Tuesday Tuneup 93

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Another Tuesday has begun.

Q. And what will this Tuesday bring?

A. How should I know? It might bring happiness. It might bring sorrow.

Q. How does that differ from any other day?

A. It doesn’t.

Q. But did I ask you about any other day?

A. No, you did not.

Q. Then why don’t you answer my question about today? Isn’t today Tuesday? Why did you generalize? Why did you extrapolate? Why did you just answer about any old day?

A. Wow – you’re certainly firing a lot of questions at me!

Q. Isn’t that my job?

A. I imagine so. But in this case, the rapid-fire is a bit overwhelming.

Q. Rapid fire? Am I firing at you? As though I intend to harm you? Do you see me as an enemy? An adversary?

A. You might well be.

Q. Why would that be? Why?

A. Well – think about it. If one is trying to be confident in what one does, and another person is questioning them constantly, wouldn’t that undermine their confidence?

Q. Are you suggesting that my role is to undermine your confidence?

A. Uh — er — not exactly. At least, not all the time. You seem to — um — wear different hats, and —

Q. Why are you hemming and hawing?

A. I wasn’t aware that I —

Q. Do you think you can pull the wool over my eyes?

A. Well, I haven’t really thought of it in those terms, although —

Q. Although what? Why are you beating around the bush? What are you really trying to say? Why don’t you just come out with it?

A. I — uh — er — am — um —

Q. I uh er am um? What on earth is that supposed to mean?

A. I — uh — er — am feeling a bit intimidated at the moment.

Q. Intimidated? Why in heaven’s name should you feel intimidated? Am I not the most harmless character you’ve ever run across?

A. I can’t say that you have ever harmed me physically, no.

Q. Are you suggesting I have harmed you psychologically?

A. Let’s just say you’ve sometimes shaken me up a bit.

Q. Am I shaking you up right now? Am I?

A. As a matter of fact, you are. And you’re reminding me of someone.

Q. Who?

A. About five years ago, there was a man who shook me up on the streets. He was a very aggressive man. He would not take “no” for an answer. Always trying to sell me marijuana. I would tell him I had no money. But he would insist I could pay him later. I would tell him I wasn’t interested. I would say this and that, but kept on insisting.

He was a very strange man. He kept a King James Bible on the dashboard of his car, and showed up regularly at the Bible Study. At first, I assumed he was a devout Christian. But as I got to know him, I realized his Christian veneer was but a cover. The King James was merely a good luck charm, and he attended the Bible Study largely to find customers to whom to peddle his marijuana. That, and to schmooze with attractive Christian women.

Q. Why didn’t they kick him out of the Bible Study? Isn’t such behavior ungodly?

A. This was in Berkeley — a city noted for tolerating what it shouldn’t, and not tolerating what it should.

Q. Should you have tolerated that guy?

A. Well, I should have put up with him. But I shouldn’t have caved in to his conniving nature.

Q. How did you cave in?

A. By not saying “no.” The easiest thing to do was to accept the marijuana and tell him I’d pay him later. That way I could finally get rid of him.

Q. Do you have trouble saying “no?” I mean, in general?

A. Yes.

Q. So why did he shake you up?

A. Obviously, he shook me up when I failed to pay him.

Q. Are you saying you smoked the marijuana, but did not pay him?

A. If I recall correctly, the last time he did this, I instantly gave it all away to people more interested in smoking it.

Q. You’re not interested in smoking marijuana?

A. Not really, no. At times I have been, but not in recent times. And not back then, either.

Q. How much did you owe him?

A. In that case, $120. Earlier though, I only owed him $20. And that was when he shook me up.

Q. He shook you up over twenty dollars? Why would he do such a thing?

A. Probably because he felt disrespected.

Q. How did he shake you up? What did he do to you?

A. He saw me walking down the sidewalk in his direction, took off his jacket, glared at me, and hit me on the right shoulder with one hand, on the left side of my waist with the other. Then he walked off, pointing back at me, and admonishing me: “Don’t f—k with me!!”

Q. Were you hurt?

A. Not at all. Just a little shook up.

Q. So how do I remind of you of that guy?

A. It’s your aggression. Granted, you’re not always this aggressive. But neither was he. On some days, I find you more annoying than others. This particular Tuesday, your level of annoying aggression approaches that of the aforementioned adversarial entity.

Q. Entity?

A Well — I would have said “asshole” to complete the alliteration, but I don’t like to cuss.

