Portrait of Betrayal

This is the 5th movement of my recently completed improvisational sonata, Abandon. The concept album consists of approximately forty minutes of completely improvised piano music in a classical and romantic vein.  Original songs of a former day are quoted, amid numerous references to Jim Morrison, Edward Elgar and Henry Mancini. Please message me if you are interested in purchasing a hard copy CD or an online piano album on BandCamp. 

“Betray” Copyright © 2019 by Andrew Michael Pope. Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, August 27th, 2019.

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Tuesday Tuneup 55

Q. What are you doin’ here?

A. I’m havin’ a great time, man!

Q. You’re kiddin’ me!  Really?

A. Really!

Q. What’s goin’ on?

A. I’m doin’ the door for a great jazz duo  who just rolled in from San Diego.  Guitar & bass, tight harmonies — what a great gig!

Q. You makin’ any money?

A. A little bit.  Same as I made last night.   Flat twenty dollars for me, all proceeds go to the band.

Q. Who was it last night?

A. Some jazz piano guy.  He did “Round Midnight” and “Pure Imagination” — among other nice charts.

Q. What about tomorrow night?

A. You got me.  I’d have to look it up.

Q. And the night after that?

A. Andy Pope Live.  Check it out:

Image may contain: 1 person

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1239

(1) Slept seven hours from 11 to 6, solid rem sleep with vivid dreams.  Grateful for the comfortable couch on which I sleep, and its proximity to my computer and my piano.

(2) The house is so much brighter now that I have a decent male roommate.   Joey used to own and manage a cleaning company, plus he was a line cook and a prep cook.   I gave him the spare room, and we agreed he only has to pay 1/3 the rent, in exchange for keeping the kitchen and the bathroom clean.

(3) Church was great yesterday morning.  “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, you do also to Me.”  I also got to tell them that my prayer was answered, for a housemate who could help around the house.

(4) Inspired by Joey’s tidiness, I organized my whole desk, and things are much easier to find.  For $1 at the dollar store, I got a white wide-ruled legal pad, taped it to the desk to the right of the computer and have four pens sitting right there.  (Now I don’t have to keep looking for paper and pens every time I want to write something down).  There’s still room to work the mouse to the right of the pad.   Starting to make lists — it all seems so easy now — compared to how hard it was just a few short days ago.

(5) Finally got some 175 readers to replace the 250’s that were way too strong, and now I don’t have to keep taking my glasses on and off.   They look nice too, all black and sharp.  That dollar store is a really good deal.

(6) Somebody canceled, and it looks like I’m playing solo this Thursday at the One World Cafe.  Might as well put up flyers — shoot for the moon.

(7) Putting on the finishing touches the worship song I’ve been writing, called “I Want to Worship You.”   I believe I’ve received it.  Also heard back about this from my old Internet buddy, Jeff, a worship leader type in Texas with a great devotional blog.

(8) Joey and I have a lot in common, and I asked if I could interview him for an upcoming Wednesday talk.

(9) When I was cleaning the living room and dining room, I found two Exile covers and three Pinnacle covers, amid all the Interim covers I already knew were there.   So I burned five new CD’s to add to the two Abstraction CD’s remaining in my inventory.  Hoping to sell all seven of them soon.

(10) Just ran two miles, nice new course along Paradise Path.  I am truly blessed in my life these days.  God is Love.

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Homelessness and PTSD

Trigger warning: some people may be triggered by information contained in this entry that pertains to personal violation.  Please proceed with caution, and read at your own risk.  

Earlier, when I created a talk on this theme, I did not believe I could capsulize my thoughts into a single blog post.   So I talked for a half hour instead.

I’ve since changed my mind.   It’s taken over a week for me to discover how to present these ideas more succinctly, in a logical order.  The first thing I would like to address is that people are generally unaware that homelessness — with all its confusing, unpredictable, and dangerous components — is as much a breeding grounds for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as situations arising in combat or from having been physically or sexually abused.

PTSD is triggered when something happens to remind a person of past trauma, the memories of which are often buried.  When the reminder occurs, one leaps into the context of the trauma formerly inflicted.  And then, one begins to relive the entire circumstances involved in that traumatic event.

