On Disorganization

Disorganization has been my mortal enemy lately.   So much so, that I often feel that if it weren’t for disorganization, I’d probably be able to get my musical produced.   Although we all have a tendency to be set back by forces beyond our control, it seems to me that disorganization is something that I can control.  It therefore leads me naturally to wonder why it is that I have become so disorganized.  I used to be one of the most organized people on the planet.

I used to be so punctual that people practically set their clocks according to the time that I was going to show up.  Once, back in around 2003 or so, my client told me they had almost called the cops out of concern for me — only because I was ten minutes late.  It was unlikely that I would have shown up later than a minute before the prescribed time.

I used to run my morning ritual like clockwork.   There were about five or ten actions that I performed religiously every single morning, in the same order every morning, without pausing.  Nowadays, the occasion of getting out the door in the morning is almost nothing but one giant pause.

“Where’s my shoes?”   
“What happened to my headphones?”   
“I could have sworn I had one last coffee filter!”

So how exactly did I become so scattered?   The answer could be given in less than four words – but here are the first four that come to mind:

TWELVE YEARS OF HOMELESSNESS!

homelessoffice
“Homeless Office”

When I was homeless, I had no problem finding my shoes because I slept in them.  Why, you may ask, did I sleep in them?   For at least two reasons.   First, at any time of the day or night, anybody could come out of anywhere and interrupt my sleep, sometimes with knife in hand.  I needed to be able to get up and run as fast as I could, as far as I could, calm my nerves, and find another place to sleep.

Secondly, if I took off my shoes and set them at my side, there would be a strong chance they wouldn’t be there in the morning.  They just might be the right size for another homeless guy whose shoes had been stolen as well.  Shoes, after all, go for at least five bucks at the pawn shop.   And five bucks when you’re homeless and out in a thunderstorm can save a homeless person’s life.  That person can get on a warm bus and sleep all night, rather than die of hypothermia in the elements.

Headphones?   You think I would dare own a pair of headphones under such conditions?  Well yes, I often so dared, and I would have to buy a new pair before I knew it.   Why bother?   A pair of headphones equals a twenty dollar bag of dope in that realm, and I might even risk bodily harm if I tried to defend myself.

(The absurdity of there being any role for coffee filters in such a realm is so obvious, it is probably redundant for me to have alluded to it even once.)

But the bright side of all this is a fact that not many people would even guess, had they not themselves been homeless over an extended period of time.   For that same homeless person who stole your twenty-five dollar SONY headphones will later drop a twenty dollar bill in your cup without saying a word.

Barring the sociopathic and criminal element — which does indeed exist but is far from the norm —  the homeless person doesn’t steal because he is a thief by nature.  He steals out of desperation, and feels pretty bad about it.   Even a young man who stole an entire laptop from me felt so bad about it, he ingratiated me with various gifts for two years, until I finally told him we were even.

So it’s not too much of a surprise I’m having a bit of difficulty getting organized, considering the level of “organization” I was dealing with for the better part of twelve years.  I’ve only lived indoors again for about a year and a half now, and old habits — or the lack thereof — die hard.

And if you want to find out what homelessness is really like, find out from someone who has been there.  Not for a week, or a month, or a season.   From someone who has been homeless for nearly half of his adult life — and who amazed everyone he knew by pulling out of it.

Find out from Eden in Babylon.   Please support this timely project, and please be “punctual” — while there still is time.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

Turns Toward Dawn

This has been a very strange and telling phase in my life.  While I’ve not seen myself make much headway in the areas where I have typically been placing my focus, I have noticed that progress appears to be taking place on a completely different level.   This is the second time in recent months when the desired progress toward the production of my new musical appears to be at a standstill, but yet an unexpectedly bright happenstance is seen taking place on an entirely different plane.

