A New Pair of Glasses

The first time in my life that I had ever lost a pair of glasses was on May 20, 2004, when I awoke in Golden Gate Park and realized that I had casually tossed my glasses down in the foliage when I was about to go to sleep the previous night. I and another person spent about a half hour trying to find them, then concluded they were lost. Since I had only been homeless since April 1, 2004, I had not yet come to terms with the many subtle nuances that would distinguish my homeless life from my previous life. Losing a pair of glasses is one of them.

When I lived in a house, I might have casually tossed my glasses onto the rug of my bedroom floor. I might have spent a few minutes looking for them, possibly even more than a few minutes, depending on the nature of the toss and the location of the landing. But once I had found them, I could not truthfully claim to have lost them. I had only misplaced them. The $300 pair of corrective reading glasses that I lost on that morning can never be replaced.

This is telling. Homelessness is not about misplacement. It’s about loss. In some cases — in my case, for example — deep loss. Loss that a person doesn’t get over very easily. In some cases, they might not get over it in an entire lifetime. In my case? Well, the jury is still out.

As I walked toward a certain cafe that morning where another homeless person was going to buy me a cup of coffee, I told myself: “Now I really *have* to do something about my situation! I’ve got to stop being homeless before this gets any worse. All kinds of things have been happening since I’ve been homeless that I could never have predicted would happen. Problems that used to take me five or ten minutes to solve have been setting me back for days.”

But then I thought: “How do I stop being homeless?”

I did not know the answer then, and I do not know it now. That was twelve years ago. Now is now. You cannot imagine the number of “subtle nuances” that have accumulated in those twelve years. If I became cold when I lived in a house, I turned on the heater. It took me less than one minute. If I become cold now, I go about town looking for extra layers of clothing outside the good will stores, in the “drop boxes.” and on the ground. And remember – there are about a thousand other homeless people living in this city. Many of them are very much like me, and so many of them are doing the exact same thing. We fight each other over a pair of pants. It can literally take me days to turn coldness into warmth. Sometimes you don’t even bother. You’re starting to become hardened. You’re tired of fighting another homeless person for the only sweatshirt in your size.

This, too, is telling. Homelessness is not about warmth – it’s about coldness. It’s about discovering that your lifelong friends and family members, the very people whom you thought were truly supportive of you, are suddenly very leery of you. They won’t take your truthful statements at face value anymore. They keep looking for the “reason” why you’re homeless, and in so doing completely ignore the obvious fact that you are homeless because you don’t have a home. So you turn to them for support, just the way you always used to, in the hope that they might help you to find a home, just the way they always used to help you help you deal with a difficult co-worker or help you after the break-up of a relationship. They cannot seem to imagine that all these problems you are having are the result of the conditions of homelessness, and not the cause. They find that while you always used to be noted for your punctuality, you suddenly are showing up late. They correlate this with your increasing instances of absent-mindedness, and conclude that you need a psychiatrist. You know in your heart that as soon as you are no longer homeless, you won’t have these problems anymore, so you start to feel a bit brushed off. They brush off your need for a place to live by providing answers for all the other problems, while ignoring the fact that these other problems are related to all the “subtle nuances” that distinguish your homeless life from your previous life. You suddenly realize that half of these people you thought were so supportive never really did a damn thing for you at all. Anybody can give advice. It takes somebody who really loves you, to let you in much farther than that. But they’re not letting you in. You thought they loved you. But where is the warmth? Why is your own brother, even having a spare room in his house, forcing you to sleep out in the cold?

Finally, you yourself become cold. You thought you were warm, but all these cold blasts are turning down your temperature. The cold blasts accumulate. You used to be able to handle cold weather, but you’re getting older, and it’s getting harder. You used to think you could endure homelessness till the ends of your days. Now you know that if you don’t get inside soon, those days will be drastically shortened. The many unanswered pleas for dignified shelter accumulate. The failed attempts at getting a stint in a homeless shelter to lead anywhere but to another homeless shelter accumulate.

The subtle nuances themselves accumulate. When I lived indoors, how many times did I lose my cell phone? If I recall correctly, none at all. Since I’ve been homeless, how many different cell phones have I had? It pains me to count. “Why is Andy losing his cell phone so often?” I seem to hear them ask. It’s not just because there’s a drastic increase in Andy’s absent-mindedness. It’s because homeless people steal from homeless people. If there is a cell phone in my backpack, I can guarantee you it will be gone within a month or so. Usually, within a week.

