Three More Articles Published

I learned a few days ago that three more of my stories have been published in Street Spirit.  This makes ten short pieces I’ve had published in the past six months, in Street Spirit, and in Classism Exposed.   I find this astonishing, especially because I never expected to have anything published at all.  It brings a new sense of purpose, with a connection to fulfillment in life — something I can always look towards pursuing, at times when I might be tempted to ponder that my life is without meaning or reason.  

Street Spirit

February 2018 Issue of Street Spirit

The above link is to the full 12-page issue.   I think it’s an unusually good one, if you want to leaf through it.  Or, if you just want to check out my own work, I’m on pages 8 and 12.  Terry Messman the publisher again gave me the entire p. 12, which is the back page.  He gave me the whole back page for the posting of The Revelation of Humanity, which I’ve gathered from reader response to be one of my better recent pieces. Other pieces published from my blog were On Disorganization and She Called Me Dad, both on p. 8, the former having had its title changed appropriately for the February issue: “Scrambled and Scattered by 12 Years on the Streets.”  

Now, I trust Terry’s editing in general.  Sometimes, a title change in particular will draw the reader toward a particular point of view the selected article might espouse.  There can be no doubt, for example, that I was indeed “scrambled and scattered” throughout my twelve years of sojourning on the streets of the City of Berkeley and elsewhere.   In many ways, it has been indisputable hell trying to readjust to a set of procedures that, while crucial to the more mainstream modes of living here in today’s America, is entirely inapplicable to the drastically altered set of conditions governing the lives of street people and of those who inhabit the Great Outdoors.

But there was also evidence of some pretty amazing grace that surfaced during the perplexing period when for years I drifted about the outskirts of what society holds to be acceptable.  There were even recurring gifts of a nature that I’ve been hard-pressed, while living indoors again, to replace.  This is why I know that my life has meaning.  It would be one thing if my task were only to report the sordid horrors of extended homeless living.  Some of these may surprise, or even startle or shock.  But we can be startled and shocked by sordid stories any day of the week, anytime, anywhere.  It’s the stuff that was good — that seems almost irreplaceable — that often goes unreported.

The challenge to find sufficient replacement for these blessings is something that adds new purpose to my path.   Anyone who’s been reading me throughout the past year and a half will know that my path toward accepting and positively managing the details of indoor living has not been a straight line.  It’s tempting at times to want to default back to a homeless situation, despite the inherent dangers thereof.   To address that dynamic, it makes sense that I would be about discovering what it is that certain redemptive aspects of the homeless experience were providing for me, so that I might regain their provision, in a different form, in my new story of indoor life.  

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Spamalot

I’m being majorly spammed on the My Pitch post by multiple trolls – probably the same entity under different guises.   I keep marking the comments as spam and then removing them, but I might just let them accumulate so I can show them to the Happiness Engineers when the time comes. 

fat catProbably their motive is to get my goat, knowing that since My Pitch is an obvious appeal to get money for my demo recording and the ultimate packaging of my musical, I will always head very eagerly toward that post in hopes that it’s money I might be receiving, rather than incoherent inter-babble from fat guys drinking whiskey who, unlike Yours Truly, do not have a life.

(Oh well.   At least I learned that I don’t like the picture of the Rainbow Kids dancing around making music.   It just seems weird and phony.    I’ll replace it with something more along the lines of “Power to the People” and see if that works better.)

On the money note, we did receive a $100 donation on the latest bid for seven hundred bucks.   I also want to make a true confession here, which will at least assuage my guilty conscience, if not make me any money.

More than once I have taken money intended to be used for the project and instead have paid my phone bill or bought groceries.  I did it out of desperation, and it has not helped my cause.  It’s true that my rent is $175 more per month than it used to be, and that I am also a disabled man on a fixed income.   However, it is also true that $175 is worth the fact that there are no more tweakers knocking on my door day in and out asking me for cigarette lighters (although I do not smoke) and where I’m hiding the drugs (because nobody can possibly type as fast as I do unless they’re high on speed.)

Unfortunately, there are limits to human compassion.   Ah, but I digress.

Because of my earlier indiscretions, Danielle and I have set up a fund site where all donations will simply sit in limbo until the $700 is achieved.   At this point, I am happy to announce that $100 has already been received toward that goal.  So we only have $600 to go.

Let’s get the $600 together, guys — and let’s get this show on the road.  It’s not as though the cat has nine lives here.   Enough said.

