The Blog and the Blues

For those who have been anticipating a Friday piano offering, I want you all to know that I have not forgotten.  I wasn’t able to get to the church piano earlier than this morning.  So right now I’m in the process of uploading.  I should have the piece posted later on tonight.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to call attention to an earlier post of which I am proud.  I earlier received the following comment on A Homily for the Homeless at Heart from Lauren Sapala, a San Francisco-based writing coach who has authored several fine books, including Firefly Magic, The INFJ Writer, and Between the Shadow and Lo:

kudos.JPG

I found it interesting that I was about to trash the post before I received this comment.  Believe it or not, I had actually thought it was the worst piece I had ever written about homelessness in America! Thanks to Ms. Sapala, I had a change of heart.  I then edited it four times to polish it until I was able to feel proud of it.  As I started the fifth edit, my friend Danielle sent me an email reading: “Please don’t make many more changes.”

So I didn’t.   Here it is, in finished form:

A Homily for the Homeless at Heart

Hopefully this will give you something to chew on while you’re waiting for my somewhat chaotic version of “Billy’s Blues” by the late Laura Nyro.   I hope you enjoy both the blog and the blues.   

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Gratitude List 933

My gratitude list from Saturday morning.  (Edited Nos. 9 & 10, in case you’re a person reading this who is on my “G-List.”)  Many blessings and peace to all.  

1. Solid sleep amid unusually vivid dreams, probably about 7 1/2 hours from around 930 to 530. How often did that happen when I was homeless? Glory to God, man.

2. Just received an insight about something I’ve been doing that’s been making it difficult to let go of the past. It’s a bit too personal for this list, but my gratitude is in the fact that, as I stop doing this thing that I’ve been doing, I will become less focused on the past, and more focused on the present, as a stepping stone to an even better future. It’s also not a hard thing to stop doing, especially given this new motivation and insight. So thanks be to God.

3. Got six bags worth of cleaning supplies, toiletries, food, and reading glasses at the Dollar Store for only $27 yesterday morning.

4. Completely washed the dirtiest dishes I’ve ever been known to accumulate by running hot water in the bathtub and washing them all there, with ease. Am also motivated to keep the dishes clean now; and, in fact, to clean up the house completely.

5. This is the first month when I got the idea to write down all my expenditures in a small notepad I keep in my coat pocket with a pen. Somehow, it’s hard to spend frivolously as I do this.

6. Switched to a local mobile phone provider, got a good plan, and will not have to change the number.

7. Arranged to meet with Shaun H. once a week, every Thursday at 8pm, and focus on practical things that will assist me in my recovery. I have a feeling it will work this time, that I will be accountable, and that I won’t flake.

8. Noted the synchronicity of my spending approximately an hour in the Dollar Store, and the lady from the church who gave me a ride down there while doing errands in the mall showed up back at the store at the exact moment when I was done at the checkstand. Things like that are somehow affirming of divine involvement.

9. Heard from Alastair, the editor of Street Spirit, with the information that she published Old Habits Die Hard in the November issue, and a request for an invoice.   Here’s a link to a pdf of the paper.  (I’m on p. 8).

November Street Spirit

10. I was doing some reading on the Christian concept of sanctification.  There’s a lot of Christian language in there that might be off-putting to unbelievers, but two things I get out of it that I think many can appreciate are these: (1) it’s okay to be an Introvert, and (2) it’s about being true to your own true self.  The world will always want to box us into one box or another.  God’s not like that, because God is not of the world.  He’s of eternity and truth, far beyond the things that will perish with the grave.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to be becoming who I am.  

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A Homily for the Homeless at Heart

It’s Sunday morning, and time for a sermon.  But far be it for me to preach.  These words may be read by anyone who happens upon this page.  But they are directed to those who are, or who have been, homeless — who know the fullness of what that word entails.  These words are meant primarily for those who, despite perhaps having escaped its horrors, have a place in their heart for the homeless, who revere Homelessness as a heavenly gift.  This homily is for the Homeless at Heart. 

