Tuesday Tuneup Thirty

Q. Where would you like to be?

A.  In California.

california
California

Q. Why on earth would you ever want to be in a place like California?

A. I get tired of not being allowed to have a problem.

Q. What’s that supposed to mean?

A. My experience with the State of California, having lived in a number of different cities there, is that in California, I was permitted to have a problem.

Q. What do you mean, “permitted to have a problem?”

A. Down there it was okay for me to have a problem.

Q. And it’s not okay up here to have a problem?

A. Not really.  Nobody seems to have any problems up here.  Or, if they do, they certainly don’t show them.  Me?  I’ve got problems.  I’ve got issues.  And when they arise, they stick out like a sore thumb.

Q. So you’re saying you don’t feel like you fit in up here?

A. Not when I have this many problems, no.  Down in California, it seems like everybody’s got problems.  So I blend right in.

Q. But haven’t you solved a lot of your problems since you’ve been up here?

A. Some of them, yes.  I’m paying $450 for a one bedroom apartment that would have been $1800 down there, at least in the Bay Area.  I’m not on the streets anymore.  I’ve got a decent place to live, and privacy.   And being around happy people has boosted my morale.  Just today, the Personnel Director at my church said twice that he believes I was meant to be here.  That God had something to do with it.  And it was encouraging, but still — I kinda feel like I’m just about the unhappiest one in the bunch.

Q. Why do I find that hard to believe?

A. Probably because I have a reputation of being a happy-go-lucky guy who rises with the song of the lark and wants very little out of life except to write his writings, speak his speakings, and compose his composings in peace.

Q. And are you not precisely what your reputation suggests?

A. Usually I am.  But right now I’m not.   Not the past three months anyway.  Too many problems.

Q. Would going back to California solve these problems?

A. Of course not.  But it would put me in a place where everybody else had at least as many problems as I do.  I wouldn’t feel so alone.

Q. Could it possibly be that you are only having a bad day?

A. Maybe.  And just maybe it’s in a financial area.  Now I don’t personally mind being poor or encountering setbacks.  It’s a lot better to be poor, and to live inside and have food in the cupboard, than it is to be poor and have to live on the streets.  But what happens is that when setbacks are encountered, it aggravates my class issues.  

Q. Class issues?

A. Yes.  All the things that I get paid by people like Classism Exposed to write about.  And while these events may indeed bolster my writing eventually, I tend to have to wade through a wad of resentment against “rich people” in the meantime.

Q. You have resentment against rich people?

A. Well, I try not to.   And I eventually get over it.  But I gotta just tell you, some of these rich people — I don’t care about their money.  It’s the lectures.  They lecture me about things they’ve never been through and can’t possibly understand.  And they expect me to kiss their asses every time they do me the slightest favor, even though it’s totally no skin off their backs.  And they, they —

Q. They what, Andy?  And who are they?   Isn’t this supposed to be about you, and not about an abstract group of invisible “rich people” who are always lecturing you expecting you to kiss their asses?

A. Three questions at once?   Really, Questioner!  You seem almost as uptight as I am.

Q. Then why don’t we both slow down?

A. Sounds like a plan.   I’ll answer the first question.   They — whoever they are — expect me to be able to do the things that they can do.  This is because they, unlike me, either have either the money to do them, or the mental health to do them, or both.

Q. And who are they?

A. Just a bunch of phantoms from my past whom I never see anymore, never talk to, and yet still fly around like bats in my brain.

Q. Isn’t this supposed to be about you and not about them?

A. Yes, but I am just too upset right now.

Q. Why?

A. Financial.  It’s the end of the month.  I’m on a fixed income.   A couple unexpected charges came in, and it threw me into a state of insecurity.   When I was feeling kinda low about it, I made the mistake of mentioning it to somebody.  I went into some detail, and they only said: “that’s life!”  In California, they would have commiserated.   They would have all shared stories about similar insecurities, and how frustrated they all were.  And then, my depression would have been validated — not dismissed.

Q. But rather than seek validation for your depression, why not accept that this is a fact of life like the happy people do?

