Categories
Homelessness Playwriting Psychology

Tuesday Tuneup 66

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Having a third cup of coffee.

Q. Was there something wrong with the first two cups?

A. No — in fact, there was something right about them.

Q. What was that?

A. They tasted good.

Q. Are you trying to tell me that just because your first two cups of coffee tasted good, you’re drinking a third one?

A. That’s what I said, isn’t it?

Q. Well — don’t you think there’s something wrong with you?

A. There are many things wrong with me, as with us all.  But what are you driving at?

Q. Don’t you know that it’s unhealthy to indulge that which you enjoy to unneeded extremes?

A. Uh — a third cup of coffee is an “unneeded extreme?”

Q. Isn’t it well known that two cups of coffee are sufficient for all?   And that a third cup is extreme?

A. But how often do I actually have a third cup?

Q. I don’t know – how often?

A. Almost never.

Q. Your point?

A. My point is that it would be more extreme to remain at two cups every morning than to allow myself the occasional indulgence of a third cup.

Q. So you justify your indulgence on the basis of its rarity?

A. Yes.  It is so rare that I bother having a third cup of coffee, that I really don’t think I am in danger of overdoing it.

Q. Have you experienced any palpitations of the heart lately?

A. None.

Q. What about your excrement?  Notice anything strange in your poop?

A. Funny, my doctor asked me the same two questions last week.  And again I say, none.

Q. Why did your doctor ask you those questions?

A. Low thyroid, apparently.

Q. But don’t you take thyroid medication?

A. Begrudgingly, yes.

Q. Why is it begrudging?

A. Because I have to wait a half hour after taking it before I am allowed to have a morning cup of coffee.

Q. Isn’t that cruel and unusual punishment?

A. It has occurred to me more than once that the doctor’s orders are a violation of my 8th Amendment Rights.

Eighth Amendment: Banning Cruel and Unusual Punishment - David J. Shestokas

Q. And who else has violated your 8th Amendment Rights?

A. Glad you asked.   Before 2016, when I was experiencing homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area, lots of people violated my 8th Amendment Rights because they kept waking me up when I had nowhere else to sleep.  Then finally Martin v. Boise came into effect, and Judge Marsha Berson ruled that it is unconstitutional to wake up someone who is sleeping on public property and tell them to move, if in fact they have nowhere else to sleep.  So, at least in the 9th Circuit, including most Western States, I am free to be homeless again and not fear unjust awakening.

Q. Do you want to be homeless again?

A. Kinda.

Q. Why?

A. You want an honest answer?

Q. Of course.

A. Because I got to be good at it.   Really, the main thing that bothered me was all the awakenings in the middle of the night, when I was only trying to get a good night’s sleep.

Q. But will those awakenings stop just because of a new ruling?

A. Come to think of it, probably not.

Q. Why not?

A. For one thing, not all of the awakenings were by authority figures.   A lot of them were by other homeless people, and many of them were by random thieves and vandals roaming the area looking for easy marks.   What mark could be easier than a sleeping homeless person?

Q. So you say you got a lot of things stolen from you in the middle of the night?

A. Yes.  Also was threatened to bodily harm quite a bit, when I awakened to the sight of a stranger telling me I had stolen “his spot.”

Q. Would you say homelessness has lost its appeal?

A. Most of it, yes.

Q. Why did it ever appeal to you in the first place?

A. As earlier stated, it seemed a thing I could probably do well.   After all, I wasn’t managing very well at hanging on to a living situation.

Q. But you’re hanging on to your living situation now, aren’t you?

A. Seems that way, yes.  In a few short days I will have paid my rent on time for the 26th month in a row.   And prior to that, on a smaller cheaper place, fifteen months in a row.

Q. Doesn’t that give you a sense of stability?

A. It does.

Q. Then why on earth would you ever consider being homeless again?

A. Why on earth should I value something like “stability?”

Q. What do you mean?

A. We’re all going to die anyway, right?

Q. So?

A. So there’s no such thing as stability on this planet.  If we get too attached to things that make us feel stable, they will eventually be taken from us, and then we will have a really hard time letting go of them.  Better not to become so attached.  Better to be ready for anything.

