Q. Where would you like to be?
A. In 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.
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?
Q. How many cell phones and headphones were stolen from you in California?
A. Too many to count.
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?
Q. How many jobs have you had since you’ve been up here?
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?
Q. How many grown men and women have you encountered in Idaho who blame all their problems on their parents?
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?
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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