Gratitude List 1809

(1) This is the second day in a row that I awoke in an insanely good mood for no clear reason.

(2) Prayer works. A number of people in the local arena began to trouble me over the holidays. When I finally got around to praying for them (like I’m supposed to do, Luke 6:28 and all), something changed. What changed was that I began to see the innocence of their hearts, and I developed compassion. Since before praying, I basically hated their guts; and since after praying, I began to see them as fellow, hurting human beings, I would say that prayer works.

(3) Grateful for having reconnected with a theatre composer whom I worked with many years ago. He must be in his 80’s by now. He’s had nice things to say about some of the music I’ve written lately, and I’ve set my SoundCloud to always play his “six piano pieces”‘ by default.

(4) More money in the fundraiser. But I also just realized that it’s almost 2002 already! I better craft a detailed budget and rehearsal schedule and get on the ball here. Daylight’s burning, and I keep slacking. Definitely grateful for Karlie, who obviously knows how to sing. She may not exactly be you-know-who, but she’ll do her homework, show up on time and do the job.

(5) Tracy having published my somewhat edited column last night, I was pleasantly surprised to hear from a dear friend of mine, a gay man whom I know from Musical Theatre,. who happened to read it and was highly approbational. What I was mostly grateful for in Part One of the series is that I got agreement from left-leaning Christians, right-leaning Christians, and unbelievers alike. In this era of division, that’s the kind of thing that thrills me. Hopefully this one will also “fly” — though I had considerably more difficulty with it. Anyway – on to Part Three.

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Gratitude List 1808

(1) Seeing as it is 8 degrees Fahrenheit now, I find things such as meditation and a hot bath very useful in the absence of vigorous outdoor exercise.

(2) Very good singing lesson today.   My student and I both agreed it was very constructive.   I really enjoy the arrangement and only wish I had maybe three or four other students as well.

(3) Spontaneously came up with a fairly decent podcast that seems relevant to basic stuff that’s happening, here there and everywhere.

(4) Christmas was peaceful.  I basically just treated it like any other day, and tried not to think about all the fun other people were having that they probably weren’t having anyway.

(5)  The more I shelter, the more I notice I don’t feel like spending a lot of time online.  There’s something about doing stuff offline that is so much less anxiety-provoking.   Lots of possibilities, anyway, when one has a computer, lives alone, and has ideas.

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‘Cause this is all what I’m cracked up to be

Amid any other consideration, I must say that my eyes have been opened as to the truth about the myth of my old age.

For the second day in a row, I wore my regular comfortable old walking shoes with soles worn out and holes in the tops, and I trudged the surface more comfortably and with less inclination to slip & fall than I ever have in my boots.

I am no longer suffering under the illusion that I’m too done in to further endure the cold weather conditions with the hardiness of my lifelong modus operandi.

I walked all the way to Matt’s place, stopping at Walgreens to pick up my levo, and when the time had come, walked all the way back, hoofing it through intriguing new territory en route.

Brisk four miles of walking, feeling the cold air like a tonic salve on my lungs. Good to be home but even better to have been outdoors!

And to think I thought I was becoming a softie! I’m gonna crack the window.

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Gratitude List 1807

(1) It felt nice to get out for exercise after being “snowed in” for about a week.  It was especially good to feel the cold fresh air getting into my lungs — a welcome reprieve.

(2) Finally created the “big pitch” to be issued to the regular recipients of my irregular newsletter.  Sent it out right at solstice this morning (that is, 7:59am PST) and quickly got a one hundred dollar donation.  So now it says $300 has been donated by 4 donors when you click on the GoFundMe.  Off to a good start.

(3) Finally got all remaining Hyfrydol CDs into the mail.  Hopefully folks will still get them by Christmas.  Also, I got to talk with my friend Danielle twice today while doing errands, which was nice, her being in Georgia.

(4) A little recording made between me and my singing student confirms that my home Howard piano creates a fine sound for vocal accompaniment.  This was only a “practice take” but we can do a more refined take later.  The whole arrangement really blesses me.  

