Categories
Music Performing Arts recovery

Tuesday Tuneup 73

Q. What’s going on inside?

A. Conviction.

Q. You’ve been convicted of a crime?

A. Not that kind of conviction.

Q. What kind, then?

A. Spiritual conviction.

Q. Can you elaborate?

A. I’m convicted!  Does the word mean nothing to you?

Q. Why should it?

A. Weren’t you around during the 80’s?

Q. What happened during the 80’s?

A. There was a massive movement throughout America, I guess it started in the late 70’s.  35% of Americans began identifying themselves as “born again Christian” — and they were markedly more conservative than the average voter.

Q. What’s this got to do with conviction?

A. It became Christian slang for a person to say there were “convicted” when they believed that the Spirit was impressing upon them some thing that they should or should not do.

Q. Isn’t that more like guilt?

A. Not exactly.  One can feel guilty even if one has done nothing wrong.   There are many sources of guilt, and not all of them are positive.

Q. But conviction is always positive?

A. Yes.

Q. Well then!  What are you convicted about?

A. Gee, I thought you’d never ask.

Q. Are you convicted you’ve been doing something wrong?  Or convicted that you haven’t been doing something right?

A. Both.  But the latter seems more salient, and to the point.

Q. What is that you ought to be doing right?

A. Something that doesn’t come natural to me.  But every sign is pointing that I do it.

Q. But what is it?

A. I hesitate to say.

Q. Why?

A. I’ll sound weird.

Q. Cold feet?

A. Heebie jeebies.

Q. WHAT IS IT??

A. I’m supposed to take on these — um — roles.  In the community here.  One is that of being a mediator.   Another, a mentor.

Q. Mediator?  Mediator over what?

A. I seem to have been selected to smooth relations between two neighboring businesses.

Q. Why you?

A. Because I am involved in both businesses, one on a volunteer basis, and one as a hanger-outer in a coffee shop.

Q. What is the essence of the tension between the two establishments?

A. Culture clash.   You see, the people next door from the coffee house are involved in trying to get their lives back together.   A lot of them  have been on drugs, or on the streets, or otherwise severely traumatized.  Some of them have serious mental health conditions.   The point is, many of them come across in confusing ways that don’t fit the social norms.

Q. But they’re good people, right?

A. Absolutely!  It’s just that the people in the coffee house don’t necessarily know that.

Q. What are the people in the coffee house like?

A. Quiet, studious, and reserved.

Q. And the people from the place next door?

A. Loud, boisterous, and unrefined.  

Q. So you’re supposed to be a go-between?

A. Yes.  I’m supposed to gently tell them not to be too loud around the coffee house, or cuss too much, or refer to themselves and others in derogatory terms.   And I’m supposed to explain and defend them to the baristas who may feel uneasy in their presence.

Q. Well, isn’t this a good thing?

A. Well, yeah.  It’s better than if the owners had decided just to kick them out of the coffeehouse.  But it’s still a strange position for me to be in.  I have no experience in this area.

Q. So how will you go about this?

A. One step at a time.

Q. Will you wear a badge?

A. Not on your life.  

Q. What about the mentoring?

A. That’s a little more down my alley.   You see, this guy died last month.  A dear friend of mine.  Here’s a picture of him:

Paul Anders

Q. Wasn’t he a little young to die?

A. Young like mid-50’s.  Fit, healthy, vibrant.  Paul caught some kind of flu, turned to pneumonia, turned to a staph infection, then sepsis – and he was gone in about ten days.  He was a great musician – and a great guy.  It shocked the entire community, and left a great void.

Q. What’s this got to do with mentoring?

A. Paul was a mentor and a role model for many of the younger musicians in the community.  He played about ten different instruments, freely played music with all, and encouraged all musicians to embrace and develop their full potential.

Q. And you are supposed to do this in his stead?

A. No one can replace Paul.  But I get this sense that I’m supposed to break out of my shell somewhat, and contact some of the musicians, and see if I can be of help in any way.  In fact, there’s these two brothers who play music — they’re both in their early to mid twenties, and one of them is a fantastic bass player.  Their dad actually approached me.  He said point blank that I am the one to fulfill this role.