Q. Why do you think I’m being so aggressive? And why have you thought about that fellow?

A. Not sure. Maybe it has to do with the letter I got in the mail recently.

Q. The letter from Mike?

A. Yeah. I took his good will at face value. I wrote back, and even left a return address.

Q. And you’re suggesting that Mike might not be trusted with your address?

A. Well, I usually don’t give it out to anyone. I don’t even let people in my home community know where I live. But the content of Mike’s letter warmed my heart. So I made an exception.

Q. Do you feel that you might have “caved in” to Mike?

A. Interesting question. I feel that I trusted Mike. But I also feel that the trust, in this case, was a risk.

Q. Why?

A. Because I like my anonymity. I like to be reclusive. I’m an Artist — I like to create. And I don’t like people to mess with me. I prefer that no one knock on my door.

Q. Did you get messed with on the streets?

A. Yeah. They were always messing with me. It interfered with my desire to produce my Art.

Q. Are you afraid that this guy might come up and mess with you?

A. Which guy? Do you mean Mike?

Q. No – no – the dealer. The guy who shook you up.

A. Now that you mention it, yes.

Q. Isn’t that highly unlikely? Don’t you live about a thousand miles away from him?

A. I do, but so what? Many things happen that are unlikely.

Q. Do you still owe him money?

A. It’s not about owing or not owing. It’s about respect. That’s what the streets are all about. When someone feels disrespected, they being to plot vengeance against those who have disrespected them.

Q. But wasn’t that about five years ago?

A. Ah – but in those five years, nothing has changed.

Q. Do you respect that guy?

A. I’ve given him no reason to believe that I respect him.

Q. Do you respect me?

Pause.

A. Yes, I do.

Q. Even though I remind you of that guy?

A. Yes.

Q. Why?

A. Because you’re another story. And because this life, where you and I have engaged, and where my Art has been produced, is not like street life. The Old Story has passed. We’re all living in a New Story.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 75

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Elation.

Q. Elation?  Are you out of your mind??

A. Not that I know of, no.   Why would I be?

Q. Well, what on earth is there to be elated about?   Don’t you know what’s going on in the world?

A. I do.   

Q. Then why are you elated?

A. Elation is an ephemeral state.  It won’t last, you know.   I just happen to be elated right now.   

Q. What about?

A. Something really great happened, and it got me feeling good.

Q. What happened?

A. I figured out how to pay the phone bill in time to keep the service on before they disconnected it.

Q. You figured it out?

A. Yes.

Q. What is so hard about paying a phone bill?

A. Well, I don’t know.  Have you tried lately?

Q. What do you mean?

A. You got to get the money off of one card to the other card, switch accounts, deal with voicemail loops, get it to revolve on the day when you have the money, deal with them lying to you, trying to get the money out of you earlier, shortening the days in the business cycle, hoping you won’t notice, not to mention —

Q. STOP!!   Are you having a manic episode?

A. Not at all, sir.  I’m merely elated.

Q. Just because you were able to pay a phone bill?

A. Well, you should have seen me last month and the month before.  It isn’t easy these days for me, given all that goes on between my ears, to pay a phone bill.   Both of the previous months they turned off the service until I could manage to get to the office and have the guy there take my card and go through the motions for me.

Q. So you paid the phone bill, and proceeded to feel elated?

Q. Overjoyed, man.  Happy, chipper, and high.   

Q. High?

A. Figuratively speaking.

Q. What about literally?

A. Literally, no.  In fact, I resisted that one.

Q. How so?

A. Well, when I became elated, I wanted to celebrate.  I felt myself cycling over toward the marijuana dispensary three miles down the road.  

Q. Marijuana?

A. Yeah.  This stuff:

Marijuana high: Strains, smoking, vaping, and edibles

Q. Why would you want to smoke marijuana?

A. Psychological association.   There was a time when I would reward myself with a celebratory bowl, every time I accomplished something noteworthy.

Q. Such as pay a phone bill?

A. You got it.

Q. But this time you resisted?

A. Yeah – I felt myself headed in that direction.  So I took a different turn.

Q. What turn was that?

A. I located a local homeless boy and gave him five bucks.

Q. How did that keep you from smoking?

A. Oh it made it easy!  It was the last five bucks I had left after paying the phone bill.

Q. You’re that broke?

A. Again, an ephemeral state.  I won’t be broke at all come Friday.  End of the month, you know.   Poverty Culture.   We kinda live month to month, fend, try to enjoy life, the best things thereof being free, and all that.