A. Well, that’s where my mental health comes in.  I’ve got some kind of problem that makes me over-react to stuff like this.  They say — bipolar.  I don’t know.  I get tired of it all.  Which is also a part of my mental health problem.

Q. Come on now — is it really your mental health?   Are you really that crazy?

A. No – I don’t like to think so anyway.  I mean, what are you driving at?

Q. Do you really want to sacrifice the things you do well in order to correct the things you do poorly?

A. Don’t make me laugh!  Have you listened to my piano playing lately?  There’s rage written all over it!  If I treated a human being the way I treat that piano, I’d be in jail for Assault and Battery.

Q. So these psych meds will make your music more placid?  Less threatening?

A. I wasn’t going to put it that way!

Q. Are you ready to play hard ball?

A. Probably not.   Do I have a choice in the matter?

Q. How many laptops were stolen from you in California during the last three years you lived there?

A. Five.  Four in Berkeley, and one in Oakland.

Q. How many laptops have been stolen from you in the past 2 1/2 years you have lived here?

A. Zero.

Q. How many cell phones and headphones were stolen from you in California?

A. Too many to count.

Beautiful Fall colors in Boise Idaho.  Beautiful Fall colors in Boise Idaho.
Idaho

Q. Has anything at all been stolen from you in Idaho?

A. No.  Not one thing.

Q. How many jobs did you get the last three years you were in California?

A. Zero.

Q. How many jobs have you had since you’ve been up here?

A. Two.

Q. When was the last time you signed a one year lease on an apartment in California?

A. Gosh, I don’t know.  Probably in the 70’s in college, when my dad cosigned.

Q. How many one year leases have you signed on apartments in Idaho?

A. Two.  Go on.

Q. How many people called you “crazy” when you were in California?

A. Just about everyone I know.  Close friends even.  I was like — a curiosity piece to them.  Always the odd man out, the weirdo.

Q. How many people have called you “crazy” in North Idaho?

A. Zero.  Go on.

Q. How many years were you out on the streets in California?

A. You know the answer to that.  Twelve years, barring scattered rentals here and there that never worked out.

Q. How many days have you spent on the streets since you’ve been in Idaho?

A. Zero.  Please continue.

Q. How many people whom you know from California think that you experienced a total psychic change on a 48-hour bus trip to Idaho?

A. Quite a few.  If one more Californian tells me that I “found God” on that bus trip, I think he’s going to find a right cross in his mug that came straight from the devil.  Go on.

Q. How many people in Idaho believe that you experienced a total psychic change on a 48 hour bus trip?

A. Zero.  Of course, they have no idea what I was like before the 48-hour bus trip.  But I can guarantee you that I did not change one bit during those 48 hours.

Q. How many drivers have flipped you off in Idaho?

A. Zero.

Q. How many grown men and women have you encountered in Idaho who blame all their problems on their parents?

A. Zero.

Q. Have you met anyone in Idaho who refuses to call their mother on Mother’s Day?

A. Not yet.  Go on.

Q. How many people accepted you for who you are in the State of California?

A. Not too many!  They were always trying to change me into something I was not.

Q. Are you accepted for who you are here in Idaho?

A. Totally.  Nobody tries to change anybody up here.  It’s refreshing.

Q. When your ex-wife came back to you after thirty years, what was the overall reaction among people whom you know here in Idaho?

A. People were thrilled!   They encouraged us.  They thought what we were doing was fantastic – we got nothing but positive from every single person here.

Q. And how did people in California react?

A. They thought I was crazy, as usual.  If they said anything at all, it was something along the lines of: “I’m gonna stay out of that one!”

Q. Are you ready for the Big One?

A. There’s a bigger one than that?  You gotta be kidding.

Q. How many people complimented you on your typing speed in California?

A. Not many.

Q. How many people in California told you that you were typing too loud?

A. Innumerable.  It happened three times a week.  Sometimes three times a day.

Q. How many people in Idaho have told you that you were typing too loud?

A. Zero.

Q. How many people have complimented you on your typing speed here in Idaho?

A. Shucks, I don’t know.  Twenty or thirty maybe.

Q. And what does all this say?

A. It says that, due to a variety of factors, some of them cultural, some of them socio-economic, people in Idaho seem to have a tendency to emphasize the positive.  People in California, unbeknownst to them, appear to have a tendency to emphasize the negative.