Q. Anything?

A. You heard me.  Especially nowadays.   It is better to live spontaneously, and for one to ready oneself for anything — than to seek the fragile semblances of stability that this passing world has to offer.

Q. You really believe that?

A. I said it, didn’t I?

Q, Why do I find that hard to believe?

A. I don’t know.  Why do you?   

The Questioner is silent.  

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Categories
Christianity gratitude journalism Piano

Gratitude List 1365

(1) Slept a huge lot of hours for the second night in a row, didn’t even keep track.  Got up at 8:30 feeling like I can probably pull about five all-nighters in a row if I want to, and get all kinds of stuff done.  Thank God for sleep, when it happens.

(2) Walked into town in the snow after realizing there was no coffee left in the cupboard, and had some interesting peaceful thoughts.

(3) First cup of free Pikes Peak coffee at the Courtyard Cafe went down swimmingly during a pleasant conversation with a guy I like named Bill.  Didn’t know he had written editorials for the local newspaper for years.

(4) It’s uncanny how many people I meet randomly these days turn out to be journalists, columnists, reporters, editors, etc.  

(5) Decided it was about time I learned something about economics, so I spent several hours last night researching Adam Smith, supply-side economics, laissez-faire capitalism, and so forth.  What I want to express is: thank God for the Internet.  What in some ways could be our biggest bane is in many ways our biggest asset.  

(6) The new music minister took me out to lunch after church yesterday, and we had a nice conversation.  He is interested in having the Praise Team present the worship song I wrote.   He seems a nice young man, and I gave him a free Suspended CD in return.  

(7) I could conceivably be depressed over many things right now, but I woke up in one piece and healthy and fit, still having escaped serious injury or physical disease throughout all my days.   Life is keeping me around for some reason — that much is clear.

(8) There’s no reason for me not to remain open to new possibilities; and that prayer I prayed the other day on campus was surely heard.   Lord knows I prayed it loud enough.

(9) “The times they are a’changin’.” — Bob Dylan 

(10) God is Good.  

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Categories
Artist blues jazz Musical Theatre Piano

Bubbles Defined

This is probably about the 4th version you’ve received of this one same song of mine.  Heck, I never do play this one exactly right from start to finish!   But this one might well be the most “definitive.”  

Anyway, this ought to tide you over.  I’m waiting for clips from last night’s Open Mike to surface in my inbox.   It might be a while, so enjoy . . .  

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Categories
Activism Classism Homelessness Psychology social statement

Paralyzed

Meant to get this to you earlier.  It was first published in the October “special issue” of Street Spirit and subsequently submitted to the International Network of Street Papers, where it has been published elsewhere.   And now, here as well.   Hope you enjoy it.  

Paralyzed: The Demons That Prey on the Homeless
by Andy Pope

When one is homeless, one is by definition exposed to all kinds of elements that escape the confines of one who lives indoors.  Weather is only one such element.  There are also predatorial elements — people who invade the space of someone who has no physical barrier to separate them from intruders of the night.

There is also another kind of predator sometimes encountered in the darkness.  This is the supernatural predator, often colloquially referred to as a “demon” — an entity that invades one’s dream states, or states of half-sleep.

Homeless friends of mine reported being “hassled” or “attacked” by malevolent entities that seemed to hover over various outdoor spots where we tried to sleep.  I sometimes sensed these invasions as well.  Typically, I would become paralyzed, and suddenly feel as though an invisible hostile creature was grabbing me and rubbing or scratching me with things that felt like paws or claws.  Sometimes I would feel as though I were being pounded on.  I would hear abusive voices as this happened: “Andy, you scum bag!! You are a total piece of shit!!!!”

Whether these were truly alien invaders from outer space, or merely the subconscious reflection of my own low self-esteem, I cannot say.

I learned that these attacks have a name: sleep paralysis.  Sleep paralysis is a condition where one is awake to one’s surroundings but lacks motor control.  In other words, you’re not awake enough to move your body, but awake enough to know what’s going on.  It often strikes during times when the usual patterns of sleep have been disrupted.  In my experience, very few things have disrupted my normal sleep patterns as much as the overall conditions of homelessness.