Q. Isn’t it a bit crass to be broadcasting your personal financial situation?

A. Not where I come from.   I’ve been in some societies where it’s crass to bring up money at all.

Q. And in your society?

A. You mean Poverty Culture?   We talk about money all the time!   We talk about small amounts.   We loan each other fifty cents and back.   How can we even co-exist without talking about money?   There’s only so much to go around.

Q. What are you driving at?

A. Nothing really.  Just shootin’ the breeze.

Q. What about COVID-19?

A. Sheltering in place.  

Q. Wouldn’t that be the perfect place to smoke your weed?   Where nobody is watching?

A. It’s been done.  But believe me, I like myself better without it.

Q. But aren’t you way more hyper than you used to be?

A. Is that a problem?

Q. I don’t know.  Is it?

A. Not for me.  Not home alone.  Not here all by myself.   Who’s to complain about my level of energy?   Who’s to call me manic?   Who’s to call me on anything?   I’ll be as manic as I want!   Any of you psych agents wanna try to medicate my precious mania out of my system, you go right ahead.  I’m an Artist!! I will generate a manic episode if I think it’s going to help my work!    But WOAH!!! WOAH!!!!!

Q. Did you just feel an earthquake?

A. Yes I did.   

Q. Aren’t earthquakes pretty rare in this part of the world?

A. Maybe.  I don’t know.  Gotta check Facebook.

Q. Facebook?   Why not check USGS?

A. Good idea.   Somehow I assumed Facebook would be the more authoritative source.  Hang on a minute . . . no, nothing at USGS yet.   Oh – here it is!   6.3!  Wow!  

Q. Did you actually just have an earthquake right while you were writing this post?  

A. Sure did.   Check the link.   

Q. Still elated?

A. Naw.  I think I blogged it out of my system.   It’s a good thing, too.   Elation can be very deceiving.   There’s a cooler, steadier energy at work here, slowly creating finer facts and fiction — but it works behind the scenes.   

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1209

(1) I slept from from eight in the evening till six in the morning, ten hours.  I did eat red meat, having cooked up half a pound of ground beef, as Christine suggested.  Someone else told me I ought to eat a lot of green vegetables.  In any case, I finally resorted to a cannabinoid to get to sleep, and I did not have paralysis.  Slept quite a bit, for the second night in a row.

(2) Just now got some good sun and exercise, though I exercised only moderately.  Ran a mile to the Campus Starbucks, where I had water and a mocha.  Walked a mile and half back, circuitously.  I think I still am tired from the Ativan the doctor at Emergency gave me the night I wrote Sleep Paralysis.  It helped me to sleep for seven hours.  So I’ve gotten two good night’s sleep in a row, without paralysis.  I’m grateful for the gift of being lucid enough now to get my bearings, and proceed forward.

(3) At the doctor’s office, I was down to 204 lbs.  Lost 8 pounds.  Blood pressure 116/72, pulse 56bpm, O2 Saturation 95%, BMI 28.8kg/m2, 97.8 F body temperature.  Great vital signs.  Pulse is low from working out a lot, running, walking, riding my bike.

(4) Heard from my old friend Paul in Berkeley, in response to Sleep Paralysis, and wrote back.  Great to hear from him — it had been a while.  We agreed to catch up later in the week.

(5) Though the new computer they bought me for the musical project is hung up in a loop and won’t get from startup to the desktop, it’s catalyzed a positive change in routine.  I can work on the vocal parts at home, using the Finale program loaded on my home computer.  That’s a decent ASUS laptop with broken keyboard and screen, used with external keyboard and LG flat panel.   Then, I can use the public computers at the local library to work on my script revisions.  This will get me out of the house, and also designate an environment to be associated with that particular task.  This plan was Dave’s idea, for which I’m thankful.

(6) I’m soon to be published in Berkeleyside.  I’m to hear from them today, and according to Alastair, it’s a decent-paying gig.

(7) Nick called just as I’d alighted upon the Campus Starbucks, and we had a substantial conversation. I’ve talked to Kent a couple times recently too.  It’s good to have good long-term friends.  Danielle, too.

(8) Grateful for Norman, Kathy, Jeremiah, Bruce, and the wonderful, wise people I have met at my church.

(9) Grateful for the decision to avoid anxiety-provoking people and places, and focus on healing.  (Symbolic of which, I will be replacing the version of “Bubbles” I just posted (and just now set aside) with a more relaxed, definitive version using Norman’s device, the same one we used for the album Exile.  I’ll try to do that today.)