(5) Trudging in the snow, having to be extra careful even in snow boots, and feeling my fingers get all frozen over and having to thaw out over doppio in a downtown cafe, has made me very grateful for the nice warm abode in which I have been for several years so pleased to dwell.  Be it ever so humble, this is it.  

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Gratitude List 1806

(1) I turned in Part Two of my series The State of Christendom in Contemporary American Culture to Spokane Faith and Values.

(2) On Saturday, I gathered 2 hours and 40 minutes worth of conversation between me and a formerly homeless person named Benjamin Clewell for a future podcast. Though it will probably take me more than two days to edit it down to size (all things considered), I will still probably have a decent podcast by Wednesday based on Christendom Part Two.

(3) Nice to be inside the nice warm house while the snow is falling down outside my window.

(4) Thanks to enhanced income over the past two and a half months, I have paid all my back bills as well as all this month’s current ones, and am stocked up with enough food for more than a month.

(5) Karlie Smith has learned the five new songs I wrote, and also has agreed to sing on the Oracle Production Project, which is my present day baby. Am in the process of contracting other reputable people, including a bassist, guitarist and drummer of some repute. It’s all in the early planning stages – but we can make it work.

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Piano Update (Feed the Birds)

I’m so wacky from a sudden PTSD onslaught I only slept two hours I was so triggered. I’m under quarantine and trying to figure out how to set up the tripod. If I can get some sleep, I’ll feed the birds on my home Howard piano, assuming I figure out the tripod, which procedure is grossly inhibited by the severity of my ADHD. Ah – were it not for mental health diagnoses, where would we be? Catch y’all soon.

Homelessness and Health Care

I was asked by students at the nursing school of Lewis- Clark State College to give a four minute summary of issues that homeless people typically have when it comes to accessing health care. A more detailed account of this issue may be found on my SoundCloud involving original incidental music from one of my musicals, The Burden of Eden.  

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The Leprosy of Homelessness

“The Leprosy of Homelessness” was first posted to my online diary on July 14, 2016.  I believe nine “followers” had access to these words.

As you may recall, on July 17, 2016, I fell to my knees, sick with a flu and suffering outside, and screamed to the heavens that Somebody would put a stop to all this homelessness. On July 27, 2016, I stepped off the bus in the city where I was born, a city where I’d not been for 63 years. On September 1, 2016, I signed a one-year-lease on my first apartment here.

I unearthed “The Leprosy of Homelessness” two days ago, while searching for the address of a guy named Barry who had me stay with him throughout December of 2010. I wanted to find it so I can pay off a $40 debt that’s been nagging at me.

I’m incredibly sick with this awful flu, more so than even at the start. I’m outside in the elements. I’m sick with a flu. Don’t people get it? They ask me things like: “If you’re homeless, how come you have a laptop?” As though a homeless person couldn’t own a laptop.

They ask me where I’m sending these messages from if I’m homeless? I tell them I’m sitting outside the Burlingame Public Library shivering with my laptop plugged into their outdoor power outlet.  But they don’t believe me.

People always act like I’m trying to pull of some kind of scam — just because I’m homeless, or else the scam is that I am homeless — if like say, they know me from the Internet, and they think I’m “too intelligent to be homeless.”  They further suspect me of being a liar, a scammer, a hustler, a criminal, and a crook.  But why? Can people not believe that my situation is as critical as it is??

I petitioned everyone on my Facebook friends list to let me in for a few days, so I can recover. But of course nobody will let me in. I got kicked of the homeless shelter where I caught it, because they figured I would spread it. The hospital wouldn’t let me in. They said if they let me in, they’d have to let “all of us” in. I got kicked off the night bus because it was obvious I was sick–and I get it.  I might contaminate somebody.  But I’m only trying to stay alive — why am I getting all this suspicion and distrust? Or worse yet, indifference?

