of them are only what you might call “mainstream” – those who are hired to serve the needs of the wealthy, to promote their interests.  I used to do that myself back in the 90’s with in a studio apartment with a Toyota Corolla, driving from one large home to another, giving piano lessons to children, cracking jokes with the parents, and sitting behind a baby grand piano at night in a three piece suit at a five star restaurant.  Did that mean I was wealthy?  Heavens, no!  I made about $33,000 a year before taxes.  There’s a big difference between having money to hire, and being hired by those who have it.

Q. What about the third antagonist?  The really, really bad guy whose name is Johnny James?

A. You’ve got his number already, buddy boy.  J.J.’s a homeless drug dealer — my own antagonist, as it were, on the streets.

Q. So the wealthy side with the protagonist?  With Winston Greene?

A. They appear to oppose him, but at the same time, they love him.  They are only misguided as to how best he might be loved.  For they are those of his birth family, and his original community.  They have sheltered him his whole life long, in an effort to shield him from that which they fear.  Naturally he rebels, and in so doing, learns that what they thought was so fearful, need not be feared at all.

Q. And he succeeds in getting this revelation across to them?

A. In the end, he does.  And then, those whom they feared, they at last embrace.  Those from whom they hid their eyes, they now see with eyes opened wide with clear vision.  So they let them in, to share in their privilege, and never be homeless again.

Q. So there is a happy ending!

A. Of course.  Why would there not be?

Q. But don’t they sing an elegy to Winston Greene?  At a jailhouse memorial, in Act Two, Scene Two?

A. Let’s just say, as Mark Twain once put it, that the reports of his death have been greatly exaggerated.

Q. And what about that horribly demonic, death metal Opening, the song Intervention, which depicts psychiatric intervention followed by techno-torture, in the song The Age of Nevermore, in the terrifying second scene?

A. It has been adjusted accordingly.  In the Opening, it still depicts psychiatric intervention.  As the Finale, it now shows divine intervention.  

Q. A pleasant twist! How did you arrive at it?

A. In a flash, as though given by an Artist Greater Than Myself.

Q. An Artist Greater Than Yourself?

A. Yes.  For I have made a decision to turn my will and my life over to an Artist Greater Than Myself.  

Q. And this Greater Artist is — on your side?

A. God’s not on my side.  He’s on our side.   Together, we’re going to win.

Q. Andy, let me ask you one more question.

A. Be my guest.

Q. What will it take, besides money, to get this show off the ground?

A. Divine Intervention – and Love.

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LET’S PUT AN END TO CLASSISM.
LET’S PUT AN END TO HOMELESSNESS.
LET’S ALL SPEAK THE TRUTH
IN LOVE

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

The Dialectic (Part Three)

I know I’ve delayed on posting the conclusive part of the Dialectic for a long time.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, and you’re curious, you can flip back to Parts One & Two, respectively.  Still, I’ve got so much left to say, I’m going to have to split it further – into two or more parts.   I’ll do my best to have it ready very soon — hopefully by sometime tomorrow.   

Q. Do you know who I am yet?

A. Ah, so the guessing game goes on!   In the previous post I figured you for some kind of interviewer.  In the post before that, you were more like my Inner Critic.

Q. Oh really?

A. Really.  It’s hard to say who you actually are.  You are who you want to be.  Ever-changing, elusive, deceptive.

Q. The Devil, perhaps?

A. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that.  A minor demon, maybe.

Q. I see.  Now what brings us here today?

A. I’m here to make my plea, to explain exactly what’s happening to those who may be confused, and state my case as to why the $50,000 in question will not be very hard to come up with.

Q. Go on.

A. First off, first and foremost, the money will not go to me.

Q. Why is that important?

A. Because rumor has it that I do not handle money very well.  This rumor, though it is disputable, can either be contested or acquiesced.

Q. What is your choice, between the two?

A. I acquiesce.  As you know, I have been poor throughout my entire life, save for a few rare occasions when my talent got the better of my alleged inability to handle my finances.  On one such occasion, I had $13,000, in addition to a market rate savings account and an IRA.  I was making more in those days than I knew what to do with.  

Q. And what did you do with that money?

A. Like I said, I didn’t know what to do with it.  So I spent it frantically, which the psychiatrists in my life at the time told me was a function of a first-time manic episode.

Q. But were you not 51 years old at the time?  Isn’t a first time manic episode supposed to take place when one is much younger?   

A. Theoretically, yes.  It even baffled my psychiatrists.   Then later on, I was told that it might have been an instance of a new diagnosis, called Bipolar Four, whereby the manic episode, involving the spending spree, is induced by a psychiatric medication.

Q. Fascinating.  So you feel the same psychiatrists who diagnosed you with the disorder provided the very medication that induced the disorder in the first place?

A. Exactly.  And in the process, I lost everything I had.  The $13,000. the savings, the IRA, a car, a house, and all my professional accounts.

Q. Why didn’t you sue?

A. Because I’m not the suing type.  I’ve experienced my fair share of resentments around it.  But in my heart of hearts, I’m the type who wants to move on and get the most out of life while I’m here.  Besides, once I did lose everything, and I found myself out on the streets, I had the bizarre and totally unexpected sense that I was happier than I was before.

Q. Happier?  On the streets?

A. Well – when we say the “streets,” we speak a bit euphemistically.  I lived outdoors.  Sometimes this involved camping out in nature.  At other times, I was on the fringes, the outskirts of an urban homeless community.   At times, I was flushed enough to get a hotel room, sometimes even for an extended stay.  Not to mention the series of temporary shared rentals, none of which really worked out.  Nor could they have been expected to.  For by that time, I was driven.  And my drive — the essence and the source of it — necessitated that I spend large amounts of time in solitude.  

solitudeQ. So you have two problems.  You cannot handle money, and you cannot co-inhabit with others.  

A. Not cannot.  Will not.   The essence of my drive is that I need all the psychic wherewithal I can get in order to focus on the manifestation of my calling.

Q. That sounds a bit New Agey.

A. You’re supposed to be asking questions.

Q. I’m letting my guard down.  Let’s go on.

A. I did my best to get along with my roommates, and to shy away from senseless quarrels over my inability to clean the microwave the way that Billy was taught to do so by his grandmother in Arkansas, so to speak.   But when you see a train coming, you gotta get off the tracks.  I would be so hassled in some of those situations, I couldn’t get anything done anymore.  At that point, I’d fly the coop.

Q. Where would you go?

A. To the nearest power outlet where I could plug in my laptop and not be bothered.

Q. And you didn’t mind this being an outdoor power outlet?

A. To be honest with you, not really.  My focus was so intent upon what I was seeking to create, I barely noticed my external environment at all.  Let’s put it this way – the external environment was irrelevant, as long as it did not interfere with my work.

Q. But what about when it rained?  

A. There were awnings.  A laptop has a battery.  I could usually get through the night.

Q. I begin to see where the rumor that you cannot handle your finances has come into being.  So – backing a bit, if you are not to receive the needed $50,000, then just who will?

A. Hopefully, Danielle.

Q. Danielle?

A. Danielle.  At least at first.  If the money were to arrive, say, tonight — by say, midnight PST, it will be 9 pm on the East Coast, Danielle will still be up (and in fact expecting my call), and whether she accepts my ultimate proposal or not, at least the money would temporarily be placed in the hands of someone who meets three needed criteria.

Q. And what are the three criteria?

A. Number One: Danielle can handle money.

Q. And Number Two?

A. Danielle can be trusted with money.

Q. What about Number Three?

(Pause for dramatic effect.)

A. Danielle can handle me.  

(Another poignant pause.)

A. I assure you, not many people meet all three of those particular prerequisites.  But Danielle may not be able to be the ultimate Business Manager on this project.  She’s extremely busy, she has to talk to her husband about it, and she doesn’t have specific experience in musical theatre.   But she can handle money and be fully trusted with it, and as my best female friend of many years, I’m sure she can handle me.

Q. But on something this huge, would you want your friend to have to be involved with you on a business basis?

A. Not really.  I don’t want to push her past her limits here.  Knowing her, she’d probably say “yes,” just out of wanting to help out a friend — and then she’d get overloaded, and I’d wind up feeling lousy.  But I just can’t think of anyone else off-hand whom *I* would trust to hang on to the money until the True Business Manager appears.  I’d lose sleep if it were anyone else.

Q. But why does there have to be a middle man?   Why does the money have to come so soon?   Why can’t we just wait until the True Business Manager emerges?

A. Ask a silly question, get a silly answer.

Q. What??

A. Obviously, I need to have capital on hand while in the process of trying to schmooze the best Theatre Artists I know to get on board with me on this damn thing.  And that includes the Business Manager, as well as the House Manager, Stage Manager, Director, on down.  I’ll probably be the Musical Director myself, and I certainly don’t need any money for it.  But decent Artists on a par with my specific level of expertise need to be paid.  If the money doesn’t exist, why should they be swayed?  

Q. Spoken like a man who can’t handle money!

A. My point exactly.   Not to mention, as Musical Director, I’ll have my hands full as it is.   I shouldn’t *have* to handle the money — like I’ve been saying.  But get the crux of this dilemma — it’s not enough for the money to simply exist.  It needs both to exist, and to be placed in solid hands for safekeeping.  My hands are anything but solid.  In fact, they’re fluid.

Q. Fluid?

A. All over the map.  Just like you, my friend.

(Pause.  The Questioner muses.)

A. Listen buddy boy.  We’re gonna get this show and the road, and soon.  

Q. How?

A. I’ll tell you how.  Be patient.  The O.G.’s gotta eat.

STAY TUNED.

Help End Classism in America.
Help End Homelessness in America.
United We Stand. Divided We Fall.
Let’s Get Eden in Babylon Happening.
NOW.