As a person who has had sleep paralysis since the age of 14, I am among the 8 percent of the population for whom this condition is commonplace.  When I was homeless, I noticed that these intrusions would be different depending on when and where they occurred.  For example, intrusions in Ohlone Park were different than those that took place on the steps of St. Joseph the Worker church or outside the Rubicon building.  I always sensed that I was being assaulted by some kind of invisible entity, but the nature of the entity would differ according to where it was that I was trying (unsuccessfully) to sleep.

If I were to take a daytime nap on Bart, however, I noticed that I was free of these mysterious assailants.  However, when the train would stop, sometimes they would attack.  This gave rise to the theory that they lived in a reality that intersected the normal Earth-based reality at certain spots, but that they were unable to traverse the surface of the Earth — at least not at speeds corresponding to those of rapid transit.   This theory is reminiscent of the concept of the “tesseract” expounded in the book A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine l’Engel.  

Another theory had to do with the veracity of these demon-riddled reports.  How plausible were they really?   How credible were those who reported them?   And most of all, who was most likely to believe them?  I could not help but notice that those who were impoverished, homeless, on disability, working poor, or low-wage blue collar or assembly line workers were the quickest to embrace and believe my reports of sleep paralysis.  Often, people in the lower socio-economic brackets would share their own similar experiences of encounters with “demons.”  But people in the scientific community, upper level academicians, white collar workers, and corporate business people seemed often to scoff at our accounts, writing them off the same way that they wrote off all of our statements.  To be sure, this is another type of paralysis — one that is relentless, and occurs in broad daylight.

Whatever the cause or effect of these widespread stories, one thing seemed most disturbingly clear.  There were legions of demons haunting the realm of the disadvantaged, the underprivileged, the unprotected, and the abandoned.  Whether they meet us in dream states or in harsh reality, there are far more homeless demons than meet the eye.

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.   

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Categories
Christianity Family mental health social statement

Tuesday Tuneup 65

Q. What are you doing here?

A. Why do you ask?

Q. Isn’t it Wednesday?

A. So what?

Q. Aren’t you supposed to write these on Tuesdays?

A. How consistent have I been with that? 

Q. Didn’t I ask you?

A. Well then.  You have your answer.   It’s Wednesday morning.   It’s Christmas.   I wrote two of them yesterday and hated them both.   I’ll be tempted to delete this one, like I deleted both of the others.  I hate this day.  It’s a day of celebration for others, and of mourning and grieving for me.  It’s this day that I used to love and have come to dread.  It’s finally here.  It’s upon me.   And I’m miserable.

Q. Aren’t you forgetting the “reason for the season?”

A. Thanks for reminding me of the most ludicrous cliche imaginable.  If Jesus Himself  down and expressed His own disgust with this ridiculous sham of a so-called holy day, would you ask Him that same question?

Q. Aren’t you only projecting your own disgust onto Him?

A. I beg your pardon!   I’m only asking a question.  To be honest with you, I don’t believe Jesus has any particular opinion about this holiday at all.   I believe He relates to individuals on an individual basis, whoever it is who seeks relationship with Him.  He is therefore pleased with some people on Christmas, and not others.

Q. And you are one of the ones He is pleased with?

A. I didn’t say that!   How can He possibly be pleased with me if I am not at all pleased with myself?

Q. Are you suggesting that He would suddenly become pleased with you if you were to become pleased with your own self?

A. Of course not!   I could become pleased with myself over the slightest success or victory at damned near anything — whether Jesus was tracking with it or not.

Q. Seriously?

A. Yes – seriously!  I’m the type of person who feels good when he’s accomplished something successfully, and feels lousy when he hasn’t.  Isn’t that obvious?  Aren’t I transparent?

Q. When was the last time you accomplished something successfully?

A. Too long ago.  It’s been days, at least.  Maybe weeks.

Q. So then it’s not really Christmas that is the issue, is it?

A. No, not really.  But I’ll make no bones about it.  I do not like this holiday!  I don’t believe it has much to do with the birth of Jesus, or His life or teachings, much at all.  We hear the stories at church, if we go to church, and then leave them behind.   It’s a sham; it’s disgusting – but yes, you’re right.  That’s my own disgust, not His.