As far as the $300 pair of protective reading glasses is concerned, talk about your “luxury” problem! I’ve been buying non-corrective readers for $1.10 at the dollar store for as long as I can remember. And the rate at which I am losing them is steadily increasing. I cannot solve this problem – of losing my glasses 3 to 5 times a week – without help. Real help. From someone who cares. Somebody help me. Let me keep a pair of reading glasses everywhere I try to use this computer. Somebody help me. Give me a place to live. Somebody, somebody, somebody —

“Why isn’t Andy helping himself?”

Because Homelessness is not about love. It’s about hate. Jesus could have had a place to live, you know. He could have lived anywhere he wanted to. So why did he choose to live outdoors? Well, look at this way. If Jesus had been living in some nice plush three-story house and living the good life, how would that have prepared him for the event that He knew was coming, when He would have to endure the mockeries of those who tortured Him to death out of pure hatred for anything so good as Him? How would He have been tough enough do produce enough love to compensate for all the hate in all the history of the world?

The thing is, I’m not Jesus. I’m not headed toward that kind of event, but I am headed toward an event that will be sufficient for who I am. Let me in, please. Before it’s too late.

Andy Pope
Berkeley, California
June 12, 2016 7:52am

lost pair of glasses

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

The Questioner

Q. Do you even have the slightest idea who I am?

A. I know exactly who you are.

Q. Then where were you last night when I needed you?

A. Too wiped out.

Q. You weren’t avoiding me, were you?

A. No – not really.  I just didn’t have much to say to you.

Q. Do you realize how small that makes me feel?

A. Vaguely.  But perhaps you’ve been a bit too big for your britches lately.

Q. What makes you say so?  Why would you even think such a horrid thought?

A. Well, it’s one thing for me to have finally summoned you as a last resort, when I was in a bind.  But you outlived your usefulness when you started becoming all codependent on me.

Q. Codependent?

A. You heard me!   My personal habits and manner of self-care are my own business.   All you codependents are alike.  Constantly harping on me to take care of myself, as though you practically owned my body.   I’m the one who lives in the damn thing! I’m the one who knows what it takes to function properly.  I’m the one who hasn’t had a serious disease in sixty-four years of living, while all around me all these sick people keep harping on how I “don’t take care of myself.” 

Q. Are you calling me “sick?”

A. Aw, you’re healthy enough in low doses, I suppose.

Q. Don’t you think you’re beginning to come across like Job in Chapter 33?   Exalting your own righteousness above that of the Holy Name of God??

A. Oh please.  The transparency with which you resort to throwing the Book at me is odious.

Q. How so?

A. You always pound the Scriptures at me in order to bring guilt upon my head, just at the moment when you figure nothing else would work but a religious guilt trip. 

Q. But can’t you see that I am only trying to help?

A. That’s what they all say.

Q. But what do you say?

A. I say that yes, I thank the Good Lord God for keeping me in decent health long enough to finally get a good crack at my life’s work on this planet.  But at the same time, I can’t deny that following some simple rules such as (1) not smoking cigarettes, and (2) getting sufficient, moderate physical exercise, have had at least something to do with it.   God didn’t waste his gift of good health on a guy who was going to sit on a bar stool all night long whining with a Camel non-filter hanging out of his mouth as though it were a blue tooth in his ear.

Q. How can you claim to have always made healthy choices?   Is not the very notion preposterous?

A. I never said I have always made healthy choices.  I am only saying I make a point of taking care of myself, whether anybody else thinks so or not, and when I fail or lapse, God has been merciful in letting me wake up in the morning without hangover.  Or similar such show of mercy. 

Q. Why is that you seem so damned smug today?

A. Because you and I are splittin’ up, baby!  I got to the point yesterday where I just did not need you or your flagrant codependent guilt trips, you flailing flimsy excuse for a superego, you!  I made a speech last night.  I’m going to edit it tonight to taste.  And I worked for three hours on my piano-vocal score, according to my schedule that I’m determined to keep up till the end of October.  I even enjoyed the work.  And I ran two miles!   And did fourteen push-ups!  When was the last time you ran two miles?  Not to mention, before you completely fade and fizzle into the oblivion where you and all your moralistic guilt trips belong, heed the wise words of Bertrand Russell, my agnostic hero.

