Simple Love Song

Before we go much further, I probably ought to let my close followers know how the radio show went.  It went great.  And not only that, but a couple of very interesting events occurred immediately before and after the interview.  

Not having done a radio interview since 1987, I was extremely nervous.  I was so nervous, I had a hard time praying before the show.  I was grabbing a bite to eat at the Courtyard, when I prayed: “Lord, please let me run into another believer who will pray for me, because I cannot pray.” (Ironically, when I said, “I cannot pray,” I was praying.) 

I believe that prayer was heard.   I had barely taken one step out the door of the Courtyard, when someone locking their bicycle said hi to me.  But I didn’t recognize her with helmet and haircut.  As she took off the helmet, I realized she was Amanda from my church.

So I explained the situation and asked her to pray.   Then I got to the studio right on time, and the entire event flowed beautifully.   It wasn’t perfect, of course.  But it was a lot better than I’d feared!

Immediately after the three hour event was over, I went to the bathroom and thanked the Lord.  Then I asked Him what I should do next.  (I’ve been doing that a lot lately, because I’m such a space case I often don’t know what the next logical thing to do is.)

The still small voice clearly said: “Relax and rejoice.”  I’d never heard that combination before.  But it sounded right to me.

As I left the studio, an incredible peace came over my entire being.  It was the most peace I had felt in my spirit since the day when I played the entire score on the piano of Dan Bukvich, the noted composer and percussionist.   His reply had been: “We gotta get this thing staged!”

After that, I was at peace for about six hours.  I’m not a person who ordinarily experiences that depth of peace.  (In case anyone hasn’t noticed, I’m one of those “high strung space cases.”)

This time, the peace was not quite so enduring.  But while I was immersed in a blissful peace, approximately five minutes after I had left the studio, I saw a fellow with a backpack, and I heard a familiar phrase.

“Hey, you dropped your smile!”

This expression was used a lot by panhandlers in Berkeley, during the years when I was homeless there.   Sometimes people were offended.  In this case, the young woman merely smiled.  You see, we have only one visible homeless person in this entire town.   So it’s very unusual to run into a homeless chap up here. 

Smiling, I asked him: “Did you just say, ‘you dropped your smile?””

“Yeah!  Are you homeless?”

“Not anymore.”

“Me neither.   I just got myself a small house on the edge of town, after being homeless in Seattle for years.”

After a brief but warm conversation, we parted ways.   I then reflected on how this sudden radio show had come about.   I had played a song at the Open Mike which we hold on the last Friday of each month in the quiet little Art-positive hamlet in which I dwell.   Then I found myself shooting the breeze with one of the other participants in the event, and it turned out he needed somebody for his radio show the following day.

The song that he heard, by the way, was this:

“Simple Love Song” © 1976, 2019 by Andrew Michael Pope

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The Fine Linen She Wears

After this I heard a sound like the roar of a great multitude in heaven, shouting:

“Hallelujah!
        Salvation and glory and power belong to our God.
For His judgments are true and just.
He has judged the great prostitute

who corrupted the earth with her immorality.
        He has avenged the blood of His servants
that was poured out by her hand.”

And a second time they called out:

“Hallelujah!
        Her smoke ascends forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down
and worshiped God who sits on the throne, saying:

“Amen, Hallelujah!”

Then a voice came from the throne, saying:

“Praise our God,
        all you who serve Him,
and those who fear Him,
        small and great alike!”

And I heard a sound like the roar of a great multitude,
        like the rushing of many waters,
and like a mighty rumbling of thunder, crying out:

“Hallelujah!
        For our Lord God, the Almighty, reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad.
        give Him the glory.
For the marriage of the Lamb has come,
        and His bride has made herself ready.
She was given clothing of fine linen,
        bright and pure.”

For the fine linen she wears is the righteous acts of the saints.

 — Revelation 19:1-8

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Superstar

The song “Superstar” popularized by the Carpenters (featuring the beautiful voice of Karen Carpenter) was originally called “Groupie.” Contrary to popular assumption, it was not written by Karen, but by Bonnie Bramlett (of Delaney and Bonnie), and Leon Russell. Leon sang a much less “sanitized” version than that which was made immemorial by Karen Carpenter. 

Superstar is of particular meaning to me as a musician, as sadly I recall my misspent youth, when groupies abounded in the aura of the Eighty-Eight, and I was too naive not to confuse their fascinations for true love.   I hear Beethoven had the same problem when he was a young runt, so I suppose I’m in good company.  Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, June 27, 2019.

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How I Got Inside

Attached is a verbatim transcript of the first story I had published in my new column in the new Street Spirit.  My column is called “Homeless No More,” and my story is entitled “How I Got Inside.”  This is based on a blog post called Bigger and Better than the Streets, also written on request of Alastair Boone, the new editor-in-chief of Street Spirit.    However, this version involves signature edits and additions.  As such, it stands on its own.