The first time was during August through October, when I saw five of my short pieces on the homeless phenomenon in America become published in Street Spirit, a Berkeley-based periodical dealing with such issues, distributed throughout the East Bay Area and in Santa Cruz.   (A sixth article, by the way, was published in the November issue, which unfortunately has not yet made it online.   The article is called The Class Gap, and is based on my blog post The Voices That Count.  The link on the title is to a pdf of the full page devoted to my story.)  The sudden opportunity for publication in the hitherto unexplored periodical coincided with a dry spell in my own efforts to persist in pushing my musical toward production.

Similarly, in the past two weeks, I really haven’t progressed at the desired rate with my usual push to produce the show.   But I have seen the community here come to embrace my piano playing on the local level, which is something for which I have been silently longing.  First, on Wednesday the 29th, I had the opportunity to play for the annual holiday dinner hosted by the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute.

There were probably close to a hundred people there. All nice people. I played jazz standards like I used to play when I had a regular piano job in the 90’s in the Bay Area.  I got paid for the gig in cash, and made decent tips, too.  I felt so good about it all, and was so appreciated, that it made me want to do it all the time. Imagine if only I could make that kind of money on a regular basis! I wouldn’t have to do anything else in life, other than rejoice and relax, I suppose. I mean, I’m sure that binding obligations would arise as usual, life being life. But it would sure solve a lot of problems.

The most flattering part of the night was when a critic named Donna from the Tuesday Night Critics Group showed up. She put a tip in my jar and said: “I’m the one who emailed you raving about your new musical.” Then I remembered that I’d met her briefly when I had shown up for critique one night. She went so far as to read the entire show and write to me in detail. It was funny too, because she had an idea for a device in the last Scene that I had to admit was a good one, and I wound up using it in the second draft that I finished on November 8th. She hasn’t read that version yet, but I assured her it was in there.

Then, last Tuesday, December 5th, I played the piano for the Community Event of Remembrance, when every year people in the community gather to commemorate those who have passed away in our lives throughout the past year. Usually the music is provided by whoever does the stuff at funerals, but for some reason they had to back out at the last minute. So I was called.

I believe I did a good job, despite myself. I think I selected appropriate music for the prelude and postlude, as well as an interim processional when everyone was approaching the tree to be given an ornament representing the one who had died in their life.  There was a tenor from the Evangelical Free Church who directed the hymns and sang special music at the piano. I was otherwise at the Baldwin grand piano, and messages were delivered by the priest from St. Mary’s, the pastor from the United Church, and my own pastor.  It seemed very well-coordinated, despite little rehearsal.  Moreover, it was a very meaningful event, where people were in no way disingenuous or full of affectation, but extremely real and genuine, authentic, and without hypocrisy of any sort.  Afterwards, I received a number of very kind compliments.  People seemed genuinely moved by my presentation, which was a little odd, considering how detached I felt from it all. But it was definitely an honor to have been given the opportunity, and it was good that I rose to the occasion.

Otherwise, I’m on the new computer now. I found one like it on Amazon — it lists for $875. It’s a pretty amazing machine, came with 8gb installed RAM and an Intel i7 processor, 2.8ghz. It’s a real blessing. Having a new computer is kind of like having the new apartment. It gives me a chance to start afresh, and not make the same mistakes I made last time. It’s also about as much better of a computer than my last one as this apartment is a better apartment than my last. So there’s a positive sense of moving up in the world.

One of the first things I did with the new machine was upload this you tube of my playing piano at Moscow First Presbyterian Church on Wednesday the 30th.  It came out surprisingly well, especially considering it was recorded using my pastor’s iPhone.  But in a way, that gives it a raw, uncut quality that I believe informs its artistry.  It’s amazing what kind of effect a fine piano can have on one’s musicianship.

