Spamalot

I’m being majorly spammed on the My Pitch post by multiple trolls – probably the same entity under different guises.   I keep marking the comments as spam and then removing them, but I might just let them accumulate so I can show them to the Happiness Engineers when the time comes. 

fat catProbably their motive is to get my goat, knowing that since My Pitch is an obvious appeal to get money for my demo recording and the ultimate packaging of my musical, I will always head very eagerly toward that post in hopes that it’s money I might be receiving, rather than incoherent inter-babble from fat guys drinking whiskey who, unlike Yours Truly, do not have a life.

(Oh well.   At least I learned that I don’t like the picture of the Rainbow Kids dancing around making music.   It just seems weird and phony.    I’ll replace it with something more along the lines of “Power to the People” and see if that works better.)

On the money note, we did receive a $100 donation on the latest bid for seven hundred bucks.   I also want to make a true confession here, which will at least assuage my guilty conscience, if not make me any money.

More than once I have taken money intended to be used for the project and instead have paid my phone bill or bought groceries.  I did it out of desperation, and it has not helped my cause.  It’s true that my rent is $175 more per month than it used to be, and that I am also a disabled man on a fixed income.   However, it is also true that $175 is worth the fact that there are no more tweakers knocking on my door day in and out asking me for cigarette lighters (although I do not smoke) and where I’m hiding the drugs (because nobody can possibly type as fast as I do unless they’re high on speed.)

Unfortunately, there are limits to human compassion.   Ah, but I digress.

Because of my earlier indiscretions, Danielle and I have set up a fund site where all donations will simply sit in limbo until the $700 is achieved.   At this point, I am happy to announce that $100 has already been received toward that goal.  So we only have $600 to go.

Let’s get the $600 together, guys — and let’s get this show on the road.  It’s not as though the cat has nine lives here.   Enough said.

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

All for the Love of Coffee

Not everything that happened in the psychiatric facility described in the previous entry was humane.  For example, there was a very disturbing turn of events that took place after I noticed that, while all the other patients were receiving caffeinated coffee with their breakfasts, I alone was condemned to decaf.

When I asked why this was, a psych tech named Steve stepped forward.  The following conversation ensued.

coffee protectionSteve: Well, Andy, because you are bipolar, we feel that regular coffee would hype you up too much.

Andy: But I’ve been having a cup of coffee every day since I was 19 years old.  I can tell you for a fact that a cup of coffee relaxes me.

Steve: If you were ADHD, the cup of coffee would relax you.  But since you are bipolar, the cup of coffee hypes you up.

Andy: Well then, I suppose I must be ADHD, because as I just told you, my morning cup of coffee relaxes me.

Steve: Andy, be honest with us.  You know for a fact that because you are bipolar, your morning cup of coffee does not relax you!  Your cup of coffee makes you hyper.

Andy: But Steve, don’t you think I know how my morning cup of coffee affects me?

Steve: Listen Andy, we know that you want help, but you seem to want the help to happen on your own terms!

Andy: My own terms?  A cup of coffee in the morning is my own terms?  ME AND THIRTY-FIVE MILLION OTHER AMERICANS??

Suddenly, about five mental health workers leaped out of their seats, and before I knew it, I was being given a shot of concentrated Zyprexa on my tongue.  Everything went black.

Approximately 24 hours later, I woke up to the sight of another psych tech, a fellow named Tim whom I had remembered from my first incarceration in said facility back in 2004.  He was dressed entirely black, which I recall caused a disturbed schizo-affective back in 2004 to think he was a manifestation of the devil.  I, however, knew him to be a pretty nice guy.

“Andy, don’t make a big deal out of a cup of coffee here, man — it’s not going to work in your favor.”

“I don’t know, Tim.  It just doesn’t seem like three days of forced caffeine withdrawal is working in my favor either.”

As I began, in my typical fashion, to go over the heads of everybody and anybody in order to secure my badly needed cup of coffee, I eventually landed at the director of the institution, who happened to be from Austria.