It reminds me of that scene in New York where something like fifty-one people watched a guy get stabbed to death and nobody wanted to get involved. It was a big news story when I was a kid. Or even in Berkeley a couple years ago, where that guy beat this guy to death with a tire iron for asking him for a cigarette. People stood by and watched, and I remember somebody shouted: “Somebody with a gun, shoot that guy!” But whoever might have had a gun (who knows?) nobody brought it out, nobody shot the guy. Everybody just watched as he beat the guy to death before the police came.

You guys have been following me here.  You’re all in my corner.  We’re all cool.  But say if I were to post it on my Facebook (which I just might), people are  probably only going to say: “Aw, come on, Andy! Get a grip!” But that’s because they don’t know. They can’t imagine. I put all these words together, in an effort to get people to picture what it’s like down here, but usually the only response is: “I can’t imagine what it must be like.”

I become infuriated. I want to say: “Did you even read a single word I wrote? Are my writing skills and my communication skills so God-awfully bad that after I go out of my way to describe what it’s like, all you can say is “I can’t imagine what it must be like?” It’s damned insulting! If someone’s not interested in what it’s like down here, why don’t they just say so? Or else, don’t follow me, for God’s sake.

When a number of my acquaintances died on the streets of Berkeley a while back, I would write to my brother and my remaining friends in the Mainstream trying to demonstrate how somebody would not have died had they been inside, or had they even had a dollar or two to ride all night on one of those buses. First off, people have a hard time figuring out why we have trouble coming up with a dollar or two, or why a couple bucks is going to make such a huge difference in a homeless person’s life. But I watched Darlene die overnight. She didn’t need to die! Two bucks would have saved Darlene’s life.

I told my friends about it. They offered condolences, and their condolences were accepted. But this was not about receiving condolences. I hardly knew her. I hardly knew Tom, or Jimmy, or any of them. I only know that they were outside trying to deal with medical conditions that are best dealt with inside, and that they died. I was trying to illustrate how in one guy’s case, three bucks would have spared his life. But people don’t want to hear that. They only want to shrug it off with a superficial condolence: “I’m sorry to hear of the loss of your friend.” Unless the person was of crucial closeness to them, they don’t really care how they died. And me? I care – because I’m one of them. I care – because I’m trying to get a point across.

We are a nation that has become plagued with the Leprosy of Homelessness. And it is entirely unnecessary! Services, Shelters – they will not solve the problem. They do not address the core heart of the issue. They only keep a person bound in the shame and stigma of a conspicuously visible condition that nobody wants to look at. Why? Is it because they know inwardly how soon it could happen to them? They, after all, are human too – like us. Or are we human? Do we need to be dehumanized in order for our separation from the rest of humanity to be complete? If that’s what it is going to take to ease the conscience of the Mainstream, I guarantee you, that’s what’s going to happen.

It happened in Nazi Germany. Don’t think it can’t happen here.

So I used one of the H-words and both of the S-words.  “Homeless, Shelter & Services” have come out of my mouth, but not “Housing.”  I shoot myself in the foot every time I use these “buzz words.”  A “real human being” doesn’t seek “shelter” — he seeks a “place to live” for God’s sake!  But what does it matter now? In the light of possible death, what does my recently accelerated search for dignified indoor dwelling mean now? Not much. God will provide me the dignified internal dwelling space that I need. And outside will be dogs, and adulterers, and idolaters, and every person who loves the lie more than the the truth – because their deeds are evil. — (And that’s Revelation 22:15 in case you suddenly thought I was a great poet.)  Do you want to be that kind of person? Do you want to be outside the gates of the City of God?

Probably not, if you really were to stop to think about it. I know I wouldn’t want to be excluded among everybody who loved and practiced falsehood. That’s why I’m so adamant about getting a truth across, a truth that in this society, as concerned as we are with liberty and justice for all, most of us have not really paused to consider. I know I didn’t, before I was thrust into first-time homelessness back in 2004.

