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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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.   

No Longer an Island

I mentioned in this recent post that three more of my pieces have been published in Street Spirit. It looks as though Terry Messman, the publisher, is going to want me to contribute regularly.  So far, he has published one story in the August edition, and three in the September edition.  I told him I would try to come up with three publishable pieces each month after this.  I’ve noticed that he and I seem to see eye to eye on these themes, and I am basically blown away that a newspaper even exists wherein my work would be appropriate.  I am no longer an island unto myself.  

I’m writing today to let you know that the online version of this month’s Street Spirit is now available.   Below are links that will lead you to all three samples of my work, along with copies of the illustrations attached to each.  (The beautiful painting below is “Serenity Base” by Christine Hanlon.)

SERENITY_BASE-770x257

The Voices of the Streets

MobyNO

Easy to Say No

(Please note that in addition to the story now entitled “Easy to Say No,” you will also find an exact copy of my short statement, I Told Them I was Homeless, on that same page.)

I want to thank Sally Hindman for connecting me to Street Spirit, and of course I want to thank Terry Messman, the publisher.  Information on these two very interesting people, and their connection to Street Spirit, may be found here.  It strikes me as interesting how I never actually met Sally and Terry when I actually lived in Berkeley, but am now connected to them now in a very meaningful way.  For I have discovered a wonderful newspaper, created by like-minded “kindred spirits” who, prior to the past two months, I did not know existed.   This, coming as it does at a very tumultuous period in my admittedly very rocky and uncertain life, is a true sign of hope.

Finally, I want to thank all of my faithful readers for your ongoing interest in my creative work and in the cause therein embraced.  Thank you all for your support.

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Psalm 143

Lord, hear my prayer,
    listen to my cry for mercy;
in your faithfulness and righteousness
    come to my relief.
Do not bring your servant into judgment,
    for no one living is righteous before you.
The enemy pursues me,
    he crushes me to the ground;
he makes me dwell in the darkness
    like those long dead.
So my spirit grows faint within me;
    my heart within me is dismayed.
I remember the days of long ago;
    I meditate on all your works
    and consider what your hands have done.
I spread out my hands to you;
    I thirst for you like a parched land.[a]

Answer me quickly, Lord;
    my spirit fails.
Do not hide your face from me
    or I will be like those who go down to the pit.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
    for I have put my trust in you.
Show me the way I should go,
    for to you I entrust my life.
Rescue me from my enemies, Lord,
    for I hide myself in you.
Teach me to do your will,
    for you are my God;
may your good Spirit
    lead me on level ground.

For your name’s sake, Lord, preserve my life;
    in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble.
 In your unfailing love, silence my enemies;
    destroy all my foes,
    for I am your servant.

Psalm 143, NIV
A Psalm of David

 

The Voices of the Streets

Good news — I just had three more pieces published in the September issue of Street Spirit.  The publisher, Terry Messman, has not yet prepared the online links, but he did send me a pdf of the hard copy:

September 2017 Street Spirit

You can find two of my pieces on the 4th page.  On the top is the one entitled “Easy to Say No,” the title of which has been changed from Social Statement by the publisher.   I Told Them I Was Homeless is below.   There are very interesting illustrations involved, as well as a posting of the lyrics from the song “Easy to Be Hard” from the rock musical HAIR. which incidentally I music-directed at U.C. Davis in 1979.

But the best representation of my work is the piece now called “Society Must Listen to the Voices of the Streets,” which is published on p.8 beneath a beautiful painting called “Serenity Base” by Christine Hanlon.   This is actually the second half of Homeless Tinge, done up newspaper-column-style, with some of the paragraphs split into shorter components.  

I hope you all get a chance to check these out.  I really had no expectations when I stumbled on this gig.  But I must say that any expectations I might have had have been far exceeded by the wonderful work of Terry Messman.  I also want to thank Pastor Sally Hindman for connecting me to the paper.  I had never pictured myself as a “columnist” before!  It is a surprising and strangely welcome feeling.