I guess they think a little bit differently over there in Austria.  The psych techs who had forced the Zyprexa concentrate into my body were reprimanded, and my cup of coffee was made manifest on the third day.

Just in time for me to meet Greg the Bartender and head towards Stockton.  But in all due deference to those who have been asking me to write my memoirs, I’m pretty sure the buck stops here.

Or does it?

TO BE CONTINUED

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

 

The Revelation of Humanity

It was the year 2008 — the year in which I lost over half of my so-called “friends” and at least one close member of my extended family by sending a single three-sentence email that I guess they couldn’t handle.   The word “homelessness” might as well not have even existed in that email. 

The few friends who cared wrote back with advice that had to do with anything and everything other than the fact that for over four years now, it had been all I could do to keep a roof over my head.  One person even advised me to look at its contents when I was “sober” — as though assuming that a person had to be drunk in order to express that he could no longer handle the ongoing conditions of Homelessness.   I had written that somebody had to believe in me enough to let them stay at their house long enough so I could get back on my feet — or else, I would do something drastic.

I would take my own life.

Record gales were assaulting my entire body in Golden Gate Park.  Do I die of hypothermia tonight, or do I spare myself the trouble and do the deed of my own courage and power?   I had just heard yet another landlady claim that I had to leave my cottage because her daughter was separating from her husband and needed to move in. In California, they call this an “Owner Move In.”  It’s the easiest way to get rid of a renter whom you don’t happen to like.

I had been working as an accompanist for a Gilbert and Sullivan company, the Stanford Savoyard Players, at the time.  When I lost the cottage, the musical director kept paying for my motel rooms so I could finish the show.  This was more than gracious of him, but of course I could not expect such treatment to continue once the show was over.

I had been in so many different programs, shelters, and board-and-care homes — in addition to all the rentals that somehow only led to irreconcilable conflicts, owner move-ins, and finally a crash landing back on the streets — I had stopped counting long ago.  None of those situations had ever put a single dent in the rock hard armor that is Homelessness.

In this case, I guess my $900 monthly disability money vis a vis my $550 rent was making the landlady nervous.    And though she knew I’d landed the Stanford gig after finishing my opera coach service at Peninsula Teen Opera, she still came up with the Owner Move In.  Last I checked, her daughter never even moved in.   Guess she didn’t like the way I looked. 

Sure, I remember pacing the floor in her living room, when I was supposed to be staying inside the college.  I remember her approaching me, asking: “How did I ever wind up with the likes of you?”

I remember the incredulity she expressed when she didn’t believe that all of my family members were refusing to let me stay with them.

“But why should they let me stay with them?”  I asked her.  “You won’t even let me stay with you, even though I’m paying rent.”

“You’ve got a point there,” she shrugged.   And of course, she still kicked me out on my ass.

coldest winter san franciscoSo the show ended, and a couple days later I found myself completely lost in the kind of “summer” that Mark Twain claimed to be the “coldest winter he had ever spent.”    I crawled into the Simple Pleasures Cafe on Balboa, and after breaking my last five dollar bill, bought a minimum three dollar hour on their public computer.

It was then that, overwhelmed with despair, I emailed at least one hundred people at once with these words:

I am stuck in a T-shirt out in Golden Gate Park in the freezing cold wind.  I do not believe I can make it through night.  I am writing to let you all know that I can no longer handle the ongoing conditions of Homelessness.   Please, somebody let me stay over tonight, or show me where I can go, because at this time, I am prepared to take my own life, to avoid what I feel is coming.

And though I indeed lost at least a hundred formerly positive contacts with a single email, the revelation of humanity that poured forth from exactly three people whom I hardly knew was astonishing.

An Actress: Andy, I’ve been there.  Give me your number; I will do everything I can possibly do to help you.

A Bartender: Andy, I’m driving over from Lodi to get you.   Tell me where you are — my dad says you can stay at his house for a night or two.

A Poet: Andy, check your PayPal.  I just shot you eighty bucks.  Get yourself a hotel room, get inside for tonight, and take it from there.  Tomorrow is another day.