Q. So why the disgust?

A. Because — it used to be — there was family.  There was connection, there was warmth.  We opened gifts.  We had a Christmas tree.  I played the piano, and we sang carols together.

Q. What happened to all that?

A. At some point, I just became  —  I don’t know.  Uninvited.   Mom and Dad are long gone, there isn’t a “parent’s house” anymore.   I tried to reestablish family, but I failed.

Q. Why is everything about your personal success or failure?

A. I don’t know.  My dad was kinda hard on me, kept saying I couldn’t do anything right.   I just want to prove that I can do some things right.  When I get something right, I feel warm inside.  Like loved.

Q. Loved?

A. Yes. Loved.  God loves me because He lets me get some things right.

Q. Isn’t that a rather limited view of love?

A. It’s a start.

Q. Wouldn’t you have started long ago?

A. Of course.  But maybe I was barking up the wrong tree.

Q. What do you mean?

A. It might not be in my destiny for me to be a very successful family man.

Q. But are you content to be alone?

A. Usually.  But not on Christmas.   And not lately, to be honest with you.  Ever since my daughter left, just kinda — lonely, and feeling like I failed.  

Christmas loneliness and grief 'very, very common', says clinical counsellor | CBC News

Q. How is it that Christmas brings about these feelings of discontent?

A. It is on Christmas that the pain of knowing that other people are with family, seeming to have a good time, is most highlighted.  The pain that I am excluded — for some reason.  Naturally this leads to misery.  Especially when combined with the fact that everything closes down.  No food services.  No Starbucks, no MacDonald’s.  No library.   No restaurants.   How do I get food?  I have to stock up — well, you know, you get through the season, you get through the day.   I’m thinking MacDonald’s might be open till noon on some kind of truncated schedule.   Might as well hoof it down there once this thing’s over.

Q. So that is your idea of Christmas?   Spending the morning at a McDonald’s?

A. No.  My idea is still to gather around somewhere where there’s family and play a piano — but that’s long past.

Q. Could it not also be future?

A. Do I have a very good history at holding a family together?

Q. Could you have given up too easily?

A. Perhaps.

Q. Might you be blaming yourself too much?

A. Maybe.

Q. So what is your strategy?   How will you get through the day?

A. Well – I can start by repenting.

Q. What sin have you committed?

A. I mean – repenting of my attitude.  Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.  I lack faith right now.

Q. How can you get faith?

A. By choosing it.

Q. And what then?

A. Um –  I can pray.  I’ll start praying again.

Q. Why and when did you stop?

A. It was a few days back, after — something horrible happened personally, involving the loss of a friend — or maybe just the misplacement of the friend — she did wish me a happy Christmas back this morning, by text —

Q. Then she has not abandoned you, has she?

A. Maybe not.  Then again, she might have just been being nice.

Q. Isn’t that a start?

A. Yeah.  Lots of things can be starts.

Q. So what’s the strategy?

A. You make it sound like I’m fighting a war.

Q. Aren’t you?

A. I shouldn’t be.  I should just be surrendering, trusting in God, having faith, looking expectantly for the good that will inevitably come . . .

Q. On this horrible day of Christmas?

A. You said it.

Q. I’m curious, though.   Why did the severance with your friend cause you to stop praying?

A. She has always reflected Christ in my life.  I can’t explain it.  Maybe I put too much of a burden on her.   There were times when nobody else even believed I was a Christian, and yet she still had faith in me.  And now she’s gone.

Q. Can you — pray anyway?

A. And not be reminded of her?   I can’t even read my Bible anymore.  I read it — but it’s not the same.  It’s as though I’m reading her Bible, not mine.   

Q. So you’re — experiencing loss?

A. Loss upon loss.  Here I’ve already given up.  I’ll just say it:

Christmas in America is a time for people of privilege to enjoy the presence of other people of privilege.   They could at least invite those who lack over to their houses.  But they don’t.   And what’s that got to do with the so-called spirit of Christmas?  It’s not spiritual in any sense to exclude others from a gathering that is supposed to be held holy and pleasing in the eyes of God.