This homily is for those who realize that here on this Earth, we have no true home that will not be outlasted.  Our home is in spiritual places, in the heavens, eternal.  In that sense, we are all in fact homeless.   In another sense, knowing what is everlasting, and distinguishing it from that which will vanish at the grave, we rejoice in being Homeless No More.

It’s been two years and three months now that I have been living indoors, in dignified dwelling spaces of my own design and desire.  I have either lived alone, in a studio room or this present one bedroom apartment; or I have lived in this apartment with a like-minded person; a significant other, if you will.   I have not had to “live” in shelters, rehabs, psychiatric facilities, or board and care homes.  Note the quotation marks around the word “live.”

Twenty-seven months have passed, and I have never failed to pay my rent on time.  For me, this is a milestone.  It negates and transcends every other concern that anyone could possibly have about my mode of existence.    Since people in general do not like to look at the ugliness of homelessness, the people who were in my life before all this happened have not wanted to look at the actual reality that was behind my sordid conditions.  So they looked at other things that they suspected might be at the heart of it all.  When they alighted upon something that satisfied their need to know why a man like me should ever have permitted himself to land in such miserable conditions, they contented themselves to wash their hands of my suffering, and of the suffering of those of my kind.  They were content to classify me as a lazy bum, a loser, a deadbeat, a drug addict, perhaps an alcoholic, or a nut case, a lunatic, a wannabe — or better yet, a has-been.  In so doing, they echoed the sentiments of the Pharisee who in the 18th chapter of the Gospel according to Luke, praised God that he was not like other, more miserable men.  They looked at me with condescension and scorn, saying:  “There but for the grace of God go I.”

Don’t get me wrong.  I fully understand why people would think I am insane.   People are often threatened by those whom they can’t quite classify or codify.   It doesn’t matter whether they lean to the Left, to the Right, or neither.   What matters is that, in some way or another, they are bound by what I call mainsteam values — the very values condemned in the first two verses of the 12th chapter of the Epistle to the Romans.  Anybody locked into any kind of box is going to think I’m crazy.  They’ll also think that anyone like me is crazy.  Be that as it may.

It is remarkable how well I get along with formerly homeless people, even though their life practices and spiritualities may be far disparate from mine.   Their experiences and practices have led them to different conclusions than mine.  But we’ve all been through the same life-changing experience: the Experience of Homelessness.  This alone is such a powerful grounds for identification, it practically overwhelms all else.

I may not identify with New Age spirituality. I may not identify with the Ascension Movement. I don’t identify with NeoPaganism — not much anyway. There were those of us who, though Christian, identified as Castaneda Warriors in order to manage the conditions of homelessness with some semblance of thanksgiving and peace.  Some of us needed the Boy Scout Handbook to get by outdoors. Whatever we did, it was a concerted effort to make a valid life-practice out of abominable conditions — not the least of which was that while we struggled day after day to survive, people looked down upon us in scorn.

This commonality is so strong it overwhelms religous and philosophical differences. It overwhelms political differences. It consumes the entirety of Who We Are.  That I should emerge from such a life-changing experience and even pretend to go back to old ways of being that never worked for me is such an assault to my own inner integrity, it baffles me that I should even endeavor to keep up the pretense.

The milestone of having manifested a respectable place of dwelling, tailored and customized to meet the needs of my specific, individual personality is the greatest thing that I have achieved since having escaped twelve years of homelessness and borderline-homelesness in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It also paved the way for other milestones.  I successfully scored all the music I had written “in my head” while wandering the streets of Berkeley like a madman, playing drums on my pants legs, keyboards and guitars in the air, and singing “bop, bop, bop” to the ridicule of all passersby.  I doubt seriously that more than 10% of the people who saw me doing so were able to perceive that I was actually composing music, and not just being crazy.  When I got inside, I was able to score all this music with notation software on my laptop, and put it on the Berkeley Page of this site. 