 

Gratitude List 626

For those concerned, the Dialectic will be ready by tonight.   You can read my daily Gratitude List in the meantime.

GRATITUDE LIST 626

1. I’ve realized that if I lose something in this apartment, since the apartment is about seven times the size of my previous place of residence, it’s going to take me seven times as long to find it. This gives me great incentive to tidy up and get organized. “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”

2. The frequency with which I’ve been forgetting where I put things is such that, if I “reacted” every time it happened, I’d become a total stress case. The good news is that I practiced staying perfectly calm after I lost my phone charger, and again after I misplaced my mail key. Life’s too short to stress out every time I lose something, and I’m way too absent-minded to expect myself not to do so. Might as well relax.

3. Found the mail key after only twenty minutes of searching. I have it in its “place” now, Didn’t find a charger, but found a previous charger I didn’t know was here. Created a place for it — right next to the USB port in my computer (logically enough) and now I won’t be as likely to lose it.

4. An evil voice inside of me was tempting me to remove a certain person from my life, but when she said the words, “thank you for being my friend” last night, I didn’t have the heart. I have said those words too many times to someone whose friendship I need. It became a Golden Rule Issue at that moment.

5. My third day of volunteering at the Recovery Center went really well. To be surrounded by people who are warm-hearted, altruistic, compassionate, motivated, and dedicated is such an inspiration to me at this time.

6. Such a relief to have a nice big kitchen fully equipped with everything I need – and not equipped with cockroaches!!

7. I’ve always thought our church choir was pretty awesome, but I’ve never heard it sound as good as it did last night. Amazing that all of a sudden we have attracted the interest of true professionals, full of Spirit. My basso profundo has never been so profound.

8. Thankful for Paul Thompson, our new conductor – what a godsend!

9. Reconnecting with people from the Lincoln Summer Theatre has been both thrilling and heartwarming. Even after 45 years or more, how could any of us ever forget about that incredible time in our lives?

10. Cleanliness is next to godliness, and necessity is the mother of invention. Those Proverbs might not be in the Bible, but their wisdom nonetheless is sound. Thank God I am still alive, healthy, fit, and kickin’ after all these years. All Gratitude Goes to God.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon and help me to produce a dynamic new musical exploring the effects of Homelessness on the youth of 21st Century America.  The musical has a happy ending with a strong implication that Homelessness will be ended just as happily.  Please do let not money get in the way of my best gesture of good will toward humanity.  Not all problems are solved by psychiatry and Twelve-Step meetings, no matter how poor and hassled one has become.  Some of the problems of the impoverished are actually solved, believe it or not, by money.  If you don’t believe me – read the script.  

sign

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Gratitude List 623

I’m working on the third and final part of the dialectic that began with the post before last.  But in the meantime, there are two other posts I’d like to submit.   This one, my morning gratitude list, ought to resonate with fellow Introverts as well as (hopefully) Artists and Writers in general.   I hope you can appreciate it.  

1. Finally got the Internet turned on at my new apartment. All moved in now – feels good!

2. Actually got eight hours of solid sleep, between midnight and eight in the morning.

3. Sure grateful not to have to run into anybody on the way back from the bathroom in the middle of the night and risk running into some felon complaining that my fly is open while I’m hoping to get right back to sleep. I even have a peephole in the front door so if somebody knocks I’ll even know who it is that I’m not letting in before I don’t let them in. Let’s hear it for privacy with power.

4. Finally I live in a place where I don’t feel compelled to leave the house and go spend money in a coffee shop for the sake of my sanity. Let’s hear it for Folgers coffee singles.

5. Not to mention all the great running trails in the neck of the woods and proximity to the Arboretum and Paradise Path.

6. Wonderful conversations with Paul G. of the last two days, leading up to the formation of the Lincoln Summer Theatre Stockton California Facebook group. Already connecting with fine people and irreplaceable memories of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

7. The church music ministry is taking off so suddenly hugely, it’s exciting. Good that Erika & I can both sing now, and that we have an especially competent conductor.

8. My daughter is on her own path. She may find some roadblocks along the way, but I cannot fault her for wanting to carve out her own path, because I myself never knew happiness until I did.

9. Today’s my second day volunteering at the Latah Recovery Center, which I find I very much enjoy.

10. It is so perfectly quiet out here it’s almost too good to be true. This is the first time in years that I’ve lived in a situation where I haven’t had to fear being awakened at any time of the night by anybody for any reason. My capacity to organize my plans and projects and to make progress on them has increased seventy times seven fold. It is indescribably wonderful to feel that I am living in a place where bizarre demands are not constantly being made of me by my neighbors, and my energy is not being continually drained by having to try to figure out how to deal with them. My prayers have turned to prayers of thanksgiving, and my desire is to return this great goodness to the One who gave it to me. All Gratitude goes to God.

Please consider making an any amount donation to Eden in Babylon at this time.  The stuff that gets people interested in original musicals by unknown playwrights unfortunately does not grow on trees.   

The Dialectic (Part Two)

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. That depends.

Q. On what?

A. On what day it is and what mood I’m in.

Q. And what day is this?

A. It’s the Day of Reckoning.

Q. Day of Reckoning?

A. Well – perhaps not in the strictest sense.  That day is in God’s hands, not mine.  But in my own limited realm of self, I essentially have reached the place where something has got to happen, or else I just know  – from knowing myself — that I might implode.

Q. What would “imploding” entail?

A. I don’t know, man.  Some kind of total breakdown.  I’ll think of something.

Q. So you secretly *want* to implode?

A. Of course not!

Q. Then how can you avoid it?

A. That’s a good question.  I would say, by coming to terms with my issues of frustration.  Not so much anger issues — that would be true in a different sense, in a different context — but issues of frustration.   Frustration, and — confusion.

Q. Can you elaborate, please?

A. I will try.

Sad man silhouette worried on the beach

In certain sects of Buddhism, we are taught that frustration and confusion are the natural states operative in the human condition.  I resonate within this framework, to a degree.  I find that they work in concert with each other, within me.  My oft-expressed frustration with my professional and creative challenges seems to be proportional to the confusion I have as to how best to actualize my artistic goals.   Take this musical, for example, Eden in Babylon.

There are basically two ways I could go about this.  One way would be to complete my package, including a vocal score, demo of three songs with instrumentation and vocals, and complete libretto — or musical script — and submit the package to theatre companies interested in producing original musicals.  I have a few companies in mind, several of which include people with whom I’ve worked in the past, people who respect me enough that they will probably prioritize taking a look at my work.    This way of going about it would cost me considerably less money than the second way.

Q. What’s the second way?

A. I was just getting to that.  It involves coming up with a budget of about $50,000 and self-producing the show.

Q. Roughly speaking, how would that $50,000 be spent?

A. First off, I would find a theatre of sufficient size to accommodate a 27-member cast and small orchestra, as well as (perhaps more importantly) a moderately large audience.  Let’s say, about a 400-seat house.   Included in the budget would be the rental rates for a run of, say, twelve performances — ten evenings, and two matinees.  

Q. What next?

A. Hire the production staff.  I would need to pay a technical director, a stage manager, an ASM, a musical director, a rehearsal accompanist, perhaps a separate conductor and/or vocal director, a choreographer, a lighting designer, a set designer, a costumer, a props master, and a few other stage hands and gophers.  Oh – and a director.

Q. And then?

A. Auditions.  Although there would probably only be a mild stipend available for most of the Actors, the cast quality would be strengthened if we included at least three Equity Actors, hopefully reputable, popular Actors and Actresses.   In fact, I would even call people I know, people with whom I have worked in the past, to check their availability, if need be.

Q. So the Actors you have in mind would need to be available during the period when the theater has been rented?

A. Yes.  During the run.  I might even try to get the run to coincide with the prior availability of somebody whom I want very badly — for example, the main character, Winston Greene.   

Q. Any ideas who can do that?

A. The ideas are brewing, but not yet solidified.  We need a dynamic rock tenor capable of coming across like a 23-year old man.  And there are certain other requirements.   Could be a challenge.  But he’s out there somewhere.   

Q. What about the other main characters?

A. I have two people in mind for two of the supporting female roles, but nobody specifically lined up for the female lead, Taura.  Both the male and female leads will probably need to be AEA along with the male antagonist: Benzo Diablo.

Q.Benzo Diablo?

A. It’s a play on words.  If you’ve ever taken a valium, you probably know what I mean.

Q. Now why would I ever do a thing like that?

A. I don’t know – that’s up to you.

Q. Well, this is mounting up monetarily.  But don’t you think $50,000 is a little steep?

A. Not at all.  We need props and set pieces.   I may need to hire a Master Carpenter.   Lights might be provided with the theatre itself, but there will also be technical effects.  It adds up.  I can do it on $50,000 — and do it well.

Q. What will be your own role in the production?

A. As the Author, it stands to reason I should be somewhat detached.   I would want my presence felt, but not in such a way as might interfere.  Moreover, I would like to come see the show, and not to have to be involved with performances. Perhaps I would be the Accompanist, Vocal Director (but not conductor) or even the Artistic Director.  Of the three, Vocal Director is my forte.   But any one of those positions would enable me to actually come and see the show on Opening Night, perhaps even with a date.

Q. Aren’t you dreaming?

A. I am indeed.  But what does the Bible say?

Q. I don’t know — what does it say?

A. It says:

And your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams.
Joel 2:28

Q. Are you an old man, Andy?

A. Well, I sure ain’t gettin’ any younger.  I might be putting a little wear and tear on the old running shoes, but sometimes I feel like the only race I’m running is the race against against Alzheimer’s trying to get this show on the road.