Bertrand
Russell: “One should never worry about one’s health unless one is unhealthy.”

A. My agnostic hero chain-smoked till he was 80, became unhealthy, stopped smoking, and lived to be 97.   Are you going to live to be 97?

Q. Are you?

A. We shall see!

The Questioner has been silenced — for the time being . . .

 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

The Summons

Q. Do you know who I am?

A. Kind of.  More-or-less.

Q. Does this make you uncomfortable?

A. Occasionally.

Q. Why?

A. Because the Bible says: “The question is in the mind of the man; the answer comes from the Lord.”  Proverbs 16:1.  Just read it this morning – this being the 16th day of the month.  But what we’re doing, you and I — it seems the other way around.

Q. Then why have you summoned me?

A. Because it works.  I really try not to summon you too often.  It’s a last ditch effort.  A gesture of desperation.  But – it does work.

Q. So what’s on your mind?

A. My incompetence.

Q. What makes you incompetent?

A. I can’t do it.  I can’t even begin to create a simple piano-vocal score.  I stare at the page, knowing it should be easy to open up the script to the proper place on one window, find the cue I need to input, input it onto Scroll View on the Finale template in another window; convert it to Page View, and see if it all looks groovy.  Yet I stare at both windows mindlessly, aimlessly drawing a blank, and feel guiltier and more helpless every damned day.

Q. Might not this simply be another Writer’s Block?

A. If it is, then I’m sure not blocked up about any other writing project I’ve got going on.  It’s just that those projects are not what I am supposed to be doing.  I’m supposed to be notating this grueling, arduous, tedious piano-vocal score that will take me five months to complete even if I do get on the ball with it.

Q. What makes you think you’re supposed to be doing it?

A. I’m supposed to be doing it because nobody will ever produce the show without a written piano-conductor score.

Q. Why not?

A. Because nobody will ever be able to play the piano part, except for me.

Q. Then why don’t you just produce it yourself, and play the piano yourself?

A. Because I don’t have enough money to do so.  I can’t even rent out the theater less than two blocks from my house.  You can’t do anything without money in this world. It sucks.  Talented people go to their graves with their dreams unfulfilled, while people who are rich by inheritance use their money to screw around with high-class call girls.

Q. Is that really always true?

A. No, it is not.

Q. Then why are you so hung up on the theme?

A.  I don’t know.  I’ve got some kind of chip on my shoulder.  I get tired of being lectured by rich people, because they have no idea what it’s like to be poor.  Nor do they have any comprehension that I would never want to be rich; never want ot be like them.  I only want enough money to produce my show.  And still – this piano part – I say I can play it, but that’s a crock.  I can’t even play it.  It would take a pianist much better than me to play it.  So the score needs to be notated, whether I were to self-produce the show or not.

Q. Then what’s keeping you?

A. The block.

Q. What is the essence of the block?

A. I’m not sure.  Somewhere between lack of confidence and laziness, or some combination of both.

Q. Are you lazy?

A. Um — no one who truly knows me would characterize me a such.

Q. Do you lack confidence?

A. Yes.  I’ve watched over three months go by without me being able to get started on this simple task.  How can I not lack confidence?

Q. Is there a way you can proceed without confidence?

A. I hadn’t thought about that.  Perhaps so.

Q. How so?

A. Maybe if I — if I pray – if I trust God — if I ask God to just get me through this block on His power, being as my own power is insufficient.

Q. But would that prayer be sufficient?

A. Only if He answers it.

Q. Why would he not answer it?

A. If it is not within His will.

Q. Why would it not be within His will?

A. If my creation of this p-v score is actually not what I am supposed to be doing.

Q. How will you ever know?

A. If I try.  If I pray.  If I pray, and then open up the windows, and see if the prayer has been answered.

Q. Then why don’t you?

A. I will.

Q. Will you?

A. Yes, I will.

Q. Honestly?  How many times in the past three months have you said you would get cracking on this, and yet not budged an inch?