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700 Days of Gratitude

You know you’re a Writer when you come back to edit your daily gratitude list.  This is List 700, by the way.

1. This morning I received the zany idea to compile all seven hundred of these lists into a single volume, do a bit of editing to protect the innocent, and publish it on Zulu or CreateSpace under the title: 700 Days of Gratitude.  Why not?

gratitude2. That said, these lists having long since drifted from their original purpose, I’ve created a new morning wake-up routine that reduces the role of the Gratitude List to five points sprawled with a pen onto paper at the end of each day, and five each morning, first thing upon arising.  Then I’ll take my thyroid medication, read something fun and light for fifteen minutes, read a spiritual book for fifteen minutes, and then make my coffee, and write in my journal.   In this manner, I won’t hit the Internet for 45 minutes – and believe me, I shall be enriched.

3. Walked four miles today at a brisk pace.   All set to go running tomorrow.

4. Grateful the Recovery Center was open, where I received encouraging peer support, and also was able to be of service to a recovering alcoholic, as well as two addicts passing through town.

5. Learned something important about myself last night, and use the pain of the experience to effect a positive life change.

6. Was granted a few scoops of coffee tonight at the Center, and it sits in my filter, even as we speak.  Tomorrow I’ll put on a pot while I read, and drink it once a large glass of water’s been downed, one half hour after awakening.   Can’t go wrong with that!

7. What a nice, secluded, quiet, neat, clean one-bedroom apartment I rent today!  The price can’t be beat, the neighbors are civil, and there isn’t a tweaker in sight.

8. Finally broke my block and hammered out a blog for my new writing gig – and I’m glad.  Though it was 1500 words (rough draft, stream of flow), and it’s supposed to be 600 words max, at least I got from A-Z.   Also:

9. I’ve got a professional editor now, a retired lady from my church whose second career was in writing and editing.   She’s smart as a whip, and extremely proficient, and I’m sure she can chop off those excess adjectives and superfluous phrases and cut that thing down to size.

10. This will be my last published Gratitude List, so I might as well speak my conclusive piece.  Gratitude Lists indeed have a way of improving my spirits, all the day long.   I feel good when I’m happy, and these lists have a way of making me happy.  But in the end, life isn’t about feeling good.  It’s about being good — and doing good.  It’s about cultivating wisdom, and nurturing compassion, and caring for those in need.   But most of all, it’s about caring for one’s own self; and showing in that manner of selfless self-love an example that shines before others, that they might see that our actions are worthy, and glorify our God from beyond and before us, the Giver of all good gifts.

The people who seek their own pleasure are the takers.  They eat better, and gluttonously so, and eventually become fat, and burst.  But the people who seek to do justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with their God are the givers.  They sleep better, and rest comfortably within their own skin, and wind up feeling better — about themselves, about their purpose, and about humanity on the whole.   So I ask you: is it pleasure, or righteousness, that one ought to seek after first?  It profits little if one gains the whole world, to the loss of their God-given soul.

 

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By Nature

Note: I tried several times to post this on my facebook timeline (where it belongs) but they wouldn’t let me do so — for some reason.   So here goes.

BY NATURE (an excerpt from my personal diary)

It seems I often awaken in a depressed state these days.  But the depressed state usually is based on extreme black-and-white perceptions about what others think of me.  These perceptions soften within the first ten minutes of the day, as I gradually realize that everything can or should be viewed in black-and-white terms.  While it is true that I often feel extremely misunderstood, it is not the case that everybody misunderstands me.  I can think of four people who understand me right off the top: Norman, Kathy, Danielle, and Jack.  And I’m sure there are others — or at least there can be, if I branch out and start meeting the right people.  

Yesterday morning was a case in point.  black and whiteI awoke depressed as usual, but was able to transform the depression into a sense of quietude. In that quietude, I prayed for all the people who had been troubling me. Then I sipped my coffee, and it was the best coffee I had ever tasted. I felt blessed, for having done the right thing. I even felt I could go back to bed, and I had the time to do so, to catch more sleep before Writer’s Guild.

Instead, I logged on to Facebook. It wasn’t long before the sense of over-stimulation, combined with loss of control, me becoming rattled, my nerves being strip-mined, my balance off-set by all the notifications, buzzes, comments, etc. was too much for me. Trying to order my responses seeming next-to-impossible, while imposing chat windows pop up in the way of my efforts to moderate the new Lincoln Summer Theatre group, and all kinds of other stressors, gradually put me into battle mode, feeling as though I was a soldier in battle needing to fire at the nearest, most dangerous approaching tank.