Q. Come on now!   Do you truly believe that Christmas has been reduced to only this?

A. Only this and worse.  I used to have a friend.   And I don’t any longer.

Q. But don’t you have a friend in Jesus?

A. I do.  And honestly, thank you for reminding me.  If I can just make my mind turn to Him – maybe when I’m on the way to that McDonald’s — I bet they’re open — and it can’t possibly be as bad as that one Christmas was when I was homeless and it was raining — and nobody would let us in  . . . 

Q. Your Christmas has been a lot worse than this one, hasn’t it?

A. Well yeah – it beats that one year, I think it was 2015, the only people I saw all day were about twenty-five other angry homeless people, it was pouring rain, I remember logging onto Facebook and just screaming at everybody — it just seemed heartless that they could keep flashing all these festivities on their timelines — if one even suggested being invited over on Christmas Day, they made you feel like you were a horrible person for even thinking such a thing . . . 

Q. But you are not homeless now, are you?

A. No I’m not.   

Q. And have you not become heartless in your own rite?   

A: I have not!

Q. How many homeless people are you letting in on Christmas?

Pause.  

A. I’ve let a lot of homeless people in this house, and you know it.

Q. What about Christmas?

A. You know I have my reasons.

Q. Didn’t they all have their reasons?

A. No doubt.  To put it mildly, to let strangers inside your house is risky business.  But I wasn’t a stranger to any of those people I was buzzing on Christmas Day on Facebook in the rain that day.   They all knew me.   They knew exactly what my situation was.

Q. And their response was?

A. Denial and disdain.   

Q. Why do you think that was?

A. Who likes a party–pooper?   Why should I be raining on their parade?

Q. You’re not raining on them now, are you?

A. Not that I know of  —  unless some of the more lurkish among them are reading these words, and feeling the storm.  

Q. And you’re not being rained on now either, are you?

A. More like snowed on.  But not at the moment, no.   I’m indoors – and I should be grateful.

Q. Are you?

A.  Grateful?   One wishes the word did not apply.   But yes, come to think of it, I am grateful.   I should be, after all.  Things could be a lot worse.   I could be robbed of anything approaching a First Amendment right in some parts of the world.   I could be put to death just for writing these words.

Q. So – what’s your strategy?

A. Well . . .  I don’t know how strategic it is, but I just made a decision.   This tuneup needs to be wrapped up anyway.   It’s dragging on kinda long.

Q. What’s your decision?

A. I’m going to go down to that McDonald’s and find someone more miserable than myself.

Q. Then what?

A. I’ll take it from there.   I’m at least usually a happy person.  I can share my happiness with them, even if I don’t experience it at the time.

Q. But won’t you just be just like the people on Facebook, flaunting their festivities?

A. I’ll try not to be.  Thanks for the warning.

Q. Anything else?

A. Not that I can think of.

Q. Cold feet?

A. Some.

Q. Just do it?   

A. Wish me luck.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Categories
Christianity gratitude Homelessness journalism Social Media

Gratitude List 1354

This one’s from Thursday morning.  

1. Slept about 8 hrs from 11:30 till 7:30 am.

2. Snow all about, very beautiful.

3. Echo called early, having also gotten up at 7:30.  She seems well, and I’m glad.  I’ve spoken with her in fact two times today, for which I’m thankful.

4. Also got a chance to talk with Nick.

5. Making progress toward submitting my 2nd column for Tracy.  I am connecting together themes of social media / pleasure-seeking to the creation of Cancel Culture, and then how homeless people have been cancelled by society.

6. Got another compliment, it was from Nick G., the ‘Palouse Pundit,’ it was on my Homelessness Taught Me Gratitude piece, he said it was good writing.  At the end, he said: “Keep writing!”  He himself is reputable, a retired philosophy professor, spent several years with the Maharishi in India.

7. Seneca made me a quad espresso and gave me a day old scone, even though I only paid for a doppio.

8. Took a brisk three mile walk in the snow, wherein all errands were accomplished.

9. This includes having gotten my levothyroxine, of which Dr. M. has how given me a 90 day supply at 137 micrograms / day.

