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.
All 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. Good question. I tend to think that there are two of them — two young rapscallions from the hood, deluded young gentlemen who are often ringing my doorbell at odd hours of the night, for lengthy periods of time, and only to request annoying favors of me.
Q. These two young rapscallions — are they truly your ememies?
A. Probably not. My enemies are probably more internal than external.
Q. What do you mean by that?
A. Well you know, I have all these inner blocks or demons that try to prevent me from staying the course, from keeping to what I’m about, and all that.
Q. But if a guy rings your doorbell at three in the morning, and keeps ringing and knocking until you finally give up and go answer it, and you can’t get back to sleep, how is that your fault in any way?
A. You know something, you’re right. Almost any O.G. would not be able to get to sleep after something like that!
Q. So why are you being such a pushover?
A. That’s the internal enemy I’m talking about. I’m a pushover. The Kid knows that once a month, I’m going to be available to walk down to the nearest ATM and get him money for his chewing tobacco. So what I’ve got to do is just say NO and say it firmly.
Q. Why haven’t you done this already?
A. He keeps catching me off guard. Both of them do — the other one’s not so flagrantly nefarious – but he’s still got his angle. And his angle involves me, because—
A. Because I’m a pushover. And worse yet, I just told the whole world about it. Pretty soon, every rambunctious rapscallion in town will be knocking on my door. On MY door! On the lockable, locked door that I EARNED – after putting in twelve hard years on the streets, where there was no door to be locked, or even to offer the slightest separation from me and all the evils of the night. What a fool I am to willfully descreate and violate the sanctity of my sanctuary! Damn, I’m pissed.
Q. And now?
A. And now what? I just have to make the internal change, and enforce it, and be firm about it. It’s like — a life lesson. It’s something I’m supposed to learn here, while I’m on this Earth, and take it to the next stage of experience, when I’m not.
Q. You think so?
A. Sounds good to me. Not knowing how to stand up for myself and say NO to people landed me in a gutter for over ten years. I daresay I shan’t make the same mistake twice.
The Questioner is Silent.
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(1) Somehow the house felt like a furnace this morning, and it sure felt good to get out of the house and get a blast of nice cold fresh Winter air. Thank God for the open air. Just because I have a decent place to live after living outdoors for all those years doesn’t mean I have to stay inside all the time.
(2) That said, I still thank God that for the past two years, I have lived indoors and have generally been getting a good night’s sleep. I was practically sleeping with one eye open for the better part of twelve years down there.
(3) I was able to get my thyroid medication refilled today and also a scrip to address my bipolar affective condition. This will be the first time I’ve addressed that condition through medication for approximately a year and a half. Though I am leery of the medical-pharmaceutical paradigm in general, sometimes you just gotta take care of your head. Life’s too short, if you know what I mean.
(4) A meeting with an important person on Friday was auspicious.
(5) When I find myself losing sleep over the precarious position of a close family member, it helps to remember that I have also been in that same precarious position. God helped me see my way free of the dangers of the time, and He will help her too.
(6) Nice talk with my good friend Nick last night, and another this morning. He always has a way of helping me put things into perspective.
(7) An unexpected $75 donation took place over night, and should be able to help me defray certain upcoming medical costs.
(8) It is a beautiful, bright, brisk Winter day in the city of my birth.
(9) Returning to my birth city after 63 years was the most positive thing I could ever have done for myself. I knew nothing at all about this town when I stepped off of that bus, let alone that I would have a new job and an apartment within days. By now it almost appears as though this town was custom-designed for me since the day I was born. Of all the positive possibilities that loom ahead of me, the most promising are those that are right here where I stand.
(10) In the words of Oscar Hammerstein II:
You’ve got to have a dream! If you don’t have a dream, How you gonna have a dream come true?
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Q. Why on earth would you ever want to be in a place like California?
A. I get tired of not being allowed to have a problem.
Q. What’s that supposed to mean?
A. My experience with the State of California, having lived in a number of different cities there, is that in California, I was permitted to have a problem.
Q. What do you mean, “permitted to have a problem?”
A. Down there it was okay for me to have a problem.
Q. And it’s not okay up here to have a problem?
A. Not really. Nobody seems to have any problems up here. Or, if they do, they certainly don’t show them. Me? I’ve got problems. I’ve got issues. And when they arise, they stick out like a sore thumb.