See the source imageSevere abuse comes with the homeless territory.  A person who is exposed, out in the open twenty-four hours a day, is a visible target.  This person is made even more vulnerable when they are sleeping.  When I was homeless, I was pistol-whipped, subjected to strong arm robbery, sexually abused, subjected to arson, and physically abused multiple times.  Any one of those situations can lead to PTSD — let alone all of them in confluence.

Because the first of these traumatic events was a sexual violation that took place on a very hot day when I could find no way out of it, I have been triggered on extremely hot days when I was lost and did not have clear directions to where I was going.  My PTSD counselor and I worked out a series of steps that I would take automatically if I felt that the PTSD had been triggered.  I would stop and take a number of deep breaths while looking for a shady spot.  Then I would sit in the shady spot, no longer moving around or looking where I might go, until the PTSD had subdued.

The reason for taking such steps is because I was reliving the horrific event of a sexual assault.  When the horrible event was over, and the rapist disappeared, I was so freaked out that I ran five miles in 90F degree weather.  That single event has affected my sexual attitudes for life.

But that was only a solitary example of numerous violations that were to ensue during the twelve years when I was homeless and “borderline-homelessness” — by which I mean staying in motels, residence hotels, and other sketch indoor situations.   The overall experience of homelessness carried with it its own set of triggers.   By and large, these were based on two things:

(1) A sense of inequality with, and inferiority to, the people around me.  

(2) A sense of being fully exposed in a context where most of the people were concealed.  

An example of something that triggered me was the event of having a story of mine published on a news site that permitted comments from its readers.  All of the readers had usernames and avatars.  One of them referred to having known me personally — but I had no idea, nor was I able to learn, who this person was.  This bore enough resemblance to the homeless context that I began to relive my homeless experience.

More information about PTSD triggers may be found here, for starts.  An excellent article exploring PTSD among the homeless may be found here.  And of course, further information on the Homeless Experience can be found all over this blog.

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Tuesday Tuneup 54

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Contemplating life.

Q. Why?

A. Because I agree with Socrates, quoted below:

socrates.jpg

Q. What brought this on?

A. Transition.  I’m at a cusp between two stages in my journey.

Q. How do you figure that?

A. By observing the nature of the stage that is to pass, and envisioning the far greater nature of the stage that is to come.

Q. What is the nature of the stage that is to pass?

A. It is a stage based on fear.

Q. Fear of what?

A. Lots of things.  People, for one thing.  People’s opinions, for another thing.  People’s opinions of me, for a third thing.  But it all boils down to fear of death.

Q. Why be afraid of death?  Isn’t death a universal human experience?

A. Pretty much.  Even Jesus had to die, though He came back again, in eternal form.   Enoch and Elijah apparently escaped it.  People who believe in the “consummation of the saints” (AKA the so-called ‘rapture’), might escape it as well.  The jury’s still out on that one.

Q. Then why be afraid of it?

A. My experience is that those who are afraid to die are generally afraid to live.

Q. Have you been afraid to live?

A. Yes.  Especially throughout the past three years.

Q. What happened during the past three years?

A. I escaped twelve years of living in very sketchy situations, most often outdoors, in favor of living mostly alone in secure and secluded indoor dwelling spots.

Q. But wouldn’t that logically make you less afraid to live?

A. Logically, yes.   But what happened was not logical.

Q. What did happen?

A. I kept clinging to the old stage.  I kept living for the approbation of those from whom I had already departed.   Even though the new stage was crying out to be christened, I hesitated.  I clung to the old stage like a baby clinging to his mother’s breasts.

Q. So you were dependent upon the old stage?  Like a baby depends upon a mother?

A. Yes.  But not entirely of my own will.  It took two to dance that dance.  The possessive, overprotective mother of the Old Stage would not let me go.

Q. And now you are escaping her grip?

A. I can feel it, yes.   I’m not her baby anymore.  

Q. So the mother of the old stage was fear?

A. Yes.

Q. And who is the mother of the New Stage?

A. Love.  If you love someone, you let them go.

Q, So the old stage was a stage of fear, and the New Stage will be a Stage of Love.

perfect loveA. Yes — Love.

Q. Say again?

A. Love!

Q. One more time — 

A. LOVE!

Q. How so?

A. Because Perfect Love casts out fear.

 

                                                      The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1229

(1) Though I only got about an hour and a half of sleep before I woke up and couldn’t get back to sleep, I’m still very thankful that it’s been seven days now and I’ve not gone into sleep paralysis.