Q. Do I detect a wee bit of impatience?

A. What you are detecting is Awareness of Mortality!

Q. And when you were younger?

A. I saw visions.   This is one of them.  My dream is for others to see it, too.

Q. But wouldn’t the first way be easier?

A. Not necessarily.   For one thing, it’s proven more difficult to get singers interested in helping me make a demo for a show that no one knows will ever be produced, than it naturally would be for one that had a definite production schedule.  In fact, with definite production dates, after holding auditions, I might not even bother with the demo.  Not to mention, there would be a lot of compromise in taking the less expensive route.  Compromise – and working intensively, sometimes intimately, with others.  Multiple conflicts of interest, and strange bedfellows abounding.

Q. But wouldn’t $50,000 be a considerable chunk of change?  I mean, how likely is it that you, Andy Pope, who has been homeless throughout most of the 21st Century, will actually come up with $50,000?

A. Oh, it’s very likely indeed.  For I have taken this matter to a spiritual level – not only to my pastor and close spiritual confidantes, but all the way to the Top!

Q. To the Top!?

A. You heard me.

Q. Really?  The Top?!?

A. Is there an echo in here?

Q. But aren’t you being a bit — grandiose?

A. Grand?  Yes.  Grandiose?  Perhaps.   Delusional, however, as in “delusions of grandeur” — no way, buddy boy!  This type of grandeur is written in the Stars.

Q. You seem a shade more — confident than usual.   What about confusion?  What about — frustration?

A. Very good questions indeed.   These truths, my friend, are for me to know – and for you to find out.

TO BE CONTINUED

The Dialectic (Part One)

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. To be perfectly honest, I’m not quite sure.

Q. Why do you say that?

A. Because I thought I knew who you were, but I thought wrong.

Q. Who did you think I was?

A. My superego.

Q. Your superego?  Why would you think such a thing?

A. Because you seem to represent my conscience, my higher faculties, always questioning everything, encouraging me to look before I leap — as opposed to my id, who has no conscience, questions nothing, and only seeks immediate gratification with no regard to consequence.

Q. And who are you?

A. I am my Ego.

Q. Why do I find this laughable?

A. Because I was wrong about you.  You have no conscience – no feelings.  You are merely a machine, generating inane questions from deep within the core of my confused and convoluted consciousness.  You are not my superego; you have nothing to do with morality or even with Sigmund Freud, for that matter.  You merely show up every now and then at times of particularly angst along my journey, and occasionally our dialogue is helpful to me.

Q. And this is why, on occasion, you summon me?

A. Yes.

Q. And this is a time of particular angst?

A. Yes.

Q. How so?  Haven’t things suddenly taken a turn for the better?

A. Yes and No.

Q. No?  In what way, “no?”

A. My external enemies having disappeared, my internal enemies have resurfaced.

Q. Can you say that again, please?

A. My external enemies having disappeared, my internal enemies have resurfaced.

Q. And who are your external enemies?

A. All those people who kept knocking on my door, trying to engage me in all kinds of nefarious activities at any time of the day or night, neighbors who were more nosy than neighborly — all of them.   Everybody who lived at Friendship Square.

Q.  Your neighbors were your enemies?

A. “Enemy” might be a strong word, but it sure felt that way.

Q. And you call yourself a Christian!?

A. That would depend upon your definition of the term, I suppose.  But yes, I do identify as a Christian, of a certain type.  So – what are you driving at?

Q. Doesn’t the Lord say: “Love thy neighbor?”

A. But that’s the whole problem!  I loved my neighbors so much I couldn’t get any work done!   Everybody wanted to talk to me, at all times – it was uncanny.   I had to escape – I had to get out of there — but now that those guys are all gone, and I’m alone, I’m faced with my internal enemies.  

Q. Loneliness, perhaps?

A. Ha!  Loneliness is for lesser men.  I’m talking about the Enemies of Art.  They’re like these — inner demons.  They surface whenever I begin to immerse myself in projects about which I am passionate.  The more passionate I am about my project, the more they try to interfere.

Q. Can you give me an example?

A. Well, for that, we need to revisit the Professor.

professor
(So throw a pie in my face.  I couldn’t resist.)

There was a certain professor whose unfavorable reactions to my half-written rough draft of Eden in Babylon kept rushing through my head for three years every time I tried to sit down to work on the script.   Now that I have solitude again, and am away from all the “hard knocks,” so to speak, I’ve naturally taken up the script again, thinking quite innocently that now would be a perfect time to do a second draft, polish up a few rough spots, and so forth. 

So, I sat down the other night to embark upon a very simple scouring of the script in order to return four unnamed characters to the Kids Chorus Line, after I had irrationally removed them from the script at the last minute.  For you see, the Professor had warned me about having too large a cast size – and of course a large cast is a deterrent.  The first version he saw had a cast of 56, according to his count.  I myself was neither counting nor concerned, since at the time I was aiming to submit the show to a specific theatre in the Bay Area that was requesting submissions for “large cast traditional musicals with a full orchestration.”  But this is long past.

I proceeded to whittle down the cast, doubling parts when necessary, and actually feeling quite good about the whittled version.  But at the end, I made the serious mistake of significantly reducing the Kids Chorus Line while not significantly reducing the cast size!  So I sat down this past Saturday night to return the four unnamed Kids to the Chorus line, and thus enhance the experience musically, while only increasing cast size from 23 to 27.

I had presumed this would be a simple matter.  However, it involved a technical nightmare of placing an unformatted, unpaginated copy of a script next to a paginated copy, locating all the places where the Kids had once been involved, and making the appropriate adjustments.  This challenged my dyslexia.  Moreover, as I tired into the wee hours of the night, I became less and less focused, but more and more determined not to let go until I got the job done.   That was when the Professor surfaced.

I would see a line in the show that I thought was particularly exceptional, and I would suddenly remember his scathing critique of my earlier draft.  I would fly into a rage inside my head.  I would shout within myself: “How could he?!  How could he not see how good this is??   How inspired I was!!!  Did he even read the script??”

So, my old enemy, of associating the script revision with the unfavorable response of a previous presumptuous professor of the past, had returned.  And that’s only an example.

Q. A second example?

A. My other friend, seeming to have money, and not wanting to kick it down to help me pay the singers, but dismissing my request for assistance as evidence of a “mental health episode.”   He also appeared in my mind, and I also became enraged at the thought of his classist arrogance.   Rich people are often quick to blame the abject poverty of poor people on some kind of problem the poor person has, as though I’m supposed to spend the rest of my days solving whatever problem they think has resulted in my poverty, in order to become rich like they are, and similarly blame the suffering of those less cozy than they on some random peccadillo in their personality, thus silencing my conscience. 

Q. And just who are we calling “classist?”

A.  Look, buddy.   I had to spend years sleeping in a gutter getting the shit kicked out of me, while one by one, every so-called “friend” I knew from my previous life of opulence dismissed my legitimate need for shelter by telling me to see a psychiatrist.  And so what if I do have a psychological problem or two?   I’m in my damn sixties!   I’m practically fighting Alzheimer’s trying to get this show on the road!   What am I supposed to do?  Spend the rest of my days trying to solve some elusive problem of mine?   Or spend my days trying to figure out a way to use my God-given gifts for the good of humanity? You can’t shovel out the darkness!!  You can only turn on the Light!! 

So – obviously, don’t you think it makes a hell of a lot more sense for me to throw my energies into  looking for singers, musicians, a venue. a crew, a cast, a production staff, and $50,000, than to keep hammering away at trying to keep shit jobs that I always lose?   And wind up feeling demoralized?  And incompetent?   Sure I’m incompetent in every area of my lifelong failure — so why don’t we start focusing on the relatively few but valuable things that I can actually manage to occasionally do well?  I am not incompetent in the areas of my expertise — I know exactly what I am doing!   I am not crazy!  I am a very talented, but spaced out, absent-minded, but ingenious, agitated, but highly determined, totally stressed out man!

Q. Fifty thousand dollars?

A. You heard me!  But this pointless dialectic is nothing but drivel!!  Let’s adjourn until tomorrow.  Your incessant questioning of everything I do or say angers me.  Goodbye.

The Questioner is silent.

A. And don’t you dare ask me if I am in “denial!”  If I want to hear about denial, I’ll go to a frickin’ 12-Step meeting, for God’s sake!! 

The Questioner is still silent.  

A. And I am not lazy, either!!!

The Questioner, quite wisely, remains silent.

TO BE CONTINUED

Pick of the Litter

It was hot. I was tired. I had enough money for a candy bar, and I thought the sugar might help me for the long walk ahead. I bought a Butterfinger at the Touchless Car Wash.  I saw a step with a couple stairs about half a block away. Seemed to be a business, not a private residence. Didn’t look like they were open. It was Saturday. I sat down to eat the Butterfinger.

Suddenly, a hostile voice interrupted the pleasant onset of the desired sugar rush.  The ensuing dialogue was most unfortunate.

“I don’t mind you guys sitting here, but I sure hate the mess you always make!”

“Us guys? What guys? There are guys who sit here? I’ve never sat here before! What mess?  What the hell are you talking about?”

The man said nothing, but seemed to sneer at me before shutting the door between us.  Guess he was the business owner, or property owner, or what-have-you. Jesus! I had just sat down! I’d been walking all day! All I wanted to do was eat my damned Butterfinger, get an energy lift, and move on. Did the guy have to pop me over nothing?  

Not to mention, being identified as a member of some group of guys, rather than the individual whom I am, obviously pressed a pretty big button in the Berkeley Boy.   Seriously, it was all I could do to bite my lip. Fortunately, the grouch who so grossly growled at me had shut his door on my brewing indignation. Best for both of us, I thought.

I got up to walk away, then noticed that the top my Butterfinger wrapper was lying on the sidewalk, about four feet from the stairs.  I must have dropped it there in my hot hungry haste.  Gee whiz.  Guess that was “the mess you guys always make.”

