Succeeding

I’ve been succeeding in putting in the three hours a day that I promised myself I would do in order to notate my piano-vocal score, but I have *not* been succeeding in getting the three hours to occur consecutively one after another, or in the same place at the same time each day.

The first day was the best. I found a spot at the Co-Op with a power outlet that was just perfect. I did the first two hours until I noticed I was beginning to nod. So I went home and took a power nap, then returned to the same Spot to wrap things up. My pastor Norman came in while I was working there, and he gave me a good muse.

teensuicideintervention_1186378
INTERVENTION

So, I was extremely encouraged after the first day. Tuesday consisted of three scattered hours at totally different times, and also turned out to be a day (naturally enough) when nothing else was accomplished. Then yesterday, I worked the three hours pretty much consecutively, although I was seeing stars in the third hour. This is probably due to my having to manage multiple choral parts and solos in the gargantuan Opening Number, entitled Intervention (only a mere fraction of it being reproduced on the foregoing link.) But then, I had enough to time to prepare one of the four speeches on the Homeless Experience I’d planned to prepare.

I worked on that speech for six and a half hours, but it didn’t come out too well. I knew there was something wrong with it when I went to bed late last night, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. My friend Danielle listened to it, and said it was “pedantic” and that I sounded like I was “lecturing” and that I had “no real feeling for what I was saying;” that is, up until the very end, when I seemed to pour my whole hugely indignant heart into it. She said she liked the earlier speeches on my Talks page a lot better, because they just sound like “Andy talking for a half hour or so.” (She’s certainly heard Andy talk for a half hour or so, without stopping, many times on the phone in the past.)

Well, I guess I’m just a talkative guy. But I do agree with her perception. I left the speech on the shared link, but I’m going to re-do it once I have the presence of mind. Also, I am committed to getting the three hours of score notating done before I pursue any more pleasant projects. It will be good if I can get myself regularized (fat chance!) and do them concurrently, rather than all over the daily map.

Today, I’ve only done one hour so far, but I’m all set up at the Bagel Shop and about to do the other two. I’ll be done at four, then I’m going to see a show tonight at the Moscow Art Theatre.

So I’m right at the spot at “Intervention” where all the adversarial characters in the Opening sing at once, just before the hook where they are joined by the characters sympathetic to my protagonist. It will be a cacaphonic nightmare if I don’t determine just the right harmonies. But it will be good for me – and let’s get crackin.’

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

The Mark of Cain

“Do you really need that thing?”
I heard the softness
of a half-familiar voice
as my eyes were opened.
And I saw a pair of young White hands,
playfully swinging my brand new HP notebook
from side to side,
and to and fro,
and side to side, again.

“Yeah, I do,” I smiled, looking up
from my half-slumber,
from the bench on which I sat,
just outside McDonald’s,
on University and Shattuck Avenue
in Berkeley, California.

It was still dark.
McDonald’s would not open
for another ten minutes or so.
I had seen other friends of mine
across the street,
and had waved.
It did not seem like any other morning,
as we all awaited our senior cups
and the single refills we would receive
as long as we promised not to linger
more than twenty minutes in the store,
and promptly took our first and only refill
for the road.

I was certain this was a young buddy of mine,
playing a joke on me,
as others had in the past,
when they noticed I’d acquired a laptop.
“High Top!” they would shout.
“High Rise!” – and I would grin.
But the grin of the green-eyed monster
was much wider than the smile
which which I looked up at the lad,
only to see his hoodie obscuring his young face,
like a veil, and his body,
like a cloak.

Then, in an instant, I felt a metallic force
carving a ridge into my lower back,
and just as quickly, a sharp yang,
a strike less than half an inch
below my right eye.

“Take it! Take it!”
I shouted, as though consenting
to be plundered, or condoning
the crime as though it had been mine
to commit as well as theirs —
as though having counted all the costs,
I no longer cared
that it took me a month to save up for that “thing” —
I in fact had slept outside,
when I did not really need to.
I had left a cozy cottage
in another County,
to prioritize the purchase
of the device I called my home.