Of course, the final offer was of most immediate appeal.  I used my last two dollars to hop on a SamTrans bus and check into a cheap motel in Belmont for the night.

In the morning, I woke up, scratched my head, and scanned my options.  I knew that Greg the bartender was willing to come get me.  But it seemed as though something more important needed to happen first.  So, I walked up the hill to Sequoia Hospital, and told them everything I just told you. 

I explained how my job contracts had ended, and how it would be a bit of a lull before I could find another gig.  I expressed how I had thought that surely now, with both employment and a rental, I should have managed to get back on my feet.  Before, I explained, I either didn’t have a job or I didn’t have a place to live.  This time, I had managed to muster up both at once.   And yet still the Homelessness loomed larger than any of that. 

I told them how two nights prior, I had written to all of my family members to beseech them to let me stay at their homes for just a couple nights, and no one at all replied.  I told them I had been trying to deal with my mental health issues ever since a first-time manic episode in the year 2004 had lost me my job, my car, and my home.  I told them how every time I entered into some kind of program, something would happen, something having to do with my inability to get along with others in close quarters, and I would get kicked out.  Or else I would finish the program, and then what?   Where would I go?  All roads, I told them, led to Homelessness.

I told them I completely understood why people didn’t want to have me over, because I probably would’t want me over either.  But at the same time, I asked them, where is compassion?  Who has a heart?   Can’t somebody bend for a little while?  When is anybody going to realize that I’m not going to be able to solve any of my “boundary issues” or exacerbations of ADHD or bipolar disorder if I don’t find that somebody loves me enough to make a simple sacrifice – and yet, nobody will.

“Can I possibly be that bad of a piece of shit that nobody will let me stay with them?”  I asked them.  “I’ve let homeless guys stay at my place before.   I didn’t like having my space invaded either, but I had compassion.   Sure, Tony slept for twelve hours and left a mess in the kitchen.  So what?   Was I supposed to let him die out in Golden Gate Park on a night like this?  Why can’t they get that I won’t be able to solve any of these other problems of mine if I can’t first solve the much more enormous problem that is Homelessness? 

“And why, why, why doesn’t anybody love me anymore?” I cried.  “How can they keep saying they ‘love’ me, yet forbidding me to even so much as knock on their door, or to come over for Christmas dinner?  What is wrong with me?  Am I that horrible of a human being that, for all of my God-given gifts and musical abilities, I am supposed to die in a damn gutter?   Why can’t anybody give me a break?”

I shut my mouth and ceased my appeal.  I looked in their eyes, fully expecting them to say the usual:

I’m sorry, Andy.  We’re not a spa or a ski resort.  I know you want to get your meds fixed and find some help here, but we can’t just let every homeless person on earth over for a 72-hour stay.   We feel for you, but you will just have to receive help for your condition somewhere else.

Tears were flowing down my eyes.  I stayed silent and gazed at the three women in front of me, who in turn gazed at me. 

And I tell you — when those three social workers rushed up and hugged me, I remembered again the Revelation of Humanity — that inkling of hope, not just for me, but for the entire human race.   

I was not a piece of shit.

I was not “worthless homeless scum.”

I was not a “dirt bag.”

I was a human being who needed and deserved real help.  

Sure, I lost at least eighty professional contacts, maybe twenty people I had thought were my friends, and another person whom I very much love, with a single email.   But what I gained from this experience was far greater.

I thought I would end my meaningless, worthless life.  Instead, my life of worth and meaning had just begun.   

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

 

For the Director of Music

Lord, you are the God who saves me;
day and night I cry out to you.
May my prayer come before you;
turn your ear to my cry.

I am overwhelmed with troubles
and my life draws near to death.
I am counted among those who go down to the pit;
I am like one without strength.
I am set apart with the dead,
like the slain who lie in the grave,
whom you remember no more,
who are cut off from your care.