 

Well, I need to get to church and sing with the Choir.   I wanted to make sure I got this stuff to you beforehand.   I did – so now I can relax!   Hoping you all have a blessed Sunday.  Take care, and God bless.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

The Template of My Dreams

There is a lot of pent up frustration inside me right now.  My computer pretty much crashed earlier, and I lost it emotionally. I’d just gotten geared up to use a new template I’d created for the instrumental accompaniment score to this most recent release of Eden in Babylon obviously the winner in my book. With added instruments from the original score, it amounts to two drum sets (midi trap and electronic GPO kit), Fender jazz fretted bass, clean Gibson electric rhythm guitar, distortion Ibanez electric lead guitar, solo viola, string section, Steinway grand piano, Hautwerp all stops organ, tenor sax section, trombone section, trumpet section, harpsichord, and flute solo.

I was gleeful as I created a new sound for Winston’s central number, The Word from Beyond until all of a sudden BAM! I overloaded the system entirely and soon was faced with a total crash.

I was able to recover my file, and start over after I let the machine cool down a bit, but things were pretty dicey there for a while. The old 2011 Dell Latitude was distinctly complaining. I, meanwhile, freaked out, as I said. Screamed and yelled and cussed. I was pretty pissed.

While I was still angry, I called a friend at my church for emotional support.  After a lengthy conversation, he agreed to help me with a new computer — although that was not the initial reason why I had called him.  He believes in me.  He feels that I truly need a new computer by now, and that my project is of value. I sent him my tune in its current condition. (I don’t dare add the singing to it — even my own measly voice — at this unstable, highly tenuous stage.)

So, when he asked what my requirements were, I decided to err on the side of caution.  I woudn’t want to get a computer with similar specs to the current one.  So I shot for bigger and better than that.  Boldly, as it were, I asked him to get me a Windows 10 machine with 6gb RAM and at least a dual core 2.7ghz processor, hopefully one with a wide screen.  I asked this huge boon of him in a spirit of necessity — because as far as further future Finale music scoring is concerned, this puppy is toast.

“The Word from Beyond”
from the new musical Eden in Babylon

Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope.
All Rights Reserved.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

Somebody Gave Easily

Lately there has been a gnawing sensation within me that a critical part of my story has been left out. I’ve been wanting to relate a certain turn of events that occurred in July 2016, after I had left Berkeley, but before I had moved up to Idaho. It may explain why it is that I am so passionate about what I am writing, and why I now know that my life has meaning.

To provide some background, I left Berkeley, California on the day that I received my monthly Social Security check for July. On that day, I bought a laptop. Knowing that four laptops had been stolen in a three year period in Berkeley, and that I was a known “mark” for the thugs and gang bangers who hung out by the local rapid transit station, my plan was to silently leave town before anyone caught wind of my acquisition.

The city where I landed on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula was a small town of about 25,000 composed almost entirely of upper-class Caucasians. I selected it because it was noted for a low crime rate and a peaceful aura. However, it wasn’t particularly friendly toward outdoor homeless types, and after the second time my sleep was interrupted by an officer of the law, I agreed to be transferred from my spot behind the local library to a shelter about twenty five miles South of there, in a more industrial neck of the woods.

At first, I was very impressed with the shelter. They had a number of programs designed to help homeless people get back on their feet and regain self-esteem. It was, however, assumed that I was an alcoholic or a drug addict, and daily twelve-step meetings were required. Still, I acquiesced.  I think twelve-step meetings are great, in general.  The only thing that bothered me was the assumption that I needed one. 

About five days into my sojourn at the shelter, an unfortunate turn of events took place. In the Men’s Barracks, where I slept on a bunk in close proximity to about twenty-five other men, I caught a flu.  I went to the hospital, where I was told I had “viral bronchitis” — which I’m pretty sure is just a fancy name for a high-follutin’ flu.  I definitely do not have bronchitis in any other sense.  In any case, I was given the usual stuff, and told to “rest in bed for ten days.” 

But when I went back to the shelter, they told me that because I had a contagious disease, I could no longer stay at the shelter.  This disturbed me.   After all, I had obviously caught the flu at the shelter.   So I was not the only person there with a flu.  Half of the guys in the barracks were coughing, sneezing, and wheezing from all their cigarette smoke anyway.  Here I’m this guy with an unusually strong immune system, who had caught exactly two flus in the past fifteen years, works out, doesn’t smoke or drink — it very much upset me that I was being reprimanded for my honesty.