Then I saw a large Black hand grab my backpack.
There went my new headphones,
a bag of marijuana, and a pipe,
a new lighter, socks, and sunglasses –
But no matter:
I was alive.

I got up and watched them closely –
the Black man on the right,
his gun facing sideways to his right,
as though informing me he was armed
and dangerous.

Mesomorphic.
The taller ectomorph to his left,
With the hoodie.
Him I recognized,
but I knew not where or why.
I watched them jog,
I noted that the White boy on the left
was a runner.
No one runs with a form like that,
unless he has been trained.

They turned off to the left
and darted down Berkeley Way,
not to be seen again, until —
One day at my Spot,
I saw them together walking past,
That view from behind that I shall never forget.

“Are you who I think you are, Officer?”
“I am,” she said, turning to me
with that inscrutable austerity
That so defines her nature.

“I know who stole my laptop.”
And I told her who and who,
For each of them had walked past me
on the same day
and flashed at me the peace sign,
which I returned in kind.
I also questioned the younger one,
And asked if I should bother to replace it,
Getting right into his face,
feigning a crazed countenance,
eyes bulging widely,
as I chided him with these words:

“Or will I just get jacked again?”
The young man never missed a beat,
but looked up at me shrewdly:
“Do you really need that thing?”

“I tell you it was he,” I told the stoic,
jaded cop with whom I spoke so candidly
in broad daylight just outside the station.

“I’m not at all surprised,” she said,
without expression on her serious, worn face.
“But watch your own back
and be wise as befits your years,
Because we know that you are of the streets
when you call it Provo Park
and not Civic Center Park,
or when you call it Ho Chi Minh Park,
instead of Willard Park.
And know that on your forehead
there is the Mark of Cain,
because for all intents and purposes,
you yourself have killed a man.”

© Andy Pope
Moscow, Idaho
17 June 17

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

Homeless Tinge

I wrote this piece somewhat spontaneously last year, when the novelty of living indoors still amazed me.  Somebody recently suggested I submit it to three San Francisco Bay Area periodicals that deal with such themes.  I just received the address of the publisher of one such periodical from an East Bay minister and activist whom I hope will let me use her name.  So I’m in the process of submitting it, there and elsewhere.  Let me know what you think.

Homeless Tinge

I’m sure you guys are going to think I’m just the junkie from hell, but after not being able to sleep the entire night, I finally reached down into the drawer and tugged the last possible two hits off of a roach that had been sitting in the ashtray for God knows how long. I had a makeshift clip on it made out of cardboard, and I would venture to guess I smoked more cardboard than paper and weed combined. But I did sense the weed, at least in the first hit, so we’ll see if anything happens, and if I can get to sleep after this.

When I got a wiff of the weed, I suddenly had a flash glimpse of it being just about this time in Berkeley on a Saturday morning. I would have packed up my bedroll and stashed it neatly at the illegal spot where I slept every night on U.C. campus, then walked down Oxford Way till I got to University, turned right on University downhill toward the Marina, checked by Ace Hardware to see if Hunter and Tweaker John were awake yet, and if so, headed down with Hunter toward McDonald’s, where he & I would have gotten stoned in the entrance way to the bike shop next door. Maybe Bertha would have been with us, maybe someone else. But we would have gotten stoned before going inside for a Senior Cup, and if we were flushed, a Big Breakfast.

Hunter always had this weed he called the “bombarooski” in that weird language he was always speaking – the language in which I was “Poparooni” and sometimes even “Pepperoni.” He would have laid his whole street philosophy on me, about how each and every one of us had a role to fulfill in the Berkeley street community, all of it centered around a kind of crazy micro-economics, where everything mattered down to the very penny, and it was all about buy and sell. He’d hop on his bike after that and begin his “hustle,” while I would go sit at my Spot out in front of the Mini-Target, and stare like a puppy dog into the eyes of all passing female citizens until one of them took enough pity on me to put some change in my cup, or maybe a sandwich.