Next time, remind me to buy a Milky Way instead.  Darker wrapper, better blend.

litter

Anything Helps
God Bless

 

The Crying of the Muse

I thought about calling this post “I’ll Be Brief” in order to remind myself to do so.  Yesterday I set out to write a “brief” post, and yet somehow it consumed five hours of the early morning, and wound up becoming eleven paragraphs in length.

In all that verbosity, it seems I inadvertently obfuscated the information that I have moved.  Yes – I have finally left my 14-month tenure at the apartments euphemistically known as “Friendship Square.”  The good news is that I am no longer surrounded by felons, cons, tweakers, thieves, and hustlers.   The bad news is that it’s going to cost me an extra $175/mo.   But the good news is that it’s worth it.

In the confusion, I have been composing compulsively.   When I compose music, I am somehow completely focused.  I enjoy the process very much, even if the product is lacking.  When I write text, however, I am almost completely unfocused.  Yet, yet, yet — everybody seems to like my verbal writings, and almost nobody appreciates my musical writings.  It’s a sore spot for me.  I didn’t go to a Conservatory of Music in order to spend all my time writing about Homelessness.

Then again, what is it that made me homeless to begin with?  I mean — outside of socio-economic factors, what was it about me that caused me not only to become homeless, but actually to embrace Homelessness?  (That is, before I literally got the sense knocked into me.)

Quite simply, life was not rendering me enough space to focus on writing my music.  Ah – I remember it well – the last straw.   In April 2011, I was living in a small house with the landlord, his four year old boy, and another roommate.   I had been homeless before, off and on for seven years.   So I knew that I could generally handle it.   But could I handle the four year old boy bursting into my bedroom, right at the moment when I was making the final edits to The Crying of the Muse, shouting “Hiya!” and waving a large plastic spear over his head?

It seems the young fellow wanted to joust with me.   And don’t get me wrong – I would gladly have taken up my spear, and jousted with him at another time.  But he just happened to throw me off of my delicate musical balance at that moment — and enough was enough.  I needed space. 

So, in order to find the space I needed, I quite naturally headed to Berkeley, California, where I figured I would “blend” with approximately 1,000 other homeless blokes, and write my music invisibly, without such annoying intrusions.

It worked for a while, till the thrill was gone.   And Friendship Square worked for a while, too.   Here’s to a new and more productive chapter of my highly-driven, restless life.   I’ve gotten as far with my current compulsive composing as meets the eyes and ears below.  The eyes see a telling view of Friendship Square at night, illuminated as if with fireworks.   The ears will hear a fraction of the piece tentatively entitled the New Royal Rhapsody.   Please enjoy — if at all possible.  

Art is Hard Work.
They keep firing me because I’m absent-minded and too easily stressed.
Art will never fire me, nor will I quit Art.
Please pay me for it here.
Thank you.

 

A Meaningful Life

I just received a forward of a letter of appreciation that someone sent to Terry Messman, the publisher of Street Spirit, with regards to a previous article of mine he had published.   I deduced that it must have been the August article, based on the context:

Hi Terry,

I just wanted to say that I was really moved by a recent piece by Andy Pope (unsure of which volume, but it was from several months ago). His writing really helped me understand what it’s like to be in his shoes, day by day. I also felt incredibly sad reading it. I wish that I could offer someone like Andy a place to stay.

I’m also curious about your fundraiser, and if . . . .

Alison

Upon reading those words, I felt a poignant surge of pathos.   I did not need a place to stay at the time the article was published.  I wrote that piece in June of 2016.  It wasn’t published until August 2017 — long after I’d succeeded in getting myself indoors.  So it felt somehow wrong that someone should be thinking of offering me one.  

At the same time, however, this is the point of its having been published in the first place.   When I wrote it, I was fortunate enough to have gained a seat for me and my laptop in a Starbucks on a rainy Sunday morning.   I had been living outdoors for so many years that the idea of ever actually attaining to an indoor dwelling place again seemed inconceivable.  It was that sense of resignation to the complete unpredictability of the homeless condition that gave the piece its purpose.  It was written by a homeless person while homeless, and thus filtered out nothing of the very present feelings so painfully described therein.

This also served to remind me that my life has meaning.  I had always fancied myself something of a Writer, even as I wrote frivolous bagatelles to pass the time away while bored.  I wrote pieces of garbage that I knew to be garbage, only because my nervous need to engage myself in such intellectual thumb-twiddling was so pressing in my restless mind.  But now I have been granted this great gift of experience, and not only of experience itself, but of the subsequent freedom to actually sit down and write about it.  This is something I never dreamed I would gain.  I, like almost everyone else I knew, had consigned myself to die a miserable, meaningless death on the streets.

Not two years have passed since I penned those words sitting in that Starbucks, grimly watching the sun make an effort to reveal itself from amid an early morning cloudburst.   Thankful was I indeed, as I’d have been on any other rainy morning, to have gotten out of the homeless rain.  But at the same time, how completely cynical I was that after all those years, I would ever manage to get myself into a decent, dignified living situation again!

Kate in Cabin
A Decent, Dignified Living Situation — for Me.  

I had been so happy to have landed the simple hole-in-the-wall that I found at Friendship Square, almost an entire year went by before I could even grasp the concept that there might be a better place in store for me.   This adds to the pathos.  For so many years, I prayed specifically that I would one day be given “a lock on a door, a window, and a power outlet. ”   That  wish having been granted so dramatically, I sincerely felt like an ingrate when I began to look for a more suitable living situation.   After all, God had answered that prayer pretty much down to the letter.  I received exactly one window, two power outlets, and three locks on my door.   (God apparently knew which of the three priorities was most important to me!)

Eventually, however, it reached the unpleasant stage where not even three locks could do the trick.  I would surface from fitful sleep in the wee hours, only to hear the ribald congregating of drug-addicted young men out in the hallway.  Then, I would presume in my half-awake state that I still slept outdoors, and that these other fellows must have been outdoors, as well.

“Where am I? Who are these people?  Are they coming to steal my stuff?  Or did I steal their Spot by mistake?   Or are these the security guards, or maybe even the property owners?  Damn!  I better get out of here!”

But then, a few seconds would pass, and slowly the details of reality would sink in.  I was in no immediate danger.  The voices I heard, though they seemed intrusive, were actually separated from me by the three locks on my very own door.   And yet – why could I not sleep for the evidence of their presence?   Could I honestly be that traumatized?   Could I not separate the aggressive energy of my new neighbors from that of space invaders of times past?  My pastor literally had to persuade me that the little hole-in-the-wall was not the be-all-and-end-all to my life’s experience.   I did not need to live among practicing thieves and drug addicts if I did not want to.   

It was hard to leave Friendship Square without feeling like an ingrate.  But that is exactly what I have done.   It’s costing me a bit more money than I can comfortably squeeze out at the moment, but the trade-off is well worth it.  For the past two nights, I have slept soundly and peacefully in my new secluded apartment, far removed from the downtown denizens, and all the constant raucous activity that I so easily overlooked in my earlier elation over having landed any kind of indoor place of residence at all.  And you know what?  The moment I set my laptop down on that dining room table, I felt instantly more focused than I have felt for months.  Surely now I have everything I need!   I have my own bathtub even.  And a dishwasher.   A medicine cabinet in which to store hygienic needs.  My own bedroom.   A living room.   My daughter can even comfortably come visit me now.  Do I deserve this?  Honestly – it is almost too good to be true.

Well – I suppose whether I “deserve” it or not is immaterial.  At best, it would lead to pointless theological debate.   For me, the purpose of the gift is to put it to use.  I am going to set myself down in this seclusion, and write write Write Write WRITE —  because now I have something to write about.   And not only that – but a place to do it from.   So do me a favor.   Don’t ever let me forget how huge this is.   

On the streets, I would have died a meaningless death.  Here, far away from the streets — in distance, if not in memory — I have been granted a meaningful life.   

Please help raise awareness as to the Homeless Phenomenon in America.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Every Little Bit Helps
God Bless!

Let Another Round Begin

I feel weird about this, but I’ve been composing at almost all times.  Earlier I posted this medley, and now I post the medley below.  As you can hear, the two medleys ought to be combined into yet a new meta-medley.   But I’ve not reached that stage yet, as all the parts are still quite incomplete.  I need to forge forward with this, or not at all.  At the same time, however, I can’t help but show you that there has been some progress.  Especially, I invite you to compare the present version with its past predecessor of a year or so back.  Whether you think the drastic change is an improvement or not, I can tell you for sure that what’s happening tonight is a lot closer to the intent of my musical heart.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Any and All Contributions are Appreciated.

Published Again in Street Spirit

I just received this very pleasant email:

Hi Andy,

I published another of your really well-written reflections in the October issue of Street Spirit. I’m sending you the pdf version now, and I’ll send a link to the online edition in a few days when I post it.
 
Thanks so much for your insightful, thoughtful writing.
 
Best,
Terry
and now where
And Now Where?

I’ve uploaded the pdf on this link if you want to check it out.  I’m on p.3, the story entitled “I Remember Who I Am.”

He uses the illustration to the right, a lithograph by Rockwell Kent named “And Now Where?” in conjunction with my piece.  The piece itself is taken almost word for word from The God Who Believes in Me, earlier posted on this site.

The “Author’s Note” is taken from editor’s notes on that entry and also on the one entitled An Incredibly Empty Place.

In the past three months, since I have been fortunate enough to have had some of my short pieces published in Street Spirit, I have come to admire Terry Messman, the publisher, and Sally Hindman, the Berkeley activist and Quaker minister who connected me to this unique opportunity.  It’s interesting that I never knew either of them when I actually still lived in Berkeley.  Maybe I was too busy dealing with the extenuating circumstances described in these articles.  Rarely did I extend myself toward people with whom I might network, as though I had something distinctive to offer, and was interested in making a contribution to the community.