After that, I was able to complete an entire musical — book, music and lyrics – about homelessness in America.   I also became a regular contributor to the Street Spirit newspaper, though I had no background in journalism, as well as a regular blogger for the Classism Exposed publication in Boston.  I joined a Writers Guild, and had a piece of mine published in an anthology.  I made five speeches on the Homeless Experience.  I created a youtube channel of my piano work, and three CD’s of my piano playing, one of which, Piano Plays Andy, is available on bandcamp.  And many other things did I do —  not that I wish to boast about these accomplishments, but only to illustrate two key points:

(1) That these things could only have been accomplished under the protective umbrella of the dignified, customized living situation that I had crafted, with God’s help, for the manifestation of my true and unique self.   

(2) That the motivation to accomplish these things is a direct result of the inspiration received during those twelve years of living outdoors.

So it’s not just the case that I couldn’t have done any of these things if I had remained homeless.  It’s also the case that I wouldn’t have done any of these things had I not have been homeless.  

And of all these things that I so pride myself in having been able to accomplish, I honestly feel that the finest thing of all is this recent piano album called Exile.   I pride myself on this album even more than I have prided myself on my finally having completed a full musical play that I had belabored in my mind so fruitlessly for more than five years.  Somehow, without words, without singing, without drums, bass, or other instruments, the music of Exile reflects the person whom my homeless experience has permitted me to become.  And it’s called Exile for a reason. 

Others who are or were homeless have heard these strains, and they hear in it the uniqueness and authenticity that marks the way of those who have embraced the fullness of outdoor living.  We are the unsheltered ones, the ones who have placed ourselves naked and vulnerable before all the vicissitudes of a totally predictable and often hostile Universe, with no box to hide in, whether that box be the physical box of an ill-fitting abode, or the spiritual box that binds our true selves, and prevents us from accessing Who We Are.

We are those who spent years in exile.  And now, we are in exile no more.  

Strange feelings overwhelm me as I listen to this music.  I hear myself playing as I have never played before.  People thought I was a good piano player before this huge life transformation took place, and informed the transformation of my Music and my Art.  And do you think that I was able to actually practice the piano in all the years when I was homeless?  Not at all.  Of course not!   If I wanted to play the piano in an empty church sanctuary, they would have been denied me access “for insurance reasons,” on the supposition that I was likely a thief or a vandal.   It took a dramatic resurrection from the gigantic grave of homelessness for me to get to the point where I am now trusted with the keys to a church building that includes a Baldwin grand piano.

How strange it feels to realize that the same people who offered adulation and praise for my music, before it became so authentic, will no longer hear one note of it, nor admit it into the realms of that which they are willing to appreciate as Art. But I hear my true heart in the notes that I have played.   And while I feel great satisfaction in what I have been able to produce, I also feel outrage that during all the years when I was homeless, people flat-out refused to recognize my musical gifts.   The only people who acknowledged my musical talent were other homeless people!

What is up with that?   People who lived indoors were so maddeningly focused on my various visible personal flaws and foibles, it awakened my indignation, and prompted me in protest to channel the composing of my music in the appearance of a maniac, visibly homeless, visibly composing music on the streets, and marveling in how many people saw me as a “nut case,” and how few even realized that I was writing these strains.

This has not happened here.  Everything I did when I was homeless was visible.  Everybody saw me do it.  But because of their preconceptions, what I was actually doing was invisible.  Nobody saw what I was really doing.  They only saw their stigma and prejudice, manifested according to their own inner lies.   So naturally, my insistence on pursuing my music in any form, let alone insisting that others pay attention to it, was off-putting. “First things first,” they chided, pointing their fingers, as they all adjured me to get out of homelessness first, and then perchance they would listen to my music.

But they didn’t!   I got out of homelessness, and they still would not listen to my music!  Instead, they continued to bombard me with mockery over whatever was wrong with me, despite the fact that the obvious point of their intial objections no longer existed. This proved that their condescending treatment of me was not sheerly on the basis of my having been homeless, but in a larger sense, a product of their own need to exercise one-upsmanship.  It’s really that simple. They didn’t treat me with normal human respect. I was always lower than them. Worse than them! Inferior to them! Why?