Life was somehow easier then, and yet much, much harder. It was easier in that I was my own boss and I didn’t have to answer to anybody. It was harder in that everybody else was their own boss, too, and we didn’t all play by the same rules. I would cringe whenever Andrew the thug came walking down the sidewalk, even though I must admit he was always nice to me, three years worth of nice to me after hitting me on the head with that there gun that time.

It’s almost uncanny how opposite of a world it is that I live in today. I brought almost nothing I did in Berkeley with me to do here in Moscow. And I’m doing things in Moscow I never got to do in Berkeley. I hang around professors and people whose first thought is that I must myself be a professor. I’m even considering applying for an adjunct professor position in the Creative Writing division of the English department – a full-time $48,000 gig. I’m balking, but why? They said to submit a twenty-page sample. I almost want to submit twenty-pages out of Part Four of Anthology for Anathema, just to see if it would work in my advantage to admit that I was homeless not six months ago, and yet here I show up smelling like a rose.

I guess what it is is, I’m not ready for a full-time job yet. I’d actually be afraid that they would hire me. What’s eerie, though, is that it’s the only job listed right now that I could actually walk to, and I still don’t have a car.

Life is incredibly different than it was down in B-Town by the Bay. You don’t see any panhandlers in Moscow, you don’t hear anybody on the hustle asking you for spare change or a cigarette. I remember the first time Seneca reached out her hand behind the counter at the One World Cafe and said, “What’s your name, by the way?” I had to duck into the bathroom to cry. I had only been in Moscow two or three weeks, and I could not believe that a barista in a cafe would actually care what my name was. It was too good to be true that I was actually not being viewed as a worthless piece of shit everywhere I went.

What people don’t seem to know about homelessness unless they’ve actually put in some really serious homeless time themselves is that the worst thing about being homeless is not having to endure the elements, or the lack of indoor conveniences like a space heater, shower, sink, or (of course) bed in which to sleep, or the lack of ready access to food or other basic needs, or difficulty maintaining personal hygeine, or any of that stuff. The worst thing about being homeless is the way that you are treated.

Homeless people in general don’t want pity or even compassion half the time. It seems like half the people pity homeless people and the other half pass judgment. All we really wanted down there, any of us, was to be treated with normal human respect and dignity, and treated as equals, not as inferiors. We wanted to be listened to, we wanted our voices heard. But people in general wouldn’t listen to us. They sure talked to us, and after a while we had heard it all.

Communication is a two way street. People in this country, especially in the upper classes, need to start listening to what poor people, disabled people, and homeless people have to say. They need to realize that these people are human, that they have valuable life experience, and that their experience is worth listening to, and learning about, and understanding.

When that happens, there will really be change in this country. We’ll start building bridges again, instead of burning them. With email and voice mail and social media abounding, with deletes and ignores and blocks aplenty, it has never been easier to burn a bridge in the history of this nation. And what has that done but caused the national morale to reach an all-time low? We need at some point to realize that to “make America great again,” we need to start talking to each other, hearing each other out, making an effort to understand each other’s perspectives before we just ditch them like they’re all a bunch of losers.

Homeless people, believe me, are anything but losers. Quite the opposite is the case. Homeless people are the winners. They’re winning life, day by day, against all odds. What do we win by treating them as sub-human creatures? Not a thing. What would we gain by hearing them out? Or even by sharing in their experience?

We might just gain our country back.

Andy Pope
Moscow, Idaho
6:45 a.m. – 2016-12-10

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My Choice

I’ve never written a novel before.  All I’ve written so far are a number of plays, some of them musicals, numerous short stories that I lost in a storage unit (unless the English department at U.C.Davis happens to have kept a hold of them, which I doubt), thousands of blog posts and diary entries (for whatever that’s worth), the couple handfuls of poems posted on this web site, and zillions of songs, complete with lyrics everybody seems to rave about and music that nobody likes at all.   Oh – and I also wrote a couple “rock operas” when I was younger, two movements of a flute sonata, and scattered piano preludes.  No first symphony, as of yet.  Typical story of a lifelong burned out starving artist. 