So I went back to the hospital and explained what happened, hoping they would let me in to recover.  But at the hospital, I was told that they couldn’t show any special preference for me, just because I was homeless.  

“I know you have the flu, Andy, but let’s face it.  Homeless people come in here trying to get an overnight stay all the time, for all kinds of reasons.  If I were to let you in, I’d have to let in the whole lot of you.   I’m sorry, Andy, but that’s just the way it is.”

A rush of numbing fright consumed me.  I suddenly realized that I was going to have to fend with this flu outdoors!  I’d seen homeless people die overnight after catching a flu!  I feared death – but I was too young to die — and generally a very healthy, fit human being.   But what could I do?

Throughout the next five days, my condition worsened.  I was sneezing, and often visibly perspiring.  The driver of the all-night bus stopped letting me inside the bus at night, because all the other homeless people who used the bus as a sleeping spot were complaining that I might be contagious.  I told him that viral bronchitis is only contagious in the first two to three days.  But this was to no avail.

Then one night, something came over me.   And this is why I now know that my life has meaning.   I was walking by the Sequoia Station in Redwood City, wondering where to sleep that night, when suddenly I dropped down on my knees and screamed at the top of my lungs.

God!!  If there is Anybody out there, I don’t care Who you are, or what your Name is, if you can feel me, where I’m coming from, please — I do not care about drug addiction or alcoholism, or mental illness, or being a lazy bum or a slacker or a slouch – I care about Homelessness!  Please put an END to twelve years of totally unpredictable, totally unreliable, ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN, ANYTIME ANYWHERE HOMELESSNESS!!! In the name of Jesus Christ I pray –
AMEN!!!!

Granted, it was an impulsive emotional outburst, and I’m sure any theologian worth their salt could easily chop holes in the wording.  But I felt an eerie sense of calm when I got back up to my feet. 

I looked around.  The night was still and quiet.  My spirit was overwhelmed with the clear feeling that Somebody had heard that prayer — and that Somebody would honor it.

A couple days later, as the symptoms of the flu subsided, I remembered an associate of mine, a now retired music teacher with whom I had worked when I was still a sheltered elementary school music teacher making a modest living on the Peninsula, before all this homelessness ensued.   He had earlier said that if I could choose a spot outside of the State of California where the rents would be cheaper and I could conceivably live off of my Social Security, he would spot me the one-way ticket.

The rest of my story I have told.  Here, there, and elsewhere.  Within forty-eight hours, I had rented a room at Friendship Square on a temporary basis.  Three days later I signed a one year lease on an apartment that would have rented for $900 in Berkeley, and was only $275 in Moscow, Idaho.  I alighted upon the city of my birth for the first time in sixty-three years — a city that I knew nothing about whatsoever, other than the fact that I was born here.   Three weeks later, I applied for a part time job and was hired — after years of being considered unemployable and mentally incapable of working in the State of California. 

I only later learned that Idaho Repertory Theatre was founded in this city on the year I was born, and that the Lionel Hampton School of Music sports a city-wide jazz festival every year here — in the town where I was born.  I only later walked through one of the city gates, and saw the city proudly proclaiming itself: “The Heart of the Arts.” 

I’m not going to ask you to believe in God, if you don’t already, after having read these words.  The word “God” after all, is only a word.  If you ask ten people the meaning of that Word, you are likely to get ten different answers.  I know what I believe, and you probably do too.