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Fifth Day of Composing

I’ve been composing a lot of music. I’m working on “Bone of My Bones” the way I actually have been hearing it in my head all this time, ever since doing a substandard sequencing of it some time ago, only motivated by wanting to “place” it within the Royal Rhapsody. This new version coincides with the email of July 12th of this year, which I sent jointly to Danielle, to my daughter, and to my pastor, when I received the musical information for the extended composition I’m now working on.

Although it is a bit embarrassing in restrospect to observe how I attributed every nuance of my new compositional focus to Direct Divine Design, there nonetheless is a nice balance in the way the varying themes blend into a whole.  I notice this as I work on the new composition, and it eases the sense of enormity which the project conveys, which can at times be intimidating, especially when one is overcome with sloth.  

Not so my present mode, as I actively pursue heated composition on Day Five.  Here is the extended creative information:

July 12, 2017

New / Old Music.

All these themes, as well as the various segues and transitions that tie them together, come from the “same place,” musically speaking, a place of perfect beauty and purity that I daresay is divine, both in origin and in nature.

1. The Main Theme – is essentially “Bone of My Bones” (first movement, Royal Rhapsody), but with a defining beat to it – unlike its manifestation in The Royal Rhapsody, and more like the way I played it on Neil’s guitar after I first wrote it, before the lady from the nearby house interrupted us to inform us that we should really not have been making music so close to a private residence.

The “defining beat” is able to identify nuances in the melodic/harmonic content of the piece and highlight them for the listener, whereas they would otherwise have been overlooked. For this purpose, the usage of “beat” is very definitive throughout the larger piece of which all these themes are a part. This also means that is *essential* to find the right percussive instrumentation for the project. If I’m at the stage where my own body comes closest, then I haven’t gotten very far. But the “electronic drums” used in the original Berkeley Project from which this type of music-making springs fall far short of the more divinely designated drumming that I’m sure is available if I truly seek that beat wholeheartedly.

The Main Theme will be stated three times, not in succession, but spread about throughout the piece. The first time would probably be at the very beginning – just as is the case in the original Royal Rhapsody. The second time will emerge from the Tertiary Theme which I will discuss a bit later. The third and final time will emerge from the Secondary Theme, which I will discuss right now.

2. The Secondary Theme is stated three times in succession, with different transitional music following each statement of the theme, before the final segue leads to the conclusive Main Theme, and not just to another restatement of the Secondary Theme.

To identify the Secondary Theme, it is the section of music that I originally had inserted within the “Stalk Section” found in the long version of “Bubbles Taboo,” before I left it out when I got up to Moscow and was able to sequence that version. It is a sad theme, though with an interesting lilt in this more lively, rhythmic version. Alao, to further identify it for the sake of nostalgia, the guitarist Niel Mortenson, and he alone, has heard this music emerge from my fingers.

About the transitional music following each statement of the Secondary Theme, the first transition is the shortest and the second transition is considerably longer. The first statement of the second transition leads to the third statement of the Secondary Theme. The second statement of the second transition is the third and final transition pertaining to the Secondary Theme, and leads to the third and conclusive statement of the Main Theme.

(I see that I am in danger of forgetting both the aforementioned transitions. That’s what I get for not singing them immediately into my Audacity sound editor that I have downloaded for Windows – a time-saving habit that I’ve never quit bothered to develop. But I’m trying not to kick myself too hard right now. Next time it’s quiet, and I’m at home at my desk, I’ll tune into the Secondary Theme as deeply as possible, and hope that the relevant transitions return to me. They always do, if I work at it.)

3. The Tertiary Theme can best be identified by its being the theme I first “heard” this morning. As a “brand new” theme, it is connected conceptually, but not historically, to the themes in the Berkeley Project. It is a much shorter theme, and the power of its three-time successive statement might be dismissed by the listener were it not for the glaring function of its transitions. The transitions actually expand upon the power of their predecessors, and fool the listener into believing they’re headed for their original usage to serve the Main Theme or the Secondary Theme, rather than back to the Tertiary Theme.