10. Nice to be inside on a snowy day.   God is Good.

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Categories
bible Christianity Creative process scripture

Vanguard

Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep
and say, “Spare your people, O Lord,
and make not your heritage a reproach,
a byword among the nations.
Why should they say among the peoples,
‘Where is their God?’”

Then the Lord became jealous for his land
and had pity on his people.
The Lord answered and said to his people,
“Behold, I am sending to you
grain, wine, and oil,
and you will be satisfied;
and I will no more make you
a reproach among the nations.

“I will remove the northerner far from you,
and drive him into a parched and desolate land,
his vanguard into the eastern sea,
and his rear guard into the western sea;
the stench and foul smell of him will rise,
for he has done great things.”

— Joel 2:17-20

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Categories
Berkeley gratitude Homelessness

Fifth Column Published

Here’s my 5th column on Homeless No More, as published by Street Spirit under the editorship of Alastair Boone.

Homelessness Taught Me Gratitude
by Andy Pope

When one lives outdoors, and weather conditions are less than favorable, one sometimes wakes up freezing and soaking wet—not to mention flat broke. Under such circumstances, you can’t imagine the feeling of gratitude that would overwhelm me as I succeeded in scraping up 63 cents for a senior cup of coffee at a McDonald’s. At the store most frequented, they wouldn’t let us in if we didn’t have coffee change. Once admitted, our stays were limited to twenty minutes. But it was still huge that I could get out of the rain and get my bearings.

Picture the scenario, if you haven’t personally experienced it yourself. It’s raining cats and dogs. Your already soggy clothes are getting wet all over again. You’re shivering from cold. Your very blankets were full of moisture on awakening. You weren’t so bad when still enclosed beneath those coverings, but boy did it smart when you first got out from under ‘em! All of a sudden you were shaking to the bones. You ran, not walked, in the direction of the McDonald’s where, at 5:20 in the morning, approximately twenty other homeless people were pacing about the sidewalks on University and Shattuck, awaiting the moment of opening.

You don’t have coffee change and you just know they’re not going to let you in as a non-paying “vagrant.” So you swallow your pride, and you start hitting up your homeless buddies for bits of change.

“Hey Dave, do you have a quarter? That’s all I need. Bob, got a nickel? I’m only five cents short . . .” Just as the store is opening, somebody flips five pennies into your hand. “Here use this. I’m good.”

You breathe an incredible sigh of relief. Those five pennies just made the difference between your continuing to freeze your buns off, and your sitting comfortably in a warm building— with a morning cup of coffee to boot. You get in line, you get your coffee, and before you know it, you’re sitting at your favorite Mickey D’s table with a Berkeley Daily Californian. You made it! If you’re lucky, and somebody didn’t get there first, you might even be able to use the bathroom. If you’re even luckier, you’ll get a refill. Luckier still, and they might let you stay longer than twenty minutes. Heck, they might even let you stay till the sun shines through! Nowhere to go, says Gratitude, but up.

Because I live indoors now, a lot of the little things that used to inspire intense gratitude no longer have the same effect. But living inside has not dulled my sense of appreciation. I often find myself overwhelmed by the same kinds of feelings I had when I was able to pay my way into that McDonald’s. But the sources of this gratitude are different.

For example, living inside doesn’t make me exempt from the effects of nasty weather. It’s been freaky inclement in this part of the world lately, with temps in the low 10’s (Fahrenheit) and fierce winds and lots of snow rendering the outdoor trek a bit daunting for most people—and this particular formerly homeless homebody is no exception. The upside is that, when I walk into my apartment from such conditions, nobody is going to kick me out of my own home in twenty minutes and release me to the cold rain and snow. As I sleep, no night wanderer is going to wake me up to ask me for a cigarette, and no police officer is going to shine that bright light in my eyes and wake me up to an interrogation. When morning comes, and I hop into the shower, I won’t have to deal with a number of other men in the shower room, nor will I have had to wait for two hours to get there. Moreover, I get to make my own coffee in the morning. I don’t have to wait beneath a church stairway while a security guard barks orders at me in order to get my day started.