So consider these words of truth. These are not the rantings of a political radical with an aggressive agenda. They are the best words I can think of to describe a reality that affects me and my homeless brothers and sisters every single day of our lives. How many times has it been been pouring rain in a thunderstorm, and a single dollar got me into McDonald’s for a senior cup of coffee, to get out of the rain? Lots of times. How do I get that dollar? Well, some people called “hustlers” don’t have too hard a time running up to every Tom, Dick, and Harry saying “Spare some change? Spare a dollar? Spare a dollar? Spare some change!” But can you imagine me doing something like that? I sure hope you can’t. I can’t. And I’ve been homeless for the better part of twelve years.

Homeless – for the better part of twelve years. How many times have I had the flu in those twelve years?Exactly twice. Like I said, God bless her, the first time my friend D. was able to take seven hundred bucks off of her credit card – I didn’t even ask for it, God bless her – and that got me a hotel room for a couple weeks. When I got my check at the top of the next month, I sent her the seven hundred dollars back. That was a totally positive, one-time huge favor that she did for somebody she cared about. She can’t do it right now. Why?

For one thing, she has to take care of her mom and her brother, and have them in her house, crowded though it might have been, because they were in some kind of straits, and I don’t want to go into the personal financial details of a friend of mine, but suffice it to say she helped them out at a time when they needed to be let indoors. And this, she did while six months pregnant with her first child.

I also know for a fact that George would let me in if he didn’t have his nephew and his sister over their right now, and his wife hadn’t have broken her leg, because that’s just the type of guy he is. Hell, D would probably buy me a house if she had the money. One time when I needed to eat, George and his wife went out of their way to meet me at a Burger King near a motel I had put money down on, and make sure I ate, and make sure I had some cash. I told D about this, and she immediately quoted the Proverb: “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

That’s for sure. I don’t want to talk about my brother– and you don’t want to ask about him. I love my brother and he loves me — and let’s leave it at that. We just don’t see things the same way. He’s helped me when he could help, and I have appreciated it. But that help stops at the border marked by his front door. Now let me reiterate: I have been homeless throughout most of the last twelve years. In that period of time, exactly five people have let me so much as walk through their front doors, at a time while I was homeless. George was one of them. This guy Barry was another.  And a stranger wants had me over for spaghetti and a shower.  And Howard let me house-sit.  And then there was Art.

And Barry – I don’t even know this man very well. I remember he and his wife were extremely cordial and accommodating. I got a lot of music written. There was some issue about my “panic attacks” but it wasn’t so bad, if I recall. Later, however, Carol had to take care of her granddaughter – so my staying over there wasn’t an option. But when it was an option, what a wonderful period it was in my life! I got so much music written. Why? Because somebody let me in, at a time when I was not able to get myself “in” – by myself. It’s that simple.

But year after year goes by, day after day. The times I’ve even been let inside somebody’s car now amount to exactly twice. The people who have let me in their cars are Paul and Cary. It might have been Paul’s girlfriend’s car, but the point is WOW! Somebody actually trusted a homeless person to sit in the back seat of their car!! I felt LOVED. Loved! You can’t imagine what it feels like to step inside somebody’s house, and feel the sense of home – the sense of protection, the sense of warmth – the sense of LOVE!!

The feeling of stepping into a MacDonald’s in the rain, of getting that single dollar – believe me, I might not feel loved by the person who let me have a dollar, but I feel loved by God when that kind of thing happens. He will not chasten me forever. He will, in the end, be merciful. And God will always, always let me in. All I need do, is knock.

Knock – and He will open. Ask – and He will answer. Seek – and He will be found. And I will seek Him! And I will find Him — in the day when I seek Him with all of my heart.

I recently reconnected with my old friend Sara, a Christian musician. I was chatting with her last night, pondering if I should remove my previous post on the matter, wondering if it was too strident, if I ought to have been more mellow, if I ought to have been less dramatic, perhaps, and most importantly, if I risked laying a guilt trip on everybody.