When I moved up here to Northern Idaho, all of that changed.  I told the personnel director at my church that if I had to summarize the difference between my life today and my life back then, I would say that previously the idea around me was that I had some kind of huge problem, and so how can we possibly help Andy solve his problem?  The idea in the here and now, on the other hand, is that Andy has something to offer.  How can we help him to offer it?

I would think anyone in their right mind would prefer the latter of the two scenarios.

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Make Haste Slowly

Just a brief update to fill you in on my progress as to the new composing project I have undertaken.  (The gist of the project is described in this entry.)

I’ve succeeded in interweaving two of the pertinent themes in such a way as appears to hold promise.  Should you choose to indulge me, you might recognize a few of these strains from my Berkeley Page.  Hopefully, however, you’ll find that they are much evolved since you tuned in last.  In general, the piece is very very jazzy compared to any of its previous components.

I mentioned that this composing project is one of three current projects, along with the writings I’ve been producing for Street Spirit, and the demo and revision of my musical, Eden in Babylon.   As far as Street Spirit is concerned, I turned in four new pieces to the publisher, but have not yet heard back.  Of course, I don’t know if any will be accepted, but I got the feeling earlier we were headed toward a possible monthly thing.   He published the first of my articles in August, and three in September.  So of course, I’m hoping he will publish two or three this month.  The paper will be issued at around the 10th of this month.  So I’ll let you know by then.

On the demo, I found the two male singers I woulds need, in addition to myself.  So, in addition to Erika, the new Director of Music at my church, I only need one more female singer.  So it looks like things are slowly coming together in that area as well.  We’re shooting for the week before Thanksgiving vacation.

Make-haste-slowly.__quotes-by-Polish-Proverb-98The revision itself is another matter.  I lump it in with the demo as part of the same project, which is the ongoing thrust to move Eden in Babylon toward production.  When I rewrote the lyrics to Midnight Screams, I realized that I needed to make other subtle changes — in addition to some fairly major changes – at other spots in the recently completed script.  So I’m moving on that as well.  But in all these things, considering my sometime tendency to push myself a bit too hard, I am evoking the motto of the Emperor Augustus: “Make Haste Slowly.”

Earlier, it seemed I flew just a bit too close to the sun.  So, it seems prudent to take things a little slower —  but steady all the same.

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She Called Me Dad

A young Hispanic lady named Maria used to come sit across from my Spot about five or ten feet to my left.  Repeatedly, she would accost passersby, shouting “Fifty cents for a soda?  Fifty cents for a soda?”  At first it annoyed me, because it’s what we call “spange-busting.”  I was there first, and here she’s stealing my business with aggressive tactics.  It was especially annoying, being as I was determined to remain silent throughout my entire sign-flying tenure — partly so that I would never come across like she and others did, constantly invading the space of innocent bystanders.  

After a while, though, I developed something of a heart for the poor young woman.  She obviously had some kind of mental health diagnosis of the more severe variety.   Schizo-affective disorder maybe, or dissociative identity disorder, perhaps, or maybe paranoid schizoprenia.  She would break into different accents and identify herself according to different names, some of which belonged to fictitious entities with extremely interesting personalities. It made me wonder if she had done a lot of musical theatre at some point in her past.

watch my backBy and by, perhaps sensing my budding affinity for her eccentricity, she began to call me “Dad.”  She would hop off the bus, see me sitting with my back to the wall, and smiling, shout out: “Hi, Dad!”  How sweet, I thought.   She certainly wasn’t a bad looking young lady, either.  Perhaps having her “dad” nearby would afford her some measure of protection from the local wolves.  

One day, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to fulfill that very role.  A young man approached Maria flirtatiously, and proceeded to come at her with all kinds of odious pick-up lines.  Maria turned her head toward me as though to convey that she was in trouble.  We made eye contact, her fear meeting my concern.   Finally, breaking the silence, Maria scooped all the money from the cup beneath her feet, saying:  

“Hey Dad, I’m going to the grocery store.  Do you need anything?”

“No, I’m good.”

“All right –  see you in a half hour.”

“Okay — stay safe.”

At that, she scurried off, and the young lad turned to me with a look of shock on his face.  Approaching me, he spoke sheepishly:

“Hey – I’m sorry, sir.  I didn’t know she was your daughter.”

I glared at the fellow with a disapproving look in my paternal old eyes.  

“Maria and I are not biologically related,” I explained.  “We do what we can to take care of each other on these streets.”   

“Oh, I see,” the young man replied, taking a few steps back from me.  Then, turning his head from side to side as though to scan the neighborhood for possible friends of mine, he shrugged his shoulders and headed off up Allston toward the University.   

I looked to the right.  Maria was coming back from around the corner.

“Coast is clear,” I said.

She dropped a Hershey bar into my hat and took her seat.  The sun was setting on another beautiful evening in the city where I belonged.   

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The God Who Believes in Me

This undated piece was written in Berkeley in early 2016.  I hope it gives you a picture of what Homelessness was like — for me.  

It’s driving me nuts having to be outdoors while almost everybody I can halfway relate to in life is indoors. If I relate to the people who live outdoors, it is because we all live outdoors. We share the values and mores of outdoor living in common, even if we share nothing else. But ninety percent of the time – damn right we share nothing else.

Approximately three times a week, someone who lives outside, someone whom I’ve never seen before, emerges out of someplace where I’ve probably never been and threatens to knock the crap out of me.  Yet I am a man of peace.  I only want to make my music.  I want to sit down with my laptop, crank up my music notation software, and compose.  But if I even dare get my hands on a laptop at these days, I’m an easy mark for every living thing that hides behind a bush.  I’ve been hit on the head with guns down here. If I buy a laptop, they assume it’s for trade or sale.  If I’m not willing to sell it, they might just take it by force.  My musicianship means nothing to a predator.

Maybe five times a week, a person who lives inside (whom I’ve also never seen before) approaches me and asks: “Are you homeless?”   How I have come to hate that question!  I almost disdain telling the truth, because I am so tired of seeing so much blood come pouring out of their heart, you’d think they’d have expected me to slurp it up and drink it.  Then, as they begin to promote whatever form of “help” they think best suits me, I find that in order to gain access to their assistance, I will be required to change my taste in food, my outlook on life, my political philosophy, and sometimes even my religion.   I’m frickin’ sixty-three years old, for God’s sake!!  I worked all my life!!  And they’re asking me to change my faith?  Now, of all times?  My faith is exactly what has kept me alive throughout twelve years of indignity and insanity.  Why should I abandon that which has helped me the most, in order to risk being hurt more than helped by the benign but misinformed intentions of a total stranger?   

I know a very conservative homeless man who tells me he is expected to become a liberal because it is the liberals who are feeding him.  But I have also seen many who identify as liberals become homeless, only to find themselves expected to become conservatives because, in their case, it’s the conservative Christians who feed them.   Why is that, just because someone is down on their luck, they are expected to adopt the views of those who are not?  Everyone is entitled to their own perspective, and it angers me that I should be expected to adopt the perspective of another person only because that person happens to have a roof over their head and more money than I do.  Just because a person is in a higher socio-economic class doesn’t make them right.  All it means is that they are in a better position to take advantage of another person’s weakness.  And in my case, that weakness is H– H–H–  My God, I don’t even want to speak the word anymore! 

What word?  The H-Word!  Homeless!  The word that, in one way, nobody ever hears — and in another way, it’s the only word they hear. It’s maddening. It’s exasperating. It’s more than frustrating – it’s infuriating.

Then there are the those who are not strangers.   These are the ones to whom I once was close, perhaps even intimate — the well-meaning friends and family members who want to “help.”  Oh, they’ll help all right!  They’ll help in any way they can shy of actually putting a roof over my head.  They’re always looking for the problem that “caused” me to become homeless, as if solving whatever that elusive problem might be could possibly solve the much more enormous problem that is Homelessness Itself.  None of those band-aids can possibly heal the wound of Homelessness.   That wound is way too deep for that.

There’s this huge division between the people who live outdoors and those who live indoors. It’s almost as though we’re an entirely different species. I can’t seem to do anything to bridge the gap, nor can I seem to do anything to get myself back inside. I’ve tried everything. All the suggestions everybody gives – they only lead me back to Homelessness. They never hit the core issue at its heart. So I get into this space where I start thinking: “Well, screw it. What’s the use of even trying?”  

I shrug my shoulders.  I head back to my Spot, lean my back against the brick wall of the BART station at the corner of Shattuck & Allston, take off my hat, and hold up a sign that reads:

BROKE AND HOMELESS
OFTEN HUNGRY
PLEASE HELP IF YOU CAN

I silently watch them all go by.  I make eye contact.  I look as many of them in the eye as possible.  Then, slowly but surely, little bits of change find their way into my hat.  Then a couple of dollars here and there, every now and then a five, a ten if I’m lucky, perhaps even a twenty.  People ask if they can buy me a sandwich.  Some people sneer, but they’re easy to overlook.  By and by, I calm down.  I forget my frustrations, my angst.  I meditate.  I pray.  I look around me, and it is a beautiful day in the city that I love.

An hour goes by, and suddenly it doesn’t matter any longer what they all think.  No longer am I driven nuts.  Then another half hour or so goes by, and I remember something.  I remember who I am.  I know who I am.  I even like who I am.   So what’s that word I hear?  The H-Word?  Is that supposed to say something about me?  Ah but no – perhaps we have forgotten.  Nothing says anything about me but the Me who Knows Who Me Is.   I Am the One I Am.

Three hours go by.  I pick up my cash.  The sun is setting.   I weave my way off toward the spot where I sleep, where nobody knows where to find me.   I look to the stars, and say my prayers to the God who believes in Me.