I’ll tell you why. It’s because these are the kinds of people who have no real sense of self, so they measure themselves against those to whom they can claim to be superior.  My being homeless made me an easy mark for finger-pointing, so they pointed their ever-pointing fingers at me.   Instead of having compassion, they looked down on me and judged me. Their condescending attitudes toward me made an already difficult life all the more difficult. If they did anything at all to help me, which was rarely, they then expected me to kiss their royal behinds as though I owed them, for the rest of their hellbound lives. All the while they never gave me what they owed me, which is what I was certainly trying to give them, what we all owe each other, which is love and respect. Isn’t it?

But how can you respect people who are treating you so disrespectfully? That’s the issue. And we might say, well this is my issue — my “stuff,” so to speak. But if that’s the case, does every person who has ever been homeless have the same exact, hidden, deep-seated psychological issue? Is that what made us homeless? Because we all happened to be these weird over-sensitive freaks who didn’t take very well to being treated with disrespect, and so our logical, mutual life-destination was Homelessness? That is, unless we all toughened up and acted like insensitive, inhuman, competitive assholes?

Yes, many of us were sensitive. Many of us did not have any feel for the play of the game; we did not relish the ruthlessness of the realm where we were expected to climb up the corporate latter and screw people left and right, while receiving raises and perks from our higher-ups for doing so, as they encouraged all of us who had succeeded in being so clever and cunning and callous and crafty to do the very same. These are the ones who are encouraged to “succeed” in our sick society.

I shudder to think about it, but it wasn’t much different in the realms of Education or of the Performing Arts, even though people in those spheres routinely express opposition to the competitive or capitalistic mores of the corporate world. They were just as damned cut-throat. That’s why at least one man I know in the Performing Arts has made it as far as he has — and I sincerely doubt he’s a happy man. His ways of achieving things, in order that he himself might “get his way,” are outright immoral and sometimes even unethical. He intimidates people into his getting what he wants. He’s good at it, and he does it craftily as well as, at times, blatantly.  He almost always gets away with it. Look where that man is now in Theatre Arts: reputable, respected, and feared. Well, I fear him not!

I fear him not.  Nor do I fear those like him.  For one thing, that miserable man, despite his ill-gotten notoriety, is not all that talented.  Had he been more talented, he would not have felt the need to gain fame and fortune through nefarious means.  He’d have felt that his talent alone would have sufficed to get him there.  And then — if he were like me (which he would not have been) — he would not have achieved notoriety, for he’d have discovered (like I did) that talent alone did not suffice.

Do you think I’m jealous? If I am, it’s to my fault. Why would I want to be jealous of the depressed, desperate kinds of people whom he exemplifies? What reason would I have to be envious of those who, having reaped what they have sown from a lifelong facile at getting their own ways, to the detriment of others in their paths, had brought them nationwide recognition and success, but not happiness?

I am reminded of another man I once knew who also enjoyed great worldly success, in the field of Education.  He resembled the other bloke in that he saw people as objects, but he went a step further in deciding that certain people (myself at one time included) were actually projects of his. Passive vehicles for his own self-expression, for him to paint and sculpt and mold, as though we were easels and statues and pieces of pottery, and he was the great cunning craftsman known as God.  All of this was done under the guise of “teaching,” and he did it very well.  But is it the role of an educator to seek out the gullible, and fashion them into facsimiles of one’s own godless self?  Did not the Pharisess whom Jesus decried in the 23rd chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew do the same?

Woe to you,
teachers of the law and Pharisees,
you hypocrites!
You travel over land and sea
to win a single convert,
and when you have succeeded,
you make them twice as fit for hell
as you are yourselves.

Both of these men would refer to God, to prayer, and in the most nauseous of hypocritical ways. Who the hell are they praying to anyway? They have no gods but their own bellies.

All of that competitive focus on achieving “success” in the sense that our society holds we be successful, is a total distraction from receiving the kind of success and satisfaction that can only come from desiring God. As I desire God, it is revealed to me that they are the ones who are really in need of enlightenment, salvation, and healing; because the realm they roam like lions that roar is the form of a former world that is passing. But the truth will endure forever.