My sense of peace shot up to high anxiety within an hour or so, as my sense of inability to control the Power Greater Than Myself that is Facebook expanded beyond all reasonable proportion. I enjoy being connected with wonderful people from the “past” (?) in the “present” (?), but isn’t this all a but unnatural? If there were a meeting in quote-un-quote “real life,” where there were twenty people in the group, and I didn’t like one of them, I would either stay in the group, or drop out of the group. I wouldn’t have the unnatural social power to simply “block” the person I didn’t like, not see him or hear any of his statements, and yet still interact with the other nineteen. This is unnatural.

It is unnatural, and is what is unnatural healthy for us? I begin to doubt it.

What is natural is that life runs its course from birth to death; we move from job to job, town to town, and in some cases, from marriage to marriage. I’m a Sicilian who has a hard time letting go of people, places and things. By nature, I am never done with anyone. By genetic nature, I either stay friends with them, or if they dump me, I am still not done with them, because I will track them down to the ends of the earth. By nature, I reward loyalty and punish betrayal. That’s my nature, and I struggle to overcome the extremism thereof by exercising restraint and observing traditional standards of morality and etiquette. For another person, this may not be so much of a struggle, because it is not their nature, and their nature may provide them with other struggles – as well as other strengths – naturally.

So is it healthy that I, who already is struggling against my nature telling me not to move on, not to let go of people, places, and things that haven’t worked out for me, to be enveloped in an atmosphere that continues to flash the very people in my face that I am already struggling to let go of? Twice now — and I am not faulting anyone for doing this out of utter innocence and good nature — I have had to see the face of a person whom I thought was a very good friend of mine, flashed in my face (so to speak) on Facebook Messenger, knowing that this person had told me never to talk to him again and that any further contact from me would be considered harassment.

This is not natural. It doesn’t happen in what we used to call “real life.” I would have never reconnected with that individual (on Facebook) to begin with. He would have been somebody I’d have stopped seeing whenever we first parted ways — by nature — back in the seventies or so.

I have enough trouble “moving on” and “letting go” as it is. Does anybody feel me?

Here’s what happened to me personally after I had been rattled yesterday morning by making the dumb decision to log on to Facebook at a moment of idle down time. I became progressively more uptight, and finally drained. I had only slept three hours anyway, and I figured I had about an hour to kill before Writer’s Guild, so I went down for more rest. But did I rest? No way.

Me personally, I was almost instantly assaulted by what seemed like a demon spirit from hell, grabbing ahold of my neck and my back, thrusting his/her arm around my waist, and taunting me with the words: “Okay, Mr. Wonderful – how does *that* grab you?”

Now I’m glad I no longer live in the State of California or a densely populated urban area, where even making that admission might cause somebody to dial 9-1-1 and I find all my artistic progress further delayed by yet another pointless stay in a psychiatric facility. Just for speaking my truth.

The point is, had I not logged onto Facebook, had I followed my gut and gone back to bed while in a rested state, I would not have become so uptight that I would have risked entering into an hour’s worth of hell in sleep paralysis, fully conscious of my surroundings, knowing that I was dreaming and having a specific sort of nightmare, and unable to move my body for an entire hour, except for rare intervals when I came to, through the use of a couple techniques I learned through research, and then descending into sleep paralysis again. It is not fun.

Nor is it caused by Facebook. But if that’s the kind of height of anxiety that Facebook can trigger (not *cause*) in me, (not *you*), then what the heck am I doing here? This is the 5th Facebook I’ve had in ten years. Every other one of them imploded. Who am I trying to fool? Will I be any better able to handle this Facebook than any of the others?

rotary telephoneOf course not.

So here’s what I am going to do. I am going to go down and get a rotary telephone, like we had back in the Good Old Days, when the phone would ring, and we all would simply answer it. We weren’t afraid of each other in those days. We didn’t have the unnatural power to block out any and every person we didn’t happen to want to deal with from our lives. We didn’t burn bridges left and right. We built them — in ways that are natural. I’m going to plug it in my wall, and I am going to make sure there is no Call Waiting in any form attached, no touch tone, nothing.