(2) I was able to get a large tube of toothpaste and a bottle of shampoo for free at the Co-Op in the box of things they take to the Food Bank.   Also, I found a brand new toothbrush in my backpack that I’d forgotten about.

(3) Really looking forward to calling my friend Danielle, and to talking with her for 45 minutes between 4:45 and 5:30.  I’ve missed the last four times due to sleeping in, and it’s left a bit of a void.  I very much gain from this early morning fellowship.  It’s been a tradition now for a long time.

(4) My daughter has connected with a writing coach whom I regard very highly, Lauren Sapala, and Lauren has promised to read a book she has written, called Secrets Held Too Tight to Keep.  

(5) As of this morning, I believe my unhealthy attitudes toward money are being healed.

(6) For the second time this year, just when I ran out of reading glasses, I found a nice pair of dollar readers sitting on a bench, and they suit me perfectly.   

(7) I was able to cry during the church service, though not a whole lot.  Still, it’s a start.  I hardly ever cry, but the times when I’ve gotten in touch with the deeper feelings, I’ve cried in torrents.   It’s always cleansing when I do, and it helps me to move forward once again.

(8) I’ll probably have two new piano pieces for you later on in the week, as soon as I get them off of that guy’s smartphone and upload them onto my youtube channel.  I recall they both came out very nicely.

(9) Letting go off the past has always been very difficult for me.   But it’s become clear that I really need to count my blessings and look forward.   That said, there are some pretty substantial potential blog posts hidden in some of the very long emails I have sent to those who have ceased to contact me.   The words I wrote are still valuable.  I only wrote them to the wrong people.

(10) Training for window washing at 6am, should make some money in cash before 9am, when I have to go to the hospital and finalize my volunteer position.  The volunteer position, by the way, is that I will now be playing piano regularly at the entrance to the Courtyard Cafe — in the hospital where I was born.   Stranger things have happened!  And the Lord Himself moves in strange and mysterious ways.

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Aliens

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.
    –Leviticus 19:33

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Talks 2019 No. 2

I promised to get a new talk to you guys by 7:30 this morning, so here it is.  The purpose of this talk is to describe how the conditions of homelessness can easily lead to a PTSD diagnosis, and what the triggers can be like.   I hope you enjoy & gain from this. 

See the source image

The Perception of Inequality

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Tuesday Tuneup 53

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Waiting for you.

Q. What do you want from me?

A. Questions.

Q. Why?

A. Because your questions always lead to interesting answers.

Q. Like what?

A. Like what I should be doing this morning.

Q. What should you be doing this morning?

A. In my opinion, I should be staving off depression by hurling myself full-force into an artistic project.

Q. Why should you do that?

A. Because I’ve been doing it all my life, and it usually works.

Q. Have you ever considered facing the depression directly, rather than doing something to avert it?

A. Sure I have.

Q. And how does that work for you?

A. It usually only makes me more depressed.   

Q. And then what?

A. Then nothing.  Stagnation.  Inaction.  Futility.   

Q. But if you stave off the depression through Art?

A. Then everything.  Motivation.  Action.  Meaningfulness.  

Anger-management-quote

Q. Why then would anyone ever want to face their depression directly?

A. Probably because they deny it.  If one is in denial, things don’t work too well.

Q. Are you in denial?

A. If I were, I wouldn’t know it now, would I?

Q. I don’t know – would you?

A. No, I would not.

Q. But do you feel like you’re in denial?

A. Maybe a little bit.  Nothing serious, though.  Nothing that would land me in jail or in a psychiatric facility.

Q. Where would your level of denial land you?

A. Probably on a piano bench.

Q. What do you mean?

A. When I start to suspect that something is internally amiss, I usually play it out on the piano and see what happens.

Q. What happens then?

A. I channel my feelings.

Q. And this is?

A. Healthy.

Q. Anything else?

A. Not off the top, no.  Oh wait a minute – I’m going to be posting a new talk tomorrow.  It will still be called “The Perception of Inequality” just like the talk I removed earlier this week.  It will just be a lot more thorough, more purposeful, more academic, more informative.