Q. Which do you prefer?

A. The positive, of course.

Q. Then why don’t you start emphasizing it?

A. That, sir, is the $64,000 question.

Q. May I be excused, then?

A. Not so fast, buddy.  You gotta feel my sarcasm first.  I’ve got issues.  And they’re a hell of a lot deeper than financial.  I’m as positive right now as I can possibly be, or as I even should be, in the eyes of an all-knowing God.

Q. Do tell – what are these deeper issues?

A. They’re none of your damned business.  Get outta here.

The Questioner is silent. 

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Gratitude List 928

(1) Managed to get some sleep last night.  Although I awoke after one hours sleep to a punk kid in the hood ringing my doorbell at 3:15 in the morning, at least I didn’t wake up to two rookie cops shining their flashlights directly in my eyes and telling me to “move on” on Christmas Day.

(2) Ran two miles yesterday and did 18 push-ups.   Easily, too.  I guess I still have it in me.  Most guys my age can’t run down the block.

(3) I can still kinda play the piano.  Some people even say I’m getting better at it.

(4) I’m in good health.  (Physically, that is.)

(5) I’m alive, and I believe I am going to heaven when I die; because although I have many sins, past present and future, I sincerely believe that Jesus died for them all.

(6) I like my church.  In fact, I love my church.  I even like the pastor.  I’ve never liked a pastor before.

peg(7) I’m not in California, where everybody treats me like I’m crazy.   Nobody up here treats me like I’m crazy, and I am so so glad.  They don’t treat me like I’m worthless.  Their smile toward me is genuine.  They don’t get into my shit, and I don’t get into theirs.  Nobody’s trying to change me.   Nobody’s trying to put one over on me.   Everybody accepts me for who I am.  The prayers of years have been answered.  I love North Idaho, and I super love this town.

(8) It’s always darkest before the dawn.  There will be a light at the end of this winding tunnel; and this too shall pass.

(9) I don’t like my personality very much, but at least I’m not a deceived Nazi Aryan white supremacist violent idiot.

(10) At least I have my space.   I’m an Artist.  I need my space.  I pray I put it to good use, after this.  For so many years, I did not have my space.  And people mocked me because of my devotion to my Art.  They kept trying to transform me into somebody I was not, and they laughed at me when I didn’t conform to the mode – as though I were a curiosity piece, a knick knack, an item of decor, placed on their dinner table for their entertainment.  I still remember the two of them, whom I thought were my friends, finding hilarity in the fact that I was having a first-time manic episode and losing my shirt.  But nobody treats me like that up here.  Nobody mocks me.  Nobody jeers at me.  Nobody scoffs, or sneers.    And I love it.    I hope I never again forget what I’m truly about.   God help me, if I ever again forget who I am.

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The Host Awaits

This piece, “The Host Awaits,” is from the musical I wrote between the years 2004 and 2008, entitled The Burden of Eden.  It is also known in certain circles as “Apologies to Peter Pan.”  You might note the Jule Styne references toward the end, if you’re hip.

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Old Habits Die Hard

Earlier this evening on Quora, somebody asked me if there were any particular habits left over from my homeless years that I was having a hard time shaking.  Being as I completely spaced out my Thursday blog on the homeless experience, I figured it was timely.  So I blasted out seven off the top of my head.   And believe me – it’s the tip of the iceberg.

(1) Until very recently, I had to imagine that I was still homeless every time I lay down to go to bed at night. Somehow, picturing one of the outdoor settings where I used to sleep, seeing the familiar sights in my mind, imaginging the sounds I would hear at that time, was soothing to me. (I’ve actually broken the habit, but it’s taken some work. For the past month or so, I’ve been able to get to sleep without having to imagine that I was still homeless.)

(2) Embarrassingly enough, I still haven’t bought a pair of undershorts, even though I’ve been living inside for almost two years ago. A lot of us men who were homeless discarded our underpants right off the bat, once we realized how impossible it was to keep buying them and/or keeping them clean.