It’s absurd for me to have even thought that, in getting inside finally, I could readily or easily return to old systems of values that not only were the very same systems that, when I tried unsuccessfully to adopt them in my pre-homeless past, only had the effect of leading me back into further and deeper Homelessness. It’s absurd that I thought that, just as soon as I finally got inside again, I could regain the friendship of friends who had not only failed me and betrayed me once I became homeless, but proved in so doing that they were never my true friends to begin with. It’s absurd that I should go back and try to engage in anything left over from my pre-homeless existence, if all those things did was join together with each other to form a bunch of things that, when working in concert, had the power to cast me out from society and put me on the streets.

After having learned how to be real in a world of fakery, it is absurd that I should do anything other than my best to be real. Learning to be real got me out of homelessness and into a dignified living situation that works for me, that represents and reflects the person whom I truly am. Busting my guts to try and be fake in a world of fakes not only failed all the fakes who had mastered such fakery, but also it failed myself. Why should I go back to being a fake after learning how to be real? Rather, I should work my butt off trying to maintain being real, in a world where my being real is what’s working.

Many who hear these words will echo the sentiments of the reality now being brought to light. For it is we who were forced by abominable life conditions to struggle day after day, enduring relentless persecutions and assaults against our persons and our dignity, and in many cases, our bodies as well as our minds, hearts, souls, and spirits, while we were already struggling with all our might to survive the indescribable conditions of continuous outdoor living, feeling trapped as though sub-human animals on the cold-hearted city streets.

It was more than many could bear. But not all. Let our voices be heard and understood. Were these words to be sent to homeless and formerly homeless people everywhere, many would lift their hearts and their voices in accord. Many did indeed falter, collapse, and eventually be put to death by the overall horror that is Homelessness. But many endured, survived, and prevailed – for the purpose that now unfolds.

Lift up your hearts, whoever you are who hears these words and understands them! We were spared the fate of the bulk of our fellows. We were not destined to die in vain, alone and friendless, without hope, without purpose.

Instead we were destined to rise above all that mire, put our lives back together, and emerge from the cages in which we were kept, on a mission to even the score. For where once we were submerged in the world as though destined to drown in the depths of dark water, we now have emerged with a story to tell, and our story is driven by fire. For once we were all but forgotten, and death was at every door. Once we were all of us homeless. Now, we are Homeless No More.

homeless make a difference

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Old Habits Die Hard

Earlier this evening on Quora, somebody asked me if there were any particular habits left over from my homeless years that I was having a hard time shaking.  Being as I completely spaced out my Thursday blog on the homeless experience, I figured it was timely.  So I blasted out seven off the top of my head.   And believe me – it’s the tip of the iceberg.

(1) Until very recently, I had to imagine that I was still homeless every time I lay down to go to bed at night. Somehow, picturing one of the outdoor settings where I used to sleep, seeing the familiar sights in my mind, imaginging the sounds I would hear at that time, was soothing to me. (I’ve actually broken the habit, but it’s taken some work. For the past month or so, I’ve been able to get to sleep without having to imagine that I was still homeless.)

(2) Embarrassingly enough, I still haven’t bought a pair of undershorts, even though I’ve been living inside for almost two years ago. A lot of us men who were homeless discarded our underpants right off the bat, once we realized how impossible it was to keep buying them and/or keeping them clean.

(3) Equally embarrassing, I have a hard time changing into pajamas or anything “night-like” before I go to bed. Often I just sleep with my pants and socks on.

(4) Although I’d like to get back into the habit of showering daily like I used to, it just hasn’t happened. When I was homeless, weeks would go by without my hitting an actual shower. Now I have my own shower and tub, but I still only shower about once or twice a week. I still do a lot of rinse-offs in sinks like I used to have to do when I was homeless.

beanie(5) I almost never take my “security beanie” off of my head. In the summer, I have to wear a baseball cap. Even though I have a regular barber now who recently gave me a very decent haircut, I have a hard time taking off my beanie unless I’m in the shower. I even asked the pastor if it was okay to wear it in church.