Note also the illustration provided.  The caption reads: “A drawing of Andy getting on a bus and leaving the Bay Area, soon to be housed elsewhere.”  Outside of being an outstanding illustration in its own rite, the work of one Inti Gonzalez, portions of it are charmingly telling.  Note how the homeless Andy is haggard, with a more unkempt beard, wearing a helmet, carrying a sack on a stick, eagerly boarding the bus for greener pastures.

And then, on his arrival!  Suddenly his beard is trim, his hair short and styled – he’s even wearing a Hawaiian shirt – as he bounds into his pristine new place of residence with a shit-eating grin on his face.  I see “white male privilege” reflected all over, which makes  sense in the context of my having moved to a largely all-White State.  But the white male couldn’t have felt too privileged a few weeks back, flying a sign on a Berkeley city sidewalk all those years.

In any event, here’s the text.  You can see for yourself what I wrote on the subject.

When I was homeless in the San Francisco Bay Area, I relied to a large degree on the moral support of lifelong friends and family who were not. For one reason or another, it was not feasible for any of them to let me stay in their homes for any substantial length of time. Still, they frequently provided me with encouragement, and on occasion sent me money. While I was often upset that nobody was “letting me in,” I nonetheless was dependent on their emotional and financial support in order to endure the ongoing conditions of homelessness.

One of the reasons why I delayed the decision to leave the Bay Area for so long was because I was attached to my support group. I felt that my old friends and family members were just about the only people who knew that I was a competent guy who had landed on the streets as the result of a costly medical misdiagnosis. They were the ones who knew that a mistreated health condition had led to a mental breakdown, as my inability to properly manage a health condition threw me into first-time homelessness at the age of 51. They were the ones who watched in horror, as one by one I lost all my accounts, and could no longer keep up with the high cost of living on the S.F. Bay Area Peninsula. But still, they believed in me, and they did what they could to help me get back on my feet. Of course I needed their support!

The only thing they didn’t do was to let me stay with them. Ironically, to have offered me housing, even temporarily, would have been the only thing that could possibly have helped me to get back on my feet.

But they could not do this. They had their own concerns. Meanwhile, I watched while the sordid conditions of homelessness gradually transformed me from a naïve, overweight singing teacher to a scrawny fraction of my former self. Gradually, I got to be half-crazed from protracted sleep deprivation. Often, I became fully crazed from feeling that I was treated like a sub-human mutant, rather than an equal. Passersby sneered at me in disgust.

In order to cope with this massive sense of ever-increasing dehumanization, I turned at first to marijuana, though I’d smoked no more than twice since the 80’s. Then, during the last three years of my homeless sojourn, I turned to a harder drug. I used speed to desensitize me from the cold—both the physical coldness of temperature, and the spiritual coldness of the condescending mockers in my midst. One by one, my old friends and family members, with rare exception, abandoned me. One of them recently told me: “We were all just waiting to read your obituary.”

Finally, in June of 2016, I picked up my social security check and walked out of the city of Berkeley without saying a word. “If the drugs won’t kill me,” I told myself, “the thugs who dispense them will.”

For a month I wandered the other side of the Bay in search of a permanent answer. But nothing seemed to work. In a shelter, I caught a flu, and was kicked out for that reason. The hospital wouldn’t let me in, because if they let me in, they’d have to let all of us in. I got kicked off of the all-night bus for fear of contaminating the other homeless people, who relied on the all-night bus as a shelter.

In desperation, I got down on my knees. I told the Universe that all I wanted was “a lock on a door, a window, and a power outlet.”

Then I took action. I began googling keywords until I found a place in the Pacific Northwest that rented for only $275/month—something that would easily have gone for $900/month in the Bay Area. It was a tiny room in a converted hotel—but it would do the job. I called an old associate, someone whom I’d worked with long ago when he was a music teacher at a middle school. Hearing my story, he agreed to front me $200 for a one-way Greyhound ticket to a new life. After that, I told my story to the prospective landlord, whom I called while still in San Francisco. To my amazement, he agreed to hold the place for me until I got there.

Forty-eight hours later, I was sleeping in my new room. It had a window, two power outlets, and three locks on the door. Four days after that, I signed a one-year lease. Three weeks later, after years of being considered unemployable in the San Francisco Bay Area, I landed a part-time job as a piano player at a small-town church.

A part of me wishes I had made the decision earlier. It would have spared me the last three years of psychic hell. But had I made the decision earlier, I would have abandoned the bulk of my support group. For me, leaving my support system and moving out of town was what it took to lead me to housing. However, it is a common misconception that the homeless crisis would be solved if homeless people just picked themselves up and moved out of town. This is not always the case, nor is it always readily possible.