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Psychology of an Insecure Creative

Last night I sent the music to my song “The Very Same World” to Erika, the new Director of Music at my church.   This afternoon I found myself writing very nervously in my private diary.  Included were passages such as follows:  

I felt instantly horrible about the song I sent her the very first moment after I clicked on “send.”  Before I clicked on “send,” I thought my song had promise.  Immediately after knowing it would soon be scrutinized by a person of intimidating musical talent, I decided that the song sucked.

I chose that song, The Very Same World, only because of three things:

1. An earlier, faster version of it has gotten far more plays on my SoundCloud than any other song of mine.

2. When I sent my music to my brother, he singled out “The Very Same World” as the song he liked the best, calling it an “excellent composition” and “world class.”

3. When I sent the lyrics to my daughter, she got back to me saying they were “awesome!”

Other than that, no one has really commented on it. I don’t much like it myself.  I somewhat regret not finding the time today to get “Midnight Screams” to her instead.  But “Midnight Screams” forces the singer to extend a very high long “e” sound, odiously enough. I haven’t gotten around to changing the words yet, which might even involve changing the title, since that “e” sound is on the word “screams.’ Forget what high note it is specifically, but it’s high.

Later, after the church dinner, I spoke briefly with Erika.  During the brief conversation, I changed my mind.   I decided the “Same World” tune was good after all, because I heard myself sing a few lines from it.  The lines sounded good to me when I sang them, and I believe I saw Erika smile.

Most of all, however, when I timidly admitted that I had put the word “screams” on a long-held high note in “Midnight Screams,” forcing the singer to have to sing an extended long E vowel sound, Erika simply said:

 

The gallery for --> No Problem Smiley

She then amazed me with just about the most thrilling long E high note I’ve ever heard.  Nobody’s going to shout “verboten” at that good a voice  – and now I don’t have to change the title either.

I slept well last night.  My neurosis has been relieved.   

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My Secret Place

I promised Terry Messman, the editor of Street Spirit, I would post three homeless-related pieces on this blog before Friday, just in case he sees fit to publish one or more of them.   The first is my post An Incredibly Empty Place.   This is the second: something I came up in Berkeley during the summer of 2014.  I hope you like it.

My Secret Place

I used to feel really hassled when people would suggest various living situations for me.  I usually cringed, as though such environments were completely out of the question — but I didn’t have the guts to explain why.  Lately, however, there has been a turn for the better.  When I simply state my truth, I find that more often than not, it is accepted.  You cannot believe how good it feels to turn to these people and say: “I prefer sleeping outdoors.” 

Less and less do I hear them reply: “You’re crazy!”  Now maybe this is because I am speaking my truth to people who already know me somewhat — enough to know I’m not exactly bat crazy mad.  Naturally, if somebody suspects that there’s still something rationally ticking between my ears, despite the past ten years of near total sleep deprivation, they’re more likely to respect my position.   Still, the feeling of finally being able to stand up to somebody who insists I ought to be shooting for a slot in someplace like a long-term psychiatric facility is, in a word, liberating.

When I try to think of living situations that have worked for me better than my current one, the only thing I can think of is when I have had my own lockable space with plenty of ventilation and sufficient electrical power.  Even then, if enough of the “wrong people” find out where I live, I will default to sleeping outdoors. Moreover, in any other situation, such as living with roommates, sharing a house or an apartment — or worse yet, living in a homeless shelter, board-and-care, halfway house, or anywhere else that has the ring of “institution” about it — I will eventually default to Homelessness again.  Note the use of the word “default.”   Over the years, I’ve become more comfortable sleeping alone outdoors, despite the alleged risks, than sleeping indoors and having to deal with there being other people too close to my personal living space.

I recently lasted six days in a “sober living environment,” sharing an attic with three other guys.  One of the guys was a crack head who kept the other three of us awake all night, babbling incessantly about nothing.  One of the other two men was constantly threatening the crack head to bodily harm.   The third man snored at unbelievably high volume.  Add to this the factor that my “overhead” in the attic was literally about two feet shorter than I am, six days was about all I could take.  I’ll settle for an empty church stairwell any day, thank you.

Shortly after that, I survived four days at the Men’s Shelter.  Just didn’t care for the conversation topics, didn’t like the assumption that I must have just gotten out of State Prison or at least be interested in collaborating on some criminal heist of some sort. Not that I’ve never broken a law – I do so every day.  But that doesn’t mean that I identify with the criminal mind-set — and I’ll tell you why.

Smoking marijuana ought not to be a crime. But unfortunately, it can lead one to the company of those who commit other crimes if one is not careful. Further reason why marijuana should be legalized, immediately and totally decriminalized, and why personal drug-related issues should be treated as mental health or medical issues, not as criminal issues. Somebody must be making a lot of money filling up our jails with decent people who got popped for some piddly little pot deal. Disgusting, if you ask me.

So – knock on wood — but in my current living space, I sleep well just about every night, nobody ever hassles me, nobody approaches me, nobody wakes me up in the middle of the night to ask for a cigarette lighter — basically nobody knows I’m there. No one knows where I sleep – therefore my privacy is assured. If even one person finds out – word will get around, and I’m screwed.

Screwed — until I find another secret place. Which soon I will.  I always do.  And isn’t that a good thing?   Look at what the Psalmist says: “He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”  Psalm 91:1.  Doesn’t that say it all, right there?  Where would you rather “dwell?”  In the secret place of the Most High, resting in the shadow of the Almighty?  Or in a four foot high attic with a crack head?

Granted, it’s pretty weird that this is what a person will do in order to achieve privacy. But it is exactly what I have done.  And – it is okay that I have done so. It ‘s my choice.  All I need to do is cast aside the social stigma, and make the most of it. Nothing’s perfect in this world anyway.  We all have our different sensibilities.  The best we can do is to honor the choices of ourselves and others, and to try to get along.

Besides, getting a lot of fresh air is good for you. They say that fresh air contains “negative ions,” which are oxygen atoms charged with an extra electron.   They clear the air of dust and pollen, and significantly decrease airborne viruses and bacteria.   Barring other factors, people who sleep outdoors are less likely to have respiratory issues, colds and flus, and even asthma.  Seriously!   The more you can soak in the negative ions, and the less you have to soak in the negative people, the healthier and happier you will be.

Andy Pope
Berkeley, California
June 6, 2014

secluded

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Frequent Flyer

This version of my song “Bone of My Bones” is far superior to whatever I posted the other day.   (Incidentally, it’s Version 18-Y, for whoever’s counting.)

It still isn’t quite “complete” yet  — at least not in terms of its capacity to replicate what I’ve got going on in my head.  But is it ever complete?   I don’t think so!

In any case, as of this morning, I’ve moved on to new arrangement of the song Bubbles Taboo, intended to segue into Bones as part of the larger work described in this entry.   It’s all rolling along so sweetly that, to be honest with you, I’m having a hard time stopping all the composing in order to attend to the more mundane functions of modern life.

A lot of this newfound enthusiasm for composing is based on my having become more endeared to the software itself.  Somehow, the challenge of getting all these computer commands to resemble what’s going on in my head has begun to fascinate me, rather than intimidate me.  It’s also helping with a second aspect of my creative-artistic trip these days.  It’s helping me to enjoy the process of notating the vocal score to Eden in Babylon.   

Note how I didn’t say “Piano-Vocal Score.”  I’ve lowered my expectations, and have taken to writing out only a vocal score, without the piano accompaniment.  This will still be some representation of the music, and it might even be enough to get a producer interested in the show.   In any case, it’s forward motion.

I also made it to Jazz Choir finally, and enjoyed singing the interesting music of Dan Bukvich in a context consisting mostly of University students, but also including members of the community, several of whom were my age or older.  I saw Erika there, the new Director of Music at my church, and she again said she’d be happy to sing on the Eden in Babylon demo.  Maybe she knows some other Jazz Choir members who might be interested.  Perhaps I won’t even have to pay them — although frankly, the idea of not being able to do so is irksome to me.   Again, if anybody wants to donate, that’s where the first money will go — to pay singers and musicians something, even if it’s not what they’re actually worth.   

But not to get off on all that.  I’ve been snagged on this demo thing, mostly in a depressed or discouraged state, for over five months now.  It really is time for this thing to pick up steam again.  But whether it does or not, there’s a third aspect to my “trip” these days, and I can’t overlook the fact that it’s the aspect that’s been getting me some recognition lately, even though I didn’t really do anything consciously to attract it. 

It’s all the writing I’m doing on the Homeless Experience.  People are tuning into it.  After A New Pair of Glasses was published in Street Spirit in August, I had three more pieces published in September.   Then I offered to come up with three more by Friday, and Terry Messman the publisher asked me to nudge him when they were done.   It’s beginning to look as though I’m becoming a regular columnist all of a sudden.  This is something I never dreamed would happen.

So, between the three, you might see a few more postings from me than usual.  There will probably be more for me to report here than ever before.   I’ll try to keep them short.  But be advised that as far as WordPress is concerned, you’re going to be dealing with a “frequent flyer” until further notice.  

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An Incredibly Empty Place

As most of you know, I am a person who became homeless at the age of 51 in the San Francisco Bay Area during a midlife crisis of enormous proportion, after working for many years as an elementary school music teacher and private teacher of Piano and Voice on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula.  I struggled in and out of homelessness for the next twelve years, mostly on the streets of Berkeley, California.  For the past fourteen months, I’ve successfully maintained an apartment in a completely different part of the country, and have been gainfully employed throughout most of that time.   Still, however, I sometimes miss the allure of the streets.  I find myself wanting to “hit the road” — to chuck it all, to flick it in, to flip the switch — and to become homeless once again.   But when I read something like this short blurb I wrote in 2015, I remember why this might not be such a good idea.