That said, I read the first paragraph of my new novel to the other members of the Palouse Writers Guild this morning.  All of them agreed that if those were the first words that befell their eyes, they would keep on reading without hesitation.   One guy I showed it to later even said he’d probably buy the book right off the bat.   But the problem with all of that is, of course, that there’s no book to buy.  Will there ever be?  Am I capable of writing an entire novel, just because I happened to get off to a good start?

I’ve been advised to barrel out 10,000 words as rapidly as possible, just the way I churned out the first five pages.  But I don’t know that I can.  Or even want to.

nothing-in-the-world-is-worth-havingOr even should.  Since feeling the worst impacts of all the demons that have come storming down my stairwell ever since I finished the script to Eden in Babylon, I wonder what my next course really ought to be.  It is clear that for lack of a definite, disciplined project I have practically let myself be devoured by all the local wolves, and whatever strange poltergeists inhabit my creepy confines in the dead of night, full of trickery and tripe.  But should I really dive head-first into an entire novel, just to hide my head from all the hunger, the hysteria, and the hurt?

Why not just notate my piano-vocal score like a good little musical comedy composer?  It would seem the thing to do, if anyone other than myself is ever to attempt to play such bizarre tunes.

There’s also this third idea hovering over my head, haunting me.  It has to do with the themes that were left hanging when I suddenly dropped the Berkeley project some months ago and dove head-first into my musical script.   Not that this was a bad thing to do, for I did, after all, finish the script.  But as I took from the Berkeley music those songs that seemed most to fit the Eden in Babylon style — the showiest, the most “musical theatre” of them all — I find that what is left is an intriguing set of strains.  The remains seem much less show-tune, less schmaltzy, more seriously operatic in nature, and somewhat other-worldly.

But this causes me to recall the neuro-physiological conditions under which I placed myself in order to conceive of such music; specifically, highly altered states of consciousness.  Somehow I just “heard” the music in those unnatural states of mind.  It fascinated me so much that I promised myself I would orchestrate it all once I “came down” (and once I had regained access to a laptop and a regular power outlet in which to plug it).   So I did that until the thrill wore off.   Yet, on examining the music of Sirens of Hope, and of The Royal Rhapsody, I must admit that the thrill returns. 

So – if I went by what others think I should do, I’d have to say that the other Writers in the guild probably would like to see me follow through with the novel, especially seeing as I got off to such a surprisingly good start.  That would probably also be the easiest and most absorbing thing to do – at least, in terms of generating a very rough, rough draft.  Who wants me to write music?   A bunch of stoners in a flop house who won’t even listen to it anyway.  Nobody ever listens to my music.  It makes me feel like all the huge effort I put into writing it is all for nought.

Now, the arduous task of painstakingly notating my piano-vocal score is something I’ve been avoiding for a good month or more.  Obviously, it’s what I’m supposed to do.  Otherwise, I won’t be able to live with myself.  There it would be, even should I die before my time: a complete piano-vocal score that conceivably some conductor could pick up on, some group of singer-actors sing and act from, and some pianist, other than myself, actually play.  How gratifying.  Worth its weight in gold.

The first chapter of the novel looks good, but knowing me, it would degenerate into mindless pornography before Chapter Three.  I’ve made my choice.  And you know what?  I’ll start tomorrow.  Today’s the Lord’s day and I’ll do my best to rejoice in it — even if it means putting on my headphones and rocking out to the music that no one else will ever hear.

Excerpt from Insomnia

I won’t go back.
At all.
I can’t let my not having a gig right now
Propel me back to homelessness
In a God-forsaken land.