Q. How does that make you feel?

A. Honored.   And like I said, convicted.

Q. Almost guilty?   Or afraid, maybe?

A. Only because I’ve never done it before.   

Q. Is that really true, Andy?

A. Well — not for a long time.  I used to be a music teacher, and a musical director for musical theatre productions.   I saw that the kids looked up to me, and I enjoyed passing off my knowledge as best I could.

Q. Then what happened?

A. I think you know what happened.  But let’s just say I was no longer in the position where anybody would see me as either a mentor or a mediator.

Q. But now they do?

A. Somehow, yes — however magically.

Q. So what are you going to do about this conviction?

A. I’m gonna just do it.  I called the bass player, and we’re going to jam at my place on Saturday.   Paul’s 26 year old daughter, herself a singer-songwriter, is going to show up later on this morning with her guitar.

Q. Why does this seem strange to you?  I mean, you’re a musician, right?

A. If you want the truth, the reason I feel so convicted is that it’s making me realize what a self-preoccupied egomaniac I have been throughout most of the past fifteen years.  I’ve lived largely in my head, and not in the world of people.  It started when I was — homeless.  The world of people was too painful to face continually.  So I developed my inner creative world to a new peak, in order to block out the pain of the world around me.

But now, in the world around me — at least in my immediate community — there is very little pain.   Yet for over 3 1/2 years, I’ve persisted in living in my head.  This will give me a chance to get out of my head, and do good things for others, for a change.

Q. And how does that make you feel?

A. It makes me feel good.  Today is the first day in forever that my restless spirit has been at peace.    

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Categories
God gratitude love Music

Gratitude List 1403

(1) A heartfelt prayer for God to change my heart in a certain situation was gradually answered as I knelt for the first time at the foot of the nice sofa someone gave me.  I want to say that I am also grateful for the sofa itself, the fresh cold air that seeps through my cracked window, the double blankets, and the sense of home that wraps around me, whilst I sleep.

(2) On the advice of a friend, I took a hot bath last night with Epsom salts.   Grateful that I have my own bathtub these days.  It’s even greater than having my own shower.  Gone are the days when I had to deal with scores of other dudes in public shower facilities.   Thank God for having finally granted me a living space with dignity, where I have had room to grow and to become closer to my whole, true self.

(3) My church.  They let me hang out there, play the piano, chat with the employees, and even take naps in the study sometimes or cook food in the kitchen.  They’e such a non-judgmental, accepting, tolerant bunch of people.

(4) My daughter.  How many dads can claim that their 34-year-old daughter calls them every single day?

(5) This tiny little out-of-the-way village where I live.  Here, people respect Artists and value the Arts.  I got a lot more than I asked for, when I asked God to get me out of all those years of homelessness.  After all, I had only asked for “a lock on the door, a window, and a power outlet.”  He gave me so much more than that.   He gave me an entire community of like-minded people — a city I can call my home.  

(6) Though I still don’t have a lot of the things that would make my life more comfortable, focusing on what I do have always lifts me up.

(7) Though a setback at the beginning of the month has left its mark, I somehow know that if I do the right things, everything will be all right.

(8) Though it is horrible to see people who are quite lovely in real life acting like asses on Facebook, I am thankful for the counterexample.  Now I know how not to behave, and I look forward to treating those with whom I disagree with courtesy and dignity.

(9) Critical voices from the past — Anti-Art voices who think of Music as something to be bought and sold like used cars, rather than an expression of the Divine — are beginning to lower their volume.

(10) God is Love.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Categories
Homelessness Music Spirituality

Dangers of Liberation (Part Four)

This is the fourth in a seven-part series I am posting on consecutive Thursdays.  Though the series is only quasi-chronological, I urge you to leaf through the first three first.  

Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) Drawing by Granger

The Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard referred to the moment, not as “an atom of time,” but as an “atom of eternity.”  That’s how the moment of August 8, 2006 felt.  One might say that time stood still at that moment, and I had a glimpse of the eternal bliss we might experience in heaven.

This is one reason why I framed this series as I did.   A chronological order of events would not be as meaningful as a spiritual progression, which in a way defies time.  My first day of homelessness was not August 8, 2006 — it was May 17, 2004.  But the night of May 17, 2004 was a night of fright and awful uncertainty, afraid to make myself prone on a bench at the Burlingame CalTrain station, but sitting up all night, nodding off periodically, and watching for cops all the while.