(3) Equally embarrassing, I have a hard time changing into pajamas or anything “night-like” before I go to bed. Often I just sleep with my pants and socks on.

(4) Although I’d like to get back into the habit of showering daily like I used to, it just hasn’t happened. When I was homeless, weeks would go by without my hitting an actual shower. Now I have my own shower and tub, but I still only shower about once or twice a week. I still do a lot of rinse-offs in sinks like I used to have to do when I was homeless.

beanie(5) I almost never take my “security beanie” off of my head. In the summer, I have to wear a baseball cap. Even though I have a regular barber now who recently gave me a very decent haircut, I have a hard time taking off my beanie unless I’m in the shower. I even asked the pastor if it was okay to wear it in church.

(6) Having a hard time shaking the habit of cussing like a drunken sailor (at least at moments, when triggered by this-or-that). This is interesting, because I never used to cuss hardly at all before I put in twelve long years on the streets. And that bugger is not going away too easy.

(7) Suspicion of people in general, of their motives, was greatly increased when I was on the streets. Having a hard time shaking it, and regaining trust.

That’s enough for now.  As I said, there are many others.  And while some of these are pretty problematical, there has been a positive value to listing them like this. Maybe now I’ll see fit to do something about them!  I mean —  I do brush my teeth, you know, and shave, and wash my clothes, you know.  So I have gotten that far, but — what can I say?  Perhaps it’s time I raised the bar a little bit, don’t you think?

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Tuesday Tuneup 29

just-say-no-to-nike-v-1200x630Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater fortitude.

Q. And what is fortitude?

A. Something like courage, but not quite.

Q. What’s the difference?

A. “Fortitude” implies more of a “just do it” approach.  That is, even if one lacks courage in general.  Just do it anyway, even when scared.  “Saying no” is a good example.  I need “fortitude” (not courage) to say “no.”  That’s what I think the difference is, anyway.

Q. Does this apply to something in your life today?

A. Lots of things.

Q. How so?

A. I burn out a lot.  If I don’t feel like doing something, I usually don’t do it.

Q. Then how does it ever get done?

A. Because I know that later on, I probably will feel like doing it.  So I wait till that happens, and in the meantime I do what I do feel like doing — knowing that I probably won’t feel like doing it later.

Q. Does that apply to everything?

A. No.  It doesn’t apply to things that I never feel like doing.

Q. What do you never feel like doing?

A. Washing the dishes.  I never feel like washing the dishes.

Q. And the dishes have piled up?

A. “Piled up” is an understatement.   

Q. How did you allow this to happen?

A. Well – it’s a bit on the personal side, but I guess the answer would be: “When have I not allowed it to happen?”  I’m just lousy at washing dishes.  They were clean for a while when there was someone here helping me with that kind of thing.  But that person isn’t here right now.  And anyway, dishes are just an example.

Q. What’s another example?

A. Saying “no” in general.  Keeping a couple people from knocking on my door at any hour.  And they don’t just knock.  They ring the bell.  Then they wait, and then ring it five times.  Then they wait, and start pounding on the door.  Then I finally realize it’s never going to end.  So I get up, even from being fast asleep, and explain that I’m sleeping and could they please come back another time.

Q. Where did you meet these guys?

A. At the Recovery Center.

Q. And you gave them your address?

A. Well yeah – we had the one guy over for dinner a couple times, when there was still two of us here.  It didn’t seem a big deal at the time.

Q. Then why does it seem a big deal now?

A. Other than that I’m being woke up in the middle of the night a lot?  That’s not a big deal?

Q. Isn’t there a bigger deal?

A. Well yeah – at the root of it, there is.  The bigger deal is I never just flat out tell these guys that I’d rather they don’t come over at all.  

Q. Why not?

A.  I don’t know.  I feel sorry for the one guy.  He’s been out in the cold a couple times.  Less sorry now, though, because I think he stole from me, and I heard he’s in jail right now.   Didn’t figure him for the “type,” but I noticed something was off last time.  Probably they switched his meds or something.   