Even when two of my Facebook friends were cool enough to actually indulge my natural neurosis and agree to talk with me on the phone, the very next day I had to contend with the phenomenon of Call Waiting, whereby I couldn’t even get through a conversation with before the little “bloop bloop” that tells me somebody else is calling kept continually interrupting my focus, as though this new person calling in was the “most immediate and threatening danger on the battlefield.”

I’m not saying that you guys necessarily encounter these same difficulties. But there’s a reason why I do, and just has to do with the way I’m wired. Call it ADHD or what-have-you. Every single time a Facbeook Messenger box pops up while I’m trying to do something else, my attention is *immediately* diverted to the Messenger, I ex it off, and then I return to whatever I was doing before, asking myself, “Now, where was I?” Sometimes I even forget completely what I was doing before. Sometimes I even forget that what I was doing was the only reason I had logged on to Facebook in the first place, like, for example, to find somebody’s phone number that they had given me in a Facebook comment, or to ask the previous tenant of my new apartment how to turn on the heater.

THIS IS NOT NATURAL. And correct me if I’m wrong. Am I the only person who is tired of having to tolerate all these unnatural social media weirdnesses? Probably not. And that’s part of the reason why this time I will not destroy my Facebook, I will not give up yet again, only to find that I miss everybody, wonder how they’re all doing, and start a Facebook again. I will take my lumps, I will take my chances, and I will bow before the monarch that is Facebook, while at the same time doing my best to give homage to my own King, whose name, by the way, is Jesus.

So – not upset, not defeated, not exasperated, not infuriated. Just a little miffed, and figured it was about time I spoke my piece, as cogently and clearly as I can.

But do me a favor. Let’s not make this entirely about my “mental health,” OK? I decided my mental health was either shot to smithereens and irredeemable, or else completely irrelevant when I first made the decision on August 8, 2006 to drop out completely from the Mainstream of Modern American Life and try to become the best Writer I could be. After all, every effort to become the best Musician or Teacher I could be was pretty much consumed in a confluence of losing one job after another due to things like absent-mindedness, tardiness, or general inability to keep up with the insanely fast pace of workaday urban life.  I’ve got a fast enough pace going on inside me as it is, without anybody else having to add to that velocity.

I’m a Writer. I wrote an entire musical about social dropouts, why we drop out, and what we can all do about it. To hell with my mental health! Click on the link below, and LET’S GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD.

Daylight’s burning. I’m not going to be around forever.

Please consider making an any amount donation to Eden in Babylon at this time.  The stuff that gets people interested in original musicals by unknown playwrights unfortunately does not grow on trees.   

can-do

Anything Helps
God Bless

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

Gratitude List 623

I’m working on the third and final part of the dialectic that began with the post before last.  But in the meantime, there are two other posts I’d like to submit.   This one, my morning gratitude list, ought to resonate with fellow Introverts as well as (hopefully) Artists and Writers in general.   I hope you can appreciate it.  

1. Finally got the Internet turned on at my new apartment. All moved in now – feels good!

2. Actually got eight hours of solid sleep, between midnight and eight in the morning.

3. Sure grateful not to have to run into anybody on the way back from the bathroom in the middle of the night and risk running into some felon complaining that my fly is open while I’m hoping to get right back to sleep. I even have a peephole in the front door so if somebody knocks I’ll even know who it is that I’m not letting in before I don’t let them in. Let’s hear it for privacy with power.

4. Finally I live in a place where I don’t feel compelled to leave the house and go spend money in a coffee shop for the sake of my sanity. Let’s hear it for Folgers coffee singles.

5. Not to mention all the great running trails in the neck of the woods and proximity to the Arboretum and Paradise Path.

6. Wonderful conversations with Paul G. of the last two days, leading up to the formation of the Lincoln Summer Theatre Stockton California Facebook group. Already connecting with fine people and irreplaceable memories of a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

7. The church music ministry is taking off so suddenly hugely, it’s exciting. Good that Erika & I can both sing now, and that we have an especially competent conductor.

8. My daughter is on her own path. She may find some roadblocks along the way, but I cannot fault her for wanting to carve out her own path, because I myself never knew happiness until I did.

9. Today’s my second day volunteering at the Latah Recovery Center, which I find I very much enjoy.

10. It is so perfectly quiet out here it’s almost too good to be true. This is the first time in years that I’ve lived in a situation where I haven’t had to fear being awakened at any time of the night by anybody for any reason. My capacity to organize my plans and projects and to make progress on them has increased seventy times seven fold. It is indescribably wonderful to feel that I am living in a place where bizarre demands are not constantly being made of me by my neighbors, and my energy is not being continually drained by having to try to figure out how to deal with them. My prayers have turned to prayers of thanksgiving, and my desire is to return this great goodness to the One who gave it to me. All Gratitude goes to God.