(6) Having a hard time shaking the habit of cussing like a drunken sailor (at least at moments, when triggered by this-or-that). This is interesting, because I never used to cuss hardly at all before I put in twelve long years on the streets. And that bugger is not going away too easy.

(7) Suspicion of people in general, of their motives, was greatly increased when I was on the streets. Having a hard time shaking it, and regaining trust.

That’s enough for now.  As I said, there are many others.  And while some of these are pretty problematical, there has been a positive value to listing them like this. Maybe now I’ll see fit to do something about them!  I mean —  I do brush my teeth, you know, and shave, and wash my clothes, you know.  So I have gotten that far, but — what can I say?  Perhaps it’s time I raised the bar a little bit, don’t you think?

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Tuesday Tuneup 28

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater vigilance.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. By vigilance?  You know what vigilance means – surveillance, watchfulness, attentiveness, alertness —

Q. But you mean something deeper than that, don’t you?

A. What makes you think so?

Q. Aren’t I the one who’s supposed to be asking the questions?

A. Okay, look.  I mean greater awareness.  More keen to what’s happening around me, and what possibly could happen.  More mindful of the conceivable consequences of my actions.  Vigilance.

Q. Why is this important to you?  

A. Because it’s the fourth of the five principles of the Practical Pentacle, and all of these principles are important to me: integrity, confidence, diligence, vigilance, and fortitude.

Q. Where did those words come from?

A.  I guess the short answer would be, “off the top of my head.”

Q. And the long answer?

A. You asked for it.  Around about 2012, I was in an environment where there were a lot of Pagans.  Or, I guess, Neopagans would be more accurate.  Some of them wore pentacles, and one of them told me that if I chose to employ a pentacle, I would not necessarily have to use the standard five points of “Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit” – but could pick any five principles I thought would work for me.   So I said: “I’ll use integrity, confidence, diligence, vigilance, and fortitude.”  

Q. Just like that?

A. Pretty much.  Not sure where they come from, to be honest with you, but it all seemed pretty positive.

Q. Then what did you do?

A. Naturally, I started looking online for a pentacle to purchase.

Q. You actually purchased a pentacle?

A. Actually, no.  I stopped short.

Q. Why?

A. Couldn’t find one off-hand that looked right.  And then, in the time it was taking to look, I began to have reservations.

Q. Like what?

A. Well, being as I was a piano player at a Christian church at the time, I thought it might be odd if I showed up wearing a Pagan pentacle.

Q. But how do you really feel about this oddity?

A. You know me.  I don’t think it should be odd.  So what if I’m wearing a necklace shaped like a five-sided star?   As a Christian, I’m free to where whatever I please, as long as it’s not overly revealing or provocative.

Q. But doesn’t the Pentacle connote an anti-Christian religion?

A. What makes you think Neopaganism is an anti-Christian religion?

Q. Aren’t I supposed to ask the questions?

A. Okay look.  Getting down to brass tacks, there is nothing wrong or immoral about wearing a five-sided star, and associating each side of the star with a positive spiritual principle.   Nothing evil in that.  But because, to some people, it would appear to be evil, I declined, for their sake.  The Scripture does say: “Abstain from all appearance of evil.”

Q. So you’re saying a Christian has to look good?

A. To a degree, yes.  Appearances are important.   They’re not all-important.  They’re certainly not more important than reality.  But certain kinds of appearances have a way of messing with people’s realities, and that just isn’t cool.

Q. So, in other words, you bailed out?

A. I suppose you could put it this way.   But Christianity does involve being concerned for others in our midst.

Q. And this is why you wimped out?

A. More-or-less.

Q. Well then, if you never bought the pentacle, and never actually wore the pentacle, how does the pentacle still figure into your trip?

A. It’s an internal pentacle.  I have it inside me.

Q. You do?

A. I do.  I believe that it was placed inside me as a device to assist me in getting something accomplished — something which I very much need to do.

Q. What is it that you need to do?

A. You already know that.  It’s all over this website.   Everybody knows what I’m trying to do.  I’m rather surprised you would even bother to ask.