Q. So you’re saying you don’t feel like you fit in up here?
A. Not when I have this many problems, no. Down in California, it seems like everybody’s got problems. So I blend right in.
Q. But haven’t you solved a lot of your problems since you’ve been up here?
A. Some of them, yes. I’m paying $450 for a one bedroom apartment that would have been $1800 down there, at least in the Bay Area. I’m not on the streets anymore. I’ve got a decent place to live, and privacy. And being around happy people has boosted my morale. Just today, the Personnel Director at my church said twice that he believes I was meant to be here. That God had something to do with it. And it was encouraging, but still — I kinda feel like I’m just about the unhappiest one in the bunch.
Q. Why do I find that hard to believe?
A. Probably because I have a reputation of being a happy-go-lucky guy who rises with the song of the lark and wants very little out of life except to write his writings, speak his speakings, and compose his composings in peace.
Q. And are you not precisely what your reputation suggests?
A. Usually I am. But right now I’m not. Not the past three months anyway. Too many problems.
Q. Would going back to California solve these problems?
A. Of course not. But it would put me in a place where everybody else had at least as many problems as I do. I wouldn’t feel so alone.
Q. Could it possibly be that you are only having a bad day?
A. Maybe. And just maybe it’s in a financial area. Now I don’t personally mind being poor or encountering setbacks. It’s a lot better to be poor, and to live inside and have food in the cupboard, than it is to be poor and have to live on the streets. But what happens is that when setbacks are encountered, it aggravates my class issues.
Q. Class issues?
A. Yes. All the things that I get paid by people like Classism Exposed to write about. And while these events may indeed bolster my writing eventually, I tend to have to wade through a wad of resentment against “rich people” in the meantime.
Q. You have resentment against rich people?
A. Well, I try not to. And I eventually get over it. But I gotta just tell you, some of these rich people — I don’t care about their money. It’s the lectures. They lecture me about things they’ve never been through and can’t possibly understand. And they expect me to kiss their asses every time they do me the slightest favor, even though it’s totally no skin off their backs. And they, they —
Q. They what, Andy? And who are they? Isn’t this supposed to be about you, and not about an abstract group of invisible “rich people” who are always lecturing you expecting you to kiss their asses?
A. Three questions at once? Really, Questioner! You seem almost as uptight as I am.
Q. Then why don’t we both slow down?
A. Sounds like a plan. I’ll answer the first question. They — whoever they are — expect me to be able to do the things that they can do. This is because they, unlike me, either have either the money to do them, or the mental health to do them, or both.
Q. And who are they?
A. Just a bunch of phantoms from my past whom I never see anymore, never talk to, and yet still fly around like bats in my brain.
Q. Isn’t this supposed to be about you and not about them?
A. Yes, but I am just too upset right now.
A. Financial. It’s the end of the month. I’m on a fixed income. A couple unexpected charges came in, and it threw me into a state of insecurity. When I was feeling kinda low about it, I made the mistake of mentioning it to somebody. I went into some detail, and they only said: “that’s life!” In California, they would have commiserated. They would have all shared stories about similar insecurities, and how frustrated they all were. And then, my depression would have been validated — not dismissed.
Q. But rather than seek validation for your depression, why not accept that this is a fact of life like the happy people do?
A. Well, that’s where my mental health comes in. I’ve got some kind of problem that makes me over-react to stuff like this. They say — bipolar. I don’t know. I get tired of it all. Which is also a part of my mental health problem.
Q. Come on now — is it really your mental health? Are you really that crazy?
A. No – I don’t like to think so anyway. I mean, what are you driving at?
Q. Do you really want to sacrifice the things you do well in order to correct the things you do poorly?
A. Don’t make me laugh! Have you listened to my piano playinglately? There’s rage written all over it! If I treated a human being the way I treat that piano, I’d be in jail for Assault and Battery.