Please consider making an any amount donation to Eden in Babylon at this time.  The stuff that gets people interested in original musicals by unknown playwrights unfortunately does not grow on trees.   

The Voices of the Streets

Good news — I just had three more pieces published in the September issue of Street Spirit.  The publisher, Terry Messman, has not yet prepared the online links, but he did send me a pdf of the hard copy:

September 2017 Street Spirit

You can find two of my pieces on the 4th page.  On the top is the one entitled “Easy to Say No,” the title of which has been changed from Social Statement by the publisher.   I Told Them I Was Homeless is below.   There are very interesting illustrations involved, as well as a posting of the lyrics from the song “Easy to Be Hard” from the rock musical HAIR. which incidentally I music-directed at U.C. Davis in 1979.

But the best representation of my work is the piece now called “Society Must Listen to the Voices of the Streets,” which is published on p.8 beneath a beautiful painting called “Serenity Base” by Christine Hanlon.   This is actually the second half of Homeless Tinge, done up newspaper-column-style, with some of the paragraphs split into shorter components.  

I hope you all get a chance to check these out.  I really had no expectations when I stumbled on this gig.  But I must say that any expectations I might have had have been far exceeded by the wonderful work of Terry Messman.  I also want to thank Pastor Sally Hindman for connecting me to the paper.  I had never pictured myself as a “columnist” before!  It is a surprising and strangely welcome feeling.

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Jim the Janitor

Now Jim the Janitor may not the brightest fellow I’ve ever met.  Or maybe he’s bright in ways that many of us more academically inclined, educated sorts are not quite bright.  In any case, it’s not important whether he’s bright or not, really.

What is important is this.  I used to be very bothered by Jim the Janitor.   When I first moved to Friendship Square, it seemed he would not stop knocking on my door, often at odd hours.   But eventually, I began to notice that the Janitor had some very good qualities about him — qualities that I have lacked.

For one thing, I have never once seen him lose his temper, or break out of his even keel.  So I asked him one day how he manages this, especially knowing that he faces the same difficulties faced by myself and all other poor people in this society.

GodHe replied: “I always let it go.  I always give it to God.”

I marveled at this.  For I had noticed that whenever he tries to quote a Scripture, he often gets it wrong, sometimes attributes something to Paul that was actually written by James, or even quotes something from a book other than the Bible, seeming to think it is in the Bible.  But I ceased to correct him after a while, because I became more interested in what he was trying to get across, than in the authenticity of his sources.

So the other night, I was sitting in Greg’s apartment two doors down from me, having a casual conversation with Greg, and a not-so-casual conversation with Jim. (I have noticed that Jim never engages in casual conversation.  Everything he says has to be in some way spiritual, which annoys many people.)

Suddenly, Jim pointed his finger at me, and in a burst of enthusiasm, he initiated the following dialogue:

Jim: (excitedly) Andy!  I know what your entire problem is!!

Andy: (amused) You don’t say?  Do tell.

Jim: You’re a rich man!

Andy: (incredulously) Uh . . . rich man?   How so?

Jim: You know how God says that the camel can’t go through the eye of the needle that the rich man is trying to get through, or something like that?

Andy: (thumping his Bible) “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

Jim: Yeah, that’s the one.   This is why you’re having so much trouble getting into the Kingdom of Heaven.  You’re a rich man.

Andy: (trying not to laugh) But Jim, I am not a rich man in the least.  I am rather a very poor man, just like you, or Greg, or anybody else in the building.

Jim: No Andy, I’m telling you — you are a rich man.  You are rich,  because you are rich in knowledge, and talent, and experience, and credentials.  Your knowledge and your talents are what keeps you from seeing the kingdom of God.

Andy: Wow — this is reminding me of a Scripture, where Paul says: “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.”  Knowledge feeds the ego.  Love feeds the flock.  Is that what you mean?  That kind of thing?

(Jim pauses for a moment, as though he had to think it over.)

Jim: Yeah.  That kind of thing.

Andy: Well – um – thank you!   Nobody’s ever told me that before . . .

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;  God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”
–1 Corinthians 1:26-29

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