A. Innumerable times.

Q. Then why should this time be any different?

A. Because it has to be.

Q. But what if you don’t even pray?  What if you’re scared to?

A. If I don’t pray, then somebody else will.  But I will pray.

Q. How do you know you will?

A. Because I just did.  And I ask other believers to pray for me as well.

The Questioner is silent.

 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

Artist in Babylon

Check this out:

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

Now look at this:

anything-helps

I’m trying to make a point here.   Between Thanksgiving Day of last year and March 4th of this year, I wrote a complete 135-page script to a new musical.   I then naturally proceeded to try and round up singers for a demo for this project, only to find that nobody wanted to work for free.  And what was I to expect?  This music is fancy progressive Broadway show tune material.  Even quick studies would have to put a lot of work into it to make it sound right.   Such talent deserves to be paid.  

So I went about trying to raise funds for this leg of the project: $1000, to be exact.  In the past three months, I have raised exactly $100 – in three donations of $5, $20, and $75 respectively.   I could have raised more than that by flying a sign on the sidewalk.  However, to fly a sign on the sidewalk (aside from being illegal where I live), would be dangerous, as I described in the poem on this post. 

Three months and ten days have past since I finished the script.  I would very much like to move forward with the next leg of this project.  It irks me that money should be my object.  So, if you are person with some wherewithal, and if you believe in my work, please consider making a contribution to this project, so that I can move forward once again.

Just one catch.  Because I am an Artist, and I’m passionate about my themes, I tend to be a little sensitive.   At least glance at the script and give half a listen to my tunes before you make a donation.   I want to receive support from people who believe my project is worth their money.   This project means something to me.  It’s about something I believe in.  It involves a message that is not often heard, if at all, in our society.  So please believe in me before you click on donate.  I don’t want to receive money from people who don’t. 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

The Belly of the Whale

I strongly sensed that I was being followed,
and I thought I knew by whom.
It must have been those two young men
Who had questioned me oddly
across from the Walgreens.
They had seemed so strangely disturbed,
when I merely declined to purchase
Some small item they were peddling,

in which I had no interest.

Though I thought I had been quite polite,
I feared I must have crossed them,
For I virtually saw them stalking me
From a place where eyes have never seen.

I broke into a jog.
I thought I might elude them.
I ran about a mile.
I thought I was in the clear.
So I thought nothing of stopping at the well
and shuffling through the throwaways
in search of shirt or trousers,
or perhaps a pair of boots.

Suddenly I heard a sound.
I looked up to see a handgun

rapidly, forcefully striking me
On the top of my head, and hurling me
Down onto the sidewalk.
I hid my eyes.
I felt the power of their guns
Repeatedly beating me upon the head
Like drumsticks on a drum.

“I am going to kill you, White motherfucker!
Kill your White ass, bitch-ass, dead!
White bitch-ass motherfucker!”
White racist pig!!”

Something made me plead with them:
“Guys!  Guys!  It doesn’t have to be this way!
Take everything I have — take the laptop –
but please, please spare my life!!”

As quickly as they had appeared,
they yanked the pack right off my back,
and while I watched in disbelief,

they fled into the night.

Down the stairs a lady ran.
“Are you all right?
Are you all right?

Do you want me to call the cops?”
Of course I did!

But when the police arrived,
they questioned me for what seemed forever,
as worried neighbors emerged from their doorways
and blood poured down my face like rain.
They ordered me to slow my speech,
And frisked me, shouting harsh demands,
mocking my requests for medical help,
and seeming to suppose that I was a criminal,
Or some kind of offender,
Rather than the victim
Of a crime of theft and battery,
Of violation – and of hate.

Finally they let me file a report,
which I held powerlessly in my hand,
at the Community Breakfast, before Bible Study,
in the morning following that long, long night.

There I saw the first of my assailants
Staring at me from across the line,

with pain is his own young twenty-year-old eyes,
as though pleading with me to spare him,
The way he had spared me.
And something gave me pause –
“He’s just a kid!” I thought.
And I collapsed in my integrity,
For I did not have the heart.