If I took for granted the extraordinary conveniences of indoor living before I was homeless, I certainly don’t today. I’m looking around the room as I write this. I look to my left and I see a 1921 vintage Howard upright piano that somebody gave me for free. How cool is that? I’ve never owned a piano before in my entire life. I look to my right, and I see a darn comfortable couch to crash on. A little further down is a five-drawer dresser. And believe you me, there are a heck of a lot of socks rolled up in that dresser. Gone are the days when I have to line up every Monday in hopes of getting a single pair of socks to last me all week.

For the first 51 years of my life, before I spent the better part of twelve years on the streets of Berkeley and other Bay Area cities, I took all these things for granted. Now, I am careful to make sure that I don’t lose my sense of gratitude as daily life becomes easier. Every morning when I wake up, I jot down ten things I am grateful for to off-set the sense of stress and sometimes drudgery that comes with maintaining all the details of a normal, mundane life.

Where before I would wonder what it was like if someone were homeless, I don’t have to wonder anymore. I know what it’s like to be homeless— and that knowledge is one of the greatest blessings I have ever received. While intense rushes of the feeling are much fewer and farther between now that I am trying to maintain stability, the gratitude, when it does come, is that much the richer.

I am grateful for all the years I lived outdoors, because my homeless experience is what taught me gratitude.

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.

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Categories
mental health Playwriting Psychology

Tuesday Tuneup 64

Q. What are you doing here?

A. I don’t know.

Q. What do you mean, you don’t know?

A. I mean, I don’t know why I’m still sitting here.  I’m supposed to go to a Christmas party.

Q. Then why don’t you?

A. Because I dislike forced social gatherings, especially when I would rather be alone.

Q. Would you really rather be alone?

A. Well — maybe not.  It would be nice to be among people.  But not at a forced, previously defined, premeditated gathering.  

Q. Why not?

A. Because no doubt they will force various activities upon me that are supposed to be fun, but that will wind up only embarrassing me and testing the limits of my ability to perform as normal in public.

Q. As normal?

A. You heard me.

Q. What the heck is “normal?”   Have you ever met anybody who’s normal??

A. Of course I have!   Just about everybody I’ve ever met is normal — at least compared to me, they are.

Q. But why compare them to you?

A. You mean to say I shouldn’t?

Q. Well, why should you?

A. I don’t know.  Just comes natural, I guess.

Q. But why give in to what comes natural?  If you always went with what was natural, wouldn’t you find yourself acting on some basic instinct, and winding up in a– a– 

download.jpgA. A jail cell, right?   Go ahead and say it.

Q. Why a jail cell?  Why not a psych ward?

A. Six of one, a half dozen of the other.

Q. What about the Christmas party?

A. What about it?

Q. It’s not a jail cell, is it?   It’s not a psych ward, is it?

A. Uh — er — I don’t suppose so, no . . .

Q. Then why not go to the party?

A. I can’t just go anywhere I please, on the basis of it not being as bad as a jail cell or a psych ward!

Q. Why not?

A. Because — that’s setting a pretty low bar.   I mean, you might as well tell me to go hang out in the Emergency Room.

Q. Wouldn’t the party be better than the Emergency Room?

A. That’s debatable.  In the Emergency room, there’s free coffee, and they’ll probably let me sit there all night, unless they’re busy.  Besides, they all know me, and they’re friendly toward me.  They’ll just say, “Hi Andy!”  And I’ll pick up a magazine, read it, and feel right at home.

Q. You honestly think that will be better than the Christmas party?

A. Maybe, maybe not.  But at least in the Emergency Room, I know what I’m in for.  At the party, anything could happen.  

Q. Like what?

A. There could be alcoholic beverages there.

Q. So what?  You don’t drink, do you?

A. No I don’t, personally.   But others might, and they might get drunk.  I can’t stand being around drunken people.

Q. But suppose nobody gets drunk.   What else might go wrong?

A. They might offer me marijuana.

Q. Then what will happen?

A. What do you think will happen?  Don’t be silly!   I’ll smoke it, and be grateful for it.

Q. If you would be grateful for it, then why would that be a bad thing?

A. Because I like it too much, and I’ll probably want to go out and buy some, which will cost me money I don’t have.   And then, I will no longer be grateful.  Besides, I like my sobriety.  It feels good.