She instantly said: “Leave it.”

I asked her: “Why?”

She said: “You spoke from your heart. You’ve told them – the hospital does not have beds reserved for illnesses that are readily dealt with in people’s homes. You don’t have a home. Your only recourse is for somebody to let you in – or else for you to get a motel room, which costs money you don’t have. So why aren’t they letting you in? Leave it! They should feel guilty.”

Be that as it may. If my brother were to call me up, and he had lost everything, and he was out on the streets, and he asked me to please let him stay over for a few days, there would be no guilt left for me, but only the joy of being able to say: “Steve, you’re my brother, I’ll get the coffee on, you get over here right now!

Why someone would prefer guilt to that simple surrender of love that lets their own family back in their house, is beyond me. But maybe someone has something to hide. That’s the condemnation, right? The guilt Jesus talks about in the third chapter of the Gospel of John. “And this is the condemnation: the people loved darkness more than light, because their deeds were evil.”

Evil? Am I the one who called you evil? If you’re evil, then I am evil as well. Compared to GOD, we’re ALL evil! So you don’t want me to see the messy kitchen. So maybe you watch porn and you don’t want anyone to know about it. Am I going to go about snitching you out in light of you having done something so huge as to have been the sixth person in twelve years to let me inside your front door??

Or is it me? Do I smell? That Mexican gal on the train sure didn’t seem to mind. Am I a space case? Will I rant and rave and talk your ear off? You can stick a rubber ball in my mouth for all I care. Will I space something out? Leave a towel on the bathroom floor? Leave the broiler oven on all night? Probably – but really – is the just punishment for being the Absent-Minded Professor — HOMELESSNESS???

Do I have anything to hide? I daresay I do not! I knock – and He is opening. I ask – and He is answering. I seek – and He is found. For I have sought Him, and I have found Him, in the day when I will have sought Him with my whole heart.

That day – is today.

Let me in. If you don’t, He will.

I have nothing to lose.

Andy Pope
Burlingame, CA
July 14, 2015

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Gratitude List 1805

(1) The two people with whom I’ve had the closest contact since summer have both tested positive for Covid-19, two days apart. Thankfully, each of them is young, they both work out, and neither of them has pre-existing physical health conditions. Also, I’m relatively low risk because it had been a while since I’d seen them. Still, this was a wake-up, causing me to realize how much time I’ve been spending in high-stress environments full of Covid Confusion. I’d forgotten how much sheltering in place agrees with me. Now I remember, and I’m glad.

(2) The pastor of the new church gave me a downstairs office where I can prepare for the service in quietude. I’ll let her know on Saturday (when I get my Covid test results) if I’ll be able to use it this Sunday. Grateful for her caring, and for the knowledge that she’ll keep me on payroll even if I test positive and can’t show up for a while.

(3) Finished the 4th draft of Part Two of my critique of contemporary American Christianity. Submitted it to Dr Kurt Q for proofing and will submit it to Spokane Faith and Values thereafter.

(4) The bio and synopsis pages on this website have been considerably corrected! An old friend wrote the bio, and someone named Anonymous wrote a very eloquent A-Z synopsis, revealing the complete story line of Eden in Babylon. Web site now includes all materials needed for anyone to produce the show, shy of guitar chords.

(5) Thankful for the good friends I have made in this life, and for the ever-increasing friendship I’ve been forming with my 36 year old daughter. Life can be sweet, and even its trials can be used to enhance the depths of joy that lay dormant within our spirits.

“The monotony and solitude of a quiet life stimulates the creative mind.”
— Albert Einstein

Dark Holly

“Dark Holly” is a medley of various themes sacred & secular, based on the French version of the Christmas carol “The Holly and the Ivy.” This is not to be confused with the more well-known English version, which is in a major key. The French version is in a minor key — and my version is even darker.  I’ll try to lighten things up next week with maybe “Sleigh Ride” or something along brighter lines.   Enjoy —

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