Q. Has working on this new talk helped you to be less depressed?

A. Yes, it has.

Q. But won’t all the depression return as soon as you’re done with your project?

A. It might.  It might not.   

Q. What now?

A. Calling my friend Danielle in about ten minutes, as per usual.   Waiting for the sky to get light.  Lacing up my shoes, going on a run.   

Q. And after that?

A. Planning on enjoying the day.  God’s blessings are new every morning.  Great is His faithfulness.

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1221

1. Slept well, got up at 4:00 am exactly.

2. Daily money manifested at around that time, and this time I was able to hold off on coffee till I got to the Courtyard (where the coffee is free).

3. Nice breakfast at Courtyard. First time in weeks I’ve been able to finish the whole breakfast.

4. Weight was up two pounds at the doctor, which is okay, as I had been losing rapidly. Heart still 56, blood pressure 108/60, temp 97.2. Finally, after three years, all vital signs are down to what they usually were in Berkeley.

5. Doc prescribed Trazodone for insomnia and (hopefully) sleep paralysis.  My daughter says it’s effective, and it appears it may be the lesser of evils. I was honest with the doctor about use of benzos and cannabis, past and present, respectively.  Well — I’m not convinced how much of the solution can possibly lie in the medical realm, but I’m grateful I made it to the appointment anyway, like a responsible human being.

6. Worked the door again last night, great young band from Vancouver, fresh out of high school, advanced garage band style. Brandy gave me a $40 gift card.

7. Nice weather this morning 69F degrees, breezy, conducive to brisk exercise.

8. Nice talk with my friend Kent this morning.

9. Made another speech, again spontaneously, though this one has some undeveloped themes and must be re-done.  I’m calling it “The Perception of Inequality.”  I posted it here before deciding it falls too far short of my artistic standards on too many levels for it to be live in its current state.   So I have pulled it until it has been rightly adjusted.   I took eight lengthy notes for an expanded revision, and am hoping to post the updated version on Wednesday morning.

10. Though still hung up on “Oracle,” the vocal score revisions are proceeding aright. I feel on track with all my homework, actually, if for no other reason than that I no longer shun or shirk the task. It helps to enjoy what you’re doing. God is Good.

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Is There Life After Homelessness?

Below the illustration is an excerpt from my personal diary.   

The Battle After the War – Homelessness and Housing

I’ve thought about almost nothing but homelessness in Berkeley throughout the past five days. It’s a disease; it’s a disorder; it’s PTSD; it’s been triggered.   So I thought I’d take the opposite tact as oft-advised. Rather than distract myself from the triggers, I would embrace the experience completely.

In that spirit, I created this talk, called It Can’t Be Forgotten. Later I judged this effort harshly. Not the fact that I did it — that I don’t mind at all. I was happy, thrilled, and thankful that I completed the spontaneously conceived task, exciting as it was to undertake it.

What I judged was its quality. Two glaring errors stood out. For one thing, while I spoke often of the “inequality” factor, I did very little, if anything, to back up how that sense experience was valid for those of us enduring the Homeless Experience. It could just as easily have been a reflection of my own individual inferiority complex as it was an alleged manifestation of a social injustice.

Secondly, when this issue of inequality arises in the speech, I adopt a tone of voice that seems excessively strident. This could make the listener uncomfortable. The stridency could be alternately interpreted as either anger or sarcasm, something of an almost bitter outrage enters into the vibration from time to time, and the whole thing can make one very uneasy. This is especially the case if one can only tune into the upset tone of voice, and figure this guy’s got some kind of ax to grind, and then never tune in to the actual content of the dissertation, due to the fact that the ostentatious style has stood in the way.

I just now listened to the whole thing for the first time this morning. I don’t find it nearly as objectionable as I did during yesterday’s listen, but that may be because as a listener, I’m simply getting addicted to the repetitive playing of an interesting piece, and I’m getting into the groove of it. But it also may mean that my original objections are not so objectionable, because to remove that element of anger as well as the component of vagueness as to what exactly made us all feel so unequal and so dehumanized when we were all together back then on the streets, would be in essence to assault the very concept of the piece. It is what it is. If it makes you uncomfortable, good. What does this say about you?

That question asked, the speech, on that level, succeeds.  What might be a distraction from that success, however, is if a certain kind of listener jumps to the conclusion, based on early, as yet undeveloped information, that the piece is “about” Internet trolling, trolls, etc.  But it’s not.  It’s about homelessness, inequality, and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The troll is only used as a device, to serve as a trigger.