But I will ask you to believe that my life has meaning — and purpose.  If you can help me in any way to move that purpose forward, please do. I’ve been sleeping in gutters for almost half of my adult life.  That I did not die a meaningless death on the streets of Berkeley is an absolute miracle.   I have written a full-length musical about homelessness since I have been off the streets, in addition to numerous blogs, and five articles published in Street Spirit.   If you can help me in any way with the money I need to make a demo recording of three songs from my musical, please believe me:

giving-is-easy-620

That one has got to be true.  After all, Somebody gave pretty easily — once I finally, earnestly asked.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

Please note.  As of October 30, 2017, all donations to this cause should be sent to my assistant, Danielle Stephens.  Donations in any amount may be made safely here.   

 

Knock Knock Who’s There?

This is either the third or fourth post that I’ve tried to create around this theme.  The other two or three, I later deleted because they just didn’t come out right.  But if I’m to move forward with my project here, I need to solidify this concept within myself, and be strong about adhering to it.  Writing about it cannot hurt, because one never knows if the reader will grasp what it is that I’m trying to do, and why I need to go about in the way that seems to be revealed to me.

In this current obstacle of not being able to find singers for a demo who will work for me for free, it’s occurred to me that there probably are some singers who would work for free, if only I could find them — if only this were the Ideal Universe.

But it’s not.  I thought about trying to tap of the church, where the Music Ministry seems to be “taking off.”  The Choir, for example, is stronger than ever.  We have a new Choir director who happens to be the new director of the Concert Choir at the Conservatory of Music here.  He and his wife were looking for a church, and they wound up finding one, with a job attached as well.  His wife is an accomplished soprano, and she’s also singing in the Choir.  The previous Minister of Music, whose name is Erika, is now free to sing in the Choir with her own very professional contralto, and Paul himself is a great tenor.  So one would think that, since it’s church and all that, maybe these people would help me out, and sing for free, without pay.

But it’s not happening.  This is not to criticize or implicate anyone, but whenever I ask somebody from the church to help me with this project, two things happen:

(1) They don’t prioritize listening to the music that I send them.  It’s not high on their list.  They say “yes” but in reality they have all kinds of other more important things to do.

(2) They wind up being more concerned about my mental or emotional state, how is my relationship with my daughter, how is my relationship with the Lord, and so forth.  Obviously.  Because they’re church people.

I don’t quite know how to say this, because I really want to be a decent Christian bloke as much as the next fellow.  But as far as my project is concerned, I need #1 and #2 above like I need another couple of holes in my head.

I was so upset at one point that I called my pastor in the morning and said that I had discovered that it was a mistake for me to be trying to draft singers for my personal project from the church.  He actually agreed, and I became less upset, because it became clear to me.  Church is church, the Choir is the Choir, and that is that.  There is something ugly about me trying to solicit performers for my project from within the church context.  It’s as though I have an ulterior motive or an agenda.

So we both decided it would be wise for me to refrain from further seeking of singers from among the congregation, and I have in fact ceased to do so.  If any of them actually like my music or are drawn to it, that would be another story.  People do occasionally want to work for me for free, but that’s usually on the basis of their somehow resonating with my music, vibrating with it, being on the same musical wavelength, and so forth.  And just how does one encounter such kindred comrades?   Well he sure as heck can’t advertise for them!   They seem to show up every now and then, as in once in a blue moon, when the “moment is right.”  

I’m not a magician; I don’t conjure up “right moments” as per incantation.  I can pray to God all I want about the matter, but the bottom line is:

THE SINGERS NEED TO BE PAID.
I NEED TO HAVE MONEY ON HAND
TO EVEN INTEREST THEM IN THE MUSIC
WHATSOEVER.

So, I hate to transform this introspective dialectic into yet another pitch for financial assistance, but guess what?   So far every penny that I have made to forward this project has come from guess where?  Right here.  So isn’t it only logical that I would continue to ask for money, until I actually do have enough money to take the next logical step here?

If I were to succeed in creating a demo, I wouldn’t need to hassle coming up with a greater amount of money and a venue and all that.  I would be going about this the conventional way, and I would be able to submit the musical in a complete package to anywhere in the world where there’s a theater company accepting new musical submissions.  I’d be taking my chances, as opposed to self-producing it, but it would cost much less money than it would to self-produce it.  