An Incredibly Empty Place

Believe it or not, the streets used to inspire me. I used to feel free here. I wrote ten songs from the streets, arranged them, recorded them – here in Berkeley, in 2012, I wrote decent interesting music — while homeless. But now? They all recognize me. They see me on the streets.

Who’s “they?”   Whoever it is who assumes — is they, and not we.   Whoever stigmatizes is “they” — not we.   We know who I really am  — we who neither stigmatize nor assume.   But they?  They assume, because they see me on the streets, that I’m all about the hustle.  Then, if they are not on the streets, they look down upon me, as though I am a dirt bag, here to rip them off.  And if they are on the streets?  Then they assume I am one of them.  I’m supposed to have a hustle, supposed to have a game.  When they find I have no hustle, when they find I have no game, then they assume I am their enemy.  I then become a target.   I must be a nark, a snitch, a rat.  Why is Andy never in jail?   It can’t possibly be that Andy isn’t about committing crimes, can it?   It can’t possibly be that he wants nothing whatsoever to do with that game.   It must be that he is a police informant.  He’s going to turn us all in.  We better get that guy Andy — before he gets us.

I’m either one of them — or I am their prey.   And as for Music? What is Music?  As for Art?  What the hell is Art?  Isn’t life all about the hustle? About taking from people who have even less than you have? And feeling good about it at the end of the day? As though it were an honest day’s work?

But to write music — what is that? Does it make me any money? No — not yet, anyway.  Perhaps it never will.  But why is that the prevailing question?   Why is the question not whether I do another person harm?   Does my writing music intrude on others at all? No.   It does not.  Then why am I not left alone, as I once was, in 2012?   Because they think they know me now.  They think they know me — because they see me.    Whoever they are who assume, they judge the book by its cover.  Whoever they are who stigmatize, they see me, and think they know me.  In reality, they know me not.

Some of these hustlers don’t seem to think they can make any money in life without totally infringing upon the rights of others.  Their means of earning money involves invading other people’s space.  All day long I hear them: “Got fifty cents?  Got a cigarette?   A light?   A cell phone?   Can I sync my cell phone to your laptop?  How much you want for that “top”?  What do you mean, it’s not for sale?  Who the hell do you think you are?”

I had a guy who calls himself my “friend” con me out of my last BART ticket. I paid for that BART ticket with my own earned money. It isn’t easy to sit there with back up against the brick wall of that BART station, flying a sign all day, and and keeping my mouth shut long enough for somebody to “get it.”   I’ve had jobs that were way easier than that!  But I’ve got my pride.   You won’t hear the words “can you spare some change?” come out of me.  I don’t want to be like those hustlers.  I don’t want to intrude on people’s mind-sets, or invade their space while they’re rushing to get from one gig to another in the Mainstream.  The sign says it all.  

need a miracle

But I tell you – some of these people just get to me.  They have no respect for other people. They don’t respect me. I have no value to them except for what they can con me out of. I don’t need their food stamps, their marijuana, their attitude. I don’t need them. I tell them I’m hungry, they tell me I should give them my last two dollars. I would so love to be able to eat regularly – to eat real food without having to wait for hours in a line every day, with fights breaking out, with security being involved and police being called — I’m tired of it all. Down here, it is either assumed that I am a criminal or, like I said, it’s assumed that I’m a mark. I’m either a potential perpetrator or a potential victim. There is no in between.

How did I ever get myself into this irreconcilable mess?  I should be hanging around college professors, theatre directors, school principals, and parents of singing students and piano students!  Like I used to be!   I should be hanging around Actors and musicians and set designers!  Like I used to!  I should be hanging around playwrights and screen writers. Piano players, singers – composers like me. But I am exempt from hanging with people like myself.  Somehow, it does not happen. Somehow, I cannot climb out of this hole. It’s too deep. My best hope is to communicate – and keep communicating – until someone feels me.

Does anyone feel me yet?  Do you?  I am constantly visible. Constantly seen – by whom? By everyone.   And believe me – some people down here – that’s all they do is look.  Look, lurk, watch, wait — and lay in wait.  They cannot sleep at night — unless they have done somebody harm.

There are no walls around me. I have no roof over my head. I have no bed beneath me. I am vulnerable – through visibility. And I am associated with all those who are similarly vulnerable – through visibility. Many of whom are violent. To find identification, I look to pimps, hustlers, hookers, and drug dealers. Why? Because they live in the same world that I do.  We have that in common.  I smile and laugh and joke in the presence of people of whose lifestyles I disapprove.  Why?  Because it keeps me from getting the crap knocked out of me, day after day after day.

And yet, through all of those smiles and all of that laughter, through all of the identification, the unusual common ground, the ground that validates us, that separates us from those who live “inside,”– throughout the foundation of our amazing common dignity, the buck always stops when the fine print is read.   And the fine print said:

I’m sorry, bro, but I really don’t want to distract that guy while you steal his bicycle.  I mean, I’m sorry man, but I’m just not into it.  I know you just turned me on to a bud of great medical weed.  I know, I know, but still, but still . . . 

How does one convey that just because one does not desire to partake in a criminal activity, this does not mean that one is the enemy of those who do?   At least five times a week, I have to look into the shocked, threatened eyes of someone who has just realized that I simply have no desire to commit a crime. No desire to steal from anyone. No desire to do someone bodily harm or psychic damage in order to obtain what I want for myself.

At that point, our common dignity means nothing. I am only an easy mark. My personality means nothing, really. And so, nobody recognizes me for who I am. It’s an incredibly empty place to be.

Andy Pope
Berkeley, California
June 15, 2015

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God Bless!

 

The End from the Beginning

I tend to use the word “composing” a bit loosely.  The word “arranging” might be more appropriate for what I’m currently about.   I wrote the song “Bone of My Bones” in my head a little over a year ago, when I was still homeless in Berkeley.   I arranged it shortly after I moved up to Idaho, and used that arrangement as the first movement in my Royal Rhapsody.  But then, throughout the months that passed since creating that arrangement, I kept “hearing” a different feel for “Bone of My Bones,” one that suggested rock instruments and a driving rock beat in places.  So I created the arrangement linked to the title below, and I called that process “composing.”

Bone of My Bones

Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope
All Rights Reserved

It often seems to me that I am not truly “composing” the piece in question until I actually put the notes down on paper, reasonably replicating the way that I “hear” those notes in my head.  Hence, the looseness of terminology.  Also, I’m intending to use this version of “Bone of My Bones” as part of a much larger piece, described in this post.  All of the themes I allude to have already been “composed” in my head.  But have they truly been composed?   If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear the sound, did it really fall?  

Well – if you want my opinion, it did.  But enough people differ from that opinion, I figured it would be best to post a more-or-less philosophical disclaimer at this time.  We basically do not know at what point in the process the “composing” of the musical piece actually begins.   In like manner, we also do not know when the composing of the piece of music ends.  

Case in point.   When I started working on Bones again, I decided to name the first file “Bones 17-A” since this was the year 2017, and I wanted to distinguish it from the 2016 version.   When I got to Version 18-F, it therefore meant that I had created 32 versions of the piece, going all the way through the alphabet once, from 17-A to 17-Z, and then up to the letter F with the number 18 preceding.  I then played Version 18-F for a friend of mine named Cindy.

Cindy liked the piece of music, even though it wasn’t nearly finished yet.  Then, when I got to Version 18-W, the 53rd version (the one you are hearing now), I wanted to play it for her again — but she said:

Why

Apparently, she thought it was fine the way it was, and that I had no need to work on it any further.  Yet I had already created seventeen more versions of the piece!   At that point, I was afraid to play it for her, for fear that she wouldn’t think it had evolved.

But if I defer to my own sovereignty in the matter (since after all, I am the Artist here), I still don’t think it’s done, even at Version 18-W.  The only reason why I have stopped here, and am permitting you all to hear it in this highly incomplete state, is because I know it’s only one theme in a much larger work, and I want to get onto the other themes, and start connecting them together.  In that process, many things are bound to change anyway, so I might as well not be too much of a perfectionist.  At the extreme, I would keep working on it until it was Bones 47-C or greater.  And I would never get anything else done, in life, at all.

I once lived behind a Fine Artist – a sculptor, in fact, one of great renown.   I had to walk through his studio in order to get to my apartment.  (A bizarre but symbiotic arrangement.)  Once, for days on end, I saw him become increasingly frustrated working on a certain sculpture.  Finally, he said something to me as I passed through.

duchamp
Marcel Duchamp

“Andy, do you see that spot there?  I’ve been trying for days to get it off of this damn thing!   It’s ruining the whole sculpture!”

“Spot?” I queried.  “What spot?  I don’t see anything.”

“Right there!  Don’t you see it?  It’s right there, damn it — getting in the way of everything!!”

“Uh…er…Darryl — who is the sculptor whom you revere the most?”

“Why, Marcel Duchamp.  You know that already, Andy.”

“And what did Marcel Duchamp say about the completion of a work of Art?”

“He said that he never finished a piece of Art.  He only abandoned it.”

“Well, I hate to break it to you, Daryl, but I think it’s about time you abandoned this sculpture.”

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My Pitch – Reiterated

Re-posted from the original ‘pitch’ of August 15th of this year.   Not one word has been changed.  Unfortunately, not much of anything else has changed either — yet.  

I have been flagrantly panhandling online for far too long for the sake of the advancement of my project.  I suck at marketing, sales, and advertising.  In fact, all those departments annoy the living daylights out of me.  I rock at playwriting, singing, playing the piano, writing music, musical direction, and homeless rights activism.  Blogging probably falls somewhere in the middle.

online-business-to-start-nowIt has occurred to me that if people perhaps knew why I’ve been asking for money, and where the money would be going, it might help me to get some donations from sympathetic people who can afford to do so.  So here goes.

