Flagrant

Your hurt is incurable,
and your wound is grievous.
There is none to uphold your cause,
no medicine for your wound,
no healing for you.
All your lovers have forgotten you;
they care nothing for you;
for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy,
the punishment of a merciless foe,
because your guilt is great,
because your sins are flagrant.
Why do you cry out over your hurt?
Your pain is incurable.
Because your guilt is great,
because your sins are flagrant,
I have done these things to you.
Therefore all who devour you shall be devoured,
and all your foes, every one of them, shall go into captivity;
those who plunder you shall be plundered,
and all who prey on you I will make a prey.
For I will restore health to you,
and your wounds I will heal,
declares the LORD.

–Jeremiah 30:12b-17a

 

Fourth Column Published

At some point, I slacked on getting these Street Spirit columns posted on Thursdays in a timely fashion.   Here’s my 4th column, as it was published in the November issue.  More to come.   

The Homeless Habits that Followed Me Indoors
by Andy Pope

One of the many unexpected challenges that arose during my transition from homelessness to indoor living stemmed from the fact that I had simply gotten used to living outdoors. This caused many of the practices that worked for me when I was homeless to be carried over into the context of indoor living. While some of these lingering habits clearly didn’t apply indoors, others of them worked fairly well, both inside and out. In any case, all of them were surprisingly hard to shake. These hard-to shake habits fell into four main categories: Sleeping, eating, livelihood, and self-esteem.

Sleeping

When I was homeless, I got used to sleeping on two or three layers of cardboard placed over a hard surface.  I often slept on sidewalks, stairways, ramps, and cement alcoves positioned beneath awnings.   To off-set the hardness of such surfaces, I would pile on layers of cardboard until it simulated the effect of a mattress.

The problem with this, as far as my transition is concerned, was that I found I needed to use the same set-up in order to functionally sleep inside.  I tried sleeping in the bed that was provided in my first indoor room, but it just didn’t feel right.  I wasn’t used to sleeping in a bed.  So I set up three layers of cardboard on the hardwood floor, piled on an ample amount of blankets, and found I went right to sleep.  In fact, I slept much better than I’d ever slept outdoors.  I had combined the comfort of my preferred set-up with the added security of sleeping inside, where I was no longer vulnerable to the numerous assailants that roam the outdoor nights.  So I got the best of both worlds.

Another thing: Even though I had moved far away from Berkeley to a place where the temperatures were often below freezing in the winter, I found that I had to leave my window wide open at all times.  I had gotten so used to sleeping in the open air, I felt suffocated if I wasn’t getting a huge blast of fresh air in my face.  Also, for a long time I had to visualize one of my former outdoor sleeping spots in order to calm my mind enough to get to sleep at night.  This eventually faded with time, but evidenced an overall nostalgia for the homeless experience that flew in the face of reason.

Eating

My ideas around food, its availability, and one’s ability to feed oneself also changed radically as a result of my years of homelessness.  When food came my way while I was on the streets, I cheerfully shared it with those in my midst, assured that others would do the same for me.   Generally, I was right.  This is one of the small ways in which people on the streets take care of each other.

But without a street community to share resources with, managing my grocery shopping and eating habits was a struggle.  Having a kitchen for the first time in years, and being on a fixed income from Social Security, I naturally stocked up on food after I had paid rent and other bills.  But with this surplus of food available to me, I found myself overeating, using up my food supply long before the month was over, and thus gaining weight.   It took some time for me to become comfortable with stretching my groceries to last all month.

Livelihood 

I had also become accustomed to flying a sign on a sidewalk in order to accumulate pocket change to get through the day, as well as an occasional sandwich or other form of foodstuffs.  But in my current situation, there weren’t any panhandlers, let alone “silent sign-flyers” as I would have characterized myself.  Had I showed up on Main Street with my sign, I’d have stuck out like a sore thumb.  The local cops would have been on me in a heartbeat.  But I missed flying a sign for many reasons, not the least of which is that I simply was used to that means of livelihood.

In fact, I so missed flying my sign that on two occasions I invested over $50 on a round trip bus ticket to the nearest large city, when I hooked up with the homeless people who hung out by the station, and flew my sign until it was time for the bus to leave.   Unfortunately, I made less than $50 each time, so it as not even a cost-effective venture.  But it did satisfy my enormous urge to earn money in my customary fashion, if only for a day or two.