I had all my possessions set on fire before my eyes…
I lost the only remaining CD’s of half my work –
A punk ass kid poured lighter fluid all over my backpack –
Set it on fire when I wasn’t looking –
just because he could.
Destroyed a PowerBook, pair of headphones –

I went to the Berkeley Fellowship in the morning –
thinking there would be compassion.
The lady there literally said: “Aw, so what?”
I went to the church council president.
He said: “Well, how did you expect them to react?”
On the other hand, I called my best friend in Georgia –
And she said (of course): “That’s horrible!”
So why couldn’t anyone in Berkeley have sympathized in kind?

The bottom line is:
Moscow will happen if I make it happen.
My nature works against me.
So I have to work against my nature,
to make things work.

Andy Pope
5/17/17 3:10am
Moscow Idaho USA

Six O’Clock and All’s Well

There are a number of unpublished and/or recently deleted posts sitting in a folder on my desktop.  I could at any moment publish any number of such posts, but I disdain because I don’t want to be perceived as vomiting on my readers.   However, I do think I ought to make some kind of communicative statement as to why these as-yet-unpublished or no-longer-published posts exist.

Recently, I gave up writing in an online diary I have kept, in one form or another, since 2002, almost fifteen years to this day.  When I began the online diary, I had only been online for about three years.  The Internet was still new and fascinating to me.  I ran across a site called DiaryLand, where I quickly observed that people were actually publicizing all the details of their inner daily weirdness.  This intrigued me.  In some cases, they would code-name the true identities of people and places in their lives, so as not to be “found out.”  In other cases, they would utilize the option to “lock” the diary, and have it be password-protected.  That way, one could be more lenient about their location and the basic first names of their associates, but the readership would be restricted only to those who could be trusted with the information. 

rantEventually, I opted for the latter.  At the time that I left the diary site, approximately one month ago, there were only five readers with permissions to read my diary.  I was pretty sure I trusted them all — but that was no longer the critical issue.  The issue became my dependency on the diary, and in particular, on the dubious practice of letting off steam or “ranting” whenever I felt a need to work through my frustrations.   While it might have been healthy to “rant” in the short-term, it seemed actually to further my anger issues in the long run.  I basically had become addicted to letting off steam.  In other words, my online temper, through the medium of this online diary, took on a form that was much more furious than whatever temper I might have actually been displaying in real life.  Many times, I showed not the slightest bit of real-life irritation while I proceeded to rage online over how badly I wanted to give somebody a piece of my mind.  In fact, it started to feel as though the diary had become the venue where fits of temper could be safely and legitimately performed.   Still, it seemed a performance of questionable box-office value, if you ask me.

It wasn’t just the ranting that eventually got to me.  It was the hyperbole — all the dramatizing I would apply to the details of my life.   It seemed I had an Artist’s need to make the situation somehow more engaging, more compelling to a readership than a mere, dry diary could ever possibly be.   So naturally, I asked myself why I should not apply all those devices to my real writing?   It just seemed I was barking up the wrong tree.

Because the Internet was fresh and exciting in the year 2002, I jumped right onto the online-diary bandwagon, at a time when the word “blog” was almost unknown in the common nomenclature.   The online diary did shape my attitude toward blogging, but I would never have gone for it if it had arisen in my life today.  It was the novelty of the Internet that was at the core of its appeal.   Because I understand this now, I am able to keep my commitment not to return to the site, no matter how addictive I found it to be.  The Internet is simply no longer a “novelty,” and so a decision I made on that basis no longer applies.

This has, however, left a void.  So, if you have found that I am posting a bit more often than usual, know that I’m in the process of trying to fill a void.  This might also cause some of my posts to be more personal than earlier.  Be that as it may.   I found that when I wrote on DiaryLand about my creative work, very few people responded favorably.   People mainly wanted to hear things more along the lines with of my crush on the lady cab driver, which bills I was postponing paying for what reasons, or how much progress I was making not trying to scratch the scab off the top of my head.   I do miss discussing such mundane topics – but as they say, there’s a time and a place for everything.   It just seemed like – it wasn’t the time or the place any longer.  It was only an old habit — dying hard, as do they all.