Q. But how do these principles help?

A. It’s a matter of applying them, moment by moment, one at a time.

Q. Can you elaborate on that?

A. I’ll try.  Integrity is the first and most important.  Before I make a creative or professional decision, I need to run it past my integrity.  I need not prostitute myself.

Q. And then?

A. Confidence.   Faith, essentially, that I have what it takes to get it done.

Q. What next?

A. I already told you.  Diligence.  That means, work, discipline, sticking to it, keeping a schedule — all that stuff.   And then, vigilance.   Awareness of the greater picture.  Preparation for possible dangers and pitfalls.   Finally, fortitude.

Q. Meaning?

A.just do it Just do it.  

Q. Take the leap, eh?

A. That’s right. Take the plunge.

Q. But – but – the plunge to where?

A. We don’t know quite where.  That’s what makes it a plunge.

Q. But – for what reason?   Why bother with any of this?

A. Because I need to get something done.

Q. What do you need to get done?

A. You already know that.

Q. And you don’t?

A. No, sir.  I do, if anyone does.   But –

I tire of talking about it.  I burn myself out having to explain myself all the time, over and over.  It gets tedious.   And people are tired of hearing about it.   I get tired of telling people that it’s going to cost me $200 a night to rent out the theatre where I want to showcase my musical, and that I’m going to have to come up with $15/hr for each member of the technical staff they provide me.  I get tired of harping on the fact that I’m an impoverished old guy with a serious health condition who somehow managed to put together an entire musical — book, music & lyrics — about the Homeless Phenomenon in America.   I’ve been screaming “money talks, bullshit walks” for so long that I’m begining to sicken my own self.   

And that dollar figure you see when you click here?   That money went to pay for my critique and demo recording, a long time ago.  When was the last payment?  In May?  From February to May I managed to scrape up $950 – or Danielle did, bless her heart.   But do you realize it’s October already?   What’s happened between May and October?  Damn near nothing.   I need the bucks!   It’s maddening.  Sometimes I need to apply all five principles at once just to keep my head together . . .

Q. Andy, what is the bottom line?

A. Bucks.  I need the bucks – the bucks . . .

Q. Come on, Andy — is money really the bottom line?

Q. You know me.  Of course it’s not.   Homelessness is the bottom line.  It’s as low as it gets.   It’s the weakest link in the country right now — and we need to be about strengthening our weak links — or else the whole chain is going to break, and fast.

A. How do you know this?

Q.  Dude — you sit on a sidewalk for five years, watching the urban world buzz by at a lightning pace, on a marathon race to nowhere, and you have a lot of time to make observations and draw conclusions.   Believe me, I didn’t put this show together because I was talking out of my hat.  

Q. What do you need the most?

A. Fortitude.  I need for somebody to take some action here.   Take a risk.  Have courage.  Believe in me.  Just do it.   

Q. Just do — what?

A. What you’re thinking about right now — you who have so encouraged me by having read to the bottom of this whole long page.   Please — we don’t have all night.   Daylight’s burning.  We gotta get this show on the road.   Just do it!

Q. Just do – what, again?   

A. Do you honestly expect me to answer that?

Q. Aren’t I the one who’s supposed to be asking the questions?

A. You tell me.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 914

(1) I remembered to take my big cup with me to the 24/7 corner store when I went there to get my coffee this morning.  This not only decreased the price, but greatly increased the amount of coffee I was able to fit in a single cup — since my “big cup” is actually a quart in size, hehe.  Nice to be starting off the day with a nice big cup of hot coffee.

(2) When I came in last night from the cold, how great it felt just to be inside and be warm!

(3) Got up a little earlier this morning and did the entire wash.  Felt so good to put nice warm clothes on.

(4) And I must say – my morning coffee options have been greatly enhanced since the days when, if I wanted a cup of coffee in the morning, I would have to — have to — have to . . .  arrgghh.   Let’s just not go there, okay?