Q. What about the other guy?

A.  I keep coming up with a use for him.  He’s a computer whiz, and he helped me get the right adapter so I could use my ThinkPad as a desktop now that it’s screen is cracked.

Q. Your laptop screen is cracked?

A. Yeah.  I had to plug it into an external monitor and start working from home.

Q. How did this happen?

A. I have no idea.  All I know is that it happens all too often.   And now I’m tempted to go over to the guy’s place with my old Dell, because I can’t get it to start up.  

Q.  But didn’t you start it up this morning?   Didn’t I read that on your gratitude list?

A. Yes, you did. But it only started up that one time.  Every other time I’ve tried it gets into a weird loop telling me it needs to restart, then I restart, and it tells me it needs to restart.  And so on.  

Q. Do you ever feel like you’re having more than your fair share of technical problems?

A. What do you mean?  New cell phone gets damaged due to water damage.  Second new cell phone gets cut off because they think I’m supposed to have the number of the old cell phone.  PayPal account gets locked for “suspicious activity” when I try to change my phone number.  Trying to send money from my PayPal somehow takes the money out of my bank account instead of my PayPal balance (Lord knows why) and now my bank account is overdrawn, plus I never succeeded in sending the money.   It’s still just sitting there in my PayPal account.  But when I try to transfer it to my bank I get a message telling me that they’re “not sure it’s me.”  I called them, and apparently when a person changes their phone number, it is regarded as “suspicious activity.”

Q. Anything else?

A. Thanks for asking.  So I wake up yesterday morning to a broken laptop screen.  And finally my back-up computer refuses to start up.  Well fine.  I’ll just work at home even though I’m totally paranoid these Kids are going to start pounding on the door any minute now.

A. Is that all?

Q. Probably not.  I mean — I’m an Artist.  I live for these moments of ecstasy I get when my work is going well.  I don’t know how to make money.  I don’t know how to deal with all this technical stuff.  They should only lay technical difficulties on people who can afford to deal with them.

Q. When did your life become so erratic?

A. One guess.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 921

(1) Although it took 17 minutes to get from the point where I pressed the “start’ button on the old Dell Latitude to the point where I have successfully logged on and open my browser, at least it works.  (And at least I had 17 minutes to spare.)

spirit scinece quotes(2) Slept well and long.

(3) Continuing beautiful weather in this neck of the woods.   

(4) Considering the newly broken ThinkPad screen and other obstacles, I’m in a pretty good mood this morning.  I’m rested and looking forward to the new day.   

(5) Third cup of free coffee at the Courtyard is helping, as did the $3 traditional breakfast.

(6) Was able to get the right HDMI adapter from the Kid across the way in exchange for $5 for chewing tobacco.  So now I’m using the ThinkPad as a “desktop” with my flat panel, instead of the Asics, and it’s a much better display.  I also finally fixed the Zoho problem where they kept sending text verifications to the wrong phone number.  So I can get on Zoho Mail on all my computers now.  Sure is nice to have three computers (or portions thereof) to mess with, instead of only zero – like it was for so long earlier.

(7) Friday night I got the first donation on Eden in Babylon for almost five months.  This could be auspicious.  Also, someone mentioned they would mail me a donation, and I heard from Denise who says my check for Classism in Our Schools should be in the mail today.  A friend helped with food and such over the weekend, and it’s good to know that I have support.

(8) Denise also referred me to Spare Change, which I believe is a Boston newspaper akin to Street Spirit.  These small articles don’t pay much, but they’ll all add up if I can get more of them.  

(9) Had the great experience of meeting Rob Caisley, the playwriting teacher at U.I., when he sat next to me at the closing matinee of his new play, The Open Hand.  He agreed to meet with me in his office to discuss my musical Eden in Babylon.   I’m to email him and set up a time.

(10) Outside of present-day preoccupation with technical malaise, I’ve noticed lately that I’m not looking backwards so much these days as I am looking forwards.  Instead of thinking: “At least things are better now than they were three years ago,” I’m thinking: “If things are this much better now than they were three years ago, think how great they’re going to be three years from today!”  It makes a difference, believe me.  

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