You have put me in the lowest pit,
in the darkest depths.
Your wrath lies heavily on me;
you have overwhelmed me with all your waves.
You have taken from me my closest friends
and have made me repulsive to them.
I am confined and cannot escape;
my eyes are dim with grief.

I call to you, Lord, every day;
I spread out my hands to you.
Do you show your wonders to the dead?
Do their spirits rise up and praise you?
Is your love declared in the grave,
your faithfulness in Destruction?
Are your wonders known in the place of darkness,
or your righteous deeds in the land of oblivion?

But I cry to you for help, Lord;
in the morning my prayer comes before you.
Why, Lord, do you reject me
and hide your face from me?

From my youth I have suffered and been close to death;
I have borne your terrors and am in despair.
Your wrath has swept over me;
your terrors have destroyed me.
All day long they surround me like a flood;
they have completely engulfed me.
You have taken from me friend and neighbor—
darkness is my closest friend.

–Psalm 88

Limitations of the Divine

I truly abhor the process of having to search high and low for money to get this show packaged.   I truly do.   These are not the words of a scammer, a hustler, or a con artist.   They are the words of a frustrated, serious Artist who happens to hate money with a passion, and who prefers not to ever have to even think about it.   I do not live in a world of financial gains and losses.  I live in a world of Music, Art, and Writing — and whatever gains and losses there may be —  well, they basically come with the territory.

limitationSo hopefully what I just wrote on my Proposal Page will be written for the last time.  I’m bright enough to be able to discern that every time I make this pitch, I sound a bit more desperate.  But it’s like I said earlier, I feel like I’m racing against Alzheimer’s trying to get this show on the road.   I understand that $700 is a considerable chunk of change in just about anybody’s world, but if I could at least get something toward this venture, my spirits would sure lighten about the whole thing.

Otherwise, there are still positive signs of impending progress.  I heard from the lady at the University, who approved of my detailed character descriptions and suggested I also make flyers.  I found a zealous young fellow with a degree in Marketing who wants to help me with the flyers and other such details.  So maybe he can make monetary proposals that sound a wee bit more professional than the super-honest gush of laying my heart on the table that you will read on my Proposal Page.

But that gush is me – at the moment anyway – and I’m not about to change it.   I just want it to be over.  I want to get the money for the singers and the overall package, and get this damn show on the road.

Like I said, all other systems are go.  The workshop will probably begin within the next two weeks, with or without singing.  It will be a bit of a stretch trying to figure out what to do during all of the musical numbers, but you know, where there’s a will, there’s a way.  And God has a Will.  And a Way.

Problem with God is, he just doesn’t sign checks.

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

 

Another Article Published

Every morning I get up and make a pot of coffee, equaling four cups in my cute little coffee maker.

Then, I pour the entire pot into this gigantic cup I have, which holds one quart of beverage.

So, when I claim to be down to “one cup of coffee a day,” know that I am not exactly lying. However, I am not exactly telling the truth either, since the single cup is actually four cups worth. In other words, every morning I get up and drink a quart of coffee.

This, combined with forgetting to hydrate, might have something to do with why I had a splitting headache all day yesterday.  So I drank a lot of water throughout the day, especially last night before bedtime, and also in the morning.  The headache went away eventually – but it sure lasted a long time.

In a way, it’s a good thing I got the headache.  It served as a buffering force to keep me from becoming too overjoyed after receiving the shock of my life, and seeing that another one of my articles has been published, this time in Street Spirit. The thrill of having two articles published in two different places two days apart — after not having anything published for my entire life until five months ago — would have been too much for me, had I not been granted the annoying headache, which effectively distracted me from my budding over-elation.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised by this, because I had earlier sent reams of work to Terry Messman, the publisher, permitting him to use any of it that he saw fit, and edit it in any way he felt was appropriate. I made that decision after discovering that I completely trusted his editing, and also completely concurred with his vision. But I was still stunned by the sudden publication, partly because of its proximity to the previous publication, and partly because of the hugeness of the way that I was personally gifted by his use and placement of this particular article:

Breakthrough

Church1-248x300
Homeless Man Resting on Church Steps – Jonathan Burstein

For one thing, he gave me the entire back page, so that somebody could easily see my name simply by picking up a paper and flipping it quickly front and back. For another thing, he selected an article based on a blog post of mine that clearly led up to a plug for my musical and a request for money to help me move this project forward. Finally, the article selected was just about the most revealing thing I’ve ever written in my life.