By contrast, the event of August 8, 2006 was one of momentary ecstasy, but where did that moment lead?  Down the tubes fairly quickly, as I recall.  Its memory, however, did not fade.

That memory was in fact felt in retrospect.  For on March 19, 2004, I took a look at my badly beaten car, its front end crunched like an accordion.   As I discovered the freedom of public transportation, of leaving the driving to those more capable than myself, I was granted a foreshadow of the more complete liberation I would know two years in the future.

The horror that marked my final three years in Berkeley was also foretold.  It wasn’t until June 24, 2013 that I first found myself pistol-whipped, as I watched a pair of young hooligans making off with my laptop.   But on some unknown date back in June of 2004, I had known a much more serious violation, of the kind that in civil society it is not thought proper to discuss.

The complex confluence of incongruous influences that comprised the conditions of homelessness was never considered a drain or an overload, in the way that the Mainstream had been.  The overload of the Mainstream was death to my soul. But all the excesses of stimuli that combined to create the Homeless Adventure were health to my spirit, and marrow to my bones.

“Naked I am!” I shouted.  “I am stripped of all I have ever thought I would be!  I have made myself naked and vulnerable in the face of a fully mercurial and often hostile Universe!”

I saw all my possessions be burned to bits before my eyes, the act of an unfeeling young juggaloe who hadn’t slept in days.   I was hurled to the ground by deluded gangbangers, shouting “I’m going to kill you White Motherf—-r!” — as they hit me again and again with the barrels of their guns, on the head I had bowed before them.

Yet through all these atrocities, I found it in myself to sleep on my back without bedroll in a thunderstorm, exerting pelvic thrusts in the direction of the full moon, and reveling.

“Bring it on!” I screamed.  “I want more!  I want more!!”

Then, getting up, fully clad and with shoes on — (for I always slept in shoes, so as to be ready) — I suddenly shivered.   So what did I do?   Of course, I ran as far as I could, as fast as I could, till I warmed.

When the sun shone, and the daylight burned, I walked about the City of Berkeley and composed music in protest, having not paper nor pen, neither software, nor laptop, no possessions at all, save the clothes on my back.

“Bop bop bop!” came the singing of the melodies.   My weathered trousers were as sets of drums.   Keyboards and electric guitars anointed the air, while passersby mocked and mimicked me, shouting: “Shut the f—k up!”  Meanwhile, seemingly unbeknowst to them, I composed the score to Eden in Babylon— to my proud estimation, the finest music I have written thus far, to date — in the timeless spool of life.

“That’s your whole problem!” my naysayers chided.  “You think that your music is more important than God.”

“Ah but no,” I replied.  “It’s your problem.  You think that your Mainstream is God.”

There was nothing Mainstream about the Uniqueness that was Homelessness in Berkeley.  So for all of the fears, the highs, and the rages, it yet remained sacred — to me.

“How do we get inside again?” my friend Jerome had earlier queried.   “How do we get back inside, and yet not get sucked back into the Mainstream?”

In search of answer, I shouted at the Most High in outrage.

“WHY am I hanging around pimps and hookers and drug dealers and thieves and criminals and hustlers and panhandlers?   WHY am I not among Artists and Writers and Musicians and Actors and Directors — and people more like myself!?  I know — I know — these are the people whom JESUS hung out with!   But I’m NOT JESUS!!! I’m NOT JESUS!!  I’m only f—ing human!!!  Give me a god-d—–d break!!!!”

Many times did I scream to the God of my youth.  Many times someone screamed back at me: “Would you just shut the f—-k up?!”

Then came the terrifying threats of the night.  “This guy,” said a jealous man, pointing my way, “is not going to live much longer.”

“You know what?” I told myself.  “He’s probably right.”

So on June 24, 2016, exactly three years after the first of a series of violent assaults against my person, I went down to Bill’s Computer Store on Shattuck Avenue, bought myself a refurbished Dell laptop with my government check, and walked quietly away from the City of Berkeley without saying a word.