Although there are other themes, it gets tricky from here. The Secondary Theme is connected musically to “Bubbles Taboo” in a way that is telling, if awkward. Its original usage not only was conceived to be part of a lengthier rendition of “Bubbles Taboo” than the world will probably never hear, but the transitions it involves point to “Bubbles Taboo” in other ways as well. Right now, however, I’m having a hard time recollecting how one of the transitions, used to lead directly into one of the statements of the Main Theme, also leads very easily into the main defining theme of “Bubbles Taboo.” But let’s face it — who wouldn’t be having a hard time keeping track of all this by now? I believe the connection between the two uses of that particular transition will return to me, along with the defining musical content of the transition in question. But if it doesn’t? C’est la vie. God obviously has something better in mind.

4. Sirens of Hope – this will not necessarily be referred to as the Fourth Theme. What appears to happen. after an appropriate expression of transitional music seems to be putting a cap on the final statement of the Main Theme, is that the last measure or two of that transitional music happens to lead very nicely into the main theme of “Sirens of Hope” – yet stated this time without the fast, rhythmic quality that characterizes the way I had hastily sequenced it for the Berkeley Project, once I had arrived in Moscow and had proceeded to put some small measure of rational thought into how exactly I was to go about it, before impulsively plunging into the haphazard, misleading version I posted on the Berkeley Page, because I couldn’t wait, and couldn’t stop, and was just too excited, and too impatient, and all that.

I also don’t want to overemphasize the value of another body of transitional music that stems from the “A Part” or introductory section of the version of “Sirens of Hope” already sequenced. But it appears that when this body of music is taken much slower and much less rhythmically than I had presented it for the “Sirens” already sequenced, it has power both to attract the listener almost to a theme of its own, and also to take the statement of that theme directly back to the main theme of “Sirens of Hope” from which it stemmed.

In conclusion, I know that I will later feel I should have gathered my senses and sung into my Audacity program every theme or transition that I originally heard myself performing when I first woke up this morning and seemed not to be able to stop the singing, accompanied by the percussive use of my body, that apparently I was performing all throughout my sleep last night. (If you’re incredulous, just ask my next door neighbor.)

However, I also feel that the information provided in this file is sufficient to get me started on the project. At some point, the transitional themes will recur in full, if I go about this in a good heart – the way I went about when I was in Berkeley. I basically have to keep bearing in mind where this music is coming from – the place from which it comes is not merely Beauty of Meaning or Purpose or Truth – it s actually Perfection, and it cries out to be honored as such. Probably it cries out more loudly to perfectionists themselves — because we are the ones most likely to believe its call.

The difference, of course, between God’s Perfection and human perfectionism is that He doesn’t make mistakes. This is why He is completely to be trusted. There’s no danger in trusting Him, as there is with even the most trustworthy of mere mortals. So, I can take comfort in that His giving me this unexpected new musical direction so surprisingly this morning, was *not* a mistake of His. I may or may not be mistaken to prioritize so highly its production. The Jury is still out on that one. but the Judge is the one with the gavel.

All for now —

Andy

The problem has been that by the time I went back to these words approximately three weeks later, I had forgotten the “Tertiary Theme” entirely. You see, I had never bothered to write it down, and so eventually it escaped me. I then abandoned the project in disgust. But then, unexpectedly, the theme that I had not written down returned to me! This was approximately five days ago, and so I resumed work on the project immediately. I still haven’t written the theme down — but I’m convinced I won’t forget it, as I continue to work on other, less relevant, portions of the impending piece — such as this “Bone of My Bones” section.

This new composing persona also suggests the rebirth or resurrection of a former great Andy-image within the Moscow community. In this image, I am *seen* composing music with Finale at various hot spots around town. This is a bright contrast to the image of the Andy who is *seen* furiously typing on his externally extended keyboard, as he is doing now, when just minutes ago, he was *seen* pleasantly composing beautiful new music, as is his preferred persona. Conspicuously so, at that. Noticeably, visibly composing music — to the widespread admiration of all.