It’s also sort of the more — “humble” thing to do.  I mean, my musical is important to me, and hopefully it will be important to a lot of other people, once it gets off the ground.  But it’s not so important that somebody should decide to kick all kinds of big bucks in my direction to just to help me produce the damn thing.   It’s more likely that I can gradually come up with the much smaller amount of money for the singers from donations.

So, I just talked with Danielle, and her idea seems to make sense to me.  We’ll keep accepting donations until we have enough money to pay the singers.   Then, once we do, I’ll put up flyers all over campus.  This will attract people who sing, because there’s money in it.  Then I can select from all the people who responded, whose voices fit the project the best.  Then – do the demo.  Then it’s over.  Finally.  And done.

No more depression over the whole stupid setback.  No more seeking out random companionship from whoever happens to be sitting next to me at the moment, just to commiserate.  No more “misery loves company.”  No more misery, period.  Productivity.  Forward motion.  Sense of purpose.  Sense of calling.

IT’S ALL ABOUT MONEY.
KICK IT DOWN.

Not sure what else to say, except maybe to ask you to take a look at my bio.  I had not yet turned sixty when I asked somebody to write that bio for me.  I still remain every bit as “dropped out” of the “mainstream” as I did when those words were written, seven years ago.  But the point is, all these people with whom I worked in the past have no reason to think ill of me or my skills.  I told them all that I was dropping out because I wanted to write — and I’ve been writing.   Would you not think that at one of those many theatres where I’ve worked, somebody might decide to produce my show?   It’s not as though they’d be receiving submissions from a total unknown, or a quack.   

Anyway, enough of this.   I gotta go figure out how to scan this receipt I have for spending $26.74 on the only hard copy of Eden in Babylon in existence.  Danielle and I are both going to save the receipts, and she’ll reimburse the $26.74 to my account once she has the evidence.   To me, this sounds right.  We’re off to a nice fresh start.  It can only get better from here, as long as the knocks are good.

Funny about those knocks.  I just came out of a situation where anybody would knock on my door, at any time of the day or night, for the dumbest of reasons.

“Hey sorry to wake you but do you have a cigarette lighter?”

“No, I don’t have a lighter, I don’t smoke, and I did not smoke the last five times you woke me up in the middle of the night to ask for a cigarette lighter.”

I’ve had it with hard knocks.  If your name is not Opportunity, from here on in, please do not knock on my door.  I worked hard to get this door.

Donations Gratefully Accepted Here 

diploma_school_of_hard_knocks

ANYTHING HELPS
GOD BLESS

                                                                                                      

 

No Longer an Island

The Medieval poet-cleric John Donne is credited with having said a number of fairly amazing things.   But the one that’s always stuck in my mind is: “No man is an island unto himself.”  I realize that this is the case, at least metaphysically speaking.  But it sure feels like I’ve been an “island” — trying to get this project happening.  

john-donne-hires-cropped
John Donne

This is why I’m going to take the liberty at this time to express how grateful I am for the qualities of  practicality and common sense that characterize my new assistant, Danielle Stephens.   As has so often been the case in the past, Danielle seems to compliment my skill set by being strong in the areas where I am weak.   But what I’m really so grateful for is that I am no longer an “island unto myself.”  

On my end, you see, it’s simply necessary that any donations to my project not go to me personally, and that they do go to somebody like Danielle.  For one thing, I don’t have any common sense at all, as near as I can tell after almost sixty-five years of fumbling through this mysterious world of ours.  And probably the most practical thing I’ve ever done is to turn everything over to Danielle.

For another thing, it seems to make sense — even to me, who has no common sense — that my personal and business dealings ought to remain separate.   This is especially the case now that I’ve moved into a more expensive apartment.  Although I’ve figured out how to manage my monthly income in such a way as to make ends meet, I don’t even want to be tempted to take money from donations intended to further the project, and wind up spending it on personal needs.