Q. Can’t you just say no?

A. I could.  But I won’t.

Q. Have you ever tried?

A. Can’t say that I have, no.   

Q. Then why not just try saying no?  Just this once?

A, Okay.  I’ll grant you that.  But there are other temptations that could arise.

Q. Like what?

A. Oh — well lately — not sure how to broach the subject.  You see, I don’t deal well with these holidays.  People take off, everybody kinda leaves me in the lurch, and I feel more lonely than usual.   Usually, I’m not lonely at all.  In fact, I disdain loneliness.  I feel that loneliness is a pathetic and pointless feeling.   It’s like self-pity.  I should be bigger and better than such self-absorbed pettiness. 

Q. How did that answer my question?

A. It didn’t.  I just hadn’t gotten around to the point yet.

Q. Beating around the bush?

A. All right then.  When I’m lonely, I’m vulnerable.   I might meet another lonely person, and then — we might sort of hang out together — on the basis of mutual loneliness — and you know where that leads.

Todd Rundgren Quote: “Love between the ugly, is the most beautiful love of all.” (7 wallpapers ...Q. I do?

A. Don’t you?

Q. Why would I?

A. Come on!   Surely you’ve been lonely before!

Q. How could I have been lonely?

A. Hmm – well maybe you haven’t been then.  But I’ll tell you.   When two people get together, and they’re both lonely, it can lead to some pretty bad places.  

Q. Like where?

A. Like — like —

Q. Like what?

A. It can lead to places like —

Q. Hmm?

A. (after a pause) All right, I give up.   I’ll just go to the party.    

The Questioner is silent.  

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Categories
Artist bible Music Piano scripture

Gratitude List 1350

Did this one Saturday morning immediately on awakening.   I’m glad I’ve given up the concept of a “morning ritual.”   Things have been working out a lot better with my new “spontaneous” approach.  (Helps with the holiday blues, too).

1. Really interesting, obviously meaningful, vivid dreams.

2. Slept almost 8 hrs between 10:30 and 6:30, getting up briefly at 4 to take my thyroid medication.  Surprised I slept so well and so long.

3. Made it to the Food Bank and this time they gave me coffee too. Walked two big bags home and nothing broke.

4. Heard from T. three times yesterday, like late at night.  She seemed to want to interact, but I was too brain-dead. Then I dreamed about her all night, and it’s interesting that I’ve gotten to No. 4 (doing this first thing on waking up) and still remember the dreams.

5. I even stopped to make coffee in the meantime, and I still remember the dreams.  Moreover, this time the coffee’s at the right strength — it’s Winko’s Classic Roast — and it tastes so good. Nice to have a coffee maker and good coffee, when it’s so cold outside. Nice to be inside. Nice to be out of the cold.

6. Heard from Jennifer, the God Thru the Arts lady, whom I believe is a music teacher back East. She liked my We Three Kings.   Sorta made my night to hear from her.  

7. I don’t seem to have a big urge or craving to smoke, or any desire to go out of my way to get any.  For me, this is a good thing. I just want the issue to be out of the way so I can stop tripping on it and be more effective in life, without it always tugging at me. And that seems to be happening, though I feel a void.

8. Thankful for those two theology groups, and the way I met them just because they were entering the reserved reading room to the right of the Round Table, and I sort of merrily joined in. The one from St. Mark’s has turned out to be a real blessing. 

9. Read all of 1 Peter and 2 Peter when I came home last night. I should read the Bible more, it has a way of making me humble.

10. Okay, so I’ve been depressed lately because it seems I don’t quite know how to love or be loved.  The things that most people seek after escape me.  They don’t interest me; I don’t understand what they think they’re going to receive from all these situations that almost invariably cause them pain.  The dream was all about that too, combined with me being in a stressed out leadership position and winding up crying on some lady’s shoulder at the end. But you wanna know what? It’s my Karma. Time to Embrace It. My lot in life, my portion – could have been a lot more meaningless.  Let God Be My Judge.  I am grateful for who I am.  

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