Ah well – I’m about to attend somebody’s graduation party.  I did manage to engage the interest in the young woman Aubrey whom I mentioned may be singing on my demo.  I also forged ahead to Version 2-M of my Long Version, before I realized that it had basically peaked on Version 1-Z, the presently posted rendition.   I feel like I’m moving a bit too slow — on this demo project, and everything else.  There’s too much precognition going on, and not enough action.  This makes me restless.  But otherwise, it’s six o’clock on a Sunday evening in the city of my dreams – and all’s well. 

A World of Make Believe

If I can possibly give you an idea of how many times I had to delete a version of my song The Very Same World and replace it with a more evolved version, please know that I routinely save all previous versions of everything I compose or arrange, and that the version posted as of 11:20 last night was Version 2-G.

This means that, beginning with Version 1-A, I must have created 33 different versions of the piece before posting the one that remains.  Thirty-three equals twenty-six plus seven.  That is, I went from Version 1-A to 1-B all the way through the 26 letters of the alphabet, then added 7 more till I got to 2-G.

How do I know that it’s done now?   Because I started working on 2-H and burned out on the notion.  You see, I can always think of something to adjust, to make it better.  What I can’t always do is decide that it’s not worth it any more.  Once I make that decision, I am done.

a-art-10274-Leonardo-da-Vinci-Quote-Art-is-never-finished-only-abandoned

I actually did not know that this quote was first attributed to Leonardo before I ran a google search on it a while back.  I had heard it from Marcel Duchamp, and also from E.M. Forster.  Whatever its origin, the idea seems to find common credence among certain kinds of Artists, myself included.  While I may not always easily reach the point where further obsession on perfecting the piece is no longer interesting enough to motivate yet another revision, this is still easier than having to decide that the piece is ever good enough to be released for universal inspection by all eyes and ears.  In short, it’s easier for me to eventually burn out on making it any better, than it is for me to ever believe it’s good enough.

So the criterion for completion has changed hands.  In lieu of my ever being motivated to come up with anything better,  the Thirty-Third Version is where it stands.

On perhaps a more progressive note, it looks as though I may have found a female singer for this demo project.  I’m not exactly certain yet, but a couple different people suggested I approach her.  She’s a barista at the local cafe.  I had asked the entertainment manager there if he knew of an easy way I could track down a decent female singer for a recording project that would involve little or no financial recompense, and he told me to talk to “Cooper” or to “Aubrey.”  Cooper being a musician might just know of a singer, and Aubrey?  Well, it turns out that she is herself a singer – and a rather good one, at that.

I knew it even before he said so.  You see, I had overheard her singing — in something akin to a musical theatre voice — when I came in for coffee the other morning.  But when I naturally queried about this intriguing activity, she merely brushed it off: “Oh! In the shower, maybe.  Just make believe.”

Then I quipped:

“But isn’t the whole genre of Musical Theatre founded on make-believe?”

That got a grin out of her, but I still wasn’t thinking of asking her to sing for the project. That didn’t happen until the other two other people suggested it, the one being the entertainment manager, the other being the young woman’s boyfriend.   Both of them characterized her singing as “fantastic.”  They both said she would be shy about a live performance, but probably down for a studio recording.  I myself am also shy about such things, as evidenced in the fact that I am even writing about it without having taken any pertinent prior action.  

Still, I never cease to revel in that I have somehow found myself in a community where the faith is high, and there’s a sense that Artistic projects will always find the support they need in order to get themselves to happen.  So all of this is a step in the right direction.   I’ll talk with her Aubrey soon; and I do have the young man, Josh, from downstairs as well.   If I can find one more female vocalist, I can probably just teach the parts and even use my own space here for the recording.  The hardwood floor provides good acoustics — I’ve already tested them.