8:06 a.m. – 2019-08-10

 

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Gratitude List 1220

1. Slept again about six hours from around 10 till 4:15.

2. Perfect running weather 61F and foggy.

3. Spent a while at LRC yesterday – I enjoyed talking with Cindy, Scott, Shaun & Amber. They’re doing some good expansion of the place, creating a Crisis Center next door where the barber shop used to be, of which Shaun is in charge.

4. Farmer’s Market this morning.

5. Working the door tomorrow night, will get a $30 gift card.

6. I spontaneously gave a sixteen-minute talk yesterday called It Can’t Be Forgotten. Did it in a single take and two quick edits, hope you enjoy it.

7. Got a chance to talk with Alex last night, good long talk.

8. It’s beginning to look like my daughter will be here soon.

9. Finished past No. 6 in the revised vocal score. Should have Act One done very soon.

10. Sky’s getting light, love this time of the morning. God is Good.

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Gratitude List 1214

1. Slept well from about 10pm till 6:30. First woke at 2:30, used sleep aid of choice, woke fairly solid.

2. Rode 9.5 miles into the nearest town West and stopped at the foot of the six mile weaving country bike trail. Easy ride and didn’t seem that long, checked on GoogleMaps from where I live, the way I rode. Rode 9.5 miles back this morning, very pleasant both ways.

3. Spent my first night outdoors and outside of present-day city limits in over three years. Stripped myself of phone and Internet, camped out in the wilds, and thought things through.

4. Was able to help a homeless guy with a ten dollar bill. It was interesting because I’d bought some food with a twenty dollar bill and the cashier commented how it came out to exactly 10.00. I said: “There’ll be a use for that ten dollar bill!” The homeless cat appeared in the morning, and it’ll come back around.

5. At the doctor yesterday, my weight was down one lb. (from 205 to 204), pulse 56, bp 116/78. Nothing else was decided other than to maintain the status quo for now.

6. Woke this morning having a hard time believing I did 15 quick push-ups the morning before yesterday. Nothing’s sore yet. Well, I’m probably in better shape than I thought. I feel lighter than 204, it’s misleading due to somatotype. Thankful for being in good shape, and usually vigorous. In fact, the recent exercise, including running and lots more walking, has seemed to have soothed my spirit.

7. Though I’d felt emotionally compelled to depart from my geographical community indefinitely, I realized during a single night outside the city limits that the best thing to do would be to make the most of it and return home in the morning, where I had left cell phone charger, prescription medication, and all kinds of other responsibilities. I was easily able to rationalize the mini-vacation on the basis of health and sanity, but not so much on the basis of finances, until I remembered that a coming paycheck from Berkeleyside will pretty much cover the costs. (Pretty much).

8. Alastair had me sign a consent form to publish my previously published articles along with future articles of my consent in any of 200 other INSP guild newspapers. (It’s still not syndication, as there is no pay for these reprints, only exposure. It’s just a heck of a lot of exposure.)

9. Phone conversations with my daughter, Danielle, Kent, Nick, Holly, and other good friends have been precious lately. Looking forward to catching up with my friend Alex today. Also very thankful for the brothers and sisters at my church and for their ongoing tolerance of my every peccadillo. Thankful for support from other Artists and Writers as well as spiritually principled and disciplined individuals. God has blessed me with good support and fellowship, not to be taken for granted.

10. I re-outlined the Last Scene last night according to what we learned in rehearsals, and also adjusted my attitude toward the impending script and vocal score revisions. This was unsurprisingly timed with running into Dave, who reassured me of his same commitment, only he can’t commit to an exact date. I’ll return the commitment and do what I’m supposed to do. Thankful for this ongoing opportunity. Don’t give up the ship.

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Published in Berkeleyside

Good news.  Recently, as you may know, my work began appearing in a regular column called “Homeless No More,” published in the newspaper Street Spirit, which has a 25,000 monthly distribution in Berkeley and Santa Cruz, California.  As of yesterday morning at 8am, my first story in the column, entitled “How I Got Inside,” has now been taken up by Berkeleyside, the award-winning, independent news site covering Berkeley and the East Bay.  

How I Got Inside

Berkeleyside-1

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