(10) After filling out some paperwork, I’ll soon be on the volunteer staff at the hospital and will be playing piano at the Courtyard Cafe.  Life is good up here, for the most part.  I’m getting organized, and God is Good.

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Homeless in Mayfield: Part One

One of the great buried treasures I’ve been able to dig up since having lived indoors these past two and a half years is a folder full of pasted timeline posts preserved from a long-deleted Facebook.  All of them display the cavalier attitude of a homeless Artist given to brutal sarcasm as a coping mechanism.  

I just finished reading three consecutive entries about harsh treatment by the local officers of the peace, shortly after I had vacated the Berkeley homeless scene in favor of a low crime district in an all White, sheltered upper-crust community.  The name of the city is not actually Mayfield — but if you ever watched “Leave it to Beaver,” you’ll get my drift.

Well — I’ve humbled my head full of hubris just enough to figure out where the food is on Friday. As a result, I’ll be attending my first feed since having found myself home-free in this fine town of wealth and promise (whose name is being with-held until further notice.) It will be taking place at 6:30, and I’m looking forward to what fashion of food will be fed at the commons to the commoners.

Moreover, in the passage of time, I’ve realized that the tone of desperation in my universal Facebook appeal for “shelter with dignity” could conceivably have been off-putting. It’s well-known that I am not permitted into friends’ and family’s homes during the holiday season because I have a reputation of being “manic.” No one wants their walls bounced off by a belligerent birdbrain of such ill repute. And of course, the penalty for such a hyper-active mind is — you guessed it: homelessness.

AFree Homelessness Cliparts, Download Free Clip Art, Free Clip Art on Clipart Libraryll sarcasm aside, I recognize that in the absence of mariijuana, my overall energy level is off the charts. Therefore I amend my earlier proposal. Just kick down the good weed, guys. Who cares about “vibrancy?” It only got me to complete a rough draft of a long-desired libretto to a musical that, unlike the last two I wrote (and promptly shelved), I actually believe in for once. No doubt I should have stopped smoking pot — among other things — much earlier in life. My apologies for such reprobate tardiness.

Now – to figure out where and how to sleep tonight, being as a certain red-hot hot-shot hog of a cop saw fit to do a sweep of my only Spot thus far evoked, as he poked his blaring brights my way, thus scaring the daylights out of the would-be dirt-bag he had wished would have been me. 

So bright was that light at its closest, grossest height – that long into night I could still scarcely see. There but for God’s grace goes Me.

© A. Pope 2014

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Gratitude List 891

My daily gratitude list from, I believe, Friday morning the 17th, two days ago.

1. I realized something when I got up this morning. I used to wake up sleeping on a pile of cardboard outside of the Rubicon East Bay Area Works building, feeling scruffy, scraggly and miserable. Then I’d smoke a couple hits of weed and feel all right. But now, I wake up feeling pretty good, sleeping in my own bed, cranking up my own coffee and computer, and hearing the birds chirping outside my very own window. If I were to smoke a couple hits of weed, I’d feel scruffy, scraggly, and miserable.

2. This is such a positive town.

3. Courtyard Cafe, nice Starbucks coffee, $2.76 full traditional breakfast in five minutes.

4. Ran into Doug, Paul A.’s friend, who works here at the hospital. Very nice guy, all smiles.

5. The cook smiled at me when he saw his “regular” sitting at the usual spot. There was a time when, if I were a regular in a morning breakfast establishment, they’d eye me with caution, and look for a way to kick me out.

6. Heard from Norman that the first track of my Killing Me Softly piano video is still on his phone. It might be better than the 2nd take, and is worth a listen.

7. Naw, just listened all the way through without looking at the guy. It doesn’t get better than that. I’ll mp3 at it A444 and put slight fade on the last A major chord.

8. Heard from Marshall F. who can easily sing the Winston Greene part in “Turns Toward Dawn” in the high tenor octave. Solves a big problem, since now I don’t have to make any weird adjustments in Taura’s range, not to mention they can sing harmonies on thirds now, so long as I find a decent alto with a low belt and medium-high soft head voice for Taura.

9. Hmm.

10. Time for breakfast. Another day flat broke in Paradise. :)

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Once Homeless Always Homeless?

smileIn trying to do my part to raise awareness as to the homeless phenomenon in America, I would be remiss if I left out the fact that there are certain perks to the homeless experience that often go unnoticed. In fact, it is partly because of those positives that I managed to sustain my homeless condition for as long as I did. If it had not have been on some level enjoyable for me, I would probably have figured out a way out of it before lingering twelve long years in it.