This is where Danielle comes in.   Her particular strengths are, as I’ve said, complimentary to mine.  Consider, for example, what has happened in the past week alone.  During the past seven days, I have finished my 2nd draft of the Eden in Babylon script.  (This is why, by the way, you haven’t heard from me recently.  I’ve been obsessive about making certain adjustments that had gnawed at me during the six months or so when I basically didn’t look at the script.  It took me two months to complete the revision, and in the past seven days have been especially focused toward this end.)

So I got the idea that I probably ought to self-publish it through Lulu or CreateSpace, and also run off a hard copy of it to lug around with me and show people in “real life.”  I didn’t know how much any of this would cost.  But a few days ago, before I was even finished with the revision, I asked Danielle if she would send me forty dollars out of the donation fund, where she has been patiently holding the money.

Immediately, she advised me that there would be no reason to send me the money until I had actually finished the revision and knew exactly what I was going to do with it.  I thought about it for a moment or two; and realized that she is, of course, right.  What’s the point of having her hold the money, if she’s going to send it right back to me for no clear reason whatsoever?

This is where she and I differ – in a good way.  In my mind, there is usually no difference between the forty dollars that I will “probably” spend in a “pretty good way’ at some point further down the road.  In her mind, she needs to know the exact reason for the expenditure, needs to know that it’s justified, and probably even would like to see a receipt.  

So – now that I’m finally done with the script revision, I’m going to go over to Fed-Ex, run it off, put a nice cover on it, and send Danielle the receipt.  How can I go wrong?  I am no longer an island!

I also want to express my gratitude for the two small donations that were offered within the past week.  Without them, I really couldn’t have rationalized running off a personal hard copy of my work.  With them, I feel that I am getting myself something that I not only can use business-wise, but that I can keep for myself as my own — a symbol of all the hard work I have put into this creation.  

Without your donations, and the help of my assistant, not even that single gift would have been possible.  So once again — and you know who you are — thank you for being so supportive of Eden in Babylon.  We’ll get this show on the road yet.  

Donations Gratefully Accepted Here 

can-do

ANYTHING HELPS
GOD BLESS

                                                                                                      

 

The Voices That Count

In the sixties and early, pre-Watergate 70’s, we heard a lot about the Generation Gap.  It seemed that the schism between those who represented the Establishment, and those who had “dropped out” or represented what we called the counter culture, was much too wide for the sake of constructive communication.  Much tension occurred as a result, and it often morphed into violence.

That gap was called the Generation Gap because those who comprised the Establishment were substantially older than those of the emerging counter-culture.   But today, I find ourselves immersed in an even more serious gap than the age-based gap — a gap that is based on class.  

Speaking in general terms, it has not been uncommon for there to be a millionaire in office.  But a cabinet composed largely of billionaires?   That’s a new one on me, as of 2016.  And I’ve been watching this kind of stuff go down since the sixties – since before Watergate – since before the War on Drugs.   

And what about on the other side?   Poverty has abounded forever.  But for so many poor people to lack roofs over their heads?   For poverty to engulf the disabled and the developmentally challenged?  The Class Gap has never been so wide.

There has always been division – but not like this.   There has always been tension – but this is unprecedented.  And what about communication?  It’s almost impossible for those in the privileged classes to even understand what the impoverished are trying to say.  This creates frustration among the underprivileged, and frustration turns to anger, turns to outrage, turns to hate.  I see a lot of outright hatred emerging from those who struggle,  as they turn to those whose material and monetary wherewithal make them better equipped to help balance the scales, and receive only insensitivity and indifference in return.

I have lived almost sixty-five years, and I have watched this trend worsen.  We tend to frame our differences around race, gender, culture, ability, sexual orientation and age.  But seen through a lens less often considered, many of these differences really boil down to differences in socio-economic class.