I’m a person who has written a musical, and I would very much like to see this musical produced.  The musical paints a picture of the effects of homelessness on the youth of today’s America.  It is a very positive, upbeat show with an extremely encouraging, happy ending.  I have written the entire script, all of the music, and all of the lyrics.

But there I stop.  It will not be possible to move further toward the production of this musical without getting the kind of green stuff that doesn’t grow on trees.  This stuff is not known to come wafting through the window.  So I need to make a pitch.

There are numerous hurdles I need to surmount before anyone is going to take a look at this show — that is, anyone having the power to produce it.  First and foremost, I need to make an adequate demo recording of three or four of the songs, with real singers singing with their real voices, rendering the melodies and harmonies I have so meticulously created in the musical score that I have painstakingly composed, over a number of years, as I have been passionately absorbed in this project.

Talking around campus, and especially at the local School of Music, I get the feeling there are competent singers who will get behind me.  But like all singers, they will need to be paid.  My songs are catchy, urban, progressive show tunes, Broadway-influenced, and according to many, Broadway-bound.   However, it’s not the kind of stuff that even the quickest of studies are going to be able to pull off with minimal rehearsal.   No singer worth their salt is going to want to lend their voice to this endeavor without at least two or three rehearsals, prior to recording.  The very least I feel I should pay such a singer would be $125 for the whole shot.   I also need five singers to pull this off.  Even some of those five voices will be doubled or tripled, in order to replicate the chorus sections of the musical numbers that I have scored.

I am a serious composer who emphasized in Music Theory and Composition at a major Conservatory, and I hung out with my composition mentor, Dr. Stan Beckler, till shortly before the day he died.  My music draws from folk, classic rock, hip-hop and rap as well as from traditional comic light opera, but by no means does it entail your typical, tired old  1-4-5 progressions.  I have taken great pains to honor the genre of my youth, and bring fresh life and vigor to my favorite Performing Arts Form.  So basically, I need $625 to get started with this leg of the project, and create a decent demo of at least three songs.

I am technically situated so that I can record the singing over the instrumental tracks you hear on this page, eliminating doubled melody lines when necessary, to emphasize the live vocals.  This will sound a lot more authentic than one might think, and any irksome complaints regarding the “canned” use of the “electronic” sounds wll be instantly jettisoned, once my project is heard.   If I had the money to hire musicians and schedule studio time, I would probably go that route instead.  But I don’t have the money, and it would take quite a bit more rehearsal time — so this is the starting point that I propose.

It has not been easy to write these words tonight, much less paste them in three different spots on this web site, and blast them all across the Internet, to the expected ridicule of those who don’t believe me.   But because I know what I am doing — musically, artistically, and theatrically — in the realm of Musical Theatre where most of my lifelong experience lies, I can confidently tell you that I will back up my claims with action — as soon as I have the bucks to make it happen.

powerofprotestWe can take it from there.  I am not above self-producing the show locally, and directing it myself.  But all these moves will require money, which a mere church musician in between jobs on a fixed monthly income cannot possibly conjure.  Rather, if I could conjure up that kind of capital, I’d neither have the time nor the energy to pursue my passion, and the dream of my lifetime will land in my grave.   Daylight’s burning.  I’m in my sixties already.  Let’s get a move on.  Let’s get this show on the road.

If you’ve been reading this blog, and listening to my music, and reading my posts about the Homeless Phenomenon in America, then get the word out to those who have the power — assuming you don’t have the power yourself.

And power to the people.  Power to all the people!  Power to the Homeless People of the United States of America.

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Gratitude List 591

Although this blog exists in order to promote my own project as well as to support the projects of similar, like-minded Artists and Writers, I can’t help but confess that I’ve been posting a lot of personal stuff here lately.   It doesn’t sit entirely well for me to do so.  However, my Art is so entirely wrapped up in my personal issues and experiences, it becomes a bit difficult to separate the two at times.  Nor should I really concern myself with creating an arbitrary separation, as though my absorption in Art were a strictly professional matter, mandating that I leave my personal stuff behind in order to work.  Such distinctions never pan out in reality — not for me, anyway.  

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaThe best “separation” I’ve ever been able to accept is that I write better about personal experiences when they are not immediately happening.   Take my recent writings on Homelessness, for example.  The descriptions of the homeless life that I wrote while I was homeless might be extremely lurid, perhaps even shocking, but they don’t adequately convey the essence of homelessness towards those who are not homeless.  I write better about homelessness when I am removed enough from the experience to be more objective in my writing, but not so far removed as to have forgotten entirely what it was like to live outdoors, sleeping with one eye open, constantly wondering when I was going to be awakened, by whom, and for what purpose.  I’ve been living indoors for almost a year now, and the urgency with which I sometimes feel compelled to post about my homeless experiences is based almost entirely on the perception that I’m about to forget all about it, any day now.

All that said, I don’t wish to belabor personal issues here on this blog to the extent that they overwhelm or even replace my focus on my Art.  But lately they have been so intense that I’ve felt that I had to.  It would have been sheer hypocrisy to sit here behind my computer, pretending that everything is A.O.K.   Still, enough is enough.  It’s time I take responsibility for my depression, and move forward once again.  

So I’m going to swallow my pride once again, and meet with my therapist and my doctor on Friday, and concede to explore the new mood stabilizer that they have considered for me, on the basis that the previous one (which I’ve not taken for months now) was giving me acid reflux.  Although I am leery as to any lasting effects the medication may have, I do recall that the previous medication definitely helped me to focus well enough to finish my musical script and to interact favorably with the other Writers in my guild.  After a while, however, its favorable effects sort of wore off, and all I was left with was the acid reflux.  Maybe this one will be better.  We’ll see.  In any event, I don’t want to become as depressed as I’ve been throughout the past several days, if I don’t really need to be.

I do want to report that I’m in much better spirits today.  For one thing, I got up and made a daily gratitude list — as I do every morning — only this time it was not merely the empty ritual it had somehow become.  I sincerely attempted to come up with ten things I could truly be grateful for — and you know what?   It worked.   (The strong cup of coffee alluded to in #9 below also helped.)

GRATITUDE LIST 591
 

1. It was good to go to One World last night, where I felt the energy of being around students who are into higher learning and not into ripping me off, rather than around tweakers who are only into crystal methamphetamine and ripping me off.

2. I had this funny feeling of “recognition” when I walked past the Kenworthy on the way to One World and “remembered” how David H. would often invite me to some theatrical event there, and often I would attend and talk with him thereafter.

3. I noticed that D. seemed kind to me when he paused briefly from his studies to say “hello” — not so much as though I was only another interruption.

4. I did something different when I got up this morning and listened to this brief clip of Pastor Larry Austin, my friend from Faith Family Presbyterian Church in Oakland. A nice reminder with which to begin the day. I was grateful that God sent it to me first thing in the morning, and grateful that Larry requested my Facebook friendship, after all this time.

5. Jim the Janitor has also requested my friendship on Facebook. I’ve also noticed that Jim is a lot more fun to talk to once I have accepted his peccadillos.

6. Speaking of which, today would be Day 13 — were it not for the “peccadillo.”

7. I remembered Homelessness in the surprising rain that poured when I left One World last night, and I felt that earnest gratitude once again when I got behind the locks of the room I am renting. Beats being out in the rain.

8. I get to play for the Taize service tonight. I can also apologize to Erika and maybe even show up for Choir practice, if they have it.

9. Vandals Blend coffee from the Bagel Shop last night. Good thing to have saved it for morning, and grateful for the coffee cup that Kathy Pendegraft gave me from the church yesterday. Glad she pointed it out, because I would never have thought of it, despite how desperately I’d have longed for one in the morning.

10. Though depressed throughout the day yesterday, a brief conversation with Nick cheered me up quite a bit. It was as though I picked up his positive attitude all the way from Marin. I was able to sleep well after that, though previously I had been very anxious.

I actually got all the way through the Gratitude List without spouting anything negative that I am aware of. This could be a good day in Christ, and anyway His blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness. It is another day of Grace under the sun.

 

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Despair

I’ve never felt a depression anywhere near this deep before.   The depression keeps me from being able to do simple things in life.  Wash the dishes.  Take out the trash.  Make my bed.  Wash my clothes.  

It just doesn’t seem that there’s any way out of it.  I hesitate to write, to even post, because it consumes me so entirely.

It used to be, there was a reason to be depressed.  Now it’s just — constantly happening.  I keep telling myself that maybe if something changes for the better, I will feel better, and I can start anew once again.  Or I tell myself, I will just pick up where I left off, before I got so sidetracked.  But nothing works.  Nothing helps.  

I used to be able to rely on this person, this Andy, who was always motivated, who always gritted his teeth and faced whatever adversity there was, and endured it.

Now I can’t rely on him anymore.  He’s missing, he’s vacant, he’s gone astray – he doesn’t know where he is.  He can’t do the things he used to do, and enjoy doing them.

I’ve been writing music for several days.  But I don’t like the music.  It’s lousy.  I don’t enjoy it.  I don’t want to be writing it anymore.

I wrote this musical – but – how easily it came to appear to me to be useless.  I can’t even put a demo together; I can’t find singers; I should not even try any more.  All it does is increase the depression.

I just feel like – God blessed me so hugely in bringing me here, bringing me off the streets. Then I somehow transformed the blessing into a curse.  It used to be the other way around, and it should be.  I used to be able to transform curses into blessings.  That was my strength.

I just don’t know what to do with myself anymore.  I pray – but I feel so disconnected from God.  I just can’t see a light at the end of this tunnel.  It just goes on and on, winding in a way that I never can tell what’s ahead.  All I know is what is ahead — is total darkness — and I am always, always in despair.