This is not to say that it wasn’t absolutely horrible at times. So horrible, it made me wonder why people thought I was being hyperbolic whenever I compared it to being in a war zone or a concentration camp. Nobody in their right mind would think homelessness was a “piece of cake.” But just as people had no idea just how awful it could be, they also seemed to have no idea what it was that I actually liked about it, that kept deluding me for so many years into believing it was “worth the risk.”

Here are some positive aspects of my homeless experience that I have not yet been able to replace readily by living indoors:

(1) I did not have to pay any rent. I was therefore able to use my monthly disability money for things such as food, clothing, and creature comforts. If I had still lived indoors in the San Francisco Bay Area, most (if not all) of my monthly check would have been consumed in rent.

(2) I had no trouble coming up with food. Because I lived in an area where it was lawful and commonplace to sit down and fly a sign on a sidewalk, I often received food at my Spot, even when I had no money. I also lived in a city where there were 35 free community meals per week, at various churches.

(3) Being considered unemployable, I did not have to work on a job that, chances are, I would have screwed up somehow.  Therefore I had plenty of time to work on my various artistic projects, most of which were inspired by the very colorful and unusual world in which I lived.

(4) I had no trouble maintaining a healthy exercise program. My lifestyle necessitated that I walk at least ten miles a day. So I remained thin and fit, no matter how much I ate. My vital signs were always excellent: 100/65 blood pressure, 55 heart rate. Believe me, fifty pounds heavier from living inside, it is not easy to maintain physical fitness.

(5) I had no trouble with overeating. Not having a kitchen or a place of my own, there was no urge to binge-eat or gorge down food late at night out of general uneasiness and nervousness. Even when I did happen to come into, say, a box of doughnuts, I could divide them up between me and my homeys, and know that within a day or two, all of those calories would be worked out of my system.

(6) I did not suffer from the kinds of annoying “addictions” that are inherent in indoor living. For example, it was not possible for me to remain on the computer for twelve hours goofing off, because I hardly ever owned a computer. When I did, I was constantly in search of an outdoor power outlet and a quiet spot where I would go unnoticed. Usually, my computer would be stolen within a few short weeks, so Internet addiction became basically impossible.

(7) I kept my sexual desires in check. Hard to engage that stuff when you live outdoors and you might at least wind up with a “lewd conduct” charge (if not indecent exposure.)

(8) Negative ions in the air have been proven to be good for one’s physical and mental health.   The vast majority of Americans do not spend nearly enough time outdoors.  I miss the amount of time I spent outdoors, because it seemed to be good for me.

(9) I was not a softie in those days, like I sometimes fear I am becoming. I was strong, and a staunch survivor. I endured life’s vicissitudes without pampering or babying myself.  I was vigorous and ready for anything.  Now I’m lazy, slacking, undisciplined, and not ready for jack shit.

(10) In general, things that would be regarded as frequent temptations in the realm of indoor living were seen as rare opportunities in the realm of the outdoors. If somebody tossed me a doughnut, I rejoiced — I didn’t worry about my calories. If marijuana showed up, I rejoiced to smoke it, and went my way. I didn’t worry about smoking the whole bag in less than twenty-four hours because it was just so easy to keep tugging on that thing while staring at all the pretty images on my indoor computer.

In conclusion, things that I absolutely loved when I lived outdoors have become the very things I absolutely hate while I continue to try to live indoors.  The shock of the hugeness of the transition continues to be too much for me, and I am extremely surprised that I have managed to stay indoors for over a year and a half now without giving up and hitting the road.

Those are just off the top of my head. I’m sure many other benefits of homelessness will come to mind, if I really think about it. But along with those benefits came huge detriments, often suddenly and out-of-the-blue. My life was often threatened, I was subjected twice to strong armed robbery and once to arson, and many items of value were stolen from me in the night whilst I slept.

So it’s important at this stage in my journey that I resist the temptation to default back to homelessness. It’s important that I regain some of the simple disciplines that kept me trim, fit, and healthy for so many years before I ever had to be homeless. Being sedentary, after being highly active for so long, has not been a whole lot of fun.

Oh, don’t get me wrong. I have not gone so far as to get an automobile yet.  I still walk four to six miles a day for transportation, and I go on long runs on the weekends. But somehow, used to all that excessive exercise, I’ve still managed to gain fifty pounds. I gotta get that weight off – and if all else fails, I know one sure way to do it.

Once homeless? Always homeless. Guess it’s just in my blood.

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