And this is a good thing. There’s something about honesty that has power, especially when the honesty is consistent, and extended over a long period of time. I’m also finding that, in this world based largely on appearance and affectation, real gut level honesty is relatively rare. I think that we as Writers are fortunate in a certain regard, because when we sit alone at our desks and pour out the pieces of our passion, there is nobody there to filter or judge our words, to tell us that our beliefs are unwise or socially unconventional, to discourage us by telling us that we’re full of malarkey when we’re doing our darndest to get the salient truth out to a conceivable readership with whom those particular truths might resonate.

So anyway, I’ve been doubly blessed this week, and this coming on my having locked myself out late at night a couple days ago and felt forced to rent a hotel room for the night before finding my keys at the grocery store lost-and-found in the morning.  My Starving Artist status will be assuaged somewhat when I get the two paychecks for the articles. Hopefully it will be enough to pay my Internet bill and buy groceries, without which I’d have been totally strapped.

Speaking of which, the topic came up the other day at the Recovery Center where I volunteer, how there are two subjects that are considered taboo in our culture, and yet almost everybody has issues with both — sex and money.

Sometimes, when I talk about either of those subjects too much, someone will become really frustrated and even tell me to shut up — which reaction is probably a large part of why these subjects have become taboo.   We’re just not comfortable discussing them, and we’re not often comfortable hearing about them.

I say this — and yet there is a donate button on almost every page on this site.  Why?  Because I finished a certain musical a matter of months ago, and I am not able to package the musical and send it out to theatre companies, with a decent demo recording sampling some of the songs in the show, because I simply do not have the money to do so.

Believe me, I hate the sight of all those donate buttons, and I cannot wait till the day comes when I can joyfully remove them all!  The idea of promoting a project about which I am passionate in the same manner as one might sell a used car frankly makes me nauseous.  Once I get the money, can hire the singers, can buy a microphone, can make the demo, can afford postage to send out the packages, etc. etc. etc., all those obnoxious buttons will be removed, and I can breathe a sigh of relief, go on to the next stage, and hopefully never have to ask anybody for a buck and a half again.  You know why?

Because I don’t want any bucks.  I want to live a quiet, reclusive, healthy life for the rest of my days, as modestly as possible, until the day I die.  It’s not so much that I don’t like what money does to people, because I’ve met an awful lot of really nice rich people, as well as a few pretty mean and nasty poor people.   So it’s not that (in case anybody’s ever wondered.)

What I don’t like — is what money does to me.   And if you knew some of the whacked out decisions I have made on a couple rare occasions when I suddenly received a lot of money out of the blue, you wouldn’t like it either.  That’s why every penny of these donations goes to my friend Danielle, who knows how to handle money  — which is one great gift that I do not happen to have.

Another great gift I don’t have is the Gift of Brevity.  Therefore I will close.  But if you want to know how much money I need and exactly where it will be going, go ahead and fill out the contact form.  You might be curious as to my immediate budgetary needs, whether you personally can help or not.

Enough said!

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

Andy’s Story Published

I haven’t posted in a few days because I’ve been waiting for something to happen — and, well, it happened.  

As of December 27, two weeks ago today, I have been hired by Denise Moorehead to write for Classism Exposed.   Yesterday my first article, simply entitled “Andy’s Story,” was published.   

Andy’s Story

Homeless
Andy’s Story: Class and Homelessness

(And now, being as I just spent over an hour trying fruitlessly to figure out how to link to my story and make it look like it does on the blog, with the picture and everything, I will now cease from the pretense of having any patience with technology, and return to my more idyllic realm of being a reclusive — if clueless — Artist.)

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