I have worked for the wealthy, and I have generally found them to be very nice people: courteous, accommodating, and caring.   I have also been down and out, and have lived on the streets, where the tension is much more intrusive, and etiquette is held to be unnecessary — so much so that any use of it is often viewed to be hypocrisy.   On the other hand, the language that is commonly used for communication on the streets is often regarded as crass or even abusive among those for whom such communications are unnecessary.

A poor person who is broke, who finds five dollars on the street, will naturally see it as gift for which to be grateful.  But when I told a person who was wealthy that I had found five dollars, that person literally shouted: “Shut the f—k up!”   Once when I was renting a room from a very wealthy landlord, he came down and saw me counting the pennies on the table.  Scowling in disgust, he shouted: “Stop that!”  When I was in a similar position, and I asked a friend for five dollars, he replied: “Five dollars is not going to solve your problem, Andy.”  But five dollars could have kept me alive another day.

I saw five homeless people die overnight, having preexisting medical conditions, unable to withstand one more night in the cold.  Had any of them had but five dollars, they could have gotten inside a bus and slept throughout the night.   Granted, the problem of homelessness would not have been solved by five dollars.  But a far greater problem might have been solved — the problem known as death.  

This is why frustration mounts, for that same person was perfectly magnanimous toward me when he wasn’t hung up on needing to “solve my problem.”  Nor was I asking him to provide a solution, as though nothing but a detailed plan to get me off the streets would be satisfactory.  I was only requesting a small amount of money, fearing an overnight death in the cold, as I had seen my other friends die.  So naturally, it is easy to rage and roar at the rich in light of such a constant cold shoulder.  But to do so does little good for the cause, for some have done so with violence.   

I have written a musical that explores the effects of classism, social stigma, and homelessness on the youth of today’s America.  I conceived of this musical because I have been there.  The impoverished may not be able to afford tickets to this musical once it is finally produced.   But the impoverished, the homeless, and the underprivileged, are not the ones who need to see this production.  Those who need to see it — at least according to its author’s intent — are those who have never experienced the energy of the streets, nor of the outdoors, of Nature, and the terrifying adventures thereof.  I write from a position of one unsheltered, and I write to the sheltered – not to shatter their shelter, nor scatter the remains of their relics abroad to destruction, but to show them the shamelessness of those who are without, that they might be moved, and share of the shelter that is within.

The gap created by class distinctions and social stigma in America has always been wide.  Throughout history, it’s been very wide, and a very difficult one to bridge.  But it can be bridged — and it must be bridged — if America is to endure.   After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.  But we do nothing to strengthen our weak links.  We throw our elders into poorly run board-and-care homes, rather than care for them ourselves.  And some of the shelters into which we throw our homeless are little more than glorified prisons.  Should we really be that quick to discard from our company those who have lost their homes?   

viktor frankl
Viktor Frankl

Many of us who have escaped the horrors of continuous homelessness seem driven, or even desperate, to convey a message that at first may appear to be unintelligible.  A similar dynamic took place, on a much more grotesque, grandiose scale, when those who survived the Nazi concentration camps emerged with a sudden upsurge of vigor.  Viktor Frankl reports that many such survivors entered immediately into massive consumerism, guzzling beer and gobbling down huge helpings of their favorite foods, of which they’d been deprived.  In Frankl’s case, he launched wholeheartedly into the book that became Man’s Search for Meaning.  They who have survived the conditions of homelessness often display a similar spike of renewed motivation, drive, and sense of purpose. 

The gush of enthusiasm with which we who have survived the conditions of homelessness often seek to reveal the hidden secrets of the Homeless Experience can be off-putting.  But the message itself is little more than a restatement of time-honored principles that have helped hold this nation together for over two hundred years.  I did not coin the phrase: “United We Stand; Divided We Fall.”  Still, because of the frustration we tend to express when we feel we are not being heard, and the violent, hostile nature of a conspicuous minority among those who seek to express it, they who have the power to do something about the matter quite naturally turn their ears to more appealing voices.  If only they knew that in so doing, they are shunning the voices that count.