God then proceeded to answer every prayer I had hurled toward Him, facing His Infinite Love with hatred and vitriol.   He answered those prayers sevenfold, nay — seventy times sevenfold — in spades.   And He provided a way for me to live inside without getting sucked back into the evils of the Mainstream.   In so doing, He showed me the hugeness of His unfathomable, unconditional love.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

Categories
Music Musical Piano

A Whiter Shade of Pale

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way. 

 

Categories
Artist bible Music Piano scripture

Gratitude List 1350

Did this one Saturday morning immediately on awakening.   I’m glad I’ve given up the concept of a “morning ritual.”   Things have been working out a lot better with my new “spontaneous” approach.  (Helps with the holiday blues, too).

1. Really interesting, obviously meaningful, vivid dreams.

2. Slept almost 8 hrs between 10:30 and 6:30, getting up briefly at 4 to take my thyroid medication.  Surprised I slept so well and so long.

3. Made it to the Food Bank and this time they gave me coffee too. Walked two big bags home and nothing broke.

4. Heard from T. three times yesterday, like late at night.  She seemed to want to interact, but I was too brain-dead. Then I dreamed about her all night, and it’s interesting that I’ve gotten to No. 4 (doing this first thing on waking up) and still remember the dreams.

5. I even stopped to make coffee in the meantime, and I still remember the dreams.  Moreover, this time the coffee’s at the right strength — it’s Winko’s Classic Roast — and it tastes so good. Nice to have a coffee maker and good coffee, when it’s so cold outside. Nice to be inside. Nice to be out of the cold.

6. Heard from Jennifer, the God Thru the Arts lady, whom I believe is a music teacher back East. She liked my We Three Kings.   Sorta made my night to hear from her.  

7. I don’t seem to have a big urge or craving to smoke, or any desire to go out of my way to get any.  For me, this is a good thing. I just want the issue to be out of the way so I can stop tripping on it and be more effective in life, without it always tugging at me. And that seems to be happening, though I feel a void.

8. Thankful for those two theology groups, and the way I met them just because they were entering the reserved reading room to the right of the Round Table, and I sort of merrily joined in. The one from St. Mark’s has turned out to be a real blessing. 

9. Read all of 1 Peter and 2 Peter when I came home last night. I should read the Bible more, it has a way of making me humble.

10. Okay, so I’ve been depressed lately because it seems I don’t quite know how to love or be loved.  The things that most people seek after escape me.  They don’t interest me; I don’t understand what they think they’re going to receive from all these situations that almost invariably cause them pain.  The dream was all about that too, combined with me being in a stressed out leadership position and winding up crying on some lady’s shoulder at the end. But you wanna know what? It’s my Karma. Time to Embrace It. My lot in life, my portion – could have been a lot more meaningless.  Let God Be My Judge.  I am grateful for who I am.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

Categories
Artist Creative process Music Musical Piano

Resolve

I dug this up the other day, thought I’d lost it.  It’s “Resolve” from my concept album, Abandon.  Thought it was worth sharing, if for no other reason than you get to see me without my beanie on.   (Believe me, that’s a once-in-a-lifetime appearance.)

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Categories
Artist Music Piano

California Dreamin’

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Categories
Artist Music Performing Arts Piano

A Day in the Life

The holiday threw off my plans to record a new piano piece, but I would like to offer my very dark version of “A Day in the Life,” the famous Beatles tune by John Lennon & Paul McCartney, as recorded using a Samsung Galaxy J-1.  Andy Pope at the Baldwin Grand, January 10, 2018.   Hope you enjoy it.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

 

Categories
Artist Creative process Music Musical Piano

Kum Ba Yah

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Categories
Family love Music Musical Songwriting

Bad Dream

I get tired of talking about ADHD & Dyslexia, let alone being on a autism spectrum.  Most people just wanna see & hear me hit the keys.  So let’s just say I’m a highly disorganized person, and that the hassle of trying to get these piano tubes together without a sufficient recording device (i.e. a smartphone) has been kinda like a bad dream at times.

On a brighter note, the problem should soon be solved, being as my daughter Angela will be arriving tonight for a two-month visit — complete with iPhone Six.  Henceforth, you can surely expect piano pieces promptly posted properly if not previously.  

Here’s her bold version of “Bad Dream” by one of my favorite, highly underrated artists, the great Chloe Howl. 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.