You see, when I am composing music with Finale, I use a lot of “drag & drop” features, mostly large silent swoops of the external mouse.  It’s a novel sight in comparison to the previous, furious fast-paced, prolonged spells of typing.  It’s a welcome sight, in the eyes of most of the community.  They are at once relieved of my typing, and introduced to the much more pleasant and intriguing world of music notation software, its usage made manifest among the multitudes that comprise Moscow, Idaho, where I most notably, noticeably do my work.  

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Daylight

This will undoubtedly be a more difficult post for me to write than the two more wild posts that have preceded it.   What has been happening is that I have been coming to terms with how severely my personal issues of the past six months have completely interfered with the discipline I need to move forward with my larger creative projects.

When I first moved into the Friendship Apartments on July 27th of last year, it seemed an incredible godsend.   This was especially the case when compared with my previous “place of residence.”  I had been on the streets for three years consistently in Berkeley prior to that, and for twelve years I had been homeless off-and-on in Berkeley and other towns.  That a trustworthy landlord even appeared who would trust me with a one-year lease on an apartment was remarkable.  So I cannot claim that Friendship Square has not been a blessing of tremendous magnitude.

However, something began to change within me, maybe not exactly on March 4th, when I reached the “pinnacle” described in the previous entry, but in a gradual way following that date.  Whereas before, my studio apartment had been a place of refuge and solitude, it gradually became on open door to all the social activities I eventually found among those who also took up residence in the Friendship Apartments.  I’m not sure how to describe what happened to me, other than to say that my loneliness eventually superseded my aloneness.  

The blessing of aloneness had been in solitude, seclusion, and sanctuary.  I found creative asylum in aloneness, and I proceeded with the Berkeley Music and the Babylon Script with a disciplined fury, only taking Sundays off from my writing.  Slowly, however, the blessing of solitude was transformed into a curse of loneliness.  I began to interact with whoever happened to be nearby, often another lonely person like myself.  I honestly think I did not even realize that I was lonely.  I doubt that many of the other men in my building were in touch with their loneliness either.  It isn’t easy, after all, for a man to admit that he has such feelings.

Before I knew it, I had befriended every man, and most of the women, in the Friendship Apartments.  It seemed they were called the “Friendship Apartments” for a reason.  Much reveling took place.  I would sometimes wake up in the morning wondering what I had done with myself.   (At this point, I am certain I need say no more.)

My pastor at my church had become concerned, along with those few members of the community whom I had truly befriended, including Young Paul down at the Bagel Shop.   We were all decidedly looking for a new and better place for me to stay, even as I was clinging to the model of Friendship Square as the answer to years of prayers I prayed on the streets, praying only that God would grant me “a window, a lock on the door, and a power outlet.”  After being homeless for so long, I was convinced that this was all I would need to be happy.

I got on a list for subsidized Senior housing.  Then, just yesterday, something came up.  It’s a two bedroom apartment, actually, for only $318/mo.  It’s in a good area, near Paradise Path where I run, and near the Safeway at the East Side Mall.  It’s off the beaten trail of the student partying at the Main Street pubs, as well as the more insidious, invisible “tweaker” scene that lurks menacingly all around the current block.   It isn’t at all a certainty yet, but I feel a real hope about this option.  Also, if it falls through, Young Paul has offered to let me take over the lease on his one-bedroom apartment (also in an excellent location) as soon as he and a roommate move into their two-bedroom.   So it seems fail-safe.

If any of you are the praying types, please pray about this.  I believe that, while it may not exactly “solve” my problems, it will put me in an environment much more conducive to their being solved.   And in any case, I awoke this morning feeling that some unweildy burden had been lifted from me overnight.  I am no longer so “wild,” nor have I been contemplating the unfeasible.   It is entirely possible that, the next time you hear from me, I will be standing on higher, more fertile, ground.

“The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”
–Romans 13:12