The overall inability to panhandle in a small rural community resulted in a form of food insecurity I had not at all anticipated.  After all, it was difficult to experience true food insecurity in Berkeley, where there were up to four free community meals each day.  Now, without community meals or the ability to fly a sign, I found myself suffering midway through each month.  I scrambled to make more money without the option of having a “street hustle,” and found that my job-related skills had suffered greatly as a result of years of unemployment.

Seeing the people in my midst who seemed not to have a problem feeding themselves, jealousy burned within me.  Whereas before, I had been jealous of practically anyone who had a roof over their head, I now found myself jealous of homeless people who were able to feed themselves more readily than I was, such as many of the homeless people in the city of Berkeley, where so much free food is abundant.

low self-esteem.png

Self-esteem 

By far, however, the most difficult transition to navigate was in the area of my self-esteem.  As much as I despised seeing the way that privileged people who lived indoors treated homeless people who were suffering, I had simply gotten used to being treated like a piece of shit.  Unbelievably, when people began to treat me humanely, as though I were “one of them,” I found I couldn’t handle it.  

For example, I had been quietly hanging out out at a local coffee house for a couple of weeks before one of the baristas extended her hand and asked what my name was.  Afterwards, I literally had to go into the bathroom and cry.  I could not believe that an employee in a public business establishment cared what my name was. I had gotten so used to being viewed with suspicion, as though it were assumed I could only be a troublemaker, that the experience of having an employee actually treat me with dignity was almost too much for me. While I soaked it all in with a natural delight, it also caused me to wonder why on earth I and my homeless brothers and sisters had put up with such pejorative treatment to begin with. 

The closest I’ve come to an answer is that we all simply got used to it. We didn’t think things would ever be any different or any better. The overall message that society gave us was that we would always be homeless, and that we were without hope in a world where an uncrossable gulf was fixed between those who were within and those who were without. We even got the feeling that we should always remain homeless – that we belonged, not in the privileged world of renters and homeowners – but in the leprous realm of the ostracized, the abandoned, and the untouchable. For we were not such as were worthy of dignified indoor living.

When such a bombardment of dehumanizing messages is blasted at a person day in and day out, it messes fairly severely with one’s head. Had I not known the amazing community that existed between me and my fellow homeless people, I would never have found the strength to come out alive.

Homeless No More is a column that features the stories of people making the transition from homelessness to housing.  Andy Pope is a freelance writer who lives in the Pacific Northwest, and the author of Eden in Babylon, a musical about youth homelessness in urban America.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Tuesday Tuneup 63

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I’m doing my morning, starting my day.

Q. Do you do this every morning?

A. No, not every morning.

Q. Every Tuesday, then?

A. Not really, no. Only on some Tuesdays. Sometimes on Sunday mornings or Friday nights. Other times, not at all.

Q. What about your morning ritual?

A. What ritual? There is no such thing.

Q. But haven’t I heard you recently tell people about your morning ritual?

A. I may have. I believe it lasted for about four days.

Q. What happened after four days?

A. I imploded.

Q. What do you think caused the implosion?

A. It was the fact of my forcing myself to follow a regimen that ran counter to my natural biorhythms and overall design. The ritual failed to honor my nature, and thus it backfired. I have now rejected the ritual, and have returned to my former, much more spontaneous treatment of the mornings.

Q. Spontaneous?

A. Yes. I simply get up and do whatever I want to do.

Q. What did you do this morning?

A. I started this Tuesday Tuneup, figuring it was Tuesday. Then I went to the 24 hour store down the way for a large coffee to get myself revved up. When I got back inside, I cranked up my Audacity software and started doing the final edits on a three way distribution of the new Suspended album onto three large wave files. This is for posting online for those for whom a hard copy CD is meaningless. I have figured out a way to make them pay for having it on the Internet, it requires my releasing the url to a personal link.

This project being divided into Parts 1-4, Parts 5-8, and Parts 9-12, I finished Parts 1-4 before calling Danielle. This is our regular morning call, and I thought I was late, but it turned out she was running late. So we got a good chance to talk.

Q. Regular call, you say?

A. Well, not too regular. Moderately regular, within reason.

Q. Do you do nothing with regularity?

A. I do not, yes that’s right.

Q. Why is this?

A. Because regularity rigidifies, and cyphens one in to its own restricted domain, whereby one regards as intrusive any externalia, despite its level of priority. In the opposite of regularity — which is spontaneity — one remains ready for anything, and will deal with passing, more pressing priorities as they arise. This is all part of the practice of spontaneity.

Q. And this is what you practice?

A. Yes. This is why I am irregular, and disdain ritualistic routines.

The Questioner is silent.