Q. So these psych meds will make your music more placid? Less threatening?
A. I wasn’t going to put it that way!
Q. Are you ready to play hard ball?
A. Probably not. Do I have a choice in the matter?
Q. How many laptops were stolen from you in California during the last three years you lived there?
A. Five. Four in Berkeley, and one in Oakland.
Q. How many laptops have been stolen from you in the past 2 1/2 years you have lived here?
Q. How many cell phones and headphones were stolen from you in California?
A. Too many to count.
Q. Has anything at all been stolen from you in Idaho?
A. No. Not one thing.
Q. How many jobs did you get the last three years you were in California?
Q. How many jobs have you had since you’ve been up here?
Q. When was the last time you signed a one year lease on an apartment in California?
A. Gosh, I don’t know. Probably in the 70’s in college, when my dad cosigned.
Q. How many one year leases have you signed on apartments in Idaho?
A. Two. Go on.
Q. How many people called you “crazy” when you were in California?
A. Just about everyone I know. Close friends even. I was like — a curiosity piece to them. Always the odd man out, the weirdo.
Q. How many people have called you “crazy” in North Idaho?
A. Zero. Go on.
Q. How many years were you out on the streets in California?
A. You know the answer to that. Twelve years, barring scattered rentals here and there that never worked out.
Q. How many days have you spent on the streets since you’ve been in Idaho?
A. Zero. Please continue.
Q. How many people whom you know from California think that you experienced a total psychic change on a 48-hour bus trip to Idaho?
A. Quite a few. If one more Californian tells me that I “found God” on that bus trip, I think he’s going to find a right cross in his mug that came straight from the devil. Go on.
Q. How many people in Idaho believe that you experienced a total psychic change on a 48 hour bus trip?
A. Zero. Of course, they have no idea what I was like before the 48-hour bus trip. But I can guarantee you that I did not change one bit during those 48 hours.
Q. How many drivers have flipped you off in Idaho?
Q. How many grown men and women have you encountered in Idaho who blame all their problems on their parents?
Q. Have you met anyone in Idaho who refuses to call their mother on Mother’s Day?
A. Not yet. Go on.
Q. How many people accepted you for who you are in the State of California?
A. Not too many! They were always trying to change me into something I was not.
Q. Are you accepted for who you are here in Idaho?
A. Totally. Nobody tries to change anybody up here. It’s refreshing.
Q. When your ex-wife came back to you after thirty years, what was the overall reaction among people whom you know here in Idaho?
A. People were thrilled! They encouraged us. They thought what we were doing was fantastic – we got nothing but positive from every single person here.
Q. And how did people in California react?
A. They thought I was crazy, as usual. If they said anything at all, it was something along the lines of: “I’m gonna stay out of that one!”
Q. Are you ready for the Big One?
A. There’s a bigger one than that? You gotta be kidding.
Q. How many people complimented you on your typing speed in California?
A. Not many.
Q. How many people in California told you that you were typing too loud?
A. Innumerable. It happened three times a week. Sometimes three times a day.
Q. How many people in Idaho have told you that you were typing too loud?
Q. How many people have complimented you on your typing speed here in Idaho?
A. Shucks, I don’t know. Twenty or thirty maybe.
Q. And what does all this say?
A. It says that, due to a variety of factors, some of them cultural, some of them socio-economic, people in Idaho seem to have a tendency to emphasize the positive. People in California, unbeknownst to them, appear to have a tendency to emphasize the negative.
Q. Which do you prefer?
A. The positive, of course.
Q. Then why don’t you start emphasizing it?
A. That, sir, is the $64,000 question.
Q. May I be excused, then?
A. Not so fast, buddy. You gotta feel my sarcasm first. I’ve got issues. And they’re a hell of a lot deeper than financial. I’m as positive right now as I can possibly be, or as I even should be, in the eyes of an all-knowing God.
Q. Do tell – what are these deeper issues?
A. They’re none of your damned business. Get outta here.
The Questioner is silent.
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A. “Fortitude” implies more of a “just do it” approach. That is, even if one lacks courage in general. Just do it anyway, even when scared. “Saying no” is a good example. I need “fortitude” (not courage) to say “no.” That’s what I think the difference is, anyway.
Q. Does this apply to something in your life today?
A. Lots of things.
Q. How so?
A. I burn out a lot. If I don’t feel like doing something, I usually don’t do it.
Q. Then how does it ever get done?
A. Because I know that later on, I probably will feel like doing it. So I wait till that happens, and in the meantime I do what I do feel like doing — knowing that I probably won’t feel like doing it later.
Q. Does that apply to everything?
A. No. It doesn’t apply to things that I never feel like doing.
Q. What do you never feel like doing?
A. Washing the dishes. I never feel like washing the dishes.
Q. And the dishes have piled up?
A. “Piled up” is an understatement.
Q. How did you allow this to happen?
A. Well – it’s a bit on the personal side, but I guess the answer would be: “When have I not allowed it to happen?” I’m just lousy at washing dishes. They were clean for a while when there was someone here helping me with that kind of thing. But that person isn’t here right now. And anyway, dishes are just an example.