O Berkeley, city of my sorrow!
You care about social injustice and human rights from afar,
Yet you overlook the suffering of the one who sits nearby!
I swear I will not return to you,
Till running frantically upon your shores,
I warn you of the wrath to come,
And urge you to repent your wrongs,
Or face the fate that is your due.
For that will be the  dreaded day
Of many nightmares coming true –
The day when God will place me
In the Belly of the Whale.

Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

The Next Step

Tomorrow it will be two months exactly since I finished an initial complete draft of my musical play, Eden in Babylon. I told myself earlier that I would wait two months before looking at it again.   Obviously, the two months are almost up.

What will I see when I take a look at the gargantuan labor of love that I hammered out between Thanksgiving Day of 2016 and March 4th of this year?   Well, to be honest with you, I took a little peek at it two or three nights ago.  What I have seen, so far, is this:

1. A number of the characters don’t quite act like themselves when they first enter into the action.  This is because I got to know them better as the story unfolded.

2. Although it is a musical, and one expects the characters to break into song periodically, sometimes the songs are not sufficiently motivated by what’s happening in the story line.  Or, if they are, the transition between spoken dialogue and sung lyrics is awkward or forced.

3. I run the happy risk of pissing of right-wing fundamentalist evangelical Christians left and right, even though I am a Christian.

4. It might be too long.

5. My plan to obfuscate deus ex machina by throwing in so many instances of it into the final scene may or may not work.   Either the audience will be skyrocketed into a higher dimension of suspension of disbelief or they will be completely let down.   There seems no in between. 

The first of these should be pretty easy to fix, now that I do know my characters fairly well.  The second may take some work.  However, my plan to smooth out those transitions while in the process of creating the piano-vocal score seems sound. 

ChurchillThe third is actually more of a bother than I may let on, but that’s only because I’m paranoid about being lambasted by others who identify with a Christian belief system.  In reality, some of those ultra-right-wingers don’t give anybody a break.  The fourth is a much better problem to have than its opposite.  Better to submit it too long, and permit the director to chop it up at discretion, than to submit it too short, and have it appear to be incomplete. 

The fifth is an issue for almost every novelist, playwright, or filmmaker.  How do we end the story effectively, without it seeming to be a wrap-up?   To be honest, I have no idea if what I have done will fly.  Of the eight or nine people who have read the script, no one has yet complained.  But that doesn’t say much.  No one has yet complained about any aspect of the script.  (All I ever hear is praise — and that’s not good.)

The next step, after making adjustments while notating the piano-vocal score, is to organize a read-through.   I’ve secured a location for the read-through, which will be in the back room of the One World Cafe.  In the time it will take me to notate the p-v score, I can probably round up the 23 readers I will need to pull this off. 

Realistically, this will take me till the end of the year 2017.   On the other hand, who said anything about being realistic?

A Role Revised

For anyone who may have been following my recent journey, I must say that as I attended church for the first time today as a mere parishioner, and not a paid employee, I was blessed far beyond my expectations.

It was refreshing not to have to be worried about what was supposed to come next in the order of worship, but only to sit in the pews and soak it all in.  I found myself focusing on the language in the prayer of confession, the hymns, the sermon, and all other aspects of the service.   When I still had the job, all I could do was nervously worry about what was going to come next.   Would I wind up in the wrong key?  Would I play too fast, too slow, too loud, or too soft?   Was I about to be heavily criticized for my failings after it was all done?  Or, even if they were to compliment me, were they complimenting me for the wrong reasons?  In short:

Did I come across more like a musical theatre or pop-contemporary accompanist, or worse yet, a lounge lizard, in the sacred context?

lounge lizardMy God – my anxiety increases as I even indulge the memory.  Be that as it may.  The “good news” is that I was very blessed to be a simple participant.  I also was freed up to attend a book study before the service, where only six people were present.  Moreover, I can go to another book study on Wednesday evenings when the Choir would have rehearsed.

I’m a little concerned about the substantial decrease in my monthly cash flow — but not too much.  It seems to me that I was living high on the hog to begin with.   I’m used to living on almost nothing at all.  Suddenly having even a little money left over after paying the rent was almost too much for me.  Ah – but I hyperbolize.  As someone said this morning, there is probably a better job in store for me.   All I need do is look.

So, I just wanted to submit a brief blog to share the glad tidings.   I’ll now return to my Writer’s Guild meeting.  Ta ta for now.