(5) Moreover, in another minute or two, I’m going to take a shower.  Once again, this is the first time since 2010 when I haven’t had to hassle with other men just to get a shower in the morning.   It feels wonderful to have my own bathroom, and my own shower, once again.

(6) I can’t help but have noticed that I’m not as angry as I used to be, and that I’m also not as absent-minded as I used to be.  Not only have I noticed this myself, but others have commented on it as well.  This is a good thing, and a great relief.

(7) Got the Street Spirit check in Friday’s mail, along with a complimentary copy of the paper, including my article, “The H-Word” (heavily edited, but hey – they spelled my name right.)

(8) The weather, though cold, has been incredibly gorgeous lately, with brilliant sunsets and sunrises, during both of which all the runners are out, in rare form.  And I will soon be among them. :)

(9) This gratitude list seems to be working fairly well, even though it’s the first one I’ve made since last Monday.  I think I’ll start making them every day again, and see if my life improves as much as a lot of spiritual people say it will.

(10) Something uncomfortable happened at Mikey’s the other night when I was having dinner there; and I ran into two of the youngsters, good friends of each other, the one Italian guy who’s always smiling, and his friend the bass player.   I don’t want to detail the exact essence of the discomfort, but suffice it to say that the bass player was turning to me for support in a certain issue — as a young person will often turn to an older person whom they respect.  But instead of support, I smirked with cynicism – as an older person will sometimes do, forgetting who he’s talking to at the moment.

May I always remember that the youngsters look up to the older sorts, and if they see something in the older person that they think is admirable, they will turn to that person as a role model — especially if they are lacking other adult role models in their lives.  May I never forget this.  1 Cor 10:23, Ephesians 4:1, and a bunch of other Scriptures come to mind.  (To my mind, anyway) . . .

I may be too old to seek out an “older role model” — but consider that if Jesus rose from the dead, and is still alive, that Guy would be over 2000 years old by now.   Can you imagine all the insanity He’s seen go down, by now?   And while Christ may be intangible on the worldly plane, I can still read His words, and seek His Spirit where it may be found.  Not all of those words are lost on everyone.  May they not be lost on me.   

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Gratitude List 911

1. I woke up on a comfortable couch this morning next to my computer and my desk. Guaging my overall condition at the moment – mental, physical, spiritual – I was genuinely grateful that I didn’t have to wake up where I would have woke up two or three years ago.

2. I seem to be in pretty good health, all things considered.

3. I’m not always grateful for what I have, but right now I am – and I am grateful for that fact.

4. It’s insane for me to ever want to go back and be homeless again. But something keeps drawing me there. What I’m grateful for right now is that something happened — I can’t tell you what it was — but it had the effect of reminding me just how lousy it is down there. It was a hard thing that happened (something involving a friendship that failed), but I am grateful that it happened, because it was the reminder that I needed.

5. Grateful for the sense that I have a future. I have not been totally destroyed, and there’s more for me to do on this earth – and possibly even afterwards. A lot of people who have been where I’ve been have been destroyed. So God is keeping me around for a reason. How can I not be grateful for that?

6. Just thought about my church right now. I really like my church. People are genuinely nice, and intelligent — and they mind their own business, too.

7. California and Idaho are a lot different. The people are different. We’re all human beings, of course, but what I mean is that the mores are different. The social customs and practices differ. It’s taking me a while to get used to it, and a lot of things have thrown me for a loop. But I just gotta say, me personally, the type of guy I am, I am very grateful to be in Idaho, and in this city.

9. My pastor, whose name is Norman. I’ve never had a pastor like him before. It’s hard to describe, and I hesitate to belaud the guy – but he acts like a *real* Christian – he doesn’t judge, he listens, his comments reflect wisdom and love, he goes out of his way to help people who are struggling – he’s not just a guy who knows what the Bible says and knows how to preach about it. He doesn’t boast, he doesn’t trip – he just does what a Christian is supposed to do, and keeps doing it. If every Christian were like Norman, I bet nobody in this country would hate Christians. So how can I not be grateful?

10. God is good. I am very grateful at this moment, just to be alive.

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