Q. What’s another example?
A. Saying “no” in general. Keeping a couple people from knocking on my door at any hour. And they don’t just knock. They ring the bell. Then they wait, and then ring it five times. Then they wait, and start pounding on the door. Then I finally realize it’s never going to end. So I get up, even from being fast asleep, and explain that I’m sleeping and could they please come back another time.
A. Well yeah – we had the one guy over for dinner a couple times, when there was still two of us here. It didn’t seem a big deal at the time.
Q. Then why does it seem a big deal now?
A. Other than that I’m being woke up in the middle of the night a lot? That’s not a big deal?
Q. Isn’t there a bigger deal?
A. Well yeah – at the root of it, there is. The bigger deal is I never just flat out tell these guys that I’d rather they don’t come over at all.
Q. Why not?
A. I don’t know. I feel sorry for the one guy. He’s been out in the cold a couple times. Less sorry now, though, because I think he stole from me, and I heard he’s in jail right now. Didn’t figure him for the “type,” but I noticed something was off last time. Probably they switched his meds or something.
Q. What about the other guy?
A. I keep coming up with a use for him. He’s a computer whiz, and he helped me get the right adapter so I could use my ThinkPad as a desktop now that it’s screen is cracked.
Q. Your laptop screen is cracked?
A. Yeah. I had to plug it into an external monitor and start working from home.
Q. How did this happen?
A. I have no idea. All I know is that it happens all too often. And now I’m tempted to go over to the guy’s place with my old Dell, because I can’t get it to start up.
Q. But didn’t you start it up this morning? Didn’t I read that on your gratitude list?
A. Yes, you did. But it only started up that one time. Every other time I’ve tried it gets into a weird loop telling me it needs to restart, then I restart, and it tells me it needs to restart. And so on.
Q. Do you ever feel like you’re having more than your fair share of technical problems?
A. What do you mean? New cell phone gets damaged due to water damage. Second new cell phone gets cut off because they think I’m supposed to have the number of the old cell phone. PayPal account gets locked for “suspicious activity” when I try to change my phone number. Trying to send money from my PayPal somehow takes the money out of my bank account instead of my PayPal balance (Lord knows why) and now my bank account is overdrawn, plus I never succeeded in sending the money. It’s still just sitting there in my PayPal account. But when I try to transfer it to my bank I get a message telling me that they’re “not sure it’s me.” I called them, and apparently when a person changes their phone number, it is regarded as “suspicious activity.”
Q. Anything else?
A. Thanks for asking. So I wake up yesterday morning to a broken laptop screen. And finally my back-up computer refuses to start up. Well fine. I’ll just work at home even though I’m totally paranoid these Kids are going to start pounding on the door any minute now.
A. Is that all?
Q. Probably not. I mean — I’m an Artist. I live for these moments of ecstasy I get when my work is going well. I don’t know how to make money. I don’t know how to deal with all this technical stuff. They should only lay technical difficulties on people who can afford to deal with them.
Q. When did your life become so erratic?
A. One guess.
The Questioner is silent.
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I’m sorry to have to do this to you guys, but if I don’t submit my statement of artistic neurosis very soon, the neurosis is likely to increase.
My neurosis is most manifested in two recent posts, one which I have deleted, and one which I am about to delete. The one which I have deleted is Tuesday Tuneup 28. I will probably compose a shorter and less wild tuneup soon, and post it in its place.
Secondly, we have the issue of Brian’s Song. This one I won’t delete until I’ve played it to my satisfaction. Then I’ll replace it on the same link. (By the way, since this will probably take me forever, you might as well continue to enjoy it, if you happened to like it the first time.) To be honest, I was ready to delete it about twenty minutes after the first time I listened to it. But then, when I went to remove the post, I found that three people had already commented on how much they liked it. I couldn’t bare to delete it after that, because people had liked it, even though I had not.
There’s probably a psychological term for that form of people-pleasing. In a lay person’s terms, I would say it relates to my having been brought up as an entertainer. Please allow me to elaborate.
These days, we hear a lot about people who have been traumatized in early childhood, due to abuse or neglect on the part of parents or other older “role models” in their lives. My childhood contained nothing of the sort.