I was lucky to have found a sympathetic person who would front me the money for a one-way-ticket to another state and help me with an apartment deposit and a few other odds and ends. Not everybody can find such a benefactor. Also, we cannot deny the obvious fact that I am a white male brimming with the semblance of “white privilege”even while living on the street—if only for the ability to decide to move to a state largely composed of other white people. While I obviously did not possess a whole lot of privilege per se, I looked as though I could conceivably be, or become, a privileged person. Let’s face it: Had I been Black or Hispanic, to show up in a largely white neighborhood would not have worked to my advantage.

So in a way, I had it easy. At the same time, however, I believe that there is a way out for everyone. Though the sheltered world does not know it, homelessness is not the same thing as alcoholism, drug addiction, or incompetence. It’s not the kind of thing where one needs to “change their ways” in order to overcome it. In order to overcome homelessness, what one needs is dignity. We are all created equal; we are all endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We are all bigger and better than the streets.

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Pinnacle

If anyone has use for a CD in this day and age (and I’m almost sure there are those among us who do), my new Pinnacle CD is on sale for $10 on the local market and $15 if I have to mail it to you.

And just in case you don’t happen to have any particular use for a CD in your hyper-modern mode of existence, my music doesn’t cost a whole lot to access in general.  As a matter of fact, here it is.

pinnacle cover

One way or the other, your kind donation is always appreciated.   Here’s to the “Heart of the Arts.”

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Full of Light

The eye is the lamp of the body. If your vision is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your vision is poor, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

No one can serve two masters: Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

And why do you worry about clothes? Consider how the lilies of the field grow: They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?

Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For without God, people strive after all these things, yet your Heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.

— Matthew 6:22-33

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Grandish

I was thinking around the tune called “Something Sort of Grandish” by Burton Lane, and this is what came about.   Hope you like it.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 51

Q.  What’s been bugging you lately?

A.  The Tuesday Tuneups.

Q.  Why?

A.  They’ve lost something.

Q.  How so?

A.  I think it started around about the time it would be a nice “game” to ask my readers to select a question for me, rather than me selecting one that I knew would work.

Q. How would you know?

A. Because I’ve been doing the “tuneups” since 1987, though not online, and not always on Tuesdays.   So I’ve accumulated a compendium of questions that do work.

Q. So are you going to select a new question for next week?

A. No.  I’m going to discontinue them for a while.

Q. Why?

A. Overloaded.   I’ve been dealing with what I call “Mainstream Stress” and it’s affecting my sense of integrity.

Q. Mainstream Stress?

A. The kind of stress one gets only in the Mainstream; that is, when one has multiple commitments, and has to show up at many specific places at specific times, prepared to conduct oneself according to an expected fashion.

Q. Are you trying to say you’ve been working too hard?

A. Something like that.  But I’ve always worked very hard.  I just haven’t done it to deadlines, or under pressure, in recent years.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I don’t believe that deadlines and pressures are good for the human spirit.  I also believe that my not having operated according to these Mainstream values is what has kept me generally happy and healthy over the years.

Q. And you are not happy and healthy now?

A. Still healthy, though at risk.

Q. And happy?

A. That depends upon what is meant by happiness.

Q. Why are you evading the question?

A. Scripture equates happiness with God’s blessings.  I have definitely been in receipt of God’s blessings.

Q. Then why aren’t you happy?

A. Because, apparently, I have been seeking happiness from a source other than God.

Q. What source is that?

A. Art.

Q. You have a friend named Art?

A. Um, no — I do know one guy named Art, but he’s only a casual acquaintance.   I’m talking about Art — as in Music.  Writing.  Singing.  All the things I have turned to in order to give beauty to an ugly situation.

Art


Q. What situation?

A. I can’t answer that.  I am sorry.  It’s too deep and too personal.

Q. May I then therefore be excused?

A. Not just yet.  Let’s decide when the Tuneups will recur.

Q. When would you like them to recur?

A. October 1, 2019.

Q. Deal?

A. Deal.

Angel and demon deal Vector Image #131294 – RFclipart

 

The Questioner is silent. 

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On Awakening

I am weary, O God,
and worn out.
Surely I am the most ignorant of men,
and I lack the understanding of a man.
I have not learned wisdom,
and I have no knowledge of the Holy One.
Who has ascended to heaven and come down?
Who has gathered the wind in His hands?
Who has bound up the waters in His cloak?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name, and what is the name of His Son—
surely you know!
Every word of God is flawless;
He is a shield to those who take refuge in Him.
Do not add to His words,
lest He rebuke you and prove you a liar.

Proverbs 30:1-6