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A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Gratitude List 1343

This one’s from Saturday afternoon.   Apparently, I’d had a rough morning, and decided at some point to count my blessings and begin anew.  

1. Am feeling decidedly better.  Starting the day over.  

2. Ran about 2 miles (aborting the 3 mile course when I got tired, and walking back home).

3. Listened to all of Suspended at the round table.   I think my edits are fine now, and also it sounds a lot better conceptually than it did last night.   People will either like it or hate it, but I doubt they’ll think I don’t know what I’m doing.

4. Gave a CD to this guy, the trumpet teacher, whom I saw immediately after I finished listening.   Moments later, at the Co-Op, this fellow the Math professor gave me some cash for one, and this other man the German professor told me he would pay for one if I could figure out how to put it online.

5. Ran into this fellow who writes for the Daily News and we exchanged numbers.   He’s very bright, and knows a lot about journalism, too.  Reminds me, I ran into the journalism professor the other night, who had already read my commentary, since he subscribes to that site.  He said: “Good work!”  Thankful for all this newfound focus on journalism and on getting my stories published.  It’s been a pleasantly unexpected turn of events throughout my brief retirement.

6. I finally decided to approach K. about my reservations regarding the Theology group, and we wound up having a nice long conversation.   A very nice and extremely erudite man.

7. K. also assured me not to be intimidated by all these professors and people with degrees, despite my lack of a higher education.  He said I’m on the same intellectual level as most of the professors anyway.

8. Said two really great prayers while I was running.  Actually one of them was of the magnitude of the heavily answered prayer I prayed in July 2016 outside the Sequoia station.   It was the second time it’s ever happened — I don’t want to say what the content of the prayer was — but when I prayed it, the words were given me with clear conviction, and as I looked into the sky, I “felt” that those words were heard.

9. Shaun also was helpful last night in that we delineated that I prayed in anger for a certain thing to happen, and it happened, and my anger was assuaged.  Now is the time to pray in Gratitude to make good use of that which has happened, for this is the blessing of God, though I’d asked for it in anger.

10. Asking myself “what’s next?” always works, even if the answer is silence.   God is Good.

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A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

To Those Who Are at Ease

Woe to those who are at ease in Zion,
and to those who feel secure on the mountain of Samaria,
the notable men of the first of the nations,
to whom the house of Israel comes!
Pass over to Calneh, and see,
and from there go to Hamath the great;
then go down to Gath of the Philistines.
Are you better than these kingdoms?
Or is their territory greater than your territory,
O you who put far away the day of disaster
and bring near the seat of violence?

“Woe to those who lie on beds of ivory
and stretch themselves out on their couches,
and eat lambs from the flock
and calves from the midst of the stall,
who sing idle songs to the sound of the harp
and like David invent for themselves instruments of music,
who drink wine in bowls
and anoint themselves with the finest oils,
but are not grieved over the ruin of Joseph!
Therefore they shall now be the first of those who go into exile,
and the revelry of those who stretch themselves shall pass away.”

— Amos 6:1-7

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A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

New Piano Album”Suspended” Now Available

suspended-5.jpg

============ Forwarded message ============
From: Andy Pope
Date: Thu, 05 Dec 2019 22:38:22 -0800
Subject: New Piano Album “Suspended” Now Available
============ Forwarded message ============

Greetings –

I’m writing mostly to people I know locally who have purchased my piano CD’s in the past.  But also I am including people from afar whom I suspect might like to have one.   I have a brand new one I have named “Suspended.”  It’s full of twelve songs, as follows:  

1.   “San Francisco” – Scott McKenzie 

2.   “Try to Remember” – Tom Jones & Harry Schmidt 

3.   “Shenandoah” – Traditional 

4.   “Cold This Season” – Andy Pope 

5.   “Dark Holly” – Traditional 

6.   “Send in the Clowns” – Stephen Sondheim 

7.   “On My Own” – Claude-Michel Schönberg

8.   “Kum Ba Yah” – Traditional 

9.   “Bubbles Taboo” – Andy Pope  

10.  “Who Will Buy?” – Lionel Bart 

11.  “California Dreamin” – John Phillips and Michelle Phillips 

12.  “We Three Kings” – Traditional 

If you’re around town and would like to hang on to five or ten bucks to help me out in this endeavor, I’ll be up and down Main Street peddling my newest wares within the next few days or so — you can’t miss me.  If you’re afar, I really miss you, and I’ll send you one for $12 USD if you reply with your postal mailing address.

Hoping you’re all having a happy holiday!  I look forward to hearing from you — 

Cheers,

Andy

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.