When I was five years old, my family was calling me the “Bob Hope of the future” due to my propensity to entertain them with original jokes that seemed a bit out of character for a five year old.
When I was eight years old, I basically kicked the school music teacher, Mrs. Bechmire, off of the piano bench and began to accompany the elementary school choir.
By the time I was about ten, it was not uncommon for news cameras to show up wherever I happened to be playing the piano, as people shouted out requests.
Play Hello Dolly!
I gladly indulged their requests, after which I would tell a few jokes, soak in the applause and the laughter, and go about my merry way. While other children were being abused and neglected, I was being belauded and praised. Only one person did not join in that praise: my dad.
While everyone was encouraging me to pursue a career in the Performing Arts, my dad (whom I idolized) was expressing extreme disappointment that his firstborn son was not following in his footsteps.
However, I could not follow in his footsteps, and for two very good reasons:
(1) I wasn’t genetically wired to be good at things like carpentry, electronics, and auto mechanics. My DNA was heading me in a very different direction, at a very early age.
(2) Whenever he tried to teach me these things, I couldn’t focus or understand what he was saying. Looking back, there are probably two reasons why this is true:
(a) I had severe, untreated ADHD.
(b) I was terrified of my father’s disappointment. I wanted terribly to please him, and yet he was the one person whom I could not please.
So, while Dad tried to mold me into a junior form of his own self, I cowered in fear of the words that were soon to come:
“Andy, I’m afraid you can’t do anything right!”
My father was a Jack of All Trades. As such, he also happened to be a very fine piano player. But for some reason, the piano was the one thing he did not try to teach me. I watched him play piano after dinner between the ages of 5 and 7, and told him repeatedly:
“I see what you’re doing! I’ve figured it all out!”
At that, Dad would chuckle. “You can’t learn how to play a piano just by watching somebody play!”
But lo and behold, when I was seven years old, I stepped out of the bathtub one day (where I had been practicing “Old McDonald” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb” on my imaginary bathtub keyboard.) Sitting down confidently at the piano, I played the two children’s songs on the piano, never having a played a piano before. (With both hands, too!) My mom just about dropped a plate of spaghetti on the floor, and rushed me to the nearest piano teacher.
It was me against Dad from then on. He tried to mold me into the type of piano player that he was. But it didn’t work. I became the type of piano player whom I am.
So that’s my story in a nutshell. I couldn’t please my Dad, so I went out of my way to please everybody else. And how better to please them — than to entertain them. And if anybody can apprise me as to the proper psychological term for this kind of disorder or dynamic, please fill me in. Only one caveat — anybody saying Narcissistic Personality Disordermay expect a pie in their face.
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1. Norman. Really grateful for my pastor and supportive friend.
2. My apartment. It’s in a nice secluded location; it’s quiet; the neighbors are quiet and unintrusive; it’s spacious and well-furnished; and it gives me personal space, privacy, and solitude — much appreciated at this time in my life.
3. A friend offered me $50 to help me through the rest of the month.
4. The haircut place, and Carmen being such a nice person and a good barber. Glad I got a decent haircut and beard trim yesterday.
5. The city in general. It’s a very positive and accepting community, and very supportive of the Arts.
6. My church. It really is a nice church. People are intelligent, and educated for the most part, and kind.
7. The One World Cafe. It’s really a nice place to work on my vocal score. A nice atmosphere with a nice staff and crew, and a pleasant group of regular customers, mostly students and professors from the University.
8. Danielle, who has been such a great and faithful friend over so many years.
9. The way that everybody here at the Recovery Center likes my music, and how they’re even going to pipe the piano pieces from my youtube channel over the speakers at the Fairgrounds when we have our picnic on Saturday. The way that this directly contrasts how everybody at the fellowship in the Bay Area kept telling me that my music was my biggest problem.
10. Nobody is mad at me these days. I’m not perceived to be in any way weird or different or wrong. It’s just such a great feeling. They kept telling me I was “crazy” for so long, it got to me. I’m not crazy; I’m just different. And that’s okay. Ir’s better to be me than whatever it is they all seemed to think I was supposed to be. And what’s great right now, is that whoever I am is all right. It’s so wonderful to be respected, to be treated with courtesy — as an equal, and not like some sort of lesser being, leper, or pariah.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon. Anything Helps – God Bless!